Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Migration Alert

Through the Eyes of a Journalist has now moved to its new home so click here and don't forget to update you're bookmarks.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Typepad v Wordpress v Blogger: Choices, Choices

I'm antsy and have been looking for a new blog provider over the last couple of days. I like Blogger; it's adequate and the code is easy to tinker with but feels so generic. Yes, I know you can get new skins and I've managed to tinker with it over the past couple of years (including the addition of a third column) yet it doesn't feel like me.

Increasingly, the internet is becoming the place for journalism and I already have a sizeable web presence (just Google my name and the word 'journalist') but this blog, however much I love it just doesn't feel like me. I want a clean, original template that's easy to customise and add widgets too so I've been looking at Blogger's two main competitors: Wordpress and Typepad.

My thing is, while I have my own site, I'm really not to keen on self-hosting. I'd love to get my own blog domain and have someone else host it, saves time and hopefully money. That way I can just put a 'blog has moved' note up and start afresh.

Last night, I put a shout out to the Twitterverse and the response has been massive and mixed; nearly everyone recommended self-hosting but the choice between Movable Type (Typepad's self-host option) and Wordpress has been nearly evenly split. Not exactly helping .... but still.

This evening Anne started a new thread on Journobiz about Typepad's Journalist Bailout Program which is designed to help all the (mainly American) journos screwed by the credit crunch and the massive layoffs from numerous media companies across the pond. I've emailed to find out if it's dependent on being a US-based journo but I think it's a fantastic idea, especially as most journos are expected to maintain a blog both inside and outside of work, often as a place to highlight work or comment on big issues.

With the new year coming up (along with my fifth year as a freelance journalist), I'm eager for a change and the chance to make my corner of the internet a more interesting place. I want a blog that not only looks impressive but also feels like an extension of me, I still have no idea where it's going but I'd look for migration to another provider in the very near future if I were you.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Living the Freelance Dream: The 'Wrath of the Lich King Launch' Edition

Currently listening to: Arthas, My Son by Russell Brower and whatever else it says on my Last.fm plugin.

Wrath is finally here and I've finally caught up on my sleep, which is the problem when you go to midnight launches in a major city several hours away. I actually stayed in London after finding a very cheap hotel via fellow journo and so headed down on the last off-peak afternoon train in order to get checked in before hitting Regent's Street.

The picture above is of Bill from WorldofWar.net, myself in the middle (finally a good photo of me; ultraviolet must become me) and Natalie from Upper Deck enjoying the Absolut Icebar where Blizzard hosted their pre-launch press drinks get-together on Wednesday night. We only got forty minutes in the bar itself but it was a cool experience - pun intended - and damn was it cold, even with the thermal ponchos.

Yes this week has all been about World of Warcraft. At the drinks event I managed to catch up with Ben, Jonnie, Alex and some other folks as well as meeting Blizzard's COO Paul Sams and enjoying lovely little canapes and cocktails. Alex and I wandered over to the HMV on Oxford Street about 10pm and snuck in via the back entrance while he explained there was not one but THREE queues of people trying to get into the store. Being a journo on the VIP list has its perks as we flashed our press IDs and within minutes were in the nearly empty store.

The store had been taken over by the Lich King, there was a massive countdown clock, an ice sculpture and more Collector's Editions than I've ever seen in my life. Apparently around three thousand people showed up at the store to get their copies and soak up the atmosphere and there were folks queuing from 6am that morning. You've gotta love the commitment.

So I had a wander around, took loads of photos, caught up with Max, Rhianna, Dia and all the other Gigaknights I haven't seen in too long, as well as collaring young Tom (poor sod had been working the event on top of his normal day at UD). Unfortunately a minor accident involving me and a trolley kind of marred the evening - at least I get to cross off 'knocked self out in flagship HMV store on launch night' from my to-do list - and I'm still sore from the bruises.

The actual launch itself felt a little anti-climatic although it was fun seeing all the people dressed up. I didn't get to take home a Collector's Edition (although I fondled quite a few) as my copy was waiting for me the following day, which meant I missed the postman and didn't get it until Friday morning.

Even having played the beta, I was amazed at how fresh the game suddenly feels. I never really did any questing so while the zones aren't new, the experience of levelling Serisa is refreshing. She even dinged this afternoon while Uta and I were pugging Utgarde Keep, so all is well in the world. I'm reviewing the game next week so this weekend will see me playing hard I think, but I'm going to try and let the experience take its time, none of this rushing to 80 for me.

Although plenty of people have started hitting 80, complete with realm achievements (and envious taunts from those who didn't make it); Uta gets his own piece of the pie as he was Daggerspine's first person to max out .... fishing!

Did I mention how much I love Frosty the baby frostwrym, he's so cute?

Anyway the servers, which have been dodgy all day, seem to be settling down so I'm going back to Northrend for a bit.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Guardian Goodness: Another Achievement Ticked Off

Every journo has a wishlist of publications or websites they want to write for and today saw the publication of my first piece in a national: a review for the Technophile section of The Guardian no less!

It's only a small review but it means a hell of a lot to my family, it's something they can relate to and is a newspaper they're aware of, the last time I got this kind of reaction, I'd just done a six page feature on Ashes to Ashes.

At the same time cracking The Guardian feels like an obscure rite of passage, most journos I know have written for the paper and many have penned bits for Technophile and now I'm among them it feels like - despite having written for four years - that I've finally made it as a journalist.

World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King Launch

By the time this is posted, I should be asleep with the Wrath of the Lich King Collector's Edition snug in my arms in a small London Hotel. I hope the event was good but I'll be posting images on my Flickr page - the set for the event can be found here - as well as doing a write up as soon as I get home later today.

Oh and installed Wrath of course :D

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Ginger One: LOLZ

funny pictures
LOL, just LOL.

The Ginger One was not particularly amused by his LOLcat debut.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Blogging Woes: When Comments Get Nasty

This morning I woke up to my iPhone displaying email. I have it set to push email every fifteen minutes and - as I work for a lot of Americans - I keep it close to hand. Plus I kind of like using it to watch iPlayer over wifi. Anyway, between the random spam, the Google Alerts and press releases from Mel at Top Cow, somebody had finally left a comment on my blog.

Calling themselves Barry Shitpeas should have given it away. Reading through the comment my heart sank; this is the sixth time someone has left an unpleasant comment in the last couple of months, usually it's anonymous. Fortunately I was able to track the poster - the IP address was registered from the University of Strathclyde and the visitor has definitely been here before.

I get to approve comments before they go live and there was no way I was going to publish this one, nor the previous one in which 'Anonymous' called me 'an ugly, fat c**t'. However it got me thinking so I asked my colleagues on Journobiz if they had ever encountered such trolls and yes, it seems I'm not alone.

So I'm going to say this once for the record.

1) This is MY blog, it is my corner of the internet and so I will say what I like, whilst trying not to libel anyone, of course. Don't like it? Go start your own!

2) If you wish to leave malicious comments, do bear in mind they will not be posted.

3) If you decide, through envy, to start questioning my ability as a journalist, let me direct your gaze right to my long and extensive list detailing all the magazines and websites I've written for over the last few years. I ask you, O ignorant trolls, who have you written for lately?

4) Yes, actually I do have an A level (okay, an AS level) in English, I also have several GCSEs in it (and eight other subjects), a 2:1 BA (Hons) in a completely unrelated subject and a post-graduate journalism qualification recognised by the NCTJ.

5) This blog is my opinion, I will post on subjects that interest me and sometimes this will descend into random rambling. I'm entitled to do so.

6) If you feel the need to stay up at all hours of the night just to post comments, at least read my blog and then try and post a comment on an entry related to your rant.

7) I welcome discourse and discussion but if you just want to be rude, sod off!

End of rant and hopefully end of trolls.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Sparrow's Choice: Decisions and Consequences in Videogames

Warning, this post contains major spoilers. Read at your own risk. 

At the beginning of October I got my hands on Fable II code in order to do a review for 360 Gamer. I literally bit off my editor's hand - the stump is still bleeding, so I'm told - to get it and have been playing avidly ever since. Why? Well it's not just a gorgeous game and you don't just get to play fetch with a devoted canine companion, you get to choose how to play.

When Lucien was finally defeated and the dust has settled, the wise seer Theresa offered me, in the form of the Hero Sparrow - a choice. To be selfless and restore all the souls who had died building Lucien's tower to life or I could restore my family - my beloved sister Rose and devoted companion, Anubis - to life or, finally, to be totally selfish and get unlimited gold. Hmmm .... which to choose?

Wealth was out, in-game money can always be earned. The remaining two options left me genuinely torn: I love my dog but when playing Sparrow I had tried so hard to be a good person (despite inhabiting that grey area), so I picked the first choice: to return all Albion's dead to life and gained a letter of thanks and the praise of the people around me (whoopee!). Yet it felt empty; I was lost without Anubis. I had all of Albion worshipping the ground I walked on, even a hubby and a little girl called Kate (who quickly died) failed to lift my spirits. Not even casual sex with a Hard Gay-lookalike gigolo in Bloodstone got me out of my rut. I just wanted to go back and remake my choice and choose the semi-selfish option.

And the annoying thing? Fable II uses a single save slot and auto-saves the moment you make your decision.

D'oh!

Next time round I am so saving my dog!

Choice is becoming the new buzzword in games: Fable II, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Fallout 2, BioShock, Silent Hill: Homecoming ... all of these focus on how you, the player, decide to tackle the game. albeit to different extents. Angel or devil, saint or sinner; it's your choice but that doesn't mean there won't be consequences. Different endings, special Achievements or just the nagging of your conscience, just like in real life. Every action has its reaction and you can't escape the consequences of your virtual choices.

Choice is also a method of bringing the gamer into the game they're playing; it's not just an experience any more, it's immersion and this is becoming an accepted aspect of game play, indeed it's a revolution. Like Fable II, part of BioShock's charm was the journey, particularly in the final hour of the game when you - Jack - has to literally become a Big Daddy. Similarly both Fallout 3 and Fable II follow a rags to riches tale of a nobody who quickly becomes somebody, indeed a somebody on whom the fate of a world rests.

Put it this way: if you were Sparrow, what would you do? Which choice would you choose?

Monday, November 03, 2008

Tomb Raider: Underworld (Preview)

Last night my little jaw dropped as I played through the demo of Lara Croft's latest adventure, just released on Xbox Live. G works on the Eidos account at BHPR and has been enthusing about the game for months. As he's now a PR rather than a journo it's sometimes hard to distinguish when he's got this PR hat on or when he's just being enthusiastic. In this case it's definitely the latter.

So the demo was released yesterday and I was quick to download it while finishing up some work. I loaded it up and just stared; I'd be expecting to have to save Lara from the burning inferno of Croft Manor but instead found myself on a small boat drifting on a tropical sea - well okay, it was off the coast of Thailand. Delicate music drifted on the breeze, an amazing score that enhanced the gameplay without being too distracting and it was time for Lady Croft to get her feet wet.

Within seconds Lara was exploring a glorious underwater world and watching sharks but wait, what's that bright piece of stone that stands out from all the other pieces of rock in the vicinity. Yes, it's not all about swimming with the fishes and it's time for Lara to do what she does best.

And yet you find your eye being caught by the subtle movement of the tide, of those two beautifully realistic parrots perching on a rock, so much is happening that the world almost feels organic. And yet your path is kind of obvious, bright rocks and handhelds beckon Lara towards an ancient temple with a massive statue of Shiva and Kali.

Lara's moves are even more graceful than they were in Anniversary, she can shimmy up rock faces, jump across poles and does it all so beautifully. She also has a couple of new moves and can now kick and stomp on ants but the real focus is on the puzzle elements and shooting rare animals, like a pair of slightly stupid tigers.

Unfortunately the demo doesn't contain any proper cutscenes so, aside from the opening paragraph, you really have no clue why Lara is in Thailand. However by the end of the demo you really don't care so much, the game looks so amazingly beautiful that you're soon pulled in, jaw brushing the floor as Lara swims, vaults and shoots her way through the unknown jungles of Thailand. I really can't wait to see if the rest of the game is this polished when it's released later this month.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Visual Twittering: When Do You Tweet?

Journo and avid techno blogger Dave Lee put me onto Xefer's Twitter chart. It's insanely simple to use: just pop in your Twitter ID and it will read all your public tweets and then generate an image like the one above; you get to see when you tweeted and how many people replied to you. It's a fascinating to see when exactly I tweet (usually around lunch time, apparently).