Thursday, 18 April 2013

MAGLAN 13 rolling blog

7am - Start of a LONG day!
Here I am again, at the start of a gaming day! Having checked Mumble - our online comms software - I was a little disappointed to find that I am the first of the BIG clan boys to be online! But I am sure that they are up and sampling one of Magnus's (Magnus being the host) super-sized Scottish breakfasts.

So, in the meantime I will amuse myself with some Bad Company 2 - Vietnam...

Man cave central - the hub of today's Milgeek events!

8.00am: I'VE STILL GOT IT! Haven't played BC2 in ages and while not 'Leet' I can still hold my own for an old twat! Much to the disgust of the kids - best of all I haven't seemed to have lost my knack with mines either with a lovely flag mine kill which stopped the turn-over. This kill garnered some abuse, which made my day and put me in mind of the laughs we sued to have when people resort to name calling.

Here's a Golden Oldie that still makes me laugh...



Phew! After all the BC2: Vietnam excitement I feel like I must have the first snack-stop of the day...

First snack-stop of the game day: Caorunn Scottish Gin & Tonic, Emmental
cheese, Scottish oat crackers, prawn cocktail pringles and salsa dip...
And now onto round 2 of Battlefield Bad Company 2: Vietnam...

9.30am: You know, after my long absence from playing BC2 I did fully expert to suck. But I've actually been OK (definitely not 'leet' or anything, but OK)!


WHAY-HEY! THE REST OF THE BIG CLAN BOYS HAVE ARRIVED ONLINE!


My squad in the BIG clan playoff seem to be going for British tank destroyers this morning. I've teamed up with BIG-Dewey and BIG-Paddy and brought my little AT-8 to the party!

LUNCH! 12.30: Whilst at the local corner shop this morning I spotted one of these Rustler flame grilled microwave burgers. Obvious game day junk food I thought, and I was right. It tasted like licking the outside of a used pair of rubber incontinent pants!

I did try and perk it up with some melted emmental cheese, but it didn't do much for the flavor...I still taste rubber!

Well, the gaming is fun and I am skirting the path of tiddly as the morning's gin takes effect. The guys have trotted off for something to eat. I wonder if we have any pudding in the fridge?

1pm Onwards - Decent into Darkness!
Well, from lunch till teatime I peaked then descended into a gin soaked stupor! I eventually had to give in and called it a day as I wanted to spend some time just relaxing in front of the TV.

Still, I had a terrific day, playing in company - especially the bunch of reprobates that are the BIG guys - is hilarious fun. Particularly as you can listen to them slowly degenerating - due to the alcohol - over our Mumble voice comms.

I guess the day was also successful as far as my World of Tanks garage has concerned as I manage to grind up to the British A-15 tank destroyer. As well as that I earned a lot of XP and silver to get me on my way towards my Centurion II, so not a bad days work!


And so endeth another gaming day.

MAGLAN ahoy! (2013 chaps gaming day.)

Once a year members of the ironically diminutive BIG gaming clan get together in Scotland to drink copious amounts of cider, eat incredulously large amounts of booze and play computer games until I eyes bleed and our asses prolapse because of the amount of fatty junk we have eaten.

Well I cannot make MAGLAN 13 because of family commitments, but due to teh magic of online gaming I will be joining the rest of the BIG guys over the ether from teh comfort of my own home. I have booked tomorrow off work - careful to not tell the wife I am doing so - and will be joining in the marathon weekend of World of Tanks and whatever else we are playing.

For the occasion I will be breaking my alcohol and junk food ban and I will be assaulting my system with some of my old favourites - aside from cider which is still a no-no - like gin, Leerdammer cheese, the old Belgian beer and random spicy meaty products!

It will just be like the old days (when I was happy oblivious of my booze and food related health problems! Blaggghhh!)


Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Boom, headshot!

According to my daughter this is ME?

War Thunder - World of Tanks...In the air!


There is no doubt World of Tanks gets stale. Every so often the developers spruce up the game by bringing out a new line of tanks and maybe - rarely - a new map, but the format has been flogged to death by my friends and I. In fact, this Friday's 'Game Day' will in all likelihood be my final appearance in this game (famous last words, I know)!

What is annoying is that the developers themselves foresaw the limitations of WoT and so took steps to develop new games - albeit using the same lucrative 'Pay to Play' system as WoT - and came up with the very exciting 'World of Warlanes' and 'World of Warships'. Hoo-rah I thought, timely replacements to World of Tanks - but then time passed and nothing transpired and a year or so on only Warplanes has reached 'Closed Beta'.

Well I came across 'War Thunder' last week and to be honest it just seemed to be a straight copy of 'World of Warplanes', but as War Thunder was actually up and working (although officially an Open Beta) I thought I would give it a spin.

Tanks, but in 3 dimensions!
When I fits opened up the game I did chuckle, the first screen that meets you is an almost exact copy of WoT's tank garage idea - but a hanger of course - so straight away you are on familiar ground...

The War Thunder Hanger, with a beautiful Hawker Fury inside.

Now I have not yet looked into War Thunder's 'Pay to Play' or 'Premium' features yet so I don't know if like WoT you get a more refined home screen if you subscribe, but there will be perks and extra customization benefits if you do decide to fork out real cash. But at the moment I am only interested in what you get for free!

At this point you can, like World of Tanks, decide what nation you prefer to play and which of the initial basic aircraft you want to fly. There are five nations; America, Germany, Soviet Union, Britain and Japan, and each has it's own pre-WW2 era fighter.

From here you can enter the game itself by clicking on the 'To Battle!' button, but then things get a little complected...

In the cue to play...Yawn!

There seems to be a long wait to play the game and you are shoved into a cue. I had to wait nearly two minutes to finally get into a server/map, but the above screen does give you an indication of how long your wait might be and compares it to other choices in aircraft so you can change to something that might get you in faster if you prefer.

I am hoping this might just be because this is a BETA and that waiting times will be markedly quicker in the full release version.

Anyway, when you do get in you are first shown the 'briefing' screen with a map to give you your objectives - in my case I was to protect and capture airfields on an island. Now don't ask me how that works yet - I have no idea...I just wanted to dogfight (I will work out the intricacies of the game later)!

Nice graphics which display the opening scene of my first game. Here I
fly above 'our' airfield and look over at what is now the enemy airfield. The
red dots are the incoming attackers, I picked out a likely target!

At this stage the idea seems simple - shoot down the bad guys in red! But how easy is that?

Well, flight controls and nice and simple (there is a basic flight tutorial) and I managed fine with keyboard and mouse, but there are - of course - more advanced settings for those who have the appropriate flight sticks and I am sure there will be advantages for using the correct control gear.

Before long I was in the midst of a dogfight - my first potential victim being what I thought might be easy meat, a Swordfish torpedo bomber - but here is where I found that the flight system, even on arcade, is nicely thought out. You can plack out in high G turns, overshoot if you come in too fast, and you ALWAYS have to be watching your six.

I immediately fell for that basic 'newbie' flight combat error of 'target fixation' - I was so honed in on bringing down my target that I did not see the enemy fighter slip in behind me! Before I knew it I was crashing in a flaming ball into the sea!

I thought I had him...I did not see his friend swoop down behind me though!

Indeed, the golden rules for air combat are as they have always been, height and speed are important, checking your 'six' continually is a must, and - in my case - getting drawn down into low level chases is a bad idea (because then the enemy have the height advantage).

All in all though I enjoyed this first brief outing, I can see this game has a lot of potential. The aircraft are wonderfully modeled - not high-end flight-sim perhaps but very attractive - and the gameplay is fast and easy to get into (though I will need to read the winning conditions). I especially love the period biplanes and would be quite happy to spend my time playing these antiquated crates rather than grinding my way towards the sleeker - and probably costly - high performance aircraft.

Link to the War Thunder web site


Sunday, 14 April 2013

Man cave update - Gaming rig returns!

Oh happy day! Yesterday I popped in to see how my poorly gaming PC was getting on, and I was over the moon to find out that my friendly computer techie - Nigel - had got it running again. He also confirmed that the problem wasn't either my power pack or - thank the Lord! - my graphics card. These are the two most expensive components on my rig so I was much relieved.


He disconnected and reconnected everything and had it on the test bench for a couple for days and seems pretty certain that eh power glitch is to do with the mother board. Ironically, replacing the motherboard - while a pain in the ass - is relatively cheap to do. But I am running it as is to see if I can postpone any purchase til next pay day (I may not even bother at all if it keeps running).

So, I now have my main gaming rig back up in my man cave. I still have plenty to do, but the computer desk section of my hideaway now looks quite tidy.

Retro gaming fun - BF2 returns
While things looked bad for my games machine I decided to cheer myself up by buying the full Battlefield 2 collection from STEAM, as part of my enforced retro gaming kick. While I did have my original BF2 CD it was very scratched and the add-on expansion CDs were missing (I particularly liked BF2: Special Forces). So I re bought the whole thing for £14 on STEAM.

Sniping from the top of a building in Karkand, overlooking the Hotel flag. I had,
of course, already left a couple of Claymores near the flag. It would be rude
not to! The graphic setting are all on 'High' with a resolution of just 1024x768
as I didn't want to push it in an online game. Still not bad (BF3 fans might not
think so, but then the gameplay is crap in BF3 so it's swings and roundabouts)!
The obligatory knife fight!

Now this seemed to be a bit of an extravagance and unnecessary when I found my main PC was back up and going, particularly because BF2 is notoriously fickle about running on Windows 7. In fact, when I have tried to install this game from my CD on my Win7 machine it flatly refused to run.

I followed all the tutorials and tips online while supposedly get BF2 to run on Win7 but nothing ever worked for me. But having bought the BF2 collection I decided 'what the heck' and downloaded it from STEAM onto my newly repaired machine...And guess what?

For some reason having the pre-updated (v1.50) version and it's add-ons install from STEAM somehow 'fixed' whatever had stopped BF2 from working on my Win7 rig in the past. I now have a fully working version of BF2 on my monster gaming machine! Whoo-hoo!

The legendary Karkand map (16 player, small map). I don't want to think about
 how many hours I have spent on this map. It was brought back in BF3 but
never felt the same.
Relaxing Sunday in Karkand
This morning I had the sort of laid-back lazy gaming Sunday morning that I haven't enjoyed for a long, long time. I have had a terrific time in my half-completed man cave enjoying a hit of nostalgia as I played through my favorite old BF2 maps like Dragon Valley and the legendary Karkand.

I also took the opportunity to set-up my Belkin Nostramo N52-TE game control pad with the BF2 key configs. It's amazing how, after so long, one muscle memory has you reaching instinctively for keys for a particular game, so I had to reset my controller to reflect this preferred layout.

Pen and paper at the ready I customize my Nostramo controller for BF2. If you
have never tried a specialist game controller like this then you really should,
I have found that they really speed up your response time in FPS games and
I find playing with the keyboard a chore now.

So there we have it. A happy Sunday morning pratting about in lovely peace and quiet (aside from the booming sounds of BF2). I enjoyed this mornings session so much I may have to look about to see which game clans still play BF2 competitively - for example, I know that my old clan - RiP (Rusty in Places) - still have a BF2 Project Reality mod section on the go. It would be nice to participate online in some good old fashions BF2 multiplayer fun.

I was amazed to find one of my old BF2 player profiles still available. This one
was my BIG clan profile, unfortunately I could not remember my old RiP
profile which was more advanced than this one. (Click to enlarge.)
I used the BF2 account manager to locate one of my old player profiles, after many attempts I managed to remember the username and password of one of them, my old BIG clan profile. Amazingly this still had the date of the last time I played on this account - 26th October 2009!

---

A special 'thank you goes to Nigel Marsay who got my rig working again. His small computer repair business just round the corner from me has gotten me out of sticky computer situations quite a few times. PC World cannot provide his sort of personalized service and his prices are very good indeed. Thanks Nigel!

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Retro Gaming - Part 1

Not having my principal gaming machine - it's still in the repair shop - has meant that I have been pratting around with an odd selection of 'stand in' games and platforms.

Aside from my Xbox seeing heavy use I revisited my STEAM library for forgotten Apple Mac games and have even dragged an old gaming PC out of the attic and dusted it off (more about that in part 2 of this post).


Bungie's Marathon and the Aleph One project
One of the interesting tangents I have pursued over the past week has been a bit of a retro gaming kick. I downloaded the Aleph One project's conversion to Mac OS X of the classic 2D shooter Marathon. This hugely influencial FPS maybe completely unheard of in today's console dominated games fraternity, but back in 1994 this left-field release actually unseated teh legendary 'Doom' as contender for the crown of best first person shooter.

Source: Bungie.net
Aleph One is the open source continuation of Bungie's Marathon 2 game engine. Available for Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux, Aleph One supports Marathon 2 and Marathon Infinity natively, and Marathon through a fan-made conversion. Many third party scenarios and net maps are also available. [Aleph One]

People may find it hard to believe that - for a short period - it was teh Apple Mac that was at the forefront of action gaming, but I can vouch for the fact that PC gamers were green with envy. I found that - in a bizzarre reversal of the norm - my PC gaming friends were coming round to my house just so they could have a go at playing Marathon!

Of course this situation was short lived as ID Software is not the kind of company you can thumb your nose at. In the short term ID ported 'Doom II" for the Mac to cash in on the Mac gamers' new-found appetite for FPS action, but in the long run ID's 1996 ground breaking 'Quake' with it's real 3D graphics killed off the 2D shooter.

Source: Bungie.net

Marathon legacy and thoughts...
Naturally in this day and age, where hyper-realism games - such as Call of Duty, Far Cry and Battlefield 3 - reflect the gamers' level of expectation, a blocky 2D shooter does not age well. But as soon as I heard the opening audio notes of Bungie's game a shiver shot down my spine - this was all part of the more cerebral attraction of Marathon and the foundation of it's popularity.

But, you might ask, why doesn't everyone remember Marathon? Well, if you are a PC or console gamer it's is understandable that you might question the influence of Bungie's shooter and it's relevance to the history of game development, but the fact is you may very well have been part of the Marathon story without even knowing it...

Going back to 1995 Bungie was unfortunately a victim of it's own success and the success of the Marathon concept. The waves it created in the games community attracted the attention not only of ID Software but also of Microsoft, who were in the midst of developing it's own ground breaking gaming system, something called an 'Xbox'.

Soon after Marathon was first released, its multiplayer mode gained a small but
dedicated fan base. Marathon's multiplayer allowed up to eight people to play
competitively over AppleTalk. Rather than using the traditional method of points
in order to win, Marathon instead gave players scores based on their kills-to-deaths
ratio. Marathon also differed from its contemporaries in that it did not use single
player levels for multiplayer, but used dedicated multiplayer maps.
Source: Bungiepedia
Microsoft was on the look out for a cutting edge game concept with which to launch it's new games console and Bungie was the unfortunately focus of Bill Gate's giant as they were developing the game which they hoped would surpass even Marathon's phenomenal success...A game that would eventually be called HALO!

Well, the rest is, as they say history. Microsoft bought Bungie and effectively strangled the Apple Mac game industry (some conspiracy theorists in the Mac community think deliberately so). Without the entrepreneurial example of Bungie Mac gaming had no champion who believed that this platform could support a games industry in it's own right and Mac games reverted to it's traditional fare of the occasional half-hearted PC ports.

I enjoyed my reflections on this classic game, probably more because it represented the one and only time when Mac gaming was pre-eminent. The game itself, as mentioned, does not really translate into today's gaming environment and I found that the very thing that made it such a success - it's brilliantly scripted plot - worked against it as I remembered to storyline all to well even after all these years. But, boy, playing it brought back some brilliant memories and at least in that it was well worth the download.

---

Links to the Marathon history...

> Marathon: Why is it such a great game? Very nicely analytical approach to understanding why Marathon was so good compared to it's contemporaries.
> The Marathon Trilogy - Wikipedia
> 'Marathon Story' - An outline of the plot of the original story (a walk-through if you like).

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Back-up gaming computer is a Mac!

Having the Xbox has been great, but as mentioned before I do miss multiplayer games. So I decided to see if anyone was still playing Left 4 Dead 2 as I have that on my Apple Mac only to discover that Borderlands 2 is available on the Mac now too!


This was a very pleasant surprise, not only because it's one of my favourite games but because STEAM has given me it for free as I had already purchased it for my PC. So I spent an enjoyable evening on BL2 on my MacBook and didn't really miss my gaming PC at all (well, maybe a bit).

What I might try next is connecting my MacBook to our big screen TV and play that way, just for a laugh. STEAM is supposed to support gaming on big screens so I will look into that too.

I bet Left 4 Dead looks terrific on a big screen!

(Side note: My favoured VoiP software - Mumble - is also now available for the Mac, so I can talk to my game clan mates too.)


Monday, 8 April 2013

Do not disturb sign! LOL

The bain of my computer game life is the inability of the wife and others to comprehend that when I take myself upstairs to my attic sanctuary that is a pretty good indication that I 'want to be alone'!

What normally follows my retreat is the intermittent interruption of my 'me time' by inane shouts, phone calls and other annoying distractions. Women just do not seem to comprehend the concept of 'quiet time' and also do not grasp how aggravating it is to have to remove your headphone every 10 minutes to answer trivial and unimportant queries about whether you are 'OK up there'!

Anyway, this post on Boing Boing caught my eye and sums up my attitude during times like these...


I am now in the process of designing my own notices which I will distribute downstairs when I go up for my next game session...But the main gist of my comments will be 'if I wanted to talk to you don't you think I would be downstairs with you!'

Sunday, 7 April 2013

PC off to compy hospital! A weekend without games (almost)


It's been a strange weekend, my gaming PC has been playing up since Christmas but has limped on...Until Friday when it fell over completely. This meant no friday night with the lads playing World of Tanks and now an uncertain period of time without a games PC.

I delivered it to to local computer repair shop on saturday, but unfortunately the guy did one of those 'shaking heads' things that plumbers and car mechanics do. Oh dear!

Luckiy, I do have the luxury of an Xbox 360 as a backup and I recently bought IL-2 and Most Wanted so I did get some gaming in this weekend. But I really missed the online banter of playing with my mates over the internet.

(I am just waiting for my current broadband contract to expire so I can change over to an Xbox/Microsoft friendly internet supplier. Until then I cannot use the Xbox's online multiplay function. I'm going with Talk Talk.)

SO...Uncertain times. If it's something simple like a blown power-pack on my PC then all good, I can stretch to that. If it's a blown motherboard or video card I am up doo-doo creek - I should know by next weekend.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Man cave progress Part 2

My renovation of my 'man cave' moves ahead, albeit at my usual pedestrian pace. I finished the make-shift 'damp proofing' and the back wall now looks clean and tidy at least. The corner desks have been moved into place and I can now start putting up my wall shelves...


What this snap doesn't tell you is the vast mountain of crap that is behind where I am standing! Once I get the shelves up and the storage draws in place I can start to sort out the great pile of stuff I have accumulated over the years and the either eBay what I don't want or get rid of it.

But I am pleased with my 'L' shaped desk layout, the one on the far wall will be for model making, the corner unit will be for my spray booth and the one nearest the camera is for my games computer.

Now if only this attic space had a door I could shut to get away from everything I would be happy, but at least I am two floors up which gives me some isolation.