Monday, 25 July 2011

'Design Legend' and other titles

The winners of the 2011 Develop Awards, which recognises the best of video games development, have been announced in Brighton - I've copied them below.  I'm happy that Ian Livingstone who amongst other things wrote / produced many of the Fighting Fantasy books won the 'Design Legend' award, and I hope he starts using it as a sobriquet - "Hi I'm Ian 'Design Legend' Livingstone.'  Even if he doesn't though I'm pleased he got it as I grew up reading his books.

 Minecraft also picked up quite a few... and I still don't get it, but good on them.

 So here's the list:

New IP
Enslaved (Ninja Theory)
New download IP
Minecraft (Mojang Specifications)
Use of a licence or IP
F1 2010 (Codemasters Birmingham)
Visual arts
Limbo (Playdead)
Audio accomplishment
Papa Sangre (Somethin’ Else)
Publishing hero
Technical innovation
Kinect (Microsoft Research Cambridge)
Audio outsourcer
Side UK
Visual outsourcer
Axis Animation
Tools provider
Unreal Engine 3 (Epic Games)
New studio
Mojang Specifications
Micro studio
Mojang Specifications
Handheld studio
Rovio Mobile
Business development
Mind Candy
In-house studio
Media Molecule
Independent studio
Development legend
Ian Livingstone
Grand Prix
Rovio Mobile

Thursday, 21 July 2011


I admit that I am a fanboy (Fanboi?)  but the news that The Old Republic is now available for Pre-Order excites me. 

I was keen enough to track down the collectors edition (only it seems available from Game in the UK), and was slightly depresssed to find it was £129.99.  I don't think I am that much of a fan!  So then the question was - am I enough of a fan to pre-order it from Origin - which still gets me a few little funky items...  I am depressed to say I am!  Aparently though demand is high and not everyone will be able to preorder... so get them in now kids!  OR perhaps that's a marketing scam.  I dunno.

The cheapest option is (of course?) Amazon.  But you can also get it from Play

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Small World - not a witty title.

Last night I and a friend fancied playing a board game, but one was sadly lacking.  My thoughts turned to the iPad and a quick search of the app store led me to Small World developed by Days of Wonder.  I wasn't sure what to expect, but there were a few reviews that looked good, it was quite pretty looking, was only a few pounds and of course it had Wizards!!

The next few hours passed with us playing quite a few games of this delightful board game.  It's a 2-player board game where you play a fantasy race taking land and getting points.  Each race has a racial benefit (like getting more points for hills or forests) and a class (like flying meaning you can place your tiles anywhere) which are mixed up each game. 

It's quick and simple to learn but there are nuances to the races and classes that meant that it kept us thinking and coming back for more.  The graphics are pretty and functional, the interface is seemless and helpful.  I haven't played the board game but came to understand the rules during the first play through. 

There are two 'mini-expansion packs' available to purchase from in the app which gives you some more races and classes.  If I had to criticise I would say there were perhaps a little overpriced compared to the price of the game, BUT they did add some new dimensions to the game.  It would lovely to see a different board layout as well, after our multiple play throughs that might have been nice.


Apparently it's a very good adaptation of the board game, I haven't played that but it looks like it  is from the pictures.  The UI means that you don't have to turn the iPad round (it reverses for the other player if you want it to) and although the instructions throw you in quite quickly we didn't find it a problem.

Small World gave us a very fun evenings play and I'll certainly come back to it.  I very much hope they'll release some more of their games on the iPad and I'll pick up their other offering (Ticket to Ride) at some point and I will probably look at buying some of their board games too.

They have a great quote on their website which I think sums it up well, so I have reprinted it here:

"Digital board games have several advantages over cardboard: They're always with you, they save space, they take care of all the record-keeping and rules enforcement, and they're a lot cheaper. Small World hits all these marks."
Julian Murdoch for GameSpy

Monday, 11 July 2011

What I'm Playing Now 2

So in an effort to stay vaguely current I thought I'd update this page, it might be something I try to do monthly.  I should say that I am terrible at sticking with something from beginning to end so I do quite often dot about between games.  Last months update is here.

I'm still playing LA Noire, about which I will write in more depth at some point.  I can't help but think it's too easy at the moment...  Sims 3 still amuses me and Rift still calls me back a bit as well.

I have indulged in the Steam sale over the last few weeks and picked up some things that I wanted which I saw on offer and couldn't resist.  I can't help but notice that it is the month of the sequel!

The Witcher 2 - I enjoyed the first story of Geralt and invested in the second.  So far (and it hasn't seen much air yet) it's very pretty, it's very smooth but there's a lot of cutscene.  I think more than gameplay as yet.  But time will tell.  It's also quite unforgiving, so lots of saving is par for the course.

I also invested in Bioshock, the original game because everyone tells me how amazing it is.  I am pretty impressed so far and it was £3.49 which I think makes me a winner!  (This game somewhat dissapointingly though doesn't fit in with the month of the sequel so I rectify that below!)

Portal 2 was another reduced buy because lots of people rave about it.  Perhaps I will be too, certainly I'm impressed so far.

And finally for now I bought Neverwinter Nights 2...  My inner geek couldn't resist it for £5 with change!  I'm looking forward to playing it.  I didn't try the dungeon designing thing in number 1, but intend to in this version. 

All of this ended up with me investing in a new graphics card as well - I thought mine could handle the pace but I was proved wrong.  I have to recommend the helpfulness of the people at PC World - they knew exactly what they were talking about and I got a great deal with a card that was on sale.  Hooray. 

I have been somewhat snowed under with work of late so none of the games have seen enough play time, but in months to come I am sure they will get some hours of enjoyment / frustration thrown at them!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Secret Interests

I watched the new trailer today for Secret World, an MMORPG from Funcom set in the modern world, which seems a bit Lovecraftian / modern horror / dark future to me.  It looks like a lot of fun and I am very much looking forward to pumping some hours into this.  There is also endless (well, a lot at any rate) room for expansions and new areas to develop of visit and that's great too.  There are more snippets on You Tube of course.

It raised for me a couple of things - the importance of 'the catch' - I am not a big fan of games with guns but like conspiracy stuff and this game instantly had me hooked.

It also addressed something that I have a little bug bear about which is the '2-faction game' - it seems to me that when most games launch they have two factions and never the twain shall meet.  I know that it's often addressed later in expansions (like the City of Heroes expansion Going Rogue) or DLC but I rather like that from the get-go this has three factions.  I *hope* that there's interaction between them as well (that isn't just beating them up!) but we will see.

Obviously three factions means more development work (or I suppose less 'complete' factions) but even so the choice appeals to me.  Now, which one to choose in order that I might be able to sign up for the beta (you get to pick on the website after a test (here) which leads you to a sign up form.  Choices choices choices...

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

A Picture Tells a Thousand Words

The way people play games interests me, and what they choose to do with their in game time.  In  his blog called Dead End Thrills  Duncan Harris shows how he has taken time photographing sceneries using mods and tools and applying real world photography principals to his art.  It's worth a look - his GTA IV pics are here but you can see others around his site.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Steam Powered

I admit I haven't got into the whole digital delivery of games yet, which is probably very old fashioned of me.  But I sort of intend to!  Anyway, Steam has a Summer sale on.  I intend to buy Witcher 2.  Not that I really have time to play it at the moment, but it's good value, so probably worth it.

The Heist - iPhone - *CONTAINS SPOILERS*

In case you missed it in the title this post contains spoilers for the game, so you should probably only read it if you  a) aren't going to care, b) aren't going to play the game or c) get some perverse satisfaction from being angry that there were spoilers in something you read...

The Heist gives you 4 types of puzzle to solve:
  • remove the block by sliding tiles
  • Sudoku
  • Remove control move blocks around to get them onto squares
  • Link point 1 to point 2 (like pipes)
Each of the puzzles has 4 levels of difficulty, each of level of difficulty has 4 puzzles. So all in all you're sort of paying for 64 puzzles.  Which perhaps isn't very much, but that's only part of the appeal of the game. 

They premise of The Heist is that you are helping a woman break into a bank vault.  On the main screen is a picture of said vault with some security measures.  There's an XP bar at the bottom and as you complete puzzles that goes up.  When you've done a set quota of them you break one level of security, and the graphics change a bit, which is all quite pretty and amusing (and this level of bank security explains a great deal about the whole banking crash we've been through.)

The puzzles aren't that difficult in the main (which is good because I'm not very good at them) but keep you gently challenged - it was my ideal elevator / waiting for the kettle game. You don't have to do them all, which means you can focus on the elements you're better at if you want to just progress on in the story

What defines the game though is the clever gimick.  Here comes those spoilers I mentioned.  Did you get that?  Spoilers ahead....

When you start a new game your phone rings, and when you answer it a woman talks to you and asks you to aid her in the heist, and gives you some strict instructions about how to get through the vault to victory.  You can put her on speaker phone and there's a picture of her in  your contacts and everything.  Brilliant.  If you're not expecting it it comes as a surprise and a welcome one.  It's quirky and a great gimmick and a bit of exposition to the 'story' of The Heist.  After that she 'calls you' after each level and a couple of times during the event and at the end she factimes you.  Brilliant.

On top of  all that there's a prize.  It's a downloadable puzzle game from Steam, which is a nice touch.

It's a very clever way of spicing a simple game up and the people over at Macheist (it's worth taking a look at their website too, as it contains lots of nice bits and bobs) deserve a little round of applause.  I'll certainly be downloading the next game, mostly because I want to see where the story goes next!