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cheekylee Once again, Venter does something to the site and I get to play about a little. I love it, I really do. It makes me feel all squishy inside. Warm, and moist. And tight, like a tiger.

Um ... yeah. Words go here. Some will, soon.

Title: The Multiplayer Game Commandments
Posted: July 03, 2007 (03:07 AM)
I used to write editorials. I thought they were the best articles on this site, and plenty of people loved them. They were half games culture commentary, half sit-down comedy. It has been a long time since I wrote anything, so last night I forced myself to come up with something. It's not as good as the stuff I used to write, lacking most of the outright comedy. I guess I'm just not as angry these days. But, it's a start.


You do not quit. Not ever, for any reason. Take the best reason you can think of for quitting a game, and then throw it away, because it is invalid. Your mother is dying? She'll just have to hold on a little longer then, won't she? Finish every game you start, regardless of how good or bad you are doing. A quit is a loss, and any game that does not reflect this attitude was programmed by pussies for pussies who quit. Quitters are pussies.

Banning things you don't like also makes you a pussy. Nothing is 'cheap'. If something works, use it. If something is beating you, then learn how to counter it. If you refuse to utilise an advantage because some part of you feels that it is dishonourable, then you are only constraining yourself. Removing perfectly viable tactics from a game just because you don't know how to deal with them makes you an even bigger loser. (The exception to this is in certain tournaments that have well-publicised rules on who/what is 'banned'.)

In a team game, your score is the TEAM score. Let's take Counter Strike. Let us assume there are 8 players on each team, and that you are playing a 5 round game. If you kill 7 of the opposing team each round, but the 8th one kills you and only you to win the round, then your team lose 5-0. This means that your score is not 35, but is in fact 0. Nobody fucking cares if you lead the game in kills if your team lost. If your team lost, then you lost. It is a cliché, but it is also highly appropriate ; There is no I in T-E-A-M.

If you are vastly outclassing your opponent/s, then do them the service of playing at your usual level. There is a real temptation to showboat, but you should only do that if it will help the lesser skilled players to learn and improve. Once the game is over, then leave. Find someone your own size to pick on.

In any MMO, be SURE to carry an emergency self-heal. A tank usually needs a cleric much more than the cleric needs the tank. If the tank relies on the healer, then it is his own stupid fault if the healer can't heal him in time.

Also, in MMOs, know your role. A tank is NOT a damage dealer, he is a damage TAKER. It makes not the slightest bit of difference who in the party kills the mob, as long as the party kills the mob. Remember ; There is no I in T-E-A-M.

Know your limitations, and drop your ego. Do whatever helps the team the most. You may be the best sniper in the team, but if you are also the best medic then you probably won't be sniping.

In a competitive single-player battle situation, there are no rules preventing strategic alliances. Unless the game specifically disallows it, lesser players should band together to take out the bigger threats. Likewise, stronger players should avoid other strong players until it is essential, and should clear the field of lesser players before tackling the more able threats. This is because luck can often be a factor in determining victory, and luck has no respect for your stature.

There comes a time for all alliances to end. Do not hesitate when this time comes. Honour will take you so far, but it is almost certainly not going to carry you across the finishing line in 1st position. That only comes about by being ruthless.


Games are supposed to be fun. If they are not, then stop playing. Don't stress out, don't complain, don't spoil the experience for everyone else. Leave after the game, and then either practise to improve, or find something else to play.

Never, EVER, cheat in a multiplayer game. If you need to do something outside of the normal controls to do it, it is probably wrong. If you need to use external hard/software to do it, it is definitely wrong! Think of cheating as like sex ; You should only do it with other consenting partners.

Auto-team and Random select RULE! The world would be a better place if everybody used them.
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Title: Tyler Bleszinski is scared of the Wii!
Posted: June 08, 2007 (09:02 AM)
Now, you may well be asking "Who the hell is Tyler Bleszinski?" at this moment. And, you'd be right to. He is nobody, some sports blog guy who just happens to have a brother who works in OUR industry. You've probably heard of Cliff Bleszinski, but maybe you just know him as CliffyB. Yes, the Gears of War designer.

So, Tyler apparently is worried at the current signs that point to the Wii becoming a dominant console. Why? He thinks that this will lead to the end of hardcore games as we know them, and will instead lead to publishers opting to release more and more casual/minigames.

(The article in which he states all this is here, for your reference.)

Well, this is being discussed on other gaming blogs, too, and I got a bit annoyed at the ignorance of many of the posters. In short, they were all decrying the massive amount of casual games on the Wii, and were saying that you need a PS3 or 360 for the 'hardcore' experience. I had to correct them.

Because Gears of War is NOT a hardcore experience. There are several reasons why, but the most glaringly obvious one is that HARDCORE GAMES DO NOT SELL 5 MILLION COPIES.

Just think about it for a while, and you will see what I am saying here. Gears is basically a minigame, around which a beautiful special effect has been wrapped. It looks incredible, of that there is no doubt. And, the gameplay itself is extremely fun. But, the gameplay is quite limited. You look for cover from which to shoot Locust, and then you shoot them. This repeats throughout the game, and it never varies. Cover is always in plentiful supply, and the only variable is how accurate the Locust you face are.

And, this is fine. Gears is primarily concerned with offering the player an experience. It wants you to feel immersed in the horror that is war. It plays tricks on you to draw you in. It pushes polygons at a startling rate. But, it plays the exact same game for 5 acts. The difficulty actually tops out well before the end of the game, and if you can complete Act 2, you can complete the whole game.

My definition of a hardcore game is one in which the difficulty continually increases, and the skill of the player to beat the challenge that is put in front of them is the only determining factor in how far they progress. Geometry Wars matches this definition, absolutely perfectly. Geometry Wars is the poster child for hardcore games.

Gears, on the other hand, has everything that a casual player is looking for. It has stunning graphics, easy to pick-up gameplay, and a story through which the player can progress towards a definite goal.

I offer up the following piece of evidence to back up my claim. My girlfriend!

My girlfriend generally plays stuff like Ratchet & CLank, and Spyro. She didn't care about Gears in the slightest. On the 360, her most-played game was Oblivion, followed by Viva Pinata, followed by Tomb Raider Legend, followed by Kameo. Of these, only Oblivion could lay any kind of claim to being 'hardcore'.

Take it into Live Arcade, and things become even MORE pronounced. She point blank refuses to play Geometry Wars, preferring Uno and Feeding Frenzy.

She never cared for Dead Rising, and she didn't even touch Lost Planet. She has played both the GRAW games, but mainly because we play them co-op with a real-life couple we are friends with. So, when Gears showed up on the scene, she didn't expect to be interested. I still don't really know why she even tried it. She realised all along that it looked good, but the idea of the game did not really appeal to her.

She has since finished it on Insane difficulty! (Admittedly by co-opping, but that is still quite remarkable.)

I don't know, maybe I'm mistaken. I would not place Gears of War on the 'hardcore' pile in the way I would place, say, Earth Defense Force 2017. They are both examples of limited gameplay, but EDF just keeps on piling on the difficulty until it eventually breaks you. You have to play through literally hundreds of levels to finish it, whereas Gears has just 15. (Assuming we take the three difficulty levels into account.) EDF places its gameplay mechanic at the front of the shop, whereas Gears hides it beneath possibly the most polish we have ever seen. Neither of them are very original, and neither of them have any real depth, but they both walk on opposite sides of the street.

Regardless of my take, Tyler is wrong anyway. The fact that millions of Wiis are selling does not mean that games like Gears will ever stop appearing. 5 million sales guarantees sequels, and it also guarantes copies. Blacksite : Area 51 is a perfect example of this.

I just wonder what eveyrbody else thinks makes for a 'hardcore' game, and into what category they would place Gears of War? As always, I am genuinely interested in reading what people have to say, even if you just want to flame me with "HOW DAER U U SUK GEARZ RULESZZZ!!!11"
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Title: A pleasant surprise!
Posted: June 07, 2007 (04:33 AM)
I was a moron. I admit it. I know better, and yet ... I guess I let my optimism take over. This is a fault of mine, but it is a fault I am happy to have.

So, anyway, I read a rumour that Bomberman was due to be released on Live Arcade as this weeks Wednesday game, and that it was going to cost 400 points! That is far too good to be true, and yet I let myself swallow it.

So, imagine my surprise when the game that was available for download was not Bomberman, but in fact was Pacman : Championship Edition, for 800 MS points. WTF? Now, Live Arcade already has Pacman, as well as Ms. Pacman, which cost 400 MS points each. So, why would anybody want to download this new one for the cost of 2 games they may well already have? Seems to me that MS needs some help wit their marketing, because this is a disaster.

Still, I have auto-downloads on, so I got the trial version anyway. Decided to take a look at it this morning, and .... OH. MY. GOD!

It really is fantastic. Awesome, in fact. So much better than I thought it was going to be.

What it is, is nothing less than a complete re-invention of Pacman. Instead of making you eat all the dots in a single maze, instead, the maze is designed to take advantage of widescreen, and has two distinct sides. Once you clear all the dots from one side, a fruit appears at the other side. Eating this fruit recharges the dots in the other side, and may even re-arrange the maze.

Another nice difference is that when you eat the power pill, the ghosts are noticeably slower than the player. Whilst some purists may complain that this makes the game too easy, for the majority of the world this is actually making the game playable. Pacman has always been great, but it has also always been quite difficult. And, I say this without fear of shame. I have never been any good at the game. I have always felt that the ghost advantage becomes far too pronounced, far too quickly. Many people would be put off by the extremely steep learning curve. (Something that wasn't a problem back in the days when arcades were still the newest and most exciting thing in the world!)

With the new format, though, the ghost advantage is muted. Now, a player has more places in which to hide. There are more corners to turn, and more ways to herd the ghosts to where you want them. By shifting the focus away from clearing the maze, and onto the eating of ghosts, the game becomes just so much more fun.

You can see screenshots, and a trailer, here. I would definitely recommend all 360 owners to check this one out.
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Title: A cautionary tale.
Posted: June 01, 2007 (04:20 AM)
I played Uno over Live last night, for the first time ever. I popped into a random player match, and immediately got booted! I'm guessing this was because I didn't have the camera running, since the 2 guys in there both did. (On reflection, it is probably for the best that I got booted...)

The interesting thing was in my third game. Now, I hadn't bothered wearing the headset, because it was 2am and I didn't want to wake my girlfriend or baby son. But, I could hear the other players over the TV speaker. By now, I had won 2 games. And, the guys at the table didn't like that. "He has no losses! Let's give him one."

And, they communicated with each other in order to try and give me my first loss. Seriously. "What colour do you want me to change it to?", in order to give the guy who just called UNO the best chance of beating me.

So, in PLAYER matches, a guy with a record stating 2 wins and 0 losses is suddenly an enemy?

Why is XBox Live so full of people who do this shit? I don't really want to get on some anti-American tirade here, but it amazes me how much stock Americans put in records. Records MAY count in ranked matches, but they have absolutely no meaning in player matches. Hell, they have precious little meaning in any matches.

Here is a true story, from back in the days of Quake 3 on the Dreamcast. Now, I had already played a LOT of Quake 3 on the PC before the DC release, so I was at an advantage to a lot of players anyway. I had the European and the US versions, so I could play a larger pool of players. I guess I just found the DC version to be more fun than the PC one.

So, it was about 4am, and the European servers were starting to thin out. So, I booted up the US version instead, and went looking for a decent challenge. I found a tournament server, and proceeded to hand the guy on it his own ass. I beat him 10-1, and he typed up "AGAIN."

I didn't really want to play him, since I prefer close games, but I figured I may as well try and show him some tricks, in the hopes that the playing field levelled out a little. So, I started rocket jumping to places he probably never thought to go to. I let him chase me round the map, in the hopes he would learn my pattern, and start using it himself.

I won this one 10-3. "AGAIN."

This time, at the start of the match I typed "Last game. Win or lose.", and decided to just play my game. 10-0.


"No. I'm going to bed."


Yeah, whatever. I just battered the guy with a combined score of 30-4, 3 of which I practically handed to him, and yet because I didn't want to carry on, he won. Now, I didn't care, but it really did stick with me.

I'm not saying that there are no Brits who quit when losing, but they are definitely less plentiful in supply. The guys at the Uno table were Americans, too.

Mario Kart DS indicated which region players were from. I can honestly say that all the people who quit rather than give me wins were US players, and that I never once saw a JP player quit. I consider it honourable to finish the game no matter how outclassed you are, and that generally seems to be the way in the rest of the world. Americans are seemingly just obsessed with the wins, period.

Gah! I said I didn't want this to turn into an anti-American tirade, and it has done!

The ridiculous thing about it all is that Uno is a game based purely on luck. If you have a card you can play, you play it, otherwise you draw. This is not some strategic masterpiece here. No-one is 'better' at it than anyone else. You get a higher ranking by having more wins, which simply means you played more games than other people. Some you win, some you lose. None of them you control.

I actually lost the next 4 games I played, including a ranked one. Do I care? Of course I don't. One day I hope to win 10 games, for the achievment, but if it takes me months, then so be it. It's fucking UNO!

Just thought I'd share, since it amused me so much last night.
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Title: DIRT!
Posted: May 30, 2007 (04:49 AM)
I don't normally talk about graphics. My reasoning is that they are not the be-all and end-all, and that even a graphically poor game can be a great experience. However, I am not naive enough to think that graphics don't play a part. There are pleny of people out there who are swayed by graphics more than any other aspect. To some gamers, a bad looking game is a bad game, period.

This is to understandable, as when you watch a demo, or somebody else playing, your first point of refernece is how the game looks. If the scenery is blocky, or if the model is poorly realised, this can lead to a negative impression. It is not until you get your hands on the controller that this impact is forgotten.

Looks are, therefore, important. Sony certainly thinks this, which is hwy they put so much stock in the target renders for Motorstorm. The fact that the game looks nowhere near as good as the trailers suggested is irrelevant. The fact that it is just another racing game is also irrelevant. The game has sold with pretty much every PS3. (Some might argue that this is because it is one of only 2 games worth buying, but that is a whole different issue.) How much of this is down to the looks is unknown, but they sure as hell sold some of the units.

Which brings me to Colin Mcrae : Dirt. I downloaded the demo from XBox Live Marketplace, and have had time to check it out. Now, I adored the first Mcrae game, but spent less time with each successive iteration. In fact, as driving game have gotten closer to realism, I have enjoyed them less. Dirt is different. Dirt hooked me. Know what did it?

The graphics!

Actually, it would be closer to the truth to say that the graphics hit my girlfriend. She looked up from Lord of the Rings Online with a statement of "Wow, those graphics are incredible!" To be honest, by this point all I had done was bounce around in the buggy thing, having a great time. I was actually more impressed by the AI that forced me off the track at a very opportune moment, and hadn't really had time to look at the background detail. So, I looked. I took it in. And, I was highly impressed.

I hated the demo of Forza 2. The detail did not impress me one bit, the fact that the gameplay was so sterile put me off. My girlfriend didn't even make it to the 2nd corner of the first track before she turned it off. This is hard without fun. Challenge has its' place, but neither I nor she are moved enough by the looks of that game to ever bother mastering it. I imagine Live races are going to be incredibly dull.

But, Dirt is wonderful. It is also hard, but the kind of hard that makes you want to get better. The three tracks featured each offer seperate challenges, and the buggy racing is joyous! The realism does not get in the way of the game at all. And, the stunning graphics are ... irrelevant?

I don't know for sure. This troubles me. I would like to think that had Dirt played identically, but had 50% less textures, that I would still have given it the same attention. But, I can not honestly say that is the case.

I thought back to the release of Need For Speed : Most Wanted, and how I desperately wanted to play that one. I realised that it was the graphics that made me want to. And then, I did some more thinking. And, I realised that since driving games all follow more or less identical mechanics, it is ONLY the graphics that differentiate between different series. Burnout is in a class of its' own. PGR uses 'Kudos', which is something that appeals to me. When kudos lost importance, I lost interest in the series. But, every driving simulation game relies on the same hooks.

The upshot is that I may or may not give Forza another go, but I will give Dirt the pleasure of £40 upon its' release. I haven't enjoyed a serious racer since PGR 2, and even then it was only early on. As soon as the game turned into 'drive supercars around the Nurburgring', I stopped caring. My 'mini only jaunts around Barcelona' filled out instantly whenever I hosted them, which tells me that more than a few players were of the same opinion.

The graphical bar has once again been raised, and realistic racers are suddenly back on my agenda. I was gobsmacked by Gran Turismo HD, and would love to get my hands on it. This from someone who never even looked at Gran Turismo 4!
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Title: Review-me-do!
Posted: May 27, 2007 (09:10 AM)
Since I am now reviewing for the site on a much more regular basis, I figure I should take some time to explain my policy on rating games. You know, let the readers know exactly what a 10 is.

When rating on a 10 point scale one should not be afraid to use the extremes. I have never seen a review in all the years I have been into games that gave it a 100%, but I have seen several 10's. EDGE magazine used to reserve 10 for games that were 'revolutionary'. Not sure Halo was revolutionary, but I happen to agree that Mario 64, Zelda OOT, and Gran Turismo all were. EDGE has since admitted that GoldenEye should have got a 10.

Others seem content to dish out 10s as if they were confetti. A quick check on any gamefaqs review page shows that almost every game ever released is worth 10 to somebody!

Me, I think a 10 is special, and a game really has to be exceptional to warrant it. I have given the score to 2 games so far. GTA : Vice City, and Wii Sports. Vice City got 10 because there is nothing to complain about in the game, Wii Sports got 10 because it is like nothing else you have ever played.

9 means 'excellent, but with something missing'. Recently, Earth Defense Force 2017 earned a 9. Forget about the poor graphics, forget about the repetitive gameplay, the thing that stopped EDF 2017 from getting a 10 was the lack of Live co-op play. Seriously, it is such a missed opportunity.

8 means 'you should play this'. This score goes to games that are enjoyable, but with control flaws, or annoyances that crop up. Gears of War would have got an 8, simply because of the way that sometimes you take cover when you don't want to, which causes you to die. You may think it is harsh, but any game that makes me angry at the game for something is an 8, no matter how good the rest of it is.

7, no matter what the rest of the world tells you, is NOT an average game. 7 is still above average. 7 is where all the games that are worth playing, but not owning, end up. I am currently working my way through Just Cause, and this is a perfect example of a 7. It starts off as fantastic, but quickly becomes annoying. Also, the difficulty curve is not so much a curve as a jagged scatter graph. One mission is over in seconds, the next takes 5 attempts.

6 is still above average. Games that are technically sound, but perhaps only for fans of the genre, will get a 6.

5 is average. Regardless of the quality of the presentation, a game that just ticks every box will get a 5. 99% of licensed generic crap is a 5. 99% of games released are probably 5's.

4 is poor. This game is not worth having, simple as that.

3? I doubt any game will ever rate this low. For a game to get a 3, something quite serious would have to have happened. A 3 is broken.

2 and 1 will probably never exist. These days, there is just too much quality control to allow it.

So, there you have it. People may well disagree, but at least now the whole world has a totally open and transparent view of my policy.
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Title: Halo 3 : Early impressions.
Posted: May 17, 2007 (06:20 AM)
After 7 games, I have the following to say :

  • Graphically, the game is not that much of a step up from Halo 2. But, it looks good enough, and the player models are definitely more detailed.

  • The new UI takes a little getting used to, but quickly becomes 2nd nature.

  • The Spartan Laser is a fairly awe-inspiring weapon, but it takes FOREVER to charge! Kills with it therefore feel very satisfying.

  • AI 'Guardian' guns in Snowbound pwned me! Good idea, wish I'd known what they were beforehand.

  • I am fast becoming sick of the sight of the map 'Snowbound'. All of my games seem to be there! It's a decent map, nice and compact, I just want to see the other ones.

  • WTF? Why can I not dual wield the needler?

  • 'Higher Ground' is a fabulous map! The mongoose vehicle seems pretty pointless, though. Why would I want a single seat, gunless Warthog?

  • In Slayer mode, it really does seem like first spawn can determine who gets to control the match. I have yet to try the team games, but I imagine Higher Ground will be phenomenal for team modes.

  • Why can I only hear people in the lobby? I wanna trash talk! "IMMA CHARGIN MAH LAZER! SHOOP DA WHOOP!"

  • I love the in-game awards. Things like Killjoy, earned for ending a killing spree. I did wonder what the hell it meant at first, as I got it right on the back of a Double Kill announcement!

  • Bubble shield is handy, but far from 00ber. Portable Grav Lift is gonna be all over YouTube, mark my words.

  • Despite getting beaten quite comfortably on pretty much every match, I did enjoy myself. Last on my opening game, 4th (out of 6 players) on every other one.

  • More as I play more. For now, I declare the beta worth the wait.


    EDIT : A few games later!

    • I was mistaken about the Mongoose. It is basically a Warthog without the gun. Handy in the team games, but when they have Warthogs available too, I still wonder why they exist!

    • The map called Valhalla ... is superb. The 'Man Cannon' is just fun. Also, it is the only map on which I have seen the Missile Pod weapon, which is pure hand-held finger of god stuff.

    • Like any other game, you need to be in a team that plays as a team to actually enjoy the team aspect. Players who don't communicate are useless. (As are players who only communicate in German!)

    • Talking of ... um, talking ... you can talk to anyone by pressing the d-pad. Your team can automatically hear you. To talk to others without the hassle of d-pad, you need to join a party. Ranked slayer games have a party size limit of 1 player. And, you can choose to not hear anyone who is not in your team/party. GOOD THINGS!

    • Territories is where I can see the best fun being found. Offense = Capture 5 flags. Defense = Don't let the other team capture your flags. Sadly, my team didn't seem to realise this, but we still won.

    • I don't really understand Assault. I need to play it again, with people who actually posess headsets.

    • The announcer shouts 'BETRAYAL' when someone team kills.

      Not that I ever team killed ... ahem...

    • Having the red team's names in blue above them, and the blue teams's names in red above them is, in my opinion, counter-intuitive, and in the short term at any rate will lead to accidental team killing!

    • I am actually more excited about Halo 3 now than I was already. This beta is definitely a success.

    • Your last match is recorded, and can be viewed afterwards. The console only saves one match at a time, so you have to manually save the movie if you wish to view it later. I like this, and YouTube is probably gonna break as a result of it.

    So, there we have it. The beta is FUN. As usual, player matches are going to be infinitely preferable to ranked, since people are already taking that side of the game a bit seriously. NONE OF IT MATTERS, YOU FREAKS! WAIT TILL THE REAL GAME IS OUT!

    I would strongly reccomend to anyone who is thinking of renting/buying Crackdown in order to take a look at the beta to do so. EVERY copy has access to it, not just limited pre-orders. If you can find the game pre-owned, then all the better, since Crackdown is in itself well worthy of a full-price purchase.
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    Title: Almost live from the Halo 3 beta!
    Posted: May 17, 2007 (01:58 AM)
    MS really don't have a clue.

    The Halo 3 multiplayer beta went public yesterday. Those who were Friends & Family of the bungie forums got in no problems, although some of them didn't receive their access codes by email. The 'Rule of Three' players faced the same problem. Seems a lot of people don't know how to check their bulk/spam folders.

    But, the Crackdown players, who are the only ones who actually paid to get on the beta, couldn't access it. The beta was working, the link to it wasn't. And, since the link is actually built into Crackdown's code, we couldn't even download it another way. We just had to sit and wait.

    Turns out that the updates to the game are what broke the system. Some people deleted their save files, cleared their 360 HD cache, and deleted the updates to Crackdown. Those 3 or 4 people managed to get in. The rest of us were forced to randomly try checking the downloads section, in the hopes that our 'Download Halo 3 beat' button was no longer grey.

    The irony is that this is a situation that could easily have been avoided. Had MS just allowed Bungie to put the beta on to Marketplace in the first place, and included codes in the retail version of Crackdown, everything would have been just peachy. But, no, MS wanted to push sales of Crackdown with a gimmick. The irony is that Crackdown doesn't need a gimmick like that to sell it, it already has the best gimmick. Co-op play over Live on Crackdown is the most fun you will ever have, period!

    I am now at 94% on my download. Any minute now, I get to play. Thoughts coming soon!
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    Title: Americans, you get everything!
    Posted: May 16, 2007 (04:45 AM)
    I can understand the logic behind putting the Eternal Sonata demo onto the Japanese marketplace, but not other territories. After all, there is as yet no guarantee that the game will ever see the light of day outside Japan, althogh the fact that the demo is in English certainly leads one to believe this.

    I can understand the logic behind certain movies and TV shows being region locked. I don't agree with it, but it makes sense to not alienate potential advertisers in other regions. (After all, if I can download episodes of stuff that isn't on TV over here yet, I have no need to watch them when they broadcast.)

    What I do not understand is how MS decrees that a game can be released free of charge in one territory, but doesn't exist in another one!

    Aegis Wing appeared on Live Arcade this morning. The game was designed by some MS interns, and is your typical side-scrolling shmup. A shmup designed with 4 players in mind, actually, which makes it quite difficult for a single player. MS put it on there for free, for a limited time, to US players only.


    I am struggling to think of anything that MS can come up with to justify this decision. Today of all days, they did not really need to release anything at all. The only people who will play Aegis Wing are the hardcore, and pretty much every single one of them will be enjoying the delights of the Spartan Laser once the Halo 3 beta goes public.

    Europe and Australasia got something free, I suppose. The demo of At World's End! Yes, we get a DEMO, while you lot get a FULL GAME. A game that is only worth the price, admittedly, but that's not the point. (Of course I have a US account! I downloaded it within an hour of it being available.) The point is that Europe is getting shafted royally by ALL the console manufacturers. And I'm sick of it.

    Sadly, I have no answer. As long as we Europeans sit and take it, they'll keep feeding it to us. We are even going to get Halo 3 the day after the US does. ONE day? What the hell is the point of a stupid and random delay like that? Why can't the game be released worldwide at exactly the same time? It makes completely no sense to me.

    I hereby call on every non-US 360 owner to circumvent the system, and get the free game that you should have access to already! It's not hard to do, you don't void your warrantry, you just create an alternative Silver account with a US address. Download the game, and while you're at it snatch those free gamer pics and themes that the US keeps getting as well. Maybe the Armoured Core 4 demo while you're there. And you US types can make a European account, and get the At World's End demo, should you be desperate enough. Sadly, we have little else you'd be interested in. Cricket? Even I didn't download that one.

    (Note to Venter. Give me a better choice of moods, or let me do custom. I am not 'craptacular, I am PISSED.)
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    Title: 5 .. 4 ... 3 .. 2 ... 1 : Doodlebugs are GO!
    Posted: April 14, 2007 (03:53 AM)
    You can find the latest version right here.

    The first, and most obvious, improvement is sound. My good friend syn found a fantastic PD chiptune called 'Insectmania', which I have included as the background music. You now hear your shots, you hear when spiders, redants, and gnats spawn. I still need to find a good sound for the centipedes, so for now they remain mute.

    The other big addition, and I mean BIG, is the beetles. These guys are tanks, taking 5 hits. It is because of this that they are also slow. They don't spawn from the existing holes, instead creating their own 'emergence' holes, randomly on the playfield. Don't worry, you get warning!

    I have also adjusted the enemy triggering mechanics. Previously, everything has been based on time. Now, it is entirely based on what you shoot. Obviously I don't wish to spoil everything, as people will want to develop their own scoring strategies, but let's just say I am a firm believer in the concept of risk equalling reward in video games.

    I'm still not done, but the version you see right now is good enough to call it a game. As before, you can press F1 to see the instructions.
    [reply][view replies (0)]

    Title: The 'To Doodlebugs' list.
    Posted: April 11, 2007 (02:27 AM)
    Going from feedback from various sources :

    Because the game gets so hard so quickly, the red ants don't really get the time required to become a threat. That is easily fixed. I'll just slow down the rate of increase for the black ants, and tweak the red ants so that they get faster quicker.

    That is now 3 people who would prefer a button mapped to each direction of the compass. So, I shall implement it as an alternative control method. I still think the rotation method I have so far has merit, but I happen to agree with pup that the half-speed button is useless. (I put it in originally because I could, and I had been playing a bunch of indie J-shmups, which all seem to have that button!)

    I shall ignore the one guy who said I need better graphics!

    I need to put the beetles in.
    [reply][view replies (0)]

    Title: Beta!
    Posted: April 10, 2007 (01:23 PM)
    Available here!

    It should be pretty self-evident, but at any time you can press F1 to get an instruction sheet.

    I would particularly like feedback from people who had problems running the game. Whilst I am aware that it is not the most intense game you have ever played, it is possible that the sheer amount of independent insects could feasibly cause slow-down on some older PCs. It works perfectly well on both my desktop and my laptop, but they are both pretty high-end machines.

    And, yes, before I get any complaints. I am FULLY aware that the game gets way too hard too quickly. This is deliberate, and is something I will tweak later.

    Have fun!
    [reply][view replies (3)]

    Title: The game is still chugging along, you know!
    Posted: April 03, 2007 (10:34 AM)
    You thought I'd given up? Not I, said the Lee. Sure, it got sticky, when I realised that I was going to be dealing with over 200 different objects in my game, but I don't mind the amount. It's the amount of repetition that got to me.

    Currently, my game is almost ready to go to its' first beta. This version has black ants, red ants, spiders, centipedes, and a gnat. Today, only the centipedes and red ants give a score. By this time tomorrow, I hope to have everything providing a score.

    Also, as things stand right at this moment, no insects are fatal. Obviously, I have to fix that, and certainly will do. But, the important thing is that right now, as I type this, EVERYTHING DOES WHAT IT IS SUPPOSED TO DO!

    The black ants wander around, 40 of them on screen at any given time. The spider spawns, runs towards the player, and spits a web. If the web hits, the player can't move, and some red ants spawn. Red ants are nastier than the black variety, and actively hunt the player. Every so often, a centipede spawns at one of the corners, and heads towards the player. Shoot it, and it splits into 2 smaller centipedes. They split, and the next things split, until you are left with single-segments of centipede rushing towards the player. When these get shot, they give a score.

    And, randomly at the moment, a gnat will spawn. It flies around the playfield really fast, makes up to 5 passes, then shoots off-screen. If you shoot this, you get a nice big bonus.

    The plan is to have some kind of mechanism on the ants to force spawn the spiders, which will in turn force spawn the centipedes, which will force spawn the beetles. (Yet to be implemented.) Gnats are currently a purely random bonus, but I am thinking about how to force spawn them, too. Something impressive, for sure. Maybe make the player not shoot single centipede segments until all 8 are on screen, or something like that.

    Anyway, there is nothing playable for anyone in the world other than me today. But, there will be in a day or two. I promise!
    [reply][view replies (1)]

    Title: Review fever.
    Posted: March 26, 2007 (07:09 AM)
    I am tempted to review Crackdown.

    The problem is, I can't get to play it! My girlfriend is completely obsessed with it. Still, at least I get to watch.

    Another problem is that I generally don't do reviews. I find the concept to be somewhat stange. Honestly, rating games out of 10 is quite pointless. Take Final Fantasy VII, as an example. At the time of release it was a true step forwards in interactive story-telling. The production values attached to the game were above almost anything else up to that point. If I were to mark it on aesthetics alone, it would have to get a 10.

    But, what about its' standing as a game? Well, that is questionable. In essence, all you ever do is point in the direction of your next objective, and press the correct button once you get there. You may (read : WILL) be interrupted along the way, at which point you interact with some menus. It would be very hard to score this kind of non-play anything higher than 5 out of 10.

    Or, maybe I could approach it purely from the point of view as an RPG? Well, in this respect, it fails miserably. Character progression simply makes no odds. You can basically turn any of the characters into whatever class you feel like, by applying materia to their weapons. Furthermore, you don't get to make decisions. Aeris always dies, and there is nothing you can do to stop it. In a true RPG, I wouldn't have been required to even recruit her. As a role-playing experience, I would again rate it as no better than 5 out of 10.

    So, what we have is an exceptionally polished story, that looks and sounds beautiful, with some very limited gameplay sections buried inside it. And this is many people's favourite game ever, and is pretty much guaranteed to score 10 out of 10 in any review.

    I am aware that it now sounds like I don't like the game that much. Well, you may be surprised to read that I rate the 3 weeks or so I spent on Final Fantasy VII as amongst my favourite hours in any game. The first disc was simply incredible, and I honestly found myself captivated. Sure, things went somewhat astray later on, especially when you were inside Clouds' head, but overall the good outweighed the bizarre.

    So, if I were to review FFVII, what score would I give it?

    My reviews tend to focus on the experience aspect of a videogame. I refuse to break a review down into sections for graphics, story, gameplay, etc. Hell, I even refuse to read reviews that do that. Grpahics are irrelevant outside of the time that you play the game. Wind Waker looks painfully good, and makes most other games look like they are not even trying, but it would all be for nothing if the graphical style did not fit perfectly with the world on which it is hung. A realistic style would jar too much when the boat started talking to you. Similaraly, a cel-shaded MasterChief would just look ridiculous, and the Covenant would lose any kind of credibility if they were cartoony.

    Graphically, FFVII would score 10. For music, too. Story is more subjective, but for me I would put it at the top-end of the scale. Gameplay? 3. Overall? 10.

    The reason being is because I was moved by my experience in FFVII. The feeling overall was one of "Fuck me, I'm glad I played this." I would go even further, and venture the suggestion that everyone should play it. It is one of those landmark titles that have impacted on so much since, that to not see it for yourself means that you are missing a vital lesson in your education. As a game, it sucks. As an event, it was unforgettable.

    But, in a review, could I really get that across? A review is supposedly a tool to let somebody know if the game they are reading about is worth buying. The inherent flaw in this system is that most games are NOT worth buying, for the majority of people at any rate. I have lost count of the reviews I have read that have pointed out that a game is "too short" or "good for kids." I always get annoyed when I hear that a game needs to be longer. Why does it? I would much rather play 6 hours of perfection, than replay sections over and over trying to find the final 3% of collectables to unlock a new costume just to justify my purchase by making it last the magic 40 hours. Ico was 8 hours, and 6 on the second playthrough. I'm at 600 and counting in the various Pokémon titles. 360 voice informs me that I have played Geometry Wars on 54 of the days since I registered. Does this mean that it should have cost me more than the 400 points it did? I have full-price games that I have only played for 2 or 3 days, and yet there is not one in my collection that I feel I shouldn't have bought.

    Which all brings me back to Crackdown. Most of the reviews I have read go back to the "There's not much to do once you have finished it" complaint, which I have just finished saying is irrelevant. While you are jumping about the city, shooting/kicking/running over bad guys, you are having the time of your life! Sure, you will probably complete the game in a weekend, but it will be one of the most fun weekends of your life. As a reviewer, I would have to tell people to rent it.

    As a gamer, I want to say that every single one of you out there should play it!

    In my entire reviewing career, I have given the maximum score to only 2 games. Grand Theft Auto : Vice City, and Wii Sports. Crackdown probably wouldn't get a 10, because as a reviewer I have to tell you if you should buy it. As a critic, without having to come up with a score, I could tell you how great it is, how it is built from all the elements that videogames should be, and how it uses XBox Live to make it even more compelling. (I am constantly amazed at how many 360 reviews never even mention the achievments. It is my considered opinion that once your gamerscore breaks 3,000, acheivments start to matter!) As a commentor, I can muse about how much fun I had just watching my girlfriend play it, helping her to find the agility orbs, hinting that she might be better off switching to the weapon the bad guys use, things like that. As a reviewer, I am limited to telling you "Buy it" or "Don't buy it." I don't think that's enough.
    [reply][view replies (5)]

    Title: You thought I'd given it up?
    Posted: March 21, 2007 (06:55 PM)
    Serendipity. One of my favourite words. And, a particularly apt one at the moment.

    The original problem with the ants led to me creating 8 spawn points for the ants, in an effort to control them better. That has actually turned out to be a rather good device to use for all the insects in the game. By having holes in the ground, any insect that I wish to spawn has an instant starting point. The main benefit of this is that since the insects always spawn from the holes, I don't have to check that they aren't about to spawn right under the Doodlebug. Basically, if the player is parked on top of a spawn hole, and gets killed because an ant spawned up his jaxie, then it really is the player's own fault he died!

    But, the fortunate part for me is that it has led to a better structure for the game. So, whereas I was having random spiders patrolling outside the screen, I now have a random spider appearing at a hole, running in and firing a web at the player, and then running back to the hole. What this has done is to allow me to increase the speed of the spider, and therefore attach a greater score to it, too. Since the spider is now more of an annoyance than a fatal enemy, it is fitting that shooting one can give quite a bonus.

    And, since the spider now exists not to kill, but to trap, it allows me to play with the ants. So, when the spider succeeds in webbing the player, I can now make all 40 ants roaming the screen turn into hunters! Naturally, this does mean that the web will only slow the player down, rather than incapacitate. Or, possibly it just stops the player from shooting. I shall have to test both scenarios before making my decision.

    Another ant idea was to maybe make one out of every five ants be a red ant, which hunts rather than wanders. Currently, there are always 5 ants from each hole. Shoot one, and a new one spawns instantly. This large number of ants means that the player will never need something to shoot at, but will always have to be watching out.

    I also created another bonus enemy ; the gnat. The gnat also appears at a hole, then flies about the screen at a quite ridiculous rate. He carries HUGE points, depending how long he has been on screen for. He is also not fatal.

    The next bit is to put the centipede back into the game. I have decided that centipedes will spawn at the corners, but don't know if I should keep them as single-spawn, or to perhaps have them spawning at all 4 corners at the same time! Whilst this will no doubt be stressful, it also has the potential to be quite thrilling. Which leads me on to my major decision. How to increase the difficulty level? One way is to have 40 ants at speed 1, and then increment the speed ever so slightly every time an ant gets shot. Do it gradually enough, and what starts out as a harmless element soon becomes a real problem. Remember, there will ALWAYS be 40 ants on screen, and at times they will be hunting you down!

    Another possibility is to define a set of pre-determned attack waves, and just call more and more of them as the score increases. So, attack 1 might have 1 spider, from a random hole. Wave 2 might be 2 spiders, from polar opposite holes, while 3 would then be 4 spiders at the same time. The idea of 8 spiders is very amusing, but it could be too fatal with really fast ants. I have to try all this stuf out when making the game, which is something I never used to think of when I just played them.
    [reply][view replies (1)]

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