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bloodborne

I’ve never been to an event like this before, and I must say it was a pretty good one. The strangest part about it was seeing faces I recognised off of the internet in person. I did approach a few of them and they were pretty cool people. But anyway, onto an important aspect of this. The videogames.

Here are some I played at the event:

Volume

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The new game from Thomas Was Alone creator which unlike his last game stars a cast of people that look like humans instead of squares. What we have here is a stealth game that plays much like Metal Gear Solid 1 and 2, except without the hand-cramp inducing controls.

It was pretty easy to get my head around, and fairly fast moving for a stealth game. Getting spotted and attacked meant instant restarts from pretty generous checkpoints, so there was nothing incredibly frustrating about it, no need to shout expletives at the top of my voice like I do when I’m spotted in Metal Gear.

This truly harkens back to the days of early 3D stealth games, and manages to steer clear of the most frustrating aspects of them. I must say I’m eagerly anticipating the release of this game.

Galak-Z: The Dimensional

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Now I think this game looks really nice, they’ve nailed a 70/80s anime art style, looking a lot like Robotech or early Gundam. The problem is that it really takes some getting used to controlling it, and I don’t think a crowded show floor is necessarily the best place to get to grips with it.

With a top down presentation like Asteroids you think it would control that way, but it doesn’t quite. There are some really cool ideas in there, like how different factions of enemies will fight each other, and some super nice aesthetic touches, like an in-cockpit view for enemies. But seeing those systems in action is a bit hard when the game is difficult enough to control that you die fairly quickly.

Bloodborne

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I love Dark Souls, so this game from the same team has me incredibly excited. I spent 5 minutes on Bloodborne. The demo ended when I died, and there’s a lot there that can kill you fast. It’s probably gonna be good but I didn’t get to play much of it.

Maia, Taphobos and Beyond eyes were some other interesting games, but I feel there’s enough there to write full pieces on with those, so be on the lookout for those! I spoke with Simon Roth, the person behind Maia for over half an hour and I felt the interview could have gone on for much longer.

It was a ton of fun, and while this year I was only able to manage the one day, next time I hope to make all three. I’m definitely going to this one again next year, and it’s gotten me hungry to find similar kinds of events as well.


Vibribbon

It’s unusual to say you get excited for big 1-2 hour compilations of adverts, but E3 gets people hyped, myself included. This time of year is an indication of whether we should be caring about what the big companies have to offer, and I’m currently looking forward to playing a lot of video games shown at the event.

If any were a bit lacklustre, it would be Microsoft and EA. Microsoft put together a confident showing, with detailing what exclusives they’ve got that do look fairly cool. However a lot of what they showed were things that could potentially be a game. There were a few too many CG trailers, as opposed to real footage of the game. Real games they did show were Call of Duty, Halo, Fable and Assassin’s Creed. All games that I’ve seen before and don’t really show much that’s new and exciting. I was happy to see more of The Witcher 3 though.

EA was the same, at least they showed early in-game footage, but what they had was a ways off. It’s difficult to muster up excitement for ‘conceptual prototypes’ when others are showing the real games that are coming out. Mass Effect and Star Wars Battlefront are both games I’ll be happy to see more of though. We did see some good footage of Dragon Age: Inquisition, which is out in October (I suppose I’m certainly looking forward to dark fantasy video games). I did get into the Battlefield Hardline beta, and it honestly does not feel significantly different enough from a standard Battlefield.

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Aisha Tyler keeps getting better as a host for Ubisoft, but I can never get excited for Ubisoft video games, their games tend to blend together as they share a lot of gameplay systems. There was a bit too much fake-sounding “voice chat” over certain games.

Sony had a mostly great showing, though they spent a little too much time on dull TV and hardware talk. NOBODY EXPECTED GRIM FANDANGO! It’s something I’ve never had a chance to play, and I’ll be glad to pick it up on Vita. No Man’s Sky, Mortal Kombat X, Batman: Arkham Knight, Destiny are some of the games that actually had in-game footage, and I want to play them.

Nintendo’s was just the most fun to watch, especially with a cringe-worthy fight between Reggie and Iwata being hilarious. And again they showed games I want to play. Mario Maker seems like it could be a really fun thing if it gets a good community behind it, and Splatoon looks like Nintendo’s take on a competitive shooter, complete with their standard of charm and fun new mechanics on top. It’s nice to see a third-person shooter where the goal isn’t kill everyone.

All things considered it’s been a pretty good E3 so far, and I look forward to seeing some of these games in action, and can’t wait to get them in my hands.


1

Recently I got the chance to talk with Tom Elliot, Technical Director at MAGiK ArtS. They’re a fairly small company that make apps for mobile initially starting with client work, and have recently just put out their first game SquareFlip.

PixPen: What’s the company ethos then? What does MAGiK ARtS Represent?

Tom: Our take on the market is you get a lot of indie studios, especially at Teesside, coming out rough and ready, “lets do some retro games”, “lets do some hardcore games”. They have a very clear audience, that’s great. They’re some of my favourite kinds of companies, the kind of companies I play games from.

But with MAGiK ARtS we went out and thought “what’s the niche that people aren’t doing at Teesside?”, “what these new business aren’t doing that we can do?”. And we found especially in our first client apps that we could use a very clean elegant, almost minimalistic style.

That resonates well with the more middle aged, the more middle class, the Steve Jobs kind of people of the world. So we aim for clean elegant apps, which are built for functionality and for your need first, for that kind of age range.

PixPen: MAGiK ARtS is a fairly small company at this point. How many people have you got?

Tom: A grand total of two (laughs).

PixPen: What does that bring to the company then?

Tom: Well for starters we can only focus on one given project at a time. Which has its downsides and its benefits. Its downsides are we can’t produce as many projects at a time as we could. The upside is we have excellent communication speed.

So turnover time for iterations is very speedy, and the best part of it we found is that with only having two of us, it’s really easy to set up contact with a client, with testers, with those kind of people, because there are no gears, no cogs.

Some clients we’ve had, we’ve had some really huge people, we’ve talked to big companies, and I can’t say their names unfortunately as those projects are still in development.

But the amount of time it takes to establish communications with these people, because you have to go through their front-line PR, to their local director, then to their managing director, then back down again to get authorisation, and then back up again. It’s ridiculous!

We’re a two-man company and if someone comes and asks a question, a few days we can turn around and say, “okay done!”

2

PixPen: Your first game, SquareFlip, what is it about?

Tom: It is a memory tile matcher. Designed to help improve your memory and put you in a Zen, relax you. It’s very good for killing time on a lunch time break, that sort of thing, very background, very nice.

PixPen: Why give a relaxing element to it then?

Tom: Our model for SquareFlip was we knew that we couldn’t make the next AAA blockbuster indie title. We gave ourselves a shortened development time, and built specifically for one platform.

So we figured “right, what is within our scope?” Well that’s not really the right question to start with, “lets ask people what they want and then see if we can build something to that scope.” We went out and asked people, we found our demographic of middle aged ladies mostly, although this game applies to everyone. We found that the kind of games they play, Peggle, Bejewelled, Tetris even are all nice Zen, just relax over your break time and we thought “yeah go for it, we could make that.”

PixPen: Do you have plans for future games.

Tom: Yes we do absolutely, I can’t give the full low-down but I can tell you what our immediate plan is project wise. The next app we’re building is a utility app, a car related one, look out for that if you’re the kind of guy who drives a Ferrari. The immediate app after that, we’re hoping to build another game in a similar vein to relax and chill with.

PixPen: Is that the philosophy when you’re designing games for MAGiK ARtS?

Tom: Oh yes, I’ve already spoken about this simple elegant design system that we’re trying to go for and we’ve found the relaxed chilled Zen puzzle games really fit that ethos to a point because they’re all about just being elegant and smooth and feeling nice.

3

PixPen: So the platform is all iOS devices then?

Tom: We’re currently focused on iOS devices because when we asked our demographic what kind of games they play, they all play them on iPhones, now we are actually looking to port to Android if enough people call for it, but at the moment we’re focusing on iOS.

PixPen: What other considerations do you have to take when developing for that demographic?

Tom: Technical ones, interface, as in from their perspective. We are two fairly technical people. We’re effectively bringing back bedroom programming but in the new age of the apple market, so we get what we’re building.

For a lot of the time, if you’re building a more high-end indie game, a more focused experience, like a platformer or an RPG, you can assume your users understand how it all works. You can’t assume that when you’re building experiences which are supposed to gel into everyday life, because the less that they have to learn to get into your experience, the better.

One of the biggest challenges we found is just making them learn without realising they’re learning, teaching them these surprisingly technical concepts of game mechanics, while at the same time assuming they have no idea how any of these games works. The most you can have expect them to have played is bejewelled, and even that’s a stretch so definitely understand how much the user gets your mechanics, that’s the biggest challenge I’d say.

PixPen: So the game is out?

Tom: Yes it’s out for free, if you’ve got an iOS device for Xmas, if Santa feels so obliged, it’s immediately available for free on the app store.


ryan davis

If you didn’t know already, game journalist and Giant Bomb co-founder Ryan Davis passed away on 3rd July. I’ve never met the man, but he’s been a big inspiration to me and a lot of other people.

Even though I’ve never seen him in person, I felt like he’s always been around, ever since I was reading GameSpot, and when he went onto Giant Bomb.

I’d always get excited for when the Giant Bomb podcast came out on Tuesdays (Wednesdays in UK time), and it was always great to hear.

It wasn’t like every other videogame podcast, they wouldn’t just run down the new releases, the games they’re reviewing, they’d talk about their lives. Bug-out bags, barbecues they went to, movies they liked, and other general talk usually filled up the first hour of the podcast, and it was great. I felt like I was listening in on some friends talk to each other, and they all came across as likeable people. That’s why it’s so much more upsetting to lose one of them.

His appearance in the video content on Giant Bomb was not to be missed as well, he could always bring up a good amount of energy and enthusiasm for whatever game was featured in the video.

His talent in writing reviews far outshone many others out there. A lot of writers fall into the trap of listing the good and bad features of the game without making the piece itself a compelling read. Ryan Davis’ reviews were very compelling reads, while still also managing to highlight exactly what was good and bad about each game. Just take a look at these examples.

Games writing needs more people like Ryan Davis, he had a sincere passion for videogames and the work he was doing in the industry. It’s incredibly sad to lose someone like him, I give my condolences to his friends, his family, and everyone at Giant Bomb.


I’ll be doing a livestream of Dragonball Z Budokai 3 tonight, it’s a fighting game based on one of the more popular anime out there.

At least I remember it being pretty popular when I was eleven.

Be sure to check it out here at 7pm.


Microsoft have revealed their new console, the Xbox One.

It is going to have more emphasis on content that isn’t games, such as TV and films.

Games shown at the conference were Forza 5, multiple EA sports games, and Call of Duty: Ghosts.

The system will also have a new Kinect bundled with the system.

Microsoft did not give any indication of how much the system will cost, used games will also require a “preowned fee” to be paid.

Xbox 360 games will also not be backwards compatible with the system.

It’ll be launching in time for Christmas, is anyone intending to get one? I’m not quite sold on it myself, but we’ll see what they have to show at E3.


The previous wednesday, I had atttended an awards ceremony for my university course, and I ended up being one of the award winners.

I’ve won blogger of the year for this website in particular.

I’d like to thank all of the readers, all of the people who gave their time for me to interview them for features, all the people that allowed me to join in with gaming events. It’s been fantastic working on this, and I hope to do a lot more with it.

Also, I will be live-streaming more Dragon Quest VIII at 7pm GMT. Check it out right here.



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