Category Archives: LBoG: Editorials

And There They Go: F1 2020

I used to be a huge Formula 1 fan, my era was eighties and nineties. I have to admit to not really being into the sport today like I used to be. Ayrton Senna was my driver, and when he died at Imola in 1994, for me, F1 died with him. Still, I continued to watch for a while after Senna’s death because of one man, Michael Schumacher. Shuey was the bad guy I loved to hate, my pantomime villain. Then when Schumacher retried (the first time) from the sport in 2006, I really had little interest anymore. But even so, I still think F1 is a fantastic sport and do have an interest in it to this day, I just don’t have the passion for it like I used to. My interest for the sport extends to F1 games, the latest of which. F1 2020 from Codemasters is released tomorrow… if you have the Deluxe Schumacher Edition, if not, you’ll have to wait a few more days. I’ve had my review copy for a little over a week now and I’ve put in a good few hours. So, time to take a look at the latest F1 offering from Codemasters.

The Game

Right, let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first. An F1 game is an F1 game, is an F1 game to be honest. You’re hardly going to see any major advancements over last year’s edition. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing at all. The thing about the Codmasters’ F1 franchise is that they are quite simply sublime. You’re just not going to find a better Formula 1 game around… well Codemasters do have the official licence, so it’s not like they have too much competition in that regard.

F1 2020 SCREEN

The game kicks off with you creating your avatar. Look, sex (yes, you can be female), name, nationality, etc. Then it’s to the main screen where there are a multitude of options available. Solo play allows you to take part in various singleplayer races and events. There’s the basic time trial with you tearing around any of the twenty-six tracks (twenty-two official F1 circuits and four shorter variations) in the game on your own just trying for fast times, this is a great mode for trying out car set-ups. Grand Prix mode allows you to create your very own season. Choose a car and driver and then create your own season with between one to twenty-six races, you can even have twenty-six of the same track if you want. Set your difficultly from the wide range available, use driving assists and so on. Choose the length of not just the races themselves from only five laps to full length, but you can also tinker with the entire race weekend too. Short or longer practise sessions, one shot or full qualifying. You can create your very own race season.

Both the Time Trial and Grand Prix modes allow you to race using any of the cars in the game. There’s the official Formula 1 2020 cars, a selection of classic cars from 1989 to 2010 or even race in the Formula 2 2019 cars.

Then there is Championship mode. This one is split into two separate modes itself. First up is Championships where you can take part in various pre-set events such as a full F1 2020 season, Classic Championship, F1 Sprint, F2 World Tour and even a Legendary Tracks event. A wide variety of races across both F1 and F2 featuring several decades of cars. The second mode features the Invitational Events, twelve special events with specific restrictions and challenges. Checkpoint Challenges where you have to race through checkpoints before your time limit runs out, Pursuit in which you have to catch and overtake all opponents within a lap limit, Time Attack is self-explanatory and Overtake Challenge where you must overtake a set target number of cars within a time limit. Each of these challenges are on set tracks using a specific car. So that’s your singleplayer options, and I’ve not even talked about the extensive career mode (later).

F1 2020 MENU

Then there are the multiplayer modes. Weekly Events are usually tied with the current, real-world F1 season. Leagues allows you to take part in or set-up custom made online league races. Then there are both ranked and unranked single online races. Finally, there is the return of split-screen mode where you and a friends can enjoy some couch F1 races together on the same screen. Just to finish, there’s a theatre mode which allows you to relive some of your finest moments in a highlight reel, as particularly interesting races are compiled into handy highlights which you can save and re-watch whenever you like. Plus, there’s a showroom where you can look at any of the cars in the game from the 2020 season, the 2019 F2 season and even all the classic cars in much more detail.

What’s New

F1 2020’s biggest new feature is an all new My Team game mode. Here, you can create your very own team instead of playing as one of the officially licensed ones from the grid. To be honest, I’ve been screaming out for a create a team mode in an F1 game since playing F-1 Grand Prix Part III on the SNES in 1994 (loved that game). Yeah, it’s great jumping into a Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes or whatever. But when it’s your own team, it just feels a bit more special. The My Team mode offers you the chance to be a driver/owner and even throws in some light management gameplay too.

You start out by creating a team name before choosing a main sponsor. Different sponsors offer different benefits. For instance, one sponsor may offer you a bigger initial payout, but smaller bonuses per race. Or maybe your chosen sponsor will give you a smaller sign up deal, but bigger bonuses. If you meet you sponsor’s goals through the season, then they are more likely to offer you even more money, money you’ll definitely need to keep your team afloat. Next up is your engine provider choice, again, each of them has their own benefits, but you have to be careful not to spend too much and keep an eye on your bank balance as you still have to sign a second driver to join your team. Drivers have varying skills that can be levelled up as you race and they gain experience. Then, as long as you’ve not blown your budget, you can create your team. Next you have to choose and design your car’s livery, there are only five pre-set liveries to choose from, but more via DLCs. The livery customisation really is little more than just being able to change colour schemes, it’s very basic really. There are no Forza style custom creations here. Once that is done, it’s then on to designing your team badge that will be on your car and driver overalls, etc. Finally, you have to select an overall colour scheme for your team. Once all that is done, you’re then ready to unleash your newly founded F1 team on to the grid.

In between race weekends, and back at your team’s HQ you can invest in R&D to help improve your car, upgrade your factory facilities to help improve your drivers, sponsors and general car build. Hire drivers from the driver market, create new helmet designs, give your driver a new pose/celebration, design overalls. Then if that’s not enough, you’ll also have to find things for your employees to do between races. Hold parties, send drivers on training, make promotional films, etc. All actions that can increase your team’s morale and profile, improve work ethics and so on. There’s really quite a lot to keep an eye on when maintaining your team. It’s a very light management aspect over dedicated F1 management games that never feels like it’s taking away from the main event of racing. It’s a nice balance between F1 simulation and a management game.

F1 2020 MY TEAM

When you do hit the track, your custom team will not be very competitive at the start, this is why you need to invest in new tech and research new parts. You’ll really struggle at the back of the grid (if you’re not playing on easy) and it’s a slow progression. Keep the sponsors happy and the money rolls in, invest that money on factory improvements, R&D, better drivers and before you know it, you’ll be fighting it out on the track for points and maybe even the championship itself. The My Team addition is the biggest to the game and is bay far and away the stand out feature of F1 2020.

The standard career mode has also seen some new features added. The pre-Formula 2 races are back from their introduction in F1 2019 and been improved upon too. Now you can choose to race a short three race season, a mid range six race season or even go for a full on twelve race season in F2 before advancing to the big leagues in F1. Though they seem to have removed the story element that was in the previous game. Then even the F1 season itself can be adapted to suit your tastes. Like the F2 introduction, you can change the length of your F1 season, add and remove races. You can essentially create you own custom season from all the circuits available. Both the My Team and standard Career modes feature a ten year career to follow. If you play with a full race weekend and full race length, that’s a lot of F1 action for your money.

F1 2020 CAR

Then there have been some general tweaks and refinements. I personally found the cars, both F2 and F1, a bit easier to drive in this game over previous ones. They seemed more stable and controllable. A virtual rear view mirror has been added and so has a ‘casual’ mode which allows you to make your driving experience a little easier if you’re looking for a more arcadey F1 game over a simulation. Podium Pass allows you to unlock new avatar items and you can even create your very own trophy cabinet to show off best victories and accolades. Then there are two brand new tracks for the 2020 season with the first ever Vietnam Grand Prix at Hanoi and the return of the classic Dutch GP at Zandvoort. Both tracks offer some great and varied racing.

Overall

I may not have the passion for the sport like I used to, but I do still enjoy playing the games and this is the best F1 game around. The refinements over last year are not huge at all, but they are noticeable. I found the cars handled far better, more nimble with less under-steer than the previous games. The career mode is as great as it was previously and allows you enjoy the F1 circus your way with so many options and variables. Make the game as easy or as hard as you like with a multitude of gameplay tools. Turn on traction control, breaking assist, make the AI easier, change the number of laps per race and so much more. Pretty much any and everything can be tinkered with and fine-tuned to suit your personal play style and difficulty level. You can even alter the amount of races per season and pick and choose specific tracks to race. Or you can go full on pro career mode with a full season, full race distances, full race weekends and zero assists, high AI difficulty at the flick of a button if you want a genuine Lewis Hamilton feel.

The addition of the My Team thing is great. It has the right balance of management sim and yet it doesn’t feel overbearing. There’s a good deal to take in, yet it’s not so in-depth that you feel lost on all the options and variables of running your own team. I felt a sense of pride and it all seemed much more personal when racing in my own created team over just choosing one of the pre-existing ones. Slowly building your team from the ground up, taking on an inexperienced driver and watching them grow via experience made earning a half decent finish in the middle of the pack feel really deserved, in a way that jumping into a Ferrari and securing podiums regularly just does not do. The My Team mode is brilliant.

F1 2020 BOX COVER

But there is one thing I found disappointing if I’m honest. I’ve been playing the special Michael Schumacher edition and for me, I found the extra content severely lacking. F1 2019 also had a special edition, a Senna & Prost version. The extras allowed you to not just drive some of their iconic cars, but also drive as and against Senna & Prost too in special race challenges. You could even play as either in the career mode. The extras in F1 2019 showed there was potential to grow in new titles with similar ideas.

This Schumacher edition really has very little going on. There are four of his iconic cars and some cosmetics for your avatar… that’s it. You can play as Shuey I guess, if you select him for your avatar, but I don’t remember seeing him in the driver’s selection for the My Team mode. I’d just thought that with having the licence to one if the most celebrated F1 drivers ever, that Codemasters would really do something with it, and they haven’t. I’ve never been the world’s biggest Michael Schumacher fan, but I do respect him (mostly). Personally, I’d love to have seen Schumacher specific challenges, memorable races of his that you could relive either as Schumacher or one of his rivals. Drive into the side of Damon Hill to cheat your way to win the championship, play as Rubens Barrichello then after out-driving Michael Schumacher all weekend and in the race, be told to move over to let him win, that kind of thing. Actually drive as and against Shuey in specific challenges and memorable moments from his career like you could with Senna & Prost from last year’s game. But all that’s here is the option to use Schumacher as your avatar, the four cars and some minor cosmetics. It just seems like a waste of the license to me.

F1 2020 Schumacher

Plus this year marks the seventieth anniversary of Formula 1 too. There is a little bit of DLC to celebrate this momentous occasion… and again, it’s nothing more than a small handful of cosmetics. You’ve got seventy years of F1 history to celebrate, so how about some classic cars and drivers? Brabham, Häkkinen, Moss, Fangio, Lauder, Clark, Mansell, to name a few. Maybe some older tracks that haven’t been seen for years like Estoril, Brands Hatch, Sepang, Fuji, Hockenheimring, Imola… well maybe not Imola? They could have featured the original tracks and updated ones. A documentary looking at the history of the sport or at least some of its more stand out moments good and bad? It’s not everyday you can celebrate seventy years of something is it? There’s so much Codemasters could’ve done with the seventieth anniversary of of F1, but what you get instead is a new car livery and a helmet/overalls design. For me, the extra content is really not worth the extra money at all. Seven decades of the sport completely ignored.

F1 2020 70

Conclusion

So is this worth buying? If you’re a die hard F1 fan, then you’ve already made up your mind. This is an F1 game, very, very similar to the previous entries (which were great). There are no huge strides of advancement here, just the same thing as before, updated with the new 2020 line up. But that really is the crux of the problem with these yearly update-style games, I’m pretty sure they could just update the new info with a bit of DLC instead of a whole new game. The My Team addition is great, best thing about F1 2020, but again, I’m pretty sure they could’ve been added via a piece of DLC.

But saying that, this is still a damn fine racing title, you’ll not find a better F1 game around. If you are going to grab this, I’d suggest just sticking with the standard edition of F1 2020 as the DLC extras are bare-minimal and a step backwards from last year’s Senna & Prost content. I got my review copy for free and I still felt let down by it if I’m honest. Unless Codmasters have more planned for the Michael Schumacher licence in the future, then I really don’t see the point in spending the extra for it here. Then the seventieth anniversary of F1 is just completely wasted here too. Great game, amazing addition with the My Team thing but the DLC is really a let down.

Still, at least you can actually drive a full season in the game, unlike the real 2020 Formula 1 championships…

My Love For Digitiser, Thanks Biffo And Hairs!

I have a very strong memory of me always checking out Digitiser on teletext just before I left for school as a teenager…

Okay, so perhaps some context before I really get into this one. Teletext was a ‘on demand’ (I guess?) service we had here in Blighty on our telly-boxes before on demand services really existed. You’d press the ‘teletext’ button on your TV remote and be presented with an on-screen world of information, news, weather, sport, holidays, interactive games, daily magazines and so on. It was like an early internet before the internet took off proper… with a slightly lower abundance of midget porn.

There were literally hundreds and thousands of pages crammed with info. Different TV channels had varying versions of the service, each with their own pages. Each page would have to be inputted manually via the TV remote using a simple three-digit system. Popping in page 370 (though it did move about a bit) would take you to one page in particular I loved to read on a daily basis, Digitiser, or Digi for short, was a daily (except Sundays) video game magazine and was crammed with gaming news, reviews, opinions, readers letters, tips and so much more.

A Very Brief History Of Digitiser

Digi 1

Originally starting out on the channel ITV on the 1st of January, 1993, before moving over to Channel 4 later that year. Digi fast became hugely popular, bringing in 1.5 million readers weekly. That fanbase mostly came from the fact Digi was honest in it’s journalism (unlike a lot of paper published gaming magazines at the time) and how the main writers behind Digi had a wicked, irrelevant, Python-esque and often very near the knuckle sense of humour… which often landed them in a lot of trouble. The two main guys behind Digi were Paul ‘Mr Biffo’ Rose and Tim ‘Mr Hairs’ Moore.  Of the two, it was Tim Moore who was the established journalist, having written for and been published in a few magazines previously. Paul Rose was originally working at Teletext as a graphic designer but had no real experience as a writer, but he did have a vast knowledge of gaming. Between the two, they birthed Digitiser, Tim’s more professional journalistic approach, mixed with Paul’s more rough and ready writing, coupled with his graphical skills is what really formed the backbone of Digi. Between the two, they crafted weird and wonderful characters, off the wall scribblings, and pissed off plenty of gaming magazines and gaming publishers along the way too.

See, real paper publications relied on advertising to bring in some coin, ads funded by the game publishers. To secure ads and keep publishers happy, most (if not all) print magazine publications would not necessarily be entirety truthful when it came to game reviews. As an example, a poor game could get a very reasonable review in a print mag as this would keep game publishers happy, because their terrible game looked pretty decent off a review. This would mean that game could sell more copies despite it’s awfulness. In turn, publishers would be more likely to pay for more ads in the magazine, which would bring in more money for the publishers of said magazine. But Digi didn’t rely on ad space, so they didn’t feel the need to keep game publishers happy… so they could be much more honest, often brutally so. It was Digi’s honesty that really made me want to read their reviews and listen to their opinion’s more so than your typical gaming magazine. This did rub some publications up the wrong way as caused some friction between Digi and some print magazines.

In 1996, the duo of Paul Rose and Tim Moore were broken up. While Paul was away on paternity leave, Tim ran a news story about well-known and respected gaming magazine editor, Dave Perry (yes, that Dave Perry). The story claimed that Dave had gotten into serious trouble from his bosses for poor sales of their magazines, a story that Dave threatened legal action over. Tim was ordered to the editors office and was told to disclose his source for the story. Tim refused and so he was escorted from the building, sacked leaving Paul Rose to do Digi on his own.

The latter years of Digi were brilliant, but a slow death. Instead of calming down now that Tim was gone, Paul actually pushed things to be far more mad-cap and irrelevant. I could go on and on here, but I’m supposed to be looking at some of the more memorable moments of Digi. There’s loads of backstage stories of friendships, betrayal, controversies and so on, someone should write a book (I write books). This was just meant to be a quick explanation of what Digitiser was, and I’ve gotten a bit carried away with that. So…

Digitiser ran from 1993 to 2003, there were a few reasons why Digi eventually ended. In 2002, Teletext gained a new editorial team. This team began to lose patience with Paul as he continued to push and push was was acceptable to be shown on the service. His double entendre, risqué jokes, questionable characters and so on. The editors didn’t want to get rid of Digitiser and Paul Rose completely, just try to control him. They reduced the Digi output from six days a week to just three. They took control over the humour and edited jokes and even removed entire paragraphs of writing in case they had any hidden naughty jokes in them. The much loved characters were removed too. It just stopped being Digitiser really and became just another gaming publication, it lost it’s identity. Then there was also the 9/11 terrorist attacks, yes even that affected Digi. See, Teletext as a company made a lot of revenue from their holidays and when those planes hit the towers, people didn’t much fancy flying for a while. This downturn of of holiday makers put a massive dent in Teletext’s holiday side of the business, they had less money to spend and Digi was one (of many) of the pages in teletext that saw massive cutbacks.

Digi End

Digitiser’s viewing figures plummeted due to the changes, and Teletext began receiving weeks and weeks of angry emails of complaint from fans. The suits panicked and asked Paul to bring back all they had told him to remove, but for Paul Rose, it was already over and done with, he handed in his notice at the end of 2002. But just as a thank you to the fans, he did bring back Digi to it’s former glory for a four month run before he left. Digitiser officially ended on the 9th of March, 2003.

And with that rather meandering introduction to what Digitiser was, on to some of my favourite memories of its (slightly over) ten year run. However, memories can fade and people tend to misremember. I mean, I started this very article by stating that I have a very strong memory of me always checking out Digitiser on teletext just before I left for school as a teenager. But here’s the thing, I left school in 1991, Digi started in 1993. So memories may not always be 100% reliable, I must have read Digi before leaving for work not school. I guess what I’m trying to say is that what follows it how I remember Digitiser, and it may not be entirely factual.

The Honesty

The first thing that comes to mind when I think back on Digi is just how to the point Paul Rose and Tim Moore really were. Not being bound by the bondage of advertising revenue mean they didn’t have to be loyal to game publishers. If they didn’t like a game, then they really let you know. There was no pussy-footing around here. This in turn added a lot of validity to what they did. When they posted a positive review, you knew it was because they generally liked the game an not because the publishers of said game turned the thumb-screws to get that prise.

This honesty also came across when they would cover big gaming events like E3, or replying to readers letters and so on. There was just a whole sense of quality with their journalism that coated any and everything they wrote, serious or not.

The Humour

My own humour taste is really quite broad. I like very dry and even dark humour, but then I also like completely irreverent and silly humour too. It’s the latter that was the style of Digi. For me, Paul Rose and Tim Moore were one of the great comedic double acts. Laurel & Hardy, Pryor & Wilder, Reeves & Mortimer, Morecambe & Wise… Little & Large?

They just had this completely non-sequitur and surreal style that I found hilarious. The little quips in reply to reader’s letters, fake adverts, April Fools, the Amiga bashing, crazy top-tens. Every page of Digi was crammed with jokes, comments and jibes that kept me laughing through the day at school work. And let’s not forget some of those reveal-o gags.

Digi c3po-3

See, teletext had a feature were text or an image would be hidden on the screen, and when you pressed the ‘reveal’ button on your TV remote, whatever was hidden would then be shown. Most pages didn’t really make much use of this feature, or of they did, it was poorly implemented. But Digi was different. They used the reveal gimmick to full effect. From just showing a Digi catchphrase to parodies of films and TV shows to mocking celebrities and even some of the most bizarre but wonderful randomness on TV at the time.

The Characters

These were perhaps one of the most famous elements of Digi. Now, Paul and Tim created dozens and dozens of characters over the years. I’m not going to sit here going through all of them, I’ll be here for weeks of I did. But I do want to just look at some of my favourites. These characters were used for all sorts of reasons. Replying to reader letters, popping up in fake ads, just completely random moments and comments or even for long running features.

Digi Characters

Fat Sow was a rather brutal pig who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind, often creating controversy along the way.

Gossi The Dog was the one who broke big gaming news on Digi. Remember how Tim was sacked for that Dave Perry story? Well it was Gossi who ‘really’ broke the news to the public.

The Man With A Long Chin or The Man for short was Digi’s main mascot. He became so popular that he started keeping a diary of his crazy antics.

Mr & Mrs Nude were… well nudists. The Nudes hosted the tips page of Digi and would often disagree and get into arguments. But they still remained very much in love and their relationship remained in tact.

Phoning Honey spent his time on Digi making prank phone calls to game shops to annoy the staff. He would make complains about broken consoles, faulty games and the like with hilarious results. The phone calls were actually genuine too, often made by Paul or Tim, then transcribed and displayed on Digi under the Phoning Honey character.

Digi Ring Sir

The Snakes, oh how I loved The Snakes. They were a couple of teenage serpents who created ‘the bantz’ before it became popular. Streetwise, beat-boxing snakes who were very likely to cuss you and your mum bad.

Mr T would appear on the Digi pages and offer some questionable advice on all sorts of topics and issues. He even had his own agony aunt style problem page. Just don’t mess with his bins! Crazy Fool.

Zombie Dave was one of the more sneaky characters on Digi. If there was one thing Digi loved to do, then that was getting very risqué jokes past the editors. Using an zombie to deliver cleverly hidden swearing was just the ticket. All Zombie Dave could so was moan and groan. However, his lack of vowel speech hid words that really shouldn’t have been published on teletext.

Mar10 Day

Every gamer knows what Mario Day is. It’s a time when the gaming world celebrates one of the most famous gaming mascots in the world, Mario. The celebration is always on March the 10th… Mar-10… Mar10. Now, you’d think that given Mario is Nintendo’s biggest and most famous mascot, that it was the Big N who came up with Mario Day, but it wasn’t. As I said, everyone celebrates it, even Nintendo themselves.

Mario Day

But the whole thing actually started on Digi…

And there’s actual photographic proof too…

Mar10 Day

Yes it was a fan of Digi who wrote in and pointed out that, with how the date was written at the top of the teletext pages, that March the 10th read Mar10. From that day forward, Mario Day was born. Personally I think Al_Hine should get on the phone to Nintendo and ask for royalty payments, covering the last two decades, because they’re using his discovery.

Digitiser Still Lives

Even though the teletext version of Digitiser came to an end in 2003, the brand itself is still very much alive. Paul Rose secured the rights to the Digitiser name and still uses it today. Digitiser 2000 is a website set up by Paul Rose where he carried on that Digi crazy irrelevance. Yakking on about games, readers letters, lengthy but interesting opinion pieces and the like. And yes, still with that trademark Digi humour and its characters.

Then the site has its own spin-offs too. First there was the YouTube show. Digitiser: The Show, which made its appearance in 2018. Yes, even in person, the show was just as mad-cap as it’s text-based counterpart. Hosted by Paul Rose himself and featuring a host of famous and popular YouTubers… and Paul Gannon (love him really). Digitiser: The Show was just brilliant, stupid but brilliant. That off the wall humour was there, the fan favourite characters (now in 3D) where there and it made many a Digi fan very happy indeed.

Of course, it had to happen. The spin-off from the spin-off and in 2019, the unthinkable happened. Digitiser Live. Over two hours of Digi goodness and laughs with Paul Rose, more famous and popular YouTubers… and Paul Gannon (support his new book!). The live show was a huge success and another one was planned for this year, but then that there Covid-19 thing put a kibosh on that plan. So it has been postponed until next year instead.

Digi Live

Paul Rose has kept the Digi name alive for the fans over the years, and we very much appreciate it too. Now, Paul has very recently re-branded his YouTube channel from Digitiser to Biffovision. He’s not necessarily turning his back on Digi and gaming, but just that he wants his channel to be about more than just Digi. Paul also makes short comedy films and all sorts of videos well worth checking out. I recommend his long running, very funny/strange Mr Biffo’s Found/Lost Footage series.

But it’s not just Paul Rose who has been keeping the Digi name alive over the years. Thanks to some amazing work by Chris Bell and a lot of Digi fans. There is the most exhaustive and comprehensive guide to Digitiser on the interwebs called Super Page 58. Chris has helped me out on a few things for this very article and most of the images used have come from the Super Page 58 site. If you’re a die hard Digi fan like me, then there simply is no better place to get your Digi fix from in terms of its history.

Personal Impact

You know, it’s only now as I write this that I realise it was reading Digitiser that encouraged me to start this very blog. I always wanted to write about games, but back then, never believed that could happen. Writing just wasn’t something I thought I could do. Thankfully, modern technology allows pretty much anyone to create their own blog and yak on about anything they want. I started this blog because I wanted to be like Paul ‘Mr Biffo’ Rose and Tim ‘Mr Hairs’ Moore, I wanted to tell people what I thought about games. Share my views and memories, and it’s this blog that has allowed me to write even more, to the point of writing books… actual real books. Everything has even managed to come full circle as my book MICROBRITS even featured on teletext itself… kind of. See, part of the previously mentioned Digitiser Live event of 2019 gave teletext a rebirth of sorts via what was called Chunky Fringe.

Chunky Fringe was a warm-up show to the main Digitiser Live event and featured several specially made teletext pages offering a variety of oddities and curios, including my book (thanks Alistair)…

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Yes, I the long time Digitiser fan, actually finally became part of Digitiser in 2019…. though I do want to quickly add that I have since updated MICROBRITS and it’s a much better book now than it was then. Yes I am ending this retrospective look at Digitiser promoting my own work, that’s the great thing about having your own blog, you do whatever you want.

Anyway, I have to say an absolutely gargantuan thanks to Paul Rose and Tim Moore. Thank you for all the work that went into Digi, all the irrelevant humour, the honest reviews, the crap you had to put up with from the suits. Thanks for everything and inspiring me to write myself.

Why Microtransactions Are Gaming Cancer… An Article Not By Me

I hate microtransactions. They are the cancer of the gaming world. But just how devious and reprehensible companies are who use microtransactions to fund their games is really quite shocking.

I could knock up an article explaining why microtransactions are an unnecessary evil, but I really don’t need to. A friend and fellow passionate gamer recently published the following article that looks at just how disgusting the free to play/microtransaction model of gaming really is. Please do give it a read right here, it’s a real eye opener.

 

GTA V Again, And Again, And Again: What’s Happened To Rockstar Games?

I’ve been a fan of Rockstar Games since the beginning, since before the Rockstar name existed in fact. Back when a quartet of young Scottish game enthusiasts set up Acme Software, to be renamed DMA Design. From their first ever proper game, Menace in 1988, through some of the best games released on 16-bit computers with the likes of Lemmings. And then they made Grand Theft Auto in which would go on to redefine the gaming industry with the ground breaking Grand Theft Auto III from 2001, the game that was a figurative and literal game changer. Right up to today with their latest release, Red Dead Redemption II. Rockstar Games are responsible for some of the greatest games ever made in the last thirty odd years.

It’s been an amazing journey… but things seem very wrong at Rockstar Games from my perspective. Once, they were a powerhouse of game development and publishing, behind some of the finest titles ever to be released. But now? Now they have become lazy and complacent. Swapping that amazing legacy and reputation for money and more money. The next generation of consoles in on the horizon and this is the opportune time for studios to showcase what they have got planned for a whole new world of gaming. Sony recently revealed their latest monster, the PlayStation 5 and so to did several software houses show their wares, Including Rockstar Games. Bearing in mind that fans have been crying out for some new Rockstar titles for years now. Yes I know that RDR II is not exactly old, but it is coming up to it’s second birthday in a few months time. In those two years, Rockstar have revealed nothing. Other studios have been showing what games they have planned, some big name studios even managing to knock out multiple titles just a handful of years apart. So of course, Rockstar revealing their games for the the next generation of gaming was always going to be big news.

So what exactly did Rockstar Games reveal… the long awaited GTA VI, maybe the much fan-requested Bully II, perhaps the return of Max Payne, a sequel to L.A. Noire or possibly a return top the Manhunt series… or even an all new and exciting IPs? No, Rockstar reveled that they would be re-re-releasing GTA V on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox One Series X.

For those that want a count on this. GTA V was first released in September of 2013. That’s (almost) seven years ago now. The game was originally released on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It sold and sold very well, so Rockstar re-released the title on the then/now current generation of consoles, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, as well as a PC port… and it sold well again. Now, Rockstar are re-re-releasing GTA V yet again for the up and coming new generation of consoles. Seriously? That’s three generational releases of the same game in what will be over seven years by then. GTA V has sold in the region of 120 million copies and made around $6 billion along the way. Rockstar have made their money on this game already, and then some. Do they really need to keep milking this cash cow so damn much?

GTA V MILK

Seriously, what has happened to Rockstar Games? Let me just take a quick look at their most recent history in terms of games.

2008 – 2013

GTA IV.
Bully: Scholarship Edition.
Midnight Club: L.A.
GTA IV: The Lost and the Damned.
GTA: Chinatown Wars.
GTA IV: The Ballard of Gay Tony.
RDR.
RDR: Undead Nightmare.
L.A. Noire (published, not developed).
May Payne 3.
GTA V.

That’s an impressive list of games and really great DLCs. There’s not one bad game in that list, some better then others sure, but not an out and out terrible game at all. That’s a five year period of several top quality titles and DLCs, proving you can have both quality and quantity. Now, let’s look the the following seven years.

2013 – 2020

RDR II.

Okay, so I’ll also count the GTA V re-release too… the first one. But just look at the drop off in production. Yes I know games get bigger and more expensive to develop, but Rockstar are not one small studio. They are worldwide with multiple studios all over the globe. They now have more people working for them today then they did between 2008 – 2013 when they knocked out several high quality titles. So now, with a bigger staff and more money to spend, all they can do is release one game and re-re-release the same title again and again? What’s happened man?

Look, I’m not saying that I want yearly GTA titles, but how about more than one new game every septenary for starters? I’m going to bring up Ubisoft here, often cited as one of those kind of studios that just churns out the same game over and over but with a few slight changes. Let’s look at their Assassin’s Creed series for this example. This is one of their franchises that people say is tired and that Ubisoft just keep rehashing the same gameplay mechanics over and over (just like Rockstar and their games). Yeah, I can agree with that. But in 2017, they released Assassin’s Creed Origins to high critical praise. A game that was nominated for and won a few industry awards. A game that is very well liked among the gaming community as a whole. An epic sized game with a gargantuan open world map full of things to see and do. A game that changed the formula of the franchise. Then they followed that up with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey in 2018. Again, much like the previous game, a title that was very well received among gamers and critics alike. Another huge open world map with plenty to see and do. Oh, it’s also worth noting that Ubisoft also released plenty of single player DLC for these two games too, including giving away two remasters of older Assassin’s Creed games. Then of course, they also have Assassin’s Creed Valhalla coming out this year too, which is looking just as epic as the last couple of titles.

AC Origins

So that’s three AAA titles in the same franchise all released between 2017 – 2020. Three games with massive open world maps, with tonnes of gameplay, with single player DLC to add even more gameplay. Oh and that is just one franchise within the Ubisoft empire, they have more including The Settlers, Tom Clancy, Far Cry, The Crew, Watchdogs to name a few. All with new titles either already released over the last few years since Rockstar first released GTA V, or up and coming new titles over the next few years. Now just look at Rockstar Games again with their RDR II and re-re-release if GTA V. How have they gone from multiple quality games and great DLCs released between 2008 – 2013 (and even before then) to one game and the re-re-release of the same game (and no great DLCs) between 2013 – 2020?

If Ubisoft and other worldwide studios can make multiple well received games within their respective franchises, then why can’t Rockstar Games do this anymore, like they used to? I actually already know the answer to this. It’s the staggering success that is GTA: Online. They are making  so damn much money from microtransactions tied to GTA: Online that Rockstar just don’t really need to make games any more. They can sit back and just watch the money roll in without having to spend cash on expensive game production. They can re-re-release GTA V… again, because they know idiots will still go out and buy it… again.

Of course, the leaving of one of the best gaming programmers/producers, Leslie Benzies has been a massive blow to Rockstar… much more than they are willing to publicly admit. Then when Dan Houser left earlier this year, they lost another huge and equally important slice of what made Rockstar Games the studio the once were. Rockstar have a total of nine separate studios/divisions all over the world and thousands of employees. So with all that experience, all that talent, all that technology at their fingertips… they can only produce one game in seven years? They can’t have multiple studios working on more than one game at a time? One new game in seven years from a worldwide, multi studio developer/publisher is atrocious. And if you follow the pattern and drop of in production, you’ll not see a new Rockstar Games title in ten years, then it’ll be fifteen years and so on.

I honestly believe that Rockstar Games have sold out. They’ve sacrificed their staggering reputation for money.  They have become microtransaction whores, it’s not about making great games anymore, it’s abut making money and more money. And you know what, there’s got to be a point when they creative minds at Rockstar just get bored and leave, like Dan Houser?

Wasted

I loved Rockstar, yes, that does read ‘loved’. But now, it’s quite clear they are no longer the same company they used to be. I guess you could put the blame on their parent company, Take-Two. But then again, if the big-wigs at Rockstar Games were unhappy about the lack of creativity, the lack of output, the lack of games… then why have they stayed with Take-Two for so long? For me, Rockstar have proven that they are dead. Not financially, not even close. They got plenty of money in the bank from all the idiots buying Shark Cards for GTA: Online. But creatively? They’re long gone. All the GTA VI rumors, I just couldn’t give a fuck now. GTA VI should’ve come out four years ago, we should be on RDR III (and RDR II six years ago) by now, we should have Bully II, we could be playing all new IPs from them. But instead, we got GTA V, GTA V, GTA V and more GTA V.

I think I’m done with Rockstar Games now. For me, they’ve been on the rocks for a while, but this whole GTA V re-release again has really cemented their laziness and greed. I’ll just wait and see what Leslie Benzies and Dan Houser get up to instead.

Dan Leslie

 

Microbrits: Revision

So last year, I wrote a pretty in-depth book covering almost forty years of the British gaming industry. Microbrits: A Tapestry Of The British Gaming Industry was a real labour of love for me and I’m very proud of the book too. I’ve had a lot of very positive feedback and the general consensus is that it’s a damn good read. Full of interesting stories about the British gaming industry and the interweaving tales of those involved.

But it was a little rough around the edges. Several typos, spelling and grammar mistakes. The font was a bit too small and it could’ve been formatted a little better too. So while I’ve been in lock-down due to this whole coronavirus thing, I thought I’d re-edit Microbrits.

Best Cover Publish-page-001

I’ve used a slightly bigger font, corrected all the typos and grammar errors… I think. Removed sentences and even entire paragraphs, generally smoothed everything out to make it easier to read too. Plus it’s been updated with new info. Oh, and an all new retro cover as well. But despite editing and removing chunks of the book, it’s now bigger than it was. Partly down to the larger font and mostly due to the general editing and adding new information. Microbrits has grown from an 81,000 word book to a just shy of 87,000 words and from 174 pages to a 204 page book.

Fifteen British gaming studios covered. I look at the people behind the companies and some of the games that made them famous. The book is designed so you can jump in and read about any of the studios you like. But if you read from cover to cover, then a wonderful interweaving tapestry of the British gaming industry is revealed. Tales of spectacular failures, back stabbing buy-outs, amazing partnerships, rags to riches stories and so much more. Microbrits is a must buy for the gamer of a certain age just for a fantastic nostalgia trip, or even brilliant read for younger gamers who want to pick up a little history of not only how the British gaming industry began, but how it grew and evolved into a worldwide phenomenon.

You can find both the Kindle and paperback versions right here from Amazon, available for worldwide shopping too. Grab yourself a copy and enjoy an anecdotal journey through the British game industry.