Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Little Big Planet Awesomeness

Probably my last post for a couple of days now, I'm heading up to the frozen norths for New Years Eve. My friend's parents bought a hotel up there a couple of years back, its a gigantic 20s style boutique hotel, lots and lots of creepy looking rooms, perfect for hide and seek... of course you can play hide and seek when you're 23! What do you mean I'm a grown man with facial hair? That doesn't proclude my participation in espionage based children's games! Regardless, last year myself and a bunch of friends headed up there, through wind, hail and dense snow and partied the night away.

So, tomorrow my friends are coming to pick my car-less ass up and we are going to brave the M6, all the way up to the lakes for more drunken revelry. So I shan't be back until the 1st, don't miss me too much!

In other news, my brother got me a sweet sackboy figure for Christmas:

And he reliably informed me that LBP2 is out early in the new year! Ooooh yeah!

This trailer gives me the tickles down in my belly, I LOVE this game, its so... childish, carefree and most of all its simple. Its just a sidescrolling platformer, but its such a damn good sidescrolling platformer that there is so much more you can do with it!

I have to admit, in my LBP level making career I only made one level of any note (and thats because the girl went on holiday for 3 weeks to Korea and, well, what else am I supposed to do except spend 6 hours a day constructing a masterpiece?) but, if you're interested in checking it out, my PS3 gamer tag is: "DistilledWill" - look me up!

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Hayward Incorporated - Following the Trail

Well, its been an interesting morning - I've received a trailhead email (or at least I expect its a trailhead, if it isn't then I must be party to some pretty sensitive real life information!) from the mysterious Hayward Incorporated:

For those of you with squinty-bad-eyes, it reads:
Hayward Incorperated to

This E-Mail is to inform all investors of Hayward Incorporated that the vote to declare Brent Hayward, our CEO and Founder, legally dead is officially suspended.
Mr. Hayward has been found and is currently doing just fine! We here at Hayward Inc. are sure that this news is seen as truly wonderful to all those who were concerened about Mr. Haywards safety.
Listen I've included you in this mailing list subroutine and made sure that you're one of the only ones who gets this message. You need to open the door. Hayward is no more 'fine' than he was when he left. You need to open the briefcase as soon as possible and make sure that he can't use it's contents against all of us. I hope the message finds you well. Remember : E9F19D23M1P9U20H9M14D7U14G15E23.
As for the update: Bruce remains in waiting, still pulling that "Mysteriou" bit every once and a while. Still the best asset we have for containment though.
I love being included in the trailhead of a new game, so I'm going to follow this through to the end, I think every couple of days I'll post up where the game is at and the new puzzles/riddles we encounter. Should be midly interestings, at least enough to take my mind off my hugely bloated turkey filled stomach!

UnFiction thread for the trailhead is HERE. Go go go!

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Activate my Starpower!

Post Christmas malaise. I knew Guitar Hero was a good idea, she'll be distracted for the next few months anyway:

*Hears the agonised cry of a girl who just lost her multiplier trying to activate star power from the next room*

Gotta go...

Also, just for those Marble Hornets fans out there:

Have a good one.

Friday, 24 December 2010

A Sincere Christmas Message

I doubt I'll have a chance to post later today or tomorrow so I'm going to take this opportunity to say something before the year is out:

To those of you who've just stumbled upon my humble little patch of the 'net and to those regular viewers (do I have regular viewers?) I hope you all have an amazing Christmas and a brilliant New Year. I have to admit I will be glad to leave this year behind - as a family I know this has been the single most trying year of our lives, and my blood boils when I think about those we have lost and how pointless it all had seemed at the time. Since June I think we've had to learn to drag ourselves along, even if it means by sheer force of will. But, I hope, we've emerged the other side of what happened in Africa now and I think we are beginning to get on with our lives and, with any luck, 2011 will pass without incident.

Thankyou for taking the time to come here over the past two months and listen to my ramblings. So, there's no sarcasm or veiled wit in this post. Its just a pure and simple wish for, above all, a Happy New Year.

Merry Christmas.


Thursday, 23 December 2010

Put the Epsom in the Irrigation!

Phew, last night was exhausting. It was the finale of Fifteen Days of Darkness and boy was it tense! For those of you not familiar with the game, there are a number of great player made wikias set up for each "act" or "round" or whatever in the series (Vanessa Atalanta - Act 1, Ministry of Argon - Act 2 and Fifteen Days of Darkness - Act 3) and the unFiction thread can be found here. I've said it a billion times and I'll say it again, the best place to get involved with games like this is unFiction and the whole VA/MoA/15DD saga can be followed there aswell.

I'm going to describe to you how it all went down, and hopefully I can convey some of the tension and urgency which I felt playing it. Quick synopsis of the story, in fact I'll start with the summary the PM gave me when I joined the game late:

"very quick praisee - order of oborot have proven to be the 'bad guys' building up towards something at winter solstice.
Vladimir Sirin [from last game] has remembered everything, was kidnapped by them [possibly] and is now trying o 'hack' the leader [Jayden Doyle]'s mind.
This is via chess and riddles done by Internet pages where people have to work out the answer to each page before moving onto the next..."
After we fully hacked Jayden's mind we discovered the Order's final plan - they were growing Erigeron Breviscapus - also known as the Flower of Life - using some power provided by the eclipse and the winter solstice to achieve eternal life. We didn't know where they were growing the plants, and we weren't 100% on what they were going to do with them - but we knew they were bad and must be stopped!
The Chess Master's Final Move

So, Tuesday evening myself, the_claw and Dagada were faced with a quandary - do we ask the long standing character, the seemingly all-powerful Vladamir Sirin, to delve deeper into Jayden's mind in order to extract more information and possibly save Ben (an Order member who's body Jayden had invaded with his consciousness), but also risk killing both Ben and Jayden in the process? Or do we ask Vladamir to withdraw, sparing Jayden, but possibly not saving Ben?

We struggled with the choice, dear readers, we hesitated and faltered and left it till the last minute - we simply couldn't choose! Eventually we bit the bullet and decided to urge Vlad to push further into Jayden's mind to extract more info. My reasoning was as follows: Vladamir, although at times secretive and manipulative, is a good man and would gladly risk his own safety for the safety of others. Similarly, if we do not push forward we spare Jayden (a seemingly ruthless man who had no problem invading someone else's body for his own means) and lose Ben. So, onward and upward Mr Sirin. This choice, it appeared, was not without consequence.

The strain of pushing further into Jayden's mind, probably coupled with the fact that we ummed and eeerred for so long was too much for Vlad. He managed to evict Jayden and gather more information, but in the process he succumbed to the pressure and died. Oh woe! Oh damn and blast!

It seemed as if we had made the wrong choice, we had sacrificed one of the most important characters and we weren't even sure what it was worth - all we had gained was a cryptic video message from Vlad and a dead Jayden.
But then Ben chirped up on his facebook wall - he was alive! We'd saved him! He had woken up in a dark flat above a shop in London.
Furthermore, we were able to use the images in Vlad's final message to hack Jayden's account on the Order of Oberon's message board, there we found a final farewell by Jayden to the members of the Order and his conversations with a mysterious character "MeeM" to whom he appeared to be reporting. MeeM demanded reports every few months from Jayden, each time Jayden reported our actions to this overseer and MeeM responded with derision and aggression - eventually it emerged that MeeM intended all along for Vlad to hack Jayden's mind, and in fact had sacrificed Jayden to kill Vlad. I think at that point we all appreciated the gravity of what we had done. Jayden was just another pawn, as were we.

You ain't gettin' on no Train Foo'!

Ben described to us his surroundings, he had woken up in the flat in London, above a shop with the shutters down. Next door was another shop called "Ecomax" where he grabbed a bite to eat and then headed left and round the corner to a tube station called "Stamford... something", then he took the district line into the center - intending to take a train up North. We recognised that he'd essentially been a prisoner in his own body for many weeks and it would probably be best if he could get some rest and see Claire.

It occurred to me, however, that we kind of ignored the information which Ben had given us (and in these games you learn quickly that nothing is irrelevant, we are not given information which has no purpose). I decided to take another look at the place where he had woken up, I looked up Ecomax and myself and the_claw tracked his movements along Chiswick High Road and down Goldhawk Road to Stamford Brooks tube station. There must be something important in the area, then it hit me: Jayden had taken his body to that specific shop next to Ecomax - so I checked it out.

A freaking pharmacist! A perfect place to grow experimental regenerative herbs! My suspicions were confirmed when the_claw - having been reporting to MeeM and pretending to be Jayden, received the following reply:

Message subject: Re: Report
From: MeeM
Sent: Wed Dec 22, 2010 4:16 pm
To: JayD
You write early in the day for me, but I can understand your urgency to inform me of this, little rabbit.
What extra information do you need to know? The plants are in your care still, are they not? Growing comfortably in that dismal city you call home? So what is it you need to know? On the 4th we will be glorious, alive and never turning back...

This message confirmed to us that the plants were growing in London. I quickly contact Ben through facebook (on my blackberry, not the easiest thing to do!) and asked him to stop and head back to the shop. He wasn't happy. I had to guilt him a bit - gave him the old "many have sacrificed their lives for this" speech and eventually he started heading back across London.

Put the Epsom in the Irrigation!

The employees at the pharmacy, presumably, still worked for the Order of Oberon. So, when Ben arrived they recognised him as the Jayden who had showed up and spent the past few weeks asleep on the bed upstairs. They admitted him without argument and left him alone to explore the shop and find the plants. Ben found his way into a back room, pitch black and stuffy, we asked him to rummage around in his pockets for anything which might light the room, he came out with a lighter.
Once he could see by the light of the flame he described the room to us, lines of shelves with seedlings supported by an irrigation system coming from plants. At the end was a window with a shutter over it - angled so as to catch the light of the moon. As he described the surroundings, he complained of a wooziness, but he soldiered on. He uploaded a picture of the shutter to facebook:

Ben activated the shutter, and a countdown appeared - we feared we might be caught! The device had a musical lock, which needed a specific sequence to unlock it. Thankfully Sarah (the_claw) was quick on the case and described to Ben how to play the melody composed by Mozart which we encountered earlier in the ARG. This, thankfully, stopped the countdown.
However, this extra time in the room had left Ben extra extra woozy. We figured it was some kind of gas meant to keep the plants alive, but it certainly wasn't good for Ben! He started to pass out, we frantically suggested items to hurl at/bash the window with, chairs, water tanks, keys... in the end he just went through the door... clever boy.

Once Ben had gained his composure he took a look around the shop - we realise we probably shouldn't just wander round in full view of the cameras, so he used his new found abilities (gifted to him by Vlad upon departure) to take out the security cameras. Unfortunately, the effort caused a nosebleed. We could tell he wasn't exactly having a hoot so we devised a plan to kill the plants quickly and quietly. We asked Ben to scour the pharmacists for anything which might be harmful to the plants - Bleach, Salts etc.
He came up with some Epsom salts. Brillo!

So, we urged him to quickly and quietly fill the water tanks with as much salt as he could muster and turn the irrigation system up to full to give the plants a full blast of its salty goodness. Boom baby! After a couple of breaks to get some air, he was done. We told him to make sure he cleaned himself up (would look a bit suspicious walking out there with a bloody nose!) and calmly make his way out the shop as if nothing happened. I don't even think he knew that he might just have saved the world.

Once this was done the PM, Paul, gave us an out of game tip that the game was now over until 4th January. We still aren't sure if we won - did the salts kill the plants and stop MeeM from achieving eternal life? Was it all in vain? Will Jack Morgan top the charts this Christmas with "Little Mouse"? The answer to the first two questions will come early next year. The answer to the final one: No. It's Matt Cardle. Stupid.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Guild Wars: Wintersday 2010

Ah look, its the non-denominational secular holiday man! Here he comes in his generic multi-faith red suit, with his non-threatening possibly Sikh inspired white beard. He's come to hand out inoffensive non-specific winter-themed gifts! Hooray! Merry Christma... I mean, Yay for Wintersday!

Guild Wars' Christmas is always an amusing time, ANet try so hard to please everyone that you get odd uncanny valley Christmas cliches cropping up left right and centre: Elder Skruug, Grenches, Jingle Bears etc etc. Far from finding this attempt to side-step the normal PC problems galling, I actually find it quite quaint, perhaps its my rose-tinted view of the GW universe.
Looking forward to Christmas this year - in and out of game - in Guild Wars they are bringing Melandru (Goddess of Nature) and Balthazar (God of War) into the mix to join Grenth (God of Death) and Dwayna (Goddess of Life) in the Wintersday celebrations. Unfortunately, I'm missing the finale which takes place over New Year, as I'll be up in the Lake District - my friends parents own a hotel up there and its a great place for a New Year's Eve party!

In the real world, it's mine and the Mrs' first Christmas outside of our family nests and although it will be a little weird, I can't wait! Our tree is up, I've made mulled wine, wrapped the presents and spent all my savings (my girlfriend had the excellent idea to be born JUST after Christmas, meaning I have to buy her presents x2). So, its going to be a scant Christmas, what with the monetary constraints, but we'll have fun, I'm sure! To top this off, we got Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood the other day, shes dead into it; even to the point where if she can't find her glasses she will sit inches away from the telly, see below:

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Apple of our Eye

I crave content! Which is why the "Holiday Season" *nod to all you PC peeps who reject the word Christmas, keepin' it real...* is frustrating. We waited a good month or so for Entry #29 from Marble Hornets and then its a whole minute long! Don't get me wrong, in that minute I went through 3.5 pairs of underwear, but nonetheless it only fills a one minute slot in my otherwise meaningless day!

Which is why its nice to come across a half-decent youtube grassroots horror series once in a while. The more I amass, the more of my day I can fill watching 5minute long incerpts of little nuggets of tension. So, without further ado: Apple of our Eye. Their latest offering is here, however, I would suggest watching the series from the start - just to get to know the characters a bit more.

This is a strong start from these guys, their first video came out about a month ago and it seems pretty standard. The classic "teens filming themselves as they frolic near wooded areas" premise is strong in this one. Its a little hacknied but it seems natural enough and its believable. There are forshadowing events such as the missing persons poster in the "Young Fools with an Old Camera" video, the tall manequins in suits in the shop window etc. 

The videos set you up nicely, there are subtle video distortions which you could easily miss but a trained Slendy-hunter will notice immediately, and when the big reveal comes, its EPIC. The unFiction thread regarding this series can be found HERE. Follow after the jump for a bit of a spoiler!

(btw, had to pause the video and then maximise it to get this screenshot. I actually was a bit scared he'd start moving again. CURSE YOU INTERNET FOR MAKING ME A WUSS)

Nice thing about this series is I've caught it at the start, unlike EMH and MH. I get to watch the story unfold in REAAAL time baby. To the AooE crew (wow, that does not acronymise as well as MH and EMH) I say keep up the good work - check unFiction for the dos and don'ts, because you are treading on very thin ice, its only one slip up between Slenderblog and Slanderblog.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Gaming in 2011: Part 2

Phew, I've finally got around to thinking about the second part of my "Gaming in 2011" series, Alternate Reality Gaming. Now, in recent months the ARG boat has been rocked by the ripples of the return of Marble Hornets, and the rise of EMH and Tribe Twelve - these chaotic fictions have really grabbed the limelight when it comes to storytelling and intrigue, but there are a significant number of outstanding games running which DON'T concern our Slender friend and I am hoping that in the New Year we can cover a few of them and really give them the attention they deserve.
As in the previous post, I'm going to focus on the aspects of Alternate Reality Gaming which I am most excited about for 2011. Three different aspects, and one honourable mention:

Alternate Reality Gaming

The ARG scene is something I tend to flow in and out of, I will be obsessed for months (particularly if there is a good game going on) but then I will begin to drift away. I drifted away a few months ago (I think it probably coincided with the end of Season 1 of Marble Hornets), but recently I have drifted back and I am very glad I did. UnFiction, to me, is the home of ARGs. It has certainly been the way I have heard about most games, and the main way the majority of players interact and play. If you are at all interested in ARGs, I suggest you head over there right away and take a look around.

The first thing I am excited about for 2011 is Marble Hornets: Season 2. I've posted about Marble Hornets before, with the new Season coming out 2011 is going to be a very busy year for Troy Wagner and the team. In an "Out of Game" sense, I've been following Troys blogspot for a while now and its been interesting to see a little bit behind the scenes on what the guys have to face when they make the series, if you're interested his blog can be found here: Troy Wagner's Blog Machine (although, if you want full immersion, I would avoid it until the series is over). Season 2 is shaping up to be super-duper epic, with Entry #29 just released I would suggest purchasing industrial strength underpants, and watching it with the lights off and headphones on (although not too loud, I about blew my drums out through my bumhole). I'm probably going to lump Entries #28 and #29 into a post later tonight and talk about where the storyline is going fairly soon. Very very excited about this.

Secondly, I am quite excited about the latest offering in the Vanessa Atalanta/Ministry of Argon series, this time called Fifteen Days of Darkness. Last time I played a game by this PM he had me scouring google maps of London, attempting to misdirect operatives to allow a character to escape with some vital evidence. If you haven't had a chance to get in on one of these games, Fifteen Days is still playing (although we are reaching the end game) and we would really appreciate any help! Now, I must admit, I am not the best person to summarise the VA/MoA/Fifteen Days storyline - I came in at the start of MoA and came in late to the currently running game - which is why I am keen to get another player to write an article about it in the New Year. However, what I can tell you is that the games are incredibly well constructed, varied, sometimes impossibly difficult and immensely satisfying to solve.
During Fifteen Days of Darkness myself and other players have solved a series of puzzles meant to represent our breaking down the barriers in the mind of Jayden, the leader of The Order of Oberon. The OoO are a werewolf cult, with a focus on transformation. We have reached the conclusion that Jayden's ultimate aim somehow revolves around the "Flower of Life", a geometric arrangement of overlapping circles which represent numerous spiritual and mathmatical theorums. Our reaching this conclusion has allowed one of the series running characters Vladamir Sirin to hack into Jayden's mind and force him to speak the truth, just for one weekend. Hopefully, we made full use of this opportunity.
I have thoroughly enjoyed this game so far, and I have to admit MoA was the most thrilling ARG I have ever participated in. The PM puts an astounding amount of thought into the running of this ARG and it really pays off. I cannot wait for the finale of Fifteen Days and I am really looking forward to where the story will go from there.

Thirdly, there are a number of low-level grassroots games going on with small casts which really talk to me. The two I will focus on for the moment are: The Sound Guy and TheArtoftheOak. Sometimes I want the big, complex and flashy ARGs like Fifteen Days, but sometimes I just want to sit down and play a BLARG! Thats a blog-ARG, I just created the term - like it? The Sound Guy is the story of a normal British bloke, much like myself, who is into metal and wants our opinion on the sound quality of his recordings, unfortunately the audio is plagued by strange background sound which he can't seem to get rid of - lets just say, everything is not as it seems! One of the things which hindered the real blast off of this game is the fact that TSG hid the message so well! After a few weeks we have only just cracked the file and I'm hoping the game will blast off from there. I think the reason I like this game is because it is ballsy, often games are just stumbled upon, but TSG had the guts to just send his trailhead out to members of the community inviting them to take part. I'm looking forward to where he's going from here.
TheArtoftheOak is the story of Shannon, a simple girl who is into the paranormal. One day her friend reads a passage from the necronomicon, and, well, what do you think happens?! Shit goes down! Now Shannon is haunted by strange children in the night, the visage of Ingrid Cold and crazed stalkers. The blog has been eerily quiet over the past few weeks (holidays, finals etc), but I am interested to see how the PM marries these quite varied threads together - it could turn out that Shannon's friend has, well, just released all hell upon them! Poor gal.

Finally, the honourable mention. Slenderblogs/Slenderblags. The good and the bad, Marble Hornets and EMH have spawned numerous Slenderblogs which, more often than not, fall to the wayside due to overwhelming weariness from the Slender-community. The writers over at The Slender Review do a great job of keeping tabs on what's hot and what's not, if you'd like to really get the cream of the crop then head over there for some top notch reviews. My personal fave is Hiking Fiend, find the review HERE.

Its going to be a very exciting year for games in general. My social life is going to be baaaad....

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Weekly ARG Report: After the New Year

Ok audience, I may have been a little hasty trying to set up my weekly ARG report! What with Christmas, Thanksgiving, finals etc etc people have been finding it hard to get time together to help me out. So, I've decided I will put the project on the backburner until after the New Year.

I'm still looking for people who might be interested, I've got a couple lined up but I could always use more help - the subject of the article could be a currently running ARG, chaotic fiction etc, or one which has finished, or even just an ARG-y subject. I will be contacting players through their threads on unFiction so if you see me post and are interested, either post on my blog, on the unForum thread here, or send me an email at:

There are some really interesting games running at the moment, and hopefully we can get some exciting and informative articles going after the New Year. So, don't hesitate to contact me - even if its just to ask a question, you don't need to be an experienced writer, I'm looking for anyone who is enthusiastic about the subject.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Postponing Start of Weekly ARG Report

This is going to be a really quick post. Just popping in to say that I'm postponing the start of the weekly ARG Report for the moment! Stay tuned for updates!


Monday, 6 December 2010

Gaming in 2011 Part 1

There will be a bucketload of posts like this across the web as this year comes to a close, and I'm hoping to get mine in nice and early! Set up shop and see what everyone else thinks. I thought I'd tackle Gaming in its many and varied guises in this post, and say what I am looking forward to over the next year or so. I'm splitting this into two parts, one for Video Games, one for Alternate Reality Games. Here goes:

Video Games
I really don't like the name "video games", it feels like the term "movies" - do we really need to define the film by the fact that the pictures are moving? However, no other term seems to fit "computer games" doesn't really cover consoles, jumpy-shooty-flippymajigg doesn't match either. So, video games it is. For me there are 3 exciting events (and one honourable mention):

Anywho, 2011 is a pretty big year for me. There are a number of titles on the horizon which get my juices flowing and to start off I think I'll go with Portal 2. Ho momma, Portal is a beast of a game - its funny, clever, witty, frustrating, mind bending, disturbing, scary and most importantly it is a whole troughload of fun.
Spicy! I cannot wait to see what GLaDOS (not sure if the capitalisation is correct here!) has in store as she informs us over the end credits of the first game (through song) that she is "I'm doing science and I'm still alive". If you haven't been HERE, then do so, and then tremble in fear at the last scene.

[EDIT=07/12/10] Originally watched this with the sound off - having watched it with sound I now realise that the voice is Stephen Bloody Merchant! First Danny Wallace in Assassin's Creed 2/Brotherhood and now this! Big few years for British comedians! My money would be on Harry Hill voicing the lord of the Sith in Star Wars: The Old Republic[/EDIT]

[EDIT 2=07/12/10]Oh, and Stephen Fry in Fable III[/EDIT]

Secondly, we have Batman: Arkham City. Arkham Asylum was one of the first games I got for the PS3 this year and I played it through in about a week. It was a game that just felt like all the little bits just worked, the combat was fluid and fun (particularly slowing down the final punch on a badguy just to watch his jaw break) the scenery was wacky enough to be almost Kilmer era Batman, but also dark and brooding enough to stick to the canon, and Batman himself was suitably gadget-filled to make the game varied and interesting. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience (even if it was somewhat let down by a final boss fight which could have been competantly completed by a blind 3 fingered sloth who'd just woken up).
I love games like this, quirky, a little scary, with a tongue in cheek way of approaching violence and horror. Fun. Can't wait for the next installment.

Thirdly and most importantly: Guild Wars 2. Guild Wars has been my almost constant companion now for about 5 years, I love this game, I love the lore, the combat, the characters and storylines, its awesome. Guild Wars 2 is shaping up to be awesome on a whole other scale. I'm hesitant about the persistant world (the only other foray I've had into persistent world MMOs is Aion, and, well, it wasn't good!), nonetheless, I'm squeeing with delight knowing its coming at some point next year. ANet are holding their cards characteristically close to their chest re: release date, but most people are predicting first/second quarter 2011.
I won't go on about it too much here as I could talk for hours, but I will make a post nearer the release date and when we have a little bit more info.

Honourable mention: American McGee's Alice: Madness Returns. One of my quite early gaming loves was the prequal to this game. It was downright scary on a fundamental level, not just jumpy and gory, but it was more like that time in the park in Amsterdam when I had a whooooole spacecake to myself and I fell into a Dali painting - it was kinda like that. I am looking forward to where they go from there.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Writing About ARGs

You may have noticed the new page which has appeared at the top of the blog ^ just up there entitled "ARG Report: Looking for Guest Writers". I'm well aware that a lot of the people who read this blog are forwarded from the link in my UnFiction signiture, welcome to my world uF readers! I wanted to make this post to announce we have our first guest writer coming up this time next week!

Ellocia will be writing on the subject of "Great Big Jerk" - this is a game which I was involved in at the start, but then quickly lost track of as shinier and more "Black Ops"-y things came on the horizon. Personally, I'm very excited about how this weekly spot is going to shape up. So, be sure to check back here on Friday 10th December (probably be up sometime in the evening GMT) for Ellocia's post.

If you'd like to get involved yourself, either leave a message here or on the unFiction forum post and I'll get it sorted. Literally anyone is welcome to contribute, on any ARG subject, so don't hesitate to ask me a question and I'll get back to you as soon as possible.

So, to recap:




Wednesday, 1 December 2010

XKCD - Poking Pandora in the Eye

The latest XKCD comic is rather evocative for me:

It actually really reminds me of when my sister was ill a few years back. I think the overall lesson is the mantra you hear a lot from those suffering from long term serious illnesses - "one day at a time". That was certainly how we faced the illness back then, and with recent tragedies in my life it is most definitely how I having been living for the past few months. I really don't want to get too far into it, but this is another example of how the XKCD stories hide real human problems behind their simple stick-figure appearance. I love this comic. I suggest you check it out.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Tribe Twelve - The Young Pretender

Having looked at the family tree of Slender-fiction, its obvious to see the original thread at the top, and branching down you have a number of "where's Wally?" type photoshops and then branching into the ARG community you see Marblehornets and then underneath, attached to the spindliest of twigs, is the sea of Slender-blogs/video fictions which we seem to be swimming in today.

Few stand out above the morass of near identical stories. But when one does stand out it can blow up fast, EMH stands at just over 3.5 thousand subscribers, Marble Hornets is at a whopping 31.6 thousand. Tribe Twelve is comparatively fledgling in status to these two behemoths in terms of age but has still managed to rack up an impressive 2.5 thousand subscribers on youtube. I'd like to look at why I think this series is gained popularity in an already saturated field.

Tribe Twelves tells the story of Noah Maxwell, a twenty something living alone in Florida. It begins with Noah explaining how he had a close relationship with his cousin Milo, how they grew apart and how strangely Milo acted in the few weeks before he was found dead in his home of an overdose on prescription medication. Each of the first few videos (described as "Layers") depicts Milo's final visit to Noah, as the videos progress we realise that Milo is being stalked by Slenderman. When Milo dies, Slenderman seemingly stays behind. Noah is thrust into a freaky world of mysterious packages, disturbing phone calls and cryptic messages.

One of the things which makes TT stand out is the technical ability of its producer, the latest Layer "Hello There" has a slick nature to it. It uses a two-tone filter to give the whole message an eerie feeling, images are sometimes too dark to make out until the filter shifts through a spectrum and you can make out the subject for a split second before it becomes too light. This "there and yet not there" approach is indicative of the thread I feel which runs through this whole series - claustrophobia and loneliness.

Once Milo is gone, Noah is alone and facing his demons. Unlike MH and EMH, where the subject is a group of friends, Noah has no support - even putting out a request to fans for somewhere to stay over Thanksgiving. I believe this sense of isolation has built quite a connection between Noah and the TT fans, you feel his pain because he has to share it with you, you believe he has no one else to share it with and so you feel more part of the story.

Tribe Twelve feels more akin to Marble Hornets than EverymanHYBRID. Jay has become increasingly isolated in the latter part of the MH story, and the epic use of silence which MH employ is similar to the cloyingly quiet scene where Noah is pursuing a stalker around his house.

Recently, Noah has been to see "Sarah" - the fan who accepted his request for somewhere to stay over Thanksgiving. They did a live stream and had some laughs but in the end Noah had to leave early with the tweet:

left early. some shit went down. dont know where im headed. fuck this. sorry sarah.

7:21 AM Nov 27th via Twitter for iPhone

So, there has been shit! I know I'm not alone in my curiousity as to what this shit was. I think Noah should just bite the bullet and stomp out to the tower again, alone, at night. Whats the worst that could happen?

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Misfits: Best thing on the Telly


There, I said it, I firmly believe that the E4 series Misfits is the best thing on the telly in the UK at the moment.
Its a very Brit-pop show to rival the epicness of the US hits Lost and Heroes, but it retains it's UK grit and tongue in cheek sense of humour - there aren't many shows that would have a character scream "I want to piss on your tits!" in the first episode. Short story synopsis: 5 youths are sent to do community service, crazy storm hits and they are all struct by lightning - they all gain superpowers: anyone who touches Alisha will immediately fall into a lust filled frenzy, Kurtis can turn back (and, as we discovered in recent episodes, forward) time, Simon can turn invisible, Nathan is immortal (omg Season1 ending spoiler) and Kelly can read minds.

What is so good about this series is that they don't go to flashy locations, there aren't a tonne of big explosions or expensive special effects - its all about the characters. At first they seem to be exactly what everyone thinks they are, just gobby youths who don't give a shit, but as the series progresses you realise each character is far deeper than that. Alisha (played by Antonia Thomas) is beautiful but struggling with a deep seated insecurity which she fills with sex and parties, Kurtis is riddled with guilt because he's thrown away a bright athletics career, Simon has issues with social situations, Nathan uses humour and insults to keep people away and Kelly has serious anger issues (so much so that she stamps her probation worker to death in the first hour).

All I can say is that the first series is AWESOME! If you haven't seen it I would highly recommend hopping over to 4od and taking a look. Even though if you've reached this far in the post then you've learned most of the twists for the end, but its worth doing anyway! The comedy is dry, often blue to the bluest degree (Nathan in particular) and hilarious. Similarly, it deals with some very dark issues such as sexual aggression, murder, drug abuse, religion, race and age.

If you've seen season one and you've missed the past few weeks of the new season, then you HAVE to head over to 4od to watch them. I have just watched the lastest episode and HOT DAMN is it good, lets just say that our masked man has just blown my tiny little mind.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Bill Bailey: Dandelion Mind

I think I might need one of those burgandy smoking jackets for this evening. I'm looking forward to it so much I feel like I might grow a moustache through sheer force of will. My better half has gone to babysit for the night, and I've just bought the new Bill Bailey stand up DVD "Dandelion Mind":

EEE! say that its a return to form akin to Part Troll - this pleases me greatly. I saw his last tour "Tinselworm" a couple of years ago and it was a bit "meh", which was a real shame - I've been a Bailey fan for a long while and this was the first chance I'd had to see him live, it was a little bit forced and as say: "confused". I'm thoroughly looking forward to this one though. High hopes Bill, don't y'all let me down now.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

EverymanHYBRID: Murder is a Dirty Habit

Having spent the last post talking about the latest Marble Hornets info, I thought I'd focus on the other big Slend-romp of the moment - EverymanHYBRID.

As I was saying in the last post - although the subjects of the two Slenderman stories might at first seem similar, group of friends, Slendy-goings-on, and stuff "goin' down" - in fact the way the stories are approached and presented to the viewers are quite different. Take, for example, the latest offering from the guys over at EverymanHYBRID:

The video comes after a torrent of excitement from the followers over at UnFiction when we heard in the last entry that one of the characters, Ryan, had been in a car accident (it seemed). Vince threw us a small bone stating "I heard that noise"...
Most of the latest video shows the crew over in what appears to be a field, they are dimly lit by candles - presumably they are at the scene of the accident. Before this, we hear Jeff telling Evan to slow the car down so he can get a shot of a mutilated deer by the side of the road - uh oh, I smell the work of a particularly gougey garden-utensilly named foe (although, Slendy has also been known to mess with animals). The camera then cuts to laughter and a darkened interior location, we hear a sneering voice talking loudly in the next room, the place appears to be lit by lots of candles. The camera cuts again to the guys in the field. Vince tells us that Ryan was in an accident and passes on to Jeff to describe the rest of the story. Jeff describes to us how he was asked by Ryans Mother to help identify the body, how he had been mutilated with scratches all over his body and a broken neck.

The EMH crew doubt this is a car accident. Using their super-power detective skills they summise that as most of the glass was inside the vehicle it means something smashed through from the outside, rather than Ryan going through it from the drivers seat. The guys then go on to describe how Ryan recieved a strange email from a person known as HABIT (see here for a description of this character) asking for information, Ryan pressed him for his identity but also provided the information. We see the address come up on screen and the screencap of Ryans reply is linked in the description:

In the final scene in the field the guys describe how they have now sent their info to this guy and are so similarly "signed up". Almost everyone in the world has now also done the same! Some have been provided ID numbers for this "contest" already, I'm eagerly awaiting my reply!

The final scene is back in the candlelit house, the camerman moves closer to the voice in the next room and we see that it is Evan, talking to someone across the table - weilding a butcher knife. Evan describes how he has brought these "little fishes" for this person. Finally, as the cameraman moves further into the room we see the seat opposite is empty - finally the cameraman speaks and we hear that it is Jeff. He asks Evan what he's doing, as Evan gets up and advances on Jeff he turns and immediately runs into the ghastly figure of what appears to be Slendy - accompanied by his signature audio/visual distortion:

I really liked this episode - it was fast paced, it had a slick feel to it - with events seemingly occurring simultaneously until we realise who the characters involved are. The camera always cut away from one scene just as it got juicy and left you wanting to go back.

Feels to me like the guys really stepped up the game in response to the new season of MH coming out. I can't wait to see how insane Evan is going to go, how long Vince's beard is going to grow and where they are going with the whole Rake-in-Alex's-bedroom dealio. As always, the best place to follow the debate is over at UnFiction - I'd definately suggest getting an account over there and getting involved. I'd also suggest heading over to YouTube and Twitter and subscribing to both EMH, Marble Hornets and also Tribe Twelve - who I will do a post on tomorrow.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Marble Hornets Season 2: Entry #27

Squeeing like a schoolgirl.

This video is very similar in format to the "Introduction" video we saw at the start of the first season. There's a lot of debate over at UnFiction as to whether we see The Operator (Slenderman) in this vid, and I'd have to lean more towards the no camp. It would be rather crude of them to stick him in the first video, it would ruin all the suspense and tension which goes hand in hand with Marble Hornets.

One of the things that did strike me is how quiet the whole thing is. Having spent the past few months watching EverymanHYBRID and then yesterday watching TribeTwelve, you forget how the Marble Hornets crew use silence as an effective tool to really ramp up the tension. EverymanHYBRID and to a lesser extent Tribe Twelve are quite noisy and fast paced series', EMH introduced Slendy early on (although, we've learnt it was just them playing a prank) and when he showed up the first time it was accompanied by loud distortion and video cutting. When we first see Slendy in Entry #1 of MH, he is silent, and Alex is running from window to window - all we hear is his restless breathing.

People are complaining about how this is too boring and slow paced, but what you must realise is that this is how Marble Hornets has always worked. EMH is fast paced and, at times, very busy. They introduced their Slendy character and Evan reacts early on with violence, we see bags of blood and dead bodies - they even introduced a second monster: The Rake. Its racy, bolshy and exciting.

Marble Hornets is an altogether different beast. It builds the tension slowly, Slendy lurks, you barely see him move. He just... lurks. When he first turns to look at Alex in E#1, I about crapped myself. The Slenderman in MH is slow, he eats away at your subconscious, if the MH Slendy was at the Ashen Waste in EverymanHYBRID land, Evan wouldn't have got within 20 feet of him, let alone get him with the bat. There is a creepiness which is totally different to the EMH creepiness. Then before you know it; your friends are missing, your apartment is burnt down and you're bleeding from your forehead, convulsing on the floor and coughing like a trooper.

Entry #27 is slow paced. It is a set up for the coming happenings. Jay has been out cold (or at least, thats what he thinks!) for 7 months. He has woken up with a camera strapped to his chest, in a hotel in the middle of nowhere. Talk is of him being the new "Alex" - on the run, with his own months of screwy tapes to go over, only this time he will be the focus, he is the one being stalked.

Oh yeah, and what happened to Alex and the smokin' hot blonde in E#26?

Don't get my wrong, I love EMH and also I've really got into TT recently. But they are different kinds of scary - I'm loving where EMH are going with The Rake, and TT has a real sense of claustrophobia and loneliness.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Its a Family Game

Finding myself infinately amused by this which I found on the Machinima Respawn Channel:

Do you have small children with busy hands? Why not give them control of a high powered top of the range assault rifle? Watch them while away the hours popping the heads off n00bs and making friends the old fashioned way!

Crowdsourced Stories

I had an idea a few weeks ago whilst reading this article over at Lifehacker, taking inspiration from NaNoWriMo and my own lack of motivation to do any writing over a few pages, I thought about different ways of sharing and recreating new information and narratives. I'm a big fan of grassroots internet-lead creations, which is one of the reasons I like ARGs so much and I love the idea of bringing disparate minds together to throw up something new, shiney and hopefully not too covered in puke.

So, I decided to crowdsource a story. Crowdsourcing originated in business, where, instead of outsourcing labour to third parties, the company would spread the labour over a group through an open call. I am hoping to use a similar technique to see what we can create in terms of narrative.

Over the next couple of weeks I am going to be writing the first two or three paragraphs of a story. I'm not 100% on what it will be like yet, I'm not a very talented writer, but I hope to just introduce one maybe two characters and set a scene. Then I will upload this story to a USB drive in a word document, and include another document with instructions. Then I will place the USB drive in a clear plastic folder, include a paper copy of the electronic instructions and then I will leave it in a public place.

The instructions will ask the indivudual who finds it to contribute their ideas to the story and tag them onto the end of my first few bits. I will also ask them to check in here, tell us a little bit about themselves and what they will be writing. When they are done I hope they will again put the USB in a plastic folder with the note and put it back out into the world. I am hoping that eventually we will have a decent story going and at some point we may be able to judge the narrative to be finished, have reached a decent conclusion and we can look at what we have.

If nothing happens, noone finds it or the trail just goes cold then so be it. But I'm excited about it! I'll announce where I've dropped it on Twitter and on here, with a hope that this will stimulate someone to go and pick it up. More news to follow!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Crazy Hand-Foot Shinanigans

 Found on Geekologie: This is equal measures of insane and genius.

"Nine-year-old Ming Li is just like any other little Chinese girl. Except she has to walk to school uphill both ways and still got run over and her hand cut off by a tractor. At the time, her arm was in such poor shape reattaching the hand was an impossibility. Thankfully, quick-thinking doctors were able to graft it to her foot while her arm healed, and successfully reattach it 3-months later. MODERN MEDICAL MAGIC!"

Friday, 19 November 2010

Argh! Porcelain Bees!

I've mentioned in a number of my posts that I am an avid gamer. However, what I haven't mentioned is that I also like to indulge in a bit of ARG-y goodness now and again. ARGs or "Alternative Reality Games" are games in which the player can get totally involved, the story unfolds in front of them through a number of different mediums and more often than not the puzzles are solved through community collaboration. I've mentioned my interest in online communities and their composition, evolution and cohesion in previous blabberings.

One of the most widely known ARGs is the horror/thriller game Marble Hornets (although, it is often seen as more of a chaotic fiction). MH tells the story of a group of friends who are haunted by the ghostly figure of Slenderman, as well as a number of other unsettling characters. The story revolves around the character Jay who is given a bin bag full of old videos by his friend Alex and told to destroy them. Instead Jay watches the tapes, originally meant to be film from the budget movie they and a few friends were filming, and sees Alex's sanity unwind as his is stalked by Slendy.

The story is mostly told through youtube and Twitter (@marblehornets) posts, with updates coming in the form of "Entries" - beginning with The Introduction and culminating in Entry 26. I don't want to give too much of the story away, just in case you are interested in getting involved, but its certainly worth watching from the start - also keep an eye on the video responses!

The main reason for this post is that "Season 2" appears to be starting, with Jay's Twitter being updated with 3 new mysterious and cryptic pictures - the ARG forums are furiously attempting to decode them, check out the action on unFiction here. I would thoroughly suggest getting involved in the forum and contributing, they are all very friendly and the community spirit of solving each problem as a group is really rather thrilling. There are tonnes of other viral and grassroots ARGs to get involved in on the unfiction forums, it was a big part of my life in the early part of this year and I've lost contact with the group of late, I'm hoping to get back into it with the new season of Marble Hornets.

Just.. erm, watch your windows, do not start to film yourself and, whatever you do, don't go into the freaking woods...

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Terribly Faithful

Faith is at once a beautiful, inspiring and terrible thing.

I don't object to Christians, the majority of them are friendly normal people who get on with their lives. What I do object to are the militant Christians who feel it warranted to be unnecessarily aggressive and unflinchingly blind to evidence to their contrary. This stubbornness is the worst (or best) kind of argument to pit against an intellectual mind - even the most well thought out and sturdily constructed argument can be ignored, this causes more and more frustration to those who only want their point acknowledged.

Case in point: @JoeCienkowski I don't like to name names, but having stumbled across this particular Twitter feed I found myself quite perturbed by a total lack of understanding of the importance of rational thought, even to a deeply religious mind. The faith Mr Cienkowski has is unflinching and without doubt, and is admirable in that sense, however, arguing against him does appear to be a rather painful and pointless exercise. When the argument pitted against him is deemed stupid, they are told they are "foolish and ignorant" and "I am so tired of calling you people stupid", one such post is finished with the cyber-typical flourish "LOL". But when the argument is deemed to be well thought out, systematic and often (in my opinion) right, it is met with something along the lines of: "There is no doubt there is a God; no doubt Jesus Christ is that God (second person of the Trinity) & no doubt about resurrection". My feelings aside, this is just bad theory proving. Intellectual roadblock.

If you understand scientific theory, you must understand that validation is a pointless exercise. You can observe your white swans for over 1000 years and say that it is provable that all swans are white, but a single black swan will tear your argument down. You must, then, seek to falsify your argument, you must constantly seek to test your theory and strive to prove it wrong. You must accept your refuter's arguments as at least valid and explore the possibility that they might be right.

Ultimately, arguing against faith is hopeless. The very point of faith is that it believes in spite of. However, how about we play Mr Cienkowski's game for a bit - lets seek to validate shall we? Show me empirical evidence (not a logical argument such as "this ISN'T true, therefore this MUST be true" or some derivation of teleological logic) of the existence of a higher power.Then these arguments would begin to hold more weight with me. Until then, unfortunately I declare the arguments of Mr Cienkowski to be childish "no, but, no, but, shut up"s.

Finally, if "The Bible is 100% accurate, 100% God's word" then maybe you should take a read of this:

2 Kings 2:23-24:
"And he [Elisha] went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them."
Maybe you should hold back on the verbal abuse from now on, eh? Wouldn't want to be mauled by bears.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

International Hope for a Day off Sometime Next Year.. Day

I know I am not the only one who is interested in the Royal Wedding simply because we might get a day off work? If we do get a day off, I will fill my Twitter feed with Tweets such as "Omg, look at Kate Middleton in that dress - how lovely!" and "Oh, how I wish I could be there..." whilst secretly playing video games and eating pepperoni pizza.

I'll probably have it up on the net in the background so that I'll know if I'm Tweeting: "My doesn't Prince William look handsome in his suit?" if half the congragation have been blown apart by a shoebomb. That would be embarressing.

ps. If you reveal my cleverly laid plans to anyone at work, I will hunt you down, paint you black and throw you to Prince Phillip.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Living with Yourself

I've broached this subject with a number of coworkers and friends and a lot of them seem to come back with completely the opposite response to the one which I would give; do you like spending time alone? I relish the chance to spend some alone time just quietly getting stuff done or relaxing. However, some people say that they outright cannot stand their own company, that there is something fundamentally annoying about themselves which means they'd rather blank themselves out with the company of other people. So, I thought I'd post the top 5 tips for spending time alone:

1) Mentally plan your day. I find that if I don't give myself tasks to do then I will probably spend the whole day melting further and further into the sofa - sure, I'd get a lot of headshots, but would I get stuff done? Hell naw. When I know I have a day of leave coming up I set up a little timetable in my brain: 9-10 get up, breakfast, eat cocopops in front of the news, 10-11 do the washing/dishes, 11-12 dance around in my pants... etc.

Note: that's not to say that you shouldn't set aside time to unwind and chill out. Time to get your head around what is going on and just sit and scratch yourself is very important. Having time alone is just as much about relaxing as it is about getting the dishes done.

2) Get "out there". When you've got extended time alone, one of the obvious problems is loneliness, one of the easiest ways to combat this is the engage in some online networking. One of the great things about meeting people online is that you can have social interaction in tasty little bitesize pieces. Start a blog, get on twitter, play a MMORPG, join a forum - whatever takes your fancy. The beautiful thing about the internet is that each of these little facets of society interlink, the more you post in a forum the more you meet likeminded people, maybe you find them on Twitter and you sign up, you follow a few interesting people and in turn are followed by others, in time you will stumble over their blogs and maybe start one yourself. For me this is fascinating, its social interaction at the very basic and pure level, relatively little geographical or aesthetic restrictions, just plug in and go.

Note: that is not to say you should rely on the internet 100% for social interaction, there is no full substitute for human interaction. So, by "get out there" I also mean, go down the shops, go to Twitter organised events, attend Flashmobs, do some Geocaching etc etc. 

3) Be childish. You are alone, do whatever the hell you want - if you'd like ot take your clothes off and dance around your flat to Miley Cyrus then go ahead and do it, you crazy diamond. Go and watch Spongebob Squarepants, you'll enjoy it. As adults we rarely get a chance to revisit the world in which we existed as kids, I believe that to have a healthy mind you have to embrace your inner kid. So, put on your furriest slippers, watch Alladin - its awesome. There is no-one around to judge you.

Note: don't do a MJ. You don't have the space to look after a fully grown chimp.

4) Don't watch the clock. Although I've said that you should have a plan for the day, I don't believe its good to watch the clock for every second. If your favourite TV show isn't on until 5, dont sit down at 4 and wait, go and do something else for a bit - set an alarm for 5, and if you find an interesting enough activity then you probably won't notice the hour fly by.

Note: I am incredibly bad for this. Like now, I've had to write this post as I'm alone in the office and I'm watching the clock every 5 minutes hoping that 12:30 will come around and I can go for my lunch. *Check again* Damn 12:08.

5) Don't be afraid to mentally (and sometimes, physically) slap yourself. One of the biggest traps which I often fall into when alone is that there is noone around to tell me that I am being silly. Typical train of thought: "Hmm... I should make lunch... wish someone else would do it... WHY AM I SO ALONE?!". You need to be able to go "Oi, stop that. Get a grip", otherwise you won't survive past the first few days. Be realistic about your circumstances, but also be realistic about what you do have. Take an honest stock of who and what exists in your life and its likely you will see that there is more than you think.

Note: having a strong online community to go to for advice can help with finding perspective when no-one else is around.

The experience project has some interesting tips from anonymous people on spending time alone, check it out here: Experience project.

*Checks again*
12:10, Dammit!

Monday, 15 November 2010

Mad Situation for JB

Look at that face. Stiffest of stiff upper lips, casually open t-shirt as if to say "hey guys, I'm not that port out starboard home", tousled Hugh Grant hair. Now, look into the eyes of the man who stopped WW III.

This story is odd, I knew James Blunt was in the army, there's a clip of him on Blue Peter or something and he's wearing a very smart red uniform and showing some people round a castle. But I didn't know he saw combat. I've never liked his music, his singing voice is quite annoying, and he was cursed with a cockney rhyming slang name, but this story has at least bumped his respect level up to "normal person", from "annoying person".

Blunt refused to fire on Russian troops who had taken an airfield, even disobeying a direct order from a US General (reminds me of Hugh Grant in Love Actually). From the BBC:

In an interview with BBC Radio 5 live, broadcast on Sunday, he said: "I was given the direct command to overpower the 200 or so Russians who were there.
"I was the lead officer with my troop of men behind us...
"The soldiers directly behind me were from the Parachute Regiment, so they're obviously game for the fight.
"The direct command [that] came in from Gen Wesley Clark was to overpower them. Various words were used that seemed unusual to us. Words such as 'destroy' came down the radio."

Blunt goes on to say:
"Fortunately, up on the radio came Gen Mike Jackson, whose exact words at the time were, 'I'm not going to have my soldiers be responsible for starting World War III', and told us why don't we sugar off down the road, you know, encircle the airfield instead...
"There are things that you do along the way that you know are right, and those that you absolutely feel are wrong, that I think it's morally important to stand up against, and that sense of moral judgement is drilled into us as soldiers in the British army."

Makes you bloody proud.

Still, I don't like "You're Beautiful". Sorry.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Absolutely Thackered

Taking a look at this post at, I thought I'd give my two cents on how the Guild Wars 2/GW:B is shaping up.

As pointed out by Ravious at ktr - there has been a bit of a dry spell regarding info on GW2. Whilst I agree with him that we should remain patient for GW2 info, for me, this doesn't pose too much of a problem because, as an avid 5 year GW player, I am still dining on all the Guild Wars 1 updates which are flooding in. I mean, theres the Gwen/Keiran wedding supposedly coming up before Wintersday (Christmas) - as indicated in this interview snagged by Massively during the Paris Games Week convention. Theres the "Cantha - Winds of Change" update to come (the sister to the Tyrian based "War in Kryta" quest series, I anticipate CWoC to be even better than WiK - mainly due to the way that Anet has handled the feedback they received through the post-game survey they had players do a while back. On top of all this there is the developing story of the Mad King and his foray into the real world which began at Halloween - this is a real interesting one for me, the Mad King has always been a character which existed external to normal lore, he was just a character which showed up at Halloween and had fun little quests for halloween type rewards. Now, however, he is making a bid to return to the mortal world, which means bringing him into the story of the changing lands of Tyria - its going to be very interesting and I can't wait to see what happens.

What I'm finding at the moment is that with the Hall of Monuments changes, GW has been sparked back into life. Its really nice for me to see the game that I love getting the attention it deserves. The lead up to GW2 will only strengthen the community in my opinion, people will want to get more and more involved in GW1 so as to go into the next game with the best advantage and the best knowledge of how we got to where we are, and the best way to get "close" to GW2 will be to play GW1. The Anet team have done a great job of fostering this interest, with WiK, CWoC and the assumed existence of the Elonian campaign.

As indicated by my review of the Guild Wars crossover book; Ghosts of Ascalon, I am very interested in how the teams involved in both games are trying to tie the lore together. I am looking forward to the next book "Edge of Destiny", and I hope that GW2 is all its hyped up to be.

Until then, I'll just keep hugging the walls hoping to scrape out another 0.01% for Elonian Cartographer, and chugging Dwarven Ale like there's no tomorrow.

Friday, 12 November 2010


Despite its often tech-ie mathmatical outer coating, the center of the online comic xkcd has always felt quite warm and squishie. It is consistently funny, clever and thought provoking - right down to the alt text when you hover over the image. That is why its extra saddening to see the latest post regarding a family illness which the writer, Robert Monroe, openly admits to his readers as possibly hindering the posting of further comics over the next few weeks.
The frankness of this post on what is ordinarily a light hearted if not humorous comic strip is shocking, but it also seems to reflect a personal investment Monroe has in the strip, his fans and the wider web community. It is at once refreshingly real, whilst saddeningly heartfelt.

I wish Monroe and his family all the best dealing with whatever it is that is ailing them. I hope that the same vim and vigor we see throughout xkcd helpss them through this difficult time.

Metaflex - A Real Life Invisibility Cloak

"It makes sense that this sort of development would come out of the U.K., considering that Harry Potter has an invisibility cloak. A team of scientists at St. Andrews University in Scotland have developed a polymer, Metaflex, which could be used to create fabrics that bend light, rendering an object invisible."

Dreams: fulfilled.
Hopes: centered on hovercar.

Full text of the article to be found here: New Journal of Physics

Petulant Children Ruining a Good Cause

With whats recently been happening in the capitol over the past few days, I thought I'd try and deconstruct how I feel about the whole student protest debacle. I say deconstruct because as I set out in this post I actually don't know for definate how I feel about it, my feelings are mixed for a number of reasons and I'm hoping that going through them will help me work out how I feel:

1) I did a three year Sociology degree followed by a one year postgraduate Masters in Social Research Methodology. Although I received a loan for the first three years, I funded myself for my postgraduate studies - this was before the rise in tuition fees of a couple of years ago, and way before this proposal of a £9000 limit on the fees. I struggled to raise the funds to study for that extra year. I worked over my summer, scraped and saved, and then still had to borrow £5000 from family members. Knowing how much I struggled, I can't even comprehend how it must feel to be 17 years old with the prospect of possibly having to pay £9000 each year to study. I have come out of University with £20 000 worth of debt to the Government and £5000 loan to be paid back to the family, students going to one of the 9k Universities can expect upwards of £30 000+ worth of debt when they start their working lives.

2) On the other hand, I have friends who work in London. One of my University friends works in a building which overlooks one of the epicenters of the violence. Having spoken to her over the past couple of days, she told me how scared she was, how the violence erupting below was so unlike what she thought the protest was supposed to be like and how she has "no sympathy for students after the way they acted...".

3) The general pretention which surrounds even the most well meaning student protest kinda grinds on me. It ground on me in the years at Uni and it grinds on me now. My job takes me to the local University for a number of days each week, and one of the main things I notice each day (aside from the seething jealousy I feel that they are living the life I was naught but 12 months ago) is the idea that somehow being in the University environment empowers these people with knowledge the lay man just doesn't understand. At the protests on Wednesday, apparently one student was quoted comparing their plight to the anti-war protests of the 60s and 70s! No. Just no.

In general, I think the students have shot themselves in the foot. The protests won't be remembered for the cause, but for the actions of those few teens who took it too far. The UK press have slaughtered them (and, now the lecturers who support them) - whilst I wouldn't think twice about wiping certain parts of my body on the Daily Mail, I believe there are a great number of people who put a lot of stock with the rag. If there were fence sitters before these protests I believe now they may be lost to the Conservative garden. I think now I realise that whilst I support the cause, I believe it may now be lost, and without the cause there can be no effect, the protests were for nothing. Violence for violence sake.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Journalspace Revived - Riiiise from your Grave!

I was very happy to discover that the loss of JS wasn't just something which I mourned, but there was still a rag-tag group of bloggers from the great blowout of '08. I came across Dorrie's blog whilst searching for some old names who I used to blog with back then. Just thought I'd say I really appreciate the effort you've gone to for the community. Here is a picture of a mouse with a hat on as compensation for your efforts:

Why I would mollycoddle a Moleskine

Sometimes I despair at the ghastly objectophile I have become. Not the fall in love with fence posts, marry the Golden Gate Bridge kind of objectophile - but I have this odd sensation that buying a Moleskine notepad will solve many of the problems in my life.

They're just so pretty, tightly bound and sealed with care. I imagine the paper to feel like it was hand crafted from Nile-side reeds, and each page to be crisp and new like a blank sheet of possibilities. I could use it when a blog post springs to mind and I'm not near a computer to note it down, on the bus, or... or when... hmm... it appears thats literally the only time I'm away from a computer. What a excrementally dull life I must lead.

The fact of the matter is that I couldn't have such an item. There are a number of reasons, but primarily, I would feel that I wouldn't have anything worthy of putting pen to Nile-side-river-reed-pressed paper. I'd only write silly things, or draw pictures of my bus companions with devil horns or riding a camel. I'd never tarnish the pages of my precious notepad with such squalid utterances, it would be like the best silver - never taking it out of the cupboard when you have guests lest there be a more important guest next weekend.

Taking a look at's favourite notebooks, maybe I should go for one of the cheaper options. Then I can draw fish and mice with hats and write about the Universe and other innane things.

Amazon E-Readophilia

Taking a look at this article over at Quick summary from BBC:

"A self-published guide giving advice to paedophiles that is for sale through online retailer Amazon is stirring up controversy on the internet, with some threatening to boycott the website.
The availability of the Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure: a Child-lover's Code of Conduct has led to questions over scrutiny on the site."

Now, I'm not sure where to stand on this. In no way can you condone the actions of paedophiles, however, the little liberal in me wants me to stand up for free speech and fight against censorship. I think in the end the little liberal, let's call him Colin, will win out. I can't mentally justify support for Amazon censoring this author's work, its a very rocky road and I dread to think where it would lead.

The fact is, must all abide by the laws of free speech otherwise the whole house of cards comes tumbling down.

Ghosts of Ascalon

In yet another tangent, I'd like to give a short review on a book I've just read: "Ghosts of Ascalon" by Matt Forbeck and Jeff Grubb.

Its a book which I have had mixed feelings about right from the start - for reasons as follows. I love fantasy hack and slash literature - dragons, swords, spells, bows, elves, orcs and goblins and all that. Its great. I am convinced that I would be far better off if society crumbled and I was left with nothing but a makeshift bow and arrow constructed from my guitar strings and the bendy bit of plastic which holds my telly together. I also love Guild Wars, and am eagerly awaiting Guild Wars 2. On the other hand, I am deeply deeply ashamed of my geekiness. I think only my girlfriend truly knows how deep the nerd-hole goes, and I work very hard to keep it that way.

With that in mind, a fantasy fiction novel bridging the gap between the game I love and its sequal is something which I lust after and fear in equal measure.

Having finished the book, I can say I thoroughly enjoyed it. I am a huge GW fan and there were so many moments when I could go "LOL I KNOW WHAT THEY MEAN!" and clap enthusiastically like Stewie does when they say the name of the film in the film. The book does a great job of reconciling the tensions between the two major enemies in GW1 - the charr and the humans. Both sides are seen in a light which the first game just doesn't quite capture (primarily because you see everything from the view of a human, in the book you see the dark side of the human empire and the very human side of the charr legions). And has so many twists and turns you really get to feel for the characters.

Another nice thing is that the writers don't fanny around with undue description and flowerly language. There are no Tolkeinesque passages of "and then they sang the song they always sing, when they did the dishes" bloody Tom-Freaking-Bombadill, man, never even got halfway through that book. GoA really just gets stuck in from page one.

What is one of the greatest assets of the book, unforunately could also be seen as a criticism. Sometimes events can seem rushed, as if they are only there to fill the space between the beginning, middle and end. Perhaps, to slip in a character who might induce squeeing amongst GW fans such as myself.

However, on the whole I enjoyed it. I got a bit worried when I was 10 pages from the end and all seemed to be lost - I could see a very bleak start to GW2 when it comes out next year *fingers crossed*, but the writers Matt Forbeck and Jeff Grubb did a great job of really rounding it all off nicely. It guaranteed that I will be literally gnawing at my desk in about 6 months squeeing myself into oblivion about the prospect of playing GW2.


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