Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The heat. It burnssss us

It's hot outside which means vidjo games, in contrast to cricket, have to be cancelled due to fine weather. Everyone, literally everyone, else is going to parks and filling up beer gardens and the social pressure is for us to do that too. Plus, because we have to open the windows, we can't see our screens anymore. Lastly, because all our energy has melted away, the slightest excuse prevents us from playing most games. Can't play Sonic Mega Collection to unlock Comix Zone without finding the right memory card first? We'd probably die of dehydration trying to find it. Have to take the Wiimote our of it's condom to put it in the Wii-Zapper? Death unless you've got a parasol to protect you. Standing up to play Kinect? Make sure you take at least five litres of water. Luckily though, there's always Pokemon*. Nice safe, friendly Pokemon sitting in the DS, flick it open, turn it on. Gaming happiness from our melted pool on the floor vantage point. We can even secrete the pokewalker about ourselves when we're forced to be outside so we're GAMING without anyone knowing it. 

As you are probably aware it is our go-to game franchise. It's the game we play whatever the weather (SEEMLESS LINK TO THE PARAGRAPH ABOVE, not even planned honest). We barely remember we're playing it soemtimes, it's become part of our autonomic nervous system. It's also the only game we've played this month and this content doesn't write itself. If it did it would look like this. So what's new in the world of Pokemon? We know you're dying to hear our opinion. We've remained stalwart mutes in response to the gaming journalists who have approached us for comment. Now, like the monsoon rains we're opening our floodgates to drench you with our gushing minds thoughts.

What's the Pokey-man haps? Not much crusaders. Not. Much. Not much and spin-off games.

  1. PokePark 2: Wonders Beyond. We didn't play the first Pokepark game, it's a Wii game squarely targeted, as opposed to on the surface targeted, at the younger gamer and without the usual rare download or connectivity for the main games that persuaded us to buy Pokemon Collosseum 1+2, Pokemon Ranger, My Pokemon Ranch or the excellent (we're not even joking) Pokemon Channel. Despite our plans to not own it there's now a second one out and by all accounts it fixes some deflating bits and breaks some of the working bits of the first one. For shames.
  2. Pokemon Conquest is the English title for Pokemon + Nobunga's Ambition, which you'll no doubt note is also in English. Word magic. In almost everything we've read about this game we're legally obliged to inform you that this game is a whacky/odd/very Japanese mashup between Pokemon and drum roll....... Nobunaga's Ambition a game series we're slightly mortified we'd never heard of before. We all have blind spots okay? We have dabbled in turn based grand strategy role-playing simulations before so we're filing this under might be worth a purchase. It's playable without a 3DS too which we're happy about. We were expecting Ninty to blindy pretend the DS never existed by now to shift 3DS sales but clearly unlike Sony and Microsoft they realise that yes, there is a massive advantage in creating games for platforms that many millions of people still own even if it isn't the latest one.
  3. Pokemon Black 2 and Pokemon White 2 or should that be Pokemon Black and White 2? There's no rules for how you list a pair of games that have a paired sequel. Pokemon Black and White Squared? Pokemons Black and White? Pokemon Blacks and Whites? With Richie still a half human being and myself still ploughing through the end game of Pokemon White, our opinions on this are incipient but here's where we're at. Since the very first Pokemon games way back in the monochrome olden times of 1996 the franchise has been very successful on trading on the fact that you need more than one game (or at least a friend with a different version) to fulfill the ever moving goal of catching them all. These days with the mostly working GTS and a thriving online Pokemon community, that we have largely opted out of for fear of being seen as paedos, it is quite possible to catch most of them by hopping online every now and then. Nintendo, bless the dear masters, have also been infinitely generous in releasing rare and elusive Pokemon through Nintendo WFC. Cynically we're taking the release of a numbered sequel to Black and White (normally each generation is composed of a third game that complements and ever so slightly adds to the main two games of a generation; Silver, Gold and Crystal; Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald; Diamond, Pearl and Platinum) as Ninty's fix to squeeze as much as possible out of this generation. There's not a great deal of exclusive content in the new games revealed so far but there's more than a smattering of extra and tedious alternate Pokemon forms. Each new generation introduces a load of completely new Pokemon which keeps everyone happy as they find favorites amongst the new crop, work out the best to play competitively with and contrive nasty combos with the Pokemon inherited from previous generations. In recent years Nintendo have introduced the idea of Pokemon forms, which aren't new Pokemon but slightly different versions of existing ones. It's money for old rope and one we're not that bothered about. From the pre-release information, charmingly still launched upon the world through Japanese magazines, B&W II is all about new forms for legendary Pokemon. We're hoping the games are offering more than just that and initially it looks like it may be the case here with details of new areas and 'plot' but then in the past the new and exclusive content has been highly disappointing and clearly a focus of the hype. Upon launch it is evident you're playing the exact same game over again with minor minor changes.
So there we have it. Our long, uninteresting and dull comments on a game franchise you don't care about. Tomorrow on TGAM:- we don't post anything here we just read the words Ghost Recon and fall into a coma for a month. 

* It's so hot we're not even going to add the little accent over the e. Forgive us this sin.

Monday, May 28, 2012

"Crunch time"

You know, its not often I talk about the games industry and the depravity and filth within, however today I would like to bend your ears, open your eyes and perhaps even educate the cretins and executives out there. For the non-industryer "crunch time" is when a game, DLC or whatever is reaching it's deadline. This deadline will suddenly make everyone involved on that project start working at 200% (usually up from 50%) to get everything done, creating a great deal of stress on budgets, quality and people. The deadline itself is usually enforced by marketing, or by a separate publisher, who has dictated that, "this needs to happen by then".

Now, why does this exist?

In short, this exist because of poor project planning. The tl;dr version is: Persons are placed in positions of authority and management, due to internal promotions i.e. low ranking programmers, developers and even testers who get given these tasks, without professional qualifications or certifications. Where this gives them the essential willingness qualification and "understanding the industry" or "liking games", it does not bolster the structure and organisation of project(s). There is rarely a formal project plan, other than: get this done, by this time, no risk/budgetary/quality controls. Where many other media companies, outwith the games industry, that create software, use many of the principles which can be so easily applied to to games projects, the games industry tends towards a more haphazard project and organisational approach.

We have seen so many one hit wonders, industry newbies trying to make a splash in a vast ocean, where some of these games have gone on to be runaway success stories, this is only based on a gaming core which is successful. Many of the popular console games churned out today are akin to movie blockbusters huge budgets time, money and resources, so many of the smaller companies who try to edge in this industry have a very difficult time to adhere to the monstrous project structure of pipelines, controls and methodologies.

But it is not all grim, one very simple solution is that industry professionals should simply re-evaluate the meaning of the term "Crunch-time". Rather than viewing it as an expected crazy time near the end of the project where everybody is expected to put in 80 hours a week. Consider it a swear word, because frankly, having crunch time means that someone along the way fucked up. Things can go off-track, however with planning, and especially the all important "understanding of the industry" these things should be budgeted for. The same with the risks involved, use experience to plan for the things than may go wrong, have solid planning structures for determining when and where a project is expected to be. These things exist and can be so easily applied to gaming projects.

Meh, case over.

Love and Nestle,

Richie X

Thursday, May 24, 2012


We picked this up from father of MUDs (or another appropriate title), Richard Bartle:

When role-playing games offer the possibility for player characters to romance non-player characters, the pressure for including same-sex relationships doesn't come primarily from gay players. Rather, it comes from straight male players who are playing female characters and get creeped out when they get hit on by male non-player characters.
Now he's a man who would know but I'm going to call Bouffalantshit on this one especially as it isn't qualified at all. is this an assumption or assertion? Are we talking about existing games, theoretical games or the two or three games that virtual world scholars study? Has anyone talked tot he developers who make this decisions and asked why they do/don't allow same sex relationships? Or at least I'm hoping it is all codswallop. Far too much has been written about gender and identity in games but for our liking none of it has really focused on gender and identity in games. I play as female characters more often than not because, despite what the feminists might say, female characters are more interesting than 30 something white guys plus we are 30 something white guys. We play that role in life. It's dull. I also don't buy the "if I'm going to stare at my character's butt for hours on end might as well be a woman's". That, my friends is also a bullshit argument. We've masturbated over male, female and 'other' characters and the sex barely makes a difference in duration, power of orgasm or feeling of shame afterwards. 

Maybe we're uber-liberal pinkos but we're finding hard to swallow the idea that playing as a character in a game is so immersing that players feel embodied in their avatars to the extent that they want to follow their normal sexual preferences but not immersing enough that they aren't happy to play as the gender/sexuality of their character that fits with the game world or fiction. Or, /ugh, are most gamers homophobic morons who can't accept even virtually pretending to play a homosexual role for fear of becoming a gay or catching the gay? More research plz.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Rise of Nightmares

Remember when we promised content? Here's some of it. About four years ago we played Rise of Nightmares on the Kinect and on the Xbox 360. We weren't impressed with the Kinect line-up at launch  (still aren't to be honest or happy about subsequent Kinect games) it was a rushed gimmicky effort to try to sway some of the bajillions of people who had played Wii Sports into buying an Xbox 360 and then, presumably get them onto proper games or something. Although games seem to be a low priority for Sony and Microsoft who seem to be fighting to be the all-in-one home media centre of which games is a small part. Then, it turns out that everyone and their dog is doing cool things with a Kinect. Everyone except people who make Kinect games that is. 

That would have been absolutely fine an' all except the Kinect games were all a bit pap. Including Rise of Nightmares. Under no circumstances should you play Rise of Nightmares single player. It is an exercise in extreme frustration. The controls are clunky at best, there's a great deal of recycling environments, the motion recognition is about 50-50, stealth sections don't work, some of the QTE movements are hard to pull-off comfortably, one boss fight comes ever so close to being ragequittingly frustrating and the game would be linear were it not for the fact that it is nigh impossible to actually walk in a straight line. And if you're unlucky and are tall and/or live in a box flat it may well be that the 'play area' lies outside of the walls of your flat. 

Get some buddies round though and play pass-the-body (because you don't use a controller, your body is the controller you see? You see? It isn't pass the pad, it's pass the body. Body passing. You pass the body) and it'll pass (see what we did then?) an evening or two just fine. The plot is a-c-t-u-a-l-l-y not as horrible or broken as it could have been. It's every bit the B-Movie, set somewhere in Eastern Europe, a bunch of hapless sexy ladies and douchey men victims, a spooky booby trapped castle, an evil stompy monster antagonist  and a bunch of zombies. It's a SEGA game so there's sexy gimp zombies too. You even get to SPOILERS sex a gypsy witch although only in a cutscene, no matching motions involved sadly. Towards the end of the game there's some surprisingly cool new ideas that keep you playing/experiencing it right up to the end. Then there's a whole bunch of challenges which, will keep our little gang of geeks coming back to it.

Rise of Nightmares is much like Wii Play and the original Wii Sports in that it is a proof of concept, a tech demo and it's one of only a handful of non-sports, non-dancing Kinect games or 'proper' games with a gammy Kinect mode gaffer taped on. Hopefully a developer will take the idea behind the playthrough slash movie and really run with it. Really, really run with it. Off into the distance and over yonder hill. Nothing to do with Fist bumping.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Coming Soon:

Content. That's right kiddywinks, from the same team that brought you all of this, expect to see some content just above here sometime soon. 

Every year, without fail we fail to celebrate the passing of another year of TGAM. Well we've got 10 more days to remember to do something. Will we remember to celebrate a whole six years of gaming related drivel? Or will we, as is tradition, just stop blogging for that whole week? OH, IT'S SO EXCITING and the only way you can find out what happens in this exclusive, nay, WORLD exclusive event is to just stay on this page F5ing. Well not this specific page but the main home page Unless you are already on the main page, in which case carry on.

Mac users can join in the fun too by stroking their iComputer every ten seconds I think that's how it works. The countdown begins here:

Richie can you insert a countdown thingy here by Monday? Thanks. Oh and if you don't get around to it can you make sure this post doesn't just automatically post as scheduled showing this text?

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

In game advertising

It hasn't happened yet but we remember distinctly being distinctly worried in a very distinct fashion around the time that gaming really took off as there were rumblings of in-game advertising being explored as a thing. We were worried that if advertisers got the keys to our games, they'd end up looking as gaudy as real cities and we'd find ourselves strangely drawn to brands we'd never paid much attention to before.

Fortunately, that never really happened. Red Bull got into a couple of games, Wipeout and Judge Dredd: Dredd vs Death. The brand seamlessly sat in the world of Wipeout. Not so much Judge Dredd. From what I can recall instead of making your way around generic docks and warehouses filled with normal crates, you made your way around docks and warehouses filled with Red Bull crates. Other than that I can't recall other adverts for real world brands in games (Mario Kart has in game billboards, hilariously advertising "green shells" and other levels. Hilarious is too strong. Take back hilarious). 

In fact we probably wouldn't mind these days. I don't know about you but I am practically blind to all the advertising that is beamed to my eye screens through social networks and google. We did stop playing Angry Birds though because of the adverts, the in game advertising (subtly covering a portion of the screen)  noticeably slowing the game down and if you're a fat fingered fucker like us accidentally clicking them takes you out of the game and onto the Android marketplace. Not happy. 

If your tapped into the haps of the cool and trendy you will have no doubt favourited our excellent tweet:
Pikmin 2 done. Finally. Stupid dumbbell and 100 purple Pikmin. Just in time for number 3...
 We don't want to go to hell so we weren't lying. We have literally finished Pikmin 2, hence this post about advertising. Unlike other games attempts at advertising, Pikmin 2 gets it so right. For those of you unfamiliar with the excellent (both games are in the 1001 video games you must play before you die) you take charge of Captain Olimar who corrals the Pikmin into collecting enough treasure to fix his ship and make millions back on his home world. Olimar and the Pikmin are tiny however and the treasures take on the forms of household objects. Rather than use generic household objects though, Ninty only went and got the license to use actual brands of household products. It's brilliant. Over the course of the game you collect Duracell batteries, Kiwi shoe polish, a can of Dr Pepper, Snapple and a French's mustard lid. Weird how the quotidian can seem so special, especially when you've gone through a hell of a lot of bother to organise those little bastards into collecting it and carrying back to the ship. 

That's it. What do you want? The profound on demand? We don't operate on those higher levels. We're more say what you see people.