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Pete's Sci-Fi Blog

About the blog

This blog is about: Science Fiction and Fantasy. Games, books, films, comics, as well as my experiences with the writing and publishing of my Kinsmen series of books. I hope you enjoy it.The Kinsmen homepage


Cool stuff Posted on Wed, August 15, 2018 11:05:46

Games are art. It’s as simple as that. When playing games some of the imagery is simply stunning and sometimes, thought provoking. Quite often I’ve taken screenshots while playing a game, so taken was I with their, design or beauty. Here are a collection of pieces from 2017.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

Video Games 2016

Videogame Wonderland Posted on Wed, December 21, 2016 15:21:39

Every year I seem to become a little more obsessed with video games. Always searching for something special. Looking back I realise just how many games I’ve played, and that to discover some hidden gems, you have to play some real crap. Well maybe not crap, but certainly games not worth spending time on.

Spec Ops: The line, certainly wasn’t a
disappointment. I’d hear some very positive things about this on YouTube. I
Love first person shooters, However because I’ve been playing them since were
first a genre, they must offer something unique, whether that’s story or game
mechanics, whatever. Spec Ops made me step out of myself as a player and feel
horrified about the things I’d done. Basically the part with the white
phosphorus made me feel like a monster and even though shortly afterward I came
under fire and was required to shoot the enemy, for the first time ever in a
video game I froze. I didn’t want to kill any more, so affected was I by what
had just happened. For a game, that’s powerful. Also it’s worth mentioning that
the twist at the end was very good.

From the good to the disappointing. Spelunky is a
highly rated game and so I thought worth checking out. At first I was charmed
and it looks nice, yet it soon over stayed it’s welcome. I hate time limits.
I’d rather just enjoy the game and this aspect of the game stopped me doing
that. Highly over-rated, if you ask me.

Yet some indie games deserve high recognition and praise.
Such is the case with a gem of a game that is Thomas was Alone. I don’t
always get excited about puzzle games unless it’s called Portal. However Thomas
Was Alone is nothing short of genius. It’s simplicity defies the depths of its
gameplay. You play as a number of different configured blocks, each with a
different capability. One is tall and can reach high places yet is too big to
fit through small gaps. Another can fit through the gaps, however cannot jump
very high. Another can jump really high. Only one can swim. They must work
together to progress. They all have names of people you feel like you know, or
have met once, such as Claire, Laura, James. It’s narrator really draws you into the story and these simplest of drawn characters. The design is perfect. It
all works so well. A simple idea, executed to precision. I cannot recommend it
enough. A shame it is not more well known.

Starcraft 2: Legacy of the void was a worthy end to
Blizzards Starcraft 2 trilogy. However I still prefer the second one for it was
that one which really drew me in and made me feel for the character of
Kerrigan. That being said always a pleasure to play and the final final scene
was beautiful. Made me smile.

Now back to some more disappointments, each for
their own reasons Abyss Odyssey looked promising at first. A nice unique
art style but ultimately clunky to play. Also I’m going to really go against
the grain here and say that Undertale is one of the most over-rated games since
Super Meat Boy. On the positive it had a great sense of humour, loved the two
skeleton characters. But it was like a bad play which I had been forced to watch,
where they were the only good thing about it. Blackguards seemed right
up my street. I try all Genres of games, yet I’m rather partial to turn-based
strategy. I’ve played quite a few, but Blackguards was incredibly difficult and
unforgiving. I tried all my usual strategies of using the environment to maximum
effect, using my range attacks to similar maximum effect, focusing on one of
their characters at a time while marinating the health of my own, so that their
numbers dwindled while my remained a constant. It worked for a while, but the
game just got the better of me. Maybe I’m getting old. Not a bad game. Unless
it is badly designed and not me.

I was excited about playing Trine 3. I absolutely loved the first two. The third instalment is equally pleasing to the eye, however they completely messed it up with two things. Firstly the 3D element is completely unnecessary. Second, not just completing a level is enough you have to collect some crap, I can’t remember what it was, to continue. Which idiot thought of that? How can you make two amazing games and then cock it up? I also didn’t like The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom, Quantum Conundrum, maybe I should stay away from puzzle games. But if I did that I would never have played the amazing Thomas was Alone.

Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries was a typical ‘Meh’ game. It looked nice, however the gameplay was nothing to write home about. It really is smack there in the middle, okay five out of ten stars, inoffensive, nice to have a go on, nothing worthy of note. Just like The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. An okay game, yet in this case it looks amazing. It’s a bit of a pain having to walk for freaking miles ever where, what is the point of having a game where it hurts to have my middle finger on W for what seems like forever. Maybe some kind of a toggle. I never understand why they do this in games.

Metro: Last light committed another Game design Sin. A great game. A FPS with a good story and atmosphere. I played it for some time and experienced the different camps and characters of this post-apocalyptic world. I wanted to know where it was going with its intriguing plot and I was enjoying the challenging gameplay. Until I went from one stage of the game to the next with next to no oxygen left in my gas mask to protect me from the harsh environment top side. I had about 60 seconds before I was dropped off by a boast trying to find some replacement air while being attacked by the creatures in the area. Impossible. What about going underground. I looked on Youtube. This is what you are supposed to do, but not after defeating a boss. By the time I got to him I had about 10 seconds of air. Again impossible. Maybe I’ll read the book/s the games are based on.

Now I’m confused. Sometimes about a great many things. At the moment I’m still confused as to why I loved playing Euro Truck Simulator 2 .I like to try all kinds of games. So I tried this and I loved it. But why. Why do I love just driving down the autobahn from A to B to deliver some chemicals? Or reversing into the bay and getting a big kick from getting it just right? I do not know. Yet it’s true. Weird.

Now I do know why I completely love Shadowrun: Hong Kong. I played Shadowrun: Dragonfall at the end of last year (2015), and found it to be one of the best games I’d played that year. The same can be said for SHK. I’ve heard that not all Shadowrun games are good, but I’m glad to say this is of the highest quality. There is so much depth to this turn-based strategy game. The story the characters. True there is a lot to read. But if you have patience it pays off for a great experience. A friend of mine saw me playing it and asked what it was. I told him that you control characters that can not only use guns such grenade launchers, sniper rifles and full automatics. But you can have mages who control magic, Shamans who control elementals and then hackers who jack into this games version of the Matrix. I was once involved in a battle where some of my characters were fighting their usual battle in the material world. My hacker was battling in the Matrix. Then some kind of demon dragged me down to the underworld. I couldn’t get her back into the battle in the real world, until she had finished off the demons in the underworld. It was mental! Yes it’s very, very good.

Now for another incredible game. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Has been hailed as the best game of the year, and rightly so. It is epic in every facet of its design. The size of the world and the amount of quests as well as the quality of said quests. The characters who inhabit this world. The Witcher 3 seems to be the pinnacle of the modern day western RPG. I cannot go in to all the reasons why this is such an amazing game, personally the icing on the cake is the atmosphere. Whoever thought of having those trees blowing in the wind – I don’t know what it is it just draws me into the game. The only thing which disappointed me was the end. I got the crap end. But I did the right thing. Or so I thought. I ended up surrounded by creatures and, though you never see anything, the game suggests you’re going to die. No way! My character was as hard as nails Geralt would have wiped the floor with them. I always get the bad ending.

Very much like the aforementioned Trine series, Ori and the Blind Forest is a lush looking platform game. I did enjoy my time playing this game, however not all games are destined to be finished. I met my end a chunk of a way into the game. I’d just finished a major part of a level, which began to fill with water I had to work my way up a shaft before the water level caught up with me. I tried so many times until I got to the point where I thought ‘this isn’t worth it.’ Never mind…It is an amazing looking game.

As is Elite Dangerous. This game was a long time coming and boy did it deliver. There’s a little bit of a learning curve to begin with, but once you get the knack of it, it is very rewarding. Flying between solar systems and docking with space stations is an adventure in itself. The sense of scale and distance is bang on. Dog fighting is common and intense and not too difficult as long as you stick with it; perseverance pays off. I had to stop playing this eventually as it’s a bit of a time sponge and as much as I was enjoying the experience I wanted to move onto other things. Also the galaxy contains so many stars, planets and space stations it becomes a bit overwhelming. I really wanted to go to Earth or see what a Nebula was like. But everything’s so bloody far away, just as it would be. It’s great to watch YouTube videos of people doing the things I’d like to do, if only I had more time.

Let’s talk about Frozen Synapse, a little known game that I that was a pleasant
surprise. This is why I try all kinds of different games; to find gems such as
this. Frozen Synapse is pure tactics in a way that is truly fundamental. From a
top down perspective you can plan your moves and run it as a simulation before committing
to it. However the enemy doesn’t always do as you expect. Good job really or it
would be much of a challenge. Just play it and see.

It’s always good to get some multiplayer in at some
point during the year. Ark: Survival Of
The Fittest
is a hell of a lot of fun. You and a friend quickly harvest
wood stone and berries to make weapons and shelter. Create weapons and tame
dinosaurs for your final battle with any surviving players. Survival being the
key word here not only do you have other players to worry about, but also the
aforementioned dinosaurs and different kind of extinction events such as acid
rain, heat-wave, famine, that kind of thing. It’s intense. Taming dinosaurs
becomes an achievement and there’s nothing cooler than making your way back for
the final confrontation with your pack of dinosaurs. We never won it. Another
group always had a Spinosaur and a sniper, or something as ridiculous. A bow
and arrow and a low level dinosaur isn’t much good against that. Still it was
very enjoyable. I also played five other fantastic games with others. Helldivers, Rocket league, World of Tanks,
Divinity: Original Sin,
which I still need to pick-up again, and Rayman Legends, which I cannot
understate how well designed and beautiful that game is. It is also one of the
few games I can play with my two little girls.

Who buys a PSP in this day and age? I do. I like to buy stuff that I
missed. Something to play on holiday, so I don’t have withdrawal symptoms, and a
good game such as Daxter should
stand the test of time. I bought a handful of games. Some pretty good, some,
not so good. LocoRoco – Good. Very
good. Never played it. Never even heard of it. What an absolute joy to play.
Utterly charming. A classic. Most of the games were fairly cheap. Yet I splashed
out a little for a copy of Valkyria
Chronicles 2.
The first one is one of my all-time favourite games. This is
still good as it maintains pretty much all the same mechanics. It’s not as good
on a small screen and it’s a bit pulpy; the story and characters aren’t as
solid as its predecessor. Although far better than Sid Meier’s Pirates: Live the life. What is it about Pirate games.
I just don’t like them. Patapon
looked good, but I can only give so much time to a rhythm game.

It was time to go back to Rapture with Bioshock Infinite DLC Burial at Sea. I have to say I was a bit rusty and
got my arse/ass handed to me to begin with. But after a while I got back into
the groove and thoroughly enjoyed its unique play style and atmosphere. Okay I’m
going to admit I don’t what the hell is going on halve the time. This has got
to be one of the most complex pieces of narrative in any video game. But it is
damn good. I guess I’ll just have to watch an explanation on Youtube. The
Bioshock games are still one of the best game series ever made.

Talking of Rapture (nice link) Everybody’s gone to the Rapture was one of the most annoying games
ever. It started out so good. The look and feel of a quaint English village was
superb. However it was my finger hurting on the W key this time but the strain
of my left thumb pushing forward on the PS4 controller for hours. All would
have been forgiven if I would have been allowed to finish the game. Everything
told me I had to go through a door and down into a bunker. But would the door
open for me? No! I was stuck, with no idea of what I had to do to jump the
final hurdle. B******T!

That god for nice surprises. Like Evoland. Nothing amazing, just a
straightforward game. With a simple premise. The game evolves as you play. Beginning
as a Gameboy Zelda look-a-like to 8 bit colour, 16 bit, 24 bit, to 3D and
evolving different kinds of detail as you play. You also discover different
gaming mechanics to expand your gameplay. It’s short and sweet and worth a play
for anyone who likes games in any of its diverse forms.

Betrayer was yet another pleasant surprise for me in 2016.
I don’t know how what other people thought of this game. But personally I loved
it. The mechanics and gameplay are pretty run of the mill; a FPS survival set
in colonial America. But it’s the look and feel of it. The whole thing is in
this high contrast black and white. You can switch between these two worlds.
One is deathly still – the world of the dead and the other is the real world,
where no-one is around except the occasional creatures trying to kill you and
the sound of the wind in the trees. The atmosphere is what does it.

I finally got around to playing Resogun and wow does it deserve the
high praise it receives. I put my headphones on (for a change, and I’m so glad
I did) and Spent an hour in pure gaming heaven being totally blown away. What
else can you say? It’s the old case of – If you’ve played it you know what I’m
talking about, if not…play it.

Now for the big one Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain. Well what can you say? It is
amazing. The game mechanics are first rate. You can expedite your mission
either using stealth or just go in guns blazing. Lie on a hill and use a sniper
rifle or use your dog to draw enemies to you one by one until there’s no-one
left. It really is satisfying to play a game that has such flexibility. A game
that you can play the way you want,
depending on your mood. There are some down sides. It’s a shame you get to see
the same areas again and again. Some of the bosses are ridiculously difficult.
Also, after finally defeating Metal gear. After my hands nearly fell off from
over use, an end cut-scene and credits, I was treated to a kind of trailer
which informed me that I had not in fact finished the game, even though I’d
been playing it for months, that in fact there was a whole second half to the
game. I haven’t picked it up since, despite that the game itself is incredible.

I saw a game for the PS3 called Vanquish, on a top 100 games list, and
thought ‘it can’t be that good.’ Hell yeah! It’s like Halo on speed. I
instantly got its over the top tongue in cheek action and narrative. Sometimes
all you want to do is shoot something. Nuff said.

Her Story is another game I heard so
much about, I knew I would try it sooner or later. I thought ‘I’m either going
to love this or hate it. Luckily all the hype surrounding this games is well
deserved. It’s just you and a bunch of video clips from the mid-nineties of a
woman being interviewed by the police about the murder of her husband. You have
to find more clips by putting in keywords to the search engine and find out
what happened. I was cynical at first. But it became addictive her character
and the narrative is so engaging and it’s you who are driving it. I had a
notepad full of potential keywords to propel me along in the hope that I would
find those clips which finally reveal what happened. It is so rewarding. There
is also an extra twist to the story to give it more weighed. I was suitably

So What’s next? A game I’ve been waiting years for. A game which I hope exceeds all expectations…

Welcome back…commander.

The Kinsmen Music

The Kinsmen Posted on Fri, April 24, 2015 13:58:25

This is a piece of music composed by Johnathan Smith, a fan of the Kinsmen novels.
Thanks Johnathan.

My Gaming year 2014 Part 3

Videogame Wonderland Posted on Mon, December 15, 2014 13:44:37

After going round the houses it’s finally time to play
Diablo 3. It picked up fairly
promising with a typical gorgeous cinematic from Blizzard. I decided to be a
female (I much prefer looking at girls than boys when it comes to third person)
Demon Hunter. The game looks beautiful, there’s no denying that. It fast paced
and fluid. You need to manage your armour and weapons, which I love, to make
sure you’re a bad ass when fighting the demon hordes. There are plenty of
abilities for your character. The problem was it just lacked something. Maybe
dungeon crawling doesn’t have the same appeal. I don’t know. I stopped playing
it a couple of months ago and haven’t gone back since. Shame. (8/10)

I bought and
played a bit of Sniper Elite: Nazi
Zombie Army 2,
just for a laugh. It’s tough and gimmicky and does exactly
what it says on the tin. Exactly what you’d expect. (6/10)

Transistor is
made by the same developers as ‘Bastion’, mentioned above. It is a beautiful
looking game and the music is equally as good. Once you get the knack of it,
the combat is excellent. Very strategic and quite different from most games
I’ve played; always a good thing. You are drawn in by this very distinct world
and the characters who inhabit them. (9/10)

If you like Batman or super-heroes (which I do), how
can you not like Batman: Arkham City. As
good as if not better in some ways than its predecessor. You really do feel
like Batman dishing out justice. The game is so refined and well made, it is
difficult to fault. Take note: This is how to make a superhero game. I even
liked playing as Catwoman, and why not? I even like all the extras you get with
‘The game of the year edition.’ They should make other superhero games like
this. I’m still trying to figure out why no-one does. (9/10)

I’ve always wanted to play ‘Left 4 dead’ and Left 4 Dead 2. I never owned an X-box
360 and never got around to playing it on PC. I felt it was high time to see
what the allure was. Playing on my own is an enjoyable zombie killing fest.
Playing online I’m discovering is incredible fun. I’ve still got a lot of
different modes to play and maps to play through and I can’t wait. It’s true
what the game says you really do have to work as a team to survive. It’s a
great feeling saving your team mates. I’d rather play as a team against the
Zombies, than play yet another ‘Call of Duty’ type game where sometimes you win
and sometimes you lose against strangers. Zombies will always trump, soldiers.
I’m looking forward to playing another round. (8/10)

The art
style, depicting the harsh snow covered environments of The Banner Saga, is simply stunning. I love the story and the
turn-based combat system. It’s a tough game as you move your army across this
unforgiving land, using up precious supplies, making tough decisions, and
trying to survive the battles with the Dredge. You always seems up against it.
But this is part of its appeal. Anything worth doing should be a challenge, and
you’re constantly fighting for your life and the lives of others. True the pace
can be a little too slow. which is it’s only drawback for me personally. Did I finish
it? No, close though. Like I said it’s a really hard game. But this isn’t
always a bad thing and reminds me of the days when games were tough but still
rewarding to play. (8/10)

As the year draws to a close and I reflect on all the
games I’ve played on my PS3 I think it’s time to play Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, the original which kicked it all off. I might
not get a chance to go back, if indeed I do buy the PS4. Playing the first in
the series is proving to be both bad and good. Like greeting and old friend. It
does look nice despite being a relatively old game, and all the basic elements
are there, which can be found in the other two (so far), it’s just that
everything’s not as refined, and if I had nothing to compare it with that would
be great. However, Uncharted 2 and 3 are such a big improvement on ‘Drakes Fortune.’ Don’t get me wrong it’s a good game,
almost great, even a classic some might say. I guess they had to start
somewhere and build on something to reach the two sequels which are indeed two
of the best games of that generation.
Final Part up next

My Gaming year 2014 Part 2

Videogame Wonderland Posted on Thu, November 27, 2014 15:26:57

I played X-com
Enemy Unknown
on my PC for a little while and then decided to play it on my
Playstation. I can’t remember why. The graphics are better on my PC and I
usually prefer strategy on PC. Whatever the reason I have since played the
expansion X-com Enemy Within on my
PC and despite its superior graphical quality, I still preferred playing this
awesome game on the PS3. Possibly my favourite game of the year. I got so
immersed in these games. They were truly challenging. I cared about my
soldiers. I had a favourite sniper, Heavy and support who more often than not
got me out of a tight scrape when I needed them both. With the management of
your base and the strategy on the battlefield the game is so rich and deep.
There’s nothing more satisfying than working hard to develop new weapons and
then watching them achieve maximum accuracy and damage in the field. From all
the games I played in 2014, this is the one I hope they make a sequel. (10/10)

I tried and
FPS called Singularity on PC, which
I’d never heard of before. Alternate Russian history where you find something
which can fast reverse or fast forward time on people and/or certain objects.
You can reverse time on a broken staircase to get up it. Age attacking soldiers
so they turn to dust. Even though I enjoyed it, it did feel a little gimmicky.
I think ran out of ammo at got a bit stuck so I gave it up. I’m sure for some
out there it’s a little gem. (7/10)

Another game
I liked though couldn’t finish was Bastion.
It looks superb and it’s very unique in the way the environment is created
before you. The narration and sound also give this game a feel that separates
it from the crowd. It was damn hard though. (7/10)

After this
was Braid…You can reverse time.
Big deal. Over-rated. Only played it for a few hours and quickly grew tired of
it. (5/10)

I finally
confronted one of my biggest gaming fears in 2014 — World of Warcraft. A game I previously avoided for fear of becoming
addicted to it and doing nothing else with my spare time. Now, after many years
I finally decided I must face my demons before WOW was lost in the midst of
gaming history and I forever regretted never playing it. I’m glad I experienced
it, but I’m sure the real experience is playing in a guild. I just played on my
own most of the time. Occasionally worked with others on a quest or raiding a
dungeon. Mainly it was just me grinding away to gain experience and gain more
abilities. After two or three months I’d managed to reach a level 30 female
human Mage. I enjoyed my time there, but it didn’t really rock my world. I much
prefer Blizzards RTS games. (8/10)

When I
wasn’t playing WOW I was playing some short casual games Plants Vs Zombies 2 was a big favourite. Having loved the first
one, it was a forgone conclusion that I would be playing this one to death, and
am still playing to this day. Simply one of the best tower defence games of all
time. (9/10)

Stanley Parable
, like Dear Esther is so far out there, it almost
defines definition. Again there is a narrator who speaks of the character we
play. In first person you find yourself in an office and from here explore a
stranger and stranger environment. The game makes you question what the hell is
going on and constantly plays with your emotions. It is at times amusing and at
others amusing. You are constantly questioning what is the nature of this game.
It is a singular unique experience that can only be that —experienced. I liked
it, because again it was really out there. It is good to know that such a niche
kind of game has managed to pass the 1 million mark in sales. (7/10)

Meanwhile back on the PS3 I decided to go back and try
an older game I’d never played, Ghostbusters:
The videogame
, I’m a huge Ghostbusters fan and thus my heart sang when I
played the game I always wanted to play. The game play was fantastic. Voices
from the original actors. A script that was genuinely funny, capturing the
humour of the original film. What was there not to like? Only one thing
unfortunately. Everything was ace, I just couldn’t finish the damn thing. If
only you could change the difficulty level during the story. I was so close. (8/10)

It was time to see what the fuss was about it was time
to play Minecraft. I can see why
this is such an iconic game. How you can get lost in it. If I was a different
type of gamer it would easily be my favourite game of the year. Some people
like to build and some people liked to play survivor mode. I was the latter. I
don’t know why I wanted to grow crops, have a field of cows or just wander and
explore an environment that looks like a 3D game from the nineties. I think
it’s because it’s so unrestricted. You can build anything. You can mine or
destroy practically anything. You have such a significant effect on the
environment. Your imagination is the limit of the game and it is blissfully
immersive. (9/10)

My Gaming year 2014 Part 1

Videogame Wonderland Posted on Tue, November 18, 2014 15:22:43

Have you ever seen
the sunlight on the clouds early on the morning creating such wondrous vibrant
colours, you never thought existed. Or that very same sun setting over the
horizon; a sight of utter beauty. It is this and sense of wonder and beauty which
Trine 2 elicits in its player. It is possibly the most beautiful looking
platform game ever developed. The colour and light are so vibrant and atmospheric,
simply jaw-dropping in its beauty, as well as playing like a dream. It’s great
being able to seamlessly switch between characters and solve the puzzles thrown
at you, and using all different kinds of strategy with your characters during
combat. It’s good news to hear that the sales of the series has recently
surpassed 7 million. Here’s hoping for Trine 3. (9/10)

Last of Us
also turned out to be a great game in every aspect.
Not much of a surprise there considering the amount of awards it won and the
high review scores. I personally enjoyed the Uncharted games more (also
developed by Naughty Dog), just because I preferred the sense of adventure, the
characters and the banter between the characters in those games is pure gold.
Saying this it’s hard to fault what The Last of Us does because it does do it
all so well. Sure the pace of it could be a little slow at times and I wasn’t too
keen on the ending, but it did look amazing and the game design is outstanding.
It’s often said to be the best game on the PS3 for many people. I’d personally
not put it in my top 5 though definitely in my top 10. (9/10)

I can’t say
which is the better game —‘The last of Us’ or Bioshock Infinite. I only know they’re both incredible! The combat
is more throw away, first person shooting with some cool powers, not forgetting
the sky-rails, some nice ideas. Where Bioshock Infinite really impressed me was
with the world it created and with its story. The world of Columbia is stunning. From starting off in the stormy
seas, to ascending into the clouds, the effect feels like a spiritual
experience, which is ironic seeing as you arrive inside a breathtaking church
interior shortly after. When you get close to the end the twists in the tale
start to hit you one after another, leaving you reeling. I was so impressed
with the story and the ending/s, it simply puts many movies to shame. Unlike
the Mass Effect series, which I consider to be a ‘Jack of all trades master of
none,’ Bioshock Infinite is truly a master of all. Yeah maybe Bioshock (10/10)

Meanwhile back on the PS3 I started my first game of
the year Lego Marvel Superheroes.
I’ve heard so many good things about the Lego games (and have had a quick go on
a few), and being such a big Marvel fan I thought it was a sure thing.
Unfortunately I didn’t get that much out of it. To be fair it’s very well made,
yet I just couldn’t get excited about it, despite the fact that you got the
chance to play as multiple characters and it covered so much in the Marvel
Universe. The humour didn’t do it for me and all I could think of all the way
through was,’ I wish this wasn’t Lego and more like other third-person action adventure
games’. (6/10)

On the PC I
bought Company of Heroes 2, but just
could not get into it. Even though I loved the first one so much; I still
consider it to be one of the best RTS games of all time, I could get that same
buzz. Perhaps I needed to play with friends. Unfortunately nobody I knew was
playing it this time over. Boo hoo! (7/10)

swiftly jumped ship and tried something completely different in the form of Dear Esther. Some people argue that
Dear Esther isn’t even a game there is so little interaction. You simply walk
(no jump, run, or interact,) around and island a narrator is triggered now and
again and that’s it. A big downside was that I couldn’t even toggle the ‘W’ key
on my keyboard, so I had to keep changing fingers every five minutes — that’s
just crazy. So I hated it for those reasons. At the same time I loved it. The
Atmosphere on the Island is incredible, Isolated, magical, tragic, and helping
to stir these emotions is some beautiful music. The only reason I forgive this
game is because I love diversity in games and this delivered a unique and at
time very beautiful experience. I’m just glad it was a short game. (6/10)

How to Self-Publish

The Kinsmen Posted on Tue, October 21, 2014 14:13:47

How to

Here’s an article I wrote recently for the student paper which I’ll share with you here.

may appear that the world of self-publishing is a dark, unknown, not to mention
an expensive place to venture. But it doesn’t have to be that way. For anyone
who has ever wanted to write and publish a book, there is nothing stopping
you. All you need is a little money, a lot of dedication and a few simple steps.

Writing your

I can’t tell you how to write. Any advice I could give would
take up more words than I have here. However there are some great resources out
there to help you. Personally I did a creative writing course, read numerous
books and watched hours of YouTube videos. This will only advise, writing is a
craft, a skill which must be practiced. The best way to learn is by doing, get
it down, and don’t get hung up on the quality. Not yet anyway. Most of what you
write will be changed or even scrapped all together. But with dedication you
will have a very rough but complete manuscript. Brandon Sanderson’s lectures on
YouTube were a great start for my writing, I would highly recommend them.


Now your manuscript
is ready for critique. Don’t be too precious about it, or you won’t be prepared
for what comes next. This is the stage where major overhauls can be made. The
plot can change drastically. Chapters cut, or even added. Characters may metamorphoses into something completely new. It is
essential to find someone who knows what they’re doing, in short someone with
professional experience. I was lucky enough to find someone who was very good,
while being very reasonably priced. I would personally pay no more than £60-£80
for a critique. It is worth it and invaluable. If you ignore this stage, it
could create huge problems at the latter stages. Your typescript comes back
with all the suggested changes. If you’re smart you’ll pay attention and in
pretty much every case heed their advice.


had to make some pretty big changes, based on that all important critique. It
takes time to re-build. You’ve re-read the re-written the typescript and
finally you’re satisfied that you can submit it for editing so that you won’t
be totally embarrassed by there being too many mistakes. Editors are all different
and offer services from strict editing — looking at grammar and punctuation, to
more ‘copy-editing’ services, where suggestions will be made on how to change
your copy. Make sure you know what kind of service you’re getting. Again this
does not have to cost you an arm and a leg. For my current novel I paid about
£200. The edit comes back and it’s riddled with red, You can’t believe how much
you missed. This is why it needs a
professional edit. Get working on those changes. Remember it is your book so if
you feel strongly about something, you can keep it, though 99% of the time the
editor is right.


Luckily my editor also did the proofread for my novel, which
was part of the £200, Pretty good considering. There are far more expensive
options but the quality is much the same. Now a publisher won’t just have one
person read a book before sending it off to the printers, so why should you?
Just because you’re self-published doesn’t mean you should lower the bar, raise
it. Multiple proofreaders is the way to go. Friends and family who will do it
for free and have a good eye for detail. Three in total is good. Four or five
can be better. Just remember you’ve got to go through each proof and consider
who is right. There are some instances where capitalisation and other issues
can be debatable. Don’t keep changing it. My rule is to always follow the professional
I’m paying for. The other proofreaders are there to catch anything he/she may
have missed, because that person is only human, right? Most books I read have a
typo somewhere. Nothing is perfect, yet you should aim for perfection to ensure
next to nothing (hoping for none at all) gets through all those filters.

(International Standard Book Numbers)

I had no idea how to do all this and it took me some time to
sort it out. So here’s the deal. If you want to sell your book anywhere or even
have it in a library, you’ll need to get your ISBN. A unique 13 digit
identification number found on all books. In the UK you buy them from ‘Nielson
UK ISBN Agency.’ Unfortunately you can’t buy just one. They come in packs of
ten, and last time I checked they were £125 for the ten pack, but it does
change every year. There’s plenty of information on the website. You can get a
free ISBN when you publish with Amazon, I think. But I never did it this way as
I wanted to make sure I retained all rights. It worked out perfect for me as
I’m writing a series of five books and I needed one for each e-book and one for
each paperback, equals ten. You apply, pay and they send you your ISBNs along
with some useful information.


How do I get a barcode? The barcode on the back of your
book, is derived from your 13 digit ISBN. You’ll only need this if you want to
print. Simply type ‘barcode generator’ into your search engine and you’ll see
plenty of options to generate and save a high resolution image of the barcode
that identifies your book.

and ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number). Sometimes called TIN.

It’s a joy to hopefully make this easy for anyone out there
because it wasn’t easy for me. This only applies if you want to publish through
Createspace- Amazons Print On Demand (POD) service. At you will be guided through the entire process
for taking your book all the way to being available in paperback on Amazon. You
will need Your TIN number. This is what you do.

Sign up with Createspace and they’ll give you an account

Message Createspace and ask for a letter to confirm that you
are publishing with them.

On receipt of this letter, go to and download a
W-7 form.

Fill out the short form and send it with the Createspace
letter and either your passport or driving license. You have to send the
original to the States, so make sure you’re not going on holiday anytime
soon. I know it sucks, but once it’s
done it’s done.

I’d strongly advise you to send this as soon as you can as
it can take anything from 1-3 months for you to get your TIN number.


If you’re using Createspace then you can download their
template which has all the margins, guttering, everything that you’ll need to
get the layout of you book right. The best way is to copy and paste your
chapters one by one into the template. You shouldn’t have any problems when
their software checks for layout errors. Nothing looks worse than a book that
is badly formatted. If you are printing it another way there is plenty of
advice on the web on how to set up your copy.

Book cover

You will need to decide on the size of your book.
Createspace will give you the options. Then you need to design your cover. This
is where you need to find someone who knows Photoshop or similar software. If
you provide the content, a book cover can be created in no time at all. The
imagery is going to be your biggest hurdle, unless you have excellent art or
photography skills. For a small price you can purchase the picture or pictures you
require from a stock photography site such as iStock. Another good option is to
search and contact artists on email, and ask them for a quote
for your requirements. some can be expensive, others surprisingly cheap £30-£50.
Some artists are quite keen to get their work published as a book cover. Sketch
out how you want your book cover to look, taking inspiration from what’s out


So you have your art. You should have decided on the name of
the book and obviously your name will also be on the cover, You have your ISBN
and barcode image for the back. Createspace will tell you exactly how thick
your spine will be, depending on the amount of pages you have. The only thing
left to do is write a blurb to put on the back cover. The best way to get to
grips with blurbs is to read them on books with a similar genre to your own.
Study them. You’ll realise they give only enough to tempt the reader and draw
them into the story, sometimes postulating questions. They never give away the
ending or tell the whole story. Write and rewrite and ask friends and family
what they think. A blurb is possibly the most important copy of your entire
book, it’s the only part most people will ever read, so take your time. Once
you have your artwork for the book cover, which will be one image, front
cover-spine-back cover, from right to left, upload it onto Createspace.


The time has finally come. It’s time to publish. Once you
have jumped through all the hoops on
Createspace you can order a proof copy. I strongly suggest you do this
and follow the advice on their site to make sure there are no errors and
everything is to your satisfaction. The same applies if you are printing it
yourself. Once you are sure you can publish. Createspace automatically gives
you an option to create a Kindle version. It takes about 12-24 hours to see your
book approved and ready to buy on Amazon.


If you look in the documentation which Nielson sent you, you
will discover as a publisher (which is what you are now,) you have a legal
obligation to send a copy to the main libraries in the UK. Don’t worry the
library police won’t come for you, but it is cool that you can have a copy of
your book in these respected institutions. There is also a contact for your
e-book. If you so wish you can send one to the ‘The British Library’ and
another five copies which get distributed across the major libraries in the
country. Print them yourself or buy them on Amazon. If you do buy your book for
this purpose or to sell yourself, make sure you get someone to buy it for you,
as they don’t count as actual sales on Amazon, if the author purchases them.


You’ve published your book, but what about selling it.
Marketing and selling is a whole new topic, too big to cover here, and does take up a lot of time. Like most
things though, if you do a little often,
you’ll make good progress. You definitely need a website and business cards. It’s also a good to explore
flyers and things like bookmarks. The important thing to remember is that
everything should look the same. Cast
from the same mould — this is your brand
and it must be consistent, to identify who and what you are. Again there are
plenty of ideas on the web on how to promote and sell your book.


You can put a lot of work into this or a little. I would advise
you make some effort using twitter and perhaps join a reading group such as Goodreads.
Not only is this fun but it can pay off when you least expect it. Also, there
are conferences all over the country where you can network with other
self-publishers. Some of the advice of other self-publishers I’ve met have
proved to be invaluable, Just because you’re going it alone doesn’t mean you’re on your
own. Make sure you create a support network to help you get where you want to

Good luck

Videogame Memories #8

Videogame Wonderland Posted on Fri, July 11, 2014 15:42:01

Space Harrier

Arcade, Sega, 1985

“Welcome to the Fantasy Zone, Get ready!”

When I first saw Space Harrier in the Arcade it
immediately, stood out from the rest of the machines. At first glance I could
tell this was a step up in graphics, there were more colours (16-bit equalling
32,000 colours) the environment you played in was a third person pseudo 3D
shooter. It was fast, it was exciting and intense. The sound was beautiful
including a catchy soundtrack and narration which spurred you on. On top of all this the whole thing moved according to your
joystick movement. In short, my eleven year old brain was totally blown away.
Getting into the cockpit of that thing, all I could think of was Wow!. After
dropping my money in and starting, words became meaningless. It seemed years
ahead of anything else and played like a dream. You had to move fast around the
screen to avoid enemy fire as well as the many obstacles flying towards you —
it was all about finding constantly changing safe spots on the screen while
blasting your enemies to pieces. The end boss dragon bosses were iconic as was
the chequerboard floor. When a similar chequered ceiling came in after
completing the first few levels the game just got better. It was like flying
down and endless chasm. It became (and still
is) one of my favourite Arcade games of all time. Space Harrier meant the
pinnacle of Graphics and arcade technology. The many inferior ports onto the
computers and consoles of this era showed just how incredible this game was. I
played it whenever I got chance and became very good at it. Space Harrier is
one of the few arcade games which I can still complete to this day, without
throwing a ridiculous amount of credits at it.

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