Category Archives: Little Bits of Gaming Main Menu

Ban Violent Games And Movies!

I guess this is a little follow-up from my Land Of The Free article after the Vegas shooting last year.

After the upsetting yet (lets be honest) unsurprising school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida last month. ‘President’ Donny T has decided to put the blame for these shootings on violent video games and movies. Anything as long as you keep sweeping the gun issue under the carpet and as long as those NRA donations come in eh Don? Blame any and everything except guns. I mean, yet another school mass shooting so why not put much stricter gun laws in place…or just arm teachers instead. How long do you think it’ll be until another school shooting happens and this time the killer will be using guns already in the school (its going to happen, just wait)?

I already covered just how few of the mass shootings in recent years have been stopped by a gun-toting civilian in my previous article, so why does more guns in hands make any sense? But hey, the answer to mass shootings is more guns apparently. I think one of Trumps next proposals should be equipping firefighters with flamethrowers instead of water to combat fires.

Fight Fire

Anyway, back to the point. How is censoring or even banning violent movies and games going to cut down on mass shootings? Let me just get to a very specific point, Trump recently held a meeting at the White House to cover this very subject. He invited people from all sectors to discuss this troubling matter and even had a special collection of clips assembled to show how violent video games are. When I say he invited people from all sectors, there was one missing – scientists who have done extensive research and tests that prove violent games do not make people violent…I guess he just plumb forgot to invite this area of expertise though? Must have slipped his mind.

The Second Amendment is the reason many Americans still believe they have the right to carry guns (something I also covered in my other article). A vastly outdated right written almost 230 years ago. But if people think standing by the Second Amendment is good enough to unnecessarily stockpile guns…what about the one before it, you know the First Amendment?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In short –  an amendment to the United States Constitution guaranteeing the rights of free expression and action that are fundamental to democratic government. These rights include freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech.


Does this not apply to video games and movies? Do they not have the right to their freedom of expression? You can’t back up the Second Amendment while ignoring the First can you? So its okay to keep putting guns into people’s hands, but not okay for movie/game directors/publishers to express themselves freely? Seriously Donald are you backing the Constitution or ignoring it? Just pick one side or the other.

How about instead of blaming movies and games, Trump looks at the lax gun laws in place, brings in tighter restrictions on guns. Introduce a gun amnesty, like Australia did a while back and where gun crime has dropped? I’m English we have had mass shootings here in the U.K., even ones in schools – see the Dunblane school massacre for an example. Also note that after that particular shooting in 1996 that gun laws were changed and we haven’t had anything like it since. That’s over 20 years of no school shootings for those counting. Don’t get me wrong, we still have gun crime here and even murders by guns – but we haven’t had a mass shooting since 1996. So if Australia and the U.K. can change laws and cut down on mass shootings…why can’t the U.S.?

Simple fact, countries with stricter gun laws have fewer mass shootings – coincidence?


Do me a favor. Load up YouTube and put ‘gun collection’ into the search bar. There’s a mass of videos of ‘proud Americans’ showing of their extensive gun collections, dozens up on dozens of deadly weapons owned by one person. But why and how? Why does the American government allow one person to amass such a stupidly high number of guns? Yeah I know not every American sitting on an small arsenal of guns will go out and murder innocent people – most of them are a kind, caring and quiet. They would never do such a thing…just like that guy who carried out the massacre in Vegas last year.

How many more children need to die before the real issue of gun laws is addressed and changed instead of blaming any and everything else? Its not violent movies or games at fault here, its the stupidity of Americans that think a 227 year old right still holds relevance in today’s modern world, its the fault of the government and especially Congress themselves that just keep burring their heads in the sand while refusing to drastically change laws and modernise a 227 year old right.

The blood of the innocent is on your hands, the same hands that still firmly grip your guns.

Gun Blood


The Flawed Genius Of Spec Ops: The Line

Thanks to the Xbox One’s backward compatibility feature, we are able to play the games we may have missed first time around. For me, Spec Ops: The Line is one of those titles. I had heard a lot about it despite never actually playing the game myself until recently. I finished the game and was left speechless while the end credits rolled…but the overall impression the game left on me was a very mixed bag for two very distinct reasons, one a gameplay issue, the other a story and design one.

Right here I’m going to look at why Spec Ops: The Line left me feeling both unsatisfied and utterly enthralled at the same time.

The Gameplay

Okay so the gameplay for Spec Ops: The Line left me very bored – so much so that I really don’t have that much to say about it. I was less than halfway through the game when I started to feel that fatigue set in and its not a very big game either, I’d say a fairly competent player could get through the whole thing in around five or six hours on normal difficulty. Its one of those cover/shooter games akin to Gears of War – you know the kind where you control a hero and a team of two other squad members.

Spec Ops Squad 1

Enter an area where a mass of enemies come at you all guns blazing and you and your team hide behind the nearest cover as you gun down the bad guys, move on and repeat throughout the entirety of the game. You have some very slight influence on your two teammates with basic ‘kill this guy’ orders and that’s about it for the whole game. Its a gameplay style and mechanic I just find all too dull rather soon. There are a few segments where they try to inject some variety with a scene where you hijack some tankers or split the team up a little, but overall, its a very ‘rinse and repeat’ experience that quickly grates.

Yet despite the lackluster and repetitive gameplay that bored me…something kept me playing until the end.

The Story And Design

So this is the part of Spec Ops: The Line that had me hooked even if during my first play-through I didn’t realize why at the time. Yes I did say “first play-through” about a game I felt was lacking in terms of gameplay as after I finished it, I instantly started a new game just so I could experience the story again.

At this point I’d just like to point out that I’m about to reveal major plot points and spoilers for this game. As I feel the story is something worth experiencing, I’d urge you to stop reading now and go play Spec Ops: The Line as not to ruin the best aspect of the game.

Spec Ops Action 1

Quick synopsis: You play as Captain Martin Walker on a recon mission in a post-catastrophe Dubai following a serious sandstorm that has cut off any surveillance, air travel, and most radio broadcasts. Walker is accompanied by his elite Delta Force team of First Lieutenant Alphanso Adams and Staff Sergeant John Lugo. The trio come across a continually looping radio message from Colonel John Konrad stating “Attempted evacuation of Dubai ended in complete failure. Death toll…too many.” Colonel Konrad volunteered his 33rd Infantry Battalion to stay and offer relief to any civilians defying orders by the Army to abandon the city two weeks before most communication was cut off.

Walker has one simple mission, to confirm the presence of any survivors, then immediately radio for extraction. But when Walker and his team come across some refugees being rounded up by the 33rd, he defies his orders and sets out to learn what happened to his mentor Colonel John Konrad and his 33rd Infantry Battalion led by shortwave radio communication from Colonel Konrad himself.

So I’ve not hit any major spoilers yet…but I will soon. From the synopsis, this sounds like a bog-standard military shooter and its this subterfuge that helps make playing the game so enjoyable. This is not just a ‘bog-standard military shooter’ at all, at least not from a storytelling perspective. Okay so in order to highlight why the story and design of Spec Ops: The Line is so damn good…I need to spoil the ending – so here it goes. Final warning for SPOILERS.

Spec Ops Squad 2

There are actually four different endings to the game, I’m not going to cover all four as I think part of the experience of the game is finding them yourself. But the four endings all rely on one simple fact that slowly builds through the game. The character you play as, Walker, is suffering from a form of PTSD and has been hallucinating throughout the course of the story – basically he’s batshit insane. Colonel Konrad is dead and has been for some time and all Walker has done is lead his team to their deaths.

Its the hallucination aspect that makes the game so great, some of it is so damn subtle you won’t even realize its happening and some of it is so in your face that you just brush it off as nonsense…until the ending is revealed. This is exactly why I instantly started a new game after finishing my first play-through as I wanted to (now knowing what was going on) pick up on all the little and not so little clues. You know how the movie Fight Club is much more fun watching a second, third or forth time because knowing the twist enables you to go back through and enjoy the clues? Well Spec Ops: The Line works the same way.

Spec Ops Squad 3

Writer of the game, Walt Williams pulled off an amazing piece of storytelling using the common standards of video games to fool the player into thinking they are making a difference. For instance, when you play a game like this – you tend to know right from the off that you are playing a hero, someone you the player can trust. In gaming tradition, you do as you are told, as the game directs you to do. You ‘trust’ what the game is telling you to do, you ‘trust’ the hero. Spec Ops: The Line breaks that tradition and has you playing as a delusional anti-hero you simply can not trust. And even better, you won’t realize any of this until you get to the end.

There are several moments in the game that stick into my mind for various reasons. Probably top of the list is the white phosphorus attack. While it was happening, I felt like a god as I rained down hellfire onto unsuspecting enemies. That scene is brilliantly designed as you can see the reflection of Walker’s face in the screen he is using while dozens and dozens of people die painful deaths due to your actions. But then the game does something that made me nauseous – it forces you to slowly walk through the aftermath of your destruction. Soldiers lie on the ground dead from the injuries they’ve sustained, some of them are still alive chocking to death on the smoke or stumbling/crawling asking for help before dying before your very eyes covered in severe burns. Its really quite disturbing to think that YOU caused all of this death and just when you think you’ve seen the worst…

Spec Ops WP

Its revealed that you killed soldiers trying to save civilians and even the civilians themselves including women and children. I’ve never done this with any game before – but after that scene, I had to stop playing for a while as the realization of what I just did washed over me. I needed a break. I went from god-like power to complete disgust in myself.

The white phosphorus attack is one of the biggest instances of how this game misleads and fools you into thinking you are a hero when you are really playing a psychopath. But there are much more subtle things that I didn’t notice until the end was revealed and I played through the game again. In the very first chapter of the game Colonel Konrad’s face appears on a billboard. At this point in the game, you the player have not seen his face before so don’t know who he is…but Walker the character you are playing has – yet he does not mention anything about why Konrad’s face would be on a billboard at all…because it shouldn’t be there and the image is in Walker’s mind. None of his team see it, only Walker and you the player. This is an indication that Walker is delusional right from the very start. Then later in the game and Konrad’s face appears on yet another billboard, this one is much bigger and harder to miss. But something really subtle occurs as you walk around a corner and the face changes into…I’ll let you discover that for yourselves.

There are loads of subtle hints to spot as you play – such as murals on walls of people with blacked-out eyes that are there during scenes where something horrific occurred – this is metaphorically being blind to the violence in front of them – kind of like you the player being blind to the death Walker causes. There is also a scene where you walk past a healthy and lush green tree…but turn around after you walk past and you’ll see the truth. One of my favorite subtleties is at the end of the game when Konrad is ‘talking’ but its Walker’s lips that are moving.

Spec Ops Action 2

Spec Ops: The Line forces you to ask yourself a valid question, “Do you enjoy this, are you having fun, is killing all these people really enjoyable?” Its something that plays on the mind and in writer Walt Williams’ own words…

“We wanted the player to be where Walker was and be angry at us, the people who made them do this. We hoped we would piss people off. We wanted people to be angry because we felt like that was a real emotional response.”

And he managed just that. I was pissed off playing this game, I did question why I was playing and if I was enjoying myself. The story and design of this is sublime, something that lingers at the back of your head, an itch you can’t reach and not sure if you really want to anyway.

There are so many other great subtle moments I’ve not yet covered like the fading to black or white depending on whether Walker is hallucinating or not. If it fades/cuts to black then its a perfectly normal transition – but if its white, then that’s an indication of Walker’s insanity and it is either an hallucination or Walker is outright lying.

And perhaps one of my favorite things that I didn’t even notice until the second play-through was the loading screens. You know how games tend to give you hints and tips during the loading screens? Well  Spec Ops: The Line does just that for the most part but when you get to the last chapter, after you have killed hundreds of innocent people – things change and the tips are replaced with other messages such as: “This is all your fault.”, Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding two conflicting ideas simultaneously.”, “You are still a good person.”, “To kill for yourself is murder. To kill for your government is heroic. To kill for entertainment is harmless.”, plus several others. But my favorite one is this…

Spec Ops Loading Screen

This is why I call Spec Ops: The Line ‘flawed genius’ as the gameplay itself is rather stale and can get old very fast – but is writing is top tier stuff. It made me question myself and why we gamers play overtly violent games like this. I don’t really want to play the game anymore due to its stagnant game mechanics but I can’t wait to play-though again for the third time to enjoy the story once more and hopefully spot some more of that genius writing and design as I’m convinced that there is more to Walt Williams’ amazing story that I’ve missed.

Best Of British Game Developers Publishers – An Introduction

Okay so before I get into this one, I need to explain my big plan here. I want to write an insightful book covering some of the best of British game developers and publishers of the 8, 16 and 32 bit bit era of gaming and some of their games. How they started, the games they released and where they are today. This article right here is a small prototype of what I want to book to be, the final book will be a much bigger idea. This is just a quick-ish look at one of many British game developers and publishers I aim to cover. I already have three of these written up, this is only one of them (an abridged version at that too) and there is a lot more to cover.

This article will be a look at Imagine Software just to whet the appetite. I also have write-ups of Psygnosis and Ocean already done too. But those are just the tip of the iceberg as I’m planning on covering Elite, U.S. Gold (despite the name they were British), Gremlin Graphics, The Bitmap Brothers, Ultimate Play The Game (who later became Rare), DMA Design (who became Rockstar) and also cover the great Peter Molynuex’s companies including Bullfrog and Lionhead. Quite possibly more will be added to the list as I continue to write more and more…Codemasters?

I have been researching this for the last 12 months or so, watching documentaries, reading articles, digging up old gaming magazines and of course mining my own memories of growing up playing the games of these companies myself. I have a tonne of information all ready to go, thousands upon thousands of notes and facts that just need re-typing and formatting into readable content. Seeing as retro gaming is pretty big right now, I think a book like this could do very well. Plus I feel it will be an insightful education for non-British gamers who didn’t realise just how strong the British game industry was in the 80s and 90s. You see, while North America was feeling the fallout from the infamous ‘video game crash of 1983’, back in Blighty – we were just not affected at all. Nintendo didn’t save us or the game’s industry the same way its been perceived as doing in America simply because the U.K already had an established gaming industry that was growing stronger and stronger each year. More on my overall plan at the end of this article.

Allow me to introduce you to one of the most popular British game companies of the early 80s –  Imagine Software.

Imagine Logo

Back the the early 80s the ‘bedroom coders’ were on the rise. These were often very small teams of two or three people – sometimes only one, who would sit there in their bedrooms inputting hundreds and hundreds of lines of code into their ZX Spectrums or Commodore Vic-20s creating their own games. The Indie game industry we have today owes a lot to the originators of this modern trend.

It was in 1982 when Imagine Software was founded in Liverpool, England. But we need to go back a couple more years to another software company also based in Liverpool, Bug-Byte Software Ltd in 1980 who became famous for publishing the massively popular game Manic Miner developed by Matthew Smith. Manic Miner is one of British gaming’s all time classics and often cited as one of the games that made the platforming genre what it is today.

Manic Miner

It was sometime in 1982 when several Bug-Byte employees left the company and decided to go it alone including; Mark Butler, David Lawson and Eugene Evans. Staying in Liverpool, they set up Imagine Software which has been suggested was named after the most famous song from Liverpool’s most famous son – John Lennon. Imagine quickly made a name for themselves by employing some of the very best coders of the early 80s. Butler and Lawson were very close friends and had previously worked together at one of the countries first ever (if not THE first) microcomputer shops, Microdigital. Which was in the heart of Liverpool city centre.


When they formed Imagine Software, Butler and Lawson invited their old boss and owner of Microdigital – Bruce Everiss to join them and after selling Microdigital, he agreed. Everiss took on the role of Public Relations and everyday operations within Imagine. Mark Butler became the company director while David Lawson and Eugene Evans were lead programmers. But there was one more member of the team that was hired at the request of Lawson – Ian Hetherington who came on-board as the company’s financial adviser.

Unusual for a game company at the time Imagine loved being in-front of the cameras, they would hold interviews and try to get their name in print as much as they could. There is one major example of this with the utterly engrossing BBC documentary Commercial Breaks originally broadcast in 1984 which followed both Imagine and Ocean that was also a huge help in compiling research for this whole project. One thing the guys at Imagine loved to do was show off their success. You would often find articles written about the company founders where they would gloat about once being lonely bedroom coders to showing off their millions of pounds they were making at the time. Imagine were PR experts lead by Everiss and never turned down the chance to get their names in the press. Yes, Imagine became huge in the early 80s but I feel I’m jumping ahead slightly here and need to go back to how they became successful to begin with as no matter how great your PR is, a game company is nothing if you don’t have the games to sell.

David Lawson had an idea for a title back when he was still working for Bug-Byte Software before Imagine existed. However, he felt that Bug-Byte were too small to sell his game so he sat on it for a while and when he co-formed Imagine, he realised he was now in the right position to get his game sold. That game was Arcadia.


Released in 1982 for the ZX Spectrum, Arcadia was the first game from Imagine Software. It was a pretty good arcade style shoot em’ up that received very favourable reviews in the gaming magazines back in the day. Arcadia was one of the very early games that helped to forge a path for microcomputer gaming as a whole and laid the foundations of what was to come over the next few years. For its time of release, it sold very well indeed and could be credited with setting up Imagine financially and giving them the leg up they needed which allowed them to become one of the most popular developer/publishers of the day.

The money Arcadia brought in allowed Imagine to grow as they hired more programmers who would go on to produce some of the best games of the early 80s and push the ZX Spectrum to its limits. 1982 was their introduction year, but it was 1983 where Imagine would go from strength to strength as they released game after game after game. Titles such as AlchemistAh DiddumsZzoom and Stonkers – just to name a few, all from 1983. It was as if the stars had aligned as everything just fell into place. Bedroom coders were booming meaning Imagine could pick and choose from the best young talent. The ZX Spectrum, which was Imagine’s main computer of choice for their games was fast becoming the gaming computer of choice and was selling well in England and Imagine were right at the forefront with front row seats to what many consider the birth of the microcomputer gaming industry.

Bedroom coders where becoming a hot property, you could pick up a well known newspaper in 1983 and find interviews featuring these (often) teenagers who had knocked up a game at home and managed to sell it to a publisher making plenty of money in royalties along the way. 1983 was most definitely the best year Imagine could wish for…but 1984 would be the year where Imagine would fall.

Once the money started coming in throughout 1983, Imagine would spend it just as quickly as they earned it. They upgraded to state of the art offices and computers, hired more and more staff to a point where they had around 100 employees – which for a game company in the early 80s was stupidly big. Still, improving your work-space and employees is pretty standard stuff but Imagine tried to grow too big, too quickly. Money was not just being spent on improving the office as huge chucks of their profits were going towards lavish parties and sports cars. The founders drove around in Ferraris, Porches and BMWs, even the mid and lower-level employees drove expensive cars including the cleaners. Imagine’s company director Mark Butler owned a custom built Harris motorbike and at some point in 1983, they even planned to get a helipad built on top of their office – just because they could afford to. Oh and let’s not forget the bike racing team…yes Imagine had their own racing team. Most probably set up just so Butler could enjoy riding his bike(s) at high speed.

Imagine racing

Imagine loved flaunting all they had, telling their success story to the press as they were becoming the face of the home computer gaming boom. David Lawson gave their programmes complete freedom to create whatever they wanted with no disruption. Which sounds like an amazing job – but with little direction or discipline, it meant many of the employed coders would just sit around doing nothing and getting paid very well for it too. Though all of this with all the money they made in 1983 and all they were spending, Imagine never bothered to hire a professional accountant. By the end of 1983, the cracks had already began to appear at Imagine as the four heads of the company split down the middle with David Lawson and Ian Hetherington one one side while Mark Butler and Bruce Everiss were on the other side. They couldn’t agree on the direction the company should be heading in and while the disagreements continued – so did the spending of money. The slowly forming cracks became more widened and more fractured. Their games stared to suffer too and what were once well developed and polished titles at the start of 1983 became lazy and messy games be the time Christmas rolled around.

But there was one major factor that would be the end of Imagine…well technically two factors. Psyclapse and Bandersnatch – two games that Imagine had planned that would be truly groundbreaking.  Two games that Imagine heavily advertised and two games that they were calling ‘megagames’.

Psyclapse and Bandersnatch.jpg

If things at Imagine were starting to look bad before, then they were only going to get much, much worse with these titles. These two megagames that were only two of an intended six – were envisioned to push the ZX Spectrum way beyond its limits. Imagine did all they could to hype up these games to boiling point. Publishers Marshal Cavendish supposedly made a deal for the games that was worth around £11 million…in 1983s money. Which was, back then an obscene amount of cash, especially for just two pieces of software. When the deal was signed, Imagine celebrated by spending even more money. More parties, more sports cars, more racing bikes and the like.

In order for these games to work on the ZX Spectrum, they would have to be sold with some kind of expansion cartridge which drove the cost price of the games up through the roof. These megagames were estimated to have been sold for around £40, which by today’s standards is about normal. But back in late 1983/early 84, Imagine’s games typically sold for around £5-£7, just to put things into perspective.

David Lawson threw himself into developing these games and did something he previously refused to do – oversee and manage the programmers. The ads for the games were already running in the numerous gaming magazines at the time, deals had been made for not only the publishing rights but also the cover art, which was commissioned to be done by the legendary Roger Dean who created the artwork for many rock albums, book covers and even other video games. It was Bandersnatch in particular that took up most of Lawson’s time. There were problems…big problems as the game was no where near complete despite all the hype and advertising Imagine had carried out. The programmers just could not get it to work at all and while all of this was going on, Imagine’s company director, Mark Butler was more interested and invested most of his time in the bike racing team than the development of the software. Butler’s apparent lack of interest in the company meant that Bruce Everiss stepped up as unofficial boss – even if he never wanted to be. Everiss fought hard to keep Imagine from going under.

It was Christmas of 1983 and Imagine wanted to take as much advantage of the silly season as they could. Using an aggressive tactic to try and gain a monopoly of Christmas sales, they hired out the entirety of one of the biggest duplicating factories to produce their games. This meant that their competitors would find it more difficult to get games into shops while Imagine would have an abundance of software all ready to go on sale for Christmas. But the plan backfired for one major reason and one very similar to what bought about the game crash of North America, they over produced. Yes Imagine had plenty of games on the shelves for Christmas, hundreds of thousands of them in fact, but after Christmas the sales dropped as they normally do after the festive season and yet there were still thousands and thousands of Imagine software sitting on the shelves that no one was buying. While we here in Blighty didn’t have anything anywhere near as severe as the 1983 video game crash, sales did slow down. With the tonnes of games still on the shelves in early 1984 and sales figures dropping everywhere, Imagine had no other option but to sell of their games dirt cheap to try and reclaim some of that cash that went into producing them in the first place. Once more, Imagine were spending more money than they were making.

This all tied into the previously mentioned megagames, if they struggled to sell their current games at discounted prices after Christmas then how were they going to sell the these megagames at £40? Seeing development for these games had ground to a halt, publisher Marshal Cavendish began to get very cold feet over the £11 million deal and eventually pulled out. They also demanded any revenue back…money that Imagine had already been spending. To save hemorrhaging money, Imagine could have cut back on staff, downsized if you will – but no as the company began to crumble in early 1984 they held onto their 100 strong employees refusing to let anyone go. There was a plan put in place where Imagine would sell their non-working megagame Bandersnatch to Sinclair Research who in turn could then sell the game for the Sinclair QL computer. For those not in the know, the Sinclair QL computer is one of the biggest microcomputer failures. So obviously that didn’t pan out either.

It was around Christmas of 83 time when director Paul Anderson was making his previously mentioned BBC documentary Commercial Breaks. Filming both Imagine and Ocean with the idea that he would capture an amazing part of history where young entrepreneurs were riding the wave of the video game revolution selling thousands of games over the Christmas period of 1983. Yet what he actually captured on film was the fall of Imagine. It was now the summer of 1984 and after several months of mismanagement, deals falling through and excessive spending of money the roof finally caved in on Imagine and it was all caught on camera thanks to Anderson’s documentary. There is one part in particular from Commercial Breaks where the bailiffs turn up at Imagine’s office to reclaim anything of value. The bailiffs were reclaiming so much equipment from the Imagine office they there even tired to take the cameras from the crew filming Paul Anderson’s documentary thinking it all belonged to Imagine.

News Clipping

On the 9th of July 1984, Imagine were no more, forced to close and declare bankruptcy.  They only lasted around 18 months or so – but what a year and a half it was. Imagine were very young and very stupid. They made their fortune, changed the British gaming industry forever and paved the way for many other companies after them. They were trailblazers in many ways but they also managed to destroy everything they worked to build. Many of the head honchos and staff of Imagine went onto other careers within the games industry, some massively successfully so too…

Now I know what some of you older gamers may be thinking right now – that you remember playing Imagine games long after 1984 and yes, you’d be right. So if they closed in 84 then how were you playing their games right up to 1989? Well this is where Ocean Software stepped in as they brought the Imagine name and released some of their games through the the name even if the company itself was dead…but that is a story for the next chapter of this book.

Oh and about those megagames too? Well information on Psyclapse is nonexistent. As far as I can tell, the game never even begun development at all. Imagine just had a name, a few ideas and a several ads running in gaming magazines to hype it up. But Bandersnatch is a very different story. That one was most definitely being worked on and you can even see as much in the Commercial Breaks documentary where footage is shown of the game being developed. Oh yeah, and it was even eventually released too. Given a name change but it was the first game developed and published by Psygnosis – the company set up by Ian Hetherington after the collapse of Imagine and a game developer/publisher that became one of the best, most loved of the 80s and 90s and again, this is something I’ll cover in another chapter…

My Dream…

So there you have it, just an example of what I want this book to be about. The final write ups will be more in-depth and take a closer look at some of the games. This is just meant as a taster. I also found it really interesting how many of the companies I’m going to cover intertwine with each other over the years, there’s a really fascinating tapestry of British game development/publishing that emerges once everything comes together. Then there are the starts of some of the biggest names working in games today that got their breaks with companies like DICE (not British themselves, but started via a British publisher), Rare and even the mighty Rockstar Games all cutting their teeth in the 80s and 90s British game revolution. Really interesting stories I aim to cover.

As I said before, I have around ten developers and publishers to cover (possibly more added later) so this will be quite a big book when finished and I really want to make it a hardcover, glossy thing of beauty all professionally finished. And here is where I need help. Putting something like this together takes money. I’ve done all the research for the companies I will cover, already have three of the chapters written up in the first draft (this is one of them) and the book with be finished within the next 6 moths or less. But I know nothing about actually designing a book like this – I can write them no problem but putting the whole thing together in one package with a real professional look and feel is something I know nothing about. Plus it being in hardback, then there is the printing and distribution, etc all of this costs coin that I just do not have. So I’ve set up a Go Fund Me where I hope people will chip in to help me make this book a reality.

My Go Fund Me link. Please share.

Even if you don’t feel like donating (I won’t hold it against you), if you could just share this article and/or the Go Fund Me to help me drum up some interest, I’ll be eternally grateful. If I raise the money, I will make the book as professionally as I can – I’ll hire a design artist to help me with the look of the book. I’ll go to the best printers I can find to deliver the best possible finished product in glorious hardback and glossy pages and so on. I’ll even put any and all people who donate into the book as personal thanks.

Even if I don’t manage to raise the cash, I’m still going to write the book but it just won’t be as grandiose as I want it to be and most probably just be an all text (no picture) simple paperback instead. So the more money I can rise the bigger and better the book will be.

I think with the popularity of retro gaming right now that this could be a great book. A really interesting look at the British side of game development and publishing, a window into an important piece of gaming history that many people overlook or just do not know about.

Why A Duke Nukem Film Won’t Work

It has recently been announced that wrestler turned actor (aren’t all wrestlers actors?), John Cena is in talks to play video game superstar Duke Nukem in an upcoming flick. Now I love me some Mr Nukem, he’s one of my all time favourite game characters and I’d love to see a big screen film made. I salivate at the thought of the larger then life Duke Nukem being brought into the world of cinema. While I personally think John Cena is not a great actor – I really can imagine him as Duke. He has the look and build down to a T.

Cena Nukem.jpg

Give that guy a bleach-blonde flat-top. a pair or Ray-Bans and stick a stogie in his mouth…and voilà! But can he do the voice? Yeah, Cena seems the perfect choice for the role (either him or Dolph Lundgren from Rocky IV) and even though I want to see a Duke Nukem flick, even though I think they have the right man – I don’t think they should even attempt making it.

Why It Shouldn’t Happen

There is a major problem with this idea and that problem is the character of Duke himself. You see, when the abysmal Duke Nukem Forever was finally released it was slammed by critics. Not only because the game was a complete dog to play with vastly outdated game mechanics and terrible level design but also due to Duke’s trademark style of humour. Many reviewers felt that Duke Nukem was just not ‘right’ in this now PC world we live in. See, Duke is a very obnoxious, overtly sexist and just downright rude to boot. He was playing with alien boobies long before Luke Skywalker did so in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Duke Nukem Alien Boobs

Yeah he loves ‘the babes’ but he treats them with little regard, objectifying them, looking at them as sex objects and so on. Duke is a pastiche of 70s and 80s action heroes, he’s an overblown stereotype expanded to the level of absurdity and I love him for it too. But that is because I get the joke, I know he’s supposed to be a parody. Yes he is outdated but that is part of the amusement that many, many people do not get.

Given the fact that right now, Hollywood is in the midst of a ‘feminist uprising’ and there are a string of films (remakes/reboots) coming soon where the male parts are being swapped for female ones. The fact that every time you turn on the TV or check out the news, there is yet another big name producer/director/actor being accused of some kind of sexual misconduct. All of this shit going on right now and they think its the right time to make a Duke Nukem movie? It may have flown fifteen years ago, maybe ten…possibly even just squeezed in five years ago – but now? Not a chance.

Hollywood and film-making in general is changing (for better or worse) and you just can not have a character like Duke Nukem in a film doing what he does. The backlash over Duke’s style of humour was immense when Duke Nukem Forever was released in 2011. Six years later and not much has changed I can only imagine what the furore would be like if the game was released now. Do you really think a film where the hero gets a double blow-job from two fan-girl twin sisters dressed in school-like uniforms while he sits there playing a video game will fly in today’s movie climate?

Duke Nukem Twins.jpg

This is not like the fan outcry for an R-rated Deadpool movie a few years back (but we got it eh?). Deadpool is just a very violent fellow and for some reason, violence is frowned upon sure – but its not considered as bad as sexual images or more specifically a male being overtly sexual towards women. The only way they can do a Duke Nukem flick is to dilute the character, strip him away of what makes Duke Nukem who he is – and there is no self-respecting Duke fan on the planet that wants to see that happen. We want our Duke to treat women like pieces of meat, slap some titties around (alien or otherwise) we want him to hand strippers cash and tell them to “Shake it baby!”.

Duke Nukem Shake It baby.jpg

We want to see all of this not because we are sad, basement dwelling sexists but because that is who Duke Nukem is and much like Deadpool with his violence – if they are going to bring Duke to the big screen, then they need to do it properly, go in balls deep – sexism and everything else.

I just do not see a big Hollywood studio willing to take on the character warts and all. The film-making climate has changed so dramatically over the last few months and how women are perceived and treated in film is shifting as we speak. I’d rather not see a big screen version of Duke Nukem at all than have him be watered down to appease the ‘PC brigade’.

In short, Duke is too great of a character for him to be castrated by the ‘feminazis’, so just leave him be.

Duke Nukem babes

Duke Nukem: “I like a good cigar…and a bad woman.”

Games To Play Over Christmas

Its that time of year once more – time for websites and blogs to do their obligatory top ten Christmas movies list. The same old movies getting mentioned over and over – year after year. And the debate over whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie or not continues…

I thought I’d try to avoid all of that this year and go a different route. I’m going to take a look at some Christmas games instead. Now, pretty much all of these games are linked to Christmas. But one of them just feels right to play around the festive season even if it has nothing to do with Christmas directly. Anyway, lets crack on with it.

Christmas Lemmings

Christmas Lemmings

Or Holiday Lemmings is from DMA Design (who would later become Rockstar Games) comes this charming action/puzzle game that I remember losing hundreds of hours on. Lemmings was a great franchise with multiple titles in the series.

The goal was simple, guide you lemmings to the exit… that’s it. While to goal may have been simple, the journey was fraught with obstacles you would have to avoid or get through using the many talents of your lemmings. With skills such as building, bashing, mining, blocking and even exploding. As you progress, the levels get harder and harder while your lemming controlling skills are pushed to the limit.

This Christmas spin-off maintains the classic, simple and addictive gameplay of the franchise and just gives it a Christmas paint job. The lemmings now wear little Santa suits complete with hats, the levels are also Christmasy with open fires, multi-coloured lights and snow… lots and lots of snow. A great little game that will have you hooked after playing a handful of levels and soon have you pulling your hair out in frustration – only for you to have ‘one more go’.

Christmas Nights into Dreams

Christmas NiGHTS into Dreams

I think this one is required by law to be included on any Christmas gaming list. This is one of Sega’s most beloved gamed released for its Saturn console. Paying as Claris or Elliot who can transform into the titular Nights with his/her flying ability which can be used around levels to collect orbs. Grab enough orbs in the given time limit and move onto the next level. The flying is really well done and gives a great sense of freedom despite being played on a 2D plane and while the game sounds rather dull – its incredibly addictive and fun once you get used to the flight controls.

The Christmas version was originally released as a two level add-on included in some Saturn bundles released in December of 1996, given away for free with copies of Daytona USA Championship Circuit Edition and even on editions of Sega Saturn Magazine and Next Generation Magazine. The game is given a slightly altered story for Christmas and of course, a graphical makeover. The Christmas theme could be enjoyed at any time of the year – but if you played the game on specific dates, you’d unlock added bonuses as the console’s internal clock would be used to know when you were playing. Try playing on New Year’s Day, April Fool’s Day or even Christmas Day for example…

The game takes some getting used to but once you do – you’re in for a wonderful time with this ‘unusual’ action/platforming title. Well worth checking out.

Duke: Nuclear Winter

Duke Nuclear Winter

An expansion pack to one of the greatest FPS games ever made. I love me some Duke Nukem… mostly. Lets not mention ‘THAT‘ game on this blog. But the third game in the Duke franchise was fucking brilliant. Coming off the back of the success of Doom and the meteoric rise of the FPS genre. Duke Nukem 3D was loud, brash, misogynistic and damn funny to boot. Shooting literal police pigs in the face with a shotgun has never been so much fun. Duke’s quips and persona are stuff of gaming legend – even if he did ‘borrow’ some of his lines from other places.

There were several expansions released for the original Duke Nukem 3D and Duke: Nuclear Winter is just one of them. So in this one – Santa Claus has been captured and brainwashed aliens and its up to Duke to ‘kill those alien bastards’ and save Santa.

Not one of the better Duke Nukem 3D expansions I admit – in fact, lets be honest… it pretty bad. A lot of the levels are just re-dressed ones from the base game only with a Christmas theme. Though there are a few all new levels – just not enough of them.

Die Hard Trilogy

Die Hard Trilogy

Yes, Die Hard IS a Christmas movie (stop arguing about it) and so is this game… well two thirds of it is anyway. As the title suggests, this one is based on (what used to be) the Die Hard trilogy of moives. This one is actually three separate games in a single bundle and all three are different genres and gameplay styles. All three games are action packed and great fun.

Like the moives the game(s) are based on, only the first two are set around Christmas. Die Hard (obviously) based on the movie is a third person shooter where you make your way to the top of Nakatomi Plaza killing hundreds of terrorists and rescuing hostages – okay so the Christmas theme is non existent on this one… but its Die Hard ergo Christmas. Die Hard 2: Die Harder is an on-rails FPS that is set at Christmas. The opening level starts outside the airport and its snowing. It then moves inside and there are Christmas decorations up and even Christmas trees… its Christmas!

This is a great collection of games, all three of them. A must for any Die Hard fan and I’d suggest giving Die Hard 2: Die Harder a play around Christmas time as there is no better way to show ‘good will to all men’ than shooting a fuck-load of them at an airport at Christmas.

Batman Returns

Batman Returns SNES

One of the best scrolling beat em’ ups of the 16-bit era on the SNES. Sadly this is a dying genre – where it was once one of the biggest gaming trends of the 90s. These game were always simple fare, keep moving (usually) right while punching and kicking bad guys until they fall over. But this one offered a few nice surprises along the way to keep the formula fresh.

No prizes for guessing what this game is based on. Batman Returns was the distinctly dark and brooding sequel to the Tim Burton classic Batman. This game follows the movie pretty damn well sometimes exceptionally so, including the Christmas setting. Its the little touches and details that make this one so much fun from grabbing bad guys and throwing them into the background causing damage to that awesome detail at the end of the first level with the clown and the “you missed” scene taken directly from the flick.

The graphics are bold and capture Tim Burton’s style perfectly. The cut scenes throughout that use digitised images mixed with hand drawn graphics are very convincing. Plus the gameplay itself is top-notch stuff. Watch the film and enjoy the game afterwards. Always gets me in the Christmas mood.



So this is the game that not directly linked to Christmas… but it sure feels like it while you play it. A massive open world RPG that offers a ridiculous level of gameplay set in a fantasy Tolkien-esque world full of rich and varied detail.

As mentioned, Skyrim is not set at Christmas – nor does it have anything to do with Christmas at all. But it is the game’s setting that gives it a snowy/Christmas feeling. Just go walking around the city of Winterhold or Windhelm. Go and explore the many caves, towns, villages found around the northern part of the Skyrim map and get that Christmas feeling inside as you traverse through snowy mountains all while sitting in the comfort and warmth of your home.

There is just so damn much to do in Skyrim that you can spend hours and hours doing nothing but explore the vast map. And while it has no connection to Christmas itself – there is just something about it that gives off a festive feeling that makes me want to play the game around this time of year.

Saints Row IV: How The Saints Save Christmas

Saints Row IV How the Saints Save Christmas

A slice of DLC from a game that was as brilliant as it was disappointing. I loved and loathed Saints Row IV in equal measure as its not a bad game at all – but it is a bad Saints Row game. Yet it also featured some truly fun and enjoyable gameplay.

The main game has nothing to do with Christmas – but this piece of DLC is a short but fun mission pack where Santa has to be rescued from the in-game simulation. Full of nods and references to Christmas movies and literature plus it has that distinctive Saints Row humour that is as childish as it is brilliant.

It’ll only take a around and hour to get through this DLC, a little longer if you really want to explore and get the most out of it though. All the Christmas tropes are present here and played up to with great effect. Worth a go if you want a little fun and a few laughs with your Christmas.

James Pond II: Codename RoboCod

James Pond II - Codename Robocod

A.K.A Super James Pond. This charming platformer is a sequel to a game a lot of people didn’t know existed. What do you get when you cross a gill-bearing aquatic craniate with Robocop?

So you get to play as James Pond, super secret agent… that’s a fish. Picking up where the first game left off as Pond’s arch nemesis – Dr Maybe retreats to the North Pole and takes over Santa’s workshop. Dr Maybe holds Santa’s workers and the big guy himself hostage. Pond is equipped with a robotic suit that gives him strength, agility and the ability to stretch his midsection enabling him to reach higher areas which he’ll need to use as he makes his way through 50 platforming levels to save Santa and his workers.

Platforming games were everywhere in the early 90s and this was one of the better ones. This was basic stuff, make your way from the start of the level to the end, jump on enemies heads, collect items for points. Being set in the North Pole and saving Santa as your main mission makes this game heavy on the Christmas theme… oh and the remix/up-beat Robocop theme tune is pretty damn sweet too.

Cannon Soccer

Cannon Soccer

So this one was never a full game, but in fact a demo/promo for an up-coming game from developer Sensible Software – Cannon Fodder. Mixing their enormously popular Sensible Soccer with Cannon Fodder to create a one-off mash up.

For those not in the know Sensible Soccer was a (wait for it…) soccer game and Cannon Fodder was an OTT shooter so a prefect blend right? You control a small squad of soldiers and have to guide your men through the levels killing bad guys along the way. Using guns, grenades and missiles to take on enemy soldiers, buildings and helicopters. Cannon Fodder is a non-stop, darkly humorous action game. This demo for the main event had you controlling a small squad and starting in a snowy battle zone with a ‘Merry Christmas’ message, but when you move south through the map, you soon find yourself on a football pitch. Now you have to defend yourself against gun-toting football payers. Progress further into the map and you’ll find yourself in yet another Sensible Software game – Mega Lo Mania.

The Christmas theme in this one is pretty low. Aside from the snowy setting and initial ‘Merry Christmas’ message, it has nothing to do with Christmas at all. But its still, a fun little demo to play around the festive season. Almost forgot, Cannon Fodder is notoriously difficult. This may only be a two level demo, but you’ll be spending hours on it trying to finish them.

Batman: Arkham Origins

Batman Arkham Origins

Second time Batman is on this list and probably the least liked of the Batman: Arkham franchise… until Batman: Arkham Knight was released anyway. The only series of games that truly captured the feeling of being the Batman correctly.

An origin story exploring the relationship between Batman and Captain James Gordon… oh and some other character called the Joker. Its Christmas Eve and there’s a jailbreak at Blackgate Penitentiary led by Black Mask. Batman is left to fight Killer Croc and he learns that Black Mask has hired eight of the world’s deadliest assassins to kill Batman for a $50 million bounty. Along the way, Batman crosses paths with the Penguin, Deathstroke, Electrocutioner and the Riddler among others.

This one didn’t receive much love when it was originally released – but I personally found it massively enjoyable. The Christmas setting looks gorgeous and offers a great contrast with the gothic graphical style of Gotham City… really put me in mind of Tim Burton’s Batman Returns movie. The game also featured some of the best predator sections in the Batman: Arkham series as well as introducing the ‘detective vision’ crime scenes where you had to piece together clues to discover what happened. Really worth playing over the Christmas season.

Special Delivery: Santa’s Christmas Chaos

Special Delivery Santa_s Christmas Chaos

Okay so I’m going very obscure with my final pick. A mostly unknown game I played plenty of as a kid on my Commodore 64. I believe it also holds the distinction of being the very first game where you get to play as Santa.

Pretty simple stuff, the game is split into three different sections. First you control Santa and his sleigh as he tries to collect falling Christmas presents dropped by his helpers – you also have to avoid gifts dropped by the Devil… cos the Devil is Christmasy right? The second section has you climbing down the chimney having to doge fireballs and falling snow. The the third and final section is set in the house itself. Here you have to negotiate the rooms of the house and leave the presents under the Christmas tree, find the key and leave through the front door. You will fail if you wake any of the sleepwalking children. Rinse and repeat to get a high-score.

This is very basic and simple stuff compared to today’s games – but it really holds some fond memories for me. I loved this game when I was a kid and always played it around Christmas time. It was a fun little title and still good fun to play today too if you fancy a trip down nostalgia lane.

Well there you have it folks. A few games to get you in the Christmas mood worth having some fun with. And I think this will be the last article from me in 2017 (unless something big happens in the world of games or movies in the next few weeks) as I’ve written a lot this year and need to switch off my laptop and unplug until 2018.

I’d just like to finish up by saying thank you to any and all that have been reading my rants over through the year and wish you all a Merry Christmas. Have a good un’ folks and I’ll be writing more in 2018… see you then.

Merry Christmas.png


Star Wars: The Last Micro-Transaction?

So this is just a little follow up on my previous Micro-transactions/DLC article from a week ago. In particular the backlash EA had been receiving from the micro-transactions they included in Star Wars Battlefront II. Just hours before the official release of the game – EA made the following statement on Twitter

EA statement

So there you so, the general manager of Dice who developed the game making the decision to remove the micro-transactions… except they haven’t – not really.

I’ve been reading up on this whole debacle and many sites are ‘celebrating a win’ for gamers due to EA/Dice removing the much hated micro-transactions. The bigger picture reveals there is nothing to celebrate at all, we gamers have ‘won’ nothing. But before I get to that, lets look at why EA feel the need to make gamers happy.

There have been boycotts over the game resulting in Star Wars Battlefront II selling around 60% less than the previous game in the franchise from 2015. There has been so much bad press in relation to this game with its micro-transactions that its seriously affecting sales. So its good that EA removed them right?

The thing is Dice nor EA made the decision to remove them. That call came from much higher up. Reports are saying that it was Bob Iger, Disney’s chief executive who made the call and ordered EA to remove the micro-transactions from the game… but why? It has nothing to do with keeping gamers happy. If you pay attention to the previous statement, they have only removed the micro-transactions temporarily...

“The ability to purchase crystals in-game will become available at a later date.”

The micro-transactions will be back, only after more games have been sold making it possible for more people to buy the micro-transactions after Christmas when more units are likely to be sold. The reason Disney made EA pull them is for damage control and nothing more. There is a new Star Wars film due out very soon and the release of Star Wars Battlefront II was meant to be part of the film’s publicity – there is even some DLC for the game coming out that ties in directly to the movie. For those not in the know, Disney own the Star Wars franchise and the bad press the game is getting, the low sales are not the sort of thing they want to have promote their new film.

The Last Jedi.jpg

So gamers have not ‘won’ anything, all we have done is force a major film studio to put some damage control in place. This is nothing to do with making gamers happy and all to do with making the Star Wars brand look good.

Are Micro-Transactions And DLC, Killing Gaming?

There has been a bit of a gaming backlash recently in regards to games being released and then offering things like micro-transactions and DLC. So much so that there has even been a petition started to regulate micro-transactions specifically to have them fall under the same laws as gambling.

Now, there is a difference between micro-transactions and DLC content. But here in this article, I’m going to try to explain why I feel both are a bad thing for gaming and why they need to be stopped. In regards to micro-transactions, there have been two big offenders recently that have hit the gaming headlines for all the wrong reasons. MiddleearthShadow of War and Star Wars: Battlefront II. So much so that when EA tried to defend micro-transactions in Star Wars: Battlefront II recently via Reddit, it became the most despised post EVER with over 680,000 down-votes so far and still counting.


South Park MT

First things, first. Micro-transactions are gambling as you have no idea what you will get in these loot boxes that you have to pay real money for. You could get an amazing 5 star, super rare item/character that is well worth the money you pay… or you could get something much less impressive. If you are paying real world cash for an item that you have no idea what you will receive – that is a gamble, it is gambling. Also, have you noticed how opening a loot box in a game is never a simple affair? They are always accompanied by sound effects, animations, flashing lights, etc – you know the same kind of things slot machines offer to entice people to play? But its not just the fact that these thing are a form of gambling that is the problem – its also the fact that they can give players an item/character that could provide them an edge over other players. Now if someone unlocks new abilities and upgrades through playing the game fairly, through their own skills then fine, I have no problem with that at all. But if you can just spend cash to get ‘better’ at a game giving you and advantage over others – then that’s a problem and by definition that is ‘pay to win’ in a big budget, high priced game.

I am strongly against micro-transactions in fully priced games. I mean, you go out and spend around £50 ($60) for a AAA, big budget game or even more for special editions… and then they try to entice you to buy ‘loot boxes’ within said game to unlock items in the game you have already paid for. AAA, big budget games should never have micro-transactions. These companies already make millions up on millions in profit from the sales – so micro-transactions are insulting to us gamers. Now there is a very different corner of the gaming world that rely on micro-transactions. Those ‘free to play’ games you can download and play without spending a penny. These games need micro-transaction because their games are ‘free’ – I get that. But big budget games? No, not at all. ‘Loot boxes’ within major game releases should never be a part of the game… ever. And its not just a matter of spending real world money to gain items within a game – its also a fact that doing so means missing out on gameplay of the game itself.

Shadow or War MT

In MiddleearthShadow of War  – you can pay to unlock orcs. But capturing orcs is a major point of the gameplay – its also one of the better aspects of the game too. It kind of like buying the new Forza game but then paying to have the races completed for you. Why would you do that? These things are a cancer of gaming and the fact that the recent fallout from Star Wars: Battlefront II is making gaming headlines – I hope this is the turning point, the era where gamers just get so sick of micro-transactions in gaming that future publishers/developers take serious notes and realise we do not want them.

One of the major reasons why Star Wars: Battlefront II is getting the bad press is due to the unlocking of characters. The aforementioned Reddit began with this:

 Seriously? I paid 80$ to have Vader locked?

This is a joke. I’ll be contacting EA support for a refund… I can’t even playing fucking Darth Vader?!?!? Disgusting. This age of “micro-transactions” has gone WAY too far. Leave it to EA though to stretch the boundaries.

Yeah, you can understand the upset right, paying $80 for a game only to have one of the most iconic characters of the franchise locked away?

Vader Battlefront II

Now, the way you unlock characters in the game is via micro-transactions to gain in-game currency to then buy locked characters… or you can grind away playing the game over and over to gain in-game currency without spending any more cash. It sounds ‘fair’ right? Well not if you just handed over $80 for a single game. Plus there is also the fact that it had been worked out that you’d need to grind away playing Star Wars: Battlefront II for 40 hours just to unlock ONE character. You want both Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: Battlefront II? That’ll be 80 hours of your life thanks. Some games don’t even have a 40 hour gameplay campaign… so how does having to play for 40 hours for ONE character make any sense?

Now to be fair, EA have recently lowered the amount of in-game currency required to unlock the characters, so no need to play for 40 hours any more right? Well no – because along with reducing the cost of the characters, they have also reduced the amount of in-game cash you earn by 75%. They publicly announced the reduction of the cost of the characters to make themselves look like they have been listening to the negative feedback – but kept the drop in game currency quiet, creating an illusion. They’ve given with one hand and taken away with the other.

I like unlockables in game though, I like getting rewarded for the hard work I put into the game. Getting a new level, character or something else that adds to the gameplay is fantastic. But there is a way to handle them and a way not to. EA’s approach in regards to locking characters in Star Wars: Battlefront II is both a great idea – but also poison to the game itself. Why are they not learning for the past?


GoldenEye on the N64 is a perfect example of just how to reward players. Aside for being one of the best and most influential FPS on consoles ever –  it was also one of the most rewarding games ever created in terms of unlockables. From its extensive and hugely fun ‘cheats’ menu that added extra gameplay value with its ‘big head’ and ‘paintball’ modes to the extra hidden levels and characters you got for completing the game on various difficulty settings. Then to top the whole thing off, complete the game on its most hardest setting, and you unlocked a difficulty customisation mode where you could tailor the game in numerous ways. GoldenEye was the game that kept on giving and you didn’t have to pay extra for any of this, you didn’t have to grind away for 40 hours to unlock one character. So why could developers get it right two decades ago in 1997, but miss the point of unlockables today? Yes giving us players things to unlock is awesome – but you need to get the balance right and including micro-transactions along with stupidly long unlocking methods is a dark path that no one wants to venture down.


Food DLC

Okay, so this one is a little more tricky to handle than micro-transactions because while I can see zero point in micro-transactions for AAA games – I do understand DLC… but I still feel that its not needed in gaming.

Look, I’m an old timey gamer. I go back to the Atari 2600 days and I’ve been a gamer ever since. I’ve seen this industry grow, die, grow again. I’ve been massively impressed with just how games have evolved over the years – from the simplicity of Pong to the complexity of the games we have today. Cinematic stories to be engrossed in, engaging characters, in-depth gameplay. Its been a crazy roller-coaster ride and one I still enjoy. But when I was a young gamer growing up, we didn’t have DLC – you brought a full game and you got a full game, crazy I know. Anyone remember Combat on the Atari 2600? 27 games in one… okay so they were all variations of the same theme, but we did get 27 ‘different’ games back then built into one game. That would be sold as DLC now.

DLC is something I both enjoy and loathe at the same time, that’s because the quality of DLC varies so damn much its hard to paint it all with the same brush. I can give examples of both amazing DLC along side some absolute trash DLC… sometimes within the very same game.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is a great pick here. From the awesome DLC that was Shivering Isles which offered an in-depth piece of story expansion which featured an all new main quest along with numerous side-quests to complete. Then the same game offered the now infamous Horse Armor. DLC is and always has been very uneven and sadly for every great piece of DLC – there’s dozens of crap ones. Some companies put little to zero effort into their DLCs just because they know the game will be massively popular regardless. By ways of an example: I got the season pass for Batman: Arkham Knight for free and even though I didn’t pay for it – I still felt I was robbed due to how lacklustre the whole package was. A handful of small gameplay expansions that last around 6-8 minutes each and the cosmetics of different costume skins – I almost forgot the shitty Riddler races that no one liked in the main game anyway. It was a beyond terrible DLC package and the only reason the developers Rocksteady shat it out was because they knew it would sell given the popularity of the Batman: Arkham franchise.

Assassin's Creed II.jpg

There there are other bad examples of DLC where developers purposely withhold content for the sole reason to get players to fork out more cash to play it. I recall when I first played Assassin’s Creed II and loving the hell out of it, enjoying the engrossing story along the way… but then there were two parts of the game where it missed out on the plot. Two chunks of the game and the story just missing. It was later revealed that these missing parts would be relased as DLCs. The first being Battle of Forlì and the second was Bonfire of the Vanities. Two big pieces of the plot just removed that you had to pay for later to find out what happened. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is another game guilty of exactly the same thing. The plot is ticking along nicely, then you get to a specific point and there’s a gap in the story… and of course this was released later as a piece of DLC via The Missing Link. They even had the balls to rub it in your face that something was missing with the title of the DLC itself. How about Mortal Kombat X? Made a big deal that you can play as one of the original characters – Goro… but you then find out that to play as Goro, you have to pay extra for the privilege and even more so, it turns out that Goro was already on the disc you’ve paid for but just locked away by the developers to squeeze out more cash from you. Things like this, extra characters, costumes and similar are the bane of the DLC world. Remember playing games and unlocking characters/levels/costumes or having to quickly insert a code via the joy-pad to unlock secrets? Now, you have to pay extra to get stuff like this.

How DLC Started.jpg

Try to imagine if they did this with other forms of media. So you’ve just gone out and brought the latest Blu-ray of a film you’ve been looking forward to watching. You get it home and thrust the disc into your player, sit back in your favourite comfy chair and relax as you watch your film… only about half way through you notice there is a big chunk of the film missing or a character blocked behind a big black box – and then a message pops up on screen asking for for credit card details to ‘unlock’ the missing scenes or characters. We just wouldn’t put up with this shit in films or books, etc… so why do we do so with games?

Now the reason I wrote this article to begin with was due to a conversation I was having on a gaming forum where the subject of DLC was brought up. Without boring you with the details, basically someone said that DLC is (and I quote) “a requirement in gaming” because game companies “don’t make much money from the sale of the games alone”. They also said that “game prices have remained pretty much the same for the last 20 odd years” or so while “game development costs have continued to grow and grow”. Now, that all sounds pretty fair right? If games have remained the same cost for over two decades while development costs have increased – that says a lot about why DLC exists… except its not that black & white is it?

GoldenEye cart

You see 20 odd years ago we were (mainly) playing games on cartridges as digital media was still in its infancy. Just going back to GoldenEye for a second, it would have set you back around $60-$70 back in 1997. A new game now will damage your wallet for around the same today… but it’ll most probably be on a Blu-ray disc and not a cartridge because cartridge games are more expensive to manufacture and that expense had to be passed onto the consumer. Notice how Nintendo Switch games are more expensive than the same game on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One? Because the SD cards Nintendo use are more expensive to produce.

So that is one reason why game prices have not increased much (or at all) over the last 20 years… because they are cheaper to make now… unless you own a Switch. And if you don’t like that reasoning, then the games industry as a whole has exploded in the last 20 years too. Where once selling a couple of million units was considered a success – today, that would be seen on as a flop as more people now buy games than ever before and this too has helped keep the cost of games down because more are being sold. Then just to finish this point, my retort to companies don’t make much money from games – I’ll just go back to Star Wars: Battlefront II‘s publisher EA for a second. Their net worth as of 2017 is 1.210 billion dollars with 7.718 billion in total assets and an operating income of 1.224 billion dollars… yeah I can see they are struggling to make money. I bet their CEO struggles to put food on he table right?

I also used another line of defence to demonstrate my opinion that DLC is not needed in gaming via the use of a certain gaming company. One that is both guilty of offering micro-transactions and DLC but also made a hugely successful game with zero paid for DLC at all. A company that is both a prime example of why we don’t need DLC in gaming but also gave us some of the best DLC ever.

Rockstar logo

Rockstar are one of my all time favourite game developers/publishers. It has been recently announced that the eagerly awaited Red Dead Redemption II will feature micro-transactions. Bad Rockstar… except this was not their decision as it came from higher up with their parent company Take-Two. The mighty Grand Theft Auto V also featured micro-transactions via their Shark Cards for the multiplayer aspect of the game… again a decision from Take-Two not Rockstar themselves. I’ve already said my bit on micro-transactions and I hope they die a fast and painful death soon and with all the bad press they are getting right now – maybe Take-Two will reverse their micro-transactions decision with RDR II?

To get back to the point of DLC, Rockstar have given us three pieces of simply awesome DLC from their games. Grand Theft Auto IV‘s The Lost and DamnedThe Ballad of Gay Tony DLCs were fantastic. Giving fans a continuation of the main story along with new gameplay features and mechanics. They were pretty big too adding dozens of hours of gameplay value. Then there was Red Dead Redemption‘s Undead Nightmare – which similarly to the GTA IV DLCs gave players a whole new story with new gameplay features and mechanics along with hours and hours of gameplay. These DLC were well worth the money.

Now let’s take a look the biggest game Rockstar has developed so far and the biggest selling game of all time – Grand Theft Auto V.

GTA V.jpg

More than 800 million dollars in worldwide revenue, equating to approximately 11.21 million units sold in less than 24 hours of being released. Sales totalling $2,079,480,000 by March 2015 and around 52 million copies sold since its release in 2013… again these figures were accurate as of March 2015. The game is still selling now (hence why it still holds a decent price) and how much paid for DLC does GTA V have? None, yet it’s online portion has continually been updated with FREE content for several years now… FREE content. Some of that FREE content even carries over to the single player game… for FREE.

Yeah you can bring up Shark Cards if you wish and I’ll rebuttal with this…
They are not a necessity, anyone can play GTA: Online without spending anything and still get all the FREE DLC in both multi and single player. Also, GTA: Online didn’t exist when GTA V was first released and making 800 million dollars in the first 24 hours alone. So you can’t blame Shark Cards for that – it made its money on the game it was at the time. GTA V has been the  most profitable game made so far and not a single piece of paid for DLC either… but loads of FREE DLCs and updates adding more content.

So please get out of here with all that ‘games are too expensive to produce and they don’t make profit’ when GTA V broke sales records in 24 hours, made more profit than any other game so far, gets continually updated with FREE content and features no paid for DLC. So if the most expensive game so far to be produced can bring in that kind of money in 24 hours alone with no paid for DLC or micro-transactions… then why can’t other games? Some people are still screaming for some story based DLC for GTA V – but here is the main point… it doesn’t ‘need’ it. Its a game that is 100% complete upon release (not including the online aspect), just how games used to be. Buy a game and get a full game.

No More DLC

DLC is most definitely not a requirement of gaming and if developers put all of the games out there from the get go like GTA V being 100% complete from day one, maybe they could see better sales minus the micro-transactions, DLC and other withheld content. You know, just what gaming used to be like. What a great future of gaming that could be… just like the past.