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5:16 AM on 05.07.2015

Favourite Characters: William Blaskowicz.

I don't know if it's because he is referred to as 'BJ' or because he speaks with the rustic twang of a US country-folk accent, but when i settled down to play Wolfenstein recently i really wasn't expecting the game's main character to be so introspective and poetic. The fact that his hulking blonde frame renders him more Aryan than every single Nazi i have spent the last eight-or-so hours brutally killing may have been a factor also.

But they say you should never judge a book by it's cover, and The New Order's William Blaskowicz has proven to be a very compelling read. I love how in the quiter moments, while you're making your way to a large-scale battle, Blaskowicz will recite a relevant anecdote from life before the war - maybe something his dad told him, or a recollection from his neighbour's farm - that bears impressive relevance to the trials ahead. He's a thinker, and words fly as impressively from his mouth as bullets do from any of the myriad killing devices available from the weapon wheel.

But there is more to his character than just being a sort of battlefield rhapsodist. There are some really funny moments in the games, such as when he is instructed to excercise restraint and replies 'what's that? Kill every Nazi i see? [mimics static] Sorry, you're breaking up' and also - and this is a rarity among first-person shooters in my experience - geniune concern and warmth. Captain Price was obvsiously upset when Soap kicked the bucket, but those who played Modern Warfare 3 will recall that he let his fists do most of the mourning. It's not that Blaskowicz doesn't use violence as a coping mechanism, but there is a sincirity and earnestness to the obligatory exposition.

When he tells his team that he'll find a way to free them, he does so in a way which makes you feel as thoug he cares about the people around him just as much as finishing the mission. When he talks about the air in a damp Nazi wine cellar reminding him of the farm, he does so in a way that makes you feel as though he longs to be back there. That he is totally commited to winning the war, that he will do whatever he can to vanguish the evil of Nazi Germany, but that he had a life before this all started that he is sorry he had to leave behind.  

It makes the instances in which friends and comrades are lost more harrowing, and the ones in which they are saved more triumphant. There is a moment in The Old Blood where he descends a lift into the unknown, and likens it to a worm burrying underground with its eyes closed. The game has tremendous visuals, but having the scene set further with Blaskowicz's baroque vocalisations makes it feel more real somehow.

That the wordy meanderings of a one-man army add so much to and enhance the actual gameplay is a real testament to the writers, and Brian Bloom's tremendous work voicing the character. I've long thought that he deserves to be spoken about in the same sentences as the likes of Nolan North, Jennifer Hale and Troy Baker, and hopefully The Old Blood expansion will convince a few other people too.

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3:08 AM on 05.24.2014

Rise of the Dark Spark: Will it stand, or will it fall?

Bah wheep gragnah wheep minibong. 

A new Transformers game is on the way, to accompany the new Transformers film, and although it's fashionable for gamers to trash movie tie-ins, and anyone to trash Michael Bay's output, i feel in the core of my spark that this game will be worthwhile and would like to explain why.

Firstly i'll just admit to being a huge Transformers fan. I keep toy... i mean, 'collectible figurines' around my house in the same way that an ancient Roman would keep miniature depictions of Mars and Jupiter - the greatest thing about the Transformers is the personality, and some of the Autobots and Decepticons have become sources of inspiration; embodiments of particular traits.



Megatron symbolises power and desire; Starscream ego and ambition; Rodimus boldness and the will to act; Ultra Magnus (a white repaint of Optimus in this line) selflessness and duty. Optimus Prime (not pictured), the obvious head of the pantheon, represents courage and leadership.

These same virtues absolutely can be brought across in video games, and absolutely have been in recent Transformers titles. Even Dark of the Moon.

While Michael Bay eschewed any sort of characterisation for bit-part bots in the films in favour of giving more screen time to Sam's parents and Carly's arse, the computer game version of Dark in the Moon dedicated entire levels to the likes of Ironhide, Mirage and Soundwave. Ironhide's trigger-happy nature was amply demonstrated in the way stray shots would blow up buildings - ways which were weaved into the gameplay - and Optimus would offer stern warnings over comms to highlight the fact. 



I really, really doubt that human drama is going to take away any of the spotlight from the Transformers in Rise of the Dark Spark, and the characterisation is so strong and so easy to bring to the forefront of a scene - Optimus is brave so have him wade into insurmountable odds without flinching; Megatron is formidable and terrifying so make NPC chatter decidedly more nervous when he is around - that the writing on RotDS would have to be exceptionally bad to screw this aspect of the series up.

I know that High Moon helmed the three previous games, which were great, but it's not as if this is an infallible studio who churn out product after product of immense quality. Deadpool, by all accounts, was awful. I think this is partially down to the fact that while he's pretty cool, he's just one character. In the Cybertron games HM had so many different, awesome personalities from which to draw inspiration and craft a game around, and the high points were definitely character moments.



Although i love G1, and the Cybertron games drew heavy inspiration from it, they're actually a part of the Aligned continuity, along with Transformers Prime. While Generation One brought us all of these incredible robots, the central lore was a bit lacking and mostly an afterthought. Not so in the Aligned continuity - it has an extremely tight origin mythos which brings everything together.

The short version of which, being that Primus and Unicron fought for an eternity with neither party coming close to victoy. Primus then created the thirteen Primes to do what he could not and shut down  Unicron. They succeeded but didn't know what to do with themselves afterwards and fell to infighting. They reconciled their differences for long enough to create the Well of All Sparks - which is where all Transformers would emerge.

Sometime after, the Quintessons invaded - who had previously been created by Quintess Prime, one of the 13 - and essentially enslaved the Transformers. During this time the well virtually stopped producing unique bots with personalities and names. New Transformers simply took a designation based on the job they would be forced to do. This included a miner named D-16, who would later take on the name Megatronus.



Explaining the chip on his shoulder, and pain in his voice. This is just one way in which the well-thought out premise has positively affected a major character in an interesting and meaningful way... and there is a lot of room to expand on this in Rise of the Dark Spark.

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It's not a secret that Galvatron is in Age of Extinction, so you don't need to be Perceptor to figure out that his Aligned counterpart is going to show up considering the premise of the game. The thing is, in this continuity he isn't a reformed Megatron or human-built Transformer. He was just a crazy, powerful, bot who had the bright idea of infusing himself and the small cult he led with radioactive elements. This destroyed everyone but him.

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And this is literally all we know about the Galvatron of the Aligned continuity. This comes from a short paragraph in the Covenant of Primus (which is an awesome book too - it comes inside a plastic Autobot shield which makes cool noises when you open it. Totally puts God to shame - this is how you store an important document) so i am really looking forward to seeing him. 

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Although it's based on an existing series of games and a movie, there is room for Edge of Reality to throw in something new with the familiar, and they are almost certainly going to have to. More Aligned lore is a good thing, trust me on that.

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The movieverse... maybe not so much, but it's not without its own merits. The Bumblebee redesign was really cool - i especially love the way the car doors stand on his back like bumblebee wings while in robot mode - and there is a lot of death. That is one of the things that made the 1986 animated film so great.

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Looking at the achievement list, i can see that there is an achievement awarded for doing something which seems to interfere with an event that took place in the very first episode of Prime, so i'm quite confident that the movie stuff is just there to capitalise on the popularity of the series and that the game will focus more on the Aligned continuity... but the Age of Extinction side will bring some awesome character models and alt modes for multiplayer.

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I can't wait to transform and roll out.   read


7:58 AM on 10.15.2013

Three underrated games that i loved this generation.

I wiped and packed up my xbox 360 yesterday. With the next generation of games consoles mere weeks away it seemed like a good time to trade it in for some store credit, but before clearing the HDD and putting it back in its box, i took a little time to look over my gaming history and achievements. 

130,816 gamerpoints, 243 games, and more hours than i care to count's worth of memories.

As i did so it occurred to me that many of my favourite games came and went without much fanfare or critical acclaim, and that i seem to be in a very unvocal minority when it comes to championing them on forums and the like. So i would like to take another shot at rectifying this as i take a look back at what i consider to be some of the most under-appreciated computer games of the current times.

Quantum of Solace.



I was immediately struck by how appropriately presented the game was. Its main menu is sleek and stylish and just very 'Bond', and the score was very much what you would expect. Despite being played predominately from the first-person perspective, when taking cover or using a takedown the game switched to third person view, making the most of Daniel Craig's likeness and making it very clear that you are 007.

The attention to presentation was such that it trickled down to less relevant things like the achievement list, where each achievement/trophy was named for a film or famous line from one, and relevantly so. 'He's playing his golden harp' is awarded for meleeing the man with the golden gun in multiplayer mode, while 'Octopussy' is quite hilariously reserved for finishing the game on its easiest difficulty setting. If you're a Bond fan, little touches like that can really enhance the experience. 

The game also features what i consider to be the single-greatest song recorded specifically for a video game. Kerli's When Nobody Loves You.



The game was made by Treyarch at around the same time they were putting Call of Duty: World at War together, so you can be pretty sure that as a shooter the mechanics are solid. A modified version of the CoD4 engine was used.

Unlike Call of Duty, however, stealth is a viable and enjoyable option in many of the game's situations. Sneaking through the backstage area of the floating opera at Bregenz and the terrorist-controlled terminals at LAX is all the more fun for Bond's signature silenced PPK and how well Treyarch captured the brutality of Craig's 007 in hand-to-hand encounters.

I wouldn't say that Quantum of Solace is a game everyone must rush out and buy, i wouldn't even say it is a game that those who particularly like shooting games must play... but i don't think that any Bond game has been made with quite as much love and respect for the source material than this one, and in that respect it is severely under-appreciated by 007 fans.

Risen 2



This is a legitimate contender for my favourite game of all time and the thing i most love about it is how much agency is afforded to the player. I really liked both Dragon Age games, but while there were often multiple ways of resolving an issue or completing a quest, these options were quite neatly laid out for you on almost all occasions. Not the case on Risen 2.

As an early example (and a very minor spoiler), you need to free a pirate who is being held in a cell. You can obviously nick the key from the commandant or pick the lock... but more industrious gamers can find some much more rewarding ways of doing things. 

Scattered around the town are cannons that you can use. One is conveniently positioned so that it can be swivelled towards the back of the prison tower, and can be fired so that it blows a hole in the wall through which our pirate friend can escape. At no point does the game tell you that you can do this, and there is an even more fun way of completing the task.

In the game you have the option of learning the art of voodoo or receiving special training in firearms that allows you to use muskets and shotguns. If you opt to illuminate yourself in the black magics you can take control of certain characters throughout the course of the game. In each case there is a reason you need to do this, but the game seems to know that you're going to want to do more. In one case you control a particularly loathsome man for the purposes of entering a restricted area. 

If you feel like it, you can take this opportunity to ruin his life and resign from his position of power within the city. I did feel like it, and the writing is good enough that you likely will too.

Graphically you can look at the game and see that the animations aren't that great and that the textures are not all they could be, but this game has a really nice feel. The weather effects, foliage and geography combine beautifully to create a world that is absorbing and fun to explore as it is lush and tropical. Each of the game's visitable islands also has its own distinct feel. 

I would say that the combat is something i suffered through. It's not bad, but the game is at its most enjoyable when you're talking to people and looking for interesting ways to complete quests. Although its sense of humour can be described as a little off-colour, i found it hilarious... particularly enjoying this potential response when informed i may enter a pirate tavern, though may be disappointed it isn't 'gay night'.



Transformers: Dark of the Moon

There are very likely Transformers fanatics who didn't even bother with this game, considering all that Michael Bay has done with his trilogy. I'm the sort of person who tries to see the good in things even when they aren't what i would have wanted, and found more than i expected to like in the three Transformers films... and High Moon brought most of that to the forefront in this game, unlike Bay who relegated little things like characterisation for anyone who isn't Bumblebee to the back of his movies.



Firstly, i'm not going to lie, i like the look of most of the Autobots in the movie universe, and especially Bumblebee. Whoever had the idea of having the four doors position like that on his back to resemble bumblebee wings was inspired. 

High Moon did a great job bringing him and Optimus and Ironhide to life. The transformation animations are terrific, as is that of general movement and attacks. The transformers look and handle impressively, and getting that right is half the battle in a game based on this IP, i think.

More impressively than that, though, they actually took the time to give the Transformers a little personality. You play as a different robot in each of the game's seven levels, and unlike the films, each one does more than just look spectacular and smash stuff... though admittedly that is a big part of Ironhide's level. Optimus has to reprimand him on a couple of occasions for his indifference towards collateral damage.

Ironhide will always be a red fire engine with a Southern US accent to me, but his black, English namesake can be very amusing when given the opportunity and lamenting the fact that 'the Decepticons don't want to come out and play'.



High Moon's Cybertron series rightly gets all the plaudits, but Dark of the Moon did more to impart fond memories of the film-versions of the likes of Mirage, Ironhide, Soundwave and Ratchet than the films managed.

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Of course, there is still a little life left in the current generation. I have decided to keep my PS3 and could not be looking forward to Batman: Arkham Origins any more. To get in the mood i recently went back to the Asylum to clear up the remaining challenge maps. 

On my way home from worth the other day i stopped at the bakery, and noticed in the lead-up to Halloween they were selling bat-shaped gingerbread biscuits. I don't really like gingerbread, but bought a couple anyway, thinking they might inspire me. 

I was sitting at home, playing the Rumble in the Jungle Extreme combat map and fondling one of the biscuits, sort of like Christian Bale did his first batarang, when my girlfriend came home and asked what i was doing and why i was eating a biscuit i had claimed not to like. 

I told her: 'Ginger frightens me. It's time my enemies shared my bread.' and threw it at the wall, where it smashed.



Unfortunately she didn't get it, and my amazing movie reference was wasted... much like  the fragmented biscuit i had to hoover up.   read


9:21 AM on 10.03.2013

My favourite GTA moment.

I realise that i am a little too late for the monthly challenge, but i'd like to talk about my new favourite GTA moment anyway. It only happened yesterday, and amazingly the one thing that instantly annoyed me about GTA Online ended up being the thing that caused me the most enjoyment. 

When you stick up a store you are encouraged to shout at the poor clerk behind the cash register. Doing so apparently makes him prepare the money a little faster, but as you can probably imagine, the majority of the people who bother with this are little kids who just shout rather dull obscenities. 

When i got to this part of the game i decided that i would take part - only i would roleplay as a 1940s-era English gentleman, as opposed to the 21st century English gentleman i am.

'I am dreadfully sorry to be a bother, my good man, but if you do not place all of your money into this plastic carrier bag with the utmost haste i shall be for forced to smash your head in with this policeman's truncheon. Which i retrieved from the cadaver of a bobby who stuck his nose where it was not wanted.'

Unfortunately by this time, the Old Bill had actually turned up. Even more unfortunately, i didn't have any ammo, so the nightstick i pinched from the rozza was actually my only means of defending myself. So i hit the two policemen with it. 

'You get a wallop. And you get a wallop.' and then a poor passer-by. 'EVERYBODY GETS A WALLOP.' Then got into my automobile and sped down the highway, where a short time later i had a head-on collision with another player. His car was totalled and he was killed, but i was fine because i had purchased an armour upgrade. This seemed to offend him and he went apesh*t at me.

'My apologies, sir, but i am from Britain you see? I am still adjusting to driving on the right side of the road.' and then i explained that you can insure your cars, and that all he had to do was give the insurance company a ring and he would get a brand new one. But he didn't have insurance. 

'No insurance? That must mean you nicked it! A marauding renegade such as yourself really is in no position to speak to such an esteemed and mostly law-abiding subject like me, Sir Percy, in such a tone.' At this point he threatened to kill me. 'I suggest you think long and hard before starting a row with me, dear boy. Or else i shall have to get the chaps on the horn, and you shall be in for the thrashing of a lifetime.'

You can probably guess that i don't actually have any chaps on who to call, unlike he, who really did sic his crew on me. I had to ditch my beautiful navy blue Banshee for a lorry, for the additional protection. Which proved a good decision when i was able to push a car containing three of my pursuers into the canals near the beach area. Of course i had to quip 'you fellows need to cool off'.

It wasn't long though, before the lorry was no longer functional and i had to make my escape on foot, which is rather difficult. Fortune smiled upon me though, as i was disconnected, presumably as a result of the shaky servers.

As i was taken back to the single-player campaign, i couldn't help but think 'you lead a charmed life, Sir Percy' and look forward to the antics he would get up to next time.

I want to make a crew that consists entirely of players of different nationalities, roleplaying as national stereotypes. It is empowering, to take the things uncultured people use to make fun of you and use them as a weapon yourself. You get to take the cool things, like the accent, manner of speech and ingenious methods of staving off scurvy, and ignore the dumb things like bad cuisine and teeth.   read


2:08 PM on 08.21.2013

This morning marked the lowest point in my gaming life.

Last week i was at the game store and noticed they were selling pre-owned PS3 games under a 'buy 2 get 1 free' promotion, so i snapped up inFAMOUS 2, Uncharted 3 and GoldenEye: Reloaded. which i thought i could finish the last little bit of this morning before heading out.

I'm sure most of you are familiar with the GoldenEye story. The difference in the update is that Alec Trevelyan is motivated by a hatred of the bankers instead of his parents being Lienz cossacks and some of the locations are different. Instead of taking place in Cuba the finale is set at a clean energy facility in Nigeria, which is where i was at.

During the 'cradle' level there is a part where you need to traverse a series of collapsing catwalks, all while infinitely-spawning enemies shoot at you from all sides. Cover is limited and your health doesn't regenerate while sprinting... and you only have 90 seconds to reach the end. There is not method; you just need to get lucky.

I wasn't getting lucky. Ten times i tried and ten times i failed, and what's more is that i was totally ignoring the bowl of Frosties i had prepared as my breakfast. They were going soggy and it was all 006's fault. The bastard traitor. Why couldn't he just join Occupy Wall Street or something?

By the 15th attempt i was out of my seat. Partially because i was too annoyed to sit, but also the red light on the controller was flashing, signalling that it needed a charge. So i plugged it in, and as the charger cable is short i couldn't sit even if i wasn't so agitated.

I had no been trying this for about half an hour, and hadn't very long until i absolutely, positively needed to be out the front door, and after a few more failed attempts i'd had enough. I softly threw the controller backwards, so it would land on the sofa. 

Only it didn't land on the sofa. It was still plugged into the charger cable which tethered it to the console. Instead of gliding gracefully to the padded safety of my remarkably chic sofa, the wire caused it to snap back, and it took a nose dive right into the barely-eaten bowl of cereal. Milk went everywhere.



You play 007 games to feel like James Bond... but i ended up feeling lit Steve Carell in Get Smart, which is only marginally better than feeling like Johnny English.

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6:16 PM on 06.16.2013

Gamertags is for tombstones, baby.

Over the course of EON's 007 series a slew of villains have attempted to do some really messed up things, like irradiating the US's gold supply in Fort Knox and instigating a war between Britain and China, but i don't think that there is a single line, in all the films, that i disagree with more.



Okay, maybe in real life a name isn't always terribly important, but for those of us who use the internet to communicate with other people, the handles we choose become a part of our identities, and in many cases can convey something about us, without even needing to type a thing. 

I chose YesConsiderably. If the title of this blog or my heading graphic didn't make it quite clear, my handle should let you know that i'm a little bit of a Bond fan. Unlike the rubbish Mr Big spouted in Live and Let Die, this line from Casino Royale is an all-time favourite.

Dryden: How did he die?
Bond: Your contact? Not well.
Dryden: Well you needn't worry, the second is...[Bond shoots him]
Bond: Yes, considerably.



This line encapsulates the coldness and eloquence of Bond beautifully, which is why i adopted it. I feel that in some ways i share these traits with 007 - particularly when it comes to gaming. I don't tend to be very gentlemanly in competitive multiplayer games, and will often throw out Bond-style quips relevant to the manner in which i dispatched of my foe. 

Needless to say i very much enjoy the old game cliché of electric panelling. Shocking. Positively shocking.

What i'm not enjoying quite so much, is the nagging feeling that the xbox One is not the next-gen console for me. I wont go into it, because so many other people have, but at times over the past week it has felt like the only thing stopping me from ditching my 360 and jumping over to Sony is my pathetic attachment to my xbox live gamertag. 

Names are important to me, and the thought that i might not have a cool name in the event i do switch to the PS4 worried me. 

So instead of worrying, i decided to do something about it. I watched each of the 23 Bond films over the course of the weekend, keeping a diligent eye out for something - anything - that sounds cool, is an obvious Bond reference, and will fit the PSN's character limit.

I considered things like 'You've-had-your-6', 'Sheer-magnetism-darling', and 'attempting_re-entry'... along with 'the gamer who pwnd me', 'you only respawn twice'... but i was pretty sure i had a winner about halfway into Goldfinger.



You expect me to talk? Wouldn't fit, so... No_iExpectUtoDie.

Admittedly, at first glance it isn't as sleek in appearance as YesConsiderably, but in the Playstation font that arrangement of upper and lower case is quite fetching, and the well-positioned underscore emphasises the word 'no', which i expect will be used as shorthand.

It's silly, but now that i have a handle in place, i'm not actually that stressed about the idea of making the switch. Perhaps i'll even be able to find someone to edit another of Fleming's novel covers to reflect my new gamername, in the same way one kind soul did Diamonds Are Forever. 

It is not unlike in Fleming's version of Casino Royale, when Bond becomes hindered by doubt over whether he is the good guy or the bad guy, but became hardened when he realised that Vesper was a double and messing him about. 

I'm not quite ready to say 'the bitch is dead' and will give MS a chance to demonstrate that its restrictive DRM will result in some sort of benefit for the player - possibly in the form of lower, more PC-like game prices - but if Andrew House called me into his Sony office to ask if i'm ready to get back to business... 



i would say 'with pleasure, Sony Playstation 4. With pleasure'.   read


9:52 AM on 03.10.2013

Has the encouraging end-game speech in a video game ever inspired you to victory

I went paintballing yesterday as part of my brother's stag festivities. It was quite fun, but beforehand i was quite nervous about being shot. I reached out to an ex-military guy on another forum i frequent, and he told me something i had long suspected. That the real-life fear of being hurt is a powerful tool for the front-line soldier.

Unfortunately once you've been hit a few times it's hard to be that worried, but it reminded me of a quote from Dragon Age II, where Hawke tells his party 'i don't know if we can win this, or if we even should, but i do know i can fight harder scared than they can angry'.



So obviously i decided it would be advantageous to subtly rile up our opponents, who happened to be a mixed-gender party of 12 celebrating someone's birthday. This took place in Essex, so imagine they were quite chav-like.

Anyway, in the first game i eliminated two of the women (like a big man) before being shot myself and having to sit out the rest of the round. I got hit in the neck, which really, REALLY, f*cking hurt. As i was tending to my wound in the sit-out area i overheard the two women talking. 'Yeah, some guy hit me in the arse... it was you wasn't it?'

'Sorry. The weapon instructor did say we'd get better results aiming for the larger areas of the body as opposed to always going for head shots'.
'You cheeky gi...'
'It was a compliment. You're quite callipygian'

She didn't know what that meant, so i told to look it up at dictionary.com when she got a moment.

Which she must have done, as after the break for lunch she approached me to say that it was quite a 'fancy way of telling me i have a nice bum' before adding she isn't used to that kind of language.

The rest of her party were watching, so i made a point of slowly looking at the men before telling her that doesn't surprise me. She laughed in agreement.

(at this point i understand that it seems like i was flirting, which might seem a little shady considering i have a girlfriend of my own, but i'd like to point out my brother's fiancée is having strippers at her hen party')

As you can imagine the guys didn't appreciate that, and during the next game seemed to make a point of going after me. Which they did quite successfully when they flanked me. I looked like a Kandinsky painting, and noticed in the shower just now that i have about half a dozen red marks on my back.

However, this was an objective game. Capture the flag. In focusing so heavily on me, they didn't give due thought to the rest of my team who managed to retrieve it and win the game.

And all because of messir Hawke (and my tactical brilliance and ability to charm a woman - i feel a bit like a cross between James Bond in Goldfinger and Sun Tzu).

It's also notable that the things i learned on Dragon Age helped me more than anything i had learned on Call of Duty, while playing paintball at a place which prides itself on having a recreation of a Modern Warfare 2 map.   read


4:47 AM on 01.27.2013

What's in a name?

My girlfriend started Dragon Age: Origins over the weekend. I was hovering in the living room and noticed that she opted to name her female human noble 'Cherrie'. Before she could finalise her choices are stopped her.

'You know that Cherrie is the French spelling of Sherry? Well, the in-game analogue of France, Orlais, invaded and occupied Ferelden for 100 years. There is no way a member of the Ferelden nobility would take such a name for his daughter. I think you should reconsider.'

This seemed to annoy her, and she sarcastically asked why the name i used for my Warden was any better. Even though she didn't want me to answer, i did anyway, because i'm quite proud of it.

Many human characters in Dragon Age have names taken from Celtic mythology. Morrigan being a prime example. In legend, she is a goddess of war, strife and sovereignty, and is said to take the form of a crow.



In the game, she is shown to have had a very tough upbringing (strife) and her position as an apostate and general hater of the Chantry demonstrates how much she values her independence. Sovereignty. Also, notice the black feathers on her shoulder.

So knowing this, i gave my male human noble the name 'Taranis', who was the Celtic god of Thunder.

I made sure to always equip his primary weapon with a lightning rune, and as the god is usually depicted as holding a wheel, i went with a 'sword and board' build, to emulate the look.

Also, and this is what i was most proud of, a lot of old Celtic coins had wheels on one side. And nobility tend to have quite a lot of money.

She concluded that i was insane to put so much thought into it, but it made me realise just how much i enjoy really thinking about the game world and choosing a name that not just fits it, but also the type of character i want to build and role-play as.

I'm about to start Divinity II and am currently racking my brain in an effort to come up with something. It has become a big part of the rpg experience for me. Even though the game will always refer to me as 'the Warden' or 'Shepard' or 'Vault Dweller', i always get a kick out of seeing my perfectly devised name on the character screens.

I guess i'm wondering if anyone else takes it this seriously.   read


3:56 PM on 01.10.2013

Where it went wrong for the BioWare Social Network.

I read an article on Eurogamer today, claiming that a head writer at BioWare finds the company's forum to be 'increasingly toxic' and that as a result he largely ignores it these days. My first thought was fair enough - Mass Effect has the worst fan-base in all of gaming - but now that i think about it, i believe that BioWare only have themselves to blame.

I think back to that femshep polling fiasco, where we were asked to vote upon a face for the female version of our favourite space marine. As most will remember, a blonde model prevailed and that should have been that. BioWare gave no indication that more votes would be held to refine Shepard's visage.



Yet large numbers of fans took the BSN and Twitter to complain. Apparently the blonde looked as though she was more concerned with her nails than the state of the galaxy, or as though she should be carrying a small dog around in a designer handbag. And BioWare caved.

Imagine the storm such a change to the terms would have caused if the black Shepard character model had won the vote. No doubt BioWare would have had to stick to their guns, but prejudice against blonde women is largely accepted and somewhat institutionalised, i have learned.

Quite rightly, many blonde female players were left feeling a bit let down that BioWare would crack under such pressure, and let prejudiced, borderline-misogynistic whining dictate design policy. BW can claim that more people wanted a non-blonde Shepard (which isn't true - less than half as many people who took part in the first vote did in the second) but when you do such an injustice to a small portion of the fan-base to please the masses you send a message.


It's just not possible to be blonde, attractive, female, and a strong leader.

It's little wonder that any bigot with a keyboard and an interest in their games takes their narrow mind to the BioWare Social Network. It has a toxic atmosphere because BioWare enabled it, and to a certain extent rewarded it in quite a big way.

Forget the recycled environments of DAII, and the ending of ME3 (which i quite liked). This was the moment when BioWare really screwed up, in terms of maintaining some semblance of rationality and decency in its community.

On a lighter note, i'd like to thank them providing me with confirmation that i'll probably end up marrying my current girlfriend. She was looking at some celebrity column a few days ago and saw that Tricia Helfer had posed nude for some calendar.

I said that i don't really like her as a brunette. She agreed, adding that Tricia looks better with her hair as a flexible, bio-mimetic nano-material, cohered into a solid piece.   read


6:29 PM on 01.02.2013

I think that playing violent video games as a kid helped my development.

I've just read an article about how a small Connecticut town has set up a voluntary video game return program, seemingly aimed at collecting violent games. On the surface this seems like a dumb, reactionary response to a recent atrocity... but considering that the School superintendant behind the idea is quoted as saying

'We're suggesting that for parents who have a child or children who play violent video games, to first of all view the games. We're asking parents to better understand what their child is doing. Have a conversation about next steps. If parents are comfortable (with their child's gaming habits), we're comfortable.'

ignoring the fact that the donated games are likely to be burnt, it doesn't actually seem too bad. It does seem to imply that many people see a link between video games and real-life crazy and violent people though. So i've had a little think about how games with an emphasis on violence affected my development.



And the truth is that i have always found that games with really visceral and involved combat often leave me looking for less bloody ways through a quest.

Like in Dragon Age: Origins. I firmly believe that in order to get the most out of any RPG you need to play on a difficulty level that is slightly outside of your comfort zone, because this makes certain choices far more harrowing and important. Like in DA, when you have the option of sacrificing some elven slaves in order to receive a big buff to your health. On easy, it's barely a decision. If i'm playing as a good guy, i don't do it. But on Nightmare, because combat is that much more difficult, even though i was playing as a good guy, i had to consider it. The Wardens say to do whatever is necessary to battle the Blight, after all.

Anyway, there are some really combat-intensive parts of the game, such as in Orzammar and the Deep Roads. Because of this, i ended up letting a lot of petty criminals flee with their lives.

Of course the Darkspawn scum can never be given that option, but i can honestly say that a lot of violent games leave me looking for more peaceful means to resolve an issue. You need to pick your battles and be more discerning when it comes to deciding who really needs to die or be beaten to within an inch of their lives.

To that end, video games echo and enforce real life realities.

When i was at school, unbelievably other children would sometimes make fun of me. I knew that fighting was hard and mana potions were scarce, so wasn't about to engage every hoodlum that mocked me.

I saved my stamina for the big issues, like when some bastard-child nicked my yo-yo. And even then, i knew it was best to not get my hands dirty and instead paid the Cannon brothers two weeks worth of pocket money to beat him up and get it back for me.

After my associates were done with the young rapscallion, he was laying on the grass crying and i was presented with an opportunity to kick him in the head. But i didn't. I not only taught him a lesson about not taking things that don't belong to you, but i also taught him a lesson about mercy. Because as games told me, often you need to take the paragon/light side/way of the open palm path if you want to unlock the best ending.

It really is like games taught me. There is always a better way to solve an issue than with your own fists. And i am happy to report that games like Dragon Age are teaching my 13 year old brother similar lessons.



Also, as there have been a lot of 'top games of 2012 lists' i'd just like to add that my absolute favourite game of the year was Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, which just did an amazing job of bringing back the G1 characteristics of my favourite robots. Risen 2 and Mass Effect 3 run it close.   read


6:42 PM on 11.01.2012

A strange thing happened to me at GAME yesterday.

I went into GAME yesterday to get some Microsoft points so that i could download the Sleeping Dogs DLC, and because as yesterday was obviously Halloween, the employees there were dressed up.

I was browsing the xbox games and some guy who was in a devil costume came over and asked if i needed any help. I told him that i was just looking, but that i kind of wanted to buy Medal of Honour but have been making an effort recently to not buy so many games, and with two that i'm really looking forward to coming over the next fortnight i should probably try to be more responsible and wait.

He basically said that i should ignore all that and just buy the bloody game, but then somebody else told me that i should probably just wait. I recognised the voice as belonging to a girl named Sarah. This is the shop my girlfriend works at too and they're friends, so i said 'maybe' and went to put the game back.

The displays have this sort of reflective surface towards the top, and i never pass up an opportunity to look at myself, so as i was putting the game back i looked up and noticed that Sarah was dressed up as one of those Lynx angels.

It was so bizarre. I had a devil on my right shoulder telling me to ignore my doubts and act irresponsibly, and an angel on my left shoulder telling me to do the good thing.



This kind of made my mind up fully on the matter, and i left the game on the shelf before walking to the checkout to get my Microsoft points. Sarah isn't divine, but because of the occasion the imagery was quite powerful.   read


3:25 PM on 10.26.2012

An introductory post.

I've posted a few blogs already, but as i'm probably going to be sticking around i would like to introduce myself properly. To help do this i'd like to share a story from my day.

______


I went to see Skyfall today (don't worry; there are no spoilers) and it was fantastic.

Not quite as good as Casino Royale, and the action scenes were a little bit lacking… but it showed a more clever side to James Bond and re-introduced some of the traditional elements associated with 007 films before the reboot. It was very funny too… though one scene included for laughs left me a little confused in regards to continuity.

Also funny is that i went to the first screening of the film, which was in the morning of a weekday, so you can imagine that the other people there were pretty big fans too. While we were waiting for the theatre doors to be opened my girlfriend was reading from a ‘50 years of Bond’ trivia panthlete.

I got every question right, naturally, but as i looked around i could see the other people were answering them in their heads. One guy in particular - a hairy man with a comb-over - had a ‘i answered that quicker’ look in his eye, and eventually he joined in.

I had just been asked ‘which actor played 007 in the most films’ and answered Roger Moore. The guy then said ‘actually, Connery also portrayed Bond 7 times… once in the non-eon Never Say Never Again’, and then gave a smile that seemed a bit menacing like Jaws’.



My girlfriend then pointed out that these only pertained to the official films, and declared me the victor, so i gave a smile very much like the one Moore replied to Jaws with in the Spy Who Loved Me.

Moments like that stay with you. I will never forget the day i beat a jumped up ape at Bond trivia on a technicality in front of at least four other fanatics and their embarrassed-looking wives on the day Skyfall opened to the public.

______


Some of you may have read my blog about how i read the Drell prayer from Mass Effect 3 at my uncle's funeral, or how i used a Dragon Age analogy to offer some relationship advice to a friend. The point i'm attempting to illustrate is that when something captures my imagination it really pulls me in, and to an almost pathetic degree. Words like 'saddo' and 'anorak' are often used to describe me... but given the amount of enjoyment my passions bring me and how much i can glean from the world through them, i can't say i care.

In addition to James Bond and video games, my big passion is the Moon, and i would like to pose a question if i may.

Have you ever seen a total solar eclipse? And if so, have you ever wondered as to the mathematics that allow this celestial miracle to occur?

Do you not find it weird that the sun and the moon and the earth are just the right size and just the right distance apart to allow this to happen? Because i do find it weird. I also find the fact that none of the major accepted theories on the Moon's origin sufficiently account for the fact that every tested sample of Moon rock has had an identical oxygen isotope signature to that of Earth rock... a fact which demonstrates that both bodies originated at the same distance from the sun, and completely discredits both 'big whack theory' and the idea that the Moon was somehow captured by the Earth's gravity.

This, in conjunction to the complex mathematical message encoded within the Moon and its relationship with the sun and the Earth, has led me to believe that it is an artificial object, built with the intention of acting as an incubator with which to promote intelligent life on Earth.

This is the closest thing i have to a religious belief, and have been writing a 'space ballet' to tell the story. It's like a regular ballet, only instead of traditional instrumentation, i'm using synthesisers, electric guitars, drum machines and the space-age equivalent of a cannon (sort of an ode to Tchaikovsky - my musical idol).

______


As far as gaming goes, i have been doing it for a long time. My first console was a Sega Master System II (the one that had Alex Kidd in Miracle World built in) and i remember loving Psycho Fox especially, though i would have been very young at the time. My household remained loyal to Sega all the way to the Dreamcast, and games i enjoyed from this time are Fantastic Dizzy, Cosmic Spacehead, Road Avenger, Chu Chu Rocket and Shen Mue.

I had an original xbox, but didn't play it very much. I kind of lost interest in gaming for a while, but was sucked back in 2008 when i bought Mass Effect with a 360. Now some might say i'm a little too into it.

Not least of all my girlfriend, who sometimes dresses up as video game characters and enacts elaborate roleplays. She often makes requests in return though, so we both enjoy it... although the time i was dressed as Samwise Gamgee and got clipped around the ear for not saying 'oooh Miss Frodo' in a convincing enough West Country accent is definitely one of the weirder moments of my life.

Anyway, that's me.
Seleznyov out.   read


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