Steam Autumn Sale 2013

The Steam autumn sale has begun! From the 27th of November to the 3rd December there will be another collection of games at massively discounted prices. There’s a round of daily deals lasting 24 hours as well as flash sales – deals that change every 8 hours.

There’s already some great deals – Skyrim is 75% off (if you somehow haven’t already played it yet!) as well as Sleeping Dogs for 80% off, among others.

If you wanted to pick up some titles but haven’t gotten around to it, or are looking for a good bargain, now is a good time to check it out! Just make sure you actually, you know, get round to playing them some time!

 

 

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Sony PS4 Launch

Sony’s newest console, the PS4, went on sale in the US yesterday and will be available from the 29th of November over here in the UK. The PS4 will cost £349 in the UK and costs $399 in the US.

However, as with any console launch, it’s not smooth sailing for the media giant. There are rumours echoing around the internet that design faults have caused Sony to halt production and asked Amazon to hold shipments:

Obviously, rumours are to be taken with a grain of salt, but it’s not hard to believe they’ll run into some teething issues when launching such a high profile piece of hardware.

Meanwhile, the Xbox One, Microsoft’s new console and the PS4’s main rival will arrive 22nd November in the UK.

Personally, in this round of the console wars I’ve taken more of a backseat than previously. I’m largely a PC gamer these days, due to having a high-end PC available that outstrips my aged consoles. I’ll be interested to see how the new consoles shape up though, and I may even splash out on one someday. There is certianly something to be said for the more relaxed style of play a console, a large TV and a comfy sofa has to offer!

We’re entering into an interesting new phase for gaming – with handhelds and digital distribution more popular than ever. How the new consoles will stack up against increased competition time will tell.

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Blizzcon 2013

The Blizzcon opening ceremony has just finished, and Blizzcon 2013 has just officially started.

Needless to say, I’ve been a fan of Blizzard for many years. It’s not hard to understand why; they’ve released some of the most influential and successful games of all time.

I haven’t played wow for some time, it’s a great game but sadly I just don’t have the time to dedicate to it currently, but I’ll be interested to see what direction they’re taking with their newly announced expansion, Warlords of Draenor.

They’ve also released a trailer for their upcoming MOBA, Heroes of the Storm. I’m a League of Legends and DotA player, so obviously I’m excited to see how that pans out, and hey, you can’t beat dragons with swords:

Dragons with swords!

I also happened to spot Diablo riding into battle on a Unicorn in their gameplay trailer:

Also, their Announcement Cinematic is suitably epic:

Finally, they also announced that their new card game Hearthstone (which I’ve been playing the beta of recently – it’s fun!) will be coming to Android, iPhone and tablets sometime next year.

If you’ve got a virtual ticket, enjoy the event and eSports coverage, and theres some stuff you’ll be able to check out for free too.

Either way, looks like many gamers will have a lot to look forward to in the coming year!

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Steam Now Has 65 Million Users

Steam, the PC’s largest digital distribution platform, has now surpassed Xbox with over 65 million active accounts. This marks a 30% increase over last year, and is a good indication that PC gaming is thriving.

I myself am mostly a PC gamer these days. While it’s true I own consoles, I’m afraid that the convienence and generally lower prices of buying games digitally for my PC has left my consoles to quite literally gather dust.

This comes at the same time as a report showing that the PC market is now the fastest growing games platform in the UK (although, take this with a grain of salt – smartphones and tablets are omitted from the data, and believe me, thats a huge sector of the current market).

Still, it’s encouraging to see the PC market doing well, considering critics have often doomed it in the past. With the new consoles arriving, it will be interesting to see how the PC, particularly with Valve’s upcoming projects, fares.

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Free Time? What Sorcery is this?

I’ve been feeling a little under the weather recently, so I’ve found myself with some downtime. This has of course confused me greatly. What do I do? My thought process usually ends up something like this:

Thought Process of a Bored Gamer

Over the last few years I’ve acquired a number of games on Steam during their crazy summer/winter sales that I’ve bought for 75% off fully intending to play, yet somehow it doesn’t always happen . Between work, friends and the boring responsibilities of being an adult my game library has slowly collected interesting, fun games that I’ve wanted to play but haven’t had the time or energy for yet. The epic single player RPG adventures and action games I played in my youth have taken a backseat for the quick-play multiplayer games like League of Legends that I can play for a couple of rounds with friends without having to commit large chunks of time.

When you’re a young gamer, you’ve got all the free time in the world to play games, but no money to buy them. Now, as an adult, I…well actually I have no money and no free time.

One glorious day I will boot up my copy of Skyrim that I got during a sale for two carrots and a potato and I will finally live up to the expectations younger me had of what adult life would be likea non-stop rollercoaster of great games and fun.

Sadly, today is not that day. Work beckons.

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Internet Censorship in the UK

Today’s post will be a little different from my normal light-hearted style, but it’s something that needs to be addressed. This post is quite long, so I’ve included a summary at the bottom for the TL,DR folks.

Internet Censorship

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, recently announced his plans to enforce a country-wide filter on the UK’s internet at the ISP level. I’ve been fuming about this for days, and decided finally to post my thoughts explaining why this is a terrible idea. Firstly though, what exactly does he hope to achieve?

The PM wants to filter the internet to ‘protect the children’ from things such as pornographic content and self-harm websites. As I’ll explain below, while (if indeed this is even the true intention of the filter) protecting children is important, it is a deeply flawed and dangerous system.

The PM has used a potentially questionable tactic to boost the appeal of this announcement. By highlighting the importance of ‘protecting children’ and leaning heavily on the pornography aspect, he’s white-knighting the proposal while setting up opponents to the filter for character assassination. After all, who would be willing to stand up and say ‘actually, I don’t care about protecting children, I just want my porn’, and more importantly, who would then take that person seriously?

The true impact of this filtering is being hidden by the supposed benefits of protecting the children from the internet.

The implications of this ill-thought out filter are far more serious than reported, as I’ll discuss further below.

Opt-Out Filtering

The proposal would require every ISP to filter the web for it’s customers by default, with an option to opt-out of it. This bothers me greatly. If the country credits us with the intelligence to vote or fight (and possibly die) for our country if we so choose why, then, are they saying we can’t make intelligent decisions about how we use the ‘net.

Secondly, opting out rather than opting-in is a dangerous situation. What happens when, heaven forbid, the list of people who have opted out of the filter gets leaked. Will we see high-ranking public figures ‘shamed’ for their choice to have an unrestricted internet? Will they be blackmailed to prevent the inevitable media stories and speculation of what they’re up to on their dirty, unclean internet.

More worryingly for average customers, I’m no conspiracy theorist, but given the recent developments regarding spying, I wouldn’t be surprised if those on the ‘opt out’ list ended up being more high-profile targets for monitoring.

Protecting Children

It exasperates me that the main purpose of this is to ‘protect children’ from the evils of the internet such as pornography and predators. The notion that the govt. is better at protecting your children online than you are would infuriate me if I were a parent. Also, there already exist more effective (as I’ll explain below) means of filtering the content a child sees online available for parents to use.

Unenforceable Filtering

What makes this whole mess worse is that the very notion is laughably unworkable. The nature of the internet means that the system simply cannot function as intended. It is unenforceable and easily circumvented.

Take the well-known file sharing site thepiratebay for example. The court ordered that UK ISPs block the site last year. After just a week of the block being implemented, the traffic levels on the site returned to normal. It’s a trivial matter to circumvent a block such as this. While piracy, like protecting children, is a concern, filtering is not an effective means to combat it. It is a lose-lose situation for everyone involved.

Worse still, the system will hurt legitimate websites. As paraphrased from this post on Reddit, the system will, inevitably, make mistakes. A conservative margin of error of just 5% would mean that nearly 200 million sites would be misclassified – both legitimate websites undeservedly blocked, and sites the filter is supposed to catch let through.

A hundred-million odd potential pornographic sites that are supposed to be blocked from children that aren’t.

A hundred-million odd legitimate websites, blocked for an entire country.

The second one bothers me more than the first. Obviously, the system won’t work to prevent what it’s supposed to. If the children are unsupervised by parents while online, they can, and will, see things they shouldn’t. What bothers me more though, is the second.

What happens to these falsely blocked websites. If they’re just information that’s bad enough on a philosophical point, but what if they’re businesses that rely on UK traffic for their survival. The potential loss of revenue to a miss-classified site from this stupid plan as a self-employed individual involved in online commerce is painful and deeply worrying.

Blocking of self-harm websites has also been mentioned. The issue I have with this is that computers cannot easily understand context. Blocking information and support sites for individuals seeking help would be a real possibility.

Expensive Waste of Money

As I’ve mentioned, the system is flawed and easily bypassed. That’s just simply the nature of how the internet works. Spending hundreds of millions of pounds of the taxpayers money on a system that doesn’t work is a ludicrous notion for a country in debt and struggling with a global economic crisis.

The consumer will be affected too. Filtering can slow down the internet for the end-user, depending on how it is implemented. If ISPs have to enforce filtering on all it’s customers, you can be sure that any additional cost incurred is passed to the consumer.

So this filter sets the consumer up for a potentially slower, more expensive and restricted internet for, at best, limited results.

More Effective Measures Already Exist

Internet filtering is nothing new. If parents want to protect their children, then there are already a number of effective measures they can employ that don’t hurt everyone else. Filtering of content is already available as an opt-in option from ISPs. Additionally, you can enable filtering on most home routers, and browsers too have options to protect your children. Enabling these requires very little computer literacy.

There is no fix-all solution to protecting children online. The most effective thing for a parent is to be active in their role. If a child is young enough to be vulnerable online, parents should supervise their activity and more importantly, educate their children about the real dangers the internet poses.

An informed individual is a more effective defense than an abusable system that hurts everybody.

Thin End of a Thick Wedge

There exists another worrying possibility. Once a country-wide filter is in place, it opens up the possibility for abusing and exploiting the system by the government. Quietly slipping in more censorship is a real possibility.

We do not want a situation like the Chinese govt. (which allegedly has ties with the company that provides filtering to TalkTalk) where any site that criticises the govt. is silently blocked. We may be far from that prospect today, but if this filtering goes into effect, it is the first step on a slippery slope.

Summary

If you are against any of the following:

  • Loss of freedom to make your own intelligent decisions for using the ‘net
  • An abusable, ill-conceived and fundamentally flawed system
  • Potential issues arising from being named on an opt-out list
  • Wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayer pounds on a system that cannot work
  • slower, yet more expensive internet services
  • Giving a foothold to the government for arbitrary censorship
  • Putting the entire country’s internet infrastructure in the hands of one Chinese company
  • An excuse for parents to not protect their children online, relying instead on a system that does not work – exposing more children to harm

If you are against any of these, then take action! The simplest thing to do is to sign this petition. Raise awareness of the issue, talk to people about it. If your freedom to choose is important to you, then this needs to be stamped out now.

I’m not normally very actively involved in politics, but this is one time where I can’t sit idly by and watch as the most amazing, awe-inspiring wonder of the modern world is crippled by uninformed politicians stripping away our rights as individuals.

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Steam Summer Sale 2013

Brace yourselves….winter the Steam summer sale is coming!

Ok so it’s actually started today, but quoting Game of Thrones is the in thing right now.

Last year I may have gotten a little carried away and bought many games I still haven’t actually played yet. Oops! This year I plan to exercise more restraint. My wallet will thank me.

If you are a Steam user, make sure to check it out frequently, the deals change often! You can pick up some fantastic games at fantastic discounts, so if you’ve got some cash saved and have been wanting a new game or two, be sure to take a look!

Now if only I could do something about this hot weather…

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