Tag Archives: computers

National Videogame Archive

One of the problems of blogging everything interesting you come across, as soon as you find it, is that you end up writing lots of small little blog posts.

Well, so be it.

I found this on the BBC News site.  In turn, that led me to this (save the video game).  Which inevitably led me here (the national videogame archive).

I think it’s a great idea.  There can be no doubt that videogames are the new rock and roll (and in fact, searching for “video games are the new rock and roll” on Google returns roughly 100 hits which agree with me), and in a few years the ties between film, videogame and other arts will be closer than ever.

If you immerse yourself in a videogame with 200 other people and tell a story and record the resulting images, why might it not be called a movie.

We should really preserve the history of videogames, the technology, the concepts and the games themselves in the same way we have with film, literature and other forms of art.  If I was to preserve some games it would be the Mega Drive version of the original Sonic the Hedgehog which I played to death in the very early 90’s, the Spectrum version of Bard’s Tale and F19 Stealth Fighter which got us through the first year of university on a friend’s Amstrad 1640 (you could hear the whistle of the engines from the other end of our floor).

D&D 4th edition more thoughts

We went through character creation last night with C&C and OneOther1 so I’ve got a little bit more experience with the 4th edition PHB now.  It feels a little chaotic and unordered, certainly during character creation you’re all over the place, reading stuff at the end of the book in the middle of character creation, etc.  Maybe it’s because we’ve come from D&D -> AD&D -> AD&D 2nd Edition -> D&D 3rd Edition and we just find the format sort of jars.

One thing that I did finally nail down – I keep thinking ‘bah I can’t find the rule on xxxxyism this rulebook sucks’, and then it dawns on me there is no rule[tm].  For example, I was really struggling to find the rules on multiple attacks – until of course it dawned on me you don’t get any.  Sure, if you have a power it may let you attack more than one thing at a time, but there’s no concept of native multiple basic attacks2.  Likewise haste, took me a while to realise it wasn’t there.  Two-weapon fighting, it looks like you just get a bonus to your damage, and you can swing whichever weapon you feel like, but never both in the same round.  So there’s a bunch of what I would consider core elements from 2nd and 3rd edition which have been removed (in the name of simplicity) and it takes a while to get used to it.

It also only dawned on me half way through character creation that during combat, you’re going to be using your at-will powers virtually all the time.  It’s going to be a rare moment that you decide (as a melee character) to make a basic attack.  For example, fighters get to pick two from four at will attacks which are basically all at least equal to their base attack but usually superior in some way.  There’s no reason you’d make a basic attack unless you’re forced to (opportunity attack for example).  As a fighter, you’re going to be cleaving (hit your regular mob, do small amount of damage to an adjacent-to-you target) or reaping strike (do damage even if you miss) for example.  I quite like this, but it’s clear where the source for this change comes from (more in a sec).

Without having fought any combat yet I can’t say how much I’m going to like the even more square-based positional tactical side of it.  A lot of the powers for melee characters (and some for casters) really exploit positional situations (adjacent creatures, moving targets around, swapping positions), and if you don’t run combat in a way that enforces and benefits from that positional element a lot of powers become substantially weaker3.  To me it feels like it takes away some of the freedom and imagination from combat; some people might say that it ensures everything is fair, but if the aim is to tell a collaborative story a good GM will ensure the combat is smooth, exciting, fair and still free.  However, we’ll see how it plays out.

The computer-based RPG (and MMORPG / MMOG) influences in 4th edition are clear.  Balanced classes, no absolute requirement for a cleric, the breakdown of classes into party roles (defender, leader, controller, striker, or tank, healer, crowd control and dps as most people know them), the idea of attacks based on powers rather than just swinging a weapon are all clearly derived from the recent popular MMOG’s.  This isn’t a complaint, it’s clear that Wizards are hoping players who have discovered roleplaying on-line will move to paper-based if they can find some common ground.  It’s just an observation.

The deep irony is that paper based RPG’s are really the grandfather of the modern online RPG.  It’s interesting to see that cross-fertilisation and see things come full circle.  Those of us who remember loading up The Bard’s Tale in 1987 on our Spectrums or C64’s will no doubt enjoy that.

  1. yeh, I hate when people use acronyms, nick names and aliases to hide identity as well, but I also like making sure I respect people’s privacy []
  2. let me know if I’m wrong []
  3. DM’s are going to have to work hard during fights with lots of creatures to ensure the bad guys take full benefit of positional tactics, it’s a much tougher situation for the DM, imo []

Twitter, I really don’t get it?

I don’t get twitter, and I’m not the only one.  A search on google for ‘Twitter Don’t Get It’ returns a fair number of hits.  I sort of maybe understand it if you’re mobile a lot and you want to blog some little snippet updates, or if you’re travelling and want to do a little web journal for people to know what you’re getting up to.

And ok, not everyone wants to run their own blog, but there’s a myriad of free blogging services like Typepad, WordPress, Blogspot that you can use.  What’s so fun about micro-blogging?  Surely it’s bad enough reading the junk that my brain puts together in general but I do try and write something interesting or meaningful every now and again, and make the effort of reading it worthwhile.

Is anyone really interested in the minutae of life to the extent they want to hear my internal monologue that’s constantly running or see what I’m up to every three minutes?  I’m missing something I guess.

Clearly, I’m all for more use of the internet-web-pipe-matrix and I don’t object on principal to people using it for anything they want.  So yay, go for it, micro-blog away.  But every time I think ‘i should sign up to twitter’ I end up wondering why on earth I’d bother, and why the hell anyone would read what I wrote anyway (if I wrote anything at all).  It’s especially confusing to find people who do blog and also use twitter.

It’s why I don’t really use Facebook that much, it’s really just micro-blogging with bells and whistles.  I signed up because it is a useful way to keep in touch with friends and let them find out how to get in touch with me, but I don’t find myself using it because if I want to ‘say’ something, I either blog it so everyone can see, or I mail the person I wanted to tell directly.  I sort of update my Facebook status message (essentially, Twittering in disguise) every now and then but don’t get the urge very often.

I suppose I do sometimes find the status updates of my friends interesting.  Hmm.

But they should just blog instead :p

I’m tempted to write a page which lists what I’m doing at various times of day, in advance, something like,

Weekday

1am -> 7am : I am sleeping
7am -> 9am : I am getting ready to go to work
9am -> 5pm : I am working, or returning home from work
5pm -> 1am : I am at home, staring at a) the computer, b) the television

Weekend

1am -> 7am : I am sleeping
7am -> 1am : I am at home, staring at a) the computer, b) the television

There you go, no need for me to Twitter anything.

And that reminds me

We got rid of the old Xbox, I can’t remember if I blogged about this or not, but it was haunted. Yes, our xbox was haunted. We were quietly and happily sitting watching TV a few weeks ago and the xbox spat the CD tray out. For no reason. Clearly demonic activity in my opinion. We took the remote control widget thing out in case the evil spirits were using that as a conduit into the xbox circuits but it made no difference. We turned it on, off, everything to try and rid it of the possessing spirits, but no matter what we did, as long as it had power, it randomly spat the tray out.

We finally disconnected the thing from the mains.

But I do wonder if the entire electrical system in the house is possessed.

Grete will probably kill me when she reads this.

Unless the xbox demon gets me first.

Anyway, none of that is why I started this blog entry, we dumped the xbox (or will do, it’s in our ‘to go to the recycling tip’ pile), but we kept the controllers and the remote control widget. Along with half a dozen xbox games and a pile of PC games we don’t play we took them along to Game Station and traded them in for credit against the stuff we bought and already blogged about. So that was cool.

Sunday

A week at work after a two week break and already I’m struggling to demonstrate any serious enthusiasm, ah well. Been a bit of a week, had various amounts of unexpected cash (Council Tax and a refund from British Gas) and ended up buying a surround sound system and a Nintendo Wii (obviously, it would have been more sensible to put the money away for the future, but then, who knows what the future will hold).

We’re late to the party with the Wii, but it doesn’t mean we can’t Rock Out! We got Guitar Hero III and it’s just really, really good fun! Despite the fact that I know it’s nothing like playing the guitar for real, it makes me want to play the guitar! I have to say, the Wii Fit surprised me, I hate exercise for the sake of it, but the Wii Fit certainly makes some parts of the process easier. Whether it’s the feedback, the tracking, the score system, the games, or something else I’m not sure yet, and I’m not sure how long the novelty will last and if we’ll use it once we’re past that stage, but it’s certainly been used more than any single piece of exercise equipment we’ve ever bought (which I admit, is a short list). I was firmly in the it’s a gimmick camp until I spoke to a few people and that was certainly fully dispelled when we got one. So fingers crossed.

It’s a long time since I sat down and played a computer game that wasn’t a MMOG of some kind, for 4 hours straight, which I did with Guitar Hero this morning. The Wii really is inclusive, it’s almost impossible to watch your spouse playing tennis without the urge to jump up and challenge them to a game. Hopefully we’ll be able to pick up a bunch of second hand games which are fun to play, I guess I need to start reading some reviews.

I still have to actually get the rear speakers for the surround sound stuff mounted, I’m taking it gradually because I don’t want to screw it up. Still not entirely certain what the best way to deal with the speaker cabling is, it’s not easy (possible) to lift our carpet and hide them, but we’re lucky with furniture placement. The main area of concern will be running the cable around the fireplace.

Cooking has been mostly successful, despite the mood issues that working for a living brings. Managed to cook more often than not this week rather than eating frozen pizza or (the admittedly better-than-they-used-to-be) ready meals. I need to find some more meals we can make in a single pan, like stews or rice/paste based dishes. We both really enjoy those kinds of meals, and they’re easy enough to make and freeze, and generally tend to be lower on fat than the other options. Also by making sure we choose the right accompaniment we can keep the GI low.

Made the entire week without eating bacon in the mornings, watched what I ate during the days. More of the same next week. Grete says it really does help her, which in turn gives me more incentive to keep it going. Fingers crossed there as well (running out of fingers).

My sister’s holiday caravan has been flooded somewhere in the North East of England (last night). They weren’t in it at the time (although they only didn’t go because the rain was bad, otherwise they might have been, but then it wouldn’t have flooded maybe). They’re checking insurance details today and the insurers are visiting the caravan park tomorrow so we’ll know more then about what is covered and how much they need to pay out. The kids love that place so I hope they get enough to cover any damage and repairs.

Photo Mess!

Blurgh, have hundreds and hundreds of photo’s, loads of digital photo’s, loads of regular photo’s that have been scanned in previously, sometimes more than once, sometimes getting half way through a batch and giving up.

We really need to sit down and get them all sorted into some semblance of order and get rid of the duplicates!

There is light!

Novatech sent the replacement card today, and so the second machine is back up and running with the new card in my main machine. Seems ok, they had to send a 1GB version since they were out of 512MB versions. It’s not quite the same model, the 512 had an HDMI out, this one has two DVI outputs (I think they’re DVI), but I guess I’ll live. Doesn’t seem as bulky as the original one either, not sure if that’s good or bad.

Pop goes the GPU

Saturday we got back from breakfast, mooched about a bit, played some Lord of the Rings Online and then poof, monitor dropped into power save mode. I say poof, when of course it was entirely silent. The graphics card just decided to stop outputting a signal. I powered off, and on again, and the machine just constantly cycled through the DVD drives. A few more power recycles and it clearly booted up, but no video output.

Blurgh. I hate computers. I mean my entire job is computers, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it when my own break. I relaxed in the lounge, watched some TV, ate some home made soup to calm down. It’s frustrating when things go wrong, luckily I have plenty of spares. I powered off one of the other machines, and swapped the graphics card in and the dark machine powered up fine. I guess it could have been worse, could have fried everything around it when it went. (Please note, for the geeks among you, I did carry out extensive pre-removal testing to ascertain which device had failed, I knew it was the graphics card).

Novatech are pretty good with returns, but this is the second card (same type/model) that’s failed, since Grete’s died about 8 weeks ago (different fault, bearing went in her card fan) and that makes it doubly annoying. Anyway, got a returns number and we’ll pop it in the post tomorrow. For now I’m ‘limping’ along on an nVidia 8500GT, which feels like slumming it despite the fact that it’s about 10 times better than what I was using only 8 months ago.

I do like Novatech, been using them a long, long time (~1992) and I was pleased they let us return just the graphics card, and didn’t force us to ship the entire machine back despite it being pre-built by them, but this is the third ‘annoying’ thing in the last 8 months. It’s great they have good customer service, but I wish I didn’t have to use it so often recently.

In unrelated news, our LCD TV has started to vibrate and make a disturbing noise when the TV sound plays a certain low frequency. The background music in Without a Trace sets it off and one or two bits of recent NCIS episodes. Argh, technology, it sucks.

GeForce 6600’s

The GeForce 6600’s arrived last night. Took about 3 minutes to install them – very pleased with the case on the new machines, two slide locks to move and the cards were in.

Much much quicker than the 6200’s as you’d expect. Although I did get two crashes last night in EQ, one bluescreen and one just weirdness where the monitor went off which is a bit worrying. I’ve re-installed drivers and we’ll see if that makes a difference. I’ll be dissapointed if they cause problems in EQ.

A long time in computing


I’ve been messing with computers for a long time now, and trust me, I don’t usually get sentimental about stuff. However, sometime in the mid 90’s, I think about 94 or 95 I bought a computer case, from some guy called Simes who at the time ran a Bulletin Board called Ind3x that I used a lot. The case was something like £90. At the time, it was a damn good deal, and a 300watt power supply was unheard of in those days, but I was thinking big. It was a full tower case, with a boat load of internal bays and a good number of slots for bays for cd roms, tape drives, floppies, etc. People I knew told me I was daft, £90 for a case was just silly, even in ’95.

Over the 11 years that I’ve had the case, I’ve upgraded the contents repeatedly, there’s nothing inside it that used to be inside it, except for that power supply. I’ve always been a believer in leaving PC’s powered on, and that case has been powered on for around 99% of the time I owned in. From Stockton, to our own house in Stockton, to the flat in Nottingham, the terraced house in Nottingham and finally our own home in Nottingham. I carried it around Stockton when were doing network gaming, I carried it around Nottingham when we did the same. It weighed a rediculous amount even when empty, never mind when fully populated with cards, hard disks, tape drives, etc.

11 years of faithful service. It was my ‘second’ machine for about 3 years, fitting snugly under the desk (only just), and letting me browse the web while playing EQ, but finally, we bought new PC’s, and there’s just no room for it any more. After 11 years, the power supply fan had only just started to make disturbing noises (a gentle chuntering). I can’t say it enough, 11 years of non-stop running from a single power supply and a single fan. It did me proud. I felt it deserved a blog entry 🙂