November Necessities…

November, like every other month, was incredibly busy. I’m actually starting to wonder if I’ll ever have any free time – but I usually don’t get very far along that line of thinking because some new project usually pops up.

Speaking of which, I’ve actually got two new game projects on the go at the moment. One of them is a sort of trash-game idea that Craig Lager and I decided to collaborate on after a drunken conversation earlier this year. The other is just sketched out on paper but is an idea I’ve been toying with since January. The first is codenamed Project NSFW, while the latter is codenamed Project Pretentious. I’m good with codenames.

Read on to find out what else I managed to get up to in November and about a new super-elite forum Craig’s launched.

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April Antics…

“The thing about being wrong is, before you know you’re wrong, it feels like being right”

April has not been an easy month for me, mainly for personal reasons I don’t want to go into on here, but also because I’ve spent most of the month distracted by a side-project that I’m working on in my spare time. It’s not ready to be unveiled just yet, mainly because of the aforementioned personal problems distracting me from my distractions – but soon!

And rest assured, by the way, when the project is unveiled then it will be typical to what you’d expect of me – which is to say that it’ll be indulgent, melodramatic and attempting to be a lot smarter than it really is.

In the mean time, here’s what I did in April…

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March Madness…

March was a busy month for me – and a lot of the work I did still isn’t out there for people to use, play or read – but being busy is a good thing to my mind. As I constantly find myself saying, I don’t like standing still. It’s always better to be moving forward.

One of the things I did, at long last, was to overhaul this blog a bit. I’ve ditched the ‘Unlimited Hyperbole’ title (though I may end up using that elsewhere) bought the http://www.joemartinwords.com domain and upgraded the site to feature no ads. In the coming months I’ll be refreshing my HTML skills hopefully and adding a few more things to improve the experience, but for now it is what it is.

What else have I been up to, you ask?

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Christmas and Kindles…

Christmas’ are always a difficult time for the friends of boring people in my line of work. I only really have two hobbies – writing and playing computer games – and both of them are sated on a daily basis. I play computer games, write about them and people give me money for that. Sometimes I don’t even bother to write about them because I’m too busy playing. Other times, vice versa.

The other potential gift that would work would be films, naturally…but I can get those when I want them too, for free. My occupation really does make it difficult on my friends and family. Mostly they get me sci-fi books, which are great.

Now, I’m expecting something in the post that will completely ruin that avenue of giftage too. I’ve ordered an Amazon Kindle. I opted for the 3G version, just so I can always read about comics on Wikipedia if the whim takes me, and it’s set to arrive in a day or two. I expect to be instantly struck by buyers remorse when I get it, because it’s hugely expensive compared to my current tactic of buying books from charity shops or waiting for birthdays, but I figured it’s been a while since I last treated myself. God knows I could use cheering up at the moment anyway – or he would if he existed.

Bit-Gamer’s steady growth continues at the moment. In line with Dennis’ new Social Media Strategy, which I read over the Christmas break, I’ve created and optimised a Facebook page to complement our Twitter account. I’ve also been contacting new freelancers and designing advertisements to feature across other Dennis publications. Fun!

We put some content up over Christmas, as usual, and I’m going to link to it below. Before I do though, here’s a link to Craig’s latest piece – a short one-page feature about Trackmania, why it’s awesome and why I’m an idiot. The article is really good, even though it gets some fact wrong. I love Trackmania. Anyway, the article is called Trackmaniac.

Links!

Out, Joe

Backseat Gaming…

Backseat gaming; the act of sitting behind someone playing a game and just watching them and giving advice, is one of the things I love most about playing computer games. I love doing it and I love it when people do it to me and there’s a long, long list of games I’ve had my enjoyment of increased by the addition of a second or third party.

The oldest example that springs to mind is probably Cryo Interactive’s Dune/Bloodwych on the Amiga A500+, which my Dad used to play late at night when my Mum had gone to bed, letting me and my brother stay up late to watch him. I remember I kept a long list of all the different sietches in Dune in a notepad – such was my fascination with the sandy world on the other side of the screen. At breakfast I would get my Dad to tell me of how the adventure continued after I had finally gone to sleep and he’d fill me in as he got us ready for school like some sort of absent-minded, domesticated bard.

Duke Nukem 3D was another one I enjoyed with my brother and some friend; four of us swapping places depending on what skills were required. One for shooting, one for solving puzzles, one for something else and me, the secret finding guy. It was all very similar to how I enjoyed Serious Sam at University, my girlfriend and best friend sat on my bed behind me and laughing along as I gunned down the masses.

Unsurprisingly, Monkey Island was a big part of my backseat gaming history too. My brother would sit on the floor and watch me solve the games. Years later, in the same albeit redecorated room I’d watch him play Half-Life 2 through to Half-Life: Episode 2 even though I had finished them years before. It was part of some vague effort to recapture that earlier joy and slightly-rotted friendship.

Now, I’m doing the same thing with Mass Effect 2 and loving it. My girlfriend sits behind me as I play, loving the stories and asking questions about the fiction. I consult her on difficult quest choices and she obligingly does all the mini-games for me. It really is the best way to enjoy playing a game, in my opinion.

Also, I joined twitter – @Joethreepwood -, recorded two new gaming podcasts – one and two -, and have a nice little plan for something cool to do on bit-tech.net in the future. I also wrote a Mass Effect 2 review and did an interview with TIGA founder Jason Kingsley.

Joe, Out.

Christmas Content…

Christmas is coming and that means all sorts of wonderful little features and round-ups have to be written and assembled, mainly by me. Games of the Year, Fails of the Year, Gaming Moments of the Year, Cheesecake of the Year, Year of the Year – the list goes on. So far, I think my Gaming Moment of the Year is playing World of Goo at home with my family. My Game of the Year would be Batman: Arkham Asylum. My Fail of the Year is League of Legends.

I got a lot of stick for my opinions on League of Legends when I did my review, but I think I was as fair as possible. It’s a DOTA-clone – or an avatar based RPG/RTS, if you rather. Most of the battle is automated except for the actions of the one character you control, who has a wealth of options and levels up over time, etc. It works pretty well even if it is entirely copied from a mod that you can get for free, right down to the map design.

The problems really start when you look at it as a retail product though. I wasn’t surprised when I heard from people within the publisher who said the game had been plagued with problems and was pretty much being hung out to dry. It’s a game which you can download for free, but is available to buy in the shops for £30. £30 nets you a bunch of stuff you’d have to otherwise unlock in the game – but you can’t choose what to unlock and they are all very, very lame. £30 for a free game with some alternate character skins? Please.

Functionality is lacking too. There’s only one map to play on, one game mode, one automatically set-up team-limit and matchmaking that’s at the shittiest end of the shitty-o-meter. The game takes forever to load and the online store where you supposedly buy new content isn’t working – so the developers just made all the content available to everyone and destroyed the reason to pay for the game in the process. What you’re left with is free game which you have to pay for only to find out that it’s broken and incomplete and has no value for money, supported only by the most belligerent community I’ve ever seen.

In other news we have a rebuttal to my Is PC Gaming Dying feature coming up, which I commissioned someone else to do in the sake of fairness, I’m still at work on my mega-feature which got rejected and I also got nominated for Employee of the Year at Dennis Publishing. It was nice and is another ‘…of the Year’ to add to this post. Winner isn’t announced yet, but in the meantime I’m still getting enough congratulations to make my skin crawl. I guess I’m just not a very gracious person, though I do appreciate the nomination.

Joe, Out.

The Brutal Legend…

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My review of Brutal Legend is going up on bit-tech today, with a second review going up on Den of Geek in a few days. I’ll save you the tension and just say that the game is awesome; I love it. Honestly, I found it quite hard to write the bit-tech review, but once I got going it was OK – my main problem was trying to make it clear that the main fault of the game is an array of somewhat bland gameplay tropes. The characters, plot and multiplayer make up for it though. I actually met Tim Schafer again not long ago, asking him a bunch of questions and getting him to sign my copy of Grim Fandango. He was very much like I expected; quietly uncomfortable with the reputation that’s been built around him and not totally willing to be serious for more than five minutes thanks to a very shrewd sense of wit and quietly mumbling voice.

In other news, I’ve been reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand lately and I really like that too. Unlike most books that are actually about explaining a deeper philosophy, Atlas Shrugged doesn’t stray into the usual diatribes and monologue bollocks. Instead, it just stays with a really interesting array of characters who communicate their philosophies by their interactions with the world around them. The book is well written too – something I didn’t wholly get from The Old Man and The Sea by Hemmingway, which I finished reading just before hand. I can’t believe that won a Nobel Prize for literature in all honesty;  the Christ imagery was semi-interesting and all, but it’s no compensation for a dull plot and staid writing.

Here’s a round-up of other stuff I’ve done.

What else? Well, on top of my classic book reading binge, my Father is preparing to launch a whisky tasting event company, I reviewed the next game from Tale of TalesFatale, and I’m preparing for a slew of features on the site. I also did a column in the latest issue of CustomPC Magazine that I’m quietly proud of, asking whether PC Games Journalism is mired in Nostalgia. On a somewhat ironic counterpoint, I’ve been playing Duke Nukem 3D on the iPhone an awful lot.

I also went away for a weekend with Ed from TrustedReviews and Hannah and we learned how to skin a deer, make jerky and survive for 48 hours in Wales.

That is all, Joe.