Wednesday, August 11, 2004

More Dawn of War crap

As much as I'm enjoying being immersed in the 40K universe (cue bitch fights with The Flatmate, who's adamant that the Warhammer Fantasy universe is where it's at) , the game grows dull, stuck, as I am with one level to play on.

I can see that Relic are aiming forthe online side of the game to be a large partof the experience - and I'm sure they'll take their practised arm to the single-player campaigns very well - but it seems to me that online games are just going to turn into power gaming fests, degenerating into either troop rushes, or stagnated, stalemated trawls through tech levels.

The bigger your army, the more likely you are to win; the bigger your army, the harder it is to control. A reflection of real life, perhaps, but an irritant in the context of this game. RTS games have never really been my bag, baby, so I guess that I would inevitaby fall out of love with Dawn of War. I just didn't expect the novelty to wear off so soon.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Noon of War (well, about quarter to one)

The Orks are, obviously, the most fun to play. Well, how could they not be? The Ork race is, in the Warhammer universe anyway, the life and soul of every party. Of course to them a party means bringing along four tofive hundred mates, needs some high calibre automatic weaponry and, if possible, orbital bombardment, but still. You get my meaning.

The one real problem I have with the game so far is that the Eldar play so differently from the other three races. The Orks might require one more resource than the Space Marines or Chaos Marines, but that's not that much of a hardship. Instead of building a turret next to your listening posts (for no extra gain), you build a Waaargh! bannerthat ultimately adds to the power of your army. The Eldar, however, start with the puny Guardians and remain with the puny Guardians until and unless you research the different Warrior Aspects available. Their tech tree is different from the one the other three races share.

It seems to me that if you're going to have four unique races then they really should all be unique - or all the same.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Dawn of War

I've been playing the Beta version of the Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War today, in between bouts of re-starting my PC.

(I wish I knew what the hell was causing the problems with my machine. The BSOD errors, and a lucky find on the net seem to point to my DSL modem drivers - of which I have the latest version. Bugger. If I had a boot disk, I'd just format and go back to WinME, cos I've had nothing but trouble since upgrading to XP. Of course, I'd also need to install a floppy drive...)

It's certainly the first videogame (that I've played) that's managed to capture the perceived atmosphere of the 40K universe. Chaos Cultists beg for mercy while you whip and lash them to work, Space Marine Commanders laconically reflect on the need to worship the Emperor and carry Big Guns, and the Orks shout a lot. The Gretchin sound a little too much like Serkis' Gollum, in my view. I still haven't played as the Eldar, but playing against them, they seem to follow the combat roles that one would expect from these future-Elves; martial arts, high speed and longevity of life.

The demo only allows one single player tutorial map, and only online multiplayer games. The tutorial is a skirmish mode game, using the Take and Hold rules: capture strategic points around the map, slowly advancing on the enemy. These points give resource points, allowing you to build facilities and vehicles, and recruit troops. So far, so C&C. Luckily enough, that's as far as resource collecting goes, apart from the ubiquituous power generators and their handy electricity. The three races I've tried so far seem to play pretty much the same, albeit the Orks need Waaaagh! power as a third resource.

It's fun, but far from revolutionary so far. I wish there were more game modes available, but, alas, not.

Foreignland is far away.

The problem - or one of the problems, at any rate - with having a foreign fiance is that it's hard to have sex when you're both within the confines of your natural born national boundaries.

The Feyoncé? Stuck in Finland, exam schedule full. Her plan to come to Scotland for a year curtailed by the intransigance of failed exams.

Myself? Stuck here in Scotland, trying - and failing, for the most part - to save enough money to go to Finland and see her.

Researching prices this morning, I discovered that the average round trip from Glasgow Airport to Oulu in Lapland was going to cost upwards of £400 and involve at least three planes. Bah, humbug. Not what I wanted.

Thankfully, there is always an easier way these days. One cheap trip to Stockholm Skavsta, followed by another from Stockholm Arlanda to Oulu, and I'm there for £200. In theory. Ryanair's strangely fluctuating prices (£69.99 Prestwick-Skavsta on the Monday, £4.99 for the same trip on Tuesday) means that it could end up more expensive, but for a 2500 mile round trip (or whatever it is) I'll take it.

Maybe I'll learn how to ski.

Friday, June 25, 2004

You're going home, you're going home...

Once again the mighty media machine that are the English tabloid newspapers has fuelled the country with hopes and dreams of their national team winning Euro 2004.

And once again, the team fails to live up to these expectations, and are put outof the tournament.

It's a symptom - from my Scottish point of view, anyway - of the arrogance of the English state and mindset, a hangover form the days of the Empire that the lowest common demoninator papers have never forgotten. I still remember the xenophobic hysteria provoked by The Sun et al during the 1996 tournament, both before and after England were beaten in the semi finals by Germany.

And tomorrow those same papers that were claiming the team as national heroes will begin the deconstruction of those stars: Beckham missed a penalty, Sven Goran Eriksson got his tactics wrong, Rooney got injured and was subbed (but he's okay, he'll be blameless), Phil Neville was allowed on the pitch...

A myriad of reasons will be given, a multitude of blames applied...and they'll never get to the point of admitting that their team just isn't good enough. Even in these times, when once mighty footballing nations like Germany and Italy are falling foul of the inevitable encroachment of mediocrity, England are - at best - an average side, fuelled by one single past glory, and the memorys of an Empire long gone.

Britain once straddled the world like a colossus, and now the Empire is a Commonwealth in name only. England - the football team - won the World Cup almost forty years ago, thanks in part to home field advantage and legendarily dodgy refereeing. But the tabloids continually pump the English people full of nonsense, making them believe that this one and only tournament victory gives them the right to turn up at these championships and win! They've never even made another final!

After all, Uruguay won the first two World Cup tournaments - how feared are they on the world stage? This much --> not very.

It's a shame too, because England could have a great side, but the tabloids pick the team for the manager. Rooney (the new Pele my fucking arse) is a victim of his own hype, as was Micheal Owen before him, and David Beckham (though he's done very well out of it financially, and marrying a pop "star" certainly didn't hurt) is far from the player the tabloids want him to be.

Still, there's always World Cup 2006.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Talking About Work: 2 - The morality of being a barman.

In my darker moments, and I have a few now and again (though if you knew me in RL, you wouldn't really know as I'm the picture of sunshine and cheeriness, when I'm not threatening to give skanky fucknugget customers facial burns).


In my darker moments, I've often thought about what it is I, and my fellow barstaff actually do.

On the one hand, we're there to help: it's our job to provide quick, efficient and friendly service, facilitating your good night out. We pour the pints, mix the cocktails, clean the glasses and wipe the tables. We should, hopefully, keep the scumfucks as far away from Good People as possible, allowing Good People to enjoy themselves in safety and comfort.

But we're not dogsbodies. We're not servants. We are not there to clean up your puke and shite and piss, to break up your fights, or to be treated badly. Treat barstaff with respect, and you'll receive much better service. This is one the Truths of Britain's pub culture. Do not fuck with us, as Tyler Durden once said.

Ahem, again.

The point. Getting to it. On the other hand, barstaff can also be there to hinder: I work in what can fairly be said to be a damn cheap boozer. It's big, pints are £1.55, and we have a lot of regulars who are career drinkers. Every time I serve them a pint, they're one more drink closer to death. That's the dark side of being a barman. We have the power to refuse service to anyone - yes, anyone - but we don't. We allow these guys to come into the pub day after day after day and drink themselves into the grave.

Because, you know, we may be able to refuse service, but we can't tell you how to live. Only how to behave.

Friday, May 21, 2004

24 Hour Licensing: Or, How We Decided To Let The Country Stab Itself All Night Long

Earlier on today I caught some random numpty talking about how the pub industry should start paying for the disruption it causes. That's a whole nother rant, though. What I want to rant about here, is the mention of 24-hour licensing. It's something that's been rumoured as "going to happen soon" since I first started pub work in 2001.

Whenever pubs or alcohol are mentioned in the news these days, it always seems to be inconjunction with "must stop binge drinking". To paraphrase Bill Hicks, "there is alcohol, therefore there is binge drinking". I'm currently working for Wetherspoons, and believe me, cheap (or "respectably priced" as my manager puts it) as they are, their manager training puts emphasis on getting shite people and durnk people out of your pub. "There is alcohol, therefore there is binge drinking". Crach down on pubs, and the profits for the off trade go up...

But on one hand, the govermnent complains and blames the pub industry, and then with the other they're constantly - but silently - trying to push 24-hour licensing.

What a monumentally stupid idea. I mean, no, really, fuck off. You're mad, wrong, fucked up on big red pills and just all over STOOPID.

The first pub I ever worked in was also - at the time - the biggest pub in the centre of Glasgow, and consequently had the highest take, at arounf £50K a week. This all changed to a couple of factors: month of £1 a pint, bottle and single, which invited the worst scum of Glasgow in to get cheaply steaming; and the opening of Lloyds No. 1, the first of it's type in Scotland, and a pub which was taking a staggering £100K per week at its peak - even though it was around half the size of my pub, and not that much more expensive.

Now, thanks to the extensive trouble that occurres in Lloyds, they've found that Glasgow City Council has rejected their application for the normal license extension that most other city centre pubs have. This means that they close at 11pm every night, and between 2pm and 6pm on Sundays. They also have to have one member of staff per 10 tables and - at last count - 15 security staff on duty at weekend.

Now imagine this pub was open 24 hours.

When the nightclubs close at 1am, 2am, 3am, whatever it is around your area, there will be fighting. There will be fighting because this is what happens when people drink to excess - and it's far, far easier to drink to excess and get away with it in a nightclub than it is in a normal pub.

Now you imagine that the city centre pubs are open all night. So when you leave the nightclub, steaming, you go to the pub for a few more. Does the doorman let you in? No, cos you're pished. So there's a fight. And if you get in? Well, there'll probably be a fight anyway.

Let's look at financial facts. During the night, how many customers are you going to have? In a pub the size of The Goose in Glasgow, my first pub, we'll say less than 30 a night - excluding all the drunken nightclub fuckers who would be turned away STRAIGHT AWAY. Those 30 people a night will probably only buy one or two pints each, then head home - and if it's nighshift people then they wont be in until 6, 7, 8am. So you're paying your minimum five staff by the hour for a twelve hour shift - you couldn't realistically expect people to do half a night shift - and you'll be paying them at a greater rate, because it's night shift. On top of that you have higher utility overheads, where are you making money? Why should any pub think this is a good idea? Higher overheads, more fighting...

I love working in pubs, because its fun and sometimes exciting and sometimes dangerous and never, ever a hard job. But the day I'm asked to work in a 24-hour licensed premises is the day I go on the dole. And christ, that's just about anathema.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Late Night Shenanigans

It's 7am. I am not drunk. I am, however, working in less than twelve hours. Wahey.

The stillness of night is always my favourite time. I've never bothered my arse with this whole "regular sleep cycle" thing I've heard about. They it's quite healthy for you. I say I'll sleep when I fall over.

Probably where I get my general lack of motivation from. Being tired, unrefreshed all the time. I'd worry about it more, but I can't be bothered.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Nicotine Lament (over)

I have cigarettes now. All Is Good.

On Games

I'm one of those socially inept, weak looking outcasts called "Game Geeks" by numptys and Daily Mail readers. Apparently because I'd rather sit inside and enjoy a fascinating videogame experience than go outside and slowly bake myself in the sun, opening up my pores to the possibility of skin cancer, I'm sad and lonely.

Wrong, obv.

The thing with videogames and gaming is that it's Today's Scapegoat. It's the thing that can be used to blame society's ills away. Again, wrong, obv. It's Television, it's Rock'and'Roll music, it's Dirty Dancing. It's still a relatively new form of expression, but one that's advancing and evolving much faster than its nearest audio-visual neighbour - cinema - because there is far more technology in place in the here-and-now than there was at the beginning of the last century.

Of course, that doesn't sell tabloids. Admittedly, videogames don't sell tabloids at any point, because they're still not that important, but there's plenty of scope for shitrags like The Sun or (spit) The Mirror to have a Page 5 story about GTA3 glamourising violence against women, or that Super Monkey Ball is glamourising monkey abuse, or that Mario Sunshine is glamourising plumbers fucking off on holiday...

Videogaming is probably going to be the most lucrative and most creative arm of all entertainment industries this century. The possibilites are endless. At the moment we're stuck in front of televisions or monitors, but what about playing games in Motion Capture suits? What about when the convergence between cinema and gaming finally happens, and we get truly interactive movies?

The current level of scapegoat-ism only comes about because the naysayers and tabloid editors are exploiting the general ignorance about gaming amongst the majority of the public. When that ignorance becomes education, when my generation, when my childrens generation are the ones doing the writing, then there will be another scapegoat, something else to blame our problems on.

Becuse we wouldn't have it any other way.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Talking About Work: 1

So I work in a largish pub in the centre of Scumdee. It's old, open now for going on seven years, and is falling to bits a little. The clientele is composed of most of Scumdee's middle-rank scum: y'see, we're cheap, but not that cheap. Old men, old women, hardeneddrinkers every single one of them. That on one side of the pub anyway, the smoking side. On the non-smoking side we actually get nice people, who come in for a meal and maybe a drink or two. It's a mix, a juxtaposition of people and personalities.

On the whole it's a fun place to work. I've only been there six months, but I've made some firm friends, including my current flatmate. However, I've never worked anywhere where there has been so much back-room backstabbing and politics. Christ. It's like a fucking minefield, every time you go in for a shift. And, lucky me, I'm the only one not involved in any of it - which means that I hear everyones complaints about everyone else and have to keep them to myself. That's a bit of a bugger.

Sometimes I just wanna cry.

Nicotine lament.

There's shit happening all over the world right now. Bad shit. All I want is a cigarette. That wont save the world, wont make the bad stuff go away, but at least I'll feel a little better.

Man, it's been hard recently. The Feyonce is currently 2000 miles away or something. I've seen her for five weeks out of the last 52, and right now this is a bad can get nicotine patches y'know. Even one of them would do.

Sometimes I wonder what I was doing, y'know. Pissed as a fart, proposing. Sometimes the thought of actually having to live with the consequences of my actions for a change scares me, just like the thought of getting married scares me. I suppose most of that fear comes from the fact that the Feyonce is Finnish...who knows where our lives will end up. She can speak her native tongue, is fluent in Swedish and English, and has basic French and German. I'm from the East End of Glasgow: I can barely speak English.

And you know, I wouldn't care a damn thing about our future if she was here with me.

Or if I had a goddamn cigarette.