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.



Thursday, October 27, 2011

What do you mean 'I could have won'?

So, looking at the final RocketBowl 3 standings I came 12th, just outside my aim of the top 10 (of 34) but well inside my hope for the top half.

With 11 points between me and the eventual winner, Jimjimany, this begs a point to be explored.

I lost my last match against Phil, a.k.a. Purplegoo. For that I received 0 points, but had a casualty and a touchdown, bumping me up by a point each to 51 points.

Had I, instead of comprehensively losing 2-1, beaten him 1-0 (for instance) I'd have been in the tie-breaker hunt with Jimjimany and Joemanji at the top of the standings. One more Casualty against Purplegoo, too, would have taken me to 62 points, and the tournament victory.

O, M and indeed G.

Apart from the fact that Purplegoo is a far better, more experienced player than myself and his Skaven were able to take my Undead apart piece by piece and effectively score at will, I could be savouring a Championship.

That fact, however, is fairly enormous.

My games against the likes of Cracol and Barnacles felt fairly even, until casualties suffered went somewhat against me, resulting in a loss and a draw respectively (however I could just be deluding myself, and it's actually my lack of playing skill that resulted in the casualty swings and eventual negative results). Against Purplegoo, however, I felt I'd lost the initiative right from Turn 1 and never really got it back, save for when I took advantage of a failed GFI to try and equalise (and fail).

We could probably play our game ten more times and Purplegoo would win nine or ten of them. But there's a bar to meet, a level to get to and a challenge to rise to.

Bring it on!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Free Warcraft

Well, not entirely free, if you want the whole game of course.

Blizzard have finally taken the step to make levels 1-20 of World of Warcraft free to play. There are restrictions, of course, but the simple quest-based content of those first levels which take you through the process of each race and class as part of 'World of Warcraft Starter Edition'.

With no constraints on how quickly you play through the content (which, let's face it, we've all done a dozen times over), there's no need to rush it. Paying the £8.99 a month means you have to rush to the level cap as quickly as possible otherwise you're wasting your money.

While you won't end up with anyone exciting-looking, like my old toon above, you get free content.

Free.

Content.

Now that can't be bad. To Azeroth!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

FFG Scores Again

I like Fantasy Flight Games, they make me incredulously happy with A Game of Thrones LCG, after all, and have the revamped Horus Heresy boardgame under their belts, too.

So, when they announced Blood Bowl:Team Manager, I was very hopeful. A standalone card game, BB:TM gives you either Humans, Dwarves, Wood Elves, Orcs, Chaos or Skaven over the course of a season as you try to win the most fans (not necessarily by winning the Blood Bowl itself, though this helps).

Watching a game, or even reading the rules, makes this look incredibly complex. Baffled onlookers wonder what the hell it really has to do with Blood Bowl, other than the pictures plastered all over the place.

It's a faithful adaption of the game - like FFG always do - and Games Workshop are obviously happy to let FFG take their IP and run with it. It's also a very good game, requiring about 5 minutes of play before you get a grasp on things.

It's Blood Bowl, but not as we know it. Still heaps of fun for 2-4 players and no actual Blood Bowl knowledge is required, it just helps you enjoy it a little more.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Two is the Number at RocketBowl 3

The third Rocket Bowl - in Birstall, Leicester - drew 34 entrants, nine of who are in the Portal League. Burton was very well represented as was, somewhat randomly, Wales.

In fact, it seemed like it was the usual tournament regulars, plus Portal, plus Team Wales, plus assorted randomers (random to me, at least). But that's useless information for now.

RB3 was summed up for me with the number two for a large number of reasons. Firstly it's the second Blood Bowl tournament I've been to, following on from the NAF Championship last year.

It became the second time I've faced Roy, too, making this an official grudge match after his 2-0 defeat of my Halflings with his Humans. This time it was my Dead and Gooners Undead, and his Humans were beaten out 2-0 (aided largely by a 1 re-roll 1 as his Catcher tripped over the white line of the endzone instead of scoring). So the grudge was settled and we moved on.

My second opponent was Cracol, who Roy has played previously, and his Norse were excellent at taking my team apart and inflicting a 2-1 loss. I was doing ok, though, as I racked up some bonus points for having a couple of players sent off. Third was BidMadDrongo's Halflings, and my idea to take Tackle on both of my Wights bore some real fruit. With many Halflings being put off the pitch to their blows, I had the game under control at 1-0 until his team scored like only Flings can, with one of those incredible dodge-pickup-dodge-dodge-goforit plays that they are the masters of. He had nearly snatched a draw from the jaws of defeat, but I managed to get the ball 3/4 of the way down the pitch in my last two or three turns in order to snatch the win right back from the jaws of a draw.

By the end of the first day, the ever-impressive Joemanji was at the top of the rankings. Who was second?

Me.

Wait, what?

With the many bonus points for casualties, sendings off and scoring 5 TDs in my three matches, I had accumulated a large number of bonus points (which I think was the most at that point).

Day Two would either see me somehow hang on to that sort of lofty position, or (more likely) crash back down to my expected mid-table position now I had to play against the top tier of players.

I wouldn't exactly call it a crash, but I certainly moved in the expected direction with Day Two's results.

First Barnacles and I ground each other to a 1-1 draw, with first my Undead and then his Dwarves marching their way down the pitch for 8 turns. His was somewhat more successful, leaving me with only 3 or 4 players on the pitch at the end.

Then came Purplegoo's Skaven who, after I forgot precisely what skills Rat Ogres come with as standard, took me apart fairly clinically. Though I had a chance to pull back to 1-1 in the second half (ultimately failing a Quick Pass after two ghouls seized upon an opportunity when a Skaven faceplanted whilst trying a Go For It), Purplegoo sprinted up the other end to effectively put the contest beyond me at 2-0. Though I did manage to pull one back to make it 2-1 at the very end of the game, this felt more like it was because he didn't need to stop me, rather than couldn't manage it. Plus it also gave him a chance for a reprisal One-Turn Touchdown against me, but that ultimately failed.

And where did I finish? Second among the Portal players, after Rich overtook my tally of 50 points by just one, having racked up a couple of big wins in his Day Two matches. Tom managed to get a second win, beating someone other than Damo, while Damo also managed two wins, meaning our own little Halfling mascot came top of the Under-15s (of which there were four in total), and coming away with a great Space Cadet trophy. We're very proud of him, and he seems to have found his niche with Dwarves.

I also managed to have the second-highest number of Bonus Points, outdone only by Phil's Flings, who picked up the Most Casualties award thanks to fouling everything left, right and centre (and the three Treemen at ST6, ST6 & ST7 with Block and Mighty Blow surely helped too!).

Rocketbowl 3 was great fun over the two days, and I can heartily recommend it thanks to the great players and the great efforts of Pug, the organiser. Definitely going for next year's edition!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Rocketbowl!

Today and tomorrow, in Birstall, Leicester, I'm off to play in the 3rd RocketBowl Blood Bowl tournament.

It's my second tournament and, with up to 32 coaches, won't quite match the scale of the 188-coach NAF Championships in May, but that's not the point. The point is fun!

So, bleary-eyed and freezing cold on an October morning, I'm running through my last-minute preparations and checks to make sure I've got anything.

My "Dead and Gooners" Undead team are ready for the first game - a grudge match against Roy. That instantly means tomorrow will be fun, tense, competitive and rewarding, whatever happens.

Which is all you can ask for in a game, right?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Lots AND LOTS of Violence

Well, perhaps not as much as lots AND LOTS, but a certainly a bit.

Three Die Block have been touting Scott Sigler's series for a while now, and at Roy's suggestion I decided to check it out. Rather than being bothered to read the thing, of course, it comes via a free podcast, performed by the author himself.

'A coming of age story set against the background of a lethal pro (American) Football league 700 years in the future'... sounds like crap. But it sounds like my sort of crap, at least.

Scott - who has a really cool, uniquely American, radio voice - asks us to give him four chapters before we make up our minds. whether to carry on or not. It's free, so that's fine. There's advertising at the beginning, which is no problem for me as the thing's free and I've got no spare cash anyway.

It's a bit trashy, in the way that both Sci Fi and Sports novels tend to be. The one problem I have with it, though, is our hero, Quentin Barnes. Quentin is a Quarterback (Mr. QB is a QB, how delightful!), 7 feet tall, unbridled gifts and talent, and a humble upbringing. To stave off the sheer Mary Sueness of the character, Sigler has given him 'flaws' by way of a mean industrial accident scar on his arm, tats that say 'Fuck' and 'You' on his pecs, a fear of space travel and, unfortunately, a racist streak.

Racist in the sense of anti-alien, so more species-ist. Still, it makes him a complete prick.

It's hard to feel that the hero is in any sense of danger as the twelve feet long, ten-limbed alien defensive linemen monstrosities come charging towards him, because actually I'd quite like him to be flattened.

About halfway through the book as I am, I see where the development is going. He's supposed to overcome his hatred of other species (which was brought about by propaganda, of course, rather than him just being a tool), unify the team and step in to the starting (and slightly alien) Quarterback's shoes to make the different alien races shit rainbows and snuggle in the showers.

It's entertaining, but little more than that. Entertaining enough that, when I've finished listening, I may well go and download the next book: The Starter'. Hopefully the main character will inspire a little more sympathy by then.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Do People Still Do This?

By which I mean racially abuse each other.

Well, of course, the answer is quite clearly 'yes they still do'. Americans are still fat and ignorant, the French surrender a lot, Nigerian businessmen want to trick you out of your money, and the Brits - specifically the English - still think they are entitled to rule the world with their horrid dentistry.

Not the most stinging of comments, it's true, but those are the harshest national & racial slurs I know. Honest.

So Manchester United captain Patrice Evra has alleged that Liverpool's Uruguayan sensation Luis Suarez has said 'a certain word' to him a number of times during the 1-1 draw between the two sides at the weekend.

Chav?

Manc?

Frog?

Oh, you mean his skin colour and racial heritage? Wow, that's pretty pathetic, boiling an insult down to 'herp derp your epidermis has different tone to me LOL'.

There are plenty of things to try and rile young Patrice with. The futility of his attempt at a goatee beard, the slide in rankings of his national side of which he's a part, the five European Cups that his club team haven't won ('yet', which I have to say to be balanced), perhaps even his transfer value in comparison to that of Suarez himself.

If you're going to insult someone, use some imagination, man!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Nostalgia Gaming, courtesy Steam

Ah, the golden era of gaming.

Golden, of course, only to people who are, let's say, 25-35 and were playing games that came on six floppy disks on their 486 SVGA IBM-compatible PCs.

Because, let's face it, the graphics are limited. In today's photo-realistic world of Rage, Gears of War, etc, the likes of Lucasarts' finest 90s adventure games (in the form of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, for instance) just don't stand up. Fortunately, though, some of us grew up playing on a ZX Spectrum, which makes Minecraft look like the Final Fantasy film.

Gameplay-wise, though, nothing stands up to Indy. Or Day of the Tentacle. Or Sam and Max. As much as the likes of Knights of the Old Republic receive praise for their storytelling or adventure content, the puzzles of Lucasarts' classics are simply better.

Indy was available on Steam, so I had a cheeky download of it to see how much it stood up to nostalgia of the past. I had only two criticisms of it - which is not a lot, for how critical I am of games in general.

1) Indy's voice isn't Harrison Ford. It's close, a passable impression, but not Indy. There's very little one could do about that, bar doubling the original game's budget. I never had the CD-ROM version of the game, way back when, so simply read the text. With sound files added, it certainly boosted the experience I remembered.

2) There's no save feature. This is specific to the Steam version, though. In the old days, the Function keys would load, save and start new game. Now, no matter what you press, you can eithe take a screenshot or start a new game. That's it. Crap.

These sorts of games are not small. Sure you can complete them in a few hours, minimum, but how often do you have that long to sit down and finish a game from start to finish? Worse, still, with Indy that you have three different Paths (Wits for puzzles, Fists for fighting and Team for using Sophia also) to complete all the puzzles before you get the maximum Indy Quotient points. So, in order to 'complete' the game fully, for the 100%ers out there, you need three full sittings - which is too much for my taste, so thumbs down there, Steam.

The game itself, though, is still top notch. Still brilliant after almost 20 years. Game designers take note, graphics aren't the be-all and end-all. Make the game great, and no-one will care about how immersively realistic the graphics are, because the game has already immersed them.

Just like this one immersed me again.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

iSad

We'd hoped that Steve Jobs had beaten pancreatic cancer, but seven years after his first diagnosis, he's passed away. As my fiancée said this morning, seven years was good going, especially when you consider he was originally given 3-6 months back in 2004.

I'm an Apple guy. I only have an iMac at home, an iMac at work and an iPod, but the lack of iPhone and iPad is merely a financial constraint.

A decade ago as a Computer Animation undergraduate I didn't need a Mac and its cheap, colourful marketing techniques, as only PCs were readily available at my Uni. As I moved into Digital Photography and then into Graphic Design, the Mac was essential.

The age-old debate between cocky PC naysayers and arrogant Mac gurus has been told so many times, so the arguments themselves and my responses to them don't need reiterating here. However, put simply, I like my gadgets and tech to work properly, look great and be easy to run.

Apple products do all of this. Everyone else's don't.

This is why Steve Jobs took Apple to the top of the industry twice in his life. This is why Apple have more capital than the government of the United State of America. His input was one of the major factors in geek becoming chic. When founding Pixar comes fourth in your list of achievements you know you've done something special.

So, to the man who played the biggest role in putting great working, great looking technology in my hand, I say thank-you.