Tuesday, 31 October 2017

The Worst Places In Gaming To Go Trick-Or-Treating

Written for and originally published by Forces Of Geek on 27th October 2017. I love Halloween, it's my favourite event/holiday!  

Let’s face it, if any of us lived in a video game world we’d be regular folk, just your run-of-the-mill boring NPC. The only excitement in our lives (unless the protagonist crosses our path) would be special events or holidays. 

My favourite of which is Halloween, so it got me thinking, what would it be like to go trick-or-treating in one of the various video game worlds? 

The idea of an in-game Halloween sounds amazing on surface level but when you realise that the majority of game worlds are fraught with enemies, obstacles and a severe lack of sugar inducing treats, suddenly the idea loses appeal.  

I’ve come up with the worst places to go trick-or-treating in gaming, some of which might surprise you. 

Friday, 20 October 2017

"Get Over Hair!" - A Look At Gaming Hairstyles

Originally published on Forces Of Geek on Friday 13th October 2017.

If I were to tell you that the terms ‘alpha blending’, ’bent vertex normals’ or ‘multi-mesh brushes’ were part of the everyday lexicon of a hairdresser, chances are you’d believe me. I could certainly do with some alpha blending myself. 

You’d be right to believe me too as these terms do relate to hair, albeit in the non-traditional sense. You see, video game tresses require specialist technical ability and more often than not, developers will hire a specialist virtual hair creator or stylist who works solely on designing and creating character hairdos. 

Getting character hair right in video games, or more specifically real-time hair that reacts to it’s surroundings appropriately, has been a long and arduous challenge for game designers and it requires a specialised talent and skill. If a hair stylist is master of their craft, so too are the character artists that create computer generated follicles. In my opinion, the latter makes for a better hairdresser because I detest the awkward small-talk about weather I’m subjected to in salons.

TressFXHair is not the name of an up and coming barbershop or salon. It was created by computer tech giant AMD and is a real-time rendering technology that allows characters hair to respond to in-game environments realistically, it’s the reason that Lara Croft’s hair in the 2013 reboot of the Tomb Raider series responds so accurately to the changing weather conditions. 

That was just the first step because AMD have since improved upon this technology with PureHair, a collaborative solution with Eidos Montreal. Other companies are following suit, perhaps the most impressive I’ve seen so far comes from NVIDIA with HairWorks 1.1 which can render 500,000 individual strands.

In 1996, Lara Croft’s plaited braid didn’t move due to the technical restraints of the time and we all know that underneath Mario’s red cap, lurked a permanent bad hair day. Well, that or it was a clever way to avoid rendering it. 

Monday, 9 October 2017

All Your Base Are Belong To Us

Written for and originally published by Forces Of Geek earlier this month. 

When broken down into their purest form, there are essentially only two main types of games; linear objectives and those that focus on protecting or returning to bases. Whatever you call them - bases, headquarters, safe-rooms, hills, goals - they are constructs which gamers devote an almost irrational amount of selflessness toward. 

Who hasn’t given their own life in-game to protect the sanctity of a team base being defiled by the opposition with a gung-ho “I’m gonna die but I’m taking you with me” attitude?

And yes, I know I’m adhering to the clich├ęd mantle of “there are two main types of…” idea, which I usually detest and know is easily refutable, but having thought about it long and hard I’m surprised to find that at their crux, there really are two types of video games. 

Hear me out first before you rush to the comments section to berate me. I mean, this is the internet so that may well happen anyway but in all seriousness, I’ve genuinely struggled to think of any other types. 

It’s not just modern games that adhere to this pattern, even the original ground zero game, Pong arguably has a base, you are essentially protecting a ball with a paddle in the same way you might protect a base or deflect a goal in a football game (sorry, it always feels weird to write the word ‘soccer’ as a Brit).

10 Gaming Illnesses You Definitely Don't Want To Contract

Written for Forces Of Geek sometime in September? I don't know anymore...I'm so behind with updating. Forgive me, dear reader! In my defence I wasn't feeling great!

I’m writing this wrapped in a dressing gown, surrounded by tissues with multiple cold and flu medications strewn around me. No, this isn’t a bizarre fetish I’m into, I’m just unwell. In this sickly composition, the only thing on my mind in-between the sporadic headaches is video games. Specifically, I’m wondering why the hell we don’t have amazing cure all elixirs or first aid sprays that can even take care of broken limbs. Instead, I’m destined to suffer through this illness. Where are you when I need you Dr. Mario?

Because I’m feeling incredibly self-centered and sorry for myself right now, I’ve decided to write about video game ailments. I’m not talking about thumb related health problems or ‘The Claw’ or viruses of the malware kind, rather those sickly in-game infections, impairments and illnesses. Alliteration…or should that be Ill-lteration (please don’t judge my bad jokes, I’m highly medicated right now) aside, I’m traversing the sickly world of video games.

Viral outbreaks are perhaps the most common ailments in video games and include titles such as Bloodborne, The Last Of Us, Left 4 Dead and Day Z. 

Of course, these range from being virally contagious diseases that turn humanity into brain hungry zombies to altering your higher brain function but I’d be remiss if I didn’t first mention the T-Virus from the Resident Evil series so I’m starting with that.

Almost Real - A VR Gaming Round-up

I've been so bad at updating this blog so apologies to any regular readers. This was originally posted on Forces Of Geek sometime in...September...maybe?! 

Anyone who knows me (or has read my articles…oh, hi there!) will know I have an affection and a pining for the old days of couch co-op; social multiplayer gaming in the same room that offers something different to massive online multiplayers with strangers (no offence strangers…except you, yeah you know who you are). 

A lot of the local social spectacle is lost these days and other than Nintendo who have cornered the market on that with games such as Mario Kart and various other party games, as well as consoles like the WiiU with in-built cameras in their control pads. Then there’s their successor, the Switch which is bringing back local co-op gaming and taking it to another level. Or at least I thought that was the case. 

Cue virtual reality headsets.

Last week some friends and I were playing on the PlayStation VR on the PS4 and it was incredibly enjoyable. It was very reminiscent of the early days of motion control gaming with the likes of Xbox Kinect or the Nintendo Wii, in that you don’t necessarily have to be playing to enjoy laughing at someone making a fool of themselves. 

But being able to play with additional regular PS4 controllers meant up to three people could play along and I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed this experience and genuinely can’t wait until the price begins resembling something a bit more reasonable. 

That being said, due to rapidly evolving optics and sensors, the jumps within this relatively new technology will be huge and so it’s unlikely that they'll be much compatibility between each new iteration so if you’re waiting for the next-gen versions then you’ll need to be prepared to wait until at least 2019 or 2020 (a year that still conjures up images of a faraway sci-fi future land despite being only three of our Earth years away). At least by then, if the Earth is still here the cost of first-gen VR gaming will be inexpensive.  

I’ve been lucky enough to have experienced all of the main three VR contenders so I thought I’d do a mini round up and compare each of them.  

7 Badass Video Game Princesses Who Can Save Themselves

Written for Forces Of Geek and originally published on Friday 18th August 2017. 

A long, long time ago in a faraway land, there existed video game princesses who were merely damsels in distress, passive maidens much weaker than their male counterparts, albeit far prettier.

Though not as prevelant today as they used to be, these hollow princess character tropes can still be found in games. However, I want to celebrate a different kind of female royalty, the kind of princesses who know how to kick ass and take names. So sorry, Princess Peach…you definitely didn’t make the cut. 

In no particular order, I present my 7 badass video game princesses who can save themselves:

Monday, 14 August 2017

Difficulty or Inability? Are Games Too Easy?

Originally written for and published by Forces Of Geek about a month ago...I've had more paid work than anticipated and have been busy, so I apologise for the late update!

I’ve been playing The Legend Of Zelda Breath Of The Wild recently, it’s such a beautiful, charming, well put together game and I absolutely adore it but one thing about it has been bothering me lately, namely the games difficulty. I can’t explain to you how defeated I feel, I should be well-trained and have my skills perfectly honed based on my many years of gaming. I’m admitting a weakness in my gaming ability despite having been a gamer for the majority of my life.

Worse still, it’s a Zelda game that I’m having problems with and this game series has always been a huge part of my life. Yet, here I am, ashamed and embarrassed to admit that I’m struggling with Breath of the Wild. Zelda games have always had an element of challenge to them, there’s certainly no denying that. I only need to utter the phrase “water temple” and many of you will understand the pangs of pain and frustration that come loaded with it. 

Still, I find myself wondering why I’m having an issue with this game specifically because it’s the first game in recent memory that I’m having difficulty with. Could it be that other modern games up until this point have been too easy? Have I lost my ability due to these games themselves?

If I stop to think about my recent gaming experiences, it seems plausible that games have become easier because I do find myself coasting through a game these days with minimal effort. I’m not so egotistical that I associate my ability to coast through a game entirely with skill (believe me, I’m good but I’m not that good).