Dark Souls II

No Country for Old Games

Now is the time to be playing Dark Souls II. Just under a month since launch, the world of Drangleic is teeming with activity, the ghosts of other players teeming around me as I explore, sometimes materialising to irritatingly shank me in the spine. Glowing signs litter the ground near the sites of tough battles as recently victorious players offer their services to those less fortunate in exchange for souls and special items.

But it won’t last. I remember my return trips to the original Dark Souls, months or years after launch. The game was a wasteland. Summoning other players to help was almost impossible because anyone still playing had beaten the game multiple times, become Dark Souls professionals. And player-on-player combat was equally frustrating, as the only people left playing were seasoned die-hards and knew every cheap trick in the book. Fighting an endless stream of backflipping heavily armoured clones was no fun at all.

To get the most out of Dark Souls II you need to be playing it now, when the game is still fresh to even the most hardened of fans.

For those that don’t know, I’m a huge fan of Dark Souls. Dark Souls is one of my favourite games ever. I love the crumbling medieval world, I love the crunchy combat, I love the towering bosses, and I love how the game refuses to hold your hand at any point. So it was a given that I’d set aside a hefty chunk of time to really get stuck in to the sequel as soon as it arrived. Continue reading

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Adblock and I

When I was very small, I didn’t realise adverts were adverts. Most of films I’d watch were films my parents had recorded from TV onto VHS tapes (hello ancient history.) Of course they came with ad breaks baked in, so in my tiny mind I just assumed that the ads were a natural part of the film.

We had a copy of Mary Poppins that had an advert I can still vaguely remember now – it must have been an advert for milk, because it had these animated milk bottles that would hop along a rooftop to a jingly tune. As a small child – I can’t have been much older than 3 or 4 – I always really looked forward to ‘the milk bottle bit’ in Mary Poppins.

I don’t remember when I learnt that adverts are not an inherent part of movies. I must have been pretty astounded. Perhaps my unremembered outrage is what sparked my later-life hatred of ads. Probably not. Probably I hate ads because ads are hateful.

Ads are intrusive. They are usually loud, repetitive, and almost never watched by choice. They wilfully take up chunks of my time that I had set aside to do something else. I hate them.

For a long time I never really ‘got’ adverts. I knew they existed to try and make me buy things. I knew I never bought anything they advertised, so I found them pointless. I didn’t understand, and didn’t attempt to understand, the relationship between the content provider and the advertiser. I just sort of thought ads were a way of capitalism making my life slightly worse. Continue reading

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The JRPG: A Tale of Lost Time

Whilst trundling around the internet I encountered this post; it’s an article called ‘I Was A Final Fantasy Addict’ by Rachel Sanders. And while I’m not too comfortable with using the word ‘addict’ to describe a childhood glued to JRPGs – you don’t grow out of an addiction, for one thing – I found myself sympathising. I, too was once a Final Fantasy ‘addict’, and I too am trying to reconcile my childhood spent playing JRPGs with an adult life that doesn’t leave much time for 60+ hour videogames.

It’s not that I don’t have time for games anymore – there’s an implication in Rachel’s post that she sees gaming as a waste of time, something incompatible with adult life, which I don’t agree with at all. I still enjoy spending downtime playing videogames, just like I enjoy spending an evening at the cinema or reading a book or watching a TV series.

I don’t see games as somehow ‘less adult’ than these other pastimes, but one thing I struggle with these days is games that demand to be played in hefty chunks, that require a serious time commitment from me. Continue reading

Books you should totally read: Screenwriting 101

Screenwriting 101 by Film Crit Hulk

Screenwriting 101 by Film Crit Hulk

Screenwriting 101 by Film Crit Hulk is perhaps the best book on the art and science of writing that I have read. And in studying writing, and then, well, actually writing, I have read quite a few. I highly recommend that anyone thinking of writing a piece of fiction, whether a screenplay or otherwise, check it out.

Most writing books I have read tend to fall into two categories. Those in first are over-prescriptive, outlining detailed act structures and dramatic flow diagrams that your story must follow if it’s to find any success. Those in the second are overly vague, with much discussion about the theory of writing without really getting involved with what the theory of writing actually is.

Hulk’s book does a fantastic job of cutting through a lot of this crap and getting down to what the purpose of dramatic writing actually is – storytelling. It’s well worth pointing out that while the book is ostensibly focused on screenwriting, the first three-quarters of it deliver sound advice that should be of use to anyone writing any sort of narrative. Continue reading

Flappy bird

Why Flappy Bird got everyone in a flap

So that Flappy Bird, then. It came and it went, a obscure anomaly on the gaming landscape. Objectively not very good but clearly loved by millions, and probably hated by almost as many millions, it’s now more than a game (in fact, it is a game no longer) – it’s become an event.

The start of 2014 will always be The Time That Flappy Bird Happened.

Of course its not the first time a mobile game has become incredibly popular almost overnight – you’ve heard of Angry Birds, right? – but it’s probably the most interesting. Continue reading