My Trip to New Zealand: Day 1-Day 2 (Waitomo Caves, Hobbiton)

Yes, I know I said I’d be posting in the weeks ahead, and it’s not almost two weeks since I last published a post on this blog. Unfortunately, life decided to get involved, and I’ve had to move at very short notice. I’m just settling down now into the new place, so I have the time to spend a bit of time with a (metaphorical) pen in hand. So, here we have at the first post on my trip to New Zealand, over a month later now.

Our trip to New Zealand began in Auckland. We arrived at approximately 3pm at the international airport, and from there we picked up our rental car and headed in to the city. The airport is fairly close to the centre of the city, which was pretty helpful to a new traveller to the region. On the day all we did was head to our hostel, grab some dinner and hit the sack.

First of all, the hostel. We stayed at Nomads Fat Camel on Fort St. And what can I say, you really get what you pay for, which in the end wasn’t a great deal. The whole place smelt pretty bad, especially the common area (I had to cover my face whenever walking through, lest I start to feel ill). The bed was probably among the worst I’ve ever slept on (a crappy sofa bed would probably rate above the bed we had). It was fairly convenient to the city though, and the staff were quite friendly. Regardless of this, I wouldn’t stay there again. From speaking to the locals they seemed to rate Nomads fairly highly, so maybe we just got a dodgy level or were staying at the worst of their hostels.

On Day 2, we did a guided tour to the Waitomo Caves and Hobbiton. First of all, to anyone thinking of doing this, I’d recommend doing it out of Rotorua – it was quite a long way away from Auckland, and comparatively much closer to Rotorua. I blame our travel agent for this, but despite this I actually quite enjoyed the long trip. Our tour operator was a friendly guy who was more than happy to give us a lesson on New Zealand’s past and present, and was more than happy to make witty remarks on the political and social climate of the country, followed by a short pause then “…but anyway.”

Waitomo Caves was a little underwhelming to be honest, but only because I’ve done similar things back here in Australia which were much bigger. The caves themselves are a limestone cave, complete with glowworms in parts. There’s an interesting history to the caves, to. Tours were originally done by the local Maori, but in 1904 or 1905 the land was acquired by the Crown, who began to do their own tours. From what I was told about this by the tour operator, it doesn’t seem to be a move than anyone is particularly proud of. In 1989, the cave was returned to the descendants of its original owners, many of whom help with the tours to this day.

From the Waitomo Caves we headed to Hobbiton, which is the thing I’d really been interested in. I’m a bit of a Lord of The Rings nerd (though as I love both but personally prefer the movies to the books I suppose I can’t really say that after all), and from what I was thinking before leaving Australia, this was to be my favourite attraction of the trip. It certainly didn’t let me down. Built in the middle of the privately owned Alexander Farm, Hobbiton has been built twice. It was constructed for the Lord of The Rings films, and was partially deconstructed at the end of filming, leaving some aspects of the film set standing. However, when a larger Hobbiton was rebuilt for The Hobbit, it was able to be kept standing as it was presented in the films. It was a pretty awesome experience strolling through Hobbiton, from Bilbo’s House down to the Party Tree and across to the Green Dragon where we had a glass of cider on the house.

The worst part of what was an otherwise excellent day was trip back to Auckland. It was a long, long trip and by the time we were back at the bus station all we really wanted to do was to fall asleep.

My Thoughts on New Zealand

I was planning to write a post about this a long time ago, but I didn’t. A month ago I was chilling out in Christchurch, New Zealand. It’s been three and a bit weeks since I’ve been back, and I planned to have a few posts written and out in the interwebs by now. But alas, my holidays were far too short, and I was back at work pretty much the next day after arriving back in the country. As it happens, now’s the first real chance I’ve had to sit down and write about my experiences.

First of all, I just want to comment on this little thing people call the “travel bug”. Up until the day I arrived in NZ, I thought it was the most stupid thing in the world. Why waste money travelling? But how wrong I was. Now I’ve left, the country, I need another fix to feed my addiction. Already I’m eagerly thinking of a new destination to run off to when I next have the time and money.

From my first moment on New Zealand soil, I was amazed by the land, its culture and people and the many attractions on offer.

Starting from Auckland, and moving on through Rotorua, Wellington, Kaikoura, Christchurch and finally Queenstown, it was an experience I will never forget. Certainly it’s an experience I hope I’ll have the chance to relive before too long.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be writing a post on each of the cities and towns I stayed at during the visit, but at this stage I just wanted to touch base after months of nothing before I get started on the hard stuff. I’ll be starting with Auckland and moving on from there.

The washup for GMG over Watch_Dogs

This is the last time I’m going to write about what happened yesterday with the keys for Watch_Dogs.

There is perhaps a misunderstanding on the part of GMG. The belief they seem to be projecting is that the issue with what happened is that the keys were late.

I would say for the vast majority of dissatisfied customers, the issue was not due to the lateness of the keys. Simply, we expected more in terms of communication from the company. The few pieces of communication put out my staff were incorrect to what actually happened in the end. I make no secret of the fact that I’ve been a huge fan of GMG for a while now. Perhaps it’s because of this that I’m so disappointed at what has gone down. But what’s wrong with holding a company to the same high standards that they’ve proven time and time again that they can deliver on. I see nothing wrong with this.


Yes, there’s been (two!) apologies (see above) and yes the players affected have been given a “Sorry Pack” of games for our trouble.

I’m not satisfied with a “Sorry Pack” or an apology. While the free (mediocre) games was a nice touch, there was only one thing I really wanted as an endgame for this: I want an explanation from GMG as to exactly what has gone wrong in their system, and what they have done or are doing to make sure it does not happen again. Plain and simple.

Maybe the sorry pack has saved a few customers. I know plenty of people who won’t be going back to GMG, and plenty of people on their forums are saying the same thing. Myself? I don’t know yet. I certainly won’t be preordering through them for a while until I know I’ll get what I paid for.

Anyway, this blog will now return to its normal program of not talking about a lot.

Right now, I should be playing Watch Dogs.

Unfortunately, I’m not.

Three potential release times have marched by from Green Man Gaming, the (usually excellent) store I made my purchase from. In the past I’ve bought everything from Company of Heroes 2 to Dark Souls II to Battlefield 4 through these guys and I’ve never had a hint of an issue – keys always came early so I could prepare to get in to the game.

So when the official midnight release came and went without a key in my inbox, I didn’t particularly worry. I was pretty much only going to be starting the download for the game and going to bed – I didn’t really have much desire to play last night after a tough working week.

The original Australian digital release date was 8:00AM AEST. Logged on at 8:00AM. Still nothing.

watchdogkeysInteresting. Well, the company confirmed that UK keys would go out at midnight UK time, so maybe us Australians will get ours at 12:01AM BST as well? They’re a British company after all.

British release date goes by. No keys for anyone.

So there’s two main possibilities of when keys will arrive – EST (which is in about an hour at the time of posting this) or PST (in about four hours).

They should have made the release date for GMG “sometime around about halfway through the day on 27th”.

It’s important to note that all other online retailers as well as uPlay and Steam (despite some technical issues on Valve’s part this morning) all have the game ready for instant access.

I don’t know if this spells the end of me using GMG, because they’ve treated me so well in the past, but I’m disappointed for sure at a game they’ve all been waited on already for six months longer then we should have.

I just want me some Watch Dogs, okay!

EDIT 2:10PM: So, it’s now after midnight EST in the US. No key. I think the more realistic timeframe now for keys is when people actually come in to the GMG offices for the day. Depending on work hours of the guys there that could be within the hour or up to three away. Brilliant.


EDIT 2:22PM: Alright, so the Green Man Gaming site is now down. Too many people madly refreshing looking for their game keys, including now a large amount of Americans. It only gets worse from here Green Man…

EDIT 4:54PM: Reports starting to come in that keys are arriving via email. Yet to see mine yet but I’m hopeful.

EDIT 5:02PM: Key has received. I’m pissed that it’s taken this long for GMG to get sorted out, but all in all I’m just happy that I finally have it.


I’ve had writers block for over three years. It sucks, to say the very least. I still love to write. Well, I think so, at the very least. I enjoy putting words down on paper, even if it’s just writing that I don’t know how to write, like I’m doing now. The few words I manage to spit out feel good – writing about Game of Thrones a few weeks back felt great – but the feeling of knowing exactly what to write is coming to me less and less. I really have no idea how to remedy this, but I’m working so hard on it. I crave writing. Crave it.

Margaery and Olenna Tyrell

Is Game of Thrones Going Too Far to Differentiate Itself from the Books? [SPOILERS]

I love Game of Thrones. It goes back to my love of A Song of Ice and Fire way back in the day, though I only got two books on the first read through. A few years later I heard from a co-worker that the TV show was happening, and almost immediately I went ahead and read all four books that were out at the time.

My following of the show has been no different. Even events that I knew were coming, such as the events of “Baelor” (S1), “The Ghost of Harrenhal” (S2), “The Rains of Castamere” (S3), and “The Lion and the Rose” (S4), still filled me with a genuine sense of tension that film and TV struggles to do these days.

And I understand that the show can not follow the books exactly. I think I read somewhere that George R.R. Martin wrote the books with an adaptation in mind (I can’t find a quote for this so don’t quote me on it either), which would make the transition easier than most, but of course there needs to structural, character and story changes. And most I’ve seen as necessary or at least bearable. I sit down every week to watch the show legally on my very expensive Foxtel subscription (thanks Fox and HBO for that one, but that’s a whole different story), which I still have primarily to legally watch this show.

An example of a change I’ve enjoyed is the larger role for Margaery Tyrell. In the books she’s really on the periphery, and portrayed primarily as a bit of a slut lady of the night. In the show, however, at this stage at least she appears to be more on the side of good, trying to mold Joffrey in to at least a half decent king. Natalie Dormer does a fantastic job in the role as well.

The spoilers will begin shortly, so if you didn’t notice the big SPOILERS tag in the title, if you haven’t watch the show yet, I’d suggest ending your reading journey here.

Margaery and Olenna Tyrell

Let’s just go ahead and talk out the whole story, shall we? Credit: HBO

There’s one in the last couple of episodes that just don’t sit right for me. Why they’ve been made, I don’t know. To make the TV show its own beast perhaps? Or is HBO commiting the cardinal sin and writing down its audience’s intelligence.

King Joffrey’s murder? The books make fairly certain that Olenna Redwyne is behind it, while not explicitly putting it out there for all to see. As far as I recall. There’s simply the mention of Sansa’s hair net being crooked and needing to be straightened. No names are mentioned, but we know exactly what has occurred.

In the show, however, we see a scene with the Queen of Thorns openly discussing with Margaery that she was behind the killing, speaking in detail of her exact motive etc, much to Margaery’s shock. Who knows, this change might just be a result of dialogue shift from what Littlefinger talks about in the books, due to the change from the POV nature of the books to a more open and varied character set featured in the show. But I still don’t like it very much.

I’m also not entirely enthused by the change in the placement of Lysa Arryn’s little outburst to Littlefinger regarding Jon Arryn’s death. It seems as though they were trying to layer everything in terms of Littlefinger being a bit of a scoundrel fairly thick. I don’t think it pays off. Assuming the writers are going to go down the same route between the two characters as they did in the books, the revelation would have been much more powerful and hard hitting had it been placed where it originally happened in the books.

The character change of Jaime into a bit of a rapist didn’t really rub well with me either. It sort of goes against the positive changes his character has gone through over the previous four books.

I don’t know, though. Maybe I’m just becoming one of those fans that lambastes every little change from the original piece to its adaptation.

If that’s me, please shoot me. Immediately. I don’t want to live in this world anymore.


This sort of thing happens when I clean my study…

I’d wanted to look at getting back into some of The Games Workshop’s stuff for a while now, and finding some unpainted figures and a handful of still useful paints spurred me on a little.

I’m not sure if it’s the age of the paints in question (some would be more than 5 years old) or just the fact I haven’t done this in so long, but getting the paints to apply smoothly is harder then I remember, and the line between watering down enough and waaaaay too much is so microscopic I don’t think I ever ended up on the right side of it.

Nevertheless, it was fun experience. It was a challenge given I’m missing a lot of the required paints, but it still fun. I’ll probably end up replacing my paints and doing another one to see if I can improve on it. It’d be nice to do something that doesn’t involve a computer/video game console for a hobby.

You can tell from the picture I’ve gotten lazy on a few fronts (that red in particular), but it was purely a test figure. I’m not too unhappy with it.

It's fairly evident it's been years since I've touched a paint brush.

It’s fairly evident it’s been years since I’ve touched a paint brush.

NSWRS Developer Log 21 Feb 2014


It’s been a long time since I’ve put serious hours in to the NSW Railset. And even longer since I’ve spread the news with the world. Customarily I’ve ducked my head in every now and then to validate its existence to the world. Maybe this was even to validate my own online existence – in amongst everything going on at the moment I rarely blog anymore.

But this sort of passive approach to development was doomed to fail. While I’m sure I’ll more then enjoy playing around with the completed set, it needs to be about the community as well – so I’ve made the decision to become a little more active in the community again. If I can get a little coding done each week, brilliant. If all I can manage some weeks is to post a new screenshot or two then that will suffice as well. The community needs to know that the set is still alive.

So where is the set sitting right now?

HNNNNNNGH! Working with offsets - an illustrated example.

HNNNNNNGH! Working with offsets – an illustrated example.

I’d suggest in its current position the set is almost in a position to provide a barebones, playable set. Post-1900 there is a fairly complete list of engines with fairly accurate statistics as well. MUs are incomplete at present, but its simply a matter of time until these are slotted in to the existing framework for them.

Wagons are by far the most pressing issue. There never quite seems to be enough spreading over the date range of rolling stock. This time around, unlike previous iterations of development, I’ve made a bigger step out of the games toward getting a working cargo scheme going. My focus at the moment in fact is getting as many wagons and the like added in to the set as possible. Which is going fairly well, regardless of the work getting a little dry from time to time.

Then there’s my old favourite – working with offsets. Probably the same as any other coder, can’t stand them. Templating makes them a little easier to work with, but it seems as though no vehicles of the same dimensions perfectly fit each other in terms of their offsets. Maybe that’s artist error, maybe that’s my error. It’s still more than a little frustrating, either way.

Where to from here?

Onwards we will press. My goal is to have every single locomotive, MU and wagon coded in to the game, ready to go, even if graphics aren’t ready for it yet (set climate to 0). This makes it incredibly and less of a slog when graphics do come in, and allow them to be fairly seamlessly inserted in where they below.

Within the next month or so I’d like to have the set within a fairly releasable format (goal at this stage is Q2 for the first major release, which I’m hoping will be 0.2.0).

Testers you say?

Within the next couple of weeks test GRFs will start going out. At the start it may be technical testing only (making sure alignments are right, building a train 50 times in a row to make sure it doesn’t explode).  But hopefully from then we should fairly quickly progress to playtesting and balance testing as we work toward the goal of a release within the next four months. If you’re interested at testing, please do not hesitate to drop me a line.

To sum it all up…

I’m excited. Cautious, but excited.

New Blog

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged on this site. The gods of internet have clearly thought it was too long, as today I’ve logged on to write a blog post, only to be faced with a message letting me know that, unfortunately, my install had been compromised. Starting over means losing a few years of writing, but that’s life. I didn’t much like most of the stuff I’d written on my previous blog anyway. Taking ones self too seriously is never a good thing.

So this is simply a post to establish new blog. I hope you enjoy the writings to come.