It’s Friday!

Hello hello hello. First off, the answers to last week’s puzzle:

Longbow wood (3)
Yew
UPDATE: Changed from ‘ewe’ (stupid boy) after Kate pointed it out 🙂

Part of west India (3)
Goa

Time long ago (4)
Yore

Entrance (3,2)
Way In

1990’s US Vice-President (2,4)
Al Gore

Principal (4)
Main

Got the phrase yet? Bad, isn’t it 🙂 Made me laugh though. The best one ever managed to use every single one of the across clues to make ‘Oh little town of Bethlehem how still we see thee lie’ without using any of the actual words other than Bethlehem.

So I bought IL2-Sturmovik: Forgotten Battles last weekend after enjoying the demo of the original game, simply called IL-2 Sturmovik. The website said that Forgotten Battles was originally intended as an add-on, but ended up being a full blown sequel.

Unfortunately, it’s really disappointing.

It has additional planes, scenarios and maps, but interface-wise it’s identical to the original. This wasn’t a problem for me, as I made an assumption that shall become clear shortly. It has a realistic physics model, which attracted me, and each plane is different. While you can fly over 50 different planes, the eponymous IL-2 is the standard one. If you run the training exercises (non-interactive, but thorough) you are taught how to use the IL-2. Taking off, landing, stunts and air combat are all covered. However, the IL-2 isn’t available as a plane in the single player game. All I can think is that the original game was based on the IL-2, so the sequel concentrates on other planes, and actually removes the scenarios involving the IL-2. It’s kinda weird for the plane in the title not to feature, isn’t it? I wrongly assumed that, as it was intended as a bonus pack in the first place, the entire original game would be included, plus all the new stuff. Perhaps you ‘earn’ the IL-2 after a few missions or something, but I can find no reference to this anywhere.

You may be thinking, why is this such a big deal? Well, each plane behaves differently, so the planes you start off with in the single-player don’t respond in the same way at all. They have different flap settings etc. And worst of all, there is no way to practice taking off or landing in any plane without starting up a full campaign. The full campaign maps take over a minute to load, which is really annoying when you perpetually crash on takeoff. The ‘quick mission builder’ allows you to choose what plane you want to fly, enemies etc., but you always start up in the air. There is a ‘full mission builder’, but it’s extremely complicated and seems OTT for what I want to do. After innumberable crashes I had to download a custom map designed for ‘newbies’, then set it up as a multiplayer server, in order to practice!

I appreciate that the game isn’t really designed for ‘newbies’ to flight sims, but it doesn’t seem like any are! If you want proper physics you have to leap into the hardcore flight sims, which aren’t very forgiving. I’ve been hoping all week that I’ll discover some feature I’d missed that would allow me to enjoy playing the game, but I haven’t. I’m finding it very difficult to get into, and am worried it’s going to end up lying on my shelf, never played. Which is a shame, as the game seems like it would be good fun if you could ever actually practice doing the things you’re meant to do!

On the good side, the graphics are nice. I’m having trouble with the sound, but my computer’s being a bit loopy atm sound-wise (I got some 5.1 headphones a while back, and I’m damned if I can get the sound to output to them properly).

Aaaanyway. Anyone else been to see Matrix Revolutions yet? I want to discuss it with someone!

You know what’s on TV this evening? Nothing. I may rent a DVD if I can motivate myself, or see what’s on Front Row. I came across Webflix today. For &pound9.99 a month, you can rent as many DVDs as you like (1 at a time), keeping them for as long as you want. When you’re done, put them into the pre-paid envelope and send them back. There are no postage charges or anything. This seems very cool to me. When Kate’s around, we tend to hire two or three DVDs a month from Blockbuster, who charge &pound3.75 for the new titles. So I’d actually be saving money at those times, but I rarely hire them when it’s just me. I’m not sure I can justify &pound9.99 a month at the moment, sadly.

Speaking of movies, how long do you think it will be until cable tv offers an equivalent movie service? Front Row shows a selection of films at regular intervals, and you pay x amount to tune into one. This is good, but sucky. There are only 15 or so separate films, and having to tune in at a specific time seems backward. Ideally, you want to be able to choose from a broad selection and have it available to watch straight away. I don’t know of anywhere this kind of content-on-request system operates, yet. I imagine it must use vast amounts of bandwidth! Hopefully it’ll come in time. Once you’ve got that, however, what’s to stop the cable companies from supplying tv shows in the same way? There would no longer be any need to scheduling, as anyone could watch whatever they wanted whenever they wanted. Would this put the smaller tv channels out of business, I wonder? They must get a great many viewers simply through channel-hoppers. On the other hand, if they produce interesting programming, people would still want to watch it.