God sims wanted

With the latest news that our beloved Lionhead Studio is about to get disembowelled by the mighty money goliath Microsoft, the idea for a post came to me about a genera of game which seems to have gone missing over the last few years – God Sims.

Before Lionhead Studios was turned into a Fable sweatshop they produced a title which remains one of my all time favourites, Black and White. Black and White was the first title from the studio founded by the worlds best salesman Peter Molyneux, before Lionhead we had Bullfrog which bought us such awesome games as Populous and Dungeon Keeper.

Populous: The beginning along with Black and White sparked an interest within me for being an all powerful God figure with the capability of killing and rewarding my followers as necessary. Something which at the time helped to mold me in to the all powerful being you see today. Praise be to me.
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Black and White was a ground breaking game for the time. The graphics where pushing it to the top end with the ability to zoom in and interact with each follower individually. Not to mention all the spells you had to master, which you could gesture into life with a wave of your magical God hand. Storms, fireballs, lightning and thunderstorms, you had total control over your domain. Under pinning it all was a basic moral system which allowed you to become a merciful bounty giver or an easy going, people sacrificing, cow slapping, dick.

Being good was always the harder approach in the game but some what more rewarding, people generally got a bit carried away with your resources and plundered everything they could get their hands on leaving you with a large population of complainers, you know.. like the world today. Being evil meant you didn’t care, people where just fuel for your spell power wok and after a while you where so proficient with fireballs you could burn down the next settlement, kill everyone then drop one of your follower in, and job done town taken over.

The added bonus  to being a God is the joy of having a pet to do all your bidding, as time went on the little guy became more self sufficient and started eating people with out your encouragement. You could also teach them spells which almost always ended up with everyone on fire. If the next god over ever got a little bit lemon you could always challenge him to a pet battle, it was a bit like a dog fight but virtual.

Black and White was/still-is a good game, the 2nd game which came out 4 years later was a massive disappointment. Its a shame that after this the franchise disappeared and along with it the God game genera. Being an all powerful being has its appeal and although Fable had hints of this power later on in the games it never truly felt the same.

Populous: The beginning entered my life as a demo disc from a playstation magazine. This was back when game demos where purchased with a magazine for £3 and not released as a £20 intro game *cough* Ground Zero *cough*. That demo was played into the floor I would spend hours building up a massive tribe just to take out 1 shaman and 5 warriors. When the game finally showed up  I played the shit out of it, the 15min loading screen and the need to use a whole memory card just to play it didn’t stop me and soon everything was purged for the opportunity just to play some Populous.

As a god blessed Shaman you had powers over the element and could use those powers to achieve a vast array of different spells. From summoning a volcanos to creating more land, you had it all. You could also train your follower as warriors, balloon enthusiast, fire fist bros and preacher. And everything was done just so you could become the one true Deity, by killing everyone who didn’t believe in what you believed in.

God sims seem to have been lost over the years and although some could argue that games like Tropico, Sim City, Rollercoaster Tycoon, etc are similar its not exactly summoning lighting and killing everyone. There is a difference between a game where you manage something and a game where your all powerful. Although some in management like to think they are all powerful, until you key their car in the car park. WHO’S THE BIG MAN NOW SHARON!

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January Gaming Postcard: Phantom Transistor Shovel Chronicles

Introducing a semi-regular roundup of what I’ve been playing for the past month, and any random impressions or thoughts that I can’t be bothered to write a full article for!

Shovel Knight – Yatch Club Games – WiiU

More than just a lazy Mega Man knock-off, a very worthy marriage of old school design sensibilities and fairer modern practices. Also, as finale where you work with the damsel you’re rescuing to bring down the final boss together? Fantastic stuff.

Valkyria Chronicles 3 – Sega – PSP

About 40% of the way through this one. Really should have played it sooner! I thought the reduction of scale and squad size for the move to portable would restrict the gameplay, when actually it makes it more challenging and strategic. No longer can I rely on my lazy ‘snake’ tactic of two side by side tanks with the entire squad following behind.

As a result, the first encounter with the giant dreadnought tank is one of the most intense and challenging I’ve encountered in the series so far, betting a lot on individual units to seize and hold dangerous positions.

Plus the option to hook up with the tsundere rocket launcher girl instead of the generic perky JRPG heroine? Most unexpected and welcome!

Transistor – Supergiant Games – PC

Finally got round to this one, although for some reason it wouldn’t run on my ok PC, so I had to play it windowed on my less-than-ok PC, which took away some of the magic. The usual potent Supergiant atmosphere, with a battle system that is mostly versatile and empowering, but occasionally repetitive.

Metal Gear Solid V – Kojima Productions – PS4

Decided to skip Peace Walker for the time being as I just didn’t see myself having the time or patience for both this year. Liking what little I’ve played so far. The open world isn’t too open, the mechanics are tight and the design encouraging. And the Kojima crazy is definitely still strong.

Plus, any game which features, and brings more notice to, one of my all time favourite guilty pleasures of emotional 80s music gets bonus points from me:

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Metal Gear Abridged: From Memory – part 2

While I played through the original MGS so many times in my youth, I’ve only played these ones twice and once respectively… 8 years ago. Let’s memory!

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

Oh boy, a whole new entire game featuring our hero the unkillable Solid Snake. He and Otakon are now an independent team called Philanthropy, working to prevent proliferation of Metal Gears by bungee jumping onto US Military tanker ships in search of evidence. Turns our a bunch of Russians led by General Gurlukovich and his daughter Olga had the same idea, and invade the ship in force. Snake gets his fight and infiltration on to make it to the main hanger, where he gets spooked by an action figure of Raven, before sneaking around the back of an entire platoon of highly trained Navy Seals watching a briefing. Mission complete.

Nope. Ocelot shows up and double crosses Gurlukovich and steals the new Metal Gear Ray. And he’s possessed by Liquid via his newly borrowed arm. And he sinks the tanker. And Snake dies.

The End.

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A few years later Snake is sent in via scuba suit to rescue the President from the oceanic research platform Big Shell. For some reason Snake sounds like a whiny loser instead of David Hayter’s unsackable performance. This Snake is actually Raiden, a new operative working for General Campbell and supported by his pining ex-girlfriend, which seems like a sound military decision. They angst at each other throughout the whole game.

Raiden gets his sneak on. On the way he has to fight various members of Dead Cell, the new terrorist threat. One of them is a lady who’s power is having a huge gun or something. Thankfully, he is able to rendezvous with a soldier who has managed to evade them, who’s name is Snake Pliskin. It’s totally not Snake. Another member of Dead Cell is an actual fat man called Fat Man, who wears rollerblades and plants bombs all over the place which have to be sprayed with coolant by pressing X really firmly, because everybody knew the PS2 had pressure sensitive buttons right?

Their leader is Solidus Snake, another clone, and Ocelot is with him. Turn’s out there’s a Metal Gear hidden on the Big Shell. Otakon has been brought in by the military to help, and his younger step-sister Emma is already here as the overseer for this Metal Gear. She agrees to help, but first you have to swim her through a bunch of flooded corridors because she is afraid of water. And she hates her brother. More on how those two things are somehow connected later!

While aiding you she is killed by Dead Cell member Vamp. Can you guess what he is, and also just how many times you’re going to have to fight him without ever winning? Oh yeah, Emma forgives Otakon as she dies in his arms. I guess when they were teens her dad committed suicide in their pool, almost killing Emma in the process, while Otakon was upstairs screwing his stepmother. Yep.

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Raiden gets betrayed by Snake Pliskin and  kidnapped and tortured, before escaping in the buff. Turns out it was a scheme by Snake, who reveals himself to great surprise at this point, to get into the depths of Big Shell, which is in fact one huge Metal Gear called Arsenal Gear. Raiden is somehow ok with a plan that involved his torture. Campbell isn’t happy and starts freaking out and smashing his face up against the fourth wall. He’s an AI, fuelled by Arsenal Gear’s supercomputer as some kind of test to turn Raiden into a perfect soldier.

So Team Snake fight a bunch of dudes and like 90 Metal Gear Rays before Arsenal Gear crashes into Manhattan. Turns out Solidus was previously secretly the President of the United States, but the world is controlled by his former handlers, a secret organisation called the Patriots, who used to be real people but who now live on as an artificial consciousness. Raiden kills Solidus with a badass sword and everyone sets off to destroy the Patriots, presumably in the next sequel.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

Somehow Snake is in the 1960s, liberating nuclear scientist Sokolov from the Soviet Union. His boss is Major Zero, a harmless, likeable old Brit full of movie trivial. Equally harmless are medical expert Paramedic and weapons expert Sigint. The former will come in handy because in this game Snake is inordinately hungry and must constantly feast on every frog, antelope or alligator he sees, just like in real life.

Snake’s boss, the Boss, is here too, and in true Metal Gear mentoring tradition she quickly betrays Snake and defects to the Soviets, handing over some nukes to General Volgin in the progress, who in turn blows up the base because he’s bored, causing an international diplomatic incident. Snake is kicked off a bridge into a canyon, before being sent back into battle literally a few days later to kill his mother figure.

Also the now rogue Volgin has a giant metal tank, a metal tank made of gears, called, you guessed it… The Shagohod!

Snake gets his sneak on through lots of convenient long grass and meets up with his contact Eva, who has infiltrated Volgin’s group, before being interrupted by young Ocelot, who think’s he’s super cool with his own super secret team of soldiers, whcich he summons to his side with a completely badass call to arms.

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Obviously Snake beats his ass, suggesting he could be a lot cooler if he had a revolver. Continuity!

Lets try and remember the various boss mooks from this game… there’s The Fear, with the power of jumping around shouting his own name; The Pain, with the power of BEES; The End with the power of 6 hour long sniper battles and dying of old age when you shut off the console; some ghost guy with the power of guilt tripping you via hallucination; and astronaut guy with vacuum-of-space appropriate flamethrower weapon.

Later on, after a night of passionate shirtless hugging, Eva reveals that Volgin is actually after something called the Philosopher’s Legacy, a big stash of cash put aside by the world superpowers prior to the Second World War. Then she ditches you because she works for the Chinese, but not before Snake takes a bullet for her while being tortured. Goodbye eye. Hello continuity!

After brawling with Volgin and destroying his drill-tank-gear-thing, Snake is forced into a fight with the Boss, in spite of their pseudo mother and son bond, in order to make her a scapegoat and settle the international incident. Meanwhile, Snake becomes a hero, and is granted the title of Big Boss, which they presumably think is good enough recompense for all the emotional trauma, thus ensuring he never turns against the US Government.

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Metal Gear Abridged: From Memory – part 1

I haven’t played any Metal Gear games since 2008, and haven’t fully played all of the series. Lets do this.

Metal Gear

Elite infiltration agent Solid Snake infiltrates terrorist base Outer Heaven to destroy a giant mech called Metal Gear. He is underpowered and thus has to sneak past guards. General Campbell and his old mentor Big Boss provide radio support but surprise, Big Boss is the bad guy all along and Snake has to kill his own mentor, who is now dead and presumably never seen again. Frank Yaeger aka Grey Fox is maybe in this one?

Metal Gear 2

If not, he’s definitely in this one. Another Metal Gear to destroy, this time in some place called Zanzibar Land. Grey Fox is Snake’s old war buddy and you know where this is going. Another betrayal, and a badass showdown in an active minefield, ending with Snake killing Grey fox, who is now dead and presumably never seen again.

Metal Gear Solid

Snake is dragged out of retirement and sent to Shadow Moses Island in Alaska to stop his former unit Foxhound from detonating a nuke. Their only demand is Big Boss’ corpse, because he’s dead. Snake would rather be retired and training huskies, so smuggles cigarettes up his ass to make the mission more bearable. His support staff are Campbell, flirty literary buff Mei Ling, weapons nerd Naomi Hunter and McDonnell Miller, another former mentor… and yes he does.

Snake seeks out the DARPA chief Donald Anderson, who has a convenient heart attack after revealing that Metal Gear is back, and can shoot stealth nukes. A female soldier shows up, also working undercover, but is a useless rookie with a great ass. This is important later! She leaves and Snake finds Anderson’s boss tied up in C4 being tortured by Revolver Ocelot, a twirly wild west stereotype who gets his arm cut off by a sudden invisible science ninja. The hostage, and anyone who could further the plot dies from more heart attacks.

Snake fights a huge shaman called Vulcan Raven in a tank before finding the science ninja hassling a big nerd, Hal ‘Otakon’ Emmerich who pees himself. The ninja is Grey Fox, and he’s now a masochist for some reason. Snake beats him and finds out Otakon just wanted to make robots because of anime.

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Snake tracks down the female soldier, Meryl via her ass and a stupid fourth wall puzzle involving the game box because she’s Campbell’s daughter and can help, which she does by getting mind controlled by a floaty psychic called Psycho Mantis who makes you unplug your controllers and knows you like Pro Evo. Then she gets shot by Sniper Wolf who is a sniper who likes wolfs. Otakon doesn’t want you to kill her because he has a crush. You kill her later.

But not before Snake gets tortured by Ocelot. Depending on how well you button mash you either save Meryl or Otakon, even though both show up in the sequels.

Oh yeah, Miller is dead and is actually the leader of the terrorists in disguise. It’s Liquid Snake, your brrrrrother! Turns out you and him are clones of Big Boss bred to be the ultimate warriors. Snake is tricked into reactivating Metal Gear with his keycards, so you have to fight it. Grey Fox helps as he’s remembered you, but gets stomped into goo. Naomi is his adoptive daughter or something and was using her role on this mission to kill you with a magic heart attack nano machine serum or whatever, the same one that’s killing the people who know too much, but she forgives you and lets you live the rest of your life with a degenerative nano disease. Thanks Naomi.

Oh and Liquid is dead and presumably never seen again.

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EGX 2015 Viewpoint from a Casual Gamer

This year was the first time our little group attended EGX, driving up to Birmingham in our mini convoy to check out the final day.

I will say this – we definitely underestimated the whole experience. I for one plan to go again next year, and make the most of the whole event. The chance to speak to developers, youtubers, bloggers and general fans is an amazing opportunity (cliché as it sounds).There were people there handing out business cards, and I ended up asking one of those organised Youtubers to scribble down our website on the back of a piece of card. Terrible! But despite that, I did write down some thoughts on the event so here they are!

The real jewel in the crown was not the big players (although I will get to them), but the fantastic Indie and smaller dev turnout. Sega provided a sponsored a rather…interesting area (I felt so sorry for those guys who essentially brought their own kit and wrote on their space on the wall), but the rest of the Rezzed area looked amazing and really professional. The way the games were all laid out it was really easy to just sit down and try out a game.

I found Four Sided Fantasy, and the game met my expectations. Cute simple aesthetics, and really easy to pick up gameplay. I got stuck a couple of times, and I noticed myself run through walls and floors which I wasn’t *entirely* sure I was meant to do, but the game was only an Alpha demo, so I was more than forgiving. The screen wrap and freeze mechanic was easy to toggle, and the game was really light and fun. Definitely want to pick that up. Sadly I didn’t get to speak to the developers to find out any more information, but they did leave out little cards and a place to jot down your email to find out more information.

Four Sided Fantasy

A developer I did get a chance to speak to was the lovely (and very pregnant) Anna from Makin Games (@makingames). They were in the far corner showing their game Raging Justice, but it was not stopping them getting a lot of traffic and attention for their game. Raging Justice was absolutely brilliant. I played both levels that they were demo-ing, and from what I could see it looked pretty much ready for release. It was a homage to the classic 2D side scroller games I grew up with (definite Streets of Rage flashbacks which I *constantly* mentioned whilst talking to Anna. She told me that everyone had one game that they loved which they saw in Raging Justice, so clearly she had been dealing with people like me all day the poor woman!). They plan to release the game on Steam and Xbox 1 in early 2016, and then move on to release versions for tablets and other consoles later on in the year. I really enjoyed playing this game, so will definitely be picking up a copy when I see it on Steam. I saw an interview with these guys from EGX where they were asked about rumours of going for Game of the Year, and I think they stand an excellent chance if they were.

Another Indie game I managed to play through was a game called Mute. This game was ok – solid graphics, good response to controls. The only thing was the level they were demo-ing was a complete bastard to play: your character had to successfully run through a canyon against a number of stampeding wildebeest, and if one of them so much as *brushed* against you then you were dead and had to start again. One of the developers came up to us whilst I was playing and spoke to my fiancé, and one of the features that he told us was that the animals are programmed to react to you, to the extent that predators can smell you and track you across the map. If I’m honest I didn’t get to experience much of that (too many wildebeest in my face). Interesting idea, but the demo didn’t excite me too much.

Mute

I have spoken great lengths about the Indie offering, but what about some of the main contenders?

One of my favourite experiences from the whole day was over at the Rock Band 4 area. They had a whole band kit on a rig/stage setup, and were inviting people to come up and entertain the crowd. Now I cannot miss an opportunity to show off, and my friend commented how he turned his head for 1 minute and turned back to find me on stage, microphone in hand. I gave a stunning rendition of Boston (which got some good cheers), a little sad that the microphone was busted by the time I got there so the percussion parts were not picking up properly, but you can’t have everything! There is a video of my most epic performance, so if anyone is interested put a shout out in the comments below and perhaps we can get a clip of it up for your viewing pleasure 😛

Rock Band dominated the music game offerings at EGX. They had the presentation down perfectly – the whole reason people play that game is to pretend they are rock stars and everyone was geared up to treat it as a mini concert/battle of bands. The presenter there did a fantastic job at working the crowd (he gets bonus points for complimenting my hair and singing along to Boston, but hey a little bias doesn’t hurt). Guitar Hero on the other hand completely missed the mark in my opinion. They hid their game in a (impressive looking) giant amp, which meant that everyone had to queue whether they wanted to look at the game or have a go. They completely shut out anyone walking by, and I think this was where they went wrong. People want to join a crowd that’s clapping and cheering to see what’s happening, not a queue when there’s lots of other things going on.

Guitar Hero Amp

Nintendo had a brilliant look to their space. With archways across their different areas, and a casual area with beanbags for people to connect and play their DSes, it was a bright and cheerful family look – something Nintendo do very well. What I didn’t think was so great was their choice of presenters. It was like they had watched the presenters on E4 and gone “that is how we should do it!”, and their false banter was grating and annoying after a while. They had stands for their big hitters – Zelda, Pokemon and Monster Hunter were some of the key titles that were available to play. They also had Disney’s Infinity and the new Animal Crossing game that is coming out. Pretty safe stuff guaranteed to pull in people.

The PlayStation area was also ok, with a lot of focus on their VR tech (sadly we didn’t get there in time to book a slot to try it out), some FIFA, Destiny new expansion and of course the new Metal Gear. There was a couple of screens for the new Ratchet & Clank (looks pretty standard stuff) and a massive TIE Fighter signalled the area for the new Star Wars Battlefront which was cool. Overall I tended to just skim past the Playstation area, as the people they were trying to attract were not really my demographic. The same was said for Xbox, and I barely looked in on their area as they showed nothing to really grab my attention. It was all shout outs and flash, although I did see a bit of the new Lara Croft trailer as I went past which looked pretty similar to the last LC game, but something that could be interesting.

Star Wars

EGX also had a small board game section in one of their zones. It was a really relaxed area where they had games constantly being set up and played. Friendly volunteers coaxed people to come join and explained the rules before letting people just get on with the game which I really liked. The games being demo-ed were all fairly old games (Munchkin, Sheriff of Nottingham – games that have been released a while). My fiance and I managed to get in and play a game of “Sheriff of Nottingham” with a father and son who were really nice and didn’t mind us butting in (I came last! I’m too honest clearly). I’d never played it before and I really enjoyed it. I was up for buying a copy then and there but no stands were selling any board games. Opportunity missed EGX, I bet they could have sold a tonne of games! That was a real shame really.

Sheriff of Nottingham
Another disappointment was the merchandise that was on sale. Naturally there were plenty of geek t-shirts, but all guy-style round-necks as far as I could tell. I saw one tank top amongst all the stalls, in a size that was clearly small. This brings me nicely to my personal pet peeve – as a big girl why should I only be offered male tops? I want geeky girly tank tops too! I rarely find a band t-shirt or geek top that is my size and either lady-t or strappy in style. Apparently someone somewhere has decided that large women do not exist, or if they do they just wear male clothes – meaning if I want breathing room round my neck and any kind of shape I have to buy a top and cut it up myself. Unimpressed does not even cover it sometimes, and other times it just leaves me feeling depressed. Some places were offering prints and I spotted one manga/anime stand, however if you wanted anything other than a t-shirt or a hat your choices were *very* limited. I know I was going on the last day, and stocks would be running low, but generally I was left feeling unimpressed and uninspired.

In terms of the venue, the whole space was well laid out and organised. It wasn’t a chore or particularly difficult to move through the different areas, and to navigate around the different stages. One thing I did before going was to download the EGX app with their maps, I found these incredibly  useful to get around. Car parking was easy, and going through to get my wrist band was pretty quick and painless. There were some good cosplays walking around but the focus was (rightly) on some excellent games being shown.

Overall I found EGX to be a fantastic experience. I met some really enthusiastic and helpful people, and the time flew by whilst I was there. I will definitely come back next year, and I intend to make the most of all 4 days.

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