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Showing posts from 2006

State of the Game

Despite all my good intentions about being selective in buying games for the Christmas period my old bargain hunting nose got the better of me. I am now the proud owner of the following 6 titles: Gothic 3 , Neverwinter Nights 2, Titan Quest, Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, Age of Empire 3, Rise of Legends. The whole lot cost me €120 bought second hand. I amn't really sure why I bought them. Apart from AOE 3 most of these games got fairly mediocre reviews and I am very wrapped up in Guild Wars at the moment. I guess they are for the collection. This all begs the question how long will I stick with Guild Wars? I have already been playing for two months and there is plenty more content to go even in the original chapter of the game. Add in expansions and epic missions and you can see how this game could keep me occupied for a very long time. I have to laugh whenever I read reviews of Guild Wars games where reviewers discuss how this is really all about PVP but that there is enoug

Operation Gamecube is crashing and Burning

My secret plan to buy "Happy Feet" for the gamecube hit a hitch when I discovered that that game is available on every platform known to man other than the gamecube. Gamecube games are disappearing from the universe at a frightening rate. So far I have only discovered two shops in my whole city which stock them. As recompense for the "Happy Feet" debacle I got a second hand copy of Mario sunshine adventure. This had been recommended as a great game for kids and my pair were very impressed by the intro. Nice story setting with Mario going off on Holiday. Then disaster struck - the game hung and it turned out that the disk has a big scratch. I shall be bringing the game right back but they have no other copies of the game in stock. Arghhhh.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

Christmas is coming and Santa Claus is under strict instructions to visit the Mindbending household. Needless to say the girls have asked for a lot of stuff. They are both treasures however and I am sure Santa will be kind. Sadly nobody asked Santy for proper computer games despite my best efforts in operation Nintendo. Nevertheless I have a secret plan. My girls are going to see a movie called "Happy Feet" this week. By all accounts this is a great family movie so I expect they will be enthralled. I discoveered that the "Happy Feet" video game is available for the Nintendo Gamecube so I will sneak a copy under the Chirstmas tree and see what happens. Speaking of Santa it has been my custom to buy myself a couple of games every Christmas to see me through the holidays. The rest of the year I play scrooge and live on second hand and bargain bin offerings but at Christmas I will go full price if need be. A good shooter and a good RPG or strategy game usually keeps me

Guild wars keeps getting better

I'm a late comer to the GW universe. I only started Prophecies two months ago. I am not the fastest leveller either - sixty days in and I am still working my way through the Crystal Desert with my first character. However the game keeps getting better and better. I have just conquered Elona Reach with my trusty henchmen: mission, bonus and skill captures. I did the mission first where you need to collect three pieces of a crystal. It is considerd a faily difficult mission because there is a 30 minute timer and the area is swarming with patrolling snake creatures called "The forgotten" including plenty healers and elites. It took me three attempts with henchmen. The first two tries I wiped after pulling too many mobs. A particulalry nasty wipe happened when a forgotten sage healer hid behind a wall. This split my henchmen party in two as some of us went behind the wall for the healer and some got stuck outside. On the third attempt with careful pulling and targetting I pul

Artificially Creating Value

On the face of it an Olympic medal isn't worth much, about €83 according to this web page .Yet people who win one often consider it to be the greatest achievement of their lives. To a small nation like my own even a single gold medal is a cause for national celebration. The real value of a gold medal comes from the difficulty of getting it. In fact the medal itself is only a symbol of the heroic achievement that getting it entailed. If Mark Spitz threw away all seven of the medals he won in Munich people would still remember his achievement in winning them. Computer games strive to create this sort of value all the time. Most single player games reward you with a fairly inane final cinematic after downing the last boss. The cinematic itself is pretty worthless but the pride and satisfaction you get from overcoming the challenge of the game is certainly not. It is often possible to enable cheats and get to the end of the game that way. Fine if you really want to see the end credit

Operation Gamecube Update

My not so secret campaign to get other members of my family involved in video games through the purchase of a second hand gamecube is having mixed results. Donkey Konga is a big hit with my wife and the girls. The Lady of the house has firmly established herself as the best drummer in the family. I am not completely satisfied however - hitting a pair of plastic bongo drums doesn't feel like real gaming to me. Sadly the other games I bought seem to have less appeal. Most worrying is the fact that both my wife and girls have taken an aversion to the game controller. My wife announced that she is hopeless at using that kind of thing and the girls have more or less followed suit. In fairness to the beautiful lady when I explained to her that this was important to me she did spend a couple of hours with me playing through Monkey Ball Adventure. This is quite a tough game to control for joy pad novice because the rolling monkey balls have inertia and don't just immediately go the wa

So I finally caved in a bought a games console

After a lifetime of dedication to PC games I have finally bought my first ever games console. It's not actually for me - it's for the wife and kids. Most parents lament the excessive amount of time their kids spend on the playstation. My family on the other hand shows almost no interest in computer games leaving me a very lonely gamer. Partly this is temperament, they prefer other pastimes and partly this is due to type of game I play on the PC. My lovely wife and girls just don't like the violent often complicated PC games that I go for. So I've bought a games console in the hope that an infusion of Japanese monkey hopping and banana collecting will give my family a small appreciation of my own hobby. I bought a second hand Nintendo Game cube for €40. This is a console that was never very popular and has in fact just become obsolete. Only a few game stores even sell games for the cube any more. Before you accuse me of total miserliness I must counter with the fac

Where is the pink LEGO?

Yesterday I discovered LEGO's superb Digital Designer program (also known as lego factory). This is a fully fledged computer aided design (CAD) program that allows you to construct a vrtual lego model from a huge variety of bricks. The program is powerful yet extremely easy to use - a superb programming achievement. Even more amazing is the fact that having designed your virtual masterpiece you can then buy the pieces you need to make it all at the click of a button. There must be a very sophiticated warehousing system behind this that allows lego to pick individual kits for every order. I am happy to report that lego digital designer got the thumbs up from my two kids (5 and 7). However something became apparent very quickly as we built our virtual models. You can have any colour brick you want as long as it is a very masculine red or white, green, grey or blue. There are no pink or purple bricks. I thought this was surely an oversight. Surely lots of girls like to play with lego

To old to be playing games

My Guild Wars Mesmer just dinged level 20 today. That' s as high as you can get in this game but I still have lots of quests to do and lots of skills to collect. I hit the big 20 half way through a quest called Blood and Smoke. This was a pretty big quest - even though it had only one boss mob it involved a lot of trekking back and forth through hordes of poisonous spiders. For a bit of variety I chanced a pick up group. What can I say - it was exciting if not very productive. Apart from myself and one other player (a lvl 17 ranger) everyone in this group had a death wish. Leeroy Jenkins was nothing on our lads who charged into every group of mobs with joyful abandon. Given that poisonous spiders come in very large bunches this tactic was suicidal. Our only healer was Aleysia the henchlady but she just wasn't able to keep up with the carnage and we had a couple of total wipes. Curiously our gung ho comrades seemed to lose heart after this leaving just myself and the ranger wi

Company of Heroes Goodness

I found a bargain in a local GAME sore last weekend. "Company of Heroes" limited edition (includes Dawn of War full game) for only €30. GAME appears to be slowly winding down its selection of PC games and when you buy a PC game the assistants do their best to convince you that your PC isn't powerful enough to run it.I do not look forward to the day when the only way to get PC games will be to download from the internet. I am very old school - I get great pride from casting my eye over my shelves of gaming boxes (every one of them legally acquired) and selecting a well loved title. Anyway Company of Heroes works just fine on my 7300GT DDR3 at 1280x1024 with medium to high detail settings. My main gaming graphics card died a couple of months back and knowing that Vista and DX10 were around the corner I set a budget of €100 for a replacement. This 7300 DDR3 version stood head and shoulders above everything else in its price range, it has slightly better performance than

A Personal Gaming History

I'm cheating a bit here. This piece is a direct copy of a post I made on a Guild Wars forum: My first machine was a 16k ZX Spectrum. Sadly all the best games for it needed 48k and I was too skint for the upgrade. In college I did get to play with a BBC model B and early IBM PCs. I developed something of a talent for "Elite". My favorite PC game of the time was a freebie called "Snipes" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snipes. I went intp a gaming hiatus for a few years. The whole Nintendo, Sega thing passed me by. In the early 1990's however my eyes were opened to the potential of PC gaming by the discovery of point and click. I can proudly boast to having locked myself into the office to pull an all nighter in order to finish "Leisure Suit Larry" on one of the work PCs. I pulled more than one all nighter playing Lucas Arts "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade". I didn't actually my own home PC until 1995 and I was literally blown away
Guild Wars 46 days in. Using the /age command I find I have played Guild wars for 126 hours over the past 46 days. That's an average of almost 3 hours per day. Pretty good gaming value for my original €15 investment. Guild wars player versus environment play suits a causal gamer like myself. You might complain that 3 hours per day is not causal gaming but the problem is these are rarely 3 uninterrupted hours on the trot. They are made up of a half an hour here and a half an hour there interspersed with the routines of a busy family life. A full blown MMORPG such as WOW requires you to commit to group sessions lasting several hours or more. I found that is not compatible with my lifestyle. To tell the truth I play Guild wars mainly as a solo game using henchmen to help me along but I do enjoy the odd bit of banter in guild chat. Of course this lack of social commitment means that I am likely to tire of the game eventually. I don't know whether this will happen before or after
Guild Wars update For the record I have reached level 18 and I have just got as far as "The Wilds" mission. This is by no means fast levelling Some people get to level 20 in less than a week. I have however been enjoying the scenery trying to do as many side quests as possible. I spent an inordinate amount of time completing a mission called "The villainy of Galrath ". This trek involve a huge trek across 4 zones from Lions Arch to Kessex Peak. Kessex peak itself is full of level 20 mobs which will tear a player and his henchmen to pieces. I knew it would be a tough mission before taking it on so I stopped off in "The Temple of Ages" along the way. I started out at level 16 and upgraded to 17 during the course of the quest.I died many times getting there but once there I could upgrade my henchmen from level 12 to 15 and also increase the size of my party from 6 to 8. With this large party I easily cut a swathe through the Black Curtain towards Kessex Pe
Adventures in Stereoscopic 3D gaming I came across a post on the mount and blade forum about special goggles for seeing games in stereoscopic 3D . I thought you would need a specially designed game to get 3D vision. In fact almost all modern 3D games are rendered into 3D by the graphics card so if you have a special graphics driver that splits the images for left and right eyes you can get stereoscopic 3D. There are a few ways to get your left and right eyes to view the two images. Perhaps the best is to use special goggles like these which have a separate screen for each eye. A cheaper approach is to wear goggles with an LCD shutter in front of each eye - by alternately turning each shutter on and off and by synchronously displaying alternate images on the screen you can achieve stereoscopic 3D. This approach is much cheaper but does need a very high monitor refresh rate so I am not sure about using it with LCD displays. I would love to try the 3D visor product but in the mea
Game Buying At this stage I probably have about 200 PC games in my collection. Of that 200 perhaps I have played perhaps half seriously getting some way into the game and perhaps finishing it. The other half have received only cursory attention - perhaps one attempt at playing. In a significant number of cases (maybe up to 1/4 of the games I own) I have ever even opened the box to install the game. Another time I will explain the history of my collection but for now I want to discuss my game buying policy, particulalry in light of the fact that I own so many games I have never played. Let me say first off that I don't pirate games - all the games in my collection are genuine copies that I have paid for or have been given to me. I will however buy a game second hand - some game licenses allow this but some (Doom 3 comes to mind) forbid it. I don't nessecarily agree with all the stuff that software licenses try to enforce but I generaly try to play fair and stay within the rul
Newsflash Fox may not actually be the Spawn of Satan Fox news aired this piece about the dangers of kids being able to access the internet using a Playstation Portable (PSP) and a wireless network: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4l7ng-U_fks In case the link doesn't last it is a fairly sensationalist piece pointing out that many parents don't know that kids can use a PSP to surf the internet away from parental supervision. It goes on about pornography a bit and it also mentions the dangers of internet predators. DEspite its sensationalist nature the article does give some useful information it ends with some pretty sound advice for parents. This piece has come in for general lampooning on you tube and on internet forums. Among internet using , forum posting liberally minded people (of whom I am one) anything from Fox news is often regarded with derision because Fox supports George Bush. Also anything suggesting greater control of the internet is also likely to be criticised.
What's it all about, Bloggie? So what is this blog supposed to be about then? A while back I mentioned that I started a blog because I enjoy writing and I want to see if I can use this blog as an outlet for this. At the back of my mind there was the thought that it would be nice to write a blog that people actually read. I have been writing stuff for a couple of weeks now and it is becoming clear to me that I need to decide what this Blog is actually about. The decision has a few dimensions because the subject matter of the blog will affect how much effort it is to maintain the blog, how much I enjoy writing the blog and also whether or not other people will want to read my blog. One option would be to make the blog a kind of on line personal diary a dumping place for my innermost thoughts and feelings. A second option would be to use the blog as a kind of mental scrap book recording various thoughts and snippets that I find interesting with no particular unifying theme or m
Borat Boreth (almost) Went to see the Borat movie with my beautiful wife this evening. Neither of us would be a big fan of Sacha Baron Cohen in Ali-G disguise and we had only seen a limited amount of Borat so we didn't know whether we would be offended or amused. But...we had a babysitter so what the heck it was an excuse to go out. The movie was actually a disappointment. All of the of unscripted scenes in which real people were duped into responding to this imbecile pretending to be a documentary maker from Kazakhstan were side splittingly funny. One scene in particular involving a polite dinner party (to which Borat invites a prostitute) stands out as one of the funniest things I have ever seen. However there were only about five such scenes stuck into a completely inane scripted plot involving Borat's pursuit of Pamela Anderson. I suppose they felt that the "sketches" needed to be tied together in some way in order to make a film but I really wonder why they
Girls versus Boys Dropping my 7 year old daughter to school this morning I was struck by the behaviourof the 7 year old boys from her class. While supposed to be waiting in line an impromptu tournament had broken out with boys trying to wallop each other by swinging their school bags. Now the bags are heavy and even a 7 year old could probably do damage with one if they tried but it was obvious that all of the participants were greatly enjoying the contest even those on the receiving end of blows. There was nothing threatening or intimdatory about this roughneck play. In my experience girls never play at fighting. If a seven year old girl was to swing her bag at a colleague chances are something far more serious is going on - possibly bullying or intimidation. I guess this type of play historically prepared men for the battles they might have to fight as adults. A less obvious result is that it also teaches men how to control their strength and aggression. Although the participant
Urban Warfare Each weekday morning I have the dubious pleasure of taking a commuter train to work. During peak times commuters are jammed on, forced into arbitrary and often uncomfortable proximity with complete strangers as is common with such systems all over the world . To be honest it is pretty unpleasant but it is preferable to put up with 15 minutes of being squashed like a sardine to spending an hour in traffic were I to try to drive my own car into the city. Anyway there are certain unwritten rules of etiquette involved in the use of crowded public transport services. Generally commuters put up with the discomfort stoically and do their best to afford others as much space and dignity as possible under the circumstances. Sadly there are some individuals who think only of their own comfort and act selfishly to put others at unnessecary distress. I am thinking of the gentleman who commandeers a pole that normally provides a safe handhold for two to three people, lying back agai
Is Gaming Bad For You? One of my favorite gaming blogs is Tobolds MMORPG blog http://tobolds.blogspot.com/. In a recent entry entitled "World of Warcraft all or nothing?" he defends MMORPG playing against accusations of addictiveness by comparing it favorably to the alternative of watching TV. There is no doubt that a lot more time is wasted by a lot more people watching TV than playing computer games. According to the US 1995 time use survey (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/atus.t11.htm) the average American spends 2 to 3 hours every day watching TV but spends less than half an hour playing computer games. Of course these are averages - they don't nessecarily tell us about individual behaviour. Gaming is still in its infancy and the number of gamers is still much lower than the number of people watching TV. The average hours put in per computer gamer vs the average hours put in per TV watcher might present a very different picture. However on a personal level I fi
Why am I blogging anyway? I guess I've wanted to try blogging for a while so this is it. However it is not a real blog yet. Not in the sense that anyone reads it. I don't fully know what you need to do to get a blog read but I am sure you need to advertise it. I don't mean blatant advertising. I mean subtle stuff like responding to other blogs and casually dropping a link to your own, posting on internet forums with a link to the blog in the signature and other stuff like that. The chance of someone stumbling across my blog by accident is virtually nil. I can hardly find it myself unless I use the bookmark stored in my browser. I don't think I am ready to start touting for custom yet. On the one hand this is kind of a test to see if I can keep blogging on an almost daily basis for a week or so before I go public. On the other hand I amn't sure what kind of blog I want this to be. There are a few reasons why I am doing this. First off I like to write but rare
The visit of the Mad King on all Hallows Eve Halloween last night. Our house has turned into a madhouse. You cannot get from one room to another without fighting through fake spider webs. I have to admit that we have 100% embraced the commercialised American version of Halloween. I don't feel too crass about it though because Halloween is an ancient Celtic festival and my forefathers have been celebrating the night when the spirits rise since time immemorial. After all my efforts to get to Lion's Arch in Guild Wars you can bet I wasn't going to miss the visit of the Mad King on Halloween night. Many of my new guildies were also logging on for the visitation. I didn't meet many of them in cartoon person however. Guild wars deals with overcrowding in towns by simply creating a brand new instance of the town so you end up with English District -1, German District-3 and so on. Normally I never see numbers greater than 5 or 6 but I believe some zones were up to the hig
A lovely meal and another convert to Mount and Blade We had friends around for dinner this evening. Fair dues to my lovely other half - she cooked us a knockout meal. I can bask in some reflected glory though because I did the shopping! Our guests are a family just like us and the father a PC gamer who like me should be old enough to know better. We spent a couple of hours lingering over a lovely meal and then the gentlemen retired to the games room while the kids ran riot around the house and the ladies stayed at table and chatted. Kind of like Victorian times only the ladies and gents have reversed roles. It is funny being an older gamer. It is not something I can normally discuss among my peers. Most of my friends (particularly female friends) seem to think it is bizarre that a man in his forties actually plays games!!! You can imagine how refreshing it is to talk with someone my own age who actually shares my hobby. My friend is into shooters and strategy games so I showed him
GW has Guilds - who would have thought? After going the long way around to Lion's Arch I now have to go back and fill in all the missions I missed along the way. Luckily I fell in with an excellent pick up group and we breezed through two missions in under two hours including all bonuses. I surprised myself that my Mesmer character didn't suck in group play despite the fact that I have pretty much played solo with henchmen up to now. I even got invited to join a Guild - Woot! It seems like a friendly guild with mature members so I've accepted and signed up. Guilds are funny things. I played World of Warcraft for about two months before I joined a Guild. Chatting and playing with guild mates brought a whole new dimension to the game which I enjoyed. However it also brought new pressures. I am a bit of a loner at heart and sometimes it bugged me that I could never log on anonymously when I was in a guild. I was also a very poor attender at guild events because they of
Lion's Arch - the long way So I made it to Lions arch without following the missions. It wasn't too tough after all. Apart from a detour (see below) the hardest mobs I had to beat were some lvl 17 skale in Northern Kryta. By the time I got there I was level 14 with 5 lvl 10 henchmen and we breezed through. Mind you it took a long time - it would probably have been quicker to do the missions. I have to say I am seriously impressed by the new smarter henchmen. The healer (Aleysia) seems to be 10 times better at staying alive and is pretty on the ball when it comes to healing. At one stage we accidentally wandered into a high level area called Lornar's Pass. Me (lvl 13) and my 5 henchmen (lvl 10) were immediately confronted with four mobs ranging from lvl 22 to lvl 24!!!. Amazingly we survived and beat them. Mind you I got over confident then and was soon eaten alive by some terrifying monster worms which literally exploded out of the ground under our feet. It was all w
Guild Wars - Running to lions Arch the long way This being the weekend before Halloween Arena-net have included some special content for the event. Trouble is the special content is in Lion's Arch and my level 12 toon has only gotten as far as Yak's Bend. Lion's Arch is still half a world away across the forbidding Shiverpeak mountains. Now I could just play through the game missions and end up in Lions Arch eventually. Alternatively I could pay a high level character to run me to Lion's Arch. However I have decided to do this the hard way - I am determined to solo my way to Lions arch by running over the mountains. To be honest it isn't really soloing - I have a team of computer controlled henchmen to aid me. These guys tend to have lowish levels and are not always the brightest but sometimes that's an advantage. At least their behaviour is more predictable than that of human companions.
Currently playing: Guild Wars Gaming is a big thing in my life. PC gaming that is. However I am too old and too mean to keep up with the latest trends so I generally survive on games that are 6 months to a year out of date. I am currently playing the original Guild wars (prophecies campaign) I picked it up for €15 in a local game shop. A complete bargain - MMORPG style gaming without the monthly fee. Of course all the hot shots are now playing the third instalment (called Nightfall) which was just released yesterday. However people like me get some benefits from the new release too. There are some handy new features. Salvaging rare items to try and extract magical items is now a whole lot better - you get to see what you will get before your salvage. There is also a handy new button for ordering your henchmen to move to a spot. Unfortunately I can't find a way to separate the fighters from the casters but at least it's a start. The henchmen seem to have better AI too - this