Category: Video Games


Once again folks, there’s been another blog gap. I’ve not had much impetus to complete an entry – there have been several false starts but after getting to a second or third paragraph, I realise that my scribings are utter drivel and just cannot bring myself to inflict them on the public. But today, I wanted to catch up re E3, GTA Online’s latest update and of course to whine about the summer. 

So in that order – E3. IMHO, Nintendo were the winners although the new Super Mario is basically a rip-off of the Amiga game Putty. Or Kirby. Still, they got people excited and talking by just announcing stuff without actually committing to anything. For yours truly, what I’m looking forward to most has to be Wolfenstein: The New Colossus. I watched the trailer and have to say, I bought that recording of “Danke Schoen” by Wayne Newton so every time I hear it, I can mentally picture BJ running through the USA blasting apart Nazis.

As for the new Xbone, looks good, upscaling might be a very nice feature to have but the biggest drawback as far as I could see, is that the console only comes in a 1TB HD model. Surely a 4K game is going to be bigger than a regular HD one and the internal HD won’t cope. However, my concerns aside, I think the better news has to be the fact that backwards compatibility is going to extend to the original Xbox console. With any luck, that’ll mean Battlefront 2 (as in the original game) will be re-released! I mean, I enjoy the occasional killing spree on my laptop but I seldom switch it on these days, not least as the dining table is horrible to sit at.

GTA Online – last Tuesday saw the release of the latest addition to the online world: gun running. It starts off by using your in-game funds to acquire a bunker where Agent 14 (aka the contact from the Prison Break and Humane Labs heist) inducts you into the world of weapons development. You can also acquire a truck to act as a mobile operations centre (which clearly underscores somebody’s affinity with Knight Rider – first KITT, now the FLAG Mobile Unit) as well as a much welcome anti-aircraft gun to swat Hydras from the sky.

The point of the base is that you can either manufacture weapons, develop new weapons (not available at Ammu-nation) or do both. All the bases are located in Sandy Shores, Paleto bay or other isolated spots in the north of the map thus further addressing one of my long-held bugbears, that players tended to spend huge amounts of time driving around LS itself whilst neglecting Blaine County. And you can access your base whilst being a CEO or heading up your local MC so both options are available to the player.

I’ve not really immersed myself into the game too much – other things going on. That said, I did manage to rack up a few hours. My in-game bank balance of $5M has crashed to $1M by just buying the base and the add-ons which _were_ optional but still… Still don’t have enough for the truck, not without buying in-game currency or grinding horribly. That said, my car warehouse is full of vehicles that are begging to be sold. Anyway, I’ve taken care of a few resupply missions and they’re actually pretty challenging on the main map and a great deal of fun as armoured vehicles are de rigeur. Driving halfway across the map to drop off a tank whilst blasting apart army jeeps – great fun.

My last post was about a month ago so I haven’t really commented on the election. One of my abortive posts which I still have the draft of read:

“Speaking of the election, in Vauxhall the Liberal Democrats are really going all out to see Kate Hoey (current Labour MP) dumped, principally on her pro-EU exit stance. I’ve had correspondence and flyers every day this week, stickers are appearing all over the borough – on lamp posts, on telephone exchanges and the like. Given as Lambeth recorded the highest pro-Remain vote (Gibraltar aside), it’s not looking too good for the incumbent.”

Alas, that didn’t become manifest. I did see the candidate on polling day, with child strapped to his chest in one of those baby carrier things but no sign of Labour’s electoral machine. Ah well, I think that she’ll be dumped ahead of the next election. Correction – I hope that she’ll be dumped ahead of the next election.

Oh, and I wanted to post the following about the Griffin:

The refurbished Vauxhall Griffin has opened under new management. The new landlords have gone for an idiosyncratic look, kinda like the old place but there’s a smash-up of two very different styles (possibly three) which I have a hard time seeing it blending together. I don’t know if they’ve deliberately gone for eclectic (or post-modern) deliberately – it’s just…odd. The two feature walls: one is red brick, the other is recovered (and painted wood). The bar area is white ceramic, the furniture is contemporary, the light fittings are quite nice (hi-tec lanterns), the toilets are a vast improvement but the upstairs function room hasn’t been touched other than a clear out of the art (so far). It’s definitely lost something but I’m at a genuine loss as to say whether anything has been gained. The landlords seem nice enough. So all things considered, I don’t hate the place – I don’t ‘like’ it – I guess cautiously neutral for now. If nothing else, at least I still have Zeitgeist (although I still object to the sneaking in of Adnams behind the bar for the real-ale twats).

S’all for now.

 

Les Jeux Nouveaus

Most of my gaming purchases in recent months have been of the board variety and as a consequence, I’ve been replaying a lot of my existing content. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, if you spent between £20 and £50 on a new Xbone game for example, you want a lot of replay out of it. Even so, I have been hankering after something new to do for a while.

It started with Animation Throwdown – I’ve seen the adverts through Star Trek Timelines and decided to download a copy to my iPad. The goal of the game: trading card battles! It features the shows Family Guy, Futurama, Bob’s Burgers and King of the Hill and each of the shows has character, item or location trading cards with which to do battle. Trading cards can be fused in-battle to produce more powerful weapons with which to fight your opponent and come in varying degrees of availability when it comes to card drops (hint – lots of DLC for purchase)

The game itself has several modes: a quest mode, an arena mode where players do battle but not in real-time (decks are pre-loaded and the computer fights on your behalf), several time-restricted events for rewards and the ability to research new card fusions. In terms of gameplay activity, there’s far less than something like Timelines but the number of cards available (about 400 at time of writing) and the combinations possible keep things novel and interesting. Plus the actual card fights are over fairly quickly so you’re not sucked into a vortex of time when playing. It’s a nice acquisition, lots of fun had and the number of adverts you can watch for rewards (as opposed to spending extortionate amounts of money) help players who don’t necessarily want to or cannot pay-to-win. Unless you’re on a strict data-plan, of course. What I will say is that Animation Throwdown is a massive battery guzzler. If I play for thirty minutes, my iPad’s power will drop by almost 15% compared with similar applications which might drop by 5%.

Game number 2: Fallout Shelter. I only downloaded (for free) this because I wanted the Fallout stickers for iMessage. But I thought I’d give the game a bash and I have been enjoying it. Premise: build your own Vault-Tec vault, stuff it full of settlers and help them deal with the trials and tribulations of the Wasteland. You start each new Vault with a number of settlers and can recruit more either by building a radio station to lure them in, by breeding male/female couples together or from Vault Tec lunch box rewards. They can be trained in each of the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats to increase their abilities either farming resources or constructing items more quickly. And they can be sent on quests, either to collect stuff in the Wasteland or to undertake missions for rewards – and there are any number of missions that one can send settlers on.

I’ve been enjoying this for two weeks now and the missions are my favourite part. DLC is much lighter but naturally it is there (no adverts). It’s not really game-breaking DLC, you can buy pets to further enhance stats of settlers, Vault-Tec Lunchboxes for random drops and Mr Handy units who auto-collect resources when assigned to floors. And the sticker pack for iMessage is a cute addition too.

Game 3: Season Pass for Batman: the Telltale Series. So I downloaded Episode 1 for free (this is how they get you) and have to say that the story writing and different take on the Dark Knight was of high calibre. It’s an interactive story book, kinda like a choose-your-own-adventure where you play the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman and interact with a five-part story. Each decision the player makes will have an impact on the storyline and subsequent player choices lead to different results. I would say that compared with the Walking Dead Telltale Series, there’s a lot more action in this game, particularly in the combat scenes. It also helped influence me that the season pass was half price in the Xbone Easter sale.

Game 4: Season Pass for Batman: Arkham Knight. Not played yet but I’ve wanted this for a while. Unlike Fallout 4, I only wanted to buy this in a sale but I’m looking forward to the extra story modes with Robin, Batgirl and Nightwing. The skins and different Batmobiles…meh, can take or leave. I am still in early days of my second Arkham Knight playthrough, will be interesting to muck about with the skins if nowt else.

Game 5: Call of Juarez: Gunslinger. An old Xbox 360 game, I was looking for something in the same vein as Wolfenstein: The New Order a while back and thought that this might fill the gap quite nicely. Sorta puts you in the mind of a rail shooter in some ways given the way the game is animated but is more FPS. Cruder than Gun or Red Dead Redemption, it has some RPG type elements but is mostly a shooter through and through. Good voice acting, crude controls – excellent mindless fare. Totally worth playing.

 

Back to Arkham

Dontcha just love it when you spend too much money, panic about it and then realise you actually had more cash than you realised so actually the overall impact of your reckless abandon is negligible? That was pretty much the sum total of my Saturday. 

There was only one thing on my mind Saturday morning; pretzels. This after having slept for nine hours btw and still feeling ¾ dead so naturally, my first thought was something arcane. As my last blog post indicated, I was toying with the idea of Borough Market but I knew that if I went, I’d just spend a load of cash in Utobeer. In my groggy state, I vaguely formulated a plan of starting in Camden so that I might go to Melissa’s bakery (at least) and working my way south through central London. Like many of my spontaneous plans, it went totally organic and I ended up…doing something completely different.

Starbucks have dropped the Cheese and Marmite rolls – most disappointing. Another post EU-exit casualty (given the hysteria over price rises for the yeast extract product)? But that’s where I started my day, looking at all those about to go to and come back from the gym judging from all the tatty sports bags on display. Why they thought I’d need four sachets of HP to go with my breakfast roll I don’t know. Meh, whatever. Hopped on the tube and considered where I might change to get to Camden. But for some reason, I just didn’t feel like changing trains at Warren Street or Euston. So instead went to King’s Cross and decided to walk through my old stomping grounds. Glad I did because I hadn’t appreciated the changes that the last couple of years have wrought. Former building sites are now fully fledged apartments or offices, shops have gone, new ones are in their place. Not much has changed of Barker Drive though; this was pleasing and I felt a hint of nostalgia as I passed by the old flat.

First stop on the tour was Game. Actually no, the first stop was the bank, then to Game. I made up my mind that I was going to splash out on a copy of Return to Arkham even though it’s only an HD remastered version of Arkham Asylum & Arkham City albeit with all former DLC bundled in. But it’s been a while since I last acquired a new Xbone Game, the last being Zombi which has barely been touched. Game were selling it at £40 which I point-blank refused to pay, not least as Sainsburys’ were retailing it for £32. So instead went to Cex up the High Street and found a second hand copy (not unexpected) for £30. Sold!

After buying the aforementioned pretzels at Melissa’s, I decided to harass Xian and bullied him into a visit and for tea. He had what looked to be an impressive hangover but we caught up. It’s been ages since I “dropped in” on anyone, these days visiting friends tends to be done by appointment only (not least so you can pretty-up the homestead). So was nice to be a little different.

Forbidden Planet next stop – I’m weaning myself off of comics and about the only titles I’m still buying are Back to the Future, Simpsons and Futurama (whenever you can find the damn things) and Batman DKR 3: The Master Race. Star Wars I stopped after Lucas sold out to evil, Star Trek (or at least the Kelvin-verse) has come to a natural end with the destruction of the Enterprise in the last film so I’m quitting those. He-Man finished ages ago and I haven’t seen Munchkin for a while. Anyway, picked up BTTF and Part 6 of DKR3 as well as an expansion pack to Resistance (the “Avalon” pack – it was the only one in the store) and some more card protectors. Ran into Dr Do(o)m and the girls in the comic section though I’d actually walked right next to them earlier and they completely failed to spot me.

Late lunch in Herman ze German (delicious), birthday present for Brendan in Hotel Chocolat, then stuck in traffic on the bus home because of the wretched Million Mask March. And I’d noticed that FP had unsubtly put the Guy Fawkes masks in prominent display… kinda think that takes the P-One Fifty-Five (sometimes I’ll swear, sometimes I’ll be oblique and cute). After waiting thirty minutes in traffic, I got off and went to Embankment to get the tube home although I detest changing at Kennington just to go one stop. Why didn’t I walk? Goddam ankle AGAIN. At least I’ve finally registered for a GP, just need to book the appointment when I confirm I’m not a spambot or whatever. Then fired up Batman and settled in for the evening.

So Batman: Return to Arkham. Only played Asylum thus far (as of last night, I’m about to start the Killer Croc lair section). The HD graphics look wonderful; a great deal of detail on the characters and the lighting is really good – you can see so much detail on the background scenery. When you’re going from the Batcave to the surface in that section where you can’t use the Batgrapple (is that its name?), the difference is stunning. I can’t wait to see Wonder City in the next game, I’m sure it’ll be spectacular. The first Scarecrow interlude was also wonderfully eerie. I didn’t notice much different from the sounds or v/o. 

I noticed that Joker is now a playable character in the challenges (I’m sure he wasn’t before, or not on the 360 but I could be mistaken). But have stuck to the main game for the most part. On the downside, a couple of the cutscenes still have ropey animations, almost as if they were Claymation (I’m thinking of the Harley Quinn/Electric Floor interlude). But that really is the only downside. More when I get around to Arkham City.

Sunday: mostly chores, a little obscenity in the evening. Monday: work, home, sleep. Nowt worth reporting.

High Priest of Babylon

Nihao, 

I had a blog entry written on Friday ready for posting but it – in part – was overtaken by events and was not exactly Shakespeare in its quality. Wasn’t exactly Janet and John either, they’re more coherent. So I’ve erased it and decided to put some different thoughts on the screen.

Quick lowdown from the weekend then. 2/10 – could have been way better. Thanks to Spanish quince jelly leaking all over the fridge (not mine, I add), my Saturday afternoon was spent attending to that mess, then just deep cleaned the wretched thing. It sapped my will to do anything else, particularly as I stank of bleach and mysterious fridge scents. Tried to get in on some GTA fun but had a tantrum at some really, really bad luck on a mission where everything that could have gone wrong, did. So resigned myself to more cleaning, Fallout 4 and making a huge bowl of chilli.

Speaking of that horribly immersive, addictive game, I finally tried the Vault-Tec Workshop add-on by making my way down to Vault 88. I have enjoyed building up settlements (even if they end up kinda homogenous) but trying to build up a vault is horribly time consuming and it’s difficult to measure how much I’m actually going to bother doing it properly. There’s no tutorial (except for a couple of lesser features) which is needed when it comes to connecting the Vault together, especially multiple floors/levels. There’s no labelling as to the various bits and pieces of the Vault and how they might work which again a tutorial might cover but the in-game descriptive text is lacking. Whilst the additional odds and sods that come with the workshop are fun, the execution of the main idea is weak and flawed. Side comment – was the ghoul in charge of the Vault voiced by the same actress who voiced Tavion in Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy? Because that’s all I could hear when I played. 

Sunday…started with such promise but descended into the usual quagmire. The extra hour in bed was welcome and I think that was the highlight of the day. I was on a promise y’see, something really good but because fate was in the power of other human beings, BIG FAT LETDOWN. Was still fuming on Monday. After a miserable in the orifice [sic], I went home with the specific goal of trying to feel better; other priorities rescinded. I remembered the pack of Belgian Waffles I had so bought some Ice Cream, Whipped Cream and Salted Caramel Sauce and just indulged in a calorie fest. Certainly it was more fattening than my actual dinner (Wild Mushroom Ravioli from Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Range @ 357 calories). And I have to admit, it did work. Well that and stupidjerkfacegirl having her last day in our team. Good riddance. 

Changing tack – occasionally, I might watch the WhatCultureGaming vlogs on YouTube. There was one about the hardest achievements to get in video games and the mission from the original GTA mission where you have to assassinate the US President was on the list. Something in the commentary about you’re guaranteed to fail. I admit it is a doozy but I’ve beaten it at least twice. Unlike the modern incarnations where player characters can soak up bullets like raindrops, the original GTA was a “one shot and you’re dead” type game although if you found body armour, you could absorb three bullets before the one fatal one took you down. That said, bullets could be dodged as their trajectory was rather slow.

Why is that relevant? The mission in GTA is for the Rastas in Vice City where they say that the High Priest of Babylon is in the city and you’re to take him out. It’s only when you approach the motorcade when you realise it’s the President surrounded by several of his machine gun toting secret service agents. As soon as you get near, all weapons fire and unless you have an inkling of what’s going on. And failed missions (unless you saved) cannot be attempted a second time so revisiting this is rather difficult as well as time consuming.

As I recall, the trick is rocket launchers and flame throwers. The former to hit the motorcade, the latter to mop up the agents. Because bullets and missiles move slowly to give players a sporting chance to avoid them, I found the best way was to approach from the south, line up to where you know the motorcade is, fire the rocket launcher and chase it. By the time you’re detected, the missile will explode against the motorcade and get the President, hopefully taking out agents in the splash damage. Then leg it away, quickly switching to the flamethrower and firing backwards indiscriminately. Agents are wearing body armour too but it’s useless against the flame thrower. You get paid…a lot of money for that mission (so having as many multipliers on as possible is highly advisable). If successful, is often enough to give you the cash to finish the level and the game.

Beige Skies?

A dull-looking October Wednesday where there is zero sky, just cloud. A bunch of really dull autumnal fashions on display (this season is beige, apparently) as well as pavements covered in leaves. At least in Lambeth – Westminster is a little more organised though most of the brown and gold little buggers are remaining steadfastly stuck to their progenitors. 

How was your weekend? Mine blessedly began on Thursday this week as I felt the need to take an extra day off. Given the activities and tasks required for Saturday and Sunday, having more time to deal with shopping, cleaning, cooking and stress reduction. Played a bit of Fallout, progressing my latest game. Although I hadn’t noticed that the final three expansion packs had failed to install, instead were awaiting manual intervention. So once I did that, began to update my settlements with the latest items, current favourite being the Nuka Cola mixer which makes all those crappy bottles suddenly worth their weight in caps.

Disappointment of board games Wednesday – played a game of King of Tokyo and NOBODY DIED! How can you play a game when nobody is clawing anyone else to death in an attempt to take control of the Japanese capital. Such a passive game – ugh. I was the only one really trying to do damage to other players. Damn wussy types. I’m not going to let the others forget that either. We also had a game of (American) Ticket to Ride, Paul won – I would have had I ended the game earlier but I was trying to farm tickets and not having a great deal of luck getting good routes to score the most points. In the three turns Paul snuck in with a cheap victory, he played two-fifteen points which enabled him to win the game by eight points. You can see my folly; hubris being the precursor to nemesis.

And we were also playing a game of Spaceteam which is a mobile game which Marcin introduced me to. Although the damn game is unstable with four players (at least on my home router), we did ultimately manage to get several sessions in. If you don’t know it, it’s a co-op game for between 2-8 players where the premise is that we are on a spaceship trying to outrun what looks like a supernova and in the fine tradition of Star Trek technobabble, have to work together to control the space ship out of danger. Buttons, switchers, levers and sliders need to be pushed but the instructions will pop up not only on your phone but on those of other people. So the game quickly dissolves into a shouty, brawling mess as people holler commands and those who cannot differentiate between two sets of verbal instructions flounder. Great fun.

Just to mention a thank-you to Star Trek Timelines for not hosting an event last weekend by listening to feedback from us fans. They’ve been event heavy recently with something going on every weekend for the past couple of months. Some of the events are really time intensive and for a light-touch game, is something you just don’t want to keep committing to.

So Friday, met a friend for lunch (tapas), went shopping for Raclette cheese and other odds and sods, cleaned the house, more F4. I heartily recommend Selfridge’s Ratatouille chutney. I had a grim feeling that it was going to be another of my bad-choice impulse purchases but actually it was really, really good. Especially on the Raclette. Oxford Street wasn’t too bad in terms of crowds. Only one surge of anger walking down Regent’s Street towards the bus stop. Usual issue – family of five all walking side by side on a narrow pavement at pall-bearer pace.

Saturday was Raclette day – went very well though was totally drained by the end of it. And most of Sunday was quiet, some low-level activities until time for the Steak House quiz prize. I enjoyed the soup, the fishcake and the Tiramisu for dessert. Food was good, liquor was excellent and the restaurant ambience was better than the first time – no squabbling middle aged couples. Two of the table had a strop and refused to pay the full share of the tip (one of the “free” bowls of fries worth £3.75 was delivered late which meant a £15 shortfall). So I made that up myself. I declined to join the others in a pub afterwards; not because of the strop but my ankle was on fire (really need to see a doctor) and I went home to lie on my bed for three hours. Then I shuffled under the duvet.

Final thought for the day. I never saw the appeal of the band/group Yes. I don’t hate them, I don’t have anything against them but their appeal is something that I struggle with. Still, Rick Wakeman was always good on the various TV shows that he appeared on in the 80s and 90s. Why I chose to say/type that, I just don’t know. Call it brain-fart of the day, number one. Not a bad start to a Wednesday.

Civ, Red Dead & More

Wotcha, 

I have written blog entries in the interval between the last entry and this one but I really need to slap in some piktchaz so they’ll have to wait before posting. That aside, what’s new at the zoo?

Only two more days until the release of Civ VI. I’m not pre-ordering and I probably won’t buy it for a while. It’s not that I don’t like the series any more but it really is a time drainer and I seek more action in my games these days. A secondary consideration is the lack of somewhere suitable to play it; my dining table is a poor substitute for a computer desk, the chairs are nasty, my swivel chair doesn’t belong in my limited-size lounge which has led to an overall disfavouring of PC games for Xbone. Though the table is good for board games, of course.

Am somewhat cautious about the game’s new features of building city improvements outside the city centre though like the idea of the “Eureka Moments”. Beyond Earth was a good game but there was just…something about it that didn’t encourage players to keep coming back to it, not in the same way that Civ or Alpha Centauri did. It’s hard to identify that particular x-factor though I would have to say that I had a bit of discomfort in the way that the game felt like you were groping around in the dark with regard the advances, city improvements and major projects. The tech tree being a radial wheel was a stroke of genius but until the player gets completely familiar with it, there’s a definite disconnect in planning and actuality.

Of course the week’s other big news is the formal announcement of Red Dead Redemption 2 – albeit with a release date of next year. I cheered when Rockstar sent its email yesterday, much to the bemusement of those in the pub. It’ll be hard to see how they can top the original game but I look forward to the trailer [tomorrow]. I foresee more running around killing animals and skinning them for cash…

At the weekend, I went through my old consoles, specifically looking for the Weakest Link on PS1 as I thought that might be fun to play a couple of rounds but the damn software has gone walkabout on me. All my other games are together, just not that one game. It’s probably in another box in my room but until I can fathom where, it’s going to be lost to antiquity. Or the recycling, either/or. But on that note, I still cannot decide whether I want to keep my older consoles or just junk/sell them. They’ve all been shoved in boxes for ages, barely brought out. Whilst I want to keep the N64, the PS1, Megadrive and SNES are really just taking up precious space. And the Gamecube is too, given that the Wii is backwards compatible.

In boardgame news, well there ain’t much going on. Though had two sessions on Sunday; played Twilight Struggle Late War variant with Dr Do(o)m where he was USSR and I was USA. I won at final scoring by the skin of my teeth and it took more luck than skill as my dice rolls, particularly in realignments totally went against me. Fortunately, I was blessed with good cards, especially on my final turn where both East Germany and Poland were flipped but not enough for Control. And I had Marcin over for some gaming in the evening, various short games. I did go over the rules over some long held but never played games but without a walkthrough, don’t feel confident enough to inflict them on a group.

C’est tout for now – I just found something…quite interesting to do.

It’s been at least one year, perhaps two (I’m sure the exact answer could be delved into by backtracking through earlier blog posts) but I have finally “completed” AdVenture Capitali$t. Days, weeks, months of watching adverts to double gold, playing all the events, using gold to get upgrades etc just to buy all Earth Upgrades (Angels and Cash alike) are now over. I “completed” the Moon and Mars events ages ago but Earth proved a much tougher nut to crack. That said, I think I was close to finishing the game a while ago before their massive update which drew out the game. The periodic events will still be played, I’m sure but with no more main game, I’m going to be clichéd and say that this to me, is the end of an era. 

That said, I’ve still got the iPad version to finish…

In other gaming news, I’ve now played several games of Twilight Struggle on the PC, enough to have formed an opinion about it. It’s a good reproduction of the original, a clear map that you can zoom in and out of, just like the hand of cards you’re playing with. There are also some helpful extra features allowing you to track what cards have been played, what has been permanently removed from the deck a Defcon warning should the unwary player be about to make a colossal mistake. The beginning of age features one of the leaders of the time speaking and occasionally random patriotic music will play adding to the experience. Or just seem bizarre.

There are no difficulty levels, the only way to balance/unbalance the game is to re-weigh the influence one side might have at the start of the game. I’ve resisted that so far as the intelligence of the AI is pretty challenging as it is. My main negative-type comments are that dice rolls still seem a little weighted in favour of the AI (I’ve yet to play against a human player) but that could just be my lousy perception. And the AI always chooses the same start-up in each game (as USA, +4 W Germany, +3 Italy and as USSR, +1 E Germany, +4 Poland, +1 Yugoslavia). Strong positioning to be certain but you’d like them to do something a little different. Just for fun. Or the sheer challenge of it. Not tried the multiplayer version, simply as I am not confident enough to jump beyond the “novice” stage.

Overall, a worthwhile purchase on the PC. I might get the iPad version for my trip to Vienna/Bratislava.

We’re all struggling with the humidity this week. Summer is having something of a last hurrah with temperatures in the high 20s/early 30s but air is being sucked directly off of the Atlantic making it utterly stifling. It’s predicted that temperatures will begin to fall a little but will remain coat-free weather for some time yet. Most of us Londoners are fervently waiting for the thunderstorms which are alleged to arrive this afternoon which I think will herald the official end. Tomorrow will see temperatures drop by ten degrees and the first of the autumnal rain. Naturally, the forecast isn’t good for the weekend…typical.

Other odds and sods: I sent off some unsolicited suggestions to Rockstar for potential updates/tweaks to GTA Online. One suggestion was to include a diving-type mission for CEOs, retrieving cargo from a sunken boat/plane wreck. After finishing the Humane Labs Heist, the player has access to rebreather but it’s never really used except in the lobby and even then, only ever sparingly (whilst running from a griefer). Also advocated more CEO missions outside the city of LS, simply as there’s so much landscape being ignored.

With Dr Do(o)m away doing unmentionable things in Berlin (it’s Folsom…), I’ve had the flat to myself. Nothing particularly raucous has been going on this week however, Zeitgeist on Tuesday aside. Though that was nice and we got in a couple of games of Avalon.

It was a forlorn hope that the temperatures had peaked last week and were going to return to more “manageable” levels in the run up to September but I read with trepidation that by the middle of the week, they’re going to spike in the 30s (that’s “hot” to those who refuse to join the 21st century and continue to use Fahrenheit). The water in the flat has started to act up; shower plumbing is somewhat temperamental with about five minutes of water before it dies off completely. TFF the swimming pool. 

Weekend; quite a productive one as it happens, or at least as productive as can be had when you’re committed to leisure time. Friday night was a GTA evening but felt tired which definitely meant my game was off. Was making a lot of mistakes that could have otherwise been avoided (repeated car crashing, just not taking cover when the bullets were flying etc). Also made time to clean up my captures on my Xbox Live profile, deleting the poorer quality content and captioning the better ones. It’s like a scrapbook, it has to look presentable rather than be a random collection of rubbish.

Saturday: a four-part excursion from home to Borough Market (Utobeer & German Deli), to Covent Garden (Orc’s Nest), to Waterloo (Real Food Market) and then to Clapham for board gaming. I’d never been into the German Deli shop but it was quite good, a lot of recognisable products on the shelves including some favourites which could lure me back on a regular basis. The only missing detail was a lack of Riesen Pieces, particularly the jumbo-bags. Though that’s a blessing in disguise, I’m sure. The market itself was a frustrating experience. Too many people walking at pall-bearer pace, too many people conveniently ignoring my “excuse me please” as they were slack-jaw gawking at people slicing cheese or measuring out olives whilst blocking the thoroughfares. Or walking around with Selfie sticks…it’s not a goddam museum, it’s a frigging market.

It took all of three seconds to decide to buy Archer: Once You Go Blackmail in Orc’s Nest and whilst there, I snapped up a booster pack for Boss Monster. The Archer Game is a Love Letter derivative which tweaks the rules by making more use of the hidden card: being able to see it, subbing it out, mixing it up etc. It plays a lot faster than other versions of Love Letter that I’m familiar with and it easier to remember. A worthy addition to my collection, I think. As for the Boss Monster booster pack, it gives you a little of everything: bosses, heroes, rooms and spells. The overarching theme – well, there isn’t really one but many of the cards give a +1 (so you’re required to find some tokens to play with as the +1 is a one-time use bonus). It’ll be interesting to see how it plays with the imminent expansion pack which throws space aliens into the mix.

Real Food Market was a bit more civilised than Borough Market and I picked up some cakes for the board gaming at J & S’s. The Cookie Dough cake was by far the most popular as everyone descended upon it like wolves on a carcass. We played a couple round of Bang (I was on the side of the lawful in both games where we won), Some Quiplash & Bidiots, Room 25, Archer and Martian Dice. It was a great afternoon – crawled off home around 10.30, got in and was all but ready to pass out but as Star Trek Insurrection was on TV, thought I’d watch that, an episode of Sherlock and then surrendered to oblivion. Damn compulsive telly.

Twas Griffin Games on Sunday, headed over and pre-determined that I wasn’t in the mood to play anything new. Having learned three new games this week, I wasn’t up for adding a fourth to my repertoire. So it was a familiar pattern of Avalon, Archer, 7 Wonders, King of Tokyo, and Hex Hex. Lunch was good, dinner was absent (IKR). Met a few new people but pleased that I could remember the names of many of the now familiar faces. Felt drained by the end of the day so was lucky to have been able to snatch a shower before the water went off-line again. Though I enjoyed Games at the Griffin, the room was kinda noisy, particularly when a round of Dobble started (I’m not a fan of the game) which really made it difficult to play a couple of the more verbal-type games such as Avalon and Hex Hex. Might have to make more use of the space downstairs – possibly. Though I’m not going to be there next month, I’m going to take the Bratislava trip. First things first – I want to plan how I’m going to make maximum use of the time both there and in Vienna.

Abandonware

Capcom are having a sale on the Xbone – they could be having a sale elsewhere but I’m too lazy to investigate. Anyway, the headline titles in the sale are games in the Resident Evil series with other titles getting second billing. I saw Duck Tales Remastered for the knock-down price of £2.49 so rushed to snap it up. I was 14 when I received a copy for my birthday on the original Gameboy. I was given the choice of Duck Tales or… you know, I cannot remember the other choice. It was pretty amazing to have been given both games but Duck Tales was the one I recall playing again and again. It could have been Parasol Stars, could have been Gremlins 2, really cannot recall. 

And we never did find out what happened to the Gameboy games in the end: I lent the (family) GB game library to a friend at school, the friend claimed he put them somewhere for me to pick up and they were never seen again. And the school’s attitude to the loss/probable theft can be considered utterly lackadaisical. And this is one of the (many) reasons I do not have fond memories of Stalag Woodhouse. It wasn’t the first massive theft of my stuff there, nor was it the last. Still waiting for my GCSE certificates, 21 years later…

On the theme of the Gameboy, it’s my fervent hope that now Nintendo have stuck their foot into the burgeoning mobile gaming market, they might consider/consent to releasing some of their older titles on phones. It wouldn’t take too much to create an emulator so that the games can be ported across. Preferably starting with the titles that seldom see any sort of re-release rather than Super Mario Land (re-release #97). 

Copyright law in relation to video gaming is horribly out of date and really could do with reform: unlike other media, computer software has, it can be argued, built in obsolescence. For one, physical media, particularly in its early formats, it not as enduring as other forms of media. And for two, once a computer or console is superseded by a newer model, the software compatible with the older machine quickly falls into disuse. Now many of these titles quickly fall into what is termed “Abandonware” – software no longer maintained, distributed or supported by the original developers/copyright holders and programmes considered abandonware are often shared (illegally) for various reasons.

Some developers grant (retroactive) permissions to use and share older works; it’s just not worth the effort or resource to attempt prosecution for copyright infringement. But some of the bigger players steadfastly refuse to allow any sharing of older materials. It’s here that the problem gets exasperating. Unlike a book which can be picked up and read multiple times or a film that can be watched repeatedly off of a DVD, some companies who hold the copyright for their games will not consent to sharing their licences with those who have an interest in preserving/updating the older materials, whether as an artistic endeavour (to see if it can be done) or to just keep the past alive for gamers old and young.

In the EU at least, it can be argued abandonware can fall into scope of the Orphan Works Directive: if the copyright holder cannot be found for a piece of work, then the work in question can be considered public domain. However, to the best of my knowledge, there are no test cases specifically on the subject though this is a relatively new Directive (only coming into force at the arse-end of 2014). The USA has more stringent laws in this regard – DMCA.

The solution, or rather the ideal solution would be a much shorter copyright period for video games; unless developers actively maintain games and software, rights should either become completely public domain after five/ten/fifteen years or become freeware (at the developer/copyright holder’s discretion). But certainly not the current set of regulations governing copyright for this media. Now, where’s my copy of Smash TV?

Banoi Redux

Leave has finished and it’s back to the office. Commitments have to be picked up and resumed once again and that includes tending to my WordPress site.

Although it was only two weeks, my leave was quite satisfying and seemed to go at a measured, even pace. As usual, I faced a barrage of questions “where are you going, what are you doing” before it started. And almost everyone had the same incredulous look on their faces when I said “I’m going nowhere as I’m not paying the school tax just to go away in August and I’m doing whatever the hell I feel like.” To be honest, it’s the same every damn year. For posterity’s sake, I don’t “do” summer holidays in the conventional sense. My summer holiday involves me clearing my calendar completely, ducking out of ongoing responsibilities where possible and doing what I like, when I like. That to me is a vacation; no responsibility and all indulgence. You can tell I don’t have dependents.

Anyway, this year was no exception to the rule. It began with the arrival of my new phone post-theft on the Saturday although EE in its infinite wisdom did bungle the restoration of the service which took three hours of phone calls to get everything harmonised again. I think that the staff and customers of the Costa Coffee in Finchley were highly amused by my woes. Why Finchley? Well, I went to Games Quest once again and bought not one but two games: Star Trek Five Year Mission and Ticket to Ride card game. I haven’t been able to make time to play either so no reviews yet.

Finished my latest Alien Isolation play-through and returned to GTA online to try the latest addition to the game, the stunt races. I’m kinda feeling mixed about them: I’m not the greatest racer so my win:loss ratio is embarrassing (invariably another driver smashes into my car/bike sending it into a spin and I never recover). Some of the courses are good fun (if a tad long) but it’s almost impossible to catch up to the leaders if you make any sort of mistake which can really drain a lot of the entertainment. During the races, you’ll see plenty of drivers dropping out mid race or refusing to race any more because they are _that_ penalising. I’m not saying you have to have a blue-shell or a bullet bill added so that anyone can win but I would like Rockstar to have a think about balance. I almost won one of the stunt races on the motorcycles until some other driver rammed me off the course right at the end; and I’d done pretty well the duration of that race too. Alas, not many other racers like “no-contact” events. Also am saving up for an office in the online world: need something like $6 million for the top of the line office and I’ve $4.5 million banked. Soon…

As I had finished one game, I thought I’d finally obtain a copy of Dead Island for the Xbone and try and complete that game. The graphics look pretty good and the framerates refresh a lot more smoothly than what I recall from the 360 version. I can’t see other major differences though all the DLC is immediately unlocked which is a nice treat. I’m mid-way through Act 3 so not too much longer to go (I hope) and then it’ll be Riptide. Or the DLC bonus campaign. I also tried the Retro Revenge for a laugh – it’s like Streets of Rage on acid. I’m sure I’ll go back to that at some point: other games/challenges first. Three good games for £25 (at least currently) is a bargain, particularly if you’ve never tried any of them before now. 

Over to P&D’s last Wednesday for gaming and I have to say, it’s a fantastic flat, I don’t know why they’d want to move. Well, I know _why_, personally I’d endure somehow. Brendan and I taught them Machi Koro and Smash Up; the latter must have made a mark because Darren rushed out and bought expansion packs.

Those are pretty much the highlights of the last fortnight. Other stuff: gonna moan that some of my friends have turned into utter Poke-bores. Their sole subjects of conversation are Pokémon Go and that’s it. Frequently, they’re bitching at the fact they are nowhere near finishing the game – considering how much they paid (nothing) and how many extras they’ve bought (none), their complaints are…ill-founded. I’d be more sympathetic if they’d invested some cash in the game.