Sunday, 25 September 2011

Will we be all gaming Live online?

 

onlive-game-service

fish[2]As of the 22nd September 2011 Onlive has been launched in the UK. So being intrigued, rather than interested, in the service I couldn’t help but investigate. So after some initial teething problems the service now seems pretty reliable, at least for me, so I thought I would give you a quick run down.

These are purely my judgement based on my experience, so I guess there are a few things I should tell you first. As previously mentioned in a podcast or two, I have a 50mb-broadbandpretty fast internet connection, probably usually so for the UK, coming in at 50mb from Virgin. Also my PC, whilst not being a stupidly expensive water cooled overclocked beast, does have reasonable up to date components and there are very few games I can’t run at 1080 resolution with all the graphic bells and whistles turned to maximum. And finally i have a very nice monitor that I won’t go into detail over, but suffice to say it is a lot sharper than most.

onliveFor those of you that don’t know, Onlive is a streaming games service. So unlike Steam, all games are running on servers at Onlive, so when you play a game it is running at their end and they are feeding you the video and audio over the internet, and you are uploading them your inputs, to move your character, shoot, etc, to them. In theory there are numerous advantages to this. As long as you have a good internet connection you can play games on pretty much anything, be it a gaming computer, a 5 year old laptop, a netbook or even a phone.

Onlive overview

So I install the Onlive program and on launch day I couldn’t get in, however a patch the day after seemed to fix that. So I find a game that I want to try, in this case Space Marine, and give it a go. One of the nice things Onlive does is give every game a 30 minute trial, which isn’t the demo, it is the full game for 30 minutes. Getting into the game is impressively quick, about 5-10 seconds and you are ready to play, no downloading and no mess. My first thought was, humm the graphics are a bit fuzzy. It just didn’t seem quite sharp enough, and there was a very small but noticeable lag. However they had a very clever opening sale, where your first game is £1, so I figure what the hell. I buy Red Faction Armageddon, a game I fancied playing but nothing I really wanted.

Red-Faction-Armageddon-GameNow Red Faction was still not quite sharp enough, but was better than Space Marine, and there is still a very small amount of lag. In fact the lag is only barely noticeable and to be honest after a while I got used to it. Once you are in the game it is, for the most part, just like playing as normal. Onlive has it’s own achievement, friends and voice chat, and a few other oddities, like the fact that people can choose to spectate you playing the game.

So is Onlive the future? Potentially yes. As I said I have a very sharp monitor, and I think that should you be playing Onlive on a TV, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between it and the console version. While the games are not super cheap, they are certainly more cost effective than buying the console versions or spending money to upgrade your PC, and you can rent games for short periods too. It also seems to have a good selection of games, though unsurprisingly games from the likes of EA and Valve are conspicuous in their absence.

So is it for me? No I don’t think so. I like to get the best out of my PC, and while I will happily play Red Faction on Onlive, because I only paid a pound for it, I would still rather physically (erm digitally, erm on my own hard drive, ah you know what I mean) own my games. For instance I loved Deus Ex Human Revolution, but had I played it when it was a little fuzzy with a slight lag, I feel it would have taken the shine off. I know that sounds deeply elitist, but, heh, I am a proper PC gamer.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Hell yeah.

Saw this today on Reddit, thought i would share. its a true sentiment.

DAmsp

(click to enlarge)

MMO’s are cool!

Capture

hex Recently I have been playing quite a lot of Xenoblade a certain single player RPG while playing this single player game I encountered something of a difficulty spike, that’s when I realised the reason MMO’s are cool.

In an MMO when you his a difficulty spike you can either scream ‘HELP’ in global/regional chat or round up your buddies to help you. In a single player RPG you have one choice and one choice alone… GRIND your way to awesome.

Granted, if I’m relaxing with a coffee and don’t want to socialise I can grind in an MMO but its an option I have, one of many. Sometime I grind as I explore, some times I grind because I want materials but the reason that I don’t complain about it is because its an option, one of many.

As I play my single player game I get more and more frustrated with the need to level up through killing the same few Mechon’s random monsters over and over just to out level a group of monsters that block my path.

news_xenoblade

Its strange how playing an RPG has made we wish I was playing an MMO. I think that in the end this proves that I am an MMO player above all else.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Add a subscription to a PlayStation, is it a Plus?

 

PSPlus_FeaturedImage001

fish[2]Well my 14 month experiment with PlayStation Plus had now ended (started off as 12 months but got 2 months free due to the PSN hack SNAFU), so I thought I better share my views on it. First things first I should state that I do not intend to put up another £40 for a further 12 months. However this doesn’t mean that I thing PlayStation Plus is a bad idea, just not really for me.


See I love my PS3, however I still do the majority of my gaming from my PC, where I have a huge number of games I have yet to finish/barely played/haven’t even loaded up yet. So each month the PS3 would drop 3 or 4 new games to play on me, which I wouldn't get around to touching. So from my point of view they are being, well, wasted I guess.


So lets look at this analytically as to what you get on a month to month basis. So each month as a general rule you get 1 PSN (arcade) title (the 2 that stick out in my Critter_Crunchmind being Critter Crunch and the excellent Stacking), one PS one classic title, a couple of PS mini’s, maybe some game add on’s such as a map pack and a bunch of premium themes and avatar pictures. Usually there are discounts off other items as well, I saved about £1.50 off the Red Dead Redemption’s Undead Nightmare DLC. That sounds like a fairly good deal right? Well it is and it isn’t.


Because Sony have to try and cater for everyone, I tended to end up with stuff I didn’t really want. A prime example of this is the first month in which I got the excellent Wipeout HD and the PS One “classic” Destruction Derby, however as mentioned in previous blogs, I don’t really like racing games. Another prime example is that I waited and waited and waited for Final wipeoutHDFantasy 6 to pop up for free, gave up and just brought it. I should also point out that the PS minis are not much more than phone games, and much like phone games, are largely a case of hit and miss. However if you are not that fussy about games, you are undeniably talking about a lot of content. Also if you have a PSP and don’t neglect it (never used it much to start with and since getting my tablet I haven’t touched it) then all the mini’s and PS One games are compatible with your PSP.


There are a few other features that are exclusive to Plus. It is common for plus members to get exclusive or early access to betas, such as Assassins Creed Brotherhood or Killzone 3. In fact I largely decided to buy Killzone 3 based on the beta I played. Also not long ago they introduced cloud saving for Plus members, which allowed you to back up your save games to a cloud storage system, which is cool but not sure how realistically useful it is.


So the ultimate question is, is it worth £40 for a year. For me it isn’t, because I end up with several hundred pounds worth of games I just don’t end up playing. However 352019260_e6cdfc4919if you are a sole PS3 gamer, and especially if you have a PSP (and use it) then it is a pretty solid stream of content. If anything it would be a great gift/something for a kid, as they will keep getting games over a 12 month period. However I decided I would be better off just spending the £40 on games off the PSN that I wanted and not filling my PS3’s hard drive with games I will never play. Oh a word of warning, with Plus you are essentially renting all those free games you get, if you cancel your subscription or it runs out, they all rapidly vanish.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

A novel Game, or was it a game novel?

books

hex There is a trend happening that has snuck up on us all, that trend is ‘quality’ literature based on video games. Just the other day I was in my local WH-Smiths store when I saw books based on Rage (not even out yet), Assassins Creed and Eve Online. Then when I enter the next shop (Asda) and I am greeted with a Killzone book and the Guinness book of records gamer edition.

assassinnovelnov7

I wonder, at what point did these things become common place? I thought that we where supposed to mock anything related to games what wasn’t actually games. I suppose the saturation of the gamer has reached he point it did in the late 80’s for Dungeons and Dragons when it’s novels became crazy popular. in a way I suppose that they are still gaming novels irrespectively of what type of games there source is, gaming is gaming, be it mouse or dice. 

5572995749_135d92d270_zI can see how Eve online or Assassins Creed can be great settings for a novel or a movie but Killzone or Gears of War? I‘m not so sure the lore is there. This forces me to ponder if people who read these are game junkies who like to read or book junkies who like to game? hey, it’s 2011, everyone games I suppose.

Strangely although I can’t see myself as someone who would read many of these titles I am really please to see them on shelves and selling well, anything that can extend a gaming experience you really loved can never be a bad thing.

15b065a7d9be70ecb7377f0a644fd142There is also an new market for books about the history and making of video games. I see more and more of them popping up in my local Game store, does this mean that the gaming populous is reaching out into reading? I think it more likely that we have always been enthusiastic readers but the studios and stores have only just realised the connection.

Most the gamers i speak to are heavily into comic books or manga so the connection is there, it only makes sense to use settings from video games to tell more intricate stories. i would even think that the sudden surge in popularity and availability of these is connected to the increasing age of use gamers.

Saying that, I wonder if we will ever see classic games turning up as books, Gauntlet the novel? Tetris the book? – Joking as side making books from games is a much better idea than making them into movie’s and lets enthusiastic gamers and writers flesh out a world in ways that no game alone ever could.

I subscribe to the notation that pay monthly is still healthy

Dontplay

fish[2]There has been much talk of free to play of late and how the subscription model is dead. Well I think I have conclusive proof that this is not true, and strangely it comes from console shooting land. After all one of the main reasons that people pay subscriptions is the promised that their game will be updated regularly with new content.

Well it has been announced that both Gears of War 3 and Modern Warfare 3 call-of-duty-elite-logo(through their elite XP service) will allow you to buy all the DLC in advance, for a total cost. The selling point being that you pay one lump sum now and you get all the DLC that is released for "free" when they come out. Bare in mind that neither of these games have actually been released at the time of writing. So if micro transactions are the future, which is, arguably, all DLC is, what does this tell us.

Well clearly people are still willing to pay up front for regular content updates, and clearly both Microsoft and Activision believe that they will make more money this way, than selling the DLC separately at a slightly higher premium. This makes me think that despite all these mmo’s going free to play, there is certainly a capacity for the pay monthly games, however those that succeed seem very hit and miss.

You have WoW losing players (though by no means in numbers that anyone AION-Wallpaper-Screenshot-PC-Game-Online-8would find catastrophic), Rift is doing very well, Eve with a small but dedicated number of players and games like Aion and DCUO plodding on despite, what I would guess, is a gradually diminishing player base. It is an oddity that I guess we never can tell what will be successful. Hell knows why the horrific grind of Aion is still going, and i really don’t get why Rift was so successful for a new world (I hate the term intellectual property, I wrote it down, shuddered and then deleted it).

I recently had a conversation with Hex which went, roughly like this. He basically said that, despite previously being a big proponent of free to play games, he just wanted a game that he can pay £9 a month to, not have the game try and sell him anything and does not have a bunch of noobs running around (I am paraphrasing, sorry Hex). Now I told him he was being a bit elitist, and he didn’t care one bit.

Maybe that's why Rift did so well, it offered a well polished, if generic, new world to play in, that chances are your auntie or your dad will never play. Perhaps that is what is appealing regarding some of these pay monthly mmo’s LOTROlike Rift or Final Fantasy, they are populated by “proper mmo players”, unlike something like LOTRO which has far fewer steps and requires no payment to play. After all your mom only needs to hear about Lord of the Rings Online (or any other of the hundreds of free to play mmos), and it is relatively few steps to be playing it, all completely risk free.

Subscriptions aren’t going away,  and I am intrigued as the mmo market changes to see who sticks to there subs and who jumps into the choppy waters of free to play.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Vlog– Birmingham Comic show… And my dead bees

We went to Birmingham comic show last month, oddly i got very little footage of the show its self so i just sorted out a little snippet with the guys from Dead Star Publishing. im this vlog i also show the world my collection of dead bees.. yeah.

Comic show, dead bees, Kittens?

Ah, its over now….. thanks for watching.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The inevitable blog: Xenoblade.

Nintendo-Xenoblade-Chronicles

hex I don’t mean to bang on about one title tirelessly but when its all that I have been playing for over a week its hard to find a reason not to write about it. That title is Xenoblade.

I am not going to tell you how great the game is, but I assure you it is. Xenoblade blends a solid story with some interesting if overly traditional gameplay and reminds me of the epic scale that Final Fantasy 7 had the first time that I loaded it.

xenoblade-chronicles-screen

Its strange that it has found a home on the Wii as it uses none of the consoles key features (there is no waggling at all). in fact with the classic controller in hand its easy to forget that your playing a Wii. I have always been a fan of the GameCube controller and I think I would have preferred to use it but as I picked up the game with the bundled classic controller pro I can’t really complain. Still, its strange that they have not coded support for the older controllers when where is nothing that the Classic Pro has that the GameCube pad does not, and certainly nothing the game does that could not be done on another controller.

xenoblade5

I do find it strange that it was bundled with a classic controller at all as this pad has been predominantly pushed for FPS titles and Xenoblade plays fine on a nunchuck and remote. If anything I think that this was done to push the classic controller pro not to benefit the game.

Xenoblade’s graphics are not great, even by Wii standards, after playing the Conduit I know the console can make some pretty nice looking environments and Xenoblade looks like a hi resolution GameCube title. It does not look bad, its very nice to look at but not as nice a you expect from a game, even a Wii game in 2011. It does however make up for this with some greatly entertaining voice work. Notice how I said entertaining not excellent. Every voice actor is doing a great job of fitting the over the top ham acting style of the story. Every emotion is felt to the core and every word is spoken with theatrical clarity.

Xenoblade

It may sound like I am being negative towards the game but all the things it does badly, it does in a way that actually makes the game more charming. Its an epic adventure why shouldn’t the characters be voiced in an epic way? the characters if overly thespian are all unique and well realised.

The main character is likeable and honest. The story does a good job of progressing him quickly but believably from a geeky kid into a warrior with a mission.

The gameplay is great, its just what we have come to expect from the JRPG it allows you to follow a relatively linear story in a way that feels very free and the player sets the pace of the game. you can run for a goal or (like me) bask in the world and enjoy the strange side-lines and places that are available.

Xenoblade-Chronicles-2

Combat is very deep. You can choose to command your group of AI characters to feely attack or focus on your target at times you even get to micro-manager them in chain attacks. You attack with abilities called ‘Arts’ that you upgrade with points you gain when you level your character. levelling much like in Dragon Age is a side effect of enjoying the game not something you aim for. this, to me at least is a sign of a quality RPG.

The story is something that I am not going to tell you about other than to say that it features giant Robot Gods that the game world is set literally on top of, to tell you any more would ruin the unfolding story of the game.

There are better RPG’s available but not many that are so well realised and genuinely interesting. If you've finished twilight princess then there really are not any better games on your Wii. 

lego_monado_sword___xenoblade_by_mingles-d488pj1

TL : DR version -  play Xenoblade. its the best RPG on your Wii and you get to swing a big red sword!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Deus Ex Human Revolutions addiction

 

e15a4d95-3fa3-4492-8cd5-af1e395a8ffe

 

fish[2]That’s me finished my first run through of Deus Ex Human Revolutions then, and it would be remise of me to not tell you what I thought, especially as I did a retrospective of sorts on the original recently. I should point out that this is going to pretty damn gushing with praise.

I loved the first game and DEHR (as I will call it from now on) manages to keep a lot of the good ideas from it and put it into a very well realised world. So you have experience points gained for doing, well pretty much anything, from hacking, to knocking out guards and even for not being seen. You use these point to level up your augmentations (essentially passive and activated skills in the form of mechanical arms, legs etc.), in my case I played it as a none lethal, stealth hacker. However the way you level your character directly affects how you can progress through various levels, with every area having multiple paths and routes.  So while I was hacking every door I could find, another player could find entirely different routes because they had a different skillset. I think it is even plausible that you could play through an entire game without upgrading your character at all, not many role play games could say that..

686px-HR-augs-screen

There are a number of improvements over the original. It has the basis of a good action/stealth game straight off the bat, unlike the first Deus Ex where is wasn’t until the later half of the game were you became competent. Another change is the way the camera works. DEHR is first person the majority of the time, except when you take cover behind something, at which point the camera zooms out to third person. It is a little jarring at first but soon it is second nature. It is a happy compromise and certainly makes stealth easier when you can hide from enemies but still clearly see where they are. The other time the camera zooms out is when you perform an up close takedown, where you get a cool cut scene of you knocking someone out (this should get boring, but I found it very satisfying every time) .

A couple of days ago I wrote about choices and DEHR is full of them, some clearly marked and some you don’t even realise. I have no desire to spoil anything, but I will give you a little example. You play as Adam Jensen who is head of security at a big augmentation firm. Now early into the game I went round hacking all the offices in the building and stealing anything that wasn’t nailed down. Brilliantly i was contacted later in the game by the boss asking me to look into a spate of petty thefts from the offices.

The game trailer, seriously just go buy it.

The story is actually an interesting tale of conflict between those who are in favour of mechanically augmenting human beings and those who think it will be the end of humanity, with the player, obviously, stuck in the middle. It is also refreshing to play a new AAA title that has a great story, that can’t be finished in 5 or 6 hours. Depending how you play, there is at least 24 hours worth of game here.

So a completely flawless and awesome game then? Ok fine, I have one criticism. Indeux-ex-placeholder a game all about choice and playing the way you want, there are 4 boss fights. These cannot be avoided or gotten around in anyway, to the point where I was carrying around a fully upgraded assault rifle purely for the boss fights. At which point I would have to put away my trusty stun gun and tranquilizer rifle, and get the assault rifle out to deal with the boss.

This is only a minor point in a game I have fallen deeply in love with.  I have only just finished it and I am already thinking of playing it again but this time as a super strength killer. Excuse me I have to erm go and do something that totally isn’t playing DEHR.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

There must be a good choice for a mmo out there

 

larp_1

fish[2]I have been playing a lot of rpg's lately, ranging from the dragon ages to deus ex human revolution (really awesome but that is for another blog). And I have come to a conclusion. There is not an mmo out there that I have played that has a right to call itself a rpg.

For me, a role playing game is all about choices, be they large or small, and seeingwitcher2logomarch23 the results of the choices you have made. Take the Witcher 2 as an extreme example (SPOILER WARNING). At one point you are given the choice of letting a king (who is a complete ass) be killed or not. The choice you make directly affects how the rest off the game plays out. It is these kinds of character choices that define the role we are playing.

In most mmo's there is usually very little option to even vary the way you approach a quest. A quest to go and kill a dude will invariably involve finding the enemy and attacking them, regardless of the character type you are playing or the way you have customised it. So essentially the only choice you really have is whether you take the quest or not, which isn't really a choice at all.

rift_quest_titleSome mmo's have tried to improve on the character side at least, Rift in particular offering a great deal of options to customise your character. While you you have a wide range of choices, they are largely wasted, as most of the quests are of the simple "go kill 6 of X" or "get 10 of Y, you get them by killing X" variety.

Every time i read or see more about The Old Republic, I almost decide I am not interested in Bioware's Wow clone in space. Then they start telling about personal stories for your character, with quests that have multiple choices and consequences to your actions and I am drawn back in. I love role playing games with a passion, maybe that's why there isn't a mmo I have played that has captured my imagination.
 
NB Couldn’t resist posting this.
 

Friday, 2 September 2011

Farewell To Azeroth








In response to a recent PCGamer Post World of Warcraft subscription decline “makes sense” says lead dev. PC is “re-emerging”, I wrote a small good bye to World of Warcraft hopefully addressing why I fell out of Love with the MMO,with some unexpected comments.

here is my comment:
I loved WoW. I loved TBC and played from Vanilla upto Cata. I'm not a fangirl of WoW but it holds some great, dear and fond memories for me.

However I played Cata rerolled a new char, did all the content and then quit at endgame after a few short weeks, realising I had blasted thru everything in less than a month and the was nothing actually new to do, the eternal grind for tokens at the end. Which you did at TBC (but TBC had challenge and well tokens where new at this point).

Everyone in my guild who played now has the same problem. they keep trying to go back and only last a week or two and quit again. fond memories do not a game make. We love it but for us its a labouring leviathan that we wish we could love more as we once did, but know its better to shoot it in the head than let if suffer. So we quit and dont look back..

I personally had a major wow addiction for years and now for me wow is as appealing as 3 week old yoghurt that's been sat on the radiator.

Im much more interested now in new and upcomming GW2, Wildstar, TERA & (TOR not so much as I feel its WoW in space, dont get me wrong part of TOR sound awesome, some of TOR sounds like a regurgitated WoW) but still.

I still miss those TBC days when WoW was hard, challenging and being in a party meant something, not just a LFG panel with those you where never likely to see again ever, who never speak, who are not potential friends, guildies or someone you dungeon with regularly.

WoW has become a lobby for the LFG panel and that saddens me.

I fully expected some haters and some WoW fanboys both flaming me for one reason or another, but I actually got some intellegent reponses..



What are your thoughts on this article, and do you have your own comment to add?


Thursday, 1 September 2011

Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.

xenoblade4810

hex The titles of this post is something that the awesome Bear Grylls tweeted today. This is also true of gaming habits. You see, at some point between hearing the word Xenoblade and entering Gamestation I had made the decision that my PC elitism gaming habits needed some distraction.

One of the reasons I have never been sold on consoles is the simple fact that I already have a PC, a PC that does allot for me and to purchase a console seems pretty wasteful. This changed however when the straw that broke the camels back appeared for the Wii (Xenoblade) and I realised that I ‘needed’ one.

netflix-streaming-wii

I have a 6 year old daughter (‘The Moox’, as she is known in my alternately rendered reality) and she loves Mario games. I mean that in the literal sense. She once announced that she was going to marry Super Mario DS, a phase on some level at least,  I hope she doesn’t grow out of.

The Wii Offering many Mario games, including the superb and fun for all Mario Kart was already tempting me, add to this the exclusive RPG Xenoblade and a bargain price for pre-owned units and you have a formula that literally left me with no option except to reach for my credit card. I could have a console that catered for my strange love of odd games as well as something that my daughter would enjoy.

The Wii is interesting as a console because it has basically a five year out of date hardware selection coupled with dodgy motion sensing and low resolution graphics. yet, i chose to buy one ignoring the ‘next gen’ consoles and reaching for this underdog. An underdog that has outsold bread in some country’s (that’s not a fact).

wii-desc

I find it interesting that all this time later in the ‘console wars’  the Wii is not known for looking shoddy or its comical motion sensing but its leading the way in the field of alternative control gaming. Nintendo have in deed performed a miracle of marketing and innovation.

As for Xenoblade, I am not disappointed at all. in fact I am genuinely impressed by the depth of the game. Its a great RPG with an unusual setting (the corpse of a robot-god giant… yeah…. that’s the setting) and entertaining voice acting. its the sort of story you would usually find in the most obscure anime story but as a game is very engaging and entertaining.

 monadowii1

And now I find myself enjoying games on a console for the first time since Halo, the orignal.