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.

 

The Game Jar Files: Stop loving Halo 4 so much!

Originally published on The Game Jar.com – 19/11/2012

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My fellow gamers, we need to have a little talk you and I, about Halo 4. I need to sit you down and explain to just why loving Halo 4 a little too much is bad for you as a gamer in the future. Don’t worry, you’ll still be allowed to love Halo 4 after I’m done, I only want to put your love within some sort of context. So stop pwning noobs in Infinity Slayer, put the controller down for ten minutes, and sit back and relax as I start our little journey with a trip to a museum in Paris…

Imagine you visit the Musée du Louvre to view one of the most famous paintings in the world, the Mona Lisa. You go there to actually look at the painting, and just not to glance at it for 30 seconds. You study each little detail; the strokes of Leonardo da Vinci’s brush, the colours he’s used and the way he’s used them, his use of light and shade. You study the woman’s face and wonder who she is, what’s she thinking as she sits there. You’re drawn into the background surrounding her, and you wonder how the two are connected. Every detail of the painting tells you that an artistic genius created it. You move on and eventually you find the gift shop. You buy a reproduction poster of the Mona Lisa, but it’s not quite the same. There’s no brush strokes or depth. It looks the same to the casual eye, but closer inspection reveals it’s missing all the things you loved about the original. When you study the Mona Lisa, you can feel Leonardo’s craft shining through, the poster has none of those things. Obviously you bought the poster in full knowledge of what it was, a copy. You understand it doesn’t have the same qualities or the nuances of the original, but that won’t stop you from enjoying it all the same, you still enjoy looking at it.

Now, all of that previous paragraph might have been a bit too pretentious for you, but stick with me, I’m getting to the point. The relationship between the Bungie-created Halo 3 and the 343 Industries-created Halo 4 is exactly the same as the masterpiece artwork and the reproduction copy. Halo 3 is the masterpiece, it’s the Mona Lisa. It was the conclusion of a story that Bungie had been telling for two games previous, and with the third they created their finest work. When you play Halo 3, the creators passion for the story and it’s characters shines through. Every detail feels like it’s been lovingly crafted, it has a warmth and depth that’s only possible when the creator cares about what they’re creating. Halo 4 doesn’t feel that way. It’s the reproduction copy. They examined what a Halo game should look like, and copied it. And just like in the previous example, when you really study it with a critical eye you can tell the difference. Halo 4 has none of the creators passion poured into it, it feels like a game created by committee, every game mode accepted or rejected based on what would be most profitable in the long-term, every storyline touchstone added or removed by focus group.

But I don’t want you to get the impression there’s something wrong with liking Halo 4, I like it too. I enjoyed the campaign, I’m enjoying the Spartan Ops, and all of my friends are enjoying it, but I do find some of the adulation the game is getting rather troubling. My timeline blew up during launch week with people proclaiming what a fantastic game it is, how it’s the best Halo ever, game of the year etc. and I don’t like it. Why? Because all of a sudden gamers are judging the reproduction copy as the new benchmark of excellence. Halo 4 wasn’t made by craftsman, it came off a factory production line. It wasn’t made to be the best it could be, it was built to reach a certain level of quality and no higher. Are we as gamers really going to decide that this is what great games look like now? And don’t get me wrong, this isn’t an anti-Microsoft thing. I’ll be saying the same thing to myself when Black Ops 2 is released, there’s no originality or striving for excellence in Call of Duty games any more either. I want the very top-tier of gaming excellence to remain where it was, with the games created by the Leonardo da Vinci’s of the development world, not with guys who understand how to make a good copy.

What I find most unpalatable though is the tremendous waste of talent evident here. Halo 4 is very nearly a stunningly good-looking game. Clearly 343 Industries has enough technical chops to turn out a polished product, and yet they weren’t given the creative freedom to create their own Halo. If you look closely enough, you can see the developers desire to tear the traditional Halo down into pieces, and to start anew. Only they weren’t allowed, and now we have good game that clearly would have been a great game if only the money-men had said yes. So please my fellow gamers, lets not settle for second best. By all means enjoy Halo 4, love Halo 4, but understand what it means for future game development too. Lets not tell publishers we’re happy to accept this as the new benchmark for excellence, lets not allow them to tell us we prefer the factory reproduction over the artists masterpiece. Because if we do, we’ll never see another Mona Lisa again.

Five things developers should be banned from doing

Originally Published on The Game Jar – 20th July 2012

As much as I love gaming there are some things that really bug me. Mostly it’s because I’m old and I remember a time when video games were made by a small group of friends trying to do something cool, but it’s not always that. You see, I believe that some developers have started to become lazy, their creativity has been stifled by the publishers pressure for a profitable game. We need to free these people, brothers and sisters, from the tyranny and oppression of boring game mechanics. So when the revolution comes, and you have wisely made me your glorious leader, I shall ban all game developers in the land from doing these five things.

Oh and obviously I’m doing this for the good of gaming, it’s in no way a selfish attempt by me to eliminate the things I’m no good at or hate doing…

Collectables. Ever play the first Assassins Creed? Enjoy collecting all the flags did you? No? You know why? Because it was FUCKING TEDIOUS. Seriously, who enjoys running around, all over the game world, collecting stuff that has no bearing on your objective? I’m simply not interested is shooting every pigeon in Liberty City, I’m Nico Bellic for christ sake, I’m a criminal and I care about the money and the ho’s, I don’t give a damn about city sanitation. In Bioshock,  I just want to escape from Rapture whilst shooting people in the face with bees, I don’t want a potted history on how every thing went to shit. From now on, if your game hasn’t got Lego whatever written on the box, you are banned from putting any sort of collectable in your game.

On rails driving and shooting bits. I want to be specific on this, having full control of a vehicle is fine, driving a tank in Halo or Battlefield for example is perfectly OK with me, because I can control where the thing is going, I can try to avoid incoming fire, and I can get out if needs be. What I hate is the on rails vehicle sections, the bits where I’m stuck in the back of the truck with the heavy gun with no control over where we go. It’s always the same, I, the poor mug in the open and who’s woefully unprotected, have to be a crack shot with the slow moving, slow firing heavy machine gun (or whatever) while the AI behind the wheel has absolutely no idea about evasive manoeuvring. And he’s safe in there, tucked up nicely behind all that armour. No, from now on I’m behind the plexiglass and the damn AI can get shot at on the back.

Day one DLC. Also known as “stuff that should already be in the game but is being held back for no good reason other than making more money” Once upon a time, games were released with only one version, there were no retailer exclusive weapons or characters, no DLC codes in the box. Everyone went out out bought the same game, my copy of Killzone was exactly the same as your copy of Killzone, neither of us had a special gun because we bought it at a certain shop, and neither of us had extra mission or maps. We had the same game. I’m so sick of this segregation of gamers, and it’s got to stop. Everyone gets the same game, end of.

Using the words Elite, Special, and Forces. Seriously, If I read one more game box blurb that starts with the words ” You are part of an elite special forces team…” I’m going to vomit. Can we all just agree now, that like the World War II setting previously, the modern day special forces setting has been done to death, and it’s time to move on? And while were at it, can we also throw in that other FPS staple, killing off the character your playing? It was shocking and immersive when Call of Duty 4 did it, but not any more. Making a first person shooter? Just follow this handy guide to sure fire profits. Got evil terrorists in it? Check! Got some sort of desert/middle east level in it? Check! Kill off the character whilst the player is playing him? Check! Be honest, I could have described any one of the more recent shooters out there, couldn’t I?

Not including split screen. Split screen seems to be going the way of the dodo sadly, so from now on, any developer contemplating not putting it in will be made to sit down with three friends and play Mario Kart until they understand why leaving it out is a crime. Ask anyone who played Goldeneye 64 for their fondest memories and invariably they’ll talk about the hours spent playing four player co op. The thing is, for gamers my age, multi player meant going round a mates house and playing split screen, there was no Live to hide behind. You took your controller round to his place, you sat in the same room, and you had fun. Nobody who’s played Mario Kart, Goldeneye, or Micro Machines with a room full of friends will tell you split screen doesn’t matter, it’s that simple.

So that’s my vision, under this blueprint gaming will move forward to a glorious future! Granted I may have to build my own Rapture under the sea to become supreme overlord, and developers might not be too keen to come live down there and make games, but a boy can dream can’t he? Have I missed anything? What overused gaming mechanics would you like to see banned? Can you not get enough of playing a special forces soldier, and secretly wish that every game was Call of Duty. Let me know in the comments bellow.

Video: CCP – Welcome to New Eden Pt2

Another developer diary from CCP on Dust 514, part two in fact of the Welcome to New Eden video. This one covers the Mercenary’s doing the actual shooting planet side. For Eve veterans and Dust fans already following the game’s development, the video doesn’t really tell us anything new but it’s worth a watch anyway.

Video: Dust 514 – Welcome to New Eden

I as you may have gathered, I play Eve Online. I also play console games. In the past combining the two usually meant using my PC to look for tips on how to beat the console game I was playing at the time. Well no longer! When Dust 514 comes along, I’ll be able to shoot people in the face on my PS3 and have an influence on things going on in outer space! How? Watch the video…

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