Blog #13 - Top 5 Indie Games of 2010

So, it's December. I figure on the lead up to the new year I would honour my favourite games of the year. Sure, I might do a Game of the Year award but there are so many good games it's a disservice to just list the very best. For each week in December I'll write a blog listing some of the best games this year, starting with the top 5 Indie games.
 
These are 5 games I think you should play, not in any order. You decide for yourself which of these you like most. I'll decide in my game of the year picks.
 

1. Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent

Nelson Thethers: Puzzle Agent is a game developed by Telltale Games in conjunction with Graham Annable, who's books and art style the game is based on. You are Nelson Tethers, the FBI's top Puzzle Agent. Yes, there is a division in the FBI devoted to solving puzzles. This sets a light comedic tone to the point and click adventure/puzzle game where you are tasked with getting an eraser factory back up and running after an unknown accident. Apparently erasers are the lynch pin of democracy. The light-hearted and comedic tone that fills the game is juxtaposed by a supernatural/horror based story framing the whole game.
 

Why should you play this?

The story, characters, voice acting and general writing of the dialogue is very compelling as it swings from comedic to tense as you are trying to figure out just what is going on. The puzzles themselves vary in difficulty and feels largely based on the Professor Layton games where you have hints and the puzzle is abstracted from the world. I really enjoyed Nelson as a character, and while it's a shame that this game is very short (couldn't haven taken me more than a couple of hours) I enjoyed the time I spent listening to him report on his tape recorder and questioning the townsfolk. The Puzzle stuff is an experience you can get from Professor Layton and other games, but the real appeal lies in the framing of Puzzle Agent.
 

2. Super Meat Boy

SUUUPEEEEEEERRRRRRR MEAT BOOOOOOY!!!! God I love hearing that every time I start it up. In this masocore platformer developed by Team Meat you play as Meat Boy, the boyfriend of Bandage Girl who has to platform his way across the world to rescue her from the evil, and pretty creepy Dr. Foetus. Starting out as a flash game I first downloaded last year sometime, Team Meat have developed this in to something that feels like a full fledged arcade or Indie title unlike other games that try to move from flash to retail.
 

Why should you play this?

This game has a great sense of style, from the menus, to the music and overall game graphical style. The sparse animated cutscenes are filled with videogame references/parodys and humour. There are over 200 levels, and team Meat promising free updates through 'Teh Internets' (an unlockable world). While levels might only last 10 seconds the game is so hard that you won't finish a level on the first time. I am stuck right now but I still don't regret my purchase because the wind up to the final stage where I am at has been a blast.
 
 

3. Comic Jumper

Comic Jumper is Twisted Pixel's newest game, (mainly) a sidescrolling shooter featuring failing comic star 'Captain Smiley' and the sidekick stuck to his chest 'Star'. The game starts with captain smiley in a usual issue of his comic, when after a big battle with his nemesis 'Brad', his comic is cancelled. Twisted Pixel to the rescue! In a self referential and knowing twist the game developer put themselves in the game, buying the captain smiley brand and putting him to work in several other comics to make money. Honestly the gameplay is pretty poor. I found Captain Smiley to be too slow, further encumbered by monotonous and repetitive level design.
 

Why should you play this?

Despite my negative points about this 'game's gameplay', almost everything else about this game is fantastic. It excels as a piece of entertainment, not as a game playing experience. The characters and dialogue are hilarious, along with all the of the live action video they shot (and a particularly funny motion graphics sequence at the end of the game). The settings are also fantastic. You'll jump in to 5 different comics across the game (including Captain Smiley's own comic) all featuring different storylines and art styles. if you dig the humour then it's a must. Don't come here for gameplay.
 
 

4. Monday Night Combat

This is the only title with multiplayer on the list, and is an only multiplayer-only title. Released on Xbox Live Arcade in the summer of arcade selection by Uber Entertainment, Monday Night Combat is a class based third person shooter featuring both an online objective based mode and a tower defence/shooter mode that be played by up to 4 players. It has been said many times that this game draws from Team Fortress 2 as it's main source of inspiration, and I can certainly see that in it's art design and class based gameplay but I feel like it draws from a lot of modern game design concepts in general. There are perks from shooters like call of duty (called sponsors) and other now normal features such as map voting.
 

Why should you play this?

It's very easy to recommend this to anyone who appreciates some team based shooting. The concepts in this game are pretty safe; shoot the other guys, storm their base, but the execution here is very good with a decent variety in presentation between the classes, the art style, the feeling of the shooting. It's light hearted action and while not 'funny' it doesn't take itself seriously. Very easy to get in to, very limited progression so you don't feel like you're being gimped with unlocks and for a low price it will last you for a lot longer than the price tag suggests.

 

5. Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale

Recettear is a very strange game. A PC RPG/Action game developed in Japan and recently localised, it is unabashedly grounded in Japanese fantasy and Anime (as if the game's art style didn't clue you in). I picked this game up in the Thanksgiving Steam sale after hearing about it from a friend (who hadn't played it mind) and decided to give it a try. The concept is a unique one, you are a girl running an item shop in a town. Sounds simple, but the various aspects of the gameplay begin to pile up and it soon becomes a game of time management and economics. Yet, somehow, it's fun. You'll be buying, selling stock, expanding your shop, installing vending machines and haggling with customers in no time. The other part to this game is top down RPG style dungeon crawling where you play an adventurer searching for loot to sell in the shop.
 

Why should you play this?

This game pleasantly surprised me. It's so unique in it's premise and while the execution of the gameplay system feels very much 'Indie' it has decent ambition. The art style consists of old school 2D sprites on a 3D world and looks very appealing. All the characters are based on a good Anime art style and the original Japanese voice acting has been left in so no awkward American voices to ruin this wholly Japanese experience. They did a great job on the localisation, as the translations are often quite funny and surreal. It spices up what would otherwise be bland dialogue. Getting used to the seemingly dense and complex gameplay systems is incredibly addictive, as you soon see the fruits of your labour when you go from raking in hundreds a day to ten thousand. Try the demo on steam and you might be presently surprised too.
 

Honourable Mentions

Here are some games that didn't make the list because I didn't play enough of them or only played a demo version of but feel (to me at least) like significant releases.
 VVVVVV

 MineCraft

Conclusion

So there you go. My top 5 Indie games of this year. Most of my favourite Indie games that I played this year were in fact made in 2008 - 2009 (like machinarium, go play that game, seriously) so it's a shame I couldn't give them a shout out in this list but there are still some very good games this year and I think my list is as diverse as it can get. There's something for everyone here.
 
if you have played any of these games let me know in the comments what experiences you had. Not sure what I'll do next week, but if people read this one stay tuned for more.
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Blog #12 - I Can't Do Faces Edition + Alpha Protocol

So... back on the work train I've done another illustration. I decided to finally upload my illustrations to my website which you can view here. I made a front page banner for my previous illustrations, as before I only had one of them. Here it is: 

Godot, Gant, Gumshoe, Edgeworth

Anyway, back to the new illustration. Frankly, I shouldn't have bothered. After Damon Gant which I thought turned out pretty good I wanted to do Emma Skye and while I don't mind the work I did on her clothes and stuff (that bow is fucking great :p) I realised that I still can't do people's faces. Especially in her case as there is very little detail to it... but I don't know. It kind of ruins the whole image. I would love some opinions, and hopefully some advice on how to do faces.
 
Here it is:
  Ema Skye, aspiring Scientific investigator. Likes chocolate Snackos. Age 15, scientifically speaking.

Yeah, now that's out of the way. I might have to hang up my hat on doing these illustrations if this is how they are going to turn out. I will have to at least do Phoenix Wright, but that might be my last one ever because it's so frustration putting myself out there trying to do these illustrations which aren't even that good, but really wanting to do better. I felt like I was getting better but with this, I don't know.
 
What else is going on? I bought Alpha Protocol for £5 in the Steam sale. I was very cautious after, thinking "why did I do that?" but I was curious and in the end I'm so glad I did. The game is broken and flawed in many different ways but I can say as an overall player experience I really enjoyed it. I don't care about judging it too much, I am not a curator for a 'best games ever made' museum. I am allowed to expose myself to troubled games. Really enjoyed the 20 hours I put in to it and for £5 that's a bargain. I did cheat so that I could play the Veteran class first time round but I knew that was because I wouldn't give this a second go and I won't. At least not for a couple of years.
 
Thanks for reading, if you did. Not that many people read my blog for obvious reasons. It's usually just... this. But if you did I'd like comments and feedback. Stuff like that. Perhaps show me some of your Phoenix Wright fan art.
 
Here are my previous illustrations of Phoenix Wright characters:
Detective Gumshoe
Prosecutor Godot
Diego Armando
Miles Edgeworth 
Damon Gant
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Blog #11 - Damon Gant Illustration, Life, Phoenix Wright

So, been a while since I blogged (not that long really) but even longer since I released a Phoenix Wright Illustration.
 
The last 6 months have been pretty awful, getting better recently though I guess. I started these because my friend was in the hospital, never going to come out. I got distracted, some took longer. Then I started my Chief of Police Damon Gant in early August I guess, but University started calling so I stopped it. I opened it up once or twice and added a tiny bit of detail then closed it again because of the mammoth amount of work I still had to do on it. Don't know why I chose to finish it off now but I did. 
 
Something I find myself doing every single night is getting in to bed and playing my DS. I have a lot of trouble sleeping but when I play my DS I often found that it sent me to sleep and I dropped my DS, it's lost all power and I lost all my progress. It happens. The thing is, all I play are the Ace Attorney series. I start with the first Phoenix Wright then go through them all up to Apollo Justice and start over again. I wish it still had the same thrill as the first time I played them but I know who did it each time and how to prove it. Same with Heavy Rain I guess.

Here it is:
 

Damon Gant
Small little easter egg behind him if you've played that case in PW1. I'm not happy with it, I never am. If you have any comments or feedback post them below. This will probbably be the last one that I do though, and I didn't even get to some of my other favourite characters. It's just time consuming because I'm not very good and I don't have a lot of time any more. I doubt I'll ever top my Godot.

Here are my previous illustrations of Phoenix Wright characters:
Detective Gumshoe
Prosecutor Godot
Diego Armando
Miles Edgeworth
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Blog #10 - My Collection of Gaming Stuff Photoblog

I seem to have accumulated quite a few pieces of gaming merchandise/memorabilia. Some of it I am proud of, some have deep personal meaning and others are just cool. I do collect games and gaming consoles but they are practical. They serve a purpose in my hobby. These are items which serve no purpose but I have chose to keep anyway. Below I'll post a photo of each and describe what it is, and what it means to me.
 
I would also like to hear from the community about the gaming swag you have. Staff don't count, they must have a crap-ton of stuff.
 

Grand Theft Auto IV - Key to the City

GTA IV Key to the City
Before GTA IV came out Rockstar Games announced a promotion via their social club website. Being eager I had signed up well in advance of the game. They were going to be giving out 'keys to the city' for people who completed the game 100% the fastest after release. At the time I didn't quite know what I'd be getting, much less a physical thing. It arrived, from New York, in a rather large Jewellery style box. All black and fuzzy. It has no function but it makes me proud. It's the only time I have achieved something related to gaming, so it sits proudly upon a shelf in my room.
 

Crysis - Random Crysis Swag

Crytek Prizes
In October 2009 I entered a movie competition on Crytek's official modding site Crymod. Not only did I help organise it but I also made several submissions which were winning entries. For this I won several prizes. They arrived over 8 months late and were not at all the prizes originally stated but I was happy to finally get them. I wear the Crysis Warhead T-Shirt from time to time but the rest of it stays under my bed. Still, it's nice to be recognized by a developer and rewarded for it.
 

Sonic Chaos Emerald

Chaos Emerald
I'm not sure if this one counts but it means a lot to me so I am posting it anyway. A couple of years ago my best friend Gareth purchased an ornamental set of Chaos Emerald replicas from the Sonic the Hedgehog series. He was always a massive fan. They sat for several years on a shelf next to his computer, looking very pretty. Unfortunately he passed away earlier this year at the age of 20 after a lifelong battle against Cystic Fibrosis. Having known his family for so long I've stayed in contact with them and they felt that distributing the 7 chaos emeralds among his best friends would be the right thing to do. So I have one sitting on my shelf, an eternal reminder of our friendship.
 

Giant Mario Statue

Giant Mario Statue
The function of this is supposedly a DS holder, and while it usually does hold my DSLite I like to think of it as just owning a giant Mario. My best friend who died as I mentioned above bought me this randomly earlier in the year. We were talking about it online and then one day he just showed up with a massive box. His generosity always melted my cynical heart. I don't care how geeky it is to have a massive Mario, I love it and it will always be a reminder of him.

Fallout 3 - Special Edition Awesomeness

Fallout 3 Swag
Yes, I am sad. I purchased 2 separate special editions for Fallout 3 so that I could get the Lunchbox, Bobblehead and the Brotherhood of Steel statue. At the time I was super in to Fallout 3 and loved it so much. I don't regret the decision to buy 2 special editions, made all the easier due to the fact that I got them both incredibly cheaply. I have had my spiritis lifted many an evening while working furiously on a project when I look up and see the vault boy bobbing his head.
 

Gears of War - Wallet

Gears of War wallet
This is just something I bought many years ago when I was really in to Gears of War. I'm not a fan of novelty things but it's actually a nicely made leather wallet that has served me well. Sure, it makes me look like a geek or a metal head but I don't care. I enjoy looking at the logo.
 

Assorted Gaming T-Shirts

I have a couple of gaming T-Shirts. Some I was sent by a developer such as the Little Big Planet and Crysis ones, others I bought such as the Rapture T-Shirt. I'm proud to display my affection for gaming emblazoned across my chest. It doesn't define who I am but at the same time I enjoy games and like to wear games I like. The Little Big Planet T-Shirt I was sent by Media Molecule is actually glow in the dark. Slightly uncomfortable to wear but still pretty cool. Not pictured is my Super Mario Brother Plumbing Service T-Shirt which I fell in love with. I may update with a photo of that once it gets out the wash.
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Blog #9 - Dead Rising 2 and the Annoyance of PC gaming

So... back to University this week.
 
I've been rather dreading it but enrolling yesterday wasn't all that bad. I'm just worried about some of the interactive projects I'll be doing. I really enjoy Photoshop and some motion graphics work in After Effects but things like Flash and programming in Javascript don't interest me which means I will struggle. Oh well. I've tried playing as many games as possible before studying eats up all my time and I finally S-Ranked Scott Pilgrim. The art by Paul Robertson and music by Anamanaguchi make it one of my favourite games ever for reasons other than gameplay (the gameplay is fun too though). I also bought and played through the very brief Witch Hunt DLC for Dragon Age: Origins. I'm not sure how I felt about it. I can't say I was disappointed because I didn't have any expectations but they re-used a lot of scenarios and locations from the main game.
 
On to the main point of this blog. A few weeks ago I pre-ordered and pre-paid for the PC version of Dead Rising 2. After playing Case Zero I couldn't wait, and really wanted to get the inevitably superior PC version. Not only would it have better graphics (and the possibility of mods) but it was £20 cheaper, half the price of the console version. Then, after speaking with the retailer and checking various sites Capcom have decided to delay the PC version until October 1st. Why? Should I be surprised? It is far too common for PC counterparts to be delayed for whatever reason the publishing company can come up with. Ultimately I know a lot of it stems from piracy, but still on the user end it's completely arbitrary. It has disrupted my plans in a pretty serious way. I'd cleared some time over the weekend and next week to play it, and by the time it actually comes out now I will have a ton of design work to do. it is only because it was supposed to be out this week that I would have been able to play it in an enjoyable fashion.
 
In response I've decided to cancel the pre-order, had the money refunded to me and found a slightly cheaper Xbox360 version of the game that can be delivered to me tomorrow for free. Not only that but it comes with a free T-Shirt (not that exciting but free is free). On the website every version of Dead Rising 2 has a free T-Shirt, that is except the PC version. There are also 3 limited editions for the consoles versions. None for PC. On top of that there's about 5 or so pre-order DLC packs around for both console versions but absolutely nothing for the PC version. So no special editions, no pre-order DLC and it can't even make the same release date.
 
I very much enjoy gaming on my PC. It gives me almost unlimited options, better quality gaming and everything that consoles offer I can get in a better form most of the time. I also own over 10 different consoles though, and while I prefer to game on PC there are constant annoyances associated with the platform that don't need to exist. They are arbitrary limits imposed on a platform that deserves equal treatment.
 
You can probbably tell, I am just frustrated. At least I will get to play the game at a reasonable time, but now it will not be on my PC and I won't be getting the best experience that I am used to.

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Blog #8 - Mass Effect 2 DLC: The Cost

So... I've been thinking about getting back in to Mass Effect 2.
 
I haven't bought any of the DLC so far, so I looked it up and I was quite shocked at what had been released, for both good and bad reasons. I figured I would wait until the next batch in the form of 'Lair of the Shadow Broker' before buying it all up, so I have some time and decided to do the math. Maybe this will help people out, but it certainly helped me and brings me to my main point of discussion. This is based on the PC version (using the Bioware site prices), assuming you bought it new with the Cerberus network code to get the other DLC for free.
 

Missions:

560 Points - Kasumi
560 Points - Overlord
800 Points - Lair of the Shadow Broker

Total: 560 x 2 + 800 = 1920 Points

Misc:

160 Points - Aegis Pack (weapons)
160 Points - Firepower Pack (weapons)
160 Points - Equalizer pack (weapons)
160 Points - Clothes

Total: 160 x 4 = 640 Points

Grand Total: 2720 Points

So, the most efficient method of buying the points would be: 1600 Points + 560 Points + 560 Points = 2720 Points or £12.38 + £4.33 + £4.33 = £21.04
Since you can only buy points in 1600, 800 and 560 this seems to be the best method to get exactly the number of points you need to buy all of the DLC packs.
 
Now, for my thoughts on this. It is way too much. A total of £21 for DLC. I paid £27.99 for the game new, day 1, and for 75% of the price of the full game this DLC doesn't seem to offer anywhere near as much content as it should. Now you could say I don't need all the little packs, which I don't at all, but they only account for about £5 whereas the rest is £16. I'm just not sure how I can justify to myself buying small amounts of content for almost as much as the 20+ hour game itself. I can see how Bioware can justify it to themselves, and I don't hold it against them. They're a business. But I would like to see DLC priced differently, or reduced/bundled over time.
 
At this point it almost seems like I should wait for a Game of the year edition of the game and buy a second copy but that seems so redundant. I shouldn't have to buy a game a second time later down the line to get additional content. Now imagine if they release a few more mission packs after this, the price could actually exceed the original game and I'll pretty much have to buy it again if I want to save money. It's perfectly fine for them to do this, but there's got to be a better way to sell this content to your customers.
 
Now I know the argument for price to quantity is a very sensitive area, and I'm not sure if I'm even getting involved in that argument here. It's just tough to justify, examining it as a whole. If you have any thoughts post them in the comments below.
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Blog #7 - StarCraft 2: Char Wallpaper

So... I've been blogging a lot lately. Weird.
 
I finished Starcraft 2 again today and realised I really like the between mission loading screen for Char so I took a screenshot, touched it up and removed the loading bar in Photoshop. I thought other people might want to use it so I've uploaded it. The image is 1920x1080 so pretty big, and the file is almost 1MB. Below is the original loading screen and then the one I edited in to a wallpaper, and below that is a link to the actual file hosted on Photobucket.
 

Starcraft 2 loading screen

Starcraft 2 - Char

 Here is the link:
 http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v210/lepriconeater/starcraft2_char.jpg
 
Let me know what you think. I can take minimal credit because I basically did nothing besides adjustments, but I'd like to know if other people also appreciate this wonderful loading screen. I like it a lot more than most of the space ones.
 
EDIT: Look in the comments below for a higher quality, higher res version of the loading screen without the loading bar ripped directly from the game.
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Blog #6 - Wiki, Beyond Good & Evil and T-Shirt Competitions

So, what's been going on?
 
I realised I spend way too much time on Giant Bomb and way too much time submitting Wiki entries for Phoenix Wright characters. Seriously. My entire Wiki list is 1,138 points on the Wendy Oldbag page. 452 points on the now deleted Yatagarasu page. 361 points on the Calisto Yew page. Then there are all the characters I have added, including Damon Gant, Marvin Grossberg, Jake Marshall, Lawrence Curls, Cody Hackins and Wendy Oldbag as well as several locations. Do I have nothing better to do with my time? The worst part is there are like 50 more characters I want to add and write articles for but I just don't have the time.
 
On a similar subject, I have started work on my Damon Gant illustration, so stay tuned!
 
Moving on, I finished Beyond Good & Evil yesterday. I think it is fair to say that this game is considered a cult classic. I enjoyed it a hell of a lot. The photography side mission really kept me playing, as it appealed to me in the way that Pokemon does (and was better than Pokemon Snap). The setting, characters and art style were all great and unique. The controls on PC were awful, the combat fairly weak and mashy and the game has some serious issues with character development (Spoiler: Oh look, suddenly I'm the chosen one... oh and I'm also the source of an alien power transformed in to human form. Thanks for dropping that in there, game).
 
On a final note, I saw this competition on Facebook to design a T-Shirt. I'm supposed to be a designer, so I took a look and most of the designs are so awful... like MS Paint and WordArt. So I threw something together in the hopes that I could at least get runner up. My friend is currently the winner and I don't want to or expect to do better than him but I have to beat some crappy vomit inducing designs. I would appreciate any votes, and also if you like check out the winning entry by Jack Wells and vote for him as well. Honestly, I don't think my design is very good but it can't hurt to enter and I didn't want to spend a lot of time on this.
 
Here is the link:
http://apps.facebook.com/pingtshirtcomp/entry/64/?ref=nf
 
Here is my Design:


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Blog #5 - Miles Edgeworth Illustration and StarCraft 2

So, yet another Phoenix Wright illustration. This time Miles Edgeworth is up. I really enjoy Miles Edgeworth as a character. He provides a good antagonist in the first game and then evolves as a character rather quickly, and is very enjoyable to play as during the final case of the third game. Miles Edgeworth: Ace Attorney Investigations however... not so much. He's a good character but the sprite style they went with in that game (combined with the music) really destroyed the tense atmosphere of the series. The gameplay was very different, and I just couldn't enjoy it anywhere near as much as the others. Hopefully they'll make a classic style first person game where you get to play as Edgeworth.
 
Also on the agenda is StarCraft 2. I traded in Crackdown 2 and COD4 last week so I could buy it and while I didn't play it for a couple of days when I got to playing it I couldn't stop. I ave no history with StarCraft, didn't really follow this sequel or look in to the game at all before I bought it but I am a big RTS fan. The in-game cutscenes and in between mission point and click sequences really held my interest. Most RTS games will just have some shoddy menus but having it all in-game really drew me in to the world and the story. You shuld give it a go if you're interested. It looks how it plays on Giant Bomb. What you see is what you get.
 
Anyway, back to the illustration. Here it is:
  
Disclaimer: I base my 'art' on existing images from the games, they are not intended to be original. It's more just fun for me.

 Miles Edgeworth, Perfect Prosecutor
 
I was really excited to do one of edgeworth and I love his Objections but I definitely don't think this is as good as my Godot illustration. Not as stylish. I spent so much time on the ruffles and the hand, detail is not my thing and they were a bitch. I had a hard time thinking about the composition and it just wasn't working. The space around h

Anyway, I'd like to hear feedback and any other characters you want me to do next. I'm thinking either Chief Prosecutor Gant, Phoenix Wright, Apollo Justice or Emma Skye.
 

Previous Illustrations:

Prosecutor Godot
Diego Armando
Detective Gumshoe
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Blog #4 - Diego Armando Illustration and Goblins

So, back with another Phoenix Wright illustration. I admit this is a little lazy. It's not a completely new unique illustration, it's just a recolour and small edit to the Godot illustration that I posted in my previous blog a couple of days ago but it had to be done. After all, Diego is an interesting character and I like his look before he became Godot. Before we get to that though, I've been playing some Battle for Middle Earth 2. This game feels so old in terms of it's genre but I love it. I originally played it on the Xbox360 and kicked ass at it, now just going for some campaign on the PC. It showed me that RTS can be done on consoles, just not very well. Even though I am a big PC gamer I've still bought RTS on consoles, given them a chance and they haven't completely let me down. Anyway, here is the image.
 

 Diego was an awesome defence attorney, and his love of coffee lead to his downfall.

Again, if you have any suggestions for other characters you'd like to see me 'draw' (or whatever this is) post a comment and I'll see if I feel like doing it. :)
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