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Gaming Opinion: Gran Turismo 5 Release

March 28, 2010 Leave a comment

This is a re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that the blog is a complete repository of my written work. The article is reproduced without pagination, formatting, images or editorial changes made on the original site prior to original publication.

March 26th 2010. Woof, woof woof, who let the Gran Turismo 5 fanbois out? Oh it was me, sorry about that. So on Friday there was a little bit of a stir regarding my comments on the Gran Turismo 5 release, so I’d like to talk about this seriously for a moment from the point of view of both the developer and the publisher.

I am a Gran Turismo 5 fangirl. I pre-ordered it last summer. Driving games are my favourite genre and GT5P sits proudly on my shelf as the very first PS3 game I played at home. I’m really looking forward to Gran Turismo 5, although I’m now becoming afraid that it is going to be style, realism and feature-bloat over playability and addictiveness.

I won’t pretend to know I have any idea what is going on in the bowels of Sony or Polyphony Digital, but from past work experience I am pretty sure of at least two things: 1. They already know they made a mistake by not releasing sooner, and 2. Sony will be secretly relieved when this thing gets out into retail and it’s over and done with so they’re not bleeding away more money on it.

From the developer’s point of view

A project is never finished. It can always be refined more. New features and improvements can always be added. Perfectionism is paramount. Nobody wants to make a bad game. On my music gaming web site (www.totalmusicgaming.com), we are incrementally adding features and tweaking issues all the time, and it is very rewarding to see it become gradually better and better and more used.

The Gran Turismo 5 team want to make a perfect game and they will ultimately never be 100% satisfied with it, as is the case with all game studios worth their salt. If left to their own devices, development will go on forever.

From the publisher’s point of view

Analogising again to my web site, there comes a point where you have to stop developing and start marketing, otherwise you run out of money and don’t have any users. The web site is very, very far from perfect, there are years worth of extra features and goodies that could be added, I’m not happy with it and would have really wanted to push the envelope on a SingStar add-on a lot further before release – but it is feature-complete, and it’s not economically feasible to do it all before the product is released, and we have to see a return on investment or development cannot continue.

Up to a certain point, each man hour spent on development is worthwhile. Eventually a tipping point of diminishing returns is reached, where the potential market for the product is more or less maximized and additional work is simply a cost with little-to-no benefit. When a game is delayed for 6 months, not because it isn’t finished but because it is being padded with feature bloat, the publisher and gamers lose out in several ways. First the public become frustrated with the delay. Second the publisher loses money while it is shelling out for the development team to continue working when the number of copies sold isn’t likely to increase much as a result of additional features being added in. Thirdly the time spent on that could have been spent developing new games.

There comes a point where you just have to say, it’s good enough, push it out now. Steve Lycett commented on this in his recent TSA interview about Sega & Sonic All-Stars Racing:

“We’d love to include more, but then we’d never finish a game!”

This is exactly how I feel about development. If all publishers allowed perfectionist standards, there would be no games to play.

Some may argue that Polyphony Digital is an exception or that it’s important to let the game be developed until its potential is maximized. Of course, it’s important not to set the bar too low, but PD is really not an exception. I don’t think many people would argue that including 3D or Move support is necessary at this point, and that is a considerable time drain. Avatar: The Game was designed for 3D; did that make it a better game? Consider, what are the potential uses of the Move in GT5? A trade-off has to be reached, and in my opinion the appropriate trade-off has not been made for this game by a long stretch.

I am not suggesting for a moment that unfinished games should be released. If a game needs to be delayed to iron out bugs or finish the content, that is one thing. Polyphony Digital have already announced more than once that the game is essentially finished and that “we could release it now”. Gran Turismo 5 has been in development for over 5 years at this point and was meant to be one of the key early adopter titles to drive initial sales of PlayStation 3. Sony have clearly given up on this idea now and Gran Turismo 5 has likely become a monetary sink for them. That cannot possibly benefit us.

My opinion is that the developers at Polyphony Digital have lost sight of what is truly important, and lost their way. By trying to cram in every possible feature, they are neglecting the core of what makes a good game: the gameplay. If it is true that each car takes 1 month to model, then the modelling should have been simpler, or less cars should have been included. Is it necessary to include 1000 cars? There’s no doubt it’s cool – but would it be a worse game if there were 250 cars? Will you play 1000 races? Was Need For Speed Shift a worse game because of its more limited car selection and simpler graphics? If it was, then we are talking very small percentage points.

What is the target audience for Gran Turismo 5? Is it car enthusiasts, or is it gamers? Is it realism or is it fun? Of course it’s not a black-and-white argument and there is room to balance both sets of users’ needs, but I’m extremely concerned that these major issues are being sorely overlooked.

Gamers also need to have realistic expectations. The concept that the longer a game is in development, the better it will be, is false. In the same way there is a diminishing return on revenue with development time, so the quality of a game is also not proportional to the time it takes to develop. Spore is a classic example of this – a game with a 9-year development cycle. While some will argue Spore is great and others will say it is horrible, the point is, either way, it would be hard to argue it was worth 9 years of development. It’s also worth noting that Duke Nukem Forever was canceled after an 11-year development cycle due to lack of funding.

Almost everyone who is going to buy Gran Turismo 5 has probably made their purchasing decision already. In my opinion, it should be released now before the hype backfires, if it has not done so already. Game development is not a hobby, it’s a business – but Polyphony Digital seem to think otherwise, and that’s a dangerous game to play.

Top Ten: Best PlayStation 3 Games

March 24, 2010 Leave a comment

This is an unedited, uncensored re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that fans can read the uncensored versions.

WARNING! This article is intended as a piece of satirical diatribe. Some readers may find the language and themes within extremely offensive.

Greetings citizens of April 20-10. I am speaking to you directly from the past; to be precise, March 2000 and 10.

The past is crazy. Bluray is still the accepted movie format, and God of War 3 hasn’t been released yet, even though I played it for several hours after it was released and probably complained in last week’s top ten that I haven’t written yet how short it was (one for you parallel timeline fans there – why are you reading this when you could be writing equations?)

This week I’d like to draw your attention to the ten best PlayStation 3 games of all time. Unfortunately, with only Dante’s Inferno, Bioshock 2, Aliens vs Predator, White Knight Chronicles, Heavy Rain, Star Ocean, Sega & Sonic All-Stars Racing, Demon’s Souls, Final Fantasy XIII, Battlefield Bad Company 2 and God of War 3 in my pile of games from February and March, I haven’t really had the opportunity to play any decent games lately so I’ve had to use some creative license from Metacritic – which is to say I surveyed the reviews, then concocted a series of dangerous and probably libelous assumptions based on games I haven’t played in a plausible-looking manner. Because if I had played them, I certainly wouldn’t admit it in public.

I have absolutely no regrets about purchasing any of these games and I strongly urge you to do the same. No serious gamer’s collection is complete without these titles. Did I mention I was lying? I know I’ve missed out some absolute classics like Frogger Returns and Guitar Hero Van Halen, but this list is strictly reserved for the absolute cream of the crap, I mean crop.

10. Avatar

“Hello, my name is James Cameron, you may remember me from making – in my opinion – all the best movies of all-time. Now as you can see I’m being interviewed on PlayStation Network and I’m making it very clear that I am God’s Gift to Gaming.”

No Jimbo, you are not God’s gift to gaming. God’s gift to gaming was Ken Kuturagi (Satan retaliated by dual-wielding Steve Ballmer and Bob Kotick, and more or less won). What you are is a man who is ok-to-reasonable at playing a guitar, think you’re the greatest guitarist who ever lived and arrogantly believed your first musical composition would also be great. You’re a man who copied all the Avatar assets onto a (very large) USB stick, gave it to Ubisoft and thought that a great game would come automatically.

First tip: to make a great game, you need great source material to start with. High resolution, 3D and shiny does not equal great – refer to Gran Turismo 5 for further details (alright easy, calm down, I’m just being controversial remember). It does equal expensive and over-hyped, however – something we thought you would’ve learned from Titanic by now. Second tip: don’t embarrass yourself giving Avatar video game interviews until you’ve actually played the game and checked whether it’s shit or not. And if you have played it and can’t tell it’s shit, maybe you should just stick to your Wii eh?

9. Damnation

IGN: “Damnation is very bad. You can come over to my desk right now, randomly choose a level for me to show you, and you will see exactly what I’m talking about. The framerate crawls, the textures are hideous, the voice acting is terrible, the animations are robotic, the vehicles cut through the ground, there’s no voicechat in multiplayer, the story is poorly laid out, the gunplay is no fun, there are load screens in the middle of nowhere — I can go like this all day, but I think you get the point.” – 2.5

To be honest I’m wondering if they got the game mixed up with Avatar because I guess this is sort of what James Cameron was aiming at with his title, although compared to Damnation he fell considerably short of the mark.

I would first say I am genuinely sad that the studio responsible for Damnation was closed, because I don’t believe for a minute the developers would deliberately produce a bad game – so if you’re reading this guys, you do have my sympathies and I hope you’re not forced to watch Dave for any longer than is absolutely necessary.

Turning the brutal satire back on, though…. what an epic masterpiece of engineering!! If you wanna talk about 5 guns, grey pasty levels with textures more suited to a wireframe 3D game and the most awesomesauce controls ever, you’ve come to the right place my friends. My particular favourite is that you reload by pressing in the left stick. Ah yes, that’s much more comfortable than that really awkward square button. Give the guy who thought that one up a platinum trophy, because he is going to go on to redefine the future of gaming. Hopefully he’s not involved with the Move’s ergonomics team though.

8. .detuned

A man sits in a chair, or occasionally walks around it, and bends his face in a mildly-entertaining-for-2-minutes manner. So, here we’ve got all the makings of a classic: variety, longevity, addictiveness and solid gameplay.

I know, .detuned is not a game. I actually used to be in the demo scene so I have great respect for the authors of Linger In Shadows and .detuned and have followed a lot of their previous work. It would be one thing if the £3 actually showed us something that pushes the PS3. It doesn’t – and no demo team will ever be able to do that for another 20 years, just like how they are showing off 3D demos these days on the Commodore 64. Stick to your PCs gentlemen – it’s what you do best.

7. PAIN

The clue is in the name. I actually got a free copy of this, and 5 minutes into the tutorial I was on the phone demanding my money back. And don’t even get me started on having to actually pay for add-ons to this shallow, weak, incomplete, hard-to-control and repetitive excuse for a gaming experience. It is embarrassing they are still releasing packs for this in all honesty.

If you take pleasure in your life from flinging a rag doll around a static area trying to hit as many targets as possible, over and over again, with no scoring or progression, then I guess you’ve got deeper psychological issues than which PSN games you buy.

6. Tony Hawk: RIDE

Ah…. this is one of my all-time favourites! A true classic. Hold on a minute while I just stop laughing at the very thought of this game.

The only thing that would have made this game funnier is if it had been published by Activision. Oh, wait.. *starts giggling again* No wait, there is one thing that would be even funnier than that: if they had confirmed a sequel. OMG they did! *bursts out laughing* Oh, the humanity.

You know, there are some things that you just can’t say about people in print because they’d result in an instant lawsuit. Come on Tony don’t be shy, you know what I’m talking about. Take James Cameron’s arrogance, put it on crack and you’ve got Tony’s attitude towards this game right there. And of course, from a business perspective he’s totally right to stand up for this steaming pile of shit, he can’t exactly admit how bad it really smells can he?

I saw an interview with Bill Gates many years ago when DOS was replaced with Windows 95. He was asked if he thought DOS was bad, and he freely admitted it was, then followed up with this gem: “You have to sell what you’ve got”. And this is exactly what Tony’s thinking about when he goes to bed at night. How does he sleep? Hopefully Activision gave him a free prescription of Zopiclone, cos if he’s got any conscience whatsoever, he’s gonna need it.

You’ll notice I haven’t even mentioned the hideous plastic skateboard, the broken controls, the stale gameplay or the price. That’s because this game has garnered such a reputation already, it requires no introduction. There is nothing I can say about the skateboard that hasn’t already been said. Which is a shame because I really could’ve written a lot on that topic.

5. Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust

As hard as this may be to believe, there are worse games than Tony Hawk’s RIDE. IGN explains:

IGN: “The lowest rating numbers here at IGN are reserved for games with nearly no redeeming qualities or interesting ideas, with next to nothing enjoyable to offer players, and which under no circumstances should be purchased by anyone. Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust is, without a doubt, one of those games.” – 2.0

High praise indeed from a gaming site known for its tough review scores. Also don’t forget this game’s humour: it’s more sexual than Alyson Hannigan with a flute, yet at the same time manages to make David Letterman look like a comedy genius. Special praise must also be given for the high-quality character models, fluid camera and superlative collision detection.

4. Thexder Neo

“Oh my God she’s not gonna bash independent studios is she?” Yes she is. The more worrying thing is that Square Enix actually allowed Gust to have this published under their brand at all.

In the PS2/GameCube/Xbox 1 era, few things bugged me more than the trawling out of sequel after sequel each year. A situation arose which some of you may remember: the entire games market was controlled by a tiny amount of companies. As someone who used to write 8-bit games before half of you was splashed into your mommy, I have always bemoaned the way the market got polarised against the indie developer. Enter XBLA and PSN, a not complete but partial return to the good old days, where one man can code what he wants to code rather than what he’s told, then publish Riff: Everyday Shooter. So I am a huge fan of this turning point and I buy lots – and I mean lots – of PSN games from the indies, even the ones that are less than brilliant. These people are the future of our industry, so any nurturing is a good thing.

However. Everyday Shooter – especially for a one-man development team – is a pretty decent little game. Thexder Neo, is not a good game. It’s not even approaching a good game. And it had a lot more than one developer working on it. Suspiciously, unlike all the other games I’ve mentioned so far, you can actually check out the demo of this one.

You will delete it after you lose your first life. Which will occur about 5 seconds after you start playing.

I’ve got no problem with the graphics or sound – it’s meant to be retro – but who on Earth came up with that control scheme. It’s a ship! No wait it’s a man! No wait it’s a ship again! Shit I gotta turn aro.. oh look I’ve crashed. Again. Crap which button do I press to thrust. Then there’s the ahem, variety. Well when I say variety, I mean how everything looks exactly the same.

So, living proof (as if we needed any more) that Sony’s TPQA department is.. shall we say less than stellar.. on what it lets slip through the net. I think we should return this particular team to the checkouts of Lidl as soon as possible to avoid further damage.

3. Hannah Montana: The Movie

I love Hannah Montana, and I love Miley Cyrus, and that has absolutely nothing to do with the fact I’m a lesbian and she has been 14 years old for approximately the last 5 years. Recently someone told me she was going to cut back on her acting to focus on her singing. I’m not sure if that’s true but I know what my response was: “but.. But.. BUT!! What am I gonna DO at 4pm every weekday afternoon if there’s no Hannah Montana to drool over, I mean watch? *cries*”. On the upside, Guitar Hero’s gonna get some mad skillz DLC! (which will make a change)

So, naturally you can understand, I was sooo desperate to buy this game and as the price plummeted on TheHut I had to resist more and more, and then they brought out those God damn packs on PSN with those icons of her smiling innocently that just make you go… “GOD I wanna .. play that game”.

To protect myself from financial ruin, I therefore had to resort to the 2nd Ultimate Source Of Truth After Wikipedia, ie. Metacritic. IGN put me in my place pretty quickly:

“Even if you’re a young girl that adores Hannah Montana, or you’re a parent looking for a good gift, do not purchase Hannah Montana: The Movie. It’s a cheap, awkward, embarrassing attempt to cash in on the hype of the movie without adhering to any of the standards of modern rhythm/music games” – 23%

“Impossible,” I thought to myself, “all movie tie-ins are fantastic! – they must be lying”. So, young girl, adores Hannah Montana – yep, I certainly checked all the boxes, and even after reading that I still wanted to buy it. But I didn’t – and thank God, cos it’s shite.

You know, I’ve just realised what I’ve done. I’ve admitted in public as a 30-year old woman that I watch Hannah Montana. Even my FRIENDS don’t know that. As far as dark secrets go that one’s pretty damn high up on the list. Cover blown – time to steal an Israeli passport.

2. Noby Noby Boy

I have to say I had great trouble ordering these last two. Noby Noby Boy is such a monumental achievement it’s hard to think that anything could top it, however I am tentatively placing it at No. 2.

Noby Noby Boy is nothing less than the ultimate social experiment. Space exploration, animal abuse, sex, toilet humour: this game’s got it all. And all for the price of a Starbucks coffee. The Facebook of PS3 at your disposal – what’s not to like?

It is amazing I must say how I can spend £60 on a game like Assassin’s Creed 2, play it for 3 hours, get busy with something else and never come back to it – a frequent occurrence in my household – yet be completely satisfied with the purchase. And yet, I can at the same time shell out a paltry £3 for Noby Noby Boy and feel regret and a pang of guilt at money wasted every time I go to bed at night.

The game’s premise, of course, is a win-win scenario: grow your Boy as big as possible then stick it in Girl. Eat cows along the way wherever possible, poop them out, then some months later after the developers have courteously thrown in an “arbitrary length multiplier”, go to a new planet which is more or less the same as the previous one. Arbitrary length multiplier is marketing speak for “damn we thought this was gonna be Facebook but it’s sort of going the way of MySpace now”. If you believe my mailbox, arbitrary length multiplier is also code for Viagra and all men would kill for it because all men have small Noby Noby Boys. I, of course, wouldn’t know. Actually now I think of it, that whole sticking Boy in Girl thing isn’t really my cup of tea to be honest, but I can see the appeal to others.

I love the music in this game. I remember when there was a 700MB patch and I thought… what the… the game is tiny compared to that. And it had new music. Unfortunately, everything else is, let’s say, less than perfect. For example, there’s no photo sharing. You can’t make a group called “lost my cellphone, join this group for new number”. You can’t even play FarmVille. Come to think of it, those are probably all plus points.

I would describe in detail my request for Noby Noby Boy: Girl-on-Girl Special Edition at this point, but I suspect it would get edited out. Perhaps a shorter name would be better: Nubby Nubby Girl.

1. PlayStation Home

Oh, don’t be fooled by the hype into believing this isn’t a game. It just wants you to think that to suck you in even more. Nothing less than the Ultimate MMORPG of All-Time, PlayStation Home smashes World of Warcraft in the face, cracks its skull open on the desk and grinds it to a pulp with a Slightly Tattered Axe. It even tops the dizzying heights of Second Life, and as anyone who has visited its porn-infested flat-shaded rectangular boxes that you have to pay to use knows, that is no small feat.

It wants you to think it’s a chat room. It’s tricking you. If you haven’t tried it, be warned, this is going to be the most addictive experience of your life, causing seconds of lost sleep, providing minutes of exploration in its deep, engaging environments, and taking years of hard-earned real cash to acquire the best of the uber-gear this incredible journey into entertainment offers.

Some may tell you Home is pointless, there is nothing to do and it has sucked since Xi finished. They should have talked to the NPCs. Although it is a bit heavy on “will you be my girlfriend” quests*, if you can navigate through these thousands of desperadoes you will find literally tens of avatars worth talking to. As an added layer of challenge you will be required to learn at least 4 new languages because many of the in-game characters can’t or simply refuse to speak English, and this is a really unique twist that increases the immersion and longevity of the game immensely.

You thought you’d seen the pinnacle of what PS3 currently has to offer when you played God of War 3. You’d be wrong. Introducing Icebreaker: the ultimate in-game game, exclusive to PS3. In fact, Home pretty much makes every game you own redundant. No more will you need to plug in your Wii for that spot of bowling (which let’s face it, is the only reason to own a Wii besides Super Mario Galaxy), for Home’s Bowling Alley is here! Game of chess? No problem, chess boards are placed strategically in the middle of a load of shops to tease those intellectual types into buying that irresistible Star Trek outfit.

And what about Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X and IL-2 Sturmovik? Forget about it, we’ve got Red Bull Air Race now. There’s just no contest.

I really can’t say enough positive things about Home. My best friend told me not to slag it off because it’s free. I pointed out to him that it actually comes at quite a price: 6GB of hard disk space minimum, more patches than a 30-year old pair of jeans, loading times so long you could go to the loft, get out your ZX Spectrum, hook it up, find the Manic Miner tape, load the game and complete the first 5 levels before Home has even re-downloaded the Home Square for the 5,000th time, but most importantly: hundreds if not thousands of developers wasting a shitload of time and money on a useless piece of junk that 12 million users have visited once each, then quickly dismissed as a useless piece of junk when they realise it does absolutely nothing of redeeming value whatsoever.

*takes a bow*

* Note: “Will You Be My Girlfriend” quests not available when using male avatars.

The Gaming Rant 4

March 22, 2010 Leave a comment

This is an unedited, uncensored re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that fans can read the uncensored versions.

WARNING! This article is intended as a piece of satirical diatribe. Some readers may find the language and themes within extremely offensive.

My goodness, I never realised the word satire was so complex and multi-faceted. And I’m sure if you’re, ehm, “special”, then it is.

Your sense of humour has been conditioned into you over time, which unfortunately means you can’t be cured if you find this kind of trolling with mild undertones of truth hard to stomach. I could’ve swore I wasn’t holding you at gunpoint forcing you to read my childish banter over the last month, but then my memory is not what it used to be. Besides, if you do have an under-developed sense of humour, how did you get out of Germany in the first place?

For everyone who’s left, you should be working and so should I, but it’s Friday and you deserve a break, so I’m going to spend a few hours putting together something topical that I hope amuses you. It will be brutal, unfair, patronizing to everyone involved, sarcastic, immature toilet humour that has no place on any respectable gaming site. Enter TSA to come to the rescue. Damn, that was controversial. Such betrayal after all the Russian brides they sent me, I should be ashamed of myself. (Note: if TSA wasn’t respectable, I wouldn’t write for it – just checking you got the satire. If we can’t laugh at ourselves, who can we laugh at? Oh, right, Edge. Yeah, forgot about them)

*hands out a cache of guns to the TSA staff* Point these at the little rat bastards for the next five minutes – thanks.

Final Fantasy XIII: The Voice of Rationality vs My Best Friend

Friendly fire has been brewing. My best friend is a long-time Final Fantasy fan and complained that it got low review scores, then pointed the finger directly at me for being one of the ones responsible (I wasn’t) and asked what my problem is with it.

I told him all the reasons I could think of that reviewers may have marked it down: linearity, non-replayability, shift away from towns and friendly NPCs, no Japanese audio, slightly dodgy animations of Vanille and iffy camera panning, plus a lot of other things – all of which I noted were not problems I personally had except for the minor camera issue.

But here’s the real crux of the problem I have with Final Fantasy XIII: Snow. He’s such a petulant little pain in the ass, every time it’s a cut scene with him it’s like “OMG Poor SAAAAAAAAARAHHHHH!!!111oneoneone!!! BBQ!!”. Snow, she’s gonna turn to crystal, and I don’t think your crummy little knife is gonna magically fix that. Let it go buddy. What are you doing proposing to a 12-year old anyway? That kind of conduct is exclusively my domain. And have you seen the sand when he runs across it at the start of chapter 6? He doesn’t leave any footprints at all. Then when his spaceship crashes he gets up immediately and there’s not a scratch on him. What does he think he’s Jesus or something?

Do you know what I do with Snow? Walk all over it. Listen to it as it crunches into the ground. Break it into pieces and throw it at the nearest car. That’s all Snow is good for.

My friend’s real beef though was when I may have inadvertently used the words “RPG” and “niche market” in the same sentence. Now I know that is an argument with both truths and falsehoods, but as he started throwing review scores and sales statistics at me I knew I couldn’t admit I was wrong even if I was, so a game of statistical musical chairs ensued. This went on for almost two days. Finally he epic failed by pointing out that Final Fantasy and Tetris were the two best-selling games on the PSP last month; that really backfired on him because I bought Tetris for PSP last month, proving beyond doubt I was right.

Nintendo DS is not useless after all

Same friend again:

(04:58:48 PM) ******: hmm
(04:58:52 PM) ******: I might need to get a DS
(04:58:57 PM) Katy: o_O
(04:59:04 PM) Katy: *cracks your head open on the desk*
(04:59:05 PM) Katy: grow up
(04:59:08 PM) ******: Chrono Trigger was released on it last year

Damn, this guy knows too much.

This.. err… week’s… SingStore Update

You’d think after the extensive limb dismemberment I gave them on these very pages about that piss poor non-English update from a few weeks back that they would’ve learned their lesson, right? Wrong. SingStar Team never learn. History has shown this repeatedly. You can think of SingStar Team like monkeys trying to write Shakespeare: they’ll get it right eventually, but only by random chance since they don’t have the capacity to learn from their mistakes, and OnLive will be rolled out in Cyberia by the time they figure it out.

The “March 25th 2010” update as it is now known in historical terminology has not yet surfaced. It’s 30th March at the time of writing. Have you ever heard of a Rock Band, Guitar Hero or Lips update being a day late, let alone six with no word from the team?

So I figured they deserve some additional public humiliation as if they haven’t already got enough on their Facebook group, to spur them along in firing some people. And I am being a bit serious here because this is actually pathetic. I did some research. Here is what happened with SingStore updates in the last 12 months (I’ve left out the on-time ones to save space):

25th March – no release date announced yet as of 31st March

11th March – on time but update consisted almost exclusively of non-English songs

25th February – delayed til 20:00

31st December – decided not to bother releasing an update this week at all

10th December – decided not to bother releasing an update this week and deferred it by 1 week

12th November – on time but some songs were locked and unpurchasable til the next day

15th October – delayed for 1 day

17th September – delayed for 1 day

3rd September – delayed til 17:30

20th August – delayed for 1 day

6th August – delayed for 2 days in the US, released 1730 in the UK

23rd April – decided not to bother releasing an update this week and deferred it by 1 week

9th April – delayed for 5 days (released on 14th April)

26th March – on time but some songs were locked and unpurchasable until the late evening

So, 16 out of 29 updates passed without a hitch. Of course, there should have been 31 updates. I also noted that for both the case of patches and broken songs or updates, at no point in that time period did SingStar Team ever work on a Saturday or Sunday to fix it. Whatever happened to dedication? You know what me and nofi do when our web sites get screwed up? We bloody well sit down and fix it as soon as possible to keep our users happy – and we’re not even making any money.

I know some idiot future employer of mine is sitting in London Studio reading this now going: “God I hate Katy she’s such an arrogant bitch always whining about SingStar.” Yes, I am. Why? Because I love the game and whine on behalf of the people – your customers – for better service. How often have you seen me slag off Rock Band? Pretty much never. Why? Cos they do their friggin jobs properly.

Another smug idiot over there is also reading this going: “Well if you think you’re so good, let’s see if you can do a better job yourself”. Yes, well, let’s see shall we – because I’m pretty bloody sure I can do a better job, actually. The first thing I’ll be doing is a performance review of all the team members, re-evaluating their skill sets and firing the ones who aren’t up to the task. Something you should be doing instead of reading this.

The Tester: Episode 5

This week the contestants played Buzz. Except they didn’t. It was, in fact, a completely unrelated quiz show with the Buzz brand slapped across it, creating a link so tenuous that the only thing I can conjure up that’s more dodgy is putting people in plastic bubbles and calling it a test of communication ability. I’ll spare you the details. Pre-game interview extract:

Doc: “I know a lot about PlayStation. This is going to be totally one-sided, it’s time to dominate.”

First question:

Meredith: “On the PlayStation controller, what colour is the triangle button?”

Doc: “Pink.”

You think I’m joking. I’m not joking. If you think I rage on here, well, I suggest you become a fly on the wall of my living room for the remaining episodes, because despite Peter letting me get away with the occasional F-word, what I shouted at that moment cannot be reproduced in print. Word would flag me as a terrorist and send a report to Microsoft.

Third question:

Meredith: “Who is the father of PlayStation?”

Me: “KEN KUTURAGI!!!! KEN KUTURAGI KEN KUTURAGI!! ANSWER DAMMIT IT’S KEN KUTURAGI!”

Silence falls across the studio. Brent Gocke – the global Release Manager whose job title has been announced in every episode and which Star forgot when she was asked at elimination – isn’t looking too impressed. I feel your pain, Brent. I can see now you’ve been put in an impossible situation: someone in marketing thought this would be good PR, and you were the unlucky bastard who drew the short straw and had to sit through this. And I can see why, I mean, you’re a release manager, and as we all know there’s hardly been any games released lately so you probably have a lot of spare time.

Here is a little tip for anyone going for a job interview: know your target audience. Going to apply for a job at Activision? Check their corporate web site first. Find out what franchises they own (Rock Band, Gears of War) and who their key executives like the CEO are (I’ll save you the trouble, it’s Bill Gates) so you at least sound like you know something.

You may be thinking I’m being unduly harsh given the pressure they were under in that room full of ten people, of whom 6 were contestants. You’d be wrong. I was the only female contestant in the Buzz Brain of The UK championships in London last summer, which was conducted in front of a live audience with plenty of execs, events organizers and magazine journalists hovering around. I finished 5th out of 28 – stupid Tour de France questions. But I’m pretty freaking sure if they had asked me what colour triangle was, I would’ve got it right. The point is, I didn’t crack under pressure when there was a ton of lights, people watching me and a £20,000-value prize at stake – and the gaming industry is a pressure cooker. If you crack under less pressure than that, I don’t want you testing my games. It’s that simple.

Thank God Big D got eliminated and not Star. Are you reading this Star? Are you into girls? Can I give you my phone number? I’ll even let you beat me at Guitar Hero.

I can’t play my drums after midnight

Which is a problem when you only get up at 7pm. Plus I have to get ready, so immediately it’s 9pm before I can do anything, by which time I’ve been powered only by coffee and cigarettes for 2 hours and need to make dinner – which leads to watching TV, then it’s 10pm. When I say dinner I mean microwave food, obviously.

Technically I could play them whenever, but I have a downstairs neighbour who is very good when I need help so I try to be a bit considerate. So on that note, why does the green drum-pad make a thud three times louder than all the others? Anyone else got that issue? And who thought making them out of rubber was a good idea? Rubber – possibly one of the least force-deflecting materials under compression known to mankind. There are a few exceptions of course – Jane Goody’s brain for example (that’s so non-deflective if you hit it with a drumstick it would land on Mars) – but I want my drumpads to go bang, not ba-ba-thu-thud every time I hit them.

And oh my God the drum pedal. Someone please tell me how to keep it in one place on the floor! Doesn’t matter how I sit or use it, the bloody thing always ends up sneaking away slowly like a summer’s day ice-cream you’ve given strict orders not to melt. Then you’re playing the song and the bloody bar under the pads is chaffing into your shin as you stretch your legs out like the girls in Split Tail Lovers (thanks to reader Amphlett for the movie tip) desperately waiting for a quiet bit in the song so you can drag the pedal back to its proper position again with your big toe. Indeed, the drum pedal is more slippery than an eel covered in Astroglide (thanks again to Amphlett for the info – no wonder you use Astroglide hun, I didn’t even know you could do that with a live eel).

As for the pad material, there is in fact only one choice worse than rubber: air. Which makes Guitar Hero on drums the perfect way to show off the power of Natal. Think about it: they’ll make no noise to annoy the neighbours and you can have as many drums and cymbals as you want. Just imagine how much more accurate you’re gonna be and how much less strain there’s going to be on your wrists once Bob goes Natal. Although, I guess it’s his wife going natal we should be more worried about.

PSN Spam

We’re all familiar with it. “OMG they’re gonna start charging for PSN, send this message to 1000 people in protest, Sony are watching and if the message is sent over 1 million times they will change their plans.”

Riiiight. That sounds like a surefire business model doesn’t it? And people actually believe this. Of course, you should use the following canned response:

“Yes, yes that’s right. Sony are going to start charging for PSN. In fact your first payment is now due and should be made to <Sender’s Name>, <Sender’s Bank Account Number> within 7 days or your account may be suspended until payment is received. Also, please send this to 1,000 of your friends in case they haven’t received the email.”

But, this week I thought I’d share with you a nice gem I got in my PSN inbox today that lightened up the spam parade a little. It reads as follows:

“message this to 10,000,000 and you will get a free lolli pop dats right 1 whole chubba chub baby omg its insane right and dats all u have to do….this is been tracked by a panda in hong kong so get sendin”.

Genial.

OtherOS removed in new firmware update

This one got me pretty angerz. Let’s clear the obvious issues first. I can no longer pirate PS3 games, and let’s face it, every single user of OtherOS is nothing more than a seedy pirate. Why pay £40 for a shiny game when you could download a 30GB torrent, decrypt it, buy some blank bluray and a bluray writer, burn it, install an OtherOS, mod chip your PS3, then buy some bluray movie cases, print out the cover and a CD label, get one of those little things that sticks the labels onto the disks, then download the game manual and print it on dirt cheap gloss paper? No reason at all – pirating is obviously a lot more convenient, and that means better for the consumer.

Another big problem is that I can no longer run an extremely slow and feature-deficient Linux desktop on a machine with limited memory and arbitrarily-limited processor and disk space availability. Why on Earth would I want to surf the web and do my email on a perfectly good PC when I can jump through a million hoops to do it on my PS3 instead? This is a major restriction of consumer choice, again. It is bad enough that the PS3 browser won’t run Silverlight scripts or play Windows Media streams, let alone taking away the option of spending 15 minutes waiting for Linux to boot and Firefox to start as well. Bad form, Sony *tuts*

This is a classic example of current political thinking and it’s worrying. A man sews explosives into his trousers and tries to blow up a plane. Result? I have to be visually raped every time I want to leave the country. GeoTwat makes a PS3 say Hello World, and as a result I have my freedom stripped down a little bit further again. Did anyone overlook the fact that he didn’t actually do anything wrong? Although the UK isn’t a free society anymore, in Norway we have a legal right to know what the things in are own home are doing, and terms of use that forbid reverse-engineering do not apply. It’s not reverse-engineering that kills: it’s the idiot who posts about it on his blog. Hm? Oh, right.

PSN store updates moving to Wednesdays

Why? It has plagued me for ages that the 360 always gets Rock Band DLC and such two days before PS3. So what stroke of genius do they come up with? Reduce it to one day. What is this 1992? Sure it gets the job done, but come on! Business tip for the uninitiated: releasing content later on your platform than a competitor’s platform = less sales on your platform. Even Steve Jobs knows that, and what did he ever do right?

PS3 was lead platform for Sega & Sonic All-Stars Racing

Oh reaallly… so why is the framerate so shit then? I saw some PR spin about it having to do with reflections and lighting effects. Yeah. Gran Turismo does 1080p in 60fps constantly – the fanbois told me so it must be true – and yet, a Sega game once again suffers framerate problems on PS3 despite the fact the cars in All Stars Racing only have 2-3 times the number of polygons as the ones in GT5. Did you know each car in All Stars Racing took 3 months to model, but there are only 8 so it sort of balanced out?

I blame these problems on the simple fact that the game was released on its original scheduled release date. If they had waited, say, 2 years, and spent the time making trailers and watching NASCAR, these problems would have all solved themselves automatically. And why doesn’t it have head tracking and 3D? That completely ruined the gameplay experience for me. Sega, take a lesson from Polyphony Digital: never release a driving game until it’s perfect. My friend and I only had heaps of fun with it when it could have easily been mountains of fun instead, and that shoddy TSA review score of 8/10 was a direct result of your promptness and lack of attention to detail.

Gran Turismo 5

Speaking of which, Gran Turismo 5 is rubbish. Or brilliant. Whichever will make you leave angry comments so I can taunt you more accurately next week. You shouldn’t have skipped the first two paragraphs of this article, tut tut.

No, seriously it’s gonna be brilliant. Hah, April Fool’s! It’s gonna suck.

I wish you all a very pleasant Easter break!

Do Video Games Corrupt Children? – A Scientific Treatise

March 20, 2010 Leave a comment

This is a re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that the blog is a complete repository of my written work. The article is reproduced without pagination, formatting, images or editorial changes made on the original site prior to original publication.

First, this article does not contain any humour and is in fact quite dry. Secondly, like it or not, nobody can accurately answer this question yet, but here I am going to present a scientific basis for getting closer to a definitive result.

My aim with this article is to point out the accuracies and flaws of current thinking and explain why these thoughts are accurate or flawed. To do this, one needs some qualification in the subject. I have experience with creating scientific tests and survey material, I am qualified in statistics and although I do not have a human sciences degree, I am somewhat self-taught in psychology including behavioral psychology – however I am in no sense an expert on that subject. I will try to keep this scientific and objective with personal opinion removed, and let you decide for yourselves. Read more…

The Gaming Rant 3

March 16, 2010 Leave a comment

This is an unedited, uncensored re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that fans can read the uncensored versions.

WARNING! This article is intended as a piece of satirical diatribe. Some readers may find the language and themes within extremely offensive.

It’s Friday and that can only mean one thing: more controlled rage that will make me lose employment opportunities at Sony, Microsoft and Activision because their HR departments have no sense of humour. In reality these companies all do great work and produce great games – so let us waste no time in continuing to belittle their efforts.

Gran Turismo 5 Features

Polyphony Digital have announced that Gran Turismo 5 will support head tracking.

Polyphony Digital have announced that Gran Turismo 5 will have rally mode in-car replay.

Polyphony Digital have announced that Gran Turismo 5 will support night mode.

Polyphony Digital have announced that Gran Turismo 5 will support 3D.

Polyphony Digital have announced that Gran Turismo 5 will support motion control.

Polyphony Digital have announced that Gran Turismo 5 will show live weather conditions.

Polyphony Digital have announced that Gran Turismo 5 will use 500,000 polygons per car.

Great. Does it support cars and tracks? Does it support the use of a standard PS3 controller? Good, then RELASE THE F*CKING THING.

What I’m thinking is, they should cut us a deal at this point. Need For Speed Shift had none of these things and it was an awesome driving game. Now, I’d hate to think that for my £40 I was spending £20 on 2 years of development of things I’m never going to use and have no need or wish for, so I think as punishment for packing in all this useless chaff, they should release the original version which I assume was ready circa 2008 direct to platinum for £20. Then I can just pay for the bits I actually want. A more than fair compromise I believe.

Racing game release dates

Split/Second – 21st May. ModNation Racers – 25th May. Blur – 28th May.

Why?

Seriously, these games are probably all going to be reasonably good at worst. Do you want me to buy them all or not? Nothing really notable since Need For Speed Shift and Forza 3, a few relatively minor releases like MotoGP and Sonic & Sega All-Stars in February, and essentially a drought then until 2014 when Gran Turismo 5 comes out. How about spreading them out over the summer? You know, the people who buy these games in late May probably aren’t going out into the dangerous summer sunshine anyway, so it’s not like you’ll lose any sales. And by the way, Disney vs Sony vs Activision? Sorry Activision… family looks after its own.

The Tester: Episodes 3 & 4

Fame Girl, you are the weakest link, goodbye! Luge, you are the weakest link, goodbye! So what is my beef this week? Actually not the challenges; gridiron with giant ping pong balls and live action role-playing certainly seem like excellently crafted ways to weed out good QA testers from bad ones. Sega choose all their testers that way, and look at the quality of the PS3 port of Bayonetta – it’s second-to-none.

My bone is that I’m actually starting to get into The Tester now. I am waiting for episode 6 to come out with bated breath. It has weaved its way into my life in a truly insipid manner. I will concede that I almost pooped out a large pink vibrating blob when it looked like Star was gonna get eliminated. And I am sort of sad to see Luge go but rather her than Star. Of course, rather any male than any female too. That’s just a given. Women make better reality TV – it’s more bitchy and emotional – and sexy. Unless they’re from the north, of course.

There was one stroke of genius to getting rid of Luge though. Doc – a lonely, desperate and presumably virgin gamer guy – grabbed onto the first attention he ever got from a female and fell in love in about 2 minutes, sitting there stroking her arms and hair and smiling at her with his puppy eyes. Well, more like Eye of Judgment but yeah. No doubt he was having trouble keeping his EyePet under control. The woman – in classic female manner – was completely oblivious to his feelings, probably used to having steady boyfriends and not knowing what it feels like not to be loved, and said nothing about him for the entire series, while he repeatedly stuck up for her then cried when she was eliminated. Watching a desperate grown man cry over a girl he’s known for 4 days and become utterly crushed and heartbroken, without her even noticing he’s “in love”: there’s nothing funnier. I applaud The Tester for this masterstroke of comedy genius.

Also, congratulations to the winners for their awesome good fortune in bagging a copy of MAG which they already own. Oh well, I’m sure they’ll get at least a tenner for it on eBay. I would say that would more than compensate for the money they lost taking a week off work at Burger King to participate on the show, but I’m guessing they probably haven’t entered the job market yet.

My controlled rage over the hairdressing application last week

Last week I said I’d go to the salon with a Move and ask her to do my hair like my EyePet, Sirocco. Well, just for fun, I did. No, I’m serious, unlike everything else I’ve written for TSA, this is actually true and here is the proof:

<pictures lost, sadly>

(Sirocco is the one on the right in case you’re confused)

As you can see it’s almost an exact likeness. Even Sirocco’s clothes are exactly what I wear on a daily basis. Yes, Helena the hair stylist did good. Except for a few things, which suddenly made me realise why Move Hairdresser is actually a genius piece of forward-thinking by Sony. Check out this bug report I filed at the salon:

  1. Helena refused to make my hair totally purple and orange because she said it would look “stupid”.
  2. Originally I wanted green as well but the salon had run out of green hair dye.
  3. It took 4 hours to style my hair.
  4. I had to pay actual non-in-game money at the end for reasons that were never really explained to me properly (£288.90 – I was expecting the standard Norway price of £140 – I nearly choked on my own bile)

The result? I had to butcher poor Sirocco’s hair – twice – to make this article look authentic. Sirocco would never have questioned my judgment so rudely like that, he would never have run out of green dye and he certainly wouldn’t have had the audacity to make me insert coins in the Bluray slot to continue. Plus, think how many times I could’ve beaten God of War 3 if those 4 hours hadn’t been so cruelly stolen from me. Sirocco takes 10 minutes to style, max, and he’d never demand I leave the living room, although he does make me move my glass coffee table and sit at an uncomfortable angle on the floor. But I blame his parents – Mr and Mrs. Sony – for stupid design.

Helena also declined my generous offer to cut and dye my hair with a Move. Despite me showing her how realistically I could punch her in the boobs with it, and that it has a futuristic feature called “buttons”, she stuck to her old-fashioned ways and used actual scissors and hair dye to do it. To be fair, I can respect a hair stylist who is skilled enough to do her job without a motion controller – that takes genuine commitment, not like us EyePet stylist wannabes. We think because we can do it with a magic card we’re gonna be great at it in real life. So who here owns a plastic guitar and plays on expert? Yes, you are not a good guitarist, get over it. I can own you in Need For Speed, but put me in a real car and people will inevitably die, although I’ll probably still get a lot of “points” for it.

So I’ve decided. I’m going to buy a 3D TV, 3D capture card and 3D printer. Then I’m going to shave my head bald. Every time I want to re-style my hair, I will just fire up the EyePet, set it how I want it, then print it and glue it (with Pritt Stick) to my forehead. The expensive initial investment will be far outweighed by the benefits within a year or so. I recommend all women seriously consider this option to help cut their costs in these tough financial times. Obviously, the advanced Move hairdressing application will only make this better, so I retract last week’s statement and I would now like to applaud Sony’s forward-thinking attitude towards women’s needs.

Games with Twitter feeds

I mean seriously, what the f*ck? As if being forced to use FacePalmBook to stay in touch with a load of friends I don’t have wasn’t bad enough, now games are going to twat you with my progress?

Katy turned on her PlayStation 3.

Katy loaded Noby Noby Boy.

Katy’s nob grew by 20 metres today.

Katy paused the game to go for a crap.

That’s… just what I always wanted. I’m all for socialising, but automating it sort of defeats the point doesn’t it? Were you reading last week? If so, imagine Twitter only had 4 letters. You get my drift.

PSN Chat

Fritz. Trou. Pene (the Norwegian word for pretty). Imbecile. Transsexual. Hitler. Lesbian. Panties. Just a few of the many words that are censored on PSN text chat.

Masturbate. Bollocks. Transvestite. Bush. Gay. Boxers. Just a few of the words that aren’t censored on PSN text chat.

A bit self-contradictory no? It’s ok to be a gay man, but if you’re a lesbian, oh no, that’s bad. We can stick up for Bush but not for Hitler? Seriously, who is the one most at fault out of those two. And why is it that masturbate isn’t moderated but masturbation is? Nobody should ever moderate masturbation – it’s a beautiful thing (as long as I don’t have to watch you on webcam).

How do I know this amazing information? Well I had the displeasure of humoring a new PS3 owner with text chat the other day. I promised him the video and voice chat was much better and that text chat was added as an afterthought. He (rightly) bemoaned the lack of time-stamping and described the interface as “this is what NASA had in 1986”. Though seeing how fast NASA gets things done, that’s probably what they’re still using now. So we went through all the swears, political, religious, sexual, geographical and fetish words we could think of since trying to have normal conversation was proving inviable due to the over-zealous starring out of normal words (I was in the middle of a game of FFXIII, so naturally I was bored). It was a good laugh but I really learned something about myself that night, namely that I know way more bad words than even I realised, which coming from my potty mouth is really saying something.

When text chat was first released, the word ‘Katy’ was moderated. I kid you not. My name is a swear word people. Wrong. My middle name is a swear word, much like Gordon Ramsay’s. Also what’s

with the character limit? It was 32 but

now it has been increased to a staggeri

ng 64. Which makes for conversation

s like this.

Dragon Age Origins Awakening DLC

How much?! Do I have a money tree at the bottom of my garden? (I did actually, but Gamestop cut it down) Are CB and I doing secret drug trafficking deals on the side to meet our financial DLC needs? Well.. he might be, but I’m not. I don’t even have more than 2 kilos of cocaine in my house at any one time or it would be illegal. Hell I don’t even sell Romanian children anymore since they introduced a £40 fine for getting caught – and besides, children don’t grow on trees (thank God).

I know you get a lot of content for your money here, but, £35? Please. Make it £10 or even £15 at a push and I’m sold. For £35 I can buy another game. Or 1/4th of weed. Or 1/8th of a mediocre haircut.

People telling me I have a dream job

Been told that quite a few times this week for some reason, so let’s see. Taking notes. Replaying sections repeatedly. Changing every setting one by one. Playing game modes you’re not interested in. Playing entire games you’re not interested in. Drafting and re-drafting article outlines. Submitting technical bug reports. Using an Xbox 360 controller. These are just some of the unpleasant acts associated with beta testing and reviewing games.

The worst thing though, is when you take something you love and it becomes a chore. A guy told me on PSN a while back “wow you have more games than Jesus!”. So Jesus didn’t have a PS3? Christ Almighty I would never have figured that out if you hadn’t told me. The reality is I have inserted a lot of game disks into my PS3 which by coincidence happen to live on my shelf. Have I played the majority of them? No, they’re just there to look cool. By way of illustration, here is a picture of some of the games I acquired between November and March:

<picture lost>

I know what you’re thinking: you lucky bitch, right? It’s not lucky if you don’t have time to play them. Think of it like this: you’re a 35-year old man. You have 40 Russian brides (don’t ask), they’re all hot and you want to do them all so badly, and they’re all lying naked in your house with their legs spread wide open indicating their readiness. You have a little ogle at each one for a few minutes reveling in their beauty and craftsmanship, but you’re tired from work and you know that the next adoption is happening tomorrow and she’s gonna be even sweeter. You tell each one softly you’ll get round to them soon but you have some other, younger brides you have to attend to first. But it turns out the new ones take a lot longer to cum, and work is bogging you down, so you struggle along trying but failing to satisfy the new ones and wish you had had time to entertain the others.

So, my games are just like my girly friends: they are all so tempting, but one is never enough; focus on one and the others will all start bitching for your attention, but when push comes to shove you can’t really get involved with any of them even though you really want to. Which makes the next rant deliciously ironic.

I got a new girlfriend

Well, that’s a fair bit of creative license to put it mildly. A more accurate description would be, I met this random bitch who shows some potential. She’s heard of Final Fantasy and hates World of Warcraft – that was all I needed to know. Please, hold your congratulations, this is a disaster of epic proportions. Not only do I have a very busy and extremely important gaming schedule to keep, but now I have to sexually amuse some gorgeously attractive, intelligent, interesting, funny, kind and caring whore as well? How am I going to fit her in between gaming, er I mean, how am I going to fit gaming in between her? Well, depends how tight she is I suppose.

Then there’s commitment. I can’t even commit to one game at a time, let alone one woman. And of course those inevitable nights: me, busy whoring away at Bioshock 2 trying to nail those last trophies, and the bitch: “Katy… I want to go out. Katy, I want to have dinner now. Katy, you need to clean up. Katy, you never spend any time with me! *pout*”. Yes, well, talk to the careface. This kind of social interaction is way over my head. But I’m guessing when she reads this, it probably won’t be a problem anymore. Whoops.*

Video games corrupt children

Yes, yes they do. Video games are the root of all evil. Sort of like TV, movies, magazines, print media in general, the internet, Twitter (which is not part of the internet and deserves its own special category) and occasional use of marijuana. It’s not called the Sixth Axis for nothing you know. But the real question is: who really gives a fuck?

I’m in favour of Darwinian selection. If video games or any other form of media corrupt a child, then that child is by definition too easily influenced, therefore doesn’t have a stable self-image, therefore is weak, therefore should be shot. Parents are not exempt. If Mr and Mrs. Stupid buy their 12-year old son an 18-rated game and then he finds daddy’s gun and shoots him in the face, well it was probably well deserved and I applaud the child for having the courage to punish irresponsible parenting via active eugenics. What about online devices? TV is an excellent tool for education as we all know, and all parents watch TV, therefore they know very well that 240% of internet users are pedophiles. So then they buy little Johnny Stupid a 360 and act surprised when they find videos of him being molested by a 50-year old on YouTube.

I mean look at me. I’ve been playing video games since I was 3 years old, and I’m a perfectly calm, balanced and well-rounded individual. I don’t show any signs of rage or aggression at all.

I leave you with this thought: wouldn’t it be better to just let the advocacy nutters have their way? Let them ban children from playing video games. Why? Well first of all we’re all adults so it won’t affect us anyway, and those of you with kids might be forced to do some actual parenting. But the real reason why I say let them win is simple: it will make the gaming world a better place. We will no longer have to put up with their kids’ stupid friend requests and malformed sentences, but best of all, we will no longer have to listen to them bitch and whine on their fucking headsets.

I wish you all a great weekend.

* She has now dumped me. Told you.

 

The Gaming Rant 2

March 13, 2010 Leave a comment

This is an unedited, uncensored re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that fans can read the uncensored versions.

WARNING! This article is intended as a piece of satirical diatribe. Some readers may find the language and themes within extremely offensive.

Last week’s list of nuisances seemed to go down pretty well, and hey, misery loves company, so let’s continue on that theme. This week I promise not to say anything that could be construed as filth or mention lesbian porn, this will be entirely clean. Oh who am I kidding, the gutter is my natural habitat – let’s proceed.

1. Colossalblue made me use my Xbox 360

What A Cu… nning guy. Yes Katy, you can have this game, yes Katy, you can have that beta. But you know what cupcake, I think you are way too attached to your PS3, you’re getting clingy and it needs some space. Try to bond with your 360 for a while, it’s really lonely. Not as lonely as that Wii sobbing under your TV mind you. Way to treat a woman CB. So, I did bond with it. Love didn’t give me any sense of fulfilment so I used the sword Square Enix gave me last week instead. Here is the result, and I feel we are getting along well now:

I feel much better

 

2. Xbox 360 Nuances

I said nuances, I meant nuisances. The nostalgia started flowing with vigour as I remembered all the reasons I don’t use my 360.

Everyone tells me the 360 controller is superior. Why? The weight is good, but let’s cut the shit. The PS3 controller is ergonomic and black. On the 360 controller, the arrow keys behave like a supermarket trolley on speed. The analog sticks are just fractionally too far away for my little hands to be comfortable – a blatantly sexist design – and it looks like a cheap plastic toy for 5-year olds that might go “Mooooo!” if you press one of the coloured buttons. Mostly because I was too cheap to get an Elite so I have a white one. Goes well with the Wii, helps keep the toys distinguished from the proper hardware.

Now what about the cables. Am I the only person in the world who feels that it is perfectly appropriate to plug an HDMI cable into a TV and a digital optical cable into an amp – shock horror – at the same time? Oh my goodness, I could not believe it when I realised they wouldn’t fit together. Microsoft wanted to sell me a $30 piece of plastic to fix that so I retorted by taking a penknife to the enormous video cable, now the metal end with the bare wires dangles gracefully out the back of the box. Genius work there guys.

Oh, and don’t even get me started on the interface. You thought Motorola phones sucked – NXE takes it to a whole new level. It takes skill to make an interface that bad. I reckon SingStar Team have been doing a bit of work on the side.

And why…. Why…. WHY… does it switch itself off when you change input on your TV. So CB wants me to download some crummy 9/10 rated game, 700MB, no problem I’ll just fire up a TV show on the PS3 while I wait for it. Oh no, I’m sorry, if you do that the 360 will turn itself off and the download won’t finish. I went through every conceivable setting, turned off the screen-saver, auto-TV detection, inactivity power off, but no dice. No problem, I’ll just watch the show via the 360’s media client.

“This content cannot be played because it is not supported”. It’s an AVI file. For the love of God. So I had to retort to drastic measures and go out to buy cigarettes instead.

I know this is all a matter of subjective taste, so if you disagree with my opinion, that’s fine, but please feel free to remain quiet; use the time to realise that I’m right and you’re wrong.

3. The Tester

Could be a running theme this. Was a bit relieved Amped didn’t get kicked out because if there’s no hot girls left at the end there’s obviously no point watching it. Props to Fame Girl for managing for the second time in a row to be completely incompetent yet somehow survive elimination. This week the guys had to shout at each other through megaphones telling blindfolded people in plastic bubbles where to walk. This was a test of communication, apparently, and yes, I can see that, but only the mind of a TV executive could conceive that as a good way of determining true communication ability.

Picture the scene: I’m sitting in my office at Polyphony Digital testing the code I just wrote to make the horn blow on my Kia (or other slow uninteresting car of your choice; Gran Turismo seems to be big on cars with a top speed of 60) when I bust-a-Move. I’m sitting in my giant plastic bubble of course because I wouldn’t want to infect my co-workers with my herpes and delay the game for even longer. They have cut little holes for my arms but unfortunately I’m blindfolded so the only feedback I have is the vibration on the Move. Kaz Hirai walks in to give one of his bi-annual back-patting ego massage speeches to let the team know how impressed he is with their fast pace of development. Of course like every CEO he’s using a megaphone in case we can’t hear him over the fan noise from all the 360s everybody is secretly hiding under their desks so they can play Forza 3 at break time. “Men, I give you pay and food and crisps” he says, dishing out the freebies. I hear it as “Man, I hope one day our game’s as good as this”. I respond by saying it better be because Forza 4’s coming out soon, and promptly get marched into his office for a pep talk about employee attitude.

This classic, common daily occurrence in game development houses can of course only be avoided by performing the Megaphone Bubble Test on potential new applicants. Poor Amped, she didn’t know her left from her right – but then being American, perhaps proper English is not her native language.

Naturally, there are other problems with The Tester. The winners of episode 2 got a fantastic £15 PlayStation 3 headset, which – being hardcore gamers – they presumably all own already. Brill-i-ant. The naïve contestants were told that testing is just the start, they can go anywhere from that within Sony and the lead designer of Twisted Metal and God of War is excited to know that one of them is going to be the next big thing! No, you will not be the next big thing. You, my friends, will disappear into the bowels of a huge faceless corporation never to be heard from again. If any of you even so much think about writing a line of code to be included in a video game, I will personally file a negligence lawsuit against Sony. There’s a reason all you do all day is play video games: you’re not fit for any other purpose. Much like myself. Go home, play your games, go back to stuffing your face with Doritos and Beerios and leave it to the pros. Of course, we will have to fire a lot of people at Sony first so we can hire some pros to start with.

4. Activision Made A Good Game

Kick to Bob, Tick OK Bob, and I B Bot Cokk are all anagrams of Bob Kotick; none of which are particularly funny, but it was the best I could do, so it’s lucky he isn’t called Boh Cotick I guess.

Developing games for the love of games. Working with passion. Love of the creative process. Innovation. Customer satisfaction before profit. All things we know to be anathema to any Activision CEO worth his salt. Bob is to the gaming industry what Jeremy Clarkson is to the environment: highly toxic, with a big mouth. Exactly like me, only I mask my toxicity with perfume and makeup. The big mouth is much harder to conceal. So it gives me a great sense of psychological unease to say that I really enjoyed the Blur beta. I had been planning to ditch this game and buy Split/Second out of protest, even though it’s made by a cartoon company best known for a lead character which is a rodent with two prophylactics on its head that nobody takes seriously. Come to think of it, Activision is best known for sort of the same thing.

Which doesn’t bring me to a point. What is it with driving games with four-letter words? Pure. Dirt. Grid. Fuel. Blur. Skate. Do the marketeers who come up with this stuff have learning difficulties or something? Or maybe they just haven’t figured out how to reduce the font size in Photoshop yet. That’s what you get for hiring people from The Tester. Whatever it is, it’s unhealthy and it’s going to end in tears. Can you imagine a world where all lesbian porn movies had 4-letter word titles? Oh, shit… I said I wouldn’t mention that. Arse. So, two good titles there already.

What if Wipeout was just called Wipe? Gran Turismo could just be called Gran. What if the Move Vibrator was just called Move? Gives you a whole different perspective doesn’t it. And if Mario Bros was just called Bros? Then we’d all have to kill ourselves.

5. My £400 racing setup doesn’t work on the Xbox 360

To be fair, it’s a PlayStation wheel and seat that came out at least a year before the 360, but I don’t care, I’m the customer, I’m right, when are you going to patch it? Credit where credit’s due though, they are half-way there: the seat works fine.

6. Qore

Qore – hm, 4 letters again. Not to be confused with Puls or Firs, if you’re not aware this is the American game magazine which appears on the US PSN store every month. New episode out in the week I wrote this. I’ve absolutely got to take issue with this. It costs $2.99 per episode. Now, I know Veronica Belmont is pure pornography, but why do I have to pay to watch her? And they just tease you by advertising Qore on Pulse. It’s like those porn sites where you get a ‘guided tour’ and then have to subscribe to see the real erm, meat, of the subject matter. That’s what I’ve been told anyway. Guys, the subscription model is dead: RedTube is free, and look how popular that is. That’s what I’ve been told anyway. Sony, please take note.

7. Gran Turismo 5 Trailers

It’s a hoax I tell you. Think “NASA Moon Landing Trailer: Coming Soon”. Activision presents “The Holocaust”. Gran Turismo 5 is vapourware just like those things (ok calm down I’m joking, the moon landing was a very serious thing I know, people died for that). What really annoys me is, the trailers all look so gorgeous – so why was the demo so utterly, utterly hideous? 40 years I’ve been looking forward to this game, and the time trial was more stale and uninviting than an incontinent pensioner’s underwear. I know exactly what it is. They spend all their time making trailers. Then one day Jack Tretton came in with his megaphone and said “hey guys, demo? Anyone?”. I heard it as “All lies. Lemon anyone?”. The rest of the team didn’t have herpes though so they panicked and quickly upscaled Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec into HD so they could rest easy making amazing pre-rendered trailers only vaguely resembling the game for another year or two. I sat in my hazy bubble and said “pass me the doobie guys, all this drum & bass is stressing me out. Put some jazz music on like the good old days.”

8. The Tester: Part 2

I know I haven’t mentioned The Tester before so if you’re not familiar with it, it’s a free show on the US PSN store each week in a Celebrity Big Survivor Island House-or-whatever-its-called-style, God I don’t know, I don’t watch reality TV except for Trinny & Susannah (always hard to decide which one to go for, hell I don’t even know which is which). Anyway, they eliminate people each week and the winner is going to make all the video games you ever play in the future. It’s the next big thing, trust me, I know what I’m talking about.

One small issue. The presenter. Hal Sparks. Apparently Americans love him. Or at least this motley group of wannabe gamers do anyway. You know what I’d like to do to Hal Sparks? Crucify him. No wait, that would be too fast a death, and he might come back 2 days later and create a religion. Then where would we be. I’ve got enough on my plate with Dante’s Inferno and God of War 3 without having to deal with Scientology Star Wars and Meditation Hero as well.

Instead, I propose we put him on Survival Fat Dogs And Their Owners Oprah Mansion, and lock him up with Amy Winehouse, Boris Johnson and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Then he can learn the fine arts of professional conduct (Amy), eloquent public speaking and how to cope with that butt ugly face of his all at the same time. Plus he’ll come out as a blonde gay singing crack addict with a stupid grin and Sony can hire him as the tester instead, then the whole unpleasantness of that show can be avoided altogether. He’ll be more than qualified for the job. Testing is just the start – with the right attitude, he could go on to be the new Activision CEO with Bob as his lap dog. Then we’ll have some real games: Blonde Warfare 3: Revenge of The Swedes. Heroin Hero: play with 3 friends and go for the maximum multiplier. Bendy Bus HD, in which you have to scrape gum off seats and steal teenagers’ cellphones in a constantly shifting environment. Cats: The Game. We’ve never had a theatre tie-in before. It’ll have nothing to do with cats, but it’ll make a good sequel to Uncharted 2.

9. Sony’s GDC Presentation and 10. Move – double combo attack

Well, apart from the fact they made me sit up til 1am just to listen to Jamiroquai and Owl City, how in the name of dignity can anyone possibly get excited about a motion-controlled hairdressing application? I say application, because if it was a game it would be fun, and I wouldn’t pay someone else to do it for me. I think I’ll take my PS3 to the salon, shove that dildo in her hand and say, can you cut my hair with this please? I’d like it in the style of my EyePet, Sirocco, today. See whether she thinks that’s a worthwhile use of her time.

Did any of you see the PlayStation Blog that night? It was so sickeningly stereotypical: four pictures of Move blobs, one of them was pink. Guess which one had the happy smiley girls in? For your information, I like other colours too. I’m currently wearing a green and cream plaid top with a little bow round the waist. Now, this may come as a shock to you marketing people, but it actually doesn’t make me look or feel any less feminine.

Just wait til they come out with games “aimed at the growing female sector”. Trust me, I’m not growing, I’m shuddering. Imagine this:

Dissatisfied Housewife: “Dear PlayStation. I’m so sick of Killzone 2 and Final Fantasy. I got a tip, you’re going to be releasing some games for housewives. Confirm or deny.”

Kevin Butler, VP Feminism Damage Control: “Oh, Jenny, have I got just the thing for you. We’ve got a whole range of games coming out to suit your tastes! Why, there’s Move Vacuum, Move Iron and Move Cook. You can stir and it will react just like a real pan. We feel there just aren’t enough household chores in women’s lives these days, so at PlayStation we aim to give you a break from reality. You should be grateful. When your mother was your age she had to stir sauce with a stick.”

“But..”

“WITH A STICK.”

Of course, I’m just masking my true fears. I’m happy to sit with my EyePet waving my hands around looking like a complete twat if it makes Sirocco happy. My real fear is, I’m lazy. And so are you. And you know it. Why would I want to expend 2kJ playing a game when I can expend 1kJ? I have to have some left to be able to get up and go to the bathroom between deathmatches you know. Don’t you people think these things through? My Wii was entertaining for five minutes but then I realised it was a lot more fun to beat my ex up for real. I played table tennis once. It nearly killed me. I don’t need that in my living room. And what about FPSs? Can you imagine what it’s gonna be like online? People staggering around and falling over, trying to aim their guns at each other but they’re shaking so much from exhaustion it looks like they’re recovering alcoholics. Occasionally your mom walks between you and the TV (because I assume you’re all still living with your parents) and your character goes “Oh Noes, I better stop aiming and shooting”. You waggle the Move around in frustration telling her to get out of the way but that only makes matters worse, you’re doing barrel rolls, dropping your inventory and doing wave greeting emotes at SVER as they mow you down. I don’t see how this can possibly be good for the gaming industry. SVER. Hm.

Sony, let me tell you what we need. It’s not Move, but it is similar; unfortunately it exceeds 4 letters so I don’t know if it’s technically possible: Mouse. There’s a reason all hardcore gamers play FPS on the 360: the controller is a lot better.

Review: Echoshift (PSP)

March 11, 2010 Leave a comment

This is a re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that the blog is a complete repository of my written work. The article is reproduced without pagination, formatting, images or editorial changes made on the original site prior to original publication.

I’m good at puzzle games. Echochrome was the first PSN game I bought and I loved it. Such gems as Lumines Supernova, Cuboid, Trash Panic (rubbish, literally), Zuma, Puzzle Quest Galactrix, Droplitz, Critter Crunch, Peggle, Switchball and others followed. I sit with my PSP during those moments of boredom and crank out the odd Sudoku and Kakuro with Telegraph’s Sudoku mini (which I can strongly recommend). So I’m no stranger to brain cell destruction. Weed helps too.

Echoshift

Echoshift (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Echoshift is not to be confused with Echochrome. They look similar and they sound similar, but that is where the comparisons end. These are completely unrelated games and should be treated as such. Echoshift is a 2D platformer with a unique twist: time periodically rewinds. It doesn’t sound too traumatic at first but trust me, after just a couple of levels you’ll be thanking the gods they didn’t make this in 3D.

The premise is simple: in each level you have a cast of echoes (characters). On your first play, you guide your first echo around the platforms pressing switches to open doors and trying to make it to the exit, but you’ll be beset by one of three problems: either there isn’t enough time to do everything needed, hitting a certain switch leaves you stuck (fallen down a hole to reach the switch for example), or you have to be in several places at once to unlock the path to the exit. Once you run out of time – which is usually 20-60 seconds depending on the level – or you choose to skip to the next echo, the level will repeat from the start, except all of the movements you’ve made so far will be repeated by ghost echoes who precisely follow your actions on your previous goes, while you get to control a new one. Picture the scene: you need to stand on two buttons to open a door. You place the first echo on one of the buttons, rewind, place the second echo on the other button, rewind, then walk to the exit through the open door with the third echo.

You get 9 echoes (chances) to complete each level, with a higher ranking for using fewer echoes. I have to stress here that the level design is absolutely brilliant in its cunning and pure evil. Moving platforms, one-shot switches, switches that only work when stood on, switch groups that must all be activated, platforms that dissolve at a certain time, doors which only open at a certain time, switches which can only be activated for a certain length of time, moving holes, jump pads, walls and cubes which fall on your head and require the hammering of X to break, blocks which run after you and kill you unless you face them, levels you have to play in the dark, to name just a few of the mind-bending devices of torment which lie before you with the purchase of Echoshift. This game never stops throwing new stuff at you, right to the very end: even on the last group of levels, new gameplay mechanics are introduced via a hint system which appears at the beginning of any stage with a new object type, showing a handy animation explaining how to use the item.

Even the early levels will seem like a challenge until you go back to them later and realise how easy they were; the later ones will blow your mind. There is usually more than one way to complete a level so working out the fastest way to get the higher rankings will tax you heavily. At the beginning of each echo, you can scroll around the level and zoom in and out for as long as you wish before the timer starts, and this is very helpful for planning out what to do next.

Imagine the scene once again: there are two doors and two buttons you must stand on, one for each door. Moving off the button causes the door to close. You could use three echoes: one for each button and one to walk to the exit. Or you could make the first echo stand on the first button for a few seconds, then move him to the second button; then use deft timing with your second echo to go through the doors as the first echo causes them to open and close. In this way you save one echo, but timing is key. The level timing is perfectly balanced and it’s typical to complete a level with under 1 second remaining.

Don’t think you’re only going to be playing through the levels once each, either. Each level has 3 modes: cast, key and illusion. In cast, you just have to reach the exit. In key mode, the level is the same but there is a key somewhere on the level which must also be collected to unlock the exit. Illusion mode is the same as cast mode except you can pause time on and off for a maximum of 3 seconds per echo – which sounds fairly irrelevant but it can completely change the way you play a level. With 56 layouts (for a total of 168 level/mode combinations), you’re not going to finish this anytime soon. On top of that, unlocking the later levels require you to reach certain rankings in certain earlier level groups, so you will frequently have to go back to improve your performance. Some of you may just choose to play through the standard cast mode – completion time will be perhaps 8-10 hours if you’re good, but I suspect many if not all of us are going to need quite a bit longer than that. This is the sort of game you can dip in and out of and play for a few minutes at a time, so there’s plenty of weeks of frustration ahead of you here if you play in moderation.

There are also seven slots at the bottom of the level selection page for DLC. It seems that two free levels are being released each week so I am not sure if they will continue when all the slots are full, but of the three DLC levels I checked out I can assure you they are insanely complicated and will keep you tearing your hair out for a while.

The controls are accurate and responsive. If you fail a level, you know it’s because you screwed up and not the game, which is essential in puzzlers. Presentation is average, nothing special. Simple menus and flat-shaded black-and-white levels with coloured switches and doors are the mainstay. There is nothing wrong with this for a puzzle game, it’s just nothing exciting. Each set of seven levels has its own music, some of which will annoy you and have you reaching for the mute button; others are fine. It’s saxophone-cum-world music.

My primary problem with Echoshift besides the annoying music is the loading time between echoes. I don’t really understand why there is a loading time at all when the level is already in memory, but it takes 5-7 seconds to re-load after each echo, which doesn’t sound much but when you consider that you only control your echo for 20-60 seconds at a time and you sometimes need many echoes to finish, this gets quite annoying quite quickly. My other main gripe is the inclusion of reflex-based objects such as the blocks which chase you and the falling cubes which require you to press X 50 or 100 times to release you from them. While this is still clever and presents great potential for mayhem – presses stack between echoes so you can get past the breakable cubes and walls faster and faster on each echo, which changes the level dynamic – I could’ve done without this personally. I always dislike puzzle games that are primarily physics or analysis-based but then feel the need to throw in baddies with introduce either a non-deterministic factor, or require you to be fast at button-mashing. This slightly detracts from all such puzzle games in my opinion, however in Echoshift there are fortunately only a few levels with these items in.

One less significant factor is the price. At £11.99 on the PSP store, that is £4 more expensive than Echochrome, which was a full PS3 game with a level editor and more or less unlimited DLC download slots. It is somewhat balanced out by Echoshift’s original concept and ingenious level design, and the fact each level can be played in three different modes, but I still feel it is just a touch on the expensive side. £9.99 would’ve been perfect, but this shouldn’t stop you from purchasing.

Pros:

  • Good number of levels, excellent level design
  • Simple, well-designed interface suited for the nuances of the game
  • Playable in short bursts when you’re travelling

Cons:

  • Loading times are a tad long
  • Annoying music
  • May be too hard for some players; requires a lot of patience

Overall, this is a great puzzle game that should keep fans of the genre happy for quite a while. Please bear in mind when considering this game that Echoshift is hard, and it is meant to be hard. If you have a rough time with earlier levels on the likes of Cuboid and Critter Crunch, this may not be for you; for everyone else who are fans of brain bending puzzle games, if you have the patience and stamina, this is an easy recommendation.

8/10

 

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