The first TV night for a while, since we've been away or J's been out or we've both been out on a Wednesday for several weeks. We started off with the last in the Britain's Secret Treasures series that was broadcast on ITV a while ago. A technical niggle first - I don't know if it's our PVR or if it's the channel itself, but the sound and images on ITV HD always seem just slightly out of sync. I noticed it during the World Cup and now with this series, it's not a problem most of the time but with close-ups of people talking it's a little disorienting.

The series was looking at the top 50 objects that have been found in recentish years by members of the public, chosen and ordered by Bettany Hughes and a panel of fellow experts. The programmes were presented primarily by Bettany Hughes & Michael Buerk ... and I'm not entirely clear why Michael Buerk. He didn't seem to've been involved in the choice or anything, effectively he was there to be a "pretty face" (or alternatively to provide an authoritative male figure for those who'd think Hughes too female to count?). Perhaps I'm over cynical here. Each object then had a short segment of film where some tenuously linked celebrity (like Michael Portillo looked at a Roman coin because it had an emperor on it and Portillo used to be the Defense Secretary so that's all the same sort of thing - seriously, that's what they said!) or an expert in the subject went off to the site it was found, and/or somewhere relevant, and told us about the object and why it was significant, and maybe interviewed some experts on the subject.

The best thing about the series was the chance to see all these lovely things, and to hear the stories about the lucky finds. And in general I thought the objects were well chosen - I don't know if they'd be my top 50, not only am I not an expert but I don't know what the choice was from, but I thought they were a good top 50 if that makes sense. And I don't regret watching the programmes.

But - and you could tell there was a "but" coming, couldn't you? But I think there were some odd choices in the presentation of the series. By necessity it was a shallow look at the objects, but some choices of what to dwell on and what to gloss over were odd. The one that sticks particularly in my mind is the programme where we had a 5 minute segment of Hughes scuba diving in a river looking for coins (the objects this was related to had been covered earlier for 5 minutes already), and there was at least one object in that programme that got about 2 sentences & moved away from. Personally I'd've skipped the diving and looked at the actual objects more. There were also some odd choices of experts - particularly this last programme where both J and I were spluttering over the choice of a priest to talk about a 4000 year old gold cup. Yes, it was found in what was probably a temple, but I don't think a spiritual leader of Christianity has any special insight into possible religious practices of people who lived in Britain around 2000BC, and leaping from how the rituals around the chalice in Christianity are about both communion with God and communion with the community to how this cup must've also been part of a communion ritual seemed like a very good example of bringing one's own cultural blinkers along. (I'm not saying it's not true, I don't actually know anything about the subject, but I am saying I thought it was a poor argument.)

So in summary, good to have seen but at times eye-rolling to listen to.


Our second programme of the evening was the first episode of Neil Oliver's new series, Vikings. This is actually only timeshifted by a little over a week, quite prompt for us!

I'll start with the negative, and get it out of the way - I don't like the stylistic choices of the director and/or cameraperson for this and the other recent Neil Oliver serieses (the one about the Bronze Age and before & the one about the Iron Age, I can't remember what they were called). Basically they make me notice the camera too much, my preference for a documentary is for it not to try too hard to be "arty". They do stuff like when they're showing you an object they have a narrow depth of field and shift the focal plane around - and I just want to see the whole thing, damnit. Also shaky cam while he's walking along talking to the camera, which I think is supposed to make it feel intimate but just reminds me there's a cameraperson there. Having said that - both of those were toned down from the previous serieses. They'd added a new trick though, shots that made everything look minature - street shots where it looked like little mobile dolls walking between dolls houses. Which I found deeply deeply creepy in a visceral fashion.

However, that's enough bitching about the filming. The programme itself was interesting, and it promises to be an enjoyable series. The premise is to look at the Vikings from the Viking point of view & this first programme was setting the scene. First we had a brief section reminding us of the things "we all know" about Vikings, just to get us all on the same page at the start. So he spent a little bit of time in York with a few wee toy models of Vikings and some kids dressed up with helmets & swords playfighting, pointing out that most of this is later myth. And then we were off to Scandinavia to look at both the land the Vikings came from, and their history before the first raids on Europe.

The land obviously shapes the society that lives in it - and particularly in the far north of Scandinavia, like Norway, there isn't much arable land. Clearly over time this leads to population pressure, so a culture of young men going out adventuring would ease this both by killing some of them off and by having them bring back wealth from other more fertile regions. This and the amount of coast also makes seafaring important - during the sort of time period that Stonehenge was built, the people on Gotland were building stone ship shapes. An integral part of their culture even in the Bronze Age.

He also made the point that Scandinavia was never part of the Roman Empire, and this shaped the people & culture by not shaping them. The Scandinavians kept their old gods, rather than being integrated into Roman religion and then later into Christianity. And their gods and religion emphasised that while you will inevitably die your reputation will live forever. I wish I could remember the exact words - there was a segment of the programme where he talked to a scholar who was an expert on the old religion & she read out some of what I think was an Old Norse book about it, and translated it into English for us. It was much more poetic than how I phrased it. And what mattered to a Viking about his reputation was that he wasn't a coward - honour and glory were what would keep your memory alive.

As well as keeping their own religion they also weren't urbanised by the Romans - so while the south of Scandinavia (Denmark) had wealthy individuals and even regional kings, they weren't organised in towns. I think the point here was that this is a contrast to the way that the ex-Roman Empire parts of Europe thought that a society was automatically organised. As part of this section he also showed us objects that demonstrated that the southern Vikings at least did have trade connections to quite far afield. Some very impressive silver cups which I think were from the Mediterranean and were decorated in a Roman style with scenes from the Iliad. Also the bones of two women from a ship burial just before the time of the first Viking raids on Britain - and one of these women DNA analysis has shown that she may've had some connection to Middle Eastern peoples. (I was unclear if he meant that she herself was from the Middle East or if she had ancestors from the Middle East, perhaps because that's not actually known.)

So that was a fairly brisk sweep through a vast swathe of history & geography to give us a flavour of where the Vikings came from both culturally & physically. Next I guess we're on to what the Vikings actually did :)

Marillion did a (fairly short) UK tour just after the new album came out and we went to the show in London on 16th Sept. We did a bit of museuming beforehand (which I'll write up another time), then met Ady & Pete at Kentish Town to find dinner before the show. Paul was supposed to join us too, but his trains were all screwed up so he had to give it a miss :( Ended up eating in Nandos, which I haven't done in probably a decade ... and it would've been that Nandos last time too, before a Marillion gig!

Unusually I had a camera with me, a few years ago most concerts tried to stop you taking photos but things have moved on a bit. Didn't take the big camera, obviously, if nothing else it's awfully hard to take photos at arms length above my head with that one. And despite taking quite a lot of photos (coz only a few would come out) I didn't watch the whole show through the viewfinder either ;) All the pics are on flickr, so click through for a larger version.

The support band for the evening were DeeExpus - Mark Kelly (keyboards in Marillion) plays on the album, but didn't come out and play on stage with them. We do actually have the album, but I haven't listened to it much so I didn't know the songs. They sounded good at the time, but haven't really stuck in my head at all.

DeeExpusDeeExpusDeeExpusDeeExpusDeeExpus

And then on to the main act! They started with a little fake-out of the intro to Splintering Heart, followed by explosions and then into Gaza - the opening track off the new album (which is called "Sounds That Can't Be Made"). A bit of a politically charged song, as it's about the humanitarian side of the situation in Gaza, and it made for a powerful start to the show.

Logo for the New AlbumSteve HogarthSteve Hogarth

I think I've said before I'm bad at remembering setlists. As well as four songs off the new album, this one had some old classics like This Town and Great Escape, some of the newer classics like Neverland and You're Gone. Oh and a rendition of A Few Words for the Dead where h waved a gun around, with a flower in it for the bit where the lyrics kick in with "or you could love".

Steve HogarthSteve HogarthSteve Hogarth

The (last) encore was Sugar Mice which is a favourite of mine (starting with a slightly ropey crowd sing-along), and in a nice touch the final song - Estonia - was dedicated to Neil Armstrong. The show was recorded, and they'd organised it so that you could buy the CD after the show, which was kinda neat :)

Pete TrewavasSteve RotheryMark KellyIan MosleyMarillionMark KellySteve HogarthSteve RotheryPete TrewavasMarillionSteve HogarthSteve HogarthPete TrewavasSteve RotheryMarillionMark KellySteve RotherySteve RotheryMarillionMarillion

We've been to find a few caches in Ipswich since coming back from Northumberland, but with a lower success rate. The first trip in Ipswich was a complete failure - we were only looking for one cache, which is in the park near our house. Unfortunately when we got to the rough area of the site we discovered it's completely overgrown with nettles, and despite J's best efforts at looking we had no luck at all. J got very stung by the nettles, tho :( (I had a skirt on & bare legs, so didn't venture into the nettles at all!)

However our next trip was better.

Day 5

map for geocaching day 5

We met up with some of J's work colleagues (Kerry, Peter, Anna & Adam), near the College, and headed off to find some caches. All three we were looking for were puzzle ones - you have to solve the puzzle on the website to get the actual co-ordinates of the cache (it does give you wrong-but-close co-ordinates to get you to the vague vicinity). I'd not actually done any of the solving myself (to be honest with the geocaching stuff I'm pretty much just along for the ride, it's a good excuse for a walk and to be sociable). The first one we were looking for was "Ipswich Haven Marina" and we failed with that one :( Peter had been a couple of times before & failed to find it, too. The cache owner got in touch with J and with Kerry after they logged DNFs, so we now know that we do have the right co-ords and that the cache is still there (he checked for us). So another trip another day! (Peter has already gone back and found it, so it's definitely definitely there ;) )

The next two were successful! One near the New Wolsey Theatre ("What a Performance") and one a little way up Bramford Road ("A Cachers Melody"). Both found without much trouble, despite it being dark by the time we got to them.

And after that we headed back into town to get some food, ending up at the Kwan Thai partly by virtue of it still being open at 9:30pm. And partly because it's a nice resturant :)

Day 6

map for geocaching day 6

J and I went back out on Saturday afternoon, and promptly discovered the "Ipswich Haven Marina" cache - not quite sure how we all missed it before, to be honest.

We then (via a coffee in Cafe Nero) headed off to look for "A hard one ..." which J and Anna had solved the puzzle for the day before. We searched for quite a while, but in the end had to admit defeat on that one :( We did check the co-ordinates with the cache owner once we got home & apparently we're right so perhaps it's vanished or perhaps we just need to look harder!

Back in January there was a five part series on the Written Word as part of the In Our Time series, which is what we've chosen to listen to next. This is a slightly different format in that instead of 3 guests in the studio Bragg is going to museums etc & talking to the curators & experts there.

This programme covered the initial development both of writing itself, and of the alphabetic system we use today. He went and looked at (and described to us) examples of early cuneiform writing, Egyptian hieroglyphs and Chinese oracle bones, which are three of the four independent inventions of writing. It's interesting that something so fundamental to modern civilisation was invented so few times - as well as the three I listed there's also an independent development on the American continent, but all other writing systems were developed from other systems or directly inspired by other systems.

(It's actually a little controversial to say that Egyptian writing was developed independently like I did in the preceding paragraph - it may've been inspired by cuneiform, however the earliest known Egyptian writing is getting to be early enough that it's more likely to be independent. Also J's been reading a book about the development of writing, and it also makes the point that the Egyptian and Mesopotamian writing systems developed for different reasons - Mesopotamian writing was proto-book keeping, Egyptian writing had religious significance. So probably independent origin.)

I actually found the Chinese stuff the most interesting as it was completely new to me - in ancient China (in the Shang Dynasty) the rulers read oracles in the pattern of cracks that you get by using a hot poker on ox shoulder bones. These oracles were then recorded on the bones by scribes in the earliest known forms of modern Chinese characters, which makes the Chinese system the longest consecutively used modern writing system.

The programme also name checked Linear A (undeciphered) and Linear B (a syllabic system that was an early way to write Greek), and then moved on to the development of our more familiar alphabet. It made the point that the Greek alphabet was the first to write down vowels - previous alphabetic systems were for Semitic languages and due to the way those languages are structured the consonant sequences are less ambiguous (as I understand it). So to a native speaker it's a lot more obvious in context what a word is than it would be in English (or presumably Greek).

We were out all day yesterday, so I'm a day late writing this up - probably going to end up rather more disjointed than I might wish ;) Spoilers galore in the rest of the post, hover mouse over text to read or read on full entry page.

Where to start? Another good episode :) I liked it right from the start with the voice over cluing us into the tone of the episode - a Western. Tho for all I know everyone across the US is wincing at how the accent was all wrong, but it worked for the Brit audience anyway ;)

Note the fakeout in the intro voiceover, too - the man who doesn't die, who falls from the sky. And it's not the Doctor. Also, another fakeout early on - it's the "alien Doctor" that the cyborg is looking for to kill, and again it's not the Doctor. Which resonates with three fakeouts I can think of from last episode: a) Solomon wants the Doctor brought to him when he overhears Rory calling him Doctor, but it's because he wants medical attention, not because he wants "The Doctor"; b) the scanner that tells the value of everything doesn't flag up the Doctor as interesting or even known; c) Solomon finds something "more valuable than the dinosaurs" and it's neither the Tardis nor the Doctor, it's Nefertiti. I'm not sure if this is season arc stuff or if this is more about aggressively re-educating our expectations - I'm sure I read somewhere that Moffat thought the stakes for Doctor Who stories had got too high, and that he wanted to pull back the scope of the stories to more personal ones rather than universe destroying ones. Certainly these last two episodes have fit that mould, and the fakeouts remind us that the whole universe does not, in fact, revolve around the Doctor.

I liked the way that the characters generally weren't one-note this time. I say "generally" partly because I'm not sure whether to count the preacher as a "proper" character or not, he has a speaking part but he doesn't really do much (and in not doing much doesn't get characterisation beyond stereotypical "man of the cloth in frontier town who prays a bit"). Obviously Jex & the Gunslinger are set up to play with our expectations & sympathies, and set up to mirror & cast lights on the Doctor & his demons. But also Isaac - I felt clearly he did things in the war he wasn't proud of and he was in some ways atoning for this by his protection of Jex. And "the kid" who ringleads the push to fling out first the Doctor then Jex to the Gunslinger - leading a lynch mob isn't exactly a plus point, but he's doing the best he can think of to look after his family and his town.

Jex in particular was well done, I thought. He was a manipulative little bastard (the "bonding" moment with Amy as a parent, the way he pushes the Doctor's buttons, the way he clearly got Isaac onside), although he doesn't always get quite the reaction he wants - not as clever as he'd like to hope he is. You could see how he managed to rationalise his participation in atrocities and how he justified himself to others. You could also see he was consumed by guilt, he knew he'd done wrong, but you could see the self-interest in his repentance - redemption for him wasn't about atoning for the wrongs he'd done to others, it was about avoiding or ameliorating an afterlife that would be unpleasant for him.

Some nice callbacks to previous continuity like Amy having to do the "and this is why you need company" speech. I felt the Time War was the elephant in the room for a lot of the Doctor/Jex scenes but as well as that there's more recent & on-screen moments like "A Good Man Goes to War" and "Waters of Mars" are clearly referenced in the "what holds you back is your morality" conversation where Jex is both manipulating and wrong - the Doctor has rules, and people who expect better from him, the Doctor left to his own devices in the past has acted like a vengeful & capricious god not like a moral person.

On a lighter note there's also the "I speak horse" thing, like how he speaks baby in the cyberman one with the rom-com star (I can't remember the episode name, or the famous actor in it, hopefully you can figure out what I mean!). And the horse being Susan and wanting his life choices respected gave me a good giggle, from the combination of the deadpan delivery from the Doctor and the preacher's face.

Amy & Rory didn't really have a lot to do here - Amy's "you need us" moment aside. In fact Rory could've been elsewhere entirely & I don't think it'd be noticeable. The end is noteworthy though for Amy also being keen to get home, things have changed again since last episode. The Doctor may or may not've been intentionally weaning Rory & Amy off him, but he's certainly succeeding. Note also that he's 1200 years old now, and at the end of last season he was 1100 years old - I presume that's to show us how he's stretching out his visits to Amy & Rory even more from his perspective. I had another thought about the "you'll be here till the end of me" conversation from last episode too, is the Doctor trying in some ways to spread out his visits so that he doesn't out live this set of companions?

Oh, and I've seen a few comments elsewhere on the web about how the Doctor wouldn't point a gun at anyone coz he's anti-violence ... I think he's actually a hypocrite and was so even in old school Who ;) I ran across a link to this montage & it seems appropriate here:

Note that it's got swear words in the music it's set to, so perhaps headphones if you're looking at it at work.

J got interested in geocaching, coz some of his work colleagues are into it. So while we were up north for the bank holiday weekend we went to find some caches.

Day 1

map for geocaching day 1

We picked up two caches on our first trip out - "Stonehinge" & "Snow White", both of which are in Shildon Woods to the north of Blanchland.

Noah is Not Entirely ConvincedI Think It's This Way?Found It!

After lunch we then headed out for another two, "Baybridge Beans" & "Faerie Glen", which are to the southwest of Blanchland. It was threatening rain, so I didn't take my camera - just well, because it started to rain when we were about a quarter of the way round the walk and we ended up completely and utterly soaked! Well, all of us except for Noah who had his own little roof (on the carry thingy).

Day 2

map for geocaching day 2

The weather the next day was also pretty miserable, so we drove to 4 round the edges of Derwent Reservoir - "Sheep Rabbits & Water", "Tree-mendous", "Cache Hill Stream" and "Sheila's Tree Cache" (the latter two being in the same rough area). Obviously we drove round, rather than through, the reservoir despite what Google Latitude seems to think we did.

Day 3

map for geocaching day 3

Jo, Chris & Noah went home the next day, but J and I did another batch of caches once they'd gone. First we headed to Hexham, picking up "The Hollybush - Jacobite Rising" on the way.

map for geocaching day 3, in Hexham

And in Hexham itself we found "The Sele" and "Hexham House of Correction". The latter was in the remnants of a Victorian House of Correction - there's just one bit of the building left, rather incongrously tucked into a housing estate next to a bus garage.

After we'd got back to Blanchland and had some lunch we headed off on a couple more walks:

map for geocaching day 3, in the hills

The theme for the afternoon appeared to be derelict buildings, first we went up on the moors to Belmount Farm for "Murder Most Foul".

On Top of the WorldDramatic SkyRock HeapBelmount FarmOn Top of the WorldPonyOnly the Occasional Cow

And then we walked down a steep valley from Hunstanworth and back up the other side to Gibraltar for "Gibraltar (Co. Durham)". We'll have to go back there sometime, as we discovered subsequently that J's Dad has a copy of a photo from when that cottage was inhabited, and that would be a nice thing to leave in the cache for people to see.

On the Way to GibraltarGibraltar CottageGibraltar Cottage

A 100% success rate for our first few trips, not bad :)

The cycling race the Tour of Britain started its first leg in Ipswich down at the Waterfront area on Sunday, so we got up early and headed down there to have a look and to take a few photos. We should probably have gone down quite a lot earlier than we did, as by the time we got there half an hour before the start it was really very busy. Eventually we managed to find a spot where we could see and I could kinda almost get some pictures!

To be honest, I'm not 100% happy with any of the photos. But some have come out well enough to share & I've put them up on flickr, here, and below are a few taster images.

Just before the race started they had some people cycle round that bit of the route - advertising cycling clubs I think. And the actual racers were also riding up & down a bit to warm-up.

Warm-up

Then it was time for the race!

Warm-up

Tour of Britain

Tour of Britain

Afterwards we headed into town to get some breakfast, and noticed that there was a "fun ride" type thing going on round the town centre:

Fun Bike Ride

We've developed a tradition of listening to a podcast of a recent In Our Time episode while we eat our breakfast on Sundays. This week we moved it to Saturday morning as we were off to see the Tour of Britain start on Sunday (of which more another time), and the programme we listened to was about Scepticism.

A brief note on the format, in case you haven't listened to any of the In Our Time programmes - it's a BBC Radio 4 series where each week Melvyn Bragg invites 3 experts on a particular subject to come on the programme and they discuss that subject live on air for 45 minutes. The subjects cover all sorts of things - philosophy, history, the sciences, art etc. It's generally presented at a level where you don't need to know anything about the subject in advance, but it still feels like it gets into the details. Some programmes are very narrowly focused (someone's life & works, or a particular event in history, or a particular concept), some are more broad - like this one about the philosophical idea of Scepticism.

The experts this week were Peter Millican (Professor of Philosophy at Hertford College, Oxford), Melissa Lane (Professor of Politics at Princeton University) and Jill Kraye (Professor of the History of Renaissance Philosophy and Librarian at the Warburg Institute, University of London). They started the programme by discussing what the philosophical concept of Scepticism actually is - the idea that it isn't possible to be certain about anything, including whether or not the external world is real. They then moved on to discuss the origins of the philosophy in ancient Greece, and how it is opposed to more dogmatic movements that insist that some things can be assumed to be truth. The second half of the programme followed the rediscovery of this philosophy in medieval Europe & the impact that this had on the Renaissance & Enlightment eras (and on our own world). For instance Descartes philosophy (the man who decided "I think, therefore I am") came from an examination of Sceptic ideas. And modern science is heavily influenced by Scepticism - instead of dogmatically insisting one "knows" something, to come up with hypotheses that fit what's been observed & then keep asking questions, being sceptical.

The new Rock Band game came out on my birthday! :) It's a return to more of the pre-Guitar Hero gameplay from Amplitude which was a game Harmonix released about 10 years ago - I remember we were playing it on the New Year's holiday we took with Rachel, Ellen, Gordon & Ainsley and that was New Year '03 iirc. So there are no fancy controllers needed, you play it with the standard PS3 (or Xbox) controller, and it's a single player game as far as the actual playing experience goes.

photo of J playing Rock Band Blitz

Dreadful quality picture of J playing Rock Band Blitz.

You move between the different tracks (drums, guitar etc), and on each track you have to press the two buttons in time with the displayed pattern (which is generated to feel "right" for the sound of the part). Unlike Amplitude all the parts are playing all the time, with the track you're on being higher in the mix. As you play notes in a track you increase the multiplier up to the cap for that track. Then at a checkpoint the multiplier cap is raised based on how far up the lowest track is - so you try to make sure each track multiplier is maxed out before the checkpoints. And you score for every note correctly hit - so you try & play tracks with lots of notes. There's no concept of failing, it's just higher or lower scores at the end.

At the end of a track you get your stars/points for the track and also "Coins" and "Blitz Credit". The credit just unlocks the power-ups you can choose from, and that seemed to happen quite quickly, and I don't really see the point of it after that. Coins are more interesting and are tied in with the power-ups. You have 3 power-up slots for 3 different types, and before starting a song you decide whether to use a power-up in each slot, and if so which. It costs coins to assign a power-up to a slot, and at the end of the song each star earns you 100 coins. So you have the choice of not using any power-ups and getting a lower score but gaining more coins, or using power-ups so getting a better score but maybe still losing coins. They can tweak that economy server-side (and have done so already) so they can find a balance between having to grind too much or having power-ups be too cheap (and thus coins irrelevant).

The three sorts of power-up are those you have to build up energy to use, those that rely on you hitting specific special notes & those that increase the score of notes on a particular track. My current loadout tends to be the Bandmate energy power-up (set it off on one track and play another, earn points from both while the power-up runs); Flame notes (hey, I'm a pyro - but it's also high scoring if you get it right, hit a flame note & get a score bonus and also set fire to another one, perhaps on a different track, hit that & get a higher bonus and set fire to another one etc); and a points-increaser on whichever track has most notes.

It comes with a set of tracks, and it works with all the Rock Band DLC or exported songs from previous games. That means J & I have ~500 songs to choose from right away. The Blitz tracks will also work in Rock Band 3 (tho we've not been to play them in that yet). The only thing you don't get is the Rock Band 3 tracks to play in it, as there's no way to export them (yet?). It also gives a different perspective on buying more DLC tracks, as there's some where we like the song but haven't bought the DLC because it looks like a pain in the arse to play in Rock Band, but now we can get them for Blitz.

The multiplayer, and replay value, of the game comes in the competitive scoring. As well as always making it clear what the rankings are among your console friends, it also has Score Wars - for these you challenge a friend (or a random stranger) on a particular song, and over the next 3 days you each try to beat the other's score. You get Coins & Credit for doing so - and a lesser amount for losing. If the other person never plays then that one is forfeit & no-one gets anything. These are pretty good for getting you to replay a track several times looking for the ways to squeeze just a few more points out to beat the other guy - J & I have done several so far (he normally wins, but I've got one at the moment where I think he's not going to beat me ("I Turn My Camera On" by Spoon) as I'm ~40k points ahead of him and we're #1 & #2 on the worldwide PS3 scoreboard at the moment ;) (OK, there's only ~120 people on the scoreboard for PS3+Xbox combined & it's an easy song, but still, I think I got bragging rights ;) ).

It also hooks into a Facebook app, that lets you see stats & such (which is where I got the number of people on the combined scoreboard for that Spoon song from). And that also lets you set "goals" which earn you more coins when you complete them (like get 12 stars in a particular genre across as many songs as you wish). And it lets you set up score wars with your facebook friends (if they're on the same platform).

Like all Harmonix games it seems to've fallen down just a little bit on the social/multiplayer side of it, I don't know how come they consistently seem to just not quite make it work well, but once again they've mananged it. My niggles are that from the game itself you can only start Score Wars with the person & song it's recommending - and it doesn't seem to perform any check for if they have the full game or have just played the demo. And it doesn't perform any check for if they own the song you are challenging them on. So the automation actually means you have a decent chance of filling up your Score War slots (you can only have 10 at any time) with useless ones. At least they only last 3 days before they expire. It also seems fixated on some of our songs - almost all the recommendations I'm getting are for Spoon songs and Bob Marley songs, sometimes repeating one that J & I have had a score war on before. You'd think with 500 songs there'd be a bit more variety (perhaps it shouldn't actually be random, perhaps they should've weighted it towards things you haven't played before or haven't played recently). Some way of manually choosing person and song would be good, you can on the facebook app so they've thought of it in one context, just not this one.

As well as this the facebook app doesn't seem to quite work properly - you should be able to join together to do a goal in a group, and when J & I tried that it didn't actually seem to work, it put us in seperate groups. And once you've started a goal you can't join someone else's group to do it. That may've been fixed, Score War display in the app seems less flaky now than it was on release so perhaps some work happened behind the scenes.

However, niggles aside this is a good game! Both J & I have been playing a lot since we got it. And at under £10 we've had our money's worth several times over :) Definitely recommended if you're at all into music/rhythm games.

This is the image I am currently using as my desktop background, it's made from 3 pictures I took in the Japanese Galleries at the British Museum on Monday. In the middle is Monju Bosatsu (Boddhisatva Manjusri), whose lion roars with the sound of Buddhist law. To the left is the deity Fudõ Myõ-õ whose fierce appearance shows his intolerance of wickedness. To the right is Aizen Myõ-õ who has the power to crush desire.

Boddhisatva and Deities

I've put more pictures from the Japanese galleries up on flickr, here.

Pages

Subscribe to