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R. A. S. Brown "Raymondo" (Derby, UK)

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The Jupiter Theft
The Jupiter Theft
by Donald Moffitt
Edition: Unbound

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well told Rama like tale, 5 May 2004
This review is from: The Jupiter Theft (Unbound)
I read this book years ago and loved it.
A huge space ship comes hurtling into the system on destruction course but surprisingly changes course and stops at Jupiter. We inquisitive humans send out our own manned craft to investigate.
Of course the aliens too, are curious beings and it's not long before the human crew are taken aboard the craft. Once there, the humans learn to communicate with the 'singing' aliens and eventually learn why they have come to our solar system. They also discover an amazing fact, which the aliens themselves don't seem to realise.
The novel is derivative and Moffitt seems inspired by Arthur C. Clarke's work such as Rendezvous with Rama and The Sentinel.
Still, it's a good story and should be of interest to anyone who likes hard sci-fi first contact novels.


Rendezvous With Rama
Rendezvous With Rama
by Sir Arthur C. Clarke CBE
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You can't afford not to read this!, 4 May 2004
This review is from: Rendezvous With Rama (Paperback)
This is without doubt one of the greatest sci-fi novels of all time and you can read it in one sitting.
I loved every bit, from the puzzling astronomical observations when Rama is first spotted in the solar system, to the eventual exploration of the spaceship by the human investigators. There are other things I’d like to highlight but that would spoil the fun for the reader.
It’s one of those books every wannabe sci-fi novelist wishes they had written. Fantastic - literally!


Gateway (S.F. MASTERWORKS)
Gateway (S.F. MASTERWORKS)
by Frederik Pohl
Edition: Paperback

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Space Adventure!, 4 May 2004
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Probably like many other Amazon customers, I too am trying to read the Millennium SF Masterworks series. Gateway, a double award winner, is quite rightly part of the series.
Trust me, this is no average novel and anyone who says it is, is not widely read in the genre.
Robinette (Bob) Broadhead goes to Gateway, an ancient alien asteroid base, with old preprogrammed interstellar craft, located near Venus. People use their life savings to go there, learn about planetary exploration, jump in a ship and take their chance to see what fantastic alien treasures they may find .
For a few, it is the key to vast wealth. For many more, it is a one way trip to hell.
I admit it is a slow start and many of today’s more action orientated readers won’t like the pychobabble therapy that Bob goes through. It is very intense. I understand Pohl went through therapy himself which might explain the detailed conversations.
But once Bob and his training group start going on the missions, the excitement and risk of adventure kicks in. And then there’s the mystery of the Heechee. Who were they and where are they now? Were they a bunch of tourists who liked to see the sites of the Galaxy, which included solar systems with life such as ours? Who knows? There are answers in the sequels but do you really want to know? I don't - better that way.
Great stuff!


Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (Xbox)
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (Xbox)

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Landmark Game!, 18 Feb. 2004
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is a tour de force in interactive gaming.
I’ve played quite a few single player role-playing games in my time, but none have been as instantly immersive as KoToR, as it is known. It seems more like taking part in an interactive novel rather than playing a game.
There is a central story, which requires your character to carry out extensive missions on a number of worlds. There are also lots of side missions which help towards solving the main mission. You have group help from Jedi, droids and other sidekicks. All your sidekicks have a long and detailed personal history that they will tell you about.
The game has real atmosphere. Every character in the game has a voice, or beep, in the case of droids. Settlements have background chatter and machine hums, whereas outside environments have more natural noises from the local wildlife.
And to top it all, there is plenty of Stars Wars Lore to get your head round.
It’s not all perfect.
The Xbox struggles a bit with the graphics when a lot is going on.
The extensive use of Dungeons & Dragons stats and modifiers is probably a bit overwhelming for casual role players. A bit of dumbing down would help, as this is not meant to be a hardcore role-playing game.
Finally, I would like to have seen a bit more variety in the character models and some of the voices.
But these are minor quibbles. This is without doubt a landmark game and will probably lead to a whole host of new highly interactive games.


Dungeons and Dreamers: The Rise of Computer Game Culture from Geek to Chic (One-off)
Dungeons and Dreamers: The Rise of Computer Game Culture from Geek to Chic (One-off)
by Brad King
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great, except for the 'out of place' sections, 17 Feb. 2004
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This book was, on the whole, a good read but I did wonder why some things were in it.
It starts out as an excellent account of the history of computer role playing games, starting with the pen and paper games and then on to the early multi-user dungeon (MUD) computer games. It details the struggle to launch Ultima Online, the first of the big massively multi-player online role-playing games (MMORPGs), and looks at Everquest and Sony Online Entertainment’s entry into the genre. It finally ends with the announcement of the proposed launch of Star Wars Galaxies showing how computer role-playing community was merging with the big entertainment brands.
All this is great and very interesting and makes you appreciate the effort that people like Richard Garriott the creator the Ultima series had to go through to move computer role playing games on from a hobbyist activity to mainstream entertainment.
My only issue though, was what were the chapters about Quake and computer games causing violent behaviour doing in the book? My guess, as other reviewers have said, is that it was to widen the appeal of the book away from just role-playing anoraks. But it doesn’t work makes the book feel disjointed.
I wanted more golden nuggets of info like how some players set up a theatre group in Ultima Online and how one guy role-played a thief a bit too convincingly for Garriott. There wasn’t even a detailed account of the biggest event in online gaming when another thief killed Garriott’s own character Lord British causing outrage and a life ban for the player. This is the stuff that there should have been more of, rather than the boring accounts of how good some people were at Quake.


EverQuest New Dawn: The Planes of Power UK/US Edition.
EverQuest New Dawn: The Planes of Power UK/US Edition.
Offered by RAREWAVES
Price: £2.61

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Still the benchmark but running out of legs, 27 Oct. 2003
I’ve played quite a few online role playing games over the last year and even reviewed some on Amazon but it was Everquest that got me into the scene.
In many ways Everquest is not a user friendly game. I remember when I first started with my Shadowknight character, my starting scroll said to follow a trail of bones to my non-player character guild master and give him the scroll. It took me hours to find this most unimpressive trail of bones, even though I had been walking passed it for ages. I just didn’t recognise it. It looked like general debris. I still had trouble finding my guild master because I didn’t realise that I had to walk through walls to do it. It’s a trial and error job at first. When I tried to talk to my guild master, I intuitively left clicked on him and nothing happened because he was waiting for me to type ‘h’ for hail. Great! The manual does cover a lot of this and there are countless guides to the game on the Internet but no one studies the manual when they start a game like this. Missions can also seem very vague and can tell you to visit places you have no hope of reaching at a low experience level. It’s hardly intuitive and newer games spoon feed you by comparison.
Once you get familiar with the system, however, things begin to take off. In no time you are killing things and racking up the coins to buy armour and better weaponry. Once you reach level 5-10 you link up with other players in groups and go stalk the quickly spawning orc camps and the like, sharing xp and credits. Some newer players seem to struggle with the group concept, often rushing to attack that dangerous group of Dervishes when the rest of his (and it’s usually a ‘he’ from what I can make out) group are still recovering from the last battle. They get expelled quickly. Other players can be very generous, often giving away quite valuable stuff, as far as newbies are concerned. Using magic is also great fun. There is a vast amount of spells and magical abilities in the game and all classes can use at least some. There’s nothing better than that life saving heal in the heat of battle. It’s not all about fighting though. Players craft, trade, do bodyguard duty and all sorts.
You can pick the server you want. Some specialise in player versus player combat whereas others cater for the newbies. Some questers play the game intensively with their player guilds, whilst others use it for a bit of play and chat. The game is also very international. There are UK servers but don’t be surprised to find a lot of other Europeans and Americans on them. Servers get busy and people will log on anywhere.
I don’t play as much now as I’ve moved on to newer games like Star Wars Galaxies - groan! - could be better. The new games do make Everquest look a bit old and unsophisticated but it is obviously fun for those hundreds of thousands who’ve made it their online home. Anyone new though should look at some of the newer offerings as well, as they can offer just as much fun and a more varied, slicker game play. And don’t forget the spectacular looking Everquest II is just around the corner.


Championship Manager 4
Championship Manager 4
Offered by Games Heaven
Price: £11.52

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Football Management Game Ever!, 5 Oct. 2003
Be in no doubt Championship Manager 4 is the best football management game ever. It looks like a modern game now rather than something from the early 90s although I have to say I did prefer the larger type size of the old games.
I’ve been playing it since release day. Believe it or not the original release was playable although there were some bad bugs such as score changing one which I only saw rarely. It was the early enhancement packs that gave me the most problems. I often only got a season before the data file gave up the ghost and forced me to restart. Now after enhancement pack 5, I have very few problems with the game.
The 2-D display is useful as you can easily spot the useless defender who is always out of position and being made a fool of by the opposing attackers. Having said that some of the play is far too good. Even conference players seem to be able to do Maradona type runs on goal from the half way line or blast the ball past Premiership goalies from 40 yards.
My biggest gripe is the frequency of injuries. It’s rare that your first team will all get the chance to player together after10 games into the season. It’s not my training regime as I let my assistant manager and coaches take care of that. This means unless you have a big squad of players of sufficient quality to cope in the division you are in, you’ll soon find yourself heading towards the bottom of the the table.
Then there are the inexplicable results. The number of times my teams have walloped the division leaders only to get thrashed themselves in the very next game by the bottom team who supposedly have little ability and zero morale. It just doesn’t make sense.
Nevertheless the game does succeed in making you feel that the world of football is happening around you and at the end of the day (haha!) That’s what counts.


Walking with Beasts
Walking with Beasts
by Tim Haines
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very strange beasties indeed!, 5 Oct. 2003
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Walking with Beasts (Hardcover)
Although most of us know that it’s been about 65 million years since the dinosaurs disappeared thanks to Jurassic Park, very few of us have any idea of the creatures that were living in the period after the dinosaurs but before most of the ones we are familiar with today.
The book, based on the excellent TV series, details some of these beasts describing their likely behaviour and the worlds they lived in.
Learn about the giant dogs which were genetically more like sheep, the shark eating whales and the ultra mean, hard as nails pigs. Fascinating!


Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided
Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided

37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Live your own Star Wars adventure!, 5 Oct. 2003
The professional reviewers have not been too kind to Star Wars Galaxies (SWG) but in my opinion this is one fine online game. I've been playing SWG for quite a while now and am still having fun. It looks and sounds good and can be very engrossing even if it doesn't always quite feel like the dangerous universe of Star Wars.
What really makes SWG different to other online role playing games is the wide range of professions that you can take up. There are six basic professions and they lead to a number of elite and hybrid elite professions.
I started as an artisan (craftsman), which meant I had to go out into the wilderness to survey for materials to make items to sell at the bazaar. I then decided that I needed to travel around more quickly so I took up some scouting skills. As I travelled I often got bothered by the local wildlife so I learned marksman skills. I also found that instead of waiting around to be healed by the often busy medics, it was worth learning medic skills. To my surprise, becoming a medic meant that I could earn serious credits by healing other players many of whom would reward me generously. I worked my way up to the elite doctor profession but got eventually got fed up waiting around the medical centres. I worked on my artisan skills to become a master artisan and then set up my own shop to sell my goods. To help sell them better I took up some elite merchant skills.
And that's what's good about this game - you can pick and choose who you want to be. You don't have to specialise. You could run your own shop just outside one of the big cities whilst going on missions to the remote worlds to fight powerful wild beasties.
The big weakness in the game is the lack of ground vehicles and rideable animals to take you out into the wilderness areas. Inter city/outpost travel is ok as there are point to point shuttles.
The other issue worth mentioning is Jedi. The actions you take with your main character (you can have one character on each server) can lead to the opening up of a force sensitive character slot on that server. The force sensitive character can follow the path to Jedi. So far, despite heated discussion in the forums and organised attempts to work out how to open the slot, there are still no force sensitive characters never mind Jedi. I agree that Jedi should be very rare but is the developer's system of opening up the slot as clever as they claim or is it just luck? Who knows? but some are getting frustrated.
There is a space expansion pack due next year which should liven up the game but those expecting the old X Wing/Tie Fighter style game play are probably going to be in for a surprise. Combat is bound to be turn based like in Earth and Beyond so that gamers with poor first person shooter type skills will buy the pack.
Some experienced rpg fans may be disappointed with SWG but 300,000 plus players and rising are not.


PlanetSide
PlanetSide
Offered by Satsumo
Price: £6.99

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Biggest Battle on the Internet bar None!, 9 July 2003
This review is from: PlanetSide (Video Game)
I haven't played every massively multiplayer online game but I find it hard to believe that there is a more ambitious game than Planetside out there at the moment. The best way for most people to imagine Planetside is to think of Unreal Tournament played in a virtual world the size of Everquest, with thousands of participants.
The world has 13 continents, three of which are faction only sanctuaries. The other 10 are up for grabs. Each continent has a number of warp gates which link directly to warp gates on other continents. Players can travel through these on their own or with vehicles. Each continent also has numerous bases, some with specialist functions. Tech bases allow the building of heavy armoured vehicles whereas Bio bases have advanced medical facilities for quick healing. The simple aim of the game is for each of the three player factions to try and capture as many enemy bases as they can.
The first steps of the game are straightforward as you exchange your initial free certification points for skills, such as weapon handling or vehicle driving, at a certification terminal. You can gain more certification points by getting experience on the battlefield and improving your battle rank. When you've done this you can select the weapons, armour and support gear and so on that your certifications (certs) allow, at an equipment terminal. You can try out every weapon and vehicle in the game in the virtual training area on your home sanctuary. This is useful before choosing your certifications. You can also 'forget' certs every 24 hours, allowing you to use them for other skills. People change certs a lot.
Once equipped, you can use the Instant Action function to join an ongoing battle that your faction is involved in. It's hard to be effective going solo. You can't take a well-defended base solo because group firepower easily out does individual firepower. Solo experience is also slow to build up. The game is really about squads. Squads can be up to 10 people. The best squads have members with a range of abilities such as hackers, who get into enemy bases, medics who can quickly heal colleagues, pilots who can fly fighters or transport aircraft and assorted vehicle drivers. There are always squads looking for members so finding one isn't usually a problem. If you can't find one you can have a go at being a squad leader yourself and try and get some command rank points. They are useful for gaining specialist command skills for coordinating large battles. Once a squad is formed, everyone can set off for battle.
There are several ways to travel to a battle. You can create your own vehicle at sanctuary and travel using roads and the warp gates or you can use the game's in built High Altitude Rapid Transport (HART). Squad leaders can set waypoints for squad members to make it easier to meet up. You need them. I found that even if my squad all used the universal HART system, people would often choose the wrong drop point and end up landing a long way from other squad members. May be it's because most players are still new to the game. If your squad, however, is the only one planning an attack on an enemy base, it can be delayed for ages if you are waiting for your hacker to arrive from the other side of the continent to get you inside. Even when you finally arrive at the battle zone, you can find that your faction has won already and is just mopping up enemy stragglers and the new frontline has moved down the road.
Once you get into battle the game really takes off. Being part of a large assault force, where several dozen of your faction are moving in on a heavily defended base with player controlled aircraft from both sides whizzing overhead can be quite exhilarating. I have to say it does seem harder to defend bases than attack them. Bases might on the surface seem quite formidable with their defences and facilities but once enemy hackers get inside your base with Max personal armoured troops right behind them, it's not long before the game is up.
When you die you have the option of respawning at a nearby friendly base or a mobile respawn station. Sometimes there may be no respawn points on the continents and so you have to go all the way back to sanctuary, leaving your squad members to fight it out on their own until either you can get back or they get wasted.

It's worth mentioning the vehicles, many of which can carry several players allowing, say, one to be a driver, a couple of others gunners and the rest mere passengers. The airborne Galaxy troop aircraft can fly whole squads plus a small vehicle into battle. If you are on an aircraft or ground vehicle you view the battle from its perspective. Impressive!
There is one busy European server and four American ones, each with a 5,000-player limit. If one faction becomes too numerous on a server, the game offers enticements such as health bonuses to encourage new players to join one of the other factions.

I think Planetside is a good game but it needs expanding, as I can't see people paying to fight the same battles month after month. Gamers need to feel that the battles are worth fighting. Defending towns full of player owned houses, apartments and stores would be more meaningful than the anonymous bases.
Beware, the computing demands of Planetside are severe! The graphics are nothing special so it must be the sheer activity causing the problems. My AMD 2000 system with 512 Mb Ram and DSL connection struggles to run the game at all when lots of players and vehicles are all gathered within a very small area.


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