Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Now Playing

Just a quick post to record my current gaming diversions which are somewhat curtailed due to Summer activities.

Spent a bit of time in Company of Heroes Opposing Forces add on at the beginning of June. Didn't like the single player campaign as much as the original American campaign although I was impressed by the way they differentiated the new forces.

We had a couple of rainy days during two weeks on holidays in the South of France. Equipped with nothing more than a ancient Laptop I spent a few hours in Evolva dating from 2000. The game has an interesting concept of evolving your characters by adding abilities from creatures you kill. Unfortunately, just as in real life, genetic mutation in the game is highly random and I found my self spending an awful lot of time in the mutation screen rolling the genetic dice in the hope of getting some small beneficial upgrade.

Now back in temperate (read rainy) Ireland I have played a few flash games (Upgrade Complete, Frantic, Red Remover and Morning Star are recommended all available from Kongregate).

In keeping with my retro gaming urge I am now replaying all three campaigns of Aliens versus Predator 2. Not as scary as I remember it but still very clever.

While on the subject of retro gaming this cartoon from XKCD strikes a big chord with me.

... but nobody reads blog comments anyway.

For me the ability to comment on other peoples blogs is a privilege which greatly enhances the whole blog reading experience. If you write something which pulls a string with me I like being able to tell you with a quick comment.

I am aware however that there are limitations. In particular it seems to me that commenting works better for less popular blogs with a small numbers of readers. If you leave a comment on my blog for example I will be delighted and in reply I will certainly read it and probably reply unless you are advertising WOW gold (mind you in quiet weeks I have even been known to reply to spam bots). I have pretty much given up commenting on the big commercial blogs though like Rock Paper Shotgun. Who on earth reads all 119 comments to a post like this. I certainly don't and I doubt the authors do either.

Even popular non commercial blogs have way too many comments to read. Tobold's posts often attract 100+ comments sometimes involving heated discussions. Or so I believe. Let me tell you a dirty little secret. I don't read the comments to Tobolds posts.

You see blogging is not a public discussion forum. It is a personal diary made public. Commenting on a blog is a public reply to the author of the blog. The only person you should expect to read your comment is the blog author himself or herself. Third party discussions really have no place in blog comments. I think that a some people forget this.

Tobold has cited the the the level of abuse and antagonism from a vocal minority of commenters as one of the main reasons he decided to take his current break from blogging. I do hope he returns and I hope that he doesn't take the decision to turn off comments.

Bill Harris does not allow comments on his blog Dubious Quality. I wrote to him about it and he explained that he consciously took the decision to avoid hassle. It's a shame. For me a blog without comments isn't really a blog. Every time something he writes catches my eye I get frustrated by the inability to comment and swear to knock Bill off my reading list but the quality of his stuff keeps me reading ... so far.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Oldest Swinger in Town

My wife just rang me to say she had acquired two tickets for us to see U2 live on Saturday night.

It is about 15 years since I was last at a rock concert and I haven't seen U2 play live since 1981. I must google for some appropriate fashion tips.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Snippets (probably taken out of context) from Kieron Gillen's Eurogamer "re-review" of Darkfall.

While I was away Kieron Gillen's review of Darkfall for Eurogamer came out. Some gems from the piece caught my eye.

On the controversy over the original Eurogamer review:

"Of course, it could just be an old technical error and the logs didn't get the times right. I'd like to think so. I don't think it's likely, but that it was no human malice here would be the best possible ending to a pretty horrible situation."

Gulp, It sounds like Kieron thinks somebody is lying.

"For the record: If I ever actually find out conclusively that someone was lying in this matter, I will do everything I can to destroy them."

Double Gulp.


On a point that Kieron considers a serious flaw in the games purport to be hard core:

"This is a world where, if you're expecting trouble, it's reasonable to strip down to your pants. This is stupid beyond all mortal belief."

"Characters run around, not caring about the occasional blow, more akin to a Counter-Strike knife-fight. Combat doesn't resemble combat. For all its challenges, it's not really deadly enough."

This sounds like a serious failing indeed but it seems to me that it is fixable with proper care and attention given to itemisation and the risk versus reward balance of better equipment. EVE seems to have dealt with the same problem well. Nobody brings a gold plated faction battleship willingly into PVP but people do gear up with tech 2 and better variants of equipment where the marginal benefit exceeds the risk.

On the player base:

"In my time in the game, the players I've met have been overwhelmingly pleasant - even when hacking me to death - and turning them from actual people into a mob didn't seem right."

Interesting. Where are all the foul mouthed mal-adjusts that some of my fellow non Darkfall players would have us believe are in the game?


On factual errors in the first review:

"I understand entirely why there were apparently factual errors in the original review. It speaks primarily not of the character of the review, but the character of Darkfall."

A vote of confidence for Ed Zitron. Lets hope for Ed's sake that he isn't the person Kieron suspects of lying (see above).


On the nature of MMO reviews:

"Of course, I haven't played it enough."

Considering the impossibility of ever doing justice to an mmo in the normal time allotted to review a game Kieron suggests a dual review process:

"a first review of an MMO is whether a destination is a place you'd recommend for a holiday. A second review is a recommendation of whether somewhere is a good place to go and live."


Hopefully this concludes the whole sorry Eurogamer / Darkfall saga. Kieron really is a superb reviewer. He writes exceptionally well with insight and with clarity and he obviously thinks deeply about the games he plays.

If you missed the kerfuffle over Eurogamer's first Darkfall review it is explained here.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Hungry in France

If ever you decide to go on vacation in France just make sure to take whatever steps are necessary to be sure that you never ever get hungry at 3pm in the afternoon. Otherwise you had best be prepared for several hours of starvation.

It seems bizarre to be talking about hunger in the context of one of the great culinary centres of the world but that nation's extraordinary skill in the matter of what to eat comes hand in hand with extreme rigidity in the matter of when you can eat it. In vast swathes of the country you will search in vain to find a restaurant or other eatery which serves anything other than the meanest of snacks outside of the appointed hours for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Doctors would no doubt laud such religious adherence to a regular schedule of meals but I must protest that it is not at all friendly to the holidaymaker.

When on vacation we break the normal rules. We sleep in mornings or stay up late at night. We indulge in forbidden snacks between meals. We spend longer on activities than planned. We skip meals and sometimes we combine meals. The very definition of a holiday is that one's regular routine goes out the window and this surely also includes regular meal times.

This is why it is so easy for a tourist to be hungry in France at 3 o'clock in the afternoon.

(That gripe aside I must confess to being just returned from an extremely enjoyable two weeks in South West France. Normal blogging will hopefully resume shortly)