May 24, 2007

Afghanistan updates

From the Telegraph:

"The Taliban's much-vaunted spring offensive has stalled apparently due to lack of organisation after dozens of middle-ranking commanders were killed by British troops in the past year, according to military sources."

The Star's latest editorial seems a little at odds with reality, however:

"Afghan President Hamid Karzai welcomed Harper as a friend, thanked Canada for its help and denied that Taliban detainees are mistreated. His officials argue, hopefully, that the Taliban has been weakened by the death of Mullah Dadullah, a top commander and that the insurgents are now too weak to prevail, even though the fighting has grown more intense, claiming 1,500 lives so far this year, many of them insurgents."

The final number will probably be somewhat higher, one suspects, but it's important to recall that last year the number of total deaths in Afghanistan, from the same sources as that 1,500 figure (UNAMA, AP, and Human Rights Watch), was around 4,000. And we're already in May. Two other things to note is that that 1,500 not only includes all the deaths the insurgents cause, through suicide bombs and intimidatory assassinations of teachers, doctors, etc., but includes a lot more than "many" insurgents: only 300 so far have been civilians, according to AP, so that leaves over 1,200 split between insurgents and Afghan security forces. Again that 300-civilian number, up until May, is not hugely far yet from the estimated 1,000 Afghan civilians killed in all of 2006. It's still too many, of course, but assuming last year's ratio of civilian deaths as 2-1 insurgents-to-occupiers, NATO forces collectively are probably responsible for around 100 wrongful deaths so far this year. Compared to Iraq, these are not horrendous numbers.

Posted by BruceR at 11:48 AM

LOTR online update

Day 8. Current main char level: ~12.5. Deaths last night: nil.

Another entertaining night in the lowbie areas of Lord of the Rings Online. I continue to be impressed by the solidity of this product, compared to its predecessors. The internal geography is very well laid out, and the server player-density has really been consistently ideal. There's enough room to solo, and there's a high potential for helping passers-by. The adventuring areas and the safe areas are just about the right distance apart, etc. I like that the overhead map doesn't help you much when you're in the forest. Last night I got completely turned around while chatting with someone, and ended up alone in a completely unfamiliar part of the woods, which was tremendous fun to get out of.

Speaking of, LOTR Online has another aspect I've always loved about this genre of games, that after you get an indicator things are going sideways, you have just enough time to screw up. Lightning finger reflexes are never required in MMOs, but you do have to think fast sometimes. As in my lost-in-the-woods adventure last night, when I rounded the corner and ran into what appeared to be a pack of angry dogs down the road, I still had just enough time to brake and then back away slowly. Or if I'd been a little more reckless or careless, to pile right into them and take my chances. But I had a decision point, and a couple seconds to make a snap judgment: in my case, to save the fight for another day. If you're paying attention, you almost never get caught completely by surprise. Death, in these games, is the penalty for bad judgment, rather than personal ability, computer quality, or luck. I personally find this refreshing, for after-work relaxation purposes.

The whole thing hasn't really completely taken off for me yet: I could still walk away. But the game is solid: all the pieces are there to keep me entertained a long time. The thing that will keep me paying a monthly fee, however, is meeting some people worth hanging around with online night after night. That will either happen, I suspect, or it won't. Still worth the price of the box, though.

Posted by BruceR at 11:32 AM