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I may not have been posting much since completing the Twenty-Six Spins challenge – indeed, by that, I mean I haven’t posted at all. But I have been keeping busy, on a daily basis no less, with several pieces, and hopefully these will be ready to show soon. I’ve certainly felt more awake creatively since the challenge, such that this exercise was my idea of letting off some steam. Hopefully, it’ll last. I pushed it enough while it was running, but I’ll say one more time: do give it a whirl. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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You could say that the aforementioned series was a lifeline for me – see what I did there? I found myself playing with my Who Wants To Be A Millionaire model from earlier in the year, with a view to bringing its nineties complexion up to date – well, 2010 anyway. There wasn’t much to like about the series from that year, which introduced a ‘big bad clock’ for questions and essentially killed the show. They did, however, use more pink and purple around the set, and that’s never a bad thing. I’ve dialled that up here, and though I’ll probably always favour the original set, I’m enjoying the heightened neon-retro feel here.

The new curvy columns aren’t great, but will do and shouldn’t be hard to tweak. What does bother me somewhat is the bumpy decoration on the backing panels, not looking particularly accurate; wouldn’t you know it, a simple tweak made it vastly better – a shame this came after the eight-hour render session, huh. Still, as its essentially the same set as that of my first Millionaire attempt in 2016, it’s pleasing to see a much more accurate reconstruction overall.

It was great to see Who Wants To Be A Millionaire Win Enough for The Parking Meter While They’re In Here back last month with Jeremy Clarkson at the helm. Not being a massive fan, knowing his reputation and having never run into Top Gear, I wasn’t really sure what to expect of Jezza. As it happens, I was pleasantly surprised; he was very funny and, though he mocked, you could tell he really wanted the contestants to do well – even when it was clear they probably weren’t. His appointment gave Millionaire an air of unpredictability and intrigue that it probably hasn’t had since 2000. I gather it was a success, holding its audience across the series, so hopefully we’ll get another run soon, since that would mean all the more opportunity for stuff like this!

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So guys, time for another question. Choose your category: People or Places? I’m going to have to hurry you. I’m really going to have to push you for an answer guys, we’re live, sorry guys. Sorry guys, would you like me to toss a coin? You have to go with a category guys…

…Places it is. Which of these places is not in the UK?

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Never mind Millionaire, that’s yesterday’s news! The next in this year’s veritable feast of brand new quiz reboots is The Million Pound Drop, though not without its purse-strings being tightened considerably. Shifted to afternoons, it is now rather awkwardly dubbed The 100k Drop and appears on Channel 4 from tomorrow.

Starting in 2010 and running until 2015, Million Pound Drop was broadcast live, usually around 9 or 10PM on Friday and Saturday nights for a few weeks at a time. Confronted by four drops, pairs of contestants had to answer questions by gambling a real million pounds (in £25k bundles) on the drop – ideally all on the right answer, but they could split their money if they were unsure, with the caveat of leaving at least one clear at all times. Any money placed on the wrong answers, well, dropped, plummeting through the trapdoor and rumbling like thunder down a chute and into the clutches of security guards. If they made it through eight (later seven) of these gruelling questions, they got to keep whatever was left.

It was an energetic show and perfect for the weekend. It was also quite fascinating to see contestants handling a physical cash prize, which doubtless had an impact even though it wasn’t remotely theirs unless they made it to the last question. I used to quite enjoy it – at one stage, I even survived the online play-along game to unlock application for the programme. The urge didn’t last, though. Being greeted with a form that was almost forty pages long, and realising I probably couldn’t have written that much for a life story at that point, I decided they could keep their million pounds.

I likely wouldn’t have made it on anyway; I may have met one requirement of being under-35, but sadly I’m not photogenic, nor am I perma-smiley and hyperactive, which were seemingly hard and fast rules. I always thought it a bit rich of Davina McCall to shout out to the over-60s for leading the online game – as they often were – because you knew they were never going to get due representation on the programme.

Million Pound Drop all got a bit samey after a while, and meddling with the format rather than where change was actually needed likely accelerated its downfall. I’m actually curious about The 100k Drop, though. One presumes the policies of prime-time will be relaxed, and that should mean more diverse questions, and that should mean a more diverse programme. Yay for diversity. It could end up being a better show. We’ll see!

Anyway, all of this rambling at a ridiculous hour in the morning is because I wanted to do a quick sim test with the drop. It’s a compelling set piece, with an aura of ‘boss battle’ about it. It’s still satisfyingly intense when it kicks into life and the wonga falls.

I originally created bundles of cash with individual notes – the most rigid notes you’ve ever seen! – but simulating any more than a handful of these was a bit too much for my computer, so I had to go with forty blocks instead. It was relatively simple from thereon in, throwing a Rigid Body tag onto the bundles, Colliders on the trapdoors and then animating them in sequence. The scale and surroundings may be slightly off as most of it was done purely from memory – perhaps I’ll come back to MPD and give it Millionaire-esque treatment with a full set model. Or perhaps not, who knows. I don’t. It’s late. I’m going to have to hurry you guys – let’s see what’s gonna drop.

(Spunkie is in Scotland, Crapstone in Devon, and Loose Bottom in Lewes. Fucking is a village in Austria. So, now you know!)

With the announcement that Who Wants To Be A Millionaire is coming back for a week of twentieth anniversary specials, I was compelled to get in on this and throw a revival of my own. Almost two years ago now, I had a go at making a 3D model of the Millionaire set. I hoped I could do better this time!

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I’ve gone for a more 1998 look, or at least the early days in general. It’s always been a fairly intimate arena, but here we have a wider range of colours besides just blue, and with those wonderfully bulky screens and a big case of wonga making the centrepiece.

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The 2016 attempt now looks pretty terrible, so I’m guessing that’s a marked improvement! With what I’d like to think was a more informed approach, creating the model and animation was a much happier experience this time around. No friends needed to be phoned… though, I should give credit to my friend Christopher Jamin; shots of his own Millionaire models helped me no end with the make-up of more intricate elements.

I’m always curious with revivals; it seems there is a very fine line to tread when bringing back an established show. Some are spoilt with unnecessary ‘tweaks’ (Crystal Maze, Krypton Factor) while others just can’t seem to escape the shadow of previous presenters (Blockbusters, Robot Wars, Crystal Maze again). Indeed, it will be strange having Millionaire mark its twentieth anniversary without Chris Tarrant. Jeremy Clarkson probably wouldn’t have been my first choice to succeed him, but he will undoubtedly attract others, and there’s nothing to suggest he won’t do a decent job.

The £64,000 question will of course be whether viewers want Millionaire back just four years after it limped into retirement virtually unnoticed. Should things go down well, I’m sure we’ll be seeing more. If it’s used sparingly and goes back to the basics that made it gripping in the first place, I think Millionaire could well flourish again, twenty years later. We’ll have to ask the audience and see…

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Oh, and ITV: it’s the thirtieth anniversary of Interceptor next year. Celebratory revival please.

snowglobe-snowmanWell, when the weather just doesn’t want to play ball insofar as white stuff, what else can you do but pick up a miniature world, shake it vigorously, and give them the gift of a blizzard? I don’t actually recall many of the things in our decorations box, though I do vividly remember one year receiving one as a present; predictably, it was a windmill, covered in pastel colours, battery-powered and sharing the space with what appeared to be polystyrene balls. Its base was inscribed with the words, “Marry Christmas”. I enjoyed it, despite the demands!

Anyway, here are a few I’ve tentatively put together; with time short, they’re not quite as extravagantly populated or decorative as I originally planned – not even a windmill found its way inside! – but ultimately I think simplicity works in their favour. Glass is always a pain (ha ha… except it’s not a pane) for me, but this actually turned out relatively well. You can see through it.

The snowman, who seems to have found his way from Mill Cottage to inside that particular globe, was sourced from here.

snowglobe-treeAnd, a bonus for a laugh… will you start the snow, please! It’s time to go tooooo the Crystal Snowme! If I’d seen one of these in the shops, I’d have pestered and pestered my mother to buy one – just as I would today. Someone, do a better job and make it happen.

snowglobe-crysIt looks like things are going to be rather busy – to say the least – as we count down to the big day, so I’m not sure if there will be any real time to make stuff until afterwards. In that case, I am going to take this opportunity to say that, if you are celebrating this holiday season, I hope you have a wonderful, peaceful time of it. Merry Christmas!

Yes, it’s what you’ve long clamoured for – and that’s a nine-letter word.

A return visit to this Countdown malarkey (only eight, but a darn good word) is, admittedly, normally code for having a thirst to create but a total drought of practical (nine letters) ideas – it’s often the way, or vice versa. Had I the skills before, though, I probably would have gone straight to this one, rather than chip away at the very wooden predecessor. It was a bit of a nightmare with curve upon curve, and troublesome splines all over – a lot of the successes came from just winging it, but I guess that’s part of the fun. I’m pretty pleased with what I eventually coaxed out of the chaos, and I’d hope it’s all the better for the time that’s passed since my last go.

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A retro look for the early nineties, the show went truly overboard (nine!) with lights – hundreds of the things, in strands strung from the clock in chevron-esque ‘wings’, which I always presumed was a grandiose (again!) nod to producer Yorkshire TV’s logo-mark, but I could have overthought that. They would even blink when somebody scored the ultimate goal of a nine-letter word – a reward whose manner probably says all that need be said of Countdown.

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With all that flash and the show being at its peak during the nineties, it’s probably the definitive Countdown look for many; it’s certainly the one in which the warmest memories are wrapped up for me, spending half an hour each day in the company of avuncular pun-master and sartorial deckchair, Richard Whiteley and, in the perfect TV/dinner partnership, a bowl of Alphabetti spaghetti. (I think it’s this wistful nostalgia that tricked me into thinking that stuff tasted good!) I’m moved to think of my grandfather excitedly telling me that Countdown was about to start and sitting me on his knee, or asking if I managed to outdo the contestants last time. The answer was always no, but he knew that one day I would figure it out, and, sure enough, I did! Appropriately for a game dominated by a big clock, Countdown over its thirty-five years has forged an affinity with time like no other TV show I can think of – both my grandfather and Richard are now but memories, but they come to mind whenever the music hits. They were happy days.

There are probably several nine-letter words in there.

cd94F2All this being said, it figures that it jarred somewhat when the show was given a makeover, but the flowing locks live on as that thing of unmatched beauty, the victor’s teapot, which takes its form even today.


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I should put this in the Timepiece series – yes, the one I started in September and haven’t added to since; a much-needed kick up the arse for it, let’s hope it works! And it’s not like it’s unjust. The nation can continue without Big Ben, but I wouldn’t fancy our chances if the Countdown clock were silenced, would you!? Long may the clock tick.

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Following on from my attempt at a 3d model of the Atari 2600, in which I had spent some time looking at the console’s gameplay and graphics, I happened across a felicitous piece of software.

Atari FontMaker does as you’d likely expect; it gives you the default character map and allows you to make changes to individual glyphs, creating a custom typeface or a pallette for artwork – perhaps both! It looks as if you can even export your maps in a file that the Atari can use, though with bad memories of BASIC on the Spectrum coming back, I haven’t been compelled to try that just yet. Fortunately, you can export as images, and the program gives you a view to lay down your marks. Above and below is a very quick modification of the default set, with the view above and map below:

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Then came some attempts at making larger display faces from configurations of characters:

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Atarimaker-onward

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Then, moving on and trying to create some scenery. Sharp lines led me in an urban, industrial direction.

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The format and amount of letter spaces meant that a nighttime city skyline was quite fun to put together, even before implementing colour.

Atarimaker-trianglesI’m sure someone with a more creative and patient mind could whip up some lovely patterns in this software, because that’s one thing even the primitive visuals can’t scupper completely. This has a seafront amusement arcade look about it. It makes you wonder what Sonic’s Casino Night Zone might have looked like on the Atari…

I then tried to be a tad more ambitious, putting together a mountainous landscape replete with birds. This required pretty much the whole set to be tweaked, as can be seen below; the first is how the piece would look under the default set:

Atarimaker-mountainsPerhaps a few too many clouds, but nevertheless it’s probably one of the stronger experiments here.

Atarimaker-sonicSpeaking of Sonic earlier, the above was inspired by his 8-bit outings in the Green Hill Zone – not inspired enough to actually feature him, apparently! It is very green, though, you have to give me that.

I returned to lettering, but geared toward a more stylised finish. A simple start; I quite like its brashness, not sure about the colour:

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The shard-like nature of the above experiment gave me the obvious idea:

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As I said, the obvious progression. To my knowledge, there wasn’t a Crystal Maze game on the Atari. I wonder how it might have looked, had there been…

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…probably better than that!

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Well, if you think Channel 4’s catch-up service is slow today…! This was a must, really, as a throwback to my BASIC exploits of university, wherein I attempted to make a Channel 4 ident that could run on the ZX Spectrum. The greater colour capabilities here meant that the logo came out looking much more impressive.

And, to finish, Mr. Babbage from Family Fortunes and various motorways. Perfect for this format.

Atarimaker-mrbabbageThis was a heap of fun for me, as you might be able to gather by the sheer amount of stuff! It’s always interesting to go back and see what you can squeeze out of technology thought long out of date, attempting to turn the restrictions to your advantage. I think you’re more often than not pleasantly surprised, if not amazed. There is surely much more that can be created with just this program.

Thanks to MatoSimi for putting it together – if you’re interested in trying this for yourself, you can find it here. Have fun.

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Twenty-five years, almost four thousand episodes and goodness knows how many rounds of Susie Dent rifling through the dictionary – that’s no bad thing. There are many good things about Countdown, obviously, but Dent’s unassuming charm is up there with the very best.

I spent considerably less than a quarter-century on this portrait, but hopefully her endearing personality is coming through.

Long may she continue!