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The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

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8:28am on Monday, 25th September, 2017:

Secret World Legends

Anecdote

One of the two 45GB games I bought that put me over my broadband limit was Divinity: Original Sin 2. I was playing this just fine and quite liking it.

The other game I bought was Secret World Legends. I was planning on waiting until I'd finished DOS2 before I started, but heard that inventory transfers were available to get stuff moved from The Secret World to TSWL (which seems to be the abbreviation everyone is using, even though the formal title doesn't seem to have a The in it). I logged on, effected the transfer, then started to play.

That was Saturday evening. I've now completed every single quest in Kingsmouth, killed all the rare spawns there and run through Polaris, thus earning myself some kind of special revenant outfit for the achievement. I also did the Lava Game achievement, because I'm really good at jumping puzzles (even though I hate them).

Hmm.

Well, I preferred the original, that's for sure. The combat system, which is the main change, was better in my view. That said, it's not bad as it is, and if it attracts more players, well, fine: TSW is/was my favourite MMO until they messed up Tokyo, and it has a lot to offer (particularly if you like story). Dumbing it down a little to show more people what they missed is a small price to pay. I did love that ability wheel, though.

Character creation isn't as refined as it was in TSW. I couldn't recreate the cosmetic appearance of my old character, so just went for something similar. I also had to choose a character class, which is a pregenerated set-up to help people who expect character classes in skill-based games. I chose a healer spec, as usual, although it's pretty good for survival too: shotgun and fists. I didn't read up on it first, I just looked at the ones on offer and decided that this one would let me leech and do heals over time, so was probably going to be more useful in the long term. You only get five passive skills, though, so it's cruder than in TSW and harder to build synergies.

Loot is veru much simplified. You only get weapons and talismans (and mo ney), and you only get them for quests and rare mobs. You give your weapons and talismans experience points by destroying other weapons and talismans. Money comes quite quickly, so I've been buying cut-price stuff via the auction house and destroying it to level up my gear. It works a treat, but it's tedious when you come across a better item and then have to level that up so it's as good as the one you're going to replace.

So far, I've picked up around a dozen future tech crates, which are TSWL's lockboxes. It's full-on free-to-play now, which means this loathesome devices have been deployed to raise funds. I shan't be buying any. I have taken out a patron account, though, which is good for a month before it needs renewing; developers do need to be paid for their work, and this seems the least reprehensible way of rewarding them (although it does look to add significant overpowerment, which is annoying as it'll make the game even easier than it is already).

I think I'll play a good deal more, seeing as how I've paid for a month. I probably don't need to know much more about the game from a design perspective, but hey, it's nice to revive old memories.

It turned out that gear transfers from TWS only work if you have a character in the game. I didn't when I triggered mine. I fear I may never see my TSW vanity items ever again...



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12:16pm on Sunday, 24th September, 2017:

1642

Anecdote

A couple of weeks ago, I took this photo of graffiti carved into the woodwork of Beverley Minster.



It's not the only graffiti there (it has a lot), but it caught my eye.

The first line looks as if it was carved by someone who didn't have an extensive knowledge of writing, except for the ES (I think that's what it is) to the right. The second line looks to be a date, 1151, but that seems unlikely given that there was a fire in 1188 that destroyed much of the building, and the over-optimistic reconstruction collapsed in 1219. It could be connected to the letters above it, which if you use your imagination could then read "William".

It was the final line that I was interested in, though. 1642 marks the beginning of the English Civil War, and King Charles I stayed at Beverley for three weeks in April that year having been denied entrance to Kingston upon Hull. It could be that the 1642 is attached to the ES above it, or to the FFGL to its left. I don't know what either of these mean; I'd guess that the ES is a person and the FFGL is an acronym for something in Latin, but I haven't been able to find out more.

This kind of permanent graffiti seems to have a different content to the more temporary, spray-can graffiti that we see these days. It's more documentary than art movie.

I'm sure the Minster authorities will get around to repairing the damage eventually, anyway.



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1:24pm on Saturday, 23rd September, 2017:

Charmer

Weird

Dairy farmers: this is why you should always get a professional to proof-read your cheese labels.





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8:59am on Friday, 22nd September, 2017:

Book Update

Anecdote

This week, I started re-reading my Lizzie Lott book #2, making sure everything is perfect before releasing it for sale on Amazon. This is the fifth proof copy I've had to read: every time I get one and go through it, I spot minor changes I want to make, so I make them then send it back to get the next proof printed. This can go on indefinitely, of course, because there's always some change I want to make, even if it's to change something back.

Last time, I made very few changes. Those I did make were to do with hyphenation (which I have to perform manually, as Createspace doesn't understand Word's automatic hyphenation and won't believe that .pdf files have the page dimensions with which they were saved). I therefore resolved that this time I wouldn't make any changes, no matter how tempting, unless I absolutely had to.

Reading through, I had to steel myself several times against making minor adjustments, but it was all going well.

One of the few changes I made last time round was to change a gate from being wooden to being iron. This was because there was another wooden gate and a wooden bench a few pages later, and if I made the gate wooden it seemed to suggest a link that wasn't there. Because of this, I had changed the gate from being wooden to being iron.

This explains why I was now reading "a iron gate".

Augh! Augh augh augh! Augh!

What makes it worse is that I hadn't taken any notes of the little changes I'd wanted to make but had steeled myself against making.



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8:15am on Friday, 22nd September, 2017:

Update

Anecdote

I don't mind Microsoft updating my PC to the latest version of Windows 10, especially as it made the Start buttonwork again. However, it would have been nice to have been given some indication that it would take 20 hours and thrash my hard disc so hard I could barely play Civ4 on it, let alone anything more recent.

I'm going to have to look up how to remove that Homegroup icon again, though.



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9:10am on Thursday, 21st September, 2017:

Archbold

Weird

There must be a reason that this book has been kicking around the Computer Science and Electronic Engineering staff common room for the past few months, but I've yet to discover what it is.



My best theory so far is that it's down to random quantum fluctuations, but then you can say that about anything.



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5:27pm on Wednesday, 20th September, 2017:

Sinful

Outburst

I've been playing Divinity: Original Sin 2 for several evenings now, and am getting increasingly annoyed by its lack of a pause button.

The way the game works, you can move around in real time until combat starts, then it enters turn-based mode. This is good: it means that you can direct each character in your party to perform individual actions during combat, giving you time to think and act. When combat ends, turn-based mode is switched off and it's back to real-time mode. Fair enough.

Well yes, except that there's no pause key that allows you to switch back into turn-based mode. You can pause by hitting escape and bringing up the menu, but you can't interact with the game while it's in that state.

Why would you want to interact with the game?

Well, you'd want to because the game doesn't end turn-based moder when combat is over, it ends it when your enemies are dead. Suddenly, you regain control of all your characters. Some of them may be standing in fire, or poisoned, taking damage over time. If the game were paused, you could address each one's issues individually: have the burning ones walk into water, say, or have the poisoned ones swig a potion or whack them with a restoration spell. You can't do this is you have four of them all with different needs and some will be dead within three seconds if you don't do the right thing.

Because of this, I'm having to refight some battles that were fun the first time round but that are tedious the second or third time. It's not ideal. This is a shame, because otherwise the game is pretty good.

Maybe there's a mod or something that will do it...



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7:14pm on Tuesday, 19th September, 2017:

Search

Anecdote

Somewhere in one of the books on our bookshelves is a photograph of an ancient Egyptian sculpture with multiple levels of meaning.

It's of a particular, named man, so is representational.

He has his son standing in front of him. We know it's his son because he's positioned precisely, so that his head is where the man's erect phallus would be. The statue is therefore also symbolic.

The man has his hands on his son's shoulders. His arms are bent slightly at the elbow, though, together forming the hieroglyph "hepet", which means "embrace". The statue is therefore also literal.

I spent almost an hour looking for that photograph just now, but couldn't find it.

The book may well have been scanned and is online somewhere, but gawd knows what search terms would dredge it up.

Oh well. Here's a picture out of the British Museum of an antelope and a lion playing Senet instead.





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4:44pm on Monday, 18th September, 2017:

75 Percent

Anecdote

Hmm, it appears that downloading both Divinity Original Sin 2 and Secret Worlds Legends may have used up more of my Internet bandwidth allowance than I had anticipated. That's not hard, as I hadn't anticipated their using any of my bandwidth (it's all done by magic, isn't it?) but apparently that's not the case.

Fortunately, I have my quarter-the-speed BT Internet connection upon which to fall back until my regular network's bandwidth count resets on October 8th.

It's going to make the podcast interview I'm doing tonight over Skype a little laggy, but as it's for Roguelike Radio regarding MUD, and MUD can be in no way described as being Rogue-like, that's probably for the best anyway.



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12:43pm on Sunday, 17th September, 2017:

Dragon

Anecdote

My wife asked our elder daughter to paint her a picture of a dragon for her birthday. Last week, only four and a half months late, she received it. Here it is:



It's about the size of a budgie, but I expect it'll grow.



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12:25pm on Saturday, 16th September, 2017:

Friendly Advice

Anecdote

This is just some friendly advice for all you road signs out there.

The time to tell me that the road between Braintree and Colchester has been closed for repairs is before I commit to taking the road between Braintree and Colchester. It is not two minutes after I have committed to take the road between Braintree and Colchester. If there are two main ways to get from the A1 outside Cambridge to Colchester, one of which involves taking the road between Braintree and Colchester and one of which doesn't, the time to tell me is before the junction at which I have to make the choice of which route to take. It's not two minutes after I've made that choice.

Also, you diversion signs really need to get your act together so you don't all look the same. That way, if there are two diversions that overlap on a section of road, we'll know which set is talking to us and which set is talking to other people going in a completely different direction because some other section of road has been closed for repairs.



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4:22pm on Friday, 15th September, 2017:

Late Friday

Anecdote

It's the final keynote of the final day of the IGGI conference, immediately after a coffee break late on a Friday afternoon. Almost everyone should have bunked off and gone home early.

They haven't, though. We've still got pretty well a full house. How can this be?

Pro tip: if you want your conference attendees to stay until the end, book Mary Flanagan as your end keynote.



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4:22pm on Thursday, 14th September, 2017:

Discovery

Anecdote

Well, today I discovered that after five slices of Victoria sponge cake, I don't want any more.

I hope it's not the same with Kit-Kats — I've already eaten four since I went off the cake.



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11:12am on Thursday, 14th September, 2017:

IGGI in York

Anecdote

The IGGI ("Intelligent Games, Game Intelligence") conference in York began yesterday, although only for members of the doctoral training centre itself; we don't get any real people attending until today.

When we had the first IGGI conference in 2014, it wasn't big enough to be called a conference so we called it a symposium. The students had only just started and had to give lengthy explanations of what their work was going to involve. Meetings with representatives of industry didn't therefore go too well, because industry wants practical tools and all we had to sell was ideas.

We have so many students now that the lengthy talks are reduced to 1-minute research overviews, which still takes almost an hour. Interested industry people can go and chat to the students who catch their eye afterwards, at a poster session. Our first cohort is now in its final year, and has actual results of practical use. We also have some student-run workshops to introduce techniques that might be of interest to the games industry.

Next year is our final intake, then student numbers will reduce as each cohort leaves with their PhD. By the end, we'll have a symposium again and a dozen students in their final year will be presenting fully-realised research to industry partners (who may even include former students who have been recruited).

If there's a chance of obtaining funding for an IGGI 2, I'd be up for it.



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9:14am on Wednesday, 13th September, 2017:

York

Anecdote

Having driven back to Essex from Yorkshire on Monday, I drove back to Yorkshire from Essex on Tuesday. It's the annual conference of the IGGI Doctoral Training Centre, being held this year at the university of York. Hence, I'm in York.

The drive was quite exciting. The hotel doesn't have a car park, but instead has a discount for a nearby public car park. That car park closes at 10pm. It's a 4-hour drive from Colchester to York (230 miles), and I had an MSc oral to attend from 4pm-5pm. Add half an hour to fill in the forms for this, and I didn't set off until 5:30pm. Still plenty of time to get to York before 10pm, though.

I ignored the satnav's pleas to send me via Stansted, and went via Ipswich instead. There were no hold-ups, and it was a good choice. The Stansted route has a beast of a roundabout to negotiate, plus hefty queues as you get closer to Cambridge.

When I drove up to Yorkshire on Friday, I missed a turn. The A14 is one of those roads where you have to turn off it to keep on it; I didn't turn off it, and consequently wound up taking the back road into which it matamorphosised. Yesterday, I didn't make the same mistake: I turned of when I was supposed to turn off. I wish I hadn't, as I was immediately greeted by mile after mile of 40mph speed limits, something to do with building a new junction so that in 5 years' time the A14 won't turn off itself any more.

I was still well within schedule to get to York before 10pm, though, and powered up the A1 on cruise control at 70mph, despite the best efforts of Storm Aileen to stop me. Well, that was until it stopped someone else ahead of me. I don't know quite what happened, but traffic suddenly stopped and remained stationary for 40 minutes. Then, it just started up again. I had no phone signal so the cause remained unknown.I could have got out and asked the truckers what the word on the CB radio was (which one woman did), but I didn't want to get wet.

My satnav was now telling me I'd arrive at 10:20. I within-the-speed-limit-sped off, and there were no more delays. Every so often, the satnav would knock off another minute, until I was 10 miles from York and it was telling me I'd get there at 10:02. I knew the clock was fast, so it might be more like 10pm, but then I maybe the car park had a fast clock too.

I was maybe 300 metres from my destination when I reached Micklegate Bar through York's city wall. It's being repaired. There are panels and ll sorts round the base, making the road underneath so narrow I wasn't sure I could make it. I had to go through, though, so went for it. I'd come at it at a slight angle, so had to slow right down to strighten up, then made my left turn and followed the road round to the car park.

The car's clock said 10:02. My watch said 9:58.

The barrier raised, and I was let in.

I think I'll take the bus to the university from here.



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Copyright © 2017 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).