29 May 2007

Poké... what?

I bought Pokémon over the weekend. It's the first time I bought into the series. It got good reviews and a random dungeon bashing grinding game seems well fitted to some mindless actions when you are on the bus or whatever. So far it seems exactly what I expected. The graphics are ok (I've seen better on the DS) and the sound is appalling (they might well have just copied the original sound files from the GBA). However what you'd think should be a casual, mass market, appeal game it seems a little lacking in features. One of the big things, for me anyway, is that you get into a battle with a Pokémon (through random encounters or trainer battles) and I've got no idea what type the other Pokémon is, what its weaknesses are or which of my Pokémon I should use. When you catch a Pokémon you get information about that creature and its types but there is no way to consultant that during the battle and that's a complete failing as far as I'm concerned (unless there is a way and I haven't found it). I can't be bothered learning the 200+ different Pokémon and what their types are, I don't have the commitment invested in the game to bother.

Still don't think this won't stop me playing it just that I'll often think oh so that bizarre circle thing was actually a bug Pokémon, silly me.

21 May 2007

We Can Live Free Or Die Hard... As Hard As We Can

So I'm about to embed video; an experience that makes me feel dirty but for the sake of sharing this fine music video with a plot synopses of the Die Hard films it's worth it. I found it really funny and also a good reminder of what happened in the films (I should note that there is swearing in the lyrics if you are offended by such things):

Also the full title of the forth film is Live Free or Die Hard which is just wrong. Do you not see the problem with this? I've got the first three films in my alphabetised DVD collection and L is no where near them! What if I buy the DVD? What am I to do? Maybe if they named it Die Hard 4: Live Free or Die Hard I'd be happy though I'm aware this is a little tautological. Apparently the 4th film might well be called Die Hard 4.0 in the UK (presumably so they can have the patched 4.1 release for DVD or the 4.2.12985 build when they realise they forgot to include a menu option). Of course Die Hard With A Vengeance then gets in the way; but I might be willing to bend the rules a little bit like I did with the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Alternatively I might have a Blu-Ray/HD-DVD player by then so get it on that format and, since they've got different size cases than DVDs, they'd probably live somewhere else.

Please note for anyone starting to read my blog or whatever I'm not normally like this, honest.

19 May 2007

That's How To Do A Collector's Edition

Not only do you get the fine cover art on the Collector's Editor of Stranglehold (I think it is awesome anyway) but you also get Hard Boiled in HD on the same Blu-Ray disc (Stranglehold is based on the same central character as Hard Boiled). If Sony wants way to show off what their platform is capable of then this is a fine thing to push. I don't have a PS3 mind but things like this push me a little towards it (I've got an XBox 360 and it's coming out on both platforms). Furthermore the lack of regional locking on the PS3 (though maybe not on the movie) means that if it is a staggered release I can just get the US version anyway.

Anyway I have to say I like the idea it's really good use of the technology; I suppose it helps that Hard Boiled is one of my favourite films.

18 May 2007

Voice Chat

Cups for Voice Over IP

I was reading Zen of Design's Voice Chat Ready To Come Of Age? article and then Raph Koster's Voice vs text article. They are both interesting reads about using voice chat though I would state that Raph's list, though good, seems to fail to pick up on voice being able to happen concurrently with actually being able to continue to control your character whereas, generally, typing takes you away from the ability to control your character. Damion's list of myths and problems is well worth a read too. Of course they both cover it with regards to MMOs rather than FPSs which tend to be slightly more critical in terms of relaying information (I say slightly because it is still critical in MMOs too).

Voice Chat has vastly increased my enjoyment of online gaming through using Teamspeak for a lot of the games I play and my experience of XBox Live. First it makes games with friends feel more like LAN parties with real time abuse and comments coming in. It makes tactical games much easier, trying to short hand enemy locations in America's Army was a pain when, by the time you've given the information it became irrelevant; playing Enemy Territory with Teamspeak meant we could quickly provide information about the enemy. Finally just on a play social aspect my first experience of Project Gotham Racing 2 on XBox Live was wonderful. Just socialising while playing, chatting to people in some surreal Sunday drive experience was great (it's a shame my experience went down hill from there).

I think integration in games is fantastic too. Though some people might use Teamspeak to gain an advantage having the absence of Officer Corpses (where a dead player uses their situational awareness to advise their living counterparts) in Enemy Territory changes your tactics (for the better). Having a party in Halo 2 and playing a game and then floating away from the rest of the players to be left with your own friends again is really good for some post match chat (while you are waiting to connect to the next game).

16 May 2007

The Fire It Burns In Me

I went to the Ceroc Blaze event which was excellent fun but other dancers there and some of the classes I went to made me change a fairly fundamental part of my modern jive. I'm yet to decide whether that change is for the better or for the worse. Previously my Modern Jive dancing has been getting fairly slotted but, as of my weekend away, I decided to try and make it as slotted as possible. I've taken a bit from West Coast Swing, that is the follower gets priority of the slot and it is up to the lead to get out of the way. However for more modern jive like rotations I move the follow off the slot but try and insure that she ends up back on the slot when we've finished that bit.

It was attending Marc and Rachel's classes that really inspired me to do this. They are a very slotted couple and watching them dancing only reinforced the benefits of dancing in a slot. I'm not sure, at the moment, whether moving to this has resulted in my dancing becoming a little dull (possibly in part while I figure out what moves really work for this style or not) however things seemed promising. Lots of ladies certainly seemed to enjoy our dance so that speaks favourably.

It was interesting to see how this fitted in on a more regular freestyle night (which I attended yesterday). Most of the time the skills of followers at weekenders are higher; they can adapt to different dance styles better. I was worried that what was possible at a weekender just wouldn't be practical on the less experienced dancers (as a cross section) you'd find in a regular freestyle evening. I was delighted to find this wasn't the case. Some women certainly would rotate (or just move off slot when they returned or span) but it was possible to move them back on slot as part of the dance and it would insure that, generally, you'd always keep the slot.

On another note about the weekender I was really inspired by the spinning skills of one of the dancers there. He could probably do about three spins in the time I can do one (and could do nine or more spins in a dance). I watched his spinning technique when I had the chance and I'm looking forward to practising more. I tried last night and could get a quad spin in (which is probably the higher point of my abilities) but I need to work on it more.

Apart from losing my voice and maybe a little complaint about the accommodation the weekend was really good fun and well worth it. I'm looking forward to my next one.

09 May 2007

The HD Format War

CD with water on it

I've been a bit interested in the HD-DVD/Blu-Ray format war. When I say interested I mean I'm interested in when it is over so I can just buy the one player and not care.

Therefore I found the report that Hollywood movie studios and the ongoing battle between the Blu-ray and HD-DVD formats will ultimately decide which next-generation home console becomes the most successful (from GameIndustry.biz) a surprising prediction. Because, honestly, I think the current console war will determine the winner of the movie format war.

Seriously, most people I know with a HDTVs are gamers... though, I guess, half the people I know are gamers (the other half are dancers). We care about high definition format for our games and, yes, we want our movies to be high definition too but I still think it is a long time coming. My guess, for the movie war, is also Blu-Ray but then that's because every PS3 sale is a Blu-Ray player sale too. Microsoft aren't risking the same all or nothing on the XBox 360 and therefore every sale of a 360 isn't a HD-DVD player sale. Blu-ray gets more market penetration as a result of this and that slowly moves into the general consumer market.

At the same time the high definition movie scene is still very much at the early adopter stage. I've got a HDTV but the prospect of paying £25 a title instead of the, often, £5-£10 for a DVD doesn't really compel me to move into the high definition film market at the moment. I'm sure, in a few years, the market will look much the same as it did when VHS was being phased out by DVD but until that point I'm in no rush to get on the bandwagon.

03 May 2007


Photo of a camera taking a picture

I might well be suffering form some dizzy moment at the moment since I'm sure I posted about this before but I couldn't find anything so I'm just going to carry on as if I didn't have a feeling that I've posted about it before.

I thought I'd talk about the photos and images I tend to put up with each of my posts now. With the exception of a couple of posts all the images are from Flickr under a Creative Commons license. I insure that I link the image back to the source (this is also a requirement by Flickr but it also just seems polite). It's a fabulous resource and I love hunting out images to use.

I've also taken from a couple of other sources and in those cases I copy to my Picasa Web Albums and reference the source. These images are, most likely, under copyright though and I really only hope it is ok for me to use them.

I just thought I'd post about this since I've had a couple of comments about the photos I've included. I'm glad you like them.

02 May 2007

Neverwinter Night Map Making

D&D map

This month I'm focusing on getting a Neverwinter Night module out of the door. I had started it a while back but I pick up the levels I made again and started building on them.

The first thing I did was crop them.

I'm not quite sure why I was so much in favour of larger maps last time (it was a 12x12 tileset I was using for the main area). The first thing I noticed when I kicked into the level was just how long it took to get around the castle. That wasn't going to do at all so I moved things around a bit (since cropping will take off a chunk of your map) and reduced it to a 10x8 map (it's really a few tiles less than that). Still a bit worried about how big it is even now though; it's not being used for random battles throughout the area and therefore having a large map serves no purpose other than to lose the players in it or waste their time looking for the right person to talk to. This isn't interesting gaming and I'm still thinking of what I can do to further counter random wandering in the game (I'm hoping that I won't feel the need to further resize the map) while at the same time not just making the NPCs sit around in the same location all day. I want to be sure that, if my scripting and dialogue are good, the game won't be dragged down by poor map design.