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Archive for September, 2008

Chess again – a road to improvement

The recently published new version of the chess engine Rybka has raised my interest in chess again. As I have learned the hard way, first I have to put one of my other hobbies aside to be able to fully concentrate on something new. This means that I won’t do much reading in the next weeks to come.

My ultimate goal is to make some progress and to play better chess. The first step is to read my chess teaching books from the beginning to the end, starting with Logical Chess: Move by Move. It explains every move in detail and gives good lessons in chess strategy. However, as other reviewers have pointed out, the analyses are not perfect. I use my Pocket PC to enter all moves and check why other moves won’t work. Already in the first game I was curious how the winning plan for Black would look like and let some chess engines play it out. The funny thing was that Rybka won all games as black and white. Computers seem to miss something here and I am glad that Rybka has enough chess knowledge to make sense of the position.

As I don’t have a human trainer it’s even more important to understand how to work with a computer as partner. This is explained in an excellent way in the book Modern Chess Analysis, which I read in parallel to improve my dealing with Rybka.

Besides studying chess books I will work through chess puzzles to memorize important patterns. Convekta has ported their good programs to the Pocket PC so I can use them while sitting on the couch. If you have family you will love the social aspect of it, believe me.

When I feel confident enough I will start to play a game or two but this requires that I pick an opening first. Any suggestions what a beginner should play?

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Drakensang – a RPG?

Nowadays I don’t have much time to play big computer role playing games (CRPGs) but I still follow the news and I was kind of excited to see the new Drakensang coming out. I went to my local DVD rental shop and gave it a try.

What a disappointment. There is always the discussion whether a computer RPG can be a role playing game. You are not completely free in your decisions, which limits the way how you play a character. A good game will give you the illusion that you are free to do whatever you want and that you have to suffer the consequences.

Let’s enter Aventuria. Usually the first step, which can take from minutes to hours, is to create your character or party. You distribute the skills and shape it to your liking. In Drakensang, your choices are very limited and you can only select between a couple of predefined characters.

The story starts conventional: the road to the city is blocked and you have to do some quests. The graphic is nice, even on my system. At a big surprise comes that only the first sentence of text is spoken, the rest is just plain text. Oh boy, this was okay in 2003 but not in 2008! The next annoyance is the way how your character gets the quests. He/she overhears something and cries “Here! I can help you! Let me help!”. In the dialog that follows there is no choice to behave good or bad or something in between. It’s all straightforward and in less than 5 minutes you have collected a good bag of quests including your first companion.

After one hour I stopped playing and decided that it is not for me. I never had the feeling that I played an actual role. In another review I read that you can pickpocket every character without any negative impact. You can break all chests in the houses and nobody will throw you out or call for the guards… Maybe it’s just me but instead of wasting my time with such a game I rather carry it back to the rental store. I rather re-install the good old Planescape Torment one more time.

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