Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Way of Shadows

Assassins, secrets, magic, plots & betrayal. Those are the key parts of this book by Brent Weeks. The books was a Christmas present but it's taken me a while to get around to reading it. The story of a young boy with dreams of becoming an assassin who eventually manages to become the apprentice of the very best in the land. They train while the king and various other families with some claims to the throne all scheme and plot against each other. Of course the assassin become part of these plots but also have their own agendas. This was a great book full of twists and turns and unexpected developments. It's not entirely perfect though. While all the parts directly related to the assassins were great there were a few moments where all the feuding families got a little mixed up and I couldn't remember who was with who. That's only a minor flaw though, I still gave it four out of five on Goodreads. The book is the first part of a trilogy and I've now picked up the other two books. I'm looking forward to reading those next.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Goodbye House

After eight years on our screens House has finally come to an end. It has been one of the lucky shows that had the opportunity to choose its own end. Although I think that most viewers have seen it coming for a while now. Things had not been the same since the Cuddy situation and while season eight has had some great moments overall it's not been as good as the previous seasons. This year has been the least about the actual cases as its ever been and it seemed to have lost focus with all the major cast rearrangements. All the best moments came from the House & Wilson bromance which is the one relationship which has stayed strong throughout. While Wilson's fate seems a little mean on behalf of the writers it did produce some really powerful moments in the final few episodes. The final episode itself ended up being one of the slightly odd concept ones they've made a few times but I thought it worked well and enjoyed seeing how everything turned out. I've not been on the House train for the entire time. I jumped on the bandwagon and caught up somewhere around when the forth or fifth season was airing. I'm definitely glad I did. There is one good thing about the end of House though. Although the names Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie have always been famous in the UK it's only in recent years (thanks to House and QI) that they've become famous in the US. So now that Laurie isn't tied up with House anymore they're talking about doing a new project together. I don't see how that could be anything but a good thing. House we'll miss you but we can always re-watch on disc. On that note can we have a fancy complete box set on Blu-ray please?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Extremely Early Maiden

Of course only one of them is still in the band but I recently came across these pictures from the very very early days of Iron Maiden. I wonder what they think of themselves looking back now. More here

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Hello Computer

There be whales here! Or there could be if Commander Scott happened to need to transport any whales to the 24th century. In the film (Star Trek VI) Scotty trades his knowledge of Transparent Aluminium for some standard plexiglass and now we've finally figured out the formula. A company in Massachusetts has been researching the subject for some time but are now actually producing it for use in things like armoured windows. Yay for the future, now we can do the windows for the Enterprise but we're still going to need an anti-matter injection system. More details in this article

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Botanical Gardens

In Sheffield we have a fairly famous Botanical Garden. While I've walked straight through it plenty of times I've never actually stopped and properly visited it until today. There is a full gallery of photos you can view here.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Completed: LA Noire

This actually happened last week as I tried to tick some games off this list before Diablo 3 arrived but then I never found a moment to fit in a post about it. Overall I really enjoyed this game. The world of forties LA looks fantastic, the clothes, the cars and the buildings all fit together well and feel pretty authentic. I'm sure they've had to take some liberties with the road layout but having never been to LA in the forties or otherwise I would notice. The city feel adequately large and is fun to just drive around in sometimes, with the siren on of course as speed limits are boring. The driving mechanics work surprisingly well. While the static art is all excellent the character work still has room for improvement. The joins between different animations are quite stiff at times and although the MotionScan face capture technology is a pioneering thing for gaming the results here are over exaggerated to the point of making you laugh sometimes. So while a success in technical achievements the biggest problem I ended up having was with the story. There will be some spoilers coming up. The game is divided into four sections as we play ex-marine Cole Phelps in his career with the LAPD, going through: Traffic, Homicide, Vice and finally Arson. The first three sections were excellent but I found myself disappointed by the final one. You're demoted to Arson after the final events of Vice and things get a bit strange from there. No longer the star of the precinct the overall story doesn't seem to revolve around you as much anymore. It gets so bad that Phelps recruits old comrade Jack Kelso, now working as an insurance investigator, to help. Then all of a sudden you're playing half of the game as a new character who you barely know. You're switch between the two as they work the main case from different angles but it feels odd and rushed. It makes sense for the story they're telling but why choose to tell it that way? Then in the final action sequence Phelps saves the day but ends up drowning in the process for a very lame death. We then end at his funeral and find the half of the corrupt officials seem to have gotten away with everything. It was a very unsatisfying end. If there is one thing I learned from this though, it's that I would be complete rubbish as a detective doing interrogation.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

It's So Yellow

Adding to my emerging collection of signed first edition hardbacks this week is News From Gardenia. Following Peter Hamilton and John Green comes Robert Llewellyn. That's three very different authors. This was published in a non-traditional manner which definately encouraged me to help. It's been released via a company called Unbound which works similar to Kickstarter. An author sets up a page for their book and if the users like that idea they donate to the project. If the project is funded by a deadline then the book it printed, otherwise money is returned. So I reserved a copy a long time before it was printed. Usually donating more gets you additional benefits, like in my case a signed copy along with a free ebook and audio book version. It's an interesting method although obviously unless you're already an Internet star with a following, like Llewellyn's 85,000 Twitter followers, it would be hard to drum up the necessary support. I'm looking forward to reading this.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

First Impressions: Diablo 3

The big question is, can Diablo 3 live up to all the hype. So far it seems to be doing a pretty good job, mostly. The cutscenes are awesome but that's a Blizzard speciality and is to be expected. The graphics look great are are pretty much what you'd expect from an updated Diablo 2. The story so far is interesting but I haven't learned much yet. Controls are accurate and intuitive. These are all good but also to be expected from a high end developer like Blizzard. What's now to be expected is the new concept of single player lag! Blizzard have made the questionable decision to make to game work online-only even if you're only playing single player. This does make thing like the live action house possible and makes it easier for players to quickly jump in and out of co-op games with friends. However it also means that even if you're playing on your own you are still connected to Blizzard's Battle.net servers and if those servers are down you cannot play the game. The problem is that as usual with an online game release Blizzard have completely underestimated the demand. So the servers are stretched beyond capacity and no-one who bought the game can actually get on to play it. Sometimes it's okay, sometimes it's slow, and other times it doesn't respond at all. I have played for a little while but after I logged off to get some food I've not been able to get back on. Now I'm sat on Skype with a couple of friends all constantly re-trying as we wait to play some co-op.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Birthday Gaming

Today is my birthday but for the most part it's a just very plain Tuesday. Nothing much ever really happens on a Tuesday and the real celebrations took place at the weekend. However of course there is actually one special thing happening today and that is the release of Diablo 3. Diablo 2 was released back in the year 2000 and at the time I played quite a lot. We were in the early days of having home LANs at that point and this was the perfect game to utilise it. The sequel was first announced in 2008 so it's been a bit of a wait for new installment. It's safe to say that hype is high and a lot of gamers are looking forward to this. It is apparently the most pre-order game ever on Amazon. As you might expect I ordered the fancy collector's edition which arrived yesterday afternoon. You can see my un-boxing photos by clicking here.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Delain Live

Delain are a fairly new band with only two albums out at the moment (with another coming in June). Prior to the concert I'd only listened to the first one and it didn't really stick out much to me. It turns out that their second album is much much better and they are an excellent live band. The performance was brilliant, it sounded and looked great, and most importantly the band really seemed to be enjoying themselves, unlike Paradise Lost a couple of weeks ago who seemed to be going through the motions. I'm a much bigger fan of this band now and I'm looking forward to their new album. As usual I have a few blurry photos and a couple of videos.

Delain Live at Corporation Photos

Delain - Mother Machine - Live Video

Delain - April Rain - Live Video

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Gig Time

Continuing the weekend of outings, tonight it's time for a live concert. I'm off to see a band called Delain who I don't know a lot about. But what I have heard seemed okay and the date was right. Should be good.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Celebrations

In honour of my birthday next week there will be celebrations this weekend leaving me with little blogging time. Off to meet some friends now for drinks and I expect to be back late!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Views From The ISS

A while ago there was the great photo of the Earth and aurora as seen from the the International Space Station circulating around the Internet. Now there are even more. This time we've got full time lapse photos combined into an animated photoset. Amazing stuff, click here to view.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Perpetual Testing Initiative

Today Valve have released a free update to the PC version of Portal 2 called the Perpetual Testing Initiative. It's basically an in-game puzzle editor. They've already released the full development tools in the past and you many even remember me mentioning starting experimenting with them. However tools like that are always extremely complex and take a lot of time to learn and use well. Time I never really had. One of the many reasons I not done a lot of level creation since the Unreal Tournament days. The new editor is a much more simplified option. It's all drag and drop, you don't have to worry about lighting presets or scripting properties or rendering. That's all hidden from view and this allows you to get straight to the puzzle creation part without worrying about the technical details. Of course there are many limitations compared to the full editor including limited textures and sizes. But what it does do is make it quick, simple and fun to make Portal puzzles and share them in the new Steam Workshop. I've made two levels so far just testing things out neither is particularly special but you can find them here: Slayster's Workshop. I'm currently working on a more involved more detailed puzzle.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Limitless

I've had this film in my "to watch" pile for quite a while now. It was a surprize gift and I'd never seen it before. This weekend it was finally time to sit down and see what it was all about. I wasn't sure what to expect but a thriller involving Robert DeNiro has to have some potential. What if there was a drug which could unlock the full potential of your brain? What would you do? Quite a lot of complicated things according to this film, especially when it's a drug you're not supposed to be in possession of. I really enjoyed this. There's lots going on and lots to think about, a very good story. There are also some excellent visuals as well combining multiple shots in to an impossible single "limitless" zoom. Great stuff, recommended.

Monday, May 7, 2012

200 Million

News this weekend is that The Avengers has taken over $200 million in its opening weekend in the US. Completely Hulk smashing the previous $168 million record held by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2. To be honest given the previous films and the promotional work from Disney/Marvel it is not surprising that it's done well. However to completely destroy records like that is amazing. It's already over the $600 million mark including worldwide sales. I don't know how much it cost to make and promote but I expect there are some very happy investors out there. The one thing that's great about this is so many more people are learning the name Joss Whedon now. For those of us who have been a fan since the days of Buffy and have been through the ups and downs it is an exciting time. Studios are going to be fighting to put "From the man who brought you The Avengers" on their next projects. Perhaps we can have a new TV series that doesn't get cancelled this time.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

No Video

There is no video to post today. This is for two reasons. Number one I still need to finish editing the last one and number two there will a special video later in the week probably. I'll let you know about that as soon as it's ready.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

May Birthdays

It seems like every weekend this month there is a birthday to celebrate, including mine of course next week. I'm off out this evening for round one of celebretions so no time for a full post today, sorry.

Friday, May 4, 2012

An Abundance of Katherines

This is John Green's second book of five and the third which I've read. It was a good read but I have to say it's been my least favourite of his work so far. I can't decide if Paper Towns or The Fault In Our Stars is my favourite because they're both great but for very different reasons. The thing about Abundance of Katherines was that to start with there seemed to be a lot of similarities to Paper Towns but with less relatable characters. I can't put myself in the shoes of a child prodigy very easily and so while the story was fun I was never really emotionally engaged. There were also some moments that didn't really feel all that realistic. As usual I'm probably missing some deeper metaphor but at my level that took me out of the world.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Lucidity

Delain are a band that I'm only vaguely familiar with. However I'm still planning to see them live in the near future. They're doing a local gig very close to my birthday and the couple of You Tube songs I listened to seemed okay so I figured it would make a nice trip out. With that in mind I decided I should grab a couple of their album to get a better idea and the first I listened to was Lucidity. They're pretty much what you'd expect from a female fronted gothic metal band formed by ex-members of Within Temptation. I enjoyed the album but nothing really stuck out as amazing. However I was working at the time and wasn't paying full attention.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Elder Scrolls Online

Another announcement to talk about, this time in the work of gaming. Bethesda has confirmed they are working on an MMO version of The Elder Scrolls. I'm not sure what I think about this. It feels to me like every major franchise is jumping to an online model because that's "in" at the moment. I'm sure publisher love being able to charge monthly fees rather than a one-off price but what about how it affect the game and the story? In Skyrim you're the Dragonborn, the hero that defeats the World Eater and prevents the end of the world. That's going to feel far less epic if there are 500,000 of you all doing the same thing. It doesn't feel like your world. Part of the reason I like to escape to these worlds is to relax on my own. Having to interact with other brings the stress back when you want to go at your own pace. I don't mind the odd MMO, I subscribe to two after all, but I don't like this idea that everything needs to be multiplayer.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

More Fringe!

Good news everybody! It's been announced that Fringe will be getting a fifth season. Although it is only going to be a shortened season as well as being the last one. Still that means the show gets to go out on its own terms, something which getting rarer and rarer these days. Excellent news for one of my favourite currently airing shows.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Manhattan In Reverse

I've been reading this on and off for a while. It's a collection of short stories which means you can do that without losing track. I'd read a story and then not start the next one for a couple of weeks or more. I don't really know why it just kinda happened that way. It was no fault of the book each story was great but it's been an odd first few months of the year. I enjoyed this book a lot but there is one thing I will say, this is not the place to start if you wanted to sample Hamilton's work. The majority of the stories take place in his existing universes and use many familiar characters. The stories are short but they are not self contained. So really this is a bonus for fans not for new readers. New readers should read The Reality Dysfunction or Judas Unchained to start with, or perhaps Misspent Youth if you want a shorter one. The first story "Watching Trees Grow" is set in an alternate universe where the Romans worked on life extension projects and the empire never fell. However that's just a setting for a multi-generational murder investigation, but it's a very interesting one. "If At First..." is probably my favourite, at least of the non-Commonwealth stories. Fancy time travel stories will likely always rate highly with me. Thinking back now I don't remember a lot of what "The Forever Kitten" was about. That's the problem with reviewing so long afterwards. I'm just going to say I think this one was the shortest. "Footvote" was a very good political discussion and probably comes in as my second favorite. The only issue is that the technology described makes it feel like it should be part of the Commonwealth universe but it doesn't fit in to that time line. "Blessed By An Angel" is probably the weakest story here. It explains some of the events and origins of one of the main characters from his other books but I'm not convinced it was something that actually needed explaining. Finally "The Demon Trap" and "Manhattan In Reverse" which both feature Detective Paula Myo. Basically they're two additional cases for her work on. "The Demon Trap" is tied for my favourite spot with "If At First..." thanks to its unexpected clever ending.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Dominant Species

Spent this afternoon playing a new board game called Dominant Species. In the game you control a species and though various options and choices you have to grow and evolve that species to be the most dominant. We played twice, the first game was the first time I'd played but the others had so I didn't do very well. My arachnids started out quite well, but ended up being the least dominant. The second time I was playing mammals and this time I came in second place. Each turn there are a number of different actions you can choose from but you can't do them all and for some actions only one person can do it each turn. So your choices are very tactical and there is a lot to consider. Great game, I would play again.

Friday, April 27, 2012

For All Mankind

This film is part of the Master of Cinema collection and it's been waiting in my backlog pile for a while. It's a documentary about NASA's trips to the moon put together from all the footage filmed by the astronauts along with with interviews conducted later for the film. Some of the footage is simply amazing. When you think of the moon landings your mind goes to the fuzzy black and white TV transmissions of Neil Armstrong bouncing down a ladder. That's to be expected from a sixties TV signal from the moon. However the footage taken by the 16mm cameras each astronaut had with them is the same quality as anything recorded on the Earth. Now cleaned, restored and blown up to HD it's simply breathtaking and the achievements it represents are even more awesome. It makes me sad that the current plan for getting to Mars isn't expected to happen until the mid-2030s! Obviously they'd already been thinking about it but it only took 7 years to get to the moon after Kennedy's speech. Things seem to be moving far too slowly now. Although the new corporate plans for asteroid mining sound interesting. It's safe to say that the profit motive is going to be a bigger drive than simple exploration tangled in government bureaucracy. I can't believe I'd never seen this film before and that I'd never even heard of it before discovering Masters of Cinema, it's been around since 1989! Glad I have now though, fantastic.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Avengers Assemble

Two Joss Whedon projects within two weeks of each other and double Chris Hemsworth as well, it's nerd-vana. Marvel have been building towards The Avengers ever since the first Iron Man performed so well. The question is, has it been worth it? The answer is a resounding yes! It has pretty much everything you could want from a superhero film. There's action, humour, heroics and loss. All the characters get plenty of screen time and no-one feels left out. Even Hawkeye and Black Widow seemed to fit in well despite them being the least superpowered and not having had their own standalone films. I'm not going to spoil anything major (there was one big surprise) but I will say I didn't expect the Hulk to work so well, completely stealing the show more than once. It's a no brainer that if you've enjoyed any of the previous Marvel film that you should see this film. When you can that is, it's weird that the US still has to wait until May 4th. I wonder how that deal worked out. Still I'm now looking forward to see where they go next with Iron Man 3, Thor 2 and Captain America 2 over the next couple of years presumably leading in to Avengers 2 after that.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Paradise Lost Live

The gig last night was great. I've always been quite a fan of Paradise Lost but I've never seen them live before. Paradise Lost put on an excellent show as did the support act Insomnium a band I'd vaguely heard about before but plan to look in to more now. As usual I have a few blurry and colourful photos which you can see here: https://picasaweb.google.com/109346954490780957269/20120424

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Paradise Lost

Off out tonight to see Paradise Lost live in concert. So no time for a full post today, but I'll be back tomorrow with pictures and perhaps some video.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Backwards

I've said it before but I'll say it again, I really hate sleep. I've completely messed up my schedule again and it's a huge pain. Why does the process of going to sleep have to be so vague? If it really is necessary then a switch and a timer would be so much more useful.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Power Within

For some reason I had not realized that this had been released already. I came across it accidentally while browsing Amazon so I grabbed myself the MP3 download. I've got quite a lot of music in my library and it occurs to me that I've not actually listened to Ultra Beatdown very many times since it was released, and that was four years ago! That's quite a long time without an album release but Dragonforce have been touring a lot and then busy recruiting a new singer before finally putting together this album. After the first listen I have to say that I was quite impressed. My favourites so far include Fallen World, Cry Thunder and Wings of Liberty. The band are still playing as fast as ever and the new singer fits in well. It's about time I had some more Dragonforce in my life.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Cabin in the Woods

Fans of Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard like me have been waiting a long time to see this film. Originally filmed in 2009 but then held back due to the financial troubles at MGM it was finally released last week. I went to see it earlier this evening. All I really have to say at the moment is that it was awesome and one of the best films I have seen in a long time. I enjoyed every moment and had a great time. Due to the delayed release we get to see a Chris Hemsworth before he was famous and he was great. Fran Kranz was excellent as well, as was everyone else really. Horror/Comedy is of course not going to be to everyone's tastes but those who do like this sort of thing need to see this film as soon as possible. There's not a lot I can say about the story without spoiling things and this is definitely the kind of film which is best experienced without knowing much about it. But it takes what you think you know about horror films and does something different.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Back to normal?

Things are getting more back to normal now. Almost caught up with work and almost caught up with the blog. With any luck I can get things back to a proper schedule again now. Just this short post today to assist with that but from tomorrow we should start having some proper and on time posts again.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

One More Thing

One more thing about Pottermore that is. I understand that Harry Potter has become extremely popular but really it's not a unique situation. What I don't understand is why the ebook versions of the stories can only be bought via Pottermore. If you search for Harry Potter ebooks at Amazon for example, they are listed, but just with a link to the Pottermore site. Once on Pottermore you're forced to create an account before you can use the shop. What makes J.K. Rowling so special that she can demand her books only be sold on a single website? It's not very user friendly and I imagine it annoyed the programmers at Amazon having to build in an exception for those products. The printed versions are available everywhere books are available so why are the ebook versions not? It seems like Rowling has zero understanding of digital publishing, especially considering how long it's taken to even get this far. One of the most popular books of recent years and it's only become available on Kindle this year! I for one would probably have read them much earlier if they were available on Kindle via Amazon. It all makes no sense to me.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Sorting Hat

Now of course probably one of the most important moments for a young wizard at Hogwarts is finding out which house you are going to be in. So as you'd expect that's also the major point of the Pottermore website as well. Once you're in a house there are various things you can do for house points like making potions and dueling other wizards. Since reading the books I've always had an idea about what house I would end up in as I'm sure the majority of people do. This week many people I follow on You Tube and around the Internet have been posting their sorting results. So which house do you think I ended up in? Click here to find out.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Pottermore

If you don't remember, Pottermore is an interactive Harry Potter website which was first trialled last year if I remember correctly. At that time sign ups were limited while they were still testing and there were big fights to get in. I hadn't read the books or seen the films then so I wasn't really all that bothered. Although I did register interest as it was going to be where the first ebook version were going to be available. I never got in and I never really gave it anymore thought. Also as you probably remember I finally bought and read the print versions of the books at the end of last year. It's still being called a beta version but the site has recently been relaunched and sign ups are now open to everyone, so I signed up. For the most part the site is fancy flash artwork depicting major moments from the stories with various interactive parts linking you to background information and notes from J.K. Rowling. So for the most part it follows Harry's story however when it comes to certain moments you can take a test and see the outcome for yourself. The first of which is at Olivander's where you answer a few questions and see what wand chooses you. I now have a 13" quite flexible pear wand with a dragon core.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

No Video

With all the busy-ness and disorganisation at the moment that can only mean the there is not going to be a video blog today. I've got nothing planned and no real motivation to film or edit anything today so even if I tried to fit something in it probably wouldn't be very good. I'll figure out the right schedule at some point. I can't believe that April is half over already!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Photos

I was thinking about posting some more photos from Resistanz while I catch up on the blog. However after looking through the albums there's really not anything else interesting left to post. It's the reason I've not bothered posting the entire album, most of the photos really aren't that great. They're mostly just blurry crowd shots and there's really not a lot to look at. I actually took a lot more video than I did photos but of course those will end up in the end of the month video blog.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Oddness

It's been a bit of an odd week. I got behind with the blog over the Easter weekend and I've never really caught up since. I've been busy and stressed with work and have not really been in the mood to write things and catch up. When I have had some spare time I've generally just been playing some Minecraft. I keep saying that "it should be over next week" and then it goes over in to another week. I think though that next week might actually be the one. We shall see.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

And another

This time Kim gets all viking!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Catchup

Obviously I need some more time to catch up with things here so let me just take today and post another random photo from the weekend.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Back to work

Back to work now and it's time to finally finish the big project I've been working on recently. There will probably not be a lot of spare time this week and I'm already behind on the blog. I must keep an eye on that.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Titans vs Titans

Today it is time to wind down after a long weekend with some films. To start with this afternoon I watched the 2010 version of Clash of the Titans. I'd never got around to seeing this before. I know I've seen the original but I don't remember a lot of details about that one either. I remember people saying the 3D implementation was poor in the new one when it was first releases but today I was only watching the standard 2D version. It was pretty good overall, perfect bank holiday afternoon entertainment really. I figured I should watch that as this evening I went to see the new Wrath of the Titans, this time in full 3D. It was very enjoyable as well and with some decent 3D effects for a post-conversion. The story simplified is very similar to the first one just with different locations and monsters. Perseus unwillingly goes on a quest for information, fights monsters who turn out to be friendly, takes knowledge back, fights giant titan with it. Still fun though.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

More Music

Time for Resistanz day two. I have to admit I was a little worse for ware this morning. It's been a while since I've had a proper night out like that. I'm out of practice. I shall be slightly more sensible this evening otherwise I'm likely to have to skip Monday and it's this evening which has the most bands I'm interested in. Here is what last night looked like:

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Resistanz

The second annual International Industrial Music Festival right here in Sheffield. Two days of live music, DJs and dancing at Corporation. Including bands such as Memmaker, Grendel, Ultraviolence and Icon of Coil. I didn't got to the first one last year but this time I'm looking forward to it. It's one of the benefits of being in a town with one of the few remaining alternative clubs. Some people are spending hundreds on travel and accommodation to visit from abroad. I only need a £2 bus fare to get there. Although the event ticket is still quite expensive. Should be an interesting weekend. http://www.corporation.org.uk/resistanzfestival/

Friday, April 6, 2012

Visitors

There's lots going on this Easter weekend. Although none of it actually relates to Easter itself, instead people are making special use of the long weekend. It starts this evening a visitors from out of town arrive which leaves me with little time for blogging. Tomorrow things begin for real but I'll talk about that then.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

BioWare Caves

I never expected that this would happen but it seems that BioWare have bowed to Internet pressure and have decided to release an update to the controversial Mass Effect 3 ending. They're not going so far as to change anything that is already in the game however it sounds like they're planing to expand and clarify a few things instead. This is due to be released at some point in the summer. Of course I've still not finished a playthrough of Mass Effect 3 myself yet but I can guess from what's happening in the story that I'm not far off. Hopefully I'll have some time soon to finish it off. What's interesting is that the reaction has been so bad that BioWare actually decided to act upon it. As far as I'm concerned they would have been within their rights to just say, no that's how we intended it. I shall probably post about this again soon one I have actually experienced the end for myself.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Google Glasses

I've always enjoyed the idea of augmented reality. Computer systems working within your vision with information and overlays on top of the real world. Miniature screens and projection are getting much closer these days but there's still the problem of control. Voice recognition is getting better but that's not always an option, particularly in a loud environment. Eye movement is possibly an option but there are only going to be a limited set of motions available with that. Ideally of course the control would be entirely mental but we're not even close to that. However this week Google have announced they are working on an augmented reality system they're calling Project Glass. Not much longer now until Google officially become our overlords. In the trailer of where they hope to get to it seems most of the control is either via context or voice. It will probably be sometime before the public gets to try it out but they apparently do have a prototype and there are pictures on the Internet of Google Co-Founder Sergey Brin wearing a pair of the glasses. I'm sure people older than me feel the same about computers and tablets and smart phones but this is the first time I've ever felt like I'm seeing science fiction become a reality. True there are other HUDs and experimental systems out there but I feel like Google has much more power to get an actual product out compared to a university lab. Unlike the new iPad, I would stand in line for these.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Getting Things Finished

It always the hardest part of a project to get it finally finished off. There are always more little final things that you still have to do as a deadline approaches. Always more than you realize. One day maybe I'll find another way to do things. However until then it's the usual rush to the end this week.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Total Recall

A trailer for the new Total Recall has arrived. There are some interesting moments but there seems to be some excessive slomo moments! So far I'm still not convinced this remake is needed. It's probably about time I read the book.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Game Saved

After GAME Group finally went in to administration last week the name has been shopped around and this weekend a buyer has emerged. Private investment firm OpCapita has bought the UK game retailer. Other businesses under their control include Comet so it's not too much of a stretch. However the big question is, was it worth it? Obviously something needs to change to cover the £5m wage bill and stop it happening again. If thanks to the transfer and the recent issues with EA they have lost their UK exclusive rights to collector's editions then I will have run out of reasons to shop there. My money is more likely to head to Amazon or Play as the relationship with GAME has been soured. With more and more publishers taking measures to reduce 2nd hand sales they're going to have to come up with come good ideas over the coming month otherwise it will just sink again. A revamp of their online systems is needed, the stores need larger PC sections, the reward scheme needs to be fully reinstated and the staff need to go back to being the experts not the salesmen. Events, LANs, prizes? Certainly more reason to physically go to the store would be needed in the increasingly digital market. I don't know what the answer is, I'd be richer if I did, but it's a situation I will be keeping an eye on.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

And again

I'm just completely lacking in inspiration and content this weekend. Apologies for that. I guess I needed a bit of a mini break. I sure something will come to mind soon.

Friday, March 30, 2012

More Fail

Still nothing to write about at the moment I'm afriad but it all should be over this weekend though, so normal service should be back soon.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Busy

Work has ramped up this week and I've not been finding time to properly attend to the blog this week. Sorry about that. Some more interesting things coming soon hopefully, but not this evening I'm afraid.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Summer

So two days of sun and the country thinks it's summer already but it's only March. Not that I've had time to go out in it, too much work to do this week. It did result in a great satellite photo of a cloudless UK.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Minecraft

Minecraft has been the surprise indie hit over the last couple of years making its creator a millionarrie. I often heard many things about the game, videos, picture, reviews all good, but I'd never actaully played it. However recently a couple of friends started playing and asked me about the possibility of running an online server, that's the kind of thing I do after all. I did as asked but of course that also inspired me to actually have a go at the game myself. It's a bit of an odd game with its block construction and its pixel style graphics but its also quite a lot of fun. There's something compelling about mining and building in a sandbox world. There are no set goals so the game is what you make of it, which can be oddly addictive.


Monday, March 26, 2012

No Time

I was going to read the next Mass Effect comic so I could post about it today but I've run out of time so that will have to wait until another day, sorry.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Redemption

So while Marvel may be pushing digital comics a lot these days that's not true of everyone. I'm still patiently waiting for the new Buffy and Angel series' from Dark Horse to arrive and it's not too long now. I'll be buying real copies of those once they're out. However in the mean time I picked up a couple of one offs, also from Dark Horse. Two volumes each containing 4 issues and not an ongoing series, so no need to worry about keeping up and rapidly running out shelf space. It's a universe that's been on my mind a lot recently as you may have noticed from the picture, Mass Effect.

The first volume is called Redemption and takes place in between the games Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 2. Well I suppose technically it takes please between the prologue to Mass Effect 2 and the rest of the game. I read the first issue some time ago as a special mini version came with the collector's edition of the game and while it was interesting it didn't inspire me to immediately go out and buy the rest. At the time I was far more interested in playing the game but now it felt like time to catch up on some things. The problem is most of this story was explained (although not shown) during the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC as that served as an epilogue to the story here of how Liara retrieved Shepard's body for Cerberus. So for that reason there were not many surprises here. Still it was nice to see and the artwork was excellent, great care had been taken there. I'm glad I read it, but really it's only for the die-hard Mass Effect fan.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Hunger Games

First let me say that going in the afternoon was an inspired idea, thanks to Fiona for that. Normally to avoid the crowds at the cinema I wait until the week after and go early on a Thursday evening. However this time I was a bit more eager to see the film than usual. So I went before the crowds, on Friday afternoon. Most other people are at work or school at the point, but working for myself means I can reschedule things like that. You know who else goes to the cinema on a Friday afternoon? Just a handful of students that's who. It was the perfect amount of people, not completely empty but enough space that all the different groups could have their own space.

Second, Odeon Sheffield have put brand new seating in screen one since I last visited. They're pretty comfy but there is still a lack of leg room unless you're in one of the spots where the row in front has fewer seats leaving a gap. Another reason to go at off-peak time for a choice of seat.

Now about the film itself. As I've mentioned before there are not many films I have seen where I read the book first and never before has it been so soon afterwards, just a month in this case. So the story was still very much in my mind. I was surprised at the start by how quiet things were. No huge musical score just low key hunting in the forest. This introduces us to Katniss and Gale in much the same way as the book does but this is where most of the detail is skipped to make a film runtime possible. We spend a lot less time getting to know District 12 and the film gets us to the Reaping as quickly as possible. Will this lessen the impact of certain events in the third film? I suppose that depends on how they decide to deal with the beginning of book two. So Katniss and Peeta are quickly whisked of to the Capitol and that looks great. Vast sci-fi cityscapes are something that CG always excels at. As to be expected certain elements of the book are skipped here as well but they still managed to cram a lot in. It seemed to go by very fast. I found myself wondering if someone who had not read the books would be understanding everything and catching the subtle references. Possibly not on the first viewing but it's hard to tell because I do have the knowledge from the books. Finally off to the area and this is where we have the issue of violence in a 12 rated film. I was of course watching the cut UK version but still most of the more gruesome moments were taking place just out of frame. It seemed pretty tame to me compared to some of the things I've seen. Why is it that a teen book can be explicit about death but a teen film cannot? Hopefully there will be an option of an uncut DVD in the future.

Acting was good throughout. It falls very heavily on Jennifer Lawrence to hold everything together and I'd say she managed it well. Woody Harrelson and Lenny Kravitz were great as Haymitch and Cinna. Even though they didn't look anything like I originally imagined them, the characters were spot on. It's been interesting to read the Internet's views over the last 24 hours, it seems to be getting a Marmite reaction. I'm on the 'love it' side. It's not perfect but it was an excellent adaptation and does a good job of living up to all the recent hype. I look forward to hearing what they're going to do with the other two books which complicate the story much more.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Alien Turtles

In film news this week Michael Bay has been upsetting fans with changes again. After year working on the Transformers film he's now moving another another old favourite, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The problem is it has come out that in this new version the Turtles are apparently going to be aliens? Everyone is now saying that makes no sense, they're supposed to be mutants, it's right there in the name! Teenage Alien Ninja Turtles doesn't really sound right. I suppose they could be alien mutants, or the ooze which mutates them could be from space, but either way that's a pretty big change to the current origin story. I'll reserve judgement for now, it's still early days, not much is known so it must still be in basic pre-production. There is still plenty of time for things to change.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Time is relative

As you get older it feels like the passage of time gets faster and faster. This is not a new and revolutionary concept however I did recently come across two similar yet interesting examples of this. In a fit of nostalgia I recently picked up some DVD box sets of my favourite eighties cartoons from my childhood. I guess I'd have been between 6 and 10 when these were first aired from the broom cupboard. First is The Mysterious Cities Of Gold and the second is Around The World With Willy Fog. To be honest I remember very little of the details of these cartoons but I can still sing the theme songs! However if you asked me how long these shows lasted I would have said they were on for years. Yet there are only 39 episodes of Cities of Gold and only 26 episodes of Willy Fog! It's just like that other famous example, only 13 episodes of Bagpuss! Although that's a bit before my time, I only ever remember the one where the mice make chocolate biscuits. Anyway I remember that Willy Fog made it around the world on time, even after thinking he didn't thanks to a timezone miscalculation. I presume something similar happened in the original Jules Verne, which I've not read. What I don't remember is whether the Cities of Gold were ever found, so that should be interesting to see in the coming weeks.



Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Jupiter and Io

You may need to click and get the large version to see the details. The red dot is a volcano on the moon's surface and the blue cloud is the volcano's emissions. I don't currently know the details of how this was taken, but it's an amazing shot.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Random Photos

While visiting my Mum (and the rest of my family) this weekend for Mothers Day I started fiddling with setting on my camera and taking some random photos. As I mentioned they're a bit random and not really of anything in particular. If you're interested you can view them here: https://picasaweb.google.com/109346954490780957269/20120318

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Mass Effect Multiplayer

For me role playing games have always been about the single player experience. I like to make my own choices and take things at my own pace. When I'm playing an MMORPG I usually don't feel like I'm playing a role but instead I'm just being myself. So when BioWare announced that Mass Effect 3 was going to have a multiplayer component I was quite disappointed. It felt like an attempt to bring in the Call of Duty demographic who I felt wouldn't appreciate the single player experience. I was also worried that it would water down the single player story. BioWare later promised that the multiplayer would be completely separate and would not affect the story campaign at all. Except that turned out to not be true. Every time I turn on the game the main menu tells me that galactic readiness is only 50% because I've not played any multiplayer matches. I'm led to believe that this has very little effect on the conclusion of the story but it still feels like I'm missing something. It's been years since I've played any online competitive FPS mainly because I simply don't have the time to keep playing and keep up practice. So there's always someone better than you and you don't really have a chance. Last night I decided I would have a quick go to at least see what it was all about and I was surprised to find it wasn't as bad as I expected it to be. Firstly it's not competitive, it's co-op verses AI which means you don't have to worry so much about the opponents skill level. The combat system is pretty much the same as the in the single player so that counts as practice. I played one random pick up game, it went well and the team won, even though I was a much lower level than the rest of the team who had obviously been playing for a while. Later the second team I tried to join wasn't as friendly though. They saw I was 15 levels below them and kicked me off the team. I couldn't find another free team at the time so I went back to the story. So while it was kinda fun it's not something I'm really interested in playing full time. There's one other problem. One of the great things about RPGs is the re-playability. I often go back and play old games and they're still fun. I've lost count of how many times I've played BioWare's Neverwinter Nights. However in 10 years time it's likely that there will be few people left playing the multiplayer component so how will we get to 100% galactic readiness at that point?

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Digital Marvel

As you may remember I have been slowly working my way through the old X-Men comics from Marvel. Considering how many there are that is quite a task and I've not read very many so far. I'm up to date on the Astonishing X-Men series and have been delving into the history of that series which is X-Men Legacy. There are two problems with this. The first is that some of the older trade paperbacks are not readily available and I'm not really interested in collecting the single issues. The other problem is that I've only got limited space to store the books and that's already running low. However today I learned that Marvel have been working on a project to officially digitise their entire archive. They're scanning all the comics and putting them online. For a mere £35 per year you can have access to that archive which contains over 10,000 comics and keeps growing. Not just X-Men but their entire range of course, including Avengers, Spiderman, Thor & Iron Man. I am now a member! I'm now reading the 2004 Rogue series as she's always been my favourite but the series is out of print and there are not many reasonably priced copies on the marketplace. You can find out more here: http://marvel.com/digital_comics/.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Best Present

Well probably not the best present, but a really good one! It's been eleven years since Diablo 2 was first released and people have been waiting for a sequel for almost as long. Diablo 3 has been in development for some time now but we've had no idea when it would arrive. Blizzard a one of the few developers who have the power to say it will be ready "when it's done" to the publishers. Which leaves us gamers constantly waiting for news. Today it has finally been announced, Diablo 3 will be released on May 15th this year, which is my birthday!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Slow News Day

Work plus Mass Effect 3 has left with with little time for anything else over the last few days and I have therefore run out of things to talk about here. So how about a few Mass Effect 3 screenshots in the mean time instead?



Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Argh! Spoilers!

It's been a week now since Mass Effect 3 was released in the US and four days since it arrived in the UK. During that time I've had to make a lot of extra effort to avoid spoilers on the Internet. More than usual it seems. I guess that's a problem with it being such a popular franchise now. All the websites want to feature it, all the users want to comment on it and all the webcomics want to parody it. I'm basically having to completely avoid some of the sites I would regularly visit under normal circumstances. Even when spoilers are marked sometimes things slip through in headlines or thumbnails. I've learned a couple of things I'd have rather not known in advance but nothing really major. Just as it was beginning to calm down there's been a sudden surge of articles about people being disappointed and complaining about the ending. I don't know any of the details just that some people are shouting loud that the ending sucks and even going so far as to demand it be changed! That's a rather entitled position which I don't agree with. What I do wish is that I would get a chance to actually play the game first before being subjected to all that. Sure I don't know the details, it's probably just a highly vocal minority making a fuss. People are giving it one star at Amazon and less than 5/10 at Metacritic, yet the press scores are all really high. I guess a lot of people had specific expectations which weren't met. However now I'm going to be anticipating the end and judging it, rather than letting the story do its work. It's different to 1 and 2 but I've really enjoyed what I've played so far. I would just like to be given the chance to make my own decision rather than having the Internet's will forced upon me. I love the Internet but why is it always the angry people who have the loudest voice?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Space Aurora

Southern aurora viewed from the ISS. Not something a lot of people will ever get to see through their own eyes!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Video Fail

The very first week after I said I would start posting my video blog here on Sundays as a day off from writing a separate post I failed to find time to make a video. I went out to spend the afternoon playing Magic The Gathering with some friends and we ended up playing way in to the evening and far longer than originally planned. So by the time I got home it was far too late to start thinking about recording and editing a new video because the ones which are rushed rarely turn out to be very good. They need proper thought and also good lighting, neither of which you get late on a Sunday. Perhaps by next week I'll be back on top of things.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

First Impressions: Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect has pretty much become my favourite role playing game and so I've been looking forward to Mass Effect 3 for quite a while. The look and feel of the game is pretty much exactly the same as Mass Effect 2 so there's not a lot new to talk about there. The Unreal Engine is still doing an excellent job. Performance is fine on my PC and I've had no problems with the game itself. I did have some issues getting Origin installed though. Origin is EA's competition to Steam and so they've made some of their titles exclusive to the Origin platform in order to grow the user base. Unfortunately it's far less advanced than Steam, they're still light years behind. The first of Origin on the disc failed to automatically install as promised, I had to go to the website a separately install the latest version. That's fine for me but not very handy for the less technically inclined user, although I guess those people are more likely playing the more popular Xbox 360 version.

The story so far has been good but it's taking place some months after the events of Mass Effect 2 and there's been very little information to fill in what happened in the gap up to this point. I'd like to know more about that and how Shepard finally left Cerberus. This will be filling what spare time I have for some time to come.


Friday, March 9, 2012

Joy of installation

As I write this I'm waiting for Mass Effect 3 to install on my computer. While staring at the slowing moving progress bar I found myself wondering where the joy of installing a new game had gone. It used to be that you'd have a fancy themed installer program with pictures, screenshots, teasers and things like, things to look at while the game installed. You'd also have a brand new manual to flick through and you'd learn some basics of the game. Now all the installers are standardized and part of another system such as Steam or Origin. Manuals have become PDFs which you rarely look at. Even if you buy a game on disc you just a get may be quick start guide and a license agreement. You end up ignoring the installation and start browsing the web or writing a blog post instead. The installation process has stopped being an event and I miss the old way.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Moon


That's a photo which I took yesterday. The Moon was low and clear and bright, it was begging to have its photo taken. As you can see in the gallery here it took me a few attempts to find the right settings on my camera to properly capture it. You could even be excused for thinking it was the Sun in a few of them.

Edit to add: Writing this post made me look out of the window and it's very much the same tonight, except it's later and therefore darker. So I took a few more photos which you can find here.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

SimCity

These days Maxis and Will Wright are probably most famous for The Sims. However 11 years before The Sims came SimCity. There have been many Sim games such as SimAnt or SimTower but until The Sims, SimCity was always the main one. I don't remember quite when I first started playing SimCity but I know I was playing SimCity 2000 (the first sequel) so it must have been somewhere around 1993-1995. I really enjoyed it and put a lot of time into it. When Simcity 3000 was released in 1999 I was in my first year at university and had far less free time. I remember playing it but nowhere near as much as 2000. All I really remember now was being disappointed that Arcologies were no longer in the game. In 2003 when Simcity 4 arrived I jumped right on it, I put quite a lot of time in to this one as well. Although probably not as much as SimCity 2000. In the last 9 years there has been no new SimCity and as I've mentioned before on this blog, unfortunately SimCity 4 has not aged well. Technically in 2007 there was SimCity Societies, however this was not developed by Maxis, was over simplified, got poor reviews and I've not played it. So that doesn't count. Now finally "SimCity is coming home to Maxis" says EA. Coming in 2013 will be an all new SimCity. They've decided to just call it SimCity, not SimCity 5. Does this signify a reboot and going back to the game's roots or is it ignoring the past and pretending it doesn't exist? For now I'm optimistic, they're saying all the right things such as "This is a PC only game" and "This isn't an attempt to update the game for the console generation". Also the announcement trailer looks great, even if it's not actually gameplay footage.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Fallen World

After what seems like a very long time away Dragonfore are finally releasing some new music. Today they've released a new track for download via their Facebook page and it's actually pretty good. A change in singer is always the most obvious in a line up change but Marc Hudson seems to be an adequate replacement. I know he's done some live shows so I'm sure there is some footage out there but this is the first time I've heard him sing and I enjoyed it. He's got a similar voice to ZP Theart and I can imagine him capable of singing the back catalogue without a problem. I look forward to the new album coming soon.
http://www.facebook.com/dragonforce?sk=app_311701608877450

Monday, March 5, 2012

I Almost Forgot!

March 4th is the anniversary of me starting this blog and it went by with no fanfare or celebrations. I can't believe it's been two years already. It's been an interesting two years with ups and downs, I don't know which there were more of though. I've watched films and read books and I've discovered new websites, it's been fun. And that, of course, is going to continue. However in light of time management issues I've been experiencing recently I am going to make one change this year. I've not been giving the blog the respect it deserves and it is in danger of becoming an after thought. So I'm going to to (sort of) give myself a day off each week. On Sundays when I do my video blog I'm simply going to embed that here as well rather than trying to come up with double content that day. So there will still technically be a post every day but one day a week I won't have to write anything extra.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

No Video

Despite what I hoped at the end of my last video there will be no new video this weekend. This is of course an extension of what I was talking about yesterday. Right now I need to re-prioritize some things. The video blog will be continuing, just not this week.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Neglected

Anyone who reads my blog on a daily basis has probably noticed things have been a bit neglected this week, but I'm all caught up now. I want to say that I've been busy but the truth is I've been really disorganized. Motivation is extremely low at the moment. It seems like there is so much still to do and there is no end in sight. I could do with a swift kick or something.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Once Upon A Time

Once upon a time an evil queen cursed the land of fairy tales and took away all the happy endings. Now everybody from Snow White and Prince Charming to Red Riding Hood and Rumpelstiltskin are stuck in our world all living in the town of Storybrooke with no memory of who they used to be. Now it's down to Snow White's long lost daughter to try and help everyone remember and break the curse. Of course she doesn't remember either and only has a book to go on. I've been meaning to try out this series for a while but didn't find the time until I'd finished with some other shows. There were various reason I wanted to see what it was about. Firstly it's starring the lovely Jennifer Morrison and the always brilliant Robert Carlyle. Then among the writers/producers are Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis who both worked on Lost. Also Jane Espenson and Andrew Chambliss who are both Whedon alumni as well as other things. There are various other crossovers to shows I've liked in the past as well. There are even some Lost related Easter eggs. Once I'd finally started watching I quickly became addicted. That's the problem with serialized mystery television, it's a constant tease. Every episode ends with a cliffhanger which drags you in to the next. So I got through the existing episodes quite quickly. However now I'm up-to-date so I have to wait a week like everybody else now.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Survival of the Dead

This is the sixth film in George A. Romero's Dead series and hopefully not the last. Romero is 72 now though (69 when this was made), but after three great films and three less than great films everybody is still hoping for one last return to form. However these days he's only been producing not writing and directing. Of the six films this one I had not seen before. I'd not been in any rush to see it as I already knew it had pretty mediocre reviews. The 5.1 it's got on IMDb is about right. We have a group of people fighting for survival against the zombie horde but there's nothing new or interesting here. While the military characters are okay, everybody they meet on the island are Irish American stereotypes to the point of being a joke. Complete with a feud between the O'Flynns and the Muldoons. It's just silly. Really this is only worth watching if you want to be a completionist and see the whole series.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Game, EA & Mass Effect

It's a sad time for the British high street, when it comes to gaming in particular. There are not a lot of dedicated games retailers anymore and those who are left are struggling along on second hand trade sales. Game and also Gamestation (same parent company now) announced today that they would not be stocking any new releases from EA this month, including Mass Effect 3! This was a shock to many people like me who had pre-ordered the game from them months ago. I've always liked Game, going to their big store in Manchester was always a huge treat when I was a child. These days though most of my games are being purchased digitally and most of those through Steam. It's no surprise that this has been hurting the brick and mortar operations. So little space in this shops is given to PC games these days. The one thing that kept me coming back to Game was that they tended to manage to get UK exclusive deals for many of the fancy collectors editions that I like to buy sometimes. The Mass Effect 3 N7 edition was one of those. It seems that the struggling company simply couldn't get the credit terms they needed to buy in the stock. However EA are the biggest publishers of games with many companies under their wings. It's not just Mass Effect, this is going to hurt Game in the long run and I don't see them surviving it. On top of lost sales they've given £5 credit for each cancelled pre-order. I would not be surprised if this time next year there are no dedicated game shops on UK high streets. We'll just be left with large supermarkets and HMV. For me and Mass Effect the collectors edition exclusive has gone and it is now listed at other web shops such as Play and Zavvi. I've re-ordered from Play but it is a bit short notice when we're less than two weeks from the release date now.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mockingjay

Third book in the Hunger Games trilogy and this time around the Games are a metaphor. Katniss is now accepting the symbol she's become and joins the rebels in their fight against the Capital. Although to be honest it seems she has very little choice in the matter. Here we have lots of propaganda followed by battles and then endings. I have to say that it did not end quite like I expected it to. That's not a bad thing, in fact it's probably good for things to subvert your expectations. Although that did make a few moments feel a little odd when the plot took an unexpected turn. Also at the end things did seem to get a little rushed. Be warned I'm going to spoil a couple of things now. There was so much going on when Finnick died there was no chance to let that fact settle in and mourn. The same happened later with Prim. It being a teen novel there is one thing you can't avoid and that is the love triangle which is beneath it all. That was another thing I expected incorrectly. I thought it was going to be Gale in the end. Personally I like him a lot more than Peeta. Overall it was good, though of the three books I think the first is my favourite.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Troll Hunter

This was absolutely brilliant. It's not often that you see a little subtitled Norwegian film get a world wide release. A group of film students start making a documentary about some recent bear attacks but it turns out there's more too it than that and the government are hiding secrets deep in the Norwegian woods and mountains. It's a "found footage" style film with the footage taken by the students shown as is. It's one of the best examples of this style I've ever seen. Thanks to the likes of Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity this style is mostly associated with horror. Troll Hunter gets lumped in to the horror genre as well but it really doesn't deserve it. Other than some mild suspense and a couple minor jumps it's really not that kind of film. It makes you believe that troll could be real.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Catching Fire

There was one thing which was obvious from the start of the second Hunger Games book. Even though it's not supposed to happen, victors are supposed to be set for life, but you just know that Katniss is going to end up in the Games for a second time. This does indeed turn out to be true but it didn't happen in the way I first expected. Still there are lots of other interesting things to take place before that happens as we learn more about the world outside the Games and Katniss' home district. We get a lot more of the politics in this one and of the unrest in the general population. There's new characters and new locations and it's all good. I won't talk about the plot as that would spoil too much but I enjoyed this book just as much as the first and I'm already reading the third installment.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Hunger Games

It seems the Hunger Games has been gaining a lot of popularity lately, at least in the Internet circles I'm a part of anyway. I've never know very much about it but it always sounded quite interesting. Now it's "Soon to be a major motion picture" so I decided it was time for me to catch and see what this was all about instead of waiting until years later like I did with Harry Potter.

The Hunger Games is a trilogy of books by Suzanne Collins. They're young adult science fiction set a in future North America, although it's not called that anymore. Once a year as a method of keeping the people under control 24 children (between 12-18) are thrown in to a battle to the death, broadcast live on TV. This is similar to another film/novel Battle Royale from Japan. Battle Royale came first in 1999, The Hunger Games was first published in 2008. I've only seen the film Battle Royale not read the book so any comparisons I make are to the film. The thing is though, aside from the children battling to the death aspect they are quite different. The worlds in which they're set are very different or so I thought. It seems there is a large part of the Internet that disagrees with me and calls it a complete rip-off. I only found that part of the web while researching for this post though. There are plenty of people who liked the books and didn't mind and similarities, myself included. At least compared to the Battle Royale film there is one thing The Hunger Games does much better and that is it gives you a much better idea of the outside world, how it works and the reason for the games. Battle Royale takes place almost entirely in the arena but only about a third of the Hunger Games does. There's a lot more of the modern Big Brother aspect to the Hunger Games as well with more emphasis on the television broadcasts and interviews.

I found the book to be extremely compelling and got through it in only a couple of days and then went straight on to book two which I'll talk about tomorrow. Katniss is a great character and I can understand why it's become so popular. I wasn't really getting excited for the film before, but I am now. I also glad that I hadn't bothered watching the trailer before reading the books as well, although I had seen a couple of pictures, so there was nothing to taint my imagination.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Goodreads

At the end of last year I talked about the website iCheckMovies where you can make a list of the all films you have seen. There's a similar site, which I realize I'd heard about before but rediscovered today, where you can do the same for books. It's called Goodreads and today I created a profile for myself. I've read a lot less books than I've seen films and for the most part all of the books I've read I also own. That means that unlike iCheckMovies I'm much more certain that this is a complete list, at least since I was a teenager and not including anything I read for school or before. Only 103 books read (including graphic novels). If you'd like to see what you can find me here:
http://www.goodreads.com/slayster

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Metal World

An interesting map showing the number of metal bands per capita from each country. What is it about the Scandinavians? (click for large version)