Video Games and Life

I found diversity and acceptance in the gamers I met. We might call each other names and make politically incorrect jokes, but when I needed help they were there.  My gamer friends led me to my jobs, which turned, into my career which lead to my writing and this website and the same happens every day.~J.A. Laraque

Video Games and Life

While not talked about as much now as in years past the idea that gamers or video games leads to antisocial behavior needs to be reexamined. While it may look like someone is alone playing in the room or office the way we communicate has changed and just because you might not see someone face to face does not mean there is no connect.

Red-Eye

As for me personally, I not only met most of my friends from games, but also launched my career. Coming from Chicago to Miami I left all my friends behind, many from childhood. I was already way past the high school years so going down to the local mall to find friends was not an option.

Now to be fair I did not know gaming would lead me to meet friends online and then in person, but today that is a very common story. Just as internet dating was (and sometimes still is) looked upon as weird so was making real friends online, but that has changed. Sure, we can look at Facebook friends and laugh knowing that out of those 3000 you might have met 50, but even if you meet one or two they could change your life.

I found diversity and acceptance in the gamers I met. We might call each other names and make politically incorrect jokes, but when I needed help they were there.  My gamer friends led me to my jobs, which turned, into my career which lead to my writing and this website and the same happens every day.

Interaction is important. I had to make the choice not to be scared and meet these gamers. Now, depending on factors like age and location, you take precautions, but it is about making a connecting, even if it is in a virtual world the bonds are just as real.

For some, that voice over Ventrilo is the only way they can reach people, some might have a disability or for economic reasons and region cannot meet people like them. I have found this among older people who feel ashamed for liking video games at their age. Yet another way of thinking we need to change.

Even during the worst days of Everquest when we would play for hours upon end we would still call each other and meet up for dinner and talk gaming. Just like sports or gossip it captured our attention and entertained us and that is all that we cared about.

Just like any other friend, some were better in game than real life. There were friends that quit playing games and stopped hanging out, but the same happens outside of gaming. However, many remained friends for years and still are to this day.

The great thing about gaming and life is it continues and you know if you are still into games 30 years from now you will find others who share your love and are willing to talk about it. Maybe the next time you want to pull someone away from a game find out more about it first. Many parents ended up strengthening their bonds with their kids over World of Warcraft. Some people meet their future wives or husbands.

I may not be as hardcore as 10 years ago, but gaming is in my blood and I doubt that will ever change. I enjoy my job and my hobbies because it revolves around it. So be it retro or new, pc or console or even mobile the next game may bring you closer to that best friend or perhaps even more.

How Gaming Changed This Girl’s Life

It’s funny how, in the beginning, he thought it was cool dating a girl who liked gaming. He now cautions guys against dating gamer girls! He was just mad that I took over his Playstation for about a whole solid month. Yeah, I know it shouldn’t have been that long, but I’m one of those “gotta get everything” kinda gamers.~Jessi Roman

How Gaming Changed This Girl’s Life

Single moments in history are what make up our lives.  Some moments pass by unnoticed, seemingly meaningless, lost in a neurological card catalog, while others are etched into our memories, never to be forgotten.

chronocross_kid

What was it about that day in 2nd grade (no, I’m not going to tell you what year it was!) that stood out in my memory? Santa Claus came to our class. We went up and down the rows, each naming one thing we wanted for Christmas. I was the only one that did not ask for a Nintendo! I asked for a drum set, and I got it… never did become much of a musician. At any rate, this was not the catalyst that began my transformation from the geeky kid that every one made fun of into… well, the geeky gamer girl that everyone made fun of. (Thank God for the sudden acclamation of geek culture!) No, it was not this single moment, framed in time, that changed my life, but for some reason it stuck.

I didn’t get a NES of my very own until several years later. That’s not to say that I didn’t spend hours upon hours of my formative years playing Super Mario Bros. with the boy across the street. But no, I wasn’t a “gamer” back then. I mean, I definitely remember that feeling I got the first time I found out that my Princess was in another castle… -_- and I remember how I swelled with pride when I finally beat 8-4 and found her! I mean, I have some seriously precious gaming memories that even go as far back as Sierra’s “Space Quest: The Sarien Encounter”.

space-quest-1--roger-wilco-and-the-sarien-encounter-(vga)-screenshot

There was a life-changing gaming experience for me, though. It wasn’t until after I graduated high school. I started dating this guy who had a Playstation. He changed my life forever. Not only did I end up marrying the guy, but he introduced me to Chrono Cross – most epic RPG ever! I had never played a serious RPG before… I mean, does Zelda count? No, I didn’t think so. So being all girly and stuff, I got really sucked in by the art, and the plethora of characters you could pick up. Matter of fact, to this day, a key element in how I rate an RPG is the number of playable characters.

Let’s face it, people, there’s no greater game to have launched me into the world of serious hard-core gaming. I worked a split shift at the JCC, so I had a block of four hours free time in the middle of the day. He gave me the key to his house (and unknowingly, the key to his heart <3… yeah, I’m a sap), and I’d spend those four hours immersed in the tropical archipelago, El Nido.

Chrono Cross

It’s funny how, in the beginning, he thought it was cool dating a girl who liked gaming. He now cautions guys against dating gamer girls! He was just mad that I took over his Playstation for about a whole solid month. Yeah, I know it shouldn’t have been that long, but I’m one of those “gotta get everything” kinda gamers… so I went for every character… played out every possible subplot… even used the strategy guide to make sure I didn’t miss anything. And boy did I get everything! It changed my life. Really. I wonder if I had not spent those hours upon hours hanging out at his house, playing Chrono Cross… I wonder if I still would have won his heart? I’m not going to go so far as to say that gaming got me married… but maybe it did. Maybe it changed my life more than I’ll ever know.

It’s been over ten years now, and we’re still married… and still gaming! I may have gotten better at sharing, and co-op games are more fun now! But to this day, nothing has ever come close to the grand epicness that is Chrono Cross. No other game has made such an impact on my life. Even as I write this now, I’m listening to the OST, and realizing how important it is that I go back for a re-play.

Did a game ever change your life? If so, how? What game was it?

Jessi Roman is a geek, gamer, mom, proudly raising the next generation of nerds! You can read her blog here.

Marriage: An editorial

rings

Much has been talked about over the last few weeks regarding what is being called, “political adultery”. There are many people out there who have taken this opportunity to talk about the changes in society toward marriage itself. For a long time, people have believed that marriage is becoming less and less important. They say that as the next generation reaches the age of marriage they think less of the commitment and meaning behind it.

I am only thirty-three and not married. I do not profess to be an expert on anything regarding marriage. What I can tell you, first of all, it is not completely accurate to look back at marriages from say the fifties and compare it to today.

Far too often we look back on our history with rose colored glasses. People seem to forget that just because there were laws put in place to give people rights that did not mean that in the home that was what transpired.

Even as women gained more rights in the eyes of the law, in the eyes of their husbands, friends and peers, the change was extremely slow. The idea of an unwed woman over thirty was still unbelievable to many. If a woman was also a mother they were often shunned and ridiculed. Something was wrong with you if you did not at least have a husband and this forced many into relationships that today would never have been.

Once married, there was little women could do. While there were many pioneers and women who were able to accomplish great things, there were also many whose only purpose was to serve the man and take care of the children.

There was little outlet for women to explore education or professional pursuits. An argument could be made that the opportunity was there, but it is one thing to have it available and an entirely another to be able to reach it.

With little to no support by family, friends and their own husbands, many women were forced to just accept their role and deal with such issues as adultery and abuse. Even those who lived lives without such worries were never encouraged or received support to achieve much outside of the home.

To ask for a divorce was unheard of. Many women had no place to go, no outlet. Other women and even family members would encourage wives in horrible marriages to stick with it out of nothing more than how people would perceive them.

A man could walk away from his wife and family with little to no repercussion from his peers, but this was not true for women. Often no matter the reason, the burden was placed upon the wives to do whatever it took to keep the marriage together.

With little chance to make a living and barely any support outside the home, women had no alternative but to remain behind and fight the good fight. I cannot say what the divorce rate would be back then if women had the same opportunities as today, but I think it would be much different than it was.

Today, women have much more chances to make it on their own be it single, married or divorced, but we are not yet out of our embedded mindsets that I believe have lead to marriages that should have never been and divorces that were inedible.

We are still bombarded with the idea that one should be married before age forty. It is understandable that if you wish to have children then being married and actively trying to conceive before age forty makes sense.

However, this can also pressure many into a marriage they are not yet ready for. I have heard many people plan their lives with marriage being on the list of things to do before age thirty. There is nothing wrong with goals, but I believe many, when they near age thirty, feel they must rush things which again can lead to a mistake.

There are women who do not wish to conceive any children, but feel that as they get older they will not find someone they would want to spend their lives with. Often women and men for that matter, feel that dating in their mid and late thirties will only bring in people with baggage, issues and kids from previous relationships.

This has caused many people to look for their marriage partners while in college. They feel it is the best place to find someone the most compatible. I personally know quite a number of people in happy marriages where they found their soul mate in college. The key is communication.

Communication amongst your significant other is paramount, but it is also important with those around you, especially your family. Another cause of what I call, premature marriages, are demanding parents. Due to their beliefs and history they want to see their sons and daughters married and with kids before they are too old or pass on.

In many cases there is nothing wrong with feeling this way and they only have the best interest of their children in mind. However, there are cases were overbearing parents pressure their children into marriages they were not ready for.

I will skip the part of arranged marriages and religion playing a part and return to communication. I have noticed that once someone is married they are much less likely to tell their spouse they have fallen out of love.

Now this happens in all relationships, but it seems that once married the idea of telling someone you vowed to spend the rest of your life with that you no longer love them and want out is much too hard to do.

In the public spotlight this can be even more difficult. As I said before, being looked down upon by your family, friends and peers can cause people to stay in a marriage they would have normally left. It is not honorable to remain in a marriage only to cheat and lie and hide things from your spouse. Even when children are involved, in the end you will end up causing more harm if you remain in a loveless marriage only to dishonor the mother or father of the children.

We as a people have become much more able to walk away from so much more. We can cut ties on many things if it is not working out. When it comes to marriage, many of us cannot cut those ties and instead remain until it causes more pain and suffering than being honest and upfront.

Till death do you part should be reinterpreted to mean until the death of your love for one another. It’s not easy to accept or even think about. Perhaps people believe you have to fight to keep a marriage together. I can understand this to a point, but when you are about to commit an act that dishonors your vows anyway it would be better to sit down with your spouse and talk it out. If in the end the best course is to walk away then so be it.

Many can come to the brink and pull themselves back to live happily ever after. I would hope most could achieve this, but just like standing before a battle you rather not wage, it is better sometimes to just walk away. I believe you can keep the sanctity of marriage by parting on the best terms possible. Sometimes you cannot win them all, but at least you can leave with your honor and the respect of the one you once loved.

Top Five Star Trek Ships

Star Trek Ships

Spaceships are pretty sweet. I want one. Not just some little shuttle craft or cargo ship though – I want one of those ones that looks like a racing car version of spaceship with big guns on it. There have have been some great examples of mean-looking ships, as well as crap or even funny-looking ones in the many sci-fi shows over the years. Star Trek is without question NOT the sci-fi show with the best looking ships, but it is a fantastic show (or ‘franchise’ of shows) that at least has spaceships. There have been lots that were seen in odd episodes here and there and never seen again, but of the major players in the Star Trek universe, here are what I think are the best:

5 – Borg Cube
Borg Cube - Star Trek Ship

Yes, it’s looks pretty unremarkable in itself, but not many ships instantly strike fear into the heart like a Borg Cube! And when you’ve see one in battle, seen how huge and powerful it is, how it rips apart vessels left, right, and centre, you can’t help but be in awe of it. Until Species 8472 came along and effortlessly destroyed 15 of them, of course!

 

4 – Jem’Hadar Battleship
Jem Hadar Battleship - Star Trek Ship
The weird-looking junkies might be slaves but they’ve sure got some decent kit to play around with. This huge capital ship can easily slice a path through a Federation fleet without even breaking a sweat! Plus, it looks exactly like a big, scary, evil alien ship should – angry, imposing, powerful, and… cool!

 

 

3 – Klingon Bird of Prey
Bird Of Prey - Star Trek Ship
Yes it’s small, but it sure packs a mean punch. They rarely attack alone, and a fleet of them are like a swarm of locusts, nibbling away until the target is neutralised, and on many occasions in the past these targets have been some our very own Federation vessels! They look cool, have cloaking devices, and can even land on… umm… stuff. I would be happy to own one of these babies!

 

 

2 – Romulan Warbird
Romulan Warbird - Star Trek Ship
There have been a few different ones of these but the one that made its mark on me is this one, first appearing in Next Generation. It’s probably not the most efficient design, what with all the space in the middle wasted, but you don’t often see one of them in trouble in a battle! Its designers clearly wanted to stay with the Roman Empire theme and it works – when one of them decloaks, you know you’re in for an interesting time!

 

 

1 – USS Defiant
USS Defiant - Star Trek Ship
Well, they sure took their sweet time but finally the Federation creates a ship that doesn’t suck ass! I know their main interest is exploration and the wussies don’t want to upset anyone by daring to build something powerful, but would it really hurt to build a few actual warships? All those cumbersome, stupid-looking ships with saucers and sticky-outy warp nacelles… Let’s face it, they couldn’t fight their way out of a junk yard. The Defiant, however, is another story. It’s small, maneuverable, and so powerful it had to have its ‘structural integrity field’ modified just so it didn’t tear itself apart! It’s armed with normal phasers and photon torpedoes, but also has fancy new pulse phasers, quantum torpedoes and special armour, and is even equipped with a cloaking device! It was a long time coming, but finally the Federation has a ship that looks cool and can kick ass!

 

How To Deal With Your Girlfriend Breaking Up With You

Eternal Sunshine Jim Carrey crying
Sorrow of betrayal and lost love

How To Deal With Your Girlfriend Breaking Up With You by Honorabili

Lately the worst break up I”ve ever had happened to me. I”ve never felt so hurt or alone in my life. I”m still dealing with it and there are ways to survive this. Hopefully, you never have to go through this, but if you”re reading this, chances are that you are. I really hope you weren”t.

I watch a lot of movies and there”s three specific movies that will help you get through this. It might hurt to watch them but it”s like having an operation to get rid of a tumor. You should watch these movies in this specific order. Spoilers ahead, so maybe read the title, go watch it then read the rest of the article. If you don”t care, read on anyways.

The first movie you need to watch is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The film is about a guy who finds out that his ex-girlfriend paid a company to have him erased from his mind. Once he finds this out he in turn gets the procedure done to him. Fate would have it that they meet again at the beginning/end of the film, when the truth gets uncovered. This movie is useful in our situation because it might help you remember how bad it got and how good things used to be. This will be a make or break movie, which will help you decide whether she is worth or not trying to get back. The solution (dilemma) proposed in this film is that if you are meant to be together, you will be. Should you want to still stay away, read on…

The second movie you must watch is 500 Days of Summer. The movie is about a guy who falls in love for what he thought was his perfect girl and the movie shows you how she (and he as well) end up destroying his life. We see real misery as a shell of a man is left. The movie is brilliantly done and jumps around the different days in the entire scheme of the relationship. The solution proposed by this movie is for you to find somebody else.

The last movie you need to watch is Forgetting Sarah Marshall. This film is about a guy that”s a music writer that was in a relationship with a hot actress and she breaks up with him after cheating on him. He goes on a vacation to Hawaii, where she is vacationing as well, and the whole movie is about him suffering while trying to get over her and finding a better girl that is more compatible with him and appreciates him. Even though it”s not as good a film as the others go, as far as movie making, it probably offers you with the best solution. Sure, it happens magically from the plot because it”s a movie but so long as you are not too negative you may find that you”re a lot better than your ex makes you out to be or feel.

Apart from watching those movies, you will probably spend a lot of time losing sleep, wanting to drink, wanting to do anything else but think but you can”t stop it. You might even not want to eat and would do what some consider fasting. A lot of stuff you like, whether playing video games or driving or whatever will not interest you. This is a dark lonely place but you still have yourself, your best friend. None of your friends will probably understand exactly what it is that you”re going through. They didn”t live through every single memory you have of her so any advice they provide should be taken with caution as it might be based on false information. Only you really know what happened…

So, what have I been doing? Well the first thing I started to do again is a lot of exercise. See, it helps and hurts but mainly it helps. I go walking and running a lot, alone. This is bad in the sense that I spend a lot of time thinking about what just happened but it”s good in the sense that I”m getting fit again and after a lot of hard exercise, every morning I keep waking up feeling better and better. Do it for yourself. It will go a long way to for your body chemistry to make you feel better in the process of finding a new girlfriend. Hell, even if you want to get back with your old one, she might see you as a new man and might take you back. I”m not saying it”s the right thing to do, but just something that might help you out.

Listen to a lot of music and rest. I guess love failing feels a lot like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Make sure you are well rested every day, even if it”s really hard to sleep. Stay productive, but I”m not saying run away from your problems. Go back and do everything that you put aside because of the relationship. You need help now, and it”s no time to sit by and just be totally miserable. Do it for yourself. Girls love a man who makes his own destiny.

Do things that show you that you can still feel good about your life.

I hope I helped you. If you have any questions, leave me a comment or email me at

Definition: Wigger

the-n-word

I think it should be pretty simple, when you say you talk white the term “talk white” 99% of the time means proper English and when you say someone is acting black 99% of the time they mean it in a negative way. Just because black people use and accept this doesn’t make it ok. I personally know many black people who have a defeatist attitude and for the most part look down on themselves.

I am black and I can speak as well as anyone else, people would say I talk white and when I asked them what that meant they said it meant speaking proper or good English then I asked them what does talking black mean and they got quiet.

People especially now a days like to pretend that anything PC is bad because PC has been over done, people also like to pretend that words shouldn’t mean anything but they do and just because a black guy may say I don’t mind being called the “N” word that doesn’t make it right.

You ask people what it means to act ghetto most will say acting black when you ask them what does it mean to act black they don’t want to answer. What this means is they know they are making derogatory comments about blacks, but if they never use the word black or African American then they can pretend they are not saying something negative.

I am also shocked that people are so surprised over the why some black people call each other the “N” word; it is not that hard to figure out. You ever see someone get extremely pissed if you make a joke about someone’s mother while others will fire off mother jokes like it doesn’t matter?

The same thing applies to the “N” word, it’s wrong to use no matter how you try to spin it but some just have more respect for themselves than others and some understand the origins of the word and how it really can affect people and they will not use it even in jest. Either way you would never use a mother joke on a stranger would you? Maybe you can get away with saying a mother joke to a friend but try it on a stranger and you will most likely end up in a fight.

We can all sit here and pretend that caring about words and labels are silly because only our actions matter but we all know we don’t live in that world yet. It does matter, when you have the word wigger openly used you are one letter away from saying the “N” word and no spin can change that fact. If you really believe that black people are the “N” word then go ahead and call a white person who “act’s black” a wigger. You may not agree but if you are ever in doubt use the mathematic formula.

If wigger = white person acting black then w = white and igger = acting black, since we all know igger is The “N” word then the “N” word = acting black so black = the “N” word. So every time you say wigger you are saying all blacks are the “N” word it’s plain and simple.

I can see that by reading what I wrote it may seam like I think everyone is racist but that is far from the case. My main point is that people should care about their words and really understand them before saying them.

This goes for all races, as I said I grew up with Blacks, whites and Hispanic people and have seen what it is like on those three sides and there is racism on all three of those sides. But I to do not like to fire off calling people racist because just like calling people Hitler its over used and often people don’t really understand what they are saying.

Labels and stereotypes go hand in hand it’s true when I hung with my black friends most of the time we played basketball and football but it wasn’t only blacks around, also each group had their own slang.

Even in Spanish there are different dialects and often a Cuban person will think a Mexican person’s Spanish is slang and theirs is correct and a person from Puerto Rico will think a Cuban’s way of speaking Spanish is slang.

The thing is there is a culture and a way of doing things that makes black people unique like all other races the problem is that some people take the wrong aspects and associate them saying it is black culture.

Speaking broken English is not black culture, neither is selling drugs, joining gangs and miss-treating women, every race/culture has done this, hip hop and its lifestyle is not the same as black culture just as surfing and skateboarding is not white culture.

People will watch a rap video and since most rap is performed by blacks they believe that rap is black culture but they are wrong, being “hip hop” is not being black, black people can choose to act “hip hop” but they are not born that way.

This is where the problem with labels come in, you see someone living in a project and they get on T.V. and they say they love it, and that they sell drugs and drive in pimped out cars and pimp hoes and they say that’s living ghetto.

So that impression is made since the man who said all this is black that acting ghetto is acting like the man you saw saying all that. From there it grows until acting ghetto is acting black. That’s where the problem comes in.

So later you see someone driving down the street in a pimped out car and you say “Man that is ghetto” and you think you said nothing wrong but you know that people equate ghetto with black so you just said something negative towards all blacks not just the person in the car.

The same with the word wigger, you see someone rapping and dressing in the “hip hop” style and you say he is a wigger. You think you really didn’t say anything bad, you may even think you are defending “hip hop” saying that white people shouldn’t be able to be “hip hop” but that is incorrect.

“Hip hop” is not only for black people it is for everyone, I listen to rock music and video game music and have even dressed the part, but when I went to a disturbed concert no one had a label for a black person who like to dress and listen to rock music. Perhaps they might have called me alternative but that would be the most they would say.

I know that was long winded but I am trying to make it clear that its not a matter of you are a racist if you say these words but understand what those words and labels really mean and know what you are truly saying when you speak those words and ask yourself are you really saying something positive or negative.

Insidious movie review

Insidious movie review by Honorabili

One Sentence Review:
“Finally a good modern horror movie with enough balls to give us an ending like a classic 70s horror movie.”

Insidious tragic

Simply go watch the movie as I won’t type up a plot synopsis here. If you miss watching movies like Poltergeist or Evil Dead or the Frighteners or even the original The Exorcist, this will be a movie that you will thoroughly enjoy watching. The movie has many parts where the characters react to the insanity that’s going on around them much like a real person would in real life rather than the typical mass produced hollywood script, where you can predict everything even from the trailer. Even the evil stuff has an explanation rather than the typical “oh these are demons, they’re bad“.

From a film maker and movie buff’s perspective, the movie is simply a modern day 70s and 80s horror film. From the movies I mentioned earlier, it reminded me the most of Poltergeist which is by far the scariest movie from that list (the first one, although part 2 was also pretty disturbing). I would also say some parts are sort of like The Omen but that’s not really a ghost movie, rather than about the birth of the anti-Christ. This movie took some of the best aspects from the Paranormal Activity movies and put it into a more movie perspective, rather than just watching a bunch of security cameras. I think that makes it a lot more tolerable and watchable for the normal movie viewer.

IMDB gave this movie 6.9 out of 10 but I think IMDB ratings have been wrong for many years now. I would give it as a HORROR MOVIE (not fucking Citizen Kane or the Wages of Fear level or kind of movie) a score of 8 out of 10. You must rate things within their own environment. Apples to apples!

Cybernetics For The iPhone Generation

Steve Buscemi cyborgIn this day and age technology is everything, mobile this, mobile that and if you aren’t mobile you aren’t anybody. With this in mind, Obscure Internet’s Research Division has been involved in some hi-tech human modification testing that in a few years time will be the most sought after gadgets money can buy.

Having your body modified to hold electronic components can be dangerous business, even with top Russian surgeons like Ripyerone Niploff in the drivers seat. With that in mind we opted out of volunteering for the research instead putting forward Alex Smith the company care taker. In the name of research (and money) Alex agreed to let our technology department fit him with several internal devices that could enhance day to day living these included an MP3 player, a digital watch, a miniature sewing kit and a titanium coffee frother. Make no mistake, these operations were painful. The surgery lasted more than 30 minutes and afterwards Alex was said to be exhausted, he did however console him self by making a lovely frothy coffee to bring him round from the anesthetic.

We caught up with him 2 weeks after his operation.
“How are you feeling Alex?”
“Alex, how are you feeling?”
“ALEX”
“Oh, sorry, I was listening to the old mp3 player here in my arm, Celine Dion, that Titanic song. Beautiful, lovely singer she is”
“Fine, making good use of the gadgets embedded in you then?”
“Oh yes, only yesterday I put a button back on my shirt, using just my fingers and teeth, where as before I would have been looking around for a needle and thread, trying to get the cotton through the needle, bloody nightmare.”
“I bet you had a coffee afterwards didn’t you? Ha ha ha!”
“No, after the first one in the hospital just after the operation I remembered I don’t really like coffee that much especially that frothy type, more of a tea person really!”
“I see, and the Digital watch, I bet having one of those with you helps things along?”
“Well yes and no, I like knowing the time, but rubber straps bring on my exema, I have to keep swapping it from wrist to wrist, bit of a pain really… I might have another op to remove it in the future, maybe get one of those funny ones nurses have.”
“Thank you Alex, interesting comments there! Good luck!”
“…and I knoooooww that my life willl go onnn-y-onnn, this is the best part coming up, beautiful singer she is”

As you can see, another case of technology advancing beyond our needs and it’s just a matter of time before these modifications hit the high street, I for one will be standing in line. Goodbye non-frothy coffee.

Daz

Games: Most let down, Most hopeful

The game should be ninety-nine cents on the App Store. The graphics are nothing special and the gameplay is all about jump kicking zombies and driving around an island never really feeling like you are in any danger. They also had to do what all zombie games do which is make all the zombies re-spawn which just kills the feel of the game.~J.A. Laraque

Games: Most let down, Most hopeful

The New Year is a time to look forward with all kinds of resolutions, most of them that you will not keep and it is also a time to look back on the year. When it comes to gaming there is always room for reflection and regret. There is also always that hope that the next game that’s coming is the one that will keep you enthralled for months or more.

A post like this could be long, but for me it’s simple. There are two games that I thought about the most in 2011. One let me down worse a blind date setup by your grandmother and the other brings me hope like a wink from that girl across the room.

Most let down: Dead Island

Less we forget, let’s take a look at this video.

[youtube id=”lZqrG1bdGtg&ob” width=”633″ height=”356″]

Seriously, how did we get from that to the game that was launched? I guess we should have known the game would be bad when a beta copy was released to Stream instead of the real version. I remember wanting this game thinking it would be a great experience. In the end I only loved the intro and only because of that stupid song.

The game should be ninety-nine cents on the App Store. The graphics are nothing special and the gameplay is all about jump kicking zombies and driving around an island never really feeling like you are in any danger. They also had to do what all zombie games do which is make all the zombies re-spawn which just kills the feel of the game.

The voice acting was nothing great and you never cared about the characters or yourself. I also hate games where they put up barriers to keep you from places you want to go, but it’s something stupid like wooden planks in the water or the world’s largest and steepest hill.

Totally let down by this game, I tried to do the boring missing and I even tried using weaker weapons for a challenge. However, in the end the game is just bad and it makes we wish I was that little girl.

Most Hopeful: Star Wars: The Old Republic

starwars-the old republic

Sure, the game sold a lot and with backing from Bioware and EA I am sure it will do better than the last Star Wars MMO. I still had my doubts and did not read too much because I did not want to spoil the game one way or another and then I played it.

First off, complete voice acting, good voice acting including multiple choices and side quests make a great RPG. For the first time in a long time I care about the story and can’t wait to see it unfold. I think about my decisions, how I act, what I do. I love the companion system that helps you solo or is great in a group and they talk and interact in the story as well.

[youtube id=”6zTRZZefmvM” width=”633″ height=”356″]

Old Republic even has great PVP within warzones and open world. Sure, there are bugs and if you read the forums you will see just as many complaints and whining as any other MMO, but if Bioware stays strong and adds more content, improves little by little and fixes bugs quickly this could be a game you will play for years to come.

Your list

So if you have one game to pick for biggest let down and most hopeful which would they be?

Classic Video Game Cereals

Nintendo cereal was introduced in 1989 and did not last very long. It was also created by Ralston and featured fruit flavored Mario’s, Mushrooms and Gooma’s and Berry-flavored Links, Hearts and Shields. The cereal featured posters, discounts on Nintendo Power and even the chance to win an NES.~J.A. Laraque

Classic Video Game Cereals

It was like a ritual. Saturday morning we would wake up earlier than any other day of the week. It was all about Saturday morning cartoons and what better way to enjoy them than with some sugary cereal preferably with colored marshmallows.  For the most part I ate the popular ones like Captain Crunch, Lucky Charms and Frosted Flakes, but when I began playing video games and saw they had cereals for them I had to try them out.

Videogame-Cereal-Boxes

Looking back now most of those cereals were exactly the same, in fact many were just like Lucky Charms; there would be normal pieces made of corn or something and marshmallow pieces in the shape of whatever game. At the time it was the best breakfast ever, now I look back at the box art and advertising.

Pac-Man

pac-man cereal

General Mills introduced this cereal in 1983 after Pac-Man took the world by storm. It was made in the same template as Lucky Charms; it had crunchy sweetened corn cereal with marshmallow bits and the marshmallows were shaped like Pac-Man, Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde.

What’s funny is not only were there tons of specials you could order or find in the box, but they had coupons that you can still find today. Later the cereal introduced pink Ms. Pac-Man pieces and big Super Pac-Man pieces.

Donkey Kong Jr.

Donkey Kong Jr cereal

Made by Ralston-Purina, yes, the cat food company, Donkey Kong Jr cereal was a lot like Fruit Loops where the pieces were fruit shaped and tasted sweet. DK Jr cereal offered prizes like baseball cards and game books that you could find inside.

Nintendo

Nintendo Cereal

The company so big it had its own cereal featuring two of its greatest stars. Nintendo cereal was introduced in 1989 and did not last very long. It was also created by Ralston and featured fruit flavored Mario’s, Mushrooms and Gooma’s and Berry-flavored Links, Hearts and Shields. The cereal featured posters, discounts on Nintendo Power and even the chance to win an NES.

Sonic

Sonic_the_Cereal_finished_by_QuiksilverZero

Ok, this isn’t a real cereal, but Sonic did appear in a Cheerios commercial back in the day and many of us wish there was a Sonic brand cereal. This box art was created by QuiksilverZero and it looks pretty cool. I really wish they made this. I guess we will have to settle for Sonic and the Honey Bee working together.

Christmas Comes to Pac-Land

Christmas_Comes_to_Pac-Land

While current generations of gamers wait with much anticipation to open the XBox 360 Kinects and latest Call of Duty gear currently stashed under the Christmas tree, we take a look back today for a historical first in video gaming.

The first major wave of gaming popularity came to a crest in 1982 as arcade video machines could be found almost anywhere and Atari faced off with their first real home console challengers.  It was also a huge season for video game related merchandise, as manufacturers of everything from breakfast cereal to bedding to swim trunks got in on the first video game boom.

Christmas_Comes_to_Pac-Land

On December 16, 1982 the first ever Christmas special of the video game age debuted in prime time.  Hanna Barbera’s Christmas Comes to Pac-Land took the popular new Saturday morning cartoon series based on Pac-Man and it’s many sequels into uncharted territory for anything related to video games.

In this ABC holiday special, Santa Claus crash lands in the fictional town of Pac-Land, an odd world where it seems to be legal to eat other inhabitants and walk around without pants.  Santa, (voiced by a pre-Optimus Prime Peter Cullen), has never heard of Pac-Land while those who live there have never heard of him or Christmas at all.

Christmas_Comes_to_Pac-Land

The inhabitants of Pac-Land accept the idea of Santa and Christmas pretty quickly and decide to help Santa fix his sleigh and warm up his reindeer.  Pac-Man himself (a guy you’d think would be a pretty important guy in a world of the same name) goes off to find Santa’s sack of toys, which have been discovered by the “ghost monster” gang of Blinky, Pinky, Inky, Clyde and Sue.

Long story short, Santa gets going on his way, Christmas is now known by those who live in Pac-Land and even the ghost monsters get in on the gift giving spirit of the season.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYH7AWiCF2g[/youtube]

Initially the special had a short lifespan.  The video game industry crashed and burned through 1983 and 1984 and by the time gaming returned to the public eye years later (due to Nintendo’s strong marketing plan) Pac-Man was considered old hat in place of the Super Mario Bros. and Zeldacharacters.

The special has come back in recent years in holiday airings on Cartoon Network and Boomerang and can also be watched on the left side of his article thanks to YouTube so that parents of the original video gaming generation can show their young ones the roots of Christmas video gaming.

A little game called HuttBall

[youtube id=”UgHCYaN_V3Q” width=”633″ height=”356″]

The thing about games like theses is you can easily believe the goal is to kill people and sadly like many Battlegrounds in World of Warcraft people only care about their kill count.~J.A. Laraque

A little game called HuttBall

So this is not so much a full guide as it is a small explanation of one of the PVP battle zones in Star Wars the Old Republic. Hutt ball is kind of like Rugby with guns and light sabers. The overall goal is to take the ball that spawns in the center of the arena to the enemies end. This sounds simple enough except the enemy team can do anything to stop you.

huttball

The thing about games like theses is you can easily believe the goal is to kill people and sadly like many Battlegrounds in World of Warcraft people only care about their kill count. The arena has two main hazards that can be used to your advantage. One is several fire burners than are on a timer and if you get caught on top of one when they go off you are as good as dead. The second are two acid pits that when you fall in them kill your pretty quickly. Also, when you fall inside them you walk slowly so the chances of you getting out are slim.

Huttball_fire

Looking at the arena there are various platforms that can lead to the enemy goal line and many ways you can get knocked off pretty much guaranteeing you won’t score. This is where knockback abilities come in. Almost every class in SWTOR has some form of knockback and this can be used to knock you into fire, acid or off the platform.

Another very useful tool is stuns or things to slow you down. First off, everyone can sprint when not in combat so when fighting you walk slower. Pretty much all classes can slow you down or stop you in your tracks with an ability. Stopping or slowing an enemy can be used for people holding the ball and for those going after the person with the ball. To combat this you can pass the ball to people.

Unfortunately, most people don’t pass or even know you can. Passing is done by clicking the pass button and then moving the icon over to where you want to pass it. Keep in mind if the person moves or is killed then the ball falls and respawns in the center. An enemy player can also intercept the pass.

Huttball_arena

Passing is great if your team is split between defending the ball carrier and moving ahead in case the ball carrier gets trapped or slowed or caught in something. The winning teams learn to pass to the right people at the right time and when done right can mean a quick win.

There are a ton of different strategies to this game, however, most people just run around killing with only a few really trying to score or defend. Perhaps there is because the game is still new or because like in W.O.W some people really just suck at anything besides pressing a button to kill someone.

Overall, the game is fun with a good team and if you go in as a guild or with friends it can really be fun if you another good team. The best part is there are no ties, if the score is tied whoever has the ball when time expires wins.

Just one tiny part of Old Republic that makes it a really great MMO.

The beauty of their dreams

attollos technology logo

Hello, my name is Thomas Whitaker and I am the co-founder and director of Attollos Technology Ltd.  During the summer of 2011, myself and my business partner James Robinson worked on taking our first baby steps into game development. Both students at Universities in the United Kingdom, we wanted to stray away from the well trod path of attempting to gain internships and try and gain some industry experience first hand.

As a talented programmer, James took over the main coding responsibilities, whilst I was attempting to take on the most daunting task of all: making a small indie game have a voice in a market that is so quickly becoming overshadowed by multinational companies, who can afford to throw thousands of pounds into generating a download surge.  With this in mind, we decided we wanted to create a simple, addictive game, that would be a good time filler for the casual gaming community.  The concept of a fast paced tapping game emerged at the fore-front of our thoughts and our game – Screen Invaders began to take shape.

Invader

The concept:

With this challenge in mind and a notebook on my desk, I started to doodle out the characters and the storyline that would become the foundation behind our game. We wanted a simple, user-friendly interface that would allow the user to simply pick up and play. For me, there was nothing more aggravating with an iOS game than having to trawl through what seems like an eternity of menus in order to get to the actual gameplay.

This meant that the idea behind our game revolved around the notion of attempting to defend earth against hordes of alien invaders within a given time limit. As the levels progressed, the aliens became more and more numerous and difficult to destroy. James created a few prototype games without any of the graphics introduced and I soon became hooked on the concept.

I could barely stop playing my own game and decided that this pick-up and play concept was one that we should try and stick to at all costs.  Taking inspiration from the dynamic art in games such as TinyWings, we decided that we would have a set background for only a few levels and try and keep changing everything round so that the gaming experience was not as monotonous as simply tapping away in a frenzy to try and destroy the last alien before time ran out.

stick sports

The launch:

After months of hard work and hours spent designing characters and icons, Screen Invaders version 1 was finally ready to be submitted to the AppStore.  As newbie developers, this was a proud moment for both of us and where our advanced planning and research became critical.  After recently completing an internship at Stick Sports ltd, the creators of the famous Stick Cricket series, I was able to gain advertising space on their website, a domain that attracts millions of hits a day.

Independent marketing schemes such as those created by Innovatty on twitter, involving all of the indie developers retweeting about each other’s ideas were also invaluable as well as the forums on sites such as TouchArcade.  The challenge was intimidating, attempting to do battle with companies such as EA, in an arena that they were swiftly trying to dominate.   Adverts such as the one above, were circulated across the globe in an attempt to build up a buzz before the game was released.  Finally, towards the end of August, we gained permission from Apple for the game to go live and after hours spent blogging, tweeting, face booking and you-tubing, all we could do was hope.  We averaged a respectable 50 downloads every few days and with the introduction of bonuses and power-ups, we hope the game can spread.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UEFfkDfA1r0[/youtube]

Ultimately, we released our game at a very similar time to the day Contre-Jour was published by Chillingo.  Without the advertising power and established consumer base dying to download anything with a company stamp on it, we were never going to emerge as real contenders to top the Arcade genre.

However, we have lots of great ideas and with our base of existing customers all around the world, we are hopeful that our next release can really cause a stir and ruffle some angry feathers. Our company motto “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”, a famous Eleanor Roosevelt quote really sums up what we envisage we will one day accomplish.  We have taken our first baby steps and although we did not exceptionally flourish, you must first learn to walk before you can attempt to run.

Mario’s Changing Style

Mario KartIf you were lucky enough to have been born in the late 70s or the 80s, chances are you were hit with the video game bug that was gathering up kids by their thousands in arcades and homes across the world. These video games brought with them a host of new characters who would soon become household names: Donkey Kong, Pac-Man and, of course, Mario. The star of the Mario platform video game series and the hugely popular racing series Mario Kart, Mario, is everyone’s favorite stout little Italian-American plumber, but he’s done a lot of changing over the years to get where he is today.

Created by Shigeru Miyamoto whilst he was in the midst of developing the arcade favorite Donkey Kong, Mario was originally known to the designer as Mr Video and Miyamoto had plans to integrate him into every video game he developed. The character picked up his famous name from the warehouse landlord for Nintendo of America, Mario Segale. Segale had been chasing then-president Minoru Arakawa for back rent and as a way of appeasing him they opted to rename Mr Video in Mario Segale’s honor.

Mario’s distinctive look is a product of happenstance more than design. Back in 1981 when he was still Mr Video, Mario was visualized as a carpenter due to the game taking place on a construction site and gave him a large nose as this made his character design more recognizable as a silhouette. When he appeared again in Mario Bros. in 1983, the setting of the game transformed him into a plumber and this, along with his nose, inspired Miyamoto to give Mario roots in New York. The instantly recognizable red overalls, blue shirt and cap all came about due to design issues owing to the limitations of arcade hardware: Mario’s clothing was designed to make him stand-out and contrast against the background, while his cap and mustache were added to get around the problem of having to animate hair, eyebrows and facial expressions.

After his turn on the arcade machines, Mario finally make his first fleshed out, 3D appearance in 1996’s Super Mario 64. From here Mario’s appearance continued to develop and he was given a white and red “M” emblem on his hat, as well as white gloves, and his costume colors reversed to give him blue overalls with a red shirt. This would be Mario’s final form and the one he has gone on to sport ever since.

The rest, as they say, is history and this feisty little plumber has been making that history ever since
his introduction 30 years ago. He may be one of the oldest venerable video game characters around, but he’s still one of its brightest stars.

Top Ten: TurboGrafx-16 HuCard Games

TurboGrafx-16

When gamers look back at the heyday of the Genesis/NES wars, NEC’s TurboGrafx-16 is often overlooked.  That’s a darn shame – as big a shame today as it was back in the 1990s, as the TurboGrafx video game system had some quality games that are still fun to play today.  Just for kicks and giggles, here are what I consider the Top 10 huCard (in no particular order) games for this forgotten system.  One more caveat: the CD games aren’t on this list – they’re for another day!

Bonk’s Adventure / Bonk’s Revenge / Bonk 3

bonks adventure
What can you say about this classic game of caveman versus his world.  How can you not like a character that gains enormous health and power from eating giant, meaty bones or who dispatches his enemies by smacking them with his granite-like head?  I’ll always like the first game the best simply due to its original charm, but the others in the series were gold, too, so they’ve been bunched together as some of the best games ever for the T-16 system!

 

Blazing Lazers

blazing lazers
How about a game that filled the screen with non-stop arcade action – alien ships coming in wave after wave of attack runs, but dropping just the right kind of power-ups to keep your thumbs mashing the pad until defeating each level boss and getting a breather?  Yeah, that’s what I thought, too.  Blazing Lazers was AWESOME.

 

Neutopia / Neutopia II

neutopia
Wait a minute – is this game a Zelda game or not?  Well, it sure played like Zelda, even if it just “borrowed” elements of the classic NES series.  Jazeta strapped on his sword and shield and searched for the eight Medallions that would spell defeat for Dirth, the wizard with a bad attitude.  Charge up the Fire Wand and help Link Jazeta burn his way to success!

 

Military Madness

military madness
Tell me again why we’re fighting the Axis-Xenon scum for the right to control the Moon?  Who cares – this was a turn-based strategy wargame for a console system…and it didn’t suck!  The game’s victory music still pops unbidden into my thoughts (atmostly appropriate times).

 

Alien Crush / Devil’s Crush

alien crush
I never thought I’d sit in front of my television and play a pinball game for hours, but that was before Alien Crush showed me what a good pinball game looked like.  And Devil’s Crush upped the ante even more.  Great graphics, speed, table feel…these were some great pinball games.

 

Bomberman

bomberman
Who wants to play a five-player TurboGrafx-16 game and blow up all your friends?  If you had a TurboTap and enough TurboPads, this game was the ultimate multi-player game for the T-16 system.  Of course, if you had NO friends, the game had a decent single-player mode, too, which, considering many gamers in the 90s didn’t see the sun until the Millennium Bug scared them into going outside to forage for supplies, was a good thing.  By the way, if you had two TurboExpress handheld systems you could link them and play head-to-head.

 

Splatterhouse

splatterhouse
Did you ever want to put on a hockey mask, pick up a weapon, and lay a beating down on the hapless evil denizens of a haunted house?  Don’t worry about your psyche, so did everyone else.  Lots of gore (not as much as the Japanese version, though) made this a controversial game and gave it a cult following even before its release.

 

Cadash

cadash
Another super RPG for the TurboGrafx-16, Cadash gave the player the opportunity to play a fighter (heavily armoured and packing a mean damage rating), a mage (with magical firepower), a priestess (a decent fighter who can heal herself), or a ninja (a FAST little guy with the ability to reign death by shuriken from afar or use a spread fire ability to burn enemies to ash).  The game had plenty of Zelda II elements (shades of Neutopia!), and remains a T16 collector favorite to this day.

 

Dungeon Explorer

dungeon explorer
Long before there were MORPGs letting gamers explore virtual fantasy worlds together, your choices for multiplayer RPG action were slim. Until Dungeon Explorer arrived, that is, with the ability to play with up to four more of your friends (using the TurboTap).  You could even save your progress with a password save game feature!

 

The Legendary Axe

legendary axe
This game was hard.  And I know I wasn’t alone in thinking this when it came out.  It was also a visual/audio masterpiece that garnered a Video Game of the Year honor from VideoGames & Computer Entertainment.  A game that redefines an entire genre (the platform sidescroller) deserves to be on any TurboGrafx-16 Top Ten list!

 

Honorable mentionJ.J. & Jeff

jj-jeff
OK, I played Leisure Suit Larry when it came out, and loved the infantile humor, but up to J.J. & Jeff, I never saw a steaming pile of defecation in a video game before.  Although the North American version of this game was much tamer than the Japanese version (no public urination, for example), it still had some punch to shock and titillate the North American puritan audience.

 

Have a different Top Ten TurboGrafx-16 list?  Leave a comment with your favorites – and don’t forget to say why!

Classic Games you would give as gifts today

Video Game Stocking

True story, I was in a Kay Bee toy store several years before they closed and was looking for some discounted games. An older woman comes in and asks about the Playstation2 which was brand new at the time. The guy behind the counter tells her the Atari Jaguar would be much better liked for her son and showed her a wonder bundle of games and told her he could give them all to her for one special price.

Well, if you know anything about the Atari Jaguar you know any kid would not want that over a brand new PS2. Now yes, I could have said something, but I was an evil teenager at the time and I was hoping to be there after the holidays when she would have to return it in a panic.

I was thinking about that story the other day and with the holidays almost here I thought about great games that would make great gifts today. Now of course if you gave most people an old game instead of something new like Call of Duty or Skyrim they would freak. However, what if it would be appreciated, what classic game would you proudly give as a gift?

Sonic 2

Sonic 2

For me this was Sonic perfection, the level design the music and everything in-between made this a great game. Even today it is the type of game you can load up and enjoy a quick run through. It may not have the graphics of today, but people are liking Sonic Generations and its look back to classic Sonic so as a retro stocking stuffer this game would be received well.

Super Mario RPG

Super Mario RPG

When you mix the fun world of Mario with the RPG nature of the Squaresoft games you get an adventure that stands the test of time. Super Mario RPG had it all, a good storyline, great characters, wonderful music and a fun battle system with boss fights and secret areas and the game was pretty long to boot. Compared to later games like Final Fantasy 7, it may seem lacking, but in its time it was ahead of its day and led to many great Paper Mario games.

Final Fantasy 7

final-fantasy-7

Speaking of FF7, most people crown this game the king of the series and even though you might get tired of seeing people pretend they are Sephiroth or horrible cosplay of Tifa, the game itself was a masterpiece. Again we have the perfect combination of story, characters, gameplay and music and all were rated five stars. Many gamers still want a remake and not the one on the PSP. No doubt the painted ground and other outdated graphics might look strange to today’s gamer, but for a classic game this must rank as one of the all-time greats.

Super Castlevania

Super Castlevania

How many of you have played this in some form in the last year or so. For many it is like going to church, you do it once or twice a year. Super Castlevania is one of those games that every once in a while you have to play through because of how fun it was and I have to toss  STON in there as well because they were both so well done that even with outdated graphics the game is still awesome. The point is that great games are great games regardless of their outdated look. Castlevania was fun to play and it did not matter if that bat looked more like a dust bunny or that the whip was seriously pixelated. Once you saw someone playing it or a video or even a mention you most likely loaded it up yourself. Come on, you know right now you are thinking about it.

Stocking Stuffer

Now obviously there are a ton of great games I missed, but that is for you to tell us. In fact we will make it a contest. Tell us what classic game would be worth giving as a gift this holiday season and the best written one will be featured in an article and you will win a prize. Detail is the key here and the better you make your case the better your chance to win. Even if you do not want to participate in the contest we want to know which game you think should be on this list.

My Favourite Games: VI

Gran Turismo – PlayStation (1998)

Gran Turismo - PlayStation

There’s been a few landmark driving games over the years but I can’t remember any that had the impact that Gran Turismo had. Much of the adulation it received initially was earned by the near photo-realistic quality of its action replays, although this always confused me – sure they look good, but it’s the game that counts, isn’t it? Luckily, this aspect of the game was also ground-breaking in many ways. Featuring masses of real cars, numerous testing circuit-based courses, extensive car customisation options, and lots and lots of competitions, this was a driving game fan’s dream come true, and is still the series others aspire to. Many prefer one of the various sequels but this original is the one I always return to, mainly because I’ve never been too good at ‘simulation’ driving games but this game lets you keep boosting the power of your car until you’re more powerful than your rivals (the sequels brought in BHP limits for races)! My trusty Honda Prelude destroys all!

Super Metroid – SNES (1994)

Super Metroid - SNES

I can still remember buying this game second-hand in my local game/music store. I had little knowledge of it and, thanks to my prior Sega allegiance, I had never played the earlier Metroid games, but I had heard that it was supposedly something special. I really didn’t know what to expect so, upon playing it for the first time, proceeded with caution. What followed was one of greatest awakenings of my gaming life! I was initially wondering what was going on (no one reads instruction books unless they get stuck!) but was quickly immersed in the atmospheric, haunting world of Brinstar and all the other amazingly designed areas of Super Metroid’s world. Not many games have hooked me like this one did – I spent hours, days, weeks trying to uncover all the secrets and explore every square inch of its fascinating game world. In fact, given my love of this game, it’s nothing short of insane that I have yet to get around to playing the subsequent Metroid games!

Exhumed – Saturn (1997)

Exhumed - Saturn

Due to my lack of interest in modern gaming and PC gaming generally, there’s very few first-person shooters I’ve actually played – something which perhaps needs to be rectified – but this is one of the few exceptions, and a damn fine one it is too. Its set in and around Egypt which gives it the potential for a great story and lots of secret passages and traps, not to mention a fantastic atmosphere! It strikes the perfect balance between puzzles, exploration, and shooting and features a huge game world to play through, with new parts of older levels being continually opened up after the acquisition of new items and abilities. A superbly programmed game by the now sadly defunct Lobotomy Software which did things on the Saturn that supposedly weren’t possible.

Psycho Fox – Master System (1989)

Psycho Fox - Master System

My affection for the Master System has been well documented in these pages and this is one of my very favourite games for it. Sure, in mere screenshots it probably just looks like every other 8/16-bit platformer going – grass, desert, ice stages, formulaic characters, cute graphics, etc, but take the time to play it and you’ll find that it’s a lot more than that. Featuring four playable characters with unique abilities that you can switch between using ‘transformation sticks’, large stages with multiple routes, a perfectly-graded difficulty level, and lots of secrets, there’s plenty here to keep any fan of platformers happy for a good while. It is also home to several features that I hadn’t seen before, but which would later become commonplace in the genre, so for it’s time it was pretty original too. On top of all that, it has springy poles that can fling you halfway across the stage! Great fun and addictive as hell!

Ocarina of Time – Nintendo 64 (1998)

Ocarina of Time - Nintendo 64

To my shame this remains the only Zelda I’ve played properly (yes, I know!) – as much as I have enjoyed the few RPG’s I’ve played, I guess my attention span isn’t up to it! However, this game was one of the few I’ve actually bought full price on the day of release and it was worth every penny. Like Super Metroid, Link’s first 3D adventure draws you into its world completely and hours pass by without you noticing. Featuring lots of large areas and dungeons, many of which reveal new secrets every time you return to them, countless side-quests, dozens of characters to interact with, and a whole host of items and equipment to collect, some new, some old, this is about as immersive as videogames get for me. Now, I must get around to playing A Link To The Past!

 

Evolution: Indie development in Russia and one company’s transition to the U.S.

The year 2011 – the year of hopes – is coming to its end and it is time to sum up the results. It is about six years of own game projects’ development and 11 years in the gaming industry. Next year means new goals!  For sure, they will be more ambitious than those in 2007, when the idea of Deep Black project was only emerging.

deep black

What was it like?

In the far 1997, when I was 18, I first saw PlayStation console.  I worked for a company that was doing semi-legal localisation of gaming software at those “wild” times in Russia. Working for the company was something beyond description – there were not more than 3 similar companies in whole Russia at that time.  I was very interested in software development and it took me three months to do first “game” that would successfully run on a modded PS1 console. That game earned me 1000 USD, which was very decent pay at that time in Russia – taking into account that I did both programming and drawing.

Starting with 1999, I worked as a producer of western products in the Russian market. It was easier, than developing games myself. My core tasks were to find indie games developed on GNU and buy them to publish in Russia. Indie developers were surprised, that they could earn some money in Russia.  Later there were Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox and much more game systems.  Semi-legal companies would become legal or disappear, owners of companies would change, but the localisation issue was still important. A DVD-format came to Russia.

biart_logo

It was in 2002 when I decided to set up my own company – Biart.  A first version of the company’s logo was introduced and then changed in 5 years’ time.  We were a young team and didn’t think about business-strategies – things were going well anyway. So we started experiments with design, internet services, opened three sound-recording studios and two authoring studios.  And  I hoped  that one day we would  have enough potential to develop own gaming project. So why didn’t we start developing our own game at that time? It was because we understood that we didn’t know the market well.  Besides, we felt that everything had its time. You cannot force yourself.

In 2005, I met an indie developer with an interesting concept and as I also had similar ideas, I decided to make it a commercial project.  So I made up my mind to go into the project and started searching for a script writer, team, and product placement partners etc. We had a small office and some money to finance the development. The development took us a year. We worked hard and devoted our souls and hearts to our work.

So in 2007 Diver: Deep Water Adventures appeared on PC platform. Deals were good at that time and we decided not to play with royalties and prefer a flat fee scheme. Publishers were more adequate then compared to the period after the economic crisis. Publishers were hungry for games.

But our German publisher cheated us and we did not get the last payment from them. It was a guy from Gost Publishing who sold rights to Frogster without paying to the U.S. No need to say that Frogster assured us that they had paid it all. Stephane Gonod – the guy from Gost Publishing – disappeared and half a year later announced himself bankrupt. It is funny that a year ago he set up a new company in cooperation with an ex-Frogster employee and when we accidentally met at a conference, his only words were “Shit happens”. God will judge him.

So the project was released and there was a question – what’s next? I always strive to set new, more complicated goals, so development for PC was not so challenging for me anymore. Everybody was talking about game consoles and I realized that we should slow down with Diver 2 for a few years and devote ourselves to own multiple platform technology’s development.  And accordingly, our new goal was now to create own engine for next-gen titles. I sent an inquiry to Microsoft and a miracle happened – we got a status of an official developer! Thank you guys, if not for you, we would most definitely remain one of those numerous PC-only developers from Russia. So I was one of the first who brought Xbox 360 devkit to Moscow. It was not easy at all to deal with the Russian customs, but once again, thank you to our account manager – Alistair, you are the best!

There was another challenging task – where do we get people and how do we get a team if nobody in Russia can program for consoles, optimise the code and – most crucial – artists do content of very low quality level.  But as they say, believe and love what you do and you will find people who will believe in you and in your project.  Another hint – feel and understand who you are going to employ, for someone without experience is able to learn and the other is only going to “eat” your budget.  Speaking of numbers – it took us a year to experiment with staff and content. The real development itself started in late 2008 – 2009, when the team got skilled enough.

PS3-Deep-Black

The project’s original title was U-Wars. Later we renamed it to Deep Black. Platforms – PC and Xbox 360. It is a third-person shooter with key moments being fought onshore and underwater. Special underwater mechanics, jet pack etc.  The idea of the game appeared after I read various articles about special underwater operation forces. We started doing a game about these Special Forces but then I changed my mind and we did it in the sci-fi genre, abandoning the previous script.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FPSF8-d28Q[/youtube]

The period of active development of the game was 2010. At the same time, we went into agreements with publishers and started working on PlayStation 3 version of the game. It was not easy, but for sure it was a challenge for the team!

2011 is a year of the technology’s optimisation and content polishing. And now I am going to tell you about all drawbacks we had. I think this may be interesting.

  1. Content

We replaced our game designer three times. There are no experienced game designers in Russia, who know how to do shooters. In 2011, I took over and we spent the entire summer polishing and balancing the game.

We should have done feature cuts earlier. It hurt to cut when we had to do it later. Still even after the cut there were 10 hours of gameplay there. We also cut some game mechanics. Gradually you come to understand that it is better to do less but in decent quality.

The pipeline settled by the development’s final stage. I relied upon level designers’ common sense and some of them were wrong when incorrectly putting emphasis in level design.  For instance, level designers used to pay too much attention to places; a regular player would run by within three seconds and would not notice.

Our major problem was that we lacked experience. As a result, too many iterations.  If I started the project now, I could economize not less than 1.5M USD (total to-date budget 4.2M). The pipeline and exact task setting – this is what counts. When you feel that your ship is going in the wrong direction, do not be afraid to change your staff. I said good-bye to those who didn’t match our dream team in 2011. If you are an indie, fire those who only work for their salaries and who do not go with the level of your team.

  1. Technology

First, there was weak understanding of the architecture and some mistakes of the lead programmer.  Let me put it like this: we were unlucky with our technical architect and had to re-do the technology three times before we dismissed him.  Integration of new features to the render was changing the pipeline in terms of art. As said above, it took us one year to experiment with the technology and develop first toolset. To me, it was like a joker in the pack – the arts and programming departments would set some terms, but in reality it appeared that nobody had control of the situation. Difficult? It was. Especially when you invest your own money. And your employees do like to experiment 🙂 As a result – we finally got a working technology for Xbox 360 and PC in 2010… But our publisher then wanted PlayStation 3. I have to admit that we were afraid of it. And not in vain.

At that moment we had strong guys in our team and decided that we could do it. We got the hardware in August. And we realized that we had to do the impossible – once again re-write the whole architecture of the render and do refactoring of the engine, as our engine was not ready for PS3 architecture. And in October we had to show the Playable to the publisher.

Gritting their teeth, guys got down to work and analysed the entire code in every detail.  The publisher waited patiently for something playable for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. I, as a producer, had to look into it too – it was a serious step to do considerable refactoring of the code. But I trusted the guys and they did it.

biengine

At the same time, we provided for the possibility of the engine to easily add new platforms, as well as mobile platforms. The previous code was designed for Xbox 360 and DirectX. The new one became a real engine. Within three months a playable for PS3 was available. …. But how slow it was! 🙂

In 2011, while doing a team test and fixing multiplayer for Xbox Live and PSN, programmers were focused on optimisation of the engine code and PS3 render. Numbers? Ok! We raised these two-three times for Xbox and four times for PSP! We had 25-35 fps on PS3 without Cell optimisation.   At the final stage of development. We even used to joke about Stereo, but had already dealt with feature cut and knew the importance of total concentration on our tasks.

We reduced our staff by middle of 2011 and left only key people. It was clear now that it was not enough to do a game and fix critical bugs. One has to pass certification! And, let me tell you, this depends on the quality of testing. It is tough, as you start finding weak points in the code, when something hasn’t been considered well.  And at the same time, you keep on spending your money… And you do postpone your other projects. We had a three month delay and moved release date. Very hard times…

On the whole, the project lasted a year longer than planned. On the one hand, it was due to PlayStations 3 porting, on the other though, because of overestimation  of own abilities.

What now?

We started developing concepts of two new projects in mid-2011 and are planning to release Depth Hunter game about underwater hunting and treasure hunting  by December, 2011.  It will be released for mobile platforms later. Yes! We are indeed developing a version of our technology for mobile platforms – IOS, Android.

And Deep Black is going to become MMOTPS. We are going to launch it as a Free-to-Play by the end of next year. Depth Hunter for mobile is going to be Free-to-Play too. We are eager to work on free-to-play for consoles. I do believe that this is going to be of top interest in 2012-2013.

We have registered an office in the USA (Delaware) this year. So far it is our legal HQ, but we are looking forward to getting money for Deep Black to move to the USA. Unfortunately our business is in Russia and it is getting more difficult to search for investments here, in Russia. Unreasonable loan terms and local investors who are eager to get a controlling interest at once make it challenging to do business in Russia.

The political situation in Russia is not predictable too. People talk a lot about it and do not trust the government. Guys, we do want to work and develop games, rather than wait for another revolution!

A Russian Association of Game Developers and Publishers of Game Industry and Interactive Technologies (http://www.radit.ru/) was set up in 2010 by a number of Russian companies. We were trying to promote development of simulator games and gain support to develop an equivalent of, for example, “Canada” in Russia.  But in our country you can only do business if you pay bribes. I spent two years and a lot of money trying to change things. I have held two conferences ACGI (2009, 2010, http://www.acgirussia.com/), but soon realised that they do not need us. I have no intention to have anything in common with the current authorities any more.

So at the moment I am busy transferring our contracts and licenses to the US, dealing with registration issues and searching for investors/ partners for a long-term cooperation.

We have always tried to develop not only original and quality games, but also high-tech games. I think that we have coped with our task in 2011. I am sure that we will cope with our new challenge – move to the US – in 2012.

Six years after the company set-up, we are facing a new stage of the company development. I am sure that the upcoming 2012 will bring success to all our games!

Konstantin Popov

Founder & CEO of Biart Company

Exploring the SuperGrafx

PC Engine SuperGrafx

For anyone who grew up with an intense interest in gaming there were of course always some systems they liked and some they didn’t like, but I’m willing to bet there was also one which they were always intrigued by, one they wanted but probably never even got to see nevermind own. A system that seemed to take on an almost mythical aura of wonder and excitement. For me that system was the PC Engine SuperGrafx.

The original PC Engine was an amazing machine itself, like the Holy Grail to a videogame-obsessed teenager like myself. All the hype and excitement surrounding it in the pages of magazines like C&VG built it up and up – even my dad was impressed with it! But then reports started surfacing of a new, more powerful PC Engine. What could possibly be better than the amazing Engine? Well, as many of you may well know by now, it was not well received and few games were ever released for it, but even in spite of that it retained its mysterious and enticing aura in my mind and it has remained ever since. Until, that is, I attended the Replay gaming expo in Blackpool where I was excited to see this very console nestled menacingly between a standard Engine and and a NEC PC-FX. Finally I had been granted the opportunity to use a real SuperGrafx in the flesh (so to speak) and I seized it!

Whatever faults the SuperGrafx might’ve had, it’s always sad to see a console flop as dramatically as this one did and sadly, as a consequence of this, there were only ever five dedicated games released for the system, with a further two that worked on both the standard Engine as well as the SuperGrafx, benefiting from improved graphics on the latter. Here I’ll take a look at all five of the dedicated titles released for it:

Aldynes (1991)

Aldynes
Amusingly sub-titled ‘The Mission Code for Rage Crisis’, this is one of just three all-original games made specifically for the new system and to be honest, I can’t decide if it’s the best or the worst of them! It’s a pretty traditional side-viewed shmup set over various alien landscapes and through space with you in command of a small but formidable space fighter. There are of course numerous power-ups to be found including speed-ups and various fairly unoriginal but effective weapons, but there are also drone-type devices which seem to have a bit more sentience than most as they home in on and zap the enemies for you! It’s a good idea in theory but they do make the game rather easy (except the bosses – eek!). The graphics are pretty nice though – their style reminded me of an Amiga game to start with but there is some nice backgrounds and bosses and the music is good too. Aldynes is a decent horizontal-scroller but there’s better examples on the standard Engine.

Madouou Granzort (1990)

 

Granzort

Out of all the SG games, this is the one I knew least about prior to this feature and my instant first impressions of it weren’t too good. Predictably based on an anime series, Granzort itself is a giant robot warrior fighting to rid the world of invading monsters which, in the case of this game, results in a side-viewed run ‘n’ gun adventure. Granzort looked and moved a bit clunkily to start with, but after I’d played this for just a short while I soon realised it’s actually pretty sweet! As Granzort the player can switch between three different robot configurations, each with its own attacks which are more effective against certain enemies than others. The music is catchy and the graphics are really nice too, particularly the backgrounds. I’m pleasantly surprised to find that Granzort is a top-notch platform/combat game and I’ll definitely be playing this some more.

Battle Ace (1989)

 

BattleAce

This was the first SuperGrafx game I played (at Replay) and I was initially rather deflated. It certainly didn’t strike me as demonstrating a significant leap in graphical abilities but after playing it a for a while I started to rather enjoy it. It’s essentially a first-person take on After Burner and requires little further explanation beyond its slightly more futuristic setting. Your craft is equipped with cannons and heat-seeking missiles with which you must take out the many enemies that advance from the horizon. The music here is largely forgettable and the graphics aren’t particularly impressive, with somewhat sparse backgrounds and uninspiring sprites, but there are some nice weather effects and the chosen perspective allows for the inclusion of a useful HUD which helps make this a fairly enjoyable, if unoriginal into-the-screen shmup. Probably not as good as After Burner on the standard Engine though!

Daimakaimura a.k.a. Ghouls n’ Ghosts (1990)

GhoulsnGhosts
This was the SuperGrafx game the magazines mostly used screenshots of to tantalise us readers with and I can see why – it’s a cracking conversion of Capcom’s arcade classic. As most (old) gamers will already know, it’s a hard-as-nails platform shooter which sees you, as Sir Arthur the knight, battling hordes of undead creatures across many creepy locations in an effort to save your lover from the evil clutches of Lucifer. Frequently compared to the fantastic MegaDrive version, this SuperGrafx port very nearly succeeds in eclipsing it which, when you consider it’s still technically running on an 8-bit machine, is an amazing achievement! This is a superb port of a superb game and is every bit as playable as the best versions around.

1941: Counter Attack (1991)

1941
Yep, it’s another shoot ’em up! This time a conversion of the arcade game of the same name and latest in the 194x series of WWII-set vertical-scrollers from Capcom. Surprisingly this port for the SuperGrafx is the only official conversion the game received which is surprising given its quality. As you might expect, the game sees you taking on the entire enemy military single-handedly, this time using a P-38 Lightning fighter aircraft. You start with a pretty feeble forward-firing cannon and three ‘loops’ (smart bombs) but numerous power-ups are of course forthcoming. It’s a fast-paced game, with enemies zooming around all over the place and appearing from all sides of the screen so it’s pretty tough going in single player mode, especially considering how small many of the sprites are. Luckily there’s a nice two-player mode which helps. A hard but good shmup which ably demonstrates the SuperGrafx’s sprite-handling abilities!

The Verdict:
And there we have it – the entire back catalogue of the SuperGrafx! To be honest it’s hard to know what NEC were thinking when they decided to go ahead with this machine. The PC Engine was a big success in Japan, a moderate success in the US (which is good considering how little they promoted it), and highly sought after in Europe (where they stupidly never released it), and the Engine CD-ROM was going pretty well too, featuring many games that wouldn’t be possible on a standard Engine so, to a mere mortal like me, it would’ve seemed like a better idea to concentrate on that machine.

Admittedly, NEC’s vision was more grandiose to start with though. The SuperGrafx was originally intended to be a full 16-bit system dubbed the ‘PC Engine 2’ but somewhere along the line something happened and NEC got cold feet, scaled down their plans for the new machine, and released it earlier than expected as the SuperGrafx. Hardware improvements over the standard PC Engine ended up being negligible with the new system using the same CPU as its predecessor, benefiting only from additional RAM and a couple of extra chips.

I’d love to interview the heads of NEC around this time to find out exactly what they were hoping for with the SuperGrafx. Its games are all good and do look nice for the most part but there’s better examples of each of them on a standard Engine. The most baffling thing for me though is NEC’s decision to make the SuperGrafx another HuCard-based system. While it does allow the console to be backwards-compatible with Engine games, I can’t work out for the life of me why they didn’t make it a CD-based system, especially considering the Engine CD-ROM was well established by this point.

So, it wasn’t a success, and deservedly so to be honest. It had very few improvements over the popular PC Engine which already had hundreds of games available (not to mention a CD-ROM), and it had perhaps the smallest number of dedicated games of any console ever. It seems hard to see the console as anything other than a lesson by NEC in how to squander success and money, but in spite of this and everything else, I still can’t help but be entranced by it! Just look at it – has there ever been a cooler or meaner-looking console?

Pirated Childhood

Very few people here in the States experienced the wonderful yet intriguing world of piracy and that’s due to the fact that companies were on top of each other for copyrights of certain games and what not. Well, where I’m from (Peru) there was no such thing and piracy was as abundant as there could be anywhere in the world. I found myself introduced to the Famicom which over there had various names such as Max Play or Micro Genius. These consoles would come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Most of the mimicking the toaster NES console or the Famicom. I personally loved the Famiclones which would bring lots of mysterious games built in or even with a board inside of them. Sadly, I never bought any of them until recent years, I was one of the lucky ones that had the original NES console while everyone else had their awesome looking Famiclones and NESclones.

Why me?? It wasn’t that bad I guess since there were a lot of kick ass games for the original console like the Mario Brothers and Ninja Turtles (Yes, I like the first ones as well and beat that game when I was six years old!). Furthermore, I was one of the lucky ones to be introduced to the most obscure titles during the NES era.

See, there were these game lobbies where you would pay around $0.30 cents to play video games on any console you wanted for an hour. How great was that huh? But wait, it gets better! The games themselves were mostly pirated and the popular originals. Some pirate titles I came across that were engraved in my brain for years to come. One of these wonderful titles was the pirated version of TMNT 2: The Arcade Game. This game’s label art was so wacky I couldn’t ignore it. Below is a photo of what I’m talking about!

tmnt 2 pirated game
tmnt 2 pirated game

Now isn’t this something? I will never forget these turtles, that’s for sure! Not only do they all wear shades but one of them has a shield! It’s funny though, once I found them on eBay to purchase I would keep getting flashbacks of all the memories I had with this game. I bought not one nor two nor three but four copies of this game! The good thing about pirates is that they release this game with different colored pirates (gotta collect them all!). Playing the game with my Famicom sure brings back a lot of memories and joyful occasions. I even remember one time I was playing this game at the lobby and my mom came to pick me up, she wouldn’t let me finish the game and dragged me away from it and all I could hear was Donatello getting the beating of his circuit life while the ice level soundtrack was playing in the background… That memory still comes back to me every time I play that ice level (This “new” level sure made the game longer unlike the original arcade version).

There is another game that marked my childhood with cherished memories. Many of you never heard of it until the rom was available online and hopefully it’ll get well known for being one of the most strangest but correctly made Mario hacks ever! Behold, Mario 8!

Super Bros 8 for famicom
Super Bros 8 for famicom

This game was the entire reason why I went to the lobby every time I could. This game took me out my seat and brought me to a gaming world I have never experienced, and back. The so called Super Bros 8 is actually a hack of Don Doko Don 2 released by Taito. The whole game fits well for it to be a potential Mario title (if you ignore the storyline that is). You play as Mario holding a hammer and stomping evil looking mushrooms (sounds Mario-like?), as well as other creatures along your way including pigs! I think with some hacking by Nintendo, this could have been the better Mario 2 option rather than stealing Doki Doki Panic. I had to find this game when I had the chance and I did. I currently own two copies of it as well as a copy that’s unhacked for some reason. Once I got my hands on this game two years ago, I couldn’t stop playing it. I even had a Mario 8 marathon once where I beat the game five times in a row. I believe I have beaten this game over fifty times now and it never bores me.

I hope this was an enjoyable article for many of you interested in the obscureness of retro gaming… really you can’t get any more obscure than this! As a matter of fact, there are still many titles I can mention but it’ll have to be some other time. Until next time!

Exploring the Commodore 64: Part 2

Having now had my first taste of the much-loved Commodore 64 , I figured it was time to revisit it and try a few more games. Like the first post, the games featured here were all available elsewhere but were probably most famous as C64 games, especially a certain few, but unlike last time I’m somewhat more familiar with these games, having played them or similar games elsewhere, which should actually prove better for familiarising me with the C64’s abilities. One thing to note is that, as you may have noticed, all the games selected are arcade-style games. I thought this would be okay since I’m just seeing what the C64 is like as a system and I don’t really have time to learn the intricacies of some of the great strategy and adventure games the system offers such as The Sentinel, Forbidden Forest, Citadel, etc, but I certainly intend to play them eventually, at which time I’m sure you’ll hear about it here! For now though, here’s my first impressions of these games:

International Karate (1986)

International-Karate-commodore-64
I’ve long been a fan of the supreme IK+ on the Amiga but I must admit I’ve never played this prequel before. As far as 8-bit micro’s are concerned I was always an ‘Exploding Fist’ fan but if the time I’ve now spent on this is anything to go by, I’ve been missing out! IK+ is great fun but is pretty fast-paced, even manic at times, with its three simultaneous combatants. IK is a little more sedate. Since it’s just one-on-one contests, you’re afforded more time to try to out-fox your opponent and score a knockdown. I greatly enjoyed this one with its finely-honed gameplay, good selection of moves, and nice, varied backgrounds, and it will definitely see more play!

Wizball (1987)

Wizball-commodore-64
It was at R3Play when I was reminded of this game, while watching the great Jon Hare doing his presentation. He asked who had played Wizball (his first big hit) so I enthusiastically raised my hand! Then he asked who had played the ‘proper’ version on the C64. I had to sheepishly lower my hand, but I vowed that I would play it, and soon! I used to own the Speccy version and I didn’t really have a blinking clue what I was doing, but I also later bought it for the Amiga and enjoyed it much more there, actually making a little progress (just a little though!). Having now played this original version, I’m… a little disappointed to be honest! I’ve been hearing C64 fans raving about this game for so many years, I was expecting to be bowled over. I was expecting all my indifference towards the game to disappear as it became instantly clear why the game was so revered. But that never happened. The graphics are quite nice and I found it very addictive, but I also found it tough and frustrating too, and the sound is awful. I did quite enjoy playing it, and it’s a game that it’s satisfying to do well at so I’ll keep trying, but not this version I’m afraid. I’ll go back to the Amiga version I think, sorry C64 fans!

Turrican (1989)

Turrican-commodore-64
This is another one I’ve played elsewhere (kind of), specifically Mega Turrican for the MegaDrive, but it is again a game best known on, and originally developed for the C64, and I must say… it’s impressive stuff! Turrican was perhaps initially noticed for its admittedly superb aesthetics but, as I soon discovered, even this first version of the first game is far from a one-trick-pony – the superb graphics and music merely complement the top-notch game design rather than cover its flaws. Although seemingly influenced by Metroid on the NES, Turrican is much more focused on action, specifically shooting, but of course even I knew that much already! There’s a lot of blasting to do here though, with several weapon power-ups available to increase the range and power of hand-held gun (or ‘arm-cannon’), and with a large number of varied enemies to mow down as you clamber around the large, multi-tiered stages, there’s certainly a lot to hold your attention. I’ve played a good few ‘run n gunners’ over the years, and I greatly enjoyed the MD version of Turrican, so I’m pleased to find that this original version is just as much fun to play. Now to have a look at the sequel!

Dropzone (1984)

Dropzone-commodore-64
Considering I’m supposedly an Archer MacLean fan, it’s rather embarrassing to confess here that I have never previously played this game! I am a big fan of Datastorm on the Amiga though, and finally playing Dropzone reveals the Amiga game to be far more like Archer’s classic than Defender, of which it is supposedly a clone. So, not only was it quickly familiar to me but I also soon saw why it’s so loved (unlike my time with Wizball!). It took me a few moments to work out where I was supposed to be dropping off the pods but I was soon blasting away fairly convincingly. Having said that, Datastorm is no walk in the park and this game is even harder! The pods are seemingly abducted by the Landers (sorry, they’re called ‘Planters’ here) every few seconds so the priority is to rescue them very quickly it seems. After that it’s a manic shooting gallery as you attempt to take out all the evil alien ships. This really is a superb shmup, probably the best I’ve played on any 8-bit micro, and has some great little touches, especially those fantastic firework-like explosions. A superb title I would’ve undoubtedly spent a lot of time on if I had a C64.

Pitstop (1983)

Pitstop-commodore-64
Now I don’t like to be unkind to a system which I’m pretty much just using as a guest at this point, but whoever suggested I give this one a try must’ve surely been taking the piss! I’m firmly of the opinion that into-the-screen racing games are a genre that the earlier systems couldn’t really do justice to, and this is a very early example, but c’mon! This Epyx release reminded me one of those handheld LCD games where you move the car at the bottom of the display left or right across three lanes to avoid the infinite slower cars that also occupy them. Those devices are okay for what they are but I would expect a lot more from a C64 (or indeed a Speccy) F1-style game! The graphics and sound here are dire and the gameplay gets annoyingly repetitive after just a few minutes of play. Maybe the sequel is better but I can only assume I’ve been the victim of a joke with this game!

The Verdict:
Well, it took me more than 20 years but I’ve now finally played some games on this iconic system, and it’s a little tough to summarise my experience. To use a football analogy, it’s like supporting Liverpool for all these years, then trying to see what it would’ve been like to be a Manchester United fan the whole time (the CPC would be like Scunthorpe or something of course – hee hee!). Sure I could enjoy watching the United team play but would my heart really be in it?

I certainly can’t deny that the C64 is a competent machine though, with some outstanding games, and is almost certainly more technically gifted than the Speccy – despite having far blockier graphics, the extra colours do make a difference and the famed SID sound chip makes a huge difference – the Speccy’s audio ‘abilities’ are hard to defend, even as a Speccy fan! I’m a big fan of videogame music so I imagine listening to old SID music must be an enormously nostalgic experience for gamers who grew up with a C64 and that’s something I certainly missed out on.

The experience of being a C64 owner must’ve been pretty similar to that of being a Speccy owner – the machines are fundamentally very similar of course – but I reckon I would’ve had a great time as the former. Perhaps they are suited to different types of games befitting their particular specialities but I’ve greatly enjoyed discovering these great C64 games regardless. That said, I’ll always have more affection for the Speccy, that will never change (it is best, after all!), but I am no longer a stranger to the ways of the C64!

There is no magic in making games

Game Design

A game starts with an idea. You want to communicate something, you want to make a person an experience, you want a person to feel something, or maybe you just want to create something fun or interesting. Fill in the blanks, throw in some game mechanics and art, mix it all with months of work, and you have yourself a game. There is really no magic there. It’s just a lot of patience, a lot of trial and error, and a lot of passion.

Of course, the description I gave is an oversimplification, and the most interesting part lies in the details, in the specifics of each game, and in the characters of the people who are making the game. Personally, I’ve been making games since I was 13 years old. It started as an innocent hobby: drawing lines and circles in QBasic. You add some animation, some interactivity, and you’ve got yourself a game. Again, no magic. Since then I’ve been slowly improving my skills. I’ve made many games, all of them incomplete; all of them abandoned half-way. Anytime I felt like I learned enough, or I wanted to move on to something more fun, I would drop the current project and start anew.

It takes 10,000 hours to become really good at anything. If you only spend one hour a day on something, it will take you approximately 27 years to become really good at it. It’s a lot of repetition, and a lot of trying to achieve higher and more interesting goals. You keep starting over and over with a clean slate, hoping to nail it down perfectly this time around, but each time it’s like making an ice sculpture in a desert. Everything starts to melt, you lose details and focus, and eventually you decide to scrap it and start anew. There is really no getting around it, everyone has to go through it. But one day…

One day you wake up, and you say, “This is it! I’m going to make a good game, and I’m going to stick with it until I finish it. I’m not abandoning this one.” And you try your absolute best to finish it, and then you fail. You fail because your statue has completely melted, you are sweating, and meanwhile you keep thinking about this other awesome idea that you have, that would make a totally great game. So you move on. And on. And on. And every so often you try to commit, but you don’t. Until one day…

One day you do. And you finish your game, and by anyone’s judgment this could be called a finished game. A Real Game. And on that day you feel like a true game programmer, a true game designer, a true artist. You’ve seen a project from inception to finish. You’ve seen all the stages. You’ve verified that there is no magic.

Now, if you’ve started this process early, you have probably done most of these games yourself. Towards the end, where you meet other people who are close to your level (most likely in college), you start to cooperate with them. Yet, you look at the AAA games, and you think, “Why are our games nowhere as good? The graphics aren’t close, the art isn’t as good, the game isn’t as polished. Everything is just off. Surely the big companies have a secret that they guard well, that allows them to make the kind of games they do.” So you get an internship at such a company, and you look at what they do, and you notice…

You notice they are not doing anything differently! Nothing at all! They just have more experienced people: people who can anticipate problems, people who know how to correct certain problems, people who’ve done this kind of stuff for years. But, fundamentally, what they are doing is completely normal. No magic! So you learn from them, and you learn on your own, and you continue to do what you’ve always done: make games. Slowly you start making games that people like, that people think are polished, that people genuinely enjoy, and then one day…

One day you make it big. Everybody plays your game, and everyone learns your name. People think you just magically appeared out of nowhere with this magical talent. And most people will never see those other half-finished games you’ve made, which is probably for the best. Most people will assume you have some special talent that allows you to make games. They’ll ask, “How did you do it? What’s the secret?” And you…

You can look at them and smile.

Chronicles of an Indie Game Developer

cologames

From our, in their own words series John Newton from Cologames talks about his life as an indie game devekoper.

I’m a Flash developer releasing my games on my website ColoGames alongside a selection of other games. I make the best games ever and the worst, the hardest and the easiest. I’m a great developer and a bad one. My games are loved and hated. Life as an indie game developer can be brutal. Whenever I release a new game I watch with excitement as people rate and comment on my creation and I realise it’s impossible to please everyone. The comments can be nice and horrible, no one ever agrees. But the fact that I made the whole game myself, all art, design, and code makes the comments personal.

I’m not making a game as part of a big team. I can make whatever I want; it doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad. It’s the freedom to do what I want that makes being an indie developer special. Of course I don’t do this fulltime, otherwise I would have to rely on the income from the games, be forced to develop certain genres and be sure they were perfect before release.

I’ve always wanted to make video games but never thought I could. I didn’t know how to make them and I didn’t know anyone who could help me. This was long before the internet began. After high school I studied physics at university and learned to program in C/C++ at the same time the internet became accessible. I suddenly realised I had the math skills and programming knowledge to make games!

cologameslogo

I spent months learning more about game development and improving my programming knowledge before applying for a couple of jobs at local game developers. For my first interview I was told to download a GameBoy emulator, learn Z80 assembly language and produce a simple demo for the GameBoy in a weekend! I was so enthusiastic that I spent all weekend making the best demo I could. I got offered the job but amazingly I also had a job offer from the other company to work on a top selling PlayStation game, which I accepted immediately.

And so my career as a game developer began. I spent over 11 years working for several top game companies and have worked inCanada,Swedenand theUK. I estimate I’ve been credited on games selling about 30-40 million copies. So why do I now spend time making Flash games?

I still work for a major game company as a game programmer and often work 50-70 hours a week but I have little say over game design and I could never make any game art. I decided to make Flash games whenever I have spare time because they can be quick to make and release. I’ve also made two iPhone games but I had to spend much longer making them of a higher quality and it’s not fun submitting a game through Apple and then trying to promote the game so people see it. It’s much easier for people to see a Flash game and because my spare time is so limited it’s really my only option. It’s fun designing games and making the artwork without having the pressure to make it perfect. Most of the games I’ve released have been made in a short time. I have a few unreleased games that require weeks or months of work to finish so I haven’t released them.

bow battle

My latest game ‘Bow Battle’ is probably my best attempt at game art and it’s given me the confidence to try a bigger game with more art. Programming the games is never a problem, as long as I have the time to do it, but I like to spend time improving my art skills and hope to do some 3D modelling and animation at some point.

I’m about to start a new project which will probably take a while to make. But it’ll be nice to actually make a high quality Flash game that has some depth and is popular. No matter how good or popular my game is there will be negative comments but it’ll be my creation, a whole game created by me and hopefully loved by many.

ColoGames

If you’d like to submit an article please click on the contact button below. 

Happy 10th Birthday GameCube: My Favorite Games

Gamecube Cake

Ah where has the time gone? I remember reading about the GameCube and thinking, really, tiny discs like that? Now you are 10 years old and as Obsolete as the rest of us. Yes, the GameCube is now known for the titles you can purchase for the Wii more than a game system, but it did have some good games that I enjoyed. Here they are in no particular order.

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door

papermario2_gamecube-box

I loved the original Super Mario RPG on the SNES and when I discovered Paper Mario was to be its successor I had to give it a shot. Paper Mario is a beginners RPG whereas it is very easy to play, at least this version. However, the ease did not make the game bad, on the contrary, it was very fun and the animation was unique and fit well with the storyline.

SoulCalibur 2

Soul-Calibur-2-gamecube-box

Fans of Soul Blade and the first SoulCalibur got a real treat on the GameCube version. Not only was the game put together well, but fans got to play as the exclusive character, Link and who could resist that. The music and graphics were well done and overall was a great year for the franchise.

Resident Evil

resident-evil-gamecube-box

Sure, it was a remake, but when it is done right giving people the chance to experience an updated version of the game they loved it deserves praise. This game was visually stunning and brought back all the fear you had from the original. The audio was redone as well and sounded fantastic, if you owned a GameCube and liked RE then you had to have this game.

F Zero GX

F-Zero-GX-gamecube-box

Fans of the futuristic racer could rejoice in this title that expanded on the original with new visuals and more ways to customize your vehicle than time would allow. This had everything fans wanted, the speed, the visuals, even the music and kept you interested in playing for a long time.

Resident Evil 4

resident-evil-4-gamecube-box

One of the best RE’s period and a must have on the GameCube. Everything about this game was well done from the storyline to the immersive factor to the music and graphics it was a staple for the series and alongside Codename Veronica, one of my all-time favorite survival horror games.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRuNDkhU0is[/youtube]

The others

Now this is a short list. There were other fantastic games like Metroid Prime, Super Smash Bros. Melee and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, but I leave it up to you to tell us your favorite GameCube Games.

Gamers Health: The Journey

gamers health

It may seem strange that a fat guy like me is giving advice on being a healthy gamer, but considering I used to be twice the size I am now I believe I can help some of my fellow gamers nonetheless. Regardless of stereotype, recent data has shown that many gamers are overweight, out of shape and have a bad diet, but one does not have to give up gaming to get in better health.

One thing I learned is never try to do something you do not think you can keep up forever. What this means is if you start running 7 days a week and get fit that’s great, but if you cannot kept it up chances are you may give it up totally and revert back to the way you were.

A constant improvement is better than a roller-coaster and in the end even if you do not end up with a hard body you will be in better health which means you will live longer for more game time, win, win.

Now everyone is different and you should always talk with your doctor and if you are young, your parents as well, but these are some small steps you can take to be a bit more healthy.

Game Food

gamer food

I could tell you to always stop gaming when you eat, but that is not realistic for some. Again, the key is trying to fit health into what you know you will do anyway. There is no need to crash so low and hit rock bottom and then need to give up gaming altogether. Small steps can mean a lot and in many cases once you start you will want to continue and expand.

If you play games with people you will at one time or another need to eat and the first thing I would recommend is to eat smaller portions during gaming and reserve your bigger meal for when you are not gaming.

For example, when playing a game eat something small and quick like almonds or a breakfast bar instead of a value meal or pizza. Often when gaming you will just keep grabbing food until you are full which can lead to overeating where as it is a little less likely if you are actually concentrating on your meal. Portion control is key.

Second, replace the foods you eat when gaming. Sure, I could say give up the burger and fries or the pizza or the hot pocket, but honestly if you are not ready to say goodbye to the fast-food it’s not going to happen. However, you can train yourself to eat healthy while gaming and then if you must, have the greasy stuff when out or with friends.

Fresh fruits and veggies

One of the main reasons we don’t eat healthy is because it is forced on us or it’s completely not available. To remedy this discover healthy foods you do like and then surround yourself with them. For instance if you have a sweet tooth while gaming sample different fruits and then pick an assortment of those and  try eating them while gaming.

What happens is your mind will accept the new foods because you are still focused on the game. If you thought to yourself “I’m eating an apple instead of skittles” then you might stop, but if you are playing and into the game and just naturally grab some grapes your mind will get used to it and you won’t even think about needing to grab candy anymore.

The same goes for what you drink. You might hate diet soda, juice and water, but when gaming and if you are thirsty you will accept almost anything. I began by switching to diet cola and then seltzer water and went from drinking 6 litters a day of soda to drinking water 90 percent of the time.

It’s all about setting the mood. If you know you are sitting down for that World of Warcraft raid, surround yourself with fruits and veggies and water and when it’s time to grab something that will be what you grab. After a few weeks it will become second nature and believe me once you start eating the good stuff you will want less of the bad stuff.

The younger you are the harder this may be to do since you may not notice yet what a bad diet can do to you, but over time small changes can add up to a lot leading to a better you.

Next time we will talk about adding exercise to your gaming life. Until then, if you have healthy foods that you eat during gaming we’d love to hear about them.

Top Five Amiga Shmups

It’s generally accepted that, outside of the arcades at least, shoot ’em ups have always been the province of consoles. There were a few good examples on the Spectrum, Amstrad, Commodore 64, Atari 400 & 800, etc, and the arrival of the more powerful 16-bit machines should’ve heralded even more, but they never really came, despite the genre’s enduring popularity. Few could argue with either the quantity or quality of offerings on the likes of the NES, PC Engine, or MegaDrive, and I myself, in my days as a die-hard Sega fanboy, used to champion the latter console as Lord of Shmups. Of all the computers, however, it was arguably the Commodore Amiga that fared the best with its shmups with not only some decent arcade conversions but also a good few original games too. In fact, I believe all the games in this Top Five were Amiga exclusives! Here they are:

Games-Related Top Fives Disclaimer: Unlike my usual Games-Related Top Five Disclaimers, which cover my arse by mentioning that the list was compiled only from games that I already know and love, and that any great games not featured may well not yet have been played by me, this one is different, mainly because I never was a big Amiga gamer and probably hadn’t even played five shmups on it! Therefore I had to research this list thoroughly by playing each game via emulation. However, to finally get to the actual ‘disclaimer’ part, there was a few supposedly great games that I wasn’t able to play (because they didn’t work). Therefore, assuming I ever am able to play them, I’ll make a revised list accordingly. Phew!

5. Agony (1992)

Agony - Amiga

Regarded as something of a tart by many Amiga owners, it’s easy to see where Agony gets this reputation – the presentation and graphics really are something else and leave the gameplay with a lot to live up to. It’s certainly a pretty original concept, with you in control of an owl which uses echo-location to take down the masses of evil creatures spread across the six worlds that lie between it and the ‘Cosmic Power’ that it seeks. The intro/loading screens feature beautiful artwork and music, and in-game action is similarly gorgeous. This certainly isn’t the most playable shmup I’ve played, even just on the Amiga, but at the same time its reputation seems a little unfair. Besides its stunning aesthetics Agony is a unique and enjoyable horizontal-scroller which would’ve blown my socks off if I’d discovered it when it originally came out!

4. Project-X (1992)

 

Project-X - Amiga

Released to much fanfare by Team 17 during their superb run on the Amiga, this is another one with amazing aesthetics. It’s far less original and moody than Agony, being a somewhat generic game set in space and across all the usual landscapes, but it nonetheless comes closer than any other Amiga shmup to duplicating the arcade/console style of shooter. The hi-res graphics are beautifully drawn and feature some amazing effects, and the sound is equally impressive with some great music, effects, and speech that MegaDrive owners (myself included) would’ve killed for. In fact, the only thing stopping this from taking top-spot is its insane difficulty level! Even at the peak of my skills I couldn’t get anywhere near the end of this otherwise ultra-playable game. Responding to pleas from gamers, Team 17 did release a Special Edition of the game which toned down the difficulty though, and if I get around to buying that version perhaps it will feature higher in the list next time.

3. Scorpio (1989)

Scorpio - Amiga

This is one I had absolutely no knowledge of prior to looking into this Top Five but I’m very glad I found it, for it’s one of the most addictive little blasters I’ve played! Initially seeming to be a very basic and fairly uninspiring game, it soon reveals itself to be a tough but rewarding, not to mention highly enjoyable shooter. Its creators had clearly been sniffing around the back-catalogue of Irem though, as this is basically a vertically-scrolling take on R-Type! Your little ship can be equipped with a Force-style attachment, the weapons are a copy of those from Irem’s classic, the power-up capsules themselves look the same, and there’s even a circle of guns! Some of the the ‘homages’ are far from subtle, but it’s hard to complain when it’s as well done as this.

2. Datastorm (1989)

Datastorm - Amiga

Here’s another one that takes its inspiration from elsewhere, this time from both Defender and Dropzone, the latter of which is itself a Defender clone! The object is to rescue at least one of the eight pods drifting along the floor of each stage and drop them at a portal while pesky Landers try to steal them. Millions of other enemies also swarm each stage and all must be eliminated. Datastorm is a tough, fast-paced game that rewards practise and is a fantastic score-attack game! This is one of the few Amiga games I really have spent a lot of time playing, first on my friend’s Amiga, then on my own when I finally got one, and now again via emulation, and it’s never gotten boring. Fantastic music and sound effects too.

1. Apidya (1992)

Apidya - Amiga

For some reason I never knew about this one when it came out but I’ve heard about it repeatedly over the intervening years and know how highly regarded it is amongst the Amiga fraternity. Having finally played it for this feature, I can see why! Much like Agony, it’s a unusual premise for a shoot ’em up. Here, you take control of a magical honeybee (although it looks more like a wasp to me) and must battle against other insects, garden beasties, and all manner of others monstrous adversaries across five stages. The game has nicely detailed, colourful stages and great music, but it’s the finely-honed gameplay that is most responsible for Apidya’s grand reputation. The stages and weapons are nicely designed and it’s a real pleasure playing through this interesting and unique shooter.

Are video games finally being accepted by the mainstream?

Jimmy Fallon - Batman Arkham City

Any longtime gamer knows of that gut wrenching feeling that comes along when a mainstream media or entertainment source does a video game story.  From news stories that claim violent video games are kid’s toys to Jay Leno jokes that paint gamers as basement dwellers and virgins, it often seems that the industry stats aren’t known by much of what passes as news and entertainment these days.

The facts are hard to deny, however.  The Entertainment Software Association statistics show the average age of a video gamer in 2010 was 37 years of age with 72 percent of American households accepting gaming as a regular form of entertainment.  All said, the US spent $25.1 billion on video gaming last year alone, nearly two-and-a-half times more than they spent at the movies over the same time period.

While there have still been plenty of head shakers in the mainstream this year, overall 2011 has shown many signs that video gaming is finally gaining acceptance as the mainstream form of entertainment it is.

 The release of Batman: Arkham City made the monologue on Conan last week with a parody clip similar to what is typically done with major new films and political figures.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fj9BN3WLHLg[/youtube]

 A lengthy television commercial for Google features gamer Brian Kingrey, the winner of the $1 Million contest onMLB2K11.  The clip shows how Kingrey studied and prepared for the contest by doing research on the search engine and speaks to several of his friends.  He also appears briefly in a shorter Google commercial.  Both ads debuted during NFL football games on Sunday.

 NBC’s Late Night With Jimmy Fallon regularly features previews of hot new gaming releases and guests from within the industry.  Shortly after the 2011 E3 Expo the show even featured an entire week dedicated to gaming, complete with special opening credits.

 Former Donkey Kong champion Steve Wiebe makes a short cameo as a security guard in hit film Horrible Bosses.  Reportedly, Colin Farrell’s character of Bobby Pellitt was inspired by another former Donkey Kong champ in Billy Mitchell.

 Members of the US Congress and reps from the video gaming industry formed the Caucus for Competitiveness in Entertainment Technology (E-Tech Caucus) to help continue to foster growth in the video game industry due to its impact on the economy and job market.

 The characters from Angry Birds appear in an ad for Wonderful Pistachios alongside numerous celebrities and pop culture icons.  Costumes from the game are among the most popular Halloween costumes this year as well.

Some 40 years after the release of the video game to mainstream consumers and revenue that trumps the previous kings of the entertainment industry, it appears that gaming is finally taking a seat alongside television, film and music as an accepted form of mainstream entertainment.

 

80s Action Heroes: Return of the Sequel?

Some 80s action heroes seem to go on forever. Almost 20 years after Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull brought Indy back to the big screen in 2008. Live Free or Die Hard in 2007 brought John McClane out of semi-retirement after a gap of more than 10 years since 1995’s Die Hard With a Vengeance. Rocky and Rambo are returning for another belated visit and we’re still waiting for the Terminator to live up to his ‘I’ll be back’ promise once again, not knowing which side he will be on next time. But can we expect more from other 1980s action heroes? And just how many sequels could there be to some of the most enduring action franchises?

Dirty Harry and More

 

 

Clint Eastwood

Dirty Harry Callaghan gave us a stream of great movies between 1971 and 1986. Is there still time for Clint Eastwood to come back one more time? You can just imagine him in his eighties asking the bad guy to go ahead and make his day.

Two ‘Escape from’ movies in 1981 and 1986 (New York & LA) gave us Kurt Russell playing Snake Plissken, a one eyed patch wearing criminal. He could go back to assisting the Special Forces and choose from a long list of unused cities – Philly; Detroit; Miami – okay you get the picture. Could John Carpenter be tempted just one more time?

Action with comedy is a great combination. Who doesn’t want to see Axel Foley assisting the Beverly Hills police to clean up their zone again? After all, Eddie Murphy is still only 50, so he might have time for another whole trilogy. His character was just too likeable for the LA police to really want him out of their town. His (almost) one man army and unusual methods kept audiences captivated. We’d have him back any day even if he moved to another city!

Mel Gibson’s Choices

 

mel_gibson

Mel Gibson is still a few years away from his 60th birthday, so the return of Martin Riggs would be welcome, if only to get the disaster that was Lethal Weapon 4 out of our minds. The first movies were almost serious crime fighting while the last turned into a comedy farce of the worst kind. LW5 would give the characters the badly needed chance to redeem themselves.

Talking of Mel Gibson, he gave us the Mad Max movies between 1987 and 1998, so another is due soon. After his recent poor press (although, if you didn’t see it, The Beaver with Jodie Foster was quite brilliant) he might need the few million he would get from resurrecting Max. The rest of us might finally get the chance to understand what the movies were all about, although Anna Mae Bullock (Tina Turner) would probably refuse to bring back Aunty Entity. Maybe Angela Bassett would stand in?

Not Really An Update, But…

In the original GI Joe, Sylvester Stallone wreaked havoc as though he were still in the Rambo franchise. GI Joe, the Rise of Cobra revived memories of the 1986 Cobra movie, except this time you saw Sienna Miller sauntering around in tight black leathers for two hours while trying to forget that Christopher Eccleston is not Dr Who. One plus, though: the sophistications of movie magic brought the action sequences into the 21st century in the updated version.

James Bond

Daniel Craig

After wondering if there would be another James Bond excursion, Skyfall has been announced for late 2012, proving that 007 is still popular.

 

Daniel Craig gets to play Bond again, so here’s hoping for a return to his natural character and not the dark knight he played in the 2008 movie, Quantum of Solace. With Sam Mendes directing, Ralph Fiennes and Albert Finney head the top line cast list which also brings back ‘M’ – Judi Dench. The new Bond girls look the part so the four year gap might not feel so bad, after all.

Let’s hope that the Bond team don’t keep us waiting another four years, as Beverley Hills Cops 8 and Mad Max 12 might appear on the screens in the meanwhile.

—-

Izzy Woods is a freelance writer and avid cinema buff. She writes for a number of movie sites and publications, as well as for a sectional sofas retailer (who also specialize in home theatre seating).

Top Five MegaDrive Platform Games

megadrive2

Though popular since the 70’s, it was the late 80’s and early 90’s when gaming, particularly on consoles, really hit its stride, and like today there were a few genres that dominated release schedules. Among the most popular were shoot ’em ups but even more popular than these were of course platform games, and few if any consoles saw more examples of this genre than the MegaDrive. Most of them were average, some were horrifyingly bad, but there were still plenty of top-quality ones, and they took up a significant portion of my MegaDrive game-time.

I’ve owned and enjoyed dozens of them over the years so picking the best five is no easy task. To make it a little easier I decided to not to include any of the MD’s fantastic arcade conversions such as New Zealand Story, Rainbow Islands, etc, and the (at the time) splendid Sonic series only gets one nomination here too. Naturally, run ‘n’ gunners (Shinobi series, Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts, Gunstar Heroes, etc) aren’t included either, and nor are arcade adventures such as Flashback, Puggsy, etc. These categories are all good enough and numerous enough to receive their own Top Fives at some point. So, with all that in mind, here is my five favourite Mega Drive platformers.

Games-Related Top Fives Disclaimer: I’ve traditionally stuck to the games I know and love so far, and these game-related top fives reflect that. One of the purposes of this blog is diversify my gaming experiences, to play games I haven’t played before, so I will do new game-related top fives in a few years to see how different they are!

If I review any MD platformers in my upcoming feature that get really high scores, they don’t appear in this Top Five because I hadn’t played them before! (a.k.a covering my arse!)

5. Wiz ‘n’ Liz (1993)

 

5 - Wiz n Liz

I’m starting to wonder if I’m the only fan this poor old game has! I’m not usually a fan of fast ‘n’ frantic, against-the-clock type games, but Wiz ‘n’ Liz is so happy and cheerful (not to mention addictive), I can’t help but love it anyway! The object is simple enough – one or two players must race through each of the themed worlds rescuing the many rabbits that populate each whilst also collecting magic fruits and other items with which to create spells and prolong your game. It definitely seems to be a ‘hidden gem’ in the MD’s back catalogue but I don’t really know why. Maybe it’s the lack of violence and destruction but for me this has always been a top game – nice graphics, fantastic music, addictive gameplay, and even a few original ideas, equals a winning formula in my book.

4. Magical Flying Hat Turbo Adventure (1990)

4 - Robocod

I’ve mentioned this great game before, and I’ll do a full review at some point, but for now be assured that it’s awesome! Most Western gamers will know it by the new name and identity given to it for its European and US release (Decapattack) but I much prefer this Japanese original which is perhaps more famous for its amusing name than anything else! It will be instantly familiar to fans of Psycho Fox on the Master System as they share many qualities, but this is no sequel or tarted-up port. It’s a pretty large game with some stages featuring multiple routes through them and there are many quirky features present in its stages. Magical Hat is a real charmer which constantly entices you to explore its strange world. If you’ve never played it, or even if you’re veteran of Decapattack, do yourself a favour and give it a try.

3. James Pond 2 Codename: Robocod (1991)

3 - Magical Hat

Games don’t come much more nonsensical than this one! The original James Pond was an original and entertaining romp but this sequel cranked everything up a notch and is now a full platform game too, thanks to the special suit that allows James to remain on land. The game takes place across many themed stages populated by some very strange enemies and seemingly random collectible items but, perhaps aside from its strangeness, it doesn’t really do anything that countless other games haven’t done before – it just does it better than most games! The graphics and sound are among the MegaDrive’s best and the many stages are packed with features and secrets. This is probably the most slick and polished of all MD platformers, and certainly the craziest non-Japanese one!

2. Ristar (1995)

2 - Ristar

Good old Sonic Team. Not only did they regale us with the wonders of their Sonic games, but they also found time to sneak in this gem late in the MD’s life. It actually started out as the game that would become Sonic before being resurrected with Ristar in command, and the first stage does feature similar graphics, but the gameplay differs quite a bit. The pace is a lot slower for one thing. Ristar clambers around the gorgeous stages using his arms as much as his legs. He can climb up walls, across ceilings, and around trees and logs, and it is by experimenting with these abilities that you’ll be able to fully explore his world. The more sedate pace really suits the game and the character, as does the laid back soundtrack, and gives you the opportunity to appreciate the lush graphics! Many gamers missed this, what with the Saturn and PlayStation being unveiled, but if you were one of the ones who did notice it, you’ll not need me to tell you how good it is!

1. Sonic 2 (1992)

 

1 - Sonic 2

Sorry but it had to be really, didn’t it? No other game got MegaDrive gamers whipped up into a frenzy like this one, nevermind any other platform games. Sega’s motives for creating Sonic may not have been the best but at least they made a great game for him, so the sequel had a lot to live up to. To say it did would be one of gaming’s biggest ever understatements! Sonic 2 features bigger stages and more of them, a tougher challenge, and perhaps the nicest graphics and sound the console has ever produced. I’m sure everyone who owned an MD had this game so I don’t even need to extol its virtues really. Suffice to say, everything here is so much flashier than the first game it’s almost as if they’re running on different consoles, and the gameplay so finely-honed that, sadly, no further games in the Sonic series would ever better it.

As mentioned, the MegaDrive was swamped in platform games, so picking the best five was tough, mainly because I had to leave out some other great games. So, honourable mentions also go to: Castle of Illusion, Rolo to the Rescue, Kid Chameleon, Flicky, Quackshot, Aladdin, Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure, goodness knows how many others…

The process of Design: Spice Road

spice road

Hi, I am Simon de Rivaz of Aartform Games and for the past year and a half I have been working on a new strategy game called Spice Road. This article shares a few highlights of the design process I have used to find a new space between existing genres. For me the process begins with happy memories of old games and the aspiration to find new areas of gameplay.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VnNMcK9Mw4[/youtube]

THE EMOTIONAL BASIS OF GAMES

What makes a game? Beyond the graphics and gameplay mechanics of a play session I find the emotions and motivations within the player leave the most lasting memories, and the deepest feelings of satisfaction. Feelings of wonder when I first step out into a new game world, and eventual feelings of competence and mastery as I dominate the endgame.

Designing a new game I hold as inspiration the way old games made me feel. The feelings of creating a successful economy, exploration and conquest. Games like Deuteros, Utopia and Civilisation remind me of the feel of building a complex empire over a long time, and the more immediate shocks and surprises of conflict. Even though the gameplay and graphics may be completely different in my own game these provide a good idea to aim at.

What makes a strategy game fun? Without the adrenaline of action games or the Pavlovian reward based addiction of an MMO, what makes the hours of detailed attention to a complex strategy game fun? For me it is the feeling of Flow. Named by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow is the feeling of complete and energized focus in an activity, with a high level of enjoyment and fulfillment.

In practice I feel this in a game when I am constantly thinking, planning, observing, and making new actions about every six seconds. The high level of attention seems to take over my mind and I lose sense of time. I knew I had something good going in Spice Road when I launched it to test a small feature – then suddenly realized I’d just spent a hour growing and nurturing a town.

So I begin knowing how I want my game to feel – but how to recreate those feelings in a new game? The starting point is to understand old games well.

GAME ANALYSIS

spiceroad2

I find it useful to understand games in terms of different game mechanics and how long the player spends working with each mechanic. This seems to cut through the cover-story and gloss and give a clear description of the game. For some games the majority of time is spend moving or waiting, with only a small fraction on making meaningful decisions. For a strategy game the big choice I found was how much micro-management to place on the player – how much time would be spent making interesting decisions as opposed to time spend implementing or maintaining those decisions.

I tried making simple charts of games splitting different aspects of their gameplay into parts and showing which parts depended on each other. This forced me to think abstractly about different game mechanics but was not very helpful when designing new games. The main thing this taught me is that most games are quite focused on one or two most important game activities, and the rest of the gameplay is supportive to those core aspects.
Indeed when I first mapped out the gameplay in Spice Road I found I had about 12 distinct and equally balanced gameplay mechanics. After several failed prototypes I decided to focus on a single mechanic (Building) and let all the other aspects radiate from there – providing reasons to build, and rewards from building.

The most interesting way I found to analyze old games was to try and follow their design choices while writing a mini-game prototype in their style. Much like imitating the old-masters in art and literature, imitation forces you to understand how a system really works.

The difficulties start once you move from imitation to innovation and it soon becomes apparent that just picking a list of ‘features’ and writing a game design does not work. The reason for this is somewhat down to complexity and chaos.

SYSTEM DYNAMICS

spiceroadbandits

Chaos Theory shows that a small number of rules can result in wildly complex and unpredictable results over time. A game composed of many rules has a similar outcome – it is very hard to predict how well two mechanics will work together or the result of changing a single rule without either having seen that exact result before or implementing the changes and trying it out live to see what happens.

I began work with lots of paper designs and outlines of how mechanics would work. Eventually those designs got turned into playable prototype games on the computer. Usually this translation would show the design in a very new light – I would get a very different feel from really playing the design to just imagining it. The interaction of different systems – such as combat and trading, town design and diplomacy – would now become tools for the player to work with rather than ideas on paper. Very soon a lot of the paper design turns out to be a trivial starting point to the real work of prototype iteration.

Another consequence of system dynamics is that I cannot be sure how a given mechanic will work in the game – so I cannot play favorites with my ideas. It is usually safer to have several alternative plans for a feature and try out a couple in games to see what works best in context. In practice this is often the trade-off between more or less complexity, automation or micro-management, chance or certainty, and finally how much of the player’s attention and time should be spent interacting with that feature.

Just as a paper design is a poor reflection of a final game, so too are early prototypes that have not been played by fresh players.

USER FRIENDLY POLISH

spiced road3

Game designs have been described as a local maxima in ideaspace. This draws on the thought that you pick a starting point (perhaps between a couple of existing genres) the then use all your tools of game design, imagination and improvement to move from that initial point towards the best possible game you can make. Each improvement takes you to higher levels of fun until you run out of time or hit a peak from which there is no improvement without making a large leap away towards a different type of game.

Once the game is working well for me as the designer – I have to consider how a new player will see the game and get some to test it to see their needs. A large chunk of work on modern games is priming the game with tutorials, tips and guides to ease the player into the game gently before ramping up the complexity and the difficulty. This final stage can lift a good but obscure game into being accessible and perhaps even popular.

Some helpful testing tools are watching a new player for 10 minutes over the shoulder, and running open beta-tests.

My design process is labor intensive, messy, wasteful and rather risky, but I think it is a good way handle the innate complexity of design and create innovative thoughtful games.

Games that scared me

Silent_Hill_4_PC

Pretty much everyone can be scared, but to be scared in a video game is more difficult than one would think. Sure, we are immersed in the game so we feel like we are really the character, but there is so much of our real life right around us and the fact that we are most likely at home and surrounded by distractions that it is hard to grip us in fear no matter how good a game is.

However, there are those moments within games where if you do not feel true fear all the time there is at least a moment or a time where you might have jumped out of your seat or walked away from the game for a moment to compose yourself. Here is a small list of some of the games that got to me in no particular order.

Doom 3

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7Fx-zdYtLo[/youtube]

It was a first person shooter and we already knew what to expect somewhat, but for me at least there were a few moments where I felt scared in this game. Now for those that don’t know, Doom 3 was made fun of for not being able to use a flashlight and a gun at the same time. This really was done to try and make the game harder and scarier. To really get this to work the best thing was to be in a dark room alone, put on headphones and crank up the sound. When I got to the part in the video it scared me and I had to walk away and turn on the lights for a moment.

Silent Hill Series

Silent Hill 1 and 2 were some of the best for me, but the series as a whole had some great moments that could get to you. Honestly, most of it came from the music side, but the visuals did a decent job as well. Again, with this game it’s all about setting the mood. Like a good horror movie, you don’t watch it with the lights on or with a party going on in the next room. If you played Silent Hill like you would really watch a good horror movie it could give you quite a few frights.

Resident Evil

Survival Horror at its finest, Resident Evil the original had some great suspenseful and scary moments. You had all the great elements for a horror movie. You had the first team gone missing, the second team goes in and their helicopter goes down and they find cover in a huge mansion. Next you have evil dogs blocking you from leaving and then the discovery of what appears to be zombies? What more could you ask for?

Resident Evil had a lot of those “WTF” moments from the dogs, to the zombies coming after you to the cool boss fights, but just being in the house and walking around was scary enough. This game had its scary moments even when you did not play in the dark, but if you did, well, I hoped you had a strong bladder.

The Legend of Zelda

This last one is not so much because of the game, but because of one particular theme that played over and over. In the Legend of Zelda when you would go into any dungeon you would hear the famous dungeon theme. The theme was meant to instill fear and danger, but the game was not really that scary.

However, when you were in later dungeons and you would hear that theme for hours it started to get to you like water torcher. At one point I had to pause and take a break to clear my head of the song and I can still hear in playing in my mind sometimes.

So there you have it, an example of a few games that scared me. Now there are a ton more, but I want to know what games scared you and why.

Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes Beta Impressions


It was announced yesterday that I could ultimately take my hands away from my blabbering mouth and finally get my chance to talk about EA-Mythic’s take on the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena genre with Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes.

Wait? Warhammer Online? The MMO? Is this an expansion?

Nope. This is its own separate game and it seems that Mythic is trying their hand at the growing popularity of online battle arenas. From what I have seen from interviews and differing blogs, this game will be free and will partake in the microtransactions economy many games are adopting.

Oh, I hated everything about Warhammer Online aside from the PvP. What is this like?

Wrath of Heroes is almost a copy and paste of Age of Reckoning’s PvP. As of right now, there are two maps. I’m not sure if I can pick either one but it always randomly places me into one of the two. For the most part, I get the regurgitated version of Mourkain Temple. For those that remember Mourkain Temple, you fought for a relic at the center of the map and ran away with it hoping your team would protect you. Wrath of Heroes’ version of Mourkain Temple has differing objectives though. There are three flag points that must be capped by your team. Once your team owns one of these key points, you may take the center cap point and gain significant points for your team. First team to hit 250 points wins.

That sounds interesting, Mr. Khan. I have one problem. What if the opposing team is dominating you? That doesn’t give you much hope in reclaiming the game.

Well if the opposing team is dominating you and they become focused on slaying you, who is going to stop the other team from claiming points?

Wait… did you say other team?

Oh, did I forget to mention this game is 6v6v6? That’s right. Three teams brawling against each other. People have been clamoring for a game that finally went for that third team perspective in PvP and Mythic decided “Hey, it worked in Dark Age of Camelot. Let’s do it again!” And guess what, reader? It does work! Having three teams constantly vying for control of the map’s objectives keeps everyone on their toes for the entirety of the game. No more spawn camping. No more sense of security that your team has a lead. Anything can change at any time.

The other map that is available in Wrath of Heroes, which I was unfortunate enough to get only once during the beta phases, is the Arena. This map is a ton of fun. Why? The only objective is to completely decimate the enemy in this three-way team death match. There is plenty of terrain to use as an amazing vantage point for your casters and also to use as a form of abuse with line of sight. There is nothing but complete and utter mayhem in this map and the fact that there is no real objective, no one team can get sneaky and capture a point while people are preoccupied fighting. Everyone has to be involved all the time.

Yes! There is a Skaven champion.

As for the classes, there aren’t any. You just play as a champion that resembles a simplified version of their Age of Reckoning counterpart. There is a marauder champion who drags people in, there is a Witch Elf that pops out of nowhere and stabs you in the butt, and there is a tiny little gobbo shaman who is using the Waaagh to heal. What are the differences in this game that set it apart from Age of Reckoning? Champions like the Bright Wizard and Sorceror don’t receive any backlash as they cast their spells but they also don’t get ridiculously more powerful as they weave their magicks.

Why don’t they receive any downside to spamming their abilities? It probably has to do with the way combat works. The entire game is about spamming all your abilities. Everything is just facerolling your keyboard because almost every ability does damage or buffs you so you do more damage. Cooldowns are short and every champion has one ability that does minimal damage but can be spammed while everything else is on cooldown. It doesn’t lead to a very unique gameplay. Some champions have something special that adds to their combat but why bother when you can just spam abilities? The only champion that felt added any depth of game changing because of their abilities, aside from heal spamming duo goblin shamans, is the Marauder champion. Why? Because he can pull people in, negate healing on them for x amount of seconds, and can root enemies in place. He has the most combat utility out of any other champion. His ability to pick a target and bring them into a bukkake of death is amazing. Unfortunately or fortunately, he isn’t as popular as other champions so you’ll barely see him roaming around.

One of the things in this game that bothers me are the champion skins. Age of Reckoning has some amazing armor sets that made a ton of the champions look quite simply amazing. There were artistically some of the best armors in any game. Wrath of Heroes merely takes the newbie armor you get in the MMO and pasted it on the champions. Pretty lackluster stuff going on. I know that there are multiple skins they will be putting into the game but I feel as though they should’ve made each champion look awesome from the get-go like other MOBA type of games such as League of Legends, Defense of the Ancients, and Heroes of Newerth. Instead, I feel they are going to make the newbie looking skins the free ones and charge for the cool armors, whereas they could have had one cool armor set for each champion and have the additional skins be the other armor set tiers from Age of Reckoning.

As of right now, those are my overall impressions of Wrath of Heroes. I will be reporting on it more often as the beta continues but I do feel that with each play test they are adding more and more to this project. Hopefully, it will be a good game for a ton of players to enjoy as a free to play alternative to Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning and not become another hit it and quit it project by Mythic.

Still Providing Raw Thrills: Eugene Jarvis has impacted over 30 years of gaming

Eugene Jarvis

Odds are high that any person who has put a coin into anything in an arcade over the past three decades has played something attached to the name Eugene Jarvis.

Whether someone is a classic gamer still hooked on Defender or Robotron: 2084, a more modern arcade patron who enjoys Big Buck Safari or Cruis’n World or even a pinball wizard who grew up on Firepower and Space Shuttle, the impact of the Raw Thrills founder and former Williams Electronics employee has been felt.

The arcade success story began with Jarvis’ very first attempt at a video game with 1980’s Defender, a game not well received by trade show critics nor the creator himself.  Despite the low expectations, Defender became one of the biggest hits in arcade history.

“I was shocked as anyone,” Jarvis said.  “It was the first video by me and the first real video by Williams.  We were completely new to the field and just tried to make it the best I could.”

robotron

Before launching, Defender was tested in the famed Mother’s Pinball in Mount Prospect, IL.  According to Jarvis, he tried to avoid this first night until learning of large crowds that stuffed the coin box and even placed couches around the machine.  The success of Defender lead to a Jarvis and his team continuing to develop games for Williams Electronics, including 1982s Robotron: 2084, a title that continues to have a strong cult folowing today.

Robotron seems to be the most popular now,” Jarvis said.  “The cool thing about Robotron was how we implemented the concept in three days.  Then it became ‘Let’s fight ten robots… That’s great!’  It then became ‘Let’s fight 20!  Even better!  Let’s fight 90!  Awesome!  This is intense!'”

While noted for their roles in gaming history, Defender andRobotron are considered by gaming experts and historians as some of the most challenging games in history.  According to Jarvis, this challenge was a part of their charm.

crusin world

“In that era there was this sort of macho hardcore thing,” he said.  “You were almost daring the player to beat you.  The average play time during Defender‘s test run was 33 seconds, yet players kept putting another quarter into the machine to try again.  Maybe it’s time for another game like that.”

While the video game industry has undergone several changes since Defender and Robotron ruled the arcade, Jarvis states that creating a compelling new video game today is not much different than it was 30 years ago.

“The basic challenge is always there,” he said.  “In video you are starting with nothing but a black screen.  There’s no game there.  With pinball you at least start with that basic concept, but not with video.  The challenge of going from no game to something today is only different because you have to create something so damn fun people will pay $1.00 every two minutes to play it.”

In an industry that grosses billions of dollars a year today, more opportunities exist in the industry now than ever before, according to Jarvis.

“It’s probably the best time in history to get into the industry,” he stated.  “There are so many more opportunities today as opposed to in the past.  Video games are ubiquitous now.  From arcade to console to PC to smartphones to Facebook… they are just everywhere.  You got all these shareware and iPhone games, and now anyone can make their own damn game and put it out there.  It’s a massive avalanche of opportunities.  Wide open.”

defender

With the development of the extra layers and platforms for video gaming entertainment, Eugene says the problem has shifted to the same problems that face small-budget films versus major studio movies.

“The problem changed with the industry,” he explained. “Now anyone can put out whatever but so can a million other people.  How do you get noticed?”

Jarvis stated that indie game developers face many of the same challenges that he’s faced in game design throughout the past three decades.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lr363UM9D60[/youtube]

“You start out with all these dreams and hopes,” he said.  “Then reality sets in.  You can’t do this because the technology isn’t there or you can’t do that because the budget or time isn’t there.  Then something doesn’t work how you wanted it to.  It feels like being on one of those old wagon trains going across the desert and one of your horses dies.  Then you sometimes have your best moments, too, when you stumble across something cool and unexpected to add to the game.”

As Jarvis’ Raw Thrills continues as one of the strongest American coin-op arcade companies of the modern day, he says his favorite moments have always been the same they have always been.

“The great times are when you put a game on location and see others play it for the first time,” he said.  “After all, we are really kind of an entertainer.  You perform for the joy of the audience.”

My Experiences: EA Sports Tester

easports

It was early 2004, I had just finished graduate school at UCF and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.  Typical.  My savings was starting to dry up and I needed money fast.  I went around filling out job applications.  I actually got hired at Lowe’s first off.  I was sent to push shopping carts on the second day instead of going through the typical orientation session.  By the third day I was left alone in the lumber section all by myself.  I quit that afternoon.  Days later while wallowing in shame and fear, I saw an advertisement on careerbuilder.com for a video game tester.  I knew that was something I could do.  When I found out it was for EA Sports Tiburon I got excited.  I filled out the application and days later I got a call from one of their screeners who gave me the phone interview.  This consisted of some basic experience questions, and some sports specific questions like:

What is the difference between overtime in college football and the NFL?”

Name the major BCS bowls

Name as many NASCAR drivers and their sponsors as you can

I was able to pass that pretty easily so I was invited in for another interview at their office.  Here I had to answer a ten page multiple choice test where we shown pictures of controllers and match them to their consoles.  It was video game and sports stuff.  I did good there too so then we were given a console and told to follow a procedure where we would get a video game to crash.  Then a panel interview where I chatted with three people.  I remember being asked if I could remember what the interviewers names were and I only could remember the chick’s name.  Again, typical.  I was told I had the job and I had to come in Monday morning for a week of training which consisted of learning the bug database and learning from the previous year’s titles.  At the end of the week we got our assignments and I was on the NCAA team for PS2.  We all felt sorry for the guy who was given Madden for Game Boy Advance.

The work started out good.  We worked 10AM-630pm, there was a fridge and a soda machine there.  In the break room there were arcade cabinet machines such as Q-Bert, Mortal Kombat 2, and Golden Tee.  We had some good competitions there.  Soon our days went from 10am to 10pm.  Beta got closer and we split into different shifts.  Some worked 10am to midnight, some worked 12pm to 2am.  It was a grind.  No days off, not when you are putting out one of the best selling video games of the year.  The people at the 7-11 store got to know us rather well for coffee and energy drinks.

It was an interesting job.  There were barely any women around.  For a group of guys who barely got to see women outside the office, work life brought out the caveman in everyone.  Think of that boobs episode of South Park if it helps.  Also, I found that the people in charge took what they did waaaay to seriously.  They’d pump us up as if we were on the mission to kill Bin Laden.  And they were the kind of bosses who used the old “We work hard but we play hard” catchphrase.  I always thought anybody who used that should be locked in a closet with bees.  There was a divide too among the full time programmers and staff and the seasonal Quality Assurance testers like me.  The “people upstairs” got better snack machines, benefits, and we got to read some messages which revealed that they pretty much thought we were peons.   But we weren’t, at least not all of us.  We had lawyers, cops, college graduates, parents, all guys just trying to make a living and pay the bills.  I know they had their struggles too.  There was a controversy awhile back about the wife of an EA Employee there who didn’t like the long hours and lack of overtime her husband had to deal with.  Google “EASpouse” and you’ll see the story.

Eventually I moved on but every year I would check the credits of all the football games and see who was still there from my day.  Some testers actually got promoted to game producer.  That was something good about the job, if you showed dedication, you were rewarded.  I often wonder where I would have gone had I stayed there.  I surely would have made a better Superman Returns game, that’s for sure.

Origin vs. Origin

Origin vs Origin PC

Name and brand recognition is extremely important in business so what happens when your companies name gets confused with another large company? First reported on Kotaku, there has been some mixing up of companies between the South Florida based custom builder of gaming computers, Origin PC and the Electronic Arts digital delivery service Origin.

What was the result of this, well, with games like Battlefield 3 and The Old Republic coming out you can imagine some people ended up contacting Origin PC about their Origin game.

“We receive numerous phone calls and emails every week with people asking billing questions about the games that they ordered on Origin”, Matt Fisher, Origin PC’s marketing specialist said. “We have to point out that they are calling ORIGIN PC, custom PC builder, and not EA Origin.”

This might sound like a good thing, more customers calling in, and more chances for a sale. However, for anyone that has ever dealt with the gaming community you know there is a wide array of people you will deal with and those chomping at the bit for a game may be a little less than pleasant when they find out you cannot help them.

Not only does this mix-up use company resources, but it can lead to misunderstandings between other companies as well.  Companies looking to work with EA have contacted Origin PC and even employees just wearing the Origin PC t-shirts have been stopped by people looking for EA related answers.

“Someone contacted us before Quakecon and asked for a meeting,” explained Matt. “We asked them to confirm the subject matter prior to the meeting but they never did. We had time to meet with them so we scheduled the meeting and when they showed up they started asking a bunch of EA Origin questions.”

Could we see some sort of collaboration between Origin PC and Origin? Right now, we know of nothing on the table, but the gaming business just like all business is about connections and expansion. Perhaps in the end a little confusion can turn into a big opportunity.

Steve Jobs 1955-2011: Technology pioneer worked in the early days of Atari

Steve Jobs

Mankind has lost one of the greatest inventors and visionaries of all time, as Apple has confirmed the death of Steve Jobs, the founder of the company.

Most famous for his role in pioneering the personal computer industry and reinventing technology with products such as the iPhone and the iPad, Jobs also had a role in the earliest days of the video game industry.

In 1974, an Atari receptionist came to video game pioneer Al Alcorn to tell him of a long haired young man in the lobby.

“We’ve got this kid in the lobby. He’s either got something or is a crackpot,” the receptionist told Alcorn.  After giving an interview where he’d exaggerated his electronics knowledge, an 18-year-old Jobs became Atari’s 40th employee, working for $5 an hour to tweak and finish an early handheld game called Touch Me.

Atari Touch Me

A short time later, Jobs invited his friend Steve Wozniak to show off a homemade version of Pong he’d developed, impressing Atari so much that he, too, was hired by the young video game company.

Jobs and Wozniak would later pair up to work on Atari’s 1976 release Breakout, the ball-and-paddle brick-breaking game that has been cloned a million times over, from 1987’s arcade hit Arkanoid to countless Flash-based clones on the internet today.  Offered a bonus by Atari if the number of chips that could be eliminated from the machine, Jobs offered to split the bonus with Wozniak, who worked for days on end to reduce the design to such a degree that Atari was unable to figure it out and had to redesign the circuit board over again.  Despite the fact that Wozniak did the work, Jobs took most of Atari’s bonus money for the project without Wozniak’s knowledge.

Jobs and Wozniak would then go on to form Apple Computer, the company that brought the computer into the home.  Almost ironically, the iPhone and iPad would become popular devices in the modern day for playing video games, putting his contributions to the industry at both the start and end of his historic career.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IpVIufJ4qoU[/youtube]

Jobs was 56 years old.  “Steve’s brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives,” read the statement from Apple that confirmed the passing of Jobs on the evening of October 5.

 

Khan’s Corner: First Impressions of Dominion


For those who don’t know what League of Legends is, Google it. I’m not here to be your fucking Wikipedia! What I am here for is to let you know my godly absolute and factual opinion on League of Legends new game mode, Dominion.

What is Dominion?

For those that played WoW (and don’t pretend you didn’t) it is basically Arathi Basin with minion waves and a fog of war in the center of the map. There are five points in the map and you must claim them, defend them, and reclaim them in order to secure the fought over resources for your team as you slowly dwindle away the enemy team’s nexus HP bar. Sounds pretty wizard doesn’t it? Well it is! It is pretty damn wizard.

What’s the big deal, Mr. Khan? Why is everyone getting so excited about a new game mode?

What’s the big de… WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL? The release and implementation of Dominion is pushing the Defense of the Ancients style of game play to new heights. The addition of new game modes in the genre known as MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) adds more to the static play style which is associated with these kinds of games. No longer will HoN, DoTA, and LoL fight over which game has better laning! Now the games will have to put forth some innovation to compete which will really help this genre grow.

Who cares about new modes and innovation? Gear of War 3 is out!

Don’t care about innovation? You don’t care for change? How would you like if Gears of War played like Doom 1, huh? Would you like if after years upon years of FPS games coming out there weren’t any new game modes? Zombie Assaults? Horde modes? Capture the Flag? Secure Points? You’d rather your FPS just be fucking Free-for-All death matches? Look reader, before you open your fucking mouth again, I suggest you think twice unless you enjoy sounding like an insipid dickfart.

Now that we’ve got a little backstory done on what Dominion is, let’s get into what I think about Dominion. I know, I know! This is the best part of the article.

Dominion is amazing for many reasons. Don’t get me wrong. I see the flaws but there are so many pros that outweigh the cons of this game mode. The normal MOBA game mode match lasts anywhere from 20 minutes to well over an hour. The amount of time needed to sink into a match of Summoner’s Rift can be daunting. What if your mom wants you to pick up your room? What if your baby woke up and is covered in shit? What if someone drives their car through your house and you have to deal with the aftermath! In all of these cases, gaming takes the higher priority but if for some reason you feel compelled to leave the match, you can be reported as a leaver which is a bannable offense! You really have to make sure there is plenty of time in your schedule to get through an entire match without being penalized.

Swain is going fuck someone in the butt

Dominion matches normally take anywhere from 15-20 minutes and trust me on this, the miniscule amount of time it takes to do a dominion match doesn’t take away from the full on hardcore Annie on Timbers action. Why is it so quick? As long as one team has three points covered and kills some enemies here and there, the nexus HP bar goes down. There is constantly something to do and that bar will go down. There is no way only 2 points will be constantly controlled while a third point remains neutral. People fight over resources in games and in real life. It’s an inherent reaction to go running to establish superiority and murder those who would claim stake over your land.

The style of this mode is a twist on the Arathi Basin concept in World of Warcraft. Before any of you nerds flip the fuck out and says “ACTUALLY ARATHI BASIN COPIED ( insert game here)” , I am using AB as an example because it the most relatable reference I can make to the masses. Fuck, you guys are dicks. Anyway, back to the matter at hand! Like AB, you run point to point claiming resource nodes for your team increasing the amount of HP you drain from the enemy Nexus. There are minions in between each node charging towards each other. You don’t have to kill minions in this mode but it is smart to do once in a awhile because minions capture nodes exponentially faster than a player. It’s also nice to have fodder between you and an enemy who skill shots. You can see anything going on anywhere in the map from the main roads to the nodes. The only areas engulfed in the fog of war are the enemy spawn point and the center of the map which houses a variety of buffs, such as a temporary speed increase and health packs.

Screw you Twisted Fate and Annie. Dis be mah node!

Riot is a genius company, let me tell you! I expected there to be an issue with fools who try to top the kill charts and forget about the objectives to win the game. A lot of people just feel an unexplainable bloodlust to chase down an enemy Singed instead of forcing him to run so you can capture his resource node. What Riot implemented to make people realize there is more to this mode than skull fucking your enemy was add an in-game ranking system which lets you know how well you are doing compared to the rest of your team. It takes into consideration your defending kills, your capturing of nodes, and slaying of enemies. This allows your team to get their heads out of their ass if they want to get that MVP rank and not look like a total scrub.

The time frame and familiar objective style factors into something fantastic for the community and popularity of the game as well. It opens up accessibility to players who haven’t taken the leap into the MOBA genre. Yes, League of Legends is free to play but the stress and unforgiving nature that comes from the classic game mode is for many new or casual players nerve-wracking. With the nostalgic Arathi Basin-esque flow and the manageable 15-20 game time it makes the plunge so much easier. Let’s throw in some similes so you bitches understand. Pre-Dominion: League Of Legends is like jumping into the water at the beach. It’s pretty awesome and a lot of fun but your eyes burn from the salt and holy shit would it suck if a jellyfish stung you! Post-Dominion: League of Legends is like going into a hot tub and there are two chicks DTF. The kind of chicks who would put their finger in your ass if you asked them to. Fuck! Dominion is awesome!

If you haven’t tried League of Legends yet, there isn’t a better time than now. With Dominion being a fast paced, enjoyable, and forgiving game mode for novice and veteran players alike this is the time to get into the MOBA genre. Join millions upon millions of players in this quickly blossoming and wallet friendly gaming. See you in the Crystal Scar, Summoners.

Video gaming should not be the scapegoat for death of British gamer

gameaddiction

It’s no secret that the mainstream media circles like sharks around any news regarding the video gaming industry.  Ignoring easily found industry stats that show the average age of a video gamer is 37 years old, most video gaming stories seem to focus on children, the smallest demographic of the industry today.   Ignoring the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) ratings system and it’s proven track record, most video gaming stories seem to insist that the latest hit Rated M video game is being purchased by droves of children, all of whom will grow up to be criminals and violent souls.

This was evident shortly after the Supreme Court shot down California’s law which would have criminalized sales of Rated M games to children.  Many headlines and stories were worded to make it sound as if 8 year olds could now rush out and purchase Mortal Kombat without anything to stop them.  It’s been evident at other times this year as well, with some stories claiming that games like Bulletstorm and Duke Nukem Forever could bring down the moral standard of society or something.

The newest mainstream media event regarding video gaming is the story of 20-year-old British gamer Chris Staniforth.  A fan of the XBox 360 console, Staniforth died from deep vein thrombosis, a condition that can be caused by sitting or laying down in a cramped position for long periods of time.

Right away, news stories from a variety of sources came to be, with headlines reading “XBox Gamer Dies of Blood Clot After Marathon Session” (Fox News), “XBox Addict Killed By Blood Clot” (Yahoo!), and “Playing Video Games Without A Break Could Kill You” (MSNBC).

Sure enough, the mainstream press is latching onto this one, focusing not on the fact that Staniforth didn’t take breaks or stretch periodically, but instead focusing on the fact that he was a video gamer who played long sessions at a time.

Video gaming didn’t kill young Staniforth, folks.  His own lack of activity did.  He could have been an employee in a computer cubical for 40 hours a week that ate lunch at his desk.  He could have been a person that travelled a lot, sitting for those long hours in planes and cars.  He could have been sitting around watching a Harry Potter movie marathon, collecting stamps or watching paint dry.

DVT hits hundreds of thousands of people a year from all walks of life and all ages.  Yes, there are fatal cases there as well.  I really have to wonder if this young man was a movie critic or a bus driver if there would be near as many headlines.

Yes, Staniforth’s death is tragic.  It’s serious and sad news.  But how about a little journalistic integrity every once in a while, something that puts the focus on his lack of activity instead of his entertainment choices?   This is not a video game story, mainstream media, it’s an exercise, activity and health story.   Reporting it as anything other than that is irresponsible and ignorant.

Extra special thanks to Fox News, who put the words “gamer” and “gaming” in quotation marks in their version of the story, as if those were some kind of oddball terms.  As a result, this writer and “gamer” for 30 years will refer to them as Fox “News” going forward each and every time I note something written by one of their “journalists” or “reporters”.

Some good might come of the story if it makes others aware of how important activity of any kind is during their work or entertainment time.  Sadly, thus far, most reports (excuse me, “reports”) wish to focus on the whole “video games could kill you” angle instead.

Remember to get up and take some breaks, “gamers”… and computer techs… and taxi drivers… and airline passengers… and everyone else.  The activity is important during ANY and ALL tasks.

A Guide to the world of the Indie Adventure Game

Indy Adventure Game
It must have been back in the day when Terry Pratchett’s Discworld II was released that I first noticed PC Zone proclaiming the adventure gaming genre dead and most probably buried too, even though quite a few classics like Gabriel Knight III or Sanitarium would still follow. Yet, it was indeed more than obvious that the glory days of Monkey Island, Space Quest and Day of the Tentaclewere definitely coming to their end. Games went mainstream, quality dropped, the thinking gamer became a ridiculously small minority, good taste went tits up and magazines kept telling everyone just how very dead adventures were.

Heck, even now, after the obviously lucrative niche market The Adventure Company has carved itself, a variety of quirky Nintendo DS adventures and the amazing success of Sam and Max Series 1, nobody is convinced that adventures are truly back and people are still talking about redefining the genre, dropping costs, appealing to the mainstream, going 3D, whatever. What they are very obviously forgetting is that game crafting isn’t a power bestowed solely to big studios by the gods of gaming. It’s an art and craft everyone can have a try at, by either producing a freeware game or going for the more life-sustaining indy commercial development model. This exactly is the case with independent and/or freeware adventure games, a creative scene that’s been thriving for over a decade and going from strength to strength.

An Independent Adventure Game, you see, is a game created outside the stuffy world of uneducated managers who think they actually know what people like and believe there’s no value besides the exchange one. Indy Adventure Games, just like any medieval artisan’s product, only have to be true to the creator’s vision. They can be wildly innovative, copyright infringing, in full pixelated 2D, remakes of classic games, political, silly, absolutely shite, pop, over 500MB, excellent, boring, free or very cheap; anything at all. And, unlike commercial games, especially the ridiculously expensive ones which we’ve been living with for quite some time, they just can’t be proclaimed dead. As long as people -ordinary people- care for them, they’ll be around.

To play an Independent Adventure Game…

For the time being though, the indy adventure game is far from a dying species. One could even speak of an apex, if it weren’t for the ever increasing volume, variety and quality of productions. There are happily dozens of extremely talented developers and groups that keep churning out game after lovely game. To find out about -and of course play- said games, well, you’re spoiled for choice. For starters, this very blog will keep on covering those that catch my eye, Tim’s brilliant Independent Gaming will let you know about 99% of the newest releases, the Adventure Gamers Underground section, the AGS games pages, Adventure Developers, Erin’s blog and the the Adventuress will go on discovering and reviewing them, and then there are the developers’ websites like those of xii games, Herculean Effort, Wadjet Eye and Radical Poesis to search and savor.

<Intermission: In the unlikely case you’ve never played an adventure game and are thinking of having a try now that you ‘ve just discovered the world of freeware, please, do not expect frantic action. Expect interesting stories, mainly 2D graphics, lots of puzzles, inventory manipulation and lots and lots of pointing and clicking at things. The mouse and a capacity for lateral thinking are your friends./>

Now, to get you started and playing the latest and probably the best, I can’t help but suggest having a look at the linking epic that is my AGS Awards Winners 2006 post and the TOP 20 indy Adventures of 2006 as selected by Independent Gaming. Then, there’s this short ‘n’ random selection of games, merely for illustration purposes:

What Linus Bruckman Sees When His Eyes Are Closed

LB

Could you ever imagine EA coming up with a title like that? Or with a game simultaneously featuring two distinct stories? How about a hard brain twister? The most innovative adventure game of the past decade then? Of course not, and that’s the beauty of it. Download Linus here.

Space Quest 0: Replicated

Space Quest 0 - Replicated

Not a huge admirer of fan creations based on existing games, but this one is a glowing exception. SQ 0 is an excellent, original and funny little game, complete with 16-colour EGA graphics and old-fashioned parser interface, in which -you know- you type stuff. Could have easily been a proper part of the SQ saga methinks. Download it here.

Missing

missing

Now, for some adult-oriented entertainment. Missing is a gritty and beautifully illustrated adventure utilizing a simple ICOM-like point-and-click interface, that puts the players in the (probably) authoritarian shoes of a cop searching for his vanished wife and kid. Download it here.

Soviet Unterzoegersdorf

Soviet Unterzoegersdorf

Quasi-political satire with photorealistic graphics and absurdist humor, this one features a socialist cop in an almost socialist fictional state surrounded by Fortress Europe. Also looks quite a bit like Gabriel Knight II. Download it here.

Nearly Departed

Nearly Departed

A game by John Green, a Disney illustrator, no less. Fantastic graphics, impressive cartoon quality animation, simple interface and a still unfinished but very playable and highly enjoyable adventure. Besides, it’s the story of a reluctant zombie. Download it here.

Crafting, it’s so easy.

Well, provided you can come up with some decent graphics, game design, animation and music, it is. Programming could come in handy too, but as creating your very own engine can be both difficult and time consuming, there are many -mostly freeware- tools/engines that only require a minimum of effort and programming skill. The list that follows will hopefully help you. As for Interactive Fiction (text-adventures) it will be covered some other time. For now have a look at this interesting i-f writing bit.

AGS, the hallowed Adventure Games Studio, is by far the most popular scripting and adventure game creation environment to date. Pretty easy to use, freeware, geared towards classic 2D point-and-click retro adventures and backed up by a huge vibrant community, it’s probably where you should begin. Have a look.

LASSIE Adventure Studio, another free game creator, provides with the tools to create adventures in the classic Lucasarts style in Macromedia, Flash and Shockwave. Why not visit the LASSIE official site then?

The Wintermute Engine is slightly less easy to use a development environment, but with obvious 3D capabilities, impressive built-in graphical effects and high-tech tendencies. Quite the beast, really. Download it here.

Finally, and in a very blog-post ending way, you can also give the pretty excellent SLUDGE and Adventure Maker (also does PSP software, mind you!) tools a go. They are definitely worth your time. And mine.


Game Censorship: Nintendo

mksweat

Game Censorship: Nintendo

Video games are still blamed for a lot of things now-a-days including people being violent, lazy or stupid. However, back in the 90’s the video game violence debate reached a boiling point and many games were changed or edited to remove things that would be offensive or too violent. Nintendo, wanting to be more of a family gaming company took the lead while Sega was looked at as the more adult system.

Let’s take a look of some examples of censorship or changes to popular games.

Mortal Kombat

Probably one of the most famous instances of Nintendo’s censorship is in Mortal Kombat. Mortal Kombat was known for its violence and brutal fatalities so when it was set to be released to home systems many gamers were excited to experience this in their own home. However, Nintendo did not want to show graphic violence like blood or guts being pulled out so some significant changes were made to the game.

[youtube id=”iPZmGV2iodQ” width=”633″ height=”356″]

As seen in the video above the blood was replaced with sweat and the more graphic fatalities were replaced with more tame ones like Subzero freezing and then breaking your body instead of ripping your head off. This did not go over well with the public and MK was a failure for Nintendo, by the time MK2 was released full blood and fatalities were back.

Final Fight

Poison-billy-final-fight

Final Fight was a beat em up game released by Capcom. One of the enemies that you would have to fight in the game was named Poison. Poison was female and did flips and kicks and for the most part was easy to beat.

When the game was ported to the Super Nintendo, it was decided to change the women characters because hitting females was frowned upon. Strangely enough Akira Yasuda, a character and game designer stated that Poison and Roxy were transvestites not women. In the end, it did not matter and so for the SNES release the characters were changed to Billy and Sid, who were punk rockers that did pretty much the same thing as Poison and Roxy.

In addition to the sex change blood from stabbing or slashing an enemy was replaced by an explosion like effect.

Castlevania IV

CastlevaniaIV_Statue

Even the slightest hint of sexually or nudity was censored from games. In Castlevania IV nude statuses were modified in the U.S. release to cover them up. The same was done in Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse. In addition, in CV3 the Medusa monster was changed to have a more manly chest than female one.

Blood was also removed from the game. In the original Japanese release, the title screen bled onto the floor, but it was removed for the U.S. release. Within the game itself there were pits filled with red blood, but they were replaced with green ooze.

Bionic Commando

Nazi-censorship

In Japan, Bionic Commando was called, Top Secret: The Resurrection of Hitler. The name pretty much told you the plot of the game, which stayed the same when it was released in the U.S. However, Nintendo did not want to feature any hate groups whatsoever and so the Swastikas on the Nazi flags were changed to Germanic eagles and the name Nazi was replaced with “The BADDs” and Hitler was renamed to Master D.

Nintendo’s Change of Heart

There were many other changes made to a number of Nintendo games ported to the U.S. in the 90’s. However, as more and more people looked elsewhere for gaming Nintendo decided money beats censorship and soon new games had all the blood, gore and sex that were legally allowed and the world rejoiced.

Want to see more of Nintendo’s censorship in games? Check out this video created by Rinry Game Game.

[youtube id=”44mxT_ruxlI” width=”633″ height=”356″]

Finding myself in the middle of the Duke Nukem Forever outcry

duke-nukem-forever-screencap

If anything has followed the video game industry during it’s 40 year history, it’s been controversy.  There always seems to be someone willing to create it.

Starting with 1977’s Death Race, a game that would supposedly encourage people to run down pedestrians with their cars, up through the 1980s and through Mortal Kombat to the modern day, you can always count on the media to find people to cry out against something in gaming.

Duke Nukem Forever seems to be the hot button issue at the present time, thanks in large part to Fox News.  Following my previous story against their “reporting” on Bulletstorm, many people were encouraging me to poke holes into their latest attack on video gaming early this week.

As I formed plans to do so, I somehow found myself in the middle of it.  In such a case, a person might as well go all the way.

Fox News claims Duke Nukem Forever’s “Capture the Babe Mode” features violence against women.  The reality of the story is that this over-the-top parody of the “Capture the Flag” games featured in titles such as Call of Duty does not feature such material to the extremes that Fox has stirred up.

Yes, a slap on the butt might still be considered controversial and sexist by many, but it’s not described this way by Fox, which would have you believe players are punching women in the face or something.

They also continue on the whole “save the children” routine they like to push.  One part of their original “report” states the following: “The game will be available in stores and online, where customers must click a button stating they are 17 years of age or older — the only barrier to children buying such a game.”

Really?  Where are the parents here, Fox?  Being a father of two myself, I would like to think I would be able to act as a barrier to my children viewing materials that aren’t suited for them.   Seems to be a common theme that Fox News doesn’t feel parents can or should be responsible for knowing what their kids see and do.

Before I could write a full take on how Fox News presented Duke Nukem Forever, I received a telephone call.  It came yesterday afternoon from a reporter from The33 News, the local CW affiliate.  They wanted a “gaming expert” they could talk to about this upcoming game release, and I agreed to the interview.

Please watch the report before reading on by clicking here and then read on.

Duke-Nukem-Forever

The local news story uses the phrase “smacking a woman around for a while” which is clearly only feeding off of Fox’s overblown view of the topic.  They got comments from me in what looks to be an attempt to be a counterpoint from a woman who heads up a Dallas-area rape crisis center.

This was not disclosed to me prior to my interview.  I was under the impression they had spoken to Gearbox Software, the studio producing the game, as well, but the story only featured a shot of the outside of their Plano headquarters and a statement that nobody from the company returned their calls.

I stand by the comments I made that actually made the airwaves.  It is the parent’s responsibility to keep such gaming content out of the hands of their kids, and for those adults who find it offensive, it’s their right to simply avoid playing or purchasing the game.

What bothers me is what they left out.  The story aired the opinions of the Dallas woman calling for a boycott of the game by airing her statement that “behaviors like that are carried out in real life when people become too de-sensitized.”

I made a statement that could have acted as a direct counterpoint to that claim that was not used in the story, as I was asked a question that used that exact wording.

“There are just as many studies that show that people with violent tendencies are drawn to those kinds of games, rather than the games themselves being the cause of violent behavior,” I said to the reporter, “but the media never seems to report on those studies as much as the ones that claim they cause it.”

I suppose my statement proves itself here, as sure enough the story allowed someone to claim the game could/would/can cause a person to act in such a manner while the counterpoint that disagrees with it wasn’t included.

Bottom line, I’ve played video games for 30 years this year.  Not once has any game ever caused me to act out anything within them.  My police record contains nothing more than an unpaid traffic ticket going across my lifetime.  Anyone who would act violently because they played a video game was already the type of person who would act that way regardless, and anyone claiming such a game could trigger such behaviors is misinformed.

My website saw a small bump in traffic since the story aired, mostly locally, and all from search engine searches.  Some have resulted in e-mails from people who take me as “defending the content of the game” or “seeing no problem with violence against women” and other such comments.

Perhaps this is a result of my edited comments, but I assure you that I don’t support nor am defending anything.  I think any man that would strike or abuse a woman is the scum of the earth and something I have zero tolerance to even hear about.  The idea that my statements about a video game could or would possibly mean I have no issue with something like that is insulting.

I simply do not feel that Duke Nukem Forever will or could be the root cause of such behavior.  It’s over-the-top and quite sexist.  I grant that.  I also note that it’s no worse than countless films, television shows and even past video game releases going back to the 1980s.  Search for Leisure Suit Larry or Custer’s Revenge in the same search engines you used to find my website.

The only thing this controversy is sure to do is sell the game, thereby exposing more people to the very content that some are objecting to.  Good job on the boycott, which I’m sure will double the pre-orders of the game.

We live in a world where too many people blame entertainment or other people for the choices that people make.  Duke Nukem Forever is not going to bring out anything in anyone that doesn’t already have it, nor is any other video game.  If the time that’s used coming up with scapegoats was used instead to help stop those people, it would go a lot further.

Anyone wishing to speak with me about the topic can visit my website at www.PatrickScottPatterson.com or e-mail me directly at psp@patrickscottpatterson.com.

FUCK YOU, CAPCOM! YOU ROBOT KILLING BASTARDS!


Yeah! That’s the name of this article! FUCK YOU, CAPCOM!

Whoa, whoa, calm down there, buddy! Take a breather and tell us what’s wrong.

You want to know what’s wrong, readers? Are you deaf? Are you daft? Stupid? Or just plain retarded? Didn’t you hear? They are cancelling the Mega Man franchise! The Mega Man franchise! The whole goddamn thing! Do you even-

So what? Mega Man has been dead for awhi-

Look At That GQ Smile

Don’t you say it! Don’t you dare even say that blasphemous shit! Mega Man is as healthy and as vibrant as ever! Mega Man Network seemed to sell well amongst the little ones! Mega Man 9 & 10 were a great homage to the past and beginnings of our rock n’ roll android hero! Mega Man Zero and ZX kept to the hardcore, instant death pitfall, metal crunching insanity of the old Mega Man X style of game play. The Zero series was the most badass installment for the franchise outside of all the stupid ELF shit!

Umar, Mega Man was cool on the NES. Nothing about the franchise is-

Did I say you could speak, smegma breath? Did you even play Marvel VS Capcom 3? Do you watch the tournaments for the game? Do you know who is one of the most badass characters chosen? That’s right. It isn’t Wesker or Arthur! It’s the Maverick-fucking Reploid, Zero! How can you compete against a robot with a plasma gun and a lightsaber? How? You can’t even concoct an answer for that kind of shit! Even EMPs don’t do a thing to him.

I see your point. That does sound pretty darn bad ass!

Thank you! I’m glad we’ve come to an understanding on the travesty set before us!

Looks Like You Won, Wily!

Capcom… what the fuck, man? Why are you doing this shit to me? My daughter is due in a couple of days. How am I going to explain this to her? “Daddy?”, she’s going to ask me, “Why aren’t there any games with super fighting robots? Perhaps ones with androids that thwart the plans of a comically evil mad scientist who time and time again proves he is untrustworthy. Why hasn’t this existed?” After a pause that thickens the air she will look at me baffled. “Daddy? Why are you crying?”

This is like telling me Disney World is closing down. Do you fucking grasp the literal hole you’ve placed in my heart? I went to the doctor and they told me I have a HOLE which shouldn’t be there in my heart! Thanks for handing out my death certificate, you reapers of childhood dreams! Thanks for killing away Mega Man while Sonic the Hedgehog thrives in the festering mounds of shit it has enterprised on.

I can’t handle this insanity, Capcom. I don’t even know what else to tell you!

“Good luck with your future endeavors!” No, I wouldn’t wish you safe tidings on your journey without Mega Man.

“I hope it all turns out well.” We both know this would be a lie pouring out between the gaps of my teeth.

“Please bring back Mega Man!” As much as I despise you right now, as much as my stomach twists in knots, as much as my blood boils in unbridled wrath, I know pleading won’t bring back Mega Man. I’m realistic about this kind of shit. You just don’t care. You’ve lost money and cut your losses. Mega Man isn’t cool right? It’s all about Lost Planets, Ace Attorneys, and Street Fighters. No room in your hearts for an android boy and his dog Rush? It’s fine. You may kill one of the greatest heroes of all time but you’ll never kill off Dr. Wily’s Stage song in Mega Man 2. That sweet harmony will always resonate in my heart and echo within my soul forever!

But seriously, though…

Fuck you!

The Assassin’s Creed Series: What’s Next?

Assassin's Creed

What began as an innovation from Ubisoft with Assassin’s Creed in 2007 became an award winning series with over 28 million units sold. Among the awards given to Ubisoft for Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood were IGN’s E3 Best Action Game and the Writer’s Guild Award for Best in Video Game Writing all in 2010! The same year Brotherhood also raked in the Best Action-Adventure game of the Video Game Awards. They even added in a little humor for the character winners of their respective awards: Ezio Award Winner Humor.

So…what now? Revelations! According to an interview of the lead writer, Darby McDevitt on CVG, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations will NOT be the end of the series, because it will not answer all our “burning questions.” It is not mentioned in this interview if Ezio’s story will end, however.

Another interesting article that backs and adds to this claim I came across was one in which the AC: Revelations lead game designer Alexandre Breault said that there is no way creating an annual Assassin’s Creed series could “fatigue the franchise”. He more specifically says that “As long as each iteration is better than the previous one, we believe players will want more of it. They won’t say ‘enough of Assassin’s’ as long as the game is better than the previous one.” More of the interview can be seen on Gamerzines.

As much as I would love to play a successful AC game every year, fans have their doubts including I. A few more comforting quotes I want to get down before I end this article are some by the production manager Jean-Francois Boivin:

“We know what we’re doing, we’ve had a plan for a long time where this license is going to go.”

“Assassin’s Creed 3: new setting, new hero. That’s the way it works.”

“Assassin’s Creed 3 is yet to be officially announced. Don’t be surprised to see it next year.”

I’m extremely excited, but a little worried as well. By the way, these quotes pretty much make the end Ezio’s trilogy a certainty.

In the meantime, enjoy the Assassin’s Creed Revelations E3 trailer that brings this gamer tears to her eyes every time she watches it. This is from Machinima’s youtube page:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wo6Q14vBB1c[/youtube]

Top Five Master System Shoot-em-ups

Shoot ’em ups have long been one of my favourite genres and one that I probably own most examples of. The fact that my recent ‘Top Five MegaDrive Shmups‘ post has been my most popular yet indicates I’m not alone! I also seem to have sparked a craze for compiling shmup lists, with all and sundry now apparently listing their own favourites, including my friend Graeme (Jdanddiet) here! So, continuing the theme, I thought I’d return to my first console, and here’s my choices:

Games-Related Top Fives Disclaimer: I’ve traditionally stuck to the games I know and love so far, and these game-related top fives reflect that. One of the purposes of this blog is diversify my gaming experiences, to play games I haven’t played before, so I will do new game-related top fives in a few years to see how different they are!

5. Cloud Master (1989)

Cloud Master
I never really had much interest in this one due to the average scores it seemed to get in reviews, but when I actually played it, I discovered that I (at least) really liked it! One of the reasons for this could be the highly varied and imaginative enemies, which seem to be straight out the Fantasy Zone school of weirdness, but it’s got nice graphics, including some fantastic sprites and it’s just really enjoyable to play too.

4. Astro Warrior (1986)

Astro Warrior
I think this was originally a pack-in game on a combi-cartridge with Hang-On or Pit Pot. It did get a standalone release as well though, and it deserved it – it’s a cracking little game! It reminds me of a kind of cross between Cresta’s Moon and Terra and the power-ups increase the size of your ship a bit like those games too. I love these early space-based shooters and Astro Warrior is a great example. It might be a bit
short but it’s great fun while it lasts.

3. Fantasy Zone 2 (1987)

Fantasy Zone 2
Yes, the first game is a top blaster but this sequel just does everything a little bit better in my view. I’m pretty sure it was the first Fantasy Zone game I played too. Happily, the hyper-cute enemies and super-colourful backdrops from the first game return and if anything, they’re even more garish here! In fact, the whole game concept is mostly unchanged. But hey, it’s all part of the charm of playing a Fantasy Zone game, huh? Simple, addictive, and very challenging.

2. R-Type (1987)

R-Type
Many people’s bet for number one, I’m sure! Few shooters have become as iconic or proved as influential as this one, and this conversion of Irem’s all-time great is an outstanding one for sure. It has a few issues such as some sprite flicker but I don’t think anyone could really have expected any more from the humble Master System and they even found the space to cram in an extra level here too!

1. Power Strike (1988)

Power Strike
Perhaps better know as Aleste to some, this was one of the first games I got for my Master System and I’ve still got it now! It really is a technical marvel too – there can be dozens of sprites on the screen at once and there’s no slowdown or flicker, and it has very fast scrolling at time. Graphical achievements aside, this is a top-notch vertical scroller and still one of the best I’ve played. In fact, one of the only ones I’ve played that’s better is another game in the series on the SNES! Gorgeous, loud, challenging, and addictive – what more could you ask?

Burnout Crash = Burnout Crap

Burnout Crash

I am so sick of game companies taking a big title name and creating a crappy game based on it. After waiting so long for a new Burnout game the geniuses at Criterion Games spit out a top-down arcade game that has no place carrying on the Burnout name.

This new downloadable game allows you to select a car and drive it into an intersection where you can collide with other vehicles causing mass explosions and damage. Sure, it sounds good and honestly, if they released this calling it anything else besides Burnout I would have let it go. While the game does have the crashes and explosions of Burnout and even includes destructible environments like the buildings it is no Burnout and should not be considered as such.

The game is colorful and will remind classic games of the original Grand Theft Auto. Besides that, this game could have been made by any of the thousands of iPad and Android game makers out there.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qfHow3r66U[/youtube]

Simply put, this game might be fun for a moment and perhaps on a phone or pad this could be something. However, as in line as a Burnout game this does not work. Criterion might have had a chance to launch a mobile game division and I might have given then game a chance, but attaching the Burnout name to it is a slap in the face to Burnout fans. This game does not look to be worth more than a few Microsoft Points at best and will quickly be forgotten.

 

E3 2011: My E3 Guide

E3 2011: My E3 Guide by Ignacio/honorabili

E3 2011

Guide:

Before going, the first thing to do is see if you can get in there for free! Well, the way I did it is by having this website and registering as soon as I could for the event. Starting this year, E3 was capping the number of passes they would give out to media, requiring your website to have 8000 unique visits per month per media pass given out. If you don’t even get 8000 a month then they would make you buy your ticket instead, which could making going to the event really expensive.

Like most of these kind of events, try to book as early as possible, both your travel arrangements and lodging. We booked 9 months before and paid 700 dollars a person for 6 days. We used Orbitz and that price included complete air fare (flew American Airlines), lodging (we stayed at the Ramada Inn in Koreatown, which I found to be a great place and neighborhood), and a rental car (Avis, which broke down and then they tried to rip us off when we returned the car; listen to the podcast to hear Laraque complaining about that!). I really recommend going to E3 especially if you already live in California or nearby, so it’s much cheaper.

When you get to the event, get one of the free magazines that is pretty much a quick guide to the event plus the IMPORTANT PART is the map in the center of the magazine. You can simply look at the map and see which booths interest you the most. If you mainly go there to see the next big game, you can easily find them on the main floor in megabooths. If you have media passes, you can go talk to their reception desk and they give you priority to test them, instead of making you wait in line most of the time.

E3 2011 - Konami

Some people like to go to E3 to demo the new games and hardware, mainly from the megacorps. Other people like to go to see what small companies are there and to see what big thing they brought to the show. Many of the small companies or the companies that are not coming out with a big product usually have a booth in the meeting rooms in the Concourse Hall. Those are better for you if you are into networking and seeing more unique things that the public usually cannot. There’s a more private version of that area on the second floor that you can only access if you have a VIP pass. There’s where you can see unreleased stuff more and negotiate business deals.

If you go, don’t expect to sleep much. You pretty much walk and stand most of the day and after the show, if you have connections expect to go to a ton of after parties (there’s one pretty much every day); this is where you can really make connections with developers, vendors, etc. If you go there trying to setup some business deals, bring a stack of business cards and some nice clothes. I made more contacts wearing dress clothes than simply the Obsolete Gamer T-Shirt.

As far as being in L.A., bring a lot of money because things there are PRETTY EXPENSIVE. Most places we went to charge a bare minimum of 3-5 dollars an hour to park, with many places having a 15-30 dollar parking fee, even like going to a local mall. Food at most restaurants will cost you about 20 dollars a person unless you want to eat a lot of fast food. At E3, the food is very expensive and we’re talking like 6 dollars for a pizza slice kind of expensive and 5 dollars for a can of Monster (no Red Bull, which is my crack). A cheapskate trick is to go to the Concourse Hall and munch on the snacks (cookies mainly) and free soft drinks that a lot of the companies have there. Hey! You wanted a real guide, now you know how cheap I am!

E3 2011

When at E3, try not to take breaks. Be smart and go have a meeting where you can sit down to rest, while you keep working and networking. Again, I mainly recommend going to the event if you are in the industry, whether you have a game company, gaming website, resell video games, blog, shoot funny videos (like Mega64), otherwise, you can pretty much watch everything at the show for free on the internet on some of the mega video game sites or directly from the main companies websites, in the form of trailers.

If you are media/press, pick up every free bag of goodies they give you. The best stuff I got was from World of Tanks, which gave me a bunch of toy tanks, a special bag, a World of Tanks T-Shirt, mouse pad, and special game bag, as far as the main floor went, and the biggest gift I got was from Topware which gave me a Collector’s Edition of Two Worlds 2 and a ton of T-shirts. Even if you don’t like a game, who knows, a friend of yours might like it! If you have a gaming website, some of this swag would be great to giveaway in the form of a contest.

My Experience:

E3 2011 - Cooking Mama

The day before E3 I was rushing to get some Obsolete Gamer shirts over to J.A. Laraque’s house as well as a camera I bought him and some micro SD memory cards when the engine of my 1998 Mustang GT decided to die a block away from my house. After pushing the car with some neighbors up my driveway, I had my mom help me to drop the OG gear off at JA’s house. I stayed up pretty late playing League of Legends with my brother and his friends until we lost so badly that I had to go do something else. I remember drinking some rum while watching episodes of The Three Stooges on Hulu.

My old man took J.A. and I to the airport like around 5 PM EST on Tuesday, the first open-to-the-public day for E3 2011 and we quickly met up with Alienware’s Patrick Theodore and Ashley Brito. Even though Orbitz booked us on Alaskan Air, we quickly had to go running with all our luggage to the American Airlines concourse and go through the TSA checkpoint. After seeing old ladies from Miami Beach get checked to see if they have C4 in their shoes, the terrorists won! Anyways, they let us through and after a short while we were on the plane. I played the living shit out of Solitaire on the plane, which going to L.A. we had a 777 (great ride). Laraque played a lot of games on his iPad like Streets of Rage and some Homer Simpson game which was a lot like the original Simpsons arcade game. I slept on the plane but for the duration of this trip I was pretty much tired a lot.

As soon as the plane landed we hauled ass to Avis, and then drove fast to the show. Parked (see me bitch above about the parking, which in this case was 15 dollars cash [be sure to bring a lot of cash]) and then we got some of the food they sell there (again see above if you want to hear me bitching). Afterwards, we walked off into the main floor. My first impression was that this was a huge arcade. Colors and colors everywhere. We saw the Sony Online Entertainment booth, which we have been trolling on the podcast a lot lately, and I got a bunch of the free mints they had there. The only games they had which interested me were Payday (co-op bank robber game) and some Magic The Gathering strategy game, but that game looked pretty dated. I hit up Capcom, then Kalypso, which to my surprise is remaking (and this is much needed) Jagged Alliance and is making Tropico 4, another sequel to one of my favorite dictator sims of all time.

E3 2011 - Square Enix

I had a meeting with Indiecade, which showed me a lot of board games, which we will probably review later on The Inverted Paradox and a couple of Indie games. I got to play this experimental game project called Deep Sea where the game has no graphics and its just you attacking a sea monster based on what you hear only. Pretty original idea and it generates a feeling of solace and dread being stuck on a submarine with a leviathan around you. I also saw a game that was a rogue-like clone and also a cute strategy game called Skulls of the Shogun which is a like like Shining Force and Ogre Battle.

We went to the after the show parties for AMD and also for S2 Games, the makers of Heroes of Newerth. Both parties had free bars and the AMD party had AMAZING food! =P It was fun talking to AMD about the new APU that already got released by now as well as talking about old hardware with some of the people who helped design it, like Marc who helped design my favorite CPU the AMD K6-3. 😀 The AMD party was also very special for me because I got to speak in person with my friend Alfred Giovetti who runs The Computer Show. In the middle of people talking about the latest and greatest we sat for a good while talking about stuff like the rise and fall of Microprose and Interplay and games such as Darklands by Microprose. I recommended he try out Mount & Blade which is a lot like Defender of the Crown mixed with Darklands.

E3 2011

Back to the show, I got to meet up with the people from Riot Games, the makers of League of Legends which let me see upcoming champions (hero units) for that game, one of my current addictions.

The people from World of Tanks gave us some goodie bags which was put to good use in-game (another one of our addictions now).

I got to meet (finally in person) with my long time internet friend Seth Sternberg (8 Bit Weapon) and got to hear them live. We interviewed both band members and you can check out the 8 Bit Weapon interview here.

We stayed in L.A. for 4 days after the show and it was a nice vacation for us.

In conclusion, the E3 experience was a good one and I highly recommend it, especially if you can go there cheap or get somebody to sponsor your trip! ;-]

Subscription MMO’s soon to be a thing of the past?

DDO Free-to-play

Is the writing on the wall that paying monthly for MMO’s is soon to be a thing of the past? When some of us started playing text based adventures the idea of paying by the minute for internet service was acceptable, but soon unlimited plans became the way of the land and everyone had to jump on board. Fast forward to the early days of Everquest, when the decision was made to raise the price of their monthly subscription. The player base revolted saying EQ would be done for if this move was made, but as how addiction works, we continued playing.

Perhaps that was a turning point, when these companies knew they could push their customers just far enough if their game was good/addictive enough to keep people from quitting. We learned with games such as Asheron’s Call 2, that if a game sucks people will run away, but we also learned that if a game is good enough one could make money without being number one.

When World of Warcraft exploded the common wisdom was that no other company would dethrone Blizzard anytime soon, but they could offer an alternative, just enough to make a profit. We saw a boom of new MMO’s show up with many I am sure you have never heard of. However, many of these MMO’s were turning a profit, enough to keep going and the industry thought things would level off.

guild-wars

When Guild Wars dumped the idea of monthly subscriptions, many people laughed at the idea. Even after the early failure of Everquest 2, most MMO’s were doing fine even in the large shadow cast by World of Warcraft. Not everyone was laughing because not only was Guild Wars a good game, but there was not a model that could be used that had already been used with many Asian MMO’s.

When we first saw a MMO go free-to-play it was thought that it meant a game was failing and in many cases that was true. Games like Age of Conan saw a mass exodus, but it was still salvageable so going free-to-play made sense. The same happened with Lord of the Rings, less players, but worth keeping up.

When Sony Online Entertainment launched the Everquest 2 free-to-play it became more common place to offer a subscription service alongside a free-to-play where you could sell additional perks and services. Not only did that extra revenue work for the free-to-play side, but for the subscription side as well.

Now seeing MMO’s go free-to-play alongside a subscription service is a normal occurrence. If the game is older, like City of Heroes it may bring in new blood. If the game is newer, like DC Universe Online it may give a dying game some new life. In SOE’s case if nothing else, they can convince their subscribers to go All Access to help pad their subscription numbers.

aoc_free-to-play

Even the MMO superpower World of Warcraft has seen its numbers drop sharply and not just people who stop logging in but keep their account active. Blizzard has been losing subscribers by the boatload and they are not just waiting for the next expansion, they want a new game. On the horizon, we have Old Republic. While it looks as if this game will be a hit so did DCUO.

There are many gamers from the early EQ days that consider themselves retired from MMO’s for a variety of reasons. Some of the newer gamers are burned out and they experienced an over saturation of MMO’s some good, some not so good, but the key was there were too many to subscribe to. Now many people are getting used to the free-to-play model and with W.O.W. perhaps beginning its slide down, the field may open up. Not to one dominate MMO, but a widening choice were you don’t have to slap down $50 plus $14.99 just to see if it makes it past the first month or not.

Studies show that if you charge ten bucks for a 15-episode television show, it may or may not sell well, but if you offer each episode for 99 cents, you will end up making more money in the long run. If you play a game for free and a one-time fee of five bucks gets you that new mount you will feel more inclined to buy it. American’s have run into debt because we don’t realize a three dollar cup of coffee three times a week is four hundred and sixty-eight dollars a year.

everquest 2 free to play

Only time will tell how free-to-play will change the MMO landscape. For those of us who can enjoy a game and walk away it may become a great opportunity to experience many new games. For those that have to have it all, it may start up a new debate about MMO addiction and how people go broke by purchasing a two-dollar sword here and a ten-dollar name change there. Think it cannot happen, look for the headlines on Second Life where people pay two hundred bucks a month for a virtual condo. Kind of makes you wonder why they didn’t think of this sooner.

 

Top Five PC Engine Shoot-em-ups

5. Image Fight (1990)

Image Fight - Gameplay Screenshot

Developed by Irem soon after they unleashed R-Type, this fantastic vertical scroller is for some bizarre reason far less revered than its sibling, which is odd because even a quick session with it reveals Irem were more than adept at this kind of shmup as well as the horizontal variety. It’s not the flashiest shooter ever – the graphics aren’t particularly impressive and the music is instantly forgettable, but it is challenging, well designed, and, much like R-Type, features some interesting power-ups. Rather than the now-legendary Force from that game, here it’s possible to attach a variety of devices to the front of your ship, each of which give it a different weapon. A top blaster which deserves more recognition.

4. Magical Chase (1991)

Magical Chase - Gameplay Screenshot

For a long time an Engine exclusive, this horizontal-scroller is so charming it’s as if you’ve had a spell cast on you by the ‘Star Maiden’ protagonist of the game! It’s a horizontal-scroller in a similar vein to Cotton (which was released around the same time) which sees you in control of a witch complete with broomstick (but apparently no black cat) battling six demons and their bizarre minions across the six stages! A very strange but nonetheless compelling and highly playable little game which looks fabulous, has a fantastic soundtrack, and constantly beckons you to discover what lies around the next corner.

3. R-Type (1988)

R-Type - Gameplay Screenshot

Until the PlayStation came along, this remained the most faithful conversion of this eternally worshipped, all-time classic yet seen (Lord knows why it never appeared on the MD, come to think of it, that could’ve been a cracking version). Despite the fact that it was initially spread over two separately released Hu-Cards, it was still hard to fault it. The graphics and music are near- faultless and as close to arcade perfect as anyone could reasonably expect, and the timeless level design and gameplay is faithfully recreated. This was a God-send for the game’s many fans.

2. Gradius (1991)

Gradius - Gameplay Screenshot

As is the case with R-Type, this was arguably the best version of Gradius until the arrival of the 32-bit consoles, although the X68000 effort was also superb. While it’s true that the graphics are simplistic and do suffer from bouts of slowdown now and then, they are also beautifully defined and the twinkly, multi-coloured stars in the background are hypnotic! The remixed soundtrack here is fantastic too, and among my favourite shmup soundtracks on any system, but it’s the finely honed gameplay that keeps me coming back. Challenging it may be, but the difficulty curve is well pitched and there’s so many distinctive touches (including an extra level) it’ll take ages to see all it has to offer.

1. Gunhed (1989)

Gunhed - Gameplay Screenshot

It’s amazing to think that this was one of the first shmups released on the Engine. After all these years it’s still one of the finest vertical-scrollers I’ve played on any system. It’s true that there’s a vast number that I’ve still not played but that doesn’t detract from the sheer quality of this classic from Hudson. It eases you in with the gentle opening stage before gradually ramping up the intensity to sweaty-palms, edge-of-the-seat levels – this really is a game that oozes quality in every department. Given the Engine’s prowess with this genre, it’s possible I may encounter an even better shmup at some point but it’ll have to be something really special to beat this legendary game.

A Long Time Ago, In A Galaxy Far Far Away A World Came To An End


It fills me with great sadness to deliver this message to those of you who enjoyed the hell out of Star Wars Galaxies before it turned into a shade of its former glory, but SOE has decided to pull the plug.

Dear Star Wars Galaxies™ Community Member,

We write to you today to inform you that on December 15, 2011, Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) and LucasArts will end all services (MMO and Trading Card Game) for Star Wars Galaxies (SWG). The shutdown of SWG is a very difficult decision, but SOE and LucasArts have mutually agreed that the end of 2011 is the appropriate time to end the game.
We are extremely grateful to all of the SWG fans. We have had the rare opportunity to host one of the most dedicated and passionate online gaming communities and we truly appreciate the support we’ve received from each and every one of you over the course of the past eight years.

In recognition of your incredible loyalty, we are extending special Fan Appreciation offers to the current SWG community. We also plan to go out with a bang with a galaxy-ending in-game event in December and hope to see you all there. The details relating to these offers and events as well as the timeline and specifics regarding the discontinuation of the service, are provided below.
Again, we want to extend our heartfelt thanks to our player community for making SWG one of the best online communities in gaming history.
Sincerely,
Sony Online Entertainment & LucasArts

The Fine Details:

Discontinuation of Services:
As of September 15, 2011, the SWG MMO and Trading Card Game will no longer be available for sale or subscription at both retail and all online digital retailers. All billing for active subscribers with accounts in good standing, except for Station Access subscribers, will end on October 15, 2011.

If you are an active subscriber in good standing as of September 15, 2011, then you can play for free for the final months. Players wishing to play through the end of the game and participate in the galaxy-ending event planned for the last week of live service in December will need to re-activate or join the game on or before September 15th. No new or reactivated accounts will be accepted after September 15, 2011.
As of today, June 24, 2011, we are discontinuing the 12, 6, and 3-month subscription plans, meaning these subscription options will no longer be offered for newly created SWG accounts. SWG subscribers who have prepaid six (6) or twelve (12)-month game time plans that extend their subscription period past October 15, 2011 will receive a pro-rated refund for any such pre-paid excess subscription payments*. Such refunds are expected to be issued within 90-days after the game ends.
In addition, we will be discontinuing the sale of all Star Wars Galaxies™ Trading Card Game (TCG) digital card packs as of today, June 24, 2011. Loot cards will not be redeemable in the SWG MMO after September 15, 2011. The TCG will continue to operate until the final service closure on December 15, 2011.

Galaxy-Ending Event – Be Part of this Historic Event
During the last week that SWG is available, we’re inviting the community to participate in a galaxy-ending event. We’re going to end with a bang and we want the final chapter of the galaxy to be written in part by the dedicated and passionate SWG community. Details will be announced at a later date.

Fan Appreciation Offers
We welcome those active SWG subscribers in good standing to play one or all of the below SOE massively-multiplayer online PC games at a fully-paid subscriber status (or “membership” status where relevant) at no cost between October 15, 2011 and December 31, 2011 (subject to the terms and conditions described below). To activate these special offers, use the same Station Account you use now to subscribe to SWG** and simply click on the game you would like to try to download the game software. We are offering the following SOE games: Free Realms®, Star Wars®: Clone Wars Adventures™, EverQuest®, EverQuest® II and DC Universe™ Online. The game software will all be made available for download on a link accessible from the StarWarsGalaxies.com web site beginning on October 15, 2011.

Are Asians Good At All Games?


Quick answer: Nope! Where the hell did this stereotype come from? Where did this claim that Asians are the demigods of gaming originate? I don’t know and I’m sure a quick google search could answer that question for me, but you know what? I don’t feel like opening my browser for such productive means! Instead I’m going to rant while being entirely ill informed and uneducated! Are you ready because I am!

The claim that Asians are amazing at games probably started with Starcraft and not a day before that. Just look back at the epic story of The Wizard starring Fred Savage. Who won that tournament? Not an Asian. That alone is hardcore evidence that our allies in the Far whatever directions aren’t that adept at video games.

The only game that I can recall Asians faring well in would be RTS games. Everyone complains when they go against an Asian player in a Real Time Strategy because you know you’re going to die. RTS games in Korea are like the fucking Olympics or Soccer. It’s a pretty big fucking deal. Ungodly accuracy, impeccable multitasking, and the execution of unparalleled tactics lead them to victory. I guess it makes sense for them to do well considering Sun Tzu wrote The Art of War so close by!

The Unmoving Faces of Death
It doesn’t seem American born Asians have the same prowess as their homegrown cousins. It seems that the water in those lands are what grant them this advantage in RTS gaming. In the League of Legends championship USA placed third because they overcompensated the team with Asians and instead the Euros defeated us. Great job! You got stomped by wine drinking, rotten shark eating Europeans. Lets not even get into how poorly our US team spoke when they get the microphone handed to them from the cheerful Riot female interviewer.

Beyond the RTS realm where do they stand out? They can’t play racing games for obvious reasons. They’ll just drive slow, swerving side to side with their indicator on but never turning. You can’t win a race like that! This inability to perform well in vehicles then carries over into the realm of flying games. They’re going to just kamikaze into the ground since it’s all they know. Fun Fact: The Japanese claimed that being a Kamikaze was a tactic when in reality it was to avoid the embarrassment of being known as the worst pilots in the world.

Fighting games? What just happened a week or so ago? Famous gamer Daigo claimed in a video he could destroy America in Marvel Versus Capcom 3. I forgot what happened… Oh wait, no! I remember! He got completely thrashed about like a little bitch. Looks like the stereotype filled someone else with false pride.

Now I know you’re probably wondering why I even bothered to write this article. I wrote it in the hopes that you no longer feel fear when playing a game against an Asian gamer. They’re like anyone else, except for in an RTS. Don’t be afraid anymore. Fill your lungs with the vigor of hopefulness and victory to destroy these fools and free them from them by abolishing the stereotype with every defeat you liberate them with. Asian can be defeated and it is up to you to lead the charge.