Scottish Referendum: Yes or No?

So tomorrow is a big day for Britain. It’s basically making up it’s mind whether to stay in one piece or become two entirely separate countries, as Scotland votes on independence.

The first thing to note is that Scotland itself has been toying with independence since devolution. Dissatisfaction with the government in London led to further powers being devolved, but the nationalist parties in Scotland, notably the SNP, continued to gain strength, especially after the financial crisis.

It’s worth remembering that that particular trend also occurred in the UK as a whole, UKIP has garnered increasing support since the 2010 election, and this is not really surprising. The biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression was always going to have a similar move towards isolationism by all countries, even in the States where the Electoral College disguises what was, in reality, a very close vote in 2012 between outwards looking Democrats and inward looking Republicans. Scotland is no different, the already present dissatisfaction was magnified to the point of considering divorce as the SNP continued it’s assertions that Westminster simply did not have a mandate to run its affairs.

That argument is perfectly valid. Very few of the Westminster MP’s representing Scotland are from the coalition, and even then they’re from the smaller half. Since Thatcher, the Tories have consistently lost seats across Scotland, until eventually they lacked a single representative north of the border, and their mandate to govern Scotland is flimsy at best.

This is where an argument in response can be formed, however, which is that independence is a response to the electing of a Tory government whose policies those in Scotland they do not support. Taking this way it makes sound as though had Labour been in power, where their mandate would have been significantly stronger, independence would almost certainly not be considered by the majority. In short, it’s reactionary and short sighted and not to the long term benefit of Scotland to throw itself out of the union because it’s part of a country where the largest proportion of citizens voted Conservative last time out.

Labour, of course, therefore see Scotlands abandonment of the union as a major threat to their electoral chances in 2015 and beyond. A “Yes” vote would take-away a large number of left-wing leaning seats from Parliament, something that the Tories are happy to keep quiet while the campaigning takes place. It’s noticeable that while all the pro-union parties are campaigning, Labour is it’s primary figurehead, with Brown and Darling, hardly the people you want running anything given their track record, their chosen voice. That’s because Labour is the party with the most to lose. Cameron’s attempts to keep the country together have hardly been acts of desperation on his part.

But that remains pretty much the only argument with a grounding in reality at this point. We’re 24 hours away from a referendum to decide Scotlands future, but there are no guarantees from either side as to what that future will look like. Salmond wants a currency union, the one person who can give him that is Mark Carney and he’s stated his opposition to it over and over. Salmond has promised to protect the NHS, but the figures he gives leave a £400 million funding gap inside the organisation. He wants to join the European Union, but after the financial crisis just having been a member of the UK is unlikely to grant you automatic admission.

But the same is true for the Pro-Union campaign. Until last week they’d promised new powers for Scotland should it vote no, but had given no idea of what that might be. Then the panicked selection of powers they gave were quickly dismissed by the higher members of the Conservative party, further muddying the issue, rather than resolving any of the problems it was supposed to solve. It also added fuel to fire of those in the Conservative party that some members were placing politics over tradition, and if there’s one thing that the Tories don’t like it’s the abandonment of traditions.

The campaigning on both sides has also been filled with subterfuge and game-playing, lowering the tone of the debate significantly. Initially, the Yes campaign was well behind until the second debate. Alistair Darling managed to screw up, rather than Alex Salmond getting one over on him, and left the door open for the momentum to swing back the other way. Undecided voters, who now had no more debates left, saw Salmond (probably rightly) as the stronger of the two. Salmond was still being consistently rebuffed however, Mark Carney said no to the currency union, the European Union gave no guarantee of Scottish Membership, and several companies of importance in Scotland noted their support of the Union, leaving the SNP with no real foundation to their claims. The debate about the amount of Oil in the North Sea continues to rage, and we won’t really know the result of that until it hits.

So the SNP changed it’s language. It focussed on emotional attachments to Scotland, rather than statistics or logical arguments. It reverted back to it’s nationalist type, forcing the No vote onto it’s turf, one on which it couldn’t hope to compete with a Tory government in power. More recently it’s begun an attack on the mainstream media, which has been almost universally against the Union breaking up (mostly thanks to it leaning to the right in the UK). That came to a head in a press conference where Salmond accused Nick Robinson, the BBC’s political correspondent, of “heckling” him. He didn’t, he asked a question that would have forced Salmond to refer back to statistics, so he initially evaded the question, then allowed the supporters he’d brought into the press conference (for which there is no other reason to do so than to intimidate the journalists inside the room) to heckle Robinson. The BBC itself has been impartial thus far, a good measure of impartiality is how many complaints it receives from both sides, and while there haven’t been protests outside Glasgow from the No vote, both sides are complaining pretty equally about the coverage given to their campaigning, or to the campaigning of the other side. The No vote complained endlessly that the schools chosen were for the Big Debate were from Yes voting areas, and the hall was indeed filled with Yes voters, to the point of that side of the hall being so full that they were forced to seat Yes voters in the No section (as much as the Yes side wants to believe that that was the BBC being partial to the No vote it simply had no choice precisely because the Yes vote is so popular amongst younger voters). The Yes vote did itself little favours by attacking the BBC and it resulted in the National Union of Journalists asking for an end to the intimidation of journalists, a good indication that some members of the Yes vote had been riled up enough by Salmond to put their views forward stronger than is acceptable in a democratic society.

But that’s not to say that the No vote hasn’t been equally guilty of trying to game their way back in. When the Yes vote appeared to gain momentum it started out by suddenly promising new powers should Scotland vote No. The Yes vote was right to point out that this was as a result of “panic” because up until the second debate there had been little indication that Scotland would actually vote to leave. After itthe momentum gained quickly enough for the No campaign to start adding in ideas that had previously been dismissed, and Labour realised it needed a stronger figurehead than Darling. So it brought in Gordon Brown, upped it’s promises and tried to counter Salmonds emotional response by continuing to try and get written assurances from companies that they were considering leaving Scotland should it go independent. That came to head when it leaked a letter to the BBC about RBS having contingency plans to move down to the UK. Why it did this is beyond common sense, had it simply waited for the announcement, far more damage would have been done without the need for a clear route for the SNP to counter. It then tried to get companies who had even made a mention of increasing prices in Scotland after independence (the logical thing to do, in order to combat risk) to put it into writing, which of course was also leaked and resulted in further embarrassment for them.

So basically neither side knows what will happen, so neither side can actually make any promises. Yesterday Salmond asked people to ignore statistics and political arguments going into the polling booth. This obviously appeals to the mentality that has worked so far leading up to the polls, but there is an element of truth in it. Independence brings with it massive risks for both sides, risks that are far more likely to cripple Scotland than the UK should they be taken and not succeed. But the Union has been slowly separating since the 80’s and Thatchers abandonment of the North, and Scotland has the right to decide it’s own future should that be different from the right of centre parts of England (Nationalist parties will basically get their “English Parliament” for one, something I don’t think they saw coming, as Wales will inevitably asked for more devolved powers as well)

So, it basically comes down to the old adage of “go with your gut”. I’ve wavered between supporting either side. Until the Yes vote started intimidation tactics and reverting to nationalist fervour I was more on their side, but if that is how the campaign is won, I see troubled waters ahead. Nationalism works until the nation realises it’s split on what it wants. If Scotland goes independent, it should have been on the basis of co-operation with the UK, on negotiation. Instead Salmond resorted to pressing the nuclear button on it’s debt requirements should it not get a currency union, which would effectively result in Scotland defaulting immediately after independence. That’s not going to do anyone any favours. Equally though the hard-line taken by the No vote was the thing that initially put me against them in the first place, so the day before the vote I can’t say I know which side to go with.

So Scotland, make your choice…

Quinnspiricy – The two worst parts of the internet

First off, there are going to be quite a few people who have absolutely no idea what the hell this post is about. In short, over the last few days, a game developer by the name of Zoe Quinn released a game on Steam called “Depression Quest”. The fact that the game appears to have value not as a game but as a social project is neither here nor there in this discussion. Check it out on Steam, see what you think. What’s gone horribly wrong is the results of what appear to be two conspiricy theories hitting each other head on in the world wide web.

First of all, there were allegations sent over social media implying that Quinn had slept with well known gaming journalists in exchange for high review scores. This resulted in a sudden burst of outrage on several blogs, most notable of which is Kotaku (who, in all fairness, have dealt with this the best of all the sites in question), but of course the big fish of quickfire discussion is Twitter. Quinns responded that she had recieved personal attacks on forums, some of them relating purely to her gender, and that her personal information had been posted online by hackers (a process known as “doxxing”).

Que possibly the biggest rush the internet has seen of two fervantly defensive sides coming together against eachother. On the one hand were those defending Zoe, many citing the accusations of gender discrimination as typical of the gaming community at large and the result of an inherent problem that needed to be addressed, regardless of the other accusations. The other side took notice of some of the posts on the forums that seem to paint Zoe as being deliberately provocative, or even outright destructive to charitable causes. One particular accusation claims she asked to be paid by a charity for work she would help do for them. When she was told she was to be paid only in royalites, she took umbridge and claimed they were “oppressing” her. The resulting storm she apparently then created got the site doxxed and paralysed.

It didn’t help that the posts coming out of Zoe’s twitter feed implied that she was hacked, only for other posters to point out that none of the apparently doxxed information related to her in anyway, and that she appeared to still be in complete control of the hacked account (having the delete button available on the tweets she claimed weren’t from her for example). She was also accused of using her influence to take down negative comments about her and Depression Quest on other sites. Furthermore, the people defending her were clearly not the best people to be doing so, the creator of Fez for example, Phil Fish, managed to get into a petty argument with the gaming journalist TotalBiscuit, who was relatively cordial given the madness around him.

In short, the entire thing is the definition of a shitstorm. Nothing of note was really gained from the massive arguments that ensued, other than that Zoe Quinn has come out much the worse. Some have called this evidence of the “Streisand Effect”, but that’s more to do with someone simply asking for the removal of negative material. If the accusations levelled at her are true, however, she has actively continued digging herself further in by attempting to slander her opponents.

Why do I want to blog about this though? I mean this stuff is now basically posted everywhere. What I want to add is this; that both sides have created this scenario, both through the creation of the problem that meant Zoe gained a very quick defence and also of the environment in which every aspect of your social media becomes monitored the moment you say something interpretable or debatable. The fact that there is a lack of female game developers is a problem the industry needs to address, and the recent build up of feminist drives on Twitter meant that this gained traction very, very quickly. All it needed was the suggestion of discrimination, and one half of Twitter was ready to jump.

On the other side is that the accusations levelled at Zoe and the evidence in support of them seems to be starting to poison the cause. It’s vitally important that if you are part of the group that feels the hurt that you don’t then cause harm to it through poor choices in your actions. Zoe did not have to fake being doxxed or hacked, and the result is she is in danger of losing support from everywhere. Depression Quest was a good idea, albeit not a game per-se, and it’s a shame that it’s now going to be permanently associated with the underlying feeling that something is very wrong in the gaming industry.

Social media gives everyone a voice. It’s important that the voices we have over social media are carefully stated. They cannot be removed, the internet never forgets as we’re always told. The posts associated with this crazy affair have been mostly taken down, either removed by posters or the sites themselves, to avoid further craziness. But it’s important not to forget that it’s impossible to hide from the internet once you make a point. If someone else has a point to make about you, you become a target. Zoe Quinn has clearly made poor choices, but it is important that this issue is not swept under the rug and ignored simply because of mistakes by one female game developer. The issue remains, and it needs to be addressed, otherwise the industry will continue to suffer from the short-sightedness of companies like Ubi-Soft, who think it’s ok to just claim it was “too hard to animate” female characters.

New Space Wolves Codex: Initial Thoughts

lobos vs orkos

Huzzah! After five years of playing Space Wolves, I finally get to experience what it’s like to have a codex totally change the army!

I mean, I’ve seen people go through this. The inevitable fingernail biting moments, like the missing Looted Wagon in the Orks codex (that was later hurried into White Dwarf so fast they didn’t even proofread it properly), the glee upon the faces of those seeing a brand new Monstrous Creature added to their collection (Eldar/Tau) or the outright rage expressed upon seeing units removed (Tyranids). But this is the first time I’ve had those feelings of worry, joy, anger and confusion over some of the changes.

First of all, a side note. The sudden switch to the crazy release schedule GW has going is ravaging the rumour mills. Normally they’d drip through, most would be broadly reliable but taken with salt, before a sudden storm of pictures, rules and posts would appear about two weeks before release. Now, you’re lucky if any of the rumours are even vaguely reliable until one week before the release.

This was the case with the new Codex: Space Wolves. Many of the rumours, even days before the codex went out, were contradictory, either due to hurried translation or just bad posting. This has been a GOOD thing. With no idea what to expect, I was DESPERATE to get the codex. Up until the Orks release you had a broad idea of what was coming in the next codex. With Space Wolves, no one really did.

So, my initial thoughts thus far, broken down by unit type, are as follows:

Vortigan Codex
My Wolf Lord in Terminator Armour.

HQ

Wolf Lord – Biggest change is the addition of a 4+ save by default. Can take awesome relics, such as an axe that gives +3 attacks when outnumbered and a Frost Blade with Rending. Will probably still be the mainstay Warlord of my army. Storm Shield is also super cheap, but no longer a requirement as the 4+ Invulnerable save is a good save.

Wolf Priest – More expensive, but gets FNP 6+. Still a good choice, I’ve thought up ways to take advantage of that extra staying power that would have been a waste previous edition. Still great with Blood or Skyclaws. Also good on a bike, but still can’t take one on a ThunderWolf, clearly for no other reason than that Fearless ThunderWolves that re-rolled hits would probably be broken.

Rune Priest – Easily the biggest changes in HQ go on this guy. Nearly halved in cost, cheap level 2 upgrade, Adamantium Will for him and his unit by default. As the standard SW Force Org lets you take 6 HQ’s you could feasibly take 6 of these guys and I wouldn’t blame you, especially with the Psychic Phase in 7th.

Wolf Guard Battle Leader – Was useful last edition because of Saga of the Wolf and Outflanking shenanigans for cheap. As that’s gone, he’s a good choice for the additional HQ slots above, especially leading Blood Claws, as he’s even cheaper. Then again, the characters in the other parts of the codex are better, so you’re unlikely to see this guy methinks.

Special Characters – Most now have a relic that is better than a weapon of the equivalent type. Most got a points decrease. Njal can re-roll Deny the Witch and has a Psychic Hood. Ragnar is probably the biggest disappointment, both because his model wasn’t updated and he’s one of the most expensive characters despite a lack of Eternal Warrior or high toughness. I want to take him, but can’t really justify the cost. Harald DeathWolf is basically the opposite, an awesome model and stat line, better invulnerable save, combined with the ability to outflank with ThunderWolves by default makes him worth every penny, and he’s cheaper than Ragnar. And he’s immune to flamers and Pyromancy, which is cool (pun intended) if very contextual. Bjorn is much cheaper, but still very expensive compared to Murderfang, and still doesn’t have 4 Hull Points. Perhaps the weirdest one here is Canis Wolfborn, who has the same points cost and similar abilities to the previous codex. Like Murderfang he can get 10 attacks on the charge if lucky with Rampage. No invulnerable save makes him a risk though.

Troops:

Blood Claws – Cheaper, lost Headstrong, gained a flying transport and will outflank half the time if taken in the Force Org chart in the book. That’s a combination that makes the initiates go from being the runt of the previous codex to being the phoenix of this one. Probably the biggest switch in terms of power at first glance. Equipment didn’t get cheaper, but fifteen power armoured guys for the same price as 30 Orks is more in line with where they should have been last edition, considering the lower WS and BS.

Grey Hunters – Arguably more expensive, dropped by one point but lost their close combat weapon. Again, a big switch in terms of overall power here. Previously they were an absolute no brainer, now I’d argue they’re actually less useful at first glance than Blood Claws, as outflanking for them is less useful and the new Force Org chart encourages using troops for this purpose (4+ for outflanking, rather than 6+ if not troops)

Lukas the Trickster – Once a troll, always a troll. In terms of a single model drop in points he has the biggest at 60. Was never worth it, despite the lulz, in the previous codex, but is now an independent character and thus counts when determining which units can outflank in the new Force Org chart. Is cheaper than a Wolf Lord, much better than a Wolf Guard Battle Leader and can still take his challenger (rather than just any model in base to base) with him using his stasis heart. Pelt of the Doppelgangrel reduces enemy weapon skill now, meaning he’ll face anything short of an Archon at a higher WS. Possibly the most efficient use of points in the codex now.

Elites

Iron Priest – Space Wolf armies tend to have better options than vehicles in various slots. They also have better choices in the elites section. However, has the potential to be a nasty Alpha strike unit if combined with cheap multi-melta equipped servitors in a drop pod. Is probably not my first choice for this section though.

Wolf Scouts – Lost the ability to ambush from behind enemy lines. This is probably the biggest “What? Why?” change in this codex. That was their “thing” it was what made Wolf Scouts a very cool unit, even if they weren’t that survivable they could come in, wreck a plan and get shot. Did get cheaper, and can now take camo-cloaks. Put them in a set of ruins with Sniper Rifles and they’re a good unit, as they hit on 3+ and are about as expensive as last edition, but with better cover saves.

Lone Wolf – Still silly, but lost the troll factor with the removal of the previous rules for “A Glorious Death”. As they give away potentially both a kill point and an easy First Blood opportunity, I would avoid them like the plague. They are also never scoring units, in an edition where objectives have become increasingly important.

Dreadnought – Cheaper, start with a Multi-Melta rather than an Assault Cannon, can take a Great Wolf Claw, which is a Dreadnought CC Weapon that re-rolls to wound (so, you should really kill something if you hit it) for very low cost. In short, is MUCH better, as 6th edition was making Dreadnoughts disappear very quickly considering their high cost. Can also take the new Helfrost Cannon, a lovely piece of kit that is basically a missile launcher +1 and can kill multi-wound models with a bit of luck. The Venerable Dreadnought can take a Great Axe and Blizzard Shield. The Shield counts as a melee weapon (so it adds +1 attack) and gives a 3+ save from the front armour and the axe is a Master Crafted Dread CC Weapon. Tis a big investment at 50 points though.

Murderfang – The beastliest beast of all beastliness. This guy is mental, properly mental. While confusion reigns over whether or not Furious charge affects his weapons (it really should, but meh) it doesn’t matter massively. He gets +3 attacks on the charge and has Rampage. He is a Dreadnought, so will be outnumbered nearly all the time. So yeah, he’s insane, put him in a drop pod and watch havoc unfold. Other than Lukas, this guy is probably the next character I’m likely to buy.

Wolf Guard (Not Terminator) – Still an ok, but not great choice. Main reason you might take them is that if you put them on bikes or give them jump packs they are a good quick unit that doesn’t suffer from the WS and BS deficit of Blood Claws. Otherwise, better stuff around me thinks.

Wolf Guard Terminators – Better than before in almost every way, and they weren’t bad to begin with. Cheaper weaponry across the board, can get a flying transport and can now teleport on the battlefield in units of 10. Love them, glad I’ve got tons of them and can’t wait to use them more.

Arjac Rockfist – Got a drop in points close to Lukas. Like Lukas, in that he is an independent character now who is only not as a good as a Wolf Lord by virtue of his lower wounds count. Had his fluff changed so that he didn’t fight off krakens. Instead killed a Wraithknight single handed. Given that Krakens are now the size of hive cities judging by the art, that is at least slightly more believable if less awesome (though not by much). Again, given the change to the Force Org chart, this guy can be a nasty surprise if he comes in from the side of the field. Can still throw his hammer, and his shield gives him Eternal Warrior. Like Lukas, went from silly fun but not competitive, to being a totally viable competitive choice.

Fast Attack

Swiftclaws – Cheaper, but given the other choices in Fast Attack also got much cheaper this is kind of a moot point. They make a great assault choice, as they get lots of attacks but lack being a Troops choice so are unlikely to outflank. Expensive when compared to other units in the codex, but they are VERY fast, so probably a good choice against fast moving armies that you just need to pin down.

Rhino/Razorback/Drop Pod – SHENANIGANS! They got added to the Fast Attack slot, meaning you no longer have to take them attached to a unit. Creates horrific potential for allying with Space Marines or Imperial Forces (Deep Striking Ogryns/Grav Centurions anyone?) as they can start in them. Otherwise, the Razorbacks base cost went up but it’s upgrades went down, so just taking one costs more, but taking one with a Twin-Linked Lascannon will cost the same as it did in the last codex. This is probably the biggest shake-up element of the codex, and allows you to take back up vehicles in case the outflanking doesn’t work on your troops.

StormWolf – Love the model, love the StormWolf. It can transport Blood Claws PLUS an Independent character AND can be a troops choice as it’s a dedicated transport. It has a good chance of outflanking and causing havoc with it’s smaller but still powerful mounted Hellfrost turret. Can Skyfire in an army that lacks anti-air and overall is a great addition to the codex. Also the silhouette looks like a puppy and is therefore automatically awesome.

ThunderWolves – My favourite unit of the whole of 5th decided that it had clearly had enough of the jokes and got cheaper and more ridiculous than ever. Can take up to 6 in a unit now, can take Storm Shields for HALF what they used to and gain a character to issue challenges. In short, to take a unit of five without Storm Shields in 5th costs the same as it does to take them WITH them now. That’s a massive change in terms of their overall survivability against armies like the Eldar and the Tau, the armies I’ve have the most difficulties with in the past. Combine with Harald for awesome outflanking fun times.

Fenrisian Wolves – Nope. Still seem terrible, even at 8 points each they’ll get wrecked by anything short of Gretchin. Avoid except as wargear, where they act as ablative wounds.

Skyclaws – Got cheaper, makeup for their lack of outflanking potential by being able to deep strike anyway. Looking like a great CC unit that is brilliant when combined with a Wolf Priest. Was the best way to take Blood Claws last edition, and is a good way to take them now.

Land Speeders – Never a bad choice, Land Speeders are great at being that really annoying bastard that can wreck well-made plans in seconds. 3 Multi-Melta Land Speeders are similar cost to 10 Swiftclaws, and I’d probably take the Land Speeders. Good mainstay of many Space Wolf armies, and still a good unit.

Heavy Support

StormFang Gunship – Not as good as the StormWolf, but still good. Can dish out a metric butt-ton of firepower, loads of anti-vehicle and anti-troop options and a small transport capacity that might actually make an Iron Priest a useful choice to pop inside. Want to put down the S6 AP3 Large Blast template down on a unit of Space Marines and watch them weep frozen tears.

Long Fangs – Possibly the one unit that was bound to be disappointing following last editions utter craziness. Long Fangs didn’t go up in points, but missile launchers obviously did. Still the best Heavy Support choice in the codex. Want to combine them with a Wolf Priest and Quad Gun Defence Line. 6+ FNP, Preferred Enemy against a unit type of my choice, 4 lascannons and a guaranteed 4+ Save = one heck of a solid back line that re-rolls hits against the toughest stuff on the board. Can only fire at a separate unit with one model (as they got the Split Fire USR), but thats not too big a deal.

Vindicator/Whirlwind/Predator – All good, Predator went up in cost base, same as the Razorback, but equipment cost went down. I’m guessing this is to stop possible ridiculousness in unbound lists made up of cheap auto-cannon and heavy bolter equipped Predators. All good choices, though not as good perhaps as other things. The Vindicator is never, ever a bad choice though.

Land Raider/Crusader/Redeemer – As the Blood Claws are better, the Crusader is as well. Can very reliably transport the eager initiates to the front line with an independent character where they can wreak face without the enemy getting any more than overwatch shots at them. Redeemer is great if it gets outflank, I used to use it with Wolf Guard Terminators and a Wolf Priest with Saga of the Wolf this way and it stood me in good stead in 6th. The normal Land Raider is kinda meh in comparison. Still good though, and a great way to keep Grey Hunters or Blood Claws safe without sacrificing anti-tank potential.

Lords Of War

Logan Grimnar – I GOTS ME A CHARIOT YOU DRUNKEN BASTARDS!!! Seriously though I cannot see a reason to take Logan at all in the new codex beyond his sheer badassery and fluff. He costs a crap ton of points, has lost the two abilities that made him powerful in the last codex, and Stormrider is either going to make you laugh with glee as it spears across the battlefield or cry out in agony when a unit of Loota’s or something of with similar weight of fire takes it out in one round of shooting. I love you Logan, I really do, but for more points than 3 Wolf Lords base, you need to be better, even with your chariot of Wolfy awesomeness.

space_wolves

The Fluff

Honestly, this is the one place the codex loses out. The Space Wolves still have everything that made them the archetypal space vikings, the ale, brawls and braided hair but lack… well the “flair” of the previous codex. Everything feels sterilised, as though things couldn’t possibly be THAT awesome or THAT crazy about them. In a similar way to how many parts of the Ork codex feel as though the silliness has been toned down (though not by much, and mostly thanks to the removal of Wazdakka) the Space Wolves codex feels like someone replaced the badassery with the same tales of battle that we’re used to in the normal Space Marine codex. Nothing about it feels “special”, Arjac is a good example. He goes from fighting off swarms of giant sea beasts to a Wraithknight. Sure, beating up a Wraithknight is no mean feat, but there’s something much more awesome (and unique) about seeing him throwing his hammer around at dozens of massive krakens. Also, large parts of the unit descriptions appear to have been nearly copy-pasted from the previous book, and while they haven’t changed the units THAT much they did need a little work on some of the stuff.

But the biggest disappointment is to do with the lack of fluff attention given the flaw of the Canis Helix. Mark of the Wulfen is gone, leaving only Murderfang with the Wulfen curse in the codex. The Wolf Brothers are called “ill-fated” and mentioned in a single sentence. They are mentioned briefly in the Rites of Initiation and as part of a Relic, but it’s as though the Wulfen, one of the most characterful and defining elements of the Space Wolves, was something GW wanted to hide away and remove from the codex. That did make me feel sad, it must be said and I’m sure I’m not the only one, as giving a chapter a big defining weakness is a great way to add to their background and development (Blood Angels have the Black Rage, Dark Angels their Fall etc).

Print Codex vs Interactive iPad Codex

I bought the Interactive iPad Codex for this release, partly because the special edition was ridiculously expensive and I wanted something a bit different from my peers, and partly because it had an “Army Requisition” feature, essentially an Army Builder built into the codex. Initially, the download didn’t work on the day of the release, making the pre-order pointless and so I was put off from pre-ordering such a thing again. But that’s a separate issue.

The interactive codex is awesome. It really genuinely is, especially if you enjoy just flicking through the book occasionally at your leisure. It’s little things, Ragnar for example has a page dedicated just to him where pressing on different parts of his armour will bring up information as to where he gets his name, his sword and so on. The Grand Annulus does a similar thing, as pressing on individual stones will bring up information on that company.

It also has the 360 degree pictures of the models that you can find on the GW website, as well as zoomable pictures of pretty every model in the codex. It also contains links to the website in the unit info, which is very dangerous to ones wallet.

The Army builder…. is still buggy. Everything adds up right from what I can see, but some of the functionality means I wouldn’t trust someone using it to be sure that it was right. It also, in rather hilarious fashion, once loaded up a Grey Knights Army Builder. Well, at least we know what’s coming next….

Overall, loving the new codex. Want to see more on the Wulfen though so get on a Thirteenth company supplement GW!

10341427_10152309599527865_9041868646653282615_n
My Wolf Lord, converted from Krom Dragongaze

My 10 favourite Video Game Characters Part 2

WARNING: IN THIS POST ARE MAJOR SPOILERS FOR ANALOGUE A HATE STORY!

Number #9: Hyun-AeAnalogue A Hate Story

I feel like I need to add more context to this character than to Bindo in my previous post. Hyun-Ae is an AI, the first you meet, aboard a ship called the Mugunghwa which has been floating in space for around 600 hundred years, with all life aboard extinguished. Hyun-Ae is therefore not a human being, and it’s important to note that in Analogue: A Hate Story, the only way to communicate with her is by answering her questions with Yes or No answers. Sometimes there is a third option, but that happens very rarely. So it makes it even more impressive that she reaches so far up my list, given that the only method of communication is to show her random articles of information (Most of Analogue is contained within the letters and records of those aboard. How you work your way through the story is dependent entirely on your own interpretation of events), hope she knows about them, and then answer her questions about you and your motives.

At the beginning of Analogue, you need to find the Admin password to the ships computers in order to download the ships records to your own ship. Initially, all you can do is talk to Hyun-Ae, who is human in all but form at this point. She gets angry when she sees you asking about relationships between people she dislikes, she pesters you a bit about Earth, what it’s like whether it’s beautiful and so on, and then asks what you think of her on multiple occasions. Remember, you get two choices for most of these, often the difference between “I like you” and “I don’t like you”. Unless you’re finding her really annoying, generally the responses are sort of just friendly or unfriendly. So I responded with friendly answers on each question.

A typical example of a question in A:AHS
A typical example of a question in A:AHS

This quickly started to backfire on me. There’s a point just before you reach the admin password where she reveals who the people in the articles are talking about (The Pale Bride). This makes you start feeling uncomfortable, since the Pale Bride is nothing like Hyun-Ae but the two are the same person. After she probes for your opinion on the matter, she gives you the option relating to whether you pity the Pale Bride, admire her for being silent and subservient, or don’t care. I replied that I pitied her, which felt like the littlest of three evils. Hyun-Ae just looked disappointed on the screen. And I could understand why, knowing what you know. Women were not respected on this ship at all; Hyun-Ae was a victim of a horrible patriarchy that saw women as objects and servants. In their letters, the men aren’t demeaning to the women, often making it clear that they love them, but they do not see them as equals. At this point Hyun-Ae reveals the article that hides the password.

Then, after about 45 minutes of gameplay, drops a horrible question on your lap. “Were you talking to me just to get the admin password?”. That’s nasty, a question that makes you want to type in the games code and change the answers to read “Yes, but…” or “At first yeah, but…”. Instead the answers are Yes or No. And at that point I stopped. I didn’t know, I liked talking to her, I genuinely did, the writing in this game is good enough to warrant saying that I had nearly forgotten about the password. I said no. Hyun-Ae smiled and the game continued.
gallery_456_108_6516
You access the download…. And hiding in it is another AI called *Mute. Mute is, initially at least, the opposite to Hyun-Ae in almost every way. Brash, forward, totally unashamed in her attacks on both Hyun-Ae and the society in which she lived. She reveals Hyun-Ae is the cause of the deaths on the ship, as she killed herself and everyone else in the real-world by shutting down life-support after creating her AI persona. Going back to confront her results in a tense confrontation, before you’re interrupted by the ships reactor going nuclear. You are then left with the choice of saving either *Mute or Hyun-Ae. I chose Hyun-Ae the first time; I wanted to know more about why she felt compelled to do what she did. You save the ship, but not both the AI, leaving you to discuss things with Hyun-Ae while going through and downloading the remaining documents.

Eventually, after many conversations, you realize why she did what she did. She wasn’t from that society, her father had kept her alive in stasis while a cure could for found for a disease she had. Instead, the society devolved on the ship, and eventually she was broken out of stasis a thousand years later in the belief that she would reverse a family’s fortunes. Instead, her views on female equality and refusal to back down in her beliefs or confrontational attitude resulted in one of the most horrible things I think I ever had to force myself to read.

They ripped her tongue out; Hyun-Ae records most of the grisly detail in the entry and upon asking her about it, she explains that eventually, after years of trying to get over that horrible day, she couldn’t take it anymore. She knew how the systems worked in a way that the devolved society no longer did, so she took control, built an AI program and killed everyone board, including herself. She asks you what you think of her, with the three pronged response of “I understand, You’re a monster, I don’t care much” and at that point you realized you’ve played a game for 4 hours without ever really doing much beyond reading. But it’s your conversations with Hyun-Ae, the way the words on the page are written, and the whole situation that makes you realize you’ve had a great and revealing experience. I replied “I understand”, she reacts with joy that someone might, and asks if you’ll take her back to Earth, either as a friend or as a romantic partner. Either one is fine; rejecting her romantic advances does not diminish her clear love for you while the “I love you too” response is perhaps a little too stereotypical of the Japanese visual novel genre. But you do feel something for her, which is amazing considering she is nothing but coded expression.

Over a relatively short period of time Hyun-Ae goes from being the subject of curiosity, to like, to a feeling of betrayal over her inability to tell you about what she did, to curiosity again, to liking and eventually to understanding her. Christine Love did a fantastic job writing her character and I have no hesitation in putting her in my top 10. Mute is in my top 20, but her story is one for another time I feel.

20120529045345_Analogue%202012-05-28%2014-48-17-46

My Ten Favourite Video Game Characters. Part 1

Before I begin this list, which will be completed over the next 10 days, I want to clarify this is entirely subjective. I don’t/didn’t play Nintendo or Sega consoles for example and I know that a large number of people will consider that total sacrilege. I also didn’t start gaming properly until the late 1990’s, so my views do not include games prior to around 1997. In fact a good point to see as the beginning of my gaming career is Final Fantasy 7. And no, none of my 10 favourites come from that game. 

There is also a massive skew towards RPG’s, primarily because character depth is more important to me than badassery or sentimental attachment to a particular set of games. So Dante from DMC, for example, is not in the list though he gets an honourable mention in the introduction as the example of course. That’s not to say there aren’t characters from other genre’s coming up, there are, but I want people to know my biases before we begin because, frankly, I can refer back to if people disagree.

There will also be spoilers for all of the characters, in all of the posts. I’ll repeat this warning at the start of each post so that it’s clear.

Character #10: Jolee Bindo. Knights of the Old Republic

Jolee Bindo's character icon in Knights of the Old Republic

So, to begin a character that I enjoy primarily because he breaks a mould in a traditionally distinct power struggle between good and evil. Jolee Bindo is a Jedi, and thus had training in the tenets of the Light Side of the force, primarily that emotions such as anger, passion and hatred lead to the dark side and thus are bad for you. But Jolee ends up falling in love, generally seen as a sign of misplaced passion and thus heavily discouraged if not outright banned in Jedi circles depending on the academy or your Master. In the end he marries the woman he loves and leaves the Jedi, and thus begins a life outside the core worlds.“Pulling a Bindo” in the sequel to Knights of the Old Republic, is mentioned when the subject of Jedi marrying is raised in reference to this backstory.
Bindo’s wife is revealed to have turned to the Dark Side during her time with him, after he trains her in the use of the Force. He duelled and defeated her, but let her go. She killed many Jedi before being finally beaten again, and Bindo feels immense guilt for his failure to keep her away from the temptations of the Dark Side.

When you meet him in the game, Jolee is on Kashyyk, the Wookie home world, and is detached from galactic politics and the general difficulties of the Jedi and the power of the Sith. Having seen the rigid and inflexible side of the Jedi, Bindo is skeptical to their beliefs and systems and no longer considers himself a “Jedi” in the strictest sense. He’s most commonly described as a “Grey” Jedi, in that he broadly supports ideas such as justice, charity, helping others and peaceful resolutions to conflicts but refuses to be locked into doctrine that dictates when this should be applied, preferring to let his emotions tell him when it is right to do so. This is in contradiction to the Jedi code, which states “There is no passion, only serenity” but also contradicts the first line of the Sith Code that “Peace is a lie, there is only passion”. His story through the game allows him to challenge both of the views of the Jedi and the Sith as he travels with Revan, but also reinforces the reasons why he stays out of the conflict between them. He increasingly, whether you go light side or dark side in the game, comes to the conclusion that one or the other will cause harm, but that only the Sith accept and even embrace the harm they do, which causes further damage.

This is why Jolee appears as the first entrant of this list. He challenges the player to think beyond traditional meanings of “good” and “evil”, particularly in a universe like that of Star Wars which was built upon the Jedi/Sith dichotomy, notably in the prequels. He also attacks the selfish or one-sided views of the companions in the party. Notably he does not see the Republic necessarily as a force for good, unlike the Jedi or Carth Onasi during the game. He views it in the same way that many cynical about modern politics view their governments, that in the end they serve a very small section of people, while the rest suffer. He still prefers this to the xenophobia and martial law the Sith would bring, however. He simply doesn’t see the Republic as important to the galaxy as a whole, believing individuals within it are more important than the organisation. He also speaks in riddles that leave interpretations open to the player at several points, which adds to how different players will react to him. He is also one of the few party members, the others being Bastilla and HK-47, to know Revans identity from the beginning of KOTOR, but upon meeting you he says nothing, believing it his not his place to reveal that information.

 

But I think the main reason I like Jolee is that he shows how difficult it is to be good in a world where your emotions drive your actions. We are not Jedi, and while many may aspire to the idea of a perfect system of people knowing when to act or not, this creates further strife when they debate what best to do. Acting on impulse is dangerous, unadvised even, but Jolee does so out of a genuine desire to do good now, rather than waiting for people to suffer while the best option is decided upon. This is a topic that is regularly brought up during Knights of the Old Republic, in the first and second game, and it does the series great credit that it didn’t just focus on a good vs evil story and instead examined the process behind each sides reasons for entering the Mandalorian Wars, and later the Jedi Civil War.

So to conclude, Jolee Bindo is a character that is deliberately designed to challenge the player. He does so in a very subtle, but important way, and is given an excellent backstory to compliment his personality and current motives. He’s also one of the few light sided Jedi who is said to actively use “dark” force powers such as lightning, since they feed off emotions. This makes him pretty damn awesome by any standards.

Dear Esther….

There are a few things I like more than Midweek Madness on Steam. It allows many of us to try new things that seem too expensive for what they offer at first. This was the case for Dear Esther to pretty much everyone I know who had heard about the game. They knew it only lasted a short while, that it was basically a tech demo of what the Source Engine is capable of. But they were also fascinated by it’s ideas. At least I know I was…

So when it came up on M.W.M I went “Hey, why not?” and downloaded it in earnest. Perhaps I chose the best time to play it (at midnight) because from the moment I started it up, the music felt eerie and the hairs began to rise on the back of my neck. I started from the first chapter (since starting from any other felt silly) and began the game.

This blog goes through half of the game. Therefore I shall say, right now, that some of my screenshots WILL contain *SPOILERS*.

You start off on a jetty, directly outside a lighthouse that gives its namesake to the first chapter. The narrator begins the first of many “Dear Esther” letters and you are able to move into a small building next to the lighthouse, filled with various discarded items and the debris of the lighthouse staircase. It was a that point that I realised something…

The game is utterly gorgeous. There is literally nothing that I can think of, not even Skyrim modded to extremes, that is so beautifully designed and rendered in 3D. I was able to run this game on the highest possible graphics settings available, and I’m so glad of that.Image

It is only after quite a bit of walking around the shore that the narrator continues. It will take a little time to get used to him, but the letters feel like they came right out of a poets mouth. They are as polished as the graphics, and the voiceover work is brilliant. Soon you start to hear him talk about a car crash and a drunk driver. As if on cue I found some discarded car wreckage at the bottom of a cliff. Strange noises fill the air.

The game does this the whole way through. Noises will build up to a crescendo and make you want to hurry along to the next part of the game, lest something catches you. It feels something like survival horror, and once you get to the second chapter it begins to look like one too. You’ll see the wreckage of a cargo ship on the beach, you’ll inevitably walk down to investigate. And then, if your like me anyway, you’ll spot movement out of the corner of your eye. 

An etheral figure seems to wander along the cliff above you, just as the narrator begins to explain how he found medical supplies aboard a cargo ship. You go up to investigate, finding the shade has disappeared, but has lead you to a cliffside path. You follow it and find yourself outside an abandoned house at the top of a hill. The narrator continues, explaining some of the history between himself and a man named Doherty, and another called Jacobson, who apparently lived on the island beforehand with natives. Since the island is now deserted, this makes the atmosphere tense up incredibly, as you feel like the cliffs are somehow watching you. After seeing the shade before, you feel like there must still be someone on this island. And then you walk to the next cliff edge.Image
A small light burns in the cave opposite and you see the shade again. You move on, desperately trying to find the source of the light and in the process go round several more cliff faces, finding more evidence of recent occupation
Image

 

And this is where I’ll leave you. There are some seriously creepy moments in this game (Writing the blog has felt like the start of a “creepypasta” in some regards), but the immersion level for me was like reading a brilliant book. The narration is at just the right pace, you walk at just the right pace to feel like you should be moving faster while also giving you time to investigate the world around you (which you really have to do to appreciate the whole story), which gives a lovely feeling of semi-urgency. You want, you hunger, to find out more and questions just keep popping up in your head as you play, which makes you want to explore every nook and crevice as possible. And perhaps the best thing about it is the slow, but sure, realisation that will begin to worm its way to the front of your mind that there is more to the whole game than meets the eye….

Image 

The Premier League: Who I’ll be supporting next season

This may sound like a bit of an odd title for a blog. Traditionally your supposed to support the same team through thick and thin right?

Trouble is I used to live in Somerset. This meant I supported my mums team, namely West Ham United. They got relegated last season, and while I was happy to support them in the Championship, I always felt like I wanted to support a team in the Premier League. So I chose Wolves, I team I liked for three reasons. I like Mick McCarthy, they only just avoided relegation (and therefore needed the support) and I like wolves. Yeah the third reason is kinda silly, but it helped choose between them and Blackburn.

But they have now been relegated, and I need to choose a new team to support should West Ham not make it back up to the Premier League. In my view I have three options: Choose a team that was nearly relegated again, choose a team that have been absolutely outstanding this season, going above and beyond what people expected or choose a team in my new home city of London. This leaves me, realistically, with 2 definitive candidates and two possibles depending on which way the relegation battle goes in the next few weeks.

First up the two definitive candidates are Newcastle and Arsenal. Newcastle for being just downright pleasing to watch and outstanding this season and Arsenal because they recovered from the start of the season to launch themselves into third and prove that they are the best team in London at the moment. I like both Alan Pardew and Arsene Wenger, Pardew in particular because his time at West Ham was also successful, nearly winning them the FA Cup. At the end of the day though, I am living in London, and location is all important for support. So Arsenal probably win out here, though when they play Newcastle I will not complain if they lose.

The other two possibles are Wigan and Bolton. Both Owen Coyle and Roberto Martinez are great managers and neither team deserves to go down this season. Martinez brought Wigan back from the brink again this season, putting them in with a real chance of staying out of the relegation zone. Coyle has just been unlucky. Bolton played fantastically last season and it’s a real shame that they’ve been stuck in a relegation battle. If both get relegated I’ll be very surprised and very disappointed. Both have had a tough season for different reasons. Wigan always hold on by the skin of their teeth but Bolton have a trying time too in recent weeks following the near death of Fabrice Muamba, a situation that Bolton and the whole of football generally dealt with in a very dignified way. It made football look good for a short while, until diving and referee decisions became issues again.

So in short, I will probably support Arsenal or Bolton next season, though if West Ham make it up into the Premier League I’ll support them there…