I went out for a short while last night, and when I got home, my partner told me about a program I had missed.  It sounded like something worth checking out, so I tried…

I’m a Sky+ Customer, so I have the ability to set a program to record up to a week in advance.  And almost every program is repeated, nowadays.  Some programs are good enough that you are given as many as half a dozen chances to watch it before the next in the series is shown.

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EA sports, Bioware, and SWTOR

Some of my regular readers will have little interest in this post, so I apologise now for that, and ask that you bear with me – because I think this is an issue that will consume me for a while.

As I have often mentioned, I play games on my computer.  Roleplaying, MMO type games: Everquest, Lord of the Rings Online, and a few others over the years.
Lately, I’ve been playing Star Wars: The Old Republic.  You can sign up and play for free, or you can pay for a subscription.  The subscription is better, as you get lots of little benefits that way.

Well, I enjoyed the game, and there is a definite advantage to subscribing (an advantage that continues even after you stop subscribing – so a one month subscription makes the game better for ever than the free game) so I decided to subscribe.

I went to the website, and tried to give them my money.

They didn’t want it.  Or, at least, they didn’t want it until I gave them everything they needed to take over my life.  Not happy with the usual intrusive questions, they wanted me to answer four security questions from a list – and the choices were things like mothers maiden name, school you went to, best friends name, and so on.
I could not find one question on the list I was happy to answer – so I left the site.

As it happens, there is an alternative: you can buy a time card.  A one off payment to Amazon and I had a card which would make me a subscriber for 60 days.

So I get my card, and try to use it.  I have to go to the same website, and give them answers to the security questions before I can use the card!
OK… I’m not going to waste the money I paid, and I’m not going to answer their questions…  What do I do?

Well, I answered their questions.  I took the first four questions on the list (I don’t know what they were, I didn’t look) and gave them the answer of ‘no’ to each one.
No good, they insist on all four answers being different…  So I gave them four different words: ‘Not’, ‘telling’, ‘you’, and ‘that.’  Or four other words that meant the same – as I say, I don’t remember, because I had no intention of ever using the security questions.

It worked.  And I played the game happily.  For a while.

My sixty days are almost up, and I am enjoying the game – so I’m thinking of subscribing.  I go to the website, and it refuses to let me in unless I answer one of the security questions.  Apparently, it doesn’t recognise the computer…

Let me explain.  Not only do they have the security questions, they also have a gadget you can buy.  This gadget, when asked, will give you a special code number which you then enter into the game or website – thereby confirming your identity.
Then there is the third line of security: every time you start the game, or visit the website, it reads your IP address, then checks it against the IP address used the last time you visited.  If they are different, you have to confirm your identity.

So, to play the game, you have to play the game from the same computer as the last time you played, answer a security question, or enter a gadget generated code…

Why?  Why does it matter what computer I use?  Surely I should be able to visit my parents and play from there?  Or go around to a friend house and play?
There is the gadget for those who really want the security.  The rest of us, most of us, just want to enter a username and password and play!

Right, I can’t log into the website, so I can’t subscribe.  And if I can’t log in, I can’t use a time card, either.  So I can’t subscribe.
Because of their security, I cannot give them my money.  Ah well…

Sadly, that’s not the end of it.

We had a storm today, so I unplugged everything.  When it was past, I fired everything up again, and tried to play the game.  I can’t, because my IP address has changed…  The game is now asking me the same security questions I don’t know the answers to.

The game tells me to ‘call us’ if I cannot remember the answers.  I click on the link, and am told that I can either talk to them in-game, or telephone them….
I’d love to talk to them in-game! Just get rid of this of this damned security question, and I WILL!

I refuse to telephone them, too.  This is an online game, in an online world.  It is a website that is giving me problems.  Email is free, telephone calls are not.  I want to email them.

Only I can’t.  Because they don’t have email.

After a lot of searching, I did find a way to contact them that wasn’t through the game or over the phone.  All I have to do is log in to their website…

So, I need to log in to their website or into the game, to tell them that I cannot log in to their website or game.

Isn’t it strange, though?  They want to know everything about me.  They insist on having my email address, as well as a lot of other personal data.  It is impossible to register with them if you don’t have a valid, genuine, real, tested email address.

But they won’t let you know what their email address is!

Well, I will find an email address for them.  I’ve tried, so far, around twenty different addresses, and I will KEEP trying until somebody there gets my email.

They WILL know how annoyed I am.  And so will you.

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Arrested Development

I told you a little while ago that I was working on a game called ‘Development.’  Well, it’s finished!  Yep, it’s ready to play.  Yay!

Well, I say ‘finished’… what I mean is that while there are a couple of new features I’d like to add at a later date – when the players have had a chance to give me feedback – I’ve done as much as I planned to do in the first place.  So, it’s finished for now.

… and when I say it’s ready to play, I mean… well, it would be ready to play if it was put on a server where players could play it.  It’s not, so while it’s ready to play, it’s not available to play…


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In Development

You may have noticed that the frequency of my posts has slowed down lately – I thought I’d better explain why.

I’ve been working on a little project, you see.  (I’m still working on it, but that’s beside the point.)  I may, or may not, make the project available to the world.
The reason for the project, essentially, is to occupy my mind and kill time, so it’s no loss if I give it up.

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Poker faced

What seems to be a growth sector lately is online gambling.  Everywhere I look, I see adverts for bingo, betting, or poker.  And every time I see an advert, I ask myself what sort of idiot is taken in by it?

Don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against gambling.  I have, at various periods in my life, indulged in virtually every form.  My partner and I used to spend our Saturdays with a Racing Post, picking our horses and placing our bets; and I really love a good game of Poker when I get the chance. Read more…

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World view

I’ve mentioned before that I play internet games, chiefly Lord of the Rings online.  For the past week, I’ve been trying out one called Age of Conan.  This post is based on events in both games, and other games as well – the game involved makes little difference to the way people act, though.

Todays post is about these games, and how they reflect on life in general.

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‘Special offer’

As you know, I play an online game called Lord of the Rings Online (Lotro).  I’ve played it from the start, pretty much. 

When the game was released, I bought a ‘founders pack’ – a special offer kit, that you added to your account.  You paid extra for it, of course, but you got so much for it…  You got the ability to have the title ‘founder’ after your name; you got a ‘free’ horse at level 21; you got a couple of ‘free’ items; and you got the right to take out a lifetime subscription.

Well, I didn’t get the title or the horse, but they were kind enough to let me give them a lot of money for the lifetime subscription.  They needed the money at the time – the lifetime subs gave them a much needed cash injection at the start of their life.  I took a gamble on it, as the lifetime sub worked out at just under two years of normal subs.

I didn’t get all the benefits of the ‘founders pack’ but I got the one I really wanted: the lifetime sub.  So I didn’t complain.

They brought out an expansion pack for the game, after a couple of years.  I was still playing the game, and enjoying it.  And there was a ‘special offer’ on lifetime subs – so I bought a second one. 

They brought out a second expansion pack, and I bought two: one for each account.

Notice the pattern?  They release an expansion pack and I buy it.  I’m happy to keep playing the game, and spending money on the expansions.  I’m not paying anything to play the game, just buying the expansions when they come out.  Others pay a monthly fee to play.  The only advantage I have over them is that I paid up front – we play exactly the same game.

Then they changed the playing field.

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What is help?

I play LotRO, as I’ve mentioned.  In the game, you create a character, and run around completing quests and killing things in order to gain experience – when you have enough experience, you advance a level.

Even after you have reached the maximum level of 65, you can still gain a form of experience.  There are things called ‘legendary items’ – swords, staffs, books, etc – which you can level up with ‘item exp’.

It should be easy to understand that a large part of the game involves gaining experience, yes?

In other games of this sort, in the past, it was possible for a player to see a fight between another player and a target, run in and attack the target, and ‘steal’ the kill – thereby getting the experience, credit, and loot.  The kill was awarded to whoever did the most damage to the target.  In LotRO, they chose to make that impossible: the first person to touch a target was awarded the kill, no matter what.

This can be abused a little, by a low level player hitting a target once, then running to high level players to be ‘rescued.’  They kill the target, he gets the credit.  So to combat this, they put in code that halves the experience awarded if anybody helps you with the kill.

If you’re in a group, the exp is halved; if a stranger hits your target, the exp is halved; if somebody heals you during the fight, the exp is halved.  Any assistance, of any sort, given during the fight will half the exp.

Got that?

Yesterday, I was happily fighting an easy target.  I had not so much as a scratch on me – the target had failed to hit me once – and the target was close to death.  A total stranger ran up, and hit the target once, killing it.  They then waited for me to thank them…

We had quite an argument about it.  He argued that he had ‘helped’ me, and that I should be grateful for that help.  No matter what, I could not get through to him that what he had done was not help, in any way, shape, or form.  I called it ‘meddling’ and he got upset, and vowed to never help me again.  I said ‘Thanks!  That’s what I’m trying to get you to do!’

If the fight had been going the other way – me losing, and the target winning – then it would have been help.  As it was, though, the assistance was not needed, not wanted, and actually cost me experience: I gained nothing, and lost something.  This, however, is a point of view that I find impossible to get across to these idiots.  And it is plural – there are far too many of them!

I’ve looked up ‘help’ and ‘meddle’ on www.dictionary.com and my view is confirmed. 


–verb (used with object)
1. to give or provide what is necessary to accomplish a task or satisfy a need; contribute strength or means to; render assistance to; cooperate effectively with; aid; assist: He planned to help me with my work. Let me help you with those packages.
2. to save; rescue; succor: Help me, I’m falling!
3. to make easier or less difficult; contribute to; facilitate: The exercise of restraint is certain to help the achievement of peace.

–verb (used without object)
11. to give aid; be of service or advantage: Every little bit helps.

Compare this to

–verb (used without object), -dled, -dling. 
to involve oneself in a matter without right or invitation; interfere officiously and unwantedly: Stop meddling in my personal life!

To me, the difference is obvious. In what way can they believe that they are ‘providing what is necessary to complete a task’?  They certainly are not ‘saving’ me, or even making my task easier.  They are not ‘giving aid’  or of ‘service’ to me.

They are, however, ‘involving theirselves in a matter without right or invitation.’

They’re meddling.  Pure and simple.

Yet… I’m the odd one out.  I cannot find anybody who agrees with my view.  When I moan about it, the reply is, inevitably, ‘they’re only trying to help…’


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Migration Migraine

As I’ve mentioned before, I play a game called Lord of the Rings Online (Lotro) a lot.  It’s a good way to pass lots of time, and I’ve been playing it, with the odd break, since it started five years ago.

I enjoy it so much, I got three accounts.  Two of them, the ones I play almost constantly, are lucky enough to have lifetime subscriptions on them, while the third is what is known as ‘free to play.’  Anybody can sign up for a f2p account, and can play most of the game with it, without ever paying a penny.

The lifetime subs were a gamble on my part.  When I bought the first one, it worked out as being the same price as paying a sub for two years – as it was five years ago, I think I’ve won the bet. 😉

All of that is background, though.  Lotro is owned by an American company, called Turbine, while my accounts are with Codemasters – a UK company that has licensed the game from Turbine.

Only Turbine have now decided to take the licence back.

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Caught again

Not long ago, my computer started making scary noises.  Not all the time, of course: it started out as occassional, then upgraded itself through common all the way up to constant.

‘Must open this up and take a look’ I told myself.  Then another Orc attacked me and I got back to more important things.

Finally, when the noise was constant, and I decided that I would take a look first thing tomorrow, the unthinkable happened: my character died.

In Lord of the Rings Online, I hasten to add. 

I ran through a gate, and was happily fighting my way through a band of Orcs, when I noticed a strange phenomemon: there was a distinct gap between my commands, and the reaction to them.  It was like I was moving through treacle.

Calling up the frame rate, I was amazed to see how low it was: four!  Read more…

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