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.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Premier League Swapsies

Writing anything with over four hours to go on Transfer Deadline Day, writing about player transfers that haven't happened yet is always risky. So much opinion and hot air can simply vanish with not even five minutes notice, as players, managers, agents and chairmen all get itchy feet and start making deals, or canceling them, left right and centre.

The picture of Luis Suarez isn't part of an anti-Torres campaign to remove him from Liverpool's history, or anything, but simply because I was lining up a Suarez-based post before the whole Torres-to-Chelsea thing came about with his transfer request.

Suarez to Liverpool is a done deal for £23m, which is quite a lot of money. Suarez, like a lot of strikers, has scored hatfuls of goals in Holland. Ruud Van Nistelrooy did, for instance. But then again so did Mateja Kezman (and Drik Kuyt, for what it's worth).

I thought he played very well at the World Cup in South Africa, too, in a team who were my dark horses for the title, supporting them when England went out. 3 goals was a good tally when allied to a player doing as well as Diego Forlan and, let's face it, who wouldn't have handled the ball off the line to prevent Ghana from hitting the winner in the Quarter-Finals? Whether he's worth £23m, though, even for a rush goalie, is debatable. Compared to Darren Bent, of a similar value, I prefer Suarez's name in our #7 shirt.

The Chelsea-Torres-Liverpool-Carroll-Newcastle three way rumour mill has been a fun one today, though. £50m for Torres with a £175k per week wage, not including image rights (which apparently was a stumbling block before the personal terms of the deal were sealed). Even for a World Cup and European Championship winner, that's quite a hefty price. More still, when you consider he's been plagued by injuries and a lack of confidence (or should it be 'motivation'?) since even before the World Cup.

There's no question that Torres, when he came to Liverpool, was perhaps the best striker in the world. Now he's just a great player looking to recapture that godlike, imperious and generally unplayable by defenders status he had when arriving.

Liverpool's attempts to prise Andy Carroll away from Newcastle have been more problematic, considering that £35m is a hell of a lot of money to pay for a guy who's 22 and has scored just 11 goals in the Premiership. Not to mention the fact his current thigh injury is due to falling off a stool partying, nor that his current bail conditions mean he has to live with the Toon's club captain, Kevin Nolan (who is a boyhood Liverpool fan from Toxteth. Hmmm, any helpful advice given there, I wonder?).

All in all we're getting rid of a player who doesn't want to be here, spending £8m and getting a World Cup star and the next great future English striker. With it, the final nail in the coffin of Rafa's Spanish revolution has been hammered in. The likes of Alonso, Mascherano, Torres, Reira and Arbeloa have now all gone, and Dalglish is once again building an exciting, attacking Liverpool in his own image.

Good on ya, Kenny. Don't take any shit from the players, as in the end none of them are bigger than the club.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Beckham Plan to Save Football Finances

Football Association Chairman David Bernstein today hailed his plan for LA Galaxy to loan former England Captain David Beckham out to each of the 92 English Premiership and Football League clubs as 'a financial masterstroke'.

"Who wouldn't want to own their club's shirt with Beckham's name on the back?" the former Manchester City Chairman told Empirical Purple, "just imagine how many shirts the likes of Macclesfield Town could shift when Beckham turns up to play at the Moss Rose for three weeks. It'll create a sustainable financial base in the game for, I dunno, years to come. Probably."

It is thought the scheme could produce some eleven billion pounds, more than enough to pay for the insurance needed for one of the game's truly global figures to deliver pinpoint crosses from the right to the lower league's perennial underachievers such as Vincent Péricard, while still having enough left over for the FA to launch a bid for the 2026 World Cup with the word 'Meh' in the proposal.

Bernstein is now entering multilateral talks with every English League club to ensure that either the number seven or the number twenty-three shirts are kept free for Beckham's usage in the future, or failing that, at least some combination of numbers that has something to do with seven, such as seventeen, seventy-seven, as well as any and all of the mathematically accepted 'Iván Zamorano numbers', such as 16, 25, 34, 43, 52 and 61.

"The bonus number is 7," Bernstein added enthusiastically.

(This post inspired by Back Of The Net's comedy stylings)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Daily Grind

In some games, you need (or at least feel the need) to go and kill the same bad guys over and over again, or repeat the same quest endlessly, in order to level up.

How well I remember in Star Wars Galaxies, for instance, running around with my Jedi killing infinite amounts of massive evil spider things, just because it was easier than the XP gained from quests.

Thankfully, in World of Warcraft, the XP you get from following the natural quest progression is weighted just right to get you through the levels - when you add in the extra percentages for Guild bonuses, heirlooms and being rested, you can really fly through the levels.

One thing where you do still have to grind, though, is faction reputation. Whether it's for the Achievement itself if being Exalted with a certain faction, or the fact that vendor discounts and cool items become available when a certain group of NPCs think you're awesome.

Fortunately, Blizzard saw this one coming and invented Dailies. Daily quests, of which you can do 25 each day, are the same quest, from the same NPC, to do the same thing, every day. Simples. The Dailies I'm doing at the moment are all about getting reputation with the Argent Crusade, rather than leveling up from 81, where I am at the moment, to 85, the cap.

It's all still a bit of grind, though.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Hilarious Americans

By 'hilarious', I of course mean 'stupid', as well as ignorant, vitriolic and polarised.

I figured I'd illustrate this with Patriot, from J. Michael Straczynski's excellent 'Rising Stars' series. I would have used Captain America, but just couldn't bring myself to tarnish old Cap's reputation.

After flicking through Wikipedia, diving through a few links as a timesink, I find that they're even open to showing who has criticised them, which is a fairly noble ideal, if a little odd (bit like Wikipedia itself, really). There are a lot of things wrong with a wiki, particularly such a massive one as Wikipedia, but ultimately it's a good thing to have in the world.

Unfortunately, it seems, that in the United States, and increasingly in the United Kingdom, that you can't be pro-something without being anti-something else. It seems people are ever-more defined by what they're against in specific terms, rather than what they're for in general terms.

So, Conservapedia is the answer, obviously, to Wikipedia's woes. Attacking 'Liberal bias', by promoting Conservative bias (and attacking Liberal bias at every opportunity, too). Sarah Palin is a great good-old gal, atheism is the cause of obesity as abortion is the cause of breast cancer, Barack Hussein Obama is a Muslim socialist communist fascist, Fox News is the true voice of America... all that sort of thing. Hilarious already, isn't it?

Wait, there's more.

Football (Association Football, that is) is a socialist sport. No, really, a trustworthy encyclopedia says so. But why is that little list in there? Because it was posted (in a semi-humourous fashion) in one blog in June last year, and then taken up by another a week later. Together they make some convincing, if hilarious, arguments.

Though, as the American Thinker author himself points out:
The shred [of truth in the humour] here is that the sport's popularity is largely built in areas with little other choice -- and the rules [e.g. offside] do remove much of the risk-reward behavior other sports allow.
So by ignoring most of Europe and treating the rest of the world as some sort of Hispanic-Arabic-African conglomeration with no sports of their own, it is assumed there is no other option to play, simply because they don't have American Football, Baseball, Basketball and Ice Hockey - all essentially North American iterations of other sports (Rugby, Cricket, Volleyball and 'field' Hockey) - in the top five of the nation's games. But the world's earliest recorded history starts at 1492, of course, so nothing possibly could have developed before then, while modernity itself begins in 1776.

Whether it's sport, politics, economics, religion or anything else (except perhaps grasp of Geography), the Conservative section of the US is, of course, the only sane nation on a globe of insanity. Hilarious.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tridecaphobia: A Blog Too Far

So it was unlucky thirteen for my blog-a-day challenge for 2011. Ah well, now I suppose that I can blog for myself, when I want to, rather than when I feel obliged to. And, just because I want to, have a Green Lantern logo as the pic for this post, just because.

A bit like roleplaying on NationStates. The last couple of World Cups have seen me RP a little bit, but not a great deal. Most of my tilts at a record-extending sixth title haven't even had a team sheet attached to them, which surely is frustrating my opponents. Some of them, though, either get creative or get researching, and come up with a Starblaydi team all of their own, which I always find fascinating.

Thursday's lack of a blog post was probably down to a culmination of factors. Print deadline the day before, and the usual last-minute changes that happens around that time, when fresh eyes are applied to things I've been glaring at all month. It wasn't like I didn't have anything to blog about, either.

Wenesday night saw the last of the Quarter-Finals in the Portal Wargaming Club Blood Bowl League take place, with extra interest for me as I'd be playing the winner. It turns out that I'll be nursing my Semi against Phil and his Lizardmen, who corrupted my 100% record of victories with a 1-1 draw in our inter-divisional match. This time, though, there has to be a winner, and I resolve not to be greenstuffing bits for my Chaos Pact team while I'm playing him. Whoever wins will face Andy and his Dwarves, the Arse Time Bandits. 4 with Guard, 4 with Mighty Blow, 1 with a Strength upgrade and a Deathroller, too. Fabulous.

A couple of games of Shadow Hunters, too, on Wednesday night, with Tom, Damo, Jay, Dave, Rich, Stu and Ted. All eight players, rather than the 4 or 5 I've played with before, suddenly makes everything very, very complicated. But great fun, though!

My World of Warcraft warrior, Fyreskar, has also been progressing nicely. Very nicely, in fact, since I delved into WoW's many forums, blogs and general advice websites for how to actually play a Protection-specced warrior properly. Turns out I sort-of had the right idea in what abilities to use, and when, but had completely missed a couple of the awesome and crucial ones. Spamming Devastate, and the Sword & Board/Revenge activations that follow it up, for instance, as well as the use of Victory Rush, to heal me in a second fight immediately after killing the first enemy.

Rolling a quick warrior alt again to see the development, it seems that Victory Rush is now an ability available in the normal flow of things under level 10, which is why I hadn't noticed it before and didn't want to waste any Talent Points on boosting it.

Anyway, good ole' Fyreskar is now about 50% of his way through level 79, meaning that the magic 80 is definitely within sight. If I wasn't going around completing silly (but oh-so-lovely for an RPer with the rewards at the end) Argent Tournament daily quests in my lunch break (they fit nicely into less than an hour), I might well have dinged to that already, and be on my way to experience the new Cataclysm content. From then on, only 5 more levels 'til the cap of 85 and, some say, the real fun begins.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

He was robbed, so he was

For once, I agree with Nick Cristiano Ronaldo.

And Wesley Sneijder, too, for what it's worth. Much better than some Turkish prick blasting the ball in from thirty yards.

Matty Burrows, who's 16-yard jumping backheel volley while facing away from goal didn't win the 'most beautiful goal' of the year award, certainly deserved his evening in the spotlight as a candidate amongst the likes of Messi, Nasri, Neymar, Robben Tshabalala and van Bronkhorst.

Based on all the other goals, there was nothing like as much artistry, deftness and quality of touch as the twenty-five year old striker displayed for his goal. He deserved to win it, and even Ronaldo and Sneijder (who have both scored some absolute crackers in their time) said so.

It's yet another example of why FIFA are rubbish. Give it to the Norn Irish boy, because that was a beauty. Take a bow, son, take a bow.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Oh to be a Sith Lord

It's always nice to turn up to work and discover that there's no power. Even nicer when you've not been told about it beforehand, y'know, because modern communication techniques like mobile phones simply can't stand up to the electricity being off.

What made it even better came after that. Once a plan had been formed, I packed up my Mac and drove straight home again. Within seconds of turning my car's engine off at home, I hadn't even got out of the car and found, by the wonders of technology, that the power had been restored and I needed to make the whole journey once again.

After a quick cup of tea, it was back to work. So, an hour and forty-five minutes later than usual, I actually started my work. On deadline day.

Yup, it's been one of those. If only I had unlimited power.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Curse of Imagination

I watched Ultramarines over the weekend and, as both a fan of the 40k Universe and a graduate in Computer Animation & Special Effects, I was worried.

For almost 20 years now, I've had the GRIMDARK of the 40k Universe floating around in my mind, whether the original - almost unplayable - Rogue Trader book, all the way up to whatever edition they're peddling at the moment. I've read the books and the comics, played the games (both tabletop and computer-based)... all that jazz.

The voice line-up is a long list of great British actors with memorable voices, all of whom have Hey, It's That Voice! about them. The animation is... pretty good. Armour, buildings, etc, look just great. The paper bits of the purity seals blowing gently in the wind, for instance, looks great. Standing there in their armour, the Marines themselves look great.

Then they take their helmets off, and start walking around. They all look pretty much the same with their shaved heads and lantern jaws, with only their amount of scars to really differentiate them. Some of the movement looks perfectly natural, but a lot of the time it looks like there is no weight to them whatsoever. Proteus and some other marine leaping about, climbing up and across a ruined bridge looks like the wind throwing rag dolls around.

Plus the faces look like leather and stand out as being odd against the armour, the Chaos marines are pretty appalling, and the story feels like it's been stretched out to fill the however-many minutes required. The dialogue is pretty pants, but it got me thinking that in a comic, it'd be just fine. When it's spoken by actors with real gravitas in their voice, it just sounds cheesy.

For the TL:DR out there, just read: Ultramarines would have made a great graphic novel. Shame about the 'movie'. Could have been worse, though, much worse.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Papa Told Me Not To Come

Pity for poor Roy Hodgson, who has agreed with the Liverpool owners that he should leave Liverpool.

Based on both the way Liverpool have been playing and the results they've been picking up (or rather, not picking up), big Papa Roy's reign was only ever going to come to an end at some point in January.

He was probably a short-term appointment, a ship-steadier and essentially caretaker. He's proved in his career that he can take average players, put his arm around them, and makes them better. Not so in his six months in charge at Liverpool.

There's not really been a single highlight during his time. Joe Cole signing was one, and beating Chelsea was another - though Chelsea's own form this season appears to be just as bad as Liverpool's.

Kenny Dalglish has been appointed as caretaker Manager, despite having not managed for a decade. Apparently he watches a lot of football, moreso than anyone bar Arsene Wenger, and at his last three English clubs he won the title with two (Liverpool and Blackburn) and finished second with the other (Newcastle).

Every fan of the club who has been calling for Dalglish while Hodgson has still been in charge now has the Legend they want in charge. If it works, great. If not, then they can finally shut the hell up and we can start the search for a real, long-term manager.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Any Resolution Fails?

After seeing on Facebook that one of my friends has already broken a New Year's Resolution to not drink during January by having a beer with his lunch, there's one that I hope won't be broken.

In the world of NationStates, you will find all of internet humanity. As they (today's picture) say, because none of us are as cruel as all of us. Thankfully, among those, we also have the quick-witted comedy types as well as the trolls, hackers, whistle-blowers and anonyvangelists. Ok, that's a new word I just made up, but I like it. Anyways, in the thread that drafted my World Assembly Commendation, there was this post, which made me chuckle:
RECOGNIZING the Passing of the Resolution Commend Starblaydia,
NOTING that this resolution was passed on January 1,
REALIZING that as per the standard calender, January 1 is the first day of a new year,
AWARE that resolutions made during this time of year are called New Years Resolutions
KNOWING that nobody keeps their New Year Resolutions,
WANTING the Security Council to follow this tradition,
HEREBY REPEALS Commend Starblaydia.
How very appropriate, then, that I've already written the 'How to keep your New Year Resolutions' article for January's magazine. That'll keep the comedy repeal proposals at bay!

And (even better than that) it also provides a suitable bit of material to keep up my resolution challenge of putting up a blog post every day. As for actual resolutions of my own, that was simply to reign in the spending and save money. Era of austerity and all that, wedding in 2012 to pay for, and such.

Overnight, too, England hammered Australia again, making it three innings defeats for the boys in the baggy greens (or pinks, as they were on day three). For the non-cricket types, that means that in three games, England batted just once, and Australia couldn't even match England's score after two attempts.

Yup, we thrashed them that badly, and it's the first time the winning side has inflicted three innings defeats on the losers. Even in the dark days of the 90s, when England were appalling in comparison to Australia, they never beat us quite that badly over the course of each game. Records have tumbled in this series, all of them to do with England being awesome and Australia equally rubbish.

Looks like we've turned the tables on them, this time, and we'll see what happens when they come a-touring over here in 2013.  With many of the England team coming into their stride, and plenty of the Australian team on their way out (or already left), it'll be fingers crossed for another hiding for the colonials.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Shadow Hunters

Here's a neat little game, Shadow Hunters, that I played for the first time last night.

For 4-8 players, everyone is either a Shadow (evil Vampire/Werewolf type), Hunter, or Neutral (random human caught up in battle) but, crucially, you keep your identify secret.

As you travel, at random, around the six locations, you can end up drawing from one of three decks of cards (to heal, investigate who other characters are, or get weapons) and then attack any nearby players.

With 4 players, you have two Shadows and two Hunters - generally their win conditions are for the two from the other class to die. Not everyone's win conditions, however, are as simple. For one of the neutrals, your condition is to die first, for instance. As the number of players goes above five, the possibilities of who could be who suddenly multiply and it all gets very interesting and a great deal of fun.

The combination of secret identities, investigation, attacking and healing each other at random until you work out (or think you've worked out) who everyone else is, and then knowing who to kill off in order for you to fulfill your win condition, is a great one.

It's a simple game, quite quick, and I'm definitely up for playing it again the next time someone gets it out of their bag. The fact I somehow managed to win my first game has, of course, not biased my opinion in any way. Honest.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Hardhead is Not Proud of Me

Let's start with a list. From City of Heroes, a Super Strength & Invulnerability Tanker. From Warhammer Online, a High Elf Swordmaster. In World of Warcraft, a Protection Warrior.

Simply put, they're all tanks. My characters walk up to the enemy, slap them in the face, and dare them to hit me. Hit me, instead of the healer cowering in the corner, or the DPS machine, stealthed right behind them, about to make them a head shorter.

There's only one problem - in World of Warcraft, I'm not very good at it. After having this character for upwards of three years or so, Fyreskar the 74 Human Warrior is not a great tank. His gear isn't great, nor is my technique, talent set, or even skills that I use.

At best, he's an Off-Tank, taking the second-biggest threat in the room just because he's naturally quite tough. Warriors have changed quite a lot over the years, too, so any iota of knowledge I had originally is now fairly useless anyway.

So, in keeping with my challenge to put a blog post up every day, my challenge with Fyreskar is to learn how to tank properly, making him the best Protection Warrior he can be. As he makes his way up those ever-lengthening levels to the first target of Level 80.

Level 80 is when the Argent Tournament comes into play, and Northrend should be completed (or, at least, pretty much done with). 80-85 is the goal after that, exploring all the Cataclysm content, but that's a long way off right now. Thankfully, he should be in a guild where that sort of progression is at least doable, rather than blindly stumbling about on my own until I get to the Group and Dungeon missions, which I then have to grumble as I pass on any chance of getting cool stuff, extra XP, and generally finishing quest chains.

My Death Knight and Paladin also have their targets, but I'll save those for another time.

For confusion with the title: Hardhead, of course, is my favourite Autobot Tank from the old Transformers (specifically, Headmasters) series.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Not Too Bad

Doing a bit of editorial at home over the festive period really has helped with the first day back at work, so pretty much all I have to concentrate on now is Adverts for the rest of the week, with only little bits of editorial here and there.

Nice to know that of the two-score-and-more e-mails I sent out a week or so before Christmas, I had precisely three replies from advertisers. Not a great response, if I'm honest. Nice to know they appreciate me!

WoW-wise, I've managed to join my main character up with a new guild, who have all sorts of perks and people online at once, though I'm the only one of my level (now 74) running around, as everyone else is either capped at 85, in the 80s or  below 60. I'll surely get some help from somewhere, though, which is better than nothing. The sheer pleasure of just randomly chatting with guildmates, with no enforced RP rule constraints, is very enjoyable.

Would it be possible to make a post every day for all 365 days of 2011? Well, it's 4 down, 361 to go if I try that. It'll presumably mean writing about a lot of the boring everyday shit, rather than the occasional interesting shit, but it's a nice challenge to set myself.

Not a resolution, mind: a challenge.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Back to Work

After 11 consecutive days off for Christmas and the New Year, it's time to go back to work tomorrow.

I've been stuffing myself with turkey, turkey-based leftover dinners (broth, soup, sandwich, curry, pizza, etc) as well as good doses of Blood Bowl and World of Warcraft, all sorts of lovely chocolates and sweets, as well as movies (good and bad) and TV (mostly bad).

There's a single week do do all the adverts and customer editorial for the magazine. It's doable, definitely, with a bit of knuckling down. Many a phone call needs to be made, and advert tinkered with, over the next five working days.

Thankfully, the editorial 'homework' I gave myself - an article on keeping up New Year Resolutions, one on Valentine's Day and the Chinese New Year, one on Valentines Day recipes and also this month's competition - has all been completed. Just half of the Welcome Letter to write, a page of What's On entries to fill, and a front cover to choose.

Just that and a hundred or so adverts to get right. Along with everything else where a single mistake means the world can come crashing down around my ears.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

P-P-P-Pick Up a Paladin

I was quite happily playing World of Warcraft, when one day, I fancied having a go at being one of those annoying Paladins you come up against quite often in PvP.

You know the ones.

The ones that can tank long enough to take whatever damage you can dish out, heal themselves and any helpers nearby, then cause enough damage to slay you outright anyway. Retriubtion Paladins.

Those buggers.

And, as amply demonstrated by the illustration, they can look pretty cool too. So I rolled a Pally (a Human female) on my server and went forth, smiting things. I gave her five gold and a pair of old Ruby Shades to be getting on with, and profession wise I picked Mining for the later Toughness boosts, and then Jewelcrafting, just to equip her with stat-boosting rings and necklaces early on.

Out I go into the world, and Elwynn Forest is largely as it was, with the quests generally only slightly tinkered with. Westfall has turned into one big CSI:Azeroth, while Darkshire has been littered with Worgen and Lakeshire/Redridge is a combination of Rambo and the A-Team (though much more fun for it). The Paladin, however, is very easy to use. In not-very-many days, she's up in the mid-20s of levels, with triple the amount of gold she started with to her name, as well as a near-as-dammit free mount.

What seems to be the real difference is Holy Power. Now, as well as the standard mana, certain attacks give you Holy Power charges (up to three) to distribute between healing and damage as and when you please, giving you three ways to cause damage, and two ways to heal yourself mid-fight. Everything seems much less hard with these abilities, and I've been anywhere between two and three levels higher than the mobs I was having to fight - taking down Level 11 Elite Hogger, for instance, as a solo Level 11 player, was not something I had been expecting. He used to need at least three people, back in the day, and I've not improved that much.

Paladins don't make it an easy game - it's too well balanced to be particularly easy anywhere - but they do make it easier. I have yet to take her PvPing, though, which should be good fun as always.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

A Present that means Nothing and Everything

New Year's Day (Happy New Year, everyone) isn't, traditionally, a time for giving out presents, but at NationStates a number of timing coincidences have come about to give me what is, in game, an awesome present.

At about 5am UK time on 1/1/11, Starblaydia was commended by the NationStates World Assembly Security Council Resolution # 40, by 3,254 votes to 1,909.

The commendation itself doesn't actually do anything other than put a shiny little badge on my nation page. Conversely, it's not an achievement you can unlock by farming X, beating time Y or killing Z numbers of... whatever.

It's there because someone (Unibot, to be precise) thought I'd done enough cool stuff in my six years of RPing (or, rather, World Cup involvement) there to deserve a congratulatory nod. A couple of thousand other people, after reading Unibot's proposal, agreed. A thousand or so others disagreed, but hey, that's the point of a multi-layered Poli-Sci roleplaying game, they're entitled to vote however they like when it comes to commend a user they've never heard of because of an aspect of RPing that they've never come across.

Noting that without Starblaydia’s leadership, dedication, integrity and impartiality, the world would not be as united as it is today with the passions, spirit and sportspersonship of international sport,
Aww, nuts, well that just makes me go all warm and gooey inside. I have tried to make the World Cup a better place (for you and for me and the entire human race...), just so that we can keep playing our game-within-a-game that a good number of us enjoy.

Now let's hope that no-one tries to repeal it ;)