For the Unlimited Hyperbole Christmas Special I invited you to tell me what you’d change about the games industry – but there was one response I didn’t include. It asked me what I think of the way games journalists are paid and I promised just to reply to it later.
This is a topic that’s close to my heart, so prepare for the answer to be quite aggressive…
This Christmas I’ve bought Unlimited Hyperbole back for a special episode, during which I threw the microphone into the crowd and asked you, the listeners, to send in submissions telling me the answer to one question.
If you could change one thing about your involvement with games, what would it be?
I was astonished by the responses which came back and I’ve presented them all here as straightforwardly as I can, with as little droning and editing from me as possible. Settle in for a longer, rougher and more optimistic episode of Unlimited Hyperbole than ever before, with submissions from the following delightful people and a download mirror provided by Split Screen…
In 2014 I spoke at VideoBrains in London and shared never-seen-before design documents for a cancelled Deus Ex game. I also talked about the early prototypes of Doom by id Software and warned about the importance of game preservation and documentation.
February was even more of a celebration than usual this year. Not only did I celebrate my birthday, a Valentine’s Day and a six month anniversary, but I also celebrated a full year in my new job.
That means it’s been one full year since I declared with painful melodrama that I was leaving games journalism. I’ve actually ended up keeping one foot in the field slightly, but aside from trademark Twitter ranting my output has been very low.
It’s made me wonder how many games I’ve played in my first year without being paid to play – and if there’s any lessons to be learned from looking at the amount of time I’ve spent playing them. So, I pulled a list together. Here’s a year of non-journo gaming, in chronological order…
The way I play games has changed a lot over the last decade. Much of it is what you’d expect from a maturing – or aging – gamer. I don’t have as much free time now, for example, so I tend to prefer shorter games than I did before. Or ones which value my downtime as highly as I do, at any rate.
Generally speaking, these changes have been for the best. I play a wider variety of games now than I used to and I’ve become more selective about what I’ll sink my time in to. Gone are the days of completing every Tony Hawk challenge just to unlock all the skaters.
There’s one change I’m less keen on though; one which I have to fight against constantly. I call it sleepgaming and I think it’s a growing problem for many seasoned gamers.
This year I left games journalism behind to start a new career, but despite that I still write the occasional article. The latest was for Alan Williamson, who asked me to contribute to a special charity issue of his digital magazine, Five Out Of Ten.
Alan gave me total creative freedom, so I decided to write something really pretentious. For a change. It’s about my evolving attitude to games in both a personal and professional sense and the sacrifices that come from following your dreams too fully. It opens with the review event where I realised I wanted to leave full-time games journalism behind…
The longer we prattle on, the emptier the hyperbole becomes. Dishonored is great, but the more we speak the less certain I am we’ve got anything to say… I remember Braid for the ninetieth time in a hundred games: another title we loved before we understood.
It’s probably an article that’s very typical of me, but Five Out Of Ten is still worth picking up despite that. I play second fiddle to the likes of Dan Grilopoulos, Christian Donlan, Helen Lewis, Maddy Myers and Leigh Alexander, so there’s plenty of actually good stuff to read. And Alan wrote something too.
Five Out Of Ten is available on a Pay-What-You-Want basis and all the proceeds go to the Special Effect videogames charity, so do some good this Christmas and grab a copy now.
Update 28/04/14: Finally, I can talk a bit more about the game. It’s titled Fractured Skyline. It’s backed by Crytek. You can read the developer blog here!
I always have projects on the go. Sometimes they’re little apps or ebooks; other times they’re podcasts or drunken jokes that get out of hand. Some are secret, some aren’t. Now, one that was secret is ready not to be. A bit.
It’s a game. A big, proper one. I’ve been working on it for about a year and the reason I can talk about it now is that our studio just joined TIGA. That’s how serious we are. There was a press release and everything.
The release doesn’t give much detail on the game and I’ll follow suit, but I can say it’s a locational game based on some new technology we’ve built. I can also say that I’m Lead Writer on the project, that it’s all tremendously exciting and that if you want to know more then you shoud follow Preliminal on Facebook and Twitter.
Steam Trading Cards. When Valve introduced them, my first reaction was to cringe. It seemed a crass new direction for the store and the notion of turning game-playing into a wider card grind was one I didn’t want anything to do with. I sold the first cards I got out of curiosity, made 20p, then quickly lost interest. This wasn’t for me.
Until earlier this week, when Teleglitch was reduced to £2.25. I’d had Teleglitch on my wishlist for a while, but I was also trying to save money and couldn’t justify any expense. So, I set myself the challenge of raising the money in a single day, just through Steam Trading Cards.
After all, everyone’s read about the man who swapped his way from a paperclip to a house. This goal didn’t seem anywhere near that grand…
In 2013 I spent several weeks researching the origins of the first Thief game, Thief: The Dark Project, for an article for RockPaperShotgun. This turned out to be the first in a series of investigative pieces I wrote for RPS and Eurogamer, focusing mainly on cancelled games in the Thief and Deus Ex series’.
This first article, Stealing History: Dark Camelot and Thief, investigates the two cancelled projects that preceded Thief: The Dark Project and which heavily shaped its final form. These are Better Red Than Undead, a cancelled Ken Levine game about Russians and zombies, and Dark Camelot, a steampunk reinterpretation of the Arthurian myth.
With help from Thief developer Randy Smith I exclusively uncovered unused levels, early trailers, concept art and plot information.
“The world was more modern than the traditional Arthurian elements. Steampunkish, but with no gunpowder,” says Marc. “I remember seeing sketches of Merlin with a top hat, and there was talk of Knights covered in corporate logos like NASCAR drivers… We didn’t want to be straight up orcs and elves; we wanted to build something unique and memorable. Something we could own.”
I spoke to a whole bunch of the original Looking Glass Studios team for this article and owe a lot of thanks to Randy Smith and Marc LeBlanc for their help.