A Yodel Adventure

Throw a six to start.

We all know how disappointed we are when, straight off the excitement that some new shiny toy has been dispatched, we discover it is being couriered by one of the less reliable delivery companies such as Amazon Logistics, Hermes, or Yodel. The tales of how packages have ended up in hedges, in wheelie bins that have been collected, on roofs and at houses that don’t actually exist speak on behalf of these businesses, and I’ll avoid using any online retailer that uses them whenever possible.

However, that’s not always feasable, and sometimes – like last week – I’ve no way of knowing who will be tasked with bringing me my precious. Ages ago, I pre-ordered a PocketCHIP, and a couple of weeks back it was dispatched. I’ll talk about it in another post soon, but needless to say I was looking forward to it arriving. Then, the international courier passed it over to Yodel and it was all doom and gloom from then on in.

I’m happy to report that Yodel did actually deliver in the end, albeit a day late, but I amused myself with these parcel delivery statuses while waiting impatiently.

parcel

parcel2

parcel3

parcel4

parcel5

parcel6

parcel7

As the day of delivery came to a close, time was running out:

parcel8

And overnight, I feared for the safety of my package.

parcel9

parcel10

parcel11

Yodel

I was just about to give up all hope.

parcel13

When finally, my parcel arrived:

parcel14

That BBC David Bowie Prom Thing

It’s a God awful small affair

Just a short missive about the BBC’s special David Bowie Prom night because I don’t want to dwell on it too much, but in Comic Book Guy fashion I felt I needed to register my disgust on that place where much disgust is registered: The Internet.

That’s a little too harsh as I was not disgusted by the prom at all. No, like you’d chide a naughty child, I was simply disappointed.

I’ve written about Bowie before, so you’ll know I was a massive fan. He was a artist who went through many changes (no pun intended) in his musical influences and style, and there are fans like me who took in this broad body of work, and others who are more limited to certain albums or eras. That’s fine, but it does mean that any collected works is likely to contain tracks that these second type of fan won’t appreciate. Even I wondered about the inclusion of Lady Grinning Soul and After All in this concert, but I’m not going to complain.

No, my complaint is more about how tracks were arranged and performed, and more specifically who was chosen to perform them. I’m not adverse to reworkings, covers or sampling work at all, and often enjoy differently interpreted works, but some of the performances here were truly baffling.

To keep it brief, the two worst points were John Cale, and (surprisingly) Marc Almond. I’m no fan of Almond, but I don’t dislike his previous work and quite enjoyed his performance with Jools Holland that I attended a few years back. He can certainly sing, but his Bowie performance was flat, monotone and without emotion or talent. John Cale commandeered by ego much of the latter part of the concert and hacked and slashed his way through Space Oddity in such a way it made me wish they’d brought Commander Hadfield on instead.

Paul Buchanan and Anna Calvi tried their best to ruin the show further, but thankfully excellent performances by Amanda Palmer and Neil Hannon dragged the event out of the gutter, and Laura Mvula’s take on Girl Loves Me was genuinely outstanding.

The David Bowie Prom was such a waste of an opportunity, a curious collection of performers, and a terribly disappointing concert as a result.

My Nintendo

Looking a gift horse in the mouth (and finding it empty)

When it launched a few months ago, virtually alongside Miitomo, My Nintendo seemed like a decent improvement on the old Club Nintendo rewards programme. Although buying physical games no longer awarded you loyalty points, digital titles still did, and now you could gain points just from performing tasks like linking social accounts to your Nintendo ID, using Miitomo, and regularly signing into Miiverse and the eShop.

Quickly, I racked up enough of these new coins to buy the Zelda Picross game from the My Nintendo Rewards page, which was pretty good, and I looked forward to obtaining more free games like this.

But where are they?

Yes, there was the option of buying the Nintendo DS Wario Ware game for the 3DS with Nintendo Coins, but I already own a copy of that which works on my 3DS. A couple of Virtual Console games appeared too, but I already have them, and that’s it – nothing else.

OK, that isn’t completely true. As I write, there are some free games I don’t own available from the rewards programme, but they all require gold coins (which you obtain from buying eShop titles) rather than platinum ones (that you get from all the other things I’ve listed above). The previously available games I could have “bought” for coins all needed platinum coins.

As it stands, I now have over 4500 platinum coins. Zelda cost just 1000, so you’d except I’d have been able to “buy” a handful more games had they existed to buy. Instead, I have the option of buying useless items for Miitomo (clothing, which is unnecessary, and game tokens which you obtain in plentiful supply anyway) and money off vouchers for eShop games I either already own, or are available cheaper elsewhere even without the discount.

I know it’s a poor show complaining about something which is free, but for something that started so well it’s disappointing that it has in itself become, well, a poor show. It’s also a shame that Pokémon Go doesn’t link into it in any way either – you can’t even use your Nintendo account or NNID to log into it!

A change from our scheduled programming

Today I had a usual Friday “Let’s Play” lined up, but given this morning’s horrendous news, I don’t think it’s appropriate.

I’m mourning the death of my country and my faith in people to do the right thing and I seriously think this is the beginning of something far worse.

Normal service will resume tomorrow.

Things I learned at Legoland about Other People

Some people, eh?

Legoland was great. It rained, but it was great. However: Many of the people who went to Legoland were not. Here’s what I learned.

  1. Signs that say “no smoking” are merely guidelines. If you want to smoke, just smoke anywhere, why not? Sure, there are designated smoking areas, but you’ve been stuck in a queue for half an hour so you know what? You deserve a fag right now.
  2. It is impossible to put children near fences and railings without said fences and railings being climbed on. Even when there are signs that tell you not to, and even when Legoland staff politely request that your children don’t climb the barrier because it’s a safety hazard, it’s perfectly fine to do it.
  3. When you’re told “don’t hold your child in your lap” because it’s dangerous and they might actually die, that doesn’t actually apply to you at all. Even when the ride is stopped as a result.
  4. When your child is not tall enough to ride, and you are told this as you enter the queue (there’s a thing to measure them against) and again by a member of staff when you reach the front of the queue, arguing the toss will apparently make your child suddenly have a growth spurt or the safety rules for the ride will magically be relaxed. Even more so if you complain about how long you’ve waited.
  5. All 7-10 year old boys are incapable of pooing anywhere besides in their own pants, at least judging from the smell and how they walk.
  6. When you’ve spent two hours in a car full of excited children on the way to Legoland, then half an hour queuing to get in and paying a King’s Ransom for the privilege of entering the park, definitely the best thing to do immediately is force your family to sit with you while you have a burger and a coke.
  7. When rain is forecast days in advance, and it’s raining when you leave the house, and raining when you arrive at Legoland, and it is still forecast to rain the whole of the rest of the day, you are certainly within your rights to complain that one ride has been closed and demand a complete refund.
  8. As soon as you are through the gates at Legoland, your children are no longer your responsibility. Are they misbehaving? Being a danger to themselves and others? Not your problem! They have staff to sort that out. Signs that tell you to supervise your children? You don’t need to pay attention to them.
  9. When a ride which exists primarily to get the riders wet, gets you wet, of course you have a right to complain angrily to the poor woman operating the ride who has already warned you that you will get wet.
  10. Waa waa waa. A ride broke down. Waa waa waa the food is too expensive. Waa waa waa. They’re building a new hotel? What the hell for? Waa waa waa. It’s raining and I’m getting wet. Waa waa waa. Moan bloody moan bloody moan.

How the friendly, helpful and genuinely lovely Legoland staff cope with this (combined with the same music on a loop all day every day) without killing anyone remains a mystery.

Xbox Live Gold, free, only it isn’t

Free as in free, or free as in, you can’t have it?

This was a frustrating experience, but first, a little history. For many years, my most used (and possibly… favourite?) console was my Xbox 360. I’ve over 200 games for it, and I was an Xbox Live Gold member from the very start of its appearance on the original Xbox (let’s call that the, ooh, Xbox 1) until some time in 2013 when it became clear I was spending most of my time playing Wii U games and not 360 games, and I just let Gold expire naturally 1. The Xbox 360 fell out of favour a bit.

The last couple of months of my now unused Gold subscription overlapped with the start of Microsoft’s Games With Gold programme, so I picked up a handful of (still unplayed, and two already owned) titles there, and after that, Gold was Gone. In 2015 I was offered a month’s Gold for a quid and took up the offer to get some cheap games with some free credit I’d picked up, and in January this year I did the same again. Lego Lord of the Rings for £3? Except actually free because the credit was free? Don’t mind if I do.

Which brings us to this week. I’ve still got credit remaining, and I noticed that Forza Horizon was on offer. I’d enjoyed the demo and the free Fast and Furious spin-off, so decided to go for it. I powered up my 360 (which takes about ten minutes these days) and there, on the dashboard, was an offer for a month’s free Gold. Excellent, I thought. I can get that, and a month of Games With Gold (not that they’re inspiring – I’ve already got three free copies of Peggle), and a few quid off the cost of Forza Horizon. Sold.

I click the “Sign Up” button, go to purchase content, aaaaand… error code 80153021. Looking this up:

This may mean one of the following:

  • The Xbox Live service is temporarily unavailable.
  • There’s something wrong with your account:
    • You may have an outstanding balance.
    • You Microsoft account country/region may not match your PayPal country/region.
    • Your billing information might be incomplete.

Great. Live is probably broken. Remember when it used to be PSN that was always broken and Live was rock solid? Anyway, I went through the other suggestions – yes, I have an outstanding balance. I have money in my account. Unless you mean an outstanding negative balance – which I neither have, nor know how that could ever happen. I don’t have PayPal set up. My billing information is incomplete, as I have none. The month’s free (note the word “free”) Gold is free. Free, as in, free.

Of course, Microsoft’s stupid system requires you to have a payment option on file even for free items, even though I have credit in my account. Fine. I’ll add one with the intention of removing it immediately after purchasing my free (note the word “free”) month of Gold. Except of course, I can’t get into the Account bit on my Xbox because I get another error message. I forgot to write that number down though. Clearly Live was suffering some problem, although the status for Live didn’t show any issues, so I left it for half an hour.

I came back to the console and tried to purchase the free (note the word “free”) month’s Gold again. This time, before the option of “confirm” even appears, I get this error code: 80190128. The suggestions to fix this were to delete my cache (so I did that) and redownload my profile (and that too). Obviously these didn’t work.

I went back to the billing problem. My 360 still wouldn’t let me access that section of my profile, but xbox.com would. I added both my card and my Paypal account, restarted my 360 and tried again.

83820065!

(At this point, someone at Microsoft shouted House! and won a fluffy Blinx the Timesweeper cuddly toy)

This new error code concerns problems with billing and stuff. Oddly, it comes up before I get the chance to confirm my free (note the word “free”) month’s Gold “purchase”, but doesn’t come up if I get that far buying an actual game. I went through the list of “fixes”, stopping short of actually calling my bank because that seemed ludicrously unnecessary especially since I also had PayPal set up and a pile of credit already on my account. For a free purchase, remember. I removed my card details – from the 360 itself, as that section of it then magically started working – but that didn’t help, and then removed PayPal too. Still I got the error code 83820065. I gave up.

Trawling the internet and Twitter, it seems over the last month there have been one hell of a lot of people who have been offered this free (note the word “free”) month’s Gold membership but haven’t been able to take Microsoft up on their suspiciously broken deal. Most have been getting some or all of the same error messages as me, but I can’t find a single person who has had the problem resolved. It looks to me like the offer shouldn’t appear for me or these other people, but it does, and because it isn’t designed for me to access, I can’t “buy” it.

I put this to the Xbox Support online chat, and they told me I certainly should be able to claim the free (note the word “free”) month. They couldn’t help further, as they couldn’t see a reason for it not working and suggested trying again later (which didn’t work) or use another payment card (I don’t have any others), in addition to the steps I’d already been through.

The deal on Forza ran out soon after these problems so I ended up missing out on it. I’d probably never play it anyway, no matter how good, as the 360 is pretty much dead to me these days. Goodnight, sweet prince.

Notes:

  1. By “naturally”, of course, I mean I had to change a load of settings in my Microsoft Profile and remove my credit card from my account, otherwise the swines would renew it automatically.

Selling Games

Regrets? I have just one.

(This suggestion provided by @xexyzx)

Have you ever sold a game? If so, why?

I’ve always maintained that I have never actually sold any games, ever, aside from one which I traded in (more on that later), but I when I sat and had a proper think about it I remembered that wasn’t actually true: I have sold games before. A long time ago.

When I asked for Sega Mega Drive for Christmas, my parents said I could have one if I paid for half of it. In order to make some money to do this, I held a garage sale and sold some of my stuff. Not a lot of stuff, and unimportant stuff (to me) at the time, but crucially it included some games. I can’t remember any of them. There was a small number of Spectrum tapes, in a box almost exactly like this:

Cassette Case
Image from here

I think most of them were probably Crash or Sinclair User cover tapes. I kept all my Your Sinclair ones, but never had any affection for the other, lesser, magazines so they were probably those that went.

In addition, I sold what I would later realise was some variant of the Magnavox Odyssey 2, which I’d picked up not that long previously from a carboot sale, with a couple of games. One was some sort of Pac-Man clone, but I don’t recall the other. Possibly a space shooter? It’s likely. I’ve since bought an Odyssey 2 (or rather, a Philips G7000) again though.

Anecdote: The Odyssey 2 was sold to a neighbour, who called me round a few days later to complain the console had stopped working. I assumed it’d be something like a cable was unplugged or they needed to retune their TV (ah, RF!) or something, but on arriving I just couldn’t figure it out. The power was working, it appeared to be outputting something to the TV, but neither game cartridge actually operated correctly.

I asked if it had broken while they were using it, or had they just turned it on and it hadn’t worked, and the dad of the family replied with “Warl, they war 1 playun it and ee (gestures to one of the kids) poured cahfee 2 in the ‘ole there (points at cartridge slot). War that that than?”.

Yes. Yes that war.

Anyway, the game that I had remembered I’d traded in I’ve lamented about here, there and everywhere for many years. It remains the only game I have ever regretted buying and, paradoxically, also the one I regret selling. I’ve since bought it again. Which game?

World of Illusion

World of Illusion for the Sega Mega Drive. When it came out, I’d just reached £45 in my pocket money savings and because it had some fantastic reviews, and I hadn’t yet realised that all 16bit Disney games were terrible 3, I bought it from a local games shop (remember them? All gone now) without a second thought.

Within 4 hours of getting it home, I’d rinsed it.

One of the big selling points of World of Illusion was that it was two player, but also that you could play as Mickey or Donald separately (with slightly different levels for each). I sat down and completed it on my first go with Mickey. Then I did the same with Donald. “Well this is a bit too easy,” I thought to myself for probably the first time ever with a game.

I then played two player with a friend who’d just watched me play through it alone twice. And even though he was useless, we finished it in co-op on our first try together too. I was terribly, terribly disappointed. The game was so easy, it was ruined.

Just for fun (because I’d had none), I decided to play it in two player again, only on my own. I controlled Mickey with my hands, and Donald with my feet. And again, completed it on my first attempt. I was almost in tears at all that pocket money being utterly wasted on such utter crap. £45 for less than 4 hours of gameplay.

So I took it right back to the shop and traded it in for the cheaper (they wouldn’t just let me have a refund, sadly) Lemmings. A game which lasted me years and I wish I’d bought in the first place.

I never sold a game after that. But boy did I buy a lot.

(Featured image is from here, is unmodified, and used under this licence)

Notes:

  1. Norfolk, innit
  2. Norfolk for coffee
  3. They are, this is a Fact

EE’s missing Fair Use Policy

Devoid of “Ee by gum” and Bacon references.

Last month, I was in London for a couple of days and while I was there I used my phone’s data much more than I would normally. With no wifi, and because I was using Facetime to speak to my family, I quickly racked up over a gig of data used. Not a problem, because my contract is an unlimited data one.

What’s that, you say? EE don’t offer unlimited data packages? You’re right. But my contract is quite an old T-Mobile one, and offers “unlimited internet access”. Note the quotes – I’ll be returning to them.

Soon after I came home, I got a text message from T-Mobile telling me I had hit my data limit:

You’ve exceeded your fair use policy for this month. Unfortunately you will now only be able to browse and email. Other services such as streaming and downloading will be blocked for the rest of the calendar month. We will soon give you the ability to purchase internet boosters to enable you continue to stream and download until your new allowance starts

There’s a fair use policy? I don’t remember such a thing when I signed up for my contract, but OK, maybe there is and I missed it. Surely “unlimited” means unlimited though, yes? I’m sure there were rules about this sort of thing set up a while ago. Whatever though, they stopped me from being able to stream media or download anything over my phone’s data connection. It wasn’t really a problem as it was only for a couple of days, I was back home with wifi, and I don’t often stream or download on my phone anyway.

Something stuck in my craw though: the Fair Use Policy. I wanted to check exactly what this said, but none of the paperwork or emails from T-Mobile from way back when explain it anywhere. When checking the wording of the above text message from them, I noticed another message I’d missed from a few days before:

We’ve noticed that you’ve reached 80% of your fair use policy this month. For more details on our policy, what happens when you reach 100% and how to manage your data usage please visit http://m.t-mobile.co.uk/m/fairusagepolicy/ It’s free to access

It may well be free to access, but it doesn’t work. So the emails they send don’t have the Fair Use Policy, the paperwork doesn’t, their text message links to a non-existent page, and even when I checked my account online I couldn’t find anything anywhere. Searching the internet, and having a moan at them on Twitter, I found this page which links to this document, which states:

All other plans
Subject to a fair use policy set out in your plan’s terms and conditions.
Existing customers can find details of their fair use policy here: http://e-gain.s3.amazonaws.com/external/content/T-Mobile/Price-plans-and-cost/T-Mobile%20Traffic%20Management%20for%20Handset%20January%202013.pdf

That link, of course, just redirects to EE’s help pages which in this case are of no use at all. I decided to call EE.

The person I spoke to was very apologetic but he couldn’t provide me with a copy of their Fair Use Policy. He could see I’d hit my limit (which is 1.5GB a month, it turns out) but couldn’t see why that was my limit. He tried to suggest I shouldn’t be on this contract as it was too cheap (it was cheap – that’s why I got it and am still on it), couldn’t explain why “unlimited internet” only means “unlimited browsing and email”, and then tried to upsell worse EE contracts to me and then offered me home broadband and all sorts of other stuff. Not helpful.

Immediately after coming off the phone I was spammed with 5 text messages from EE and T-Mobile, asking me to do a survey and trying to sell me more stuff. I filled in the survey and said how I’d not got the answer I was after and then got spammed. I then complained to EE on Twitter again about how this didn’t help and they escalated it as a formal complaint.

A few days later, I got a phonecall from EE to say they had picked up my case and someone from their team would contact me again in a few days to try to resolve this. Someone did ring, and I talked with them for a while about the problem. She was helpful, and said she was sure she’d be able to find the Fair Use Policy I wanted to look at, and she agreed that yes, if I signed up for a contract and said I’d abide by their terms and conditions that I certainly should have seen a Fair Use Policy. She promised to find it and email it to me.

I received an email as promised, but unfortunately, it linked to this. You don’t need to read it – it’s just their terms and conditions again. In section 3.5.9 it states:

3.5.9. You comply with any fair use policy applicable to Your use of the Services and if You are in breach of that policy You comply with any reasonable instructions that We issue to You to enable You to remedy that breach and to continue to use the Services;

Again, mentioning there is a Fair Use Policy but still not telling me either what it is, or where to find it! I replied to the email explaining this, and after a few more days, I got another phone call from someone else at EE.

This lady was also understanding, but was unfortunately also unable to help. In fact, she literally stated that they would not be able to find the Fair Use Policy any more. I asked how I could be bound to a Fair Use Policy that doesn’t exist, and she said she didn’t know but just couldn’t provide me with one. She said she’d found a document which referenced it (here) but that just seems to be a badly formatted version of the one I’d previously been sent.

How can I sign a legally binding contract, and adhere to that contract, if one part of that contract has never been seen and cannot be found? And how do I have an “unlimited internet” limit of 1.5GB per month if it’s “unlimited” except there’s a Fair Use Policy that sets it at 1.5GB but nowhere does it say this AND NOBODY CAN FIND THE BLOODY THING ANYWHERE? It’s an utterly boggling situation. I don’t really mind there being a limit of 1.5GB as this is the first time I’ve ever used that much in a month in the many years I’ve been on this contract, but that’s not what I signed up for. How can EE or T-Mobile or whoever enforce something they can neither find nor explain why they can’t find it? Where did 1.5GB come from then? it’s absurd.

Miiverse vs Tropes in Video Games

Warning: may contain nuts

Miiverse, Nintendo’s answer to Facebook (they would like to believe) is a funny place. You can post screenshots from games, apart from those games that you can’t for no discernable reason (like Monster Hunter), you can draw low-res monochrome pictures, and you can leave messages that you type using the on-screen keyboard.

As you can see from this I Love My Pony post, much hilarity ensues.

Now, way back when Miiverse launched I, like many other people, put things like links to my blog or Twitter account in the Miiverse bio section. As you would with any social network if you want your audience to find what else you do online. This was against Nintendo’s family friendly mentality, so I was asked to remove it – which I did. From then on I toed the Nintendo line like a good boy.

Then I had two of my posts deleted, in quick succession:

Your post was removed because it contained sexually explicit content. For information on the proper use of Miiverse, please see the Miiverse Code of Conduct. Continued violations may result in restrictions on your use of Miiverse.

Sexually explicit? Oh yeah. It was Bayonetta. That’d do it.

Bayonetta is a game made by Platinum which features a witch with glasses and long legs and has guns in her hands and guns on her feet. Also, her clothes are made of her hair and various fighting moves involve that hair morphing into fists and demons and stuff, leaving her temporarily naked – albeit with nothing important actually visible due to “art lines” and camera angles. Because she’s a woman in a video game, she walks in a sexy manner, talks in a sexy manner, and kills monsters with upside down heads and tentacles in a sexy manner, posing in various sexy poses while the camera often tries to “capture the moment” in a sexy way. Yes, it’s sexualising women but the game is fun despite all the sexy stuff. And she’s a strong female character? I don’t know the rules. I digress.

The point is this: it’s a game with inherent sexual overtones, and even though Nintendo have 1) the ability to deny screenshots from certain games appearing on Miiverse entirely (see Monster Hunter), and 2) would be able to lock off – and certainly should lock off – access to adult games when children access Miiverse, it’s possible to post a screenshot from Bayonetta on the service.

The game provides the content, and I share that content using the authorised content sharing method onto the official content sharing network, and then it is deleted. I’m not abusing the system by using cheats or glitches to “hot coffee up” the content, I’m literally just sharing what I see, unedited and unmodified.

Nintendo know the content of the game and not only allow you to share this on Miiverse, they provide a button on the touch screen whose sole function is to do so quickly. Why do this and then complain when people use the ability they provide for the purpose they intend?

Yes, yes, yes. I know I don’t have to post the risqué pictures, but obviously people will. Why let adults be adults and hide 18 rated games from Miiverse for those not old enough? If you’re going to have adult games on your console you can’t wimp out, Nintendo. Embrace the consequences, not punish the users.

As for what got pulled? These, hidden in a spoiler in case children are reading.

Spoiler Inside Show

 

And yet these aren’t pulled by Miiverse admins:

Miiverse not deleted notdeletedpost2

Both of which I’d suggest were of the same, or higher, rank on the scale. Either go one way or the other, Nintendo, but be consistent!

Questioning my gaming credentials