The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

Posts Tagged ‘games’

Get Your Geek On – Day Five

Posted by BigWords on September 16, 2011

It is no surprise that games have played a large part in my life, though it may surprise some to learn that the games which have had the most impact on me were not the usual suspects – partly because of location, and partly because of finances, the early nineties wasn’t the Nintendo era for me – it was when I was getting into the classic games of the eighties. I had an Amstrad and a Commodore from as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until the notion of coding my own games that I really started to understand the appeal of gaming. Being in control of the world as well as the character on the screen was a massive step into the immersion. The first game I wrote was a horrible, truly awful side-scroller with half of the code lifted from the games around me – all in BASIC, with a number of gameplay issues which would take me a few years to fully understand. Aside from being completely broken, unimaginative and rather rubbish, that first game was exhilarating.

I’m probably going to reveal just how long I’ve been gaming when I say this, but the Batman game which came in the big box with two cassettes and a poster (I think it was the Joker and the Penguin, the villains of the game) was probably more instrumental in getting me to keep playing than any other. It wasn’t a pretty game, by any means, though it was probably the first I completed all the way through to the end. I worked my way through the back catalog of games from the 80s which I could pick up in small newsagents – and the thought of those spinner-racks full of games cassettes holds serious nostalgia value – then looked for something to fill the need for more complexity. I think I’m missing a generation there, but there wasn’t that many games on floppy for the BBC – or, I should say, I didn’t have that many of the games. One thing people might not remember is the long loading times, which I spent gathering together paper and pens for conspicuous note-taking.

Round about the time Windows 95 rolled along (though it would have been a year or so after release that I actually got my hands on the giant desktop) I went looking for games which would test me. Most of the searching was in vain, though a few games came close to appeasing the growing need for something more than shooting and jumping. Puzzle games have, for the longest time, irritated me as much as they have entertained me, and some of the worst offenders *cough* Tomb Raider *cough* fall firmly into the “PITA” category. There was a clutch of games released in the late 90s and early 00s which reaffirmed the notion that new things could be done with gaming, and – as joyful a kid who has found a new toyshop – I was back to playing for three or four hours a day. Hostile Waters, Thief, Half Life, Red Faction, and the sublime Deus Ex. Of all the games of that era, Deus Ex rose to the position of the game I would play when I needed cheering up.

Of course, with the addition of consoles, my collection of games required that (once again) I was putting things in storage whenever my apartment got too crowded. I’ve still got a lot of the games I bought, but I rarely look back to the older titles unless, as now, I’m writing about them. Deus Ex still holds up as an amazing achievement – moreso than the middling Invisible War – and it is one of the handful of older titles which I still play. And yes, I started on a mod for it. The complete conversion never quite got to the finished state I had planned, but that was more to do with the awkward toolkit than a lack of ambition. Over the years I have spent as much time tinkering with the games themselves as I have playing them, and the beautifully simple Half Life was the game which cemented my skills putting ideas to work. Lousy graphics, in retrospect, but oh what a joy to mess with.

My own game – the one which has been burning away for nigh on ten years, through several incarnations – is looking more and more like a side-project now, with the increasing complexity required to put together a decent game making it difficult to imagine completion, never mind a solid release date. As I add more details to the script (a hefty document with multiple pathways as it is), I get the feeling it may be easier to write “choose your own adventure” book rather than expend more energy on the increasingly futile effort of putting the whole thing together. But that, right there, is what being a geek is – it’s not the necessity to go build a game, but the enjoyment of all the stuff which happens when getting there. It’s the fun of making sound effects, and recording dialogue, and playing through the wireframe working builds with friends. Again, the community aspect of geekery is at the forefront of everything.

Oh, and all those notes I used to take while playing? Those came in handy for a few different reasons. I learned how the storytelling in games worked, and wrote more walkthroughs than anyone should ever consider writing.

All those words, and I didn’t get to the boardgames, or the fan videos, or the ARG’s.

Remind me to cover those next year, when Geek Week returns. I may even have come up with a nifty graphic to celebrate the occasion by that point. Don’t expect miracles.

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Some Thoughts, Part Eight – Interactivity

Posted by BigWords on April 8, 2010

qrcodeYou might have seen these images appearing on products such as soft drinks, comics, posters, and DVDs, and in newspapers and magazines. They’re not an entirely new technology, being based off the same concept as barcodes, but QR Code is way better at engaging a curious audience who may not intend to interact with your company, product or ideas. And yes, before you ask, the image to the left is a real QR Code, and it does link to a specific page. To find out where it will take you, all you need to do is aim your mobile phone at it.

This, of course, is old news to anyone who has spent more than a couple of minutes online since the turn of the century, but it is necessary that I bring it up before I get to today’s Big Idea. I’m striking out into the field of games again, but this time with an eye on the more traditional version of gaming. Boardgames have come a long way in recent years, but the basic components are relatively unchanged – the cardboard base, plastic (or metal) figures to move around, cards which contain instructions to the player…

It’s all so mired in the 1930s that I can’t help but get the queasy sensation in the pit of my stomach every time I think of cracking open one of those games. This is 2010. We have a gazillion television stations to keep us entertained, more DVDs than you can shake a mongoose at, and streaming music available from so many sources that even hermits who have had no human contact since 1958 are bopping their heads to the tune of Lady Gaga’s  Telephone.

Time to take a look at “family games” (and not the kind played by John Phillips).

The first thing which screams out for attention is the board itself. A basic boardgame has a set board, with each game played on it relying on the player knowing where they want to end up – so that strategies can be used to attempt a favorable outcome. That, in and of itself, is very linear. It’s a pre-digital, static solution to gameplay. It’s why I can never play Monopoly more than once or twice a year. It’s why I haven’t bought a boardgame in nearly three years. It’s something which (more than any individual aspect of the format) could be dragged into the 21st century with ease. The technology which most readily comes to mind for this is based on the Kindle.

Yup, that Kindle.

The black and white E Ink screen has the ability to bring boardgames an added level of complexity which I approve of. Unnumbered tiles showing QR Codes, codes which change upon each game being begun, would give the boardgame new challenges which, until now, have been absent. This is a massive move away from what people are trying to accomplish with outdated design, and there is the possibility that we could even see narrative begin to encroach upon this method of gameplay. If the game is intended to link to webpages, there might as well be a story constructed around the game itself.

Before I get too far ahead with that idea, I also want to point out something else which has been bugging me about the way we look at boardgames – Linearity. You go from Point A to Point C via Point B with nary a though of the options locked off due to the construction of the rules and accepted modes of travel. Boardgames, two-dimensional as they are, have much more to offer than straight lines across the board, and opening up the entirety of the board would give players much more opportunity to express themselves through their individual personalities. By removing the blank areas unused by the game, more playable area is opened, and (with this in mind) any horizontal or vertical movement of players is allowed to continue unimpeded by the board itself.

I’m throwing out all of the traditional elements, so I may as well discard counters as well. I’ve always suspected that the reason why counters are still used is a throwback to tradition, but tradition is only useful when it provides something that cannot be answered by other means. The other means, in this case specifically, would be answered by using lights to indicate where each player has ended up in relation to the rest of the game board. This answers where the player is, but using the E Ink we can also learn who each player-character is. This is all about story, remember. The blank, featureless counters which are used to mark position is so many games are an abject lesson in how not to engage players with the game, because there is no emotional connection to the thing which represents them in the game. Once you give a name, and a face, and a story to the in-game player-representation, you begin to add emotional resonance.

Modern games should always have some emotional response from players, otherwise you may as well be playing chess.

Turn-based gameplay is fine, and actually enhances the tension in many games. Indeed, turn-based gameplay is one of the crossover elements which brings boardgames and some computer games together, so an audience won’t be completely out of their depth upon seeing just how far the format has changed. I like chess as it is, and some classic games have nothing added by innovation – and really, how do you expect to better a game which has proven itself for centuries? The answer: You can’t, and by adding layers to it (as a Star Trek inspired board has done) you remove the soul of the game. The games I’m suggesting get overhauled are those in which limitations to the gameplay are limitations to the enjoyment of the game.

Here’s something else to add to the mix – dead squares. I know I made a big deal of opening the board out, but as the game progresses, certain squares can become unusable. If it adds to the gameplay, it’s something to consider.

This game actually began life as a possible handheld game, but I could never work out how to use the large chunks of backstory within a limited space. It’s massive, and only gets bigger the more I try to explain it, so I’m holding off further elaboration. I’ve had several goes at making playable versions, but the only way it would really work is if there was a randomizing factor at the beginning of each game. E Ink is the key, and the reason I don’t expect this type of game to appear anytime soon. In the meantime I’ll leave you with a rough approximation of what the board would appear as at the beginning of a new game…

Posted in Misc., Over The Line, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Sunday, Bloody Sunday

Posted by BigWords on January 31, 2010

I’m barely getting the chance to sit down for five minutes at a time before something (or someone) interrupts me, so if I’m conspicuous by absence anywhere it really isn’t my fault. If you remember my irritation at possibly having my brother come to stay, along with his family, then I’m pleased to say they have found somewhere. It’s smaller than they wanted, but it will suffice in the interim. I’m less pleased to say they have roped me in to the idiotic rush to do everything over the course of two weekends (which is why I’m not in the best mood), and this decision means that, alongside the Herculean efforts I’m making to be everywhere I’m meant to be, I also have more work when I ought to be relaxing.

At this point I don’t know if I’ll ever manage to untangle myself from all my commitments once March rolls around – a month in which, historically, I have been able to catch a breather. I’ve already missed a doctor’s appointment, left books on a train (three, count em’, three), lost my chance to attend Angoulême, fried a classic games console, and mislaid a handwritten manuscript. Things don’t appear to be settling down any, as there is no time set aside next week for myself either. Is this a rant? I don’t know any more, because my short-term memory is fucked. My vision is also being affected by the lack of sleep or rest, though double-vision can be kinda fun if it isn’t permanent. Don’t ask me to re-wire anything though.

Ach. I’m ahead of myself. Backtrack to the last paragraph… The doctor’s appointment was for the nasty evil nipple on my wrist. I’m still thinking that it is needing taken care of, but as I can’t drag myself off to take a shit in peace, I don’t know when I’ll have enough time to take a couple of hours away from the neverending madness. The books I left behind – The Herald Of Coming Good by Gurdjieff, Newton’s Wake by Ken MacLeod and The Chemistry Of Death by Simon Beckett – which I have been half-reading on my journeys, were forgotten as I tried valiantly to stay on schedule. I was offered the chance to travel to Angoulême by a friend who was travelling South for the festival, but with everything that is happening I’m in no position to escape for a few days to read BD, as much fun as it sounds.

The games console… Oh man, that deserves it’s own paragraph. I got a hold of a small stand-alone unit a couple of years ago – a battery-powered unit with screen, controls and a single game loaded onto the hard drive. They were popular back in the eighties, and I thought it might make an interesting addition to the collection of games I’ve been amassing. It had (or had) it’s own adapter for mains usage, but there was something wrong with the unit and I decided to check whether the problem came from the unit or the adapter, so I used a multi-purpose adapter with various power outputs. Of course, being deprived of sleep makes even simple jobs horrendously complex, and I forgot to check the output before switching it on. Cue faint smell of burnt plastic and metal.

The manuscript is less important than you may think, mostly because it is (was, dammit, was – I keep using the wrong tense) a parody of eighties horror, teen comedy and action films. There were references to everything from the Stallone and Arnholt brain-dead canon, Hughes teen comedies, Freddy (Jason, Myers, et al) right through to the Stephen King novels of the era. I think I made point of a few television shows as well, because I vaguely remember writing a monologue about The A-Team. I don’t consider parodies less worthy than ‘straight’ novels, and the reason I’m not cut up about the loss is simply because most of what I wrote wasn’t very good. It is also rather weird to consider an entire era worthy of parody, but if any decade deserves scrutiny for artistic and fashion crimes then the eighties is the decade I would turn to first.

I should mention Wednesday night here as well, because things started going wrong then. That is the night I spent four hours sitting, alone, in an empty apartment – no television or radio, no kettle (and thus no coffee), no seating of any sort… I was waiting on an electrician (or a plumber, or gas engineer, or someone else) to turn up while my brother sorted out other things. Needless to say the idiot never turned up, and I had to make my way home at an ungodly hour. The guy did show up eventually… After 8am the next day. I’m pretty sure that was around the point when my week went wrong. Having been unable to recover the time from such a pointless task has pushed everything else, concertina-like, into a time-frame which is impossible to deal with.

This is also where I’ll ask everyone to be patient. I know I’ve said I’ll do stuff (and I will), but there’s so little time that isn’t occupied by something else that I don’t know when I’ll be able to get around to doing anything. The epic lists – back when my spiralling OCD was out of control – are all still on compressed Win 98 disks. The dictionaries and media guides which I spent so long accumulating and indexing are going to be decompressed when I have the chance. I have the disk now (got one yesterday) but I have no way of knowing when I’ll have the chance to load the OS onto a spare laptop. There are so many things on the To Do list that it might be the middle of April before I’m in a position to think straight.

I mentioned the giant ice-trail down the side of my house, and the £210 it cost to get the drip repaired, but it seems that the idiot repairman sent to do the job was a bit hasty in getting me to fork out cash for the repair. It is back, and with a vengeance. There’s a growing puddle of water in the pot below the drip, and I’m getting a migraine just thinking about how much it will cost to get fixed a second time. The financial pressure on keeping this house from falling down around me is beginning to piss me off. If I had managed to get half-decent repairs done five years ago (when I spent upwards of £20k on the building) I wouldn’t be so annoyed, but it seems that all of the so-called experts in this country are taking liberties with their qualifications.

I’ll be busy, just in case anyone needs to get in touch. My mobile is on mute, the house ‘phone is unplugged and I’ve got half a mind to tape the letter box shut while I’m out. And don’t bother calling when I am home, because you’ll just get yelled at. Or water poured over you from an upstairs window.

[This post took five hours (on and off) to write. Don’t think I’m slacking off here.]

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Engaging People Is The First Hurdle

Posted by BigWords on September 28, 2009

Shovel in hand, I’m resurrecting an old (and I thought obvious) argument about writing.

What is a writer’s first hurdle?

When people talk about ‘writing’ they usually mean writing novels, or poetry, or artistically stimulating mediums that afford the author some artistic gratification which should be obvious in the reading, viewing or listening. It is a bit less obvious when the medium is not immediately engaged in a conversation or emotional attachment to the characters or situation, though the basic framework which governs any form of writing is still true in many of these other forms of writing.

On the borderlands of writing there are hundreds of small yet vital writing opportunities that may not – at first glance – be the exact same thing as crafting the complex plots and intricate characters which epitomise writing as an art form and mode of expression. There are the wonderful RPG books to consider first of all, because I definitely class them as closest to epic storytelling in their set-up. The fact that the reader has some input into the narrative is irrelevant.

They exist for the sole purpose of character building, storytelling, and the realization of worlds which don’t exist. Some rulebooks (the Dungeons & Dragons ones especially) are so complex that they must be viewed as a higher level of storytelling than mere novel-writing… How many novelists, if they had the ability in the first place, could cope with the balancing, levelling and complex threads of storytelling that run through the books? Not me…

I’ll admit from the out that I could never cope with writing one of those fuckers. I’ve read through enough rulebooks (and seen the covers of White Wolf #4 and #5 reprinted enough times in other contexts) to know that the creators of such tomes require a special kind of patience. RPG books are close enough to aspects of computer game writing that I would also include the creation of those games as great writing as well. I’m not going to trawl through which games have great writing, ’cause you should know them when you see them

Sometimes games can take on a life outside the initial release, and this is down to the writing. It might seem as if there are complex equations to be made in assessing which parts of the game are most important to which gamers, but good writing can save a game with poor graphics, or filled with glitches, or has an awful camera. Tomb Raider‘s success was as much down to the prevailing atmosphere of alt-history in the mid-nineties as it was due to Lara’s ridiculously large breasts.

The number of ways available to a writer to engage with an audience has become even more complex with the internet, and that is something which hasn’t been examined as seriously as other forms of writing. Is the format as good as paper-and-ink? Maybe or maybe not. The readership is slightly different, and – if I’m going to be completely honest here – there are an awful lot of spammish pages on the net. I’m not sure is Wikipedia counts as anything other than gifted insanity, but as a home of writing…

Minor diversion from the topic: People seem to think that making shit up about famous people is a reasonable way to pass the time. It ain’t. Neither is altering pages on history due to political or religious motives, both of which have been evident. There are a lot of people who take the idea of disseminating information to the masses seriously, and the scribblings of a few simple-minded morons has made the task nigh on impossible.

But I’m getting back to the point: Does the site engage a readership? The simple answer is yes. It is high on the list of most-viewed websites, surpassed by a handful of search engines and other essential sites. It is an amazing achievement, creating a popular and highly-regarded – in its’ theory if not its’ actual undertaking – website. The readership is there, therefore it is serious writing, if only because of the number of readers. It gets a passing grade.

####

This subject resurfaced from a comment I made about Salmand Rushdie’s writings. I like the ideas he throws around, but he has become one of the laziest writers around in the years since he turned in such memorable and engaging ad copy as “quote here” for company. He seems to have forgotten that the reader has, perhaps, better things to read than confused text which rambles rather than rattles, and that is where most people fall – the first hurdle. The first hurdle of a writer…

A writer’s first hurdle is to engage people.

Ad copy, which I haven’t touched on in a fair while, is as important in social media as any novel, and it reaches a far greater number of people than any novel. The words from a successful ad campaign can far outlast a bestselling novel in the collective memory of a generation, and influence artistic trends that most novels could never hope to. There are still references made, on television and in print, to the adverts of the sixties, when creative types threw away the rulebook and started to use tricks that nobody had ever seen before.

The introduction of a color supplement in newspapers might have been the focal point through which the lens of creativity was focused, but it was the accompanying words and ideas which fueled the boom in advertising. It was also the point at which newspapers began the slow slide into mediocrity and facile celebrity-watching which now dominates the industry, but for one shining moment, for one brief second of true artistry, the magazines and newspapers which had been in a rut suddenly came alive.

People bought newspapers for the ads as much as the non-news, eager to discover the latest campaigns. This is engaging with an audience on a level that strikes an immediate and lasting relationship, because they could then go out and purchase the products and feel part of a like-minded group. When readers of books try to do the same thing… Not so much luck, unless the book in question is a ultra-hyped product, replete with tie-in toys, games, films and other kipple.

If an audience isn’t engaged by a performance they tend to walk out.
If a reader isn’t engaged by a book they might not finish the text.
If a television series does not engage with viewers it is cancelled.
If a game does not engage with players it will be ridiculed by geeks.

If a comic does not engage with readers you get the situation Hawkman found himself in, bouncing between creators and mired in horrendous continuity issues that effectively killed off the character for the better part of a decade. Somehow, through luck and bloody good timing, the character was salvaged. Why? Because readers are engaged with the struggles that the character faces. They like the winged misery-guts, whose soap-opera history adds to the fun of his adventures.

Engaging readers in the narrative is hard.

The first duty of a writer is to engage is some manner, and the point of any writing – with the format, genre, medium, length and style being largely irrelevant – is this magical connection. Once you have people by the short and curlies you have them forever. You just have to get over that first hurdle…

Posted in comics, Over The Line, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Got It… Got It… Got It… Need It.

Posted by BigWords on September 9, 2009

It’s probably to be expected from a book-addict, but this admission is really beyond anything I ever expected to write here. It’s fairly well known that I have a compulsive personality, so the concept of me being near shops which might – on the off chance – have books for sale is a bad one. It isn’t my fault that I have to scour the paperbacks, because it’s something I have no control over. There’s always something I don’t own, and I really ought to be looking at the important works every so often.

Only… It isn’t the classics which catch my eye. They usually have dull covers, so I’m naturally drawn to the gaudy, gauche OTT stuff which most people instinctively pass over. The latest purchases, in no particular order, are:

Batman & Robin novelization by Michael Jan Friedman
In Search Of The End Of Time by John Gribbin
Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany
Star Wars: Hard Merchandise by K.W. Jeter
Star Wars: Vision Of The Future by Timothy Zahn

And that is one day’s purchases. Not to mention DVDs and games, though those are just as addictive:

Saints & Soldiers (Ryan Little, 2004)
The Game (David Fincher, 2001)
The Punisher (Xbox)
Project Zero II: Director’s Cut (Xbox)

Does it need to be said?

“My name is Gary, and I am an addict…”

books

The thought that my library will one day grow too large to safely remain contained in a building originally designed merely for domestic purposes is worrying. There are a few tonnes of books, DVDs, CDs, games, comics and toys. There’s also a very real worry that one day the floorboards will give out under the pressure of holding all that stuff in place, and I’m gonna wake up under rubble, roof-slates and all manner of construction material.

Yet I can’t bring myself to sell anything. Not even the crap which I’ll never look at again. Even if I did start selling bits of my collection, I would only end up buying back the same things.

I’m still looking for a couple of Spider-Man paperbacks, the novelization of Mission: Impossible and a few of the earlier books by Harlan Ellison, so the mad collecting isn’t going to be curtailed at any point in the near future.

Posted in Over The Line | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

All The Subtlety Of The Tet Offensive

Posted by BigWords on September 4, 2009

Damn… I keep meaning to keep on top of things, but trying (badly) to memorize worksheets, books and other important stuff to bluff my way through essential work-related stuff has had the odd effect of turning my brains to shit. All the walking I am doing isn’t helping, as I’m often operating under less than optimal performance. I’ll share some of the projects from my To Do list here, and show you why things are a bit more insane than normal.

There’s a small company which needs technical manuals, class handouts and such, so I’m putting together a comprehensive pack of computer literature for them. I’ve sorted out most of the important (and essential) basic material, including the fundamentals of HTML, Java, the history of the internet, clear guidelines on website creation and some Photoshop stuff. I’m not going to get myself involved in the teaching aspect, but I’ll help out where I can.

And that’s put in the shade by a massive commitment to a group which has approached me for assistance with a British comic-book guide along the lines of Overstreet. I’ve got a lot of comics from the eighties and nineties… well, some 2000AD, and a shitload of Viz, Oink!, Scream and lots of seldom-heard titles. The girls comics alone (Misty, Judy, Bunty et al) are going to take a lot of research, so I’m sticking to the stuff I’ve heard of.

Re-reading some of the eighties’ relaunch of Eagle reminded me how much I hated the photostrips, especially since the Doomlord strip was eminently readable in strip form. Not sure what to make of the pictures of eighties television though… I must have blanked all memory of big hair, shoulder-pads and oil barons from my memory banks.

My involvement seemed a good idea when I added the project to my schedule, but I’m stepping back for a couple of months to complete my course and get some free time for real writing. The fiction kind. They’ll still be there when I’m ready to concentrate on the project, unless somebody manages to fill in a shitload of information on pre-1930’s comics… I think I’m safe in that regard.

And there’s the continuing saga of the WIPs to take into consideration.

So there is little in the way of free time. Yet I’m still fucking away the small hours of the night with endless games. Between about 2am and 5am is the best for playing something that requires a moody setting, such as Doom 3 – or the tunnel sequences of most FPS titles. All the better for frightening myself with.

Time seems to be slipping away.

November is scratched out in my calendar for NaNo, the end of December will be wasted with Christmas parties and alcohol, and I’m almost certain that the first couple of weeks of 2010 will be hazy at best. October, being ignored for the most part till now, seems to be filling with work.

The endless e-mails flying to and fro at the moment, proposing my involvement in groups, asking if I need work (and generally sucking up) are welcomed, but I really don’t have time to jump into another commitment without going completely fucking insane. Which I’m sure would amuse everyone, but I’m not giving anyone the satisfaction of seeing me in a straight-jacket. (cue bug-eating and shit-flinging)

Did I miss anything? Probably. I’m lost without my post-it notes, and those are upstairs. If I have promised anyone that I would do anything then I guess this is as good a place as any to badger me into progress. I check in with this blog every day, even if I don’t post anything, so I’ll answer anything that comes up.

Just don’t ask me to start a new project…

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Don’t Annoy Me Today…

Posted by BigWords on August 30, 2009

I’ve spent the night switching to and fro from the X-box, the PS2, the 360 and the PC, trying to find something I could play without getting incredibly annoyed at minor and irrelevant annoyances. There is a whole list of reasons why my impatience is not merely dissatisfaction, so I’m not going to bore everyone with tales of years gone by play-testing. I expect finished games to be of a higher quality than the ones which I helped discover glitches in.

Finished games, and ones I have actually shelled out money for, should be above the bell curve of quality. Sometimes a rush job is needed, but I will accept no excuses when after-sale care comes into play. Patches are an essential part of computing, and it will never go away as long as technology rushes onwards and upwards. But there are some games, still on sale, which are so disappointing as to make me want to throw them out of the window.

Armed And Dangerous is “thinner” than I remember it being, with glitchy clipping issues, at one point letting me get stuck as I passed a building. There was even a moment when the graphics failed to load correctly after a cut-scene, leaving me wondering why I had kept this title hanging around. Epic Fail in so many ways that it is hard to define one reason I am handing this one off to a charity shop. Spider-Man: Friend Or Foe was essentially the same level replayed over and over again in similar but not quite identical layouts. Fail. Even the Venom level was abysmal.

Rogue Trooper, perhaps sensing my increasingly bad attitude, refused to load. Ha! The PS2 is smarter than I gave it credit for.

Slightly over twelve hours of constant play (and attempted play) has shown me that my quality threshold for games has been raised significantly by too many A+ games, and I’m aware of every little thing that isn’t quite ‘right’ in the software. Hell, I’m turning into a moaning old bastard that refuses to allow a game even the slightest problem. I even swore at the television when I got to a cutscene. Always a bad sign…

Tomb Raider: Underworld. Not epic or eye-bleedingly beautiful.
Wall*E. Words fail me as I try to describe how bad this is…
Braid. Didn’t I play this, like, twenty years ago? Donkey something…
MotoGP 08. The other bikes seem to be able to go much, much faster than me, making up half a lap in a few seconds. Bad coding, or a secret boost button I haven’t discovered yet?

This was probably about the time I realized my blood pressure was rising instead of falling, so I hit upon the idea of playing something I knew would appease my increasing agitation. I break out ‘Old Faithful’ from the shelf, and pop the Turok disk in the 360.

There should be a limit to how much a person can bitch and moan, but I really am beyond salvation at the minute. My complaint about Turok isn’t pertaining to the gameplay, the graphics or even the selection of weapons. I took exception at the lead character almost as soon as my game had loaded, remembering how much fun I had reading the Gold Key comics, so the game didn’t stand a chance.

Maybe watching a DVD will relax me…

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End Of The Week Update

Posted by BigWords on August 23, 2009

I’ve noticed that there are quite a few authors posting weekly updates on what they have managed to get done during the week. I like to be different, so here is a weekly roundup of a different sort entirely.

Burnout 3: Takedown

Game Complete: 91%

Playing Time: 65 hrs, 23 mins

Burnout Points: 1,390,600
Crash Damage: $200,855,071
Takedowns: 1,637
Slam: 1,699

Race Event: 339
Crash Event: 520
Events Unlocked: 169
Events Completed: 166/173
Gold Medals (Special Events): 3/10

Longest Oncoming: 3,912ft
Longest Drift: 890ft
Car Count: 58/67
Signature Takedown Count: 13/20
Headline Count: 10/10
Takedown Target Count: 14/20

I’m in a nostalgic gaming mood, so I dusted this off. Not a bad game, but the annoyance of overly-aggresive game-controlled vehicles becomes tiresome after a while.

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Babylon 5 Images

Posted by BigWords on July 29, 2009

B5_Station_Signage_Information-Breather_base
B5_Station_Signage_Information-Turbolift_base
B5_Station_Signage_MedLab-Panel_base

Back when I was assisting with a fan-created Babylon 5 FPS I created a bunch of images which were taken from the television series. They have been sitting on disk for the better part of ten years, and as the game has yet to appear I guess I am in the clear to share them with people now.

B5_Station_Signage_Industrial-Authorized

B5_Station_Screens_C&C screen_small B5_Station_Screens_C&C screen_leftB5_Station_Screens_C&C screen_middleB5_Station_Screens_C&C screen_right

When I get the rest of the images off the disk I’ll put them with the other artwork.

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The Very Worst…

Posted by BigWords on July 28, 2009

Sometimes it is good to remind ourselves of the worst examples of anything, in case anyone feels the irresistible need to waste their money on them, so I’ve set out the five worst DVDs, computer games and comic-books.

DVDs:

  1. 48 Days Later. Ripping off a successful film is one thing, but ripping off a good zombie film when the market is already full of top-notch films is another entirely. This is an entirely unproductive and irrelevant waste of both time and money. Steer clear.
  2. Jigsaw. Nothing to do with the Saw film franchise, this is a cheap horror flick wherein a group of art students piece together a dummy which comes to life and kills them. The film is too slow, too stupid and too terrible to describe, but to give you and idea – this is much worse than Plan 9 From Outer Space.
  3. Super Mario Bros. When you absolutely, positively have to bore every motherfucker in the room to death, accept no substitutes. This is one of the shallowest game adaptations ever made, even outdoing Street Fighter for sheer stupidity.
  4. Meet The Spartans. The first rule of a parody- no, waitasec… The ONLY rule of a parody is: be funny. This redefines the extremes of unfunny, once the private domain of films such as Spaceballs and Lethal Weapon 4. It’s marginally less painful than watching paint dry, but not by much.
  5. Elektra. This makes the list due to the butchery of a classic comic-book character. You might think Catwoman, Howard The Duck or Batman & Robin deserves to be named and shamed more than this, but it was the only comic-book film with the opportunity to revolutionize Eastern combat scenes for a Hollywood audience. Epic fail.

Computer Games:

  1. Hellboy: Asylum Seeker. I had high hopes for this, but it is so ridden with bugs and glitches as to make it completely unplayable. The constant crashes, awkward controls and ugly appearance are enough to send anyone rushing from their computer screaming in agony…
  2. Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force. If being told “It was all a dream.” is annoying in a book, then in a computer game it is fucking unforgivable. Seriously, if people want to make a computer game based on Star Trek, at least let us play as Klingons so we can rip the heads off the alien enemies…
  3. Chrome. I had nearly forgotten about this, seeing as how it manages to have no original ideas whatsoever. It steals from nearly every FPS of the previous five years, manages to have the worst ladders in gaming history, has a story that barely counts as one and… Aw, hell- It’s too depressing to think about.
  4. TMNT. Film tie-in’s are meant to be bad, but this is terrible even for one of those. A piss-poor camera, terrible speed-challenges and unappealing style choices. There are small homages to previous games, but even those aren’t enough to make me want to play this again.
  5. Kingpin. The idea is fine, but the execution (no pun intended) is terrible. Characters who have joined you wander off in important shoot-outs, exploding barrels crash the game, there are solid walls you can walk through and the music is awful. The exact opposite of GTA.

Comic-Books.

  1. The Spider-Man Clone Saga. This felt like it ran on and on for nearly a decade, but it only ran for a couple of years. I was surprised that the storyline didn’t kill the title off, but it appears other people are willing to shell out cash on never-ending torment. Worse than One More Day
  2. Archie Meets The Punisher. This might have passed under your radar, but it did happen. Unfortunately. With a dumb plot, awkward art and one of the most unlikeable characters in comics (uh… Archie, obviously), this is a safe bet as one of the worst comics ever.
  3. Anything by Rob Liefeld. It’s a cheat, adding the entire output of an individual into a list like this, but the man has no talent whatsoever. Consider this free advice for any wannabe comic-book artists – Learn anatomy. To think I wasted so much money on his books, hoping he would improve…
  4. Comics Greatest World. Dark Horse rarely stumbles so badly as they did with their first attempt at a superhero universe. Never has a character been so aptly named as Hero Zero, and the majority of the other characters are equally as lame. That Barb Wire was the most successful title really says a lot about the idea. Read Ghost and X, ignore the rest.
  5. Extreme Justice? Extremely unreadable would be more appropriate. All the reasons JLA (and variations thereof) are fun to read is stripped away from the setup, and we’re left with a bunch of angry and unlikeable characters who are badly written.

There you go… Fifteen things to avoid.

Agreements, disagreements or rants are welcome.

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