Sunday 21 February 2010

DRM Roll

So yeah, this DRM shit. Is it good, is it bad, is it a university pig mascot that's been rolled up in a carpet and thrown off a bridge? It's sometimes difficult to speak from a game's journalist's perspective, because I rarely, if ever, pay for my games. How much ire can one raise for something you can just say "Well, I didn't pay anything for it, so whatever... next!" about. Quite a lot, surprisingly.

Regardless of arguments pro and con, the simple fact remains that someone will crack it. Unless it involves, like Barclay's ludicrous online banking system, the insertion of a physical device into a card reader or something, then it can be unworked, rewritten and slung up on the net, potentially with loads of Trojans attached if you go to a less reputable site.

The ONLY way companies can get their games to sell more is this: give people a reason to buy. Do like what the Witcher: Enhanced Edition did, like. Normal retail price, but loads of free stuff that the pirate version simply couldn't include (books, for example). What happened to the Witcher? A small, unheard of game, new IP from a POLISH developer, sold way more than a million copies. See, it's possible to make PC games that sell. Just make sure you do them right. Just look at some of the games that sell the most, in fact - most of them give the user a reason to have an 'owned' version - after-purchase material and such.

Bored now, so that's your lot.


Monday 8 February 2010

Video Round-up, Yee-haw

I'll wait to finish it before I start an analysis of Mass Effect 2, so instead let's have a look at my most-discussable videos of the week.

Sonic The Hedgehog 4

Yep, it was announced at last. In a desperate attempt to curtail the fan and public indifference to their mascot, Sega did the unthinkable - they actually stopped ignoring every person in the world who liked Sonic The Hedgehog games. Their advice was simple: make Sonic the only playable character, remove the increasingly irritating side-cast (which reached it's nadir with Sonic Unleashed's Chip), make it 2D, and make him shut the hell up. They've even gone back and brought in the old-style robots/badniks. If they go the whole hog (heh) and start properly calling Eggman "Robotnik" again I'll be happy.

Or will I? Let's face it, hope is not on my side. Sonic Unleashed looked like it was going to do this, then at the last minute they revealed that half the game was a crap beat 'em up.

And let's face it, the current Sonic Team could fuck up a whaling mission at SeaWorld. They have no talent left, and even games that should be impossible to screw up they get wrong. The recent sequel to the Saturn classic NiGHTS had a convoluted boring badly-acted story with unskippable long cutscenes, dull platforming sections, didn't save before boss fights, and kept levels featuring the gameplay that made the original a classic to less than half the game. They've also done 2D Sonic recently too, with Sonic Rush Adventure, and managed to fuck that up by again having a pointless craply-acting enforced story, forced you to replay stages a dozen times before you could get a new level, and added a boating shooting section.

Let's not forget the 'Episode 1' in the title, and that the trailer contains less than two seconds of footage.

Aliens Vs Predator

Oh dear. And it was all going so well for the latest AVP. All the other trailers showed it looked incredible, the ultimate... well, game!

Then the multiplayer demo came out (this week, just before the video) and the first rumblings of discontention began. Controls were awkward, crouch was missing, and everything felt very slow, if still nerve-wracking.

Now looking at the single-player in this video, I was astonished. The aliens aren't much different from Doom 3's imps, slowly meandering around the map. The marine at one point turns around and finds an alien just standing there. In the last two AVPs, he'd be dead.

I'm getting it, but I've a feeling AVP2 is still going to be the best in the series - which incidentally I've now added to the Our Favourite Games list on the right. Have you looked at those? Some great videos in there, and a massively blast of hot sweaty nostalgia to boot.

Fallout: New Vegas

Finally, something not to criticise. Well, apart from the lack of in-game footage and the pretty-far-off release date. The evasive new teaser for Obsidian's return to the Fallout world gave just enough information (through some analysis) so make it obvious that this going to contain much the same story that they were going to put into their own "Van Buren" version of Fallout 3. The New California Republic of Fallout 2 will feature. I'm very excited already.

- Chris Capel

Thursday 4 February 2010

Which is better? Only one way to find out... FIGHT!

I'm talking Mass Effect 2 and Bioshock 2 here.
I'll leave Ubigate for another time, as it makes me too depressed.

Two sequels with one main thing in common: they are both follow-ups to games with a lot of flaws, and both promise to fix those flaws. This isn't always as easy as it sounds, as they have to get the rest of the game right to a satisfying original standard. Condemned 2 fixed all the flaws with Condemned and was an infinitely worse game anyway.

Monday 1 February 2010

Games of 2010 Post To Be Dissected Like An Unlucky Frog Later

Yes, it's here! My own, special, Most Wanted of 2010. I'll try to be more accurate this time, sir, but random appearances from unexpected games or unexpected successes may tip the scales in December. Right then:

Top 5 Most Wanted Games of 2010!

Mass Effect 2

Yes, it may be out by the time you read this, but it's still one I've wanted for a while and will certainly occupy a lot of my gaming time. I'm eager to know what happens next in the story, and if Bioware correct the problems of the first game this could be my favourite game this year.

Splinter Cell: Conviction

Swings and roundabouts with this one, especially with the silly release date stuff going on. Still certain I'm going to love it come... April? Whatever. Luckily it still looks incredible, although if that Infiltration mode truly is exclusive to the Collector's Edition I may be really pissed off at it. Interestingly though, the book's already out here in China! The real danger now with the release date slipping however is from:

Alpha Protocol

Or is that the other way around? Still no release date apart from a vague "June, maybe", Obsidian's first original RPG since their Black Isle days is looking very interesting. If they pull it off and truly give you the opportunity to spy whatever way you like (Daniel Craig or Roger Moore?) it'll be high on my list by the end of the year... assuming length isn't a problem (missus) and there's enough variety on show.

Crysis 2

This was so nearly taken up by Rage, but id Software's blatant Fallout-ripping-off and desperate desire to piss off the PC market that have sustained them for, ooh, every single one of their games nudged it out. Yes, Crysis may have been flawed, but Warhead corrected almost every single one of it's mistakes and the original still had tons of brilliant moments in it - and let's not forget Far Cry, which still is arguably the best FPS ever made. And yes, Crysis 2 may have gone all console, but they're doing that out of necessity rather id's backstabbing (see also The Witcher 2 for another game that's going to be on consoles but still mostly a PC game). And frankly, it'll also bring down the system specs and allow more people to play it on PC too, which was Crysis' biggest problem. No plane level this time, though, please.

Aliens Vs Predator

Call me a pessimist, but I'm extremely suspicious of the next AVP game. Rebellion haven't made a great game since the last PC AVP game, Sega seem to have rushed this one into existence to make up for the absence of Colonial Marines, and Rebellion have already had the AVP licence back once and buggered it up. Nevertheless, at this precise moment it’s looking very, very, very good. And it'll also be quite funny to have the developer's three best games be Aliens Vs Predator, Aliens Vs Predator and Aliens Vs Predator.

And The Runners-Up:

Rage: despite my criticisms above, a new id Software-developed FPS is A Big Deal to me. They haven't made a game I haven't loved, and if it wasn't for a few niggles Doom 3 would've been better than Half-Life 2 in my opinion. They get knocked down to the Runners-Up for their console bias.
Call of Duty: Vietnam: the only reason this didn't get in my Top 5 is that it still doesn't officially exist and AVP's coming out next month. Despite it just being another COD, I care more for it than I do MW2. It may be the obvious rivalry between Treyarch and Infinity Ward, it may be Infinity Ward desperately trying to piss off all PC owners, or it may be an expanded and improved Nazi Zombies mode.
Deus Ex 3: could go either way this. I respect Eidos Montreal's desperate desire to get it right, but the words 'cover system', 'regenerating health' and 'Square-Enix doing cutscenes' do not go with 'Deus Ex'. They've got a lot to prove, and if they bugger this and Thief 4 up they better start hiding and hoping their cover system works in real life.
Fallout: New Vegas: Obsidian doing a Fallout game. Wish fulfilment fantasy there, it'll be utterly brilliant. So why not in my top 5? Firstly, there's no guarantees it'll be out this year, and secondly, I already had two RPGs in my top 5 (one also by Obsidian) and I wanted to spread out my choices a bit!
Super Mario Galaxy 2: yes, I loved the first one and I'm looking forward to the second one. Sue me. The only reason this didn't get in somewhere in my Top 5 is that all four of the people reading this blog would've had a heart attack.
Bioshock 2: a big "hmmmmmmmmm" here. Looking forward to it, but a lot of questions need answering, and not being able to read the first reviews doesn't help. Still, they were only PC Gamer and a Playstation mag, so they don't count.
Sam & Max Season Three: unless Telltale make another Tales of Monkey Island season (which they inevitably will) or an even better licence gets the most made out of it (Futurama? Doctor Who? Loom?!), this'll be their big game for 2010. Let's hope they take some of the lessons they learned from TOMI and not just give us another "one location and one new character an episode" season.

And the ones that got away...

C&C4: Tiberium Twilight: Tiberium? Tiberian? Can't remember. I really, really don't like the way this game is going (three mobile types of base? You can't lose?), and it's far too soon for another straight C&C game. Thank you for making it PC-only EA, but the rumour is that you did that because you're worried it's going to suck. It's also far too expensive on your website as well.
Assassin's Creed II: it's brilliant, but Ubisoft's ridiculous shenanigans in their anti-piracy scheme combined with forcing PC owners to buy the DLC that was literally part of the game in the first place and should've been included anyway has dampened my enthusiasm.
Singularity: never again, Raven/Activision.

So that's it for now! Feel free to join me guys.


- Chris Capel

Wednesday 16 December 2009

Games of 2009 - The Lookback

Specifically, Tingler's lookback, for despite being in China and having no legal access to this blog I've still managed more posts in the last couple of months than all my companeros combined. I do invite them to have a look see and do their own lookbacks on the year... but for now this is mine, all mine! Bwahahahaa!

My main focus is
this post here that I did at the beginning of the year - my Most Wanted games of 2009. Let's see how my choices all held up here at the end, and which games I missed that I found myself more drawn to (and yes, I realise it'll still be 2009 for the next few weeks, but I somehow doubt there'll be any games released in the next couple of weeks that'll sway me!):

My Most Wanted 2009...

Batman: Arkham Asylum - ahh, this one I got right at least. There was the possibility it could be a linear and dull action/adventure, but instead was a highly polished labour of love. It got Batman spot on, and for that it instantly becomes my game of the year. Even the little things impressed me, like saving in the middle of a hard boss fight - how many games do that? Loved it.
Wolfenstein - conversely, probably my biggest disappointment of the year. Not terrible, but a decidedly average and poorly designed FPS that shamed the name Wolfenstein. There wasn't even a fucking chaingun - how can you have a Wolf game without a chaingun?! The final boss sucked ass too, and don't get me started on the needs-an-Xbox-pad multiplayer.

Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures - sadly overshadowed by Tales of Monkey Island, both in terms of public perception and in Telltale's mind. The Xbox releases disappeared, the final episode was a rushed buggy mess with a terrible finale, and the whole thing just wasn't as funny as the source material. It looked and felt perfect at least, and episode 3 (Muzzled!) was almost great, but I doubt it'll be back for a second season.

Fatal Frame IV/Project Zero IV - a shame this, the only game on my list not to make it out at all. It could've been the scariest game this year despite being on Wii, instead it seems to have been forgotten. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories should've taken its place... although I can't play that yet where I am now!

Ghostbusters - I was correct, nothing stopped me from enjoying this game, not even the European release becoming exclusive to Sony until last month. A quick PC import that turned out was ridiculously lacking multiplayer, not to mention the repetitiveness of the combat, did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm. I enjoyed it, but doubt I'll play it again for a while. Got a two-page review out of it for Zone though, so it wasn't all bad!

Brütal Legend - I thought it was impossible for me not to like a Tim Schafer game, but here it is. Word of mouth, for the first time in Schafer's gaming catalogue, turned against him, as the demo and all EA's marketing forgot to mention one thing - that the majority of Brütal Legend was a strategy game. It looked like a hack-n-slasher with some cool vehicles, and sounded like a Guitar Hero imitator. Understandably, people were not impressed. When you have to do a huge blog post to explain exactly how to play your game, you haven't done your job as a game designer.

Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings - you know how I said how getting Batman spot-on in game form instantly made Arkham Asylum my game of the year? Well, if Staff of Kings had done that with Indiana Jones it would've beaten it. It didn't. I knew, honestly, as soon as LucasArts made it Wii-only that it would be crap. It was being made by A2M for starters, the studio reknowned for only making shit licensed games. They even forgot Indy's satchel. If they couldn't even be bothered to look at a picture of Indiana Jones before they shipped their game, then they obviously couldn't give a shit.

FEAR2: Project Origin - may not have been as good as the (PC ONLY) original, but I still enjoyed it. It just wasn't as scary, and too easy, at least until the (PC ONLY) patch came out. The Mech bits were a bit wasted too. The Reborn mission pack, despite being a bit short for the price, was excellent, and returned the superb Paxton Fettel to the series. I'm eager to play the next one already.

... And the ones I missed

Dragon Age: Origins - A very close contender for game of the year, I just simply didn't expect it to come out in 2009 and be so great. It's not Baldur's Gate III and that dodgy Day One DLC and confusing multiple Special Editions have tarnished it a bit, but it's still a damn fine game. It was so good I even considered writing a post on it until I forgot. D'oh.

Left 4 Dead 2 - no one expected this and the fan hate (from me included) is still palpable. It was a great game finally, but Valve have obviously abandoned the original now without giving it anywhere near the updates it deserved.

Tales of Monkey Island/Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition - I knew about these before they were announced, but like many others I'd written them off as fan-wishing rumours. Monkey Island 5 being licenced to ex-LucasArts guys Telltale? LucasArts themselves, who had just fucked Indiana Jones again and fired all their staff, making a special edition of the original game? Not likely! Then both turned out to be true, and I almost spontaneously exploded.

Call of Juarez: Bound In Blood - hadn't played the original so wasn't particularly looking forward to this, then Dave recommended it, I loved it and the sequel immediately went on my wish list. Was far more of a straight FPS game, but still very enjoyable.

Cryostasis - more of a first-person horror adventure game than a shooter, it ties up plenty of scares, a cool Quantum Leap narrative device and a brilliant warmth-as-health mechanic. A great game from an unknown developer.

Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena - again, I hadn't played the original, so hadn't considered this before. Luckily I loved Starbreeze's previous game (the sadly console-only The Darkness) and so was eager to get this, and I wasn't disappointed. I even picked up and enjoyed the movie! That surprised me more.

I'll be back for a Most Wanted 2010 post at some point soon, but I'm quite happy with the way 2009 went. Fortunately a hell of a lot of games were delayed to early next year, so I have a lot to talk about... if no money to buy them all!

- Chris Capel

Tuesday 8 December 2009


Left 4 Dead may have become strangely prophetic.

Get those safe rooms and random piles of miscellaneous ammo ready.

- Chris Capel

Thursday 12 November 2009

An Open Letter To The Internet

Dear World,

I have not bought, nor am planning to buy, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Modern Warfare 2, Modern Warfare Reflex, Activision's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, That New Infinity Ward Call of Duty Game, Modern Warfare 2: Modern Harder, or whatever the fuck it's called now.

Stop asking about it and stop telling me about it.

That is all.

Chris Capel

P.S. It's not just because I'm in China and can't actually buy it either.

Friday 6 November 2009

China Chris

Yes, I'm now in China, and bloody freezing it is too. The big shocker was both what I could and what I couldn't get. Could included Dairy Milk, Everlasting Gobstoppers (unavailable in the UK for many years but now officially available in every other sodding country I've ever been to), Steam (fortunately), plenty of English books and DVDs and the ability to order any one I fancied from Amazon UK or US.

Saying that, China only lets in a few English language films and games in each yeah. That being the case, why oh fucking why did two of those have to be the atrocious adventure game FBI Confidential and the Max Payne movie?!?

Still, I'm more worried about that second lot - the can'ts. I couldn't access this blog for example, and it took some tricky playing around to get that access back (and is very temperamental I've got to say, if you're reading this it's nothing short of a miracle).

I also can't buy games. DVDs and books? No problem, but games off Amazon? No way! Steam as usual won't let you buy anything abroad, so getting Left 4 Dead 2's going to require some creativity. Fortunately Direct2Drive is proving to be a saviour as I can buy and play things without hassle from there. I'll have a Dragon Age post up in due time.

Until then I'll sign off, but expect more fun from the Land of the Dragon... y'know, if they bloody let me see this blog.

- Chris Capel

Thursday 22 October 2009

Boredomlands and Dragging-on Age

(Okay, slightly unfair title as I haven't played either yet, but I thought it was too good to pass up)

Here's what this post is really about though. A few weeks ago Gearbox/2K announced that the PC version of Borderlands was going to be put back a week for "optimisation purposes".

This was a lie. Not only are stores getting the PC version at the same time as the console version, but it's clearly complete. People who managed to get hold of a legal copy in the confusion simply can't play it, as Securom forces them not to until the game's official PC release date - which was obviously put back for no good reason whatsoever. Why not go the whole hog and just shut people out from playing your game forever? They can't return their copy, so you'll get the money no matter what. Plus the criticism will be slightly less.

In a similar vein, i.e. delaying PC versions of games and then lying about why, Eurogamer previewed Dragon Age: Origins this week. Note paragraph 4 on the first page:

"...publisher EA started distributing a complete PC review version to press months before its release."

Um... excuse me? The game was finished for its original release date, then? The one you put back claiming Bioware needed more time to finish and polish the game? Bullshit. You (being EA) were terrified of the prospect of a PC game being released months before the console version. You were worried that console would feel left out and just ignore the game when it was finally released, or you were worried about that everyone would pirate it on PC and not buy it on consoles.

To 2K, EA, Bioware and Gearbox: fuck both of you. If Dragon Age had been released when it was supposed to have been I would've got the Special Edition and all the DLC. Now I'll stick with the standard version. And I'm not even going to bother with Borderlands at all now. Thanks guys, you just saved me a lot of money.

- Chris Capel

Monday 19 October 2009


Yes, we're still here. I've been extremely busy since the last post (doing an English Teaching course, y'know), and the others, well, they're just... themselves.

Anyway, let's talk about some games quickly. In fact one in particular, since I've just finished it: Brütal Legend. After the fantastic Psychonauts (as featured in our Bare Essentials gaming list on the right) the ever-misspelt Tim Schafer and never-misspelt Double Fine have been beavering away on this big homage to the epic heavy metal music of yore.

Despite being advertised everywhere as a free-roaming/driving hack n' slash game, people are going to be quite shocked to discover that that's only the first hour or two. Pretty much all of the rest of the game is a genre that we PC players know exist but console gamers have never heard of, hence why everyone's wrongly referring to it as an RTS game. It's nothing of the sort: it's an Action Strategy game. The biggest comparisons are to Sacrifice and the Reaper third of Giants: Citizen Kabuto. You're right in the middle of the action, but you're commanding troops on the fly too.

And sadly, this is where two things come in: 1. All types of Strategy game are much more at home on the PC because it's far easier to issue orders with the mouse and keyboard, a problem which makes ordering and controlling units very frustrating in Brütal Legend, and 2. Double Fine have no experience of this genre, and it shows.

They break one of the big Golden Rules of Good Gaming: if you get something new, useful, and vitally important, you need to be shown how to use it, and then be forced to do so to make sure you get the hang of it. Brütal Legend does not do this, and it doesn't do it often. If I hadn't been told by Kotaku that Rally Flags existed I never would've used them, and I never would've finished the game.

The style, humour, and story (despite an anticlimactic rushed ending) suck you in, but unless you're an Action Strategy Heavy Metal fan, you'll get frustrated fast. Brütal Legend's easy to fall in love with, but hard to love. At least for me.

- Chris Capel

Monday 28 September 2009

Feudian Slip

I've mentioned before my plans to stay in China with my girlfriend for a while. I'll be going end of October, but my original plan was end of September - pretty much now. I remember when the date slipped due to various reasons, looking at the gaming release schedule and thinking "at least there's some damn fine consolation prizes".

What a great month. Bioshock 2, Dragon Age Origins, Borderlands, Alpha Protocol, Brutal Legend...

Of course, we know what happened next. Bioshock 2? Next year. Dragon Age Origins? November. Borderlands? Last day of October now, after I'd moved forward my travel plans since nothing was coming out October 30th previously. Alpha Protocol? Next year now very probably (although Sega are still baffingly tight-lipped). Brutal Legend? Despite my fervent predictions/hopes/demands, EA aren't releasing it on PC (yet). As my 360 ain't coming with me, I have to turn down a Tim Schafer game. I feel dirty.

Oh, I'll be playing most of them no doubt (unless they require some hideous online activation that won't work in China...), but this constant slipping does really bug me. Especially when it's unique to the PC.

Borderlands has slipped a week, only on PC. What the fuck guys? Surely you knew about all these technical things? And didn't you make the damn game on a PC? It works fine! And if it doesn't, how does just an extra week help?

Assassin's Creed II was never coming October, but it was coming November - now the PC version isn't. It seems like someone at Ubisoft made a mistake when they said it was coming out on PC at the same time as the console versions and they've only just realised. "Sacre bleu (they're French, remember)! Assassaaan's Creed Deux was announced as coming le same date for PC! PC games do not come out at le same time as le consolé, it just isn't Tour De France!"

This just in: Mass Effect 2 delayed on PC. "We were just kidding," explains Bioware. "We never thought anyone would take that announcement seriously. I mean, whoever heard of a PC game releasing at the same time as the console version?"

- Chris Capel

Friday 11 September 2009

Back to the Front

"You will die, when I say, you will die... BACK TO THE FRONT!"

That's what Metallica once said and, at the moment, I feel like dying. It might certainly be less painful than the sciatica/back trouble I'm currently suffering from. At the moment, it is calm, but who knows when it might rage again. Right on deadline week too, sadly.

Also, I've been severely vexed by the atrocious state of our national health service, which has literally refused to provide me with an appointment to see a doctor because I, not having lived in my new flat for more than two weeks, don't happen to have a bill addressed to me. Funny that. Now I have to get the billpayer/landlord to write me a note before I can be registered.... which then takes 7 sodding working days to "process" and then AND ONLY THEN can I actually begin to even make an appointment! By the time I see a doctor, I won't be in any pain, so they'll probably refuse me a note....

What a fucking system.


Thursday 10 September 2009

I never could get the hang of Thursdays

If there's one thing I love as much as gaming, it's the works of Douglas Adams. While Last Chance To See is probably my favourite (now being "updated" as a Sunday documentary with Stephen Fry which, sadly, isn't as funny because the team aren't quite as incompetent), no book series has had a big an influence on my writing as his most famous work, The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. The five books, the two radio series, the TV series, and to a much lesser extent the incredibly hard computer game.

As I said, it's a huge influence on my writing - and so therefore my entire life. Hell, the damn book was even first published the day after my birthday!

Which means that nothing in the world pisses me off quite so much as people fucking with it.
The first screwing with is this latest re-release of the books. First off, why is it still so impossible to find a collection of the five books together? Especially in paperback? It's very easy to find a paperback collection of the first four books, but why would anyone buy that? It's missing the fifth!

The latest re-re-re-re-re-re-release is, once again, all five books separately. Even more stupidly, they don't go with the new book cover which I'll talk about shortly. This is obviously a money issue, but it's still ridiculous.

But some bright spark had the idea of giving away stickers with SciFiNow magazine to customise the books with official new "wacky" artwork that once again misses the point of the books spectacularly.

If you had some stickers themed on Hitchhiker's Guide what would they be? A big '42'? The words 'Don't Panic'? Dolphins? A totally black spaceship? A man with two heads? A man in a dressing gown? A Babel Fish? A snotty green lump-like Vogon? A slogan advertising 'Milliways', 'Stavro-Mueller Beta', or 'The Domain of the King Bar & Grill'? A bored-looking robot?

Here's what I got:

Yes, I couldn't be bothered to scan it in and just took this with my camera.

You'll notice that none of those things I mentioned turned up. Instead we have:

  1. Some generic-looking planets with one attempting to be wacky.
  2. A very generic-looking flying saucer spaceship.
  3. A green drink that I assume is meant to be a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster but looks so generic it could be anything.
  4. A cartoon cow that looks in no way alien.
  5. A sandwich, which is one I could agree with - pity it's so small.
  6. A number 37 raffle ticket, which I also agree with.
  7. A pair of generic-looking sunglasses which I presume are meant to be Zaphod's Peril-sensitive pair but which frankly don't appear cool or imaginative in any way.
  8. A fish bowl with a fish in it. If it had "So Long..." written on it I could accept it. If the fish was a small, yellow, leech-like and very odd Babel Fish instead of a generic goldfish I could accept it. It doesn't and I don't.
  9. An electric guitar. This one puzzles me the most. The rest I can identify at least, as poorly designed as they are, but I can't think of a single guitar in the whole saga. Can some correct me? Maybe they were thinking of Red Dwarf...
  10. This one is the real kicker: an analogue watch. This is the one that proves that whoever designed these stickers didn't give a shit about Hitchhiker's Guide. Anyone who's read the first book, listened to the first radio series, or watched the TV series will know that the whole joke here is about digital watches. Whoever pulled these stickers off Clip Art didn't know their Gargle Blasters from their gold brick to the head.

Oh, and there's the small matter of a new book coming out, not by Douglas Adams, which is being released on my birthday. Gee, thanks world.

- Chris "Pissed at Eoin Colfer and SciFiNow" Capel

Tuesday 1 September 2009

Shh... Alpha Protocol release date, keep it under your hat!

Okay, now what the fuck is up with the release dates this year? First pretty much every game was delayed to "give it the time needed", or in Activision's case in a surprise moment of honesty, "not come out within three months of Call of Duty: Overpriced Warfare 2". While it's good that publishers are trying to thin out the number of games released in the always crowded Christmas period, they're all delayed to the same time next year - meaning the first few months of 2010 is going to be equally crowded!

To be honest, it's not the slipping, it's the ones that just slip out of my grasp that annoy me. I'll be going to China for a good long while on 23rd October, so that's the last possible day for me to buy a game from the shops. So when Dragon Age slipped from that week to just two weeks later, that made me annoyed. Oh, I'll still be able to download it (LEGALLY), but the install's about 20Gb with discs! Borderlands, if you slip too, I'll be ticked off.

But I'm more worried about Alpha Protocol.

Now I've got lots of hopes and worries about this game anyway. Right now the game is down for an 'October' release. That's just a few weeks away and still we don't have a proper release date.

Right now there must be serious arguments in Sega HQ about the game. They've been saying October all year, to slip it now will make them look incompetent and stupid. On the other hand, rushed release dates have spoiled all of Obsidian's other games and will get them some serious marking down if it happens to Alpha Protocol too.

However, there's one day in October that Gamestop is touting (Amazon UK's saying 4th Oct) and that's 27th October. In no way can Sega release an RPG using a Bioware graphics engine and style on that day, for the obvious reason that Dragon Age comes out a week later. No matter how different they are, Bioware are a known quantity for most people. PS3 owners burned by Mass Effect will want to see what the fuss is about, 360 fans of KOTOR and ME will consider it a must-have, and PC owners know Bioware pretty well by now.

So, yeah, don't release Alpha Protocol a week before a Bioware game, Sega. Release it on or before 23rd October, they're the best dates.

- Chris Capel

Sunday 16 August 2009

The Devil Vs The Tingler

You know, I was ready to come here and do a big post about Bobby "CEO of Activision, Blizzard, Sierra, and Hell" Kotick's latest affront to gaming, in which he claims that people are happy with existing franchises and you don't need new IP. But then I started worrying about my immortal soul.

Now, this was going to be a big rant about how Call of Duty isn't that old a franchise really. Furthermore if people don't inevitably get bored with a franchise some company will come along and do it better and more excitingly - which is exactly what Call of Duty did to the formally popular Medal of Honour franchise. Finally, if you don't create new games, where are these magic "old" franchises coming from?

But you know what? I'm not like that. I wouldn't even call Mr Kotick the stupidest most money-grabbing arrogant over-confident CEO prick who's ever put stupid word to mouth. Let's look at his exact words:

"A small segment of very vocal gamers say everything has to be new and different every year. Actually, people are happy with existing franchises, provided you innovate within them."

You see, perfectly reasonable. It's totally true about innovating with franchises. Look at Super Mario for example, he's been going strong since the '80s and people still get excited about his latest games.

Unfortunately, Activision doesn't innovate. Modern Warfare 2, as good as it may be, is not going to innovate. The most innovative thing about World At War was the Nazi Zombies mode, and that only came with one map. And as for Guitar Hero... don't make me laugh.

The most innovative game from Activision this year was, surprise surprise, an original game: Prototype.

More to the point, we're happy with innovation in existing franchises. I agree with that statement. I'm looking forward to Thief 4, Fallout: New Vegas, Deus Ex 3, Doom 4, Mass Effect 2, and indeed Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. The trouble is I'm more looking forward to Borderlands, Dragon Age: Origins, Rage, Alpha Protocol, Scribblenauts, and Batman: Arkham Asylum (technically a franchise, but the first in a proper Batman series anyway).

Oh, fuck it, what am I on about? This guy's Satan and he's only saying this stuff to make excuses for pumping out the same shit every year and inflating the price for each instalment. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 in 2011 will cost £70, you mark my words. Go back to Hell, Kotick.

Bobby Kotick pictured in his usual office under the Earth's crust.

- Chris Capel

Thursday 13 August 2009

Wot is Welsh?

Wales. Yeah, apparently it is in fact a real place inhabited by like five or six people. I'm as surprised as you are. I always thought "Welsh" was just a funny accent, and a word you might use to describe the clearing of your throat, but apparently it's a real language that people actually speak. In the mythical land of Wales. All five or six of them.

Anyway, apparently the five or six people in Wales who actually speak this strange language, "Welsh", would like a particular popular computer game to be translated into their native language.

So, I find myself wondering...of these five or six mythical "Welsh" people, how many of them actually speak Welsh? And how many of those don't actually speak English?

- Brax

Tuesday 4 August 2009

Genesis of the Tingler

Here is my online name's origin story.

I wish horror films were still made like this. It certainly deserves to be counted as one of the Top 20 Most Dangerous Films ever made. Out of that list, it's the only movie that's ever physically attacked the audience!

Sunday 2 August 2009

I fucking love Plants Vs Zombies

Anyone who's been on a game site in the last couple of months can't have failed to notice the ads for a crappy game called Evony. Not that the game itself is worthwhile in any way (being a shit Civilisation rip-off that charges you for play), but the ads themselves have actually drawn more criticism than the game itself. The game doesn't even really feature women at all, let alone Nuts models to save.

Fortunately though, PopCap have noticed all this and responded in the best way possible with their latest ad campaign for Plants Vs Zombies:

- Chris C

Monday 27 July 2009

I© Own™ ¥our $oul

Without wanting to sound like a stereotypical idealistic student-type with nothing better to do than whine about the many injustices of the world, I'm going to have a good old whine about one of them

Patents and IP and all that shit.

While, as an aspiring writer, I find myself frothing at the mouth over any tale of plagiarism, there is a limit to that which I believe one can claim ownership of, at least in terms of ideas and intellectual property.

Not too long ago, I read the following piece on Kotaku, detailing a patent for drop in/drop out coop gameplay, and it made me think. What if, back in the day, id had decided to patent many of the FPS gameplay mechanics that Wolfenstein and Doom made so popular? What if someone had patented the idea of looking down and seeing your own legs while in a first person perspective? What if someone had patented the idea of weapons with alternate fire modes? If everyone owned every gameplay concept, gaming history would be a hell of a lot less interesting.

I remember playing one of the Broken Sword games, and marvelling at its installation process and the fact that, rather than have me sitting there bored, it gave me a little mini-game to play while I waited. This was a fantastic idea. Not only was I mildly entertained and distracted during the lengthy installation, but I couldn't help but respect the developer's attention to detail and dedication to the spirit of entertainment. And that was the last time I saw such a mini-game. For years I wondered why nobody had caught onto the idea of installation/loading screen games, until someone told me (think it was Steve) that they couldn't. That somebody owned the idea. Somebody whose games I didn't generally play, and who clearly could not be arsed with the idea anyway.

I'm all for the protection of intellectual property...but surely there's a line to be drawn between protecting your interests against those who might simply steal from you and profit by it, and jealously warding off competition 308 to the point of shitting 311 on anyone who might prove to *be* competition by claiming ownership of concepts that are, when you think about it, borderline abstract. It's a wonder nobody has patented the first person perspective really, or the presence of characters with both left and right legs...or, hell, simply the concept of "a computer game".

Can you imagine how many writers would be fucked if similar things happened in the literary world? Nobody could ever be "inspired" by the works of other writers, for fear of being mashed into the ground, legally speaking, by some publisher who had once patented the idea of "a person or group of people who live through a dramatic series of events, learn important life lessons, face overwhelming odds and eventually prevail". Hell, they'd be lucky to write a prologue without discovering that someone owned the concept.

You know what? Here's mine:

I'm gonna patent the idea of an omnipotent supernatural entity that created the universe and everything in it, occasionally interacts with mankind by means of miracles, magic, angelic visitations, burning bushes and ethereal voices, may or may not have a beard and lives in the clouds surrounded by annoying fuckers that play harps incessantly. Ergo, I own god.
In fact, no, wait...fuck it, I'm gonna patent reality. Ergo, I AM god.

In other news,
experts have been discussing the possible repercussions of advanced AI, such as viruses that mimic human interaction with the digital world for the purposes of identity theft, or the "Skynet Scenario", as I'd like to call it;
"a runaway chain reaction of machines capable of building ever-better machines."
Of course, they're a bit late. In my opinion, Skynet has already planned our downfall in the form of Conficker.

- Brax

Monday 20 July 2009

Why F.E.A.R. 2 Was Crap

This wasn't in it.

- Chris C