I have spoken at length in the past about my own personal view of the shift towards the digital gaming world, but had never really courted the views of those fellow gamers that inhabit my network and online forums, aside from in passing fashion. I recently started a thread on a long-established forum to garner opinion on an ‘Elder Scrolls’ side collecting project I have embarked upon, but the thread quickly developed into a strong viewed but properly debated discussion on the shift to digital on game collecting as a whole.

However, tone of the conversation surprised me! let me elaborate…

The internet is awash with gaming and collector communities, this particular conversation took place on ‘www.bordersdown.net’, a well established community over a lot of years that started out supporting the more hardcore and import gamers, with long-standing members that are firmly rooted in the collecting and importing scene. As the discussion started to develop it became clear that the collecting contingent for the most part did not see any real value in the process of collecting anymore, some even implying that it had become mentally stressful and detrimental to not only their financial health, but also their mental health and well-being. Some went as far as to say that switching to digital had removed shackles from their lives, reducing the personal need and mental weight of collecting large amounts of games for a large amount of systems, always knowing you may never be able to buy or find the rarest titles to complete sets due to rising prices, this really got me thinking!

I could fully relate and understand the expressed emotions as it is something I have certainly experienced myself in the past…the need for collectors editions, day 1 purchases of the biggest new releases, large collection across a multitude of systems, I could go on and on! but until now had never really analysed the subject, certainly never tied it to shifting to digital. It has definitely made me think, and clearly shows that for some people ‘Going Digital’ is not really just about saving money or convenience, but more about being released from the binds of being a gamer in the non casual sense of the word. Now I am pretty sure that the publishers were not looking at the digitization of our hobby from this aspect, but inadvertently have delivered alternative benefits to a certain few at least.

Looking at digital downloads from a purely financial or storage standpoint I am still not wholly convinced that it is right for me, but I have certainly had my eyes opened to a different way of looking at it, that maybe to a minority it is a much bigger deal.

Langley

Book Cover

I was pleasantly surprised when author Alexander Hinkley kindly sent me a review copy of his book, especially as it is a subject matter that I have talked about before here on my blog, and not only interests me, but is also very close to my heart…..a topic that any regular online players will be able to relate to on many different levels.

Weighing in at about 50 pages long, my thoughts turned to how well this complex subject matter would be dealt with and analysed in a relatively small page count. My fears were quickly allayed once I had got into the meat of the book, realising that the thoughtful flow of the book had just the right amount of depth to it to appeal to a broad audience, sitting well between people who have a an interest in gaming and those that maybe looking at the subject matter from a purely academic standpoint. Initially leading us through the theory behind the behavioral patterns of the socially labeled ‘Nerd’ subculture, the theorised tropes of this group of individuals are then applied to case studies based on 3 very different games, highlighting  very adaptive but common traits. Moving through the pages, further delving into the mindset of what makes certain people behave in the way they do online, I began to look and analyse my own behavioral patterns and those of the people around me. I would not consider myself in any way, shape or form one of these online antagonists, but I could not help but look and think about the how / why I play online and interact with other gamers, this book just pulls you in and questions you in a very clever way.

I have purposefully not covered the in depth points of this book, purely because I feel it needs to read by gamers and people with a passing interest in psychology themselves. Like with any piece of art, game, book or film, each person will get something different from the experience and form their own opinion, this book not only garners personal opinion but also puts the spotlight on you as the reader, making you look at how your online behaviour in whatever medium maybe perceived by others. Highly recommended to anyone that has their hand in this digital age.

Langley

 

Club_Soccer_Director smallThe football management sim has felt like a bit of dying breed in recent years with what appears to be a diminishing interest in the genre in the general gaming press. This slow fall from grace I feel is in part due to ‘light’ management type options in the yearly updates of Fifa and such likes, just enough to satiate all but the most hardcore would be managers, with the patience levels of the younger ‘Call of Duty’ generation only seeming to want guns & graphics, and not wanting to pour over pages of text based stats…a real shame!

I must confess to having shifted away from the more in-depth sim myself, due in part to my gaming habits becoming more console focused and this genre to my mind feeling out of place on a TV screen. During the 90’s I spent a scary amount of hours on both ‘Championship Manager’ and my particular favorite ‘Premier Manager’, tinkering with every conceivable aspect of club management right down to stadium development and the price of burgers in the food stands. In many ways it was this breadth of management sim that held my interest rather than just team management, It is that different something that I am hoping that ‘Club Soccer Director’ can bring that to the table.

Last weeks announcement from Jim Scott, CEO of Go Games certainly indicated that the tired football management sim maybe getting a shot in the arm, something new and fresh. Looking to take the game type in a new direction, as the name indicates you will take on the role of a club director, a role that sits you directly between the manager and the club board, dealing with Back Room Staff, Club Development, Player Transfer Deals, with much more besides. Like most micro management games, this will very much be a balancing act, with the difference of it being at the very heart of a chosen club! with many people / stakeholders to keep happy, whilst at the same time making sure that things are going right on the pitch with clever signings. If Go Games can deliver the game that they are talking up, then I am in no doubt we will have a very unique and interesting addition to the genre, with Jim Scott at the helm, a veteran of many 90’s management sims the signs are very positive.

The game is still pretty early in the development cycle, hence the lack of in-game screen shots, but I will personally be watching with anticipation the development of this title as it moves towards it’s later in 2016 release, with a follow up piece as more details become available….stay tuned.

Langley

Further Reading –

Go Games Website: http://www.go-play-games.com/

Game Website: http://www.clubsoccerdirector.co.uk

Jim Scott Personal Blog: http://clubsoccerdirector.blogspot.co.uk/

As most of us traverse this path through the many facets of the games industry, it is impossible not to occasionally stumble across interesting people that are trying their best to do things a little differently, people who want to challenge the way we work in an effort to hopefully deliver better gaming experiences to us, whilst giving the creative minds behind them the tools they need to do so….enter stage left: Tim / mothnode of ‘Cyberhippie Collective’.

In essence what is trying to be achieved with Cyberhippie Collective is to create a functional, modern and technologically advanced collaborative workspace for not only the Indie Development community, but for the other creative people at the fringes of this industry, a sort of melting pot of creative talent under one roof where not only will you be inspired, but can inspire others around you in the shared space with collaborative brainstorming. Talking to Tim really struck a chord with me, as this concept of a creative consortium had previously crossed my mind based within the Design / Print sector, and still feel that if done right is an interesting way to look at working.

Much as the theory is good, the practicalities of such a project are vast if trying to set up as a solo endeavour, not only from a financial standpoint but enticing already established companies / developers away from the cosiness of the familiar and accepted work practices, and making that leap to potentially working in a much more creatively beneficial environment…that is a big ask! especially as you would essentially be working alongside companies that are potential rivals for the same space in the industry, the need for privacy to avoid plagiarism would be great and something that would need to be addressed in correct fashion.

At first glance Cyberhippie Collective are doing things very right, although still in the early stages of the project, the groundwork is being put firmly in place with supporters already on-board, and a Patreon campaign underway that is providing an open door for anyone to get involved with contributions….at it’s core it’s about bringing creative minds together to make better games for all of us to enjoy, I for one am all for that.

Further details can be found at: http://www.cyberhippie.co

Langley

3 on Test from ‘Mpow’

Posted: February 8, 2016 in Features, Reviews, Tech

Having recently been invited to test and review 3 products from up and coming ‘Mpow’, how could I resist a play with three very different tech items, two of which I had never had the pleasure of tinkering with before. Rather than write entirely new reviews for the featured items, I have decided to collate the previously written ones here in one place…so without further adieu:

Mpow 2 in 1 Clip-On Lens – Professional Wide Angle / Macro 37mm Thread Lens for Phones & Camera’s

As a freelance photographer I am always on the lookout for interesting, related pieces of kit that would prove useful on my travels. Although aware of this sector and the rise in popularity of this type of product with the continued boom in mobile phone photography, it is a product that I have shied away from as I was more than happy with the Nokia Lumia 1020 with it’s 42mp camera that I tend to keep in my camera bag as a mobile shooter.

Upon arrival I was struck by how minimalist yet very appropriate the packaging was, the sturdy well designed box has a lift off lid that houses the lens, attachment bracket and soft carry bag in a strong foam inner that held the contents in place well. As I started to unpack the all of the component parts I was pleased by the overall build quality of all of the contained elements. The most important part of the set-up is obviously the lens, and I am pleased to say that it does not disappoint! It has a very real proportional weight to it with a wonderful build quality and I particularly liked how it is styled in the same way as a proper Digital SLR lens, so does not look out of place as part of a camera kit, furthermore, little touches like the included lens cap that sits perfectly over the wonderful glass lens. All in all the whole package highlights that the manufacturer has really thought about the market they are selling it to, and the standards that are expected from purchasers of this type of kit.

Much as I was impressed with the package so far, as ever the proof is in the pudding, and it is here I have a very slight niggle that may not be entirely appropriate to all users of this item. I would have liked the clip that the lens screws into to have been a little longer in arm length to allow a bit more flexibility between phone models, as it appears to have been designed more with iPhone in mind, or certainly phones that have the camera quite close to the edge of the case, a shame as they had obviously made efforts to have a large aperture to accommodate fluctuations in lens size of different models of phone. I personally tested this on three different phones, a Nokia Lumia 930, Nokia Lumia 1020 and a Motorola Razor…and it fitted none of these perfectly which was a real shame! in fact it would not fit the Lumia 1020 at all because it has a slight bulge where the 42mp shooter is housed, which is a real shame as this is my goto mobile for photography purposes. The other two phones where only slightly out, but cast a dark area to the right hand edge of taken images.

Although hindered by the limitations of ‘not quite fitting’ from above, I was still able to take enough test photo’s to glean enough of an opinion as to the quality of this lens. Once again I was very impressed at what the manufacturer has managed to achieve, providing a wonderful clarity to images and extending the range limitations of a phone camera. Just as with a real camera lens this item will not improve the image quality of your phone camera, but offers a wider flexibility to your mobile photography.

To sum up, this is a wonderful, well packaged and produced product, that is a perfect companion to increase the options you have with your mobile photography endeavours. The niggles I had with the product were in no way a reflection on the quality of the product, but more as a cautionary note as to the compatibly with all mobile phones….overall as a product, highly recommended.

Ultra Slim External USB 3.0 CD / DVD Burner

The optical drive arrived in a non-branded plain but perfectly functional cardboard box, which I personally thought was a missed trick for advertising purposes and must confess to initially being a little concerned as to what the quality of the item would be like considering how little care was taken with the packaging. Any concerns were quickly diminished as I removed the wonderfully slim drive that has an aluminium / brushed metal appearance, fitting well on any desk alongside most technology you may find in such a place. Included in the box is a small instruction leaflet that has extensive FAQ for any trouble shooting if needed.

Being a ‘Plug & Play’ item no set up is required aside from finding a spare USB 3.0 slot on your computer or laptop. I did find that Windows 10 took a little while to find the drive, but assume this was just down to installation of the correct drivers, but once found had no problems, managing to successfully install music and games to my laptop with ease. I had a few problems with being able to burn to this drive, but after a bit of playing it was attributed it to my burning software wanting to default to my laptop’s internal drive. After which I successfully managed to burn some test files using this drive in quiet and speedy fashion.

Just as a little side note, although stated as incompatible with tablets by the manufacturer, I thought I would test on my Microsoft Surface out of curiosity. The tablet recognised the drive quicker than Windows 10 managed to and I was able to play music and extract files from burned disks to the tablet, the only limitation being unable to use it to burn disks, but this comes down to app availability to do this this task rather than the drive itself, but was a welcome additional usefulness.

To sum up, this item is competitively priced and a very functional piece of kit that sits nicely with most tech that it will be working alongside, it’s slim and diminutive form factor makes it ideal to be used on the move, slipping easily into most laptop bags and as I have found my tablet also which has no optical drive at all. My only real criticism is of the lacklustre and very plain packaging, but at the end of the day that is no big issue when the item itself is of such good calibre.

Overall I would recommend this item to anyone looking for a fast, attractive and well priced external optical drive / burner.

 

Mpow Streambot Z – In Car Wireless Bluetooth Transmitter

Upon receiving this item for review I was unsure exactly what to expect for a number of reasons, mainly due to not really being aware of this type of device before (as not really needed) and how well it would work in a real world setting as many products don’t function as well as described by the manufacturer. The ‘Streambot Z’ arrived well packaged in the usual Mpow minimalist box and artwork, but is functional and entirely appropriate for the item it is housing.

On opening the package you are greeted with the Streambot in a secure plastic inner and a small but informative instruction leaflet which is a must if you have never used this type of product before. I was initially a little concerned over the size of the Streambot, thinking that I maybe obtrusive sticking out within the car’s centre console, though these fears were allayed once I had the device in situ within the car. After a short scan over the instructions I had this set up and working surprisingly quickly, and must confess to being amazed at just how well this works.

To sum up, this is a very impressive piece of kit that does exactly as it sets out to with absolute ease, although maybe not geared towards owners of newer cars with build in Bluetooth, but for anyone that wants to add Bluetooth functionality to an older car with the befits it brings, then I would not hesitate to recommend this product.

As you can see I had a lot of fun with this trio of items and would certainly be happy to point anyone in the direction of Mpow if in the market for a wide cross section of technological needs. Links to all the featured products can be found below, along with Mpow’s own website.

Langley

 

Mpow: http://www.xmpow.com

Featured Products:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0197LTBJI

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00Z61YVA8

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B018U69NVM

Yesterday brought with it a visit to Newcastle’s Metro Centre and what turned into my first real game hunt since my move to the North East of England. It was a day of good, cheap finds of some items that have been on my wanted list for a while, and some not so friendly ‘Customer Service’.

So first the good…..

The Metro Centre provided a good cross section of gaming retailers from the national high street stalwart Game, the national yet pseudo independent CEX and finally the smaller independent Grainger Games, of which I understand there are a few branches here in the North East. Game provided the usual sterile high street chain experience, yet this spacious store seemed a step up from the smaller stores I had become accustomed to in the South West, providing a raft of collectables alongside the always well stocked shelves of games, though unfortunately mostly the more commercial titles that seem to be the tendency….I must say the staff were helpful and personable, with the visit rounding off with a copy of  ‘Bit Trip Complete’ for the bargain price of 53p after deducting the £2 or so I had in reward points, was in immaculate condition and still had the soundtrack CD with it, BONUS!

Next stop was CEX, the franchised upstart that has managed to spread countrywide in what has felt like a scant few years. Although they live and breath in way that a chain does, their stores always feel like an independent, and this location was no exception. Always seeming to be the most competitive in the trade-in field, this is an ideal stop for people wanting such services, yet at times this can be reflected quite heavily in sale prices. All this is balanced with always well stocked shelves and an uncanny ability to stock a good cross section of games, including usually some harder to find titles and collectors editions. I managed to pick up a couple of pieces I have been planning to get at a good price, completing my Bioshock Xbox 360 collection with ‘Bioshock Infinate’ and a step closer to my Elder Scrolls every variant collection, snagging Oblivion & Skyrim on PS3. One niggle, which does seem to be a widespread problem across CEX stores, was the filing of games, or lack of should I say! I was also looking to purchase ‘The Legendary Edition’ of Skyrim on PS3, but alas the disk could not be found.WP_20160119_12_03_21_Pro

and the not so good…..

The final stop was at the recommended Grainger Games, a small chain located within the ‘The Village’ section of the Metro Centre, and was the store I was most intrigued to investigate on my first visit to this location having been recommended. From a distance as I approached it was not immediately obvious that this was Grainger Games, with the external sign just reading ‘Trade In’, it was not until I had entered the store that it became clear where I was with a big sign on the wall, the opposite way around seems like a more logical approach to marketing your brand. Although a smallish store the cross section of games and pricing was a good balance, with much to be found after delving a bit. I ended up purchasing ‘Until Dawn’ and ‘The Elder Scrolls Online’ for PS4, also a game I have never seen in the wild before but have been looking for, the hidden gem that is ‘A Boy and his Blob’ for the Wii, and at the bargain price of £3. The negative side of this stop was the staff, they come across as not really bothered and uninterested in the customer, which struck me as odd as most independents tend to employ staff that are genuinely interested in the games they are selling, engaging in conversations in a shared interest with the customer. To a degree you expect a little less from a large chain, but this surprised me from a store that was recommended….furthermore I was looking to purchase a ‘Limited Edition Forza Xbox One’, an item they had advertised for sale right by the entrance, but it seemed like a lot of effort for staff to check if they were even in stock, even though advertised so…and turns out they didn’t!!

Overall despite my gripes it turned out to be a productive day of game hunting, finding a few bits that I have been after, and at the end of the day that is what it is about, that said customer service is important and is what will keep us returning.

Langley

I often remember thinking to myself just how much I have disliked the town I was living, how the everyday surroundings had become mundane, boringly familiar, yet struck me as curious that if I was making the same drive along an identical carbon cut-out roads through other towns, how it would just feel different and interesting….I think it boils down to the age old sense of discovery!

As someone who enjoys travelling, I like that feeling of wonderment and discovery as you enter a town you have never been before, somewhere new to explore and absorb information, everything from the architecture to the location, all the facets that make it the way it is, whether good or bad.

So what has all this to do with games?

Well I suppose that I am addicted to the aforementioned feeling and it is a sensation that can be well replicated within a good game, especially those of the open world variety where you can wander for hours just finding new area’s, revelling in the detailing the developers have taken the time and effort to include. Now more than ever we are able to take those journey’s in astonishing detail, and not just in realistic setting of a bustling city, but fantasy worlds pulled from imagination.

Much as I love retro gaming with it’s charming, unhindered simplicity, this current era in gaming truly is incredible, software companies taking us to places we never thought possible, with a level of authenticity that at times makes me stop what I am playing and just admire the artwork and creativity that is laid out before me. As a photographer and freelance designer myself (in a different field), I understand creativity and the process, along with the difficulties it can pose. Most artistic outlets including film are just a passive experience, with gaming you become an interactive part of a world, where your actions can have direct influence on the narrative and surroundings.

This modernist interactive pastime and artistic outlet really is a gift that keeps giving! As the landscape around us changes, fluctuates and develops with time, so do the games we play and the universes within them. Creators have always strived to give us escapist digital worlds, they finally, thankfully, have the tools to do it properly.

Langley