Video Games You Will Never Play

video-games-you-will-never-play-unseen64-book-color

I’ve long admired Luca and the rest of the Unseen 64 team, who have formed a community around their desire to collect information on cancelled games. Over the last few years Unseen64 has, along with The Cutting Room Floor, become one of the biggest and best sources of information about games that never saw the sun.

So, when Luca told me was planning to publish a book about the games they’ve explored, I was honoured to contribute a foreword to the book, as well as my own research into a number of games such as Deus Ex 3: Insurrection and Thief 4: Dagger of Ways.

The completed book, Video Games You Will Never Play, took two years to write and is over 500 pages long. It includes analysis of over 200 cancelled games and projects, including Jade Empire 2, the port of Halo to Nintendo DS and the Sleeping Giants RPG created by Warren Spector’s Junction Point Studios.

You can buy Video Games You Will Never Play from either Amazon or Createspace, in full colour or black and white. The editions are identical, save for different front covers and that the black and white version is a bit cheaper.

Createspace: Video Games You Will Never Play color edition or black and white

Amazon UK: Video Games You Will Never Play colour edition or black and white

Find out more about this book at Unseen64

Discover more articles by me about cancelled video games

Bidvine Review

One of the more interesting review opportunities I’ve had on the blog recently has been for a new service company, called Bidvine.

Or, maybe ‘service company’ is the wrong way of putting it. Bidvine doesn’t actually deliver services itself, it just acts as a marketplace for independent contractors to provide local services. If you need a cleaner or a professional trainer in your area and want to support local business, for example, you can put a request on Bidvine and they’ll come back to you with quotes. It’s sort of like Craigslist, but you only get answers from professionals.

Normally this sort of thing wouldn’t excite me much, but given the fact that I now work for an on-demand business I was interested to see how Bidvine compared to the supposedly modern way of doing things. Is it cheaper and better to go slow and book ahead after checking several prices, or is using an on-demand service such as Bizzby or Handy preferable? I wanted to find out and Bidvine offered me £100 of store credit to investigate.

After creating an account with Bidvine, my first reaction was one of pleasant surprise. I had expected Bidvine, like Handy and Bizzby, to support only a small number of obvious services, such as cleaning and handymen – or Ikea assembly, which bizarrely seems to be a USP for Handy. In actual fact though Bidvine supports a huge array of services, from language lessons and person trainers, to archery, fencing and rock-climbing. It also offers cleaning, handyman and man-with-van services too, naturally.

1

I was surprised at how easy the site was to use too. At a macro level there’s no denying that the Bidvine process takes considerably longer to complete than an on-demand equivalent – you have to request quotes, wait a day or two for them to come in, choose one and then schedule times in advance – but no individual step is more laborious than it needs to be. The theory is also that you end up paying more for the convenience of an on-demand service, so a little planning should save you some cash on Bidvine. Unlike on-demand services which usually charge on a time basis, Bidvine requires you to fill in a short form for each request, so the professionals have enough information to give an informed quote.

I wanted to test the full breadth of Bidvine’s service, so I put requests out for five different services that caught my eye: domestic cleaning, personal massage service, archery lessons, rock climbing lessons and fencing classes. Unfortunately, this is where I ran into a few problems – it was only after I spent time filling in the forms that I found out there were very few rock climbing, fencing and archery instructors in my area. A better approach would be to do as most on-demand service do and either limit my available requests based on my location or else warn me about the low availability before I fill in the forms.

 

2

 

Ultimately, filling in forms for those lessons was a waste of time because it’s now a week later and I still haven’t had any responses despite the fact that I live in London and there’s a fencing and archery club with two miles of my flat. Unfortunately, the same proved true for the domestic cleaning option too. That’s disappointing obviously and, while it should become less of an issue as the company grows, the fact remains that it couldn’t meet my needs on this occasion.

In fact, the only service which Bidvine was able to find for me was for a massage therapist. It got me two quotes for this, one at £50 per hour and one at £45 per hour, both from masseuses who live outside of London but would travel to me. One of the masseuses said she’d have to travel up from Brighton, which is real dedication.

Ultimately, though I didn’t get a chance to try any of Bidvine’s actual services I did still get an opportunity to see how the whole customer journey works and how an order could be completed. On that front I have no complaints and was very impressed with how easy it was to book and how affordable the quotes I did get back were. The only downside is that I got remarkably few quotes back at all – though that will hopefully change as Bidvine grows out of the startup phase and secures coverage in more of the UK.

Birra Moretti Gran Tour

I’ve given up drinking lately and, in typical ironic fashion, the same week I decided to seriously commit to that for the next nine months, I got invited to an event by a beer company – the Birra Moretti Gran Tour.
Well, I got invited to tag along with Talia of Older & Wider.

Sure enough we arrived at the event just Old Street and were told within seconds that not only was the beer free and unlimited. Then we found out we’d been invited to a pasta-making masterclass where we’d make a meal designed to accompany a new Birra Moretti beer too. We’d eat a lot more free food by the end of the night too.
Did I mention I’m not drinking because I want to lose weight?

In short, there was a lot of temptation – and, while I can normally resist anything except temptation, my willpower was strong. I had only one sip of Birra Moretti’s La Rossa beer with the venison farfalle we made with chefs from Cin Cin. My lawd it was delicious – easily the best beer I had that week and a wonderful accompaniment to the pasta Talia and I made.

And, oh, the pasta! It was deliciously thick and sumptuous, especially since we preceded it with some authentic pistachio gelato, then followed it up with lamb shank, aracini and more. So much for losing weight!

You can check out Cin Cin’s pasta-making video above, but I’ve also gathered a couple of my own photos from the event below. Don’t forget to keep an eye on Talia’s Older & Wider food blog for a more qualified perspective on the event!
IMG_20160719_191007IMG_20160719_194242 (1)IMG_20160719_210631IMG_20160719_183324 (1)

Detomaso Adrenaline Junkie Review

I don’t wear a watch anymore. There was a time when I did wear my solid, dependable Victorinox watch every day, taking time each morning and night to undo the leather strap and leave it on the nightstand. I loved that watch and it lasted me for years, but when the battery finally gave up the ghost I didn’t replace it straightaway and eventually just put it away in a drawer.

It had dawned on me that I could check my phone if I need to know the time, that a dedicated timepiece was a more or less redundant piece of hardware. To me, modern watches became fashion accessories only.

2

Years later, the same mostly holds true of the Adrenaline Junkie watch, which I manufacturer Detomaso asked me to review. Despite the rugged styling and the eyerollingly transparent name, the Adrenaline Junkie is a fashion accessory first and foremost. It’s rugged sportiness, for example, is only skin deep and despite the name and overt quote-unquote masculinity of the brand the Adrenaline Junkie isn’t actually all that tough.

It’s only water resistant to a depth of 10m and the manual warns that it’s suitable for little more than light swimming, for example. Hardly the stuff of extreme sport dreams.

Judged as a fashion accessory though, the Adrenaline Junkie can be seen in a different light. It’s large, chunky and solid frame is ostentatious in a very particular way and is clearly intended to communicate power and strength. It can’t keep those promises of resilience, but it certainly looks like it can’t.

1

Let’s be clear – this isn’t a sleek Apple Watch for retiring geeks or stylish joggers, nor is it the expensive Rolex or Omega of a successful CEO. The Detomaso is equivalent to the gaudy showmanship of an ambitious salesman or the wilful overconfidence of a teen – and the “Marks A Man” makes it abundantly clear that it’s salesman and not salesperson, by the way.

And that’s not a bad thing for everyone, despite the personal distaste I felt when I saw the packaging and bulk of the thing. For many, this is exactly what they’re looking for and the only thing to ponder is whether the £100-£170 price tag is fair. Given the two year guarantee and useful array of chronographs, I think it is.

Just don’t go diving with it.

The Deleted Scenes of Deus Ex: Insurrection

deus ex 3 cancelled

In 2014 I spent six months researching two cancelled Deus Ex games that had been in production at Ion Storm Austin before it collapsed. Neither of the games were announced at the time, but with help from the Dolph Briscoe Archive at the University of Texas I was able to uncover design documents, concept art and more.

In the end I wrote a feature on the topic for Eurogamer, called Ion Storm’s Lost Deus Ex Sequels.

Both games were cancelled ahead of release and suffered from protracted, troubled development. The first attempt, called Deus Ex: Insurrection, was led by Art Min – a long time collaborator with Warren Spector. The second, called Deus Ex 3, was developed by Jordan Thomas, who later worked on Thief, BioShock and The Magic Circle. I spent a long time speaking to both Art and Jordan about their visions, the collapse of Ion Storm and the legacy of Deus Ex.

Each of the games would have been very different and Jordan’s in particular sounds especially exciting – an open world version of Deus Ex that would have been similar in structure to Crackdown. Sadly, it wasn’t to be and the studio was closed by Eidos before development began in earnest.

Here’s a quote from Jordan Thomas about the closure of the Ion Storm and his feelings about it almost a decade later.

“There’s a reason the place closed and it was chiefly hubris. There are many people who will tell you that the publisher f***ed us but, no. No. The method failed. Making a smaller, more intimate Deus Ex was on nobodies mind. Including mine.”

It took a long, long time to research all this and write about it, so please – read the full article to find out more. You can also contact me if you’d like a copy of the original research and documents I uncovered.

Sown & Grown Granola Review

I love cereal. Always have, always will. Growing up, I used to have two bowls a day – one as breakfast, one as supper. As an adult I refuse to start the day without it and will trek across town early on a dreary, bleak weekend just to visit a hipster cereal cafe and try different combinations and brands.

I love cereal. So you can imagine how quickly I jumped at the (somewhat unexpected, surprising) opportunity to review some on this here blog.

The opportunity came via Sown & Grown, a new cereal brand that wanted to send me a free tube of their granola to review. Granola is easily the best type of cereal, of course. It’s so crunchy and sweet, with a dry, clumpy mouthfeel that I can’t get enough of. It’s also simultaneously good for you (yay, oats and seeds and nuts!) and bad for you (in the quantities I eat it).

Seriously, I don’t normally keep granola in the house because I eat it so fast and it’s so sugary – and on that last front Sown & Grown certainly don’t disappoint. But I’ll get back to that.

In their original email, Sown & Grown put a big emphasis on what they think makes their granola different – which is that it comes in a tube, rather than a box. Why? No idea and it doesn’t make it different at all.

25642677484_f22a6bc558_z

What was cool though was the sheer Heinz-like variety of granolas on offer – there’s six different flavours and fruit/nut combos to choose from, though I opted for the standard ‘Three Grain Granola’ in order to keep it simple. This is the point in the review where I’d link to Sown & Grown’s website by the way, but they apparently don’t have one.

As for the granola itself though? It’s delicious and everything you’d expect from a tasty, batch baked granola. It’s not as good as my mum makes and I did end up adding my own fruits and extras to the bowl to liven up the three oats, but that’s not to say anything against it. It’s delicious and it has exactly that clumpy, oaty finish that I love in all granolas.

One thing to bear in mind about Sown & Grown granola is the portion sizes, however. Each tube holds 450g, which is equivalent to about one and a half cans of soft drink. From that, Sown & Grown expects you to get 11 individual portions – which seems very optimistic to me. I’ve been going slowly and I’ve still mostly demolished it all within 5 bowls. Then again, maybe I’m just greedy – this certainly isn’t the only granola I have this problem with! 

The fact that it comes in a tube makes absolutely no difference at all, though.

Auraprint Business Card Review

I got offered the opportunity to review some business cards recently, by Auraprint. Naturally, as a narcissist who has taken inordinate pride in designing his own business cards in the past, I leapt at the offer. Unfortunately, I don’t actually need any business cards – work provides my professional ones and I still have plenty of old ones I made with Moo for my freelance work.

So, what to do?

Continue reading

The Deleted Scenes of Thief 4: Dagger of Ways

cut content thief 4 dagger of ways deleted scenes

In 2015 I gave a lecture at Videobrains in London about my exclusive research into a cancelled Thief game that was in development at Ion Storm before it’s collapse almost a decade previously. The lecture was based on an article I wrote for Eurogamer, in which I interviewed a developer who worked on the project and shared some of the original design documents.

You can read the full Eurogamer article, The Modern Day Thief Reboot That Never Was, for more information on Thief 4 – but I’ve also included my slides and script below.

The game itself was called Thief 4: Dagger of Ways and was designed chiefly by Harvey Smith, who later carried at least part of that vision over to Dishonored. Thief 4 would have been a modern day reboot of the Thief series, reviving the characters in a dark and seedy inspired chiefly by Blade and Silent Hill.

You can read the Eurogamer article for more information on Thief 4: Dagger of Ways, or contact me for the original files and research this talk is based on. You can also check out my other Videobrain lectures, Easter Eggs: A Love Letter to Love Letters in Games and Deleted Scenes: Disney, Doom and Deus Ex.

Continue reading

Henry J. Socks Subscription Review

socks-henry-j

These days, I spend a lot of time working in the on-demand and subscription sector. It’s not just part of my job – I also have friends at companies such as Hello Fresh and I spend a lot of time talking with them about it. I’m also a consumer and it seems my partner and I currently subscribe to about 12 different monthly box subscriptions. T-Post for t-shirts. Glossybox for make-up. MunchPak for snacks.

But a subscription for socks? That seemed a little strange even to me.

Henry J. Socks is exactly that, however. You tell them how many socks you want per month and that’s all there is to it – they’ll send you that many socks for up to 12 months. Even now, as a city boy in central London rather than a kid in the heart of Derbyshire, I wear through socks pretty fast. So, when Henry J. Socks offered me a chance to try them out, I was happy to oblige.

The question is, how do you review a sock?

Continue reading