Skip to main content


Showing posts from March, 2011

A funny thing happened on the way to the tiberium

Playing a bit of Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium wars last night I hit a tricky mission that caused me some problems. Even though the game gave me some strong units to start with I struggled to build up infrastructure while wave upon wave of attackers kept whittling down my forces. Unable to replenish losses I was doomed to death by attrition. I restarted in order to try and work out a winning strategy but was soon interrupted by a call to dinner. Leaving my hapless forces to fend for themselves I headed off to eat. Returning a half an hour later I was much surprised to see that I had not yet been wiped out. All of my troops were gone except for one lone Mammoth tank but that tank was single-handedly fending off attacks from multiple directions all the while protecting my few remaining buildings. I was initially perplexed. The Mammoth is a very powerful tank but how had it survived attacks from literally hundreds of opponents without any healing or support? When I investigated the answ

Every Multiplayer game should have an "anonymous" mode

Sometimes I just want to play a game without making a social effort. When I am in this kind of mood I don't mind playing with other people it's just that I don't always have the energy to talk to them. Usually it is just tiredness but there can also be more pressing reasons like not wanting your wife / girlfriend /boss to know you are goofing off in a game when you are supposed to be working. Unfortunately in today's gaming world with guilds and clans and friends lists from services like Steam and Xfire we are bombarded with connectivity. This is great when you are in the mood for it but it can be a pain in the neck if you are in a less sociable frame of mind. Every time you log into a game even a single player game, your activities are trumpeted to to all of your on-line acquaintances. I suppose you could say something like: "Hi Mary I see that you are doing sink hole dungeon and I am also doing sinkhole dungeon but I am not up to chat right now so I want to stay

Brothers in Arms: Thoughts after a Complete Series Playthrough

Thanks to a recent Steam sale I have been playing Gearbox's Brothers in Arms series of PC games: Brothers in Arms: The Road to Hill 30 (2005), Metacritic score 87. Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood (2005), Metacritic score 84. Brothers in Arms: Hells Highway (2008), Metacritic 78 Curiously my reactions to the games are in exactly the opposite order to their Metacritic scores. I was immensely frustrated by the first game and almost gave up on it. Road to Hill 30 was widely praised for its squad based gameplay but I found the system tedious. In most missions you are given a fire team and an assault team in order to implement classic find, fix, flank and finish  (4F) tactics but the suppression mechanic  which is a vital element of any squad based shooter is in my opinion broken. If you direct a squad to suppress an enemy unit they will fire at them until the unit is suppressed and then stop firing. The enemy squad will only stay suppressed for about 10 seconds before poppin

How can I overcome Apple Hate

My wife recently announced that she wants an Iphone and I experienced a very unpleasant knee-jerk reaction. This is despite the fact that at a logical level I agree that an  Iphone is probably the best smartphone choice for her. My anti Iphone / anti-Apple gut reaction was so strong that I actually woke up in the middle of the night worrying about it! I never realised that my subconscious was such a card carrying open software touting geek but there you have it. Of course I don't dislike Apple products. I think they are masterpieces of design and innovation. Its just that Apple's closed system business model scares the daylights out of me. They have become the new "Evil Empire" a position that Microsoft held for a quarter of a century a position that in more recent times Google has made several half hearted plays for. Most depressingly Apple seem to be much much better at benign tyranny than Microsoft ever were.  In the Iphone versus Android wars I cheer for Android

Can you reccommend some interesting non gamer blogs?

Over the years I have revised and improved my daily reading list list both in terms of the content and the technology I use to read it. I am currently using Netvibes as my reader of choice because I find it presents the maximum content in the minimum of space. This allows me to skim over a hundred or more headlines very quickly to select which ones warrant further analysis. In fact this process is so efficient that I am ready to expand the list of feeds I subscribe to. Looking over my current reading list however I cannot help noticing that it is heavily biased in favour of gaming blogs and mmorpg gaming blogs at that. I feel the need to expand my horizons a bit so I am on the hunt for some interesting non gaming blogs that will hold my attention. It is hard to tie down exactly what I am looking for because I deliberately want to broaden my horizons. I will consider anything well written and informative that updates fairly regularly. I love the intimacy of bogging so blogs are prefer

Please Explain Pizza Delivery Economics

Can anyone explain the economics of Pizza delivery to me please. Every single company seems to use the same method of setting ridiculously high list prices for their pizzas and then  flooding the neighbourhood with discount vouchers (or in more recent times giving generous discounts for internet orders). The net effect of the discounts is to bring the price back to a reasonable level. Today we had a kids birthday party and I ordered a bunch of pizzas for delivery.  Unfortunately it turned out that we had discount vouchers for every pizza parlour except for the one I wanted to order from. These guys are just down the road from us and I trusted them to deliver on time. Timing is everything at a kids birthday party so I rang them anyway. The guy asked me if I had any vouchers and I said no so he proceeded to quote me the full outrageous menu price (€65 if I recall). I protested that he could surely do better than that and he hummed and hawed a bit. Eventually I shamed him into going off

Back to the Fox Perhaps?

Previously a long time Firefox user I switched to Opera almost exactly one year ago. At the time I felt that Firefox looked and felt old fashioned and I was immediately attracted by the sleek modern look of Opera. After getting sick and tired of managing Firefox add ons I was further seduced by the fact that Opera has so many useful features as standard, features such as  speed dial and tiled tabs. It was only after I started using the browser though that I realised the real killer feature of Opera is its unrivalled cross platform support. At the time Opera was quite simply the best mobile phone browser you could get with features like tabbed browsing, server side compression and really good page reformatting. On top of all that Opera link allowed me to synchronise the browsers on all of the computers I use (currently three desktops, one laptop and one phone) automatically porting bookmarks and speed dial settings between them. I have become so used to this interconnected way of life

A message for Catherine Meyers

Bloggers comment system has recently started eating some of the comments left on my blog. I did see your comment before it disappeared . If your request is genuine then I may be interested but I would like to see your website first please. You can email me at mindbendingpuzzles(at)  to prevent your reply getting eaten by Blogger. 

Now that's what I call a fair usage policy

Irish mobile phone operator E-Mobile has just announced a new unlimited calls and text package for around  €50 per month. The advent of smart phones is making voice and text packages less and less relevant but I was amused to see that the inevitable fair usage policy for this plan is 10,000 texts and 45,000 minutes of calls per month. Now 10,000 texts per month is a lot but achievable by very heavy users but I am perplexed to know how anybody could exceed 45,000 minutes of calls given that 31 days x 24 hours x 60 minutes is only 44,640 minutes. 

Mirrors Edge - Why Walk when you can Fly?

When I was younger I used to have dreams where I ran and ran without my feet touching the ground. I am sure that the amateur psychiatrists will have fun with that but Mirror's Edge reminds me powerfully of those dreams. The game is at its absolutely breathtaking best when you guide the sylph-like free-runner Faith in a madcap dash across rooftops leaping from ledge to ledge while narrowly avoiding flying bullets from the guns of your less nimble pursuers. The sense of speed and movement is magnificent and imparts a feeling of invincibility, at least until you miss a jump and end up plunging to your death hundreds of metres below. The suspense is slightly marred by the realisation that the pursuers such weaklings that you can often turn around run up to them,  disarm them and use their weapon to murder their comrades with little more than a  few scratches to show for it. The fact that your unarmed elfin heroine can disarm an assault rifle wielding body armour clad SWAT officer s

Your Prejudice versus my Preconceived Opinion

It is a habit of mine to occasionally browse the websites of organisations and publications whose views are entirely contrary to my own. I find it both educational and entertaining to be confronted with passionate advocacy of opinions that run completely contrary to what I and my circle of friends and acquaintances accept as obvious truth. Thus it was that yesterday I spend some time on the website of a radically conservative US publication where all of the topics seemed to be selected form a very limited and predictable list. Among the condemnations of Barrack Obama, liberals, homosexuals and Muslims I was surprised to see an active thread in the forums denouncing Wikipedia. I hadn't realised that Wikipedia was such an inflammatory topic among right wing conservatives but a common theme among the contributions is a conspiracy theory that Wikipedia is dominated by liberals who shamelessly abuse their administrator power promote a liberal agenda while deleting "facts" p

Second time around I turn into Leeroy Jenkins

In complete contrast to the sedate pace of train simulation the other game I have been playing this week is the frenetic shooter painkiller. I played the expansion "Battle out of Hell" for the first time and I replayed several levels of the original. The fast paced moving and shooting remains as entertaining as ever but I was particularly struck by how differently I approach the expansion (which I had never played) to the original game which I had previously played extensively. Playing new levels for the first time I am extremely cautious. I favour long range weapons that kill mobs before they can retaliate. If possible I try to use the terrain to protect me from damage and to trap mobs into kiling zones. I am miserly with ammunition and health even to the point of re-loading a save gamed should I fall too low on either. Second time around I abandon caution entirely and go all Chuck Norris. I run around blasting everything in sight with a shotgun and/or melee weapons wit

Adventures in Train Simulation

Trains are made of pure sound. That is the most important lesson that I learned from a weekend spent messing about with train simulation. I also learned about competing software and passionate communities and about routes, engines, rolling stock, controls and signals but my overwhelming memory is the sound of the railway. Although Railworks 2 appears to be the leading light in train simulation these days there are an number of other programmes that have their own following including Trainz, BVE and the venerable Microsoft Train Simulator. For my first taste of the hobby I tried the free open source package open BVE . This is a somewhat unusual choice of starting point because openBVE is an open source re-write and extension of the already free BVE train driving simulation. Documentation and hand holding are sparse to non existent and the main creator of open BVE pulls no punches when he announces that: "Compared to other simulators of the genre, especially compared to commercia