The Source

The Source by Aquarion
The Source, a photo by Aquarion on Flickr.

It’s okay guys, I’ve found the source! We can cut it off at the root!

Computer Games Current Affairs

Awww, Poor Game

Game‘s gone into administration.

PwC, who are leading the process, have blamed this on:

“[…] a very ambitious overseas expansion into seven territories in addition to the UK. On top of that the UK store portfolio is very extensive. Before we made the closures GAME had 610 stores in the UK. That footprint and that high fixed cost is very difficult to maintain.” (Sky News, via Eurogamer)


[…] there was a lot of proximity between GAME and Gamestation stores, so one store was cannibalising the sales at the other store. (Sky News, via Eurogamer)

So, it turns out that in the process of buying out the entire non-independent dedicated computer game shop sector of the retail market, they ended up canabalising sales from their own stores.

Faced with the oncoming march of digital distribution, Game used its retail muscle to demand that games not be released for any cheaper on digital download, and then (allegedly) that they not be released for pre-order and/or sale online at all, especially if they use Steam for cloud saving or achievements.

Plus, with the second hand game scam (Where you can resell first-week release games back to Game for store credit, after which they resell them at almost-full-price and don’t have to give a single penny to the publisher. I can see the argument for second-hand sales of older games, but brand new ones they can resell for nearly-full-price cannibalises full-price sales at direct detriment to the developer and publisher, and massive profit to the retailer), publishers already had good reason not to like continually being held to ransom by the retailers. I’m not surprised they weren’t able to negotiate all that hard.


The value of Game hasn’t been for gamers in quite a while, especially not for PC gamers. Not since Amazon undercut their prices and Steam undercut their convenience, and in turn they reduced their shelving for PC games to single-slots of the current and past Top 10, while still making the demands above. It’s been more important for console games where there’s less way around the physical media issues, but for most gamers buying games migrated online a long time ago.

Game’s value has been in the browsing, the hardware it’s too bulky to ship cheaply, the non-gaming adult who wants to buy a game for their kids/nephew/cousin/partner. A polished plastic, fluorescent tubed front door to gaming that presents a better visual than the sweaty gloom of a LAN party or bedroom gaming, more focused than the piled high racks in Asda or Tesco that only sell the gaming equivalent of Avatar.

The loss of that is a shame, and the potential loss of six thousand jobs as the company winds up is terrible, and while losing the high-street specialist game shops is a shame, the loss of the bully in the playground isn’t one I’m going to grieve over.

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Worth Saving

Now, last week, was bright.

Now, this week, its dark again.

I preferred last week.


Why Daylight Savings?

If we save enough daylight

We get a plush sun?

Computer Games

Dungeon Sieged

Dungeon Siege
Dungeon Siege (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So it turns out that when I imported “All” the content from K3 to Epistula, and from there to WordPress, over the last ten years, some stuff didn’t actually make it though. Specifically, it appears that the content of the Reviews system has gone. Now, since I have a backup of the KLIND/KLIDE/KEWL database you’d think it would be there somewhere, but apparently not. has it, though. So, my review of Dungeon Siege from 10 years ago. Today, I finally completed it.

I know, ten years is a long time to finish a game. I wrote the original review about halfway though the game, and I agree with almost everything it says. It’s a multi-party Diablo-style dungeon RPG. You click things, they die. This is the evolution from Diablo with nicer graphics, the ability to hire a dedicated pack-mule into a character slot, and a button to fetch all the loot around you. Torchlight took the game a step further later on. (DS2 might have, too. I bought that on Steam this weekend, so soon I get to find out).

Anyway, in nine hours spread over 30 hours, I went though the main campaign of DS1. The plot, as 10-years-ago-me noted, isn’t the shining beacon of narrative you might hope for, but it drives the player and her band of mute misfits though forest, snow, desert, jungle, industrial, castle and hell zones to the final encounter with the big bad. So far, so hoopy.

A thing I didn’t mention then, but noted at the time: As in all these games, your character is defined by you, be it a brown-haired unshaven early thirties action hero or a kick-ass redheaded girl. However, in almost all of these games the “canon” version (see Mass Effect, Neverwinters, etc.) are all male. For DS and the expansion pack, the girl option gets the spotlight. It shouldn’t be notable, and it shouldn’t be unusual. But I do, because it is.

Oh, the expansion pack. The “complete Dungeon Siege” pack currently on sale on Steam doesn’t have it. Doesn’t have the one for DS2 either. Also the co-op campaign for DS1 doesn’t work. But most of all, the biggest disappointment, and the thing that turned this from an enjoyable romp though an old game to a frustrating exercise in retro-gaming is:

The game crashes at the end, before the final cut scene.

Now, the story isn’t going to win the game any originality awards. The resolution isn’t exactly a sudden surprise, and the final twist ending is so subtle and careful that it’s not there, but the amount of narrative frustration that this sudden crash brought was exceptional. I play for stories, a lot of the time, so the final crash was so surprising that my jaw literally dropped as I was presented with the faux-mechanical animation of Dungeon Siege’s menu system instead of some kind of resolution. I was so surprised that I played though the final battle again, although when the crash came I was less shocked.

Fortunately, the ending’s up on Youtube, so I got to watch it as I would have done ten years ago. With pixels the size of lego bricks.

So, no ending, no expansion. A half-arsed conversion just enough to generate the cash for a “complete” trilogy edition.

Play it, but get an old copy from Amazon or something instead.

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Current Affairs

Changing of the guard

After 244 years, the Encyclopaedia Britannica is going out of print.

Those coolly authoritative, gold-lettered reference books that were once sold door-to-door by a fleet of traveling salesmen and displayed as proud fixtures in American homes will be discontinued, company executives said.

via After 244 Years, Encyclopaedia Britannica Stops the Presses –

Perhaps inevitable, but still quite sad.

In many of the more relaxed civilizations on the Outer Eastern Rim of the Galaxy, the Hitchhiker’s Guide has already supplanted the great Encyclopaedia Galactica as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom, for though it has many omissions and contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate, it scores over the older, more pedestrian work in two important respects. First, it is slightly cheaper; and second, it has the words “DON’T PANIC” inscribed in large friendly letters on its cover.

—Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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Cursed, apparently

Of all the tales told on these islands, few are as strange as that of William Palmer. Cursed, apparently, on the road to Canterbury in the spring of 1185 for denying the presence of the other world by the king of the grey folk – or Fairy – himself, and compelled to walk from that day to this between the worlds of magic and of men, and subsequently known in all the strange and wonderful lore attributed to the mysterious William Palmer, as Pilgrim.

The problem is that it isn’t on very often, Pilgrim isn’t. The Afternoon Play is one of Radio 4’s long-standing traditions, and one of the best things – although I don’t hear very many of them – that they’ve commissioned is the series Pilgrim, a dark fantasy tale written by Sebastian Baczkiewicz.

The world is mostly this one. The people live in villages and cities, and are sane and rational and cupid and giving and weird and wonderful, but alongside it is the other world from every fairytale in these lands. By fairytale I don’t mean of brothers Grimm and Snow White, though I love those too, I mean of fairies and barrows, of spirits of earth and water, and of promises that made thrice cannot be broken. Though this world walks William Palmer cursed, apparently, as above. Immortal and human, he cuts a very antiheroic protagonist, wanting nothing more than to be allowed to die, and forced to make impossible decisions as well as possible ones, not all of which he makes admirably. A strangely human inhuman protagonist, for all his power.

I love the style. The dialogue – and it’s a play, it’s all dialogue – ebbs and flows, bounces between characters and repeats refrains. The folk from the other world speak strangely, almost archaically but not quite, and with a cadence and style that means you can recognise their origin before they’ve explained it.

A series that couldn’t be made into a visual spectacle, for all I wish it could, and one of the great proofs of the pictures being so much better on radio.

There have been three short series’, roughly yearly, of which the second is available on AudioGo and the third recently finished on Radio 4, and the first series on 4 Extra. I hope the rest will be out on CD soon, but you see it mentioned or available, you should listen to it.

We like it, we do.

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And this is why we shouldn’t allow our girlfriend to borrow our iPhone to have something to listen to while she does the washing up.


Computer Games

Origin of the Species

One of the reasons I like Steam is because it works.

The prices are good, the software’s fairly reliable, I’ve never really had the massive issues others have with Offline Mode (That is not that it is necessary, but that it works for me in a way it appears not to work for others). It is a form of licence protection, and putting more DRMover the top of it is annoying, but in return for it I get infinite redownloads, cloud save and screenshot storage, a decent gaming social network and a client that allows me to access a web-browser from within the game without having to guess whether this game can alt-tab without crashing.I realise some people don’t like Steam, and that’s fine, you are entitled to valuing aspects of licencing higher than I do.

But one of the most useful things about Steam is that it works and, if you copy the Steam directory to a new hard drive on a new Windows install, it still works.

The big difference between Steam and GFWL, GOG and Origin is that Steam is a games install management system, and the others are wrappers for setup.exe, and this has most effect when you perform the operation mentioned above. Whereas Steam downloads the files and installs them itself, at least for back-catalog titles Origin & GFWL both just download an archive of the standard install files, then run the installer in more-or-less silent mode.

For GOG this works well, they’ve rewritten the installers where necessary, and that’s what they give you. They don’t pretend to be a game management platform, just a purchase one.

I own The Sims 3 on Steam, but bought the Pets expansion on Origin because it was cheaper. Origin allows you to add the CD keys of most EA games you’ve ever bought elsewhere, and they are added to your game library just as if you’d bought them though Origin. I like this feature a lot, and would like it if more publishers allowed you to add games that are available on Steam to Steam via this method. By this method I added TS3 (and various expansion packs) to Origin, installed Pets, and played the game. That was a few months ago.

Yesterday I decided I wanted to play TS3. This being a new install (I’ve wiped it and put Windows 7 back on, having given up on Windows 8 for now) with the old data drive on it, I tried just starting up the Origin install that was still there. It launched fine, but didn’t detect any of the games it had previously installed (under the previous Windows installation). This was reasonably expected, since under Cloudburst it had been C:, and now it was F:, so I pointed at Sims 3, which said “Ready to Download”, and clicked, agreed to three EULAs, and…

Click, whirrr, Installing….

… Installing ….

Dialog box: Pick a country. (UK). Can EA games track your gameplay? [ ] (Fuck No)

… Installing …

“Ready to Install”.


Hmm. Okay then. *Click*

… whirrrr….

… Pick a country? (UK). Track gameplay? (No) …

“Ready to Install”


So I turned to the internet, which told me to try reinstalling Origin, which didn’t help.

So I tried uninstalling Origin, followed EA’s directions about deleting things from the registry, restarted…  Country?/Gameplay?/”Ready To Install”.


I deleted the game cache. Deleted Origin. Deleted everything marked “Origin” or “Electronic Arts” in my registry. Went though AppData, slashing and burning and destroying all that stood in my way. Redownloaded all SIX FUCKING GIGABYTES of TS3. Still, the blatant lie “Ready to Install”.

So I turned to the forums, which sold me snakeoil of the “Delete the installshield folder” type (Still no), and finally a tutorial on taking the archive Origin had downloaded, renaming files and running setup manually.

This asked me about my country. Asked for permissions about Gameplay. Asked me to agree to an EULA. Left me with a “SimsLauncher.exe” file, which I clicked on.


Fail. By this time I’ve downloaded The Sims 3 four times in two hours, and am happy that my weekend internet access is uncapped. I’ve reinstalled everything above Windows itself and entirely screwed up the installation of any other Origin games I had installed. I give up, Origin has lost.

So I’m reinstalling from Steam. I’ll see if I can attach the “Pets” installer to the Steam install, otherwise I’ll live without it, or buy it from Steam.

But EA? When your direct competitor, with whom you have such unassailable issues that you took one of your best selling games off of the Steam store in a fit of pique, is handling the installation of one of your flagship games better than your own online store, you seriously need to take a step back and look at what  you think you’re doing to your customers.

It’s not good enough. It doesn’t *work*, and your official support network is entirely useless.

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Doomed to repeat it

Having sped past AqCom’s 13th birthday with the lack of updates your RSS reader has come to expect from this once proud site, I’ve done something I was going to do for that, but entirely failed to. With the use of my own archives and, an (almost) complete list of Designs though the Ages.

19992000 2000b 2003b 20032004200520062006b20082008b20102012



An Insufficiency of tea

Sometime back in the mists of 2005, while I was working at Evolving Media in Bedford, we hired a dedicated sysadmin to solve the increasing problem of the development staff spending more time keeping servers up and secure than developing things. One of the new things I discovered from this person was the existence of Rooibos “Tea”, a phenomenon which had thus far entirely escaped my lifestyle. Rooibos tea isn’t caffinated, and is enjoyed by millions of people all over the world in the style of tea and, apparently, coffee, which I may have to try at some point.

Roobios Tea, via Wikipedia

Anyway, I don’t like Rooibos. To my face they taste like one part masala chai to three parts carpet dust, and whilst I like masala chai, I’m happy to live without carpet dust in my beverage.

My current providers of tea (and supplier of a lot of the contents of the tins in the above photograph) is, providers as – the clue is in the name – Nothing But Tea, who Mr. Williams recommended at me a while back. Recently when I bought a nice glass teapot for my new office from them, they also provided a number of sample packs for random types of tea, and one of these was a sample of the unexpectedly existent, concept of Blueberry Rooibos. This morning, for no other reason than it was Saturday and I was curious, I decided to try it. The slight aspect of carpet dust is still there, but it’s now more like two parts Masala chai to one part carpet dust to two parts blueberries, which is a great improvement. I may even try the blackberry. I’ll report on other side effects as time permits.


Veruca Salt's side effects (Image still from WB's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory)