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


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


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 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


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:

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:

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


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.

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


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.