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.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Take Me On Your Mighty Wings

I loved the original StarCraft. And whichever of the WarCrafts that it was I first played - 2, I think. Their similarities with Warhammer and 40k are obvious, especially considering that Blizzard were originally developing a game for GW when it all went horribly wrong and they had to come up with their own IP.

StarCraft and Brood War still sit on my shelf, amongst all the other PC games that I've kept to play one day when I need that nostalgia fix. So, when StarCraft 2 was announced, I was looking forward to it. I wasn't looking forward to the £45 I'd have to hand over in order to play it, of course, but some things can't be helped.

Or, in fact, they can be helped, thanks to one of those free 7-hours of play key codes, thanks to Adam.

So far, all I can say is that it's a very good game. Easy to get into an get to grips with, along with lots of fleshed-out characters, great cutscenes and story development (at least as far as I've got in my 7 hours...) and that classic bit of Blizzard humour thrown in.

Still, it's a steep price to pay. Have I not given you enough money over the years for your games, Blizzard, starting with Rock n Roll Racing, through Starcraft, up to World of Warcraft and now you're asking me to shell out another £45 on your latest game? Why have you forsaken me? Won't somebody think of the children?

By 'somebody', I mean Blizzard, and by 'children', I mean my wallet, of course.

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is a good game, it's a very good game. I'm not sure, as someone who doesn't bother with the online facet of multiplayer strategy games, that it's worth 45 of my pounds sterling, though.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Reviewing A Thousand Typo'd Sons

In the week that The Script's second album went straight in at number one with their collection of whiney, melodic, catchy crap, Linkin Park's new album, A Thousand Suns, managed to hit the number two spot.

I listened to it most of Wednesday and Friday, while I spent Thursday listening to their back catalogue wondering if all the people whinging about them changing their style and not having any guitars in the new album is really fair or not.

To be fair, listening back, I couldn't spot where Hybrid Theory merged into Meteora. Yes, there are a couple of stand-out songs on each album, but in general they sound exactly the same.  Minutes To Midnight was a bit different, but they've really gone for it with A Thousand Suns (which I'm still having to go back and change from writing 'Sons' - must be the 40k player in me).

There's a lot of repetition, a lot of samples, a lot of socio-political-type comment (i.e. preaching) and, at 47 minutes, it's pretty damn short. They're still going on about Vietnam, Martin Luther King and, most notably, the creation of nuclear weapons, but in a world where Iraq and Afghanistan are the current hot-spots, using clips of speeches from 50, 60 years ago and more just doesn't cut it. They can draw as many parallels and echoes as they like, but Public Enemy did Martin Luther King soundbites far better.

At least they didn't fuck with his tuning to make him sound like a Transformer - awesome as that is on the 99-second long track Wisdom, Justice And Love - but as Mike Shinoda seems so very determined to tell us, he's copied from Chuck D, Biggie Smalls and the like, and they're now in such a bold musical direction that Linkin Park fans have to catch up with the band, motherfuckers.

It's like they've stopped confining Mr Hahn to just directing the music videos and playing with samples. A Thousand Suns seems to be one huge Cure for the Itch (from Hybrid Theory), as they've completely over-produced this record. Too much time spent looking anguished in the studio while they show off their tats and piercings.

Despite all the criticism, I actually like the album. The nine 'actual song' tracks - split apart by five random sets of samples and incidental music - don't stand out within the whole album. There are so many repeated themes, lines and lyrics throughout the record that nothing really jumps out at you. Take the tunes individually and they're good songs, take the whole record from front to back and it's a great album.

Definitely a concept album, definitely a stream of consciousness, and definitely controversial if you're an LP fan who lives and breathes the likes of New Divide, Faint, What I've Done and Numb. My favourite track from A Thousand Suns? Probably Iridescent, fighting for the top spot with Burning In The Skies.

If you like Linkin Park, you might well like this. If you hate them, you still might well like it. If you OMG LOVE them... well, you've got a decision to make. You can choose to keep up with where Linkin Park are going, or be left behind.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Monkey see, monkey want

I knew it was only a matter of time before I'd want a smartphone of one make or another. Dreams of an iPhone were quickly dashed by choking on my own rage at the price of the damn thing, so there will be no triple crown of iMac, iPod and iPhone for iMe. Blackberrys, too, are right out. Just because.

Apparently, according to the real tech nerds who know these sort of thing, the HTC Desire is a damn good phone. So, my fiancĂ©e goes and gets herself one, fairly cheaply, too.

All I can say is that it's very cool, and very clever. Sometimes it's even a little too clever, going beyond what you want from it. Adding everyone from your Facebook account who has put their mobile number on public display to your phone contacts, for instance (soon remedied, however, by choosing the Facebook for Sense option, rather than just Facebook).

Touchy-feely, tons of cool options and things to link it with, and lots of lovely little touches that remind me of Apple software, in that it makes you go "wow, someone's actually thought about this|!"

And I want one.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

It's a Dice Game

When they're hot, they're hot. When they're not... well, you don't do very well. When one player is getting the good luck and the other only gets the bad, then it can end up being a slaughter.

This is how it was with my second match, last night, in the PWCBBL. Dan is a very competent coach with his Skaven, and his victory in the small Resurrection tournament we played before our last open league was testament to that. The key to his game is, generally, optimum usage of his three Gutter Runners with some ruthless scheming - this fits the Skaven character perfectly, as the stars run around getting all the glory while the expendable linemen simply become fodder and take the hits.

Unfortunately, all of his team got hit last night, mostly by trucks in the shape of my two Mummies. Despite the 2-0 scoreline in my favour, the casualty side-line of 6-0 in my favour said it all. Two Gutter Runners were Seriously Injured and the third has picked up a Niggling Injury, with all three of them missing Dan's next game, against Tom's Necromantic team. Three linemen joined them in the Dead & Injured Box, too, as a terrible combination of Blocks, Crowd Surfing and Going For It failures. The Thrower was KO'd, not coming back for the entire second half (despite two attempts) and was quickly joined by two linemen, leaving him only two players to set up on the final turn of the match.

The battering that was handed out to him, however, wasn't just because of Mummies with Mighty Blow, nor Skaven with Armour 7 (or even a combination); it was just because of dice rolls. When his players hit the deck, I invariably rolled 8s and above (only needing an average 7 in the case of Mummies). By comparison, when Dan got an 8 to try and break my players' armour, he was only injuring Skeletons and Ghouls. So, not only did a lot of rats get a face full of turf, but they tended to stay down for another turn, or worse.

That's only from rolling 2D6 armour and injury rolls, too, as his general dodge rolls came up with 1s and 2s with alarming regularity. All I ever rolled for, bar blocking, was a GFI here and there, with only a couple of ball pick-ups.

Had our luck with the dice been the other way around, he could quite easily have waltzed through for two or three Touchdowns to no reply. As it was, his star players (one Gutter Runner with Block, another with Strength 3) had no answer to just generally having the crap beaten out of them. One they were off the pitch, his speed and agility advantage was negated, and the real pounding and grinding game that the Undead do very well could begin.

You can be as good a coach as there is in the world, but if the dice aren't with you, there's not a lot you can do about it bar trying to mitigate the damage they'll cause.  We'd built up that game as a clash of the titans, with both of us as potential League winners, but on the night the dice deserted him.

Which is why he got a consoling hug as well as a handshake at the end, the poor, depressed ginger that he was.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Nostalgia through youtube-tinted specs

Ah, the eighties. As much as they were the decade that taste forgot, they did have some awesome kids' cartoon shows, which were totally awesome in the sense that I was a kid at the time.

My reason for the nostalgia is that for my newly collected and painted-up High Elf team, I decided to go with some Lion-based names for the Catchers (who were, originally, called Lion Warriors). Taking my inspiration (i.e. copying) from fiction for those, I thought of Leoric (of Visionaries), and then Lion-O, from Thundercats.

Two down, two to go. The fact I'd chosen two characters from 80s kids' cartoon shows, however, got me thinking. A bit of googling and a bit of youtubing later and my trip through time to a near-forgotten past was complete with theme tunes and opening intros a-plenty.

My final team list included names ripped from Silverhawks, Duck Tales, Bravestarr (pictured, with sidekick Thirty/Thirty), Batfink, Visionaries, Thundercats, Flash Gordon, Transformers, MASK, Action Force, Mysterious Cities of Gold, Ulysses 31, Dino-Riders, TMNT, Danger Mouse and Pole Position.

That barely begins to scratch the cartoon surface, though, with classics like Centurions, Spiral Zone, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, Samurai Pizza Cats, He-Man, Count Duckula, Trap Door, Dennis, Heathcliffe, Galaxy Rangers, Go-bots, Defenders of the Earth, Thunderbirds 2086, Inspector Gadget, Ghostbusters, Terrahawks... and yes, I can remember all the theme tunes for every single one of them.

Yes, I watched a lot of cartoons as a child, which probably explains something. And I also watched a lot of youtube last night, too. Doing a Google Image search for 'Thirty Thirty Bravestarr' - without a SafeSearch, of course - proves that Rule 34 is in effect yet again. Goddamn furries.

The other two High Elf Catchers, by the way, ended up being called Prince Thun (from Flash Gordon) and Razorclaw (from Transformers). The newly named Caledor Cartoon Club even won their first official match, 2-1, over Roy's Dark Elves.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Got Block?

Matchday One of the Portal Wargaming Club Blood Bowl League began last night, with eight teams taking to the field in their opening matches.

Dan's Skaven defeated Damo's Humans 4-1. Notable for massive carnage, an Ogre being sent off for fouling, and not one but two strength boosts post-match! Dan's new Strength 3 Gutter Runner has two touchdowns to his name, and surely must die!

Tim's Norse and Tom's Necromantic nearly fought themselves to a 0-0 draw, but after taking eight Necro players off the board, Tim managed to crawl his way to a 1-0 win.

My Undead squared off against Ben's Vampires, and things didn't look good for the Vamps when the first Undead block of the match killed a thrall! Go Mummies! Star Ghoul Thierribly Hungry scored twice in a 2-0 win, though Ben was just one. single. square. away from pulling back to 2-1 at the (un)death.

Phil's Lizards were defeated 1-0 by Paul's Gobbos, cursed by bad luck as Skinks bit the dust and the Goblin Pogoer bounced in for the Touchdown.

Other MD1 games, featuring Roy's Orcs v Stu's Wood Elves and Harry's Wood Elves vs Andy's Dwarves, are still to be played. With Andy being away for a couple of weeks, followed by Phil on a fortnight holiday of his own, the Fry Division will start slowly, but is sure to end with a bang. An online collection of all the team sheets, results, skill-ups and other bits are on their way, too, once I've sorted the various technical issues.

The atmosphere was brilliant downstairs, with all our matches and various interested onlookers. Hopefully we can keep that energy and enthusiasm going all the way to the Final of the first Portal Bowl!

Planned for next week: Monsterpocalypse Fatal Four Way!