Welcome to Empirical Purple

A blog by Simon Brady to cover a surprisingly wide range of geekiness, in a combination that no-one else does quite the same way. Probably. Either that, or it'll just be Simon talking about the likes of Football (usually the Soccer variety), PC & Tabletop Gaming, WWE, Movies, Music and occasionally even my actual job of Graphic Design, depending on what I'm up to in the world.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Case for the Defence

The 'Endless Trial' version of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning grabbed my interest of late, mostly because you get the first ten levels of gameplay totally gratis, but also because it's got a Mac client. This saves me all sorts of bother having to use Parallels just for a game (as I do when playing Blood Bowl).

The advertising tag of 'Forever. For Free' appears to have worked on me, at least, as Download it now I promptly did.

So I picked a server and, for a multitude of reasons, rolled a High Elven Swordmaster (who now, with all his PvP gear, looks awesome on the right in this screenie) I've always liked High Elves, the Swordmaster has always been my favourite HElf unit type, Mark Gibbons' original picture (below right, in his GW 'spiky period') is fabulous, I like the idea of wielding a six-foot long two-handed sword, I'm often a tank archetype in MMOs, all sorts of things.

So far, this Swordmaster has already reached his trial level cap (of 10) in the good-guys starting zone of Nordland, and now I'm venturing into something I've almost never really bothered - or enjoyed - doing: PvP, Player Vs Player.

In World of Warcraft I suffered in the fact that my Warrior archetype could take a fair amount of damage but not deal much out. That was all fine, as I was only slogging through the PvP for the neato shiny Stormwind armour rewards, so I could walk/fly around looking like a shiny golden General. In it for the costumes, you might say. My PvP record in City of Heroes, however, was P0 W0 D0 L0, as I simply didn't bother.

Stuck at Level 10, however, with no more experience gains allowed, my Swordmaster still felt the itch of battle, and the glint of shiny armour and weapon pieces that were better than what the Public Quests - which are excellent, by the way - drop was too much to bear.

To my surprise, I found myself for once near the top of the Damage (caused) charts, and near the bottom of the Deaths Suffered charts. My Swordmaster was slaying most of his foes left, right and centre, while standing up to pretty much everything except a direct, concentrated assault by three or more opponents when I had no support. A high DPS tank? Me likey.

So, Warhammer Online? Me likey. When I've levelled up a few more characters to the cap and capped my PvP renown level too, then I may be tempted to pay that just-under-a-tenner for a single month and see how far that gets me. As for now, my level 10 Swordmaster has the best gear he can possibly get, and has been kicking ass across the battlefields of the Old World. Next... a Witch Elf, Trollslayer or Bright Wizard? Hmm. All three.

Star, Push, Skull

This month, I are been mostly attempting to create a Blood Bowl League.

Down at Portal Wargaming Club, we've got a nice little community going on. Some of us have played only Blood Bowl of late, while others manage it with their 40k, Warhammer, Warmachine, Tragic:The Saddening and other nerdy habits.

We tried an Open, challenge-style League when back at GW, but that came to an abrupt end when the Veteran's Club closed down on Tuesday nights. Thankfully, down to some sterling work, a new club opened on Wednesday nights for us to get our gaming fix. My Human team, the Paravon Eagles, had 8 wins from 8 matches and I like to think they were the never-crowned League Champions, but that's for another brag in another blog.

Having been listening to the various Blood Bowl podcasts out there (Tackle Zone Radio, Three Die Block and Zlurpcast) we've got ourselves an itching for a proper League once more, so here's what we're going to do:

• Between 8-12 sign-ups, split into two or three divisions of 4 or 5 Coaches
• One team per Coach
• 1,100,000 Gold Piece starting Team Value
• Teams seeded 1st to 4th, 5th, etc. within each division based on experience
• Teams play to a schedule: they play each other once within their division, and their equal seeds in the other division(s)
• Top four (or eight) teams from across divisions go through to the playoffs.
• Coaches must play a minimum (barring exceptional circumstances) two games per month.

As Blood Bowl is always enlivened by a few House Rules, these are probably going to be ours:

• Skill Cap - you can only add a certain skill to your team a maximum of 4 times.
• MVP Selection - pick three of your players, and your opponent rolls a D3 to decide who gets it. Your MVP in one game cannot be selected for MVP in the following game.

I'm hoping that a small, quick(ish) League will be more likely to be successful (and of course completed) so we can get it under our collective belts before progressing onto something bigger and better. From tiny acorns does the might oak grow.

With Interest/Sign-ups beginning next Wednesday, ideally we can get the first matches ready for August the 25th. If only PWCBBL wasn't such a mouthful...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Put the BAMF! down, you are surrounded

I've just had one of the myriad of bland, corporate, advert-filled voices of youth music channels (so, MTV, how's that alternative vibe working out for you now? Oh wait...) on in the background, and three music videos, in a row, caught my eye:

Alicia Key's 'Try sleeping with a broken heart', 'Ego' by The Saturdays and Ne-Yo's 'Beautiful Monster'. What links them all (other than me not particularly liking any of them) is simple: Superheroes.

Whether it's The Saturdays dressed-up and sparkling with a variety of stock superpowers, Ne-Yo with energy blasts from his hands, or Alicia healing a little black girl's dead dog in a single bound, they've all caught the popular culture wave - or rather latched onto - superheroes. Doubtless there are more of them around.

'Alternative' is weird, different and niche until it becomes trendy, a fad, and then eventually mainstream. Whether it was Elvis, Nirvana, Eminem, or whatever, the right sort of alternative eventually becomes mainstream. Some of us have been reading comics - or graphic novels, if you want to sound pretentious - for years and it is our mainstream. The geeks have enough spending power to make superhero films (of which there are now too many to list) a success, and the script writers and marketing people have the talent to make them appeal to the mainstream, too, giving them a momentum of their own.

To this there are two reactions for anyone who thinks their interests should be in the niche category, rather than mainstream. The first is to be glad, because there are now more fans of Green Lantern, Watchmen, X-Men, etc than there ever were, and that means more comics, stories, characters, etc. The second reaction is worse, as the original fan becomes a snob. They delve into the niche further, making more extreme types their niche all over again, complaining about all the noobs who have only heard of Deadpool since the Wolverine Origins movie.

That extends even within the niches themselves. For Warhammer 40k, the Ultramarines are currently the noob choice. The vanilla option, the mass-market posterboys who plaster the front of pretty much every boxed set, who have the most exemplary background written about them and are one of the most legendary Chapters in the entire Imperium.

But, play using Ultramarines and you're boring, you're mainstream. Particularly among geeks, within niches, there is a stigma with being associated with the lowest common denominator. Not geeky enough, not into it enough to choose beyond the obvious. This bad reputation, of course, is all utter crap.

Now superheroes themselves are mainstream, obvious, and easy to pick up. And, unfortunately, there's no real way of telling if the creative impulse behind the use of them is one born out of a genuine love for the original material, or just some video director googling Batman and seeing what images turn up that he can copy to make his latest video look cool.

Cole Comfort

I remember, in 2002, standing in the terrace section at Macclesfield Town to watch the unlikely match-up of the mighty Silkmen hosting West Ham United in the FA Cup 3rd Round. Not quite the fixture that dreams are made of, but a very nice one for the perennial strugglers in the fourth tier of English football. One of two Premiership 3rd Round opponents I've seen Macc face.

Jeff Winter actually presided over a very good match that day, as both teams played some very good football. Two things stick in my mind from that impressive yet utterly futile 3-0 defeat for Macc: the first was the size of Trevor Sinclair's calves - like flippin' tree trunks they were! As he scampered down the wing it was like the March of the Ents on Isenguard, only with less bark.

The other thing I remember about that game was a twenty year old Jole Cole. He deservedly scored the goal that capped off the Hammers' 3-0 win and was, for me, man of the match. Jermaine Defoe may have scored twice that day, but Cole was the difference. Even though it was against a League 2 side, even though he was only 20, he completely ran the show. Everything good went through him, he was inventive, great passing, quick... everything you want a creative player to be.

Eight years on and he has been, barring the occasional injury, pressed into a hard-working wide-man's role by the succession of Chelsea managers. Never mind that Harry Redknapp stupidly decided he needed more bulk - creating the Fat Cole along with Frank the Tank at the time - Cole's gifts seem to have been somewhat wasted over the years.

Whether that's his fault, or that of his managers, we have yet to find out.

One thing's for sure, though, I said that Roy Hodgson's first job should be to get on bended knee in front of Joe to bring him to Liverpool. And lo, did the prophecy fulfill itself. Arjen Robben has said that Torres-Gerrard-Cole as a front three is as good as any strike force in the world, and if Cole links up with those two (I hesitate to say as 'a threesome', as Trevor Sinclair's calves are homoerotic enough) as well as they've managed to get a partnership going already, then that front three could be practically unstoppable.

Time will tell with that one, but if he can slot in well, then Liverpool's goal-scoring fortunes, at least, will be on the up.

The other great 3rd Round tie I saw with Macc? Chelsea 6-1 Macclesfield Town in 2007. That, for a long time, was the stuff football giant-killing dreams were made of, but eventually turned into nightmares. We only lost 6-1. We even had them at 1-1 for all of ninety seconds in the first half, too.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Turn, turn, turn

Sometimes, people ask for weird stuff in their advertising. They try to be comical, or trendy, or eye-catching, or just different from the rest to stand out from the crowd. It's understandable, of course, as in a magazine with a lot of other equally brilliantly-designed adverts, everyone wants to be special.

As you might be able to guess by now, someone has just asked for their advert to be flipped 180 degrees. Yup, an upside down advert. It will certainly stand out and will hopefully be memorable, which is obviously their overriding thought. A bit of a double-edged sword, though, as people will either get annoyed and think they're idiots, or will chuckle slightly to themselves as they spin their favourite local magazine around a couple of times to have a proper look. Thankfully I've come up with what should be a neat little tagline, the correct way round, to explain it.

It may work, it may not, but if it goes on for more than a couple of issues then people will get used to the novelty, and therefore either sick of it or simply ignore it.

GoCompare's opera singer stands out at the moment, for sure, but everyone hates it. Everyone also knows they've got a comparison website for... whatever it is they compare. Annoying jingles, perhaps. Either way, you know the name, and their marketing company has earned their money. Compare the Meerkat, too, has become something of a meme, but as the adverts go on, and on, and on (and Ariston? Looks like their washing machines had to stop eventually) the cries of 'Simples!' are now met more with groans than laughter.

I must confess to liking the first GoCompare advert, purely for the perfectly-delivered 'He's only a tenor/tenner' line at the end. Hate the rest of them, though.

Anyways, as it's lunchtime, I must get back to eating my rapidly-cooling pasta bake, as well as painting 'Death By Schnu-schnu', Mozza's Amazon team for Blood Bowl. Very pink, those bikinis are, and there's a fair old amount of flesh on show. Perhaps it's to distract some of the more introverted Blood Bowlers from their game? Hopefully helps when you make all those dodge rolls.

Should definitely get a tutorial game of Blood Bowl in tonight, giving some tips and advice to a new Necromantic player. The only question remaining is: where shall we go and get some chips from while at the gaming club? There are no chipshop comparison websites! Ludicrously-mustachioed opera singer, you have failed me!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Falling off a Blog

It's very easy, of course, to just sit here and type thoughts into the ether. Quite why it's so appealing, of course, is up for debate. We all think our opinions are worth everyone else hearing and conforming to, and this way lets us imagine everyone else is actually listening.

It's a two-way process, when it works correctly, and these are the people at, at the moment, that I listen to the most:

Tim Vickery blogs at the BBC website about South American football every Monday morning, and it's a very interesting read. I've heard Tim on the radio very late at night talking about what goes on down there, and his insights are fantastic. A good number of the BBC blogs are interesting - not just the sporting ones, of course - particularly BBC Political editor Nick Robinson, slowest man in the dry on the Top Gear track, and Mark Mardell's take on America, too.

Never miss film critic Mark Kermode and his take on a film, either. Whether the good Doctor likes a film or not, I can always discover whether it'll suit me, or not. There's no direct correlation (or inversion) between my views and his, but a better film critic I have yet to hear of. I also have to check George Martin's Not a Blog, as I'm always itching for news on when his next Song of Ice and Fire book is coming out (five years and counting...)

A completely different tack, which appeals to the comedy-godmode Nationstates roleplayer in me, is Back of the Net at Mark Watson's website. Ludicrous, brilliant, apt and occasionally thought-provoking. Today, Neil Warnock is Angry, by the way.

Looking For Group is my favourite webcomic to read, ahead of what was Turn Signals on a Land Raider, while TV Tropes is a source of fun, laughs, inspirations, warnings and, of course, is a massive time sink.

So, there you go, those are a good chunk of the websites that make up my internet time and inform, inspire and otherwise help along this piece of crap!

Virtual (U21) champions of the world

So Starblaydia's Under-21s have taken the junior World Cup for the second time in their history, which goes back more than a century. Now they're looking good to climb back up the world rankings at senior level, aiming to extend their record number of five World Cup trophies. It was the new manager that did it, or a talented and lucky influx of young players, or perhaps the cult following around the immortal Starblaydi ex-footballer who the Under-21 World Cup is now named after.

Or, perhaps, it was the random numbers falling my way, helped a long just a smidge by the forum-based roleplaying I was doing. I choose to believe one of the previous paragraph's answers.

It's all the fault of Nationstates and, directly, Aussie writer Max Barry. The little nation simulation game, where you answer daily issues about your virtual nation, has spawned a legion of forum-based roleplayers, and within said legion is a small but dedicated band who only really care about the fortunes of their sports teams. Politics? Pah! Wars? Schmaws! It's all about how many World Cups you've won and how high your KPB rank is, not your population, tax rates, military or Human Development Index score.

Yes, I am an online forum-based roleplayer of an imaginary nation, and I don't have a problem with that. Great way to start a blog, huh?