Wednesday, 11 July 2012

I am like the Dr Dre of blogging, one blog post a year and that's gotta hold you. But I bet Dre's blog is waaaay better than mine. Why can't I be more like KRS One? Ah well. It's been a quiet start to the year for me. I visited America 3 times in the last 6 months so I guess I should write about that at some point. CoH2 got announced, and I reckon that deserves some lines as well. In the meanwhile though, I want to talk about the ARMA II mod, DayZ.

I'll assume you know the basics of day z, it has been pretty comprehensively covered so far. Massive open map, military gear, zombies and 50 players. I heard in the beginning players were friendly, but now people tend to shoot on site. so you have to worry about the following:

  • Getting a gun. You start unarmed. You need something to defend yourself.
  • Avoiding zombies - they will eat your arse
  • Avoiding players - they will murder you and take your shit
  • Keeping hydrated, warm and fed

Playing solo is a very different experience to playing with friends. As a solo player, everything you do is high risk, and the danger in each situation is magnified. You have no one watching your back, no one to save your arse if you fuck up. Playing in a group offers safety in numbers and the benefit of fire support. I think the ideal number for a group is 2 or 3. Get more and you become a pretty serious force.

DayZ lends itself to story telling, so here goes.  I need to send a big shout to the WMD clan for entertaining my noobish antics. To date, I have been killed by other players twice, although I would say one of those times counted as suicide on my part as the result of a series of poor decisions.

I had decided to loot a military camp solo, at night. I was well equipped, with a .45 revolver,  FN FAL automatic rifle, and ample supplies. I scoped the town next to the military camp for 10 minutes, and detected no movement. The server was pretty empty, with only 5 other players in. There was a good chance I was on my own, although the area was a known bandit hotspot.

After convincing myself it was ok, I approached the tents, crawling the last 100 meters or so. I could see a zombie in one tent, and hear others close by. I wanted to keep things quiet. On the floor between two tents, I found a silenced pistol - jackpot. This would let me take out any zombies with out alerting nearby hostiles. I kept searching up the row of tents, hoping to lay my hands on a quieter main weapon - silenced assault rifle or smg would be great.

All of a sudden, a zombie came out of a tent - right on top of me. He spotted me straight away and attacked. I had discarded my revolver in favour of the silenced pistol,  but I only had 10 rounds. I pumped the shots into him at point blank, missing a few in my panic and notching a few body hits. He dropped and started crawling towards me. I backed into a tent, panicking. I had no more ammo for my silenced pistol, and no way to stop this zombie. I should have just sprinted past him. Instead, I got dumb, unslung my assault rifle and gave him the good news. A full scale Charlie foxtrot ensued. Every zombie in 500 meters heard me shoot, and converged on my position.

I waited 30 seconds (could have been 10, i was flapping by this point) and sprinted out of the tent, picking up 2 zombies on the way out. I hauled ass out of town, heading for the open fields. I figured I could get a good way away from the town, turn round and drop the 2 zombies, then regroup. All of a sudden, I hear shooting, and rounds fly past my head. A hostile in the town hard heard my shit show, and decided to investigate. I have no idea how far away he was but he clipped me and then the zombies finished me off. Lesson learned? For sure. Going noisy in a bandit hotspot was tres dumb. I could have stealthed out of there, with zombies in pursuit but without alerting the whole town to my shenanigans.

So older and smarter, I started again. Later on, I was raiding Chernogorsk with fatal saint. He went into a building by himself whilst I was clearing another apartment. He aggro'd a gang of zombies and was dead before I could get to him - I was about 30 meters away when he died. Rattled, I looted the hospital for morphine and blood, and linked up with helpinghans to raid the supermarket.

We hit a few buildings on the way, and I grabbed a m1014 shotgun in place of the AK I had. We hit the supermarket and found some tasty gear. We'd been in about 2 minutes, when has realised a zombie had entered the back of the store. I positioned myself behind the counter (with my back to the main entrance) and got ready to drop the zombie as soon as he came through the door. Meanwhile, helpinghans was (sensibly) crouched in the corner, filling his face with tinned pasta. Unbeknownst to me, a hostile walked in the front door, saw me, and lit me up like a Christmas tree. His victory was short lived though, as hans shot his arse dead.

I will share one more story of my noobishness, and then leave off. Astute dayz players may have been wondering where nubby old me had laid hands on a FN FAL in the first story I told. Well, it was from looting a crashed heli site. Finding a crashed heli is like Christmas and your birthday at once. I was rolling around with a bunch of guys from WMD, including chains, hans, general hell and a few others. I grabbed the  FN FAL (following chains advice) at the first chopper. We then headed to a second crashed chopper nearby - happy days. Whilst looting this one, we managed to aggro one of the several zombies around the chopper. next thing you know, I have a zed right on top of me, chewing my face. Of course, I panic and open fire. The FN FAL is one of the loudest guns in the game. Of course, every zombie around both choppers immediately converges on us. Lucky for me that WMD had my back and killed all the zed quick time.

Well, that's your lot for now. If the mood takes me (who can say?) I will post ore dayz stories as I continue to play. Comment If you like this shit please.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

brain dump

Ok, time for more random musings:

I take it back about Fallout New Vegas. I guess I should not have modded the game for my 1st play though. Went back and played it again, still modded but I dropped all the weapon mods as they were fucking up the balance. Still miss my gold plated barrett light fifty, but what can you do, shit was breaking the game. Rebel FM was right, story in FNV is its strongest point. Still not sure if I'll make it to the end or not.

I keep getting drawn back to S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear sky. Urkrainian developers know a thing or two about hardcore PC gaming. Its old now, so will run on a bunch of stuff, and dirt cheap on steam. I wanna finish it so i can try the 2x sequels out too. If you liked fallout's setting, then its worth a look. It is still so bloody atmospheric, even after all this time.

So many games to look forward to in the run up to the holiday season. Skyrim, Modern Warfare or battlefield, and I still have not got round to playing DE:HR yet - poor performance. Playing a lot less CoH these days, made it to level 10 USA and Wehrmacht on both accounts and think its time for a break. Secretly worried I cannot hold on to those levels. its funny when you reach a skill level ceiling in a competitive multiplayer game. What do you do - retire? I guess thats why call of duty works so well - you just keep grinding random pickup games for moar levels!


Friday, 29 April 2011

Alas poor neglected blog

Godamn it has been too long since I posted here. Ok, lemesee what I need to catch up on. Since the last post I:

  • Now work in Stevenage, complete with a 120 mile daily commute. Lost of time for podcast listening then
  • Finally made lvl 10 with US in CoH on a smurf account – think it was a fluke though as I have been unable to replicate this on my main account
  • Got real good at making salads
  • Got pretty good at making mojitos (hey, there is always room for improvement)
  • Got to go to Moscow, Vienna and Dartmouth

Games wise, I still play as much as I ever did. Big infatuations over the last 2 years have been Oblivion, Red Dead Revolver and IL2 1946. Biggest disappointment was Fallout New Vegas. More on these later.

In the interim I was a member of the commentator staff at GameReplays.org and produced 3 seasons of shoutcasts. If you have a strange desire to hear my voice, click here.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Podcasts: The Post 1UP Panoply

1UP got me listening to podcasts. I think it was E3 2007 and I had just got back into gaming and was hot for news from the show. They were running a crazy schedule, daily podcasts from the floor. From realizing 1UP Yours was 'quite good actually' though to my crack like addiction to GFW Radio, 1UP were responsible for popping my podcast cherry.

I was working in West London, and living out east by the sea. My drive to work was 2 hours on a good day, 4 hours on a bad day. Podcasts kept me going. When GFW was a day late, I'd be screwing. Fast forward to January 2009 – the axe drops at 1UP and the next thing you know, new podcasts are popping up like fucking mushrooms. It's a good time to be listening. Here's what I am listening to as I meander through the by-roads of deepest darkest Essex:

Rebel FM - http://www.eat-sleep-game.com
One of my 3 favorite shows (hint – they are at the op of the list), because the mix is pretty good. While it can wander into beard stroking territory at times, on air insanity is never far away. Phil Kolar anchors the podcast like the vet he is, Arthur Gies coats every body off but still comes of as a likeable fella, and Anthony Gallegos oscillates between howlingly funny stories and morose but insightful commentary. Reading it put like that, it may not seem too exciting, but I wait for this one every week for my Wednesday or Thursday commute. Always interesting, often funny, I really recommend it.
Best Bit so far: Episode 8: Chimp Attack

A Life Well Wasted - http://alifewellwasted.com/
Robert Ashley gets serious. He may sound like he smokes a pound of weed a week, but he offers meaningful and contemplative insight through his monthly one man show, 'A Life Well Wasted'. Eschewing the usual 'bods round a table talking shit' format, his editorial approach of interviewing several people one a single subject is a welcome change of pace. Best consumed in a evening cruise though the countryside, watching the sun set. Oh, the music is excellent too!
Best Bit so far: All of it.

Out of the Game - http://mexicutedbyhepitacos.libsyn.com/
Ha ha ha, my prayers are answered! If you don't know what Shawn Elliott, Jeff Green, Robert Ashley, Luke Smith and Ngai Crole on podcast that does not talk about games means, then little of what I write next will be able to capture what these heroes among nerds have managed to create. Existing on the perfect line between genius and stupidity, I thumped the crap out of my steering wheel and cheered at the finale of the 'butt hash' story. Woman looking at me in her review mirror thought I was a bit of a mentalist.
Best Bit so far: Episode 1: The spiritual successor to the off topic bits of GFW Radio


Giant Bombcast - http://www.giantbomb.com/
Had never heard of this until they appeared on the xmas special (and penultimate 2 part show) of 1UP Yours. I liked what I heard though. Now the Bombcast is my Tuesday staple. A solid four man crew run though game related subject matter in a pretty traditional format. Which is fine as long as it is done well. Which it is. The intro music is tight. The interval music not so much, but its not like it is that important. A solid performer.
Best Bit so far: The energy drink taste tests at the start of the show.

Geekbox - http://www.geekbox.net/
Ryan Scott is a fucking soldier. Gathering the shattered remains of GFW, he forged the LAN party, which was shattered again by the 1UP cuts. Unperturbed, he started the Geekbox radio. It is less games related than most of the other podcasts I listen to, so I get to hear a lot about stuff I wouldn't actively seek out. I couldn't give a toss for Lost, have not seen Burn Notice (but am interested) and don't really read comics (uhhh, Preacher book 1 like 6 years ago maybe). In spite of this, the podcast is fascinating listening for me. The cast of Ryan Scott, Karen Chu, Andrew Fitch, Ryan Higgins and Greg Ford is a great balance. Special mention for Higgins taking to podcasting like a duck to water.
Best Bit so far: Fitch Hitch, aka the love life of Andrew Fitch

ListenUP - http://www.1up.com/do/minisite?cId=3172882
Wow, the last 1UP Yours was emotional stuff. I felt bad for Garnett, and knew I'd miss hearing Shane. Then ListenUP started and it was almost as good. Had to giggle the first time Garnett accidentally called the show 1UP Yours again. The tried and tested format of good anchor (Garnett Lee), interesting cohorts in the reassuringly British sounding John Davies and ever enthusiastic David Ellis plus a truck load of booze still works well. While EP 4 (3/13/09) was a bit of a damp squib, I have every confidence it will come back to it's full potential again, just like Rocky Balboa. Now who for the 4th chair?
Best Bit so far: The last Xmas special was awesome. Wait, wrong show...

The Sports Anomaly - http://www.1up.com/do/minisite?cId=3158196
I love the Sports Anomaly because it is loud, noisy, dumb and it does not really give a fuck. It is perfectly summed up by its intro music. It is second only to Motorhead in contributing to my deafness. I'm British by the way. This means I watch footie (sawkka) and rugby. Most of the time I haven't got a clue what they are going on about. It's still funny as hell. Zuniga, Ford, Fitch and Ellis run this shit. Bad technical issues, screaming into a microphone like a lunatic and the best way of taking a break in recording ever devised. Without this show I would not know who the hell Jim Mora is.
Best Bit so far: Playoffs? Are you kidding me? Playoffs?!

Retronauts - http://www.1up.com/do/minisite?cId=3156908
Aside from the Anomaly above, the only other survivor of the 1UPocalypse. It's about old games. For me, it's a bit hit and miss. It's always knowledgeable, it's often arcane, so some I can really get into and others leave me dazed and confused. If you like old games you really should check it out. I enjoy it more when I've actually played the games they are discussing. Host Jeremy Parish is always entertaining, and the crew changes a bit but is generally solid.
Best Bit so far: The Music again – retro game music heaven

Good Grief - http://www.1up.com/do/minisite?cId=3172958
The pairing of Tina Sanchez and Scott Sharkey seems to work well, though it's still early doors. I missed the Pilot, but have checked out the first few episodes. You have to appreciate any effort to switch up the format. Shows promise, I think it's going to grow into something special but it's not going to happen overnight. You have to admire Sharkey, who I would refer to as a true born bastard. If I could change anything it would be getting Tina to stop saying “Just Kidding” every time she says something funny!
Best Bit so far: The funny.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

On GTA4 – 6 months too late

So I finally finished GTA IV. It required an effort from me, but at the same time, I was really compelled to finish it. More compelled than I have been to play MGS4 anyway (at the top of my pile of shame).

I love GTA games. Yes, from back before they were 3D. But from GTA III on in particular. GTA III was the purchase that justified the PS2 to me. Having seen it round my mate Russ' house, I knew instantly it would be something special, and it did not disappoint. However, to me, GTA III pales when stood next to it's two hot sisters, Vice City and San Andreas. I actually played Vice City on PC, and cannot really remember why at the moment. I enjoyed the hell out of it though, and played it through twice. The fleshing out of the world, achieved by better voice actors, empire expanding, and the emotive 80's setting was far more compelling to me than the generic New York of GTA III. So Vice City was nice. But San Andreas had me by the balls.

I played and played and played that game. On PS2, then on PC. Completion of the story first time round meant an instant restart for a 100% (did not make it – damn pilot licenses). I played the PC version endlessly, and was even active in the Mod scene for a bit, skinning cars. I think the reason I loved San Andreas so much was the advance in atmosphere. It took what Vice City did in terms of setting a mood, a sense of time and place, and then took it to a whole new level. To me, it was near perfect. I played it like an RPG. I went for drives sometimes. I collected cars and stashed them at properties. It was my go to game from November 2004, for about 2 years.

So I was hot for GTA IV. I was on GTAForums.com for the epic reveal thread, when the Internet ground to a halt. “New York” I thought to myself, “well, it's not what I thought it would be but fuck it, I'll take it.”

I picked the game up launch week, booked a week off work and settled in. Immediately things felt wrong. I sucked at driving. Hell, I even sucked at walking. The arcade style controls of San Andreas were gone, replaced by what Rockstar must have believed was a more realistic control system. To me, it felt like Niko had a fat suit on and had been hitting the Valiums. My longest play session was 3.5 hours in the first week, and this was never to be repeated. I felt bad. I wanted the spiritual sucessor to San Andreas, and while beautiful to look at, GTA IV never once tried to touvh my nuts. Huh. I loved the story, and the visuals, but the controls put me right off. Maybe my time with GTA on the PC had spoiled me, with the precision that mouse aim provides. I am not certain.

I finished GTA IV tonight. Hearing Ryan O'Donnell talk about it on Rebel FM, saying that he never took a taxi in the game astounded me. Because I struggled with the driving so much, I ended up taking cabs everywhere. Going back to the game now was quite an eye opener, especially playing it with someone who had not seen it before watching me play. I appreciated some of the details I had missed in my first block of time with it, blinded my my futile attempts to control my character in a semi realistic way.

I am glad I finished the game. The end story was a tad cheesy, but it is GTA so I guess that is par for the course. Overall, GTA IV will stand for me as an achievement in a technical sense, rather than as one of the greatest games. We all know the flaws (I accept that the control system is not flawed – the problem exists between the couch and the controller), and we know what it did well. I look forward to what comes next. This year, a Lost and Damned release on PS3 I would hope. Further in the future... well, here is my speculation. In GTA III the corrupt cop character of Ray splits town, telling you he'll see you in Vice City. At the end of GTA IV, Romain texts you on your phone, and mentions a trip to Vice City. Enough said.
1 line summary: The greatest technical achievement for videogames in 2008.

Monday, 23 February 2009

CallMeSarge Gaming Journal - 23rd Feb 2oo9

Monster Trucks Nitro

I am working up to a big post on CoH. This is not it.

THIS is probably one of the most pleasing sub £10 games I have purchased (perhaps beaten by PixelJunk Eden) and is the reason I have not completed Flower yet. Pollination can wait when there are physics based puzzles to solve with my monster truck!

Years ago a mate called Toby got me hooked on a game called Elastomania. You navigate your 2D motorcycle through a series of complex levels, collecting apples and finding a daisy that ends the level. Mastery of the finely balanced leaning mechanic was essential to progress, and it became a strange 'Pass the Keyboard' multi-player experience. I would occasionally wander through the house during a party to find some poor soul (usually the worse for wear) grinding away at one of the trickier later stages in the game. It was simple, homebrew, and totally addictive.

Monster Trucks Nitro, by Red Lynx, is a progression of that game (And obviously the Trials games too, but I played them less and I like the oldschool version, so segue a go go). The levels are time based, and herein lies the challenge. A bronze medal will unlock the next level (so far), but gold medals give you the shineys. In game bill boards hint at some kind of off-road formula one car – sweet!

The aesthetic feel and sound affects are spot on, and the blue monster truck with flames on it reminds me that as a child, I was truly convinced that my fathers choice not to invest in one of these for daily transport was a huge mistake. The gameplay puts a smile on my face – judging the balance just right as you launch your truck off a ramp, over a canyon, and on to a row of school buses confirms some deep, childish knowledge that despite what my fore brain is telling me, monster trucks are really fucking cool. Only one thing could improve the game for me. Ok two things. More levels. And a Bowler Wildcat.

1 Line Summary: More fun than Flower.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Cheesy Potatoes, Chocolate desserts, and whatcha been drinking.

OK, so I've written about games and the art of swearing without swearing, time to hit the food. I am a big fan of the English food writer, Nigel Slater. I think his approach to food is spot on, and here are some recipes from his Kitchen Diaries that I have cooked lately.

Cheese smothered potatoes. This is proper winter food, and ranks up there with Swiss Rosti to me as being one of the best ways to cook potatoes. Floury potatoes are essential, and being in the UK, I tend to favor the King Edward. Why wouldn't I? The Cheese is as important as the potatoes here. Taleggio smells strong but tastes mild, melts like mozzarella but is less stringy to my mind. Having acquired your cheese and potatoes, as well as onion, olive oil and garlic, you are good to go.

Slice the onion finely, slice the garlic finely, heat them gently in a frying pan with the olive oil. You want them to soften for 5 minutes. Whilst they are softening, slice your potatoes to 3mm thick slices. You can also slice the cheese now as it will save time later. I choose to cut the rinds away, you can do as you please. Put the potatoes in the pan with the onion, cover, and cook for 25 mins at the same low heat, turning once. They should be a light gold in parts, and soft to the point of a knife. Lay the sliced cheese over the spuds and cook for a further 3-5 mins so the cheese melts over the potatoes. Serve up. Whether as a main with a salad, or as a side to grilled meat (I love this with lamb), these potatoes will impress.

Sometimes we do eat out on valentines day, this year we decided to have a meal at home. The main course was grilled lamb, chickpea mash and spinach, washed down with a sparkling rosé, but I would like to tell you about the dessert. A home made chocolate dessert is a food of love, and I'd like to think that this one sealed my status as the Barry White of our kitchen.

You'll need 200g of dark chocolate, the best you can lay your hands on. Greene and Blacks 75% cocoa did it for me. 200g of caster sugar, some Nutella chocolate hazelnut spread, 3 eggs and some ramakins. Interesting aside – in my younger years, I was convinced that 'I know you got soul' was by Eric B and Ramakin. Fail.

Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl over simmering water. Separate the eggs, put the yolks in a blender and the whites in a bowl. Add the sugar to the yolks and blitz till thick and creamy. Enlist the help of your significant other to whisk the whites till solid-esq and peaking like home made clouds. Fold the melted chocolate into the yolk mixture. Add two teaspoons of chocolate spread, in this case the afore mentioned Nutella. Fold the whites into the chocolate yolk mixture. Make sure no big drifts of white are left. Butter your ramakins, pour the mixture in, and bake at 200 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes. They look like a cross between souffles and cakes. Dust the top with icing sugar and serve warm from the oven. This recipe makes four, so you have two for the next day. Serve with pouring cream.

Have noticed I am drinking more this year. Don't worry, weekends only. I am a huge fan of bitter, especially from small regional brewers, but have decided to try and cut back a bit. So Larger is back on the menu, Corona and Heineken for preference. I love wine but as my partner is nearly teetotal, I rarely buy bottles as they don't get finished. I bought a bottle of vodka back from Moscow in December, and Bloody Marys have been prominent as a result. I have a 10 year bottle of single malt that gets visited occasionally, but Friday always seems to end with me, a can of coke, and my good friend Jack Daniels. It's funny, having a drink seems to make me play pool better – but it does not work for CoH!