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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.