Christopher Brookmyre’s Bedlam – Let’s Play

BD PREVIEW FT

Yesterday, we previewed Christopher Brookmyre’s Bedlam, the early access Steam game by author Christopher Brookmyre and RedBedlam. Today we bring you something a little extra.

Sean has recorded a whole first level play through of Bedlam on his Mac… That’s right, Mac. So regardless of your computing choice, you can play!  There are two levels in the early access and there will be more coming so keep checking back on it. It’s currently available on Steam for £12.99.

For those who don’t know what it is, Bedlam is a independently produced UK game involving several generations of first person shooter inspirations. It’s funny, great to play and… Well we won’t spoil the entire video for you. Suffice to say that the video does contain some colourful language from the story. So people, you have been warned, this video is not safe for work.

If you enjoy this, Sean will also record the second level too, which you’ll see a glimpse of at the end of the video.

So settle back and relax. It’s time to enjoy Bedlam.

P.S. Sean takes no responsibility in how bad he is at playing video games. Feel free to comment and tell him so.

[divider]

[divider]

[author]

 

World of Warships – Preview

wow ft World of Warships is the latest offering from Wargaming, the mad geniuses behind the free to play successes World of Tanks and World of Warplanes. This time they’ve taken to the water and while we were at Gamescom, we managed to get hands on with the game and was guided through it by producer Mike Fedorov. The BigWorld engine has created some wonderful graphics. Aside from the ship detail, the world around it is just as good looking. The water, whilst not yet complete, looks amazingly fluid and responsive to everything around it. Apparently it’s going to get better and more transparent come beta release so that’s even better. The sky is just as good. Apparently members of the public were asked to tell the difference between real world skies and skies in game. Some people pointed out what they thought was the real sky. They were actually all in game, so if it can fool people then you know it looks good. The atmosphere that the engine provides is vital to World of Warships given the lack of land based battle. If you don’t feel immersed in the areas then you won’t get as in to the game and if you’ve played World of Tanks, you know that authenticity is one of the things they pride themselves on. That is no different with the warships either. This time you’ll have two nations to start, Japan and the USA, expanding to include the British, Soviet and French if not more in future. The game will run ships from the turn of the 20th century as far forward as they can. Meaning that you’ll have effectively 120 years worth of naval military history to play with. Although it’s not going to be a complete recollection of this, you won’t have whole lines of ships, but you’ll have enough ships of historical relevance to be completely lost in. wow 2 The ships fall in to four basic classes. The biggest ones being the airplane carrier and Battleship, both of which suffer from low manoeuvrability but have ridiculously big guns for flak and shelling everything in your path. The middle class is the cruiser. They are also armed with flak cannons but has a weaker defence. It also have more precise gunnery so you can sharpshoot any weak points of your enemy, if you so happen to know them. The final class, the one we played with, was the Destroyer. A small, snappy vessel with small guns but armed enough to do damage and with quick manoeuvrability. What’s so good about the detail in these? Everything. They look fantastic and each ship has around 500,000 polygons. Even a gun turret contains more polygons than a single tank did in World of Tanks. They also evolve, being historic and subject to changing design and accompaniment over the years. So if a ship had some new guns installed between World War One and World War Two then that will be reflected in the ship in game as well. The team of historical advisors, as with anyone with a passing interest in military history, are meticulous. The blueprints for the ships have been used along with archive material and pictures from all throughout history to get everything just right. There are even “paper ships”. These are ships that were never actually constructed but their blueprints were drawn up. Consider it history plus. Just like World of Tanks, World of Warships is very easy to control. A simple WASD format will speed the ship up or down whilst turning port or starboard. The mouse controls the direction of your fire as well as shooting. You will also have additional buttons to change your gun rounds from normal to armour piercing and when it comes to torpedoes, you have a secondary sight guide. The guiding of you shot is trickier than a lot of games like this. You will have to accommodate that not only are you moving at a rate of knots but so is your enemy. You effectively have to judge how far ahead your shot needs to be. This gets even trickier when you’re firing torpedoes as ships can alter course and you’ll miss. This is made even MORE tricker by the fact that you are moving and you need to pay attention to where you’re going at the same time, or else collide with some land or another ship. Thankfully there is a navigational map where you can plot your courses if you want to take that particular element out of the equation. As long as you don’t blow your allies up. Friendly fire is always on and might land you in a bit of trouble if you’re not careful. wow1 At the moment the game is in Alpha and the Beta is expected before the end of the year. As opposed to World of Tanks, Warships adds a bit more of a tactical dimension given the nature of the warfare arena you’re playing in. Everything from missing a jut of rock to working out where that sonar beep is coming from telling you of your impending doom. Finally you have to be very mindful of your allies and enemies given how the area is not as closed compared to World of Tanks. It will be a lot easier to make a mistake and blow up one of your friendly escorts. But that challenge is one I suspect regular players will rise to and champion, along with drawing other new players to it as well. Just before we played the game, I remarked that the last naval warfare game I had played was the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis) game 688 Attack Sub. A game that whilst frustrating was also very tactically nuanced and reminded me a lot of Crimson Tide and The Hunt for Red October. Since then, I haven’t really found a naval game that really gripped me or that I found myself playing. Even the Battlefield naval missions didn’t really hit that level of challenge enough for me to be truly gripped. I get the feeling that World of Warships may well solve that missing whole in my gaming experience. [divider]   [divider] [author]

Misogyny is a Bigger Problem Than We Think

Here is a piece I wrote the other day, hoping to get it to The Guardian, The Independent or some other paper. Didn’t happen so, enjoy and disagree/agree as much as you like.

15107440121_9587b59421_o

This has not been a good few weeks when it comes to the perpetration of sexism on the internet. The big news of the leak of personal pictures stolen from celebrities is now garnering all the headlines but the problems have been simmering since a potential conflict of interest in the video games industry was exposed in a heinous way.

For those who have done well to stay away from the Gamergate story here is the short version:

Angry jilted lover exposes affair with his former partner (a game developer) and alleged people involved in the games industry to get alleged favorable promotion, kick starting a torrent of misogynistic response masking itself as “social justice.”


 

I say misogynistic but even that doesn’t do it justice as, in the case of feminist vlogger Anita Sarkeesian, the response as been abhorrent and terrifying. As a games journalist myself of four years, I know and follow a lot of people in the industry and the torrent of abuse that both sexes has received about their profession and ill-evidenced supposed corruption has been appalling. But the level of threats that females have been exposed to during this has far outweighed the vitriolic “freedom of speech” that the males in the industry have received.

To paraphrase Hank Moody from Californication, why is the internet so intent on destroying its female population?

I have read many articles from commentators in the industry. One that stood out for me by Devin Faraci, trying to understand the people behind this event, was claiming that these people are kids. Not in the age sense of the word but in the way that they have no idea how the real world works because they’ve been shut out of it. They find themselves promised so much by the adverts and media around them growing up that they become disaffected and subdued in later life when it turns out not to be true, such as the pursuit of women and popularity.

If this were just a small minority of people doing this then yes, I’d possibly agree that Western society as a whole does have some questions to answer in to how to combat social inclusivity in the mediums consumed by young people. But it isn’t and maybe we should begin to realise that, while the online misogyny may be the most vocal in the minority, it is far removed from that now and, despite having never fully gone away, is almost an epidemic. In fact, it’s practically cultist.

If a mass group of people believed something so outrageous that normal society deemed it too out of the norm then these groups would become cults. Except now these people don’t have to meet in secret sects or hold mass meetings. The forums have become their meeting grounds, the cloak of detached anonymity their shield. As the celebrity photo leaks have proved, this is not just a small business venture in adult entertainment anymore (in fact the leaker bemoaned the lack of money they’ve made from the leak). This is a shark feeding the many schools of piranhas that beg for the sexual objectification they crave like a dealer teasing his junkies. This isn’t a subculture anymore.

Maybe I’m being a bit dramatic in my interpretation of the scale of this problem and it’s hard to separate the lines between the freedom of expression/speech and what is socially unacceptable or even criminal. But there has been a culture of burying ones head in the sand over the scale of this issue, like if we ignored this small amount of vocal people they would go away. I don’t think it is going away and in fact I think it’s getting stronger. What we need to do, as human beings and as women and men, is be the social justice warriors everyone else is pretending to be and begin to notice where this happens in everyday life and shoot these attitudes down before they start.

People will blame the media, the adult industry, the video games industry and the people who took these personal photos, because it points the finger away from their own inaction. We should celebrate our freedom, champion the sexual freedom of others and make sure that personal things remain private, be they women or men. We should express ourselves how we want. As Keith Stuart from The Guardian said in his piece on Gamergate “Objectification is never the answer.” But when those expressions become toxic to the freedom of others and potentially criminal, then we may need to acknowledge that a bigger stance on this “epidemic of misogyny” might be required.

Christopher Brookmyre’s Bedlam – Preview

bedlam ft

I had heard about Christopher Brookmyre’s Bedlam before I went to Gamescom. I am a writer, I write and as such I end up following the printed prose form and its news. So to hear that a book and a game had been created by the Scottish author, I was naturally intrigued. I’d also been hankering for something for a while. I wanted a game that was like Quake. I’ve been missing the fast moving, gameplay driven first person shooters that used to occupy so much of my youth in the mid to late 90s. I know there’s Quake Live but I’m sure you can guess what I mean.

Meeting Christopher at Gamescom along with Nick Witcher from RedBedlam who has made the game put a whole new perspective in to which for me to wax lyrical over. Normally books about video games come in the form of tie-ins or licensed works, with the exception of Ready Player One. Bedlam however is very different. What’s clear about the game is how much the two entities, prose and code, are in tandem. Whilst not necessitating having to read the book before you play or visa versa. But you can of course do both.

BEDLAM 1

The story behind it is that Nick, a fan of Brookmyre’s work, noticed something in his novel Pandemonium that hinted at Christopher’s history as an appreciator of video games that was the way his characters were organised in to clans, much like first person shooter gaming clans. Nick himself was quite the Counterstrike player so it was quite easy for him to spot. This led to Nick emailing Christopher to ask if he wanted to make a video game. Lots of communications later (and apparently a few ‘creative’ binges between Glasgow and Brighton) an idea was forged.

Christopher’s gaming love came from playing lots of games but this focus was on his first person appreciation of Quake, Quake 2, Unreal and the like. Those fast moving, gameplay driven first person shooters that used to occupy so much of his time in the mid to late 90s… You sense a theme here. The staff at RedBedlam grew up playing games like Doom and Wolfenstein. So you can see where this is heading.

So enough about the history? What about the game? Well it is currently on Steam Early Access with the first two levels available. The first of which you can see on our special preview video coming shortly. It plays like a Quake or an Unreal game. But that is only the first part of this game. The game itself, along with the book has become a homage to the first person shooter genre and especially its history. Whilst you’ll see the first level has the element of that futuristic space shooter it is a lot deeper than that. Plus it is very important to point that this isn’t a port or a clone so to completely create not only a game that can replicate the mid 90s FPS genre but others as well in the same engine and controls, it is incredibly impressive. You can tell the research that went in to playing the games they are inspired by to recapture that feeling was well spent.

There will be many ages of games seen from the first person perspective in Bedlam. Inspired by the likes of Elder Scrolls, Call of Duty and even Pac-Man, the game successfully makes you feel like you are in the games of a certain era. The has to go down to the incredible art direction of the game. The level design and the style of the detail both in the textures and in the weaponry (which is interchangeable between each era) are excellent and really evoke that nostalgia whilst making you enjoy what you are currently playing just as much as any of the games it takes inspiration from.

bedlam 2

 

Speaking of inspiration, we have to discuss the writing. The game doesn’t take itself too seriously and the dialogue, voiced by BBC comedy Burnistoun’s Kirsty Strain and Robert Florence (along with some extra from Christopher Brookmyre) takes its inspiration from Science Fiction comedy legends such a Doug Naylor and Rob Grant’s Red Dwarf and Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide stories. There is a very traditional and stoic British humour about it which not only adds to the aura of the game and the tropes of the time they were made, but also adds a great and entertaining story element.

To dismiss Bedlam as a clone of the 90s FPS genre would be a terrible disservice. There is a lot of love that has been put in to creating this game from people that love gaming of all ages and times. It isn’t just a jog down memory lane but a new and welcome addition to the history of the genre that has transported itself across mediums. I can’t wait until it’s finished.

[divider]

Bedlam Screen 1Bedlam Screen 2Bedlam Screen 3Bedlam Screen 4Bedlam Screen 5Bedlam Screen 6Bedlam Screen 7Bedlam Screen 8Bedlam Screen 9Bedlam Screen 10Bedlam Screen 11Bedlam Screen 12Bedlam Screen 13Bedlam Screen 14

[divider]

[author]

Lego Batman 3 Beyond Gotham – Interview

lb3 ft

While we were at Gamescom, we got to have a look at Lego Batman 3 Beyond Gotham. The next instalment in the DC universe from TT Games and Warner Bros does exactly what the name suggests, goes beyond Gotham City. You will be travelling in to space to save the Earth from Brainiac and visiting far flung planets along the way to add new and interesting environments to the normally dark gothic concrete palette of Gotham. I managed to have a chat with Philip Ring, an executive producer with TT Games and talk about the upcoming chapter in the DC Lego universe.


 

The universe is greatly expanding with the introduction of space flight missions, reminiscent of the Star Wars franchise, and a whole host of new characters, which is what Philip says they were trying to achieve.

“We really wanted to big on the DC content this time around, add a whole host of new characters, new locations, new gameplay styles even with the space combat and VR missions. Just really cram this game with as much content as we can.”


LB3 3

The content is indeed huge with over 115 characters including Beast Boy, Plastic Man, Catwoman, Bat Cow accompanying the traditional set of our caped crusaders and, my personal favourite, a complete remaining of the 1960s television Batman with levels, characters and Adam West voicing the titular character! TO THE BATCAVE! I asked how good it’s been to have been given the freedom of so many great franchises.

“It’s been absolutely fantastic. We’ve been so privileged to work with the franchises that we have and to go back and really dig in to the DC world. We started off with the Batman story arc and DC have been fantastic that we’ve got that freedom to do things like the 1960s level and the bonus content that comes with that like the speech, Adam West giving a voice over for it, and the modern universe too.”


 

Of course this isn’t just the television universe or the movie universe in the game, this time it’s going deep in to the lore of the DC universe.

“We have massive DC fans in the office so as soon as the design team start looking at what to include, everyone comes out with “I love this character, I want to include this” and so we’ve got everyone chipping in with the kind of content we’d like to include. And we listen to what the fans like to see. So when Blue Beetle and Beast Boy gets the kind of reaction from what the people want to see, we want to include that in this big DC experience.”


lb3 1

The release date is close but there’s no sign of the development of the game stopping until the very last minute. Not because it’s not ready, but because TT keep finding things they want to put in the game.

“We’re really still putting stuff in and we really want to make it the best experience it can possibly be. So the whole team is still working and people are still coming up with ideas which you think ‘That’s too cool not to include’ so we’re constantly revisiting and adapting to make it really special.”

 

So does that mean there will be DLC if they run out of time to get it all in to the main game?

“Who knows? We’re really focusing on making sure the game is the best it possible can be. If there was something we wish we could of included or that didn’t really fit in to the main game then maybe we will do it further down the line.”


 

Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham will be released on PS3, PS4, PSVita, Xbox 360, Xbox One, WiiU, 3DS, Mobile and PC on 14th November in the UK and three days earlier in the US.

[author]

Tanki Online HD – Preview

tanki hd ft

Russia had quite a big presence at this year’s Gamescom and you might be forgiven for not even hearing of Tanki Online in Western Europe. However over 40 million people are registered to it across the globe and have been smashing other people in their browsers since 2009. In 2015 though, the game is going HD.

The premise is one that we have become familiar with other the past few years of browser based warfare gaming, you battle in tanks against other players in an arena to gain XP and earn in game currency to improve and customise your tank. The familiarity of such a game may be obvious to those of you who know of Wargaming and other such companies. Tanki however does offer something slightly different.

tanki hd 1

The casual nature of these games has been seized upon here and rather than attention to detail and the long deep research in to the history of a WW2 Panzerkamphwagen IV and its every nuance, Tanki provides a lot more of a pick up and play approach. There isn’t the historical or military enthusiast satiation here. Instead your selection is very simple and the weaponry more open to imaginative interpretation.

Catch up complete, the game is moving from its humble browser capacity now and taking its route on the path of Unity. The development version I played was still in a very early stage and is expected to roll out some time in 2015 but it does look good for a free-to-play game and is interesting to see how the Unity engine (of which I saw a lot of games beginning to use) can be adapted to multiplayer online gaming without demanding serious system power. The plans for Tanki Online with it are also quite ambitious, although that is made easier by the casual nature of the game.

The thing is with Tanki is it depends what kind of gamer you are as to whether you would play it. It is essentially a simple game and the Unity engine would help it to expand out of the browser to other platforms which is probably going to be more essential for its planned expansion to the UK and other new markets. Dedicated in game chat, friends lists, social networking are coming to the game as well as graphics and the Unity engine would allow very easy portability. The game modes would be the same across all versions such as your standard deathmatch, team deathmatch and capture points modes. There will also be the 50+ maps with environmental snow controls, paint jobs and absolutely no AI players are intended to make this game a different slice of pie to the already available options.

The social side of it is already well underway in Russia where the game is already integrated into Russia’s VK network and with a big effort of it being integrated in to Facebook as well. Which means that the game runs directly from the social network itself rather than linked to a site like Bigpoint and the like. The social side of it is important to developer AlternativePlatform due to how far reaching the games popularity is. There is quite the following in Brazil and in South America, as well as Eastern Europe.

tanki hd 2

The thing with Tanki Online is that, speaking for what I know of the UK market, it will be a very hard nut to crack over here. Gamers in this country, whilst they like the casual nature of some games, might not take to this. Despite the graphical improvements, there are already a lot of options that are already established quite well like Wargaming’s various offerings, on multiple formats and the majority of gamers in this country are likely to spend more of their time on the industry dubbed AAA gaming options that will dominate the Autumn/Winter television adverts and website pop-ups.

I would always recommend giving the game a go because, whilst this is a preview for the Unity powered HD option, the game is very much up and running and can be played in its current browser form. When a game is free to play and has quite a large player base and a very easy learning curve without having to download masses of launcher data, then there is no reason not to try it. For what is already a successful game in its own regions, it will be a good barometer to see how the game succeeds in our ever changing games climate and what impact it might leave on other games trying similar social integration.

 

[author]