Thursday, December 18, 2008

Byte: Why didn't I think of this before?

I was chatting earlier with my chum Neal, about his plans to hook up his Spectrum to his big screen LCD TV, when I suddenly had a bit of a brainstorm. My own LCD TV, all thirty-two inches of widescreen goodness of it, has a VGA port. And my laptop has a DVI port to hook up to an external monitor... I think you can see where this is going.

Now, since I happen to have bought a new monitor for my desktop PC in the last week or two, I had a spare VGA cable lurking around the house, plus a DVI-to-VGA dongle, which got made redundant, since I now use a DVI-only cable to hook up my PC to my monitor. So five minutes of fiddling later... and I've got my laptop hooked up to the TV and I'm playing WoW.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Byte: Mass Effect - revisited

I've been replaying Mass Effect quite heavily since I bought my shiny new widescreen monitor. I rolled a new Adept character (opting for Sniper Rifles, rather than Assault Rifles as my bonus feat, in order to not make the combat such a walkover), and unusually for me, chose a male avatar so I could replay the Ashley romance, since it's the most interesting one. I've got about a third to halfway through the main quest with my new character (named Buck, after one of my favourite characters in Band of Brothers), a despite a few weird clipping problems with the Matriarch Benezia fight on Noveria (that was fun having to repeat that four times because my character kept getting put inside walls during the cutscenes in the middle of the fight) and a few graphics driver problems (nVidia, the way it's meant to be played, my arse!), I've been having a lot of fun with it. Adepts totally kick bottom, especially when you're chucking out biotic singularities that suck up enemies like a black hole and rip them to pieces in mid air. I'm playing through the game with Ashley and Tali, which gives me a specialist in each talent tree, rather than going for a hybrid approach. Tali is surprising useful in combat, thanks to her ability to hack hostile AI characters, amazingly high personal shield strength (if you pump lots of points into Electronics and her class skill) and she's bloody lethal with a decent shotgun. At anything beyond level 20, she's at least as good as Wrex at dealing damage, and with a high decryption skill as well, you can really hoover up all the artifacts and locked goody chests without any real problems at all.

I think Mass Effect probably goes down as my favourite single-player game of this year (Trials 2 does run it close, however), though it would be nice if Bioware could sort out all the driver issues, because having to reboot my machine every two hours played is a bit of a swine. Though that is an improvement over about a week ago, since I've now removed the faulty graphics card and switched my mobo over from SLI mode to single card mode in the BIOS, which means that the PC doesn't take an Ice Age to POST and the whole system is a lot more stable now. Still, I'm disappointed that Bioware's post-release support seems to have taken a huge downturn since they got assimilated by EA. Not only have they released just one patch in six months since the game was released, I can't even find a link to the patch on the official website, and had to download it through a gamer site instead. I hope this isn't going to set a trend for their future releases. I'm not holding my breath though, since EA's general attitude to post-release support seems to be "we have your money, why should we give a fuck?", which is about as enlightened as their approach to DRM - that is, not very fucking enlightened at all. Way to garner customer loyalty, EA!

Bark: A worrying development

If the CD I bought yesterday is anything to go by, I appear to be turning into my Dad.


My only consolation is that at least my Dad doesn't like Iggy Pop.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Byte: Official Approval

I just found out today that Blizzard liked my Wrath of the Lich King review enough to link to it (the post dated 09/12/2008 'More Wrath of the Lich King reviews'). I approve of their approval of my approval. They also linked to it on the European WoW site as well (see the General News section), and the review is currently second in the top games list on Videogamer, so hopefully it's getting lots of hits. And maybe some of the people following the link are actually reading the review and not just looking at the score. I live in hope, anyway...

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Bark: White & Nerdy

What would we do without Youtube, eh?

Is it wrong to like parodies more than the original version?

Watch out for the brief cameo by Seth Green, the Star Wars Kid reference and the awesome moves by Donny Osmond (POP! POP!) in the whiteboard cuts.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Byte: Now in glorious widescreen

My new monitor arrived just after lunchtime today. Gosh, it's really rather gorgeous.

The colour, brightness, response time and contrast all dwarf that of my old monitor, and there isn't a single dead pixel. You could say I'm rather pleased. Even Fleur likes it, since it's shinier and sexier than the old boring beige one I had (speaking of which, submit your pleas to give it a good home here).

I've tested it out with quite a few of my games to see how my PC handles the higher resolution and the good news is that it copes with World of Warcraft, Trials 2, Mass Effect, Call of Duty: World at War, GTR Evolution, Far Cry 2 and The Witcher: Enhanced Edition without any noticeable frame rate drops. Even UFO: Enemy Unknown looks pretty awesome on it - amazing, considering it's upscaling all the way up from 320x240.

So I would definitely recommend one, if you're in the market for a new monitor.

Byte: It was only a matter of time

You Scored as Dr Gaius Baltar

You have betrayed humanity, for a blonde. However you'd rather people learnt to just get past that. After all, you never meant wipe out the human race. Luckily you are cleverer than everyone else, so no one will ever know. Even though they look at you with suspicion behind their eyes.

Dr Gaius Baltar

Lt. Sharon Valerii (Boomer)

Tom Zarek

Lt. Kara Thrace (Starbuck)

Number 6

Commander William Adama

President Laura Roslin

CPO Galen Tyrol

Col. Saul Tigh

Capt. Lee Adama (Apollo)

I scored as Baltar on a tiebreaker. You've got to admit it's not such a surprising result. Take the test here.

Byte: Pessimists are rarely disappointed

Well, it seems like the DRM thing is the least of GTA 4's problems.

You've got to say it's a pretty poor effort to ship a game in a state like this. Broken or non-existent textures, insanely prohibitive hardware requirements, compulsory add-on software that is seemingly incompatible with the actual game itself and the fact that the release code actually appears to be in a much worse state than the review code that was sent out... I'm staying well clear of this heap of badly optimised code. (And that's me being nice about it)

I'd say it's all part of an elaborate plot to make us all stop playing games on PCs and buy consoles, but I don't credit Microsoft with that much intelligence. And let's be honest, it would be a really fucking stupid way of going about it, too.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Byte: HAVE IT!

I need to stop using the internet. I gave into temptation and bought that Samsung widescreen monitor I saw on Tuesday. Checking back through my ebuyer order history, this monitor is half the price of my current one - a 19" LG L1915S, though admittedly I did buy that over three and a half years ago. Still, it's pretty amazing that you can get such a good monitor for that price (throwing in an extra tenner for next day delivery).


Byte: Grand Theft DRM Shitstorm 4

Further proof that the GTA series peaked at Vice City and has been plummeting down a slope to shittiness ever since.

I've already talked at length about why I don't particularly give a monkey's peanut crunch about GTA 4. However, not really caring a damn about the game itself seems to pale in comparison these days to DRM concerns, and Rockstar have played a blinder here.

How does FORCING YOUR OWN PAYING CUSTOMERS to install programs they don't necessarily want AND CAN'T REMOVE (short of reinstalling the operating system) offset not having installation limits (as Microsoft's Games For Windows community manager would have you believe)? Erm, it doesn't. I'd rather have a limited number of installs than be dictated to as to supplementary programs I don't want being installed on my machine so that play a game. And I certainly don't want to be told that I must install that crap, and then even if I uninstall the game, it can't be removed. Why don't you just tell me what times of the day I can play as well?

FUCK THAT. That's not "protecting your investment", that's treating paying customers like criminals. How does discouraging people from buying your game protect your investment? It doesn't, because it's costing you more sales than piracy, you idiots.
If developers do start abandoning PC gaming because it's "dying", the reason is not going to be piracy. It's because developers and publishers aren't listening to their customers and are trying to dictate to the market. And markets tend to get a little uppity with companies that try to do that. Right now, most PC developers are giving people more reasons to not buy their game than buy it. And how is that possibly a sustainable business strategy?

People like Valve and Stardock realise that the best thing you can do is keep customers on your side. People like Ubisoft, EA and Rockstar would do well to heed their example.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Byte: The overly obvious annual round-up post

It was about this time last year when I did a round-up of my favourite games of the year, so now that pretty much all the major titles of 2008 have hit the streets, now seems like a good time to post my thoughts on the must-have titles of the year.

So, the usual rules apply, no particular order or preference for format, though just to make things easier for me to write, I'll probably write in vaguely chronological order, and I expect this to be a mostly PC-exclusive list, since it's not really been a stellar year in terms of Wii and DS releases.

First up is: Off-Road Velociraptor Safari
An agreeably bonkers browser game, this was my favoured work-avoidance strategy for the first few months of this year. There's not really much you can say about it, at least if you wanted to sound vaguely clever about it. You thrash around in a jeep, doing stunts, running over velociraptors and trying to tag and catch them. That's pretty much it. But it's amazing fun.

This game gave rise to one of the more worrying trends to come out of videogaming this year - that being a resurgence in the popularity of Rick Astley - but I'm not going to hold that against it. Obviously, this game is only going to be as good as your music collection, but it's such a simple idea executed so brilliantly, it's an instant PC classic in my eyes.

Sins of a Solar Empire
Deservedly one of the best selling PC games this year, Sins is a real-time strategy carried out on the scale of a 4X turn-based strategy. Ambitious, well-executed, if a bit graphically dowdy, Sins makes Supreme Commander look small. This game just needs a Star Wars: Supremacy total conversion mod and then I can die happy.

Mass Effect
It took a while to come out on the PC, but it was worth the wait. A better interface, better graphics, reduced texture pop-in and controllable minions, this rates as not only one of the better console-to-PC conversions of recent years, but also arguably the best single-player RPG on the PC to come out since Knights of the Old Republic. It also has one of the greatest female NPCs ever put in a game. Sassy, deeply flawed and pretty darned sexy, Gunnery Chief Ashley Williams comes in a notch above Bastila Shan as far as I'm concerned. And I never thought that Bastila would get usurped in my geek affections.

Mario Kart Wii
Okay, it might just be Mario Kart AGAIN, but by golly, it's terrific fun, especially in multiplayer.

Family Ski
Yes, you did read that right. There's not much to it, admittedly, but it's just such a lovely, genteel game. It's so nice to play a game for once where you're not pre-occupied with murdering people. And it's a great excuse to crack out the Wii Fit board.

I really need to play this much more, because it's just so good on so many levels. It's a better RPG than Zelda, the Celestial Brush controls are perfect for the Wii and the game is aesthetically amazing. If you have a Wii and don't have this game, you are no longer my friend. Assuming you were to begin with. In any case, GET OUT.

Trials 2: Special Edition
PHYSICS! PHYSICS! That is all.

GTR Evolution
Speaking of PHYSICS! The graphics engine looks a bit ropey now, but in terms of track and car modelling, this is still the dog's bollocks. You've not lived until you've gone into the Karussel on the Nordschliefe in a Koenigsegg CCX on your roof.

World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King
Did you seriously think I wasn't going to mention this? My personal game of the year, by several miles.

The Biggest Disappointment of the Year
Unfortunately, given all the lofty predictions I made about it this time last year, has to rate as Spore. It was a wonderful concept, as you'd expect from Will Wright, and the creature creator really caught the imagination of a lot of people, but as a game, it was... lacking.

The Most Unsurprising Disappointment of the Year
Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. I think a lot of people decided they were going to uncritically cum all over this because it's not World of Warcraft, when in truth the game's PvE content was so lame it made Korean MMORPGs look sophisticated and had a graphical style that seemed to forget the whole concept of fantasy. People may talk up the PvP aspect of the game, but if I want to play Capture the Flag, well, that's what I have Unreal Tournament for. This one was always destined to end in tears, methinks.

The Biggest 'Meh' of the Year
This is a joint award for GTA 4 and Fallout 3. Yeah, yeah, just not fussed. An honorable mention in this category goes to Far Cry 2, which I bought, played for less than an hour and promptly forgot in favour of World of Warcraft. I suppose Left 4 Dead could go in here, too, but that's more deserving of a 'For fuck's sake, are we not done with zombies yet?' category... I'm so over online shooters.

Byte: Goddamn you, internets!

Why must you tempt me so with such sleek, shiny, electrical goodness? WHY? WHY?!?

Monday, December 01, 2008

Byte: Not again

You should know by now that I can't resist a good internet quiz. Or even a bad one.

You are pure evil, and hate personified. You don't care anything about your fellow man, and are guided only by your desire to rule over your inferiors, i.e. everybody but you. 'Mercy,' you ask, prior to grinding an enemy beneath your mighty heel, 'What is mercy?'

Take the quiz!

Hmm, I'm definitely veering from True Neutral down to Neutral Evil these days.