Its about time… for some first impressions

Starcraft II welcome screenIn the words of the announcement trailer, “hell, its about time!”… and so here are a few of my first impressions of Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty. Needless to say these are my views of a game, which is a subjective thing.

After a lengthy install (the single DVD contains PC and Mac, and installs an 8Gb game), it was ready to download a mercifully short patch. After a typically beautiful Blizzard cinematic (most of the game cinematics are in game movies, which really shows the power of this engine) I was greeted by the Battle.net login. The new UI is clean and easy to use, and since I had played with multi-player in the beta, I jumped straight into the story-heavy single player campaign. Thankfully the history of the world and the first game and expansion is given during the install.

Starcraft II in action

I fully expect this to not be the normal length for an RTS (of 40+ hours) but instead around about 20+ hours as they have split the game into 3 instalments – one for each race. The races, for those who don’t know, are Terran (human… not a surprise really), Protoss (think elves, or Eldar from 40k) , and finally the Zerg (alien hive mind creatures and my favourite). There is also the challenges section which I have yet to try but they look like being quite interesting and will add a good few hours to the single player side (as I probably fail repeatedly to try and complete them), as will trying to get all the achievements in the single player missions.

In the actual games, the UI is clean (if a bit big on my older 5:4 monitor), the units react smoothly, it looks gorgeous and clean, and even when the action gets manic you can see whats going on and react. It is wise to learn at least some hot keys and how to bind units/buildings as it does help. I cannot emphasise enough just how well it’s all put together, it may not turn to be the longest RTS ever but its very finely crafted and feels solid.

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Flash Frozen: a digital cure for panic and fear… kinda

A word from the author: My name is Adam Howie and I am a geek. I have been since before I knew there was a word for it. I have been into computer and technology for the better part of 20 years and science (since pre-school when I would watch Open University) where I have a particular passion for physics. Like many of my kin I am also a fan of sci-fi, from Aliens to Star Wars, Bladerunner to Space Balls. If all that is not geeky enough for you, I am also a gamer both of computer games but also board, card, and role playing games. Oh, and on-line I am better known by my pseudonym “Lurch Kimded”.
See Adam’s latest posts here or visit his site.

In this time of economic, environmental, political, and personal chaos it is good to take a moment to stop, reflect, meditate for a moment and then pick up your mouse and have a go at some chilled out games from across the world. Yup that’s right chilled flash games are a beacon of our oneness as a species… kinda.

Its been a while since my first chilled games post, “Take a chill pill and click“, so I was asked to make another, so for your enjoyment here is my second collection of chilled out games. I think these should help us all just take a moment and chill a bit. Just remember that when the blood pressure rises, reach for the mouse and click.:

closureClosure
Dark game, both literally and metaphorically. Simply find your way through various levels and let the light guide you for darkness is quite literally nothingness. Creepy fun and quite laid back in a goth kind of way.

hoshi-sagaHoshi Saga
Japanese… weird… and chilled… what are you waiting for go, I’ll wait for you… basically a series of games to find the star in each stage, more difficult than you think but its simplicity keeps you coming back for more and more… speaking of which here are parts two and three.

guesthouseRoom Escape
Another Japanese game, this time your standard point and click adventure but set in one room with some wonderful chilled ambient music. I eventually managed to complete it by clicking randomly and finding the hidden objects/clues. Its worth the slight elevation in blood pressure, so it just makes the cut.

open-doorsOpen Doors
Open door, close door, open door, close door… simple really… well… most of the time.

cursor10Cursor*10
By the same people who made Hoshi Saga, so the third Japanese game here, what can I say I found a bunch recently. It a simple game simply click your way up to level 16 by going up stairs, pressing switches, and scoring points… the twist is each time you only have a certain length of time and then it resets and you follow the ghost of your previous cursors.

achievement-unlockedAchievement Unlocked
OK, not really a chilled game by almost any stretch but I couldn’t resist this one. Simply get all the achievements :)

Friday Fun: Audiotorium

Well, its been a while, and unsurprisingly the first thing I end up doing is a post about another chilled out flash game, “Auditorium“.

Its a simple enough idea, you control various spheres which effect in various ways streams of particles which when correctly manipulated fill bars which play music… simple enough in theory but pleasurably challenging without being frustrating in reality. Its not that long, but it does serve as a good demo for the full game they are developing. Enjoy.


Click the image to play

Robert Kirkman on comics

My geek-ness is a wide ranging one, and falling within is the world of comics. I love them, at their best they can easily be considered literary masterpieces. However the printed comic world is facing an uncertain and problematic future and its not just from the web but it stems from their lack of innovation. Creator Robert Kirkman talks about such things in this video – LINK (I have tried to embed but its not working)

From my viewpoint I agree with Kirkman, things must change, I find myself reading stories that although new can easily be read as rehashing older ideas (some not so old), the lack of creativity in especially DC and Marvel results in a recycling of characters and plots which inevitably will lead to a creativity stagnation.

So what are your views:
- Do you even read comics?
- Do have an opinion on the future of the big four (Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, and Image)?
- Have you noticed a dip in creativity in the mainstream?
- Do you read independent/creator owned titles?

(via: Angry Zen Master)

XKCD – Daddy, Junior, and Spook

XKCD is, in many ways, the pinnacle, so it seems, for geek humour. Blending maths, physics, linux, and virtually every geeky field in between with the joy of sarcasm and a every so slightly twisted wit. Now, of course this raises the question of webcomics in general, but I think that will have to wait for a different post.

So as a sampling of its brilliance may I present unto you the most recent strip…



Google must give Viacom YouTube info…

Before I give my reaction you may want to read this (BBC News), here is a brief outline:

“Google must divulge the viewing habits of every user who has ever watched any video on YouTube, a US court has ruled.”

So, yeah… to put it simply… YOU WHAT!?!?!

No really… I had to make sure I had read this correctly and it was saying what I thought it was saying. It was. Viacom has got a legal decision that will force YouTube to hand over records of not just Viacom copyrighted material but EVERY and ANY video watched on YouTube and information that shows who they are!

The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) is understandably rather upset and shocked by this ruling (you can see thier blog post here). Thier reaction is summed up well by their closing statement:

“The Court’s erroneous ruling is a set-back to privacy rights, and will allow Viacom to see what you are watching on YouTube. We urge Viacom to back off this overboard request and Google to take all steps necessary to challenge this order and protect the rights of its users.”

While it possible to debate the pro’s and con’s of various net issues such as, net neutrality, piracy, freedom of speech, and even personal privacy, this ruling I think is less defensible. If it just targeted violations of Viacoms copyright and intellectual properties you could defend this ruling, but since it targets all videos it becomes a major violation of rights and privacy, and its not even a government but a corporation.

So, does this ruling up set you as much as it does me? Am I wrong to be upset? Is Viacom justified? Or is this just a sad reflection on the state of the internet and the world?

(via BBCNews)

ISP and data snooping

Our lives are becoming increasingly monitored we are constantly under surveillance, our movements, purchasing habits and more can be tracked and analysed by not just the government but corporations. Now the same level of surveillance may well becoming the norm from our ISPs (Internet Service Provider) as we surf what is meant to be one of the last bastions of free speech.

There is a growing movement within ISPs to “listen” in to your data use for either advertising use or for third party interest groups such as music and film industry. Take Virgin Media, which used to the really good broadband provider Blueyonder, has announced that it is working with the BPI (British Phonographic Industry) to monitor the data use of its service users to see if they are downloading music illegally and then send letters to them about it.

Now here is the problem with this, are they going to just monitor BitTorrent usage or are they going to snoop so much they actually detect what information is being torrented? If the first then that will catch those who use BitTorrent legally (yes it does have its legal uses), if the second then that is, in my view, an invasion of privacy as they monitor and analyse ALL data coming in… of course this makes it highly unlikely as that would cost a lot.

Then there is the whole issue of Phorm and the controversy surrounding it (also here) is another concern that keeps growing. There is of course moves to make Phorm illegal under the wiretapping law, which raises questions about the above snooping by Virgin (and other ISPs eventually).

Of course this all touches on the larger issues of civil liberties, freedom, surveillance, big brother, net neutrality, and the like. But what do you guys think, do you think data snopping is ok? Do you think its a good thing? Whats your views of Phorm? Should we just accept this as an inevitable part of our world now?

Let the (civil) discussion begin

via BBCNews

Take a chill pill and click…

I am sure that we have all played many flash games in our time. I know that I have lost countless hours (if not days) to a plethora of flash games from the simple to the complex. Well, now for something a bit more chilled. So for your pleasure I present a small selection of some laid back games:

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May the LHC be with you…

I was going to go with “The ability to collide atoms is insignificant next to the power of the Force” but thought it might be a tad long. Anyways, I found this via Angry Zen Master, basically its a petition surrounding the Large Hadron Collider at CERN… and its not an anti-LHC petition:

…No doubt the Directorate of CERN will have prepared something similar to match this historic event.

However, we the undersigned feel something simple will suffice. Upon activating the LHC for the test, we advocate the opening words be “Commence Primary Ignition!”, a call back to the 1977 movie “Star Wars” when the villains destroyed the planet Alderaan with their Death Star.

… <snip>

Further, in the event that the sum total of human knowledge painstakingly amassed over course of history is wrong and the scientific illiterates are correct and this experiment does result in “opening a gate to hell”, “blowing up the planet”, “creating a stargate to another dimension”, or “granting the antichrist newfound powers” etc etc etc then this deliberate link to the destruction of a planet will allow the scientists to claim they knew this would happen and they meant to kill us all the entire time. …

I don’t know about you but I laughed out loud when I read that… however I would like an addendum, if we survive its ignition I want one to utter the immortal words, “Where’s the Kaboom? There was supposed to be an earth shattering kaboom!” :)

Anyway, HERE is the petition if you feel so inclined.

Traversing the world of geek!

So my first on Geek-Speak, what should I do? Should I reinforce my geekness, demonstrate my powers of geek-fu? Should I delve deep into the quagmire of technological and scientific issues that abound, or political matters facing geekdom?

Nah.

Lets go for a news round up of recent geek news from the silly to the “what the…” :)

Ok, so first up: Sign that we are become TOO reliant on technology over our brains… (link, via Engadget)
Really, I mean come on people! Just because a GPS tells you to go one way and all the road signs say “Wooh there really don’t come this way!” does not mean we listen to the GPS. Take a diversion most decent GPS systems can cope. Technology should never replace our higher functions which have evolved over the millennia for our survival, they should enhance it… either that or this is natural selection at work…

Next up: Superman will have his day in court! (link, via Newsarama)
The above link is a look at the ongoing series of law suits between DC and Siegel, its quite a mess (well, maybe not mess…) and one that has potentially wide reaching implications for not just comics, but tv series, movies, and the like. Its well worth a read, especially falling the many links within the article.

Next: Get away from her you b… (link, via BBC News, and Angry Zen Master)
This is rather cool. Power armour, a sci-fi stapple (hence the Aliens link, which if you didn’t know, shame on you, shame!), it becoming a reality. For those not in the know basically power armour amplifies human capabilities of strength and speed by making them super-human. Of course this is not as cool, nor as worrying as 4 legged walking robot (Big Dog) which really is a sign that Skynet is building its forces.

Finally: D&D 4th Ed GSL (link, via Slashdot)
Let me expand, that is the Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition Game System License. Yup, Role Playing game time. D&D is the classic role playing game (whose system is simply known as “d20”) which gets reaches its fourth edition this year (or is it early next, anyway…) Not that big a deal you say? Well, there a number of computer based D&D/d20 games, such the popular Neverwinter Nights series. This new revamp supposedly changes a lot in the way the game works and feels, wither that is for better or worse will of course remain to be seen.

So there you go, four pieces from across the geek world, so until next time… “May your CPU run cool, and may your geek-fu be strong.”

Laters