Tuesday, 19 February 2008

New Games and the Quality of their Storylines

I'm a fairly avid gamer. Since I was a wee fellow, I've enjoyed PC games and console games. Over time, though, it's become less of an interest as the story lines and general plot development of games seems to be in a decline. The imagery, the music, the sound have all improved. The hardware requirements have likewise increased to match pace with the increased demand on processing power and available RAM. What gets me is that older games were more interesting. Less bling and more substance if you understand what I mean. Take the early Police Quest, King's Quest and Space Quest games. There was a lot of work involved in those games and I can remember being immersed in them for hours. Then there was the F117, F15, Test Drive and various other simulator games that worked so hard for realism. And let's not forget the excellent role play games like Pool of Radiance and the games following it.

Nowadays I've got an Xbox 360, Xbox, PS2, and PC to play game on and none of the current titles really grab my interest. I've finished playing Halo 3 recently and while it wasn't a bad game, it was far too short for my liking. I started with Halo on the original Xbox and loved it. The game was great. Halo 2 never seemed to run properly for my liking on the Xbox and I tired very quickly of the long load times. I'm not there to sit around waiting for the next bit to load, I've got more things I want to do. Likewise, Gran Turismo 4 is not as good as Gran Turismo 3 to my way of thinking. Sure it had a few better bits and stuff, but at the end of the day, I played GT3 for a lot longer than GT4.

Take for example the Need for Speed games. I've been playing those since the first one came out. I loved NFS High Stakes and its sequel NFS HS II. Gold. Loved the cars, loved bringing other cars in. When NFS Underground came out I liked the new driving challenges. NFS Underground 2 was a revelation. Cruising the city, driving wicked cars - all good. But there was a discordant note. It was becoming easier to do everything in the game. Once you had to have a clue about sliding the car into a high speed drift. Gradually it became so easy that retaining control of the car in the slides became more difficult. The most often response I got regarding this from people was so that kids could do it. I see - let's not force them to learn how to do it properly, let's instead dumb it down so the lowest common denominator can handle it. Seems to be the way of all things these days. Task too hard? Aww poor kid. We'll make it easy for you so you can do it with even less effort than your putting in now. Lets dumb down everything! Yay! Fortunately this seems to have changed for the better - NFS Carbon had some difficult driving required in it and it paid off if you had the time and skill to put moves together successfully.

One of the few games I've truly enjoyed in the last few years has been Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords. I've played this through four or five times already and the story is excellent. It's a decent trip to go on. I like to read novels and see the advancement of plot and KoTOR II provides that kind of entertainment. You have to think - consider your options, consider the outcomes and the writers and designers of this game have done a fantastic job with it all. I'm slightly biased though - I love the Star Wars universe and the Jedi. Of course, a game with choices that change many things at once, some subtle, some gross, is not a game with some stress. A good choice is worth some stress over and the rewards are in the results.

Thinking on it further, I guess that shorter games are more appealing for the attention deficit children of the current age. If it's more than 8 minutes without a break, they'll probably lose focus and need an ad break to let their minds recover from the exertion. Does this reflect back on real life? I think it does. The gaming industry seems to reflect the market quite well and so shorter, easier games are going to sell better than longer, more complicated games that have greater depth and require analytical skills and planning.

I really hope they bring out another KoTOR game!

Friday, 15 February 2008

SCO Unix gets a lifeline?

I've just read this news article about SCO being thrown a $100 million dollar lifeline (source: InternetNews Real Time IT News).

I wonder if they'll squander it on more ill conceived lawsuits that win them nothing but costs and ongoing losses? Someone must be awfully brave. I could never understand what SCO were about with the attacks they made on Linux, claiming patent breaches and the like. Along with many other Linux enthusiasts, I was shocked and appalled (my strongest expression of unhappiness) by their behaviour. I was likewise very pleased when Novell's prior patent claims were upheld and it became apparent SCO owed Novell money for all the products it had shipped. I laughed very hard. I had followed most of what was happening through the excellent work of PJ at Groklaw (www.groklaw.com) Bravo to her for all her brilliant work on the subject and for successfully enduring the unpleasantness that was apart of it all. I really felt for all the folks who were suckered in through fear to pay SCO for their Linux installations. I'm glad that it's all quietened down.

So now we can focus on using the best OS out there - Linux!

The Culture of Fear and it's prevalence within society

It seems to me as I read my daily doggdot.us compilation of stories from such sites as digg.com, reddit.com, del.ico.us and slashdot.org that the apparent culture of fear in the US, UK and Australia (and various other countries) is maintaining itself very ably through the political machinations of the various governments, most notable of which is the US government. I can only imagine how the members of these groups little hearts shrivel with fear at the thought of the next terrorist attack - or more accurately, at the thought that they could be losing power in some way. And that's what their real fear is. The US continues it's warrant less wiretapping, listening in on countless constitutionally protected conversations while proposing to allow those who have caused this to happen, and those who have facilitated it, to get away with it all. I was pleased to note that the US House of Reps have rejected the telco's immunity bill. I think at some point, all the folks involved are going to have to take responsibility for their actions in this area. And that, gentle reader, is probably their greatest fear.

But using fear as a tool is an old government trick. Hitler used it, and so is Bush. The constant, ominous warnings about terror strikes come at any point his attempts to subvert the US Constitution are curtailed is a source of snorting amusement to me. "If you don't let me torture people for information - there will be another 9/11!" Wow, I bet that's true How about this: the more people you torture, imprison without adhering to the vaunted US laws and the more involved you are with other people's countries and religions, the more likely it is that someone is going to want to attack you. It's a simple act of trying to protect themselves. I liken this somewhat to the Palestinians and Israelis. Israel bomb a bunch of them, cut off food and supplies and what do the Palestinians do? The only thing they can - one of them puts bombs on him/herself and goes and detonates it where it will have maximum shock value. The cycle of violence continues. I don't condone this behaviour, but I understand it. After all, Israel has enormous backing from the US - and why that is is a question I'd like an answer to. I realise that the news reports out of that region are probably tainted by the agenda of the various news and government agencies and are most likely to be biased in some way or another, but I feel that the Palestinians have probably copped a raw deal out of it all.

That's a bit off topic though. I was ruminating on fear and the consequences of having fear drive your life. Bush's veto of the bill against torture is such a thing, and I feel it to be in the worst interests of all involved. It's no longer a possibility that he will take the award for the most craven, mentally challenged President of the United States - I believe he'll hold that award in perpetuity. But, he's a cunning bugger for all his apparent deficits. After all, he has fairly successfully manipulated things so that the "democracy" of the US is powerless. And fear has been his tool.

It was fear too that led to the death of a gay teenager in the US too. WTF? I hear you ask - where did that come from? It's not that much of a leap really. People fear what they don't understand, they fear what is different, and in the case of homosexuality, they fear they may have their own proclivity for it. This kid wore clothes that proclaimed his sexuality and as one of the folks there put it: "That was freaking the guys out." (source: The LA Times) Freaking them out why? Fear!

It is apparent throughout our society. It's not just in the US. Australia has it too and it's appalling. The longer we live our lives afraid, the worse things will be. At some point people have to say: "I'm not afraid of that. I can live with it and it has no power over me." For example, I'm not going to live in fear that the terrorists may strike in Australia. If I live that way, I give them power over me. That's just not cool. No can do and no will do. I call on all people to get a can of Harden Up and drink it. Fear doesn't deserve your obedience. As Yoda put it:

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” (source: Yoda Quotes)

So very true....




Thursday, 7 February 2008

US Presidential Primaries

I've been watching with some interest the primaries in the USA. As I understand it, the current mini elections are for the Republicans and Democrats to sort out who they want to have as their candidate for the Presidency. I can't help but notice the biased media reporting. TV, newspapers and radios support the industry favourites - Obama, Clinton, etc while the Internet crowd seems to be massing behind Ron Paul. And I can understand why. Someone who has a track record of consistency, answers questions straightforwardly and doesn't attempt to pass blame off is very attractive the attention limited crowd on the Internet. We don't want to read through the bullshit that some of these cretins are spewing forth. That idiot Giulani should be hung out to dry - is he mental? The leverage for his campaign is 9/11 - a tragedy that was arguably caused by the US intervention into other countries affairs. I was really amused when Ron Paul tried to describe the phenomenon of blowback to this moron. I guess he doesn't get that if you blow up bombs in your neighbour's backyard, sooner or later that dude is going to come back at you with some heavy shit.

And while I'm proselytizing on that issue, I've read a few things suggesting that 9/11 was planned and executed within the US government to give Bush the kind of momentum he needed to suspend all kinds of rights and the like and also to invade Iraq. Well done. I salute him on his planning and execution skills, even though I reckon he didn't have much to do with any of it and someone else planned the lot.

I think it would be nice to have someone who isn't tied up with all the big companies and oil and the presidential dynasty in the US leading that country. Ron Paul seems to be my favourite at the moment. Even though I disagree with some of his policies - for example I think a woman's right to choose an abortion is her business (as Jay in the movie Dogma puts it: "A woman's body is her own fucking business") I like the fact that he has stood by the decisions he's made and makes them in good faith. Good luck to him. Were I American he'd have my vote.