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Showing posts from 2012

So you think you are an individual do you?

These days it seems that every time I find something slightly unique and special half the world is already talking about it on Youtube, Facebook or Reddit. I wouldn't call myself a trendy person so I doubt that I am particularly sensitive to the zeitgeist but I am beginning to wonder if it is actually possible to hold a individual opinion about something any more. Some years ago my wife and I took a bit of time to come up with a special name for our first child. We picked a name that was beautiful and had some family significance. It was also an unusual and uncommon name. Or so we thought. It was only later that we realised that this long forgotten name had somehow caught the public imagination and had bubbled up to be one of the top ten names of that year. This year I found my gaming tastes swaying towards more challenging titles. I talk about that in this blog post  in which I surmise that "My age and gaming history allow me to overlook fancy graphics and current fashi

Unintended Consequences: Contracts of Indefinite Duration

Warning: This post is nothing to do with games but it is an issue that agitates me greatly. It concerns a matter of European and Irish law which is intended to protect the rights of workers but which has the unintended consequence of causing great injustice to those folks it is actually intended to help. It is a directive of European law (European Council Directive 1999/70/EC) that "Contracts of an indefinite duration are, and will continue to be, the general form of employment relationship between employers and workers".  Permanent employees and those on contracts of indefinite duration enjoy many legal protections. They cannot be fired without reason for example. I guess the purpose of the directive to is ensure that employers aren't trying to get around these protections by hiring folks on a series of short term contracts. In Ireland the consequences of this directive are that an employer can only hire someone on fixed term contracts for a maximum of four years an

How to compete with the Steam Christmas Sale: Get your retaliation in first

Like many gamers I am looking forward to Steam's post Christmas sale. It is a great opportunity to pad out ones gaming library with some bargains. Valve generally adds a bit of showmanship with holiday achievements and such so it is always a fun event event though I never seem to have quite as much free time for gaming over the holiday period anticipated. What then for the also rans of digital game distribution? Surely the overwhelming dominance of Steam must send them into pits of despair as they consider that what should be their best selling period of the year is so completely overshadowed by the looming behemoth that is the Steam Sale. Well this year I am pleased to note that the GoGs, Gamestop's,  Game Flys and other distributors are not sitting back and waiting for Steam to roll over their Yuletide hopes and dreams. In a masterful display of competitive strategy they are getting their retaliation in first by holding substantial sales before Christmas. In my case at

Too many games too little time.

Despite the relative lack of activity on this blog I am still playing. For the record here are the games that have been stealing my time: Dark Souls: Extraordinary Game, despite the barely adequate PC port this has won itself a place on my list of greatest games of all time. I eventually had to force myself to stop playing after three weeks of total immersion. XCom Enemy Unknown: Playing and enjoying this. I seem to have got a handle on the tactical side of things and I can hold my own in battles (playing on normal) but the overall strategy side still confuses me. Everything seems to cost more that I can afford and take longer than I have to wait. Three countries have already given up on me and I haven't even got to the alien base yet. Hard Reset: Old school shooter with modern graphics from some of people who made painkiller. This is pretty entertaining although unforgiving checkpoint placement makes it more difficult than it should be. The abandoned city backdrops became v

What a Humble Bundle Can do for you Share Price

Humble's latest bundle is not very indie comprising a bunch of AAA titles from developer THQ. The internet being the internet is awash with comments both positive and negative. The negatives are complaining because THQ isn't an indie, beause the games have DRM, because the games won't run on Linux and because hey  it's the internet, people complain about everything. The positive's are just generally happy that such a great bunch of games is being made available so cheaply. It really is a solid gold bundle by the way and if you don't have any of these games I recommend snapping it up immediately. Some of the more reflective commenters are talking about the fact that THQ hasn't been doing very well financially in recent times (despite making some excellent games) and wondering if this move smacks of inspiration or desperation on the company's behalf. Whatever the motivation behind it the move appears to be a big success pulling in $2 million in less t

Siri should be banned !!! (or not)

I had to endure two hours of annoying distraction from a Siri using passenger on a recent train journey. I have long been of the opinion that talking to your phone (as opposed to talking to a human through your phone) is a gimmick. I dismissed the voice search capability of my Android phone after no more than five minutes of playing with it and that train journey convinced me that Apple's secret Siri sauce has not made the experience of talking to a machine any more palatable. It was bad enough that we other passengers had to endure the Iphone user's loud and often misinterpreted commands to their phone but they had set up the device so that every single response was also relayed in an annoying computer voice even to the point of reading entire emails aloud. It was late, I was tired after a day of business meetings and despite Hollywood stereotypes we Irish are not a confrontational lot so I did my best to ignore the distraction and catch a bit of sleep on the journey home

Dark Souls: Consensual non consensual PVP

Dark Souls has an interesting take on the consensual / non consensual pvp issue. When you try to play the challenging single player campaign non- consensual pvp happens when another player invades your game world and generally messes up you plans by killing you. On the other hand  you cannot be invaded unless you choose to adopt "human form" (normally you have the appearance of a zombie like corpse) so being human is like a pvp flag that you can turn on if you are willing to risk invasions. On the other other hand human form offers some unique in game advantages. You can only summon the help of friendly players and npc allies to help you (co-op) while in human form for example and human form also allows you to upgrade bonfires (think checkpoints) to effectively double your healing capacity. The net result is that even the most pvp adverse players are likely to risk being human from time to time. So is pvp consensual or not? Strictly speaking it is entirely consensual becau

My name is mbp and I am a...a ...a... graymer

I am 48 years old and I love playing video games. Over the last few weeks I have spent an inordinate amount of time playing and enjoying  Ground Control (2000) , Nox (2000) and  Battle for Middle Earth (2004) . Clearly I fall into the nostalgic older gamer (graymer) category that Tadgh Kelly talks about in this insightful post . To be fair to Tadhg (pronounced like "Tie" with a hard g at the end) he doesn't accuse older gamers of being nostalgically myopic but Tobold does when he draws the link between graymers and the current boom in retro kickstarter games. I can only speak for myself of course but nostalgia alone is not enough to convince me to spend many hours playing a game. I tend to agree with Tadhg's position that age and experience make us more selective in our gaming. When I consider that in addition to those oldies I have also spent a lot of time playing the more recent titles "FTL" and "Dark Souls" it seems to me that the real c

Do Old Games Really Matter?

My 14 year old daughter is going through a fantasy binge along with many of her teenage friends and she and I have been watching Peter Jackson's Lord of the rings trilogy together. This made me think of Electronic Arts 2004 Video game " Battle for Middle Earth " so I dug out my game disk. I remember the game as being a very well done movie tie in and a rather enjoyable RTS to boot. My first attempt to install it failed miserably as the game refused to start on my current PC. Google verified that the problem is a known one and several websites offered dubious looking patches. Happily it turns out that the problem is related to screen resolution and doesn't need anything more drastic than a few ini settings to be changed. More details here (3rd post down): I am glad that the game can be got working on a modern computer with a little bit of effort but how many people would even bother to try?

Should I buy Windows 8?

Every second version of Windows is a turkey and everything I have heard about Windows 8 suggests that it is no exception to this rule after the success of Windows 7. Normally I would be content to wait for the inevitably better replacement just as I did with 95, Me and Vista but my wife is in dire need of a computer upgrade. She is currently running hand me downs from my old gaming rigs: a 2005 era processor that is driving a 2002 install of Windows XP. While this is still fine for internet browsing and the odd game of Bejeweled my wife's growing photography hobby has turned her into a power user. That ageing rig has 3 terrabytes of picture laden hard disks hanging off it and image processing applications like Photoshop are serious resource hogs. So what to do? Easiest thing is probably to ignore the shiny new Windows 8 machines being trotted out this week and look for a bargain on Windows 7. It feels somewhat wrong to spend new money on last years technology but Windows 7 is a

My new favourite gaming mouse mat ever.

Long time readers of my blog (I guess that's you and me Mum) will know that I believe every PC gamer needs a decent mouse mat . Unfortunately mouse mats went the way of the buggy whip about a decade ago with the advent of optical mice that worked reasonably well on just about any hard surface.  "Reasonably well" is fine for browsing the internet or editing text documents but "reasonably well" doesn't cut it when it comes to PC gaming. I have yet to come across a table top that allows the precision and freedom of movement that a PC gaming mouse requires. Here are the basics requirements for a gaming mouse mat: 1. The surface needs to have sufficient texture for the mouse optics to pick up. This is by far the easiest requirement to achieve because a modern optical or laser mouse seems to work on just about any surface. 2. The top surface needs to have very low friction.  This is where most table tops fall down. Any friction will drastically reduce the

A Lesson in Comparative Advantage from the Washing Machine Repair Guy

I am an engineer by profession and even if I say so myself I think I am a pretty good one. My father was a carpenter who built houses for a living so I like to think I can handle the practical side of things as well as the theoretical. There are few repair jobs around the house that I cannot do. Just because I can do a job however doesn't necessarily mean that I should do a job. When our dishwasher broke down a while back I managed to fix it. It was my first time looking inside a dishwasher so it took a considerable amount of trial and error to narrow down the fault and source a replacement part. It only took me three weeks fitted into spare hours when I was home from work and not otherwise occupied. My wife, who is a very very good wife, was even effusive in her praise at my manliness in fixing the machine and kindly neglected to mention the many floodings of the Kitchen floor during the three weeks of my trial attempts. She didn't even comment on the small pile of unwan

Random Thoughts from an FTL addict

The only fair fight in the game Much has been made  of the way FTL: Faster than Light brings old school unfairness back into gameplay. You can find yourself hopelessly outclassed on the very first jump of the game.  You might be surprised then to discover that I have come to the conclusion that the final boss fight, despite being an order of magnitude more difficult than any encounter which precedes it is the only fair fight in the game. It is very difficult without a doubt but it is also brutally fair because it is utterly predictable. I have only managed to overcome the boss four times (twice on easy, twice on normal) but I now know the fight and I know exactly what to expect and how to prepare for it. If I get as far as the boss I now know that failure will be because my ship is not prepared or because I make some error in play and that in my opinion is fair. The real unfairness comes from the random encounters at lower levels that can undermine any promising campaign or perhaps

Is FTL really like Rogue?

The developers of the terrific little space ship game FTL:Faster than light  call it "roguelike" and better gaming minds than mine agree with them. Yet as a rule I don't like rogue games but I love FTL. How can this be? My experience with rogue games started with Rogue itself played in glorious ASCII on college computers back in the 1980's. I wasted many hours on it  when I should have been studying but I never came close to finishing a game and ultimately I found it a frustrating experience and got bored.  I have dallied with various descendants of Rogue over the years, the most recent being the highly regarded Dungeons of Dredmor but my experience is always the same. The games suck me in quickly and are quite compelling at first but soon I get tired and frustrated with the repetitive game-play. However cleverly they name things and however challenging the monsters are  I quickly come to feel that I am playing a more challenging version of   Progress Quest: E


It was the doors that got me in the end. The good (space) ship Dodo only managed 2 miserable jumps before meeting the drone that would be her undoing. The drone may have looked innocuous enough but its first volley took out Dodo's weapons and things began to look bad. A crew member frantically tried to bring  weapons back online but in the mean time the drone was free to pound the ship with missiles. Those missiles passed right through shields and soon fires were burning throughout the ship. The crew tried to put out the conflagrations while the hail of missiles continued. One brave ensign lost his life in the effort and the Captain realised that more desperate steps would be required. Pulling the crew back to a safe area he opened the airlocks in order to vent air from the fiery regions. This drastic method worked and the flames were extinguished so the crew set about repairing the damage. With life support, shields, weapons and engines all damaged no one paid much attent

What I am playing September 2012

The creative juices have not being flowing recently so this poor blog has been quite neglected nevertheless I do like to keep a record of the games I am playing so boring diary post coming up. Driver San Francisco: The "campaign" in this game is utterly forgettable but the  driving is great fun. I dip in and out of the game every so often for a spot of high adrenaline thrills. From: Dust: A clever God game with interesting terra-forming capabilities.  It looks and sounds very like Spore but the game play is much more limited sadly and doesn't really do the superb terra forming engine justice. Rainbow Six Vegas2: I really enjoyed the first Rainbow Six Vegas and this squad shooter sequel is more of the same.  A minor annoyance is that the difficulty is uneven with many trivial levels and  some that are very difficult to complete without multiple deaths and progress by trial and error. Nevertheless there is good replay value in the various challenge modes once you com

Local Co-Op games on a PC

A few months ago I discovered that my youngest daughter enjoys playing co-op PC games with her Daddy. This discovery subsequently transformed several hitherto neglected platform and adventure games into my "new favourite game". It doesn't really matter what the game is. If it is a PC game and it has local co-op then I am a fan. At one level this is a pretty pointless exercise. Local Co-op has never been a strong point of PC games and we have a Wii console sitting in our living room which is designed for co-op. PC gaming is my domain however. It is the thing that Daddy does and I defy any father to try and resist the opportunity to share something of your inner self with your kids. It is a primeval thing. Ignoring the futility of the exercise there are a few basic hurdles to be overcome. The first is that a mouse and keyboard don't easily split into two. If you really want to co-op on one PC then you need to invest in at least one game controller. I strongly recom

Quick Gaming Update: Splinter Cell Conviction, Alan Wake, From Dust

Splinter Cell Conviction: I enjoyed this for the most part. It is the first splinter Cell game I have actually played through to the end although the campaign is short so that isn't as significant as it sounds. Minor gripe: Much of the game is on very tight rails. General objection: Why do I have to kill everyone? Why can't I stealth past most obstacles?  Major Gripe: Auto difficult adjust continually pissed me off. On several occasions I came to a difficult section and died a few times working out a strategy. Then, just as I was about to put my master plan into place the game would halve the number of enemies trivialising the obstacle and destroying any feeling of achievement for overcoming it. Alan Wake: I am half way through this game (3 out of six episodes). Thumbs up for the spooky atmosphere and strong storyline. Thumbs down for the dreadful combat. Combat in this game really stinks. In general you have to shine a torch at an enemy to make it vulnerable and then shoot

Early thoughts on Ubisofts new UplayPC service

I signed up to Ubisoft's new Steam lookalike game download service in order to avail of some of  the sweet launch offers (From dust €1, Driver San Fran €1). The good: + Well, it does actually work. You buy a game through the client, download it and run it from within the client. + You can use Paypal to pay for your games  Hurray! + Ubisoft finally seem to grasp the reality of the PC games download market. There is none of the old extended download service nonsense( where you had to pay extra just to be allowed re-download your own games) +It has an offline mode and it works! Need to be online to download game of course and for first run. + Surprisingly realistic pricing. Older titles are selling for €10 and their launch sale had some serious bargains. +has achievements and friends and chat and other stuff you expect from a game client. The bad: - After buying a game it took more than an hour to show up in my games library. Perhaps this was server overload due to the laun

Die Young, Stay Pretty, #Firefly

What do Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Kurt Cobain and Joss Whedon's Firefly have in common? I'll leave you to work that out for yourself but I have been immersing myself in Whedon's space opera for much of the last week. Thanks to the magic of Netflix I managed to see all 14 episodes in quick succession and then finish up with the feature film. The series completely passed me by when it was first released, perhaps it never made it across the pond to European channels but regardless I have long since passed the age when I am surprised at missing yet another cultural phenomenon. I did later become aware of the series enduring cult status however. Despite being cancelled after one series due to lackluster audience figures Firefly has earned itself a regular spot in top ten lists of greatest Sci Fi shows of all time. Of course that begs the question - how much did the shows early death contribute to it's legendary status. Are we worshipping what might have been rather

Andor's Trail: A mobile Dungeon Crawler, #android

I have been playing an inordinate amount of " Andor's Trail " a free open source dungeon crawler being developed for the Android Platform. The concept is familiar: explore the world to kill monsters to gain experience and better gear so you can explore further and kill more monsters and dot dot dot,  but the execution of that concept is shaping up very nicely in this still under development game. It is not finished, it has no sound at all and several quests cannot be completed but  the game already has has a multitude of locations, quests and monsters and the graphics look great to me. A word of warning the game can be very grindy particularly at lower levels. The mobs hit hard and healing is very expensive so you may find yourself forced to farm a few beginner locations over and over in order to level up and earn cash.  I have said before that I don't do grind so I generally try to do just enough grind to allow me to progess. That approach makes the game quite ch

Id's Rage: Not making me angry at all #fps #rage

Some gaming deity must have read my last post because just as I was despairing of modern shooters I happened upon a very sweet deal on Bethseda/id's Rage . I really didn't expect to be having as much fun as I am in this game. It is a huge immersive world with a strong campaign, first class shooting, great driving and a tonne of side-games to play if the main campaign gets tiring (it doesn't). Somehow I expected a new id game to be a very old school no frills shooter, direct descendant of  Quake 3, but this game is so much more. Imagine taking Borderlands, Fallout3, Half life2 and Fear extracting the best bits of each and making a new game - that's what Rage feels like to me. Some might complain it borrows too generously from those games, a seasoned gamer cannot help but notice striking similarities. Nevertheless I don't care. It all comes together into a glorious gaming experience,  the most fun I have had in a shooter in a long time. Strangely, in spite of the

"But I have nothing to play": NOLF 2 to the rescue.

Despite having picked up a half dozen titles in the recent Steam sale I curiously found I had nothing I was interested in playing last night. After a game free fortnight on holidays I felt the need for that quick shot of gaming adrenaline that only a first person shooter can provide but none of my new games fit the bill. Despite (because of?) the billion selling success of Call of Duty games good shooters are thin on the ground these days and I have already exhausted the replay potential of the few that made it into my collection. Turning to my increasingly dust covered shelf of olde games I pulled out a classic I haven't played on almost a decade : "No One Lives Forever 2". Good news: this humourous tale of 1960s sexy super spy Cate Archer installs and runs without a hitch on Windows 7-64. Better news: despite its age the cartoonish style has held up very well and the game still looks gorgeous. Best news: this game is still brilliant. It is funny, clever, challenging

A Possible Next Step for Total War Games

I am no longer convinced that the chaotic nature of battlefields in Total War games is a deliberate reflection of real battles. Perhaps I believed back that in 2000 when the original Shogun Total War was released to rapturous praise. One of Creative Assembly's major innovations was the fact that troops no longer followed orders like blind automatons and their effectiveness was strongly affected by morale, by environmental conditions and by the leadership of their general.  When the BBC used the Rome Total War engine for their battle re-enactments in the show "Time Commanders" they emphasised this confusion further by implementing a chain of command with a generals and lieutenants. But .... 12 years and many incarnations of Total War later I think we have to accept that a major element of the confusion comes from the simplistic artificial intelligence (AI)  of Total War troops.While graphics and presentation have improved immensely over the years this vital aspect o

The curse of the Total War Tutorial Strikes again

There is a broken unit of canon in the Shogun 2 Total War advanced battle tutorial. That doesn't sound like much but they are your only artillery and you are tasked with capturing a rather imposing fortress. There are ways to take a castle without canon by scaling the walls but it is impossible to ignore this artillery detachment that shows up in your list of units. They are positioned directly in front of the gate perfectly positioned to break down the entrance. They are clearly supposed to be important because they are being guarded by some of your other troops. Yet they refuse point blank to fire a shot. In fact they won't accept any orders at all. they just sit there for the whole battle watching complacently as infantrymen are cut down trying to breach the gates those canon should be assaulting. This is not my imagination. Others have had this problem. Once again Creative Assembly demonstrates their inability to make a functioning tutorial.

Finally Steam has a competitor: Amazon

The growth of Amazon's digital download games department has produced the first serious competitor to Steam. Amazon's retail clout cannot be ignored and they generally offer some great bargains. Amazon's Summer sale for example undercuts Steam on many games. I love Steam and it is my gaming platform of choice but competition between suppliers can only be good for us customers so lets have more of it. Amazon don't have their own PC client so many of their games even register on Steam - giving the best of both worlds. I wish they would just hurry up and extend this service to those of us who live outside the US. I know it is possible to fake a US address but it feels a bit dodgy.

Dragon Age II Thoughts

Dragon Age II got a fairly luke warm reception from critics so I was content to wait over a year after release before playing it. Now after completing the main campaign I can understand where some of those criticisms come from. The original Dragon Age Origins also had flaws but those flaws could generally be put down to an exuberance of ambition while the flaws in Dragon Age II feel seem to come from a deliberately constrained budget. This is perhaps most obvious in the tiresome re-use of a few limited pieces of scenery over and over again. Despite these misgivings, I still thing Dragon Age II is a very enjoyable game and it kept me enthralled for many hours. I think it would have garnered higher review scores over all if it had not been subject to the inevitable comparisons with its superb predecessor. Anyway here are some random thoughts: Combat: Over all I liked the combat sequences in the game a lot but it took me a while to get the hang of it. Enemies come in greater numbers th

The Joy of Jumble Sales

There is something wonderfully unpredictable about second hand stuff. This morning we went to a second hand book sale that is held monthly by a local charity. The sale is well supported by donors and readers so there is always a good selection of books on offer along with a smattering of dvds and even the occasional board game. I came away from this morning's event with a book about the British Empire, a sci fi novel, a PC game (Star Wars, Empire at War) and a box set of a 1970s TV series called Flambards that I loved as a teenager and that my period drama obsessed teenage daughter wants to watch now. There is no way that a 'real' shop with its utterly predictable range of carefully displayed products could ever offer such a wonderfully serendipitous shopping experience. Online shopping should be better but it is actually worse. Despite the enormous variety of goods both new and used available online the ruthless precision of information technology greatly

An alsmot aswesome moment of game design from Dragon Age II

After many attempts my party finally overcame a tough tough boss in Dragon Age II (the Ancient Rock Wraith). Before I could take a breather and save the game however I was plunged straight into a cut scene. A demon stranding in front of the dead Boss's treasure hoard spoke to me and presented the choice of running away or fighting him for the treasure. Now lets us be clear here. One of the golden rules of game design is that there must always always be a save point immediately after every boss fight. Having to redo a tricky boss fight because you got killed by a trash mob on the way out of the lair is the suckiest piece of game design ever and any designer who does that should be fired on the spot. However this choice was cleverer than that and made for a tantalising dilemma.  Slink away safely and save my progress or risk being killed and having to replay the boss in the hope of getting the treasure. After some thought I decided to risk it and happily survived the ensuing fight

Dear PC Game Devs, please stop asking for aspect ratio before letting me choose screen resolution.

I have noticed an increasingly bonkers trend in PC games where the graphics settings insist that you choose the correct aspect ratio before they will let you choose the right screen resolution.  To make things worse there isn't even a consensus on what the different aspect ratios are called. Installing Dragon Age II recently I had to set an aspect ratio of 16:10 before it would allow me to select the correct 1680 x 1050 resolution for my monitor. On other occasions it has been sufficient to say "widescreen" but when I went to install Warhammer 40k Space Marine the magic aspect ratio turned out to be 8:5. I know that could be worked out from simple arithmetic but given that Space marine offers a choice of ten different aspect ratio's including such gems as 683:384 it was frustratingly hard to find the right answer.   This is completely backwards because most gamers know the resolution of their screens so if they just asked for the resolution then the programme c

Cable company customer service

I hate ringing my cable company. It isn't because they are unhelpful, I have always found them courteous. It isn't even because of the automated answering service. I have always found it possible to get through to a human relatively quickly. It is simply because long experience has taught me that whom ever I am speaking to will try their hardest to get me to pay more. This has to be deeply  ingrained in the company's policy because the most innocent of inquiries will result in some additional surcharge being suggested, often for no increase in service. I have also learned that most of these surcharges are completely avoidable but once you are on the phone to a representative of the company you need to carefully navigate around a minefield of suggested charges in order to get away  without increasing your monthly bill. Example from a few years ago: I am ringing to cancel "XYZ channel, we don't watch it any more and I no longer want to pay for it. "Certainly

Your game doesn't work with my password manager

If you play online games (and nowadays even offline games) then you need lots of secure paswords. The best way I know of generating and maintaining a  secure password is to use a password manager such as the excellent Keepass . Keepass will generate and store hundreds of passwords and lock them all up in military grade security. Instead of being restricted to the simple monsyllables that my 48 year old brain can remember (dog, cat ...) I can use long strings of assorted hieroglphics to thwart any would be hacker. The beauty of a good password manager is that you don't even have to type in these long and complex sequences. Keypass will copy the password into the paste buffer and from there you can ctrl-v it into the password field. This works great for most programmes and websites but it doesn't work for some games. When trying to install Dragon Age last night I had to tpe in my Origin account details to activate the game. Sadly they have disabled the paste buffer when ent

Wot I am playing

My gaming has been a mixed bag recently. From a recent humble indie bundle I have played: Limbo: Excellent atmospheric 2d platformer. The best bits are at the start unfortunately but I found enough of interst to keep me going to the end. Bastion: I finished my first play through last night. Highly polished and very enjoyable action rpg with a strong storyline that is cleverly narrated  as you progress through the game. There are tonnes of options (weapons and upgrades) and I was initially frustrated to realise that you cannot replay levels in the game because there aren't enough levels to try more than a few combinations. However finishing the game seems to have unlocked a new mode where I can go back with all the stuff I have accumulated so I may replay it a few times to experiment. My favourite combination so far is flame thrower and mortar by the way. Super Meat Boy:  Incredible hard but quite compelling platformer.  I have completed about twenty levels but I am afraid t

Lotro now on Steam

I am a week behind the time with this news but I just noticed that Lotro is now available on the Steam platform. I spend more time in Lotro than any other mmorpg so I have a special love for the game even though I am not playing it at the moment. Checking the Steam forums indicates that a number of new players have been tempted to try it since its Steam release. Good news all round I think.

The rules of EVE online

I am not actively playing EVE at the moment but since I decided to keep up my sub for training I occasionally log in to update the skill queue, look around and maybe run a mission or two. I was too tired to do much last night but logged in anyway for a look around. Someone was touting a blueprint for sale in local chat. SECOND RULE OF EVE: Anything being offered in local chat in Jita is a scam. This however was not Jita and even though I was I tired I knew that honest pilots who couldn't be bothered hauling their goods  to a trade hub sometimes tout their wares in local in the hopes of making a sale in this quiet system. You can occasionally pick up a bargain this way. THIRD RULE OF EVE: If it looks too good to be true. It is. A quick glance at EVE Central showed that this blueprint was being sold at a considerable discount to the market price. Tempting. The pilot might be too lazy to haul it to a busier system but perhaps I could make a few million doing so. FOURTH R

Avadon Black Fortress - Can a retro rpg survive in 2012?

I have been playing a bit of "Avadon, The Black Fortress" from Spiderweb software. This is an unashamedly old school party based rpg that looks like it could have been made twenty years ago but hides a rich gaming experience underneath its ugly exterior. With its strong storyline and deep character development the game reminds me of the original Fallout and even Planescape Torment which is high  praise indeed. I have about twenty hours played and I am less than half way through my first play through so there is plenty of entertainment value in here. Even as I was enjoying the game myself I did wonder if a younger audience would be prepared to see beyond the dated graphics and somewhat clunky controls. Happily Jeff Vogel the owner of Spiderweb software which created this game is a vocal member of the indie gaming community and he keeps an informative blog . Spiderweb is doing very well, thank you very much. Games like the Avernum and Geneforge sagas have been paying the b

NBI Wrap-up. all the advice in one place!!!

When Syp asked me to give some advice to newbie bloggers I found myself in something of a quandary. I have been blogging for almost six years but I am not sure I have gleaned any pearly wisdom in that time to pass on. That is why I decided to pick individual posts from the history of his blog that stick in my mind and in telling the story behind those posts I hope to have highlighted a few useful lessons. All that remains is to to try and summarise all the lessons here in this my closing post of Newbie blogger Initiative 2012. I guess the lesson from my first story behind the post is that sometimes events in a game can surprise you by raising real life issues. While this can be problematic for gaming it makes great writing material. My  second story behind the post has a couple of different lessons: Writing about a popular new game just after release is a great time to be a blogger and also if you get bored just writing yet another ten rats try writing in character. It might no

NBI The Story behind the post #5

This is my final story behind the post so I had better make an effort to give some useful advice for  a change and not just advice on how to write posts that no one ever reads! Checking back through Blogger's statistics this is my most viewed post ever: It is a tolerably competent after action report of a fairly challenging mid game instance in Lotro but it didn't stand out in my mind when I wrote it. Yet it pulled in a heap of readers and continues to pull them in to this day. Why was this post so popular? In the first place I think it is because it was a helpful post about an area of a popular game that many players experienced diffculties with. Those who struggled with the instance came looking for solutions and those who overcame it came looking for alternative methods. None of this would have got me traffic however if I hadn't given the post the simplest most obvious name possible.  Eve

The value of a Brand: Diablo 3 versus Dungeon Siege 3

It is not by chance that I have an Android phone while my wife uses an Apple product. After eighteen years of marriage it has become patently clear that we hold mutually opposing views on the value of branding. My lovely wife is a brand junkie. She has an inherent distrust of generic products and if possible she will always go for the most expensive market leading brand. I on the other hand am not so much a brand agnostic as a brand atheist. I actively seek out cheaper products and avoid buying the market leader ever. I will trawl the internet and walk the roads for lesser known alternatives and nothing pleases me quite so much as finding a little known product that costs less and performs better that the brand leader.   I am sure this opposition was a cause of strife in the early years of our union but 18 years of happy marriage has a way of moulding a couple's habits together. Compromises become so embedded you forget they are even there. At this stage we apply our preferences