Friday, 4 October 2013


I'm away on holiday for the next week and a bit.

I'm going to see my dad for a bit of it, but the rest is basically just relaxing.  I'm going away, which has cost me more money, but unfortunately I was kinda forced into it because my landlord needs to replace the shower in the bedsit.  It's the enclosure, rather than the shower unit, but it's a pretty hefty job.  It also means he'll have to turn the water off to the bathroom.

I don't; mind too much as I could do with a bit of a change of scenery, even if it is going to be about as cheap a holiday as I can possibly achieve (so no days out anywhere).

I've taken the Monday off as well, even though I'll be back on Saturday.  This just gives me a bit of a chance to sort things out and get back into the groove before I'm back to work.  I generally don't like to come back to a full week anyway, as I find it a bit much after a holiday.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

cockneys versus zombies

I seemed to go through a terrible stretch of movies during this period.

Having not enjoyed Fanboys and The Raid, I then received Cockneys versus Zombies.  I'd heard this wasn't very good, but was hoping it would be a bit of humorous relief.

Unfortunately, it wasn't all that funny.

One of the problems with it is that it doesn't actually seem to have much of a grasp on what it wants to do with "cockneys" side of things.  Yes, it's set in the East End of London and the older characters are definitely getting into "proper" cockneys territory, but the younger element of the cast could almost have been anywhere.  And it's the younger element of the cast that's really carrying the story.

Well, I mean, obviously the story is a bit thin, but it takes up most of the time, so they're obviously on screen more of the time.

It almost feels like the whole "Snakes on a Plane" grand-concept thing.  They've come up with a title and then tried to work a plot up so that they can call it Cockney's versus Zombies, but in reality haven't really achieved that as it could have been set anywhere - there's nothing all that cockney about it

It also fails to really hit the mark in terms of scares and laughs.  I'm guessing one of the inspirations for the film was Shawn of the Dead, but the problem of course is it's not as well written and not as funny.  Also, one of the things that's probably not obvious with Shawn of the Dead is that it's actually a RomCom in structure with Zombies added as a twist.

CvZ lacks this as its core, which is okay, there are other types of films, but it's replaced it with something along the lines of a heist movie, and it doesn't do a very good job at being a reasonable heist movie.

The effects were okay, if a little thin - I'm guessing that they couldn't quite scrape up enough budget to do everything they wanted and the horror side of it ended up without enough cash to do lots of good, gorey kills.  It doesn't make up for that by being scary - there are some good jumps, but it's not really a horror movie-proper.

And as I say, it doesn't achieve the trick of being a comedy either, so it was very disappointing.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

the raid

I'd heard good things about the raid.

Specifically I'd heard it was an entertaining, somewhat old-skool martial arts film, that had loads of great action.

Well it had loads of action, I will give it that, but I have to confess I found a lot of it a bit dull.  No, that's not quite right - it's more that I got rather bored of it.

One of the things I say in quite a lot of my reviews is that they've taken a perfectly good 1hr 30min film and made it 2hr long.  Well, the raid is only 1hr 30min (ish) long, but it felt like it should probably have been 1hr long.

A lot of the fights just drag on, and I know they're brutal and harsh and well filmed and all that, but I just found myself fast-forwarding through them.

A big part of the problem was that I found the whole film ludicrous.  The plot makes no sense whatsoever.  There are also some twists in it, and these just make things confusing and undermine whatever little sense it had.

Now, don't get me wrong, I wasn't expecting it to be sensible, it's just that some of the stuff that happens doesn't actually hang together, even within the logic of the film.

I dunno - I guess I'm being harsh again, but I just found it boring.  Maybe if I'd watched it back when I went through that traditional phase most young guys go through of loving all things martial arts (Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, et al) then I'd have liked it more?

Tuesday, 1 October 2013


So...  simcity.

They released the game back at the beginning of August and the 7th (I think - I've lost track a bit) patch came out in August/September.  That's 6 months.  And I think it's only now that they've finally addressed all of the stuff that was either broken or (more depressingly) badly designed/implemented.

In some ways this isn't uncommon nowadays.  Modern games are super complicated things that have to excel both in terms of visuals as well as content.  During the early days it was all about the content - the game itself - but nowadays there's an expectation that games will look great too.

That obviously makes them expensive to develop, so there's always going to be a temptation to rush them out before they're really ready.

This is particularly the case for testing.  It must be very tempting to just do some basic testing, rather than big-scale betas.  It must be quite expensive to do proper testing and fix the game before it some out.  The temptation to release it quickly and effectively treat the first few months an extended test (one where they're paying you to test the game!) and then fix stuff later in patches.

Which is pretty much what's happened with SimCity.  Some of the stuff they've finally fixed with the last few patches makes the game operate like it probably should have done at the beginning.  Don't get me wrong - I think plenty of the stuff they've put out was probably always intended to come out as extra content and some of it has occurred to them after release (like the road height thing), it's more that some of the stuff is effectively the final version of the code that simply wasn't ready at release, or they've had to come up with because their original design was broken.

I find it all a bit disheartening and the time this has all taken and my desire not to waste time on a game that wasn't ready has meant I've not played it a great deal recently.

However, they've just announced the first proper expansion for the game, and it looks rather interesting.  It's basically a raft of things to make your cities "future cities", and includes some nice stuff

The problem is that I also think he fundamental "model" is broken.  It was clearly the intention to make a multiplayer SimCity, which is fine as it goes, but the problem is that SimCity isn't a multi-player game.  The mechanic they've chosen to achieve multiplayer seems okay - smaller cities that are interconnected, but the problem is that when you play single player, the method they've used for "simulating" other cities is just a mess.  You have to keep exiting the game (this is the only way you can force it to save) simply in order for the other cities to look even vaguely like they did when you last played them, and even then they still don't work like they should.

I mean, this whole notion they had of one city "doing garbage" another "doing industry" another "doing education/research" only looks like it might work in proper multiplayer, with all the players playing at the same time.  I say this, because I've never played multiplayer and have no interest in doing so.  I've therefore only played single player, and I can assure you this mechanic doesn't work like it should when played that way.

The thing I find bizarre is that it seems like such a simple thing to achieve.  We're simply talking about storing some basic numbers for each city - they don't need complex simulation, you just store the fact a city has x litres water spare somewhere.  Why do I have to exit the game for it to even save that number in a place that my other cities can see it updating?

Monday, 30 September 2013

eBay fun

I mentioned eBay the other week, but I thought I'd do a separate blood about their latest scam - the racket that is e-bay appears to have come up with yet another way to rip everyone off.

They've now started charging for postage.  Yes, that's right, if you enter the correct amount of postage on your item, you're now going to be 10% worse off.  Well done you cunts.

They've stated some bullshit about this being to "encourage people to offer free postage" and to "provide better value for buyers".

Now don't get me wrong - there is a giant loophole in the system as was.  If you selected "other courier" then it allows you to enter whatever value you want.  And of course, auctions up to 99p are free, so by putting 99p and then, say, £30 for postage, you could sell quite expensive items and not pay e-bay a penny.

Of course, this is playing the system, and it was something I never engaged in.  Indeed, until Royal Mails more recent price hikes, I was relatively happy to charge less for postage than it actually cost me.

For cheaper items (genuine 99p, not worth much, just want to get rid of it but don't want to throw it away type ones) I would try to get roughly the right postage, but didn't factor in cost of envelope and all that.  I didn't mind too much as 99p auctions are free to list (well, you can do 100 a month free) and then they charge 10% (10p) at the end and PayPal take 4%+20p (25p-ish), so the postage was made up by what was left.

But now let's look at the economics.  The 35p it costs on the item is still the same, but you now pay 10% of postage.  Well, for one of the White Dwarf magazines I've been selling recently, for example, the postage is a staggering £1.40.  So if you put £1.40, you're now effectively being charged 50p total, and suddenly the economics don't make a lot of sense.

But if you increase the cost of the item about 99p you're suddenly going to start being charged the insertion fee, which for a magazine is 10p.

So if you raise the initial price to £1.15 cover the additional fee, now you're being charged 10p to post the auction, and of course the end fees rise a bit too! It's the classic vicious circle that means you end up having to post the thing at £2 to make your money back, but then of course nobody wants to bid!

So why not add the extra on to the postage? Well technically it says that you're not allowed to raise your postage cost to cover this fee!

And what about offering free postage? Have they looked at the cost of postage nowadays? It costs 60 p just to send a letter.  Well if you add 60p to the 35p of charges, that's 95p of a 99p auction!

Oh, and another thing that amused me (if you didn't laugh you'd have to kill somebody) - e-bay now trumpets that they offer a money back guarantee if you're not happy with the item.  Yes, that's right; e-bay offers a money back guarantee on your item.  You've got no say in the matter...