Monday, 30 May 2011

Rosicky Belts a Stonker

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Sorry, just got this and couldn't help but post it...

Saturday, 28 May 2011

L.A Noire - Of all the Bars in all the World

Listen Jimmy, we know you've been taking a bit of moolah on the side. Don't play me for a mooch, Jimmy! Otherwise you'll end up in the big house, smoking some hooch-goon's cigar, if you catch my drift.

*cough* *Cough*
Phew... sorry. Possibly spent a little too long in 1940s America. The past few days have been a haze of smokey jazz clubs, seedy bars, old-school police departments and mandatory hat wearing.

"Hughes, you know why you're here. Just put the hat on and we can all go home"
 L.A Noire gives you a real taste of what its like to get into the detective biz. You play Cole Phelps, an ex-soldier working his way through the ranks of the Los Angeles Police Department. You are assigned cases, visit crime scenes, search for evidence, interview witnesses and suspects, take part in shoot-outs, car chases, bar brawls and interrogations.

John  Noble's wrinkled elbow skin face is faithfully recreated in game.
The gameplay when you're moving around the city itself feels very much like Rockstar's signature: the third person "GTA" style sandbox world with AI controlled pedestrians and motorists (complete with the option to commandeer any vehicle you choose - although, this time for police business rather than for picking up hookers). Whereas the more intimate crime scene investigations, interrogations and questioning is a whole other matter. A while back my friend linked me to a video about the new technology which Rockstar were employing in order to allow the player to truly use his or her judgement on how to play a suspect. High-tech Motionscan HD cameras allowed the Rockstar animators to map the real life actors faces in real time, almost every important NPC you see is an in game version of the real actor, complete with facial expressions down to the minutest details. This allows players to use their own judgement when deciding whether a suspect is lying, and when they have to play hard ball to really squeeze out the info (It's even got Greg Grunberg in, and he does that thing when he's concentrating where he turns his head to the side like a confused dog trying to get through a catflap - just like in Heroes!)

The world Rockstar have created is backed up by a really haunting sound track mixed with showtunes, jazz and a Godfather-like score which really ramps up the tension when it's required. Admittedly, the graphics on the terrain, buildings, cars etc are nothing to write home about but that really allows you to focus on the investigative elements.

The story is only really just kicking off in my game, I've worked my way through a couple of departments and there appears to be a couple of side-stories which I assume will all tie together in the end, on the whole it feels very fresh and exciting and it's difficult not to get totally sucked in.

There are, however, a couple of criticisms I would raise (WARNING POSSIBLE MINOR SPOILERS):

1) The crime scene investigation kinda becomes a case of wandering around and waiting for the controller to shake in order to find clues. Of course, some are easily picked out visually but others require a combing of the scene waiting for the music to stop (indicating that all clues are found).

2) Sometimes you can suss out who is going to be a major suspect and who will be a minor informant by who plays them. For example, I was on a case earlier searching for a killer. I wandered out the back entrance of a bar and ran into a man delivering goods to the bar from the grocers across the street; we interacted for about 30 seconds and then he moved on. Unfortunately, he was played by Brain Krause so you could kinda tell you were going to see him again and he'd have a larger part to play.

3) The actual facial reading has become a secondary thought when trying to interrogate the suspect. Essentially, you look to see if they look away or shift in their seat at any point after you ask them the question. It's a bit of a "tick box" affair. The real challenge is reviewing the evidence you have to see whether you can outright accuse them of lying and prove it, or whether you have to doubt them and hope they'll spill the beans under pressure.

The above criticisms are the kind of problems which are always going to come up with a new technology such as the motionscan used in LA Noire.However, despite these few drawbacks, the game is, quite frankly, brilliant. It is compelling, dramatic, gritty and above all else it's incredibly enjoyable. L.A Noire is a very solid game, and considering it is breaking pretty new ground I think it does a stand up job.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Paintsil's Left Foot

Due to my frustration with getting survivor (although, thankyou to Cornish for his tips on the subject) my evenings recently have been filled with FIFA11 and L.A. Noire. I'll be doing a full work-up of LA Noire once:

A) I get around to properly playing it (having kicked my FIFA habit).
B) I can prise The Girl away from it.

In the meantime, I'm scoring stonkers like this:
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Would you believe he's a defender?

Monday, 23 May 2011

Guest Post @ Technected

Just a quick pop in to say that I've written a guest post for the lovely peeps over at Technected - go have a looksee:

The MMO Structure: Sandbox, Themepark and Zoo

Saturday, 21 May 2011

ArenaNet Reveal the Me.. Oh, Engineer!

This is the class I've been waiting for ever since the profession reveals came out. To be perfectly honest I thought they'd save this one for last, but ho'no they decided to blindside me whilst my internet is still down. Well, you can't stop me, ANet; I'm at my parent's house - mooching internet and free meals! Adulthood? SCHMADULTHOOD! *
I'm in your forest, droppin'' bombz!

The Engineer is the "environmental objects" class that ArenaNet staff have been talking about all this time; with the ability to place turrets, kegs of explosives, mines, oil slicks and all manner of dastardly items to mess up your opponents. The rather tasty looking videos up on the Guild Wars Engineer page show a shmexy Norn lady dropping a mounted machine gun to hold off a hoard of Devourers (she also employs the ever important "cool guys don't look at explosions" rule).

Vitally important not to look at explosions, of course, otherwise major cool points can be lost. 

We also see the use of a Grenade Satchel - which comes with equipping a Backpack kit. This ability allows the Engineer to hurl grenades of all shapes, sizes and functions. Think of CoD4 grenade spam, but add more trolls (actually, there are probably fewer trolls in the MMO market... lolololol... *ahem*). 

Roland Rat wouldn't stand for this kitties' bullcrap
It also seems that the Engineer can employ weapon kits and tool kits to further enhance and change their abilities. 

Akin to every other profession, the Engineer has a bit of everything. Some healing through Elixirs and crazy healing chimneas, but also a crapload of damage from a great number of environmental weapons. One of the things I worry about with GW2 is whether it will really kick off with the hardcore crowd - those who love the numbers. The strict rules of the healer/tank/DPS system allow those players who are so inclined to calculate damage per second, to finely tune their skills and gear to suit a specific situation. GW2 has done away with these rigid restrictions, and so players will have to think on their feet and take into account all of the surrounding factors as well as the parameters personal to their character when entering a battle. I really hope the system is robust enough to stand up.

I have to admit, the info on the Engineer is rather sparse, so I'm hoping we get a blog posts up about it fairly soon to further enhance all the stuff we've already been served (and also, to answer some of the questions being posed). Although, all the info I've seen so far has been very encouraging, I'm seriously considering dropping the ranger in favour of this class upon game release.

With this reveal coming second to last it makes me wonder what exciting things they might have in store for the Mesmer. We all know he's coming, and we all know he's going to mess with our brains. We just aren't sure how yet...

*I'm actually now at home, this statement was a lie.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Guest Post: Five Tips for Starcraft 2 Players

The following article was written for verydistilled by Stephen @ Technected.

One of my favorite PC games right now is Starcraft 2. I’m not that great at it, but there are so many wonderful players all over the world. I’m talking pro players; players who get paid to play. Wouldn’t that be awesome? Well for those of us who aren’t that great, there is a lot we can learn by watching some of the pros at work. Luckily for us the IGN Pro League Starcraft 2 tournament just finished up. 

I don’t know about you, but I need to plug my computer into my home theater system to get the full excitement of the game. I just use my hdmi cable and I have gameplay with surround sound. It’s amazing. From doing this, I have a list of 5 techniques that many pro players use in order to outwit their opponent.

1. Always be scouting. It is imperative to be scouting the enemy's base nearly the whole game. To actually scout for the entire game is impossible; your scout will be killed. But it is important to know what your opponent is doing so that you can act accordingly. Also it would be good to scout the entire map to see if your opponent is expanding across the map or close by for a cheese.

2. Be flexible. Now that you know about scouting, your opponent will also be scouting your base. If you had a certain build you were going for and your opponent is able to figure it out, he/she will be able to defeat you easily. Be aware of what your opponent sees. You may want to switch your strategy quickly in order to surprise him. Sometimes it isn’t necessary, but it is good to have a backup strategy at least.

3. Cheesing. I don’t know how many people are aware of the technique (I only recently heard about it), but cheesing is a strategy to box your opponent in his/her main base or take a win. Cheesing happens in the beginning of the game in order to surprise the enemy with an unexpected attack or tactic. Common cheeses are building cannons inside the enemy's base, bunkers, or hatcheries. Cheeses aren’t always effective. A good Starcraft 2 player could thwart a cheese easily, but if the conditions are right, even an expert can fall prey to a brilliant cheese.

4. Always create hotkeys for buildings. If your production buildings have a hot key that you can click at any time, from anywhere on the map, it will become easier to multitask in the game. You can focus on one area while also creating units to defend and harvest. For instance, you may put a lot of focus on a cheese. But if that cheese fails, then your base suffers from a counter attack.

5. Lastly, work on balancing your macro and micro game play. I remember when I used to play Starcraft, I would just throw units away and build new ones. The pros micro their troops as to lose as little as possible. However, this can take a lot of energy. And as I stated in number 4, too much focus on one area will make another area suffer. A tip for this, keep your army on a hot key. The tab button will allow you to cycle through your units. When you send your army to attack, make any additional harvesters and buildings while they are marching out. Once they engage the enemy take back control and guide them as expertly as you can. It will take a lot of practice, but if you want to raise your level of game play, it is essential.

Just practice these tips and keep watch for any tournament play. Not only will these tips help, but the players themselves always have some nifty tricks to try out. For best results, pay strict attention to the circumstances and practice, practice, practice.

Stephen is an amateur gamer who writes regularly at Technected. I'd like to thank Stephen for agreeing to write this for me. If you're interested in writing a guest post for my blog (or, indeed, are taking guest posts for your own site and would like me to pen one) then just let me know by email at:

Monday, 16 May 2011

Assassin's Creed: Revalations

'Screed is one the most innovative series out there, and has always been a series which has captured my imagination. Playing each game is like sitting down to watch a new series like Fringe, Heroes etc - you don't know what's going to happen, but you know each little bit of info you are receiving it part of a larger whole. I heard about the latest edition in the AC franchise from The Video Games Blogger.  To be honest "Revelations" is a bit of a non-title - with a game series such as 'Screed, there is always going to be "Revelations". Come on guys - bit more imagination!

Rumours are that the latest story will take place between 1000BC and 2000BC in ancient Greece or Create. This came as a real surprise to me as I expected the story to keep following Desmond's ancestors closer and closer to the present day (Imagine Victorian England and then the Vietnam War!).

[Warning! Certain spoilerage ahead, tread with caution if you plan to play the games]Assassin's Creed 1 followed Altair (12th Century) and his adventures during the time of the Third Crusade. Assassin's Creed 2 introduced us to Etzio (15th Century) and follows him on his lifelong dream to have a bare knuckle fist-fight with the Pope. Having achieved his destiny, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood continues to follow Etzio (now sporting a rather fetching beard) as he gets laid and fires cannons whilst trying to unravel the mysterious messages he received at the end of the previous game.

In a parallel story, we also follow Desmond; a modern day man who has been reliving the above mentioned ancestors' memories through a machine called the animus. The messages which Etzio receives at the end of AC:2 are actually meant for Desmond (and there is a rather pleasingly fourth wall breaking moment when, in the 15th Century, the Goddess Minerva looks directly into the camera - and past Etzio - to address Desmond in 2012).

With the trend seemingly bringing us closer and closer to the present day, it feels strange to take a 2500 year leap back to ancient Greece, but I can certainly see the appeal. Imagine: Triremes and togas, slingshots, gladiators and mythical beasts. 

Interesting link: AC Timeline.

ps. I was going to write an article about Lion's Arch and the lore and changes that have been build up over the years. But I thought it would be remiss of my to write it without having seen the new preview video.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

I can do Science, Me

Days seem so much longer when you have no Internet access.

You know how when you get closer to an object with a tremendous gravitational pull time slows down?

I think my hours sitting on the sofa playing career mode on FIFA 11 and expanding the piles of empty drink cans and Co-op tiramisu packaging whilst I wait to regain contact with the outside world has not only been significantly damaging to my health, but has also increased the relative strength of my hovel's gravitational pull. Time is actually going slower as I get more bored.

O2 have promised that it will be 6-10 days (starting Monday 9th) till my net is online so I should be up and running by this time next week. Till then, I ask; if you believe in a higher power (whether Abrahamic or otherwise) that you implore him to protect me, because if my nest collapses in on itself it's going to create one hell of a black hole.

ps. serious mode for a moment, if you haven't yet I'd like to ask you to help to save thousands of homosexuals in Uganda. Today the Ugandan parliament will be voting about whether to impose the death penalty for homosexuality. In the past this decision has been shelved by international outcry and there is a hope that we might once again stop it from happening. If you feel like making a difference, head over to  and sign the petition. Thanks.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

We Gon' Flux it Up Like it's your Birthday

Guys? Really? I go away for like... 4 days and we get Guild Wars updates up the hoo-hah, DDOS attacks on GvG players and the opportunity to become a Guild Wars 2 Ambassador?! Anyway, quick update before I take a look at the Anniversary stuff:
  • I still don't have internet access at home - the landline becomes active next Monday and then my broadband provider will have the internet done by the end of that week. So, it's going to be a little longer than I thought before I'm back to daily blogging.
  • In addition, apparently the people I work for have read the strict instructions of "you cannot increase the workload" as "increase the workload". So I'm currently facing one hell of a week.
Right, admin out the way - onto the meat of the matter.
Recently Guild Wars hit its 6th Anniversary. As Ravious has said over at KTR, it is impressive that Guild Wars is still going strong after so many years and as much as the vocal end of the playerbase might complain after each and every update, there are countless other players who still enjoy it on a daily basis (I've been known to fall into both camps). This year, ANet shook it up a bit with their updates - full details can be read over at the developer update page. Along with Hard Mode quests, Razah becoming some kind of "super" hero and Costume/hat makers being added to presearing - there were a few interesting updates in there - Birthday Tonics, Mutual Friends lists and The Flux.

Birthday Tonics

With each anniversary previous to this one, ANet have released a new set of miniatures and players whose characters have reached their birthday for that year would receive a gift which contained one of those new minis. The upshot of this was that the mini market would grow gradually each year - become ever more diversified and bloated. I imagine there aren't a huge number of new accounts being created each year, but as each player's characters mature and reach their birthdays the market becomes ever more filled with tiny little Rurik’s and Wind Riders. Frankly, the mini market has always confused me and I'm glad they've drawn a line under it.

This year ANet decided to drop the birthday mini and instead release a tonic. Now, when I first saw this I thought - well, that’s just another aesthetic item, just the same as the minis. But actually it's quite clever - it has no effect on gameplay, it doesn't impinge on their costume selling business, it doesn't affect the mini market, and the tonic market is relatively small in comparison. The tonic transforms the user into a legendary NPC or monster, it is everlasting and tradable (so people can liquefy it into money if they so choose it).

Mutual Friends List

Another nifty introduction is the mutual friend list. If you and your friend both have each other on your friend list, you will be able to see where they are at that moment. Its not groundbreaking stuff, but it’s a pretty useful little mechanic. I haven't had a chance to see this yet - but I also imagine it will let you know who your real friends are (as you'll be able to see who has you on their list too) and then you can stop pestering that one monk you met back in '06 who never really seems to want to reply to your PMs. WHY WON'T YOU TALK TO ME!?

The Flux

Probably the biggest change (and the one which has caused the most controversy) has been the introduction of the Flux. The Flux will be an ever changing Meta mechanic which will affect all PvP (from AB/JQ/FA right up to monthly GvG tournaments and HA) - it will change monthly. For example, the first Flux is "Lone Wolf":

Lone Wolf: "If you are not within earshot of an ally, you deal 10% additional damage and take 10% more damage."

Now, where the Flux comes from will take a little bit of lore knowledge so here goes: last October when the Lunatic Court attempted to release the Mad King Thorn from his realm into Tyria all sorts of odd goings on... went... on. Apparently, in their haste to emancipate him, a number of seals were broken and cracks began to form between Tyria and the "Mists". The result of this has been growing instability in places where Tyria and the Mists are closest (i.e., all PvP arenas) - and so, the Flux has occurred (or is occurring, or will occur? Not sure of the tense...).

Now, a lot of people are very excited about this update, and a lot of people are very worried/angry about it. Those who are worried/angry see it as another mechanic which counteracts the balance to which all PvP should be striving - where all skills, builds and professions are equal and all player vs. player interactions are decided on player ability alone. I can see where they are coming from, but I have a counter argument:

You know what I think about balance? Balance is BORING. Balance stays at home on a Saturday night, collecting stamps and watching Antiques Road show. Balance could spend an afternoon alone in a room with a tea cosy and not even consider putting it on his head. Change, however... now that’s where the excitement is. Change spends his Saturdays drunk on rice wine, having hot tub parties with playboy bunnies, snorting coke off an anaconda's back and dancing to hard techno. Change would wear that tea cosy like a boss.

I understand the compulsion to work towards balance, but with 10 professions, numerous primary and secondary profession combinations, hundreds of skills and millions of skill combinations, finding ultimate balance would be nigh on impossible - particularly considering the size of the GW Live Team. The only way to truly create a fun and dynamic PvP environment is to embrace the chaos that all those variables creates. ANet will know sort of what will happen when each Flux is released each month, but they won't know for sure - whatever is dominant in the meta might suddenly become hugely impractical. Eg, if you are running dual E/D Mind Blast spammers with Aura of Restoration, Fire Attunement and Mirage Cloak and then the Flux switches to: "All hexes and enchantments last 50% shorter" you're going to have to rethink your strategy. The Live Team know that they cannot release monthly skill updates to keep the meta fresh and to sort out any kinks which came with the previous update, they simply do not have the time - but they know that with the Flux at least the game will change every month without fail. If players want to be successful in PvP - they will have to learn to ADAPT.

I realise this post is getting on a bit, so I'll wrap it up:
ANet have stated that they are using Guild Wars as a proving ground for mechanics they will be slipping into GW2. So, expect the mutual friends lists and Flux to make its way into the finished product as long as they are well received. If you aren't fond of any of the updates, it's worth voicing your concerns to those in power - they probably won't remove the feature just for you, but they will certainly take your opinion into account.


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