It was a bad day. A lot of bad stuff happened. And I'd love to forget it all. But I don't. Not ever. Because this is what I do. Every time, every day, every second, this: On five, we're bringing down the government.

Friday, June 29



At my day job, our new shipment of disks (80 x 3TB Seagate Constellation) arrived yesterday and has been installed in our existing drive arrays.

We now have over 1PB of disk storage.  (And about 80TB of SSD.)

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Thursday, June 28


Jelly Beaned

Google's Nexus 7 tablet: 7" 1280x800 IPS display, 1.2GHz quad-core CPU, 1GB RAM, 8GB flash. Runs Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean".

No micro SD slot, which is just dumb, but otherwise ideal.  Small enough to carry everywhere, cheap enough that you don't need to fret about doing so.

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Tuesday, June 26


Tangible Intangibles

I also updated my license for Filter Forge, a framework for building Photoshop filters.  They offered me a 70% discount on updating from version 1 to version 3 (I skipped 2), and I have this terrible weakness for 70% discounts...

This time I also coughed up the extra $30 for a backup disk (actually a 1.3GB download file) of the collected filters.  There are over 8900 different filters available, and the alternative is to download them one at a time.

After a certain amount of that, $30 starts looking like pretty good value.

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Saturday, June 09



A.K.A Warlock: Master of the Arcane.

It's a fantasy turn-based strategy game.  It's twenty currently ten bucks on Steam.  It has "Master of" in the title.  So I was pretty much guaranteed to buy it.

Two questions, then: First, is it any good; second, is it a replacement for Master of Magic?

And the answer is, first, yes, and second, not really.

As I said, it's a turn-based fantasy strategy game, with a hex-grid map that looks a lot like Civ V.  You build cities, and then add buildings and defences in the hexes surrounding them - one building per hex.  The cities produce units depending on the available upgrades, from basic foot soldiers up to dragons and elite paladins.

You send your units out to explore and patrol the world - or, as the case may be, worlds, up to seven in all - and conquer it before it conquers you. You can select up to eight computer opponents, but perhaps the most dangerous opponent of all is the world itself, which is filled with neutral cities, spider nests, ogre dens, kraken lairs and whatnot, all of which spawn units to attack you if you don't wipe them out first.  At one point one of my coastal cities was surrounded two deep in krakens waiting their turn to attack.

As a warlock, you can research and cast spells.  The research tree is relatively shallow, and if you select a larger-sized world the game will take long enough that you end up with access to every one of the standard spells.  There are some extras you can unlock by building temples to the various gods - also the only way to get access to the strongest units - but even so it seems to lack some depth.

Combat is pretty straightfoward.  There are no stacks, no hero units, just one unit per hex, so you move your armies around and arrange your formations as best you can.  Since there's only one unit allowed in a hex, moving armies into position can be frustrating; the game won't allow you to order an army to an occupied hex even though you know the hex will be vacant by the time you get there.  It will automatically generate a path through known free hexes, but that could unexpectedly take your elite were-paladins five turns out of the way.  Units can move through hexes occupied by allies, so with a bit of planning this is generally manageable.

Spells are a mixed bag.  The direct attack spells seem underpowered; I just didn't bother using them after a while.  On the other hand, by applying a combination of experience-earned perks, purchased upgrades, and enhancement spells, you can turn a small number of your elite troops into unstoppable killing machines that can take down enemy cities single-handed.  Every permanent spell has an upkeep cost, so you can't run wild with this, and you'll find that you need to keep a good assortment of lower-tier units and defensive works in play to keep your industrial base safe as you expand: An enemy dragon or a kraken hit squad arriving at an undefended town can really ruin your day.

Like Master of Magic (and this game is clearly inviting the comparison), Warlock offers the possibility of parallel worlds, indeed, not just one, but as many as six.  Unfortunately, they don't seem to be particularly distinctive (as the alternate world in MoM was); they're just more of the same.  In the one complete game I've played so far, by the time I found a gate to the parallel world it had been entirely overrun by neutral forces; the area I arrived in was quite literally wall-to-wall fire elementals.

On the plus side, the game looks very nice.  Graphics are clean and detailed, and the game only stuttered once (after I switched from full screen to windowed mode, I had to restart to get it to work properly).  There are a few details in the user interface that need some attention, such as the flickering if you bring up a monster details popup right on top of the monster itself, but on the whole it seems very competent and well-tested.

So, classic for the ages?  No.  Master of Magic for the new age?  Sadly, no to that as well.  But worth ten bucks on Steam if you like that sort of thing?  I'd say yes.  There are already two DLC upgrades available to add further units, which would be questionable for such a new game if they weren't priced at (with the current sale) $1.49 and $0.99 respectively.

Overall, a solid game engine just needing some more depth and variety to the gameplay - more spells, more city upgrades, more units, and please, more distinct worlds.  A worthy start, and if the creators keep pumping out cheap DLC to extend the game piecemeal - or bring out an expanded sequel with the same engine - I'll be there.

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