Monday, November 7, 2016

Mind Journeys and Age of Wonders 3

Well, I have been on a journey my friends. A journey to the centre of my mind and such wonders that I have to share with you. Or I would have if they were shareable.

Thing about this great internal odysseys is that they are intensely personal but I'll find a way to share them, probably. That's what my writing has always been, looking back, I just didn't even understand what I was trying to share at the time!

Anyway, enough of all that bollocks. I need to talk about games because it's happened, I've finally got into another one and what's more I think I'm actually enjoying this one, it's called Age of Wonders 3.

So, why is it good. Well, you build guys like, elves, elves on horses. BEETLE RIDERS, all that sort of shit. BUT, that's not the fun part.

You see, first time I played this a couple of years ago I thought the fun was to be had on the little tactical battles where you move your little dudes into their little dudes one by one. After a few hours of playing over the weekend however something clicked.

Cos there's a thing called auto combat in this game. Not, auto-resolve, auto-combat. You can basically get the AI to play for you and can intervene at any time. Cue me, laying back on my couch watching my carefully or not so carefully composed forces unleash hell upon the enemy.

And it feels good, you build a tonne of archers and then you get to watch your little commander lead them into battle. Not really concerned if you lose the lot. Then you start building better units, elementals, giants, dragons.

And it FEELS badass! It feels like a fantasy epic playing out in front of me and if I like I can intervene but most of the time I don't have to. I can focus on the army positioning and economy, all the bollocks. I think this is the first time that I've ever really been able to choose how involved the game needed me to be and it really is a testament to the AI and unit balancing that it actually feels so good.

I'll cover some mental healthy stuff here in time but in the mean time it's just great to be able to escape to the fantasy world of Age of Wonders 3 and chill out. Also, I hate pirates now but love dark stalkers.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

One Weekend - Three Gamey Surprises

Sometimes, a weekend can be spent looking for something that sparks our interest even just a little bit. A weekend can find us returning to our tried and tested activities just to pass the time.

This weekend however I got to spend with three new games that were an absolute blast to play and I'd like to take a moment to write about them.

1. Banner Saga 2

This inspired my gaming weekend really, I had enjoyed the first one a lot and despite not really remembering any of the story I was excited to return to the beautiful and interesting world of Banner Sage.

I was not disappointed, this is a sequel in the sense that it's just more of the first game. The first game had me power through the whole experience in about 8 hours, not reloading even once. If I lost the game seemed to fit into the narrative just fine and it never falls into that trap a lot of turn based strategies do where you are forced to play the same scenario over and over.

The Banner Saga 2 just like the first game has a load of boring characters beat the crap out of each other in a world full of lore and brought to life with breath taking art.

Roll on Banner Saga 3!

2. Pathfinder Card Game : Android

This one caught me by surprise. I had tried other android versions of card games such as Sentinels of the Multiverse but had found them a little hollow. I think the difference here is that the Pathfinder Card Game is very well designed and has a lot of depth and automating the whole experience neutralises the biggest drawback, the need to set it all up.

It's tough too, just tough enough and if you lose you get to keep the cards you picked up during the game for each character so it always feels like you are improving. Even the story here comes across much better than in the physical version and I was able to pick up all of the available content for 25 euro which feels reasonable.

This will be one I will be dipping into for a while.

3. Offworld Trading Company

Another surprise, if anything even more surprising than finding a decent Android game.

I've long had an itch but was unable to find a game that scratched it, this was the need for a trading game where I make lots of money and get to manage a supply chain. I remember picking up capitalism from in desperation but found it a little dry.

This game does not have that problem, the graphics and music pull you into life on mars. Not only that but the gameplay is sublime. The systems here are the best I've ever seen in an economic game, there is a lot to do here when it comes to manipulating prices and boning your competitors but what it nails is that it's always fun. You are never staring at a spreadsheet or moving resources around piecemeal.

This game has you thinking "hmm, the price of steel is looking really good", then analysing the production capacity of your opponents and sizing up the cost of entering and hopefully cornering that market. The point is that it gets you into that cutthroat CEO mindset and it's wonderful.

And that was it, I spent so much time lying on my coach like a slug that I pinched a nerve in my arm and spent the night in agony. Worth it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Cyclists - Get off the footpaths

So, I've returned to my pleasant walk to work. Very glad to see the back of the Luas and the improvement in weather lately has been an extremely welcome change.

I do have an issue with these cyclists however. Now, not all of them, the vast majority of cyclists are upstanding citizens. They travel at reasonable speeds and only encroach on the footpath when its necessary for them and when they do they either walk their bike or go at a very slow pace. I have no beef with them.

Every so often though, I encounter the other type of cyclist. Often, even as other bikes fill the road these cyclists will decide that they are in some way special and that they belong on the footpath with me and my fellow pedestrians. Sometimes they even presume to urge me to get out of their way.

Well, first of all I will not get out of your way. Secondly, get off the footpath. Get off the footpath now, all of you.

I really wish I could scream at these people and I do wonder if a polite way exists to nudge them towards correct road usage. I did see a man explain to an errant cyclist how in this country bicycles belong on the road, such restraint, such maturity, such, well, condescension.

Which is really what it all comes down to, relying on people knowing better. If they're on the footpath when they clearly don't need to be you are probably dealing with a criminal, somebody who doesn't care for ANY rules of our society.

In summation, would it be wrong to kick them off their bikes? The answer is yes but much like a cyclist who uses a footpath, I want to do it anyway.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Luas - Get Off (My Case)

As a preface to this I should mention that I always pay for luas tickets, even if I'm only going one stop. I like to support it because hey, at least it's not Dublin Bus.

This morning, I push my hard earned change into the luas machine and snatched the resultant piece of cardboard as I turned to force my way into the grimacing throng. So far so normal, just another day where my route to work is dicated by the pulsing pain from my sprained ankle.

I near my destination, one stop away from Spencer dock and I spot a ticket inspector. The first one I'd seen in over a week of using the service, fine, I thought and slipped the ticket from my wallet.

Only it wasn't a ticket. The damn ticket machine had decided to dispense a previous customers debit card receipt instead of a valid ticket. Deaf to my protests the inspector took my details and slapped a 45e fine on me. "You can appeal." He said to shut me up.

Well, I was going to appeal but isn't it funny that while I can go online and pay the ticket in moments completely painlessly appealing requires that I purchase an ENVELOPE and other paraphernalia and do everything in writing. It's messed up. That combined with a countdown where the fine doubles in a number of days! Well, let's just say I coughed up the cash.

It was an honest mistake which wouldn't have happened if their machine hadn't messed up but they took my money all the same. Thankfully 45e is not the end of the world for me but for many I could see being treated like this would be a big deal.

Allow people to appeal online at least! I can't wait to going back to walking 45 minutes to work every morning instead of using Irish public transportation.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Game of Thrones

It's a little embarrassing to say for somebody who's an aspiring writer but I had kind of fallen out of the reading habit for a while when I first came across Game of Thrones.  I think the largest thing I had read around that time had been Count Zero which I actually took a really long time to get through.  (After coming from Neuromancer it felt like broken glass in my ice-cream)

It was actually watching the HBO show that got me into it, right at the start of the build up of the final act.  The show had me actually excited about what was going to happen and if the tv adaptation could have that effect I had to find out what the books would do.

I wasn't disappointed, those things blew me away.  I was shying away from books half the side of a single volume before but with a combination of blasting through books in a week, long plane trips and finally of my current routine which is to take a chapter a day I am already at the latest set of books, Dance of Dragons.

So, what is it about these books that's reignited writing for me and the rest of the world.  The answer of course is that it does everything right, slow burns with completely satisfying resolutions.  Compelling characters that inspire hate and love.  A consistent writing style which occasionally takes the piss out of itself.

It has much personality at every level, I find.  I always through these big epics always became kind of robotic by the end but in this series the opposite somehow happened, as time went on the author seemed to enjoy it more and the ideas just keep coming.

Anyway, I'm inspired.  I know, like everybody else in the english speaking world and probably beyond, but this is just the thing to remind me what writing can be.  Something to aspire to and be inspired by.

Sunday, August 23, 2015


I have resolved to get back into writing, get into game making, get into anything creative.  I need it, I realise, need it worse than I even thought before.

I always thought writing was something I would have to work very hard to hold onto, that the light might go out if I didn't find time every weekend to get some words down.  That it was a weight on me.

It's not so, writing, or anything creative really but for me it's writing, is a link to a greater power.  It's a link to a sustaining force that we don't just want in our lives, we need it.  For a long time I sought it in work, love, other people but those things we have little control over when it comes down to it.  They can be solving all our problems one moment and then casting us into a chasm the next.

Something creative is a key to an enduring force.  And really, more than anything it will get you through, which is one of the best things you can say about anything really.  It's something we return to as a refugee, time and time again.

There's something really reassuring about that.

Saturday, June 13, 2015


In the long hiatus from this blog I've kind of came across two "sticky" concepts that might be worth sharing.

The first, I don't really have a name for yet but it's something like.  "Even if you feel something isn't permanent it's usually best to continue on as if it is".  So, an example might be if you feel a friendship is kind of wavering and a great part of you wants to avoid being hurt by being the one that kills it.  In that case it might be best to just carry on as normal and see what happens.  If that makes sense.  Getting that down on paper worded like that makes it sound a bit like common sense but I know I can't be the only one to be terrorised by the spectre of impermanence.  I think I've just come to understand the phrase "cheer up, it may never happen."

The second is a little cheesy in the way most of my ideas are.  There are two parts, or even three.  Here it goes, a mind should be wielded, a wielded mind must cut and and a wielded mind must cut until it meets steel.  This one's probably more of a reflection of my personality really, like once you take something seriously (wielding your mind in this case).  Let's say you get geared up for your job, you've decided to kick ass or at least do your best well, you have to cleave work, change it, cut it.  You need to make your mark on it.

And the final part, acting like this you will either cut forever (I'm sure some people manage this some degree as nobody is willing to stand in their way) or you meet steel.  Something that stops you in your tracks.  And that's the end of the cycle really.

Just two morsels from the kitchen of my mind.  In other news I've been reading quite a cool book called Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, it's a great follow up from Down and Out in Paris and London as it shows that the modern kitchen hasn't changed so much from that in Orwell's days.  Also full of hot tips on when to order fish!  Not so useful to a Vegetarian like myself but still interesting reading, highly recommended.