The Dissertation Diary – Christmas (Or How To Avoid Work)

Yes, the traditional holiday season of putting on weight and celebrating the change of year numbers has meant I’ve done absolutely nothing. Shit all. Bugger.

All I’ve actually HAD to do was read and I failed miserably. Being distracted by Halo, beard growing and eating.
So the plans for this year are as follows:

1) Finish University without leaving everything to the last minute.
2) Get really buff in January.
3) See if I can go on my friends stag do in May (during dissertation hand in time)
4) Maybe get another Radio Show on the go.
5) Write that Radio sitcom I’ve had planned for ages.
6) Write that Movie script I’ve had planned for ages.
7) See if I can go to see the Northern Lights.
8) Get some work experience.
9) Look in to a Masters Degree.
10) Don’t drink.

That last one isn’t just an idle resolution, for I am a Dryathlete. I’m raising money for Cancer Research UK by not drinking for a month. I’ll try and go further too. But if you wish to donate, visit www.justgiving.com/dryathlete-sean-cleaver or if you’re in the UK text PINT84 to 70070 to donate £5.

But the rest, all pie in the sky thinking really… Except maybe the get buff. Need to get back on the gym wagon. I also need to stop being distracted by video games. I thought Halo 4 was going to destroy my life, but NO. It’s not even my now ridiculous obsession with getting all the available achievements for all the Halo games, NO! It’s this game I picked up on sale called Tropico 4. You get to be a dictator running your own Banana Republic. A bit of a jokey city builder but it’s fun, easy pick up and play and just cool. I’m trying to find a citizen called Januito so I can have him executed… Ok maybe only certain people would get the humour.

So I hope my next update is more productive, but until then please sponsor me. You have no idea how hard not drinking is when you have a delicious 21 year old Johnnie Walker XR (google it) sat on the shelf. Also, if you don’t follow me on twitter you can (@cleaverslips) and even instagram now (seancleaver)! Here’s a selection of alright photos.

Lost In Whisky Translation
Tailgate To Heaven
Charity Shop Extreme Shopping
Some Local Winter Sight Seeing
Why I Write Rather Than Draw

Currently Reading: Tailgate To Heaven – Adam Goldstein, Ingenious Pain – Andrew Miller.

The Five Point Guide For Being My Facebook Friend

I felt a bit reticent over creating a post about facebook. I thought it might seem, although I’ve been at it for a while now, that I’m joining the “facebook is dead” and “anti facebook” bandwagons. So I’ve changed my tack a bit on broaching this subject. For some background, I left this particular social network, by choice, for a month. I came back after I lost my phone and the need for any kind of social discourse forced me to reactivate it. It’s amazing in this time of email and ease of communication that you might as well be a hermit in a cave if you don’t have facebook, a mobile phone or both. I personally am a complete twitter convert. So the first thing I did was to attach my twitter account to my timeline, limiting the amount of time I’d need to be on it. But alas, I got drawn in and had to comment on things and like some stuff and I felt as dirty as Hugh Grant must have after getting caught.

But my hatred is still there and the constant feeding my hatred gets is on facebook every day, in fact, every few hours. The thing is even though we all discuss it in private and hate it; everyone still does the same thing. Which made me wonder if my generation skipped this annoying trait of social networking indulgence and just learnt what to do, as every other generation seems born with the ability to generally annoy me more than Jo Whiley does – which is a lot. So I thought it might be best, instead of ranting and just generally venting, to create a small five-point guide for beginners on facebook, especially those befriending me. Consider it if you will as an informal pamphlet on facebook etiquette.

1) Don’t like your own statuses.

This may sound incredibly silly. But, simply put, if you like your own status then you are either really stupid or a completely egocentric garish amoeba. You don’t talk to your friends and say “I’d like some pizza” followed by “Yeah I’m awesome, I like this.” So don’t say it on facebook.

2) Be careful what you get tagged in.

One of the most annoying things is when you get automatically tagged in a picture that shows how many people have visited your profile or what love heart you are. Or more recently what Game of Thrones House you belong to. If you have that much time to waste on these pathetic additions to the timeline then you really need to recheck your life, go to a library and get a book, or simply get out of bed and go for a walk. They aren’t entertaining and they certainly aren’t entertaining me.

3) If you have a problem with someone, keep it to yourself.

Ok so this is probably the hardest one out of all of them. I’m certainly guilty of it. But if something’s wrong with your relationship with friends, family, ex’s, whatever, then keep it to yourself. Firstly, I honestly don’t give a toss if you’re getting annoyed, unless it directly affects our friendship or me. Secondly, don’t follow it up with “I can’t say” or “text/call me” as then you are as big of a twat as the person who was annoying you. Don’t bring your shit into the public domain if you haven’t got the balls to actually mention it. If you’re trying to send a “message” to the dickhead that’s annoying you then try calling him/her and tell them yourself.

4) Speling and gramma

It may shock you to know that 100% of the people on facebook in the UK have either been in education or are in education. If you really have trouble spelling words correctly or using correct punctuation without a character limit, then you should really spend the time you are on facebook over at the BBC’s GCSE Bitesize website to give you a reminder. Unless that is you are intentionally mocking or trying to be funny. In which case stay on facebook and don’t come back into the real world. We did those jokes years ago and they aren’t funny anymore. Slang I will allow as long as it fits the character of the person saying it. For example, I can’t see my status being updated in a language only Snoop Dogg could create or understand. Speaking of which, don’t quote TV people’s catch phrases. People used to do that in public in pubs before and they really were the worst type of fool.

5) Pictures of you. Not your family album

I’ll be honest, when I get married or a have long term partner, I fully expect my parents to pull out the “long lost” baby pictures album to show me at my worst/most naked. I do not expect my parents to jump onto the nearest computer and log in to facebook to show them my baby pictures. The fact that baby pictures exist on facebook in abundance is already well mocked. But consider for a moment the effect this will have on your child. In a completely made up survey conducted by a completely made up agency, because you’ve put your baby and child’s pictures on facebook and haven’t checked your privacy settings, over 1 million completely made up paedophiles have found your child’s picture on a google search and bashed out some completely made up semen. What if your child grew up knowing these completely made up facts?

Ok so that’s a bit extreme and sometimes it’s fine for a family picture or to show that you’ve just had a child, or if they’ve done something really funny (like the youtube videos have). Otherwise, please don’t. I am willing to bet that you have somewhere a physical photograph of a family member (parent or grandparent). Imagine if your child doesn’t have this, doesn’t have the physical connection to that person with an actual photo that they can frame, show off, hold in times of need, talk to and look for inspiration or guidance. Imagine instead that you log on to facebook and can only mouse click backwards and forwards away from it. To me, I think that’s rather sad.

There are probably a lot more things that will eventually annoy me and that I will scorn facebooks’ millions of users for. But until I work them out or they become blatantly obvious, just stick to these points and we can be friends… Virtually, of course.

Will Defiance Defy or Defile?

Defiance.

It seems like a brilliant idea and a brilliant concept.

Here’s a “bring you up to speed” bit. SyFy in the US (the people that have brought you Battlestar Galactica, Caprica, Eureka, etc.) are launching a new show called Defiance over Spring 2013. Its premise is that aliens crash on a near-future Earth with an ark of animals and people and begin to terraform and cohabit with the humans.

Fair enough. But they are also releasing a game. Not a tie in, but a constant companion to the series. The game is set in a different city to the TV series (game in San Francisco, TV in St Louis) but it runs side by side with the TV universe. The stories, mythology and events of the series happen at the same time in the game. Characters jump from the series to the game and back out to the series to talk about what’s happened in the game. It’s what they call “Transmedia.” The game itself is a Massively Multiplayer Online First Person Shooter (MMOFPS) that will be on 360, PS3, PC and will have an iPad version. Here’s the website about it that gives you all the info and videos that you need. http://defiance.com/en/

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This has been in development for 4 years. In that time, from the TV perspective, SyFy made and cancelled at least two major (costly) series; Caprica and Stargate Universe. They’ve ended Eureka and have given a very big paycheck and primetime slot to Vince McMahon for WWE’s Smackdown. That fact that this isn’t a tie in and the whole duality of both the TV and MMO game makes me nervous because it is completely new territory. The game doesn’t make me nervous at all as a single entity. The game, if it’s a good game, will succeed, regardless of the TV series. Or it won’t (e.g. APB).

This is where my fears lay however, the TV series. For those of you who know anything about how television works you may get this immediately. For those of you who don’t, here’s how it goes:

  • Big series is developed. Lots of money goes into it.
  • Series premieres to rave reviews and large audiences. TV rakes in advertising money and distribution rights.
  • TV Execs immediately commission second series.
  • Series begins to fall mid season where not much happens. Viewer numbers tumble.
  • Series goes on mid season break. Viewers get annoyed with pointlessly long gap and forget series.
  • Series returns with more viewers but less than the premiere. Execs move it around the schedule to get best audience, but ultimately lose it because they keep moving it around.
  • Viewers fall completely with only peak at the end of season inevitable cliffhanger.
  • Second series starts and audiences drop to a third of what they were.
  • TV Execs continue to move the show around, hoping they stumble upon an audience like they’re drilling for oil.
  • Series is cancelled by mid season break.
  • Avid followers begin uproar; execs cite how much money they’ve spent.
  • Series ends and Execs have stirred the fans into such an angry frenzy, they’ll bleed money from the huge DVD sales.

That’s pretty much it. With a show idea like Defiance, it has three major problems that will lose the casual massive audience it needs to prevent that from happening. Firstly, it’s Science Fiction. This is a harsh but true problem. With the exception of Star Trek: The Next Generation, there hasn’t been a successful mainstream Science Fiction show produced in the US in recent times that has kept a casual audience. In the UK, Doctor Who may be the only example of this. But as soon as you start putting in aliens, spaceships or whatever, casual audiences turn off. Secondly, its allure is innovation. This works incredibly well in a movie environment where it is a one off. But once its been done, its old and people will forget it. For all of Avatar’s innovation for example, there is hardly anyone that will argue that the story was more wooden than Joan River’s face. As a TV series, Avatar would have been a very expensive blue turd.

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Thirdly, the idea of the computer game will possibly end its appeal. The risk is that the show begins to cater to the universe its in rather than the audience itself. The casual audience will scatter immediately leaving only the gaming audience who will either be a large community that love the game and find the TV show a distraction, or a small community that enjoy both equally but not enough to keep SyFy pumping the money into it.

I really am interested to see how this pans out because it’s a major risk from SyFy. But with great risk comes great innovation. If it works and it’s successful, it will completely rewrite the entertainment industry. Which will probably lead to Fox doing exactly the same thing, only much cheaper and with no care on what the show is about. But I fear that the American big audience, which it is mainly aimed for, will disappear. All that will be left is a core cult of people that the TV execs simply cannot justify spending multi-million dollar budgets on.

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This is an intriguing multimedia proposal, but there is one other side note. Near-future alien/human crossover shows never last very long or aren’t very good. Examples being Alien Nation, Earth: Final Conflict, V, Alf… Ok maybe not Alf, but you get my point. Even the Terminator series only lasted for two seasons and those were human looking robots! There is an often mistaken theory in all walks of the entertainment world. If you throw enough money at it, it will be successful. I just wonder if the money spent on this could have been better spent on developing many new series instead of one absolutely mega blow out. We shall see.

Edit: Just discovered Bear McCreary is doing the music. It will be awesome.

It’s Not The Answer: A Look At Digital Distribution

First Published April 8, 2012 via Xtreme Gaming 24/7

The fall of a certain video game retailer has put all of us, players and journalists alike, into a bit of a headless chicken frenzy. On the one hand we really want a shop like GAME, we care that they specialise in our chosen devotion and we are very sad that jobs have been lost and lives affected. On the other, we are absolutely livid that the company let this happen and really want to point some fingers. There has been a complete mismanagement of the retail sector here and in the (apologies for the political rhetoric) current economic climate and times of austerity, this is has been simply a long drawn out suicide. What qualifies me to say that? I worked for Woolworths (and left before the closure of the business) and the similarities of what was happening within the company appear to be uncanny. It also doesn’t take Robert Peston to work out that, in my town at least, three stores, all owned by GAME Group (2 GAME, 1 Gamestation), within 150 yards of each other is absolutely silly.

One of the key factors that many people have raised is that GAME had a prime opportunity to adopt a Digital Distribution model or at least adapt their business to cope with what the Next Generation of consoles were providing. So let me give a very sweeping statement right now.

Digital Distribution is not the answer.

Well at least not for consoles yet anyway. Yes it’s convenient, yes it’s economical for all concerned and yes, it does the job of completely taking out that troublesome “pre-owned” market that game publishers hate. But with the rumours that the next Xbox maybe digital only, this can only mean one thing for you, the humble consumer, and me. Empty Wallets.

You’ll see that, using Xbox Live as a model, I’ve researched some prices of games recently released on the shop as well as their counterpart prices on arguably the two biggest entertainment retailers online. The difference in prices is ridiculous, especially when the model is cited and marketed as passing savings on to customers. The price comparisons will speak for themselves and I have no need to sensationalise them. But the problem here is that the games industry is so completely out of touch with its consumers that digital distribution is just that. Another means of distribution. Where, I argue, is the saving for me as a consumer when I pay nearly £20 more for a game on my console than I do at Amazon? If a gamer core age is teenagers upwards who live in families with fairly middle income, how does that extra £20 sit on their credit card bill? It doesn’t sit pretty I imagine. Where are the savings on production costs and physical distribution?

A few prices for you to compare:

Correct as of April 7, 2012

FIFA 12 – Released September 30, 2011:
Amazon.co.uk (£24.99)
Play.com (£29.99)
Xbox Live (£49.99)

GEARS OF WAR 3 – Released September 20, 2011:
Amazon.co.uk (£21.12)
Play.com (£39.99)
Xbox Live (£49.99)

SINGULARITY – Released June 29, 2010:
Amazon.co.uk (£13.30)
Play.com (£14.99)
Xbox Live (£19.99)

DEUS EX: HUMAN REVOLUTION – Released March 2011:
Amazon.co.uk (£17.94) – Note: this is “Limited Edition”
Play.com (£12.99) – Note: this includes a bonus mission pack
Xbox Live (£24.99)

CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS – Released November 9, 2010
Amazon.co.uk (£17.26)
Play.com (£24.99)
Xbox Live (£44.99)

HALO REACH – Released September 14, 2010
Amazon.co.uk (£19.47) – Note: the Limited Edition box is only £25.95
Play.com (£14.15)
Xbox Live (£24.99)

 

I know the argument from studios will be that a game should be fairly priced, and yes, when new, I understand and happily accept this and will plough money into the industry. I know another argument is that the prices are such because of the overheads of distributing your game via Xbox Live of PSN. Which is where this entire model becomes ridiculous. Any fairly sensible consumer will wait for the price to drop or find a cheaper alternative. We’re very savvy people us gamers and we know how to hunt a bargain. The fear is that if a console such as an Xbox successor became digital only, how it would kill the market and monopolise the cost of games. If you have no choice but to pay £40-£50 for a game online, then you do. If you have a choice between a few £20-25 games online, new or recent, then you’re more likely to get both.

This article obviously omits the great work that the model does for highlighting independent developers and innovative gaming. PSN and Xbox Livendue to the nature of their model have been able to release, quite honestly, some of the best games to ever grace us. Limbo being a case in point. But they could be doing so much more for the main studio blockbuster games. I’ve also not got on to the cost of movies and such, especially as now Netflix and Lovefilm (Sky as well to some degree) have provided an incredibly cheaper alternative to the film rental systems that are in place from Microsoft and Sony. The market for releasing high-end big games on the digital console market needs to change and fast.  It’s not broken by any means but it needs to take a reality check. If our biggest video game specialist retailer went under, then what does that say about what we consumers can afford?

In some ways we will always lean towards physical distribution because we like to accumulate things. It’s part of our capitalist state of mind that we must be able to show our status by what we possess. Music has overcome this by making the digital player itself a symbol of status, but games will not be so lucky. Music as well lowered and changed its prices in order to compete against physical distribution and it has succeeded. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to lower the cost of games, or pay less to the overworked souls that toil to make us these graphical extravaganzas. I don’t want to pay over the odds to big publishers when it really isn’t on.

You may think it’s rather British of me and you’re probably right. But let me pose you this dilemma. You want to buy a game that’s been out for a few years. You missed it first time round and now you have the time and inclination to play it. You can pop to a store and find it pre-owned for about £8-10 (“Boooo, Hissss” – Publishers), pop online to a retailer and find it new for £15-20 or download it for £30-40. What are you going to choose? Exactly. Now, same scenario, except there’s no pre-owned option. Go to an online retailer for £15-20 or download it at £17-25. What would you do? Remember the cost of postage and packaging as well as the time it will take to deliver it. I think digital wins hands down, don’t you? That’s all it takes, a little give from the price deciding powers to make us happier and less frugal consumers. Like I said that model isn’t broken at all, it’s just not ready for our pockets yet.

Voiceover, Voiceover, Voiceover

So I’ve been busy planting the seeds of my beautiful voice in to the gaming communities earlobes via XG 24/7. Here is a weekly show I narrated and also I game review I voiced.

 

Also my less than beautiful face with the Evra/Suarez video has been seen over 350,000 times! I’ve now had more views than the repeat showing of Boozed Up Brits Abroad on Pick TV+1.

 

Update: Here’s more of me doing stuff!

WELCOME ONE AND ALL!

Hi everyone.

This is my new website! Exciting huh? Well hopefully it will be a place where I will write and do stuff that amusing, intrigues and entertains you as well as keeping me occupied and being an official place for stuff about me with me in… Or something like that.

At least I hope so seeming I’m paying for the domain name.

So welcome to seancleaver.net. To start with, I’ve loaded some old stories and some Games writing pieces as well as links to my portfolio of published work and a showreel of my stuff so far. There’s more to come eventually too as well as, hopefully, a slightly tidier design.

So enjoy everyone, and I’ll upload more as it comes to me.

Sean