"You must be the only person who hates taking days off work for being sick". I see these words manifest themselves onto my television during another rummage through the Capitol Wasteland of Washington DC, It's noon and I'm already frustrated with myself for having such a lousy immune system. I remember when I was young and carefree - mortality wasn't even questioned as I joyfully threw myself off tables in a bid to fly like Superman. Sure, broken arms were the result of such bizarre (and scientifically proven as manic) behaviour, but I cared not a jot. Now I'm hacking up my throat with coughing while getting a sweat on combined with a nice headache as the icing on a rather joyless cake. Mmm.
My frustration lies with not being at work. Sounds crazy, right? Well, I think there's something in my DNA on my mother's side which has given me a strong work ethic. I was brought up in an environment where work = money = food on the table. It's a simple but very definite equation of sorts. I also like feeling like I'm occupied with things - the devil makes work for idle hands, perhaps. I like the security of having stuff to do and doing that stuff in the company of other like-minded individuals for the common goal. Now when I'm sick and out of the office, I get idle hands. It never used to be that way - when I was a teenager (who also had a paid job delivering papers to practically every letterbox in my hometown), I had my spare time taken up with projects of an artistic nature. I think I'm having trouble kick-starting my creative juices in a non-work capacity...
Still, the immune system deficiency could be down to the Wheelman grind - and I don't mean that in a negative way - it's that it's a constant stream of work and late-nighters in the office which has become a very regular occurance. I actually felt guilt having a weekend to myself - guilt! Is that weird? We've not got long to go now on the game in terms of development - you may have read the month's delay but we're also releasing a Wheelman demo before the game is released on March 20th on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. I'm keeping quiet about the demo though - there's something rather cool we've done with it, but I shall not spoil the surprise. You will like it though. Oh, yes.
So the game is almost finished. It's kind of an exciting time in the office as we start planning the next project. Again, NDAs and the sort prevent me from revealing anything regarding it, but it's going to be an interesting prospect. We've got an internal showing of what work's been done with it soon - I've seen some of the concept art already, and it's looking quite lovely. Actually, that reminds me - I was pretty blown away when in one of the meeting rooms of how close our concept art for Wheelman matches the things which go on in the game itself. I always love checking out the concept guys to see what they're up to. I think they've got the coolest jobs in the studio, to be honest. Yep, I'm envious. I often am. The only thing which is annoying is that the concept art needs to have a larger audience - hopefully we can embelish the credits with some of their fine work.
Some of you may have caught the Fallout 3 reference in the opening paragraph - to tell you the truth, I've been hooked on it for a while now. I had my thing with Oblivion and really got into the whole storyline, environment, characters... and now it's happening again! Bethesda have done a pretty impressive job with Fallout 3 - there's some truly inspiring vistas to check out, I think no other game has captured a feeling of survival and grim menace better than Fallout 3 - especially when you're out on the open wastelands and feel a huge sense of vulnerability. Whenever I discover new towns, I always feel like there's a lot of possibilities from that discovery and it's also another opportunity to get more involved with the storyline and the lore of post-apocalyptic Washington DC.
There are flaws though - much in the same way Oblivion had flaws. For a start, the VATS system (where the action freezes on a target and you can take out specific body parts) is pretty cool to use - I did have doubts, but I only realised that shooting in a normal FPS-way is also rated by VATS in terms of percentages. It's okay if you use a weapon with bullets, but painfully obvious when shooting a missile and watching it pass through the Super Mutant's chest. Later I discover to always shoot on the ground with that thing, and all was well. VATS also sometimes lets me down when I'm using it indoors and I somehow end up shooting at the edge of a wall's corner where the target I was trying to shoot at was in perfect view.
Other gripes? Repairing weapons wasn't that clearly telegraphed in the game - I ended up discovering I could repair weapons with other weapons through word of mouth. Yep, I know it was in the manual - but who reads those things anyway? (Unless you're in the glory of the Katamari Damacy manuals in their lush artwork and characterful mastery, but I digress), It's very easy to repair a weapon of lousyness over an awesome weapon - case in point, the Lincoln Repeater is an insanely lush weapon, but if you use a hunting rifle and have the Repeater in your inventory, it's easy to accidentally repair the hunting rifle with the Repeater. Doh.
The game also suffers from some broken quests - like Oblivion did - in Big Town, I was told to fix some robots in a scrapyard for an impending attack of Super Mutants - except there were no robots to fix. The guy I give scrap metal to in Megaton has disappeared and the woman who willingly buys the fingers of bad men from me has gone AWOL too. It's things like this which can shake me from my dreamy escapism at times, but there is forgiveness. I think it happens in a lot of games - you spot a huge bug and then you just get on with it. Oh, unless it's the bug in Fallout 3 where your character can sometimes get stuck in scenery. I hate that soooo much. I do forgive that for the fact the game is such a huge achievement and undertaking, although I do save my game a lot more than I should because of it.
You won't find such gripes in the stellar reviews of the game though - I don't think that many game reviewers have 80 hours to dedicate to one game for a review - unless they're hardcore. This is why I don't normally trust reviews - word of mouth is gospel. I also used to think demos were a good indicator, although sometimes it's very easy to get it wrong - case in point is the Blue Dragon demo which I absolutely hated though only because it threw me right in at the deep end with no tutorials about mastering the advance combat systems or inventory choice you'd get in a sprawling RPG.
Sticking with my games-centric blog-tone, I've just watched what is the last ever episode of Consolevania. You can grab it here and I thoroughly recommend you give it a watch, even if you've not had a chance to see the other episodes. The show's been going on for a few years now, with regular(ish) episode releases. I think I got into the show late around the end of Series 1, but since then I've enjoyed the reviewing stylings of Rab and Ryan. Here's some classic examples of what I'm rambling on about -
Rab reviews Batman Begins...
Ryan's take on gaming Hype...
Now the thing with this final episode is that it very much reminded me of the last episode of Gamesmaster - Dominik Diamond basically spills his guts and gives us a heartfelt journey of his feelings about working on the show with a very memorable closing line - "I should come up with the funniest gag in the history of Gamesmaster, but... I can't". Thankfully the magic of YouTube means you can watch the whole episode in its entirety before some copyright-hugging arse forces it offline...
Back to the last episode of Consolevania (and it actually saddens me to type that) - Rab also wears his heart on his sleeve during footage of Consolevania's Top Ten Games of 2008. A lot of things are covered - the fact that they don't want to be remembered for being people who review games negatively. As Rab points out, games are wonderful things and we should be happy to be part of that. He mentioned that the Videogaiden show they did with the BBC Scotland (also up on YouTube) basically stripped them of their love of games and they ended up becoming reviewing machines. There was also mention of how Rab regrets being pissed off over comments on forums to the point that he stopped the ability to comment on consolevania.com as well as the Consolevania YouTube page.
Personally, I believe that rllmuk was a lynch pin in all this. I used to frequent the place often, but I soon realise that it is full of people who appear to have nothing but negativity and hate in their hearts. Anyone who speaks praise of a game is instantly spotlighted and analysed. There was an uneasy analysing process, sniping, arguing... just horrible. If the arsehole community of rllmuk are responsible in part for Consolevania's departure, then fuck them. I think this is the defining moment for me. I'd sometimes slink back on to rllmuk after a hiatus and get back into the groove of talking about games until being reminded how bad the place can be. In fact, fuck it. No more internet gaming forums for me.
If anything, I think Consolevania has left an interesting legacy of archived programmes and shows - like a history of gaming from 2005-2009. We can look back on those episodes and remember all the good things - the positive things. The blue-eyed soul.
Well, I've cranked out this blog and I'm still bored. I think the next entry will be a journey through the games I used to play on my trusty ZX Spectrum +2. Ah, happy days of being young and carefree. Pumped full of testosterone and acne, though the glow of a broken cathrode ray illuminated the darkness and put me on the road to where I am now.
Nostalgia can be a wonderful thing.
P.S. Note to self - buy this.