Tuesday, March 25, 2008

And the four lights did illuminate...

So yesterday I got the replacement for my broken XBox (The one which died in the ring of red-lighted fire...). Kind of quick service I must say, and at some point I was a little surprised (and worried too -- the kind of feeling you get when you enter a bank and the entire staff is smiling at you and offering you beverages of your choice, almost convincing you that they have lost all your money).

I found later in the day that my worry was not totally unfounded after all. The games started normally, and I did play for a little over an hour, after which I suddenly heard strange noises coming from the console, and it went blank... I said "f..." or words to that effect, and checked for smoke... There was none. I then restarted the box and realized that the disc drive had given away, cuz for all my discs (games/dvds) the screen is proudly displaying "disc unplayable".

I must confess that this was (till date) the most short-lived replacement of any product that I have ever seen (touchwood)

And thus the exchange process begins again... :(

Monday, March 17, 2008

And the three red lights illuminate...!!

... Just a couple of days I was raving and ranting about my XBox experience of playing Lost Odyssey and PGR4 etc... Not that I believe in it, but as they say in my circles, "nazar lag gayee", which is an old superstition indicating that someone's curse has befallen upon a particular aspect of happiness which I was experiencing.

It started on Sunday morning when I tried to start my XBox (Sunday mornings are such a wonderful time to play games). All I could see on the console ring of lights, was the flashing of red lights in three of the four quadrants that make up the ring of lights. I thought this was just something normal and a restart would probably fix it. But same result after the restart. Then again, and again, and again...

I went off to sleep, a very disturbed sleep it was. Tried powering it up after a few hours (after the F1 race to be precise). It did power on with the green lights, but then froze (or hung, like an old computer) within a minute. And then it didn't come back.

Now I started my online hunt for finding a remedy to this (it was like a baby searching for his candy online because it's suddenly gone missing...), and was surprised to see complete web-sites dedicated to nothing but solving what is a global phenomenon -- "The rings of death" as it is known among the XBox circle.

Was further surprised to find that Microsoft acknowledges the same and has agreed to extend the warranty of those users who have experienced the three red rings..!!! So we do have a silver lining there...

Overall, the bad part is that my "Lost Odyssey" is really lost till I can figure out how to get this fixed.. :(

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Don't go in Go...

I had an extremely harrowing experience in my last flight on GoAir. My baggage was damaged to such an extent that it looked like it had been rammed with a hammer. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I will just let a couple of snaps of the damaged suitcase do the talking --

Bag_1 Bag_2


And as if to rub salt on our wounds, the GoAir team at the airport offered us the princely sum of Rs. 700 as a reimbursement for this loss, indicating that somewhere in their policy they have a rule which allows them to provide Rs. 200 per kg of the empty baggage, if the baggage is damaged beyond repair. There are three sides to this --

First of all, it surprises me to think that an organization could have a policy for reimbursing only for the weight of the empty baggage, when what a passenger checks in, is of course the suitcase with some stuff inside (duh, really...).

Secondly, till date I couldn't find this phrase of "empty baggage" written anywhere in their T&C on the GoAir website.

And thirdly, there has to be some correlation between what is offered as a compensation to the original price of the product. The suitcase in question was approximately 10000 Rs. and is of course rendered completely unusable.

Needless to say, all the trouble at the airport and my consequent emails to the GoAir Customer Service department have met with the same response -- falling on deaf ears. But I have taken the pledge (and would recommend the same to all near and dear ones)to never ever travel by GoAir again.

I guess the word "low-cost airline" actually means "cheap airline", in every sense of the word...

Lost Odyssey - Business skills

It's interesting to see how a video game can provide the much needed (and often ignored) business skills to an unsuspecting player (Refer the earlier post).

Here are some gems which I could gather --

1. Know your friends well, but know your enemies better. I am referring to using the right rings, accessories and items to target your enemies' special skills. The whole sequence of water against fire, fire against wind etc. is so important to be kept in mind throughout, just as in a real business, you need to target different competitors with different strategies, one size doesn't fit all.

2. Not everyone in the team should fight from the front. This is evident in the way you arrange your team's "formation". At all times you need someone in the back providing you the necessary spells (black, white etc.) to assist the party going while your front-line players wield their attacks. Easily replicable in a real business scenario.

3. Sometimes, you need to sacrifice your interests for the benefit of the entire team. I am referring to the "taunt" skill, which directs an enemy specifically at one of the players, so that a potentially weaker player doesn't get hurt. A rule often forgotten in business, where we end up sacrificing the team so that we (as an individual) can stay afloat.

4. Attack the core. There are various "BOSS" battles where the most powerful enemy member is flanked by his/her minions and this boss can keep on recharging these servants, or can keep calling for more help, or keep inflicting significant damage upon your team. It is important in such scenarios to try and damage this dangerous guy, even though the more frequent attacks will keep coming from the enemy's front-line. Ditto in business.

Lost Odyssey...

Enough information is there on the internet on this amazing game for XBox 360. So I will not attempt to create another walkthrough or guide here. I would provide more of a review than anything else.

I have been playing LO for the past two weeks now, and I have to admit that I don't mind losing all the sleep that I have lost for lost odyssey.

This is one RPG of the highest order. Brilliantly crafted (yes, crafted is the right word), with all the perfect ingredients to provide a challenging and engaging experience. The story (whatever I have covered so far) is well thought-of. The cut-scenes provide a good break from the frequent battles.

And what steals the show are the "dreams" of Kaim. Each of them is a superb short story, set with the right background music. The stories in these dreams have almost have a O' Henriesh (for want of a pre-existing word, I had to come up with this) touch to them, with the right emotional content to immerse the player deeper in the role of Kaim. Because (as is usual with any game involving some kind of battles or fights), it is easy to forget the characters while you are focusing too much on the enemies. These dreams prevent just that -- your focus returns on the mission and the life of the protagonist, as he tries to find himself through the environment around him. And finding thousand years of lost memory is certainly no mean task...

Another striking aspect of the game are it's business management like techniques, while I will list out in the next post, since that's a separate topic altogether.

Of course, there are some shortcomings which do make the game a little tedious at times. The worst experience (so far) was the flower and branch finding sequence for Lirum's funeral. It was interesting in its own way, but did not provide any motivation or challenge to let me take any interest in the activity. And the final activity (in the same funeral sequence) of matching the torches to the rest of the crowd's torches, was where I almost felt that Lirum certainly didn't trouble anyone as much when she was alive than now that she was dead.

Another area where the game could have improved was in keeping battles and puzzles separate. In Experimental Staff for instance, while the player is trying to figure out the maze of platforms and levers, he/she doesn't want unnecessary random battles to distract and frustrate.

But these glitches apart, the game is marvelous in most respects, and should become an inspiration to other RPGs out there... Meanwhile, I can't wait to get back to where I last left Kaim...!!

Bring in the towels...

I have absolutely nothing against women in short clothes. I am not one of those self-confessed moral policemen who have disturbed (and continue to disturb) what I believe is a very open-minded, forward-looking equilibrium which is beginning to get established, albeit very slowly, in our societal framework.

I was however, a little surprised and intrigued the other day during my thumb-exercise routine (a.k.a. channel-surfing), when I saw a VJ (it was either of MTV or [V]) sitting quite pretty in nothing but a towel. Interestingly, she carried out the entire show in just that. Admittedly, a very different concept for dressing up a VJ. In any case most of the VJs don't wear too many clothes, so the amount of skin exposure was roughly close to the channel average, with of course the added titillation of a constantly high probability of the towel knot giving away...

And how cost-effective it is... With the shortest of dresses costing a bomb (I still don't understand how a total of 50 sq cm of cloth can cost a few thousand rupees), the towel would certainly not be an expensive item. I mean, it looked normal (and trust me, I was looking quite closely..:) ), with no signs of any gold or diamond hidden somewhere.

Overall, a cool concept, nicely carried out. Good work...

It's race time...

The Formula 1 series is here again, with the first race tomorrow. It's a wonderful feeling, year after year, to witness the action-packed drama that F1 always promises to be. And this time, we of course have another reason to cheer - Force India. Though I am afraid this might turn out to be a similar enthusiasm what we had when Narain was racing. The first few races we would have expectations of seeing an Indian driver somewhere close to the podium, but later on in the season our attention turned back to the usual suspects - Raikkonen et al.

But as they say, there is safety in numbers, with an entire team (the race drivers, the test drivers, the technicians, engineers, pit stop personnel etc.) being now a representative of the Indian dream, there is more hope, more expectations, and most importantly, more excitement, which is ultimately what the F1 grand prix is all about anyways.

Here's wishing the teams (and the race crazy audience), another wonderful season... Of course, from my side, a special good luck message for Raikkonen (who, irrespective of which team he drives for, is in my opinion the most talented driver ever -- being calm and cool at 300 kmph is a very rare talent).

Happy racing!!