Thoughts on VR following EGX Rezzed.

I’ve been left thinking about VR a lot following a few demos I got to try at EGX Rezzed. Firstly VR seems to form more lasting/real memories for me than normal video games. Distinct impressions of having “done” something rather than just experienced it. I suspect this is a combination of the VR itself but more importantly the controllers involved. The game I played on the VIVE with it’s unique controllers having formed memories that the other experiences did not. This is a long and somewhat rambling non-edited post.

So, I have Rift on order despite the fact that I was distinctly underwhelmed by the previous DK’s I’d used. I’ve just come to a conclusion about why that is given that I’ve now had time with both the Vive and Playstation VR (please can I just call it Morpheus or PSVR? I can? Good). My first experience with the Rift was way back in the land of DK1 I think playing Surgeon Simulator. I found it distinctly poor, blurry and not really at all indicative in retrospect of where we are today. In part I now realise that experience was down to a number of factors. These are:

  1. The fit needs to be good, or you get blurriness, 3D separation and/or chromatic aberrations. My first experience with the Rift had all of these things.
  2. The game your playing needs to be good, sorry Surgeon Simulator I know what you’re trying to do but it’s just not for me.
  3. The environment must be right. The expo where I trialed the rift was claustrophobic and I was frankly uncomfortable.

So fast forward to today and I’ll go through them in order.

Oculus Rift

Bizarrely, despite my currently waiting order. This is the one I have least say about, though I have used the DK1 and DK2. I ordered the Rift because for me it’s the right price point, I have several games I want to experience in VR and like many in the UK I simply don’t have the space to take advantage of what the Vive promises. My only concerns with the Rift are whether it will fit such that I don’t suffer from any problems from 1) above. And secondly that the light leak around the bridge of the nose I read about is either not distracting enough or that it’s a matter again of fit. The previous demos I’ve had they simply placed it on my head and I ran with it. Neither I nor the person giving the demo made any attempt to ensure the fit was right and things were in focus; and I was naive enough to go with it. I only really picked up on this due to the experience with Morpheus yesterday, more on that below.

HTC Vive

In one word transformative, if you have the funds and the space. I missed out on gaining a place in the official demo at Rezzed because err.. I’m a Muppet and I walked the long way around to the queue. I then missed the afternoon slot because I was bloody starving. Thankfully the game Sluggy’s Fruit Emporium had two Vive’s setup between two base stations and a really really short queue. I’m not sure whether they were sponsored to be there or not but if so thanks, I’m guessing if anyone it was Green Man Gaming, if I’m wrong, correct me.
So the demo was non ideal, once again I didn’t get the headset correctly fitted; I also removed my glasses. So things were a bit out of focus but more than playable. The VR space was contained in a roughly 1.5m circle highlighted as a blue bound on the floor in the game world. Also due to the positioning of both base stations and two players there was the occasional opportunity for some occlusion to occur. However this would really happen in a normal environment and it was sporadic. It was however alarming in VR to have parts of you shooting off in directions you weren’t aware of making motions for.
So, why do I say transformative? Simply because this experience formed memories as somehow definitely something I had done rather than experienced. It was short, I was an alien trying to sell fruit to other aliens from a tiny kiosk however the memory of it is solid.
Technically the Vive controllers are superb, they work, at no point did I feel that their response was lagging behind my motions. I did find that that at times the controllers were alarming far away from my body in the virtual space however, and I had to shrink my arms against my body in some impression of a T-Rex to continue the experience. I do believe, talking to the staff afterwards, that that was down to occlusion, and I would hope there was a controller button to reset things in that scenario. I also don’t think it’s a problem you’d experience outside of that very specific setup they had.

Playstation VR

This one is the strongest surprise for me. I own a Playstation 4, I still have my PS3 and the Move controllers I bought for it. So cost of entry for me is significantly reduced. A cheap second hand PS4 camera picked up now and I can be in line for Morpheus. I didn’t get to choose the demo I played, had I been able to I would have gone for Rigs without a second thought. However the game I played was amazing as an immersive experience albeit on rails, I believe it will be an extended “experience” within VR Worlds at launch. So it was London Getaway Heist, here’s a good impression of it from E3 Road to VR.

For those with long enough memories Getaway was a short series of PS2 games that were pretty revolutionary at the time, in terms of photo mapping, scale and accuracy to the real world; in my opinion anyway. The games themselves were average in terms of novel gameplay but still well worth playing through and ahead of their time. The dialogue, world building and scene setting were amazing. The same team, I believe, is behind the new VR one “Team Soho”.

So what was so good about this? I’ll try to summarise below but in part my expectations were lower so adjust the opinions below accordingly. Maybe…

Firstly it was much easier to fit and removed; and just plonked on my head and tightened at the back immediately came into focus, no aberrations no light leakage. So it’s definitely something the average person can pick up, fit and use without the technical frustrations that can and do occur with both the PC counterparts. There’ll be no driver errors here, no wrestling with windows, no fiddly room/gear setups. Of course, to counter balance that you won’t have the freedom. To download what you want to experience, to hack non VR games into VR, to fiddle and abuse. This is why I’m for the Rift I guess, or the Vive if you have the space.

Secondly, and this is down to the Playstation teams budget and expertise, the demo felt remarkably solid and complete. Ignoring my first attempt to fire the gun resulting in me throwing out of the now smashed windscreen of the car I felt entirely competent being the wingman for a getaway driver. Apologies to anyone who overhead me go “Oh fuck oh fuck, what now” as my only weapon sailed gracefully towards my motorbike mounted attacker. Still this is a video game and a replacement gun spawned on the dash board. I threw that one away too… ūüėÄ Everything here behaved as I expected. I could reach out and fiddle with the radio, reloading the gun was as natural as picking up a clip and pushing it into the weapon. I very quickly found myself moving clips out of the bag next to me and into the glove box for easier access. Also keeping a clip held in hand ready for quick reloading. Like the Vive this felt 1:1 with the move controllers accurately representing my real word motions. With the front PS4 camera doing the business with mapping it suffered from none of the occlusion oddities the Vive did; though that was down to the nature of the setup with Vive rather than any flaw in the technology I believe.

In conclusion

You pay your money and make your choice. I don’t think anyone is likely to invest money in all the solutions so any criticism/comparisons really need to filtered through a lens of what is financially viable and what features are the most important to you. Of the three I guess I find the PSVR most impressive, but again this is down to the professional quality of the demos on offer and the fact I know in full what the cost of entry is; and it is low. Having said that, I’m sticking with the Rift. If I had the space I’d buy the Vive and if I had the patience I’d wait for PSVR with a view on still buying one of the PC solutions if I could save the money, because hey I love the freedom.
So here we go, VR is viable. It is here and it really does work. Of course comparing the visual output of these experiences to the crisp rendering on your 1080p, 2K or 4K monitor you’ll find it lacking. It’s also churlish and wrong to do so. When in motion the experience offered outweighs the sacrifice in visual quality, IMO. So my concern is now solely what can we expect? What exists right now on the PC VR platforms feels on the whole like a lot of demos rather than full experiences. Yes we have Elite Dangerous, Eve Valkyrie and games like The Talos Principle but a lot of the content available right now is Indie in nature. That’s just fine for me given the prices involved, but for a broader audience to get into this it would be excellent to see content of the kind PSVR seems to have. It will come, maybe it’s out there already and I simply haven’t discovered it, whatever the case is I look forward to seeing Eve Valkyrie and ED and trying my luck at persuading games like Skyrim to work in VR.

Quickly comparing Vive and PSVR the visual quality seemed similar as did the FOV. This isn’t comparing graphics, just visual fidelity. My gut feeling here is that all three platforms will pretty much be the same in terms of visual fidelity and FOV. Both the Oculus and the Vive have the same stated resolution and FOV; despite me reading in some reviews that the Vive presents a wider viewing area. Though I don’t know for the sure I think the PSVR will be 110 FOV as well.

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My ad hoc recipe for authentic Pad Thai

So… I had a mixture of ingredients for a Pad Thai and decided to use all of them. ¬†The only ingredient of note missing from this recipe is preserved turnip; mine had spoiled! O.o ¬†If you have some, finely chop 3 tbsp. of it and add it alongside the garlic etc. ¬†In terms of flavour this is pretty authentic. ¬†If you use dried sen lek noodles you will need to have them prepared and soaked for a suitable amount of time in cold water before you start.

In the ingredients below i’ve linked to some of them, it’s not an endorsement as I didn’t order mine through Raan Thai but they do stock the same brands and next time I need to order ingredients I will give them a bash; having had iffy customer service from a better known online thai foods supermarket.

Serves 3, I cooked it all in a 12″ wide flat bottomed pan (about 4″ deep). Mortar and pestle required. ¬†Wooden spatula preferably.

  • Sesame Oil / Vegetable Oil
  • 1 Chicken Breast
  • 3 Tbsp¬†Dried Fried Garlic¬†or Fresh
  • 3 Tbsp¬†Dried Fried Red Onion (Shallot)
  • 6 Spring Onions
  • 100g of Bean Curd (Tofu). ¬†I used Japanese¬†silken tofu¬†as I like the texture and flakyness.
  • 3 Eggs
  • 300g Rice Noodles (I used Amoy Straight to Wok but you really should use proper Sen Lek rice noodles)
  • 1¬†Palm Sugar lump¬†(Photo) (1.5 tbsp.)
  • 4 Tbsp Nam Pla
  • 1 1/2 Tsp flaked dried chilli
  • Tamarind Pulp
  • 6 Tbsp.¬†Dried Shrimp
  • 100g Bean Sprouts
  • 1 Lemon
  • 1 Lime
  • 6 Tbsp. Peanuts (Roasted, salted ones are OK)
  • Coriander


Cut the chicken into small pieces and set aside. Put 4 sliced spring onions, the garlic & dried onion into a small bowl. ¬†Cut about a 1 to 2 cm wide strip off of your block of tamarid and place in another small bowl with about twice as much warm water as tamarind. ¬†Push and pulp this around with a spoon to start it breaking down. ¬†When that’s separated out and the water is a suitably muddy brown take out the remaining tamarind pulp and discard, to this water add the Nam Pla and palm sugar (mine was a solid disk which dissolved slowly in the pan).

In the mortar and pestle pulverise the dried shrimp as much as you can, and tip into a small bowl.  Then do grind the peanuts into pieces but leave them in the mortar and pestle.

  1. Put the pan on a high heat with your oil, I used a mixture of sesame oil and vegetable 50/50.  When the oil is hot add the chicken and tofu and stir until cooked, the tofu will almost completely break down.  If you are using fresh garlic finely chop it and add it to the pan and brown it off before adding the chicken and tofu.
  2. Tip the bowl containing the spring onion, garlic and dried onion into the pan.  Stir through thoroughly.
  3. Now add the tamarind water, Nam Pla and palm sugar.  Stir through thoroughly and if necessary prod at the palm sugar to break it down.
  4. Turn down the heat a bit.
  5. Add in the noodles and stir to combine completely with the existing ingredients. ¬†If you’re lazy like me and used the straight to wok kind just continue on with the recipe. ¬†If not follow the guidelines for your noodles to ensure they’ll be cooked by the time you finish.
  6. Move the noodles off to the side of a pan and one at a time crack your eggs into the pan.  Each time mixing quickly and thoroughly into the ingredients.
  7. Tip in most of the bean sprouts and all of the dried shrimp. Squeeze in the juice of the lemon.  Combine thoroughly.
  8. Add in most of the peanuts, as much roughly chopped coriander as you wish and combine thoroughly.  I used a handful of coriander.
  9. If cooked through serve onto 3 plates.
  10. Sprinkle each portion with the remaining chopped spring onion, peanuts and bean sprouts.  Decorate with a bit of coriander and serve with a wedge of lime on the side.
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Good to see Metroid Prime Trilogy on the Wii U

Thanks to a post by Lewie P over on Savy Gamer I found these save files which help greatly with unlocking some content on these old games now the systems that supported it are long gone. So if anyone else is unsure about how to get these save games to work this is what I discovered worked for me. As an aside I was running low on space, and had to install the trilogy to a USB Hard Disk. The game wouldn’t boot and eventually restarted my Wii U. I managed to move some games off the main storage area onto the USB and then move Metroid Prime Trilogy onto the main storage. Worked fine then. So here’s how to get the save game onto the Wii U, assuming you’ve never played Metroid Prime Trilogy via the disk and already have save data.

  1. Start metroid prime and go so far as creating save data and selecting a mii.
  2. Quit and launch the wii menu, copy the save data to SD card.
  3. Put SD card in PC, go to private\wii\title\R3MP and backup data.bin somewhere.
  4. Copy metroid_prime_trilogy_eu.bin over as data.bin.
  5. Eject card and put back into Wii U.
  6. Delete the save game data from the Wii menu.
  7. Copy the SD Card save data back onto the Wii

Then exit Wii mode back to the main Wii U menu, launch the game and viola <sic>.

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Pretty Reckless – Going to Hell Wallpaper

Couldn’t find a decent sized version of their album cover anywhere in a wallpaper style design, so here’s a quick’n’dirty one at 1920×1200.


The album is pretty damn fine too.

Posted in Art, Miscellany, Music | Leave a comment

CEX stock monitoring

It’s been ages since I posted anything, I’ve been playing with all sorts of stuff, like Cocos2D and SpriteKit… as well as wicked little things like this DIY Gamer kit. Maybe I’ll do some more long form ish posts soon about those. In the meantime though here’s a silly little bash script that I just put in cron:


# for i in `wget -O - -o /dev/null | grep -oE "branchId=([[:digit:]]{1,3})" - | cut -d'=' -f2`; do if [ $i -eq 100 ] then; echo "Found" ; fi ; done



for store in `wget -O - -o /dev/null $DECEPTION_VITA | grep -oE "branchId=([[:digit:]]{1,3})" - | cut -d'=' -f2`; do
if [ $store -eq $ST_ALBANS ]
echo "Vita Deception in stock St. Albans"
if [ $store -eq $WATFORD ]
echo "Vita Deception in stock Watford"
if [ $store -eq $HEMEL ]
echo "Vita Deception in stock Hemel"
# if [ $store -eq $STRATFORD ]
# then
# echo "Test confirmed, PS3 Deception in store Stratford."
# fi

for store in `wget -O - -o /dev/null $DECEPTION_PS3 | grep -oE "branchId=([[:digit:]]{1,3})" - | cut -d'=' -f2`; do
if [ $store -eq $ST_ALBANS ]
echo "PS3 Deception in stock St. Albans"
if [ $store -eq $WATFORD ]
echo "PS3 Deception in stock Watford"
if [ $store -eq $HEMEL ]
echo "PS3 Deception in stock Hemel"

It takes urls for products and store id’s then via crons MAILTO environment variable it will email me if it finds those games in stock. It’s an experiment, and the code is a bit ‘dumb’. It should really loop around URLS and store IDs but for my purposes it’s fine.

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Using a UITextField like an ATM keypad.

A small snippet of code that uses a UITextField like an ATM keypad. E.g. You start typing in a sequence like this:

£0.00 -> £0.02 -> £0.20 -> £2.05 -> £20.50

Elsewhere define and store a reference to a NSNumberFormatter like so:

        self.en_GB = [[NSLocale alloc] initWithLocaleIdentifier:@"en_GB"];
        self.paymentFormatter = [[NSNumberFormatter alloc] init];
        [self.paymentFormatter setNumberStyle:NSNumberFormatterCurrencyStyle];
        [self.paymentFormatter setLocale:self.en_GB];
        [self.paymentFormatter setGeneratesDecimalNumbers:YES];        

Then as a delegate method to the UITextField:

- (BOOL)textField:(UITextField *)textField shouldChangeCharactersInRange:(NSRange)range
replacementString:(NSString *)string {
    NSMutableString *mutableString = [[textField text] mutableCopy];
    if ([mutableString length] == 0) {
        [mutableString setString:[self.en_GB objectForKey:NSLocaleCurrencySymbol]];
        [mutableString appendString:string];
    } else {
        if ([string length] > 0) {
            [mutableString insertString:string atIndex:range.location];
        } else {
            [mutableString deleteCharactersInRange:range];
    NSString *penceString = [[[mutableString stringByReplacingOccurrencesOfString:
                               [self.en_GB objectForKey:NSLocaleDecimalSeparator] withString:@""]
                               [self.en_GB objectForKey:NSLocaleCurrencySymbol] withString:@""]
                               [self.en_GB objectForKey:NSLocaleGroupingSeparator] withString:@""];
    self.paymentPence = [NSDecimalNumber decimalNumberWithString:penceString];
    [textField setText:[self.paymentFormatter stringFromNumber:[self.paymentPence decimalNumberByMultiplyingByPowerOf10:-2]]];
    return NO;

I want to keep the amount in pence, hence the self.paymentPence property. On the off-chance that the UK moves to the ‚ā¨ I also use a NSLocale instance to make sure Decimal Separators, Currency Separators and Symbols are correct rather than hard coded.

Posted in Programming | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Thoughts on The Secret World (Work in Progress)

Thoughts on The Secret World

Around the birth of Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) there was a game called Ultima Online, an online variation of the popular Ultima series of RPGs. Ultima Online had, to this day, a unique skill system within mainstream MMOs. Although you selected a starting class or custom made one your skills and thus role in the game were never fixed. Skills improved as you used them be they magic, swordsmanship, parrying or meditation right through to trade skills such as mining and armour smithing. For some reason, which to me remains opaque, in the mainstream every MMO that followed abandoned such a system forcing you to create multiple characters should you wish to experiment. Your skill set essentially set in stone. Imagine being born a miner knowing full well you could never write a line of code or solve a crossword?
There are, of course, less well known games that use such a system but none quite as elegantly as UO did. You could lock a skill, set it only to raise or force it to decrease. Thus with careful management I could forgo my meditation and wrestling skills by marking them down and concentrate on raising my parrying skills with a foil to better protect my mage in combat.

The Secret World although not directly emulating this path also gives you free reign. You earn skill points and can invest them in whatever branch of the skill set you see fit. Thus respeccing (is that shorthand for re-specialising?) is a matter of inputting the time to earn the skill points. As a departure from the UO method you thus don’t lose skills, you simply can’t take advantage of them without the requisite item equipped, say a shotgun or a magic ward or totem.

That’s what drew me to the game but now it is primarily Ragnar Tornquist’s excellent writing. Having cut his teeth on some of the best point and click adventure games in recent times, The Longest Journey and its sequel Dreamfall, the writing is top notch. Suprisingly by and large so is the voice acting, even if the character animation during dialogue is somewhat off.

This coupled with quests liberally scattered around the games areas rarely leaves you feeling bored, though you will find yourself rapidly outclassed even doing the side quests. On that note it’s worth talking about the quests and their associated cut scenes.

The game uses a completely silent protagonist, a raised eyebrow is about as expressive as your avatar becomes in these scenes. After the bountiful dialogue used in Star Wars the Old Republic this is initially jarring but some self conscious nods in the game lead to acceptance of this odd fact by and large. Is my sword wielding chaos magic avatar a mute?

The quests are pretty much of the standard MMO variety. Escort, Kill, Retrieve, Follow, Assist etc. etc. However the presentation of these quests sells them well. Gone for the most part is plain text and following arrows to the next waypoint (although waypoints are very much present, they generally lead you to the area no the spot). In are snippets of newspapers and maps shown as handwritten notes and scrawled stained maps and photos. The main quest chain appears devoid of the more exotic puzzles, I assume only so as not to hinder progress for those that have neither the time or inclination to solve them.

It’s in the side quests for me that the game therefore shines, being optional the designers appear to have had a bloody field day. So, as an example: (SPOILERS, I’ll put this behind a cut later)


One quest wants you to track down four satellite dishes in a site and repoint them to a different satellite. You do this not by just clicking on them but entering the err azimuth/elevation data. A simple change but an important one as you need to refer to your notes if you don’t have it memorised. It is at this point things get better. The first satellite displays this:

29 21 68 6f 24 28 23 23 2c 20 63 28 23 20 5f 6f
23 20 68 24 21 29 20 24 23 3f 20 43 2b 3d 2a 28
25 20 40 2b 72 20 29 5e 78 20 24 21 79 24 20 40
28 21 20 23 24 2a 25 6e 20 21 2a 67 23 29 23 2e
20 21 63 21 28 23 73 20 74 2b 24 20 25 5e 26 40
20 6f 2a 20 24 69 2b 40 2e 20 46 5f 24 2a 21 79
2d 28 5e 75 29 20 21 65 61 23 2b 23 20 5e 26 5e
76 21 20 21 68 5f 25 20 2a 20 21 28 40 23 79 2c
20 62 40 25 20 2a 20 63 24 69 29 40 20 28 2b 20
69 40 20 5e 2a 20 23 28 65 20 5e 2a 26 21 65 20
2b 7e 20 21 65 21 5f 24 21 20 48 25 2a 40 20 6d
2a 20 5f 6f 3d 24 40 21

The second this:

83 33 61 42 108 97 35 35 44 32 33 40 110 32
95 61 35 32 64 101 33 41 32 109 35 63 32 64
104 61 42 40 100 32 102 43 37 32 41 94 40 32
100 33 42 36 32 97 40 33 32 115 101 42 37 35
32 110 105 36 35 41 35 46 32 65 41 33 40 35 61
32 64 104 36 32 37 94 38 115 32 33 42 32 36 94
114 64 46 32 64 95 117 114 33 42 45 40 94 40
114 32 98 38 42 35 43 35 32 94 38 94 64 101
32 33 64 97 37 32 42 32 99 40 64 114 94 44 32
42 117 37 32 42 32 33 36 37 110 64 32 40 111
32 36 64 32 94 110 32 35 40 36 32 104 42 38
33 42 32 43 102 32 33 42 97 95 36 33 32 40 37
42 100 32 36 42 32 119 33 61 36 64 33

The third this:


and the fourth:

00101001 00100001 00111101 00101010 01101100
00101000 00100011 01110011 00101100 00100000
00100001 00101000 00100011 00100000 01111001
00111101 00100011 00100000 01000000 00100100
01100001 00101001 00100000 00100100 01100101
00111111 00100000 01000000 00101011 00111101
01110011 01100101 00100101 00100000 01000000
01101111 00100101 00100000 00101001 01101001
00101000 00100000 00100100 01100001 00101010
00100100 00100000 01000000 00101000 01100100
00100000 00100011 00100100 00101010 01100101
00100011 00100000 00100001 00101010 00100100
00100011 01110100 01110011 00101110 00100000
00100001 00101001 01110010 01101111 00100011
00111101 00100000 01000000 00101011 00100100
00100000 01110000 01101001 00100110 01000000
00100000 00100001 00101010 00100000 01100110
01011110 00101011 01000000 00101110 00100000
01000000 01011111 00100100 00101010 01110100
00101010 00101101 00100001 01101111 00101000
00101001 00100000 00100001
00100110 00101010 01110011 00101011 00100011
00100000 01100011 01110010 01011110 01000000
00100001 00100000 00100001 01000000 01011111
01110100 00100000 00101010 00100000 00101100
00100000 00101010 01000000 00100101 00100000
01001001 00100000 00100001 00100100 00100101
00101001 01000000 00100000 01110100 00101011
00100000 00100100 01110100 00100000 01011110
00101010 00100000 00100011 01101000 00100100
00100000 01011110 00101010 00100110 01110011
00101010 00100000 01101111 01111110 00100000
00100001 00101010 00100001 01011111 01101000
00100001 00100000 00101000 01100101 00101010
01000000 00100000 00100100 00101010 00100000
01011111 00100001 00111101 01100100 01000000

As a programmer this quest seemed tailor made for me. They are all ASCII. The first is displayed as Hex, the second the base-10, the third is Base64 encoded and the fourth is pure binary (essentially the same as 1 and 2. 1 is Base16, 2 is Base10 and 4 is Base2).

Decoding these and putting them underneath each other gives, with a few line breaks for clarity:

)!ho$(##, c(# _o# h$!) $#? C+=*(% @+r )^x $!y$ @(! #$*%n !*g#)#. !c!(#s
S!=*la##, !(n _=# @e!) m#? @h=*(d f+% )^( d!*$ a(! se*%# ni$#)#. A)!(#=
)c=*$(r#, !a# _=u @$!r $#? @+a*(% @+% s^( $!*s @n! #$v%# !*$h)#. !)!(s=
)!=*l(#s, !(# y=# @$a) $e? @+=se% @o% )i( $a*$ @(d #$*e# !*$#ts. !)ro#=

t+$ %^&@ o* $i+@. F_$*!y-(^u) !ea#+# ^&^v! !h_% * !(@#y, b@% * c$i)@ (+
@h$ %^&s !* $^r@. @_ur!*-(^(r b&*#+# ^&^@e !@a% * c(@r^, *u% * !$%n@ (o
@+e %^t@ !f $^+e. @o$*!*-f^() !&*#ts ^&a@! w@_% I !a@#^, *@t * !l%)g (+
@+$ pi&@ !* f^+@. @_$*t*-!o() !&*s+# cr^@! !@_t *      , *@% I !$%)@ t+

i@ ^* #(e ^*&!e +~ !e!_$! H%*@ m* _o=$@!
$@ ^n #($ h*&!* +f !*a_$! (%*d $* w!=$@!
$@ i* t($ ^ou!* +~ d*!t$! (%e@ $y _!r$s!
$t ^* #h$ ^*&s* o~ !*!_h! (e*@ $* _!=d@!

Reading down each column and picking only a valid letter from each gives you this:

Scholars, can you hear me? Chased for six days and seven nights. Across
the pits of fire. Fourty-four beasts crave what I carry, but I cling to it
in the house of death! Heed my words!

Instructions, heed the words indeed. Travel across the pits of fire (a huge burning scar opened up in the egyptian desert outside a town) and follow it north to a tomb. In there against the pillar is a body clutching a box, the pin to unlock it is 6744.


End of spoilers. It's not the only example of this in the game but it's by far the most complicated I've encountered and in fact I quit out of the game to solve it, not having ready access to base64 and other command line tools and not wanting to use the in game web browser for fear of spoilers. This sets me thinking, why has no other online game done this? Sadly within the TSW comes the solution. The chat is commonly flooded with "I can't be bothered." and "What's the password for the doctors computer?" (a simple enough clue about the four seasons, vivaldi). Oh well.

In other news, the combat is initially solid but unenspiring with no real feel of 'connection' with your attacks. A common problem in such games and certainly not unique to TSW. However as you progress the range of skills becomes broader and the limitation of only having 6 active and 6 passive skills can lead to some judicious skill set building working out what of your array of skills will let you chain attacks to the most effect or perform efficient crowd control should the need arise.

This, coupled with underlying artifice on which the game is built (that every conspiracy theory is true) is why I love The Secret World. It really does deserve more subscribers, sadly it's not the most immediately fulfilling MMO. Either way, I'll be there as I have no monthly fees in the game. What I do need to find is a guild; those dungeons are calling me and without a group I would die screaming.

P.S. Free three day trial here, clicky you know you want to.

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Wow it’s been sometime huh? Here’s a brief rundown…

It’s all been rather hectic. Lots has been happening and unhappening. The most obvious being that the box that runs this website went a bit mental as the hard disks succumbed to age; and I’ve been too busy to fix it until this rather wet and dull bank holiday.

Anyway it’s more alive now than it has been. However because I’m a muppet I lost the website. I have a very very old copy but it’s gonna take me sometime to massage it back to life. I suspect I’ll start from scratch. In fact I know I’ll start from scratch!

In other news I’ve been playing a lot of The Secret World and been having a nose around Guild Wars 2 this morning. All looks good there. I bought a K90 Corsair keyboard, which was gorgeous until it stopped working OK. Thankfully Overclockers and Corsair rock and a new one is in the post as I type this. Should arrive tomorrow at work.

On the subject of work that’s been going really well… everyones cool and rather supportive; even when I’m doing stuff I don’t quite understand (re: PHP/Zend/Security/Forms/Payment Systems etc.).

All the PHP coding at work however has given me the impetus to revisit my own Objective-C code. I’ve spend the last week polishing my own scrobbling app which may not ever see the light of day in the app store. It does what I want, it’s very minimal and it does musicbrainz lookups to supplement the data when rejects the scrobble. Normally because it falls foul of a fubared filter, as Alanis Morissette’s “Incomplete” track did a few months ago. The downside is background notifications of song plays appear to be limited to three, so the only two ways to have it as a background app are:

– Hacks
– Check play counts on tracks and scrobble plays that have occurred in the backgrounded period (iffy but I’m looking into it)
– Integrate a music player into the app itself. Not keen on this idea and have no idea how much other processing I can do with the app running like that.

My idea to have my Delicious Library database on my iPhone has reached fruition. This is a piece of software that will definitely never be released. Mostly because I’m not allowed, though I do have permission for it on a personal learning basis. It’s actually a project I started doing whilst learning to code for iOS but quickly got back burnered when I’d learnt what I needed from it and moved onto Chef’s Book as a project that could see the light of day. I’ve still got some Core Data wizardry to do so I can search it etc. That should hopefully stop me buying books/cds/games and movies I already own when I’m out shopping!

As for Chef’s Book I have the compound predicates needed for recipe searching working. They need spit and polish and need to have a bit more natural language processing put in. Either by removing words such as and/or/with or actually processing them into their respective meanings and modifying the search accordingly.

I’ve taken lots of photos but haven’t yet punted them up to Flickr.

I took a step I’ve been thinking of taking for several years, I shut down my Facebook account. It feels good, although it would appear that many people missed the posting where I said “Hey I’m shutting down my account, you’ve got my number please call me if you want to chat”. Essentially I’d rather speak to my friends and meet them for a coffee once in a while than exchange banalities electronically!

Also there’s less photos in my face of things I don’t care about or wish to see! }:-)

What else? Not a lot. I keep a proper hand written daily journal now, having finally found a pen I can write with that doesn’t cause muscle cramps/carpal tunnel whatever the hell is wrong with my hands to flare up. I’m still going to the gym twice a week. Errr… I’m single. Again, but there’s a nice lady I talk to once a week about that crap. **grin**

I might post the odd journal type entry here now. Seeing as I can excerpt them from my diary. My pre-daily journal diary has now become my personal to-do list appointment diary, the paper that Moleskine use is crap with fountain pens compare to these lovely creations Paper Blanks. These particularly are nice Paper Blanks Mucha but too small for journal needs so I don’t know what I’m going to use them for. This is the one I’m using for journal stuff Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby Ultra. The papers nice and thick and they look lovely. I’d hunted and hunted for the Mucha ones, trying to find somewhere that had them in stock. Just because I like Mucha. They are a lot more gold in person than they look in photos on the web. Having ordered them online I found that the Waterstones in St. Albans has a tonne of them in stock upstairs. They also have a decent enough selection of the much larger ones, as does Smiths in Hemel Hempstead (upstairs).

Posted in Art, Chef's Book, Computer, Cooking, Drawing, Exercise, Games, Literature, Miscellany, Music, Photography, Programming | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Diablo 3 – Launch Day Blues

21:20 – Diziet Embless Sma: Meh.. let’s put it this way dude. You’re simply playing a slightly different version of Diablo 3.
21:21 – Diziet Embless Sma: Last night I made Level 10 at Error 37, and Level 3 at Error 12. Today I’ve got level 50 Entering Password and Level 45 Retrieving Character List.
21:21 – Diziet Embless Sma: You made Level 7 Can’t Fucking Install.

Posted in Games | 1 Comment

Backing up Steam with CWRsync

This may or may not be of use to other people, and seeing as I’ve not written a blog post for ages, I thought I’d post it here. Before demolishing my PC last year and building a new one once I found myself gainfully employed once again I was working on something to back up Steam (and indeed image my PC). I never got the hang of using windows ghost copies from batch scripts to image the windows drive out but I did come up with a bash script to copy steam off to a USB or eSATA drive:



REM ** CUSTOMIZE ** Specify where to find rsync and related files (C:\CWRSYNC)
SET CWRSYNCHOME="D:\Program Files (x86)\cwRsync"

REM Set CYGWIN variable to 'nontsec'. That makes sure that permissions
REM on your windows machine are not updated as a side effect of cygwin
REM operations.
SET CYGWIN=nontsec

REM Set HOME variable to your windows home directory. That makes sure
REM that ssh command creates known_hosts in a directory you have access.

REM Make cwRsync home as a part of system PATH to find required DLLs

REM rsync
REM -r recursive
REM -v verbose
REM -P progress
REM -k transform hard link to dir on dest.
REM -L transform symlink to dir on dest.
REM -u update, probably a winblows timestamp fix to stop it copying every file every time.
sc stop MsMpSvc
taskkill /f /im msmpeng.exe
REM rsync --delete -rvuP --exclude='Google' -exclude='Temporary Internet Files' --exclude='Local Low' --exclude='Backup' --exclude='Temp' --exclude='*Cache*' /cygdrive/c/Users /cygdrive/h/
rsync -rvukPL --exclude='httpcache' --exclude='htmlcache' --exclude='overlayhtmlcache' /cygdrive/d/Games/Steam /cygdrive/g/Games/PC/
sc start MsMpSvc

Hopefully it’s of use to someone. If you’re not comfortable with the sc stops and taskkill commands then get rid of them, I just found (especially when copying the windows users directory) that it interfered and made the rsync slow to a crawl).

In other news there’s err not a lot. If there was I’d post it here. ūüėõ

Actually that’s not true. I’ve written tonnes and tonnes of code over the last six months some of which I’d love to post but never seemed to get around to it. I’ll try and post more some. Some of things I’ve been wrestling with have been:

– Clustering Algorithms for geo location data.
– MKMapKit with transparent overlays and mad exc_bad_access errors buried deep within Map Kit/iOS. Which are mostly solved, but it still crashes occassionally even with only 1 overlay. Notably on zooming out.
– OpenGL ES, briefly last week. I’m hoping to do more fun coding in this area and have even asked my nephew to design a game. That should be amusing. ūüėÄ It will be very very weird.
– Last.fms API, I want a basic no frills scrobbling app for the iPhone that lets me use the including It turns out it’s non trivial.

There will definitely be a post on the latter. NSNotifications from the music app are particularly interesting when your app is in the background. They go missing and there’s not hard and fast rule it would appear on how long they are kept for or under what conditions they are dropped. A rule of thumb would appear to be that you receive about 3 track change notifications and that’s it. So you can’t receive information for a whole album with the app backgrounded. Whilst tackling this supposedly obvious ‘why the hell hasn’t anyone done this already?’ app I’ve realised why the apps that are out there either:

– Don’t work.
– Use a built in player.
– Build horrible caches of your play history each time (iScrobble I’m looking at you).

Sadly the latter was particularly good when it worked but now appears to not receive updates and recent changes to iOS have rendered it useless. I can only assume because it caches it’s data in a directory that is now cleared out by the OS.

On the Chef’s Book count I’ve been wanting to sneak the time in to polish off the recipe search and update the graphics and UI. It just never seems to happen. :( I’ll do it, I just don’t know when.

Posted in Games, Programming | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment