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Showing posts from September, 2007

Ave Pulvis

Farewell to the Arena. I have decided its time to hang up my Galea and finish with Gladiatus. The problem with online role playing games games is that they have no obvious end. There is no clear exit point at which you can leave the game with your head held high. Gladiatus is a fun diversion but it is also pretty shallow. I knew from the start that I wouldn't still be playing this time next year so I set my own personal goal that I would try to achieve before leaving. I decided to pitch for the top spot of the beginners league (Circus Fighters, level 1 to 10) or as close to it as I could get. As I worked my way up the ladder I noticed the same few players jostling for the top spot. They were all level 9 with astronomical skill levels. To take on these players and win was my personal goal. At one point the reigning champion even challenged me. I didn't know why - I was several levels lower and he utterly annihilated me. Never mind. Things would be different when I reached t

Lotro: Throgs continuing Progress

I am getting back into Lotro. Throg has dinged 39 and has completed Chapter 4 book 5 of the Epic quest line. Searching for the hiding place of a vile Nazghul wounded at the waters of Bruinen, Throg and a handful of stalwart companions probed the deepest caverns of the 'Shaws troll caves. Those trolls are tough characters (lvl 40 Elite) and none too hospitable towards uninvited guests. Nevertheless Throg and his fellows taught them some manners: Five brave adventurers tackled Eluil, the first Troll Lair but then two declared they must return home for tea (Hobbits!). Undeterred Throg and his remaining two companions pressed on. A Guardian, a Champion (Throg) and a Minstrel. One to take the blows, one to deal the blows and one to heal the blows. Throg fondly remembered his Uncle Halcin's lessons . Three monstrous trolls a time could not defeat this perfect fighting trio. Sadly they found no trace of the wretched Nazghul. No matter. To Throg's mind it was worth it just to sav

If you have a laser mouse then you need one of these

Its called a Fellowes Optical Mouse Mat and it is made by a company called Brite Mat. It is quite simply the best mouse mat I have every used. You may know I have been playing Freespace 1/2 for the last few weeks. I spurned a joystick in favour of mouse control but I soon realised that my normal Logitech MX600 wireless laser mouse was not as precise as it should be. It is not a high spec gaming mouse but it is supposed to deliver a smooth 800dpi yet it was jumpy and imprecise - making accurate flying very difficult. I got suspicious when I swapped over to a seven year old Microsoft Optical mouse and found that it was much more precise. A bit of experimentation convinced me that the problem wasn't the mouse but the surface I was using the mouse on. The problem seemed to be twin fold. First off it seems to me that the laser mouse is quite fussy about the surface texture - and it hates shiny surfaces. Secondly - My wireless mouse is quite heavy with batteries inside and stiction is a

Lotro: Orc Killing and Frustration

Now level 38, with many tasks accomplished in the Trollshaws Throg finds that the remaining tasks there are somewhat beyond his level. The Misty Mountains beckon. The bold dwarf made a sortie there to slay some snow beasts but realises that he needs at least a couple of levels of intensive training before he can really make a useful contribution in those treacherous peaks. With that thought in mind Throg headed back to that orc infested corner of the North Downs called Dol Dinen. Many Orcs and Trolls have gathered there. No doubt they intend to sneak through the mountains to re-enforce the hordes that wreaked such devastation on the once pretty Hamlet of Trestlebridge. Throg and his fellows made those Orcs pay a dear price for the suffering they caused and he has no intention of letting this new bunch take up where there their fellows failed. In truth judging by the massive war machines they have dragged out of Angmar it is likely that their destructive ambition does not stop at Trestl

Sour Grapes

I won't be playing Halo 3 this week, or next week, or any time in the near future. Unless you are blind, deaf, dumb and living in one of the few parts ofthe word not yet connected to the internet you will know that Halo 3 was released with tremendous hype this week. Hype that may apparently be somewhat justified if the normally trustworthy Eurogamer is anything to go by. I absolutely loved Halo 1 even though I waited to play it on the PC several years after every else. Sadly as a dyed in the wool PC gamer I will have to wait a long time to sample Halo3 - probably until it comes out as a sweetener with Windux2020 tm (I always knew Linus would sell out in the end). It is an almost universally acknowledged fact (among PC gamers anyway)that the PC with mouse and keyboard control is a superior platform for first person shooters but for quite a while now economic reality has meant that big name titles will come out on console first. Economic reality and the fact that the few old codger

New Name? Wots all that about then?

While I have done the odd puzzle in my time I claim no special talent in puzzle solving nor do I purport to offer a selection of tantalising brain teasers on this blog. In deference to those folk who visit looking for such diversions I have therefore changed the name of the blog to "Life is a Mind bending Puzzle" as opposed to the original "Mind Bending Puzzles". It is a quick and nasty fix but I kinda like it. Plus it's true. You may wonder why I chose the name "Mind Bending Puzzles" in the fist place. The truth is that it originated some years back when I was looking for a user name for some website. I was fed up of signing on as Freddy259 so I glanced around my desk for inspiration. My eye fell on a calendar that I had received as a present the previous Christmas that had a puzzle for every day of the year. The calendar was boldly named "Mind Bending Puzzles". I liked the name and it stuck.

MMORPG Addiction

A couple of things came together today to set me thinking about MMORPGs and MMORPG addiction. Firstly Tobold had an article about Raid Lockouts where he seems to take the line that although Raid Lockouts are an inconvenience to players they are basically a good thing because they force people to have well organised guilds. I quote: There must be incentives not only for playing together one evening, but for staying together and making compromises for each others needs. The second thing was a link from Syncaine to his blog post about the Sickness that was WOW raiding . I was particularly struck by how as main tank for a high end raiding guild he felt he could never take a night off without feeling guilty at letting 39 others down. I can't help but make a link between these two things. The very need for group organisation and commitment that Tobold lauds is the same thing that made Syncaine and many others like him slaves to the game. While I was playing WOW I read several stories li

Bad Things Come in Three's...

.. or so they say. Well this has been a week of bad luck for me with three annoying break downs. On Tuesday Lotro stopped working for me then on Wednesday my car broke down finally on Friday our washing machine stopped working. All three breakdowns proved to be non-trivial hard to fix issues and each in its own way has proved to be significant annoyance over the last few days. In my household I am considered to be the fixer of electrical stuff which includes computers and washing machines. My attempts to kick start Lotro were frustratingly unsuccessful despite getting much help from the Codemasters tech support people. The washing machine proved similarly intractable. For starters it is a built in appliance,well built in. It seemed like I had to dismantle half our kitchen to get at the thing. Then it turned out to have a solid outer shell with no obvious access panel. Eventually I had to turn it on its side in order to gain restricted entry from the base. My repair skills do not stre

Why I left World of Warcraft (including some thoughts on Guilds)

Following my recent frustrations with LOTRO DM Osbon mentioned that he was thinking of going back to WOW and asked if I might consider the same. Even though it is eighteen months since I stopped playing I felt an involuntary wince at the suggestion of going back. That set me thinking of why I left the game and why it still causes such an emotional reaction. One reason I left was that I was spending far too much time on the game. After four months of playing I was logging in for three to four hours every day and spending hours more browsing internet forums, blogs and help sites relating to the game. Although I have been a gamer for many years this was my first MMORPG and I was ultimately appalled by the amount of time involved. This was time that was robbed from family, from real life activities at home and in work and it was time robbed from enjoying other games. To make matters worse I realised that even though this was an unacceptable time commitment for me it still only put me in t

Currently not playing.....

...Lord of the Rings Online. Last Tuesdays patch to LOTRO has borked the game for me. I have been unable to connect to the game since. At first I thought it was extended server downtime after the patch but then I realised that everyone else is up and running again. A very helpful support person on the LOTRO Europe forums is helping me work through the problem. I am amazed to find a customer support person who responds instantly to emails at 10PM at night! Under their direction I have done a complete re-install, I have played around with firewalls, antivirus, Microsoft.Net and my ADSL modem /router configuration but sadly nothing works so far. Perhaps this is poetic justice for my rant about MMORPG timesinks . Despite my complaints in that post I really feel the need for a bout of multiplayer gaming and the heady excitement of Gladiatus doesn't quite cut it (notwithstanding my gratitude to those of you who responded to my request for challenges from real human players - thank you o

Wanna be in my gang, my gang, my gang?

A couple of firsts: 1. This is my first attempt at publishing to the blog by email. If you can read this you will know I have succeeded. I suppose leaving an email back door open is a bit risky because any spammer who works out your address can add rubbish to the blog. At least Blogger gives you the option to add lots of random letters to the email address so hopefully that will deter hackers. 2.I have started my first ever Guild in Gladiatus !!! Don't get too excited because Guilds don't do much in the game but we do have a nifty cape (designed by yours truly) and a guild hovel. Membership has already soared to two with another application on the way. Exponential growth is predicted (not)! Nevertheless all are welcome. The Guild name is Rudiarius and if you want to join just apply via the guild panel or drop a mail to Hortius on server 7. Don't expect us to go raiding anytime soon - I take a very relaxed view of the duties of guild leadership. To quote Wikipedia Rudi

My very first tagging.

So I have been tagged with my very first Meme - Thank you DM Osbon . I used to feel unwanted and unloved but now I feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Four jobs I have had in my life (not including my current job): - Design Engineer - Product Manager - Managing Director - Tea Boy Four Films I have watched again and again: - Aliens - Singing in the Rain - Starship Troopers - Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (It was a long time ago ALRIGHT!) Four places I have lived: * Dublin * Cork * Dublin * Dublin Four Programmes I love to watch: * I don't really watch TV - Pass. Four Places I have been on vacation: * The Aran Islands * Alice Springs * Inverness * New York Four of my favourite foods: * Irish Stew * Medium Rare Fillet Steak, no sauce thankyou but perhaps some freshly ground black pepper. * Just about any kind of fresh seafood, preferably a big platter of it. * McVities Digestive Four favourite drinks: * Pint of Guinness * Black Bush (n

The Wheel Pauses - Robert Jordan RIP

It was with great sadness that I read yesterday of the death of Robert Jordan author of the Wheel of Time series of fantasy novels. I have been reading Wheel of time for about 12 years and it has been a rollercoaster ride of excitement, immersion, creativity and at times immense frustration. You see Wheel of Time is not really twelve novels each with its own beginning middle and end. The individual books are just chapters of one immense story. And what a story it is is. And what a world it is set in - perhaps the most enthralling, most detailed, most populated, most engrossing world in all of fantasy. If Robert had one fault it is that he never seemed to be able to pull all the threads of his story together to finish it. When I started reading "The Eye of World" 12 years ago I was quickly hooked and immediately looked for the follow on novels. At first each episode was more enthralling than the last with staggering twists and exquisite detail of description and storyline. R


As I speak Throg is waxing 55 pieces of Lebethron in order to achieve Artisan level forestry. This process will take about 5 minutes during which time my character is locked up and all I can do is watch a progress bar repeatedly fill up and reset. I choose not to watch that - I'll blog instead thank you. This is not fun. This is pointless time-wasting. I wouldn't even bother only Throg needs that skill in order to prospect higher level ores and since one of Throgs main income streams comes from selling ore he better do it. Yawn. I know why games do this. I know that progress in game is time related and all things must take a certain amount of time. I know developers must ensure that character don't burn through content too quickly so there must be time sinks in the game. I know but I don't care. I don't want to wait around while I watch a progress bar. I don't want to have to compromise my enjoyment just to satisfy the requirements of the game developers. A long

Lotro once more

I logged into Lotro last night for the first time since June. There was a hefty download before I could log in but it is all for the best because it included a free update - adding Chapter 10 to the game. Throg's combat skills were a bit rusty after his summer holiday and it took a couple of close shaves before my dwarf champion got back into the swing of things. Throg's journal is full of group quests and I was concerned that the bulk of the server might have passed him by at this stage making it hard to find a group. Happily that does not seem to be the case. Almost immediately I spotted a call for one of Throg's quests in the Looking for Fellowship channel. Throg signed up and the impromptu PUG consisting of Throg and two minstrels quickly fought their way through the quest chain first finding some lost dwarves and then dealing with elite trolls in the aptly named TrollShaws. I am not sure if I want to get back to playing MMORPGs seriously but that experience reminded m

I love Mouselook. (with grateful thanks to Rob Markovic)

My last post set me thinking about "Mouselook" or "Freelook" as Wikipedia calls it. In the unlikely event that you are not familiar with the term this refers to the control technique that is used in nearly every first person game on the PC since the mid 1990's. For reference I will outline the main details at the bottom of this post but many gamers will be intimately familiar with this already. Mouselook has been a great boon to PC gamers. On the one hand its standardisation allows gamers to move easily from one first person game to the next with a very short learning curve. In the same way that learning to drive allows you to drive any car, learning mouselook allows you to play any PC first person game. Of course mouselook wasn't adopted as the standard by accident. It happens to be a suprememly fluid and intuitive control scheme for moving your character around in a virtual 3D world. In fact I don't believe a better scheme exists. Perhaps the clearest


Freespace 2 is a game I have always wanted to play. I can still recall seeing the big box artwork of a major space battle and promising myself I would play that game some day. Reviews confirmed that the game was a cracker with awesome space battles to be experienced. (Image taken from the official Freespace 2 website : ) I actually did buy a budget Freespace compilation a few years later with Freespace 2 and its predecessor but I never got around to playing them until now. Finding myself at a gaming loose end this week my eyes fell on the box and I decided to have a go. Although Freespace 2 received more critical acclaim it seemed appropriate to have a go at the original first so I installed it and am working my way through it. Conflict Freespace dates from the late 1990's and it shows. Graphics are poor, much worse than Homeworld for example. The control system is complicated, every button on the keyyboard seems to be used. Nevertheless there is an enjoyable zap-em-up in there o

How Nerdy are you?

Thanks to Tipa at West Karana for pointing this out to me: Overall I think its pretty accurate. I am a qualified EE so it would be embarassing if I didn't score high on the science and Maths. I am pleased enough that I scored higher on the History/Literature than SciFi/Comics. I suppose that is what puts me on the "Cool" nerd category as opposed to the "Dork" nerd category. That and the fact that I have actually seen a real woman naked, I guess. At a bit of a gaming crossroads. Bioschock finished. Company of Heroes only one mission to go. Gladiatus getting boring. Have dug out Freespace (the orignal one) for a bit of space shoot em up.

Bioshock: My Favourite Plasmid

I have just finished Bioshock, hurray. One of my favourite aspects of the game was the choice of playing styles available through the use of plasmids and gene tonics. Gene tonics are passive upgrades that enhance selected abilities while plasmids are active skills that you can use like magic spells in other games. Here are my thoughts on the main plasmids in the game and my selection of a personal favourite. I suppose Electro Bolt has to be the "most useful" plasmid. It stuns enemies, it disables machines, it opens doors and it turns water into a seething pool of electric death. This is the first plasmid you get and it is the one Plasmid that I never swapped out over the full course of the game. In fact I became so dependent on the ability to stun opponents that I really struggled when enemies with electric immunity popped up towards the end of the game. Most useful doesn't necessarily mean most fun though so lets consider some others. Telekinesis , the ability to move s

Surround Sound Problems

Bioshock is an eerily atmospheric game. To get the most out of the game I dug out my four channel surround sound speakers that had been out of commission for a couple of months. My five year old Soundblaster Audigy and Cambridge Soundworks FPS2000 quadrophonic speakers are not exactly state of the art but they can produce some sweet surround sound when they are used properly. Unfortunately I noticed some bizarre problems with the spatial audio in Bioshock. Even though I was definitely getting sound out of all four speakers the sounds didn't seem to be coming from the right direction. In particular there was a distracting "deaf spot" when a sound was directly behind me. Time to do some trouble shooting. I double checked my wiring and it was OK so I decided to try updating my sound card drivers. I have had some unpleasant experiences with Creative's driver install procedure in the past but I am happy to report that things are much improved if not yet perfect. On the p

Far Cry Again - Now with Videos

After all the excitement about free Far Cry I just had to fire it up and fight through a few levels. Boy do I love this game even though it is often b*stard hard. I am going to have to make a real effort to put it away again in order to finish Bioshock. Anyway now for an mbp first -I am going to try and attach a couple of videos I captured using Fraps. First off some Sniper Rifle Pwnage: And for those who think Bioshock has the best water effects ever - Here's something you CAN'T do in Bioshock: By the way the original Fraps vidoes were full screen uncompressed files taking up hundreds of Megabytes so I used Windows Movie Maker to compress them using the 512k Broadband setting.

Far Cry for Free!!!

All the hullabaloo about the stunning graphics of Graphics of Bioshock reminded me of a game that was released four years ago that remains in my opinion the greatest shooter ever and also by far the prettiest. Just look at that that beautiful vista. Just look at that stunning tropical lagoon. Yes they are waves gentling breaking on the shore. Yes you can swim in those crystal clear waters - they are populated by swimming fishes and waving plant life. Sure this may have fewer post processing effects or whatnot than Bioshock but it is drop dead gorgeous and being four year old technology that runs like a dream on modern hardware. If you haven't played FarCry then shame on you but you can now download an ad supported version and play the whole game for Free . I can't vouch for how intrusive the ads are because I paid for my copy but it has to be worth it just to experience those beautiful tropical scenes. Fileplanet link here . Be warned Far Cry is a tough old school shooter. Ther

Gladiatus: I am a Hero of the Arena

In between bouts of Bioshock I am leveling a Roman gladiator through the new (to me) browser based online RPG "Gladiatus, Hero of Rome". TO be more accurate I am levelling my gladiator while playing Bioshock. How is this possible you may ask. Have I suddenly developed ambidextrous multi-boxing skills? Not really. You see Gladiatus is a game of fairly limited interactivity. For example my heroic Gladiator is cleaning out stables to earn a few gold coins as we speak, a task that doesn't require any explicit attention from me. Indeed he is quite happy to do that while my computer is switched off. Quite a lot of Gladiatus involves logging in asking your character to do something and then coming back when the job is done. In addition to sweeping out stables your gladiator can explore a number of dangerous locations and undertake quests in order to build up his skills, wealth and equipment. Of course the real purpose of the game is to exploit these skills in order to vanquish f