Monthly Archives: June 2011

Mills & Boon & Video Games

Mills & Boon have been producing romance novels for over a hundred years. Their popularity is without question and they have every right to enjoy this by entertaining, what I would guess, must be millions of people by now. 

I’ve never read one.

I probably never will.

But I don’t deny that they have their place in the world. I’m happy for them to be on sale in bookshops, and if I saw someone reading one I would in no way feel that person was wasting their time.

So why is it that when it comes to video games so many of us refuse to accept that any game should be produced that we don’t all want to play?

Perhaps it is the way things used to be. We were a small community of gamers playing games produced by an even smaller subset of ourselves. In such an incestuous setup you could enjoy every game coming along, both because they had been made by someone just like you, and because with so few to pick from you had to look for the good in a game else you had nothing to play.

Fast forward to 2011 and games are a major force in the entertainment world as a whole. Multi-million dollar games sit side by side with games that would be classed as shovelware to those of us who consider ourselves ‘enthusiasts’. And we kick up a fuss when along comes a game that hasn’t been written for us. It’s for five year olds, or soccer-mums, or people who are happy if a game just consists of clicking on cows every few hours. 

And yet why?

Why should we deny these games the right to call themselves games? Just because we self proclaimed experts don’t get on with them? These aren’t bad games, they are not poorly created, they have not skimped on production values. They are simply targeted at an audience other than us. It’s the natural progression. We should rejoice in these games for they show that gaming is no longer the minority entertainment format it once was. Now, like films and books before that they are evolving in involve the wider audience, the young, the old, the masculine, the feminine, the dedicated, the casual. 

But give them their space, they’ve earn’t it. We’re still getting more games that are aimed at us more traditionally minded gamers than we can actually play so why not be happy that others are doing the same?

I might prefer to read my Terry Pratchett and Tolkien, but I bet if I ever did pick up a Mills & Boon I’d still find the essence of a fun story.

Back to the Border

Borderlands is a game we really got into on first release, quickly leveling up our Siren (Linda) and Soldier (Steven) in our first playthrough of the story, then starting over to hit Level 50, the original level cap. Then the DLC came out, we lapped up Dr Ned and then waited for the next installment. Along came Mad Moxxi and disaster struck.. the save file for my Level 50 Soldier corrupted. For a while this put us off playing but eventually I started up another Soldier and got him to Level 20 in short order. We then used him as a seed for the Arena events backed up by Linda’s level 50 siren and often joined by Ghost World and Finley666. However that DLC has some serious issues that made the gameplay very frustrating, outside of the lack of XP and second rate weapons drops. If anyone dropped out of the session due to an internet blip, there was no way to get them back in and you had to drop out of what could have been 45 minutes work and start over. That’s just never going to be fun on any level. And so our interest in the game wavered, even though we had bought the next DLC, Secret Armoury, we never actually got to it as we were holding back my soldiers advancement so we could eventually get through the arenas.

Time passed. The game, which had gone from a single copy to two when we got the second Xbox lay unused. We’d dropped the cost of two Discs and two copies of all the DLC into this franchise and had not gotten the most out of it.

And so it was this last weekend we decided it might be time to go all the way, skipping the arena DLC so we both started up new characters. Linda again went Siren (if you are only going to put one female character in your game that really limits things guys #sidenote) and this time I chose Hunter. We had begun right back at the beginning, and struggled to remember how to play for the first few levels. Odd how it seems to take longer to re-learn a game than to originally learn it. And despite the time that’s passed that game is still a whole pile of fun. The art style does just enough to keep it looking good despite coming straight from playing something like the tour de force of LA Noire’s engine. The loot based carrot method of progression is something we are perfectly happy with though we have struggled more this time as without the ammo resupply capabilities of the Soldier we are running low all the time.

On top of this there is also the latest DLC Claptrap’s New Robot Revolution that we don’t own at present which is also meant to be good so it could be this next month will see us finally get the full story of Borderlands and have a great many hours of fun together doing so.

Watch us, we’re dancing!


We’ve not been posting much to this blog for a while, but we’re set to change all that. After this weekend our lives should become far more “back to normal” after a quite busy year in the real world. To that end we’re lining up some new reports on the games we’ve been playing together during this period which are:


  • Fable III
  • Lego Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Borderlands (Again)
  • Portal 2

I might even write up our experiences of going to London to see QI which was probably one of the best nights of our lives! So standby for content!

My E3

I was just responding to a post by Leon Cox over on GamerDork, which is worth a read but my response ended up becoming more a summing up of E3 2011 for me, so thought I would save a copy here also:

I think a lot of people misunderstand what E3 is about. It’s about selling products same as everything these companies do. Why did MS cram their presentation with Kinect products? Because the potential sales of Kinect over the next year far outstretch those of the 360.

The part that annoys me most is showing off games that won’t be out until after the next E3, that’s just wasted space. Tell us about them next year not this. Show us things that will be out in the next 6 months that we can maintain excitement for.

Overall I was happy with MS. They finally showed Kinect being used in some ‘core’ apps, and in ways that doesn’t break current gameplay but just augments it, or adds alternative way to navigate none action items like the gunsmith mode.

Sony was always going to mainly be about showing of the PSV, I don’t think anyone was surprised by that, and how they are aligning themselves with a more global presence on devices outside of their own hardware.

Nintendo for me was the weakest. This was the year I expected them to win me back with a impressive new console. However they spent far too little time on it, clearly not having enough to talk about yet. Almost as if they didn’t plan to talk about it this year, but the internet had built up such a head of steam over the idea of a Wii2/HD they felt they had to show something.

The Wii U controller for me shows Nintendo again missing the point. Are touch based devices the future on controllers? Hell yeah, but not with a dedicated tablet I have to have lying around for just that console. I already own touch based devices in pocket and table top form factors. Make use of those things I already own, don’t give me another piece of tat to have lying around..I think Sony are the only ones picking up on that right now.

I clearly don’t belong in the gaming community.

I awake in as much bewilderment as I went to bed with. All around me my friends are claiming Nintendo have stolen the show, they are back. Thank Microsoft and Sony showed nothing whilst Nintendo blew them away with their announcement. 

Sorry, did I sleep through the Nintendo stuff? All I saw was a new controller and them some hot air about a new console. A Console they didn’t even think to show in close up. With no technical specifications, no explanation of how the online side worked, no talk of achievements or trophies or most likely ‘Stars’. Nothing. Just Vapourware. 

For all the info they gave Microsoft and Sony could have come out and announced their next consoles with as much detail. 

“Hey, yeah, the PS4 is coming, it will like play games like the current system. How cool is that!?”

Worse than that, the video clips they did show where either the standard trailers for current games being shown off elsewhere at E3 or with graphics at best on a par with current capabilities of the 360/PS3.. the same consoles everyone else is saying are getting close to needing new hardware as they are maxing out.

Maybe it’s my PC gaming background. Maybe I should just return to that world only? The world where Wii like graphics aren’t ‘cute’ they are just a sign you need a new graphics card. I certainly would feel less like some crazy guy who can’t see the Emperors new clothes of the Wii U.