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Posts tagged “Games

Android Gaming – 3 Cool Picks

Gaming has become a staple of smartphones, on Android, iPhone and yes, even Windows phones. As I only have access to an Android phone, I thought I would share three fun games that’s on Android. I cannot guarantee if they’re on another platform or not, but it’s worth checking for these three for various reasons. So check out these games when you next get space on your phone! They’re rather good fun.

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What I’m Looking Forward To As Press

One of the great things you get to do if you choose to write for GeekOut South-West, is to attend a convention or expo on our behalf. Of course, you have to arrange your own travel and accommodation but with a magical thing called a Press Pass, you will get into the show normally for free and also you probably won’t have to queue up too. Last year I took it upon myself to attend the Play Expo and managed to get two press passes to the show, having never entered an Expo as press before it was an exciting time. A few weeks have gone by since we applied for Press Passes for the UKGE, and just last week we got confirmation that our application has been accepted and that our names are on the list.

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Palette Swapping – Elemental Cues

Let me pick up from where I started last march by saying that a palette swapped creature in a game needn’t simply be a conservation of resources, and can be representative of something notably different or important, something made distinct by a change of colour.

For example, revisiting The Fallen from Diablo: (more…)


Why I both love and hate my Mac

Disclaimer: Although I do own a Mac I am by no means a Mac fanboy. I believe that each OS has its good and bad points but being the owner of a Mac for several years I believe that I am qualified to make a call as to why I love it and why I sometimes hate it.

Apple Logo

I’d like to put one thing to bed before we start with this, a common misconception people think is that when you sign up to Apple then you only really begin to feel the benefits if you always choose to use Apple software. This is really not true, there are some benefits of doing this but not always. I personally have an Android based phone and use online storage like DropBox and Google Drive to store any information I need to access everywhere. The main reason I use these services over Apple’s Cloud system is that I really don’t feel like it’s good value for money at all. I also use Google to store my address book since that can also work across multiple devices and anywhere I have access to the internet. Music wise I have yet to be drawn into Apple Music. Google provide a pretty good service that allows me to keep 50 GB in my music account before they charge me, but my music purchasing platform of choice (right now) is Amazon. The great thing about Amazon Music is that it’s DRM free which means that I own the music that I buy. Not to mention if you already have a Prime account you get streaming music thrown in. Compare this to Apple that has to constantly make calls back to the internet to ensure that the purchase sitting on my internal storage is real. I have yet to be utterly convinced with a service like Spotify or Deezer, yes they provide a good range of music and if you have unlimited data and a good connection it’s a great way to listen to music on the go.

Heart

Love

Being an internet developer, I use a lot of technology that works alongside major web servers. A fair majority of the servers out there use some brand of Linux or another and although it is entirely possible to develop and deliver websites using Microsoft solutions but it’s not where my expertise lies. Now I can use a Windows or Linux machine to put together a development environment, especially if I use something like a Virtual Machine. However, if I had to choose between all three I would choose a Mac or Linux machine, because it is closer to the technology I am working with.

Free OS Updates

Okay, you could argue that Linux updates have been free for a very long time (and you would be right). You could also argue that Windows 10 was the first OS that Microsoft have issued for free but I would argue the massive condition that you need to take advantage of that before a certain time. Since 10.10 updates of Apple’s operating system have been free, no if’s no but’s, just free and thank goodness because their hardware costs so much.

Backlit Keyboard as Standard

Yes, these are becoming more popular and if you spend enough money on any laptop, then it’s likely that this will come as a standard option on yours too. Having one of these as standard means I can still easily type in low light conditions and I love that.

Baby With Mac

It’s essentially Linux but easier

I have used Linux for years, I still would try to choose it over Windows and this is mostly because I do so much web development. My main issue with Linux is that if you don’t quite know what you’re doing then it is very easy to break and then fixing it can be a quite tricky business. I remember a headache I used to have to get certain video or sound boards working in Linux and yes this has improved a great deal but there have been a few times where the OS has just refused to boot and then I am thrown into a very user unfriendly safe mode, using my phone to google what the problem might be and a way to fix it. This may be a very person thing but I want to be able to just use my computer, I don’t want to have to spend hours trying to fix some random thing that has gone wrong in the OS somewhere. I would much rather spend my time developing or writing and OSX gives me exactly this.

Hate tattoo

Hate

The price. It’s no secret that Apple equipment is expensive, their phones and laptops are obviously overpriced. I will say that their screen technology is second to none and maybe that is where most of the price goes. It’s true to say that I have a day job that enables me to be able to spend a little more on a laptop than most people, but that does not take the sting out of tail when I am considering buying a new one. Apple products have generally a good resale value on e-bay so if you look after them, you can still get some of your investment back. I bought my last MacBook Pro back in 2011 as a refurb (I very rarely buy new) and that has been serving me well for the past 5 years and probably has another 4 or more in it before it becomes obsolete.

Play It On Windows

Games

I enjoy playing games, I even write for a website that encourages me to not only play them but write something critical about them, which I enjoy doing. But you know what I don’t enjoy? I don’t enjoy the fact that to get any kind of decent video card on a Mac, you have to shell out a fair amount more than the overpriced nature of the machines anyway. Games that I think should run okay on it often are laggy and unplayable, regardless of how many options I switch off. I had hoped that they would do some deal with either Nvidia or ATI to put some basic graphic accelerator inside their laptops and they did, but only for 15″ machines and upwards. I don’t really want to carry the extra size and the price hike, for me it’s just not worth it.

Apple Fanboy

Being classed as an Apple Fan Boy

As stated in the disclaimer I am no Apple fanboy. I have never and will never queue up overnight in order to get the most recent hardware from them. In fact, I really cannot understand the people that do this, but I have an “each to their own” attitude about the whole thing. When Apple released their last MacBook (the one with the mobile processor in and the USB-C port) I thought that someone at Apple had completely gone mental. I get the fact that they are trying to appeal to a market that uses laptops just to create documents, write e-mails and the sort but I seriously thought that this was a poorly designed bit of hardware. I am sure Apple being Apple have sold a lot of them and people have even paid the extra money to have it with the gold tint (which in my eyes is just weird). I thought (and still think) that the Apple watch is overpriced and not a piece of tech that I have any interest in, but then again I bought and subsequently sold a Pebble Time because I found myself not really benefitting from it as a device. No, I will happily criticise Apple when I see fit, and I will happily listen to other people moan about them and sympathise.

It’s a status symbol

I generally disagree with buying things just to show that I have money. I have known several students that have let their parents buy them a Mac just so that they can look cool in class. These people probably take a lot of notes on their machine, look at Facebook, maybe the odd video which probably rarely (if ever) fires up anything more than a single core. To these people, I say what you should of, bought is a Chromebook or second-hand laptop from someone. I had to work hard to be able to afford my hardware, I feel like I have earned the right to buy one.

Okay.. rant over. So before I work myself into a lather and burst a blood vessel or completely lose my calm exterior I’m going to quit while I am ahead. Now it’s over to you, what do you love/hate about the OS that you choose to run. What makes you irate and what makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside because it just works. Tell us your OS stories via Reddit, Twitter or Facebook.


Video Game Review: Worms Reloaded

Team17 have been at it for years and years, having released some great titles, but most notable are their Worms franchise. Worms Reloaded might be my favourite Worms title ever released and this review is going to look at it without the rose-tinted glasses. It’s time to get critical on this classic, so join Timlah as we look through the full wormage and prepare to fight for the lives of our wriggly companions in some garden warfare.

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Mobile Gaming – Better Than Expected

When I upgraded my tablet a few weeks ago to a Samsung S2 I decided if I was going to spend that kind of money I’d make damn good use of it. I’ve yet to do much work on it, but I have definitely expanded my gaming library. As it turns out mobile games have come along quite a bit over the last few years, and while some may think it’s mostly little flash-style games for the casual market there are a few titles out there that have finally started to see the casual/serious gamer borderline blur. (more…)


Top 10 – Metals

GeekOut Top 10s

Alloy there, fellow Geeks. Last week, you chose for us to do the Top 10 Metals, which is great. Joel and Timlah sat there and started to list out: Slayer. Slipknot. Wait a minute, we can’t do metal music! This is the Top 10 metal in geek, but how does this one even work?

When we were thinking up this week’s list, we needed to be sure that our list followed a few specific criteria. If it was a metal, it had to have something interesting about it. If it was the music genre, it had to be included in some form of geek media, such as a video game, or a movie. With this said, we set to work and we came up with a list of the Top 10 Metals. Put your Devil Horns in the air and let’s rock – err metal! (more…)


Fun vs. Time

In many ways I’m glad I stopped playing computer games. Not because I don’t enjoy them, not because I feel like I’ve outgrown them or anything like that, but because returning to them after so long having not played has been a glorious revelation. Case in point, I picked up Civilization V which has been in my library for maybe a year, it’s taken a couple of attempts to actually run having a few issues with actually appearing on screen, but as soon as they were out of the way I was ready to see what all the fuss was about. (more…)


Uplink – A retro look

Available via Steam £6.99, GOG £4.19 and on the Apple Store for iPad £6.99 and via Google Play for Android £3.17

Synopsis (from Steam):

“You play an Uplink Agent who makes a living by performing jobs for major corporations. Your tasks involve hacking into rival computer systems, stealing research data, sabotaging other companies, laundering money, erasing evidence, or framing innocent people.”

Uplink Logo

So the first thing I notice after loading Uplink for the first time in probably 10 or so years is just how small the font is. The font has not gotten any smaller, my eyes are probably only slightly worse than they were 10 years ago so we can’t put the failure down to eyesight or too many extracurricular activities. Nope, since it’s initial release in 2001 screen sizes and resolutions have improved a great deal and so Uplink now has a very small font. Reducing my screen size in the game to 800×600 makes it a bit easier to see so I fired up the game, created myself an account settled down through the tutorial once more.

You’re given a choice of where you want to start, the place where your gateway will be, to form the base your operations. During the tutorial, you are guided through the user interface and given advice on how to bounce your connection through other gateways to make you harder to trace. The really interesting thing about Uplink is that from the beginning there is a sense of urgency to the tasks you perm. You are guided through buying some tools and adding one particular tool for your arsenal called the “Trace Tracker”. One installed the tracker sits in the corner of your display and begins to beep whenever a trace is started against you. As the tracer gets closer the distance between one beep and the next gets shorter and immediately you begin to feel a sense of urgency. If the trace is successful your gateway could be taken away from you which will cost you a great deal to replace.

The money that you earn from jobs goes back into buying more software, my first choice was a “Log Deleter”. Something to remove my illegal activities from the server and ensure that my profile stays a bit more below the radar. I then take on a few of the jobs available to me which basically consist of:

  • Make a path to the target and connect
  • Crack the password
  • Locate the thing you are supposed to do something with (e.g. a file)
  • Perform the task (e.g delete or copy the file)
  • Optionally remove any trace of you performing the task
  • Reply to the contact e-mail to inform your employers that you have been successful

These are nice little jobs to help you get more up to speed with the interface and build up awareness of how much time you do or do not have to be traced. Now this is where I decide to not to spoil what happens next, Uplink is one of those games that you really need to just experience. Once you have done a few missions you feel the need to upgrade and push forward. The missions get more challenging and you begin to put your own gateway more at risk depending on how much you clean up after yourself. The game has a fully working stock market which (if you choose) you can hack into and influence and since you choose how you want to hack there is some replay value to be had. I will warn you that you can put some serious hours into this game and although the interface looks simple and a little dated you really don’t need much more than it offers.

Considering it was the first major release from British developers Introversion Software you can put a surprising number of hours into the game. It may have a very simplistic look and feel but that’s really all it needs. Take my advice and check out the rest of their catalog. Darwina is still to this day one of my favourite games, just don’t mention the XBOX version to them. Then you have Darwinia’ multi-player cousin Multiwinia which if you liked the single player game is well worth checking out if you can find people to play against. DEFCON is pretty much a WarGames simulator with its’ gruesome tagline of “Everybody dies” and now with it’s two BAFTA nominations Prison Architect.

Our look into pure hacking games continues in two weeks time with a look at Hacker Evolution Duality, in the meantime why not tell us what you think of Uplink? Tell us of your nefarious tales, or share with us how you feel about any Introversion title. I personally would be very interested in find other people I might be able to play Multiwinia with. You can get in touch with us using the comments section, Facebook page, Twitter or Reddit

Love and rockets

– Chris


Matters Of Scale

When is big too big?

A story should grow as it develops, but too often a story can peak too soon and then the climax that follows ends up feeling… well, anticlimactic. Can you have a war in the middle of the book only for the final showdown to take place between hero and villain in a cave somewhere? The stakes could be higher, but the grandeur is lost. When you’ve bested a dragon, can rescuing the princess from the stumpy lord who you passed her onto be just as awesome?

Scale can be an important thing to plot ahead of time when preparing any new piece of work, be it the dramatic impact of a scene, the ramifications of a particular deed, or even working out how to leave yourself somewhere to go when you still have a long way to the finish line.

Dramatic escalation

In any narrative with multiple dramatic moments there should be peaks of excitement and tension separated by lulls of recovery. You simply can’t keep building tension, fear or whatever emotional pinnacles you’re pursuing, your audience will get bored of the constant rising drama. “Oh, somebody else has died? Who’s nex- oh her! And now everything’s on fire. Great.”

Extra Credits detailing escalation in Star Wars

Extra Credits detailing escalation in Star Wars

In between there must be time to process each event as it passes, a release of tension so that the viewer/player/reader can be built back up, and perhaps further this time. Horror films, slashers in particular do this exceptionally well, each kill is followed by more of the confused and terrified teenagers trying to work out what’s going on in that mysterious old diamond mine, as shadows creep along the wall, strange creeks, plans are made that will inevitably lead to one person being separated from another, or an ominous door to be opened and then BANG! Or possible crunch.

This kind of story structure is essential, and not because it’s a familiar and safe format but because the contrast of rise and fall makes each event so much more incredible, and the “come down” gives us a brief moment to feel satisfied before we start the cycle again.

Size

Level 1 is practically the same in any fantasy RPG. Goblins, kobolds, giant rats, basically nothing much taller than waste high for a few levels until you can take on something as big as you are, then on to the dragons and whatnot, the big scary things with glowing weak points. The largest thing you’ll face at that stage is another person. Now here we must surely be able to make a few changes. Escalation in terms of threat needn’t only be represented in terms of size, but in terms of cunning or the threat represented.

PHB35_PG150_WEB

For example, when you’re faced with a dragon your choices are fairly obvious. Point the biggest, meanest, most damaging thing you have at it and pull the trigger. But when your nemesis is little more than a face in the crowd with the power to bring a nation to its knees, you can’t be so forthright in your approach.

Where size really matters is when your protagonist is concerned. As time progresses and situation demands, guns should get bigger, magic powers should get more epic. While in game terms your character may only be chasing larger numbers, it helps a lot if they’re represented by a bigger boom, making the development more abundantly obvious. Perhaps it isn’t their individual power that matters, but the influence they have over others, the size of their group, their army, or the power to change a nation, which brings me to my final point rather neatly…

Importance

Many times we see a story about one very particular and seemingly insignificant thing turn into something far more dramatic. Harry Potter can be held up as a prime example, the mystery of the Third Floor Corridor being so very Enid Blyton in its make-up, becoming a step along a path towards open and highly climactic warfare, with clearly marked levels of importance along the way. With each book something more important is at stake: The lives of students, an escaped convict, international relations, soon the very magical governing body becomes the focus of attention.

There are only so many times you can save the world. It’s ok to save the farm first, or even save yourself for now until you get the bigger guns to come back and save the world, the galaxy, or even time itself. As the drama increases, so too should the burden of responsibility on your characters, the amount of power they wield in terms of both combative strength and political sway contributing to the tension, the drama, and the scale of the plot.