Thursday, April 29, 2004

Mmm... subversive!



A portrait of George W. Bush in his "The war is over" g-suit, made up from smaller photos of American Servicemen killed in the Iraq War. Clever.

Fornicate for the environment!


Offered without comment.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Management



It would appear that "MI" doesn't just stand for "Market Intellegence", but also "Management Information". Today's my first day on the MI Team, having got the role at interview yesterday. If anything, it's more interesting than market intelligence work would be, because I'm on the dev team that puts together the applications that generate all the business management reports, so I'm going to really get into the nuts and bolts of how the business is run.


The team here are all nice - two of my immediate colleagues are gamesheads, which is fantastic. Instant common ground. Charles, is one of the writers at NTSC, which is a real coincidence. If State is the unofficial pet site of PC Gamer, NTSC is the unofficial pet site of GAMES(TM). So it's a bit weird to have two people so heavily involved with such good games websites working together on the same project...


The commute isn't nearly as hideous I thought it would be - only 45 minutes from dropping off Fleur at work, so it's manageable. Hursley is a wonderful site, too. It's going to be lovely in the summer, as the complex of buildings is in the middle of a huge private park. I think this is going to be a good project to be on.

Shor-ly not.



Another Ananova Special. Schreck The Sheep, after six years on the run, finally has his coat shorn. ON LIVE TELEVISION. Perhaps this counts as late night pornography in New Zealand...

Monday, April 26, 2004

New Beginnings



I'm back at work, looking for a new project. I've got an interview in Hursley tomorrow for a role within the Market Intelligence team, which sounds pretty amazing. The commute will be an absolute pain (50 miles each way down the M3 at rush hour) but it's worth it for the work. Market Intelligence is rather high profile (and important!) work, and it sounds like a nice change of pace from what I've been doing for the last year or so. The hours are bound to be fairly long, before we even factor in the commute, but I need to get out of straight product development for a while, and at least this role shouldn't entail doing support, which means I get my weekends back. Keep those fingers crossed, now.

Friday, April 23, 2004

DIY



It's the last weekday of my fortnight's holiday, and I've been doing a little bathroom DIY. Since we were lumbered with a hideous dusky pink bathroom suite, we've tried to tone it down a little, by repainting some of the tiles around the bath grey. Unfortunately, painted tiles need regrouting a lot, and our water is so lime dense it just destroys the colour of the silicone sealant around the bath, so I've had to redo both. I couldn't be arsed with a silicone gun, so I got a natty little silicone sealant tape instead - cheaper and a heck of a lot less messy. I've got to do a little touching up work with the window frames and the ceiling coving too, though I might leave some of that until the weekend.


I also noticed last night that we're starting to get water damage above the bath, no doubt from the bathroom of the flat upstairs. Only a few minor drips at this stage, but these things only go one way. From bad to worse. Oh, the joys of home ownership.


I'll need to have a word with the neighbour (who I've not met up to this point, despite having been in the flat nearly three years). Hopefully, they'll be friendly, and we can get it sorted without trouble and avoid a disaster a few months down the line. If not, well, this is why we have house insurance, I suppose. I don't think Fleur's noticed yet, and I haven't told her. She'd only worry, and she's had two fits already this week... The first week back from holiday is always the worst - something I have to look forward to next week. Particularly since I have no idea what project I'm going to be working on. The last thing I need to find out on Monday is that my Resource Deployment Manager has put me up for a job in Lossiemouth.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Devil's Advocate



It's quarter past ten in the morning, and I'm sat at the PC with a packet of Budgen's salt 'n' vinegar crunchy sticks and a glass of wine, because I; a) need to calm down, and b) have something to celebrate.


This morning I got an e-mail from Mark Donald. For the few of you who read this who don't know who the hell Mark Donald is, he's the editor of PC Gamer UK. Why, you may ask, am I getting e-mails from the editor of PC Gamer, and why would I be excited about it?


Whilst I was on holiday in France, I took my trusty A4 pad of paper and a pen and did a little writing. One of the things I wrote was a review of The Sims, which will be going up onto the State website a little later today/this week. The other thing I wrote was a Devil's Advocate column. PCG have been publishing these Devil's Advocates columns for about two years now, and they're one of my favourite features of the mag, because it's all about hot-button pushing. As a veteran gamer of some 20 years and more, I have a lot of hot-buttons to push. One thing that hasn't been covered in Devil's Advocate is game interfaces, and I decided to finally sit down and write something about them, expressly to submit it as a Devil's Advocate.


I won't pre-empt the contents of the article here, because the e-mail I got from Mark this morning said that he'd like to use it. As you might expect, I'm rather thrilled about this. I'm even going to get paid for it. Which is a nice bonus, as normally I do it just for the love. (Or the abuse, depending on the reception of the piece)


This is a bit of a dream come true for me - not just to appear in the mag (I've done that already with a few Uncensored readers reviews), but to appear in it with a genuine feature in the magazine. It's a bit like getting your spurs as a cowboy - you don't really feel until you've made it as a "proper" games journalist until you've really been recognised and printed with a column in a genuine publication. State doesn't really count, seeing as a) I own it, and b) we're so desperate for content an illiterate chicken could get stuff on the site. Not that this is to put State down - we've had some really wonderful pieces go on the site, but this is a whole level above that for me. It's great to see that State has had a definite influence on PCG though - certainly the reverse has been true often enough, what with a whole bunch of PCG staff writers and freelancers frequenting the site - so it's nice to see that things like the Bow, Nigger and The New Games Journalism articles we posted on the site are having an influence in the mainstream press. So much so that Mark asked me to put up this - an open letter asking for more opinions based pieces to be submitted to PCG. It's certainly an interesting move by PCG. There's never been a better time to get involved with videogames journalism.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Gîte


Note: This blog entry was originally written by hand, about as far away from an internet connection as is possible in a civilised country...


I'm currently in Maurion, a tiny village in the Alps outside of Nice in the south of France. It's three kilometres to the nearest main road, and I'm surrounded by mountains.


It's *gorgeous*.


Unfortunately, my time here is drawing to an end, and I've got to be up at 4am tomorrow morning so we can drive the hour and a half to the airport in Nice, check in and catch our plane at 8am.


It's been a lovely week away from all things haute-technologie, though I have used some of it to take a few dozen digital photos. It's been a week of exploration and discovery. I've never been to this part of France before, and I have to confess that I'm in love with the mountains.


We've travelled quite a lot around the area, especially on the Côte d'Azur, and I've enjoyed it a lot. At the start of the week we went to Menton, which is probably the best kept secret on the Côte d'Azur. Villefranche-sur-mer, Nice and Monaco might get all the press, but Menton is really lovely - nicer than Nice, if you can get your head around that tautology.


We've had several walks in the mountains, including one on the side of Mount Bego, where it was so high up it snowed. Midweek Fleur and I had an expedition with Fleur's parents around Fontan and Berghe in the Roya valley. I do mean an expedition - we looked it up on the map later, and it turned out to be around SEVENTEEN KILOMETRES, all of which was spent walking up and down hills, to the tune of about 1000m. Some of the climbs were absolutely brutal; the one near Berghe was about 400m in the space of about 20 minutes, but it was worth all the hard work for the view.


The terrain here is absolutely spectacular - nothing in Britain even comes close - and it's so remote here that it's like walking onto the set of Lord Of The Rings. Fleur's Dad certainly sets a walking pace like Aragorn, at any rate. The Roya Valley in particular is extraordinary.


Fleur's parents have been coming to this "gîte" (holiday home) for about five years now, and are good friends with one of the (very few!) neighbours, Luc. He's a really nice guy; a local craftsman and hunter, who even brought us some wild boar for us to try. He'd shot it himself, naturally! It was delicious; you could almost *taste* that it had been running around the mountains a few days previously! He also let us try a local speciality - a lemon spirit his wife makes - almost a home-made lemon Cointreau... wonderful stuff.


We also went to Nice for a day to see the coast and pay a visit to a wonderful modern art museum, which was showing a fantastic exhibition of works by a guy who clads all his sculptures in the carcasses of beetles. Otherwise, Nice, regrettably, isn't that nice. In fact, it's a driver's nightmare. The city is full of tower blocks so you can't see where you need to head to, and the roads are really badly signed too. I think the town only grew so large because people couldn't find l'Autoroute...


On the way back from Nice, we paid a visit to Monaco. It was a real pilgrimage for me, as I know the Grand Prix circuit so well. We parked at Massanet, aka Casino Square (being, as it is, infront of the Grand Casino), and we had a wander down to Saint Devote, taking a few pictures of the harbour as we went. I hope the pictures will make my brother Rob very VERY jealous. Someone had parked a black Ferrari Enzo infront of the Grand Casino in Massanet, which was attracting a lot of attention, seeing as only 500 have ever been built. I wonder whom it belonged to...


I bored Fleur and her Dad mightily, pointing out corners on the Grand Prix circuit, but I don't think that they minded *too much*. My Dad will love the pictures of the boats I took in the harbour too. There was one boat that wasn't so much a yatch as a CRUISE LINER. A *privately owned* cruise liner. Man, they're some serious money in that place.


Today (last Friday, actually - Temporal Ed) we went to Saorge, which is the French equivalent of Minas Tirith - it's literally a town built onto the side of a mountain. The views are wonderful, and it has the most incredible shop devoted to honey - La Miellerie - which sells the most extraordinary organic honey and home-made nougat. I spent the last on my Euros on some to bring home, so we can keep the holiday going just that little bit longer...

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Collection



Just having dinner and killing time until this week's UT2004 Onslaught session, and thought I'd get around to doing that collection of my game inventory I'd promised. Here goes. Prepare to be shocked:



Aliens vs. Predator

Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri

Anachronox

Arcanum: Of Steamworks And Magick Obscura

Armored Fist 3

Arx Fatalis

Baldur's Gate & Tales Of The Sword Coast

Baldur's Gate II & Throne Of Bhaal

Battlecruiser 3000AD

Black And White & Black And White: Creature Isle

Bloodrayne

Breed

Championship Manager 97/98

Championship Manager 99/00

Civilisation 2

Civilisation 3

Colin McRae 2

Comanche 3

Conflict: Freespace

Conflict: Freespace2

Delta Force

Delta Force 2

Delta Force: Land Warrior

Delta Force: Black Hawn Down (I see a pattern here...)

Deus Ex

Deus Ex: Invisible War

Divine Divinity

The Ultimate Doom

Doom 2

Duke Nukem 3D

Fallout 2

Far Cry

Flanker 2

Frontier: Elite 2

Frontier: First Encounters

Giants: Citizen Kabuto

Grand Prix 2

Grand Prix 3

Grand Prix Legends

Grand Theft Auto

Grand Theft Auto: London

Grand Theft Auto III

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

Haegemonia: Legions Of Iron

Half-Life & Opposing Force & Blueshift

Halo

Hidden And Dangerous Deluxe

Homeworld

Hostile Waters

Icewind Dale

IL2 Sturmovik

Mechcommander Gold

Mechwarrior 2

Mechwarrior 2: Mercenaries

Mechwarrior 3

Mechwarrior 4 Mercenaries

Medal Of Honor: Allied Assault

Micro Machines V3

Midtown Madness 2

Mobil 1 Rally Championship

Mr Driller

Neverwinter Nights & Shadows Of Undrentide & Hordes Of The Underdark

No One Lives Forever

No One Lives Forever 2

Operation Flashpoint & Red Hammer & Resistance

Panzer Commander

Planescape: Torment

Project IGI

Quake III: Arena

Septerra Core

Serious Sam 2

Severance

Shogun: Total War

Silent Hunter Commanders Edition

The Sims: Deluxe Edition

Soldier Of Fortune: Platinum Edition

Soldiers At War

Startopia

Stars!

Star Trek: A Final Unity

Star Trek: Birth Of The Federation

Star Trek: Bridge Commander

Star Wars: Dark Forces

Star Wars: Dark Forces 2 - Jedi Knight

Star Wars: Force Commander

Star Wars: Jedi Outcast

Star Wars: Jedi Academy

Star Wars: Supremacy

Star Wars: TIE Fighter Collector's Edition

Star Wars: X-Wing Collector's Edition

Star Wars: X-Wing vs TIE Fighter

Star Wars: X-Wing: Alliance

Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic

SWAT 3: Elite Edition

Sub Command

SU27 Flanker

System Shock 2

Tachyon: The Fringe

Terra Nova

The Typing Of The Dead

Thief: The Dark Project

Thief 2: The Metal Age

TOCA 2: Touring Cars

UFO: Enemy Unknown

Unreal

Unreal 2: The Awakening

Unreal Tournament

Unreal Tournament 2003

Unreal Tournament 2004

Vegas Games 2000

X-COM: Apocalypse

X-COM: Interceptor

X-COM: Terror From The Deep

ZAngbandTK



That's ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTEEN GAMES, *not including* expansion packs. Holy Cow.

Friday, April 02, 2004

And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard drive's gonna install...



Abject apologies for the terrible Bob Dylan pun, but my new 160GB hard drive arrived yesterday. I plan on installing it tomorrow whilst Fleur is visiting friends in London, mainly so she doesn't have a heart attack when I clutter up the floor in the bedroom with boxes, PC components and the tower case. I've not installed a hard drive in a while, and I hope to be able to install it as a slave drive to the one that's currently in the tower, otherwise I have an afternoon of reinstalling Windows to look forward to. I think I'll have to do some backups to CD before I even start.


Hopefully, if I don't break my PC in the process of putting the disk in, (which is by no means certain) I should end up with enough space to install practically my entire games collection, which must number *way* over 60 games by now. I think I'll do an inventory over the weekend, and post it up here, so you can:


a) See just how bad my games addiction is, and

b) See what *good* taste I have in games. :-)


Had another good evening on UT2004 last night. I'm getting dangerously good with the air-to-air missiles on the Raptor fighter. I must've shot down half a dozen Mantas and Raptors, and toning down the resolution to 800x600 has done wonders for my online frame rate. I was consistently in the top 3 players (out of about 12) on the server I was playing on last night, and racked up over 100 points on a couple of maps. Dria and Arctic Stronghold are definitely becoming favourites.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Weekly Wednesday Onslaught



I've set up a weekly UT2004 session for interested parties on State to coincide with Fleur's weekly Yoga class, and last night was our inaugural match. Lots of fun was had by all, though my poor PC regrettably wasn't quite up to the job of hosting half a dozen people rampaging around an Onslaught map. We shifted servers en mass where things weren't quite so laggy.


Had a couple of really nice moments when the aforementioned Mr. Cobbett hitched a ride on the sidepod of my Manta skimmer bike, which I never would have thought you'd be able to do. I can see that becoming a great little opening tactic at the start of Onslaught games to get the first couple of nodes claimed in double quick time. I was pretty pleased with my overall performance - I wasn't the best player on the server, but I was hardly the worst, either, usually scoring just above average, thanks to my PSYCHO POINT MAN tactics of getting to nodes as quickly as possible, and trying to hold them until they become available to be claimed. I need to work on my lag shooting, though - the art of predicting where a player will be in the half second it'll take the server to process the collision detection from you firing the shot to updating where the enemy is moving to - but practice makes perfect, I suppose...