Monthly Archives: December 2006

Very belated blogoversary

17/11/2005 was my first entry. Can’t believe I managed to keep it up for a whole year!

I’ve got quite used to the concept now, I have been toying with changing the blog engine to something with a bit more pizazz, maybe something for the new year, but I need to find something that will get my Nucleus database into another format..

WordPress looks quite tasty..

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it? Where would we be with that attitude? Probably stuck at 0.99beta..

Wiiview

Right, so the Wii has been installed for 3 days about time I wrote something about it!

Firstly – excellent form factor! It’s about the size of a Mac Mini, can stand horizontally or vertically on a (decently stable) stand. Setup is straightforward if (unlike me) you read the instructions properly. On first boot it asks you to press ‘A’ to continue, and then select a language by using the Wiimote. This didn’t work for me at all, and I quickly sank into a black depression, knowing for sure my Wii was broken. Eventually it dawned on me (being the technical expert I am) to check the connections. Lo and behold the ‘sensor bar’ was unplugged. This is the device which sits on (or underneath) your TV and works out where your wiimote is pointing on-screen. I was quite surprised to find that this only relays positional information, the button presses – and presumably the tilt sensing aspects of the wiimote are transmitted directly to the console.

Friday night and most of Saturday was taken up with Wii Sports – Tennis, Boxing, Baseball, Golf and Bowling – all making good use of the wiimote. There’s something extremely natural about playing sports games, using genuine sporting motions to carry out the action. My first real concern was how two people would play in front of the same tv – especially tennis and not be smacking each other round the face. Tennis is great fun, and along with bowling my favourite game, potentially because the learning curve is gentle, and if you’ve ever played either of the sports – you’ll know how to ‘use’ the controller. I quickly found I was able to put slice and topspin on tennis shots, and you can add realistic spin to the bowling ball as well. Golf? Well it’s golf. I found it rather hard to keep any kind of consistency in my shots, but that’s probably due to me and not the game as Simon was able to pretty much par every hole for my bogey. Boxing is the only game to use the nunchuck attachment and is occasionally fiddly to place the punches when you want them, where you want them. However it is also the game most likely to give you a proper work out! Both Simon and I found breath was short after 6 rounds or so (unfit blokes that we are ;)). Baseball is only really fun with 2 players – at least for me. I’ve never played baseball and the action of pitching and batting is unnatural to me – this resulted in the console giving me a whipping every time on the most simple of levels. A bit of mental recalibration and with 2 players this becomes a lot more fun (as you’re both rubbish) but it doesn’t matter, and occasionally smacking the ball out of the park is worth the wait. Bowling is great. It’s going to be THE perfect party game for years to come.

I spent some time last night revisiting the games solo. There’s enough entertainment here for the lonely nerd, but these games were designed for competition, and with even just one more player, suddenly become incredibly good fun. For a console freebie – Wii Sports is great.

I went into town on Saturday to pick up some accessories (SD card, extra wiimote, classic controller and Wii points to download games) and was glad I did. The extra wiimote came with Wii Play, which Simon and I blasted through very quickly come the afternoon. A series of ‘orientation’ minigames that get you used to the controller, they can be good fun, but are nowhere near Wii Sports in quality. The only games with real replay value are probably the pool game (nice 3D and fun to play), Cow Racing (had us in stitches) and Laser um, well I can’t remember what it’s called, but it’s Pong (or air hockey) on steroids and is pretty good fun. For a fiver with a wiimote, not a bad deal. Probably great if you’ve got kids under 8.

The real winner of the weekend was unsurprisingly Zelda. First up, it looks like a GameCube port. The graphics are NOT all that great (even kind of muddy at the start), but it’s Zelda – so I, for one, couldn’t care less (I’ve done just as much Zelda playing in 2D as 3D!). After a slowish start, the game really picks up, and once you’ve got a couple of hours of gameplay under your belt the control system (completely unlike WindWalker and Ocarina of Time etc) becomes completely natural. I played this most of yesterday as my arm was aching after the Wii Sports marathon, and I’m happy to say that after 7 hours and 43 minutes invested in it yesterday I was not suffering any additional ‘arm fatigue’.

In fact this is the great thing for me – I hated the design of the controllers when they came out. I still rate the N64 controller as the pinnacle of design, but the wiimote and nunchuck again – just feel *right* in your hands. Once you’re used to the slightly different positioning of your hands, it’s like you’ve never used anything else. And the control system in Zelda is sublime. Being able to swing around in all directions, pointing your slingshot at the appropriate object, fight with a flick of the wrist – it’s just fantastic, and so much easier to achieve than in previous games.

The storyline is of course pure Zelda – your parallel states (twilight and light) in this case, a princess called Zelda (unsurprisingly!), an eponymous hero who is unaware of his destiny, set in the Hyrule we know and love. I think something like 60% of Wii sales in the US were accompanied by a copy of Zelda – it’s currently probably the game driving the Wii sales. I know between Zelda and Metroid – that was all I needed. Oh and to be able to download a whole backcatalogue of games…

So I tried the Wii Console too – bought myself a copy of Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog (the original and best) and Ninty’s own Donkey Kong Country (SNES) over the Wii shopping channel. Redeeming the Wii points was straightforward although they are markedly cheaper (£5) at HMV than Virgin! After applying a couple of software updates you can also top them up with a credit card – this is what I will be doing in future. Both games are pixel perfect renditions of the original titles and brought back a huge feeling of gaming nostalgia for me. After ripping through 6 levels of Sonic (and failing to get very far in DKC) I was glad I’d picked up the Classic Controller – they really are better for the retro games than the sideways turned wiimote. Of course now even these things are like gold dust around town, nowhere has any Wii accessories (except Gamestation which appeared to have Wii Play + wiimote in). Woolworths have them in stock online. Nunchucks I can’t get anywhere, I have an order in that’s likely to be satisfied somewhere around the 11th Jan!

Anyway, just go out and buy one (after Christmas) and chuck your Xboxes in the bin. This is the future of gaming. It’s fun, its cheap and we really don’t care if it’s not popular with the technofetishist HD brigade. This is the console for ‘the rest of us’.

Is it time to go home yet?

00:42

Hmph

I don’t want to go to bed. I want to stay up all night playing Wii Sports.

Haven’t even put Zelda in the machine yet.

Must go to bed, otherwise I won’t be arsed to go into town tomorrow to grab another Wiimote and Nunchuck.

Oh my $DEITY – it really is so much fun.

Wireless setup was a breeze too!

Resignation

So, my MMORPG habit comes to an end. Last night I cancelled my subscription to EVE . It’s funny really – I love the game, it’s well thought out, well balanced, engaging and deep and suffers from relatively few gripes that I’ve had with other MMORPGs whilst also allowing me to fly fricken huge spaceships with fricken huge lasers and leave a trail of interplanetary destruction in my wake.

This should feel good – and generally it does.

Those who are unlucky enough to engage with me on a daily basis will know that EVE talk is a staple of lunchtime conversation with banter about trade routes, mission running, corporation politics and future plans for ‘assault frigate goodness’ which are so frequent that most of my colleagues must be aware of how to play EVE simply by osmosis. Jen, Neil, Matt, Phil, Harriet and myself have all played at one point or another, and I don’t think there’s anyone who hasn’t enjoyed it.

So what is the problem?

There are multiple things that have brought me to this point. Firstly, the daily grind at the computer is getting to me. When I come home in the evening, I turn on the computer to do 3 things. Read Slashdot, read The Register and go on MSN for an hour. After that, my desire to stay online is inversely proportional to what is on TV, what is on DVD, how many back issues of Nature I have to read and how tired I am. I work at a PC all day. Coming home to one is no longer the experience it used to be. There are work emails, work colleagues online (although in fairness work boundaries are always maintained), and after a day troubleshooting what are effectively IT issues I can’t be bothered troubleshooting machines at home.

Secondly we’re on a new phase of EVE – the phase which is about to require Vista for the ‘ultimate’ experience. I cannot get into another round of expensive PC upgrades for limited entertainment returns. Hence the decision to purchase the Nintendo Wii. My gaming can now be done from my couch, online or otherwise, and without the need to worry about forking out for a new motherboard/cpu/gfx card or whatever else may be required to play the latest thing. The only PC game I care about is episodic releases of Half Life 2. I spend more time gaming with my GBA (mainly Pokemon I admit) than with anything. EVE and HL2 are the only titles that approach this.

Finally.. the big problem, that was hit on by Neil (not in the pub in the afternoon, oh no). You cannot win at EVE. You cannot become the best at EVE, ever. There is always someone with a bigger, faster ship, bigger guns, more skill points, more time to invest in it than you etc. Neil pointed out that it’s relatively easy to master an FPS – a couple of months at most is what is needed to ‘pwn the n00bs’, but it’s only after 6 months of EVE playing that I feel remotely competent at what I do, and suspect that it would be another 6 months before I could fly the ships I’m flying the way I want to fly them. It’s easy to play EVE incrementally if you like, but when you accept a mission that you have no hope of finishing in an hour – that’s not good. 30 minutes or an hour a night I can take. 3 hours, I cannot. The Wii will let me dip into gaming, the way I like to do, not make it a bloody lifestyle choice. And I can finish HL2, Zelda and Pokemon. I might sink 20 to 40 hours into a title, but there’s a defined end point, and that’s more important to me than I’ve previously wanted to (or been able to) admit.

EVE is great. Try it. If you’re of a certain age, and you liked Elite. You’ll love it. My reasons for quitting are my own and not a reflection on the game.

The next post will likely be my impressions of my new Wii :)

PS: Star Trek Online is coming next year. Who will be playing EVE then hmm? Not I ;)