Thursday, 24 June 2010

Some of my old Fantasy Art.

Gave this one to a friend as a gift when he finally moved back into his house after it was flooded. It's in his downstairs toilet. LOL.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

The Finished Article

I decided in the end to move straight into acrylics, (same ones I use for painting my minis in fact), and found them to be just right for what I needed. There's still room for much improvement, but overall it could have been a lot worse and so I'm reasonably happy with it.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

E3 2010-Sony

When a company like Sony opens up their 2010 E3 conference with a video that clearly slaps the competition in the face, (namely Microsoft), with footage of Comedian/Actor Kevin Butler waving his hands around and saying “Who wants to pretend they have an invisible gun in their hand? What is this, the 3rd grade?” you know they mean business. Pity then that while Sony’s conference certainly had variety it never really got off the ground.

Sony kicked of the proceedings with big talk about 3D gaming and how the Playstation 3 is the only place you will find a real 3D gaming experience. Onlookers at the live show were each given a pair of 3D glasses and were invited by Guerrilla Games CEO, Hermen Hulst, to experience Killzone 3D.  Here at home we got to watch the regular version, but what was on offer looked very promising. Unsurprisingly the long awaited Gran Tursimo 5 along with a selection of other titles and a handful of Playstation Move games have also gotten the 3D treatment. Sony then went on to throw up a host of games already available on the Playstation Network getting a 3D makeover with Wipeout HD being the most notable. Unfortunately due to the high cost of installing a 3D set-up in the home this pushing of the project seemed way to early. If you’ve a few spare grand kicking about, fine, but if you haven’t then you won’t be playing Killzone 3 in 3D anytime soon.

Playstation Move was interesting, notably because it seemed to deliver on many of Sony’s promises. Demonstrations of Tiger Woods 11 and Sorcery, (a Harry Potter-cum-Dungeons & Dragons adventure romp), showed Move to be a precise and responsive peripheral; far more so than both Nintendo Wii and Microsoft Kinect. Characters and animations moved in sync with controller motions surprisingly well and pointed toward a system that could introduce motion control to more ‘core’ titles, (like SOCOM 4), far better than Nintendo and Microsoft’s efforts. Price, however, was a bit of a stinger being set at $69.99 for the main controller and $29.99 for the ‘Nunchuck’. A more agreeable bundle deal was also show with both controllers and Sports Champion, (a more serious looking Wii Sports title), for $99.99. How these prices will translate in the UK is up for question, but it’s most likely to be around the same price bracket if not a little bit less.

Probably the biggest shock was the announcement of Steam on PS3. For those unaware of what Steam is, it’s a digital distribution, multi-player and communications platform developed by Valve Corporation, (the team that brought us the critically acclaimed Half Life games), and perhaps one of the most important tools in recent gaming history; especially where digital distribution is concerned.  It was a move that, given Valves dismissal of PS3 not to long ago, came as a huge surprise. Clearly co-founder, Gabe Newell, has had a change of heart. Portal 2 anyone?

Sony also introduced their subscription service Playstation+. If you’re willing to pay around $49.99 a year you’ll be privy to a whole bundle of goodies and content. Thankfully Playstation+ is optional; all other features on the Playstation Network, including online play, will continue to be free.

Here’s a more detailed break down of Playstation+ features :

From 29th June you’ll be able to purchase a 1 year or 90-day membership from PlayStation Store and instantly get your hands on the following premium features. Plus, if you sign up for a 1 year membership between 29th June and 3rd August, we’ll also throw in a free downloadable copy of the award winning LittleBigPlanet.

As a member you can expect to get your hands on at least four games a month at no extra charge. Each month there will be a selection of one PSN game, two minis and one PS one classics available on PlayStation Store for you to download. You also get premium avatars and dynamic themes each month, many of which are exclusive to members.

Talking of exclusive, there will also be discounts available on loads of PlayStation Store content, just for members, so make the most of them as these will change each month as well.

Finally, wherever possible we’ll be making sure that members are included in some selected demos and beta trials before they go live to the public so you can be the one to tell all your mates about the next big game they ‘must’ get.

Just the games, avatars and themes alone are worth at least £200* per year, so even before the other benefits, this service is great value for money

Full Game Trial:
This premium feature gives you the chance to try PSN and Blu-ray disc titles before you buy them in a whole new way. We are not talking normal demos of selected parts of a game here. With Full Game Trial, you can download the full game and play it as if you owned it for approximately one hour, depending on the game, before you decide if you want to buy it or not. So you can check out the online modes, play against friends or anything else you’d normally do with a game.

The other great thing is that your progress and trophies from the trial will all be unlocked if you buy the game so no need to go back and start again.

Automatic Download:
We wanted to offer members the speediest service possible so sign up and you can set your PS3 to automatically receive the latest game updates for all the games you play, PS3 system software updates and even have game demos sent directly to your PS3 without lifting a finger.

Just set the time you want to receive them and your PS3 will automatically wake up and download everything, ready for when you next want to play. No more waiting to play your favourite game because there is a new patch or having to remember when the latest system software is launching let your PS3 do the work.

Details of this great new service, including a list of content available for the first 2 months will be on between now and the 29th, but don’t forget to get on the Store and sign up before the 3rd August to get the added bonus of a free copy of LittleBigPlanet.

For the most part though, Sony’s conference lacked any spark and apart from an appearance from Kevin Butler who lightened the mood with some amusing banter on how “gaming is about being up until 3am to get a trophy that doesn’t really exist”, was in danger of falling flat on its face at any moment. They even had a piece on the PS2. Yes, the PS2 did well Sony, but it’s time to move on. The middle part of the conference dragged on with PSP adverts we’ve already seen and any hopes of a PSP2 announcement were dashed. It never happened.

It’s all about the games though and Sony certainly weren’t short of those. Here’s some of the more promising titles dues for release this year and early 2011:

Medal of Honour-including a revamped version of MOH: Frontline, exclusive to PS3.

Dead Space 2

Gran Tursimo 5-now with added 3D and Move technology

Portal 2

Heroes on the Move-A Playstation Move title featuring six well known Playstation characters, including Ratchet & Clank, Jak and Sly Raccoon.

Tiger Woods 11

Twisted Metal

FFXIV Online

Killzone 3-3D

LittleBigPlanet 2


Infamous 2

MotorStorm: Apocalypse

Assassins Creed: Brotherhood

No mention of Team Ico’s The Last Guardian, which was a shame.

E3 2010-Nintendo

Unfortunately due to events beyond my control I missed the Nintendo conference. Sorry about that. However, here's a list of the highlights.

New Zelda (Skyward Sword) with emphasis on Motion Plus swordplay. Graphical style is somewhere between that of Wind Waker and Twilight Princess, with an adult Link in a cel-shaded environment.

Metroid: Other M will be released August 31st.

Retro Studios have been working on a new 2D platformer, relaunching the Donkey Kong Franchise, entitled Donkey Kong Country Returns.

Also in the 2D platform arena- Kirby: Epic Yarn looks rather lovely, the entirity of the environments and characters appearing to be stiched from fabric and allowing interaction with the gameworld based on this.

Epic Mickey is coming along nicely- lots of old Disney characters apparantly, and reaction has been far more positive than that of the very abstract looking sreens from a while back. The demo showed a more populated 3D environment, and a black and white classic-Disney-style 2D section.

3DS was shown, with one 3D screen and one touch screen- looks very similiar to the traditional DS design, has a 3D camera, apparantly, as well as a slider-analogue type thing.

Got to our website here for a look at this really clever piece of kit. With a Resident Evil & Starfox game planned for release the 3DS will be huge.

Mario Sports Mix revealed. Hockey, Basketball, Volleyball, Dodgeball. Coming 2011

Goldeneye. Split-screen, MP. Developed by Eurocom. November 2010.

3D versions of Nintendogs & Cats

Kid Icarus Uprising. Looked very action packed. Full 3D with some flight sections.

Below is a list of Publishers/Developers and some of the games they're expected to bring to theWii and DS consoles over the next year or so:



SUPER STREET FIGHTER IV 3D Edition (name not final)


KORORINPA franchise


Contra franchise




Professor Layton and the Mask of Miracle (name not final)


A Boy and His Blob

Face Racers: Photo Finish


PAC-MANTM & GALAGATM (name not final)

RIDGE RACER® (name not final)


Animal CrossingTM

Kid IcarusTM: Uprising

Mario KartTM

nintendogsTM + cats

Paper MarioTM

PilotWings ResortTM

Star Fox 64TM 3D

Steel Diver


DRAGON QUEST® franchise

FINAL FANTASY® franchise



NINJA GAIDEN® (name not final)

DEAD OR ALIVE® 3D (name not final)


de Blob 2



Batman franchise

Game Review: Alan Wake-Xbox 360

Alan Wake has had a bumpy ride during the course of its development, one that began way back around the release of the Xbox 360 and one time there was even talk of it ever surfacing at all. It’s also seen developers, Remedy, (of Max Payne fame), come under a lot of pressure from the gaming community and critics alike as all waited patiently for the game to be released. So here we are, some five years later, and finally Alan Wake has reached retailers' shelves albeit as a leaner, more familiar survival horror as supposed to the pseudo-free roaming adventure originally planned. It would be easy to decry Alan Wake for its step back into the tried and tested waters of earlier game mechanics given its length of time under development, but to do so would be an unfair critique of a video game that delivers on many levels whilst surprising on others.

Alan Wake tells the tale of a bestselling crime novelist who is currently experiencing a rather unfortunate case of writers block and so decides to take a much needed vacation with his Wife to the picturesque setting of ‘Bright Falls’: Home of the mountain hick and annual Deer Fest. Pretty much on arrival, however, things start to go awry and soon our reluctant hero finds himself in a nightmare seemingly of his own creation as pages from a manuscript he has no memory of writing are suddenly becoming very real. If you’ve ever been privy to John Carpenter’s horror movie In the Mouth of Madness, then a plot where a novelist’s creations come to life to commit acts of lunacy and violence will undoubtedly sound familiar. It’s no secret that Remedy have been rather open about their influences for Alan Wake during the course of the games development and as such have chosen to serve them up with unashamed relish throughout. From its idyllic, mountain setting, (Steven King), its jaunts into the unnerving and unreal, (The Twilight Zone), and it’s dark humour and collection of quirky, colourful characters, (Twin Peaks), its clear that Remedy's trek into the world of survival horror draws upon the strength of these influences resulting in a gripping and compelling video game that rarely ceases to entertain.

Much like a TV series the game is broken up into episodes and on completion of each the player is rewarded with an enjoyable closing piece of music with the following episode beginning with a TV style re-cap of previous events. Adding to this sense of acting out a TV serial is Alan’s ever present narration as the tale unfolds. Hints as to what may lie around the next corner or within the dark confines of an abandoned farmhouse are never too far away. While it’s often considered more appropriate in a horror-cum-thriller to conceal your viewers from what’s coming next, hearing the words “It was then I heard the Chainsaw” just as you stumble blindly into that afore mentioned farmhouse, is surprisingly unnerving. It’s an interesting approach toward a genre that invariably relies on the player being completely unaware of what lies in wait within their immediate environment; using the unknown to trigger the biggest scares and induce moments of panic. Alan Wake, however, tells you what’s coming next and as a result is genuinely more frightening than many other titles in the genre and for that it should be applauded. What’s particularly clever is how Remedy has managed to remind the player that they are just part of an interactive story whilst simultaneously never really detaching them from the experience. When Alan is terrified, amused or even exasperated by the events unfolding before him you share that journey, experiencing your own set of mixed emotions as the darkness-as it becomes known-threatens to consume you at every turn.

At its core Alan Wake’s gameplay follows a linear path of encounters and the occasional puzzle solving much in the vein of Konami’s Silent Hill, in that it gives the illusion of being able to wonder off from the beaten path while always maintaining a pre-determined route that guides the player through the story. In a time where the free-roaming adventure is king it’s nice to be able to just sit back and let events pull you along without having to overly worry about having missed valuable information integral to the plot. Throughout, pages from Alan’s manuscript can be found tucked away in darkened corners of disused buildings and the gloomy depths of Bright Fall Forest, and while they do give a far deeper insight to the proceedings, (should you choose to brave the dark and unearth each and every one), they’re not wholly important in understanding the play being laid out in front of you. Having said that, these scattered pages from an as yet unfinished horror story can give you the edge in more difficult situations and does add an extra sense of depth to the overall experience.

Combat should also be familiar territory to those with a flavour for survival horror with the added twist that without a valuable source of light the weapons scattered in and around each area are next to useless against the darkness and those tainted by it. Light plays a huge part in Alan Wake because, naturally, light is the opposing force of darkness and more often than not you’ll heave a sigh of relief at finding a handful of lithium batteries in an abandoned truck on the road side as supposed to pistol ammo. Here the signal flare and torch are your best friends, not the hunting rifle. By the final third of the game the combat-even with well implemented dodge system-does become a little repetitive, but it’s an interesting concept nonetheless and one that ties in with the game perfectly for simply no other reason than it works.

It’s has been a long time coming but Alan Wake has certainly been worth the wait. Atmosphere, beautiful visuals and a compelling story rarely come together in a video game quite as well as seen here. Once you begin Alan’s nightmarish journey it’s hard to let go; just remember when you go to bed at night to leave the landing light on as you never know what may lurk in the darkness.


Monday, 14 June 2010

E3 2010-Microsoft

This week sees the gaming world heading off to the Los Angeles Convention Centre to once more to partake in the biggest gaming event in the world. All the biggest players will be there and all will be trying to woo us with new games, peripherals and other surprises. If, like me, you’re a gaming addict then no doubt you will have been watching the live online feeds to get a sneak preview of all the new and tantalising goodies due for release over the course of the next year. Most important of these announcements will come from the three big gaming console manufactures; Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony-with the later two being the most curious as they take on Nintendo at their own game and venture into the world of motion gaming.

And so it is that that I’ve chosen to briefly cover the big three in my blog over the next few days.

After MS previewed their entry into the world of motion gaming at E3 last year in the form of ‘Project Natal’-video gaming where YOU are the controller-it was always going to split gamers down the middle when it came to opinion. ‘The future of gaming’ ‘Nothing but an advanced Sony Eyetoy’ being perhaps the loudest tunes over the last year. So when MS revealed all earlier today at E3 it came as no surprise that those very same tunes were still being sung. At it’s very core Natal, (or Kinect as it is now known), is a clever piece of hardware. Yes comparisons can be drawn against Sony’s Eyetoy when it comes to control, (even down to the onscreen selection animations), and there’s no doubt who MS are aiming for with this new project when you look at the line up of Wii Sport and Wii Fit clones.  But there’s no denying that there’s a certain attraction in being able to fire up the old Xbox 360 with a simple voice command or using the head tracking feature when participating in a live Cam Chat. Using hand gestures and voice recognition one is able to peruse their 360 dashboard without once having to take hold of the controller; from party invites to selecting a movie, all can be done using Kinect. It’s all very ‘Minority Report’ and is actually quite impressive.

The games on display, however, were less than exciting what with the vast majority on display being shallow, throwaway titles with little or no depth and/or creativity. Worst still, most showed signs of lag and a level of un-responsiveness. Whether these ‘technical’ issues will be smoothed out come Kinect’s launch in November remains to be seen. The most impressive title was a ‘Nintendogs’ styled game called Kinectimals where players can choose from up to 20 different animals, including tiger cubs, as a kind of virtual pet. Like Nintendogs, players can give their chosen animal a name which they respond too using voice commands with which to play games like catch and jump rope as well as other activities. How much was scripted, (if at all), for the event is unknown, but looking at how well implemented the voice recognition and motion control can be when in an un-demanding environment, (like in the 360 dashboard), it’s highly feasible that what was seen of Kinectimals was very real indeed.

Even so, more will have to be done on the gaming front if Microsoft is to pull in its core audience of Halo and Gears of War fanatics. There’s no doubt that MS are intent on stealing away some of Nintendo’s casual audience that saw the Japanese giant rise to fame once more with the Wii, however being as Kinect is an add on and not a stand alone unit Microsoft will have to play this one out very carefully as not to alienate their current fanbase. It’s an interesting time for Microsoft and also a tricky one.

So what of Microsoft’s current fanbase and was there anything for them to salivate over? Of the best, there was a jaw droppingly good demo of Gears of War 3 played out by Epic Games design director, Cliffy B and co. which certainly got a few whoops and cheers.  If that wasn’t enough there was a new trailer for Fable 3, (introduced by games design guru and the man behind Fable, Peter Molyneux).  And of course Halo: Reach, which showed all that is awesome about Halo but with added space combat in the style of Factor 5’s Star Wars: Rogue Squadron games. Yeah, I almost pissed in my pants at that one. Would have never of guessed I was 37, would you?

Then there was the final announcement of the Xbox360 Slim. At half the size of the original Xbox 360 it was a slick, shiny black piece of work with a 250GB HDD and built-in 802.11n wi-fi support. And if you were lucky enough to be a member of the press in Microsoft’s E3 conference that morning? Well you got one for free. On Microsoft. A week before launch.

The jammy bastards.

All in all, while it certainly wasn’t their best performance it wasn’t a bad conference from Microsoft. Those opinions are still divided when it comes to Kinect, and it’ll be interesting to see how things pan out for Microsoft and their new project. Even if you’re not sold on it, well, there’s always:

Monday, 7 June 2010

Game Review: Blur-PS3/Xbox 360

Power-up based racing games can be fantastic fun, there’s no doubt about it. Ever since Mario Kart first appeared on the scene way back in 1992 gamers have garnered plenty of amusement from this sub-genre, and when Wipeout put its futuristic spin on the idea we lapped it up. But for every Mario Kart and Wipeout there’s a Star Wars: Super Bombad Racing or Walt Disney World Quest: Magical Racing Tour.

Fortunately such fears are quickly put to rest as Blur is certainly the most engaging and exhilarating of power-up racing games currently on the market. The actual racing has developed a lot since the multi-player Beta earlier this year and admittedly the handling isn't to the same level of refinement as the Project Gotham Racing series, but it is far less 'brick-like' than before. There’s more room for skilful manoeuvres and genuine ‘wow’ moments; the ability to zip around your opponents feels a lot more fluid and controlled and there's an immensely satisfying feeling of exchange between braking and accelerating when power sliding into a corner. Racing lines are redundant here and to be fair who’s going to be worrying about precision racing when a glowing red homing missile is rapidly moving up on your rear?

Collisions with the environment have also been tweaked. Hitting a barrier, for example, is a lot more punishing than before and adds to the intensity of the race. Do you chance a high speed collision with a barrier just to gain a few seconds lead or take it smoothly knowing that the car behind armed with a Barge power-up could put an end to your current lead should it get within arms reach? Lightening fast reflexes and a steely disposition are a requisite if you’re to garner victory here.

Strategy and tactics play a greater role in Blur than any other power-up based racer, largely because you can store up to three different power-ups at any one time. Add to this the myriad of upgrades you can bolt onto your vehicle to improve performance in both racing and combat and what you have is the most in-depth racer of its kind. The best bit? Bizarre Creations have gotten the balance between racing and combat spot on. There’s no ‘blue shells’ that will unfairly strip you of your race lead here. It’s clear that a lot of testing and polishing has gone into Blur as the two elements that make up the game move seamlessly into each other without one ever compromising the other.

The single-player mode is split into nine different stages, each housing a range of different events across real life world locations, (although a little artistic license has gone into the design; obviously to tie them in with the feel of Blur), with a one on-one boss battle at the end. Beyond the traditional Race the game also features Time Trial, Destruction and Checkpoint events that feature many of the tell tale signs of Bizarre Creations’ supremely talented creative hand. As in Project Gotham Racing, players are awarded Kudos-or in this case, Fans-for skilful driving and the clever use of weapons. Send a shock wave through a rival as they try to pass you on the inside will result in a few appreciative Fans, but should you take out a rival from a distance with a Bolt Shot you’ll garner a lot more respect.  It’s a feature that also extends to the multi-player side of things, although some changes have been implemented into the proceedings just enough to differentiate the action a little. XP is issued out much like the Meta system found in the Call of Duty games where upon successful completion of set objectives during any given race will unlock new features and bonuses-giving you that much needed edge in the field. It’s clear someone at Activision had a quite word with the team at Bizarre as what they should look to for inspiration.

With support for Xbox Live/PSN, System-Link, the best use of four-player split screen this generation, ( no black boarders, no loss in resolution, a consistent frame rate), and the ability to link all your online and multi-player achievements via Twitter and Facebook, what you have is one of the most complete multi-player packages out there.

A new racing game from the people that brought us PGR was never going to be a surprise, but a racing game in the shape of Blur wasn’t at the top of anyone’s list. Beautifully designed and utterly addictive, Bizarre Creations have achieved what few developers have with the racing genre in recent times: They made it fun again.