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Stebloke

Greetings. I am Stebloke, and I am a bit strange. This website contains my blog, where you can read about the things I create, the games I play, and any other things I get involved in. I make this blog mostly because I like to look back on the things I do and feel nostalgic, but also because it really does help motivate me to keep doing things.

If you want to read about a specific subject, click the "Filters & Pages" button in the top right.

Stebloke's Website ©2008-2021

20th October 2021: My Twenty Years Of Tolkien

So, it's coming up on the 20th anniversary of the release of The Fellowship Of The Ring, a fact that is entirely mind-blowing to me. To think that this film came out nearly half my life ago. Staggering.

I am so old.

Well, as I'm now allowing myself to ramble on about any old shite on this blog, I thought I'd try and recount my short but intense love affair with the trilogy.

Me when I want KFC

Me when I want KFC

I've always been quite a nerd, but growing up I was never into classic fantasy as much as I was sci-fi. For example, I always preferred 40K to Fantasy Battle, or Star Wars to something like Conan etc...

This lack of interest in the genre contributed heavily to me knowing next to nothing about the franchise in the run up to the release of the films, a fact that seems incredibly strange now to think back on. But it was true. I'd never read the books, or really knew anything about them, save for a few nuggets of information I'd picked up from a work mate who was a big fan.

It was also a big deal that the internet wasn't such a big part of my life back then compared to now, and hunting for movie and/or game news wasn't really something I did two decades ago.

The first thing I saw of LOTR was when my bro hired the Fellowship on VHS in late 2002. He was watching it at my parents' and there was about 20 mins left when I showed up. So all I saw was the fight against the Uruk-hai and the ending, but I was already very interested.

This was maybe 2-3 weeks before the release of The Two Towers, which I enthusiastically went to see without even seeing most of the first movie. This didn't matter. I fucking loved the movie and I was in.

I snapped up the extended edition of The Fellowship which was recently released on DVD, and I've never before or since gone so hard on a set of discs. I watched them so many times over the next few months I'm surprised they didn't wear out. And strangely, it was the appendices that I watched the most.

I loved the documentaries about the making of this movie, from the lore, to the script process, to the prop and set design, to the filming and editing. There was something so magical and interesting to see such a huge project have so much work put into it and to see it all come together.

R.I.P. toe

R.I.P. toe

Then there was the year-long wait for the next movie, Return Of The King, which became only the second film in my life that I went to watch at the cinema multiple times, and still easily my favourite movie-going experience. Some of the big, impactful moments gave my goosebumps goosebumps.

And then I bought the extended Two Towers DVD set. I probably didn't go quite as hard on these discs as I did the Fellowship ones, but it came close. In addition, this cut of the Two Towers became, and has remained, my favourite film of the series. This is mostly due to how I think the added and extended scenes really enrich the original theatrical cut, something which I feel is lacking in the extended Return Of The King release which followed a year later.

It must be noted here that, even nearly 20 years later, I've still never seen the theatrical cut of Fellowship. My strong belief is that, if I had seen it first, the extended Fellowship would instead be my favourite movie of the trilogy.

So, another year went by, and this time there was no new movie to enjoy, but I was really looking forward to the extended Return Of The King.

As mentioned above, while I enjoyed it well enough, it just kind-of fell flat compared to the first two extended editions. The added scenes didn't really add all that much, and the behind the scenes documentaries were just simply not as good or as interesting.
Oh well.

My addiction to Middle Earth had already started to wane when I finally got around to reading the books maybe a year later, and boy did I struggle with them. Oof, what an absolute slog. I was so fed up with Tolkien's way of writing that I didn't even fully finish the last book. I simply stopped when the ring was destroyed. No Scouring Of The Shire for me, or all of those appendices.

Most awesome scene of an awesome trilogy

Most awesome scene of an awesome trilogy

I'm sure a lot of die-hard fans had trouble dealing with the changes that were made in order to adapt the books to film, but I really appreciated the vast majority of them. I liked how they changed Faramir for a start, and was really glad that there was no stupid Tom Bambadil to be seen. What an irritating character.

On the flip side, the main change I had a problem with was how they used the army of the dead. I much preferred how they were used in the book, but I guess there was just no space in the film for Aragorn's journey through the land in order to build up an army of Gondorians.

For whatever reason, the Hobbit trilogy did very little to re-ignite my passion for this world, and I did not go to the cinema to watch any of those films. I'm not sure why, as I think I'd made up my mind not to bother with the cinema even before news got out that the first film was disappointing.

I don't think I watched them until I picked up the trilogy cheap in early 2017, and I didn't even bother with the extended versions.

Like a lot of fans of the LOTR trilogy, I did not like the Hobbit movies. Though on my second watch a year or two back, my opinions softened on them a little. I think it also helped that I had watched Lindsay Ellis's Hobbit vids on Youtube, during which she really goes into detail about the immense levels of bullshit that went on behind the scenes during the making of those movies.

It's honestly surprising that the movies weren't even worse than they actually ended up being.

At some point, I will have to read the books again, and also read the Hobbit, as that is something I have not done yet. Now that quite a few years have passed, diving into the books may prove to be more fruitful than before. Plus, I need something meaty to read, as I've not done much since reading all of the Witcher books last year.

Other than reading the books again, I can't really see any more LOTR action for me in the near future. I know Amazon are making a show inspired by the Silmarillion, but unless something drastically changes I won't be having anything to do with that at all. Just thinking about all of the franchises I used to love that have been ruined in recent years by the current flock of writers and directors, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Robocop, Ghostbusters and Masters Of The Universe, gives me absolutely no confidence in anything that gets made these days.

And I'd rather not watch some crap that taints my enjoyment of what I think is easily the best movie trilogy ever made.

But that's just me I guess.

17th October 2021: It's Cold Out There

I know I wasn't really bothered about playing this expansion so soon, as I'd pretty much had my fill of this after going through the base game, but I figured I'd better get it out of the way.

So, with the straight-forward plan of just completing the quests, and not doing much else, I dove into the Frozen Wilds, the expansion to Horizon Zero Dawn.

Gotta admit, while this was very much more of the same, and quite playable and enjoyable, I still got quite irritated going through it. This is because, in addition to the little things that annoyed me from the base game, this also added something that ramped up the irritation: the combination of darkness and howling blizzards. It meant that so often while pushing through this, I struggled to see anything.

Granted, it probably didn't help that I was in a bit of a rush and just wanted to get it done and gone as fast as possible, but I really could have done without that issue.

Other than that, it's a fairly typical expansion that does typical expansion things, like adding in tougher enemies and more powerful weapons, without really explaining why those stronger enemies and weapons aren't in the base game.
And it did very little to expand on the story of the base game, other than during a conversation with a benevolent AI at the end of the game. And even that didn't really do much to tell us what is actually going on.

But whatever. It's done and uninstalled, and I can move on to something else.

It's so hard to see anything

It's so hard to see anything

Apparently there are two enemies out there

Apparently there are two enemies out there

Aloy activates stealth mode. Or there's a graphics bug. Hard to tell.

Aloy activates stealth mode. Or there's a graphics bug. Hard to tell.

Frostclaw thinks it's a prairie dog

Frostclaw thinks it's a prairie dog

Stabby stabby stabby

Stabby stabby stabby


I have continued to dabble with the original Settlers game, just for old time's sake. On a lazy weekend, during which I should surely have been doing something else, I jumped into another skirmish. This one was against a single opponent on the largest map size the Amiga emulator could handle, which was 5. I went into this after reading more of the manual and with much more of a game plan. After all, I'd got a score to settle with the CPU after last time.

Though the large distance between the two forces gave me a lot of preparation time, I struggled quite a lot to get up to speed. This is because, even though I'd placed myself near two large mountain ranges, all I could find was coal. Of the other resources, all I could find were scraps here and there.

As our two territories neared, I built a sturdy front line to my north east out of three guard towers, which were backed up by a garrison and a warehouse for supplies.

The enemy team kicked it off with a few rapid incursions into my territory, which luckily only saw one of my huts fall. Now things had kicked off, I unleashed my full fury, and though many of my knights fell, I was able to cut through towards their castle. Defending their main building was a tower and a garrison, which I claimed after some gruelling fights. From this position, it was not too hard to take out the surrounding huts and lay seige to the castle.

Victory was inevitable as I now had a 70-30 power advantage according to the graph, and though I toppled the castle, the game did not end. Another quick flip through the manual told me that I have to make them surrender to properly win. So off I went, smashing any of their huts that were protecting their economy or warehouses.
But still they did not surrender, even though they had no way of fighting back. My attacks had even sent me slicing through their territory to join back up with my southern borders.

After 9 hours of this, I had had enough and called it quits. So even though I was the one that technically quit, I'm going to claim the moral victory.

There's coal in them there hills

There's coal in them there hills

The reds are first to attack my front line

The reds are first to attack my front line

I counter their second attack and a huge rumble kicks off

I counter their second attack and a huge rumble kicks off

My forces reach the area of their castle and make a nuisance of themselves

My forces reach the area of their castle and make a nuisance of themselves

The map near the start and end of my decisive push

The map near the start and end of my decisive push


Because I'm a bit of an idiot, I decided to try and get my old MS-DOS version of Settlers working. I knew I couldn't get multiplayer working on this because an old serial mouse and port are required, but I thought that, if I was going to play the missions, a higher resolution would surely be better.
I could never get this working back in the day, and if I remember correctly it was because I couldn't get the sound to work. As I'd not tried it since learning about the existence of DOSBox, now seemed like a perfect time. Why I couldn't get it working before I will never know, as it works just fine on DOSBox.

I started a big 4 player deathmatch against 3 CPUs on a map of size 8, which is 3 bigger than the Amiga can go. I was immediately disappointed. It's nice to see more on the screen, but the audio is not very good, and scrolling the map is even more sluggish than on the Amiga.

It was then that I discovered something called Freeserf. This is a new version of Settlers that someone started to make a few years ago. It doesn't look like it was ever finished, but it's apparently open source which has allowed other people to pick it up and do their own things. The most promising one of these is Freeserf.net, which looks like it will focus on multiplayer, including LAN and internet play. This would be awesome for us, but the multiplayer sections still are not implemented properly, and when I gave it a quick look, the AI is useless.

The other version of Freeserf that looks promising is Forkserf, which is not being developed for multiplayer, but has much more enhanced AI. However, when I looked at this one, it has none of the quality of life additions that Freeserf.net has, such as being able to zoom in and out with the mouse wheel, and inverting the map scroll direction.

So what I really need is the two developers of these to get together and actually make a complete game that is great for both single player and multiplayer. I can only wait and hope...

Getting my old MS-DOS version working

Getting my old MS-DOS version working

Three AI players struggle along in Freeserf.net

Three AI players struggle along in Freeserf.net

10th October 2021: Wood You Believe It

A couple of months back I was absolutely flying along in my attempts to make new terrain. Since then, a couple of other things have claimed my attention, as well as work kicking my ass as usual.

So though I've got nothing new finished, I thought it time to put a bit of an update here, almost as a form of motivation to make me get these things done.

First, I've been working on maybe the most ambitious piece of terrain I've ever done. It says a lot about how simple my other bits of terrain are if this is the most ambitious, but at least I'm pushing myself a little bit.

What triggered it was finding an old He-Man toy in the loft, which was part of the old Castle Greyskull set. I've kept this thing in storage all this time, because it looked like something wargamey could be made out of it. And nearly 30 years later, its time has finally come.

Though the opening was a window for the old MOTU toys, it always looked to me like it would be a good cave entrance for smaller wargaming miniatures. So I set out to make something of that type. However unlike my old tomb entance, I wanted this to be a functional cave, that models could enter.

Cue lots of cutting up wood and XPS sheets to build up the cave. I completely made it up as I went, with no planning whatsoever, and that is why the sides of the terrain piece all have completely different styles. Not something I'm particularly happy with, but it is what it is. I'm sure as hell not spending all those hours again to redo bits of it.

There was a big hold up while I tried to find a little bit of time at work to cut out a roof section. But now that's done I can start trying to figure out exactly how I'm going to complete this thing, and what kind of final look I'm going to try and go for.

And it doesn't look like much of that old toy will even be visible when I'm done, but I guess it's done its job as more of a motivational piece.

The starting point

The starting point

Building up the walls

Building up the walls

Still building up the walls

Still building up the walls

Making a cave of the inside of the toy

Making a cave of the inside of the toy

A roof section appears

A roof section appears

I've been working on other terrain pieces, such as bringing the old 2nd edition Epic Space Marine buildings up to scratch at last. I've only owned them since 1992!

But together with the Scoobster, we put an order in for some more MDF terrain. As I'd got lots of Imperial-type terrain, I decided this time to mostly go with more Eldar inspired pieces. I was also mindful of trying to pick things that can be used in 6mm as well as 28mm.

I've only put one pack together yet, so this is yet another thing I've got to get back to.

More MDF terrain

More MDF terrain

Scoob decided to go very 40K heavy on his MDF terrain, with a bunch of new stuff for his Orks. He's already put them all together, and I got to see them last week. They look cool with a bunch of his Orks lined up inside. A proper Orky paint job will finish them off real good.

Scoob's Orks massed in their new fortress

Scoob's Orks massed in their new fortress

The Mek shop kicks out a bunch of Deff Dreads ready for action

The Mek shop kicks out a bunch of Deff Dreads ready for action


While Scoob's new terrain was all set up, he came up with the idea to have a bit of a muckabout battle using the old 40K 8th rules. This is because we don't have access to 9th yet, and our own rules are a long way off (as we've got to finish the Epic ones first).

We each took charge of our respective Space Marine Chapters, in the Storm Tigers and Bringers Of Death, and set out to kill two Ork characters before our own characters were defeated.

I ended up going for the Ork Warboss while Scoob went after the Big Mek. We both had chances to succeed, but some crappy rolls (especially for my Devastators) saw our bold attacks fail and our characters got taken down by the Orks in short order.

While it was good to get our 40K stuff out for the first time in a while, all it did was reinforce my belief that the official 40K rules are no longer for me. The game is just so stale, bloated, and boring.

The Storm Tigers and Bringers Of Death assault the fortress

The Storm Tigers and Bringers Of Death assault the fortress

4th October 2021: Horizon Zero Done

Phew, finally got back around to Horizon Zero Dawn. I first started playing this around 18 months ago, but a huge Final Fantasy shaped distraction got in the way, and I never went back to it. I would have jumped right back in, if not for the fact that I was having to use controller to aim with.

For quite a while, I thought it would be a game I would never get to finish, until it was released on GOG late last year. Great! I could play it with mouse and keyboard at last! Well, not quite. Turns out, the game requires Windows 10, which I did not have at the time. So late last year I started planning the build of a new PC, and even bought a copy of Win 10, along with several of the components. However, the worldwide GPU shortage was in full swing, and continued all through this year, so I was not able to finish the build.

Eventually, I gave up and bought a new Win 10 laptop, which for some reason didn't seem to be hit as hard on the supply front. As much as I would have preferred a full tower, and as much as I would have preferred never to have to use Win 10 (I seriously fucking hate it), I could at least play this game at last.

So for the past few weeks, that's exactly what I've been doing.

Now to get all the crap out of the way first, I'm glad this game had been out on PC for so long before I played it. There were some really strange technical bugs during my playthrough, and this is after many patches. What it was like on launch I have no idea. The people who played it back then have my sympathies.
Most of my issues were with the audio, especially with combat sounds not triggering for ages after they were supposed to, and other sounds such as the stampede getting stuck on loop over and over until I vacated the area. It also really annoyed me how every time I booted the game I had to wait for the shaders to optimise. It's only supposed to do this once, on the first boot, but according to what I could find on the net, some unlucky people have to sit through this every time. And I was one of them. Sigh.

Chaos breaks out

Chaos breaks out

Are these two Sawtooths still arguing?

Are these two Sawtooths still arguing?

Never stand between me and my loot

Never stand between me and my loot

Just how fast is this elevator descending?

Just how fast is this elevator descending?

The actual game itself was enjoyable enough, but with some repetitive, irritating things, like all the looting and crafting. I guess I got the same sort of feel out of it as I did Witcher 3, except I enjoyed the combat more in that, and the irritating elements in this irritated me a little more so. However, definitely a good game and one I'm glad I've played.

This game has received so many plaudits over the years for its setting and story, but I'm actually not sure what to think of them. There are elements I definitely enjoyed, and there are some interesting nuances that set it apart from similar stories, but at its core, it's just another "humans make machines, machines turn on humans" story, and the world the developers made felt like it deserved better than that.

I've got no immediate plans to play the expansion, but I'll get back to it soon no doubt, while its still fresh in my mind and still installed.

Pig in a tree

Pig in a tree

Handy of them to paint everything I can climb on in yellow

Handy of them to paint everything I can climb on in yellow

Corrupted Thunderjaw trying its luck

Corrupted Thunderjaw trying its luck

Tie your Stormbird down, tie your Stormbird down

Tie your Stormbird down, tie your Stormbird down


Me and me old mucker Dave took a right trip down memory lane recently when we re-visited the original Settlers game on an Amiga emulator. It must have been getting on for 20 years since we last played this, which was on an Amiga 1200 that Dave had suped up for the place we were working at back then. So it had been quite a while.

We did a 4 player deathmatch with two CPU players, but Dave and I agreed not to attack each other, as we couldn't really remember the game at all. I took control of the blue team, and Dave the red.

The pink and yellow CPU players took off at a pace and started rapid expansion of their territories. I got a slow start as I was too busy reading the manual and trying to remember what to do, but Dave smartly followed the CPU's lead and started building stuff all over the place.

It was the very aggressive pinks that first started causing trouble, as they attacked the other CPU. Dave also joined in attacking the yellows, but I came under attack from the pinks who were picking fights all over the place. My tiny territory couldn't handle it, and they broke through to my castle. After several waves of attacks, my castle started burning, essentially putting me out of the game. How that happened I am not sure, as there were still 50+ knights in there defending it. I'll have to continue reading the manual...

With my remaining knights I joined Dave in several counter attacks against the pinks and we caused some good damage before the hour was too late to continue.

It seemed to re-ignite a passion for this old game in Dave, and I too am wondering if I should try to play through the missions, as I've never really put any focus on the single player side of any Settlers game.

No doubt there will be further forays into this series at some point.

My geologist finds nothing as Dave gets to building

My geologist finds nothing as Dave gets to building

Dave's red dudes make an incursion into enemy territory

Dave's red dudes make an incursion into enemy territory

My buildings burn as the pinks take more of my shrinking land

My buildings burn as the pinks take more of my shrinking land

The pinks get all up in my castle's business

The pinks get all up in my castle's business

3rd October 2021: Can I Code?

There's been a bit of a lull in my efforts to make content for this site over the last few weeks as I've been working on a big backend update.

The whole point of the update was to make the filters page a bit more useful. Unfortunately, this meant re-writing nearly all of the code on the site. Not that this was a bad thing, as the code had become quite messy due to all the little fiddles and ferrets I had done to it over the last couple of years.

But now it's all done, and multiple filters can now be selected, meaning it's possible to better control and fine-tune which blog entries you want to see.

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