Busy, busy, busy… And what else happened this week?

November 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

Oh, hedgehog, you silly sausage!

I’ve been busy job hunting over the last few days, so I haven’t had much time to write anything. However, there has been some interesting stuff going on that I haven’t covered, which I thought would be cool to highlight here.

  1. XBox LIVE Indie Games developers saw their titles moved back to the Games & Demos section of the 360 dashboard, as they rightly should have stayed in the first place. Great news for those devs that reportedly saw their sales halve overnight, and it puts Microsoft in a pretty good light, too – listening to the little guy, and responding. (Via Eurogamer.net.)
  2. A bunch of Black Ops stuff: strong review scores all-roundrecord-breaking salesproblems with the PC version of the game; and patches and promises from Treyarch. Pretty bummed out to see the PC version released in a state that left the multiplayer unplayable for a lot of people, and in the end it convinced me to buy the cheaper 360 version instead. I just can’t be arsed with the hassle of broken games any more, and then waiting for a patch to come out. Too little, too late, for me. (Multiple sources.)
  3. This slideshow presentation on “Gamification” and how marketers misunderstand the concept, where they go wrong with it, and what makes games actually “fun” to play. These are essential, fundamental ideas that marketers – both social media and digital – need to get their heads around for their efforts to succeed in this space. Badges aren’t enough, people! (Authored by Sebastian Deterding.)
  4. Trouble for Windows Phone 7: after initially optimistic reports of high demand around the world, it appears that handsets featuring the new OS have only sold 40,000 units in the US so far, while in Europe the numbers stand at around 250,000, faring slightly better. I suggested it could be a supply problem holding back demand. Nevertheless, it’s not auspicious news, but the expectations for the phones have been remarkably, somewhat unfairly, high. The word “flop” has been thrown around too quickly, in my opinion, and in others’. It’s certainly possible that the phone will indeed flop, but it’s still too early to tell, and I think it’s a mistake to count Microsoft out just like that. I hope the platform achieves some sort of success, as competition breeds innovation and, generally, lower-priced deals for consumers. (Multiple sources.)
  5. More phones news, but this time it’s Android: alleged photos on the Nexus S, the heir apparent to the much beloved Nexus One, from Engadget; and TNW has some very limited information on what kind of carrier availability to expect. Not a whole lot of substantiated facts, to be honest, but at this point I think it’s plausible that there will be a Nexus-branded phone coming out at some point, if it wasn’t already in the making. Too many people want it to happen. (Multiple sources.)
  6. In a pretty clever PR stunt, Sega set up a road crossing in London for one day to raise awareness around hedgehog-related road fatalities – and also to promote their new game, Sonic Colours! It got coverage across gaming sites and in at least one broadsheet. (Hey! The Daily Mail counts, right?) Worth it if only for the above featured super-cute picture of an actual hedgehog wearing teeny-tiny Sonic boots. Priceless. (Via Eurogamer.net, again.)
  7. Giant Bomb published a Quick Look on Tron: Evolution (thankfully, someone came to their senses and got rid of the additional sub-title, “The Video Game”). Having not really followed Tron’s progress, I was totally surprised by what I saw: it actually looked good – like, really, really good; like a game you’d want to play for more than five minutes, as opposed to the usual film-licensed shovelware. I don’t know why I should be so surprised, though. Disney Interactive has really started to take gaming seriously: they released Split/Second: Velocity earlier this year, which I derived immense enjoyment from, out of both its innovative concept and slick execution; they’ve got Epic Mickey on the Wii coming out, also looking like a quality product, from Warren Spector, one of the industry’s greats; and they’ve got this, Tron, too – also looking phenomenal. (Via Giant Bomb.)
  8. Rockstar has announced a new trailer and release date for L.A. Noire, which seems styled like a Chinatown-esque, third-person action game. It looks stunning, really; I’m at a loss for words. I’m a big fan of film noir, and it’s hokey, pulpy, melodramtic elements often can play out very well in a video game setting. (Via Joystiq.)
  9. Finally, we get to me shamelessly self-promoting my new article featured on Resolution-Magazine, entitled “The Miser’s Guide to Gaming On A Budget“. Hopefully it will serve some use for people who, like me, don’t have all the money in the world to spend on games – but wish they did. (Via Resolution-Magazine.)

And that’s all, folks! Tune in next time for… something else, I suspect.

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The summer drought; finally my final impressions on Final Fantasy XIII; and so-called misogyny and misandry

June 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

Well, the summer drought is well and truly here. Just looking at the GiantBomb release schedule for the UK, there looks to be very little in the way of major releases coming out in the next month or so. Got to say, it’s kind-of welcome, since I’ve quite a few games on my shelf I’ve been meaning to play more of. Bayonetta, in particular, is one regret of mine, and its presence on the “To do” pile is a symbol of great personal shame.

I’ve just managed to finish Final Fantasy XIII, and, I’ve got to tell ya, reviewing that game would be an absolute nightmare. Fortunately, someone’s done my job for me. That man is Chris Kohler from Game|Life, Wired’s online gaming publication, and you can read his review here. It’s definitely a weird one, FF XIII. In some areas it makes some rather brave steps forward, but they feel misjudged, yet it’s also a game trapped by its heritage and its conventions; and, not unlike the recent Alan Wake, it also looks like a game that started out as very ambitious in the original design but was then scaled back to fit time and financial constraints. So, a bit of a mixed bag, then.

From the gaming blogosphere, there have been two instances of controversy: one from Hoyden about Town, where they accuse the creators of the Xbox LIVE edutainment title Privates of misogyny; the second, a reaction against the satirical Hey Baby FPS game, in which you, playing as a woman, gun down dozens of men who are catcalling, harassing and chasing you through the streets of some modern day metropolis.

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'Every day the same dream' Impressions

January 16, 2010 § 2 Comments

Every day the same dream is a curious indie Flash game from Molleindustria. It was made in six days for the Experimental Gameplay project and is self-described as a “little art game about alienation and refusal of labour.”

In terms of communicating its message, the game is a resounding success. Every critical aspect of it reinforces the theme of being held in a terrifying, banal, futile existence. The characters and environment are all drawn in a kind of 2D Art Deco style, and, save for a few unique objects, the game world is devoid of colour – bleak and monochrome.  There is very little movement and energy from scene to scene, and the animation is regimented, disciplined, almost machine-like.

As the nondescript husband of the nondescript wife going to his nondescript job and every day waking up to perform the same routine, the player can only move linearly through levels, walking either left or right. There is no ‘run’ toggle, and the only interaction with which you have with the world is through a single button, the space key. The game is cyclical, in that it repeats itself as the player repeats, what seems like, the same day over again each time – or is it that every day is the same as the last? (Strange is it sounds, the phrase “Flashback meets Groundhog Day” comes to mind.)

Special mention must go to Jesse Stiles for his work on the soundtrack. His rhythmic, hypnotic mix of electronic beats, drums and acoustic guitar is fantastic and arguably the best part of the game.

It’s a short, succinct experience, granted, and I admit to getting slightly bored before even “finishing” it, but it’s well worth playing simply for the experience. Though I am reluctant to say that it has much replay value, it is a very clever, creative bit of game design, and it is yet another example showing us that it’s possible for games to be both art and, well, games at the same time.

Indie Intrigue – A New Addition to the Site

September 2, 2009 § Leave a comment

Inspired by this recent post on Leigh Alexander’s blog, I have decided to put up a small section dedicated to free-to-play indie video games that I feel are worth some attention (side bar on the right, below Blogroll). I’ve just been playing a game called Canabalt – a fun, very presentable effort from Adam Atomic – and it would have passed me by completely had it not been for this recent Kotaku post. It occurs to me as somewhat unjust that such a game could fade into obscurity so easily, going unnoticed by the masses, and so this is my personal effort to reduce the chances of that happening. I won’t be reviewing these games, but merely suggesting that people at least give them a try.

Indie titles, like these, are interesting. They generally tend to be high concept and minimalistic, and they can end up being very clever works of design. A lot of these games don’t have that much depth, but they do have a pick-up-and-play value that I admire – and some of them even dare to provoke an emotional response.

However, truth be told, these games probably won’t hold you gripped for hours on end, but when you look at what’s been accomplished, usually just by one-person teams a lot of the time, it reminds you how wonderful and ingenious their efforts are – considering the restraints and limitations they face – and that, despite the mediocre crap the industry sometimes comes out with, there is always room and potential for creativity and innovation.

How great is it that we now live in age where people can make games like this, where they can be enjoyed, recommended and shared by millions of people worldwide, all for free?

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