Would You Kindly Get Me Into The Gaming Industry?

Today our good friend Nathan introduces us to his first steps on the road to games design.

Since I was young enough to use a mouse and keyboard, I have always enjoyed video games. I can remember playing Doom with my dad when I was very young even though my mother didn’t approve of it. I can still remember the cheat codes and for those of you who don’t know, all weapons, ammo and keys is IDKFA, god mode is IDDQD and level select is IDCLEV (no I didn’t just look them up).I purchased my first Sony Playstation when I was 11, much to the annoyance of my mother, she thought it would be a bad idea and at the time she was probably right. What followed for the next 15 years was the usual cycle of playing games, buying new consoles, LAN parties etc. however all of the above adds up to my love of gaming, whether I am shooting down aliens, jumping across buildings or with friends beating the crap out of each other.

Eventually my love of gaming would lead me into the industry, but it didn’t happen straight away as I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I went to Loughborough university and studied a science and engineering foundation degree that lead me on to a a degree in mechanical engineering. Unfortunately I dropped out after the first few months as I couldn’t handle the work load and started at Loughborough college studying video game design. When I left, I had a pretty awful portfolio so made it impossible to get into the industry. I started a job as a telecommunications engineer and worked there for around 2 and a half years before I realized I wanted to leave and work in the gaming industry. I stumbled upon an article regarding a company called Train2Game and how they get people into the industry. I went to their website and read the articles and testimonials and decided to apply. I didn’t hear anything for 6 months.

I started contemplating going into Cisco networking until I received a telephone call from Train2Game and to be honest, I tried to fob them off at first but then agreed to a telephone interview. I then had a face-to-face interview with a representative from Train2Game and I explained my reservations upon starting the course. He explained that in the surrounding area, 250 people were interviewed over the phone, 15 people were selected for face-to-face interviews and 5 were selected to start the course. He explained that their greatest advertisement were the students that complete the course and obtain a job within the industry. It would’ve been stupid of me not to sign up. So here I am, studying to be a video game producer.

My first assignment was an introduction into a game engine called GameMaker. Here I created a total of 5 different games in order to further my understanding of programming, a point-and-click game, a basic scrolling shooter, a more advanced scrolling shooter, a puzzle/maze game and finally a 2D platform game. All of these allowed me to understand the basic concept of coding as well as problem solving and debugging as to why the game may not work on the first try.

My second assignment was a brief history of video games. Luckily I studied this at college and I had recently watched Charlie Brooker: Videogames Changed the World so I could skim over this chapter quickly. At the end I had a multiple choice test to complete and I am waiting on the results at the moment. When I receive them I will let you all know and hopefully continue on the path that will lead me into the industry and hopefully become one of the best video game producers in the industry.

Nathan

Don’t Bother Mate

Batman is hands down my favourite superhero, possibly my favourite character in fiction, and I’m fairly sure I’m not alone in thinking that. Most people that have met me know that. I once drunkenly gave my very patient girlfriend what can only be described as a 45 minute lecture on why Batman is so brilliant. Lucky girl.

It all started when I was very young, watching Batman the Animated Series (I still hear Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill when reading the comics). I was so taken with the show, that for a piece of early classwork that I recently dug out from around age 7 I basically state that I prefer the Dark Knight to my parents. Priorities. Then for a while I must have become more interested in something else, being a fickle child (I think it was Power Rangers), until about 10 years ago when I started getting into the comics and films in a big way.

I remember soon after Batman Begins came out, making the character credible in the cinema again, standing in line to see one of my favourite bands. The lead singer was hanging around outside chatting to people he knew behind us, including us along too, and he had just bought a book with a photo of Bale’s Batman on the front. He pointed out that Batman doesn’t really need to do anything because he looks so badass, then held up the photo in front of his own face and said “Don’t bother mate.”

I think the main appeal of the character comes from the distinction between Bats and his superhero counterparts, in that Bruce Wayne is ostensibly just a man, and yet he fights crime and often super-powered villains just as well as any big blue boy scout, Amazonian princess or power ring wielding arsehole. This is captured well in one of my favourite moments in Grant Morrison’s huge run in the comics following the events of ‘Batman R.I.P.’. He gets a priority call from the Justice League (leading up to the series ‘Final Crisis’), despite having just been buried alive, nearly drowned and forced to rely on a back-up personality he prepared in advance just in case he was mentally compromised. Just before heading out to an even worse fate, he tells the readers that ‘I’ve worked so hard to gain their respect, they sometimes forget I’m flesh and blood’.

That’s the crux of it, being mortal somehow makes being Batman an attainable thing, even though it absolutely isn’t. People (yes, I am people) like to think that if they had preposterous wealth, took a gap year or two to train to be a ninja, replaced sleep with working out and read a f**kload of Sherlock Holmes that they could be Batman. The same can’t be said about Superman, even though the characters are equally fictitious. This is of course ridiculous, but it does make the character more appealing. You would also have to be a lunatic to dress like a bat and want to be a vigilante every night and day.

DC comics have clearly realised that Batman is their main money maker. The Nolan films were hugely successful (even if the third one was a bit of a mess), and they certainly seem keen to get a new iteration on the big screen as soon as possible. It certainly helps that the main Batman title from Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo is f*****g great every month, and tends to outsell most other titles on the stands. There seems to be a lot more going on this year too, being the 75th anniversary of the character’s first appearance in Detective Comics #27 way back in 1939 (just a year after Superman). That’s a hell of a long legacy for any character.

So there are some reasons why I love Batman. To the extent that I got a tattoo of the symbol 2 years ago, and have yet to regret that decision at all. Maybe someday I will stop enjoying the comics so much, and I’ll look at it and think ‘what a moron’. But I hope not, because that would be boring.

Also, the animated series completely holds up on rewatching. It is f*****g brilliant.

Adam

The Real Folk Blues

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I really struggle with lists. Desert island discs; top-fives; to-do lists; for whatever reason there is always a part of them I just can’t finish. With to-do lists I never have enough time to do everything, especially the important stuff like work or cleaning myself, so I inevitably put extra tasks on like ‘read new Justice League’ or ‘have a sandwich’ so I get some sense of achievement. Desert island discs I always think this will be dead easy. I know the bands I want, but then get stumped as to which of their albums I’d want to spend my days listening to while I cultivate my beard and yell at a volleyball.

Top fives are the worst, being too restrictive. I try to distil all of my favourite films, bands, video games, types of bacon or lengths of string into five measly choices and even then I can’t rank them. I usually just give up and say “these five, in some discernable order. No follow up questions”, failing even to decide what would top each list as it is so interchangeable. This is almost entirely true for my top five anime series of all time (I’ll save that attempt for a later post), except for that last part – I do know my number one: Cowboy Bebop.

Cowboy Bebop is a 26 episode series originally broadcast in Japan in 1998 by Sunrise, directed by Shinchirō Watanabe. Set in the year 2071, it follows a crew of bounty hunters aboard the spaceship Bebop as they take jobs around the solar system. The crew itself is a small eclectic (but still relatively standard) mix with Spike Spiegel, a former member of crime syndicate; Jet Black, an ex-detective; Faye Valentine, another bounty hunter they pick up on the way; Radical Edward, a master hacker; and Ein, a ‘data dog’. Throughout the series the characters have their back stories fleshed out always to exactly the right amount of detail, with their individual mysteries and motivations never becoming the focus of each player unless the episode calls for it. But each member of the Bebop still gets an arc that develops fully and feels genuine. It also, in my opinion, has one of those perfect endings, leaving you immensely satisfied but simultaneously wanting more.

The tone of the show can shift from quirky fun (there is an entire episode about the crew getting off their faces on mushrooms) to more serious noir-esque episodes, and it is consistently slick and stylish as hell. All the good stuff is in there too – life and death, drugs , tech cults, terrorism, people being kicked in the face, existentialism, a scene where a man uses a lift while on horseback, chess and bloody crime syndicates.  The animation still looks good 15 years on, with some great looking fight scenes and dogfights in space. It also remains one of the very few animes where I actually prefer the English dub too (the other probably being Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex), the entire cast really brings their characters to life.

Special mention definitely needs to go out to the music too, which is a brilliant mix of jazz and blues that always suits the tone and is a constant delight throughout, right up to the final confrontation. The music was arranged by Yoko Kanno and played by her along with The Seatbelts, a band basically created by Kanno for the series. It is a constant delight throughout, and the opening theme ‘Tank!’ remains one of my favourite starts to any show which I never find myself wanting to skip no matter how many times I hear it.

I really can’t express the love I have for the show. My screen name on everything from playstation network to Twitter is based on it. If you haven’t seen it, track it down on all the normal internet based retailers, or for an unnecessary mark-up if you can actually find it on the high street. The series is actually being released on Blu-ray, and I am going to have to have words with myself about whether or not buying it is a good idea (even though the boxset I already own is gorgeous). It is a great, self-contained show, and while I say it definitely should never be continued as it is perfect the way it is, I know I’m lying and would love to see more (though you can always check out the film, which is also great but with even better animation).

See you space cowboy…

Adam

The Woes of a Healer

In her first article for The Lost Lighthouse Kii helps us through the essential MMO role that is The Healer! Have you ever dropped dead in the middle of a dungeon in World of Warcraft? Ganked in mid lane during Ranked on League of Legends? Who you gonna blame? The Healer! Sometimes healing is just too hard and us Support players like to take naps. Here’s a quick list of things you can do so you don’t die and make your support cry.

KiiHealerAntimony     KiiHealerSoraka     KiiHealerLulu

  • Don’t be a d**k – Trust me, nobody likes healing a player who’s spouting abuse at anything that moves. Want HP? Keep your NOOBs at home.
  • Don’t be stupid, even game lives are precious – Some of us can’t heal you fast enough if you run forward, naked and alone into the entire enemy team.
  • Do listen to OOM – When your healer declares Out Of Mana, it’s time to be careful as they can do shit all to help you now.
  • Don’t be a d**k.
  • Do cover objectives instead of just playing Deathmatch – If you’re meant to be clearing out mobs, protecting a gate or pushing some form of button then f*****g do it! If you just try and kill enemy players all the time you’ll never get anywhere. Also you’ll probably die a lot and everybody will hate you.
  • Do think of your positioning – Most games run on the design that the healer will be behind the damage dealer. If you stay behind your support then they will be in the line of fire. Healers are weaklings and will squish up and die. Then you have no support and you will squish up and die.

DON’T BE A D**K. Kii

Review: Rampage

Channel your inner Kaiju

Now, I enjoy a good Euro game, say, about the intricate sewer system of foggy old London town. Who wouldn’t? But sometimes it’s nice to be able to kick your shoes off, sink a beer and play a boardgame about trying to destroy a little city and eat as many helpless people as monsterly possible.

In Rampage you and up to 3 others (7 others if you have two copies), control a single King Lizard-style character and try to destroy buildings and eat meeples.

So how do you move about this city? You flick a little wooden disk that represents your monster’s feet. To destroy a building you simply pick up your monster and drop him on a building. Other things you can do include: throwing trucks at each other’s monsters and, my favourite, using your monster breath, which consist of you placing YOUR chin on your monster and using your own breath to blow down buildings. After you’ve taken two of these actions you then eat people who have landed in your “neighbourhood”. Each person also has their own special power and a super secret power they can only use once a game.

The game ends once all the buildings have been destroyed or if a certain amount of meeple have landed off the table – which they will, I assure you they will.

If you only like “serious” games then is one probably isn’t for you but I love it. Rampage averages around half an hour and has me laughing through it all. Watching your significant other get angry because they didn’t manage to blow down a building will bring a smile to your face for sure. If you want a light-hearted monster romp then I wholeheartedly suggest this game and I haven’t even mentioned the great cartoony art. If you want to restart the apocalypse then give it a go.

Gary

A Golden Age For Boardgames

So, board gaming, what’s it all about? Isn’t that just Monopoly, Snakes & Ladders or Clue?  Not at all. If you are just getting into the hobby then you are extremely lucky. We are currently amidst a golden age for board gaming. There’s so much on offer. Whether you are an RPG nut or fog of war fanatic there’s lots to sink your teeth into and in upcoming articles we are going to be showing you some of our favourites.

I know what you’re thinking: why do I want to pick up a board game, which average around £40, when I can buy a video game for the same price? Well put down your ergonomic controller and let me explain my top 5 reasons why I prefer board games.

  • Social gaming. While it’s fun to shout loudly down your headset at someone 2000 miles away calling him a d@@k, I find board games a lot more social. I have several groups of friends that enjoy kicking back with a board game and a few beers – ok more than a few. You can still call your best friend a d@@k when he takes the game piece you so desperately need!
  • Replay-ability. I would say I’ve replayed my board games ten times over then any of my video games. Most board games play differently depending on the players. New strategies are found which are pure game-changers.
  • Versatility. I honestly believe there is a board game out there for everyone. I’m not sure the same can be said for video games. Bear in mind, as you furiously type in the comment section after that last statement, I love video games. I really do. But if I had to choose between the two it would be board games every time. There’s a board game for the grandparents, parents, friends and children.
  • Themes. There are thousands of games on the market that could cover pretty much anyone’s favourite themes: zombies, railway building, spy hunting and even electoral campaign races! Not all in one game admittedly. Want a fantasy game in which your characters “level up” as you play? Easy! Descent’s your game. How about building an empire in space with cruiser battles? You’ve got two great choices: Eclipse or Twilight Imperium. Zombies? Well there are lots of choices there! My favourite being Zombicide.
  • Cost effective. Sure, ignore this point if you are buying them all by yourself but have you considered starting a games group? You and 3 other friends could spread the cost out. A large amount of games are up to 4-players so why not give it a bash? If you only play it once and decide board gaming’s not your thing then you’ve only wasted a tenner. But please try it more than once and ease yourself into the vibe.

So there you have it. The reasons I prefer board gaming. There’s so much on offer and it’s a great time to get into the hobby. The ones I’d try out first are Ticket to Ride, Forbidden Island and Small World. All easy enough to learn after a few turns and, even if the themes aren’t up your street, they have great core mechanics that keep you coming back for more.

Board gamers, what games do you suggest to get people into the hobby?

See you soon cockers.