Monday, December 18, 2006

Byte: Fuck it, Dude. Let's go bowling...

I've been playing Wii Bowling so much that my arms ache. If I keep this up, I'm going to end up with arms like Popeye. Before Fleur dragged me to bed at around 1am this morning, I'd not only managed to gain Pro skill level, but I scored my first 200 point game. I topped out at 221 points - landing five strikes in a row, and managing spares with just about everything else. If only real-life bowling was that easy.

I love the way you can add spin to the ball by twisting the controller just prior to release; handy for taking out those tricky pins at the back corners. I'm enjoying the tennis and the baseball too, though I remain to be convinced about the golf. Perhaps I should try it with the Wiimote sensor bar on top of the TV rather than underneath it, but it seems very fiddly when judging the strength of putts. When I'm trying to do soft, sub-2m putts, my strokes don't seem to register at all, or they just end up being way too strong and the ball flies to the other end of the green. Being quite tall doesn't really help either, I'm sure. I've still not tried the boxing yet, mainly on account that Fleur gives me funny enough looks when I'm bowling...

I decided to work in the office today, just so I can go into town at lunch to pick up a copy of Rayman Raving Rabbids... Speaking of which, look at the time!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Byte: Wii have arrived!

I didn't get much sleep last night, not just thanks to the best part of £400 going on my credit card yesterday to pay for my coupĂ©'s latest service and MOT (which included new front brake discs and pads), but mainly because I was too excited about the thought of my Wii turning up sometime today (and also the worry that it might not arrive before I flit off to France for Christmas).

I know that I shouldn't be this excited about a games console, but I can't help it. It arrived (much to my relief) around half ten this morning, and I've managed to get it set up, including the WiiConnect24 stuff, which cooperated with my wireless router fairly painlessly (which is more than can be said for my DS). So those of you that are inclined, my Wii friend code is 3788 8094 7387 1814. Feel free to post your code in the comments thread.

I've just had a quick go on Wii Sports, and the bowling is all kinds of awesome. Fleur's going to love it when she tries it tonight. Well, at least I hope she does... My top score so far is 135, which is better than I get in real life, curiously. I'll be this good in no time, I'm sure. Though my flat doesn't *quite* have the room for all the crazy moves. I've also had a quick game of baseball, too, which if anything was harder than the version I played in Leipzig. I still got a few homers, but it seems like the AI pitching has a bit more variety to it compared to what I played in the summer. The pitching is quite cool. I can get a 151kph fastball, but I haven't quite figured out how to throw curveballs yet. Still, practice makes perfect, I suppose. [Edit: It helps if you read the manual, dummy! - RTFM Ed]

Now I just need to go out and buy a copy of Rayman...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Bark: Design a Space Mission

The Planetary Society is running a competition to design a space mission to put a tag on a near-Earth asteroid, which at 400m wide poses quite a big threat, if it should ever come down on a city. With a prize of $50,000, I'm sure it's going to attract quite a bit of attention, even if no-one ever decides to follow it up with an actual mission.

My prediction: the one with the coolest acronym will win. You don't get anywhere in Space Science without a cool acronym...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Byte: Wii have lift off!

I was just chatting with NTSC-UK's charlesr about the rather awesome WiiSaber plug-in someone has made for the Wii controller, when I decide to check my pre-order with Woolies. To my shock, and delight, the status had changed from "pre-order" (as it was last night) to "Ready to despatch".

It's at this point, I feel, that a "yay" is in order.

YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYY!!!!!!!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Byte: Epic Entertainment

With the Wii not turning up and with there being relatively little on my reviewing list at the moment, I've been spending most of my free time playing Hordes of the Underdark again. In my opinion, it's probably the best computerised AD&D game out there at the moment. I certainly prefer it to Neverwinter Nights 2, at any rate. It's probably only because I can play with obscenely powerful Epic level characters (my current favourite being an Elven Neutral Evil Wizard-Rogue-Pale Master), but it does have a very mature feel to it. Taking in some of the most iconic places in the Forgotten Realms (Waterdeep, Undermountain, the Underdark and the Hells of Cania) and dealing with themes as diverse as love, betrayal, ambition, heroism and treachery, plus some brilliant set pieces, there's certainly a lot to keep you interested over the course of the three chapters. It should come with a big "Not for beginners" label on the box, as it's quite hardcore (especially the initial dungeon crawl in Undermountain), but I've been having lots of fun with it, even on what must be my fifth replay by now. I certainly never get tired of seeing Deekin with Red Dragon Disciple wings. (Speaking of which, where on Faerun did they disappear to in NWN2?)

As for my Wii pre-order with Woolworths, I'm going to give them until Friday morning to update the status on my pre-order, and if it's not flagged as "ready for dispatch" by then, I'm going to have to cancel it. No way am I risking that they try to deliver my Wii when I'm off on holiday for Christmas in France and have some feckless Postie run off with it. And to be honest, I could actually do without the expense at the moment (despite the money coming through from gTM), as my car's going into the garage for a service and MOT on Friday, which will no doubt cost a small fortune as I've been driving for about 6 weeks on worn brakes. Though having said that, I'll probably end up buying one from the FNAC when I'm over there. Oh well.

Also in the name of cost-saving, I've decided not to renew my WoW subscription (that expired a couple of weeks ago) until The Burning Crusade comes out in January. I didn't think that there'd be much point in renewing and wasting a couple of week's worth of subscription fees, seeing as I'll be out of the country over Christmas and New Year with no access to my WoW account. So much for hitting Level 60 before the expansion pack comes out. I haven't *ding*ed since Shareth hit Level 53 over a month ago now. Not that I'm too bothered. I've always said that for me playing WoW was more about the journey than the destination. Though it's mildly worrying that I haven't seen either Fearx or Zinar when I've been online recently. Though for Fearx it's understandable, given that he's had a wee bairn in real life, so I guess WoW is the last thing on his mind at the moment...

Friday, December 08, 2006

Byte: Shiggy...

Wii have a problem...
A website dedicated to the carnage wrought by Wii-owners who are clearly TOO STUPID to own them. I especially like the broken TVs section. For their own safety and well being, these people should clearly give their Wiis to me.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Bark: Cacophony

Between the thunderstorm, the raging gales, hail and the Army across the road firing off 155mm mobile artillery pieces, I'm finding it very hard to concentrate at the moment.

Rather than trying to fight fire with fire, I'm battling noise with noise, specifically, Mogwai.

Byte: Pissed off...

Sorry to make such an obvious Wii pun, but I'm annoyed. It doesn't look like my Wii pre-order from Woolworths is going to arrive tomorrow. It's doubly annoying, because after I pre-ordered, I told mon ami Cobbett that they were still guaranteeing pre-orders, so he ordered one an hour or so after I did, and he got a notification last night telling him that his Wii was "ready to dispatch".

How does that work, then?

I pre-order one first, but I get the standard "Nintendo haven't shipped all of our allocation, apologies for the delay" email, but Rich gets his? Something to do with the fact his surname begins with "C" and mine with "M", or that we don't live in the same locality? (South-West compared to South-East) You would like to think that if you're taking orders through a website, all the units would be allocated centrally. But from where I'm sitting, it doesn't look like it to me.

Woolworths are claiming that they should still be able to fulfil all their pre-orders by Christmas (which wouldn't be a disaster), but I still would have liked to have been able to boogie to Rayman Raving Rabbids tomorrow night into the early hours... And as a freelance games journalist looking to expand his portfolio, I should give them a nasty phone call and threaten to sue on grounds of loss of earnings if they don't GIVE ME MY WII, *NOW*...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Bark: Engage brain before clicking send...

Just had a surreal moment at work. We're really busy doing a shedload of preparation for next year's reporting, and we had an email thread spiral out of control, being copied to half a dozen people. I mention to my team leader about how much it's doing my head in, trying to keep track of all these emails flying around every 15 minutes, so she sends out an email saying "Stop. Stop it now. Use the phone and don't clog up everyone's goddamn inbox." (Except not quite using those words, natch).

Five minutes later, a reply-to-all comes back saying "yeah, we really should be using the phone or instant messenger for this..."

HELLO? HHEELLLLOOOOOO?!?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Byte: Getting the press

Everyone in the mainstream press seems to be creaming their pants over Second Life at the moment. From my own company's Glorious Leader's plan to use it as a basis for a 3D intranet to replace corporate instant messaging and video/telephone conferencing, to the claims of a Second Life player that they're the first online gamer to have virtual assets worth more than one million dollars. Even The Economist has done an article on it.

The game does certainly does have some vociferous supporters, but everything I've read about virtual-to-real economy-based MMORPGs like Second Life or the lesser known Project Entropia leaves me with the impression that they would bore me senseless. Games should be oriented around having fun, not making money. And I'm not sure I like the idea of having virtual economies crossing over with the real world, either; because then some bright spark at the Treasury is going to think "Where's our piece of the action?" and start taxing transactions whenever you buy or sell something in the auction house in World of Warcraft. It's a slippery slope I don't think gamers should really risk falling down.

Okay, so you can argue that Second Life isn't really a "game" and that different rules should apply for MMORPGs where there is a designed tie-in from the real world economy to the virtual one, but I don't think that's going to cut much ice with the Treasury or the IRS in America when they're looking at the amount of (virtual) money being spent in online transactions, translating it to real money (because "unofficial" exchange rates do exist for MMORPG currencies such as those in Everquest and WoW) and then sticking on their rate of sales tax or VAT...

Would players just accept it as part of the cost of playing online? How would the government extract their cut from the system? How could such a ruling even be enforced? So many unanswered questions... This is one of the more interesting ways in which new technologies and gaming are muddying the boundaries between the real and the virtual world. How can we ensure that fun stays fun, instead of becoming yet another way for our governments to bolster their coffers?

I'll have to put some more thought into this. I'm sure there's a good feature just begging to be written on this subject...