Sunday, July 31, 2011

F1 Disappointment

The big news in Formula 1 this week has of course been the BBC selling part of the broadcast rights to Sky Sports. There has been a huge reaction online with a wide array of opinions. I decided I should take a moment and write down my own thoughts. The basic idea of the new deal which starts next year is that all the races will be broadcast on Sky Sports while only half of the races will be live on the BBC, but BBC will still show highlight programmes.

The first reaction a lot of people seem to be having is about the cost. To view everything related to F1 from new year onwards you will require Sky Sports HD. If you don't have Sky already then that is quite an investment. Now personally I have no problem paying for something so long as it has worth and value. People talk about keeping F1 free-to-air but seem to be forgetting about the license fee. Although I will admit there is quite a difference.

The following is based on a season of 20 races with 6 hours of coverage in each race weekend and of course ignoring all the other channels these services offer. Currently on the BBC it costs £7.20 per race to watch. Sky HD with the sports channels will cost you around £669 per year so that is £33.45 per race. If you really enjoy F1 that could be a lot worse. For me personally I am already a subscriber of the basic Sky package so I would just need to add the sports package. The would cost me £375 extra per year or £18.75 per race. That's actually not too bad for a full weekend of entertainment. Still I do have to question whether I really need a channel for just one thing. There is nothing else on Sky Sports in which I am interested, that's why I don't have the package already. It is for similar reasons I don't have Sky Movies either. I go to the cinema and watch DVDs so I don't have any time left for films on Sky, so it's not worth the cost considering how much I would watch it.

My biggest issue is with the coverage itself. The BBC was the original home of F1 and where it was when I started watching. Then in 1997 the broadcast rights went to ITV. I remember at the time being concerned about the mid-race adverts but being glad that Murray Walker would be moving too so there would some continuity. Still it was during the ITV years that I drifted away from the sport. Then in 2009 F1 came back to the BBC and since then they've been building top quality coverage ever since. They've got a great team with Jake, DC and EJ, also with Ted and Lee who came from the ITV team I believe. The team have all built up their relationships with the sport and the teams leading to some unprecedented access. I've read comments online from foreign viewers being extremely surprised how much coverage and special features we get. Of course they won a BAFTA this year for it as well.

So what will happen to this team next year? If they're no longer at the races every week then the unique relationships will degrade. It's pretty obvious that Jake Humphrey is a BBC man through and through, he'll be doing the Olympics after all. So he'll probably remain on the reduced BBC content. Martin Brundle tweeted that his contract was up and he'd be looking at options. I wouldn't be surprised to see him stop his TV work and go back to driver management or perhaps he'll move to Sky. For Lee McKenzie and Ted Kravitz who are already the roving reporter type I imagine different things. Lee has worked at Sky before so I guess she might go back. Ted on the other hand I'll guess he'll end up attached to Radio 5 Live instead. I'm only making vague predictions but I can't imagine the team not being split in some way.

Regardless of what does happen the coverage will be very different next year and having to choose how to watch half of the races will be strange. The problem this become what to watch on the races which both channels air. It will become a competition and if the BBC coverage ends up being better than the Sky coverage then it will make the races that are only on Sky seem less interesting. If I even decide to watch the Sky coverage and it ends up not being very good I can see myself drifting away again. That would be a shame as it's happening when I was getting right back in to it again.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Khaos Legions

The second new album I had to listen to was Khaos Legions by Arch Enemy. They're quite similar in style to In Flames with a melodic death metal vibe, although they're heavier on the death part and lighter on the melody part. Again though I'm not really sure what to write about it. I liked the album a lot although it is not my favorite by the group. However I can say I did enjoy it more than Sounds From a Playground Fading but that is only relative to me really. Still if you liked their previous albums there is a pretty good chance you will like this too.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Sounds of a Playground Fading

It has been quite a while since I heard any brand new albums. Looking back through my archive the last CD I posted about was The Final Frontier which was Iron Maiden's release, almost a year ago now. I know I have added the Tron: Legacy and Portal 2 soundtracks to my library since them but I can't think of anything else. On checking my CD rack I see there was also a new Children of Bodom at some point as well, I guess I didn't write about that one. Last month three new albums were released that I'd been interested in but I'd been too busy with The Old Republic to notice. I rectified that.

The first is Sounds of a Playground Fading by In Flames. These things tend to vary depending on mood but I would say that In Flames consistently rate as one of my top five bands. The thing is, even though I write reviews for film and TV, for some reason I don't quite feel qualified to do the same with music. I know what I like and what I don't but I always have trouble putting why in to words. I think it's the melodic/death/thrash combo that I like the most about In Flames, quality guitar melodies along with fast and heavy drums. There is plenty of that on this album, so I like it. It's not my favourite or theirs but it is a good one.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Daze of Hate, Knights of Suffering

It happened. Everyone on their own separate stories arrived at a conclusion and it happened to be the same place where factions are fighting for control of giant space worms (think asteroid belt in Empire). This series works much better when it is focused like this. The story had had its ups and downs and been of variable quality. However when it gets it right it's really good. We end up back on Taris again where the story originally started. Some people have been lost on the way while others have been gained. Zayne finally seems to be taking on the main plot rather than just sitting back and seeing where life takes him. It seems like a lot has been resolved and we're about to move in to a new phase of the story. Also there were more cameos and references from the game which was nice. So volume four of the Knights of the Old Republic comic turned out to be great and a huge improvement over volume three. I hope that the series can continue with more of the highs.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Days of Fear, Nights of Anger

There has been a lot of Star Wars in my life recently and I felt like it should continue. To that end I picked up volumes three and four of the Knights of the Old Republic comic series. Volume three gets off to an odd start when our group, which we're finally getting to know, splits in to two for pretty flimsy reasons. Each go off in their own directions with their own agenda. The stories are then almost complete isolated to single issues so it's like you're reading two separate books at a time. In theory this is fine but it doesn't quite work here. The main character Zayne and his shady friend Gryph plan to clear their names by sitting back and laying low for a while. Other than some background to the Mandalorian war it doesn't serve much purpose and it seems like they're waiting for the other story line to make the big discovery so fate can thrust them back together again. This does have the bonus of including the character Carth Onasi (from the game), but it only serves as an introduction for things to come.

The second story line with Jarel and Camper is much more interesting and has an actual plot beyond hi jinks. Sure there was the threat of destruction at the hand of the Mandalorians in story one but it never really felt pressing. In story two there is much more subtly and menace alone with lies and deception. Unfortunately this story suffers too because it doesn't have a solid end. It ends on a "to be continued" moment but it's not really a cliffhanger just a natural act break. It's like they ran out of pages and just stopped what they were doing thinking they'd just carry on next time. I suppose that's going to happen sometimes when you're compiling 4 to 6 monthly comic issues in to paperback form. It did feel a little abrupt though. I'm very glad now that I bought volumes three and four together so now I can continue straight away, lucky coincidence that.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Out of date

I have recently been paying closer attention to PHP related news. If you don't know, PHP is a programming language and its main use is scripting for web pages. It is the main language I have worked in for the past ten years. Reading more of the news wasn't intentional, it just seemed to happen naturally as I came across PHP related articles online more frequently. This has led me to realize that quite a few of the techniques and methods I use and rely on regularly are getting out of date. There are new and better alternatives coming and some of the older functions are becoming deprecated in new releases. It's time for a major update on some of the generic code which I regularly reuse, some of that dates back to 2006. I have become a little complacent in my development, basically repeating the same thing over and over for each new client. Now with some new learning I'm already inspired looking forward to programming more. It's definitely good to get out of your rut once in a while.

Monday, July 25, 2011

First Impressions: Eschalon - Book 1

This is a role-playing game which is a modern development but with a old style take on the look and the game play. As a fan of games in that style I have been keeping an eye on this and finally bought a copy when it was marked down in the Steam sale. Without a demo available I had been unwilling to pay the full price they were asking for a game I knew so little about. It's got a tile based map and it's got turn-based combat and looks like it came from the late nineties. Still there are a good number of character creation options and the graphics are improved over the originals it is imitating. The retro style is by choice rather than for hardware limitations so the performance is not a problem. I played for about an hour and it seemed like if could be fun. However then my character got killed and I realised I hadn't saved. It's not like a modern game with regular auto saves, so dead is dead. Next time I'll have to start again. That probably won't be right away and the story hadn't really grabbed me yet. I'm sure I'll come back to this one day, but in the mean time there are more important things to do and play.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Catan Cake

From last night, Settlers of Catan: The Cake. (I should probably mention, not my own work, just took pictures)

Saturday, July 23, 2011


I'm off out this evening which means I'm running out of time to write today's post even earlier than usual. I should probably have thought about this before but that would have required some kind of advanced pre-planning which is above and beyond my capabilities. So that's all for today, normal services resumes tomorrow.

Friday, July 22, 2011


It's the Comic-Con time of year again so there should be lots of interesting entertainment news of the new few days. I've not heard much yet but a couple of nice looking posters for The Avengers have been released, see here. Of course they're only starting with the lesser known characters (Hawkeye & Black Widow) as there is still a year to go. Although it will be out before next year's Comic-Con.

Also announced was Jurassic Park 4 which is interesting, although I'm not sure if it's really needed or not. I'm guessing that most of the big news will be tomorrow.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


It's Hobbit production blog time again. We're getting a lot more details now including things that would probably be consider spoilers if you've not already read the book. There are lots of dwarves in this one and some surprizes. It is a shame it's such a long way away! Watch the video here:

I see they're in Pinewood with a lot of green screens. I'm guessing that the guy featured at the end didn't have the time available to go to New Zealand. I could be wrong though.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Coming to an end

I hesitate to post about my game testing again as I'm not actually allowed to say anything about it. However it has been taking up a lot of my spare time and not leaving me with time to find good topics for the blog. It is coming to an end now though so things will be getting back to normal soon. Our group is still actually waiting to find out the exact time it will be ending however based on the initial agreement I don't expect to still be playing next week. I wrote a long post yesterday about my experience but I'm afraid unless you have access to the secret testing forum you'll never get to see it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tardis Rock

Oh Internet you really do have everything don't you? Including a group of Doctor Who fans forming a band and write Doctor Who related songs. The band is called Chameleon Circuit and they've just recently released their second album, Still Got Legs. I finally got around to listening to it yesterday and there is some really good stuff on there. Also it's extremely well produced for something which is done in a home studio. You can preview the album for free here: but it's also available on iTunes and as a real CD from DFTBA. They're probably not the only ones who do this but I think it's safe to say they're the most famous at this point.

Monday, July 18, 2011


It seems I'm running late and have no time left to write a post today. I don't know where the day went but it did so very quickly.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

More Testing

Today turned out to be very similar to yesterday, the usual work and chores followed by more game testing. There is only one week left in the phase of testing I am involved with so I'm trying to fit in as much as I can and the weekend is the main time to do that. I do still have (unrelated) video plans but they have not really gone past the planning stage yet. I'm not sure yet what else this coming week has going on but hopefully it will be something good.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


It has been a bit of a lazy Saturday and the majority of my time has been spent with my game testing thing. Of course I'm not allowed to talk about any experiences from that so it leaves me with little else to talk about today. I might make a new video tomorrow though, so that will be something. We shall see.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Miracle Day

Being in the UK I'm not familiar with the history of the Starz Network in the US, but it seems they have recently appeared out of nowhere with a good number of hits. I first heard about them when Spartacus: Blood and Sand started airing. It seemed like they were going after the HBO demographic with a premium cable channel which can get away with far more than a standard channel giving it room to do things differently. I can't think of any other TV series with as much violence and sex as Spartacus. Then came Camelot which although far tamer in the sex & violence department was still definitely adult oriented. Now as a co-production with the BBC they've funded a new season of Torchwood.

There has only been the one episode so far so there isn't a whole lot to talk about yet but what we've seen so far seems like it is going to be interesting. Miracle Day is following the same premise as Children of Earth with the whole series being devoted to a single story, so basically the episode is a lot of setup. There are some quick recaps on who Torchwood are and many explanations of the Miracle Day concept, that for some reason we don't know yet, no one is dying anymore. Also of course we get introduced to lots of new characters as there are not many of the original team left. Esther seems nice, but the other CIA guy (whose name escapes me) was a bit annoying and the bit at the end with him forcing them to go to the US sealed my dislike of him. Jack and Gwen are on form and based on the trailer at the end we've got lots to look forward to.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Doon's Reviews

I have been told that I am good at reviews. Sure it's only from one person but it is high praise from a writer. The problem with writing a daily blog is that I don't have a lot of time each day to devote to it. Only on a few rare occasions have I spent more than an hour writing a post here and it's usually much less. For that reason my reviews tend to be short and are often more about why or how I choose to see a particular thing rather than about the thing itself. So I decided I would attempt to write some longer and more formal reviews. The only problem was I didn't have anywhere to put them. I suppose I could a have posted them to IMDb or Amazon but they would end up lost in the crowd there. Perhaps I could have offered my work to an existing site, I know CHUD post freelance articles sometimes, but that would be a bit too much pressure for me at the moment. I decided what I really wanted was a place of my own, so there wouldn't be any pressure and also 100% of the (very little) ad revenue would mine. So I present to you:

The reviews on there are ones which I wrote a while ago when I first thought about this project (except Green Hornet which I started then but finished this afternoon). Now that the website is finished I can start writing some more. This is actually one of the reasons I started going to the cinema more often and there are five new releases coming in the next two months which I'm interested in. That's why I decided now was the time to get this finished. I'll still be writing my usual quick reaction reviews here as always but now you can expect a longer more detailed one at some point later on the website. There are various methods of subscribing so you can hear about new reviews on the right hand side of the site.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Yesterday I acquired an invite to the Google+ beta and I've been exploring what it can do. It seems for the most part to be very similar to Facebook but with a fancier user interface as well as a lack of farms. It also makes organizing your friends and contacts in to sub-groups much easier than Facebook does. Also of course it integrates with all the other Google products so I could simply import my Gmail contacts in to my friend circles and it is quick and easy to share my Picasa photos with those contacts. It's pretty cool but as it is still invite only it's quite empty, at least of people I know anyway. You can follow me here if you so desire and if you ask nicely I could probably send you one of my invites.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Project Revival

Regular readers might remember me talking about a new project earlier in the year which I was starting to hype a lot even though I had never explained what it was. I was looking at the calendar earlier and thinking about upcoming events when I realized that there is a lot of stuff on the way that would compliment that project quite nicely. I have therefore picked it up again and have been working on it this evening. It is now my primary side project. There is always more work left to do than you think there is, however it is coming along quite well now. I think I should be able to get it out later this week. Back to coding now, more information when it's ready.

Monday, July 11, 2011

An Uneventful Monday

Not much going on today. I did some work, I attempted to fixed some PCs and I played some games. Absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. No special news, videos or pictures on the Internet, no new games to write about. So that leaves me writing about how little is going on. Perhaps something interesting will happen tomorrow.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

First Impressions: Deus Ex

The Steam summer sale is all over now and I've got some great bargains. Also of course I don't have enough time to play them all, they will keep me going for a long time. Especially when you consider I've not played everything I picked up in the last sale yet! One in particular on that list is Deus Ex. I bought a pack containing that game and its sequel in a previous sale. It might not even have been the last one!

Deus Ex is quite an old game now, it was first released in 2000. However it is considered to be a classic and yet it is one I have never played until now. A modern prequel to the games (Deus Ex: Human Revolution) is due out in August, so I decided if I was going to get around to playing these games then now would be the time.

As you would expect from a game which is over ten years old now the graphics look extremely dated. Still it runs smoothly, the controls respond well and most importantly the story and setting are engaging. Which is of course one of the reasons it is considered to be a classic and gives you the power to look past the dated graphics. The cyberpunk setting also helps as that style is a particular favorite of mine. The game is a RPG/FPS hybrid and its biggest draw seems to be the many different ways the game allows you to complete the missions. From dialogue to stealth to frontal assault. I've only played the first couple of missions so far and I can already see how many different options were available. Most games today are seriously linear in comparison. I wonder with all the other things I have on at the moment if there will be time to complete it before the new game arrives. I look forward to trying.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


Lets take a break from the heavily gaming related week. It's the end of the Steam sale tomorrow anyway. Instead today I'll mention there's a new Hobbit production video from Peter Jackson available. It's on his Facebook page here:

It is interesting to see that Andy Serkis is now also a second unit director. I wonder how that came about as according to IMDB it's not something he has done a lot of before. A lot of the video is about location scouting and so it has lots of helicopter shots of New Zealand which is always nice. Looking forward to this more and more as all the little bits of information trickle out.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Old or New?

If you've been reading this blog for a while or you've ever looked at my Stream/Raptr profile then you'll know I have and play a lot of computer games. I already had a bit of a backlog and now with another Steam sale event that has got larger. Still with all those lovely new worlds to explore and interesting puzzles to solve there are many times when I think about playing games I've played before instead. I guess it's a kind of nostalgia with the knowledge that it's going to be good based on previous experience. I was reading an online comic earlier based in the land of Tamriel and it really got me itching to play Morrowind or Oblivion again. In the end I resisted the temptation to reinstall those games. I really do have plenty of other things on which to use my time and I have played though both those games twice before. They are not short games either. On top of that The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will be out in November so I don't really have to wait that long to return to Tamriel for a new adventure anyway. I do still have an urge for some traditional fantasy roleplay though. I have a couple of un-played options waiting which might fit the bill, either Divinity II or Gothic or perhaps I should go back and finish Jade Empire although that's not traditional fantasy. We shall have to wait and see.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

No Game Today

There's nothing in today's Steam daily deals that I am interesting in or don't have already. So no new game to post about this evening. Without that I don't have anything else lined up to write about so I'm going to leave this a short post today and go and do something else. Probably some programming followed by some game testing.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

First Impressions: Garshasp The Monster Slayer

The story behind my purchase of this game should be a familiar one by now. It's a minor indie game which was heavily discounted in the Steam Summer Camp Sale. It looked quite interesting and it also had a special achievement for an entry in the competition. I'd never heard of this before which I suppose is one of the reasons for the promotion. The concept is pretty simple, it's an action beat-em-up style game in a fantasy world. You must fight your way though hordes of monsters to avenge your brother death by killing the evil dude and reclaiming a magic mace thing. The combat is quite fluid and controls reasonable well. There are a variety of different attacks and combos. You learn more as you gain experience. I had a couple of issues with the boss enemies until I realized that the symbols appearing on the screen were Quick Time Events. Once that was understood things were much simpler. I must have missed the explanation of that somewhere. The environments are nice looking and the monster models are well designed. There is however one major problem and that is the camera. You do not have any direct control of the camera in the game (which is a valid option). Except here the directional controls for the character are relative to the camera angle. Again that's fairly standard, but here the camera is constantly moving and changing position, sometime cutting to a entirely different angle. Each time that happens your movement reference changes and what was 'left' a moment ago is suddenly 'up'. You have to pay close attention to were you're going especially where small ledges and long jumps are involved. For the price it is worth a try but the camera lets it down from what would otherwise be an excellent game.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

First Impressions: Defense Grid: The Awakening

This is another game which featured a special achievement for a Steam Summer Camp giveaway entry. It's on sale today, however I actually bought it a while ago (in the last sale I think) but never got around to playing it until now. It is a tower defense type game so the main concept is not really original but it turns out it's a really good implementation. The graphics are nice and there is an excellent selection of turret types and maps to choose from, the controls are simple and most importantly it is fun. This is one I will definately be playing more in the future.

Monday, July 4, 2011

First Impressions: SpaceChem / Toki Tori

I picked up two new puzzle games in the Steam Summer Camp Sale, mainly because they had achievements which gain competition entries, but also because they were on offer. One is called SpaceChem, a strange logic puzzle involving molecules, elements and bonds. The other is called Toki Tori, a platform/collection type game. I've played both games a little and acquired the competition achievements in each one. The question is now, are either of them good enough for me to continue playing? Probably not right away with everything else I've got going on at the moment, but perhaps one day. SpaceChem in particular is a really interesting concept which I imagine will take a lot of thought to master.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


A while ago I picked up the first volume of Dark Horse's Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic comic series. If you remember, my impression wasn't all that great. It had its moments but was a bit incoherant at times. However I was still intersted in the idea of the series overall so I decided to give it another shot and try the second volume entitled Flashpoint. Really the only reason I've taken so long to do so is that it was out of stock.

Luckily this volume was so much better than the first. With all the set up and introductions out of the way it was free do just tell a good story. There's action and intriege, there's some great art and in general it just seemed to get me hooked this time. So now I look forward to more in the future and unlike X-Men of course this has a fixed beginning and end with only a single story line, so much easier to follow!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Moments of Gaming (June 2011)

This month we've got a bit of subdued video. I choose a music track which is more ambient than I've used in the past. This produced a much quieter video compared to the others even with the action of Duke Nukem Forever included. Although I did end up keeping that to a minimum. I've also made this episode shorter than other recent ones. When I first started doing this You Tube had a 10 minute limit on video length so I had to make sure my videos were under that time. The early episodes are generally 6 or 7 minutes long. Later the limit was increased to 15 minutes and for certain accounts who regularly post (mine included) it was increased further. Since then the run time of my videos has been creeping up and now they're usually 11 or 12 minutes long now. I think that's make me a bit lazy with my cutting and scene choices. If I've got more footage I make longer videos. Yet there is research that shows a user's attention drops on videos which are over 4 minutes long if they're not already invested in you and your channel. So this month I've made an effort to make a shorter and tighter video. It has come in at just over 6 minutes, not too bad. Still with only the most basic of plans, again towards the end I kept finding footage I wish I'd included but no longer had a space for. Looking back I see I spent too much time in the mini Duke RC part. So next time, more planning in advance!

Watch the video here:

Friday, July 1, 2011

Friday? July?

This week and also this month in fact, seem to have gone by extremely quickly! I suppose I do have at least a couple of tangible things (programs) to show for my time. It's the first of the month but also I Friday so I'll leave Moments of Gaming until tomorrow. Obviously no footage is allowed from my testing position so not a lot has been recorded in the last week or so. However I do have a lot of Duke Nukem footage from earlier in the month along with a little bit of Eve, so I should be able to make something slightly interesting.