Saturday 30 December 2017



I thought I’d write up a little work in progress report on a new game I’ve been developing.

The concept for this game came about perhaps two or three years ago, where I was getting annoyed with the surplus of mining and crafting games. After the exponential success of Minecraft, it seemed like every new game incorporated some facet of its game mechanic. I grew immediately tiresome and felt like making an anti-Minecraft game that used these same mechanics to draw attention to the social and historical issues of mining. My initial thoughts were to produce a game that featured politically motivated songs about mining, inspired by a moving performance of The Mountain by Steve Earle in St. David’s Hall in Cardiff, Wales. Earle remarked that this was his only song to have been translated into Welsh, poignantly highlighting the relational nature of the working-class struggle.

I parked my first attempts until relatively recently until two things again inspired me:

The desire to make a self-playing game following this keynote, and, the evolution of Bitcoin as a mainstream currency.

When simplified, it is possible to see Bitcoin as something of a self-playing game; hugely powerful computers run programmes that slowly ‘mine’ cryptocurrency. The recent popularity of Bitcoin can be seen to be mostly in part to media coverage, but the typical user has grown from early-adopter pizza purchasers to money laundering, gangsters, and other illegal activities. I wanted to make my game along the same lines as Bitcoin, but instead of mining for something considered morally dubious, I aimed to produce a game that mined for something culturally beneficial. In this case, song lyrics.

What I’ve arrived at (so far) is a 2D self-playing game referencing the 16-bit era. A solitary protagonist slowly mines out a pit, uncovering lyrics of the Ewan MacColl song School Days Over with each block. The miner gradually gets slower, a-la Bitcoin. Some of the design decisions have been taken from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, a game from my childhood. I've included below a few different colour palettes to give an idea of the progress of my prototypes.

Regarding gameplay, I had the miner as a formerly playable character, but after reading about self-playing games, I felt that removing player interaction would relate my game better to both Bitcoin and online streaming services. It was also my intent for the viewer to feel as merely a helpless spectator.

The lyrics uncovered by the miner are from a song by Ewan MacColl, presented as text along the bottom of the screen. MacColl’s song is about leaving school at a young age to go down into the pit, and I wanted to juxtapose this with a game of childish nostalgia. I had considered using Minecraft and a bot to relay this message but changed to building a self-contained 2D standalone game. Currently, I have the lyrics in English, but I have considered using Welsh translated lyrics for two reasons. I don’t think this song has ever been translated. Secondly, I’d like to see a translation done using something automated like Google Translate, again, reiterating using something of robotic nature for cultural good.

So there are a few little things left to fix for this game but I’m relatively happy with the current prototype in both looks and execution. Watch this space for a proper release soon.

Wednesday 13 December 2017


I’m writing this post as my initial reactions to the announcement of Cardiff as the UK’s first ‘Music City’.

I’ve lived in Cardiff for ten years now, and my experience here regarding music has been as a concert attendee, a promoter, and as a musician. I am excited that Cardiff has received this status. In fact, there are a lot of people who are very pleased about this. Cardiff is a great city for music, musicians and gigs. But I have some gripes.

Let me list a few things off the top of my head:

Dempsey’s is now a football-themed grub pub.
The Globe has long resorted to booking endless safe-bet tribute bands.
The Point has been closed down due to noise complaints.
The Coal Exchange is now a hotel.
The Barfly is now a craft beer bar.
The Full Moon is now a prohibition-themed cocktail bar.
The Moon was forcibly closed only to reopened due to outstanding local fundraising support.
The flats & Wetherspoon hotel on Womanby street were eventually vetoed due to the Save Womanby Street campaign.

So with this in mind, what does it mean to be a ‘Music City’? The recognition is given by the London-based company, Sound Diplomacy, who specialise in delivering ‘strategies that increase the value of music ecosystems’. It appears that Sound Diplomacy will now work alongside the local council to create a new music/tourism platform in the capital.

North Sea Gas earlier this year, at the Four Bars

I don’t see this as recognition for an already thriving music city. I see this as the musical lifeline that Cardiff fundamentally needs.

Friday 8 December 2017


There are two things regarding uilleann piping that has happened this week:

UNESCO has recognised Uilleann piping as being representative of the 'Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity'. Excellent news! This result is a testament to the continued hard work and dedication of Na Píobairí Uilleann to the promotion of playing, learning and manufacture of the instrument.

In a particularly insightful message, President Michael D Higgins remarked that the uilleann pipes "connect us in profound ways, weaving together cultural memory and contemporary vision".

Somewhat along those lines, and in much less important news, is that have I gotten a new chanter. I've been looking for a suitable chanter to match my old set of pipes, and the opportunity came for me to acquire this 19th-century instrument which I believed to be the same maker as my own set.

It appears to be related to the Eighteen Moloney, which is in my opinion, one of the best sounding instruments ever (see recordings by David Power and Willie Clancy). Supposedly, the Eighteen Moloney was made by the Moloney brothers of Co. Clare around 1830-40. Both the Eighteen Moloney and my new chanter very much resemble the work Michael Egan of Liverpool and not really like the most famous instrument of the Moloney brothers (The Vandeleur set, pictured below).

Either way, the chanter is an exquisite example of a pre-famine instrument, and I look forward to getting a good reed going (below) for it and marrying it up to my main set of pipes.