Half-Life: Alyx

I’ve been a big Half-Life fan since it came out in 1998. It’s one of the few games from that period I still remember playing and, at the time, I was very excited to use my shiny new nVidia TNT2 card to get half-decent 3D graphics.

This release date announcement of the upcoming Half-Life VR game makes me very happy.

Senua’s Saga

I’ve had Senua’s Sacrifice for almost two year and just never gotten round to playing it. Part of the reason is that it’s quite an intense game. I don’t mean that it’s physically intense, or that it’s scary, just that it puts you in the role of someone with psychosis and it’s not really suited to a quick ten minute blast – you need to be ‘ready’ for the overall creepiness and the way the psychosis is portrayed through voices in your head and visions. It even recommends playing with headphones for full effect.

I have played it now, though, and it’s certainly impressive. The trailer for the next game looks even more impressive, not to mention more intense. It may take me another couple of years to work up to playing this one.

Control a Sphero RVR with bluetooth joypad

A while back I contributed to the Sphero RVR Kickstarter project. It arrived in time for Christmas allowing me to gift it to my daughter. Ostensibly this was a fun educational present for her, but it also doubled up as a present to myself. Everyone’s a winner.

The RVR itself is an incredibly solid device and without a doubt the highest quality item I’ve received from a Kickstarter.

I did have some difficulties charging the battery (a dodgy connection on the battery, it seems), and after a chat with Sphero’s responsive support they sent another unit.

Anyway, being so inclined I attached a Raspberry Pi to the mounting plate and connected it to the RVR with a hand-built serial cable. I then attached a PiCamera and a Pimoroni Speaker pHAT to the Raspberry Pi. Combined with a USB C cable for power, it’s a neat and self-contained setup (excepting the slight pin bending in attaching the roll cage).

Sphero does provide an iOS app to control the RVR, but I wanted a little more control.

To this end I decided to use a bluetooth joypad, specifically an 8bitdo SF30 Pro, to control the RVR and drive it around. The camera can then display video on a screen, the speaker allows sounds to be played, and the joypad buttons change the LED colours.

Thanks to the availability of several Python libraries this was all fairly straightforward. I’m not especially proficient with Python, and this was a good opportunity to practice a bit more.

It’s surprisingly controllable and my daughter has great fun building LEGO carts and attaching them to the RVR, and then driving her three Yoshi toys around.

Anyway, it’s all here on Github:


And a video!

13 Minutes To The Moon

Following on the space theme, I’ve been enjoying the 13 Minutes To The Moon podcast from the BBC. It focuses on the last 13 minutes of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and takes you through what was going on, and how everything came about.

As someone who grew up after the moon landing it’s something I took for granted. After listening to the podcast I realised how little I actually knew outside of the popular sound bites.

I can’t embed the podcast directly, but here’s the Hans Zimmer theme tune.

Anyway, the podcast is well worth a listen. I’m now looking forward to watching the new Apollo 11 documentary:

Note to self: don’t read the YouTube comments on moon landing videos.