2010 Blog


Here in little old Australia, we've been paying crazy high prices for electronic games pretty much forever. Even back when the arcades charged 20c per game. That was enough to buy a packet of crisps at the time. In these dark times, we're charged $120 for a typical game, Halo Reach being my example for the moment. (A game nowhere near as good as Halo 3, in my opinion. At least for Solo campaign. They included a good game engine, reasonable story, but no plot.) So, over the years some people have started buying games from overseas online stores. Even after freight, it still works out to be cheaper. Much cheaper, in some cases.

Some retailers have stepped up to the plate, such as www.ozgameshop.com. I bought three new release games from OzGameShop, for $130. Not bad, considering I'd be facing $360 at the local shops. Not an amount I'd be willing to part with.

So if you're suffering from price tag pain, check out OzGameShop. They even have free freight. What's not to like about that?

(Halo Reach is maybe worth it at their prices. Metro 2033 is definitely worth it! Great game.)

Thief and Thief 2

I've updated my article on playing the first two Thief games on modern computers. You will find it's a little more comprehensive, and includes some fix information not included earlier.

They are great games, with a story has has not lost the plot like so many games manage to. Magic, steampunk, stealth, and a thief who's a little too greedy for his own good.

DNF Lives

For those of you interested in gaming (and hiding under a rock for the last 24 hours), be advised that Duke Nukem Forever is not as dead as previous disclosures may have led us to assume. It's right there at the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX), in the form of a 15-minute playable demo.

It looks like laying off all the developers was part of an outsourcing move. Gearbox is handling development, and is presumably tasked with wrapping up everything into a shippable product. Hopefully, before we get a new generation of consoles! I won't be holding my breath for fear of turning blue, but I have to say this qualifies as good news. There are precious few games out there that are truly fun to play, it would be excellent to see one of the classics return in top form.

Cheap cheap!

That's not Tweety Bird saying cheep cheep but something even more noteworthy! Lulu Pubishing is listing the PDF version of The Ranboen Contract again, and this time at the extra-bargain rate of $2.00!

You lucky people, you! The price will drop on the Kindle eBook version over the next 24 hours as well, though it will be a little bit more as Amazon adds their own markup.

PDF temporarily unavailable

For reasons currently known only to the Lulu's project management interface, the PDF version of The Ranboen Contract is currently not available. Lulu Pubishing is looking into the matter. You can still get the book as a paperback from Lulu, or a low-priced Kindle eBook.

Ranboen Contract on Kindle

Hurrah! You can now get The Ranboen Contract on Amazon's Kindle! It's a low price too. UK readers may prefer to buy from the listing on Amazon.co.uk. Enjoy!

These eBook things are definitely going to catch on more and more. I've lost track of the number of times I've been reading a printed book, and wished I could do a text search. Besides, paper books seem to be becoming expensive in comparision to electronic entertainment. So why not go electronic with books?

It won't put books on an equal footing with movies though. Movies just can not match the special effects you get in a good book!

Gears of War

I feel motivated to spare a word for Gears of War. As the owner of a new Xbox 360, I felt I had a bit of catching up to do. I browsed the numerous lists of Best Games for the Xbox 360, and found that Gears of War kept turning up in those lists. It's an older title, so I bought one on the cheap.

It is a very, very good thing that the game was cheap. I have concluded that it is a waste of plastic.

Oh, I can see what some people see it... At least, what shallow, insecure teenager males see in it. The game has tough guys with deep voices and the kind of attitude that suggests they chew broken glass as a way to pass the time between shooting things. Maybe I'm missing something, but I could find no hint og a story. Your character has a name at least; you play as Marcus Fenix. But why? What does he want in life, and why does he follow the orders he's given? The controls are rubbish and checkpoints are placed annoying right before opening cinematics. The tutorial explains nothing about the controls and grenades are useless. I had more fun playing Fable 2, despite the rather mediocre nature of that game in conparison to the first fable game.

Anyhow, that's my vote. If you want an engaging game that motivates you and enriches your life, make sure you avoid Gears of War.

RSS Added

I've tweaked and twiddled with the xml I've used to build this site, and come up with an RSS feed! Now all my innumerable (oh, so innumerable!) readers can subscribe to the RSS and keep in touch with updates more readily. Huzzah!

I've also added a linky thing at the end of each article to make it easier to share anything that interests you to your friends via Facebook, Twitter, and what have you. There's even a print option, which I found to be kind of cool.

In other news, I've finally bought myself a Xbox 360, one of those shiny black ones that aren't quite so noisy. I prefer the pale color of the original, but you can;t have everything. (Not if you don't want to get fat, anyway.) So, I may end up including a few articles about console games as well as the PC stuff I write about. So far I can say Halo 3 is great fun, Perfect Dark would be better with a mouse but is still a good game, and Assassins Creed 2 is surprisingly good.


Yea veritably, there's some amusing anecdotes to be found at 27b/6! Funny stuff, with a large dash of rather excessive non-conformity for good measure.


It's out, I tell you! Published, as ISBN 978-1-4461-3661-4 through Lulu Publishing. Go check it out, there's a free preview and the book is avaliable as both a downloadable PDF and a convenient pocket size (4.25" x 6.88") paperback on quality 60gsm paper.

Seriously, do yourself a favor and look at it. It's got likeable characters, an enjoyably fast pace, and it will not bore you!

Go on, you won't regret it.

Portal 2 Trailer

Portal is about the only game I believe I can describe as perfect. The release of the trailer for Portal 2 is therfore definitely relevant to my interests.

Unless you've played Portal, it may not interest you that much to you. In which case, watch this to get interested, and then go buy it!. Once you've joined us enlightened ones, check out the brief teaser over at Giant Bomb.

Deus Ex 3 Trailer

Deus Ex 2 was one of the most awful sequels in the history of gaming. Some poor souls do actually like it, I admit. I can only hope that one day they'll get better.

Anyway, the 2010 E3 trailer is out! It's looks pretty reasonable... I hope only hope they remember to hire a writer this time, so the player can find something to care about. You can watch the trailer over at Giant Bomb.

Saints Row 2

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was a fun little sandbox game. It's a pity the rest of the Grand Theft auto series is so boring in comparison. Sure, there's plenty to do, but no reason to do any of it. Scarface makes a better game. It is for this reason among many others that I like Saints Row 2 so much... It has everything Grand Theft Auto doesn't. To a cynical old fellow like me, it's actually fun to play.

Anyway, the gotcha is that under Windows 7, Saints Row 2 tends to have speed issues. The manufacturer has chosen not to support it, and will never release a fix for the speed issue. Fortunately, as is so often the case, the fan community has come to the rescue of the consumer when profit-driven capitalism has failed them.

Over at SaintsRowPowerTools.com, you can download a tool that is pretty easy to install. It includes a .ini file you can edit to change exactly how much it should slow down the game by. The default 1.0 is full speed, while 0 is a complete halt. I found that 0.5 worked pretty well on my quad-core processor. The code is smart enough to let cutscenes play at normal speed, and it finally makes the game playable for Windows 7 users. Yay!

There's an interesting vid by Johanna Blakely over at YouTube about intellectual property in the fashion industry. It can certainly teach the music and movie industries a lot about improving gross sales by removing artificial barriers. It's definitely worth watching.


For those who are unaware, there's a hilarious animated television series called Archer. It's screening on something called FX, whatever that is. Possibly it means something to people with access to a reasonable number of channels. Anyway, check out the Youtube promo, it'll give you an idea of the series. Only ten episodes are out, but it's been renewed for another season. Very like The Venture Brothers, if you've seen that. Both are excellent series with characters that are complete failures, great stuff.

Oh, I've also added a widescreen version of Melbourne's Shrine of Rememberence in the City Gallery.

Site Revamped

Boy, oh boy have I learned a lot about XML and XSL transformation templates! What the heck are they? They are what I've used over the last few weeks to rebuild this web site. Hardly the quickest development time in history, but certainly very educational.

The site content has been revised, with lots of links updated. The primary reason for the revamp is the impending publication of one of my novels, specifically The Ranboen Contract. It should be available in the next month or two.

Steam Bad

While I'm in the habit of handing out endorsments and condemnations, I'm going to spare a few words for Valve's Steam system. Steam handles online game sales, downloading, patching and DRM. Frankly, I was a skeptic when Steam was initially released waaaay back in 2002. It was unstable, and I didn't fancy the idea of a services that decides whether or not I can play my games. After all, it's hard enough to get things to work without DRM getting in the way. Then there was the possibility of Steam gathering information about me and my computer...

In any case, the service gradually won me over. Steam's DRM was nowhere near as draconian as the rubbish included with retail versions of PC games like Mass Effect and Bioshock. It also had the virtue of offering games at reasonable prices, while games here in Australia tend to be ridiculously overpriced. Steam never forced me to put a CD in my computer to play a game, something that retail sales still seem to cling to.

So I bought myself a few Steam games, and then a few more. Defense Grid: The Awakening and Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory were particularly good value. Then I made the mistake of buying Arx Fatalis and Splinter Cell: Double Agent via Steam. Under Windows 7, the Steam versions of these games are unplayable. Double Agent has graphics so badly screwed up I can't see anything, and Arx Fatalis crashes every five minutes. Literally, I'm not exaggerating.

So, I read up on Double Agent, and learned that it LOTS of known issues that have never been fixed. Yet Steam still sell the useless thing. As for Arx Fatalis, I learned that there's a simple fix: run it in Windows 98 compatability mode. Easy! But Steam won't let me do that. The DRM forces the game to talk to Steam, and it can't do that in 98 compatability mode. Aaargh!

Fortunately, the rather more sensible people at Good Old Games have DRM-free version of Arx Fatalis for sale, plus they include fixes for pretty much everything that can cause trouble. I bought the game again, through Good Old Games, and it's running perfectly, DRM-free, in Windows 98 compatability mode.

So I don't think I'll be buying from Steam again in the near future. What's the point when you may not even be able to play the game?

Samsung Good

Well, I've given the new Samsung Ecogreen drives a good spin (Get it? Spin? I know, it's a bad pun), and I have to say I'm pretty happy with them.

They definitely do NOT have the same nasty problem that the Western Digital green drives have, where a non-raid drive will doze off after ten seconds of inactivity and then take several seconds to start up again. No lag issues whatsoever, they run cool and they work like a hard drive should.

There's always a gotcha though, and in this case the Samsung green drives are a little slower the the Western Digitals. It's a small difference, only really noticable when dealing with very large amounts of data transfer, but it's there.

The next time I need bulk storage, I'll be getting more Samsung Ecogreens. Or a Spinpoint F3, which seems to be supplanting them already. Man, the model turnover rate is amazing.

Green Bad

Right, that's it! I've had enough of Western Digital's Green Hard drives.

I liked them at first. They're really quiet, and they give off very little heat. Reliability is good, and they're cheap too. But despite that, I've started sharpening my axe.

The reason why is spindown. That's what's wrong with the WD green series. Ever since I got the stupid things my computer has been pausing from time to time. Only for a few seconds, and generally when resuming a paused AVI file or opening a save dialog. It took me WAY too long to realise it was being caused by the one green drive I have that isn't in a RAID array. In a single drive configuration, the drive spins down after around ten seconds of inactivity. Then when you go to use it, it takes several seconds to start up again. Aaaargh!

Apparently it's done intentionally to save on power, but it drives me crazy. It's little wonder NAS manufacturers don't recommend WD Green drives for their RAID enclosures.

I've ordered a couple of Samsung Ecogreen drives to replace them. They're slower on the benchmarks, but I think they don't have the spindown issue.

I'll add an update once I finally get the things and see how they work out.