Friday, February 27, 2004

Level 15

It's no use. I lost another Zangband character last night. Paul, the Stone (Cold Crazy) Golem. I was on Dungeon Level 12, and feeling pretty confident with myself. Level 15 Chaos Warrior, with well over 200 hitpoints, an armour class of 60, and a 2d6 +11, +6 [+1] axe in hand, Paul is simply magnificent in melée. I get a warning - "This level is protected by 9 gnome mages". Never having fought one before, I relish the challenge. YOU FOOL.

I walk through a door. I'm surrounded by Blink Dogs. Easy to kill, but they can teleport you around, which can land you in all sorts of trouble. And they duly did. Here's my first Gnome mage. Being a golem, I've got rather good saving throws, so his magical attacks aren't doing that much damage, whilst I divide my time between him and the Blink Dogs. I get in one solid hit on him. The gnome blinks away and summons monsters to aid him. A bloody Umber Hulk.


I'm in real trouble now - surrounded by enemies, confused, and taking heavy damage. I can't run because I'm so confused I'm thinking that empty space is actually walls, and naturally, I can't concentrate enough to read a scroll of Phase Door to get me out of trouble. I flail around hoping that I can get rid of the confusing gaze of the Umber Hulk by killing it quickly. I'm down to 20 hit points by the time I get rid of it. A turn later, my senses are back, and what comes out of the darkness? A Moonbeast, who promptly swooshes in and lays on the fatal blow before I can Phase Door out of there.

Not so much Stone Cold Crazy, more Stone Cold Dead.

I hate Umber Hulks.

I'll get a character to Level 20 if it kills me.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

RIP, Thrawn - Chaos Warrior

I lost my Level 14 Chaos Warrior on Zangband last night. I was doing well, making inroads into the 7 baby multihued dragons on Dungeon Level 8, despite being turned into a weakling Mindflayer from my original super-strong Half-Giant. Then, suddenly, I get set upon my Hill Orcs. I handle a couple easily enough, but then I see the monster description - "Normally found in groups". Oh dear. My Mindflayer's rather weak in melée and still didn't have enough spell points to take on groups of enemies, so I think it's time to bug out and sell all the nice items I've accumlated from the dungeon trawling.

I read my scroll of Recall, a few turns and I'm back to the surface. Then a dozen more Hill Orcs storm into the room. Do I fight? Do I run? In the end, I don't have a choice - I'm weighed down by my armour and loot haul - I'm quickly surrounded, and I'd doing my best to hold out until the Recall scroll takes effect. A few turns go by, and I'm perilously low on hit points. Desperately, I start drinking potions, hoping against hope that the Recall scroll will save me. One. Turn. Too. Late.

I'm dead. Slain by Hill Orcs.

If Khorne hadn't turned me into a Mindflayer at Level 13, I would have been able to fight my way out. The BASTARD.

Broken but unbowed - I start again.

Geek the Yeek! Chaos Warrior!

I figure, if I start as a Yeek, when I get mutated by my God, the only way is up, right? WRONG. Geek struggles valiantly to Level 4, and what is his reward?

His God cries out "Die, mortal!"

Poor old Geek is surrounded by Kobolds and metallic centipedes. Geek decides this battle is too much for him and flees for his life. Within two turns, he's actually at ZERO hitpoints. Still alive, still running, but the next hit will kill him. Geek's too far from the edge of the map. No potions. No scrolls. No hope. Dead. Slain by a blue metallic centipede. Oh, the indignity!

This game is cruel, but oh, *so* good.

Monday, February 23, 2004


I had a stonking weekend this week (Last week?). I stayed up late on Friday night getting drunk and making ladies snog each other on The Sims - after the legendary story of Kieron Gillen turning up late to the Garricks Head having got two men to do it, I had to finally try it out for myself - and it works. I'm going to have to set up a couple of bisexual love triangles to *really* make things interesting. Fleur and I also had a baby (in the game), named Oskar, for the creator of State (Fleur, touchingly, thought he was named for the film awards ceremony...) which we somehow managed to nurture for the three Sim days necessary for him to become a full blown child, without getting taken away by the Social Services.

On Saturday Fleur and I (not in the game) went to a wonderful Sculpture Park outside of Farnham, which my friend Louis had told me about. It was a shame I forgot to take the camera because it was a stunning place - especially since the website doesn't have a photo on it of my favourite piece - an absolutely massive eagle sculpted from cork. We'll have to go back in the summer, just to see how it changes and see which pieces have been sold, and what they'll have brought in to replace them. In the evening, we did something unusual, Fleur and I cooked together, making spring rolls and oriental rice. Fleur has fallen in love with Chinese Five-Spice, because it has cinnamon in it,...

Sunday was equally lovely - a long lie-in followed by lunch in Guildford at the Wagamama's - my first experience of Japanese food. I can't remember the name of what I had - but it was really lovely - a breaded chicken escalope with sushi rice, an elegant Japanese curry sauce and a Japanese green salad, washed down with a Kirin beer I'd not had before. Exquisite.

Since we were in Guildford, we did some shopping - and I managed to successfully avoid buying any games or DVDs - and then we went home to have dinner (pork medallions in soy and Five-Spice with some Five-Spice potato mash - a bit of an oriental weekend all round, really!) and watch Sexy Beast, which Paul lent me ages ago.

Sexy Beast is okay - only really worth watching for Ben Kingsley, really. Don Logan (Kingsley's character) is the total anti-thesis of his Oscar-winning role (Gandhi) everyone remembers him for. A truly frightening performance in its intensity.

After that, I played a bit more on The Sims, got myself and Fleur another promotion, and then snogged the next door neighbour, Bella. There might be a bit of polygamy going on, if I can arrange it. (IN THE GAME! IN THE GAME!)

Oh, and there was also a bit of Zangbanding going on over the weekend, too - for which State now has it's very own Hall Of Heroes.

Overall, a most satisfactory weekend.

Friday, February 20, 2004

The Sims

If my friend Florence is reading this, she's going to be feeling guilty, because yesterday I bought The Sims again, after giving my first copy to her well over a year ago now. I'm not entirely sure why I've bought it again - I just had an all encompassing urge to play it again, now that the sequel is due out in the next month or five (GAME say March 19th in the shop, but July on the website, which is odd).

After several months of playing things like Knights Of The Old Republic, Bloodrayne, Hordes Of The Underdark and Jedi Academy, I've suddenly started hankering for a more passive gaming experience.

Perhaps I'm going soft in my old age, but I installed it last night, played it for five solid hours and it was the most enjoyable evening's gaming I've had since I completed KOTOR.

I think the flogging of the Sims franchise has undoubtably damaged the reputation of the original game, which is unfortunate, because after playing it again, with the advantage of the best part of three years of hindsight, I've only now begun to understand just how staggering an achievement The Sims actually is.

The Sims touches something in everyone who plays it - be it the voyeuristic pleasure of poking into the intimate business of other people's lives, the ability to destroy people's relationships on a whim, the desire to make other people happy, or perhaps just to enjoy the feeling of complete power of life and death over The Sims' hapless polygon people. For me, it's the first and last of these things that I enjoy, and I'm seriously looking forward to the sequel, and will definitely be buying it, whenever it does come out.

Some people might say that it's just going to be another udder on the Cash Cow being milked, but I'm genuinely optimistic that The Sims 2 is going to build upon the strengths of the original and throw in a few surprises too. Now - if I could only get my hands on a review copy....

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Ring Of Fire


Tuesday, February 17, 2004


Why can I never resist a bargain? I've just got a new Office Chair for home. Not any ordinary office chair. A *leather* office chair. For just *40* quid. Leather. *LEATHER*. Just as well my old one was falling apart otherwise Fleur would go ballistic,....


This lovely little Freeware RPG available from The Underdogs is taking the cogniscenti on State by storm at the moment. It's an 8MB download, so you'll either need a lot of patience or a fat bandwidth to get it. Either way, it's worth it, if only for the Chaos-Warrior class alone. I don't want to say too much, as I want to review it for State, but this is by far the best piece of Freeware I've ever played. It's rat-bastard hard and completely unforgiving, but in a nice way - and it's got a real sense of humour, too. Go get.

Model Pupil

I wonder if Fleur has pupils like this. I hope she brings home the cake if she does,...

Monday, February 16, 2004


I was rather pleased with where the Best Actress BAFTA went last night.

The Price Of Nostalgia

Is £200, it seems. For people who want have their kids beaten up for riding a bike older than their parents.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Another Ananova Special

Of all the free news sites on the Internet, Ananova is my favourite (barring the BBC). There are so many great stories in the Quirkies sections. Like this one.

Man surfs web. Man finds porn site. Man finds *wife* on porn site. Man says he only found the site when trying to find out why wife was spending so much time on the Internet.

Yeah. Right. Tell it to The Judge.

Radio Bah Bah

Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I've started listening to the radio again, as I've pretty much exhausted my CD collection. Isn't it rubbish? Admittedly it is Virgin Radio, but it's the only thing I can get working properly with Windows Media Player. They should rename it Chilli Pepper Radio, because it's the only bloody thing they play. Red Hot Chilli Peppers, The Darkness (what *are* these guys on? It's like Queen on crack candles - I like them, natch) REM and U2 are practically the only things they play.

Listen to it all day, like you do if you're stuck at desk programming all day, and it's almost as bad as listening to the same CD all the time. And the adverts. To call them shit is being generous. What beggars belief is that companies actually *pay* for advertising executives to think them up. But enough about that. I need new music.

Comments are open for you to bombard me with your super-trendy music tastes and suggestions for CDs to buy.

The Butler Didn't Do It

I'm not holding out much hope for The Butler Inquiry of actually returning anything meaningful on how we got into the mess in Iraq. You've got to give it to Tony Bliar (oops, typo) - after Hutton slims down his reports' scope so far that he can't (or won't) criticise the government, everyone bays for an inquiry on WMD. Tony wheels out the Faithful Butler, who immediates says that the inquiry won't be carried out in public, and will focus on "systems and processes, not individual people". Weapons Grade Whitehall Whitewash.

So much for democratic accountability. How can we live in a country where we can go to war on the premise of eliminating Weapons Of Mass Destruction, when we've been there a year and none have been found, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary DIDN'T KNOW what kind of weapons all the claims used to justify the war ACTUALLY WERE until AFTER THE WAR STARTED! Why are these people still in office? Now the inquiry into WMD will simply lay all the blame at the door of the Intelligence Services, and not even look at the political decisions. You can understand why Blair wants to protect his job - he's in love with power and hell bent on ensuring his "place in history" - but if the man had any integrity or honour at all, he'd have resigned by now. This whole thing disgusts me - and only the Lib Dems (bless them) seem to have any clue about what questions the public actually wants answered.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Of Dragons And Drow

I seem to have gotten over my KOTOR addiction for long enough to have a solid crack at Hordes Of The Underdark. I've played it for the last couple of nights, and gotten to the end of the First Chapter. Now that I've gotten past the silly memory puzzle with a 'colour pool' (WHAT?) and some chains, things are shaping up nicely. My Blackguard, Nico, has hit Level 21 and is now "Epic". Now we're in the Underdark, I'm getting to do some really nasty things, including slaughtering a Matron Mother and massacring an entire Mind Flayer city. Which is nice.

Overall, HOTU is much improved on both the original campaign, and the first expansion pack Shadows Of Undrentide. Expect a proper review on State fairly soon. Otherwise, if you've got NWN and SOU, but not this yet, you should definitely consider it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

The Force Is Strong In This One

And about bloody time too.


Appears to be broken. It's not updating my live blog page, even though it appears that everything has been posted correctly, as I can still read everything on the editing page. WHY WON'T THE INTERNET JUST WORK???


Appears to be broken. The root page seems fine, but I can't sign in, nor check the DVD or videogames listings (the only two I'm interested in, natch). And I've got an auction I'm winning at the moment that I can't keep my eyes on. Bugger.

Monday, February 09, 2004


Conclusive proof that you should never give men ultimatums.
Wife tells pop-star 'It's the monkey or me.'.

Man chooses monkey, natch.

Friday, February 06, 2004


I'm really hacked off at the moment. The RS/6000 server I've been painstakingly rebuilding from scratch for the last month - well, I've been told to regress it to the point where I started from a month ago. Fantastic, isn't it? A month's work, thrown right out of the window. Why? Because I haven't been trained to do my job, and I don't have sufficient knowledge to resolve the problems we've had on the box. So to say my morale is rock bottom at the moment isn't getting too far from the truth. Particularly considering that I'm on 24/7 support over the weekend and the phone has been ringing off the hook all bloody week.

Otherwise, I'm keeping myself busy doing some research for an article I'm writing for State. I'm putting together a list of the most important and influential videogames, and providing reasons *why* they're so essential. It's not a typical Channel 4 saturday night's "Top 100", as importance and influence isn't always measured in excellence - utter mediocrity can be influential too. Besides, I don't intend on featuring nearly that many games - 25 or 30 at the most, as it's difficult to judge really how many games have truly had the massive impact required to justify their inclusion. The thread I posted on State to garner suggestions has had a positive reaction so far - barring the ubiquitious sneer from Schiz.

I hope to put the finishing touches on it over the weekend. I'm sure no matter which games I include, complaints will be raised about the inclusion (or more likely the exclusion) of someone's pet game. If there's one thing I've learnt from writing articles for State over the last couple of years, it's that I'm *bound* to annoy someone,....

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

New Look

You may have noticed the change of Blog template. This is because Blogger screwed up my old one when it didn't save properly after replacing the commenting system. I couldn't find my old template, so you're stuck with this one, which is slightly less pretty, but it'll do.

Anyway, I'm not here to talk about that. I could bore you with how work is shit, because I've got SEVEN RS/6000 servers to look after, despite not having any handover from the previous SysAdmin, nor having had any previous SysAdmin experience, or having had any training on AIX at all. But you don't want to hear about that.

You want to hear me talking about what I've been playing recently. You might not know it yet, but you do. Yes. Which is good, because I've been playing quite a few things recently that aren't KOTOR, as I'm sure you're all sick to death of me telling you about *that*.

First up - Jedi Academy. Phil got me this as his contribution to this half-year's server rent for State. He'll be pleased to know that I've completed it in a little over a week. Which is more than I ever did with Jedi Outcast. Yes, it has silly jumping puzzles, but thankfully ones that are actually logical and plainly mapped out, rather than the dire insta-death maps in Outcast. I only got lost and couldn't find a critical path twice in the entire game, and that was only because I wasn't looking *quite* hard enough, not because they weren't adequately signposted - again, unlike in Outcast.

The general standard of the level design is much better in Academy, though there are a couple of levels that simply don't work - notably the swoop bike level, which is fun for - oh - *seconds*. The mutant rancor level is similarly annoying, and I got through it more by accident than design. Even so, being able to customise your character and lightsaber is satisfying, and Raven have improved even more upon the lightsaber mel?e combat model, which was pretty flawless to begin with. Happiness is a warm double-bladed lightsaber. Dual-wielding lightsabers is pretty good, too.

Raven have also had the sense to throw in lots more Reborn/Dark Jedi duals, which livens things up considerably, though it does give the slight feeling of repetitiveness. Not that you're really going to care all that much - the lightsaber combat is so good. I've not tried multiplayer yet, so I can't comment on that, but it's a fun little game. Not as extraordinary as KOTOR, but fun all the same.

The other game I've been playing lots recently is Bloodrayne. I've posted my thoughts of this on State, so I'll let you read about it there.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Honorable Mention

Huge thanks to Chris for providing me with the link to a new commenting system. Here, have a gratuitous PLUG for your blog.

Monday, February 02, 2004


I need a new Blog commenting system. Suggestions (or the code to modify my Blog template) to the usual address, please!