Sunday, 31 October 2010

All Hallows Even' is upon us - And what better way to celebrate than with games? Forget answering the door to snotty nosed kids asking for free food! You're busy!

Here's a nice little run down of some games that are celebrating Halloween with some nice event items, quests, tasks and other fun activities.


World Of Warcraft

The realms of WoW celebrate most holidays, they've even got an in game calendar that allows you to check when things are.

Previous Halloween events were based around the head less horse man and had players using water buckets to put fires out, as well as some extra dungeons with rare drops and mounts.

This year is the same with some minor things altered, defenetly worth checking out If you're a WoW player.


Team Fortress 2

The guys over at Valve have treated us once more, this year bigger and better than any other year, introducing TF2's first Boss.

The Horseless Headless Horsemann.

Valve once more take a very tongue in cheek angle, providing some nice hats, achievements and a new level based inside the Mann Mansion.

Check it out If you've got TF2, I've spent hours on this event so far.


Minecraft

Announced earlier this month, the Halloween update has finally landed with some nice features, listed below with a tick list courtesy of Notch himself.

The new Hell world is accessible through a portal that must be made of an Obsidian frame 4x3 and then the bottom blocks must be set on fire.

I'm yet to explore the Hell realm myself (The Slip is the official name) because I've been playing with the Biomes that were also released today.

The Slip and all of today's updates are only available in the purchased Single player and Multiplayer Survival modes.


Adventure Quest/Dragon Fable/ Mech Quest

Referred to as Mogloween within this Universe. These are all browser run RPGs, generally quite fun and a nice little time sink and it's free to play (To some extent).

The Halloween event will have you fighting beasts, trick or treating and gathering event based weapons - Not a bad little hour's worth of fun.

http://www.mechquest.com/

http://www.battleon.com/

http://www.dragonfable.com/


Gaia Online

Whilst Gaia Online is mainly an anime based forum, it also has a browser run MMORPG built into it; It's nothing to write home about and it really only appeals to those that enjoy the forum side of the site, but it might be worth checking out.

http://www.gaiaonline.com/


Transformice

Transformice is a charming little game that features Mice and no transforming oddly enough.

The basic aim of the game is to get the cheese by solving the puzzles within each level, it's a multiplayer game and sometimes you have to rely on the help of team mates.

The Halloween event on Transformice consists of flying on a broomstick to collect cheese, it's a random event that pops up every once in a while whilst you play through normal stages, so go check it out and get addicted!

http://www.transformice.com/en/


Gears Of War 2

Currently hosting a double EXP weekend for Halloween, worth checking out If you enjoy the online.

I believe that Dude Huge mentioned that those who've done extremely well in Gears 2 will receive something in Gears 3; I believe he tweeted it earlier this year - But don't quote me directly on this.

Black Ops Zombie mode

This article potentially contains Spoilers!

Do not read on If you do not want to spoil Call Of Duty Black Ops for yourself!!!


It turns out that you’ll be playing as either; John F. Kennedy (The 35th President of the United States of America), Richard Nixon (The 37th President of the United States of America), Robert McNamara (The Secretary of Defence under Kennedy) Or former Prime Minister of Cuba; Fidel Castro.

Presumably this will tie in some how with the main campaign as it is allegedly unlocked after completing the game.

Whether or not there will be more skins/characters for the Zombie mode is unclear, but all will be made clear on November 9th when Treyarch’s iteration of the series pops it’s head up once again.

What are your opinions on this? So far the gaming community hasn’t declared this disrespectful, but do you think it is? Let me know.


- Note: The video and all images that I'd previously found have been taken down, confirming this as either a PR scam or an actual leak.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Notch + deadmau5?

Turns out that musical man deadmau5 is a big fan of Indie hit Minecraft, the rumour began circulating after deadmau5 uploaded a video of himself playing Minecraft onto his official Youtube account.

The video entailed of deadmau5 beating a pig into a minecart and then pushing it onto an endlessly looping track.

Whilst you might think this isn't quite newsworthy, the rumour that sprouted from this is - deadmau5 would like to make the music for Minecraft.

Information from Notch's Twitter feed and deadmau5's social networking sites only excite this rumour more so.

Notch's Twitter feed - "Oh hey look, I DID get an email from deadmau5 several weeks ago!"

Confirming that there has been contact between the two.


For those of you who are unaware of deadmau5, chances are you've heard his song Ghosts 'n' stuff, It's been used quite a bit in advertisement and such.

You can find the video of deadmau5 playing Minecraft here

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Realm Of The Mad God /// Interview with Alex Carobus

For a while now I've been constantly distracted from every day tasks, some people call this ADD, I call it RotMG.

Realm Of The Mad God is a strangely addictive Top Down, Mini-MMO shooter (With less concentration on the MMO part) It boasts a some what retro look to it, reminiscent of your favourite NES RPGs perhaps? Except maybe 10x more crazy, enemies come at you from every direction, you will never be safe; And to add to this, If you die - That's it, Game Over man in the wisdom filled words of Hudson.

You lose all your stats, items and character, some might criticize this labelling it as a horrible mechanic that only pulls the player back in to defeat past demons - You'd probably be right in saying that it pulls you back in, but that's the genius of it.

The game sports several different classes to choose from including Warrior, Wizard, Archer, Priest and a group of unlockable classes too (I won't spoil them for you)

Plot wise the game is hardly a Bioware title, but I don't think it's meant to be; It's a fun little mess around that is strangely addictive and will most likely put your productivity levels to 0%.

I got in contact with Alex Carobus from Wild Shadow and asked him some questions about the game.

----

Me: So let's start from the beginning - How did the development process get started?

Alex: Realm of the Mad God has an unusual history. Rob and I wrote the first version for Part 2 of the Assemblee competition at TIGSource. We had not originally planned to take it any further but we got a great response from the players. We saw a lot of potential so we have continued to work on it.

Me: How many members are there in the development team? Is it just you and Rob?

Alex: Rob and I are the full time programmers. Our friend Amit sometimes writes some stuff for us including our map generator. We also have various people we consult with and contract art/sound/music/etc from.

Me: As a gamer, I'd describe RotMG as a mini-mmorpg, top down shooter, how would you describe it in one sentence?

Alex: That's pretty good. We recently put the tagline "the co-op fantasy mmo shooter" on the title screen in development so yours was pretty close. Hopefully, people won't read too much into the "mmo" part though. We definitely made it a goal not to follow the standard mmo genre conventions.

Me: What are your plans for RotMG? Future developments, stuff like that?

Alex: We have plans to expand RotMG in many directions. We are planning to add new content and also try a few things we haven't seen in other mmos. We have a pretty significant change we will be testing out in the next week or so. Unfortunately, I can't really give any specifics but RotMG is very much a work in progress.

Me: Awesome, and finally are there any features you'd really like to implement in the future? Obviously without giving away any currently in development features.

Alex: Yea, again, I'd rather not say specific features but we have a very long todo list. There are lots of features, big and small, that I think would be so much fun but they just never rise to the top of the todo list because higher priority features keep jumping in front of them. I guess one example that I can give of a small feature on the todo list is revising the sword attack to be a swipe rather than a projectile attack. I think this would give the melee classes a much more distinct feel and I am definitely going to implement and playtest it some day but unfortunately, this will probably not make it into the next release.


Thanks to Alex for that interview, you can also play RotMG here

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Assassin's Creed 3; Brotherhood - Eurogamer expo 2010

I've never been a fan of AC, the first game really didn't do much for me once I'd gotten past the initial "I can climb that?!" factor and the second game hardly reinvented the wheel.

That being said, the new multiplayer mode in the latest AC game might just have added some bad ass shiney rims to it's predecessors wheel.

AC was one of the first games I jumped on when I got to the expo, mainly because it was located right next to the exit of the developer conference area, but that's beside the point. I jumped on after seeing a bunch of the guys playing it really enjoying it and getting into it, to be honest I sort of figured these guys were fans of the series, but after asking them a few questions at the time they admitted that the other games hadn't really done much for them in terms of gameplay, but graphically they enjoyed the series.

The multiplayer demo that I played entailed of you hunting the other assassins, whilst they hunted you - But it wasn't just a death match, Oh no - Much, much more, your target was a random assassin that was human controlled, but in a bustling city filled with NPCs, to make things harder all assassins have skills; skills can range from the ability to transform into a different character model for a brief period of time to smoke bombs and even a hidden gun, these skills felt nicely balanced, whilst giving the advantage in specific situations they could all be countered in other situations.

Certain features weren't unlocked in the demo, there were specific skills that were not available and some characters were missing from the playable line up, the demo was also set on one map with a 10 minute timer.

I personally took a shine to the executioner instead of the boring knife attacks that most of the others sported, he had a hatchet which he'd still use in stealth based attacks, he was also adorned in classic executioner gear too.

Amongst the other characters were; A female, an artist, a barber, a doctor and an assassin, but images that I've seen around the net have revealed other characters including a Knight, a Jester and a Blacksmith.

Overall I'd say the Multiplayer would be enough to convince me to purchase AC:3 Brotherhood.

But for those who want a strong campaign mode we'll have to wait and see If single player can keep up the standards that the online mode set.

Assassin's Creed will be released 19th November 2010

Little Big Planet 2 - Eurogamer expo 2010

I spent the entire day trying to get on Little Big Planet 2 and only just managed within the last 20 minutes, I guess that's a sign as to how popular it was at the Expo, considering there must have been at least 16+ Little Big Planet 2 games going on at once, all with 3 player possibility.

The game is very similar to the first one, but includes some nice new features, sadly I didn't get a chance to play around with the creation kit, but I saw some other people playing around with it and the newer tools that are available are quite nice.

Gameplay is the same as the first LBP with the exception of the new tools, weapons and scenarios that come up within the game, essentially LBP2 is LBP+New Took kit; Essentially lots of DLC that you'd have to pay for individually that will upgrade your experience ten fold, so I guess I'm grateful they're releasing this as a seperate game, they've even made it so that most of the maps from LBP can be imported to LBP2.

Whilst I wouldn't label LBP2 as a failure or a let down, it was essentially the same with a grappling hook and some neat tricks like zero gravity - I could have literally been playing LBP with some DLC similar to the Pirates pack which added water, instead this was the..I dunno, spider man pack that added hooks.

I don't really want to continue on about the similarities between LBP and LBP2 (Because that's potentially the most boring article ever), so I'll go onto the awesome features that the tool kit can now build.

Playable Arcade Machines: Games such as Pong and Breakout had been built into little screens, quite a nifty little feature

Gravity: You can now play around with gravity, making it so it's either stronger or weaker in specific areas, perfect for space levels.

New game modes: The ability to create go-karts was revealed a while back, but with the new creation kit much more can be done, I saw some rhythm games popping up.

I'm sure there's much, much more; But I sadly didn't get much hands on time, none the less I really enjoyed the time I had.

LBP2 will be a definite purchase for anyone that enjoyed LBP (So pretty much everyone?) and will offer a huge variety of levels outside of Shark and bomb survival maps.


Fable 3 / Peter Molyneux developer speech - Eurogamer Expo 2010

To start with I should announce my blatant fanboy-ism for Lionhead and any thing that they lay their hands on, that being said - Fable 3 didn't do it for me.

Essentially I felt it was Fable 2 with some nice addons; Now don't get me wrong, I enjoyed both Fable 2 and the 10 - 15 minute long preview of Fable 3, but I felt crushed by it, potentially this was my fault; Peter has been kept shut tight for a while now, but I still can't help but feel there must be more to it?

Whilst the story, the quests, aesthetics and the characters are improved ten fold, the battle system remains the same boring one button bull shine.

It seems that apparently adding short, slowed down cut scenes on special attacks was Lionhead's way of improving the battle system, rather than cutting all the simple mechanics and making it some what more challenging and to make matters worse, the hammer combat was terrible (I'm a fan of using hammers) it was basically flurries, with only one or two special attacks consisting on smashing the enemy to the floor.

The sword combat was a little better, but the same type of combat with a bunch more cut scenes.

The magic system was also practically identical, merely with the ability to mix spells together, which in my case (I used vortex and force push) was boring; Maybe some of the other mixtures would have been more fun, but magic was never really my shin dig within the Fable universe.

Guns work exactly like they did in Fable 2, I was told that the system was alot more slick and felt different, but it looked and felt the same, also the buttons are mapped out exactly the same.

In the Developer conference Peter mentioned the fact that he loves fighting games, he then proceeded to list of all two that he could remember at the time (Street Fighter and Tekken) but then went onto saying how the amazing moves that you can do in those games are impossible for the crowds that aren't very good at games; "Those that lack the dexterity" I believe was his direct quote.

Now; I try not to get involved in the big "Casual VS Hardcore" arguments, but this seems like someone hasn't done his research? I really enjoy Action RPGs, but I really don't need them to pander to my needs like Fable does, I can successfully press more than one button at a time, or tap a series of different buttons one after the other and yet I'm hopeless at fighters such as Tekken and Street Fighter, especially when it comes to combo moves (I still can't hadouken after all these years, seriously, diagonal? Pffft) what I'm saying is; If their demographic is the action RPG audience, then maybe they're under estimating their audience? Or are they trying to draw in the VERY casual market? Peter mentioned the women really got into Fable, thus the reason why female characters were introduced in Fable 2 - The female market is a massive market that is missing out on games (Obviously not all females).

On a plus side; the quests were very nice, the staff working the booth asked me If I wanted something more combat or quest based; I went for the quest based stuff as this is where Fable really shines and I wasn't wrong to do so.

I was given a quest called Table top, in which three NPCs said something along the lines of "Play our table top game with us"

Not really, I have no idea what they said, even though I had some giant head phones on the Rap Star booth was all of 20 foot away and the whitest guy in the world singing Gold Digger drowned out all of the sounds coming through my headset.

I was shrunk down onto this table top game of Dungeons and Dragons, with the faint murmurs of the Dungeon Masters telling me specific instructions that I once more could not hear, so I followed a long the path, spoke to some more NPC characters (This time they were figurines, the sort you'd find in table top games) and ended up fighting some wolves, like I said I was disapointed with the combat system; But this gave me the incentive to change some stuff around in the newly designed menu.

By pressing start I was instantly transported to an area where John Cleese began talking to me, once more, his words were useless compared to the torrent of bad rapping I could hear.

I instantly stumbled into the weapon change room and got myself a bad ass hammer and then over to the clothes room, which was a little bleak, but this was a demo, so I can't place judgement on that.

This new menu screen is very Black and White-esque, for those unfamiliar with Lionhead studios outside of the Fable franchise, Black and White was a god game for PC, the main mechanics of the game were based around choices such as; Kill every thing to impress or kill bad guys and provide grain - Oh and there was a massive animal that could eat it's own shit.

I finished the demo and as per usual the Lionhead team had filled it with humour and joy; the audio that I could hear was of the usual amazing standard that Lionhead employs.

Graphically it was impressive, but there was some awful tearing and frame rate drop but I will say in defense of Lionhead, this was an early version of the demo, or so I was told by one of the staff from Lionhead.

The Peter Molyneux developer speech was very nice; It started with a live sword fight on stage (Albeit a pretty pathetic sword fight, but the novelty was nice) and then a town crier showed up, shouting out in what was presumably a satirical view of old English.

Peter rolled onto the stage with a presentation that went through the history of Fable as a series, showing the inspiration that got the Fable series where it is today and some of the concept art.

Sadly it's quite obvious that Peter over the years has either A. Gotten tired of all the bullshit he receives from either the press or just gamers in general OR B. Been slapped on the wrist so many times by Lionhead that he's become a some what cynical, unhappy man when it comes to presentations - I'm not saying he was bad, or that he wasn't happy to be up on stage, he just appeared to be some what unhappy with how things are going - I could be wrong, but that's how I read his body language and speech.

After the history of Fable he proceeded onto a new surprise; A brand new Smart Phone App coming out soon for Apple devices, Android and The Windows Phone - Essentially the app tracks where you are and you can place a marker for either the rebels or the loyalists, doing so gains you Fable 3 gold which is transferable to the game and who knows, it might have some effect on future DLC.


Golden Gems: Part One

Whilst writing the article about Western and Eastern audiences earlier I got onto thinking about those classic 8/16/32 bit games that really stood out for me; but games that you might've missed out on.

Here's part one of Golden Gems, featuring two of my favourite under rated titles for the Super Nintendo.


Soul Blazer - Super Nintendo

A game I recently discovered, developed by Quintet and published by Enix.

The game lends lots of features from the rest of the Quintet games such as Illusion of Time/Gaia and Terranigma, it also seems to lend heavily from Soleil, a Mega Drive game that never really took off (But I fell in love with).

The story of Soul Blazer is some what similar to a previous title developed by Quintet, instead this time you feature as a servant of the Gods. You are sent down to the Freil Empire to free the living creatures as Dark Gaia has trapped them all - To do this you must trawl through dungeons freeing the people, buildings, plants and talking goats.

Two aspects that really interest me;

1. Dungeon Crawlers - I love them, especially when they have anything to do with Quintet.

2. I really like the idea of freeing villages and cities; I know this will sound sort of abstract and weird, but I love the cozy satisfying feeling you get when you return to town to find happy villagers, It's primarily the reason why Digimon World on PS1 is still ranked within my top 10 games.

The game features power ups, equipment and the usual RPG gear - Definitely worth picking up and playing through.


E.V.O; Search for Eden

When I started this article I didn't intend on having all the games published by Enix, but I guess they just did a good job of publishing games? I dunno.

This game is a jewel, not even kidding - One of the best games from the 90s.

You take the role of a prehistoric creature slowly evolving through the ages - To do this you must eat the other creatures around which changes what features you will have on your creature, sound familiar Will Wright?..Oh ho ho, just when he thought he'd gotten away with Spore, his original idea. BAM. POW. Chris Leddy disproves his originality with the citation of an epic Super Nintendo game.

I suppose If you wanted to look into the story a little bit more, you could say they sort of split the religious and scientific stories and bundled them into one big ball of fun; the game begins with Gaia (A common trait in Enix published games apparently) telling you to swim to your little fishy's heart content.

The game play can get some what repetitive, but it's not too bad and the changes in scenery as well as game play mechanics sort of alters it a bit, enough to keep you interested perhaps.

I suggest picking this up too.

What are we missing out on?

Long gone are the days where titles upon titles would be unreleased within Western Culture; Or are they?

When I was growing up with video games, I always remember reading in magazines that certain titles would not be receiving European releases; The harsh reality must've been that Europe just wasn't into the Asian market of video games, titles such as Terranigma, Seiken Densetsu 3, Bahamat Lagoon, Clock Tower and Fire Emblem; But is that the case nowadays? Games such as Final Fantasy XIII had no trouble selling in both Europe and the States, sure, it received negative feedback, but none the less sold like hot cakes.

Game series such as Koei's hack and slash Dynasty/Samurai/Orochi Warriors still sell and whilst it might only be to a smaller niche market, sales are sales; Obviously this came into the release of Koei's online version announced just a short while back.

But what about the other titles that don't receive the fan base and sales that they deserve? Monster Hunter for example, whilst an amazing series suffers a lack of sales, even in it's latest iteration on the Nintendo Wii sales weren't as high as other Western games or even the more popular Eastern games, the PSP versions share a similar fate, but still manage to receive praise for being one of the top games for the PSP.

Some gamers might be unaware, but there is also an online version of Monster Hunter, currently only being hosted within the Eastern part of the world, but what stops developers from releasing amazing online titles such as Monster Hunter Online to the Western audience? Is it a lack of sales? Or maybe the audience in Asia is merely much more enthusiastic and the Western audience is merely seen as a waste; Koei and SquareEnix obviously did not think so when they released Dynasty Warriors Online, Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy IX.

Tecmo released Monster Farm Online (Monster Rancher Online) back in 2007 to the Eastern audience only, three years later the servers were switched off due to a lack of interest; Maybe this issue could have been solved by opening them up to the Western market? Translating it for the Western audience might have just been worth it, but who knows.

Maybe as the Western audience we merely dislike challenge? Games such as WoW and Guild Wars boom because of their simplicity to begin with and once you've reach the higher levelled area, you should have gained enough knowledge whilst going through these games to play competently, games such as Monster Hunter and Rancher feature much more difficult game play aspects - Is this what puts Asian developers off from releasing more games to us? Recently Monster Rancher DS was released in the US; Two years after the Japanese release.

Two years.

Europe doesn't even get a release date and poor old Australasia can stop right there too.

Recently we were lucky enough to receive Recettear, a life sim-shop JRPG; Thankfully a studio picked the game up and translated it for those of us that speak English and got it released on Steam, this game sold so well, and formed a massive fan base giving hope to all Eastern based Indie developers.

Maybe there's a light out there for all of us that enjoy JRPGs and Asian developed games, maybe one of these days the Xbox360 will get more than 10 sales in Japan and Tenchu, Lost Planet, Monster Rancher and any thing outside of Square Enix's JRPGs will start selling in the West...

Probably not.

But here's hoping.

VGVN

As a Journalist (At least that's what I call myself) I should probably stay unbiased, especially in times of political turmoil - But, this is the internet, so free speech is freely available; Thus I bring you this article.

Over the years there have been people with backwards, heads up their own arses views, the sort of people that still think sexual orientation is worth killing for and that people from different parts of the world should be hung.

We live in troubled times indeed.

Well they're at it again... And have been for quite some time now; Video games are once more under scrutiny within the United States; Essentially the big wigs would love to segregate video games, criminalize specific features and essentially treat video games as material that isn't licensed under the first amendment - They'd be relinquishing the power that TV, Film and Books have, thus potentially ruining and entire form of media.

Here's a snip from the website that will give you a more formal read of what is happening;

The Video Game Voters Network is a place for American gamers to organize and defend against threats to video games by registering to vote and letting Congress know how important this issue is to the community. Without a critical mass of adult video game players who are registered to vote and willing to stand firmly behind their games, politicians will continue to fire criticism at games and game players in order to score easy points for their political campaigns.

Video games are fully protected speech under the Constitution, and receive the same First Amendment protection as books, movies, music and cable television programs. The Network opposes efforts to regulate the content of entertainment media, including proposals to criminalize the sale of certain games to minors, or regulate video games differently from movies, music, books, and other media. The Network also enables gamers to stay educated about issues, reach out to federal, state, and local officials, and register to vote. The Video Game Voters Network is a project sponsored by the Entertainment Software Association, a trade group representing America’s video game publishers.

Fear is a powerful weapon; If a politician can use fear to gain voters, they will do so, even If that means impending on your rights and free speech; The Amendments are there for a reason people; Let's get active and prove that video games aren't demolishing lives, just as books won't turn your eyes to jelly and Rock music won't make you worship the devil.

So far this campaign has a lot of backing; Including Yatzhee of Zero Punctuation, Stan Lee of Marvel and the CEO of Insomniac Games.

So maybe it's time you joined them? Click here to get to the VGVN site.

I will try to get a interview with someone from VGVN, but this is fairly small blog site and I doubt they'll waste their time - But I will drop them an email, and we'll see.

Dynasty Warriors Online

As repetitive hack and slash's based in an Asian setting go, Dynasty Warriors is probably the best around.

With a huge list of console based games being released over the past 13 years, Koei finally made the move to the PC back in 2006 for the Japanese audience, obviously through the MMO market.

After four years, Koei has finally decided to release this title for the Western market with two brand new servers for both Europe and North America; As well as a PS3 version.

According to the Aeria games website; this game will also feature:


  • Vicious Head-to-Head Combat: Unleash your skills in hard-hitting 4-on-4 brawls and 12-on-12 clashes against opposing players

  • Epic Online Battles: Wage war supported by massive NPC armies across several game modes, including PvP, territorial control, story-based battles and more

  • Dynamic Character Growth: Fight with a broad variety of weapons and level up your warrior mid-battle – start each skirmish with basic attributes and collect power-ups from the field

  • Rewrite History: Change the dominant faction of the Three Kingdoms based on players in-game performance and victories

It is currently unconfirmed whether or not the PC and PS3 versions will share servers, but it is entirely possible.

Earlier this month Aeria games had a release date for the Open beta, but has since updated the site and the release date is no where to be seen.

Beta signups have started over at Aeria Games; So what are you waiting for?

(This is the trippiest screenshot ever)

Interview with Zane of Welcome Studios

Today's article is an interview with Head Writer and Project lead from Welcome Studios; Why don't you introduce yourself?

Zane: I'm Zane and I'm working on a Visual Novel for a game I like with some really cool people and I'm really nervous about getting it done.

Me: Awesome; So can you give me a general outline of what the Visual novel will feature; Like a basic story or a feature like that?

Zane: Well at least for the first chapter the story isn't going to be anything really mindblowing. Kids are locked up in their highschool. There's a murderer amongst them. They have to find out who it is. Typical mystery stuff, but the overarching story is where it gets interesting.

The Visual Novel, like the game it's based on, takes a lot of inspiration from the "When They Cry" series. If you've played those VN's then you know what to expect. Each chapter of the story is a repeat with things changed; who dies, who's the killer, everything but the barebones plot.

Me: How about the team you've got working on this title? Are you confident in their abilities and have they done any work like this before?

Zane: This project is really a learning experience for everyone involved. Our coder hasn't really done anything like this, but I'm really impressed with what he's done so far. Besides coding he's really helped a lot with plot and characters. I'd probably call him a co-head really.

I was actually surprised that the artist agreed to work on this. He was already working on a Mitadake High comic, and I could tell his art style was just perfect for what we're doing.

Music wise I'm not too sure what to expect. I asked a personal friend if he could get it done, and he agreed, but he didn't mention he was going to be joining the military.

I always worry a lot since I can only see my own progress, I'm really neurotic about these things.

Me: How about you? Have you even worked on something like this before?

Zane: Eh, not really. As a writer I'm much better at short stories and poems. I've been meaning to start a full length story for some time now, and this seemed as good a place to start as any.

Having a team together makes it a lot easier knowing I'm not responsible for everything.

Me: How far into the development are you?

Zane: No more than 20%, probably closer to 10%. There is no music completed, no backgrounds, one character base finished, and about 20 minutes of story done. This doesn't even include editing, coding, and testing. Although it's a lot given the short amount of time we've been working.

Me: As an indie developer of your first Visual Novel; How is the fanbase treating you? From what I understand you've built your title from a popular BYOND game Mitadake High - How did the original creator of that game take the news? And how about the fans?

Zane: Ahaha, well from fans of the game the general consensus has been "What's a Visual Novel?" Outside of the official forums I haven't really advertised it at all, so when I do mention it in game nobody knows what I'm talking about. Always worth a laugh or two.

Neus and I haven't really had any contact outside of me asking for permission to sell. It was surprising how easygoing he was about it, responded back with a simple "Go for it."

Me: Obviously the question on everyone's mind is; How about a price and estimated drop date?

Zane: Price is looking to be somwhere between $15-$20, with a special pay what you want sale at it's release. At the time release date is looking to be whenever. It could potentially be finished in a month, but it's far more likely to take at least three just to get a playable copy. Also, everyone? I'm glad to see the advertising campaign is going so well.

Me: I don't want to be jumping the gun here, but do you have any projects planned for after this?

Zane: If there's a chapter 1 there has to be a chapter 2 doesn't there? But if you mean outside of Mitadake, I would love to write more visual novels. It's really a medium I feel comfortable working in.

Me: Are there any links that potential fans can follow to find out more?

Zane: The only place I keep track of is here and you need to join the forum. If more interest was expressed in the project I'd probably open up a Dev blog to fill people in.

Me: Well hopefully you'll get that break through that you and your team deserves; Thank you for this interview and I look forward to the final product.

Zane: Not a problem, thank you very much.


UPDATE: Since this article originally went out, Zane told me that there is a blog spot that you can find him and his team at http://mitadakehighvn.blogspot.com/

LotRO goes F2P

After announcing the switch earlier this year, it has finally happened, allowing players to join the epic MMORPG adventure for free.

Whilst some are commenting on this move as a desperate effort to steal players from World Of Warcraft, Turbine say that this isn't the case, merely stating that it's a new business model that follows what happened with Dungeons and Dragons Online.

Blizzard have also commented on going free to play, but haven't announced any thing yet.

For those who were previously a premium player and would still like to remain paying for LotRO, then fear not; there's a premium option that allows players to have certain advantages such as larger inventories, specific gear and certain classes - Amongst other things.

http://www.lotro.com/

White Chamber

This week's challenge was White Chamber, a point and click adventure sci-fi horror, this was once more a challenge set to me by Zane. I was never really a fan of the point and click genre and as If to add salt to injuries, I was also never a big fan of the horror genre, so my progress through this game was going to be a painful one.

White Chamber was developed by Indie developer Studio Trophis, consisting of three employees based in the UK, the game was released back in 2005, but sadly Studio Trophis closed down in 2009 due to the members of the team being busy with life and other projects.

So I started this game slightly wary, as a child point and click adventures scared me, no matter what the consequences or surroundings, potentially because I didn't really have the power to go "Well here's my 12gauge", If you mess up, then chances are you'll face the consequences because you don't have the power to stop it, this could have potentially been me being unfair, but it still stuck to this day and I felt that fear whilst playing White Chamber (I guess you can say it added to the atmosphere).

The game's actual surrounding were some what scary, it takes place on board a space station with a some what typical "Eurgh, where am I?" intro, the sort that fills in for a weak ass plot, it's sort of saved towards the end but for a good hour and a bit you're still under the same weak ass story line.

Throughout the game you begin to pick up video logs from a member of the crew, he describes his feelings and what's going on; I felt these pulled me out of the story doing the exact opposite of what they were supposed to do, for example, I'm in a room where any thing can come through a door and slaughter me, I don't know If It would, but It could - Now, I put on the video and the game cuts away from me and to the video, I now know nothing will get me, I'm safe, I've practically paused the game and watched a video on Youtube about the back story and even then the information given to me through the medium of the videos was weak, I also couldn't take any of the character's seriously because I felt like they were the rejected cast of Yu-Gi-Oh; No joke, I honestly think the artist for this game potentially went to his cupboard of videos from when he was 12 and went "Hmm, who can I plagiarise today?" even down to the way the eyes are drawn, it's kind of ridiculous.

The actual backgrounds weren't much of an improvement, it was like Gears Of War and Fallout 3 had a special love hug which ended in this some how, the textures are bland and boring but some how brushed under the rug with a "Well, it's a space station..and there's blood and stuff" I mean for a period of time you see the station without the blood and stuff, and it's the complete opposite - And I realise what they were trying to do, like a sort of clashing look "Here's a space station before shit went down" and "Here's a space station after shit went down" sort of thing, but it doesn't work, you can also see textures that have been overlapped like some bad spriting job that 10 year olds do when editing their favourite Sonic character to be their new fursona.

The puzzles in the game were some what easier than I expected, I didn't really struggle with any except the last puzzle, which wasn't really a puzzle merely a lack of observation on my part. There aren't actually many puzzles within the game, I mean like real puzzles; Most of the game consists of "Do this, it's over there" sort of thing, with the exception of a droid unit that you can use at one part, the rest is pretty easy.

The soundtrack and noises throughout the game are more annoying rather than scene setting, lots of ominous "Oooh horror" sounds, and the usual loud foot steps on metal; There's one scene that forced me to turn sound off infact, just because it was A. So unbearably loud (With no adjustment option) B. So annoying.

The game is fully voiced in both English and German, but with only two characters throughout the game both sounding like they belong in Yu-Gi-Oh abridged with surprisingly British accents; I'm not sure how many times I heard the phrase "I CANNOT USE THAT WITH THAT" or "WHAT EFFECT WOULD THAT HAVE" I'd rather that were in text, atleast that way when I did cock up I wouldn't have to deal with that annoying voice - Course in reflection it could merely be a sort of psychological experiment, you know like they do with monkeys that get answers wrong, but instead of getting an electric shock I get Miss. Union Jack telling the quite obvious, perhaps I'd have preferred If she'd have had some sort of comedy to her voice "Really, you wanna use the axe and the blanket together? Really bro? We gonna do this...Fucking..geez..".

Whilst this game features four endings; I managed to get the "best" ending first time round, but the other endings don't require any more skill or tact to get, merely a choice right towards the end of the game, some what disappointing from what I'm told most games of this genre have multiple endings that are generally varied and require much larger range of objectives to complete.


Rundown

Graphics

The characters were a disappointing set of Yu-Gi-Oh clones and the backgrounds were painted with a horribly dull brown paint.

To add to the current complaints, most of the textures are just copy and pasted over, which is obvious from certain areas where the texture pattern doesn't quite fit and looks some what silly.

2 / 5


Sounds

The soundtrack was made up of painfully dreery sounds, which whilst some might say were atmospheric, they weren't - Merely annoying.

Whilst I applaud their usage of character voices, perhaps a little less voice from the main character would have been appreciated, especially the scenes where that character would repeat the same lines.

I also found the footsteps annoying, once more some would claim these as atmospheric, but they were more frustrating like a clock ticking directly in your ear.

2 / 5


Story

The basis of the story is some what weak, I'm honestly sick of everyone playing the "I have no memory" card merely so they don't have to set up a real background and can put the character into any situation they like.

It picks up a little towards the end, but events throughout are some what sporadic and don't really make much sense what so ever.

3 / 5


Gameplay

The puzzles were hardly exciting and most of the game was merely walking back and forth collecting components until some thing sort of happened and when some thing did happen, you'd use a some what obvious tool to fix this.

Could have done with more puzzles like the droid puzzle.

2 / 5


Overall entertainment

The game filled up a good hour or two with some what boring gameplay mechanics a lack of challenge and a weak plot, maybe worth a go If you really enjoy sci-fi horror or more specifically Yu-Gi-Oh---I mean, point and click adventures.

2 / 5


In conclusion

The game has a poor plot, poor puzzles, frustrating sound effects and sound track as well as annoying vocals and to add to this it has horrible visuals like a horrible 90s Anime series.

I would honestly give this game a miss, unless you're really into sci-fi horror point and click adventures.

Then again, what do I know - This game has been outlined as amazing by several reputable sources, so maybe I'm missing the point? Who knows.

Thanks for reading.

Katawa Shoujo

Title: Katawa Shoujo

Released: April 29th 2009 (Act 1)

Format: Windows/Mac/Linux

Developer: Four Leaf Studios


In my time 'working' as a shoddy 'journalist' I've been told I'm quite narrow minded with the games I 'review'; "Dude, that's another RPG" or "Halo? Wow man mainstream" and so on and so forth.

So today's 'game' (Bad start to an open mind) is Katawa Shoujo (Literally translating to Disability Girls" or "Cripple Girls), a visual novel developed by Four Leaf Studios. For those of us that are unaware, Four Leaf Studios is a group of developers, artists, ect from the image board known as 4chan, more specifically the /a/ board (Anime). Basically these developers bonded together to make this visual novel - Now whilst those of you may be aware of 4Chan and the activities they may partake in, do not throw all your angst and hate towards /a/, or these developers.There's a much larger back story to how this game was developed, but I won't bore you with the details.

I've never played or read through a visual novel before, and to those who have also never done so might be under the impression that these are for 40 year old basement dwellers. Well, after playing through my first one you could potentially be correct, the settings are some what familiar, but with not much appeal to someone of our age group (Or anyone outside of Loli lovers If I'm honest) not that I let this put me off, an open mind was retained through out the play through.

The game takes place after your character Hisao Nakai, has a heart attack during the prologue of the game, this sets up the entire scenario for the game. Hisao is kept in hospital for several months and ends up a sort of disabled school due to developing the condition Arrhythmia, within this school he can attend lessons and have 24/7 nurses on hand, obviously character development is a huge part of this process, character development for Hisao is shown through his inner monologue that runs all through out the game whilst conversing with people and whilst chillaxing in his batchelor parlour next door to his strange neighbour Kenji aka comedy relief, he was potentially the weirdest and yet most relatable character, he carries on about feminists and women taking over the world, which are then brought up within your character's monologue throughout the game, adding even more comedy relief through the medium known as "The weird kid"

Now all the supporting characters throughout the game have a disability (Minus the teachers) that is brought to your attention quite quickly, but surprisingly handles with a mature tone, considering the game is centered around the disabilities it does rather well managing to develop the characters into people that you relate with, no matter what disability they have.

I personally found myself relating to several characters and finally decided that I'd be friends with the girl with no arms - Rin; and the girl with no legs beneath her knees - Emi. I took a shine to these two due to the fact that the Rin was so blunt about every thing it made me laugh, it sort of put real life things in perspective for me - and Emi is merely cheerful and hangs out with Rin, so that only seemed to work. But I really loved the way they approached the disabilities, mentally and visually your character isn't disabled, obviously his heart is a disability, but you wouldn't know that upon looking at him, but the others are all visible and even Hisao notes this in his monologue, how he approaches them and talks to them is fascinating, don't get me wrong, the writing is hardly Bioware level, but entertaining and will keep you glued for a good two hours before your story is brought to a sharp end, either due to your mistakes or because you'd finished Act one.

It's been stated that Act one is a 15+ rated game, due to the cursing and mature subjects that it approaches presumably, whilst the rest of the game is slated to be an 18+, most likely due to the developers bringing in sexual acts, which actually seems to be the point of the game so far If I'm honest.

Whilst I'm not interested in the sexual acts that the other chapters will bring forth, I am slightly interested in the way that they'll approach sexual acts with the disabled, they've shown great respect and potentially changed alot of people's views on the disabled with the game so far, I can only feel that it will fall into a pit of turmoil and sex with blind chicks.

Run down:

Graphics

As a visual novel, graphics aren't really present, but the art and backgrounds featured in the game are nice.

The characters are of an Eastern animation style and play up to all cliches you could imagine about the anime stereotype, potentially playing up to jokes through this medium, either way charming and suitable.

The background are photographs with photoshop filters placed over them presumably, whilst not all that impressive, they provide a suitable and some what cozy setting

5 / 5


Sounds

I started off with both my music and sound turned right down, and listened to my own music over the top, I'd presumed it would be cheesy elevator/soap opera music. I was mistaken, whilst listening to a some what quiet song I managed to catch a little bit of the music playing from the game, I instantly turned my music off and turned the in game music and sounds up.

The music is quite dainty and the sound effects are some what far and few between, but effective none the less.

3 / 5


Story

Obviously the most impressive part and whilst it has pure intentions to begin with I can't help but feel this will all fade away once it turns into HXC HENTAI BITCH TITTY SEX.

4 / 5


Gameplay

(I realise this may seem a little silly, but whilst reviewing this as a game, I will keep to my format)

As a visual novel, most 'gameplay' consists of options, the options decide whether or not you'll finally get with this or that chick or whether or not you'll die, but I don't think I even came close to such a thing.

The choices weren't obvious in all cases though, sometimes certain actions would trigger events that you'd think weren't related, but were, in this sense I guess there was some form of challenge, but the gameplay will hardly keep you on the edge of your seat, but nor is it meant to.

4 / 5


(Graded on the plausible choices and events that will come from it, not excitement.)


Overall entertainment

It wasn't too bad, I had low expectations, but the story was entertaining enough to keep me with it and the art for the characters and backgrounds was rather impressive. Kenji could potentially be the best person within the game and provides entertainment throughout.

Most definitely worth a download

4 / 5


In conclusion

All in all an entertaining and educating game, and whilst I kept an open mind throughout the play though, I can't help but feel this game was designed for either fans of ecchi or hentai that have no real care for plot and those that should perhaps put their talents else where, maybe into graphic novels and visual novels that don't necceserily end in banging the chick you deliberately bonded with because she looked like the most loli?

Making a come back

So for a while now I've been hosting my game related articles on Tumblr, this worked out well due to the format of Tumblr, but I've decided to switch back to Blogspot for the mean time, at least until I can afford a domain name and hosting.
So I'll be throwing up some of the articles from FYGA (Not all, but the time relevant ones) and I'll also be deleting some of the older articles that I posted on here, because If I'm being honest they're terrible.