Monday, September 22, 2014

Destiny Review

As a FPS with a story it is nowhere near as good as Halo, it's not even on the same planet.  Bungie clearly used up all their good ideas the first time around and Destiny sort of feels like the dregs that were left over.  It's got the same religion meets technology meets end of the world vibe but without ever being remotely interesting or funny.  Even if you ignore how boring the story is and just treat it as a value for money exercise you're not going to be happy...most expensive game ever?  How come it took me about 10 hours to play it through from start to end, and that included a shit load of extra optional (very repetitive) missions?  I reached level 21 in that time, enough to make the final battle a walk in the park. I suppose if I would have been trying I could have finished the story in about 5-6 hours.

So that's the single player sorted, what about the multiplayer RPG elements?  I've done quite a few Strikes and played a few hours in the crucible, neither are great.  The competitive multiplayer is basic head down, charge around with a shotgun dying every few seconds fair.  This is the only way to win.  If you try and play tactically some cunt will teleport on top of you and shoot you in the face with their shotgun.  There is no fucking way that this game will get a cult online following, I'd be amazed if people are still playing this in 12 months.  You level up to level 18/19/20 to stand a chance then you charge around like a headless chicken hoping to get a couple of kills for every death, there are no tactics.  This is matched by the type of player as well, you will get fed up hearing"fucking owned".  Not that I'm bitching because I'm bad at it, I'm not and I've won my fair share of games.  It's just that it is not fun.  As for the RPG?  It's a bit like Borderlands but much worse.  One class is far too strong and that sorts out any hopes of a WoW experience.  In simpler terms it is to Mass Effect what Asteroids is to Elite. 

The best bit about the game is the novelty value in seeing other real people jumping around on your same mission map.  It is only a novelty though and it soon gets fucking annoying when somebody is hanging around mining XP on a part of the map where you are trying to follow the story.  For example my final story mission was made a lot easier because somebody decided they were just going to hang around killing these bad ass monsters every time they respawned meaning I could walk through unchallenged

In short, as a FPS it has a dull story, poor weapon variety and as much as they've borrowed all their old Halo ideas none of the new bits are as good.  In terms of a FPS/RPG it just doesn't compare to Borderlands 2 and the fun that can be had working co-op in that.  Looking at it as an overall space adventure gaming experience whoever decided to compare it to Mass Effect needs their head read.  Overall it's not as good as Halo, Borderlands or Mass Effect.  The good news is that it helped me make my mind up which console I was going to buy and even better, I only took out a 1 month subscription on the Play Station network.

OR as somebody else put it...

Monday, June 09, 2014

Total Waste Of A Day

Today was supposed to be the day that things got back to normal after being injured with a cracked rib for a couple of weeks.  Right over the best time of the year on the island as well!  The plan was for an early easing myself back in gym session then to catch up on some of the admin work I've ignored.  That was until the postman arrived just as I was leaving the house with my new HDMI switch box.  Queue many hours of messing about.

Problem was that I've got a PC hooked up to the main TV, I'm using it as a console replacement because I don't want to splash the money on a PS4 or Xbox One but would still like to play any new games I like the look off.  Honestly the price of console games is getting beyond a joke as well.  Part of the expectation of that living room gaming multi media experience thing is having surround sound?  On a console that is just a case of connecting an optical cable to your surround sound system or setting it up to pass surround sound down the HDMI, but such is life that the PC is not quite so simple.

There is a really long shitty story here but the short version is that there are only 2 ways of getting surround sound in your games on a PC.  1. Buy a sound card that supports on the fly Dolby Digital encoding.  You can then use optical to connect this to your sound system (in essence this is what the consoles do)  2.  Have a sound system that has a HDMI input/output so you can connect directly from your graphics card.*

What I discovered today after fuckknows how many hours of messing about and the expense of buying all sorts of extra wires and crap is that people lie and shit don't work.  You can watch movies etc from your PC with full surround sound because the sound is already encoded when it is chucked down the HDMI, for me this meant getting a splitter (what the postman delivered today) to seperate the sound out and pass it on to the sound system (which only has optical  inputs, no HDMI).  BUT no matter what you're not going to get a game to work with surround sound this way.  You either buy a sound card to encode it and send it via an optical cable or you buy a sound system that can handle the raw information via HDMI.  No about of buggering about or smart asses on internet forums is going to alter that reality.

As for the Realtek powered optical output that most PC's have these days, it's not worth a wank for anything other than stereo sound  Why do they even bother?

And that has been my whole day, trying to get something to work which people say should work which in reality can never work.  I hate computers.

* This is what really pisses me off.  Just about all modern TV's have muliple HDMI inputs and a way of connecting to a surround sound system but yet hardly any pass on the surround sound, just about all downscale the sound to stereo.  What is the point in this passthrough if it doesn't work?  If TV's behaved like people thought then your TV could be the hub for all this and the world would be a much nicer place with far fewer wires, remotes and people throwing things around their living room when stuff don't work.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Bluewave Update

Well where do I start with this one?  Enough to say my time with Bluewave has finished and I'll not be having anything more to do with them.

The variation in service for the first week was enormous, ranging from 0.5Mb to 35Mb downloads depending on the time of day.  But to be in with a realistic chance of 30Mb+ you needed to be using it after midnight.  A daytime average I suppose was in the region of 15Mb.  I raised a high priority support ticket about the slow speeds (when it hit less than 1Mb, 20th March) but to this day it hasn't received a reply.  Check out this bad boy:-

Then the service stopped altogether, engineers visited and replaced the dish and moved its location.  It always had a perfect line of sight to the antenna.  On testing with the engineers there and seeing a mighty 6Mb download I was advised it will take a while to optimise.  Fair enough.  It never did "optimise".

What followed was a connection that was fast enough when nobody else used their connection but at the times of the day when you needed it was extremely up and down.  Pings ranging from 40ms to 190ms.  Downloads from 2Mb to 20Mb.  Trying to watch any type of streaming on a weekend evening was impossible.  Of course these connections have a contention ration of 50:1, the same as everybody else but the variation in performance is extreme to say the least. 

I tried and tried to get some answers, resorting to e-mailing the boss directly and then when the speedtests proved the point being passed on to somebody else, but with days between responses in the end I gave up and called it a day.  What says it all to me is being asked to provide Speedtest results, providing them and then being told that Speedtests aren't an accurate measure of their network. Whilst at the same time they use Speedtest results on their Facebook page to market their service.  I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions on that one. :)

From a purely technical side of things I've used a lot of 50:1 contention ratio internet connections in my time but I've never used one as bad for fluctuation in performance as Bluewave.

Overall 3/10 unless you're a house wife that only uses the internet for Facebook because then it's probably greeeaaatttt.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Bluewave IOM Review

Let me start by saying I'm not the first of the lads to sign up for Bluewave broadband so I'm hoping that the other fella will chip in here at some point as well, but this is my point of view on it.

We had the Bluewave Ultraband (40Mb) home broadband installed very recently having previously been on a Wi-Manx VDSL (40Mb) connection, technically speaking we still have access to both but only for a little while.  The Bluewave installation was as quick and easy as you like, the engineer was here for about an hour and with a crystal clear view of the antenna everything went very smoothly.  I know people have asked about the router you get, we got a TP-Link 840N (Link Here) but more on that later.  One thing that could have been pointed out was the default username and password for the router but perhaps they assume people won't be interested?  It only took a few seconds to find it on the bottom of the router and I quickly altered the SSID, username, password and WLAN security key.

With everything secure I could test the wireless signal around the house, performance was...ok.  Not a very technical review I know.  Put it this was it was better than a typical Netgear ADSL router, better than my old TP-Link ADSL router, not as good as my Billion and not near the standard of the FritzBox.  I'm fussy about wireless, it's why most of the big stuff in the house is wired now.  Was it good enough?  Just about in our 3 bed semi, I wouldn't want to rely on it if I was in a big town house, certainly not without a repeater.  So I did the easiest thing which was to replace it with the Fritzbox (quick note - even though Bluewave say you can't use their service with an ADSL/VDSL router most modern routers have the ability to set one of the LAN ports as a WAN port, on the Fritzbox this takes about a minute to do - handy if you are thinking of moving from Wi-Manx VDSL).  With the Fritzbox in place I could get a full signal throughout the whole house/garden.

Next came the issue of speed and this is where things got a bit complicated.  Initial tests at 3-5pm were not great.  Ping on Bluewave - average around 45ms, average on Wi-Manx VDSL around 18-20ms.  Download on Bluewave - average around 15Mb/s (lowest 7Mb/s), average on Wi-Manx VDSL around 37Mb/s (lowest 37Mb/s).  Upload on Bluewave - average around 3.5Mb, average on Wi-Manx VDSL around 2Mb/s.  I should say that I was not expecting Bluewave to be as fast as the wired VDSL service and I was happy to lose some of the download for a faster upload and the considerable cost savings.  But I wasn't expecting such a massive drop in performance so that led me to try again at a quiet time of the day.  I thought this shouldn't have much effect seeing as how Bluewave advertise the capacity of their network and not being left wanting for more speed, even at peak times!  So I tried it again at 7am, here's the results:-

Bluewave Ping Average - 33ms
Bluewave Download Average - 25Mb/s (lowest 21Mb/s)
Bluewave Upload Average - 4.5Mb/s

Wi-Manx Ping Average - 18ms
Wi-Manx Download Average - 37Mb/s (lowest 37Mb/s)
Wi-Manx Upload Average - 2Mb/s

That is within the accpetable limit for what I set myself for Bluewave, like I said I wasn't expecting it to be as fast as the Wi-Manx VDSL service.  This leaves me with a problem, at first glance there appears to be significant contention with the Bluewave service (as of right now 9am'ish  it's really up and down all over the place, 1 second it is OK - the next it is poor - ...then this at  9:10 - ).  To be honest I'm not sure if it's 100% contention or something more atmospheric but either way it's very much up and down a lot and it does coincide with the busiest times of the day.  I'm hoping the other lad with it can chip in on that?

Just to prove that all these SpeedTest results were meaningful I also tried a load test on the connection thanks to some iPlayer HD content, 1080p Youtube videos, a HD stream of the United game last night and a couple of Steam downloads.  The speed really is as variable as what is being made out in the Speedtests and several times it had a fit and stopped various streams altogether.  Looking at the throughput on the Fritzbox it was showing a steady load of around 18Mb/s + the variable rates for the downloads and this was too much for the connection to maintain at 7-9pm.  This leaves the question of will I stick with it?

If I was a big online games player then the answer is no.  The difference in the ping plus the fluctuations in bandwidth would be just too anoying.  But I'm not a big gamer.  If I was cutting edge and spending half my life looking for dodgy streams then I'd give it a miss as well.  But we are just an average household with a few tablets, a couple of PC's and a Youview box.  Under normal circumstances it should hold up fine, nothing like as quick (or with the spare capacity) as what we were used to as Wi-Manx but good enough considering the massive savings, appox £20 a month.  So we'll be staying with Bluewave and just hoping that the variation settles down over time as the network matures, I'll do a follow up once we've got a couple of weeks of use out of it.

PS Just to add that none of the testing was done in a completely controlled environment.  I did however plugin directly to the router for all Speedtests and only granted WLAN access to what was needed for testing.  All automatic updates were turned off.  The Fritzbox had zero throughput at all time when I wasn't testing so I made it as accurate as I could.

PPS Just at add that it's now been rock steady at 30Mb/s download for the past 20 minutes.    

Friday, January 31, 2014

Some Deep And Meaningful Thoughts About The IT Industry

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. 


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Hangover Day 5

Head still banging.  Somebody just fucking shoot me.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Hangover - Day 3

Friday I was supposed to be meeting up with a few old work colleagues, it had been 7-8 years since I'd spoken to most of them so I approached it with my usual cool, calm and collected approach.  Or I just decided to just say bollocks to it and turn the sensible filter off for one night.  It would make it more fun and at least if it wasn't going well I could always use the too drunk excuse for making a sharp exit.  It was a cunning plan.

Nobody wants to hear about other people's nights out in graphic detail in the same way that people groan as soon as somebody start going on about last nights dream.  So in truncated version...

Guinness, some food, lots more Guinness, shots, talking absolute bollocks, everyone go home, except me, more Guinness, fall over, end up in nightclub where the average age seems to be about 13 and I'm a definite novelty value, find table, can't move, more Guinness, lights on, escorted from building.......wake up on sofa £160 down for the night.

Now on day 3 of feeling like complete and utter shit and the Guinness is still making it's slow journey from mouth to ass.  It's times like this that I'm really glad I only drink 3-4 times a year.