All entries for Friday 10 December 2004

December 10, 2004

On the unfairness of Final Year Projects

As a final year physics (well, mostly) student, I am required to do a 30 CAT project over the course of terms 1 and 2 of this year. The project is marked as follows:

Assessment: 100% assessed; an interim report in January (20%), a final report after Easter (64%) and a viva examination (16%).

You can probably see from this that I am begining to stress about the interim report, but that is not the reason for this post.
No, the reason is this: I have been led to believe that the 20% is split up into 10% for the report and 10% for the work done in the first term. (Please correct me if I'm wrong about this.)
The project is allocated 12 hours a week on our timetable – this being the recommended amount of work/reading you do for it. Therefore we are expected to do 120 hours of work over the course of the term for a mere 3 CATs.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but that seems hugely unfair. Physics courses in years 1 and 2 are mostly worth 6 CATs (with a bump to 7.5 in years 3 and 4). The amount of work we do for these 6 CATs is 15 hours of lectures (possibly), plus whatever revision/study we put in outside that. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying physics students are all lazy, but it is my experience that most people will not put in much more than 50 hours maximum on any one 6 CAT course. And that's if we're feeling particularly conscientious or stressed about it.

So for the sake of argument, lets say 40 hours for a 6 CAT course. How come we are now expected to do 3 times the work for only half the credit?

Life, as they say, is a bitch.

Prince of Persia: Warrior Within – Review

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time was undoubtedly one of the best games of 2003/2004. It was charming and witty, set in a beautifully airy palace where dust-motes danced in beams of sunlight shining through the windows. More important than all this, it was thought-provoking and highly enjoyable, in a market currently flooded by grisly, brainless first person shooters.

So where can you go from there? Sadly, despite everything it had going for it, Sands of Time didnít sell many copies. This has caused Ubisoft to take completely the opposite direction with its sequel, Prince of Persia: Warrior Within.

The Prince, having meddled with the Sands of Time in his previous outing, is now chased by their protector – a seemingly invincible, but strangely dim-witted beast called the Dahaka – whose sole purpose is to kill anyone careless enough to use the Sands. After missing out on Farah, the Prince has reverted to what he does best – saving his own arse. To that end he travels to the Isle of Time to stop the Empress of Time from creating the Sands of Time, effectively negating the Dahakaís existence.

Yes, that is a lot of Time, and it is here we find one of the major problems with the game – its chronologically challenged storyline. The Prince arrives on the isle in the present and proceeds, via a number of time portals, to jump back and forth to the past, the not-quite-present and the slightly-more-past,-possibly, without a care about the nature of cause and effect, or what meeting oneself might do to reality.

This is not even the most obvious problem with the game, however. Combat, the weakest aspect of Sands of Time, is now the main focus. It crops up everywhere, and the large number of combos you are provided with reduces the whole process to a button-mashing mess. In fact, combat is often redundant, particularly in some areas where enemies respawn continuously. A good tactic is to kill enough to fill all your sand tanks (which allow you to activate powers such as slow time or rewind), then run away. Even this approach is often unnecessary, as you can collect sand by smashing some of the innocuous containers which happen to be lying around. No, that doesnít make sense to me either. Neither does having the ability to use the sands in the past, before they were created.

If you ever get the chance to look around in between the frenzied fighting (or fleeing), you will notice that the sandstone palace from Sands of Time has been replaced by a gothic castle, grey and dark, with a sound track to match. The whole game in fact is seeped in bloody grimness, with much more emphasis being placed on decapitation and cleaving animations than on exploration and enjoyment. Oh, and on treasure chests to unlock game artwork, because we all know that the one thing gamers want more than life itself is artwork. The script, such as it is, ranges from cheesy to downright painful, with the Princeís charm and wit so lacking that you could be forgiven for thinking that Warrior Within was written by those responsible for the brain-dead offerings of Need For Speed Underground.

It doesnít end there either. The camera, which caused most of the frustration in Sands of Time, is somehow worse this time round. You still canít pan through walls, which occasionally forces the player into unnecessarily claustrophobic environments, or makes you fight against opponents who are off the edge of the screen. The fixed camera angles can also be problematic – to pick a specific example, on one occasion you have to run up a wall and grab a rope. The camera is fixed in a position which makes this difficult, but makes accidentally running along the wall and out over the edge of a cliff much easier. The camera angle is the cause of death much more often than unforced player errors, and thus is the greatest frustration with the game.

Sadly, this game is a disappointment from the very start. The low production values, evident in the poor quality of the movie clips, the lack of lip-synch in the in-game cut-scenes, the laughable script, the badly thought out storyline, and the occasional unnecessarily frustrating travelling routes, all speak of a game made without the love of its creators. Boycott it – go out and buy Sands of Time instead. You wonít regret it, and you will be giving an under-sold game some much needed support.


The Meaning of LOL

It has come to my attention that I use the internet acryonm "lol" (laugh out loud for those of you not in the know) waaaaaaaaay to much, particularly as I only mean it about 1% of the time.

What I need is some kind of short way of saying "That brief, silent laughter you get when mildly amused"


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