All entries for January 2005

January 29, 2005

I'm going out, I may be some time

I am currently downloading Windows XP SP2. Once this is done I will be installing it as an update. This is a very foolish thing to do and I am rather scared. If I don't appear to be around any time for the next…week…it's because my computer is about to be destroyed by this process.

Wish me luck.

Now…where did I leave my Windows Install CD? It's been 2 years since my last fresh install.

Google Translations

Writing about web page

I nearly died laughing…

[Edit: It has occured to me that this could almost come from Zero Wing]

In A.D. 2101
War was beginning.
Captain: What happen ?
Mechanic: Somebody set up us the bomb.
Operator: We get signal.
Captain: What !
Operator: Main screen turn on.
Captain: It's You !!
Cats: How are you gentlemen !!
Cats: Service Luggage 2 installs!!!!
Captain: What you say !!
Cats: You have no chance to survive make your time.
Cats: HA HA HA HA ….
Captain: Take off every 'zig' !!
Captain: You know what you doing.
Captain: Move 'zig'.
Captain: For great justice.

January 28, 2005

The most awesome lyrics in the world?

Writing about web page

Fine by Tammany Hall NYC

Got my eyes
To watch the world
As I see it and maybe to realise
Its in colour
Not just black and white

Got my feet
To hold me up so
I can't come falling down
And crawl
On the cold street

Same old eyes
That used to watch you
Awake in covers and sleepless nights
I would watch
Until sunrise

That's when I'd say
We should go away
And sit where the oceans crash into sand
Don't you understand
Between you and me
Nothing is better than your company

Got my arms
I'm better at holding
Data onto what's mine
I won't let go

Got my heart
Which beats and beats and beats and beats
Until it is beaten and then
Won't beat again

That's when you'd say
I should go away
And sit where the oceans crash into sand
Don't you understand
Between you and me
Something inside just feels empty

Got my heart
And in time I think for
Christ's sake woman lets start
To heal

Got my soul
But I'd trade it with my eyes my arms my hands, everything
Just to give control
Give control and feel

That's when I'd say
I should go away
And sit where the oceans crash into sand
Don't you understand
Between you and me
I still love you endlessly

You were just an image in my mind
That lasts a second
For a lifetime
How am I supposed to try and tell you
I'm feeling fine
I'm fine
I'm fine
I'm fine
I'm fine

January 27, 2005

Inductive reasoning at its best

From my experience, I am putting forward the theory that:

It is impossible to get Ben and Jerry's Phish Food out of a tub without covering your hands or the outside of the tub in chocolatey goodness.

Why the outside of the tub? I have no idea. Empirical evidence just shows that it has always happened in the past.

Oh god…philosophy/logic overload

/Passes out

Being a Philosophy Student – harder than it looks

I have spent the last 8 hours (on and off) trying to come up with a 750 word answer to the question:

Explain the distinction between the validity of an argument and the truth of its conclusions, and discuss the importance of this distinction both for mathematics and for experimental science.

So far I've managed 515, with nothing resembling a decent intro. This is, quite frankly, pathetic. I think I understand the question (finally), but still not fully, and I've obviously been worrying about it far too much. I just can't think of enough things to say, so I've ended up with something dry, repetitive, and probably not very good.


I will never be cruel to an arts student again. Honest.

January 24, 2005

Football Manager 2005 – Review

Every year at around this time I ask myself a question. How can a glorified spreadsheet be one of the most popular games of the year? The answer is as simple as the concept behind the game: football supporters all think they can manage their club better than anyone else. So Championship Manager was born, and soon became one of the most widely played games of all time. What started out as a crude DOS-based UK-only game became a global phenomenon with almost 100 leagues from over 40 countries. With scouts around the world providing stats on thousands of players, it has often been suggested that real football managers might benefit from CM’s database.

Sadly, all good stories have to end. Championship Manager is no longer the game we knew, loved, and sacrificed copious amounts of free time for. Publishers Eidos and developers Sports Interactive have split, with Eidos keeping the rights to the Championship Manager name. The next CM game you will see will have nothing to do with the previous 12 editions.

But no developers worth their keyboard are going to throw away that kind of history, so the boys at SI joined forces with Sega. Thus Football Manager 2005 came into being. Granted, it’s not such a familiar name, and “FM” is harder to say than “CM”, but we loyalists can live with that.

Football Manager contains everything you would have expected from the next CM title. Transfers have been implemented, media interaction improved, stats reassessed and the 2D match engine enhanced. As well as this there is the continuing expansion of the game to include more leagues from across the world. The interface has also been changed. Getting used to it is slightly confusing at first, but so was the switch from CM2 to CM3, and again to CM4, and after an adjustment period no one ever wanted to go back. The same is the case here, with information more easily accessible than ever before. Matches deserve a particular mention – there is now a split screen view, allowing you to watch the 2D pitch and player or match stats at the same time.

Of course, if you have played the CM games, you know exactly what FM is about. If not, it is the best, most well researched football managing game you will find. Until next year. It just doesn’t break any particularly new ground. There is not much more to say. Yes, it is a spreadsheet, but comparing it to Excel is like comparing the crayon scribblings of a 3-year-old to Van Gogh.

In the epic words of Brian Clough, “I wouldn't say I was the best manager in the business, but I was in the top one.” Go forth and live the dream – it’s going to be a great season.


Need for Speed Underground 2 – Review

I would like to start this review with a disclaimer: I am not a chav. I do not like Burberry baseball caps, or Kappa trousers. I also find chav-mobiles, in their native urban wasteland setting, to be ridiculous. But provide me with flashing lights and shiny graphics, and I plunge headlong into Self Loathing City, otherwise known as Bayview, EA’s fictitious chav-ville extraordinaire and the setting for its latest game – Need For Speed Underground 2.

The first thing that strikes you about NFSU 2 is that EA have shamelessly ripped off Grand Theft Auto. No, actually the first thing is that the “story” is pointless, and the cartoon style cut-scenes seem out of place next to the rest of the game’s visuals. That is of only peripheral importance however. It appears that EA have taken GTA’s free roaming city setting, pumped up the shininess, and removed the violence – in other words, NFSU 2 is what GTA would be if it was a racing game. Or rather it wants to be.

You cruise around the city, looking for races or shops to tune your ‘ride’. These appear on a world map, which is supplemented by another familiar GTA-style feature – a smaller map of your immediate surroundings. Races come in a number of flavours: Sprint, Circuit, Drag and Drift all featured in the original NFSU, with new modes Street-X – a tight, drift-style race where accurate cornering is everything, Underground Race League – 6-way racing on proper circuits, and my personal favourite, Outrun. Outrun races are entered into if you meet a fellow racer while cruising the streets between races, and challenge them. The aim is then to get 1000 yards ahead of your opponent. This gives you a chance to race freely – to pick whatever route you wish – and is immensely enjoyable.

As well as racing you can change the features of your car, both enhancing performance through a number of upgrades and improving its look through new bodywork, paint, vinyl stickers, neon lights and so forth. It’s enough to make any chav wet him or herself with glee, and yet the cars look neither out of place, nor ludicrously silly. This is obviously due to the lack of realism – if NFSU 2 was set in a disused multi-story car park, normality would be restored. That is to EA’s credit – they have created a world which is shiny and colourful enough to force either suspension of disbelief, or brain damage.
Of course, this comes with a price – namely the need for a powerful graphics card to be able to get the best out of the game. Without one, you will either have to cope with some nasty texture issues and a large helping of jagged edges, or suffer from lag, both when using the mouse in menus and while driving.

NFSU 2 allows you to drive more than 30 cars from a range of manufacturers, all of which look – until you start modding at least – like the real things. As you would expect, each car’s performance is different, although many handle like monster trucks in disguise. Still, it’s worth having more than one fully souped up to provide the best choice for each race. The main problem however is that you can start with one of the best cars – namely the Mazda MX-5 – which makes bothering anything else rather pointless for most of the game.

Overall, NFSU 2 is an empty but strangely compelling racing game – good for pick-up-and-play value, but lacking any real substance. I just pray for a Project Gotham PC conversion, so I don’t have to feel this dirty every time I play a racing game.


Thief Deadly Shadows – Review

Welcome to a different pace of game. In a world where the trend is increasingly toward blowing away mutants or zombies with a shotgun, it’s nice once in a while to be able to sit back, creep around…and steal things. This is where Thief: Deadly Shadows comes in. In the third instalment of this series, you once again pick up the role of Garrett – kleptomaniac extraordinaire.

For once in my increasingly jaded gaming career I came to this game with no preconceptions. Having never touched a Thief title before I didn’t care that the developers are now Ion Storm rather than the sadly defunct Looking Glass Studios, or whether the game continues in the traditions of old. So what of the game itself?

An absorbing plot sees you helping the Keepers – a group Garrett used to belong to, and one of the three factions in the city where he lives. Armed with an array of stealth-aiding tools ranging from the faithful blackjack to unlikely water and moss arrows, Garrett fulfils his magpie-like obsession for shiny objects while carrying out his main quest objectives – usually the liberation of a particular item important to the storyline. During the course of the game Garrett meets the other two main factions in the town – the Pagans (a group of magic-using, strange-talking tree-huggers) and the mechanist religion of the Hammerites. As well as these there is also the City Watch to steer clear of, and many weird and not-so-wonderful creatures, as the twists and turns of the story take you to almost every location in the city. The quests themselves each provide thought-provoking challenges, and are set in a range of rich environments, with the pick of the bunch being the Shalebridge Cradle – a haunted insane asylum who’s eerie atmosphere and uncomfortably long duration make for one of the most gripping gaming experiences I’ve had for a long time.
Outside of the main quests Garrett has freedom to roam through all the areas of the city; mugging, pick-pocketing and lock-picking as he goes. But beware – the more crimes committed in an area, the more Watchmen there will be next time you enter it. These sections of the game also provide a chance to discover sub-quests and hidden loot, via notes or overheard conversations, and to improve your standing with the Hammerites and the Pagans, which is a good idea and makes life a lot easier towards the end of the game.

While it is definitely a refreshing change from most of the current gaming experiences, Thief: Deadly Shadows still suffers imperfections in similar ways. Anyone who has played Ion Storm’s other recent offering – Deus Ex: Invisible War – will get an immediate sinking feeling when they realise that Thief uses the same engine. This means that the physics are a little on the dodgy side, for example objects bumping into each other for slightly too long, and player motion is rather jerky and suffers from lag. The first of these problems can be avoided by using the third person view, which also makes the game much easier, but the latter, especially when you are relying on quick actions to avoid detection, can be extremely frustrating. Also the pathing is inconsistent, to the extent that NPCs occasionally attempt to run into doors and walls for about 5 minutes, and AI is blinkered and extremely paranoid, with guards coming to investigate a small noise you made two rooms away, despite it being almost inaudible above the clunking of their own boots. Of course, even the paranoid can be correct occasionally… Finally, Thief suffers the ignominy of being a console port, causing world areas to be small and load screens frequent, and the lack of a cursor in either first or third person view occasionally makes selecting objects, which you do by looking at them, rather tricky.

However none of this can obscure the simple pleasures of exploring the city, breaking and entering, and walking off with another’s valuables. With the odd blackjack to the back of the head for good measure. Now…should I book myself into therapy now, or do you want to phone the police?


Far Cry – Review

Foliage is not something that usually concerns the gaming industry, but in Far Cry, the new first person shooter from Crytek Studios in conjunction with Ubisoft, it is most definitely your friend. If it’s green, you can hide in it. If it has a trunk, you can hide behind it. Occasionally you get boulders thrown in as well for good measure. As ex-special forces operative Jack Carver, you find yourself washed up on a tropical archipelago after an “accident” with your boat, only to discover that the islands are crawling with mercenaries and mutants called Trigents created by a renegade scientist. Any of this sound familiar? Well it should, as the plot is neither innovative, nor particularly interesting – consisting mainly of finding a way to escape the islands, whilst rescuing you token female accomplice and attempting to put a stop to the research taking place.

However Far Cry is not as run-of-the-mill as this would imply. Complementing the ordinary storyline and fairly standard choice of weapons are some stunning graphics, sarcastically humorous dialogue, and truly impressive artificial intelligence. While the Trigents tend to charge straight at you – as expected for creatures with larger biceps than brains – the mercenaries take a much more tactical approach. They work in teams, often with one firing on your position to keep you busy while the others attempt to sneak up on the flanks. The AI is unscripted, so the tactics used will change for different situations, but the mercenaries will not know your exact position unless you are spotted. This gives the opportunity to move locations and set up an ambush of your own, once the mercs appear at your previous hiding place.

The game differentiates itself from the competition in terms of difficulty. Far Cry is a tough game to begin with, with the last two levels being a little too hard in my opinion, and this is made more so by a carrying limit of only four weapons at any given time and, more importantly, a checkpoint system, robbing gamers of their usual tactics of quick-saving themselves into hospital with RSI.

With offerings like this it would seem that Crytek will be more at home with the mediocrity of their recent buyers, Electronic Arts, rather than the usually excellent standards set by Ubisoft. While Far Cry is an above average game in a market saturated by first person shooters, that is all it is. For those of you who enjoy mindless violence with a side order of pretty graphics, this is the game for you. For everyone else who requires games to be more thought provoking and intelligent, Far Cry is just something to stop you getting bored until something better comes along.


Rome Total War – Review

From the stylish initial splash screen onwards, Rome Total War is a game that exudes class. This third instalment of the highly acclaimed Total War series provides the opportunity to play as one of three large Roman families, fighting for the Senate to expand the glory of Rome. Until you build up a large enough powerbase to be able to turn of them like the treacherous dog you are, that is. During the campaign you will encounter many of the factions around at the time – the Greeks, the Egyptians, the Gauls and the Carthagians to name but four – most of whom you will be able to play as once you complete the game as the Romans. In addition to the main campaign there are also a number of historical battles, allowing you to experience the magnitude, confusion and glory of large scale warfare first hand.

With a mixture of a turn-based world map and real-time battles, Rome provides everything a strategy gamer could want, and then some. The world map provides a sumptuous Civilisation-style view of Europe and northern Africa, complete with geographically recognisable terrain, cities, resources and armies. Here your management skills are tested as you decide which buildings to construct in each city, what army units to recruit and so on. The level of participation is up to you – the game provides auto-management for cities, as well as constant advice – should you wish it – on what to do next. There are some more advanced elements, such as trade optimisation, which allow advanced players to excel, thus making the game accessible and interesting to the widest spectrum possible – from those who want to concentrate almost solely on battles, to management specialists.

It is the battles however that will be the main draw for most people. These are beautify rendered – to the extent that you can tell a unit’s status with a close-up look – and are fought on terrain mirroring that of the armies’ placement on the world map. This makes positioning very important, for example a fairly small army placed in a mountain pass could stand a chance of victory against a much more numerous foe. In real battles, tactics are all-important, and this is no less the case for Rome. Each unit in the army have their own stats and descriptions, allowing you to choose how best to use them. It is up to you to decide whether to take the General Hague “CHARGE NOW YOU LOW-LIFE SCUM!” approach (and most probably lose), or to be more studious, perhaps using infantry to tie up an enemy before crushing them with a cavalry charge from the rear.

Of course, all games have flaws, and Rome is no exception. The AI can occasionally act a little strangely, naval battles have to be auto-resolved, and all the Romans speak with American accents. But when you realise that a bout of nit-picking is needed to find anything wrong with this game, it’s time to stop. This is a must have game, but be warned: it is very long and could result in the end of your degree, and maybe even your social life.


January 2005

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