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Mar. 26th, 2012


The Trouble with Being Human

Spoilers for the last episode of Being Human ahoy.

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Nov. 28th, 2011


Cthulhu f'tagn!

I'm currently playing through Sherlock Holmes Vs Cthulhu (a game whose official name I don't recall). It's quite shit, but I'm sticking with it.

Why is it shit? Well, mostly the scripting. I'm not talking about the dialogue here - though it is fairly lame and re-uses lines to the point where Holmes sounds a shade unimaginative. Or possibly he's wittily back-referencing himself and cleverly demonstrating how the same sentence can apply in vaguely similar circumstances. Anyway, it's not that. That just makes it mediocre.

The scripting that makes it shit is the action-X-triggers-event-Y scripting. The whole game is based around it, and for an investigative game with multiple clues in a fairly large area that becomes frustrating. As an example: While searching a house I came across some muddy footprints and a trail of blood. The game acknowledged there were footprints, and noted there was blood. But until I'd found and clicked om every interactable patch of footprints and/or blood, Holmes would not conclude they were a trail. My first impulse was of course to follow the trail; inside the house it led to the scene of a scuffle and (Holmes assured himself out loud) abduction. Abduction! We must immediately follow the trail out of the house to find the miscreants!

No, in fact, we mustn't. The game has decided this only occurs at the end of the scene, and has therefore blocked the passage with an impenetrable wall of mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes, a clue tells me, can be repelled with lemon juice. Ah, here is a lemon tree! I can use these lemons to ... No, no I can't. Holmes is completely uninterested in the lemons until we've opened the safe, entered the trophy room, gone back outside, rescued the maid, questioned her brother and identified the householder's girlfriend. At which point the abductee suddenly becomes crucial, and lemons suddenly become pickable.

In this case the kidnapping was five days previous, so to be fair there was little chance of finding said miscreants; and indeed the trail led only to an empty jetty. This makes it all the more frustrating as there is no particular plot reason why we could not have followed the trail earlier. It was simply that the game had made assumptions (or decisions) about the order in which you would do things and was not prepared to do otherwise.

It's not just the parts where you can't do what you want, either; there are also places where you don't know what they want you to do. Twice thus far the game has transferred control from Holmes to Watson and (once, literally) said "I think you know what to do". I had not a clue and was unable to proceed until I worked out what. Not how - what. It's the worst kind of adventure game, where the game itself is a puzzle rather than a medium for presenting puzzles.

Luckily the game has a built-in "strategy" guide which has helpful headings like "How does Watson water the horse?" Which tells me, without even opening the section, that I am supposed to be watering the horse.[1]

Why, then, am I sticking with it? Because it's Sherlock Holmes versus Cthulhu. Yeah, boys.

[1] Though in fact this one I did figure out myself, because while clicking on everything in the room I hit upon Holmes, who asked, "Well? Have you watered the horse yet?" And I was like, "No, Holmes, I have not, and perhaps if you had suggested that I do so in the first place instead of playing these infernal guessing games then I could have made some progress in that direction, and why do I have to go outside to the fountain, what is wrong with the water in the taps?" And he was like, "Well? Have you watered the horse yet?" And I did, just so we could all move on with our lives.

The horse wasn't even important to the plot, it was just lying on a hammer which we didn't need until three scenes later when we still had full access to the horse. And, of course, you can't water the horse earlier out of simple altruism. That would be too easy.

Nov. 17th, 2011


I'm Looking At You, Serenity


Here is the Green Lantern Movie logo:


And here is the Green Lantern movie blu-ray box cover:


What the hell kind of branding is this? Plain font? Bank Gothic? Bank motherufkcing Gothic?

It's one thing to use a plain font in your logo, but to abandon your logo in favour of plain font text is just nonsense.

Aug. 24th, 2011

Watchmen Babies

The New Pull List

I've realised that LiveJournal has one massive advantage over Facebook, Twitter and G+: The archive calendar system. As it's designed as a long-term journal, it's geared towards being able to browse back through old entries and see what you were doing on a particular day in history. For example, today in 2005 I was ... well, I was doing a lot of what I do today on Facebook, Twitter and G+. But there have been occasions when it has been useful to look up, say, the day I began working with my current employer, or what date I vacated an old flat, or what-have-you.

Anyway, in other news, I've had to review my comics standing order.

For those of you not all up ons the goings-on of the comic book industry, DC Comics have decided to start over this month with a clean slate - well, sort of. Yes, everyone's got new costumes with extra lines, Superman was officially the first public superhero, he never married Lois, loads of stories have been hewn away from the collective persistent universe ... but at the same time Batman is basically unchanged, down to having had at least three different Robins in what is officially a ten-year span of in-character time. Teen Titans appear to be all-new all-overhauled ... but the Green Lantern Corps seem to be emerging more or less unscathed.

To be honest I'm not really keeping up with all the leaks and articles about the new universe because life's too short and I'd rather read the damn things. My point is, they're cancelling all their ongoing titles and launching 52 new ones, all starting with #1. So, as mentioned above, I've had to go through the list and think carefully about which ones I want, and which ones I am basically uninterested in. It was tricky; some were no-brainers based on creators or characters (yes, even though for the most part they're sort-of not the same characters as before, I remain loyal to the base concept), or both. I ended up with a list of 10 that I really wanted and 2 that I was interested in but couldn't really justify the expense. As luck would have it my faithful comic-book store, Travelling Man, happen to be running a DC-Nu promotion whereby when you buy 5 titles they give you a 6th for free, so I can get my two "also-rans" for no charge (until December, apparently, by which point I should be able to decide whether or not they are worth sticking with).

Here's my new pull list, see if you can guess which ones are the also-rans. I may go into a breakdown of which ones were taken for which reasons at some point...

Justice League
The Fury of Firestorm
Justice League International
Mister Terrific
Green Lantern
Green Lantern: The New Guardians
Resurrection Man
Legion Lost
Legion of Super-Heroes
Teen Titans
Blue Beetle

Aug. 17th, 2011


(no subject)

I've been reading the "Biggles" books which sat on my Grandad's bookcase for longer than I've been alive. I always meant to read them, just to see, and now he's gone I thought, "what the hell, they're only going to be chucked if I don't grab them." So I did.

"Biggles in Australia" was fairly bad with the racism (not all aborigines were bad, though they were consistently described in animalistic terms), and "Biggles in the Gobi" was about the same (ascribing an uncontrollable love of explosives to the Chinese people).

No Rest for Biggles, however, makes for very uncomfortable reading. It's set in Liberia and seems to thoroughly disapprove of "blacks" running their own country. Biggles can't even accept for a moment that the nefarious plane-abducting plot could be concocted by anything other than a white man, or that the device being used could ever have been "the invention of a coloured man." (Of course Biggles is proved right in short order.)

These are 1956 editions, it's possible the versions on the shelves today would be somewhat sanitised. One would certainly hope so. Regardless, I think after this one I'm done with Biggles.

Jun. 27th, 2011


Things I did not like about the Green Lantern movie

SpoilersCollapse )

So it's not that it's a bad movie. It's a weak movie. It's kind of pretty-but-shallow. But it could have been much, much worse.

Mar. 7th, 2011


Thanks again, Steve


"Note: Over-the-air Notes syncing is not supported on iPhone 3G or iPod touch (2nd generation)."

Yes. Yes, it is. The iPhone 3G and iPod touch (2nd generation) are totally capable of supporting this feature. There's no reason why this perfectly simple data transaction would be beyond the sturdy little iPhone 3G and/or iPod touch (2nd generation). In fact, for about a week after iOS4 rolled out, my iPod Touch (2nd generation) was happily syncing[1] notes without my telling it. Then with the next update it went away, because Apple had decided that this flavour was perhaps too EXTREME for a mere second-class citizen like myself.

This is not a question of hardware limitations or compatibility, Apple, and don't try to imply that it is by way of your ambiguous "not supported" phrase. It's only not supported because you've decided they should not support it. This is another clear example of you arbitrarily withholding a feature from your customers purely in order to get us to buy the newer model.

There goes any sense of brand loyalty I may have had. So, these HTC Desires, then...

[1] "Sync" is a word which is here used to mean "backup", as it only works in one direction - it makes a copy of your notes on your mail server. Handy for copy-and-pasting into another application on your PC, I guess.

Feb. 21st, 2011


Minor administrative note

Following a spate of spam comments, I have changed my journal defaults; it will now present a CAPTCHA form for non-friends, screen comments from non-friends that contain links and prevent anonymous users from commenting at all. Hopefully this will not interfere with your enjoyment.

Dec. 10th, 2010

Smug, Dirk

Logic Fail

The Family Guy "Season Eight*" DVDs start with an anti-piracy advert that is, to me, more annoying than "You Wouldn't Steal a Car", and falls prey to the same logical fallacies**.

It depicts a happy group of friends sitting down to watch a legally-purchased DVD together. See how wise and attractive they are! They're having a really good time together, and all have massive cocks. This is contrasted with a lonely, greasy, desaturated nerd, sitting in his cold studio lighting and waiting to download the same movie illegally. The fool! Had he bought the same movie from a shop he would be watching it now, he would have friends and be well-endowed. Instead he has no choice but to sit watching the screen as the movie downloads.

This is, of course, fanciful nonsense that serves no purpose. Anyone who actually knows how to download a movie will be perfectly aware that you are free to do anything you please while your diligent computer slave is downloading things. But the part that bugs me most is the false comparison: you can't compare slipping the disk in to downloading the movie.

Downloading the movie is equivalent to going to the shops, ordering online or downloading legally (via Netflix, Xbox Live, iPlayer or whatever). As noted, downloading is clearly preferable to the physical alternatives.

Slipping the disk in, on the other hand, is comparable to firing up the downloaded movie on your burned disk, storage device or DLNA server. And you know what? The downloader will be the one who is quickly served his desired entertainment to enjoy with his family and friends. It's the guys with the shop-bought DVD who have to sit around and wait. Because they're forced to sit through trailer after trailer, and unskippable public service announcements about how if they'd bought this movie legally they'd be watching the movie right now. which is, of course, an inherent lie.

I don't believe I've downloaded any movies for myself that haven't been either unavailable to buy or already owned (eg on VHS), but really, it feels very much like they're trying to tell me that I should.

* Not actually Season 8 of the TV show, it's actually episodes from (I think) seasons 6 and 7. For some reason this irritates me intensely. Not so much that they're releasing random (if sequential) chunks of episodes, just that they label them "seasons" when they patently aren't. Presumably this is because it's the terminology they think the public expects, but it's still a lie.
** Haha! Phallus-y.

Nov. 30th, 2010

Smug, Dirk

Number Crunching (Thinking Aloud)

It's weird, there are no deals on the 250 gigabyte XBox, but loads on the 4 gig iteration.

Considering the massive difference in HD size, you would think the 4GB would be the stripped-down, cheap-as-they-could-get-it, no-further-discounts version. But no, it turns out the 4GB version is the one with the disposable markup, and the 250GB HD makes it so expensive that the shops can't afford to give you any money off. Cheapest I've seen is Toys 'Я' Us, which is down a whopping £10 to £189.99.

(I love that the official RRP is £199.99. That 1p difference really makes it seem cheaper than £200!)

Thinking about what I use my XBox hard disk for ... I do have some ripped CDs on there, but I rarely use them and in any case can stream from my PC if I need music. I also use it for installing games to hard disk - you still need the CD to run the game, but it doesn't need to load data from it, making it quieter and faster. Potentially the noise will be less of an issue with the new model (which allegedly has less fan/disc noise in general), but the load time is still a factor for me, and your typical X360 game seems to need between 4 and 6 GB to install itself completely. On top of that, I like to download demos and similar from Xbox Live, which would be basically impossible with the 4GB model.

With that in mind, there's no real chance that I would get by with the 4GB model. What is the point of it? I guess it's better than the old "no hard disk" version - it'll store your progress and profiles and such - but really, not by much.

So, thanks to this "all or nothing" approach, I doubt I'll be upgrading any time soon. Well done, Microsoft! You have priced yourself out of the market. I'll be sticking with my 60GB middle-of-the-road package for now, thanks all the same.

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Smug, Dirk

March 2012



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