Thursday, January 26, 2012

Farmers in the UK are worried about a new livestock disease.

This past Monday, multiple farms in the United Kingdom reported an outbreak of the new Schmallenberg virus (SBV). The BBC News has taken a look into this new concern.

This new livestock disease was first discovered in the Netherlands last year, and has now been spotted in the sheep populations of three farms. The farms, located in Norfolk, Suffolk and East Sussex, have had their sheep tested by the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA). The AHVLA and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) believe that the cause of the infection comes from infected midges which blew across the Channel.

Very little is known about the disease at present, but research is ongoing. The lambs which were found to be infected were either stillborn or died shortly after being born. The farmers who owned the infected animals reported that it seemed similar to the bluetongue disease, which is also spread by midges. There is question though, as to whether the cause of the infection is truly midges, or from livestock that was imported.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control do not believe that this disease will be infectious in humans.

Farmers in the region are asked to stay vigilant. There is currently no vaccine for this new infection, so preventative measures should be taken, and farmers should avoid importing livestock from infected regions of Europe.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning... the next Fable.

So I've spent quite a bit of time playing the Kingdom of Amalur demo that was released on Steam. Including making use of the convenient glitch to get around the 45 minute play time limit. This let me explore all that the limit area in the demo has to offer. And gave me a good feel for the game overall (at least of what we've been given access to).

I have to say, it's a pretty good game. A very fun action game. Hack-n-slash done very well, with some RPG elements implemented in interesting ways to make it more than just another Diablo style game, where you kill everything without much explanation.

When rated as an action game, along the lines of Fable and such, it scores very highly. Giving us a large linear world to explore, and many interesting battles to enjoy. On the flip side, if you're looking for a deep RPG, this is definitely not the game for you.

While the writing is absolutely brilliant, thanks to R.A. Salvatore's contributions... the way the game is designed, all the story and plot is essentially optional. You can easily skip all conversations and just run around killing everything, progressing quite easily. However you can't do the opposite. There's no "non-combat" route through this game. The best you get is the occasional option to skip a small fight here and there, though you're forced into 99% of the battles in the game.

There's not really much in the way of character options. You have one type of character to play as, the combat god. All your skills are essentially just a choice of HOW you're going to run around and kill everything in sight. While the game supposedly offers you the classic "warrior/thief/mage" selection, they all play mostly the same. The mage will run around smashing enemies with a staff instead of a sword, but the play style is mostly the same. The thief can sneak around (as can the warrior and mage), but combat with daggers or a bow will work the same as for everything else. All in all, the character options are very disappointing, and lack much depth.

The combat system itself is decent. Very similar to Devil May Cry or God of War. Where you string together combos with your two equipped weapons. As you level, you unlock skills which expand your combo selection. Though honestly, relying on the basic attack-stun two hit combo will get you easily through most encounters. So if you're not good at stringing together big combos, you can survive with minimal action skill.

Back to the story. The world is beautifully designed, and many of the larger story elements are just as beautifully written. Many characters unfortunately have very little story or background to them, and just seem to be there to serve as filler for the world. And there's not too many who you'll really get attached to beyond the main cast.

Quests generally are very linear, and involve you going to a place, killing everything there, and coming back to the quest giver. Now and then a quest might have some options to it, usually the typical "nice guy or jerk" options. But for the most part, your decisions have no real impact on the world. You can cause the slaughter of a town, betray people left and right... and you'll still get praised as a hero. Even being caught committing a crime in a town only lasts until you leave the town. After which you can stroll back in as if nothing ever happened. This is quite disappointing.

Overall, if you're looking for a good action-RPG along the lines of Fable or Jade Empire, this game should fit well in that niche. Like most modern games, it's been dumbed down to accommodate the casual gamers of today who have very little experience with depth in their games. But it's still quite enjoyable. If you're looking for a deep RPG, move on, because you won't find it here.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

India might be facing a livestock disease crisis.

The project directorate on animal disease monitoring and surveillance in Bangalore has spread the warning through The Telegraph in Calcutta, India. The Telegraph has released an article on this issue today.

According to the directorate, who have made a study using information gathered over the past 25 years, an outbreak is due to hit Northeast India in February and March of this year.

The affected region consumes about 50 per cent of the country's pork. They are facing the threat of swine flu, haemorrhagic septicaemia, black quarter and foot-and-mouth disease. The directorate is working with the government to try and take all possible steps to combat these outbreaks. It is their hopes that by ensuring such information and warnings are readily available, outbreaks such as the ones predicted can be contained and even prevented.