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I feel I’ve got my GW2 groove back, to some extent, playing around with the new elite specialisations in the expansion. For those who aren’t that close to the game – an elite spec is a bit like a prestige class in D&D (3rd edition) in that it unlocks after playing the base class and gives you the option of modifying it into a different or more specialised role. In GW2 it takes the place of one of the 3 specialisation lines you pick (so instead of a normal character choosing 3 out of 5 spec lines of talents, an elite has 2 out of 5 spec lines from the base class plus the elite line), requires a hellacious number of skill points to unlock all abilities and each elite spec gets access to a weapon type not available to the base class. While I’ve had good fun with the Reaper (a necromancer who picks up a greatsword and turns into an unstoppable force of melee destruction), my new true love is the Daredevil – a thief who uses martial arts type moves and delivers non-stop beatdown with a staff.

I’ve mentioned before my love of the Friar class in DAoC, and I’ve been searching for a worthy successor ever since. Rift came close by letting me build a melee cleric, but the problem was the staff models in the game. Like most fantasy MMOs, the staves in RIFT are ornate things with top-heavy decorations, suitable for wizards to brandish whilst yelling “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” but utterly impractical as melee weapons… even when wielded in melee (along with a sword!) in LotRO by that game’s wizard wannabes. GW2 gets around this by handing out a nice new simple -looking quarterstaff with your choice of stats immediately upon you unlocking the Daredevil specialisation. With this weapon I can smack, thwack, twirl through my enemies, swipe and dodge backwards, knock dust into my enemies’ faces to blind them or vault and smack down to deliver massive damage to an area. Add in a ‘utility’ skill that is basically the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique and I’m in love.

It almost makes up for the fact that my existing level 80 thief was a Charr, and the image of a 7foot tall, 500 pound cat demon monster bounding around doing staff vaults was so ludicrous that I had to roll a new, human alt for the purpose. Tullius Tremayne will have to remain a base thief and wait for a Sniper elite spec what uses rifles. Go on, ArenaNet – you know you want to.

WARNING: here be some spoilers for the Knights of the Fallen Empire storyline. Nothing that is blindly obvious to anyone who’s at least started playing it, or read any of the posts in other places on the topic, but still: spoilers. Some folks out there may not have got around to it yet, after all.


There’s a new Empire in town. The Empire of Zakuul has apparently been sitting off in unexplored (by the Sith or the Republic) Wild Space for centuries, quietly minding its own business until it decides to give the Sith Empire and the Republic a poke with a raid led by its two princes. When the old factions unite and respond, it kicks off events that lead to Zakuul smacking down both of the old factions at the same time – this is no petty periphery state, it’s a superpower that nobody even knew existed. And it’s not exactly Evil Empire 2.0, dishing out more of the same as the Sith but bigger and badder (which is the usual trap Star Wars writers fall into). It’s a very different animal in terms of its nature and its governance. Which is interesting, given that the Immortal Emperor of Zakuul turns out to be one and the same person as Emperor Vitiate of the Sith.

The Sith Empire is a straight-up evil empire of pulp fiction. It oppresses EVERYBODY, and runs on fear. The Emperor sits at the top, and for most of SWTOR’s storyline the best that can be said about him is that he is a neglectful, absentee boss. Below him are the Sith, who endlessly scheme against each other whilst treating any non-Force sensitive like expendable trash. Next are Imperial citizens, who are amazingly loyal to the Empire as an ideal whilst doing their best to avoid or work around their erstwhile Sith masters (most of whom take the freedom of the Sith code as licence to act like psychotic children). At least the citizens have slaves to take their frustrations out on, whilst all those poor unfortunates at the bottom can do is suffer. And maybe give the droids a hard time. The Imperial economic pyramid comes to a pretty sharp point, but even the Darths of the Dark Council don’t seem to be able to enjoy their status as they spend most of their time fending off ambitious underlings.

Zakuul, however, is at least on the surface a paradise. As described in the in-game codex, every citizen receives a stipend that allows them to live like the nobility of the Sith Empire or Republic, and frees them to devote their time to the pursuit of science or art or philosophy. Larry Everett over at Massively OP ponders whether this is a form of communism or true socialism but I don’t believe it is, not exactly. There’s nothing to suggest that the state has control of the means of production (socialism), and the state certainly hasn’t withered away to nothing (the end game of communism). What we have is a post-scarcity society, very like Star Trek’s Federation or the societies that show up in a number of Peter F Hamilton’s novels. If anything, it’s a commentary on modern Western society as seen by anyone outside it – yes, we have income inequalities, and poverty on a relative scale, but the poorest Americans or Europeans are more likely to suffer from obesity than starvation. There are plenty of people outside who’d love to get themselves some of that sort of poverty.

It’s not just the economics that differentiate Zakuul from the Sith Empire. The Emperor is also viewed differently. The Sith feared and avoi9ded their Emperor even before he got into the habit of devouring worlds to fuel his immortality. Zakuul idolises its Emperor, and even rebels against the tyrant Arcann still revere his father. Valkorion sure as hell isn’t democratically elected, but he rules with the consent of the governed, whereas the Sith simply seize power and Force choke anyone who objects.

However, Zakuul isn’t the idealistic paradise that the Star Trek Federation is once you start looking closely. There’s a criminal underbelly where people have dropped out of the perfect society of course, but there’s also a decadent demi-monde where the underbelly is happy to provide services for the wealthy society. Seems that, given freedom from the necessity to work for a living, not everyone will devote their lives to art, science and philosophy after all, and at least some Zakuul citizens waste their lives away in pampered ennui and seek thrills to alleviate the boredom.

And then, of course, there’s the Emperor. Sure, Valkorion seems to be a benevolent father figure, but this is still the same being who obliterated Nathema and Ziost to fuel his own power. We haven’t seen his end game yet, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t set Zakuul up as a paradise for the benefit of its citizens, and he’s not aiding the player character solely to restore peace and justice to the galaxy. We’ve got a way to go with this story yet, but at least for now Bioware have given us a more nuanced view of an authoritarian state in our new enemy, with more subtle evils. For what is, when all is said and done, a Star Wars story, that’s not bad at all.

Or more technically – today, early access for SWTOR’s Knights Of The Fallen Empire expansion begins, for those who have subscribed since July and can download and install nearly 9GB of patch. I’ve had the description, but given what passes for broadband speed around here I might just finish patching some time tomorrow. Ho hum.

This is especially galling because I went on something of a SWTOR binge over the weekend, family commitments permitting. I’ve had that sub running since July to get the expansion goodies, but I didn’t actually patch the game up and log in until Saturday evening. I’ve returned to The Old Republic on a previous occasion and now, as then, I’ve been struck both by how in theory the game has so many things I think should be “wrong” and how, in practice, it just works for me. I spent three evenings, once the Tremaynelettes were safely tucked in bed, sitting with a great grin on my face.

I’ve been grinning at the way my Sith Marauder Force leaps to his enemies and scythes them down with lightsabers that make that perfect thrumming sound I remember from the films.

I’ve been grinning at hearing the polite, cultured tones of my Sith Assassin in conversation, the very image of a cultured, upper class killing machine.

I’ve been grinning at the graceful ballet of close quarters carnage as my Imperial Agent, having stealthed into position and set things up so he has every possible advantage of position and crowd control, finally wades in with vibroknife and blaster carbine to take the targets down in a swift sequence of swish-thunk-BLAM!

I’ve been grinning at the banter between my Bounty Hunter and Mako as they taker on the galaxy in style.

And of course I’ve been grinning at the accelerated XP, which let me take the Bounty Hunter and Sith Marauder through their story quests without any pauses to level up. When I logged back in on Saturday the BH was level 43 and on Belsavis, while the Sith had reached level 45 and was on the homeworld of the ever-annoying Voss. By last night both had dinged 50, giving me the full set of 4 Imperial level 50s, with the BH story done and the Marauder on the verge of his final showdown with Darth Fatso. In between I had introduced my Imperial Agent to Makeb, and started on the Revan storyline with my Assassin. When I do get to log in I’ll be spoilt for choice with all four of them to press on with, or a free insta-60 alt to sample the new story once I’ve decided what that new alt will be. And there’s still the Republic class stories to play through at some point.

For now though, there’s still 7.78 GB to patch. I hear there’s a new trailer for The Force Awakens – I can only hope that when the film releases I will be sitting grinning at that too.

I don’t usually do movie reviews on this blog. I do, however, do recommendations. So I’m recommending – head to the cinema and see The Martian. Or pick up the novel by Andy Weir that it’s based on. Or both – I’d somehow missed all the publicity about the book, and ended up reading it just before seeing the film. Which isn’t a bad way to do things, but you can see the movie quite happily without reading the book. My other half, who hasn’t a geeky bone in her body, was actually the one to suggest we go see the film (which probably had something to do with Matt Damon being in it) and absolutely loved it, despite her not having read the book and being unlikely to ever read it. I won’t go into her reasons for loving the film (which weren’t ALL Matt Damon) , but I can tell you mine.

Firstly, it’s a rare example of Hollywood, with a big budget no less, doing proper hard SF. I understand the reasons for not letting science get in the way of story, but far too many scriptwriters seem to take unholy glee in going out of their way to make things wrong when they could just as easily have put the right detail in the same place. I seriously suspect that at least some of it is done deliberately, for shits and giggles at the resulting nerd rage or out of contempt for the audience. This film, with one glaring exception (that’s also in the book, and does serve a story purpose) gets the science right. And tells you about the science. Somebody actually realised that you can treat an audience as if they’ve actually taken high school science and still earn your money back at the box office. More please, and while we’re at it can we now have a movie that shows that computer programming isn’t about Hugh Jackman typing on four different screens while receiving a blow job

Secondly, it’s accessible – as mentioned above, non-nerds can enjoy the film and even learn something from it. It makes fun of nerdish types but still makes them come across as sympathetic figures. It shows smart people as, well, people with good motives even when they disagree (a lot of writers would have made Jeff Daniels’ boss suit character to be an obstructive asshole, the antagonist the film didn’t really need). It explains both the problems, and the solutions, to the audience without ever feeling like it’s lecturing them.

Also, it’s damn well made. Well, what do you expect with a veteran like Ridley Scott at the helm and stalwarts like Chiwetel Ejiofor in the cast? The running time is quite long, at 2 hours 21 minutes, and at that leaves a number of events from the book out, but it never feels over-long. The 3D is done impeccably, and actually adds to the experience, unlike some movies I could name. Props also to the script adaptation, which reworks some of the gags from the book in a way that works better in an audio-visual medium but never loses the sense of the original… for example, Watney’s frustration with the 70’s disco tracks that are the only music available on Mars is shown differently on screen from the way it’s put on the page, but it comes through loud and clear both ways.

Finally, the movie has a message, not one that it overtly preaches (apart from in Watney’s little speech right at the end), but one that we don’t see enough of in my view – when you’re faced with problems you get to work, think about them and solve them. And if the solution (or just the fact of continued survival) throws up more problems, then you get to work on solving those as well. and you keep working, and solving, until you get through to the end. Too many Hollywood movies feature blue collar heroes who get through on their indomitable will to survive, but only use their heads as a hat rack. Far too much of what is sold as ‘SF’ both on screen and on paper is about grim dystopias where the characters just accept that that’s the way things are. The idea that we should, to quote The Martian, “science the shit” out of problems, is one that’s worth getting people to take onboard again. We CAN put people on Mars. And if something goes wrong and one of them gets marooned we CAN get him home again. Yeah, there are all sorts of difficulties. So what? Get to work and science the shit out of them.

Yes, I’m still alive and so is this blog. After the summer holiday season, work (which has just got busier now that I’m management and spend my time getting people to do things rather than getting things done), actually gaming and doing a bit of fiction writing, the blogging has come a distant fifth. Now that the holidays are done it can at least move up to fourth place.

In terms of what I’ve been doing – a little GW2, some rocking of Marvel Heroes as War Machine (because, as we all know, WARMACHINEROX), a nostalgic trip back to Dark Age of Camelot which I’ll post about separately, and a lot of World of Warships, in which I’ve come to both love and hate torpedoes. Love them when I use them just right, and hate and fear them in the hands of my erstwhile teammates, never mind the enemy.

Here’s the thing about torpedoes – they are slow, short-ranged (mostly) unguided weapons that do massive damage. They can be delivered by destroyers, aircraft, some cruisers, one battleship, and by cretins. Of all of these delivery methods the one I fear most is cretins. But let’s take them in turn…

Destroyers are fast, agile and fragile as well as being hard to spot – they can get to about 6 km from the target before being seen, and can lay down smoke screens to mess with enemy visibility. At lower tiers the U.S. Destroyers have about a 5 km torpedo range and the Japanese have 7 km, making a torpedo attack a bit more of a death ride on the Yank tin cans but still doable. When it goes well, I’ve racked up 4 kills in a battle. When it goes badly, I die ignominiously and get an early bath and bugger all XP for the game.

Aircraft torpedoes can be deadly if you’re up against a competent CV driver who controls the drop manually and puts them straight  into your flank at the sort of point blank range that a destroyer would never live to reach. Fortunately there are plenty of incompetent CV drivers who just click the target and let the computer drop them in a wide spread at a dodgeable range… That and having as much anti aircraft cover as possible by staying close to friendly cruisers and praying your own team’s CV has fighters and bothers to use them.

Cruisers are like destroyers without the stealth, which makes torpedoes a bit of a trap for the captains who carry them – which is all of the Japanese cruisers and a few of the US ships. You can get yourself blown out of the water trying to make a torpedo run in a cruiser, and I usually play my cruisers as gun platforms and then use my torps as a bonus if things come down to knife fighting range. That’s changing a bit now I have the Aoba, the tier 6 Jap cruiser with a 10 km range on its torps, but mostly cruiser torpedoes are long range launches so easy to avoid as long as you don’t stay steaming straight at the same course and speed for too long.

Battleships don’t carry torpedoes unless they’re called Tirpitz, which has a single 4 tube launcher on each side with a range of 6 km. on the other hand, right now there are Tirpitzes (Tirpitzen? I never did study German…) everywhere as the only thing more popular than bitching about the £40+ price tag was actually buying one. I’ve played in games with 4 of them on each team, and heard stories of games with 7 on the same team. On the gripping hand, that ship has over 20 km range with its main armament even before launching a spotting plane, and while it’s quite fast and handy for a battleship the operative words are “for a battleship”. Again, the torps are a bonus if you somehow find yourself broadside on to an enemy within spitting distance, but frankly being in that situation means that you are Doing It Wrong. Having said which, the general consensus is that Tirpitz drivers are all noobs who have bought their way into Tier 8 and doing it wrong is only to be expected.

Yes, I did buy a Tirpitz while they were on sale. Why do you ask?

Finally, many torpedoes are launched by cretins. These can be from destroyers, cruisers, planes or Derpitzes but what they have in common is that they’re launched with flagrant disregard of the weapon’s speed and range, criminal negligence towards teammates or occasionally active malice. The benign form of the disease is just launching torps well outside range. If your torpedoes can run 5.5 km at 60 knots before they run out of gas, and the target is steaming directly away from you at 30 knots, care to tell me how close you need to be before firing? If you guessed 16 km then congratulations, apparently the U.S. Navy is accepting destroyer skippers just like you! They also have a spot for anyone who doesn’t like looking to either side or checking the minimap for teammates who might be about to steam into the path of your torpedoes because if you thought that mirror, signal, manoeuvre was important when driving a car, trust me it’s even more important when flinging weapons of mass destruction around the ocean. Best of all, you don’t actually have to hit a teammate with your torps to kill him. I had one memorable battle where I found myself perfectly bracketed by a salvo of ‘friendly’ torps coming up from astern. Turn to port and I’d eat a torpedo. Turn to starboard, take a hit. Keep steaming ahead… and that gave an enemy all the time in the world to carefully line up his next volley of shells at my ship. A couple of well-placed hits and BOOM! That’s all she wrote.

So yeah, torpedoes. Deadly in the right hands, and positively fracking lethal in the wrong ones.

After far too long a wait, almost four years in fact, World of Warships (wot woz World of Battleships before someone decided that online gaming really needed another game with the initials WoW) has headed down the slipway into ‘open beta’… the sort of open beta that comes with a promise of no database wipes and an open cash shop, so I guess that means “this product isn’t really finished yet but we’d like your money, so come on in and try to ignore the wet paint and all the hammering and sawing going on in the background”.

Now I’m a sucker for anything that lets me command big ships – space or sea – and feels like a proper naval battle. I adored the ship combat in Pirates of the Burning Sea and Star Trek Online, although the shore portions of both games left something to be desired. I’ve also had a lot of fun from World of Tanks, so WOWS was always going to be an easy sell to me. When I say ‘sell’ however, what they’ve sold me so far is at the best price – free. Much like World of Tanks you can play the game quite happily without dropping a penny on it. I will do so soon enough though – I can use more ship slots, and maybe that nice tier 7 American cruiser…. or HMS Warspite if they put it back in the shop at some point as the only Royal Navy ship currently in the game.

So what’s it like? Superficially similar to World of a Tanks in a lot of ways – user interface, earning XP for the upgrades to ships as you work your way up the tech tree, steering with keyboard and shooting with mouse are all pretty familiar. Tactically though the differences will kill a player who expects it to be like WoT. The land game is heavy on stealth and concealment – when an enemy is spotted he’s usually well within weapon range. While WoWS maps have islands to hide behind, most ships will be seen long before they are in range for guns. The exception is destroyers, which due to their small size and ability to lay down smokescreens can get quite close to the big boys before they can be effectively targeted. And once they get close they can launch a spread of torpedoes that can ruin a battleship’s day. Unlike WoT which has a “food chain” whereby bigger tanks pretty much always kill lighter ones, WoWS has a rock-scissors-paper relationship. Battleships have big, long ranged, slow firing guns that can wreck a cruiser with a few well-placed salvoes. Cruiser guns are much faster firing and better at engaging the small, agile destroyers. Destroyers (and some cruisers, like most of the Japanese line) can launch torpedoes that do massive damage if they hit… And good luck dodging them in a slow, lumbering battleship. Aircraft carriers annoy everyone by sending in dive bombers and torpedo bombers whilst providing fighter cover to friendly ships.

Balance may be problematic, or that may be that with the start of appendix beta a lot of players are clueless. There seems to be a forum consensus that HE shells rule, as they start fires that DoT ships to death, and that battleships suck. My own experience is that well-aimed AP (armour piercing) shells can do a lot more damage if you land them amidships on the target. Aircraft carriers are dominating at higher tiers, but that’s partly because they’re all going for bomber heavy load outs and not providing much fighter cover for their allies. Doing that boosts the carrier captain’s kill total but might not be best for the team as a whole. It’ll be interesting to see how tactics evolve when clan battles get added to the game.

On the whole it”s been good fun so far.  I just unlocked my first carrier last night, and as I’m off on a week’s holiday with the family it’ll be a little while before I really get to put her through her paces. Will definitely be playing some more when we get back.

Somehow, Blizzard’s stance on has gone from “you can’t fly in Draenor because that would totally break our content, I mean when we designed our zones for our fifth expansion we couldn’t possibly have imagined that anyone would have that flying ability we added in our first expansion, so it just somehow doesn’t work in an alternate timeline version of the places that it started working in that old expansion, because reasons” to the new stance of “oh ok, since you cried about it so much we’ll let you fly in Draenor eventually, but only after you grind achievements until your eyeballs bleed because we know how much you love being given shit that you have to grind for. Being able to fly will still break our content because nobody could possibly think of a way of it not breaking content without a total no fly zone being imposed, but what the hell, after all that grinding you deserve a broken game.”

Could somebody, somewhere, PLEASE explain the logic to me? I can understand macroeconomics, special relativity, financial services regulations and most of the project plans put in front of me, but I’ll admit to being totally stumped by this one.

I’m blaming Syl for this. She made a perfectly sensible response to a ridiculous click-bait opinion piece over on MassivelyOP, which got Tobold opining on the subject which wasn’t too bad, except he then went on to expand the discussion to the concept of fairness and real life which is bound to be a red rag to certain bull(shitter)s and so as I speak we’re up to Defcon 2* over on Tobold’s comnments thread.

So – first of all, never respond to clickbait, especially cheap controversy as clickbait. I wish the Massively folks all the best, but I do also wish they’d stick to reporting news. Or if they have to have op-ed pieces to fill the time between press releases from the Crowfall hype train, can they at least be genuinely thought-provoking instead of cheap outrage-provoking?

Secondly, I’m not getting involved in the fairness thing. Let’s just take it that my politics are to the left of Gevlon, to the right of a lot of other bloggers and leave it at that. I kind of touched on this with one of my Liebster answers about “justice” and I’m not hankering to revisit the subject just yet.

Thirdly, I dislike the idea of people being able to win by opening their cheque books because they haven’t won a straight and honestly fought contest of skill, which is what most of these games purport to be. However, I also dislike the idea of people gaining an advantage through grind2win, where somebody gets uber-powerful PvP gear as a “reward” for having been a crappy player who lost in ten thousand battleground matches. One favours the guy with cash, the other favours the guy with no life (or who is willing to AFK or bot to their rewards) and you know what? At least the whale is paying some money to the devs who build and support the game. So I have no problem whatsoever with cash being able to get you on an even footing with grind, and then may the best man win.

Fourthly, pay2win isn’t exactly new. I’m pretty sure the medieval peasant levy with his sharpened rake who got ridden down by a fully armoured knight would have muttered something about the unfair advantage of somebody who could afford a horse, armour, a sword and the leisure to train in proper use of these things. If he hadn’t been dead of course, because medieval warfare was play4keeps as well as pay2win.

* Contrary to what some people seem to bandy around, the LOWER the DEFCON number the worse things are, the ratings going from DEFCON 5 (nothing to see here, move along) to DEFCON 1 (bend over and kiss your ass goodbye, the President is reading out those launch codes right about now). Nowhere on this scale could I find “Defcon fucked” which is how an anonymous Scottish Labour Party Member of Parliament described his party’s chances shortly before they were indeed electorally annihilated.

In today’s news – firstly, I’m not dead, just haven’t been blogging. I’ve been on holiday, been watching the spectacle of politics here in the (still, just) United Kingdom, been bracing myself for a change of job (same employer but after seventeen years in the same team I will now be doing something other than call centres) and been caught up in the preparations for both Tremaynelettes to be attendants for the village May Queen. All of which left time for either a bit of gaming or a bit of blogging about it, but not both.

Secondly – year, WoW’s subscriber numbers have dropped again as more and more people are ‘done’ with Draenor. Just to make sure that things are in perspective, that horrible decline still represents levels of profitability that other games companies would kill for, especially when you consider that WoW still has subscribers and not a pack of freeloading leeches who bitch bitterly about what’s available to the handful of whales actually picking up the tab for their gaming.

Thirdly, Tobold has been looking at the Wow Token prices on and come to the conclusion that that the market is behaving oddly and predictably, which lets players game the cycle and generate gold out of thin air (or at least Blizzard’s ass) which nobody could possibly have foreseen

Hmmm, I think I can see what’s going on. In “real” markets the price reflects all the information available (including expectation of future movements) so the only reason to buy and sell in the same market is if you have information nobody else does which lets you bet against the market with confidence. Trading on information others don’t have (e.g. I’m CEO of a company and I know we’re announcing the launch of a new product tomorrow) tends to be labelled as “insider trading” and disapproved of by the authorities because it screws with the efficiency of the market, which ultimately means it diminishes the prosperity of society as a whole even though it’s very good for the prosperity of the inside trader.

The way to get rich in a perfect information market is to figure out what that information means to the price faster than anyone else and buy or sell as appropriate before everyone else does. This is why financial markets traders spend a lot of money on very good software and very fast computers, and why if you have mad coding skillz you’ll make a much better living working for them than making MMOs unless the MMO in question is WoW. But I digress.

However, what we have here isn’t an efficient market, it’s an algorithm doing a half-assed job of being an efficient market. The algorithm reacts slower than eagle-eyed market traders competing to make a profit, and taking a gradual approach rather than making sharp adjustments. That sine curve effect looks like players are indeed riding the cycle as Tobold suggests, selling high and buying low while the algorithm is compensating too late, and then having to swing the other way. This creates a predictable cycle that makes it easy for players to see when to buy and sell, which just perpetuates the cycle. Yet another case of Free Markets 1, Central Planning 0.

Hmmm, I think that by leaving things for three weeks or so the whole Liebster thing has gone away from the blogosphere, but I did say that I’d respond to the questions from Syl and Jeromai even though I have no plans to continue the chain – partly because I deeply dislike chain letters (of which this is a disguised version) and partly because just about anyone I would want to nominate has already been picked on. Still, some of the questions looked fun, so here goes – Syl’s questions first:

1. If you could learn a new language over night, which would it be? My father spoke about nine languages ranging from Lithuanian (his native tongue) through Russian, Polish, German and English. He told me that Russian was far the most expressive when it came to swearing and cursing, which sounds pretty useful to me.

2. What is the first MMO you’d want to visit in full VR mode? If we’re talking all five senses then definitely NOT something fantasy-based, as the smells of a pseudo-medieval setting are likely to be quite awful. Star Trek is too antiseptic a setting to be worth getting the full experience… maybe City of Heroes so I could grab a full sensory hot dog in Atlas Park before leaping buildings in a single bound.

3. If you got to invite a dead person over for tea and biscuits, who would it be? Alas, that’s too easy to answer – I’m just coming up on the first anniversary of my mother passing away, so we have news to catch up on.

4. What kind of biscuits would you serve? Bourbons. Or Jaffa cakes, if I’m allowed to stretch a point.

5. Who should go down first: House Lannister, House Frey or House Bolton? Lannister, because they should yield the most loot.

6. Justice means:
– a) everyone gets what they work for
– b) everyone gets the same
– c) everyone gets what they need

Ooh, I’d better be careful because I could probably write an enormous spiel about the difference between justice, fairness and equality. I tend to interpret “justice” as everyone gets what they deserve in return for their actions, no more and no less, and regard that as an uncomfortable proposition that needs to be leavened with mercy and compassion. Which means that what you get in the real world is usually less than perfect justice in that some get a better deal than they strictly deserve, but that’s the price that you pay for not being Gevlon.

7. If you could see one of your favorite games get a sequel, it would be….? Dark Age of Camelot. Wait a moment…

8. If a person were to split a pot of 1000$ between them and yourself on condition of you accepting their first offer, would you rather accept 100 bucks or both go empty? As I like to think of myself as being rational – if this is a one-time deal, I’ll take the $100 bucks. If this is the first in a series of such transactions, then I opt for nothing this time to signal that he’d better offer a more equitable deal next time around. Note how the words “just” and “fair” were not used in that response.

9. Which ingame MMO place/location do you consider a home to return to? Not sure if I[‘m attached to any place in any of my current games enough to regard it as “home”, nut I’m always happy to head over to Hoelbrak in GW2 and hang out enjoying monumental ice sculptures and listening to the Norn NPCs with their uncomplicated view of life.

10. Favorite midnight snack when nobody’s looking? Marks and Spencer’s honey roast ham flavoured crisps. And frankly I don’t care if anyone IS looking.

And then there’s the Jeromaic Inquisition…

•How much time do you spend gaming each day or each week? As much as I can get away with after discharging my duties as a responsible adult and a father. I usually manage a couple of hours on a typical weekday once the girls are in bed and my good lady is watching some TV programme I have no interest in whatsoever. I may get a few more hours on the weekend, depending on what we have planned. So maybe 20 hours per week.

•How many people do you roughly interact with while gaming, and what’s the extent of your interactions? I try not to roughly interact with anyone, except for consensual PvP :)

•What emotions do you enjoy experiencing while playing a game? Satisfaction when things go well, frustration when they don’t (which is my cue to go do something different), and the rare but precious moments of sheer joy.

•What are some of your favorite genres/settings/worlds to read about in a book? Military SF, space opera and ancient period historical.

•Are they any different from the genres/settings/worlds you might like in a game? (Be it a computer game or a tabletop RPG.) Like a great many nerds, I seem to prefer to read SF and play fantasy games. Which I guess helps explain the enduring appeal of Star Wars as it blends the two.

•What Warhammer 40k army would you choose (assuming unlimited budget)? I’ve never been a big Games Workshop fan, but I’d have to opt for Space Marines as I’m a traditionalist at heart.

•ASCII art, yea or nay? Nay. Once upon a time it was necessary as we didn’t have anything better. Now it’s just pretentious.

•Your favorite vegetable, and your most loathed one… I’m not an enormous fan of a great many vegetables, but I have a real problem with onions and their relatives – I can’t eat if I find myself biting down on chunks of onion, leek or anything of that ilk. It’s at least as much texture as taste, because I’ll eat a curry where the sauce contains onion puree, and it’s a real pain when buying ready prepared food because so many people seem to add onions of some sort to everything. Sweetcorn on the other hand I love, either on the cob or loose.

•Unlimited budget, pick one country in the world, that you haven’t been to, that you’d like to visit. I’ve a long-standing plan to visit Hawaii for my fiftieth birthday, just to have a Hawaii 5-0 birthday (which I then have to explain to my daughters). I’ve been to the mainland USA, but not out there yet.

•You cannot choose a human for your next MMO character. Would you pick a tall race or a short race first? (Width or muscularity, bestial features or lack thereof is up to you.) Depends entirely on the races available to choose from. I’m happy to go short provided they aren’t just a “cute” race – GW2 Asura are great fun.

•Wings or no wings? No wings. Wings are so last year. I reserve my right to change my answer if that question actually turned out to be an offer of barbecue hot wings however.


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