Wednesday 31 July 2013

Fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way

I like xkcd. I was going to say I love xkcd, but that might be going a bit far, I haven’t gone geohashing or played chess on a rollercoaster; thinking about degrees-of-liking-stuff rang a vague bell about a quote, from back in the dim, distant past when I had a quotefile, a bit of Googling turned it up as Skif’s Internet Theorem:
“Every fleeting thought you’ve ever had in your life, no matter how bizarre, is someone’s lifelong obsession. And they have a website.”

It really needs an Ironic Addendum: “… except Skif’s Internet Theorem”, as the majority of Google hits appear to be from other people’s .sig quotes, the only real page I could find devoted to the theorem itself was in archive form. “You know people deeper down the rabbit hole than yourself, so you reassure yourself you must be the normal one” is a similar sentiment, expressed in one of a series of 28 dates on 28 different dating sites by a former WoW raider and dab hand at 40K that I stumbled across when random browsing and Related Articles links turned up a rather fun account of a Date in Day Z.

Anyway, xkcd; I read the strips when they pop up in the RSS reader (I’ve switched to Feedly, after the poor folks of The Old Reader got somewhat overwhelmed, with the added benefit of a nifty mobile app I can take advantage of on a shiny new Android phone), check the alt-text, smile (mostly) or look slightly puzzled, then wander off to the next article. I don’t particularly remember strip 1190, Time, I guess I filed it as one I didn’t really get, but a blagpost revealed something quite amazing: it’s a story that played out at one frame per hour over four months, 3099 drawings in total, and had developed a thread/wiki/subculture all of its own. I had no idea the rabbit hole was there, let alone how deep it went…

Tuesday 16 July 2013

However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results

Thanks to the good ol’ Steam sale I snapped up a bargain “Gold Edition Upgrade” for Civilisation V with a bunch of DLC and the Gods & Kings expansion, so if I ever get around to finishing my ongoing campaign (where I’m feeling slightly guilty about bombarding enemy cavalry with MLRS units) I can kick off another bout of world domination with even more options. The addition of trading cards to Total War: Shogun 2 also prompted me to get that patched up, and dust off another campaign that ground to a halt last year sometime. Today I picked up another umpteen hours of strategy action with the Wargame bundle; I was a fan of R.U.S.E. so I’d had my eye on the imaginatively titled series for a while, especially after a positive review from hex-maestro Tim Stone of Wargame: AirLand Battle (presumed tagline: “It’s a wargame with both air and land battles”; I hope Eugen expand into other genres and release Fightinggame: Cartoon Characters Punch Other Cartoon Characters, or Drivinggame: Cars Drive Around Trying To Drive Around Faster Than Other Cars).

It’s something of a clich√© to have a Steam library backlog longer than the average human lifespan, but when Galactic Civilisations II Ultimate Edition popped up in a Flash Sale I had to resist, otherwise the only strategy game I’d ever play would be trying to allocate the time and bandwidth resources needed to download and play a library full of strategy games…

Friday 12 July 2013

Random Roundup

Posts about pricing are swirling around the place, f’rexample at Gamasutra; I don’t think much has happened over the last three or four years, since the first big wave of subscription MMOGs turning free to play, to change my general position; “free to play” covers such a wide range of methods and models that it’s pretty meaningless to discuss in generalities. Rob Fahey on gamesindustry.biz has a fine and balanced take on the whole business.

Also swirling about the place are sharks, in a tornado. Sharknado (tagline: “Enough Said”) has been trending on Twitter, and there’s a great article about the wave (MEGA-SQUID-WAVE!) of Asylum/Syfy B movies, with some interesting snippets perhaps somewhat relevant to price/content discussions, B movies in previous eras being packaged with A movies, quality not being a priority (Drive-in-movie-theater owners of the post-war era snapped up the cheap fare to pacify captive viewers stuck in their cars. “As long as people were heading to the snack bar,” Davis says, “exhibitors didn’t care.”), with the current generation performing a similar role to pad out subscription service catalogues.

Speaking of padded catalogues, the Great Steam Summer Sale is upon us, together with recently added trading cards. They seem to have snuck under the radar somewhat, I haven’t seen too many pieces about them. It’s quite an odd idea, meta-achievements and badges effectively in a shop; possibly evil, possibly genius, probably both. Trading cards do take me back to the 1980s, small boys, in the playground, isn’t it? Wasn’t it? Return of the Jedi, the 1986 World Cup, Garbage Pail Kids, got, got, got, NEED! I’ll give you the Belgian goalkeeper and a shiny badge for R2D2… I’ve assembled a couple of collections from buying and selling cards in the Community Market, Valve must be absolutely raking it in from the fees there. I also stumbled across a bunch of Team Fortress 2 items in my inventory from assorted other pre-orders and similar, which gave a bit of an insight into the crazy world of the Team Fortress 2 market; never mind Bitcoins as a digital currency, Valve are probably plotting a Steam based global economy centred around virtual trading cards and hats…

In other forms of alternative funding Kickstarter projects continue to proliferate, I recently backed Satellite Reign, a sort of spiritual Syndicate successor, and slightly more unusually, jerky; Martin’s Jerked Meat had a stall at Chalke Valley, and their wasabi jerky was most excellent, so I jumped in after seeing Warren Ellis tweet a link to their Kickstarter for new equipment.

Wednesday 3 July 2013

In Memoriam Google Reader

So. Farewell then
Google Reader. It saw things
you people wouldn’t believe:
the very mysteries of the
universe, recipes for cupcakes,
slightly rehashed
press releases, the raw stench
of desperation.
All these moments
will be lost in time
like posts after you “Mark all as read”.

E. J. Zoso, age 17½

(OK, so it happened a couple of days ago; I migrated over to The Old Reader after the initial announcement a few months back so didn’t really think about it, until talking to Melmoth about how todaysgamingdrama.tumblr.com really distilled the gaming news of the day; as he put it, “A real solution to the loss of Google Reader.”)

Monday 1 July 2013

Chalke Valley History Festival 2013

The Chalke Valley History Festival is a week long combination of a literary festival, featuring talks and debates with many leading historians, and living history encampment, with re-enactors from Romans and Vikings to World War II and myriad periods between. I saw a piece about it on the local news; sword fighting school, a World War I trench and an air show with Spitfires? Perfect!

Unfortunately, only finding out at the last minute, many of the talks were sold out; I would’ve particularly loved to see Eric “Winkle” Brown in person. Still, we toddled off through beautiful rolling countryside to the festival site in the depths of Wiltshire, and the English weather was good enough to to forget it was supposed to be turning Glastonbury into a mudbath.

Not all of the talks were completely booked, there were spaces in many of the morning sessions, so I went along to see “ACHTUNG! Commando Comics”, editor Calum Laird talking about the history of the comic from its first issue in 1961 to present day digital distribution (with great foresight, the comic is about the same size as an iPad screen), and how an issue is put together. Taking advantage of the venue, a parade of re-enactors covering just about every theatre of World War II lined the stage, including a couple of Commandos able to display the real Fairbairn-Sykes dagger present on the cover of every issue of the comic.

Wandering around the festival presented some fantastic scenes, I’m not sure where else you’d see a troop of Napoleonic soldiers marching past a group of Regency dancers being watched by a Waffen-SS Hauptsturmf√ľhrer eating an ice cream. A group of Plantagenet re-enactors demonstrated weapons and armour from various phases of The Hundred Years’ War:

Is there someone else up there we can talk to?

Is there someone else up there we can talk to?

It was quite warm enough wandering around in a pair of shorts, I can’t imagine the heat under the padding and multiple layers of armour they were in. If you were inspired by what you saw there were plenty of stalls selling all manner of arms and armour, from full size helmets and pikes to wooden swords and shields for kids.

Lunch was accompanied by a Hurricane IIc of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, and a couple of hours later the airshow kicked off with a Hawker Sea Fury, followed by a World War I dogfight between a Junkers CL1, Sopwith Triplane and a couple of SE5As, then three Spitfires Mk IXs, one solo, another pair arriving in formation with a Hurricane and Messerschmitt Bf 108. Jon from How To Murder Time had a suitably large lens and got some magnificent shots:

Sopwith Triplane

Sopwith Triplane

A pair of SE5As

A pair of SE5As

Messerschmitt Bf 108

Messerschmitt Bf 108

Hawker Hurricane

Hawker Hurricane

Supermarine Spitfire Mk IX

Supermarine Spitfire Mk IX

Supermarine Spitfire Mk IX

Supermarine Spitfire Mk IX

All in all a really excellent day out, and I’ll be keeping a close eye for announcements about next year’s event.