Yup things have been quite around here recently for a reason!
In a turn of good fortune and after many, many, many months of applying for various jobs in the UK games industry someone finally got back to me, got the ball rolling and it eventually lead to a shiny new job! It has been a hectic month and a bit because it was a case of having a few offers and interview chains come up at once. (I wonder what I did to suddenly make myself interesting to employers?) I won’t go into the nitty gritty but for one I was chained to my computer for several days researching and preparing. Another I was chained to my computer for several days researching and preparing…you get the picture.
So what is my new job?
Well you are looking at a newly minted Functional Games Tester at Sony Liverpool! So my job will be to test a variety of PlayStation games and products. Finding and reporting all the bugs, glitches and errors to help make the game more playable for you, the gamer to enjoy. So basically this is now my life,
While I’m still quietly beavering away on CV: THE GAME! it has become clear that I am really falling behind on my One Game A Month games! So I have decided to switch things up a bit. The current plan is to run through some Unity tutorials in the next week and a bit, most notably this one, to master the basics. Then make two very quick and small games to get back on track with 1GAM and to learn a bit more about how Unity works.
So for now there will be very little on the update front while I get back on tack but after that I should be able to get back to regular updates and more robust projects!
What was the first game any of you played that felt like more than just a game, it felt like a whole world, a huge story, an actual quest or a living breathing society?
There is only one game I can to talk about when that question is asked. A game I hold near and dear to my heart. One that is intrinsically intertwined with my teenage years and going from childhood to young adulthood. A game that only people who played it can really understand the way I feel about it.
I’m going to have to talk about Phantasy Star Online….
It is a game that defines my teenage years and one of the few games that I have bought multiple times for different machines. Over the years my PSO journey spanned across:
Phantasy Star Online [Dreamcast]
Phantasy Star Online Ver.2 [Dreamcast]
Phantasy Star Online Episodes I&II [Gamecube]
Phantasy Star Online Episodes I&II [Xbox]
Phantasy Star Online Episode III [Gamecube]
Phantasy Star Online SCHTHACK Private Server [PC]
As you can probably guess I have put a lot of time into it as a game and that’s not including Phantasy Star Universe!
So getting Callum’s CV: THE GAME! finished as my #1GAM for March has failed spectacularly! I started work on it part way through the month and I could have released something to meet the deadline but it would have been half a game. A mere shell of what I have planned for it. Also it being a game of my CV demands that it has a certain level of quality and wit to it and as it currently stands it still needs a fair bit of work.
So my current plan for April is to get CV:THE GAME finished in the next couple of weeks then get onto my task for April: learning Unity. So the plan is to put together a very quick and rough game for #1GAM April as part of my learning process for it. Then hopefully May will allow me to make a more robust game with it.
One of the reasons I enjoyed the new Tomb Raider as much as I did (see the review in Tomb Raider Part 2) despite my past with the franchise (see Part 1) is that it subverts and turns the conventions and tropes of the male focused action game on their head. To the point where a lot of people playing and writing about the game keep saying the game is unrealistic because you are playing as a female character. Which is equal parts a mental statement and an interesting one. One that shows how little we have come since Lara Croft first came back on the scene in 1996 in a blaze of glory brought about in part by the girl power craze initiated by the Spice Girls. (Man the 90s were a weird time!)
It seems like every week we see cases of sexism in games, gaming and the games industry. From the whole Tropes Vs Women/Anita Sarkeesian mess, to Metroid Other M completely undermining the character of Samus Aran (one of gaming’s other great female characters), to the insistance in this generation that female leads cannot sell games. It is clear a lot of people in all areas of gaming have a warped view of women and their place as our fictional heroes or their function in a story. It is great to see a game like the new Tomb Raider being made and released with a lot of fanfare and chatter. It is great to see this new Lara being such a strong character with actual motivations and you know, a personality. It is great to see how the game constantly plays with your expectations and shows up the macho gaming tropes for what they are. But it is depressing that this is only happening now. That some people are up in arms about it, crying about misandry (the sexist’s go to defence against feminism, white knighting and anything pro-equality). That people are claiming the game to be unrealistic because it features a woman in the lead doing all these things. In a game set on an island surrounded by magic storms, home to a cult and ancient Japanese mystical warriors the thing that people say is unrealistic is Lara Croft being able to defend herself as well as she does. That is the state of play for female characters in games at the moment. They cannot do what male characters do, no matter the situation. Now that’s depressing.
As I said in Part 1 of this look at all things Tomb Raider, my past with Lara Croft and her games it troubled at best. Having never really been a huge fan of the older games (despite playing a fair amount of them) this new game was a very interesting prospect. Doing away with the old trappings of the franchise and trying something very different but similar at the same time. At its core it is still Tomb Raider as we know it, you explore the environments finding hidden objects and collectables, fight bad guys with a small arsenal of weapons and Lara is still the same person. Albeit a greener, more rounded, more interesting character that you actually care for.
The main focus of the game is to bring Tomb Raider a very, let’s be honest here, cheesy franchise with awkward gameplay and a character larger than the game itself into the modern sensibilities of the games industry. So while it doesn’t do anything particularly groundbreaking apart from having a strong female character at its centre which is apparently still surprising thing in this day and age. It gives us the best bits of modern game design this generation all wrapped up in a very entertaining package.
In this first of a three part exploration of all things Tomb Raider I explore my history with the franchise and how it has always been there wether I like it or not. Part two focuses on my thoughts on the new game and part three is about why the new game is so refreshing and why that is both a good and worrying thing.
I have a mixed past with Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider games. The PlayStation age, otherwise known as the late 90s is the time that defined me as a gamer. My childish attempts to grasp the various genres available to me on the PSOne fed into my tastes and gaming styles today. Lara Croft, the poster child of 90s gaming and the games industry however is very much absent from my best of the best lists and the Tomb Raider games are squarely on the edges of my gaming memories from those years. Don’t get me wrong I still bought a bunch of them and like everyone my age I have memories of running around Croft Mansion locking butlers in fridges and killing Lara in various comical and frustrating ways. Sometimes because the games were annoyingly awkward other times to drown my sorrows. But the games and the character have never felt quite, right to me.
The games have always had horrendous controls that hinder the player most of the time. You wanted Lara to take a small step to the left but suddenly she would leap off the edge of a perilous drop to her doom…to the right…. The character herself always, even to my childish view of the world back then, felt off. She wasn’t real. She was very much a cartoon to me. She was this impossible creature that was always there on the edges of my gaming leering at me seductively from a promo poster slapped on my wall.
Yup for like the seventh time in three years I am packing up all of my stuff and moving. Thankfully it won’t be to far this time, it’s down the road practically. So bare with more for a week or so and I will throw up an update for Callum’s CV: THE GAME! I’m also working on a post release update for Portalus Inferis so keep an eye out for that.
So Tropes Vs Women in Video Games episode one is up and guess? What it wasn’t half bad. It certainly has a more academic and measured approach than Sarkeesian’s older vids which is a good thing. One I feel has come about from the backlash the series had before they even started making it. So it means that stuff has been researched and time has been taken to get things right. Awesome! It is a project I have an active interest in because well, I backed it on Kickstarter. It is a subject I am really interested in because it is one that always provokes strong reactions. In the case of this particular series VERY strong reactions from the more agressive and backward parts of the internet.
I don’t always agree with what Anita Sarkeesian says in her videos and will be the first to admit that sometimes she has over simplified things to make her arguments and at other times she has completely missed the point of certain video games and movies. Either through no fault of her own or intentionally to help push her agenda. Despite this I always find her videos and take on things very interesting. She comes at them from a very strong diehard feminist (if there is such a thing) point of view which can be annoying at times but is still an important one I feel. Also Tropes Vs Women in Video Games is about one of the things I love and has a lot of potential so I was more than happy to throw a tenner her way to help make the show. Continue reading →