Posts Tagged ‘Videogames’

2014 was the year I gave up on my Xbox 360. I’ve enjoyed owning it, and it’s given me some great memories, but over the last 12 months or so I’ve been throwing myself more and more into PC Gaming. My favourite genre has its home here, there’s been a lot more genuinely innovative games here thanks to the rise of self-publishing, and with the announcement of the Steam Machine late last year… I was ready to give up on the home consoles for good.

I didn’t mean to completely go cold turkey, mind. My pile of shame is shameful indeed, and half of the reason me and the missus bought a 50″ TV was so that we could get a visual treat whilst playing on our consoles. For some reason though, I haven’t touched my 360 for gaming purposes since I moved here last December. Haven’t touched my PS3 either but then the PS3 is something I’ve always almost regretted buying, mainly because I never use it much. The 360 was my favourite console of the last generation, but now that the ‘New’ generation is here, as a 360 owner I don’t feel satisfied anymore. All of the ‘cool’ projects are going to be new-gen from now on. At the very least they will be cross-generational, but I firmly believe buying a cross-gen game for the weaker generation is even more pointless than upgrading to the new generation (it’s looking like things will get better, judging by this year’s E3, but I’ll talk about that in another post).

That only really leaves the odd smattering of games that are still being targeted for the last generation, mainly because the install-base is there and proven, while the new generation don’t quite have the numbers yet to keep everyone happy. You’ve got Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel I guess, but I’ve got Borderlands 2 if I really want my fix for that. GTA V is something I’d rather buy on the PC (now that I know it’s coming), same with AC4, which is a cross-gen title anyway. All in all, I’m left with my existing library but I never really feel inclined to dip into it, so I don’t. Everything I *really* want, I own, and I can’t bring myself to spend the money on speculative purchases anymore when I have so many games already.

In February, I received an email from Xbox Support telling me my card details were incorrect, and that my automatic Xbox Live Subscription Renewal might fail. I didn’t feel inclined to rectify the issue, and I resigned myself to losing the only thing I really enjoy doing on my Xbox towards the end, which is playing multiplayer with my friends. Mainly Battlefield 3. That was four months ago, and all I’ve really done is play on my PC and twiddle my thumbs waiting for more Steam Machine news. Looks like I’ll have to wait until next year now, which is annoying, but what can you do.

Then I lost my Xbox 360 headset.

Well, firstly my best friend said he wanted to start playing Battlefield 3 again, then I realised I’d lost my headset when I went looking for it. Another friend of mine just got a 360 again (long story), so we’re going to surgically insert a copy of Battlefield 3 into his machine. To top it off, looking through my bank statements (for a different reason), I suddenly realised that my renewal payment HAD worked. My annoyance at losing out on 3 month’s worth of Xbox Live time, and free games, was quickly replaced by weird sense of joy and nostalgia as I realised maybe it was time to dust the ol’ gal off and take her for a spin once more.

Of course, I still had no headset, so I made what I suspect will be my last investment in my Xbox 360, and bought a new one.

Actually, I bought a ‘GioTeck Elite Essentials Kit’ for the Xbox 360 from Tesco. It came with a new headset, a HDMI cable AND a rechargeable Battery pack with charger cable. My last Charger cable broke years ago, so this was appreciated – all for £15! In contrast, headsets alone for the Xbox One were retailing for £50 – 80, depending on what type you got. Another reason I’m not adopting new-gen now (if ever) – the pricing of everything.

So, for now, my 360 has been given a breath of fresh air. Will be on Battlefield 3 tonight, and who knows? Might even start looking at some of the other games I’ve got lying around as well. I spend too much time on my PC as it is, so perhaps doing something different for a bit will be healthy. But if I still need my XBL Subscription come February next year, I’ll be surprised. Eventually, it’ll have to go in its box for the last time. What I’ll do with it, I don’t know… I still have my GameCube and my N64 in our loft, but then again I might just trade it in. My missus has a 360 as well, so we don’t really need to keep both, at the end of the day.

Hello, old friend. It’s been a long time.

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Hello!

This is just a quick update for anyone who’s interested on my job situation. It’s fairly straight forward, but I know my circumstances has seemed a little confusing in the past, especially considering my ‘official’ move to freelancing back in 2012. Anyway, here we go:

* As of this week, I’m no longer Marketing Manager for Strategy Informer. You could think of this as a ‘contractor’-like set-up, as even though I used that title (because it was simple), I wasn’t really ’employed’ by the company because it made dealing with the HMRC more straightforward. But role has run its course now. If you’ve ever dealt with me in a capacity related to ad-sales or marketing, I’m afraid I’m no longer your point of contact. Please email Kres@strategyinformer.com and he’ll sort you out.

* I’m also, unfortunately, not going to be doing any freelance writing work for Strategy Informer in the foreseeable future. If you’ve thought of me as the ‘strategy-guy’ for Strategy Informer, or as someone who you’d generally like to see do coverage of games for that outlet, I’m afraid I can’t help you any longer. Please contact Jamie@strategyinformer.com from now on.

Moving forward

So, from today, I’m officially ‘back’ on the Job market, in the sense that I’m more actively seeking more work. I know I’ve been freelancing officially for a couple years now, but that tailed off slightly over the last 6 months or so as I got more involved in a specific project for Strategy Informer. With that work complete, I’m now ready to move on to bigger and better things.

I’ll be contacting editors again over the next week or two, trying to be more active in my dialogue with you guys, but if you want to get in touch with me my contact details are below. I’m still going to try and keep freelancing, but I’d also happily consider a more stable job. I have a mortgage to look after now, after all.

Things I Can Do

You can see my full CV on the ‘Employment‘ Page, but here are some things I’m confident I can do for you:

* Write.
* Sell your webspace to people.
* Podcasting, Streaming and more of this new fangled stuff (I have a guy).
* Events – I’m close enough to London that I can attend events if you need someone. I can be your guy.
* Think – I’m actually very good at thinking. On a serious note, I have been asked to creatively consult before (Creative Consulting is a thing).

Contact Details

You can get in touch with me through various means:

Email: joe@just-communication.co.uk
Twitter: @DigitalXentric
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pub/joe-robinson/20/8ab/394

I sometimes feel I’m a man(child) of two worlds – born in ’88, I did most of my growing up in the 90’s before the internet and the digital space *really* took off. Because my Mum didn’t really see the point in the World Wide Web at the time (all I did was look up Porn), we didn’t get Broadband until the Phone companies had decided it was the future and aggressively priced separate broadband deals to be very attractive. Also, I begged a lot. Anyway, the point is I like to think I grew up with an appreciation of both ‘traditional’ media – books, CD’s DVD’s etc., as well as the emergence of digital/cloud/whatever content. Watching various industries deal with ‘teh interwebs’, even tech-grounded ones like videogames, is quite fascinating as a result.

I got distracted again today by a couple of tweets from John Scalzi – a sci-fi author whose work I really enjoy – and it got me looking at articles and posts about Author Salaries, Publishing vs. Self-Publishing and all that jazz. I’m trying not to do too much, as the more I read the more uncertain I become and I really need to get a first draft of Project Author finished before I even think about looking into how and where I’m going to sell it. Still, this one particular article interested me, mainly because of the parallels I can draw with the videogames industry.

In his ‘7K report‘, Hugh Howey tries to use what little data he has to draw some conclusions about Ebooks, their impact on the book industry, and what authors may or may not be earning through self-publishing as opposed to ‘traditional’ publishing houses. Obviously, the data he has access to is limited, and so he can only deduce so much. It’s not so much that bit of article that had me interested (even though it IS useful information to read), but it’s the fact that the Book Industry is also struggling with trying to fathom just how impactful the digital space really is. I’d like to think we’re over that particular hump now on the videogames side of things – everyone has realised that no, PC Gaming isn’t dying and Steam really is a force to be reckoned with, and even outlets like MCV have tried to provide concrete data on digital sales, to give a more accurate picture on how well our industry is doing.

Book publishing still seems to be struggling with this still, with no-one seeming to know what’s really going on. Obviously, the two industries are completely different, so there are certain things you could look too – there’s no equivalent of ‘Steam’, for example (as much as Amazon like to think they are, I guess), there’s been no break-out success like Minecraft or anything to point to how good self-publishing/digital can be, and then of course there’s the whole ‘DLC’ thing which has allowed traditional publishers to have the best of both worlds.

I can’t help but wonder why there seems to be resistance to digital ebooks – it’s well documented how much money is spent on publishing even a single book, an eliminating the physical book part of that would help a lot – it would also help authors get better deals.

As I mentioned last time, this is what is making me hesitate from going into traditional publishing. I know why the rates are what they are, I can respect it, but it doesn’t mean I like it. I’d rather go back to them later down the line with some stats and some gravitas behind me, so that I’ve earned a better deal.

I’m also going to make a vow (Again) to blog more, as if this author malarkey stuff is going to work, I need to develop a bigger audience and voice. We’ll see how well it goes this time.

So, you want to build a Roman Onagertm? Tired of not being able to get through that small pile of wood on the way to the shop? Sick of being terrorised by sandcastles that choke the beach? Want to show the guys in the office who’s really boss? Well today is your lucky day!

Following my easy 17-step guide, you could be in possession of one of the fiercest siege weapons of the Roman era. Rome may have not been built in a day, but it could’ve been torn down again just as quick thanks to this wonderful piece of engineering. Now you can bask in the glory, knowing that anyone who crosses you will get a pathetically small stone in the face.

Prepare yourself:

Step 1: Pre-Order the Collector’s Edition of Total War: Rome II, by Creative Assembly. It retails at about £109.99. If you didn’t pre-order the game, build a time machine and go back in time, so you can pre-order it.

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Step 2: Have an argument with your girlfriend about how you spent £110 on a videogame. You won’t win, but there’s nothing she can really do about it now, is there?

Step 3: Open the box containing the Authentic Roman Onager(tm), and spread out the pieces, revelling in the task that is before you.

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Step 4: Realise that you can’t see any instructions, then begin a frantic search for them. Scratching your head and fiddling with your beard is advisable. If you don’t have a beard – grow one, and then return to this step.

Step 5: Sigh in relief as you realise they were actually stored under the cardboard holders that held the collector’s edition’s bits and bobs. Make a mental note to play a game of Tabula later, using the game board that appears to line the inside of the case.

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Step 6: Stop your girlfriend, who in the intervening time between Step’s 3 and 6, has proclaimed that she doesn’t need instructions and has been trying to assemble it without you.

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Step 7: Lay out the Catapult Frame. Pulling the centre rope tight, insert the front and rear cross member’s, making sure the rear cross member has the indent facing towards the sky/ceiling/you. The throwing ‘spoon’ is meant to rest in the indent later.

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Step 8: Insert the upper posts, and then insert the upper post cross member into the slots. It should fit flush. If not, you used a wrong piece in step 7. Give up on life and just walk away.

Step 9: Take a moment to consider whether or not you should be using glue, as there appears to be a sizable amount but so far no indication as to when it’s used. Ultimately decide against it, and carry on.

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Step 10: Insert the support posts. They will form a triangle between the upper posts and the ‘rear’ of the frame. They may be a bit loose, so feel free to use some of the afore mentioned glue.

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Step 11: Insert the Axle through the left hand hole in the front of the frame. Make sure the latch is pushed up so that it doesn’t impede penetration. In the other hole you can slide in the wooden cover, which looks like a small wooden cup. Put some glue on the inside so that it will secure the other end of the axel to it. The Axle must still be able to rotate freely, even when fully inserted.

Note: The other end of the Axle, as in, the one not being glued to the wooden cover, has a metal cog on it. That’s meant to interact with the latch. Later, when you’re winding back the throwing arm, it’s meant to prevent the axle from releasing the tension too early. Have a little play and make sure it works. If you accidentally break the cog off, it should fit back on, and you can always use the glue.

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Step 12: Prevent girlfriend from putting the rope in the wrong way.

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Step 13: Insert Catapult release rope through the axle centre hole. Tie a not at the end that will secure the rope to the axel. Make sure it’s not the weird metal claw-thing on it.

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Step 14: Now for the fun part. The centre rope that’s on the catapult frame should have six strings in it. Separate them in half, and slide the lower end of the ‘spoon’ or ‘throwing arm’ through them. Be careful not to slide too much through, the spoon needs to be able to move without scraping the floor.

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Step 15: The spoon should hold in place, resting in the indent of the lower cross member. If it doesn’t, get someone to hold it. Either way, turn both the left and right metal wheels on the outside of the frame, simultaneously, to increase rope tension. The more you turn, the tighter the two rope clusters should get and the spoon should lift up so that it’s pushing against the upper crossmember. Turn the metal wheels until you can’t anymore, although don’t go crazy – you might tear the ropes.

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Step 16: Grab the metal thing at the other end of the axle rope, and hook it on the top edge of the spoon. Find the little metal rod, and insert it into one of the axle’s other holes, to the side of the main one. Start twisting the axle away from the spoon; this will retract the spoon gradually, with the metal cog on the side stopping the spoon from releasing too early. Rinse and repeat until the spoon is once again resting on the axle.

Note: It’s just as quick to use your hands and rotate the axle manually, instead of using the metal thing. Be careful not to damage the axle cog or accidentally rip it from the wooden cover.

Step 17: Your catapult should now be ready to fire. Put something in it, aim it at your girlfriend while she isn’t looking, and pull on the secondary rope. This will release the metal claw, allowing the spoon to whack forward and fire its payload. Be slightly disappointed at the results – it’s really not that powerful. Contemplate the fact that you spent £110 on this crap, and that the game itself wasn’t as good as it should have been. Pray that the rest of it is better.

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Congratulations! You’ve now assembled yourself a fully working (scaled) Roman Onagertm! You’re now ready to besiege a small sandcastle, and perhaps terrorise the person sitting next to you in the office. Maybe. No refunds.

Serious Business: In all honesty, it’s not a bad CE, all things considered. I still question whether it’s worth £109.99, but the Onager is pretty cool, and makes a great desk ornament. You also get a cloth map of the game-world, and a set of engraved wooden tokens & dice. This can be used to play Tabula, which is an ancient Roman version of Back-Gammon, apparently, (The inside of the box acts as the board), or Tesserae, which is a bit like that game in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. You also get a two-player card game called The Punic Wars, which is actually pretty fun to play. As for the game itself… well, they’re already on Patch 1.2, it’s getting better bit by bit, and I have faith that it’ll get there in the end. I’m also quite looking forward to what they do with their DLC plan. Apologies for not having posted in so long! Also, in case it wasn’t clear – I did get this CE myself, with my own money. It wasn’t a freebie.

English: Logo of Gamescom

 

It’s that time again folks: The time where we all pack our bags, hop on a plane to the continent, and enjoy all the sausage and beer for a few days. Oh and there might be something to do with videogames there as well, can’t remember.

I genuinely think GamesCom is my favourite time of the year… I still want to do E3 once; just so I can say I have, but I’m so rooted in the European games market (and the PC market) that GamesCom is far more relevant to me as a professional and as a person. The Germans are all so nice as well.

I’ve officially been a Freelancer now for well over a year, although this year’s GamesCom is going to be the first that I’ll be opening myself up for genuine freelance commissions. I’ll promote this on twitter, but I find directly appealing to followers about this kind of stuff a bit… tacky? Inappropriate? I don’t know – no offence to anyone who likes soliciting via twitter, it just makes me uncomfortable. Anyway, here’s the deal:

GamesCom 2013 Freelance Pitch

As I enter my sixth year in this business, this will also be my sixth year going to GamesCom – I know the show very well, how it works, the set-up etc… And I’m also on good terms with many of the PR’s, so getting appointments shouldn’t be a problem. I’m professional, I’m good with deadlines, and I’m used to the post-Com grind, so I’ll be able to keep up with the workload. I shall be at GamesCom from Monday 19th August through to Sunday 25th. Typically, some companies like holding external events on the Tuesday, but for the most part the focus will be on business centre appointments on the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Sometimes Saturday too but that’s become increasingly rare in recent years.

I am available for PAID Freelance Work during GamesCom 2013. This includes:

* Appointments: If you want to book me into something, or if you want me to try and get an appointment on your behalf I will, and you’ll get any coverage that comes from it. (Previews & Interviews) Caveat: I’m not going to be booking appointments off my own back without a commission first.

* Hands-On: Depending on the release schedule, they’ll be many opportunities in the consumer areas for limited hands-on time with upcoming games. If you want some hands-on impressions of something, let me know.

* Features: General or specific features surrounding any topic.

* Podcasts, Videos etc… If you make a podcast, video blog etc… And you need an extra voice or anything like that, (especially if I’ve managed to get in and see something that you haven’t yet), extra pair of hands etc… Then I’d be happy to do a guest spot. It’s not that I think I’m another Pachter or anything, but hey, I like talking about games, and I know how to speak on multimedia.

* Anything else you can think of.

ALL RATES, ARTICLE SPECIFICS (LIKE WORD COUNT), DEADLINES ETC… WILL BE NEGOTIATED ON A CASE BY CASE BASIS.

If you are interested in hiring me, please do not hesitate to get in touch:

Email: joe@just-communication.co.uk
Phone: +44 7879640305
Skype: joeruk88
Twitter: @DigitalXentric

 

Today I’m going to talk to you about Grand-Strategy games. I like Grand-Strategy games. Typically they can be lighter on things like graphics and visuals, but they possess so much depth and potential options that it provides a nice counter-balance. Plus as someone with an active imagination, I also get a kick out of visualising events in my head anyway. One of the leaders in grand-strategy is a company called Paradox Interactive, and they’ve got several key franchises, each focusing on a different theme. Hearts of Iron for warfare, Victoria for Economy, Crusader Kings focuses on the human aspect of ruling a kingdom and politics, and Europa Universalis is blend of everything.

I went to see them in Iceland recently, and they’ve got a lot of great titles in their line-up for these games – expansions for Victoria 2 and Crusader Kings II, Europa Universalis IV, March of the Eagles, a Hearts of Iron spin-off called East vs. West (Which looks amazing). You’ll be able to see my coverage of these games dotted around the place, mainly on Strategy Informer, but it’s caused me to have a bit of a relapse into some of the older games – especially Victoria 2.

Victoria 2 is in itself a bit of a paradox – essentially it’s a game that focuses on the industrial revolution, so the economy system is very robust. You have a detailed population interface, with everyone having different jobs and you have to make sure you provide for all their needs. You can open different types of factories, which all require different types of resources that you can either find from within your nation or export from elsewhere. This is backed up by a very hands-on political system, where you have different parties and philosophies that your people with vote on (some political parties, for example, won’t let you build your own factories, letting the private investors do it for you). There’s also the diplomatic stage, where you compete with other great powers to draw minor nations into your sphere of influence, which gives you priority over trade. Essentially, they didn’t want this game to be a wargame, like the previous title they release – Hearts of Iron III.

The funny thing is though, as the name suggest, the game is set within the backdrop of the late 19th century colonial era. The scramble for Africa is accurately represented through a colonisation interface, there are the eastern nations you can interact with, and there were a lot of wars during this period. The 1871 Franco-Prussian War, the Prussian-Austrian War, the Zulu war in South Africa… the game’s time span stretches all the way to 1935, so you’ve got the First World War in there as well. None of these events are prescribed in the game – there are tools and systems in place for such events to happen. It’s strange then that they’d focus the game so much on economy, during a time where there was a fair share of fighting. And it’s not like you can sit back and avoid the fighting either. In order to be a great power, you need to have high prestige, a good industry, and a large army, and an easy way to get prestige is to fight wars. The military side of things though is rather tame – you can build three different types of units – Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery, and there are several variations you can get as you climb up the tech tree. (Tanks and Aeroplanes do appear very late in the game as well, although they don’t fit quite as neatly.)

Armies can be controlled by generals, and there are plenty of military techs you can research to make your military more efficient, but when it comes down to it a war is all about making sure your army stack is bigger than the other guys… like how Civilization used to be. At the time, it was a bit of a let down from the wonderful deep combat systems of Hearts of Iron III, and now, playing through it again, I can’t help but think it’d benefit loads from the developments made in March of the Eagles.

What I so like about Victoria 2 though is the long-term goals you can achieve. Crusader Kings II is good for this as well, in a way, as you can form De Jure Kingdoms and Empires eventually if you conquer/vassalise the right people. Victoria 2 has similar system in place for certain countries. Choose any of the Italian states, for example, and provided you can reach Great Power status you can work on bringing the rest into your sphere of influence (or just out-right conquer them), and then form the nation of Italy. Play as either Austria or Prussia (or any of the other German states, I think, although it’s much harder with them), and you can initially form the South or North German Confederation respectively, and then go on to create the German Empire. Austria also has the option to become Austria-Hungary, as it did in history. There are other ones as well for other key nations, some interesting, some not… Denmark or Sweden, for example can form an a-historical ‘Scandinavian’ nation, which I did once, although since the expansion it’s harder as you essentially have to fight Prussia for a particular territory, and you have to work really hard or get some powerful friends to become stronger than Sweden.

In my current play-through, I played as Prussia, with the eventual aim of forming Germany (going through a bit of a Germanic phase right now). The first step – forming the North German Confederation – is the easy part (relatively). You start with most of the key states under your sphere of influence; you only need to fight Austria (and maybe Denmark) for the rest. Provided you get your act together quickly enough, you can attack Austria before they have any chance of forming any decent alliances, and boom, North German Confederation. The hard part was forming Germany though, as the last few key provinces I needed were held by France, who is typically stronger than you, and in my game by the time I got around to looking their way, they had several key alliances which meant I would be fighting a war on multiple fronts. To my shame, I played a game where every so often, I’d start the war to see who joined which side (we shared several allies), and even play it out a bit to see how easy it would be… it didn’t work I, I reloaded to a save I made just before I declared war. Took a couple of goes and some more diplomatic shenanigans before I found a scenario that was favourable.

The ‘Great War’ of 1900-1905 (eventually, wars that contain multiple great powers are called ‘Great Wars’ in the game, to simulate the First World War)  was North German Confederation and my lackeys, Italy, Great Britain and perhaps a couple of others, versus France, Luxembourg, Belgium and Russia. It was the best chance I was going to get, and experience through fighting out the previous attempts gave me ideas to keep the Russians pinned on that front, allowing me to fully concentrate on the French. Essentially, the war boiled down to a massive dog-pile in Strasbourg, with two huge stacks going toe-to-toe for the whole war. Italy proved quite effective in fighting France in the south, while Great Britain kept the French navy at bay and also went for their overseas territories. I used what few stacks weren’t tied up to take out Belgium – which was harder than it should of been –  and support my allies whilst making a play for Paris. Eventually, the French army just broke, and it was only after I’d occupied all of their territories that they finally gave in. Three Cheers for Germany!

It was kind of interesting to watch the balance of power change after that – every nation on the losing side of a Great War has to ‘capitulate’, so they get rid of half their army, and other reparations as well. It removed France and Russia from the Great Power list completely, and at the time of wiring France is in the sphere of influence of The Netherlands, of all places. Russia is in the pocket of Austria, who I’ve just gone to war with as they’ve been sitting pretty gathering strength for too long. So far, the ‘Second Great War’ is going well for me.

All Hail the Fatherland.