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Showing posts from September, 2009

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 not t

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.)

The difference between men and women

While tucking in to a tasty lunch I spotted a gentleman on the threshold eyeing the dishes the restaurant had to offer. Greek cuisine is not particularly common in Ireland but the generous display of tasty meat and vegetable dishes certainly looked appetising. His eyes scanned hungrily from the buffet to the large sign proclaiming: "All You Can Eat". He turned expectantly to his girlfriend who waited a few steps behind. "But is is safe to eat?" She said. He did not reply but with one last glance at the sign he turned and disconsolately followed her down the street.

Why are WoW players so defensive about their game?

Tobold bemoans the fact that fanboys are so quick to praise EVE or Darkfall or some other niche game while dismissing World of Warcraft and its millions of players. This does happen and it is regrettable although perhaps understandable given human nature and fans' jealousy at the huge imbalance in popularity between WoW and their beloved niche game. What is not so understandable is the touchy fanboyism that comes in the opposite direction. Why do players get so defensive when World of Warcraft is criticised? Why was there such an outpouring of hate towards Darkfall and its players from people who were not the game's target audience and who had no intention of ever playing the game? World of Warcraft is the biggest, most popular, most polished mmorpg on the planet. It is a very good game. You don't need to feel guilty about playing it and you don't need to squash smaller niche games in order to justify your own WoW habit. Be glad that there are niche games. Recognise th

EVE Just Like Real Life?

Breaking news is that a member of EVE Online's elected player representative body has tried to use inside information to make a killing on the markets. A corrupt politician abusing his position in order to screw the people who voted for him: Proof once again that EVE's complex social organisation mirrors real life. Except that in real life he would probably never have been caught and punished. And in real life the public would never have gotten a clear explanation of what actually happened. And of course in real life the perpetrator would never have come out and openly admitted his guilt. Just like real life ... NOT.

Playing MMORPGs my way, part 4. The end game mindset.

After TF2 last night I logged into Lotro and spotted one of the frequent invites for "Bounty Quests" in kin chat. Bounties are a form of daily quest that give lots of item experience and have become a regular routine for Lotro end gamers. I have been focusing on my low level LM alt so I had never done a bounty quest but I decided to sign up with Throg my level 60 to do them at least once before they get nerfed! Doing the bounties turned out to be a pleasant half hour swift traveling around Middle Earth to dispatch a number of bosses. I began to think that joining the regular bounty runs could be an enjoyable and rewarding daily diversion. The item XP from bounties would be very useful for rapidly skilling up legendary weapons. ... but of course it wouldn't make sense to skill up any old crappy weapon so I should probably start grinding instances or farming gold in order to get my hands on a decent legendary weapon. ... and of course I would need to start farming relics in


I played a few rounds of Team Fortess 2 last night. I try to play on servers that cater for casual players so that I can more or less hold my own. Last night was a bit depressing though because my team was badly beaten in every match. I was playing a scout and was surprised when one soldier on the opposing team killed me several times in a row with direct rocket hits. The scout has low hit points but is very fast and nimble. Hitting a moving scout with a slow moving rocket is difficult and certainly beyond my capabilities. When I noticed the same soldier racking up kills all round I began to wonder if something fishy was going on and queried his apparent dead eye accuracy in team chat. The response was quick "OMFG hes a pro, did you see his tag?" The respondee went on to list a string of accomplishments and titles which meant nothing to me but apparently imply that the soldier was a top player with a top Team Fortess 2 Clan. I don't know why he was playing on a noob serve

Playing MMORPGs my way, part 3. What is your gaming alignment?

In Dungeons and Dragons terminology I have a "lawful alignment" when it comes to game playing. I generally accept the goals that developers set out for their games and I play the game the way it is intended to be played. In single player games I will make a genuine effort to complete the campaign without cheating and in multiplayer shooters I am the guy making repeated suicide runs at the flag when everyone else is upping their personal kill ratio with spawn camping. This willingness to accept the path the developers set out for me does not suffice when it comes to mmorpgs. In many cases the official goals set out by the developer (perhaps to grind the best suit of armour or to top the pvp charts) are not something I can realistically achieve and in other cases the developer has created a huge list of inconsequential mini goals (such as achievements or titles). In EVE the developer doesn't even set goals which at least is a realistic approach. Given this environment the

Are you really really really sure you want to unsubscribe?

Nope this isn't a post about gaming but about blogging or rather about using a reader to subscribe to other folks blogs. Up to about a year ago I didn't bother with a reader, I just had a folder of favourites stored in Firefox and a single right click opened the whole lot in tabs. This became unwieldy when the number of blogs I keep an eye on went much into double figures so I started to use a reader service to simplify things. Without doing any research I plumped for Google reader because it seemed to be easy to use and because it appeared to integrate seamlessly into Blogger and into my iGoogle home page. It works pretty much as advertised. Each day I log in see a list of recent blog posts, so far so good. Problems arise however when I try to do a bit of maintenance. I go into Google reader and am presented with a list of my subscriptions. I hit the "manage subscriptions button" and proceed to add new blogs and remove those which I no longer wish to follow. The lis

Phwoar look at the baskets on her

I have to go to the airport this morning to collect a young woman I haven't met before. Luckily she sent us a description. I will be looking out for someone with: "Clear jeans,jacket black and bare baskets" Umm ... can anybody translate please? She is french if that helps. NB Mrs. mbp has registered a complaint that the the title of this post is objectionable. Apologies if I have offended anyone but I tried toning down the title and it isn't as funny.

Lotro: Trying a Warden

Melomoth's recent article about playing a warden in Lotro caught my eye so I decided to roll a hobbit warden and have a look for myself. I got my warden to level 6 in about an hour of playtime. This is not enough time to get more than the briefest idea of the class but it did at least allow me to sample the gambit system where combination of three basic keys are used to launch a wide range of higher level skills. I have to agree with Melmoth it is very very clever and I loved it. One big surprise for me was that there was a lot of button mashing going on because each gambit requires at least three key presses and all the skills are on short cooldowns. Its not mindless button mashing however - you need to be constantly thinking ahead and planning the gambit you want. It is high speed tactical play which contrasts with the low speed tactical play of a Lore Master. I imagine this makes playing a Warden quite intense at higher levels. I was also surprised that the Warden's signa

Playing MMORPGs my way. Part 2: Conflicting Requirements.

Looking at my list of likes and dislikes about mmorpgs the most stark conflict is my love for all things group related contrasting with a dislike of schedules, organisation and planning. Group activities require organisation. No organisation, no group. One outcome of this conflict is that it limits my ambition within the game. I fully accept that challenging group content such as instances and raids is the most exciting and engaging part of mmorpgs. I also accept that in order to have a reasonable chance of overcoming these challenges you need planning, you need raid schedules, you need loot rosters. At the moment I don't want to participate in scheduled activities so that precludes me from partaking in these group activities. It's a choice. Luckily I also like pugging. I enjoy the randomness of pickup groups and I am tolerant enough to accept that you don't get efficiency in a pug. I am happy using pugs to get through lower level group content. There is a moral dilemma re

Playing MMORPGs my way, part 1.

In the last month I logged 82 hours of Lotro time. It looks like I am officially playing an mmorpg again. In this post I am going to list all the things I like and all the things I don't like about mmorpgs with the aim in subsequent posts, of trying to draw out some conclusions of how to approach mmorpging in a way that gets best personal value out of such a substantial time investment. Things I like about MMOs (in random order) 1. Group content. Any group content. Tackling challenging content with a group of mature, competent players, tackling arbitrary content with a group of mature, agreeable players even tackling arbitrary content with disagreeable players is OK as long as I can have a laugh about it afterward. 2. Soloing to the best of my ability - learning to use new skills, learning how my character works. I particularly enjoy challenging solo content - taking on group content alone, stretching myself to the limit of my abilities. 3. Observing my character grow more powerful