Friday, June 25, 2004

Greek Tragedy



Oh dear. Fleur's Dad is going to be pissed. France beaten by the lowly Greeks. Who would've thought it? The papers will be splashed with "GREEK TRAGEDY FOR FRANCE AT EURO 2004!" all over the covers tomorrow morning, no doubt. I was on #state (my forum's IRC channel) at the time, and ENB pointed out that tragedies can have happy endings, when I said as much. I replied "The happy ending is for the English. At least France got knocked out too." Much arfage ensued.


With France, Germany, Italy, Spain and England all biting the dust before the semi-finals, it's anyone's championship now. Fleur's sweepstake for the Czech Republic is looking pretty good right now...

OIUHofowihregodshvfogkdfhytugfposf[083y[ofqoeifp9wagfrkdshf] 0O8E



Hmm. No Shakespear there. This is probably why someone has created Internet Monkeys to prove Douglas Adams' assertion in The Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy that if you get and infinite amount of monkeys to sit at an infinite amount of typewriters for an infinite amount of time, eventually, one of them will type out the complete works of Shakespear.


An inspired, if slightly deranged, idea for a website. The current record is 17 letters. Those monkeys have a lot more work to do.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Godchild



I've not been doing much gaming lately, with Euro 2004 being on. I've been pretty much restricted to playing things that will run on the laptop, which means Diablo 2, ZangbandTK and Baldurs Gate.


I was getting a little bored with my BG Paladin character a couple of nights ago, so I ducked into the Character Creation screen and set about generating a new Elven Ranger.


Normally, AD&D character creation involves a huge amount of time sank into clicking the Roll Again button until it comes up with a set of stats that are satisfactory and won't send your character to the grave if you should upset a Gibberling before you reach Level 2.


This time, however, I got lucky. Within a dozen rerolls I got a truly Godlike set of stats, which suitably befits a character meant to be the Spawn of the God Of Murder.


Strength: 18/00

Dexterity: 19

Constitution: 17

Intelligence: 9 (that's okay - he's a Ranger... he doesn't *need* to be too bright)

Wisdom: 18

Charisma: 18


WOOF! This is a character worth taking through the game and importing into BGII. You may say "POWER GAMER!" but this is meant to be a bloody demi-God you're playing, not the nine stone weakling from down the road. The latter might actually be more challenging to play, but he wouldn't stand a chance against a hungry wolf. Besides, this is a game - you're *meant* to be the hero and the winner. I think a little stat overdose is justified when you're the son of (a) God. I'll probably take the reborn "Thrawn; Ranger!" through his first couple of Level Ups tonight whilst I'm watching the England-Portugal game. Should be a good game. Both of them, in fact.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Miffed



Ooops. It seems like some of the comments I made a few posts back about the PCG redesign have miffed a couple of the writers there. Oh well, that was a short career as a Future freelancer, wasn't it?


Tim E tells me that his fellow staff writer Craig was a bit peeved that I said that he'd "stolen" content from State for the Extra-Life section of the new mag (not by name, obviously, but by inference since he wrote some of the material in question). Now, having been through all the traumas last year about copyright law, I can reassure Craig that you can't plagiarise a forum post, so I was never attacking the integrity of the magazine. I wasn't being completely serious anyway - my tongue was firmly in cheek, particularly with the "THEY STOLE OUR ORANGE" line.

I'm *flattered* if they find memes of worth on the forum for use in the magazine - it was just a bit of a shock seeing lots of things I traditionally associate with State suddenly plastered all over the cover of the best selling PC games magazine in the country... It's hard seeing something you've poured your soul into for over a year very suddenly be potentially devalued.


I had an e-mail exchange with Lord Donald about the whole Extra-Life thing and I'm convinced that the reasons PCG chose to go with the name were probably the same ones we chose to use it as a domain name - so I'm sure there's no subterfuge or anything untoward going on. State has a userbase of less than 400, and PCG has 65,000 odd readers, so what possible ulterior motive could they possibly have?


*tickles Craig*


So don't be miffed sweetie, and don't listen to me. I'm Mad and Wrong. It says so up there. *points*


I mean, it's a *blog*. It's not like I expected anyone to *read* what I said, let alone take it seriously...

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Javascript



... is evil. I spent the whole of yesterday tapping over 300 lines of debug code into three command button procedures to nail down why the limits on a BRIO query weren't being applied properly. I tested it all out this morning, and found that the reason why the limits were all screwed up was because there was a curly bracket ( a '}' which closes individual blocks of code) in the wrong place in the procedure. Nearly *one and a half thousand* lines of code, completely and utterly broken because of a single keystroke in the wrong place. A day and a half that cost me. Annoying. Who'd be a Code Monkey? I ask you.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Floored



The last couple of weeks have been like Waterworld in the flat - watery, apocalyptic and expensive. The Sunday evening after Fleur went off to Italy on a school trip, the bathroom ceiling started leaking, and created a fair sized hole in the plaster. Just as well Fleur wasn't there - she would have gone mental had she seen a stream of water cascading from the ceiling into the bath, covering it with semi-disolved plaster, at quarter to eleven. If that wasn't enough - the Saturday when she came back, having just broken the news that there was a hole in the bathroom ceiling, one of the pipes in the kitchen blocked, making the washing machine flood the floor.


As a consequence, I spent most of the weekend on my knees, replacing the kitchen floor, meaning my legs are absolutely *killing* me today. The landlord for the chaps upstairs also came around to repair the ceiling in the bathroom, so it was a real DIY weekend. The kitchen floor looks great now, and the flood actually allowed me to drag out the washing machine from its cubbyhole under the kitchen worktop, so I could put cork tiles underneath where it sits. This has levelled the floor out nicely, and the washing machine doesn't make that infernal rattling *quite* so loudly when it spins up. Which makes it easier to watch the TV.


Rod (the landlord) also did a lovely job replastering the bathroom ceiling, so all I have to do with that is smooth it off a little with polyfiller, and put artex over the top to seal it all up. Fingers crossed, you'll never be able to tell that there was a big gaping hole there.


So I didn't get much gaming, or writing, done over the weekend, unfortunately - though I did manage to lose another couple of Zangband characters late on Friday night. I was pretty depressed at losing a Level 18 Beastman Chaos Warrior who I had high hopes of - he had some lovely mutations.


I did have a brief go of TRON 2.0 which one of my Greater State Minions sent to me as their contribution to the site's server rent. It's very different to most FPS games I've played. It really does a great job of capturing the aesthetic of the film, and the disk combat is novel to say the least. It's bloody hard though. I got my arse handed back to me the first time I took on two enemies simultaneously. The effect when you de-rezz is nice, though. I can't wait to try out the bike.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Aleister - RIP



Reinspired by Kieron's Zangband piece, I spent most of Saturday and Sunday nights playing Zangband - after not having touched it for a couple of months. Determined to get a character into State's Zangband Hall Of Heroes I played ultra-cautiously, and when I got to Level 20, went North East to take advantage of the Dragon-slaying Experience Point bonanza, and climbed up to Level 26 in less than an hour. It's a dangerous strategy, since the North-East corner of the map is crawling not only with Dragons, but nasties like Cyclops and Storm Giants. However, with my Katana of *Slay* Dragon +6/+7 (+1), and a +10/+12 (+1) Pattern Lance, I was pretty confident being able to handle just about anything, especially since my Golem Chaos-Warrior had over 300 hitpoints and an armour class of 116.


After a few close calls I was getting bored of killing dragons, and thought I had gained enough experience to go back underground, and exceeded 1000 feet for the first time ever. At 1200 feet, I was given a level quest to kill 8 Orge Mages. Some titanic battles ensued, as the Ogre Mages summoned creatures to aid them from Aleister's rampage. Using corridors to funnel the hordes of enemies into single combat, the valiant Golem smashed his way through their ranks, systematically wiping out the mages, with barely a dent in his 362 hitpoints. With just one Ogre Mage to kill before getting rewarded with the level exit, Aleister entered one of the last unexplored chambers on the map.


Little did he know this would be the last thing he ever saw. Before him lay a dozen Dark Elven Warlocks - evilly powerful spellcasters. The disadvantage of playing Golems is a pitifully low intelligence score, meaning that you can't engage at range with a Chaos Warrior's normal range of spells - you're pretty much restricted to missile weapons and melée. Aleister never stood a chance. Bombarded with spells and confused in the first combat round - he couldn't even run away, and was too befuddled to use a Recall or Teleportation scroll. Within a dozen rounds, he was dead. Rest In Pieces, Aleister. You were taken from us too soon.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Redesign



Going to have a relatively early night tonight - as I have a big day at work tomorrow. But before I toddle of to bed, I have two things to discuss.


Firstly, I got my subs copy of PC Gamer today. It was a very strange feeling seeing my name next to the mighty Kieron Gillen's on the front page in the contributors list. It was even stranger to see my Photoshopped fizog and faux-biography adorning Page 16 at the centre of my Devil's Advocate article.


What makes it even more special is that this issue of PCG is The Big Redesign, and it's rather stunning. Actually - I'd say it's the best issue of PCG in two years, easily. What's been causing a bit of a kafuffle amongst the mods on State is the name of one of their new magazine sections, which essentially forms the flagship core of the newly redesigned magazine.


Why? It's called Extra-Life. That's right - the same name as State's domain. Coincidence? I'm not a great believer in coincidence, particularly given just how many Future employees frequent our forum - Tim Edwards, indeed, was poached from our forum and magazine to become a staff writer for PCG, and is a long term member and supporter of the forum and website. Looking at the section of the magazine, it's obvious that it's both a Half Life reference, and a reference to the content of the section, which is about the way games have an extended life beyond that on the shelf, thanks to their player community.


However, it's also clear that some of the community content has been stolen directly off our forum - such as the Indie Game Jam and the Pacmanhattan features. It's not that fact that they stole our name or memes from the forum that annoys me - it's the fact THEY STOLE OUR ORANGE.


I harangued Kieron about it on MSN earlier tonight, to which he responded "You don't own the orange". Arf. Aanand (our site admin and resident PHP wizard) is worried that we're somehow going to be tarred with a copycat brush by PCGF forumites, but that doesn't worry me particularly. I don't really worry about the opinion of the average PCGFer. Particularly since anyone who has any kind of clue will know that we've been around for years with the Extra-Life name.


I'm sure the motivation behind the section name is pretty benign, rather than an attempt to rip off our identity, but I might have a quiet word with Tim Edwards or Mark Donald about it. State has always been a bit of a feeder website for PCG - after all, it was A-B's Bow, Nigger piece and Kieron's New Games Journalism piece that we publicised that kicked off this whole community centric approach that PCG is now taking - so maybe this is a bit of a tip of the hat, an in-joke for those people in the know. I might see if I can persuade Mark Donald to forward people onto us if he's sent articles that are of good quality, but can't quite be put into the mag. Hey, if they can poach material from us, we can return the favour.


It's just as well that the Extra-Life section is bloody outstanding, otherwise I'd really be annoyed. Kieron's long awaited Zangband piece is likewise awesome. It captures the spirit of Zangband in a way that I wanted to do when I was trying to write my own piece on it for State - which I never finished. As I said before, the whole magazine is excellent - right down to the coverdisk. I subscribe to the DVD version, and there's one particular movie that's worth the entry fee in itself: the incredible Half Life In An Hour video.


An average player will probably take about 20 hours to get through the game, but a chap called Christoph Erhardt has managed to splice together a complete video of the game, where he does the videogame equivalent of Le Parkour (or Freerunning) and wipes through it in 57 minutes 52 seconds. Some of the ladder jumps and Gauss Gun jumps are nothing short of outrageous. I've watched it twice tonight already, and I think it's put me off playing Half-Life ever again. This guy makes my efforts look absolutely feeble. Especially when you see that he's playing it on Hard and doesn't even pick up a weapon stronger than a pistol until he's more than a third of the way through the game. I'd hate to meet him on a Counterstrike server.


Anyway - enough about PCG. It's late, and I need to get to bed. What? The second thing? Oh, just some UNIX geek humour supplied by Aanand.

Example:


% man: why did you get a divorce?

man:: Too many arguments.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Two birds with one stoned



A Russian Oil Company is selling vodka made from cannabis seeds. The label advises "Try this wonderful drink, but don't forget its extraordinary powers." Get stoned and pissed at the same time? Should they really be selling this in petrol stations?

Parental Discipline



13 year old son drinks parent's beer, breaks a bugle and chugs a $120 bottle of champagne. Mother sells son's beloved PS2 on eBay.

Now *that's* what I call good parenting.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

48 Hours



I hope you're all going to be buying the new issue of PC Gamer when it hits the streets on Thursday. I have a bit of a vested interest in this issue...

Academic



With Fleur away in Italy this week, I've been availing myself of the services of my PC. I had a Verhoeven night on Saturday, watching Robocop and Starship Troopers, the latter of which I actually watched twice, once with the Director's commentary. I've never really made the effort to watch a film with the commentary on before, as I'm reliably informed that most of them are mind-numbingly banal, but Paul Verhoeven, as we all know, is a bit of a nutter.


The commentary was absolutely fascinating and really reveals just how astoundingly political a film Starship Troopers actually is. There's a very European satirical undercurrent which brilliantly subverts the original material, and the traditional concepts of an All American Action Movie. You could almost hear Verhoeven and the American producer coming to blows as they argued about the symbology of the film - Verhoeven stating that the fascist society of the future was representative of the US's foreign policy, and the producer trying to defend his country and it's politicians.


It was also interesting to hear the producer giving some background on what the preview audiences had said - their reaction to Carmen (Denise Richards' character) was almost uniformly negative, since they hated the fact she dumped the hero (Rico). This was despite the fact that there was a huge double standard, since Rico gets to bed both Dizzy and Carmen and they didn't seem to mind that... Verhoeven's reaction was predictably eccentric - he liked the fact they hated Carmen and refused to change her, as it just made her character seem more like a real person. I was also unsurprised to hear that the biggest laugh in the previews were in the scene where Michael Ironside's character walks in on Rico and Dizzy and tells "Make it twenty minutes."


It's not all been DVD watching, naturally. I reinstalled GTA III on Sunday and played for an hour or two. It's aged quite well since I bought it, but it still seems to pale in comparison to it's younger, flashier brother, Vice City. I doubt I'll ever make the effort to unlock the other islands. Some of the cars feel better than in Vice City, however - it's just great fun driving around the city - particularly in the lightning fast Banshee and the brawny Mafia Sentinel. Shame you can't import them into Vice City, really.


I also replayed through the vast majority of Jedi Academy again on Sunday, this time taking the double bladed lightstaff instead of the dual sabers. It's a very enjoyable game, though it does suffer from a few poor levels. The mutant rancor and swoop missions simply don't work on any kind of level, and as fun as chopping people up with a lightsaber is, there really isn't enough enemy variety. After you've carved your way past the twelfth Reborn warrior on a level, (or fiftieth Stormtrooper) it can get a little tiresome. The individual mission based structure definitely lends itself to be more dipped in and out of (as a game) rather than being something to be played through in a single sitting or over long stretches. Having said that, though, the background plot hangs together a lot better in Jedi Academy than it does in Jedi Outcast. I'll really have to get around to playing online at some point.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Headphones


My spangly new Sennheiser headphones arrived yesterday, proving that CaseTech are merely incompetent, rather than fraudulent. I was greatly relieved to see that they were in perfect condition and full working order, having also received my credit card bill on the same day...


They're a magnificent piece of kit, sleek, silver and very sexy. The sound is awesomely good, though a little quiet via the USB interface, which is probably more down to the fact that I'd plugged them into the USB hub on my keyboard (which is a little underpowered - my USB gamepad won't work on it for example) than anything else. I'm going to try them directly plugged into the soundcard tonight, and have my ears bathe in the beauty of GTA: Vice City's soundtrack.


They even have a super little cord holder which will prevent any of the problems I had with Fleur's "tidying" damaging the cable on my previous set, so I'm pleased. Worth £90? Every damn penny.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

I Am The Master



Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Avoid



Remember the Sennheiser headset that I ordered last week? Well, by this morning, it hadn't turned up, despite the fact that when I ordered it last Monday I was assured by the website that it would be "Shipped within 24 hours" and would be at my door within 3 working days.


So I spammed them a couple of prompting e-mails, (because, wonderfully, you can't ring them up and speak to an actual *person*) and hey presto, I check my transaction order a few minutes ago, and the status has suddenly updated to "Shipped". Only a week late. If it's not on my doorstep sometime this week, I'm going to be even more unhappy than I am now.


I won't be using these guys again. The people you want to avoid sending your money to for absolutely no customer service are: CaseTech