Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The Judge - Zombie defense handgun

I've long been interested in the hypothetical discussion of zombie survival techniques and defensive weaponry and I have in the past even listed my favoured carry weapons in the event of the rise of the living dead (presuming I could get my hands on this as this is Britain)!

But say I lived in the good ol' US of A and could legally arm myself with firearms in anticipation of a zombie apocalypse, top of my list for firearms was the Taurus Judge - a handheld shotgun come revolver that is a devastating defensive weapon at close range. This .410 shotgun firing gun - which also has the ability to chamber .45 Colt ammunition - is, in theory, a practical 'panic gun' which can make up for hurried marksmanship by blasting a package of buckshot at your oncoming attacker.

However, as I say, that's in theory and while the publicity material looks good - with mellon sized targets disintegrating and paper targets being shredded - there has been criticism of the effectiveness and lethality of the .410 shotgun ammunition when used for their real purpose - firing at a being.

Well, I have just found a video that I think illustrates the potential lethality and penetration at close range of The Judge. There are specialist defence loads in the .410 format, specially designed to increase lethality, like the Hornaday 'Critical Defence' or the Winchester PDX 410 loads if you still doubt the effectiveness of mere birdshot. In this video, we see an impressive demonstration of the Lehigh Defence 'Maximum Load' versus an 18 pound slab of ballistic gell...

Now, I hinted at the way I would use the gun - I see it as a back-up, last line of defence 'panic gun'. There are other guns I would use as my primary and secondary weapons before it would come down to my relying on the Taurus Judge. I do like the idea that I can destroy a head-sized target with ease with a hurried snap shot, particularly in the event of a few oncoming zombies!

In particular I like the idea of small scale canister, or 'grapeshot', anti-personnel loads - like the Winchester PDX - designed to give a certain point-target accuracy while including an area shower to enhance 'chance effectiveness'. The moral is, if you snap-shot is slightly off-target there is still a chance you can clip your unlucky victim with a cloud of lead shot. Wait and watch 'the meat test' (LOL)...

Finally, it is worth considering just what we mean by 'lethality' when we are talking about encounters with the 'undead'. The idea of 'lethality' is, surely, an oxymoron in this case as your intended victim is, after all, already dead! But if we consider the accepted means of disabling a zombie - completely - as documented in the overwhelming canon of material about these creatures then we are talking about the destruction of their brain matter.

How effective a series of lead pellets might be at destroying the crucial brain activity of these creatures must be a matter of conjecture. I mean how much of their brain must be destroyed? And which part?

If we take the examples depicted in the 'Walking Dead' series then it suggests that a sharp point through the eye cavity into the brain is enough to stop the undead dead! This would seem to suggest that any disruption of even a small area of the frontal lobe is enough to switch off whatever 'life'-giving spark that has reanimated these beings. Therefore several lead pellets should, you would think, have the same effect at a push...

In the end the moral is don't rely on a near miss! A full load dead centre of the head is a far better guarantee of putting the 'walker' down. But, certainly, something like a Judge firing Winchester PDX at anything under 15 feet range will ensure that your nether regions remain un-gnawed! :)

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Ground Branch - the return of Ghost Recon?

Any of my mysterious and anonymous readers (I know you exist, I just don't know who you are) will know after all this time that I am a huge fan of the original Ubisoft Ghost Recon computer game (read about it's history at WIkipedia)...

This game was released in 2001 and what attracted me to it was it was one of the few decent action games available on the Apple Macintosh platform at the time. It allowed you to host multiplayer 'deathmatch', 'team deathmatch' and - importantly 'co-operative' games on your computer which you could advertise to the world using gateway/lobby systems like GameRanger.

This was my first taste of online multiplayer battlefield FPS.

Additionally, Ghost Recon was one of the very few games that was truly cross-platform. You could host a game on your Mac or PC and players from either platform could join the server for LAN games. At the time I was an IT Support assistant at a university and at lunchtime our office would hold Ghost Recon and Unreal Tournament LAN games between the PC and Mac sections! (Incidentally, Unreal Tournament one of the other rare games that featured this cross-platform ability.)

Screenshot I made in April 2009 when I re-installed Classic Ghost Recon (again!)
in order to get some nostalgic 'retro' gaming! It's a mark of this game's success
and popularity that even today there is a hard core of fans who still play it!
I amaze myself at some of the obscure stuff I keep! This is one of my original team
tactical graphics I made based on the Classic Ghost Recon map 'Castle'. It illustrates
the best way to move around the 'course' in order to clear the AI enemy in a team
co-op game! We would compete to do this in the best time and fewest shots!

However, what really got me to be a fan of the original Ghost Recon (and it's two subsequent expansion scenarios) was the very open framework of the game's code which encouraged a thriving bedroom industry of third party modifications and add-on files. It is absolutely no exaggeration to say that if you could think of an idea for an expansion then chances are that some clever coder had made or was making a mod to fulfil your fantasies.

One of my favourite Classic GhR mods was 'Udmurtia Spetsnaz'
which, as you can see' added modern Russian Special Forces
uniforms and equipment to the game. It was this kind of fan
lead customisation that made the original game so popular.

Whether it be a range of obscure weapons or uniforms, or a scenario which reflected a particular nation or campaign or war there would be a mod for it. And if there wasn't you could actually go onto one of teh many Ghost Recon fan forums and actually float your idea and see if someone would pick it up and develop a mod for it! In this was a really close-knit community was built up and fans of the game became rather

Anyway, this golden age of fan led gaming came to a calamitous end when Ubisoft decided that all this enthusiastic fan support should be translated into financial gain (for them) and they release the first of a series of very, very disappointing official sequels in the Ghost Recon franchise.

Screenshot from the second official Ubisoft sequel to GhR - entitled 'Ghost Recon
Advanced Warfighter 2'.
To be honest I thought it was an OK game, you can see that
the graphics were pretty good, but it failed to impress die hard 'Classic' fans and in the
end suffered because it was neither one thing or the other, neither appealing to the
existing fan base or to those who, by now, were used to titles like CoD or BF2.

Now I won't fire off a half dozen paragraphs about why fans hated the 'new' Ghost Recon games (actually I didn't think they were too bad), suffice it to say that they moved too far from the formula that had made the first game popular and - importantly - Ubisoft killed off the 'open' nature of mod access and creations.

Ground Branch - the return of Ghost Recon?
Ever since Classic Ghost Recon (CGhR) - as the original game has become known to die hard fans - was effectively replaced by Ubisoft with the 'locked down' official sequels those with fond memories of the game have either tried to keep the original limping along or have prayed to the great cosmic entity for 'something similar' to come along that would be a sort of Classic Ghost Recon but with modern graphics (literally that's what many fans actually - word for word - asked for)!

Hope for the future - Ground Branch?

There have been a couple of false hopes, like when ArmA was originally announced some thought this might be the answer to their prayers. And likewise, when the similar Operation Flashpoint rip-off game was developed to compete with ArmA Classic Ghost Recon nuts got themselves all excited. But, as it turned out, in vain as these games - while embarrassing a rather more serious approach to infantry FPS - turned out to be a little too much sim and not enough fun (and their user interface was a dog's breakfast).

What Classic Ghosters seemed to want was a game that struck the right balance between 'arcade' infantry acton games like Call of Duty and Battlefield and the great plodding 'sim' infantry productions like ArmA and Operation Flashpoint. Well, last year there seemed to be a chink of hope for us when a new game was announced by Blackfoot Studios called Ground Branch.

Ground Break was a Kickstarter development which sought funds from fans in order to get it to the release stage. It was enthusiastically promoted and supported by the largest Ghost Recon community hub - - and promised to be the game we all really wanted.

What gave this notion some credence was that some of the development team had actually worked on the original Ghost Recon and were savvy with the philosophy behind the game. Also one of the stated features of this new game was the intension to support 'mods' and a high level of character customisation...

While the original Kickstarter campaign failed to gather the necessary funds to take the development all the way through to release, as hoped, the response from fans was sufficient enough to keep the development team beavering away at the concept. And now it seems this perseverance has born some fruit as they have just announced that they are nearly ready to release "...our own Early Access on this [] until we have a build that can officially go up on Steam Early Access".

Now, this has gotten me - and other Classic Ghosters - very excited as it all looks very promising. Now don't get me wrong, I DO NOT think this is the Hoy Grail of battlefield infantry shooters, it will not blow CoD, Battlefield or ArmA out of the water, BUT it will fill a particular niche between the action shooters and the tactical sims.

In a way it is a return to a BROAD gaming marketplace, rather than the modern narrow marketplace that holds only a very few predictable gaming 'models'. And this is what excites me, that games like these - which are more peculiar to a smaller market of gamer's requirements - are made rather than us constantly being force-fed the regurgitated and formulaic products that the big development companies dictate that we should play.

Even if Ground Branch as a game type does not appeal to you the philosophy of player/fan inspired development should do...Unless you really feel that you want to go on playing Call of Duty for the rest of your life!

Link: Blackfoot Studios official Ground Branch website and forum.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Game Day - Friday's BF4 marathon

Every so often I book a day off work, usually a friday, and have a little 'me time' playing computer games and eating snacks. Last friday was one of those days and I had a lovely 15 hours of gaming, but I kicked off the day gently with a little stroll along the seafront...

Followed by a lovely Full English at Scarborough's beach-side Watermark Cafe...

This all set me up for the rest of the day. I had originally planned to spend the day working on my BF4 Assignments and Awards, but my BIG team-mate BIG-Magnus sneakily took the day off as well so we headed onto some of our favorite multiplayer servers.

I made some recordings of the game play, but - of course - I couldn't record the full 15 hours worth (as I just don't have the hard drive space). The following sequences are from the morning session mainly, where just Magnus and I fooled around - later in the day BIG-Dewey and BIG-Paddy also joined in the fun.

Credit: Thanks to BIG-Magnus for the manic bike riding episode!

It was a wonderful day, we all had a very good time and had a fantastic run of fun wins. I bearly had to edit out any ranty moments of swearing at all! :)

Edit: Highly amusing postscript to this...

One of my 'victims' - who was featured in this compilation - has gone to the bother of getting in touch with me to vent his annoyance with me and my 'noob' play! It seems that the - frankly - lucky way in which I dispatched him really got under his skin and, in his words, 'it should have been you' [me] that died instead! LMAO!

To rub salt in the wounds  it appears that my self-deprecating remarks about my own inept skills have only served to antagonise him even more as he taken exception to having been killed by a 'noob'!

Really, you can't win! :)

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

BF4 Dumbassery

I don't know if 'dumbassery' is a real word, but it seems to encapsulate my style of inept Battlefield 4 play, which in the main consists of me running around like a headless chicken! Well, anyway, this latest video test encapsulates my blends of panic shooting and noobish behavior...

I am trying out PowerDirector 12 as my PC video editor (apparently it's the best 'home' video editor on the PC, unfortunately that means it's not as good as the worst on the Mac)! But I'm getting used to it and the quality is off output is OK - though the best thing is the speed of production and rendering.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Monday night Battlefield 4

Despite it being a 'school night' the BIG guys took to the Internet to embark on yet another adventure into the wacky world of Battlefield 4. While somewhat subdued - owing to the moratorium on alcohol (as we all have work in the morning) - we put on our war face and ineptly flagged our way through several games.

I am slowly getting better at recording our in-game shenanigans and here are the latest examples of my complete ineptness and horrendous marksmanship!

First of all, here's some BIG Trouble in Little China...

And here's a compilation to my mediocrity!

I think I have mentioned how useful it is to actually watch yourself play. It is very apparent what bad habits you have when playing and is a terrific learning tool if you feel - as I do - that you need to improve.

EDIT: Something else I noticed through watching these videos was the low volume of my own voice comms. I recently got a new headset/mic but forgot to re-do teh audio settings for this in the comms software we use - Mumble.

Over the years the BIG guys have used a lot of different systems - like Team Speak for example - but Mumble seems to have the least latency. What does that mean? Well, there is a small delay from the time you speak until your voice is heard over the Internet by your friends. That delay is the latency, and bad latency can mean the difference between you successfully warning your friends about the guy behind them and them and the, already being killed.

I have not readjusted my Mumble settings so my team-mates can hear me more clearly.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Recording gameplay - keeping those fond memories!

I have recently really gotten into watching other peoples' game play online! Yeah, I know, how utterly nerdy. Yet, stem your scoffing because I have picked up a number of pro-gamer tips which have led to a better BF4 playing experience.

Watching other peoples' YouTube fragging won't necessarily turn me into an uber-leet master, but it has sorted out some niggling frustrations that have blighted my gaming experience. Top amongst these are the Windows 7 and PC optimisation tips which have smoothed out my game FPS just a little. These small improvements are not to be overlooked, especially as they cost nothing to implement.

Anyway, this has led me to a renewed interest in recording my own gaming experiences, although these would come under the gaming category of 'how not to...'!

I did flirt with recording my own game footage once before, just for fun, and have some amusing little Bad Company 2 clips...

And here is my latest attempt to capture some of my inept Battlefield 4 play...

The key is getting the right combinations of graphics and software settings to record the highest possible quality screen-footage, and then upload it to YouTube. Not necessarily as straight forward as you might thing as the key to it all is doing so without causing any sort of lag or reduces frame rate in the game itself (my playing is bad enough as it is without adding any additional handicap).

Luckily, one of the online fellas that I like to watch - JackFrags - has done a really good video on how to set up you machine and teh appropriate software so that you can record in-game footage without causing any noticeable lag...

I shall certainly be trying this out over teh next couple of weeks and will try and assemble my own clips, though they may very well be entitled 'The WORST of Milgeek'! LOL

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Airsoft: CQB 'Western loadout' firing tests

I have managed to borrow a Madbull chronograph from a fiend so it's time to test my new JG G36c EEB AEG as I suspect it may be running a little hot.

Aside from being the back-up AEG for my 'German' (Flecktarn) woodland loadout I will be also using it as the primary weapon in a European style CQB outfit. So, as a gun intended for use in CQB I really need to know that it's running below the norm of about 350fps, preferably about 320-ish.

The Madbull is the first chronograph I've ever used but thankfully it is very easy to set-up and use. You can test FPS and rate of fire and adjust for weight of BB and while I have read that it isn't generally thought to be the most accurate chrono around it is good enough to act as a pre-site guide so you don't have one of those embarrassing 'sorry mate, you can't run that here'!

Anyway, the bad news is that my G36c is, in fact, running hot...

Oooops! Around 379FPS consistently - with a couple of flyers
which actually hit 400! Far too hot for UK sites.

Bummer! Now the JG G36c is supposed to have a 'quick change' spring, accessed via a hatch in the back of the receiver so technically I could have a go at downgrading myself but I am unsure which spring to buy. Also, I am a bit concerned about a slightly loose fire selector switch - something else that cropped up in my strenuous and prolonged fire testing - so I want that checked out by a qualified airsoft techie. I will probably send the AEG off to either Zero One or Land Warrior to have both jobs done.

Here's a very quick and dirty video I did showing the JG's Electric Blowback (EBB) in action...

Like the caption titles say there isn't much of a recoil, but I have come round to the idea of some movement and 'rattle' in my AEG. It's noticeable enough that you think your gun is functioning in some sense related to reality without it's effect being off-putting. Remember chaps, while we airsofters love blowback real firearms users are constantly trying to negate it's effects - ironic isn't it!

As I said, this is just one part of a generic European CQB loadout, so aside from a primary I will also want a suitable secondary or back-up gun.

My nice CO2 CZ-75D is a bit of a no-no for close-in action as it is quite powerful and only really suitable for woodland where even handgun ranges can be a bit longer (or at least I can pick my targets to keep things safe). However, I have dug out my nearly forgotten CYMA Glock 18c AEP...

This project has been overlooked as I mainly enjoyed using my longer guns, but I always intended it as a CQB alternative gun, and actually not even as a specifically back up gun either. The real Glock 18c is a pistol which is capable of fully automatic fire and the CYMA AEP has replicated this feature, so - in effect - the Glock is a compact machine-pistol.

[Coincidently, I had only recently been reading about the merits of this feature in relation to the Battlefield 4 game. The Glock 18c is a highly regarded 'panic gun' in the game, great for noobs like myself who get all fingers and thumbs during pistol gun play! I can offset my inept pistol accuracy by spraying my target.] 

My first experience of proper CQB - at Centurion Airsoft's xxx - taught me that in very close quarters your weapon can never be too short! I was amazed, actually, that despite running my 'shorty' AKS74U that I continually felt that I would have liked something even more compact in order to get a shot from a tight angle. Hence my new interest in ultra-compact SMG/PDWs.

The good thing about most UK CQB is that they have a 'single shot' rule for added safety (so nobody gets hosed with full automatic fire at 2 feet). So pistols really do come into their own, and while I know this negates the advantage of the Glock 18c - with it's full-auto feature - the extended magazine and lethal looks make me want to give it a go indoors.

By the way, you can buy one of several different 'PDW conversion kits' for the Glock 18. These are plastic 'SMG' style frames into which you can fit your Glock...

The APS 'Carbine' conversion kit for the Glock handgun. 

I'm tempted, but I do like the look of my Glock at the moment and having a pistol does mean you can really hug the weapon close to your body as you try to negotiate doorways (so get a tighter angle as you tun through).

I ran up the batteries for the Glock and finished my day's test firing with a stint with the AEP. Somehow firing an airsoft electric pistol is very strange, despite the fact that we all take airsoft electric carbines and rifles for-granted. The chug-chug-chug of the electric motor and piston system is bizarre in sound and feel when you are used to a gas operated pistol - rate of single shot fire seems slow because of the laboured because of the clunky action and it seems somehow slower to respond than a GBB when the trigger is pulled.

The other thing is the batteries, how weird are they? I know you don't actually need a large capacity battery for a pistol but the tidgy 500 mAh 7.2v battery makes for a painfully slow rate of fire in full auto!

My CYMA Glock 18c set, with spare magazines, batteries and charger. The
charger is annoying in the sense that it has no light, so you are left to guess
as to whether it is actually charging or not!

Monday, 13 January 2014

Battlefield 4, Assignments update January 2014

BF4 seems to be starting to come together for me finally, I have stemmed my atrocious negative K/D - the PC upgrade I did has increased my FPS and negated the lag issues I was getting - and I am completing the basic assignments at reasonable rate. This all adds spice to the basic game and stops it becoming a robotic process because in some cases you do have to go out of your way during a round to complete an assignment.

I'm nearing completion of the basic Bronze assignments - think of these as your BF4 'proficiency' tests - with just the rarely played game mode and less favoured classes assignments left to do. For example, I don't play sniper much as it is my least favourite class and I have never played Commander, also playing modes like Obliteration and Rush remind me too much of Call of Duty (that's bad)!

As to flying, well the least said the better, but let's just say that my clumsy mouse driven attempts in a jet have predominantly ended in a smoking hole in the ground!

That said, playing unfamiliar classes is a positive thing in terms of your usefulness to you team-mates. When playing with my BIG clan friends we frequently discuss what class would be useful for a particular map or mission. Also, as each of us has a favourite class we like to be flexible enough to have a second class up our sleeves in the event that a friend wants to try out 'your' class for a change. So, for example, my friend BIG Dewey has been trying out Engineer this week, so I have moved over to Support to accommodate this (you have to try and maintain a good spread of classes in your squad).

Anyway, as I said I feel that I am starting to improve as a player and while I am far from being 'leet' in any way, shape or form my proficiency has started to garner me a reasonable haul of the Silver assignments...

A little tip, in case you are likewise a fan of 'badges' is that I tend to plan ahead and note down what I am interested in working on by way of assignment awards during my sessions play. I just make a simple Post It note list of those assignments that are near completion so that I can go that extra yard in game to ensure I complete them. There is nothing more annoying than finishing a session's play and checking your stats only to find that you have missed out on an award by just one kill or one activity.

As geeky as it sounds I normally prepare for a Battlefield 4 session by scribbling
down some assignment notes, just to remind me what tasks I want to complete
while playing the game. These earn me the game awards which unlock various
other assignments or weapons or dog tags (which admittedly are quite useless). I try
to give myself a choice of a few different goals as some of the tasks are better
suited to specific types of maps, so I like to be prepared.

Looking back, the trickiest assignment over the past couple of weeks has got to have been the 'Middle King' assignment. To complete this you first have to unlock the SUAV - a miniature unmanned reconnaissance drone - by completing the 'Safe Riding' assignments and then use it to make a 'kill'. This turned out to be something like a bizarre game of long-range darts as you have to guide the little plane towards an unsuspecting target and then mow the victim down without him simply sidestepping your attempted assassination!

Eventually, more by luck than skill I decapitated an unwary victim which - it has to be said - was a little hilarious as being killed by a SUAV is more than a little lame and humiliating!

The Safe Riding assignment is a Bronze level award where you unlock the
mini-UAV through completing a successful bombing raid...
Having unlocked the SUAV and reached rank 10 you can then go on to
attempting the Middle King assignment. This is actually a Gold level
mission so is, technically, supposed to be 'tricky'!

So, then next step is to get some time in as Commander. As usual I will watch a couple of YouTube movies about playing the role before I embark on it in game - this will save time and means I am not learning on the job and ensure I make less of a 'noob' job of it for my team-mates sake!

PS - found this video of how a SUAV kill should be done! To be honest my control of teh SUAV is nowhere near as good as this!

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Frankie goes to Zombiewood, and other stories...

I had been trawling around YouTube for good BF4 game optimisation tips and weapon/class tutorials and I came across a guy called 'Frankie'. Frankie has quite a YouTube following and is apparently very well known, a prolific gamer and YouTube video maker he documents his gaming career and produces some very amusing and helpful game walkthroughs.

Aside from finding several of his BF4 (PC) movies very helpful I also had a look at some of his other game vids as he is a fan of online MMORPGs, like RUST and DayZ.

RUST - "The only aim in Rust is to survive. To do this you will need to overcome struggles such as hunger, thirst and cold. Build a fire. Build a shelter. Kill animals for meat. Protect yourself from other players. Create alliances with other players and together form a town. Whatever it takes to survive."

Official RUST website link:

In the absence of the much speculated Fallout or Borderlands MMORPGs - something I would love - I have been considering getting into DayZ as critics have raved about it. Frankie's movies have enabled me to get a good feel for the game without having to play it, but to be honest his videos are worth the watch as they are kind of a comical game play soap opera as I find Frankie has a sense of humour very similar to mine and the rest of the BIG clan guys.

DayZ is available both as a mod for ArmA2 or as a standalone game in it's own right:

One thing that comes out of all this is that DayZ is a little on the prosaic side for my tastes, like the ArmA game - on which it is based - the game world is vast but there is a little too much wandering about for long periods without very much happening. Also, there is a sort of WoW 'elves making shoes' aspect to the mundane nature of some of the tasks - but some would say that this drudgery is part of teh appeal. Hmmmm.

Anyway, give Frankie's videos a watch as they are sure to raise a smile, and you might learn something at the same time!

Frankie's YouTube channel can be found here: FRANKIEonPCin1080p

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Happy New Year! Welcome 2014...

Well, here we are. Another year. For any of you that do pop by and read Milgeek I want to wish you all the best for the coming year. Thanks for popping in.

It's been a funny year and although these are very early days I'm very optimistic about what 2014 has in store for me. In particular there are lots of interesting projects and Milgeek related amusements on the horizon. There'll be plenty of computer gaming of course, but I will be also fully intend to get some airsoft in and I want to rewrite or update some of my posts from the old Milgeek site.

To kick the New Year off I have been a very lucky chap and have had a brace for computer gaming presents this Christmas and they will set me up for the coming year...

I'm still using a single screen - and just 24 inches at that - but I simply don't have the space or the money to kit myself with a fancy cutting edge triple-screen set-up. Maybe next year.

Aside from my actual rig, which I have given a bit of a mid-life make-over with a new quad-core engine, my new gaming tools are:

A set of Turtle Beach X12 gaming headphone, with mic and in-line volume module...

This really allows me to crank up the volume, hear and speak to my team-mates over VOIP and finally end their constant complaints about the feedback I used to get using my normal speakers and USB mic set-up! I did a lot of research and at £39 they are really one of the best value for money but still have excellent sound quality. Plus they work with my XBox too.

Then I had to replace a bust gaming mouse, I tend to go through these at a fair rate - they do get some stick! In the end I got a very good deal at PC World for a Logitech G500s for £39. I do like wired, I just don't feel right about wireless rechargeable gaming mice...

Another thing is that I have quite big hands and many of the modern gaming mice are just too tidgey for my big paws. The Logitech 'G' series have always been a slightly larger and ergonomic mouse and I've had several over the years. The G500s doesn't fix wot's not broke but just adds extra dpi resolution, up to 8500. All the buttons are easily accessible and the mouse comes with it's own set of weights so you can customise the amount of friction that you get while moving your mouse. I like a particularly heavy feel to my mouse, so this feature is very welcome.

The next two items are sort of related, a Razer Orbweaver gaming keypad and a Koolertron back-lit keyboard. One of my gaming team-mates has just invested in a Corsair Vengeance K90 mechanical keyboard, at about £120 and - I know - this sounds a lot of money, but considering the heavy wear and tear gaming keyboards get (particularly when things are go badly) this keyboard is designed to cope with the hammering that's dishes out by the serious gamer. Put it this way, I have bought cheap keyboards before and had to replace them within a relatively short space of time - these costs add up!

Cherry Blue mechanical keys
However, the real key - excuse the pun - to the cost of this pro-gamer board is the Cherry mechanical keys. Or if you wish, good old fashioned 'clicky keys'! These key have a very positive feel and are designed to take a lot of bashing. Really there is nothing worse than when a game keypad starts to loose it's responsiveness, unless a key stops working altogether that is. And this is what happened to me...

For years now I have used Belkins wonderful Nostromo series of gaming keypads. The basic idea is that it gets rid of all the superfluous keys of a normal keyboard and gives you just what you need and what you can use with one hand. The trick is muscle memory, using a limited number of keys repeatedly until their use becomes second nature and not having to move your hand - or fingers - from their designated position on the pad. This all encourages a quicker reaction or response when the action begins, before long you bag the right key almost without thinking about it.

My last two Nostromo N52 keypads, with the last Belkin model on the left
(the N52-te). I just can't conceive of  playing games using anything else.

Sadly, my latest Nostromo - the N52-TE version - finally gave up the ghost just before Christmas which is why I was interested in my mate's purchase of the Corsair Vengence. The main fault with Belkin's Nostromo is two fold, the membrane keys are quite spongy and lose their responsiveness with long use. I have found that my Nostromos have lasted about two years.

Additionally, I couldn't help but feel that I needed just one more row of keys! Well, when Razer took over the manufacture of the Nostromo pad from Belkin they decided to improve the basic version and produced the Orbweaver. They Orbweaver is like Razer asked me personally exactly what I wanted in an new version of the Nostromo, it really is a dream come true for Nostromo users.

My old Nostromo - left - showing the signs of heavy wear and tear.

To cut a long story short (I will be writing a full review later in the month) the main features that Razor has added to Belkin's gaming keypad is Cherry mechanical keys - just like the Vengeance - and made the keypad adjustable so that it better fits the variety of shapes of hands that we all have.

The Orbweaver is expensive, bizarrely although it has only about a third as many keys as the full Corsair Vengence keyboard it is almost the same price (RRP £120). However, I did some searching around the web and eventually found an online store in Hong Kong that sells the Orbweaver for £80 (inc. shipping).

Now, having spent so much on a gaming keypad I didn't want to splash out a lot on a new keyboard as well. All I needed was a reasonably priced membrane board, but it had to be back-lit as I like to play in low lighting.

So, there you have it. My gaming tools for 2014. It all seems a lot of expense (a big thanks goes to my lovely missus for these treats) but when this is your main source of entertainment you do develop a attitude of everything having to be just right. And I personally find that things not being just so has a very real effect on my overall gaming experience. Right now I am a very happy gamer!