Monthly Archives: April 2010

Have I Got MMOnews For You

Host:This week, teams, news that GameStation legally owns the souls of thousands of customers, thanks to a clause added to their online terms and conditions to prove that nobody really reads them.

Zoso: When questioned about a similar clause in the WoW terms and conditions, a Blizzard legal rep responded “A way of pointing out people don’t read terms and conditions? Oh. Yeah. That’s what ours is, definitely, one of those.”

Melmoth: Rumours that Derek Smart has refused to refund souls of customers who signed up for Alganon’s similar offer, on the basis that he’s already eaten them all, are unfounded at this time. Several overly long ranty forum posts from an anonymous author did appear on the Alganon forums, however, intimating that souls all tasted terrible and no real pleasure was to be got from them, although they can be used to sustain a person for several millennia.

Zoso: The EA/Mythic team behind WAR apologised for claiming their players’ souls several times over, while DDO also got in on the action by offering 2,500 Turbine points in exchange for each immortal soul, but rapidly withdrew the offer as it turned out they’d rather overvalued things.

Host: Goodnight!

Studio lights dim, theme tune plays.

Take a chance on me.

My Captain in Lord of the Rings Online has an ability called Light of Elendil which has the following as part of its description:

This melee attack has an increased chance to critical and inspires your fellows to invoke the Light of Elendil.
Your attack applies a buff to your fellowship that has a chance of invoking the Light of Elendil.

Essentially the Light of Elendil skill is a normal attack which has a chance to do critical damage, and applies a buff to yourself and your fellows for a short while which gives each of you a chance to apply the Light of Elendil damage-over-time effect to an enemy any time you damage them.

My Captain has another ability called Improved Defensive Strike which has the following as part of its description:

When attacking an opponent under the effect of the Light of Elendil you have a 25% chance of restoring some of your Power.

So if I’ve attacked an enemy with Light of Elendil and the chance to miss has not occurred, and I’ve made another attack of any sort and the chance to apply the debuff effect has occurred, and I’ve made yet another attack with Improved Defensive Strike then there’s a chance that I’ll restore some power.

Are we starting to lean a little too heavily on the Kismet Crutch in MMOs, perchance?


I have so many character names reserved on various servers in various MMOs, each a tiny baptismal victory, to my mind at least, a triumph of finding a name meaningful to myself which was not already taken by someone else. I stare at Rumpole Bailey my Loremaster in LotRO, sitting un-played as he does in my character selection screen, and can’t help the smile that tweaks at the corners of my mouth; it’s unlikely that anyone else will witness my self-congratulatory chef-d’oeuvre of character naming, because I’m pretty much settled on my next alt being a hobbit, a race who can’t be Loremasters, and although the race-class combinations which MMOs enforce are often seemingly arbitrary restrictions, I can’t fault Turbine in this instance for not wanting a flock of Halfling wizards running around Middle Earth.

If World of Warcraft has taught us one thing, it has taught us to place an imaginary sign that reads “Beware of the bouncing GO GO GO… thing” above the heads of all miniature mages, until proven otherwise.

How many other characters are sitting out there at level one, reserved as a concept, a moment of naming eureka, or because a player doesn’t want to see Legolas or any number of variations thereof on their server?

Therefore, a moment of reflection if it pleases you, and raise your glass: to all the level one placeholders out there, may you always afford your creators pleasure, even though you yourself may never see the light of a virtual day.

To the placeholders.

There is no end of craving. Hence contentment alone is the best way to happiness.

I’m disturbingly content with my MMO gaming life at the moment. It’s disturbing because my writing engine is powered by discontent and frustration, pumped together at high pressure into my mind it is a volatile mixture that lends itself easily to explosive outpourings given only the slightest of sparks to set it off. I’m just not sure that I’m wired for reporting on my daily happenings in my MMO of choice, or describing those things which make me happy in the game; I try to take the form of those things, transparent and illusive as they are, and wrap words around them in such a way as to give them shape and make their presence felt by others, but I get stuck. I try to describe them, I try to pack the words tightly around them and create a mould that others can pour their mind’s eye into and see the object that I have in my own imaginings, but all I can come up with is ‘nice’. Describing things as nice is like making a mould of the Venus de Milo out of ice cream, it may well form something vaguely like the famous statue of antiquity, but even the greatest supporter of interpretive works would have trouble identifying the object of its mimicry let alone making a case for its artistic merit.

Nevertheless here I am wanting to write, and here you are presumably wanting to read, so I shall try to form some image of what I’m doing at the moment that isn’t entirely beige.

Lord of the Rings Online is… nice. Oh dear.

I’ve been somewhat rejuvenated with regards to LotRO recently, where the static Monday group continues to move ever forward in levels and content, and seems to have found a steady rhythm of play which keeps things interesting. It’s important, I think, this rhythm in MMOs. What we do in these games is generally a repetitive task on some scale or other, be it the repetitive killing of mobs, or further up the scale the repetitive nature of questing, or further still the repetitive nature of end-game content. But, like a ritornello-form in composition, there is a dependence on a constant repetitive rhythm beneath the flourishes of excitement, the rhythm itself can change, of course, but it does so in less marked ways, and so it provides a context and a constant to the variations in the rest of the piece. So it is in MMOs: there is importance in finding a comfortable composition of play, such that you mix the familiar and easily accomplished achievements with those that are perhaps outside the bounds of your comfort zone. It is a balancing act of offsetting those things that may have become mundane through familiarity and confidence of accomplishment, with those that offer fresh experiences that will also bring with them challenges that may, at first, frustrate and de-motivate; strike the right balance and you will find that symphony of game-play which resonates within you so completely that it makes your soul hum. As with music, however, the right balance of play will often differ wildly from individual to individual, and here, I think, is where the greatest barrier to a healthy guild life is to be found. We seem to have found a strong balance in our band of six, but even then it is not always entirely harmonious, sometimes one of us will try to pull the carriage of progression in a different direction, while others continue to forge ahead on the well trod path, but always the reigns of compromise work to steady us and guide us along a suitable middle road. Imagine a carriage that is pulled by twenty or more people, how can one person be expected to hold reign over such a team when they can barely see those out at the front?

As well as the happy harmony of play in our static group I have also found a new class that matches my style of play more suitably. Having originally picked a dwarf Champion because it matched my favourite fantasy genre character – the hearty dwarf swinging a big axe with wild abandon from within a pressing crowd of angry greenskins – I gradually came to realise that the class didn’t match my favourite role in an MMO group, that being a supporter of others. Yes, I’m one of those miserable social types who gets most satisfaction in boosting the strengths of others such that they can overcome challenges which they might have otherwise thought impossible. Healer, buffer, debuffer, crowd control, any of those roles will suit me fine and keep me content. It doesn’t help that I am fully aware of how poor I am at tanking and how lacklustre my DPS usually is. Hence I saw an opportunity to switch roles, with our group having a Runekeeper, Hunter and Champion already, the DPS was safely covered and then some, and a second Champion, whilst not a burden, was not adding as much to the group as another more supportive class might bring. So I quietly levelled a Captain in the background and, having got them to level sixty three, the same as my Champion, I made the switch. I think the response in the group has been – outside of the obligatory “You’ve got an alt to this level already? Good grief!” which m’colleague has been heard to utter in more than one MMO during our adventures together – quite positive overall. I’m happy because I’m playing a role that I find enjoyable and that I’m not terrible at, and the group is happy because, well, with +50 to all stats and insane amounts of Power regeneration from a couple of buffs, I could probably stick myself on follow and read a book and be doing more for the group than I was before with my lacklustre attempt at being a damage dealer, and those are just two of the many tools that a Captain brings to the utility table.

Outside of the static group there’s much to do on my Captain should I want, with all of us fast approaching the game’s current level cap of sixty five, anything that would normally offer XP – the forbidden fruit of a static group – is now perfectly acceptable, and there are plenty of quests that I haven’t completed in Moria as well as Mirkwood. There are also all the completionist tasks to undertake such as getting virtues to their maximum level, which generally involves slogging through low level mobs and quests; I have volume one of the game’s story line still to complete, which, what with the recent modifications that Turbine have made, is now entirely soloable and thus I have no excuse to avoid the joys of jogging back and forth repeatedly across the wide expanse of Middle Earth like some sort of heavily armoured Forest Gump; there are also new skirmishes to play and new rewards to pick up there, both cosmetic and practical; I could grind out more legendary items and attempt to play the legendary lotto in the hope of getting that perfect weapon; I have both my gathering crafting professions at the highest level, but tailoring, my third and final profession, has been woefully neglected; and there are many other things that I can do to flesh out my character.

So what will I do first? I’ll level another alt, of course. I’ll pootle around and pick off some of the bits and pieces my main character needs, but my heart is in the creation of characters and the experience of watching them grow. End-game content in MMOs is so often about incremental steps, little improvements that, while impressive when taken as a whole, can never give that real sense of satisfaction that a new character does. It’s like polishing an existing silver service to a shine, or creating a new one from scratch which will be tarnished. There is pride and pleasure to be had from the polished service, and it will certainly be more likely to impress the Joneses when you invite them around for supper, but for someone like me there’s just so much more pleasure to be had from the act of creation, and with the variety of MMOs that I’m currently playing, the chance of burnout is greatly reduced: I have my characters in various static groups across various games, and need no more, anything I do over and above that will be pure undiluted entertainment, and if it isn’t then I can happily move on and try something else because my investment in my characters and the games that I play is not so high as to cause me great pains if I decide to move on.

It’s a… nice place to be.

Smile, breathe and go slowly.

If fighting your way through a dungeon armed with nothing more than a pair of light silk pyjamas and an ability to touch things with your quivering palm sounds like an exciting challenge, or an erotic adventure, then the Monk class in Dungeons and Dragons Online might be the career choice for you. One wonders how a person becomes a Monk in DDO, most likely through a careers fair at school where, based upon the feedback given – like to touch things with my quivering palm; prefer to wear light outfits that leave me exposed; spend a lot of time in a crouching position; able to move limbs rapidly back and forth in quick succession – they were offered the somewhat limited choice of either Monk or Adult Film Fluffer.

The Monk in DDO is an interesting class, I’ve spoken before about how the mechanics for the class are in some ways similar to those of the Warden in Lord of the Rings Online, and that, due to the hectic pace of the combat in DDO and the standard MMO UI, the class doesn’t quite hit the level of harmony that its Middle Earthian compatriot enjoys. It is strange, but for a class that is all about harmonious balance and oneness, the Monk as a class always seems slightly at odds with the rest of the game.

To start with, the Monk relies on Ki to power its special moves and its special special move, or finishing move to properly name it, and although the Monk can store some Ki in between fights, at the lower levels at least, it never seems to be enough. The combat in DDO is so fast paced and frantic that by the time the Monk has built enough Ki to activate three of their special attacks and thus open up the option of the special special ability, the fight is over and the Monk is left with a useful buff or heal that is all ready to go but for a lack of Ki to power it, which is deeply frustrating in itself and doubly so when combined with another element of the class that appears to be there purely to rankle the player.

First a little pondering on front-loaded versus slow-burn abilities. It’s an element of many MMOs: the Mage with their pool of spell points all ready and waiting to be used versus the Warrior or Rogue type who has to build up rage/fervour/combo points/Ki in order to activate their more damaging abilities. It was a frustration for me in LotRO with my Champion and, having played a Runekeeper for a while, was part of the reason that I decided to drop the class and change to something else. For me it’s more fun and of greater utility to be able to let rip with a number of abilities right from the beginning of a fight than have to wait for what seems like an eternity while being wailed on by a bunch of angry pixelated script routines. It also seems that, in a very general case, if you have to wait a while to build-up enough smite juice to perform your class’s abilities, it would probably be fair for those abilities to be of greater power than those of a class that can use them freely right from the onset of conflict; rarely do I see classes of the slow-burn sort with abilities that outstrip the front-loaded abilities of those classes with a fixed pool of power, often they’re lucky if the two are even on a par. Ah, but the classes with a fixed pool have a finite resource, whereas those classes that build-up their power over time technically have a limitless supply! Which is a fair point, but how often do we see concessions to front-loaded classes in an MMO, such that they’re given ways to refill their sapphire scrotums with spell sperm? And how often do fights in an MMO last long enough that these classes are in danger of blowing their load and thus risk standing limp and spent at the back of the battle? Raiding is generally where it balances out, but if you’re not a raider and just enjoy small group dungeons and questing with your friends, it’s hard not to be frustrated by the fellow who can remove two thirds of a mob’s health bar before you’ve had enough time to whip out your weapon, let alone fluff it up enough that you can get some decent penetration with it.

As well as being a slow-burn class in a game where fights are fast and frantic – DDO combat is to WoW as a Vin Diesel film about chess would be to a documentary about Kasparov versus Deep Blue, at least I’m pretty sure Kasparov never played the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit whilst hanging from the bonnet of a speeding car and firing a 9mm at his opponent – the Monk also has a curious phobia of interacting with objects. It’s not a phobia as such, but in my mind that’s how it would appear to others, because if a Monk has their special special move ready to use and they interact with any object before they’ve activated said special special move, the ‘charge’ of the move is removed, or wasted as some might look at it. There’s nothing more frustrating than being in a dungeon and having a much needed healing special special move all lined up, needing one or two Ki more in order to be able to use it, and finding yourself standing at the base of a ladder. Doors also become an enemy to revile, loot chests become bittersweet rewards, levers and switches are spiteful and venomous, anything, anything that requires you to interact with it is anathema. Playing in a group becomes positively embarrassing:

Fighter: “So we’re all set, the Rogue will stealth in to the room right after the Monk opens the door”

Monk: “NO!”

Fighter: “What’s wrong?!”


Fighter: “Why? OMG, TRAP? Rogue, why didn’t you spot the trap?!”

Rogue: “There isn’t a trap!”


Fighter: “Dischar…? Dude, that’s sick!”

Rogue: “What’s up? What did he say?”

Fighter: “Dude said he was going to ejaculate if he touched the door.”

Rogue: “Ewww, god, what sort of sick fu…”

Monk: “No, no, you’ve got it all wrong. My power will discharge. Yes? I will go karmically limp. My ability to buff you all will be removed until I furiously pound some more kobolds and regenerate my energy.”

Fighter: “Oh god, I think I’m gonna hurl”

Rogue: “What? What did he say now?”

Fighter: “He says he wants to get jiggy with some kobolds so that he can get up the energy to rub our co…”

Rogue: “ALRIGHT. Enough. I’ll open the damn door, sheesh. You could have just ASKED.”

Monk: “Nobody understands me. Let me place my quivering palm on you and buff your co…”

<Fighter has left the party>
<Rogue has left the party>

Monk: “…nstitution. Your constitution. Hello?”

Seriously, I’ve stood at a door having the “I can’t touch the door otherwise I’ll lose my special special power” conversation with my group, and I’m pretty sure it only served to further cement in their minds the impression that I am quite, quite mad. And possibly a pervert.

I’ve no idea why the Monk’s special special ability would need to be discharged like that, maybe there’s a facet of the game that I’m not understanding, but I can’t think of many exploits that would be possible by charging up a special move and having it remain until the Monk next needed it, especially seeing as many of the Monk’s special special moves are simple one-minute duration party buffs, hardly an overpowered thing to have ready at the start of a fight.

Which leads me onto the other curious disharmony of the Monk’s mechanics, the fact that most of their special special moves are one-minute duration party buffs. Most fights as part of a competent party last all of fifteen seconds and, if the Monk is lucky, will provide just enough Ki to power one special special move. Now, the time it takes for the party to find the next group of mobs can be much more than a minute, especially if they’re taking things slowly and not trying the Indiana Jones style of trap avoidance by running pell-mell through the dungeon with their eyes closed while holding on to their hats. So the Monk doesn’t want to fire-off the buff at the end of combat because it is highly likely that it will have expired before the next combat begins. So they hold on to it. Why waste it, they think, I’ll just hold on to it until the next fight. I’ll have it ready for the start of the fight and we’ll all have a nice little buff to get us through it. I’ve worked hard for this buff, it took me time and coordination to build up the combination required to activate it while I was in the middle of that hectic fight. Yes, I will hold on to it and use it later, and the group will be most pleased!

And the Monk, cheered by their sensible approach to the situation, breaks out of their personal reverie and rejoins the conversation just at the point when the Fighter says:

“So we’re all set, the Rogue will stealth in to the room right after the Monk opens the door”


Eyeing-up a storm.

There’s already been much gnashing of teeth over the recently revealed Priest abilities in World of Warcraft.

Leap of Faith (level 85): Pull a party or raid member to your location. Leap of Faith (or “Life Grip”) is intended to give priests a tool to help rescue fellow players who have pulled aggro, are being focused on in PvP, or just can’t seem to get out of the fire in time. Instant. 30-yard range. 45-second cooldown.

Inner Will (level 83): Increases movement speed by 12% and reduces the mana cost of instant-cast spells by 10%.

I don’t see what the problem is myself, clearly someone on the Blizzard developer team has simply had one too many Eye of the Storm battleground flags poached out from under them by travel-form Druids and Shamans, so now they can whip those bad boys out of the way and beat them in a race back to the flag and glory!

Or instant death if they’re playing as Alliance.

I’m still working out the logistics of a Warlock-summon/Priest-pull combo. that will send unsuspecting running players off the edge of high places to their doom. Or maybe we could get Priests to stand on the other side of portals and yank players through!

Best skill ever, and therefore it will never make it into the game proper. For shame.

Thought for the day

With 28 days to the General Election, the digital political battleground is hotting up through blogs, Google, Twitter, Facebook and the like. One avenue seems to have been missed so far, though; why no official party guilds in MMOGs yet? “We are standing on a platform of fiscal responsibility, economic savings through efficiency improvements in the public sector, and removal of the random dungeon cooldown.” If stirring oratory doesn’t do the trick, there’s always PvP; first to five flag captures gets to be PM!

We have seen the future, and the future is arse.

The move to mass market multiplayer MMOGs. The future of online gaming. The social explosion of interactive content. The current ruse to get gullible venture capitalists to part with vast wads of cash. No matter how you look at it, it seems that lots of people are talking about social gaming as the future of interactive entertainment, the future of humanity, the redeemer of our souls and the solution to life, the universe and everything except how to get a medicine tablet into a cat without needing stitches and antibiotics yourself afterwards. It’s the revolution of our online gaming existence.

Just like Second Life before it. And VR. And user generated content. And… you get the idea.

It seems that some clever people have managed to tap into the addict response to virtual rewards and social peer pressure that we have all come to know and love and get therapy for in MMOs, and ported it into a Facebook friendly format. It’s the electronic equivalent of discovering a legal method of selling crack cocaine to your granny. They’ve taken the MMO habit and made it even more acceptable and accessible to the general populace. They’ve made a lot of money doing it. Other people want a lot of money too. So other people are now jumping on the bandwagon and churning out similar games, while yet other people attempt to make a living as all-seeing prophesiers of the future of gaming as being exclusively Facebook-based. It’s Attack of the Warcraft Clones again, but this time in fast-forward.

Anyway, so as not to be left in the dusty pixels of this latest frenzied land-grab at the electronic frontier, I thought I’d offer some idea of the future games that may appear out of the current social gaming gangbang:

Pay Our Venture Capital Loans Online: An interesting social game spawned from the team behind an astonishingly successful platform for democratizing the development of virtual worlds. The premise behind the game is that the developers will spend several years building a community around the idea that that they have seen how the future will be and that they therefore understand the market perfectly (just like they did when trying to convince us that 2.5D graphics and user-generated content were the way to go) before releasing a confused clickfest that is packed full of so many conflicting ideas that it has no idea what it actually wants the players to do. Eventually replaced with a flashy loading screen and a big button that changes colour every time someone clicks on it and pays money to the developer.

Darkfall Adventures: From the developers of the niche hardcore MMO that ‘really is absolutely amazing if only most people weren’t too stupid to realise it’, comes this expansion of the core concepts of Darkfall into the social space. Darkfall Adventures introduces the idea of the ‘foes list’ where you can add all of the people that you hate in your regular social circles. The game then allows you to send messages to all your friends telling them how much you hate Y, while simultaneously sending Y a message telling them that you’re giving them a virtual hug. The game-play involves opening your friends list and tediously dragging all of the ten thousand people that you tenuously know as a friend of a friend of a friend of your aunts friend’s second cousin twice removed who you only added in order to make yourself look popular, to your new foes list, one at a time. If anyone sends you a message, virtual hug, virtual fish tank for your virtual doll house, virtual virtual doll house for your virtual doll house, or any other form of spammy social media moronicity while you’re doing this, the list resets and you have to start all over again. Definitely one for the High School socialites.

World of Warcraft – The LFD Years: With the popularity of the LFD tool, Blizzard have stripped away the extraneous rubbish to concentrate on the essential social experience. Choose and purchase an adventurer from the item shop. Choose and purchase gear for your adventurer from the item shop. Choose and purchase a dungeon pack from the item shop. Then send your hero out into the world and get ready to experience the World of Warcraft as you’ve never seen it before! Each day you have a number of actions to spend on clicking your LFD button in an attempt to get a group. If you get a group you can spend any remaining actions on clicking the OMG, WTF and GO GO GO buttons in order to spam-convince your friends into playing the game with you and thus completing the dungeon together before you run out of actions and get kicked from the instance. Extra actions can be purchased from the item shop. If you make it to the end of the dungeon, revel in your rewards, as you gain any number of unique epic items that your character alone can equip. Epic items may also be purchased in the item shop.

My Lord! Online: Women! With big breasts! Women with big breasts who like to touch one another! If you like women with big breasts who like to touch one another, then this would be the social game for you if we had any! But we don’t, so you’ll just have to give us some money for a 5×5 pixel graphic that might be a pair of breasts, or an orc. My Lord! Online: The Second Coming will be a game where you can send a virtual legal summons to those friends who reside in a different country to you, before quickly rescinding it and paying them some virtual cash instead. Virtual cash can be purchased from the cash shop with real cash (virtual cash not accepted).

Allod of Nerve – The WTF Years: Plays very much like World of Warcraft – The LFD Years but all the prices in the item shop have an extra two zeros on the end for anyone not playing on

Dragon Age Party: Bioware’s thrust into the dark hole of social gaming is based on the randy goings-on in the party camp of their Dragon Age series of games. Simply recruit as many friends as you can to join you at the camp and then send each other virtual presents until one of them relents and gives you a sympathy shag before getting themselves killed by Darkspawn, or their real life partner, whoever finds them first.

Easter Gaming Roundup

I’ve got something of a gaming logjam building up; Bioshock 2, Psychonauts and Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising are all patiently hanging around the Steam games list with barely an hour or two played between them, so with a couple of days holiday over Easter I thought I’d be able to get a decent run-up at one or two of them.

MMOG-wise, Dungeons and Dragons Online continues to work quite splendidly as a once-a-week game with the Irredeemable Waifs every Friday, along with the odd extra-curricular dungeon delve and a bit of inventory housekeeping and auctioneering here and there. I’m having enough fun to justify a monthly subscription, but I think it would still irk me slightly if that was the only choice. As it is I’m more than happy to spend Turbine points on fripperies like a bright green ponytail mohawk as well as the more sensible stuff like the adventures packs; we made a start on the Vault of Night this week, which has been a lot of plummeting-into-a-lava-pit fun so far.

With the RUSE public beta drawing to a close I spent a fair bit of time launching massed artillery strikes against my foes. And also playing RUSE (aaaah!) (No, not ‘aaaah’.) I seemed to hit some sort of problem that meant about one in five times when looking for a multiplayer game it would just hang at the “Connecting…” screen, requiring killing the process off in Task Manager, which put a bit of a crimp on things, but I still managed a few decent games. There was quite a fun four player Free For All that ended up as a three-way tie, the timer ticking down as I finished destroying the Blue player’s main base, mostly because the bulk of his forces were off destroying the Red player’s base, and meanwhile the Turquoise player finished with almost the same points total from wiping out the Red player’s attack on him. Also a couple of slightly frustrating 3v3 team games where I’d been doing reasonably well myself, but a team-mate either lost connection or decided things weren’t working out and surrendered; in those cases the game passes on control of any remaining troops to another member of the team, I presume the one with the highest score, which is about as fair as you can hope for, but it’s as much as I can manage to focus on a single sector, and when the second player on the team decides that’s it and quits as well there isn’t much point carrying on. Playing head-to-head would obviously remove the reliance on the rest of your team, but I prefer the scale and unpredictability of the larger battles. I’m still undecided about this in retail, with the backlog of other games I’ll probably wait until it’s on sale, but if you’re after an RTS it’s well worth a look.

I found Napoleon: Total War cheap online a few weeks back, but I hadn’t even got around to installing it with RUSE on the go. From flipping through a few user comments on either Eurogamer or Rock, Paper, Shotgun, general opinion of Empire: Total War seemed quite low, enough to put many people off Napoleon, but I thoroughly enjoyed sweeping across Europe and painting the world the correct shade of British Empire pink, and with the RUSE beta winding down I finally got around to installing it. I’ve only whipped through a few tutorial bits, but it looks like Empire with a bit more polish so should be excellent. Apart from playing as Napoleon, of course; I don’t mind defeating Austria and invading Russia, but I draw the line at re-writing history at Waterloo (stands to attention, plays Rule Britannia etc.)

In other irresistible bargain news Borderlands was half price on Steam, so I felt morally obliged to grab it; fired it up for a quick look on Saturday playing as a Hunter, got to about level 7, decided I wasn’t too keen on the class, created a new Siren, and wound up around level 19 by Monday evening. It’s really rather addictive, with all that lovely randomly generated loot to collect, and probably deserves a fuller write-up. Just a couple of small tips for anyone else who’s just grabbed it recently:
1) If you’re getting blank textures inside buildings, and you’re running the v9.11 ATI Catalyst drivers, then upgrading to the latest version might solve the problem
2) To disable the SODDING UNSKIPPABLE INTRO MOVIES, see this PC Tweaks thread on the Gearbox forums. Whoever thought it’s a good idea to force a player to sit through the four company logos every time they start the game needs to be made to sit through the four company logos ON REPEAT FOR THE WHOLE OF ETERNITY. Or a few hours, if they repent.