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Monday, 31 January 2011

The Guardian and other News

Over the past week the Guild Wars Universe has been buzzing due to the lead up and subsequent release of the Guardian profession. There are no end of articles summarising the Guardian's role in Guild Wars 2, so I shan't dwell on it for too long: the Guardian is a Soldier class (and so uses Heavy Armour - that's right, armour with a U), he has three inherent buffs; which he can release at any time to benefit his compadres, he can create magical barriers and wards to protect his allies and keep his foes at bay.



I think that's a fairly succinct summary. Now, what I want to talk about is actually using the Guardian.
One of the most exciting things which come out of a persistent game world is the emergent situations which arise. The guys at ANet have tried building this into the game through their "dynamic events" system; wherein traditional quests are done away with and you pick up tasks in the area as they emerge. A number of these dynamic events described by ANet workers have been "protect this town" or "escort this caravan", this is, I believe, where the Guardian will shine and (to a certain extent) outshine other professions. Whereas a ranger might encounter a group of merchants in attack from a group of ettins and attempt to distract and kill the enemies before the merchants get splattered; the Guardian can run up and plop a shield around the men and then begin fighting off the ugly brutes. Similarly, say you encounter another player pursued by Centaur archers, you can save the day by pooping out a barrier to deflect the missiles back at the attackers. This might seem overpowered at first, and even very "monk-y", which would seem to contradict what the dudes over at ArenaNet have been saying about doing away with the Holy Trinity; however, Ravious at KillTenRats points out:
In an aggressive interview with Jon Peters, one of the Guild Wars 2 game designers, OnlineWelten asked about the use of guardian skills targeting allies. Peters said that there are no ally targeted skills in Guild Wars 2. No ally targeted skills. That bears repeating. That may be the “flash of genius” that changes the MMO industry. They are making systems so people play together more seamlessly and simultaneously taking away the mortar that has held together all other groups in prior conventional MMOs. There should be no reasonable doubt that the holy trinity is dead in Guild Wars 2. Another big effect is that almost all of the attention by players will be on the battlefield instead of party UI.
I had missed this comment and really should go back and reread this interview. This is the best news I have heard yet with regards to this profession. The flame-train was a rollin' when it was first released, the name "Paladin" was tossed about a lot and people feared they would become a necessity in a team, and most players would refuse to leave town without one. What this emphasises to me if the importance of positioning and environment with the Guardian; not just the infamous "red barring" (where the monk would just react to the red bar of player health dropping, rather than playing smart and protecting the player in a more active manner). Where you choose to stand and enact your skills will have a great impact on your and your allies well being. I can see the Guardian being a whole lot of fun to play solo (perhaps searching the countryside for people to save, damsels in distress etc) and in especially fun in groups. Hopefully, this approach will breed clever gaming. Either that, all the wammo Paladin fans will play Warrior...



I am looking forward to the next few months on Guild Wars, I've got my predictions for the remaining profession releases all set up, this is how I see the final line up playing out (unreleased and unconfirmed professions in italics):

Soldier Professions
Warrior
Guardian

Adventurer Professions
Ranger
Assassin
Gunner/Engineer - this is the only one I'm unsure about, but I'm hoping for something of this ilk

Scholar Professions
Elementalist
Necromancer
Mesmer

In GW1 info; Canthan New Year is coming up this weekend. Even more of a chance for me to stock up on sweets, booze and party items for when I finally finish Cartographer and have to focus on the consumable titles. If you catch me in the gutter, stoked up on wed bean cakes, twitching and consuming gallons of sugary blue drink - don't worry, I'm just trying to max Sweet Tooth.
It kind of feels like the new expansion; Cantha: Winds of Change, must be just around the corner.

With this and with the 7-hero update coming soon, I'm squeeing with pleasure. Literally squeeing all over the place, all up the walls and down the back of the sofa. I am squee-fountain.


ps. also some juicy info on the Sylvari from the lovely Ree Soesby. Yum...
pps. that yum is for the Sylvari info.
ppps. ok, maybe its a little for Ree.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Nude Katy Perry Chocolate Sauce Bonanza!

I apologise for the title, its a social experiment of mine. If you've come here expecting some extra-marital cocoa based fun-time from Mrs Brand, you're going to be very very disappointed. Although, if you ask nicely, I might send you a picture of myself eating a Topic bar. Damn I love Topic bars.

So, I finally managed to get a hold of Little Big Planet 2 on Wednesday. I had scoured the shops on the way home from work over the past few days and had, each time, come away with nothing but a cheese twist and some mussels in garlic butter. Thankfully, Tesco relented and gave up its secret hidden stash of everything I want and so the other day I came home with Little Big Planet and a jar of peanut butter - it was going to be a good evening.

So, I sat down on my sofa - after a pretty crappy days work, I might add - and slipped the disk into the machine and my Little Big Planet life whirred itself back into existence. Immediately I was lulled into a semi-slumber like state as the voice of Stephen Fry floated through my tellybox and into my ears. Fry introduces the game over images of people going about their day, shopping and drawing and talking and stuff and with each thought that passes through their imagination little shapes and doodles float up into the air and out to the sky. Stephen tells me that these little lost nuggets of imagination float away to Little Big Planet - my heart swells, tears form in my eyes... this is what it was like to be a child.

Thats the feeling that LBP1 and 2 both swell up inside my tummy, that indescribable feeling of being warm and clueless, childlike. The bright colours and soothing music is reminiscent of those early morning childrens shows which consist of nothing but moving shapes and soft piano plinking.
I have come to a realisation that what I really appreciate in a game is attention to detail, I am thoroughly looking forward to Guild Wars 2 because the art is so beautiful and LBP2 fills my veins with the same visual heroin. Each of the levels I have played so far have been beautifully designed - even the introduction level is witty and welcoming.
The first "level" just has you literally running through the credits as you get used to the controls. Being a LBP veteran as I was; I was able to import my Sackboy (saved from nudity as he was dressed as Monkey!) from the first game and Stephen skipped a lot of the controls stuff. As you dash through the intro level the heads of the crew from Media Molecule dance around you; they burst with hearts and stars; or fly around on rockets or stuck to the front of giant Sackbots. As you reach the end, you meet the antagonist of the piece, the evil Negativatron - he begins sucking up all of Craftworld and you are only saved by Larry da Vinci and his giant grabber dealio. From there I've gone through a training program to join "The Alliance" and fought my way through a bakery/castle scenario - throwing jam globs at passing cake monsters. The single player campaign looks as if it is going to be a blast (although, I've heard the final boss is a complete pain in the arse), there are new items to use like the Grabinator, Jump Pads and Sackbots, and I can't wait to see what else the MM team have in store for me.

Whilst the campaign is fun, if you know LBP you will know it is in the user-created level department that the games really shine. In LBP1 I tried my hand at creating a level (its still up there if you fancy giving it a go,  - all the levels from the first game have been ported to the new one! PSN: Distilledwill) it was called "Gobbler's Lair" - it involves you jumping and swinging your way to the center of the monster's lair and then jumping down his throat, negotiating your way down his gullet, past his lungs, through his stomach and then climbing his chest cavity to his heart to finish him off. In the first game this took me about 10 hours total to make, over the course of about 3 weeks. I won't lie; it was a complete pain in the arse. Nonetheless, it was incredibly satisfying to get it all finished and see that people are playing it. I've heard good things about the creation system in LBP2, that its far more user friendly and expansive. So - keep a look out, there may be a "Gobbler's Lair 2: Momma's Home"! There's even a new community website where you can search for new levels and create your own profile: http://lbp.me/

There are gripes, as with every game - but not many. The movement still feels a bit fluffy and your jump is floaty, but thats just how the game plays and you get used to it. Other than that, I've not come across any major problems so far. Even if I did, I'm not sure they'd matter, I love these games so much because they have an air of friendliness which is missing from the majority of games nowadays. Closing comments: it's about as fun as an afternoon bathing in chocolate sauce with a naked Katy Perry on my arm. Oh yes.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

No Res Shrines: Gaming and the Real World

On the surface, the gaming world is murky and dank. Its dark and cold and confusing, populated by overzealous fourteen year olds slapping their "ep33n" around on FPSs and thirty somethings hunched over keyboards in the basement of their Mother's house in the suburbs and roleplaying busty Night Elves. This is the image of gaming which we have grown to accept; one of mindless escapism, a disconnected self which is controllable in a totally different and disconnected Universe.

Increasingly, however, this restrictive and short sighted vision of gaming is being challenged. Governmental analysts are beginning to confirm something that, deep down inside our heart of hearts, we've always known; gaming makes us better people. This assertion is two fold - on the one hand, there is the exciting prospect that gaming physically and mentally trains us for certain situations. A couple of weeks ago, The Onion jokingly suggested that games such as Gears of War and Fallout 3 are training our children to survive in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

I know I've learned that surreptitiously slipping a live grenade into the pockets of unsuspecting bandits can be a laugh riot, and iguana bits are no substitute for vast amounts of synthetic Nuka-Cola. Today wired.co.uk (my faithful friend) published an article by Noah Schachtman on how American analysts are using videogames to weed out bias in their operatives.
The agency is looking to axe everything from "anchoring bias" (relying too much on a single piece of evidence) to "confirmation bias" (only accepting facts that back up your pre-made case) to "fundamental attribution error" (attributing too much in an incident to personality, instead of circumstance).
I have to admit there is a place in my gut which leaps at the thought that playing Black Ops might make me into a one man killing machine, a real life 007; utilising my twitch reactions to mow down a camp-full of bogies in seconds and then zip lining into my chalet in Switzerland with my sultry femme fatale; Olga. In actuality I think the only thing I'll end up with is bad eyesight, a bit of a belly and the thumbs of a 65 year old.



On the other hand, there is the implementation of gaming in the effort to stimulate real social change. On a more Alternative Reality Gaming slant; Jane McGonigal's book "Reality is Broken: Why Games make us Better and how they can Change the World" focuses on the attempts at using games to raise awareness and encourage "off the wall" thinking when it comes to national and international social problems. McGonigal states that reality is broken because games act as "happiness hacks" and so are more productive at producing happiness than real life situations. This is why gaming is so often used as an escapist pastime.

McGonigal goes on to state that instead of lamenting this change, perhaps the strengths that can be found in gaming strategies could be harnessed to affect social change. Alternative Reality Games could be used as vehicles to increase awareness of particularly critical subjects or even stimulate players to actively improve their lives through giving real world targets to attain.
Michael Andersen at ARGNet did a sterling job reviewing and summarising McGonigal's latest book, although he is skeptical of the application of gamification tactics to real world problems stating that he does not wholly believe that gaming strategies can be applied to "complex problems that are resistant to game designer attempts to reduce goals to concrete action steps". I've already stated that ARG gaming has affected me in a very real way, increasing my ability to make connections, widening my knowledge of cryptography and deduction and giving me a wide variety of skills which I have already been able to apply to my life.

I'm quite enthusiastic about gaming being a vehicle for change in real life, but I believe we need a big push; something to really carry gamification into the media eye and advertise it as a powerful vehicle for social revolution. Alternative Reality Games need the equivalent of what Facebook was for social networks.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Black Ops News 26/01/11

Recently received a glimpse of the game play involved in the new map pack for Black Ops. Pretty excited, even though I'm not a sniper myself I'm hoping the maps will give more scope (*snigger*) for long range combat to keep the whiny snipers happy. I'm also hoping that the darkness in the Kowloon map will give a greater viability to infrared scopes, which have seen little to no play since the game was released (compared to Modern Warfare 2, where they were relatively common for snipers).

I have to say I was hoping that the "stadium" map would include the ability to fight across the large plain of the hockey rink. There are no maps with large open plains (again, unlike Wasteland and Derail in MW2) in Black Ops - the closest, in my opinion, being the central street in Havana and the Snow field on Grid. Still, can't wait to get to grips with the new features such as the zip line and the collapsible bridge.

Other Black Ops news: the 1.06 patch came out last night.
Notable changes:
  • When you down an opponent into Last Stand, if your team mate finishes them off you will be credited with the kill and they will get an assist, this was sorely needed. It doesn't remove the pain in the arse that is Last Stand from the game, but it does at least make it less frustrating.
  • Adjustments to the AK74u and RCXD - both sorely needed, although I'm not sure which changes have actually taken place.
  • Changes to PSG1 sniper attachments.
  • Tweaking the Silenced Sniper rifles.
  • Numerous fixes to connectivity problems - although I believe I still crashed a number of times last night...
Full list can be found here: Gamrfeed on Black Ops 1.06

Finally, Wired.co.uk tells me that Gamers' Voice are reporting CoD to trading standards for not delivering a stable online gaming platform for PS3 and PC gamers. I have to agree, it is incredibly frustrating being kicked out of a game when you are doing well, and probably even more frustrating being kicked out when you are doing badly and so are given no chance to redeem your K/D ratio.
From wired.co.uk: http://cdni.wired.co.uk/620x413/a_c/bloppy.jpg
Whilst I'm hoping the latest patch will fix most of the problems; I don't believe the problems are game breaking. For the most part I can play full games and get a decent connection; but that won't stop me trying to twist my controller into a turkey twizzler if I d/c in front of 3 angry enemy players.

I'm still thoroughly enjoying the game and am improving my play style with every day. I'm at 5th prestige now! Wooo!
Next weekend I have some friends coming over and we will be partaking of some "Buzz! Music Quiz!" action, I'm quite looking forward to it. Seeing as, with the exception of Becky and possibly Sam, they are all completely clueless about popular culture - I'm quietly confident.

Anyone tried Buzz? What do you think of it?

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Guest Post: The Experience of Evil by time2pwnu

Distilled: This is the first ARG Report for the New Year - penned by time2pwnu (E. Richardson) from the unFiction boards, it concerns the YouYube series: Experience of Evil.

Eric; in the Introduction, looks tired and scared: Introduction.
The Experience of Evil ARG series on YouTube started on December 18th, 2010. It started out like any other ARG; but with a surprising twist. Most viewers believed we were being giving another video series about Slenderman; but that was not the case. The story begins with the main character; Eric Hanes, talking about how his two friends have recently been killed in the past few months. Eric and his two friends; Justin Jones and Grant Compton, started a paranormal documentary in January of 2010. Eric believes a demon killed his friends and is now after him as well. The story starts out fast, as Eric starts posting all the videos from the past year in order, in Episode #2 we get a first-hand look at the demon and the horrors don’t end there. The story begins to make sense in the next few episodes, as Eric tries (in the current time) to run from the evil that has been chasing him and trying to kill him.



The trio of friends are being followed by what they believe to be a man. In Episode #9, the team was doing an investigation of one of Eric’s friend’s home; the man (or demon) says a few choice words to the camera. No one has been able to figure out what was said, but it is defiantly another language. As Eric continues his research into his friend’s deaths, he comes across a demon named “Mush” on the internet. Right now this is the best lead he has to finding the killer.

In Episode #13, they finally seem to make contact with their attacker. Grant is pulled through the house by an unknown force and they are attacked by the demon. Then in the continuation of that video (Episode #15) we see that the demon is definitely more than human when it makes them run off the road. We are left with a cliffhanger; the police do not believe Eric and Justin’s plea that their friends has been kidnapped by this thing, and at the end of Episode #16 it seems that Eric is not alone in his house. The next episode, #17, is sure to be one not to miss. More answers are soon to be revealed and rest assured, the longer this series goes, the more terrifying it will become. Will Eric survive long enough to post their entire story? Guess you will have to subscribe like the rest of us and find out.

See Episode 16 below:

Youtube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/TheExperienceofEvil
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#%21/ExpofEvil
unFiction thread: http://forums.unfiction.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=31163


Distilled: time2pwnu is an active member of the unFiction boards, and I want to thank him for taking the time to write this article for me. As always, if you are interested in writing a guest post regarding an Alternative Reality Game (or ARG subject) just drop me a mail or post a comment. Full details can be found here: Looking for Guest Writers!

Pokemon: Blasting off Again

I think this is a perfectly normal compulsion that a guy around my age must have upon realising that the rest of his life will be spent working 9-5; Monday to Friday; on a job they don't necessarily enjoy. We yearn for a simpler life, one where pseudo blood-sports are played out by animals imprisoned in tiny red and white balls and only brought out when we are scouring the tall grass (careful, it's dangerous) for more unsuspecting creatures to lock up in my torrid world of badges and battlescars. What I'm trying to tell you is; lately, I've really wanted to play Pokemon.

Personally, I blame GW over at Geekologie for posting the chart of 493 Pokemon drawn as anime girls; finding that I could name all of the first 151 with ease, and at a push, at least recognise the first 250, really brought home how important this game was for me as a kid. Whilst I played Pokemon Red when it first hit the shelves here in England, in my mind the archetypal Pokemon game is Silver (I say Red and Silver as my brother would always buy the other version so we could trade, so he had Blue and Gold).
I bought Pokemon Silver in Singapore airport for a pittance, I believe it was before it came out here in England. We were on our way to Australia for a month long family holiday (during which I would burn myself to a cinder on Bondi Beach, climb the Sydney Harbour bridge, dodge a swarm of jelly fish and swim with dolphins on Christmas day), and our stop over was in Singapore for a couple of days. We'd spent the time there seeing all that was gaudy and bright to see in Singapore; we went on a tour which took us to some magnificent temples, saw some breathtaking scenery and also went to a factory where they took exquisite Singaporean artwork depicting beautiful birds with bright feathers and shimmering claws, and put blinking LEDs in their eyes.
On the way through the airport to catch our flight to Sydney I spied an electronics store with large advertisements for the latest anime comics and games, and there standing proud and feathered was Ho-Oh squawking at me: "Buy me, Will! Spend your holiday money here! Squuaar!!"; and I did.

I played that game for the entire flight from Singapore - Sydney, and every spare moment I had whilst I was in the big city, then on the Sydney-Perth connection flight, and then all the way back to England again. When I got home I bought the guide and me and my brother set about attempting "catchemall!" as the phrase goes. The land was far larger than that of Red/Blue, it was easy to get lost, and even after playing for that inordinate amount of time, months later I was still finding new places to explore. I loved that game with every fibre of my being, hurtling down the cycle path, being mobbed by Zubats in the caves (like the Cliff Racers of Johto), trying (by pure change) to work out that freaking trap door gym, training my Furret up to be a killing machine. Good.blemming.times.

I don't think I ever did catch every Pokemon, even with my brother's help (trading to evolve certain Pokemon, doing the mystery prize infrared thing every day) I certainly never got Mew - I mean, I'd have had to go to a Nintendo conference... and I just don't roll that way. Now, with my gaming experience and the confidence with which my life has imbued me, I feel it is time to return to Johto and get the job done. Maybe I'll wear shorts, because if I remember correctly, wearing shorts means you have to battle...

PS. come to think of it, I also blame the guy on Black Ops last night who sang the entire Pokemon cartoon theme tune from beginning to end. Kudos BO guy... kudos.

Pokemon! our hearts so truuuuue, our courage will pull us through! You teach me and I'll teach you. Pokeeeemoooon, Pokemon!

Monday, 24 January 2011

Modern Warfare 3: November 2011!

What? But I've only just got to grips with Black Ops - I'm good at it! Yesterday I went 38-3! Now you want to bring out MW3? The sequel to a game I was unequivocally terrible at? Why do you hate me so; Activision? Grrr....
from wired.co.uk http://cdni.wired.co.uk/620x413/k_n/modern-warfare.png
Came across this on Wired.co.uk this morning. Apparently undeterred by the collapse of Infinity Ward, Activision are forging ahead in alliance with Sledgehammer Games (for the single player) and Raven Software (for the multiplayer) in order to get Modern Warfare 3 out before the end of the year. That only gives me another 11 months to prestige another 10 times!

Who am I kidding, I've been playing so much I'll probably be there before next Tuesday. Curse my obsessive personality...

ps. lets hope they listen to the fanbase - noobtubes are still annoying and take no skill and second chance is a terrible perk and makes me want to twist the controller into nothingness...

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Waiting for my Blue Mace Lady

The GW2 bandwagon is crawling slowly closer to its next reveal, we've heard news that there will be a profession reveal over the next couple of weeks and I've heard rumour that it will be on the 27th Jan. A lot of slavering Guild Wars gurus are predicting the release of another "Soldier" class - possibly one depicted in the picture below:

This charming young woman has been dubbed "Blue Mace Lady" (BML). I know; its succint, it doesn't mess about, its a very utlitarian naming system. Recent information has been attained that the new profession will actually be called "Guardian" and Regina Buenaobra has confirmed that the update will be on the 27th. So, the whole of GW2guru is 'abuzzin with speculation about the class make-up and how it will fit into the game as a whole.

 Sometimes it can be hard to keep up with new game info, especially if you've got other stuff going on at the time. That's why it was nice to come across Sabrewolf18's Channel on YouTube earlier this morning. Over the course of about 6 months, Sabrewolf posted regular summaries of all the GW2 updates out there in nice tasty morsels. Unfortunately, he seems to have moved over to vidthru.com recently and the rest of his videos will be coming through there; so I can't embed any here (as far as I can tell, anyway!).

Finally, late 2010 we got confirmation that the 7 hero update for GW1 will be coming early in 2011. Personally, I cannot wait. GWguru patrons have been revelling in the information, and piecing together their ideal builds over the past few months.

So much tasty Guild Wars morsels are just on the horizon, its going to be a good start to 2011.

ps. hoping to get Little Big Planet 2 later today - squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Nakd Bar Giveaway from Brit Chick Runs

I was flitting around Twitter today and saw a tweet by my recently discovered LGC buddy @MalwenGoch:
18 delicious Nakd bars being given away by @BritChickRuns including my current favourite: cocoa mind. See http://bit.ly/g8hyiE to enter.
Never have I been known to pass up the chance of free confectionary, I duly visited the site and signed up. Brit Chick Runs is giving away a box of 18 Nakd bars for free (to anyone with a British postcode),  all you have to do is go to her blog and leave a comment on the post, then either tweet about her competition or make a post. I decided to do both in the hope that in doing so I will maximise the possibility of healthy-bar-output.
Here's a direct link to the blog post with full details: Brit Chick Runs gives away free Nakd bars. From Brit Chick Runs herself:
Old, faithful, hardcore readers who’ve been following my blog since the beginning [of time] will know I have raaaved about this companies’ bars A LOT! But, weirdly enough, I’m yet to try the new flavours. I rather ashamed of myself really. Especially seeing as they are so awesome:
Raw fruits

Raw Nuts

Natural flavours

Nuttin’ else. Nada! Simply whole foods, rolled together.

Usually when a tweet includes the phrases "Nakd" and "Brit Chick", it's about a particularly rowdy night out in Skegness, chucking up in a taxi and falling asleep in your boob tube - but this is far more wholesome (although it is a little... *snigger*... seedy).

Marble Hornets Entry #33

I... I'm just... holy crap - just watch this.




I continue to be astounded by Season 2 guys. Muchos kudos, you do not disappoint.

Had a very busy day, my sister was taken to hospital earlier after fainting at work - considering her medical history and whats happened over the past year, its not been an easy night. Thankfully she has now recovered, but not without scaring the crap out of us all.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Final Fantasy XIII-2

As if the disaster that was FFXIII wasn't enough, those crazy Japanese folks are bringing out a direct successor to its terrible throne. Final Fantasy XIII-2. Discovered this on wired.co.uk (love ya!).


From Wired.co.uk http://cdni.wired.co.uk/620x413/a_c/2323XIII-2_RGB_white_cp_620x413.jpg

Ok, ok, FFXIII wasn't that bad, it was just linear with unlikable characters and a story at once stupefyingly dull and mind numbingly complex. It looked pretty, at least. Back in 2010 I read on 30 Ninjas that Yoshinori Kitase was thinking about bringing out a XIII-2, and my feelings were mixed. The girl completed FFXIII fairly quickly, spurred on, (i believe) by my purchase of a HD telly to truly appreciate the fantastic scenery which you could occasionally see past the oppressive walls which kept you on the straight and narrow path from inevitable cutscene to inevitable cutscene.

Of course, FFXIII-2 is going to follow a similar vein to FFX-2 in following some of the characters from the first game and telling their story further. Because that worked so well in FFX-2 didn't it? No, no it didn't.
FFX-2 was a girlier version of X, it just replaced all the story with singing and dancing and squeeking and made the whole world seem like a mushy pink squeeky land populated by people who, in their time of need, need crap J-Pop to bring them together.

Lightning, at least, is supposedly the main character and this is something of which I approve. She was the strongest character in the game, and was a welcome refrain from the sickly sweet Vanille and her pointless beepings. I really hope that Square Enix have listened to fan's remonstrations regarding XIII's flaws - to be honest, if you ask most FF fans what they want, they will say a mixture of FFVII and FFX, and that is certainly something I could live with.

Good luck Squeenix, do us proud, make us believe in you again! We can make it through, as long as we believe and lo... wait... there I go with the sentimental nothings, dammit Yoshinori, you've infected my mind with mush!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Cross Platform Portal 2 for the PS3!

Yes please, thank you and goodnight. Nice work Valve, I am always torn about which platform to buy games on as it limits the people I can interact with in the game world (so, buying an MMO on the PS3 would be difficult to interact with people due to the lack of a keyboard), but with the new release of Portal 2, all players will be able to interact with players on PS3, Mac and PCs and it doesn't matter which platform they're playing on. Awesome.

Full story can be found at wired.co.uk juuuuuuuuuuuuuuust here.

Picture from http://cdni.wired.co.uk/620x413/o_r/portal2.jpg on www.wired.co.uk/
Plus, if you buy the PS3 version you'll be able to download a free PC/Mac version through Steam. Even.Freaking.Better.
Its another example of how Valve is one of the most community-savvy developers out there. Kudos Portal 2 team, ku-freaking-dos.

The Wrach and Missing Wallace

Today I'd like to talk about two very different games currently running over at unFiction - The Wratch and Missing Wallace. The games differ in their approach to characters, puzzles and how they interact with their players. Each game is relatively popular in their own right.

The Wrach is a game which cropped up a couple of weeks ago under the name "Viral Agency" (the thread can be found here) after Crescent "came across" a mysterious video on YouTube which contained an apparent morse code puzzle to solve. Originally, I had made a decision not to get involved - distracted as I was with far more important things like scratching myself and throwing paper balls into bins, but when a friend prompted me to take a look I decided to delve in.
The PM communicates through mysterious YouTube videos and through The Wrach website. The messages we receive are incredibly cryptic, if not encoded in morse - as a result over the past few weeks we've been able to ascertain very little as to the actual intention of the uploader of the videos, who or what "The Wrach" is or where the game is heading. The puzzles we have come across are interesting in themselves, and there was a "live feed" a couple of nights ago which I must admit - I missed - but I'm hoping that over the next couple of weeks we are able to unravel some of the threads we have been shown and finally work this game out.

Missing Wallace is a totally different beast all together. Wallace is a private investigator - used to being employed to find lost dogs and cats, who has been brought in by a distressed woman who is looking for her lost husband - eminent scientist Edward Maad. From the outset there has been an open and mutual sharing of information between Wallace and the players, Wallace has come over as flawed, a little neurotic at times but most of all likable.
As the game has gone on we have been introduced to a wide variety of interesting characters; Louise - Wallaces' rather surly ex-girlfriend, Lewis Styles - a slick corporate energy consultant, Bob - a hacker who has infiltrated Wallaces' website and then the mysterious stalker who seems to be following Wallace. Most of the puzzles have centred around the files found on Wallaces' home site: MissingWallace.net, and their presentation has been nicely varied - from substitution, and deduction to deciphering Welsh and barcode reading.
We are beginning to delve deeper into the twisted story that missingwallace is proposing, as we discover more about Edward Maad's scientific discoveries, about wireless energy, something to do with leys (yes, leys - not ley lines, watch QI - foo'!) and now with the discovery of a new character "Samael" who seems to be concerned with "God's Folly". Interesting stuff.

These two games are interesting but I find myself far more compelled by Missing Wallace than by The Wrach. I think this is primarily down to the fact that MW has a place to "touch base" as it were - a concrete contact with whom we can share ingame information and help progress the story. The Wrach is primarily conducted at arms length and the debate exists in a very much out of game (OOG) context, it feels less tangible and so we wait for new information from the PM rather than interacting with the characters involved. Nonetheless, I shall follow both with interest.

ps. I've been working my way through The Looking Glass Club, but I find myself getting so into the story that I forget about the puzzles - I wonder if I'll even get #1 submitted before the end of Jan time limit is up - soz Gruff! Curse my bibliophilic nature!!

Monday, 17 January 2011

Battle of the MMOs! DCUO, SWTOR, GW2!

I fear very much that I will be torn this summer. My MMO allegiances and fantasies will be stretched thin across a number of platforms. There are three seperate MMOs for 2011 which are vying for my attention, and I'm not sure whether I'll be able to satiate them all, I'm just not that manly! Firstly, there is DC Universe Online, then Star Wars: The Old Republic and finally Guild Wars 2.

DC Universe Online is a game which actually came to my attention through the adverts before YouTube videos on Machinima. The idea of a superhero MMO appeals to me (although I've never tried City of Heroes, DCUO's closest comparitor), and I can imagine the modern backdrop would provide a nice break from the ordinary fare of medieval style hack and slash. I've watched a fair number of videos over the past couple of days, including the pre release teasers and now some of the "Let's Play" style ones on Machinima and other YouTube directors, and from what I can see there are some things which draw me to the game, and some which sort of put me off.
Firstly, I love the character creation and design, you seem to have a huge amount of freedom when it comes to character creation and I can imagine spending a good couple of hours creating my hero to look just right.

From http://media.ps3.ign.com/media/755/755358/imgs_3.html
 In addition, the world in which the game plays out seems pretty expansive - the videos often show characters clambering to the top of buildings and looking out across the city. Similarly, using their various powers (acrobatics, flight, super speed) characters have a nice amount of freedom of movement, scaling buildings and rocketing across the ground.

from http://pcmedia.ign.com/pc/image/article/109/1098846/dc-universe-online-20100616102956875_640w.jpg
However, my Guild Wars background has made me automatically wary of P2P games - I worry that I'll spend the money and then have no time to get the full use of it - this is exactly what happened with Aion (well, that and Aion was terrible after about 2 months). I have other concerns, I read an article by Aitch at CNN where he says:
It’s a straight forward button masher and if this is what you like, then this is for you.
I kinda don't like button mashers - I want my game to feel immersive and intricate. I suppose thats why I've always leaned towards the skill-based MMOs such as GW. DCUO is on the fringe of my mind and I might buy it and try the first couple of months to see how I feel.

Secondly, we have Star Wars: The Old Republic. Now, just to add to my geek-cred, I am a huge Star Wars fan. Having grown up with the first three movies (the first three, he adds with a knowing eye), it is a universe which holds a lot of nostalgia for me, but its not an area into which I've explored my gaming passion (short of buying the first Force Unleashed game on PS2, and a demo of one of the X-Wing piloting games I got from a Playstation magazine when I was a kid).
From what I've seen of ToR, it looks pretty varied. There are a number of different classes, on the light side of the force we have Troopers, Smugglers, Jedi Knights and Jedi Consulars and on the dark side there are Bounty Hunters, Sith Warriors, Imperial Agents and Sith Inquisitors. If you have a sharp MMO mind you can fairly quickly divide them up into the holy trinity which come hand in hand with MMOs. I don't know nearly as much about this game as I do the other two addressed in this post - but that adds to the mystery of it.
Watching the videos for this game it just feels more rich and immersive than DCUonline, it will definately be a contender for my final game...

Guild Wars 2. Now, lets not beat around the bush - this will probably be my 2011, 2012, 2013 and if they do a good enough job 2014, 15, 16 and 17. I've already gave a good summary of what I think of this game - but, comparing it to the other releases of this year (particularly The Old Republic) I think its going to have to compete for my affection.


She can have my affection anyday - http://static2.videogamer.com/videogamer/images/pc/guild_wars_2/screens/guild_wars_2_20.jpg
 As I've said before, the art in GW2 is quite astounding and I fully expect the finished product to be a truly beautiful game, I just hope they pull off the combat in a real-time non instanced world to the highest quality. Out of the 5 races - Human, Charr, Norn, Sylvari and Asura - I am totally flummoxed about who to choose. I'm waiting on a bit more information before I make my final choice, but I am so excited about this game I squee a little whenever the slightest bit of information is released. There is supposed to be a new class reveal early this year and the whole community is holding its breath - myself, I am waiting to see which class can dual wield pistols.



Ultimately, each of the other two will have to truly astonish me to beat GW2 into my heart - I'm a true GW enthusiast through and through. DCUO looks a bit flimsy for me atm, and SWTOR needs to give me a bit more info on the "day to day" play which the game will involve before I'll invest my time in it.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Marble Hornets: Entries #28-32

There are a couple of things I want to talk about re: Marble Hornets today, so I reckon this is probably going to be a long one - first I'm going to talk about the Entries #28 - #32, and second how a really well constructed narrative like Marble Hornets can affect your life/sanity/wardrobe. For your delectation, Entry #32:


So, #28-32. If you haven't seen them, head here for #28, #29, #30, #31, aaaand #32 - do it now - the story is just getting juicy and I like where they are going. Troy and the gang have resisted the temptation to jump straight back into the sequence of normal vid, slendy reveal, TTA response, normal vid. They are ramping up the tension and its not until #32 that the intrigue really kicks in. There are chekov's guns galore going on in the Entries up to #32 (the pills, the safe, the blood on the stones etc). Jessica, Jay's neighbour in the hotel, is slipped in as early as #27 as just a passer by, but its not until #31/#32 that you really get to grips with the role she's going to play in the story.
Talking of Jessica - the acting in the series so far is really top notch. Troy (on his blog) talks about how he's attended a really good acting class between the shooting of the previous series and this one and I believe its really payed off. In addition, watch #32 - Jessica's acting in that scene is excellent, she looks genuinely haggard and scared, desperate for Jay to affirm to her that she isn't going insane. There have been some complaints on unFiction that the smirk which comes in a little to the end is an acting tick, but I like to interpret it as a result of her relief that maybe Jay is in the same crazy ass boat as her.

#29 is an interesting one, seemingly showing Jay discovering the scene of some bloody massacre in a tunnel out in the wilderness. Its not clear yet whether this has occurred yet (as there are some thoughts as to whether Slenderman can manipulate time/space), or whether it happened in the 7 months between the two series. All I know is that when this happened, I crapped myself:

#30 shows Jay freaking Jess out by showing up at her door in the middle of the night with a camera. Smooth moves ex-lax. He feeds her some awkward lies, and retires to bed in a grump. #31 has Jay heading out to the nearest park to see if he can find the location from #29, he doesn't really find much more than a rolly-polly hoody dubbed "trailguy" by the community. #31 is actually very well shot, you really begin to feel Jay's paranoia as he darts through woody groves and goes prone in piles of leaves to try to lose this clearly confused rambler.

#32, well - I won't talk too much about it, just commend Jess's acting and the "tired eyes" make-up she had applied. The story is really hotting up now, I'm not sure whether they'll go down the dynamic duo route quite yet - but I'm very excited about where the story is going and I can't wait to see if TTA/Masky is going to make his grand entrance soon.

Click here to view the article on Entry #27

Friday, 14 January 2011

Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases - HAIwatch

Whilst it's pretty obvious one of my passions is gaming, what is probably less apparent is that my other passion is healthcare. Now, I'm wary of revealing where I work etc in this forum, whilst I recognise that you are all upstanding gentlemend/ladies of wit and the utmost decorum - sometimes I might slip my tongue too freely into the realm of uncertainty and in my profession one wrong word can get you a short sharp visit from the unemployment-fairy. So lets just say that I work in healthcare research, and leave it at that?

This morning I received an email from a Mrs Barbara Dunn asking if I would be interested in blogging about the drive to fight healthcare assisted infections. Working where I do, if there is one thing which is drilled into you it is the importance of infection prevention and control - so I found myself pretty sympathetic to the cause. Recent stories here in Britain have highlighted the need for an increasing focus on controlling and preventing infection, obvious examples are the MRSA hospital bourne infections, line-in infections and surgical site infections and the very recent swine-flu problems we have been having (although, I wouldn't believe everything you read in the papers on this subject). As a result our hospitals are now filled with "WASH YOUR HANDS!" signs, soap dispensers at the entrance to every ward, at the end of every bed and dotted along corridors and every new member of staff has to go through a fairly stringent Infection Prevention and Control training. As arduous as this may seem, it is for a good reason:

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at any point in time, 1.4 million people worldwide suffer from infections acquired in hospitals.


A Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report published in March-April 2007 estimated the number of U.S. deaths from healthcare associated infections in 2002 at 98,987.


The risk of acquiring Healthcare-Associated Infections in developing countries is 2-20 times higher than in developed countries.
Afflicting thousands of patients every year, HAI often leads to lengthened hospital stays, increasing the likelihood of readmission, and adding sizably to the cost of care per patient.


Financially, HAIs represent an estimated annual impact of $6.7 billion to healthcare facilities, but the human cost is even higher. (HAIWatchNews.com)



The HAIwatch "Not on my Watch" website (sponsored by Kimberly-Clark) is an interesting one, it provides a central area into which a vast amount of information has been pumped. It has tools for healthcare providers, professionals and probably a lot of information relavent to the lay-man on how to stay safe if you are ever unlucky enough to have to visit a hospital. For up to date information on the subject Mrs Dunn also pointed me in the direction of http://haiwatchnews.com/.

Making healthcare a safer institution is something which is close to my heart, so I hope you'll forgive this somewhat off-topic post. Normal service will resume with the next post!



If you know me you'd know that if I receive what appears to be a completely sincere email, I will often interpret it as a trailhead and my puzzle-centres will go into overdrive. However, upon going through the information that was sent to me, I could find no hidden message, no binary, morse, ROTed words or pigpen codes. Disappoint. Turns out... TINAG but was something about which I was enthused. Although, you may note I couldn't help but slip a Theme Hospital reference in there...

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Insert "Eye" Pun Here

I saw this post on Geekologie this morning and had to flag it up as ball crunchingly amazing.
http://www.geekologie.com/2011/01/windows_to_the_soul_eyeball_cl.php
I've never seen picures of the eye where you can actually see the structure of the iris so well:


It really is breathtaking to see the folded nature of the iris, the ring of muscle which contracts iris to dilate the pupil (oh yes, whipping out my A-Level Biology bitches! Thankyou Miss Evans...). I want to thank GW at Geekologie for bringing this to my attention - as well as bringing to my attention many other things, including how to make a motorbike out of two cheap lighters, the evolution of the Batmobile and the homemade lightsabre from last week. However, I DO NOT THANK him for the picture of Admiral Ackbar in a bikini... no, just no.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

The Kodan and Guild Wars Artwork

I've been following the GW2 Twitter for a couple of weeks now and today it popped up with an update letting me know of a new blog post on the ArenaNet blog: http://www.arena.net/blog/the-wisdom-and-power-of-the-kodan. The post concerns the non-playable race of the Kodan in Guild Wars 2. Now, in a time when most of the GW community is clamoring for any information regarding the upcoming game - a whole blog post on a NPC race seems to suggest that the Kodan will play an integral role in the story of GW2 and probably more specifically, the lore of the playable race; Norn. 
 I came across the Kodan a few months ago whilst browsing through the Guild Wars 2 wiki, and I was immediately intrigued. Up until that point I had not heard even a sniff about them, and considering I've been playing the game for upwards of 5 years now and have read just about all there is to read regarding lore and literature on the game, I found them fascinating. This new blog post has only strengthened my curiousity, The Kodan are not at all what I expected them to be.

From the pictures I have seen up until now I characterised them similar to the Norn - as a proud warrior race, much more barbaric than the spiritual and altogether more conservative group that they have turned out to be. Instead they are arbitors of balance in nature, and ruthless in the protection of that balance. Far more calculated and mystical than I had imagined. Thats not to say they aren't awesome, who wouldn't love a 10ft tall polar bear wielding a sword?

I won't go into too much detail about what is revealed in the blog post - if you'd like to read about them then click the link at the top. What I will say, however, is that this new post is a brilliant example of the incredibly high standard of art that the Guild Wars 2 team is producing at a breakneck speed. The level of skill required is just immense, and their talent has not gone unnoticed, several of their artists winning a number of prestigious awards.
Finally, I'd like to congratulate the Guild Wars team on their mopping up of the competition in the recent end of year awards. Again, full details of the awards the team managed to take away can be found on the ANet blog here: http://www.arena.net/blog/fans-support-arenanet-in-year-end-awards

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Twitter Challenges Govt' Subpoena

linked from wired.co.uk
In my gollomphing around the net I came across this article on Wired.co.uk concerning Twitter's response to the recent subpoena they were issued for information on a number of key figures in the Wikileaks saga. Instead of simply allowing their databases to be opened up and scoured of the key information, Twitter challenged the gag order which came attached to the demands, they won and subsequently notified the persons involved that their information was going to be released. This action by Twitter allowed the persons involved (including wikileaks founder Julian Assange, accused leaker Pfc. Bradley Manning,  former WikiLeaks spokeswoman Birgitta Jonsdottir, and WikiLeaks activist Jacob Appelbaum) to challenge and attempt to quash the subpoena in court.

Wired.co.uk's Ryan Sigel states:



That's what makes Twitter's move so important. It briefly carried the torch for its users during that crucial period when, because of the gag order, its users couldn't carry it themselves. The company's action in asking for the gag order to be overturned sets a new precedent that we can only hope that other companies begin to follow....


...Even more remarkable, Twitter's move comes as a litany of companies, including PayPal, Mastercard, Visa, and Bank of America, follow the political winds away from the First Amendment, banning donations to WikiLeaks. And Amazon.com voluntarily threw the site off its hosting platform, even though there's nothing illegal in publishing classified documents.



By standing up for its users, Twitter showed guts and principles. Much of it is likely attributable to Twitter's general counsel Alexander Macgillivray. As security and privacy blogger Christopher Soghoian notes, Macgillivray was one of the first law students at Harvards' Berkman internet law centre and at in his previous job at Google "played a major role in getting the company to contribute takedown requests to chillingeffects.org."
I can't help but feel the bile rise in my gut, this whole WikiLeaks saga has raised the Orwellian fear in me and it's shown in stark releif just how powerless the little man can be if the government wishes him gone. It is laudable that Twitter has supported its users in such a way, and it makes me feel a little bit safer knowing at least the big T has our back.

The Looking Glass Club

[EDIT - I now realise the start of this post is a bit of a rant, if you want to read about The Looking Glass Club then scroll down past it!]
I have returned, fresh faced from the land of Londonium. I have not returned empty handed, though, oh no. I come bearing gifts of a new found distaste for the "scene". I know, I know, I once was one of the kids who hung around the park - baggy trousered and bedecked in black. I was cool and I despised the establishment, yeah those adults! They never listen to us! Fight the powa'! But since then, I've... well, I've got some freaking perspective!
Travelling on the tubes the past couple of days I have begun to despise the posers in square glasses without lenses, who grow moustaches - not because they are superawesome and make you look like a manly man, but because it is ironic to do so. Those parodied on Family Guy and other comedies as going to coffee shops to type on their laptops, because whats the point in writing if noone sees you doing it? With trousers with rolled up legs showing their ankles, they slope around with an air of aloof mysticism carrying battered books or notepads. I am at once in awe and at odds with them - bedecked in battered trainers and a jumper as I am.
[EDIT -Rant over!]


Phew, well now, lets get to business shall we? A couple of days ago a new thread popped up on uF (here it is, in fact) concerning a book just released by a British writer named Gruff Davies. Now, apart from having the manliest name ever created Gruff has provided an interesting challenge for us ARGers and puzzle-lovers. If we can solve the puzzle of his book, we could win up to £1million.
Before I set out for the land of the drainpipe trousers, I ordered myself a copy - hoping it would arrive before I had to leave for the trainstation, it didn't and instead the journey down was occupied by my second read-through of Eldest (of the Inheritance Cycle) in preparation for the next, and final, installment which will be out later this year, with any luck.
However, as I pushed open the door to my flat early yesterday evening a package from Mr Davies was waiting for me. Inside the cover was a business card advertising the competition tied to the book: 

Are you smart enough to win up to £1 million?

Read the novel
Solve its secrets

Available now from major online stores: Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Find out more, visit:


The copy is signed by the author and whilst it isn't all that thick in itself - the typeface is much smaller than I anticipated so the book is a much more daunting task than I first thought.

Having said that, I delved into the first chapter later that night and I believe I was gripped. It took me a page or so to get a handle on Gruff's style of writing, accustomed as I was to the simpler style of the Eragon books (I really have been powering through them), but once I had my teeth stuck in I really was just dragged along by the story. So far I have gleaned that the story concerns the main character Zeke (or "Steel") who is tasked with protecting Skyler; a pregnant twenty something with amnesia. The start of the book is frantic and confusing, not in a bad way, but in a way which I believe is perfectly constructed to mirror the tension of the chase into which we are thrown.

Now, to the meat of the post - the competition. Along with the book itself are a series of challenges set to the reader, to be solved by the end of this month (so you best get ordering if you want in). Full details can be found on the LGC website, but as a short summary: solve the first puzzle to be put into a draw for a Kindle, solve the first four puzzles to be put into a draw for an iPad, solve the entire book first (that is, before anyone else) and win up to £1million. The puzzles come in the form of an except from "Tony's Diary" and seem to come at the end of each chapter. The book begins with what appears to be a yes/no morse or binary code, since then I've conquered the first chapter and reached the second puzzle, a fiendish word square which, at first glance might be dismissed as a simple substitution or rotation cipher, but when you look closer there are far too many triple letters for it to be so bland. The puzzle is accompanied by the line "an amphibious mammal swims in this sea".

So, fancy a challenge? I'll certainly be aiming to finish the book by the end of the month - if not solve it, if only to pay off my student loans! Head to the website to order a signed copy, you can also download the entire book - FOR FREE in pdf form (although, you won't get all the puzzles). Also follow Gruff Davies on twitter @gruffdavies. Right, best be off, these iPads won't win themselves you know...

[EDIT2] Try not to do as I did and transcribe by hand half a page of no nos and yes yes's before realising you can copy/paste from the pdf. It really does damage your calm...

Thursday, 6 January 2011

ArenaNet Retrospective Trailer - Oh, freakin', baby...




Ooooh baby... you need to watch this. My fanboy gland is squelching out juices at a previously unheard of rate.

I think its admirable the work that goes into making a decent community around the Guild Wars franchise. Whatever people may say about the guys over there, they work really really hard to listen to all of our suggestions and to provide top quality content on the back of them.

Also - anyone else think that Ree Soesby is disturbingly hot when shes pretending to tear someone's head off?

ANet Blog is the best place to keep up with GW2 news: link to the article on this here.

Independant Gaming - Torch or Lantern?

Do not let them tell you that you shouldn't post after giving blood - they are wrong, whoever these naysayers may be. I defy them! Wooziness aside...

Ever wanted to be stuck inside a cave, with nothing but a pickaxe made of diamond and some wool? Me neither. Or at least, if you asked me a few weeks ago - I'd have agreed with you. I mean, haven't you played Minecraft? What about cowering in a cupboard whilst Princess Flappyjaw snorts and growls its way around the room lusting after your skin, which would make a perfect balaclava? Never wanted that? Why the hell not? You're weird...


I see from this article over at Wired.co.uk that the Independant Gaming Festival is coming up, and Minecraft and Amnesia: The Dark Descent are both in the running for Indie game of the year. I'm torn about who I would go for - on the one hand Amnesia is pants-wettingly terrifying, there is nothing quite like the fear when your lantern runs out of oil in a dark corridor, and in the dim distance you see an leg disappear into a doorway. Of course, you turn to leave, but as you do so great fleshy tumours burst out of the walls, stringy cartilidge bars the door - you crap yourself, hit alt-f4 and go to bed to sit wide-eyed in the dark.
On the other hand, Minecraft is quite the opposite, I cannot stop playing, perhaps tomorrow I will spend an hour flattening ground to build my cathedral - bit by bit, from the ground up. Perhaps the day after that I will dig straight down, in the hopes of finding a dungeon, so that I can get wheat to start my farm. Maybe after that I'll gather 100 blocks of wool and build a woolen tower as high as I can. Its so freaking expansive, my mind boggles!


I think in the end Minecraft wins this one for me, because whilst Amnesia is innovative in removing the player's ability to fight back, it forces me not to play because it is so terrifying! I laud this as a great acheivement by the developers, but if we are going off fun-factor - then Minecraft has it beat.

Ultimately, I think both games have been revolutionary - Minecraft in its wide appeal and commitment to sandbox gameplay, and Amnesia with its shedding of the power of the weapon in survival horror gaming, and the way it forces the player to come up with other ways of making it through the twisted corridors of the castle.

I'm really glad I'm not withing range of a computer with Amnesia on it right now - in my blood deprived state I fear that the sheer terror would throw me into some kind of shock... maybe its time I just put my head on the desk...

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Inception Director - The Folly of Ambiguity

About a year and a half ago I subscribed to the UK edition of Wired magazine. It was mainly to get me immersed in the techie culture which surrounds modern life but that can be sometimes difficult to penetrate unless you are willing to invest (sometimes literally) in the medium, to inform the research I was doing for my postgrad dissertation. Since then, I have really enjoyed getting the magazine each month and often I will read it cover to cover within the first couple of days.

One of the articles in January's edition is an interview with Christopher Nolan (the director of The Dark Knight and Inception) he discusses his view on the ending of Inception and what he thinks happens to the characters after the curtain falls. The final paragraph of the interview interested me the most and it is the reason I'm posting it here:

I've always believed that if you make a film with ambiguity, it needs to be based on a true interpretation. If it's not, then it will contradict itself, or it will be somehow insubstantial and end up making the audience feel cheated. Ambiguity has to come from the inability of the character to know -- and the alignment of the audience with that character.
(Christopher Nolan, 2011, Wired.co.uk)

This, I believe, is a concept with which a lot of ARG's need to get to grips. Too many Slenderblogs and Blargs and other games end on a note of ambiguity, its seen as tension or suspense - perhaps they are leaving it open for a "sequal" or hoping the players will fill in the gaps - and all that is very well and good. However, what the PM needs to understand is that this approach can often be frustrating.

When we are invested in characters, perhaps following them over a number of months, years even, maybe even interacting or meeting with them - and then for them to just drop off the map is often a rather disappointing ending. If you choose not to communicate a concrete conclusion to your game and leave conflicting clues to convey that their fate may have been one thing or another, you must at least have an idea in your own head on how everything ties up and what happened to them, otherwise when you are putting it together it won't make sense and your own uncertainty will show through.

If you are interested in the entire article, it can be found here: http://www.wired.co.uk/magazine/archive/2011/01/play/inception-director-lives-the-dream



Btw, no I'm not talking about 15 Days! You've wrapped it all up nicely thanks! Carrots are tasty.

Vanessa Atalanta Trilogy - Puppetmaster Interview

Transcibed below is the 2 hour discussion myself, Dagada and Jess had with Paul and Deni - the PMs for Fifteen Days of Darkness. Most of what was said is down here, although I did cut out some of the stuff about Dagada running around his garden chasing rabbits in the nuddy.
Its pretty long, so I've sliced it down and headed each section so you can keep up. There's some pretty interesting stuff about being a PM and being a player in there, as well as some big story reveals for the whole trilogy. Its probably more relavent for those who played the game, but to those who didn't - I suggest giving it a go anyway, Paul and Deni talk about some really interesting aspects of ARGs and discuss where they think the genre is going in the future and its well worth a look.

I just want to thank Paul and Deni for taking the time to meet their players, its not a curtesy that every PM extends to those who game with them and I think we all appreciated the extra bit of effort.

So, here goes:

Introductions
{;PAUL}; ah - introductions - apologies - players Dagada and Distilled [mind if I use real names?] - Please meet my wonderful co-designer Deni, internet extraordinaire
{;Deni}; as I was going to say, working on this was some of my best work and was fun working with Paul :)
{;PAUL}; thanks
{;PAUL}; Deni worked really hard for me - am for me and about 8 or 9 pm start for you most nights yeh?
{;PAUL}; and this is why we worked well together - thinking along similar lines most times
{;PAUL}; Deni is based in Canada -which was VERY useful for when we did the first intro with Ben visiting the chat
{;Deni}; that was kinda fun for me being that certain someone in chat
{;PAUL}; shurrup now Deni, the grown ups are talking seriously... ;)
{;Deni}; pshhhh =P :)
{;PAUL}; yeah - Deni had never role-played or ARGed before - I told him what to type - and then we had Harold and I gave him free reign
{;Dagada}; Good work!
{;Distilled}; nice one, that’s not at all how I imagined you'd done it all
{;Deni}; In past experiences I had a habit of going to far at times so I usually try to avoid role-playing
{;PAUL}; but I was monitoring without being in the room courtesy of a great program called yuuguu which Deni put me onto..
{;PAUL}; so - sure you have many questions and such - in game stuff first?



Question 1 – Final Scenes
{;Distilled}; ok, first question - the final scenes
{;Distilled}; Did you expect us to approach the destroying of the plants in the way we did?
{;PAUL}; ok
{;PAUL}; tbh - the final scenes were partially ad hoc as plans that were arranged had to change and adapt quickly due to tech issues and access to net over Christmas
{;Deni}; fyi Paul was very good at adapting and dealing with issues that came up :)
{;PAUL}; so I moved the plants to London, used Ben as a 'vehicle' to get people to interact with them and then gave players full reign - I hoped that destruction was on the cards... but as you saw, Claire had an odd Christmas present didn't she?
{;Distilled}; indeed
{;Distilled}; Definitely dead though, she says...
{;PAUL}; life flower
{;Dagada}; Nothing is definite in this game. :D
{;Distilled}; 'spose
{;PAUL}; well one thing is definite - all has finished fully now.
{;Dagada}; Really? I was thinking it'd continue.
{;PAUL}; some of the characters might be used in other things but the full VA 'arc' has come full circle..




Question 2 – Changing Plans?
{;Dagada}; Paul, you seemed to lay a fair bit of groundwork at the start of the game - links on the postcards, etc, that didn't seem to fruit. Did plans change?
{;PAUL}; Dag - re postcards and beginning - I was extremely disappointed by initial interest and then absolute silence - someone realised UV viewing was 'essential' [it wasn't] and thus demanded that the game almost pays out for UV lights for everyone
{;PAUL}; it may do Dag - but both Deni and myself want to do something new - something fresh - and the back-story is a huge amount for new players to grapple with - it'd have to be a fresh start - despite the wonderful wikis created in last games
{;Dagada}; Yeah - there were some times when us players got a bit fixated on minor details and missed the massive trees in front of us.
{;Dagada}; some = many
{;PAUL}; I waited as a PM while players spent MONTHS putting the postcards together...
{;Deni}; I've seen it happen in many games
{;PAUL}; then Distilled came along and the game suddenly accelerated beyond compare
{;Distilled}; Wooo!
{;PAUL}; both Deni and I glanced at each other and it was solved [first part] within a few days
{;PAUL}; that was what I hoped would happen in the first month or so... but it didn't
{;Distilled}; Its a shame, I would have liked to have been there for the start - stuff was happening for me about that time and I don't think ARGs were on the forefront of my mind.
{;PAUL}; you can't predict players, and I may have overcomplicated things at the start - but I wanted to challenge and bring players together at same time - instead I got fractioning and people left. You learn from experience.

Continue after the jump for the rest of the interview - including info about Paul and Deni's plans for coming games, the future of Claire and Ben and a shock revalation about Meeka >>>

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Vanessa Atalanta OOG Discussion

Late last year we saw the Vanessa Atalanta trilogy draw to a close. As a group of players we've followed the characters through abductions, nightmares, strange ministries, werewolf cults, first dates, chase scenes, and body snatchings - now the Puppet Master for the series is calling us together to discuss the game and, I imagine, find out whether we actually did destroy the Flower of Life with those salts, or whether we should have just burned the shop down and been done with it!
Last night I recieved the following message:

Go here http://chat.efnet.org/irc.cgi?chan=%23yourchannel

put in a nickname
under the channel tab click other and put in #Vanessa
Click Login – I’ll be there at 21:30 GMT – see you there!

thanks

Paul
Paul asked me to post the info here in the hope that people will drop in and give their opinions on how the game went, ask questions to the PM, or even just to learn about the game itself from scratch. So, if you are interested, head over to the link above at 21:30 GMT and chat with us. I'll be there, certainly, lets just hope I don't get kicked out, my computer fizz and begin to smoke and I hear the Greenwich pips...


UnFiction thread for the latest game is here: 15DD Thread.
Wikias for the three games are here: Vanessa Atalanta - Ministry of Argon - Fifteen Days of Darkness.

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