Archive for June, 2011

My dad once told me that the random hotels and quick trips end up getting soulless and not really enjoyable anymore – I’m hoping I never reach that point. Press trips for me, whether they are quick jaunts into London, or going overseas for a day or a week or what have you, are all part of the experience for me, and experiences in and of themselves. I still love to fly, love to visit different places although I don’t really like staying too long – I’m one of those people who can be very rooted sometimes.

Saying that, the only holiday experiences I’ve had are with family – no offence to them, but those got boring after a while. I’ve always wanted to do a proper holiday with friends, as that would be a lot of fun.

Anyway – tonight, I’m about to embark on another one of my mini-adventures. After hanging out with the guys over at Videogamer.com for a bit ( to celebrate the launch of their new-look website ), I’m staying overnight in a small hotel in London so that I can catch an early flight from Heathrow the next day to Prague, in the Czech Republic. I’m going there to see 1C, a Russian videogames publisher who are a bit like Paradox in the sense that they specialise in smaller, more niche titles – although they have a lot more console offerings than Paradox at the moment. They are also apparently the second largest European publisher, with Ubisoft being the largest – who knew?

They have a few well known franchises, but again in niche areas – IL-Sturmovick is supposed to be a good WW2 flight combat game, the Men of War franchises (sucessor to Faces of War and Soldiers: Heroes of World War II) is, in my mind, the best offering they have. In wake of Company of Heroes, which Relic have seemingly abandoned for the moment, Men of War is the best there is. It sometimes has a problem balancing the micro management with the tactical element of the game, but it is really fun to play online and one of the few games where you really feel the chaos that was the second great war. You might also have heard of games like Kings Bounty, Death to Spies even Theatre of War – those are all 1C titles as well.

Last, but certainly not least, another game which I think is going to be big for them is Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad. It is the sequel to Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41-45, which in itself was based off the total conversion Red Orchestra mod for Unreal Tournament 2004. After winning the Making Something Unreal contest, the team behind the mod formed tripwire studios, and made a more complete, game, resulting in Ostfront. It’s a more tactical first-person shooter, and the sequel will feature many interesting features such as a first person cover system, destructible environments, off-map fire support, vehicles and as much else as I imagine they can reasonably fit in. World War II has been left behind by the first person shooter genre in recent years, so maybe there’s room for this game to carve out its own niche.

I’ve seen it once before, although it was at GamesCom, not the Prague showcase (1C does this every year), and it will be there again this year ahead of its August 30th release. Hopefully we’ll get some decent hands on with the game and I can get a better feel for what the finished product is going to be like. Shame it’s not coming to consoles at the moment – I still haven’t quite gotten into the whole WASD thing with FPS… might try giving it a go with me gamepad, see if I can keep up. You can read some thoughts I had on the game when I saw it last year here.

It’s only going to be a short trip – flying out Wednesday Morning, showcase in the evening, and then coming back Thursday during the day. Still, it breaks up the monotony of my typical day, which is sitting in front of my computer trying to amuse myself with blogging, or watching completely ridiculous videos on YouTube.

I might try and update Wednesday night, but we’ll see. See you on the other side if not.

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So, as some of you may or may not be aware, I’ve just moved house! I now live in Canterbury, which is deep in Kent to the south-east of the country. Looking at a map of England, there’s that massive hump comprised of Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex, and below them, in that area that looks like a little bum, is Kent, and I’m there. It’s a lovely little town. Manageable in the sense that you can feasibly walk to all the important bits, a nice size, it’s a student town so it has the night-life to match, and it’s got a great walk along the old castle wall.

The only real gripe I have with it is that it’s slightly further from London than I’d like – which is important for my work. There’s fast train that can get me into the capital in about an hour, although it’s not cheap, and the slow service can take up to 1 hour 30 minutes. Still, the first five days have proven to be pretty ok so far. I mainly moved here because it was cheap – cheaper than I’m likely to find anywhere, and my best mate lived here, which will help me settle in. More than that though, I feel I can finally start having a life again. I’ll always love my mum for supporting me and putting me up post-uni, but (aside from the fact that we lived in the middle no nowhere) the problem was it didn’t feel like anything had changed.

I’d been to uni, I’d had some bad times, some good times, some really good time, I’d grown up a bit, started myself on a career… and then I came back home, having to live under a set of rules that weren’t my own, having my meals cooked for me again, and my mum even let me live rent free (I did start paying rent eventually, but then I moved out, how’s that for timing?) Not that there’s anything wrong with living at home, but it does affect things, even subtly. No I’m back on my own two feet again though, and I’m looking forward to it. I’m in a shared house of five – me, my best mate and two other guys and a girl. We all pretty much keep ourselves to ourselves, so we’re more like cohabitating strangers or acquaintances rather than true housemates like what you get during uni.

Anyway, before I go on, here’s some snaps of my room and where I’ve set up my work space:

As you can see, my room isn’t the biggest thing ever – in my first ever room at uni was bigger I think, as that could have fitted a desk in. Still, all the stuff I wanted to bring fit in quite nicely, and it’s not uncomfortably small, so it could be worse. My best mate’s room is also next door, and we’ve already taken to nightly sessions of Operation Flashpoint: Red River whereby we just yell at each other via the wall or the hallway. Good times. Obviously, because there’s no room for a desk I’ve had to basically convert a part of the front room in to my office space. No really seems to use the front room much (apart from me and my mate now) as I think the other rooms are a lot bigger than mine, and so the others tend to hang out there. I was going to run a LAN cable under the carpet or something, but to be honest the wireless is serving me pretty well right now, even better than my wired connection back home.

Anyway, that’s just a little update on me. Will try and get back to some more gaming related stuff. In the mean time, if you’re looking for a good read, read this piece by Videogamer’s Martin Gaston on Sonic‘s impact in his life (in celebration of Sonic‘s 20th anniversary). As always Martin’s standard of writing is top notch, and something I’ll probably always aspire to.

Hey guys – so, sorry about being all incommunicado again. I’m all moved into my new house in Canterbury now! It’s quite nice, especially considering the price – room is a little on the small side but I got all my stuff in there. The only thing was I had to set up my desk and work computer downstairs in the communal front room. My housemates are cool and everything, but this is a shared house and it’s not the most secure place in the world so, will have take precautions, I’m thinking spike trap, or maybe a vat of boiling acid.

Haven’t decided yet – will look to the upcoming Stronghold 3 for ideas. (Can’t talk about that right now, but keep an eye on the site come end of the week.)

As the title suggested, I hate Audacity. What do I hate Audacity? Because Audacity managed to fill my life with a lot of tedium and I wish it would die. Last Friday I guest  starred on the Underdeveloped Characters Podcast, alongside Bane Williams – a likeable if a little crazy games writer from Australia, and Alex Rubens, a guy out in the US. We had a nice two hour long chat about games – E3, what we had been playing, Duke Nukem, etc… It was about 4am by this point, as we were doing it on US/Aus time and I had to stay up for it. So, suffice to say, a bit tired, a bit strained… and then Audacity crashes as soon as I stopped recording.

But it’s ok, my part of the podcast was stored in the temporary files. In ten second chunks. I believe my favourite meme can come into play here:

There’s not really any automatic tools to help me piece together the whole thing all in one go, and I can’t export it as it is either, so I have to copy and paste each individual sound-bite into one track. THEN export it, then send it off to UCPOD’s guy for proper editing. I want to shoot myself just thinking about it, but I’d rather shoot the people who made Audacity. I guess it’s not their fault, really, but the fact that they thought recovering lost data in 10 second junks was a good idea deserves at least some anger.

Ah well – I think I shall go play some Heavy Rain, finally. My friend let me borrow it and I kind of forgot to give it back to him before I move.

Oops.

Oh wow, it’s been over a week since I last posted. Whoops – yeah E3 was as hectic as I thought it would be, although overall I was kind of disappointed by this year. There was no ‘Wada’ moment, as I like to call it, no “out of left field” surprise, which I personally think is the whole point of E3. Game demos are all well and good, but there’s so many public events that do them (and then there’s press tours for us lot), that those in itself don’t really make E3 all that special. The conferences however, with all their showmanship and grandstanding, is not something you really find anywhere else.

Of course, this is the opinion of one who’s never been – I suspect my view might change when I finally get out there.

Microsoft’s was hard to judge because it was all pretty much leaked before hand – although Halo 4 was pleasantly unexpected, and I’m glad to see official confirmation of the Halo CE Anniversary Edition. Assuming I don’t get it for free, that’s probably going to be a day-one purchase for me. More Kinect stuff as well, although it wasn’t all that impressive. Apart from side-features like the Ghost Recon customisation interface, or Minecraft, the sleuth of kid games or on-the-rails action games was kind of disappointing.

Sony’s was perhaps the strongest, opening up with an apology of the PSN fiasco (although, cheekily, Tretton didn’t address the security breach, just the fact that PSN was down), and then launching straight in with the likes of Uncharted 3 and Resistance 3. A lot of their presentation was given over to the PS Vita, which I didn’t pay that much attention to because one, we don’t cover handhelds, and two, I’m not much of a handheld gamer myself. From what I could gather though this seems to be getting a much stronger launch than the PSP, and better games as well and not simple ports. Their 3D package as well was also a surprise, perhaps confirming that 3D really isn’t taking off as well as they and others hoped.

Nintendo I guess had the biggest surprise in the form of the Wii U. Despite the console’s existence all but confirmed for months now, the real show came in them revealing what that entailed, and the kind of games they were going to produce. IT was nice to see them getting a strong third-party backing in terms of core games once again, and the new controller seems kind of nifty, I guess. The most frustrating thing though was that not only did they not talk about the console itself at all, but for a while there it wasn’t clear if there even was a console. Not to mention that there wasn’t any actual Wii U footage present… and from a personal stand-point I’m not sure if it’s going to be in HD or not at the moment.

Apart from the big 3, there were of course the publisher press conferences too. There’s not many of these, usually – EA and Ubi always seem to do one, Konami too. Activision seems to have stopped bothering altogether, for obvious reasons. EA’s was ok, although their The Old Republic demonstration was really disappointing, and pointless. Ubisoft’s again was ok, but their presenter was diabolical and some of the more boring presentations ran on a bit. Good line up coming up though, and they win the ‘Best Trailer’ award for Assassin’s Creed: Revelations:

The backing song is called Iron, by someone called Woodkid, and I have listened to it over 300 times now. I think I have a problem. A problem with AWESOME.

Not that my track record has been great recently anyway, but don’t be surprised if the posts get a more scarce this week. E3 2011 is upon us, and even though I may not be there in person, me and my boss like to watch the live streams of all the big press conferences. That means late nights, plenty of tea, and frantic postage as we try to get the news up as everyone else does.

I won’t bother with hopes or predictions – to be honest the E3 hype has managed to pass me by somehow: I’m not sure what to expect, I’m not really hoping for anything in particular, it’s just a matter of waiting and seeing. I’ll definitely reflect on it though once it’s all over. Maybe do a day-by-day thing, maybe just do a round up towards the end. Strategy Informer isn’t doing a liveblog or anything this year, as we want to concentrate on watching the streams and typing up. I might find the time to fire off the odd witticism on Twitter.

E3 for me is all about the showman ship though. The press conferences where everyone is trying to be serious and professional when talking about interactive entertainment that could contain anything from virtual pets to people yelling “dicktits” every five seconds. It’s about the grandstanding, the choreographed surprise reveals, the prepared jokes… you don’t really get anything else like it during the year. I’m hoping for some more ‘Wada’ moments this year, which are always fun to witness.

Enjoy it folks, catch you on the other side.

So, Konami has made various announcements today ahead of E3, one of which is a HD collection of the two main Zone of the Enders titles. Simply put: Yes. Yesyesyesyesyesyesyesyes. It’s a great series, Zones of the Enders, at least conceptually. Aside from maybe the Gundam franchise, it’s one of the most perfect examples of Japanese mecha franchises, and definitely one of my all time favourites. If it had any flaw, it was that it was developed by Hideo Kojima’s studio, which isn’t really bad thing except they’ve been so busy milking the Metal Gear Solid cow everything else has been pushed to the back.

The first Zone of the Enders game sadly was rushed, and so wasn’t very long and had a bit of an odd ending. It was still fun to play though, and I remember it fondly. IT was full 3D as well, with your mech – Jehuty -fully controllable in terms of movement and action. It was part twitch based, part blowing-bitches-up based, and as you progressed through the game you gained new abilities with which to take down foes. There were a handful of very distinct enemies, each with their own tactics that you needed to beat.

The second game Second Runner, I never ended up playing. It was just one of those bad timing things, I just didn’t have access to a PS2 when it was out, and then the whole world moved on to the next generation of consoles. It’s supposed to be better though, kind of like what the first game was supposed to be like, and I remember my friends telling me it had some great moments in it. The anime-style telling of the story segments appeals to me as well. My PS3 model isn’t backwards compatible, which was the only drawback with it as it meant I couldn’t go back and pick up these Ps2 games I’d missed out on, which is why this HD collection news is great. I’d much prefer a proper Zone of the Enders 3, but hopefully this collection will sell well enough to make it happen.

Of course, there’s more to the franchise than those first two games (well, not much more, admittedly). There was an anime film – Idolo, and series i, Dolores, which I got years ago. The film acts as a kind of prequel to the whole premise of the franchise, covering a key event in the universe, and the TV series is a separate story that takes place in and around the first game, but before the second. There was also a GBA game called The Fist of Mars, and I’m not sure where it comes in but it’s not really part of the main canon I don’t think. Still good though, and about one of the only games I play on my DS at the moment.

So yeah, that’s my day made, and it’s only just gone 10. Bring on E3!