Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Access Granted ?

So this week saw the release of firmware 2.30 for the PS3

Most of us were excited about the redesign of the Playstation Store, with good reason as it now loads significantly faster than before along with being much more user friendly in the navigation stakes.

The other little tit-bit that had people counting down was the news that with the store update they'd be opening up the Metal Gear Online beta to Europe officially (instead of having to sign up for a Japanese account and going through a very odd/confusing process all in Japanese)

This brings me to the topic of this post ... Access ....

A lot of people have been very vocal about the fact that PSN is free for users and allows them to play with others online in the same way that Xbox Live does. A lot of other people have been very vocal about the quality of service offered by Xbox Live and it's "user-friendliness" ..... I think that the later of these two sets are going to be very happy with what's happened.

In order to play Metal Gear Online you're going to need to do the following ...

1) Have a playstation network ID (pretty much a given I know but there's a point here)
2) Sign up for a Konami ID on a separate website
3) After signing up for a Konami ID, you then need to create a Game ID

It's also worth noting that you need to create a password for both the Konami and Game ID's. The Konami one needs can be alpha-numeric but the Game one can only be numeric.

So, realistically, you need 3 ID's and passwords to get MGO running ... and before anyone suggests it the Konami ID and Game ID cannot be the same ....

On Xbox Live everything is tied to your gamertag .. that's it .... that is your online "presence" for that console.
And that's it ... no going to website "X" and signing up for account "Y" ....
Admittedly with Phantasy Star Universe you have to pay a monthly fee for a "hunters licence" but you don't need to sign up for another account, you can do it all using your gamertag and from the Marketplace blade of the 360 itself.

This in my opinion is why the Live service is worth the money .. after all it's £40 for a 12 month subscription (which works out at roughly £3.35 a month) so it's not exactly breaking the bank.

I've got my account ready and the client for Metal Gear Online downloaded so once it goes live on April 21st we'll see how it performs ....

Thursday, 10 April 2008

The death of Rock .......

Rock Band that is ......

All across the web a wave of discontent and disgust is heading in the direction of EA because of what they announced this week concerning this game.

The game was originally released in November last year for the US and since then the other markets have been waiting patiently to partake of the fun that this game has brought to our US brethren ....
This week they announced that date for us European types, May23rd.
Although it's going to be a "timed exclusive" and that date only applies to the Xbox 360.

"Great" thinks I .. "I was planning on getting it for that anyway" mainly due to the fact that the Guitar Hero guitars I have for the 360 will work with that version of Rock Band, so four player band based fun was going to be mine.

I say "was" ... Not because it's due out and I haven't got it yet, but because I no longer plan to buy this game which generated so much excitement in the US and here and looked to be a game I would be playing and buying DLC for for quite some time.

The reason behind this sudden about face in desire .... Compare the following ....

In the US right now on Amazon you can buy the "special edition" which is the game, a guitar, a USB microphone and a drum kit for $147.99 (and the RRP or "list price" is $169.99).
Using current conversion rates for the $ to £ that works out at around £85. Now I wasn't expecting that sort of price for all those goodies as it never works like that. I was expecting it to be around the £100/120 mark ....

I wasn't even close .......

EA in their infinite wisdom have decided release it in the following manner and to set the RRP for it to the following ....

An "instrument edition" that retails for £130 which consists of a guitar, USB microphone and drums BUT NO GAME !!! The game's set to retail for £50.

So in total to get the same Rock Band experience that the US got we'll have to shell out £180 ....

Quite frankly this is an attrocious choice of price point. I know various online retailers are going to cut money off the game itself bring it down to £40 and have already dropped the instrument bundle to £100, but that's still £20 more than I was prepared or able to justify paying for it.

Given the out cry that this has generated amongst European gamers (I'm not going to link anything here ... check any of the gaming blogs or even the forums on EA's website) I find it hard to believe that EA is going to sell all that many units.
Petitions are being created and apparently the EA forums have stopped accepting new accounts as many are registering just to voice their complaint.
I myself will be showing my displeasure at their decision by "hitting them in the wallet" and will refrain from purchasing any EA published games from here on.

Rock Band was going to be fantastic .... Guitar Hero was looking scared .... Today it seems to be switched.
With one announcement they appear to have sealed the fate of ,what was, one of the most eagerly anticipated games of this year .....

Rock and Roll may never die ... but I'm afraid, in Europe at least, Rock Band looks like it may ....

Monday, 7 April 2008

On the road

For the first time in a very long time my job has decided to send me to another part of the country and leave me there for a couple of days ... which means I've had to pack clothing etc. to last me ...

Along time ago now, my weekends would consist of heading out and "maybe" making it home on Saturday night.
In case of instances like this I kept an emergency kit bag in the boot of the car, which consisted of the following:-

Underwear (& socks)
Trainers (hey you never know)
Wash kit comprising shower gel, shampoo, toothpaste + brush and a small towel
And a sleeping bag as well ... You can never be too prepared ;)

As the years have progressed and the "Collective" has grown up and moved on from these weekends of mystery and mayhem the emergency kit no longer exists in the car.
What's this got to do with my trip this week ? ... Well looking at what I packed this morning, compared to what I would have happily done with all those years ago, I got a bit of a shock.

This morning I ended up packing into a small bag :-

3 shirts
3 ties
1 t-shirt
1 pair black trousers
1 pair jeans
1 pair shoes
3 sets of underwear (including 3 pairs of socks)
Wash kit
Travel iron
Electric razor (and charger .. even though I charged it overnight last night)
Laptop (non-work) + power supply
Nintendo DS + power supply (don't leave home without it ;) ....)
DVD's and Games (PC/DS)

On top of this little list I've also got the work laptop and a DS10 server to go with me ...

I'm only gone for 2 nights !!! .. Yet I deem it necessary now to cart all this lot with me !!!
I'll probably only need 2 of the shirts along with the black trousers for the work portion. Jeans and probably shirt for the after work portion. 2 sets of underwear will be used ... yet I insist on packing more ....

Then there's the "toys" ... I have plenty with 2 laptops and a DS ... yet I find myself contemplating taking the dreamcast that's sat under my desk or the gamecube that's in the bottom drawer as well !!!

What the hell is wrong with me !!! Is this normal ?

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Eight Random Things .. ..

So it appears to be my turn for the "Eight Random Things" after being tagged by Danacea

The question is what to choose from my "dark & distant" past .... Well here I go ....

1) I've been working for Blockbuster since October '93.
It was a fill-in job whilst I tried to decided what to do with my life. After doing every job in the field other than district manager, I now find myself in the IT dept. filling the role of Retail Systems (or Support depending on who you talk too) Engineer.
I still haven't decided what to do with my life ....

2) I'm legendary amongst my clubbing friends for my ability to dance all night without the aid of "chemical stimulants" and still have the energy left the following morning to get everyone home safely by car.

3) I spent New Year's eve 1999/2000 at the Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield attending the Gatecrasher bash that was held there .... along with 24,999 people.
The Chemical Brothers were awesome and dropped Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in the middle of their set ... The entire crowd responded by singing along to it which was amazing. Much lunacy was had that evening and I believe I've still got the pictures to aid the memory of my more "spangled" friends ;) ...
And yes I drove up from London and back home again straight after !!

4) On July 13th 2002 my best mate and I headed down to Brighton for Fatboy Slim's 2nd free event on Brighton Beach ... Along with 250,000 like minded people ... It has since become the stuff of legend .... Good times :)

5) I have a copy of "Iron Man" issue 4 from August 1968 .. Nuff said :)

6) I've spent the vast portion of my life being referred to as a certain Sesame Street character
The nickname has followed me in various 'guises for the best part of 20 years to the extent that the "Higher ups" at work all refer to me as "Cookie" and that's what I get introduced as ... I have a couple of cuddly versions of the blue furry one at home too ...

7) I proposed to my Girlfriend with a ring hidden inside a Kinder Surprise Egg
With patience and a steady hand I unwrapped the egg. Separated the 2 halves, removed the toy from it's little yellow capsule and replaced it with the engagement ring. Resealed the egg and re-wrapped it. Total time for the operation was 30 minutes. The look on her face on Easter Sunday last year when she realised exactly what I'd done ... priceless :)

8) I've had a snowball fight with a squad of Russian soldiers.
Quite a few years ago now I went to Russia on a school trip. During a wander through Gorky Park admiring the ice sculptures, which have to be seen to be believed, my friends and I started a little bit of snow war amongst ourselves. The main reason for this was that it was pancake week at the time, yes they have a whole week for it, and during this it's customary to have a snowball fight. So as the saying goes "when in Rome ....."
The minor skirmish took on what we thought was going to be a very serious turn of events when a stray shot hit the arm of a soldier stood next to his truck, a truck packed with the rest of his squad (about 10 of them in total) ... There we were wondering what on earth was going to happen next, thoughts of arrest and imprisonment under some archaic rule rushing through our brains. What actually ended up rushing was a volley of snowballs hurled in our direction by said group of soldiers who'd left their rifles in the truck and gone for less fatal ammunition.
They caught us off guard by this sudden salvo but we regained our composure and returned fire.
This continued for about 10/15 minutes before they went back to their soldier-ly duties.
Of all the sights we saw and things we experienced .. that one instance of friendly competition, with none of us speaking the others language, was possibly the high point of the trip.

So that's my eight random things .... A little glimpse into my past which triggered a couple of "misty eye" moments for me ...

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Not just a great "Faithless" song :(

Insomnia ...... It's a pain in the backside ....

Mind you I'm not sure if what I have is actually insomnia.
I've never been a morning person .. evah !! Dedicated night owl me, happiest when it's dark outside.
Since the days of my GCSE's I've always needed very little sleep, about 3 hours a night was the norm.
As I've gotten a bit older it's stretched to 4 hours with the odd "system crash" every few weeks where I'll get a good 7 hours maybe even 8 !!

However sometimes I seem to have an "excess of awakeness" .. like last night, which ends up with me staring at the walls wondering when, or indeed if, I'm going to get any sleep at all !!

I finally ended up forcing myself to bed at around 05:00 this morning, not good when the alarm is going off at 06:00 to get me up for work ...

And through all of this the G/f sleeps soundly ... and as she was feeling excessively tired last night she went to bed at 21:00 and didn't stir until the alarm went off ...

Now I find myself sat at work with flagging energy reserves. So the "Big Gun" are being broken out to try and pep me up a bit ... Toxic waste coffee FTW !!!

The coffee consists of the following :-

Half to 2/3's of a cup of hot water
2 heaped spoonfuls of Rocket Fuel
6 spoonfuls of sugar
and then top of the rest of the cup with Red Bull

Remember to pour the Red Bull in slowly otherwise the foam it generates will go everywhere .... but you should end up with this

I take no responsibility for any after effects you may experience if you decide to try this recipe out ... You're on your own there ;) ....

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Incoming Tangos !!!

Rainbow Six: Vegas was a staple for the lads from work and I on Xbox Live for a long time.

Then Halo 3 hit followed by Call Of Duty 4 and the group splintered amongst the two titles.
Follow this up with the glut of releases that hit in the last couple of months last year and you can kiss our Wednesday night gaming sessions goodbye ...

However this week sees the release of Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 ....

I managed to snag an early copy of the game and spent a little time with it last night.
As the reviews have stated the core game hasn't changed that much at all.
The controls are identical to the first. The graphics have had a bit of a polish but there wasn't much wrong with them in the first place.

The change that people will notice is in your character .....

In the first game you were able to scan your face using the Xbox Vision camera and put your own face on your avatar for the multiplayer portion of the game, like this.
That feature is back, with the twist that you can use it on your avatar in the single player game as well, and as they've added jump-in/out co-op play to the mix it's a very nice touch indeed.

The XP system that featured in the multiplayer portion of the first game has also been overhauled. Where before you got XP for winning matches online (with a very meager amount awarded if you were on the losing side) now you get to level up your character by playing through the single player "offline" campaign, which means you won't get stuck heading into an online match with a pea-shooter when everyone else is packing nukes !!!
The other addition to the XP system is the "A.C.E.S." rewards.
Split across 3 categories "Marksman","C.Q.B." and "Assault" you have a selection of tasks for example "Headshots at a long distance" or "Take out an enemy when blind firing".
The more of these that you complete the more you level up in that particular category and open up extras available only to that category. So for example if you level up in "Marksman" you start unlocking new and improved sniper rifles and other such goodies unique to that category.
Maxing out one category won't open up every weapon to do that you'll need to complete all of them, which sort of gives the game an "RPG-esque" quality with your character evolving to your style of play.

Well this is only a brief "first impressions" as I only got to spend about half an hour with it.
I'm looking forwards to getting my teeth into it properly over the next week so we'll see what happens .....

And remember .... what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas ;)

Tango Down

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Indissolubilis Carnivorous Sero

Many moons ago I was given on my 30th birthday a plant by the mother unit.

It was carnivorous in nature as I have a fascination for these slightly weird, yet striking plants.
I actually wrote a thesis on them for my A-level Biology course concerning their feeding habits.

The plant was one of the "pitcher" variety and duly christened "Carni" .. original I know ;)

He was watered regularly and tended to with much care, which resulted in him flourishing and producing some good sized trumpets which caught a fair few flies (useful as he has pride of place on the kitchen window ledge)

I trimmed away the dying leaves and trumpets as he went into his first hibernation period (yes they actually hibernate during the cold winter months). When spring returned he sprouted fresh pitchers and flowers and off he went again ....

Last year was a slightly different story though ... Due to the weird weather he never really went into hibernation, which resulted in no flowers but still managed to get some trumpets for the summer. The hibernation period that he's currently in has gone totally wacko though !!!

At the moment he should be all trimmed back and waiting for spring however at the weekend I noticed a small shoot erupting from the soil in his pot. "Interesting" thinks I and that was about it.
Fast forward to this morning when I glance up from the sink whilst rinsing out the coffee mug and notice that he's now got 3 new sproutings and the initial one is about 5 inches in height !!
This is made all the more fascinating by the fact that I haven't watered the poor fella for the last 4 weeks because I thought he'd actually died !!!

Close attention will now be paid to Carni ... For I'm convinced he is a Super Plant :)
And as a present, I think I'll get him a new pot.