HBO's sending an email out to people it suspects are secretly Australians who have subscribed to their service using sneaky, underhanded methods of giving them money and attention. Or so says SMH.
On Thursday I'd finally decided to just subscribe to HBO Now. The price isn't great considering I really only want it for Game of Thrones, but the option is available to me with minimal fuss and I'd much prefer paying than pirating. The only alternatives in Australia being Foxtel (urgh!) or pirating it.
Obviously piracy is free and easy once you know how, but recent legislation passed through Parliament might see the risk involved rise too high. (Read more on ABC.) Plus, well, it's immoral. And stuff.
So it's down to the notorious exorbitancy of a Foxtel subscription, or edging around HBO's geo-locking.
Let's do the Math of Thrones!
Foxtel math is pretty straightforward. You could sign up for a full service and pay a couple of hundred dollars over the course of a year long contract (nope!) or you could get Foxtel Play, their online streaming service, for a much more reasonable fee.
The minimum price for Foxtel Play with the additional package to get Game of Thrones is $30 per month for the first three months, then $45 a month thereafter. You get a free two week trial if you are a new customer and adding two months will get you to the end of the current Game of Thrones season, though just barely, if you time it right.
Total minimum cost for Game of Thrones via Foxtel Play for new customers: $60 Australian.
If you're not a new customer, you need three months, bringing the total to $90 Australian.
HBO Now math is a little more complicated. Before you can even subscribe to it you need a service that allows you to appear to be in another country. I use UnblockUs because it's ridiculously easy to set up and doesn't interfere with other internet traffic, but there are many similar services. At $4.99 a month it's a good investment on its own as it will also unblock things like Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Spotify and Netflix - including letting you swap Netflix regions, if you're subscribed.
After that's set up you also need a US iTunes account (free) and a method to fund that iTunes account. Most commonly this is a US iTunes gift card, but prepaid credit cards are also an option.
Now you have access to the (much richer) US iTunes library you may want to buy other things too, but you will need at least $14.99 to start your HBO Now subscription. With HBO Now you get the first month free, meaning you will need to pay for at least two months in total to bring your coverage to three altogether - Game of Thrones is 10 episodes long.
UnblockUs for 3 months ($4.99 x 3) plus HBO Now for 2 months ($14.99 x 2) comes to $44.95 US.
Total cost for Game of Thrones via UnblockUs and HBO Now: $57.76 Australian right now, courtesy of XE's currency convertor.
The Australian dollar has been falling a bit of late, but it's still cheaper even for new Foxtel customers to go the HBO Now route. If you're an existing or previous Foxtel customer then HBO is by far the cheaper option.
Obviously this is not practical for everyone, but it's not terribly difficult and the content you get for the money is far and above that of the Foxtel offering.
If HBO really does cut Australians off when they've actually been paying, well... why wouldn't I just pirate it? I did try to pay you. Apparently my money's only good if it filters through Foxtel's hands first? Get bent.
Disclaimer: It's been more than three weeks in total, I'm not really looking for a date, I wouldn't know what to do with a date if I did get one and I seem to have misplaced my pants.
Anyway, a couple of months ago two news stories caught my attention, both involving internet dating app Tinder. The first was an alleged gang rape of a woman in Sydney after meeting someone from the app, a claim which was withdrawn days later. The second was the death of a woman allegedly pushed from the balcony of an apartment owned by her match. He's now facing murder charges, but is out on bail somehow.
But it can't all be fake rape stories and real death, can it? I decided to be a tiny bit brave and find out.
Signing up is surprisingly simple. Download the app to your phone, use your Facebook credentials to sign in and you're perusing the ladies or gentlemen in seconds. The app simply pulls in your Facebook "About" information and some of your profile pictures to get you started.
Does your Facebook read or look like a dating profile? Mine sure didn't! But it's not terribly difficult to go edit your details and pick which photos you really want to use. Changes made in the app aren't reflected on your Facebook page, so you can keep your "social" and your "dating" profiles separate, if you wish.
It also notes your Likes and Friends, so you can see if you have any interests or friends in common. This may or may not be awkward, depending on your interests and network of Facebook friends. The only friend I've ever had in common with prospective matches is my "boss" over at Player Attack. But she knows just about everyone in the world, so that was sort of inevitable.
Sorting out some matches to start chatting to is as simple as swiping pictures to the left or right. Swipe to the left if you're not interested, swipe to the right if you are. You can also hit the X or <3 buttons. Or if you have as much time to waste as me you can open someone's profile, read their About bits, look at more pictures and then make up your mind.
Now, I am not a particularly attractive man. Further, I am not particularly photogenic. So I was not expecting a whole lot of interest in my profile. In order to chat to anyone you both need to have picked each other out of the teeming masses, which is not great odds.
You can narrow the field somewhat by only looking for people within a certain distance, but that can be a little creepy when you see people out of their usual context. I don't need to know what the supermarket checkout chick likes in the bedroom, for instance.
Assuming all goes to plan and you match with someone, what now? Well, you send messages to each other through the app. Maybe about things in their profile, maybe the weather, maybe you forgo all that in favour of a drink down the pub right away. It's really up to you.
And that's where such things can be a bit dangerous. It's not just internet dating, of course. Any sort of setup where you're meeting someone you don't otherwise know can be risky and it's particularly easy to misrepresent yourself online. All the usual advice on dating or going out in general still applies; don't accept drinks from strangers, don't leave your drink unattended, don't agree to leave public spaces unless you are comfortable with the person, ensure a friend knows your plans for the night, etc.
There's a surprising amount of wisecracks over the balcony death on Tinder, a lot of people asking that you not push them off and the like. It's a little offputting, if I'm honest.
Perhaps the biggest problem with Tinder (after being murderbait) is the flood of fake accounts. More attractive male specimens might have better success rates but around 90-95% of my "matches" are with, essentially, prostitutes. Probably not even with their actual pictures. Maybe not even prostitutes and the whole thing is just fishing for credit card details. For obvious reasons, I have not tested this.
Overall my "three weeks" on Tinder has been... interesting. I am dumbfounded by the number of seemingly-real women on the service, especially in my area. I would not have thought there'd be half so many. I'm also quite surprised at how easy it would be to get a date via Tinder, as I would have thought the sheer number of options and my mediocre looks would have put me out of the race entirely.
As a dating app, it seems surprisingly good. Don't take dumb risks with strangers and you should be just fine. As a "it's 2am and I can't sleep" activity, it's pretty great as well. If you run out of people in your area just bump the rangefinder out another 5km and scroll some more. Endlessly entertaining.
If you're an Aussie and you've ever tried ordering things over the internet you've probably discovered the prices are lower on any number of things in America, but American stores typically won't ship to Australia. Why? Nobody knows!
Previously you could use services like Shipito to circumvent some of these restrictions. You get a US based address with them and have your goods delivered there, then they ship them to you for a small fee plus postage.
I guess AusPost wanted a slice of that pie because they recently launched ShopMate, where you get a US based address to ship your goods to then pay AusPost the cost of bringing them to you.
So, cool. Does it work?
What made me try it was a Star Wars themed "mystery box" that ThinkGeek wouldn't ship outside the US. Why not? I have the box now and I still don't know. Maybe it's illegal to export Death Stars, even when they're only tea infusers?
Anyway, I chucked that and some themed polo shirts in my cart and placed an order on the 12th of November. ThinkGeek shipped it the 13th and it arrived at ShopMate on... the 20th. A whole week for delivery within the US. Okay.
It then took another week to go from their warehouse to my door, halfway round the world. Arriving on the 27th means it took 15 days, which isn't particularly fast but not painfully slow.
As for the cost? If ThinkGeek had been willing to ship directly to me it would have cost around $US55. As it was technically being shipped to a US address and they had free shipping at the time I only had to pay the ShopMate fee.
Which came to $AU59.70. It ain't cheap, but after the currency conversion it worked out cheaper than the direct option, oddly enough.
The only really disappointing part of the whole experience was the lack of tracking available between ShopMate's US location and the parcel arriving in Australia. You don't get any kind of update until it's in the country and ready for delivery. It's a bit of a nitpick, it doesn't really matter so long as your stuff arrives, but it would be nice. Maybe you can track it and I just can't find the right bit?
One test run isn't conclusive but so far it's reasonably priced, reasonably quick and super easy to use. I'll certainly be using it again. Possibly to get some Lego...
Skipping around the internet consuming everything Destiny I have occasionally (foolishly) wandered into comment sections. The most common complaint?
"It's just another generic shooter."
It isn't. Read Brenna Hillier's piece on that over on VG247.
The most common compliment? It's doing something new in the shooter genre, or it's something new to consoles.
It isn't, on either count. Trion did pretty much everything you love about Destiny with last year's Defiance.
Defiance is a shared-world shooter with RPG staples like character advancement and loot mixed in. Open world events? Sure, plenty of those.
If you want to be really nitpicky they're even both set after apocalyptic events kicked off by the arrival of aliens. But that's neither here nor there.
Many of the quests in Defiance are done without ever leaving the open world and the rare times you do venture into a private area it's only after traipsing across the terrain to get there.
Random events pop up as you wander from place to place, ranging from very simple roadblocks to storming crashed space ships, fighting your way inside and facing down an epic boss. There's also large set pieces that are only active every so often and can draw quite the crowd.
There aren't any classes in Defiance, instead you choose one of four key skills to have in your loadout and then invest further points in various perks as you advance. It's fewer than Destiny's options, yet affords a little more freedom since you're not locked into one set of skills and perks.
Weaponry can be looted, awarded by quests or bought from vendors. There's rarity levels for weaponry (plus shields and grenades) and in addition to a selection of built-in stat boosts you earn experience for each weapon, eventually unlocking a further boost. While Destiny has addons like scopes and barrels as part of the weapon skills/perks system, Defiance has scopes and barrels and stocks as individual items so you can choose which ones suit you.
Grenades are open season as well, with players able to equip whichever they like in Defiance.
It's a recurring theme when comparing the two. If Destiny has something, Defiance usually does too. Often with a greater degree of freedom.
Yet ever since the Destiny beta opened it's pretty much all I want to play. Everything just flows so much better, from the gunplay to the missions right down to looting new gear. Don't need to press a button to collect my loot? Good heavens, such luxury.
Destiny's not really a new idea at this point, though it may well have been when it started development. Bungie's been dropping hints since 2009 and all that time has clearly been well spent as Destiny is a supremely well polished game.
If only it was on PC, not just the consoles. Keyboard and mouse for life, y'all.
Having already twittered quite enough about the entire thing today I thought I would break the blog out of semi-retirement for a short babble on some of the things that impressed me most from the first day of E3.
Obviously the big things were the Microsoft and Sony presentations but I don't have a lot to say there that hasn't been said everywhere else already. Sony "won" the traditional battle of E3. Microsoft put on a good show for their console but pretty much every fair criticism of the Xbox One is something Sony is doing the "right" way with Playstation 4. Coupled with smart multimedia deals, pursuing indie developers to get them onboard and some neat exclusive games and if you can only purchase one console the PS4 is the clear choice. All that could change before launch, but Microsoft's pretty deep into their particular hole, so I'm not betting on it.
But what about the games?
There were a few standouts for me, so in no particular order:
- Destiny (Gameplay video) - From Bungie, the guys who made Halo, comes another shooter which I had honestly dismissed prior to E3. The images shown prior could just as easily have been from a Halo title and nobody would have known. Seeing it in motion is a whole different thing. Beautiful lighting, vibrant colours, some interesting AI to fight, literal drop-in multiplayer, a public event (read: boss battles) system and bunches of loot to collect? Very much my cup of tea. (Multi-platform)
- Ryse: Son of Rome (Gameplay video) - Better known for Far Cry and Crysis, Crytek have branched out for an historical action fighter-y thing. The gameplay video shows the player storming a castle as a Roman Centurion, which is a thing I would like to do. The quick time events system may end up ruining this as there was a lot of "Press X to finish him" stuff going on... but it's Rome and sword and such! (Xbox One)
- The Division (Gameplay video) - It's actually "Tom Clancy's" The Division, but who cares. Shortly after the breakdown of society in an open world setting you raid buildings for supplies and... you know, I'm really not sure what the goal is, other than shooting a bunch of things. But it all looks fantastic. The gameplay video has players shooting precise bullet holes through glass and metal on cars, using skills and combined tactics to defeat their enemies and at one point a drone pilot drops in to assist them before buzzing back off to parts unknown.
Those're just three truly new games I saw that really grabbed my interest. There are no doubt more I'll see in the next week that I'll also fancy. Not to mention games I already knew were coming, like Watch Dogs.
But the one I'm most excited about is also the one there's virtually no information on: Star Wars Battlefront, coming from the creators of the Battlefield series of games, DICE. And that's all the information there is on Battlefront.
Please sir, I'd like some more!
Most every gaming site puts out a game of the year list once all the major releases are accounted for and most every gaming site gets it hopelessly, horribly wrong.
But that's half the fun, isn't it? Ask five random gamers and you're not going to get the same answer out of all five and the same applies when it's five separate groups of ill informed clowns.
Of course some places are objectively wrong, and you should absolutely tell them that. Loudly. And often!
But in the spirit of flailing a hand in the air and begging for attention, here's my not at all comprehensive list of games I thought were really pretty great in 2012.
Not every game leaves much room for exploration and even those that let you wander off the beaten path don't always have anything to see when you get there.
Guild Wars 2 has things to see and do in obscure locations, but even if it didn't, I think I'd still waste a bunch of my time exploring...
Lots of games have high score boards. It's been a staple of gaming practically since gaming was invented. Old arcade machines let you choose three letters to digitally scratch on the board beside your score and in the modern era a lot of score based games upload your result to the internet, assuring virtual immortality.
And that's neat.
But Zombie Driver stores a player's Slaughter-mode high scores on the internet via Steam. So you can see exactly how well your friends have done on any given map and set yourself a target.
The bit I really like? While playing the game your next highest scoring friend has their name in the upper right corner of the screen, alongside how many more points you need to surpass them.
It's such a small thing to include and many may never even know it's there. But I like it.
Zombie Driver is just $10 on Steam, if running over zombies while competing against your friends is stuff you like.
When given a choice between a male and female when creating and customising a new avatar for a game, more often than not I'll choose a female. My primary alter ego in most MMOs is a redheaded, ponytailed lady, when customisation options allow.
This isn't a gender identity issue, I don't think I'm a woman trapped inside the body of a manchild. And it isn't the oft-repeated reason of other male gamers - if you're going to stare at an arse for hundreds of hours it may as well be a ladybum. Nor do I ever pretend I am a lady in real life, mostly because the people who ask such things are only asking because they're sleazebags.
No, the reason I do it is because when it comes to customising a look and choosing an outfit and all the rest of it, it's a lot more fun doing so for a woman than it is a man. In part because it's not something I could do ordinarily, where I could dress a bloke up however I wanted, whenever I wanted, because I am a bloke.
But also because most games offer a more interesting set of options for female avatars. Sometimes that just means more "revealing" clothing or a slider for boob size, but not always.
I know it seems a little silly, especially in games where designing an image for a character is lost on most due to combat oriented gameplay being at the forefront.
But what it comes down to is that this:
Is much more interesting to me than this:
Maybe it is an issue that exists more in my mind than in reality. Most games do offer plenty of options when creating male characters and have heaps of clothing/armour to choose from. Yet most of the time I get sick of trying to create a guy I'm happy with and start the creation process over as a chick.
I really wanted to post some more pictures of past female characters but it turns out that, even when I do remember to take screenshots, I don't have any sort of plan to keep track of the resulting files.
Since I have a blog, I might start taking a nice picture or two of my character/s when I inevitably play more games. Maybe I'll include a little bit about whatever the game is, what that character's goals are... maybe I'll just throw a picture up.
Maybe I'll forget altogether and this will be the last entry on the subject.
I'm not a fan of "gay" being used in a derogatory fashion. Both when it's used to demean other people and when it's used to express dissatisfaction with some thing or concept or... whatever. This is not a secret, I've railed against it any number of times.
But why? Why isn't it okay to say a Team Fortress 2 map is gay? Or the pen that keeps running out is gay? Or paying extra for pineapple on your pizza is gay?
Because every time you use it that way you're reinforcing the notion that "gay" is synonymous with "bad". And therefore being gay is bad.
You may not mean it in the sense of homosexuals being bad. It likely doesn't cross most people's minds at the time they utter it. It's become so ingrained in some people that they'll actually defend their usage of the word. They think it's been "reclaimed" or somehow repurposed to not refer to homosexuality anymore, despite the prominent usage in various advocacy groups and celebrations like the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.