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Tamz's blog

7:08 AM on 05.08.2008

A gamers life without a TV

A few months ago I bought a beautiful 40 inch Samsung HDTV, a TV so beautiful I wake up every morning with thoughts of fornicating with it in the hope that It would give birth to more beautiful little HDTVs, I haven't had the guts to follow through - that TV is way out of my league, i don't stand a chance.

The TV let itself go abit and has recently developed a hideous skin condition, 2 small black lines appeared on the screen, lucky for me I had warranty. The technician showed up earlier and took my baby away for some repairs, it has been away from me for 2 hours - bad things are happening........
[embed]85101:11133[/embed]   read

5:57 AM on 05.07.2008

Video game regulation in the UK - Part 2 of 4 (Wall Of Text Edition)

The Video Recordings Act was passed in 1984 and established that any video recording available for sale or rental in the UK is required to be certified and carry a classification assigned to it by a Home Office designated authority, this authority was the BBFC. The Video Recordings Act states:

'Video work means any series of visual images (with or without sound)...produced electronically by the use of information contained on any disc... magnetic tape [or any other device capable of storing data electronically], and shown as a moving picture...recording means...means any disc...magnetic tape [or any other device capable of storing data electronically] containing information by the use of which the whole or part of a video work may be produced'
(Video Recordings Act 1984)

While it seems that the content of the Video Recordings Act is tailored specifically for films and TV the modern video game usually contain content that one would deem as video, newer games contain a number of cut-scenes and full motion videos, these are small sections of video that are uncontrollable by the player, they are usually utilised to advance the story but nevertheless can reflect the mature content of the title.
The Video Recordings Act does not in any way explicitly address Video Games in the laws it provides, there is no mention of classification or regulation, in fact, the act actually states video games as exempt;

'...a video work is for the purposes of this Act an exempted work if; taken as a whole... it is a video game.'
(Video Recordings Act 1984, s2)

Although the Video Recordings Act states that video games can be an exempted work this does come with a caveat, section 2 of the act provides a number of qualities that can result in the video work not being exempt:

'A video work is not an exempted work for those purposes if, to any significant extent, it depicts - human sexual activity or acts of force or restraint associated with such activity, mutilation or torture of, or other acts of gross violence towards, humans or animals, human genital organs or human urinary or excretory functions...techniques likely to be useful in the commission of offences, or is [likely] to any significant extent to stimulate or encourage anything falling within paragraph or, in the case of anything falling within paragraph, is [likely] to any extent to do so...A video work is not an exempted work for those purposes if, to any significant extent, it depicts criminal activity which is likely to any significant extent to stimulate or encourage the commission of offences...'

The fact that the act specifically includes categories which can affect the exempted status means that although video games are an exempted form of entertainment if they contain any of the above qualities they become subject to the laws on classification contained in the Act.
There are a number of exceptions to liability through the sale or rental of unclassified video work; these are stated in section 9 of the Video Recordings Act. The act states that an offence is not committed if the supply 'would if it took place be, an exempted supply' or 'the video work is exempted' (Video Recordings Act 1983, s9(1)a).

The punishments for the supply of unclassified works range from convictions to fines, retailers can receive fines of up to 5,000 pounds for both the store manager and the staff member:

'conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or a fine or both...on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding 20,000 pounds or both.]'
(HMV VSC Team Brief)

In 1993 Jamie Bulger was killed by two 10 year old boys, much of the mainstream media placed the blame on a popular horror movie called 'Childs Play', it was argued that the two boys were mimicking the murderous behaviour of Chucky the doll. In response to public concerns about violence in the media changes were made to the Video Recordings Act in the Criminal Justice & Public Order Act of 1994, the act clarified what elements the BBFC were required to take into account when classifying the video content, until that point the BBFC was given full discretion as to what factors it would consider during the classification process, the 1994 changes stated that special attention had to be paid to work dealing with;
'Criminal behaviour, illegal drugs, violent behaviour or incidents horrific behaviour or incidents; or human sexual activity'
(Criminal Justice & Public Order Act 1994, Part VII [Video Recordings: Suitability])

As well as this, the 1994 legislation also added video games to the definition of 'video works', however it stated games were exempt but subject to the exceptions.
In addition to the legislation governing the media there are a number of regulatory bodies who govern video games, the BBFC in the UK, the Interactive Software Federation for Europe and the ESRB in the US.
The BBFC is an independent, self-financing UK regulator that regulates on film, video, DVD and video games;

'The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) is an independent, non-governmental body funded through the fees it charges to those who submit films, videos, DVDs and digital games for classification'

Originally established by the film industry in order to bring uniformity to classification of films the BBFC now classifies all video that is not made exempt by the Video Recordings Act of 1984. The role of the BBFC changed from strictly censorship to classification when it was assigned by the secretary of the state to classify films based on the 'suitability for viewing in the home'.
The BBFC makes income by charging fees for the services it provides, the amount payable relates to the running time of the video submitted for certification, the financial aspects of the BBFC are handled by the Council of Management which is comprised of representatives from servicing and manufacturing areas of the film industry, by remaining separate from the government, producers and distributors of movie, the BBFC can remain impartial and free from any bias. The BBFC is comprised of examiners and senior examiners. Examiners view the materials and then advise a classification or any changes that need to be made; the senior examiners manage the examiners and focus on any changes to recommendations made by the examiners.
The BBFC is also associated with a number of other bodies including 'The advisory panel on children's committee' who advice on issues of classification for video that will be seen by children, and the 'Video packing review committee' who work to prevent offensive material from appearing on covers of video's or DVD's.
The BBFC considers four main principles throughout the classification process:

'Adults should as far as possible be free to choose what they see, providing that it remains within the law and is not potentially harmful to society.
Works should be allowed to reach the widest audience that is appropriate for their theme and treatment, the context in which something (eg sex or violence) is presented is central to the question of its acceptability.
The BBFC's Guidelines will be reviewed periodically the Guidelines, and the Board's practice in applying them, have particular regard to any changes in public taste, attitudes and concerns; changes in the law; or new evidence from research or expert sources.'

The classifications range from a U rating which is suitable for everyone to an 18 rating which is only suitable for adults aged 18 or over. The BBFC takes into account a number of categories including;

'Acceptability of a theme depends significantly on its treatment ie the context and sensitivity of its presentation. However, the most problematic themes (for example drug abuse, sexual violence, paedophilia, incitement to racial hatred or violence) are unlikely to be appropriate at the most junior levels of classification'

'Use of expletives with a religious or racial association and language which offends other, sometimes vulnerable, minorities. The extent of that offence varies according to age, gender, race, background, beliefs and expectations brought by viewers to the genre on offer.'

'Natural nudity, providing there is no sexual context, is acceptable at all classification levels '

'The portrayal of human sexual activity can range from kissing and references to 'making love' to detail of real sex. This is reflected in the classification system, in which progressively stronger portrayal is allowed as the categories rise. The guidelines apply the same standards to homosexual as to heterosexual activity.'
We address the degree and nature of violence through our classification system. In making decisions our concerns, especially at the lower categories, include; portrayal of violence as a normal solution to problems, heroes who inflict pain and injury, callousness towards victims, encouraging aggressive attitudes, taking pleasure in pain or humiliation'

These categories are some of the most important categories as they are regularly featured in video games, while violence has been a prominent in video games for a substantial amount of time, nudity and sex have not, however recently a number of games have involved some elements of sex and nudity, while not as explicit as movies or even daytime television the inclusion is nevertheless important, the fact that the BBFC have detailed guidance as to content such as this shows that it is equipped in some way to deal with content maturity in video games.
While the BBFC is equipped to handle sensitive content it does not focus on video games specifically, this in turn means that it is comprised of people not familiar with games as a medium or the industry as a whole which has resulted in situations where video games and films being treated differently despite having similar content.

The Pan European Gaming Information (PEGI) focuses less on regulation of video games and more on assisting and advising parents in deciding whether a game is suitable for purchasing by implementing an age rating system developed by the Interactive Software Federation of Europe (ISFE). Whereas the BBFC regulates a number of media formats the PEGI system was developed specifically to ensure that games are played by the appropriate audience:

'The Pan-European Game Information (PEGI) age rating system was established in 2003 to help European parents make informed decisions on buying interactive games'

Whereas the BBFC operates disjointed from the video game industry the PEGI system is supported by the three major console companies; Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo as well as a number of developers and publishers. The PEGI system replaced the national age rating systems in favor of a unified European system to ensure that there would be no confusion when buying games from a foreign PAL territory.
The PEGI system is comprised of two aspects, the first is a traditional age rating system which ranges from a rating of 3+ to 18+, supplementing this is a system of descriptors, these are small icons relating to a particular type of content, these icons are placed on the front and back of the game case and signify the different content that is featured in the game. The benefit of this system is that parents are given more detail on what type of content is in the game allowing for a more informed decision.
The system was designed with closer attention paid to the audience, instead of simply applying the laws developed for another medium the PEGI system was created with a help of a number of demographics;

'In the drafting of the PEGI assessment form and the shaping of the system organisation, society representatives such as consumers, parents and religious groups have been largely involved.'

Furthermore the ratings are given by members of the industry familiar with the game, the game is usually assessed by a coder for the game which means that deeper issues such as context of content are given thought to:

'PEGI system is a voluntary system...ratings are carried out by members of the game industry means of a self assessment form. After examining a game, the in-house coder uses an intranet to answer a number of questions, after which the rating of the game will be given automatically. For each content category an age is established, based on the answers on the assessment form.
Ratings proposed by publishers are then checked by NICAM. All 16+ or 18+ ratings are checked before a rating is granted. All 12+ and samples of 3+ and 7+ ratings are checked after a rating has been granted. At the end of the process, products concerned are granted by NICAM, on behalf of ISFE, a license to use a specific logo and possibly descriptors as well.'

This is particularly effective because it rates games based on a criteria developed specifically for games, whereas the BBFC applies as standardized system originally developed for video. Many of the criticisms that can be leveled against the BBFC such as examiners who are not familiar with games or the industry, or the disconnect between the regulators and the industry are addressed by the PEGI system.
It may be argued that the influence that the developers and publishers have on the PEGI system provides an opportunity to manipulate the system and create incorrect classifications, although this is a possibility the vetting process handled by NICAM dispels any fears of this, since all the games rated 16 or over are checked before they are certified it means that there is less opportunity for misrepresentation.
The Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) uses a similar system for rating games in the US. The ESRB is self-regulatory and applies and enforces rating's guidelines for games, advertising of the games as well as privacy principles for online play.

Much like the PEGI system the ESRB uses a rating symbol as well as content descriptors that describe any features of the game that resulted in the rating. The ratings are given by at least three specially trained raters, the ratings are kept confidential and the raters are not allowed to have any connection to individuals or entities in the computer/video game industry.

Next post will be video games, movies and how they are treated.   read

6:50 AM on 05.06.2008

Video game regulation in the UK - Part 1 of 4

The aim of this series of blog posts is to analyse how video games are regulated and whether the laws work in practice. It will also look at the way in which video games are treated in comparison to similar mediums such movies and TV and how this affects the regulation of the medium.

This discussion will be split into four posts; the first will deal with video games and the importance of the medium as well as the part the actual games consoles play, the second will focus on the laws governing the medium with particular focus on the UK and will also look at the regulatory bodies, the third post will discuss the nature of video games in relation to movies focusing specifically how the two mediums are treated differently despite having a significant amount of similarities, lastly will be a conclusion, this will attempt to answer the question posed - 'Is video game regulation adequate and does it work?'
In order to appreciate the importance of video games and the regulation of it, the industry must be recognised as an important form of entertainment, while many enthusiasts by their nature accept the importance of video games the world at large is still reluctant to do the same, it is for this reason the size and impact of the industry in the UK and the US must be discussed, although these posts are primarily in relation to the laws of the UK the US must also be discussed as it has one of the largest markets for the medium and the success and impact of the games in the US is mirrored in the UK.
Since the days of Pong, Pac-man and Frogger the video game industry has spread like a wild fire and evolved into the largest and most lucrative entertainment industry today. The varied content available through the video game medium means that it is constantly attracting more consumers, even the most casual layer of the industry is accumulating a substantial amount of revenue and attention;

'The casual game industry is a USD 2.25 billion a year market, currently growing by 20 per cent annually, according to the 2007 market report released by the Casual Games Association ... men made up 48.3 per cent of casual gamers, although women accounted for 74 per cent of paying casual game players ... Solitaire, Tetris, and Bejeweled are the most popular casual games, according to the report'
(Mark Androvich, 'Casual Games a $2.2 Billion market',, 29th October 2007)

Although games are thought of as being a somewhat niche medium and appealing to a very specific market of people the recent renaissance in casual games has drawn in a whole new demographic, classic games such as Tetris, Zuma and Bejeweled now have far more appeal in large-part thanks to the various streamlined content delivery methods, mobile phones and online console networks such Xbox Live and Playstation Network mean that games are far more accessible and approachable, the immense popularity of the Nintendo Wii, DS and to some extent PSP has further added fuel to the fire through making these casual titles portable. Games such as Brain Training and My Word Coach appeal to a different audience because they deliver what some would perceive as being a 'non-gaming' experience, Brain Training purports to keeping the brain healthy and My Word Coach teaches different languages, these non-conventional games are drawing in audiences such as teenage girls, women and even the elderly;

'... the pastime's explosive growth outside its traditional demographic base of young men ... the industry's growth is coming largely from everyone else'
(Seth Schiesel, 'Casual fans are driving growth of video games', New York Times, September 11th 2007)

'In 2007, 24 percent of Americans over the age of 50 played video games, an increase from nine percent in 1999'
(Entertainment Software Association, 'Top 10 Industry Facts',

Complimenting the emergence of a new casual game audience is the long-standing hardcore video game enthusiast market; the majority of the revenue accrued by the medium can be traced to these dedicated players. In 2005 the video game industry contributed over $10 billion to the entertainment revenue in the US (Candrall, Dr Robert W & Sidak, Professor Gregory J, 'Video Games: Serious Business for America's Economy', Entertainment Software Association, 2006).

On September 5th 2007, Bungie Studios and Microsoft released 'Halo 3' for the Xbox 360 console, in the US the sales reached over $300 million (Paul McDougal, 'Halo 3 Sales top $300 million', Information Weekly, 2007) within the first week, breaking a number of industry records, over 2.7 million gamers played the game over Xbox Live in that same week.

The UK sales of the game were just as impressive; Halo 3 sold 84 million pounds ('Halo 3 Sales', BBC News, Thursday 27th September 2007 ) within the first 24 hours of release. The importance of the video game medium in the modern age can be seen through comparing the two biggest entertainment launches of 2007 Spider-man 3 and Halo 3, Halo 3 surpassed records set by Spider-man 3 making it the highest grossing entertainment launch in history.

As well as the importance of the actual video games the consoles they are found on also have a large part to play, consoles no longer exclusively play games, they are now also used for their multimedia capabilities.
The latest multimedia centric video game consoles are being developed and marketed as the center of home entertainment, the Playstation 3 hardware contains an integrated Blu-ray player, the Blu-ray format has recently won the next-generation format war and taken over as the dominant next-generation disc based format, it is now poised to become the high-definition media format of choice. The Xbox 360 is being marketed as the downloadable media console, Microsoft have shown this by integrating a film rental system into the console, the importance of these two formats means that very soon a large majority of homes will have one or both of the consoles and in turn will be exposed to video games in some form, this increase in exposure to games makes it vital to ensure that particular attention is paid to regulation and certification of games.
It is clear that video games are no longer the niche medium that it once was, the mainstream success of casual games, the Wii and DS, and the evidence provided by the popularity of games such as Halo 3 make it abundantly clear that video games have become an important medium, a medium that is permeating the everyday lives of people in the same way that movies, television and music has.
The rise in the importance of video games as an entertainment medium brings with it new challenges, much like films, TV and music the subject matter of video games varies and can include elements which could be deemed as inappropriate for some, it is important therefore that special attention be paid to the regulation and certification of video games to ensure the diverse content of games can only be accessed by the appropriate audiences.
The mainstream popularity of video games, broad appeal and the mature content of many games provide the rationale for legislation and regulation of medium, currently video games are regulated through the law as well as regulatory bodies.

The next post will look at the various UK laws that are relevant to video games as well as the regulatory bodies involved.   read

7:17 AM on 04.25.2008

Metal Gear Online Character Creation

I'm way to excited to articulate myself so I'll be brief, decided to try MGO just to see how far I'd get and i did get into a game, here's the character creation process and skills sets video that i took, sorry for the bad quality i only have a crappy phone. I'll put some gameplay vids up later. So far my impressions are; Its slower than I expected, controls are extremely refined, the stealth stuff is now context sensitive button presses.

[embed]83254:10755[/embed]   read

2:10 PM on 04.23.2008

Limited Edition Blog Post

Being a transient insomniac does have its upsides; it gives me plenty of time to listen to the plethora of video gaming related podcasts available on the internet. Last night I decided to listen to the latest episode of CAGcast, the Cheap Ass Gamer podcast. In the podcast CheapyD and Wombat talked a little about Limited Editions of video games and it got me thinking.

It used to be that only a select few games would also have a limited edition, these, unlike their modern counter-parts were actually limited editions, there would be a relatively low amount of these games circulated and more often than not theyíd be almost impossible to find after the day one release. In a stark contrast, these days almost every game that makes enough noise to attract even the smallest amount of attention is released with a not-so-limited ďlimitedĒ edition, even the triple AAA titles follow along the same lines. The effect of this is that it takes away from the personal satisfaction gained from having a limited edition of a particular game and more importantly it makes you look like a complete idiot when you pull out Halo 3 LE to show off to friends or the internet at large, since everyone has it and itís not particularly difficult to track one down itís hardly noteworthy.

Looking through my stack of games I can only find 5 special editions; God of War 2, Shadow of The Colossus, Bioshock, Devil May Cry 4 and Resident Evil 4, most of these were purchased a little while after their initial release when the price had dropped, although I picked up Bioshock and DMC4 on day one this was mainly because the price difference between the standard and LE was insignificant, I just wasnít interested in buying a limited edition of a game when nearly every other person on the planet had it, it makes me sound a bit pretentious and snobbish but if you think about it having so many that even months after the release of a game thereís a sizeable amount of them floating about defeats the purpose of having a limited edition. As I mentioned earlier most of the limited editions these days donít have the ďwowĒ factor they once had, and most people who buy these games either intend on keeping them for the memories (which will always be a little tarnished unless they bring it upon themselves to embark on a crusade to wipe out every other copy in an attempt to make their copy more valuable), or they get them to sell later, and considering the value is linked to the rarity of the item, they probably wonít get much for it.

The thing that makes limited editions impressive these days are the ridiculous prices, and itís not usually the actual product that impresses, itís normally the fact that you were dedicate enough (or stupid enough depending on how you see it) to pay the ridiculous price to get it, not everyone is that crazy, therefore you are one of few people insane enough to have the limited edition, props to you.

Even though I knew that companies put out Limited Editions because there are always people crazy enough to buy them even if theyíre marginally different from the standard edition it still doesnít explain why smaller companies with games that donít exactly warrant a special edition do it, you can usually tell whether your product is going to sell well or not which logically should dictate whether or not to release a limited edition but that isnít usually what happens, games that arenít exactly poised for success still have limited editions. After thinking about it for a while Iíve come up with a theory, like all of my theories itís farfetched and bordering on unbelievable, but that wonít stop me from talking about it.
Itís a well known fact that most retailers these days make their money from the used games market, whereas ordinarily a portion of the sales of new games revert back to the developers and publishers selling returned items as used game allows retailers to make money for themselves, this is one of the reasons that retailers arenít too happy about the internet as a content delivery method.

This used games market is something that developers and publishers are also aware of, which is why I think theyíre all too willing to release limited edition versions of games. I think that these limited editions are used as a form of guaranteed revenue, since most people who intend on buying a limited edition wouldnít settle for a used limited edition itís pretty rare to find limited editions in the used section or the bargain bin, for developers and publishers itís ideal, keeping the limited editions around the same price as the standard edition is usually a compelling enough reason to pick it up, if these limited editions do sell it pretty much guarantees the money from it will come back to them, and also limits the money retailers earn from selling games used.

At this point I only buy the limited edition versions of games to support the developers, provided that theyíre at a reasonable price that is. Itís too late to pick up the GTA IV Limited Edition but maybe Iíll get the Metal Gear Solid 4 version Ė let Kojima know that if he told me to jump off a building, by god Iíll do it and do it well.   read

6:52 AM on 04.20.2008

Microsoft mockery

According to CVG Microsoft have been talking smack about the PS3 version of GTAIV with their sights aimed at the 5 minute install time. The 45 minute Devil May Cry install time caused a fuss which I thought was unnecessary but nevertheless a valid reason to point and laugh. It looks like Microsoft have picked up on this and attempted to instigate the same response for GTA, the problem this time around is that firstly, it's five minutes and secondly most of the points Microsoft are bringing up aren't exactly true. For those too lazy to click the link (people like me) here's the post;

"MS has fired out on an email taking a cheap shot at the reported five minute install time on the PlayStation 3 version of GTA IV.

"With the OXM review hitting streets today, and your own preview impressions which are looking great, hopefully you'll all be a bit wiser as to the ins and outs of GTA IV now.

I'm sure you've all seen the chatter from the 1up GTA IV Preview on the PS3 install time....just a few thoughts on what you could do in this time if you were actually playing the 360 version from the moment you insert the disc....

Steal your first dozen or so cars and test out the improved vehicle handling?
Check out the cool features on your mobile phone?
Rack up a 5 Star Wanted Rating?
Have a blast of your first MP game on Xbox LIVE?
Ditch the tracksuit chic and buy some new clothes?
Unlock your first GTA IV Achievement and boost your Gamerscore?

....Or just start downloading a film from Xbox LIVE Video Store to watch later - check out the latest batch of arrivals this weekend!"

Arrogance has somehow erased any memory of the plethora of ridiculous issues that the 360 has and is currently facing, the failure rate of the console, regular Live downtime (expect issues with live when GTA comes out), Marketplace filled mostly with sub-par games, games requiring hard drives with console SKU's that don't actually include a hard drive or a memory unit with the adequate storage capacity
I'm not a fan of corporate slander but it feels especially dirty when it's video game companies doing it, i think it's because the industry is full of fanboys who make it their personal business to slag each other off at any given chance, so when the leading companies in the industry resort to juvenile name calling and nitpicking it's hard to expect anything else from enthusiasts generally.
I'll be buying GTA for the 360, not because I prefer the system but because many of my friends and family have 360s, ideally I'd like to get it for the PS3 because I'm not currently living in fear of it unlike the 360 which I am afraid might explode every time turn it on. Microsoft should probably jump off it's high horse and take a look around at it's own laughable situation before attempting to make the opposition look bad.

3:59 PM on 04.19.2008

I reaaaaally shouldn't do this...

Seriously, this is a waste of a blog post but I can't contain my love for this...I just discovered this so if it's old forgive my tardiness.
This is the kind of thing the internetz was made for, Mario songs and Team Fortress 2....ENJOY!


Mortal Bonkat.....


Soulja Bonk - this song is utter crap but this remix..........epic

[embed]82348:10522[/embed]   read

10:37 AM on 04.14.2008

Game endings and sequels (Podtoid discussion)

I was just listening to the latest episode of Podtoid in which they were discussing video game endings, how good they are and their favourite endings as well as unleashing their verbal fury at Americans in airports.

They discussed the idea that game endings have become progressively worse over the years and my thoughts on that echo what Jim said in the podcast, which was basically that video game endings have always been pretty poor. In the past most games would pit you against almost impossible odds only to give you an rudimentary and underwhelming screen with Ďcongratulationsí thrown along with the occasional poorly rendered 8-bit fireworks display but as production values of games have increased so have our expectations, unfortunately the majority of endings fail to meet these expectations.

In my opinion the reason the majority of endings usually fail to impress is because of the intention and motivation behind the game, from my personal experience it usually boils down to two approaches, the first is rare and to be honest probably not the most economically appealing approach -- to create a game with the intention of having it be one game where the story plays out to completion and nothing is held back, basically itís creating a self-contained game without any thought given to a sequel, the best example of this approach is Shadow of the Colossus. Itís clear from playing the game and experiencing the ending that there was absolutely no proposal to make the game part of a sequel and thatís why itís a satisfying experience. To some extent this can also be seen in Final Fantasy and Zelda games and is something that is supported by the formula of the games, because each of the games usually take place in their own self-contained world that remain disconnected from anything established in previous titles they have a satisfying ending, the stories are allowed run their full course as the following games arenít direct sequels. It is an undeniably risky approach but the payoff for the player is immense.

The second approach, and more widely used approach is to create a game with the intention of making it one part of a series of games, an example of this is Assassins Creed, Halo, Gears of War and to some extent Bioshock. These are games created with the goal of being a big-budget series; games such as these almost always have a thoroughly disappointing ending. Assassins Creed, Gears of War and Mass Effect are a few games among many that were created with this mind frame, more often than not they end up holding things back to use in the sequels and end in a lacklustre way in order to setup the next game. While it would be easy to point blame them for doing this it isnít entirely their fault, theyíre creating a game in a world where if you donít have mind blowing production values and market aggressively it will end up buried underneath the competition, it has become ridiculously expensive to make a successful game, a great idea and engaging gameplay just doesnít cut it anymore and for most developers and publishers the only way to keep going and remain economically stable is to succumb to the sequel approach.

Bioshock was an amazing game but most people would agree that towards the end it became everything that it had set out not to be, a derivative run of a mill shooter, the ending was one of the most anti-climactic moments in gaming history. Ken Levine told Kotaku that he wasnít too pleased with the way the endings played out;
Ď was never my intention to do two endings for the game. It sort of came very late and it was something that was requested by somebody up the food chain from me. Ď
When I finished the game I couldnít help but feel that the endings were crafted in order the leave the door to another Bioshock game open, I think I would have been more satisfied if the ending was a definitive and focused conclusion to the story as opposed the two situations that they showed.

Then again some games can do the sequel approach properly, its rare but it happens, the God of War and Metal Gear Solid games are examples of this and it is something that Valve have perfected and implemented successfully in the Half-Life games, although they conclude leaving the game open for sequels the endings are usually intriguing and well thought out cliff-hangers that create enough intrigue to keep people excited until the next game as opposed to frustrated like Gears of War or Halo 2 did.

I for one would like to see more one shot games that pack a punch, more Shadow of the Colossus type games and less money grabbing Assassins Creed type games, if you canít give me that at least take the time to write and craft a story and ending that will give us some sort of satisfaction, after the money we spend and time we invest I think we deserve it.


1:31 PM on 04.07.2008

Top 10 Video game openings

The video game - from its humble beginnings as a niche medium originating from a coin operated table tennis simulator that left pretty much everything to the imagination, it has now evolved into a multi-million dollar a year industry that is regularly seen pointing and laughing at a movie industry which has been crippled by a combination of pressure from the prowess of video games and its own mediocrity.
The video game industry has managed to keep the monotony that has dragged down the movie industry at bay through evolving to adapt and incorporate advancements in technology; these advancements in technology have allowed a progression in every facet of the medium, everything from the visual quality to the sound is given a yearly overhaul, as well as the audio visual evolutions gaming has now begun to encroach on territory that has previously been the differentiating factor between games and other mediums such as movies, books and TV - Narrative. Constant changes in these fields keep the medium fresh and allow developers to explore new territory.

One of the biggest changes in games was the use of cut-scenes and introduction sequences; the quality of cut-scenes has increased in order to accommodate advancements in narrative, as well as this they are also frequently used as tools to establish setting or an atmosphere.
So for your entertainment I have compiled my personal favourite video game intros from over the past few years, enjoy;


10. At number 10 is the classic Street Fighter 2 intro, on the surface it's a very simple opening, two guys are having a fight in the street surrounded by a group of cheering people engaging in some good old mob mentality. However, on closer inspection this opening has some troubling racial undertones, the two fighters are clearly of different races, one is a white man (who goes on to deliver a one hit KO punch to the face) and the other is black or at the very least Hispanic (who uses his face to block the aforementioned right hand straight), as well as this the audience is comprised almost entirely of white people who cheer as the white guy knocks the black guy out, there are a couple of colored people in the audience but they look less enthused. Maybe I'm just reading into it to much - whatever.


9. Next up is the second and final fighting game to be included in this list, Soul Calibur. The intro is a typical fighting game intro, a short simple cut scene introducing the player to the various characters in the game, the reason I enjoyed this opening so much was the visuals, the FMV shows off the characters and a few stages in a beautifully rendered sequence. The orchestral music adds a sense of epic scale, something that isn't usually found in fighting games. Also - Ivy's boobs, nuff said!


8. Final Fantasy VII was the one of the earliest games feature full motion videos, the opening cut scene starts off by focusing on a flower girl but later pulls back to reveal arguably the most important aspect of the game in terms of narrative, the city of Midgar. The introduction to the steam punk inspired city has now become iconic amongst Final Fantasy fans and gamers alike.


7. God of War is one of the few action games that has a story I actually care about and this opening has a large part to do with why. The God of War games are a no nonsense approach to story telling, although there is constant double crossing and backstabbing it doesn't attempt to weave these into a long winded philosophical tale of treachery and deceit, it gets straight to the point and the intro reflects that. The introduction draws people in by instantly immersing the player in the story, after selecting the difficulty it transitions seamlessly into the first cut-scene which is short and sweet, the excellent voice acting and great writing certainly help things along.


6. Traditionally Nintendo games haven't featured large FMV sequences, they instead focus on shorter introductory cut-scenes, however what I admire Nintendo for is their ability to instantly convey the appropriate theme and atmosphere using only the title screen, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is the perfect example of this. The somber mood conveyed by the Ocarina led music compliments the images of Link traversing Hyrule while occasionally stopping to show off the scale of the land. After a simple 1 minute introduction the player knows that this game is going to be epic.


5. The Half-Life tram sequence is basically legendary at this point, Half Life was one of the first example of good narrative in games and the opening sequence serves to further that cause, this is something that was intentionally put in to enhance the experience. The beauty of this intro sequence is that it is interactive, players are given the ability to move around as they please, however by restricting the movements to within the moving tram it essentially forces the player to look around the environment, which ultimately helps set the scene and establish an atmosphere - Genius


4. Chrono Trigger is the most epic game ever and is probably the best RPG ever. The opening sequence features the art stylings of Akira Toriyama, creator of Dragon Ball Z and music composed by Nobou Uematsu. The game was created by what is referred to as the 'Dream Team' which consists Hironobu Sakaguchi, Kazuhiko Aoki, and composer Nobuo Uematsu. Although I liked the opening from the original game I have to admit I prefer the remade version included in the Playstation release of the title, it's great seeing the amazing character roster animated in high resolution.


3. I could go on for pages about why this is a great opening sequence and babble on about cinematics and music but I'll keep it simple - Big Boss is BAD ASS!


2. Super Metroid is another shining testament to Nintendo's ability to instantly set an atmosphere, even today Super Metroid remains the most atmospheric video game ever, in my eyes even Bioshock doesn't come close. The first time I played this game I remember watching the title screen, it wasn't because i was enthralled by the colors and mesmerized by the music, but because the the combination of the atmospheric music and the creepy screeches of the Metroid scared the life out of me, I was hesitant in pressing the start button for fear of soiling myself.


1. At number one and in my opinion the greatest opening to a video game is Soul Reaver, not only were the visuals extremely pretty but the writing was extremely engaging and the music made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. To this day I still find myself listening to soundtrack, it just doesn't get old.

Honorable Mentions:
Tenchu 3
Metal Gear Solid 2
Final Fantasy 8

So, that's my top ten video game openings, embrace your inner internet troll and tell me I don't know shit and that _____________ should have been there, go on - you know you want to.   read

6:39 PM on 03.31.2008

Anne Diamond review thoughts

I like to think my blog posts have a little thought put into them and so are generally interesting to read, but once in a while I'm compelled to let out my inner internet monster by something I find ridiculous and feel compelled to just post an angry rant. Today this just happens to be the Anne Diamonds game reviews, they were reported on recently but I didn't really get round to reading them until today. I've edited the reviews and added in my inner thoughts, something i really shouldn't do. Here are three of her reviews;


6:12 PM on 03.30.2008

Review: God of War: Chains of Olympus

ďTen years, Athena! I have faithfully served the gods for ten years! When will you relieve me of these nightmares?Ē

This futile plea screamed by Kratos at the beginning of the first God of War is the foundation that Chains of Olympus is built on. God of War: Chains of Olympus is the second PSP game from Ready At Dawn, the developer responsible for the resounding success that was Daxter.
The game takes place before the events of the first God of War and follows Kratos through a small portion of his ten years in servitude to the Gods of Olympus.
Although the previous God of War games have placed a heavy focus on the narrative and overall story, in comparison Chains of Olympus is not as epic of a tale - however, the tale that it does tell is just as engaging and entertaining as in the previous two games and the welcome return of T.C Carson as Kratos and Linda Hunt as Gaia give the game that authentic God of War experience.
The game opens with Kratos being sent to the city of Attica to fend of a Persian invasion and kill a Basilisk unleashed on the city by the invaders, after dealing with the invasion Kratos witnesses something that forces him to embark on a journey through Hades and beyond., Kratos must once again face an evil threatening to destroy Olympus and the world with hopes that at the end the Gods of Olympus would live up to their word and free him of his torment.

While playing the game it can be easy to forget that this is in fact a portable title developed on a system that is relatively underpowered in comparison to the PS2, the game is a testament to the amazing care and effort put into development by Ready At Dawn, their familiarity with the platform and attention to detail has produced a game that looks and plays better than many console games.
You only have to glance at a screenshot to see that Chains of Olympus is pushing the PSP beyond what was thought possible, the game runs on an enhanced version of the Ready At Dawn proprietary engine used in Daxter and as a result graphically it is exceptional and unmatched by any other PSP game. The environments are detailed, the lighting is beautifully done and character models are rendered with painstaking detail, along with the magnificent sense of scale these visual touches successfully evoke the eye-catching aesthetic that God of War has become known for, and best of all Ė it all runs without so much as a single hiccup.The stability of the game is in large part due to the fact that the game is pushing the PSPís processor to the limit by allowing it to run at 333MHz.
One thing that I found particularly impressive is the animation of Kratos, as well as his remarkably realistic facial animations Kratos now moves with a realistic fluidity, instead of launching into a run the animations show progression and momentum, his roll and jump animations all look much less rigid and awkward which makes Kratos much better to look at as well as control.

Chains of Olympus, like its predecessors is strictly a linear affair where the player is essentially asked to get from A to B while fending of demonic enemies and solving the occasional puzzle. In its simplest form Chains of Olympus is an arena based brawler, Kratos will enter a room filled with enemies and the exits will be blocked by a demonic barrier until the enemies are defeated, once defeated the player will be allowed to progress through a small platforming section usually involving the same lever pulling, statue dragging, or wall climbing that the previous games featured, you would think this process would become repetitive but through mixing up the environments and placing more of a focus on the combat as opposed to the platforming the game is perfectly paced and never becomes monotonous or a chore.

The deep combat the series has become known for also remains fully intact. Whereas in the previous games Kratos would build up an arsenal of weaponry in Chains of Olympus there are only two weapons, his trademark Blades of Chaos and the Gauntlet of Zeus, a huge metal boxing glove like weapon that allows players to get up close and personal with their enemies. As well as weapons Kratos also has a number of magical abilities at his disposal, although the abilities are just rehashes of those featured in God of War 1 and 2 they are still great to use and more importantly are effective in combat.
The most surprising aspect of the combat is the controls, although the PSP lacks the second analogue nub this is compensated for by utilising the shoulder buttons in evasion, whereas on the Dual Shock 2 the right analogue stick would control the evasive manoeuvres on the PSP pressing both the shoulder buttons and then moving the nub in the desired direction will make Kratos leap to safety in that direction, initially this seems cumbersome but in actual fact it is a surprisingly intuitive alternative which makes movements far more precise. This control scheme also allows for a more seamless transition from offence to defence.

There is no doubt that God of War Chains of Olympus is a remarkable game and a technological feat but it does have a few small problems.
The biggest problem is that the game does absolutely nothing new, if anything it actually cuts out some key improvements on the original God of War. Whereas God of War 2 introduced a number of new gameplay mechanics such as the grappling mechanic, the flying and the crazy Incredible Hulk jumping through environments, Chains of Olympus actually takes all of these out, although this doesnít really impact that game significantly the experience is a little less exciting since itís all familiar territory.
As well as this Chains of Olympus is quite a short game, most players will get through it in around 6 hours which is a little disappointing, however the game is full of bonus content including a God mode as well as a number of challenges which in turn unlock alternative costumes for use in the main game, so there is a lot of replay value in the game.

When all is said and done God of War: Chains of Olympus is an extraordinary technical achievement and an amazing game that is worthy of the God of War name, even when compared to its console counter-parts the game holds up remarkably well. The impressive visuals, familiar but excellent gameplay and thrilling story all work in unison to provide an experience unmatched by any other PSP game, itís simple - if you own a PSP you need to play this game.   read

5:34 PM on 03.27.2008


Allow me to paint a picture, Microsoft has had incredible success with their first home console and is in the process of creating the next iteration of the Xbox, along with a new console they have visions of a unified online platform featuring online gaming, voice and video chat, arcade games and an integrated marketplace where users can purchase downloadable content including games, pictures, music and even feature length movies. Buried amongst these grand plans is the proposal for a simple concept revolving around awarding players points for completing tasks within games, these points would then be manifested in the form of a Gamerscore, a simple numerical total of all the achievement points the player has acquired represented by nothing more than a digit that can now be found on a players gamercard prefixed by a perfunctorily created symbol.

On paper, although novel, the concept doesnít seem like anything gamers would latch onto, in its simplest form itís just a number given to the player for completing the task. Upon unlocking my first achievement I was extremely excited at the prospect of accumulating a ridiculous number of gamerpoints but this was largely due to my mistaken belief that the points could be utilised in purchasing items from the marketplace, after realising that I was wrong and in fact the gamerpoints had no relevance or application outside of being a number underneath my gamertag I lost interest in the whole idea of gamerpoints.
It makes you wonder how vested in the concept of gamerpoints Microsoft really were, did they have the foresight to predict that gamers would attach a deeper meaning to the Gamerscore and so included it as a key feature of the Xbox 360, or was it something that they flippantly included believing its only merit to be one of novelty.

To this day I cannot understand why people spend so much time unlocking achievements with the goal of increasing their Gamerscore, I can understand approaching achievements as an additional challenge, for example I know of a number of people who spent hours attempting to complete the Mile High Club achievement on Call of Duty 4 but this was because of the challenge involved, I myself spent more time than I should have unlocking the various skull achievements on Halo 3, but my motivation was acquiring the Hayabusa armour as opposed to adding to my gamerscore and inflating my ego. The fact of the matter is that in reality most people donít do it for the challenge or the added replay value, they spend copious amounts of time and effort playing games that donít deserve to be played for the sake of acquiring these points. The question is Ė Why?

Regardless of how you feel about points and scores its hard to deny the satisfaction received from unlocking an achievement and this is something that Microsoft and the Xbox team should receive credit for, the satisfaction in unlocking an achievement is in my opinion derived in large part from the on screen popup notifying you that youíve unlocked an achievement, the audio and visual cues are what put the smile on a gamers face, imagine if the notification of the achievement was just some unanimated text appearing on screen saying youíve unlocked an achievement, in comparison how satisfied would you be, Iím betting not a lot.
You only have to look as far as the PS3 to see how true this is, if youíve ever unlocked an achievement on a PS3 game you know that the notification is just a line of text which appears momentarily, the satisfaction gained from this is incomparable to the animated notification along with the now iconic sound accompanying it. After a while you can become addicted to the momentary satisfaction that you get from hearing the sound and watching the animation, maybe thatís what drives some of these fixated points gatherers.

I believe the success of the gamerscore / gamerpoints / achievement concept is largely due to the deeper meaning that gamers have attached to the points.
Gaming is competitive by nature, thereís always someone claiming to be the best at a game, in the old days the only way to settle such a dispute would be to sit down and have it out (virtually of course), however in the newer generation of internet gaming settling such arguments takes far less effort, in this sense gamerscore can function as proof of stature as a gamer, many gamers use gamerscore to gauge the ability of another gamer, the higher the score the more accomplished and formidable the player, in a way It serves as a way for gamers to judge Ďa book by its coverí, a simple glance at a players score lets you know what youíre up against, this compels people to rack up gamerpoints in an attempt to assert themselves in the upper echelon of gamers. Although in practice this makes no sense since usually the points arenít awarded based on gaming ability it is reinforced through the relevance given to gamerscore in social integration on Xbox live. Although Xbox Live is an open network available to everyone in some situations social position and stature is judged by gamerscore, it isnít widespread but that doesnít mean it isnít there. Iíll provide some anecdotal evidence, I wasnít an early adopter of the Xbox 360 so when I picked one up and jumped into a game of Gears of War online I had very little gamerpoints, the result was that it turned into a juvenile game of Ďharass the dude with 20 gamerpointsí, the players had used my gamerscore to decide I would be the one in the game to get harassed (unfortunately for them Iím quite apt with the shotgun and proceeded to blow chunks out of everyone), if this was a isolated case I wouldnít bring it up but I was recently in a game of Halo 3 with someone who had a very low score and lets just say he wasnít exactly welcomed into the online environment, as well as this I know of a number of people who have had similar experiences. Maybe the reason people spend so much time collecting points is to ensure social integration, as well as stature as a gamer, it would explain why sites such as are so popular.

Points serve as a persistent meta-game that can be played as apart of every other game available for the system and some points hounds would claim to be obsessing over points because they find enjoyment in devoting time to collecting the points but the social impact that points have online is also undeniable, so I ask you Ė do you collect points? If so why? If not, why not?   read

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