Destiny, I fucking love you!

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I can’t think of another game that has polarized opinion as much as Destiny. When I hear complaints about the game, I usually react by nodding my head in agreement, before returning to work on adding to the 350+ hours I’ve already sunk into it. I’ve even concluded that had I’d been reviewing the game, I probably would have given it a seven too. Despite all that, I love Destiny. Regardless of its many flaws, Destiny is quickly becoming my most played console game, ever. With that in mind, (and before I write about the things I don’t like) I thought I’d go through the things I love the most about Destiny.

Destiny_20141119212713 Hand Cannons. Oh my god, Hand Cannons! I love these bad boys so much, I very nearly made two of these things Hawkmoon and Thorn. Once in a while, I come across a weapon in a game that has the magical X factor, and I fall in love with it. In Halo 3 it was the Spartan Laser. In Gears of War it was the Longshot Rifle. But In Destiny it’s a whole damn class of them. Nothing else feels as good as headshotting enemies with a Hand Cannon – not even killing a Hunter in PvP just after they’ve popped their Bladedancer special. Hand Cannons are so much fun to use, if I had an actual physical version, I would do dirty, dirty things to it.

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Raids. When I first started playing Destiny, all the talk from those further along than I was about the Vault of Glass, and just how good it was. After a frustrating few weeks of no raiding, I eventually lucked in to a group of friends tackling the Vault, and found out for myself what the fuss was all about. Without a doubt, the Vault of Glass is some of the best designed, and most enjoyable video game content I’ve ever played. I could go into more detail, but I don’t want to spoil it for you. What I will say is that in my opinion, the Vault is the perfect example of how you create co-op gaming where every player has a meaningful role.

Destiny_20141124221420 The Iron Banner. Version One of the Iron Banner was not good. All that weaponry and armour we’d been carefully gathering and levelling was more or less meaningless in IB v1, and players were not happy. Bungie went away, reworked the mode, and sent Lord Saladin back to the tower. The first few minutes into my first game, I headshotted another player on the other side of the map with Bad Seed Down, and instantly I was converted. Power finally fucking mattered. Oh boy, did it matter. Since then I’ve taken part in every Iron Banner, and learnt the joy of headshots with a fully levelled Hawkmoon. After a shaky start with destiny’s PvP, I can honestly say that Iron Banner is one of my very favourite parts of Destiny.

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Warlocks. Apart from having an exceptionally cool sounding name, Warlocks are also blessed with having some of the best looking armour in the game. The Iron Banner set for example is simply beautiful. And if there’s anything better than swishing around in robes, firing off Nova Bombs – I’ve yet to find it. I do have a Hunter and Titan, and I’ve found them quite fun to play, but they don’t have the same sort of swagger the Warlock does. Flying electrical fists and golden guns are all well and good, but let’s be honest, they’re not the same as tooling around in a cool outfit, wielding Hawkmoon, and fucking shit up with purple balls.

 

Project: Hide from the Dakka!

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Back like the renegade master. Or something.

So back in the dim and distant past, I was working on a scratch-built 40k bunker. Despite the fact that updates on the project were as elusive as my local MP, the project was progressing well. So well in fact, that the thing was finished, used on the tabletop, and providing inspiration for the next one. Well now I’ve finally gotten off my lazy ass, and taken enough photos to write the final update.

Looking back at the overall process, there are some things I’d do differently, but I’m more that happy with how it’s come out. It looks good on the table, and I made it myself. I’m planning  to make a second one, and hopefully I’ll improve the design enough to be happy to post up the plans. Until then, enjoy the gallery of photos below.

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Nephilim Build: The Final Episode!

 

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Dakka Dakka!

Dakka Dakka!

So here we go. Delayed by Christmas, video games, and a reluctance to pick up a camera and take photos, the Neph is finally finished. Truth be told the thing was done a while ago, but as usual, my mind had moved on to other projects, and I forgot all about the last one. Even now, I’m typing this in between working on something.

Last episode, all that was left to do was some highlighting and the main gun. Highlighting-wise, all that was really done was a touch of silver on all the rivets, and on the various metal parts and some of the scratches. Both main weapons were painted and magnetised, and that’s all! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed building the Nephilim. I’d like to get another and build the Dark Talon too, but that’s for the future.

Below is a gallery of shots of the Neph. I hope you enjoy them.

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Destiny: Crota’s Cheesy End

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Sorry about the title, I couldn’t help myself.

Cheese. Bungie does not like it apparently. Not if the content of their latest update is to be believed, anyway. If you’ve been following Destiny’s progress, you’ll probably know that the new Raid – Crota’s End, has been suffering from a particularly cheesy odour since it’s introduction as part of the Dark Below expansion. Tales of Guardians using various cheesy methods to run through the raid easily, hoovering up loot, were becoming commonplace, and it was only a matter of time before Bungie stepped in.

Not cheesing this time round.

Not cheesing this time round.

Now that they’ve at least begun that process, I thought I’d talk why I’m glad they’re trying to de-cheese the Raid. Firstly, I’d like to say that I’m not against cheesing per-se. As someone who’s crimes include hiding beneath the stairs in the Cerberus Vae Strike, I’d be a massive hypocrite for a start. But mainly it’s because the whole thing is a massive grey area. Where does cheesing end and exploiting a game bug begin, for example? If its possible (although highly unlikely) to be killed whilst hiding in a “cheese spot”, is that cheesing? There’s no right or wrong answer in my opinion.

So why don’t I like it in the Raid? I’ll explain. Destiny is a strange game when it comes to challenge. Unlike similar games within the genre, its possible to replay the entirety of Destiny’s story mode content whilst being hugely over-levelled. The gear and weapon levelling mechanics eventually render the game’s “normal” difficulty curve meaningless, and beyond the odd Heroic stipulation on various Bounties, the game never really insists you turn the difficulty up. The vast majority of Destiny’s PvE content therefore, relies upon the player choosing to be challenged to remain meaningful, and that’s why I have a problem with Raid cheese.

Definitely cheesed this one

Definitely cheesed this one

Players solo-cheesing their way through Crota’s End are rendering the most meaningful content in the game meaningless. They’re rendering the achievement of earning Raid gear meaningless. And in a game that relies upon the player to keep content relevant, I don’t understand why you’d do that. What is the end game anyway? You cheese your way to a full set of Raid gear, and then do the Raid as intended? That doesn’t make any sort of sense. Destiny is all about the gear you’re wearing, and the guns you’re wielding, and I personally don’t know how you can take any pride in that when you’ve cheesed your way there.

As I’ve said, cheesing is a ridiculously grey area, and something I myself have partaken in, so I don’t want you to go away thinking I’m making a judgement here, because that’s not my intention. This is an expression of bewilderment at the specific issue of soloing Crota’s End to short-cut your way to Raid gear and weapons. So by all means, feel free to ask me why I’m not also questioning whole Raid groups cheesing bits of the Vault of Glass, or to tell me I’m taking a bunch of pixels way too seriously. I won’t mind. Yes, its ridiculous the Raid can be solo-cheesed. Yes, Bungie should fix it PDQ. But also yes, I think the players have a responsibility to resist the cheese, no matter how fragrant.

 

The Obligatory Festive Blog Post

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Seasons greetings!

As we’re all in that weird period of stasis – between Christmas and the New Year, I thought I’d bore you with some words. Hopefully you had a great Christmas and enjoyed all the traditional seasonal things like turkey, too much chocolate, and PSN outages. Personally, having spent Christmas Eve night throwing up, I spent the holiday gingerly eating things in an effort to work out what made me sick in the first place.

Obviously from a gaming point of view, the big news of the holiday was the attack upon Xbox Live and PSN. Both services went down at one point, and rather predictably, Xbox Live recovered quickly whilst PSN stumbled around for days until users patience had run out. I know a lot of people got hot under the collar about the outages (probably justifiably so), but I simply can’t bring myself to be angry.

Maybe it was the Christmas cheer, or maybe it’s my time spent playing Eve Online (where the best way to beat the griefers is to just ignore them until they go away), but my response was to simply play Far Cry 4 offline and ignore it all. The ONLY time I got slightly fretful was when I realised Xur had the Hawkmoon upgrade for sale, and even then my panic was quickly alleviated by PSN coming on for long enough for me to buy it.

Apart from that, my Christmas was spent either sighing at the sight of all my children’s presents spread across the living room floor, or wistfully glancing at my unfinished modelling projects, and wishing this could all be over so I could get back to doing them. Pretty much the same as usual then! Hopefully you enjoyed your festive period as much as I did. Come the New Year normal service (whatever that may be) will resume, until then, have a good new year!

The First Forty Years

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Do you see what I did there?

 

It’s Monday the 3rd of December (well it isn’t, because y’know, I’m not going to blog on my birthday), and forty years ago I was born. The day today will have started not with a nice lie-in, but with my two kids waking me up so they can shower me with gifts before they go to school. I’ll get up bleary-eyed, wander downstairs, and ask myself whether turning on a console before 9AM is what I should be doing with my life. In short, it’ll be a regular old day.

I’m not good with birthdays if I’m honest. To me it’s just another day, but my family keep insisting I should be celebrating, so I try. Presents are always nice, obviously, but I know my family love me, so I never quite know what the fuss is about. Mostly, I suspect I’ll spend the half the day moaning about how everything was better twenty years ago, followed by spending the other half trying to work out how “twenty years ago” no longer refers to the 80’s.

Honestly though, on my birthday I’ll be spending my time being grateful for the life I have today. I have a wonderful family, and two daughters I’m immensely proud of, and if anything sounds like a win, it’s that. So thank you to everyone who’s wished me a happy birthday today, and fuck you to those who didn’t 😛

….It’s Gary Oldman. Old Man. And I’m forty. Get it? Oh forget it….

 

Nephilim Build: Part 3

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The update with slideshows!

So Nuln Oil washing, huh? Get crazy with that shit, bro! Seriously, I put it on almost everything. There’s loads of detail on the Nephilim, and it’d be a shame to lose it. After washing I tackled the dread job of edge highlighting. Normally I don’t bother on my Greenwing vehicles, but on all the all black Ravenwing, its kind of a necessity.

Weathering was kept simple. I drybrushed some of the edges with the same edge highlight grey colour to simulate worn paint, and then after that I drybrushed on some silver. Another quick wash with some Nuln to dampen that down, and I was done. For the wings, I wanted a slightly different look, so I began with sponging on some black. Once dried I sponged on some silver, then washed them back removing most of the wash with a cotton bud.

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All that’s left now is to fit the canopy (this bit is actually done), a few highlights here and there, and paint the main weapons. But! That’s for next time. So until then….

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To save myself from edge highlighting hell, I put the Neph down for a while to work on the flying base. Rather than do a long write-up on what I did to the base, I snapped a load of shots of it with my phone along the way. There’s no fancy techniques involved, the pictures tell it all.

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Nephilim Build: Part 2

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Zooooommm! Zoooooommm Dakka dakka dakka!

Yes, I have been swooping my half built Nephilim around, and making those kinds of noises. Because why wouldn’t you? Last update, I’d finished painting the cockpit, and so it was time to fit it inside the fuselage, and assemble the model.

First things first, glue the bloody cockpit in! With that in and masked up, I sprayed the whole model with Army Painter Matt Black Colour Primer.

Nephilim cockpit

The next step was base coating everything that wasn’t going to be black. So much silver!

Nephilim top

On the underside there was yet more silver! I’ve always liked the Gold/Silver/White colour scheme for the Dark Angels logo, so I used here on the underside of the missile pods. A touch of Vallejo copper was used to add a little detail to the engines.

Nephilim underside

 

Next up is Nuln Oil wash all over the base-coated bits, and final assembly. But as I’m super-slow about updating this project, that will have to wait. Trust me, I DO have the photos ready!

The Game Jar Files: Cutting Costs; The Xbox One price cut rumour

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Originally published on The Game Jar – February 19th 2014

A few weeks ago, a rumour popped up on the internet regarding a potential Xbox One price cut, and ever since then I’ve been considering just how likely that would be. Well, to be honest, I spent a fair amount of that time rolling my eyes at the notion, given that a price cut at some point is almost inevitable. But today I’ve started to take it a little more seriously after reading the news that Sony’s PlayStation 4 is still outselling the Xbox One. I know that sales between the two consoles are reasonably close, but as I noted a little while ago, I don’t think Microsoft knows how to ‘do second place’ any longer. Leading the race is where they’re most familiar, and I’m sure a price drop is one of the things they’ve talked about to get them there. What I want to know is; what does a cheaper Xbox One look like?

The discless option

Removing the Bluray drive was one of the things being guessed at by the internet hive mind, and I guess it kind of makes sense given Microsoft’s push towards a digital future, but to me it seems a little contradictory. ‘Welcome to the all-in-one, Xbox One’ is the tagline encapsulating the multimedia pitch for the console, but doesn’t removing the disc drive mean making it a little less all-in-one? The thing I think that people forget is, you’re not just removing the capability to play Blurays. You’re also removing the capability to play DVDs and CDs, and that is a big deal. I know we have iTunes and Netflix, but just imagine saying to every household with a large DVD collection ‘here’s a box that will do everything except play all the movies you’ve spent years collecting’. Its insanity. Removing the disc drive from the Xbox One would only be viable if Microsoft fully committed to the digital delivery only model, and as we all know, they’ve already pulled back from that.

The kinect-less option

Removing Kinect from the box is perhaps the most obvious option when trying to reduce the cost of the Xbox One, but to my mind it’s also the least likely. If you watched the initial Xbox One reveal, you’ll no doubt recall how much of that presentation was given over to demonstrating how Kinect was central to the Xbox One experience, and as such it makes removing the peripheral a massive PR disaster. Kinect is absolutely integral the console’s design. It’s why they couldn’t launch with a cheaper, Kinect-free hardware bundle. It’s why they redesigned an operating system that didn’t need redesigning. Admitting they got those decisions wrong by removing Kinect (which is essentially what they’d be doing) would be a step too far for Microsoft, and that’s why I think they won’t do it. Kinect is a game-changer as far as Microsoft is concerned, it’s what separates their console from the rivals. To abandon that just a year in after selling it so hard? Inconceivable!

The suck it up option

Assuming that Microsoft haven’t reduced manufacturing costs for the One by the end of the year, the ‘suck it up’ option is the most likely route to a price cut in my opinion. Having ruled out removing either the disc drive or Kinect, Microsoft is left with no other choice than to simply swallow the loss on each unit sold until costs come down. I know that sounds drastic, but it’s not unprecedented, and it doesn’t dilute the integrity of the Xbox One’s offer either. For all my criticism of Microsoft’s original pitch, I do believe they’ve got a good console on their hands, albeit one that costs too much. By leaving the console as it is and cutting the price, they could fully support the hardware – Kinect and all – whilst competing with Sony on price. For many people, the only thing preventing them buying an Xbox One is the price. Temporarily making a loss on each one sold is the quickest way to solve that problem

Whether Microsoft drop the price of the Xbox One is a question that doesn’t need asking. There’s absolutely no way they’ll want to go into a second holiday period with the most expensive hardware – especially as they’re already being outsold. How they go about it is the real question. All consoles get cheaper to manufacture over time, and usually these cost savings get passed on to the customer, but will Microsoft wait that long? In the end, I’m only making educated guesses here, but of the options I’ve listed, only making a loss in the short-term makes any real sense to me. No doubt time will tell how wrong I am, hopefully I’m not too far off though, as I have an Xbox One-shaped hole under my TV that needs filling.

The Game Jar Files: What will the next Gears of War game look like?

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Originally published on The Game Jar – February 24th 2014

I have a pretty special relationship with Gears of War. It was the game that convinced me to buy an Xbox 360, the game that showed me what Online Co-Op could be like if done right, and the game that encouraged me to venture out in the world of gaming communities. I’ve had a lot of fun playing these games. So when the news broke that Microsoft had acquired the rights to the franchise, and also revealed that there would be more Gears of War games on the way, I was slightly surprised to find that my reaction was one of trepidation. Having followed the development of multiple Halo games, I’m of the opinion that Microsoft aren’t really a ‘hands off’ type of publisher, so what would a new Gear game look like now that Microsoft have direct control of it?

In 2013, Gears fans got a taste of what a non-Epic made Gears of War game would look like. The People Can Fly developed Gears of War: Judgment arrived with much fanfare, but ultimately failed to capture the same spark the previous games had. For whatever reason – the lack of Horde mode, a changed multiplayer, or revamped mechanics, fans just didn’t take to the game and now they’re quite rightly wondering how the next game will shape up. Fans can be somewhat reassured that the studio responsible for creating the next Gears game – Black Tusk – is being headed up by series veteran Rod Fergusson, but how much freedom will they have to make the kind of game the series desperately needs?

If we’ve learnt anything from Halo 4, it’s that Microsoft doesn’t appear to like taking risks with their premier IP’s. There’s a set formula for making successful Halo games for example, and I don’t doubt for a second that Microsoft made it very clear  to 343 Industries they were expected to stick to it. To give 343i their due, Halo 4 was a pretty good game, but it came after five other Halo games and had no ambition to be original whatsoever, and as a result it was never going to be a truly great game. Playing it safe held Halo 4 back in my opinion, and I fear the same will happen to the next Gears game. Having witnessed PCF’s failed reboot of the series, will Black Tusk be given license to stray from the Gears of War formula? I think not. So I find myself asking; is that really what Gears of War needs right now?

Personally, I like to think the reason Judgment wasn’t that great was because People Can Fly would rather have made Bulletstorm 2, and as a result their heart wasn’t quite in it, but that’s just me being mischievous. Very probably Judgment’s lack of stellar quality arose from the studio being unable to fully unleash their creativity. I say that because I’ve played both Bulletstorm and Judgment, and I find it difficult to reconcile to two games. The former is a brilliantly fresh take on the genre that doesn’t pull its punches, and the latter is a game that never feels confident in the changes it’s tried to make. It’s almost as if someone was looking over the developers shoulders, constantly telling them ‘you can’t do that in a Gears of War game’

The trouble is, Gears of War’s particular brand of meathead combat has already been perfected over the course of three games, and it’s hard to see where the franchise goes next. The most obvious option is to explore the Pendulum Wars, but with the storyline never really being the series selling point, it’s difficult to think of a scenario that won’t simply be Gears of War with different weapons. In my opinion the game needs to start with a blank piece of paper, perhaps one that does away with single player all together, and focuses solely on Co-Op modes and multiplayer. Whatever direction they go in, one thing is for certain; the next Gears game needs to be a triumphant return to form.

Whether Gears of War can ever be the system seller it once was, I’m not so sure, but to stand a chance, Microsoft need to allow Black Tusk the kind of creative freedom that gave birth to the franchise to begin with. If the studio is given the freedom to tear up the Gears blueprint and start afresh, the next game could be truly special. After a lacklustre last game, the last thing the series needs is a publisher determined to play it safe by holding on the hand brake. As much as we love chainsawing Locust in half, we’re also ready for something new. Whether Black Tusk are allowed to give it to us, only time will tell.

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