Birdwatching: Is Assassin’s Creed starting to dull?

ACIII
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Birdwatching is a column by Eddie King. Views expressed are not necessarily those of Digixav.

The first time I ever played Assassin’s Creed was in Germany many years ago. I spent a full half hour navigating the tutorial trying to figure out what it trying to tell me to do in German. Despite the difficulties in this, I fell in love and when I got my first Xbox it was the first game I bought. Needless to say I got bored fairly soon.  The first Assassin’s Creed definitely deserves the title of a classic game, but at about the halfway point in the plot it requires the determination of a donkey hell bent on avenging his mother’s second cousin’s murder to finish. Five years later much has changed, so how has the memory mooching megalomaniacal man in a dressing gown been getting on?

After the revolutionarily intriguing first episode, Assassin’s Creed was well known but not perfect, but then came the sequel Assassin’s Creed 2. If you have not played this game then you should be taken out and shot in front of your families. It was the second coming and it had nothing wrong with it at all. It set the standard for any game that wasn’t racing or shooting. The aspects that made it so successful were the fact that you could climb just about anywhere you could see, the fighting looked absolutely insane, the plot was brilliant and had you wanting the next piece of the puzzle and all of this was in a manageable package that didn’t require ultimate gamer reflexes to operate. At the same time it wasn’t easy either and it certainly wasn’t boring.

If Assassin’s Creed was to Assassin’s Creed 2 what Call of Duty 3 was to Modern Warfare, then Assassin’s Creed 2 was to Brotherhood what Modern Warfare is to Modern Warfare 2. Anal analogies aside, Brotherhood was perfection with every little bit being a little bit better. The introduction of the multiplayer was all that was needed to keep me glued to the screen for a very long time. Even Red Dead Redemption took a back seat at this point. The choice of things to do became more in depth and the graphics were just getting sharper; much like Ezio’s blade, maybe a little too sharp. The first signs of problems had begun to emerge. I had trouble dying. Apart from the occasional stumble and misjudging the occasional free running stunt was all that ever stopped my heart beating. I was becoming worried that Assassin’s Creed was slowing to a crawl so far as new developments were concerned. Admittedly Brotherhood was nicknamed Assassin’s Creed 2.5 but as a new game I was expecting more and certainly more of a challenge.

Revelations again wasn’t quite Assassin’s Creed 3 but more Assassin’s Creed 2.750861 and it was the same story yet again, with the same easy combat systems in which one button push could dispatch six guards stunningly enough to make Qui-Gon Jinn’s bottom jaw hit the floor and the same fleet of efficient friends who could remove any threat in front of you without even having to draw your sword and the same ability to defy gravity as effectively elephants’ ears when jumping from building to building. Yes, the story has set the stage for a grand finale and pieces of the puzzle have fallen into place that you couldn’t have added otherwise, but it could have been so much better if Ubisoft had injected a little of the original Assassin’s Creed elbow grease and grunt.

Despite all this, I still have the bottom half of Ezio’s face staring me down from behind my desktop and Ubisoft will undoubtedly continue to relieve me of extortionate amounts of money for the privilege of finding ever predictable ways of killing people. I really love the Assassin’s Creed series and I will continue to play it because it is one of the most fun and unique games available today. That being said, I hope that when I hear the gentle rip of plastic that indicates I have Assassin’s Creed 3 in my grasp I will not give a sigh of sadness as I realise I have already played this very game before only with a man with a different accent, but rather a gasp of excitement as I am grabbed by the balls and dragged to a new world of tomahawks and tea into a new experience.

Birdwatching: Minecraft vs. Lego

Relativity Lego
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Birdwatching is a column by Eddie King. Views expressed are not necessarily those of Digixav.

Many moons ago, before the red ball of fury was angry and consumed with rage at the idiots who run the world, he spent his time building the most tremendous Lego structures the world has ever seen, and spent hours planning the most complicated battle plans in an attempt to outwit the little yellow men on the other team. Now, I play Minecraft whenever I have an urge to see an insane idea of mine on a screen and soon my little brother will too. The problem is he has never spent hours on some incredibly complex technological project that will rock the world of your own innocent dreams and never feel that awesome feeling of success. The real question is, despite my nostalgia, is this really a bad thing?

There is a little thing called evolution that I am rather fond of and I consider it the ultimate succession of life. Up until now, each generation has thought of something new and old people have complained about how much easier life was or how much worse it has become. The problem is that in the last hundred years we have made technological progress at a rate which is beyond comprehension. People are getting worried because every stereotype or old wives tale which we feel comfortable in is being rewritten thanks to computers. They are attacked and teams of individuals have made it their lives’ work to prove they are bad. But are they? I think that any change society makes on a mass scale must, by definition, be positive, otherwise that change would not happen on such a large scale. Take smoking – thirty years ago it was the pinnacle of cool and advertised at or sponsoring almost every major event. Seventy years ago it was just one of the things you did like breathing. It has however been clinically proven to kill you, so they stopped the advertising and sponsorships and today smokers are shunned. People still smoke, but the ones that do know how they could be compromised. The technological revolution is a compromise and one that I have not really made. For instance, how many people – especially teenagers – who are reading this post know how to skin a rabbit? On the down side, I am a terrible zob and I can’t touch type, but I am happy with that compromise.

My point is this – the technological revolution has not yet completed revolving and the more we fight it the longer it will take. I think we should sit back and let it take its course. If it works out then great, but if not then people will change because I think one of the biggest problems today is people don’t trust themselves. There is no confidence. People have been adapting for quite a long time now and they’ve got quite good at the whole survival thing.

My brother won’t have those great memories and I might feel bad for him, but he will have other memories and other experiences that I shall not have, and so we have come to the end of this sermon. I think that people should sit back and let this period of social evolution take its course.

Birdwatching: Fus Ro Damn I’m bored

Because I am totally gonna win
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Birdwatching is a column by Eddie King. Views expressed are not necessarily those of Digixav.

I didn’t manage to impale a sharp projectile into my patella but regardless I have managed to lose my sense of humour over Digixav’s favourite game of 2011, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Yes, the small red flying feathered ball in the sky is going to be taking the big, scaly, fire breathing monster that is Skyrim. It was one of the most highly anticipated games since the release of Oblivion back in 2005 and when it arrived at school on a November morning even the quietest and most reasonable students became national standard rugby players and managed to barge past most of the school to play it. I did observe and despair, and this is why.

A game should stimulate you mentally. It should make you think and feel and it should be an experience. Skyrim is just a way to waste time. The mechanics of the game are repetitive and there are enough side missions to get lost in. Replay value? I think not because the chances are you will never finish the entire game before your mind is reduced to a whimpering mass at the back of your cranium. You play as a violent oaf who can somehow swing some stupidly large piece of some unknown element at some impossibly alive bag of walking bones which can absorb more damage than a Nokia. I guess what I am so angry about is that it claimed to be so good; it claimed to be a vast, open world to lose yourself in. Well yes, I certainly did lose myself in it, the problem being that I didn’t manage to find a way out. The story is just too big and there needs to be an end. An infinite story should not be allowed. I want to be able to enjoy understanding the various intricacies and twists instead of having huge amounts of nonsensical myths and obscure cults that everybody I meet seems to want me to join dropped into my lap and let me wonder what the hell I am supposed to do with it all. This is prominent when you get into the game and you check your mission catalogue, only to find about three pages worth of objectives that you have no intention of completing. Then when finally you do get round to starting AND finishing a quest the formula is the same every single time. Namely go here and talk to this person, pick up another two quests, go there and enter a mildly scary looking cave, wait at loading screen for too long, go inside and navigate a complex array of tunnels, encounter a few enemies which you can get rid of by button bashing which results in the same three moves until they die and finally collect your reward which is the ability to talk to some stars which help you in some practical way. Because stars now control how good we are at stuff, don’t you know.

The game lies to you, and after a few hours you have seen everything you are ever going to see. The combat systems are overly simplistic and movements are very slow. Now at this point those of you who are still reading and haven’t taken offence will note that I admit that Skyrim isn’t all bad as the graphics are insane and certain parts of the story are pretty epic. It is also a very good addition to the Elder Scrolls series and the people who have grown used to this style of game will have no qualms where I was tearing my hair out. Also, despite me claiming that it is a mindless game, some of the puzzles are quite challenging but the end is always inevitable. The slow and unrealistic fighting and repetitiveness of the gameplay unfortunately mean that this game becomes boring by the time you are in desperate need of a pee in front of laptop. Skyrim is a good game but is let down by being hyped up far too much and it isn’t the completely free universe it claims to be.

Birdwatching: Porn, privacy and problems with hackers

David Cameron
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Birdwatching is a column by Eddie King. Views expressed are not necessarily those of Digixav.

Yet again those suits in London who get paid to write stuff and put it on some of the biggest, most influential and most widely read websites on the internet have decided to take a sledgehammer to our subconscious, dulling it to the point where we will be soon living in a nanny state wrapped in bubble paper and drooling over the sacred book of political correctness. The bird has yet again been consumed with anger and will be doing his best to knock ten bells out of the foundations of stupidity. Luckily this time around I have, like Eminem, the ‘antidote‘ i.e. porn.

Yes, I mentioned the P word, but we must understand that we are one of the only species that actually has sex merely for fun and it shows intelligence. Unfortunately most people won’t admit this because it is a touchy subject, and there is nothing wrong with this, but subsequently as a youngster you will start discovering the world of puberty through some of the shadier corners of the internet. Why? Because it isn’t embarrassing, other people have said it is good and it is free and easily accessible. Why then has our illustrious Prime Minister deemed it necessary to call together a meeting with the biggest ISPs to block porn in all services unless you ask for it in the first place? Three massive problems with this:

  • Firstly, if you are in any form of relationship at all and your partner found out that you specifically requested porn to be allowed on your media it will be a basis for accusations of cheating, as for some reason girls don’t seem to understand that even if you were going out with a gorgeous specimen and love them very much, it doesn’t stop you being curious about what Tulisa looks like naked and at the height of pleasure. (No link there, but if you want to find out, Google’s a thing.)
  • Secondly, it will prevent young boys from truly entering teenagehood, as at the end of the day before you turn 13 you are not in the least bit interested in girls so you won’t go looking for videos of them with no cloths on and after that you don’t mind finding them so at what point are you protecting anybody?  Yes, there are some very dark corners of the internet where the adult industry takes advantage of people in ways which are truly sick and twisted, but the thing is not only is this a niche market but these bastards generally want money for their hard work and so that is a natural buffer against us ‘stumbling’ over it.
  • Lastly, you are starting to make choices for people based on the fact you have more power than them. You are now swimming in very dangerous waters as in places where the internet is available it prides itself on being the model of freedom. And after centuries of perfecting various ways of taking lives that don’t belong to them, humans are kind of protective of freedom because it works rather well.

They say that they want to limit this to protect children, but who asked them to protect them? Was it some cow in a horrible pink frock at a garden party in the Cotswolds? Do you really think this will help society in any way? If you channelled that same time and effort into making the darker streets of London not quite so dark, then children and their guardians might feel a little more protected. Parents have more software options than hair follicles to save their children from the sight of someone getting banged, but they don’t have the same options in the real world as muggings, murder and rape are just a few of the things that you can’t download safeguards for but Mr Cameron can help with.

This brings me onto the subject of that brilliant yet totally arsehole-ish crowd who call themselves ‘hackers‘. These are the true lords of the internet who do not steal your money by building up databases on you and slowly taking over your life (like Google) but simply roll in and strip your card of all its value and then forget to tell you about it until they buy a car in Mexico. To be honest it is a far more comfortable way to get mugged and frankly shows how soft the 21st century really is. But the rascals have been rumoured to have designs on the Olympic opening ceremony. The question is where to draw the line. Generally I will say that people should be show how to not care about things that don’t really matter and to stick it to the man, but at this level I am talking about the same man every time – a man that I am proud to stick it to in the first place and one that I want no help in sticking it to. Turning the lights off at the opening ceremony in London and pasting a massive picture of someone’s breasts on the board may be a good laugh and it certainly would both stick it to the man and show just how free the little people can get, but then other people will no longer respect the man I stick it to. I think that hackers should continue with their 21st century muggings and displays of the innermost workings of top secret organisations, but the people who keep your Alienware desktops running are the same ones you will be attacking on this occasion so please reconsider and piss someone else off.

Birdwatching: How social networking can (stupidly) ruin your life

Robin Hood Airport
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Birdwatching is a column by Eddie King. Views expressed are not necessarily those of Digixav.

My first post may have been a little limp wristed so far as rants go, but, when checking the news, I sometimes get the unexplainable urge to shout at the authors of some of the UK’s worst articles. So, despite it being rather late, I have to alert all of you to how intelligent we really are. because if the level of intelligence required to be a technology journalist amounts to this particular article, then we must all be bloody geniuses and shouldn’t have any problem in taking over the world when we are older. Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the first of many social networking rants.

I do hope you will take the time to read the article from MSN in full but my attention was drawn by an example about half way through about a man who was sacked from two jobs and fined £1000 for a single tweet. The article in question was entitled “how social networking can ruin your life” and it was basically stoking the anti-Facebook fire and bringing up some real world examples of the effects of being normal in the twenty-first century. First off. I need to protest at the principle that a single phrase comprising of less than 140 characters can cause such a stir as to turn a good man’s life into living hell. At the moment we are fighting several wars and are in the middle of social unrest and confusion on a scale that has never been imagined before due to the world getting smaller, what with racial, sexist and ageist (yes, it exists) abuse and having to live our lives around the idiots who invented health and safety. You really expect me to believe that anybody gives a rat’s fart about some guy complaining about delays at a small airport I didn’t even know existed? It is an outrage.

But now we must discuss the statement at hand. After delays at Robin Hood Airport, a man tweeted about blowing the place sky high in frustration. He was the sued for bomb threats and charged with sending a message that was “grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character” and sacked from his jobs over the scandal.

Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!

Generally I do not approve of text speak in written work but I think just such an abbreviation sums up the incident very nicely, that abbreviation being WTF‽ Words don’t even begin to describe how stupid this really is. If the guy really were intent on blowing stuff up, do you really think he would put it on Twitter? And even if he did, he was charged a week later so if he was a terrorist then he could have blown old Robin Hood Airport and many others “sky high” before he was sent a letter asking him to rephrase his annoyance.

I completely understand the government’s need to censor and watch social networking sites and what is being written on them, but the airport didn’t get bombed and the man had no history. It just seems like a case of finding a reason to prove an innocent man guilty and this is unacceptable – almost as bad as the man who went to jail for commenting on the on-pitch heart attack of Bolton Wanderers player Fabrice Muamba. I do not follow the Bolton Wanderers every move intently, and so I only heard about what happened in passing, but it did occur to me that the chances of a young football player who is in peak physical condition having a heart attack and being taken to intensive care were pretty slim. Now, imagine an avid fan who is 21 and is studying biology at university. The worst part of this story, however, is that he was sent away for racial abuse. Racial abuse? Because of a heart attack? The charge is just wrong. There are plenty of horrid people out there but sending a guy away to jail for being a hater and then blaming it on him being a racist is just a little extreme in my eyes.

There were some valid ones too where various illicit pictures were involved but, to be honest, on a computer you always have the off button whereas in real life a lot more can happen with far worse consequences. I think people should stop wasting their time trying to teach people how they should think and accept that as long as they aren’t breaking the law they should be allowed to live however they want. And what is more, they should stop trying to blame it on social networking. And for God’s sake, stop writing annoying, sissy, health and safety clad, nanny state, cheap, badly written articles about it because it is very late now and every time you do, I have to devote some minutes of my life pointing out to the rest of the world how stupid you are.

Birdwatching: A bite out of the Apple

Angry Bird
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Bird Watching is a column by Eddie King. Views expressed are not necessarily those of Digixav.

The Angry Bird has landed! I seem to be the latest contributor to this acclaimed site, and my specialty is getting very angry very quickly about the things that we all get bugged by. I rant and rage for your entertainment and interest so be bloody grateful. For a time I have been flying high, watching, waiting and searching. At last I have chosen a worthy target to reign down my feathery wroth upon: the enigma of the technological world that is Apple.

I first got passionate about Apple when my uncle bought an original iPod Touch back when America still thought it was a good idea to vote for a piece of shrubbery with a particular low IQ for their President. He would taunt me and only let me use it for limited amounts of time (this was back when I was very young as I say) and it was then I decided to prove that Apple as ineffective as a hammock full of cheese. Unfortunately it didn’t work. No matter what I tried or researched, Apple was seemingly brilliant in every way. At this point the rest of my close family had started believing my uncle and I found myself using Apple products loads. Despite this, Apple is still second to Microsoft and, to tell you the truth, it probably will stay that way for a very long time. This is why.

Firstly there is the price. The biggest complaint about Apple internationally is that you have to own several oil fields to be able to afford the parking space outside an Apple Store before actually trying to buy anything, which means at this point only Bill Gates could contemplate this without bankrupting himself. Usually I take the view that price is no object because if something is worth the quality then save a little and buy something that will serve better and for longer, but that is based on the idea that the other product will fall apart soon after you get it home. But let’s be honest – if you wanted to buy a 15” MacBook Pro for normal laptopping purposes you would have to spend at least a thousand pounds. Yes, you get a lump of beautiful aluminium and some impressive specs, but the same money could get you a Dell XPS, an HP Envy that is almost identical in appearance or even a highly customised Alienware M14x with a wallet-melting solid state drive, all of which certainly aren’t going to fall apart the moment you get them home.

The next problem is when you get it home and you start using it you will find that the entire world has a vendetta against your every wish. Compatibility is lots better than it was a few years ago, but even still you will have to get Windows programs such as Microsoft Office and you will have to re-learn most of what you know about computers because, despite OS X Lion (and the upcoming Mountain Lion) being awesome, being raised in a society that uses Windows means that the ropes once again need learning. It will add up. Then there are the over-stylised looks. In the beginning, they were just arrogant, and in the modern day they may be unique, but they are no longer the only good looking laptops out there as other companies are discovering the revolution of ‘metal’. They still look great but not for the excessive price.

To cap it all off, there is the lack of any gaming opportunities. The only games which you can play will cost too much, be out of date and won’t work online. Boot Camp is a convenient solution for running Windows software, but you still have to buy your own copy of Windows and experience torrid battery life, while additionally losing some of the awesome smoothness that has become Apple’s signature.

And yet even though on paper Apple looks to be to Microsoft what the iPad is to the iPod Touch. But, like the iPad, once you try it you seem to feel as though your life will not be able to continue. Apple are here to stay and will continue to be the overpriced thorn that sticks in every sane person’s side; and why? Because, as I found out all those years ago, it just has an annoying habit of working like a dream. Simple smooth and care free, Apple appeals to everyone from technophobes and graphics designers to designer people who want it to look good and those who are convinced that the internet is a little black box kept safe by some super nerds on top of Big Ben. Yes, you can’t play anything except Minecraft on Macs and you have to pay three times as much for the privilege, but, when you are playing the one game that exists, it will be better than most others. What started as an angry rant has turned into a feeling of acceptance. For all their faults no one in their right minds would dare turn an Apple product away. So the choice is yours, respect, a car, a girlfriend and a life, or a super computer made of adamantium.