Saturday, November 26, 2005

Lag Kills. (Web-Fu for beginners Part II)

Lag KillsIf you frequent any kind of cyberspace then you will have encountered a thing called lag. It is by far the biggest killer of online gamers of any kind, for instance and at the least has some odd effects. It refers to the observed time lag between server and home PC whether it is the internet being emotional or something else. I'll concentrate on the something else here. Lag can often be caused by the home user inadvertently with a number of applications that can be bandwidth heavy. Downloading something or using any Peer to Peer (P2P) software is the first obvious example. Not only do both of these use that all-important bandwidth (don't forget, it's not only the download speed but the upload speed which is vital, particularly for the server host), but in the case of P2P software they also use processor cycles. These are the prime causes of lag in games and anywhere else. Not only does it affect the P2Per or downloader, all the people in their immediate area are hit as well, which can sometimes have disastrous knock-on effects depending on server load and/or configuration. Not that they are the only causes by any means. Anything that is CPU-intensive can cause lag. This includes many art programmes, transferring filtime delayedes through a network, burning CD's or DVD's, having too many browser windows open, playing more than one online (or offline) game at once, in short anything that makes a computer work hard. Certain Instant Messengers are also guilty of being bandwidth-hogs, the example that springs primarily to mind being MSN which can really make a difference in some cases. Most gamers use something like Teamspeak to communicate while playing because within such programmes you can often easily control how much bandwidth you allow it to use. Then there's cheating. Using modifications to the game that are unrecognised by the server host. Not only is this incredibly bad form and gets the cheater baCouldn't resist.nned from that server (often entire communities of servers) but can cause lag for everyone in-game except (but often including) the miscreant using the cheat in the first place. So, if you're going to play an online game and want to minimise the chances of lag, shut down the downloads, switch off the P2P, stop the file transfers and discs being burnt, close all other windows except you're specialist communications if you use one and make sure that you're computer isn't downloading or installing updates in the background. Oh yeah, and never cheat. If you play more than one version of a given game (on different servers for example), then make certain that the one you are playing is the correct patch/modification for that particular server. Most Admins will not be impressed by a player who "forgot" to switch between modifications and caused a seLag. An equal opportunity killerrver crash or worse. Hopefully these tips will keep any lag you experience whilst gaming to a minimum, but they are by no means hard and fast rules, you can do everything right and still experience lag. Often you can test how bad the lag is using the in-game communication (normally text). Simply type a message in and the observed time between hitting "enter" and the time it takes to appear on screen gives you the lag factor, which explains all those messages that say "test" that you may have seen. They are testing how bad the lag is. An experienced veteran in a particular game can cope with a certain amount of lag, but I would never recommend continuing if it's too bad. In clans I have been in we have had different tactics for dealing with lag, depending upon it's severity and I may look at these in future articles. For now, an explanation of lag and it's causes should answer a few questions for those who don't know what it is exactly. How to cope with it is a different story altogether with many tips that are game specific. Hope this helps, though and as always, have fun.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Feel the Force.

Jedi TrainingAs an ex-joint-clan leader of a certain infamous Jedi clan in a Freelancer community I couldn't help but be overjoyed when I found a blogger out there that linked a superb Jedi Training game and in a nostalgic moment I felt I had to bring you certain things. A couple of hilarious ones from Metal Maverick to start off with that have been about for a while now but well worth another look. If you've not seen them already, you're in for a big treat Star Bearswith Jedi Training (flash) and Jedi Duels (flash) where we are introduced to a new Jedi hero... well, erm, a new Jedi... um... just watch them, they're funny, ok?.
Something else that has a nice retro feel is Star Bears, the Fandom Menace (shockwave) in which the player must match up lights to the keys a, s, d, z, x & c to combat... you'll get the idea and if you don't, it's a safe one to get your kids to help you with.
Lest I forget I should mention the game that got me started on this article in the firJedi Trainer. place. Jedi Trainer (flash) can be found at the awesomely clever Lost Vectors where there is all kinds of interesting stuff. I spotted it originally at Ellipsoid and the Wandering Pocket which is a great little blog that I'll keep an eye on.
Well, that's me out of the time snatched from my busy schedule - posting on a school night!

Have fun!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Battle of the Blogs: part 1

Well, I figured you all figured I've been too busy messing with my template to bother with the minor detail of actually posting anything... you could well be right. I can also claim personal and professional pressures as well with things being more than a little hectic at the moment, but that would be an excuse. I've discovered a love of playing with images and coding which has even taken over from my love of community so have been beavering away on this dirty look (you know it makes sense - who really wants a site to be clean ?) rather than sitting in the various communities where I can normally be found chatting inanely and being soundly thrashed at Battle Of The Blogs, which can be found over at Blog Explosion. An interesting and highly addictive gamBattle of the Blogs.e I have been hesitant to endorse as it had previously come along with the inherent pitfalls of any popularity game. There are many idiots out there on the web that forget the key word of "game" and take it far too personally, giving rise to petty squabbles and flame wars over what was designed in the first place essentially as fun. That said, I have found very little of that in recent times when playing this rewarding game. I say rewarding because I have found many great sites through battling and regularly use it just to remain up-to-date with certain blogs. There's also regular readers who have first seen me in a battle slugging it out in what has usually proven a fruitless endeavor. Not that I mind that - it's all data... now, don't forget I am from the gaming fraternity and realised long ago that all PC (and most other) games are just about the numbers and this is no exception. It was simplicity itself to work out that all anyone needs to do to retain a decent winning streak was wait for a weak opponent (determined their win/loss ratio) and challenge them. It's not strictly true though. I thought I had certain patterns of numbers and ratios worked out and could prejudge who would win a given battle and have been disproved time and again. Whenever humans are thrown into an equation probabilities tend to go out of the window, however there are "tricks" to producing a good battling blog and there are many really excellent ones to learn from. Not that I can speak with any great authority on the subject languishing down in the two hundreds on the leader board as I am and I must admit that in order to further my understanding of this game the desire to increase my win/loss ratio has at least partly affected my motivation for the redesign. It's not only about content, it's quality or subject matter (rest assured I will not begin writing exclusively for BotB - this remains a gaming blog & will be about them, although being a game it's right that it should at least be able to hold it's own in the arena), but many other factors are involved. The look of the blog. I've specifically gone for a dirty look to fly in the face of the current fashion of cleanliness going around. Part of what made the Ridley Scott films for me was the dirty technology. It was believable because no-one cleaned the streets; but that's not enough either - it's got to work in all it's little details and features and have a feel that is unique to that blog to set it apart from all the others. It's got to have the "wow" factor. I've still got a lot of work to do before I feel I can set my sights on the more successful Battlers out there despite by dint of some great content in the past I've pulled off some stunning victories. I am no longer resting on my laurels however, as you can see the majority of the work has been done which should earn me a place with some of the more prestigious Blog Explosion members which should in turn allow me to speak with some authority on this matter and write the far more informative and definitive part 2 of this article. At the moment the best I can say is that I haven't been able to analyse a discernible pattern at the moment. To any n00bies out there at BotB hoping to pick up some tips there is some encouragement to be had. In the lower ranked numbers there are a vast amount of blogs who no longer battle for whatever reason. With each win you will gain a number of places. A great deal of it depends on who is voting at the time and at first although it seems hard if you stick at it you will look back to all those lost battles and think that you had it easy then because you weren't fighting for every point. Two points for a win has gotten me over a hundred places before now - wish it made that much difference at this stage. If you get your win:loss ratio up to about 1:2 and make sure you vote on all the battles you should find that it pays for itself in credits and can be very rewarding. You won't remember the countless times you lose to that mommy (or whatever) blog, but you'll count the one win you get against them as a valuable scalp (I have Ficken Chingers and Kinky Nina amongst mine).

Anyway, hope you all like the new look, but if you don't, then please bear with me as on this list of things to be done is a skin changer that will allow the reader to choose between different templates. All in all, even though there's been only a few posts, I'm quite proud of the work that's gone into this to get it to look the way it does and even though it's not yet finished or polished and will be an evolving thing I am satisfied with it enough to enter the arena once more.

Who's up for a battle?

Monday, November 07, 2005

Time Travel with FuzzBuck Fuzz.

time travelBefore I go any further I'll point out now that this has nothing to do with games (well ok, maybe a little).

On Halloween night all mimsy with the witches dust I was tempted into tripping the light fantastic down a long corridor, a myriad of corridors suspended in space at once both translucent and transparent. I marveled at the majesty of creation in every direction, galaxies birthing, expiring and breathing cosmic eons. Never silent, never still. I realised that this was nothing extraordinary, the background we live our lives in utter ignorance of, but this moment was special.

There were doors in the walls.
Doors to perception?
Doors in the ceilings and doors in the floors. Trap doors, safety doors, wooden doors, metal doors, stone doors. Doors made from bone and doors made from fear. All manner of doors could be seen here. Each one had a number with style that matched it. "Pick a door." said a voice when I'd not nearly scratched it. Too much choice! I rushed and harried at speeds faster than light as I searched for the door that I knew would be right. 2119 wanted to be picked, but something was wrong so onwards I tripped. My guide wandered faster always ahead ...MY GUIDE!?... I stared at the laughter that grew slightly higher. My guide was fire. An airlock was found, was opened and entered. A dial turned at random and numbers descended.

Cloggs ;)
Beclogged and betogged and alone in the city went young master Barlow heading North with a ditty. Heading North with a passion that always would lead him although having no food he knew not who would feed him. Ten years fly by fast till we see him again. Ten years spent at sea; he's a Freeman become. A night spent aloft in a Portsmouth Tavern and Northbound again he walks with his passion. Well his passion he found in a mid country town so he rested from walking and got down to talking of love. Farming the land for the lord of his burrough, old John settled down, that roguish old bugger. Ten years gone again and he's still at the farm, though he'sMountains to challenge the soul. thinking of leaving for his true love has gone. His eyes look once more to the North in the sky and again sets out walking always asking it why. Ten years this time walking ever Northwards he goes, through the dark brooding mountains that challenge his soul. Through the snows and the wilds and the merciless crows ever Northwards he walks never stumbles or falters. Upon reaching the ocean and feeling the motion of waves; he turns round to Southwards and grins at the mountains to brave. Ten years racing Southbound to Portsmouth returned, to work on the dockside his living he earned. I ask for a snippet, a word of advice, "It's cold in the North." came the wry seadog's spice.


Well, I did say it had nothing to do with games, didn't I? No, it wasn't some crazy drugged-up hallucination, but a past-life hypnosis experience, a subject I've always found fascinating and I do think counts as "maybe a little" to do with them (although that's a 1,200 word article in it's own right) thrown together with a little creative writing. It's experimental so I'm extremely interested in what anybody & everybody makes of it.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

All work and no play...

...Makes Fuzz a dull boy...

Ok, ok, I know I haven't updated in ages - well over a week, but if you're a regular visitor you'll spot the new header and see one of the reasons why. It's been quite a lot of work on the professional and social side as well; I've been out every night this week and all day today so haven't really gotten much opportunity to write nearly as much as I'd like to. Hope you can see from above though that wheels are turning in the background to bring a new look to this blog and get the others off the ground. Far from being neglected the creation process is ticking over nicely however it's nearly 6:00 am here and I have been up, awake and active since 7:30 am yesterday morning so I hope you will all forgive me if I cut this short and finally get some sleep. Hope you like the new header :D