Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Bark/Byte: A Gamey Christmas

This Christmas I'm a thirty-something Kevin McAllister. If that name rings a vague bell, that's because it's what Macaulay Culkin is called in Home Alone. Though at least I have more beer and better games to play than he did. (But sadly, no snow)

I think this is actually the first Christmas I've ever spent on my own (the neighbour's cat doesn't count, even though I'm cat-sitting and Bram is very cuddly) and I have to say, it's not such a bad experience. Of course, there's bugger all on TV (except my hero, James May, doing very nasty things to girls' toys this evening) and I have no-one to get into a vicious argument with over a Trivial Pursuit board, but that's probably a good thing. To quote Robert De Niro from my favourite film ever, "I am alone. I am not lonely." I'll probably be watching that later, as I've not seen it yet on my new TV. and it's a great opportunity to really annoy any neighbours who are still around by watching the post-bank heist firefight at maximum volume.

I'm writing this as I'm waiting for my Christmas dinner to cook. Since I'm on my own, I didn't think there was much point in buying a turkey - much as though I like it, I don't want to be eating it for the next three weeks. So I went deer hunting at my local butcher, and got some venison instead; I thought I might as well eat game if I'm going to spend Christmas playing them... get a bit of a theme going. I'm doing it with ramiro red peppers, red onion and button mushrooms as a bit of a casserole, having marinaded the venison first in red wine, thyme and garlic. I'm using the marinade as the cooking liquor and slow cooking it over a low heat for about an hour - coincidentally just how long it takes to roast potatoes. Funny, that. Oh, and it smells absolutely divine. (I've still got 15 minutes cooking time to go at this point) Of course, I couldn't have this just on its own, I've got the goose fat on the go, and I'm roasting far too many potatoes with some carrots and parsnips, with a few sprigs of thyme to help flavour the fat. Goose fat may, in fact, be the most evil substance known to Man, but by golly, it makes great roast potatoes. I'm also steaming some brussel sprouts, because what is Christmas without sprouts? So at least I'm eating well and not existing solely on toasted bacon sandwiches with HP sauce. Though I am sorely tempted to try, believe me. I've got three packs of of the stuff to get through between now and the New Year.

After dinner, I'm probably going to try and put a couple of levels on my new Blood Elf Hunter. Sad, I know, but I genuinely don't have anything better to do. I have to say that I'm finding that tricky patch between Level 20 and Level 30 far easier playing as a Horde than I ever did with my Alliance characters on Zenedar. I've got three alts stalled at level 24 on Zenedar, but my Blood Elf Hunter has already stormed to Level 23 and shows no signs of slowing down. I only rolled a new character because the guys from videogamer.com have finally jumped on the WoW bandwagon (They got on it slower than I did! I can't believe it! Finally! I'm a trend-setter!) and started off on what's commonly thought to be the PvP server most games industry types play WoW on in the UK. I've even seen a guild called "Gank me, I'm famous".

Last night was spent saving the galaxy on Star Wars: Supremacy; for my money easily the most underrated Star Wars game ever made. I find it's seductive pull curious, because you could hardly say it's an exciting game. There's just something about taking a 20 sector galaxy (each sector having ten planetary systems) and applying your strategy to conquer it. I think I'm getting a bit too good at Supremacy now - I won as the Rebels on Medium difficulty (the Star Destroyer difficulty setting at the main menu screen) in just 620 days - the Imperials only having half a dozen systems to my eighty by the time I'd taken Coruscant. I think the key is to try and knobble the enemies diplomats as early in the game as you can, and that allows you to spam sectors with guerillas to try and provoke uprisings, because without diplomats, their only recourse is to use huge amounts of troops to restore order - the production of which reduces the amount of resources they have to build ships. This is a great strategy for the Rebellion in particular, because they don't get a decent starting fleet to begin with, and need longer to build ships capable of fending off a Star Destroyer. I should play again now as the Empire, because I like the thought of having the Emperor and Darth Vader at my beck and call... it's really not good for my megalomania complex.

Anyway. I've got venison to eat and there's beer to be drunk. Have a good Christmas, everyone. I know I will...
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