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Monday 31 October 2005

Why play Warcraft? [Lurks]

As may or may not be apparent to readers of this collective textual diarrhea of a web site, the good majority of active members of the 'Death have become somewhat less active in the traditional multiplayer gaming scene that we have been involved in for the last eight years. The reason is that we're hopelessly lost in World of Warcraft, having starting a guild called the Treehugging Hippies. We do have the odd die-hard member that refuses to be sucked in but by and large, we have more people consistently playing WoW than we've had playing any other game in the past.
Given our background, there's a good many that wonder how it has come to pass that this band of aging gamers would lay down their rocket launchers, railguns and Colt M4A1 assault rifles and pick up swords, bows and magical staves instead. The mistake here is to say that it's all about the game itself. To some degree it is - since it really is quite a marvellous game - but it's a bit more than that. I've been wondering how best to explain this, holding out for some sort of killer example if you will. Last Friday that killer example landed in my lap and I relay this experience to you so that you can perhaps understand the attraction of the world of massively multiplayer games.
The Treehugging Hippies has 155 characters of between 90 and 100 real people. That's a lot bigger than EED ever was and, here's the shocker, some of them are girls. One of these ladies is involved in this story however first I need to explain the nature of this experience. I'm not going to tell you about the most amazing battle we had, the most difficult dungeon bested or even a tail of foes vanquished on the PvP battlegrounds. I don't think you can really explain that sort of thing anyway. I'm going to tell you about something that happened in guildchat last Friday. That in turn was something that happened in real life.
Arora in game is a level 60 Night Elf and in real life is an attractive 19 year old gothic waif from Staffordshire. I could link you her bitbucket photosite but having noticed that Slim has perved it out good and proper, she has wisely chosen to restrict access - much as the thought of a stampede of overweight aging gamer blokes oggling her site doesn't appeal obviously. Anyhow, Friday afternoon Arora arrives onto guildchat and explain she's just had the worst half hour of her life.
Following a dramatic paragraph break, I should tell you that I'm having to paraphrase what she told us, the whole story, based on bits snippets and so it's just a best account as I can manage.
It all started when Arora lost her knob. Her door knob, of her bedroom door. Thus locking her out of the rest of the house. However unlikely this may seem, there was no-one else in the house, no telephone to hand, no immediate mechanism to escape and so Arora was locked in and over the course of the next hour, became increasingly agitated and desperate for a way out.
First of all she tried the obvious stuff. You know, getting a coat hanger and hacking at the door, what anyone would do in this scenario but realising this was having no effect, Arora had to get creative. Her boyfriend's work ties, you see where this is going don't you? Yes, that's right, she knotted the ties together to form a chain. Rapunzel, rapunzel, let down your, err, multi-coloured tie-rope. Having fastended this to the window frame and testing it for load baring ability, Arora thought better of this scheme particularly since she's afraid of heights and it was a long way down from this first floor bedroom window. The horror of it all.
Fortunately she had a really good idea. She could gather up all the bedclothes and throw them out the window. Making a sort of fireman's landing out of sheets, blankets and pillows. This is probably also the time to point out that the bedroom faces the front of the house. Picture, if you will, that previous multi-coloured tie-rope snaking down the front of the house, followed later by a tsunami of various linens and blankets. Try keep a straight face boyo because that's what I had to do while being told this story since apparently someone else, on Teamspeak, was so unutterably mean as to let forth an olympic burst of unending laugher when told about this. Beastly, I'm sure you'll agree.
We're not actually done with this tale. When Arora manouvred her lithe and shapely figure (all together boys, phwoar!) out onto the window cill in order to prepare for the leap of doom down to the bedclothes in the front garden... Arora already traumatised from having to confront her fear of heights phobia was cruelly assaulted by another, no less terrifying experience. There was a spider!. It was only small, you understand, but those are the ones to be afraid of. Tarantulas are okay, apparently, but I digress. There was a spider and it was scary.
So Arora spent the latter half of this traumatic period of incarceration, the half hour I remind you that she described as the worst half hour of her life, perched on the window trying to desperately coax the spider away and then contemplating that long drop to freedom. Eventually she did it, eventually Arora emerged victorious and bested her fears and triumphed over this elite quest. Hooray!
The point of this story is that this really happened. Since I heard about it I'm not sure if I've really stopped laughing yet, you know inside. You don't meet people like this in Counter-Strike. Some 14 year old adolescent olympic champion twat on a Battlefield 2 server is not going to let you into their life to give you the sheer unadulterated pleasure of hearing this story. All this unfolded while I was playing the game, slaying goblins and orcs and all that, and the double whammy of the two - this great game populated as it is with real people you just don't get to meet and talk to in real life, that's what this shit is really about.
I'd have a hard time hating Arora which is a sort of pre-requisite frame of mind, in my view, to say wanting to gun her down in Counter-Strike by being just plain better. Rar! Testosterone is good! Rar! That sort of rush, the feeling of being better than someone is something we all know, as blokes, and we love it. However it's a transient thing and being in my 30s, I don't have the stomach to keep that up for hours on end any more. It just doesn't compare, really, to the simple joy of being amusingly lecherous to a foxy lady some 15 years my junior.
I'm not suggesting that this is why we play Warcraft, it's an example. We also have some pretty hard core gaming challenges of stuff that's quite hard and takes real determination and skill to prevail over. The difference is, we're not having to hate people and the goal isn't to fuck people over. The goal is to get together with your mates and meet these challenges together. It all seems a bit more healthy somehow.
Arora is probably reading this too and I hope she doesn't think I'm being too unkind when she sees the point I'm trying to raise here. What I've tried to illustrate here is an example how this game and the people playing it have given me a awful lot more pleasure than any of the games I have played before.
You don't need to be a competitive arsehole to play this game. You can be yourself, you can play it all night and you can meet lots of new and interesting people and not all of them are 200 pound northern nerds called Barry. Not all of them are, anyway.
Anyhow, returning to the plight of Arora, I'm sure you'll all be delighted to know that she escaped with only slight bruising and having emerged the stronger person from this experience was in a good position to deal with the subsequent discovery of a slug on her pillow.

Thursday 27 October 2005

Which Server Browser? [Spiny]

I like to "big up" (as the kids say) good stuff on, especially when it's free.

I've been a long time all seeing eye user with a lifetime membership. It's still the best server browser out there, mainly due to the fact that its the only one that has ping list servers. This lets you get info & ping only the servers you're interested in, dramatically reducting the refresh time. However since Yahoo!!!1111 bought the program out support has fallen by the wayside. They only have one guy who can work on it with the result that updates for new games take weeks or months. I'd still recommend it if you only play older games, just don't expect much support. The forums are full of users bleating about the state of support from Yahoo!!!11111 & there seem to be lots of people having forum accounts banned for raising their voices too loud.

Enter stage left, KQuery It seems to support all the stuff that ASE does, apart from the server side ping lists. There's buddy support & plenty of filter scripting options. It'll do DDE to mIRC & vIRC etc etc. The user interface could be a little better, but it's not the ad riddled pain that Gamespy Arcade is.
Here's a screen grab anyhow:

Edit: ASE now has Q4 support, come back all is forgiven :) - or what the fuck is social bookmarking? [Houmous]

Anyone else been getting pissed off with the reducing quality of Google searches lately? Having got fed up with clicking on links that appear to deal precisely with my query only to find myself looking a Russian pr0n portal, I’ve been experimenting with social bookmarking. is a site where you can store your bookmarks online. Its real simple – every time you want to bookmark a particular page you just click on a link you set up in the bookmark toolbar on your browser. It asks for a heading that you want to store the link under and that’s it. When you open your page all your bookmarks are there neatly stored under their headings.
OK so you can keep one set of bookmarks from multiple computers and you are cool if your PC goes tits up. Nice but….not that big a deal.
What has actually got me excited about is the sharing arrangements on it. You can easily see what other people have bookmarked using the same heading as you and if you want you add them to your own bookmark set.
You can do Boolean searches by topic/s or user, and if you are really into a particular subject you can arrange for any new links posted by anyone on that topic to be listed in your inbox next time you sign in. You can also keep track of other particular users (or a combination of both user and topics ) as well as simply seeing the most popular links being stored.
My early findings are that this sharing mechanism is often showing more relevant links than an equivalent google search with some interesting popular links. Do you, like me, simply think of memory sticks as something you use to keep powerpoint presentations or important letters that you couldn’t print at time? Have a look at this – a whole new world of portable USB memory stick use!
p.s. Fuck me – I now find portable USB use interesting? - shoot me now!

Monday 24 October 2005

A hack and a wish [Am]

Somewhere, or rather a few somewheres, there is a bloke, or as we may have now established blokes plural, whose sole (you get the idea) job, it is my considered hypothesis, is to exist to generally piss off the shaving public.
For the expediency of this blog I'm going to concentrate on one bloke or as the ancient Athenians might have said "one bloke" whom you might consider, as you sit back reading this blog, crafted as it was on a weekend, with a glass of wine, gently stroking your be-nyloned thighs, may work for Gillette or Wilkinson Sword or whoever or whomever. Let us call him Ashley. Ashley Peninteass.
Ashley's job is Chief of Metallurgical Lamitude. His mate is Head of Stupid Colour Fading Lube Strips. For their usefulness for the general public one could say that an apt analogy would be that if they were a car they'd be a DeLorean, an airship the R101. If they were a country they'd be fricking Belgium.
This is not to misconstrue that I have anything against Belgians. Hell no. Any nation that can do *that* to beer has got a populace with a purpose. They just need to go and take over somewhere geographically significant but universally redundant and do their thing on a much large scale. Insert your own contintental European, American or other globally selected preference here. Whatever you choose, ca c'est juste if you get my meaning.
Back to Ashley, Chief of Metallurgical Lamitude. Over successive releases of say, by way of example, Gillette, Wilkinson Sword or other face-scraping product, he has been under constant pressure (it is my hypothesis) to find ever increasing ways of reducing the time between a first shave with a new cartridge that makes it feel like you just parted the proverbial 2 H’s from the O corruscating off your immaculately brazilian'd jaw line to a state in which in subsequent shaves it feels as if you have descended as fast as metallurgically possible to the equivalent of hacking at your face with a not-very-sharpened sharpened half-brick when you've been drinking Diamond White all night with the wrong prescription specs on when you don’t need glasses.
Ashley’s job, in other words, is the shaving equivalent of making shaving equipment whose ethos is straight from find the lady or any tart’s pre-trade through the trouser snake-shake. Instantly attractive and wholeheartedly, deliberately, ultimately designed to do you for as much money possible for as little gratification as possible.
Ah fuck it. I’m talking Gillette Mach 3 readers.
Apart from the POINTLESS little Belgiac vibrator nonsense with the A3 battery for which I shall not spake lest I get incredibly nose-splumingly angry, the blades on these things are, in my personal opinion which just happens to be right, absolute pants, a piss and a pestulance to the longevity of shavitude. My theory, yes, is that it’s someone’s task to select metal and consistencies and sharpness which will make us feel frotted half to death on the first touch and thereafter die as fast as possible without pissing us off.
Guess what? You pushed the dyingness too far. The blades are too crap too soon. The piss is officially off.
Ashley, I don’t blame you. It’ll be some accountant, some steel surveyor, an auditor of acuteness, some plenishment plankton that did for you. They took your pretty Phd qualified head and gripping your jaw with Aloe dappled lube fingers stuck their filthy decripitude-whistling snake-tongue in your pink virgin ear and wriggled it to the tune of increasing marginhood. You fucking poor sap. You and that bloke that makes the die-in-the-light pointless glide strips.
But you let them into your life bubba and like Alex Garland in The Beach, subject to the Thai drug-runner militia pant-soiling, you know in your heart as that once idealistic metallurgical god that there’s a way to make a damn fine shave that lasts for a decent amount of time that isn’t sucking the joie de vivre of a man’s daily SSS.
Yesterday I bought 8 Mach 3 blades for £11.50. I don’t want to do it again. Ashley, whoever, whomever you are, come into the light bubba. Come into the light....

Sunday 23 October 2005

On Quake 4 [Spiny]

If you've caught a few of the Q4 reviews you'll notice that the distinct theme is one of underwhelment. While the single player is lots of things: graphically impressive, less brown that Doom, pretty well scripted, the feeling is that Raven let the side down on the gameplay. There's no apparent attempt at clever AI with the Strogg running & gunning straight for you. If you're after Half-Life 2 levels of enemy intelligence then I suggest you check out the rather excellent F.E.A.R. The overall impression is gameplay stuck in the late 90s, albeit within an explosive spectacle of Jerry Bruckheimeresque proportions. If running & gunning with brain out is your thing then you'll probably find some solid entertainment here, but be warned it falls a long way short in terms of gameplay than other recent titles. Far Cry, HL2 & F.E.A.R.

There's also a few annoyances that really don't do the game justice. A couple that really niggle me is that a lot of the sound assets seem to have been lifted straight from doom3 with minimal tweaking, and Stroggos seems to look an awful lot like mars Prior to release, a few of us in the clan dusted off our railguns & rekindled our love of Quake 3. Despite the excelently constructed gameplay mechanics of the Unreal Tournament series (Onslaught out battlefielding, the battlefield series), nothing ever came close to the visceral brutality of a good old Quake 3 deathmatch. Even now I go misty eyed over the memory of seeing my frame rate tank as I waded through clouds of offal on a packed server. Ahh those were the days :).

Well the good news is that they DO make them like they used to. The feel of the gameplay is very Q3 with a best-of selection from the Quake series weapons. I do have a niggle about the default weapon, the machine gun. While it's OK, I find the sound a bit annoying on packed servers & the effect is not unlike a legion of children banging on crappy snare drums. [Edit: someone's done a tweaked pak here] Old faves like the nail & lightning guns reappear while the rail is as sweet as ever. The BFG AKA the "Dark Matter Gun" has been given a bit of a tweak. Unlike the plasma on steroids version in Q3 it now works a little more like the Quake 2 version, dealing a slow moving bubble of ribena coloured death with a huge splash area. Multi play was the main reason I picked up Q4 & a graphical lift Quake 3 gameplay was all I was expecting. After all this time, I'm still a fan of the simplistic adrenelin rush of twitch shooter gameplay. Hey! I think for a living, can't expect me to do it on my time off too ;) As such I don't feel too short changed by the single player campaign. There's one thing that's a must for on line play though - Turn Down Your Video Settings. Although the network code is no longer linked to the frame rate, the game still lives & dies by the lack or presence of lag. While I found 1280x1024 "high" perfectly acceptable in single player, I've gone to 1024x768 "medium" for multi. The result is far more playable. Having gone back to the single player game I didn't even really notice the difference. The gritty vista provided by Doom 3 seems very tollerent of lower resolutions.

There's also a rather nifty instant tourney mode that will manage a bunch of mates scrapping for the title of King Fragger, just the sort of thing we could have done with when EED used to run Voltfests! Maybee if I can persuade enough clannies to stop hugging trees for a bit we could even have a couple of nights where we relived the glory days when the EED name was ph34red accross european Q2 servers...

For those that have the game, those Upset Chaps have started their very own Q4 guide. You may also want to check out the video review courtesy of Burger King.

Edit: Around half way through the sp now & enjoying it, seems to get better as it goes along. There's some very impressively designed interior levels.

Friday 14 October 2005

iPod Video [Beej]

So the new iPod Video has been announced. It is not unusual or unexpected, and if anything it is a bit of a disappointment. Would you pay $2 for an episode of Lost or Desperate Housewives to watch on the bus? Who actually wants to buy a music video when they can just watch MTV? Well not me, that's for sure.
As a long-time iPod user, I need a new iPod and it may as well have this new 262k screen even if I have no intention of using it for video - I have a PSP for that. Newcomers to portable video would almost certainly be better off with an Archos GMini...

Thursday 13 October 2005

Marriage, pros n cons [shedir]

Dr Dave has re-entered the fray good reader. Once again he's dipping his toesized cock into fresh damp areas.
This raises some questions on what is the correct viable lifestyle for the modern gaming man.
Married Life
She's always there for househole chores
Dinner ready when you get in
Sex not necessarily on demand, but always a possibility
Nice house with fixtures and fittings

Expensive, houses aren't cheap
Mood swings, which you can't escape
1 pussy ono

Living with hired help
1 maid just there for househole chores, 1 complaint and sacked
Dinner delivered nightly, or eat on the hoof
Sex on demand, with hookers tho
No Kids
Cheap digs, ergo more money for boys toys

Sexual variety limited by imagination and budget
Much higher risk of STDs
Could be lonely sometimes
5 lvl 60 chars in wow...a month

Am I right, or am I right?

Wednesday 12 October 2005

Blizzard in France, why?! [Lurks]

I'm not sure what the history is there, how it came to be that Blizzard set up their European operations in France but this was one of the most stupid decisions the firm could possibly have made. Beyond the out and out rank incompetence in terms of running servers, patching smoothly and that sort of thing - they face serious problems recruiting basic support staff. That speak English.
One of the reasons is because not only is Blizzard in France but it's in a really horrible dingy part called Velizy which they're claiming is in 'Paris' to make it sound rather more glamerous.
It's not working. They can't recruit the staff, because no one there speaks English or knows what the hell a computer or the Internet is. Because it's France and they're the most backwards country in all of Western Europe.
Look what they're having to resort to to try convince people to leave their proper first-world countries and move to France. It'd be funny if it wasn't so depressing.
Had they set up more or less anywhere else they'd be falling overthemselves finding highly technical staff with fluent English speaking skills and of course employment law that would actually allow a full 40-hour week and the ability to sack someone if they sucked.
Sad, quite frankly.