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Friday, December 05, 2014

I'm back, kinda!

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Well, it's been a while, a couple of months in fact since my last blog post. There are a variety of reasons, some mundane, others less so, but it's really all been down to other things taking up my attention and time. Work, kids, social engagements, foreign travel and the like. There have been a few gaming related things that I've been up to however, so here is a quick update on those. I'll probably expand on them in more detail soon (assuming I find the time!).

First of all I took the plunge and bought into the new console generation. I plumped for an X-Box One for several reasons, primarily the fact that I have a few friends with one, and also because of the media capabilities (of which the PS4 has virtually nothing). To be honest it's serving as more of a media hub than anything (after all, I'd rather play most games on my PC), but it has really impressed me. Seriously, don't believe the naysayers, it's a great piece of kit (and controlling my TV by voice alone is still great). Together with my PLEX media server its the perfect multimedia centre. I've been enjoying Forza, FIFA 15 and Shadows of Mordor on it too.

Other gaming related activities include starting a new Call of Cthulhu campaign, this time as an investigator. It's been a lot of fun so far, and a bit different too, with it being set during the late 1990s. It's also a lot deeper than I was expecting and rapidly developing into another globe spanning adventure. Adurj is doing a great job as keeper and keeping us all on our toes.

On the PC I have spent some time test an in-development MMO that is due for release at the end of next year. It's early days, but I'm really impressed with what I've seen so far. More on that when time and NDAs allow!

Finally I've been pretty much spending every spare minute recently playing Dragon Age Inquisition. I will definitely get deeper into the subject in a future post but I'll summarise now by saying that despite it's many issues it is my game of the year by an absolutely huge margin. In fact, it's my favourite game for a long, long time and it is still surprising me every time I play it. It's a game to immerse yourself in, and there is so much content it gets overwhelming at times (after around 24 hours of play time I though I was near the end of the game, and then it revealed I was only just finishing up the introduction...). Almost 60 hours in and I don't feel like I've seen a quarter of the world yet.

So, that's what I've been up to. Now, back to Thedas, there's dragons to kill.

Monday, October 06, 2014

For Richer, For Poorer by Victoria Coren

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For Richer, For Poorer: A Love Affair with PokerFor Richer, For Poorer: A Love Affair with Poker by Victoria Coren
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Partly a biography, partly a treatise on modern poker, and partly the story of how Victoria Coren became the first female million-dollar-winner of the European Poker Tour (she's since gone on to win it a second time), this is one of the most readable books about a complex subject I've ever read.

Part of that is the chatty, witty writing style and, whilst it doesn't hold your hand in explaining the exotic-sounding poker terms and expressions, the book is still completely clear. This is because it is less about the game, and more about the bizarre and fascinating community that plays it.

Using Alice's Adventures in Wonderland as the metaphorical map through the rabbit-hole is a great device that mirrors the highs and lows of a life spent chasing cards in a game that was going through massive changes due to the internet.

Before reading this book I mainly new Victoria Coren from her great columns in The Observer and The Guardian newspapers, as well as her hosting of the fabulous Only Connect. My admiration for her has only increased since reading the book, the tale of an outsider in the shady world of professional poker, fighting acceptance, mysogyny, and her own addictions along the way. In the end she won me over in the same way she won the EPT - by knowing that "it's really not about the money".

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

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Inspired by the weird fiction of Lovecraft and the ghost stories of M.R. James, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a first-person narrative exploration game in which you investigate the disappearance of a young boy in the remote hills of Wisconsin. It's a game that breaks new ground in many ways, and whilst short (my playthrough, which I didn't rush, took around four hours) it lingers long in the memory.


The first thing that will strike you is how amazingly beautiful the game looks. Red Creek Valley is by far the most realistic and beautiful environment I've ever seen in a game. It's an absolute joy just to wander and get lost in the visuals, and my screenshots key has never seen so much use (screenshots do not do any justice to the in-game visuals by the way).

New indie developer The Astronauts achieved this incredible feat by turning to a new technique for generating game assets known as photogrammetry. They have a blog post on their site detailing the method, with some great examples of how it works. That they achieved this with a team of only eight people (including just a single programmer) speaks volumes as to how a small indie team can beat AAA titles by developing new techniques. It's a stunning achievement. Don't be surprised to see the technique used elsewhere now, as it makes the virtual worlds of many triple AAA games look drab by comparison.
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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Masks of Nyarlathotep - A review of the last two years

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Adurj summed up many of my thoughts on our recent two-year-long Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign in his guest post. It's been a bit of an epic, and I have to admit that I'm a little surprised we got through it in the end. We took a break half way through due to the birth of one player's first son, but managed to get the momentum going again pretty quickly.


It's kind of difficult to formulate my thoughts after such a long campaign. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, and despite the work involved in keeping everyone up to speed and motivated I looked forwards to every session. It was interesting to see how the players changed their approach as the campaign progressed, with caution eventually giving way to reckless abandon as the months went by.

I'm certainly going to take some great memories away with me, and I can imagine that when we all get together over some beers the conversation will inevitably turn to our shared experiences. We still talk about our Cthulhu sessions from years ago.
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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Players Perspective

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Hola!

I think this is a first for 'Far Beyond My Capacity'. It's nice to come first. Yes, I'm a guest blogger! It's been an eternity since I blogged myself over at 'Le'Bard Connection' but I'm here to give it a go. It's worth it. Saving the World needs a special celebration right?

Good table top roleplaying stays with you. It can build an adventure of the imagination so vivid that the memories last a life time. The last time my Brother ran a Call of Cthulhu campaign was around 20 years ago. Cthulhu on the Orient Express. I can still remember my characters on their fearless journey. Shade Otakuwe, Circus Performer, and Constantine, a hybrid of a whip wielding Indiana Jones and the cavalier Liverpudlian (yes, I know! HellBlazer wasn’t as well known back then!). So around two years ago when my Bro contacted our old school years table top group and asked who wanted to try an experiment to see if Fantasy Grounds would be a good medium to get a remote table top campaign going again, we all jumped at the chance.

This time round, there was an addition to our group - Matt, a great guy who we had met MMO’ing on EverQuest2 and had remained friends with ever since. Aside from that it was all the OldSkool. Simmsy, Davey Cee, James and of course, myself. All under the careful tutorage of our Games Master, my older brother Neil. As long as Fantasy Grounds worked OK, we kind of all knew what to expect. Neil is an extremely imaginative and competent GM. Which to us meant that we would be led through one hell of a crazy ride should the experiment prove successful. We were not disappointed. Not in the slightest. Skype and FG worked fantastically and the next two years would prove to be yet another amazingly enjoyable, memorable and truly epic campaign across the globe in an effort to save the World from certain destruction at the hands of The Elder Gods. 

My Bro documented the journey from start to finish, so I’m not going to go in to the intricacies of the storyline but I’d like to add some snippets showing my favourite parts and the experiences that embodied the last two years for me from The Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign (You'll find the list after the jump). They are not in chronological order. Just the order that they popped in to my brain. There are a load more too. As the memories started to flow, I had to curb my input. There’s just too many to list!

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