One game you can buy on Xbox Live Arcade (XLA) is Doom. Ultimate Doom in fact, which has the original three episodes of Knee-Deep in the Dead, The Shores of Hell and Inferno, and then the extra fourth episode of Thy Flesh Consumed.

It’s been fun playing through it again and I found the first three episodes to be incredibly easy whilst the fourth is an utter pain in the arse. But that makes sense since that final episode was made after Doom 2 and by that time ID were pretty damn good at churning out sadistic maps.

I did have a go at playing on Nightmare skill but for my pitiful skills it’s too much. Respawning enemies is just plain cruel. I also tried playing online but nobody seemed to want to. Perhaps if Gom gets it, I can whoop him at it

Anyhoo, I’ve had a lot of fun on single player trying to get 100% on all the levels and it’s scary how many of the secrets I’ve remembered. Help was at hand though for the ones I couldn’t remember from this excellent site. All of various Doom maps are listed here with nifty animated pictures showing where the keys, secrets and teleporters are.

Whilst I was searching for that I came across this site as well, where the author has done pseudo 3D renders of all the original Doom maps, which just look ace! Like this one of E1M1:


Tangent aside, the main thing I’ve realised is that Doom is still fun. It still has the potential to scare pants off you (pesky imps and dark rooms) and is damn sight more fun than any recent FPS I’ve played on the PC. Yes, the music grates and it looks cheesy but the intense atmosphere is still there. I’m hoping Doom 2 and Final Doom will appear on XLA at some point as well since Doom 2 was my fave!

Edit: It appears Doom isn’t for sale on XLA in Germany :(

Office Fun

So here I am at work (yes, on a Saturday) trying to resurrect our mail server which appears to have been a victim of the recent storms. For reasons unknown, even though it’s connected to a UPS, we had a brief power cut and two out of the three hard drives in its RAID array died. A support call to Dell is pending but in the mean time I’m setting up another box to take its place.

As you can imagine it’s a fun job but watching progress bars of varying forms complete their tasks can only hold your interest for so long. And I’ve read all my blog feeds in FeedDemon, played Pizza Frenzy, Bejeweled 2 and Zuma to death, drunk enough Tassimo produced “liquid” to have me up all night peeing and I’ve tidied my desk. 

Ok, so I’m lying about the last one. But anyway, I was out of things to do and I know what you’re thinking, why don’t you actually do some work work whilst waiting for the server to install? Ha, don’t be silly, that would be a constructive thing to do and I can’t possibly do two constructive things on a Saturday.

So I needed something else to do and went to look in the place. Yes, the place, every office has one. Even yours. What is the place? Well, it’s were “crap that nobody uses any more but want to keep just in case we do need it” is stored and in this case, it’s the desk opposite me. On it and under it at the moment are:

  • A 17” CRT monitor (TFT’s FTW!)
  • An OKI A4 letter printer (that sounds like a machine gun when running)
  • A Lexmark black and white laser printer (that has the most annoying out of paper beep ever)
  • A paper shredder that only works in reverse (kinda looks like it’s vomiting paper back up, very cute)
  • A PS/2 keyboard
  • A fan heater
  • A Dell Dimension 4100 with Pentium 3 processor! (and Windows 98 Second Edition)
  • A second non-descript Dell tower
  • A cardboard box containing another fan heater and some misc wires
  • A plant pot which had the remains of the office plant in that died because nobody watered it
  • And finally an IBM Personal Computer XT

An IBM XT. One and half tons worth of Personal Computer with 4.77Mhz of pure processing muscle, a gigantic 128kb of RAM and a whopping 10MB hard drive. And! A colour screen.


Beige madness!


A billion pounds worth of XT’s circa 210 BC

It’s almost, but not quite as old as me. A bit ago we’d moved stuff round the office and this got put in the place. Whilst faffing with it we went though it’s old floppies (of the 5 and quarter inch variety) and found old DOS copies of our software, but more importantly disks with games on.

Two disks from the riveting, I’m sure, PC Plus, Issue 54 February 1991, had been overwritten with an innocuous looking “Chess” game. So I fired the beast up (lots of hand cranking and billowing of steam followed). After 5 minutes of booting up (some things haven’t got any better) I had a DOS prompt where I quickly copied across 600kb’s worth of Chess goodness.

Imagine my surprise when I ran chess.exe and saw this:



It wasn’t just any chess game, it was Battle Chess in all its CGA glory (not VGA as shown here)! Amazing stuff. It even had PC speaker sound effects, which now sounds like a cat being put through a mangle (I know from experience), but was the height of sophistication back then. 

Surely this would help pass the time? Unfortunately not since I’m still as crap at chess as I was nearly 20 years ago and promptly lost within 5 moves…

Random Chaff

Given I’m having a hard time writing anything coherent of late, here’s a bunch of links to stuff that’s amused me or is just plain cool:

Xbox Live Marketplace is even more evil than Steam

Why? Because you don’t even need a user name and password to buy stuff with, just a simple button click. You’re already signed in and they have your credit card details since you have to enter all that guff when signing up.

The annoying thing with Marketplace is that you can’t buy things directly with your hard earned cash, you have to buy Microsoft Points instead. It’s kind of like buying credit for your account, but it’s a bit of a mess.

You can buy in blocks of 500 (£4.25), 1000 (£8.50), 2000 (£17) and 5000 (£42.50) which is fair enough. But games on Marketplace cost between 400 to 800 points so it’s not like you can buy the exact amount of points you need. Grrrr.

From what I’ve read I think Nintendo does a similar wacky thing with their online service where as Sony actually let you buy things with cash!

The Skeleton Dance

Came across this post today on BoingBoing that brought back some childhood memories. It’s a link to a capture of Disney’s Skeleton Dance which when I was a young ‘un used to give me nightmares (I was easily scared as a child).

[gv data=””][/gv]

I remember watching it on VHS tape along with the Mickey Mouse’s Haunted House nearly every week. I used to get my Dad to rent it out from Variety Videos in Burnley (which later became a Blockbuster).

Actually Variety Videos was a weird place, it seemed very dark and seedy. It was dimly lit and the carpet was a weird deep red with a repeating logo of black top hat and cane woven in. The place had two floors and the kids videos were kept on the ground floor, next to the Betamax tapes that nobody seemed to rent. The videos seemed to have been there for years, all the colours had faded out of their sleeves, looking more like pastel shades. Kinda sad really looking back on it.

Anyhoo, I was gutted when we couldn’t rent my favourite video anymore, but that was because I’d worn the tape out :)

Xbox Live

The process of signing up to Xbox Live is pretty easy. You create a profile and store it on your HDD (or memory card) and then select to make it Live enabled.

There’s a bit of typing involved so connecting a USB keyboard is a good idea (the 360 has 3 USB ports, two at the front and one at the back. There is also one on the side but that’s used by the HDD).

Once you’ve signed your life away (and your credit card) you’re constantly connected to Xbox Live. By default it’s configured to automatically logon on start up and you can disconnect if you like, but isn’t any reason to. It’s all very seamless and access various options in Live is via a blade (menu) in the dashboard, which looks similar to this:


The profile is made up of various things, but the two key things are Rep and Gamerscore. Rep is something you earn when you play online. Other players can post reviews on you where they can mark you as preferred or un-preferred player to play against. If they pick preferred, your star rating will go up, whilst if they pick un-preferred, they’ll have to pick from a further 6 categories as to what they didn’t like.


Not me

Gamerscore is something you earn by unlocking achievements in games. Achievements are just rewards you get for doing something. They can be as simple as completing a section of a game or utterly stupid, like killing 10,000 people online in Gears of War!

And because of the achievements it means that most games have no cheats, because if they did, the achievements would be meaningless. Unfortunately it can be incredibly frustrating. One such achievement is for nailing the final boss to Gears of War, Raam. I lost count of how many attempts it took me to kill him, I was getting close to doing a bit of Wii style TV breakage.

Getting back to Xbox Live, the whole thing comes into it’s own when you play something like Project Gotham Racing 3 where it’s completely hooked in. Whenever you complete anything, even if it’s just throwing a car round the test track, you’re ranked against everyone else who has played. And I like that. It’s a real incentive to try harder.

Xbox 360! Yay! Belated First Impressions


Back in November I got an Xbox 360 Premium Pack, which is a 360 with a 20GB hard drive, a wireless controller, a HDTV cable, wired headset, a pair of ear defenders and some other crap.

The Premium Pack comes in a nice shiny white box (where as a Core System has a green box). It’s a deceptively heavy box, much like lugging round a small PC tower, hmmm… funny that? Upon opening it you’re presented with… a form to buy two years extended warranty, hardly the start you want.

Throw that and the tome like manuals aside and you have a very nicely packed box. Each item is individually packed in plastic, some green, some orange coloured. I’m sure there’s some significance to it, but in my rush to get it set up, I didn’t notice.

Now I don’t have a fancy ass HDTV so just hooked it up to my old style CRT TV on one of it’s AV inputs. The HDTV cable has the plugs for both types of TV (which is good if I upgrade). Like the original Xbox, the power supply is an external lump which is hefty bugger that would be very good for clubbing baby seals with.

Things to note are that you should stand (or sit) the Xbox horizontally and not vertically (why? because stood upright it’ll scratch the disks to buggery. I had to return my first copy of Gears of War because of it. And it’s a common problem (see here, here and here). Plus a friend bought one from Gamestation and they told him the same).

Also if you’re putting it on the floor and it’s carpeted, put it on something. The reason is because this thing runs almost as hot as the sun and having it sat on your shagpile blocks up the lower vents and prematurely turns it into a electric fire.

After avoiding spontaneous combustion I got it all plugged up and turned it on… and realised what the ear defenders were for. Where as the original Xbox was lol huge, the 360 is just laugh out loud. The fans run at full whack when playing any game that requires some graphical oomph.

However on the Dashboard (the name for the 360’s menu system) and playing most Xbox Live Arcade games, it’s pretty quiet. Speaking of which, the Dashboard menu’s aren’t quite as intuitive and clean as on the PSP (and PS3) but it certainly looks nice. The little adverts for Xbox accessories and demos of FIFA 07 are a tad annoying though.

Whilst I’m ranting I should also mention that the wireless controller that came with it had a broken R1 button which means it about as useful as inflatable dart board, so it’s a good job I bought another controller. I did email Xbox support, but the replies have been comical (the first email was just said “Hello Mr. Paul Healey” (for some reason I imagined it a Chinese accent and found it funny), to which I replied “What?”. Then the second email was “Phone us on our premium rate mobile phone number for tech support”. Yeah, right).


I also hooked it to the interweb via it’s ethernet port into my wireless router / hub since I didn’t get a wireless adapter for it. It picked up on the network settings automagically, so one of the first things I did was sign up on Xbox Live. There’s two packages, Silver and Gold. Silver is free and lets you have access to downloads, updates, various demos and wotnot.

Gold includes all that but also allows you to play against other peoples. Which is a good thing because it means you’re less likely to be playing against someone who will be dicking about (plus there’s stuff like gamer’s Rep, more on that later). Anyhoo, there are three different payments for Gold, monthly at £4.99, quarterly at £14.99 and annual at £39.99. I signed up monthly just to see what it was like but will most likely switch to annual (since it saves you 20 quid).

And once I got Xbox Live connected, that’s when the fun started…