Computers, Entertainment, Games, Technology

Star Trek: Legacy sucks

Star Trek: Legacy is a space combat game featuring the voices of all five Star Trek captains. The damage effects on the ships is good; in fact the graphics overall are very good. But unfortunately the game is rather simplistic and terribly crippled by a dodgy control system. Which is a shame since it had potential…

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Computers, Entertainment, Technology

Zudeo and the BBC

Apparently the BBC will begin offering programmes for download though Zudeo, a movie sharing service similar to YouTube, owned by Azureus, the developer of a popular BitTorrent client.

Although the downloads will contain DRM, the very fact that the reputation of BitTorrent for illegal downloads hasn’t put the BBC off partnering with a company that relies on it says a lot about them.

Computers, Entertainment, EVE Online, Games, MPOGs, Technology

Exploration in Revelations

A recent update to EVE Online has made exploration (brought in a couple of weeks ago with Revelations) easier. How much easier? I don’t know since I was never successful before the update. But today I had my first success.

If you look around the EVE forums there is an in depth guide to scanning. I’ll give you short guide. First bit of info, you’re going to do most of your scanning on the solar system view. Get to this by clicking on the map and selecting solar system view from the top of the overview. Secondly you’re going to need a few skills, specifically Astrometrics III and whatever it’s prerequisites are. As with everything in EVE there are others that will help you.

Now, to actually scan. Open your scanner and from anyway in the system launch a Multispectral Probe. This scans an entire solar system and tells you if it finds a reading and what type. The type determines what type of probe to use next. You need “a bunch” (at least 5 or so per system) of “X Quest Probe”s where X is the type of the signature (gravimetric, ladar etc.). You can find stuff with the wrong probes but it will take more scans. Go to each planet in the system and launch one of the Quest probes. When you get to the inner planets you’ll have to choose which to cover since you can’t launch a probe within the range of another. When they’re all ready, select “Cosmic Signature” from your scanner and hit analyse.

Hopefully it will find something. If not, hit Analyse again. Once you have something, things get easier. With a lot of luck the accuracy will say 0m which means you’ve found and go warp there and see what it is. More than likely there will be a deviation of some sort and you will have to scan a bit more. So warp to the signature and destroy any probes that can “see” it (you can see the scan range of the probes you have selected in the scanner window).

The next bit is a little hard to explain. There are different probes besides the Quest probes – for example Sift (make sure they begin with type though, gravimetric for instance, otherwise they aren’t the probes used for exploration). Each of these probes has a different range – the shorter the range the more accurate they are. You want to use the shortest range probe that has a range greater than the deviation of your result. So deviation of 0.37 AU (which I got) can be found with the Sift probe (rand of 1 AU). So drop the probe and scan. Unfortunately (As was the case with me), you may need to scan multiple times (with multiple probes). But with any luck, you’ll find something 🙂

Below are some screenshots taken during scanning and of the Omber asteroid belt I found. Not the most exciting thing to find but I was in empire space and I’d guess the really cool things are in low sec and beyond.

EVE, space games, exploration, probes, scanning, Kali, Revelations

Computers, Entertainment, Technology

Sky TV without a Sky box

At the moment I have a Sky subscription with a Sky box. The Sky box outputs to my computer which is running Media Center which can change channel on the box using an IR blaster. This isn’t ideal and also means that I’ll never get HD since the Sky box only sends an SD signal out of the scart/composite output. Surely there must be a way to connect the computer directly to the computer and receive TV that way?

Well there is. But there are issues. Firstly you need a DVB-S card. These are just digital TV capture cards that you can plug the cable from a satellite dish into. If you stop there you will be able to receive all the free-to-air channels. Oddly enough though that won’t get you all the free channels.

To get the encrypted Sky channels you will need a CAM – Conditional Access Module – with a card reader. In theory you just put your card in and set up your DVB card to use it. Of course anything to do with decrypting commercial stuff is never that easy. You see there are many different encryption methods and most CAMs don’t support them all (and some only support one). What’s even worse is the method used by Sky is VideoGuard from a company called NDS (which is owned by News Corporation, the company which owns Sky). And guess what? You have to pay a license to use it. That doesn’t mean you can’t physically use it though. There are a couple of CAMs (literally two from what I’ve read) that can decrypt VideoGuard signals but the legality is questionable. Which is silly since generally speaking you’ll still have a (paid for) Sky subscription card in the reader.

The other issue is Sky’s Terms and Conditions on this issue. They say that the card must stay in the box the whole time, that you can’t use the card for unauthorised purposes and that the card needs to be paired to a specific box. However it doesn’t actually say you need to use a Sky box and the very first thing it says is that you are bound to the conditions once you put the card in the box. So surely if you never do that you aren’t bound to the conditions..?

Computers, Technology

Carphone Warehouse

Ooh, drama.

I recently received an email from a Carphone Warehouse representative asking me to remove the personal information about one of their employees I had published. Specifically, two of Charles Dunstone’s email addresses.

If one or both of the email addresses are actually personal addresses of Mr Dunstone and this is an attempt to protect them, then it’s rather futile. Firstly because I first heard of them from a commenter so someone else obviously knew it a while ago andh as probably told others. Secondly, the fact that they were published for even a moment on the web means they’ve been scraped and stolen by hundreds of bots. So if they are being bombarded by emails offering cheap OEM software, fake Rolex watches, dodgy claims about various stocks or warnings about losing access to a PayPal account, I apologise. As for the many emails from customers trying to sort out problems with their service? Well if people were getting the replies they wanted from the public emails then none of this would have happened.

I should also point out that the email contained a standard disclaimer saying the correspondence was private. I figured that since it specifically regarded a public action (i.e. blatantly changing content on the site) then people would notice anyway and an explanation was in order.

As a final personal disclaimer I would like to say that unlike many others I still haven’t had any problems with TalkTalk as a customer.

Computers, Entertainment, EVE Online, Games, MPOGs, Technology

Improving EVE – Part 2

There are obviously more NPCs in the game than just pirates and Concord – there are all the factions. The rest of what I suggest is essentially a way to do factional warfare. And because I speak from a programming background there are a few technically implementation details.

The first step is to have some sort of invisible “power rating” for every NPC faction in a system. This power rating represents the control that faction has over a system and would be completely dynamic. The rating would control how quickly ships (and sentry guns for instance) controlled by the faction spawn. As more ships appear in a system, they could move into other systems and (in the case of war) attack the ships in that system. Losing ships in a system lowers that faction’s power there. By default they’d all be equal (on their borders) thereby ensuring it’s player involvement that tips the balance. With enough support a faction could gain sovereignty of a system from another faction (or perhaps a player alliance? The mechanics of system sovereignty would have to be expanded). The Caldari stamping out the Gallente for instance 😛 Since the factions need to survive they’d have to be some scaling factor giving more support to factions that have lost a lot of space so they don’t disappear completely.

This also means turning Concord upside down. Have Concord work the same as the other factions. And themn, instead of having Concord presence be dependent on security status, have security status based on Concord presence. Therefore player pirates that want to move in somewhere can, but only after they wipe out Concord first. For systems well secured by a faction, it’s navy should probably also take on the role of the police along with Concord.

The factions would also have different “rules” for expansion. Concord would not aim to take territory for instance. The big four would aim to strongly control a few systems whereas pirates would aim to expand a small presence everywhere (this would control pirate spawning for instance).

With EVE as large as it is, some pretty impressive effects could be achieved simply by interacting thousands of small pieces of AI.

Other possibilities could include the ability to declare war on NPC corporations. This would probably mean a loss of standing to friendly corporations and the relevant navy declaring war on you of course.

So to summarise the benefits:

  • Casual players can be more involved
  • Even with everyone helping in a war, the alliances still have the “prestige” of being player run and it meaning something
  • Alliances get to attack the factions
  • A blurring between high sec, low sec and 0.0 instead of the fairly sudden differences
  • And probably more

I’ll wait for comments about the disadvantages…

Computers, Entertainment, EVE Online, Games, MPOGs, Technology

Improving EVE – Part 1

Sorry about the recent EVE fixation. It will pass 😛

There has been a lot of debate on the EVE forums recently about high security space vs low security space vs 0.0 space. Basically CCP (the company that makes EVE Online) prefer 0.0 space and would like everyone to move there. This is for a few reasons. Since it’s all player controlled it is a more accurate example of a world controlled by players. This also means that CCP don’t have to create content for it to be interesting (although they still do).

The problem is that a certain amount of dedication is required and some players simply don’t have the time and prefer a more casual play style. And low security space is even more dangerous than 0.0 space essentially forming a no-mans land. At least in 0.0, alliances have control of it (or have the option to control it).

I have a proposal to alleviate some of the problems. Many people on the forums have had proposals and most of been bad – and there is a chance mine would be no different. But read anyway 😛

The basic idea is to remove the divide between players and NPCs. Previously I would have said this had no chance of happening. CCP want the player interaction to be most important and not let it become a “Massively Single Player Online Role Playing Game”. But with the announcement of factional warfare it seems more possible. In fact my whole idea is essentially an implementation of factional warfare (unfortunately the details about how it will work are probably set in stone by now so suggestions may not help). More details of that in part two.

The first step to bring NPCs and players closer together is to make Concord “real”. At the moment surviving a Concord attack is considered an exploit. The second step is to put Concord in low security space. If it’s considered “empire space” it should be protected. The clever part is to scale Concord involvement to the security level. And also have more patrols and fewer stationary blockade type setups. Having a concord fleet at every gate is kind a silly, and even if they’re become theoretically killable, it would still need a massive fleet.

This would make low sec a bit safer and high sec a bit more dangerous. You’re open to attack anywhere, however you’re more likely to be saved by Concord the higher the security status you’re in. In 0.1 Concord may send a couple of ships eventually, in 1.0 there’s probably 10 patrols just “round the corner”.

Next is the issue of NPC pirates and how Concord should react to them. It doesn’t really make sense for Concord to ignore them. At the moment NPC pirates are important to the game since they

  1. add a bit of risk to new players in high sec
  2. provide bounty for the more experienced
  3. are a necessary storyline part of agent missions

Number one is required in some level so players get to learn combat but this could easily be replaced by training complexes, or even normal rogue drone complexes that Concord could conceivably not be interested in. Number two is certainly not required, there are enough ways to make money. I’ll address number three later. But for now, lets assume NPC pirates are still needed in high sec. A way round this would be to have different parts of a system have effective security statuses lower than the rest of the system. Perhaps make asteroid belts 0.2 lower than the listed security status of the system they’re in – at least as far deciding Concord response. And they should try to run away if they think they’ll lose (and choose not to attack certain ships). This would frustrate experienced players trying to get bounty but would make sense for miners who are, after all, supposed to be the victims of pirates, not the other way round. And remember, you’d be vulnerable to real pirates anyway.