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Dungeons, Dragons & Level Up

Posted by Q on December 28, 2009

There’s a bunch of turn-based strategy games which are very close to my black gaming heart. You know, apart from Civ IV. ‘Cuz that’s …(splutters); It’s not all has speed, will kill (in StarCraft). It’s the one with the grey cells. And time. And…anyway, this is not a post on Civ IV. It’s on this bunch of AD&D clones masquerading as gaming nirvana.

Right, onwards then! King’s Bounty: Armored Princess vs Heroes of Might & Magic V

(Also featuring a guest appearance by Jeane D’arc)

Hero Level 1. Check. Slugfest. Check

Okie, so the plot is fundamentally this. There is an <insert Old Kingly Dude> who is in <insert trouble in fantasy land> and only this <insert chick> can save him. So you get the ginormously entertaining task of leveling up your hero from level 1 to level XX till the time she can play the endgame Boss.

You can make her a Warrior or a Paladin/Mage specialist.

Plus you get to play with cool characters, which are of three types:

  1. Le Big Mac (The ones with the highest HP)
  2. Le Mage (Magic Attack ++)
  3. Le Shock Troops (die, f*cker)

Both Games are so nearly identical that it is not funny. Monsters are the same. Levels are the same. Ditto Abilities, spells, dragons and the lot. With one special difference – King’s Bounty has a real-time adventure map, while Heroes has a turn-based adventure map. What’s the difference you ask?

Umm, adjusted for gameplay, about 40 hours, give or take

Seriously, the turn-based adventure map turns me off so much that I haven’t even looked at my hero recently (I am at a shiny level 30 in Heroes V, King’s bounty is at a more sobre 23)

Other than that, ’tis pretty much a le AD&D affair. Which is fun. For people who like it anyway.

Speaking of D&D type games, isn’t it time Lveel-5 released a PC port of Jeanne D’arc. Or any other game for the PSP/PC. Pretty please? For my money, it’s one of the best in JRPG’s out there and (more importantly) it’s on a platform that I own 😉



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My 2 year review of Sony Reader (PRS 500)

Posted by Q on December 27, 2009

Yes, my scratched, scrapped, scraggly, schmaltzy beloved Sony Reader (PRS 500) is attached to the left. Look at it, ye beauty!

It’s been nearly two years going on the road to e-ink. Now, we have more e-ink readers than what you can throw a rock at; Amazon, Astak, B&N, iRex, Plastic Logic, Sony yada yada…all of ’em are vying for that disposable $350 in your pocket. Some provide wireless delivery (kindle), some have just put an extra x in sexxy (nook), some are just fighting to stay relevant (iRex). Even Sony, has unveiled a veritable lineup of e-ink readers for different budgets and needs (505, 700, 900, 600, 300). But I am here to tell you that in case you ever take up e-ink reading, you might not want to go much beyond and old PRS 500 itself (provided you can snap one up on ebay). So here’s my (2 year delayed) review of the mighty Sony reader

In one word, it’s been like.no.other

Battery Life

Yes, that 7500 page turns on one full charge is just marketing crap. On the other hand, the battery life is insanely long. Easily lasts me 1 week on full charge (even after running continuously for 104 weeks). More importantly, the battery will last you 1 week, regardless of whether you’ve actually done any reading or not. It’s not so much a deal-breaker if you ask me, but it is always better if you know what you’re getting to avoid having a case of buyer’s remorse.

Contrast this battery performance with any other handheld/lap-held electronic device after a couple of years of usage. Exactly the same, I’d say. Over a period of time, your battery drops to about 50% of its sustenance time anyway. (I just made up that stat, though I dunno why)

The Books

Kindle’s made its living by selling access to ebooks rather than the device itself (which, frankly, is an ugly mother of god). Which is all fun and easy if you consider that most people around the web don’t have the time, effort or energy to look beyond email. (As an aside, that’s pretty much the reason Yahoo! is still alive). Which is all fine, until some smart cookie will figure out that now more than ever, there is just so much free fiction floating around the web that ebook access is not even a problem right now. And the free fiction is from established authors and publishing houses. And it is legal. And it is New. We are not talking Arrgh, shiver me timbers language here (hint: piracy) or Project Gutenberg, we are talking solid Bank of England encrusted Gold Bars level of authorized free fiction. Did I mention that it is free?

For people who want to jump to the e-reading world, freebies are just getting better by the day. And it is getting easier to convert them to the format of your choice (reader dependent). And it’s all thanks to a guy who doesn’t even work for Sony – a dude named Kovid Goyal and his free ebook library software – Calibre. Even though Sony does natively support rtf’s, pdf’s , txt’s et al, it is just way much more convenient to simply convert everything to LRF format and be done with it.

The Screen

Yes, the 8 shades of gray does feel like crap (initially). And yes, you do get used to it. Don’t know why people get worked up about it. The only problem is that somehow, I’ve never been able to read through particularly densely written prose on the reader (Thomas Pynchon, I am looking at you). So, I still had to buy a physical copy of Gravity’s rainbow (which I still haven’t been able to finish…which kinda defeats the argument anyway)

The screen flash, you stop noticing maybe 3 pages into your Matthew Reilly thriller 😀


aka, clunky buttons.

Well, there is just about no stopping on ergonomics, is it? One could argue and make the case for page turn buttons to be bigger; placed on the left, on the right, on the top & bottom; navigation via joystick etc. Having used (read: conditioned) this thing for over 2 years, I am not pretty much comfortable with buttons to the extent that they seem ok. But definitely, Sony is not Apple. So there, I said it. Bring on the mythical Apple tablet and we shall see

Lack Of Backlight

Big problem. I never anticipated that I’d end up reading so many books in bed. And end up with sleeping with all the lights on. I even bought an external light solution, the verilux light thingumajig. But.It.Doesn’t.Help. Sony, we’ve got a problem on our collective hands. Get us some backlighting please. And not that halfway-there, halfway-anywhere glare of PRS 700 please

Online store

Check #2 above. Never used the online store. I am a bad cookie, what can I say 😛

Support for EPUB

Another format war. Yawn! Hey did you know that Blue Ray won the battle with HD-DVD (cue for more yawning). Seriously guys, the ebook market has been fucked so badly with format issues that consumers don’t even look at it anymore. They know that there is one stage between the book of their choice and the device of their choice. And as I said in #2 above, there’s Calibre

Summary comments

I think The PRS 500 proved to be every inch a reader I expected it to be. There are still features in the device which I’ve never used (support for audiobooks, black & white comics) and I don’t see that changing in the future as well. While not as Flash Gordon’ish an iPhone/iPod touch, I think it fits in very neatly with my ebooking needs. I don’t see myself upgrading, but if I ever do, I’ll go for the PRS 300 edition which @ $200 and 1″ shorter than the current reader sounds like the ideal solution

Also, it is very relevant to look at an emergent market which wasn’t quite there when the Reader was launched…which is the netbook market. At screens which are about 3-4″ larger than the current crop of ebook readers and the obvious versatility of a computer, it’ll be very interesting to see how these two stack up as reading devices. My vote however still would be on dedicated e-readers.

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The incredible time sink known as Armored Princess

Posted by Q on December 26, 2009

King’s Bounty: Armored Princess (henceforth KB:AP) is the kind of game that gamers (RPGers esp.) liken to Farmville on roids. Not that we’re discussing that 32-bit monstrosity here (just so that we’re clear, I do not condone playing farmville, fafville, fishville… whatever. Anyone Caught doing that shall be banished to the legions of snickety kids dual-tapping their way through Petmaster XVII on their Nintendo DSi’s). Anyway, back to our topic.

I’ve been playing KB:AP for about close to 15 hours now. Here’s what hardcore gamers would do if I showed them a screenshot like this





I will still persevere. Maybe cause I am a sucker for wasting away my time. Or maybe ’cause games need not be all about me all alone, a box of ammo shells by my side and plenty of cover.

Posted in Gamer Genes, Marginal Benefits | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

TBR Pile & economics

Posted by Q on December 24, 2009

Among other things, the TBR of January ’09 had me purportedly reading the following

  • Alan Furst – The Foreign Correspondent
  • Brent Weeks – Night Angel Trilogy
  • Don Wilson – California Fire & Life
  • Donald Thomas – Sherlock Holmes & The Voice from the Crypt
  • James M. Cain – The Postman Always Rings Twice
  • John Kennedy Toole – A Confederacy Of Dunces
  • John Levitt – New Tricks
  • Kurt Vonnegut – Breakfast Of Champions
  • Kurt Vonnegut – Slaughterhouse-Five
  • Malcolm Lowry – Under The Volcano
  • Matthew Woodring Stover – Heroes Die
  • Thomas Pynchon – Gravity’s Rainbow
  • Tobias Buckell – Sly Mongoose
  • Walter Jon Williams – Implied Spaces


Well then, in the 12 months since, I’ve managed 5 out of the 14 luminaries mentioned before. Which is a pretty decent strike rate (35% whereabouts). Putting on my 65%-rated economics hat, I can comfortably predict that people only really enjoy fruits from 35% of the total money that they spend on enjoying in the first place. I dub thee, the marginal happiness law

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The Kindle Gets Launched!

Posted by Q on December 13, 2007

Finally! after months of idle speculation of the ugly device in picture, Amazon has finally revealed the whole deal behind the Kindle package and needless to add, the canning has started.

MobileRead’s Bob Russell marks it off as the worst thing that could happen to ebooks, while the Techdirt Insider community feels that overpriced content is only leading kindle to the road of failure. Teleread hasn’t really waded into the debate yet, except for some grumblings about the clear snub to .epub (and, accept it guys, you are obsessed over the Tower of eBabel). And, while we get an onslaught of marketing videos on the Amazon Site, another to be launched e-ink device (Cybook) languishes in an insipid YouTube video and my own Sony Reader..well, did you know that there is a version 505 out there ?

Anyway, back to the topic under discussion! While the tech community is less than enthused over this new package, i am extremely happy at the way Amazon has put across a very amazing business model.

first up, a list of things the Kindle is providing: Boing Boing & Wikipedia cover almost all of it, but in short simple terms:

  1. Yes, except for PDF & secure mobi, all the ebooks that you currently own can be transferred & read for free on the Kindle
  2. No, there is no way to convert those $ 9.99 azw beauties into a format of your choice and to be read on another device/PC…yet! (Bad Amazon!)
  3. Yes, it does audio and audiobook enthusiasts; the milli-ens of them would be pretty happy to hear (hehe) that they can transfer their own files to the device themselves.
  4. No, they havent hacked the free EV-DO internet to work for laptops yet 😉

ok! the last one was mostly in jest. But seriously, some good thinking on part of the Amazon gang.

Now, i say the device is good and i am never going to buy it ! i think the business model behind Kindle is brilliant even though the device is damn ugly.

If you look from the rampant ebook piracy point of view, ebook selling websites shouldn’t exist. But they do (Baen, Sony Connet, ebooks.com, mobipocket.com)! and so do sites for Music (iTunes) & Videos (Netflix). So basically there is a market out there which is being currently served/serviced.The next question is, ” is the market big enough?”

Simple answer is NO! I do not believe that the current market is even 1.5-2 million “paid” downloads. So, market opportunity cannot be more than $10-20 mn. Now, which company is even looking at a New Media Industry like that, when in comparision, the new Wii consoles have sold 15 mn units, since Dec 2006 (Xbox – 10 million & PS3 – 8.8 million); Industry behemoth ipod sold 18 million units..hell, even Zune sold 1.2 mn units ! look at the figures and despair…all ye ebook reader companies!

The immediate need of the market is rapid expansion – like the Wii did for the console business. What i contend is that the business model behind Kindle is really going to blow up the market.

Lets look at the reasons why –

No. 1 Instant Gratification – Ever wondered why all those Point-of-sale terminals are loaded with small goodies? That’s for enticing you to spend your money rather than taking the view away from the pretty cash-countress :p Look at Kindle. Instant Wireless connectivity…get any of 90k books/blogs/magazines. All it takes is 1 second of need and you’d have bought yourself a monthly Times subscription, a BusinessWeek or a NYT bestseller. Sitting in your drawing room and having Coffee next to a roaring fire ain’t gonna boost sales…an idle, boring wait at the conference you went to, or the local subway ride..and there the money would flow.

No. 2 – Convenience – I can reasonably source almost any possible fiction book on the planet, that i need, given enough time. My sis, who just has to mail me to ask for a new book, couldn’t be bothered. She already has too much stuff on her plate. This is the reason why people buy the Norton Antivirus’s or the Windows Vista DVD’s – it’s not that they can’t source it illegally – it’s just that they do not have the time or familiarity to trawl through the wastes of pirate cells and look for stuff they want.

And what do we get in return…

We get a bloody bigger TG. More people into ebook reading. And that gives rise to consumer choice! All those screamers about getting bogged down by format, seller, DRM etc all exist because the industry is monopolistic. Once an adoption of readers happens, be it the Kindle, CyBook, Illiad..or anything else, we can have lower prices, better devices and services. Planning 25 years from now for owned content is stupid (Sorry, Cory Doctorow, your books are good but this is incomprehensible nonsense to me). Hell, all the paperbacks from my college days (which wasn’t that long ago) have all wasted away.

A growing market right now can be better news than a great device which supports all formats, has color display and costs $150. That device willl only come if there is a market for it. Otherwise, no one is gonna plonk down their shareholder wealth in this particular mess.

That’s why i think Kindle is good. It’s good for the industry. It will force companies to change their whole idea about this marketplace. It brings in new technologies and delivery mechanisms…which might not be perfect, but are radically different! that counts for a lot, i say!

And all those internet based (text) content services, finally also have a revenue model that is not based on Advertising or Premium Services. Good old-fashioned subscription…finally making a pie, albeit a very small one, out of the $0.00 internet service!

I think that it is great to have something of this sort come up now. Let’s hope the ebook industry becomes bigger…its in the interest of all of us!

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