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Showing posts from 2009

Rambling Thoughts on Pirates, Relatives and Stephen Foster

Today is the last day of a decade and I find myself thinking once again about one of the thorny issues of our age: copyright, piracy and the ongoing impact of the digital revolution. Visiting relatives last week I picked their child's Nintendo DS. Turning it on I was surprised to see a menu of games appear including a dozen or more of the best selling titles. A quick look at the back of the console revealed an adapter cartridge carrying a removable flash memory card. I was surprised. The child's parents are find upstanding moral people, they are not particularly technically competent. Yet they had acquired and given their six year old some €500 worth of stolen technology. Leaving aside the morality of piracy it is not hard to see that there is considerable economic value in this type of adapter. Not only is it a convenient way of carrying your game collection but it solves the issue of kids losing their individual game cartridges. My relatives paid money for the device and

For the record: Christmas gaming 2009

Actively  playing: Dragon Age Origins: got this as a Christmas present. Very enjoyable so far this game reminds me of Never Winter Nights. I am surprised at the difficulty level on "normal" setting but then again I still haven't figured out how to set party tactics correctly and the party AI is not great.  Red Faction Guerrilla: My one concession to Steam's Christmas sale, a steal at €12.99. I have only played the intro but any game that starts off by handing you a sledgehammer and telling you to go demolish a couple of buildings has got my attention. Less actively playing: EVE Online : I played five free welcome back days and am seriously thinking of resubbing for a month. The only thing is that I seriously don't have time for an mmo. Torchlight:   I can play this for about an hour before I get totally bored but it is a useful time-water if there is nothing else happening. Borderlands: I stopped playing this about half way through the campaign partl

We live in an era of game pricing madness.

There used to be a fairly established pattern of game pricing. New releases were sold at top prices. If you shopped around you might get a special offer or pre-order discount but otherwise you could wait about a  month and get the game for perhaps 75% of its new price.  Six months or so after release most games could be picked up for half their new price and after a year those titles migrated to the bargain shelves at a quarter of their original price or even less. This was a very reliable pattern - only a tiny number of titles had sufficient staying power to buck the trend of price decay. Age of Empires and Medal of Honour Allied Assault being two that I can remember but they were  the exceptions that proved the rule. The last year has seen a revolution in pc game pricing spear headed by Steam and their fellow digital download distributors.  They have finally broken free from the artifical restrictions which held digital download prices higher than the high street (a restriction ap

EVE again, if only briefly

I am very much not in an mmo mood at the moment but when EVE sent me an invitation for a free welcome back week plus offered me the free gift of a very special ship it was hard to say no. Kudos to CCP on their installation process. No marathon patching session was involved. Just download a 2Gb client, install it and you are in the game. The graphics (especially planets) are now prettier than I remembered but I experienced quite a deal of lag. Some of this happened in relatively unpopulated systems so I wonder if my four  year old gaming computer is struggling with the new finery. Lag during a space battle  can mean death unfortunately so I will experiment with options to try and make it go away. Ah ... the agony and the ecstasy that is EVE. How quickly it all comes back. This game really is a nerd nirvana. Although I have forgotten what I was up to before I quit I logged in to Marb Pelico find that he has stuff stored all over the place. Hundreds and hundreds of pieces of stuff mu

How hard is it to install a new graphics card?

There is a little computer shop close to where I live. It can't compete with internet pricing for major pieces of hardware but it is a useful source of consumables. He does a pretty good deal on printer ink and on several occasions the ability to nip round the corner and buy a patch cable has gotten me out of a hole. I was in there this morning buying ink. A customer in front of me was inquiring about a video card  upgrade. "Can that be done on the spot if I drop the computer in" he asked Unfortunately the young lady behind the counter was not a technician and "the engineer" as she called him would not be back for a while. " It has to be booked in It could take a few days" was her reply. The customer asked "How hard is it to upgrade a video card? Do you think I could do it myself?" The assistant was honest enough to admit she didn't know and recommended that he leave the computer with them. Recognising a potential fellow

How can I keep a detailed record of my gaming?

I would love to have a detailed record of my gaming habits - so that for example I could look back and see what games I was playing a year ago. I installed Xfire a few months back in order to avail of its gaming history feature but I am very disappointed by the statistics it keeps. It tells you what games you have played in the last week and it also keeps a record of total time spent in any one game but that is it. There is no way that I can find to analyse my past gaming on a monthly or weekly basis. Now that I have discovered that X-Fire can cause conflicts with some games I am wondering if I really want to keep using it but I don't know of any other tool that comes close to keeping the gaming history I want. Does anyone know of a better way to keep a record of my gaming history?

Frontlines fuel of war thoughts + 2 important hints

I have played a fair bit of Frontlines Fuel of War over the last week both single player and multi-player. Apparently the game owes a lot to a Battlefield 1942 mod called Desert Combat but as I have never played either BF1942 nor Desert combat I cannot comment on any similarities although this might explain why one of the NPCs keeps complaining about being in a desert even when you are no where near one. Single player is fun enough but does get repetitive. The tutorial and seven missions deliver about 7 hours total gameplay and even in such a short stretch you come to recognise a few basic structures that keep cropping up over and over again. There are some furious fire fights though and even on normal I found the missions challenging enough to complete. Multi-player shows a lot more potential. You select one of four classes (assault rife, sniper, RPG or submachinegun) and one of four specialisations that will allow you to unlock things like a portable mortar cannon or an EMP beac

Cheating and The Psychology of Gaming

Following on from my previous post about cheaters in online games I think it is worth making a link between cheating and the psychology of gaming achievement . Performers might be tempted to cheat because they crave the ego boost of achievement but are not prepared to put hard work into getting it. Masters on the other hand are prepared to slog through the game in order to earn their achievements. This viewpoint might explain why many adults who really should know better still cheat. If you are a cheater don't expect me to feel sorry for you though just because you have a mixed up psychological alignment! EDIT: Applying this analayis to the resons given by cheaters in the last post: I think I started cheating because when you die in CSS you have to wait until the next round to play again. I wanted to keep playing. - PERFORMER  Think I started cheating because I work for a living and don't have all day to learn to play a PC game just so some 12 yr old hairless scr

Cheaters

I have been playing a bit of Frontlines Fuel of War (single player ok, multiplayer pretty good) but there is some kind of bug that prevents people who bought the game through STEAM from accessing punkbuster (anti cheat) enabled servers. You can read about the bug here . While we wait for this to get sorted I have been limited to non protected servers. This led me to wonder once again about cheating in online games so I consulted the oracle of Google to find out about more it. I probably wish I hadn't. Let me state categorically that I do not cheat in multiplayer games. Why do people do it? Its not like a professional sport where cheating can be a shortcut to riches. In games all you are playing for is personal pride and the very fact of cheating surely destroys that pride.  One of my first guesses was that most of the cheating is done by kids who are too young to accept losing. That hypothesis was blown out of the water when my first google search led me to an aimbot for Fron

I have commanded armies and conquered worlds. Remembering "Double Life"

A commenter to RPS reminded me of Playstation's famous "Double Life"  advertisement today. If you have never seen it watch it now. If you have seen it watch it again. Not only do I believe this is the greatest gaming related advertisement of all time but for me it is the clearest most complete expression of why I am a gamer. For years, I've lived a double life. In the day, I do my job I ride the bus, roll up my sleeves with the hoi polloi.  But at night, I live a life of exhilaration, of missed heartbeats and adrenalin.  And, if the truth be known, a life of dubious virtue.    I won't deny it I've been engaged in violence, even indulged in it.  I've maimed and killed adversaries and not merely in self-defence.  I've exhibited disregard for life, limb and property, and savoured every moment.    You may not think it, to look at me, but I have commanded armies and conquered worlds. And though in achieving these things I've set morality aside, I

What makes a game sell?

Slashdot is proving to be a very fruitful source of gaming links today. First there was the link to the article about the psychology of achievement in games and now another interesting link to a Gamasutra article about the most important factors in game purchases.  Most important factors (in order or importance): 1. Genre (makes sense) 2. Whether or not they enjoyed a previous game in the series (Groan. FIFA 2099 here we come)  3. Price (Hurray!) 4. Word of mouth (one assume this involves all kinds of personal communication including online) 5. Advertising visuals. (You just gottta have explosions in it - period) Factors having relatively little importance: Publisher reputation (There are publishers out there who have anything other than a bad reputation?) Metacritic scores (In my experience aggregated review scores are a reasonable if not perfect indication of quality. Pity to see that gamers pay so little heed when choosing where to spend their cash. The article does admit

Psychology of gaming: Are you a Performer or a Master

There is thought provoking article by Doctor Professor on his Pixel Poppers blog about the psychology of achievement in games   (discovered via Slashdot ). Doctor P points out that psychology teaches us that humanity divides into two camps when it comes to challenges. Performers love tackling easy challenges so they can overcome them and prove how great they are. Masters like tackling tough challenges so they can improve their own skill or knowledge. He then links this to gaming achievement and suggests that RPG games appeal to performers while action games appeal to masters. On realising that he himself was a natural performer who was addicted to rpgs he then made a concerted effort to retrain himself as a master because "it is the mastery orientation that is correlated with academic and professional success as well as self esteem and long term happiness". Doctor P doesn't specifically mention mmorpgs but it is pretty clear that the guaranteed progression of the leve

Frontlines Fuel of War: €2.49 on Steam

A bargain is only a bargain if you wanted the item in the first place but nevertheless €2.49 for game that was only released last year is hard to turn down. I am downloading the game now and will report on my experiences later. By all accounts it is a fairly good shooter with strong multi-player much like the Battlefield series.  It clearly can't hav ebeen much of a commercial success or they wouldn't be selling it at €2.49 but the forums seem to indicate that Steam's give-away price is creating a resurgence of interest in the game. Hopefully this will allow me to indulge in a bit of multi-player action. Mind you those forums posts seem to indicate a fair number of folk are experiencing difficulty getting the game to work - hopefully My own personal MW2 boycott continues despite a general perception that the boycott was a failure and despite several commenter's being quite negative against the whole idea of the boycott.  Of course a developer is allowed put any featu

Random Rewards Suck ... (until you get a shiny drop.)

Random rewards suck: Zubon describes the downside of random rewards in a blog post describing how he was unlucky on the roll for a desirable piece of loot 15 times out of 16 attempts even though he had a better than 1 in 6 chance. I have been there, I assume we all have and it is entirely soul destroying to hit a losing streak like that. Having some grasp of basic probability only makes it worse when you realise that after 15 losing rolls you have exactly the same 1 in 6 chance of winning the next roll* as you had on your very first roll. Zubon actually left the game for six months after his losing streak. I think that game developers recognise that randomness can be a great demotivator, in games like WoW and LOTRO we have seen a move towards token rewards rather than random drops as a more predictable means of allocating loot. And yet.... Remember how good it felt when a shiny sword dropped from the very first Orc you slew. That random reward felt great and was a great motivator.

What game does Borderlands remind you of?

Borderlands is a pretty unusual game and  I have been trying to think of what other game it most reminds me of. The answer, bizarrely, is Far Cry 2. Both games are first person shooters set in large open worlds with hostile native populations. Driving features strongly in both games. Both games have a quest driven main path but both also offer plenty of side-quests and opportunities to wander off the main path for non-linear exploration. While Far Cry 2 does not have much in the way of character progression the upgrading and maintenance of weapons is a parallel to the constant search for new weapons in Borderlands. Even the much maligned "respawning enemies" feature that everyone hated in Far Cry 2 also features in Borderlands. I really think Borderlands resembles Far Cry 2 more than it resembles previous role playing shooters System Shock 2 and Deus Ex. Those games had strong story lines and complex role playing elements whereas as Borderlands emphasises its first perso

Borderlands: Co-op or No-op

I suppose I should have smelled a rat when the game store assistant did his best to convince me to buy Dragon Age instead of the pc version of Borderlands. I know Dragon Age is good and I will play it eventually but at the moment Borderlands with its heady blend of RPG, Shooter and Co-op is more like what I need. My hunter character is now level 13 and I am definitely enjoying the single player game: Nice cartoony graphics, simple but enjoyable rpg elements, Fun shooter gameplay (with vehicles). The quests drive the story along nicely although there seems to be some gaps: I didn't find any quests between level 5 and 10 for example. Multi-player is another story. The PC version's online matchmaking uses Game-spy and it is really bad. Apart from the fact that the listings are unhelpful making it hard to choose a game to join there appears to be a variety of connection problems that prevent me joining a game 9 times out of 10. I tried hosting my own games but nobody ever joine

The Internet for rich people

Thanks to Slashdot I have recently become aware of a whole subculture of social networking sites for rich and influential folks.  Apparently most of these work on an invite only basis. I am a little bit miffed that my invites have not yet been forthcoming. I am after all the creator of a highly influential blog with a proven audience of 7 readers (including myself) and an income in excess of nine digits (in Cambodian Riels).  What are your waiting for?

Quote of the day

Apologies to Syp who more usually does this sort of thing but I think Tipa deserves a gong for this one: Simply put, World of Warcraft is not part of the MMORPG genre. It is funny how much healthier the mmorpg scene looks if you do remove WOW from the picture. If you include WOW you see one all powerful market leader with a horde of failed wannabes. If you ignore WOW you can see a large variety of different and interesting games some good some bad some paying the bills some not. But can we ignore WOW? Heaven knows that I and a lot of other former players would like to. I resent its overpowering influence on the market and I have more or less convinced myself that many many World of Warcraft players are not really gamers at all never mind mmorpgers. Me convincing myself doesn't mean its true though. WOW exists. It is big. Whether it really is an mmorpg or not it is kind of hard to ignore

Quick impressions of the Left 4 Dead 2 demo

( based on two single player run throughs and two pick up group multi-player run throughs. ) Graphics seems a little better than Left for dead 1 but ran just as well for me on an aging mid range machine. The maps feel bigger and less linear but it is hard to draw conclusions based on only two maps in the demo. The infected look scarier. The new types of infected add more variety to the game but I suspect there isn't enough in the demo to fully appreciate all their roles. There is a wider selection of weapons which is good. There isn't such a simplistic distinction between normal weapons and upgraded weapons even though some weapons are definitely more powerful than others. My favourite so far is the AK47. It is very powerful and insanely accurate. The melee weapons are fun but gimmicky. If you equip a melee weapon you lose your pistols and twin pistols are just better than a melee weapon. Nevertheless I imagine there will be lots of fun to be had with melee only ser

A (long) question about how Micro-transactions will change our hobby

Arnold Hendrick writes thoughtful information packed articles about the mmorpg business and one of his posts about "Selling Mmos" prompted me to write down a question that has been brewing  in my head. The short version of the question is "What impact will the rise of micro-transactions have on gaming from a customer perspective?"  I wrote a much longer version of the question in a comment to Arnold so being lazy I will copy the comment here: Great article Arnold full of interesting information and insights. My knowledge of game development and marketing is very limited but I am a long time game playing customer. I am still trying to work out what impact the apparently unstoppable rise of micro-transactions is going to have on my hobby from a customer’s perspective. I can see several good things about micro-transactions: They offer a business model that allows smaller companies to compete with the industry giants which increases the choice and variety of game

DDO: Wizard versatility

First dungeon run last night: We encountered a locked door that neither I nor my cleric hireling could open. No problem. Once we had killed all the monsters we headed back to the nearest shrine and after a quick rest I swapped out " Melfs Acid Arrow " for " Knock " a spell which allows me to open locks. In a second dungeon we were stopped by a door which had a minimum strength requirement to open. Again no problem - another visit to a shrine allowed me to swap in " Bulls Strength " a buff spell which gave me the strength I needed to open the door. Versatility is the hallmark of a Wizard. Without question Sorcerers are better at casting spells. Both Wizards and Sorcerers can choose from the same list of arcane spells but sorcerers cast faster and they have more spell points which allows them to go on casting longer. Sorcerers cannot however swap spells mid mission. In fact they can only swap spells once every few days and they pay dearly to do so. Wiza

DDO: Look after the copper and the gold will look after itself. NOT!

Dungeons and Dragons online has possibly the most confusing currency system of any game I have yet played. In the first instance there are too many types of coins: Platinum, Gold, Silver and Copper . Copper is useless. Even at level 1 everything costs silver or gold and by level 3 I routinely buy things that cost 100's or 1000's of gold. The next problem is that the multiplier between tiers of coin is only 10 as opposed to the more usual 100. I am sure I will eventually get used to this but even after two weeks playing I still need to remind myself that 50 silver is  equal in value to 5 gold. The NPCs vendors don't help the situation by routinely ignoring platinum when quoting prices. The ingredients to inscribe a level 2 spell for example are quoted at 420 gold instead of 42 platinum. Finally and perhaps the most confusing thing of all is that your purse does not automatically convert coins to the largest denomination. For example my purse might contain: 21 Platinu

Not So Free Realms

Thank you to Green Armadillo for highlighting the fact that Free Realms is going to put a barrier in at level 5 beyond which you must be a subscriber to advance. As Green Armadillo himself puts it: "Free Realms is now all but officially a subscription game with a free trial, rather than a free to play game with an item shop and optional subscription" I know very little about Free Realms having only played one character up to (coincidentally) level 5 but on the face of it this is a staggering move. For quite some time it has appeared that microtransactions were an unstoppable force which would eventually signal the death of the subscription model. Turbine's recent move of DDO from compulsory to optional subscriptions has reportedly been a big success. Sony are the only company I have heard of moving back towards a compulsory subscription model. Without more information it is hard to read this. I assume Sony are doing it because they think it will make them more money

Torchlight Is not For me

Lets face it, when it boils down to it every computer game is a pointless waste of time. Some games try to hide this fact with engaging story lines and complex game-play. Torchlight on the other hand celebrates its pointlessness and glorifies in it. It is the very incarnation of progress quest with added button pressing and better graphics. Meet monster, press button,  kill monster,  loot better gear, level up, meet tougher monster .... repeat. There are some embellishments involving pets, enchanting and gems but the essence remains unchanged. The game's quests and dungeons may be scripted but they just as easily be procedurally generated from what I have seen of the demo. I know that a lot of people love this.   Wilhelm2451 and other bloggers whose opinions I respect are full of the game's praises but I still don't get it. I don't care if it follows in the illustrious foosteps of Diablo, Dungeon Siege, Titan Quest and its own direct antecedent Fate. I find the game

DDO: Autwind Where's your Trousers? (I hate Ooze)

You may wonder why Autwind Horogood, that precocious scholar of the arcane arts, is running around Stormreach in his underwear. If you are astute you may even have noticed the distinct lack of an imposing wizardly staff in his hands. How has this sorry state of affairs come to pass? Oozes. That is what has led to this.  Squelchy slimy fetid oozes. Autwind is working his way through a quest arc set in the Kobold infested tunnels of Storm-reach waterworks . Things went well enough for the first couple of missions and large numbers of Kobold were slaughtered.The third mission is set in Clan Tunnelworm's lair and these particular Kobolds are rather remiss in their housekeeping. The lair is filled with rapidly respawning grey oozing creatures. Not only are these oozes immune to my fiery magics they also exude an acidic slime which dissolves weapons and clothing. One minute Autwind was a powerful wizard commanding terrible arcane forces,the next minute he was standing in his underwe

Reasons I will not be buying Modern Warfare 2 on the 12th November

I have bought every Call of Duty game available for the PC. I think that Call of Duty Modern Warfare was a stunning achievement which raised the bar for both single and multiplayer gaming. I am very much looking forward to playing Call of Duty, Modern Warfare 2 but I will not be buying it on the release date of 12th November. These are my reasons why. Partly it is because the dedicated server issue has upset me. It not just because I think it is a bad decision although the case against it is strong . What really really upsets me is the response from Infinity Ward representatives. This sounds like a company that has no respect for PC gamers. I am a PC gamer. Even more important that the dedicated server issue though is the price of the game. Quite simply €60 is more than I am prepared to pay to download this game. In a recent comment to an RPS article a poster called Bhazor summed up my feelings about game pricing almost perfectly: "But I wouldn’t say this was budget pric

MBPs musing on Entropia Universe, Online Poker, Spread Trading and Investing in Stocks and Shares

Simple proof that playing Entropia Universe is a bad idea if you expect to make money out of it: Look at all the money going in and all the money going out. All of the money going in comes from players. The money going out goes back to players less a cut for the developer Mind Ark. The total amount of money going back out to players is therefore less than the total amount going it. It follows that on average players get less back than they put in. The same logic applies to many other activities Simple proof that playing poker online is a bad investment if you expect to make money out of it: Look at all the money going in and all the money going out. All of the money going in comes from players. The money going out goes back to players less a cut for the casino. The total amount of money going back out to players is therefore less than the total amount going it. It follows that on average players get less back than they put in. Simple proof that "investing" in spread tr

Dungeon and Dragons online: The Sun Also Rises

I am pleased to announce that Autwind Horogood has put his study of the arcane arts to good use and has freed the citizens of Korthos Island from the icy grip of a Sahuagin controlled dragon. Released from the control of a Sahuagin mindflayer (Misery's Peak Mission) the dragon lifted its siege of the island bringing sunshine back to Korthoses shores and permitting ships to travel once again to Stormwind. Again I am reminded of Guild Wars. Just as in Guild wars completing the beginner quest arc opens up access to the rest of the world and also brings about a seismic change in the landscape of the starter zone. Unlike Guild Wars however it is still possible to go back and redo starter zone quests on the "sunny side" as the post dragon version of Korthos is known. Just as well, even though I have done many of the quests on hard at this stage it may prove useful to go back and do them on expert mode later in order to farm favour (the reputation grind of DDO). PS: I woul

MMOs my way: What do you want and what are you prepared to do to get it?

In my experience one of the most important steps to taking control of your own mmo gaming is to make an informed decision about your  approach to end game content. During the leveling game you can log on and do whatever takes your fancy, comfortable in the knowledge that everything you do helps you level up a little bit. Once you reach end game the paths to progressing your character are likely to require much more focused playing, are likely to involve long repetition  and may even depend heavily on luck. I think that in this environment it is vital to know what you are getting in to. Decide what you want to achieve and most importantly decide what you are prepared to do to get it. I helped out in a radiance dungeon run last night (running one of the starter dungeons which helps people gear up for raiding). It was an enjoyable encounter that was quite tricky in parts although the old timers had ran it so many times they knew all the tricks. When we killed the final boss and it ca

Trials of a noob wizard in DDO

While Cap'n John and others talk cheerily about soloing DDO missions on Elite level my poor Wizard struggled to complete them  normal. (Duh..Did I mention by the way that I was doing all the missions on normal instead of solo mode because I wasn't ticking the correct box?).  The difficulty stems from the dilemma that a wizard must stand still to cast spells but is very vulnerable while standing still because the lightly armoured wizard can take very few hits (plus attacks have a chance of interrupting the spell you are trying to cast). Well I have got as far as level 2, having just completed the Aqueduct mission and I am finally beginning to get the hang of things. I opted for the default wizard level up route. I like that you can customise your character but I amn't familiar enough with the game yet to take that plunge. At level two I can prepare four spells. After a bit of trial and error I have opted for a fairly eclectic mix: Mage Armour: A buff which compensa

A Europeans First First impressions of Dungeons and Dragons Online Unlimited

Spurred on by Thalian and Teshes recommendations and reassured by Elric's comment that it is posible to play on the US servers from Europe I installed DDO yesterday and spent two hours playing my noob wizard "Autwind Horogood" on the Thelanis server. In that time I got through the training instance and two beginner instances on set in a crypt and one in a store room. Fully accepting that this not even Ed Zitron could do a reasonable review after so short a play time I nevertheless want to capture my first first impressions (all good by the way). 1. The download and install were surprisingly painless. The whole thing took less than two hours for the high res client. Even minor patches to Lotro have taken longer than that. 2. No obvious discrimination against Europeans. I didn't have to falsify my address. The starter town seemed quite busy at 12:00 GMT. There was no obvious lag in the busiest areas of the town. I have only played solo missions so far but since

Nice things about Turbine making DDO Free to Play

1. I love that Turbine didn't let the game die but instead applied creativity and took a risk in turning it into a F2P. 2. I am delighted that the move seems to be working for them.  3. Perhaps the best news of all for customers is that Turbine , just like Valve before them seem to be discovering that reducing the price of games actually makes you more money. Please let more game developers get this message. Quote: ""All aspects of our business are growing. Hundreds of thousands of new players in the world are playing for free, with a very high percentage using the store." The internal projections for growth were doubled. Even more surprising, subscriptions have gone up 40 percent since the game has gone free-to-play." 4. I like the fact that Turbines micro-transation model has a large element of pay for content rather than pay to skip the grind. Its much better to pay for stuff you like rather than to have to pay to avoid stuff you don't like and

Mr. Big Bank Executive You Owe Me.

This is a reply to Tobold post today about a Fair Distribution of Profits from Banking. Tobold if you set-up up a company selling mousetraps and it goes bust due to mis-managament then I may feel sorry for you but unless I was foolish enough to invest in your enterprise I don't end up paying your bills. The past year has shown us very clearly that this is not the case for financial institutions. Every citizen ends up paying dearly for  mistakes in the banking and financial services sector. This shows us that although we didn't realise it at the time  they were actually gambling with public money, our money, because of our dependence on a working financial sector and the public necessity of underwriting their bad debts. Of course this means that that we need strong regulation to prevent financial institutions from gambling recklessly with our money. This is a lesson we seem to have to re-learn every few decades. I believe it also means that it is absolutely wrong for t

A New Theory of Organisation Behaviour

Being the proud possessor of an MBA and having worked in organisations large and small right from start-up all the way to managing director level of a multi-national subsidiary I think this is absolutely brilliant: http://www.ribbonfarm.com/2009/10/07/the-gervais-principle-or-the-office-according-to-the-office/ Thanks to Slashdot for the link.

Lotro:Pulling one mob away from a bunch.

I am sure this is well known to most players but I thought I'd write it up just in case somebody finds it useful. While soloing it is common to come across groups of mobs that are close enough together that hitting one will arouse the whole group. Most classes can handle two equal mobs at a time but three or more can get hairy so it is useful to be able to pull one mob away from a group to tackle on its own. As long as you have space to run to this can usually be done with careful pulling. The basic principle to remember is that a mob you have damaged will chase you for longer than a mob you haven't. First make sure you have a safe path to run away. Then pick the mob you want to bring down first and damage them with a ranged attack. Then turn and run down your safe path. Glance over your shoulder occasionally to see if any of your pursuers have given up. Those you haven't attacked will generally retreat before the mob you have damaged. Be careful not to run too far or

Pay me what you think I am worth.

I am actually glad that I already own World of Goo because if I didn't I would probably feel it necessary to avail of their current  "Pay what you think it is worth" offer. Its not the first time I have seen an offer like this but it is the first time I have seen it on a game that I was interested in and it creates an interesting dilemma. If I was going to avail of the offer I would have to decide what to pay for the game. I try to be honest. I don't want to steal the game but how much is a game worth anyway? The easiest cop out would be to note that  the game was on sale for €20before the offer and to pay that amount but that would is not an honest answer to the question of how much I think the game is worth. How much is any game worth? In truth  I think that all games are overpriced. If I ruled the world there would be a price cap of €25 on AAA gaming titles. I don't have a logical explanation for this its just what my heart tells me and although I do so

Playing mmorpgs my way Part V: "Good Enough"

I have been playing a lot of Lotro recently and I am enjoying it very much despite there being a number of things about the game which could drive me to despair if I let them: the legendary weapon grind, the virtue grind, the radiance / raid progression grind.  The trick, for me, to not getting demoralised by game features I detest is the realisation that my characters don't have to be "the best". All they really need to be is "good enough". This is a very simple and you might think obvious position but it takes a conscious decision to embrace its implications. Game chat, game forums and gaming related blogs bombard us with specifications and stats. It takes a real effort to avoid slipping into a min-max mind set. It is well worth this effort though. It gives you the freedom to ignore those aspects of games that you don't like.  Adopting this position has improved my enjoyment of the game immensely. To borrow a phrase from previous commentators: I have le

If ....

If, in years to come, a more enlightened future generation proves beyond doubt that the massively multiplayer games of the early 21st century were genuinely harmful, that they exploited vulnerabilities in the human psyche and that in addition to being thieves of time they also caused irreparable damage to the intellect and personalities of players, how then should we consider people who embraced these games even more fully than we did ourselves? Should we look down upon this hardcore with scorn for having been so foolish as to abandon themselves completely to the affliction or should we admire them for having grasped the fleeting moment and lived it to the maximum.

Why does Google keep showing me the same ads over and over?

I don't really know how Google ads work but I can't help noticing that the same ads crop up again and again. Either these few advertisers  can afford to flood every computer in the world constantly with their particular promotion or else Google is using its rather intimate knowledge of me and my personal preferences to tailor the ads it shows me. Given the number of ads I see repeated from small companies who surely don't have multi-million dollar budgets I guess the latter. If this is the case I can understand  why mmorpg players have been plagued with those salacious Evony ads  but I am somewhat miffed that Google has now decided to bombard me with the following: I get this offer to  "Cut down 3lbs of your belly every week" at least ten times a day. What facet of my lifestyle could possibly have convinced Google that I need to lose some weight?

Anonymous No More: Google and Facial Recognition

Last night my wife downloaded the new version of Google Picasa. It has a really cool new feature called facial recognition . Simply idenitfy a person's face in a few photos and Picasa can search your computer and identify all the other photo's of that person. It even matched up baby photos to the right kids. I believe Flickr has had a similar feature for a few months now but whoever invented it this is a hugely impressive technology. Of course it is a very convenient way of organising your photo's but it is much much more than that. How long before Google incorporates face search into its flagship internet search engine. How long before every picture of you that was ever taken and put in print or posted to some obscure website becomes identifiable and traceable to you? What about the time you appeared as an anonymous face at the back of a group of protesters when you were a idealistic young student? What about the time you were topless on a beach and appeared  in the

Braid Completed

Just finished Braid. The last world (perversely named "World 1") sucks a bit unfortunately. Up to then I had more or less ignored the nonsensical storyline and concentrated on the clever puzzles. In the last world the clever puzzles take a back seat and the nonsensical storyline gets rammed down your throat. Well I finished it and I read every word of text in the game and all I can say about the story is: "It's nonsensical". Its a pity that the game ends on such a downer because it really is a beautiful piece of work. In the interest of honesty I must admit to having cheated twice. I read hints for two jigsaw pieces. I'm not proud of it but I ran out of patience. One of the times was a head slapping "Aghhh ... I should have known that" moment but the other was one of the trickiest puzzles in the game (the middle puzzle piece in the "elevator action" level). I don't know if I would ever have spotted the trick left to myself. E

Speed listening to Podcasts

I would like to listen to more podcasts but I don't have the time. The trouble with pod-casts is that they take too long to listen to and you cannot skim through them quickly to find the bits of interest.I have been playing around with an open source audio tool called "Best Practise" to see if I could speed up a pod-cast while still retaining comprehension. The problem with increasing the playback speed of audio is that pitch increases in proportion to the speed increase. Everybody ends up sounding like " Alvin and the Chipmunks ". Best practise has some very clever algorithms which allow independent control of pitch and speed. If you leave the pitch control in the middle and increase the playing speed it will endeavour to keep the pitch correct. From what I can tell it does this by chopping out bits because by the time you get to 200% speed the audio is unintelligible. This is where the pitch slider comes in handy. By letting the pitch slider increase

Who needs balance?

I have already admitted how bad I am at Team Fortress 2 but that doesn't stop me googling around the webs looking for tips. Thus it was that I stumbled across a guide to competitive TF2 play and it was an eye opener.  The players are more skilled of course and work in teams but they also play by different rules. Criticals hits are disabled for example and some weapon choices are banned. Perhaps the biggest eye opener was how few of the nine available classes are commonly used in competitive play. The most common team has six players one medic, one demo-man, two scouts and two soldiers. The iconic heavy rarely gets a look in. The medic and demo man are considered so powerful that you are limited to only one per team while nobody brings a spies or engineers. "Imbalance",  you cry " The demo-man must be nerfed".  Indeed if this were an mmorpg  that is almost certainly what would happen if one class was deemed to be so much stronger than others.  Players wh

Currently Playing

This is a place holder post really. My gaming hours in the last week have been spread between Lotro, Team Fortress 2 and Braid. In Lotro my Lore Master Ceoldir  is now level 36, working his way around  Evendim doing white / yellow quests that are slightly above his level. It is going well though I notice that Ceoldir has far lower morale (health) than characters of similar level I see around (in one extreme case I saw a Captain with twice as much morale). Some of this may be gear related but I suspect much of it is class design. The LM is a powerful flexible class but as a trade off they can take very few hits. I enjoy Team Fortress 2 but I am pretty bad at it. To do well at the game you need three things:  an organised team, knowledge , and personal skill. I play on public servers so team organisation is usually non existent. My knowledge of the game, its maps and its classes has definitely improved but my personal skilll level seems stuck in a rut and I cannot hit moving targe

Proud of Myself

I saved a child today, an eight year old boy who got stuck on the side of a mountain. My family and I were taking advantage if some lovely September sunshine and climbing a local mountain called the Great Sugar loaf . This peak is only 500m high but it gets steep near the top and makes for an energetic 40 minute climb with a bit of hands and knees clambering at the end. That is if you take the well beaten path. If on the other hand you try to climb up the wrong side you are faced with unstable scree where every step threatens to dislodge a landslide taking you and half the mountain with it. We had already reached the top and were making a leisurely descent when we spotted a lady in some distress. Her eight year old son had on his own initiative attempted to climb up one of the scree falls and was now stuck half way up an unstable slope. The mother could not reach her child and the boy having just realised his peril was frozen in place. My wife asked a worried passer by whether or

Braid: Cheap on Steam this Weekend

Currently playing Braid the time twisting puzzle game that is cleverly disguised as a marioesque platformer. I have only solved the first two jigsaw puzzles so far but I love the game. Normally I struggle to like break through indie games but Braid is doing it for me. Just don't be put off by all that pseudo intellectual guff. Its a very clever, very pretty puzzle game. Solve it and enjoy it. Available on Steam this weekend for under a fiver.

Announcing a New Valve Boycott. Gabe Newell take note (please).

Apparently organising a boycott of one of Valve's games is the new way to get an all expenses paid trip to Seattle . I herewith announce a boycott of Half Life 2 Episode 3, Portal 2, Half Lives 3 and 4, Team Fortress 3, The Purple box, the Green box, and the Yellow box if it comes to that. All of these games are summarily declared to be objectionable for numerous alleged reasons and Valve's stance with regard to any of these titles is declared to be wholly unacceptable. Sign below to indicate your support of this righteous crusade. (The first 50 signatories will enter a draw to become official boycott committee members who are eligible to accompany me on any forthcoming trip to Valve's offices.)