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Archive April 2005
Sunday 24 April 2005
A rather enjoyable indie game; Mount & Blade, being done as a free trial, or $11 unlimited-with-all-future-updates-included thing, very reasonably.

It has the best melee combat I've played in a while, perhaps even more fun than the most recent Prince of Persia's combat. I've never ridden a horse on a battlefield, of course, but it feels very right all the same - the horse rears up if it's unexpectedly blocked, has a wide turning circle if it's galloping, throws extra damage behind your blows if you're going at speed (especially with lance-shaped weapons), and the control method feels extremely natural. You can attack over the horse's head, swipe to the sides, get really messed up if you're surrounded and the horse is spooked, break out and run down stragglers... It's delightful, though the character's equipping curve to begin with is a bit of a drag.

And you're not a superhero - you take a skirmish force with you, and if you end up being one-against-five you are probably knackered. Unless you're one heavily armoured knight on a heavy warhorse against five cloth-clad guys with knives.

The graphics aren't the greatest, but they kick the pants off most non-mainstream games. Character customisation is done well, with fully deformable face-areas, shadows are cast beautifully, water splashes around when horses run through it... Basically, the effects are good, but the textures and shapes are a bit sparse. Since it's a work in progress, this is the sort of thing that's likely to be progressed.

A tip for if you start playing - unlike most medieval-setting games, leadership is actually a useful skill. I strongly recommend getting it to level 4 or close in your opening stats, and not wasting skill points on bows like I did. Not sure about crossbows, but I suspect throwing weapons is a more useful skill. Riding is also good. All the scouting skills aren't so useful because you can get a companion who fills that role. Bizarrely, it's the charisma skills that seem the most vital. [16:17] [11 comments]

Sunday 10 April 2005
Anyone who can spare a bit over 20MB of bandwidth should get Legend of the Last Mighty Shaolin Samurai Warrior Shaolin, which is the best kung-fu movie ever in the history of everything. If you can't spare a bit over 20MB of bandwidth, rearrange things so that you can, and then get the movie. If your video software can't play Windows Media files, fix it. In 7 minutes, the movie covers everything that has ever been in a kung-fu movie, and everything that ever will be, except for car chases. Top notch work by Mr scottem. I might have linked to this before, but even if I did it's worth bringing up again. [03:00] [3 comments]

Thursday 7 April 2005
HTML art is fun and painful. It would always be easier to fire up a basic art package and construct my diagrams there, but so much less fun. And I'd have to upload them somewhere, and they'd stay there being annoying files that I'd forget what they are and months later I'd go "what's this file?" and I'd look at it and go "oh yeah, it was that diagram I drew for that livejournal comment that wasn't even very funny", and this cycle would repeat every few months but I'd never delete the file because what if someone was looking in the recipient's archives and found the comment with a broken image link, eh? So HTML art is clearly better because it will be embedded in the text. And it will only take about a hundred times as long as scrawling the diagram in a paint program would.

It's also funnier if someone recognises the stupid amount of effort that goes into constructing a nice HTML diagram. Witness! A diagram for a sarcastic remark about eminent domain and answer on a postcard. The comment's quite far down both times, but you can just scroll down until you notice something that's not normal text.

The world needs more images constructed out of raw HTML. Also, don't forget that livejournal filters CSS 'position', which makes the challenge that much more interesting. Also diagrams should work with any reasonable window and font size, and you get bonus points for diagrams that don't specify a font size or a non-relative width, and still work in most circumstances. Not that anyone is going to play along anyway. Your HTML skills are weak! [13:06] [6 comments]

Saturday 2 April 2005
I'm not usually one to pull April Fools day pranks, but yesterday I was inspired, and had a handy venue with thousands of victims to make the effort worthwhile. The pranks have been mostly positively described by the victims as, eg. "brilliant and funny", which I think makes it a complete success. My prank was on the players of Vampires. There were four different variants, each player getting only one.

The first, most subtle, and my personal favourite, was the appearance of having logged in as me instead of as themself. All the links on the page would immediately return the user to their usual page, with "April Fool" in huge letters at the top.

The others were each a block of text with a single link, in which the link would go to the same "April Fool" page which was otherwise normality. The texts of those were:
Due to an excess of cheating by a few unscrupulous parties, resulting in unexpectedly high bandwidth costs, the game will be unavailable for the next two weeks. Please click here for full details.

The server previously at this location has been siezed by the IRS in connection with necessary inquiries into a tax audit. The publicly available details of the ongoing inquiry can be found at http://www.irs.gov/inquiry/8172341 (note - this URL is nonsense, and seized was misspelt deliberately for authenticity.)

Due to a hard-drive crash, approximately 28% of the database has been irreparably damaged, meaning many vampires will unfortunately have to start again from scratch. Click here to see whether yours is one of the affected. Affected players who have donated will, of course, be reinstated with the powers they had from donating.
My view of April Fools pranks is that they should be more funny than cruel. While some of these are slightly cruel (MMORPG-players will realise that "your character/game is gone" is cruel; other people may not understand), I think (and seem to be vindicated by the amusement of the victims) that this was balanced by the fact that the link in each immediately revealed the prank. Five seconds of panic immediately soothed is more funny than cruel. Also a consideration, on which grounds I rejected some of my similar prank ideas, is that it's much meaner to say "you have something new and great! No you don't, april fool!" than to say "something horrible and implausible has happened! No it hasn't, april fool!" So I avoided any 'nice' pranks, except the illicit-nice of having logged in as the superuser (only 'nice' for people who would cheat, who deserve a meaner prank).

So, a successful and enjoyable April Fools prank all round. Even so, in future I think I'll go back to not bothering. [09:27] [6 comments]