Too Good To Be True

March 5, 2010 by Richard Berry  
Filed under Articles

Last week I decided to pre order Bad Company 2, so I jumped online to hit up the usual avenues to see who was going to sell me the game the cheapest. I was surprised to come across Tesco Entertainment offering the game at £24.99 with a price promise that if the pre-order price went up then I would be assured of the lower cost – as any bargain hunter would have done I thought “Woo hoo!” and pre ordered a single copy for myself.

Recently, Amazon offered up the pre order for £23, however as my order went through with Tesco and with no word from them otherwise, I figured my pre-order was golden. Now,  find 3 days before its release, I receive an email from Tesco stating  “your order has been cancelled”. I understand that errors do occur in the world of retail but telling me this just days before the game is due to be released is just unacceptable. Not only that but the email contained no word on why my order was cancelled.  So I am back to square one again and am left with trying to find a new website to order from (by now all the cheap pre-order prices have risen), or face get it on the high street and pay their ridiculously steep prices!

I have contacted Tesco via email to ask why the order was cancelled and complain about the situation that they have now placed me in. I received a reply on Thursday with the usual standard response, no suprises there. They actually had the nerve to simply referr me to their terms of service:

“If, by mistake, we have under priced a product, we will not be liable to supply that product to you at the stated price, provided that we notify you before we dispatch the product to you.”

The part about being “notified” suggests they informed me of what was wrong with my order, which was not the case, therefore this term they have quoted is completed false. Oh well!

Upon looking around on the web it appears Tesco Entertainment have done this before with Saints Row 2, Left for Dead 2 and I’m sure numerous other titles – There was of course the famous blunder by Tesco of offering a console bundle for £35!

I pre-ordered this game in good faith and Tesco have totally let me down. My advice, steer clear of these clowns and if you find yourself thinking it must be a case of “too good to be true”, than usually it is!

An Open Letter to Fanboys

January 12, 2010 by Alex Beech  
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There always seems to be huge furore over console exclusive titles. Games that platform holders either developed themselves, or heavily subsided. The presumed quality of these titles is based solely on the simple fanboy logic that if their manufacturer of choice feels a game is good enough to grant it the seal of ‘PS3 Exclusive’ or ‘Only on Xbox 360’ then some how it must be justifiably better than other titles on the market.

It is a theory flawed for so many reasons I cannot begin to fully articulate why it is wrong. Certainly manufacturers would ideally like to stock their machines only with the last and greatest exclusive games, but given the current environment this isn’t possible. It simply is not profitable for large third parties to promise their titles to a single platform without the kind of subsidies that would, eventually, bleed even Bill Gates’ pockets dry. This has lead to a generation filled with expressions like the ‘lead platform’, ‘exclusive DLC’ and ‘limited exclusivity’ in attempt to set games apart from their rival platform counterparts.

There are very few other aspects of life that elicits the kind of bile I see so often spewed at something as inconsequential as the console exclusive debate. I never hear a guy saying ‘My girlfriend has better [edit - bump mapping] and a far tighter [edit – graphics engine] than yours.’ If I did hear that I suspect I would also soon hear the individual getting hit by both the chap he was talking to and his girlfriend. In the real world it is extremely rare that we directly compare anything against that of another with the sole purpose of ingratiating our own stance and beating another’s down.

With so many early adopters no longer able to see reviews before the purchase the review process for the hardcore is fast becoming an act of affirmation rather than information. Reviews have stopped being the advice of trusted professionals they once were. Now they are simply used as bullet points during Internet flame wars to bolster arguments and the support of opinions for the vocal monitories.

Of course specialized, console exclusive, sites exist for these individuals. These are sites that unabashedly trumpet the merits of one platform over another, blind to any contradicting facts. But it is on the multiplatform sites where these fights are fought, by people with some misplaced belief that they need to convert other console users, or maybe just try and ruin their day. To go back to an earlier example we are talking about discussions with all the reasoning and consideration of ‘My girlfriends better than yours!’ or perhaps more fittingly, ‘My Dad’s Superman!

In response to this I have had an idea. Basically, sites write two standard, boiler plate reviews, that they simply insert game names into and then they write one ‘real’ review for normal, balanced people who at some point after the day of release may be looking for a game and really want advice on which to by. This third is pretty much akin to everything you see on this site, reviews which reflect the opinions of a real gamer just out to say what they think about a game. The other two fanatical reviews follow.

For a system’s fanatics wet dream of a game.

‘(Game A) for the (Platform X) is developed by (Studio) and is by far the greatest game of its genre. I eclipses the (Platform Y)’s (Game B) in every way. The graphics are superior with higher textures with more polygons and effects on screen than (Platform Y) could ever hope for.

Both the single player and multiplayer are perfectly balanced allowing for some epic battle that the amazing line up of weapons compliment in a way (Game B) could only one day hope to accomplish.

It is thanks to the (high storage capacity, better online components, faster writing of onscreen polygons, generating of textures, anti aliasing – delete as appropriate) that this game manages to achieve all it does. It could never be made of the (Platform Y) without numerous feature being removed/compromised.

The best game I have played in recent memory and a real game of the year contender.’

And lets give it a 97% so it’s believable.

For an enemy of the system.

‘(Game A)’s muddy graphics do little to hide the limited number of effects on screen at any time. It is a sad indictment that (Platform X) that it continues to lag so far behind (Platform Y) even after this game has been so long in development.

I don’t know what (Developer) thought they were doing when they designed the level layout. Wondering the dull, grey, low res, world feels like you are stuck in the movie Groundhog Day but without Bill Murray. Even the action quickly becomes repetitive thanks to the lack of innovation in weapons and enemy design.

Those who have been anticipating the release of this exclusive are set to be disappointed as all of the games praises have been blown out of all proportion by blind fans of the series who mistakenly believe it to be the second coming, and the saviour of the failing (Platform Y).’

Lets call it a 64%, totally mediocre, because lets face if it really sucked no one would try to defend it and that would be no fun.

If you are one of the people out there telling reviewers that their opinions are wrong then these are basically the kind of reviews you want and deserve. With that in mind in the future feel free to substitute all of the relevant words into which ever review you feel best supports your opinion. You can accredit it to me if you need to, no one will know any different, and just go about your day happy in the knowledge that I at least I agree with your stilted extremist view. Just so long as you don’t go around pestering hard working writers who are trying to inform those more open minded than you, I am happy to take one for the team.

Sex, Lies and Console Wars

January 12, 2010 by Alex Beech  
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Now I have to ask you bear with me through this comparison of why “console wars” are stupid. Some of what is said to many could be considered immoral, but I regret none of it and everyone involved was aware of my situation. It regards a time in my life when I was broken hearted and I went on what something of a binge before I left University. It was a week of fun and stress that made me realize it doesn’t matter what you have you should be happy with it, and more importantly, there is no need to try and denigrate other peoples fun for the sake of you own sense of self worth.

The week of which I speak was after I finished my Master course, and was working at my Alma Marta settling in new post grad students. My work consisted of carrying people bags to their rooms during the day and, at night, taking new initiates to bars, clubs and parties.

Having already left the university and having no accommodation my plan was to couch surf. What ended up happening was one night on a floor, one night in my Ford Escort… and numerous nights in various beds.

One of the girls in question enjoyed hanging out with our shared friends and me. There was a slight language barrier (she was Chinese) but it was never enough to stop us sitting by the river talking until the early hours of the morning. Given different, less heart broken state of mind on my part things could have been fantastic. One day she said she loved me, but in my heart broken state I didn’t feel I could commit and so ran away.

The next individual I met was from North America. Always wanting to socialize, drink, talk or dance it didn’t matter what we were doing as long as it was a party. Active fun, and always exciting every one liked her. But it all came at a cost, all of the socializing, clubs and drinking added up and pretty soon I was spending more money that I was making in my work. Thankfully it all only lasted a week so my overdraft absorbed the cost, but to stick with it would have been difficult. Despite the cost it was the relationship I could have seen the most future in, managing to be entertaining in every situation. For the record, she was white, from North America and larger than life.

The final lady in question I met at a club while waiting in line. We were talking and hitting it off pretty well, but then out of nowhere my friend came and grabbed me (a doorman at the club) before proceeding to throw me in to the club. I was happy drinking with my friends so forgot about her until two hours later when she found me. Apparently she had been looking for me and having found me proceeded to take me strait back to her apartment. We never went out together but did a lot of time in together.

If you have seen through my paper thin analogies you will probably be aware of the similarities between each of these girls and the three players in the console wars (if you haven’t it was Wii, 360, PS3 respectively). I will let you decide if my experiences are true or fabricated for the sake of this discussion, but it isn’t my possible social life that is the point here. The point is, if I had been in any position to start a relationship I would have pick one of these girls based on what she offered and contributed to me as an individual.

In the short term I know we are attracted to cute, sexy and hot. That is the nature of initial attraction. It is when we consider the long term that we measure merits of everything on offer carefully. We judge what we what, what we need and what is offered. If I wanted to sit at home and enjoy quiet times as a couple I would have dated a PS3… for example. My conclusion would be drawn from a criteria would I had created, and unless someone was a very close friend and was truly concerned I was making and grievous error. No one would say that their girlfriend was better mine for some arbitrary reason based on a check-list of things that they consider important.

So why is it that everyone on the Internet feels they know what is good for me, and believes my choices are wrong. If I chose a partner based on the fact we shared friends and it made socializing all the more fun no one would point out the yearly fee of going to bars to stay connected with her an my friends was a bad thing. Or if there were certain things that only my stay-at-home-together girlfriend would do with me… for example playing with my Solid Snake… then no one dating her would seem to be the perfect thing to do.

Everybody has a personal preference in what they want and what they like, in relationships and their consoles. For the most part the people who go out yelling about how their choice is better than anyone else’s are the ones who are most insecure about something and are attempting to overcompensate.

If you are yelling at the guy who likes Wii because he only plays when his friends are around then all you are doing is showing that you have no imagination to understand his position, and no real friends to play with on your coach. Similarly if you are reaming somebody out for choosing a PS3 because of poor online or fewer games then all you really archive is demonstrating that you don’t respect people personal preferences the games they want to experience. Finally of course if you feel the 360 needs a good hammering for all of its extra charges then remember they are paying, but receiving the better service and support for their money.

Me I have all three so I am set (consoles that is, I am a one woman man these days). Chances are that, given the choice and money, you would want all three too (again consoles) but failing that settle for the one you have and are with if it makes you happy (either) and don’t let anyone tell you they know what makes you happy better than you do.

An Interview with Dan Greenawalt

October 8, 2009 by Jeff Barker  
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Dan Greenawalt is a man with a vision. Creative Director of Turn 10 and responsible for bringing the Forza Motorsport series to our beloved grey box, his vision is to simply turn “Car Lovers into Gamers, and Gamers into Car Lovers” – backed up by wrought-iron and child-like enthusiasm for the latest installment of one of console racing’s most respected franchises. We caught up with him in London’s Docklands Raceway recently, and we all left feeling VERY excited about Forza Motorsport 3.

Dan 2

VGR: So Dan, what was your main goal with Forza Motorsport 3 – and do you think you’ve achieved it?

Dan: Well, as we mentioned back in the original pitch in 2002 the vision was to turn Gamers into Car Lovers, and Car Lovers into Gamers. So we looked at a lot of other game types in general – we were inspired by Pokemon, World of Warcraft and Dark Cloud – but also looking at our kids and watching how they play with cars, how natural their passion with cars is. I’ve got 18 month old twins, and they only have a few words, right? But I’ve got a yellow car at home, and when they play with the yellow Hot Wheel they’re going “Daddy, Daddy” and they’re building that passion for cars. So, that’s the setup – we’ve now got a game that a six-year old can play, and a pro racer can use to train, and everyone else inbetween finds a game that feels completely made for them. If you’re into JDM, or German Touring Cars, it doesn’t matter. The game automatically configures itself to your car passion.  If you’re a gamer and a controller feels natural: fantastic. If you’re a driver and a steering wheel feels natural: great. When I go to the airport, and I see a bunch of other blokes sitting around reading car magazines, I know they’re not all playing racing games, but I know they’d all love to. They’re looking at reports from the Frankfurt Auto Show, or looking at the new cars, reading the specs and going “wow, this is so cool”. Read the specs? Drive it! You know, get it in the game, crash it into a wall, paint it pink…I don’t care, it’s your car passion, and that’s what it’s all about.

VGR: Forza Motorsport is the flagship racing franchise on Xbox 360, how do you think it matches up against the likes of Sony’s Gran Turismo series?

Dan: Gran Turismo’s the granddaddy, right? Kazunori Yamauchi made a great game, I loved it back on the PSOne, it was fantastic. Our goal was to make a game for this generation, for todays gamer and for today’s modern design. So that means having the best simulation possible, better than you’ll find in any other racing game. The sort of simulation we’re doing with the tyres and partnerships we have are only possible with being a first party (developer) and being (part of) Microsoft. We’ve been doing damage in racing games for ten years now, and there’s this myth in the industry that you can’t do damage in racing games, but it just comes from having strong partnerships. So we have damage, we have rollover, we have the best simulation you’re going to find and we have beautiful graphics. Beautiful graphics are part of the bar, but what I’m most proud of is the fact that a six year old can play the game, and as you “grow up” and get more experience in the game, you turn off the assists and you begin peeling the onion back. You’re becoming a better driver, a better racer, and hopefully your passion’s getting ignited so we have a game that grows with you. You don’t find that in other racing games. I’m not saying that we’re the best, I’m saying that we’re doing some really cool, some really unique stuff here. We’re not saying we want to get involved in a land war with some other game because that would be limiting. We don’t look to copy, we look to our competitors to see where the bar is. So even Rewind, DiRT’s got it, GRiD’s got it – that’s just the bar, and any game that doesn’t have it is gonna seem outdated. We added the Green Line, and you see it in other games; Gran Turismo’s got it. That’s not to say it’s copying or not copying, but it’s my job to look at our competitors and see where the bar is.

VGR: Do you think there’s things you wouldn’t be able to accomplish if you weren’t a first party developer?

Dan: I don’t think this game would be anywhere close to popular if we weren’t a first party developer. Our AI System was done by Microsoft Research in Cambridge, and that’s not a small division of a small game company, it’s a division of Microsoft that works on crazy weird problems. They love F1 and they just wanted to make an AI System, so they shopped it around to the different places and we said “we’ll take it, that sounds pretty cool”. And of course the partnerships that I’ve already mentioned, there’s no way you’d be able to do that in another game.

VGR: Are you looking to use Project Natal for a Forza game?

Dan: The strength in my team is its creativity. We’ve got developers from Nintendo, developers from Blizzard and developers from all over the world that have come together because they have a passion for cars and a passion for technology. We’re huge gamers – I lost myself in Batman: Arkham Asylum. That game was awesome, way better than I thought a Batman game could be. I played a ton of Fallout and I had three characters at Level 60 in World of Warcraft, and my team are all like this too. So, we look at Natal and we’re just like “that is so freaking cool”. The excitement level in the team is very very high. I think there’s even more that can be done with trying to turn Car Lovers into Gamers and Gamers into Car Lovers when I look at Natal. The moment I saw it I was like “yes, I can make an amazing experience there and yes, I can get people SO stoked about cars”. We need to start prototyping, start playing with it and seeing what’s fun and what’s cool.

VGR: What was the biggest lesson you learned while making the game?

Dan: It’s not very sexy, but the truth of the matter is Team Organisation. We’ve got a giant team. 125 people on our floor plus another 200 scattered across the rest of the world working for two and a half years on a mature codebase. My job isn’t to tell them “this feature, that feature or that feature”, my job is to inspire my team. They’re such high level developers, what I do is say “look, here’s our vision – and here’s some ideas for some features, impress me”, and that’s what they do, They come back to me and I go “wow, you knocked it out of the park, that’s way better than I imagined”. We’ve kind of got pharaoh’s army here! Just having lieutenants that are incredibly creative powerhouses is the secret to being successful.

VGR: Forza Motorsport 3 is a double-disc release; can you explain what the second disc is all about?

Dan: We had a lot of DLC for Forza Motorsport 2, we had DLC Cars and DLC Tracks – and that’s what Disc 2 is – it’s a year’s worth of free DLC. The fist disc has over 300 cars, and it has tons of tracks, the full multiplayer, the full single player, it’s the full game. So you put the second disc in your console and it sees it like DLC, it installs it onto your Hard Drive, and those cars automatically work themselves into the game. It’s all very automatic, very AI based. So you can have the biggest racing game this holiday, or you can have the bigger-est racing game this holiday. We’re gonna do DLC as well. If we see a car in the Frankfurt Motor Show then bang, there it is for you to download. So the game’s just always going to be updated.

VGR: Is there anything in the game that’s a Dan Greenawalt stamped “you must try this”?

Dan: Because this game crosses such a broad spectrum, from a pro race driver down to a six year old who just wants to play with Hot Wheels, most of you will find yourselves somewhere in the middle. If you just hit A, A, A through your career, you’ll get a very unique career to you, customised based on the cars that you have, but if you really want to get that stamp of uniqueness on it, after you’ve finished your first two events in your calendar, it’s going to ask if you if you want to do a third. At that point, back out and go to the “buy car” area, and you’re going to have a lot of money – go buy a car that you care about. There’ll be over 80 cars to choose from at this point, classics, you name it. Once you do that, the career is going to start branching in huge, huge leaps. If you’re in a BMW, it’s going to feel like Turn 10 made you a BMW game. If you’re in a Ferrari it’s going to feel like Turn 10 made you a Ferrari game. Not everyone’s going to find this naturally, so it’s a good tip. You do that, you go talk to your friends, you’re going to have stories that they don’t and it’s just gonna create that car passion, it all goes back to the initial vision.

VGR: So, tell us about the AI in Forza 3 – is it better? Will it react differently to each player’s driving style?

Dan: Actually, it will even react differently based on the Rewind function. They (Microsoft’s Research division in Cambridge) created a very, very different AI system to any other game that I’ve ever worked on. Usually your AI’s scripted, they don’t drive the full physics, and that’s a good thing as a designer because I can control it. A lot of AI is like driving bumper cars, when you hit them, they don’t get out of the way and they don’t do what your car does. Forza’s always had AI that drives the raw physics, and we have to keep training it. The cool thing about this Research AI is we trained it like a kid – you don’t program it, you actually have it drive the cars and it learns how to drive the cars better, and it does things that we don’t expect. It learns bad habits and learns cool things too. The AI pressure system that I talked about at E3 was a new system that it (the AI) started, we didn’t. We actually found that it was reacting to the player following it, and we could tweak some of the variables on it to make it happen more or less. So we didn’t so much develop that, as discover it. It’s another one of the freaky things about this system. It’s continually evolving.

Top 10 Greatest RPGs

October 7, 2009 by Jennifer Allen  
Filed under Articles

There are a few ground rules to bear in mind before we get started. First of all, when dealing with a franchise of RPGs, the best game from the series has been chosen to represent the outstanding quality of the series. Simply put, it ensures variety. The other crucial point to note is that, without a shadow of a doubt, your favourite RPG will almost certainly be missed out. It isn’t personal; it’s simply that since the creation of the RPG genre back in the 1970s, there have been so very many phenomenal RPGs that these things happen. Having said that, if you’ve never played an RPG before then you really must play the following ten games at some point in your life. As you are about to find out they really are worth your time. And now, without further ado, the top 10 greatest RPGs in alphabetical order:

Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn

baldersgateTo put it simply, Baldur’s Gate 2 defined Western RPGs wonderfully. While so many people, including myself, were looking to the East for RPG inspiration, Bioware came seemingly out of nowhere in 1998 with Baldur’s Gate: a fantastic game that focused heavily on character development through its storytelling and the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition ruleset. A mere two years later, Bioware surpassed themselves with the sequel Shadows of Amn. Again it was a triumph of storytelling and strong characterisation. The city of Athkatla, one of the main settings for the game, was supremely atmospheric and downright creepy at times, but also felt like the player was actually wandering around a bustling city, a hive of activity rather than simply a linear game setting. The dialogue choices and decisions that the main character had to undertake, that you had to decide for them, really set it apart from the crowd and made it captivating right until the end. An impressive feat for an RPG that could take 100 hours to complete! If you still haven’t played this, well all I can say to you is ‘Go for the eyes Boo, go for the eyes!’

Chrono Trigger


cronoWe in Europe were extremely unlucky when it came to the fate of Chrono Trigger. Despite being releases on the Super Nintendo in North America and Japan way back in 1995, Chrono Trigger didn’t see a PAL release until 2009! Utter madness really considering it is one of the true Japanese RPG greats. Chrono Trigger centres on the lives of a group of adventurers who must travel through time to essentially save the world in the end. However, that’s not doing true credit to the game; it has a much more complex story than that which encompasses travelling to medieval times as well as the future. Oh and befriending a talking sword wielding frog, conveniently called Frog! It was truly revolutionary at the time with its multiple endings and plot-related side quests that, although weren’t essential, revealed various facts about the main characters. Its graphics were wonderfully detailed for the time and its soundtrack distinctly memorable. To many Chrono Trigger is Square’s greatest game to date, even surpassing the likes of the Final Fantasy series, and it really is no surprise why some feel this way. An unmissable RPG that I implore those who haven’t played it yet, buy for their DS immediately!

Dragon Quest VIII

dragonquestPerhaps an odd choice to some who looked at the cutesy cel-shaded graphics and stepped away, but Dragon Quest VIII is yet another classic to come out of publishing behemoth Square. I’ll admit to being guilty of overlooking it too but it really is something special. It has some fantastic characters who don’t automatically match the typical RPG tales, such as Munchie the hero’s pet mouse and the loveable Yangus, a former thief. The antagonists are just as interesting with the sinister jester Dhoulmagus who makes a formidable foe. Be warned though: it’s surprisingly difficult even for RPG veterans but it is a rewarding experience that in many ways was before its time thanks to features such as the ability to make potions using alchemy, something that we take for granted now. Simply put, Dragon Quest VIII manages to do everything you would expect from a JRPG, but does it all so damned well.

Fallout 3


f3Stepping away from the dominance of the JRPG, we come to Fallout 3. It’s a much bleaker affair than others in this list with its post apocalyptic portrayal of Washington DC but it is especially compelling thanks to this change of scenery. Based upon the same game engine used by Oblivion, Bethesda built upon the success of the medieval title and used the Fallout license to create something that is truly memorable. The level of freedom offered to the player was nearly intimidating but managed to instead be hugely refreshing. One could quite easily spend hundreds of hours in the Fallout 3 world and not run out of things to do. Besides the freedom offered, the main storyline was compelling thanks to its strong characters (including a terrific turn by Liam Neeson as the main protagonist’s father) and the wealth of choices was overwhelming. So many thousands of words could be written about Fallout 3 but none would do it justice, go buy it. Now.

Final Fantasy VII


ffviiReturning to the Japanese world of RPGs after the harsh reality of Fallout 3 is Final Fantasy VII, which also had its harsh moments. Set in Midgar, an industrial metropolis whose people are oppressed by the might of the Shinra government; Final Fantasy VII tells the story of Cloud Strife, a moody former member of Shinra’s armed forces: SOLDIER. The world is under threat by the might of Sephiroth, another former member of SOLDIER who has gone a bit off the rails and is now ridiculously powerful. Much like Fallout 3, it is truly epic. At the time of its release it was a huge revelation and to many, the first RPG of a generation. Besides the intricate storyline covering so many emotional tales for Cloud’s comrades such as Tifa, Barrett and the incomparable Aeris, it also offered so very many minigames to hold the player’s attention even more so. It even offered a plotline that involved Cloud having to cross-dress to infiltrate a brothel, how many other games can offer such originality? Final Fantasy VII was truly one of a kind.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time


zeldaA slightly different beast compared to previous entries here due to its action based roots, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was the pinnacle of achievement in the Zelda series of games. It was the sort of game that made people, without a Nintendo 64, desperate to get hold of one, myself included. It provided a somewhat typical story of stop Ganondorf from obtaining the Triforce thus saving the world, but its beauty was in its gameplay. It introduced features such as the target lock system and context sensitive buttons which made things just so simple and smooth: the sort of thing we come to expect from adventure titles now. A lot of the time in game was spent exploring dungeons and solving puzzles. Some of these were frustrating but they always made perfect sense once solved, the same can be said of the boss encounters. That’s not forgetting the use of the Ocarina to solve music-based puzzles and the occasions where you could ride Epona, a horse that you quickly become attached to. Ocarina of Time is the sort of title that will never be forgotten.

Pokémon Red/Blue


pokemonredbluePerhaps a somewhat controversial one, we come to Pokémon. Yes that insane craze that hit us all in the late 1990s where the whole purpose was ‘gotta catch em all’. Sure it might not be the most high brow of RPG but it is deceptively brilliant if you’re willing to sacrifice a little pride to admit you play it. Pokémon as you would expect is all about collecting up all the Pokémon in the game world. To do this you have to capture many wild ones and also fight other Pokémon trainers to collect up theirs too. It’s a simple but fun concept that becomes incredibly addictive. Much of this is down to the simplicity of things as you wander from town to town fighting and collecting Pokémon to eventually defeat the Elite Four and win the game. All I can say is don’t turn your nose up without giving it a try; I have no doubt that you will be pleasantly surprised!

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

starwarsRather humorously we go from a very lightweight RPG to something that can be downright nasty at times: Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic. Thanks to the wonder of Bioware (which we already saw earlier with Baldur’s Gate 2), the Star Wars license was used fantastically at last in the guise of an action based RPG. As some of you may have noticed, there is no sight of Mass Effect in this list and that’s because Knights of the Old Republic is superior to it. It truly captured the magic of George Lucas’s world with the rise of a seemingly ordinary character discovering that he/she is a Jedi. The voice acting was sublime and the story compelling. It was yet another great example of how being able to affect the game world through your actions can really make a game special. It was especially true in this game as you can turn to the dark side or stick with the Jedi way of doing things. It’s ridiculously cheap to pick up now, so you know what to do. Right?

Suikoden 2


suikoden-2-pal1The Suikoden series of games is a series that hasn’t had the praise or coverage that it deserves in recent years, but it truly is one to look out for. In the case of Suikoden 2, your main source is going to have to be eBay these days and only if you have a fair bit of spare cash as this is certainly a rare one. It is however worth every penny. It’s the typical story that you expect from any old RPG but that’s not what makes it so great. No, that comes from the fact that you can recruit 108 characters to accompany you on your epic journey. Yeah you read that right, 108! That’s not forgetting that you also have your own headquarters that they live in. Or the fact that besides fighting against enemies with six of your chosen fighters, you can also pit an armies against armies in massive battles, oh and one on one duels, and the cooking mini game. So yes, you may not have heard much about Suikoden 2 but it really is one that’s worth tracking down somehow. Take note Sony and Konami: we demand a re-release!

World of Warcraft


world-of-warcraft-logoFinally we come to the behemoth that is World of Warcraft. Sure it’s a MMORPG but it’s still an RPG and what a game. Its premise is one of the simplest on this list: kill monsters, collect loot and complete quests. Nonetheless, World of Warcraft has stolen many of our hearts, our money and in some cases, our soul. It represents the pinnacle of the MMORPG genre, and still does. The very fact that its base of subscribers continues to grow is testament to its quality more than any words here could be.

So what have we learnt from this list? A good RPG needs a compelling story and set of characters but that’s not to say that it has to be original. The world ending is always appealing regardless of how often it’s been used before. Being able to make dialogue choices throughout the game that go onto affect later scenes is always good and really can improve a game. Minigames are always welcome if well implemented. And finally creating a MMORPG that is both addictive yet simple, is always a winner in anyone’s books!

The Hazards of Dating a Gamer: Love At First Frag

September 27, 2009 by Susan Taylor  
Filed under Articles

gamerlovefinal

It’s every nerds dream and it is one that many social-networking sites have built their empires around. Gamers dating Gamers. In theory, and sometimes in practice, the relationship between two gaming geeks can be a truly marvellous act of passion and love. Like getting that first headshot or finally dinging 80. However, there are many occasions where having a gamer for a partner is not something of hope, fun or joy.

Today we are going to be looking at the dangers that can arise in choosing a fellow gamer as your beloved and the issues you may face at the beginning of your relationship.

Endurance Training 101

Congratulations! You have passed the first major hurdle and have managed to attract yourself a gamer girl or a gamer boy. You didn’t screw it up and are on your way to living the dream, busy Twittering about your new love like there isn’t a 140 word limit. Your phone rings and it’s a very excited person who is clearly full of The Squee on the other end of the line. It takes you a few moments to realise who it is. After your little gaming superstar has managed to find time to breathe, you realise that they are squealing about the sequel that has just been announced for their All Time Favourite Game Ever.

The game that you absolutely detest.

You feign interest, trying to hide the sound of that frown on your face, and ask when the release date is. Your real-life-emoticon drops from a 0-bracket to a 9-bracket when you are informed that you have are going to have to endure another 18 months of this kind of conversation. That’s a year and a half of hearing about a game you cannot even pretend to like at gunpoint. And that’s if you’re lucky enough. Most games nowadays get delayed. Unfortunately, you are not a lucky person. Remember what died on you the day before the release of Bioshock and you had to beg your best friend to borrow theirs just so you could get some game time in?

You sigh and resign yourself to your fate.

This is what you get for dating a gamer.

Performance Gaming

It’s game time and you have settled yourself down for a good long session on your favourite multiplayer. You have re-stocked your drink supply and you’ve just got back from the toilet. Your headset is all plugged in and you’ve hooked up with your gaming buddies online; the game is about to start. That’s when a message pops up: “Hey baby, can I join you?”. Now you are all for gaming with your lovely partner, the only problem tonight is you are slightly inebriated and this is the first time your gaming god-or-goddess has played a competitive game with you. That means you’ve got to impress, and impress you shall.

Ten minutes in and you are throwing down all your cards and playing all of your top moves. Your adrenaline is pumping like a true gamer, you are doing everything you can to stay on top and keep yourself in the limelight. You just know that your partner’s silence over chat is a clear sign of them sitting there in complete and utter awe of you.

Mission accomplished.

Life is good.

Or so you think. Lets take a look at it from the other side of the screen, shall we?

You log on one evening to see your love online with a group of other gamers. You send a quick message to them to see if it’d be okay for you to join. You are considerate like that. Naturally, they say yes. Game time begins and you start to focus on the job at hand. You try to remember if you’ve ever played this game together, but while you are pondering this, you are rudely interrupted by your partner shouting in your ear “WHOO! ALRIGHT! YEAAAAH!”. Snapped out of your recent reflection, you get back into the game. And that’s when you start to slowly shrink back into your chair, embarrassed of your beloved’s behaviour.

headphones1“DID YOU SEE THAT BABY? DID YOU?”

“OHNOOHNOOHNOOOOOOO!”

“AHAHAHAHA! THAT’S WHAT YOU GET FOR COMING UP AGAINST ME MOFO!”

“BRING IT AWWWN!”

You are left completely speechless. Everyone else in chat have gone quiet and all that can be heard is YOUR partner making a fool of themselves. You sit there hoping that they do not act like this with people IRL and certainly not when you host that LAN party next week.

You do something that you have never done before in this relationship.

You face-palm.

This is what you get for dating a gamer.

Quality Time Together

Picture the scene, if you will. The lights have been dimmed, there is a sweet melody playing the background – two love birds sitting in front of an open fire, gazing into one another’s eyes with candles dancing seductively around the room.. And then your partner asks if you could stop playing your new JRPG and come spend quality time with them.

To a gamer “quality time” generally means “All of my games are boring me right now and I need entertaining.”

The plus side of dating a gamer means they are really understanding when it comes to all things games-related. Be it queuing up outside a store from 12 midnight for the launch of a new game, to purchasing a game they know nothing about on a whim because “the cover looks good”.

The down side to dating a gamer is the high chance of them catching what we in the industry call “gaming mojo burnout”. This horrible condition is when a gamer’s poor mojo has been driven to it’s limits by an influx of fantastic games, so much so that all of a sudden, out of nowhere, they can’t find something to play. The same way an artist or a writer will sit and stare at a blank page, these poor gamers spend hours just sitting and looking at their pile of games feeling lost.  The lucky gamers out there only ever find their gaming mojo gone maybe once every few years, others will be burnt out every six months.

So now it is up to you. You must re-kindle your partner’s gaming mojo or face the prospect of endless nights of: “What do you want to do?” “I dunno, what do you want to do?” “I’m not fussy, I’ll do whatever you want to do.” and so on and so forth.

You run to your computer to find your “thinking cap” which is in the shape of a website you find all of your gaming news from. There you spend hours trying to get your partner interested in upcoming game releases. You’re waving your arms around, you’re speaking in a higher voice than normal and you’re practically bouncing on the chair in a bid that some of your excitement will rub off of them.

After you have exhausted all of your brain power online you move onto the idea of co-op games and throw yourself into setting up a session you can both get involved in. You are the perfect team mate, letting them take the lead and giving words of encouragement every 30 seconds in a desperate hope that your gamer geek would take the bait and get back to their happy-go-gaming-self.

And when all else fails you offer to buy your pouting partner a brand new game of their choice.

“Well…” they say with their eyes suddenly coming back to life, “There is one game..”

And just like that, the mojo has been resurrected. You may now pat yourself on your back, you have successfully averted disaster. Although you have just lost a good chunk of cash.

This is what you get for dating a gamer.

The Present Question

There are many occasions throughout the year that generally require you to purchase a gift of some sort for your significant other. Birthdays, Valentines Day, Christmas.. All of these holidays generally mean you need to head into the nearest town centre and hunt down the perfect present.

So there you are, standing at the entrance of the mall, desperately trying to think of what to buy your gamer geek. Clothing? Crap, you forgot their size. DVD? Nah, might as well torrent that. And then it hits you – A video game. Duh. You click your heels with glee and run off to the nearest game store. Now it’s up to you to pick the right game for your gaming god/goddess. And it doesn’t matter who you are or how long you have been with your partner, the first game you pick up will ALWAYS be something that YOU would play. You hold it in your hands, you pause. You re-think your choice and move onto the next shelf. Rinse and repeat about nine or ten times until you return to the original shelf where you hover around the game you picked up first.

“Yeah.. Yeah they’ll enjoy this. I can totally see them getting into this.” you convince yourself. In your head you are picturing your sweetheart gaming their little heart out on the game in your hand and then, for a brief second, you see yourself playing it too.

Money exchanges hands and you skip out of the store with a spring in your step. “I’ve bought the best present ever!” you sing to yourself internally.

onechanbara_bikini_samurai_squad_conceptart_Guw7QAnd that, my dear friends, is how I ended up with a copy of Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad for my 21st birthday.

Yes, the hack ‘n slash samurai game with half-naked women with their ill-fitting clothing and their big bouncy boobies. I spent about five minutes playing it before I returned to F.E.A.R 2.

But that’s what I get for dating a gamer.

I hope you enjoyed the article, and I look forward to hearing your stories about you ‘n your gaming girl/boyfriend.

The Hazards of Dating a Gamer: Part 2- Coming Soon!

Are Horror Games Becoming Less Scary?

September 23, 2009 by Alex Beech  
Filed under Articles

In many ways the first “game worlds” would have been terrifying places, with no end to the oncoming alien ships, asteroids or ghosts and death being your only release. Games back then though were, of course, about the game mechanic; simply playing. Yet still the designers felt the need to infuse some familiar symbolism to their tiny sprites to help people understand the world presented to them. I guess these games were scary in the same way books are, leaving so much up to the readers/players imagination that what is experienced varies wildly from person to person.

I am not suggesting that Pacman was the source of any nightmares, even from the most highly-strung children. However by choosing ghosts as Pacman’s antagonists I am sure Namco helped people understand the games concepts of evasion, and also added extra tension to the chase. The symbolism of the ghost catalysed the player’s imagination in way graphics of the time could not.

As games have evolved so too has the world and characters they are able to produce allowing complex stories to be told. Game developers are now free to tell the stories they want. Now developers have the liberty to create something scary by design as opposed to by “happenstance”.

It was during the first generation of Playstation that many of the traits we now associate with survival horror genre were established. While games such as ‘Alone in the Dark’ pre-dated this era and paved the way, it was Capcom’s Resident Evil that marked the first true milestone in the genre. It borrowed heavily from movie conventions, even using live action scenes for the opening and closing sections of the game. The success of this cinematic presentation was in no small part thanks to the inception of optical media with its higher storage capacity enabling the speech, music and FMV. These extra tools gave designers the opportunity to create more involving, less abstract worlds.

resident-evil-1While Resident Evil had technological advancements to thank for its cinematic style it owed just as much to its technical limitations. Capcom’s drive to make the game visually striking combined with the restrictions of the hardware resulted in them using a static camera style that frequently resulted in a very constrained view of what could be seen. Having committed to the static point of view the designers were able to ‘mount’ the camera at positions though out the rooms of the mansion to add tension of highlight key objects in a cinematic fashion that was more concerned with creating atmosphere than game play.

It was unfortunate that in most gaming respects this static camera was denigrating to the game play. For every graphical flourish the style allowed it would rob players of control or visibility. Quick cuts between angles served to confuse the player and necessitated the now infamous ‘tank’ turning mechanic associated with the series. The cumbersomeness and pace this introduced served to add to the tension as you constantly wrested with the game for control of your character.

Many of the limitations seen in Resident Evil were replicated in another horror classic of the PSone generation, Silent Hill (and its sequels). Controls were similarly difficult to master, which became exacerbated by an emphasis on hand-to-hand combat. Fixed points of view still made an appearance, but the engine allowed for more dynamism in the camera, allowing it to pivot and in open areas even adopt an over the shoulder perspective. In order to facilitate this flexibility in the camera it was necessary to limit draw distance. They did this by use of fog and darkness, both of which contributed greatly to constant unnerving world of Silent Hill.

silent-hill-1Sequels to the original Silent Hill came to PS2 some years later, yet retained much of the games original traits; movement remained clunky and vision obscured. Despite the fact the technology had progressed allowing for greater draw distance and more was known about 3D control schemes, they made a conscious choice that these elements of the original title added to the experience they were trying to sculpt, even if some of the original reasons for their implementation had become redundant.

The increased power of the PS2 also allowed more detail in the game characters though they remained somewhat indistinct and otherworldly. Textures for the models remained waxy and camera angles limited visibility making the twisted forms of the shambling monsters that inhabited the game indistinct enough that there was always something left up to the imagination. Reminiscent of the first arcade games, a lot of the emotion created was down to what the player brought to the experience.

This console cycle is seeing the horror genre develop significantly more rapidly than in previous generations, and not always for the best. Siren: Blood Curse (PS3), is an updated of a 2003 PS2 game Siren. In its translation it bought with it many of its previous incarnations foibles as the developers still struggled to master the PS3 platform hardware. Strange controls (due to special abilities not camera angles), limited visibility due to a variety of effect filters and character models that moved in a wooden fashion despite their greater graphic fidelity.

siren_blood_curse-may20Siren remained scary due how much it had carried through from the PS2. These were decision based on the assumption that the majority of the audience had high degree of gaming literacy. This assumed knowledge allowed the creators to regularly make the players impotent in the face of danger. There were levels that removed all weapons and offensive abilities from the player forcing stealth in an environment filled with instant death.

During his console generation there has been a noted shift to make games more accessible in an attempted to attacked higher sales from a less experienced market. In the world of survival horror Dead Space sits at the forefront of this evolution. Dead Space retained many traits of the genre but moved the perspective of the game to an over the shoulder camera instead of the fixed perspective (in a similar way to RE4). By placing the camera behind the player the EA Redwood Shores development team were able to gift the player significantly more flexibility of movement that removed the sense of claustrophobia that existed in it forefathers. The environment did a good job putting players on edge by being dark and oppressive while making fantastic use of sounds and horrific imagery, the game even managed to create tension through its economy of items, but the sense of being trapped and constrained was never felt.

deadspace

The other trouble with Dead Space was that you always had enough – Enough manoeuvrability, enough firepower, enough time, enough help to succeed. Things could be scary on the first pass but every situation fast became routine. After a death you could be plunged back in a situation and your sense of dread would dissipate and you formulated a tactic. The gruesome horrors the game threw at you were so clear that you fast became desensitizes to their imagery and they just became something to kill. By making everything clear and accessible they ensured players always felt they had a chance, removing the fear and tension.

It is in this that the problems arise. As graphical power increases so to does the temptation to show everything. If the design team spends a year perfecting the creatures you are to fight, you will be seeing them clearly. The lack of abstraction leaves nothing to the imagination, yes they are scary but they are exactly as scary as the designer intended, no more. I think back to the Silent Hill 2 and the armless black bodies that wriggled indistinctly out from under cars, how unnerving their movement was, and how hard they were to kill with my metal bar. I remember my theories and ideas about what these creatures where and where they came from, information the game never deemed appropriate to tell me. Compared to this the ‘Necromorphs’ of Dead Space are just overgrown insects to gunned down by my arsenal of weaponry.

Of course with the cost of creating a current gen game being so high companies know that they have cater to a broader audience. Standardized, familiar controls that are play tested for usability (not atmosphere) remove the palpable tension of the survival horror titles. It is perverse because this means by making a better game you are making survival horror worse.

Perhaps the problem is that I am looking in the wrong place for my horror games. With the mainstream becoming more diluted it is in the indie space where the more experimental games are to be found, titles that are willing to sacrifice usability for atmosphere. One such game is The Path on PC and Mac from Tale of Tales.

pathThe Path feels more like an interactive narrative piece than what would conventionally be thought of as a game. It offers minimal options in terms of controls, offering only basic movement to players by means of the WSDA keys. The concept is a simple retelling of Little Red Riding Hood with you as the heroine. You walk the along the path to grandma’s house and can explore the woods where occasionally you will be stalked by ‘wolves’ which proves unsettling as all you can do is run, never really seeing your stalker. If on you journey certain prerequisites are achieved then you find your self in a twisted version of grandmothers house at the end of your journey. In grandma’s house your only option is to progress forward. You have no agency in your actions, just hammering the forward button as it walks you through Little Red’s nightmares. Simple and powerful it manages to be equal parts tranquil and horrific, it is an experience that proves interactive horror can still scare.

Broader markets will always lead to a dilution of the core. By focus testing the QA teams will reveal poor design and polish it out, while at the same time removing quirks that create atmosphere. It is probably a safe assumption that future ‘triple A’ survival horror games will be leaning heavily on the action adventure genre creating a new breed of atmospheric action games, the ‘Alien’ to ‘Aliens’ evolution of gaming. But as with everything that has proven popular there will always be someone continuing to cater for the niche audience. These titles may come from indie development teams in the downloadable space (like Tales of Tales), or from companies willing to experiment on systems such as Wii with its lower production cost. While the budget and recourses may not match those of their piers, the experience will still be out there for dedicated survival horror fans.

Win a copy of King of Fighters XII on Xbox 360 – plus a special figurine character!

September 23, 2009 by Susan Taylor  
Filed under Articles, Competition

xIgnition Logo


Commemorating the 15th anniversary of the franchise, King of Fighters XII serves up 22 characters each with their own unique moves and styles in a stunning 2D production incorporating all-new, high-resolution fighters fluidly animating across painstakingly detailed, 100% hand-drawn backgrounds.

And I can tell you now folks, this game sure does look pretty.

King of Fighters is back for it’s 12th round and with a new attitude to boot. Sticking with the games usual 3-on-3 team-styled matches, KOF XII sees new character sprites, three new fighting systems (critical counter, deadlock and guard attack) and even an online mode so you can take your battles worldwide.

The question remains, will King of Fighters XII, be The King of All Fighters?

_KOF12_XB360_UK_v4-1

What the press have been saying:

Official 360 Magazine (Future Publishing)

8 /10 ‘MUST BUY!’
‘The fastest and the most furious fighting game yet’
‘This is the brightest, most colourful game you’ll every play! Don’t even try and argue with this one’

IGN

‘THE KING OF FIGHTERS XII is not only one of the best-looking fighting games around, it’s also one of the most rewarding. Putting hand-drawn sprites into a current-gen game is a difficult task, but KOF XII is entirely hand-drawn and it looks fantastic. The gameplay is equally enticing, as it represents a slick update of the classic King of Fighters combat. Even if you’re not a fan of the franchise, this is one to look out for.’

Excited yet? You should be!


Untitled-merchandise copyRelease date is set for Friday 25th September on both Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 and we’re desperately hunting around for a joystick so we can get into serious fight-mode once this game hits the shelves.

But now it’s time for YOU to get in with the chance to win, win, win! Not only are we offering up two copies of the Xbox 360 version (PAL) of this fantastic fighter for two lucky readers, but two stunning special figurine characters to show off to your friends as well!

All you have to do is answer the following question:

What does the Roman numeral XII stand for?

Please send your answer to kofcomp@xboxer360.com

Competition closes at midnight on Wednesday 7th of October 2009.

Winners will be picked at random and notified via email. Competition open to members of the EU only.

Motivation

September 7, 2009 by Alex Beech  
Filed under Articles

There was a time scores functioned as enough of a drive for players to feed the arcade cabinet their change. Games have progressed from those simple times. Today games have narratives and have to last for hours to justify their price to the consumer. They need numerous tools to motivate the player.

Some players want personal challenge. For them the motivation lies within mastery. They must perceive incrementally improvement in skill. The promise of achieving a personal best is incentive enough. Feedback and with positive reinforcement plays only a minute role in captivating players.

Larger game worlds typically require more substantial rewards. To force two artificial categories here; some are narrative driven, others do not. Successful presentation of a narrative can be enough to compel a player. The promise of seeing a new plot element, or location with new challenges is enough to keep a player motivated.

When the in game engine isn’t enough to convey plot frequently players are ‘rewarded’ with cut scenes. As the medium progresses and moves towards a more integrated narrative such devices will diminish. If used effectively such exposition can be used to create a cinematic effect but they are frequently just used as a reward with little relation to the plot.

Some rewards have in game applications. Driving games are a good example; earning or ‘buying’ upgrades and cars is regularly a reward in itself, independent of advantages they yield. A look at recent fighting games sees rewards in the ability to customize your fighter’s appearance. These changes are purely cosmetic, but drive players to continue.

I say ‘purely cosmetic’, but in fact it plays into two reemerging motivators. The meta-game is flourishing since the introduction achievements. This harks back to the high score. A measurable, visible achievement; it could be equated to the customization of a character. Combine to this the other reemerging motivation, competitive play, and the significance of these marks of accomplishment become all the more apparent.

While competition in games has always been a factor, the boom in online console gaming has reasserted it. When gaming first emerged the focus was the high score, judging your skill against faceless opponents. Online gaming has reawakened this. Suddenly visible records of skills need to be seen because the competition (and their score) is not.

Other players see gaming as escapism similar to movies and books. But what makes this kind escape more appealing to some people than these other media? The contention that being able to control the protagonist(s) encourages a connection is viable. Conversely movies and books usually present more consistent and involving characters as they are better able to exploit and control character’s exposition. What games have is feedback from the game world. For some people this creates an emotional investment beyond one that is passively experienced.

All games offer some form of feedback to encourage play. This encouragement and the sense of achievement it communicates, I suspect, creates a feeling of enjoyment even when it becomes challenging. In the best games were play mechanics and pacing are solid these elements combine to elevate the experience. In many games these fundamentals are not perfectly established. It is in games, where the fundamental mechanics are not satisfactory, that players feel frustration. They aren’t enjoying the game but feel compelled to play to see the next motivator.

The Top 5 Dos and Don’ts of Top 5s on Gaming Blogs.

September 7, 2009 by Alex Beech  
Filed under Articles

Blog

At this point it is widely accepted that most members of the Internet generation have the attention span of a gnat in heat. We want our information now, and if it takes us more than two minutes to read and doesn’t have pictures then we cannot be bothered. It is a sad state of affairs that basically we have regressed to, (or maybe never matured from) our elementary school selves. I am not judging; I am as guilty as anyone. Hundreds of articles sit in my RSS feed waiting for me to look at their title and see if they are worthy of a cursory glance. We find ourselves clicking on a pandering article titled to get clicks, perpetuating the cycle by reaffirming that is the rapidly digestible that we desire, not engaging discourse.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as long as we do sometimes push ourselves with more involved articles. News doesn’t have to be given in lengthy prose, and even generic boilerplate articles have merit if the content is interesting and appropriately framed. I have no problem with reading opinion pieces as long as it is clearly labeled and not filled with hateful bile, and when I am in a hurry I would rather have articles distilled into summaries, lists or bullet points.

See that, I don’t mind bullet points or lists. Even the top fives that liter the world of game blogs can be entertaining in moderation. The problem is it is so easy make them that you see more everyday, and it is becoming frustrating. They generate more interest than numerous well-written considered articles based purely on a catchy title and reader’s desires to contradict the author to feel superior. Sites churn out their lists without thought just for the clicks and all to the same generic formula.

‘The Top/Bottom/Best/Worst 5 X (on/in) Z’ – the addition of a year is optional.

(Where X=anything you fancy and Z=platform or time period)

It should be noted I am not (just) banging on the little guys. Even the big sites do it because of the guaranteed traffic. So, in a fit of self loathing I though I would prostitute myself for clicks with a ‘Top 5 Dos and Don’ts of Top 5s on Blogs.’

5 – DO ask people in the online community for their ideas.

It is simple advice. If you are looking to compile your ‘Top 5 Worst Mini-Game Collections on Wii’ and you only know five mini-games its is time to do some research. Ask people online don’t just write about the five you have played like you are an authority. That article would be called ‘5 Mini-Games I played that Sucked (on Wii)’ which actually sounds like a fun article, try that one instead.

4 – DON’T pass of you opinion as definitive.

This really follows on from the last point. If you know you have not tried the majority of titles don’t suggest that you are an authority. Even if you have, unless you have some form of empirical evidence to support your claims it is always better make the fact that its your sole opinion clear. I know it’s tempting to use passive voice, how much more professional it seems. It is easily avoided, simply using ‘I’ or ‘my’ will go along way rather then ‘the’. You can even state explicitly state the fact it’s your opinion in the opening if you want to, but remember…

3 – DON’T expect people to read your text.

The majority of the Internet will only read your title and your five choices. As I said in the opening (if you read it) people want their information short and fast. In good cases translates to them scanning your text, but in most cases it means that they will only read the nicely indented one-liners that make up your choices before declaring that you are wrong with out reading your justifications. In fact I half wonder why I am bothering with this part…

2 – DON’T add an item just to pad out the list.

Occasionally you have a legitimately good idea for a list (and often you will just want to install the virtues of a game you like). For this example lets say that we want to write the ‘Top Five Games With Cake In Ever’ list (because you like Portal).  You start off strong with Portal, Cooking Mama and ‘Splosion Man, then you start to run out of steam so you turn to Google. First hit yields you a number of free to play flash games (yes, I have checked) and then a pile of DS games such as Strawberry Shortcake the Four Seasons Cake (I have no idea if it any good but it exists, and it has cake it.) Soon you find yourself seriously considering such titles to fill out the last two spaces rather that adding something of value or making it a top 3.

1 – DON’T listen to me.

That’s right. I am no more qualified than anyone else to tell you how to write or what to write about. If you have a good idea for a then write it. But I would request that you don’t write because you have to but because you want to. If you are writing for a blog then you will have to produce regular content, and sometimes you won’t be feeling inspired but never write about something you don’t care about. As long as you enjoy the subject and the writing it will show. Don’t worry about all the negative members of the audience; you shouldn’t be looking for validation or traffic but the satisfaction of the craft. That said if you just want eyes on your site I have an article about cake here somewhere.

Honorable mentions (or ideas I didn’t want to expand) go to – ‘DON’T publish anything if you and your mum think it blows’ and ‘DON’T go in with a bias/hate campaign’.

That is my top five. Notice that it is pretty hard to disagree with all of them, but I am sure some of you will find a way. If you have more I am happy to read them, or at least title, as more ideas can only serve to improve the quality of my writing and that of others.

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