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Showing posts from April, 2008

Currently Reading: Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds

I had to stop reading Dan Simmon's "The Terror" once the party got around to eating one another. The book is just too depressing. I hate not finishing a book so I may have another go at it later. In the meantime I am continuing my Alastair Reynolds binge with "Pushing Ice". It is not a Revelation Space novel which makes an interesting change. The story is set in the near future when mankind is still confined to our own solar system. A routine cometary ice mining expedition is interrupted when one of the moons of Saturn shucks off its outer layers and reveals alien machinery underneath. The erstwhile ice miners are sent in pursuit of the moon turned spaceship as it speeds out of the solar system. I amn't finished yet but so far I am enjoying it greatly. Some of the lead characters are pretty annoying which can be a big turn off for me but the inventiveness of the plot is keeping me hooked. I just want to find out what happens next. I am deliberately avoidin

Crysis? What Crysis? Just press F5.

Like many modern shooters and indeed like Far Cry before it Crysis uses automatic checkpoints to save a players progress through the game. Ideally you should have a checkpoint at the end of each significant encounter. Sadly the checkpoints in Crysis seem somewhat random. Some follow one another with no fighting at all in between while on at least one occasion I counted five significant encounters between checkpoints. In fact I had to repeat that particular stretch at least ten times to get through. The more encounters you have between checkpoints the greater the chance of dying and the more frustrated and pissed off the player becomes as they have to play through that section over and over again. I was about to abandon the game in disgust when a quick glance at the control setup revealed that Crysis actually has quick save. Its bound to F5. Duh... Crysis's predecessor Far Cry did not have quick save and suffered from the same randomness of checkpoints. I think it may be a consequen

EVE: Marb Pelico the Underachiever

It started well, I had my bio all worked out. Marb Pellico is not a corporation man. He has little desire to fly big lumbering Capital ships. He has opted for the life of a space faring tramp, a laid back vagabond flying a beat up ship from system to system picking up odd jobs. He does his best to stay just the right side of the law, more out of self preservation than altruistism. He earns his living through (mostly legal) trading and if repair bills need to be paid he volunteers for the occasional pirate hunt. Marb is always looking out for the one big deal that will put him on easy street but his reluctance to think through the consequences of his actions have led him into many close scrapes. He generally to escape with his skin if little else. While his ship might look like a flying scrapheap it has a few surprises in store for any pirate who thinks to get a jump on Marb. His skills are good enough to hold his own in a fight but Marb remains a firm believer in the "He who figh

Eve: I am a millionaire!

Four days into my EVE trial and I have a crisp 1,000,000 isk in my wallet. My exuberant joy at such unexpected affluence is tempered somewhat from reading Van Hemlock's blog where he mentions that he earns about 30 million in a single 1.5 hour combat mission. Ah well, wealth in an MMOPRG is always relative. I am especially pleased that none of my cash to date has come from the boring drudgery of asteroid mining. I hope to avoid mining for the duration of my EVE career if I can. I see myself more as an independent pilot struggling to make enough isk to keep his flying rust bucket in star ship fuel. I've made a few profitable trades but most of my earnings to date come from missions and the bounty on npc pirates that inevitably crop up during them. Speaking of missions I have already had a fairly rude awakening. I had read that level 1 missions were designed to be completed in a frigate so after breezing through the tutorial and follow on ten part training mission I went off an

Have I given up reading?

You may have noticed that the "currently reading slot" hasn't changed in a couple of weeks. I haven't given up reading - its just that I am struggling a bit with Dam Simmons "The Terror". It isn't a bad book. Its a very good book and a gripping read. Unfortunately it is also unmercifully depressing. It is is the tale of a doomed arctic expedition from the 19th century. As if they didn't have enough to contend with getting stuck in the ice and facing starvation or freezing to death a monster has started eating them one by one. The whole story just gets more and more harrowing. Its based on a real expedition (apart from the monster of course) and none of the real characters made it out alive so I can's see even a glimmer of a happy ending.

World of Warcraft is Dethroned

Not many folk agree with my somewhat tongue in cheek assertion that MMOs are no more than a passing fad. Indeed SirBruce's latest mmo subscription charts show mmo subscription growth continuing on an exponential path. Of course most of that growth comes from World of Warcraft which has now become so dominant in the MMORPG field that it is hard to see any new game ever displacing it. Its simple economic logic, a virtuous cycle: 1. Blizzard have the best MMORPG out there so they attract more players. 2. They attract more players so they make higher profits (much higher profits) 3. Higher profits give them more money to invest in developing the the game ensuring that their game remains the best MMORPG out there. 4. Go to step 1. Curiously this brings me back to my "passing fad" post because I still think the core argument of that post makes a lot of sense. Current generation mmorpgs (including World of Warcraft) force their customers to make unpleasant compromises (part

Richard Bartle on the Future of MMOs

After my rant about the (non) future of mmos, based on nothing more scientific than a bad dream, I think it is only appropriate to link to the views of someone who knows quite a bit more about virtual worlds than I do. Richard Bartle's presentation to IMGDC on three possible futures for MMOs is a well thought out piece. It is also a terrific bit of Powerpoint theatre. Enjoy. Thanks to Bill Harris and his ever entertaining Dubious Quality Blog for drawing my attention to it.

MMORPGS are no more than a passing fad

I had a revelation this morning as I was dozing in that half state between waking and sleeping. MMORPGs are the "point and click" adventure games of our era. Just like adventure games in the 1980s and 1990s they have enjoyed an explosive growth in popularity. Also just like point and click adventure games they have a fundamental flaw in that the games themselves are really quite boring. I did a business course a few years back and one of the enduring lessons that stuck with me was that many market leading products force their customers to make compromises in order to suit the manufacturer. Once alternatives become available which do not force customers to make those compromises the market leader is doomed. MMORPGS force their customers to endure hundred of hours of boring repetitive game play so that publishers can extract the maximum number of ongoing subscriptions from a limited amount of content. This is an unsustainable business model once alternatives become available

Can Gaming Make You Less Violent?

A recent research paper that suggest that video gaming can help reduce anger and make people more relaxed has been getting a fair mount of internet publicity. Mind you another paper presented at the same conference (in my home town of Dublin) suggests that heavy gamers become like sufferers of the autistic disorder Asberger's syndrome. I can empathise with gaming helping people to relax. I have always found an enjoyable fragging session to be a good way of winding down before bed. My wife on the other hand gets entirely wound up after a gaming session and refuses to play any game late at night. It is a pity in that the violence research only considered World of Warcraft players. The highly stylised rule based combat of an MMO cannot compare in terms of violence with the ruthless killing found in most FPS games. I am replaying the single player campaign of COD4. Violence abounds of course but the level "Death From Above" still stands out as the most callous kill fest I h

COD4 Multiplayer Map Layouts

Detailed photographic maps at rllmuk forums here . The author has even given names to the major landmarks but I am not aware that these names are in common use. Simplified schematic maps at nextgenboards available here . I have a terrible innate sense of direction but I am actually a very good navigator once I have a map in front of me or in my head. I never get lost in a US city with square blocks but I quickly become disoriented in European cities with winding streets and "blocks" that have other than four corners. In gaming this has meant that I am completely incapable of learning the maps by just playing through them. I need to see a picture.

COD4 Newsflash: I no longer completely suck

This most is more in hope of salving some wounded pride than in expectation that you will want to read me blowing my own trumpet. Since my initial humiliations following my upgrade to the latest rev of COD4 I have played a few sessions and I am pleased to report that I am no longer the bottom of the table noobtard. Although most of the players are much further advanced than my humble 22 levels I seem to be able to make some impact and position myself around mid table in most of the games I play. Partly this is due to choice of server. Many of the servers available advertise hardcore team based games. While these can be very enjoyable it is very difficult for a lone player to make an impact and you become easy pickings for any sort of co-ordinated opposition. I generally fare much better on free for all matches where it is every man for himself. I am also getting smarter at choosing the right weapon for the map. My beloved M16 assault rifle is superb at medium to long distances in rela

Currently Reading: Alastair Reynolds and Dan Simmons

I have just completed my fourth Alastair Reynolds novel: "Absolution Gap". "Absolution" concludes the story arc begun in Revelation Space although Reynolds has written other stories set in the same universe which pad out the lives of characters from these books. I have pretty mixed feelings about "Absolution Gap". It has the best beginning and best middle of the series in my opinion and the character development of the main protagonist (a pig named Scorpio) is terrific. Unfortunately the ending of the book is really really bad. It will take a big spoiler to tell you how bad. I am going to try an use an analogy but it is still a spoiler so please skip the next paragraph if you intend to read these books yourself. SPOILER (Highlight to read) To understand how bad the ending of Absolution Gap is imagine a series of books about a war between two countries (say England versus Germany). After series of gripping novels in which the advantage swings back and for