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Showing posts from April, 2013

Too late to explore the Wii?

We have had a Wii under our living room telly for many years and it has always been my intention some day to explore what it could do beyond family friendly titles like Mario Kart and Just Dance. Monster Hunter Tri in particular was a title that I intended to try out someday having heard good things about it from many sources and given that it isn't available on any other platform. Somehow that "someday" kept getting pushed back and today I was a bit miffed to read that the servers are shutting down this very day . I don't think this affects the single player game but it is disappointing to realise that I will probably never have the full experience. Apparently Capcom are shutting down the Wii servers in the hopes of encouraging folk to migrate to their newer game on the WiiU platform. This strikes me as a pretty dodgy business strategy. There are almost a hundred million Wiis out there. There are no where near as many WiiUs and I strongly suspect there never will

Google Brother is Watching You

A couple of days ago I wrote a blog post about Bioshock Infinite. A few days before that I went looking for graphics cards on the internet and at some stage I visited the website of a company called Overclockers. Today I log into Youtube and the first ad I am presented with is this: Has someone invented the sport of trying to deliberately confuse advert profiling yet? Sci Fi Fans for instance who set their log on page to the romantic novels section of Amazon for instance. By the way I should point out that is actually a very good shop so I don't begrudge them their bit of targeted advertising. It is just another jarring reminder that big data probably already knows more about me than I know myself.

And the prize for most overpowered rocket launcher ever goes to ...

I am all for challenge in gaming but sometimes it is fun to get a weapon so overpowered that you can wallow in the visceral joy of annihilating hordes of enemies, particularly if you were previously struggling against those same foes. Darksider II has just such a weapon. It comes at a part of the game where you are facing swarms of weak but deadly mobs backed up by tougher mini bosses. The weapons at your disposal up to this point are barely adequate to deal with the onslaught and then you pick up the Gorehammer . It's a rocket launcher I guess firing exploding projectiles but two factors combine to make it the most overpowered rocket launcher I have every come across in a game. The first is that it constantly replenishes ammo at a rate of about one rocket per second. You never have to worry about running out of ammo and a generous magazine means you can let loose a rapid volley of rockets whenever required. The second factor is the doozy: there is no friendly fire. You cannot

Bioshock Infinite. Gaming has come of Age.

Wow. Just wow. I have finished my first play through of Bioshock Infinite. I sat through the entire credits with a glazed look of euphoria on my face. The game has restored my faith in AAA gaming. What a triumph. Of course there are details that you could nitpick about but what a genuine masterpiece. Perhaps for the first time ever we have a video game that can stand beside any other work of human creative endeavour, any movie, any book, any song or symphony. This game truly is a triumph of human creative expression. This game truly is a work of art. I had thought of titling this post "Video Games are done. They don't need to make any more". Thankfully though human creativity doesn't work like that. This isn't the end. With any luck this is just the beginning.   Word of advice: don't be afraid to lower the difficulty to a level you feel comfortable with. This is a game that should be experienced, not struggled with.

Steam is no longer the value king when it comes to PC gaming

It has been over 6 Months since I bought anything on Steam. These days my bargain conscious euro's go to Steam's competitors including Amazon, Green Man, Gog, Gamer's Gate and others even when I am buying games that install on Steam. A few years ago Steam sales of AAA games were the pinnacle of gaming value and at that time I was spending hundreds of euros in the Steam store. Nowadays however whenever I see something for sale on Steam I automatically look around to see if I can get it cheaper somewhere else. My lack of Steam purchases in over half a year shows that I almost always can. It is particularly telling that I didn't buy a single game from the Steam Christmas sale because I had already acquired everything I wanted at better prices from other online retailers. I suppose this is a natural consequence of Steam having such a dominant position in PC gaming. Competitors know that they have to beat Steam to get business and they do. This is free market competitio

Checkpoints done wrong, Checkpoints done right

Regardless of whether you prefer checkpoints or saving anywhere there are a number of features that every checkpoint save system absolutely should have.  This isn't a PC versus Console issue any more. Plenty of console games have excellent save systems. It is simply a matter of good practise in game design. Checkpoints done right: *No more than 5 minutes game time between checkpoints. *Checkpoint IMMEDIATELY before every tough encounter / boss fight. *Have a chapter select so player can replay any section without having to go back to start of game. *Allow player to stop game at any time and resume from where they left off. Checkpoints done wrong: *Arbitrary spacing of checkpoints sometimes more than 20 minutes. *Long  section of tedious trash mobs between checkpoint and boss fight. *Only one save and no chapter select. You want to see it again - start a new game. You just hit a bug? Tough luck, you have to start a new game. *You want to go to bed? Well keep playing you

Buggy Whips

Imagine it is sometime around 1910 and you are the worlds largest producer of buggy whips. Your last product the Model 7 was a big success but the young folk don't seem at all interested in buggy whips any more because they are excited about these new fangled auto-mobiles. Of course no self respecting gentleman would be seen in a noisy smelly auto-mobile so buggy whips are going to be around for some time yet but you cannot deny that the real growth business these days is motoring goggles. Do you: a. Develop a brand new buggy whip (the Model 8) that has a buggy whip welded on to a set of motoring goggles. It is a pretty good buggy whip but unfortunately to bind the two parts together you had to dispense with the handle of the whip. Users wear it like a pair of goggles and they crack the whip by nodding their heads vigorously. or b. Accept that the buggy whip market is going to shrink but make sure that you keep the lion's share of it by making Model 8 the best buggy whip

The other ball Microsoft is dropping: Skype

What the hell is happening to Skype? Five years ago Skype had an absolutely dominant position in the field of voice over the internet. I am sure it still has a lot of users today but I suspect a heck of a lot of them are over the age of 40. There are several new kids on the block that seem to have pushed Swype completely off the stage for everyone younger than that. My 12 year old daughter is all excited about Viber at the moment because it allows her to contact her friends without using up any precious credit. True but Swype has been doing that for years. WhatsApp also has a growing following. My very unscientific survey suggests that WhatsApp is capturing the 20+ market while Viber is winning the 20- and nobody but nobody is getting excited about Swype. The bizarre thing is that Swype is still probably a better service than either of these competitors. It has more features and is available on more platforms. Of course competition is a good thing for us consumers right? Well, y

Watching Star Wars in 2013

Last night I introduced my 12 year old daughter to a cornerstone of nerd culture by watching the "original" Star Wars, now known as Episode IV , A New Hope . It is 15 years since I last watched this myself so I was really surprised at how well this 1977 story has held up. I know Lucas has spent millions of dollars over the years fixing some of the hokier special effects but I think there is another reason why the movie still feels fresh and exciting. Star Wars has been so influential on just about every space opera film and video game made since that it feels incredibly familiar. Its blasters, its grey metal corridors its junk strewn depiction of alien planets have all become absolutely canonical to the genre. This struck me forcibly watching the scene where Luke and Leia are trapped on a narrow platform looking for an extending bridge while troopers try to break down the door behind them and another trooper shoots from a higher ledge. I have played versions of that sc

Now Playing: Fallout 3, Darksiders 2, The Walking Dead

Fallout  3 I recently spent over 60 hours playing the main campaign of  Fallout 3. I am hugely impressed and highly recommend it. What a huge world to explore full of adventures and stories. I forgot they made games like this. A minor gripe is that character progression is perhaps too generous with generous increases on power up and lots of skill ups scattered about the place. I never really felt the need to compromise one role in order to progress another and by the end of the game I was 100% proficient in several major skills. I have yet to install the add ons which I believe increase the level cap and will allow even more skills to be maxed out. Darksiders 2. I loved Darksiders 1 and I was hugely disappointed that the sequel didn't pull in enough revenue to save poor THQ. At least there is a fabulous game still to be played. Terrific artwork, fun puzzles and combat make this demonic fantasy action game a delight to play. For old codgers like me who normally struggle with c

The PC market is collapsing. Thought from a commiter User

We have long known that the conventional Windows based PC is struggling to compete with Apple and Android devices but now even main stream media are reporting on just how dramatic the decline in PC sales is. I personally think that Microsoft have accelerated their own demise with the awful Windows 8 and that they could still buy themselves a few more years of support from their traditional power user base if they just threw out Windows 8, tarted up Windows 7 a bit an re-released it as Windows 9. However as someone who has been using Microsoft powered PCs extensively for almost 30 years I think it is useful consider what I still need a Windows desktop for and how I would cope if it were no longer available. In Work: Firstly I use a large multi-screen PC for my work. In my job I have to do a lot of content creation. This includes Word, Powerpoint and Excel  projects that would be very painful to do on a touch screen interface but that could fairly easily be ported to a Mac or Linu

DLC Confusion

I have a strange problem with  DLC (downloadable content): I have way too much of it. This unusual complaint stems from my tendency put off purchasing games until they are on sale. By that stage most of the DLC that was drip fed to early purchasers is often bundled with the main game or costs so little extra that it seems foolish not to buy it. Fallout 3, which I have just finished playing came with 5 DLC add ons. Darksiders II which I am currently installing has a ludicrous 13 additional DLC codes. This abundance of DLC causes several problems. The first is trying to figure out what any of it is.  A single piece of DLC can contain anything from a piece of cosmetic armour to an entire new campaign and the grandiose names attached to DLC packs rarely give much clue as to what they contain. Even after figuring out what each piece of DLC is you are faced with the dilemma of whether installing it will improve or damage your game experience. It is regrettably common for DLC add ons to i