Bioshock Infinite -Burial at Sea. Part 2

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Just finished playing this and was pleasantly surprised after the disappointment of BI-BAS. Pt 1 (less than 2 hours for a full-priced DLC?), to find a game that not only is triple the length of Part 1, but settles the dichotomy between Rapture & Columbia quite effectively. It also takes the game in a completely different direction gameplay-wise. This is a stealth game, pure & simple. Obviously someone at Irrational has been playing Dishonored & Thief because this follows those models closely. You play as Elizabeth this time, and in  recognition of the fact that Elizabeth is not a fighter you have minimal weapons and minimal ammo, and the weapons you do have are much weaker than in the earlier games. Far & away the most effective weapon you have is a crossbow that fires tranquilizer darts, in keeping with the stealth theme you want to put enemies to sleep quietly rather than kill them noisily. However, ammunition is scarce and the crossbow only holds 4 bolts, which are re-usable provided you get to your victim immediately after takedown and reclaim them. So it becomes a desperate race after you fire to get to your victim’s body to reclaim a precious bolt without alerting anyone else. In keeping with the stealth theme, Rapture & Columbia are much sparer of resources, there is much less ammo & money lying around, which makes conserving your resources vital. As I said, this game merges Rapture & Columbia much more seamlessly than the first, you move back & forth between them, in effect this is the game that not only ties up the entire Bioshock saga, but finally and definitively links the Rapture & Columbia stories. Although the ending is slightly disappointing, there being no final battle and you are  merely a passive viewer in a series of cutscenes, this is a rich little game that rewards the careful player. I’m sorry to see the Bioshock series wrap up, but there are worse ways it could have finished.

The Verge

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I like The Verge. Great mix of tech news, entertainment  and social awareness  and commentary, in a colourful, eye-catching, easy-reading format. I’ve had it bookmarked for a few months now and catch up with it very second day or so. Latest I caught a good review of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and there was a story on capital punishment in Texas that also caught my eye. It could be argued that The Verge plays it safe, doesnt rock too many boats and is merely eye candy entertainment. I don’t buy this, it has a good mix of stories catering to a lot of tastes, it’s not earth-shattering stuff, but is current, factual and fun. Worth catching up with if you haven’t already.

http://www.theverge.com/

EVE Online – Not This Time

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In an earlier post I said I was considering joining EVE Online. I have decided against it in the immediate future. Not having enough time to invest in a game with that sort of learning curve and need for comittment was the deciding factor. At the moment my gaming hands are full anyway, finishing off Thief and having just downloaded the latest DLC for Bioshock Infinite and Deus Ex and a few other interesting games due out soon. So I’ve put it off for at least a year. Watch this space.

Thief – Revisiting an Old Love Affair

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I was a huge fan of the original Thief, particularly the largely forgotten 3rd episode, Thief: Deadly Shadows, which I felt had a more coherent story and a more engaging vibe, reminiscent of survival horror,  than the first two. Now I’m well into the reboot of the Thief saga and enjoying what is a well-crafted and enthralling game, which to my mind is more reminiscent of Deadly Shadows than of Thief or Thief: Metal Age, although those two are again the only ones being mentioned. The atmopshere is good, the possibilities of loot and spying out secret areas are simply vast, and the AI is excellent. Crouch in a dark corner and the guard does not see you, move just a couple of centimetres and on his return from his circuit, he spots you straight away – I was flabbergasted but very impressed when that happened. The game is not perfect, the lack of a sword in your arsenal, which you had in the first games to defend yourself if you happened to be spied by guards, is keenly felt. Now I just find myself reloading when a guard spots me rather than fighting it out, which is not very satisfactory. Also the lack of a quick travel mechanism once you have opened up new maps is annoying, as to get back and forth between areas you have to travel considerable distances, dodging guards and watchmen all the way. This gets old very rapidly, after your 15th trip from Stonemarket to the South Quarter, where you get to know every wrretched stone along the way personally, for example. But these are minor tics in what is otherwise an excellent game. A great revisiting of an old friend – I hope Garrett keeps visiting us for a long time to come.

EVE Online

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Yes, I am considering joining EVE Online. I have been doing my research, as I always have done before joining an MMO. Then again, that is something I havent done for quite some time. I don’t have a great record with MMO’s. My experience with WOW was less than stellar. You know that episode of South Park where the boys are playing WOW and run into a guy who keeps killing them (incidentally my favourite episode ever), well I think I met that guy for real. However, griefers don’t worry me that much. they’re a fact of life, like bad drivers and people who talk through movies, its the usually steep learning curve and need to absorb a lot of info quickly and hit the ground running. And from what I’ve heard, EVE is a special in that regard. But I’m looking for fresh gaming challenges, so maybe I’m up for it. I’ll keep you posted.

Tor

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I’ve just heard for the first time about Tor, the anonymity network which allows users to browse the web in complete anonymity, free from surveillance from anyone who might be monitoring their comings & goings, messages, sites visited and wahtever else they might be doing in cyberspace. It does this by routing traffic randomly through relays provided by a volunteer network, adding layers of encryption like an onion skin (hence the the term “tor” as in The Onion Network). Because of this freedom from surveillance it is, not surprisingly, very popular with those who would rather no-one knows what they’re doing on the net, including spies, criminals, whistleblowers and the terminally paranoid. It also allows access to the so-called Deep Internet, the 96% of the web that is not visible to ordinary browsers and is allegedly home to various nefarious activities including drug trafficking, child pornography and subversive politics, even terrorists and killers for hire. Since I’m not terminally paranoid and I really don’t care who watches where I go on the web (good luck to them, they’ll risk death by chronic boredom.), I don’t really find this sort of thing personally necessary, but the idea of a subterranean network is fascinating. It sort of conjures up the feeling we all had back when the Web was new and everything you found while surfing was fresh and exciting, and we all felt very subversive while doing it, it’s a feeling that just doesn’t exist anymore with the now ultra-commercialized Web.

Pre-purchasing Digital Games

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Last night I pre-purchased Thief from Steam. Admittedly, It was only about 6 hours before it was officially released, but they were offering a special deal for extra content so I took it. It is the first time I’ve ever pre-purchased a game, and I found it somewhat nerve-wracking, because I had paid my money but still had no game to play. Being a pessimist I immediately assumed something would go wrong and I would get no game and lose my money altogether. Fortunately it didn’t, and I was able to download Thief as normal this morning. But it does demonstrate the flexibility of digital distribution, to make attractive deals available for games before they are even released. It was no surprise the other night to hear sales of packaged games are down for the third straight year, and that digitally released games are now outselling packaged games. I know that games stores do offer pre-purchase deals as well,  but its all so much more convenient on Steam and its ilk, with everything you get laid out for you at the click of a mouse. Early days I suppose, but with this sort of uneven competition it’s hard not to see games stores going the way of video stores, and that will have implications for the games industry and all of us who buy and play games.

Lol my thesis

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A wonderful quirky little site I’ve just discovered, a blog which enables those among us who have suffered through completing a thesis to sum up years of work in one line and post it. A great idea, since humour is absolutely necessary to the completion of a thesis (otherwise potentially suicidal depression beckons), it is a lovely simple site, clean and uncluttered. For the record, I haven’t posted my one liner there yet. I’m taking this seriously and want to come up with a slamming entry. Wait for further developments.

http://lolmythesis.com/

 

Activation key hassles – a locked room mystery

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The other day, I finally unwrapped and prepared to load the copy of Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, that I got for Christmas. I’ve never been a great fan of AC, but I must admit the idea of commanding a pirate ship has quite grabbed me. Apparently though, I’m not destined to be a pirate captain, at least for a while yet, because I when I loaded the game and was asked to enter the activation key, which I dutifully did. I was rewarded with the message “Activation key in use by another account. Please contact Ubisoft Support”. Frankly, I was flabbergasted. I havent encountered this before, the game was guaranteed brand-new, it was shrink-wrapped, for God’s sake. I tried it again, just to make sure I hadnt entered it incorrectly. And again. No joy. Now quite annoyed, I jumped onto Ubisoft’s Support page and tried to send a message via their email form page, only for it to not go anywhere when I hit the send button. Banging repeatedly on the send button produced no result whatever. Annoyance turned to anger as I contemplated the last option, ringing the Ubisoft Support line, which the leaflet in the case informed me helpfully was available between 2 and 8pm Monday to Friday. Of course, it was a Saturday. Luckily, at that moment, I dimly recalled that at some stage in the installment process I had fleetingly noticed a message to the effect that Google Chrome was the preferred browser, and it suddenly occurred to me that I had been attempting to send my message via IE. Maybe that was the problem. So I tried again in Chrome, and hey, presto, it worked like a charm. I duly received a reply from Ubisoft, quite promptly actually, to give them due credit, asking me to send them a screen capture of the activation key screen and message (no problem), and also proof of purchase (big problem, this is a Christmas present after all). So currently I’m chasing the donor of the gift to see if they kept the receipt. Then, maybe, if they still have it and I can send it, Ubisoft can provide me with some solution to this conundrum – an activation code in a shrink-wrapped game that somehow apparently been used before. The gaming equivalent of the locked room mystery.  Hope you’re as intrigued as I am.

iPad Air

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Well, the much-anticipated transition has finally happened, and on Friday I handed in my trusty (although now comatose) iPad 1, which, I like to believe , has taken ship at the Grey Havens and passed into the West (sorry, I’ve just finished reading Lord of the Rings for the 10th time, and so things like that are tending to slip unbidden into my thoughts). In return, after much signing of forms, which I interpreted to mean if I lose, damage, or otherwise am unable to return it in immaculate condition, I face public beheading at the very least, a brand-new iPad Air passed into my trembling hands. Airy, it is indeed, very light, almost insubstantial. In fact iPad Ethereal might have been a more poetic, if much less practical name. The screen is smaller but much clearer, the icons have all changed so it looks quite different, and the Safari and email icons have swapped places. Its a joy to use, very responsive, and it tucks into my backpack neatly and I’m hardly aware it’s there.. There’s only one bugbear, of course the charging slot (I’m sure it has a proper, more technical name than that, but I have no idea what it is and I can’t be bothered looking it up), has been changed, and as a result its no longer compatible with the charging cable from my iPhone 4S, so I cant get away with keeping one cord at work to charge both iPad and iPhone and one at home for same. So now I have to remember to take the iPad cable home on weekends to charge, and also make sure, as I have inevitably done this morning, not to bring the wrong cable to work, so now my phone is sitting here charging while the iPad will have to wait until this evening for a charge. A nuisance, truly. I’m not going to play the Luddite and complain endlessly as to the necessity of this change, but its going to cause me problems, I can see as clear as day. Still, since receiving a free iPad is really a modern-day example of not looking a gift horse in the mouth, I wont complain (truly, I won’t). The joy of a new toy will surely overcome all handicaps (I’m positive), if not, I’m sure to let you know.

Cybershack

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Well, no sooner had I added Save Point to my watching list, then I discovered  another games-related TV show, which apparently is hardly new, since it’s been running since 2006. Currently tucked away in the most un-primetime spot you can imagine, 10 am on a Sunday morning (which probably explains why it’s taken me 8 years to discover it), Cybershack bills itself as “Australia’s only 30 minute free-to-air television program dedicated to profiling the latest innovation in consumer electronics and home entertainment industry.” And that pretty much sums it up. Whereas Save Point, and to a lesser extent Good Game, make a point of being hip and frenetic, Cybershack is conservative, buttoned-down and very commercial. In fact it comes across as a long series of product placements, which is not necessarily a bad thing, and the show certainly does cover the whole gamut of electronic entertainment. I have enjoyed watching (the 2 whole) episodes I have seen so far, and its informative, but really its not a show you’d watch for entertainment value. If you are looking for EE products to buy, and just want the straight story on what’s worthwhile out there, this is great stuff. Its the visual equivalent of online reviews. The hosts are nice, clean-cut, conservatively dressed (the ethereally pretty and thoroughly pleasant Jessica Smith is particularly easy to look at and to listen to), basically, that’s it in a nutshell, it’s a nice show. Agreeable use of 30 minutes.

iPad-less

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I’m bereft. My trusty iPad has emulated Michael Schumacher and sunk into a coma from which, I’m reliably informed, it will probably never recover. It is not dead, no, it beeps occasionally and the screen flickers every so often, just like a coma patient’s eyelids occasionally twitch to show that there is life in there somewhere. But functionally its no longer of any use. just a blank black screen and dead weight. And now I’ve lost it I realise how much I relied on the damn thing. Apart from its work applications ( and I must confess here that it is actually supplied by my workplace), which are exceptionally useful, I miss it at home. No more waking up and reaching for it first thing to check email and the headlines. No more following the cricket scores while watching TV (best bit of mult-tasking I’ve ever discovered.). No more using it to check walkthroughs while I’m in the middle of a particularly tricky part of a game on my PC.  None of that, anymore, at least until I get the new iPad Air I’ve been promised. Soon. Life is looking up already.

Classify

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It’s not often that I get to comment on online tools relating to my own profession of librarianship which can be of use to the general community. However, this new resource, Classify, is an exciting option for those who would like to classify their own collections along library lines, but lack the resources and the necessary experience to undertake professional cataloguing. This is close to my own heart because I am an old cataloguer. I started classifying and cataloging books back in the days when most cataloguing was done manually. It was a time-consuming if rewarding task that led to processing 20 books a day being considered a good return. Then the national libraries started taking over the process and copy cataloguing, where you simply copied another library’s catalogue record for a particular item, provided by the national library’s bibliographic service, for Australia that was first ABN, then Kinetica. There was still original cataloguing that needed to be done, but only for rare, obscure or unusual items. Then the outsourcing of cataloguing virtually removed cataloguing from the workload of all but the largest libraries, and the librarian-cataloguer became an endangered, now almost extinct species. Some of the skills of this particular branch of librarianship has migrated into the new field of digital archiving, but by and large I expect I will never again get the intellectual satisfaction I used to derive from constructing a catalogue record for a book and placing it in its proper place in the classification scheme. Classify does not offer this particular pleasure, but what it does do is offer simple, easy to use copy cataloguing in the hands of the layperson, who can now, if so inclined, catalogue thair own private collection exactly as a library would. provided OCLC, the giant world library co-operative, it enables the user to input an ISBN, title, author or subject heading, and it will provide a list of full catalogue records from libraries around the world, including basic  LC and Dewey classification numbers. It doesnt, however, offer access to full classification, for that subscrption to the Dewey and LC web services is needed  I have experimented with about a dozen books and so far have numerous records for each item. I shall continue to use it and will report on how it fares over longer-term use. So far though it seems to offer what it advertises, a simple web-based classification scheme, which can be used by the layperson to provide a basic, free cataloguing service.

Bioshock Infinite – Burial at Sea

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I didnt buy into the hype surrounding Bioshock Infinite. Although breathtakingly pretty and a lot of fun, I thought it wasnt a particularly worthy successor to the previous Bioshocks. The lack of the manic splicers and their insane ravings took away much of the earlier games’ atmosphere. Hordes of foot-sloggers who were far too easy to kill were not a suitable replacement, and despite the best efforts of the Crow Men, the Fire Guys and the RPG dudes, they just werent as memorable as the splicers. The Handymen were less intimidating and easier to kill than the Big Daddies, and its a simple fact that Columbia’s prettiness doesnt make for the same brooding atmosphere of the decaying Rapture. From a purely personal, masculine viewpoint, I was very annoyed that the voluptuous, very adult Elizabeth who was featured in the promotions and even the cover art bore little resemblance to the childlike waif who actually featured in the game. Apart from anything else, there was so little similarity between BI and the Bioshocks that I really questioned whether thay could be considered paret of the same series. It appears that I was not the only one to question BI’s Bioshock credentials because now 2K have produced DLC which (surprise, surprise), attempts to bed BI within the Bioshock world, by producing a game that uses characters, weapons etc from BI but set within Rapture. It certainly grabs your attention (not for long though, you can blow through the whole thing, including expoloring all nooks & crannies in about 2 hours), both by showing Rapture before it imploded, something I suspect fans had been asking for, and by its almost schizophrenic juxtaposition of 2 completely different games. The creators must have had some fun coming up with compromises (Big Daddies or Handymen? Plasmids or Vigors? Hand Cannon or Pistol?). The game seems to wobble wildly between the two at times, and you’re not sure at times whether you’re playing DLC for BI or Bioshock. The ending though, without giving anything away, is bure BI, and its made quite clear that is the first of a series clearly intended to bed BI once and for all within the Bioshock universe. The potential for collisions between Columbia and Rapture is infinite and exciting and for that reason I will be waiting eagerly for the next installment. If nothing else, it has caused me to go back and revisit BI, to see if I can glean any hints from there as to where this series might lead. I just love it when games can make that sort of thing possible.

Quicksave

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Just started playing Shadow Warrior, a remake of a a popular FPS title from the 90′s, basically Duke Nukem set in the Orient. Its fun, but not particularly memorable, but I was surprised and overjoyed to see the return of something I had thought dead and buried, the good old reliable quicksave. Yes, long since killed off by the ubiquitous checkpoint, it has risen from the dead, at least in this one game, I suspect because the makers were keen to recreate the original as closely as possible, and in the 90′s the quicksave was king and the checkpoint was only a glint in the eye of lazy programmers. I have aired my thoughts on checkpoints before, they are too frequently a tool for game creators to artificially up the difficulty of games, much easier to space the checkpoints as far apart as possible instead of actually boosting the quality of the AI. In their twisted minds frustration, generationed by ridiculously spaced checkpoints, equals challenge. There’s also the little fact that checkpoints, particularly ones spaced as insanely far apart as in some recent games (Crysis, I’m looking in your direction), take control away from the user, the guy or gal who’s forked out his heard-earned to buy and play the game, and therefore surely deserves the right to determine when and where they save their progress. However, I realise I’m flogging a dead horse here, the checkpoint is here to stay, but at least every so often when a little gem from the past like Shadow Warrior slips through without much fanfare, I can at least relive the past for a brief moment, when I had some control over the games I chose to play.

Save Point

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As a dedicated gamer, I’m always keen to check out new gaming-related TV shows. I already have Good Game locked into my schedule and I was a keen watcher of the late, lamented X-Play. So when I discovered that Fox 8 was airing a program called Save Point I tuned in immediately. I’ve now watched about a dozen eps and, frankly, I still havent got  a handle on it. Its just all over the place, wildly searching for itself, seemingly unable to define if its a purely a gaming show or has a wider pop culture focus. Its hasnt helped that it seems to have a transient cast. I have seen a quite a few of its presenters on 1 or 2 episodes and then have not seen them again, maybe they were guest presenters but then that wasn’t made clear. The fixtures are the curvaceous Claire Costigan, who projects a great enthusiasm for gaming without necessarily being an industry insider and the hip element, the too cool for school Chris Jai Alex, who has manifested several completely different but alway thoroughly hip personalities, which just adds to the schizophrenic nature of the program. The show’s website lists also Maddison-Clare Sloane whom I haven’t seen for a while. The show is always entertaining, fast-moving, full of colour and energy, but it just needs to settle and find its mojo and stick to it. It hasnt helped that Fox has jiggled it through the schedules sometimes taking it off for months at a time for no apparent reason. A settled timeslot would help immensely. The whole show needs a chill pill, then it will be a charter member of my A-list of gaming shows.

Apptivity Seat

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Venturing hesitantly into unfamilar territory here. I don’t have children of my own and so normally I would take little notice of something like this, a controversial new product from Fisher-Price. It’s basically a iPad suspended over an infant’s bassinet or bouncer, the idea being that kids will be exposed from the earliest possible age to the interactivity of a tablet,. even if they are too young to manipulate it for themselves. Naturally it has caused enormous controversy, with experts and self-titled experts claiming that under 2 years is too young to be exposed to online interactivity, while just as many have claimed that the device is at worse harmless and at best a positive introduction to the interactive world the children will be spending their whole lives in. It has been pointed out the device times itself out after 10 minutes, so over-exposure is not a problem, and also that it is far more positive than depositing children in front of a TV. My own viewpoint, again emphasizing that I do not have children myself, is that with proper safeguards I see no reason why this can’t be a very positive introduction for children who are going to spending their whole lives immersed in technology anyway. Its an experience that people of my generation will never share, because we grew up before the general advent of IT into people’s everyday lives. I was 16 before I used a computer for the first time, and while I am comfortable with tech and in my own way quite skilful at using it, it will never be as intuitive to me as it to children growing up today. I am at least more fortunate than my parents, who are completely tech non-savvy and really quite terrified of it, despite my best efforts to introduce them to its beneficial aspects. Today’s children are really very fortunate, in my eyes, and I have no problems with something that will integrate them into this coming world of ours from the earliest possible age.

Steam Machine

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And just as I am lamenting the possible death of the gaming PC, I hear the first real details about Steam’s own attempt to combine the best features of PC & console gaming. I’ll wager I’m probably the last person in the Western world to hear about Steam Machine, but really I just play games, I dont pay much attention to new technology unless it’s thrust under my nose, in this case through a quesstion on Good Game: Pocket Edition the other night, So I’ve raced off to bone up on Steam Machine. With about 100 games already in my Steam catalogue, I’m tailor-made for this. Everything sounds good, the idea of a controller that mimics K & M, the Steam OS that can be downloaded to PC, I like all of it. of course Valve arent really in my good books at the moment because of the dangerously Duke Nukem Foreverish non-appearance of either Half-Life 3 or Half-Life 2: Episode 3 (I’ll take either, thanks), but if this comes off, and there are some big ifs involved, I’ll gladly forgive them (although still want HL3 or HL2:E3 someday).

I like the sound of this, but wait & see..

PS4/XBoxOne – To Buy or Not to Buy

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Watching Good Game last night clarified within me a debate that I’ve been having with myself for quite some time. It was the first reviews of PS4 & XBone, and, yes, I’m seriously considering buying one of them. However, the debate I’m referring to is not about purchasing one or other of them. It is, in essence, about my PC gaming future. I am a dedicated PC gamer. I have been playing games on PC for around 20 years, and have gone through a string of PC’s of steadily increasing power. My last 3 have been custom-specified gaming rigs. I love the power and spectacle, the fluidity,  of PC gaming, which I just dont find in console games. Above all I love the mouse and keyboard. I have an elderly PS2, the only console I have ever owned, which I bought when there was a flood of FPS games coming out for it, while the flow of PC FPS seemed to have dried up. I have used it and enjoyed it, but I just do not have the same respect for the controller as I do for my M & K. Given my druthers, I would stick with PC and never change. But it doesnt take any particular prescience to see the PC is on the way out, washed away by a tidal wave of tablets. It will never disappear entirely, there will always be a market for basic PC set-ups in offices and business, while really dedicated PC gamers will keep alive a niche market for expensive, custom-built gaming rigs. But the in-between, run of the mill, home/office PC, on which about 90% of PC games are played, is on its last legs. And that means the disappearance, I forsee, of mass-produced PC games, since there simply wont be a market for them. So in future I see only downloadable indie games and console ports as being PC available. With this in mind, and my current gaming rig having about another year, maybe two, of useful life, I am seriously considering not replacing it, and by extension, fuflilling my gaming needs with a console. On face value, its a no-brainer. My preferred genre is FPS, and consoles are basically built around FPS and 3P shooters, there is a never-ending flood of suitable titles. In addition, on purely financial terms, a console is less than half the price of a custom-built gaming rig, albeit the games are more expensive. But there is a more deep-seated issue for me than the purely practical ones. Do I abandon a medium I have loved for decades and which has brought me enormous pleasure?

To buy or not buy, that is the question…(Sorry, Will.)

App of the Day

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I’ve just downloaded App of the Day, a new app that promises you one paid app, for free, per day. It sounds like a good deal, probably too good to be true, but I’m giving it a try. It really depends on the quality of the apps being offered. Today’s first offering was The Ashes app, relating to the current Ashes Test cricket series between Australia and England. Apparently its a drinking game app, so you can imagine it involves consuming certain amounts of alcohol based on certain happenings in the game. Its exact nature will remain a mystery to me, because being a non-drinker (well, at least not drinking in the sort of amounts involved in drinking games), I opted not to download it. I suspect that most of the offerings will be $0.99 apps, so not a huge saving, and I’ve yet to see what the catch is, but I’ll continue to monitor the offerings, and if anything is worthwhile, I’ll post it on here.

Crysis 3

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My 50th post! A significant personal landmark, if I do say so myself,

I’ve begun playing Crysis 3 for the second time. I have a definite feeling that you learn much more about a game after a second playthrough. So far, I’m enjoying Crysis the Third slightly more than I did on the first go around. I wasnt a fan of the first Crysis, the game lagged badly in its second half and it was bugged to a ridiculous extent. However the two sequels have been excellent, maybe Crysis 3 just shades its predecessor, with somewhat more varied environments and the addition of a killer (silent) bow. The difficulty level has also been ramped up, enemies seem to spot you much easier, even if cloaked. More challenge, which increases the satisfaction without necessarily raising the frustration. That comes from the game’s major bugbear, which it carried over from Crysis 2, namely the checkpoints being too far apart. Its quite ridiculous to play through a solid 10-15 minutes of stealth and action, cover a fair bit of territory having disposed of multiple enemies, accidentally hit the wrong button at the wrong time and get killed, and find yourself right back at the start again. Now that’s frustration. Its still a damn good game, although there are signs that after 3 games, the franchise is wearing a bit thin, and may need to consider going in a different direction if its to continue being a worthwhile exercise.

The Stanley Parable

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I’ve just started playing The Stanley Parable, a new game which is really hard to pigeonhole as one genre or another. It’s in the vague mould of recent games like Gone Home or Outlast, but has almost zero interaction with the environment in addition to no combat. Basically you move, and thats all you can do. The game is based arouind choices. Basically the narrator, who orchestrates the entire game  in between insulting your character, Stanley, tells you which direction you should take, and if you decide to take another, will instantly pillory you for the choice and, seemingly out of spite, will ensure you end up in some horrible situation, going around in circles, or just plain going mad, until the game finally reboots and despoits you back at the last savepoint. I havent played far enough yet to get beyond the first couplr of choices, but so far taking the “wrong” choice has simply ended me up restarting from save, which isnt really an encouragement to buck the system. Will have to wait and see how subsequent choices pans out.

Wix

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I’ve just been having a look  at Wix, a site that promises trouble-free, easy website creation. They claim over 40 000 000 users and growing. Their site is certainly colourful, minimalist and easy to navigate, and they have a brief, equally colourful introductory video to get users started. They also promise full support, which is something out of the box for a free website  That’s as far as I’ve got pro tem, the test will be to see how their claims stack up by creating my own website.

Monitor my progress…

http://www.wix.com/

iPad Gyroscope

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Am I the only one that gets irritated occassionally by the IPad gyroscope? The damn thing always seems to choose when I’m deeply immersed in something to suddenly swing its orientation, and my attempts to get it back usually result in it swinging wildly in all compass directions. There seems to no rhyme or reason in its swings – it will remain placid when I’m lying on my back looking up, yet will swing wildly if I’m sitting dividing my attention between it and the TV. Is there anyway to make it less sensitive? I’m open to suggestions.

LibraryThing Early Reviewer

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I have just received my first book in the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program. This is where LibraryThing members can sign up to request gratis copies of new books to read, and hopefully post a review on LibraryThing. The book I signed up for was the Bluffer’s Guide to Opera, by Keith Hann, which is a great book for me, as although I love opera, I have only been attending for a couple of years and so still know next to nothing about it. It’s only a small book, so shouldnt take long to read. Librarything informs its members that only North American reviewers get print copies, everyone else would get e-copies, so I got a surprise on Friday when the book arrived in the mail as a hard copy, with a pleasant note from someone at the publishing house accompanying it. I shall indeed be writing a review for LibraryThing, and likely posting the review here as well.

Stay tuned…

Springshare

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We have just had training in Springshare, which is the platform we will be using to create new library guides. The libguide software is one of several specialist apps which it provides for libraries, including chat, staffing scheduling and calendar platforms. I was quite impressed with Springshare’s libguide software, not only is it easy to use, intuitive, simple and colourful, the company does an excellent job of providing online training and support, with a number of video presentations detailing all aspects of putting together libguides. Examples of libguides from other libraries showed us that the Springshare guides really are good, easy to use, colourful and able to convey access to information for users concisely and in an interesting manner. I’m starting work on a couple of new libguides using this software, so hopefully I will get results just as good.

http://springshare.com/

 

Gmail

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As you/ve probably noticed, Gmail has recently split itself, like an amoeba, although into 3 parts rather than 2. There are now Primary, Social and Promotion sections, and Gmail has taken up on itself to decide what of your incoming mail goes into which category. I’m really not privy as to the logic that ordains what goes into what category, but so far, I’m happy with the Primary, which is obviously the most important, for me anyway, others may feel the Social category is more special. Social also seems to work well for me, but Promotional is just bizarre. Apart from obviously becoming a receptacle for spam that gets through the filter, it is also catching my newsfeeds, websites that I have registered with, and a grab-bag of assorted mails that dont fit obviously into any category. Why then is this called “Promotional”? I really cant see the logic. I think I shall refer to it myself, from now on, as “Odds & Sods”, which seems far more appropriate to its purpose.

A Pox on Digital Distribution!

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OK, I have benefited greatly from digital distribution over the past few years, and I buy most of my games by preference through Steam. However, that doesnt preclude me form occassionally longing for the old days, when you bought a game on disc, whacked it in, let it run, and hey presto, you would be playing within a few minutes. One such time was last night, when, stuck in a motel room with only free-to-air TV (Ouch!!), I decided to relieve the boredom by playing a few games on my trusty notebook. Did I get to play any games? No, because not one but 2 DD services let me down. First Steam decided it was not going to play ball. Persistent attempts to log-in  just led to the old reliable standby message “You do not appear to be connected to the Internet”, which from past experience I believe is Steam’s way of letting you know it has no particular reason for locking you out but is determined to do so anyway. After about 45 minutes of this, I gave up and moved on GOG, which has a good library of old reliable games, (comfort games, as I call them), and which has seldom let me down in the past. Not tonight. GOG’s downloader decided it wasnt going to accept my login, even though I had just moments before used it successfully to login to GOG itself. Another 45 minutes of trying, until in a fit of truly monumental petulance it finally decided to freeze up altogether. So, all up 90 minutes of wasted time, and no games. Thanks to DD I was left with nothing to do but watch the ghastly free to air TV. And as I said, this is one time I really did lament the demise of the humble gamedisc. DD has undoubtedly conferred enormous benefits on us, including the ability to rapidly downloading any game, anytime, anywhere, the ability to download DLC, community gaming, forums and many more, But the downside is, when DD decides its not going to come to the party, you’re pretty much stuck without access to your games or anything else for that matter. Yes, I know if the games are already downloaded you can play offline (but Steam wouldnt even let me have that last night), although without access to the cloud your saves are likely to be in jeopardy, something that always leaves me in a cold sweat. But that didnt help me, since my notebook, used for business reasons only up until now,  was gameless.  Which is why when I get home I’m going to dig out the old reliables I still have on disc and stick a few of them in my notebook bag, remembering the Boy Scout motto “Be prepared.”

Bulletstorm Revisited

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Just started re-playing Bulletstorm, having finally been able to gain access again through the impending death of Games for Windows Live. The dramas that GFWL have caused for me with this game are beyond belief. I’ve been locked out more often than I’ve been able to play. I’ve had minor GFWL log-in troubles with other games, notably Bioshock 2, but nothing along the lines of the problems I’ve had with Bulletstorm. Initially it kept me locked out for days because GFWL would not recognise my CD key, and kept sending me in circles (for about 3 days). Eventually , by a tortuous circuitous route I cant even remember, I got in and was able to play the agme to its conclusion. Next problem was when I decided to download a clean copy from Steam for my laptop. No problem there except my laptop couldnt quite handle the game, so I decided to download it to my desktop. Big problem. GFWL decided it didnt want to recognise my game key, even though Steam confirmed it was corrrect. GFWL wouldnt have a bar of that, so I gave it away, until last week, when I decided to have another try. Lo & behold, although GFWL stil doesn’t want to know my key, I was able to get in, just by cancelling out of GFWL. Since this route definitely wasnt available during GFWL’s reign of terror, when with all the zeal of a Stalin-era Soviet border guard  it clamped down on accessing games without going through the tiresome GFWL log-in process and being forced to go online even though you only wanted to play alone. I can only presume that with the impending demise of GFWL next June that border security has been relaxed and the hordes can play freely. Of course, the impending demise of GFWL will cause its own problems and its quite possible that some of these games will no longer be playable after June next year, but until then, I’ll keep playing and just see what transpires.

MBRC Request App

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I’ve just heard that a local council has come up with an app that allows residents to report issues and problems to council workers, including noisy dogs, fallen trees, missed rubbish collection and leaking pipes. The app, which is available from both Apple and Google, sends the request to a queue where council workers can deal with the problem as they get to it. The council in question is the Moreton Bay Regional Council, just north of me, but I expect it wont be long before other local government bodies adopt similar technology. One doesnt often associate local government with innovations like this, but full marks to the MBRC for a great idea.

Ned Kelly app

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I have just downloaded the free app from the State Library of Victoria promoting their exhibition of Ned Kelly memorabilia. Its very encouraging to see cultural organisations like museums,  art galleries and libraries starting make use of this sort of technology to promote their wares. The SLV appp includes the full story of Kelly’s life and career in chronological order with original pictures and engravings, and a few extras including a video reconstruction of Kelly’s iconic armour, fact sheets, exhibition info, search functions, and detail about the SLV itself and its collections. All in all, its an excellent intro to the exhibition and the Library itself. I am a great devotee of free apps, a minimal effort in downloading them is usually highly rewarding. And there are plenty of them out there.

Outlast

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Compared to Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, this little gem positively sparkles. Havent quite finished it yet, so a final verdict waits, but its one of the most refreshing games I’ve played in a long time. Nowhere near as scary as it’s been made out to be, but its power lies not in chills, but in a whole new dynamic in survival horror. Not running and hiding, but outwitting. You have no weapons, no way to fight back, your enemies are nearly as fast as you, but you have the advantage of brains and agility. Wait in the darkness, watch your enemies, plot their movements and then go where they’re arent. Crouch in a dark corner while your enemy walks past oblivious then track them at a safe distance. Being pursued, duck into a narrow crack or crouch into a low pipe where they cant fit, then taunt your enemies while they glower impotently at you. Its quite intoxicating to outwit such powerful enemies from a position of absolute weakness and is such a refreshing change from running frantically or trying to hide in cupboards (which is offered in the game, but you’ll soon learn its a clever tease from the makers. Take the easy option and do it, an you’ll end up dead more often then not.) I would venture to say this game has turned survival horror on its head, and all from the most cliched and over-used setting in the genre’s history – the good old insane asylum full of psychotic freaks.

So far tracking to a 9 – great stuff.

Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs

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I’ve been playing this on and off for a while now, and frankly its been a major disappointment so far. Amnesia: The Dark Descent was such a breath of fresh air when it came out a few years ago, a genuinely original game that appeared out of nowhere and scared the whilikers out of a slew of impressed gamers. Sadly, there’s nothing original or fresh about A:AMFP. So far its a by the numbers survival horror game that looks like it was made a decade ago. The muddy graphics, the lack of interaction with just about everything in the environment, the generic scary old house, creepy church and cardboard cut-out steampunk machinery, the whole blah feeling of the game, all combine to make this a major disappointment after so much was expected.  So far halfway through, but there been next to no action, just a whole lot of very uninspiring puzzle solving. The much-vaunted pigmen have yet to make an appearance, however, they’ll have to be very, very scary to salvage this game.

So far tracking for a 5, the pigmen will have to work very hard to push this to a possible 6.

My First Kindle Book

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Last night I took a long-overdue step into the  real world by downloading (and reading), my first ever Kindle book. No, I still don’t have a Kindle reader, I downloaded it to my iPad Kindle app. This worked really well, the app is easy to use, downloading of my book was painless and very well integrated with the online Amazon store. I also found that the iPad was easy to read, having heard that some people find the shiny screen causes eye strain, but I made a point of reading the book in a low light situation, which worked very well. With no glare off the screen, the print stood out well, with just the right amount of backlight, and reading was actually considerably easier than with a print book. So for the moment I will hold off getting a an e-book reader, as I have so far, and continue with the iPad. I just remain unconvinced about e-book readers, until there’s a universal reader (if such an animal ever arrives), that will access all e-book catalogues and libraries everywhere. For the record, the book I downloaded, a shorty at 65 pages and the bargain price of just $2.95, was excellent. It’s called Pioneer Detectives, by Konstantin Kakaes, and tells how the amazing Pioneer 10 & 11 spacecraft, launched in 1972 and still travelling outward bound in the depths of interstellar space, almost caused the Newtonian and Einsteinian theories of gravity to be overthrown. I won’t reveal anymore because its a fascinating scientific detective story well worth reading, highly recommended to anyone who loves reading about space travel or science & technology in general.

Update – Tomb Raider

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Still playing (56% of the way through, according to the little spiel that comes up on loading). I did take some time off to start Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs (but that’s another story). Its been a mostly enjoyable romp so far, a few frustrations, but nothing I would term a fault in the game. Certainly its challenging, but to my surprise I have found the combat more frustrating then the climbing & leaping. No matter what anyone tells me to the contrary, the 3rd person mechanic is inferior to FPS when it comes to shooting. What is an instinctive process in 1P, becomes awkward and non-intuitive in 3P. Particularly in a game like this, which features mass attacks by enemies from all angles. Maybe they could consider an automatic switch to 1P when a weapon is raised? Just a thought. Not going to beef about 3P in general, its a good fit for this game and in addition allows pervs to leer constantly at Lara’s trim form as she runs away from you. Juvenile, I know, but hasn’t that always been a key part of Lara’s appeal?

Trending towards an 8/8.5 so far. Stay tuned…

BookRiot

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Just discovered a site I hadn’t previously heard of – BookRiot. It appears to be the accompaniment to a podcast of the same name, and is another social networking book reading site, but not in the same class as GoodReads or LibraryThing. I have a suspicion, based on the accompanying ads for books and the apparent ages of the staff (clearly no-one over 30), that this site is aimed at teenagers and twenty-somethings, but its not made explicit, just implied. What drew my attention was a review of GR and LT and their respective merits in a number of categories, which was fascinating and really well done. I shall keep an eye on the site, have a listen to the podcasts and see what eventuates.

HabitRPG

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I’ve just downloaded HabitRPG, a rather novel app that allows you to treat your life like a Role-Playing Game. The slogan is “Gamify your Life”, a phrase which I rather like (can I get a bumper sticker that says that?) and will be seeking every opportuinity to drop into conversation.  You set goals, as you achieve them you level up just like in an RPG, lose HP as you fail, and earn money to buy weapons & armour (Oh Yeah!!!). As I’m a compulsive gamer and RPG is my 2nd favourite genre after FPS, of course I have to give it a go. As usual I will report on my progress.

Stay tuned…

Candy Crush Saga

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One of the most popular games currently available on IOS. Its an unashamed grab for your hard-earned, and if you’re not careful you can spend hundreds on it, buying your way out of sticky situations. But its an enthralling, addictive experience. The bright colours, movement, and soothing sounds all create a hypnotic effect and you spend literally hours entranced by it. Since I got an iPadI I have currently spent about 30 hours on it, and I’m into the low 110s as far as levels go. Kudos to a well-designed, thoroughly addictive waste of our collective time

Meetup app

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I have recently loaded the meetup app onto my iPad, having had it on my iPhone for some time. IMHO, this one of the best designed special purpose apps I have come across. For the record, Meetup is a social website that allows people to form social groups based on desired criteria ie social groups by age, foodies, wine or coffee-lovers, travel, dating, various sporting or recreational activities to name just a few. The idea is to form a group and have a readymade platform up on the web to advertise it in the hopes of attracting like-minded people to join. The Meetup app allows the user after joining a particular group to register their attendance for events on the go, to see who else is attending a particular event, to send a message to the the organiser of the event and others who might be attending. So far I have not found a fault with it, it is simple to use, does what it is intended to very efficiently and has an attractive layout. And its completely free. What else can you ask for in an app.?

The Journey Continues

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23 Things is finished, but as I said, I intend to keep the blog going. Having devoted some thought to the type of content I will publish, and have decided to keep the blog as much as possible in the vein of 23 Things, namely commenting on new tech and new apps as I discover and use them. As a dedicated gamer, I will also add comment on gaming, including new games as I play them, not reviews as such, as I already contribute those to other sites, but just commenting on the gaming experience, the good, the bad and the ugly. First to come, in the next few days, will be the game I have most recently completed, Gone Home.

Stay tuned…

Task 23 – Reflections

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The journey has concluded. Its has certainly been a worthwhile experience.  I have discovered a number of interesting and in varying degrees useful apps and tools. the two standouts, for very different reasons, were Google Drive and LibraryThing. There’s nothing particularly exciting about Google Drive. It is simply an immensely useful and ridiculously simple device that makes my work life, and to a lesser extent my home life a lot easier. The ability to transfer documents, photos, etc between multiple devices at the flick of a finger, marvellous, a real boon. LibraryThing, on the other hand is powerfully useless in any practical sense of the word. It wont make life easier in any respect, in fact it will probably make it more difficult as you frantically dig out all your cupboards looking for long lost books that you can add, and give you massive headaches as you plumb your memory for equally long lost books that you no longer possess. Its a tool for obsessive book lovers to become even more obsessive, completely useless but utterly essential. I’ll also give a honourable mention to Prezi, for delightfully simple design, being fun to use and useful to boot.

I cant say there were any disappointments, because to be disappointed implies having a preconception that something will be good, and I had no preconceptions coming into this. The newsfeeds were perhaps something of a letdown, for they were something that with my insatiable appetite for net news could have been a boon. I didnt find any that will change my habits of roaming far and wide for news, although Digg gets points for its ease of use.

As I said, its been a great journey. The self-directed learning has been a great idea, and I have learned much.Dividing it up into taks to be complted at leisure has also been great. Having an actual blog will be a lasting legacy, because I intend to maintain it, in some form or another, as I dont want to waste what has been a considerable effort in time and labor, although well worth it.

Many thanks to Jake Tilse for co-ordinating the project and his helpful advice.

Goodbye to 23 Things, but stay tuned for further developments…

Task 22 – Social Networking

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I already have a Facebook account, have had for a couple of years as a matter of fact, but after starting and using briefly it, I ignored it for a long time, and only recently returned to it. I found it valuable, even in the brief time I used it, because it reunited me with several friends I’d lost contact with, which delighted me no end. Howver I found the trivial nature of most of the content was a turn-off, not so much the content of other’s people’s pages, which was obviously important to them and therefore worth putting up, but because I couldnt find much in my life I would consider worthy of putting up. (If you think this is a roundabout way of telling you I lead a pretty boring life, you’re probably right). But now I’m back on Facebook, and I intend to stay around this time, not so much for putting my own stuff up, but for reading other people’s content. Not to be a voyeur, but because, like Twitter, I’ve found it to be a great way of seeing what people think on things and issues of importance, and that’s important to me, if I want to think of myself as a responsible inhabitatant of Planet Earth, and stay informed with what’s happening in the world. As I’ve said, I’m a hopeless news junkie, and I find news is meaningless personally unless I know what others are thinking about the issues that are reported.

Top marks to Facebook for reuniting friends and for being the modern equivalent of the parish pump.

Facebook: 9/10

Till next time…

Task 9 (final) update – LibraryThing

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My library has now reached the astonishing number of 523 books, astonishing because I don’t currently have nearly that number of books in my immediate possession. What I have been doing is dredging up books I have read in the past, some from childhood, mainly because seeing the cover of a book I remember fondly from as long as 40 years ago suddenly appear in my library list is extraordinarily pleasurable. I’m a very visual person, so the appearance of a book brings back as many memories as acually reading it does, which is one of the reasons I’ve become so fanatical about hunting down the exact edition & cover, its become an obsession. I have now uploaded more than 20 covers to LibraryThing. Having now finally recognised that obsession, and also that LibraryThing has added something new and good to my life, pleasure in books not just being currently read, but in books read long ago, here is my final rating for LibraryThing

LibraryThing: 11/10

Tomb Raider

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I took a risk on the weeked and purchased Tomb Raider. It was a risk because I usually play FPS games, and although I’m no stranger to 3rd person games, having played all 3 Deep Space games and enjoyed them, albeit with a fair level of frustration because I believe they would have been even better as FPS, it was sufficiently expensive that if I didnt enjoy it. it was s substantial loss. However, so far i’ve been pleasantly surprised. The 3rd person mechanic works well, although some things could be better (why, oh why, when you press S, does she turn around and walk back instead of just moving backwards?). Its a remarkably forgiving game, I feared the jumps, climbs and other maneuvers could be quite difficult, but so far they have been good, challenging, but not frustrating. Lara herself is a more appealing character than the impossibly large-breasted, impossibly talented, impossibly cool version in the earlier games I played as a kid. She is appealing, vulnerable, occassionally clumsy and her bust size is actually realistic. So far so good, and I will submit a complete review when I complete.

Task 21 – Twitter

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Actually I have been subscribed to Twitter for some time, although I’ve never sent a tweet, and barring some amazing universal conjunction of circumstances, I never shall. I subscribe because its useful, and often very amusing to see what’s trending week by week. I am a hardcore consumer of news, I check  a variety of online news sites every day, including comments on the news, because I always like to know what the public zeitgeist is on key issues and events, and because, again, its often amusing. For the same reason, I monitor Twitter trends, and at the moment as you’d expect with a Federal election less than a week away, politics is overwhelmingly the topic-du-jour. My verdict on Twitter is although I have no personal use for it myself either sending or receiving, it is a useful tool for monitoring the public pulse, and a frequent source of amusement, so I figure the world is better off with than without.

Twitter: 7.5/10

Till next time.

Task 20 – Mobile Apps

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I have at least 50 apps on my iPhone and about half that on my iPad. Many have proved to be very useful and I make use of them frequently, others were useful once or twice, or for a limited time, but are now just taking up space, some I downloaded in an excess of enthusiasm, but have never once used. Sports and social apps make up the bulk of the apps I use frequently. I have several different apps to keep me updated on sport scores (that’s essential). As far as social apps go, my Meet-up app (incidentally one of the best-designed and most reliable I have encountered) ensures I always have somewhere to go Saturday night, and I recently downloaded the Facebook app ( but find it clumsy and limiting, much easier to simply refer to Facebook on the Safari browser.) I also have a number of games, which are amusing and diverting if there are 10 minutes or so to kill. The app store itself works well – I have never had any problem locating an app I was looking for and downloading is usually fast and hassle-free. One problem I have run into is getting rid of apps you no longer want. I have several apps which were useful at one time or another, but are now defunct and I would like to expel, but have not found a way of doing it. A good example is the app for the 2012 London Olympics (actually I have 2, one for the Olympics as a whole and one specifically for Australian competitors). extremely useful at the time, now just a waste of space. How do I get rid of them? All suggestions gratefully accepted…

To sum up on apps, they are fantastically useful, usually reliable, fun, and best of all, are 99% of the time completely free. Minor bugbears don’t detract from the fact that I would find it difficult to live without them now.

Mobile apps 9.5/10

Til next time…

Task 9 Update – LibraryThing

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Ok, a word of apology for LibraryThing. I still dont forgive them for their grab for cash at the 200 book mark, but I will amend my initial comments that i couldnt really see a use for it. Now approaching the 350 book mark, I will fully concede this is one of the most addictive sites I’ve ever comes across. I have become quietly obsessed with it. Scouring the depths of my library (and my memory) for half-forgotten books I can add, finicking over getting exactly the right publication details, uploading my own pictures of the right cover when the site does not have exactly the right shade of pink on its cover images, reviewing books frantically ( now more than 50 reviews and counting), I now concede that while Librarything may not be useful, it is in fact essential.

Mea culpa, please forgive me, LibraryThing.

Amended rating: 7.5/10

PS: LibraryThing has now awarded me a badge for uploading cover images for others to use. Glad that being pedantic pays off. Good stuff.

Task 19 – WiFi and Security

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I guess I’ve never thought much about WiFi security, probably because I havent been using it very long. I only acquired WiFi for my notebook last year and have only just gained access to an iPad. When I first turned on the WiFi for my notebook, straight away I noticed that an unknown network cropped up and asked if I wanted to join. I soon worked out it was my neighbour’s WiFi and that if I had wanted I could have hitched onto his for a free ride. I didnt because I’m basically boringly honest, and I really couldnt see the point anyway because the signal strength was very weak. I guess it was an early notice about how insecure WiFi really is. I am certainly aware of these risks and to the best of my ability I try to minimise them. I only use my WiFi devices in trusted environments, at home, at work, or at friends’ houses if I ask them for permission to access theirs. Probably this is really no safer and I am being naive, but after reading about available safety devices, I’m no wiser. I was told WPA2 was safe, now its appear it isnt. I’ll freely admit I’m clueless in this area. All advice will be gratefully accepted.

Till next time…