Thoughts: Game In Scotland Careers Fair 2013

Note: This post is going to contain some programming jargon, if you need me to clarify anything just leave a comment.

I should probably preface this with my computing and programming experience. During my time at university I’ve learned quite a few languages, mainly java (4 years experience) with bits of C, Haskell, SQL and python along the way. I have no experience programming in C++, C# or using unity.

I was incredibly nervous on the long train ride to Dundee and during coffee with a friend before the Game in Scotland Careers Fair. Now I know it was only a careers fair, but being told to bring CVs to hand out definitely put some emphasis on making a good impression. The massive queue outside the venue didn’t ease those nerves either!

Inside the venue, lots of developers were dotted around to chat with about game development and jobs in the field. The first few I spoke to turned out to be a very disheartening experience. When I explained to them about my lack of C++/C# skills, a couple of the guys I spoke to seemed to lose interest and become very dismissive of my chances. Now I see two massive flaws with this:

1. Its a game development careers fair. I know one of the purposes of it is to find potential employees, but another is to attract people to get into your industry. If people don’t have the right skills, don’t just send them on their way, some encouragement and advice goes a long way.

2. Say I go away and actually learn these languages. Why would I want to apply after my poor initial experience with them?

It wasn’t all doom and gloom however. I did receive a lot of positive feedback from Trevor of Blazing Griffin, saying I had the right tools by having a strong programming background, and to get making stuff ASAP.

Now I may not be the most qualified to speak about this, but I totally agreed with that feedback. I may not have C++\# skills, but I have lots of object orientated programming experience and skills, surely there must be some transfer over between languages. His passion and enthusiasm was also massively refreshing and was really encouraging.

After watching some of the presentations which ranged from really amusing to intimidating, I was feeling a bit deflated. On my way out, I discovered another area packed with developers and decided to check it out. I had a much more positive experience with the guys in this area, with all the developers being much more friendly and enthusiastic about game development and getting into it.

I had a fantastic chat with Steven over at Tag Games who gave me loads of good tips and advice about getting into the industry based on my skills and gave me a massive boost (free cookies as well!). Again the main points I got were that having a strong programming background was a good thing and it would help massively when learning how engines and frameworks work (Tag Games for example use their own kit for making their apps) and that my skills were definitely transferrable. We also had a laugh about my stream and everything, very cool and friendly guys.

I also got to pick the brains of the programmers for Reloaded Productions (the makers of APB) and they gave me some wonderful insight into programming, the engines they use and things like debugging and physics in games. I must have stood chatting with them for about 15 minutes, they gave me great advice about where to start with learning C++ and how to get started and were very knowledgeable, friendly and helpful.

Everyone in this area took a great interest in me as a person, and not just the languages I knew (or didn’t know more importantly) which gave me a massive boost and some enthusiasm for getting into the industry. I came away from the discussions I had with developers feeling driven and encouraged which was fantastic (quote of the day: “if people say you have no chance because you don’t know C++/#, just tell them to fuck off”). After 3 hours of presentations, discussions and CV distribution, I decided to call it a day and head home.

So there you have it. It was a rollercoaster day in terms of my motivation, but I came away feeling like I could succeed with a career in game development. There was a definite divide between the people who were there for business and those who were there to promote themselves and promote their industry, but all in all I had a great time and learned a great deal about this awesome industry.

Gaming Economies

By Meat Jesus

I think I may be a little addicted. There are many examples of in-game economies, and this past week or so I’ve been wheeling and dealing for swag on just one of them: Team Fortress 2.

The economy in Team Fortress 2 is simple: everything can be valued in metal, the material that is used for crafting weapons in game. More expensive items can be valued in keys (which open crates), and even more expensive items can be valued in earbuds (not sure why). There are sites to accomodate your trading such as TF2Outpost and Steam’s trading system makes the whole process ridiculously quick and simple. Think someone is trying to con you? Check pricing spreadsheets (backpack.tf or TF2Spreadsheet for example) and make sure you’re getting a good deal. Couple this with the in-game shop and you have an economy which rolls along nicely, with Valve raking in a lot of money.

Team Fortress 2 is one of the more harmless gaming economies around. Recently there was an article about a player of E.V.E. Online who lost a small ship. This would probably be no big deal in any other game, except for the fact that the cargo of the ship was worth 213,000,000,000 ISK – or roughly $6000 to you and me. Apparently this is in doubt, but these things happen frequently in E.V.E. (not necessarily on such a large scale), which is mind boggling to say the least.

Diablo 3 has its auction house, where people can bid on items for their character to use in-game. They have two versions: the gold auction house and the real money auction house. IGN published an article where they priced a legendary set of items for their character through the real money auction house – the guide price totaled at around $2200, and the buyout price was over $3000.

So are gaming economies a bad thing? I’m not going to sit here and try to tell people how to spend their money, but I always feel a bit cautious of using my hard-earned cash for in-game items. I can definitely think of better ways to spend $3000 than on a set of items in Diablo 3, for example. The thing that I find incredible is that there are people out there making real profit by using these economies – almost running things like a business.

I think gaming economies are fine as long as they don’t take the system and turn it into pay-to-win. I tried out Crossfire when I was younger, and while you could accumulate points to repair your guns and buy new weapons, it wasn’t really viable. You could, of course, pay for these additional points. These economies should add a level of depth without disadvantaging people who choose not to take part. I’ve found this problem to be particularly prevalent in free-to-play games.

Users should also be aware of the risks that they are taking when using these systems. Stories of scams in E.V.E. and Diablo 3 are everywhere, and while most transactions are safe, people need to take care. Whenever real world cash is involved, tread with caution.

Am I going to delve any deeper into the Team Fortress 2 trading system? Probably not. Would I try to make money out of an in-game economy? Definitely not.

I’d be terrible at it.

Assassin’s Creed 3: A Native’s Perspective

By EddieRuckus

For a long time, I couldn’t figure out exactly what I was going to write about in this blog. As I play a lot of Minecraft, at one point this post was going to be about the upcoming features in the 1.4.2 release of the game.  That date has now passed, and so I decided to focus on something blatantly obvious to me: how Assassin’s Creed 3 is probably going to affect me.

For years, nay decades, the portrayal of Native Americans in video games has been somewhat lacking, if not borderline racist.  Whether the horribly offensive renderings of a naked “Native” in Custer’s Revenge, or the drunken “savages” in Red Dead Redemption, the history of Native Americans in video games has been interesting to say the least.  Characters like Turok were for many years the only ones I could latch onto as someone I could look up to, even though it is not made apparent which tribe he is from or what his beliefs are.  Tommy from Prey was also a decent character, and a good portrayal of a modern day Native American, despite all of the science fiction stuff.  Still, as far as I know, there really hasn’t been a character or game to really delve into the heritage and culture of any tribe.

A “lovely” representation of Native Americans from a simpler time in video games.

This week marks something special, something that I have been looking forward to for years; Assassin’s Creed 3 is being released, and I could not be happier.  Finding new ways to kill enemies, exploring open worlds, experiencing naval warfare, and even seeing the conclusion to Desmond’s story are all great reasons to be hyped for this game.  For me, however, it’s a bit more personal – and with my fingers crossed tightly – hopefully more rewarding.  For the first time, I feel like video games have finally got it right in regards to portraying a Native American in a video game, a portrayal that’s not racist or only focuses on the flaws.  Connor is a Mohawk Native American, part of the Iroquois nation, and I could not be more pleased.  The minute I heard that Connor would be the assassin Desmond would experience through the Animus and that he was Native, I was of course skeptical. As I find that most Natives in games have been portrayed as drunk buffoons and inferior to everyone, you could see why I had my ‘reservations’.  Ok, that was a horrible pun, but still you can see my point.  But when I started to see more from the game and began reading about it, my skepticism quickly turned into hopefulness.  From using the Iroquois language to using actual Mohawk actors to voice the characters, I was sold more and more on what Assassin’s Creed 3 was going to offer.  The story trailer for Connor really hooked me in, as did the panel at PAX where Ubisoft employees who worked on Assassin’s Creed 3 explained how careful they were when adding details relating to the Mohawk content in the game.

Not to mention tomahawks are cool as fuck.

So this Tuesday on October 3oth (October 31st for those of you worldwide), I will be picking up Assassin’s Creed 3 along with many others.  Like those others, I will enjoy once again donning the assassin robes and traversing amazing landscapes.  Like those others, I will be searching for secrets and playing a ton of side quests in the game, appreciating all the small details.  But for me, personally, I will be paying extra special attention to the way Connor and his people are portrayed.  I hope that it will be the start of a revolution in gaming, not just for Native Americans, but for all races and creeds.

Niawen’kó:wa

My Life and Gaming (part 2)

By Meat Jesus

The next console I owned was the Dreamcast, and it has to be one of my favourite consoles ever. I was given it as a Christmas present, bundled with Sonic Adventure. I had grown up playing Sonic games, and I was ecstatic. In fact, I was so used to playing Sonic it took me a while to figure out that the homing attack actually existed… Oops.

Seeing Sonic in 3D (proper 3D that is, I’m looking at you Sonic 3D…) was amazing. In terms of graphics, the Dreamcast was impressive for its time, and Sonic Adventure was no exception. It was weird playing with the overworld structure – where you had “Adventure Zones” and “Action Zones” – but it gave the player a great sense of freedom and let them do whatever they want. The character abilities hidden throughout the world also gave the player a good reason to explore and find them all.

The choice of characters available made replaying the game appealing, and being able to unlock Super Sonic at the end was just amazing. Special mention also goes to the soundtrack which is so, so cheesy but awesome at the same time. All in all, Sonic Adventure was fantastic, and Sonic Adventure 2 kept up that trend – one of the best Dreamcast series they released.

One of the greatest games that I’ve ever played (not just on the Dreamcast) has to be Shenmue. It had it all: story, gameplay, graphics. The game was just excellent all round.

Shenmue is an open world game with lots of different elements thrown in, from forklift racing (so fun) to brawling with 70 men. As a game, it was one of the real innovators of the quick time event – at a time when they were novel and fun. The open world aspect was liberating; you had all day to explore the world and do whatever you wanted. This ranged from working a shift in the boatyard to playing Super Harrier in the arcade! The graphics were excellent and some of the detail in the game world was astounding for its time.

The story revolves around your father’s murder at the beginning of the game, and your quest to hunt down the man who killed him. The plot moves along quite nicely, albeit with some very bad voice acting. Unfortunately, I never got to finish the game myself. A scratch on my disk caused the game to freeze right before the (presumably) final battle, which drove me insane. If you have a Dreamcast I would implore you to try and hunt a copy of this down and play it yourselves.

The Dreamcast was one of the first consoles to try branching out in new and exciting directions, becoming the first console with internet connectivity. I remember playing Chu Chu Rocket on my dial up connection. I must have had a ping of 500ms or some similarly ridiculous number, my button inputs were so delayed! However, the online system was very well set up, and it was easy to chat to users and set up games despite the lag!

Powerstone 2 – Pure unadulterated multiplayer goodness…

There were so many great games on the system (Jet Set Radio, Soul Calibur, Powerstone 1&2, Virtua Tennis, Outtrigger, Crazy Taxi, seriously I could keep going) that if you have the chance to pick one up I would definitely recommend it. You can find most of the games relatively cheap on Amazon or eBay, and I guarantee you will not be disappointed. The Dreamcast seriously is one of the best consoles ever.

Thoughts on Dishonored.

By Meat Jesus

If you’ve ever wondered what a mixture of Bioshock, Deus Ex, and Assassin’s Creed would be like, then Dishonored should satisfy your curiosity.

Dishonored is an open ended first-person action game with an emphasis on giving you the choice of how you want to play – be it running in all guns blazing, or taking a more stealthy and subtle approach. I won’t go too much into the story, but you play the role of Corvo Attano, protector of the Empress of Dunwall. The empress is murdered and her daughter Emily is kidnapped, with Corvo being framed for it. The game revolves around Corvo rescuing Emily and bringing down the men who framed him and their conspiracy.

The game has a very clear mission based structure: you receive a target and get dropped off in your mission area. The amount of freedom you have in each area is astonishing. There are multiple paths to your objectives and multiple ways to complete them. If you take the brute force approach, you can just go balls to the wall and kill everything, including your target, or you can rely on stealth and make it look like a suicide, for example. There is also a sense of morality within the missions which can affect your decisions. Factor in the additional sidequests that you find in the level and you’ll quickly find yourself with plenty to do and a wide area to explore.

So many ways to crash this party.

The level design is fantastic, you never feel bottlenecked into certain areas or into taking different approaches (it is possible to beat the game without killing anyone, for example) and the levels do a great job of keeping your options open. The steampunk world of Dunwall is an incredibly engaging one, and it’s full of interesting characters that really bring the levels and the world in general to life. Each level is filled with vents, roofs and pipes to climb up on. Movement in the game is very fluid, which makes it incredibly rewarding and enjoyable to climb up the side of a building; it really makes you feel like a master assassin.

To assist in your missions, Corvo attains something called “The Mark” early on in the game, which enables him to use magic abilities. The first one you learn is “blink”, and it is vital throughout the game. Point and click somewhere, and you’ll shoot forward a small distance in that direction. These abilities can be used to complement your chosen play style, and serve to open up the game even more. I found blink to be very powerful, but on occasion it can be a little difficult to line up the ability with a ledge, resulting in you falling and most likely being caught. If you want to be stealthy, abilities which turn covertly killed enemies to ash will be right up your alley. Conversely, if you want to fight your way through, gaining an adrenaline powerup which deals devastating attacks is definitely for you. Each ability can also be upgraded to make you even more powerful, using runes that are scattered throughout the world. On top of these abilities there are bone charms which give you passive boosts as well (think of tonics in Bioshock, it’s pretty much the same thing), allowing you to further customise your character to your liking.

I tend to have some fun with my bodies…

Corvo also has conventional weaponry at his disposal. His blade is always handy, but Corvo has the choice of using pistols, crossbows, grenades or mines with his free hand. Each weapon can be upgraded and each uses multiple ammo types (which again complement your play style). If you don’t want to kill anyone, just shoot them with a sleep dart and carry on, or hit them with an incendiary dart and watch them burn. The array of weapons and abilities you can use makes for some interesting combos.

The variety in level design and weapon/ability choice make the game very replayable, and one would hope so, with the story clocking in at just under 8 hours for me (and that’s with trial and error and lots of it). With multiple endings based on your play style and the decisions you make, more than one playthrough was definitely in mind with this game.

Graphically, the game looks excellent. Dishonored isn’t a graphical powerhouse but the art style works well with the setting and the characters. It has a Bioshock/Timesplitters aesthetic to it, and thats anything but a bad thing.

The main impression I got from this game is that everything is really up to you. There is no one part of the gameplay mechanics which takes precedent over the others – you can build your character in any way and it would still be viable. The stealth is rewarding and the combat visceral. Deciding how you are going to tackle each level is part of the fun. There is a heavy reliance on trial and error, however, making the quicksave function extremely important. I had a blast with this game, and I will probably do another playthrough at some point, just to check out the other endings and try utilising combat instead of stealth – and I look forward to it.

My Life and Gaming (Part 1)

By Meat Jesus

My first gaming memory is me, my sister and my mum all sitting round the tv playing Sonic on the Sega Master system, the first console we owned. It was one of those consoles with Sonic built into it so if you had a cart in the machine and Sonic started up, you knew you were doing it wrong…

GETTA LOAD A THIS

Now Sonic was bloody hard, each boss level had no rings for you to collect so if Dr. Robotnik hit you, you were very much screwed. The normal levels took no prisoners either as one misstep usually resulted in a painful death, usually caused by one of the many hazards littered around the stages. The game had an awesome soundtrack as well, one which I can remember very clearly – what I can remember even more clearly though is that drowning music, so ominous (seeing Sonic drown as a young child is pretty damn distressing, by the way).
From the Master System I moved onto the Genesis (or as we Europeans call it, the Mega Drive. I’m still undecided as to which one is the cooler name…) and onto some of my most favourite games from my childhood. Streets of Rage 2 was pure beat ‘em up goodness and incredibly addicting , so much so I still go back to the game every now and again. I remember when me and my sister were playing it once (I always went Axel and she went Blaze of course), we got to the final boss and I freaked out and turned the console off, much to my sister’s anger.

Kick, punch, it’s all in the mind…

Gunstar Heroes was another one of my most favourite games growing up, because lets face it, who doesn’t love blowing up EVERYTHING on screen? With 4 weapon types and multiple combinations of those weapons, the types of guns you could create were ridiculous. From exploding firebombs to a player controlled fireball of death that flew around the screen, there were multiple ways blow stuff up. The battle with Seven Force is one of the most visually impressive fights on the console and overall the game looks fantastic. Add in the little quirks such as the shoot em up segment near the end of the game and you’re onto a winner.

So, so fun…

I also had a SNES but I was never as fond of it as I was my Mega Drive. I dunno why though… It’s probably because I never got to experience the many of awesome games on the system until I was older. The only real memories I have of the system was playing a game called Flashback (I had no idea what to do in it…) and plowing through Super Mario World in double quick time as well, thanks to the good old Star World!
I think that’s probably enough rambling for now, check back and I’ll document my Dreamcast years!

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Well, let’s give this a go… Your typical introductory post

Hey guys!

I’ve decided to start a gaming blog …

For those who don’t know me, I am Meat_Jesus. I’ve been streaming myself playing games on twitch.tv for around 3 years now, playing a multitude of modern and retro games. You can find my channel here

I decided to start a blog mainly to try and share my views on anything gaming related. The main thing you’ll  see on here is game reviews of pretty much any game I’ve been casting or playing in my free time. This will probably mean that I won’t restrict my reviews to new games, I’ll most likely do some retro reviews as well. I’ll be posting about new releases and my thoughts and I’ll be giving some opinion on anything gaming related – just anything going on in the gaming world, there’s a chance I might post about it.

I hope to be one of many people posting to the blog but until I recruit some similarly minded people, you’re stuck with just me!

Hopefully this makes for some interesting reading for some people out there! Expect a blog post about something more meaningful sometime soon.

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