Thursday, 30 June 2011

Enabling Disabled Gamers

This morning I stumbled upon 'Nerd Alert', which had a video called Enabling Disabled Gamers.  I wondered if this was a vaguely inapropriate comic turn but it turns out that it's an episode of a regular video commentary on various pop-nerd-culture things.

It features a a segment where a gentleman called Chuck Bittner who describes himself as "quadriplegic stand-up comedian (okay I'm the "can't stand up" comedian) and avid video game player" talks about his petition for button remapping so he can more effectively (or in some cases at all) play console games.  That led me to his site which is called Ask A Capper which is found here. It addresses some really interesting issues about access to games and is well worth a read / watch.  

On top of that it's also well worth checking out the other Nerd Alert videos which amid the humour raise some interesting points.  Their 'back catalogue' is found here.

I should warn you that their videos contain some NSFW language.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

How Not To Write...

A friend of mine (Dr Esther MacCallum-Stewart) linked Darius Kazemi's article on 'How not to write Games Essays'  and I thought it was both amusing and interesting - It's from the blog site Tiny Subversions and can be found here

Monday, 27 June 2011

iPad / e-reading / looking forward

I remember when I heard about ebooks and thought I'd never be impressed with them.  "I would never", I said, "want to read a book on a device - it's just not right"...  Well, how wrong I was - I love reading on the iPad and I am told the Kindle is a joy as well. 

With mobile gaming becoming an ever-increasing medium of game playing (who hasn't heard of Angry Birds these days) I thought that this was a great example of ways in which mobile technology can be 'exciting' and interactive and bring new life to literature.  Not to mention that of course this could be integrated with games in the future.

(For anyone who doesn't want to / can't click the link it's a link to an article about The Wasteland and it's iPad app which is pretty cool!)

Sunday, 26 June 2011

A Galaxy Getting Further Away...

Star Wars Galaxies is a bit like UK libraries for me. I don't use my local library, but I still want it to be there. So when I heard that they're shutting down the servers and closing down Galaxies I was a little bit sad. I only played it for a few weeks, I didn't even like it very much, but still. I am unreasonably excited about the new Old Republic game as well. But still. It's sort of the end of an era. An era I wasn't part of, but I could have been... There's time between now and December I guess. I probably won't bother. But I'll always sort of wish I had.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Chosing Your Own Adventure

I grew up with the Choose Your Own Advenutre style of books ~ Warlock of Firetop Mountain, The Citadel of Doom, City of Thieves et al.  I read others but the Fighting Fantasy series by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone books were my staple.  I saved up pocket money and bought the next one - always increasing my shelf of green spined adventures.

I was interested therefore to read this article on some of their evolution and loved the bit at the end about Utopia - options outside the choices.  Even if you don't read the article it's worth skimming to the end just for the final few paragraphs.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

What I'm Playing Now

So here's some thoughts on things I am playing now.  I'll try and keep this a bit updated every now and again.

The Sims 3 (PC) - this drags me back in every now and again, aided by them bringing out expansion packs of course.  The most recent is Generations.  Now as an expansion pack so far I haven't really seen it in evidence, but I like the idea of it.  I'm not sure it fits with my playing style of The Sims, but I am looking forward to making an imaginary friend in the game (which is about imaginary friends... Go figure!).  It fades but never disappears, my love of The Sims, so I am happy to be playing it once more.

Rift (PC) - Some time ago I kicked my Warcraft habit.  It's been a while, but now I am back paying an MMO, and I have to admit it's just as addictive as ever it was.  Rift is nicely put together, it's pretty , it's slick, the talent system is nice, and it's so <em>familiar</em> that it was like putting on an old favourite jumper.

Dragon Age 2 (Xbox)- I was enjoying this a bit a while back, but it hasn't caught me in the way the first one did, and I don't know why. I should get back to it at some point.  The first game was excellent - but so far this one hasn't quite lived up to that.

LA Noire (Xbox) - I've been quite a fan of Rockstar games, and have played quite a bit of various GTA games and Red Dead, now I'm trying out LA Noire.  It's quite an engaging game, there are different things to do in it, and it draws you in.  The characters are interesting and there's some definite backstory that will hopefully become clear over playing.  I am a little worried it might be a bit easy, but so far it's an enjoyable experience.

Jack of all Tribes (iPad) - I enjoy time management games, in the vein of Dinner Dash, but they are all very similar.  It's a format that works but doesn't seem to lead to new innovation very much, so when I saw this I thought I would give it a go.  It looked like it might be a combination of time management and resource maangement.  Sadly it failed to impress - it's shockingly easy, I didn't fail at any of it's 40 or so levels.  There really was no challenge here.  Rather dissapointing.  It was pretty but that was about it.

The Heist (iPhone) - I am  not very good at puzzles, it's a fact, but I quite enjoy them.  The novelty of The 'gimmick' in the Heist is very good.  I'm not sure that they've made enough of it, but it's clever and worth the price of the game I think.  Behind that there are some moving block puzzles and soduko, connecting the pipes and a sort of remote control thing.  It's simple but it passes some time.

Doodle God (iPhone) - I have completed this now but it kept me coming back.  It's a sort of match things up game to find new stuff which you then have to match up.  It's surprisingly addictive and has some mini games in there too.  So far the mini games haven't grabbed me but I haven't yet deleted it, so they may get  a look in.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Memorable Games

So this is a little list of some games that I have played over the years that have made an 'impact' on me and my gaming life. I'll probably add to it as time goes on, I'll also try and write a little bit about why the games made an impression. They are in no particular order.

Sorcery on the Amstrad CPC 6128. This was my first ever game really. I was a wizard. I could cast magic spells and it was on the computer my father had bought for me to use as a word processor. (In fairness I think he enjoyed it as well!). It was heaven. In researching it for this blog I have just learnt that I might be able to download it even now. At some point I just might.

Tie Fighter allowed me to enter the Star Wars Universe and on the 'cool side'. You got to interact with Vader, the controls were complex, with lots of buttons to press, and for it's time it looked amazing. I'm not really a fan of flying shooting games, but this had me hooked - I bought the expansion pack and everything. It was awesome.

Baldurs Gate (1&2) - Hours of fun with amusing parties, secret liches in basements, and a whole heap of quests to do (and expansions). Baldur's gate felt really close to an actual tabletop roleplaying game and it provided many hours of entertainment. The real beauty of it was that you could adapt your party to include different characters and that would lead to different interactions along the way. There was wit and drama in equal measures. "Go for the eyes Boo!"

Streets of Rage II was the first console game I got really into, it was on the Sega Megadrive. You could play it cooperatively with your friends and it was non stop action. Pretty much literally. Especially the lift level. Gods, I still remember that lift level!

Sim City / The Sims (1&2&3) I first played sim city in a computer class at school. It was great to play games at school and call it working! That led to playing The Sims. I will undoubtedly write more about The Sims at some later date, but I find it enthralling and fascinating how it works as a game in which you really can follow paths you want to and the different ways it can be played.

Everquest & World of Warcraft are the two MMOs I've played the most, and I got quite addicted to both. I've raided, crafted, instanced and grinded away with the best of them. Well, with some damn fine people anyway. I've made real-life friends whom I treasure and lost countless hours of my life to them. Love them or hate them they are important parts of my gaming history!

Final Fantasy VII was the first game I queued up to buy and what convinced me to buy a playstation and it was great. Sephiroth remains an endearing antagonist to this day and despite the infuriating ridiculously long fights sometimes it kept you coming back for more. I played some of the other FF games but none of them captured me as thoroughly as this offering.

GTA San Andreas was the first GTA game I played a lot and although 4 was incredible it was this that really introduced me to open world games. I like the free roaming go where you want (ish) style and the antihero / villain personna.

Silent Hill I remember sitting up with my house mate playing this. I remember hearing the crackling radio and getting him to play the next bit. Barring the dogs jumping through the window in Resident Evil it was the first time I got to grips with a game really effecting your emotions through fear!

Mass Effect 2 & Dragon Age which I have lumped together because I played them very close together and loved them both equally. I liked the interactions between your party, I loved the storytelling and the way they were put together. They were great fun to play through and extremely memorable for the emotions they evoked, and the difficult decisions they forced you to make.

Lips is a bit from the left-field in this collection in suppose, but I'm a big fan of karaoke and singing is good for the soul, so it gets an honourable mention.

Batman Arkham Asylum earns it's place here - I've always been a batman fan and I think Rocksteady did a fantastic job of brining him to life in this game, the fight mechanic was stunning and great fun to use. I voicing was wonderful and the game was just fun! Rarely to 'beat-em-ups' hold my attention, but this one managed it hook line and bat-sinker.

Saving Private Ryan Mock Up

We looked at this as part of my OU course this week. The module was about CGI, video and Mocap. I think it's amazing, especially given that it's three guys in a car! Enjoy.

The Whys and Wherefores

So, I'll start with a post about what I'm doing here, and a little background. This is, if you like, the exposition! I was born in the year Star Wars came out. I played make believe games where I was Luke Skywalker on Tatooine when I was at the beach. I graduated early onto the 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books and from there went on to D&D style games - Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and GURPS featuring heavily in my portfolio. I moved into Live Roleplaying and did a lot of it. Playing it and running it, even as a full time job for a while. It captured my passion and I loved the possibility of living out the games I had made up before.

All the while I was playing on computers. I started with an Amstrad 6128 and lived through the time when you could buy magazines with games you could programme in yourself using basic. Hours and hours frittered away! I then got a PC and slowly progressed through PCs to this day.

I have served my time as a Warcraft addict.

In more recent times I have played a lot of Xbox and gave up my PC for a bit (mostly after my laptop was stolen!) but have now returned to the PC. I also have an iPad and I love it and an iPhone.

In my other life I've worked in the theatre a lot. Mostly as a stage manager but I've done my time treading the boards as well.

Same years ago I decided that I wanted to get into the computer games industry. I gave it a crack, but I had no idea what I was doing. I didn't know who to apply with and, although I was ok at writing table top games and pretty good at running LARP games I didn't know where to begin with computer games. I was, understandably knocked back at every point. I was told that not being able to write C++ meant that I had no chance. I went back to working in the theatre and in production management.

Now, some years on, I am trying again, but this time with rather more fervour. I have a desire and an intent to get into the professional computer games industry. My writing skills have improved and I have learnt some more about what works in games. Now though I am focussing a bit more on my background knowledge. To that end I am taking an Open University course called T151 Digital Worlds. It's fantastic. It's begun the process of teaching me about games and how they work - how you go about programming them and making things happen. About the background of some of their elements and all sorts of other bits and pieces. It's great. I'll probably post some bits of 'wisdom' there at some point. It's a 10 week course and feels like a wonderful introduction. After that and beginning in September I am starting an MA in Games Design. I'm going down to working 3 days a week in a gamble to learn more and get a job.

I'm 5 weeks into the OU course and I thought I would keep a blog of the process. I'm not quite sure why but I hope that it's vaguely interesting to read and a place for me to keep note of some of my thoughts and bits I didn't want to lose. On top of that I figured I might one day look back and think about how I got to where I am 'today'. This will hopefully be that record.

Wish me luck!