How The Chariot Can Change Travel

I once mooted how you could take the booking system of Uber, the telephone service of Cango and the flexibility of a bus; to create a rural transport solution.

Yesterday something similar was announced by Ford-backed Chariot in Greater London. Yes, I know, London is hardly rural, it does however provide a concept for the elements to show they work.

With a trial licence now granted by TfL across four routes, users must pre-book a guaranteed seat on a fleet of Ford Transit minibuses. The services are apparently designed to fulfil a gap in the market of first-line and last-mile services to other hubs which in this case are rail and tube stations.

I have always been a supporter of last-mile transport in places where there is not enough demand to divert regular services, but a social need for those that would use it. Many of these services are currently subsidised by local town or county councils to provide the necessary connections, but over time the out of money has dried up and cuts are made to the services that need the most subsidy. Quite often these are the services where the few users left are in the most need for it.

Chariot already has a history

Ford run the Chariot service in the US already and on first inspection the technology and process is the same as in San Francisco and New York, as well as Austin and Seattle.

A quick look around their San Fran operation shows, for example the Pacific Rush;

  • running between Pacific Heights, through the Financial District to South Park
  • between 0630 and 1000 (every 7 minutes) and
  • returning between 1530 and 1940 (every 10 minutes)

and in London…

  • Erith & West Heath to Abbey Wood station
  • Shooter’s Hill to Greenwich North Tube
  • Battersea Park & Nine Elms to Kennington (via, but not stopping at Vauxhall station)
  • Wandsworth Riverside direct and largely Non-stop to Clapham Junction

All four routes operate Monday to Friday rush hours, not that there isn’t a rush hour in Greater London, and the few times I have looked at their live tracking there have been 2 or 3 vehicles running.

Interestingly, the routes are not the most obvious. For example passing busy stations at Vauxhall and Wandsworth Town and not are stopping. It is likely that this is because the routes would duplicate a busy TfL red bus route, the Chariot being neither red, nor accept the London transport smart card Oyster. Fares are also two-thirds higher than its primary competitor, at £2.40 rather than £1.50. Of course, season tickets do reduce this on both counts.

Moving the concept to a new environment

Outside the TfL boundary bus services are falling in many parts of the country.

Both independent operators and the big companies have been feeling the brunt of things and some of the problem is that there is no longer the innovation beyond leather seats and free Wi-Fi.

What most operators are quick to withdraw on though are the obscure and minor services that once run across the length and breadth of the country.

Ironically, as I go to check my figures the service has changed, but my favorite example of one such service is in Hampshire.

The Number 54

The Number 54 bus is a lifeline for a few.

Until recently, you could get the bus on a Wednesday from the minor villages and hamlets north-west of Basingstoke, into the town, and back again.

If the buses ran to time, you could get a whole 90 minutes in Basingstoke to do what you needed to do, shop, eat, visit the doctors. We all know that the NHS is rolling in so much money they can guarantee a right-time appointment for you! There is no place for sarcasm in such a serious post, but you get the point of how tight the service made you spend your time?

The irony of my research is that now, the service which also serves the towns hospital, gives you 2.5 hours in town, although not suitable for visiting hours. This may be because of the change of operator, being a Hampshire County Council supported service.

The fact that the service only runs on on a Wednesday is not in the slightest bit important for its long term demise.

There must be a better way

The problem is that the County Council are trying to save money whereas traditional operators are not prepared to take a financial risk with a financially marginal service.

They might gain a few more passengers is there was a long term commitment, but people’s jobs and plans would rely on the service.

This is where the Chariot model comes in.

Adapting the Cango Model

Cango was a partly pre-bookable, partly scheduled bus service under contract. A number of bus operators have run Cango services under contract over the years but many have now reverted back to infrequent scheduled bus services.

One of the problems, certainly from experience and by talking to others, was the inflexible planning model. You had to phone and book before 5pm the day before travel, to a central phone number at the council. These pre-bookable services run during the off-peak for shoppers and doctors rather than workers and schools.

Not really that useful for the market that would pay to support the rest of the service.

A commuter village service

The Chariot model can adapt to the commuter market so easily; small buses, negotiating the villages in the early morning and connecting at a transport hub or bus stop. It can run more often because it doesn’t have to duplicate existing services; meeting with buses or trains at a number of points on it’s journey.

In the example of the 54; a commuter service could start at Oakley run through the villages and hamlets Kingsclere and then run through the villages and hamlets to Overton. This, at a guess, would take between 30 and 40 minutes end to end; but adding in some stops as only bookable via an app or a website browser.

The only downside to such a responsive service is that in the short term, the state of public bus services means that it takes 56 days to register most scheduled bus services. This means that if demand increases, then there is a risk that people will not be able to book on a service of their choice. In London it is easy to introduce a frequent service, but less so in the provinces.

Making the service fully pre-booking only, similar to what National Express used to do with the majority of it’s services, would be a solution to start with, however at the same time this hinders access for all, which is the whole point of the exercise to start with.

Of course, one possible solution would be to run a scheduled service and additional services via a pre-booking only facility. That is then bordering on a grey area that the Traffic Commissioner may have to test.

Either way…. Chariot has promise not just in it’s London trial, but elsewhere in the UK; if the vehicle and the demand is not enough for a County Council supported service.

Looking back & Looking Forward

It has been almost a month since we have last spoken, or indeed since I have last spoken at you and you have chosen not to listen. It has been a long month, culminating in today, being the first anniversary of my fathers passing. We must always look back though, before we look forward. I have had my time of looking back and now it is time indeed time for me to also look forwards.

This month has not quite gone the way I had hoped in terms of being ‘freelance’. My latest pet project, SlowPsycho, has faltered slightly into the new year. I have come down from the high of becoming an affiliate on my Twitch channel and it is already back to just having me streaming to myself, probably down to game choice, as well as not getting the interaction I had liked.

I say it is down to my game choice. It is probably because I have been head first into a new, excellent, steampunk survival game called They Are Billions (my review) where the basic concept is you get your command center, 4 basic scouts and a soldier. You have to build your colony and survive.

I won’t hide the fact that after 95 hours of gameplay, I have yet to survive on the first of 4 maps. The fact that I have set myself some hard targets is neither here nor there:

  • Of a difficulty rating of 10% to 320% on map 1 – I only play 55% / 75% / 100% / 320%
  • On a game where you can pause the real-time strategy; I make it my policy not to pause to ‘play the game’ only if I need to …. take a comfort break.

You can see many of my attempts on my past broadcasts on Twitch.

But – My First Twitch Subscription

I did, however, receive my first cash subscription from one of the Twitch community during the month.

The Twitch Subscription system allows you to financially support a channel. Some people bleat about it all the time when they stream, they have daily targets shown on the screen, they talk about it all the time, their channel page is littered with advertising.

I don’t do any of that, I have a single note about donations and subscriptions and I have an automated chat bot that will post, but overload the chat while I am playing games for people to watch.

I can guarantee that the Twitch user Kurt_Kurt is not reading, but thank you friend.

“Can I Subscribe?” – Yes and for Free

For a small plug, yes you can.

There are two ways you can subscribe.

  • Go along to my channel, register for an account and hit the purple subscribe button above the stream window. Subscription rates start at $4.99 a month.
  • Create a Twitch account and link it to your Amazon Prime account – I will post an article on Twitch/Amazon Prime at some point – and you get a monthly free subscription to any one channel. If you already have Twitch Prime it is like giving something for nothing.

A Screenshot of the SlowPsycho website

The SlowPsycho.tv Website

Contrary to popular understanding, I do actually have some knowledge of Drupal. So the SlowPsycho.tv website is actually built on Drupal 8 and I have a duplicate test server also running charity focused CiviCRM as well.

The thing is though, things that I was asked to do on a previous Drupal / CiviCRM website and I was openly struggling with, are now working perfectly! One can only wonder as to the reason for that!

No SlowPsycho memberships and automated certificates yet though; I need to find the time to work on the basics.

Review and Previews

I am starting to populate the website with games reviews and little snippets of code that seem to work to a small degree. You will be able to find a growing list of games that I have archived or I am waiting to play at the new My Games page. It is still building, I have to find the right balance of game logo and description, and I can not decide how to inject and display the link to any review I have written about each game I play.

I have not, however, gone back and reviewed older games that I no longer play. I am nodding towards things like Cities in Motion and Dirty Bomb, but it means re-installing the games, digging out the press packs and for what? No-one buys games older than 6 months now!

Coming up though, will hopefully be my look at Civilization VI DLC (downloadable content pack) Rise and Fall. If I can get into Stellaris from 2016/17 and Crusader Kings II from 2006(!) then I will be reviewing them too. You may see a slight bias right now toward Paradox Interactive games right now.

Build My Own Computer

Yeah, I forgot about that website too. I have not touched that in what seems to be an eternity. I did look back at it last year when I was upgrading my main gaming rig for SlowPsycho work, but I don’t remember doing much updating.

That is something that I need to work on, if only because it is still getting the most views of all my work!

My Targets – February

I want to write more, I want to game more, I want to stream more. So I have set myself some targets that I want to share, because I want you to berate me, chastise me and tell me off when I don’t reach them.

  • Write at least 400 words per day; on either Golden Blog, Build My Own Computer or SlowPsycho
  • Start writing proper ideas and opinion content, right here on Golden Blog
  • Write or update and average of 1000 words per day across the websites (some days are better than others)
  • Stream 60 hours of gameplay across the month on my Twitch Channel
  • Get a second Twitch subscriber – as well as not losing the first one!

As you can see, I am rapidly reaching my 1000 word target for average words, it is just a shame that I am writing this on 30th January, otherwise I would tick it off my list.

What are your targets for February? Apart from no longer reading the Golden Blog, that is!

 

A New Day – A New Dawn – Welcome to 2018

So for the second and last time it is a case of bringing out the festive bunting as I take a quick look back on the trials and tribulations of 2017 and look forward to the new push of 2018.

Flirtly…. Happy New Year.

May 2018 bring you everything that was good about the last twelve months and more. May you leave the old and bad behind and grab the new day with a glass of Prosecco and / or alcohol-free beer.

I celebrated earlier than many yesterday and had a glass of Sauvignon Blanc with my dinner. Some of us had to be in bed early last night ready for the 4am alarm call and the 40 minute meander to the office. For someone who spent the start of 2017 trying to find an excuse not to go to the gym, starting 2018 with a 2.5 mile walk to work is one way to try and push ones-self to… not go to the gym.

SlowPsycho

What has stopped me going to the gym is my latest project of Gaming with SlowPsycho, where I basically stream most of my gaming to an audience of one man and his guinea pig. Well I have had some success I suppose, I had to have so that I could become affiliated with Twitch. It was mostly thanks to one game that seemed to gain traction and developed a small following.

The problem was then that the game, being in Early Access, did not really pan out as quick as I would have hoped to prevent the burnout that a partial game can bring.

How Can You Support SlowPsycho?

Do you have Amazon Prime? Did you know that Amazon Prime is more than just free next day delivery? You can also use it to support streamers on Amazon’s recent acquisition Twitch.

You can link your Amazon to a Twitch Account Here and you obviously need to create a Twitch account. You can then subscribe directly in your favorite streamers channel; like mine!

I am also working on a website reviewing the games I play, at SlowPsycho.tv where I will … ermmm…. go slowly psychotic.

The Christmas Lul

A few years ago, you could never have broken my festive spirit. The rain pattering on the windows was merely the snow that is yet to form and the house was full of glitter and tinsel.

As we approach NORAD’s special day though, things don’t seem to be the same anymore. The tree is up and the lights are on but nobody is really home.

You see, I have been busy working on new projects. Leaving hospital radio behind back in May, probably setting fire to all the bridges as I left, I had already missed the boat on a number of things I really wanted to try out. I was making decisions of whether to buy a laptop that allowed me to try and develop the HBA website – I did not feel justified to ask them to supply one – or buy BitCoin.

I am of course, sat here on £1200 of – at the time – high spec laptop now writing a blog post. That is not to say I don’t now put it to good use….

I also missed out of the infancy of my current project; gaming and streaming. For those that are closer to me will know, I now put about 20 to 30 hours a week into this, despite being late to the game, and will never find out if I could have been successful. I started to tinker with it about 15 months ago, the occasional stream a few times a week, trying to get a feel for the games that I play and how I could exploit them online.

Streaming and Gaming?

So yes. I know, I am a bit old and I am probably a bit too mediocre at it.

I like playing strategy games. For those of you who remember Sim City, I play Cities:Skylines, which is like the next generation of that. I play strategy games like Civilization VI, Transport Fever and more recently more simplistic simulations like Airport CEO and Production Line.

You can find what I am currently doing on my Twitch Channel (it’s basically like YouTube, but just for gaming and ‘live streaming’) and I am now working towards a website connected to it where I can put my game reviews, tips and things. Some of the articles on the Golden Blog will probably move across and some of the articles that I have never managed to finish will get completed.

I have been quite busy at this though since starting the computer upgrade back in June. I have to justify what is quickly approaching a 4 figure sum for computer parts – it probably is now I have a new RX580 Nitro+ – not the cheapest of hobbies!

How Can I Be Successful?

Oh behave! I am not doing to be a millionaire success, I probably won’t even make back my investment, but it is nothing to say I won’t try. As some of you already know, the Department for Work and Pensions are not top of my Christmas card list right now.

So all I ask is that I try and make back the £200/month lost to the PIP scandal. Did you know someone who is registered blind is no longer entitled to a single penny in assistance! Of course as I am already hammered by the 40% tax and the repayment of child benefit I will have to clear more than that.

You know of course…. I will never get close

So – HOW Can I be Successful?

Oh right… you mean how do I make money from it? Well.

So far I haven’t.

From nothing, over 12 months (well, since June really) I have had about 2,000 unique views of my output and around 100 ‘followers’ who choose to … follow.

All that has given me enough momentum to be offered an affiliate agreement with Twitch, which means people can subscribe with a number of donations ranging from $4.99 to $24.99 a month. Amazon Prime users also qualify for a free subscription to give out per month, which translates to a little in the kitty. Some channels, including mine, can take one-off donations via StreamLabs (via Paypal) and there are other micro-transaction options.

Twitch Prime also Gets you free games though, on top of ad-free viewing of the rubbish I produce. Recently I have picked up some free Hearthstone cards, which I occasionally play, sometimes you pick up a free game from the retro catalog.

BUT

The lul at the moment is that indeed, I am nowhere near making my first dime. It’s been more than 6 months since the DWP took away the PIP for the good lady and I still have not done anything to make up the shortfall.

I still plug away though, the extra 20 to 30 hours a week trying to make myself a success. It is not in the slightest bit festive though, even if I may wear the red hat and beard.

You can see some of my work on my Twitch Channel.

Review – Bomber Crew (PC)

Right-oh Aces, Spiffing of you to come along. Hit the bean shooter an’ you’ll be Bomber Crew in the morning!

With help of the good old 1930’s slang dictionary on Google, it made absolutely no help as I embarked on a new $1 Million grossing -1942 shooter from Runner Duck.

The idea of Bomber Crew is quite simple. Fly the plane, Shoot the fighters, Bomb the targets, Get home. It sounds repetitive, but with each slight variation of the mission it is quite addictive. You are so quickly immersed though that you are now well passed the Steam 2-hour refund window.

First but foremost… the advert from the developers…

 

Starting with Rag-Tag Green Recruits

I remember when I did my first days work. I put on the last crimson blazer with black lapels that I would ever wear (seriously – it was that bad) and wandered off to work at a cinema.

A Bomber Crew waiting for Uniform

These fool hardy Level 1 recruits, with less collective experience than a schoolboy working the back row of the picture house; are all you have. They must take a Lancaster bomber across the channel, to save a spitfire pilot downed in the drink of the English Channel.

You can guarantee that such an easy task of ‘bombing’ the downed pilot with survival gear is going to attract the attention of Fritz and the Jerrys.

Get Geared Up

Get the right crewman the right gear, with the right training, out on a mission double-time.

You will be foolhardy to fit the pilot out in plimsolls and a blue beret, or forget that the tail gunner needs help to reload. There is no right answer, but there are plenty of better options as you use cash from each mission .Upgrade the old or kit out the new as a succession of new recruits replace the ones you have…. well….

A Bomber Crew Explosion in the English Channel

Completing That First Mission

You will quickly find one thing, engage the enemy and don’t look back. You don’t have time to look back. It does not matter which of the missions you take, they all involve finding and shooting down the enemy pilots!

You will then realise one of the complications of the game; just how hard it is to do everything! Interaction within your bomber crew is point and click. Click on your crewman, click on what you want them to do. This is all well and good, except for one small problem:

A Bomber Crew in flight

Welcome to the Flight Control (at fear of calling it a ****pit)

There are five crew positions at the front of your Lancaster.

When something breaks, it is the engineer’s job to fix it. His skill is that he can fix anything quicker than any other member of the crew, although anyone can fix it…. oh how many times has the plane free-fallen from the sky because I have mis-clicked a few pixels too far and dispatched the pilot to the engine on the wing.

So having 5 members of bomber crew a few pixels apart means you have to multi-task and be deadly accurate. Thankfully in recent updates Runner Duck have added hot-keys for all the crew. The Pilot is always number 1, the engineer is always number 2 and the bomber, in the front gun turret (right on the picture) is number 7.

Finding Your First Victim

Tracking the waypoints of the mission is the job of the navigator, if they are still alive, or the person standing in for your fallen comrade. Tracking the waypoint though is a useful way of getting ready to track the fighter pilots around you as it shows how fast the tracking happens.

Aiming for a waypoint

As long as your navigator can see the ground all is good and you can head in the right direction. Lift up to mid and high altitude flying however and the navigator complains he can not see anything, while the pilot complains that he needs a new navigation point.

When you are finally caught up by the enemy, the intuitive radar system warns you of their general direction until you lock onto them with your tracking; then you only really lose sight of them when they are crashing, at speed, into the ground, riddled with bullet holes.

Aiming at Enemy Fighters

Dropping Your First Bombs

Not surprisingly, bombing runs feature highly in this new game called Bomber Crew.

Moving your bomber between the front gun turret and the bomb bay after taking out the fighters is key. You have to remember to load a bomb and open the bomb bay doors in time before you are getting the Flight Officer to fly your bomber crew around again.

An increasing succession of types of bombs and how they work comes as you work through the campaigns. Bombs, bouncing bombs, when are the Nuclear Bombs?

Critical Missions

In order to progress along the seven campaigns you have to successfully complete the critical mission.

Well…. I say successfully…. you don’t have to come back alive….

The critical mission is just like the end of level boss. The enemy is more plentiful and you will imagine they are far more powerful. The mission has red herrings and twists and turns.

It took me a few failed attempts – and some help on one of my streams – to realise that I was doing critical missions wrong. Many wasted crews later and you find that in fact you are not bombing the missile silo that launched the missile; but blowing up the missile before finding the other silos.

…and it’s back home for supper

When you are done, it is time to head for home. The next challenge is getting back to the runway at just north of London – sort of Milton Keynes way – and making sure that you get there.

The German fighters are still tailing you over the channel, you have just got through the barrage of ground fire and you battle hardy crew are now feeling the cold while you cruise at high altitude.

Eh? Wheres the wheel gone? It got shot off with number 2 engine? Never mind, we can still try to land on one wheel…. or we can crash land…. no guarantees we will survive!

Bomber Crew is a great game – but….

There are some things that really bug me.

Firstly it is so very repetitive at times. The variation in the standard missions of the campaign are shoot some fighters, bomb something or bomb drop some supplies, take a photograph of a building for extra points and get home.

That being said, the difficulty of those missions increases at the right amount to keep you challenged, but not to make you complain that you are failing too many times.

Runner Duck have listened to some issues though, they have introduced assists like a “slow down” feature which allows you to enter the Matrix and slow time down just for a moment so you can assign that repair task just in time. We have also already mentioned the hot-keys; updated so you can select your crew more easily.

I really looking forward to the next batch of updates if that is anything to go by. Are there new bombers in the works? Will you get co-op with an invasion fleet Critical Missions? Baring in mind, as we already said, that it took $1 Million in it’s first two weeks…. you can hope for a little dedication!

I can’t wait to find out. But first we need to honour those sprites that gave their lives for the review.

Bomber Crew Memorial

Bomber Crew is available now, on Steam.

Review – Airport CEO (PC)

 

It’s not often that I will buy a game on Steam that is new and on Early Access. Something about Airport CEO made me go back though, time and time again; so let’s see if it was worth me buying the game.

This review will be written over a number of days. Check back soon for new sections and tips. It is important to remember that this is a very early Alpha game in Early Access – there will be bugs and there will be things that need to change.

This article was last updated on 26 November 2017 and the current version is 23.3-4 – Apoapsis Studios are currently updating and patching Airport CEO on a regular basis.

Waiting at the Gate

So let’s make this as simple a summary for the game: You are the Airport CEO.

The current trend of top-down, 2D simulations appears to be continuing as you take a cartoon look at being the next owner of BAA and rushing off to apply for a consultant position at Heathrow Airport.

Whether you are building the check-in desk queues, bolstering the security, or simply decreasing the discount in the Duty Free, this game looks like it has potential. Over the coming days I am going to be playing Airport CEO on my Twitch channel as well as updating this review.

In The Beginning

Quite literally, all you start with is a road onto your patch of land and a parking space for your construction materials and workers. This will be the bread and butter for you to build the first roads to your new airport.

Airport CEO - A blueprint for the first roads

The first thing I do is start to manage the road layout. As you might be able to tell here I have used the two lanes of the road and created a simple one-way loop* that would eventually lead to the passenger drop off points.

Blueprint – that is the perfect word for the first game day of operations. You have the ultimate blank canvas and you can just bulldoze your way as the Airport CEO.

The construction materials for the building of roads, buildings, toilets; is all delivered automatically. How many construction staff do you need though? the more you hire, the more it costs to build your airport quicker.

Airport CEO - a blueprint of an airport building

Sorry…. who is going to build the airport? In lieu of having staff to write a procurement contract and hiring and firing, I suppose it is down to the Airport CEO! Thankfully you get the choice (a blueprint is ALWAYS about choice) – you can either hire a Procurement Manager to advise you, or you can bulldoze your way through signing your first construction contract.

* – Top Tip. vehicles in your airport do not understand the concept of one way roads, so don’t bother trying. They will try to crash into each other!

The Information Screens

Easy to follow information screens can be found on the right hand side of your screen and contain everything from your e-mails to your contracts.

So as we are talking about contracts for construction, we can take a look at one now, the first one, all about getting your Airport CEO career to a flying start with…. an airport.

I have yet to see how the influence of your new management board will affect the way that the system works. At the moment, the procurement manager will help you unlock the commercial aspects of an airport terminal, but then what will their $30/hour bring?

and Tutorials

The tutorials, prompted by messages in your e-mail inbox, are great for when you are starting your first airport. The first tutorials, quite frankly, were rubbish and had you bankrupt by the end of day 2.

The update to version 0.22 though has brought some promise, highlighting the fact that you can start making money with a simple airfield and stands for small private aircraft to park. It still has bugs, some of the tutorials still do not acknowledge when you have completed them, but it is getting there.

 

To be fair though, once you have done a few airports, the tutorial is redundant and you will know what you are doing. By your third airport your first priority will be getting aircraft in quick and out quicker – the General Aviation way.

General Aviation on Airport CEO

Like millions of airfields around the world, your first airport can be just a small private airfield. These aircraft do not need check-in facilities, or boarding gates. There is money to be made though in landing fees and refueling, so the first things that you should need are a runway, some connected ‘Small Stand’ gates and a service road to provide fuel.

General Aviation aircraft are offered an interface icon which goes green when there is an aircraft asking to land. You can opt to accept or refuse the aircraft, but you can also opt to ‘accept GA automatically’ in your CEO dashboard. I was worried that letting the interface manage private aircraft would result in a traffic jam, but it doesn’t.

This makes it almost too easy. Build, set to auto and forget. You can even forget the maintenance for now, but we will come to that later.

You have to be careful though; sharing a stand to both commercial and general aviation aircraft can be troublesome.  You can not pre-determine how long the plane is looking to stay and can block a stand for hours overnight.

Rescheduling stands for commercial aircraft is not yet a thing; but the option appears to be there for future inclusion.

The one thing you have to remember though, and with a build and forget concept it is far easier to do. As an Airport CEO, you will probably want to build GA stands as far as they eye can see; but in reality once you get to 15 or so stands even a 2 runway approach (arrivals and departures) gets clogged up with queuing aircraft.

Commercial Aircraft

Once your airport is built and a baggage system is in place (or not, it’s up to you, the Airport CEO) then you can start signing contracts for commercial flights.

Contract lengths vary, the number and size of planes vary as well. It’s your job to juggle them to fulfill all the contracts and earn the most money. You get the option of picking contracts that have recurring daily flights for a number of days, or to have to schedule and run a specific number of flights in a short number of days.

Run the contracts right and $000’s are yours!

As you can see, there is plenty of information about each flight, small aircraft must be allocated to a small stand and medium aircraft like the ATR72 must be allocated to a medium stand. As you add facilities like baggage and fueling then these will be allocated.

What isn’t in the game yet, certainly not as far as I have seen, is the large aircraft stands and large aircraft; we are probably talking like the 747’s and Airbus Dreamliners of the world. Considering we have small and medium though, it would not surprise me if it is in the internal roadmap.

Servicing Your Commercial Aircraft

Once you have things rolling you have to consider servicing your aircraft. Right now you have to have ramp agents baggage loading and handling (requiring staff AND vehicles) and your check-in and boarding facilities.

Hire the wrong number of staff, buy the wrong number of vehicles and the planes will get delayed. You don’t want to delay planes, especially when you have another one blocking the taxiway wanting the stand!

Baggage builds

When you are finally building your baggage routes you need to make sure they are well placed and enough for the number of commercial flights you want to fly.

By now space is a premium, underground baggage belts can take bags from the check-in to the security scans to the baggage bay. Service trucks bring the bags off your planes, then take the outgoing bags back to it think about things, go back to the vehicle depot then maybe come back out to take the new bags out to the plane.

‘You Cannae Change the Laws of Physics’

With a sprite update for service vehicles, it shows the problems that Apoapsis Studios sometimes have with the physics.

So here you can see the yellow hatching of the luggage bay and on the lower apron a service truck is loading. the problem is that when the service truck turns to leave, it leaves via the Gent’s toilet immediately south of it.

Obviously it does not do any damage as it is unintentional; but with the lack of field space expansion you do find yourself squeezing everything in.

Passengers   Customers

So how do you keep your customers happy? You have to manage the customers arriving on commercial aircraft as well as those waiting to fly away on business, holiday or just for a trip to the mile-high club.

Baggage (Again)

It does not matter whether you are landing Cessna or Jumbo Jets, someone will bring their luggage on board the plane. The first thing of course is to get the luggage from the aircraft to the customer as fast as you can.

You don’t know where they came from, it could be full of dodgy food, ancient Japanese artifacts or adult magazines…..

This is the baggage from one of my Twitch-streamed airports (at the time of writing we are on Airport #6) and it worked quite well; the passeng customers have a dedicated egress from airside and out that door!

Of course for the ‘orrible lot who bring contraband to board a flight you have options for that as well; a range of simple to personalised scanners and baggage annihilators.

Airport CEO is Great…. but

Apoapsis Studios is still working on getting this game from Alpha to Beta. There are some issues that they are working on, they are very responsive to the call both on the Airport CEO forums  and on the Airport CEO Twitter. They are a small team and release small patches every few days, but the patches are listening to the people playing and streaming the game.

It is also worth noting that the team have left full-time careers to work on the game! That dedication does show in the increase in things being developed and bugged.

They also take the time to acknowledge the people that are playing the game. Their DevLog blog posts often feature pictures of Airports uploaded to their forums and even admitting their flaws. They are using steam to upload their patch notes, so if you are still on the fence, take a look at what they are doing to make the game better.

I am not going to list all the little things that bug me; there are a few and I should expect there to be when I am playing the experimental Alpha builds. Aircraft sitting on top of each other can also be an issue, or maybe they are trying to join the Runway club and make baby Cessna.

For an Early Access and Alpha-build game I am enjoying Airport CEO. Is it worth the £12 price tag? It has promise, the developers look like they are dedicated to it.

I would say, based on the current experimental build 23.3-4, to give it a week or two. There have been some strange bugs that make no sense to me and I would wait to see how quickly they are ironed out. Yes it is a risk that it will never make it out of Early Access, but then so is PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds!

 

You can find Airport CEO on Steam.

Review – Cities:Skylines (PC)

Before we talk about Cities:Skylines, I have to ask… do you remember Sim City? It was great to start with. I enjoyed the early editions, putting hours into the early editions, spending days working on Sim City 3000 and then started to get disheartened with Sim City 4.

As for Sim City (2013)….. I read the reviews and never even bothered.

So I was apprehensive when I bought Cities:Skylines a few years ago based more on the hype and the stills than actually watching any gameplay. You will already have seen the professional reviews, but I wanted to sink a few hours into it first, buying some of the DLC’s and expanding my Cities:Skylines to more of what I hope Colossal Order wanted the game was meant to look like. 500 hours of play later (a mere scratch on the surface of some players) and here we are.

Cities:Skylines is Available on PC and Console

If you are a PC gamer then the game is available via Steam. You can pick up Steam codes from outlets such as Amazon for less than you can on Steam (at the time of writing £23 on Steam and £6 on Amazon) as you can the expansion downloadable content (DLC).

The game was also released on XBox One earlier this year, and more recently on PS4. Some elements of the PC game, such as the Steam Workshop, unfortunately do not apply to the console editions.

Before I Got to Cities : Skylines

Not surprisingly, I came to C:S via other strategy games. What really pushed me towards buying the game was that I was already playing the Cities in Motion games published by Colossal Order and Paradox Interactive.

Cities in Motion (and CiM2) was good, but I desired more. Without getting into the deviancy of additional assets and ‘modding’ I felt like I was always wanting more…. you did not really get the chance to influence the development of the city, no way of creating huge sprawling districts that matched the timetable.

Now I am a big C:S fan with a growing library of subscribed assets from the Steam Workshop; something you can not do on the console versions of the game.

Steam Workshop is a place where you can subscribe and download things to enhance your game. In most cases simply subscribing to the asset or mod will allow Steam to do all the hard work.

In The Beginning…..

Your job, if you can handle it, is to build a city from scratch… quite literally.

You start with a selection of maps, the range of which depends on which of the downloadable content packs you have also purchased – we will come to DLC’s later – but they all have stats on essential features:

  • How much water there is, in the form of rivers, lakes and the sea
  • What natural resource there is; farmland, oil, ore and forests
  • The percentage of the map that you can build on
  • The option to switch to left hand drive traffic.

When you have selected your map, you load into a 2km x 2km square in the center of the map. The base maps that come with the game and the expansions have a highway running though the starting square with a T-junction to help you on your start.

Once you get into the game, you will find Steam Workshop mods that allow you to unlock 9, 25 or 81 squares from the beginning, depending on the actual size of the map.

Build, Build, Build – Spend, Spend Spend

You have to start, as with any new city; building the roads, allocating space along the road to residential, commercial and industrial, and setting up the first cheap and cheerful electric and water supplies.

Cities:Skylines does not offer much money to start with,  so a single wind farm turbine and dumping water waste in the river will just have to do.

Of course, you have to plan that in advance and not put your first hamlet far and away from the water. You also have to remember that not only do you have to buy and build these things, but you also have to pay for the upkeep of it. Spend too much on roads and you get crippled with the maintenance costs.

So already we have to make sure that we build the first few homes and businesses with access to the highway, close to the water and with enough potential to not get broke.

Thankfully you will find the first people moving into your new city relatively quickly. Just make sure that you can keep them happy and support them without pricing them out of the county.

Build the Support

Along with building the residential estates, you also have to build the support infrastructure. Police, Fire, parks, public transport; the list is long.

You also have to consider the lives of your new citizens, they need hospitals when they are sick and cemeteries when they are dead. They need trash collection and to stop getting sick and to be told to recycle more. Of course, recycling is not quite embedded in the game, so someone has created a recycling center on the workshop.

The problem with building the support of course is that someone has to pay for it. Your job is to set the budget, by way of some incremental sliders that take into account, power, water and garbage, transport, education and more. Be careful though, spend too little and your Cities:Skylines citizens will move out. Spend too much though and they will be very happy, but eventually very broke as you will have to raise funds to pay for it.

Where is the income to pay for all this then? As you grow your new city through the target populations, you can move on to managing the finer points in life. The one thing you can not avoid in life or death is taxes and this city is no exception – set the tax levels, raise or lower them in specific districts and encourage the factories to move in by …. overlooking… a few planning regulations.

You can also set policies for your city planning or for you citizens. Such delights on offer include encouraging recycling and bike cycling, conserving power or water; each for a the low-low payment of a few pennies per citizen. You have to careful what you pay out for.

City-wide or District-by-District

As you grow your cities you can allocate them as districts using a brush tool. After renaming them you can individually manage the taxes and policies on the more micro-managed basis and let’s you dedicate resources in a less than blanket fashion.

The one thing that – disappointingly – not managed by the game sans mods is that the districts can not explicitly manage their own services. So if I was to place a hospital or a refuse dump in a district that I have marked out; I can not limit the ambulances or bin lorries to serve that district only.

There are, of course, mods for that.

DLC – The Official Expansions

Over the last 2 years Cities:skylines has seen a number of expansions in the form of paid for DLC as well as free updates.

The latest DownLoadable content will be available in the fall, called Green Cities; but this is what is already available:

  • After Dark – Added day and night cycles, leisure and tourism specialisms for commercial buildings, prisons and taxi services
  • Snowfall – Added winter and weather, heating systems and trams.
  • Natural Disasters – Exactly what it says on the tin, with earthquakes, meteors and tsunamis. also included was the first look at scenario mode.
  • Mass Transit – Monorails, airships and cable cars were the order of the day along with new in-house transport hub options and updates to the ferries and road management options.

All the Cities:Skylines DLC are available on Steam and Amazon

Modding via The Workshop

I have mentioned this a few times, so lets have a quick review of how good the community filled Workshop really is.

Rush Hour

One of the mods that I have used for some time is Rush Hour. This changes every way that the citizens work and play; making the schools work during the daylight hours, the lorries deliver to factories far less at night and changes the day and night cycle to last 24 hours instead of a number of weeks.

That means that you will find your bus stops full of people at 8am, they go to lunch at lunchtime and you could run a separate night bus network if that was your poison…. well I say you could but there will still be a few people prepared to wait all night for the bus to work.

Traffic Manager: President Edition & Network Extensions

These two mods are complete game changers in my opinion. Some of their features have become baked into the games development updates and if Colossal Order wanted to take the vast amount of concepts and make them into a DLC then it would sell.

These two mods completely change the way you can granulate your traffic strategy. You will get traffic, you will get traffic jams and you WILL get evil, hideous sprawling car parks of moving traffic when you play:

These two mods though help you fight it, then make it harder for yourself.

Firstly Network Extensions 2, which for the core part was a range of different types of road layout that you could use. The mod introduced asymmetric roads so you could have 4 lanes in the dominant direction and 2 against the flow. You could turn a dual carriageway into a dual carriageway with a turning lane and more.

Traffic Manager: President Edition takes this idea one step further. It introduced timed traffic lights, the ability to remove traffic lights altogether (now also integrated into the core game) and manage lane control at important places like roundabouts.

Lane control at Roundabouts, you say?

Oh god yes. Citizens in your city will be stupid. They will prefer the slow lane all the way. Using TM:PE you can change this so that you can have a consistent three lane roundabout all the way around and lane 1 can be set to leave the roundabout or be left clear for traffic to join.

Usually… if there are three lanes all the way around the traffic will simply use lane 1 regardless!

Your Personal Social Media Channel

…. and then we come to the complaints. The Citizens always like to complain. Thankfully you can find out about things using Chirper, the little blue bird that will give you deja-vu as it tells you about the water being contaminated or the fact that trees can help the noise pollution.

Hint; noise pollution will probably be better solved by moving the damn noisy wind farm right next the housing estate.

Cities : Skylines is Your City Builder

Now you are already saying “this kid only had 500 hours in, what does he know?” but it is the game I keep going back to.

Sure, it does not have the sophisticated transport network, it does not have school buses or night buses… well, not really.

Sure the idea of having meteors hitting the city as a natural disaster seems…. unnatural.

The citizens fact that the in game “social media feed” talks rubbish and the city has a mass death wave every few years is an issue.

Where there is something that the community finds missing, you can be assured that the workshop has a solution. It might not be YOUR solution, but it is a solution to head int he right direction. Paradox Interactive have listened to the more vocal user-base and have taken on board what is attracting uploads to the workshop; so I can only hope that they continue to support the game for many years to come.

But Cities:Skylines is more than half way there to being the next 10 years of city building like EA and Sim City did for many years before it. Long live Paradox Interactive, even if it only expands now with more paid for DLC.

Have the PIP Goalposts Changed?

With own experience, the outrage on social media and now an article in the press; I wonder if the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and ATOS have changed the goalposts for Personal Independence Payments (PIP).

There seems to be just so many different claims of payments being rejected either in part or in full. Many then successfully appealed, for some of the strangest reasons.

‘Your Not Disabled, You Can Walk On Your Hands’

So the article that has me thinking about this today is from The Independent;

Julius Holgate, from Hackney, north London, fell into debt and resorted to selling his jewellery and other belongings to survive after he received zero points during his Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) assessment in January.

The DWP said Julius was able to climb stairs using his arms and therefore had “mobility” so he could work. Source

This gentleman is a double-amputee affected by a “clerical error” at the Department for Work and Pensions and through a generic tick-list of tasks based on evidence that is provided by sub-contractor ATOS.

This is an easy Government get out, it was the contractors fault and they are not directly responsible, yadda, yadda.

Has the Criteria Changed?

Back in the days of the Conservative / Liberal Democrat coalition, there was a Government policy paper on welfare reforms.

Some of the elements of this are still in development. Universal Credit is in trial stages and infancy, while the introduction of caps on the amount of benefit that can be received continues to be adjusted. The section that is relevant to this discussion though is:

PIP helps towards some of the extra costs because of a long term ill-health condition or disability. It’s based on how a person’s condition affects them, not the condition they have. Source

The Disability Living Allowance that it replaces was more aligned to being a benefit meeting the additional costs arising from disability. Notice that there is a very subtle wording difference in that the new benefit only commits to helping with ‘some costs.’

Certainly if you consider yourself unable to cope with work, you don’t (and we don’t) apply for the Employment and Support Allowance. We are lucky that with my wages and what was my wife’s DLA we can make ends meet, albeit with a lot of cost cutting. ESA and fitness to work assessments are apparently just as bad and visual impairment and nystagmous is still

How Can This Be Interpreted?

I think this interpretation is important. If you spend out on adaptations to your home for a disability; it seems that this means that you will no longer need any money to help you. I wonder whether this really basic and flawed theory is what is now pushing eligibility.

For Mr Holgate, this may be the clerical error that led to his initial refusal; he stated he could make it up the stairs using his hands so it was deemed that he needs no further help. It appears that someone has seen sense.

I was thinking how that would affect our family life. We have had the Daily Living component of DLA rejected for a PIP claim, despite the report seemingly talking about a completely different claim at times.

Our report stated that no assistance was needed for preparing a simple meal because we have a mandolin for preparing ingredients and magnification to read instruction on packets. The facts pointed out that even then most use by dates and many instructions are still too small was ignored, similarly the statement that in a large number of cases, to keep a varied and healthy diet, I prepare many meals for my family before I go out to work.

It does not seem to occur to ATOS that buying and continually using a slow cooker, because that can be the easiest way to cook a simple meal, means it has to be replaced more often. Nor do they realise just how specific microwave or oven has to be to cater for someone who s all but blind.

It also does not seem to occur to the DWP that being able to use a timer does not mean that the chicken breast will be cooked through, when it has been in the oven.

More Evidence

This is not something new, you can see in social media the number of claimants that have bizarre refusals;

 

The Government Has Made PIP a Shambles

It has off-costed third party contractors into a role where they have no accountability but make hundreds of millions of pounds of decisions a year. It then appears to have forgotten a core of why the Personal Independence Payment is there, to help disabled people adjust to being an included part of the community.

The vast majority of PIP claimants don’t want to profit from their disability; just don’t want to fall deep in debt trying to cope with it.

Is the National Minimum Wage Working?

I have deliberately left this post about the National Minimum Wage until after the General Election because it is ranting rambling and I did not want anyone to accuse me of cheating their vote.

I don’t often write about politics, especially not the National Minimum Wage. I try not to discuss politics much. Apart from my wife, no-one really know which way I voted in the EU referendum. Even now, some hours after voting, where I put my is between me and the ballot paper.

All around me, people are saying it was the best thing since the white sliced loaf and people everywhere are prospering because of it. When you question it though, you are simply a moron:

I don’t get it. So someone correct me!

National Minimum Wage basics

So the basics are quite simple. Back in the late 1990’s the Government decided that it was going to state a minimum wage for all paid employees across the country.

Over the years there have been numerous increases. Employers are required by law to increase the rate of pay for minimum wage employees, with any employees that spend years hovering just above this wage being increasingly captured into it’s net.

There is no requirement for employees to deserve the pay increase, no need to work hard for it, or show performance.

What I don’t get about the NMW

The minimum wage has never really sat well with me. We are in a country of commercialism where industry largely relies on the supply and demand, and the payment of taxes. So why, all of a sudden, are market rates not working?

If people are getting paid £2 an hour, then the coats of the local economy will reflect that. If a country of people being paid £2 an hour, the wider economy will reflect that.

People paid £2 an hour will not pay £4 for a beer.

If no-one wants to pay £4 for a beer then the price of beer will have to fall; remember though, the company paying £2 an hour has less overheads than one paying £7.40, so there is an off-cost.

People are Scared to Speak Out

Is it that the people who are working the shop floor are worried about losing their jobs? An entire company of staff all complaining they are not paid enough but not prepared to do anything about it? Of course when we were back in the 1970’s, the time that many blue voters want to forget, the shop stewards had a role; fair work for fair pay or the shop floor walked out.

Thatcher broke the unions, in step one of the plan to stop people taking charge of their own future. Now the mere act of daring to take any form of industrial action is viciously attacked, particularly when it’s the junior doctors or train drivers.

Very few workers now have a voice strong enough to take action. So instead they loudly complain that there are massive numbers on zero-hour contracts (via The Guardian) or take their vengeance out on the soothsayers of doom about the NMW.

Zero-hour contracts…. oh yes that will be self-employment.

A Plausible Future – One Wage For All

I was doing some sums. Over the last three years, the National Minimum Wage increased by 3.1%, 7.5% and 4.2%. Last time I checked I would have had to go on strike to get anything more than RPI and it will be a matter of 7 years before I am on National Minimum Wage.

Slowly, more and more people will hit the minimum wage threshold, police officers, fireman, paramedics, nurses, all being paid the same as a shelf-stacker in a supermarket or a commercial building cleaner.

I am not saying that these roles are not important and there are some amazing people that stand out in their workforce and should be on bigger and better things; but what is then to stop the Government of the day nationalising the entire country, paying everyone the same wage for a plethora of jobs? One Universal Credit anyone?

A Probable Future – Discontent

Can you see the skilled public sector professionals taking this? The NHS is continuing to teeter on the edge of a complete relations failure with Junior Doctors as the NHS forces through new contracts and Junior Doctors leave the NHS (via the Daily Mirror) and earlier this year nurses threatened to strike over a tiny 1% pay increase (via Sky News). Think about that for a moment; the NHS consider nurses to not be suitable for a similar pay increase to that enforced by the National Minimum Wage.

I know I was laughed at, when my trade union asked what we should negotiate for in our next pay review. I said we should aim for the same increase as the NMW.

A Plausible Look at Cost

With any increase in costs, a company is going to look at displeasing the shareholders, or displeasing the consumer.

Supply chains are huge. Raw materials, raw material transport, manufacturing, packing and transport to retailers, retailer distribution, the shop front. Six companies having to pay more for staff, six chances for the cost along the chain to increase.

So inevitably for that small increase in your pay, you could be paying far more out for the same product.

…. but there is more….

  • The more you are paid, the closer you get to the tax-free allowance limit, or indeed the more tax you pay
  • If you are claiming carers allowance, at £10 an hour you will now be limited to 11 hours per week to be able to claim it
  • Likewise those on income-based benefits will have to cut their hours to keep qualifying, or potentially lose the cash handouts
  • You will also have to pay more for basic foodstuffs as well as luxury goods.

Why Do We Have NMW?

Is it to make you feel good about having more money for a shorter amount of time?

Or is it really a way for the Government to quietly fill its coffers? One last thing to think about:

  • If you are paid more, the Government will get more back in Income Tax
  • If you no longer qualify for benefits, the Government will keep it in their bank
  • If the cost of goods go up, the Government will get back more in VAT
  • If the cost of Your Living goes up, the Government will simply raise the National Minimum Wage, get more back in income tax, in VAT and get less benefits

IS the National Minimum Wage Working?

Yes…. if you are the Government.

What To Cut First ? – How PIP Leads to Change

I am look at the spreadsheet. Where do I cut £300 a month from without it breaking anyone’s heart.

The Department for Work and Pensions have decided that the wife is no longer entitled to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and have cut her DLA off. Apparently, being mostly blind, partially deaf and nystagmus making her ability to concentrate massively reduced; she is independent enough to not need financial assistance.

That means that I now have to make some choices. It will probably be Virgin Media getting the chop; 5 year old will lose most of her cartoons and won’t understand why, I won’t be able to try and kick start an income streaming gaming for cash anymore and the spiral will begin.

The ATOS Interpretation

So the crux of the issue comes down to a few things, such as:

The claimant claims to have difficulty in working out when food is cooked, however can use a timer on the oven to tell her when it is cooked; therefore she can cook a simple meal.

Of course, the timer on the oven can check whether that chicken fillet is cooked in the middle. It can tell when a plate is dirty and allow a short person to levitate in order to complete food preparation at a worktop.

The claimant can hold attention with the interviewer and maintain eye contact, however can not see more than 1m away in distance.

Yes, but this is the communication section of the assessment, the failure to point out that I had to repeat the question in terms that could be understood and then I spent more than double the time of my wife answering the questions because she did not know how to.

Oh – and ATOS and/or the DWP invented a claim about washing, grooming and toileting. I mean completely invented, the NO Assistance Required was clearly ticked, the face-to-face assessor was clearly told that it was not a problem, yet the DWP stated that claimed issues with washing and bathing appeared to be unfounded.

So What Options?

Well first and foremost we are appealing the decision. Someone has thoughtfully suggested contacting our MP as well – after June 8th of course.

Getting A Job

The obvious one is to sign on and get a job. My wife has not worked for 4 years, since her disabilities stopped her continuing work as a nursery nurse, something she had done for 15 years. So for a mid-30’s to re-train, okay, but:

  • any job would need to be within school hours
  • any job would need to pay for childcare of an under 1 as well as making up the missing money
  • any employer would need to be flexible to the regular (at least weekly) calls from school to investigate a head injury around a 5 year olds ventricular-peritoneal shunt

So that is massively restricting to start:

  • text based work would have to be minimum of 26pt font
  • VDU based work must be suitable for a screen 800×600 resolution
  • customers will have to speak up into the right ear in order to be heard

You can see the massive number of jobs just jumping out at you now. The job center rubbing their hands together at the unemployable list.

Because PIP  has been refused, there is no entitlement to Educational and Support Allowance either.

Working from Home

Again a lot of the options involve me getting involved. For example something like Avon, Betterware, etc involves people writing orders on very small order forms in small writing; try to read spidery handwriting through a powerful magnifier with nystagmus!

Delivering phone books and the like is a great idea, until you factor in that being blind means no driving licence, so lugging boxes of leaflets or catalogs onto the bus with a pushchair and screaming baby?

Home-based data entry is another great idea, except to get any actual money you have to be efficient at doing it. Most data entry companies rely on more than 800×600 screen estate these days and the concentration levels of the nystagmus would be prohibitive – trust me, we have tried it!

Me Earning More

The other obvious one is for me to get another job. Indeed I was told that I should get a second job such as (and I quote directly) “data entry or something, that you can do while you are at your other job doing nothing, it might be less than minimum wage but it will be something”

Good Idea

So what I am going to do is find a second job, that will take me not only further into the higher tax paying bracket, paying back a larger percentage of child benefit that we get for the kids and risk losing my first job by doing it at work.

For those wondering, I earn around £53k a year, for a job where I make one slip and I could be on a manslaughter charge of a few thousand commuters…

So, to earn that £300 I am likely to have to earn around £700 extra a month gross. An extra two or three shifts every month to reach that, and in punishment, my children will have to give up all of their child benefit payments.

We Are Out of Ideas

We apparently just have to sit and wait and hope that an appeal is successful. I would have to put in another 30 or 40 hours a month, us having to get the wife a job that pays less than the childcare for a child, or just paying the mortgage, eating and … not much else.

I know you are reading this, saying ‘but you earn more than £50k, how the hell can you be poor’ but it’s really is that mediocre wage between getting every penny on the dole and getting every penny as a rich Tory. We are entitled to nothing, if we are foreclosed on our mortgage because we start struggling we are entitled to nothing, Education and Support Allowance and Job Seekers Allowance…. nothing.