Author Archives: Pete Davison

About Pete Davison

News Editor for Gamer Network's USgamer.net, #oneaday blogger, and a founder member of the Squadron of Shame. I am also English, and feel a brotherly bond towards Miles Edgeworth.

1647: Good News at Last

Those of you following my personal life will know that I’ve been out of work for a little while now after unceremoniously being made redundant from my position at USgamer a while back. As you may recall from previous posts, I’ve been looking outside the games press for new opportunities, since although I once considered writing for video game publications to be my dream job, the reality was, as it tends to go with dreams, rather different: there was no progression, no stability and on more than one occasion, I’d woken up expecting to just do a normal day at work only to discover that either the site I was working on had closed, the entire rest of the staff had walked out due to the new management being… difficult, or that I was simply considered surplus to requirements. That is, I’m sure you’ll appreciate, no way to live.

So I started trawling the job sites — always a soul-destroying experience, but this time around I felt like I was having a little more success and bit more of a clearer idea of what I might be able to do. I made use of a neat site called Indeed, which effectively acts as a sort of “Google for jobs” and began searching for things directly relevant to what I’ve been doing — writing and editing. This eventually led me to related fields like communications and digital content editing, and ultimately to the job that I today secured.

Yes, that’s right; I have a new job. Technically I don’t start until the end of August, but I’m counting today as the day I “won”. It was a hard-fought victory — primarily against my own lack of self-confidence when it comes to this sort of things since, as I’ve noted in previous posts, I’ve actually had relatively few formal job interviews over the years — but a satisfying one nonetheless. It’s also a huge weight off my mind; although I have another month or so to get through without any income, I have at least got a bit of “rainy day” money stashed away for just this sort of situation, so I won’t be broke.

It is, in short, a good feeling, not only for the relief of my immediate problems, but for future prospects, too. I’m not going to talk about specifics of the position here and now, but suffice to say that although it’s outside of the field where I’ve hung my hat for the last few years, it’s a lot more likely to be a stable position that presents opportunities to learn new things, develop my skills and — hopefully — let me build a bit more of a coherent “career” than I have had to date. I’m looking forward to getting started, but in the meantime I’m going to enjoy the month or so of summer quasi-holiday I have right now. (Although with the current heat and humidity, I predict I’ll be spending most of it indoors with the curtains shut at this rate.)

Anyway. Thanks to those who have offered words of support in the past; it seems that good things do eventually come, even when you’re not necessarily expecting them. Here’s hoping things continue on an upward trajectory from here onwards.

1646: Tongueface

I can’t remember if I’ve blogged about this before or just pondered it on Twitter — and, writing this on my phone from bed, I can’t easily check — but what the hell. Let’s do this!

I do not know what the tongueface smiley — a colon followed by a P — means. Or rather, I have the odd feeling that a significant number of other people in the world think it means something different to what I think it means.

To me, tongueface smiley represents someone sticking their tongue out, and that in turn is something that I’ve always considered to be a mild rude gesture — a childish, non-offensive and somewhat light-hearted alternative to flipping someone off. You’d perhaps use it as a response to someone gently mocking you, or revealing a piece of information that, while not earth-shattering or mortifyingly embarrassing, you’d still prefer wasn’t public knowledge.

Here’s an example of how I expect it to be used:

Phillipe: You’re putting a shelf up? Can you even do that? I thought Andie wore the pants when it came to DIY.

Pete: :p

Or possibly:

W’khebica: Hey, everyone, did you know Amarysse fell off Titan Extreme on the first Geocrush?

Amarysse: :p

You see? Both situations where, were the conversation happening face to face, you might want to actually stick your tongue out, assuming you are seven years old.

However, I’ve noticed an increasing use of tongueface smiley as a form of punctuation — a la the use of “lol”, which thankfully seems to be dying down a bit — and I honestly can’t get my head around it, much how I couldn’t get my head around how people could possibly be laughing out loud at the most seemingly mundane and stupid things.

I’m not against the use of smileys per se — I use them myself quite a lot as a means of making things like flippant comments abundantly obvious — but I remain confused by the current and widespread (arguable) overuse of tongueface smiley.

Perhaps I’m just too old to understand. :p

1645: Animus

17754480252836380672_screenshots_2014-07-22_00001A long road finally came to an end today — no, nothing important, it was just a lengthy quest in Final Fantasy XIV. Specifically, it was the quest to upgrade my weapon’s “Atma” incarnation into its more powerful “Animus” form, which means it’s now just one step away from being its (currently) ultimate “Novus” incarnation.

The quest to acquire and upgrade your “relic” weapon in Final Fantasy XIV is a pain in the arse, extremely time-consuming and, at times, very frustrating, but it’s also one of the most rewarding things to do at endgame. It gives your character a continual sense of gradual progression — particularly during the Atma-Animus phase that I’ve just completed — and it gives you a series of long-term goals to aim for, which is important to keep things interesting.

I really like it, in other words, partly for the fact that it’s everything what is effectively a “construct your own lightsaber” quest should be. Star Wars MMO The Old Republic featured a “construct your own lightsaber” quest that was not particularly big or epic, and the lightsaber you ended up constructing would often be replaced by something better along the line anyway. Final Fantasy XIV’s Relic questline, meanwhile, turns this process into a long journey, with each milestone proving to be a satisfying improvement in your weapon.

The process begins with a sidequest that sees you tracking down a once-legendary smith who now spends his days at the bottom of a bottle in the depths of the Black Shroud forest. Eventually, you track down a legendary weapon appropriate for your class, but it’s in a sorry state and can’t be used. Newly inspired — though he’d never admit that — the smith challenges you to find a suitable “host weapon” and infuse it with materia to act as a base for the reconstructed relic. You then need to challenge several of the toughest bosses in the realm — at least they used to be, anyway — in order to get various materials that Gerolt the smith requires to reconstruct the relic. Eventually, you’re left with a weapon that you’ve worked hard for — but it doesn’t end there.

After infusing your weapon with additional power through a strange concoction known as Thavnairian Mist, you can then begin scouring the realm for Atma crystals. These elusive little things have a very low drop rate from FATEs, the public quests that pop up around the realm, and you need to collect twelve of them: one each from a variety of different areas. This is the part that proves most frustrating for a lot of people — there’s not really any way that you can make the search for Atma crystals any easier other than just doing a lot of these FATEs, but from a game design perspective it’s actually quite clever: it keeps even the low-level FATEs relevant for even level-cap players, meaning that low-level players who might want to use FATEs to gain experience points will usually have at least a few people to help out, since most FATEs are designed around the assumption that multiple players will show up and participate.

Once you’ve gathered twelve Atmas, you upgrade your weapon into its Atma form. Initially, this offers no improvement whatsoever over its previous Zenith form, but by purchasing and then completing the various trials in a set of books chronicling the exploits of the Zodiac Braves (the ones from Final Fantasy Tactics? Who knows?) you gradually upgrade your Atma weapon, a tiny bit at a time, until it’s considerably more powerful than it once was. When you’ve completed all the books, your Atma weapon becomes an Animus, and it’s then that the road to Novus begins — the road down which I’ll soon be starting.

Upgrading your Animus to Novus is a similarly time-consuming process, but rather than simply grinding through tasks again, you instead make use of the game’s “materia” system to infuse a magical scroll with various stats you would like to apply to your finished weapon. In total, you have to apply 75 points of stats to the weapon, but how you distribute those is up to you — with the only restriction being the hard cap on certain stats. This means that, unlike any other weapon in the game, you can customise your Novus to be the weapon you want it to be. If you want to emphasise Accuracy — essential if you plan on venturing into the challenging endgame raids The Binding Coil of Bahamut and The Second Coil of Bahamut — then you can. If you’d rather emphasise Determination, a stat that improves your damage output, you can. If you’d rather make your spells cast just that little bit faster, you can do that too. In most cases, the combination of stat caps and the requirement to apply 75 points to the weapon means that you’ll end up doing a combination of things, but it’s still possible to specialise to a considerable degree.

I haven’t really considered what I’m going to do with my Novus yet, but work starts on it when I next start playing. In the meantime, I have my shiny, glowy new Animus to enjoy; it helps me kill things even faster than I already could as a Black Mage. I’m looking forward to trying it out soon.

1644: Contemplating My Now Not-So-New Phone

Avid readers (hah) will recall that a while back I jumped ship from iOS to Android when I upgraded my phone. My long-in-the-tooth (relatively speaking, anyway) iPhone 4S was replaced by an HTC One M8, a phone which had received some positive reviews from people I knew and trusted, so I decided to take a chance and give it a shot. It was a good time to do so, since I’d been becoming increasingly disillusioned with many of the apps available on smartphones generally, and as such I wasn’t feeling particularly “invested” in the iOS ecosystem — in other words, there weren’t very many apps that I felt particularly attached to.

So, a little down the line, how am I finding it now the inevitable “honeymoon period” is over?

Well, I’m still really liking it, and the one peeve I had with it — the fact it seemed somewhat prone to random restarts and reboots while I was in the middle of doing things — appears to have worked itself out, and hasn’t happened for a long time now. (Watch it start doing it again now I’ve written this.)

As I noted in my earlier posts, I’m not a hugely adventurous smartphone user these days. There are relatively few things I actually want to do with my phone, but most of them are beyond what a simple feature phone offers — or, in the case of facilities that feature phones do offer, smartphones inevitably do them all somewhat better.

Here’s the limit of what I use my phone for: Email. Texting. Phone calls (only when there is no other option). Calendar. Music and podcasts. Google Hangouts. Twitter. Web browsing. Very occasionally Facebook and Google+, though I don’t use either network very much any more. And, if there is nothing else to do during an extended visit to the toilet, playing a simple, toilet-friendly game like Threes.

That’s about it. There’s probably more I could do with it but I don’t really feel the need to right now, since the stock apps and the few additional ones I’ve installed cover most of the things that I want to do with it on a daily basis. I can communicate with it, I can browse the Web with it, I can take snapshots with the camera if necessary and I can read information on a screen that’s noticeably bigger than that offered by Apple’s iOS devices.

I’ve been particularly impressed by Google Play Music, which provides a number of helpful services, chief among which is something similar to Apple’s iTunes Match service, only it actually, you know, works. For those unfamiliar, iTunes Match (and Google Play Music) is a facility whereby you can upload tracks from your personal music library or “match” existing songs with iTunes/Google’s online libraries, then stream or download them to any compatible device. In effect, this allows you to take your entire music library with you wherever you go, rather than being limited by the storage space available on your phone — though the streaming side of things is, of course, dependent on you having a good wireless Internet connection either via the mobile phone networks or Wi-Fi.

Where Google Play Music differs from iTunes Match is that it’s a lot clearer in presenting its information. With iTunes Match, it was almost impossible to tell which songs you had downloaded to your phone — and consequently available when no Internet connection was around — and which would require streaming. Attempting to download songs often resulted in failure for no apparent reason — and with Apple’s phobia of error messages, there was no way of discovering what was causing the problem. Google Play Music, meanwhile, while having a somewhat clunky interface in a few places — it’d be great to have just a plain list of albums, playlists, songs and that sort of thing rather than the overly graphical, space-wasting interface it has — but at least presents this sort of information clearly. It’s obvious when you’ve downloaded something or if you’d be streaming it when you clicked Play, and, importantly, it’s easy to remove things from your phone once you’ve downloaded them — something which iTunes Match made seemingly impossible to do manually for some inexplicable reason.

So that’s been great, and the other apps I’ve been using regularly all seem to work pretty well, too. All in all I’m sure I’m using this phone to a fraction of its full potential, but it’s doing everything I want it to and it’s doing it well, with my only real criticism of the device as a whole being that the volume control buttons are in a stupid place and are much too easy to press accidentally while simply holding it normally.

1643: Twintania Down for the Count

It’s taken a lot of effort — including the effort to gather groups of people together for a common purpose — but this evening… morning… whatever it is now, I finally cleared Turn 5 of The Binding Coil of Bahamut in Final Fantasy XIV.

For those unfamiliar, The Binding Coil of Bahamut is a five-part dungeon for level-cap players. It was originally designed to be the absolute hardest challenge in the game, but has since been superseded by new content added in the three big patches there have been since launch. It’s also been “nerfed” considerably, with players going in now being the recipients of the “Echo” buff — a 20% increase to maximum hit points, damage dealt and healing received. The thinking behind this gradual easing of its difficulty is so that, in theory, everyone will eventually be able to make it through — and that they might want to do so, because it offers some intriguing story content along the way.

Even with the 20% Echo buff, however, Turn 5, the fifth and final part of the dungeon, is still a stiff challenge. It’s theoretically simple, consisting of nothing more than a boss fight between a party of eight people and a rather pissed-off dragon called Twintania, but it’s a very demanding confrontation, requiring detailed knowledge of the mechanics, what to expect from the fight at every stage and fast reactions. As such, it’s still a significant achievement to make it all the way through.

It’s taken a good few hours — and several different parties — over the course of the evening to get through, but we eventually made it by the skin of our teeth. Not before we had an agonising defeat with Twintania’s HP down to just 1%, of course, but we eventually made it nonetheless.

Turn 5 in particular is a good example of how high-level content in MMOs differs from more accessible challenges such as dungeons with lower player counts and open-world content. It demands either solid communication — which is why many players choose to make use of voice chat rather than the game’s text-based chat — or extensive knowledge of what to expect from the fight. Or, preferably, both, because even with an experienced group, sometimes people’s attention wanders, causing mistakes that can easily snowball out of control. Not only that, though, but as cheesy as it sounds, the amount of teamwork required for a successful clear is the sort of thing that really helps to build bonds between friends.

It’s the kind of challenge that I don’t think would be for everyone. Turn 5 in particular presents such a daunting challenge to many players that I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there were plenty of dedicated endgame players who never cleared it. Which is a bit of a shame, as it’s a spectacular, genuinely thrilling fight — and the perfect antidote to those people who feel that other content in the game is a little on the easy side. (It definitely is if you overgear yourself, which is quite easy to do these days.) Not only that, but my God, did it feel good when we eventually beat it. There may have been an audible “Yes!” from everyone participating when that HP bar finally dropped to 0.

Anyway. Battling that fearsome foe has led me to the doorstep of 4am, and so I’m going to go and get a few hours of sleep now. Well-earned, I’d say.

1642: Still On the Hunt

Still trying to secure a job. It’s a stressful process — particularly as I’m not working right now and thus very much need one rather than just wanting one — but at least things are moving, albeit slowly.

I’ve had two interviews this week, one of which I felt I was unlikely to be successful in but figured it was worth a shot anyway, and the other of which was today. I won’t say too much about that as I’m yet to discover what the results were — even if I proved successful at this stage, there’ll be a second interview to contend with — but it was quite a pleasant experience.

I’ve actually had relatively few formal interviews in my overall “career”, if you can call it that. Professional working life, if you can’t. I had formal interviews for when I worked in schools — during which I discovered that, more often than not, any parent governors on the interview panel tended to look positively on candidates who asked them questions about the school and how it was serving their children, rather than the usual, boring, predictable responses to the dreaded “any questions?” Aside from that, however, my work in retail involved a group “interview” that was actually more of an activity day, and my work in the games press tended to involve either being headhunted directly — always a nice boost to the self-confidence — or behind-the-scenes negotiations without a formalised “recruitment” process.

An interview is an important part of the hiring process for many companies, but I’m not sure it’s always the best approach. It’s all too easy for a candidate to overprepare and start spewing cliche after cliche rather than giving a true picture of their personality; I try and avoid this approach as much as possible, answering questions honestly and hopefully letting the real me shine through. Then hoping that the panel actually likes the real me, of course.

What I find much more interesting and useful is an “interview” situation where there are things to do that are directly relevant to the job in question. Perhaps the ability to demonstrate my lightning-fast, super-accurate typing, for example, or maybe the opportunity to show my skills at proofreading and editing. Even the much-maligned practice of role-play can be valuable, encouraging you to put yourself in another’s shoes and determine the best way to resolve a situation.

Anyway. I’m rambling and being vague, and deliberately so, since I don’t want to say too much about the jobs that are still in the running. I have a second interview for a job I went for a little while back on Monday, and I should hear if the company I went to see today wants to see me again next week, too.

Here’s hoping something comes of one of these. They’re both good jobs that could lead on to better things, and I’d be glad to take either one — but I’m mostly just anxious to get a job, full stop, right now.

Wish me luck. I need it.

1641: Return of the Hype Train

Congratulations, Bungie; your upcoming game Destiny is the latest in a long line of high-profile, big-budget games that I’m sick of hearing about long before they’re generally available to the public.

This phenomenon, which I tend to think of as “reverse hype”, is a common issue with modern gaming. High-profile, big-budget games have every step of their development chronicled both internally and by the press, and this, for me, leaves me feeling saturated with information about them by the time they finally hit store shelves. (And, in the rare instances where I have tried out a triple-A game in recent memory, they have usually ended up being rather disappointing compared to what was promised.)

Destiny has been particularly bad today, though, because its “beta” launched today on PlayStation platforms, and as such social media has been filled with two things: people with “spare” codes and people begging for codes.

Let’s not kid ourselves: this isn’t a true beta in the development sense. It’s a limited-access demo positioned as you getting the opportunity to preview an unfinished version of the game shortly before its official release. The fact that anyone who preordered the game gets not one but three “beta” codes is not generosity on Bungie’s part — it’s a convenient bit of free marketing. And, of course, it’s working.

I’ll add at this juncture that if you’re playing and enjoying Destiny, great. I hope you like it, and I hope that, as an MMO, it provides enough interesting content to keep things interesting after launch. It is, however, just the latest in a long line of games that utterly dominates coverage and conversation, making attempts to talk or find out about anything else an exercise in frustration while the hype train continues clattering its way noisily along the tracks.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who gets frustrated with this seeming inability for both press and public to acknowledge the existence of more than one thing at once. And now, having left behind the games press as my profession, it’s doubly frustrating because I’m not really in a position to do anything about it.

Thank heavens for groups like the Squadron of Shame, is all I can say. A haven of calm amid all the noise!

1640: Not Quite Dead Yet

There was a horrible moment earlier where it looked like 1up.com had disappeared off the face of the planet.

For the uninitiated, 1up.com was a video games website that was originally born as a spinoff of Ziff Davis’ multiformat magazine Electronic Gaming Monthly. It was one of the first community-driven video games sites, with as much of a focus on its community-generated content as on the professionally produced material from the site’s full-time team (which, at one point, included my own brother).

For me, 1up was a site that had some good, talented writers and regularly put out interesting features, but it was that community that kept me coming back for more. It was one of my first encounters with the concept of “blogging”, too — I wrote semi-regularly on the subject of what I’d been playing and it provoked some interesting conversations with others in the comments. This was in the days before social media dominated everything — and even the days before “don’t read the comments” became a piece of accepted, common sense, popular wisdom.

The highlight, for me, though, was the forums. Specifically, the 1up Radio forums, which were the birthplace of the Squadron of Shame. Threads in this forum tended to follow the subjects of the 1up podcasts — 1up was also something of a pioneer in the then-fledgling podcast format — but often spun off in interesting and unexpected directions. One such example was the abortive attempt by the 1up Yours podcasters to tackle their “pile of shame” — games they’d owned for ages but had never gotten around to playing. The original intention of the segment on the show was for the hosts to play some of the same game that they had on their Pile, then discuss it the next week. Unfortunately, it didn’t really take off as part of the show, but fortunately for the format — “gaming book club” seemed like a good idea — the community decided to take the idea and run with it.

The first couple of threads we did this for were simply branded “The Boardmembers’ Pile of Shame” and explored games like System Shock 2 and Freespace 2. After a while, it became clear that it was the same group of people participating each time, and so the Squadron of Shame Club was born using 1up.com’s Club feature — itself an interesting take on social media that I haven’t quite seen the likes of since; in many ways, it pioneered microblogging long before Twitter became popular, though there was no character limitation, simply an ongoing, reverse-chronological order feed of conversation that we’ve tried several times to recreate with varying amounts of success.

1up has been dying for some time, though. The beginning of the end of that site for the Squadron of Shame was when the forums were merged into “Games”, “Not Games” and something else that escapes me right now. Various disparate communities were pushed together; tempers flares; cultures clashed. An attempt at a Squad thread in these new digs was quickly derailed by some asshole with the attention span of a gnat yelling about “massive fucking walls of text” when, in fact, that had been our bread and butter for a long time by that point.

The Squad has kind of floated around the Internet ever since, eventually settling on our most recent digs, that will hopefully be “home” for some time to come. 1up, meanwhile, continued to tick along for a while before eventually being swallowed up by IGN and pretty much left to rot. The site was still there, though, with all its archives visible for all to see whenever they wanted.

Which is why so many people were surprised and upset today when going to 1up.com’s front page simply gave what appeared to be an empty directory. Thankfully, at the time of writing, the front page at least appears to have come back, and if you can remember the not-very-friendly link, you can even get to the Squadron of Shame’s original home.

How much longer will it be there, though? This is a sad and unfortunate aspect of the digital age — things that are the source of great memories are becoming increasingly impermanent. One day 1up.com will simply cease to be, and those memories will be nothing but that — memories. We’ve already lost a lot of things, such as our original mission threads on the old forums — it’d be a real shame to lose what’s left of our community in its original form, though thankfully most of the Old Guard have followed each other around as digital nomads ever since.

So 1up.com may not be dead just yet, then, but today was a potent reminder that nothing lasts forever.

1639: Analysis Paralysis

One thing you’ll almost inevitably have to deal with at some point if you play tabletop games is the matter of “analysis paralysis” — those moments where everything grinds to a standstill as one player takes ages over their turn, trying to determine what the best possible course of action will be.

It’s a problem most evident in Eurogames, which tend to have the largest variety of different decisions to make each turn, as compared to more theme-focused titles where the emphasis is more on the ongoing narrative created by your play session. A typical Eurogame provides you with a wealth of options every single turn — and in many cases, those options get broader and broader as the game progresses. This means that as you get closer to the end of the game, turns slow to a crawl until, in some cases, you have to abandon the game altogether because it’s getting too late — not a desirable outcome for anyone involved.

For the group I regularly play with, this is a particular issue with Uwe Rosenberg’s Agricola, a worker-placement game that I don’t like all that much, but which is enjoyed enthusiastically by two of our number and as such we break it out every so often according to our “different person picks each session” rota. For the uninitiated, Agricola is a game about building up a small medieval farm, and as the game progresses, more and more different action spaces become available to choose from, meaning the game gets increasingly complex as it progresses. This naturally leads to analysis paralysis, particularly as competition heats up for the more obviously useful spaces towards the end of the game.

So tonight we decided to try something different: timed turns, a la competitive chess. My friend Sam had acquired a funky little timer cube which had a different digital timer on each of its six faces, and we allocated ten minutes per player for the whole game, pausing the timer once a decision had been made so that players could move pieces and tokens around the board without being pressured by the clock.

It really, really worked! By the end of the game, the players most prone to analysis paralysis had nearly reached — but not exceeded — their ten-minute time limit, while the members of the group more inclined to take their turns quickly — usually by deciding what they were going to do during other players’ turns rather than ignoring what was going on around them or getting distracted by phones, tablets or pieces of cake — had a couple of minutes left on the clock by the end of the game.

We all agreed that it made the game feel markedly different. One of the most traditionally analysis paralysis-prone players noted that he felt like he wished there was a little more time, but conceded that this was probably the point of the whole exercise. We also agreed that it wasn’t necessarily desirable to play like this all the time, but that on occasions where it was necessary to get through games in a timely manner — playing on weeknights, say — it would be a good idea to implement in the future. More leisurely play sessions can still be had on those occasions where we have time for them — weekends away, holidays, that sort of thing.

I still didn’t win Agricola, but I think I enjoyed the experience a little more than usual, which is saying something. And if I hadn’t made a stupid mistake in the final turn, I would have probably done somewhat better than I ended up doing. Oh well! There’s always next time.

1638: Trying Again

I went to the gym today. It’s a bit of a trek from where we are now, particularly without a car, but I felt the need to get out of the house for a bit rather than sitting alone in it all day fretting about whether or not I should be doing more to get a job.

They say that doing some exercise is a good idea when you’re feeling low, and for sure I’ve been feeling physically somewhat shitty as well as mentally recently. Thus I figured doing something to loosen up my stiff, tired, stressed-as-fuck body would probably be a good idea, but I didn’t want to go too crazy right away since it’s been a while since I was in a good routine. (I don’t know how likely I am to get into a good routine this time around, but I have done it before, so never say never.)

I decided that I’d try a programme I’ve had some success with in the past: the Couch to 5k system. For the uninitiated, this is a regime where you do some running three times a week, beginning relatively slow — just under half an hour of alternating a minute of running and a minute and a half of walking — and gradually working your way up to, in theory anyway, being able to run 5km — or at least to be able to keep running without stopping for half an hour.

I’ve made it through this programme once in the past, and it had a noticeable impact on my fitness. I’m not sure how much it helped me actually lose weight — I really struggle to shed weight, which is hugely demoralising when embarking on an exercise programme — but it certainly got me feeling fitter, less likely to get out of breath and so forth. It’d be nice to be able to keep it up enough to get back into that state.

The previous times I’ve tried this programme I’ve done it outside, running around my local area. It’s easy to feel self-conscious when doing this, but I normally put some loud music on and its straightforward enough to tune out what’s going on around you and focus on what you’re doing.

The difficulty, however is that the environment outside is less than predictable. The weather can vary, the surfaces on which you’re running can vary and there are hills to go up and down — usually at particularly inconvenient moments. As such, I decided to give it a go on the treadmill today — a predictable environment that I’m in full control of, in an air-conditioned room rather than being under the blazing summer sun.

It worked really well, and I was surprised that I managed to get through the first day of the programme without too much difficulty. I felt something of a “wall” about halfway through the session, but I pushed through and kept going rather than giving in to the little voice in my head urging me to stop and relax for a moment, and before long I was at the end.

My musical accompaniment for the session was the soundtrack to Final Fantasy XIV, whose battle themes make for an excellent workout accompaniment. I’ll definitely be making use of that playlist again, just to add a little drama to proceedings.

I’m in two minds as to whether to go back tomorrow and do some weights work before continuing the programme on Wednesday, or whether to just have a rest tomorrow. We’ll see how I feel tomorrow, I guess.