Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2013

Tip for dealing with noisy feeds in your reader

If you use a feed reader like Netvibes or Feedly you are probably familiar with the problem of noisy feeds that clog up your reader with dozens of posts every day most of which are dross (like Buzzfeed). You can leave these out of your feed entirely but then you miss the occasional funny or interesting item that they do post. I have found that a good way of dealing with them is to create a new category (feedly) or tab (Netvibes) called "Noisy Feeds" and stick all your noisy feeds in there. That way your less prolific sources do not get buried and you can still occasionally dip into the noisy category occasionally to keep up with the zeitgeist.

Over-preparation for Lotro Helm's Deep leads to rapid burnout.

The title says it all. I spent two months levelling a character from the mid 40's to the cap of 85 just in time for Lotro's Helm's Deep expansion. Once the expansion launched I lasted 2 days. I loggeed off after two days and haven't logged in since. I cannot even blame the expansion. From the little I have seen it looks like an excellent expansion. In my opinion actually Lotro is getting better and better with each expansion. The devs are clearly lavishing care and attention in to the world they are re-imagining and the continue to tweak and improve the game play. Yes I do have some minor niggles which I will talk about in a minute but ther are not the reason I stopped playing. I stopped playing because the eight weeks I spend preparing for Helm's Deep burned me out on the game. I simply wanted to take a long break. So much for my grand plan to finally catch up with the herd and enjoy the thrill of discovering new content along with everyone else. As for the ni

Response to Tobold's Question about whether older games are still relevant.

Being lazy here. Tobold asked "How Long Are Games Relevant?" and I was inspired to write a fairly long comment. This poor blog is a bit short on attention recently so I though it would fit here as well. It isn't just games. In every area of culture we humans have an insatiable demand for novelty. Extremely worthy contributions from a few years back are ignored in favour of the "next big thing". The issue is muddied somewhat in the field of games because the rapid pace of technology means that older titles are often uglier than modern games. However I do not believe that this is the main reason people do not play older games. Minecraft became a major mass market success in recent times even though it looks like a 1990's game. How many folks are still queuing up at movie theatres to watch Finding Nemo? How long has it been since The Da Vinci Code was in the best seller lists? Technology has not moved on substantially in the fields of movies or bo

Lotro again: Ready for Helm's Deep

A couple of years back  I logged off my level 65 Champion and I really thought I was done with Lotro. This September however I was tempted back to the game while pursuing an excellent Coursera course exploring Lord of the rings in game, book and movies. ( , highly recommended if they run it again). I figured I would only play for the few weeks of the course so I picked up a mid level Loremaster alt  and pottered around with him in original Shadow's of Angmar content. By the end of the course I had hit the original level cap of 50 but I was still enjoying the game so I decided to hang around for a bit longer. Lotro has changed over the years and for the most part the game is a lot easier to solo. Oddly enough this suited me and I was happy to play the game on my own for a few weeks. The Loremaster is a very fun character combining crowd control, Pets, debuffs, modest heals and moderate damage. It probably isn't the fastest charact

Goopple Announces Ambitious New Open Search Initiative

Goopple Press Release: 1 April 2018 Our recent takeover of FaceWitter combined with the strategic assets acquired from the liquidation of MSoft means that Goopple Group can now truthfully say that "We control the internet. All of it." Goopple group is determined to leverage its strength in this space to deliver world beating, exciting new products and services to our many users worldwide. Today we are delighted to reveal our brand new Open Search Heuristic Information Template (OSHIT). OSHIT is a direct embodiment of Goopple's firm commitment to openness and transparency on the Internet. From now on all of our users will have instant searchable access to Goopple's vast archive of stored data on everybody. Electronic interactions, posts, messages, web searches, webcam captures, browsing history, emails, voice calls, texts, financial transactions public and private records all go through our servers and for some time now we have been recording all of them. This massive

Windows 8 impressions from an old old timer.

A side consequence of getting a new computer for my wife is it has given me my first opportunity to look at Windows 8. Of course I have read and heard lots of things about Microsoft's latest operating system.  I have been using MS operating systems since the original IBM PC Dos back in the early 80's so I have seen bad ones and I have seen good ones but Windows 8's attempt to marry desktop and mobile interfaces has spawned more controversy than most so it was good to finally get a chance to make my own mind up. Having played with it for a week or so I think I can sum up my opinion with a car analogy: Brilliant Engine, Schizophrenic Dashboard.  Brilliant Engine: This is definitely the slickest, fastest, most stable version of Windows I have ever used and after the brilliance of Windows 7 that is saying a lot. Everything pretty much just works and works well. It also seems to be highly compatible with legacy programmes and I haven't discovered one which doesn't work

Lotro: Revisiting Urugarth, alone this time.

When Lotro was first released (Shadows of Angmar) the six man Urugarth and it's sister instance Carn Dum were the "End Game". Level 50 Players used to  run them repeatedly to collect the class items which dropped only from the instance bosses. Nowadays those items can be more easily obtained from soloing skirmishes so Carn Dum and Uru' are neglected even by players levelling alts. Howeevr when I decided to try and get those class items for my level 47 Loremaster I had a mad notion to try it the old fashioned way (albeit using my level 65 Champion Throg to solo the instances) and it turned out to be a lot of fun. The elite and elite master mobs hit surprisingly hard despite Throg's 15 level advantage. It took multiple attempts and several hours to clear the place out. The Champions AOE abilities proved very useful at burning down mobs as did the ability to switch to tanking mode when more survivability was required. I will admit to cheating on the "nemesi

Perhaps Reddit can save me from awfulness of Buzzfeed.

About a year ago I added Buzzfeed to my reading list in order to try and keep my middle aged self even marginally connected to the Zeitgeist of popular culture.  To be fair it has more or less served that purpose and I no longer feel completely clueless when everyone on the internet suddenly starts talking about "Gangam Style" or  "Sharknado" or "Twerking". Unfortunately in order to glean these precious nugget of knowledge you must endure an awful lot of truly dreadful content on Buzzfeed itself. Stuff like this for example: . The sad part is I am not sure that article was even supposed to be tongue in cheek. Anyway the good news is that I have been lurking on Reddit for a while and I have come to the conclusion that Reddit, despite its somewhat murky past appears to have become respectable and extremely topical. Prime Ministers even use it and the murkier bits are

Dead Space 3 - Very Enjoyable

Having previsouly enjoyed Dead Space   and Dead Space 2 I am delighted to report that Dead Space 3, which I have just finished, is also a great game. Like its predecessors delivers a good old sci-fi shooter with a long (27 hours for me) campaign and plenty of nasty monsters to shoot.  It adds to the formula with a really great weapon crafting system that is massively customisable. In fact the weapons in this game are downright great. Each frame holds not one but two separate weapons. Want to build a flame thrower with assault rifle attached? You can? Want to build a shotgun with a rocket launcher? You can do that too. I finished the game with a kick ass assault rifle / shotgun combination in one hand and a surprisingly powerful electric bolas thingy in the other but I am sure many other combinations work too.  There are a few niggles that it is probably worth mentioning. The checkpoint save system is pretty dire. In a previous post I have already talked about some of the problem

Maybe she just isn't into fantasy.

Watching "The Hobbit" with the family and the kids were explaining to my beloved spouse all about dwarves and hobbits and humans. At that moment Gandalf appears. Towering over everyone else on screen he has to stoop low to get through Bilbo Baggins' doorway. "So is Gandalf a dwarf?" She asks.

Exploiting Checkpoints in Deadspace 3

Dead Space 3 has a rather strange save system where inventory is saved when you quit the game even though progress through the story is lost. The game has both "hard" and "soft" checkpoints. The soft checkpoints are far more frequent but are not permanently saved. If you die while playing you respawn at the last soft checkpoint but if you quit the game  you will return to the previous hard checkpoint. Since hard checkpoints are relatively infrequent you can lose quite a bit of progress unless you are disciplined enough to always wait till the next hard checkpoint (indicated by a symbol in the corner of the screen) before quitting. This sucks of course and is the type of thing which convinces me that save anywhere is much better than rigid checkpoints. The developers of Dead Space 3 decided to soften the blow of losing progress by allowing you to keep your entire inventory and health when you quit even though you lose your progress in the story. Collecting loot

A Photographers PC for around €1000

The time has come for my wife's old photo-shop warhorse is to be replaced. Her photography has become far more serious and this places particular demands on any new machine. When put alongside a fairly limited budget this means compromise as desirable features which are not essential to her core purpose will have to be dropped. Aside: To be honest €1000 is very very low for a real photographer's PC but my wife is determined to reserve the bulk of her photography budget for cameras and lenses so the computer must make do with what is left over. Requirements (some desirable some essential) Processor / Memory: Intel i5 or better + 8Gb Ram desirable. Using photoshop for photo editing (as opposed to video)  isn't as processor intensive as you might think. Yes it does complex number crunching when altering images but reading and writing to disk actually takes more of the over all work flow so a faster processor won't have that much impact. The quad core i5 seems to b

A chat with a telephone scammer

Over the last few years fake telephone support calls have been a persistent nuisance. The scam is well known, you can read about it here   or here . You get a call out of the blue from someone claiming to be from Microsoft who says that there is a problem with your computer and they will try to charge you a fee to fix the problem. Often they will actually cause a problem by tricking you into visiting an infected website en route to charging you for an unwanted repair.  I work at home a lot and I get one of these calls about once a month, always during office hours. Some time ago I decided to do more than just hang up so I made something of a sport out of playing along and baiting the scammers. At first I tried to milk it for humour: deliberately misinterpreting their commands and generally wasting their time. To be honest most of the jokes were stuff I had read others doing (like pretending to be really really dumb or entering their Windows commands into a Linux machine). I did add

In Praise of Jam

Recently I have rediscovered  the simple pleasure of Jam . Growing up in the pre-industrialised Ireland of the 1960's and 70's jam, often home made,  was a staple of our diet and one of our few regular treats. The vast array of manufactured delicacies now available have sadly reduced the importance of jam and the shelf space allocated to it in shops. I myself neglected it for decades but the increasing health consciousness of middle age encouraged my re-acquaintance with this delicious food as a better alternative to cholesterol laden pastries and biscuits. Fibre rich wholemeal bread covered in jam may not exactly be good for you but it is better than many alternative treats and does not come with a payload of artery clogging saturated fat.   When it comes to flavour I tend towards traditional fruits:  I believe that blackcurrant jam has the best flavour of all jams although the pulped berries do give it a somewhat uneven texture. Raspberry jam is also a very strong contende

Shogun 2: Those Infernal Priests

There is a danger I may lose my first ever campaign of Shogun 2 and it will all be due to the actions of a few (now martyred) Christian priests. It all started so well. I picked the Shimazu clan with a sweet bonus to katana wielding samurai. Heavy infantry win battles in Total War games and these buffed samurai helped me to dominate in early battles. Soon I had annihilated my first enemy and set about building some infrastructure and a decent army. My rivals were not idle themselves and by the time I was ready to march the Otomo had captured the rest of the westernmost island that we shared. They had five provinces to my three and I was dismayed to find that their armies outnumbered mine by more than two to one. Happily the AI (on normal difficulty) is no great tactician and careful use of terrain and my aforementioned samurai troops allowed me to prevail against larger Otomo forces. Unfortunately while I was dominating this ground war the Otomo were undertaking a clandestine wa

Fond thoughts about an old computer.

My wife's computer is acting up and as the self appointed "computer guy" in our house it is up to me to try and fix it. To be honest the ageing machine needs to be replaced but for assorted reasons we would like to nurse it along for another few months. I have a fondness for the old beast myself having built with my own hands. Almost every component has been replaced at some point so like Johnny Cash's Cadillac is defies any attempt to put a definitive date upon it's eclectic collection of parts. The oldest extant component is an ancient tower case dating from circa 2002. The Windows XP operating system was first installed in 2005 and the PSU and monitor hail from that same year. The processor was upgraded (to an Athlon 64 X2) in 2006 but the motherboard was replaced sometime in the intervening years. It still has 1 Gb of the original 2005 memory but the remaining 2Gb were added later, I suspect in 2010. The 7600GT graphics card comes from circa 200

Thinking of cancelling my Netflix account and starting a new one.

Grghhhhhh.  Netflix has finally become useless to me. My kids use Netflix a lot and they watch more TV than I do. The net result of this is that the viewing preferences reflect their tastes more than mine. Today I have the TV to myself and I am trying to find a movie to watch and I cannot find a single thing in the menus. Even the old reliable menus (Sci Fi, New releases, Recently added) have finally disappeared and all I get are suggestions like "Because You Watched Boy Girl Thing". This is despite my going into the preference menus and trying to tell it what movies I like. Obviously past history carries more weight than stated preference. There is no way to wipe the slate clean. There is no way to get a simple flat list of menus of the major genres. At this moment in time I hate Netflix. It is a particular cold form of hate that is reserved for automated systems that think they are cleverer than I am. Just give me the God damned tools to make my own mind up and

Flagging enthusiasm about Hotline Miami

At first Hotline Miami gripped me. This is not surprising as it is one of those rare indie classics that receive universal praise and mega sales. As many others have pointed out the gameplay is superb. You must kill all your enemies without getting hit once. You will get hit over and over and have to reload many times but the rapid pace of the game means you don't care. It is a perfect addictive blend of quick fire tactics and precise control. The atmosphere is even better than superb. Ugly blurry graphics and a sublimely dissonant soundtrack really nail the retro 1980's drug fuelled gangster vibe for me. Surprisingly the thing which increasingly disappointed me was the story. At first I didn't expect the game to have a story at all or perhaps to have a very wierd one. As I play through the game however it is slowly becoming clear that there is a fairly mundane story hidden behind the frantic killing. Knowing that I wouldn't have the patience to hunt down all the

Embarassing list of games I have played in the last month

Ghost Recon Advance Warfighter (Played a couple of chapters, will prolly go back) Serious Sam 3 (Played main campaign up to final boss.) Trine 2 (Ongoing campaign with my daughter) Torchlight 2 (Played a few hours and got bored) Shadow of the Colosssus (finished main campaign) God of War (Played a few hours. No inclination to continue this inferior clone of Darksiders (joke)) Katamari Damacy(played about half an hour to see what all fuss was about) The Last Remnant (Played a few hours, interested in trying some more) The Walking Dead (Finished first chapter) Dark Messiah of Might and Magic (Played through to end of main campaign) Dishonored (Played through to the end of main campaign) Stacking (Played with my daughter for a few days) Shatter (Whiled away some time a few evenings) Dogfighter (can't remember what I did with this) EVE Online (only logged in to take advantage of skill changes in patch) Star Wars The Old Republic Online (Played for a couple of hours and

Playstation 2 Emulation: PCSX2

A recent Twitter conversation with Jonn Shute from How to Murder Time got me wondering about the current state of PS2 emulation. A quick google search revealed that the leading contender is a programme called PCSX2   which is a highly developed emulator that already works with over 1800 PS2 games. Impressively there are Windows Mac and Linux versions available. Disclaimer: The combination of hacking and gaming makes emulation a facinating subject but there are legal issues. You might feel that it is morally justifiable to emulate older systems and games that are no longer commercially available (abandon-ware) but I am not sure that a court of law would agree with you. In any case the PS2 only went out of production in January this year so even the abandon-ware argument is a bit unconvincing. The two main points of legal contention with regard to PCSX2 are the games themselves and Sony's PS2 bios. You can still buy PS2 games in second hand shops and on Ebay but the only legal wa

Dark Messiah of Might and Magic - replay

After finishing Dishonored I got a notion to revisit an old classic: Dark Messiah of Might and Magic from way back in 2006. "Classic" is perhaps an exaggeration because the game got mixed reviews when it came out. Some reviewers praised it's innovative physics based combat others criticised its unimaginative story and repetitive game play. Replaying the game seven years later I can certainly see flaws. The voice acting is really dreadful at several important times and the writing in general is poor. The two main female characters in particular are awful. They are supposed to be sexy I think but are really just embarrassing.  Despite this I did enjoy replaying the game to the end and the combat is innovative and fun. It reminded me a lot of Dark Souls (high praise) where blocking and timing are everything. Sadly there is an overall lack of balance in the game which overshadows a lot of the combat. It is generally easier to kill an opponent by kicking them into an en


I finished Dishonored last week and was very impressed. Highly recommended if you haven't played it yet. High points: Strong Storyline, Engaging gameplay, enormous freedom of action. Great set of skills and upgrades. Many ways to play and all of them enjoyable. Stealth in particular is very satisfying. Not so High points: Despite the freedom of how you go about them the missions themselves are linear.Rewards for sticking to one style of play may deter you from experiencing other side of the game. The ending(s) are a bit of a let down. To elaborate on the issue about people sticking to one play style: Dishonored follows the model of other Bioware games where the ending you get depends on the way you play. If you want a "good" ending you need to play non violently which more or less obliges you to play stealth. While stealth is well supported and enjoyable in the game it does mean that you miss out on a lot of the games weapons and power ups.

A scary thought about the new Xbox and PC Gaming

The new Xbox One is going to run a version of Windows. Good news for PC gaming? Surely that means that new AAA games will be easily ported to PC from the Console version. Well yes but it could also mean that you will only be able to buy those games from Microsoft's own App store. If that happens then say bye bye to the fierce competition between digital retailers that has led to so many PC gaming bargains in recent years. I have no doubt that Microsoft have long looked with envy on Apple's App store model where the only place to buy software is from themselves and they get the retail mark-up on everything that goes on the device. Microsoft could do that on their new console but I don't think they will for a few years yet because a lot of consoles still aren't  connected to the internet and bricks and mortar retailers still sell a heck of a lot of console games. In the PC world bricks and mortar retail is already dead. The vast majority of PC game buyers are buyi

The Walking Dead: Point and Click meets interactive Novel

Over the last week or so I have taken finishing my gaming evenings with a short spell of Tell Tale Games  point and click adventure "The Walking Dead" . (My current main game is Dishonored but more about that in a later post). I am a fan of the recent trend for very strong story lines in games like Spec Ops: the Line , Max Payne 3 and Bioshock Infinite . The Walking Dead is a logical next step for me because it is acknowledged to be an episodic story first and a video game second. I have only played episode one so far and it has for the most part lived up to my expectations of being a very good example of comic book story made interactive. The biggest surprise for me is that some of the gameplay is more challenging than I expected. Its been a while since I played a point and clicker and I had forgotten about non intuitive puzzles that require clicking every item in your inventory with every object on the screen in the hopes of getting a result.  Walking Dead has a very

Spec Ops: the Line

Spec Ops the line: pretty decent third person shooter with a very dark and disturbing storyline. All in all I found the experience to be well worth it.It may not reach the literary height of Heart of Darkness or the Cinematic brilliance of Apocalypse Now but it is nevertheless a fitting homage to those two forebears. To my mind this game handles brutality far better than Modern Warfare series. In Modern Warfare it always feels like brutality is just put in for shock value. In this game it is a serious attempt at storytelling. Note: I played this game back in January 2013 and wrote this snippet then but somehow never posted it. Posting now for completeness. 

Whatever happened to "Essential PC Games" lists?

For about a decade I maintained a monthly subscription to a PC gaming magazine called PC Zone . Perhaps my favourite bit of the magazine was their list of essential PC games. This buyers guide changed format a few times over the years but the basic principle remained the same. It was a ranked list of essential PC games classified by genre. The genres included Shooters, RPGs, God Games, Space games (for a while) and a few others I can't remember. There were about ten games in each category. For several years this list was a cornerstone of my PC gaming. I strove to acquire and play every game on the list in the categories I was interested in.  I even tried to get the top titles in those categories I wasn't so enthusiastic about. I miss that list because gaming seemed much simpler then. I could play perhaps ten games and consider myself an expert on shooters or RPGs or whatever. Once a game got on the list it usually held its place for some time so this was an achievable goal

Max Payne 3 finished

I enjoyed Max Payne 3 although I am not sure it is fair to call it a game. Interactive movie might be a more appropriate title given how little control you actually get over your characters actions and how much time you spend watching the game story unfold in cut scenes. You literally spend most of the game watching your character go through a series of long cut scenes interspersed with brief hectic firefights. This actually sounds worse than it is because the story is actually very good, the characterisation is very good and the cinematography (if that is the correct term) is also very good. You could watch this as a movie in its own right. I have previously criticised shooters like the latest Medal of honour and Call of Duty games for restricting the players freedom too much. However Max Payne 3 does this far better than those games smiply because it is a better interactive movie. In terms of story telling it is up there with Bioshock infinite. A huge factor is that we finally see

Open Transport Tycoon Deluxe (OpenTTD)

I stumbled across OpenTTD a couple of days back and the game is wonderful. This is an open source success story with a large active community of developers and players that have re-imagined and expanded upon Chris Sawyers 1995 classic game . Coming straight from the flash and polish of Max Payne 3 (of which more in a later post)  it was quite  refreshing to see a game that solidly votes for substance over style. This world building game has huge complexity with many many layers that I haven't begun to understand yet. For example: I am trying to grow a town in the desert. Turns out I need water and food, which makes sense. Water comes from a nearby water plant so I build a road and send some trucks for it. Food comes from a food processing plant but that in turn needs maize and fruit. These are too far apart to reliably transport by road so I need to build a network of railways to ferry all this stuff about. To speed things up I want to run multiple trains on the tracks but tha

Darksiders II: Tackling the Deposed King (Big Hint)

The optional Deposed King is one of the hardest bosses in Darksiders II. I stumbled across him first at level 13 and was soundly defeated and I didn't eventually overcome him until level 17.  He is not a very complex boss. Most of his attacks are slow and easily avoided but he hits very hard and one particular hammer attack leaves you frozen for about 10 seconds while your health drains away at an alarming rate. Even one of these can be enough to kill you so there is absolutely no room for error as you whittle away his large pool of health. This is the source of the difficulty and frustration with this encounter. You spend a long time getting his health down only to die because of one mistake. Anyway the simple hint I have is to stack resistance gear. Gear in Darksiders II has two mitigation factors:  defence, which protects against most normal attacks and resistance, which protects against elemental attacks. Defense is more generally useful so you have probably maximised that at

EVE Frustration

I re-subbed to EVE yesterday and spent two hoour in game without getting even a single frigate out of the dock. The game has been in the news a bit lately with their annual fan fest in Reykjavik. I am also aware of forthcoming changes in skill trees that make it very beneficial to skill up destroyers and battle-cruisers before the next patch so I decided to buy a months sub to finish off the training needed. This is perhaps not the best motivation for returning to a complex mmorpg and indeed I am at a bit of a loss to decide what to do with my month of play time. Implementing my skill training plan took about an hour - downloading the latest version of EVEmon , setting up APIs and ensuring that I can get the skills required before the patch deadline. After that I decided to play around with some frigates partly because there has been some significant changes to frigates since I last played and partly because frigates are cheap to lose if I screw up. The once humble Slasher seems to b

Memories of my father and his penknife

My late father always carried a penknife (pocket knife). He was a practical man, a carpenter by trade who later started his own building company and he firmly believed that every man and boy should carry a handy knife. I was seven or eight when he brought me into one of those wonderful old tobacconist shops to buy my first penknife. Even though that shopkeeper convinced him I was too young for such a sharp implement I acquired one soon enough and obeyed his tenet of carrying a penknife through most of my school days. I remember it being somewhat unusual even back then for a middle class urban kid to carry a pocket knife. This was back in the days before high tech pocket multi-tools had come to Ireland so I mostly recall my father carrying a simple single bladed knife. He used it for everything. The same blade that cut carpet tiles served to peel the apples that my father loved to eat.  It never seemed to do him any harm. My father is dead almost twenty years now and I have a small

Too late to explore the Wii?

We have had a Wii under our living room telly for many years and it has always been my intention some day to explore what it could do beyond family friendly titles like Mario Kart and Just Dance. Monster Hunter Tri in particular was a title that I intended to try out someday having heard good things about it from many sources and given that it isn't available on any other platform. Somehow that "someday" kept getting pushed back and today I was a bit miffed to read that the servers are shutting down this very day . I don't think this affects the single player game but it is disappointing to realise that I will probably never have the full experience. Apparently Capcom are shutting down the Wii servers in the hopes of encouraging folk to migrate to their newer game on the WiiU platform. This strikes me as a pretty dodgy business strategy. There are almost a hundred million Wiis out there. There are no where near as many WiiUs and I strongly suspect there never will

Google Brother is Watching You

A couple of days ago I wrote a blog post about Bioshock Infinite. A few days before that I went looking for graphics cards on the internet and at some stage I visited the website of a company called Overclockers. Today I log into Youtube and the first ad I am presented with is this: Has someone invented the sport of trying to deliberately confuse advert profiling yet? Sci Fi Fans for instance who set their log on page to the romantic novels section of Amazon for instance. By the way I should point out that is actually a very good shop so I don't begrudge them their bit of targeted advertising. It is just another jarring reminder that big data probably already knows more about me than I know myself.

And the prize for most overpowered rocket launcher ever goes to ...

I am all for challenge in gaming but sometimes it is fun to get a weapon so overpowered that you can wallow in the visceral joy of annihilating hordes of enemies, particularly if you were previously struggling against those same foes. Darksider II has just such a weapon. It comes at a part of the game where you are facing swarms of weak but deadly mobs backed up by tougher mini bosses. The weapons at your disposal up to this point are barely adequate to deal with the onslaught and then you pick up the Gorehammer . It's a rocket launcher I guess firing exploding projectiles but two factors combine to make it the most overpowered rocket launcher I have every come across in a game. The first is that it constantly replenishes ammo at a rate of about one rocket per second. You never have to worry about running out of ammo and a generous magazine means you can let loose a rapid volley of rockets whenever required. The second factor is the doozy: there is no friendly fire. You cannot

Bioshock Infinite. Gaming has come of Age.

Wow. Just wow. I have finished my first play through of Bioshock Infinite. I sat through the entire credits with a glazed look of euphoria on my face. The game has restored my faith in AAA gaming. What a triumph. Of course there are details that you could nitpick about but what a genuine masterpiece. Perhaps for the first time ever we have a video game that can stand beside any other work of human creative endeavour, any movie, any book, any song or symphony. This game truly is a triumph of human creative expression. This game truly is a work of art. I had thought of titling this post "Video Games are done. They don't need to make any more". Thankfully though human creativity doesn't work like that. This isn't the end. With any luck this is just the beginning.   Word of advice: don't be afraid to lower the difficulty to a level you feel comfortable with. This is a game that should be experienced, not struggled with.

Steam is no longer the value king when it comes to PC gaming

It has been over 6 Months since I bought anything on Steam. These days my bargain conscious euro's go to Steam's competitors including Amazon, Green Man, Gog, Gamer's Gate and others even when I am buying games that install on Steam. A few years ago Steam sales of AAA games were the pinnacle of gaming value and at that time I was spending hundreds of euros in the Steam store. Nowadays however whenever I see something for sale on Steam I automatically look around to see if I can get it cheaper somewhere else. My lack of Steam purchases in over half a year shows that I almost always can. It is particularly telling that I didn't buy a single game from the Steam Christmas sale because I had already acquired everything I wanted at better prices from other online retailers. I suppose this is a natural consequence of Steam having such a dominant position in PC gaming. Competitors know that they have to beat Steam to get business and they do. This is free market competitio

Checkpoints done wrong, Checkpoints done right

Regardless of whether you prefer checkpoints or saving anywhere there are a number of features that every checkpoint save system absolutely should have.  This isn't a PC versus Console issue any more. Plenty of console games have excellent save systems. It is simply a matter of good practise in game design. Checkpoints done right: *No more than 5 minutes game time between checkpoints. *Checkpoint IMMEDIATELY before every tough encounter / boss fight. *Have a chapter select so player can replay any section without having to go back to start of game. *Allow player to stop game at any time and resume from where they left off. Checkpoints done wrong: *Arbitrary spacing of checkpoints sometimes more than 20 minutes. *Long  section of tedious trash mobs between checkpoint and boss fight. *Only one save and no chapter select. You want to see it again - start a new game. You just hit a bug? Tough luck, you have to start a new game. *You want to go to bed? Well keep playing you

Buggy Whips

Imagine it is sometime around 1910 and you are the worlds largest producer of buggy whips. Your last product the Model 7 was a big success but the young folk don't seem at all interested in buggy whips any more because they are excited about these new fangled auto-mobiles. Of course no self respecting gentleman would be seen in a noisy smelly auto-mobile so buggy whips are going to be around for some time yet but you cannot deny that the real growth business these days is motoring goggles. Do you: a. Develop a brand new buggy whip (the Model 8) that has a buggy whip welded on to a set of motoring goggles. It is a pretty good buggy whip but unfortunately to bind the two parts together you had to dispense with the handle of the whip. Users wear it like a pair of goggles and they crack the whip by nodding their heads vigorously. or b. Accept that the buggy whip market is going to shrink but make sure that you keep the lion's share of it by making Model 8 the best buggy whip

The other ball Microsoft is dropping: Skype

What the hell is happening to Skype? Five years ago Skype had an absolutely dominant position in the field of voice over the internet. I am sure it still has a lot of users today but I suspect a heck of a lot of them are over the age of 40. There are several new kids on the block that seem to have pushed Swype completely off the stage for everyone younger than that. My 12 year old daughter is all excited about Viber at the moment because it allows her to contact her friends without using up any precious credit. True but Swype has been doing that for years. WhatsApp also has a growing following. My very unscientific survey suggests that WhatsApp is capturing the 20+ market while Viber is winning the 20- and nobody but nobody is getting excited about Swype. The bizarre thing is that Swype is still probably a better service than either of these competitors. It has more features and is available on more platforms. Of course competition is a good thing for us consumers right? Well, y

Watching Star Wars in 2013

Last night I introduced my 12 year old daughter to a cornerstone of nerd culture by watching the "original" Star Wars, now known as Episode IV , A New Hope . It is 15 years since I last watched this myself so I was really surprised at how well this 1977 story has held up. I know Lucas has spent millions of dollars over the years fixing some of the hokier special effects but I think there is another reason why the movie still feels fresh and exciting. Star Wars has been so influential on just about every space opera film and video game made since that it feels incredibly familiar. Its blasters, its grey metal corridors its junk strewn depiction of alien planets have all become absolutely canonical to the genre. This struck me forcibly watching the scene where Luke and Leia are trapped on a narrow platform looking for an extending bridge while troopers try to break down the door behind them and another trooper shoots from a higher ledge. I have played versions of that sc