Friday, 28 September 2007

How sweet to be an idiot

We all want more intelligence in games. MMOG mobs are so stupid, developers just give them loads of hit points to make them a "challenge", BORING!, it would be much better if they were more intelligent (we say, until they actually exhibit any signs of intelligence like going after squishy healers no matter how many "yo mama" jokes the tank knows, at which point the mobs are obviously cheating and it's not fair and we're not coming back until you make them stupid again). Worse than stupid enemies, though, are stupid allies. How frustrating are escort missions in any genre (space sims, FPS, RPG, any of 'em) when whatever you're escorting has as much imagination as a caravan site; YES I SHALL JUST PROCEED AT A RATHER SLOW PACE IN A TOTALLY STRAIGHT LINE TOWARDS MY OBJECTIVE OVER THERE (UNLESS I ENCOUNTER PATHING ISSUES IN WHICH CASE I MIGHT JUST SPIN ON THE SPOT UNTIL I GET KILLED)! How many times have you cursed 'bot team-mates in an FPS or NPC allies in an RPG?

I downloaded the demo of World in Conflict, which seems to be a fairly regular Real Time (Strategy/Tactical/Continuation of Politics by Other Means) game, and was pondering its use of "special abilities". Your M2 Bradley IFVs will happily plunk away with chain guns at anything sufficiently Soviet within range, but will only fire TOW missiles when you click the appropriate "special ability" button and designate a target. It seemed like somewhat excessive micromanagement, typical artificial lack-of-intelligence ("there's a T-72 ahead that's all but impervious to the chain gun, whatever shall we do? I know, keep shooting at it with the chain gun unless our commander specifically tells us to fire a TOW!"), but then... if the unit did always employ its weapons effectively, and had a sensible approach to cover, and was generally "intelligent", what would be left for you as its human overlord? You'd just sort of generally wave somewhere and say "off you go, chaps, give those commies what-for, eh?"

I remember a similar situation in Baldur's Gate (1 or 2, or possibly both...) It had a rather nifty scripting system for controlling your party in combat; you could directly give them orders, otherwise they'd behave according to an assigned script. Included in the game were some fairly basic scripts, like "Hit stuff with swords" (IF enemy near THEN hit it with a sword OTHERWISE make a beeline for the nearest one and hit them with a sword) and "Shoot stuff with arrows" (IF enemy in range THEN shoot it with arrows UNLESS you've run out, in which case I dunno, I don't think there's a command for wandering off to a convenient fletcher's shop mid-battle). A marginal improvement over standing around like lemons, but they still needed a lot of coaxing for optimal tactics, but then that's rather the point of CRPG fights.

It didn't take the community too long to get the hang of the scripting system to improve things somewhat so you didn't need to get quite so annoyed at the "Hit stuff with swords" fighter plunging into the middle of mortal peril with only three hit points left because his script has no sense of self preservation, or the "Shoot stuff with arrows" ranger blazing away with really rather expensive +3 arrows at a near-dead kobold posing almost no threat whose main use would be to give the fighter a chance to use that Cleave feat he just picked up. Some of the scripts they ended up with were pretty amazing, they'd prioritise opponents, select appropriate weapons and/or spells to deal with them, heal both themselves and other members of the party, make a slap-up breakfast and analyse radio telescope data for the possibility of alien life. The only drawback is that they could leave you feeling slightly redundant; your party, under the control of their scripts, was quite capable of defeating the majority of encounters with no intervention from you. So too much intelligence/efficiency in scripting can cause problem of its own (that slight feeling of redundancy as your units work perfectly well on their own, naturally leading up to computers developing cognitive powers and taking over the world)

A bit of stupidity in your companions/troops can be a good thing, then, as it gives you something to do, so long as (and it's a big "so long as") you don't have to try and do it in real time. That's my beef with a lot of RTS games these days, they don't have slow time options, or the ability to give units orders while the game is paused. Perhaps it's because they're mostly aimed at multiplayer gaming where obviously pausing isn't going to work (I just can't get into online RTS gaming, probably because the whole point of *Strategy* for me is careful pondering, not frantic hyperclicking), but it does mean that, nine times out of ten, the most efficient possible approach is "stack up a whole load of units in a really big mass and rumble around blowing stuff up". Your staple of military planning, for example, the two progned assault is right out. You send one group off one way, one the other way. One lot hits a minefield, the other lot encounters a dug in anti-tank gun. Because your chaps are a bit dense, you need to personally oversee them; unless you can pause the game to issue orders, or at least slow time right down, you have a bit of a problem. Either you find that first group, select them again, tell them to halt, find the engineers and send them forward to clear the mines while their comrades give covering fire, in which case your second prong merrily drives slowly over totally open ground getting picked off by the anti-tank gun ("OH NO! Geoff's tank just exploded, what should I do? I know, continue driving slowly in exactly the same direction as before!") Or you concentrate on that second prong, halting out of the firing line and either calling in an artillery strike on the gun or sending some commandos up in a stealty flanking attack, in which case the first prong demonstrate the impressive minesweeping technique known as "driving forwards until something explodes".

In conclusion, then: make stuff stupid, and also make it really slow. How could that fail?

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

I can't think for you, you'll have to decide

In the crazy world of smartphones/PDAs/general gadget-type things you hold in your hand (I quite like "Mobile Internet Device", the term mooted for some future devices based around new Intel chips, though "MID" is a particularly dull TLA) the iPod Touch, the phoneless iPhone, was the answer to my prayers. Out of the box, not perfect, but so long as a few third party applications could be installed, it should be just the job. It's very similar to the iPhone, after all, on which people are installing applications like mad application-installing-people (after overflowing a couple of buffers and generally poking around where man was not intended to poke (no, not there, you filthy minded person)), so third party stuff aplenty will be available for the iPod Touch, right?

Maybe not... OK, it's still early days, but where I thought Apple's approach might be "oh no, you can't install third party applications WINK WINK, no siree bob, certainly not if you HAPPEN TO RUN THIS INSTALLER PROGRAM THING lordy where did that come from?", it seems they're slightly more "no, you can't install third party applications AND I'M NOT WINKING, or even shouting the word 'WINK', or performing any other actions that may in any way suggest the words I am speaking are not the literal and direct truth". And without a few installable 3rd party apps for, say, eBook reading, note taking etc., the iPod Touch goes from being a total PDA replacement to an MP3 player that can replace a PDA when in WiFi range. Bah and furthermore humbug.

While the iPod Touch becomes less appealing, feverish speculation is coming from the world of Nokia Internet Tablets with FCC documents that hint at the arrival of an N800 with built-in GPS/the promised WiMax version of the N800/a totally new Internet Tablet/a giant piece of toast with magical powers. I dunno, just as you think you've gone and made a decision, everything changes again. It's a tough life, being a user of general gadget-type things you hold in your hand...

Monday, 24 September 2007

It was just that the time was wrong

Another lacklustre weekend of gaming; I didn't particularly feel like playing much, catching up on television instead and getting back into rugby season with London Irish's first home game of the season.

I tinkered around with the new G15 keyboard a bit, and found some splendid applets at G15 Forums for displaying date, time, CPU usage, network traffic and such on the LCD screen. I didn't manage to come up with any uses for the bank of programmable keys, but I'm sure there's something I can bind them to...

At a loose end for an hour, I spotted the Tabula Rasa shortcut on my desktop, so I thought I'd poke my nose in and see if much had changed. "No" would be the short answer (though as I'd spent all of an hour or two in the game since gaining access to the beta, I doubt I would have picked up many changes short of the addition of giant dancing hippos to the tutorial). I'm not sure if there's been a character wipe or I just connected to a different server, but the pinnacle of my previous achievements, a glorious level 4 character, wasn't there. Zapping through the tutorial again, I pushed on, passed the "meh" barrier I'd hit before, and got quite into it, reaching a yet more impressive level 7 and specialising as a soldier on the way. In so many ways it's a good game, visually lovely, plenty of that all-important polish... Another time, I could easily see me subscribing, but I just can't really muster any MMO enthusiasm at the moment.

Browsing around the release schedules, there's a few other games I might take a look at; the Medieval II: Total War expansion, and World in Conflict, a Cold War RTT (Real Time Tactical, which apparently is the same as RTS only without the resource gathering, but I suspect mostly exists as a separate term so people can get into arguments over their precise definitions) game is getting very good reviews. My inner grognard really craves some World War II tank-action, though, so first on the list might well be Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts, a "stand alone expansion" (i.e. it's an expansion, but we'll charge an extra tenner for it in case you don't have the original game, even though many people who buy it probably will). Apart from anything else, they deserve kudos for including the British and Canadians, as some World War II games do take a slightly Saving Private Ryan-y approach to the playable forces (Eddie Izzard:" would have been nice to show a British soldier. Maybe we could just look 'round the edge of the frame, Hello! Hello, I'm a British soldier, this is a Canadian soldier here, Free French, some free Polish. There's Australians and New Zealanders, there's some Indian soldiers, South Africans. All been fighting here. What's the name for us? Oh, The Allies, that's it - The Allies, Hello, hello. How're you getting on?"), and Market Garden can be a excellent setting, as in the classic Close Combat: A Bridge Too Far.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Saturday Night Fry

Neil Gaiman's journal had a link, saying Stephen Fry had started blogging, about smartphones no less. I idolise Stephen Fry as far as is permitted under law, and coupled with my interest in the iPhone/iPod Touch (Fry is a huge Apple devotee), I hastened off to follow the link. Unfortunately it seems the rest of the internet had a similar idea, and his site was slashdotted (despite not actually being linked from /. so far as I can make out). Popping the blog link into Google Reader, though, picks up the article from the feed, so I've just finished reading it.

Despite his well-known love of all things Apple, removing the possibility of being an "amusing and eccentric" technophobe, I still wasn't prepared for his almost terrifying appreciation of handheld technology. It's a wonderful read.

There's a particular inverted snobbery towards Apple products in some places, "lolol what loser would buy an iPod Touch when u can get a 8gb mp3 player for fifty quid", and there's a paragraph in there, "Design matters", that explains precisely why, and to make some vague pretence of relevance to this blog's nominal subject it could be applied to GUIs everywhere, in games as in smartphones.

Friday, 21 September 2007

The machine guns are roaring

Got a bit more Quake Wars in, though the single map available in the demo is beginning to pale slightly now. The (human) GDF attack, the (alien beastie) Strogg defend, and they've got a couple of places that, if the GDF don't quickly attack before defences can be set up, can be fortified into total killing grounds. I actually felt pretty bad, sitting the turret of a Desecrator hovertank, next to another Desecrator, with a couple of missile turrets, some artillery and radar pointing towards the hapless GDF, running towards us over open ground (or riding unarmed quad bikes, if they felt particularly daring). It was rather reminiscent of a futile World War I attack... Feeling suitably guilty, I switched sides for the next round, and... found myself rushing over open ground towards Desecrators and turrets, lobbing a couple of grenades before being cut down, which wasn't so hot either. A bit of variation will be nice with the full release.

I also have a new toy, a Logitech G15 keyboard (the one with the built in LCD screen). I'd been tempted for a while, but £70 is a bit much for a keyboard... Then Melmoth found a plugin for the Miranda instant messenger that lets you run games full screen, and display IMs on the keyboard's screen, and while generally browsing around I saw that Logitech are releasing a new version, which looks a bit... orange (the current version has a blue backlight), and you can get the current version for £50, which isn't quite so bad. So I popped one in the shopping basket at Dabs, and saw they're now offering evening delivery, between 5 and 9pm. Brilliant! Sorting out deliveries can be a bit of a hassle, but evening delivery would be perfect. Course, it turned up at 10am this morning. Ah well, a kindly neighbour took it in, so the blue glow of LEDs in the corner of the room is a bit brighter now...

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Trying to prove that your conclusions should be more drastic

I finally got around to finishing Bioshock last night. It's a terrific game, but I found it peaked somewhere around halfway through, and I slightly lost interest and didn't have a desperate urge to finish it off particularly. Apart from anything else, it suffered an all-too-common curse of first person shooters of starting you off with a toy pistol that launches a flag saying "BANG", making combat something of a challenge, then gearing you up with ever more devastating weapons as you go through the levels until you're toting a Gatling hyperlaser with under-barrel tactical nuclear grenade launcher, reducing the challenge of encounters ever so slightly. The difficulty level was perfect for a while (playing on medium, I s'pose I should've looked into changing it towards then end), with ammunition being scarce but not to the point of reloading the game if you ever missed your target, but towards the end I was machine gunning my initials into walls just to make space to pick some more ammo up (I could've left it on the floor, but where's the fun in that?)

Without giving away the plot, in case anyone's still playing through, the dramatic tension unwound a bit as well. There's the Big Revelation (and doubtless anyone who's played the System Shock games was looking out for the twist... Everyone's a ghost, they're all clones, he's his own brother, you think it's the future but actually it's set in the past, it's not earth, it's all a dream!), and then it's hi ho, I s'pose I'd better get off and kill my nemesis, some bastard who is presumably responsible. You flesh out a few details, but other than that I didn't feel the narrative was as strong. Still, the game as a whole is a cracker, and probably the first single player FPS I've played to completion since Far Cry.

Buoyed up by this heavyweight literary inspired FPS, I thought I'd carry on the theme and play some of the Quake Wars demo, with the thought provoking and densely-layered theme of "kill as many of the other team as you possibly can" "(with guns)". Having played against bots enough to work out more or less what was going on, and realising that their attacking scripting was like playing with the worst pick-up group ever ("HELLO! WHERE AM I? HELLO! LOOK, MA, I'VE GOT A TANK! I'VE BROKEN IT, I'VE BROKEN IT! HELLO! MY HEAD IS STUCK IN THE CUPBOARD! HELLO! OH SORRY I RAN YOU OVER! HELLO!"), I actually went online and found some real people to shoot (or more frequently be shot by, but still). It was a blast, and though a few rounds were disappointingly one sided most were good old slugfests. I don't think I embarrassed myself entirely, apart from my sole feature on the scoreboard being for "Most Team Kills" in one round, but in my defence they ran in front of the tank gun, your honour...

Monday, 17 September 2007

Four by four, they turn it some more

So I got tagged up by an Elf, and although this stuff seems indescribably dreary and I can't imagine anyone being particularly interested (except maybe fraudsters gathering information for password-unlocking security questions, though I'd've expected more questions like "Four maiden names of my mother" and "Four favourite passwords used for online banking" if they were the originator), I was off for the weekend so don't have anything else to particularly blog about. Off we go, then...

Four jobs I have had in my life (not including my current job):

  • Aside from the obligatory paper round, they've all been deeply fascinating and involved computers since developing databases at school

Four Films I have watched again and again:

Four places I have lived:

  • Wiltshire
  • Devon
  • Coventry
  • Surrey

Four Programmes I love to watch:

  • Doctor Who
  • The IT Crowd
  • Lost
  • Mythbusters

Four Places I have been on vacation:

  • Antigua
  • Barbados
  • Dublin
  • France

Four of my favourite foods:

  • Thai green curry
  • Nasi goreng
  • Rogan josh
  • Roast lamb

Four favourite drinks:

  • Sirop de menthe
  • Coffee
  • Vanilla coke
  • Vimto

Four places I would rather be right now:

  • Watching question 4
  • Eating question 5
  • Drinking question 6
  • All the above

I tag nobody else, either because I believe pernicious memes shouldn't be propegated, or I can't find four people in the entire blag-u-spore who haven't done it yet.

Friday, 14 September 2007

Quake Wars: Huh! What are they good for?

I downloaded the demo of Enemy Territory: Quake Wars last night. Melmoth had been talking about the beta, and then some random newsletter turned up with a link to the recently-released demo, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

There's... a lot going on! I've been out of the loop of online FPS games since Unreal Tournament 2004, never played much Counterstrike, and more pertinently for Quake Wars never got into any of the class-based team games like the Battlefield series. Starting off with a nice gentle offline warm-up against Easy bots (ha! Easy bots, they can barely walk and chew gum, let alone walk and shoot you through the head at 800 yards then send you an insulting message), obviously I'd dominate the battlefield, but it'd be a nice, simple introduction.

Parachuting down is a nice, relaxing way to start things off, our home base looks familiar enough, there's a few vehicles around, I'll just hop in one... as soon as I find the right key... there we go! Follow my bot team-mates, I'm not really sure what we should be doing, and then there's SHOOTING AND EXPLOSIONS AND I'M DEAD ARGH and parachuting again and MORE SHOOTING AND EXPLOSIONS and I can deploy stuff or is it hack stuff or ARGH I'M DEAD AND parachuting and I've got grenades and binoculars and airstrikes and a targeting device which doesn't seem to target and something's happening with a bridge and wahey! I shot a Strogg! And I've been promoted ARGH I'M DEAD and the bridge is repaired by someone (I don't think it was me, but it might have been while I was trying to tie my shoelaces up) and there's an MCP and artillery barrages and an airstrike and "press m for mission" is flashing somewhere and ARGH I'M DEAD.

Some tutorials can be a drag ("Now walk forwards! Can you walk forwards? Try pressing the 'W' key! That's it! Well done you! Now walk forwards some more... NO! THAT'S TURNING LEFT! BAD PLAYER, WE HAVEN'T GOT TO THE TURNING LEFT LESSON YET!"), but I think there's a bit of room in Quake Wars to not just chuck you straight into a fight... Still, it's only the demo, and after a couple of rounds and a fair amount of ARGH I'M DEAD, I got a bit more of a handle on it all, and even managed as a Support Engineer Type Class That I Can't Remember The Exact Name Of (But Not The Actual "Engineer") to deploy an artillery turrent, and call in a barrage from it (after standing within the white outline of an artillery turret going "eh, what use is this?", and dying when the *actual* artillery turret was para-dropped on my head).

The supplied map plays quite similarly to an Unreal Tournament "Assault" game-type, a sequence of objectives that one team tries to achieve, while the other team tries to stop them. It's certainly piqued my interest, and after a bit more practise I'll give it a try online so I can spend even more time looking at the "17 seconds to respawn" screen.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

She said, "You been gone." I said, "That's only natural."

This MMOG business is unnatural, y'know. I mean, apart than all those demons and magic stuff. And aliens. And superpowered beings. And physics-defying weaponry. And grown men pretending to be lithe elf chyqs, or pretending to be lithe women pretending to be lithe elf chyqs pretending to like other lithe elf chyqs played by grown men pretending to be lithe women (who like girls who like boys who look like a girlfriend that I had in February of last year). No, that stuff is all fine, the unnatural bit is they expect you to keep playing them.

"Normal" games, you play 'em, you finish 'em, you move on, like books, or films. Now the Law of Imperfect Analogy starts kicking in somewhere around here, wherein you say "you can't *directly* compare games to books, and anyway, playing an MMO would just be like reading a series of books by the same author", and then I'll say, "only if that author totally recycled the same formulaic plot in every book", and you'll say "Dan Brown" (and we'd laugh uproariously) "besides which you're ignoring the investment in your own character in MMOs", and I'll say "OK, in that case, Choose Your Own Adventure books", and then you say "I haven't read one of those since they were given away with Weetabix", and then we're in a discussion about breakfast cereal.

But the basic point is: aren't Kellogs Variety Packs great? Especially mixing two different boxes together (which also gets around the problem of being left with cornflakes at the end). No, wait... the basic point is: the subscription model of MMOs is quite different from most other forms of entertainment. There's no incentive for the author of a book to keep you reading it as long as possible, or for a film to keep you in the cinema forever (though the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels seem to think there is, even without an intermission to boost ice cream sales). MMOGs, obviously, want to keep you playing, hence timesinks, "the grind" and related fun and games (though obviously the rest of the game needs to be enough fun to keep you going. Or sufficiently addictive, at least.) I'm not sure the $15/month all-or-nothing subscription is necessarily the One True Way for MMOGs. Course, a single payment alternative isn't automatically better; once you've paid for a "normal" game, as long as it isn't so disastrously rubbish that you storm around to the developers and demand a refund in person, they've got your money and don't really care how much you enjoy it. OK, they'll want good reviews so people buy the game in the first place and want expansion packs or a sequel, but why bother giving the user 500 hours of the most exquisite gameplay ever devised, when you could give 'em 30 hours of adequate fun, 10 more hours in a more-of-the-same expansion pack, then a bit of a shonky sequel with a few re-skinned elements.

From careful, in depth research (OK, vaguely scanning down rss feeds at high speed, if we're being entirely honest), there are other payment models brewing or already here; free basic play with deluxe paid-for bonuses (like Dungeon Runners), microtransactions, RMT (which might all be the same thing), and I think that's a Good Thing(tm), variety (packs) being the spice of life and all.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Rest for the wicked

I've been having a bit of a rest from MMOs for the last month or so. When not on holiday, I've been playing Bioshock, Medieval II: Total War and Wii Sports. I fired up the Tabula Rasa beta, and it looks lovely. All very polished, smooth, great graphics, fast paced rootin' tootin' gunslinging action, got up to level three or four or something, and... just couldn't muster any enthusiasm really. As the quote goes, "Sign me up for ennui. Or not. Whatever."

Hopefully by taking a break, I'll be able to return, renewed and refreshed, for something like Pirates of the Burning Sea or Warhammer: Age of Reckoning. In the meantime, the folly of over-specificness in blog naming has become somewhat apparent, but never mind eh?

Friday, 7 September 2007

I've already ripped out the phones, honey

Back when Apple announced the iPhone, I made a post lamenting it's phone-ness, presuming this would lead to major contract requirements or a very high price. What I was hoping for was "a 'super iPod', with a large touchscreen interface, which maybe happens to make phone calls too..." Substitute "have WiFi" for "make phone calls" (which is more desirable, dunno why I didn't put that in at the time), and whaddayaknow... it's the recently announced iPod Touch, and £200 for the 8Gb model isn't a bad price. It remains to be seen if my assumption about iPhone pricing is borne out, as it hasn't even made it to the UK yet, but I wouldn't be surprised to see the 8Gb iPhone at the same price as a 16Gb iPod Touch if you get it *with* a 12 or 24 month contract, and a good £100+ more without.

8 or 16Gb isn't enough to replace my 60Gb iPod for playing music just yet (though to think, there was a time when a 20Gb Zen Jukebox seemed to offer boundless capacity), but with that touch screen and WiFi browsing, it could well replace my current PDA... I think... maybe... It's got the calendar and contacts; WiFi is a big plus, though the lack of Bluetooth for connecting up to a phone in areas with no WiFi is a shame. I don't use my PDA for an awful lot else; ebook reading (sounds like a people are finding a few ways to do that on the iPhone, if not really ideal at the moment), synching web content for offline reading, jotting a few notes etc.

The iPod Touch announcement came at a particularly opportune time, as I was on the verge of getting (or at least thinking quite hard about being on the verge of getting) a Nokia N800 "internet tablet". Strangely for Nokia it's not a phone, but offers WiFi and Bluetooth for connectivity on a Linux-based platform. In many ways, it's technically superior to the iPod Touch, with a higher resolution screen, 2 SD card slots, Bluetooth, and a decent range of open source software. But... with a 4Gb slickly-interfaced iPod Touch being £50 less (the N800 only has 256Mb built in, though high capacity SD cards are pretty cheap), it doesn't look nearly so attractive. Having a range of software available is all well and good, but I suspect much like the vast array of PalmOS software out there, I'd end up installing a few bits and pieces, going "hey, that's cool, I can use VNC", then never actually firing the application up again after that.

I've still not come to a firm decision one way or the other, but unless the iPod Touch has some major downsides, it could well be my next PDA (that isn't a PDA, obviously). It would probably be sensible to wait for a second or third generation, to see what sort of hardware enhancements and software support it gets, but heck, where's the fun in that?

Then again, after reading this interesting iPod Touch piece over on The Register, I noticed this review of the Archos 605 WiFi media player, with touchscreen... And then there's those Windows smartphones with slideout QWERTY keyboards... and touchscreen GPS devices that play MP3s... and...

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

If I Had A Photograph Of You

One feature of Bioshock is its research camera, which does exactly what it says on the tin. At least, it would if it came in a tin, I think I just found it on the floor somewhere; anyway, it's a camera, that you use to research the enemies you encounter. Hence the name. The natural, and sane, way of using it is to sneak around, hoping to catch some nice shots of Splicers in their natural habitat much like David Attenborough (were David Attenborough to be crawling around an undersea base toting various weapons and genetic modifications) (and were he to actually be a photographer, rather than wildlife presenter, but I couldn't think of a suitably well known wildlife photographer offhand) (so maybe more like David Attenborough's cameraman) (only with a still camera, rather than film) (which rather obviates the point of David Attenborough in the first place... I mean, just him standing in the foreground of photos pointing at stuff, not so much use really.) (Unless maybe you had some kind of audio recording to play along at the same time...) (An audio recording of David Attenborough talking about the photo, that is, an audio recording of Harry "The Hipster" Gibson singing "Who Put The Benzedrine In Mrs Murphy's Ovaltine" wouldn't be so appropriate).

What the hell was I talking about?

Oh yeah. The sane use of the camera, then, is to sneak around, snap your photos with a telephoto lens; you wouldn't want to alert those nasty old Splicers, after all. When doing so, I can't help but provide a voice-over, in suitably hushed whisper...
"And here we see the Leadhead Splicer, roaming the corridors..." *snap* "... notice the mad, staring eyes, and of course the pistol."

So. That's all well and good. However, the resulting photos are usually average at best, so you need lots of them to get the research bonuses. Much better for research purposes are nice, big close-ups. And better still, "action shots", offering a further bonus. Of course, the type of action they're talking about is combat (at least, I'm pretty sure that's the main type of action. I've never found a pair of Splicers getting down to some... errr... "Splicing" to see if that counts as an "action shot"). This leads to an interesting technique I like to call the Combat Paparazzi, involving sprinting towards your target yelling "That's it! Yeah, come on, swing that wrench at me, oh yeah, that's lovely, yeah, bit more pistol now? Come on, just a bit of pistol, that's beautiful, perfect, you're a natural."

Then you swap the camera for a shotgun, and shoot 'em in the head before they kill you.

Then take a photograph of the corpse (there's a penalty for dead targets, but hey, research is research...)

Monday, 3 September 2007

Dada Online

Inspired by a recent News Brief from The Onion, "Hard To Tell If Wikipedia Entry On Dada Has Been Vandalized Or Not", I had a great idea for Dada Online, a bizarre world full of nonsensical, incoherent images, text and behaviours, where nothing has any meaning.

Then I remembered someone's done Second Life already. *badum-tish*

(Subsitute an MMO of choice if you prefer in there, it's a general observation on the genre, don't set the essay-commenting Second Lifers on me!)

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Back once again

So! Holidays are over, PC's fixed, it's back to work, gaming and blogging. ALL AT THE SAME TIME!!1! Or possibly not.

Actually, it looks like work might be going a bit crazy for a while, which might well cut back on time for the other two, but we'll see how it goes. In the meantime, gaming-wise, I've been playing rather a lot of Bioshock the past couple of days. I'd actually got it before heading off on the most recent holiday, but rather irritatingly it totally failed to start with a good old "Windows has encountered a problem..." type message before anything had even loaded. A quick poke around the tech support forums, installation of the latest beta nVidia drivers, installation of some drivers for the new dual-core processor... still nothing. Then another thread suggested there might be a conflict with GOM Player, so I uninstalled that, and away it went, Bioshocktastic!

It's an amazing game, structurally very similar to the System Shock games (unsurprisingly), with you as the protagonist dropped into a utopia-turned-nightmare, guided by audio transmissions, fighting twisted medical experiments. The atmosphere is incredible, particularly the sound, haunting period music echoing around the corridors, splicer's deranged mutterings... just incredible.