Archive for December, 2008

General

Skoardy v3.0

Don’t make a sound! Don’t cough. For heaven’s sake don’t sneeze, whatever you do! I’ve just rebuilt the website’s theme and the slightest jostle could bring it crashing down around your ears.

I thought it was about time for a change and doing so has allowed me to fix a couple of oversights I made when I first put the WordPress website together. The first thing that got sorted was being able to show more than one category at the same time. While I could define my posts as have multiple categories, my first theme couldn’t display them (it’d only show the first one). That’s sorted now. I can go category buck-wild… er… not that I plan to. But I could!

Second was a better integration of the tags. I’ve been adding them to the posts and had that chubby tag cloud in the old footer so it seemed daft not to list them in the posts. Well, there they are. The tag cloud itself has gone, replaced with a list of the top 30 tags over in the side bar.

I’ve binned the comments.  They weren’t getting used – though I never really expected them to. No, scratch that. They were getting used but there’s only so many hours in the day you can devote to marking bot-seeded porn site advert comments as spam.

And what have we learnt from doing another theme? Mostly that creating images for pretty much every post and blending them to the theme’s background colour is going to bite you in the ass somewhere down the line. Yeah, recreating all those was a mind-numbing excercise in tedium fun.

Anyway, enjoy. Mind what you touch, though. The paint is still wet in a few places.

General

WordPress 2.7

Wordpress 2.7Another three to four months go by and time for another painless website back-end update, this time from WordPress 2.6 (aka ‘Tyner’) to 2.7 (aka ‘Coltrane’). One of the additions to this version is the ability to automatically update WordPress without needing to sweat over accidentally deleting your entire website, so this might actually be the last time I get to feel like a superstar for not buggering the whole process up.

Okay, fair is fair – that’s probably more a comment about my complete lack of skills rather than the embarassingly straightforward update procedure but when it comes to any kind of task like these, if it can go wrong, you’ll probably find my grubby fingerprints already all over it and smoke pouring from the back.

So what is new with 2.7? They’ve given the dashboard another new lick of paint and versatility seems to be the order of the day with a ‘however you like it’ vibe to the whole process. All the content on the main page can be re-arranged (even to the point of switching from a single column layout to a double column one and vice versa). You can quickly add a post right from the main page, track draft posts, and also sort & answer comments… if unlike me, you have visitors to your website.

The customisation follows through to new content sections, allowing you to set your post/page editing layout how you like it, minimising or even removing altogether any feature you hardly ever bother with.

On the plug-in front, they also can be added and updated without stepping away from the comfort of your site admin, browsing the plug-in directory through a handy list of tags. Yep, soon enough your site will be groaning under the weight of countless unneeded (but must have!) plug-ins.

One of my personal bugbears is also fixed – the way that adding images used to default to having a pre-defined URL and how they insisted on being thumbnail size. Both gone, I’m happy to say.

Yeah, I’ll miss the manual update procedure but given how the package keeps improving with each iteration, I’ll definitely be looking forward to what WordPress 2.8 brings!

Gaming

Even more Persona 4 reviews

Persona 4: IgorAlong with the reviews mentioned in my other post, a few more have surfaced just prior to the US release of Persona 4 this week.

Given the number of people visiting the site looking for information, it’s clear that quite a few of you will soon be neck deep in a murder mystery and busy molesting TV sets in a picturesque Japanese countryside. While you’re enjoying yourself, please spare a thought for us unlucky European bastards who have anything up to half a year to wait. Hey! Stop laughing!

Since the reviews are all picking up on the same points and have a general theme of appreciation, rather than comment on them individually, here is a list of the new reviews and their scores…

As you can see, this new series of review scores closely match the ones posted last time. Certainly encouraging for anyone with the game on pre-order or considering popping into their local ‘house of games’ to purchase Persona 4. If you were previously on the fence, get the hell off and get the game bought. Tsch!

Another related tidbit is this article from Siliconera, expanding their series of previews of the game with a look at the dungeoneering aspects. As with other previews, if you want to experience the tweaks to the game fresh, avoid but if you’re nosey like me (and you’re looking forwards to months of waiting for a European release), have at it.

Speaking of which, Square Enix have confirmed that they’ll be releasing Persona 4 in Europe next year with a slightly firmer ‘Spring 2009′ (so any time between late March and late June) in their December newsletter.

I think this will be the last Persona 4 review update. They all seem to be of a single mind (the game is great!) and there should be enough nuance in the eight to ten reviews I’ve linked over the last few weeks to help you decide if the game is for you.

Simply put, it is.

GamingMMO

Step away from the Mechanostrider, lady!

Like a drunken adult trying to ride a child’s playground ‘springy’, I bring you this screenshot of my World of Warcraft character in full Frost Vrykul disguise sat on his (yes, the disguise changes your sex if you’re a fella) swift, green mechanostrider. Riding on mounts that are clearly waaaaay too small for you is one of the delights that await you in the new expansion, Wrath of the Lich King. The mount considered too tiny for anything but a Gnome or a Dwarf to ride is apparently strong enough to support the weight of a hulking, frozen warrior in full battle armour. It’s Gnome technology at it’s finest!
Frost Vrykul on a Swift Green Mechanostrider
You might be wondering, since WotLK came out almost a month ago, why beyond showing you this hilarious scene (seriously, my eyes were watering after seeing this giant zipping around on a tiny mechanostrider… but, hey, that’s just me) I’ve been strangely quiet on the expansion-related article front. The fact is, I’ve been playing WotLK during pretty much any free time I can muster. Work has been torture. Not the regular torture that it usually is but a special kind of torture you’d only wish upon your most successful friends.

Wrath of the Lich King is great fun. I’ve really been enjoying it. Of course, people are devouring the new content at a lightning speed and if that’s your thing, go at it. For everyone else, I’d recommend taking things at your own pace. Enjoy the sights, take in the lore and for God’s sake, read the damn quest instructions, you morons! Sorry… sorry. One of the returning plagues from the launch of The Burning Crusade (heck, even the start of World of Warcraft itself) is the dumbasses who think yelling out to everyone else in the area to give them a point-by-point breakdown of every step a quest entails is somehow quicker than simply reading four or so lines of text.

Still, before long you find yourself in the next area and well away from those knuckle-dragging bozos. People seem to be handling the change of scenery in WotLK a lot better than TBC and feel quite at home in the Dun Morogh-esque snowy landscapes it provides. The gap between end-game TBC player items and WotLK new greens seems to be less drastic than the first expansion, quietening some of the masses this time round though there are murmurs that Blizzard might have gone too far in the opposite direction – that people rarely find the quest rewards a worthwhile upgrade to anything they already had. What can I say – you can’t please everyone.

New game mechanics in the form of vehicles have been the occasional questing highlight while playing through the expansion and a new slew of recipes are sure to keep me and my alts busy (and financially secure) for a long time to come. I can’t say I’m too enthralled with the new Death Knight class. Some people are having a whale of a time, to be sure (and others are crying that they’re too over-powered), but for me the late 50s and very early 60s are a real drag for my alts so having a class dropped right at the foot of that particular mountain just doesn’t inspire. Maybe a month or two down the road I’ll have an itch for something different but in what roughly amounts to three levels of DK starter quests, I can’t muster the energy to put aside my main and embrace the traitorous DK lifestyle.

So WotLK is lovely and I’m looking forward to getting as much blood from this particular stone as I can, as is MMORPG tradition but looking ahead, I really think Blizzard have to step up their game and try to adhere to their statement of providing something close to one expansion a year. Two years is too long to wait, if you ask me. I have to wonder if the majority of WoW’s playerbase would wait another two years for the next one.

And of course, I can’t end an article mentioning drunken adults on a playground springy without linking to this webcomic from Cascade Failure.

Gaming

Persona 4 reviews-a-go-go!

Persona 4: TeddieSeems like I should have held off posting my previous Persona 4 update a couple of days ago as shortly after, a whole bunch of reviews hit. Annnnnyway, here is a quick rundown of the reviews and how much everyone seems to love the new game.

First up is Gamepro, who in this review, give Persona 4 a 5 out of 5. The reviewer is an old hand when it comes to the series and brings up (and lays to rest) the worry that P4 is merely P3 but with a minor dust and polish. While he acknowledges that the gameplay will feel familiar to fans of the series, it appears that everything Persona 3 already did well has been tweaked and fine tuned to perfection in the new game.

The game scores a lower, but still commendable, 8.7 out of 10 in this review from GameZone. Despite some odd reaching to link the game’s inspirations to other sources (wait, pyramidhead from Silent Hill?), the reviewer still admits the game is one of the best RPGs on the PS2 in recent history. A fair review, if not a little focussed on that fact the game is ‘old gen’ rather than a PS3 or Xbox360 title.

Next comes another top mark with 10 out of 10 in this review from Gamervision. Another review from a devoted fan who wasn’t expecting Persona 3 to be improved on. Like the Gamepro article, this gamer appears to have come away very pleased with the results.

This review from Hardcore Gamer Magazine gives Persona 4 a healthy 4.75 out of 5 (an average taken from the 5 out 5 of the reviewer and a 4.5 out of 5 from another writer). This time the reviewer enjoys the new storyline from the series as well as all the improvements made to the game mechanics. They also note the increase in activities to fill the protagonist’s days leading to fewer ‘what now?’ moments and the improved social link development.

Finally, 1UP gives Persona 4 a shining A+ mark in their review. This reviewer appreciates the bite-sized chunks of dungeon Persona 4 serves up in comparison to the sometimes daunting colossal tower of Tartarus. They also feel that the characters are better placed in this title than the previous one.

Overall, the theme that runs through all these reviews is that everything we love from the Persona series makes a happy return with a new lick of paint and some minor niggles (such a lacking team control or no fast travel) have been exorcised. It all adds up to a game I’m really looking forward to having eat up a considerable amount of my free time.

…when it finally hits Europe, of course. Bah, I’d almost convinced myself I was a US citizen and Persona 4 was only a week away. No such luck!