Friday, December 31, 2010

2010

Looking back at 2010 I'd have to say it was mostly disappointing. There were definitely highlights, I started this blog for example. However overall I think there were more failures than successes. I've let work get on top of me and missed many deadlines. I've not kept in touch with people nearly as much as I could. I've let myself get even more out of shape than I've been in the past. Many times I've attempted to get out of the rut I've been in but have never entirely succeeded. Here's hoping 2011 is an improvement, but more on that another day.

One thing I have really enjoyed this year has been editing Moments of Gaming. It's fun to do despite the fact that very few people watch it. So I've been thinking about other video projects I could do. I'll still do MOG for a while I think but I'm not sure about it's long term potential, not enough ratings, I may have to cancel it! LOL.

In the meantime I've changed my mind on the concept of video blogging. At first I wrote I didn't think I'd be very good at it. Then as I watched more I decided that I couldn't say that for sure until I actually tried it. So this afternoon I recorded myself talking about some stuff and then edited it. I almost didn't post it but in the end decided that was just the standard, creator not liking their own work. So in addition to my main Slayweb channel, Life Of Doon now has it's own separate You Tube channel which you can find here: http://www.youtube.com/user/LifeOfDoon

Whether I make it a thing is still to be decided.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Golems of Amarak

This standalone story for Dragon Age is one I'd originally planned to play back in my Bioware month but in the end I didn't have enough time. I finally started playing this earlier in December but was then distracted by work and Christmas. Then this afternoon I decided I should get around to finishing it before I start thinking about a new Moments of Gaming video.


This story supposedly takes place after the events of Origins and Awakening but before Witch Hunt. However there is very little that actually ties it to any of the other storylines and so it could be at any time after you have first met the dwarves and sorted their king situation. As you'll know if you've read any of my other posts about Dragon Age, my character Marcus the Warrior went on the Witch Hunt before heading to the Deep Roads in search of Golems. Although it won't be the case for everyone that actually makes sense for this character as Morrigan refused his company at the end of Witch Hunt.


Unfortunately the main impression I've been left with after playing is that it was short, very short, even shorter than Witch Hunt. It basically only consists of two play areas. There are some fancy tricks in the main area which allows for multiple uses of the same place but it's not enough to consider it a whole separate section. I don't know exactly how long it took me to play as I did so in two separate sessions nearly a month apart, but I'd guess each session lasted less than an hour.

What was there was fun but it was not particularly deep or challenging. I'm glad I gave it a go, one last hurrah for Marcus before he has to retire to The Deep. There are no more adventures left for him to play, but I won't be rushing to play through it again with any of my other characters.

Of all the Dragon Age modules there are still a couple of variations of the the Origins and Awakening stories which I've not tried and one story which I've not touched at all yet, The Darkspawn Chronicles. It's only three months now until Dragon Age II arrives in March so I shall have to make a point to finish those first thing next year.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Good Intentions

I was planning to write about something interesting today and have a decent length post which I haven't done for nearly a week now. I'm running late today now though and don't really have enough time. It will have to be tomorrow now, sorry.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Late

Out of time. I'm not back in my normal routine after Christmas yet. Almost forgot to post something.

Monday, December 27, 2010

And it's over

I'm back at home now after Christmas away. Had a great time with lots of good food and nice presents. Back to work tomorrow though.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Bow ties are cool

New Doctor Who was great but I don't really have a lot of time to write about it just now. Not a lot of the Ponds in this one but Matt Smith is still doing good as the Eleventh Doctor. It was a brilliant remix of of the Christmas Carol story, with more fish from space (although a different type). It was all very Christmassy. Also brilliant was the brief trailer for the next series, can't wait!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

It's Christmas!

Somehow now that it's finally Christmas day I'm actually looking forward to it. Presents, food, family and new Doctor Who! Here's hoping everyone out there has a great day whether you're celebrating Christmas or something else. Now for your entertainment here's a picture of a kitten with a Santa hat.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Travels

I'm off down south to my Grandma's for Christmas. Travelling today and then back here again on Monday. I'm going to switch to posting in the morning while I'm away as I don't where I'll be during the rest of the day. Have safe travels and a great Christmas everybody.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

First Impressions: Sonic Colours

I've been a bit of a Sonic fan from the beginning. I've played and re-played the first three games many times over the years first on the MegaDrive then later on emulators. So when I was looking for new DS games recently the new Sonic Colours seemed like a good choice. I've not played it a lot yet but what I have played was not as good as I'd have hoped. There is way more story than there ever was in the originals, there's cutscenes and voiceovers. It takes a good five minutes before you can even get to the action, even longer it you do the tutorial too. Sonic has more advanced moves now than he did in a old days. Slides and wall jumping and things in addition to the standard run and jump. The levels look nice but one problem is that the action seems to arbitrarily swap between the two DS screens and you can never be sure when it's going to happen. It doesn't really flow very well. I guess that's just a DS issue and it wouldn't be that way in the Wii version. Also I know Sonic is all about speed but this feels like it's going too fast. There doesn't feel like there is chance to explore and of the alternative routes as by the time you noticed them they're long gone. On the grand scale of things it's not a bad game but to me there does seem to be a lot of wasted potential.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

This is a placeholder

One which I may or may not edit later. Christmas brings visitors so I might be busy.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Parcelforce Fail

Nothing much to post today expect for my disappointment in Parcelforce. I waiting for a parcel which is currentlt stuck at their depot in Coventry. They say they're trying to deliver as soon as possible but they don't seem to be trying very hard. All the main roads are clear at the moment so what's the problem? Royal Mail and City Link mangaged ok! I'd also bet when they do finally turn up they go to the wrong building as usual so I have to make a trip to the post office.

Monday, December 20, 2010

It Eludes Me

The Christmas spirit that is. Maybe it's all the postal delays and snow related hassles. Maybe it's the fact that I'm behind on a lot of my work. Maybe I'm just tired. I still haven't caught the Christmas spirit. I've bought presents (bar one) and written cards but that didn't help. I don't know why but it just doesn't feel right this year. Like it's rapidly approaching but I'm not ready for it. Perhaps that will change when I get out of Sheffield for a few days, that is of course if the snow lets me.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

First Impressions: Phantom Hourglass

Of course the full name of the game is The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass but that's way to long for a post title. This is the first of the Zelda games made for the DS. It's three years old now but I've not owned a DS that long and I get though games on it at a much slower pace than I do on PC. Technically I've not played a lot of Zelda games before but back in my student days I did watch a lot being played. A group a us would all be watching a making suggestions but as they're single player games only one person could actually be in control. That of course was for the classics Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask.

Now the DS takes more of the cell shaded look from Windwaker but I'm sure that suits the graphics processor in the DS far more than the latest Twilight Princess look anyway! I've played as far as the first boss fight and it's been great so far. The best part is probably a control scheme they've come up with using the stylus rather than the d-pad which is perfectly suited for the DS and plays completely naturally. The puzzles in the two dungeons I've been through so far were well done too and a good introduction. I'm looking forward to playing more.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Project for Awesome

My recent new obsession with You Tube video bloggers has introduce me to a new thing which some of the more famous bloggers have organized called the Project for Awesome. They basically spam You Tube with a whole load of charity related vdieos and raise a bunch of money it's pretty simple really. That was yesterday so it's mostly over now except for a live show going on later this evening. As I write this they've raised $74,647 so far which is cool for a group of You Tubers. The power of the Internet!

Friday, December 17, 2010

God of Clocks

The third and presumably final volume of Alan Campbell's Deepgate Codex is God of Clocks which I finished reading yesterday. Looking back calling it the the Deepgate Codex seems like an odd choice as only the first book takes place there, the rest is on an entirely different continent along with other dimensions as well including heaven and hell. Be aware that while I won't get into all the specific details I am about to spoil the end of the story. It all starts off very much the same as Iron Angel picking up right where that left off in fact. That all changes pretty quickly when a duplicate Rachel turns up and we discover that the god of clocks has control of time. Now I'm big fan of time travel and alternate universe stories so this sounded like it would be great and it was for the most part. The mechanism for travelling though time was interesting and quite complicated. There was also plenty of fun to be had dealing with paradoxes, such as repeatedly travelling back to the same time to create an army of reinforcements of yourself. However the problem came at the end. The main characters complete their journey though time and succeed in changing history. This is of course means the from an external point of view none of it ever happened, so things like John Anchor and Carnival's journey through the maze of hell had no point. If the god of clocks was that powerful why didn't they go and help Rachel and Dill instead? I did enjoy the book, it's just the ending was a bit disappointing.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The snow, it came back!

The very day that the last traces of the snow finally melted here it all starts over again! It's not too bad yet but I'd put money on there being more to come. I took a couple of snowfall videos for Twitter earlier and I'm going to re-post them here for lack of a more interesting topic this evening. Let talk about the weather! There's about three hours in between the two videos.

Video 1 - It starts

Video 2 - Not stopped yet

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Trailers

There's been quite a few new interesting trailers coming out for next year recently. Here's a few (click the links to view).

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Looks like it could be a bit of fun but I'm still not sure if it will work as well without Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Obviously not expecting Oscar nominations for story here but it should still be entertaining.

The Green Hornet
I've never really known a lot about the Green Hornet but I'm aware he's a popular character and it looks kinda cool.

Cowboys & Aliens
Cowboys, Aliens, Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde. Not much else you can ask for really.

Green Lantern
Another popular comic that I don't actually know a lot about, trailer looks good though.

Thor
And of course finally a new chapter in the Marvel universe building up to The Avengers. Looking forward to this one.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gah

No time today, working late again, lots to do. Only like 10 days till Christmas and I'm totally not feeling the spirit yet.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Shatter

Today the Steam treasure hunt lead me to buy this breakout clone game. It a great version of an old classic with various twists on the basic format and a huge variety of different levels. The circular ones make it much harder to anticipate the angles for example. Graphics are nice and the sound design too. The only problem I'm having is that I've not been able to get the score necessary for the hunt objective yet! Still not the end of the world. I was never aiming to get the full 28 anyway, I've already purposely missed some. You only need 10/28 to enter the grand prize draw and I'm currently on 9/16.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

VGAs

The Video Game Awards from Spike TV have become quite hyped up and a fairly major event for the industry. The show itself is pretty typical with celebrities reading from teleprompters and a couple of naff bands. The awards themselves are also pretty underwhelming seemingly quite evenly distributed across all the major games releases. It's all a big advertising excuse I guess from a TV channel that call itself a "network for men", although it seems UFC & wrestling is a big part of their schedule. However they did do some nice things with augmented reality and virtual sets.

Still I was glad to see Bioware win "Studio of the Year" and to see StarCraft 2 win "Best PC Game". Mass Effect 2 of course won "Best RPG" although I would have thought it would get more, in particular "Best DLC". I was surprised to see Red Dead Redemption win "Game of the Year", especially up against Call of Duty: Black Ops and Mass Effect 2. It's possible though that I'm being unfair to RDR as I've not played it due to it's Xbox only nature. Portal 2 being "Most Anticipated for 2011" I would have agreed with, up until the VGA show. The show has become so big that some studios are using it to make major announcements. Two in particular got my attention.

There's no official way to watch the awards show here in the UK. The Pre-show is streamed on the Internet but for the main show you need the Spike TV channel in the US. Thanks to that I ended up on one of those slightly dodgy websites that let you stream TV channels from other countries. I even had to swap a couple of times as there were dropping out under the extra pressure. Normally I wouldn't have bothered (just read about it) but over the last two weeks Bioware has been teasing followers of their Facebook & Twitter feeds with hints that there will be major announcement at the VGAs. There's been all sorts of speculation about it recently but in the end it turned to be for Mass Effect 3. This was a little bit of a let down as we've known Mass Effect was going to be a trilogy since the beginning so it was not really a big surprise. I, like many others, were hoping they were starting a new IP. However we did get a release date "Holiday 2011" and a fancy trailer which you can see here: Mass Effect 3 Trailer

What was a big surprise was Bethesda making an announcement which I had no idea was coming. Seeing as it's an ongoing series I knew there would be one eventually but same as ME3 I wasn't really expecting to see this until 2012. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has been announced and will be out in less than a year on 11/11/11. There's not a lot of information about this yet as no-one knew it was coming so soon. The teaser trailer seems in indicate dragons will be involved and of course from the title we know the game will take place in Skyrim this time, but that's about it. I can't wait to see some screenshots for this as they've apparently got a brand new engine. Watch the teaser here: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Droplitz

Another small puzzle game on offer as part of the Steam treasure hunt. This one has a similar concept to the old boardgame Downfall. You have to rotate the various pieces of the board to create a path for the falling objects and the more links you can make the more points you get. It was harder to reach the necessary score for the objective in this one when compared to Chime. Also I can see this one being more fun in the long run as there are a lot more options available. Definitely worth grabbing while it's only £2.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Vlogs

Video blogs are not something I can't imagine myself ever doing. Although I'd probably like the editing part I don't think I'd ever have enough to say. I just don't think fast enough, which is why I prefer to write. However after a recommendation I've suddenly subscribed to a bunch on You Tube. There's a ton of entertaining people out there with a lot videos to watch. When you find someone new it usually ends up with you watching though their archive which can be quite large in some cases. Another Internet obsession for me to use up all my time on. Except for right now when I have some new Steam treasure hunt objectives to complete.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Chime & The UnderGarden

Set a leaderboard score of at least 1,124,400 in easy (9 minute) mode for the 'Paul Hartnoll' level in Chime

That was the first treasure hunt objective I needed to make an effort to complete. I'd considered buying Chime a couple of times before so when a 75% discount reduced the price to only £1 it was impossible to say no really. Meeting the requirements for the objective were quite easy I found. The game is casual puzzle type game involving music and block stacking. It's a mix of a few different games including Tetris along with one I remember from years ago, but I just can't remember the name. I found it to be loads of fun and have continued playing it even after completing the treasure hunt objective. The only problem I can see is that there are only a few levels so I'm not sure the fun will last for very long before it gets repetitive.


Play the demo or game The UnderGarden

Play a demo? I can manage that quite easily. When The UnderGarden came out a few weeks ago I mostly ignored it because the main character looked a bit too cutesy. The visuals looked nice but I didn't think it would be for me. The demo mostly confirmed this. The game has a great look and feel but the game play is too basic. It's a very simple physics puzzle game for which I had no trouble getting to 100% on. I suppose the full game might get harder but I'm guessing not and that based on the look that it's aimed at people a lot younger than me. It's not that I didn't enjoy it, just that in a world where I've got too many games to play there are more interesting alternatives.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Treasure

Steam are having an interesting event at the moment. Rather than their usual type of sale this time we've got objectives to complete along with the various game discounts in The Great Steam Treasure Hunt. Some of the objectives are simple and related to the community such as setting an avatar or adding ten friends. Others are related to games and involve getting a particular achievement or setting a specific score. That's so far anyway, there are four new objectives every two days (until 20th December) and we're on the second set as I write this. For every objective completed in each set you get an entry into a prize draw to win the top five games on your wishlist. Then at the very end if you've completed ten objectives or more you get entered into a grand prize draw to win 100 games of your choice from their catalogue. Although it seems as usual not everyone agrees but it's pretty cool if you ask me. I've completed 5 out of 8 objectives so far and tried two new games in the process. The community objectives were simple, I already had the necessary requirements so that was no effort. One of today's objectives was to recruit a companion in Fallout: New Vegas, obviously I'd done that one already too. When a game is required for an objective a discount is available to go with it. I've already gone on long enough for today so I'll talk about the new games I've played tomorrow. I don't really expect to win anything, it's still a bit of fun though.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Hmmm

It's that time of the evening when I'm thinking I should post something here and realizing I've got nothing in particular to talk about. Still lots of pre-Christmas work going on in addition to my new Genie server setup so most of my day has been boring technical stuff. I've not really played any games since finishing Fallout: New Vegas except for a little Dragon Age but not really enough to be worth mentioning. Perhaps I'll do something interesting tomorrow (it's not looking likely). In the meantime I'll start moving the next Genie site from the old server to the new one. Fun!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Genie Upgrades

I've got another new server to deal with today which is keeping me busy. This time however it's not for a specific client or project. I've treated my own company to a brand new dedicated server with more space and power than my current setup. It's more expensive but I think it will be worth it in the long run. Over the next few days I'll have to move all my existing sites over to it which I have to make sure to plan properly so there's not too much downtime (Yes, that includes your sites Fiona). Yay for more power and room to expand!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Completed: Fallout: New Vegas

Today I completed my first playthrough of Fallout: New Vegas so it's time for a look back. I must say that despite a few bugs I really enjoyed the game, even more than Fallout 3. This post is going to contain information about specific plots and choices. If you'd rather read an overview with less spoilers then have a look at my earlier first impressions post instead.
(pics can be clicked for larger versions)


Let me start by taking about Hardcore mode. When I first started the game I was unsure if I should try it on my first go. In the end I'm glad I did. It's really not a lot more difficult and makes you take more care in how you organize your life in the Mojave. It's still not even close to being realistic as I've mentioned before. You can still travel crazy distances without needing to rest or eat and that's with you essentially jogging all the time. I wonder whether any developers will try something similar in the future when looking at the Steam achievement stats at this time only 6.2% of people who have completed the game have done so in Hardcore mode.


One of the major additions to this game was the faction system and that worked really well. In fact it worked so well it nearly forced me to end my game and start again. There are many small factions such as the Boomers or the Fiends, but the two main factions New California Republic (NCR) and The Legion hate each other so it's impossible to build your reputation with one without destroying your reputation with the other. I'd been helping the NCR as they're the closest you're going to get to good guys in this game, not perfect but good intentioned. The Legion are slavers after all. So the NCR liked me but The Legion did not. Then as part of the main storyline Mr House (leader of New Vegas) told me I needed to visit The Legion's HQ to retrieve something. I was then visited by a Legion representative who told me my past crimes had been forgiven and that they considered me neutral again. Thus leaving me free to travel to their HQ and talk to them. However it being a free roaming game I decided I didn't want to go there right away. I didn't really give it much thought but in the meantime I did some more jobs for the NCR including liberating a town called Nelson from Legion clutches and killing a bunch of their soldiers. By which point I was vilified by The Legion again. That meant that when it was time to me to retrieve the platinum chip from their fort my only option was to slaughter them all and that was a very tough job which took multiple attempts. Thankfully I did eventually get the chip and didn't have to start my game again.


The end game was another example of faction choices affecting the game in ways I didn't expect. Throughout most of the game I'd been doing lots of jobs for the NCR. I delivered messages & supplies, helped boost morale, collected bounties and offered training, but it was more of a mercenary relationship rather than out of any particular loyalty. So when it came time to choose a side and help them secure the Hoover Dam I felt like that game was drawing me to side with Mr House in order to keep New Vegas independent. However a couple of the things Mr House asked me to do during that process I wasn't entirely happy doing. The biggest problem was he asked me to destroy the local Brotherhood of Steel chapter. The Brotherhood only have a minor role in this game but they're a big part of the overall Fallout universe and I've always been loyal to them in the past. It was too late for me to turn back at that point though, I'll have to make it up to them next time! It does seem though that the developers have arranged it so it's impossible to get a perfect ending for everybody.


Finally I'll mention the companion characters. What's odd is that in the first three Fallout games even though they were available I never felt the need to recruit any companions. Yet when I met Veronica at the 188 on my way to New Vegas and she asked if she could come along I felt like I couldn't say no. I never regretted that decision, she was funny to talk to and useful in combat. I never did find her that dress she wanted. After that I even looked out for the others and ended up with the robot ED-E as well for the majority of the game. Although I accidentally got him killed in the final battle, still I like to believe he was fixable afterwards.

The game gets a high recommendation from me, any RPG fan out there should give it a go.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

RPG Names

The addition of full voice overs for characters in RPGs in the last few years has led to some interesting compromises in player naming which I guess you could call a generic title. In older games you would type in your character name and the game could refer to you by that name because all the speech interaction was text based. In more recent titles actors are being hired to voice those lines instead. However that means they can't refer to the character by name as it would be impossible to record every possible variation for all the possible names a player could choose.

So that has led to the generic title I mentioned which I've been thinking about today. In Fallout: New Vegas you're "The Courier". In Fallout 3 you're "The Vault Dweller" or "The Lone Wanderer". In Neverwinter Nights 2 you're "Harbourman" or "Knight Captain". In Dragon Age you're "Warden". In Mass Effect you can pick your first name but your surname is fixed as Shepard so you're either called that or Commander and I understand they're taking a similar stance for Dragon Age 2 where you will be called Hawke.

Mass Effect and Dragon Age seem to be attempting to find a way to get away from the generic title to something a bit more personal while still leaving a little room for customization. This all got me wondering why there have not been a lot of advances in the area of voice synthesis. This seems like a perfect place such a technology could be used (other than reading to the blind of course). It could reduce your voice actor budget for ancillary characters and add more variety. Although based on the last voice synth I heard that will be a while off. That was on the Kindle which has an option to read to you but it still sounds like Stephen Hawking.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Disruption

I've always liked snow. Probably partly because we never used to get a lot in this country. Now this year we've had the earliest start to winter that I ever remember and we're getting record levels of snowfall. For the most part I'm not really affected by this. I work from home and I don't own a car so travel and commuting is not a problem for me (although technically I was planning a trip before the trains were cancelled). If anything this week has been quieter than usual as half of my clients can't get to their offices! The biggest downside so far is that the local shop has now run out of milk and bread as they've not been able to get any deliveries. Now what I'm starting to think about is Christmas presents. I usually order everything online, not just for Christmas but pretty much everything. Problem now is I've not had any post here for a week now as I'm on an unimportant side road which has not been cleared as it doesn't go anywhere. So if I were to order anything I'd have no idea when it might turn up. The weather isn't showing any sign of getting better and it will probably get worse first. This country definitely need to up it's game in terms of snow clearing as it's obviously not going away any time soon.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Mass Effect: Retribution

I've mentioned it before a few times I know but I really enjoy the Mass Effect universe. Today I'm going to talk about Drew Karpyshyn's third expanded universe book, Mass Effect: Retribution. I enjoyed this one a lot as evidenced by how quickly I got through it. This book felt different to me when compared to the first two books, but that is a matter of context not content.

The first book (Revelation) is set years before Mass Effect 1. The second book (Ascension) is set in between Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 2. However I didn't read either book until after I'd completed Mass Effect 2. This book is set in between Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3. Of course ME3 isn't out yet and won't be for a couple of years yet. So while the first two books had a 'filling the blanks' kind of feel this one had more of a 'hints of things to come' vibe.

The style of the writing and the story is unchanged and still feels like a part of the overall universe. It was great to see Anderson back to the forefront this time around. After being a big part of book one his presence was missed in the second one. We also get some interesting information about the nature of the Omega space station but I'll avoid mentioning anything more spoilery.

I'm not aware of any plans for more books in this series but I hope there are at some point. I suppose that won't happen until after Mass Effect 3 is released. In the meantime suppose I should look in to the comics range.

After finishing this for a while I wasn't sure what I was going to read next. Then I remembered I do have a couple of things waiting, it's just they're the old fashioned print on paper sort! I'm getting very used to my Kindle now.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Moments of Gaming (November 2010)

Well that was very much a make it up as you go along affair. Usually I've got at least some kind plan when I start making these videos no matter how small. This time that was not the case. Thanks to the issues I explained yesterday I just wasn't really sure where to begin so I just started and figured I see where it ends up. I picked some music in a style I'd not really used before and set to it. The one benefit of using a psytrance track is that they're usually quite long. So for once I didn't have to worry about mixing or bridging two tracks to get some length. It's not the greatest video ever but I think it turned reasonably well considering the haphazard approach. See for yourself here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJnovwbdAu8

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

An Odd Mix

I've got plenty of footage for MOG this month but it's quite a strange mix and I'm not sure how I'm going to come up with anything particularly consistent this time.

A lot of the footage is from Fallout: New Vegas. We've had this one before and as I've not completed it yet we will do again. So that's a load more walking around the desert and shooting to irradiated animals. Also after Fallout 3 as well I need to find a way to keep it fresh. It's not the first time I have the same game in multiple videos by any means. There is lots of Mass Effect and Dragon Age in my videos but to me the Fallout footage feels a bit more repetitive.

Next there is The Longest Journey. A slow paced point-and-click adventure with some nice visuals but with a lot of voice overs and not a lot of action. I've no idea how I'm going to fit this in yet.

Almost even worse than that is Winter Voices. So much of the flavor of this game comes from reading text that I don't think it will show well in a compilation video, not in a way that makes much sense anyway.

NWN2: Mysteries of Westgate is a much more standard RPG. I am not really concerned about this game on it's own but more how it will work along side the others.

Finally there's Cogs a little puzzle game which I don't have a lot of footage from so wont be heavily featured, if at all. Also as (mostly) usual there is some Eve Online footage.

Still not sure how this one is going to come together but first I have to find the right music.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Memorial

Death happens every day, even among the famous and it's always sad. It's not really something that should be dwelt on when it's not someone you know personally. Still there were two notable deaths this weekend which I thought I should write about. It's the first time this has happened since I started this blog.

First, as pictured above, is of course the brilliant Leslie Nielsen. I was introduced to his crazy comedy when I was young thanks to my Dad being a fan. I can't remember now if I saw The Naked Gun before Airplane or not, I'm too young to have seen Police Squad on the first run. Still the order doesn't matter now it's all great stuff and still is years later.

The second is another person who had a big effect on my youth. Although admittedly I wasn't aware of his involvement until a lot later. The concept of a film director is probably a bit odd for a child, it's all about Luke and Han. I'm talking of course about Irvin Kershner, the director of The Empire Strikes Back. I have to say though that other than Empire I'm not particularly familiar with Kershner's work. I had to look him up but did find I have seen other things he directed, including Never Say Never Again and RoboCop 2.

I think I shall put a film on now. I still don't have a copy of the Naked Gun films on DVD so it will have to be Airplane or Empire.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Naked Heat

The second book by fictional author Richard Castle, this one is longer and a little more complicated. After her profile (written during the first book) Nikki Heat now has a level of fame in New York and is getting recognized. The murder victim this time is famous too, a gossip columnist named Cassidy Towne with many celebrity enemies. That makes this case a lot more high profile.

I don't know if the ghostwriter behind this is the same as the first book. I guess there is no easy way to tell but I'd say it's highly likely. It certainly feels like a direct continuation from Heat Wave. The book characters are starting to diverge more from the TV characters they're based on, but there are still plenty of moments lifted from Castle's experiences in the TV series which keep it linked. Of course if you'd not seen the show you would miss those but that's just a little extra fun. You could easily enjoy these books without having seen the TV series.

Admittedly these are only really clever marketing gimmicks for the show. For example the episode shown the day before this came got to mention that the book is out tomorrow, in character. Still it's good quality marketing and good fun too. Here's hoping Castle get renewed for season 4 and we get a book 3 in between.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Snow!

The snow has arrived in Sheffield. Only a light dusting so far but the country will be at a stand still by next week I guess! Luckily I work from home and don't have to worry about travelling anywhere.

Friday, November 26, 2010

New Battleship

It's been a while since I've mentioned Eve on my blog because I've not done much of note recently. Training, mining, missions and the usual day to day stuff. This evening though I bought and outfitted a brand new battleship, a Dominix. It's big and slow but also hard to kill and full of drones to kill things! Another one for the collection. Now I need to decide on a name.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

What I'm Thankful For

While technically it's only a plain old Thursday here in the UK I don't see any reason why I shouldn't be thankful for some things anyway. Of course then I couldn't decide on what. There's a the standard things such as family, health, friends & job, but they're not particularly personal even if it's true. There has been so many tweets today mentioning those things. I could be thankful for the Amazon Black Friday deals or the Steam Give & Get sale but that's a bit materialistic. I could be thankful that I'm not in Korea or that I'm past age of being a student, but that doesn't really directly affect me. I could be just as thankful that I've not been eaten by a bear or that aliens have not invaded the planet today. So what else does that leave me? The one thing that is involved in nearly every aspect of my life would be my computers but does an inanimate object need thanks? My life would be completely different without it but it's not really essential is it? Which I guess brings me back to family & friends, thank you.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Snow?

It's the big weather news in the UK at the moment. None here yet though, but I expect it won't be long. I usually get quite a lot up here on the hill but in the past that's not been until January. Again it's been a fairly long work day today so nothing to mention other than the weather!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Servers

No server problems today, thankfully, but I'm busy setting up four new ones instead. So nothing else to talk about today I'm afraid, all boring work stuff.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Reboots

I just don't get the thinking and I can't figure out where I stand on them. Although it's a fine line and there is only a minor difference they are at least a level above a remake. There's just so much that can go wrong and they rarely live up to the originals. For every Battlestar Galactica or Hawaii Five-O there's a Bionic Woman or Knight Rider. Films seems to do slightly better than TV with the likes of Batman Begins & Star Trek and even A-Team, but they're not immune and are starting to get out of hand. Two Incredible Hulks so close together, now Fantastic Four and Spiderman are starting again. There are even people out there working on a third version of Battlestar Galactica already! Why can't we have some brand new things? I think the key here is time. When the memory of the previous version is still fresh surely there is no need for a new one?

I've picked now to rant about this due to the news today that Warner Brothers are planning to reboot Buffy (as a film) and not only that but are planning to do so without the involvement of Joss Whedon. Now I understand that vampires are the in thing at the moment and that it might be nice to have some proper ones around rather than the sparkly variety but it just seems like it's way too soon to me. There's a quote out there saying "There is an active fan base eagerly awaiting this character's return". Now technically that's true, but only if it's penned by Whedon and played by Sarah Michelle Gellar. Both are still alive, well and working so why not continue the story rather than repeating what's been done? Some executive somewhere has got the entirely wrong stick never mind the wrong end! Just because you can doesn't mean you should.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Avatar Fancy Special Version

I recently picked up the new extended collectors bluray edition of Avatar. It's nice little package with a shiny slipcase and the discs of content. Two discs of extras and one containing three versions of the film. I watched the new collectors cut last night which is 15 minutes longer than the original theatrical cut. Most of the additions are good and fit it quite well but you can understand why they were left out. They are just additional texture and don't really move the plot forward. That's always the first to go when you're dealing with a film that is already on the long side. I've not watched any of the documentaries yet, I'll probably have a look at those later this evening unless some work pops up.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Five Days

Five days without a cop-out 'nothing' post. I need to work on that. I feel like I've been doing that too much recently. No time left and no topic to fix that for today though.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Winter Voices

What a very strange game, at least so far anyway. You may or may not remember a while back I said I was going to make a point to looking outside the mainsteam more often for new games to play. The day after I said that this new RPG from French indie developers Beyond The Pillars appeared for sale on Steam. It was going cheap and the description was interesting so I decided I should give it a try. I didn't start right away as New Vegas took precedence but earlier today I had a little time to spare so I decided to get started. The game is to be divided in to 7 episodic installments, presumably the funds generated by each one helping to fund the next. So here I'm talking about "Episode 1: Prologue - Avalanche".


This is defintly not your traditional role playing game with swords and dragons. As the developers describe the game it's a drama unfolding in a tiny village buried in snow, the long journey to find answers will lead you through many events to overcome anger, sadness, pain and fear and finally unveil what is whispered by the voices of Winter.


The art style is basic, but looks nice and matches the play style and fits the theme. So it works well in context for this type of game. It's heavily text based with a lot to read. Although some of it is narrated it still gives it the feel of a game from ten years ago when developers has to rely on lot more on description. The main thing that sets it apart from other RPGs is the combat styles. It's turn-based which is nothing new, but the overall concept is not something I've ever seen anything like. The combat situations are hallucinations in which you are fighting things like bad memories and feelings. To fight those the skills you use are things like distraction, courage & fairy tales. I don't know if it's all going to be like but it's pretty unique.

It's not sucked me in completely yet but I've not given up either, I'm definitely intrigued though.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Rhythms of the Beast

A new release (on DVD at least) is this drum clinic video from Nicko McBrain. Nicko is an outstanding drummer. Any time I've attempted to play anything by Iron Maiden, either for real or in Rock Band, I've failed miserably. Of course at my level I shouldn't really expect to be able to, LOL. Nicko though as I'm sure most fans will know has a bit of a crazy personality. That means that he's not really suited to present anything that's slightly serious. So while the video is fun to watch it's not really all that informative. Still great to see some shots of him in action without interruption from the guitar and bass type people! Also the bad nineties fashion in the audience is a laugh. It's only available direct from the Iron Maiden shop and while looking for a copy of the cover for this post I've just noticed that it's limited to 3000 copies. I'm glad I didn't wait to buy it now.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Heat Wave

It's all very meta. Let me attempt to explain. Castle is a TV series about a mystery writer named Richard Castle (played by Nathan Fillion). As research and inspiration for his new books he rides along with New York detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) and lends a hand, mostly. Those books as written by Richard Castle (complete with picture of Nathan Fillion) are available to us in the real world, the first of which is Heat Wave. In the book Jameson Rook is a magazine writer following detective Nikki Heat for an article on the NYPD.

This is not the first TV series with such meta-content. I know Lost did it with Bad Twin and I guess there will have been others I don't know about. It is the first I've read though, again thanks to Kindle. I probably wouldn't have got around to it otherwise, it's just so easy to order things for it. I presume it's ghost written by someone but I don't know who.

The story is a basic murder mystery (much less galaxy spanning than the last book I read). A dead body shows up and that's followed by suspects, interviews, investigations, fake art deals and police raids. It's a bit bizarre as at times it reads exactly like an episode of the TV series but then other times it's way off because it's only based on those characters (who are already fictional!). The big difference of course is that Rook and Heat get to hook up. Whereas Castle and Beckett can't because the TV series hangs on their chemistry and their will they/won't they relationship. Still well worth the read if you enjoy the series.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Annilhilation in Sheffield

I wasn't sure if there were enough metal fans left in Sheffield to fill the Corporation for a band like Annihilator but to my surprise it was pretty packed. Not the most I've ever seen in there but it didn't feel empty which was good. There was a wide variety of people too, both young and old.

I'd not heard of the support bands before but both were pretty good. I preferred Sworn Amongst (but I have to say that as they're from Yorkshire). They both got a reasonable reaction from the audience which is always hard for a support band.


Annihilator were awesome in every way. I still can't hear properly on my right side! Normally I find it hard to remember the exact set list when I get home from a gig but this time I have a crib sheet, which I'll mention later, so lets go track by track.

Ambush
An odd one to start with I thought. It's from the latest album and hasn't had as many years to sink in, so much that I didn't recognise it at first. Then the chorus came along and I realized "Oh, I do know this!".

Clown Parade
Probably my favorite from the Metal album. Great vocal work from Dave Padden and excellent solo work from Jeff Waters. Although that kind of goes without saying. Also some nice "Woah Oh Oh Oh"'s for the audience at the end.

Plasma Zombies
Brutal from start to finish. I should take a moment to mention Carlos on drums as this song features them heavily. He was hidden away at the back but his presence was definitely felt.

King of the Kill
First of the classics and first chance of the evening for Jeff to take lead vocals. Most of the audience seemed to know when to shout "Kill"! Fast and powerful.

Betrayed
Another one of the new ones but this time one I'm more familiar with thanks to it's early release on You Tube. Some great guitar harmony here as the more recent work is obviously planned with Jeff and Dave playing together in mind unlike the earlier stuff.

The Box
Back to the King of the Kill album again for this one. Based on their live albums they like to play this often. It's got a little bass intro so I'll should take this opportunity to mention Alberto who is playing bass for the band at the moment. He's doing a good job and seems to be enjoying himself.

Hell is a War
It's been pretty relentless up to this point with barely any breaks in between the songs. No stopping to chat all the time like some bands do, they just keep going. Now we get a brief chance to rest thanks to the slow and beautiful intro to Hell is a War. Of course that doesn't last all that long until we're back to the speed.

Ultra Motion
Then they take the speed to a whole other level with Ultra Motion. It's hard and fast from beginning to end with some fantastic solos. Dave does a great job with the really fast lyrics originally written for Joe Comeau. The crowd love it.

Set the World on Fire
A track I know really well, over the years this has been one of my most listened albums. Sounded great live.

W.T.Y.D.
Everyone seemed to know this one, a classic from the first album. Was it on the Total Annihilator compilation? A couple of people I spoke to said they'd lost touch with Annihilator until that free compilation was released. I guess it did the job.

The Trend
I fell in love with the opening to The Trend when those You Tube vids from the workshops surfaced but to hear it live with the full band was outstanding. I expect this will become a long term favorite and a regular on future set lists.

The Fun Palace
More excellent guitar work here and Dave does a great job of hitting the high parts in the vocals too. Although you can tell from his face that it's at the extreme end of his range!

Phoenix Rising / Sounds Good To Me
The chairs come out and we chill for a little while. Jeff comments that it's the dirtiest chair he's sat on. Sounds about right for Corp, LOL. I've always enjoyed Phoenix Rising and Sounds Good To Me but I never expected to hear them live and yet that's what I got on my first time.

21
Another slightly odd one which I've not heard as much as for some reason which album it's on varies and my copies don't have it. Must buy the remasters at some point. Still I have heard it, just not as often and it's not hard to figure out when is the right time to shout "21"!

Phantasmagoria
Dave calls for the biggest mosh of the night and the crowd in the centre happily oblige and go crazy during the intro to this one.

Crystal Ann
A short instrumental which is the perfect opportunity for Jeff to show off more of his guitar skills.

Alison Hell
The classic end to a brilliant night.

I'm sure someone out there is uploading footage to You Tube, but as you should know I personally prefer to just take a few photos. You can see mine here if you didn't already catch them on my Facebook or Twitter feeds:
http://picasaweb.google.com/geniedataservices/20101115
(For anyone that doesn't know, the bald guy in pic 7 is me)

I also bagged a little souvenir from the crew as they started cleaning up, complete with Dave's footprints:

Monday, November 15, 2010

Annihilator Live!

My favorite band and they're playing at Corporation. I can't ask for much more than that really. I've never managed to catch them live before, last time they were in the UK supporting Trivium the gigs sold out before I got tickets. So I'm expecting this evening to be pretty epic. I wonder how many tickets have been sold though. Will they play in the big or the small room? The metal scene in Sheffield is getting smaller and smaller these days. Still either way it should be good.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

This is a post

It contains no content as nothing special happened today.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Walking Dead

From my point of view this new series appeared out of nowhere. I had no idea it existed until the week it was first being shown. It's been a comic since 2007 but I'd never heard about that either. There are not many TV series that would be considered to be the horror genre and certainly none that I can think of involving zombies. The pilot episode was great. They'd obviously gone all out on the effects side of things. The story was interesting too. I've seem comparisons to 28 Days Later because of the waking alone in a hospital part but really the similarity ends there. We've got traditional slow zombies here for a start. Episode 2 was good too although on a much smaller scale, obviously not having anywhere near the same budget as the pilot. That was a lot more about meeting the characters. I'm definitely looking forward to the rest. It's a bit of a shame that it's basically only a mini-series for now (of 6 episodes). The good news is that rather than being cancelled without a chance like so many other recent programmes this has already been renewed for a second half season (13 episodes).

Friday, November 12, 2010

Weekend

Yay I guess, not that it makes a lot of difference to me and I've got nothing special planned. Annihilator on Monday though so that will be the highlight of next week! Not much else to say.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lest we forget

Support The Royal British Legion and buy the 2 Minute Silence single. They deserve to be number one this weekend way more than Take That! Visit the website or buy from iTunes. The video is well done, I watched it at 11:02 this morning myself. I can't help but wonder though if it will get any radio play.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

CGM is expensive

I don't often write about my diabetes and that's mainly because there is not a lot to say about it really. There are highs and lows, there is testing and injections, but it's all routine and has been for about six years now. The last time I posted something diabetes related it was about my interest in Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM). It took me longer than planned to talk to my GP about it and then even longer for me to write this follow up post about it.

The one problem with the standard finger-prick blood test is that it only tells you your blood sugar level at that instant. They don't give you any information about whether it is going up or down, unless of course you checked every few minutes but that would start to hurt! So what are the alternatives? I've seen a few different ideas while browsing the web but CGM seem to be the only one that's actually available right now rather than an idea being researched. However even CGM is still bit too new and not quite ready as a long term solution. The main reason for that is the cost.

I was looking at the Guardian Real-Time System. It's not available on the NHS except for short term loans from the diabetes clinic. For a patient to buy one for themselves it would cost £2600. That's quite a lot but I suppose it's not too bad as a long term investment especially if it improves health. However that's just the base unit that reads the data wirelessly from the sensors. Unfortunately the sensors you attach to your body only last for six days and they cost nearly £40 each, so that's another £2300 per year to use the system.

Obviously it's a bit too soon for the technology to be widely used but it's definitely a field I will be keeping my eye on. At least until they figure out the artificial pancreas, which looks like it could well be within my lifetime.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Frustration

And lots of it. Poorly managed server moves. Unresponsive hosting support. Various computer crashes. No energy left for an extensive post today.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Evolutionary Void

Well that was brilliant. The conclusion to the Void trilogy did not disappoint. Now I have to admit that I'm never the first to pick up hidden meanings, metaphors, allegory or anything like that. However on the surface it was a very enjoyable story which kept me coming back for more. There is something about Hamilton's writing style that keeps you wanting to continue. With the multiple storylines they are usually given a chapter to themselves rather the jumping around a lot. When you get to the end of a section and see that the next is about someone else I get the thought "but I want to know where the previous one was going!". Still you move on and see what is happening to the next character and end up getting engrossed again and so by the end of that section you have exactly the same thought.

This book spends a lot less time with the Void dreams than the previous two and concentrates more on what has been slowly building on the Commonwealth side. This made it feel a lot more like Judas Unchained than the other Void books, especially with the return of Ozzie for a while. There are still some dreams of Edeard but they're no longer sequential thanks to his new ability to manipulate time and of course skipping the more mundane parts of life once he starts to settle down.

As always the end result was nothing like I expected it to be but it was satisfactory and made sense. As much sense as a book about spaceships, dimensions, aliens & telepathy can anyway! I wonder what he will write about next. There is not a lot by Hamilton that I have not read now. There's just some of the older stuff to go including the stand alone Fallen Dragon and the Greg Mandel series. I'm suspect I'm going to run out before his next book is out.

I've been trying to decide which of his books is my favorite but it's too hard too choose. I've enjoyed them all in different ways. I can't even decide between the different series. The Reality Dysfunction, the first of the Night's Dawn trilogy will always have a special place for me as that was the first book by Peter F. Hamilton that I read. It's probably The Naked God, the conclusion to Night's Dawn, that's actually my favorite. Still that feels like I'm being unfair to the Commonwealth Saga and the Void Trilogy, they're all so close.

Time to read something a little less long and complex next I think.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Nothing

It's been an odd and uneventful weekend where nothing particularly exciting has happened. Which leaves me with nothing exciting to write about either. I had all sorts of work related plans but none of them quite worked out. Hopefully next week will be an improvement. I'm just going to sign off everything and read for a while, then get a fresh start in the morning.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Gremlins

It's probably unavoidable considering the amount of computers I deal with every day but it feels like recently I've been dealing with a lot more glitches. There are five machines here locally and another fifteen or so online. I guess some of them must just be getting old. There is nothing major wrong with any of them, nothing serious enough to consider replacement. Just a lot more odd occurrences leaving me wondering 'Why did that happen?'. Now there is always that nagging feeling in the back of my head wondering if all my servers are OK. Then when you find there is something wrong or one needs a reboot for example it's a distraction from the real work you're actually trying to do. I think I need to figure out how to move my business up a level so I could afford a minion of some description. Though I don't know if I'd be any good as a boss. I don't listen to me so why would anyone else!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Remember, Remember

Yay for fireworks, not that I actually saw many. I didn't go out to see any on purpose or anything, but there is a good view across the city from here. It's just a shame there's a big metal lift thing on the side of the building which is in the way at the moment. Still there is a load of stuff I should be doing anyway.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Longest Journey

What a rather strange game. An adventure game from Funcom which is a few years old now. It's one of those games that I never played when it first came out but I'd always heard good things about. Press quotes include things like "one of the best adventure games in years". A story of dream worlds and alternate realities it's all very odd. I've only played for a couple of hours at this point and I don't think the story has really kicked in yet but I'm already interested in where it's going. Visually it's a weird mix of styles. The locations all have nicely rendered backgrounds. They look a little dated but are of a decent quality. Overlaid on top of those are extremely low resolution character models. The difference between the two styles is huge and took some getting used to. It probably looked amazing back in 1999 now though I'm afraid it's showing it's age. Still the story is good and the voice acting is great so it still has plenty going for it. So far none of the puzzles have been to challenging but I get the feeling there's still a long way to go.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Change

Change is something I've always been particularly resistant to no matter what I try and it effects all aspects of my life. This evening I did something I've been thinking about for ages but generally avoiding. I'm going to leave it all cryptic like on here now but I'll probably post a picture on Facebook and Twitter tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It's Bizarre

Including Eve Online in my gaming compilation videos really does double the number of views I get from general searches. It's weird. If you had asked before it's something I would never have predicted. Eve is a really niche game and I just can't think of a reason why it would get more searches than the more popular games like Fallout or Mass Effect. Of course as I wrote that I realised it must be the opposite. There must be fewer Eve related videos so when someone does search for it my video has a higher chance of appearing. Mystery solved, probably.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Moments of Gaming (October 2010)

It's going to be hard to top last month's video. With some of my favorite games and two great pieces of music I think it's the best one I've done even if it's not the one with the most views. This month I had another challenge to deal with. I guess I've been busy this month and for that reason I had nowhere near as much footage to choose from especially when compared to last month. Also of the footage I did have a whole lot of it was just me walking around the Mojave Desert. I decided that I would need to try something slightly different in order to stop it being too boring. The first choice is as always is the music. The music tracks are extremely important when editing video like this. When you're editing to existing music rather than creating custom music for an existing edit the music defines the whole feel of the video. I've tried to use various styles of music in my videos but they've all had a very solid beat behind them. Here I decided I would go for something more classical with much more variation in time signatures and moods. Hopefully it gives the 'lots of walking' footage a bit of a lift. This all made the editing job quite a bit different when compared to the metal tracks I used for August and September. Here I could never get the in-game audio to match with the music so apart from a couple of small instances it has all been removed. It makes the video feel quieter to me. One small tip for anyone who has not played Fallout 3 or New Vegas. It's probably tricky for the untrained eye to spot the difference between these games at times. If you're wondering, look at the HUD at the bottom of the screen. If it's green then that is Fallout 3, if it is yellow then that is Fallout: New Vegas. Enjoy the video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPE5QPoScos

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween

It's not something I've ever been particularly interested in really. I'm going to edit the new episode of MOG instead.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Time, What is Time?

That's a lyric from somewhere, is it Blind Guardian? I forget. Anyway today time for me is something I don't seem to have enough of. Well at least yesterday's post was longer than usual, that will make up for a short one today right? Right?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Limitations & Compromise

After seeing some of the reactions to the Hardcore mode in Fallout: New Vegas it started my wondering about some of the compromises that have been made in game design. Some of which have been reused so often that they're becoming clich├ęs and used because they're expected. The issue of eating and sleeping in role playing games is one I expect has been discussed a lot in meeting rooms. However I can't think of a single game I've played where food and bed was not simply a means of restoring health and not required for anything else. There probably is an example of someone who has tried it out there but it's not one I've ever heard about. The fact that the majority of RPGs end up with the same system means the a lot of the reason for the decision has to be because of user expectation. Even in Fallout: New Vegas you need to select a special option for it to be different and that option explicitly states it is not recommended. Personally I'm really enjoying Hardcore mode, to me it adds to the level of immersion and makes the game more enjoyable. It's for the same reason I don't use the 'fast travel' option either. There will be many reasons why people don't like it. Some will say it's too hard, others will say it's tedious micro-management and some will have imagined from the start that it was taking place and you just weren't controlling it. So does the fact that I enjoy the Hardcore mode make me a control freak? (probably a little!) Looking at the statistics on Steam (so that's PC only, not Xbox or PS3) it shows that only 1.5% of players have completed Fallout: New Vegas in Hardcore mode. You do have to consider the game has only been out for two weeks and many (including me) won't have had time to complete it yet, but that is still going to be a very small niche. So does that mean designers shouldn't do it? I hope not!

Despite the rapid advances in graphics and the more and more realistic looking environments we're getting it feels to me that the industry has let the innovations in game play lag behind. Looking at the list of games I currently have installed over half are sequels which are essentially the same as the original but with improved graphics. None of the big names appear to be trying anything new anymore. That is not entirely a bad thing, more of great games is good, but we need something new as well. I think that is probably one of the reasons I enjoy Eve Online which is a massive world where the players have control of almost everything. Now of course even that has it's limits but CCP do seem to be doing a good job of regularly trying new things and adding more options.

I too am guilty of letting technical limitations get in the way of game design. The reason my Bob character has telekinetic power rather than arms and legs is so I didn't have to animate them. It's impossible to avoid really. Of course the most important factor in the end is always going to be fun, but what people find fun is always going to be subjective. If a game becomes to close to real life would it still be fun? Probably not you may as well go and do it for real in that case. Even The Sims reduced life down to eight basic needs but surely there is still some room for some more common sense even within fantastical environments. Even in New Vegas' Hardcore mode there are still plenty of things which are simplified. You may now have to eat and sleep regularly but you don't have to go to the toilet for example and would you want to? It's all about balance and unfortunately also profit. To try something new and have it fail is enough to destroy a company in the current climate.

So what is the answer? I don't know to be honest. I started writing this without a solid conclusion in mind thinking it would form as I wrote it. That didn't happen and I almost decided to not even post it. Personally I think I need to start looking outside the mainstream some more. For the industry as a whole I'm less sure. I feel like it's time for the next big jump to a new level. Motion control is not it and neither is 3D, both of those will have their uses but they're not wide ranging enough. It's going to need someone cleverer than me to figure that out. I'm just one of a small minority of gamers looking for a deeper connection with their games rather than just fighting for positions on multiplayer leaderboards in the latest Call of Duty or Medal of Honour.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

In Advance

It doesn't happen very often but sometimes I write posts in advance. Today I've actually got two half written longer posts on the go but neither are ready yet and I keep getting distracted by work commitments. No time left to finish them this evening but hopefully they'll be time tomorrow.

In other news I see that Caprica finally got the cancelleation notice from the Syfy channel which is a shame. Not only that they've postponed the final five episodes until next year. With all the sweeps, breaks and reruns I wonder how any TV series in the US ever gets a chance.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tron and Daft Punk

Daft Punk and TRON: Legacy pretty much a perfect match. It's still a while to go before this is out but I'm looking forward to it more and more.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Temporal Void

It's hard to decide what to say about this book. Following directly on from The Dreaming Void this book is more of the same. So anything I said about the first book applies to this one as well. Also as this is the middle part of a trilogy I can't really draw any conclusions yet either. The multiple story threads are getting a lot more complicated and intertwined now but there's no sign of how it's all going to end. Inigo's dreams of the Waterwalker continue to be a particular highlight despite the fact they're not strictly science fiction. What started out seemingly a little aside has become the very heart of the story. All the fun, exciting or moving moments seem to be in the dreams, whereas everything outside feels like it's still plot building. Maybe it's because they are so different from the other story lines that they stand out like that. They are definitely the sections I find hardest to put down. One thing that does make sense now are the titles. I'd thought they were a little strange at the beginning but that's no longer the case. So the final part The Evolutionary Void is up next and I'm expecting I'll get though it quite quickly.

Monday, October 25, 2010

First Impressions: Fallout New Vegas

It's been quite a busy weekend with work problems among other things but I did still find a little time to play some Fallout: New Vegas. I've been really enjoying it so far. There have been one or two minor issues but nothing totally game breaking. Overall the game feels very similar to Fallout 3. It's the same graphics engine powering it and many of the basic assets have been recycled. However there is enough new to it make feel like a new chapter. Looking at a basic level it's really just a giant mod for Fallout 3, but considering how much I enjoyed Fallout 3 that's not a bad thing. The term doesn't seem to be used as much these days but if it was still the late nineties this would probably have been called a Total Conversion rather than a separate game as it's built on the base of another project rather than from scratch. (click the screenshots for larger versions)


The play style is much the same as Fallout 3 with just a few minor tweaks. The first choice I had to deal with was whether I should play in the new Hardcore mode or not. This mode takes the roleplaying realism to another level requiring you to actually eat, drink and sleep in order to stay alive, something which is usually completely overlooked in computer games. I considered saving it for my eventual second play though but in the end decided not to wait and to dive right in to the new mode. There are also new weapon mods and crafting options as well as some new companion controls but they're the only major changes I have noticed.


Despite using a lot of similar assets Obsidian have managed to make the Mojave Wasteland look very different from the Capital Wasteland of Washington DC. There are a lot more critters in the Mojave compared to Washington. While exploring DC you'd come a across a few Radscorpians, Bloatflys or Molerats but the majority of dangers were Raiders and Slavers. In the Mojave there's a lot more dangerous wildlife if you wander off the main roads. This makes the exploration feel a lot more dangerous than in Fallout 3. The biggest problem with the graphics for me is there seems to be an awful lot of pop-ins. That's where an item or a texture has a lower detail level when it's in the distance and then switches to a higher detail when you get closer to it. It the same in most games which have to render large open area, you can nearly always see it if you know where to look. However this is one of the most pronounced examples I remember seeing. I don't think it was anywhere near as bad in Fallout 3. It's possible I've got a graphics setting set differently, but I've not fully investigated that yet.


One thing that's a bit crazy is that even though I've played for some hours and am now level 10, I've still not actually been to The Strip and done any gambling yet.

I've had a few crashing issues but Fallout 3 was the same when it was first released. So long as you remember to quicksave regularly it's fine. Luckily the biggest issue seems to have been with the Steam Cloud syncing the wrong save games but that was patched by the time the UK release took place so I didn't have to deal with that one. Obsidian have done a fine job with this game. It's not perfect but it's their strongest release yet and it has all the charm of the Fallout franchise and fits in nicely. Over the next year as we get patches and DLC it will only get better.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Again?

Yet again one of the servers I monitor failed leading me to have to spend my evening fixing it. That's one of the perils of running your own small business I guess but it's not the most fun way to end your weekend. There is still lots to do, it's going to be a busy week I think.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

No Time Again

I'm about to go out and probably won't be back until late so there's no time for a full post today. Still there should be plenty of time tomorrow if I remember to get up early for the Grand Prix.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Little of Nothing

I thought about doing a 'First Impressions' post for Fallout: New Vegas today but I've not really left myself enough time and I think I'd like to play it a bit more first. I considered having a little rant about my new useless ISP, but that only really affects me so in the end I decided not to bother. Everything else I've done over the last two days has been work related so that doesn't leave me with a lot else to talk about. I shall therefore leave it there for today and go and play Fallout instead, then post about it either Saturday or Sunday.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Collector's Edition

Two things happened today which I wasn't expecting. First my copy of the Fallout: New Vegas collector's edition arrived a day early and without me having to chase the parcel around the city! Second I found that not only is it a collector's edition with various extras it is actually a numbered limited edition. Mine being 1578 of 3400 as you can see in the picture. I've not played the game yet as it uses the Steamworks backend for authentication, so I can't play until it is unlocked on Steam which doesn't happen in the UK until 1AM tonight. As usual for something like this I took a few un-boxing photos which you may have seen on my Twitter feed earlier but if not have a look here: http://picasaweb.google.com/geniedataservices/20101021

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tired

It's late and I still can't think of a good topic for today so you'll have to have a non-post for now and I shall try to come up with something better for tomorrow. 2 days till New Vegas!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

World of Fallout

I really enjoy the Fallout universe. An alternate universe with a fifties vision of the future which then had nuclear bombs dropped on it by the Chinese. The post-apocalyptic retro-future is a brilliant setting and one which I've spent many hours in. I didn't play the original Fallout game as soon as it was released. Back in 1997 the Internet was still quite new and I was just about to head off to university. You still needed to read magazines for your news then and I wasn't paying attention. It wasn't until a few years later that I discovered Fallout, by which point Fallout 2 and Fallout Tactics were already released as well.

I don't remember the exact details, but I suspect it was when Bethesda Softworks picked up the license to the Fallout series and began work on Fallout 3 that I first became aware of the franchise, so that would have been around 2006-ish. As I was already a fan of Bethesda's Elder Scrolls series I thought I should see what Fallout was all about and immediately fell in love. Of course the graphics were a little dated at that point but the story and game play were excellent and sucked me right in to the world. Fallout 2 was basically more of the same but unfortunately the version I had at the time always crashed at a certain point so to this day I've still never completed that one.

The majority of my Fallout hours have been spent in Fallout 3 and the capital wasteland of Washington DC. The game has a huge playable area and an enormous amount of things to do. Also it's nicer looking as it's the most recent incarnation of the series (until Friday). I've been playing it again this week as the anticipation for Fallout: New Vegas builds. It's a little annoying the US get to play today but here in the UK we have to wait until Friday. I'm sure there's a bizarre marketing reason why games are always released on Fridays here but I don't know what it is.

What's interesting about Fallout: New Vegas is it has not actually been developed by Bethesda (although I think they're still the publishers). The development was licensed to Obsidian to work on while Bethesda plan for Fallout 4. What's interesting about that which non-fans probably don't know is that Obsidian were formed out of the remnants of Black Isle studios who made Fallout 1 & 2 and a lot of the key people are still there. So the franchise has actually gone home in a way. Obsidian seem to be making a name for themselves creating sequels to existing games. They've done Neverwinter Nights 2 & Knights of the Old Republic 2 and are now working on Fallout: New Vegas and Dungeon Siege 3. There is a small problem here though. Both KOTOR2 and NWN2 were not a well received as the originals and their one original IP Alpha Protocol did not sell in particularly large numbers. Even though I enjoyed those games myself you could still see they were not as polished. Basically they seemed a little rushed with a lower budget. So the worry is that this will be the same with Fallout: New Vegas. I've not read a lot of reviews or anything yet as I've been wanting to avoid spoilers so I don't know if the game is an improvement on Fallout 3 or not. I'll find out on Friday, I do have hope though.

The other part of the Fallout story is of course the legal battle over the MMO version Fallout Online. I've not been paying as much attention to this although it's still early days. The last news I remember seeing was that it was mostly settled and Interplay were working on it again, I think that's right. However I was thinking about it earlier and I wonder if it would work as well as an MMO. Part of the feel of Fallout is the loneliness and isolation. It's a nuclear wasteland with an extremely low human population. If you fill it up with thousands of noobs shooting at Radscorpians I don't think it will feel the same unless they make the map particularly huge so people can spread out. If you can't go for two minutes without running into another player it won't feel like a desolate wasteland anymore.

Still Friday and Fallout: New Vegas cannot come soon enough.