Archive for General


And… it’s back!

Posted in General at 12:36 am by jw

Went dark for a long time.  Sorry about that!  I found I’d been a little lax in my upgrades of Coppermine and some internet slime had decided that boosting their Google rank would be a cool thing to do with my php pages.  Soon as I saw it, I pulled the blog down and just haven’t been dedicated enough until now to put everything back together.

I’ll honestly try to write more stuff from now on.  With a baby on the way, things should be interesting enough to share with the world though the volume of photos has certainly decreased now we don’t have the photos of the US to show everyone.


GameTap loses from stupid DRM decisions

Posted in General at 2:50 pm by jw

Another company loses my business from stupidity in DRM.  It’s crazy, but these people are harming the people who actually want to give them money, forcing them to look elsewhere to spend their cash.  Hardly a business model that I’d be willing to back at all!

So what’s the deal with GameTap?  Well, the software they chose for their DRM happens to use a device driver because that’s apparently so sneaky that no one will ever figure out how to crack it.  Sadly for them, this restricts their platform support to 32 bit only when the fastest growing market segment in PC operating systems is the 64 bit market, primarily because many games really are pushing the 2G limit of 32 bit systems and are also enjoying the 10–15% performance boost a native 64 bit app will give you.

Not only does GameTap not care (they openly state they have no plans to develop for x64), they are blatantly obnoxious in their refusal of support:

Conclusion: If you have a typical use of commercial software such as “GameTap” with no need to work with “huge data sets”, upgrading to a 64-Bit OS is not recommended.

Whoever wrote that needs to be fired.  Games often work with “huge data sets”, in fact they are one of the most compute-intensive applications known to exist.  Similarly, just because people using GameTap itself may not have a desperate need to go to 64 bit right now, it doesn’t mean they don’t run other applications that benefit quite markedly from the improved processing power available from the 64 bit platform (say anything that has a native 64 bit engine such as Half Life 2 and derivatives, Crysis, Far Cry, Hellgate:London, and many more).

Sometimes I just don’t understand companies.  They keep finding new and ingenious ways make it better for end users to go down the piracy route and then wonder why they fail in the marketplace.  Idiots.


Interesting Stuff from E3

Posted in General at 11:48 pm by jw

A list, more for my own reference than anything.

  • Black Prophecy – new space MMO
  • Sacred 2 – Diablo clone
  • Dawn of War 2
  • Spore
  • Fable 2
  • Far Cry 2
  • Crysis Warhead
  • Project Origin
  • Tomb Raider: Underworld
  • Warhammer: Battle March (not the MMO)


EA doesn’t get piracy

Posted in General at 9:28 pm by jw

If you haven’t noticed, EA has decided to put some particularly burdensome restrictions on their big pair of games due out later this year on the PC: Spore and Mass Effect.  Essentially the game itself registers with EA, and then checks every 10 days to make sure EA still lets you run the game on your PC.  Not only that, but you only get 3 activations on different machines and it’s completely unclear if you can actually uninstall to get an activation back.  To summarize, here’s how it all works for a legitimate customer:

  1. Buy the game at the store.
  2. Install the game.
  3. Run the game.
  4. The game asks for your “Activation code”.
  5. The game sends this activation code, along with an identifier based on your computer to EA.
  6. EA marks off the activation with the identifier and returns “ok”, if it hasn’t seen more than 2 other identifiers.
  7. At least every 10 days, the game sends the activation code and identifier back to EA and if EA sees the activation and code in its database then it sends back “ok”.
  8. If the game hasn’t had an “ok” in the last 10 days then it refuses to run.

The problem is this has a lot of potential failure modes for the end user that will limit their experience and sour their opinion of EA:

  • The end user may legitimately not have access to the internet for 10 days and will be locked out of their single player game through no fault of their own.
  • The end user may upgrade their machine, or legitimately install it on different machines they own thus using up their 3 activations (this happened a lot to people that bought Bioshock).
  • There is no apparent way to remove an activation once you’ve used it.
  • Despite assurances from Bioware that they will release a patch to disable this check if they turn off the activation servers, it means we have to trust them when they are making it very, very clear that they don’t trust us.

What’s a bigger issue is EA’s bought into Macrovision’s lies that schemes like this will limit their “losses” to piracy (which is a debateable point anyway given everyone I know that pirates games would never buy the game if it wasn’t available to download in the first place).  The sum effect is it will increase the support costs of EA in dealing with this activation stupidity while doing nothing to combat the pirates who will end up with a better product.  Here’s the same timeline for a pirate:

  1. Download the game.
  2. Install the game.
  3. Run the game.
  4. There is no 4.  The game just runs and doesn’t bug you any more.

Get it now?  The pirated product has more to offer the end user because it doesn’t hinder their enjoyment of the product or have the same sort of failure modes that the legitimate version has.  Putting restrictions into a product that only hinder the legitimate users isn’t the way to stop piracy – put in online stuff that rewards people for buying the game and you’ll go a LOT further.

Update: EA has backed down on both Spore and Mass Effect and removed the “every 10 days” thing after the large number of complaints that came through.  The new policy requires you to have the CD in the drive when you activate.  The down side is that you are still limited to 3 activations, but EA says that getting more is just a matter of a phone call (much like XP or Vista).

EA still doesn’t get piracy, but it seems they sure do get public opinion on invasive DRM.


Crysis, Hellgate, Orange Box, EQ2, Guild Wars and more

Posted in General at 3:01 pm by jw

Been a while since I’ve posted on the games I’ve been playing recently so here’s a long post in the making.  With my new-ish PC, things are pretty good in the gaming world!


After playing Far Cry for a long time a few years back, I was quite excited by this game as it approached release.  Strangely enough though, after I picked up my copy from Best Buy it took me quite some time to actually get into playing it – there always seemed to be something else taking up my time (usually Guild Wars or Hellgate, but more on those later).  Once I really started in earnest though, it was almost impossible to play anything else until I’d played my way through it.

In summary, this game is amazing.  The quality of the graphics is absolutely stunning – rendering trees right down to the leaves, being able to crawl through the underbrush, having enemies actually behave somewhat intelligently (retreating to cover and calling friends in to help) and the relatively common modern theme of regenerating health fits in very well.  The “special powers” you have with your combat suit are very well balanced and offer a bunch of different solutions to every problem you come across.  I think I’d be happy replaying this sometime in the future and the game almost certainly would play differently if I chose to focus on a different set of tactics.

Despite there being some negativity around about the game’s performance, I had no real issues (except for having to restart the game once the snow scene kicked in to clean things out for some reason and triple my frame rate).  I could run everything but shadows on the highest quality settings and it was good to see a real performance boost from running the 64 bit client over the 32 bit one.  It was interesting to see that it barely used the second core of the CPU while playing, though I read somewhere that it helped out when you had lots of particle effects flying around.

My only real complaint is that it seemed to end too soon.  Far Cry must have taken me weeks to work my way through and really seemed like it was never going to stop for quite a while, but Crysis only lasted for 4 or 5 days of playtime.  I was left at the end with a cliffhanger, and thinking “maybe there’s more after these credits roll”.  Oh well – I still look forward to a sequel.


Hellgate was the second game I’d been really looking forward to towards the end of last year but unlike Crysis which lived up to every bit of the hype put to it, I found Hellgate a little lacking. 

My initial choice of character was a Blademaster, and this was probably a little unfortunate as it seems to be one of the less enjoyable classes to play – you spend a lot of time worrying about your health and how you can afford the next round of medkits after taking a bunch of melee damage from the fact you have to get right up on top of your opponents to take them down.  Towards the end, things just became a little silly and I spent about four hours on the final level in a pure “take monster down 2%, die, run back, take it down another 2%, die, etc.” festival of annoyance.  Not at all a fun experience and I only put up with it because I really just wanted to finish the game by that stage.

Fortunately, I decided that not everything could be quite that painful in the game so I started up a new character as an Engineer and the whole game changed.  The Engineer was basically self-sufficient and I had a lot of fun this second time through creating swarms of robots that cleared out pretty much everything in sight.  As a strong contrast, I only died once in the final level and the whole thing was a much more enjoyable experience.  The game as an Engineer was fun!

Overall though, the limits to computer generated levels do show themselves.  Things looked very much the same was you went to “different” places in London.  While you’d expect to see certain landmarks, things were basically just a slightly different layout using the same tilesets as you’d seen before.  I guess I should have expected this from Diablo which did much the same thing, but it seemed more repetitive than what I remember of Diablo and you eventually just thought “oh, another subway level” instead of “hey – this really could be Whitehall in a post-apocolyptic future”.  Disappointing really.

I didn’t subscribe to the online thing.  I already have a subscription to EQ2 and I’m not about to subscribe to more than one game at once.  I’m not really sure I would get the same enjoyment out of it that I do from a true MMOG.

Orange Box

Whatever you think of first person shooters, Portal and Team Fortress 2 make this package amazingly good.  Portal is essentially a puzzle game where you use your portal gun to solve problems.  It has beautiful graphics, a quirky and fun plotline, closing credits that are absolutely worth sitting all the way through and challenges you can work your way through after finishing the basic game.  This game itself is a revolution in first-person gameplay.

Team Fortress 2 is one of the few online multiplayer games I can handle playing.  It’s completely tossed the realism out the window for cartoonish fun, and I really do mean “fun”.  You can’t take yourself too seriously when you’re a cartoon figure that runs around beating up, shooting, healing and generally causing mayhem with other cartoon figures – and that make a massive difference to someone pretty casual (and pretty poorly skilled) at first person shooters as I am.  It may have been seven years in the making, but it shows because it’s worth all seven of them

To add to those two gems, Half Life 2 Episode 2 is also a lot of fun and a worthy sequel to HL2 itself and HL2ep1.  The plot moves forward, it takes some thought to work your way through a few of the levels (as opposed to mindless blowing up aliens) and overall things are quite challenging but not over-the-top difficult either.  Achievements add an extra bit of fun to the side while playing, so it’s another good part.

Overall, a great combination but a little annoying that I feel I’ve paid for HL2 and HL2ep1 twice now.  I still have to find someone to “gift” my extra copies to – will probably see if any of my family wants them when I get back to Australia.

EQ2: Rise of Kunark

Rise of Kunark is without doubt the best Everquest 2 expansion to date.  For those of us who were around in EQ1 for the Kunark expansion, this new release for the EQ2 world contains a ridiculous amount of new content but also does an excellent job of drawing the feel of the original Kunark zones into the EQ2 world.  A tiered raid system gives those of us that are no longer hard-core raiders a nice long progression of challenges to look forward to as we move through the world, and the number of single group and solo quests gives a lot for everyone to do.  A must for any EQ2 player!

Guild Wars

I know this is an old game, but since my wife saw it on my machine and demanded her own copy, she hasn’t been able to stop herself from playing it.  As a result, I’m playing it a lot more too and it’s definitely good fun for a solo or small group of people to hang out and mess around in.  If you’re looking for a good online and persistant world that doesn’t require subscriptions but has a wealth of content then it really would be hard to look past Guild Wars.  It’s really just a lot of good and simple fun!

So far I’ve completed the Prophecies missions and have started working on Factions with a different character.  I got Nightfall for Christmas and have to work on that sometime as well (in between everything else), and Eye of the North is just way out there at the moment.  Plenty of time though and I like the idea of being able to do it all solo or duo at my own pace.

Guitar Hero

I know this isn’t my usual PC game, but I picked up Guitar Hero (80’s version if you must know specifically) for the Playstation and it’s just great fun.  Feels more like playing a bass than a real guitar (more fingering than chords) but for a lot of fun in a very non-traditional context for video games, this is a hard one to go past.  For anyone who remembers back to their school days and the rock bands they may have been in or wished they were in then this is something great to kick back and enjoy.


For variety, I’ve been messing with some older games on my system.  Dragged out Lego Star Wars for a quick game just because I was having fun with it over at a friend’s place.  Spent a few evenings playing around with Galactic Civilizations II and its two expansions – a fun turn based space strategy game, and have been spending too much time messing with Grobots and not really getting anywhere much.  I’ve been thinking of trying out a 14 day test with Eve Online, but not entirely sure about it yet – the space simulation bit interests me but I’m not really into the whole PvP thing.

The Future

Moving back to Australia is probably going to cut into a lot of my time, but with a month off work and my wife heading back before me, I’ll probably manage to dig out some spare time between packing and inventorying to play a few games.  I still have a lot of real time strategy games to complete and just as many flight simulators that I always seem to want to play but never make the effort to find room for my joystick lately (stupid small apartment).  I can’t think of anything new on the horizon that I’m looking forward to, so probably just a good time to catch up on all those things I meant to do but never did.

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