Living in the Now!

Learning to enjoy my life more!

Wow where to begin.

This week

I have been using my Raspberry Pi, having a lot of fun with it but I could do with a HDMI to DVI adapter but moneys a bit tight so it will have to wait. Also plan on making a case for it out of Lego, I can’t wait till it’s sorted out and they release the Drivers for the GPU. I did get a USB 3 4 port powered hub for it, slight waste as the Pi is only USB 2 but it’s a solid hub with no stupid styling or extra “features”.

Me pulling faces

Do you Like My Duck Face?

I’ve been to the hospital for a consultation to try and get to the bottom of the illness I experienced over Christmas, lots of tests to be carried out, blood and heart. But it seems to be leaving me and now I only have a episode two or three times a month, and it can usually be sat out and after about an hour I can go back to what I was doing. So soon one way or another I will be back to proper health.

Been watching a few films, see Prometheus and I quite liked it and so did Vicky, but not everyone in our party enjoyed it. And from what I’ve seen on-line there are more who dislike it than like it. Another film I watched was Indy Game: The Movie its basically a documentary following three independent game developers as they put them selves through trials and tribulations, it can also be purchased through Steam.

Coming up

Also starting to get my diet right, cutting out some of the rubbish and getting a few more greens and fruit. Vicky is training for a in-door triathlon at out local gym, I think I’m going to aim to do it next year but I will be there to support her and will try and train with her. Also de-stressing and putting last weeks drama behind me and looking forward to getting back to college soon.

Le Mans this weekend and I’m going to be enjoying some company through the 24 hours, Vicky has decided to watch it with me after she watched it with me last year and her brother Tim will be watching it for the first time. So for 24 hours the diet is going to take a back seat and we are going to enjoy a laid back party atmosphere. (can’t use too much energy or you wont make the 24 hours.)

A computer the size of a credit card called the Raspberry Pi

A computer the size of a credit card called the Raspberry Pi

Going to wire the place so that we wont miss any of the coverage with thanks to Radio Le Mans streaming live commentary on the internet. So Phones will be charged with links to the site for toilet visits and kitchen breaks, the TV will be following the Euro-sport coverage and live timing and twitter feeds on the desktop. So this means altering my sleeping pattern a bit but not a major issue as I’m a night time person anyway.

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What I Think is Wrong with the Computer Games Industry – Part 1

What I Think is Wrong with the Computer Games Industry

Origin

The other day I was invited to take part in the Battlefield 3 beta, so I signed up, filled out all the information got to the part where I download the program. At this point I was prompted to download “Origin”, Origin is EA’s game/content distribution service, basically EA’s version of Valve’s “Steam” service or Microsoft’s “Games For Windows Live” service. Anyway at this point I said to my self “No, no no” (a little like Amy Winehouse when people tried to make her go to rehab, but a lot more coherent) I refuse to install another online game store.

Years ago when Valve started “Steam” I was sceptical, but over the years I came to like it. One of the biggest things that persuaded me was when they added other publishers to the store. Over the years I have purchased quite a lot of the games through steam. But now EA want to try the same distribution method for they’re own software. I don’t have a big problem with that. I do have a problem with being forced to have Origin installed just to use their software. I know before everyone says it that Valve run Steam the same way but at least with Steam I have access to software that was published by other publishers.

Steam and EA Logo

I have already committed to one content distribution system, I don’t then want to have to install another for EA and then if Activision and Atari all come out with they’re own distribution system a few moths later, where will it stop? As gamers we are losing some basic rights. We are losing the freedom to choose where we purchase our software from and are being forced into accepting this corporate bloatware. We are losing the right to sell/give away old games, we are losing the ability to allow family members to share a game on the same computer.

Also if they run Origin anything like they have run the way they make games available on android then they will pull games from availability and change prices quite inconsistently. I feel that they are just constantly polishing up older titles to make them appeal to the hungry little monster that is the younger gamer market, but more about that in a moment.

Let me expand on the last point. If I purchased a game CD/DVD and install it under my account and then install it under my account and then my wife can log on using her user account on the same PC and play the same game. But if i paid for and downloaded the same software through Steam or Origin, I would be the only one who could play it unless I let her use my account, but unless the game supports multiple saves she wouldn’t be able to play her own game without messing up my game saves.

This also plays into EA’s strategy of eliminating the second hand games market. As a user of Steam I can’t lend games to friends or sell them, but it does mean that if the worst happens and my computer and/or all my games are lost in a fire or stolen I can still access them and all is not lost.

Although I must point out that all these observations about Origin are based on using Steam and Games for Windows Live and information from others who have used Origin.

Poor Quality of Games

I am going to try my hardest to not sound like Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw from Zero Punctuation but I feel his pain, and even though I don’t always agree with his review of a game I usually agree with several points he makes on every title. but my focus here is going to be more on the fact that companies like EA, Activision and Atari are now pumping out a new update for they’re most popular IP’s (Intellectual Property, eg the Sim’s and Need for Speed are two IP’s) every year.

Call of Duty

The problem with this is that in order for them to reach an acceptable level of quality for each release they have to employ multiple software houses to handle the development of each title. When the Call of Duty series got popular Activision looked for another software house to help Infinity Ward by developing every other release. Activision called upon Treyarch to help with development. The first title they had to work on was Call of Duty 3. Now before I get into this I must say I’m a PC gamer and Call of Duty 1 & 2 were available on the PC. However Call of Duty 3 was only available on consoles (although the response from the PC community resulted in Treyarch being told by Activision that they have to develop a PC version in future.)

But by the time they got to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare I felt that they had lost everything that had appealed to me. I played Call of Duty 1 & 2 through multiple times purely on the strength of the story, after Modern Warfare the quality of the game in terms of graphics and game play mechanics it changed VERY little, in terms of story it became predictable and cliched. At this point I lost interest but one of the things that I did notice was the better quality releases were coming from the Infinity Ward development and the Treyarch releases were a very poor relation. But I also got further pissed off when Activision were trying to screw Infinity Ward over royalties, this resulted in my boycotting Activision’s games. (I am passionate about computer games!)

Need for Speed

This is probably one of the more diverse and constantly changing titles of all the IP’s I will mention here. I will pick this up at the point where to title tried to cash in on the popularity of the film Fast and the Furious, and they released a complete re-invention of the Need for Speed IP. This had features that hadn’t been seen in many racing titles and combined them with a nice simple arcade game, but this title had been quite rapidly developed since its start in 1994.

There have been 7 different developers working on this title but since Underground’s release this has become more “Street Racer” focused aside from the 2 Shift titles and Prostreet that are more professional racer focused. With the other titles being so story focused the quality of the story has been poor. I felt that a child that hasn’t learned to form words would be better at writing this crap. And the acting is awful and patronising, here’s a clip  from Need for Speed Most Wanted. Here’s another with a nice continuity error the PDA she holds up when she gets in the car gets rotated 180 degrees when the camera zooms out after the explanation of a completely redundant game mechanic.

But as time goes on this only seems to get worse, but that isn’t the only thing that has made Need for Speed one of the MANY IP’s that are making the games industry bad. Game play has only got worse over time. It’s patronising and insulting especially when some of the developers have been bad mouthing titles like Forza and Grand Turismo and saying they can create a more real experience with Need for Speed and completely failing. As a sim racer I have a huge collection of racing software, some sims, some games and the most arcadie and patronising of them all are almost always Need for Speed, Test Drive and Midnight Club. Conversely some of the most realistic racing games have been Forza, Grand Turismo, Race 07/On, but even these feel arcade-like when compared with the hardcore sims of Live for Speed, rFactor, iRacing.com.

So when a dev working on Need for Speed exclaims that he thinks his latest version of the most over polished turd in the history of racing games is better than some of the best examples of racing games, then that franchise loses credibility in my eyes.

This is the first part of why I think the Games industry is going to hell in a hand basket, I am working on part two but it may be some time before that one is released so if you have an opinion for or against me and anything I’ve said then comment, e-mail what ever you need to do to get your opinion to me (Just don’t call me at 4 in the morning or I’ll be very irate.).

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Up date

I’ve been having a bit of a rollercoaster month and haven’t even had time to think about my blog let alone write in it. Been ill for about 3 weeks with an ear infection that messed my balance up, then it was my 30th birthday followed by a BBQ for me and my wife Vicky (her birthday is only 2 weeks after mine.) Then my wife and her father have been ill. All this has been interspersed with epic weekends of motor sport and gaming.

So I’ve been busy and as a note to a previous post about Linux, I have not done the trial of openSuse but I did live with Linux Mint for over a month. I will give my impression about this some other time, I might garnish that post with my impressions of Google+.

But for now I’m going to enjoy this lovely day and spend an evening with some friends.

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The Art of Taking Risks!

To Set The Stage

The other day while looking for a video to illustrate my passion for motor sport I came across a book that at first had me feeling dubious about its worth and content but I picked up a little tidbit and…

…two hours later I had peaked my interest and had researched a bit about this book.
The book is called “The Art of Racing in the Rain” and seems like an unusual story about a dog looking at life using motor sports as a metaphor for life. I knew I would love to get this book but I was afraid it will just end up adding another partially read book to my ever-growing collection.

So a few days later on trip to London with my wife and brother in-law, I saw it in a book shop and before you knew it *ping* I had got it. Noe the unusual thing here is that I read it in a week (normally for me I usually have trouble finishing a book even ones I really like.)

But…

I was so enthralled that I could hardly put it down, it engaged me and I felt comfortable with the whole story and it made me think “what would I do if I was Denny?” or “What would I do if I was Enzo?” It made me love the characters and the story flowed, simply and concisely. The point of view from which the story was told is unusual but refreshing and the motor racing techniques turned metaphor resonated with me on a deeply personal level.

But then this leads me on to…

How some times I often fret over whether or not to do something or accept something. A good example is, a friend once offered to speak to someone they knew about letting me be a driver on a real racing team in a real car. this is a dream come true for me and I should have said yes, I should have stood up and hugged him and said a thousand thank you’s. But I didn’t! I did what I always do, I sat there and though “I’m too fat, too unfit, I’ve never driven a car for more than an hour in real life and I don’t even have a licence!” my only experience is years and years of playing simulations on my computer, Sports car GT, Gran Turismo 1-2-3 & 4, Forza 1 & 2, Live for speed, rFactor, GT-R, Race 07, DiRT 1 & 2, WRC 2010, Richard Burns Rally, F1 2010 and many other arcade racers.

So the idea scared me, so I said no, I wasn’t willing to take the risk even though it was something I wanted more than anything. And the risk I was afraid of wasn’t getting into the car and driving it at high-speed, it was that I felt completely unprepared. But recently I’ve been going through some changes, me and my family have been faced with some very difficult problems and it’s been hard to go about our daily lives. I lost my aunt to cancer in the past few weeks, and in an attempt to distract my self from the situation I watched a film called “Yes Man” and even though it’s just an idea based of the book by the same name, the idea it try’s to put across made me think I need to stop saying no to the things I want, even if I think I am not prepared for them.

While reading “The Art of Racing in the Rain”, I came across a little passage that also has helped me adjust my outlook on my life and add some positivity back into my life. “the car goes where the eyes go,” meaning simply that when things go wrong if you start focusing on the bad and the worst case scenario then that is what’s likely to happen, but if you remain positive and plan for a positive outcome then you can recover from what ever has gone wrong.

Some times its hard to keep focus when everything around you is falling apart, as I said earlier I lost my aunt the other week but that was the biggest thing me and my wife have had to deal with but not the only thing. There’s been at least 2 other family members who are seriously ill at the moment, Vicky my wife has also lost her driver’s licence on medical grounds. I’ve been trying to carry on my uni course and deal with not having any money, but we have remained resolute and objective and I feel we are coming out the other side of it. Reminds me of another racing metaphor “in order to finish first, first you have to finish”, so even in the face of  all the trouble we’ve faced these past moths we are not only holding it together but adapting and growing. But without the love and support of my wife a lot of what I face would become insurmountable hurdles that would probably leave me nowhere. Thank you Vicky for always being there, and I love you very much.

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Relaxing evening of racing?

Few things help me relax like jumping onto my computer, firing up my favorite racing game and giving the other drivers hell. I find it quite strange that such an intense and adrenalin fueled sport can make me feel relaxed and at ease with my self. I enjoy nothing more than a good race, but a good race isn’t one where I start from pole and lead the whole race till the flag. It a race where I’ve started low down the order, where I’ve had to fight hard and long with other drivers of a single position and sometimes I might not come first but if I’ve had a good battle and I’ve felt like I have driven to my limit and even beyond it then I feel satisfied.

Winning isn’t important to me, it’s what takes part on the track. Some times it’s not even racing the other drivers, some times it’s just finding what limit I reach first the cars limit or my limit, it’s about improving my knowledge and experience, my desire is to one day do this for real, I don’t care if it’s 25 old men in battered old XR2i’s sliding around in the rain while 5 people look on from under an umbrella. I don’t care if I embarrass my self in the first corner and end up a lap down, I don’t care! all I want is the opportunity to try.

But back to the point, is it unusual that such an activity make me feel so relaxed, I suppose it’s the same for recreational surfers or those that go to the gym multiple times a day, 7 days a week.

What unusual activities do you enjoy that make you relaxed?

Any way, see you on the track!

Note: if you want to race some time I can be found through the various channels that are on my contact page and I welcome any challenge.

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