Archive for December, 2010

So, 2010. That was a bit of a weird one wasn’t it? But now, as the memories fade, we must once again look towards the coming year and decide what we want to do with all 365 (and a quarter) days that are available to us. Usually, this takes the form of a whimsical and sometimes arbitrary list that no one ever follows. I did one last year… shame I deleted it, I could have made a post out of analysing how well I’d done. I seem to remember I didn’t do too badly, actually, although I had several changes in circumstances that rendered parts of it no longer applicable. Oh well.

This will be my second New Year’s Resolution list as an official adult – marked in terms of since graduating University, which to me was the last valid reason for avoiding truly ‘becoming’ an adult. Not as important as the first one, which was 2010’s, but hey, I didn’t have my blog then. Not that the fact that this is a list done in official adulthood is that special anyway, but you know, I like to keep track of these things. So, what are my aims and goals for this coming year?

New Year’s Resolutions 2011

  • Move Out – This is something that I definitely want to achieve this year. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with living at home, but I’ll be honest, I miss the freedom of having my own place. That, and the village my mom chose to ‘shack up’ in makes it pretty hard to re-build my fledging social life. Still, not only will it be a mark of independence, but getting my own place would mean that I’m finally starting to be able to support myself with the work that I’m doing, which would be a huge-mile stone for me.
  • Get Fit – I wouldn’t be surprised if this was number 1 or 2 on a Top Ten List of things that become resolutions. But I’ll add it in anyway – thing is, I used to do Tae-Kwon-Do with my best friends… did it for about three/four years. Whilst I’m a little bored of it now (especially since I don’t do it with my mate anymore), I do miss the fitness it brought me, so I’m going to try and regain that through more common means. Or take up something else that interests me.
  • Work on Discipline – Apart from moving out, this is probably the all important one for me. I lack discipline, I lack a routine…If I’m to continue working at home, both here and wherever I end up, I need to get that back. I’m too easily distracted during work hours, my sleeping patterns are abysmal and motivating myself to get up in the morning is like… a really really tough thing. #AnalogyFail
  • Advance Career – Another generic one… thing is though, I ain’t getting any younger, and despite being one of the youngest people I know in this industry, there are a few people I know who are younger than me, and already doing far better than me (at least, from my perspective. Not the same thing as ‘actual’ success I guess, but my own perspective is the only one I have to live with 24/7, so it’s still important). Therefore, I want to see where I can go this year. Either improving things at Strategy Informer, or by moving on to a new job, I want to try and tangibly move ‘up’ a notch on whatever vertical apparatus this industry is embodied by.
  • Gaming – there should probably be a gaming one… since this is my gaming blog… thing is I can’t think of anything specific I want to do. I guess continue with my quest to go through some of the more iconic older games is something to work on in 2011. As I talked about recently, I bought a bunch a games through various sales that I haven’t even touched yet… many haven’t even been installed. Perhaps clearing the list as it stands now is a task for 2011? Got to fit it in around work-gaming, and of course all of the super-special awesome games coming out this year.

Hmm… these are the only things that spring to mind that are important. There’s the odd other thing, but a guy’s got to have some secrets, right? I’ll add to it if I think of anything else. I’ll also devote a post more towards what games I’m looking forward to in 2011, get things back on track. Have you guys made any Resolution lists? Want to share some of your aims and goals for this year? Feel free to type something out below.

Hope you all had a good break, now back to work!

Until next time.

Inception

Posted: December 30, 2010 in Non-Gaming, Other
Tags: , , , , ,

So, I finally saw Inception. It’s something that had been on the ‘to do’ list but I hadn’t really gotten around to it until I rented it from iTunes… to use up some of the credit I got for Christmas. I’m actually rather proud of myself –  I managed to avoid learning anything significant about it at all before seeing it, apart from the odd vague concepts and one parody. That’s probably why it took me so long to see it mind – I wasn’t caught up in the hype and so I wasn’t that bothered whether I saw it or not.

I’m glad I did though – The underlying concept behind Inception is fascinating. As a film, it’s ok. Quite good, but not amazing, but the ending for me was weak… almost disappointing. Now, for those readers who follow my Twitter, many of the arguments here you might have already read, so I apologise.

I think the ultimate thought that I have regarding Inception is indeed one of near-disappointment. Considering this is a film that involves Mind-Thieves, Dreams within dreams, complex plans… Reality itself, it’s almost too ‘simple’ for it to end with nobody dead and with everything going according to plan. Again, giving the aforementioned facts, I’m also surprised that the best they could do as far as an antagonist is concerned is some pent up guilt. Considering this was supposed to be a ‘Thriller’, I was disappointed at the lack of a decent twist, or a back-stab, or nothing being what it seemed (apart from the obvious fact that most of it was spent in a dream world).

Coming back to DeCaprio’s Wife – in which the revelation that she committed suicide due to DeCaprio accidentally causing her to think that even Reality wasn’t ‘real’, wasn’t really a surprise at all. Tragic, sure, but not really a twist… and Mals motives for being that antagonist aren’t always made clear. For most of the film, she merely represents DeCaprio’s guilt that he can’t keep contained and so ends up messing anything up. There’s nothing really sinister about it, and as a ‘villain’ she’s again rather simple.

I think the biggest and only real ‘disappointment’ of the film though was the final shot, where DeCaprio is finally reunited with his children and so he does his test to make sure he’s awake. However, before he can see the result he’s distracted, and before the audience can find out the result, the film cuts. It’s an almost condescending parting shot that basically says “ooo, maybe it’s all still a dream!”. The problem with that is that at no point what-so-ever is it even hinted that DeCaprio’s idea of reality – the one his children inhabit, the one his father-in-law is in – could possibly be a dream.

In fact, DeCaprio’s is firmly established as having a surprising strong grasp on what ‘Reality’ is considering everything he’s been through, and considering what he does for a living. That’s why he’s never convinced that his wife does anything other than commit suicide, instead of ‘waking up’ as she insisted she was doing. His grasp on what was ‘real’ was firm, and so that shot at the end does nothing for the story or the film. As I said, a bit of a cheap shot at the audience, and even Michael Caine said “[The spinning top] drops at the end, that’s when I come back on. If I’m there it’s real, because I’m never in the dream. I’m the guy who invented the dream.”

Still, as I said at the beginning, it’s still a good film, and definitely worth watching at least once. Marco said “yeah it’s an odd film. It’s not particularly a good film, but as an exploration of reality in cinematic form? Amazing.” I’d disagree with him, because as a prominent dream researcher pointed out,  Nolan did not get every detail accurate regarding dreams, but films which do tend to have illogical, rambling, disjointed plots which wouldn’t make for a great thriller.

Again, I think my only wish was that they’d maybe pushed this concept further, see what they could have done with it… and maybe had a death or two along the way. The audience needs to be kept on their toes, after all.

Until next time.

So, many a week ago, I unveiled Operation: Get Behind The Darkies**. In short, it was my plan to try and better myself as a games writer by playing through some of the older, more iconic games that everyone’s expected to have played. The only unifying trait that lumped games into this auspicious category was the unilateral cry of “What. The Fuck.” I got from pretty much everyone when it was revealed I hadn’t played game X or Y.

So, several weeks down the line – how am I doing? Not great… well, I’m on the right track I’d argue, but yeah… progress is slow. Basically, whilst I’ve managed to acquire several classics, I’ve yet to actually get around to playing them. Bioshock, is a classic example – despite picking it up dirt cheap on Steam around the same time I launched Operation: GBTD, I’ve yet to actually start it up. I’ll get around to it, swears.

Other games I’ve picked up recently: Baldur’s Gate 1 & 2 were going cheap on Good Old Games, and I also picked up the first Fallout game as well. I’m sure you’ve all noticed the mega Steam sales on-going at the moment too, and I’ve picked up a few other games to help expand my repertoire:

Just Cause 2 – Hearing about it, this game reminded me of Mercenaries 2, which I actually liked despite it’s obvious unfinished-ness. Apparently the story in JC2 is bollocks, but it’s worth playing for the sheer open-world scale alone.

The Witcher – Well, I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about Witcher 2, and this was going cheap so I thought why not. It’ll be good to try other RPG’s.

The Polynomial – This looked like a really funky and interesting little indie title, like Geometry Wars but with sound instead of maths.

Day of the Defeat: Source -You can never have enough World War 2 shooters. I didn’t really want to get into Counter Strike: Source, so the thinking was that it’s WW2 cousin would be just as good.

The Orange BoxTF2, Half-Life 2… I’m surprised I haven’t been hunted down and killed for not playing these yet. Although I have played and completed the XBLA version of Portal, so hah.

Patrician IV -This got mixed reviews, but it’s yet another type of game I haven’t really delved into much, so I thought I’d give it a go.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 – Yeah, I bought it. Picked up Vietnam as well… I know I have it on 360 but I wanted to see what PC FPSing was like. I suck at it.

Apart from the last one however, I haven’t actually played any of these… I should probably get on that. I have been playing some games though… Civilization V, The Sims 3, Men of War: Assault Squad Beta, Assassin’s Creed 2… had Tron: Evolution for review… Played a little bit of Diablo II as well.

What can I say, they’re all on my ‘to do’ list. Well, not that list (Look left)… I should probably update that.

Until next time.

** It occurs to me that I may be indulging too much into the casual racism that South Park is so very fond of – Not everyone likes their brand of humour. If you’re offended by my use of that particular line from the film, I apologise.

I hope everyone had a good Christmas? It’s odd how quickly it seems to pass now these days, given all the build up and preparation that goes into it. It’s not as exciting for me as it used to be when I was a kid, naturally, but still – It’s boxing day already, and we’re marching on towards the New Year and 2011. I’ve probably said this before, but I’ll say it again – I dislike the passage of time.

Where there’s Christmas of course, there are traditions. We have two fairly prominent ones in my family: The first is the concept of the ‘Christmas Eve Present’, where we get to open one small thing on Christmas Eve. This started when my mum was little, as they used to all attend Midnight Mass. When they got home in the early hours of the morning, it was of course Christmas Day technically, so they got to open  one present before they went to bed.

When my mum had me and brother, naturally the tradition was carried on, but my mum stopped going to Church, including Midnight Mass, so instead we had our Christmas Eve present after dinner.

The other tradition is more quirky, and it’s simply a game my Dad plays. Despite a lot of Nativity Scenes depicting the Three Wise Men, those guys didn’t actually arrive in Bethlehem until January 6th (which is also my birthday. Feast of the Epiphany, look it up). Therefore, if you’re doing it properly, your nativity set-up if you have one would be absent of those three until January. I imagine most people just have them off to one side, to show that they are ‘in transit’, but my Dad likes to hide them around the house, and the game is to try and find them. When you find them, they get re-hidden and the game starts again and on it goes until the Epiphany when they’re placed in the Nativity.

Of course many people have Gaming traditions as well. Holly, I know, likes to buy a bag of crème Cadbury Mini Easter Eggs and play Majora’s Mask… hmm, I actually don’t know anyone else with gaming traditions. If you have any stories, feel free to share. Me and my friends always go around one of our houses on Christmas Day in the evening to hang out, and we always end up playing games. Usually Worms, and they usually gang up against me. That’s kind of a tradition, but it’s more in us going to visit than in us playing games.

I have to say though, I don’t have any prominent ‘personal’ gaming traditions. I kind of would like to have some, but it’s not just one of those things that you can up and decide to do – Traditions evolve out of repetition of significant actions. I brush my teeth every night, but it’s not a tradition, it’s just a daily chore. I could decide that every year, on Christmas Day, I would play… The Sims, Rome: Total War, etc… but it wouldn’t mean anything.

In other news

I made an addendum to this post. Seems I grumbled too soon – as of the Ambitions expansion pack for The Sims 3, there is an official self-employment mechanic for skills/professions that naturally support it. Serves me right for not checking, I suppose, and for getting the packs out of order. I got Ambitions for Christmas and so have only just installed it, I have yet to test it out though.

Until next time.

Of course it’s not all about videogames you know… well, except when you play and review videogames for a living like I do I guess. Still, that makes it even more crucial to make sure you do ‘other’ things sometimes. Like video games – I hear they’re worth checking out. Not only has this been an interesting year in videogames, for me personally and for the industry, it’s also been an interesting year for my life as well.

The big thing, I guess, was in March when I was promoted to Deputy Editor over at Strategy Informer. When I graduated Uni last year, I gave myself the goal of a year to try and make something of myself in the Videogames Industry, otherwise I’d move on to find a more standard career. Thankfully, making Deputy Editor at Strategy Informer meant I didn’t have to. Granted, it’s only the first step in what I imagine will be a long road, but it was a good first step.

As Deputy Editor, I basically become the ‘public face’ of the company. I’ve been going to any and all press events I can, really trying to promote Strategy Informer as the main stream site we want to be, and just getting to know people and make new friends. Still, it’s not all fun and games… being Marketing Manager as well, I’ve really learnt what it takes to try and help fund a growing website like ours, and it’s not easy. That, and we have to continually fight to change the perception of what our website is, and there’s been a number of rages, headaches and “Kill me now” moments.

Nothing else of note has really happened this year. Before March, I wasn’t really doing much except getting what freelance work I could and  looking out for jobs – and watching my bank balance slowly dwindle to nothing. After March however, it was just one big learning curve, both in my new job and life in general. I’ll cover this is in a separate post, but hopefully, 2011 will see a lot of changes.

2010 Musings

  • A healthy-looking bank account does lead to happiness.
  • ‘Adult’ dating (as in dating for grown-ups, not what you’re probably thinking) exists within a temporal anomaly where nothing really plays out how, when, or where it’s supposed to.
  • For a non-sentient natural phenomenon, Snow is fairly proficient at cock-blocking.
  • I have no friends (So I’m told)
  • Living in a village is the bane of any decent social life.
  • There is such a thing as ‘too much’ videogames.
  • As good as the money is, I hate marketing.
  • I may or may not have an unhealthy obsession with soundtracks.
  • Breaking up sucks. Even if you are the one to do it.

I don’t think I’m ever going to get used to this ‘growing up’ malarkey, not whilst I’m still living at home anyway. As necessary as it was (And as much as my mum is a saint for supporting me) living at home makes it feel too much like nothing has changed. Working from home as well hasn’t helped matters, as even though I am actually doing a really job now, I’m doing it in the exact same place as relaxing and keeping in touch with online friends, etc…

If I’m being very honest, I think I’ve done the working from home thing too soon… I lack the discipline and coordination an office environment could instil, but I’m getting better. As I said though, bring on 2011!

Until next time.

Turns out my brother just bought Black Ops for himself, when I had gotten it for him for Christmas. I’m already over it, don’t worry, but isn’t it just annoying when people do that? I mean I knew he’d want the game, but… oh well. Still, it’s also kind of annoying because I’d always said to myself I’d never pay for Black Ops, and yet I did to go buy him the game I knew he’d want. On the plus side, it means I can now go get that money back, on the downside, I felt bad for doing a quick U-turn on my principles and now the whole thing has been rendered pointless.

Ah yes, something I’ve been meaning to blog about for a while. It’s made even more apt by Activision having recently added EA to the list of people they’re trying to sue, to the tune of $400 million no less. I tell people of my decision not to pay for Activision products (Well, even I’m not 100% sure on that score yet… it’s either going to be limited to just the COD franchise, or Activision products in general. To be honest, they don’t really have many franchises I care that much about. I’m a Battlefield Boy), and they’re either somewhat supportive or they just chuckle and shake their head. My friend last night told me it was pointless and that I was an idiot, because every games company treats their customers like crap.

I suppose he’s right to a point – there is nothing you can do about the general contempt corporate entities treat their consumers, but the only reason I’m taking a stand here is because there’s some specific events I can object too. Now, clearly today’s news has just reinforced my belief that obviously we didn’t know the whole story, but the stuff we did know was still pretty bad on its own. Storming the Infinity Ward offices like it was Normandy, the alleged withholding of bonuses and pay in order to force people to stay… that, and the fact that they charged £10 just for maps. Zampella and West… well, it seems more and more that they brought this down on themselves, but Activision’s heavy handed approach in dealing with the situation, and their general attitude of pumping games out like clockwork and charging people through the nose, is what has put me off.

But I’ll tell you what the final straw was. See, I ‘d already bought Modern Warfare 2 by the time this all kicked off, so I already owned it, and was playing it… and then this feud started and there was a lot of outrage. I remember this on spokesperson – Infinity Ward Community Manager Robert Bowling, who was appointed as the go-to person for all interviews in the fallout of this ‘crisis’. I remember it was him because I ended up getting sick and tired of all the news posts that were being generated with all his comments. But you know, damage control and all that, I largely ignored him after a while as he’d stopped becoming news. Then he said this in particular:

“I think when any property is number one at anything [it will face backlash]. Whether it’s the number one move at the Box Office or the number one most played game online, like Modern Warfare 2, you’re going to be up against that instinct.  You know once it hits a certain level of popularity in the mainstream that’s when people start to stand back. But that doesn’t mean they stop playing. I mean the numbers show that these guys are still logging on every night.”

Reading it back, the quote is slightly different to how I remember it, but the headline summed up what I took from it – Haters may be hating, but they’re still playing the game online. It was at that moment, having read this, that I stopped playing MW2, and refused to purchase another COD game.

I’m not kidding myself – my one protest will not change anything. I’m also not an activist: I will not try and force people to my way of thinking. If anyone asks, I will explain, but that’s it – and yet I will do it anyway. I’m glad Treyarch seem to be doing well in Infinity Ward’s wake, I’m glad that they seem to have made a good game. I will play it if I get the chance, but I won’t pay for it. Sorry.

I fear, more and more, that publishers are starting to think they can get away with whatever they want – because the sad reality is that they can. The afore mentioned map pack still sold really well, from what I remember, Black Ops sold really well  (to be fair, I hear it’s the best COD of them all, I need to find out for myself), but moving away from Activision, there is a general trend now that gamers/consumers will still spend the money, even if they’re being kind of shafted at the same time.

Until next time.

Disclaimer: These are my own personal views on Activision. They do not represent the views of anyone else, including Strategy Informer. I take my job seriously, and know how to leave my personal shit at home… even though I work from home… hmm.