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Comment Microsoft had something similar (Score 2) 57 57

Microsoft's Xbox Live system had something similar a few years ago. In that case, the "bug" was actually a flaw in their online and phone support protocols and is pretty well documented here.

This was used to compromise a large number of accounts in 2011 and 2012, with the compromised accounts generally being used to make tradeable FIFA DLC purchases, allowing Xbox Live purchases to be laundered back into real cash.

I got stung by it myself, which utterly shocked me as my XBL password was a strong password that had only ever been entered into my 360 console - so even if my PC were compromised (and I was pretty sure it wasn't), the password certainly hadn't been extracted via a keylogger. MS were very prompt in responding and gave the impression that they were dealing with a lot of these cases. They refunded the £50 that the scumbag had spent and gave me 3 months free XBL Gold subscription as well, which seemed odd given I was still convinced the slip-up must have been on my end.

Wasn't until I saw that Kotaku article a few months later that I realised what had happened. The irony is that this was going on at the same time as the Sony PSN breach and, unlike the PSN breach, it resulted in accounts actually being compromised and fraudulent purchases being made. But as it was a steady drip-drip-drip of compromised accounts rather than an eye-catching big-bang "hack", the mainstream media never picked up on it.

Comment Re:I've had issues with the Win10 NVIDIA drivers.. (Score 4, Insightful) 315 315

Always going to the most recent Nvidia drivers has been a risky proposition for years, on Win 7, Vista, XP etc.

Nvidia put out a lot of driver updates tied specifically to newly released high-profile games. In some cases, performance in those games will be pretty shocking if you don't move straight to the latest drivers. The PC release of GTA5 (in most respects a solid release) is one example. Sometimes, the drivers are fine. More often, they cause issues with a range of older applications and games. One recent driver update caused massive issues with .mkv playback, for instance (though a workaround was discovered fairly quickly).

The sensible thing to do is to upgrade your drivers only every few months and only move to versions that are generally recognized as stable and whose known issues have well-tested workarounds. Automatically moving to the latest version is a mug's game.

Sometimes the whole thing goes amusingly wrong. When id Software released Rage, it had horrible texture pop-in issues on most PCs with Nvidia cards. Why? Because id had expected Nvidia to put out a particular driver update in time for launch and Nvidia had gone with a different one instead.

Comment My experience with it (Score 5, Interesting) 223 223

I pre-ordered this on Steam a couple of days before launch. As of right now, it is sat on 1h50m playtime and I'm not touching it again until either we have news on when a major patch is expected or we start to get close to two weeks after release.


Because of Steam's new refund policy. If you have less than 2 hours playtime on a game and it is less than 2 weeks since release (or less than 2 weeks since your purchase, if you purchased it post-release), you are eligible for a refund. The game in its current state is a very sorry sight indeed.

My personal experiences with it haven't been as bad as some. I have an i7 3820 @ 3.66ghz, an Nvidia 980 and 16gb of nice fast RAM. I also, crucially, have a 500gb SSD that I use for my OS and for drive speed sensitive games (as well as some big old traditional drives for everything else). Running from the SSD and with an .ini tweak to remove the 30fps cap (yes, a 30fps cap in a PC game in this day and age), I can manage a not-terrible level of performance. Framerates with all settings maxed in 1080p flicker between 35 fps and 70 fps, depending on what's happening on screen, though the wide variations do produce some ugly artefacts.

When I first installed the game to one of my traditional drives, performance was appalling. While framerates when stood still doing nothing were the same, taking almost any action in-game, from moving around to entering a vehicle or changing areas, would produce large framerate drops, hideous stuttering, broken textures and texture pop-in. This game has some serious issues with data streaming from storage drives.

The game is also ugly to look at. Ok, ok, I'm being a bit harsh there. As a bare-bones PC port of a late-cycle 360 or PS3 game, it would have looked ok. But compared with PC versions of recent efforts like Shadows of Mordor, Grand Theft Auto 5 and The Witcher 3, this looks terrible. Bear in mind that all of the above run at higher and steadier framerates with all settings maxed on my PC. In Arkham Knight, NPCs movements are repetitive and robotic, textures are low-resolution (the game will only allow "low" or "medium" detail textures to be selected, implying higher detail textures were removed at the last moment) and basic visual effects from the console versions are missing.

My experiences put me at the better end of the scale. I have a powerful PC with a single-Nvidia-GPU setup. Weaker PCs, or even more powerful PCs with multi-GPU setups or AMD cards seem to have things much worse. I've only experienced one crash to desktop - but that's as many crashes in under 2 hours of play as I've experienced in almost 30 hours of play in The Witcher 3.

A few wider points about this; while this game is particularly brutal in terms of its drive speed requirements, it is part of a broader picture that drive speed is starting to matter as much as CPU and GPU speed for PC gamers in terms of actual in-game performance (rather than just load-times). Watch_Dogs, Far Cry 4 and Dragon Age: Inquisition all suffered from in-game stuttering issues when running from a traditional drive - though not to anything like the same extent as Arkham Knight. An SSD large enough for games as well as the OS is becoming non-optional for serious PC gamers.

Second, this is the first real stress-test of Steam's refund system. To their credit, Valve seem to be honouring Arkham Knight refund requests without any qualms. And it's surely no coincidence that the first "broken" PC port to go out after the refund system was introduced has led to such a dramatic reaction by the publisher.

Comment Re:Not just a US problem (Score 1) 292 292

You're right. There was a Survation poll that got fairly close to the final numbers, but the company took a look at it and decided it was a rogue-poll. The Survation CEO wrote a fascinating blog post about why he took the decision, which you can read

The outfit I mentioned in my original post who managed to "predict" the outcome on the basis of published polls were Number Cruncher Politics. Their article, written 2 days before the vote, can be found here - be warned that it is long and has graphs.

Comment Not just a US problem (Score 4, Interesting) 292 292

The opinion polling industry here in the UK got got last month's General Election badly wrong. Not only did almost all of the pre-election polls (conducted by a wide range of companies, some of whom use telephone surveys while others use an online approach) get the vote-distribution wrong, over-estimating Labour support and under-estimating Conservative support, but they also misread the mapping of those vote-shares into Parliamentary seats (which is, admittedly, not always simple in the UK's first-past-the-post electoral system).

Only the exit-poll conducted on the day of the election itself got relatively close to the actual result (and even that under-estimated the scale of the eventual Conservative victory).

There's a major industry post-mortem in progress at the moment, which is scrutinising various aspects of previous methodological orthodoxy. UKpollingreport has a fairly good write-up of the state of play here.

There's been a fair degree of political acrimony about the inaccuracy of the pre-election polling. In particular, there have been questions raised about whether inaccurate polling caused the parties or the voters to change their behaviours in a way that accurate polling (or no polling) wouldn't have. There are also some calls for the UK to follow the example of some continental European countries and ban the publication of opinion polls in the 2-3 week period before an election.

One other point worth noting is that there was one particular data-analytics organisation (sorry, can't find the link right now) which looked at the raw data from the opinion polls and made a call a few days before the election which predicted the outcome fairly accurately.

Nate Silver called it badly wrong, in this instance.

Comment Re:Mortal Monday (Score 1) 136 136

Indeed, still remember buying my copy.

The banning of video-games has never really taken off in the UK, though not for want of trying. The BBFC had a good go at it with Carmageddon, but the subsequent backlash and (successful) appeal scared that organisation away from heavy involvement with games for quite a long time afterwards.

Manhunt 2 was originally banned in its uncut form, I think, though it was granted certification after a few seconds of footage were cut. And I think there was some other PS2-era shooter (The Punisher?) which was also refused certification without minor cuts.

Actually, the most notable "banned game" in the UK was never actually banned at all. It was Rule of Rose, a generally inoffensive (though not, to be honest, very good) Japanese PS2 survival horror game. Some fuckwit Brussels politician decided he was going to launch a moral crusade against games and picked this as his target. He made allegations about the game's content with were so egregiously untrue that they'd have made even Jack Thompson blush. However, as releases like that are generally have a marginal business case as well and as the game was being (incorrectly) accused of promoting paedophilia and child-murder, the publisher canned the release in the UK and a handful of other European countries.

I ended up importing a US copy just to see what the fuss was about. It was all pretty tame stuff (and the game itself was crippled by terrible controls and a lot of backtracking - common problems in survival horror games of that era). Most video-game controversies, like Carmageddon, Postal, Grand Theft Auto and Hatred, are at least partly courted by the game's developer. I always felt sorry for Rule of Rose, despite the fact it wasn't very good, because the controversy came out of the blue.

Comment Re:London's fantastic... (Score 2) 410 410

Sorry - I should have explained this more than I did. The Zones are technically a part of the public transport charging system (for underground, buses and some rail services) and are arranged in a series of concentric circles. Most of the bits of London that tourists see are in Zone 1. As you get further out, you get more residential areas, as well as (in the outer zones), formerly free-standing towns like Bromley and Croydon which the London sprawl has swallowed over the years.

But while technically a means for working out how much a public transport journey costs, the Zones are more regularly used in London parlance, particularly when talking about house-prices and so on. There's a perception that the more successful you are, the more central the Zone you can afford to live in. But one of the points of my original post was that this has turned into a bit of a false expectation over time; status conscious people are paying exorbitant prices to live in Zones 1 and 2, when they could have a much better quality of life (often with equally good access to the important bits of the centre) living in the outer zones.

As people working in the media tend, as a broad generalisation, to be acutely status conscious and to assume that their own experiences are more representative than they are, the stereotype that all of London is over-priced and over-crowded gets more of a public airing than it deserves.

Comment Re:London's fantastic... (Score 1) 410 410

If I've seen a waterfall once, I don't really need to see it again. To be honest, a single waterfall sighting every few years is more than enough for me. I'm not really into nature; it gets dull fast and most of it smells of cow poo.

I'd rather live somewhere that gives me access to one of the largest and most varied employment markets in the world, as well as a first-rate range of cultural and social amenities.

And London Underground can indeed be a bit grim... which is why I don't use it. The great thing about being south of the river in London is that you are more likely to use surface rail than underground. Faster (since you can get trains to the outer stations that don't stop at every point along the way), generally less crowded (though peak trains can still be busy) and you get a decent view crossing the Thames into Victoria.

Like trying to stay in Zones 1 and 2 and insisting on being north of the river, clinging to proximity to tube stations is another big mistake that a lot of London residents make. The tube is a convenient way to make short journeys around central London, but surface rail will generally make for a faster and more pleasant commute from home if you have the option. Personally, I never go more than a few stops on the Tube (with the exception of the occasional hike out to Heathrow, which is a pain to reach by other means until we get Crossrail).

Comment Re:London's fantastic... (Score 1) 410 410

That's another reasonable option and I have friends who do it. Hell, I spent 18 months commuting from Cambridge (close to 15 years ago now) and it wasn't too bad. Wouldn't be possible these days, though - Cambridge living costs are almost as nuts as central London now.

The only thing you have to watch for with the longer distance commuting is that you really can find yourself at the mercy of rail fair increases; some of the season ticket prices can get very steep indeed once you go beyond the London boundary.

Comment Re:London's fantastic... (Score 4, Informative) 410 410

Not quite...

A lot of the negative preconceptions around London are based on tales from people who are determined to cling to the city centre. I used to be one of them; living in a tiny, poxy flat in Zone 2 and paying through the nose for it.

I then took stock, realised that I was spending so much on being close to the centre and was so stressed out by the downsides (noise, antisocial behaviour, general crowding) that I wasn't actually enjoying the supposed benefits. So I bought a place - at a fairly reasonable price - in Zone 5 (and south of the river to boot). From stations within a few minutes walk of where I live, I can be at Victoria station in less than 20 minutes and London Bridge in less than 25. I also get a pleasant, leafy environment, a rock-bottom local crime rate and decent - albeit very mainstream - local shops and amenities. And I'm not exactly mega-rich... "reasonable middle-income" is probably the best description.

If you want to do the full on hipster thing of living in the middle of town so that you can cycle to work and walk to your local pop-up organic smoothie yurt before going window-shopping for hemp underwear, then unless you are rich, you will have no money, will live in squalor and your impressions of London will sour pretty fast.

If you want good access to the city's big employment centres and cultural highlights, then just conquer your snobbery about the outer Zones (a point-to-point ticket from Zone 5 doesn't cost much more than a Zone 1-2 travelcard) and going properly south of the river.

Comment Good (Score 4, Insightful) 193 193

I see a lot of cynicism in this thread - much of it entirely deserved. However, from a broader perspective, this is undoubtedly a good thing - and not just in terms of "yay, I can play more things on my new console".

Why? Because it goes some way towards mitigating what was looking like a real risk of a "lost generation" of console games.

As older platforms have gone out of circulation, PC emulation has generally been there to keep titles playable. Hell, when my first-gen back-compatible PS3 died on me and I had to replace it with a non-back-compatible slim model, I was able to carry on playing my PS2 games from the original discs via PC emulation.

But there is currently nothing like working emulation of the 360 and PS3 and, given those platforms DRM measures and general hardware eccentricity, it seems reasonable to suppose that we are years, if not decades, from actually seeing it (if we ever do).

Neither 360 nor PS3 hardware was of the highest quality. The early builds of both consoles had high failure rates - legendarily so in the case of the 360 - and while later iterations improved matters somewhat, there's no getting around the fact that they both remained essentially disposable and short-lived devices built as cheaply as possible.

So at some point in the not-too-distant future (within5 years maybe? Certainly within 10) working 360s and PS3s are going to get harder and harder to find. And with no emulation for them, there is a good chance that a good chunk of the (huge) catalogue of games for those platforms is going to end up inaccessible to everybody bar specialist collectors.

Now, a good chunk of the library for both consoles is basically disposable junk anyway. Does it matter massively if a few iterations of Madden and FIFA end up lost to posterity? Not really. In other cases, games are being "rescued" via "HD remasters" for current generation platforms (which can, admittedly, feel like a rip-off), as has happened with The Last of Us and and as will soon happen with Gears of War and Uncharted. In other cases, developers looking to make money from their back-catalogue may put out PC ports. We've seen this rescue a few absolute classics like Valkyria Chronicles, as well as some more... shall we say... eccentric choices like the Hyperdimension Neptunia games.

But that still leaves a lot of games - including those which were subject to exclusivity agreements but didn't sell well enough to merit an HD-remaster - stranded. There are some good and noteworthy games here; Lost Odyssey, Vanquish, Eternal Sonata and so on.

Now, if the Xbox One has back compatibility all of a sudden, that means that we have at least a temporary stay-of-execution on all three of those games I just mentioned. Plus the fact that they're running on PC-like hardware keeps alive the prospect that we might see them running on "proper" PC hardware at some point further down the line. And if you care about preserving an unbroken history of gaming's development, then this matters. If you don't think that keeping that chain intact matters, then just ask the BBC how they feel about all of those Doctor Who episodes they threw into the trash.

Of course, we still have some PS3 exclusives that are essentially marooned; and that Cell architecture is going to render any kind of emulation, whether on general PCs or on current or future Sony console hardware, a bitch. That leaves some excellent games (the PS3-era Ratchet & Clank games were superb and a lot of Japan's output for the latter half of the last console cycle was PS3-exclusive) still stranded. But maybe this step from MS will put some pressure on Sony.

Hopefully, the PC-like architecture of the current generation will make back-compatibility less of an issue going forward, though there are still issues about the extent to which many games are essentially dependent on PSN or XBL network architecture.

My mother is a fish. - William Faulkner