I just saw that Valve are doing some fun merchandise for Left 4 Dead now. The ‘movie posters’ are nice if you’re still in that phase where you like to stick posters on the wall (I’m not), but the T-Shirts are of pretty universal appeal. Francis seems to be pretty well represented here, or particularly his predeliction for saying how much he hates everything all the time (hospitals, airport terminals, woods, vans, you name it), so I’m guessing he’s turning into a fan favourite.

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The only trouble with the whole international, interwoven, inter-everything internet is that it frequently throws me a cultural curve-ball (or, to localise it in the spirit of this post, an ‘off spin ball’). One such case is the inexplicable deluge of emails and news feeds I’m getting telling me about the run up to ‘Black Friday’. I don’t know about anywhere else, but here associating the colour black with a day usually suggests something pretty bad, so having the likes of Amazon mailing you about it, suggesting that in honour of this event they’re doing special offers, is initially bewildering.

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So, my back has been getting slowly better over the last month since my hospitalisation experience; I occasionally have a small relapse, like just after I picked up my new guitar - you wouldn’t think that shifting a small practice amp would be a big deal, but I certainly felt it for the next few days - but overall steady improvement. Part of my rehab is to take more regular gentle exercise, and to mix up my routine a bit so I’m not hunched at the desk in ‘work posture’ for such long periods of time, which means, among other things, daily walks of a few miles, daily guitar practice and plenty more gaming time (hence more game-related posts on this blog).

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This has bugged me on and off for a while - very, very occasionally I’d be working away in Visual Studio and suddenly my @ symbols would start coming out as double-quotes, a symptom of the condition known as ‘crazy Yankee keyboard syndrome’. I hadn’t figured out what triggered this, especially as all other applications were unaffected, and it happened little enough, and when I was busy enough, that I didn’t take time to find the cause and just lived with it until I restarted VS.

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I just happened to see some PSN DLC track prices for both Rock Band and GHWT on a Kotaku article, and they left me rather puzzled. You would have thought that these prices would be fairly homogenised by now, but bizarrely enough I found no fewer than 3 different prices, depending on what system and game you were looking at. Here we go: “Police Truck” by the Dead Kennedys (Rock Band)

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Short answer: I really like the new dash for the 360. The old ‘blades’ system was efficient (excluding Marketplace, which got hugely unwieldy due to the amount of content) but about as attractive as the back-end of a donkey, and pretty confusing for a newcomer. The new, clearly coverflow-inspired aproach is infinitely more attractive and welcoming. Navigation is in essence the same as the XMB on the PS3, only transposed - i.

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I’ve said for a while that I don’t think individual game review scores are particularly useful, on account of the fact that an individual’s taste varies. It’s always important to read the detail of a review rather than to take the score on face value, where (hopefully) a decent reviewer will explain the reasoning behind the aspects he/she did and did not like, so you can judge how much they apply to you.

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My new guitar arrived this weekend 😀 It’s a Pacifica 112V, and I picked the Old Violin Sunburst finish. I’m really impressed by the quality of it, considering this is a beginner / intermediate guitar and will leave you with change out of £200. Everything feels really solid, and there are nice little touches like the polished fretboard and the chunky, satisfying chrome tone & volume knobs. Even the guy in our local guitar shop (who has a ton more experience than I do, obviously, and is a high-end Strat user) commented on how impressed he was with the quality, since this was the first of the newer model they’d had in.

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I finally got chance to play Left 4 Dead co-op with my wife rather than single player with all AI teammates, and it’s an entirely different experience. I’d heard this of course, but even so I found it surprising just how much difference it makes. Having a real person yelling for help as they get jumped by a hunter after hanging back behind the others, running scared from a marauding tank together, or frantically trying to help a team-mate up so you can get back up into a defensive choke point before the wall of dead flesh that’s charging down the abandoned subway track crashes over you, it’s simply enormous fun.

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I read today that it’s estimated 90% of people playing the full PC version of World Of Goo have a pirated copy (note: the authors 2Dboy chose not to include any copy protection). Edit: For those being pedantic about this figure, here’s how it was estimated; but arguing the exact number is chronically missing the point. You see, this is why PC gamers can’t have nice things anymore. It’s why desperate publishers reach for horrible, broken DRM measures to try to stamp out piracy, universally failing of course and often upsetting the small minority of paying customers they have left into the bargain.

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