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Welcome

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

8th November 2021: Always Wild. Never Gammy.

<Old Stuff>

Between May 2006 and January 2008 I took part in two large campaigns in the game Rome: Total War, along with a few friends. Calling ourselves the Wild Monkey Generals, we threw our troops against each other in a variety of silly ways in an attempt to kill, slap, annoy, tickle and then maybe eat the opposition...

Wild--Duff-MAN

Wild--Duff-MAN

Wild--Nemishikados

Wild--Nemishikados

Wild--Splapdink

Wild--Splapdink

Wild--Westwood

Wild--Westwood

For some weird reason I thought it was about time I dug out the chronicles of these battles from my old website, and give them a new home here.

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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

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