I previously wrote a blog about my review on NoobGrind for From Bedroom to Billions, I would recommend checking that out before reading my new review. Although I suppose you can watch them in either order, but the first documentary does provide an overview of the Amiga, and its place in the overall history of computing.
The Amiga Years, what a great documentary, well I guess that spoils my opinion, but I have written a lot more than this. Before watching the film I decided that I would delay writing a review, this way I would have time to reflect on the documentary; I didn’t want to come across as fanatical. Whilst I expected to be rewarded with another great product, I know it is not uncommon to be disappointed when armed with such passionate expectations. Thankfully I was not disappointed.
My own experiences with the Amiga are mostly focussed around the Amiga 500, although I have had a lot of access to other models. It was also great that by the end of the 80s more people I knew had also started getting access to home computers. My high school days were filled with all sorts of chats and a chance to play games at other peoples’ houses.
By the start of the 90s my dad was running a computer shop. This gave my more exposure to all aspects of computing, but particularly more games. The Amiga packs were a big part of the culture then, and it was a shame when the Amiga sales started getting increasing replaced by the IBM compatible PC machines. The capabilities of the PCs at the time still seemed terrible when compared to the range of Amigas, especially considering how cheap the Amiga 500 had become.
By the time I ran the shop in the mid-90s the Amiga was no longer selling, but thankfully the PC finally seemed to have caught up. It’s odd to recall what a difference there was in specifications and cost.
Given the tribal nature of our species it is no surprise that we form clans around a particular brand. I have been accused of being a PC fanatic, having had the luxury of access to them via our family’s computer business, but the reality is, as I mentioned in the last blog, I have had a lot of different computer brands. Although I’ve had a PC since 1995, if I had to pick a brand to be fanatic about it would be Commodore, and if I had to pick one machine in some sort of deathmatch, were era, cost and capability were weighted correctly, then I would pick the Amiga 500!
The Amiga also played an important part in helping me develop my interes
I recently watched the documentary From Bedrooms to Billions by Anthony and Nicola Caulfield. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I am looking forward to watching their new film The Amiga Years.
I have posted an article on NoobGrind about it, but whilst writing it I wrote several paragraphs explaining why this documentary meant to so much to me. However, given the size of that article, typical for me, I decided to cut the non-pertinent information from there, but decided to put it here.
My early childhood of growing up in England was dominated by the home computing revolution that took place at the start of the 80s. I was fortunate to have a father who had an interest in electronics, which lead him in to this new home computing hobby.
We started out with a Commodore Vic 20, then upgraded to a Commodore 64; I got my own Commodore 16. A few of our neighbours also got computers, one friend’s house had a Spectrum 48k, whilst another had various Amstrads, and another friend had an Atari 2600. At school we had a BBC Micro. Also living in Blackpool meant I could visit the arcade and compare those machines. So I was exposed to a multitude of systems, and I guess this is why I’ve tried to avoid being dedicated to just one system.
I am not so obsessed with nostalgia that I want to return to those technologically inferior days. I have no issue with retro gaming, my main criteria is that the game has to be good. I acknowledge that some of the games that I have really enjoyed decades ago are of certainly of their era. It certainly wouldn’t make sense to insist that a player in the here and now has to play the ancient games; the term ‘has to’ is nasty. I think even old classics should generally be talked about only in context of their era.
A classic game that can still work well today is Street Fighter 2. It was amazing when it was released, and even with all the developments in the years since, it is still a great game. Whilst Way of the Exploding Fist came out years earlier, and was amazing when it was released, I can appreciate that the game is of its era. I did play it last year and I quite enjoyed it, but I don’t think most gamers would. I’ve previously written about how these two games helped form my role-playing passion, links below.
I ran a computer shop in the mid-90s, and I can recall chats about whether in the future there would be big interest in documentaries about the spread of computer gaming. It was agreed that computing would continue to develop, that interest would increase, but a few regular customers said they thought gaming would always be niche. The majority of my regulars thought the idea that gaming wouldn’t keep expanding was ludicrous, but those who thought gaming would stay relatively small pointed out how biased we were. A fair point to raise, but even back then the game sales figures showed a big trend towards ongoing expansion. This was during the period I referred to at the time as era of the Doom-virus; every PC sold, or even brought in to the shop for repairs, normally went out with the freeware 7 levels of Doom.
Given that I was dabbling with coding from 6 years of age, and trying to learn 6502 assembler at 8, I did ponder whether I should feel regret at not managing to make a game in that time period. I think it is fair to say I was a bit too young for the 8bit bubble. At the time I certainly never heard of young kids making games, whilst there were a few teenagers, even they were rare. By the time I was about 9 years old the Amiga was coming out, at the time I felt like what little progress I’d made had become pointless. When I went to high school at aged 11 I discovered AD&D and other role-playing games, and for many years I had little interest in computing. I actually felt weary of the subject, in part due to the terrible ‘I.T.’ lessons.
A few years ago I read Malcom Gladwell’s book Outliers, which highlights the importance of being in the right place at the right time, and what a small window it usually is. Crucially, since I did eventually go on to study programming and work at a games company, I did achieve major goals.
I am now fortunate to have occasional hours without any pain, but then excruciating pain in my left shoulder, neck and even arm, can return for seemingly no reason; likely my pathetic amount of activity was too much. Due to this the new role-playing article I have been tinkering with just feels like a low priority. I decided not to force myself to write something, but thankfully something came along and grabbed my attention.
I have been putting off upgrading my PC for about a year. Since my current system does what I need it to do, I have been able to get by. Amusingly I don’t want to upgrade for gaming reasons, but due to how resource demanding Dragon NaturallySpeaking is. Though the software works incredibly accurately the vast majority of the time, there are occasional moments when it struggles.
Last week I finalised a list of parts and sent an email to a company to price up for me. Thankfully they have been slow in responding, which is handy since NVIDIA have announced their new video card range. So at the weekend I watched the presentation and got quite excited due to how impressive the cards are. After a lot of research I ended up writing an article for NoobGrind about them: http://www.noobgrind.com/next-gen-graphics-cards/
The GTX 1080 is certainly more than I need currently. Buying one would be a bit like buying a sports car but then never driving it more than 30mph. However, in the future I do have plans; I will ponder more.
I hope to have a role-playing related article finished in the next few days. I’ve had a few really interesting ideas recently about my decade long unfinished guide, motivation to do something without that is growing.
The cortisone injection last week went well, with the doctor successfully injecting the area on the first attempt. The pain of the needle going in was not that bad, I was reading SuperBetter on my Kindle during the process, to help distract me from the pain, it did help a bit. Then as the injection of the fluid occurred the pain skyrocketed, it felt like a large object landing on the area; the doctor said that this could be a good sign, as it indicates that the injection had hit the right area due to how sensitive it was.
My body had an immediate reaction to the amount of pain, I started sweating a lot and nearly passed out. However, the experience sorting out my damaged right ear was far worse, so to anyone reading this due to worrying about their own cortisone injection I’d say yes it will be painful, but you will handle it. The pain experienced for the next two days was more like how the shoulder pain had been a few weeks ago, so not a big deal in the grand scheme of things.
Writing & Motivation
Whilst things had improved a little bit I have still lacked motivation to do much, as well as still needing to prioritise doing nothing. So despite receiving positive feedback about the Kaizo Trap and Cyberpunk articles in particular, I have not finished any articles for a few weeks, and I had planned follow-ups on those previous articles. At least I have had time to think about them, but after making a few notes, I then don’t have the urge to continue. Considering I could ramble on using speech recognition whilst in bed it would seem easy enough, but I just didn’t want to, until today when I got so frustrated I decided to ramble a bit.
One of my coping mechanisms whilst resting up has been watching all sorts of videos, I have written a NoobGrind article about Gaming and Disability: Value of Video, which as per normal for me turned into a thousand word piece. I hope to be able to maintain motivation and get back to writing articles about role-playing games and my professional experiences.
I have another doctor’s appointment today, and I will need a further sicknote extension for hopefully just a week or two, and then maybe the injection will prove to have been effective. As mobility has improved I have been at least able to do a tiny amount of yoga and tai chi, and I hope that this progress will help trigger further strengthening without interfering with the current healing by re-aggravating something. I am still having to hold off at attempting anything Brazilian Jiu Jitsu related.
As pain reduces and health improves, I expect (hope) motivation will return. I guess if things don’t improve then I will have to change mental gears anyway. SuperBetter is helping, but I will write about that another time.
Personal Update: My MRI scan revealed a lot fluid around my left shoulder, but thankfully no major structural damage was detected. The massive amount of swelling has slowly been reducing, since I am not doing much, which is incredible frustrating. The incredible levels of pain has reduced somewhat as the swelling has gone down, I still have chronic intense pain, so stating it has reduced is almost meaningless, but it is an improvement at least. Any hopes to go back training in February were quashed back in January, and it seems like the whole of March will be out as well.
I have a new article up on NoobGrind. This one is about the idea of gaming studio legacy, and how for the most part it is not something that should be treated as important, although there are a few notable exceptions. I don’t have much extra to add to the article, other than I did delete a sizeable amount of swearing when I first wrote about publishers. It did get me thinking, surely there must be a publisher that deserves attention for not being a metaphorical incarnation of evil and capitalist extremism. If there is truly only anomalies to the norm than that really is a horrible indictment on the gaming industry.
In personal news: My MRI scan on 22 January 2016 went well, whilst it wasn’t as claustrophobic as the tunnel scanner, it was still somewhat due to the size of the machine.
Old Post: It took a lot of effort to get this article completed, mostly due to pain and sleep issues. At least it was fun remembering so many gaming sessions, some serious, some silly, but all enjoyable.
Street Fighter is an amazing role-playing game, a flawed gem. Despite the problem of some awful game mechanics, as well as the lack of obvious depth to the setting, I found the game to be a good framework to build from. Just like other RPGs, the expansion books were helpful in expanding the setting, and adding new mechanics, but the common issue of power creep is quite evident with the Player’s Guide. In fact some of the new Special Maneuvers were clearly not playtested much, or the single playtest missed the point, Cartwheel Kick in particular seems to joyfully abandon all pretence of balance.
It would be cherry-picking of me to ignore the few role-players that I spoke with that had immediately dismissed the idea of playing the Street Fighter RPG. Nearly all of those I recall were not people I normally gamed with, so it is hard to say what to type of gamers they were, or their preferences. Over the years I have pondered whether there is anything special that could be taken/learned from those chats, to be fair to them I assume that many of them were fun-loving gamers who have tried all sorts of games. Maybe they didn’t play SF2 much, maybe they preferred to stick to one RPG system, and quite likely they were not interested in martial arts; I suspect it is the normal combination of different factors that just happen to put them off.
My take away from the Street Fighter RPG is that it was a good experiment. In the world of maybes this game could have become a big hit, maybe if they had not been rushed, maybe decent playtesting would have fixed problems, maybe making the game a bigger priority for company resources. I’d recommend the game, but just using the core rulebook at first. One day I should sort out my own big list of house rules to publish, although that’s a low priority.
In summary, like with any RPG, it helps if the people you are playing the games want to play, stay engrossed, and don’t get bogged down in rule debates. This of course is the ultimate truth about RPGs, but also a bit of a cop-out 😉
I have written another NoobGrind article. I hope the surprise twist for the 3rd article works, I worry it may not be as cool when written out as when I first thought about it …
Currently I have a lot of pain in my neck, shoulders and arms, even sitting up can escalate it. I have been given some stronger painkillers and told to rest up more, so hopefully that will help. Maybe my negative spin on my writing is more to do with a lack of sleep and constant pain, but then writing can always be improved 😉
I am currently experimenting with a new setup. I am using Dragon NaturallySpeaking whilst lying in bed and looking at a monitor that is high up, and has been angled to make it easy to view whilst lying down.
EDIT2019 Noobgrind has gone, so I have added the articles to this site.
Updated: From Way of the Exploding Fist to Street Fighter RPG 3 part series
Before I write about the Heart of Thorns I think it is important to clarify for those that are unfamiliar with chronic long-term problems the mixed opinions of seemingly the majority of people. With short-term injuries/illness it is normal to put most things on hold, since time to rest and heal is required. However, with long-term issues the idea of keeping your life on hold becomes frustrating and possibly infuriating, with often no idea how long things will take to improve, or in some cases knowing that things will never improve.
So deciding when hobbies can be continued is an important part of the decision-making for some semblance of peace of mind. It should be easy for most people to understand that having a hobby taken away from you would be extremely upsetting/annoying, therefore it should not be a big leap of logic to appreciate why people who are not able-bodied, in the average sense, would still try to find a way to carry on with their hobbies.
Nearly two weeks ago the Guild Wars 2 (GW2) expansion Heart of Thorns came out, which I had pre-ordered when my wrists had not been so bad. So I was faced with a dilemma, whether to try and play the game despite my current RSI wrist problems, or leave it for a few months, or even indefinitely. Fortunately I carried out an experiment using my speech recognition software, Dragon NaturallySpeaking, and this proved to me that it is possible to control my character, but predictably with nowhere near the same efficiency level.
I was really looking forward to playing the Revenant, however due to the nature of using speech recognition to control the character I determined that I wouldn’t be able to do a good job of controlling a profession I did not know. Since GW2 came out my main character has been a Ranger, and fortunately this meant that my best geared character, as well as the profession I am most knowledgeable about also has a better chance of standing at range using the pet to tank. This means my character is rarely close to an enemy, thus in less danger, and therefore better suiting a casual playing style. With the option to give the pet taunt (new to GW2) via its F2 power, this provides an extra margin of control in the fight that I found reduced my need to carry out fewer reactions.
Part of why I enjoy Guild wars 2 is because I love the emphasis on movement, and in particular their dodge system. However, when it comes to minimising keypresses GW2 is not ideal in many of its fights, particularly boss fights. I found that saying “press control V” generally was fast enough for my character to dodge out of the way of danger, and using the various attacks was simple enough, for example “press 1”. With auto run having a key bind, and the fact the character will keep attacking without having to constantly say “press 1”, this is why I consider it playable enough.
Occasionally there is an extra pause whilst the software determines what is being said, and this has led to me learning to be quick with my verbal reactions, which was initially difficult due to it being a different way of playing.
This also meant changing gear away from full Berserker set, to something more survivable. I almost never die in combat, and am very rarely even downed, which I rate as good game play, especially considering how brutal some fights are in Heart of Thorns. Granted I am being a bit more cautious than normal, more attentive, but as with all game play, the player’s decision making and assessment of what they can achieve is a core part of skill. So, maybe oddly to some, I actually enjoyed my time playing, although in part because I have had a break from gaming.
I wrote a review for Noobgrind about a summary of my opinions of Heart of Thorns. The length of the article quickly became an obvious enemy, there is just so much to write about, but since the article was starting to approach two thousand words I decided to keep it brief, and look for bits to cut out. I decided that similar things I want to write about could be in another article.