Comedy Poop – Lazy Policeman

I had a dream in which some people were trying to kill a family i was with… we were hiding behind the sofa and i made a call.. the policewoman on the end of the line would’nt send any officers because they might get shot.
I remember thinking ” oh shit! this is the end “.. and then i woke up.. so i thought i’d make it into a podcast..
this is in no way a spoof of the hotel shootings in India. 🙁

I had a dream in which some people were trying to kill a family i was with… we were hiding behind the sofa and i made a call.. the policewoman on the end of the line would’nt send any officers because they might get shot.

I remember thinking ” oh shit! this is the end “.. and then i woke up.. so i thought i’d make it into a podcast..

This is in no way a spoof of the hotel shootings in India. 🙁

[audio:http://petergbutler.podomatic.com/enclosure/2009-04-06T13_20_00-07_00.mp3]

Obscure Gamer – Sealed with Hatred

Packaging. There are times when you appreciate it, and there are times when you hate it. The games industry has a long history of unusual packaging, but that’s not what this column is about. No, this is about frustration and annoyance.

First of all, there’s cellophane. I can’t get the stuff off, even with tear strips and corners to help me. It’s always been that way. Now, I don’t want my games to go “stale”. OK, maybe that’s a good metaphor for a late-comer that just apes other games that have gone before, and in theory it could be stale by the time it hits the shelf. But why do we have these heavy plastic cases and THEN seal them, if they don’t do the job? Surely there’s more to it than authenticity seals and the like?

(While we’re on the subject, I find myself ambivalent to the collectors of sealed games – particularly those who do it just to have a sealed original. I want to play a game, when I can eventually get into it, not leave it on a shelf. True, if I came across a real rarity that was still sealed I might be tempted to keep it that way for value’s sake. I like my games to be in good condition when I buy them, but in the end I want to PLAY them.)

Then you have the pre-formed plastic packaging found on many add-ons. What do you do? Attack it with a melee weapon? Try to extract it surgically? The number of times I’ve ended up with massive damage to my weak spot (my hands) because of this sort of packaging ought to earn me an achievement. And they put wires and cables inside this.

Now, let’s back up a minute and praise some good ideas. I like the way both the Wii and the Xbox 360 are packaged. The drawers in the Wii box are nice and everything goes back in tidily. The words on the plastic packets of the 360 components are helpful, although more than one is called “See”, which caused me a few moments’ confusion as to the cable I needed.

But then we get the cable problem. Every cable is covered in one or more plastic bags, with combinations of sealing, tape and plastic ties. Is it all really necessary? I must have about half a dozen plastic plug covers kicking around my computer room. What do I do with them?

And then there’s the mother of all boxes, Rock Band in a Box. Wow. I’m glad the game wasn’t included, else it would have taken me even longer to get in and play it…

Finally, we have a certain retail store that runs a return policy, whereby your purchase that is already covered in stickers and price labels has an additional seal placed over the edge. Sigh. Are they actually trying to convince you not to play it?

Sealed with Hatred

Packaging. There are times when you appreciate it, and there are times when you hate it. The games industry has a long history of unusual packaging, but that’s not what this column is about. No, this is about frustration and annoyance.

First of all, there’s cellophane. I can’t get the stuff off, even with tear strips and corners to help me. It’s always been that way. Now, I don’t want my games to go “stale”. OK, maybe that’s a good metaphor for a late-comer that just apes other games that have gone before, and in theory it could be stale by the time it hits the shelf. But why do we have these heavy plastic cases and THEN seal them, if they don’t do the job? Surely there’s more to it than authenticity seals and the like?

(While we’re on the subject, I find myself ambivalent to the collectors of sealed games – particularly those who do it just to have a sealed original. I want to play a game, when I can eventually get into it, not leave it on a shelf. True, if I came across a real rarity that was still sealed I might be tempted to keep it that way for value’s sake. I like my games to be in good condition when I buy them, but in the end I want to PLAY them.)

Then you have the pre-formed plastic packaging found on many add-ons. What do you do? Attack it with a melee weapon? Try to extract it surgically? The number of times I’ve ended up with massive damage to my weak spot (my hands) because of this sort of packaging ought to earn me an achievement. And they put wires and cables inside this.

Now, let’s back up a minute and praise some good ideas. I like the way both the Wii and the Xbox 360 are packaged. The drawers in the Wii box are nice and everything goes back in tidily. The words on the plastic packets of the 360 components are helpful, although more than one is called “See”, which caused me a few moments’ confusion as to the cable I needed.

But then we get the cable problem. Every cable is covered in one or more plastic bags, with combinations of sealing, tape and plastic ties. Is it all really necessary? I must have about half a dozen plastic plug covers kicking around my computer room. What do I do with them?

And then there’s the mother of all boxes, Rock Band in a Box. Wow. I’m glad the game wasn’t included, else it would have taken me even longer to get in and play it…

Finally, we have a certain retail store that runs a return policy, whereby your purchase that is already covered in stickers and price labels has an additional seal placed over the edge. Sigh. Are they actually trying to convince you not to play it?

Obscure Gamer – Sailing

The recent Piratebay trial has highlighted the issue of software piracy once more. The eagerly anticipated Spore from Will Wright was available to download very soon after its release, and thousands took that opportunity. Will piracy sink the industry one day?

Back in the 1980s I was a landlubber and not a pirate. I borrowed a few tapes from a friend, and one of the first games I played on my Commodore 64 was the film tie-in Ghostbusters, taken home at lunchtime and hastily loaded. (Which leaves me a little nostalgic, when 25 years later there is a new game coming out based on it – but I somehow doubt it will have the same impact on me as the bouncing ball accompanying the lyrics and the sampled speech did back then). Then I upgraded to a disk drive and the chances were there to get more games than I could afford to buy.

And yet… there was still something special about saving up my pieces of eight, going into the shop and splashing out on a new game. You got something physical to keep as well as the gaming experience. Of course, there was as high a ratio of bad to good back then as there is now. Fortunately my map and compass was the reliable reviewers of ZZAP! 64 magazine, who rarely steered me wrong. For those without a large treasure chest, budget companies such as Codemasters provided cheap thrills. (And they still remain in business, albeit without the original crew of David and Richard Darling).

With Internet access came the chance to sample more games than I could ever realistically play. The Gamebase64 collection alone has 20,000 titles in it now with more being discovered (and created – the C64 is far from a dead format). And that same Internet access can provide a perfect digital copy of any game for any format, spreading it across the waters of the world like an oil slick.

Is it a bad thing to have free access to anything you want? In many ways I would say yes, because it detracts from savouring the moment. Discovering a new game to play should be like finding a deserted island. You can see the shape of it from afar, maybe even discern a few features. As you get nearer, you can make out the trees but there is still a lot hidden from view. Plunge into the undergrowth, play the game and make your way to the top of the mountain (if you can) – you achieve something, even if it is only a little green box that pops up and awards you a hollow-sounding number of points.

Nowadays I buy second-hand games a lot, regardless of what David Braben thinks it does to the market. I am still putting money into the industry, and helping it keep a retail presence on the High Street will ensure all the software company rafts afloat.

Sailing

the_pirate_bay_logo

The recent Piratebay trial has highlighted the issue of software piracy once more. The eagerly anticipated Spore from Will Wright was available to download very soon after its release, and thousands took that opportunity. Will piracy sink the industry one day?

Back in the 1980s I was a landlubber and not a pirate. I borrowed a few tapes from a friend, and one of the first games I played on my Commodore 64 was the film tie-in Ghostbusters, taken home at lunchtime and hastily loaded. (Which leaves me a little nostalgic, when 25 years later there is a new game coming out based on it – but I somehow doubt it will have the same impact on me as the bouncing ball accompanying the lyrics and the sampled speech did back then). Then I upgraded to a disk drive and the chances were there to get more games than I could afford to buy.

And yet… there was still something special about saving up my pieces of eight, going into the shop and splashing out on a new game. You got something physical to keep as well as the gaming experience. Of course, there was as high a ratio of bad to good back then as there is now. Fortunately my map and compass was the reliable reviewers of ZZAP! 64 magazine, who rarely steered me wrong. For those without a large treasure chest, budget companies such as Codemasters provided cheap thrills. (And they still remain in business, albeit without the original crew of David and Richard Darling).

With Internet access came the chance to sample more games than I could ever realistically play. The Gamebase64 collection alone has 20,000 titles in it now with more being discovered (and created – the C64 is far from a dead format). And that same Internet access can provide a perfect digital copy of any game for any format, spreading it across the waters of the world like an oil slick.

Is it a bad thing to have free access to anything you want? In many ways I would say yes, because it detracts from savouring the moment. Discovering a new game to play should be like finding a deserted island. You can see the shape of it from afar, maybe even discern a few features. As you get nearer, you can make out the trees but there is still a lot hidden from view. Plunge into the undergrowth, play the game and make your way to the top of the mountain (if you can) – you achieve something, even if it is only a little green box that pops up and awards you a hollow-sounding number of points.

Nowadays I buy second-hand games a lot, regardless of what David Braben thinks it does to the market. I am still putting money into the industry, and helping it keep a retail presence on the High Street will ensure all the software company rafts afloat.

Obscure Gamer – Just Push Play

I’ve just completed Guitar Hero Aerosmith on the PS2, and it got me thinking about the whole Guitar Hero (and Rock Band) series. What started out as a novelty arcade game with Konami’s Guitar Freaks has become a phenomenon, and now the music industry sees gaming as a legitimate source of extra revenue.

My first encounter with the series was playing Guitar Hero II at the Game On exhibition held at the Science Museum, and a brief session made me want to get it myself. The physical interaction with the guitar was fun, but there was a lot of enjoyment to be had just watching others play. And that is a big part of the game’s attraction, the social aspect. I bought the Guitar Hero II pack with the red Gibson SG for PS2 and started to play at home. At first even the Medium difficulty seemed daunting but I quickly improved. A chance to show off my skills at the Retrovision gaming weekend in Oxford soon followed.

Over the next couple of years I picked up the original Guitar Hero game and Rocks the 80s. The original features a great range of tracks, not diminished by the fact they are cover versions. And while in theory the 80s game could have been produced as an add-on or expansion, it is tracks like Play With Me by Extreme that make it worthwhile. The tweaks to the presentation – costumes for the characters and animations/menu colours – give it a little something extra too.

Looking back, Konami made a mistake by not importing their PS2 version of Guitar Freaks to Europe. Red Octane, who had made the guitar accessory, then made a great decision in approaching Harmonix (developers of Amplitude and Frequency) to make a new guitar-based game. And Harmonix themselves timed it right to move on after Guitar Hero II, pushing forward to start work on Rock Band. That left Neversoft with the tricky task of producing the third main instalment.

Guitar Hero III really built the momentum. With the bands providing original masters and recording tracks expressly for the game, the audio side of the game improved dramatically. The next-generation consoles gave sharper visuals but most importantly the chance to download new songs. From quirky ideas like the finale song from Portal to bands launching a new single, the record labels have really embraced the idea. There are a few flaws, with the third game having a slightly uneven difficulty curve and the note charts not flowing quite as smoothly as Harmonix’s. But Activision made a good decision of their own, continuing to support the PS2 and the Wii. Oh, and the first time I played Devil Goes Down To Georgia (on medium) I hit 99%…

It was at another Retrovision event that I first played Rock Band, which had been imported. We’ll ignore the blisters I got on my hands from drumming and the irritation of people pushing the wrong buttons in the menus to concentrate on the action. It was superb, so much fun playing in a group and belting out the songs. Again, part of the fun was watching others play. If I was being picky, the bass arrangements were fairly simplistic and the vocal track at the top of the screen slightly distracting, but it worked.

Back came Neversoft with Guitar Hero World Tour. It seems like a pretty straightforward enhancement of what has gone before, even given the open bass notes and generally trickier arrangements. But next to launch is Guitar Hero: Metallica, with its Expert+ setting and second bass drum pedal. It should prove to be a better game than the lacklustre Rock Band AC/DC Live pack, which made the mistake of charging full price for very little extra content.

So, I thoroughly enjoyed the Aerosmith game thanks to its balance of tracks and the motion-captured antics of the band. In fact, Activision claim the band have made more money from the game than from some of their studio albums. But where does the band game go from here? A DJ Hero game is in development, the Beatles version of Rock Band is promising harmonies and keyboards are often mentioned as a future expansion. But in a way, that would not work. It is the argument often made against the games – why not learn the real thing? Because we are playing to have fun and pretend to be the rock star that we always wanted to be.

Additional: Activision has formally announced DJ Hero with its turntable peripheral, Guitar Hero 5 with more rock and the family-orientated Band Hero based around pop songs.

Just Push Play

I’ve just completed Guitar Hero Aerosmith on the PS2, and it got me thinking about the whole Guitar Hero (and Rock Band) series. What started out as a novelty arcade game with Konami’s Guitar Freaks has become a phenomenon, and now the music industry sees gaming as a legitimate source of extra revenue.

My first encounter with the series was playing Guitar Hero II at the Game On exhibition held at the Science Museum, and a brief session made me want to get it myself. The physical interaction with the guitar was fun, but there was a lot of enjoyment to be had just watching others play. And that is a big part of the game’s attraction, the social aspect. I bought the Guitar Hero II pack with the red Gibson SG for PS2 and started to play at home. At first even the Medium difficulty seemed daunting but I quickly improved. A chance to show off my skills at the Retrovision gaming weekend in Oxford soon followed.

Over the next couple of years I picked up the original Guitar Hero game and Rocks the 80s. The original features a great range of tracks, not diminished by the fact they are cover versions. And while in theory the 80s game could have been produced as an add-on or expansion, it is tracks like Play With Me by Extreme that make it worthwhile. The tweaks to the presentation – costumes for the characters and animations/menu colours – give it a little something extra too.

Looking back, Konami made a mistake by not importing their PS2 version of Guitar Freaks to Europe. Red Octane, who had made the guitar accessory, then made a great decision in approaching Harmonix (developers of Amplitude and Frequency) to make a new guitar-based game. And Harmonix themselves timed it right to move on after Guitar Hero II, pushing forward to start work on Rock Band. That left Neversoft with the tricky task of producing the third main instalment.

Guitar Hero III really built the momentum. With the bands providing original masters and recording tracks expressly for the game, the audio side of the game improved dramatically. The next-generation consoles gave sharper visuals but most importantly the chance to download new songs. From quirky ideas like the finale song from Portal to bands launching a new single, the record labels have really embraced the idea. There are a few flaws, with the third game having a slightly uneven difficulty curve and the note charts not flowing quite as smoothly as Harmonix’s. But Activision made a good decision of their own, continuing to support the PS2 and the Wii. Oh, and the first time I played Devil Goes Down To Georgia (on medium) I hit 99%…

It was at another Retrovision event that I first played Rock Band, which had been imported. We’ll ignore the blisters I got on my hands from drumming and the irritation of people pushing the wrong buttons in the menus to concentrate on the action. It was superb, so much fun playing in a group and belting out the songs. Again, part of the fun was watching others play. If I was being picky, the bass arrangements were fairly simplistic and the vocal track at the top of the screen slightly distracting, but it worked.

Back came Neversoft with Guitar Hero World Tour. It seems like a pretty straightforward enhancement of what has gone before, even given the open bass notes and generally trickier arrangements. But next to launch is Guitar Hero: Metallica, with its Expert+ setting and second bass drum pedal. It should prove to be a better game than the lacklustre Rock Band AC/DC Live pack, which made the mistake of charging full price for very little extra content.

So, I thoroughly enjoyed the Aerosmith game thanks to its balance of tracks and the motion-captured antics of the band. In fact, Activision claim the band have made more money from the game than from some of their studio albums. But where does the band game go from here? A DJ Hero game is in development, the Beatles version of Rock Band is promising harmonies and keyboards are often mentioned as a future expansion. But in a way, that would not work. It is the argument often made against the games – why not learn the real thing? Because we are playing to have fun and pretend to be the rock star that we always wanted to be.

Additional: Activision has formally announced DJ Hero with its turntable peripheral, Guitar Hero 5 with more rock and the family-orientated Band Hero based around pop songs.