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Archive for the ‘thoughts on’ tag

Thoughts on Tutorials

Posted on 24th Sep 2011 at 11:16 by Iain Farquhar with 26 comments

Iain Farquhar
When I was offered the chance to review the upcoming game Men of War: Vietnam, I initially leapt at the chance, but with the disc came a warning:

These games are bloody hard,' Harry said loudly, repeatedly, while looming behind me and staring at my laptop screen. 'Probably the closest thing to digital masochism I’ve ever seen.’

But I was determined to impress the office with my analytical skill and unbiased opinions and, besides, I had never come across a game that I couldn't bend to my will after a few hours. With anticipation in full flow, I started the game and prepared to give my best.

Three hours later, I still hadn’t completed the first mission. The first mission. I tried lowering the difficulty settings. I tried different approaches. With a mounting sense of failure and humiliation, I considered downloading the demo of the original Men of War so I could practice at home before a second attempt. And it was at that point I realised something...

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Thoughts on Clutter and Junk

Posted on 5th Jun 2011 at 11:50 by Joe Martin with 31 comments

Joe Martin
I’ve been playing Star Wars: Jedi Academy lately. I didn’t play it when it first came out, but good word of mouth and a budget Steam price proved hard to resist. Overall, it’s a pretty good game too, although I’ll never be as effusive about it as my pals. One thing I can’t get over, though, is how incredibly dated the game looks.

It’s been hard for me to pin down exactly why Jedi Academy feels so dated, as the graphics actually hold up very well for a seven year old game using the twelve year old id Tech 3 engine. Lately, I’ve come to think that it’s the sparseness of the levels that makes it feel archaic. There are too many empty desks in the cantinas, too many barren walls; there’s not enough clutter in the world.

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Thoughts on Jumping

Posted on 15th May 2011 at 09:30 by Joe Martin with 29 comments

Joe Martin
It may seem an odd subject to focus on, as jumping doesn't seem to be very important on the face of it – cut it out of a game, though, and it can make a huge difference. Games in which players can’t jump, or at the very least dodge or roll, can seem painfully slow, dull and static. Games in which players can jump around and use that movement to interact with the environment can seem immeasurably more fun because of it.

Take Half-Life 2, for example. It’s a game which nearly everyone would agree is well-made, decently written, fun and fast to play through. Now cast your mind back to the first scene in Kliener’s lab, where Gordon is first properly introduced to his allies, where the plot is given its first proper push and where you’re gifted with the HEV suit again. It’s a busy sequence; lots to do, lots to take in. You’d expect most players to pay close attention, at least the first time around.

Instead, every single player I know spends most of the time jumping around. Sometimes they try to jump on the scenery or knock over objects, other times they just leapfrog around the room when a simple stroll would suffice.

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Thoughts on The Arctic Cooling GCM

Posted on 18th Feb 2011 at 07:39 by Joe Martin with 25 comments

Joe Martin
This isn’t really a review, and I can’t label it as such, if only because Arctic Cooling’s GCM isn’t really the type of device we usually cover. Still, when it landed in the office I just couldn’t help myself. It looked so cheap and nasty that the other guys in the office recoiled from it in melodramatic disgust. I had to write about it.

You’ve seen gizmos like the GCM before, probably. It wouldn’t be out of place on the prize rack of a fairground attraction, or in a machine at that really run-down arcade that your parents never let you go to. The packaging is emblazoned with bold claims that try to sell the GCM to you on a sheer value factor – 80 games in 1? Wowee! – all of which strengthens the impression that it’s going to be rubbish.

But, hey, at least it comes with its own Arctic Cooling batteries!

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Thoughts on Mainstream Game Advertising

Posted on 14th Feb 2011 at 14:05 by Paul Goodhead with 27 comments

Paul Goodhead
As a marketing graduate I often find myself idly assesing the marketing strategies that tech companies employ. It’s an industry that's fairly set in its ways - Taiwanese companies tend to think a CG picture of a pretty girl with an ornate sword or huge gun can sell anything, no matter what we in the West say. Meanwhile, here in the West, we can't help but work the touch-feely lifestyle angle - 'this laptop is good because you can help the kids with their homework on it!'

My interest was piqued therefore when I saw Nintendo’s latest Super Mario advert which marks the 25th anniversary of Mario series of games. The advert is initially quite unremarkable, showing men and women of all ages, some of whom are celebrities, talking about the Mario games and their memories of them. So far, so Nintendo; the company has been using softer, more personal adverts targeted at casual and first time gamers for a while now.

What I did find remarkable though was the end of the advert which contained the message the ad was there to convey - ‘Super Mario Brothers, part of the family since 1985’. It’s the first time I’ve seen a computer game use a heritage message, a message that emphasises the history and longevity of a brand or product.

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Thoughts on Expansion Packs

Posted on 9th Oct 2010 at 08:36 by Joe Martin with 36 comments

Joe Martin
I completed Half-Life: Blue Shift for the first time last night and, I have to say, I was enormously disappointed with it. I’d heard it was supposed to be the worst Half-Life game by far – something which had put me off playing it until recently, when I picked it up on a whim, but even I wasn’t expecting it to be so totally…bland. It was too short, too easy and enormously lacking in character. It took me three or four hours to complete, during which I died once and didn’t get to see anything in the way of new monsters or weapons.

Compare that to Half-Life: Opposing Force, which I still maintain is the perfect expansion pack even in spite of the silly end-boss. Opposing Force has plenty of new content, including an entirely new race of aliens that have never been officially explained within the Half-Life canon. Plus, it has the barnacle gun. It’s a fantastic expansion pack.

What really makes Opposing Force better than Blue Shift though isn’t just the new guns and baddies, but the fact that it has a personality of it’s own which, while it draws on Half-Life, feels entirely distinct. Like the original Half-Life, both expansions open with the player sat in a moving vehicle, but where Blue Shift merely apes HL’s train ride Opposing Force differs in every possible way. HL opens with the start of the story, deep underground, with a sedate and lonely pace; Opposing Force’s Adrian Shepherd is in a helicopter with the rest of his squad, entering the plot at the half-way point in a rather dramatic fashion.

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Thoughts On Macro Keys

Posted on 19th Sep 2010 at 08:39 by Paul Goodhead with 40 comments

Paul Goodhead
Macro keys on keyboards and mice are almost always aimed at the enthusiast MMO player. Their function is to allow users to execute a long chain of keyboard or mouse commands at the touch of a single button, which is a useful ability in games such as WoW. As a result macro keys are becoming a common feature on gaming mice and keyboards.

It was confusing for Clive then to hear me say that I love macro keys, even though I don’t play any of the MMO games which they are classically associated with. This is because I put my macro keys on my G15 at home to a far less entertaining use than which they were originally intended - entering common information on websites.

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Thoughts on Jimmy's Vendetta

Posted on 17th Sep 2010 at 11:06 by Richard Swinburne with 14 comments

Richard Swinburne
I've recently completed Mafia 2 and despite spending far too many hours looking at the benchmarks I decided to grab the Jimmy's Vendetta DLC because I still wanted something more.

I don't know what I really expected, but I think my thick, rose-tinted glasses for the original Mafia created a blind faith that Mafia 2's DLC might offer...something. I'd read it was designed to be more 'Open World', with mission selection instead of the exclusively linear, point-to-point play that Mafia 2's singleplayer forced on you.

I didn't come away thinking Mafia 2 should have been a more open world 'GTA in the 50s' though, because what it needed more than that was a better story. Although Empire Bay was clearly designed with open world in mind, 2K must have dropped it from single player at some point. Jimmy's Vendetta restores the open world, but it'll still leave you feeling disappointed and wanting more because it suffers from many of the same flaws as the original.

You see, Jimmy is even less likeable and relateable than Vito or Joe. He looks like Terry Tibbs, but with the appeal of Teri Hatcher (that link's SFW but not SF-stomach) and the attitude of Mad Max.

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Thoughts on Mafia 2's Rape Scene

Posted on 30th Aug 2010 at 10:14 by Joe Martin with 39 comments

Joe Martin
It happens in the prison showers, when Vito is told to do some cleaning and is left alone with some nasty men who express a desire to do nasty things to him. Vito wants none of this, which is consistent with his character, so he puts up a fight. Five or six punches later, it fades to black and Vito moves calmly on to the next scene.

There’s nothing terribly wrong with the event when it happens that way; it’s a little flat, perhaps, but that’s it. What bothers me more though is what happens if you don’t manage to fight the bullies off. Namely, nothing; you get a game over sequence and then have to restart the fight. Vito doesn’t actually get raped, no matter what you do.

To be clear, I don’t want Vito to get raped, but I do think that if you’re going to have a rape scene like that in your game then you should provide for all outcomes. Especially since Mafia 2 often lets you fail missions without consequence. You might be told to deliver X parcels in Y minutes, ending in a cutscene where you’re teased for poor driving if you don’t manage it. There’s no game over if you fail to impress the Don, so why should there be one if you’re defending against rapists?

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Thoughts on Cheating in Multiplayer Games

Posted on 23rd Aug 2010 at 14:16 by Joe Martin with 98 comments

Joe Martin
Harry occasionally refers to me as, among other things, ‘Mr Singleplayer’ such is my general lack of interest in multiplayer games. I just prefer a properly told story than the thrill of Capturing the Flag, really, making me the polar opposite to Harry in regards to more than just my good looks and manly physique.

Still, one of the few multiplayer games to successfully capture my attention has been the Modern Warfare games, which ensnared me with their speed and slow dribble of achievements and new weapon unlocks. I’ve been known to dabble in Left 4 Dead and various Source mods, like Plan of Attack and The Hidden, but MW2 multiplayer is what I tend to play when I want to shoot a real person, generally.

And yesterday, I had my first definite run in with a cheater.

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