With the Byron Review now published, I was actually surprised at the recommendations, which until now I had suspected would be a typical games are for kids and that the games themselves are too violent to be healthy response.
However, I am actually quite impressed with the good doctor's recommendations. Like a lot of gamers she has recommended the BBFC become a legally required and enforced body, which also combines the PEGI system so a 'U' and '12' style certificate. This would seem to be a good thing for two reasons:
a) It will shut parents up.
b) It makes sense.
The simple fact of the matter is that parents of today's children come from a different generation, one that grew up without the internet, 360's and ps3's and whose video game experiences came from arcade games such as pac-man (okay maybe that is a little old but you get my point). They may have played more adult themed games like Mortal Kombat and such, but that would be back when games weren't fast becoming a legitimate entertainment medium to rival films and music.
They also grew up during the 'Video Nasty' period, and as such have had it ingrained that anything containing such content is unsuitable for their children, as it was unsuitable for them. Parents want to protect their kids, and while many believe kicking off about a game is just daft, it's a natural reaction to any threat to a person's children. Parents need to be educated to make it so that they understand that games are not just for kids and with each passing year more and more adult rated/themed games are released, taking movie themes such as war and crime and adding in the ability to play it. If parents can easily see through a ratings system like the ones used in film what a game contains, they will be quiet about it and not buy it for their kids.
Of course there are parental controls on consoles as well, which more people need to learn how to use but that is a slightly separate issue more to do with the fact that most people will not read the instructions to anything they buy and may well simply not know such controls exist.
The recommendations the report made do make sense, more education for parents in the ratings system, and for using the parental controls in use in consoles. This is a great recommendation, and makes it known that after this if kids are still playing violent games then it is down to the parents to have the knowledge to stop them, not the games companies who are making legitimate entertainment media to stop.
Combining the PEGI and BBFC systems, kind of makes sense, though that will depend on exactly what the new system will entail and exactly how much of a fuss is made of it. If its done right, forcing all games through the system could well sort this problem out and stop parents complaining.
The single, best part of this report, though, is that it states Dr Byron didn't find as real evidence that playing games leads to an increase in aggressiveness. People probably won't accept this, and so far that point has been glossed over by most reports, but it is important to mention as the entire stink over games seems to be a lot to do with this.
So as far as I can tell, this report was worth it, provided some good and sensible recommendations and didn't paint games as some kind of spawn of Satan here to destroy kids. Only time will tell how effective her recommendations will be.
One final point, watching GMTV the day the report was published, two things didn't sit well. One was the fact they said in BIOSHOCK you HAD to kill the little sisters, which is utterly wrong and the second was that a 14 year old boy was stabbed by a friend who loved MANHUNT. Again that was utterly wrong and the copy of MANHUNT found at the scene was the victims NOT the attackers and at the time the police stated the game had nothing to do with it. Just making the point that even on the day of this report coming out, the media are still mis-reporting gaming facts, oh and the fact they used MANHUNT 2 as much of their in game footage was just plain bias.
So this last weekend, 3 levels of Wembley stadium were taken over by the gaming community, with companies showing their wares, daft promo ideas and great ones and lots, and lots of people. Oh and inflated prices for hotdogs.
So I am gonna talk about here are some of my favourite games at the event, some things that where daft and some that were pretty cool, enjoy!
The Bourne Conspiracy
Definitely my game of the show, this game looks awesome, the combat is pretty sweet and the hand to hand is awesome, assuming it works as well in the finished product. I saw one guy just slam a goons head into a radiator and he wasn't even trying, that is pretty cool...
Little Big Planet
Only shown in video form, still looked absolutely great, can't wait to have a play!
This was always going to be big at the show, but I haven't really seen much of it and I gotta say, it looks awesome! Worth £200? not sure about that, but will be great for parties...
Time Crisis 4
Yes its a light gun game, and it is really kinda cool on ps3. Not sold on the new guncon, with a second analog stick stuck on side, but it does help with aiming, so it might be kinda cool.
Race driver: GRID
Not normally a fan of such games, but this was pretty sweet. couldn't do it, but have to admit, I wanted to, which is quite an achievement for a racing game.
So those were some gaming highlights, the show was really sweet, had some great stuff going, the best promotional item of which was the roulette table to promote rainbow six: Vegas 2, and you could win a car with it so that is awesome.
Now on the stupid stuff:
a) Darth Vader was walking about, but not one star wars game was in sight, apart from a side booth wall for force unleashed.
b) The rainbow six dancers: officially, the stupidest and most irritating promotion idea ever created
c) Ian lee and Gemma Atktinson, he kinda knew a little bit, she didn't and both just read off cards about the games. They were ok, but only came into own when introducing bands.
d) The scandisk girl on a bike. Need i say more?
Best thing that wasn't a game:
Lego Indiana Jones, just look at the picture dam it!
Xbox 360 booth, that was pretty sweet, and had a open rock band competition on which was really cool, didn't compete but it was a good idea none the less.
Finally, dual wielding plasma rifles, come on, even the most melloncoly person has to admit, that looks cool....
All round it was a great event, the celebrities that were there for autographs in the sci-fi bit (tom baker, sylvestor mccoy, danny john jools etc) were really good and we even saw jonathan ross on the stupid Iron Man game ride. If they stop selling morning and afternoon tickets, make it bigger a bit and get more games companies and, more importantly, nintendo, involved, next year could be awesome. Just no vegas dancers or silly promotions and it will be excellent, just what the UK needs!
So this weekend sees the inaugural play.com live event, which me and my girlfriend are attending. We are also stopping in the hilton opposite, but thats by the by!
Looking at the line up, it should be a great weekend, with street fighter 4, resident evil 5 and a host of others on show, I just hope they are all playable! Its not possible for me to do anything crazy like live or video blog the event, but next week I will post my reactions to it and the games that were on show.
The last games event I went to was gamestars live, way back in 04 I believe. It was really good, I remember the highlight being halo 2 and the 2 hour queue to play it! and the nintendo area, though there is no such thing at play.com live, I hope everything will be good enough to keep it going and gain more interest from exhibitors at currently showing, like nintendo etc and allow the UK to finally have a decent, year in year out gaming event.
Like I said previously, street fighter 4 and resident evil 5 are the top ones I am looking forward to, but I have to say I cant wait to see lego indiana jones and lego batman, I know that makes me sad, but hey, lego star wars was awesome and you know it! I remember seeing that at gamestars live, I thought it was awesome then, and obviously I still do!
The one thing that is bothering me is the fact Gemma Atkinson and Iain Lee are hosting the event, and I can almost guarentee that neither of these people actually know anything about games, but I guess that is more to introduce the host of bands playing rather than to comment on the games, so maybe is wont be that bad. and Gemma Atkinson is hot.
We are going to london from leeds on the friday morning, going round london zoo then checking in and then and only then, does the agonizing wait for the opening of the doors to wembley arena begin in earnest, and I honestly cant wait. I may take a notebook and take some notes on the games while I am their, may then my blog will get on the soapbox, ya never know. Hope to see you guys at the the event, maybe I can have my a** handed to me by you on street fighter!
As many of you will have read, Toshiba has officially scrapped HD-DVD and intends to cease production by the end of April 2008. But what, if anything, will this mean for the games industry?
In truth, not a lot at this point. The simply fact of the matter is that HD-DVD died because it was out sold, and it was out sold because of the PS3. That consoles built in blu-ray player and relatively cheap price for said player meant that HD-DVD wasn't able to compete due to the fact that it cost another £150 to get a HD-DVD drive for the Xbox and Toshiba didn't have a massive back catalogue of movies easily at its disposal. This meant Sony could instantly supply quality movies on its format and have a half decent catalogue before it even courted other film studios into backing it.
The other thing is that, as far as I am aware, all ps3 games come on blu-ray, it's not an optional extra is an integral part of the machine. If Microsoft had put a HD-DVD drive in the elite or even standard 360, we wouldn't have this announcement, the format war would still be raging, and HD-DVD would actually have a fighting chance.
But enough about the reasons why it failed, what does it mean for our beloved games industry? Nothing. That is the simple answer, nothing, and that is because development of PS3 games hasn't come to a point where they can truly take advantage of the extra space blu-ray affords, and while it is handy to have the space available, not a huge amount of it is taken up with the game at this point, if Devil May Cry 4 can look almost the same on both PS3 and 360 then blu-ray hasn't used up even half the space available on the disc for better textures etc, because the same quality is present on a standard DVD disc.
I have no point that at some point, this will make a difference, but as of now it doesn't, expect you can now put the documentaries for your special editions onto one disc instead of a separate one. Big whoop, that brings nothing to the table in terms of improving the games and while it means Sony gets even more money and can continue to be a spearhead of the console market, blu-ray makes no difference to the way games are made other than the disc is different.
At the end of the day, HD-DVD was a gimmick for the 360, and it failed, but is blu-ray a gimmick for PS3? Probably, but at least Sony made it a gimmick you had to stick with and blu-ray will succeed so long as the PS3 continues to sell, I just hope it does continue to do just that. For now though, any movies I buy from this point on will be blu-ray (for most part at least) and so I am hoping this gimmick will stick around.
In the last few months I have become the proud owner of a ps3 and I have a few thoughts on a couple of the games. While it may be old hat now to talk about these games, I have only just played them so you will have to give me the benefit of the doubt.
So the first game is Motorstorm. It is slick, has amazing graphics and is a genuinely different kind of racing game. There is however, one problem with the gameplay and it is the physics and feeling of weight. While much has been made of how physics really enhance a game and can take it to the next level, this cannot be said of motorstorm, as the sad fact of the matter is having to restart a race six times because the physics model is so loose is just not fun, or indeed cool.
Mud slicked road ways are one thing, but for most the tracks I have played the mud is in a very small section and the rest of the track is just dusty, which is all well and good but when you get the same sliding all over the place motion on every piece of track it just makes it a little too unfair to help it be fun. I dont want to take a corner at two miles an hour just so I can get round it without flying off the side of the mountain, its just frustrating.
Now I am not saying that Motorstorm is a rubbish game, I like it overall, I really do, and I know some people are gonna say I either havent played it enough or I am crap at it (which are both true - least I am honest), but it still dosent change the fact the vehicles have no weight to them, apart from the big rig and even then it is dubious, and this leads to a physics model that has you spending most of your time flying off the track and blowing up until you learn it enough to know the most dangerous spots.
It maybe the ps3's best racing game (well it was but burnout is out now) but Motorstorm is statement to how physics are not the be all and end all of next gen gaming.
The second game I am going to talk about is fl0w, argueably a real contender for an 'art in games' award. It has genuinely different visuals and a soothing soundtrack and is a game to play when you want to just chill out. It also suffers from a genuinely stupid control method.
Ah sixaxis, a controller that isnt as bad as I thought it was gonna be in terms of weight, and I havent really missed rumble that much either. Motion control, however, is a whole different matter and something which possibly should not have been included as it dosent seem to work that well. I have tried in Motorstorm, and it sucked made the vehicles even more uncontrollable, but in fl0w it is just daft.
Tilting forward to go forward is fine in theory, but everytime I try I do a flip and head back the way I came, you cant turn quick enough, the slightest movement can alter your course radically and there is no option to turn it off. Plus holding the controller off my knees to be able to control it well hurts my arms after 10 minutes. Only it would take is an option to turn it off and use the analog sticks, but apparently that is too much to ask.
The other thing about flow is that the start button takes you up a level instead of opening a menu, and the only way to quit the game is to hit the ps3 button on your sixaxis. Just some stupid design decisions I guess, but every little helps.
Maybe its silly little things like this in its games that have meant ps3 isnt doing so well, apart from the stupid price that is! But my rant is over for now, two great games, both with problems, and maybe, just maybe a nice summerization of the ps3 in general.
Think about it.
So over the course of this last week I have finished both Mass Effect and Phantom Hourglass, the latter of which just two hours before this post. I have to say they are both great games, with Mass Effect giving me a strange feeling in my bones...
This feeling started about half way through the game, I had become a spectre and was traveling the galaxy leveling up and fighting geth and whatever else I found. As I watched one of the dialog sections unfold, making my choices, I realised this game was effecting me on a more than 'what i am currently playing' level. This was taking me into the story, like reading a book or watching a movie, I wanted to know how it panned out, what the game would through at me and each plot twist. The feeling I had was warm, fuzzy and generally good by me.
Phantom Hourglass gave me a similar feeling for a little while, but ultimately was a bit too long for a DS game. This feeling got better towards the end of Mass Effect, to the point where my heart was pounding and the adrenaline was running freely as the epic battle for the citadel unfolded and I was forced to make a very tough choice. It was a great feeling to have, and proved what a year for games 2007 really was.
And so having completed Mass Effect, I moved on to another christmas game, Super Mario Galaxy. I have played it for about an hour. I have a warm fuzzy feeling inside and a smile on my face. I havent read the manual, I just started playing and figured it out in that hour. I am happy playing it and that my friends, is a gaming accomplishment few games can match.
So Mass Effect and Super Mario Galaxy, two very different games with one unifying factor: They can make you feel happy. In different ways of course, Mass Effect is more like a excellent sci-fi movie whereas SMG is more like that feeling you got when you were a kid and out playing your favourite game with your mates and your parents let you stay out an extra half hour.
Gaming is great!
The whole Jeff Gertzmann affair has, by gamespot and CNET's own admission been handled, well frankly, craply. But the worse part of it all is the people who jumped on the band wagon of why he was fired and they can no longer trust gamespot and its reviews and to that I ask simply, why?
Surely if Eidos had paid for a review, they wouldnt pay for a 6.0? and if read the edited review, it still says that the game isnt great, its just the tone isnt quite as harsh. I admit the video review being taken down looked bad, but again, the score didnt change so why is everyone making a massive deal out of it?
I have read so many posts from people saying that they will never come to this site again and that is unduely harsh, the sites integrity and that of its editorial and reviews team has never really been called into question except by conspircay theorist that have nothing better to do. This site is still the same, and so is its content, and anyone who thinks otherwise has simply jumped on the band wagon because they cant think of a good excuse to stop looking at the site.
If companies are going to pay for reviews, they would have not wanted a 6.0 and demanded it was changed to reflect the money involved, so I honestly can not believe all that BS about them taking money. The site hasnt changed its ways, to me, its integrity never faulted and even if that was the reason Jeff got fired, I have to give him respect for it.
Why do you say that? I hear you ask! Its simple really, if Jeff had been told to give Kane & Lynch a decent score, he didnt and gave it what he thought it deserved, writing a review to reflect this. The review may have been a little harsh in tone, but it reflected what he thought about the game. Jeff made it so that the review reflected the game regardless, and if it is true that Eidos paid for a decent one, he was obviously p*ssed off enough about it to go against it and risk his job, and that my friends is why gamespot's integrity is better than ever.
Listening to the hotspot, its obvious they are all upset about it, more so than us, and I think we should cut the crap and let them get back into the swing of things, this site is great, it really is, and the guys doing the shows are fast becoming very famous among the gaming community, and lets face it all celebrities have a bad patch!
In my last post I stated that I had a job interview with a games company and I would let you know how it went. Well I didnt get the job the interview was for, but they did offer me a shorter term contract but I couldnt take that as fiances wouldnt permit!
The interview went well though, they were both great guys, remembered me from last time and we just chatted about games and working in the industry and some of the games the company had made, which was great and I think I scored some extra brownie points by saying I just downloaded one of thiers and it was really good!
So alas, no job this time, but they did say they are having a recruitment drive in february so hopefully I will get another interview and my fiancial situation will sort itself out and finally, after 2 years of trying, I can break into the industry!
Wish me luck everyone!
Many gamers have this fantasy about how cool it would be to work in the games industry, helping to create the next big game and playing games to test them, and for most that is all it is a fantasy. But a few people decide they want to make it a reality, start applying to games companies in hope that they may get a decent crack at their respective dreams. I, am one such person.
It took me a few years to figure out what I truly wanted to do with my life. I knew it would involve computers, as they are the only thing I am really good at, but other than that I didn't know and tended to go for the safest bet, so I became a IT technician. This is what I thought I wanted to do with my career, helping people to solve computer problems and getting to know them in the process, and for a time, it was great.
Then the itch started. Slowly at first, writing a few short (and very kack) stories, trying to learn to draw, trying to learn guitar. When these failed, I started to look for something else to get my creative juices flowing and my obsession with videogames became ever more prevalent, I realised the answer was simple, get into the games industry.
At first I tried to become a level designer, trying to figure out how to use the level editor that came with the original Deus ex. I didn't get very far, the games I was playing at the time were taking up more and more time. So then I decided to try programming, got a couple of books and started to get into it, but then the games and increasing work and my girlfriend took up more of my time so that didn't pan out, even when I got the XNA studio free download and was working on it at work.
So where to go from here? What does a guy who loves to play games and has started to pick out faults and becoming increasing critical of games have to do to get into the industry? The answer is simple: QA tester.
I have my chosen path into the industry, so I began to look at documentaries and the like on being a tester, and heard all the stories of long nights become longer days and little sleep and poor pay, but that was mostly from America so I figured England cant be so bad can it?
Searching the internet for any QA tester jobs, I found a few and applied, uploading my C.V. to several sites, only to be knocked back as they didn't have anything that matched it. I started downloading beta testing games, such as Auto Assault and Tabula Rasa, playing them and placing them on my C.V. in the vain hope that it will help my chances. I then started to search specific company's jobs sites.
This, after about 6 months, actually yielded results and I had my first interview with a games company. Unfortunately, it was in surrey and I live in Leeds, so I had to borrow money to go from my sister and my girlfriend didn't want to leave Yorkshire. But hey was all practice so off I went, suited and booted, and had my interview. It did not go well.
The first rule of a games interview? Never insult the guys doing the interview first game. The Second rule? Don't wear a suit. The third? Actually know what you want to do within the industry. All these things were unknown to me at the time, and so, naturally, I didn't do any of them and failed my interview. Unfazed, (but upset, was a knock back after all!) I tried again, constantly checking companies' sites, I found one, applied and got the interview.
Second interview with a company and mistakes were learnt, no suit, no insulting of studios games and in fact praise for them and a better knowledge of what I was wanted to do within the industry. And it was in Yorkshire, albeit Sheffield, so don't have to move and my girlfriend was happy!
I went, had what I thought was a good interview, came out, went home, waited and..... failed. Hmmm guess I need to be better, so for the year since that point, I have kept trying, this time sending my C.V. off every few weeks to various local studios. I think I annoyed a few of them, but, now, at last, I have another interview with that very studio.
So Friday 23rd November will be an interesting day, as it could be a chance for my dream to come true, but, given past records, it will probably not change at all. I guess we will see in a few days time, I have my fingers crossed and eyes down thinking about answers to questions.
I will let you all know what happens next week, wish me luck!
At the start of last week I become the proud owner of a 60gb PS3, complete with an extra sixaxis and four games: heavenly sword, motorstorm, sega rally and resistance: fall of man (although I dont actually have the last one yet, they were sold out!). It is, however, the first game in that list that I would like to talk about, so please indulge me!
Heavenly Sword has always been billed as an epic adventure, with movie like production values and a cast of eccentric characters. Hell even the review on this very website states that it feels like a big summer blockbuster, and it is that very feeling I want to talk about. You see games now a days have stories, characters and settings on a par with films as has been discussed many times before by many people, but Heavenly Sword, to me at least, is the first one to truely capture the spirit of that hollywood action film each of us loves for no other reason than the insane action, be it The Matrix, Lethal Weapon or Bad Boys.
The Creators of Heavenly Sword have stated that they flew the cast down to New Zealand and under the guidance of Cinematic Director Andy Serkis (gollum from Lord of the Rings if do not know the name), shot the cinematics for the game in live action, with the actors hooked up to motion capture rigs. This was done at Weta digital, the company behind the special effects for all three Lord of the Rings movies and King Kong and as such represents the first true cross over of Hollywood and Games industry.
Normally crossovers of this kind involve a sub-par game based on the movie license of a film coming out that year, with no real effort put in by either side and only done as a cash-in. Ninja Theory, however, knew it wanted the feel of a big budget summer blockbuster and so enlisted the help of some true masters, and created a game that hits the same spots as movies while also letting you hack up hundreds of bad guys in a fashion only a game can. The cut-scenes in this game are some of this best I have ever encountered and I found myself not only wanting to finish the game but finish watching the cut-scences so I could found out the full story, and that makes for an excellent game.
There is, however, another way to tell a story in a game and this is evidenced by the simply brilliant Bioshock. There are only two cutscenes in Bioshock, one at the beginning of the game, and one at the end (which changes depending on certain decisions taken during the story), everything else is told from a first person perspective and by picking up audio logs of various inhabitants of rapture. No cinematic director, no shooting a movies worth of footage to be translated into the cut scenes, just you seeing through the eyes of the protagonist.
Obviously this is a very different way to tell the story than that of Heavenly Sword, but Bioshocks method is just as effective and an atmosphere that Heavenly Sword does not, but which is better, the big budget, movie like cut scenes of Heavenly Sword? or the eerie, tense atmosphere of Bioshock?
The truth is, neither. One is not better than the other, they are simply different, as different as Heavenly Sword itself is different from Bioshock. Frank O'Connor, lead writer of Bungie studios believes both are valid forms of telling a story, and having worked on Halo 3, is in a good position to comment on both. Please note that is comments are taken from an interview in games tm about FPS games in general. "...the biggest challenage in the storytelling aspect. I think that could go in a couple of directions - from the more literally immersive experience where things happen to you in-game, to better ways of dealing with the kinds of vignette and cinematic we use as tools right now. Both are equally valid directions."
Halo 3 is a good example to bring out at this point, as it uses both methods to great effect, as radio messages and mission directives are sent to you as you run about the enviroment but are also interspersed with cinematic cut-scenes. Bioshock and Heavenly Sword simply take the concepts in Halo 3 to extremes.
As games become more cinematic and story driven in nature, more and more will turn to movie companies and professional writers to give credence to the tale the developers are trying to weave. This could turn out to be the epic cut scenes of Heavenly Sword, to the deep, immersive story of Bioshock, but will mark games out as a valid story telling medium, and Heavenly Sword is leading the way, taking the action movie ethos and integrating it with a traditional game to great effect. Maybe one day, the interactive movie wont be the cheesy cutscenes of games like Wing Commander 3, maybe one day, Jonathan Ross and his ilk will be reviewing games on the same level as films of today, who knows?