Archive for January, 2012

In my on-going quest just to get my face in as many other people’s faces as possible, I have managed to face myself  into MCV issue 672 (Friday Jan. 27th). The author, James Batchelor, asked people over Twitter a couple of weeks ago whether anyone had any opinions on 3D gaming. I did, as it happened, so he asked me to type up my views and send them in.

The hardest part of the entire affair was, in all honesty, to find a picture to send in to be put next to my name. Anyone who has me on Facebook may notice that I don’t really photograph well, so finding a decent, respectable picture to send in was something of a challenge. I think I managed ok though in the end. Anyway, just a short, ego-centric update to buy time whilst I think of something more substantial to talk about.

 

Hello from Sweden! I’d share pictures with you like i did last year, but I’ve finally decided that my camera is rubbish. Except when It’s day time and i’m outside, it’s really hard to get my camera to take decent shots, and it doesn’t handle motion so well. I think I need a new one. It’s a shame though, as it was a present from my Step-dad for my 18th birthday, and it has served me well in the past, but now? I dunno… also, I’m renewing my commitment to hating button-fly jeans. They’re just really annoying.

Paradox Interactive are  really a fascinating publisher, I love coming to see them. Apart from obvious cases like Blizzard, Paradox are a perfect example of not only how PC gaming is alive and well, but of how PC gaming is evolving. They’re best known for their more hardcore niche strategy games (my kind of game), but in recent years they’ve really been expanding into other genres. Mount & Blade, a great little medieval action title made by a small Turkish team was their first non-strategy, and since them they’ve been branching out. Magicka, the surprise hit of last year, was their most successful game ever. Plus they’re all just really nice people, and the CEO -Fredrik Wester – is amazing for interviews  and quotes.

They’re also pretty much the only company I’d consider going to work for right now. In terms of my general life ‘plan’, I can imagine me eventually making the move to PR, or something related, after I’ve had my fill of games writing – but if Paradox rang me up tomorrow and offered me a job, I’d seriously consider taking it. I probably would take it. Good people, good atmosphere, good games. One of my favourite (no ex)game writers is now working for them, having crossed the line last year.

Going to cut this one short as I’ll have to be leaving to go catch my flight soon – suffice to say I’ve had a great time as always, saw some really interesting games, and the coverage will be up on Strategy Informer in the coming days.

Star Wars: Dark Forces
Image via Wikipedia

Well, so far, being 24 isn’t that much different to being 23, although I do feel some cautious optimism about this year. I hope I manage to turn myself around and actually get to doing some of the stuff I said I would do. The ‘events season’ has already started, work wise. Had an event to go to last week, there’s three separate gatherings on Thursday, and one on Friday, and more invites are coming in for the weeks ahead. Not that I’ll be around for the ones this week – I’m off to Stockholm. Youmay  remember around this time last year I went to New York to go see Paradox Interactive? Well now that they’ve crossed the big apple off their ‘to do’ list, they are holding their next mini-convention a little closer to home.

Couple of things caught my eye recently. First off (and I should have taken a picture, but oh well) I saw not one, but TWO copies of Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast in a charity shop yesterday. Now, I’ve never played Jedi Knight II, or Jedi Knight for that matter. For some reason those games passed me by and I just never got into them. It’s possible my computer was quite up to snuff at the time, or perhaps they just didn’t appeal to me for one reason or another. Anyway, what I did play, was the game that started the Jedi Knight series (formerly known as – wait for it…) Dark Forces. At worst, it was a Star Wars DOOM-clone, but I remember it fondly, and remember it being quite a tense yet engaging experience as well.

It was released in 1995 would you believe. A long time ago… Brings back memories though, here was a whole series of decent Star Wars games back in those days: Dark Forces, Rebel Assault I & II… and of course the X-Wing and TIE-Fighter games. I even remember later games that I quite liked, such as Force Commander, Rebellion (Supremacy here in the UK), the first Rogue Squadron, the pod-racing N64 game they made after Episode I was released… and a couple of other games as well. There’s no real point to this other than a bit of nostalgia, but I guess they don’t really make them like they used to. There hasn’t been a decent Star Wars flight sim since X-Wing vs. TIE-Figther (never played X-wing: Alliance, so can’t comment), Empire at War was the last great Star Wars RTS, and unless they do end up making Battlefront 3, I don’t see there being a decent shooter either. I’ve already posted some musings about The Old Republic, so there is that, although I would like an official KOTOR III to make up for II‘s shortcomings. There were the Force Unleashed games I guess, but I never played those.

I’m hoping one day Lucas will pull his head out of his ass and stop trying to pander to younger generations so much… well, ok, he can keep doing that as from a franchise perspective I suppose it makes sense, but seriously, just give us Battlefront III already. What could possibly make you think that wouldn’t sell?

Also, saw this article on CVG about a proposed Anti-Piracy bill out in the US. Now, whilst the underlying message is something you really should take notice (the tone is a bit too “The end if nigh” for my liking, but there you go), the latest information is that the bill has actually be shelved because everyone’s realised how shoddy the whole thing really is. What got me thinking though was one specific line –

“Piracy certainly needs to be dealt with, but many are concerned that SOPA isn’t the answer.”

Now, it strikes me that you hear that phrase a lot when it comes to the debate about piracy – no matter what is suggested, nothing seems to be “the answer” and I just can’t help but think at some point the more sensible anti-piracy camp is just going to lose ground. Something has to be the answer, otherwise the issue is never going to be resolved and someone very powerful is eventually going to get fed up and just do the first thing that comes to mind. Then we’re all screwed.

Now, I’m not saying SOPA is the answer (heh) – that piece of legislation can go do one, but maybe on the next idea (assuming it’s not Nazism brought forth to the digital age), there can be some actual compromise instead of “that’s not the answer”. Personally, I don’t think there’s ever going to be an answer that everyone likes, but the sad truth of the matter is that Piracy exists, it’s never going to go away, and so really the moral high-ground is (usually) more with the content makers than it is the content buyers. We should really come off our high horse and realise that consumerism is changing – just because we’ve paid for it doesn’t mean we own it outright. Not saying that’s an acceptable change, but hey, if the masses were really that upset something would have been done about it by now.

Back in December 2010 I believe I mentioned how I was tempted to jump back into World of Warcraft after the release of the Cataclysm expansion. Thankfully I managed to resist that impulse, but now I’m feeling the itch for another game, and this time I think I will end up succumbing. Yesterday, Strategy Informer posted its review for the Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO after our writer gave it an intensive three-week stint. He gave it a 9/10, and now I’m dangerously close to giving into impulse and buying it.

I’ll be honest, when Bioware first started doing those really cool trailers for The Old Republic, I was pumped. I mean who wouldn’t be? They were fricking cool trailers… but eventually, you calm down and you remember that there wasn’t any gameplay, and that it was all just marketing essentially. Then, as more and more hands-on previews were being released, not to mention my own limited experience. I started to get a little bit worried. I never thought it was going to be terrible, but at the time it wasn’t looking to be fantastic either – not to mention the fact that Dragon Age II proved that Bioware could, in fact, do wrong.

This is why our 9/10 surprised me. I’d been talking to some other writer-friends of mine about it, and they’d basically said it was good in the sense that it’s Bioware and they’re doing what they do best, but not great in terms of an MMO game. Essentially, the feedback I got was something like it was a Star Wars WoW – not a WoW clone per say, but it basically did nothing for the genre. This isn’t exactly a crime, or any reason to dismiss the game out of hand, but if you look at Guild Wars 2 and what that’s doing, it’s hard not to be a little bit disappointed by TOR‘s apparent traditionalism. The official meta-critic score though is currently sitting on 86/100, and that’s with barely a dozen sites – major or otherwise, having given their verdict. Granted, some like the review The Guardian posted after a couple of days are a bit ridiculous, but others have clearly been more thorough, and by all accounts this isn’t looking to be that bad after all.

So, coming back to my opening point – I’m feeling the itch to dive in once again.

One major piece of feedback that has stood is that this IS an MMO at the start of its life. End-game incentives and content doesn’t seem to be quite there yet, and there’s a couple of features that don’t seem to have been developed properly yet either. Plus there is the fact that it’s a subscription model MMO, and considering I either can’t or don’t want to log in all the time, I will end up wasting money at some point. Still, I’m a believer in supporting brands, even early on, so I could just buy it, play it for a bit and then come back when it’s been updated a bit more. The key thing is the social scene… I’ve never had much luck making friends in MMO, and none of my friends ever seem to play the MMO’s I play, and even if they do they’re never on when I am. This means I get bored very quickly as I miss out on the all the social stuff and to be honest, no matter how well you design an MMO with the solo player in mind, it always ends up getting soulless.

We’ll see – I need to go into town tomorrow on personal business, and there’s both a GAME and a Gamestation in town, so who knows what I may end up coming back with. Don’t worry, I won’t pick up the Collector’s Edition… not THAT interested, even if it is Star Wars.

Well, here we are then – I’m 24. Yay.

I view 24 as the first ‘official’ year of your adult post-uni life: 18-21/22 (depending on when your birthday is and if you took a gap year or not) don’t really count because you’re a student, and 23 is, well, 23. Whether you’re in a job or still wanting to enjoy the post-uni buzz, there’s something about 23 that makes things feel a bit like… limbo. You’re not a student, but you’re not quite a grown up yet either.

23/2011 (might as well deal with both in one go, since my birthday is so  close to the New Year) was an odd year for me. Career wise not a lot really happened – still Deputy Editor at Strategy Informer, and still the one who attends all the events, trips and social functions that require someone to go to. I’ve dabbled in doing bits and pieces for other people but to be honest I don’t often have the time to devote to proper freelancing, like features, and that’s excluding external issues like there being a lot of freelancers out there and not enough budget to go around. I barley have time to do features for my own site sometimes. Much of this is due to my ‘other’ job in Ad Sales. Not sure how much I’ve talked about this but I also sell the advertising space on strategy informer. I’ve been getting steadily better at it, but I’ve always felt I lack certain personality traits sales people usually have.

And If I’m being honest, I’m still struggling with issues like self-motivation, healthy eating and regular sleeping patterns, all side-affects of working from home.

Anyway – this brings me to my major goal for 24/2012: Career.

I’d like something to ‘happen’, career wise. Whether I help the site actually grow this year through marketing or content (It was pretty much status quo last year), or whether I move to a new posting somewhere, I think it’s time for some kind of change. A lot of this will be down to me bucking up my routine and attitude, but I’ve been at Strategy Informer in one position or another for nearly four years. It’s time really start looking at my career and where it’s heading.

The main thing is to keep the cash flow up. Worrying as it may be, the majority of my money comes from the commission I get on ad sales, so my success is directly tied into the success of the site and my performance in that area. If I do bad my content pay barely covers rent, let alone living expenses. It would be a bit demoralizing if, after a steady 6 months, things end up going downhill add I have to move back home again.

Moving out though was in itself a milestone – since it was the first time I’d been truly independent since leaving uni. I’m enjoying it immensely here in Canterbury, even if it means it’s slightly harder to get into London than I’d like (An hour commute, and no way of getting home past midnight). Have to say, the ‘other’ three people in the house are a bit of a dampener but they’re all nice people – I just realized pretty quickly that I was over the whole living with strangers kind of things. Current plan is for me and my best mate, who’s the fourth housemate, to move into a place of our own sometime next year with his girlfriend. Again, another reason to secure a decent cash flow by the summer.

Other than that, not a hell of a lot has happened this year: my trip to New York was a lot of fun, as was a subsequent trip to Stockholm (which I’m returning to at the end of the month) and I got given I giant tank. Maybe my year was more interesting and I just can’t remember – that’s happened before. Since I’ve neglected to do a dedicated New Year/ Resolutions post, might as well lump it in here by listing some more short-term goals:

* The Blog: I’ve been rather lax on the blog front lately – I need to rectify that as it’ll be good if I can get some kind of online presence outside of Strategy Informer.

* Sleeping patterns – I go on about this a lot, and I’m sure you all think I’m making excuses, but there you go. I have trouble keeping my sleeping habits in check, and I NEED to start working on this. It’s more about just making sure I get myself out of bed at the proper time in the mornings then going to bed at an appropriate time, but regardless it needs to happen.

* Health – Standard one about keeping in shape. In all fairness, I have taken up Tae-kwon-do again.

* Gaming – My ‘pile of shame’ is horrendous. Shameful, you might say. I must work on this, if for no other reason than I can blog about it. This was supposed to be a gaming blog, after all.

Hmm, I thought I’d come up with more goals and resolutions than that… oh well, it’s a good enough start. Now I’m going to go back to enjoying my birthday. You can send my presents to the following address…

Also, because I like mock inspirational posters: