Archive for October, 2011

My friends who also work within games will know that this is a crazy time of year. Q4, especially October / November Q4, see’s one of the highest concentration of AAA game releases (and normal game releases, actually) than any other time in the year. It’s not that this is surprising – this period is great for the lead up to Christmas – but it doesn’t make it any less hectic and… well, hard. From a marketing standpoint (I have two jobs, remember) – there’s no a terrible lot to do as you would have sorted out all of the Q$ campaigns back in Q3, lead times being what they are, but from an editorial standpoint it’s just game after game after preview after review after game after interview after OH MY GOD PLEASE KILL ME NOW.

If ever you were to become desensitised with videogames, it would be around this time. You normal people, you consumers, you have it easy because you’re limited by your disposable income – we’re not. Whilst it’s extremely hard to complain about getting games for free, sometimes you just want to be left alone so you can crawl up in a ball and die. It’s not just that we get a lot of ‘meh’ games that we’d rather no play – we get a lot of good games as well, but it’s scientifically proven that you can have too much of a good thing, so even with the impending release of games like Battlefield, Skyrim, and all of the niche titles that I personally love, I’m still starting to crack a bit under the pressure.

To be fair, making sure you have adequate staff is always a good idea – we do tend to struggle a tad during the Christmas season, but only on events – we have plenty of people who can do stuff for us from home, but I’m still one of the few people who’s actually in a position to go anywhere, so it falls to me to try and make all of the preview events, launch parties, showcases etc… It sometimes leaves me too drained for things like this, which I’ve been wanting to update for a while now.

Speaking of Skyrim – I have become a convert to the Elder Scrolls cause. It was always one of those franchises that I’d heard good things about, but could just never really bring myself to pick up and buy, although I have played the two Fallout games that Bethesda have done so far – New Vegas was my favourite, although I still need to go back and finish it. The other week however, I had to go into London to try out the new Elder Scrolls game, Skyrim, (previously we’d let people with more experience with the franchise do the coverage on it), and I have to say  I was very impressed. Maybe it was because I’ve always had a thing for Norse culture, maybe it was my fondness for New Vegas, but I left feeling more than a bit excited about its release on November 11th. I pre-ordered it as well, making it the fourth game this year I’ve pre-ordered. My wallet is not going to be happy. I wrote this guide based on my experiences, if you fancy a gander. We’d already had a pretty extensive preview from someone a couple of weeks before, so I decided to do a more of a layman’s guide to the game, and turn it into a Top Ten list. Felt dirty, but good, and it seemed to go down well.

Sorry for such a quickie today, but it’s hard not to feel burnt out as far as writing is concerned. As much as I love blogging and sharing my thoughts and muses with you guys, it is still writing and sometimes I just need to step away from the computer and do something else – been reading a lot more lately, as a bunch of books I’ve been waiting for came out all at once.

 

 

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I’ve been playing a lot of Beta’s recently, which is rare for me as I don’t get to do that often. Sure, we get preview builds on the PC from time to time, but usually we have to go somewhere to play early code. Getting early access to Closed Beta (as opposed to an Open Beta, which is public and so doesn’t count, but then the game is nearly done by that stage anyway) is one of the few things writers like me don’t really get preferential treatment for, at least not right away.

Unlike real beta testers, we don’t play these things to get technical feedback, or to report bugs. We play them to write previews to help our editorial, which is why I don’t really mind – we know we’ll be invited to preview events when the code is in a good enough state, and if we’re not going to be useful then there’s really no point in us hanging around, but we were allowed access to a couple of short betas recently:

First up was the Diablo III Beta – this was the first time I’d actually been able to go hands on with Diablo III, as we hadn’t been able to see it beforehand. It was good – very reminiscent of the past Diablo games, just with better graphics, which will be a good thing I suppose. A lot of people slated Starcraft II for just being the original game with better graphics, and the same can probably be said here, but that still doesn’t make it fun. I’m disliking some of the other changes they’ve made though, like always on DRM and the checkpoint-based save system. Kind of annoying, but there you go.

The Battlefield 3 Beta – this was an odd one: It was nice to see a true technical beta be released on the console, as lately the trend has been to simply release builds that are more akin to demos than true Betas. But still, even by a ‘true’ beta’s standard, this was very restrictive, consisting of only one map and one mode. When I spoke to them about it, they said it was merely for benchmarking purposes, but  I expected a little more from them this close to release. Having played a more recent build for an article, I’m not too worried about the game, but it saddens me to think that some people could have made a decision off the back of that small snippet alone (it was old code aswell).

Crusader Kings II – Yeah, despite how wonderful playing Battlefield or Diablo is, nothing quite beats the simple complexity of a Paradox game. Crusader Kings II is not due out till January, but I had the privilege of being able to play it early, and I’ve really been enjoying it so far. Still needs some work done to it, but that’s expected and patches have been rolling out quite expediently.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to announce that I’m likely going to build myself a new computer, probably very soon. I built ‘Rigged’ in January 2009, in time for the release of Empire: Total War. I’d been a Total War fan since the first Shogun, and having recently started writing about games, I realised there was a good chance I could be reviewing it for the site. That, plus the fact that my ageing laptop couldn’t keep up with the latest games and the fact that we get a lot of PC games, convinced me to save up a bit and get a new PC. The fact that I was interested in technology as well prompted me to try and build myself one, especially after someone described it as being just like LEGO. I like LEGO.

Anyway, she’s getting on a bit now and I’m once again finding myself struggling to keep up with the latest releases, as I believe I mentioned when talking about games like ArmA III and the Witcher 2. Hell, even Shogun 2 struggles a bit on anything but low settings, and it looks like Diablo III and Battlefield 3 might have issues as well.

It may have only been three years, but the parts I were using had almost gone out of fashion when I assembled it – a Core 2 Duo just as the i-series was coming out, GT9500 when Nvidia was well into its new three digit series… don’t worry though, Rigged isn’t getting scrapped or anything. I’m selling it to a friend as he just wants a computer, regardless of how well it performs. It should do him for a couple of years, but he’ll need to an OS and new HDD’s as I’m taking those with me to the new machine, probably. Been doing some initial pricings, and I should be able to build a very decent machine for around the same price as my last one, although this doesn’t take into account things like an OS, screens, HDD’s and a couple of other bits but it’s still reassuring. I built my last rig around about the time where the recession was at its worst, and people like  DELL was pretty much throwing machines at people, so I could have bought a more powerful rig for the same price, but there you go. I didn’t have to deal with all the pre-loaded crapware or anything.

I’m going to go for an i5, but get a GTX 450 or 460 graphics card, then just fit things like the Motherboard and everything else around that. RAM wise it’ll probably be 6 or 8, depending on how much it costs, and I may even indulge in a Blu-Ray player, but we’ll see. The hardest thing at the moment is finding a case – I don’t want to spend too much on it, but I want it to be decent as well… needs to be the right size, of course, and come with at least one pre-installed fan. Also, someone recommended that I invest in a Solid State Drive, but I can’t really remember why – what’s everyone’s opinion of them? I know they have benefits, but they’re still quite pricey so I’d need to way off that against potential plus points. Either way I may just end up wiping my hard drives and starting a fresh, so backing up is also going to be a must.