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Archive for Joe Martin

I Noobtube

Posted on 5th Jan 2010 at 12:32 by Joe Martin with 59 comments

Joe Martin
I know there are a lot of people in the bit-tech community that object to Modern Warfare 2 either out of practicality (“oh, how it lags!”) or principle (“No dedicated servers means no buy!”), but I’m not going to delve into all that right now. I’ve had a very good experience with Modern Warfare 2 multiplayer and the more I play it the more I love it. That’s a fact.

One thing that’s been bothering me lately though, is the amount of abuse that gets bandied around in-game and how I’ve never been able to play a game without someone crying about overuse of the noobtube. It’s something I seriously don’t understand.

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about then here’s a quick explanation; the noobtube is an under-barrel grenade launcher that attaches to most assault rifles. It takes up an attachment slot on that gun and comes with two shots only, though you can resupply if you’ve got relevant perks. The grenade it fires explodes on impact but is affected by gravity and it must travel a set range before exploding – making it useless at short range. It’s a powerful weapon, but the appeal is curtailed by the low ammo count, restricted range, long reload times and fact that it fills an attachment slot.

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RE: Choose Your Own Adventure Gamebooks

Posted on 23rd Dec 2009 at 09:50 by Joe Martin with 17 comments

Joe Martin
I used to love Choose Your Own Adventure games and I’d regularly either rent them out of the library or pick them up before going on holiday. Lately I’ve been thinking what a shame it is that the medium has pretty much died out and I’ve been fighting back against this by having a go on some of the later interpretations of the idea.

For those not in the know, CYOA books are essentially multiple-choice driven singleplayer RPGs. You create a character according to the rules established in the start of the book, turn to the first passage, read it and then decide what you would do next. Each option available to you would point you to another passage in the book, creating a rudimentary branching adventure.

In the early ‘90s I remember them being all the rage and there were some long-lasting brands to come out of the short-lived fad, the most popular of which was the Fighting Fantasy series which included the likes of The Legend of Zagor and The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. My personal favourites however were the long-running Lone Wolf books by Joe Dever, - which had a single adventure running across multiple books - and the Fabled Lands series.

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In Search Of A 'B Game'

Posted on 3rd Dec 2009 at 10:32 by Joe Martin with 32 comments

Joe Martin
I’m on holiday at the moment, so I’m not really supposed to be working – but one of the virtues of loafing around at my parents house for a week has had me thinking about something lately. Namely, B Movies. I’m a big fan of them and I’ve been watching a lot lately because in my family the Evil Dead trilogy is treated with same amount of reverence and awe as Russian Ark.

So, what I’ve been thinking about lately is whether or not there’s a computer game equivalent of the B Movie. I’m not sure there is.

Maybe it’s helpful if I clarify what I mean by ‘B Movie’. What I’m talking about isn’t necessarily some tawdry and over-gored piece of dross with no script and a Bruce Campbell cameo. What I really mean is something low-budget and with obvious faults, but which overcomes them through some (probably unintended) humour or charm.

Basically; that old ‘so bad, it’s good’ factor.

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Free Games I Like: Rumble Box

Posted on 1st Dec 2009 at 10:30 by Joe Martin with 4 comments

Joe Martin
It’s an arena-based beat-em-up with mini-games, but it’s also a stunningly pretty and deceptively clever abstract punchathon. It’s fairly old mind you, and came to my attention back in 2006 when it was a finalist in the IGF Innovation in Game Design category.

It’s Rumble Box.

The concept is simple – you are a man made of blocks, in a box, fighting other men made of blocks… in a box. The only way to escape and transcend to the next level is to kill enough enemies that their corpses pile up high enough to enable you to climb over the wall into the next area. It’d be gruesome if it weren’t for the lego-like visuals.

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Recommend Me A Board Game

Posted on 27th Nov 2009 at 10:48 by Joe Martin with 49 comments

Joe Martin
My love of games extends further than just computer games, you know. I’m also something of a board game fiend – a fan of games in any form, to tell the truth. In the last few months I’ve especially enjoyed getting together with a few friends to play some board games, and that enjoyment is hopefully going to be buoyed further by a recent discovery of mine.

I found a really cool shop in the centre of nearby Reading – one which I’ve walked past many times but only recently investigated. It’s called Eclectic Games and is a board game and collectible card game specialist.

Eclectic Games is very much My Kind Of Place. It’s large and warmly decorated, with a huge selection of games, both niche and well-known. It also has a library of games - which you’re free to try out in the gaming hall out back - and the owners regularly organise events where you can meet other gamers and get involved in tournaments. It’s small enough to be charming and independent too – exactly the type of place I’d like to support with my patronage.

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Free Games I Like: Gravity Bone

Posted on 18th Nov 2009 at 10:43 by Joe Martin with 3 comments

Joe Martin
Gravity Bone is by Brendon Chung, an indie developer I’ve long been a fan of and who has made some of my favourite indie games ever. Gravity Bone is his most recent and complete game, as well as the most stylised and striking.

Like most of Chung’s games, Gravity Bone exists without any exposition or context. It just is and everything in it relies on inference, with explicit instructions being very rare and a streamlined level design ethic ensuring the common sense is all you need to play the game. Every game also contains a wicked sense of wit that makes them worth playing even if you hate everything else.

Gravity Bone is about a hitman or a spy, who goes around doing spy-type stuff. There’s but two missions in the game, which takes about ten minutes to finish. The first is a straightforward introduction with no real challenges. The second is where all the gameplay is, but I won’t spoil why.

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Free Games I Like: Black Shades

Posted on 17th Nov 2009 at 08:25 by Joe Martin with 1 comments

Joe Martin
Black Shades isn’t a new game, it’s just a free game that I really like. It’s basically the opposite of Hitman, but reduced down to twitch shooter basics and presented in a typically indie way.

Rather than playing as a hitman, Black Shades casts you as a bodyguard for a VIP who's wandering aimlessly through a crowded city. It’s your job to protect him from the increasing number of assailants who will try to kill him.

What distinguishes Black Shades from that old trope of the FPS escort mission is that the VIP is pursuing a random path through a city which is basically an infinite grid of buildings. Also, the assassins who come from him are randomly generated and will use a variety of weapons and approaches. Oh, and nearly everyone in the city looks alike too – grey and white polygon figures.

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Free Games I Like: Home

Posted on 12th Nov 2009 at 12:21 by Joe Martin with 12 comments

Joe Martin
Another short post for another short game – Home is a tiny pixel-art game from Increpare about what it’s like to fall apart, bit by bit.

There isn’t a huge amount to say about this game as the entire experience lasts just five minutes at most and the artwork and mechanics on show have been streamlined to the extreme. Everything in the game has been trimmed down until all that’s left is a clunky orange graphic that would look outdated on a Spectrum.

The idea is simple: your name is Charles and you’ve just been put into an old people’s home. Your life is simple and easy, which is good because you’re not really capable of much. All you have to do is manage your four simple needs; food, friendship, going to the toilet and getting a good night's rest. Simple.

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Free Games I Like: Small Worlds

Posted on 5th Nov 2009 at 11:51 by Joe Martin with 12 comments

Joe Martin
This blog post will be, like the game it’s about, small. I don’t really have a huge amount to say about Small Worlds, which was developed for a recent Casual Games Competition with the theme 'Explore', other than that it’s a remarkably elegant and effective piece of pixel-art brilliance.

A game which only ever alludes to having a deeper plot, Small Worlds opens with a single line before jumping to the gameplay – “There is too much noise”.

The gameplay itself is simple. At the start of each of the five levels the viewpoint is zoomed in on you – a small red line with a pale face and zero animation. The aim of each level is then to find the exit, which returns you to a hub level before you move on to the next world. There’s no fighting, no skill trees and no enemies. It’s just a gentle and rather lovely paced matter of exploration.

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Games I Own: Deus Ex 2

Posted on 21st Oct 2009 at 12:46 by Joe Martin with 9 comments

Joe Martin
Deus Ex 2: Invisible War is a game which gets a bad rap whenever you see it discussed among PC gamers, who inevitably love the first game and loathe the sequel. To be honest though, I never thought it was half as bad as anyone was making out. If approached with reasonable rationality and not the more obvious optimism, the game actually held up quite well.

Yes, Invisible War had issues. It obviously suffered from attempts to bring the series to consoles. The tiny, insular and empty levels. The universal ammo system. The constant load times and clunky, overly rounded feel of the engine – these were all issues that dogged the game and deservedly so, but slamming Deus Ex 2 for not living up to the legend of it’s predecessor is easier than fist-fighting with a one-armed toddler.

Instead, I prefer to think of the good things about Deus Ex 2 – the things it did better than the original. Believe me, they’re there.

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