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Last update: 2013-04-25

Hardly A Review: Oblivion (2013)

2013-04-25 :: hardlyachannel@ymail.com (Hardly A Channel)

Oblivion is the latest Tom Cruise vehicle which hit cinemas April 10th. The year is 2077 and Earth has been ravaged by war with invading aliens. The majority of remaining humans reside in orbit in a giant space station while a few remain on Earth gathering what little resources are left before the planet is abandoned. Jack Harper (Cruise) is one such person, servicing machinery and protecting it from the alien "Scavs" while haunted by visions of a mysterious woman. When a ship crash lands containing a human trapped in stasis, Harper begins to learn everything is not as it seems, neither for him or the world.




So, what did I think? Not bad, but nowhere near good. In many ways it felt like the writers tried to cram in as many typical sci-fi plot ideas and themes as possible, particularly in a frantic second half. Indeed, towards the end it felt much like they were trying to cram in whatever they thought might vaguely fit, much like (speaking from personal experience) the panicked rush at the end of an exam. It attempted to be grandiose in scale and overreached itself, resulting in too many themes being underdeveloped and unexplored. Particularly, the themes about humanity and personal identity could have been developed in to a far more absorbing film instead of throwaway sci-fi guff.

I find Cruise's performances can be quite hit and miss but here I feel he worked well with what he was given. Likewise Andrea Riseborough, playing Victoria, Jack's companion and colleague, probably put in the strongest performance and also I think had the best written character in relation to her role in the film. Morgan Freeman, as a leader of a group of stranded humans, was wasted and his character felt the most jarringly underdeveloped considering the role he plays in the film.

The post-apocalyptic vision the film attempts to convey is impressively shown in the wide landscape shots, with reference points to current landmarks aiding believability. These gorgeous visuals were easily the most impressive part of the film in my eyes. This contrasted jarringly with some ropey close-up work when characters were in vehicles and it was impossible to suspend my disbelief. It always appeared obvious that characters were sat in a rig in a studio in front of a blue screen.

I think for a story with such grand ambition, film was not the right medium to properly do it justice. I'd had enough after one hour, the film lasted 2 hours, felt like 3 hours and probably needed at least 4 hours to properly develop the story. The increased time available over a TV season (16-20 hours in the US) would have allowed a better pacing and more time to develop the themes and plot lines. It may even work as a video game in a style similar to the Mass Effect series.
If you are going to borrow so liberally from the genre without creating any new ideas then you must do it well or suffer in comparison. Oblivion missed the mark here and was a set of potentially interesting plot ideas that drowned in a sea of mediocrity. Overall, Oblivion gets a "meh" out of 5 from me, watch it but don't pay for it (I mean on TV! I am not condoning piracy!).

Jimmy 

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Hardly A Review: Olympus Has Fallen (2013)

2013-04-16 :: hardlyachannel@ymail.com (Hardly A Channel)

In a rare turn of events i have a chance to actually write about a film before it is on general release here in the UK! I was lucky enough to win two tickets a preview showing last night of  "Olympus Has Fallen" which is due out on general release tomorrow, Wednesday 17th.

After having taken the US Box Office by storm (which is an apt saying considering were talking about a film where the white house is taken by terrorists) "Olympus Has Fallen" has arrived in the UK and i must say i really enjoyed it and feel it is well worth a watch.



It follows Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) a disgraced FBI agent who becomes the only living person in the White House after it is taken by terrorists during a meeting between the leader of South Korea and the US President to discuss the threat North Korea poses. After a terrifyingly efficient and mercilessness take over of the White House in 13 minutes, involving a C130 Plane, Mounted Machine guns and Ground forces,the terrorists have the president and most of his high level staff prisoner in the presidential bunker.Banning has to proceed to make his way through the White House and be the "Eyes and Ears" of the acting president, speaker of the house played by the one and only Morgan Freeman. He is tasked with finding out who the terrorists are and trying to curtail their plans etc.

 Now i can imagine that your thinking so what this sounds very much much straight out of the formulaic school of action film production. A rehash of films like Die Hard it is not, there is not the constant pithy one liners that makes Die Hard great and terrible. Don't get me wrong there is humor and some great delivery of dialogue in places in the film. The reasons for me that "Olympus Has Fallen" is a step above generic shoot and blow 'em ups are that i felt there was a greater depth to the characters or at least the main ones any way, peripheral roles tend to be under fleshed out and occasionally bordering on the unnecessary due to their detached nature, for example Banning's wife.

The nature and manner of the terrorist attach also helps to give the film a level of believability and therefore allows for greater immersion in the film by the audience. By this i mean they don't roll up to the white house etc with tanks etc and take it that way, it is very clever and extremely well thought out combination of speed and precision, having people both with in the grounds and within the White House itself. This film plays on the fear that most of us have over Terrorism, but none quite so as the Americans  who since 9/11 have thought or worked against little else. The film exploits this with the taking of the most protected building and person in the world, this is coupled with the US's fear of plane based terrorism and is taken a step further by having the use of a weaponised plane and the untold damage it causes to property and life in the film.

The film is added a certain edge by the plot piece of the meeting between the US and the South Korean leader over North Korea's posturing and saber rattling concerning war, with fiction reflecting reality it gives the film a spooky feel of what could be under different circumstances. All in all i enjoyed the film and felt it had a greater depth to it and was step up from some of the more vacuous blow everything up action films being turned out currently. I recommend giving it a watch when it is released on Wednesday 17th.

Nosh, Signing Out. 

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Nosh Builds a PC: Update - The shift from OnBoard to Discreet Graphics

2013-03-28 :: hardlyachannel@ymail.com (Hardly A Channel)



Now i know what you're thinking can this actually be a fresh post after so long. Yes, it's true i have finally managed to persuade myself to actually write something, it isn't that i don't have enough time or things to write about; I'm just Lazy!

So confessions and apologies aside i will get on with actually writing something of worth (i use the term loosely). I have recently built a new PC (see first post) for those who have visited the blog before and didn't get accidently directed here from some slightly dodgy looking Russian websites, BTW it's not us it just seems to happen every so often. However when i built my PC it was at best basic as it consisted of reclaimed parts for the large part with a scattering of new components to take it a few steps above a giant paper weight. It did however have a few glaring holes Physically (as anyone who has seen the pics in the previous post can tell you) as well as technologically.

Drum Roll please i have now plugged some of those gaps in both senses with a graphics card. About time you may well say and i agree it has been a long time coming. I can now play actual games and have a frame rate in the double digits. You may or may not know i am broke so you may be asking where this new addition came from. Well like much of the rest of my PC it isn't new, it came 6 months old from a friend and fellow gamer who was upgrading and gave me mates rates on his old card (check out his YouTube Page: Ratchet34321).

What is the card you may be asking and to be honest a good question as we are 3 paragraphs in and i haven't mentioned it yet! It is a Saphire Radeon HD6850 1GB. Can be seen here to buy and for specs


So an AMD card which is fortunate as my motherboard supports CrossfireX but not SLI i believe. Gives me a chance to add in another card when i have some cash if i so choose. How has it been so far? Well the step up from the onboard graphics of my I3 3320 processor has been stratospheric, i can now run many games at full or nearly full settings comfortable including Planetside 2 which before ground to a halt if there was even one person near me, League of legends is looking much nicer with the settings on high, Metro 2033 is looking really rich and detailed now. All of these running at respectable frame rates and actually enjoyable to play opposed to headache and rage inducing slowness and poor quality.

Now this wouldn't be a post by Nosh if there wasn't still a problem or new ones occurring  Well you would be correct, when putting the card in i did manage to set the resolution too high on all outputs so i couldn't see anything when i booted which was problematic for a day or so. I have also found the monitor i have "acquired" is a none standard size/resolution, with its maximum being 1280x1024 and this has proved unhelpful when trying to record anything, as it just becomes garbage on any one with a normal ratio screen (so pretty much everyone else in existence!).

So what else is there to upgrade/fix you might be asking. In all fairness everything is ok at the moment but money is available a decent monitor, SSD and an Optical drive are on the agenda. So if you have any tips/suggestions for any of those fell free to leave them in the comments section.

Nosh, Signing Out. 

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Typing on Touchscreens - A touchy issue!

2013-02-15 :: hardlyachannel@ymail.com (Hardly A Channel)

Now, i know we have been somewhat erratic of late (always) in our writing and posting of stuff but as the only person without full time commitments it has fallen to me to do most of the donkey work, and to be honest I've been lazy.

However i have finally got around to writing something again so here you go, enjoy!

I came across an interesting product/concept for those that love their touch screens, in particular tablets etc bigger than phone size, but who find typing on them to be an issue. the solution from Tactile a company in the US is that of one where the keyboard suddenly appears out of the flat surface of the touch screen itself! At first i thought it was a joke or some hideous kind of add on/overlay, however it is actually a nice looking (albeit slightly creepy) idea/product. At the touch of your finger the keys just suddenly appear before your eyes and finger tips.


How can this be done you ask? Well it is done using a see through liquid layer applied to the surface of the touch screen which is pumped through channels to make the keys appear as if by magic. There are multiple settings for firmness of the keys from slightly squishy bubbles to much more solid "proper" button feel. i am unsure whether it is the case that it will always rise even when you don't need it or not but we shall see if it ever becomes main stream i guess. The company currently only has one partnership to implement this technology and it is with Touch Revolution, who make touch screens. Nosh, Signing Out. 

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Hardly A Review: WWE '13 - Better than just for Banter

2013-02-07 :: hardlyachannel@ymail.com (Hardly A Channel)

This last week I have been playing a lot of WWE ’13 on Xbox. Yep, laugh it up, but this is one of those wonderful surprises in gaming for me where my expectations are low yet a game proves to be immensely enjoyable. Initially bought as a ‘banter purchase,’ (a game I and my regular Live Party all buy on the cheap to play for a bit as a laugh), this has actually turned out to be a great single player experience. A heavy slab of nostalgia plays its part here, sending us back to times we’ve all spent playing previous iterations in our youth. This Nostalgia is aided by the ‘Attitude Era’ storyline, allowing the relieving of some of the major wrestling storylines from when we all actually knew who was who and it was still called WWF. Who doesn’t love a bit of Stone Cold Steve Austin? And that’s the bottom line! For the current day, there is Universe mode, which can be essentially whatever you want. The range of customisation available is brilliant and it is really possible to get the universe to work how you want it and see storylines and feuds develop as they would in real life shows.

The controls are fiddly at first and there is a lot of button mashing, and online services are temperamental but when it all comes together and you nail your best mate with the People’s Elbow this game is as satisfying as they come. At a time when I find a lot of mainstream games have become too serious or gritty, this has been a shot in the arm of unbridled fun, greatly enhanced by how unexpected it was. 




Jimmy …

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When Body and Mind Conspire Against Us: Cycling, Insomnia and Writers Block

2013-02-03 :: hardlyachannel@ymail.com (Hardly A Channel)

When I was first approached to write a piece for this esteemed blog, there was a slight sense of trepidation and doubt as to whether I would ever manage to write anything in a time frame that would make it still relevant. That was nearly 2 months ago. Well, at least I was right. I have long had a problem of coming up with my best ideas when I’m trying to sleep and therefore being too tired to write anything down or even remember it the next day. Inconveniently, there also never seems to be any paper around to write these ideas down when I’m lying in bed yet if I prepare for it, my brain will be emptier than a tortured metaphor about emptiness. 

I like to think of myself as an aspiring cyclist. Certainly at least, I am someone who makes vague efforts to maintain fitness by cycling and take joy from the process. As such, I have found that to actually get out and achieve anything on the bike I need a number of factors to go my way. Acceptable weather, a break or at least and easing of relentless summer colds and ‘good legs.’ It is incredibly frustrating to wake up and find all these things conspiring against you, but sometimes, the golden moment occurs when you can keep the purpose you woke up with alive and put it to good use. 

Jimmy …

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Hardly A Review - Pitch Perfect

2013-01-28 :: hardlyachannel@ymail.com (Hardly A Channel)

In the current trends of modern movies we have experienced a resurgence of first dance based films with films such as Step Up following on from such 80's classics as Flash dance, Footloose and Dirty Dancing. However now we have the rise of musical, in particular films showing vocal prowess. this seemed to first start with films such as High school musical, but i think we can fairly lay the blame/commendation at the foot of Glee and its phenomenal rise to almost cult status, bringing musicality to the masses and making singing and choirs cool.  Don't get me wrong there is nothing wrong with a visual audio expression of the human condition and journey we call life.

So having made that introduction clear i can round the business to reviewing the actual film i went to see, which was Pitch Perfect. It wasn't a planned excursion to the cinema nor my choice of film, more of a mission of mercy on behalf of my sister so she didn't have to see the film alone after the arrangements with her friends fell through. however it didn't cost me anything as the ticket had already been paid for, not one to look a gift horse in the mouth i agreed to see the film.

Pitch Perfect, whilst a film centered around competitive collegiate acapella choirs also explores the idea of breaking with tradition to strive for success.It also focuses on many of the usual themes found in any coming of age transitional film set within college, i.e. where we watch the protagonist reinvent themselves, changing from the child they were to the adult they want to be. All in all i enjoyed it, the singing was impressive but the story maybe a little too predictable. Easy to watch, easy to forget. Good for those times you want to watch something but don't feel like you want to have to think a lot, you can pop it on and watch with little effort and come out feeling relatively happy and positive. 

Nosh, Signing Out. …

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Nosh Builds a PC - And Rises from the Dead!

2013-01-23 :: hardlyachannel@ymail.com (Hardly A Channel)

To all and sundry who have followed the shambles that is HardlyAChannel for any length of time will know that i (Nosh) have been using what could only loosely be termed a PC. I am of course referring to the loving known "Hunk of Junk" that was my laptop. It is safe to say it was never meant for gaming and in fairness it was never meant for it either. However i valiantly tried to put its poor inadequate silicon coated ass through its paces and unsurprisingly it failed miserably.  It's greatest success was being able to play LOL with almost every setting at minimum.

I bring you news of both great joy and sorrow, the laptop is dead! Don't mourn for it as i shan't, in it's later months i had more BSOD than i could possibly count and it had to be propped up on four candles to even manage to stay on for more than an hour. However, from the ashes of the laptop and a few new parts a ugly miss-shapen phoenix has arisen! I won't lie it isn't pretty and it won't be winning any awards for cable management or sheer power. It does on the plus side work and has only BSOD once since i painstakingly built it without frying anything with static two weeks ago. 


View Inside: No Cable managment

What are its specs you may ask, well don't hold your breath it isn't anything special and still needs a few more components. However here they are none the less:
i3-3220 Intel Processor
MSI Z77A-G43 Motherboard
8GB 1600MHz XMS3 DDR3 Corsair RAM
500W OCZ Core X Stream Power Supply
300GB SATA HDD (Salvaged from Laptop)
Case with big Internet Explorer symbol on the side (Case from my Grandad's PC from 10 years ago!)
So there you go, it's never going to set the world on fire but it is already vastly faster and more stable than my laptop.

The observant amongst you may have noticed there is no optical drives, this isn't a deliberate choice but more of a unforeseen issue in the fact the current ones have IDE connectors only. So future additions aside from an optical drive will include a dedicated graphics card as i'm currently using onboard graphics. A new hard drive, probably an SSD and maybe a 1/2/3 Terabyte hard drive. A new case with cable management and the ability to have case fans! Any thoughts/recommendations on any of these parts or anything else i may need to put in feel free to comment.

How did i find the experience of building a PC? All in all i enjoyed it, apart from the constant thought if i drop the bits or gather any static then i might break/fry something! May need to invest in an anti-static wristband to mitigate the static issue. Aside from coming out with a working PC and the satisfaction of having achieved something; my favorite part of the experience was finding out in true Hardly fashion that Simon and Jamie, the supportive friends they are had ruled me dead and started dividing my belongings over twitter after not hearing from me for a number of hours after commencing the build! 


So, the rumors of my death were greatly exaggerated and this is Nosh, Signing Out!

Link to the rest of the badly shot, out of focus franken PC pics: http://imgur.com/a/GApD6

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Shield Yourselves

2013-01-11 :: hardlyachannel@ymail.com (Hardly A Channel)

One final post on CES for this week, but it’s about one of the very first products to be revealed. I really had to mull this over and work out exactly what I think about this piece of hardware, and yes... I found something good to say about it, sort of. So here we go, my thoughts on Nvidia’s Project Shield.



The Shield is essentially a souped-up android device, running Nvidia’s new Tegra 4 processor. It features a 5 inch, 720p display, and a very... very familiar game pad, all wrapped up in a nifty clamshell design. Let me start on the design, this thing is sexy, it’s like a 360 controller and a F-117 Nighthawk had very awkwardly positioned love and made a babby. For a controller it doesn’t look like there’s too much extra bulk, even though this is much more than a controller, and as pretty much anything else, yeah... there’s too much bulk. This thing is not pocket sized although it is marketed as portable, but practical is something we’ll have to see about, I’ll get to that later.


Now about the specs. Nvidia is kitting this thing out with it’s new Tegra 4 processor. This thing is six times faster than the Tegra 3 which will be inside the upcoming Ouya console. Basically this thing is top of the line, easily capable of HD, and easily capable of pushing it’s display onto a HD TV through the mini HDMI port on the back. Much like the rest of the Tegra line, battery power is likely to be an issue, these things are not the most efficient at conserving power, which hurt a lot of the Tegra 3 phone sales. It’s also not cool if the main purpose of the Shield is gaming, and intense gaming. It may struggle to hold onto it’s portability if it’s constantly tethered to a wall-wart.


The Shield runs the latest version of Android, clean with no added overlays or shells, which is a curious addition. This means that the shield will be capable of playing every game released on Android so far, including any games released for the Ouya. It will also be able to run android apps however how useful a games console with a calendar is will be up for debate. It’s also been announced that there are games in development that have been made with the Shield in mind. I’m going to hold out judgement until we see more about these, but so far I can’t see anything to get excited about.

The shield also has the added advantage of being able to play most Windows games, provided you have the right setup. Essentially if you have one of the better Nvidia graphics cards, and a good enough processor, you’ll be able to stream games from your PC to the Shield over wifi. This is nothing new, it’s kind of like a WiiU crossed with OnLive. Essentially you can piggyback your PC’s extra power to play triple-a titles on the go... except you can’t because this feature only works over wifi, and this cuts right to the heart of the problem I have with the Shield.

It’s a sizeable issue, firstly that portable gaming is a really tough market to satisfy, I’ve touched on this before, and secondly that the Shield isn’t really portable. It’s too bulky to carry around, it’s battery is very limited, the games you’d want to play you can’t past the front porch, and the games it supports under it's own steam are already on your phone/tablet/Ouya. The times the Shield does have a use there are so many things that have it covered. Literally the only use I can possibly think of is gaming on the can, or shirking your family round the dinner table. This links back to my thought on portable game consoles, and how with phones becoming ever more powerful, they really need to justify their existence. I just don’t think the Shield does that. It’s got some good features, but those alone can’t justify the price point.

Pretty much like everything I’ve seen this week, my opinions are based on what we know right now. Meaning if you disagree with them, tough because we’re probably both wrong. To be fair I hope I’m wrong, I’d like to be pleasantly surprised by everything. I like surprises, and it’s their scarcity that makes me grumpy... grumpy and often right.
Jamie out xoxoxo

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Cogs be Turning

2013-01-09 :: hardlyachannel@ymail.com (Hardly A Channel)

So yesterday at CES we got a decent look at what is likely to be the specs for one of the 3rd Party versions of the long hyped Steambox. Codenamed “Piston” it’s based on Xi3’s X7A mini computer. And no, I hadn’t heard of them either. I’ll just briefly go over what we know so far, but since details are all over the internet by now I won’t dwell on them too much, and just focus on what to make of it all.

So at the heart of the Piston will be an unspecified quad core processor, the X7A clocks it’s quad core at 3.2GHz, so it’s likely the console will be based around the same basic power, with minor tweaks. The X7A also has 8GB of DDR3 Ram, and a 1TB solid state hard drive. Of these features the Piston has been confirmed to include “up to 1TB of storage,” so a possible hint that there will be multiple price points for the console. The X7A uses onboard graphics that can support up to 3 monitors, and is ram packed with ports and plugs on it’s back. The X7A boasts of being modular and upgradeable (like every computer, ever) and has a tiny form factor, looking a lot like the Ouya’s badass older brother. Essentially it’s a gaming PC with a thyroid problem, however there’s no word as to whether it’ll run Windows, Linux, or a custom steam-based OS.


So my main feelings are firstly are based around software, will it run windows, will it run a Steam OS, will this affect which of your Steam games you can/can’t play on the Piston. If it doesn’t run Windows, will it be an open system? I mean looking at the specs it looks like it’d make a really impressive streaming/Youtube box, but will Valve allow the necessary software to be installed alongside it’s own stuff. In my mind, despite their attitude towards Linux, it seems really unlikely that Valve will open their system even half as much as say the Ouya. So, will it be as closed as the 360 despite what Valve have said about Windows 8? And if the new Xbox is going to be a bit freer and more open like media speculation suggests, could this leave Valve with egg on it’s face?

Secondly it packs one hell of a punch. If the Piston launches with specs similar to the X7A, and it’s likely there will be nothing more than a little tweaking, then you can expect to be able to play pretty much every game on steam, on your TV, and pump up the graphics while you’re at it. This thing is next gen, and not WiiU next gen, but proper next gen. If it beats the Xbox and PS4 to release, it could clean up, especially since you will more than likely be able to use all the games you’ve already purchased on your Steam account, offering backwards compatibility the others could only dream about.

Looking at the amount of ports on the back of the X7A, three things spring to mind, firstly you should be able to connect some pretty interesting peripherals to this thing, and with 4 eSATA ports and 3 USB 3.0 ports you should be able to do some beefy memory upgrades. Secondly, since it’s got HDMI, two mini Display ports, and an SPDIF port, this thing could be one impressive home cinema system, that makes me wonder if Valve will try and step into the Netflix territory a bit, or at least form some sort of distribution partnership. It seems like a sensible move. And thirdly, since it’s got USB on the back, do you think you could use the Xbox receiver to play the Piston with 360 controllers? Either way it’s almost certain that the controllers for the Piston will be xinput compatible, simply because of it’s near universality in PC games with controller support.

Finally, and a major point of concern, the price point of the X7A is $999. That makes the PS3’s launch price look like a raffle ticket at a church fair. I understand that this is just a 3rd party variant, and that Valve's own Steambox is still to come, but likelyhood is that they will have to be optimised in a similar way, and that all steam consoles will fit into a ballpark spec. If valve is serious about the Steambox it needs to make the price point more accessible, they can’t just rely on it’s hardcore fans, especially seeing as they already have all the benefits of steam on their beefy gaming rigs (which cost a lot less than $999 I'll have you know). It’s still early days, but why buy a Console to play my PC games when I already have a PC? They need to bring something more to the table.

For more pictures of the Piston, go somewhere else. What do I look like to you‽
Jamie out xoxoxo

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Gotta Catch Them Polygons

2013-01-08 :: hardlyachannel@ymail.com (Hardly A Channel)

We’ve caught them all, we’ve caught them all again, and again, we caught the one that made the land, the one that made the sea, the one that made time, the one that made space, the one from another dimension, and the creator of the whole freaking universe. Yes, I’m talking about Pokemon, and if this is starting to sound pretty cynical that’s because I am very cynical when it comes to Pokemon. However I’m willing to give the new games announced today a fair hearing, and the benefit of the doubt. If you haven’t already seen the trailer (where were you?) then take a minute to breathe it all in and join me again on the other side.



Now the main problem I have with Pokemon is that it’s a great game. Seriously that’s it. It’s a game I played as a child almost non stop from the age of 8 to about the age of 14, and even afterwards still dusted it off now and then to revisit old memories. The problem is that whilst the games were good it didn’t really go anywhere, the boatload of sequels only ever featured some extra graphical polish to the sprite based game, and a new feature here or there. In any other world, I would call that a rehash. Playing a new iteration of Pokemon was a lot like revisiting the old games, and that was a good feeling, but if I want to revisit old favourites I can just boot them up and play them on their original consoles, or play remakes that are always popping up (I’m looking at you Nintendo). When I want to play a sequel, I want to play a different game, even if it’s just the same mechanics with a different story that’s fine by me.

Pokemon never shook it up, never changed the story, never changed the mechanics much aside from adding a few new moves, double battles, and more new Pokemon than you can shake a sizeable stick at. In fact it almost seemed like every new feature hurt the franchise just a little bit more. I mean, I could barely catch 150 Pokemon, I’ve got no hope with damn near a thousand of them.

However all that’s changed now, because Pokemon is suddenly in three shiny dimensions, or has it? I mean, it is a pretty extreme graphical overhaul, and clearly a new overworld engine, if that’s not proof the developers want to make some serious changes this time around then I don’t know what is. Looking at the trailer, it seems there may be some platforming involved, which to me is an important sign, because it’s all very well changing the graphics but if movement and gameplay haven’t changed then it’ll be the same flat experience as before. I'd like to see more platforming, more puzzle solving elements, however this is only speculation based upon one trailer.

In terms of the graphics though I’m a little concerned. I mean they look better aesthetically than sprites composed of 10 pixels, but they look very rough around the edges. Now I know that it’s an early build of the game, and some of those kinks and vertical tearing will get worked out. However my biggest issue is something that looks deliberately added into the game, and that’s all those damn black lines around everything. Now I get they’re going for the cell shaded look, and that’s cool with me, but the black lines around cartoons and cell shaded characters are a little bit smoother than that. To my eyes it just breaks the picture up and makes it hard to look at. I mean seriously is a little anti-aliasing in short supply round these parts? It looks sloppy and it looks like an eye strain in the making, and if I can’t play a game for more than half an hour because it hurts the eyes of a dude with 20:20 vision, then that’s going to be a serious downside.

At the heart of the matter though, and what will influence whether the game is worth your hard earned cash, is the core game experience. To me, 3D is like Colour, it’s like double battles, it’s like the ten gagillion new Pokemon, and all the new regions. It’s not why I bought the original game, and it doesn’t add anything to the core experience other than a bit of bling. I’d like to see some real changes to the game, whether it’s adding a platforming element, a different way to level up and determine experience, more RPG elements, or even more action elements and moving away from the turn based side of things. I’m not going to lie, it’s a fine line to walk, to bring the best bits of an old game into a new world. Metroid tried, and it’s jump into 3D platforming was a bit of a flop, it’s success came when it completely reinvented itself as Metroid Prime, but at the cost of isolating itself from the elements that made it a great series to begin with. I fear that’s the step Pokemon may have to take to break the rehash cycle.

Still... it’s got Magicarp in it, so that alone is worth a preorder. Pikachu is Day 1 DLC though.
Jamie out xoxoxo

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A New Year - Go as you mean to go on!

2013-01-01 :: hardlyachannel@ymail.com (Hardly A Channel)

They say you should start the year as you mean to go on, so i felt i better write something today or already doom 2013 to the scrap heap! Lets hope it isn't too literal that saying as i had curry and a cupcake with coffee for breakfast.

What can i say about 2013, not a lot so far. However i can look forward and muse over what will be and might be. Where to start, well the long awaited upgrade from the hunk of junk laptop which required fork handles (four candles, for those who didn't get the Two Ronnies reference and if you didn't then shame on you and see it here) to keep cool, is now imminent with the new desktop PC being built next week hopefully. Now before you all get your hopes up that i will have some all singing and dancing gaming beast of a PC, in true Nosh fashion it is only a half baked PC in need of more bits. I am cannibalizing an old case, disk drives and the Hard drive from my laptop as I'm too poor to get new ones, however they are on the to buy list when i have some money along with a graphics card, which does mean i am still using onboard graphics but they should still be better than my laptops.


So with me finally joining the rest of the digital age with at least some kind of semblance of a functioning PC, you lucky people can look forward to more playthroughs and hopefully better graphics on newer games than those pre-1990 i'v been playing so far! 

I and hopefully you the readers can look forward to the continuing and rise of the blog (Both in terms of number but also quality of articles lol). 2012 was a good year for the blog after it began to be correctly used in early August, previously having been more of a video repository than anything useful and meaningful!

As well as the success of the blog in the latter part of 2012, we at HardlyAChannel have enjoyed ourselves (probably instead of doing real work) making podcasts and gaming videos for you on YouTube. However the podcast took a longer than hoped hiatus due to incompetence and technical difficulties, but we are hopeful that it shall make a reappearance in 2013. So look forward to our dulcet tones and inane chatter being available to laugh at soon!

As always we do this for not only for our own pleasure but for yours as well, so we will always welcome Comments, Likes, Re-tweets or any input or suggestions to our work you may have! All the relevant links will be found at the end of the post.

May 2013 be a year worth remembering, good luck and hope your still here in 2014!

Nosh, Signing Out.

Links:

YouTube

Twitter

Facebook

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Hardly a Review: Perspective

2012-12-31 :: hardlyachannel@ymail.com (Hardly A Channel)

I completely forgot I had to write something for the blog for today, which to be honest is completely typical, but nonetheless. In my panic I happened across a game I downloaded a while back, and completely intended to record for YouTube, but I decided to knock back a couple of levels and do a quick review of it, seeing as I didn’t have any better ideas. SO sit back, put on your 3D glasses, and prepare to say “what the fuck” alot. I’m doing a review of Perspective!





Now I’ve written about Perspective before, while it was still in development, and I have to say it was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Very basic, but at the same time challenging, the moment I stepped out of the tutorial levels I realised I had to “get my Portal on”. Now these games don’t even compare, their mechanics are completely different, and they bastardise physics in completely different ways, however I think it’s a fair comparison to make since both give me the exact same emotions when playing them, that puzzling almost frustrating concentration of trying to unravel the level, the fact that you have no idea what they could possibly hit you with next, and that euphoric relief and kind of smug feeling you get when you finish a level, it’s essentially the same core experience, and the exact same thing that dragged people to Portal.

Sure Portal is a far more fleshed out game, but strip that away and Perspective can easily hold it’s own. This game has a lot of potential, and that’s possibly the thing that holds it back the most, because whilst you’re having fun now, you can’t help but think of ways in which it could be better, and have more depth. I don’t think that’s the fooling you want people to be left with when they play your game, that something's missing.

There isn’t really much of a story to Perspective, at least from what I’ve played. Starting out in a conventional 2D platforming game you play a couple to tutorials before the 2D protagonist leaps out of an arcade cabinet and you find yourself in the overworld. Much like the levels you need to navigate this world by working in both 2D and 3D, however it’s barely a challenge at this point, each individual level is represented by an arcade cabinet that you can jump into, and completing each level will unlock more cabinets and doors to further areas of the arcade. I’m not sure if the story gets any deeper than this further into the game, but in all honesty I doubt it. As far as I’m concerned though, the game carries itself well enough that while a narrative would have been nice, it’s forgiveable considering just how many great games started out as more of a proof of concept rather than a fully fledged game, but that brings us right back to the feeling that this isn’t a finished product, and that hangs over it in a way that many successful indie games, even more simplistic and shorter games, have managed to shrug off.

The core game mechanic is simple to grasp, navigate your 2D self through a side scrolling level whilst moving your 3D self to change the layout of the 2D level entirely. This is done in two different ways, firstly by viewing the level from a different angle distant platforms become closer and corners are suddenly easier to navigate, and secondly by moving closer or further away, you can change the size of your character relative to the level, allowing him to squeeze through gaps or make longer jumps. There are many eureka moments, many where you question how you’ll possibly solve a level, and then think “oh that’s really clever” when you figure it out. The game doesn’t penalise you for jumping in and getting stuff wrong. Much like in Portal death isn’t a big issue, and you spawn right back where you left off. There’s no way I’ve seen so far to kill off your 3D self, although making certain perspectives impossible or put under a time constraint by posing a threat to your 3D self might add a little extra excitement to the more challenging levels.

The great thing about this game is it’s almost bite-size nature. It’s like one of those books you read in brief periods of spare time, like a short story or a novella that you can use to fill your throwaway moments. Perspective is for times when you can’t commit to sit down and become deeply involved in a couple of levels of a game that requires much more of your attention. Sure you could probably complete the game in one of two sit down sessions much like I did with Portal, but restrain yourself. Savour it, and it will reward you. It’s casual gaming indeed, but casual gaming even a hardcore gamer can wrap their head around.

Features I would have liked to see, maybe a co-op mode, something along the lines of one guy controlling the perspective and another guy (or even two) controlling the 2d character(s). A bit more depth in terms of the obstacles, blue blocks vs orange blocks is great, but I’m thinking objects that need to be interacted with to forward the level, in both the 2nd and 3rd dimensions. Maybe some sort of rotating feature, so that walls became platforms and vice versa. A level editor would have also been cool. There’s a lot of ways to flesh this game out, and if they ever wanted to implement a sequel or DLC (early days) there’s a lot of different avenues they could explore. For the moment though it’s a really solid game, and the current features stand well enough on their own that you could get a lot of fun out of Perspective, especially as they ramp up the difficulty later in the game.

Perspective is free to play, it honestly doesn’t take up that much of your time, or hard drive space, and is actually really nifty. So you’ve got no excuse not to check it out. If you do check it out, let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Right, I’ve got to go find my missing 3rd dimension...
Jamie out xoxoxo

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The Death of Keyboard Mashing

2012-12-19 :: hardlyachannel@ymail.com (Hardly A Channel)

So people have been asking me about the sorts of applications I use to make my busy busy life just that touch more bearable. Yeah... ok, nobody’s asked me that, but I’m gonna tell you anyway you ungrateful shits! Seriously without these apps I think my life would be far too stressful, and by extension everyone elses lives would be more stressful. So without further ado let’s jump in, I’ll be going in order working towards what makes the most difference to my experience.

So, Rocketdock is this pretty neat custom application launcher that sit’s on your desktop and just be’s awesome all day long. The reason I picked this up is because I hate icons on the desktop, it’s a slippery slope into organisational hell and I really like looking at my wallpaper anyways. However on top of that I didn’t want to clutter my start menu with games, or have to keep opening up steam any time I wanted something. I wanted all my games to just be there in plain sight, kinda like how some consoles do it, so Rocketdock for me is a really swish video game launcher that sits at the top of my second monitor, puts everything in plain sight, stops me hunting through menus and looks great in the process. I don’t put every game up there because I have far too many, but those I play often, and those on my to do list, have a special place on my desktop.



f.lux was introduced to me by Simon, and I’ve only been using it for a few days, but I can already testify to it’s usefulness. Basically f.lux runs in the background and during the evenings when we switch to indoor lighting f.lux will automatically change the colours on your monitor to match evening light. This takes the edge off a lot of the whites, reduces the glare from your monitors and lowers the contrast between your screen and the room that can bugger your eyes and keep you up at night. When you’ve got those late night writing sessions to meet a looming deadline (which for me is every writing session) it does help tremendously to take stress off the eyes, and after a few day’s the fact that it’s running is barely noticeable. One thing that does ruin the immersion is that although it knows my location down to the street I live on, it starts to soften the colours about an hour before it really needs to, and the suns still in the sky while I’m looking at a sepia screen, maybe it’s just a winter thing though and it’ll iron itself out eventually.

No list is a list unless there’s a Chrome app on there. Auto HD For YouTube is my saving grace. Have you ever opened up a video, left it to buffer in 1080p then come back and fullscreen it only for it to start the buffer all over again because you left it in 360p you silly sausage you. Auto HD basically solves all that and adds a feature Youtube really should have as standard. the ability to set your preferred video resolution as a default. It just takes away all those small annoying experiences that eventually add up to a mental breakdown and being placed in a care home in a puddle of your own sweat at the age of 42. The one thing I will say though, is it takes a could of seconds for Auto HD to kick in, so if you’re eager to load a video, pause it, and run off, just hold your horses and make sure it is buffering in HD, most of the time though this shouldn’t be an issue.

My Razer Nostromo is seriously the most useful piece of hardware I own. Not only does it provide a QWERTY keypad so I don’t have to rebind all of my games to work with Dvorak, but when I’m not gaming it’s a useful home of all of those keyboard shortcuts programs can make use of. I can answer Skype calls, have access to all my media buttons for VLC and Youtube, and still have space for a soundboard to annoy people during Hardly a Podcast, all without touching my mouse. It takes all that Ctrl + Alt + Shift + Tab bullshit and simplifies it into a single key-press. I haven't worked out how to bind Unicode characters to it (and have it work consistently) yet, and I’m really eager to do that so I can have a ‽ key and a … key. Maybe someone who can help me out will give me some advice in the comments section. Because let’s face it, everyone needs more interrobang in their lives.

Winsplit is a tiling window manager for Windows, and has been in all honesty the most useful tool for anyone with two or more monitors. With a series of really easy and intuitive keyboard shortcuts you can align and resize your window to the four corners or four edges of your monitor, pressing the same key again offers a different option on the same theme. I have mine setup to be 50% width on the first press, 60% width on the second, and 40% width on the third, meaning that if I have two windows I want to look at side by side I can do so, either with a 50-50 split, or a 60-40 one. What this means is that when I’m working I can have all the windows I need right at the front, no hunting around for them, and they can all be neatly arranged so they’re not overlapping and everything’s visible. Then, at a moments notice, everything can be rearranged again to incorporate a new window, or a change in the focus of the work. I don’t really think I can express in words exactly what this does, so chock out the picture below to see my classic work setup. Let me just say, it’s probably the most useful tool in terms of getting work done since Microsoft Word itself, and I couldn’t recommend it enough.




So there you have it, my top programs that stop me pulling my hair out at the ineptitude of the difficult and stubborn world we live in. If you tried out any of the programs mentioned, or would like to recommend some of your own, please feel free to let us know your thought in the comments section below this post, or by finding us on Facebook or Twitter.

Man... I wish there was an app to simplify breakfast...
Jamie Out xoxoxo

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Most Wonderful Time of the Year

2012-12-17 :: hardlyachannel@ymail.com (Hardly A Channel)

So it’s that time of year again, when all this joy and goodwill to all men (whatever that means) seems to be floating about, and this always leads me to a couple of questions. Firstly, why can’t joy and goodwill to all men just be evenly distributed throughout the year, rather than picking two weeks to give a shit? And more importantly, what’s the deal with cards? Seriously I’ve never seen the point to Christmas cards, and I’ve always politely requested people don’t send me them, only to be met with the expression of insult on their faces. So before you share that same disapproving look, allow me to explain.

“But Jamie,” I hear you say, “Christmas cards are an expression of love. A gift to show that you’re in somebody’s thoughts and they care about you.” Well let me stop you right there citizens, because I can tell you right now that half the cards I receive are not from people who are thinking about me, and the other half aren’t from people who care about me. Let’s take those two groups in turn.

Firstly, have you ever noticed how many cards you get from aunts and uncles, your parents aunts and uncles, second cousins, old work colleagues, your former accountant, and people you thought were dead? When was the last time you saw any of these people? When was the last time you even came across their name? I guarantee you the last time you had any contact would have either been last years card, or some minor family event full of people you didn’t want to make small talk with. I mean let’s face it, if you don’t enjoy each others company, why the hell do you send reminders of each others continued existence annually? If you care about them so little that you actively avoid them for 360 days of the year, then just do yourself a favour and don’t send them a card, hopefully they’ll return the favour and you can both get on with your lives, slightly happier at the fact that you don’t have to sit on their sofa that smells of stale fags and be assaulted by their pet cat and their opinions on your mediocrity. Gotta love family...

Secondly, let’s say you do actually like the person you’re sending a card to, or getting one from. What an insincere and lazy way to demonstrate that. I mean who keeps their cards for more than a fortnight tops? If you do then you probably own stacks of copies of the Daily Mail dating back to the mid eighties. Then when you come to dispose of them, you can’t even recycle them because they’re either covered in glitter, or use some sort of ink that’s allergic to fish or something. So along with the other tonne detritus that has to be thrown out on the first bin day in three weeks, out goes your card, the end to a short, meaningless, pitiful life. What a way to show someone you care, by clogging their bins up with overpriced pictures of care bears in santa hats. Are you happy with yourselves? Really, is this the way you want to be remembered, as the dude who used to show he cares by signing his name?

Finally do you really think your witty card and happy little message are going to brighten someone else's day? Of course it fucking isn’t! They’re going to spend 30 seconds reading it, then have to hunt around for a place to put it. Remember they’ve already got hundreds of these things, from people they either forgot existed, or from people they see every day and didn’t really need to send a message that was far less effective than just fucking talking to them! Your beautiful little card is either going to end up hidden on the second row of cards on the fish tank, or taped to the corner of a picture of gran. Read by very few, and those that do read it will often ask, “so who’s this guy?” Did you honestly think they’d be impressed by it?

On a similar note, who the hell are these people who thought it was a good idea to put glitter in cards? So that when you open the card you get a sparkly crotch, who are they? And why are they still allowed to live? There are some people who don’t deserve human rights and I’d make a very strong case for those pricks to be sent packing to Guatemala... they fucking love glitter in Guatemala, not.

So citizens, this year do your loved one’s a favour and don’t bother. If you want to show them you care by all means pick up the phone, or show up to their place with a DVD and some beer, but put the cards away, for the sake of my sanity at least, please. Also, don’t be a hypocrite, if you have loved one’s, you don’t need an excuse to acknowledge them, do it at any time of the year, only caring around Christmas time just comes across so insincere, but that’s a whole new bag of worms.

Right, I’m gonna go drink mulled wine and tell little Timmy he has to work over Christmas.
Jamie out xoxoxo

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Planetside 2: What I’d Like to See

2012-12-14 :: hardlyachannel@ymail.com (Hardly A Channel)

A couple of days ago, I gave you my review of Planetside 2, the unmissable MMOFPS from Sony Online Entertainment. What I deliberately missed out of that review was the game I wish they had made. Whilst I really enjoy the game, I feel they could have gone an extra mile towards making it my favourite game of 2012. As it stands I think there are a few small problems I have with the game whose absence does not detract from the game at all, but whose presence would have greatly improved the experience. So here we go, this is my wishlist for the Planetside 2 of my dreams.

Firstly one of my major problems with the game is that how you go about capturing a territory is the same in every case, with only tiny variations (such as the presence of generators) and it creates a kind of “been there, done that” feeling after long play sessions. I wish Sony had included a variety of different ways to capture territories, rather than just holding a capture point, and spread them throughout the map so every land grab felt like a different experience.





I would have loved to see a capture the flag element to some territories, where the attacking team has to retrieve a “key” from one side of the base, and take it to the other side where successful delivery would place the base under their control, and with a respawn timer on the key so both sides could regroup. I would have loved to see a scenario where you need infantry to capture a territory, but because of NPC turrets that take the side of the defending team the infantry can’t get close enough. So the attacking team would have to send in their heavy armour, tanks and bombers, which could withstand the turrets, to either disable them from a central point, or take them out one at a time, at which point the infantry could move forward to make a capture.

Another idea I had was for one member of the defending team to be automatically denoted as the “commander” of that garrison, and the attacking team has to kill that player in order to capture the territory. I’ve noticed a few capture points can only be accessed from the air, requiring some form of air transport, however these are often on the peripheries of the map, and are rarely defended. I’d like to see these bases in more prominent positions, so that it would have to take a real coordinated effort from the attacking team, requiring both dropships and an escort of fighters to capture the territory, I think it would force the sort of coordination and teamwork you won’t see in the game unless you join an outfit. I also like the idea of bases that are laid out in such a way that infantry is funnelled one way, and vehicles another, so that two fights essentially take place simultaneously, with the outcome of both deciding the overall outcome.

I’d have also liked to have seen the implementation of dynamic, randomly occurring objectives within the game. Much like Firefall, the choice to complete these objectives would be entirely optional from an individual perspective, but would grant a small, temporary bonus, to the faction that completed them. These objectives could occur anywhere at any time and could range from assassination missions, to retrieving the cargo of a downed freight carrier, to patrolling or running scans of a particular point, it could even be a basic team deathmatch of first faction to 10 kills. Either way, these dynamic objectives would keep the game fresh, fun and interesting. They could change the focus of the war at any given moment and could move the action around the map on a scale that can’t currently be done.

I would also have liked to see the squad mechanics given a bit more love. Currently, squad leaders can set a waypoint on the map that will show up on the maps of other squad members, and can unlock the ability to highlight certain capture points, set a spawn beacon, and release different coloured smoke signals again to mark points, but without a proper way to convey the battle plan, squads just don’t work as well as they should be working. Yes people can voice chat, but not everyone has or wants to voice chat, and in Europe we have to worry more about the language barrier. So being able to set specific objectives; go here, hold this point, destroy this tank, go grab a bomber, switch to the Light Assault class and jump that wall; would be a big step forward in squad cohesion. Within platoons it’d also be a good idea for platoon leaders to set specific objectives for each individual squad. Something along the lines of: Alpha squad, take generator 1. Bravo squad, take generator 2. Charlie squad, go grab some tanks and thin out their air support. These tools would be super useful in coordinating large scale strategies between a big group of people that don’t necessarily know each other, and can lead to the exact kind of experiences Planetside 2 is all about.

So there’s my two cents, if you have any ideas of your own or would like to talk about mine, feel free to leave a comment below or get in touch with us on Facebook or Twitter. We’d love t
o hear from you.
Jamie out xoxoxo

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Project Fiona - Go Hardcore or Go Home!

2012-12-13 :: hardlyachannel@ymail.com (Hardly A Channel)

What the earth is project Fiona you may be asking? Well it is about to rock your world and change the market again in terms of what we think of as a PC and what we think of as a tablet etc. As far as i understand it, it is tablet-esque in design but aimed at Gamers. Now i can imagine you saying weve heard this all before and all we can play on them is app based games, now whilst they may be great for 5 minutes when your on the loo or stuck on a long train journey. However they do'nt really resemble anyone who plays decent PC games would consider a game and therefore don't have any real interest in them for "real" gaming. 

 


However this is set to change with Project Fiona, a 10.1" Windows 8 tablet PC designed by gamers for gamers from Razer, with the specs crowd sourced from 1000's of gamers. What have they produced and have they succeeded you may ask. Well i am glad to say from what i have seen so far it will pretty beastly in terms of specs with:

a) CPU: Intel Core i5 or i7
b) GPU: Mid Tier Di
screte GPU (Hardcore PC gaming on the go at Medium Settings)
c) Thickness/Weight: Up to double the thickness/weight of an iPad
d) Other features: Detachable/Removable Controllers
e) Price: US$1299-US$1499.
With specs like those it gives credence to the project that you can actually play proper fully fledged games on it! I also like the idea of the Detachable/ Removable Controllers (Like many of the gamers they consulted) as they will make the games much more playable and especially will appeal to console gamers.However I'm not a 100% sure what the PC gamers will feel about them, but they are probably the best solution when making a portable item like this otherwise if you have to put a keyboard and mouse with it it doesn't really become any different to a laptop. My only concern over the Detachable Controllers is the weight of the tablet (Anywhere up to double that of the iPad) causing stress on the joins for the controllers, i would be proper angry if I'm holding the controllers playing a game when the tablet suddenly detaches and smashes especially at $1299-$1499! 
I look forward to seeing this develop and come to the market.
Nosh, Signing Out.
Links:
http://www.engadget.com/2012/12/12/razer-announces-crowdsourced-specs-for-upcoming-project-fiona/
http://www.razerzone.com/projectfiona

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Hardly a Review: Planetside 2

2012-12-12 :: hardlyachannel@ymail.com (Hardly A Channel)

Planetside 2 is one of those games that scratches an itch you didn’t even know you had. Let’s face it everything it offers has already been done before in one form or another, so why should you care? Well citizens, it’s a lot like Mac ‘n’ Cheese Pies, the result is far greater than the sum of it’s parts. Allow me to elaborate.

Planetside 2 dubs itself an MMOFPS, and whilst it is not the first game in this genre, it’s certainly the first one to truly earn the title “massive.” Each server supports up to 2000 people at any one time, and whilst that may seem like a low number for MMO’s I can assure you I have never once had a problem logging into my chosen server. It also holds true to it’s title of FPS, whilst contemporaries like Firefall try to exist within the realms of a recognisable MMORPG, Planetside 2 comes at the genre from a completely different angle. Instead, it chose games such as Battlefield 3 as it’s starting point’ and indeed it plays very much like Battlefield 3... if you force-fed the maps steroids.




The story is very basic, and sets up a completely open world MMO where you are not constrained by quests and anything you wish to do may lead to progression. Essentially there are three factions, the Terran Republic, the New Conglomerate, and the Vanu Sovereignty, all vying for control of a resource rich planet whilst trying to work out their personal problems with each other. Many many personal problems. You thought marriage counselling was hopeless? Try getting these guys to get along! Anyway, each faction has it’s own visual style, backstory, motives, and unique weapons and vehicles; and the theatre of war is divided into three continents, each with their own climate, scenery and landscape.

Visually, this game is not on par with the likes of Battlefield 3 or Black Ops 2, however considering the sheer amount of level and players the game is asking your computer to load, I’m fine with the textures not being up to scratch. Believe me when I tell you this, Planetside 2 is one heck of an intensive game. Imagine the last time you had to call a customer services line, think of all the metal power you had to produce to stop yourself going apeshit down the phone so you could get done what you needed to do. Playing this game is like asking your processor to permanently be on the line with Derek from Bradford, India. The first time you run this game you’ll probably have to spend a few minutes fiddling with your graphical settings in an attempt to limit the framerate crash the moment you enter an intense firefight, and yes I’m talking to you cunts with super-beastly computers too. However, once you’ve got the game optimised you’re in for one hell of a wow moment... seriously the action is really smooth and while the framerate still drops in heavy fighting, considering the scale of what this game is trying to do, it's bearable. As long as it stays above 25 count your blessings.

Whilst the graphics may not be top notch (at least on any computer you’ll be able to afford) stylistically this game is pretty sweet. Yes they may not be the highest detailed textures you’ve ever seen but each faction and class has a unique design that has clearly had a lot of care, attention and consistency put into each and every one of them. Likewise the interiors of most vehicles have been created in great detail, even if some of the camera angles cause motion sickness (downward facing gunner on a jet anyone?). Stylistically the game hints at the deep and complex relationship between the factions, and props up each of their backstories, but if you were looking for any more of a story than that, sorry!



One of the biggest gripes I have with this game, and I had to search really hard to find a gripe, is with the mission system. Essentially there isn’t one. Each continent is divided up into hexagons, which form territories, by capturing capture points within each territory (there can be one or three per “hex”) you can turn that territory for your faction and start benefiting from the resources it provides. That’s it, there’s no questing system like in other MMO’s, and each territory is captured in the same way. Some territories only provide resources, which go towards spawning vehicles and buying consumables, whilst bigger bases provide more direct bonuses such as reduced cooldowns or the ability to spawn tanks, but the missions are all the same. At least with the average first person shooter you can switch up the gametype every once in awhile. Of course the game is completely open world, so you can capture territory in any manner you like and team up to hold the enemy advance at bay, but you’re still limited in what you can actually do, and in some regards you’re left to make your own fun. Which, when a sought after base has turned into a meat-grinder for all sides, can get a little dry, especially if your team is on the raw end of the pain.

The scale of this game, if it didn’t make it clear before, is abso-fucking-lutely massive. At any one time there are at least 5 or 6 rolling battles taking place in the world, with territory being won or lost all the time. You can jump in, and within a minute be knee deep in the action  on a part of the map you’ve never seen before. You can fight on foot, in one of several types of tanks, in a fighter jet, a bomber or run troop transport and set up mobile spawn points. You can play as light assault with increased speed and jetpacks, heavy assault with a range of cool guns, you can be an infiltrator with snipers, cloaking and movement sensors (perfect for camping). Or you could run support by either being a medic or an engineer, and best of all, you can be a mutha-fucking mech! Seriously the variety of roles, loadouts, and battlefields make this game truly massive in scale.

The one downside of having such a massive game, and such an open ended objective, is that competing armies will very rarely behave like armies, and a lot more like individual players on the same team, like you would see in Call of Duty. That doesn’t work in this game, especially if you’re the attacking force and you’re trying to oust the enemy from a fortified position, it just turns into a massive meat grinder. I’ve seen people get torn apart by large amounts of tanks or planes, and nobody’s clocked that a few people should maybe spawn away from the front line and bring some heavy weaponry of our own, teamwork faction-wide just isn’t there yet. So I would heavily advise you explore the social side of the game, join a squad when you first log in, or join an outfit (another term for guild) and play the objective, move as a team and let the rest just be cannon fodder. Get used to setting objectives if you’re the squad leader, and get used to following orders and working with a team if you’re not, seriously you’ll get so much more out of the game if you do this.



Another gripe about the game is the way they’ve implemented the microtransaction aspect of the game. Don’t believe people when they say it’s pay to win, because it’s not and they’re probably just raging in the chat because they die a lot. However, because the only thing on offer are cosmetic differences, and faster unlocks of weapons and skills, it means if you want to progress in the game by earning experience points to unlock those things, it’s going to take a really long time. On the plus side the weapons you start out with are more than able to get the job done, and most unlocks are either sidegrades or very minuscule upgrades, so you won’t be at a disadvantage at the start of the game, however that makes the unlocks even more unworthy of pursuing. Essentially you dump in a whole lot of effort for very little reward, however I can imagine those extra weapons may extend the lifetime of the game for you before you leave from boredom, in which case they’re still worth saving up to experience, but don’t come crying to me when you sink six hours worth of experience into a gun only to find it’s crap. It doesn’t ruin the game by any means, but it is something that makes me sigh with exasperation and is a necessary evil of the free to play method.

On the whole, Planetside 2 is an engaging experience, full of familiar features mixed with things you’ve never seen before. It really ups the ante in every aspect and while it’s had to sacrifice some things to do so, the core gameplay is a hell of lot of fun and I’m encouraging you to make this a massive use of your time... if it’ll run on your computer. Seriously, make sure you have the processing clout for it, this is mans game and it needs a mans worth of RAM.

I think I broke every bone in my fingers writing that...
Jamie out xoxoxo

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Hardly a Review: Firefall

2012-12-10 :: hardlyachannel@ymail.com (Hardly A Channel)

So I've been on a bit of an MMO binge this past week, it’s been the penultimate open beta weekend for Firefall, so I finally managed to get a good look at the game. If you follow my twitter then you’ll know I've been trying to get my hands on it for the longest time, and I have to say, what little I've seen of it in the past 48 hours impresses me. Before we got any further, let me put this out there, this review is based on my very first impressions of the game, I don’t claim to know the game in intimate detail, I don’t claim that anything I talk about will be in the final release of the game, and I don’t claim my experiences will be the same as yours. If you disagree with what I have to say, or want to bitch at me, send it all care of Nosh cos I don’t give a good goddamn. Right, now that’s out of the way, to the review!

So the story behind the game, essentially we’re in the distant future where the world has solved it’s clean energy problems with the discovery of a new element called Crystite. That’s right folks, no shale gas here, if you’re gonna do it do it right. However, during the testing of an FTL drive powered by Crystite something goes wrong, and the resulting catastrophe (known as the Firefall) releases a tear in the fabric of spacetime known as the melding. This mutates wildlife and renders a lot of the planet uninhabitable, and also led an alien race known as the Chosen to Earth, where they launch an invasion. Wow... I mean only an idiot thinks shale gas is a good idea, but it never released some crazy alien race on us. Anyway that leads to the start of the game where your gang of mercenaries allies with what's left of Earth's government to force back the invasion and save the day.





In terms of the core experience, I want to compare this to the other MMO I've been playing recently which is Planetside 2. Now this might not seem like a fair comparison at first but just bare with me and I’ll explain. Both games attempt to redefine the idea of a modern MMO, and both go about this in different ways, Planetside goes straight back to square one and delivers a modern FPS, but Firefall doesn’t forget it’s heritage. Whilst it’s at it’s core a third person shooter, there are many features from traditional MMO's that will seem very familiar, such as resource gathering, crafting, questing, and that one guy who aggro's literally every mob and then runs straight into the middle of the quest hub. None of these things are present in Planetside 2 which seems extremely unstructured by comparison.

Graphically, the game isn’t anything special, it’s very reminiscent of TERA however it doesn’t quite reach the flair of Guild Wars 2. The character creation engine is embarrassingly basic for an MMO, and many times, the character models of the NPC’s look nothing like the anime inspired image of them that appears on the HUD, to hilarious effect. However this is all stuff I can look beyond, because the action develops so smoothly. The gameplay is much more reminiscent of action RPG’s and full on third person shooters; and unlike planetside 2, which went the full Call of Duty style FPS route, firefall still uses stats, experience, special abilities, and items for progression which ties it very securely to it’s heritage, the combination of the two styles leaves it very reminiscent of a certain game and it’s sequel I think you’ve all heard of. So yeah, the game kinda plays like a clunky version of Borderlands 2, but don’t take that as a downside, the gunplay is very smooth, and whilst movement and strafing seems to be a little on the slow side, similar to what you’d expect from Guild Wars 2 than Call of Duty, it doesn’t make you instantly vulnerable.

So one of the major pulls of this game, for me at least, was the fact that random events occurred during the course of the game, and you have the choice to run off and partake in a completely option mission. It’s sort of like a “since you’re in the neighbourhood” sort of thing. These missions vary from recovering an object, to defending a point, to killing some enemies, all standard MMO stuff however it makes the game seem much more fluid, and breaks up the typical MMO quest repetition. This is a feature I really haven’t seen in MMO’s so it set’s it out from the pack. (I’m sure there’s probably one game I’m missing) It’s the one feature I wish they had stolen and put in Planetside 2, although to be fair the entire concept of questing is absent from Planetside 2. It just shows that the Firefall developers are trying to move the goalposts of the standard MMO set-up whilst still keeping a recognisable and comfortable slant to an otherwise stale genre.

One important point I’d like to make about this game is that they weren’t joking around when they said it was an MMO, the more you progress through the early stages of the game, the more you come to realise there’s not an awful lot you can do on your own. At one point one of these random events popped up, and I decided to go check it out. I ended up running into a pack of enemies with automatic weapons and as much health as me. Needless to say, I didn’t last very long. Since I was playing on my own there wasn’t much I could do outside of avoiding these encounters, and I really did feel like I was missing a chunk of the game by doing this. So when the game hits release, make sure you dust off your little black book, apologise to your friends for whatever faux pas you’re inevitably responsible for, and get a group together. I can assure you the game will be a much more rewarding experience, and next time I boot the game up, I’ll have the hardly boys on standby.

One of the nice features regarding the randomly occurring events is that every so often, the chosen will decide to attack one of your settlements, I just so happened to run headlong into one of these attacks, and I got mullered like a fruit corner. I like this feature, the idea you have to secure and defend territory makes it feel like there’s a war going on, which was something I never felt from TERA Online, despite the fact that there was meant to be a war going on. The downside of this feature however (and this is probably because the server wasn’t as populated, and I was on my own) was that in running headlong into the Chosen, I was trying to complete a main story mission, which was taking place right in the middle of their encampment. This put a massive roadblock on what I could do, and I didn’t really seem like there was anyone around to take care of the problem. Whilst I think it’s a good feature, I think it’s balance need’s to be tweaked a bit in favour more of the players, at the time I was playing about 50% of the revealed map was red with Chosen, which doesn’t seem balanced to me at all, especially if it has an effect on early game progression. You can’t just go to the Winchester and wait for it all to blow over.

So after 48 hours with this game, I can tell you I was not let down. This is a game I can wholeheartedly recommend when it’s released, and since it’s free to play, my recommendation comes with zero risk. I’m not exactly sure how many hours of gameplay you could squeeze out of the game, and since I haven’t experienced the endgame I’m reluctant to comment, but I still have an aching feeling that this might just be a polite distraction rather than a hardcore “waste your life” MMO. Either way, check it out when it’s released in a few months time, and don’t forget to bring a posse.

I’m gonna go do some thumping.
Jamie out xoxoxo

PS When this game enters full release, we’re planning on recording our playthrough so you can see what the full co-op experience is like, so keep an eye out for it in the near future.

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Ultra HD - The reason your new HD TV is already on the way out!

2012-12-03 :: hardlyachannel@ymail.com (Hardly A Channel)

Recently changed to HD? Just bought a nice big flat screen TV and have had all your friends/family and neighbours over to have a look. Well I’m here to tell you it’s old tech and on its way out. Now before you start crying and rue the day you signed that agreement on easy monthly payments for 5 years with high levels of interest! It is ok, its successor has only really just started to emerge on the commercial market and isn’t actually expected to be commercially viable and prevalent in homes before 2015-2020 apart from in China and Korea who are hoping for 2013-14 time frame.

How can HD be Beaten?
What could possibly be better than the “Michelangelo in motion” HD TV sitting in your lounge you must be asking yourself, well it is Ultra HD! Ultra HD I hear you shout how can that be, well I aim to introduce those new to Ultra HD to the world post HD in all its many pixelled glory. Ultra HD has actually been being developed since the early 2000’s and comes in two internationally recognised sizes 4K and 8K, or 3840 × 2160 (2160p) pixels and 7680 × 4320 (4320p) pixels respectively. This means in the case of 8K Ultra HD there 16 times the number of pixels in your current 1080p HD TV! What is the point in extra pixels, well it means greater depth of colour in each part of the picture bringing it ever closer to trying to show the scene exactly as if you were there yourself.

Is it expensive? Where can I buy it?
Why haven’t I heard about this, will they be available to buy? The answer is yes, commercial Ultra HD TV’s have begun to appear from the major companies such as LG, Sony, Toshiba and Sharp. However as this technology is still really only just beginning to enter the market there are the usual problems for early adopters to consider, few models so small amount of choice and highly expensive. How expensive can it really be you ask? Well models starting to become available in the later half of this year in the US market have been around the $20,000 mark! So it is really only for those with far too much money burning a hole in their pocket at the moment.

Can I see Ultra HD anywhere?
Well if you had been in London, Glasgow or Bradford during this summer’s London 2012 Olympic Game’s you would have had the chance to watch some of the world’s finest sports stars compete in Ultra HD, as the BBC put up 15m wide screens showing it. Korea’s major TV networks have said that they will be beginning to trial filming in Ultra HD, so with the BBC the world’s largest broadcaster having already invested and publicly demonstrated it during the Olympics, the rest of the world especially the US and Asian tech giants can’t be far behind the inevitable transition.


Does that mean my DVD’s/Blu Rays etc have had it?
Unfortunately your DVDs won’t be upscaleable currently to Ultra HD but HD video in 1080p or 720 would be able to be brought up to Ultra HD quality. This is much in the same way Videos and VCR player are still useable currently but the quality isn’t as good as on a DVD or really even comparable to HD on a Blu Ray. However don’t despair the first wave of Ultra HD TV’s look to be equipped with HDMI connections so your DVD player and other devices should still be able to connect and be useable.

I hope you enjoyed this brief look at the future of TV tech in the form of Ultra HD. I will probably revisit this topic and write another article once they actually start to be sensible money and available to the masses.

Thanks for reading.

Nosh, Signing Out.  


Links

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultra-high-definition_television

http://www.t3.com/hot100/4k-ultra-hd-kit

http://www.itproportal.com/2012/11/30/lg-releases-23000-84in-ultra-hd-4k-tv-in-the-uk/ …

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Horny Racing from a Limitless Perspective...

2012-11-29 :: hardlyachannel@ymail.com (Hardly A Channel)

I've been on a kickstarter binge again, and I know what you’re thinking so I’ll cut to the chase, no, the intervention didn't work. So with that out of the way, I’d like to walk you through a few projects that caught my eye, (some have funding, some need funding) and what I liked or didn't like about them.




So firstly we have Distance, an arcade style racer reminiscent of Tron. This game is billed as the spiritual successor to Nitronic Rush, a racing game fuelled on Techno Music and JagerBombs. Distance boasts improved graphics, an emphasis on finding shortcuts and avoiding obstacles and flying-mother-fucking-cars people! I really like the visual style of this game, especially how they've incorporated the HUD as part of the car itself, more games need to do that. Any racing game that puts an emphasis on not just going round in circles and keeping the perfect racing line is cool in my books, so as far as I'm concerned it’s a glow-in-the dark thumbs up and I look forward to it’s eventual release.

Limit Theory is a fantastic looking space exploration RPG in which the universe is quite literally limitless. The most impressive thing about this game is that it’s the brainchild of just one dude on his personal computer, yet has all the hallmarks of a AAA title. It seems to have all the factors that go into a great sandbox game, you’re not constrained by any story, there are multiple ways to progress, and there is no end to the game. Much like minecraft the whole world is procedurally generated so you can explore forever in all directions and never see the exact same patch of space repeated. The only downside to this game, and to me it’s a pretty fucking big downside, is that there’s no multiplayer at all. Which makes such a big world, a very lonely world indeed. Other than that the game is unmissable and worth at least a checkout.

So WASDIO is this weird lovechild of a joystick, a keyboard and a plane’s throttle control. The whole idea is to replace your clumsy and confusing keyboard with a comfortable joystick for your left hand. They go on to talk about fine motor skills and gross motor skills, how moving with your your wrist is somehow better. The only problem with this theory is that in the demonstrations there seemed to be barely any strafing at all, and certainly none of this erratic side to side movements that keep you alive in today’s modern FPSs. To be honest, head to head against another human player, I’d much rather be the one with wasd or a thumbstick purely for the ability to quickly change direction, the WASDIO seems great for smooth big actions, but the moment things heat up, I guarantee you I’d either loose my grip, or send the whole thing flying off the table. They've got a long way to go before reaching their goal, and about a month to do it, so if you like the idea head on over to their page and pledge.


Perspective didn't start out as a Kickstarter game, but I thought I’d include it since I'm looking forward to it nonetheless and I couldn't really flesh it out into a full article without more information. Essentially you play as two characters at the same time, the protagonist, who is limited to two dimensions, and the camera, which moves around in 3 dimensions. Essentially by changing the point of view of the camera, and exploiting the fact that objects look different from different perspectives, you can influence the two dimensional world the protagonist must navigate. There’s really no other way to explain it so you’ll have to watch the video to see what I mean. Either way, crazy puzzle games that exploit crazy physics get me excited, so I will certainly be playing this when it’s released shortly.

Finally we have Das Horn, because let’s face it, there’s more to drinking than just drinking. Especially if you’re drinking from a horn. Now I had a look through my extensive collection of tankards, steins, mason jars, goblets, hip flasks, and dimple mugs, but alas, no horn. So I think there is a gap in the market for a old timey drinking horn. I don’t like that it’s made of plastic though, it just makes it seem cheap and gimmicky. Pewter and glass probably wouldn't work either but since we’re going the plastic route I would have rather gone something tortoise shell coloured over white ABS, or at least that clear plastic you see pint glasses made from in student bars. Either way it looks rather cool, and I can’t see how suspending your drink from your neck could ever go wrong, so count me in!

So there you have it, the good, the bad, and the drunk of Kickstarter. Now to go and fuel my Rightmove addiction.
Jamie out xoxoxo

x

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Shoulders of Giants

2012-11-27 :: hardlyachannel@ymail.com (Hardly A Channel)

Now as you’re probably aware, I'm big on the Ouya, I think it’s got the potential, and the interest, to be a fun addition to everyone’s already overcrowded TV cabinet. However as good as the hardware sounds, and as good as the message of openness sounds, the console and OS are just the blank canvas that developers use to craft the worlds and experiences that imprint themselves in our memories forever. To further the hype, I’d like to look at the ideas and games that already exist, and show what Ouya developers need to have in mind to fully push the boundaries of this little box.


Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures



Since the Ouya communicates with it’s controllers via bluetooth, it’s no great push to think that it would be able to send data over bluetooth too. This not only opens the door for using an android device or any other smartphone as a spare controller when you’re caught short, but you may also be able to utilise the other sensors and the screen that a phone would provide. For this reason I would love to see something in the vein of Four Sword Adventure, a basic action-RPG where the main world and basic elements were visible to all, but personal information, inventories, hidden secrets, and game changing advantages would only be visible to you via your smartphone. This could lead to the sort of deception and an “alliance of convenience” between players that would make co-op RPG's on the Ouya unlike anything that is currently being offered.

PS Vita

I've already talked about the Vita’s lacklustre performance against an embryonic Ouya, so why not beat the crap out of it while it’s down? The Vita has a trackpad on it’s underside, the Ouya has a trackpad on it’s controller. D’you see what I'm getting at here?

Pac-Man Vs.

Another Gamecube game that connected with the Game Boy Advance, however this also has implications for the Wii U also. The premise around this game is asymmetric gameplay, something that is being pushed by both the Wii U and the Xbox 360 with it’s Smartglass feature. Essentially the person with the Game Boy Advance is playing a fairly standard game of Pac-Man, whilst the others are playing as ghosts on the TV screen. Pac-Man can see the entire game board (much like in a classic game of Pac-Man) however the Ghosts can only see their immediate surroundings, meaning they have to work together to find and catch Pac-Man. Asymmetrical gameplay could take advantage of a Tablet to give someone their own perspective and with this method of gameplay experiencing a renaissance in the Wii U, I’d be interested to see what game developers could came up with for the Ouya.

Dreamcast VMU



Back when people still used memory cards, the Dreamcast came up with a novel storage solution known as the VMU. Basically the VMU was like a mini portable games console, which could be taken out on the go, essentially to either play your games on the move, or to play mini-games which would earn you benefits within the main game. Now the VMU was ahead of it’s time and as such probably wasn’t the best implementation of the concept, however the idea of having two versions of a game still intrigues me. The basic idea is that there is a “Portable” and “HD” version of a game, both functionally similar bit optimised for either the smartphone, or the console.
This means that if you want to play a game on your 50” HD TV you can enjoy all the benefits the Ouya brings, and if you have to sit on a train for 3 hours a day, you can still enjoy that game with the same save data, syncing your progress to the big screen when you’re home. Both versions could also have unique features that take advantage of the platform being used, meaning the only way to 100% a game is to switch it up. Seeing as the Ouya runs Android this also simplifies the development process immensely, which suggests such a feature could be implemented without having to buy each version separately, since most of the coding would be identical.

Laptop Touch Pad

If there’s one thing I hate about consoles it’s their on screen keyboard. Heck I’d pretty much blame the standard controller for the inability of web browsers to become a mainstay in the console world (with the possible exception of the Wii; but who gives a shit about the Wii?). The Ouya doesn't have that problem, with a trackpad web browsing would be as easy as using a laptop (still vastly inferior to a mouse) and typing would be as easy as using the Windows on-screen keyboard (still vastly inferior to a keyboard) a step in the right direction that consoles should take note of if they want to become one with the idea of a “Smart TV”.

Texas Hold-em



Because I'm a baaaaad man.


Android Phone

I know I've gone on a lot about interconnectivity between the Ouya and other android devices, but smartphones have features absent from the Ouya, such as touch screens, motion sensors, cameras, GPS, QR Code reading and so on. Peripherals for the Wii were very rarely more than a plastic shell, and that’s because the Wiimote already had everything you’d want from a peripheral packed into it. The smartphone is a lot like the Wiimote of the Ouya, except you’re not hindered by having to use it all the time.

Anyone remember the Pokewalker? A glorified pedometer which could earn you in game benefits in Pokemon games on the DS simply by walking? You wouldn't need a tacky piece of plastic you wouldn't be seen dead with to emulate it’s features, just use a GPS receiver on any smartphone. Heck, a smartphone would be better because you could make in game bonuses location specific earning rewards and achievements in a Ouya game simply by proving you've been somewhere. It’s like Foursquare became crack buddies with Nike+iPod Sports Kit .

Xbox Live Marketplace

This is more of a cautionary tale, a story of what not to do. The Xbox live Marketplace has had plenty of criticism levied on it, both from the perspective of the consumer and the developer. Examples such as the Polytron and Fez debacle serve as a great testament to what an open online marketplace should be, but I think I might save that for another article. Either way, like everyone whose dad is an insurance salesman, I hope Ouya follows the Xboxs example of exactly what not to be.

That’s all I got, hopefully you've got some ideas of innovations and missed opportunities in the gaming world. If so leave us a comment or find us on facebook and twitter. And if you want to accuse me of being an Ouya fanboy, save yourself. I'm just riding the wave of hype before the sudden, yet inevitable, disappointment. Can’t you people leave me with some minor pleasures in life‽

Jamie Out xoxoxo

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Objecty - The 2D game developers kit of the future!

2012-11-26 :: hardlyachannel@ymail.com (Hardly A Channel)

So I was reading through my local paper in an elusive search of a job that I either am qualified to do or is interesting enough for me to not hate every living second of it, when I stumble across an article about a local independent game developer (SKN3) seeking funding through Kickstarter. I thought to myself, finally something of interest both personally and professionally (Try not to laugh, I know I don't get paid for this but here's hoping one day it will make me some beer money).

What was this product you ask, well SKN3 had looked at the developer kits and tools for creating games from scratch and found them to less than helpful! So Johnathon Pittock and his 2 employees are seeking funding for a project called Objecty, it seeks to become the go to tool for 2D game developers. It isnt a game engine but rather a set of tools to let you build 2D games using any Game Engine, SDK or Framework you have access to. Not being technically minded in this area I have borrowed this table from his Kickstarter page.


The main areas of interest that Objecty will demonstrate:
Runs on Windows and Mac. Organise your artwork with texture packing and atlas items. Wow your peers with smooth, skeletal based animation with key framing and tweening. Create an army of 2D sprite objects each with a selection of their own frame based animations. Visually define a centre point and named action points for any imported image. Conveniently draw on collision regions and build your game objects' physics shapes. Terra-form terrifically with built in world editor. Get all retro with a twist, create and dynamically organise your tilemaps. Make level building a cinch with definable auto / magic tile sets. Apply custom data on everything, we mean everything!. Export to your engine with the open-source Lua based exporter API.
So go ahead and support this interesting program and help them reach their target of £20,000, there is only two weeks to go. You can back this project with as little as a £1 here.


If you want to find out more about this project then check out the Kickstarter page or his website at the address below.


www.objecty.co.uk


www.SKN3.com


Nosh, Signing Out.

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Pushing my buttons

2012-11-23 :: hardlyachannel@ymail.com (Hardly A Channel)

So the other day on Reddit I came across this image simply titled: “The problem I have playing multiple FPS the same day.” Grammar aside the poster makes a very important point I’d like to go into in more depth. Something which has plagued the consoles for a long time and something which is long overdue for change. I'm talking specifically about button mapping, or more clearly the lack of choice when it comes to mapping your buttons the way you’d like.

The Redditor who posted this (KyleGlen) clearly has a problem adapting to the different controller layouts of the different games he plays. It’s understandable, we’re creatures of habit. I've already talked about how difficult I found adapting to a new keyboard layout, and I still trip up if I have to switch between layouts several times. It’s especially difficult if all the games are of a similar genre, and so all the actions you can perform are the same. The obvious solution that spring to mind is simply to allow users to set the controls any way they want. I'm about to explain why more freedom is always better.


Now you might be thinking “Hang on a minute, most games already allow you to choose your controller layout,” but citizens I must stress, this is only the illusion of choice. You only have the choice between a set number of layouts determined by the developers. The developers ultimately decide which moves and actions they deem as important and need to be placed in more prominent positions on the controller. This is why games never have the same layout and why most people will have at least one gripe with their chosen layout. At the end of the day, if your choice is limited to five or six options, then it’s highly unlikely you’ll find something you’re 100% comfortable with. One size does not fit all.

I honestly believe it wouldn't be too difficult to roll out full button mapping in all future games, and I can’t think for the life of me why it isn't more widespread already. A lot of titles already offer full button mapping, but these are often smaller releases or fairly old games. I mean honestly if we've progressed at all technologically then surely button remapping should be more widespread, not less. Even on the PC games will offer fully customisable buttons if you’re using a keyboard, and then only often a selection of layouts if you’re using an xinput or directinput controller (If they even accept directinput any more, the only game I've played recently that has is shank). It all seems to suggest that it would actually be difficult to implement, however on the PC there are many programs that exist which can give you full button mapping in any game (eg. x360ce) essentially by telling the game you've pressed RB when you've actually pressed A. If these programs exist then it’s not a stretch to believe they would be easy to implement within games. Heck I imagine if these coders are worth their pay-check, they could easily write a universal code that could be used in every game that company makes, having the effect of actually lowering the workload. Honestly I can’t see one solid argument against implementing full button mapping and doing it yesterday!

Now I'm sure some of you may be wondering why I get worked up over such a petty thing as not being able to set my buttons the way I want. Well for some people yes it is a minor inconvenience and a frustration, but doesn't hinder their ability to enjoy the game. But for some people, not only does it stop them enjoying the game, it stops them being able to play it all together. I direct you to the Youtube channel of askacapper (aka Chuck), a disabled gamer who can’t hold the controller in the conventional manner, and therefore has varying degrees of difficulty when pressing certain buttons in certain games. Adding full button remapping to a game would completely change his experience, at absolutely no cost to the wider community, in fact we would all benefit. Now Chuck’s been campaigning for this for quite a while, and has had a large degree of success, in fact his biggest milestone, and the first time he showed up on my radar, was when he convinced Valve to add button remapping to Portal 2. Which just goes to show, if it’s so easy to quickly patch it in after release, why aren't developers saving people the hassle and putting it in, as standard, from the start. There really is no excuse.



So what can you do to help? Well firstly I highly suggest you check out Chuck’s campaign and sign his petition, because he really has a lot of ideas that would benefit not just disabled gamers but gamers everywhere, and because it’ll take less than five minutes of your time and I can see no reason not to. Heck just go do it now, I’ll wait... … ...back? Ok. Now the second thing you can do is realise that the free market is in fact a democracy, yes it provides the incentive to cut corners and maximise profit, but you can vote with your cash, you can choose to support games that have the features you want to see, and you can buy the version of games that provides the greatest potential for customisation (Basically buy a PC bro). On top of that, game developers are the most community focused industry I know of, and they are listening, Portal 2 proves it. You only have to shout loud enough before people start to listen, and the consumer becomes the driving force of the market. Honestly I hope this is all ancient history before too long, because I'm getting pretty fed up such backwards thinking on the port of developers.

I’m gonna go twiddle my analogue sticks.
Jamie out xoxoxo

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Steam Group

2012-11-21 :: hardlyachannel@ymail.com (Hardly A Channel)

Would just like to let everyone know that we've had a Hardly a Channel steam group for some time, but I'd like to see it do a bit better than it's currently doing. It's open to anyone to join and we're looking to see if we can use it to get a couple of gaming sessions together every so often. Just look for the "Hardly a Channel" group on Steam. We look forward too seeing you there.

Jamie out xoxoxo …

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Flat-Pack the World!

2012-11-19 :: hardlyachannel@ymail.com (Hardly A Channel)

So if you know me then you know I love the idea of 3D printing, I have no idea what I’d go about printing, but I want it... lots of it. There’s a lot of really practical uses for 3D printing, cheap prototyping, easy replacement of parts, quick fixes, and creative hobby projects. However I don’t want to talk about any of the industrial or hobbyist uses, I want to talk about 3D printing as the product, and as a method of distribution.



This weekend I came across the artwork of a guy called Tomoo Yamaji, whose work consists of statuettes of characters from Buddhist mythology, with a modern twist. These characters are 3D printed, and then hand-painted to create one off statuettes that he sells on his website. If you want to see more of his work, you can head over to his Youtube page and show him some love. (don’t forget to subscribe to ours while you’re over there wink wink)

The great thing about Yamaji’s work is that you don’t have to be a sculptor or a metal worker or a painter to be able to create something unique and cool. You just have to have access to 3D modelling software and a 3D printer, and not only are they both becoming more accessible in price, but also easier to learn and use, meaning that it becomes less about your artistic prowess and more about the core idea of the piece. There are plenty of creative people out there, and plenty more creative ideas. In fact I’d say there are more people with ideas than those with the talents or methods to see their ideas come to fruition, and any outlet which allows those ideas to be fully expressed to the rest of the world is already awesome in my books. But it just doesn't stop there.

Now everyone has, at some point in their life attempted some sort of modelling kit... usually with varying degrees of success. You buy the model in pieces, put it together, paint it, and Boom; a scale model of an Airbus A330! But what if you didn’t have to go to the modelling store and talk to some sweaty creep at the till? What if everything you needed was right at home all along? Picture this, you go online, find the model you want, and you buy it, but instead of buying the kit, you buy the blueprints for the model. Print them out, and from that point on it’s like you bought it from a store. The creator doesn’t have to worry about manufacturing and distribution so can set a lower price point whilst making a decent profit for their work, and consumers can benefit from both the lower price point of the product, and the continually falling price point of 3D printers. I’m using a model kit as an example but this could really be applied to anything, models, toys, trinkets and art; and because of it’s accessibility, people can provide their own take on things, collaborate and improve on each others work, making the end product more refined..

Picture this, say an artist uploads the blueprints for something he’s working on, and asks people to take it, personalise it, put their own take on it, and bring them all together for a massive diorama for the final piece. You are now part of that concept, you are now part of an organic, growing and ever changing piece of artwork and you also own a small stake in that work.3D printing not only makes art more easy to create, but it makes it easier to share and display and for everyone to play a part in it’s creation and appreciation. I love nifty things, and I love creative ideas that think outside the box, so every day I see someone do something new with 3D printing, on a format that hasn’t even matured, I get excited.

So what do you think, do you think 3D printing is the future or is it’s potential overstated, and what would you print if you had a 3D printer? You can leave us a comment on the blog, or get in touch via Facebook or Twitter.

Jamie out xoxoxo

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Films from Games - Always Bad?

2012-11-15 :: hardlyachannel@ymail.com (Hardly A Channel)

I have often thought when playing some new game that this would make an awesome film. Well it seems that those in Hollywood agree, with the announcement from Ubisoft that they are releasing a film version of Splinter Cell staring Tom Hardy as the lead character Sam Fisher. Not only Splinter Cell is getting the silver screen treatment as we can also look forward to an Assassins Creed film with Michael Fassbender starring. We can look forward to both hopefully reaching our screens in 2013.

However exciting and promising news this is for fans of the games who have for years called out for film adaptations, we must remember that this isnt the film industries first foray into film adaptations of games. i mean who doesn't wish they hadn't bothered with the Prince of Persia film! It was about as close to a worthy homage to the original game, as a punch in the face is to a handshake! We can also look at adaptations of board games, with the critically slated Battleships (2012).

Either way we can just only hope that the makers of these films have learnt from the lessons of their predecessors, and we shall judge them on their own merits when they are released.  

Nosh, Signing Out. …

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New YouTube Series!

2012-11-06 :: hardlyachannel@ymail.com (Hardly A Channel)

After a longer than planned hiatus from posting YouTube videos we return this week with not One but Two! new series for you. They are Shank and Batman: Arkham Asylum both being played and commentated by the talented Jamie. A new episode of each will be available on YouTube at 9pm and 9.30pm respectively GMT each day this week with hopefully more of the same going forward over the coming weeks.

We also are hoping to have a new Nosh plays Retro Series starting this week if he ever gets of his lazy ass and does some recording, so you should hopefully have that to look forward to as well.

We hope you enjoy them and please like them and comment to tell us what you think (or most likely why Jamie sucks at these games!)

As always we are Hardly A Channel, Wasting our lives so you don't have to!

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Hardly A Podcast - Episode 1

0000-00-00 :: hardlyachannel@ymail.com (Hardly A Channel)

Hardly A Podcast - 1 by HardlyAChannel

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Hardly A Podcast - Episode 1

0000-00-00 :: hardlyachannel@ymail.com (Hardly A Channel)

Hardly A Podcast - 1 by HardlyAChannel

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Hardly A Channel

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