An Interesting Place

I had an interesting day today, but first a horrible weekend had to pass.

An Influenza A Weekend

Yes, the Sidney strain of Influenza A (a sore throat and fever sickness) got to me this weekend, or rather on Friday.  I managed to stick it out at work until an important meeting was finished, and then went home and slept.  And slept.

Saturday was the worst.  Besides trying not to cough, I was under the influence of a high fever.  Yup, that means delirious.  For me, it means thinking the same thought over and over again for hours.  When I periodically woke up for a drink of water and an aspirin, I didn't want to go back to sleep because of the excruciating boredom.  I don't remember much about the actual thoughts, but a lot of it was trying to puzzle out how to pack as many small rectangular objects (like long dominoes, really just abstract rectangles) together as possible.  After half a day I remember being happy discovering that you could pack more together if you used three dimensions.

The fever went away by Sunday, leaving just a bad headache and ticklish throat.  Normally the whole thing would be over after one night of fever, but not this cold.  Supposedly it takes a week or two.  Monday was like Sunday but slightly better (went to work to fill in the time sheet then back home to sleep).  Today was a bit better than that, and I had enough brain cells back in action to do programming, and the interesting thing.

Phoenix Multiplayer Gaming Lounge

It started with an e-mail invitation for lunch and someone's birthday celebrations at The Phoenix, a new place (sorry, no word like "theatre" exists for it yet) started up by an ex-Artechee and his brother (see the Monday, February 22 1999, Ottawa Citizen technology section).  It's in the old Consumers Distributing warehouse / store at Westgate.  He's officially opening up in a few weeks so it is still being finished.  Besides the chic boutique architecture (halogen lights, glass, metal decorations, two rows of purple fan pillars, two story ceilings), it also contains 32 high end networked PCs, and a bar.  Most of the crew were eager to help test out the network latency with a multiplayer game of Half Life, or Quake or whatever the latest ones were, or a combination of them.

I stopped over at the bar for a drink (license and official opening coming late March, beer taps were sitting on the bar waiting to be installed) and got to talk with the people involved.  The equipment is impressive.  Each workstation (PLAYstation? FRAGstation?), is a Pentium II/450 with 256MB of memory, a 16 MB Rivia TNT video board, a 21 inch monitor, a Creative Labs sound card I didn't catch the name of, a great speaker system (subwoofer included), and a 100mb/s network card.  The table supporting the electronics has space for a mouse and a beer (but apparently they won't be allowing that), and giant curving side panels between you and the next guy.  The chair you sit on is one of those $1200 business (Herman Miller?) ergonomic chairs (quite comfy, Scarlette would be proud to ship them across the galaxy).  The chairs at the bar area tables are also noticably better than most I have experienced.  The space wasn't crowded even with all the people in there, mostly because most of them were sitting down :-).

I also toured around the back area (ever see a large three story tall storage room with a Hadrian's wall across it made up of giant monitor boxes?) and had a look at an industrial strength dishwasher.  The only washroom I found was quite small, which seems a bit odd for a bar.  Turns out there was a larger one behind a different door, which points out the difficulty in seeing things when it is too dark (the play area is set to be very dark).  But then most Artechees (except me) like dark areas and big screens.

Anyway, quite a large number of Artechees turned up for lunch and birthday celebrations, so they must be doing something right.  The sounds of battle abruptly paused when the birthday cake was brought out and singing started.  Even though it was only a cake, it was so dense that there was enough for all two dozen people (more like fudge with icing, yumm).

Well, I wonder how it will turn out.  They'll be charging around $10 per hour to play multiplayer games.  Guess that will help define their customer group (high technology and other professional workers).  I hear that they've already got interest from gamer groups and for company outings.  There are also plans to do other things during the day when the gamers are at work, such as image rendering for graphics companies.  I'd even be interested in visiting if they have 3D modelling software like Maya available for use (it costs around $10000 to buy a copy).

- Alex

Copyright © 1999 by Alexander G. M. Smith.