On A Rail

 

 

On a rail is a level from Half-Life that has received mixed reviews over the years but is most generally less liked for a number of reasons that I’ll broach on later. I say broach, because today’s article is less about the actual level, or overall game itself and is probably only tenuously linked to video games, I promise you it’s a link nonetheless though!

For what I intend to do is to reiterate to you, the musings I’ve been having, on a life lesson I feel I learnt partially from gaming. A statement on life which I wish to proclaim to you, using this particular level as some kinda segueing analogy.

So now that’s out of the way I shall digress.

 

Why On a Rail?

The title is a play on words regarding the ‘rail’ aspect of video games in general and the starkly obvious fact that you are on a literal railway line, do you geddit?

If you think about it, for the most part, what are games but predetermined tracks for you to traverse and triumph over? Even beyond the most obvious and extreme examples of these, such as rail shooters and platformers you cannot escape this element anywhere. In games with the highest level of autonomy afforded to the player, to actually play the game, you’re still confined to the encoded conditions of the rail that’s set before you.

I’ve learnt many a thing from the time I’ve poured into gaming, from history and politics to the more niche facts of life like, Tails of sidekick fames real name is actually Miles  or violence is actually okay and I should shoot up schools (kidding it’s just what yank politicians and the media would have you think.) There are a myriad of lessons about the real world we can find through gaming, alone or with others.

I’ll give an example of one I learnt with others;

My Dad got to the last level of Sonic Spinball and paused it whilst he went to work. I came home from school and excitedly ran over to our Megadrive when I saw it was on, firing up the screen to see what was on it, instinctively and stupidly I unpaused, in awe of a new part of the game I hadn’t seen yet – immediately dying and getting a game over.  I was frightened he would be mad at me, as I would be if someone screwed up my attempt to finish the game.

However, when he got home and I confessed it to him, he merely smiled and told me – ‘I only paused it so you could see the last level.’ If that don’t teach you something then I don’t know what does! I’ll let you come to the conclusion on what it taught me. To put it simply, gaming is a mirror from which we can learn about the real world, life, ourselves and others.

Whilst I could spend hours talking about the teachings to be had in the satire and political commentary aspect of games, my introduction to the Cold War virtually being through Red Alert 2, what I’m going to focus on is a little more abstract and quite personal.

 

 

Off-Track and Turning-Tables

Over the last year or so of my life I’ve had a lot of deep dark troughs and some lofty peaks, as you do. With my mental health suffering I had stopped writing and allowed not just my blog, but my life to stagnate.

It felt to me like I was on a rail of someone else’s design, trapped in a level I couldn’t beat. When I analysed the game of life like that, I realised I was ignoring one vital element and lesson gaming had taught me; every level is beatable if you persevere.

You may not be on a track of your making on a path of your choosing, in a world that’s hostile. You may be on a rail ride you didn’t plan for you, but in life, as in games, you have the agency to make all the difference that you can in the parameters you’re dealing with. You can progress to the next level, get past the bit you’re stuck on, with determination you can learn how to beat it.

So I’ve decided to pick back up the controller so to speak, I had given up but I’m back in the game and I’ll always come back to it. Even if I need to hit pause for a bit, I’ll be back, because I know I’ve got some dope cut-scenes ahead, or at least some disappointing credits that I can bitch about.

Doing a spot of research before I began writing, I came across a Steam forums thread that furthered my resolve to write this piece. Let’s look at some of the criticisms of ‘On a Rail’ I found there and see just how applicable they are when applied to life;

 

On a rail crit

 

Life is confusing, sometimes it’s unclear what you’re supposed to do, it can be daunting. In this event, you just have to move about a bit and explore to figure it out. On a Rail, like life makes you face things head on but as in the level, sometimes you can stop the train and prepare yourself by dealing with the area you’re in. And then lastly, sometimes you have some great nights where you set off fireworks… SEE WHAT I MEAN! These criticisms of it spoke to me as both valid points regarding this level and life.

 

On a rail crit 2

 

This sentient journey you’re on is always gonna be a mixed bag and it’s definitely tedious at times and fraught with risks. Sure perhaps you’d enjoy it a lot more if you could predetermine what’s around every corner and counter it. But that’s not life, it’s a beautiful difficult journey where you can grow and learn how to be more effective. It’s unfair at times but you can find ways to level the playing field.

And that’s what I am going to do, because as I love games, so do I love life even if it’s always on expert mode.

So, I am going to be better at it.

EA Are Wide Of The Goalposts With This Gaffe

 

 

 

 

I know, I know, this is the second article in a row bashing Electronic Arts, my apologies. But how could I not stick the boot in when they make it so easy? And let’s face it, it’s not like it isn’t deserved!

So, not being content with the recent hatred garnered from their endeavours to cash in on the corpse of the legacy of one of the finest RTS games. EA true to form and right on track have decided they needed some more negative press.

 

 

Having recently lowered the bar for how much you can physically detest them, free-falling beyond the depths of the abyss in which it previously resided. It seems the cretinous company has sought to create their very own EAbyss if you will. And oh my how they’ve succeeded. Having pushed effortlessly past the 3rd and 4th circles of hell completely skipping the 5th and landing just smack dab in the centre of the 6th. They have achieved pure heresy since their evil machinations regarding the sullying of Command & Conquers great legacy.

So what have they bloody well gone and done this time eh?

Not satiated by their never ending ethos of lust, greed and gluttony they’ve seemingly gone and licked the shitty boots of the American establishment from heel to toe, in a move that can only be described as pathetically petty, if deliberate. Regardless of whether intended or not, this potential foul up has given ammunition to those who hold them in disdain. For EA have only gone and censored Colin Kaepernick’s name from a song used in the soundtrack of their latest Madden title.

The verse from which his name was censored in YG’s song ‘Big Bank’ (quite a tune as it goes) is as follows;

 “Feed me to the wolves, now I lead the pack and shit. You boys all cap, I’m more Colin Kaepernick.”

Have a listen to the scrubbed name version here;

 

 

For those who are a little lost by all this, let me do some quick explaining.

 

Who Is Kaepernick & Why Is This Significant? 

Over the last two years protests during the singing of America’s national anthem have taken centre field in the world of American Football’s NFL, but why?

Since 2016 some players (in some cases entire teams) have been protesting racial inequality and police brutality in the USA in a way that has shocked reactionaries in the land of the free. For these players have dared defy angry right wingers, the political establishment and NFL officials by kneeling silently during the national anthem.

Elements of the harbinger of democracy have massively overreacted to this valid and necessary form of protest by banning players and threatening other such sanctions against them. Kaepernick, having lead the charge as the first to sit then kneel during the anthem whilst playing for the San Francisco 49ers is the man who has borne the brunt of this backlash. Having effectively become persona non grata in the sporting world. Instead opting to become persona grata in the hearts of socially conscious people everywhere.

Here he is speaking on the importance of the protest and his reasons behind it, at a speech he made after accepting Amnesty International’s ambassador of conscience award;

 

 

Could this be EA’s own politics at play? Capitulation to pressure from the NFL, an organisation they must work closely with in the creation and development of the series which makes mega bucks? Or is it as their statement responding to this incident claims – simply the fuck up of a simple minded group of employees?

Let’s take a closer look at that statement.

 

 

EA’s Explanation, Credible Or Nah?

I’ll post the statement below so I’m citing my sources and all that, but EA say it was nought but a simple dropping of the ball in interpreting the law regarding rights. See, EA do not have the rights for Kaepernick to be in the game as a playable character and apparently members of the team took this to mean he couldn’t even feature as a lyric in a song….

 

 

EA’s Statement;

“Members of our team misunderstood the fact that while we don’t have rights to include Colin Kaepernick in the game, this doesn’t affect soundtracks. We messed up, and the edit should never have happened. We will make it right, with an update to Madden NFL 19 on August 6 that will include the reference again. We meant no disrespect, and we apologize to Colin, to YG and Big Sean, to the NFL, to all of their fans and our players for this mistake.”

I can’t be the only one to think this but … really now, seriously? I know that of course not every employee outside of the legal department is going to be well versed with the laws and ins and outs of them. However thinking his name couldn’t even be mentioned in a song he knows his name is in and which he doesn’t own the rights to, seems a tad overzealous for those who would be responsible for the soundtrack right?

So what do you think? Is this just a fumble or a political statement? Either way EA could do without the negative press, not that it’s going to stop them making oodles of money or carrying on their less than ethical business practices anytime soon. Sigh.

At worst this was deliberate but in my eyes, at best this was born out of the climate in which Kaepernicks name is mud to officials in the NFL and beyond. With that being so, those in charge of the soundtrack thought best to remove him all together. Let me know what you think or if you agree!

 

 

 

Fear And Loathing Of Fallout 76

 

 

 

The world of Fallout has rightly earned itself a place in gaming popular culture and in the hearts of a passionate following of fanatics. A category I feel I fall into personally, as I love to explore all things Dystopian and post-apocalyptic, so to me discovering Fallout was a godsend. This aspect is something the series has delved into in a way that is exquisitely spot on, time and time again. Crafting wonderful single player RPG worlds out of the nuclear wastes of the USA, along with well written stories to match. It’s truly a gripping game you can happily lose yourself in, even with all the misery.

 

Naturally, there is much debate amongst fans over which of its games are better and which makes the franchises bottom fall out, you know, the usual my favourite is better than your favourite type stuff. Now to me, up until the most recent release in the series developed by Bethesda, the games studio has hardly put a foot wrong (sorry New Vegas diehards.) To others I’m a heretic and a fool, it’s a really rather hotly debated topic. To be expected, as anything gains passionate fans so too does it gain their impassioned opinions which are often voiced vehemently. Something which Bethesda’s most recent announcement has caused no end of, falling foul of angry and hesitant  fans at the first hurdle. As well as the customary surrounding hype, the heralding of this game has caused a lot of fear and loathing across the internet, when very little has actually been concretely revealed despite unverified leaks.

 

So let’s take a look at what has been announced before we move on to dealing with what us fans are causing a ruckus about whether positive or negative. After a 24 hour stream  which was watched by 2 million and displayed nothing much beyond their customary ‘standby’ screen this announcement trailer dropped;

 

 

Oh god it says so little but makes me feel so much and personally I don’t care what it is, just give me it already it’s a bloody Fallout game (as long as it’s not a mobile app game!) Well, to wait for more concrete facts on what the game actually is planned to be we will have to wait for Bethesda’s announcement at the upcoming E3 event. However there is much speculation and rumour as well as apparent insider anonymous tips basically confirming what it is. But before I get on to discussing that let’s take a wee look at what this teaser trailer reveals to us.

 

First thing you notice is the music, a cover of  John Denver’s ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ and so immediately it’s pretty obvious where this ones gonna be set. West Virginia I suppose, if the lyrics are anything to go by, but perhaps Virginia reunified after the bombs dropped? We will have to wait and see. Which brings us to the next significant point in the video of Vault 76, the poster stating 1776-2076 marking the USA’s tercentennial year. 300 years from the date it didn’t want to pay the taxes it owed to the British government for protecting them from their new neighbours they managed to piss off rather quickly. Ungrateful I know.

 

Next comes a TV clip which states ‘When the fighting is stopped and the fallout is settled, you must rebuild.’ This makes sense as in the lore of Vault 76 it was to be one of 17 control vaults of 500 residents compared to the other experimental ones and was programmed to be opened 20 years after the bombs of nuclear war dropped. Setting this particular Fallout game way earlier than any we’ve yet seen, which is one of the worries I’ve seen voiced online. What will be in the wasteland besides waste if it’s so early after the bombs dropped? To me I don’t feel like this will be an issue as there will still be plenty of options to fill the wasteland with points of interest, story and dangers even if civilisation hasn’t started rebuilding as fully as it has in previous games. Perhaps as suggested by the fella on TV, that will be your job anyway….

 

 

The next point of focus in the trailer doubles down and emphasises on this, a shot that pans out across the atrium showing the remnants of a celebration that has been held for what has been billed as ‘reclamation day.’ The day the vault dwellers head out to recolonise their now irradiated country – however those with a keen eye will see that the date on the pip boy featured in the trailer, states 27 OCT 2102, a whole 5 years out from the 20 year programmed reopening date of 2097. Did someone oversleep? Did something go wrong? Is this just a lore error on the part of Bethesda (wouldn’t be the first time,) again we will just have to wait to find out why.

 

pip boy

 

Now for the real atom bomb that’s got a large portion of the community up in arms (honestly looking at comments on social media and YouTube it seems it’s 50/50 at this point.) The reason why? Anonymous insider tips has it that this game will be the franchises first furore into online multiplayer and not only that, but it may be an MMORPG or shock horror even a stinky awful survival game, which now has people referring to 76 as a Rust clone, which I think is cute. As if every survival game is just Rust over and over again, spoiler alert, they’re not. Here’s just some examples of the hate and hype it’s getting –

 

Fallout mixed reviews

Featured fallout 2

Fallout mixed reviews 3

 

To many Fallout fans it seems that it’s not only war that never changes, to them their beloved game doesn’t or shouldn’t really much either and change is something that they feel should be avoided. I can understand that people may not want a multiplayer Fallout game with potential survival game and MMORPG elements however there is probably just as many that do and haven’t yet ever received one. So basically they’re being pretty selfish and I’d suggest they learn to share or something I guess or that not every game is going to be tailored to their exact wants and needs. To me, as I often say, variety is the spice of life and I welcome taking the Fallout world in other directions, I just hope there is a single player option for those who do not wish to play online, that it does the namesake justice and that more classic Fallout games will be made in the future to satisfy those poo-pooing this one already.

 

Change, change always changes (or happens rather) but in all seriousness, it’s the one constant in life and though we may cling to the nostalgia of what we feel a game was, is or should be, we must remember that diversity can add freshness alongside the classics if done right. I have wanted a Fallout game to be multiplayer and co-operative for so long now and I am really excited for more concrete evidence on what exactly it is, stay tuned for more on this as it comes in, I’ll be sure to write about it. In conclusion Fallout 76 should not be feared and loathed, even if it’s not exactly what you hoped for. It should be judged on its own merits, so let’s wait and see if it rises like a mushroom cloud or nuclear bombs. Topical jokes haha.

 

What are your opinions on the announcement of this new game? I’d be interested to hear.

 

A RuneScape Riot; One Spicy Meatball

(Time of writing – 16th of May)
A source on the ground in RuneScape’s capital city of Falador in the World 2 server, whom wishes to remain anonymous (being in their mid-twenties and understandably not wishing to be associated with online browser based MMO games) has reported mass protests and civil unrest on the streets. This news comes after an unpopular decision taken by the games developer Jagex was announced and players are clearly and visibly not happy with it.
DOWN.gif

 

Yet another riot in a long lineage of this gaming communities’ digital civil unrest, in favour of the little people and if you ask me, personally, one of RuneScape’s only redeeming factors that I can find. Beyond providing work for ‘farmers’ in less economically developed nations or allowing those who play a monetary means to justify the many months lost to this game over the course of their life. Jagex will find out once more that when provoked those little people can become one giant and infuriated people when they stand together. I kid.

Reportedly there are some ‘absolute scenes going down.’ As can be corroborated by our anonymous tipper who has been amongst those protesting, first as an observer then as a participant. They sent in some fresh from the front-line footage which you can view below to give you a better idea of the sheer scope of the matter. The video was captured earlier this afternoon and e-mailed over to us using the pseudonym, buying-gf-for-100-gold-but-not-renewing-my-subs@[Redacted].com, and it clearly shows that the tension is so thick it could be cut with even a bronze dagger. Players can be seen shouting slogans such as ‘We pay we play, save RuneLite, Jagex don’t let us down’ and ‘RuneLite or nothing.’

 

 

So what exactly is the decision making gaffe behind the grumbling gamers at Jagex’s gates this time? If you’re not in the know and haven’t guessed what the issue is already, let me be the first to sadly inform you that a well-liked client named RuneLite has been banned by the developers.

 

A Brief History

So how did we get to this moment?

OSRS (Old-School RuneScape) is the original 2007 version of the game that was re-released in 2013 by Jagex owing to popular demand. After, in the words of the game’s fans – they ‘fucked their game up.’ It was reportedly ruined over a number of years by worse decision after bad decision, such as an imposition of a trade limit as well as removing the wilderness where players could go to engage in PvP combat. These two reasons alone were huge controversies and the cause of past riots in and of themselves.

Fast forward to the current day, there are a number of different third-party clients that people use to play the OSRS version of the game, OSBuddy being the most popular. It has a few plug-ins which make the game easier and more user-friendly, for example, XP trackers as well as mini-games to add to the fun. The PRO version (paid for by subscription) has a few more of those plug-ins such as NPC markers and a health regeneration overlay.

A group of people from the community came together and decided to create an open-source client which included all of the paid features of the aforementioned OSBuddy and more … on top of all this it was completely and most importantly free, the absolute madfolks! Causing OSBuddy to lose popularity/patrons and therefore profits (RuneLite you MONSTERS.)

 

 

The Spice Coating This Meatball

Jagex have just this very day decided that by being open-source, RuneLite are infringing on their intellectual property. As the open-source nature of the client allows people who code bots free access to their code. Here’s where the spicy shady things start to come into frame.

When approached by Jagex with the request to remove their client, the owner of RuneLite said they would make the client code closed-source to abate the cited worries. This was not enough and Jagex said ‘No’ and has even reportedly threatened legal action if the project is not entirely shut down. It has always been speculated amongst the community that there has been dodgy dealings between Jagex and OSBuddy and here we are, faced with what seems to be pretty blatant concrete evidence if you do even just a little digging into the current matter.

Check out this statement from Adam, the owner of RuneLite;

 

adams statement.jpg

 

A statement which clearly shows intentions to meet the worries of Jagex and work with them. Jagex are yet to respond to it directly and have specifically stated they’re not interested in airing their dirty laundry of deeds and grievances in the angry eye of the public sphere. Couldn’t imagine why, could you?
The Sauce Of The Heat

Check out the developers of OSRS at Jagex try to brush it off and dance around the resentment and anger in the chat bar in their scheduled monthly Twitch streamed Q&A. A chat bar that is absolutely off the hook with unbridled rage of a fan-base scorned, a fan-base who they are currently blatantly condescending to. Those present immediately call it for what it is, bullshit, considering the offers from Adam at RuneLite to make it closed-source being met with legal threats.

Say what you like about RuneScape fans but they call it like they sees it.  Something fishy smelling is afoot and I’m only LVL 1 fishing so it sure as heck ain’t me! Especially considering OSBuddy made a few of their pro plugins free shortly after this whole debacle was set in motion;
OS BUDDY MAKES THINGS FREE

 

After the statement made by Adam surfaced about going partially closed-source and using RuneLites own API OSBuddy go right ahead with announcing this;

 

JAMES

 

Looks like they could do with a lesson in timing or at the very least better PR people. It seems, to this unbiased and critically thinking eye that mayhaps a certain 3rd party and a certain Jagex are in cahoots. You rub my back with money I rub your back with wiping out the competition kinda deal? A corrupt conspiracy with money at the centre? Surely not? (haha)

Well here’s something to add a little more fuel onto the raging dumpster fire that is Jagex and OSBuddy’s handling of the situation, a representative of OSBuddy admitting they have a non-disclosure agreement in place and that their client is safe as houses for one reason or another – undisclosed of course;

 

OSBUDDY IS GONNA BE FINE NDA

 

This is a developing story but from what has transpired I feel pretty comfortable in pointing my cursor at this conclusion following some cursory research. What do you think, spicy or nah?

 

For what it is worth, I would just like to personally congratulate everyone in the RuneScape community as well as the wider world of video games who have been involved in ‘riots’ for just causes. Not only for standing up for themselves but their peers and other consumers too. After all, games and gaming should be for the enjoyment of those who play them, not solely the company’s profit. Or at the very most, exist for each other in an entirely symbiotic nature. I hope Jagex listens to the people who make them successful and that their humble and just demands are met. Developers would do well to listen more to their respective gaming communities that pay for the profits they take home. As some have learnt the hard way, that is, if they ever learn at all.

[UPDATE: Since time of writing there has been a full u-turn by Jagex and now RuneLite lives on!  As can be confirmed by the screenshot below from a discord post by its owner in which he refers to Mod Mat K, who instigated the conversation regarding the shutdown. Thanks to the efforts of all those involved in the community riot, in the game and on the web they had no choice but to listen.]

 

ADAM 2

Special thanks goes out to; Thomas Calvert of Essex age 23 and a ½.

 

State of Decay 2; Making Good On An Old Promise

 

 

State of Decay was a god send for fans of both open world games and zombies in general. I remember the excitement surrounding it at the time of its announcement, amongst me and my zombie loving peers. Developers Undead Labs in conjunction with Microsoft Studios released their offering in the summer of 2013 receiving many positive reviews from critics and players alike. But man, was I to be in for a personal let down, I was a victim of my own internal irrational hype machine with hope for the peak open world zombie experience in my heart. I couldn’t wait to play this game with my friends and this was the main reason I pre-ordered it, to play it with them.

Well as always with most things in life, the proof was in the pudding and it left a bitter taste in my mouth. I’m not going to say it was a bad game, objectively it’s a good game and to many it was even greater than, it just left me wanting more and I feel had so much more missed potential.

However I’m not exactly fully qualified to give a proper critique, as I gave up on it early on owing to how 2D it felt to me. It was a good enough game, ran well, looked nice and was pretty damn smooth, with some good mechanics. Where it was lacking meant it was not enough to hold me there as a player, I didn’t feel the urge to invest my time into it. The campaign seemed short as from what I know I’d almost finished it even with my lacklustre playing. What progression there was, felt almost pointless to me beyond my own personal progression I hadn’t seen any real fruits of my labour. Despite my fading memories of my 2013 gameplay I’ll try and explain what it did well but why that wasn’t enough for me personally.

 

 

Stumble Beginnings

The concept and story was all there and done extremely well. The zombie apocalypse survival fantasy was the best aspect of it, creating homesteads for survivor companions you rescue. Scavenging to feed and equip yourself and all those extra mouths you accumulate, even down to keeping the group happy with a morale system as well as upgrading your base to help raise their skill levels. That was pretty neat and something I liked very much, but to me it felt like it had little bearing on my game except for having an AI squad which could and should have been some of my human pals. I’ve been told if you died as your character it meant perma-death and you have to choose from one of the survivors for who you will play as next. I like that aspect of it thinking about it retrospectively, the problem was I never died. I played it long enough to know I wasn’t fully enjoying it despite it being decent but I didn’t play long enough to die, even though I completed quite a few missions.

The map was quite small and the game therefore felt quite limited in scope, it wasn’t very big for an open world map, although big enough for what the game was I suppose.  It was overall so limited that it almost made the great selection of vehicles seem a tad overkill when you consider the wastelands of say for example, Fallout, with their vastness and varied areas all traversed on foot. Take a look at the map below and you’ll see what I mean. Well if you agree with me that is…

 

state of decay map.png

 

There was some great horde mechanics although sometimes at the beginning they would be already forming at areas you needed to go, which made it quite difficult at low levels. The special enemies were varied and fun to fight. Such as the Feral zombie and the Juggernaut pictured below. I think you can guess which is which, the feral was the highest threat in the game if you fell foul of their ambushes. The Juggernaut relies on brute strength and high health, naturally, slow but powerful. Some good variation there. Adding some nice variety in fighting style and tactics.

 

Feral zombies.jpgJuggernaught.jpg

 

To get to the point my humble opinions is, it was a good game with an even better concept that was squandered owing to not being wider in scope and depth, failing to deliver on its potential as well as one major promise. The promise of multiplayer and co-op was the very reason I had purchased this game so eagerly. Now I understand nothing about game development except it’s costly and difficult so I can forgive the developers, of course. However when I read the news that they had scrapped the multiplayer we were told would be a part of the game, it became terribly apparent there wasn’t enough to hold me there to play on alone. I had other multiplayer games to play and frankly far more engrossing solo campaigns. I personally enjoy living out a games experience with friends and it all felt a bit hollow from that point forward. It was just a few brains short of a zombie picnic without my friends and co-op mode in general.

 

 

Undead Redemption

That’s where state of Decay 2 comes in, set to be released on Xbox and Microsoft this coming May the 22nd. It really looks as if Undead Labs have set out to fix the issues I took with the original. To put things back on track (in my eyes) for the series, in a way that fulfils more of its potential and redeems itself for the hurdles its predecessor fell at. It’s a game where the survival horror fantasy aspect is once again key but most importantly, it’s going to be multiplayer, for real this time! Check out the video below, this game is all about co-operation with the games host controlling their own base and those who join their game having the incentive to help build up this hosts world as they get to keep items and resources that they scavenge. Meaning this game will have a mutually beneficial community focus and just add more dimensions to the experience of gameplay with a team of humans, as well as the option to solo play of course.

In the words of Doug Williams, Art Director at Undead Labs speaking on the upgrade in platforms and engines says this meant they could achieve more with this game overall as compared to the first;

“new maps, more characters, more cars, more zombies, more simulation everything was a huge bump up.”

Jeff Strain who is the Studio Head added;

“it does give us the ability to create a smoother richer more graphically pleasing world for the players to play in.”

Overall from what I’ve researched this is true, it is definitely going to be bigger, better and more of what State of Decay could have and should have been! There are three more areas than before all the same size as the original, widening it in scope and giving more to the exploration, scavenging and base building aspects. You can build outposts that work in tandem with your main base in the area, base upgrading now requires you defend it from hordes as the noise of the building work attracts the wandering undead. So it seems there are some cool development in mechanics that add to the survival simulation aspect of it all which was already pretty decent before although there was definite room for improvement. There are also enclaves of other survivors that you can meet, trade and garner influence with, which allows you to get access to drones and other such aid by radioing them. Further developing the necessity for interacting with the world around you where before you felt able to skirt around that aspect, now it seems too rewarding to ignore. Also the new night mode looks pretty damn terrifying and will surely add more to the horror side of things, something I welcome as it seems to have been done so well that perhaps I won’t even be able to go out from my base at night without a human companion, the big scaredy that I am.

 

If you’d like to see a more in-depth look at these mechanics check out these videos below on the base-building and new survivor system aspects;

 

 

 

It seems like it’s going to be an all-around improvement this time round so if you were a fan, you’re going to be a bigger fan. If you weren’t a massive fan like me, then perhaps this will satiate your ungrateful and unquenchable thirst for more to fulfil the hype in your head. Here’s hoping, as they have stated they are aiming for a less canned experience and more of a unique one chosen by the player and moulded by them and their peers. Something I believe the original would have benefited from massively.

Undead Labs have really taken on board a lot of feedback from fans on what has worked well and what hasn’t worked or was missing all together. It really feels like they’ve listened and are going to bring out a game that will be an even bigger hit, although I’m going to refrain from over hyping it until I get my first bites of game play. We’ll see if I gobble it up or spit it out and I’ll get back to you all on that one come its release. I’m definitely looking forward to it albeit in hesitant anticipation.

Sunshine Blogger Award Challenge

 

 

I’ve been nominated for the sunshine blogger award and challenge, which was a pretty lovely thing to find out about as I’d never heard of it before nor been nominated for any award in a very, very, long time. So for those of you like me who hitherto hadn’t heard of its existence, here is what it is all about, summed up;

“The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to those who are creative, positive, and inspiring, while spreading sunshine to the blogging community.”

I’d like to say thanks for the nomination from Red Metal, it means a lot to me as I value these aspects in blogging and life in general, so nice to see I’m thought of in that way by a peer.

Red metal of Extra Life Reviews is a brilliant independent blogger who writes thoughtful and in depth game reviews.  I find their work is always interesting, well written and thought provoking. I particularly like the engaging questions they pose to their readership in their ‘A Question for the Readers’ series, as it’s good to see writers getting others involved to voice their opinions. So again, thanks to them, for the nomination and the chance to respond to the set of fun and interesting questions they posed. They were also one of the first from the community to interact with me and make me feel part of a wider network, so I’d just like to thank them for that as well, they truly are a ray of sunshine.

 

Sunshine bloger award

 

 

Rules:

  • Thank the Blogger who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.
  • Answer the 11 Questions The Blogger asked to your blog.
  • Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
  • List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post or on your blog.

 

So without further ado here are the questions posed to me and my responses. Have to say before I even began writing this I was enjoying formulating and recalling these answers in my head, some nice memories there that I’m glad to share.

 

 

 My Answers

  1. What is the dumbest competition you ever got in with your friends?

 I’d have to say without a doubt it was a race/competition to see who could drink the most milk the fastest without puking. We were about 11-12 and home alone with a fridge full of milk. What were we supposed to do, can you blame us? Well I suppose. I won and no one puked, think it was about 4 pints that I managed (A gallon.)

 

  2.  If you could form a band, which genre of music would you end up playing?

 That’s a hard one, I have no musical inclination and am awful at it, so probably a genre where the triangle is prominent. But ideally I’d say Ska or Reggae, I like the sounds of that. Although in a hip hop band would be amazing too.

 

 3. What is the first film you ever watched in theatres?

Well the first film I can remember watching was the Lion King, as I remember the trauma of watching Mufasa die. Yes I cried!
4. What is the oldest film you’ve watched all the way through?

 

 

 

 

The Man With The Movie Camera, which used ground breaking techniques and a documentary style, following life in a 1920s Soviet City. Directed by Dziga Vertov, it was a massive innovation for the time with amazing camera work. If you’re going to watch it, try to watch the version with the accompanying score by The Cinematic Orchestra. Absolutely superb and engrossing for an entirely silent movie.

 

 Sunshine Blogger 1

 

5. Have you ever fallen asleep watching a film before?

Oh countless times but my first memory of this was when I convinced my friends’ step-dad to allow us to rent Beavis and Butthead Do America at the tender age of 12. Good yet awkward times as he watched it with us grunting dissaprovingly.

 

6. What is your personal record for most number of films watched in a day?

 I think it was all three of the Lord of The Rings movie trilogy, this is the most I can clearly remember. Although Star Wars rings a bell and I may have watched all three originals and episode 1 in a day but I could be making this up. Not very impressive I know.

 

7. What is the single most heretical opinion you hold when it comes to video games?

Hmmmm, this is tricky. I’d have to go with this one as everyone disagrees with me on it when I bring it up. TF2 absolutely destroyed the Team Fortress franchise and took away everything that had hitherto made TFC great. You can’t change my mind.

 

 8. What is your proudest achievement playing a game?

 I’d have to say any time I am successful at Squad Leading in Squad, it’s just so difficult to do well and takes a lot. It feels good to lead a group of players turned soldiers to victory using your own initiative, tactics and strategy to adapt and overcome the odds.

 

9. What do you believe to be one of the few advantages that gaming critics have over film critics?

You can choose the experience and mould it somewhat when you’re playing a game, you are involved and interact with it. So you become an extension of it in essence and that makes it a lot easier to interpret, experience and report on critically.

 

10. Have you ever binge-watched a show?

Countless times, Trailer Park Boys is the most current! Usually with my partner, we are suckers for soaking up some quality shows en masse.

 

11. Do you follow any webcomics?

Sadly not, I used to like Cyanide and Happiness quite a bit growing up, but comics haven’t been my thing for a long while, web or otherwise.

 

 

Blogger Who I Nominate

 

As part of the challenge you are asked to tag 11 other bloggers who you feel deserve nominating for this community award. I’ve only been on the scene since February of this year, so for me finding 11 who haven’t already done it would be hard. So I am going to make one definite choice of the blogger who I think sums up the tenants of the award and who I would like to see answer my questions. And they are – Kim of the blog Later Levels.

They made me feel welcome to the community too by interacting with me and I love their writing style in general, the blogs tagline absolutely resonates with me as I’ve learnt with every passing year – ‘XP comes with age.’ I love the way they write as it feels very personable and inclusive of the reader, for example their Question of the month competition where readers and their peers pose questions to them to be answered in a blog post. Check out their latest addition to this series here which is both a great question posed (what three video game characters would they choose to help them survive the icy zombie apocalypse) and a good read! For all these reasons I think they are a ray of sunshine in the blogging community and would like to thank them for their work.

Also to Kim specifically, don’t feel any pressure to respond at all I’d hate to make you feel obliged!

 

 

My Questions

After answering your set questions, the next part of the challenge is to come up with your own set of questions for your nominated bloggers. I am going to ask these questions;

 

  1. If you had to play one game for the rest of your life what would it be?
  1. If you had to kill off one of your favourite video game characters who would it be and why?
  1. What do you find the most rewarding aspect of blogging to be?
  1. What is your proudest achievement in blogging?
  1. What is your favourite genre of game?
  2. If you could set up an office to blog from anywhere in the world where would it be and why?
  3. The worst movie you have ever seen?
  4. The best band or artist you’ve seen perform live or if you haven’t, who would you most like to see?
  5. If you could have a sidekick companion from any game who would you choose and why?
  6. Who is the most misunderstood enemy/boss in video gaming?
  7. Nintendo or Sega?

 

 

I hope you found my answers and questions interesting, feel free to answer my set of questions in the comments section if you like them enough to give them a go, as I am interested to see readers answers. Once again thank you to Red Metal and well done to Kim, I really love both their work. Keep an eye out for my upcoming articles on State of Decay 2 as well as Post-Scriptum, two games I’m looking forward to experiencing and sharing those experiences with you!

 

 

 

 

 

Spyro; Reignited But Not Rebooted

 

 

 

Jurassic Park and Star Wars reboots? A Crash Bandicoot remaster?  It seems the latter half of the second decade of this millennium has been a very lucrative time for cashing in on childhood nostalgia. Especially considering fans of the originals which are getting said treatment have in many cases spawned the next generation of consumers.  This trend has only snowballed and is set to continue, so it seems.

As well as bringing new generations to the movie and games franchises that have been relaunched or touched up for a new age this usually makes a large sector of older fans very happy. I’m going to look at and voice my opinion on why it possibly shouldn’t.

The latest announced game to get a makeover in the video game world came with the remastering of the old Spyro The Dragon trilogy aptly named Spyro Reignited. Making large swathes of childhood fans giddy with glee at the prospects of recapturing those happy memories of our younger years with a cosmetically new recycled adventure. To be released exclusively on PlayStation (of course) on the 21st of September published by Activision.  Here’s hoping it too follows the trend of Crash Bandicoot and ends up available on other platforms as my now Xbox owning childhood nostalgia senses are tingling and I’ve already got my wallet open in anticipation. Though, empty as it is I don’t know what good that’ll do anyone.

 

 

What can we expect from this upcoming remastering of the trilogy and what do I think of this announcement. Let’s take a look at both to find out.

Old Flames Rekindled And Remastered

I was slightly disappointed when I realised this wasn’t going to be a new game. But that soon subsided and turned into excitement when I remembered that I can only hazily recall the stories and would love to relive them as I fully know that they were great. Then after riding that wave of excitement, I was straight back to disappointment when I clocked that it was a PS exclusive.

So what can we expect to glide onto our PS consoles from this old classic?

 

  • Memorable characters and good story driven gameplay – From your companion Sparx the Dragonfly who offers you protection, whether he’s simply buzzing or talking (as in Spyro: A Hero’s Tail) he had bags of attitude and was mischievously endearing. Speaking of bags of stuff, that reminds me, Moneybags, one of my first lessons in why the filthy rich kinda suck. He exploits you for your hard earned gems instead of aiding you out of the kindness of his heart, this memorable bastard is another great example of the characterisation that was a huge part of what made this game great. The story-lines were very nicely done too and engrossing as a child, I cannot for the life of me remember them well enough to truly critique them but generally the cut scenes and story progression was a quality of this game that made it very endearing. Especially rescuing the dragons and scuppering Gnasty Gnorcs violent plan for the dragon realms and thus restoring peace. That was lovely.

 

MoneyBags
Just look at him, the pompous sack of wealth and human waste!

 

 

  • Humour – The world of Spyro games always had more than a touch of humour, such as in the aforementioned character of Moneybags, however my most favourite example is the cowardly and cheeky soldiers from the level Peacekeepers Homeworld. I always loved charging headfirst at them and making them quiver and cower  in their tents before scorching it to reveal them. I also sniggered most profusely when they insultingly moon you in a half-baked taunt. They amongst many other examples add enjoyable and funny elements making the game so much more entertaining.

 

 

 

  • Interesting worlds and gameplay – The world of the dragon realm and all that lays beyond was simply mesmerising as a child, often brightly coloured and always varied these were a delight to explore and play through. Another element that was very varied in these games were the enemies, creatively imagined minions that fit into each world thematically and nicely. Also the gameplay was a mixed bag of goodies. Part platformer, part fire breathing head bopping combat, part flying levels all based around a central home-world through which you could access the many interesting areas, through the aid of portals. Check some screenshots from the original trilogy;

 

Spyro world 1

Spyro world 2Spyro world 4

Spyro world 5SPYRO UNDERWATEr

 

 

Some great variation in level design, always interesting to play through and lovely to explore. That’s without even showing the flying levels or bonus stages, or the true scope of the underwater levels (what a dragon is doing underwater I’ll never understand.)

All this and more (cliché alert) will be what you should expect if you’ve never played the game before and if you have and know what to expect already from that aspect. Then you will probably realise that the main deliverance we can expect from this remastering is a massive upgrade in graphics as well as some new creative flair to character and level design details. Just take a look at this difference, much more going on and highly polished too, the comparisons look absolutely stunning and mesmerising. On this merit alone I would buy the trilogy.

 

SPYRO GRAPHICS

 

 

From this ….

 

Spyro comparison.png 

 

To this …

 

spyro.jpg

 

 

A remarkable improvement, but why no new adventures for our scaly pal?

 

Fear Of The Hype Machine

Maybe if the hype surrounding the remastering holds true upon release, perhaps developers may see a potential new spark for an old flame with an original Spyro reboot? Perhaps a new trilogy or a singular game in the works. That’s what I’d really want to see despite being psyched for the updated old trilogy, I want something new.

However with any new take on an old anything, there are always going to be those fans who over-hype and those who dismiss the notion outright owing to the sanctity of their childhood being possibly ruined. Then there’s those like me in the healthy middle ground, that would realise both ends of the spectrum are  valid and that we must wait in nervous but optimistic  anticipation to judge on the results as the proof is always in the pudding. So why is a new game not being announced, when there are fans who would eagerly await one?

Well, with such potential negativity and room for failure surrounding reboots, owing to the effects of what I call the hype machine increasing the chances of a prospective new reboot being disastrously received, remastering is the easy answer. Perhaps that’s why developers and publishers alike opt for the safer gamble and are remastering rather than rebooting. It seems they are happy to take the easy route to guaranteed money bags and are all too often too afraid to take a leap and create an all new game.  I feel they need to have more faith in themselves and respect for fans, but that ultimately fear of the hype machine holds them back.
 

 

UNLIMITED HYPE.gif

 

Whatever happens after this new remastered trilogy, I hope they don’t drag-on announcing a new release (Har-har) that is, if they do plan for one at all.  I can’t wait to pick up a controller and catch up with my favourite purple scaly pal (sorry Barney I got no love for you) for a new adventure or just to relive the old ones. I can still be pleased with some old hat with new ribbons on it even if I hold it out and say ‘please, can I have some more?’

In short the milking of the nostalgia cash cow is a lot easier than hunting for the big prey of a new hit game. Rinsing and repeating with the old formula is nothing short of a lazy cop-out in my eyes, it’s just a safe bet if it doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Enjoyable though it may be.

 

The British Are Coming (To Squad) And Other Developments

 

Now for something we’ve all been waiting patiently for! Okay, okay… maybe a massive bit of hyperbole there on my part, but to me the exaggeration is closer to the reality of how I feel about this.

Squad fans, especially those from the British Isles are excited after having been given more of a look at the upcoming addition to the conventional armies of the game. Something that has been in the works since the Kickstarter campaign first began back in 2015. Today I’m going to take a look at what is in store for us fans and what we can expect from the British army faction. I have to say it’s seeming very good to me indeed and it looks like the team of developers from Offworld Industries have been having some fun along the way;

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Alongside the new addition of the British army I’m going to check out a few of the other upcoming updates due this year, that I haven’t yet touched upon. As well as a couple of thoughts and suggestions my pals and I have had on what changes we might like to see implemented.

 

 

The British Army

Okay … yes of course I am biased but the British army coming to squad is a big deal. I now get to play around with the kit and weaponry that the army of my country uses, as well as some of their pretty cool looking vehicles! Despite my obvious bias, it has to be admitted that objectively this is going to be good for the game all round in adding more diversity to it.
Check out this sneak peek at the funky looking British army truck;

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Here’s a little preview of a run-around with a British soldier, showing off the SA80 sights (I believe) and the British LSW (Light Support weapon) with its SUSAT sights, a 4×4 magnified scope which was developed by and still largely used by the British;

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The uniforms are looking spot on as does the weapons and the truck, in fact everything I’ve seen so far. They’ve done great with the models and I can’t wait to get to a grip on the look and feel of their vehicles, equipment and weaponry to see how they all handle, look and sound. As well as what their FOB builds look like, I wonder how they’ll add a British touch to them. This is the update I am most looking forward to but now let us take a look at more great updates due to come this year.

 

Brit 2.jpg

 

 

More Models For Insurgent Forces

Adding more variety to the models of the insurgent faction is a very important thing to do and I’ll tell you why. This will better reflect the look of these unconventional military groups, further adding to the realism of the game through mirroring the real world. These unprofessional military units are usually more of a rag tag militia of civilians turned fighters and so have random equipment and limited uniforms, if any. This will do wonders for the immersive realism in the visuals of the game and I can’t wait to see them out and about when they’re released.
Boy are we in for a treat as in my opinion the models are looking pretty tasty and capture the authentic middle-eastern militant aesthetic chic, if you will;

 

 

Insurgent 1

Insurgent 2

Insurgent 3

Insurgent 4.jpg

Insurgent 5

Insurgent 6

 

 

As you can see from these pictures there is some nice variety that captures the truth of the forces much more distinctly. They truly look like the casual civilians turned fighters that a great many on the battlefields of today are in that sphere of conflict, swept up into the wars that have enveloped their nations.

 

 

Up-armoured Technicals

Another update for the insurgents this time with regards to vehicle types, with the adding of makeshift up armouring on some Technicals. This emulates the grim reality of the real world conflicts in the Middle-East, as these feature heavily in the arsenal of jihadist and rebel groups, using whatever engineering knowledge, equipment and scrap metal at their disposal to make their weaker vehicles stronger. Resulting in some mad max style post-apocalyptic looking armoured get ups. Allowing their vehicles to withstand more punishment as well as ensuring their VBIEDs (vehicle borne improvised explosive devices) get closer to the kill zone and in so doing, making them miles more effective.

 

Uparmoured real 1

Uparmoured real 2.jpg

 

 

Here are some pretty tame and rational looking versions, but these vehicle creations that were spawned out of war necessity range on a spectrum of pretty well done as above, to just plain bizarre. Here let me illustrate that end for you;

 

 

Uparmoured real 3

 

Seems more Star Wars than our wars don’t it?! So what are the developers of Squad offering for our insurgents’ vehicular arsenal? Let’s take a look and find out!

 

Technical 1.jpg

Technical 2

 

Pretty dead on and true to life looking, these vehicles will operate differently to how the less armoured bog standard techies work at the moment. Instead of being fast and unable to take much punishment, more suited for fast drop offs, careful support and extractions. These uparmoured versions will trade speed and handling for the ability to take more punishment. Making them much better for sustained support and perhaps even challenging the better armed and armoured conventional faction vehicles. That is … if you get the drop on them or drop in on them with an IED attached ready to blow.

 

 

Guided Missile Systems

Squad is getting its first guided missile systems introduced this year, in the form of the BGM-71 TIW, complete with a long distance magnification sight. It will be a bane for vehicle drivers but a much needed defence for infantry that will find them very useful on American FOBs, as the US are the faction these will belong to. All too often one vehicle can bring a badly or even well placed FOB to its knees even with anti-tank infantry, so perhaps these will give a bit more of a bite to FOBs under fire from vehicles. They can fire over a very large distance very accurately, can’t wait to see them flying through the air taking out the Russian 30mm BTRs. They’ve been destroying me recently and I am still holding grudges.

 

Tow 1.jpg

Tow 2

 

Here’s a Gif of what the optics look like and how it fires;

ashamedhighlevelaldabratortoise-size_restricted

 

 

Heavy Machine Gun And SPG Optics

Both conventional factions are getting kitted out with better optics for their heavy machine gun classes. The US M2A1 Browning will get an M145 ACOG scope optic;

 

Machine gun optics 2

mixedinborndwarfrabbit-size_restricted

 

And the Russian NSV will get an SPP optic for their heavy support weapon;

 

Machine gun optics 1

 

Now I absolutely love ‘laying down some hate’ with these high round capacity fast firing killing machines, they’re great for suppressing enemies who are attacking or those your squad are attacking. It’s a versatile support weapon and now with optics will become even more effective and accurate as it can be hard shooting with iron sights beyond mid-range. Especially if you’re as awful as spotting enemies as I am, that’s why I always favour optics and am looking forward to getting a go with them as I spray hot lead to better effect.
As well as the heavy MGs getting optics, the SPG is going to get a new optic that will make it much more accurate and easier to use at range. Something I find will be welcomed since your first shot must count, with the length of time it takes to reload and all. Now you can judge range and target better giving you more chance of getting that first shot on. Check out how the optics look and what looking down the sight looks like below;

willinghelpfuliraniangroundjay-size_restricted

 

Realistic Armour Thickness

Another update for the realms of realism – relative vehicle armour thickness and how well it would withstand being hit by munitions. Meaning vehicle drivers will have to consider what areas are exposed and be mindful of enemy movements in efforts to reach a clear shot of their weak spots.

 

wastefulshockedasianpiedstarling-size_restrictedfantasticmajesticarcticfox-size_restrictedConversely anti-tank classes will need to be wary of where they’re hitting the target for maximum efficiency. A nice touch bringing more aspects of MilSim realism and tactics into play.

 

New Maps And Updates

It’s clear that Offworld must be perfectionists or at the very least care about their game and its fans enough to constantly be improving and updating things. I like this, as they stated in their press release ‘with a new year comes a new year of mapping!’ To those who play the same map rotation over and over again and possibly getting a little tired of them this will be a god send.

The map Kohat is being expanded to improve areas that are empty and providing more variety alongside more capture points. The most exciting addition I think is the proof that the plan to add helicopters is coming closer to fruition! A new US army FOB is going to be put in …. complete with HELICOPTER LANDING PADS!!!! Get in.

 

Kohat

A number of other maps are being expanded and retrofitted in areas, adding more in buildings and ruins as well as new roads to make vehicles more utilisable and able to move quickly with more options. A new map known as Kamdesh Highlands is also in development with the subject matter being a rugged area of Afghanistan featuring lush pine forests and hilly terrain perfect for ambushes.

 

KAmdesh.jpg

     decisivegratefulindianringneckparakeet-size_restricted

  There is also some news on what has been a project in the pipeline for quite some time, the map Fallujah. They are moving on to the second phase of creating the city working on large buildings that will reside in the city centre. Looking to be ready by the end of the year, so check for monthly updates. The layout below shows it’s a pretty urban map, with heavily built up areas.

 

 

FAllujah.jpg

 

Thoughts And Suggestions

Sometimes my buddies and I like to play in smaller tight knit squads and not have to deal with the hassle of leading a full squad of random people who often don’t listen or are back seat squad leaders. We got to thinking perhaps there should be a number of different squad types and set ups. Say a dedicated 4 person Anti-Tank team or perhaps a 6 person vehicle squad with drivers, gunners and support infantry for two vehicles. Just an idea that might add a little bit more flexibility in what type of squad you can play as effectively with smaller numbers.  I don’t know what people think about this one, if you have any thoughts feel free to leave a comment.

Another thought was more randomised patterns and variants in capture point progression in already existing maps, this would keep them fresher and give a different playing experience with each different layout. Not a massive issue and seems to be something that the mapping team are constantly working on as noted above. However just a thought that would keep older maps feeling newer without having to develop or build too much, less work but with similar effects to tide us heavy players over between expansions and new maps.

 

 

Clearly Squad is an ever developing game that does justice in capturing the look and simulated experience of some of the biggest contemporary theatres of war. It really aims to be authentic with enthusiasm and zeal and just looking at what they have planned, they’re hitting the mark. I’m just so eager to see what else they’ve got envisaged for this game and its future with every announced update, I can’t wait for the next, despite the game being great as is Offworld Industries just keep making it better.

SCUM To Look Out For – An Upcoming Survival Game Looking To Change The Genre

 

SCUM is an early access open world PC survival game due to be released in 2018. Set in a reality TV gameshows’ second season, broadcast by fictional and questionable entertainment channel TEC1. The questionable part being, that in this gameshow – the locked up must throw down for the pleasure of a greedy capitalist society run by corporations, as TEC1 fight for their ratings and corporate sponsors.

In a dystopian profit driven society where inmates die for peoples’ enjoyment, you take control of a convict who is thrown into this gladiatorial style event, versus enemy players as well as hostile AI controlled by the TV network through BCU implants. Implants that can reanimate unfortunate runner ups turning them into mind controlled zombies. It is a fight to the death for your freedom, exploring the islands of the archipelago along the way, making alliances and using resources to survive. As the games tagline says;

‘Your life sentence is about to become your 15 minutes of fame.’

Although this type of scenario has been broached upon before in other games such as the culling, I think there is so much more potential in it, especially with the survival genre. And it seems like Croatian developers Croteam feel the same, as they are picking up the torch to make a survival game with much more to it – just check out this trailer!



 

This is why I think SCUM will be one to look out for and why I’m deciding to support it during early access. I’m going to take a closer look at some of the reasons that convinced me.

 

Backstory

If you check updates from the developers, you will have seen that the story elements surrounding this game appears to be quite important to them. They’re looking to create a world that is truly driven in all senses, giving it a setting and lore and so  making it much more multi-dimensional. This is something I think will stand it in good stead as a survival game, as there is more to it than simply kill, survive and loot.

It feels as if there will be potentially more going on with the game because of it, secrets to discover, an unfolding story with more heart and depth put into it. Something that most all popular multiplayer survival games fail to achieve, a good story that actually impacts on the game experience itself. It is set to be a hybrid sandbox survival game with ‘higher goals incorporated’ as the developers put it. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see just exactly what that means for the game.

But if they are true to their word this will mean survival games as a genre might become a little less futile which I feel they are usually, even if enjoyable.

 

 


Character Building

This will be a massively important element according to the Crotean team;

‘SCUM evolves the multiplayer open world survival game with unprecedented levels of character customization, control, and progression where knowledge and skills are the ultimate weapons for long-term survival. Players will balance base level needs with knowledge-based skills to manage everything from nourishment, metabolic rate, and body mass to weapons and proficiency, combat style, and security systems hacking. Dominate the island with your skills, cunning, and strategies to achieve higher levels of game and receive powerful gifts from corporate sponsors and, if you happen to slip up and die, get resurrected by the show’s producers with all your valuable skills intact.’

Hinting at the sheer depth and scope in ambitions of this project. A survival game that is fine-tuned and honed in on developing skill and other elements of your character that are rarely touched upon in this genre. This coupled with the story itself means it will potentially make for one fun and immersive game.

But of course it takes more than that to convince me to back an early access game nowadays… well … sometimes anyways.
 

 


Unarmed Combat

Typically in survival games unarmed combat is left up to throwing random swings, backing in and out of the fight and hoping like hell. With half the skill of two animals butting heads.

Croteam have spotted this issue and are seeking to put it straighter than a well-aimed jab. They are adding something other survival games for the most part lack – the ability to block, dodge, counter and throw combos. As well as a free-camera mode and 1st person view when you enter melee combat. Meaning overall you have much more control than is usually afforded the player. Alongside this the skill level of your character effects how well you do it all.

Now combat will be so much more meaningful if you’ve yet to scavenge anything that fires projectiles.

 

 

 


Atmosphere And Map Design

I am not sure whether or not Croteam is actually an arm of the Croatian tourist board, because if they’re not they should at least be getting commission. After viewing screenshots of their map I definitely want to plan a trip there. The reason why – the 144km2 map is based around the Croatian island of Brac and from screenshots so far it looks simply stunning.

 

highresscreenshot00051.jpg
Two prisoners stop for a well earned drink by this idyllic stream.
Scum 2.jpg
Looks perfect for a wee fishing holiday don’t it!?!?

 

The creators have stated on their blog that they generally prefer a tense horror feel, the kind of atmosphere where you suspect anything could be lurking in the dark or round the corner. There is of course a changing day and night cycle, which will naturally effect this but they’ve also talked of having absolute silence with sound effects of lurking animals and perhaps crickets at night. This would really do it justice and I hope they pursue that option, as it is totally suited to a game where hardened criminals are roaming about an island trying to kill each other. Rather than going for atmospheric music which takes away from the true fright of the situation, as it is usually triggered  by events and gives away the element of surprise I feel.

 

 
Camouflage/ Stealth/Awareness/Tactics

In this game the sounds you make and being sighted will not be the sole way you can be detected, your player has a scent. That’s right, if you don’t wash regularly by taking dips in water then developers have stated you’ll have to ‘check…which way the wind is blowing!’ I love this fact and if this is an element in gameplay then it shows just how far they want to take this genre of game into the next generation and towards realism and player immersion.

But how have they developed the more traditional aspects of stealth, camouflage and awareness? Check out this video showing off how well the camos actually function;


With awareness and a system developers call, tactics they are seeking to level the playing field where it comes to unfair 3rd person exploits, whilst still keeping it in the game. This is where awareness comes in, your characters awareness level will allow you to track another players position once spotted for a limited period of time, depending on how high your skill is. Meaning you will not be able to see someone you wouldn’t be able to see beyond an obstacle in real life whilst in 3rd person until you can physically make eye contact on with them. Put simply, what you will render in 3rd person mode is only what you would see in 1st person. This video will show you exactly what the developers are going for as it’s a little difficult to put into words and do it the justice it deserves;

Now a lot of comments online have been complaining about how this is essentially a wall hack perk for advanced players with higher skills, seeming it would be an unfair advantage over n00bs that are new to the game. I too am slightly worried as the longevity of the most advanced levels tracking essentially means you can be tracked once out of sight for a large while, if done correctly. So much of what the developers are aiming for seems great in theory, but a lot of gamers are worried about how it will translate into practice. The developers are very good at getting back to these worries and elaborating on it, so  here’s a Q&A the developers put out to further explain what frankly needed a further explanation to put minds at ease;

I really believe this will look to alleviate unfair advantages that people have on the battlefield, levelling the playing field and bringing the fight down to skill and knowledge. Not unfair exploits.

Layers And Wetness

 As reasons you want to buy a game goes layers and wetness is a little strange, but let me digress.

Wetness in the world of SCUM is very important, from making you sick, drowning you if you’re heavily laden, as well as weighing and slowing you down through clothes absorption. There is a realistic system of clothing layers and their properties of absorbance that you must be wary of when taking a dip, sweating a lot or being rained on. Keeping dry clothes aside, having a fire ready or leaving your heavy backpack of loot on dry land are all things to think about, you cannot simply just run willy-nilly into water. Even your different body parts are split into regions that get effected differently depending on what is happening. Say only your feet layers would get wet if you walked through ankle deep water. There has to be a lot more thought going into your gameplay and surroundings and I like the idea of these factors coming into play and effecting such things as travelling to combat.


This game is looking to take the survival element so much further, with in-depth realism in all aspects of play and this includes stamina and inertia as well for realistic movement and running.

 

 


Developers


I have faith that Croteam are a team of developers that can deliver, most well known for their Serious Sam series which has become their brand and a staple of their success. As well as creating the critically acclaimed The Talos Principle. They have built their own engine known as the Serious engine and have been developing it for over 20 years. From what it seems to me with my limited research on them, they are a tight knit company that isn’t afraid to get stuck in and do the hard work to achieve success. I hope my slight assumptions will be proved a reality with SCUM and that it will be a labour of love for them, as this will ensure the same brilliance that these developers have been known for in the past.

I also like their sense of humour, which can be seen in the narrator of their videos John Dick. It also has to be said that these videos putting all their ideas on show to receive the critical eye of fans of the genre and then responding to questions and worries is very commendable. I feel it’s a good sign of their sense of duty to create something worthwhile and to put it frankly, worth the money. Which let’s face it, is becoming few and far between in this year of our lord 2018 with the gaming industry squeezing money out of players until their pips squeak.

 

 

Prisoner of My Gaming Industry Doubt

Nevertheless I am a prisoner of the rightfully earned doubt I hold in the gaming industry. Will it work, will it really be what’s promised – bottom line until it’s delivered we don’t know if they can or will deliver on the lofty goals they’ve envisaged. But I have hope and this is certainly achievable by developers of Croteans standards.

They are really gunning to step up the survival game genre taking a lot of aspects they feel have been lacking. Bringing them to the forefront, giving them depth and intertwining them in a way that means they will all matter and be influencers on gameplay for a great gaming experience.
I really hope they deliver on their ambitions and promises, as I think a lot of us would agree that these are all issues that hold back this type of game. Maybe if this game proved popular and was successful, it could really influence and develop this genre, revitalising it into a new well-deserved and in depth direction and becoming more. Or at the very least unleash an amazing new game onto the playing field.

Either way, I am looking out for this one and cannot wait to play it that’s why I dub this SCUM to look out for.

Squad V10 Overview/Review – An Indeterminable Period Of Waiting Followed By Much Enjoyment

It has been well over a month since the V10 update dropped on the 5th of February and I’ve had more than enough time to enjoy it. So it’s about bloody time I reviewed the long awaited and excitement inducing update for Squad. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the game itself, don’t fear as I have a review you can check out before reading this, for those of you are, get stuck in and enjoy.

In this review I will not be covering every single aspect of the update, just the bits I consider to be the most important, interesting and exciting. To include everything would take quite a lot more pages of an already long article and I don’t think you or I would like writing or reading every little detail all that much. First off check out the trailer because it’s so damned good;


Gameplay And Meta

One of the biggest changes to the way the game is played is the fact that now you cannot utilise the flag rush meta straight off the bat in AAS game types. If one enemy is on a flag, you cannot block the capture with superior numbers without searching and destroying the single enemy. Meaning that you cannot stop the enemies’ advance dead in its track from the get go.

Even though I have always enjoyed crushing the enemy from the beginning of the game, I do feel that this is a better way of balancing things out for teams so the game can actually get started and flow, not dying a death before it has even begun. Encouraging teams to focus on the progression of the game as well as installing a proper supply chain for forward operating bases. You can still block the flag but this requires hunting and destroying all enemies, which is more likely to be a high risk gamble and waste of resources.

There has been a 3 minutes ‘staging period’ added at the beginning of matches, allowing time to spawn up, organise your squads, which vehicles you are taking and the like. However your movement is limited to the staging area of the main base until the time elapses. Graciously the developers have made it so you cannot discharge your weapons, having the foresight to know what gamers made to wait can be like and so helping to avoid griefing.


Mobility

An aspect of life that’s for the most part highly important, becomes even more so on the battlefield, what with the wanting to run away when the loud noises start and all. With V10 you can now run away even more effectively, a part of the update that is definitely applauded by heroes and cowards alike.

The addition of the ability to vault over objects and use your buddy as a boost to climb hitherto unreachable places, means taking cover and traversing the terrain has become even easier. No more being trapped behind knee high walls while the rounds kick up dust at your feet. Well, that is unless you’ve not got the stamina to carry out the mantling move.

A free look bind has been added allowing you to be even more observational on patrol with a 180 degree arc of vision. The speed and ease of entering the prone position has been made more slow and difficult, meaning goodbye to the tactic of drop shots and hello military realism. Whilst prone you can also now lean round, perfect for peeking corners, turning your whole body out and giving you a much better field of view when looking out from cover. Crouch sprinting has been implemented, meaning you can now run distances with a lower profile at the cost of speed.

Another feature that comes into play with your movement is the fact that your weapon length is now a valid factor you must take into account when near obstacles. It will be made to lower and you cannot fire, meaning that your secondary weapon pistols can often now have a bigger advantage in tight spaces, especially as a marksman with their long barrels.

All in all this update has done wonders for your mobility and has brought much more to the table, realism and gameplay wise, making getting around smoother and more tactical.

FOBs And Deployables

Now when you place a FOB radio set down, both the ammo and construction points are set to 0, owing to this, a number of the deployables have been cut in the points that it costs to place them. This has been implemented as previously they relied heavily on the points you initially started with for placement. The ammunition resource cap has been doubled to 2000, meaning FOBs can now be better defended and provide better cover and support, something that will make this feature of the game more useful and hopefully therefore more used. As all too often mortar teams are seen as pointless. Packing more of a wallop over a sustained period should make them regarded as useful as they should be. Another element which further develops the usability of mortars is the new smokescreen rounds. Which cover a large area and can last up to a minute, allowing for advances to be made.

Logistics trucks now work a bit differently, you can now decide with what you would like to fill the truck. Either construction materials, ammunition or both depending on your FOBs needs and your squad leaders’ orders. To drop supplies off you must use the number keys 1/2 or mouse scroll to select which resource you wish to drop, then hold the left mouse button to drop off. To pick up supplies you hold down the right mouse button.  Lastly logistics trucks now have the ability to load up from a FOB to take the materials elsewhere, the significance of this is that now if retreating or advancing you can salvage what’s left and redistribute it. The developers have stated there will be more development on these building aspects in the future, hinting that perhaps some FOBS could be used as supply hubs in a logistics chain.

 


An anti-aircraft emplacement has been added as a deployable for both unconventional warfare teams, a ZU-23 twin barrelled 23mm AA gun. It costs 100 ammo points to reload and is limited to one per FOB, costing 400 construction points to build. This addition is hinting that perhaps we are getting closer to the promised incorporation of helicopters which the developers have been working on since 2017. I hope they get implemented soon as I really cannot wait to play flight of the Valkyries down my mic in local chat at the nearest possible opportunity as we hover onward into battle, sorry fellow players.

 

SPG-9 emplacements and the mounted variants now have the option to choose between high explosive anti-tank or fragmentation rockets. The latter being best for hitting grouped together infantry units or those taking cover inside buildings.

The militia now have a new defensive deployable in the form of a wooden trench wall section, limited to 10 per FOB and costing 150 construction points.

FOBs are a vitally important part of gameplay and I’m enjoying seeing these developments, how they can be used and pondering on what can be added. I think it will be interesting down the line to see what other developments are being worked on and what effect they’ll have on the game itself. 

Weapons And Kit

A lot has changed in regards to weaponry, a lot of it being very minor and fiddly details that I don’t feel worthy of noting as they are none to exciting. So for this section I am going to cut it down to what I feel are the most important elements. Many of what I am going to gloss over are just points on kit changes that bring balance to the different teams as well as more true to life loadouts and damage changes.

Firstly, all animations for the equipment and weapon usage have been completely rebuilt from the ground up for V10, some nice smooth animations (when they don’t bug out.) Furthermore the way weapons handle overall has been revamped too – recoil, weapon sway and movement are all something you’ll have to get used to again, which are all effected by your current level of stamina. I do find the weapons are a lot more realistic to use now, but somehow smoother at the same time. Same can be said of the swapping between what’s in your inventory, you can now cancel your reload or equipment change to select another weapon a lot quicker. Giving you better ease of response to developing situations, which can be vital to your survival out in the field. No longer will you be stuck doing something you need to stop. Almost all weapons can now have their scopes and sights zeroed in, to help aid at different ranges, something I haven’t quite got to grips with, but I’m certain will be useful once you know what you’re doing.

Now for one of the biggest factors of new weapons and kit that has been afforded to us, machine gunners. Finally they have been equipped with bipods to allow positions to be set up and for more effective fire to be levelled against the enemy. You can deploy them on most any surface including your squad mates back if they stay still providing you a firing position, and potential meat shield. Win win for the gunner eh?  All belt fed weapons have been given visual animations of the belt diminishing as ammunition is fired through, adding a nice little touch of realism and a better visual feedback for when reload time is near. These kits are great when used in tandem with marksman or other fire support roles, having a spotter to direct fire – they are best operated from a held position providing overwatch for your squad. Equipped with 500 rounds they can sustain fire for a large amount of time. You can get a rifleman to lay sandbags to make their position elevated and slightly protected.  A brilliant plus for your squads’ tactical fighting ability this kit unlocks at 5 squad members and is limited to 4 per team, unlocking one per 10 people on your team. Giving it a nice balance I feel.

Squad 1
Here’s a quick run through of the most important small noteworthy changes for brevities sake;

All the reticules bullet drop compensation indicators on scopes are finally fully functional. Coming in great handy for those long distance shots you just can’t calculate yourself. All marksman kits now have binoculars meaning they can play their role more effectively. Also binos themselves have become more effective – equipped with a proper reticule and rangefinder, which helps you indicate range by the height of the enemy at different distances. All non-scoped riflemen now get a reel of razor wire alongside their deployable sandbags, helping your squad dig in further when taking defensive positons.  The Insurgent raider kit has been given 2 drum magazines that hold 71 rounds, good for pushes and holding against a numerically superior force. Making you into bit more of a shock trooper. Insurgents now too have a grenadier kit, however it is restricted to 3 per team, better reflect their more heavy reliance on RPG weaponry in the real world.

Some lovely new changes in this sector, bringing more diversity to the game.


Vehicles

The first thing you will notice on all vehicles in V10 is that it now takes a while to enter, exit or move seats. How long it takes depends on the vehicle and type of seat you are moving to. This means that soloing vehicles is no longer as effective as it used to be, thus encouraging teamwork. Meaning vehicles take up more of your squad to operate or are less effective. Adding to the realism and overall balance of the game.

Insurgents have a new vehicle in their arsenal, a civilian coloured Ural 375D logistics truck (only in certain maps.) Both Insurgents and Militia have a MTLB variant with a ZU-23 AA gun on the back as well as a smaller PKT turret up on the front mount. A vehicle that can be operated to full effect by 3 people means that smaller vehicle squads of friends can get a lot of enjoyment out of this one.

Squad 44.jpg

squad 22.jpg

Me and my pals have had much fun using it so far and have found it best to be used at a distance to deal with people holed up in hilltops. It makes light work of smaller vehicles, but is vulnerable against the more heavily armed and armoured ones. Has to be said, it handles like a dream and is quite speedy, making it good for withdrawing and getting about in general. It costs 18 tickets when destroyed and only takes 6 minutes to respawn (thankfully as I absolutely love this addition.)

squad 33.jpg

Alongside the aforementioned vehicle, the Insurgents now have an Ural 375D mounted with a ZU-23 AA gun on the back which shoots high explosive rounds. It is a very vulnerable and cumbersome vehicle which is best used at a distance or for ambushes as it cannot fire directly forward. When destroyed it will cost 12 tickets and also has a 6 minute respawn timer.

squad 4.jpg
BTR-80 / BTR-82A / MT-LBM 6MA / MT-LBM 6MB / BRDM-2;
These above vehicles have now been fitted with a coaxial PKT machine gun, which is much more useful to supress and dispatch infantry threats and can be switched to in the inventory slot number 2. All vehicles mentioned above, as well as Strykers are also now equipped with smokescreens shot from launchers, you carry 2 loads worth and it’s great for beating hasty retreats or tactical advances. They are reloaded at the cost of 75 ammo points per piece. Developers have done this to ensure this feature is not abused and the map is not a constant mess of smog. Which I feel is very sensible, making them viable but not abuseable.

MT-LBM 6MB and BTR-82A;
Are now equipped with a high explosive round for their main cannon, which is good for dealing with infantry taking cover or inside buildings. But best to switch back to your armour piercing rounds to deal with vehicle threats, even though HE does deal some damage. It’s not the firepower you need for blowing up armoured vehicles.

BTR-80 and 82A;
Now come fitted with a periscope for commanders, giving an extra seat. One day this will be rolled into the driver seat to make them the vehicle commander. But for now this is a nice little asset for SLs to use as an extra set of eyes.

V10 has made vehicles much more versatile, realistic and effective and I am absolutely loving using vehicles even more now since V10 dropped. Great fun, great effect – all round good update on this front.

New Map

There have been a few changes to a few of the existing maps, mostly bug fixes or adding more variation in buildings, populating certain areas and giving them more playability. But I am going to focus on the newest addition, the snowy map of Belaya. It includes 2 AAS game versions as well as 2 different invasion game type layouts.

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This tundra is set in Eastern Europe and is a nice change from lush grasslands and deserts we’ve been hitherto used to. Giving a nice new terrain to play in, with light to heavy snowfall which really adds to the immersion, obscuring your vision somewhat and giving you the need to focus more in outside areas on patrol. My favourite part of this map is the tunnel complex of the train yard, which makes for some truly fun close quarter combat and is both fun to defend and attack. It’s quite hilly but not too mountainous, has plenty of bisecting roads for vehicles and is generally quite passable in off-road routes, depending on your vehicle of course. A beautiful addition bringing something new to the table that plays very well.

Squad 2.jpg


User Interface

The main menu UI has been completely overhauled giving it a nice sleek look and making it easier to navigate. It also allows you greater access whilst joining a server with the ability to browse the menus without being dropped from the queue, so any last minute bind changes or what have you can be sorted without hindrance. Installed Mods are now viewable while in the main menu and a music player has been added, allowing you to choose through the Squad soundtrack. I’m hoping maybe we will be able to add your own playlists in the future, although there is no word on that.

INTERFACE.jpg

As a SL there has been some changes to your UI, vehicle claims appear on the left hand-side of your screen and you can now approve the request using a hotkey rather than fiddling around on the map. You have also been given more symbols to mark on the maps, one for ‘request pick up’ and another for ‘mine spotted’. You can now invite unassigned players into your squad if you wish to fill your ranks too though I haven’t worked out how to do that yet.

In general all weapon selection icons have been given a new and updated style, current selected weapons and equipment names are shown to you above your ammunition counter, allowing you to know what you have selected at all times. Coming in handy particularly if you have different types of rockets or grenades to switch through.

Miscellaneous

There is now some limited integration with discord, so you can see who in your channel is playing, what server, team and squad they are in. Hopefully there will be more of these little additions that are helpful. Another feature added is mod support through the steam workshop, all you modders and fans of mods out there will be delighted to hear!


Bugs And Glitches

There has been a number of existing bug fixes here are the ones that the developers have listed;

  • Fixed US Logistics Truck windows being fully bulletproof.
  • Fixed destroying certain vehicles crashing the server.
  • Fixed ammunition indicators and inventory being invisible while in a vehicle turret.
  • Fixed the “Ballerina Pose” bug that was occurring when a player dies or exits a vehicle.
  • Optimised the burn effects for vehicles and destroyed vehicles.
  • Fixed incorrect bullet casings being used on all AK74 and AKM series rifles.


Still with these bugs fixed, there are still a great great many issues. Here are a few that I have been experiencing and feel need to be addressed pronto;

Glitching through structures such as roofs when revived.You can mantle through certain windows with frames. Sometimes when you switch weapons your models hand comes off it and goes up into your face disrupting your view. Also weapon models disappearing from character which can be fixed by changing weapon sometimes.Players in vehicles sitting outside of them at some distance. Or even in the drivers lap obstructing view.

And a bug that I sadly didn’t get a clip of, where I was tilted upside down and couldn’t walk or move without spinning upside down… it was hilarious but quite disorientating and I had to be run over several times by my obliging squad mates before it corrected.

And these are just the ones I know off the top of my head. There are probably quite a few more to contend with.

All in all even with the unfixed and new issues, I absolutely love this game and they can’t detract from it – it is just enjoyable to no end. Most of the bugs are just funny but some do hamper gameplay in a number of ways as well as others being exploited to unfair advantages. Either way, they all definitely need fixing, however understand that with such a large game as Squad there are bound to be growing pains that need ironing out. Let’s just hope the ironing is done sooner rather than later.


All being said and done this update was a leap forward in the Squad experience thus far, also hinting at the course this game is taking and continuing to take, with glimpses of the future (i.e. aircraft counterparts to the AA weaponry.) It’s a course I myself will stay following closely and urge you to join if you like team based tactical shooters and large scale warfare, this is for you.