Posts Tagged ‘Video game’

Its ok, I’m still alive. Just about. I think I left my keys somewhere… This is just a quick update to let you all know what I’m up to at the moment, as well as some musings on recent events I’ve been meaning to get around to. I say this a lot, but I want to pick up the pace on blog posts in the New Year, so hopefully they’ll be more communication from me in general.

First and fore-most – I’m buying a house! Go me! This is the main reason why I’ve been so busy recently. Buying a house is hard, don’t you know. Lots to take into account, and then there was that one time where we thought the house was going to collapse on us as soon as we bought it… but it’s all good now. Coupled with this will be the acquisition of Virgin Media and fibre optic broadband. I’m literally this much happy right now {________________}. This will help me greatly with something else I’m getting into:


I’ve been avoiding it for a while, but we can’t ignore that YouTube and Twitch represents the future of videogames coverage. That’s not to say the written word will die out – not at all, but to ignore these emerging mediums is to tempt fate. Or admit that you have so much money that you don’t really care. Since I’m a poor freelancer though, I’ve got to go where the action is. My meagre video-editing skills that I picked up at University have rusted to the point of, well, whatever a good joke about ‘rust’ is, but Twitch is something I reckon I can handle.

At the time of writing, I’ve only done a couple of streams. Still fiddling around with the settings to be honest, and getting used to the talking/playing thing. It’ll get better when I get my fibre optic anyway. Please do check it out if you get a chance!

Project Author

That’s not the actual name of the project, but it’s the public name. I’ll reveal the real name and more details at a later date. Some of you will know what this is about anyway, but essentially I’m writing my first novel. I’ve always, secretly, wanted to write a novel as I love reading and I like to think I have a fairly active imagination. I got into Journalism in the first place because I wanted to tell stories, essentially, but do so in a way that’s informative and actually useful. Then I realised that actually that was quite boring and so went into writing about games instead, but I always try to tell a bit of a story in my work. My desire to write an actual novel never waned, however.

I’ve been working on it for around four-five months now. I’d like to say I’m making progress, but as soon as I hit 25K words I suddenly realised I wanted to do something different, so I’m currently re-purposing as much as I can and then carrying on from there, but I plan to do a lot more over Christmas as I won’t have as much freelance work to do. I’ll probably share more details when it’s more complete, but for now I’ll just say I’m writing a Science-Fiction novel. Because Space.

How Videogames Change the World

A quick shout out to all my friends and acquaintances who were involved in the making and production of ‘How Videogames Change the World’, which aired last weekend on Channel 4. It’s a great program, and I hope to see more positive mainstream coverage on videogames. The Guardian’s Keith Stuart’s segment during the Minecraft entry about his kids was very heart-warming.

It wasn’t perfect however, although plenty of other people/sites have covered this already so I won’t go into it too much. Essentially though, the format of the show didn’t really fit the theme, as the format was actually a list of 25-influential games, and how they specifically influenced the world. The only problem with this though is that a list structure like that is actually a bit too rigid, and at times they went off on tangents that didn’t really fit in well with what they were trying to do. It also meant they couldn’t really deal with issues like women in games at much as maybe they would have liked to, but no matter.

It also gave off the false impression that the games were in some kind of order of importance, when actually they were just in chronological order. This problem really game to the fore though with the #1 entry, which was Twitter. Now… I know what they were doing, but it was a bit poor, in all honest. Regardless of what the list means, having sat through an hour and a half of really decent discourse on videogames, to then have Twitter as the last thing I saw left a bitter taste in my mouth. Although that could have been what I was drinking. Still, it was something that was too smug for its own good and trying to be clever, and it wasn’t needed. Other than that, fantastic show though.

That’ll do for now… the problem with writing for a living is that I find I only have so much creativity in me, and I find I use it all up when it comes to be writing a blog about something. And there’s twitter. It’s essentially the perfect Micro-blog platform, and I find that I’ll make a point on there far quicker and more effective than just writing about it here. And I hate repeating myself.



So, whilst pretty much everyone else in GAME was queuing up to get Grand Theft Auto V, I had a copy of ArmA III Deluxe Edition in my hand. It’s not that I didn’t want to get GTA V… I think tech wise it seems like a fantastic game, although from what I’ve heard about the characters and world you live in, I feel there could be a few things that put me off. Anyway – it’s £44.99 in GAME on the 360 and I can’t be bothered to bargain hunt, so I’m going to leave it a bit. If a PC version ever does surface, might go for that instead. I don’t really game on my console much at the moment.

Funny thing was – I already owned ArmA III. I was given an Alpha Key ages ago for coverage purposes and it’s been updating to the latest version as time has passed, so it’s full review code now. I don’t really have much history with the ArmA series in general. Even professionally, I think ArmA II was released before my time (or it was early days and so passed me by), and I never played them in my own time. I’ve reviewed the past two Operation Flashpoint games that Codemasters have put out, but we all know they don’t really count, given the direction Codies took that franchise. Still, I’d always been interested in the idea of ArmA, of an ultra-realistic military shooter, and the dynamics of online play associated with it. Like a lot of my gaming habits though, they’re driven by whether or not I’ve got friends to play them with, and I never did with this. It wasn’t until DayZ came along that I bought ArmA II and Operation Arrowhead to try it out. Because it was the ‘flavour of the month’ at the time, a lot of people I knew were playing it as well, so it was easy to get people to play with. Still never played ArmA ‘proper’ though.

So why buy ArmA III, then? Well, on some level I respect what Bohemia have been doing over the past couple of years, especially with the DayZ project, and so I guess I want to show them they’ve earned my money. Mainly though, I wanted it for the manual and the controls scheme layout that comes with it. ArmA III is such intense game as it is, trying to remember all the controls is a hassle I don’t really need. The engine improvements over the last game means that there’s no better time to jump into this series, especially with DayZ Standalone (Which uses a combination of the ArmA III engine + others) coming sometime next year.

Side Note: There is actually a project that’s ported the original DayZ mod into ArmA III, called ‘Zoombies’. I haven’t check it out yet, but you should. You still need ArmA II + OA installed for it to work, for some reason.

Haven’t played much of ArmA III to date so far… my last playthrough was a weird one… it was basically like the film Jarhead, except I did manage to kill one person, right at the beginning. Highlight was definitely the muppet who crashed the helicopter full of people.

I’ve been spending most of the day fiddling with Photoshop in order to make my ArmA III experience better. With the ‘Deluxe Edition’, you get a paper fold-out map of Atlis & Stratis. I’ve spent the morning scanning it into my computer and tweaking it a bit in Photoshop. Even thought I could always just get the paper version out, having a digital copy is also going to come in handy, as I have an app that’s a great mapping tool for stuff like his. I’m making it available to anyone who’s interested, as from what I can tell there’s no other decent maps of Atlis/Stratis available online at the moment. You can grab it from my personal DropBox here.


It’s also available on GamePlan, if you want to download either the free trial or the premium version of the app (iOS & Android). As you may remember, I dabbled in PR for a while representing this neat gaming app called GamePlan. For a quick refresh, it’s an app that lets you download high quality maps onto the device for planning and orientation, either pre, post or mid-game. It’s an amazing tool for games like DayZ, where you don’t start off with a map, and even when you do find one it can be easier sometimes to glance at a tablet or phone then it is to load up the map. Works quite well for RTS’s as well, if you want to plan how a game is going to go before hand or whatever. Sadly the app never took off (probably my fault), and the designer has moved on to more profitable things now, but it’s still available to purchase and it still works. Premium allows you to host a session that your friends can join, and you can make edits on the maps in real-time. Really cool stuff – it’s what I’m using as my ‘second screen’ experience while I play.

In the mean-time, I’ve discovered this quirky little title called Towns. It was £3.39 on Steam today and seems to be curious mix of Minecraft and Kairosoft’s Dungeon Village. Haven’t quite got the hang of it yet, but then the game isn’t quite finished yet either, I don’t think. Happy Sunday!


Go, obligatory New Year’s Post!

Bust seriously, It’s been an interesting year all round – moved house again (new place is awesome), got nominated for a GMA, and experienced one of the biggest lows I’ve experienced since I started this job. Not in terms of what’s been happening, but only in terms of income. My fellow self-employed freelancers will know the importance of regular work and invoicing etc… And sad to say the past couple of months haven’t been great for me, which leads me to my one and only resolution for 2013: Earn moar money.

Obviously, that means I just need to buck up my ideas and start trying to get more freelance work in more places. But I also have to be realistic – I’ve been doing this for nearly five years now, and I’ve always known that unless I was incredibly lucky and found one of the few well paying, full-time niches that this industry possesses, I’d have to move on. I’ve known many a journalist who have gone over to PR in the past few years, and 2013 could well be when I make the same move. I’ve had a good run, I’ve had my fun, but considering I do want to settle down and do the whole family thing I have to be earning the money to support that. If that means moving to Videogames PR (if possible) then so be it. It’s a decision I’ll be making straight away though. The tenancy on my current flat will run out in June: at that point, if things haven’t improved, I’ll be jumping ship.

Even though 2012 has had its ups and downs for me, it’s been a great year for gaming, especially PC gaming. For a couple years PC games have kind of fallen by the wayside, with only the niche sectors really keepings strong, but 2012 has seen a lot more excellent PC games come out of the woodwork – Minecraft has gotten better, and been brought to consoles. Crusaders Kings II, Planetside 2, DayZ, XCOM (which proved a tactical-strategy game CAN work on the console as well)… it’s clear that the console market needs new hardware, but at the very least the first and third party publishers have been trying to make the best of what they have. Meanwhile, PC gaming is still going strong, with Free-to-play and the indie scene throwing out some really interesting titles, I personally can’t wait to see what else is on the way.

I’ll leave it there for the moment, but I want to just wish everyone a happy new year, and here’s to 2013!

I’ve been doing this gig for over four years now, and I’ve still never given a game a 10/10, although I’ve come close several times. The most recent was XCOM: Enemy Unknown, 2K’s remake of the classic Alien Invasion series that 90’s PC gamers will remember with fondness. Being a ‘remake’, there was every possibility that 2K would mess up in some way; not quite capturing what was (and so not getting the old audience) and not quite enticing new audiences either.

Remakes can be a bit like movie tie-ins that way. But as preview builds and information started to get released, it soon became apparent that we may be onto a winner here. I was certainly excited; That’s not to say that I went into the review thinking “This is going to be 10/10″, but during the first few hours I was thinking “This could be the one”.

It’s an interesting emotional process – playing a game, being so full of hope and excitement (slightly unprofessional, but there you go) and then slowly but surely (as you take stock of the faults, bugs, annoyances etc…) realise that, actually, it’s probably not worth a 10 and we need to settle on some arbitrary number that basically translates into “Good, but with the odd issue”. It’s one of the things that’s annoying, from a reviewers point of view. Really good games are easy to score; really bad games are easy to score. Games that are highly subjective or have issues that may or may not annoy others though? Nightmare. You’ve probably heard this from others, hell, you may have even said it yourself, but the numbered rating system really is a bit naff. But hey, I got over it; I always do. You just have to soldier one in these instances, pick a score that seems about right and just make sure your words are spot on.

XCOM really is a cracking game though, even on the console. I’d argue actually that it’s probably slightly ‘better’ on the console, only in the sense that a PC version of XCOM could do so much more than what was actually done. Strategy games and Consoles haven’t always had the easiest of relationships (EndWar, Y U NO get sequel!?), but XCOM is the best console-strategy & management experience I’ve ever had. The controls, the presentation, the interface… everything just works, and works really well. It’s a shame really that it wasn’t as polished as it could have been.

Don’t get me wrong, the PC version is good – visuals are better, you get more customizations options with your troops which is quite nice (only if you buy new though), but there’s nothing else really to it, and a PC-only version of XCOM could do a lot more – just look at the originals. I know, the lower visuals on the originals meant that a hell of a lot more depth could be achieved, but I can’t help but think a lot more could have transferred over if console limitations weren’t also being considered (although it could have just been a question of time and resources as well). The same bugs and issues plague the PC version as well, and then there were some basic design decisions that spoil the game sometimes. You can read more about it in my review if you really want.

But yeah – you should really consider getting XCOM. Dishonored was the other great game to launch recently, and I hear good things about that as well although to be honest the whole Steampunk thing doesn’t really grab me. I’m a sci-fi boy all the way. If you can afford them both, do, although Christmas is not too far away.

DayZ 101

Posted: August 31, 2012 in Gaming
Tags: , , , , , , ,

So, you’ve decided to give DayZ a try. Maybe you read about it on the interwebs, maybe someone told you about it, maybe you discovered it on your own. Either way – congratulations: You’re about to embark on a wonderful journey, filled with excitement, heart-ache, tension, and the possible erosion of your soul. To help prepare you for what is to come, here are some quick tips I’ve jotted down based entirely on my own experiences as a survivor.

* Wait for the Standalone – Yeah, I was actually supposed to write this up weeks ago, but you know… stuff happened. Now that Bohemia is throwing their full weight behind DayZ with its own stand-alone version, you might as well wait for that to come out. Getting the current version involves you having to buy ArmA II first, along with the Operation Arrowhead expansion at least, which isn’t cheap. The stand-alone is adopting the Minecraft Business Model (releasing it as an alpha that you buy into, but really cheap, and then as it gets better it gets more expensive to buy in), and a first build is expected as early as this winter, so you may not have that long to wait. Still, if you want to get stuck in now…

* Play with friends – maybe you’re one of those gamers who are actually very good doing something Solo. If you are, good for you, but for everyone else, bring a mate into this game. It will try your patience, it will piss you off, it will make you want to cry and it will make you laugh and smile like nothing else. All of this is x100 better/bearable if you have a friend. Also, don’t use the in-game chat, use Skype or something.

* Avoid other players you don’t know – This is fairly self-explanatory. You never know, you may find a nice guy once in a while, but even I randomly killed some dude because I wanted to show my housemates what it was like. DayZ makes Dicks of us all.

* Choose Male – when you first start a new character you’ll be asked which gender to choose, Male or Female. Not that we have anything against girls, but for some reason Female avatars can’t wear Ghillie suits, which is one of the coolest things in the game. It’s a technical thing, rather than any bias on behalf of the developer, but it’s something to bear in mind.

* Look at the bottom corner – as soon as you spawn, look to the bottom right (or is it left?) of the screen. It will flash up with three lines of text. The first line always says ‘Chernarus’, as that’s the name of the whole map. The second line will be the closest notable landmark to you, and the third line will say ‘Day n’. If you’re a new spawn, it will say ‘0’ but if you’ve been around a while it will have however long you’ve been alive. With that information to hand, do this…

* Out-of-game Map – you’ll need an out of game map to help find your way around. Personally, I use DayZDB’s map, but there are several over the internet. Alternatively, you could download the GamePlan app to your phone or tablet device, and then download the DayZ maps we have there and then use your device as a personal DayZ map reader. Either way, once you have a map, use the nearest landmark location and information about your surroundings to find out where you are. Everyone spawns at the beach with a new character, but here’s my process:

Is the landmark to the left or to the right of you? (New players may not be able to figure this one out) Does the train track or the road come first when you walk inland? How much woodland is around you? What does the shoreline look like? Any bridges? Any other buildings or points of interest? Use all this information and you should be able to pinpoint your general area, or at least enough to know where to go from there, as your immediate location’s topography will actually be fairly unique to your situation.

For example: I’ve spawned on the beach, there is the railroad first, then the road. There’s a bridge to my left, I can see a town in the distance and there’s not any woodland directly in front of me. Nearest landmark is ‘Kamenka’, and the shoreline comes in a bit narrow. I can conclude then that I am in the area to the left of Kamenka, right by the bridge.

* Secure some food and water – This is easier said than done, and is basically dependant on where you spawn and what the spawn loots are like. Even the most dogged vet can get screwed over by a bad spawn. Essentially though, you’ll want to go to the nearest town, and crawl into all the open buildings you can find. You’ll want at least 1-2 cans of drink and one can of food before you consider doing anything else.

PRO TIP: Not all buildings can be entered in DayZ, and even if you’re using a map, some of the smaller buildings that the map says are enterable may end up not being enterable at all. Here’s a quick simple rule: If the door isn’t already open, and you can’t see in through the windows, its 9/10 not a building you can go into. That being said, some buildings have loot spawns that are on the ground next to them, or only part of the building can be entered. Again, you will learn these things over time.

* Eyes & Ears – the ‘Eye’ and the ‘Ear’ symbol to the right are the two most important symbols in the game. Even more important than your food/water/health meter, I would say. When you move or do actions, bars appear next to them to denote how loud you are being (Ear) and how visible you are (Eyes). The more bars the worse it is, and the more likely you’re going to be spotted by a zombie. Learn how to move through the different types of terrain in DayZ, and combine that with the knowledge you accumulate on zombies and how they react. NOTE: generally, lying prone and not moving gives no Ears and no Eyes, but some terrain in towns you always have at least one ‘Eye’, so you have to be careful if a zombie gets too close. That being said…

* Crawl – To begin with, crawl every time you get close to a town or anywhere where there are basically zombies. The zombies aren’t infallible – they do glitch, it IS possible to lose them and they are coded with certain limits in terms of how far they can see and hear. The more you play, you more you learn these limits and the faster you can make your way through infested areas, but do bear in mind that this IS an alpha. Shit goes wrong sometimes. Eventually you’ll learn how close you can get before you need to start crawling.

PRO TIP: If you get aggro’d just run for it. The key thing to breaking Zombie Aggro is to get a head start, and then you need to break line-of-sight and immediately go prone and stay still. Zombies can get stuck by walls, fences etc… and can only walk up hill or inside buildings. Use these to your advantage and it’s not the end of the world. Alternatively, if you have a weapon, go into a building and then pick them off one by one as the shuffle inside… although using a loud weapon will just attract more zombies. On that note:

* DON’T USE LOUD WEAPONS – There are lots of cool guns in the game, which you can find at the military spawns (although some of the rifles and shotgun can be found in farms). Don’t use any of them seriously. Zombies can hear gunshots from a ridiculous distance, and if you keep shooting shit up, you’re eventually just going to attract other players who will then shoot you in the face. Try and find a silent weapon before you go tearing the place up, but if you have to open up, don’t stick around.

* Accept that you will. A lotDayZ involves a lot of walking and running places, and then dyeing very quickly without having actually done anything. Don’t worry, that’s normal… once you get into the swing of things, find out what works and what doesn’t, and find a rhythm of keeping yourself fed and watered, you’ll start getting into the swing of things. Funnily enough, going around killing loads of zombies is rarely a good idea, and will eventually get you killed one way or another. DayZ is about SURVIVING. Try it.

Servers Decoded

Choosing your server is almost part of the game process itself, as so many private servers tweak certain settings at while. Your first server especially is important, so here are some tips:

Population – The lower the population, the less chance of you running into someone who’s more likely than not just going to shoot you in the face anyway. Big loot areas like Cherno, Elektro, the Airfields etc… attract PvP gamers like nobody’s business, so going to those areas on a populated server is a big risk. Sure, if you’ve been playing the game for a while and desire a challenge, pick a high pop one, but for the newcomer, go low.

UK/US/NL etc… – Obviously these denote the location of the servers, and possibly what language they speak. To be honest, all you need to worry about is ping. If you’re in the UK, for example, you could quite easily go to UK or Netherlands or German servers, and not suffer too much. As mentioned above, I wouldn’t bother

vx.x.x.x/xxxxx – The server version isn’t terribly important, but if you want to minimise potential issues, pay attention. Different servers will run different version, and it’s always good to try and find out what the most up to date version is (that’s no in beta), and stick to servers that are running that. Servers running beta version will either be locked, and/or have BETA xxxxx

REG|VET – This merely denotes the ‘difficulty’ of the server, but as far as I can tell it doesn’t have that much impact on actual gameplay. Things like using the in-game are effected, as you won’t be able to see where you are on VET, but to be honest anything else isn’t really noticeable.

CH: ON/OFF 3D: ON/OFF – This basically denotes whether that server has crosshairs and third-person view enabled. Third person-view I’d say is pretty essential unless you want to be REALLY hardcore, but you don’t have to worry so much about crosshairs, as you’ll want to be firing in first person anyway and you can always use iron sights.

Feel free to submit your own tips if you think I’ve missed anything, I’ll probably update this as I got along anyway.

Ok, so I may or may not have just placed a pre-order for Halo 4 on With 343 taking the helm, there’s a lot to be apprehensive about when it comes to this new ‘Reclaimer’ trilogy which Microsoft are pushing, and whilst I believe that they’ll probably be good games, whether they strike a chord with gamers like myself who remember the Bungie games fondly is another matter entirely.

I wasn’t going to pre-order initially, but looking at what’s in the special edition there’s actually quite a lot of good stuff there, you should check it out. ShopTo is my current go-to place for games at the moment. They were pretty good at getting me a Mass Effect 3 copy to me on launch after GAME couldn’t honour my pre-order, and they got Darksiders to me pretty sharpish as well.

Thinking about it, and especially after having a chat with another writer for a project of his a couple of weeks ago, I reminded myself of the impact that this franchise- and especially Combat Evolved – has had in terms of my personal history as a gamer. It’s the game that really switched me on in terms of the Xbox, it’s the game that really got me into First-Person Shooters, and in terms of memories and moments, it’s the game that I’ve have the most fondest memories of. That’s not to say of the massive impact I personally believe the franchise has had on gaming – Halo 2 and Xbox Live in my mind completely revolutionised the industry’s attitude towards online gaming and multiplayer, and Combat Evolved help put the first Xbox on the map, despite not initially being considered as a poster child for the console (there’s a great four part series of articles done by Patrick Garret over on VG247 that you definitely need to read).

Anyway – long story short – Halo 4 gets the benefit of the doubt for the moment. From recent experiences, I can’t help but feel that in situations like these it’s dangerous to put your trust and faith into something without having really seen anything beforehand. There’s a lot riding on Halo 4 being good, not only because Microsoft wants to keep their golden boy making money, but 343 themselves have to prove that they can do it without Bungie. It’s almost like the Treyarch/Infinity Ward divide, and I hope 343 don’t change too much for the sake of making the franchise their own.

Couple of things that have me concerned though at the moment:

* The new ‘Spartan IV’s’ – how they are going to fit in lore-wise it going to be something I’m going to pay attention to, since to be honest Halo: Reach and the official acknowledgement of the Spartan III’s, was handled rather cack-handedly I feel in terms of the official timeline (I’m a bit of a lore buff, what can I say) – it was like Star Wars all over again. I don’t see how the universe allows for the existence of a fourth generation of Spartan soldiers, but there you go. Mind you, from what’s available so far, the Spartan IV thing seems only to exist to allow for a plausible plot reason for multiplayer to exist. Unnecessary I feel but fair enough.

* Halo 4 is apparently relying a lot more on trans-media to help promote and tell its story, in a way. The Forerunner Trilogy of novels is supposed to have considerable relevance to Halo 4’s story, and Karen Travis’ Glasslands’ novel is as well. I have mixed feelings about this as I rather resented Mass Effect 3 for bringing in someone from the novels to be part of the story of the game, although in principle it’s not so bad I guess. Problem is, I’m rather disappointed by Travis as an author, not only because when I met her in person she seemed rather soulless for someone dealing with IP-fiction, but also reading reviews of Glasslands’ it doesn’t sound like I’ll like what she’s done with the story post-Ghost of Onyx. Plus I wasn’t that impressed with her work on Gears of War 3 either, but that’s different.

I don’t want to sound too negative before I’ve even seen the game though. Even though I care about lore and story and continuity more than I probably should, it didn’t completely stop me from enjoying Reach, and it won’t stop me enjoying Halo 4 either. If this doesn’t work out though, then that’ll probably be it in terms of investing in aHalogame beforehand.

What was that? Diablo III? I have no idea what you’re talking about:

Diablo III, Collectors Edition

Diablo III

It’s well good by the way Sian.