Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The BIG Idea

As some of you might know, I have been a little vocal in the past about Kickstarter and the effect it is having on the independent games community. However, sometimes something comes along and really opens your eyes, and 'Far West' has been that thing for me.

My eye-opener is not something related to the game itself, although it does look super-cool and something I think would work really well. No, its the plans that flow around the game - the comics, the web series, the fan-influenced creative direction, the art, the 'Far West Society' etc. I think this is fantastic.

We live in a media bombarded age, a highly tribalised age, an age of recycling and regurgitation. To have something like this, which actually makes me sit up and listen and think 'Wow, that's very cool and probably something I could buy into' is very rare indeed. To have something that seems to have taken that media saturation and tribalisation and turned it into something wholly positive? That's fantastic.

However, that's not the only thing that this has done to me. It has really made me look at my creative works and question where I go next. My Duty & Honour project is coming to a close. I have a few more things I have committed to seeing off (a revised edition, a french book and a zulu book - the latter two coming in a short format in all probability, and a stripped down hack-friendly free pdf as well). I'm currently enjoying messing around with my unofficial WH40k hack as well. However, it's very much treading the same ground I have been treading for the last five years and nothing 'new' is coming from it.

What struck me from 'Far West' was the commitment to the bigger idea, the long term commitment. I look at this and it reminds me of Legend of the Five Rings - both in subject matter (naturally) but more importantly in organisation. It has the feeling of something bigger than just a game.

God, I wish I could do something like that?! I wish I could have the clarity of vision and commitment to do that. Put together a team of like-minded friends and carve out something new and brilliant and run with it for a good long time, getting momentum behind it. You know how someone said that everyone has a novel in them? Well, I'd like to think that my Big Idea would be something like this.

I just have no idea how to realise it out from under the morass of mundane bollocks that life is at the moment.

Best of luck to the folks at Adamant with Far West. Its inspirational in more than one way.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Yeah, I'm down with the kids.

DCUO has finally flipped its lid. For six months now just about everyone has been waiting for the Green Lantern content. I believe there may have been some bruhaha in the news recently about some motion picture that it might have been tied into? For six months, we have been told it is coming. Beta testers have already seen it. Its there and ready to breathe life into the ailing corpse of a game.

And SOE finally release it ... as paid DLC 'later in the summer'.

Really? REALLY?!

This is the game of broken promises. The slowest developed game in history. Monthly content updates became periodic content updates. Megaservers are taking longer to test than the CERN hyper-accelerator thingamebob. Free content as a result of monthly fee has turned into Station Store content and now ... paid for micro expansions.

Its like taking your customer and kicking them in the bollocks again and again and again.

And what makes me even more stunned is that there are dozens of people on a number of fora defending this practice. Sure, its only $10 but its now actually a principle thing. You cannot lie, mislead and backtrack to your customers this many times without some sort of backlash. Its ludicrous. SOE, I can forgive you the hacking nonsense but this? Seriously ... what on Earth, or indeed Oa, were you thinking?

The End of an Era

One of my first memories of being a child was a hot summer afternoon. I was five. I held in my hand a copy of the Marvel UK 'Mighty Avengers' title - the one where Scarlet Witch, Vision and Quicksilver had been transported to a melting world - and I was hooked. I decided there and then to make a change in my life and with the permission of my mam, I walked the thirty yards from my backyard to the corner shop and proudly told Rosa (the owner) that I wanted to change my order from 'The Barnaby Comic' to the Avengers.

And ever since then I have had a slew of comics that I read every month .... until tomorrow. Tomorrow I will receive the last two issues of the 'War of the Lanterns' in Green Lantern and I will close down my order at Forbidden Planet. Thirty years of comics buying has come to an end. Some might say its about time. Others might think its ill-directed pragmatism. Personally, I just have nothing invested in it anymore.

It started, predictably, with Bendis. That the machinations of one man could have me ... ME ... abandon the Avengers is almost too much to imagine, but it happened. However, what I didn't realise at the time, was that my dropping of my beloved Earth's Mightiest Heroes would prove a watershed moment. The world didn't stop. I wasn't left bereft. It was ... inconsequential. As I have looked at the title (because I still flick through it each month, just to keep my eye in...) there has been nothing to draw me back, no reason to slap down my money.

Oh yes, money. Comics are just too damned expensive as well. £2.30 for a five minute (if that...) experience? No thank you. Of course, if there was some way that DC could reduce the cost of comics, that would work right? Maybe a ... digital revolution?

But no. Well, yes, if you want to wait a month, but not if you want them upfront. I have a lot of problems with DC's Flashpoint revolution. I don't see the DCU as it stands as an overly complex place - certainly its simpler than the pre-Crisis DCU by factors of ten - and I don't see the characters as 'tired'. I do see some titles treading water (JLA, JSA, Teen Titans etc) so I can see their point but a wholesale reboot of the franchise? Really? Nuking Detective and Action back to #1? Seriously?! Can you imagine if they did that in say, Eastenders? Oh we have decided that the backstory is too convoluted, so this week we are going to restart the show and move the characters to Wolverhampton. Same names, maybe same people, new relationships. Madness.

Its also a straight up lack of historical perspective. DC have done this before - an explosion of minor titles in the 1970s followed by the infamous 'DC Implosion' a couple of years later. Every event has been followed by the spinning off of a slew of new titles, the vast majority of which never make it through the first year of publication. Its a failed tactic. Is this supposed to a market penetration strategy, selling more of the same to the current comics buyers, or is this digital revolution supposed to represent market development - penetrating new readers with their online offer? I don't see it - this is the 'app' generation, the 'itunes' generation. Apps cost 59p and are useful forever, updated for free. A single costs 79p. A comic costs ... £2.30? Bear in mind that for the price of 2-3 comics, you can get a fully playable PC game from Steam. And these aren't your father's comics. You cannot trade them, share them, buy them second hand. You cannot trace them and learn to draw from them.... but you can read them on an iPad. Whoopee fucking do.

So what Bendis started, the Flashpoint devolution has finished. Thats me done. No more comics. Its a strange and sobering thought and quite a sad one. I may have to go and dig out that issue of the Avengers (which I have in about three different formats now!) and have some nostalgia to calm my nerves.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Lost in RIFT!

So, how have I been doing in RIFT? Slowly but surely, I think would be the best way to describe it. I've been very casually bumbling my way through the PVE content and have reached the heady heights of L28! Please don't mistake slow for lack of interest, its just that there are so many more things that you can do.

The levelling isn't shabby either. Each zone I have been in so far has ended with quite a challenging fortress that has to be stormed. As a rogue, with stealth and sprint abilities and my elf 'jump' ability I think I'm pretty set up for this sort of stuff and I've still come a cropper some times. Challenging PVE is nice to play. I get the feeling as I am playing it that nothing is too easy and thats really making me think. And look around - its really pretty in some areas, Gloomwood especially. The designers also like their labyrinths and dying has more consequences than a simple corpse run! Its a mind test as well (especially for someone with a history of getting lost!)

The other thing which forms a major distraction are the rifts themselves. I'll underline again that this content is what makes RIFT different from its direct competition. The world fights back. At the moment there is a large storyline event happening and occassionally, all hell breaks loose.Monsters roaming everywhere, besieging towns and attacking wardstones. And YOU have to stop them. Its like a game built around the idea of world bosses on all different levels. Tonight, the Defiant players managed to release some giant crawling lobster thing in Scarlet Gorge and we, the Guardians, had to jump in and help put it down. These aren't tank-and-spank bosses either. This one was summoning adds and setting up fire to stay out of as well! Nothing a WoW veteran cannot handle...

I've also adopted a new 'Soul' too.- the Saboteur. Very interesting so far as it encompasses a snare and a ranged stacking attack (theres much more to it, but thats the basics). I'm looking forward to trying more of its tricks out in the fiuture.

I'm under no illusions about the longevity of RIFT. I can see little reason to replay the game with an alt as there is no new content to progress through, just the same thing again. I also know that my history of getting raids in is scant so the endgame might well not be visited much. However, the journey to that endgame is intriguing and I'm enjoying every minute of it.