The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

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11:19am on Saturday, 21st September, 2019:

Classic Issue


This week's Essex County Standard is a classic of its kind. It's got everything!

The word "revamp" appears in three headlines, on pages 16, 24 and 27.

There's a tactless pun on how the opera glasses dropped by President Lincoln's wife when he was assassinated right next to her have "fallen into the lap" of a local auctioneer.

A story about a man being stabbed is 2 column inches long. A story about a cat with an air pistol pellet in its lip is 9 column inches long plus 3 column inches of cat X-ray.

There's nothing about the referendum we had in West Bergholt.

A story about a new Pilgrim Centre being planned manages to stretch to 6 column inches without ever explaining what a Pilgrim Centre is.

The headline for one article is also used for the article beneath it, making it a complete non sequitur.

All in all, it was well worth the £1.10 I paid for it using my wife's credit card.


12:36pm on Friday, 20th September, 2019:

Elder Game


I finished playing Elder Scrolls Online yesterday. It's pretty much the same as the Elder Scrolls offline.

I say "finished", but there's still a lot more I could have done. I reached the level cap and completed the main storyline, but the, er, elder game seems to be about collecting CPs or something (I think they're "Champion Points", but they're never explained).

ESO is good at not explaining things — superlative, in fact. Great, I can morph some ability! What does that mean? How do I do it? I rose several levels before I discovered that what I thought was an indication symbol to show something could be morphed was actually a clickable button to perform the morphing. I never did find out what the mundas stones that were mentioned by loading screens did, or how to use inspiration points, or what exactly a delve was, or how to buy goods from other players (I think you may have to be in their guild), or how to start a guild. If I hadn't played the single-player Elder Scrolls games, I wouldn't have known how to do a heavy attack or how to play the lock-picking mini-game (at which I unexpectedly excel), either.

I could have looked all this up, of course, but there wasn't any point. The thing is, ESO has dynamic difficulty adjustment. As you level up, skill up and gear up, all your opponents are made commensurately tougher, wherever they are and however you encounter them. The same monster is no easier and no harder to kill for my level 6 alt than it is for my level 50 main. Every fight is the same, so much so that I rapidly lost interest in them. Quests follow the same routine: skip through John Cleese's dialogue; go to where the marker says to go, killing anything in the way; click on or kill whatever is at the marker; pick up the meaningless loot.

There are daily rewards you get for logging in. These add crazy bonuses to experience point gain or to health or to researching whatever craft you accidentally learned first. Their main purpose seems to be to fill up your inventory so you have to buy more space, as you can't bank half of it. I was loathe to throw away 50 purple poisons, but to use them would have overridden my weapon enchantments; I therefore kept them around just in case a later quest needed them (not that one did).

In common with many other MMOs, the street layout of of settlements in ESO is a mess. They're invariably hard to navigate and have walls positioned exactly where you want there not to be a wall. I never got the hang of the way that the ziggurats in Vivec City were organised when I played Oblivion, and carried that confusion through to ESO. Zone geography is non-obvious, too: on several occasions, I clicked on a character to accept a quest and found myself transported by cart or boat to gawd-knows-where, with no understanding of how to get back. I was given important-looking quests to go to places I had no idea how to reach (but, hey, it was safe to leave them until I found out, because a level 10 quest is a level 40 quest if you leave it until level 40 to complete it). This happened with the main storyline: I knew I had to go to a particular island, but hadn't a clue how to reach it. When I tried what I thought was the right ship, I wound up in some kind of common quest zone (which was actuallyquite fun) with no means of escape except clicking on the main map to teleport back to civilisation. I was eventually restored to the main storyline by being mugged. I wound up wearing a full set of trainee gear at level 40.

Bethesda games are all about the story, so it shouldn't be surprising that the stories behind the quests are pretty good. They're not as good as in The Secret World, but the decisions you have to make do occasionally have consequences. There are lots of them, too; my guess is that most of the people who like the game like it for the quests, or possibly for the fiction. Assuming that dynamic difficulty adjustment doesn't play a role in PvP, those who like to pay to win could enjoy that experience, too.

I suppose they may also like it for the people, but I only ever spoke to one other player and got a reply so I wouldn't know. The come-join-our-guild messages I saw invariably referred to features I knew nothing about, or did know something about but didn't like (such as an active Discord channel). The let's-do-an-instance messages were all written using the kind of shorthand code that says if you have to ask what the letters mean, you don't know the instance so we don't want you in our group.

Overall, the game wasn't actually bad, just disappointing. It has lots of content but the dynamic difficulty adjustment takes away all sense of achievement, much the same as it does in the single-player Elder Scrolls games. Still, I knew that when I started to play, so can't complain. I do think I got my money's worth from it, and I'll keep it around for a while in case I fancy a single-player RPG experience in the nearish future.

Oh, here's my main character, the usual female paladin.

It's a pity I never got to use all those skill points I invested in healing stats, but I finished with more of them than I knew what to do with so didn't exactly waste them.


7:42am on Thursday, 19th September, 2019:



Hot on the heels of the EU referendum, the Scottish Independence referendum and that referendum on changing the voting system that no-one remembers, the village I live in is today holding its own referendum.

The topic is the acceptance of the Village Plan, which restricts where people can build new houses. The argument of those in favour is that without it people could apply for planning permission to build anywhere. The argument of those against is that it nevertheless does mean there will be new houses built here.

Those holding the referendum are clearly in the pro-Plan camp, because the wording of the question is unduly long. It doesn't just ask if we accept the Village Plan, it asks if we accept the Village Plan to help the council decide whether to accept new planning applications. Someone against the plan would have replaced that word "help" with "force".

It's big enough news that BBC Radio Essex have sent a news van over to cover the momentous events.

I voted early, in favour of the plan (or "yes" in referendum terms). I expect that whichever side wins, the other side will say the accept the result while simultaneously throwing every obstacle down that they can to subvert it, the aim being to hold a second referendum that will deliver the right result at the earliest opportunity.


5:54pm on Wednesday, 18th September, 2019:



At the recommendation of a friend, I'm currently reading The Second Seal, by Dennis Wheatley.

Some authors have particular words that they tend to over-use. Dennis Wheatley seems to be one such author.

Unfortunately for Dennis, his particular word has gained a second, now more common meaning since 1950.


2:50pm on Tuesday, 17th September, 2019:



This umbrella artwork in Colchester is much the same as all the other umbrella artworks in other towns.

I do have to say that I like the way they've positioned it next to a shop called Superdry, though.


2:26pm on Tuesday, 17th September, 2019:

Hip and Trendy


Why am I getting ads for "self-adhesive renewable padded hips" on Facebook? I know I switched off personalised advertising, but those self-adhesive renewable padded hip retailers are really going out on a limb.

Hmm, pun unintentional...


4:09pm on Monday, 16th September, 2019:



The name of the student newspaper at York University seems to be Nouse.

I don't know if it was given this name as a cunning scheme to encourage students to remember it by making jokes about how it's no use, but I'm sure it has this side-effect.

I've no idea what the Essex University student newspaper is called because they don't leave print copies of it around any more. Then again, it's entirely possible that it no longer exists because the Student Union has banned it.


2:27pm on Sunday, 15th September, 2019:

Cats v Pigeons


Next door's cats are really upping their game. There are currently the results of three cat-versus-pigeon contests in our garden which the pigeons didn't win.

It's not just the cats, though. Yesterday, I came across a pigeon corpse in the middle of a disc of feathers; I was going to move it somewhere out of the way, but it was infested with wasps. I didn't know wasps ate dead pigeons, but I do now. Today, though, the pigeon carcass has disappeared. There aren't even any bones, just feathers.

Maybe pigeons are trying the bird equivalent of berries, luring creatures to eat them so their seeds are spread far and wide. If so, someone needs to take evolution to one side and give a gentle hint that maybe it's not really working out.


1:10pm on Saturday, 14th September, 2019:



I drove over 500 miles to and from and within Yorkshire with no problems. This morning, I drove six miles to and from the local Sainsbury's and got a flat tyre.

I'm glad it happened this way round, but I'd rather it hadn't happened at all.


6:13pm on Friday, 13th September, 2019:



After the IGGI conference yesterday, I went to see my dad and his wife back in Hornsea.

Today, I drove back via Great Ouseburn, where my mum grew up. The reason for this was to look at the bench we erected there in memory of my grandad. I like to check it out every so often to see if it needs a new lick of paint.

It doesn't, but I don't think many people will be using it for a while...


8:43am on Thursday, 12th September, 2019:



Me packing my bag on Monday: do I really need to bring six indigestion tablets with me?

Me at 2am this morning: how many of these indigestion tablets am I allowed to eat at once?


9:37am on Wednesday, 11th September, 2019:



At the plenary session of the IGGI symposium yesterday, we were asked to respond to questions using a system called Menti. Questions are posted and we get to give responses anonymously using freeform text.

Wait, anonymously? Freeform text? Isn't that ... dangerous?

Q1: What does IGGI do that it should keep doing?
A: Help! I am trapped inside a computer.

Q2: What does IGGI do that it shouldn't do?
A: Ask awkward questions over Menti.

Q3: What does IGGI not do that it should do?
A: Desposit the sum of $4,000,000,000 (four billion dollars) into my bank account.

I was hoping that giving playful responses might encourage others to do the same, but no-one did. They responses drew laughs, but not new responses.

Most of those present in the audience were gamers, but it would seem they're not switched on as gamers the entire time. Oh well.


8:10am on Tuesday, 10th September, 2019:

York Walls


I'm in York this week for the annual IGGI doctoral training centre symposium. Here's the view from my hotel room:

Even though it's raining and you have two pushchairs, it's still worth walking the city walls.

It's not raining quite as much as the photo makes it appear, by the way. Hampton by Hilton seems to keep its prices low by cutting back on window-cleaning.


8:59am on Monday, 9th September, 2019:

The Point


This is one of the photos that have been blown up to A2 size, printed on canvas and displayed on the wall where prospective Computer Science students will see it.

Why is it that since the 1980s, in all photos of two people and one computer, one of the people is pointing at the computer screen?


4:44pm on Sunday, 8th September, 2019:



This is the board outside the restaurant we ate lunch at today.

They must have had an over-delivery of apostrophes that they couldn't get rid of any other way.

It was actually a good restaurant, though.


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Copyright © 2019 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).