Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Byte: People with too much time on their hands + The Internet = Random Brilliance

I came upon this link by accident via the comments thread on Rich Cobbett's brilliant "How not to write a Girl Gamers article" article.

This will probably only make sense to people who're of a certain age and of suitably eclectic television watching taste, but it's one of those wonderful little internet gems that makes putting up with the 99.999999999% of it (the internet) that's rubbish worth it.

Ladies and gentlemen... The Cosby Bebop.


Friday, May 26, 2006

Byte: Death to all Americans

I'm finding it actually impossible to do my job at the moment, thanks to a group of Americans who are continually blocking me being granted access to a database I need to do anything related to my job role. Apparently, being part of a Scorecard team responsible for the management information reporting of AN ENTIRE COMPANY GEOGRAPHY is "too vague" a business justification for access to the database...

So, I'm going to summarily execute the next American I see. Which is tough luck on them, but that's what you get for being a compatriot of people who are making my life difficult.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Bark: Bedside manner

Well, that was most unpleasant. With the recurrance of my eye problem over the weekend, I went back to the doctor's this morning, where I had a needle stuck into my bottom eyelid, and had it squeezed until the pus oozing out of the wound was replaced by blood. I warned the doctor beforehand that I was a little bit squeamish about having people mess around my eyes (especially with needles), so what did she say?

"Well, make sure you stay still then, otherwise you'll have one less to worry about."

Not particularly reassuring, you'll agree. It never ceases to amaze me in how many ways your body will either try to kill you or put you in abject pain if you don't take care of it well enough, but I have to say, having a needle stuck into an infected eyelid rates right up there as one of the most hideous, and one I'm least likely to want to repeat... Let's just hope this course of antibiotics does the trick this time.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Bark: Of all the things to break...

What do you think is the most important part of a car? The engine? The wheels? The steering? Nope, it's the spring mechanism that pops out the cover plate over the fuel refiller cap. Or to be more precise, the 5p piece of plastic attached to the cover plate that gets pushed out by the spring. Which broke this afternoon as I went to fill up the car.

I stop at my local petrol station, turn off the engine, open my door, pull the lever to pop the cover plate and... nothing happens. And I only have about 40 miles worth of diesel left in my tank. It's not much use having a car if you can't bloody refuel it, is it? So I burn 4 miles of precious hydrocarbon getting home, and call out the AA. We figure out what's gone wrong, and opt for a high-tech solution. We simply wedge a bit of plastic under the handle that pulls back the locking bar on the cover flap, letting me tap it open manually...

I find it faintly ridiculous that a car costing the best part of twenty-two thousand pounds can be rendered almost completely unusable because of the failure of possibily the cheapest component. Though I suppose that shouldn't be any surprise. Just ask the crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger... okay, slightly tasteless, but you get the idea. And I can just imagine how much the garage will want to charge me to fix (or should I say, replace) the cover.

Still, I know what Jeremy Clarkson would say - that's my fault for being stupid enough to buy a Peugeot in the first place...

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Byte: Added value

Some videogame publishers don't think that charging you £34.99 for their latest game is enough. This has given rise to an increasing frequency of "Collectors" or "Deluxe" Editions of games, where they bundle up very cheap added extras and charge you an extra fiver or tenner for them.

The latest on the list is Heroes of Might and Magic V, which I picked up yesterday (for reasons I won't go into at this moment in time - all will be revealed in a week or two). Here, the Deluxe edition includes three extra single scenario missions, a Factions Document giving you a breakdown of all the units in the game and their abilities, a concept art booklet, a printed map of the game world and a copy of one of its prequel games, Heroes of Might and Magic II.

On the face of it, this sounds all well and good. Well, it would, if there weren't just a few little problems. One, the printed map, whilst pretty enough, is thoroughly useless in helping you play the game (unlike, say, the maps bundled with the GTA games). Two, the art booklet is nice in and of itself, but it's something you'll look at once, and never ever need or want to take out of the box again. And finally, the icing on the cake, the "free" game, HOMM II, doesn't work on Windows XP, even in compatibility mode. And believe me, I've tried. How's that for futile, eh? There's even a little printed note in the box telling you that it won't recognise your operating system and that none of the game update functions will work, since 3DO don't exist anymore. It just begs the question, why did they bother at all?

Okay, so the actual box for the Deluxe Edition is very pretty (it's bound like a hardback book - a whole lot nicer than metal tins they typically stick games in for their special edtions) and the Factions Document is quite useful, but in terms of actual bang for your buck, all that you really get is the three extra standalone missions. When you consider that the six campaigns total a good 30 missions, and on average, you'll need around four hours for each one (not quite true - the first couple of missions in each campaign can be done quite quickly, an hour or two each, but the ones at the end of the campaigns can eat anything up to a staggering 8 hours alone), maybe that's not such bad value after all. 12 hours of game (assuming you only play them once) for a fiver? Your average FPS only runs to 8-12 hours these days and you pay full price for those. Though if you're plugging upwards of 120 hours into the game just to complete the campaign, will you even have time to get around to playing the standalone missions? And that's not even touching the multiplayer... I'm not against Deluxe or Collectors Editions in principle, it's just that it would rankle with me less if the vast majority of the "added value" wasn't so thoroughly useless.

Oh, and my arm's much better now. Thanks for asking.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Bark: It's official - work is bad for you...

My right eyelid flared up this morning spectacularly, necessitating a trip to the doctor. He tells me that it's an infection of the soft tissues of the eyelid, and promptly puts me on a course of Flucloxacillin - an antibiotic - the first prescribed medication I've had to take in easily nine years. Then I mention the pains I've been having in my right arm over the last week or so.

He examined my arm and asked me where it hurt when I flexed my wrist, and said that I had tenosynovitis, essentially an inflammation of the sheath around the tendons in my arms - i.e. the early stages of RSI. He then promptly assigned me a course of anti-inflammatories and gave me a doctor's note for two weeks off work. I'm going to be popular with my manager...

So don't expect to see me online very much (if at all) over the next couple of weeks, because if I can't use a computer for work, I can't really use it for play, either. Bummer. Just as well I have over 100 DVDs in the house. Otherwise I might get very bored...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Byte: Whoops!

I had to do something I've never done before today. I had to correct a review. Remember my gripe about the power management dial in Auto Assault? Well, the publisher's PR mentioned this in their feedback to my editor when they saw it in my review. So I went back to look at it again: and it turns out that it *does* actually say "Offense" where it should. EXCEPT THAT YOU CAN'T TELL BECAUSE OF THE FONT, UNLESS YOU'RE ABOUT THREE INCHES FROM THE SCREEN. I've played Auto Assault for the best part of fifty hours, and it annoyed me all that time, and it's even more annoying now that I know it was actually right in the first place. Not that I made a mistake in not seeing it, I freely admit to those, but that the design wasn't clear enough in the first place. That and the fact that the PR seems resolutely unable to accept the correction to the review and the editor's apology/clarification appended to the bottom with anything approaching good grace.

It's a frustrating game, Auto Assault - it has all the elements there to be great, but it's just not polished enough. Naturally, I still stand by the mark. If the PR doesn't like it, then tough. It's not like it's been getting spectacularly good reviews anyway...