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Archive for Joe Martin

Games I have made

Posted on 9th Jul 2009 at 11:31 by Joe Martin with 7 comments

Joe Martin
I once heard that most music journalists are generally people who got into the business because they lacked the drive or ability to actually be a musician themselves. Likewise, I’ve heard it said that games journalists are probably people who lack the drive to actually make their own games.

For me, that’s pretty true and it’s bred within me a massive respect for game developers, because making computer games is damned difficult. Not only are there the technical issues of knowing how to code and how to actually make the game, there’s the management issues too. You have to know what makes a game good and, if you’re working as part of a team, you have to be able to keep a group of people focused on a single cohesive vision. You need a logical mind that knows how systems should function and what redundancies need to be built in for every eventuality.

Over the years I’ve tried my hand at making a number of different games, starting when I got a copy of AMOS for the Amiga 500+ we had at home and I started tweaking the example games that came with it. I didn’t get far, but I got a basic understanding.

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Games I Own: SiN and Sin Episodes

Posted on 29th Jun 2009 at 10:37 by Joe Martin with 12 comments

Joe Martin
I’ve always had a soft spot for the SiN games and it isn’t just because of the boobs in it. The original SiN was released around the same time as I started to move from being regular gamer to a real hardcore enthusiast. I’d been playing games most of my life, but it was around that time that I really started to get involved in games as a serious hobby.

That’s not to say that the original SiN was a great game though, far from it. It was buggier than a hobo’s mattress, uglier than the brown stains there-upon and cruder than the manners of the owner. It did however have an incredibly alluring and bountifully endowed villainess though, plus a lot of swearing and explosions and that was enough for my brother to cave in and buy it.

While the low-poly cleavage definitely helped sustain my attention in the game when I started playing it shortly after my brother the thing that really grabbed my interest was the branching storyline. Every time I played through the game it seemed different and I probably played it a good ten or so times (each time with God mode on though as it was a horrendously difficult game). Levels linked together intricately and by completing optional objectives early in the game you could end up visiting wholly new locations and exposing new plot lines later. One game might see you assaulting Elexis Sinclaire on her off-shore oil rig, or her underground geothermal plant, while others had you storm her house or follow her to an observatory.

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Who Should Review Monkey Island: Special Edition?

Posted on 16th Jun 2009 at 12:02 by Joe Martin with 36 comments

Joe Martin
Journalistic integrity is something we pride ourselves on here at bit-tech and we always try to make sure that our reviews are fair-minded, open and in-depth. Each of us at bit-tech and Custom PC magazine has a specialty and we always try to play to that expertise. Tim does graphics cards. Richard does motherboards and PSUs. I play games. Harry makes the coffee.

It’s this integrity that explains why you’ll never see me review a hardcore racing sim such as Forza or Race Pro; as a man who can’t even ride a bike, let alone ride a car, I have no right to talk about the flaws in a racing sim.

This integrity though does present one very big problem for us though and that is; who should review the upcoming swathe of Monkey Island games – both the newly announced episodes from Telltale Games and the Special Edition re-release from LucasArts proper?

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Would you like to play The Last Express with me?

Posted on 1st Jun 2009 at 11:37 by Joe Martin with 8 comments

Joe Martin
The Last Express is an old game, an interesting game and one I’ve been meaning to play for a number of years. I was finally spurred into action by the guys at Idle Thumbs, who rightly asserted that The Last Express is a perfect example of an evolutionary path in video games that just never panned out, mainly for financial reasons.

The Last Express is an adventure game by Jordan Mechner, who also made all of the good Prince of Persia games. The storyline for the game is set over three days and it’s all set right on the very eve of the first world war, with all the action and adventure taking place on a train that is travelling from Paris to Constantinople. The train is the famous Orient Express and as the journey begins there is a murder on board. Admittedly I know a lot of this only from what I’ve heard – I’m still playing the game for the first time at the moment.

So far then, The Last Express is just a normal game, but here’s the kicker – it’s all set in real-time. It's also a game I want to invite you to play with me.

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My Garry's Mod Gallery

Posted on 28th May 2009 at 13:49 by Joe Martin with 10 comments

Joe Martin
I've not really got much to say this week as, between Bionic Commando and Order of War this has been a pretty boring week for me, truth be told. I've spent most of my time playing through Clive Barker's Undying again and realising it wasn't as good as I remembered and playing Garry's Mod 10.

Garry's Mod 10, or GMod, for those not in the know began life as a small mod for Half-Life 2 that allowed you to fiddle about with the game physics. Over time it evolved and grew, with new tools getting added in along the way until it ended up as it is now - a commercial product that's the video game equivalent of a Lego set.

Garry's Mod 10 is, to me, the ultimate sandbox game. You can do anything. You can create anything. You can manipulate ragdolls however you want - which isn't always a good thing. You can weld items together, add rockets, wheels, ropes, pulleys and balloons. You can literally make anything from sculptures to rocket-powered mecha robots.

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Games I Own: Atmosfear The Video Board Game

Posted on 18th May 2009 at 10:29 by Joe Martin with 17 comments

Joe Martin
The usual joke computer game journalists make about board games is that it’s good to have a few around in case there’s a power cut and your handheld is out of battery, but other than that why bother? It’s a joke I’ve made before when the topic has come up, but the reality is that I love board games. It isn’t cool to say so, but board games are cool.

Board games were a huge part of my childhood. I come from a family of seven and my mum worked nights, which meant we often had to be quiet during the day; of course board games were a significant part of my childhood. My dad would even make up little alternate reality games where we’d run around in the woods, solve ancient riddles and search for ‘hidden’ things, with the final ‘treasure’ usually being a board game for us all.

I can still remember fighting my brother, who was wearing a huge papier machie helmet to make him look like a centaur, with a wooden broadsword over a ‘treasure chest’ containing The Legend of Zagor boardgame. That particular ARG went on throughout all the summer holidays…but now I’m getting off track.

The point is: one of my favourite board games growing up was Atmosfear: The Video Board Game. It was a horror-themed game for up to six people where players had to go round a graveyard collecting keys as fast as possible. The game came with an accompanying VHS video, so you played in front of a TV which had a clock counting down on it and you’d collect Time cards that told you to do certain things at certain times. You had one hour to get six keys and escape the cemetery or the Gatekeeper would claim your soul.

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Games I Wish Worked on Vista

Posted on 12th May 2009 at 10:08 by Joe Martin with 26 comments

Joe Martin
I only upgraded from Windows XP to Vista relatively recently – it was really only when I started at bit-tech.net that I actually became concerned with keeping up to date. Until then I'd been happy to stay with whatever OS let me play the games I wanted to play, upgrading only as I needed to to play the latest games.

I’ve regretted the move to Vista ever since, though I was at least wily enough to ensure that my girlfriend’s PC ran XP still, ensuring I had at least one option when struck by the sudden need to play a classic game. You know the need I’m referring to – it usually comes when you’re doing some menial task and you’re somehow reminded of an old game you really liked. Quickly that flash of memory grows, flares into an obsession and you find yourself reinstalling games you haven’t played in years, usually Deus Ex.

That quick burst of obsession is something I experience fairly regularly, mainly because games are such a massive part of my life and I find it hard to break away from them. Some days I can’t cross the street without thinking that I should quicksave first. Oh, how I wish I was joking.

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I played Diablo 2 and I hated it

Posted on 5th May 2009 at 10:14 by Joe Martin with 32 comments

Joe Martin
So, I played Diablo 2, just as you asked me to. True to my word I got bit-tech developer Jamie to lend me his copy and I gave it a good ol’ go - by which I mean I played it until I didn't want to play it any more, then tried to persevere for another hour before giving up.

I was utterly underwhelmed by Diablo 2. It appealed to me even less than the very similar Titan Quest – and that’s saying something, considering how I enjoyed that game about as much as I’d enjoy passing a cupful of kidney stones all at once. I hated Diablo 2 because there seemed to be absolutely no need for me to be there. I actually felt that the game would play itself better if I just wasn’t there, as the entire role of the player is to click-click-click-click their character along a pseudo-random, utterly linear path that offers no real chance for exploration or involvement.

Playing Diablo 2 I was left with the impression that it didn’t matter what I did in the game, as fundamentally everything I did only ever had one logical outcome, so I may as well not do anything. I was stifled by the utter lack of room for player expression. You could level the same complaint against almost any FPS where players are funnelled through linear levels too, but at least those games are usually fast paced and full of explosions and a sense of interaction and puzzle solving. Diablo 2 didn’t feel that way to me.

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How I Met Tim Schafer

Posted on 1st May 2009 at 09:58 by Joe Martin with 7 comments

Joe Martin
Meeting your heroes is always a strange thing and all too often such events end in disappointment. Thankfully though, that wasn’t the case yesterday when I met Tim Schafer – who co-wrote The Secret of Monkey Island and the creator of Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle, Grim Fandango, Psychonauts and some truly hilarious blog posts of his very own.

Tim is, to put it bluntly, someone I’ve admired for a long, long time and in the run-up to the EA event I met him at I was a little worried that he might not be as funny and random as all the interviews I’d read with him over the years had led me to expect. Worse, I was worried that I might make a tit of myself in front of him or that I’d just collapse in sweaty palms and schoolgirl giggles.

Thankfully, neither situation happened and while Tim was certainly a lot quieter and more modest than I expected he definitely lived up to my rather presumptuous expectations. I chalk my lack of humiliation up to the fact that I was wearing my lucky Fallout 3 t-shirt.

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Should We Change Our Game Reviews?

Posted on 25th Apr 2009 at 12:35 by Joe Martin with 54 comments

This is a blog post I’ve been thinking of writing for a long time, but I’ve chosen not to get around to it until now because it hasn’t really been very relevant.

There’s not been that many good PC games coming out lately that have required an in-depth look at graphics. Well, not from me anyway. A good thing about being part of Dennis Publishing is that delegation is nearly always an option.

The crux of this blog post rests on one question; how useful is the graphics coverage we give in PC game reviews at the moment?

If you don’t know what I’m talking about then, well I guess that gives me an answer right there. You see, before I joined bit-tech the site had a policy of doing very in-depth graphic analysis for each and every PC game review that came along and console games were mainly ignored. Tim, Richard and co. would even graphically analyse new patches for games and game reviews would focus heavily on graphics.

Should We Change Our Game Reviews?

As far as I’m aware that started to change when my predecessor Ryan joined bit-tech. Console games started to get a bit more attention and the graphics coverage of specific games became less quantitative and more comparative – like in this Darkstar One review.

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