Hedders' Ramblings

Gaming, home tech, politics, music, whatever really

Category: Nerdery (page 1 of 2)

Kingdom Come: Deliverance

This is a game I have been itching to play for ages. A realistic, medieval open world action RPG – what’s not to like?

Turns out: loads. This game has so much potential, but it is completely shot to pieces by the awful, awful combat.

Now, first person melee combat is tricky to get right at the best of times. Vermintide is an example of a game that does it well, as is Dark Messiah of Might and Magic. Skyrim doesn’t do it especially brilliantly, but it gets away with it because of the brilliance of the world. In Kingdom Come, sad to say, the combat is game-breakingly awful. It’s wafty, it’s slow, it’s almost impossible to gauge distance, blocking is a fucking train wreck, and frankly after an hour of the game I want to kill something. Or possible myself. There’s this section where you have to escape from your town when it’s being ransacked, and you steal a horse, and then you get pursued by a load of soldiers with crossbows and there is literally nothing you can do to stop them shooting you dead.

This is where I rage quit. I’m frustrated because the world looks interesting, and the game has the potential to be as brilliant as The Witcher, but it’s just buggered to hell by the dysfunctional combat system.

Oh well. That’s 35 quid I won’t get back.

Stuff that annoys me in games

In no particular order, and (mostly) applying equally to modern and retro games alike, here is a list of things that games do all the time and which really really boil my piss.

  1. Compulsory stealth sections in games with crap stealth mechanics. If you’re going to force the player to navigate a section by stealth, at least have the decency to build solid, fun stealth mechanics. Don’t just shoehorn it in, especially early in the game. It’s annoying, it’s not enjoyable, and as often as not I will just rage quit and play something else.
  2. Escort missions. There has never been an escort mission that’s actually good. No, you’re wrong. There just hasn’t. Ico doesn’t count.
  3. Putting token female characters in completely stupid clothes because “sexy” or some shit. I had thought this cishet-dudebro “hur hur tits” ridiculousness was dying out. Then I saw “Quiet” in Metal Gear Solid 5. I mean, come on people. She’s basically in her birthday suit, and she doesn’t speak. Quiet is to gender equality what Jim Davidson is to race relations. She’s worse than Barbarella, and that was an actual piss-take. And if you find Kojima’s spurious explanation (something about breathing through her skin or some bollocks) even remotely convincing, then I’m sorry but you are definitely an idiot, probably a misogynist and very likely had something to do with Gamergate.
  4. Sub-titles turned on by default. Why. Just … why. I know games have to support sub-titles for localisation or for the hearing-impaired. That’s a good thing. But why are they turned on by default? I can hear and understand English. I don’t need your inane dialogue provided to me in text form too.
  5. Up to jump. One for European gamers of a certain age. See, consoles weren’t really a thing here until the Megadrive/Genesis and SNES era. Before that, we played games on home computers like the Spectrum, the C64 and latterly the ST and Amiga. All of which only supported one joystick button. Which meant that most games which needed both a jump and fire/attack function (i.e. most games) used the single button for fire and up on the joystick to jump. And, rose-tinted nostalgia aside, it was utterly shit. Up to jump is wankballs.

So, yeah. I’m sure there’s loads of stuff I missed. But this is what I could think of for the moment.

The Raspberry Pi 4

I was lucky enough to get hold of one of these within a few days of release, and I’ve now got samba, Nextcloud and Plex running on it and a USB3 RAID box hooked up as storage.

I’ve always had a soft spot for the Pi – a cheap, credit-card sized multi-purpose computer that can run Linux and connect to pretty much anything. What’s not to like? It’s always been a bit under powered for any serious work though.

Not any more. The Pi 4 is – for its size and price – an absolute beast. I can be streaming music from Plex, uploading files to NextCloud (with encryption turned on) and working on files over SMB, all at the same time, and it barely breaks a sweat.

I’m flabbergasted by the thing, really. Performance comparable to a lower-end x86 from just 6 or 7 years ago, in a form factor the size of a credit card, and for less than 60 quid even for the 4GB RAM version.

Eben Upton deserves to be extremely rich.

John Robertson

One of the best, funniest, angriest comedians I have ever seen. Criminally underrated. If there were any justice in this world he would be filling the Palladium, instead of doing improv in tiny Newcastle nightclubs. Watch and enjoy.

Last of the Mohicans on an Oud

I’m a sucker for a clever cover version, and this one of the cleverest I’ve seen in a while:

Really like this a lot.

Chatty chatty, Roku

I have a Roku streaming stick at home. It’s a convenient way of hooking Netflix, Amazon Video and NowTV up to the telly in the living room without having a mass of boxes, cables and so on.

As a streaming device, it’s great and works really well. But, as is so often the case these days, it turns out there may well be a sting in the tail.

See, I recently decided to set up pi-hole on my home network. It’s a great tool, and super-helpful in the never-ending battle to keep Internet nasties, creepies and snoops away from my kids. And it revealed something that I didn’t know.

The Roku phones home. Like, a lot. A host called “cooper.logs.roku.com” shot straight to the top of the most queried domains in the pi-hole. Seems the Roku tries to hit it twice per minute, every minute. It seems that it is, by a country mile, the chattiest thing on my home network. Which, when I tell you that we have multiple Amazon Echos, IP telephony and every games console under the sun, you will appreciate takes some doing.

I get that the device would need to phone home periodically to check for software updates and stuff. That’s pretty normal; sensible, actually. But, every 30 seconds? What on earth is it doing?

I got curious. So, I went and had a look at Roku’s privacy notice.

Reading between the lines, it looks to me like the Roku stick is basically sending all of our viewing habits back to HQ. The privacy notice doesn’t say why, or on what legal basis. It looks like it might also have mapped my home network and sent all of that info back to Roku too (although some Wireshark sniffing didn’t capture anything interesting other than SSDP traffic, which you would expect from a home media device).

Either way, it’s sufficiently concerning that I’ve submitted a subject access request (which, despite being a tech lawyer, I’ve actually never done on my own account before). Assuming Roku honours it, hopefully it will tell me what they’re up to.

E3

I stopped caring about E3 years ago. I think that might have changed. Cyberpunk 2077. A remake of Panzer Dragoon. VTM: Bloodlines 2. Elden Ring. Witcher 3 on Switch. PC Engine Mini.

Dribble…

Miyazaki and GRR Martin are indeed collaborating

Eurogamer story here:

https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2019-06-12-elden-ring-is-from-softwares-biggest-title-yet-in-terms-of-sheer-volume

Excuse me. I’ve just come.

Speccy!

A few weeks ago I bought an untested, loft-find ZX Spectrum+ from eBay. This is the first model of computer I owned, and I still remember the endless hours I devoted to fiddling with it and playing the simple games it could run. It taught me to code, too. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the Spectrum+ was my best friend when I was a kid.

Anyhow, the untested loft buy didn’t work. Quelle surprise. But Speccies are pretty easy to fix; even my limited knowledge and rudimentary soldering skills can deal with a machine this basic, surely?

Turns out that I was right. First problem was that the power supply was shot. A modern PSU with the right pinout, voltage etc cost me about eight quid. With that in place, the machine powered up just fine. But the keyboard didn’t work. OK, so I replaced the membrane. Still no joy. After a certain amount of swearing it turned out I had neglected to reconnect both of the ribbon cables properly. Hook those back up … and everything works except the sodding Enter key. Which is a bit crucial, really.

So, after taking the keyboard apart again, I found that the rubber mat which presses down onto the membrane had lost rigidity under the Enter key and wasn’t quite making proper contact. A couple of small stickers to shim out the difference and … we have a working Speccy!

A bit of a scrub later, and I reckon it’s come up lovely.

Yes, I know. It’s no Amiga, or ST, or even C64. And yes, I do own examples of all of those machines. But the humble Speccy was my first love, and it’s wonderful to own a working one again. No, you have something in your eye.

Tricked out Atari

Here’s my now fully tricked out Atari ST:

It’s a 520STE upgraded with 4MB RAM and TOS 1.62. It has an HXC floppy emulator (for loading disk images from a USB thumb drive), an adaptor to allow for a modern-ish USB mouse rather than those horrible bricks from back in the day, and best of all an UltraSatan, courtesy of the magnificent Lotharek.

I do own rarer or more collectible retro machines, but the ST is a bit special. I’ve deliberately kept it very close to how the the original machine would have been in the 90s, just adding a few useful modern conveniences here and there rather than going overboard on the upgrades.

When I was a kid with a Spectrum+, it was the Atari ST that I drooled over rather than the Amiga, for some reason. Don’t get me wrong, I like the Amiga very much. I own two of them. And yes, I know that the Amiga was technically superior to the ST. But there was something about those old Silica Shop adverts that made the ST seem like this whole other world of possibilities. And let’s be honest – it just looks way cooler than the Miggy. Look at the slant on those function keys; totally pointless, but so awesome.

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