Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Byte: Geek Code

I found this link via Wil Wheaton dot Net (he's the actor who played Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation, in case you've been living in a hole for the last 20 years). It's Geek nomenclature for displaying everything about yourself in a form of shorthand completely undecypherable by non-Geek infidels, which I find quite amusing. Here is my Geek Code:


-----BEGIN GEEK CODE BLOCK-----
Version: 3.1
GIT/S d-- s+:+ a? C++++$ A U++++ P- L+ E--- W++ N o-- K--- w O---- M- V-- PS+++ PE- Y+ PGP- t+ 5++++ X R* tv+ b+ DI++ D+++ G e++ h--- r++ y+**
------END GEEK CODE BLOCK------

I'll let you decode it yourself. I know your burning curiousity will get the better of you eventually... Click the link and your journey towards the Dark Side will be complete! Muh-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! etc...

Byte: *sniggers*

Nice to see I'm not the only gamer who thinks that Jack Thompson needs to get laid.

My favourite line:
Thompson later updated his statement, saying that he understood that alcohol only works for people with a personality, and may never be able to help him.


Classic.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Bark: Not another bloody "What [insert criteria here] are you?" quiz... Part 2

I'll have to try this combination next time I play Neverwinter Nights...

I Am A: Chaotic Good Human Ranger Bard


Alignment:
Chaotic Good characters are independent types with a strong belief in the value of goodness. They have little use for governments and other forces of order, and will generally do their own things, without heed to such groups.


Race:
Humans are the 'average' race. They have the shortest life spans, and because of this, they tend to avoid the racial prejudices that other races are known for. They are also very curious and tend to live 'for the moment'.


Primary Class:
Rangers are the defenders of nature and the elements. They are in tune with the Earth, and work to keep it safe and healthy.


Secondary Class:
Bards are the entertainers. They sing, dance, and play instruments to make other people happy, and, frequently, make money. They also tend to dabble in magic a bit.


Deity:
Shaundakul is the Chaotic Good god of travel and exploration. He is also known as the Rider of the Winds. His followers are typically rangers, and work to protect the land. They typically wear leather armor, and carry long swords and short bows. Shaundakul's symbol is a white hand with the index finger raised.


Find out What D&D Character Are You?, courtesy of NeppyMan (e-mail)

Detailed Results:

Alignment:
Lawful Good ----- XXXXXX (6)
Neutral Good ---- XXXXX (5)
Chaotic Good ---- XXXXXXXXX (9)
Lawful Neutral -- XX (2)
True Neutral ---- XXXXX (5)
Chaotic Neutral - XXX (3)
Lawful Evil ----- (-1)
Neutral Evil ---- (-3)
Chaotic Evil ---- (-2)

Race:
Human ---- XXXXXXXX (8)
Half-Elf - XXXXXXX (7)
Elf ------ XXXXXX (6)
Halfling - (-3)
Dwarf ---- (-2)
Half-Orc - XXX (3)
Gnome ---- XXXXXXX (7)

Class:
Fighter - XXXX (4)
Ranger -- XXXXXXX (7)
Paladin - XX (2)
Cleric -- (-5)
Mage ---- X (1)
Druid --- (-3)
Thief --- XX (2)
Bard ---- XXXXXX (6)
Monk ---- (-4)

Bark: Not another bloody "What [insert criteria here] are you?" quiz...

Sci-Fi and Fantasy characters this time. (Shamelessly cribbed from The Gril Man)

Rather appropriately, I feel, I am apparently Ambassador Kosh from Babylon 5, who, interestingly enough, is the character people have chosen least. Out of around one and a half million responses to the quiz so far, only 1068 have been for Kosh, just 0.07%. That's me for you - thinking out of the box. Damn, I feel special.

The avalanche has already started. It is too late for the pebbles to vote.

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

Byte: All right, stop that! It's silly.

This whole San Andreas storm in a Hot Coffee cup is getting a bit ridiculous now.

Let's look at the facts:

1) The sexually explicit scenes are in the retail release code of the game, and were not declared to ESRB. (This is undeniably stupid, but somewhat mitigated by fact number two.)

2) These scenes cannot actually be accessed in the retail build of the code. (i.e. you need to make an intentional modification to the game to access it - it can't be accessed as standard - you have to download the mod and install it; you have to really *want* to see it)

3) The only reason the ESRB re-rated the game was because a modder discovered the sexual content and distributed the code to make it become freely available in the game (In violation of the End User License Agreement).

This sets a very dangerous precedent - should the ESRB re-rate The Sims 2 because some modders have created skins to make the 3D models have nipples and sexual organs? By logical extension, they should, but would render the whole rating system meaningless, because I could create a sex mod for the Spongebob Squarepants game if I was so inclined and potentially get a completely harmless game taken off the shelves. Once you start re-rating games because of content enabled by game modification (which is completely beyond the control of the developers), you're opening up Pandora's Box.

The ESRB's original rating for San Andreas was actually appropriate for the content available within the unaltered, retail version of the game. It was only changed because it was politically expedient to do so. Anything to keep the reports of suicide bombings in Iraq out of the news, eh? Rockstar and Take Two have become a target for the neo-cons simply because they're successful. There are any number of games out there which feature far more graphic sex - for example the Singles franchise uses it as its unique selling point to distinguish it from being an otherwise uninspired Sims clone, and that only has a "Mature" ESRB rating. The only reason people like Hilary Clinton and Jack Thompson don't go after that is because it doesn't sell...

It's rank hypocrisy at its worst... So it's okay for a 17 year old to beat people to death with baseball bats, or blow their heads off with automatic assault weapons, but not to see two people engaged in the physical act of love or in a state of nakedness? What kind of message is that giving out? And people wonder why the United States has one of the highest rates of gun crime in the world.

What these scandalous political outbursts fail to take into account in their self-righteous rage is that NOT ALL GAMES ARE DESIGNED TO BE PLAYED BY CHILDREN. Twelve year old kids shouldn't be playing something like San Andreas anyway, and it's the fault of politicians and moral guardians in the media for not getting the message across to parents, not the fault of publishers and games developers for selling games containing adult material. Adult material is available in games (and in books, film or any other entertainment media) because consumers, ADULT CONSUMERS, want it to be there. It's the responsibility of policy makers to put in place the necessary infrastructure to handle these games correctly and the responsibility of parents to educate themselves to prevent inappropriate material falling into the hands of children. These media outrages by ill-informed morons who've probably never even played the games in question do little more than provide games with free publicity to boost sales my making more people who shouldn't be buying the game want to buy it, no doubt scandalising the politicians into an even more rabid fervour.

If this carries on much longer, the only people going to make a killing out of the situation are the lawyers, as the US Federal Government and Take Two/Rockstar knock lumps out of each other in the courts...

Bark: Supersize m(ic)e

Here's another story of how man's interference in the natural order of things is having calamatous consequences on native species. At the height of British Imperialism, we colonised the Tristan de Cunha islands in the South Atlantic ocean. One of the southernmost of these islands is Gough Island, one of the largest Albatross and seabird colonies in the world.

When British sailors first visited the island a couple of hundred years ago they unintentionally brought the humble house mouse with them. In a worrying demonstration of Darwinism, they've quickly adapted to the colder climes by evolving into larger, stronger, more aggressive mice. Now roughly three times the size of normal house mice, these carnivorous pests have developed a taste for Albatross and are systematically wiping out the population by up to a million a year, by eating their chicks alive. Yuck.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Byte: Jack Thompson Needs To Get Laid

For those people who don't know who Jack Thompson is, he's an American lawyer who's waging a one man moral war against the sick filth of videogames.

After getting his knickers in a twist about the so-called "Hot Coffee" scenes in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, he's now stuck his oar into EA's Sims 2 because it's apparently "a porn offering". (Albeit, with the help of modding, in the same way San Andreas needs modding to unlock the "Hot Coffee" content).

OH MY GOD, THERE ARE TWO PEOPLE HAVING CONSENSUAL SEX IN THIS VIDEOGAME, AND THERE ARE NIPPLES! IT'S THE END OF CIVILISATION AS WE KNOW IT!

Get a fucking grip, man. Never mind the fact that in Sims 2 you can screw the maid infront of your wife and kids in the hot tub, have lesbian relationships, have children outside of marriage and one parent families - all those things that are arguably truly morally reprehensible - just focus on the flesh. America's leaning so far to the right these days that it's going to tip into the Atlantic Ocean. Well, the good news is that if these ultra-Conservatives have such a chaste attitude to nudity, none of them will ever end up having sex (and hence will not procreate), and therefore in another 50 years or so we won't have to listen to their stupid, self-serving, ignorant crap any more. Just don't tell them about IVF.

Not only are campaigns like Jack Thompson's badly informed, simplistic, completely fatuous and misleading, they also seek to clamp down on freedom of consumer choice and freedom of expression in entertainment media. I don't like being told what I can buy, and I certainly don't like the thought of games developers being told what they should be allowed to include in a game. There's nudity in Sims 2 because there's nudity in real life. My groin doesn't become obscured by pixellation every time I step out of the shower, and nor would I want it to. If some modder wants to remove the pixellation from Sims 2, why shouldn't he be able to? People will only install the mod if they want to. It's not a part of the standard product, and most players will probably not even bother installing it. It's a matter of the player's choice and even with it installed The Sims 2 is about as erotic as a cold sponge and about as shocking as a watch battery on your tongue. If The Sims 2 is Jack Thompson's idea of pornography, then he's got a very warped sense of reality, and should go out and buy a copy of Playboy. (Yes, I know Playboy's as tame as your average house cat - that's the point. People actually *do* buy Playboy for the articles, which is sick and wrong. Besides, he'd probably faint at the thought of buying Dutch Shemales Reader's Wives or something...)

Byte: Warning: Hitchhikers May Be Escaping Convicts

I was staying with my Canadian friends Chris and Tanya in London this weekend. I've been gradually turning Chris to the Dark Side over the last few months, ever since he bought his new PC. Playing PC games over at Chris's place is extra special, because he has his PC hooked up to a projector. Meaning that we play on an eight foot wide screen.

So, late on Saturday night, and throughout Sunday afternoon, I was introducing Chris to the joys of Deus Ex, plus steering him through a couple of missions on GTA: Vice City and Operation Flashpoint. The best part of the weekend, however, was playing through the last couple of levels of Halo. I'd never really had enough patience with Halo to grind my way past The Library, so I'd never gotten to the last part of the game where you revisit the Truth And Reconciliation and the Pillar of Autumn. The final Warthog run to get to the fighter with which you escape Halo is absolutely *mental*. If you've played it, picture how overwhelming the experience will be on an eight foot screen, viewed from about six feet away. My friend Chris actually gets motion-sickness from playing on the projector after and hour or so (though it doesn't affect me, funnily enough - I guess I'm more used to fooling my brain into seeing 2D images as 3D). So I'm leaping around, doing jumps and road raging over Covenant troops in this Warthog, and poor old Chris is trying to stop himself from turning as green as the Master Chief's armour... A great final level for a game, though - don't fight, just run!

It's a shame you can't co-op on the PC version. That would be awesome on the big screen. One of these days I'll have to take over the Xbrick and see if we can get it hooked up to the projector for some co-op thrills.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Bark: Menezes

As worst case scenarios go, the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes has got to be right up there with the very worst. The reason for my strong reaction to the news of the shooting on Thursday was my fear that the Police had shot the wrong man...

As horrible a tragedy as the shooting of Menezes is, you have to take a rational point of view.

Given the knowledge that we have suicide bombers in London both equipped and willing to cause carnage on the tubes and the streets, the Police on the front line are left with a no win situation. People may question the use of fatal force, but things boil down to a simple truth. You can't afford to fuck around when you're dealing with a potential suicide bomber. Menezes was desperately unlucky to have shared a house with the wrong people, but when you're confronted by a dozen or more armed police officers, the LAST thing you do is run into a tube station, jump the barrier and enter a train after you've been challenged to stop, just a day after four failed suicide bombing attempts. "Asking for trouble" would be the understatement of the century.

The policemen were confronted with a terrible choice - if he's carrying a bomb and detonates it, dozens of people could be killed. Do you shoot him and take one life to save others, or do you shoot to wound and risk them setting off the bomb? If you'll forgive the rather tasteless idiom, it's a no brainer from a security point of view. The policemen had to safeguard their own lives and those of the public - in this case it cost the life of an innocent man, but the police had acted on surveillance intelligence, and Menezes, unfortunately, played his own part in his death by failing to stop when challenged. I truly feel for the firearms officer involved who unleashed the fatal shots - he has to live with the reality of having killed an innocent man. His only consolation is that he did exactly the right thing - if Menezes had been carrying a bomb, his intervention would have saved many lives. Though that's probably going to be the coldest of comforts for him in the nights ahead...

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Byte: Buys of the year

It's a little bit early in the year for a "Game of the Year" post, but since it's just a short week until I sod off on holiday and don't update for a couple of weeks, I should up my post count now and give you something to read whilst I'm in the sticks. Since we're in the midst of the traditional summer lull, now seems like a good time to go over my favourite buys of the year so far.

Number One: Jade Empire on the Xbox. Without doubt, the finest RPG Bioware have made to date, which by natural extension puts it in the running for finest RPG ever. The ambience and vibe of the game are just peerless. It recreates the wonderfully mystical mood of recent Chinese films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or The House of Flying Daggers perfectly. It's devastatingly streamlined, accessible, not too long, has a great script and is purely just a joy to play.

Number Two: Meteos on DS. The UK version hasn't quite hit the market yet, and Meteos goes down as the first game I ever dared import, despite not being able to read a word of Japanese. I had a long running love affair with Tetris, and have an ongoing infatuation with Zookeeper, but Meteos comprehensively trounces them both, with an inspired blend of the key elements from both games. It's clearly not for everyone - to begin with it's such an overwhelming experience that the first five minutes will put a lot of people off, but it's one of the most compelling puzzle games of recent times. It's also the DS's first genuine killer app. If you own a DS, you *must* buy this.

Number Three: World of Warcraft. I'd always hestiated to get an MMORPG, on account of viewing the moment of signing up for a game subscription as something akin to passing the event horizon of a black hole. Say goodbye to your concept of time and the universe as you know it... Fortunately, WoW is a gaming singularity that won't leave your soul crushed and ripped into tiny pieces - it's an enchanting game, both aesthetically and in terms of design, that just keeps getting better as Blizzard roll out the updates.

Number Four: LEGO Star Wars on Xbox. This year I've really tried to get back to basics with my gaming, enjoying the simple pleasures for once. When it comes to simple pleasures, games don't get much more rewarding than this. Short and direct, this pushes all the right buttons to let you have the most amount of fun with the minimum amount of fuss. It's the best Star Wars game since KOTOR, and great fun in multiplayer.

Number Five: Freedom Force vs The 3rd Reich. A bit of a sleeper hit, this one. I remember not being too impressed by the demo of the original a couple of years back, but I chanced my arm on it for a tenner in the GAME sale a week or two back. It's usurped a surprising amount of time away from WoW, thanks to some fabulous presentation and the wonderfully deep character creation system.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Bark: Depp Impact

I was in London yesterday to see the fascinating World's Most Photographed exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, when I got a rather unexpected surprise. After finishing with the exhibition, my girlfriend and I had planned to do a little bit of shopping in Piccadilly and Chinatown before heading back to Leicester Square to meet the charming Dan Gril (who will be pleased to know that he gets my girlfriend's "He's niiiiiiiiice!" seal of approval), whom I know via my exploits in videogames journalism over the last couple of years.

As we were wandering up through Leicester Square towards Piccadilly, something struck us as being seriously amiss. Half of the square was barriered off, and the garden in the middle of the square had been spectacularly dressed like a deranged film set - with lollipops hanging from trees wrapped in faux-rock candy, and with sugar canes sprouting up from the flower beds like shrubs. As we walked around the square, the penny finally dropped.

We'd stumbled across the premiere of Tim Burton's remake of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. Which, of course, meant that Johnny Depp was turning up...

Well, that was it. Shopping was cancelled, and we took up places at the barrier on the edge of the garden closest to the entrance ramp which had been constructed outside the Odeon. The atmosphere was somewhat oestrogen-laden, since the crowd was mainly teenage girls, though that did give me the added advantage of being able to peer over the three rows of people infront of me at the barrier with practically an unobstructed view, thanks to my somewhat superior height.

After two hours, at around 4.30pm, my aching feet and the teeniebobbers jostling me constantly from behind for a view of bugger all (it would be another hour until the major cast turned up), in the searing afternoon heat finally got the better of me. I trampled my way over the girls behind me, found an express supermarket, and bought myself a 1.5 litre bottle of Highland Spring, which I promptly drank in about 20 minutes, sat down in the shade at the back of the square. Fleur stoically refused to move, or accept liquid refreshment, and stayed in place, guarding her tiny patch of barrier fiercely.

Whilst I waited for Dan to arrive, the major players finally began to turn up, and there were a few interesting people in the invited audience. Jonathan Ross had brought his whole family, who happily posed for pictures from the crowd, and even Jeffery Archer had managed an invite - the film's surreal sense of fantastic reality had obviously struck a chord...

I managed to catch a glimpse of Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter over the crowd. Helena looked stunning in a strapless blue dress, and Tim Burton's hair is commendably unruly. He must have teams of tigers dragging him backwards through privet hedges to get it to look like that. As Dan arrived, Christopher Lee and Johnny Depp finally turned up (see the company he keeps?) causing the crowd to go BESERK. Dan and I decamped to the Porcupine pub just over the road, whilst Johnny (looking super-dapper in a pale blue suit and French beret) worked the crowds - Fleur getting within a few metres, but sadly not close enough for an autograph.

It was an interesting experience, and nice to see film stars in the flesh, but probably not something I'd want to repeat - at least not in such heat...

Friday, July 15, 2005

Byte: Scratchpad

From the people who brought you the massively multiplayer online fridge magnet simulator, I now present, for your enjoyment and work avoidance, the massively multiplayer online doodle pad simulator!

Though you might not want to use this one at work, thanks to the propensity of its denizens to use it for the rendering of assorted profanities, phalluses, and politically incorrect symbols, such as the Swastika (or worse, the Canadian Flag). Don't say you weren't warned...

Bark: You know you're having a heat-induced fever dream when...

... you're fighting off relentless waves of dastardly alien invaders in an SR-71 Blackbird, all rendered in Zaxxon-style isometric 3D.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Bark: Bastille Day

The Francophiles amongst you will know that today is day the French commemorate the (in some cases, literal) decapitation of their ruling class. Since the 14th of July is treated with the same reverence by the French as the Americans treat the date ten days prior, it should be no surprise that the French staff at the school my other half teaches at press ganged the Principle into flying a French tricolor on the flag pole where the school's standard would normally be raised.

The victorious cry emanating from the passenger seat of my (French) car this morning when my girlfriend saw her national colours hoisted over a middle England school would have curdled the blood of any of the Bastille's defenders on that fateful night in 1789. She's probably going to have all her classes singing La Marseillaise before they start work...

Byte: You know you've been playing too much World of Warcraft when...

... you have a dream about getting a new bed and sofa, and it's delivered by goblins from Booty Bay. "Keeping it real!"

Still, at least I'm not dreaming about going to work by hippogryph... yet.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Bark: Numbers game

A nice link from Dan Gril, which helps prove that Mathematicians are even bigger geeks than Physicists. "Vampire numbers"... honestly. And they have "fangs". But of course! Keep taking the tablets.

I've got an extra number to add in to the list, however: 416. What's so special about this number? It's the number of hours left until my summer holiday.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Byte: TANKS! DIRTBIKES! What could *possibly* go wrong? Why are you looking at me like that?

I spent a couple of hours last night on a Joint Ops: Escalation server, playing on Advance And Secure maps, and to be honest, it was a pretty painful experience.

As online shooters go, it's almost spectacularly badly broken. What's the point of having a whole multitude of pistols, rifles, SMGs, machine guns and ammunition types when the most potent weapon in the game is A FUCKING KNIFE? I swear, at ranges of less than 10 metres, there's no point using guns at all, because the server side movement renders your aiming cursor useless. The reticule is dynamic to boot, so if you're moving AT ALL, your accuracy is so low you'd have trouble hitting a barn at ten paces. I've had AK-74's pointing into people's chests at point blank ranges, unloaded a whole magazine, and not killed them - at which point they sidle up to you and shank you through the face with a combat knife.

This isn't an aiming lag thing - I've got 1MB broadband, and I only play on servers with pings in double figures. The damn weapons DON'T SHOOT STRAIGHT. Either that, or people are cheating their ass off. It's more noticable with Rebel weaponry than Joint Ops weaponry, too. Okay, Joint Ops kit is meant to be the best money can buy, but in the interests of balancing, the disparity shouldn't be so glaring. Even common weaponry available to both sides seems to be more effective if you're playing Joint Ops. And don't get me started on the Spawn Point Rape.

The Engineer class is able to carry a mortar. These can either be fired manually, or a friendly sniper can help you out with the target designator so that you can fire blind without seeing the target. Well, on the server last night it was constant. A hard rain was falling, and I'm not talking about jungle squalls. It was a neverending whistle-crump of mortar shells ripping up the spawn points. You could be killed within seconds of respawning, without ever seeing who killed you, or having a chance to prevent it. It's goddamn infuriating, and so disappointing, because the game should be so much better.

As always, it comes down to the people playing it. AAS is meant to be a team game, but because of the server stats, everyone's out for themselves, and there's no co-ordination at all. Public servers are a complete waste of time, and I don't have the time to join a clan, where the quality of play (and players) would be better.

The jungle setting doesn't help either, because the foilage makes enemies five times harder to spot. Meaning that you have to scan the horizon super-carefully before you break cover. By which point, you've already been headshot a dozen times by the sniper hiding in a bush... There's nothing worse than being killed without knowing the who, how and where.

I'm going to avoid AAS secure servers from now on and stick to Co-op, Deathmatch or King Of The Hill servers, because at least the maps are tighter, and you're that much more likely to leave a spawn point with all your parts in the right place...

Bark: Pulling together in the face of adversity

Offered without comment.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Bark: London

You're going to have to forgive me for sounding a bit callous, but as I'm glued to the blanket TV coverage of the terrorist attacks in London this morning, I can't help but feel that the media is being very opportunist, sensationalist and hypocritical. Without doubt, the events are terrible - I have many friends in London I'm trying to check up on as I type - but what's happened this morning is no different, and even smaller scale to what happens in Baghdad and throughout Iraq EVERY DAY. Yet do we get TV schedules cancelled and wall-to-wall blanket coverage of the security operation? Of course not. But because it's London, somehow it's more important.

BULLSHIT.

The number of casualties isn't even that big - only two confirmed deaths so far, however I expect that number to increase at least tenfold - though there's been a calamatous effect on the London Transport system. The timing is clearly to coincide with the start of the G8 summit, and the intention was to grind the capital to a standstill. As far as it goes, it seems to be a complete success, as the tube has been closed, and the buses have been taken off the road too.

The media coverage is totally disproportionate to the severity of the attacks - it's 9/11 coverage for 0.0009/0.0011 events. There were bombings in Northern Ireland with casualty counts bigger than this. If there's anything the conflict in Northern Ireland tells us, it's that there's no point living in fear. You *could* get wiped out by a terrorist bomb at any time. Then again, you *could* get debrained by a meteorite in your back garden. The odds of either event happening are so extremely remote, they're not worth peering fearfully through the curtains about. That doesn't make either event happening any less tragic, but you can be blotted out of existence by nature at any time, so worrying about everything that *could* happen to you would be so paralysing you'd never get out of bed.

So fuck the terrorists, and fuck the media - I'm turning off the TV and getting back to work. Because that's the only way to defeat terrorism. Not with bombs, not with bullets - just fail to give them the recognition they want, so that nothing they do has any impact anymore.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Byte: Admitting you have a problem is the first step to finding a cure

About a year ago, on my old blog, I wrote down a list of all the games I've bought since I got into PC gaming. I thought that now, a year later, it would be nice to go back and update it, only this time, chucking the data into an easily updateable spreadsheet, so that I can not only maintain a list of all the games I own, but also rate them, log a rough estimate of the time I've sunk into them, and classify them by my desire to complete the game, and by how much I want to play the game.

So, I stayed up quite late last night, digging out that old blog post, and bashing all the data into Excel. I found, to my horror, that I've got more than ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY games, over three formats (classing expansion packs bought separately from the main game as separate titles). A round dozen on the Xbox, three on DS, and everything else on the PC. A bit of an imbalance there, but nothing a few hundred quid and a couple of months won't sort out!

Those 170-odd games conservatively equate to about 6000 hours of gaming time, over the last 9 years. That's a solid, constant, no-toilet-breaks TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY DAYS. And I've not even gotten around to playing about a dozen of the titles I've bought - some due to the fact that they're really old games and don't work on new kit (i.e. they were acquired off eBay for Collector's value, for example Terra Nova), other's out of a sense of guilt ("You didn't buy Hostile Waters! You're killing the industry!") and others I'm just plain not quite yet in the mood to play (such as Combat Mission 2 or Hidden And Dangerous Deluxe).

Still, the advantage of bunging it all into a spreadsheet means that I can autofilter the list by all the criteria I've filled in, letting me see which games I should really be devoting my time to. For example, through the miracles of computer science, I've been able to determine that the games I want to go back to and complete the most are Vampire Bloodlines, GTA: Vice City, Halo 2, Baldur's Gate II, Polarium and No One Lives Forever, which should prevent me from sinking all my free time into World Of Warcraft.

Then I can filter the list and at least try all the games I've not even played a couple of hours of yet (such as XIII, Tron 2.0 and Medieval: Total War, to name but a few). If I were ever foolish enough to publically distribute the list, people would boggle at the fact I've plugged more than 300 hours in Star Wars: Supremacy, but barely even touched something like Alpha Centauri... but hey, them's the breaks, I suppose.

I bet you're just dying to know what's my favourite game, though. Well, if you rate in terms of a combination of percentage score and number of hours played, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is the hands down winner. Only World Of Warcraft comes close, though Supremacy and UFO: Enemy Unknown rank up there in the number of hours played. TIE Fighter's not too far off the pace, either.

You know something? Channel Four's weekend programming director is right. Lists ROCK. I could probably spend more time mucking about with this spreadsheet than playing the games themselves...

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Bark: Someone's forgotten to take their tablets again...

Definitive proof that Astrology is not a science.

[Russian astrologer] Marina Bai wants £170,000 in damages after Nasa's Deep Impact probe crashed into the Tempel 1 comet.

She said the collision will change the orbit of the comet and therefore affect the night skyscape, and she will be unable to read horoscopes properly without lots of extra research.


Deary me. Perhaps she should research some Mathematics and learn that crashing a probe the size of a washing machine into a comet THE SIZE OF A LARGE CITY won't affect its orbit at all. Or do her horoscopes go down to nanometres?

I should sue *her* for damages because STUPIDITY MAKES ME STRESSED.

Byte: Google Earth

I first heard about this last week, thanks to my friend Richard, but I fear he missed the mark when going for the "Your search returned no results" gag. I would have used the search "Weapons of Mass Destruction, Iraq", myself...

I got around to downloading it yesterday morning, and promptly lost a whole morning's work to the joy of looking up friends' houses, and giggling at the tiny cars on the Champs Elysées. Google Earth is a staggering piece of technology. Even my normally Luddite girlfriend was amazed when I showed her a satellite photo of her parents' house, and you could see the cars parked outside... Unfortunately, not everywhere has that kind of high resolution coverage yet. The village where my parents live is an unidentifiable smudge on the map - the only way I was able to find it at all was to use the Roads overlay. I expect that this will be a product that will be continually upgraded over time, because some of the satellite images appear to be quite old. Wembley Stadium, for example, appears be the old one, with the Twin Towers, not the new stadium with the Arch.

It'll be fascinating to see Google Earth evolve and improve over the next few years. The thought of being able to take a virtual flyby down any street in the world is a mind-boggling one. I wonder if it will affect the tourist industry any...

It's still in Beta, so be patient with the download link, as there's been a massive demand for it. Rest assured, the wait is worth it.

Bark: Do my eyes deceive me?

A bit late, but I do have to say a few words about the Wimbledon Men's final. The way Federer took apart Roddick was awe inspiring - the guy's on another planet to the rest of tennis at the moment. Some of Federer's shot-making defies belief - it's a privilege to watch. He's absolutely a contender for Best Tennis Player Ever. Though perhaps the most pleasing thing about the final was the way Andy Roddick took defeat.

No "he was lucky" or "I played badly", just the humble realisation that he's not even on the same level, and that he's got to go away and work his tail off to compete. An American sportsman gracious and humble in defeat? Andy, you won another fan in me on Sunday.

The whole tournament has been great - the coverage on the website was good (a little corporate plug, there - the shot tracker was really cool), but the TV coverage on the BBC was the best I remember for a while. Having people like John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Boris Becker and Tracy Austin providing colour commentary was fantastic - their enthusiasm for the game really shines through. It might not make me pick up a racquet in anger (tennis was never my strongest sport), but it'll sure keep me watching the game. Just one request, though - show some more of Mansour Bahrami next time - he's an absolute wizard.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Bark: Boots of Avoidance -8

I've been studiously avoiding the news and any coverage of the Live 8 concerts this weekend, because of the sheer hypocrisy of multi-millionaire popstars preaching how we should make poverty history, when they themselves are the product of the very worst in capitalist marketing. "Make poverty history"? I think they've got it the wrong way around.

Make *wealth* history.

No-one needs a personal fortune of tens of millions of pounds, or a couple of billion stashed away of a private island somewhere. It's only the vested interests of the rich that make the gap between the rich and the poor wider every year. Call me a commie-pinko-liberal, but if you were to take the the money that those millionaires and billionaires will never, ever spend in their lives, and distribute it to all those people who're living on less than a dollar a day, then we might give everyone a reasonable income and a means to live, not just exist.

I earn about thirty grand a year, and despite being mortgaged to the eyeballs and driving a car the costs me a fortune, I'm comfortably off - the only reason I would need more money would be to buy more shit that I don't really need - a dozen videogames and DVDs a month, a bigger, even more overpriced home, a widescreen TV, home cinema system and a nice Aston Martin DB9.

So, Sir Bob, Bono, Madonna, et al - put your money where your mouth is and try living on an income like mine, fly on EasyJet, not your own private plane - drive a Peugeot instead of a Porsche. Put that money to good use by sending it to Africa, not being pushed around by pinstriped stockbrockers slicing off their own 10%.

There are more than enough resources in the world to allow everyone to live in plenty - it's only corporate and individual greed that creates a world of such division - a fundamental cruelty of humanity and the systems and conventions we choose to live in, and the unwillingness to change the status quo in order to preserve what we have, rather than change it for the good of us all.

Without a fundamental change of the principles of economy, poverty will never be eliminated, regardless of how many international popstars stand up to preach on the mass media. The Live 8 concerts will do wonders for the record sales of the artists involved. How many of them will give the profits from their sales spikes to the needy all around the world? Not a one, I'd wager.

It's enough to make you vomit.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Bark: Federer

Everyone loves a winner, and it really does help when that winner's such a nice bloke with it. The thing that really impresses me about Roger Federer isn't just his game, which is first class - he made the World Number 2 look a little stupid today - but his attitude off the court is genuinely *world* class.

Even if you've never played tennis in your life, though, you can see the beauty in the way he plays the game. I've been watching Wimbledon for 20 years now, and Federer has to rank up there with the best I've ever seen. His backhand is a real thing of beauty - the follow-through on the shot, and the way he can alter his grip to adjust the spin, it's fabulous to watch. The way he can control the spin of the ball is just phenomenal - a couple of the shots against Hewitt today were simply outrageous. It's looking like the Federer/Roddick final I predicted is on the cards - it should be a fantastic watch on Sunday - probably a better one than the Grand Prix, if the US one was anything to go by. Don't miss it - without a shadow of a doubt, he's one of the great sportsmen of the world.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Bark: Only in America...

A woman in America has had her FACE TATTOOED with the URL of an online casino, for the princely sum of $15,000. She originally only asked for $10,000, but those generous capitalists (whom I won't give the dignity of naming here) paying for this women to permanently disfigure her FACE decided to give her an extra five grand, because she wanted the money to pay for her son's education.

Just how far does she expect that money to go? Seriously. $15,000 is not going to put a kid through the American college system, and isn't going to go very far in a private school, either. Maybe a couple of terms. And when you consider that the son is going to have inherited her STUPID GENES, the words "lost" and "cause" spring to mind anyway...