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Mark Walton Ornament

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This blog is a part of the scavenger hunt.

Share a couple of items on your Christmas wishlist this year.
I would like these things:
http://www.mieffects.com/TZ.htm
Rock Band Keyboard
Tickets to see Daft Punk in concert

Totoro plushie! http://www.otaku.co.uk/itemview.asp?itemid=66904x

What games will you play during the holidays?
Playing guitar--and it absolutely has to be a stratocaster or telecaster. Gibson's are not cool ;-)

What are the kinds of food or drinks you must have during the holidays?
Pringles--do you have them in the states?
Twiglets--again, may be a UK thing.
Tons of sage and onion stuffing
Perfectly Roasted Potatoes
Trifle!
Various boxes of chocolate--Roses, Quality Street, Cadbury's Heroes, Celebrations...basically EVERYTHING.

ORNAMENT HUNT ANSWER - CLUE 13

IndieSpot UK and why indie games are AWESOME.

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Let's start off with a simple fact; indie games are awesome.

Because of this, I've started a monthly feature called IndieSpot UK over on the GameSpot UK blog, where you can check out four of our top indie picks for the month. We're going to be looking at classics, new titles, and some of the more bizarre games to come from people's bedroom studios around the world.

But why indie games I hear you ask? The whole of the video games industry is based upon the work of hardworking programmers in the late 70's and early 80's who worked from their bedrooms, painstakingly keying in code on monochrome monitors and bouncy rubber ZX Spectrum keys. All games used to be indie. And it's where some of the best and most original ideas have sprung from, creating gameplay mechanics that are still used in many of our modern AAA games.

Though many modern indie games hark back to those past mechanics, others are innovating in incredibly exciting ways, with the likes of thatgamecompany's Flower and Jonathan Blow's Braid offering unique experiences that can't be had from the big development houses. Of course, they also push those development houses to re-think their own games, taking on board many of the innovations of the indie scene. They may even surpass the success of the big boys; just look at FarmVille developer Zynga's recent estimated valuation of $5 billion dollars, matching that of publishing giant EA.

So fellow gamers, please check out IndieSpot UK, and drop me a message if you have any tips of your own, or indeed if you're an indie developer with a game to show off. In the mean time, I suggest you check out Molleindustria's Everyday the same dreamif you haven't already. It's brilliant.

Mark

My Band needs your help to play at this year's Benicassim festival!

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I'll level with you now, this post has nothing to do with video games. Instead I'm asking a massive favour. I'm calling upon you, the GameSpot community, to vote for my band Guns to Caviar to play at this year'sBenicassim festival in Spain!

Organised by SuperJam, the competition asks bands from around Europe to submit their track to a public vote to win a gig at theBenicassim festival.From over 2000 bands we've made it into the top 40! We need your votes to help us make it into the top 5 and play at the grand final in London.

All you have to do is head to the following URL: http://tinyurl.com/voteg2c register, and then rate our tracks (preferably highly!). Just click on the stars underneath the music player to leave a rating. You can even leave a friendly comment if you like :-)

Any votes you guys give would be really really helpful, so please vote if you can!

Many thanks,
Mark

g2c Poster

Bioshocking

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When Bioshock 2 landed on my desk I was incredibly eager to get it home and fire it up. Having now completed the game, I can't help but feel a little disappointed with my experience. Yes, Bioshock 2 is a very good game, but the sheer awe I felt when diving into Rapture for the first time has gone.

This was of course inevitable, given that I've played in the city before. There's no denying creating a sequel to Bioshock was a big ask, especially as the first game felt entirely self-contained, with little room for a sequel. The new story feels like it's been shoe-horned into place, and often makes you wonder what these all-powerful people were doing during the first game. Perhaps they were just taking an long nap.

I also felt the story also raised more questions than it did answers, and just when I thought I was going to uncover the truth, the game ended.This is not to say I didn't have a great time with Bioshock 2, the combat is much improved, playing as a big daddy is just plain awesome, and the big sister battles were a lot of fun.

I think that my expectations were perhaps set too high, and after the brilliance of the first game, it was never going to live up to them. Bioshock 2 is evidence of the dreaded "second album syndrome" that blights so many bands today, releasing a stonking debut, followed by a so-so follow up.

Not I'm not playing Mass Effect

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Since its release, Mass Effect 2 has been the subject of non-stop conversation in the GameSpot UK offices. The anticipation for the game has been massive, and when our post arrived last Friday, I lost count of the number of people literally sprinting to the post room to see if their copy had arrived.

Unfortunately, I wasn't one of those people. I didn't pre-order a copy, it's just not high on my list of things to play at the moment. I'm sure it's brilliant, and I'll no doubt play it at some point, but right now I'm more excited for Bioshock 2, Final Fantasy XIII, and Heavy Rain.

I've been fortunate enough to play a large chunk of Heavy Rain (if you're interested you can check out my preview), and for me is one the most important releases for the gaming industry this year. It blurs the boundaries between movie and video game more than any other title I've played. The way each scene has been meticulosuly crafted to recreate the look of film, the emotionally-affecting story, and the way it deals with serious issues such as parenthood, loss of a loved one, and even rape are a major push forward for gaming as a serious art form.

Many have wondered whether a serious of quick time events can really be construed as game. But that's just it, all games are merely button pushes on a control pad. Heavy Rain integrates the actions you make so deeply into the story, that you never feel as though you are anything but in control of your character, and your even the smallest of your actions has vast repercussions on the narrative.

So yes, I'm sure Mass Effect 2 is great, and I'm hopeful that Bioshock 2 will also be great. But they don't do anything vastly different from other games before them, playing to the same clichés and mechanisms that have powered the current generation of gaming. Heavy Rain is a major departure from that, and I sincerely hope that more games of it's type come along to push the boundaries of game design, and maybe help to create something truly special.

Australia Day!

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Thanks to our resident Aussie, Luke Anderson, I've recently received a crash course in the joys of Australia day. For those not in the know, the Wikipedia entry sums it up pretty well:

"Australia Day (previously known as Anniversary Day, Foundation Day and ANA Day), and also referred to as Invasion Day by several groups within Australian society, is the official national day of Australia. Celebrated annually on 26 January, the day commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove in 1788, the hoisting of the British flag there, and the proclamation of British sovereignty over the eastern seaboard of Australia."

Now, you're probably wondering why I've suddenly taken a interest in our down under cousins special day. Turns out that in addition to numerous parties, Australia day also brings with it tasty treats. Thanks to the Mr. Anderson, I've had the joy of sampling Anzac Biscuits, delicious bite-sized oaty morsels, held together with the king of sugars, Golden Syrup. Luke brought some homemades Anzacs into the office, and have been doing the rounds with our neighbours at ZDNet, silicon, and CNet UK.

anzac biscuits

Once again Wikipedia sums up nicely how the biscuits came into existence:

"Anzac biscuits have long been associated with the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps established in World War I. The biscuits were often sent to loved ones abroad because the ingredients do not spoil easily and the biscuits kept well during naval transportation. Today, ANZAC Biscuits are manufactured commercially for retail sale and are popular in Australia and New Zealand."

So with today being Australia day, grab yourself some rolled oats, flour, coconut, sugar, butter, and golden syrup, and bake some Anzacs for your work chums.

Spread the biscuit love!

Do I need an Apple Tablet?

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Unless you've been living under an extremely large rock the past few days, you'll know that Apple, purveyor of all things shiny, has announced a press conference on Wednesday January 27. I'll fully admit, I'm a pretty die hard Mac fan. Life wouldn't be the same without my Macbook Pro and iPhone, and thanks to my evangelic Apple praise, my girlfriend also went out and got herself a Macbook and iPhone. She's never looked back.

Apple Invite

When Apple put out the press release for next week's event, I was more excited than a schoolgirl in a sweet shop full of Hello Kitty bags and Johnny Depp lookalikes. The invite alone was enough to get every tech journalist in the land worked up into a frenzy. The consensus is of course, that Apple will finally be unveiling a long-rumoured tablet device. What will this mythical tablet look like? How big will the screen be? Will it run iPhone OS or full OS X? How much is it going to cost?

A quick glance at the big gadget blogs just shows how high expectations are for this device. Every scrap of information is being analysed in such depth, you would think this thing has the cure for cancer. There is talk from the Wall Street Journal about eBooks for the tablet, The Guardian is reporting the device will be subsidised by mobile networks, and Engadget has some unconfirmed spy shots of the front cover of the device--And we're still not sure this thing even exists yet!

However, the question I've been asking myself the most is, do I need one? Probably not. After all, Windows tablet PCs have existed for a long time, and they've never really found a home outside of niche applications in medicine and logistics, where the form factor makes sense. That is unless Apple have some kind of killer app for the thing, one that is going to open the wallets and minds of consumers across the globe. I don't see pre-packaged magazines and newspapers as the answer, after all, why pay for something I can read for free on a web browser? eBooks? Maybe. But in all likelihood we're going to see an LCD screen on this thing, rather than the E-Ink screens that make eReaders like the Kindle so great for reading on. Sure it'll probably play music, surf the internet, and play videos, but is that enough to move people away from their iPhones?

So what's the answer? I believe the answer lies in three things: Graphic design, music production, and gaming. Any graphic designer worth their salt will tell you how great it is to be able to draw directly onto a screen, rather than via a graphics tablet. Devices such as Wacom's Cintiq cover this market rather well, but cost thousands of dollars. A tablet priced anywhere below $750 would be killer for that market, depending on what software can be run on it. How about a dynamic, multi-touch, MIDI controller which you could plug straight into your DAW such as Logic? Sign me up now!

And then of course, there's gaming. While Apple has never been a big player in the games market, the launch of the iPhone and App Store changed all that. Suddenly Apple had a viable game platform, one which sported unique features such as multi-touch, motion sensors, and an entirely digital distribution platform--something hasn't worked quite as well for Sony's PSP Go. Yes, the games aren't exactly Gears of War, but I've had countless hours of fun playing Peggle, Doodle Jump, and MiniGore, to name but a few. The recent release of China Town Wars, the highest rated DS game of all time, only cements its reputation a fully fledged gaming device. Imagine if the tablet had an even higher graphics capability than the iPhone, and a much larger screen. Gaming like that seen at the beginning of the RUSE trailer below, could become a reality, albeit on a smaller scale.

[video=6206584]

So yes, I'm excited. But this is all speculation, for all we know next week apple could unveil some iPod socks. Remember that? For now, I'm going to get back to shooting angels with my shoes and destroying god herself with my hair in Bayonetta. So awesome. Mark

What if...

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...Guitar Hero got the Beatles instead of Rock Band?

No, what you want is a Shii.

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Of all the consoles, the Wii seems to be the comedians choice for satire, having already been made into a breakfast game, and something of a mans aid. Well looks like you can add one more to the list in the form of the Shii, the Wii for girls - and yes it is as bad as you think it will be.

Vote for GameSpot in the Webbys! We're almost there!

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As I'm sure you've all heard, Gamespot is up for a webby, but we need your help to get us into past the finish line, and onto the podium. All you need to do is head here www.tinyurl.com/gamespotwebby and follow the instructions to vote - you'll even get an emblem for your profile 8)

In lieu of my own rousing speech, here's Mr Gibson to provide you with some inspiration! Kaplah!

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