Posts Tagged ‘BBC’

I’m on BBC News online!

March 26, 2009 3 comments

If you visit the BBC News Technology Homepage at the moment you’ll find a link to my Red Button Arcade blog post in the Features, Views and Analysis section.

Must have been a slow news day…


My BBC Red Button games blog post is up…

March 23, 2009 8 comments

My BBC Red Button Aracde blog post is live on the BBC Red Button blog.  Follow the link to read about the challenges of writing simple games on interactive television platforms.

The post includes a video and screenshots of the games I’ve written during my “10% time” at the BBC.  This is time we are given — half a day each week — to work on our own projects and try to innovate.

The games are written in the MHEG programming language, a subject I often discuss on this blog.

Update: The post is now linked to from the front page of the BBC News Technology section.

I get a mention on the BBCi blog

February 23, 2009 Leave a comment

Today’s post on the BBCi Labs blog briefly mentions  a Pong game I wrote for Freeview/Freesat set-top boxes a while ago.  A couple of the guys in the BBCi team took my game and tried to make it multiplayer by passing players’ movements over the internet.  I don’t think they were totally sucessful though in getting it to work though…

Here’s the link.  The ‘Pong challenge’ section is the where it’s at…

Also see here for a video of the Pong game (the single player version), it’s the third game shown in the video.


MHEG+ Game Development Tutorial, Part #2 — Animation

December 14, 2008 6 comments

In part #1 of this series we built a basic MHEG+ scene which was capable of firing timer events at a consistent rate.  In this part we will look to extend the code by adding an animating graphic to the scene.

A further aim of this part is to explain some more of the language features exclusive to MHEG+, including foreach loops, sequential blocks and ifs.

Adding our graphics to the scene

I have hand crafted the following 5 png graphics to use for this tutorial:


Using an MHEG+ foreach loop, we can add all these graphics to our scene in one fell swoop:

  foreach num (0..4) {
    {:Bitmap bmpPac<num> = [constPacObjectIdOffset + <num>]
     :OrigPosition          [(720 - 32) / 2] [(576 - 32) / 2]
     :OrigBoxSize           32 32
     :OrigContent           :ContentRef ('/tut/<num>.png')
     :InitiallyActive       false
  } endfor

There a number of subtleties of this loop which are probably worth discussing:-

  • foreach loops are preprocessor instructions, not run-time loops.  Because of this we can use foreach loops around object declarations, or in fact any code section at all.
  • In this case, the contents of the foreach loop will be duplicated 5 times, this is controlled by the (0..4) range on the first line.  This range need not be numeric, text may also be used, for example: foreach key (red, green, yellow, blue) is allowed.
  • The Bitmaps we declare will be named bmpPac0 through bmpPac4, <num> is substituted with each value in the range.
  • The object identifiers for the Bitmaps will be 100 through 104, assuming constPacObjectIdOffset has the value 100.  We use the MHEG+ notation: objectname = objectid to declare both names and object identifiers for our Bitmaps.
  • <num> is also substituted in the png filename

Read more…

Video: Games I’ve written in MHEG

September 19, 2008 4 comments

MHEG is a programming language & middleware found in digital set top boxes in the UK and elsewhere around the world.  This video briefly shows a few games I have written in MHEG while working at the BBC.

The games shown in the video are:-

  1. ‘Nibbler’ – a Snake clone.
  2. ‘Bounce!’ – really more of a tech demo than a finished game, but surprisingly fun.  Catch the green blobs but avoid the red one.
  3. ‘Ping Pong’ – pretty self explanatory I think.

The games have never been broadcast.  I am hoping the powers that be at the BBC will let them go to air.  What do you think?  Would you like to be able to ‘Press Red’ and play games such as these?

Obviously the graphics could do with some work, but these games do at least prove the technology…

Leave a comment if you’d like to see the BBC do classic arcade style games on interactive TV.

BBC iPlayer for Linux/Mac “by the end of the year” — without DRM?!

October 16, 2007 1 comment

(Disclosure: I have recently accepted a job at the BBC.)

Late last night, the BBC News Technology section reported:

The BBC has also confirmed that users of Apple Mac and Linux machines will be able to use its TV catch-up service from the end of the year.

The article focuses on a scheme for free access to BBC wi-fi hotspots via The Cloud, but slips in the above statement regarding iPlayer. This is indeed great news for Mac/Linux users in the UK, myself included (I run the latter), who thus far have had to resort to running a Windows virtual machine to even get a glimpse of the iPlayer.

And how will the content be delivered? The answer: Flash video. Meaning the BBC’s initial push for DRM controlled content are now out the window.

By using Flash, one must assume even relatively non-technically savvy users will be able to download the linked-to FLV video content and keep copies of videos for later viewing (i.e. longer than the 30 day restriction currently in place). Of course this will probably violate stated terms & conditions of the service, but at least it will be a possibility for those who really want to keep something for a short while to do so without resorting to ugly DRM hacks.

Also mentioned in the article is the possibility of programmes to be downloaded and stored on portables like the PSP. Again, with no reference to controlling the storage via DRM.

Will this lessen sales of BBC DVDs, at least in the UK? The article also mentions the possibility of “HD download” content in the future… so, very possibly I would speculate.


BBC Most Popular?

October 15, 2007 Leave a comment

(Disclosure: I have very recently accepted a job at the BBC.)

TechCrunch (and others) yesterday reported Top Blogs on Google Reader, compiling a league table of the most popular RSS feeds on the web, or in fact those subscribed to by Google Reader users.

Various updates to these posts however suggest the early figures may have been misleading and certainly a more recent visit to Google Reader will show a considerably different set of figures.

It seems (update: and has been confirmed) the early figures shown on Google Reader yesterday were gross underestimates of the real values, by varying degrees.

Certainly all reports yesterday placed BBC News at the top, but is still the case? Robert Scoble suggests the BBC have so many subscribers because they have a well-written RSS Feeds Help Page. Hmm, I fail to see how this brings them so much traffic Robert, perhaps instead people subscribe for their relatively unbiased news content…?

Yesterday, TechCrunch showed the RSS leaderboard as follows:

1. BBC 202,463
2. Google News 192,100
3. ESPN 189,274
4. MarketWatch 176,814
5. Engadget 146,449
6. TechCrunch 129,160
7. Wired Top Stories 104,159
8. Official Google Blog 71,283
9. Slashdot (top level) 71,046
10. Make Magazine 61,464

Having revisited the stats today myself I get the following figures for those same 10 feeds:-

1. BBC News 2,254,251 (1)
2. ESPN 1,012,666 (3)
3. Google News 694,297 (2)
4. Wired 686,996 (7)
5. MarketWatch 371,316 (4)
6. Engadget 361,169 (5)
7. Slashdot 322,995 (9)
8. TechCrunch 187,320 (6)
9. Official Google Blog 101,107 (8)
10. Make Magazine 90,789 (10)

Quite a difference. (numbers in parentheses denote TechCrunch table position.)

Both however show BBC News (n.b., inclusive of both UK and International versions) as far and away the most popular RSS feed on the web, according to Google Reader subscriptions. The rather grand figure of 2 million subscribers yet excludes all children feeds such as BBC Sport, Science, Technology, etc. I applied similar selection criteria for all feeds listed above, e.g. did not include Wired Gadgets in the Wired figure.

Of course Google Reader subscriptions alone aren’t the be all and end all of syndication statistics, but with the BBC showing twice that of the nearest competitor, I think the claim can safely be made that BBC News is far and away the most popular feed on the web today.

Also of note is the BBC Brazilian news, clocking in at far more than BBC English News, can you believe 4,322,070 subscribers. That’s Megabrazilians!

Update: Strangely absent from Mike Arrington’s list was the New York Times news feed, which currently clocks in at 1,455,498 subscribers, still some distance short of the Beeb.