Please Defy My Existence

So I wrote a new blog over on my proper blog thing, and, on the basis that there's some vaguely game related stuff in there, thought I'd post it here too. I don't really expect anyone to read it (despite the fact that I am really a very interesting person, and you're all very privileged to be given insight into my life). I would really appreciate people checking out, though. Please listen to some of our podcasts, and give us feedback, we seem to have hit a wall with expansion. I did try and pester the Giant Bomb community with my podcasting BS back when we first started but as far as I'm aware sam_i_am is the only dude on here that actually gave it a listen and proved himself to be a scholar and a gentleman, for enduring some pretty awful test podcasts (if you do, please, listen, I'd reccommend the most episodes, early episodes were recorded with far shoddier equipment and much less expertise).
Greetings! It's been a while since I wrote a one of these 'ere bloggy-wogs. I'm starting writing this with the intention of covering quite a few things, so please excuse me if I meander somewhat (it's also not improbable that this will sit as an unfinished draft for weeks, before being edited into something much more focused that barely resembles it's lengthy, ambitious origins). Not sure how this is going to go, I don't usually write too personally, but most of the stuff is pretty much all about me (you have to admit I do fucking rock).
Jack Johnstone
So I've been doing quite a bit lately: First and foremost is Please Tell Me You're Human - a podcast network, that also acts as a showcase for "talent" from the Carlisle area, i.e. the shit that we do outside of podcasts will be posted somewhere around that site. We've expanded quite a bit lately we have a proper website (which will contain links to any future blogs I may write) built from WordPress, mostly by this guy over here -> with a tiny bit of help by me, and some kind words of support from the rest of the Please Tell Me team (we're the kind of team, where the players forget they're actually supposed to turn up.) So along with the original podcast Film & TV (if anyone asks what it's about I really don't thing you should be allowed the internets) we also do Art Crap which consists and of Jack and a random selection of scumbags (or Karen) wittering about nothing much in particular, it's usually brilliantly nonsensical and thoroughly entertaining; now we get to my baby, the podcast I take full responsibility for (unless you think something's good, in which case it was probably something someone else did): VIDJAGAMES!, is a podcast in which we will talk about anything and everything videogame related, usually bringing up id and Final Fantasy somewhere along the way, plus all the music for breaks, or when someone says something offensive enough to make me cut it (which is pretty hard), is from old games. It's totally awesome you should listen to it right now (pretty, pretty please)!
Thomas J. Moscrop
In addition to all of the awesome podcast stuff ("There's more?!" you ask, incredulous that you could cram more awesome into one site) we're also going to be hosting Tom's  webcomic series Straight to DVD, which he's currently hard at work on. It's about a bunch of fuck-ups running a shitty film company that makes straight-to-DVD B-Movies, and it should be a lot of fun. Speaking of Tom, I'm hoping to be working with him on another comic/ type thingy called Supervillain, as well as helping him develop a web series, the details of which are not mine to reveal, suffice to say that there should be some pretty surreal stuff in the web series which I think is intended to be a sort of comedy/drama.
Mr Matthew Q. Adamson
On top of that is working on doing some video content to accompany our podcasts namely, a feature on Matt's vast collection of games and consoles (I seriously would not be surprised if the dude owns every gaming platform ever conceived); particularly looking at Voyeur, and other awesome forgotten titles. We're also hoping to record my first ever online match of StarCraft II (I've been procrastinating getting into the multi-player for that game). So other than podcast/website-y stuff I finished the script you may remember me mentionioning here and talking about it in more detail here. It's about a guy who breaks up with his girlfriend, and meets the girl of dreams, she then disappears and his whole life/mind starts to unravel, I'm pretty proud of it, and hope it'll turn out OK, and I'll be able to rope people into acting for me, it's set in late autumn so I've got a little while before I have to start trying to shoot anything.
Story on day release from his pan-dimensional prison box
I guess the biggest thing with me right now is that I'm heading off to Uni in Leeds to study Cinema & Photography in less than two weeks, a course which my Please Tell Me: Film & TV comrade Story has already been on for a year (I promise not to copy his answers). I got a place on this course last year, but opted to defer it for a year since I missed pretty much all of Year 13 of 6th Form because of my GAD; after a year of jobless, doley, trials and tribulations and being put onto happy tablets, I now feel ready to face the big scary student world of drinking and not doing any work (not something I'll really be participating in since I don't drink and my course should be really fun.) Also I got all my lovely, lovely hair chopped off and now struggle to remain standing when a feather flutters across my path.

No Excuses (Parentheses)

This blog isn't really the way I wanted it to be, I was writing a whole thing about what the fuck it is I've been doing for the last year and the all the mad shit up in my brain box, but it was taking too long and I couldn't really articulate what it was I wanted to communicate so instead whoever the Hell reads is this is just going to get some links, and written updates on  what I've been doing:

Short Films

The first of these is a condensed version of a proper short film conceptualised by my buddy Tom, which he, his cousin Jack (assisted by our friend Dave) and I worked a lot on then edited this short sort of trailer thing for Tom's interview at uni (Sheffield Hallam). I've been meaning to use the footage to my own edit of the full thing, but haven't yet got round to it.

This one's an art video I made to take the piss out of a bunch of pretentious video art pieces that were on display at the University of Cumbria art college (most of them were just time-lapsed photo shits that went on for about a hundred years (or you know ten - fifteen minutes but that's a long time when nothing happens)). The other reason I made it was to get to grips with Sony Vegas' tool set, since I'm used to using Final Cut. The footage is all just stuff I had for one thing or another lying around on my computer. I think the video actually came out pretty well in the end for just being a way to waste a few hours.


I've been doing a podcast (originally called Please Tell Me You're Human, now Please Tell: Film & TV) with the aforementioned Jack and another friend, Story, about films and television and whatever other junk comes out of our mouths. I've just started doing Please Tell Me: VIDJAGAMES, a videogames podcast, with Matt and I appeared on episode 2 of Please Tell Me: Art Crap (a podcast loosely based on "the arts") with Jack and another different Ben.

All of these can be found and subscribed to here as well as being on (or in the case of VIDJAGAMES coming soon to) iTunes store. I and everyone else from the Please Tell Me You're Human podcast network (ideas above our station) would appreciate if you listened and gave us feedback, either with an iTunes review/rating, email to, or on Twitter to @pleasepodcastme.


 As well as all of this I've been editing a wedding video for someone back at school's daughter (not actually someone I knew when I was there, but my teacher recommended me to her). This has been a lot more hassle than I originally predicted at first because I wasn't equipped to work on the video at home so had to do all of the editing on the school's crappy eMacs which take forever to render anything and I could only use them when the media suite was free from brats trying to get A levels. The I got a laptop with Vegas and had to try and learn how to use that software, and now that the video is essentially done Vegas is crapping out on my mid-render.

Other than this stuff I have been slowly working on a script for my own short film, and no matter what will shoot something from it over summer.

OK so that's pretty much my year (at least the productive bits) from 19th June 2009 (my last A level exam) to now; never managed to get a job though.

Narrative in Games

Before you read this I want to apologise, this is a lot of bullet points I wrote a couple of weeks ago about narrative in games, how excited I am about lots of stuff games like Mass Effect and Heavy Rain are doing, and where I'd like to see these ideas develop and progress in the future of gaming/new ideas that would be cool. The apology is that I really can't be bothered writing these up into the essay style blog I'd originally intended, but unlike most of the time when I write a blog I don't finish I still really want to say all this stuff, so sorry that this will be disjointed, rambling and in no way cohesive.

  •   If Heavy Rain was a thriller movie it would be relatively run of the mill, it’s the way the gameplay propels the narrative that truly makes it outstanding by immersing the player and making them care for more than the standard Hollywood audience does about the characters and the outcome of the plot
  •   BioWare’s developments in Mass Effect with dialogue tress from the previous RPG standard of a silent protagonist where the player chooses from a few full lines of dialogue to a wheel that just gives the gist of what you want the character say because instead of trying to convince the player that they are the character, it instead lets them build a character who is separate and exists in their own right thereby making them feel much more real for the play to be concerned about than a blank slate, while still letting them be immersed by the control they have over the chars decisions
  •   ME2’S introduction of an interrupt mechanic is also greatly important as it brings together the previously separate elements of action and dialogue and moves games towards being a single fluid experience and away from being stilted different sections of gameplay, cut scenes and dialogue
  •   While in many ways DA:O may seem like a step backwards for the sake of nostalgia it introduces a very important new aspect, rather than having a morality meter by which the developers judge a player’s decisions to be good or evil it utilising an approval meter for each character in your party, based on how that character’s opinions of the players actions, admittedly this is still quite a “gamey” feature (in real life you have to make decisions based on how people react to you rather than  being told what you just said made Morrigan like you +7, and there are only a very few, very shallow people whose affections can be won by showering them in material gifts) but it does move towards a way of judging a player’s actions that is closer to real life (and therefore intrinsically more immersive) rather telling people what they’re doing is bad and having the player choose to be good or evil (in my experience people almost always believe they are in the right for one reason or another). This doesn’t mean the player can’t indulge in their fantasies of arch-villainy if the so desire, just that they can do it by performing actions they would deem as evil, not abide to the developers sense of  (im)morality.
  •   Uncharted 2, yes it looks very pretty, but that’s not what makes it special, the art is mainly quite realistic (yes there’s some license taken with historical artefacts, temples etc. but the only thing that seems truly fantastic and out of this world was their choice to include blue dudes). Yes the gameplay is great, but that’s not what makes it special, it ‘s basically just a reiteration of gameplay mechanics from earlier games such as Gears of War’s cover shooting and the adventure puzzles of the Tomb Raider series (I don’t say this to take anything away from Uncharted 2’s gameplay, it comes damn close to perfecting those gameplay elements). What really makes Uncharted 2 special is the way its narrative unfolds, in essence it is the game version of a matinee adventure movie, such as Indiana Jones, but where other games would choose to show the big action set-pieces of those sorts of movies in a cutscene to preserve the cinematic scope and feel Uncharted 2 lets the player keep control while at the same time bettering their the visual scope of most other games’ cut scenes. 
  •   The other really important thing to mention about both Uncharted 2 and DA:O is the way the characters interact not only in cutscenes but the dialogue between them during gameplay - I’d like to see this develop in a way that involves the player more in these interactions between characters
  •   Point needs to be made that different narratives require different things, ultimate player freedom isn’t always the best way to go, but the more the player is involved the better the experience will be
  •   In general I’d like to see more games open up their environments and give the player more freedom as to where they go, however obviously this isn’t entertaining if there’s nothing to do and obviously having lots of open spaces filled with different things wouldn’t always make sense and would distract from the narrative 
  •   The landscape and the environment, really add to the narrative in games like Fallout 3 and GTAIV where there are things that are not essential to the plot that teach the player more about the world the game is in
  •   Games should be willing to take risks and allow players to build their own narrative, the player does not need to experience everything you’ve written, Demon’s Souls is a great example of this where characters can die without the player ever having met them. It also demonstrates that players do not need to be told everything, they can learn through interacting with the environment and other characters in the game
  •   As much as possible games should try and not make players play through scripted events - it’s more fun knowing that the game is reacting to your actions rather than just giving you scripted events that are always the same.
  •   QTEs are usually just a way of making a player feel a little bit more involved in cool cutscenes, but Heavy Rain has shown that every command can have a slight difference to the sequence of events, even if the outcome is ultimately the same, rather than just a thing that lets your character do cool stuff if you’ve got good reactions e.g. missing a thumbstick command in Heavy Rain doesn’t make the QTE restart it means your dude gets cut up with a bottle.
  •   I’d ultimately like to see death being of more consequence than just a game over screen and having to start back at the last checkpoint, even if it’s only a cutscene (also all cutscenes should be shippable, it really slows games down having to rewatch something every time you fuck up) to show how the story plays out since your character died.
  •   Ultimately I’d like to see all characters in games responding differently based upon what they know about the character and their actions throughout the game
  •   If you have to react to something games shouldn’t give you time to think about it unless it makes sense in the story, you shouldn’t be able to sit for ages deciding which dialogue response you’d prefer, without someone responding to the fact that you appear to have been struck dumb
  •   Things should be removed from dialogue trees once they’ve been said, or if the player hasn’t been through the situation that would make that dialogue make sense (there’s a really noticeable thing at the end of Heavy Rain where one character can ring another who, depending on the actions in the rest of the game, they may never have met). Repeating dialogue really breaks the experience and takes you out of the idea that these are real people having real interactions.

What's Wrong With You?

 Normally I would keep stuff like this for my "proper" blog and just use Giant Bomb for stuff about videogames but s I want some American reaction, as I am from the UK and can't understand your country's fear of Socialism and socialised healthcare in particular.
 I just saw this on Comic Vine

Why so serious?
Why so serious?
 ( check out Babs' article at Comic Vine) and while I thought it was funny I also think its message is pretty ridiculous, it basically paints an entire political ideology as violent, destructive and intent on chaos, when in fact socialism is probably the most caring political system, and, as a socialist I was a little offended that a political figure who (as far as I am aware) seems to have made very sound, un-cynical political decisions so far in his tenure as US President.

I also think this raises a larger issue about the United States - What the Hell is so scary about socialism? Why is that Americans seem to have been brainwashed by anti-soviet Cold War propaganda into believing that socialism means having your freedoms restricted and all choice replaced with government control?

Obama's health care reform plans suggest he is looking for a way to provide every American with some form of universal health care, this doesn't mean he is planning to take away insurance from those who have it and make everyone subscribe to a government healthcare system; he just wants to ensure that anyone who can't afford insurance and the extortionate charges from HMOs can still receive some form of medical treatment when they need it. This is a far less drastic plan than the one introduced to the UK by Labour Prime Minister Clement Attlee (in my opinion the best PM this country has ever had) after the Second World War in which he introduced a system that would provide care "from the cradle to the grave".

The NHS is funded by National Insurance which also pays for the State Pension. Every single British citizen must pay this tax based upon their earnings and in return we receive medical care a very good health care system (I'm not saying there aren't problems in the NHS, but it is on the whole a caring, clean and efficient service). This does not mean that there aren't private health care services for those who want more (and can afford it) than the NHS offers, the most successful of which is BUPA.

I can't understand why Americans are scared of a system which means that everyone will be better looked after, people die much younger in the States than anywhere in Western Europe, Canada, New Zealand etc. Americans are scared of having to ask the government for permission before they receive treatment, and having health care tied down with bureaucracy, this simply isn't the case in any other democratic country with a socialised medical system, whereas the current system in America is one which can charge patients for not pre-approving ambulance trips with their insurance companies, and where doctors working for insurance companies are encouraged to deny necessary treatments via monetary incentives.

To me the United States of America's healthcare system is one which looks for any way not to treat people, because treatment costs money and death doesn't. This is appalling America has such advanced medical science, but the truth is that most people can't afford it (the average American now pays more for healthcare per year than the minimum wage - how can you not se a problem in that kind of system?)

One final point - why is socialised medicine in particular so terrifying? Americans already have socialised systems for mail, education, and libraries. These institutions have done nothing but good for the country. Please America embrace Obama's healthcare reforms, they're for your own good.

Grey Britain: The Game

This was inspired by the long walk back from my girlfriend’s house which gave me time to listen to Gallows' album Grey Britain almost in it’s entirety which inspired what I think (or did at the time, I've chosen not to think too hard about it since in case it now seems crap) would be an waesome game:

The protagonist is a guy with long dark straggly hair, wearing a leather jacket zipped half-way on top of his bare chest; black jeans and a pair of black DM boots.
The opening scene is a bar fight, in which someone pulls a knife on the protagonist, resulting in the protagonist breaking the assailants arm and head butting him simultaneously. Protagonist uses this knife to cut open his hand and drink the blood before spitting in the face of an oncoming security thug, sucker punching another and striding out of the bar. This sequence exemplifies much of the game fluidly transitioning from gameplay (fighting people in bar) to intuitive QTEs (disarming knife-guy) to cutscene à la MGS4. In terms of fluidity there would be some kind of fight mechanic, where if the player performs a relatively simple counter at the attempted stabbing then the QTE is triggered, other similar events would happen throughout the game.

I should explain that the basic premise is the United Kingdom in a state of riotous disarray as described by Gallows, the inciting incident should be something obvious creating some kind of mutated zombie freaks (or something less clichéd, but I can’t think of anything). The protagonist can choose from numerous paths, either seeking to get to truth, attempting to aid those in need and restore order, or just revel in the chaos and accelerate the country’s downfall. The character himself starts of from a pretty instable position of anger and violence and is a distrustful cynic to begin with, however his personality can be altered according to the player’s actions.

The game takes place as a journey across Britain starting in the small city of Carlisle (just cuz that’s where I live) and ultimately leading to London via other major cities such as Newcastle, Leeds, Liverpool, Birmingham etc. Along the journey the player encounters various groups of people ranging from Raiders/Reapers intent on destruction to people just trying to survive to those trying to preserve some sense of civilisation and help those in need, the player’s actions affect how other characters respond to him i.e. raiding a hospital is going to make Raider’s more likely to trust you, but “good, honest” people will regard you with hostility, this is affected by geography and the size of your reputation - a small time thief in Carlisle may not be trusted in Carlisle, but in other parts of the country no one will know. The player could also affect people’s opinions of him through Mass Effect style dialogue which has the mood, or general gist of a response rather than the dialogue verbatim - if you’re rude or aggressive obviously people are going to like and trust you less.

Another idea I had for a gameplay mechanic is some kind of anxiety system where when the protagonist is in secluded areas, especially at night them the protagonist becomes anxious which has a negative effect on combat and on dialogue options available. The player should also be made to feel more anxious through use of sounds and visuals in a similar way to how The Path becomes much more tense the longer the player runs.

An image I had in my head for a possible ending is the protagonist with a group of thugs swarming on innocents outside of the Houses of Parliament which is on fire, with the protagonist just revelling in the chaos and the violence.
This is an extract from my blog


Fallout 3: The Pitt/Escape from New York (spoilers)

Please, please, somebody, please tell me they noticed the very obvious similarities between Escape from NY and the Pitt. Firstly there's Wernher who looks almost exactly the same as Snake Plissken with his eye-patch, leather jacket and relatively long pushed back hair (admittedly his eye-patch is not on the same eye and he's not wearing a weird '80s "futuristic" skin-tight black vest with zips), not to mention his chiselled jaw complete with stubble. It's not just Wernher's look though, he has a badass attitude (demonstrated by how he doesn't really give a shit about the child as long as he gets the cure), plus he's apparently the only slave to ever have escaped from the Pitt.

Next there is the general look and feel of the Pitt itself, which looks much more trashed and strewn with broken junk than DC did, which was far more barren. This is not dissimilar to the look of NY which is filled with burning metal cans and piles of rubble and trashed vehicles (cars in NY, trains in the Pitt). OK so this is a pretty generic look, for any kind of post-apocalyptical/futuristic totalitarian urban environment, but still they feel pretty similar.

Another similarity is the fight they throw Snake into against a fucking huge, crazy looking dude with an insane beard to fight for his life after being caught by the Duke (more on him later). In the Pitt you have to fight in the Hole for freedom against an assortment of wack-jobs (yes there are rounds in Fallout and there is a crowd in Escape…, but these are details).

The Pitt is not controlled by roaming gangs like Escape from New York, and Escape… does not have a system of slavery. Both do, however have a tyrannical dictators, in the form of Ashur, in the Pitt and his equivalent Duke in NY. Both of these characters have an army of goons who terrorise and subjugate the rest of the population.

The costume’s and hairstyles of the Pitt also have much in common with the street-punk look of Escape from New York (spiked hair, ripped and fragmented clothing, wild beards etc.) just with the Fallout 3 twist i.e. many more spikes and a lot more metal (also those weird leather bondage things many of the slaves wear for some reason).

In short I have noticed many links between these pieces of entertainment; I just wanted to know if anyone else had noticed this


Thoughts/questions about Dead Space

OK, I'm gonna jump in uninvited with an F of a lot of points here, some of them may be misguided or uninformed (this coming from the background of Downfall as well, so I'm not sure how canon):

  1. Kendra is a government agent, but what exactly is her mission? How much was Kendra manipulating Isaac Couldn't a message have been sent to the Valor without being aboard the Ishimura? Did the gov. want to destroy the marker or retrieve it?
  2. What was the purpose of the second marker? What did the government hope to gain from it? Were the Necros there before it? Was it designed to keep them there?
  3. What happened to the original marker? What did it do? Where is it now? Who built it?
  4. Did the hallucinations come from Hive Mind or Marker? Do Hive Mind and Marker have the same agenda?
  5. Were the Unitoligists (loved the parallels with Scientology) really just a misguided group, who'd somehow got wind of the original marker and formed a religion around it, or is there something more sinister at work in its upper echelons?
  6. Was Hammond really innocent? Did he have his own agenda, other than repairing the Ishimura and getting the Hell out?
  7. Does Necrole kill Isaac at the end or could he have fought her/it off?

I realise that many of these questions are unaswerable as none of the elements of the Dead Space franchise provide the information, but it was all on my mind and I was wondering what people thought

My views are that the government found Aegis 7 and the Necromorphs and built the marker to leave them dormant on the planet protecting the rest of the galaxy; if this is the case then it is possible that the original marker, which was found on Earth was designed by an ancient alien race who had found Earth and observed humanity's violent and cruel tendencies and left the marker there to stop humanity spreading throughout the galaxy, but it only succeeded in slowing the human race not stopping it entirely, meaning that eventually the Necros could break free of the marker's power (of course this all just conjecture).
Nicole was dead before Isaac arrived at the Ishimura. The Nicole seen throughout the game is a hallucination; the locked door which she opens is also a hallucination, as is the attack by Necros. The game over is triggered because Isaac believes entirely in the hallucination and believes there is no way forward, coupled with the apparent death of his girlfriend he would be distraught and despondent and easily ready to admit defeat (i.e. give up).
The marker was designed to keep the Necros on Aegis 7 therefore manipulates Isaac into returning it to the planet's surface to fulfil its purpose. The Hive Mind tries to prevent this to protect her newfound freedom.

I really hope Isaac is alive so he can come back for Aliens style sequel where no one believes him and he has to assist the military, mainly because I think it would be cool to see some squad based survival/horror and maybe some co-op, but that might take the fright out of it.


I love Method Man

Fuck 50 "G-Unot" Cent, the Ticallion Stallion himself, Mr M.E.T.H.O.D. Man, should get his own game, he's awesome in the Def Jam games, and has further shown his acting prowess as Cheese, nephew of Prop Joe, in HBO's brilliant show The Wire. Seriously Johnny Blaze (yes I am going to use every possible name for him) awesome in some kind of action/adventure, shooter, brawler game i.e. Butcher Bay meets Gears with problem solving. Plus you get to have a selectable squad including Redman and members of the Wu-Tang Clan as selectable sqaudmates (Red should be the default co-op character). The game would have an amazing soundtrack with choice cuts from, Meth(Meth vs Chef is a personal favourite), Red and all the Wu-Tang posse.
Somebody please make this game


Fighting Games

Firstly, I suck at fighting games; second the fighting game genre is awesome, they're goofy, melodramatic and totally epic. Also they're pretty much the only genre of game I will keep playing after endless perpetual defeat.

My first memory of fighting games is playing MK4 on my dad's (now ex) girlfriend’s son's (complicated I know, but step-son would just be inaccurate) N64. He's a year older than me, but I was always bigger (dunno if I still am haven't seen him for years) so I could usually just beat him down when he was being snotty (which was most of the time; however I digress). He returned from wherever the fuck he was with his friends and they started taunting me about how much I sucked. So playing as Reptile I proceeded to beat all three of them as I had figured out how to switch to Reptile's weapon. We then spent the rest of the weekend working out weapons and fatalities for all the characters. Thus began my love affair with fighting genre.

The first fighting game I ever owned was Tekken 2, which I still love. I first beat the game with Jun and her scissor kicks. My friend Stuart and I then went through it until we’d beaten it with every character. Over the years I've enjoyed many other fighting/boxing/wrestling games, but have never been particular brilliant at them (with the exception of Def Jam: Fight for NY, which I was easily the champ amongst my friends at).

Anyway the point, if there is one, is that I have recently bought Street Fighter IV due to the huge hype around it and the fact that (upcoming blasphemy) I had never played a Street Fighter game before. Having finished arcade on the easiest difficulty with Guile, I decided to open myself up for some online play. After having played approx 30 matches I have won a grand total of one ROUND, not even a single match, yet I keep coming back for more. Now I love Halo 3 and Gears 2, but if lose more than a couple of games in a row at either of those games I get bored and quit; so I guess the point in amongst this rambling mess is a testament to how awesome SFIV is to keep making me come back for more.
Now if only some of my friends would get it so I could at least get beaten by someone I know.