Archive for March, 2008

An Old Friend Returns, But With Sparkles

I just finished Half Life 2: Episode 2.

Basically despite doing them all in order again, I have forgotten what the hell is going on in the story. I think I can mostly follow it but certain bits I’ve forgotten.

Anyway, despite that, I think the games are better in reverse order. By that I mean game-play wise.

I thought HL2 was a steaming pile of crap. It was riddled with technical problems, the game seemed dull and repetitive, the boss scenes (if you can call them that) were pretty crappy and the ending was stupid. Note though that I played this the first time round on “hard” whereas the second time round (so I could remember the story before doing HL2: ep 1) I played on normal and it was a damned site easier on normal. I gave this one about a 6/10. Above average but a bit of a let-down compared to the genius of Half Life. This episode carries on from Half Life but it doesn’t matter if you haven’t played or don’t remember it, although you will be left wondering “what happened in Half Life then?” after a few hours of play.

HL2: ep 1 was really good but quite short, only a few hours, maybe 5. It went away from the silly, almost pointless, sprawling areas of HL2 and relied more on enclosed spaces and atmosphere to generate some great game-play. It had a a puzzle element but the majority of them are fairly simply. I did this episode on normal difficulty. The story takes a few twists and turns and from what I remember of it is quite involving. I preferred this episode to HL2 and would recommend this game to anyone. I’d give it a “very rare for Leeram” 8/10. This episode carries on from the moment you finish HL2 and will probably leave you confused, story wise, if you played this before Half Life 2. The ending is good although I wonder if with this game I am being a little more forgiving because I know there is an episode 2. When I finished HL2 I had no idea there would be another game that directly followed it, I just felt ripped off. My faith in Half Life is restored with this game.

HL2: ep 2 was brilliant. I loved every minute of playing this episode. It again continues from the very moment that HL2:ep 1 finishes. It had a great mix of the sprawling areas like HL2 and the tight environments of HL2: ep 1. The sprawling scenes are no-where near as sprawling as HL2 though, I think in this game they have got the size of them, and the number of them perfect. The story again twists and turns and there are some great cut scenes. I think the issue with the story is remembering what has gone on across 3 games, rather than it being particularly complex. There are some puzzles but not really even worth bothering with they are that easy to solve. It has a really good, exciting, boss battle towards the end and a good ending to this particular part of the story (although you’ll guess the ending the second you start playing HL2 Episode 1 to be fair, well I did anyway). A definite ultra rare 9/10 for this game.

So despite me not liking HL2 I think if you play these games you should definitely play them in order. It’s the first game I have played where the story is presented so well and it had me trying to keep track of it. They follow nicely from HL itself as well. The better game-play in the later episodes is nothing monumentally different, it’s just little tweaks to the way the game pans out that make the difference.

I think maybe the issue with HL2 was that it got so much hype and I was expecting it to be the best game ever, and it just wasn’t. I much preferred Half Life, but there again, Half Life was the first of its kind. The first to have story and live environments with factions all fighting each other in real time. HL2 was never going to have as much impact I suppose. With Ep1 and Ep2 I was expecting them to be poor from the offset, but they aren’t. So maybe it’s my starting point that’s to blame and actually all the games are good.

The only reason I bothered to play them at all was because I got the orange box for Team Fortress 2 and actually it was a present from a mate. So I felt it only right to play the two episodes being as my mate had paid for them. I started with HL2 mainly to remember the story but also because I have better technology and was hoping that the technical issues wouldn’t manifest themselves (when I first got HL2 it was cutting edge and to be honest my PC was only just up to the task. This PC should eat it for breakfast), I was wrong though, the issues are still there, but the game did run a lot smoother on my new machine, as you’d expect. If you’re playing 360 version though you don’t need to worry about that!

Well the story is open for HL2: ep 3 which I assume they are making. Can’t wait to play it.

So now what do I play? A quick scan around the shelf and voila! Maximo, a game I started and never finished. I got about two thirds of the way through.

On the Wii front I borrowed RE 4 off a mate 3 weeks ago and still haven’t managed to find any time when the chidren are in bed and my wife isn’t watching telly to play it. Surely that’s good enough justification to buy my own Wii?

The latest game I bought was actually an old one, R-Type 2 for the PC Engine. It’s not really R-Type 2, it’s really the second part of R-Type because they had to split it across two cartridges. I don’t particularly like it but it was cheap and makes the game complete on my shelf!

This month we are supposed to be getting Dragon’s Lair for the DS and in June Ketsui is coming out for the X-Box 360. Could life get any better?




What’s the point of Light Sabres?

So here I am, once again a little worse for wear (well it is a Bank Holiday Friday) and I feel like writing. For some reason the only thing that pops into my head is a Light Sabre. Should that be a capital L and capital S? I’m not sure, but I do know that such a fine invention deserves some respect; so capital L and capital S it is. O.K., it’s not an invention, it’s an idea, but it still deserves the capital L and the capital S.

Not doubt some of you reading this think it should be Light Saber, well, fine, I’m really not that bothered, but I am British and in Britain we have ‘res not ‘ers when it comes to a confined beam of light. I thinks it’s safe to say that ‘ers are the US variant of English, i.e. wrong. But there again, if the inventor of the item in question says it’s ‘er then maybe I should relent… But, again, I’m British, so that isn’t going to happen (for the US variant it’s "ain’t going to happen").

Anyway, Light Sabres are not simply a figment of some bloke’s imagination. Well, actually they are, but what I mean is that they aren’t. Let me explain a little more before I pop into a singularity of my own nonsense. Yes, some bloke dreamed up a story for a film and committed it to celluloid. Some other bloke had the arduous task of making the things glow and another bloke had the task of making them sound cool. And we all watched, mesmerized by the brilliance of what we saw.

Just imagine if we owned a Light Sabre… We would rule the whole universe with the truth and justice dealt out by our hand-built door slicer. When I say we, obviously I mean I.

And that’s my point; just imagine… Because that is the point of the Light Sabre. It makes us dream about the future and more importantly it gives some of us only one true mission in life… to invent one… And that furthers science and scientific knowledge.

Take the humble mobile phone as an example. Do you think, even for a second, that any of us would be doing the "talking on the mobile phone strut" if someone hadn’t seen Kirk flicking open his communicator? You know, as well as I do, that there’s no chance.

People are now, as we sleep, sat up because they can’t sleep because the issue of dis-assembling people and re-assembling them thousands of miles away is really bugging them. It’s people like that that really push the boundaries, but I can’t help but think it’s the story tellers that ignite the flame.

Now you might think I’m talking nonsense, but I saw a program on the telly about Stephen Hawking. I like theories, it’s true. I like to read about the pyramids of Giza being a weapon and that the Arc of the Covenant is sat safely in a church in Ethiopia, whether I believe it or not is a different matter, but I do like to read about them.

There are some times in life though when you just have to say, "whoa there Neddy, slow down, have a drink of tepid water from this here Oasis". I know they are the foremost experts at thinking about stuff, it’s good that they do that, but to say that the whole universe was compacted into something smaller than the size of an electron…"whoa there Neddy…"

Apparently gravity is so weak because, all around us, there are tiny little other dimensions that act like shower heads. Gravity seeps through them which is why it is so weak. It is actually just as strong as the other forces but only so in another dimension, by the time it gets to us it is weak… "whoa there Neddy…".

Are we really supposed to take this stuff seriously? I suppose it all works out in maths but sometimes you’ve just got to take a step back and think, "actually, we’re talking bollocks". It sounds to me like the maths gives some weird options, so let’s pick a few. Woah there Neddy, take a drink.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am just about the most atheistic (is that a real word?) person you could ever meet. I’m not aggressivly atheist but the God stuff just makes me laugh. But when science comes up with such theories as other dimensions and gravity coming through shower heads it seems to me as stupid as the god nonsense. Come on you brainy lot, take a step back.

And one last thing that puzzled me, if gravity comes through the shower head of other dimensions, do not all the other forces too? Are they not actually far stronger in other dimensions and we only get a portion of them too?

It’s time for bed, I hope I dream about Light Sabres rather than shower heads.

OK So I was wrong!

They aren’t really that crap. Andy Mac explained the "bleeding obvious" to me and that is that the private key must be a value that doesn’t change. Because if it can change then you end up having to change it yourself through multiple tables. The proper way to do it is to use a surrogate key as the primary key if the original primary key is going to change. That way you always use the surrogate key which never changes and therefore you never have to change it across multiple tables.

Who’d have guessed!

Anyway, I just read a fair proportion of the Guinness World Records, Gamers Edition, 2008 and let me tell you, it’s a damned good read. I remember the Guinness book of records as a load of facts, which it still is, but the facts are written in a linear way with comment between them, so it reads like a book. I also recently finished "The Ultimate History of Video Games" and it’s superb. if you have any interest in video games, read these two books.  For those who remember the  "old school"  the Guinness book has the proper top 100, not some stupid modern day nonsense with Dr Kawashima or Goldeneye as the best game ever.

There is only one best game ever, everything else is a pretender to the crown. Nothing, and I repeat, nothing, will every usurp Space Invaders from the top of the heap. It was just too influential to ever be moved. Although, that said, I wouldn’t mind being proved wrong one day. Because if any game ever did  become more influential then I, for one, would love to play it.

And while I’m at it, and a tad drunk, all this crap the government is spouting about climate change being man made and that they are going to ban the plastic bag. I mean, come on, what with? The recyclable ones are actually worse than the plastic bags they replace because, whilst being re-usable, they take up far more energy to make and most people forget them so end up buying bag after bag, week after week. Paper bags are obviously not the way forward, unless you want to cull even more rain forest. So what’s the answer.. Who knows, maybe the answer is to keep the status quo.

You green types have just gone mad with your ludicrous nonsense about climate change. Are you going to give me my money back when you eventually admit you are wrong about it? I read a report just today in New Scientist that said it’s a fact that global warming is man made and spouted a whole load of facts, like the last 30 years has seen the greatest amount of warming in the last millennia. Well so what? It’s ok coming up with popularised bollocks like that but it proves nothing. It’s like saying that today was the wettest day since 1930. So what? That just means that there was a wetter day before 1930, if you go back further than a millennia it turns out that today’s warming is nothing unusual or strange. The difference is that people are so full of shit about it that it ends up stopping development in the third world, where they need it the most, and basically means that people are going to die!

The length to which you go is beyond compare. Apparently now I have to worry about my carbon footprint. My ARSE! All that means is that only the rich people will be able to go on holiday abroad because nobody else will be able to afford the carbon that a plane produces. Everybody else will have to pay the extortionate amount of money it costs to stay in a shit-hole in England for a week.

I recently saw an advert that was on national television. It basically tried to say that making sure your tyres on your car were at the correct pressure would reduce carbon emissions from your engine and therefore help to stop global warming. For crying out loud. The amount of money spent on that advert and the number of miles travelled in a car to produce it could probably have been better spent saving some poor dying child somewhere.

Everyone forgets the maths. We are a country of 60 million. China is a country of over a billion. Our total population is a gnat’s chuff compared to them. If they reduce their carbon by a mere 1% it will dwarf anything we can do. But I’m not picking on the Chinese, I’m trying to point out the ridiculousness of using the argument of tyre pressure to somehow show that you can make a difference with man made global warming, which, by the way, has a damned good chance of not existing.

Interestingly the IPCC seems to omit the fact that water vapour is 270 times more warming than CO2 and that it accounts for about 97% or so of the atmosphere. All these here new trees that are being planted produce water vapour all day long. And apparently it’s a matter of fact that there are more trees around today than there has ever been, simply because managed forests are 3 times more compact that natural forest. So despite the fact that huge swathes of rain forest are being chopped down, it is more than made up for by  man-made planting. Admittedly I don’t know the real fact, just being a lay-man, and that losing rain forest means that God knows how many species {of tasty animals} are lost, but in terms of CO2, maybe it’s more damaging to plant trees that produce water vapour than to drive your car to work.

Anyway, I think my drunken point is that you should not necessarily believe the crap that spouts forth from modern day media. Everybody seems to be jumping on a bandwagon of ignorance. Go on You Tube and look up climate change and its sceptics, don’t just believe the mainstream. Use your own brain, don’t depend on other people to decide on things for you. And when you see the graphs from the last 100,000 years that show today’s warming is completely in line with previous warnings, then you might just realise that maybe, just maybe, what a complete load of bollocks the green movement is trying to spout forth to achieve their own political aims.



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