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 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


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


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


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.