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30/7/07: Fable A Motion

After the positive response to my last review I have decided to attempt to make this a series for as long as I can manage before losing interest or being talent spotted by a major broadcaster. To that end, here is my second ever video review, this one for a somewhat older game but which I've been playing a bit lately and wanted to talk about anyway.

- Yahtzee

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25/7/07: Bark In The Dark

Today's update will be in the form of a video I made. Enjoy.

- Yahtzee

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19/7/07: Shoot My Balls

I've just invented a new ultra trendy compound word. 'Blogligation'. It's a portmanteau of 'blog' and 'obligation', and describes the feeling that, having in the past regularly updated a website, you have this imagined inescapable duty to hastily throw together an update for it whenever the time gap since the last one grows too long, no matter what other things you could be doing or how little interest you have in writing them. I just want you all to know that blogligation is the only thing keeping me updating this site, that and so the audience remains at a stable level for the few occasions when I actually release a game.

Which leads us tentatively to the subject of today's blogligation, because I'm going to put on my game designer hat. I want to talk to you about character damage systems in games, and why none of them have even attempted to be realistic.

I'm not talking about Soldier of Fortune-esque damage models so you can make realistic yawning wounds burst open in an enemy NPC's screaming flesh, or pump round after round into their crotch until nothing remains of their wedding tackle but a shredded curtain of mutilated tissue. I'm talking about a system of taking damage and dying that bears any semblance to the real world.

If you've ever played an FPS or similarly action-based title I'm sure you know how it goes. Every enemy has an invisible number of hit points representing the firmness of that character's grasp on this veil of tears. Being shot or smacked about in any way causes this number to drop, in various increments depending on whereabouts on the body the damage took place, and when it reaches zero, the enemy drops dead where he or she or it stands. But there's usually absolutely no difference in performance between an enemy at full health and one with only 1 point remaining, despite ostensibly being one toe-poke away from the hereafter. Games with ragdoll death animations just make it look even more ridiculous. One moment an enemy is strafing and firing at full speed, the next his entire body just goes limp like Mr. Scotty teleported his skeleton out of his body or something.

Besides the one-time chunk of vitality loss bullet wounds in games have no sensible effect on a human being. They don't cause gradual bleed-out. They don't shred muscle fibres to impair movement. They don't shatter bones. An enemy shot in the shoulder will still be firing his shotgun with no ill effects. Kneecapping him will not impair his ability to sprint in the slightest. Deus Ex went a little way towards this issue with the player having separate health for each limb and body part but there were still very few long-term effects of being shot multiple times in the chest and stomach, and all the damage could be swiftly healed by scoffing ten bags of crisps.

It's frustrating that games touting realism still use the old magic health bar system when a more realistic alternative would actually be pretty easy to implement. I'm not talking about fully-rendering an entire human body complete with organs and skeleton for every single NPC and having every single square inch of the body behave differently when shot, although it might not be long before a major game attempts something like that. Breaking it down to its most basic level, my new idea for the FPS damage system would go like this:

- Enemy/player is shot somewhere. There is a small one-time hit point loss, then health starts gradually ticking down to simulate ongoing pain and blood loss. The amount of the one-time loss varies depending on body part.

- The more times the character is shot, the faster the ticking-down becomes.

- The ticking down continues until the character can spare a few moments to use a bandage or health kit to tie up the wound.

- When the character's health is below 80%, their movement starts slowing. When they are under 30%, they can only walk slowly and cannot use weapons. After the health is below 10%, they can only crawl along the floor. Under 3% and they can't even move, and can only lie and wait for death to come, dreaming of their wives back home as poignant music plays.

That's the most basic I can make it. Ideally there would be other features, like each character having various 'damage zones' which, when shot once, would not cause another one-time health loss if shot again, only maybe accelerate the ticking-down a bit. The ticking down would obviously occur in larger increments if the character is shot in a major body part. If the game has RPG elements the character's strength or endurance scores can dictate how much health the player needs to be able to walk or run. And of course only being shot in the arms removes the ability to shoot, and only being shot in the legs or torso removes the ability to run.

Going even further, it might be cool to have certain kinds of damage cause severe internal problems that bandages alone cannot fix, so health continues to tick down until the player can find a surgeon, or operate on themselves if their skill in surgery is high enough.

If you want the player to have some kind of advantage for pussy easier difficulty settings then I guess you could still have powered armour systems that would work the same way as silly health does currently in games. But once that's depleted, we go back to the ticky downy system. It honestly wouldn't be that much harder to put in than the current system, all you need for the most basic level is an extra variable for each character stating how fast their health depletes.

I'll tell you what my ideal realistic damage system would use if I could get my hands on the technology and the programming team. I'd use something like Will Wright's Spore engine to create enemies with totally procedurally generated animation. And whenever the enemy got damaged it would stiffen and paralyse the area that was damaged. If said area was part of an arm or leg, then everything below the wound goes limp and floppy, creating an effect I would call gradual ragdollisation. I think it'd be hella fun to watch enemy soldiers try to limp away from you with one leg out of commision and both arms wobbling loosely about like a pair of swingballs.

And while we're on the subject, it would be nice if enemies actually realised they were in danger from you at some point. After murdering about ten billion having them run out screaming 'WE'RE GONNA KICK YOUR ASS' stops being tense and stops being funny and then starts making me feel bad, like intentionally shunting a short bus off a bridge.

- Yahtzee

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2/7/07: Duly Noted

I neglected to mention in the last update that it was Mark 'mods' Lovegrove who supplied me with the PC Format review. I think he's made some music for some free games or something. Sorry for neglecting you, mods, now please respond to that email I sent you.

So I've been watching the Death Note anime lately. If you're not familiar with Death Note it's a manga, an anime and a live action movie about a God of Death who gives his magic human killing book to a standard anime girly-faced prettyboy who then uses it to exert his own twisted ideals upon the world, while attempting to fend off the investigations of a sugar-addicted social-skills-deficient master detective long enough for him to slip into a diabetic coma and die. It's a half-decent series, the decent half being the first half, before the best character is killed off and the whole convoluted storyline disappears up its own convoluted large intestine.

It's a popular series, judging by the way it's been adapted so much, partly because of interesting characters and a plot with more twists and turns than a ball of steel wool, but I think mostly because we can all consider how awesome it would be to own a magic book that makes people die when you write their name in it, and also what demented agenda we could pursue once the absolute power starts corrupting absolutely. Personally, I'd just break out every major phone directory in the world and get scribbling, but then I'm a misanthrope. In fact, I might see if I could save time and just put the dust jacket on a phone directory and see if that works.

Anyway, the concept of the Death Note got me thinking. And here's the logical route I meandered down:

- There are Death Gods that own Death Notes, and writing down names of humans in the Death Notes make humans die.

- If there are Gods of Death there will probably be Gods of other things.

- These Gods of other things will probably own equivalent notes.

And that's when I decided to come up with some ideas for alternative notes owned by other Gods from mythology. And since the driving force of the Death Note series is the ridiculous amount of rules attached to the use of the Note, I felt I should come up with some rules for these new alternative Notes, too.

Astarte, Goddess of Love: Love Note

The person whose name is written in this note will fall in love with the person whose name is written immediately below.

If no second name is written within one minute or the first name is written twice, that person will wank themselves raw for the rest of their lives.

If two names are written below one name, the ensuing events will probably be made into a film starring Julia Roberts.

Ares, God of War: War Note

The country whose name is written in this note will declare war on the name of the country written immediately below.

If no second name is written within one minute, the first country will be engaged in civil war.

If the name of an individual human is written, that human will lose all their hair, paint themselves red, accidentally kill their own family and vow revenge upon you no matter how much of the incident was their own stupid fault.

Hecate, Goddess of the Wilderness: Rabbit Note

The person whose name is written in this note will turn into a bunny rabbit. The writer has one minute after writing the name to specify breed, colouration and gender of the bunny rabbit.

As long as the end result is recognisably a bunny rabbit then you can also add unusual elements to the bunny rabbit's description, such as glowing in the dark, smelling of peanut butter, or being nineteen feet tall.

If the name is written incompletely, or an attempt is made to erase it, then that person will only turn into half a bunny rabbit and will go on to feature as a fan service character in a Final Fantasy game.

Dionysus, God of Wine: Piss Pants Note

The person whose name is written in this note will piss their pants. They do not necessarily have to be drunk, but it's less socially ruinous if they are.

A person who is not wearing pants when scheduled to piss them will run to the nearest convenient pair of pants. All that matters to the note is that pants come into contact with urine.

If the person pisses on another person's pants while they are wearing them and is beaten up, the writer of the name will find that to be fucking hilarious.

- Yahtzee

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19/6/07: Essay I Say I Say

I have now seen the PC Format review. Thank you Future Publishing, it was very nice.

Also, I wrote an essay. Click here to read it. It's about song lyrics. It's also about other, less wholesome things so you probably shouldn't read it at work.

- Yahtzee

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5/6/07: iProblem

6 Days A Sacrifice, I am reliably informed, has been favourably reviewed in issue 201 of British 'serious' computing journal PC Format. Unfortunately acquiring a scan of it from the magazine itself will apparently set me back 350 quid which could be more fruitfully spent on rent, bills and ice cream sandwiches. So if someone else could provide a scan I'd be grateful. Perhaps even to the point of giving away a free special edition.


Speaking of serious computing journals I have an article in the current Hyper and another one in the next. I keep forgetting to mention this.


I'm going to try not to swear in this article because I have to mail this to myself through the office email filters and they usually don't hold with that kind of thing.

So I finally sold out and bought an Ipod the other day. I haven't sold out to the point that I'd spell it with a lower case I and a capital P like the makers insist upon, though. This is the English language, for god's sake, it's gotten on perfectly well for centuries without you faffing about with it like a fop shaking a snotty hanky off his manicured hand.

Sorry, getting off topic. So yes, I bought an eyepod, and in my defense I bought the cheapest kind 'cos I just needed something to listen to at work. I got one of those second generation eyepod Shuffles and this thing is flucking minuscule. It's just about big enough for a button and a headphone jack. You couldn't make this any smaller without needing a sewing needle and magnifying glass to work it. I'm tempted to see if I can swallow it, and belch the White Album all the way home.

But I think the Ipod has a serious image problem, and this problem is that walking around with one makes you look like a twart. So for the benefit of my new trend-following sheep-bleating fluckwit brethren I've put together some methods to mitigate this factor.


1. Ditch the white wires

Nothing says 'Ipod-wearing twart' than having those iconic white wires dribbling down your front like the twin gods of music just came in both your ears. Replace the Apple earphones with third party black ones or scribble all over them with a black biro. Also, wear dark clothing, but not all-black, because then you start looking like a twart again.

2. Disguise the earpieces

Find a way to cover your ears to disguise the tell-tale earpieces. One way to do this is to grow your hair long and let it hang over your ears, but again this is encroaching on twart territory from another direction. The less said about earmuffs the better. On the whole the best option is to wear another, larger pair of earphones and maybe dress up as someone who wears earphones for work, like an air traffic controller or Agent Smith from the Matrix.

3. Don't move

As tempting as it may be to start nodding your head or tapping your foot when the really awesome half of Freebird starts, remember that following the advice above will cause people to not realise you are wearing an Ipod, so if you start moving or at worst break-dancing in the middle of the street people are going to think you are having a seizure. If this happens you might want to go along with it because chances are they'll take you to hospital and inject you with something really awesome.

- Yahtzee

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23/5/07: Kiss Of The Spider Woman

Updates have been quiet from me lately because of a number of rather significant events making things all hectic like. Last week I found myself getting into a little moving house action because of a little breaking up with girlfriend action but now I'm all wired up and settled into the spare room of my friend and game dev colleague Matt. He has two Guitar Hero controllers and every console known to man so worry not that this shrinking creature of twilight shall die of boredom. I am, however, pining for the touch of a woman, which may explain certain recent updates.

Also, I turn 24 tomorrow, so if you want to get me a present just plug my games on your popular internet forum of choice to indirectly boost my special edition income, which has trickled off at late.

Anyway, scurry along now, for I have to write a letter.


Dear Mr. S.M.A.H.E.D.I.T. Films,

It's been very clear to me after the first two Spider-Man films that Sam Raimi is kind of jerking off in our faces. And I mean that in the nicest possible way. Because can't we all agree that in certain contexts and circumstances it's fun to watch someone else jerk off? Before I alienate my audience any further I should clarify that what I mean when I say jerking off is letting off steam and basically completely indulging yourself. And what with the studio execs getting great big boners from all the money his films bring in he's in a position to use more and more fistfuls of money in the pursuit of jerking off.

But while we were happy to get Sam Raimi's love of Spider-man all over our faces and lap it up with glee for two films, his third production is making things start to look a little strained, and while there are still moments that make us lick our acne-spattered lips, there are other moments when Sam Raimi's jerk-off is starting to drool solemnly down our eyelids as we watch in aghast contempt. Spider-Man 3 has its moments but suffers from being a big convoluted mess of plotlines, inconsistency and dodgy character motivation.

I'm pretty sure from what I know from industry insider reports that the flaws in Spider-Man 3 are largely due to studio meddling, so maybe Sam Raimi's personal spunk hasn't gotten sour quite yet. But now the damage is done. The flaws in previous Spider-Mans could be ignored because of all the sheer jolly time fun we were having. But now that Spider-Man 3 has mis-stepped, all those flaws return to light. Believe it or not I'm going somewhere with this, so forgive me for the long lead-up as I get to the nub of the matter.

Spider-Man: Your girlfriend is a bitch-ass ho and you should dump her.

I know it will be hard to accept. I know one tends to regard one's first girlfriend with a bit of the rose tint, especially clingy dorks like you. But you could honestly do a hell of a lot better and I think you need to take stock. You are a masked super-hero. You have the mystique that attracts the chicks. Every single woman in New York would drop their husbands and families in a second if you gave the slightest inclination towards letting them slide up and down on your spider totem. But you insist on clinging to this mouthy drama queen.

Let's reflect, shall we? Film 1. Your webslinging debut. Little miss prissybum is boning the school bully first and the rich kid second. Then, abandoned by latter, she starts wrapping her mandibles around you. You wisely tell her where to get off (albeit for the wrong reasons) and she reacts wounded by the idea that someone in the world with a Y-chromosome wouldn't jump at the chance of sliding into her beef sandwich.

Film 2. Things are going pretty well for the Hag Queen when she lands a part in a play but she whines at you for not taking time out of your busy schedule of SAVING FUCKING LIVES to come see her act and lavish her with praise. In an ongoing evil scheme to punish you for not immediately ramming your tongue down her throat at the end of film 1, she shacks up with some cardboard cutout of a handsome man just to see the look on your face. At the end, realising that you are Spider-man, she gleefully abandons a wedding at the last minute, costing millions of dollars and putting out absolutely everyone involved, because of her irritating little feminine whims.

Film 3. Now, maybe her insistence on your attention in the previous episode could be justified by her not knowing that you moonlight as a crimefighter. In this film, however, she has no such excuse. She has absolutely no right to demand that you think of her selfish needs and niggling issues when there are human lives at stake and superpowered misanthropes tearing shit up. She gets pissy when you fail to sympathise when she loses her job, forgetting that she never actually told you about losing her job. She gives you an earful for snogging a hotter, infinitely more agreeable girl despite it just being a frivolous photo op. Then she goes off and bones your best friend for a while. Then she breaks up with you because someone threatened to harm you if she didn't, either forgetting about the whole superpowers thing or finally having the excuse she needed to break off and find someone who can find the time to wait on her hand and foot for the rest of her fucking life. And then she has the sheer fucking nerve to whine about your behaviour towards her afterwards.

The film ends with whether or not you and Mary Jane get back together left a little ambiguous. So please, while you still have the opportunity, drop her like the ball on chain she is and shack up with some nice pretty little thing with a handy skill in sewing torn costumes back together and titties like two cantaloupes in a sandwich bag. I'd suggest Gwen Stacey but knowing the comic books her life expectancy would probably dip severely the moment you got it together.

- Yahtzee

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4/5/07: Sex Me Up

Between magazine writing, professional game design, amateur game design, actually playing the games I profess to be an authority on and my furious porn addiction it's becoming increasingly difficult to update this site on any kind of regular basis. Take now for example. I need to update and have absolutely nothing of interest to say. I refuse to divulge anything about the games I'm currently working on, as is my quirk, and all my best material has to be reserved for my magazine work now. So, plucking a topic right out of the air, I'll devote this space to explain what I think it would be like to have sex with a selection of video game characters.

Ashley (Resident Evil 4)

While Ada is probably the more obviously boneable character in Resident Evil 4, she strikes me as high maintenance. The sort of girl who'd lay you, but halfway through the act breaks your neck with her thighs and runs off with your secret microfilm. Ashley, veteran damsel in distress, is the sluttier, less homicidally inclined alternative. Okay, she may have ears, dress sense and smarts in common with a chimpanzee, and she may have a voice like a van reversing through the wall of a burglar alarm factory, but her mouth can very easily be taped shut, and after all that she still has juicy jugs and an arse like a shrink-wrapped peach.

Since she's the daughter of the president she probably likes it rough. I don't know what the hell I'm basing this on but that's just the impression I get. I would do her from behind while revving her ears like a motorbike and it would be awesome. "Vroom vroom," I will say. "Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee," she will reply.

Gordon Freeman (Half-Life)

Admittedly this is a completely narcissistic fling because with my current beard and short hair I bear something of a resemblance to the man. Somehow I think Gordon would be a very intimidating lover, because his constant silence and nerdy exterior lead me to conclude that he is in possession of a growler of titanic proportions. Obviously this was why he showed no inclination towards reciprocating the lovey dovey motions of Alyx Vance because getting an erection in that suit of armour would result in a lot of pain and a permanent L-shaped thing going on down there. And then it would take some serious gymnastics to have sex with him. For some reason I keep thinking of the word 'limbo'.

Lost Soul (Doom 3)

Hey, internet, Yahtzee wants to have sex with a floating head. Just stick with me on this one, it's not as weird as it sounds. Firstly, a cutscene clearly informs us that the lost soul is a female floating head, so it's not gay or anything. Secondly, those mouths open fucking wide and I think you know what I'm getting at there (pumps fist). Thirdly, they're just a head. You know how pissy the chicks get when you don't manage to finish them off. But with the lost soul, you've got an excuse. "What was I supposed to do?" you can say. "Tickle your neck stump? The closest thing you have to an erogenous zone is your nose."

Of course the lost soul is also observed to have a mouth crammed with shark-like fangs so upsetting the creature may put us on the highway to severe willy trauma but I'm thinking a few whacks with a monkey wrench will show her who's boss.

Mask De Smith (Killer 7)

If you're not familiar with the game Mask is the demolitions guy on the titular team, he is a masked Mexican wrestler in a suit and cape who wields twin grenade launchers and who is built like a brick privy. But as we are frequently reminded, he's actually a big old softy at heart who loves children and puppies and gumdrops and rainbows and explosions.

For some reason though I don't want to have sex with Mask De Smith. Not right away. He's a classy sort and he deserves to be wooed first. I picture the two of us, you know, skipping hand-in-hand through fields of flowers. Sharing the same horse on a merry go round, candy floss in hand. Reading each other our poetry under the swaying boughs of a shady tree. Slowdancing under the moonlight as his hands creep closer and closer towards my arse.

Yeah, I think I'm going to stop this now.

- Yahtzee

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