Sunday, July 20, 2014

. . . Digital Grind

Recently I have been receiving more than the usual number of requests for old columns from readers.

Specifically the requests have included columns that address issues like home and small business computer and network security -- with several columns whose subject is firewalls in particular being quite popular.

With that in mind I thought I would list them below -- with the links to the online versions that are served from the Times' award-winning website

Firewall and Net Security
Communications and Email Security
Personal Digital Security
You should get the idea from the above selection what I am talking about in terms of subject matter...

If you are looking for an old column or article you should know that I keep a complete list of the columns - organized by date published - in an online Portfolio that you can find on my website. Just use this link or plug in the following URL in your preferred browser:

In addition to requests for copies of old columns there have been a large (and increasing) number of email messages asking for the ISBN numbers for my books offering collected columns from Digital Grind... The thing is, no such books exist.

I am starting to wonder if they should?

If you are a reader of my Digital Grind column, and like the idea of me creating some column collections in book form, would you mind very much letting me know that? You can email me at my primary address ( and just tell me what you would be interested in - what column subjects you would like to see in such a book?

If I can get a good handle on what the reader wants, that certainly improves the chances of creating it!

. . . Sniper Elite III and Genre Fusions

When video game publisher 505 Games brought UK-based game development studio Rebellion's newest game to the market, it was pretty obvious that they considered Sniper Elite III to be exactly what it appeared to be - a military simulation of the skilled sniper.

It did not take more than a superficial examination however for us to realize that while SE3 was a lot of things, a simulation of a military sniper was not one of them.  Don't take this the wrong way - SE3 is a great game - it just isn't a military sniper game!

I actually had to spend some serious brain time in order to define what the game actually is.  The fact that I found the process of defining what it was not easier than the discovery of what it actually is was both humbling and revealing at the same time.

So here is the thing: SE3 is a fusion of First-Person Shooter and Massive Multi-Player Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) but without the Massive Multi-Player Online Role-Playing parts!

I know, that sounds confusing so I have to explain...

The typical MMORPG regardless of its genre or play style invariably presents two very basic, very consistent elements to the players: The protagonist is the player, and while this is claimed nowhere in the game or in its supporting material, the protagonist enjoys a measure of God-like powers.

What that usually amounts to is an ability to soak up a lot of damage without actually dying, combined with a touch of both omniscience and omnipotence.  Those two elements are really very important - one is tempted to observe that they are critical - to the success of the game, and here is where it gets interesting...

When Rebellion created SE3 they endowed the game with the look and feel - but mostly the feel - of the typical modern MMORPG while making it a hardcore and solid FPS game.

Finding a Special Hook

 In the world of video games - and especially in the world of fusion genre video games - whenever you go about mucking with formula certain things have to happen - and one of them is that you have to build into the game a "hook" (or feature) that is unique to that game.

Basically it needs to have an element that is unique to it, so that it not only stands out, but the player base can point to it and say with gusto - THAT is what makes this one special!

In the case of Sniper Elite III that hook takes two forms: The X-Ray-like bullet effects, and the special bonus scores that can be obtained thanks to that X-Ray effect.

Now bearing in mind that the direct result of this hook is the vision of the destructive path of the bullet you just fired, and the absolute certainty of how that bullet accomplished its killing goal - with bonus scores!

There is no point in harping on the matter - so instead watch the video above so you have a full appreciation for the mechanism of the hook - and be sure to note the different bonus points earned for the different types of X-Ray kills.

In the end what the wizards at Rebellion have done was either incredibly brave or incredibly foolish.   Only time will prove that out, but based on the fact that the level of violence (particularly with respect to the bullet effect film) very easily approaches the line of both Violence Porn and Bullet Porn, I have to wonder...

How this title will survive the review process with content rating agencies like those of Australia and Japan (to name a few) is anyone's guess (but if I were a gambling man I would not bet on it easily passing with just an adult rating).

That noted, as long as you are a mature adult gamer there really is nothing here to offend you or effect you - while there is a LOT here to entertain and attract.  Just saying..

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

. . . Welcome to the 125K Club?

Last weekend I received an email from someone I did not know, the subject of which was a rather cryptic "Welcome to the 125K Club!" - so I almost deleted it without reading it under the assumption that it was spam from someone trying to sell me something...

Curiosity got the better of me though, so I opened it in preparation for deleting it and was surprised to discover that it was not actually spam, and the sender was not trying to sell me something.

In fact it appears to be a sincere letter praising me for accomplishing something I didn't know I had done - or perhaps I knew it but I certainly had not been actively thinking About it.

My official Gamertag status thingy shows I actually do have that much Gamerscore?!

The 125K Club

What the subject was referring to was the total number of points in my Microsoft Xbox LIVE account and, specifically, the number of video game Achievement Points that I had accrued on my Xbox LIVE Gamertag - which actually totals 137,385G spanning 6-Years of play time as an Xbox LIVE Gold Member...

To put that in perspective for you, the typical totals for my friends (those being the people on my social and friends list on Xbox LIVE that I actually know in real life, and not simply the members of that list who I just play games with - listed by name, gamerscore, and the number of years they have been playing on LIVE) are as follows:

  • AutumnBF (3,586G) 4-Years
  • Boy Scout Jeff (9,231G) 5-Years
  • CCRedaktor (13,970G) 4-Years
  • Climbingz (7,165G) 4-Years
  • Cjammer (13,731G) 8-Years
  • GSGlenn (11,931G) 3-Years
  • Gunner Guy33 (30,220G) 2-Years
  • Panda317 (5G) 2-Years
  • RUPufnstuf (53,464G) 9-Years
  • Sm00cheez (1,535G) 2-Years
  • Swash01 (27,317G) 4-Years
  • YvonneBF (3,285G) 4-Years

The average accumulation for casual gamers appears to be a few thousand G a year, while those among my friends who use games as a form of social entertainment is around 8K per year.

Those are respectable numbers it should be noted, whereas my Gamerscore is not really respectable for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that (a) I don't actually pay for the games that I play, and (b) I don't usually have a choice about which games I play - the reason for that being that playing games is a significant part of how I earn a living.

I am not saying that reaching 125K Gamerscore - or even 100K Gamerscore is not an accomplishment because for a lot of gamers I am sure that it is...  The thing is I wasn't actually trying to do that, it just happened.

The other thing is - and I say this with the most sincere respect to the gamers who earned their G, this just happened to me, it wasn't like I was trying.

So hey, thanks for the email and the praise - but I don't really deserve it...