World Book Night

This year I applied to be a giver as part of World Book Night, I was successful and today I picked up the 24 copies of Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman.

The aim is to distribute 1 million books between hospitals, prisons, care homes & communities and to ultimately share the joy of reading. Each year 25 books are chosen and “givers” are tasked with giving away 24 copies of their selected book to those who don’t regularly read.

Each book has a code that can be entered onto the WBN website and tracked, once finished and tracked readers are encouraged to give the the book to someone they think may enjoy it.

I have not long completed the task of writing the details into the first page of each book and they are all ready to be handed out. I’m a little freaked out as on paper 24 books sounded easy but now they are in my house I’m not so sure. But I remain hopeful that I can hand out all of them before the 23rd April which is when World Book Night is celebrated.

Zotac GTX 560

Around Christmas time I had come into a little money and decided to upgrade from my Gainward GTX 260 1792MB GS to something newer. Despite being rather old my GTX 260’s only limitations were the lack of DX11 support and newer high-end games (Battlefield3 and Skyrim) needed to have the graphical distance reduced a little along with the quality. This wasn’t currently a big problems but I knew that with bigger games on the horizon the card was going to start suffering.

It had been sometime since I investigated graphic cards in any depth so I had a bit of investigation to learn about the newer card. I’ve been an Nvidia fan for some time now, but I didn’t immediately discard ATI/AMD cards but from the experience of friends and online reports about the drivers swayed me from AMD cards once more.

I never favour the high-end/bleeding edge cards, mostly as the cost is beyond what I’m comfortable paying and as with most things I like to purchase hardware that has been tried, tested, tweaked and offers the best in a category. The Zotac card was getting some good reviews and the differences between the 560 and the 570 were mainly in the price, with fractional differences in performance.

The first card I received was fine for the first 3 weeks but then I started seeing artefacts in Skyrim. I did the usual strip down of my machine and temperature checks and confirmed the problems was likely to be with the card. Swapping back to my original card verified this
I say that in all the year I have used online websites to purchase electronic items this was the first time I had ever needed to evoke a returns process. Thankfully the returns policy at Ebuyer is rather well documented and pretty easy to follow.

A replacement Card was dispatched within a week and my graphic returned to their previous DX11 glory.

ZOTAC GeForce® GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores – Limited Edition

Model : Model ZT-50313-10M
Interface : Interface PCI Express 2.0 x16 (Compatible with 1.1)
Chipset : Chipset Manufacturer NVIDIA®

GPU GeForce® GTX 560 Ti
Core clock 765 MHz
Stream Processors 448
Shader Clock 1530 MHz
Memory : Memory Clock 3800 MHz
Memory Size 1280 MB
Memory Interface 320-bit
Memory Type GDDR5
DirectX :  DirectX 11
OpenGL :  OpenGL 4.2
Ports : DVI 2 (DVI-I) / HDMI 1/ DisplayPort 1
RAMDAC : 400 MHz
Max Resolution : 2560 x 1600

Gamifying gameplay

For those unaware Raptr is a social website that allows gamers to track games and achievements but also to befriend each other. Well that is all I used it for after I switched to it from Xfire. There were some areas that allowed you to compare statistics against your friends but it’s wasn’t the main focus of the site.

However this all changed when Raptr recently got a huge make-over. Now for each of your games, play-time and achievements are ranked against the statistics of other players. The more people that are playing a game, the higher the thresholds of each ranking. The ranks are:

  • Newbie
  • Amateur
  • Experienced
  • Dedicated
  • Hardcore
  • Elite

Ranks, A brief overview

Raptr informs you of your ranking for a game and also tells you what is needed to reach the next rank. As an example I have 20 games where I am ranked as “Hardcore”, but I’m told that I need to invest another X hours gameplay or earning achievements to earn the rank “Elite”.

That’s all well and good but once you have put in the hours and become an “Elite” player of a title, what then? How does Raptr encourage you to put more time into a game?

Well it cleverly doesn’t tell you your exact rank, but it offer you the useful information on what step are needed for you to become the number #1 player of a game. The wonderfully designed message politely tells me that I need to invest another 58 hours in Sanctum to earn the elustrious title of the number #1 player.

The bonus is that you spend more time playing games that may have lost their enjoyment, but the grind doesn’t end there. As more players invest more time you will slowly lose position and maybe rank, another factor to push you into picking up older titles to in order to compete against other gamers and maintain your standing.


After the recent changes I was thrilled to discover that I am (at time of writing) the top ranked gamer for both Atomic City Adventures and Atom Zombie Smasher. On viewing my progress on the latter game it was apparent that I needed to put in a few more hours to try and earn more achievements to cement my place as top dog.

As I was typing this post I received an email from Audio Surf informing me that I had been dethroned as the top scorer on Transvision Vamps – Tell that girl to shut up.

C’est la vie d’une compétitif gamer.

*Should you want to add me as a friend on Raptr my username is welshtroll.

The Secret World : Pre-order

So yesterday saw the announcement about The Secret World (TSW) pre-order, on the surface it’s your standard MMO deals filled with common tactics designed to eke a little more cash from players. I have to admit that this is the first time I have seen the option to increase the number of character slots being offered during the pre-order phase.

The Basic game purchase is a usual £39.99 which has the normal 30 days playtime included, this is the option I shall be ordering this when pay-day rolls around. Pre-ordering grants the player the basic level of rewards

  • Access to Beta Weekends
  • Early Access (between 1 & 4 days headstart)
  • Allows one name to be reserved effective now
  • Experience buff ring (early levels)
  • Unique T-shirt
  • Pet that buffs combat (early levels)

Not a back mixture and will hopefully get peopling ordering the game  super early to obtain some rewards.

But there are some other things can be also be purchased for an additional cost:

  • The Initiate Pack (£12.49)
    • Social Flying Pet
    • Higher quality starter weapons
    • Faction leather Jackets
  • The Master Pack (£49.99)
    • 30 days extra game time
    • 1 extra character slot
    • one additional name reservation
    • 10% Lifetime discount on full-price store clothing items
    • 10 Experience Buff potions (limited to account)
    • 7 High end enhancements, to max out your toon early on
  • The Grand Master Flash Pack (£159.99)
    • All of the content of the Master Pack
    • Life-Time Subscription
    • Snake Skin jacket
  • Additional Character Slots (£8.49)
  • Additional Name Reservations (£8.49)

In all honesty I wasn’t expecting to see the Lifetime subscription make an appearance for TSW, after many of the games who have opted such a feature have moved to a F2P/PaYG model.  Despite having looked forward to this game for some time. I have reservations about purchasing a lifetime subscription in the pre-order.

I think the biggest problem for me is that investing that amount of money (almost £200) is hard to justify, when I could pick-up the £40 and between 12 and 13 months for the same price.

I think the biggest sticking point for me is that it requires a lot of blind faith that what you are purchasing will be enjoyable and keep my interest. Plus I’d hate to loose those 60 days free gaming time by getting the lifetime sub. 🙂

I think I shall have to wait and see if the game is my cup of tea, and if I really want and they still offer it purchase it after launch.

Gratuitous Tank Battles : Beta Review

Despite being a genre, the games found under the heading of Tower defense come in a varity of formats.

* Open plan style, where your towers also act as walls to block the flow of enemy “traffic”
* Lane style, where attackers stick to one of many lanes and defenses likewise
* Map with predetermined paths, may also have predefined locations for towers

Positech Games latest offering Gratuitous Tank Battles (GTB) falls into the later bracket but it also offers a unique blend of extras that certainly bring something new to the genre.

First up is the unit customisation, a central and popular feature in the previous title Gratuitous Space Battles. This has been enhanced by the addition of augmentation modules that bolster one of the attributes of the unit you are building.  I think it’s worth mentioning the rather impressive comparision pane that allows you to check that your picking the right module for your build. I think this certainly going to be hit with the Min-Max players that want to tweak their units to perfection.
A further enchancement to this system is that the individual layers of a unit you are creating are colour tintable. This is rather good when you need to quickly identify what units you already have on the battlefield.

Of course the best feature I saved until last, it’s the one that makes this more than just another tower defense game is that you get to be the attacker. Nothing is more fun than stomping all over the computers defensive set-up to a galorious victory, then defending the same region as the AI struggles to defeat your perfect deployment.

Additional features
The game has speed settings like GSB but with a new introduction of a frame by frame key, that allows you to watch your tanks being shot to bits in glorious slow-motion.

The game is in beta at the moment so anything may change before release, that said, it’s a highly polished game already and the small tweaks being made to the game at this stage would been seen as day one patches on other most others games.

If Tower Defense is a genre you enjoy, I would certainly put this forward as one for your wishlist.