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What's an alias worth?

By Richard '_evan' Armstrong
Jul 7, 2008 17:29

A battleship grey sky looms overhead, it's a wet Saturday afternoon and I wonder somewhat anxiously why I'm not interested in the Electronic Sports World Cup Masters in Paris. The worlds eyes are fixed upon the Palais Omnisports yet as I shuffle in my seat I pretend to care, to take interest, I can't lie - I've lost my passion for eSports.

I look away from the window and towards my screen, the window to my electronic world. Browsing through my external hard drive I search for hope, a connection to remember why and how I became 'evan'. A voice rings in my head, “do you remember when we were younger?”. My eyes are closed and I breathe slowly. I want to tell you a story, I want to tell you where I came from, I want to tell you about Juha Porvali. He's an Enemy Territory' player, Abdisamad 'SpawN' Mohamed but better, he's Juha 'mystic' Porvali.

There's something almost inevitable about parodia magnifica. Hans Zimmer vs. Lambretta (Loxodonte mix) opens up the movie and I can already feel the hairs on my neck standing on end, my mouth is dry and I know something special is coming. I'm on the edge about to be swallowed up by something utterly awesome.

Juha comes from Helsinki. I remember the first time I saw him and like most I didn't actually see him, he is and was always out of reach. The pictures of a mousy haired Finnish boy, his flabby, dough-faced cheeks and beetroot red face were distinctively and deliberately unimpressive. I think it only added to the spell, it was his first and only LAN.

Best medic, best aim, best overall player and most over-rated. It seems he couldn't win everyone over, not that he ever tried. He's in the best team and his last team, GunSlingers, were voted the most popular ever. Skill doesn't get you to mystic's level though, there have always been challengers and the likes of Markus 'feruS' Stenmark, Jeroen 'teKoa' Augustinus, Sebastian 'butchji' Eisregen and David 'mAus' Herreman still pale in significance for anyone old enough to have seen mystic in his peak.

The movie concludes with mystic's frags and I begin to remember why and how I started out in eSports. I look gingerly for demos, I already know the matches I'm looking for because they're memories as real and vibrant as my first kiss, burnt into my conscious: parodia versus u96d, the Eurocup' XI final.

It's Supply Depot and after an awful first stage defense parodia lock down. feruS is in the east turret with a pistol waiting on axis respawn, he leans and spots mystic - it's the encounter the entire ETTV server has been waiting for, Jesse 'saintt' Leino nades' feruS in the face, killing the Swede and the hopes of 2000 others watching the match live.

saintt feeds mystic ammo packs at east, he gobbles it up and spits out allied bodies. The overbearing thump of body shots pound continuously through my headset, head shots sing like harpies: ting, ting, ting, another foe downed in three. He's a wall you just can't get past, you've to bring your team mates and break him down. Minutes pass and he still hasn't died, this is what three generations of talent have aspired towards, he's the star which even the top players look up to.

mystic doesn't speak, ever. He doesn't leave comments on websites and doesn't chat during matches. He could've just won the Eurocup' and you'd never know. No “gl, hf, gg”, nothing. He lets others speculate, debate and comment. He's above it. He doesn't even speak on ventrilo, apparently. His team mates never break the spell, it's as if there's some high skilled pact to keep mystic's status. A god in the virtual world, untouchable, unassailable, we the barbarian masses only watch on with bestial stupidity, clapping with dropped jaws as he butchers another defense.

Words without experience are meaningless; Juha Porvali from Finland is a nobody, mystic is a somebody. What's an alias worth? It reminds me where I come from, what I've achieved, what I believe in and shows me how far I've still to go.

Their skill make us stand to attention, their personality makes them memorable and it's their alias which makes them unforgettable. Whisper “mystic” to the right person and you'll get more than a smile in return...

Call of Duty 4 Content

By Richard '_evan' Armstrong
May 21, 2008 04:07

Call of Duty 4 content schedule for SK Gaming, began on the 23rd May 2008. A collection of interviews, columns, articles and coverage reports that have been published primarily on SK Gaming, but on other CoD websites where relevant.
CoD4 interviews:
Q & A – Alexander 'strelok' Shulepov
Q & A - Ryan 'raf1' Palmer

CoD4 features:
Where are the Germans?
Where is the narrative?
Les misérables call time on Clanbase
The contract question

A week in review:
17th to the 23rd of May 2008
24th to the 30th of May
31st of May to the 6th of June
7th to the 13th of June
14th to the 20th of June


By Richard '_evan' Armstrong
Jan 26, 2008 07:54

All round genius Sean Ellis captivates in his first feature film Cashback. Narrating the life of young wannabe artist Ben Willis, (Sean Biggerstaff) who finds himself suffering insomnia in the wake of his break up from the remarkably beautiful Suzy (Michelle Ryans) and finds shelter in a supermarket night shift.
The story follows protagonist Ben and gently unveils both his fascination with beauty and the movies eccentric feature - his ability to pause time. What sets Ben and Cashback apart from the countless other romantic comedies is its realness of life and people, which is a surprising contrast considering the constant full frontal nudity in the first 30 minutes.

Switching back and forth between his childhood, the story slowly reveals where his obsessive 'appreciation' of the female form comes from. The childhood scenes in their entirety were enjoyable and distracted from the numbing sense you couldn't quite grasp what Ben is trying to achieve and how the story wasn't flowing quite how you'd imagine it should do. His dialog is crisp and oddly poetic, by pausing time and undressing women he can capture their true beauty through a timeless medium.

'Women should be seen and not heard', pretty much sums up Ellis perverse representation of women through Ben. The opening a foreshadow to latter events where he inevitably falls prey to the same screaming yet silent love. The story creates cues which at first seem like nothing, but bloom into significance.

Eventually falling for co-worker Sharon (Emilia Fox), he merely shifts his obsession to his new muse. Even then his actual emotional involvement seems timid and appears slightly one dimensional. He's at times nothing more than a well spoken man struggling to understand women, love, life and to express himself through his art. A typical modern male!

Michelle Ryan is unrecognizable from her Eastenders background and deceptively beautiful in a way which sucks your attention away from anything else in the scene. Possibly why she's used so infrequently but to dazzling effect.

The men represent a palette of real life roles that we all understand and indulge every day. The over inflated ego of a boss, the gormless co-workers and the 'helpful' best friend Sean played by Shaun Evans. They're the ordinary, and the substance to the story. Contrasting the shallow yet captivating beauty in which the women are portrayed.

Brian's (Marc Pickering) entry to the movie is nothing short of hilarious, as is 'Jenkins' (Stuart Goodwin) entire dominant alpha male persona. The Gladiator parody felt awfully cringe worthy, but humorous nevertheless.

Although I can't imagine it will be as much fun for females, it's humor is witty and intelligent as opposed to American Pie's crudity and its moral realism is lasting unlike The 40 Year Old Virgin which felt clichéd. The scene where Suzy kisses Ben unaware that Sharon is watching personally touched me, not only because of the soundtrack (Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Power of Love) but just like the characters and dialog, it was real. A throughly enjoyable movie which reuses comedy traditions in a refreshing and unique way.

IMDb - Cashback

Media Mess

By Richard '_evan' Armstrong
Dec 12, 2007 19:08

As I finish reading a short story, which I happened to download as an eBook due to time constraints. I reflect over the last few days experiences of new media and it's woeful web of intricate difficulties.
Having a number of deadlines being sprung upon me. I was forced to investigate and explore different avenues of technology in order to get the job done. I've always been a fan of the idea of eBooks, but never really explored professional incarnations, let alone paid for any. Truth be told, reading The Silmarillion on a pdf was about as far as I'd been.

Yet, a Google search and five minutes of my time later and there I had a freshly downloaded copy of the book I needed. It was actually cheaper than the 'real' Amazon alternative despite the currency exchange and I had no waits on delivery nor had to spend a minimum in order to get free delivery. I would consider that a bargain!

As with all new forms of media delivery and convenience. More extravagant and draconian methods of Jewishness are unfortunately enforced. Pennies make the pounds after all, and no one likes knowing that they could've made more money if only they clamped down even harder!

Striking the balance is of course the primal issue and one that has been quite obviously and reflexively shunned by those 'in power'. They hold the cards and are free to do as they please. Regardless if it's Steam, movies or music downloads, when intellectual 'property' (I'll spare the whine about how ridiculous this concept is) is under threat, nay, 'lost profit', the businessmen are always quick to thrust the knife in to stop any vulnerable or potentially 'flexible' profit streams.
"I would further suggest that this is akin to a man charged with GBH punching the stenographer in the face to prove he's got a lousy left hook."

Television? With the BBC already having an online service for some time now, as well as Channel 4oD (on demand), and ITV soon enough. Traditional media is catering more and more to my needs. I can read some of the best writers in the world for free, I can watch free television, I can listen to free radio. So why do gamers begrudge paying for music, film or games?

In fact, the new technological push, leaves an interesting legal technicality open for exploitation. In the United Kingdom, if you use equipment to receive or record television, you're subject to pay the TV license, which is, £135.50 per year (£45.50 if you're using a black and white television).

I've often thought about what I would say if a TV License inspector did happen to make a call round. I've like most(?) students, received the angry letters bating for blood. I could quite confidently and calmly explain that a TV license pays exclusively for the BBC services. But since you've got no proof that I've used my USB Digital TV Tuner to watch BBC services live (I'll happily be watching Jeremy Kyle on ITV2 just at the right time, hopefully!) but I've got proof that I enjoy BBC programmes legally, surely I could win on technicalities?

In fact, just to show how far the limitations of popular stereotypical opinion are. I downloaded Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP2 and Vista Business 64 Bit, legally and free of charge earlier today. Most software comes with separate demo or trial versions, so the excuses are wearing thin.

Cost, restricting 'DRM's' or just a blatant lack of quality isn't a reason for rampant piracy, the logic is infallible and it's not helping anyone. It gives media big wigs less reason to invest in alternative media and more to ramp up prices and add further restrictions. It's just plain disrespectful.

Competitive Communities Drop the Ball

By Richard '_evan' Armstrong
Nov 30, 2007 06:39

A small observation about the attitudes of emerging communities with prospective games.
Call of Duty 4 : Modern Warfare marks the third installment of Infinity Wards highly proclaimed PC series. The game moves away from the world war two and moves into...'Modern Warfare'.

Publicly the game is unashamedly fun. There are few things I find annoying when playing, although the small things are like iron pokers burning into the skin. Two of the perks (similar to WoW's talent points), 'Last Stand' (when you've 'died', you drop to the floor and pull out a pistol, so it means you can snatch back a cheap kill) and 'Martyrdom' (when you've died, you drop a grenade. Which granted doesn't sound as bad as you think, but in practice, due to the quite ridiculous overpowered nature of a grenade, means that a kill is 90% guaranteed due to the stupidity of public players movement or the fact that even with sprint enabled, you're not likely to escape the hiroshima like splash) are truly innovations invented purely to remove any skill in making a kill. What's worse is that you don't know who has these skills and who doesn't.

I personally go for the grenade launcher attachment for my primary weapon, AK47. Stopping power (extra bullet damage) and extreme conditioning (means you can sprint longer).

The maps are almost carbon copies of CoD1 and CoD2 alternatives, which is no bad thing in my opinion. The graphics are gorgeous, they've this chalk pastel quality which clashes against the modern and oppressive machinery and weapons of the players. Considering at the heart of this, is the Quake III engine, shows how far aging engines can be pushed, graphically. I only wish developers could see this.

The crux comes competitively when talk turns to the unavoidable debate of rule sets and PAM. I honestly feel that the CoD2 players themselves will determine and unfortunately limit the appeal and future of CoD4. The further the CoD series moves away from comparisons of Counter Strike the better and more support it will receive.

When Counter Strike is king, you the horse, have to make concessions in order to supplant him. Counter Strike players can sit on their laurels as prospective communities debate themselves into oblivion.

I'll be honest, I was guilty of exactly of that same reflexive instinct when Enemy Territory: Quake Wars was released. I shouted for the removal of vehicles, which I felt completely undermined the speed and thrill of the game. But I knew, part of the reason why this game would become successful is more players. The vehicles were needed to attract the battlefield players, it really was as simple as that. Finding the right balance is the hard part.

There are so many reasons and innovations why CoD4 is better than its predecessor and the competitive community has just undermined pretty much all of them. It ticks all the boxes needed for success yet they seem to be in a prolonged rush in order to set a global standard, when there isn't even a spectator capability for example. You need to know where and when to place the emphasis and removing new features of a game which is barely weeks old isn't the way to go.

Counter Strike players enjoy the ride, because CoD4 is going no where.

Fashion and Excess!

By Richard '_evan' Armstrong
Nov 11, 2007 16:02

What happened to the 'less is more' way of thinking? Whether it's the ever increasing cost of oil, food, petrol, travel, [insert any commodity here], everything seems to be overly priced or bloated these days!
Games are one of the worst culprits and defiantly becoming more and more glutenous. Why does the pursuit of increased or 'better' graphics automatically equate to quite a ridiculous increase in hardware requirements?
- Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory (455mb)
- Enemy Territory: Quake Wars (4.995Gb)
- Call of Duty 2 (3.540Gb)
- Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (6.348Gb)
- Quake III Arena (756mb)
- Quake 4 (2.777Gb)
- World Of Warcraft (6.631Gb)
- Medieval II Total War (7.708Gb)
With the Unreal Tournament 3 Demo weighing in at 992MB, Hellgate London apparently hitting 7.2Gb and games frequently taking close to an hour to install, where does it end? The game developers need to wake up and be responsible. With a 74.5Gb hard drive, I'm left to pick and choose which titles I can have on my hard drive at any one time.
So as I spend £146.99 on effectively two outfits, I'll count my lucky stars that I don't drive, I'm a student and I'm not easily impressed by flashy graphics!

Break down of the WSVG

By Richard '_evan' Armstrong
Sep 14, 2007 12:01

Now in some instances I will agree with Andreas in his blog and some large instances I will not.
I personally feel that World Series of Video Games (WSVG) wouldn't have been any better off by having either Wacraft3 or Counter Strike 1.6 in their main roster.
WSVG was aiming for a mainstream target and validated their game choices thusly. Big mistake. Picking Guitar Hero 2 (GH2) and Fight Night Round 3 (FNR3) were catastrophic failures of management. In all fairness I would've (if in their position) if faced with the situation where you need more games to complement the event, not had any. FNR3 and GH2 regardless of the 'apparent' crowds at events screaming and shouting was a bad mistake.
Trying to promote a game as a competitive entity which has little or no community is setting yourself up for a fall. When the 'money tap' is switched off you've created a vacuum where there is a small player base dependent on what on you were supplying. Very unstable!
You could couple Quake 4 with that argument, however this is where I will contradict myself (hopefully only once).
Quake is the best example of what eSports can offer in my humble opinion. The community is small and elitist which makes the game hard to comprehend and develop new talent but that doesn't matter. The game can be enjoyed by all and simply put, these players are the best and most dedicated eSports stars playing today. The wild west of eSports, if you will.
I will be quite blunt here. The size and scale of a game or its community has no bearing on how valuable the game is in competitive terms. This is why I believe Quake is always a great choice for competitions and why the WSVG wasted money on hosting two Counter Strike 1.6 tournaments.
Andreas argued that you shouldn't overdo prize money for games that aren't 'big' yet. I could apply the same treatment and say why should I give 1.6 lots of money when there aren't other tournaments doing the same.
WSVG gave out $20,000 in China which was won by Beating Fnatic in the final (the only European team in attendance). WSVG Louisville and this time they gave out $30,000. It tempted five European teams (NiP, Roccat, SK, mouz and Convention).
Why give out such obscene amounts of money and not even have the best teams in attendance? Where is your Fnatic, PGS, NoA, MiBr? Why host the tournament in America at all when you've five Europeans travel and claim all top five spots? I really can't see the logic in their decisions.
GameGune had little prize money in comparison to WSVG, yet because it was in Europe, the best teams in the world went. WSVG using Counter Strike 1.6 was a mistake and ultimately given the finical issues which have resulted in the organisation stopping you've to wonder and justify whether it was wasted money.
Warcraft III. I can't really argue its inclusion since it's an immensely popular game and during the one and only WSVG stop where it was included. It had arguably the most competitive WC3 tournament ever hosted in China. You can only negate that with the fact that the game is incredibly hard to follow for anyone who doesn't play the game, regardless of who is shout casting!
Now enough of the negatives and let's talk about what the WSVG did right. Call of Duty 2 and World of Warcraft. Despite being the wrong format, WoW's inclusion was timely and ultimately great move. The game has numbers which dwarf anything out there and is getting bigger.
Better marketing of the WSVG (to the WoW communities) and a better spectator mod would have made the tournaments a little more competitive than a Pandemic clean sweep but it's inclusion was one of the few points of praise that can be given.
The other would have been despite only appearing once CoD2. The game is similar to Counter Strike in game play and it's function but is ultimately 'better' because of the engine it's built on and because it's still in its infancy. Because of that you can offer a smaller prize purse and get more bang per buck in value terms than you could ever get with Counter Strike. $20,000 and possibly the best CoD2 tournament ever hosted.
You had three European teams (Speedlink, Tek-9 and Dignitas) attend which aren't in the same finical bracket as the likes of SK or MYM. What would happen if they hosted a tournament in Europe? Money well spent indeed.
CoD2 - WoW - Q4
Small concise and dependable titles which are growing in one direction. The WSVG failed because of poor management and a horrific inability to handle finances well, but forward thinking separated them from the pack. RIP WSVG.

Day 3 - All Gloom and Doom?

By Richard '_evan' Armstrong
Aug 12, 2007 13:46

The final day for the WCG at least, and some of the minor Asus tournaments kick off today. The CoD2 and Counter Strike Source tournaments are in bracket play, and I caught one of the of the upper bracket semi finals earlier on.
It was a rematch of Dignitas vs LTTC on Toujane, Dignitas look a lot better than they did yesterday at least and will most likely play Reason in the upper bracket final.
Counter Strike Wise, fnatic as I predicted will play against 4Kings in the CSS upper bracket (should be a good match).
The finals/games played on the main stage are delayed by about 30mins so expect delays if you waiting on stuff live. Girls aloud are expected to arrive here, and play on the main stage and help hand out the WCG prizes at 4pm.

Day 2 First Beginnings

By Richard '_evan' Armstrong
Aug 11, 2007 11:55

The Multiplay tournaments kicked off at 10am, and the second round of matches is likely to kick off in a few minutes.
I glimpsed the Fnatic Counter Strike Source team on my way to the press tent. They are one of the few European teams to make the trip. Word on the street is after their Eurocup win midweek against Logitech, they will announce a new fifth during i31 for the upcoming CGS since one of their most talented players doesn't meet the age requirements.

i31 First Impressions

By Richard '_evan' Armstrong
Aug 10, 2007 22:28

After the grueling travel down here. I wasn't in the best frame of mind when I was told I wasn't on the press list.
Apparently the person who authorized me, didn't have the power and shouldn't have. This is despite me being told he was the person to contact, and I even had a support ticket in the support forums for nearly two weeks before the event even started.
First impressions, not good.
It was resolved however, and I'm currently sitting in the press tent (the only one actually doing any work as well!).
I had a quick look round the event, as it is spread across three buildings, and spotted some "known" characters including ReDeYe (QuadV, CGS), ODEE (Dignitas manager), and some of the Dignitas CoD2 players as well.
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