I play games

Remarkable. I talk about them, write about them but rarely seem to play them. Thanks to recent events, that’s going to change. Honest.

Last weekend was a bank holiday (except Scotland) and a good gaming buddy of mine came up to Nottingham to check out my flat and catch up on stuff. He’s a dedicated gamer but has found real life has distracted him over the last few years. We’ve known each other for over 15 years and a significant amount of that time has been spent staring at Streetfighter 2 on the SNES. Ah, happy days.

I promised him there’d be no distractions. Just good banter and heaps of games. As it was, we didn’t get through half of the stuff we wanted to spend time on but we did have a jolly good few sessions on Xbox Live.

J, being a keen Sega fan (to the point of owning his own Virtua Fighter 3 cabinet) was looking forward to spending time on Outrun 2. I’m happy to say that XBL didn’t disappoint in that area as he and I got consistently beaten to the finish line by nearly everyone we played against. The mood was congenial though – apart from when Darran – editor of GamesTM’s Retro section started having a go at Jeff Minter.

In time honoured tradition, Streetfighter got put into the machine and Mark challenged me to a few rounds. I’m happy to report that I beat him to a bloody pulp using cheap characters (Ken, Chun Li) and even cheaper moves on a pad where I barely knew which buttons were kick and which were punch. Most satisfying! Particularly when Mark blamed his lack of confidence in his controller as the culprit for his woeful performance.

Mark challenged me to some more Streetfighter last night – this time with his converted Dreamcast Fighting Stick. His performance was far better and it looks like we’re fairly well matched as many of the round finished very closely. I was still victorious though – but it was a far more satisfying experience.

Other games played over the weekend were the mighty God of War on PlayStation 2. I would hope this game needs no introduction. I’ve spoken of my favour for this game online any number of times. J, sensitive soul that he is, found the action a bit too gutsy for his palette. Heck, we played some Burnout 3 and he found the morally dubious attitude of ramming cars and causing damage to be beyond his pure gaming spirit. He’s a noble fellow is J.

Highlight of the weekend was getting utterly trounced at SSX 3 by my gorgeous wife. SSX has a special place in our hearts as, firstly, it’s a darn fun game and, secondly, it’s the game that she first got really into. She enjoys the SSX games for more than any human should and I’m considering getting the fourth installment on Xbox so she can go online with it.

I rediscovered the balletic Gradius V over the weekend also. It succeeds in a similar vein to Outrun 2 in that it updates a classic title, bringing it bang up to date in terms of audio, video and game mechanics whilst retaining that pure sense of exhilaration that filled our hearts when we played the originals. It’s still rock hard though and I’ve yet to beat the game on it’s easiest setting. However, playing anything produced by Treasure is a genuine privilege and a reminder of what makes gaming so fun and challenging. And how bad I seem to be at it these days.

Thinking about the 360

I really like my Xbox. I was a very late adopter and have only recently joined the Xbox Live fraternity but I’ve got bags of respect for what Microsoft have achieved with their big black box. It also seems clear to me that the original Xbox was understood as being a partial success. It’s far more important for Microsoft to get their name and brand established in this market than it is to be the number one product from day one.

Microsoft’s aggressive pursuit of high profile Japanese developers and launch strategy with the 360 just scream confidence. I think they deserve to do well – they’ve broken the frontier of online gaming and made it mainstream. That’s a major achievement.

However, I was reading some news stories today and the following quote from Valve boss Gabe Newel got me thinking:

Look, I spoke to some people at Microsoft, and as I said, I can’t point to a single feature in Vista that I care about that solves problems for us at all. And I had the same conversation with the Xbox 360 guys. It’s like, Xbox 360 doesn’t make my life any better, and in fact, it makes it a lot worse, as you’re telling me I can’t count on having a hard drive.

I’m not concerned with how hard Gabe’s job is, but his statement reminded me of the two flavours of Xbox 360 that will be around at launch. The major difference is the presence of a hard drive.

Now, I don’t know about anyone else, but I find a lot of the appeal with consoles over computer gaming is that it’s all a no-brainer. Joe Idiot with a PS2 can buy a game and so long it says “PS2” on the side he’s going to be able to play it. No reading the specs and worrying about pixel shaders and RAM requirements.

But are we going to see a range of 360 games that start declaring requirements for them to run? Yes, I know we already have “Xbox live required” for many games in order to access certain features but not to play the game straight out of the box. As my fears snowball I wonder if we’re going to see the same sort of multi-tiering of single platforms applying to 360 as we see on PCs today? “Can I play game X even though I don’t have a hard disk and only have the Xbox live Silver package?”.

I don’t want that, it’s going to lead to confusion and a mess at retail. I can’t imagine that developers and publishers can be warming to it either. Now, admittedly, given decent specs, a chunky amount of RAM and some decent coders you can produce wonders without a hard disk, but there’s some things such as patching, downloadable content and, most importantly to games, cacheing, that allow gaming to go MUCH further than ever before.

The inclusion of a hard disk was the backbone to the Xbox’s success. I’m not considering buying a 360 without one. But I don’t want to see the console market start to splinter itself into tiny little groups like we see with PCs today.

I’ve learned to play the ‘wait and see’ game with new hardware. Whatever I buy it won’t be for at least six months after launch (twelve is more likely). I’d hate to see Microsoft cripple themselves and undo the pioneering efforts achieved with the Xbox.

That was quick (the remix)

I’m a big fan of RSS and ATOM feeds. I’m also a big fan of the Sage extension for Firefox. It’s a lightweight RSS reader that does it’s job perfectly.

So, there I am, quietly wasting time at work whilst catching up on various news sources and I head over to the Next Generation Online feed and check out the “This Week’s Releases” story. There, on page 3 of the article it states that PSP GTA: Liberty City Stories is due for release on September 1st.

That’s in two days time.

Where’s all the buzz and fuss? Where’s the Gamespot and IGN exclusives? What the hell is wrong with the world that a new GTA game on a brand spanking new format that will, no doubt, be THE killer-app of the system hasn’t been on some wild media blitz?

Where the fuck is Jack Thompson when you need him, huh?

That was quick

Considering how amazingly slow, labourious and downright difficult it can be to get ANYTHING done around this office (courtesy of endless reams of red tape) I have to applaud their speed at which they can stifle communication.

This morning, at 8:50am I received an email from some IT-bot blathering on about ‘non-approved software detected’. The fuckers are, of course, referring to GoogleTalk. One of the few programs I’ve actually been able to download, install and connect to the internet with here at my place of work (an acronym laden with irony, I think you’ll agree).

So, any of you that I invited on GoogleTalk won’t be seeing me around during office hours. Don’t blame me, blame The Man.

The Rhinox has landed

Just a quick note to advise any readers that koffdrop.com has a couple of new pages showcasing some of the collected sayings of Rhinox.

I wasn’t responsible for creating the collection, that honour goes to a couple of chaps at Highbury in sunny Bournemouth. I should also like to thank Mark for the picture.

So, check out the Navigation and Links area for two pages of classic Rhinox nostalgia.

Set phasers to geek

At long last, the saga of my hard disk is at an end.

Here’s a summary of the highlights:

  • Built a whizz-bang Half Life 2 killing PC at the start of the year consisting of 2x 160gb SATA drives
  • Six weeks ago, whilst doing normal windows clicking, everything freezes
  • Reboots fail. Panic sets in. “Cyclic Redundancy failure” becomes a common term.
  • Realise my primary drive is about to die. Commence backing up everything in sight.
  • Speak to vendors who give me a returns number.
  • Waste loads of time but finally get HDD and connecting cable back to vendor.
  • Wait
  • Wait
  • Wait
  • Phone vendor and nag. Vendor suddenly realises they can’t replace drive so offer a different drive.
  • Get drive 2 days later – minus connection cable
  • Frustration sets in
  • Lots of phone-calls, lots of hold music.
  • Get through on three separate occasions. Am promised sodding connection cable on three separate occasions
  • A full week after the drive turns up, the cable turns up.

Rubbish service isn’t it? Although the drive I got last week looks absolutely spanking new it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to learn it’s duff.

So, I’m geeking out tonight, opening PCs and playing with partitions. My remaining drive has been working really hard and, seeing as it was my second drive with heaps of data on it, I just added a new partition to it to plonk the OS on it. Having XP and a paging file three partitions in on your system is a good way of dropping performance. If you ever feel like your machine is running too efficiently I seriously recommend copying my example.

Further details

Based on some of the feedback I’ve read recently it seems that my actions still confuse some people. I don’t really feel that I need to explain myself to anyone but being misunderstood is annoying.

The Society was made with very clear intentions and goals in mind. I had some private goals that meant a lot to me. My other forum, KWoT, was set up as a result of being tired of internet forum politics. It was a forum with only one rule “Don’t make hassle for the sake of making hassle”. It was totally unfocused and no topic was taboo. Many entertaining and interesting discussions went on. I will always be proud of what KWoT was and, in it’s active 4-year life no admin intervention was ever required. No bannings, no arguments, no deletions, no hostility. It was all that I’d wanted it to be. My personal goals with The Society was to have a similar attitude of respect and enjoyment. I fully intended never to ban users or lock topics. So, the recent events that occurred at The Society and the subsequent methods of controlling them resulted in my goals failing and my attitude towards the site changing drastically. That’s why I have nothing more to do with the site or with how it is run. I still think it’s overall aims and standards are intact and that it serves it’s purpose. I will always be proud to have been involved in it’s birth.

The goings on at The Society are by no means the only factor that made me reconsider my attitude to gaming forums. My wife helps me to summarise it best. She said “It’s a shame you’re not doing what you enjoy so much”. Which would be true – but in an extremely short space of time I stopped enjoying it and started hating it and the type of personalities I was associating myself with.

My free time is limited and I’m not going to spend it doing something I don’t enjoy anymore. It’s as simple as that.

Receiving comments saying “You can’t go – you’re a part of the place” or “You need to come back – we want you!” is totally missing the point. What other people may want is of no interest to me any more. Certainly when my generosity has been taken advantage of! I’m not going to have a sulk and demand respect or give orders but the sooner people realise that acting rude and selfishly towards other people isn’t really going to endear them to you or make you interested in what they want the better. I’m very fortunate that there are people that I’ve encountered that like me enough to say nice things about me in my absence. It means a lot. However, it can only serve as a lesson to others to not abuse something and then miss it when it’s gone. If you kick your pet every day it’s going to run away. On a more selfish note, my actions are about me – other people stating that I should do this or that because they’d prefer it that way are really only showing me how much they’re missing the point.

What I do know is that this is only a temporary thing. I’ve seen communities come and go and high-profile members come and go. It seems a big deal at the time but it isn’t anything major. I certainly don’t plan on returning to any communities in the foreseeable future – but they’ll march on happily enough. They always do.

Talk with Google

Yes, Google have launched their own instant messaging client.

To be honest, if Google weren’t so good at taking the ideas of others, un-cluttering them, adding functionality and making them actually WORK I’d be getting pissed off by now.

I mean, who wasn’t stunned into silence when they learned of the 1 gigabyte limit they were offering with Gmail? The concept of their desktop search made perfect sense too. Google maps are great: good interface and simple to use. To be fair, since moving away from Internet Explorer and over to Firefox I’ve dropped using Google Toolbar and really only use Google as an internet search page.

They do have a fairly loyal following though and they’ve managed to capture the geek chic essence so beloved of the people that you find on sites like Neowin or Hard OCP or have their PC specs in their forum signature.

The program is still in beta and you need a gmail account to log in to it. Feel free to add koffdrop@gmail.com to your friends list – just don’t be an asshat if you do.

Google Talk (Beta)

Fucking hell

So, forum A dies, refugees from forum A descend on forum B. The A’s disregard all the rules of forum B and direct warnings from admins. They squat until a temporary version of their forum is created and they’re off.

That’s the tip of an iceberg that has frozen my desire to spend any more time in games communities among the ignorant and the unwashed. As such you won’t see anything from me on TGN and I’ve taken The Society offline and want nothing more to do with it.

If you’re a gamer then read this: Don’t be any more of a dick online than you honestly are in real life. Just don’t do it. You bring down other people, you’re not funny and you damage the reputation this culture has. It’s been taking a fair amount of battering recently and … oh for crying out loud, just grow up. Get some manners, some decency and some humility.

You simply cannot believe how pissed I am right now. And that’s pissed in a bad way, not a drunk way.

I still intend to update my blog (perhaps more frequently) and maybe focus more time on gaming rather than trying to educate those who want so much to remain ignorant.

To the handful of decent people out there in the games community – I respect you, please don’t let the chimpanzees take over the zoo.

For the Eggman

Nintendo’s overall attitude is like the Captain of the Titanic yelling “THIS SHIP IS UNSINKABLE! WHERE ARE YOU ALL GOING?” as water spills over the deck. I can’t respect that. Not when the iceberg’s been looming for 10 years and he’s refused to change course.

I never realised I was so easy to manipulate.