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.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Spot the Difference

Phil Jones, his usual calm, stoic self.
Like most football fans who watch the Premiership, I've been cheered by how quiet Manchester United fans have been so far on social media this season.

The usual cries of 'Come on you Reds', 'Glory Glory Man United', 'That's why we're champions' and the like had faded away even before the season started. Since then, my Twitter and Facebook timelines have been noticeably absent of the usual Man United fans crowing at how successful they are.

Except for Van Persie giving them a 1-0 win over Arsenal, it's like this season hasn't even happened for them. They've been talking, when finally putting their head up above the footballing parapet, about Southampton, Suarez, and the Spanish league.

That was until, of course, #MoyesOut.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

How to Flirt - the UAE guide

In a country where boys and girls go on separate school trips, where you can't even shake hands when introduced to a member of the opposite gender and where all dates are chaperoned, you'd wonder how and where young people here find the time to flirt.

You have to wait for December 2nd each year, evidently, as National Day comes around. This year marked the 42nd anniversary of the formation of the UAE after it ceased to be a British Protectorate.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Don't Go Bacon My Heart

The Al Naeem Mall in Ras Al Khaimah is a slightly strange place. It is a ghost mall, with practically no shops, stores or anything other than 'Coming Soon' boardings where the shops should be. Areas are blocked off and the escalators are permanently switched off because if the ground floor barely has anything in it, then the first and second floors are dimly lit corridors devoid of anything at all.

What it does have, besides two banks at the entrance, is a Spinneys. Spinneys is a supermarket that imports British goods for consumers in the Middle East, and stocks Waitrose products (yes, I am apparently going up in the world by now shopping at Waitrose).

It's a bright, clean, well laid out store in the Western style, where you get hit with fruit and veg and Deli counter as you enter. All the other supermarkets - Carrefour, Lulu, etc. - have random things when you enter like electronics, clothes and toys, but Spinneys has everything where you'd expect it.

Except for pork.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Lovely Weather. Again.

There's something about being British that makes you talk about the weather. It's the comfortable chitchat crutch that is always ready to leap to the defence of those who can't think of anything to say. The weather is uncontroversial, unlike the topics of Politics, Religion or increasingly Sport, it always changes and, whether it's good, bad, seasonable or unseasonable, you can drop it into conversation whenever you like.

Except in the United Arab Emirates.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Use the Force. Like Always.

Everything wrong with Star Wars in one image
Every time you see something about Star Wars, it's the same thing again and again; they're variations on a theme, at best.

Putting aside the fact it's all about making money anyway, when you see Star Wars, it's always about swinging lightsabers and using the Force in special effects-laden action sequences.

I firmly hold the opinion that George Lucas completely fluked Star Wars' initial success, mostly down to Ralph McQuarrie's defining concept art and ILM's amazing SFX that set a new benchmark for effects in movies.

But what has every iteration of the franchise done since? Relied on without buidling on it. I'm not one of those Star Wars fans who claims that Episodes I-III ruined my childhood, nor that Return of the Jedi did it, either. In fact Jedi was one of the most-watched VHS tapes I had as a child, just behind Transformers: The Movie. What's wrong is that the swishy-slicey light show that was a highlight in the original three films became the centrepiece of the prequel triliogy and countless games, TV shows and fan works ever since.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The U-Turn Fascination

"Who is that strange Westerner," I imagine the locals think, "who keeps his car between the odd white lines on the road, drives at a speed that happens to be the same as the numbers on signs at the side of the road, and also uses those flashing orange things at the corners of his car before he makes turns and changes lanes? These crazy foreigners!"

Driving in the UAE is... interesting. It's something I'm getting used to, and I'm not sure whether that's something I should feel good about, or not. Even as I write this, every so often I hear cars screeching to a halt at the junction outside that our balcony overlooks. The sound of horns beeping just fades into the background after a while.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Sheikhs 'n' Blogs 'n' RAK & Goals

2013 has been a fairly slim year for me making posts on this blog, mostly because it has been a crazy year with very little time to even stop and think, never mind begin to write about what I was thinking. Outside of my experiences LARPing, I've not really written anything here at Empirical Purple.

So, to sum events up in a condensed fashion as possible for everyone who's not glued to my social media output: in the past few months I've got married and moved from the UK to the UAE with my wife, Kasia, who has a job out here. So I'm currently an unemployed house husband in the Middle East and, after living here for a little over six weeks, everything is finally falling into place.

But what's it like? I imagine you've asked yourself that by now, if you've read this far. For my wife's friends, too, who may be reading this - Kasia hasn't had time to really post on Facebook about her life here, either, so this is a combination of both our experiences!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Only Once a Hipster

I'm not sure I've ever been on board with something that has subsequently turned into a bandwagon. Not once have I been into something before it was coo, never been in the skinny trousers and flat lens glasses of a hipster.

Except for Game of Thrones.

'How do you know a Game of Thrones fan who read the books first?' goes the meme, 'oh, don't worry, they'll tell you. They'll fucking tell you.'

And it's true, especially in my case. In 1997, having come out a year earlier, A Game of Thrones, Book One in the Song of Ice and Fire Series was my favourite book after having read it incessantly from my local mobile library. By 1998 it was my favourite book series. Nothing has changed since that century in that regard. But why?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Empire LARP Event 3 - Not the Face

The only two people who tell me I'm handsome are my wife and my mother; it is not a universally recognised description that is applied to me. Even so, it doesn't need to be messed up any more than normal by the application of latex-covered foam to said exposed face.

I appreciate that accidents happen. I know that in my limited experience I've swung and hit someone in the neck, or my moving sword tip has combined with a dodging player to leave a stinging spot on their cheek. I've never aimed for the head, face or neck and I never plan to, and do you know why? Because it absolutely sucks when you get tagged there, and there's only one way to make it not suck.

That's for the person who did it to step back, put their hand up and say 'Sorry, are you ok?'

Friday, June 21, 2013

Reach High

Me aspiring to let the army General take the first swing.
"I've got your back, Tyrus. Go get 'em."
Image ©2013 Oliver Facey - oliverfacey.co.uk
"Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul.
Dream deep, for ever dream precedes the goal."
- Pamela Vaull Starr

It's mentioned pretty much everywhere that Empire is an 'aspirational' game in terms of costume and kit. The idea, apparently, is that as long as you do your best and keep on improving, then that's fine.

There are no 'miminum' requirements beyond no jeans, no trainers, no heavy metal t-shirts. It's like the complete opposite of Bloodstock, save for the pretend pagan magic.

The aspirations don't just limit themselves to how you look. Everywhere, whether it's on PD's blog posts, Facebook comments or the extremely extensive (but not particularly well categorised) Empire wiki, there's plenty of purple prose about people working to make the game better for everyone else.  It's a theme that runs through the entire organisation, background setting, battles and especially to the actions on the field. But how do you, as one of anything up to around 2,000 people, make the game better for the other 1,999?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

XBox One Vs Playstation 4

Microsoft appear to be doing absolutely everything they can to piss gamers off left, right and centre. Although Sony are by no means perfect, they are coming off as the pristine and pure gamer-loving company who is taking them into the next generation with a warm, gentle embrace, rather than the sledgehammer to the groin that Microsoft are doing.

The downsides of the Playstation 4 seem minisucle in comparison to the Xbox One's cavalcade of errors. PSN is now paid-for, there's a ridiculous 'Share' button on the controller and a silly light, too, for no apparent reason. The touchpad is also fairly pointless and the Spectating feature is odd.

And that's it. But what's wrong with the Xbox One (as I try desperately not to call it the XBoner)?

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Marvel Heroes Review

Steam tells me I've spent 6 hours playing the fairly new (not even been officially released for a week) Free-to-Play MMO Marvel Heroes which, I reckon, is more than enough time to decide whether a game is good or not. It only took me 20 minutes, for instance, to decide the Lord of the Rings Online was rubbish (it really, really is), but I ended up playing that for 2 hours just to make sure.

While LOTRO was a straight-up clone of World of Warcraft, Marvel Heroes is taking its 'inspiration' from Diablo. You choose your favourite hero from the ones available and run off punching things in an MMO Acion-RPG.

This leads to the totally immersion-breaking experience of watching three Hawkeyes, two Things and a Daredevil running around beating up the various villains that populate every square inch of the game world. At least the further you get, the more diversity in characters there is, and the more likely a 'real' looking team is in the same place.

You can play it solo, you can play in a group, or you can do the odd combination of randomly auto-teaming with people who happen to be in the same instance as you. Thankfully (or should that be 'narrowly'), there's only ever one goal in these instances, which is beat someone up.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Empire LARP Event 2 - Moments

It just gets better.

This time without below-zero temperatures and, barring the Friday night gale force storm (that I wasn't there for thanks to M6 closures and not wanting to put a tent up in the dark), with plenty of sunshine. So much sunshine, in fact, that I was pink as a lobster by Saturday lunchtime and remained that way for the rest of the event.

Empire's second event over the Spring bank holiday had such an effect on me, that I spent the entire Tuesday evening on Facebook gushing over how good it was, adding new friends and generally planning for the next one. The technical terms for that are 'froth' (as a verb) and 'keen' (as a noun).

In fact, just look at the picture: do you think I enjoyed it? That's serious-face. Game-face. Wave that spear at me once more and I'll disembowel you-face.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Empire LARP Event 1 - My Character Arc

Ideally, this is what Jacob will end up like.
Less than 24 hours later and 450+ views of my overall thoughts on Empire is absolutely amazing; it has thrown that post right to the top of my 'Most Popular' list by a couple of hundred views. Evidently sharing the link in a Facebook Group with 2,069 members is a good idea to get readers. Thanks to everyone who read it, and everyone who's reading this.

Onward to the post itself, though! I realise everyone is the hero of their own story, so this will feel very me-centric. That can't really be helped, as it's my story, but hey. Whether you're a new LARPer, vaguely interested thanks to my last post, or just looking for something to read in order to not do work, then this is the post for you.

I went to Empire as a LARPing newbie with an overall one-point plan of what to do thanks to Tom our OC group co-ordinator, but little idea of who my character - Jacob of the Cenotaph, a Highguard Warrior/Priest - actually was. I ended up discovering this character by playing him (shock horror), and it all seemed to click.

It felt like Jacob had a full, important, character arc across the weekend.  If Jacob were to be filed away and never played again, he had his moments in the sun. Based on the actions of that weekend, be might have got himself a redlink on a wiki or, at best, a two-paragraph article with no picture and half-truth information that you don't really want to trust because, y'know, internet. But here's how it went...

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Empire LARP Event 1 Impressions

It's three weeks since I attended the first event of Empire, which means it's three weeks that I've reflected, frothed (apparently that's a thing), planned, purchased and arranged for the second event of Empire at the end of May.

As I said in a post before, as well as to anyone who'd listen at the time, this was my first LARP event. Perhaps it was some way of making sure they'd go easy on me, or more likely just a way of expressing enthusiasm. The most heartening response was a sarcasm-absent "Really? I wouldn't have guessed."

In short, I loved it.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Having a LARP

A random picture of LARPing, this is from 'Epic Empires'
If you're reading this, you probably already have an opinion on those of the Live Action Role-Playing persuasion. You'll either be aware of it, know someone who does it, or have done it yourself.

"A live action role-playing game is a form of role-playing game where the participants physically act out their characters' actions. The players pursue goals within a fictional setting represented by the real world, while interacting with each other in character." Just in case.

I'm never sure whether to quantify LARPers as the highest or lowest form of geek culture. The position on the geekery scale obviously depends on your point of view as insider or outsider, and how seriously you take your hobbies.

For some, the act of dressing up in an either hand-made or expensively-bought costume and running around In Character in a field for a weekend is either the most immersive, expressive and ultimately awesome way of role-playing, or it's just one too many sad-and-crazy steps away from the sitting around, rolling dice and jotting down notes version of role-playing.

Is it 'better' or 'worse' to sit there in your Green Lantern t-shirt, swigging a Mountain Dew and saying "I cast Fireball at the Orc!", or stand in a field of two hundreds-strong armies in a set of robes, wielding a polyurethane staff and yelling an incantation that results in a 'fireball' and people falling over.

For me, this is one of those times when the more-geeky activity is, perhaps strangely, the more social activity. Yes, it's cool to sit around a table with a few friends and take your party into the depths of evil dungeons all within the confines of your dining room, but it's so much cooler to be with hundreds of people who are completely in character from head to toe, acting and re-acting to everything going on around them.

The perceived problem is that because of all the extra time, effort and expense required to have that immersion, the LARPing hobby is often considered to be the worst form of geekery that is only for the truly dedicated RPers. Which is exactly why it's the best. Nobody is there to half-ass it or take the piss, because it's Serious Business (well, sometimes).

It also explains why I've not had time to blog in the last month. Too busy researching, purchasing and making (yes, I picked up a needle and thread for the first time since 6th Form Art lessons to get this costume made) my character for Profound Decisions' new game, Empire. This weekend will be my first LARP event and, bar the thought of a cold tent for three nights, I couldn't be more excited.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Pop is still Art

Some proper art for those who like it. Or is it?
Unfortunately, this is not a post about Roy Lichtenstein, it's a post about music. Last night at the NME awards, the British boy band One Direction were named Worst Band, with their most prominent member, Harry Styles, named villain of the year.

This comes fresh on the heels of this year's Brit Awards where they received the 'BRITs Global Success' award (whatever that is) to keep the target audience of teenage girls happy in exchange for not winning Best Group.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Why I Believe in The Shield

Sierra Hotel India Echo Lima Delta. Or, Reigns, Ambrose and Rollins.
Sometimes Pro Wrestling is a cavalcade of awfulness, of cliches and dead horse tropes, with really crappy acting, stunted plotlines and any excuse to get the crowd to cheer, boo and spend their money.

Occasionally there is something genuinely worth watching, either as a one-off event/match or as a vein of new blood or new thinking washes through to the product we get to see.

The group known as 'The Shield' are one such thing, for me, but why are they worth watching rather than anyone else?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The DPS Boredom Rotation

Hunter's Mark, Send in Pet, Concussive Shot, Auto-Attack, Serpent Sting & Steady Shot. Rinse until mob dies. Select next target. Repeat. And this is fun.... why?

It's only the Monk and Shaman classes that I've not played up to level 20 or so before in World of Warcraft, so I know what I like and don't like in terms of WoW game play. As I've said pretty often in this blog, I often play a tank so the likes of Warrior is completely up my street. I quite like healing and don't mind being squishy, so Priests are fine in small groups. Combining the two for the various modes of Paladin is, also, awesome. I like Druids for their multi-role shapeshifter capabilities. The Stealth aspect of Rogues is generally not my thing in other games, but the burst DPS can be too cool to ignore. Mages and Warlocks, too, are brilliant glass cannons with some awesome powers.

But Hunters... you get sweet ranged DPS and a pet, which should be cool, no? No.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

What Do You Want in a 40k MMO?

Bonus points for the Judge Dredd frown.
What does the average 40k gamer want from a 40k MMO? I can't tell you, because there's no such thing as an average 40k gamer. There's probably a long and boring maths-based discussion of the mean, median and mode within the range of 40k gamers out there, but the simple fact is everyone wants something different.

One wants playable Space Wolves (or any other canon chapter), another wants Tau. People will decry why Orks are or aren't playable, while wondering quite what they have to do to get (or get rid of) Dark Eldar characters. Someone will want to play deepest, darkest depths of elite troops from the Officio Whatevernorinum, while the Adeptus Whatsits have to be represented in all shapes, colours, hues and flavours.

Fully customisible, of course. But how do we go about it?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

How to frame a 40k MMO

My first post on this topic appears to have got a few people interested, which is really nice as it proves it's not just me who thinks it'd be a good idea! Like any computer game, ask four people and you get five different opinions. Now all I need is a fully formed idea, a top class Dev team, more IP lawyers than you can shake a stick at and about seventy million dollars.

Um, yeah, good luck with that, Si!

But, as an intellectual exercise, if nothing else, I want to see how far I can go with an imaginary pitch, product spec or overview of a 40k MMO. Let's call it a personal, theoretical project.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Back to Noob Status

The Dragon Knight in DOTA2
It's been a long time since I've picked up any game that I've been as absolutely awful at as DOTA2. There's a learning curve for everything, of course, but at no point in recent gaming history have I been this bad, compared to those around me.

Playing games like Awesomenauts, Airmech and Space Marine in online Multiplayer required a learning curve of 'start bad, get better'. DOTA2, on the other hand, is 'start awful, stay there for a long while'.

I've seen guides that recommend three MONTHS of play before you're up to speed. But why the hell is DOTA2 so difficult, comparatively?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Can a 40k MMO Work?

Since THQ has gone bankrupt, they've had to sell on all their individual studios to other companies. Sega got Relic for $26.M, Volition got the rights to Saints Row for $22M and change, that sort of thing.

But no-one has picked up Vigil quite yet. That leaves WWE's games out in the cold for the moment, but also the evidently long-since dropped Warhammer 40,000 MMO, Dark Millennium. A mention of this on Twitter got me and some #warmonger tweeps - Jamie, Richard and Ryan - thinking: how would a 40k MMO actually be workable and, dare we even whisper it, successful?

Is it even theoretically possible? Let's find out... 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Excessive Photoshop Tuesday

Even the young and beautiful must be made to look young and beautiful on posters, often to the detriment of, you know, reality.

While researching for a piece on Comic Relief's Red Nose Day this year (Friday 15th March, btw) I came across this stonker of an image on the official Red Nose Day website.

Essentially, they've made Chelsee Healey look like Gollum. Just how, and maybe more importantly why, have they done it?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

That Emotive Four-Letter S Word

A moment's break in the morning.
Every single person I know from central Europe has been chuckling themselves silly at the British attitude to snow appearing. That would be, of course, the fact that cars slide off the road the moment that snow is mentioned on the radio, never mind the national panic when flakes actually begin to fall.

It's not just panic, of course, there is also supreme joy in roughly equal measure.

Snow is excellent because it looks lovely and can be any and all of fun, scary and romantic. It's also dangerous, disruptive and bloody cold.

When it turns up in huge amounts for three months of the year, every year, you need to have perfectly adequate preparation. An extra set of tyres as well as equipment designed to handle it on a personal and national level. This is why we see the oh-so-amusing "Meanwhile, in Canada..." meme on Facebook

Monday, January 07, 2013

Did I Never Notice These?

Sex sells. By which, I assume, they meant beautiful women wearing very little are used to sell stuff. Slap a nice-looking girl on there and you can get more sales of anything, apparently.

Sometimes this advertising will happen retrospectively, such as in Star Trek Online. The game was initially released with your standard, nondescript, all-American male hero with impossibly cool hair (for a Star Trek character, at least) looking all heroic in a particularly muscle-fitting uniform. But now? Well it's an Angelina GoGo McBooberson character. Who's a Vulcan ice queen, of course (of course?).