Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Eurogamer Expo 2010: Gears 3, Bulletstorm, and Shogun 2: Total War

I went to Eurogamer on Sunday and met up with two people I'd never seen in real life before. My mother thought I was going to be abducted by paedophiles. I convinced her that I'm too good a judge of character for that to happen. Unfortunately, I overestimated my character-judging skills and I am now writing to you from a locked room in a basement somewhere in north London.
Anyway, let's get on to the games.
First up, Gears 3. This is the entire reason I bought tickets, got a fake ID (I'm not 18 until Monday!) and took the time to go. I was not disappointed. For my thoughts on Gears 3, head over to this post on the official Gears forums. There's also this short video that one of the paedophiles forced me to shoot:
Next up, Bulletstorm. I only played through the demo of this once. I had my expectations set high as it's being developed by People Can Fly & Epic. Once again, I was not disappointed. There were 2 guns in the demo - An assault rifle and a gun that shot two sticky remotely-detonated balls attached together by a chain (I'm sure it has a proper name, but this just sounds better).
The assault rifle behaved like an assault rifle should behave, and that was good. That formula shouldn't be messed with. The second gun behaves nothing like you've ever played with before. It was a joy to use once you got the hang of it - sticking it to the ground and laying traps, sticking it to people and detonating them near their friends - and it just plain rocked. This is the kind of weapon you would expect in a Ratchet & Clank game, yet it somehow works in a gritty shooter.

But this game goes way beyond guns. I has a laser whip and a giant boot. I could leash enemies towards me, watch them float around in low gravity for a split second, then kick them into the nearest giant cactus. This is the kind of hook that chainsawing was in the original Gears - but it was only the beginning. I could kick people into man-eating plants, kick people into explosive objects, kick people and then shoot them, kick people off cliffs, kick people into other people, or just kick people, leash them, then kick them again. They should've called this game Bootystorm.

Last up is Shogun 2: Total War. I didn't actually play this, but I attended a panel where Mike Simpson (creative director on the game) gave a talk about and a demo of the game. Before he got on stage though, we were forced to watch some crappy Nvidia 3D advert. It didn't make me want to give Nvidia my money.

Anyway. As a huge strategy fan, I am stoked for this game. I've played every Total War to date, but this one looks like it will trump them all. Not too much to report here, but the game looks absolutely gorgeous so far. Everything from the campaign map to the water to the individual units slaughtering each other under a cherry blossom tree that actually sheds petals is intricately and beautifully detailed.

So, yeah, it was a fun day out. I'll be going next year (if I am released by then) for sure, especially as Gears 3 has been delayed and most likely won't be out until after it.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

France, Monday Night Combat, and Apple Products

I haven't posted in a while, so here's a short update. I am currently on holiday in France with most of my immediate family. The weather has been nice, unlike England, which is great, and hilarious when people are complaining about it on Facebook.

Social Networking at its finest

Not much else to say, apart from a photo from our trip to a supermarket:

Also, my Xbox is not on holiday, it is at home. I don't get back until the 28th of August. Monday Night Combat was released on the 11th of August. I have been wanting to play it forever. This is why:

Isn't that just awesome? It sure is, especially if you currently have an Xbox. At least I have Starcraft 2 with me. But I can't play that online because the entirety of France disconnects from the internet every 8 minutes.

And an update on the whole iPhone saga: The current one is holding up fine, I had to get my iPad replaced again (that's 4 now), and I also got a Macbook Pro. it only had to be replaced once.

And why did it need to be replaced?

Well, the wireless stopped working, so I phoned up technical support, who told me to run this utility, which then caused it to not boot at all. Yay for technical support. At least I got a new one the next day, before even having to send the dud one off. And I have two power adapters now, so it's all good I guess.

Oh and here's a video I made of my Granddads 80th birthday before I left for France:

He made that pop up TV himself. He also made his own lift. You could call him a mad scientist of sorts.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Visual Basic until 5am

UPDATE: New links.

So I decided to play around with Visual Basic today. Well, yesterday. It's now 5am the following morning. Time went fast.

Anyway, I can't be bothered to write that much, but here's what I came up with...

Tilly, Ben, Bazil

This was actually started in a lesson at college. We had to create a simple Rock, Paper, Scissors game. I opted to use 3 people from the class instead of inanimate objects. It should be pretty self explanatory.

Download link (v1.1, 774kb, zip)


This is something I started today (yesterday), and is still very much a work in progress. It's a Whack-A-Mole clone, but instead of a Mole I used someone from my class, and instead of whacking, you are decapitating. Art was done frame by frame in Photoshop.

It has a rare crash that I'm still trying to get rid of, and isn't polished at all, but it still works.

Download link (v0.2, 341kb, zip)

If, for whatever reason, I have moved these files in the future, they should be available somewhere in this directory. Source, previous versions, and unzipped versions are also in that directory.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Pretend It's Wednesday

Had some technical issues yesterday which meant I couldn't access Blogger, so let's all just pretend it's Wednesday.

I went to the Apple store yesterday, with the same friend that I went to the launch with. The Genius we spoke to wasn't very helpful. He exclaimed that we should be happy that we have working phones. He said the phone had no issues whatsoever. He told us it was perfect. He had an iPhone 2G.

Perhaps the iPhone 2G has the phone feature built in.

We asked for free Bumpers. He said no. We asked again, explaining our problem (again). He said there was no problem (again). He told us that, perhaps, if we had come in all angry and shouted at him, he would've given us free bumpers. Basically what he was saying is they give free stuff to abusive people, while the polite people get nothing.

The Genius told us that he could replace our phones a hundred times and it would still have this problem. He then told us he would not replace our phones because there was no problem. I then complained that the home button on my phone was loose (it was), and demanded a replacement - I had already backed it up, wiped it, boxed it all up, and travelled to the Apple store - So I wanted something for all this effort. He told me that if I did this, I would be unable to return my phone to the Apple store for a refund, I acknowledged that, even though I had actually purchased mine from Vodafone.

So he bought out the new phone, it came in a cellophane-wrapped black plastic coffin, It looked so sad. I got a screen protector out my bag, ready to apply to the new phone, and the Genius seemed horrified by this. He proclaimed that the screen does not get scratched (Just like how Macs don't get viruses!), and proceeded to show us his iPhone 2G screen. It was cracked. He covered that bit up with his thumb. He told me that covering up the screen (he referred to it as art) was a crime (he was joking, but he meant it).

I left an Apple store with the new phone, got some more cookies, and went home.

So, as the Apple customer support people told me to, I called them back when I got my new phone. I told them how this had affected my signal issue (it hadn't), and demanded that they send me a free bumper, as they said they would the last time I called if a replacement phone didn't fix the issue. I was transferred to a senior adviser (yay). It turned out to be another queue (boo).

I listened to some trashy music on speakerphone for about 10 minutes before the first helpful Apple employee I have spoken to in this whole saga picked up. His name was Ethan. Ethan was in the American call centre, and was the first American I had spoken to, so I'm guessing they hire competent people over there.

He basically told me that there was an issue, and that they are aware of it, and they are working on fixing it and finding a solution for customers.

What's that, Genuis? There's no problem? Oh, ok. Why don't you come back when you have Senior in your title.

I asked Ethan about a Bumper, and basically told me that they aren't even allowed to give them out anymore. And you know what? I believe him. He'd been honest so far. I then asked him a question about possible compensation in the future, and if buying a Bumper would exclude me from that. He emailed me all his contact details, and told me that if any compensation of any form was announced, or if I had any other problems, I could contact him and he would help me and get me anything I needed.

I was actually satisfied with this outcome. I had finally spoken to someone who had admitted there was an issue, given me a direct way to contact him, and was polite about the whole thing.

But I would be contacting Ethan again sooner than both of us thought.

I activated the new phone, restored it, I hate iTunes, etc etc. When it was all up and running, I noticed two things:
  1. The home button was even looser
  2. There was a dead pixel in the corner of the screen

I emailed my new buddy Ethan. Ethan told me that there would be no problem getting a replacement. Now I have to go and see my arch nemesis at the Genius bar again. Perhaps I'll bring him some cookies.

All this drama for a problem that doesn't exist.

Or does it?!

We'll have to wait until the next episode to find out!

I'll post again when something mildly interesting happens.

Monday, 28 June 2010

i4, Only £499, Phone Is £25 Extra

So, I got an iPhone 4 last week. Got up at 4:30 in the morning  to go to a Vodafone store for a friend.

We queued up for a few hours, met a few nice people (more on one of them later), and got excited every time a van drove past, hoping it was the iPhones. But they were already inside. One guy actually ran down the Phones4U branch and snagged the last phone there, and left his place in the queue, despite the fact he had been there since 3.

When the store opened, the first four people in the queue started to buy their phones within seconds. It took what seemed like at least half an hour for the first one to finish. I was 6th in the queue, my friend was 7th, so it was our turn quite quickly.

But there was a problem. We were both 17. Neither of us could sign the contract, and they couldn't reserve a phone for either of us (Apple's policy, apparently). We were pissed, as was another customer - I let him take my place while me and my friend discussed what to do. We decided to call in the cavalry. The cavalry, in this case, being some conveniently nearby parents.

I called my mum, thankfully she wasn't busy, so she said she'd stop by as soon as she could. However, there was still the issue of them not being able to save a phone for me - even for half an hour - and there being very little stock left. The guy I gave my place tried to reason with the manager - he even offered to pay for our phones until our parents could get there - but the manager didn't budge. He then sat there talking to a member of staff for at least half an hour, purposefully wasting time to slow down the queue so there was a higher chance of us getting our phones. It was actually quite funny to watch. The manager then came forward and announced that they were out of stock.... of the 32GB model.

Anyway, some time passed, the guy (whose name I never got, regretfully), eventually had to leave, and the queue continued to move forward. I spied on one of the screens that they only had a single phone left. The waiting at this point was intense. Someone was just about to get up and leave, allowing the queue to move forward and the last phone to be sold, when my mum appeared at the door to save the day. We quickly sat down, much to the dismay of the next person in the queue. The manager stepped forward to announce they had no phones left at all, but they could order one for next week.

About a minute later, my friend's dad arrived, but it was too late. However they phoned up Vodafone and complained, and managed to get two phones dispatched for delivery the next morning. Not too bad.

At this point, I was an hour late for college, but I didn't really care. I had my phone, thanks to my mum and the nameless man from the queue.

"Wait 20 minutes for it to activate" said the guy at the Vodafone store. My day at college finished two hours later. No activation. I was saddened by this.

By the time I got home it still hadn't activated. I tried rebooting it and that somehow worked, so that was problem #1 gone. Now I was activated, I decided to sync with iTunes. I hate iTunes. I needed to update to 9.2. Ok, I thought, this should be easy.

I was wrong. Apple Software Update decided it only wanted to install half of iTunes before failing, leaving me with a non working iTunes install, that also refused to uninstall itself. I hate iTunes.

So I tried a bunch of things, read a bunch of articles, and got it working an hour later, and finally was able to sync my phone. It took a while. I then started to organize my large collection of apps into folders within iTunes. I'm obsessive about things like this so I spent about half an hour organizing and reorganizing everything, then I was happy with the result, and I clicked Sync.


It was all gone. All my obsessive organization and neatly organized and appropriately named folders, gone. Did I mention that I hate iTunes?

So I did it all again, syncing every 60 seconds or so in case of another catastrophic failure on iTunes' part. Thankfully there was none, and I managed to get it all done in about 15 minutes.

Now it was time for me to use my phone. All that time, money, effort and frustration was about to pay off.

The Retina display is just incredible, literally like nothing I've ever seen. You just cannot see the pixels. I kept moving it closer and closer to my eye, and couldn't still couldn't see any, I then got to the point that it was so close that it just defocused. You can't beat it, no matter how hard you try. Everything else pales in comparison. This is the future of display technology, you really do have to see it to believe it. I can't wait for this technology to make its way to bigger screens.

The time spent putting my apps into folders was worth it; I could see each of their tiny little icons in perfect detail. I played around with a few. Those updated for the Retina Display, such as Flight Control and Twitter, just look incredible.

Those that haven't been updated for the Retina Display have ugly looking pixelated app icons and the apps themselves look marginal at best, depending on how much they rely on Apple's baked in stuff, which, as expected, has all been updated for the display. The apps I use regularly are all slowly being updated though, so this should be a non-issue soon enough.

The A4 chip makes everything noticeably faster, and the doubled RAM makes multitasking a joy to use. The battery also seems to last a noticeably longer amount of time.

Facetime, which I tried the next day when my friend had gotten his phone, works a treat. It does everything it is advertised to do, the camera flipping is especially fun, but it just seems a bit situational, and extremely awkward when it's time to hang up. But at least it uses Wifi, so the call won't drop. Perhaps when more devices use it I'll get some more use out of it.

Now, back to the first day I had it,  I thought I'd make a call to my dad, who currently carries a 3G and a 3GS (work and home, one Irish one English), and gloat. But there was a problem.

I was holding it wrong.

I had no signal. I put it down on my desk and suddenly had signal. I had read about this, but I didn't think it was this bad. I held it in some awkward position that felt like I was going to drop it, managed to get signal, and phoned my dad. We spoke for a few minutes, and the call actually didn't drop. So obviously this was a problem. It was also being reported all over the place, I just didn't know it was this bad until I experienced it.


A few days passed, I tried to adjust my holding position for a few days but by Monday I just got sick of it. I had read in various places that not only does the Bumper case that Apple sells solve the signal problem, but if you called them up and complained you could get one sent to you for free. I tried, twice, and didn't get anything. I went back and read some of these posts again, but they were all from people in the US, which kinda sucks for me.

The worst part was that when I explained the issue, I was actually told I needed to buy the case in order to fix the problem. So I called again, and this time the guy on the other end suggested that I get a replacement iPhone, so I thought why not, it may work. I have a Genius Bar appointment booked for Wednesday for that.

Oh and, even better, the same friend also tried calling Apple today. He was laughed at and told to use another phone. Great. Nice one, Apple.

Anyway, this afternoon I relented and went out to buy a Bumper case, simply because I needed to actually use my phone, and it has remedied the signal problem, but has brought with it another issue all of its own. The headphone socket no longer accepts the audio jack from my Astro A30 headphones. Boo. Not sure what to do about this. I've considered making the hole in the case bigger, but that means I can't take it back for a refund when Otterbox get around to releasing their case.

But hey, at least I can make calls. It only cost £25 extra for that privilege. And I got some cookies on the way back from the Apple store, so it's all cool.

Follow up on Wednesday.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

MMO Gamers! My Brother needs YOU to help him with his Dissertation!

If you play an MMO - Any MMO - Please read this and fill out his short survey:
Hello, my name is Dan Bishop.
I am currently writing my dissertation on the effects that Real Money Trading has on MMO games. 
To carry out my primary research I have chosen to create a survey. I would greatly appreciate it if you could complete it, it's 12 questions long and shouldn't take more than 5 minutes of your time.
You can find it here: 
Dan Bishop 

Sunday, 24 January 2010

My Cat and Hackers

This morning, I woke up to find two things:
  1. My inactive World of Warcraft account had been hacked. Again.
  2. My cat had left dismembered parts of a bird all over my bedroom floor.
I think not.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Astro A40s ♥

So I got a pair of these on Thursday, after getting a Sharkoon X-Tatic headset for Christmas and having it break a week later (I got a full refund though, and now I have Astros, so it's all good).

Firstly I just want to say, they are awesome, if you are in the market for a decent headset, get these, you will not be disappointed. They do cost quite a bit - £199 in the UK and $249 in the US - but they are worth every penny. I'm not even going to complain about the US/UK price difference, they're too good.

But why are they so good? Well, perhaps my view of them is skewed after how bad the Sharkoon kit was, but everything about this headset just screams "I'm an awesome headset" to you.

Firstly, they just look fantastic (the white pair does anyway - the black one, not so much), far better than the competition. The build quality is great - metal body and a thick, sturdy plastic shell. Even the way the headset extends for large-headed people is better than any other headset I've seen - the top band is suspended on two rods extending from each earphone (after reading that, I have decided that it's an incredibly poor explanation of how it works, but it's the best I can do! :p ).

But of course, the whole reason for getting these isn't how it looks or how it feels; it's because of how it sounds, because of how it actually works.

The best way I can describe how it sounds is to basically say it sounds just like my 7.1 speaker system (probably better actually), but I can use it without disturbing nearby relatives or neighbours. I've been playing with Dolby Digital turned on, and I can hear (in-game) people all around me fine, but some people say it's easier to hear around you with DD turned off, but the audio quality just isn't as awesome like that in my opinion.

At the moment, I have Toslink (optical) cables coming my 360, my PC, and my Sky box into a switchbox, and then a 25ft Toslink cable (This is the one I got from Astro with my headset - this, like the headset, is extremely over-engineered and awesome) from that plugged into the Mixamp that came with the headset. Also plugged into this is the charge cable (it charges via USB, so it's 'region free', and the headset itself does not need external power) and a standard analogue audio lead, both of which lead to my laptop, and another standard analogue audio lead going into my 360 controller, and then one last wire going to the actual headset.

Yeah, that is a lot of wires. One thing I will say is they do all get tangled quite often, but that is unavoidable really. You can opt to just use batteries so you don't need a charge cable, and the extra audio cable plugged into my laptop is also not needed (I only have it there because otherwise I can't hear my laptop with these on, unless the volume is turned to max, and then we hit the whole problem of nearby relatives again), so that cuts two out straight away.

One last thing I will mention is that I purchased some Toslink splitter from Amazon to allow me to plug everything into my headset and my speaker system - they didn't work at all, though. Nothing to do the Astros - none of my leads, or output or input devices worked with them. But to be honest I'm not that bothered, my Astros are better than my speakers anyway ;)

Anyway, I think I've said enough. Get some if you can, because they are awesome. Now I must go play Gears 2 and use my red button.

UK Astro website

US Astro website