Monthly Archives: May 2008

Continued Wii Fitness

Two and a bit weeks in to the Wii Fit regime, and I’ve lost four pounds. Then gained two pounds, lost another pound, gained several, lost a few, and generally fluctuated. I don’t know if my weight is really changing that much or the game’s having a bit of a laugh about it, but the general trend, broadly, is down (except for the up bits), so that’s got to be a good thing.

Apart from the balance games, there’s not much in Wii Fit that you couldn’t do with a pair of scales, a notepad, a hunk of plastic to step on and off and a random celebrity fitness DVD picked up from a bargain bin for 49p (Step Your Way To Fitness With Reginald Maudling, perhaps, or Andrei Tarkovsky’s Dancercise Workout). I doubt I’d be able to get terribly motivated with those, though, whereas Wii Fit, with it’s game-veneer of unlockable activities, high score tables and record keeping hooks right into my Achiever lobes, so I’m going to beat it, just see if I don’t…

One area that could use some work is the aerobic exercises; three minor variants of jogging on the spot, using the Wiimote as a pedometer, is a bit naff. Hula hooping is a giggle, but not a great sustained exercise. Rhythm boxing, stepping on and off the board and flailing around with Wiimote and nunchuck, would be excellent, but the pace is plodding, and you spend half your time standing watching the forthcoming sequence so hardly optimal for calorie burning. The first two modes of step aerobics, following on-screen steps (with occasional crazy variations like going sideways) are also rather slow, and the single jangly tune drives you insane after a while (daaa da da daaaa da da da da da, da da da daaa daaaaa), so I’m mostly using the final option, free stepping, where you set how long you want to step, then switch channels on the TV and step away while the Wiimote burbles away to itself from the built-in speaker (“Keep your back straight!” “You’ve been doing this a while!”)

We read to know we are not alone.

Zoso wrote to me at work this morning – I’m offline in the evening at the moment for reasons that I’m sure I’ll go into in a meandering and flannelling fashion sometime soon – huzzahing the fact that we’re both set for a rhino riding rampage in Age of Conan should we ever reach the heady level of the forties in said game. He also mentioned, however, that we would at least have our bonus order belts for extra carrying capacity in the meantime; apparently you get a free belt in lieu of the mount which you can’t use until level forty. This was news to me, and I realised that I’d not fully read the deal before making my order for the game, I’d just skimmed it and hit purchase.

And now I worry that I’m speed reading various things in real life as though they were quest texts, and I wonder what sort of trouble that could get me into in the future:

You are purchasing blah blah blah Conan blah blah rhino blah blah blah blah blah early access blah blah. Blah blah blah 24 pounds blah. Blah. Blah blah blah.

Yes, yes, yes. Whatever. 24 pounds, rhino, early access. It’s all there, just let me purchase the thing already. Click. Click. Done.

<Two months later>

%ding dong%

Me: “Hello?”

Delivery Man: “Good morning sir, a delivery for you.”

Me: <Looks at delivery note> “Hmm, there seems to have been sort of mistake.”

Delivery Man: “Sir?”

Me: “Well, it’s just that this seems to be a delivery note for a female African black rhino implausibly called Conan, an artificial insemination kit and twenty four pounds of black rhino semen.”

Delivery Man: “That’s right, sir. One rhino and an ‘early access’ insemination kit. Starting a breeding program are we sir?”

Me: “I… really didn’t read that order properly, did I?”

<Another delivery man arrives>

Delivery Man 2: “Morning, sir. Just sign here for your order of a warhammer on a line, an aged Nganasan shaman and twelve dismembered heads.”

Me: “Oh dear.”

I don’t think that it’s necessarily conditioning on the part of MMOs that has caused this, because I understand that there are plenty of people out there who play MMOs and read the quest text in full, and that these people are still able to lead fulfilling and healthy lives. I think, in fact, that my altitus is as much to blame as anything, what with constantly rolling new characters and repeating old content, one generally begins to accept quests automatically because they’ve been experienced before. This is habit forming, though, and eventually you begin to see every set of quest text as an overly lengthy interruption to your game-play, even if reading that text would take only a matter of tens of seconds. It’s often a false economy though, even with the excellent quest trackers in modern MMOs, the quest text is usually there to explain where you are required to go, and what it is that you have to kill ten of this time. So you end-up revisiting the quest text, skimming it to find the pertinent information, and wasting more time than if you’d just read it all in the first place. Alas, the habit is formed, and it is a strong one: text is your enemy and must be ignored at all costs!

The problems lies with the fact that it translates too easily into the real world; it crosses that ineffable boundary between fantasy and reality and haunts your ways, like when you’ve just woken from a dream and have yet to shake it off as the fictional creation of your subconscious. Of course, you soon realise that there is not, in fact, a giant space octopus with tentacles made of creamy pasta and a single fulgurating eye of pure topaz trying to steal the collection of George Clooneys from under your bed.

I’m sure you can relate to the experience now, because even if you don’t skip the quest text, I think we’ve all had that dream.

Fretting about a song.

You know that you’ve been playing a game too much, and that there’s cause for concern, when you start basing your enjoyment of a new song played on your iPod by whether, for example, the solo would be too tricky for you to perform when combined with that awkward to reach orange button.

In unrelated news, Audioslave’s Your Time Has Come was just piped into my head hole.

Take off your hat to your yesterdays.

I received an email this afternoon when I got home that contained the code granting early access for, and subsequent rhinoplasty of, my characters in Age of Conan. Or something. It’s definitely got something to do with horns, at least. Or maybe that was getting the horn? Must be all the mature boobies in the game. Not sure what the sexual attraction of antiquated seabirds is, but I suppose that there are stranger things in the worlds of Robert Ervin Howard.

So that’s it. Strapped in, locked down, doors to automatic, turbines to power, all systems are green for go. F.A.B. All ready for the take off of Age of Conan. I’ve given up reading the general bloggerama because there’s no real firm information. Vanguard looked like a train wreck in the making from day one. Age of Conan seems more like Pirates of the Burning Sea in this case: it could go either way, and nobody is really sure which. But there’s more drama in soothsaying doom.

So it’s just a case now of gripping on to the armrests, singing the Golden Grahams song and waiting for the g-force of launch to kick in, followed by the rickety rockety ride through the atmosphere, and then either the weightless elation of orbiting through the gaming heavens, or plunging back to earth in a crimson ball of pure forum-ite flame.

Oh, those Golden Grahams.
Oh, those Golden Grahams.
Crispy, crunchy, Graham cereal,
brand new breakfast treat.

Reviewlet: Iron Council by China Miéville

Well, the intention was to write a little reviewlet of Miéville’s Iron Council, but to be honest, in browsing around to see if anyone else thought, like myself, that the book was the expression of an incredibly imagined world of wonder wrapped in a story that dragged like the hind foot of a zombie on fright night, I stumbled into the Debating Iron Council blogstravgansa over at Crooked Timber.

Warning, spoilers abound! I’m putting the warning here, after the link, to punish all those of you who have shot off to read somebody else’s post before finishing with mine. The Internet really doesn’t teach the best of social graces when it comes to the art of conversation, it teaches us more about how to… Ooo, look, goldfish everyone! Goldfish!.

What really interested me was the link about two thirds of the way down the post which pointed to China’s responses to the points raised by several of the bloggers. It’s an interesting read, and gave me an insight into the man behind the book which coloured my opinion differently after having read his point of view, and more importantly showed that he felt that there were some valid criticisms, some of which he had received in the past, which he had tried to correct in Iron Council, obviously with varying success depending on each critics point of view.

But that’s not the really great part, the fun comes further down. In the mire that is the comments. Anyone who has blogged, read a blog, or once knew a man whose auntie’s dog was featured on a blog, will understand what happens in the comments. Generally, you get the nice people, writing to share their thoughts and perhaps heap a little praise on you for being able to do no more, if we’re honest, than string a few sentences together in a vaguely entertaining fashion. Then you get the Commentards; these are the people that have to pick a hole in something that you’ve said – not really justification in itself: debate is, after all, the art of war refined into a slightly less ‘head cleft in twain by sword’ fashion – but crucially, should you dare to respond and attempt a defence of your position they will essentially resort to calling you a Nazi and correct everything you’ve said as though you know nothing about the subject under discussion and that you’re simply trying to oppress them, even if the subject at hand happens to be the best selling book that you wrote.

Fun side-entertainment, head on over to China’s response post, and see if you can spot the point where the poor author’s soul is sundered into a thousand tiny little pieces. Hint: it’s his last post to the comment thread.

Those of you who stayed to finish this post before heading on over there, well done, award yourselves a biscuit and a small caffeinated beverage of your choice. Those of you just coming back from the other thread where you shot off like a puppy after a stick, those of us here who stuck around are now ignoring you like the bad puppy that just peed on grandma’s favourite Victorian winter shawl. While grandma was wearing it. That’s some mighty fine projectile peeing you’ve got going on there.

The wonder of it all though is this: more and more authors are making their presence felt online, and I’m not talking about the stand-offish token page, where you get the impression that the author is wearing industrial marigolds and a face mask, and holding the page out to you at arms length pinched between their finger and thumb so as to make sure that the amount of time that they will be in contact with you, via the page, is as little as possible. No, these authors, the Gaimans and Abercrombies (and I’m sure many others, these are just two of the prominent ones that I happen to read) of the online world, respond to readers either directly in comments or as the focus of their own posts. This rather brave behaviour gives an ‘indirect direct’ access to them that provides insight into the mind behind the stories and the person behind the characters, such that all of their works are enhanced tremendously from knowing them that little bit, as much as you can know anyone online. As much as you know me. For all you know I could be a fifty year old transvestite boxing champion with a walrus moustache, called Marjorie.

I did feel a tinge of sadness though. It was the idea of having such access to luminaries of the past, contact which in the past would have been reserved for only a close circle of friends, that triggered the melancholy; specifically I was thinking of the inimitable Bard himself, seeing as I find myself endlessly marvelling at his wordsmithing. I wondered what he would say to us if he had a blog and could respond to our questions and comments, briefly I marvelled at the possibility of contact with that mind and what insight we could have garnered, until I pulled-up short and realised the inevitable, the one and only comment that he would post: he would tell us all to fuck off, because he was fed-up with having to answer to the griping pedantic diatribes of a bunch of ingrates.

But it would be the most beautiful blog comment ever composed by man.

Kermode does Iron Man

Amongst many splendid podcasts, Mark Kermode’s film reviews from Simon Mayo’s radio show are always a highlight. “Wittertainment at its most wittertaining”, as Wikipedia definitely doesn’t say. Highlights are the quotes you really wish they would put on film posters instead of “The best comedy of the year!!”, “The best film of the decade!!1!” and “The greatest work of art ever in the history of mankind!1!1!!!”, such as The Santa Clause 3 being “the cinematic equivalent of tertiary syphilis”, and for Captivity: “It’s a Russian-American co-production, and on the basis of this I want the Cold War to start again now”.

On this week’s podcast, Kermode mentioned that someone had taken his Iron Man review, featuring typically Kermodean impersonations of actors that are so bad they’re good, only worse than that so they’re bad again, but then even worse still than that so they wind up being brilliant, and added actual Iron Man footage, and sure enough the result is the greatest ever work of art in the history of mankind (ever).

Tag! You’re it.

Earlier in the week Rock, Paper, Shotgun pointed out an Audiosurf update, and I’ve really got back into that over the last few days. I’m now the undisputed MASTER of many songs, thanks to a cunning two-pronged attack of obscurity (nobody else seems to be playing Bad News’ Masturbike or Sizzla’s cover of Subterranean Homesick Blues) and incorrect tagging. Not in a deliberately cheating “tag a high-scoring song as something else” way, just having an MP3 collection spanning many years of using many different rippers with differing ideas about punctuation, character limits and how to tag compilations, so there may be fierce competition on the leader board of “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts”, but I’m out there on my own for “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack o”, and I suspect my high score for “Oliver s Army” wouldn’t fare so well against those of “Oliver’s Army”…

A Week in the Life of an MMO Addict: Thursday

Thursday, 0030 hours
Meh. That’s the game uninstalled, worthless pile of junk. Might as well go to bed.

0730 hours
Maybe I should reinstall it and… no. No, I’m never touching it again.

1330 hours
Man, Thursday afternoon off, and nothing to do. Shame that game sucks so badly. I’ll just go around all the MMO forums and tell everyone how terrible it is. Let’s see… “All you suckers ought to start playing this game it is totally amazing!”? Hah, what an idiot. Must be one of the devs under a false name, or a paid shill. I’ll set him right… “Of course if you actually have a life, as I do (with my job that pays so fabulously well I have had to turn down numerous offers to be lead designer of major MMOs and my supermodel wife, my Ferrari doesn’t drive itself you know), you will find yourself at the mercy of sad cases who can afford to play the game all day.”

1410 hours
That’s the MMO forums sorted out, wonder what other people are saying… blah blah blah, brilliant, blah blah blah, rubbish, blah blah blah, people should check This Other Game out instead, it will totally kick That Game’s ass. Hmm. Might as well have a quick look at the website…

1430 hours
OMG look at that concept art OMG it is AMAZING OMG this other game is going to be AMAZING OMG I am totally posting in my blog about it.

1517 hours
OMG look at this dev chat transcript OMG they totally *nail* everything that is wrong with MMOs at the moment at they are totally going to fix and and totally make this other game AMAZING OMG I am totally posting it in my blog.

1849 hours
OMG I just spent hours reading all these community pages and forums and it is totally amazing there are some amazing LOLFUNNY webcomics about this other game and the community is really great and there is amazing fan art and this other game is totally going to be the biggest thing ever in eighteen months time (or maybe two years or a bit longer).

1931 hours
Dammit what kind of idiots do they employ at games shops, I need to reserve a pre-order for this other game and a special edition pre-order and a pre-special pre-edition post-order pre-deluxe box set and they have not even heard of it, I’d better try every other games shop within a thirty mile radius.

2117 hours
“… I know it’s long past closing time, but this is urgent, I tell you. I need the special deluxe collector’s metal tin ultra edition of this other game, and the one that comes with the mecha-penguin pet, not the one that comes with the zombie-wombat, ‘cos the penguin totally has better stats and… yes, I know you’re a wholesale pet food supplier, but I’ve tried every other shop in… ” huh. Line’s gone dead again. I think my phone might be faulty, I should check with the telecom company. Hey, and they might have the pre-order pack with the mecha-penguin…

2240 hours
No luck with reserving the game, never mind, I’ll get back to hyper-analysis of every developer chat or status update. I’ll feed them all into a database and then by running word count analysis and similar I’ll be able to detect which classes they subconsciously favour so I can play them.

2330 hours
OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG they’ve announced a pre-pre-pre-pre-pre-alpha pre-stress pre-test of this other game!1!!1!!! The developer says “Please note, this is simply a wide-scale test of some of our networking tech to monitor world-wide performance, and simply consists of a screen that says ‘HELLO SHAUN’ while the program communicates with our servers.” OMG OMG OMG it’s going to be AMAZING OMG I hope I can take part I’m going off to their site now oh man it’s a bit busy with everyone trying to get in *refresh* come on *refresh* *refresh* come on *refresh* *refresh* *refresh* *refresh”

2359 hours
OMG FilePlanet are distributing the client, and you just need to be a SuperHyperUltraMega Subscriber to get it, only fifty bucks a month and a minimum twelve month contract, totally worth it, DOWNLOADING CLIENT NOW, THIS OTHER GAME HERE I COME!

A Week in the Life of an MMO Addict: Wednesday

Wednesday, 0100 hours
Aww, the awesome war-group is breaking up. That was amazing, though, we really took it to the enemy kingdoms. I’m going to post all about it on my blog.

0124 hours
“… and then I was all, like, “SLICE”, and my buddy was all, like, “FIREBALL”, and the enemy were all, like, “oh no way oh man we have no chance you guys are so awesome” and we were all, like, “yeah” and we totally captured the outpost and it was awesome.” Click, post to blog. I’ll just upload this video capture and these screenshots to go with it, there we go.

0130 hours
Just time for a couple of quick posts on some MMO Forums. “All you suckers ought to start playing this game it is totally amazing!”, link to my blog. “HAW HAW World of Carebears check this awesomeness out”, link to my blog.

0735 hours
Just check the blog comments… tsk, that’s so childish. Leaving insulting messages like that, typical of jealous players in other games. Good job I’m mature in my response; edit all their comments so they say “I SMELL”, there we go.

1230 hours
I’ll just pop out to an internet cafe, see how the blog’s doing. Let’s see… usual rubbish, “you outnumbered the opposition”, “you were all level 50 and they weren’t”, “most of the people you killed were AFK”, blah blah, they just don’t recognise true skill. Oh, here we go! “Wow awesome post u should check my site out”, there’s someone who appreciates the finer points of masterful PvP, I’ll definitely look at his site… what a nice man, he’s selling genuine Rowlexe watches at bargain prices, a connoisseur and an altruist.

1732 hours
I can’t wait to get back to that PvP zone, we’re going to crush that enemy Kingdom again! They have no chance, make their time!

1734 hours
Hmm. This outpost is slightly more on-fire than I remember. Sneak attack by the enemy, obviously, best be on guard. Ah hah, there’s one over there, Aragonne, I’ll teach him a lesson, CHARGE! My weapon hit, but… to no effect? And now I can’t move! HAX! Incoming lightning bolt, ARGH!

1735 hours
What the hell gear is he wearing? /inspect… Some purple rare items, some yellow epic items, the pauldrons are an odd shade of puce which makes them mythical quality… he isn’t even carrying anything in his hands. No, wait, there’s an asterisk there, *mouseover*… “To see the item in this slot, please don the special glasses provided in the box that render the colour wavelength of fandabeedozee quality items visible to the human eye.”

1736 hours
/whisper Aragonne “Where did u get that lewt???/?”
Aragonne whispers: “lol while u were killing noobs we were running the temple of krzzzkrzzzyn raid to get phat lewt lol noob”

1822 hours
Argh, corpse camped all the way out of the zone. Man, this sucks. Back to the capital, better get a party together for that temple raid.

1843 hours
All right, here we go, some of last night’s posse are up for raiding the Temple of Krzzzkrzzzyn. We just need to capture the Temple Gates from the enemy Kingdom first. Fire up Teamspeak, we might need the co-ordination, NOW TO BATTLE, MY COMRADES, THE FIGHT SHALL BE GLORIOUS!

2015 hours
“Oh yeah, we’re weakening them, they may be decked out in uber gear from raiding but we have the numbers”
“That’s it, isolate the knight, everyone on the wizard”
“Soon the gates will be ours!”
“Err… guys… look to the east”
“Oh my… how many are there?”
“Looks like just about everyone we killed last night. And their friends. And they don’t look too happy…”

2112 hours
“… watch out, Strrydur, wizard at three o’clock starting to cast…”
“… no good, I’m ensnared, can’t move in to…”
“… got him, starting to cast, ARGH! Stealther interrupted the spell…”
“… they’re controlling Streyedoor, keep away from him…”
“… no good, I’m done for, save yourselves…”

2220 hours
“COME ON U NOOBS we can still do this”
“who are u calling noob, noob, u r a noob”
“no wai, noob, u r teh noob”
“yeh well at least i have fifty kills noob u have four”
“cuz u r a killstealer ur tictacs suck LERN 2 PLEY”
“my tictacs are gr8 but ur build totally sucks for pvp carebear”
“STFU u 2 noobs u both suck”
“no u stfu”
“no u stfu”
“no u stfu”

2225 hours
Well, the battlegroup broke up. That sucked. I’m going to go back to the general PvP zone to gank me some noobs.

2247 hours
Huh. They keep banding together now, or using other cheats and exploits like calling in higher level friends. That sucks.

2330 hours
“… in conclusion, it is reeeddikkyoouwwlessss. This game is rubbish. This is the worst game ever released. The devs are all idiots. Drunk monkeys could have made a better game by banging keyboards with bananas. Every decision they made is totally wrong. The entire design of the game sucks all the possible fun out of anything. It was obviously rushed and not tested properly. It is totally unfair because other people play more and have better stuff and there are more of them and they can kill me even though I am brilliant at PvP and it is totally unfair. I am unsubscribing from this game right now, and never buying anything from the company again ever.” Post to forum, click. Post to blog, click.

A Week in the Life of an MMO Addict: Tuesday

Tuesday, 0017 hours
Soon, yes, so very soon, I shall be a fearsome level 50, the apogee of the game, a mighty and awesome achievement. I should prepare a speech or something. Let’s see… “One small kill for man, one giant level for mankind”… nah… maybe some Churchill. “Can I save money on my car insurance, oh yes, yes, yes.” Hang on, wrong Churchill. “This is not the end. It is not even the end of the beginning. But it is, perhaps, the beginning of the endgame.” That’s it. I’ll broadcast that in General, very stirring.

0029 hours
Last kill, here we go, broadcast: DING FIFTY WOOYAY LOL I AM TEH WINNAH!

0030 hours
OK, not quite the statesmanlike effect I was after. Not to worry. Now, back to the PvP zone!

0047 hours
Let’s see, who do we have here… Arragawn, level 27. I’m not even going to pause to report him for name violation, swoop in and SMITE! Bwahahahaha, one shot kill, I’m the daddy! Arrowgone, level 23, MAIM! Aragun, level 34, SLICE! Hrm. Still alive? DICE! That’s better, a triumph. Huge success. Oh yeah, I’m serving up the Typhoo now!

0134 hours
/tell Arugon: That’s open world PvP, you should have known what you were letting yourself in for. I’ve always said that what sets this game apart is the excellent implementation of open PvP, if you can’t take it maybe you should head back to World of Carebear.
Ahahahahaha, BURN! Ooh, I’m on fire.

Dammit, I suppose I ought to go to bed. I’m on a final warning for turning up late to work. And a final warning for falling asleep at work.

0740 hours
Just five minutes, I can log in for five minutes over breakfast while I eat Sugar Puffs straight from the box…

0755 hours
Dammit, dammit, never mind, I’ll just get going and finish getting dressed on the way.

0807 hours
I don’t know why people keep sounding their horns, it’s like they’ve never seen anyone putting on a pair of trousers while driving.

1120 hours
… and then by using a shield, I could take the points from two-handed specialisation, and put them into deepening the casting pool instead… what? Yes boss, absolutely, just running off the copies now.

1554 hours
… altogether, that comes to seventeen gold pieces, please. Pounds! I meant pounds, seventeen pounds, please.

1629 hours
… 56, 57, 58, 59, HALF PAST FOUR, I’m out of here, GOGOGOGO, out of my way people!

1722 hours
GRAGH! TRAFFIC JAMS! Deep breaths, deep breaths, remember what the analyst said after that road rage incident with the foam LARPing sword… Put on the CD of the in-game music, visualise the setting. I am a calm, relaxed elf, strolling through the forests of Nrjohal. I am a calm, relaxed elf COME ON, YOU COULD GET A BUS THROUGH THAT GAP, MOVE IT forests of Nrjohal.

1750 hours
Ah, back in game finally. Who’s next to challenge my fearsome PvP skillz, then? Ariggon, level 30, SMASH! Awragan, level 28, FREEM! Arrowgun, Ranger Warmonk, level 42 (feel that slap bass), SLASH! HACK! POKE! Hang on, he’s fighting back, is that allowed? BASH! SWEEP! USE THAT FUNNY LOOKING THING FOR REMOVING STONES FROM HORSES HOOVES! He’s got me down to 75% health, t’ch. SMITE! BEAT! PUMMELL! Got him, that took ages, though.

1755 hours
“… in conclusion, Ranger Warmonks are reeduckyewlessly overpowered and must be nerfed at once so I can always one-shot kill them.” Click, post to forum.

2030 hours
Hmm, an invite to join a war-group from our Kingdom. Might as well hook up with them, see what it’s like.

2355 hours
Oh, man, this is amazing, we’re dominating the battlefield! Crushing all opponents, capturing outposts, laying waste to any who dare oppose us! This is the best game ever released, I’m totally playing this game forever. If only they had a lifetime subscription option, there’s no way I’m ever going to move to anything else, this is totally awesome, it’s got the depth, the graphics, it’s amazing. The devs are my favourite people ever, I think I’ll get some photos of them as posters. Maybe I could get enough to wallpaper the whole front room. I’m going to name my kids after them. Least, I will if I ever have kids.