Wednesday, 28 April 2010


I thought I'd let you all know, incase you were unaware, that I've now turned this blog purely into one about my game development. This will likely include news in the area as well as new game/update announcements.

I will be blogging on life, thoughts and everything else at a new site - "Musings". It can be found here:

With this change I'm hoping I can make it so if you're not interested in one or the other, you need not follow that one. But I'll be trying to make Musings posts as interesting as humanly possible.

Until a game announcement comes up, see y'all!


Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Chat Roulette

I've heard about this website's popularity lately. For those unaware, it's Omegle with webcams. You get paired with a random person who could be doing anything. So here's a rundown of what I experienced, simply by hopping into and out of conversations.

1. Chavvy looking guy, normal
2. Chavvy looking guy, normal
3. Normal looking guy, normal
4. Someone holding up a piece of paper with an MSN address and cybersex offer
5. Naked guy masturbating, head and... parts... off camera, thank god
6. Pakistani normal looking guy
7. Assumed normal looking guy, laying down, most of him was offcamera but he was clothed
8. Normal looking guy
9. Some guy's torso, clothed
10. Spambot - just showed a screen capture for a website
11. Normal looking guy
12. Normal looking guy, but with sunglasses on and a really stupid light (angled camera)
13. No webcam, just a sound feed, which consisted of someone presumably fiddling with the mic
14. Normal looking guy
15. Top-half-naked guy with sound feed, wasn't sticking around to find out his intentions
16. Normal looking guy (kinda hunky actually - not gay o.o) in black and white
17. No video or audio feed
18. No video feed, audio feed was just someone crackly playing crap music
19. No feed
20. Two wiggers and some crap rap music
21. Normal looking guy who needs to learn how to zoom with his camera - I could see his chin and part of his jumper
22. Same sort of shot again but different person
23. A hand holding up a piece of paper asking (kindly, I might add) for boobs on the webcam feed
24. Normal looking guy but awful sunglasses
25. No video feed, crackly audio
26. A cock
27. Another cock
28. Bored looking guy, normal
29. Man in briefs but not doing anything bad
30. Bored looking guy, normal
31. Someone just out of shot
32. Bored looking guy laying down
33. Bored looking child
34. Guy that was top-naked (at least), only head and shoulders in shot
35. No video, crackly audio
36. Nobody in shot, was a cam pointed at a dark area
37. An actual woman! Japanese origin too, woo! Quit on her, couldn't be bothered
38. Guy with backwards baseball cap, glasses and tank top. Muscly, looked a lot like wrestler Batista
39. Naked guy masturbating. Cat sitting in the background... poor cat
40. Someone's elbow
41. Nothing
42. Naked guy masturbating. Disturbingly included audio feed. Actually missed the close tab and hit Imageshack's thumbnail out of shock - same closing effect
43. Video feed was pointing at light, audio crackly
44. Naked guy masturbating. Wasn't very well endowed.
45. Girl looking very bored. Crackly audio feed
46. Girl looking very horny. Desperate kind of horny. Looked Hispanic too
47. Normal looking man but appeared to have a spliff going on
48. Guy top-half-naked, bottom half was off shot
49. Two guys blatantly stoned
50. Boring guy with baseball cap

So, yeah. And you thought the premise and trollability was bad enough with Omegle!

A total of three females in 50 goes. In comparison there were about six penes. Thanks, male gender. Thanks a load. (Not literally.)

See y'all!


Monday, 19 April 2010

An Autobiography, In One Blog

Okay, so this is my unexciting life as it stands. Eighteen years, compressed into what I'm sure will be a depressingly short, unexciting bit of text. I won't edit this being said, so if it turns out to be super-long then I guess that's stopped that.

I was born on May 15th 1991, at about 10am, in Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge. According to my parents, during my birth a radio was playing Nessun Dorma, as performed by the late Pavarotti, and the doctor was singing along to it. I guess now would be a good time to make note that everything I say in this entry will be 100% true, with no fabrication.

My earliest memory is a tiny snippet when I was around one, in my father's arms, who thanks to his lack of parenting ability was taking me to a toilet. My mum began shouting at him due to my wearing of a nappy.

I was able to write my full name (Andrew McCluskey) unhelped before I hit two years of age. Furthermore I could interpret basic signs and was considered by many at the time to be a genius in the making.

In those days, a very popular gameshow in the UK was "Bullseye". As a youngster I was scared of the bull in the programme - it would start me crying if the TV was running in the background with it on and it showed up.

We moved out of that house when I was three and a half due to ongoing wildlife somehow getting in. Despite being so young I still remember the layout of about half of the house, including the living room and the spare room (though not my bedroom, oddly). I also have a couple of very sketchy other memories such as me and my cousin using the spare bed as a trampoline, and a home-built piece of outdoor goodness dubbed "Swingboat", which, as suggested, was a boat-like item attached to a swing system. The house we moved into is the one in which we remain today.

In nursery or whatever it was (playgroup or something, I believe), I remember several activities like playing with Stickle bricks, making pizza and learning how to write

I remember thinking, prior to the beginning of primary school, that I would have to move and sleep there. The prospect frightened me and I became rather scared of it. My mum set my mind right, however. I also remember standing against the kitchen door in newly-clad school uniform (including a dull burgundy jumper) just before I was to go to school for the first time, for a quick photography session.

I was told off in my first year for use of relatively profane language. Amusingly, the person I'd learnt it from was caught quickly because he had a strong Northern accent and I'd learnt to say one of the words his way (we say bar-stard, he said bAH-stard, with the "ba" from "ban").

I was sworn at by a teacher when I was five or six because I wanted a go with the "end of lunch break" bell (a literal metal bell), so went ahead and pilfered/rang it. She was not best pleased, but I later learnt she was told off for the swearing part.

(Please understand with this point that at a young age I had no idea of the acceptable boundaries when doing stuff) I was once dared by a "friend" to drop my trousers in the playground. I was strongly punished by one of the wanderers of the playground, who was incidentally the guy that dared me's mother.

I did very well in some subjects - English and Maths, in lower years, even taking a Year 9 SATS paper in Year 6. But I despised, and was bad at, both History and Handwriting (which, back in those days, had its own lesson). The former, I was actually stood up infront of the entire class at one point as the teacher read out what I'd written, with the opportunity for anyone in the class to point out when something read out was false. The latter, I just sucked at. I can't join up letters for the life of me and really, even back then, saw no point whatsoever when my normal handwriting was perfectly legible.

People often joked about putting others' shoes in the school toilets. I, of course, was the goon that went and did it. I had to apologise to the poor lad's mother in person after school for doing it. I actually got in trouble with the headmaster a lot - due to my outcast status even at that age I guess I was just destined to f*ck about.

However, I was often regarded as being kind. A friend's eardrum burst once at primary school, leaving him in tears. I went, gave him a manly man-hug and went to call the nearest dinner lady to help him out. On a separate occasion (about the same age though - we were probably 8-9) I noticed someone who I wasn't massive friends with, sitting on the allotment opposite our house, crying. I actually went out to have a chat and shared some of my sweets with him. I actually distinctly remember the sweets, down to their very taste - a small box containing a large amount of miniature candy letters, that tasted rather sickly but were still nice. Bought in a shop in Bury St Edmunds about 200 metres away from the bus shelter that later folded.

Throughout Year 5 and 6, there was a chap called Karl Huck. The oddest thing about him was that we were great friends outside school... and bitter enemies IN school. I can't recall how many times we were confined throughout lunchtimes due to misbehaviour over arguments. During either Y5 or 6 I was actually given control of the small library, including its box of K*Nex, due to my trustworthiness. The trouble I had with Karl meant I was demoted from the position.

Year 6 held a four day excursion to a grotty little village called Aylmerton. I won't go into that because I despised it - it was basically a foray of bullying, depression and, in a slightly more positive twist, losing my scarf then finding it wrapped around a tree the day after, having been really upset about its disappearance (my mum had hand-knitted it and I was distraught it was gone).

I was tipped to win the Best of the Year award at the end of Y6 (the final year of primary school). Two days before that we (the Year 6s) were, as a going-away fun thing, put into groups and "sold" as slaves to other years. The group I was in were bought by the Nursery, so while other groups were doing work, we were constructing a play area out of giant Meccano-esque pieces. That was superb fun. The day after, however, was disappointing. Having spent my entire primary school years at that school, with rather a nice collection of achievements, not to mention some of the best SATS scores in the year, I actually lost the award to a girl who had joined in Year 5. Dang.

The prospect of high school was scary. I'm sure most of the people reading this will know how daunting it is to go from being the oldest in school to the youngest in the space of a couple months. I didn't fare well. Three days into Year 7 I lost a tooth. I basically spent the entire of that year being a living joke due to an odd noise I could make (prompting so, so many people to shout "Do the thing!"). It took until Year 8 for the "laughing at you, not with you" philosophy to sink in, so I stopped doing it, much to the disappointment and resulting insults from older students. One thing good did come out of Year 7 though. In January 2003, a new program popped up on the PCs... a little program called "Game Maker 5.0". Though that discovery itself was good, it was supposed to be, but was never, taught during ICT lessons. My best achievement for about half a year was a clone of the Asteroids game it comes bundled with, albeit with all the asteroids turned into swears.

In Year 8 I went abroad for the first, and currently only, time in my life... of all places, to Normandy, France... for around a week. It was mildly interesting, and I have plenty of memories from it. The kid that retorted to the teachers offering him ratatouille with "Rats? I don't want RATS!", followed by his being kicked out of the cafeteria with no food and an angry old cow of a teacher I still don't like. My purchase of a French-language-only copy of Pokémon Gold for €10. The photographs I took, including an amazingly-timed one of a friend jumping off his top bunk (caught him in mid-air). Infact, the four guys I shared the dorm with remain friends to date. I also remember the evenings playing football, and the guy that was urinating on the side of the mall I got Pokémon Gold in. He reacted to the sight of a class of tweens/young teens by simply returning his head to face the wall. The whole bloody town stank - I'm not kidding. Seriously unpleasant. Must've been worse for Matt White, who, being a vegetarian, was furious when all the vegetarian packed lunches contained fish.

Year 9 was mostly uneventful. A trip to Swansea (I think), with the opportunity to climb a wind turbine from the inside and see what it was like about 200 metres up. That was a flight of stairs I'm enemies for life with - my poor, unexcercised legs were like jelly when we got to the top, so the should've-been-easy descent needed mastery of the technique of not falling forwards and plummeting to certain death. It also featured the final SATS tests, which I did fairly well on (Maths - Level 8, English - Level 6 (killed by literature), Science - Level 7). It was also Year 8 or 9 in which I hit the limit for a spelling test which determines your age, by getting an unprecedented 100% on it.

Year 10 was just a bit boring. Plain and simple. However, its end signalled the start of what would be the most up-and-down six months of my life... starting in June 2006. Work experience. Those ten days of doing what my father does were the slowest of my life. I spent two nights in tears and I very frequently passed the time while doing it by calculating how many thousands of seconds were left before the end of the work day... then counting down. You can't squeeze saying "7,213" into one second so after a hundred or so I'd recalculate and express pleasant surprise that the number of seconds that had actually elapsed was about double those I'd counted. Please, please take note that this was MORE FUN than doing the job. Only three things good came out of doing this stuff - it's where my love of Bovril began, I got £80 for doing it (I was never told about this beforehand so there was no "ooh, I'll get paid" motivation for it), and I now know never, ever to enter the mechanical industry. I'd also mention having Mr Hewitt, the high school headmaster that was leaving that year making it the last time I ever saw him, as a high point, but it was kinda saddening really. He was an amazing bloke.

The summer holidays made up for the woe of that lot. I was invited to spend a week on holiday with a friend. This was amazing fun and once again spawned a nice little handful of anecdotes. The time when we were both hungry at 11pm so jumped out of the caravan window and ran to the nearest 24/7. The swimming pool, which contained a very spoilt brat that wasn't getting anything she wanted (yay for sadism). The actual getting to the resort and the going to ASDA on the way there, in which it rained so, so horrifically ASDA was evacuated due to flooding and my parents had to give me £20 to buy myself a cheap new pair of shoes for the holiday to make up for the newly ruined pair I was wearing. The time we accidentally spent our bus fare on rides at Pleasurebeach and had to walk the five miles back to the resort, with no money for drinks (it was a scorching day). The time we walked to some of his relatives, another multiple-mile trek, had KFC there, watched Dora the Explorer, then tarted about in a nearby playground like a pair of thugs. The list goes on. Sadly, later that year, I lost contact with him. My only hope in reaching him again is his sister's Netlog account. I'm not a stalker, I promise.

Then came something I'd never have expected, given my social status, looks and personality - I got a girlfriend. Just to skim the gruesome details, we did... things... but I think my nasty, nasty "have to please this girl or I'll end up unhappy and single again" reflex kicked in, it drove us apart, and, woe and betide, I ended up single again, a status I've maintained now ever since. Do I regret it though? No. It taught me things I never would have otherwise learnt, and when I do find another girl I want to be with who, of course, wants the same thing back, I'll hopefully be readier.

So this is now January 2007. Put into GM perspective, YoYo Games was a splash screen, Game Maker was newly 7.0, and I was a dipshit. My best game was a boring (but quite long) maze/platformer hybrid with substandard racing and flying levels about 70 levels in. (It's called "Gamanstake" if you want to get hold of it.) Skipping several months because I didn't release much noteworthy bar Elemence Gold, the predecessor to AuX which is still on YYG today, and schoolwise nothing happened other than awkward encounters with my ex in corridors and the GCSEs, which I frankly didn't revise for and passed all ten anyway. That was basically where I should have said "okay, that's enough. Education, I'm done with you.". But I didn't.

And, in the single most regrettable thing I've ever done, I spent two years in Sixth Form. Two years I could have used to actually be productive. But nope, I threw away two years of my life, which is probably about 1/40 of my entire life (less if I'm being pessimistic, given the amount I've been sick lately and how unhealthy I am anyway), when as little as the first week in I knew it was a massive mistake. The only subject I passed (and it was a poor pass) was in design & technology, which Hartismere basically used for "woodwork". I will never do woodwork in my life. I did do a computering course but it was utterly leftfield to what I WANTED from a computering course, and I ended up failing it due to my inability to work the devil's own PC program, Microsoft Access.

Since leaving, I've been very lazy but also a lot happier. Two years of shite, proceeded by what is now nearly 11 months of actual productivity. It was a non-starter to begin with - my mum went into hospital for two weeks in June '09, leaving my drunken father with the opportunity to basically degrade me in every way physically possible and put me into a genuine depression that took about a week of my mum returning to start going away. What did keep me a little cheery during those tough few weeks was that I'd just released Innoquous 3, probably one of my best, if not my best, game to date. Since then, I've basically had the ups (madnessMADNESSmadness), the downs (1n23g4r), and the centrals (It Only Takes A Second).

Now, I'm hoping that I can get this job with YoYo Games, move to Dundee and give my life a little kick up the arse. It's what I've been needing for a long time.

That's by no means comprehensive. I've left hundreds of details out, either accidentally, non-notability, or in a couple of cases secrecy. But I hope it's been enjoyable to see my rather banal life, with all its points fit quite easily into a single box. Anyway, I'll see y'all in the next blog!


Sunday, 18 April 2010

Musical Tastes & Down With the Sickness

Kinda related segments to the title but not in the sense I'm planning on using 'em.

Recently I've noticed my musical tastes changing. I've got into a few bands I've heard and disliked in the past. Here's a few that I've become a fan of in the last month or two.

3OH!3: First heard of this band as a band from a friend. He has a taste for stuff like this - an odd fusion of indie rock, rap elements and electronicky bits and pieces. Upon first hearing one of their songs as he was listening to them, which was about two years ago, I immediately took a dislike to it and dismissed the band. However, recently, another friend mentioned them and linked me to another of their songs, which I recognised from the radio (I don't like the radio much, my mum does though and car journeys are always accompanied by it). I took a chance on their album, "Want", and slowly grew into even the rappier of songs on it. Personal favourites, excluding the two singles Starstrukk and Don't Trust Me, are Colorado Sunrise, I Can't Do It Alone, and Photofinish.

Crystal Castles: Same again. Heard it from the same friend, dismissed for exactly the same reason, and picked up a day or two again and started loving. I actually had a sub-stage in which somebody else tried to recommend me to them and I still wasn't a fan. But particularly their track Courtship Dating I now adore, and have their album, though have not really listened to it yet. Having said that, I still don't like the song I initially heard of theirs, Alice Practice. Also, I point blank refuse to get into Hadouken!. Just... no. o.o

22-Pistepirkko: Though this isn't really one for the whole "musical tastes changing". Royksopp is a testament to my love of European pop rock. This one's mainly one track too - Just A Little Bit More. Or, in the band's Finnish accents, "Jus' a Leedle Beet More".

Black Eyed Peas: I gotta feeling... that every time I listen to this band I feel guilty for betraying myself. As well as I Gotta Feeling, I also regretfully enjoy Pump It. My enjoyment of the former song originates from a CollegeHumour parody of it.

Infact, it seems parodies get me into the original songs even when I don't like them. I've found the following songs (well, found I like them) from parodies also:
Tech N9ne: In The Rain
Jay-Z ft whoever: Empire State of Mind
Owl City: Fireflies
(Can't remember her name - Estelle or something?): American Boy
Plain White Ts: Hey There Delilah (another one I hate liking - ex related!)

So as my brain descends/ascends/goes leftfield/goes less leftfield/whatever into the enjoyment of what I can't really place so will simply call "scene music", as in "seems to be enjoyed by people into the scene style", I move on to the second part of the title.

Earlier today (FYI movement, cover your eyes) I was rather sick. As in, the literally keeled over being sick into the toilet. Worryingly, this has been mildly commonplace recently - I think I've probably been sick more during 2010 than I have 1991-2009 put together. I think my life really needs a reboot or something - less inactivity, better diet, less drinking that f*cking milkshake, less dwelling, more future. Not that I want to stop making games or anything.

I'd love to go to IGF one year - depending on whether the age limit is 18 or 21 (I've heard both) it's a goal for either 2011, 2012 or 2013 (the year I'll be 21 for March-April, my birthday's in May)... at least. That also gives me a good 10-11 months to improve, because at the moment I don't consider myself skilled enough in game development (ideas - probably, skill - nah, effort levels - pathetic). Perhaps a nice break from having this 17" screen sitting a couple feet away from my face all day would help my motivation... but I don't know. The village I currently live in is absolutely crap for getting out because you exit the door, and you're presented with nothing. Well, I could go and play on the toddler swings or walk around the nature reserve about a mile away and watch a bunch of horses do absolutely nothing. But that sucks. Lack of transport (it's an awful place for catching a bus) means I can't readily get anywhere better either. I'm hoping like crazy I can get that job in Dundee and start life new. If it doesn't happen, guess my best bet is to find something similar somewhere close but not Redgrave.

But, yeah. I think that's it... oh right... to be relevant to the very purpose of the blog for just one sentence, I made a game.

See y'all.


Monday, 12 April 2010

The Purchase of the Weirdest Things

So, as I mentioned yesterday, today I went out. Me and my mother went to a town around 12-15 miles away called Thetford... and we bought things. Well, she bought things for me. Being completely skint I can't really afford my own stuff, just borrow money from her and eventually pay it back when I'm less moneyless.

So, here is the stuff I got today. Don't judge me.

PC Gamer May 2010 issue 213 [£5.99] - this isn't weird, I get it every month. Thought I'd list it for the hell of it though.

The Rise + Fall of ECW [£2.99] - from a charity shop, a 2-DVD set covering six hours of what happened to the old wrestling promotion ECW.

Persepolis [£2] - a DVD of a film just a couple of years old, which I've been wanting to watch for quite a long time now.

Red Sky crisps [£2] - two big-ass bags of crisps, Cheese and Bacon flavour, which will be stored for later consumption. This is only the start of the edibles.

Bovril drink cups x24 [£3] - three packs of eight cups which you stick some hot water in to make an awesome drink that tastes nothing like the spreadable Bovril but is yummy nonetheless. It's kinda like beef gravy.

Smarties Easter egg [£1] - why be on time for Easter when you can be late and get an extortionately-priced hollow piece of chocolate for a fair alternative price?

Coconut Ice [50p] - the same shape and even the same colour as your standard piece of nougat. I'm not entirely sure if I'll like this or not but it looks yummy. I spent most of my life not really liking desiccated (sp?) coconut but recently I kinda got into it, so yeah. Plus it's full of sugar so it's automatically awesome.

Spicy Balti Mix [49p] - a packet containing a spicy version of what is essentially Bombay mix. Bombay mix + spicyness = my drugs.

Chilli Tortilla chips [79p] - will be saved until I can get my mits on some guacamole. That is the only way these can be consumed.

Mint Chews [50p-ish] - a four pack of mints that are basically Mentos - same shape, same flavour, same tube length - but not quite as good. Still good though.

Complimints [£1-ish] - a two pack of mints that are nothing like Mentos. These are more like those ridiculously expensive Smint things, but each pack is in a nice tin and contains rather a lot of mints that are small but powerful. Niiice.

Chilli-coated peanuts [79p] - self explanatory. Just to be "cool" and "original" they're branded as "Nutz". With a Z.

Milk Chocolate Mini Delights [50p] - one for the packaging gods, a card outer layer containing ten individually-wrapped chocolate "sticks" that are filled with a strawberry and cream kinda filling. Very tasty.

Disco Biscuits [49p-ish] - Biscuity bit. Chocolate bit on top. Then with some UK-Smarties-like sweets on top. From memory they get sickly fast but when they're not sickly... mwah!

Super Long Drinking Straws [£1.49] - 50 one-metre-long straws for long-distance drinkiery. Mum suggested they ought to be cut to size. I said no, I'll be using these puppies at full length!

Blow Bubbles [£1] - One pound, six thingies of blowable bubbles. They even have a wand each. I mean, seriously, sweeeeeeeeeet! Child at heart and PROUD.

So that's my little excursion's worth. Enough food to last weeks, enough toys to last days, and enough DVDs to last, like, as long as I like them. Will return to relative relevance with the next blog... maybe. See y'all!


Sunday, 11 April 2010

Mad Once More

Thought I may as well blog since I've released an upgrade to the game which became a play count whore, madnessMADNESSmadness. This upgrade features a number of new modes and a few other features to make the game, in all, more enjoyable. I'll simply link to the Game Maker Community topic for it as that describes it perfectly adequately. The link

Anyway, there's some other stuff I'll say since my last two blog entries have been fairly mundane reviews of things. Therefore I'll try to make this more about both me and my GM usage.

I'm now not working on anything. However, I've plans, which I'm as yet unsure on whether I'll follow through with or not, to make a game which crosses gambling (not real money) with a game similar to Voltorb Flip from Pokémon HeartGold/SoulSilver. I have the puzzle itself, along with ways to implement online multiplayer, up and running, I just need to work out if it'd be worth making or not. If nothing else I'll probably knock up a single-player engine for it at some point and see what y'all think about it.

Lifewise, thinks have been a tad topsy turvy. Both my parents have had this week away from work, which has meant that I've been going out a lot to different places with them. I've another one to go to tomorrow, though now my dad will be returning to work it'll just be me and mum. Although I'm happy with my computer, it's been generally fun and it feels healthy to have such an abnormal-for-me level of fresh air as that. I hit a fairly low ebb about a week ago too, when something that really shouldn't've bothered me a huge amount (though it did) actually triggered the single worst mental breakdown I've ever experienced, leaving me completely inanimate for quite a while in my room on the floor doing something I refuse to admit I was doing, being male. But hey, it's all in the past, I'm okay now and can laugh upon looking back on it... kinda.

I've been watching the Matrix trilogy today and yesterday, which is fun. I haven't managed to watch Revolutions yet, nor the Animatrix which I got yesterday during a day out on DVD for 75p, but I'm not really sure if I want to. I have seen Revolutions - it was a bit crap. Mind you, Reloaded was crap and I still enjoyed it. With the help of my mum's purse I've got several other DVDs, videos and things in the days out, including a set of four films on DVD including the Shawshank Redemption for 75p (the lot), a double VHS about "A history of Football" for 20p, and my personal favourite, a Mega Drive game called "Strider Hiryu" that's entirely in Japanese. It won't play in my old MD but it's funky to own, given my love of Japan and its language.

And coming in last, I've been playing a lot of LittleBigPlanet recently. Being a fan of odd vehicles and robots, particularly things like in Robot Wars, I've been trying to make the "perfect" vehicle, that can get across any terrain and survive anything. There's still hope, but I've not managed it yet. I can get something to drive up walls and across ceilings but things always manage to break themselves during the "course" I've set up. At some point I'll probably publish a load of the failed attempts (and, God forbid, any successful ones) so if you're interested, keep an eye on my LBP profile - my PSN ID is NAL-Games.

So, yeah. That's all for today/night. See y'all!


Tuesday, 6 April 2010

My Thoughts: GTAIV vs Saints Row 2

For this My Thoughts I'd like to compare two oft-compared games, released in the same year on the same platforms and with many, many similarities. I'll split it into several sections too. Grand Theft Auto IV, not the fourth in the series, is the numerical sequel to the game considered revolutionary in its popularisation of the entire 3D sandbox genre. Saints Row 2, the multiformat sequel to a 2006 Xbox 360-exclusive game, is a series that attempts to do pretty much the same thing.

Both have good graphics, though they seem to take alternative directions. GTAIV's realistic graphics, Saints Row 2's cartooniness. Given GTA's fairly poor sixth-generation graphics it's a pleasant surprise that its graphics are so, so good. Although less colourful and slightly more dreary than Saints Row 2's graphics, GTAIV's to me are better.
Winner: GTAIV

Saints Row 2 features the city of Stilwater, upgraded but in many ways unchanged from its predecessor. It's a well-designed location with plenty of different locations. GTAIV features a renovated Liberty City, in the style of New York (with many familiar areas, including its own rendition of Times Square and the Statue of Liberty). Though GTAIV's location had to be researched thoroughly, costing millions of dollars, Stilwater's brighter atmosphere just about takes it.
Winner: SR2

An easy victory to Saints Row 2. While GTAIV's is more than adequate - a series of guns based on real life ones and the ability to throw things like coffee, hot dogs and other sidewalk debris, it's an overall step down from San Andreas' pool cues and brass knuckles. Saints Row 2 not only covers the realistic front, it also adds a fun factor to weaponry, with weapons such as defibulators, satchel charges (another item San Andreas had that IV didn't) and the "pimp slap", a big pink glove that sends its recipients flying into the air. Smashing.
Winner: SR2

And an easy victory for GTAIV. SR2 was never about the storyline - it has some nice missions and a general story to go with - but GTAIV's is movie-worthy. It features twists, turns, user choices, and a real feeling of progression. Smashing stuff.
Winner: GTAIV

Both games feature adequate online multiplayer minigames which are great fun to play, but SR2 also allows two people to play the entire story mode, and even wander entirely independently around the city, online together. Great stuff.
Winner: SR2

Not the game-breaking health refillers, the ones which make playing about more fun. The PS2 GTA games were particularly brilliant at this, including cheats such as the ability to drive into other cars and watch them float away before your very eyes. Yet again though, GTAIV stripped a lot of these, leaving mainly the game breakers. SR2 has a number of funny cheats, including UFO spawning, low gravity, and pedestrian weather (where random civilians are spawned and subsequently drop from high in the sky, landing with a sickening thud). You can combine these with online two-player city exploration to create a number of unofficial minigames, including a personal favourite - low gravity grenade wars (low gravity + infinite health + give grenades + infinite ammo, find a nice high roof and chuck grenades at each other until someone falls off it).
Winner: SR2

Messing About
SR2 has an absolute plethora of outside-mission activities to do. These are generated from all the weapons you can toy with, the minigames, and all sorts. But GTAIV is slightly better thanks to its stunning physics engine. You can push people over things and watch them stumble/trip (even going so far as to pushing them down flights of stairs, Porrasturvat-style), into cliffs or anything of the sort. You can anger taxi drivers by slapping their car then run around toying with their angry selves, perhaps getting a few more, having them accidentally hit their angry companions and watching the ensuing fight. You can get yourself a helicopter, carefully back it into a building until its tail end falls off then try to land it as its damaged, smoking body rotates angrily in the air. You can go to the strip club and buy yourself a dance, or slightly more fun, jump onto their podiums and watch all the strippers become frightened and the guards become angry. You can log onto a computer, look up some child... naughtiness... only to be redirected to a police website and, off-computer, five stars added to your wanted level. You can get yourself a girlfriend on a dating site and take her for a booze-up, ending the date by drunkenly driving home and showing her what your interpretation of "coming in for coffee" is (hint - no sugars). Heck, you can even go and watch Ricky Gervais, voiced and motion-captured by the man himself, perform a genuinely funny stand up show!
Winner: GTAIV

In short, GTAIV takes it. SR2 is still cracking fun, especially when you've an online friend to play it with. But GTAIV continues its sandbox crime game dominance by providing a game which, amidst all the controversy and media stupidity, is genuinely brilliant fun. Yes, you can park up to a prostitute and watch her bang you one off in animated splendour. Yes, you can go on killing sprees. But yes, ignore all the shit around it and you're left with something that, in one word, is stunning. Oh, not to mention, but Saints Row is totally a rip off of GTA. ;)

Saturday, 3 April 2010

My Thoughts: GMIndie Magazine Issue 8

Welcome to a new segment I call "My Thoughts". Every now and then I'll post my thoughts, either in a little summary or, in this case, as a review, on a non-game item. This will be a little like my old website "Talast". Reviews of games made in Game Maker will continue to be posted on the Game Maker Blog instead.

Despite earlier statements that the magazine would be coming to an end to make way for one of a new purpose by the same team, GMIndie Issue 8 was released earlier to the public. At 18 pages it’s much larger than previous instalments, which have generally clocked in at around eight. Given a note at the start of the magazine claiming a new release schedule of “Every 3 weeks” it would appear the move is permanent.

The magazine contains reviews of RC Aerobatics and The Wizards Apprentice, which are kind of well written, though hold the occasional misspelling/grammar error. Oddly, the introduction to the review for “The Wizards Apprentice” is the same size as the rest of it, and contains no capital letters whatsoever. Something that made me giggle was Frederick’s statement embedded in that review: “My favorite is the snow level with the snowmen that throw snow balls and ice at you.”

Following the reviews comes a slightly poor full-page advertisement for self-rating system TIGRS, then a page devoted to an eBook called “Game Maker Geek”, which did nothing to catch my attention other than perhaps nicking the avatar YoYo Games moderators use for banned members.

Another review afterwards, for “Western Shootout”. Just noticed that there’s no mention on the page of who made the game, though it clearly states who wrote the review. Again, it’s a fairly simple affair that gets its point across with some unnecessary mild swearing and no conclusion.

Then comes the interview with Landon Podbielski (superjoebob on the GMC amongst other places). The interview is thorough and well written, which makes a change from some of the previous segments where all the interviewees’ text speak and misspellings were left unedited. It’s a two pager and covers a lot of interesting ground.

Following the interview is a massive seven page tutorial in learning online multiplayer. Knowing absolutely nothing about creating this I took a look at the tutorial – it seemed complicated but in general will surely benefit some people. What I didn’t like is the way they announced it would be continued in the following issue – they did it mid-sentence. The beginning of a chapter was just four lines before the cut off point so it would’ve made sense to end it a tad earlier.

A small segment comes after this, which is poorly written (whoever wrote it needs to learn that, being a name, “Game Maker” takes capitals, and that calling something a “nice cool feature” really doesn’t work). On the other half of the page is a fairly unfunny comic in which whoever is writing demonstrates exactly why emoticons have no place in a written publication. The final page is an outro where said emoticons become abundant (all but one of the paragraphs have one in) and a final statement “Much regards from the GMIndie team” before a nice chunky GMIndie logo is put in.

On the subject of the magazine’s design – although it’s generally consistent and looks good enough, I find the constant use of seemingly random WordArt effects for titles ugly and unprofessional. Although the magazine is very, very Calibri-heavy it’s superior to slapping fonts around like crazy. In my opinion, if they ditch the odd and inconsistent titles the design will be very pleasant.

On the whole, GMIndie Magazine Issue 8 is definitely an improvement over its predecessors. It appears to have greatly benefitted from the lengthened development time and, though still certainly holds room for further improvement (no emoticons, proper English at all times, fix the design of article/review titles) it’s a magazine worthy of your download. Hopefully in three weeks’ time Issue 9 will be released and take the torch from the seemingly finished bodies of GMTech and MarkUp.

Download GMIndie Issue 8