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SWTOR - Coruscant

December is now a time for two things: Christmas and the Steam Christmas Sale. Thankfully this year’s versions of those things did not rob me of all my money, though I did buy a few decent games from the Steam Sale which I’ll get onto in a moment.

First though, a couple of links to stuff I wrote on Gaming Daily in December. The first, a review of indie puzzler English Country Tune, can be found here. The second thing is a ‘Games of 2011’ piece in which all GD writers assembled words about their favourite games of the year and what made them so good. It’s well worth reading because my personal GOTY may surprise you – here it is.

Random Thoughts

– I was lucky to get some cracking games over the Christmas period. About a week before Christmas I got my copy of Star Wars: The Old Republic and have joined my old WoW guild in some adventures on Hydian Way. I’ve really been enjoying SWTOR so far and I hope to get a video out soon in which I summarise my thoughts on it so far (because I haven’t played anywhere near enough to consider reviewing it). On Christmas Day I got Saints Row: The Third which I haven’t played yet, though I have only heard good things about it from people so far. Unsurprisingly I have found myself sinking deeper and deeper into Skyrim as well but perhaps the big surprise over the last couple of weeks has been a little gem I picked up in the Steam sale called Dungeon Defenders.
I’ve known about Dungeon Defenders for a while, but something unknown to me stopped me from buying it before now. Since it dropped in price for the Steam Sale, I decided to go for it and I’ve had so much fun with it since then. It just feels like everything that should be in a tower defense game is in there, including towers and defense. I may well write something or make a video about it in the future because it really deserves the praise.

– 2011 really was a superb year for games, perhaps the best ever for me personally. With all the quality that we’ve been given this year, I think I’m quite happy to wait until March before Mass Effect 3 comes out and becomes my first big game purchase of 2012. I do, however, need to play through Mass Effect 2 again before that happens because some idiot forgot to backup his save file before formatting his PC last year.

– With all the gorgeous screenshots that I’ve been taking in Skyrim and SWTOR, I’ve been thinking of setting up a Flickr account just so I have somewhere to keep them other than my hard drive. The title image for this post was a particularly lovely scene, I felt.

– In an incentive to write more things, I’ve been considering turning this into a more multi-purpose blog because there are a lot of things like sport and ‘real world’ things that I would love to write about but don’t really fit into ‘PC Gaming Diaries’. So I’m brainstorming ideas, trying to work out whether I should make a new blog or ‘rebrand’ this one to become more broader and more personal. If you’ve made it this far, your input would be appreciated.

Adios!

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Beautiful beautiful beautiful

I bought Skyrim. I haven’t had much time to play it due to uni commitments, but I played Oblivion before purchasing it and managed to have fun with it. I still think a different mindset is required when it comes to playing Bethesda games compared to most other studios. My way of playing games has always been to plow through with the story, often having a clear idea of what the best way to play my character is. Having come to terms with Bethesda being different, I’m starting to enjoy it quite a lot. It’s one of only two games this year (the other being Deus Ex: HR) that makes me want to sit in the main menu just to hear the theme play out.

(I know, the idea of that being the highest form of praise I can give to Skyrim is stupid – I just thought it’s kind of cool).

One of the reasons I didn’t get to play much Skyrim is also down to my involvement in The Old Republic’s beta weekend. I went into the game almost blind, having not done much reading into the classes or abilities and such, but after that weekend, colour me fucking impressed. That was the most polished beta I’ve ever played in. The biggest bug I could find in my many hours of play was my character’s lips not moving during conversation pieces. When that’s the biggest problem you find in an MMO beta a month before its full release, you know it’s in pretty good shape.

There are some improvements that could be made, of course. I’d like to see a bit more done with character customisation – a common request from the testers during the weekend, but having only four different body shapes is restrictive. It did, however, allow me to play as a morbidly obese Sith Warrior, so all clouds, silver lining etc.

I can see myself playing quite a lot of The Old Republic. Most of my old WoW guild mates are making the switch and I’ll be playing with them which is a big plus. As to whether I’ll do much raiding or endgame content, I’m not sure. I’ve really enjoyed playing with different characters, mostly for story purposes, so I might turn into one of those MMO players who just levels tons of alts and doesn’t necessarily focus on one character. Part of me quitting raiding in WoW was because I felt like I wasn’t enjoying it and I was just doing it out of habit rather than for fun, which is something I’m still conscious of avoiding – particularly with a game with as much promise as SWTOR.

So yeah, The Old Republic; it’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect from an MMO made by BioWare and set in Star Wars. That’s just about the best way I can sum it up.

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So the last time I did a bloggity post I talked about how Valve were the best behaved bastards I’ve ever loved in their Christmas Steam sale, which overdraws millions of people every year. This time I’m going to be talking about a very similar thingy. Assuming you have any interest in Portal 2 and have had access to the internet for the last week or so, Valve have been running an ARG to promote it and that culminated today with a countdown. Speculation was rife that the countdown was to the release of Portal 2, but when it hit 0 all we got was another page; which GLaDOS has named ‘the final challenge’.

Potatoes are Valve's favourite fruit

The Potato Sack has been on Steam for a while, offering 13 indie games with strange, often tenuous links to Aperture Science involved. The final challenge requires that we (and I do mean we as a collective unit of gamers) play anywhere between one and all of these games in order to speed up the launch of Portal 2. Otherwise, it will launch on its previously announced date of April 19th.

Great, right? Well, no. Not according to some people.

Some people reckon that if Portal 2 is ready, why should its release be delayed? Why is it being surrounded by this marketing bullshit?

Here’s why I think you’re misguided:

Firstly, Valve are not delaying the game. We’ve known for a long time that Portal 2 will be released on April 19th. They are giving us a chance to play it sooner than that. In what universe does this mean the game is delayed? Heck, in what universe is this morally or ethically wrong to do? There are worse things to do to earn an early release of a game than play some indie games, after all.

Secondly, ‘marketing bullshit’ has never been quite so interesting. ‘Marketing bullshit’ is when Rio Ferdinand shows up to an event in London to play the game, claiming it to be the finest gaming video he’s ever played then leaving 20 minutes later to claim his cheque. This has been an ARG that has captured the interest of thousands. People have been on treasure hunts around Seattle, people from all walks of life have been chipping in with pearls of wisdom to help figure out the next stage and now we have this; an opportunity for hundreds of thousands of gamers to collaborate towards the release of one of the year’s best games. This isn’t standard rubbish you’d see a typical developer do, this is something that’s taken days of effort and coordination that only Valve seem capable of pulling off.

Don’t want to play any of the games in the Potato Sack? Fine, thousands of others will. Just realise this; Valve are doing us a favour, continuing to show us why [standard PC blogger gushing] they’re the best developers in the world. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you, lest you never be fed another potato again.

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One of the things to look forward to at any important time of the year is a Steam Sale. Christmas is the time where things really start to get going on that front. People spend themselves into debt with games that they might never play but are just so cheap. This Christmas will probably be the biggest sale Steam has ever handled, and there’s bound to be a few surprises, as there always are (I bought Mass Effect for a ridiculously low price this time last year). A surprising build up to this event has been the Steam Treasure Hunt, an event in which you are presented with four challenges to complete in a variety of games every couple of days. The games are typically indie titles and are priced below £2, with other more mainstream titles busted down to about £5. Herein lies the problem; I can’t stop doing these bloody challenges.

I’m typically a sucker for attempting goals in games. If you present me with a challenge I typically won’t shirk from it. If you present me with a dirt-cheap game and tell me to complete a certain objective, I will buy the game and try it. Of course if you present me with the chance of getting another hat in TF2 then I’ll be 110% more likely to do it. Here are the games that I’ve bought over the last few days as a result of this damned event:

AaAaAA!!! – A Reckless Disregard for Gravity
Beat Hazard
Bob Came in Pieces
Chime
Just Cause 2
Magic The Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers
Shatter
Zombie Driver

Frankly, this Treasure Hunt may soon mean that I embark on a hunt of my own…to my bank as I request a loan. I could happily say that my investment has, so far, been rewarded by some very decent games. Sadly, not all of them are very fulfilling, and I plan to write an article on either here or GamingDaily about some of these offerings. I know one thing for sure, if the Christmas Steam Sale is anything like this, I will have to sell my kidneys. Again.

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Moving On

On October 5th I was browsing Twitter as I do during my brain-dead moments. I was sick that day so I had a pretty fine excuse for being in such a state. During my little browsing session I saw a retweet from a certain Jaz McDougall, writer for PCGamer magazine. It was originally by a profile named GamingDaily, and it said:

“Hey, PC gaming types – want to write about PC games? Read this: http://www.gamingdaily.co.uk/write-for-us/ (RT’s would be appreciated)”

Immediately I knew that I had to go for this. I contacted the editor and showed him some of the things I’ve written here over the course of the blog’s lifespan. Sure enough, he gave me the go ahead. Now, one month and a few trial articles later, I am a registered writer with PC gaming blog Gaming Daily, and I’m over the bloody moon.

I’m just so happy with how things pretty much fell into my lap. One Twitter link and an email, job done. I suppose it goes to show just how powerful that little social networking tool can be, but that’s for another post I guess. I’m just overjoyed to now be on the first step of the ladder. From here I can meet new people, make connections, start doing what this blog was made for on a professional level.

Yes, I’m moving on, but I’ll always remember that this little journey started with a pokey little blog made for a Journalism assignment at Uni. I’ll be here from time to time, but the majority of my content will now be posted on GamingDaily 🙂

Elliot.

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Game Over(?)

I have a dirty, rotten secret to confess. This blog is a sham. All of it, a filthy lie.

I was asked to create this blog as part of my Journalism course at University. As such I was obligated to fill it up with stuff that would look good when it was eventually assessed. The clincher here is that the blog has been assessed, and it did pretty well. I no longer need to visit this site ever again or post a single word on it.

But I’m not done with it. Not yet, anyway.

I still want to blog, I feel like there’s a lot of great things happening now and coming soon for the PC gaming community. Within the next couple of days I’ll be getting my hands on the Episodes from Liberty City expansion for GTA IV, and I’ll most certainly be picking up Splinter Cell: Conviction when it launches on PC (it’s been delayed, incidentally…grumble…). In the long term, I’ll be getting a new PC in September. One that I hope will be powerful enough to record footage from the latest games. Then I can finally put my Youtube channel to use beyond that of WoW videos and maybe get some Battlefield commentaries in, maybe some MW2 if it sorts its shit out by then.

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One of my favourite sources of gaming news, Destructoid, came out with a story the other day that piqued my interest.

http://www.destructoid.com/dev-console-gaming-getting-as-expensive-as-pc-gaming-165680.phtml

As a PC gamer, this just confirms my opinion that publishers are neglecting the PC platform for no good reason. The most recent example of this being the Alan Wake saga which has done more than its fair share to get me pretty angry.

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