Friday, 28 June 2013

Devil's Advocate: Video Games

With all the talk going round at the moment about the XBox One and the various 'blunders' it's made, I thought I would attempt to find some method in the madness.  After all, Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo wouldn't be some of the most valuable companies in the world if they didn't have any business sense.

Before I start, I would like to make it clear that I don't necessarily believe any of the points raised below are 'right'- I'm just trying to see the logic behind them.

'Always Online' DRM
The facts: Several games require the device they are being played on to be constantly connected to the internet, otherwise the game is unplayable.  This is usually as anti-piracy measure (as they can check whether you have a legit copy of the game or not if you're connected to their server), but is increasingly being used to boost performance due to cloud computing.
The problem: Although the state of things is rapidly improving, there is still a huge issue with connectivity.  Rural areas are sometimes barely better than dial-up, and for some gamers the internet isn't an option (especially relevant to those in armed forces).  This wouldn't be much of an issue, were it not for the fact that even single player games now require internet connections.  Then comes the issue of if the servers are hacked, meaning even those with good connections can't play...
The company's opinion: Microsoft is the biggest disaster here, as a representative stated that dropping connectivity isn't an issue at all in the modern world, and if you have a problem with it you can just keep playing your XBox 360 and probably couldn't afford a new console anyway.  The more tactile approach would have been to explain that Microsoft has plans to utilise cloud computing to boost the performance of their already-impressive console, and therefore their online policy would be a necessary evil.  Besides that, their online policy didn't require always-online, instead connecting just once every 24 hours- a much more reasonable requirement that was sadly overlooked.
The result: No company has successfully demonstrated the pro's to an online connection for a single player
Yeah, that blunder.
game.  Sim City came close, but due to the huge blunder that was their launch it has dropped off the radar.  Regarding Microsoft, they have u-turned on their policy, again without stating the benefits of cloud computing, instead merely saying the decision to be online or not is down to the consumer.  The message this sends is that Microsoft are untrustworthy, and think their customers know more than they do- not an effective way to run a business.

Pre-owned Games
The facts: Pre-owned games are a huge part of the gaming industry, and many consider them to be a thorn in the publisher's side.  After all, any re-sales are money that isn't going to the publisher.  As such we have platforms such as Steam and companies such as Microsoft that want to prohibit pre-owned games as much as possible.
The problem: This generally makes gaming a very expensive hobby.  A big factor for people buying games is the knowledge that they could get some money back on their purchase in the future.  Aside from that, it feels like a violation of consumer rights as technically you no longer 'own' your games, merely the license to play them.
The company's opinion: There is a perfect comparison to be made here: Steam vs XBox.  Both prohibit the resale of games, but have had very different consumer responses.  Microsoft made a big deal out of it at their presentation, saying it gives more money back to the developer, and stated how it makes sense from a business point of view- leading the consumer to believe they're not cared for, it just proves Microsoft are money-grabbing again.  Steam kept the lack of resales quiet- it wasn't something that needed to be said.  Because they are entirely digital, to the consumer it feels different- it doesn't feel like they're owning an actual product because there's no disc to 'own', and they're ok with that.  On top of that, due to the lack of a physical medium and the various costs associated with manufacture (creating the discs, the labor associated with this, the logistic costs, etc), Steam can afford to charge significantly less whilst still giving proceeds directly to publishers.
The result: Steam is loved by the majority of consumers for being an incredibly cheap platform, whereas XBox is hated due to it grabbing as much money as possible without caring for the consumer.  This resulted in yet another u-turn from Microsoft, and now they're saying you are able to resell any XBox One games- however the consumer remembers how far Microsoft tried to push it and are wondering what they're going to do next.  This wound will take a long time to heal.
Extra analysis:  Pre-owned games are, arguably, a good thing for the industry.  Looking purely at the numbers, it is true that no profit goes to the publisher, which is a bad thing. However, consider this scenario: Someone wants to buy Pokemon X, but thinks it's a bit expensive so they decide to sell their GBA games, as they're now obsolete- they're not being produced, but are still playable.  They get £25, meaning they're now effectively only spending £10 on Pokemon X, yet the publisher still gets the full £35.
They don't get the money from the resale, but they don't make the games any more so there was no way they would get money from it anyway.  Assuming each of those GBA games was sold to a different person, that is now 5 people who thought they would try this 'pokemon' that everyone keeps going on about, and £5 for a game is quite reasonable.  3 of the buyers decide they loved the game and want more, so immediately buy Pokemon X or Y (the publisher has now made a total of £140, which wouldn't have been possible without pre-owned sales).  The 2 that didn't like the game also resell for £5 each, getting their money back to spend on a new game- the 2 people that bought from them love the games and also buy Pokemon X or Y.  Now the publisher has made £210 all from pre-owned sales, not including future games they release that now have 5 new customers.
I'm looking forward to these in case you couldn't tell.
Therefore my solution to the pre-owned problem? For entirely digital games such as on Steam, it costs nothing to keep the games available therefore the publisher gets money from every sale.  For entirely physical games, such as the majority of console games, the customers gained from reselling obsolete games (arguably) balances the resales of current games.  For games that are a mixture of the two, such as those proposed for XBox One, it is easy to put a restriction on reselling until the game becomes obsolete getting the best of both worlds.  Consumers wouldn't be happy, but they wouldn't be angry as they are when you take away their rights altogether.

Kinect is always watching
The facts: The XBox One has a built in camera/microphone that cannot be disabled without turning the power off.  The reason for it staying on is so it can switch the console on by the user saying 'turn on'.  It is also predicted to be used for the purposes of advertising.
The problem: The fear that the device is spying on you, the government is watching everything you do and attempting to control you.  We're entering an Orwellian dystopia.
The company's opinion: Silence.  So far no real rebuttal has been made to criticisms, presumably because Microsoft doesn't think they need to give an answer as all consumers are insane conspiracy theorists.  The official statement for their reasons for implementing the Kinect in the first place are so they can provide a tailor-made experience and improve ease of use.
The result:  Consumers are slowly rationalising this, but is that a good thing?  It is true that no-one's interested in what you're doing in your front room whilst playing video games, but the real issue comes from the advertising side of things.  One scenario I read recently was regarding 'tv achievements'- a new form of advertising to make your tv watching experience more interactive.  The example given was that of being given an achievement if you could demonstrate to your Kinect that you had bought a certain brand of crisps by displaying them to the camera, and this achievement would contribute to your gamerscore.  This terrifies me more than just the government listening for the word 'assassin' to come up in conversation (a somewhat amusing thought when you consider one of the flagship games for XBox is Assassins Creed).  But then I've probably just been watching too much Black Mirror and Wall-E...

This article has been primarily about Microsoft, but that doesn't mean Sony and Nintendo are free from criticism.  At least Microsoft have shown attempts to be innovative, they just lack the people skills to demonstrate these features as good things.  Compare to:
Sony.  Primary marketing strategy consists of saying 'we're not doing the things Microsoft are doing'.  As such the PS4 currently looks like a PS3 with slightly improved graphics, and going by their past record it is probable Sony will wait to see what's successful on other consoles before implementing new features on their own.
Nintendo.  Primary marketing strategy consists of not being involved in console wars, letting Sony and Microsoft battle it out.  All they need to do is remind people that they have the rights to Mario and Zelda.  A huge disappointment considering the potential of their tablet controller for the Wii U.

I am now painfully aware of the length of this post so shall leave it here for now, though I am sure I shall have more to say during the next fiasco...

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Monthly Update: 6/13

Greetings all!

This month is the one in which the first real progress has been made towards setting up shop, thanks to the Prince's Trust.

We went on the Explore Enterprise course, in which we were taught all the ins and outs of running a business.  It was a good experience, and has made us much more confident in our abilities and all the more certain that we can actually make this work.  The course consisted of 4 main topics: personal skills and finances, sales and marketing, business finances, and business plans.  Without going in to too much detail, we found the whole thing surprisingly simple- the majority was just common sense, the exception possibly being the various taxes involved.  The course was let down by the fact that the tutors had no idea what we were actually doing (to them a tabletop gaming shop means slot machines), and one of the tutors hadn't done a presentation in 10 years so his presentation was a little unorganised to say the least.  However we learnt a lot of valuable information that will be taking up the majority of our time over the next year or so.

So when it comes to actual progress, we're now all steam ahead on trying to move to Bristol, in the hopes of getting a 6 month tenancy then finding a shop premises that will have living space as well.  In the meantime we have a business plan to be working on, and market research to conduct- hopefully in the form of a gaming event held in Bristol where people can bring some games to play, have a coffee, and generally have a good time, which will help me gauge how much interest there is.  More details on that closer to the time, as I have to discuss things with the Prince's Trust first.

So far, our experience of the Prince's Trust has been a good one and I highly recommend it for anyone thinking of starting a business (under the age of 30).  Lots of information, and although we don't have a mentor yet we're told they're extremely useful in giving advice when needed.  And, of course, there's the loan when you get started.

Until next time,

Daniel 'Rooksburg' van Vliet.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Rooksburg Reviews: Aliens of London/ World War Three

Doctor Who s1e04/05: Aliens of London/ World War Three

The first two-part story arc, I will be treating both episodes as part of the same story.
The story is about the Doctor and Rose returning home, only to find the Doctor missed his target (again) and they find out Rose has been missing a whole year.  Before Rose can get in too much trouble, a distraction appears in the form of a spaceship crash landing in the Thames, destroying Big Ben in the process.  It doesn't take long to realise this crash was a hoax, leading the Doctor to find out why aliens would attempt a covert invasion in such a high-profile way.

This review will be slightly different from my others thus far, as it's no secret that I absolutely hate these episodes- I think the only episode more detested is Love and Monsters.  So I'm going to cover usual review topics, followed by a long list of reasons why I hate these episodes so much- they just keep getting worse the longer they go on for.

The character development is the strongest point in this story; we see that the Doctor doesn't always get things right, and that can have ramifications on the lives of his companions.  Both Jackie and Mickey get a lot of character development, Jackie being shown as a mother who clearly cares for her daughter and is terrified that she's in danger as long as she's with the Doctor.  Mickey is also shown to have waited for Rose over the whole course of the year, even when being accused as a murderer, but once again he is ridiculed by the Doctor and pitied by Rose.
The story is the next best point, but doesn't make much sense; the Slitheen want to blow up Earth to turn it
into slag that they can sell off, but to do this they need to use Earth's own nuclear weapons to trigger a world war, which they will gain access to by impersonating high profile figures, which they will do by distracting the rest of the world with a fake UFO crash in the middle of London.  Thankfully, enough action happens that you don't need to pay too much attention to the story's developments.
Ugh, just looking at them makes me cringe...
The visual effects in this episode are downright terrible.  They were then, and they are now.  Anything involving CG doesn't give even the slightest impression of reality, and the prosthetics just look like lifeless rubber hanging off a stick.
The enemies themselves, the Slitheen, are the worst designed creatures in the whole of New-Who.  Physically they're not too terrible, though the effects let them down, but in every other aspect they are loathsome.  All that really needs to be said is their whole existence is based on fart jokes.

So now the list of awfulness, in chronological order (as, like I said, these episodes only get worse as they go on...)

  • The police's lack of interest in Rose's disappearance.  I highly doubt that they would be satisfied with her explanation that she was just travelling and hadn't contacted home, and I'm sure they would have wanted to take the Doctor in for questioning as her apparent captor, but evidently not.
  • The crashed ship is immediately cordoned off by soldiers of the parachute regiment.  How they got there so quickly and managed to disperse people so quickly is anyone's guess.
  • The Doctor refuses to take the TARDIS to investigate, claiming more spaceships would add to the confusion.  This despite the TARDIS being invisible to anyone not looking for it.
  • Despite the area being cordoned off, everyone is able to see a body being lifted from the wreckage- something the authorities would clearly want to keep quiet.
  • The 'Chairman of the Parliamentary Commission on the Monitoring of Sugar Standards in Exported Confectionary' is now acting prime minister, simply because the cabinet are all absent from Downing Street at the time.  I'm pretty sure the office of prime minister doesn't go to whoever happens to actually be in his office at the time.
  • Fart gag.  Don't tell me it's to appeal to children; this series of Doctor Who is rated 12 (and besides, I think even kids would be offended).
  • The Doctor claims this could be humanity's first contact with aliens, despite the fact he should know exactly when first contact occurred.  (I'm willing to accept first contact is one of those points 'in flux')
  • The Doctor encounters a room full of guards that point guns at him, but are perfectly happy to follow his orders when they hear a scream.
  • The alien body is an augmented pig.
  • More fart gags.
  • The plan involves gathering every expert in aliens together in one place, despite any experts that may be in other countries, or other members of UNIT.  (To a lesser extent Torchwood, as they don't technically exist until next series).
  • Every major character is in mortal danger.  Episode ends on a cliffhanger.  Yet... we immediately see a 'Next Time' trailer that shows them all escaping their various predicaments.
  • When the Doctor reverses the polarity, somehow all Slitheen are affected despite showing no evidence of a link, other than a vague empathic link that 'somethings happened', at any other point.
  • The guards all happily leave their posts when told there is an alien in the other room.
  • The guards do not believe the most important alien expert when he says that the acting prime minister's an alien, despite the fact he's clearly acting odd.
  • The guards, when ordered to execute someone, will happily wait for the victim to explain how he's going to escape before shooting him.
  • The guards, when said victim is in the process of escaping, still fail to shoot him.
  • UNIT's password for everything is 'buffalo'.
  • The acting PM expects the public to believe all the experts were killed by aliens who have weapons of mass destruction pointed at Earth, despite the fact all the public knows is that a ship crash landed.
  • The public believes all the experts were killed by aliens who have weapons of mass destruction pointed at Earth, despite the fact all the public knows is that a ship crash landed.
  • The acting PM expects the United Nations to give him access codes to nuclear missiles that can be launched at said weapons of mass destruction, despite the fact NASA could look up and say that's a load of rubbish, and he's lying.
  • The Royal Navy's password for everything is also 'buffalo'.
  • Using the internet and just one password, anyone could press a big red button to launch a missile targeted on Downing Street.
  • No-one on the submarine appears to have noticed they have just fired a missile without permission.
  • There are no anti-missile defenses in place despite the extra-terrestrial threat.
  • When counter-measures are taken at the last minute against the missile, the same 'buffalo' password can be used to stop them.
  • When Downing Street is destroyed, everyone accepts that the aliens were inside all along despite there being no evidence.
  • The public are quite happy to accept that a missile blew up their head of government, and that it wasn't a part of the alien attack.
  • Despite the fact the cabinet are still alive and well, presumably including the actual deputy PM, Harriet Jones- a backbench mp for an unheard of constituency- can still become PM just because she was in the PM's office when the previous acting PM died.
...And that's all I have to say.  This was a terrible story that didn't deserve to be shown in two parts, and a terrible follow on from The Unquiet Dead.  And it's still not the last we've seen of the Slitheen...

Next time a better structured review: Dalek.

"...It's just a show; I should really just relax..."

Monday, 10 June 2013

Rooksburg Reviews: The Unquiet Dead

Doctor Who s1e03: The Unquiet Dead

Cardiff, 1869; and Charles Dickens is about to learn that ghosts are very much real- a discovery that will change the rest of his life.

Many 'first's with this episode for New-Who.  First episode set in the past, first featuring a famous person, first written by Mark Gatiss, first to explicitly mention Bad Wolf, and first mention of the Cardiff Rift.  Also the first episode I properly enjoy of Christopher Ecclestone's run, and the first one I can tolerate Rose in, though there are moments...

I shall get the Doctor and Rose out of the way quickly.  The Doctor was more like a 'classic' doctor in this episode, only offering advice when needed and letting others save the day, as well as offering a logical point of view that counters the humans' self-imposed ethical ideas.  Rose, for the majority, was tolerable as she wasn't sure how to deal with the completely different society of the past and raised some interesting philosophical points.  However, she still has a complete lack of sympathy as shown by her pressing Gwyneth into revealing details she's clearly not comfortable about, and more importantly at the end when she is told Dickens will only live one more year, to which her response is a shrug and an 'aww'.  Compare to the van Gogh episode, in which Amy is visibly heatbroken by a similar revelation.

What the Dickens?
I am a fan of any historical episode of Doctor Who, much preferring them to ones set in present day London.  However, generally speaking, I am not such a fan of episodes involving historical figures... There was a law passed recently in China that forbade any time-travelling stories lest they tarnish the reputation of respected figures, which I am somewhat sympathetic to (though making a law against it is a little extreme).  That being said, this representation of Dickens is very well done and remains respectful to the author- a joint effort between Mark Gatiss and Simon Callow, who has said he cringed when he heard Dickens was going to be shown in Doctor Who and refused to perform the role unless he was represented fairly.  Dickens is shown as a man who has grown increasingly weary with life, but upon being shown there is more to this world than meets the eye he gains a new lease on life- enough to keep him going for at least one more year.  However, I see Dicken's involvement as unneeded; the only reference to Dicken's life was a couple of throwaway gags, and any other character could have easily had the same involvement, compared to the Shakespeare and van Gogh episodes where the 'celebrity' cameo actually makes sense.

The supporting cast do well, even though their accents probably sound fake to a foreign audience- that's just the nature of the Welsh accent.  Eve Myles plays Gwyneth, a servant who possesses the 'sight'; a suitably ambiguous ability that can be used to look into a person's timeline and generally connect them to paranormal activity.  For the record I am opposed to any assumed existence of 'magic' or actual supernatural activity in Doctor Who, where everything should be scientific and related to aliens- much like the common opinion on Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull- but letting that slide, she does a good job and has a well developed character.  She's not bright, but she won't accept Rose thinking her stupid.  She serves for Mr. Sneed (Alan David), who is being swept along the current of supernatural events.  He acts like a deranged psychopath a lot of the time, but how else would you act if you worked in a morgue and the bodies started coming back to life?

This is a scene from Doctor Who?
This brings me on nicely to the villains, the gaseous Gelth.  To be honest, there's not an awful lot I can say about them... They were threatening but not particularly memorable.  They raised an interested moral dilemma (they can live if we give them human corpses which is unethical- but we're not using the corpses so where's the problem?) but any interesting questions raised are quickly glossed over as they inevitably turn traitorous.  Aside from that they give a little more exposition on the Time War and the Cardiff Rift.  Looks-wise, I thought they were quite impressive as although they were wholly CG they were subtle enough to not date as much as, say, the Slitheen... Which I will be covering in the next review.

On first impressions, this is a good episode that has interesting dilemmas despite a not-so-interesting enemy.  Dickens being involved is neat but doesn't add anything to the story.
In hindsight, Vincent and the Doctor dealt with similar issues and was much better at it.  But that doesn't stop this from being a good episode.

Next review: Aliens of  London/ World War Three

Saturday, 8 June 2013

The Traveller's Guide to Faerun: Foreword

'I really should sort all this out before setting up the next shop... let's see... Skalaraxitilorikaan's Axe, Nagendra's Sword... What's this?  'The Traveller's Guide to Faerun, by Zephran Aerson'.  Of course, I remember him.  Strange man; an air genasi you know?  A being descended from air elementals.  He entrusted me with the first edition of his book and to my shame I never got round to reading it...'

Faerun, as it appeared in 1372 DR

The Traveller's Guide to Faerun
a guide for those unfamiliar with the Forgotten Realms
by Zephran Aerson

The elemental plane of air is a wonderful place, or so I'm told, though my memory of it is now that of boredom.  Imagine a place that is an endless expanse of sky, the occasional rock, constant winds, and the colour blue all around.  Of course I was young and ignorant then, it seemed a blissful place- but then my eyes were opened.
It all started with a wizard; a phrase heard all too often on Faerun.  I was out hunting vapor rats- horrible
Never trust a wizard.
vermin, like a 'normal' rat only harder to exterminate as they have a tendency to shimmer and distort the space around them.  An unexpected wind started to blow around me, which came as a shock as all winds are expected on the plane of Air, and sure enough a hole in the fabric of space opened up in front of me.  Through this hole all I could see was darkness, though as I got closer to get a better look a man stepped through!  Bearded and robed, he seemed as shocked as I was and in his shock he threw me straight through the hole which closed behind me.  On the other side I felt something I never had before- the sensation of falling.  On the plane of air you merely decide which way is down, but to my distress in this place no matter how hard I tried I continued to fall, until eventually I hit what I now know to be called the ground.  It hurt.  A lot.  Then I passed out.
I do not know how much time passed, but when I awoke I was in a house made of wood and stone; rare commodities in my domain.  I tried to move but could not, my leg was broken.  I cried for help, and met my rescuer- a cleric by the name of Lynne.  She spoke to me in Common, a language I only had a vague grasp of.  She told me of how I fell from the sky, though I could not understand her as my people have no word for 'falling' or 'sky'.
I wanted to return home as soon as possible, though had no idea how.  Lynne's best guess was that I passed through a 'Gate' spell, a very advanced level of magic, and that the nearest wizard that might have any chance of helping me would probably be several days ride away, and even then they would want substantial payment.  I decided it was only sensible to stay until I was healed, and I could learn more about humans and the world in which they lived whilst I was here.  Of course word got round the village, and I was often visited by children who wanted to hear stories of where I was from.  Even the most mundane of tales were met with wide-eyed wonder, and it wasn't long until some of the women of the village turned up to hear my stories as well.  I had heard Lynne's husband talking to her, and the words he would say often made her happy; so I tried these words on the women that came to me.  Often they would turn red and leave hurriedly, but always they would return wanting me to say more.  All this time I was bound to my bed, and the more I interacted with the villagers the more I wanted to stay.
Such beautiful colours!
Eventually my leg healed, and I was able to leave the house.  It was a life-changing moment.  I opened the door and my senses were assaulted.  The first I noticed were the colours- grey above, a mixture of green and brown below, and a blue winding snake through the middle.  I stepped outside and felt a drop of water on my cheek, soon followed by another and yet another- 'rain'.  At home we did not have rain, merely clouds- any water would just naturally form in balls.  Walking around in the rain I discovered grass, trees, the river, and the fish that lived within it.  Everything fascinated me, much to Lynne's amusement.  I stayed out until the rain slowed, then became aware of the world becoming brighter with the light of the sun.  As I looked up, a band of colours crossed the sky.  I demanded an explanation from Lynne, who said this was a 'rainbow' and was completely natural- it happens when light shines on rain.
From that moment on, I knew I needed to explore the rest of this world.  A world of such beauty and such interesting inhabitants- I had to see more.

...Now, as I head for pastures new, I provide you with this book in which I have compiled my notes from travelling Faerun.  I will provide you with things to do, places to see, and people to avoid.  As well as notes on how to overcome the more persistant beasts in the wilderness.
Please, enjoy reading as much as I have enjoyed writing.
-Zephran Aerson.

This series of blogs, aside from hopefully being an entertaining piece of fiction, is also to help any Dungeon Masters wishing to play a game set in Faerun.  As Zephran says, it will cover popular locations and what you can expect from the areas, as well as detailed analysis of various monsters.  I will be mostly keeping to a 3.5 edition timeline (pre-Spellplague), though a few variations from my own previous campaigns may sneak in.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Rooksburg Reviews: The End of the World

Doctor Who s1e02: The End of the World

5 Billion years in the future, the Earth is being destroyed as the sun explodes- but the Doctor isn't there to save it, instead he's there to witness it.  However trouble soon arrives as the station they are on becomes a victim of sabotage and all guests are about to be cooked alive.

This episode showcases the CGI more than any other episode, and for the most part it's impressive.  The
Well there goes the budget...
station looks great, the explosive effects are good, even the alien prosthetics aren't too bad; the only problem is Cassandra, the last human who has had so much surgery she's now little more than a piece of skin stretched across a frame.  In my opinion the CG used for her was very fake looking, but I blame the concept more than the execution.

The story for this episode is very character driven, mostly concerning Rose's culture shock on meeting all these new alien species and coming to terms with seeing the destruction of her home.  The whole story is no doubt littered with Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy references, considering Douglas Adam's involvement in the classic series, but thankfully no direct references are made.  Unfortunately, there are other pop culture references that are unforgivable- references to ipods and Britney Spears specifically.  This is done all too much in science fiction; 5 billion years have passed yet inexplicably everyone's obsessed with the 20th century, making the subject feel dated in just a couple of years.

Cassandra, the last 'pure' human
The characters themselves are interesting and varied.  The Doctor shows his dark side, and shows his lack of  sympathy except when motivated for vengeance.  Likewise, Rose shows that she is considering that she may have been too hasty taking up the Doctor's offer, but the feeling soon passes and she's already completely forgotten about Mickey- even to the extent that at the end of the episode she implies she's dating the Doctor.  Cassandra is a bit of a mess of a character; starting as someone who's only present because she's 'the last human' she then becomes willing to kill high ranking officials just to claim enough money to fund further surgery, and to top it off she's revealed as being transexual for the sake of a cheap gag.  The supporting cast don't get much screentime, but it serves in their favour as the viewer wonders what their stories are.  Also the less the viewer knows of them, the more the viewer can identify with Rose as everyone around her is alien in both appearance and manner.

My first impressions on this episode are that it was a little bland and boring.  Sure there are aliens, but they don't have much impact because everyone knows there are aliens in Doctor Who.  The 'villains' (The Adherents of the Repeated Meme) are nowhere near developed enough to be believable, and it's painfully obvious that Cassandra's the true enemy based on screentime alone.  The Doctor's resolution to the story is extremely out of character as well, even abandoning his one rule from the previous episode 'everyone gets a chance'.  We also get some exposition on who the Doctor is and why he's so reluctant to talk about his past, but again we get nothing more than a tease- other species are aware of the existence of Timelords, and that there was a war the Doctor was involved in.

On rewatching, my opinion hasn't changed.  Nothing significant to the overall plot of the series aside from the introduction of the Face of Boe (who does nothing) and a casual mention of the arc words 'bad wolf', and no real character development as the Doctor is out of character and Rose merely comes to the conclusion she should have reached before this episode.  In all honesty, when I came back to this episode I knew I'd seen it before but the story is so forgettable that I had no idea what the danger was and forgot entirely about the repeated meme, which is terrible storytelling when they are major plot points.

Next review: The Unquiet Dead.