Friday, 22 October 2010


So, it seems Darren over at common sense gamer is no longer a gamer and no longer applying his common sense... Darren, you're a near scientific sounding chap at times.... science has to stay 250 yards from religion at all times... what are you thinking man?

(He's branched out into a new blog about philosophy and the meaning of life... the answer is 42 mate, thanks for all the fish, etc etc).  Go check that out at his new site Ethos Incarnate.

But Darren is the reason I'm back here to post again, I have his SUWT recordings lying around and have listened to them, but for some reason I missed part of the listeners mail section in #71.  This is the follow up cast to the one featuring myself and Mr Richard from over at GeekRageQuit.  And I had to laugh at what I heard...

Darren explains that the second writer to him... "Tevaco" or "Teveco" I can't be sure with the accent :) wrote to Darren and complained he found my comment strange, that really WoW isn't and MMO, but yet I then went on to explain a core concept of an MMO, i.e. I described my explaining to a friend about the character classes...

I think poor old "Teveco" missed my point... the point was... I sat here, exactly where I am sitting now, with World Of Warcraft on my screen, I'm sat in my Mage and I'm in the middle of the Ring of Trials... and my friend leans over...

F: "Hey Xel, who's that?"
X: "That's me, I'm a mage, see the fireballs, whoohooo glass cannon"
F: "Oh, right, and who's that?"
X: "That's a druid."
F: "That looks cool, he's a tree and a person at times, what's he doing?"
X: "Well, Druids can heal, like when he's in the tree form, and they can do damage as a caster or cat form, or they can be the tank to soak up damage."
F: "Oh cool, three things."
X: "Oh a lot more than that, they're like the original swiss army character, they even have a form to get stones out of horses shoes."
F: "Right, so who's he there then?"
X: "Oh that's the newer class, the Death Knight"
F: "What can he do?"
X: "He can do a damage, or tank and heal himself a bit".
F: "So what can your mage do?"
X: "I do damage high damage per second, I nuke stuff"
F: "Can you heal?"
X: "No, not at all."
F:  "Oh. What's that guy there do?"
X: "Oh that's a rogue, he just does damage too, he can't  heal"
F: "Hang on, so him and him can do many things, you can only do damage, doesn't it get boring?"
X: "A bit repetative yes."
F: "Doesn't seem very fair to me.  So what's that last guy over there do?"
X: "That's a paladin."
F: "Let me guess, he does everything?"
X: "Yup".

And that's the moral of the story, not about the character class, its funny how my friend saw the unfairness of one person being limited to one thing and others being let hog wild.

We went on to discuss the situation, and I had an attack of the memory lanes, when in vanilla wow up to level 60, right up to BWL and ZG really, each person had a role to fill, and each class was seen only one or two ways.  It's only with the esculation of gear and skills and talents and enchants and gems and scrolls that really some glasses have homogenised into the same sort of role in groups, while others have ben further specialised to just a couple of tasks.

I mean, there's no doubt early on in the history of WoW a Druid who was specced for levelling was a poor healer in instances, and so healing fell much more often to Priests and Paladins at that stage, but soon with multi speccing, bigger mana pools from multiple high level, easily obtainable, gear Druids could choose to be a jack of all trades much more easily... In fact on the servers I played on, but PVP and PVE, for a long while Druids were the choice healer for their heal over time abilities....

So, to Teveco, I hope; where ever you are out there; you read this and chuckle along with me...

And to Darren, the first listener mail in show #71... what did he mean "new blood, but not really"? Me and Rich were virgins, you took our podcast cherries, if I recall correctly.... :)

Thursday, 21 October 2010

The "Low Velocity High Impact Reset"

So, my Office PC just went off to the IT Department for upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7... yay...

But, not yay, after 3 minutes my phone rang:

"What have you done to this machine?"
"Nothing", was my immediate reply
"Well, it doesn't turn on"


More Silence

"What do you want me to do about this?"  Was my tentative question.
"Nothing, I'm just trying to work out what you've done?"
"Well, I turned it on at 6:30am worked on it until about 11am and then shut it down unplugged all the cables and hefted it on my man boobs over to you."
"Right, well the man boobs have killed it"
"I'll be over in two minutes" and I set off back over to sort this out.

Interior IT Office, much applause.

I wave a cursory greeting and go stand over my now open, sad looking PC.

I earth myself, pull the power and press all the RAM, Graphics, CPU and connectors generally in view into place.

I try to power it back up, nothing... the IT chap is looking happily smug my doing this did nothing...

So I have an idea... "Have you tried a low velocity high impact reset?"  I asked...

"No, wha..."

And before the chap could question me further I hefted the case about 2 inches off the desk and dropped it.

It immediately powered on.

As the shock and awe slipped from his face, I looked at his smooth cheeks, his still shining eyes, un-dulled by the march of time... and I ask...

"You're too young to have had an 8 or 16 bit Computer, am I right?"

"I'm 21, I had a Windows 95 PC" he said defensively.

"Yes, but Windows 95 would have been what, on your 486 CPU?.. you never had a dodgy Apple II or Atari ST where you had to reseat the chip set every so often... that's what I just did... Something was out of socket and now it's in... I just hope I've not got any dry joints"  I eagerly await some retort, and I'm not let down by the classic...

"What have your knees to do with anything?"

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Update on Nothing...

Well, what have I been up to?

In short, not a lot, I have been rather busy with work which is very stressful, I've finally been kicked out of my LOTRO trial.

I can't be too unkind about that game, I'd love to have such a game as my hobby, but it's simply not good enough in my opinion to survive in the current market.  It looks dated, it's not gripping, the effects and models are clunky and the interface is not straight forward enough, even for me an experienced computer user, I found I was always having to look at things thrice.  So, trial over, my frank review has already been posted.  My quick caption... "Don't bother".

I have also played a little more CIV5, I've been enjoying it in both DirectX10/11 and DirectX9 mode... on the same hardware, under DirectX 9, you really can see the difference in the quality of this title.  More on that in a later post.

I'm also revisiting all the games on my Steam list, this started with one of my favourite games of all time, Day of Defeat.  The original and best IMO.  I was a demon on this game, was in a clan ranked in the top 9 in the UK while playing it.  Good times.

Another title from my Steam list is Operation Flash Point : Dragon Rising.  (tumble weed goes past)

And that's it, that has been the sum total of my gaming this week, I'll be off now to put my nose back to the office grind stone.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

LOTRO - An Appraisal

Okay, today I'm going to be brutal, I'm going to be honest, I'm going to talk about Lord of the Rings Online. A game I have picked up and played in the last month.

I had played a trial account way back when to get me an idea of how LOTRO plays, I wasn't impressed back then, and I'm not overly impressed now.  A few details have been fixed up, a few bits and pieces have been sorted out, but I still look at the game and can't see the appeal factor.

This time I've come to LOTRO, again on a trial, but without my WoW glasses on, I've not played WoW in nearly a year so I gave LOTRO its own shot, first things first, getting the client... You have a few options.  Previously there were options to download the game and it would load content up dynamically in the background; this was the option I took before; and I was up and running in the game looking around after about 30 minutes.  This time however, with a lot more content in the game (with the different chapters having been released) I opted to download it all... 30 hours to get the client.

Now let me tell you, 30 hours is a pain in the bum, I also tried to download the client (later on) by the Torrents available from Codemasters... it took 6 days...

I was informed, unofficially, that this was because LOTRO is going free to play, so they are looking at torrent seeding and less HTTP server bandwidth for installing the game, as a key cost cutting exercise.  And I can only think they are cutting off their nose to spite their face.  If players are being made to go down a RMT route to fund your game, the most basic thing you can do is save them from having to wait a week for the client...

Anyway, I got into the game, after about 1000 additional patches (seriously, 1000 ish patches WTF!) and I started a Dwarf.  Not my natural go to race, but I find that these games have an interesting story line for Human but the other races get ignored.

So, in I went, what immediately stuck me was how bad the game looked, it seemed to default me to a silly low resolution and no anti-aliasing.  And it looked horrible, worse than horrible, it was terrible.  So, I quickly upped the graphics resolution, slapped on some anti-aliasing and restarted the client.

It looked a lot better, I would make out my characters face, it no longer looked like someone caught on google street view.

I enter the game, and classically you're faced with a few tips and an NPC right there to tell you where to go.  Here's my first comment about the interface.  I didn't like it... The icons are functional, they do what they say they will do, but there is immediately a lot going on.  You have all your bag slots, you have skills, you have a dial and a marker thing which is not explained, you have a load of icons to the left, some of which I've still not used yet... It is information over load.

I played through to level 4, and let me tell you, I used 4 buttons on this interface, including my skills... Two for actions in attacking, one to open my bags and one to open my character sheet and drop items onto my character.  4 buttons.  Yet there is more than 20 on the screen...

This sort of sets the precedence, there is a lot of information to get through.  Talking to NPC's you have an interface pop up window, in which is their text, I found the text quite hard to read.  It is a serif font (like Times Roman) it is presented in a block, with a blue background and blue buttons, there's not a lot of distinguishing going on.  We all know another game in the genre uses a parchment style looking quest text box, and it defaults on install to showing the text appearing with a writing pen scratching sound... this is much better than LOTRO's approach, just a pop up full of grey/white text on dark blue... with dark blue buttons to proceed.  Not that other games get this perfect, but LOTRO seems to have this one quite badly done.  I even pondered, while still below level 10, going to look for a mod to change the quest text, until I stopped myself and made myself play on.

And made myself I did not, my first job was to jolly down a mine and watch a bit of annoyingly cut of action... “Oh we can't go through this gate”.. bish bash whollop “oh we can now”... erm... what, you just happened to not have the key in your pocket until we were made to watch that distant action go on?

Anyone who has played a Dwarf in LOTRO will know to what I refer and probably hold it in mind with fond memories, it is the first time you are introduced to Gandalf for example... but I just found it frustrating.

Other comments I have is the animation and performing actions (like shooting my bow) seemed to me to be rather clunky.  They were not bad for a game, but they weren't brilliant, average would be being generous to them.  The actions just simply didn't flow from one to another.  And LOTRO suffers, at least the dwarves do, of terrible jump action... you jump and your character lifts into the air really quickly... then some weird gravity takes over, that seems to slow your descent... clunky, ugly and off putting.

Now, this sounds all pretty negative doesn't it.. well don't worry, I'm sure there's something positive about LOTRO.  And when I find out what it is, I'll be sure to let you know, but now onto the rest of the game as I saw it coming up.

The world around me, though certainly brought alive by numerous NPC's was pretty sterile, there is a lot going on though, so I set about exploring.  I was sent after Lynx pelts... that's right, no Kobolds or Rats for me, it's 6 Lynx Pelts, so I tramp up a road indicated as the place I might find some... and I find a Lynx, but just a single one, there's goblins and other creatures up there in the hills, but no more Lynx... I kill so much other stuff in this pretty small area, and eventually decide to head back to the town to empty my bags of the junk I've picked up... when low and behold I see Lynx, lots of Lynx...

And this is what bugged me... I had levelled up to level 4 killing other things in the hills there... this is a level 1 or 2 quest... so I'm going to lose XP handing it in “late”, you know what I mean... so I kill these level 1 Lynx in one hit and survey the area.... in real life terms the area must be 100 meters by 200 meters... it's not a long way, yet in it there is a sliver, less than a quarter, of the first gap containing Lynx... And it looked so easy to wonder away from them, and seemed so much easier just to shoot other animals and entities for XP... that set a bad taste in my mouth... If you can walk past one of the first beginner quest objectives, just hands in pockets whistling while you walk on by, I wondered how the rest of the game might fair for quests...

I'm yet to find out, as at this point I went back to down, sold all my junk, endured the annoying NPC screen as I bought my new skills from the hunter trainer, and then set about working out how to eat and drink to replenish myself.

Everything in the game so far seems to be bog standard MMO fair, it just doesn't seem to hang together nearly neatly enough for me.  It seems awkward, almost forced.  Some parts of the game looks really nice, but closer inspection of the graphics made me wonder about the quality of the engine, it is after all meant to be newer than WoW, but comparing the two, I'd have to say WoW looks prettier.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Busy Busy...

Oh me oh my, could more be going on this week?  Gaming wise, we’ve had the release date for Cataclysm… Clearly someone at the BBC News desk has a huge game boner for World of Warcraft, because they report a lot of stuff about the game on there.  I reckon they’ve also got an Eve player and a fair few Console players… get in touch chaps & chapesses, I’d love to hear what you play at the BBC?

But yes, Cataclysm, 7th December, if you all missed it, just in time to get the bugs sorted for Christmas, or more specifically for the University holidays… yes here in Britain the Universities full of Students start to break up and most have completed the break up for the Yule period by the 15th… so I guess most all Student UK customers of Blizzard will be busy busy busy enjoying the new game.

I still fear for the inflation of items in the game, I’ve also noted that the retail price is listed as €34.99, that’s about £30.  That’s the price of a whole new game… I don’t doubt Blizzards work is worth the cost, but thirty quid… when you already pay a subscription?... Nooo thank you.

I have to admit, I’ve had a few pangs to go back to WoW recently, notably last weekend, when I thought long and hard about trying to introduce the misses to it with me… it’d only end in tears though, and she’s got better things to do with her time… As have I… *cough*.


Alas other gaming news, I’ve had to let my Eve Subs slide for a few months, I might pick them back up after Christmas, but I simply wasn’t playing enough to warrant all three subs.

Grand Theft Auto… WHERE?

The other gaming news I wanted to bring to the fore, since Darren took my link about Wii elbow J, was a report of Take Two Interactive (aka Rockstar Games) winning damages in the High Court… yes the law came down on their side; and rightly so; after Express Newspapers (a tatty rag of a newspaper here in the UK) said they would make a new game… “Grand Theft Auto Rothbury”.

This fictional title was so named for the town in which the now infamous gunman Raoul Moat had his final stand off with Police, the full story is here.

I’m not too bothered about Rockstar winning the case, I just find the “joke” from the newspaper; which kicked off the case; as in such bad taste it’s like I’m sucking on a pocket full of old pennies.  Bitter Bitter Bitter.


And finally, sadly, we’ve lost two shining lights in Entertainment and Film this week, first in the US Tony Curtis.  I liked Curtis in his films, my favourite being Operation Petticoat where he starred opposite Cary Grant.  I don’t know why I really like that film. I just do, and I enjoy Curtis’s character within.

But a bigger loss for me is that of Sir Norman Wisdom.  Who died yesterday evening.  Many of you in the US won’t have a clue who Norman was, you’ll not have heard of him, not have seen his films.  You may see one on BBC feeds soon, as a tribute to our Norman.  You may not understand the films, you may not get the social context, you may not know the jokes, just watch the utter brilliance, the sheer delight that is Norman’s legacy to us.  His body acting, his comic timing, his slap stick style.  He was described by Charlie Chaplin as “my favourite clown”, go on, go find out why.

Sir Norman Wisdom, OBE (1915 - 2010)

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Be Broken, or Don't Be Broken... Just make your MInd uP!

i Am cRaZeee mAd aT my ComPutER!

The damn thing can't make up it's little solid state electronic mind to be broken, or not be broken.  To break, or not to break, this is my EVGA 680 SLi Motherboard's question... Gah.

I started having trouble when I came back from my Holiday, picture below, I came in and I turned on the power sockets and I heard a buzzing AC high squeel.  I checked everything out and the squeel went away, but then turning on the machine it got to the Windows Desktop and BOOM Blue Screen.  And upon reboot during the BIOS Post it was reporting memory errors.  I blogged about that before... bit of a pain in the ass. I confirmed this is a motherboard issue and I contacted EVGA and they were very helpful and gave me permission to RMA the item... I was not able to however, as my heatsink back board is glued on... GOD DAMN WHY DID I USE THE STICK PAD  AAAAARRGGGGHHHH.

Anyway, this weekend I set some time aside and I stripped my whole machine down, and I mean stripped. The only three things I left in place was the CPU and cooler on the mobo.  But I took it all out, washed (with water) all the fan covers, all the fans themselves, all the air filters and I installed a new 500GB drive in there and sorted everything out...

I then made the mistake of trying to fix my memory problems, I reset the CMOS, I set up the memory as the base values and I copiously cleaned all the memory slots and the chip connectors.  And guess what...

It all worked... yes, after moaning that I was down to just 2GB of RAM, suddenly it all worked... 4GB right back in there... cool... but not so cool, there were (and are) issues, at the memory does not report that it's SLi ready anymore... it is OCZ nVidia SLi ready DDR2 PC8500 Ram, but it simply won't work in SLi overclock mode.

Anyway, I have 4GB of RAM back... so I was moaning at nothing, everything checked out and I used a memory test and ran it on soak for two hours as the different parts of the machine, which I had washed, dried out on the radiators.

Then things got stttttrrrrrraaaaaannnnnggggggeeeeeeee.  My machine reported 4096MB of RAM... correctly.... It booted up, and half way through a couple of turns in CIV5 I suddenly got a pop up telling me windows had detected a change in the hardware... it detected some new memory...

That's right, while running the amount of RAM changed... UP?  I didn't put any more in... but in the Vista Performance dialog it said I now has 5037Mb of RAM... WOWzer, Da Computer Got L33T Skillz At Da Installin' New RAM LOLz.

The trouble then began proper, as I think Windows, or CIV5 tried to use this phantom RAM, Boom Blue Screen of Death.

It did this twice or so more times, and then I went on the hunt for the problem, I've wheedled it down to Bank 3, the fourth of my RAM Slots, sometimes, it just flakes out.  I can populate any RAM into any other banks (in matched pairs) and its all fine, the problem only comes up when I try to push the RAM hard and its in that last bank.

So, I've been a bit crafty and used a RAM Disk program (with a little tweak from me) to allocate so many K of RAM from the END of the RAM memory address space, I started with allocating 512K of RAM and let it cycle down from the end of the RAM and max out the memory usage.  It kept going wrong, until I got down to MB 3125 of 4096.  And then when allocated in the second half of 512K the crashes stopped.

I then lowered the amount of RAM allocated to 128K and tested again, still no crashes.

Again at 64K and crashed, so I left it at 64K and moved the memory address up until this 64K patch fitted over where I think the problem is.

All sorted, no crashes.  And then to second check it is not any of my sticks of RAM I cycled through my tests at these settings with 3 different sticks of RAM in slot 3, and then I swapped to the RAM from a whole other PC.  All seems fine.  My final test was to keep the RAM from the other machine and remove the RAM DISk... Boom Blue Screen.  So it's definitely a motherboard issue.

Anyway, right now I have all my RAM swapped back, I'm back up and running, I've even had a good tidy up of all the wires which lay in a spaghetti pile below my desk.

Time to finally get around to listening to SUWT #71.  I hear that Darren had some listener mail poking fun at my comment about WOW not being an RPG as everyone has the same jobs... I think said mailer didn't get my point... which was that I showed my friend three different classes... and they all did the same thing... while I showed him two others which did just one thing... and my friend thought it strange that some classes can be a Swiss army knife, while others are just for the one job... Anyway, I'll get back to that later.

Levant Mine, St Just, Cornwall - September 2010.