The Guild – Season 3 – Out-takes

I did write a post with this title, and embedded two videos, but they didn’t work.  I deleted the post, but not until after Google had already crawled it, which is why this page shows up in their search.

I never did get the episode 9-12 out-takes (gag reel) working embedded, but you can see the post I made with Episode 12 here.  You can watch the gag reel here, but try as I might, I can’t get it to embed correctly, sorry.

Disks, data and paranoia

I’m currently going through about 15 IDE/ATA  hard disks and wiping them.  I’m using an old machine to do it.  A friend asked if they could have some of them after they’re wiped, for a friend of theirs.  I guess this post is my way of responding and saying no, sorry.

I have no doubt that the data on them is gone.  But, I intend to wipe them, take them outside and hit them a few times with a 4lb lump hammer, and then take them to the local recycling centre.  So the platters will be clean and the devices themselves will be broken.

This isn’t just my data we’re talking about, it’s the personal data of anyone who communicated with me since I started using computers for electronic communications in around 1992.  I don’t think there’s anything, anywhere on any of those disks that could incriminate me or anyone else, or cause any embarrassment, but hell, why take the risk?  When people talked to me on FidoNet, bulletin boards, by e-mail, usenet, IRC, or any other mechanism that may have kept a record on my machine, I bet they weren’t thinking ‘in 17 years, I wonder who’ll be using the disk this is being stored on’.

So anyway, no sorry, you can’t have my old, crusty, IDE disks, I’m destroying them.

The most amusing thing about the process is that the machine I’m using to wipe the disks (with the case off so I can swap drives in and out easily) is clearly dying, sometimes it boots first time (from Darik’s Boot and Nuke media), but most of the time it gives a random combination of beeps and needs another power cycle.  I think it’s the graphic card slowly dying but it’s hard to tell.  So, if the box lives long enough, I’ll finish wiping these disks and then I get to play with my lump hammer.

Lord of the Rings Online – Mirkwood changes

Looks like there’s a lot of changes coming up with the Mirkwood expansion, to combat, weapons, skill and lots of other stuff.  I really hope they’ve been testing this stuff and have all the bugs ironed out.  The game sure is going to feel different.

Here’s some highlights, with all of these, click the links to go and find out more.

From the latest diary,

  • Critical Defence (Melee, Ranged, Tactical) – Players will now have three new statistics to help offset the changes to some creatures (see the Combat Dev Diary): Melee Critical Defence, Ranged Critical Defence, and Tactical Critical Defence.
  • Outgoing Healing – Players will now have a new rating statistic to help increase outgoing healing from skills. The bonus received from this statistic is capped at 30%.
  • Incoming Healing Changes – The Incoming Healing statistic has been converted to a rating. All incoming healing bonuses from items have been converted to rating values. Incoming healing bonuses and penalties from skills and traits have been left as percentages. The bonus received from this statistic is capped at 15%.

From the Combat changes diary,

  • Weapon Speed and Damage Changes – One change that you may notice immediately is that weapon speeds have disappeared from weapon tooltips. Weapons still have speeds, but the speeds and damage have been standardized for different classes of weaponry (one-handed, two-handed, bow/crossbow, javelin, staves and rune-stones) per weapon level.
  • Elite, Elite Master, Nemesis, and Arch-nemesis creatures above level 30 have been beefed up!
  • We have updated skill queue processing to ensure that the execution of auto-attack skills is much more consistent. Previously, it was possible to starve out the auto-attacks or have auto-attacks delay the execution of your chosen skills, depending on your play style. Further prioritisation and more aggressive management of combat animations makes it a lot more difficult to do either of these things so, overall, players should be a lot closer in terms of effectiveness.
  • We introduced a new skill timing which we’re calling “immediate.” These skills execute almost instantly when chosen, causing any prior skill to complete and make way for the “immediate” skill to proceed. These skills ignore the remaining “action duration” of the previously executed skill. We have added the “Immediate” key word to skill tooltips to make it easier for you to identify which skills use this new timing.

Of course, you should know by now, mounts are changing,

  • You’ll be able to carry out emotes while mounted
  • Mounts are now skills rather than items, so you don’t need to clutter up your inventory
  • You can move from one location to another while mounted!

Huge changes coming to Legendary Items,

  • Changes to earning XP
  • Item level changes
  • Legacy changes
  • A method for resetting legacy points after the items are at maximum level

Menu changes,

  • We’re getting a new menu
  • And the ability to customise the panels opened by all the icons on the existing menu bar

You can check out all the Developer Diaries here.

Borderlands – mini-review

I still don’t buy many games for the PS3, but after finishing up the ones we had in the house I was looking for something fun and engaging.  I saw the following quote for Borderlands and thought I’d give it a shot (no pun intended),

87 bazillion guns

I’d also read a couple of comments about it being much like Fallout 3 but with more emphasis on the first person shooter element, and since I really loved Fallout 3 I was sold.  After the obligatory patch and system update, I was up and running.  I own a PS3, so my comments reflect that platform, although the game is available on most major gaming platforms.

The Setting

The first thing that struck me about the game setting is that it’s not only similar to Fallout 3, it could be Fallout 3.  The game takes place on Pandora, an apparently post-apocalyptic world full of bandits, small outposts of humanity and strange creatures.  There’s clearly plenty of advanced technology around including robots, satellites, big satellite uplinks, transport systems, etc., but the world has basically gone to shit and is overrun by gun wielding bandits of all shapes and sizes.  The human settlements have a distinctly movie-wild-west feel and although there aren’t any cowboy hats in view you get the feeling this is the Wild West by any other name.

The world is broken up into zones or distinct maps of various sizes.  Most of them are large, open areas but there are a few underground cavernous locations and one or two extensive indoor/industrial locations.  As you progress in power the story naturally progresses you through these different places.  I felt some of them were underused with only a few quests while others were heavily packed with content.   Some major locations contain quest centres (and so, friendly NPC’s) and you return to those often to pick up new quest or hand-in completed quests, while the other areas have mostly unfriendly NPC’s and are there for you to quest in.

The artwork is pretty impressive (although somewhat repetitive), and the game has a pretty big sense of scale.  Despite the size of some locations however, they still manage to feel very claustrophobic when required which is nice.

The Characters

Since it’s a roleplaying game (with FPS elements), there are a number of classes you can choose from.  There are four main characters, each representing a single class.

  • Soldier: A mercenary style character who favours combat rifles and shotguns.
  • Siren: The only female character, a wielder of elemental powers and sub-machine guns.
  • Hunter: A scrawny individual who likes sniper rifles.
  • Berserker: A huge brick of a man, preferring exploding devices and hitting things with his fists.

Each of the characters has a little bit of back-story, and the game intro presents them to you to give you an idea what they’re about.  The characters vary based on the skills they can spend points in when they level up along with a single unique skill each of them gets.  Soldiers have a deployable auto-gun, the Siren can turn invisible, the Hunter can summon a flying pet and the Berserker can go into a rage.  The additional skills support the class in various ways.  For example, Soldiers can improve their deployed gun, can give themselves ammo regeneration, increase their resistance to bullets, etc.  I completed the game with Soldier and have messed around briefly with the others.  On the assumption that the game boils down to ‘shooting everything you can find before it kills you’, the choice of class really only affects how you kill stuff and where you spend your money.

In the multi-player game, the class choices can support each other (for example, Soldiers can heal other characters with gunfire if they spend points in the right skill).

The Game-play

Borderlands boils down to ‘complete quests to gain levels and better gear and follow the main quest to complete the story’.  Not much different to Fallout 3 in that respect, although Borderlands makes it even easier to find side quests because they pop up in central locations and a little friendly robot shouts at you when there are new quests available.

Completing quests can involve killing enemies, locating objects or people and even buying equipment.  You are rewarded with experience points (so that you can level) and cash (so you can buy new equipment).  When you gain a new level you earn a skill point which you can use to customise your character.  It’s not possible to purchase all the skills so you’re going to end up specialised in some areas.

Equipment can be bought from some locations, found on dead enemies and looted from chests.  New equipment takes the following forms,

  • Guns – there probably are 87 bazillion guns, but if you’re being cynical it’s because most of them are randomly generated and vary only in minor ways.  There are 8 classes of gun (combat rifle, repeater (automatic pistol), revolver, shotgun, sniper rifle, rocket launcher, sub-machine gun, alien weapons) and your character improves in their skill for each as they kill things with them.  Guns have varying amounts of damage, recoil, elemental damage (e.g. fire or acid), clip size, zoom, etc., etc.  Those attributes are generally randomly generated to result in the huge range of choice.  A lot of game time can be spent trying to find the ‘best’ gun in each of the categories you care about.
  • Grenades and grenade mods – grenades are carried around like ammunition, and you can equip a single grenade mod.  Grenade mods change how your grenades work and how much damage they do.  For example, turning them into proximity mines, bouncing bombs or even devices which transfer health from your enemies to you.
  • Class mods – a device which improves the effectiveness of your class skills (one equipped at a time at most).
  • Shields – again, your character can equip a single shield which provides defences against incoming damage, increases health, and other benefits.
  • Other – there are some other items in the game which I won’t go into, the above four are the ones you spend most time working out what to do with.

The quests are generally enjoyable and the mechanics usually engaging.  However, they do get repetitive.  It’s great killing 8 bandits, until you realise that just about any quest you complete needs you to kill 15-20 bandits and get into their camp to find something.  I guess it’s the nature of the FPS element, which brings me to …

The main difference between this RPG and others, is that combat is purely based on FPS tactics.  You have a gun, a cross-hair and the bad guys are shooting at you.  So you will need your regular FPS skill-set.  However, because it’s an RPG you can scale the game to your own skill level.  If you’re struggling, you can hang around an area killing stuff and getting a level or two and then retry a quest with your new found power.  I like that aspect, and when I found the quests getting too hard, I put in a bit of work and levelled and found the level at which I was more comfortable.

The Storyline

Borderlands has you chasing down a secret, hidden, mysterious vault (Fallout 3 much?) on Pandora.  You’re dumped from a bus outside a little settlement (so little it only has one person in it), which you immediately have to rescue from bandits.  Along the way you meet a robot (Claptrap) who shows you around, and are visited by a mysterious voice in your head (your guardian angel) who tells you to trust the robot.  From there, it’s all about the quests.  You start earning the trust of the locals while also trying to find out more about the vault.  As you progress through the storyline you learn small bits about the aliens who inhabited the planet and the corporations who are fighting over the vault.  However, it’s a pretty minimalist storyline to be fair, and most of the time is spent hunting down bad guys, terminating them with extreme prejudice and looting more stuff to sell.

The major quest line is pretty easy to spot and follow, although you’ll need to do the side quests to increase in power enough to achieve anything.  In many cases, the side quests are more entertaining.  The only issue is that they do get repetitive, there are only so many ways to say ‘travel to here, through these bad guys who you will need to kill, and collect something’.  I was a little disappointed with the end sequence of the game but won’t spoil it here for you.


The multi-player element of Borderlands is probably pretty good.  However, I’ve never played it so I can’t comment.  You can play two-player split screen on one console, on-line, or LAN based.  It’s co-operative multi-player, I believe, with no PvP element.  Having said that, there is a duel option, so during the game you can duel your opponents.  This is outside of the main scope of the multi-player game though, in my view.

Closing Comments

Borderlands was good fun in general.  I did get a little bored a couple of times after a long session, doing very similar missions over and over, but a break from the game helped, and coming back with fresh eyes made it enjoyable again.  I loved being able to scale the game myself, I’m not a huge FPS lover and I don’t have the skills of the average 8 year old, so being able to outlevel the bad guys when required really did make the game more enjoyable.  Another feature which helped avoid the repetition was that bad guys don’t chase you for ever.  If you’ve cleared a camp, and the bad guys are back and you can’t face killing them all again – just run through.  If you survive, they give up after a while, you just need to find a place you can get to which is safe.  Some people might hate those two features, saying they make the game too easy, but they allowed me to enjoy the content, play at my own pace, and complete the game without getting too frustrated.

The boss encounters were a little underwhelming, but I guess they match most FPS bosses (scoot-and-shoot the glowing bits), the cinematic style and boss info made them worthwhile in the end.

There’s definite replay value in the game, either as one of the other classes, or the same class with different skill choices.  Once you’ve completed the game on Walkthrough 1 you can start again on Walkthrough 2 with the same character, level and equipment.  All the enemies are boosted to your level, so the little dog-like beasts you killed at level 1 are now level 33 and ready to chew your face off.  I can see myself trying to beat it a second time before even trying another class.

Borderlands held my attention for the 5 or 6 days it took to finish it, provided something like 20+ hours of game-play on one run through, and had plenty of humour to keep me amused.  Well worth the asking price, in my view (if you accept that games cost what games cost), and I’ll probably hold onto it to see if there’s any downloadable content I want to see.

Morning Moon

Was a pretty cold morning in these parts.  The grass in the garden was crisp underfoot as I tried to coax Bubbles back into the house at 8am.  The sky was an amazing blue and the moon was still clearly visible.  I grabbed the camera (Bubbles watched from her flag stone near the shed) and took some shots.


That’s how it looked to me.  And then with camera zoom and the fence to keep my hands steady,


Pretty breathtaking.


Grete’s dad stayed over last night after a semi-surprise visit.  He brings his little dog so we didn’t see Fizz all evening (she doesn’t like the dog) but Bubbles just tends to do her own thing, trying to pretend the dog doesn’t exist.

Once Grete’s dad left, it took us a couple of hours to convince Fizz the house was safe, but she finally came downstairs on her own.

We’d noticed Bubbles was keeping her tail down yesterday, but that’s a pretty natural pose for cats which are a bit spooked and just trying to go under the radar, but we were less happy when she kept doing it today, and then when we tried to investigate she made some pretty unhappy noises.

So 5pm visit to the vets, and I guess we both knew something was up when we got her into the cat box without any major struggling.  The good news is that it’s just a couple of small wounds on her back, near the base of her tail.  Either from Fizz or from some other creature in the neighbourhood, that had gotten a little infected and swolen.  The vet (and the vet we use is superb, Ashfield House Vetenary Hospital in Long Eaton, I really recommend them) had her cleaned up and gave her some painkillers.  We could tell almost immediately before we left she was happier because she was standing up in the cat box demanding to be out.  She’s got more painkillers and a course of anti-biotics to get through over the next few days.

Which means a lot of tuna.

We didn’t get into Tesco until 7:30pm to buy food for ourselves and the weekend, and haven’t been back in the house very long.

So a hectic two days.  Hopefully Bubble’s will heal up nicely and she won’t need a return visit.  This is her finishing up Fizz’s share of the tuna.