Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Flawless Victoly!



I attended my first games night with the guys I work with last night. We started out on with the Missile Command challenge - which was fun, and I beat Andy who prides himself on being an ubergamer - before moving onto Halo Multiplayer. Regrettably, I didn't do very here, primarily because I'm not used to using a pad for playing FPS games. It was just so sluggish compared to a keyboard/mouse setup, and with two Xboxes linked, it lagged mightily which just didn't help any. The problem was that if you push down the movement stick it makes you crouch, and I'm hamfisted at the best of times, so whenever things got heated and I was trying to dodge, I'd press down the stick and crawl away rather than run. Not exactly helpful. I think that was the cause of about 80% of my deaths.


We tried a bit of King Of The Hill, Team Slayer and Capture The Flag before finishing off with a bit of Free-For-All Slayer, which was just mental. Eight people running around a tight arena chucking all their grenades instantly and lasting on average about one reload per spawn. At least I wasn't bottoming out the tables on most of the maps, despite my control problems.


After everyone got tired of Halo, we moved onto the best game of the night: Pacman Vs.


Everyone reading this should be familiar with Pacman, and if you're not, shame on you. Pacman Vs. is a multiplayer version of traditional Pacman, with four players, one of whom is designated Pacman randomly by the Gamecube, and the rest of whom play the Ghosts. The Ghosts play on the TV, and Pacman plays on a GBA attached to the Gamecube in the fourth controller slot. Once Pacman gets knobbled by a ghost, the people playing the victorious ghost and Pacman swap controllers, so the guy playing the ghost takes over Pacman for the next round, and Pacman's ex-controller becomes a ghost. A player wins by reaching a certain score limit, with gaining control of Pacman scoring 1600 points, and losing control of Pacman incurring the same penalty. Pacman also scores points by eating pills and killing ghosts when you've munched a powerpill.


The twist is that the person playing Pacman on the GBA can see everything in a scrolling, top-down 2D map, whilst the ghosts have a more limited 3D view, requiring teamwork from the ghosts to locate Pacman and knobble him. This leads to lots and lots of shouting, and unusual tactics by some of the ghosts, who tend to camp around the power pills and the fruit (which extends your viewing range). This can play into the hands of the player controlling Pacman, as they can grab one power pill, and make a beeline for the ghosts camping the fruit and the other power pills. It's amazingly thrilling, and there's a definite revolving hunter vs. hunted dynamic. It sounds simple, and it is - which is the main part of the attraction, other than the fact you get to shout at your friends in a safe environment. I even won a game of it, leading inevitably to an exhultant cry of VICTOLY! If Halo is the Xbox's killer app, this could be it for the Gamecube, though you really need four players.


A most enjoyable evening.

Monday, May 24, 2004

I must be mad



Well, it *does* say I'm mad in the title, but I think I've just confirmed it. How?


I've just spent £90 on a pair of headphones. No, that's not a typo. Granted, they are the sexiest headphones on the face of the planet, but still... NINETY QUID.


I've only bought them because Fleur has killed my last set of headphones by repeatedly "tidying them away", wrapping up the cable in tight knots in the process, which damaged the cable. The left channel gave up the ghost last night when I was playing KOTOR (I'm within an hour of finishing my fifth time through), so it was either get new headphones or reconnect the desktop speakers. I chose the former, simply because I prefer headphones for gaming, and secondly, because my speakers are rubbish. Fingers crossed, my ears will be in heaven by the end of the week.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Expenses



I've just claimed my mileage for my commute to Hursley from the flat in Lightwater (an 82 mile round trip over and above my normal commute to Farnborough). Since I'm using my own car, I'm not on the company car scheme yet, so I'm claiming a staggering 31p a mile. This means that I've racked up about £460 in the month since I joined the project. Considering that I've only been paying about £50 a week for diesel, that's quite a healthy profit, and will even cover the 12000 mile service I had done on the CoupĂ© a fortnight ago, with some money to spare. Which my workmates will probably insist I spend on a GBA SP and a copy of Bomberman.


I should have another month or two like this before I run out of miles on the casual user scheme, and have to switch over to the company car scheme, which should still give me a healthy £25 profit on fuel every week. Sweet.


This is also one of the funniest things I've seen in months. Make sure you check out the feedback for the buyer and the seller.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Numbers Game



I rather unwisely stayed up late last night to watch Croupier. I say unwisely, because it didn't finish until midnight, and the disadvantage of driving nearly 100 miles a day to and from work means that I'm always very tired in the morning so staying up that late isn't really such a good idea.


Croupier is a very fine film, from the same director as Get Carter (possibly my favourite Michael Caine film). The first time I saw it, I was impressed by how realistic the casino scenes were. I never got to work in London as a croupier, where things are a bit more formal than where I worked in Sheffield, but all the basics were there - clueless managers, desperate punters, arseholes who only use call bets and cheating scum. Clive Owen clearly had some training, though any croupier who'd had a few months experience would make his dealing look pretty stupid - he wasn't nearly fast enough, though his Blackjack was commendably tidy.


Lots of things from the film strike a little too close to home for my comfort - the film is entirely accurate in the way that it depicts the way becoming a dealer consumes you, which is all the more shocking when you realise that becoming a croupier is a job that you just end up in, rather than actively pursue. I might write more on this later tonight, as I'm a bit too busy at work now to go into my shady past...

Monday, May 17, 2004

Are you a limited company?



It's done. I've sold out.


Yesterday I signed my Freelancer's contract with Future Publishing, so they officially now have first dibs on all my work. At the moment it's just one article, but now I've signed the contract, I hope they're going to send more stuff my way, and I have a couple of more pieces planned that I want to send them.

I'm not sure what all this means for State yet, as it's going to be difficult finding time to write stuff both for Future and for State. I can reuse stuff I do for Future on State once the exclusive rights lapse on the article, but I think my input there is going to be limited to retro reviewing and the odd editorial (which I've been extremely lax in lately - my bad) from now on.


It was quite a surreal feeling, signing the contract and filling out the self-employment questionnaire (hence the title of the post) - the realisation that someone is actually *paying* for my work, my words. To do something you love, and get paid for it, it's really something.


Some of the questions on the self-employment questionnaire were quite funny:
"Are you a limited company?" in particular raised a smile. Yes, I sell shares of me on the stock exchanges. I'm in the FTSE 100 dontcha know? "How much of your time worked do you spend for Future Publishing?" was also quite a head scratcher. Err, it's just one article, not my primary source of income. AND NO, I DON'T HAVE A FECKING ACCOUNTANT.


Still, it's all out of the way now, so I can just wait for the new issue to come out, and you can all see my fetching Devils Advocate picture and amusing mini-biography. 11th of June... Four weeks to go.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Zookeeper



*hears cries of "Old! OLD!" from the populace*


Yes, I know it's old, but the guys at work have got me playing Zookeeper again, and now that I've found a version with an English front end, actually figured out how to play it, it's super-addictive.


I'm still crap at it, natch. I topped out at Level 5 with a score of 7160 this lunchtime, which is *way* behind Olly and Charles, who are scoring over 15000. I've got some work to do on this. Comments are open for you to shame me with your high scores.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

eGad



I've just saved £200 on my car insurance with eSure. Nice. If my workmates have anything to do with it, they're probably going to get me to spend the saved money on a GBA SP so I can join them in the lunchtime sessions of Bomberman. Just as well I'm not letting them near my wallet, really.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Ramsay



Before we get to Gordon, I have to recount the anecdote of my trip home last night, and the journey in this morning. 17.45 -home time - and I jump in the Coupé, switch on Five Live and head towards the M3. A traffic report comes on and reports that two lanes are out between Hook and Fleet services (Junction 5 and 4a, whereas Lightwater is at Junction 3) after a huge crash, so I decide to be clever, come off the M3 at Junction 9 and take the A31 to Farnham, pick up the A331 to Frimley and go back home that way.


Everything's going swimmingly, and I'm smiling as I still hear reports of huge tailbacks on the M3 at Hook, until I reach Farnham. Between Farnham station and the A331 there's a little one mile drag of dual carriageway. And it's jammed solid. Emergency fecking roadworks to fix the fecking *sewers*. It takes half an hour to get through it, totally throwing away whatever time I might have saved over going down the M3 instead. I wasn't happy.


This morning - I drop Fleur off, put Five Live on again on to see if there are any problems on the M3. Nothing reported in the traffic reports during the quarter of an hour or so it takes to drop her off and reach the M3/A331 split, so I go down the M3. Quarter of an hour later, I'm coming up to Fleet services, and the traffic report comes on. "Both outsides lanes closed on the M3 due to the accident yesterday". There's literally a mile of brake lights illuminating the carriageway in front of me. I think "You could have told me this quarter of an hour ago, you bastards." Must have been a big accident, though, as they were replacing about 200m worth of crash barriers in the central reservation.


Anyway, Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares. Fantastic series - I used to think Ramsay was a foul mouthed twat, but now I've revised my opinion. He's a foul-mouthed genius. I like him for the fact that he really knows his stuff and that he doesn't take any shit. This man calls a spade a spade, and I can really respect that. This week's episode was quite tame compared to the previous two, but still highly enjoyable. It's amazing though to think that these failing resteraunts call him in, but don't listen to his advice - and this is a multi-Michelin starred chef! It looks like there should be some fireworks next week to round out the series, however.


After the program was over, I put in a couple of hours on Baldurs Gate, which I'm replaying as a Paladin, whom I got up to Level 4 last night. I'm just about to send him to sort out the Bandit camp, which should be amusing, no doubt. I intend to complete the game, and then import him into BGII, which I still haven't completed yet, after about 3 years of having owned the bloody game. Must. Do. Better.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Phantom



I still don't know whether Infinium Labs are still having us all on or not. They put out a press release today saying that they're demoing their console and gaming service at E3 later this week, but take a look at the "Safe Harbour Statement" disclaimer at the end of the press release:


Certain statements included in this press release may constitute forward-looking statements. Actual results could differ materially from such statements expressed or implied herein as a result of a variety of factors including, but not limited to: the development of the Infinium Labs technology, the successful marketing and distribution of the Phantom Gaming System, acceptance by the market of Infinium Labs, products and technology, competition and timing of projects and trends in the gaming industry, as well as other factors expressed from time to time in filings Infinium Labs will make with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the "SEC"). As a result, this press release should be read in conjunction with periodic filings Infinium Labs makes with the SEC. The forward looking statements contained herein are made only as of the date of this press release, and Infinium Labs undertakes no obligation to publicly update such forward looking statements to reflect subsequent events or circumstances.



In other words;


Infinium Labs: "Here's the Moon on a stick!"


Lawyers small print: "Size of Moon and stick may vary."


Will they even turn up? Or will they have "travelling difficulties"? Time will tell...

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Nailgun




I've always said Quake's weapons were rubbish. Seriously though, six nails in the head. OUCH.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Pacmanhattan




Genius.