Category Archives: Gaming

My History Of Gaming – Part 3

Time for part 3 of my gaming history. In Part 2 we went from 8-bit to 64-bit to 32-bit, in that order! In this part I’m focusing mostly on 128-bit with a bit of PC thrown in for good measure!

As we approached the turn of the century, nay millennia, I was happily bashing away (!) on my PSOne. At some point I had replaced my big grey one with one of these:

It was so pretty. I’m not sure why I replaced the old one, I think this one was easier to play pirated games on. You just added a tab to the CD eject switch and then used tape to keep the cover down. Not that I’d know, having never done it, of course!

In 1999 the Sega Dreamcast was released:

Oh I loved it! It was so ahead of its time. But let’s back up a moment. I was working for a major retail chain, there was an over-running delivery that needed finishing so the boss and I stayed back. On this delivery was the as yet unreleased Dreamcast a customer had pre-ordered. We opened it up and hooked it up to one of the TV’s in store. Mind blowing doesn’t even cover it!

My boss ordered one there and then, on finance, so I had to get one too. I waited until the price had dropped first though. I remember they were super expensive! This was the first console to do online gaming. It was pretty basic, mostly just for uploading scores. It had an internet browser but the modem was dial up. I remember hunting online for a cheap DSL modem from France only to realise that the DSL in this country wasn’t compatible. We’re so backwards in the UK!

I had some fantastic games on this. 18 Wheeler American Pro Trucker, Buzz Lightyear, Crazy Taxi, Dave Mirra, MSR. Man, the list goes on, I had about 60 games all in. The graphics were phenomonal, the sound was awesome and playability of all of these games was second to none!

Sadly, one day I tried to mod the case and drilled a screw into the wrong place and short circuited the board. RIP Dreamcast. Sad face!

Before I jump onto the PS2, I’ll take a moment to salute the Xbox. I’ve never been a fan, the controls are weird and it’s always felt behind the times. However, when it was released, I was the boss at that major retail chain and when we got the customer pre-orders in the night before launch I arranged a night in for me and some of the delivery boys. We hooked it up to a brand new 28″ widescreen TV in the staffroom, got in some beers and pizza and had a blast! I think there was a racing game and a snowboarding game. They were ok but not exactly mind blowing. I feel a bit sorry for those guys who pre-ordered these consoles only to get second hand shit but as long as the major retail chains continue to pay peanuts…

So now we get onto the PS2!

Around this time I was going through a lot of issues, personal life and work life. My crap personal life resulted in me throwing myself into work life before finally imploding. But gaming, and music, pretty much saved my life! I was working the night shift getting ready for a major launch, running behind schedule so I ended up working right through the day as well. I was hella knackered, really discombobulated. I woke up at home with a PS2 in a bag next to the sofa and a receipt. I literally have no recollection of buying it or getting home, I was completely out of it! Oh well, my gain right?!

This console lasted me right the way through the Noughties. It has travelled across the country with me and has been in almost all the houses I have ever lived in. It almost deserves its own part! I started out with all the usual games people had. Mostly just upgrades of PSOne titles. Crash, GT, Tony Hawk, Fifa etc. Then one day, a customer brought in a disc that he said had broken his PS2. It was all scratched and he was trying to claim his system was faulty etc etc. We replaced it. Before we sent the bad stock away, I took the disc home and loaded it up. I’d heard some hype and was really interested. That game, was Grand Theft Auto 3:

Right from the off I was hooked. Don’t get in the car, jump the bridge to the right and you pick up a baseball bat. Then you just start smacking up peds! It was ridiculously violent! I just couldn’t believe it! I tried playing the game but the disc was too badly scratched so I just went and bought it the next day. That game consumed so much of my life. As did the follow up Vice City and then San Andreas. 14 hour gaming days were no stranger to me! I 100% all of them. Albeit with cheats. It’s just such a good series.

Between Vice City and San Andreas, I moved to London. I got a job working for Electronic Arts. I was a tester and all around helper boy on Freedom Fighters. Name in the credits too! There I was introduced to the joys of game modding. I got GTA3 and VC on the PC and started modding away. Cars mostly. I really got into designing 3D cars. I got quite good at it too. This in turn encouraged me to get more into PC gaming.

I had a PC right through this period but as is the case, every new game requires an upgrade and I just got sick of it. I have played every game in the Command and Conquer series, Worms and Doom. I think that was about it! I finally bought a new PC and was able to play games again, if only for a short while. My flatmate was a big Wolfenstein fan and he had Enemy Territory. What an introduction to online FPS’s that was! It was so good and the concept of classes and people working together as a team was something I’d just never seen before. At the time I’d have said the only thing it was missing was the ability to talk to each other but looking at how that turned out on the current systems, I’m 100% certain that I’m glad you couldn’t!

Coming back to PS2, about a year before I bought my PS3, I got one of those modem kits and was able to take Battlefield online. It just wasn’t anywhere near as good. I wonder if this was because most people had migrated over to PS3 by this point or if it was just a shit experience in itself.

Finally, some key games to mention are the Burnout series, Guitar Hero 2, Medal Of Honour (I just kept playing the D-Day landing mission!) and the Tiger Woods series. All cracking games. Like I say, the PS2 lasted me through the Noughties. What other system, PC aside, could have had the longevity of nearly an entire decade? There just isn’t one. Even the Xbox piked out too soon. However, it had to happen one day. I had paid off all my debt and as a present to myself for being so good, I traded in everything and bought myself a PS3 and a shiny new flatscreen TV. Find out what that was like in Part 4!

Overdue Update

Hello! It’s been a long time. I have been super busy the last couple of months but I figured it was time for an update. So, what have I been up to?

Cambridge Big Bike Ride

You may have seen the banner on the bottom of the site for the Cambridge Big Bike Ride. It was essentially a sponsored ride with two routes, an easy one and a hard one. I decided I’d give the easy one a go and see how quickly I could do it. Then the missus decided she wanted to give it a go too. Then we decided we’d do it for our own charity. We chose Action For M.E. They sent us bibs!!

We were quite excited in the days leading up to it and then when we woke up, it was raining. So we set out in our his and hers macs!



It was a really interesting course, mostly because Cambridge is a weird town with a bizarre star shaped infrastructure. We went through Milton Country Park which was very muddy and I totally trashed my bike! It got caked in mud! I wasn’t much better off. It just kept on raining. As is the case with wearing a mac and doing anything remotely energetic, you get a right sweat on so off it came and I ended up just being soaked to the bone. Eventually though, you get over yourself and it’s just funny. Evident by my picture crossing the finishing line!



On the way round I had my GPS tracker enabled. Go here to see the route. You can even view a 3D flythrough which is quite exciting! GPS data fly’s all over the place in some areas, presumably because it can be so fucking remote in this town there’s often no signal. Initially I wanted to blast my way round, I think I could’ve done it in about 45 minutes but cycling with the missus was way more fun and we just took it slowly and gently. It was very enjoyable and I’m keeping my eye open for more rides. In the end we raised over £300 for the charity which is a fantastic result!

My Vasectomy

Whilst verging on the boundary of TMI, I decided to write about this to offer support to anyone else who might need it. I decided at a very young age that I didn’t want kids. I’ve been waiting a hell of a long time to get a vasectomy on the NHS. I was told I had to be over 30. So I waited! Earlier this year my brother got one and he’s only 24! So I signed up for one too, as you do! A few days after the bike ride I went into the surgery. I was told they were trialling a new keyhole surgery, no stitches, quicker healing, less pain. It was so new the doctor was still training. I was his last sign off. It was a very brutal operation. He clearly didn’t know what he was doing. What should’ve been 15 minutes took an hour and I think I just went into shock by the end of it.

Following the op I was expecting the usual feelings of regret that a lot of people talk about. The sudden realisation that I can’t have children. I’m now less of a man. Etc, etc! I haven’t had any of that. For the last 7 weeks I’ve just been struggling with the trauma of the initial pain and the healing. About two weeks after the op I got a haematoma, which is like a bruising on the testes. That hurt like hell! To make that worse, I was due to move house but was ruled out of doing any heavy lifting for another month. See below for how that turned out! I was also told not to cycle or exercise for a month too.

I have depression. I’ve had it for many, many years. The best aid I’ve found for it isn’t popping pills but to exercise. I do this a lot. Regular walks, gym exercise, bike riding. I have had to sit on my arse for 7 looooooong weeks. Add to that the stress of moving. It has not been fun. Yesterday I went on my first bike ride. I was very nervous and scared of injuring myself again. It was ok though. Today I feel fine. I’m going to start lengthening my routes and I’ll be taking up more exercise during the week and just getting back on track. I was caught completely off guard with how much this was going to affect me the way it did but hopefully it’s all moving forward from now on.

My advice for anyone who is interested. Don’t get seen to by a fucking trainee! Don’t get it done when you have other things to do in the following two months. Don’t do it if you’re not very good at doing nothing. However, if you’re really convinced it’s the right thing for you to do, then go ahead and do it. The world needs to stop the fucking endless over population!

Summer of Grunge

If you read this blog regularly you will remember this post where I talked about getting back into grunge. This summer we were lucky enough to get tickets to see both Pearl Jam and Eddie Vedder solo in Manchester. It was two fun road trips and we also managed to squeeze in a visit to see my brother and hang out with my niece and nephew, who are, in my opinion, cute as fucking buttons!

Anyway, both gigs were amazing. Pearl Jam came out to Release Me and right from the very first “Ooooh” I knew it was going to be a good gig. As I said in the previous post, I’m getting a bit sick of seeing bands who can’t play or sing live even though the record is good. Ed can fucking wail! We got some really great seats to see Eddie Vedder solo and he was note perfect!

Surrounding all of that we’ve been listening to some really old CD’s from that time, all the PJ stuff, the SG stuff, Alice In Chains, Nirvana. It’s been a great summer!

My Birthday

I had a birthday. I am now 31. It is shit! I appear to aging at an alarming rate! I feel like I should be doing grown up things like getting a mortgage, having a corporate career, investing. Nah, fuck that!

Moving House

As I mentioned above, I had to move house. I was planning on doing everything myself. Then the doc signed me off. I put a Twitter request shout out thing and we got some fantastic helpers over two days who came and helped us move all our crap out of a big house into a smaller house that costs more. Go figure! The house is lovely, the lettings agents are not. Finickity bastards! It wasn’t clean when we moved in. There were pubes on the bathroom floor. When reporting this to the agents, we were told our standards were clearly higher than theirs. I’ll say it again, PUBES!!!! FROM SOME OTHER DUDE!!!! Jesus! Cambridge is a filthy place full of some really filthy people. After 3 years here I still don’t really like it. I miss London.

The Botanical Gardens – We finally went to the Botanical Gardens. It’s been awful weather this summer but the sun came out for the day. I have some pictures that I will post later this week.

Future Projects

I think I’ve got my writing bug back. As you can see! I’ve had some ideas for things I want to do over the coming months.

Bread – I love making bread. I bought a book with 70 recipes from around the world. I’m going to make them all. I’ve just ordered 11kg of assorted bread flour. I’ll be blogging my journey!
Gaming – I really need to finish this so look out for parts 3 and 4 by the end of the year!
Her Fearful Symmetry – Remember I blogged about The Time Traveler’s Wife? Well, I’ll be doing the same for this book. Starting to read it this weekend.
Photography – I’ve cancelled my subscription to a photo mag I was reading. It was stifling my creativity. I hope to get back to actually taking pics and blogging them.

That should keep me on for now I reckon! Suggestions welcome!

My History Of Gaming – Part 2

Hello again and welcome to part 2 of the My History Of Gaming series. You can find Part 1 here!

In part 1 we worked through the 80’s and early 90’s ending with the Sega Master System. A console that brought years of happiness to the family long after its sell by date. You’ve got to take what you can right?! In this part we’re going to kick off around 1995 and go on through to about 2001. You can tell immediately from the reduction in timespan that as gaming has evolved it’s become way more intense.

So, Christmas 1995. My little brother got the NES.

This was shortly after the 16 bit consoles came out so everything inferior was now really cheap. It came from Toys R Us and all the games were found in the bargain bin for £2.97. That year I got a Scalextrix but it was huge and we didn’t have the space. My ma sabotaged it and we took it back to the shop as a “damaged” item. I got gift vouchers. I bought NES games. My particular favourites were Gauntlet (“blue Valkyrie shot the food” – *punches brother*), Mario (boing, boing), and Top Gun (jet engines like dial up!). I also have vague recollections of playing Mega Man, Master Blaster, Simpsons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The latter was recently remade on the PSN and it was a fantastic tribute!

The NES was actually a cracking system for its time. I think the problem I had with it was that we got it late, so while we were still riding the 8 bit train everyone else was upgrading to first class and enjoying 16 bit. However, as I mentioned last time, upgrading the games console was low priority so I never got into 16-bit. It wasn’t too bad, we had Sky TV (irony?) and there were a couple of games shows on so I lived vicariously. In fact, it was around 1994/1995 that I went to see Gamesmaster being filmed. Whichever series had Dexter Fletcher presenting it from Oxford Prison. If you manage to find any old episodes you’ll see me in one of them standing behind the (semi) famous people clutching my tupperware! I always wanted to be a contestant 🙁

Now it gets a bit crazy. Initially, I didn’t get into 32 bit either but around 1998, while studying for my A-Levels, I started working part time and getting paid about £30 a week. It was a suddenly huge amount of money to have in my pocket and I’m pleased to say I pissed it away on computer games, music and beer! When I wasn’t bunking off study sessions playing snooker I was either in a record store trying to impress the cashier with my eclectic tastes or showing off in the video game store getting high scores on games I was too poor to actually buy! When I finally did commit to buying a new console, I jumped right ahead to the Nintendo 64.

When I was at school there were about eight of us misfits who hung around together. I think, in line with a lot of people, sixth form was a really good time for me. Less subjects so I could focus and a whole lot more freedom to figure out who the hell you were and step outside of the constraints of society a little. Mostly because all the dicks who terrorised us for 5 years buggered off to the local comp. (I went to Grammar school, it was awesome!).

One of my friends came in to school one day, after Easter holidays I think, and he had bought the Nintendo 64 with Goldeneye. Now, you’ve got to remember there was no internets back in 1997. When a friend tells you something is awesome, without seeing it yourself, you either take his word or call bullshit. We went for the latter because a) it was James Bond (lame!) and b) it was a movie to game conversion (double lame)! But then he told us that he had also bought something called a Rumble Pak. If memory serves, this was the first of its kind. It sparked our curiosity. We had to see it for realz.

So that weekend a few of us went round his house. Imagine four weedy nerds and his two sisters crowded round a 20″ TV staring in absolute awe at the Dam bungee jump scene.

It looks like crap now but in 1997, Good Lord it was good! I had to have one. As birthdays came and went through that year all my mates got one and we would spend many weekends around each others houses kicking the crap out of each other on the multiplayer. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you know how good Goldeneye multiplayer was so I don’t need to go on too much but we did everything with that game. There was even one weekend where we each took a TV to one persons house, got some Y-splitters hooked up to the console and some L shaped cardboard pieces to block out the other players squares and played blind multiplayer to make it more fun! I tried to find a video but there aren’t any however I did find out that this is simply called the “4 TV Technique” haha!

Dorks!

Eventually my brother got one for Christmas. It was one of those rare moments that two sons and their dad finally found something they could “bond” over. My dad was the only one who could complete the Jungle level for ages so we often played together trying to complete the single player. One of the real genius bits of that game was the cheat system. In order to unlock the cheats you had to complete the game on all three levels in certain time limits. I have yet to find any other game that has encouraged that kind of replayability and I doubt I ever will.

Goldeneye wasn’t the only game we played though. Once I had money in my pocket we were able to experiment much more. Some of my favourites on this platform were 1080 Snowboarding, Snowboard Kids, Mario Kart, Mario 64, Lylat Wars, Wave Race and V-Rally. I even had a steering wheel and pedals. The N64 was flawed in that the games were all super expensive. Cartridge manufacturing was dying out thanks to the PlayStation which I had largely ignored. A console that runs on CD’s with load screens, nah, that’ll never take off!

Then one day, another of our gaming weekends, I was shown the PSone and Gran Turismo and the donut spins and the drift steering and I went and got one. Haha!

The graphics were nowhere near as superior but the games were a lot better. As you can see from the list above, N64 games were a bit…babyish. I was in my late teens and I wanted action and violence. The N64 just couldn’t deliver on that front. I played so many games on my PSOne, some of my favourites are Driver, Crash Bandicoot, Rayman, Die Hard, Time Crisis and Fifa. It really was the console that brought the arcade into your bedroom. In fact it’s probably responsible for the death of the arcade as we knew it and also why games in the arcade now cost about £2 a go.

I left one game/franchise out because it’s particularly special.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. Summer. 1999. I finished work one day and went to the local Blockbuster. Oh, new games in this week. Tony Hawk (who?) and skateboarding. Ha! I remember playing skateboarding on Summer Games on the Master system. It was shite! On this though, the graphics looked good. So I rented it for 2 nights. I didn’t put it down all weekend! Seriously, it was so good! I took it back and they were doing this offer where if you bought it straight away you got the rental fee knocked off. Obvious decision really!

Going back to sixth form allowing you to discover who you really were, this game helped finalise the definition. Dude! This game changed the course of my life forever. It brought out this laid back element of my personality, this part of me that knows it’s ok to not have to try so hard all the time, that sometimes it’s ok to kick back. Up until this point I was pretty uptight. This game was full of attitude and I took that into my own life. I bought skateboards for me and my bro and we hung out in town and praticed. I sucked but he was pretty cool. I couldn’t even ollie but he could grind and jump. I just remember falling down a lot!

One of the fondest memories I have of this game, and it’s completely unrelated, is that I had also just discovered Foo Fighters and started what has become a lifetime obsession. Most of my memories of playing this game have There Is Nothing Left To Lose playing in the background!

Playing THPS1 lasted for months! It was totally addictive and it had everything. Insane jumps, destructible environments, secrets, hidden tapes, gaps, Bob Burnquist (!), ridiculously high score challenges, Roswell. It had some of that replayability I loved Goldeneye for too. I spent hours trying to get all five tapes in one two minute session. I don’t think it was possible across all levels. Whilst the PSOne didn’t have the best graphics available, if you look back at THPS1 now, it holds up. It was so ahead of its time.

And then Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 was released. It was slicker and it introduced the manual! Suddenly, massive combos were at your beck and call. It also had Rage Against The Machine on the soundtrack which kickstarted my alternative view on politics. Up until this point I’d been raised in an incredibly right wing Tory household. RATM fucked my world upside down. Thanks Neversoft! THPS2 had bigger levels too, they felt much more open world. It also had Spiderman as a playable skater! This summer THPS1 and 2 are being re-made on the PSN. I can’t wait. The trailers look amazing and from the interviews I’ve read, the developers have pretty much left it the hell alone.

When Goldeneye Reloaded came out last year I was really excited, along with half the world’s 30 year olds! However I was pretty quickly disappointed. It wasn’t terrible but it was incredibly unbalanced and the online mode was an ultimate fail! From the looks of it, Robomodo have come to THPS with a lot of respect for both it and the fans which can only result in good things right?!

So yeah, lots to take in there. Next time I’ll be bringing you all the action from the Dreamcast and the PS2 so stay tuned for Part 3!

My History Of Gaming – Part 1

I have a confession to make. I, am a gamer. It’s true. I love computer games. I’m hopelessly addicted to them. I have been for a very, very long time.

“Oh great, another loser fanboy. I bet he plays Xbox games and doesn’t shower”, I hear you say. Well, steady on Jack Thompson, I’m not one of those guys! Not only am I a gamer, but I’m also a relatively normal person. I can’t tell you how I’ve managed to stay normal in spite of my obsession, it’s just the way it is.

For the next few weeks I’m going to go on a trip down memory lane and highlight the defining moments of my own personal gaming history. I’m going to pick out all those games that hold a special place in my heart. All those games that have played a part in shaping my personality. All those great games that I just have so many great memories of playing!

Why am I doing this? Well, I originally wrote most of this about two years ago and then shelved it. In the last twelve months or so, my gaming “career” has come full circle. Gran Turismo 5 and Goldeneye Reloaded have been released and GTA:V has been announced. It’s turned into an amazing year for gaming. So amazing in fact, that I’ve ditched the usual purchases of Battlefield 926 and Call of Duty 672 in favour of some more traditional gaming.

I’m going to serialise this over a few posts but let’s get started with that great decade, The Eighties!

My first computer gaming experience was on the Atari. I have no idea what model it was. It belonged to my Aunt. She only had a few games and the joystick was a big black square brick with one red button on it. I remember it had Pong on it and then some weird game that involved making food and I’m almost certain the sound effects sounded something like “burger, burger, burger” but I may be getting this confused with a game from the 90’s I played on PC. That could’ve been a remake I suppose. Not off to the best start here, but bear with!

Shortly after, we got our own computer. It was the Commodore 64.


Commodore 64

We also had the tape deck:


Commodore 64 Datasette

I was about five years old when we got this. On previous websites, I used to bang on about this in my About Me pages because it was this computer that introduced me to the beautiful world of programming. I was a very clever five year old although if you look at the bio of any developer around my age, they will all name check this or similar as being where they started. Not only was it my entry to uber geek world, it also had some cracking games. Games like Chuck Rock, Chuckie Egg and Supermarket Dash were all played regularly.

After that we upgraded to an Amstrad CPC 464 Plus.


Amstrad CPC 464 Plus

This one was cool. It had an awesome game called OutRun on it which ran not on tape, but on a cartridge that was plugged in to the side and loaded super quick. However, this was the only cartridge we had. Like the Commodore 64, it had a tape deck so all the other games were on tape. We had about 50 games. I think we bought it from my uncle and he had a collection of games and the official gaming magazine of the time. What’s the name of this magazine?! Amstrad Action I think.

It’s funny, I remember setting games off to load from the cassette and then going and doing something else for a bit, regularly checking back to see when I could play. Then we got cartridges which were super fast but now we’ve gone backwards and we’re on DVD’s and hard drives and the games are so big that you still end up with ridiculous load times. Crazy!

I also dabbled in programming on this. A really neat feature of this was that you could save your code to tape. I remember going out and buying special tapes to save stuff on to. They seemed to cost a fortune but I bet they were just normal tapes! I remember rewinding a whole bunch of tapes in bulk using all the stereos in the house (it was the 80s, we had far more than was necessary) and the next time I tried to use them they didn’t work. That sucked. I lost all my saved stuff. It is probably this that made me a good programmer. I had to go back and re-do all my work. Extra practice!

So that was my first era of computer gaming. It probably wasn’t a lot of fun in hindsight. Far too much time was spent waiting for tapes to load. Not conducive to being a five year old! Also, as a wee child, I don’t think you quite get the concept of computer games or particularly the intricacies of them. A lot of them were just fun little platformers and it was really just about getting from point a to point b without dying. However, a lot of adults played these games and I sometimes wonder if there was a whole extra level of complexity to them that I just missed completely.

And therein lies the genius of computer games!

As the 80’s were drawing to a close I had just turned 8 in the summer. What happened next is probably responsible for the way the rest of my life turned out. It started with this game…


Fantasy Zone Box Art Fantasy Zone Grab

Just look at all those amazing colours! It was like nothing I’d ever played before.

Our local video store was awesome. You pulled up in the loading bay out back and went through this really dirty corridor and up the stairs to get there. The owners’ son was this really incredible artist and he spray painted the walls with pictures of Disney characters. It was always a lot of fun seeing what new character had been drawn that week. One day they started renting out consoles. My folks rented the Sega Master System and along with it, Fantasy Zone. It was amazing.


Sega Master System Plus

We got the plus version, with 2 pads and a gun.

We had it for two days and I played it non-stop! I pestered for my own that Christmas and Santa kindly brought me one. I think it cost about £130. Super expensive at the time! I didn’t get Fantasy Zone but we did get Alex Kidd in Miracle World and Parlour Games. Built in to the console were Hang On, Safari Hunt and a super hidden maze game which required altering the TV contrast to see the lines.

One of my favourite games on the Master System was Rescue Mission:


Rescue Mission Box Art



This one used the gun. Basically, you help your guys get around a railway system healing wounded soldiers before they die or you get blown up. Seriously, my aim was so crap I held my gun right up to the screen and with every trigger press there was a clink against glass! How we didn’t go through the TV in the end I’ll never know!

True story alert: ironthumb.co.uk was originally started as a games development project. Iron Thumbs geddit?! After arsing about making games like tic tac toe, solitaire and black jack we started planning a remake of Rescue Mission. I think we were using C# and winforms at the time. I’m not sure if XNA was out by this point. Anyway, nothing came of it, the artist was lazy and I got a girlfriend and moved out lol! One day I’m definitely getting on with making this again. It’s a simple concept and with the Kinect/Move tools I think it could be fab.

We had this console for many, many years. The 90’s were a bad time for my family. We were victims of capitalism and Tory greed. My dad lost his job, we lost the house and we moved back to a council estate. Well, housing association but it’s the same thing. Needless to say, upgrading the home games system wasn’t top priority.

Interestingly though, the Master System brought the whole family together and probably contributed to making everything just about bearable. It was the first family games console. Together we played tennis tournaments on Super Tennis, golf tournaments on Golfamania (“splish, splash, I’m taking a bath!” -injoke!) and mouse rescue on Mickey Mouse and the Castle of Illusion.

Towards the end, my games of choice were Speedball, Sonic The Hedgehog and Mortal Kombat. I’d started secondary school by this point and fell in with a crowd of people who loved gaming almost as much as I did. Yeah, I was that kid!

Still reading? Fascinated? Want more? Stay tuned for Part 2!

Fings I Like Friday (22)

1) PSN games. I love them because they are only £8. I love them because they are simple but addictive. I love them because they are digital and there is no packaging.

2) The PlayStaion Move. Well, it arrived. I have two controllers due to some terrible communication from Amazon mixed with my own impatience! It is awesome! It is better than the Wii. It is very accurate and a whole load of fun. The EyePet works better, Planet Minigolf works better, the sports games are great. I had a bitchin’ round of badminton the other day. Lots of demos last week have been keeping me occupied. Fab!

3) Windows 7 and Office 2010. This week I got my new PC from work. It’s just a Dell but it’s 4Gb RAM and 500Gb HDD with a massive 21.5″ screen. My old PC was falling apart. Literally. It kept overheating so the case was off, the extra drives had been ripped out, it was awful! This freed up my old monitor which is now connected to my netbook which runs my Skype and Outlook now so I got rid of my old laptop. Also a piece of shit! It just feels so good having new, fast hardware and up to date working software. I feel more productive. My desk is a lot tidier. I have more room. It’s just a nicer environment to work in.

4) My new photography course. One of my goals this year was to sign up. I did so and it started this week. Not quite what I was expecting, more artsy/wanky but it’ll get me through and give me projects. This week it’s vantage points. I will post the results next Wednesday. We’re expected to use Mac’s in lessons. I will be taking in my laptop. I hate Mac’s.

5) The missus. Just for being!

Fings I Like Friday (21)

w00t! On time this week!

1) The missus – I totally left her off the list last week by mistake and my oh my have I heard about it!! So this week she is first. She has now finished work and is working from home completely self employed. This is good because I get cups of tea brought to me, Time Outs and other choc goodies, decent lunches and most importantly random cuddles!

2) The Windows command prompt. Whilst not a pretty face, very useful. Sometimes it’s just easier to go old skool. At some point I’ll write up an article on how to connect to and send files via FTP using the command prompt. Exciting stuff. When you cross this line, there is no going back!

3) SQL coding. I love SQL. I love SQL scripts. Again, sometimes it’s just easier to get right in there, skip the crappy wizards and friendly UI’s and just write the damn script yourself. Once you’ve sussed it, go back and finish up quickly in your application.

4) Neighbours. Paul Robinson is God! Have you been watching it this week? With Steph and Toadie and Libby? I don’t know who to support. I despise them all equally.

5) The PlayStation Move. Launched this week. Demos downloaded. Just waiting for my controller to arrive. Will go to the shop tomorrow to buy an additional one.

Stuff I Like Sunday (20)

Ok, a little delayed on the Fings Friday this week. It’s been a super busy few days. I need to be a lot more disciplined with this blogging lark!

1) The Playstation. This week the Playstation turned 15!! I remember being a big fan of alternate systems like the N64 and the Dreamcast and then one day I was introduced to the Playstation 1. This amazing console that you could cheat on and pirate games with. This amazing console that had Gran Turismo on it. This amazing console that in all its incarnations has been a solid feature of my life ever since that day. Happy Birthday little buddy!

2) Big Brother. Well, it’s finally ended. I’ve watched most of/bits of every single year. It has dominated my entire twenties. How sad is that?! I’d go through phases over the summer where I’d actually think cameras were in my kitchen watching me cook. Yeah, that’s not good is it?!

3) Weezer. Oh man I love Weezer! Thanks to Spotify, they have been my most played band of the last few weeks. I should probably do a Music Monday on them.

4) Wardrobe clear outs. I’m a hoarder and I go through weird phases. I’m not into fashion, at all. I see a T-shirt style I like and I buy it in four colours and wear them to death. Then I do it again and again. Same with trousers. My wardrobe was getting full so I decided it’s time to get rid of all the faded stuff. Which is most of it! Now I have lots of space to go buy more similar T-shirts.

5) Lists. Yeah, in case you haven’t guessed, I’m one of those people. I love lists. I love making them, half finishing them, creating new ones etc etc. I love paper lists. For some reason, there is no good computer based list making software. They are all too rigid and completely inflexible. It’s like someone decided to make list making software but this person did not list the requirements. This person is clearly not a list maker. It would be like me, a man, designing tampons.

Fings I Like Friday (18)

1) Joe Danger, obviously! See yesterday’s post.

2) Tumble dried towels. Oh they’re so soft and squishy and lovely! I’m enjoying the softer clothes. I have yet to see my electric bill…

3) Successful project go lives. Only a few days late but for once, I’m not to blame! It’s been a tough project. Sometimes fun, sometimes not. I’m glad it’s over though. On to the next!

4) Promotions and payrises. I have apparently proved myself. Apparently a lot of things have improved since I started working from home. Whilst a compliment, it’s a bit back handed. I thought things were good already. I guess not. Anyway, as of Wednesday I’ll be a Senior Consultant. You must bow in my presence.

5) The missus. Yeah, she’s still awesome. She has bounced back from the blip and already has a million and one entrepreneurial ideas that she’s putting into motion. I don’t know how she does it. I could never be self employed!

Fings I Do Not Like Friday (1)

The UK tax system. I mentioned this earlier on Facebook. My base pay is good. Any commission I earn will be hit by the 40% tax rate. 40% can you believe that? In Australia it’s only 30% upto $180k and the VAT is only 3%. I am most definitely in the wrong country! However, as I mentioned on Facebook earlier, I never thought that I, a Northern boy from a council estate would ever be in a position to piss and moan about the 40% tax rate! Amen!

Toys/Gaming Thursday (2)

Wow, only the second of these. I am clearly far too busy! No time for toys, have I really sold my soul?

Anyhoots, I saw a game a few months ago on the PSN store and thought it was too expensive and why the hell wasn’t there a trial? Well, this week I got my trial and it was so good I bought it as soon as the trial expired. Of what game do I speak? Why it’s Joe Danger of course!

Oh my freaking GOD this game is sooooo amazingly brilliant!

Quirky soundtrack, addictively challenging, collectables, races, stunts, brutal crashes, it’s got it all. And then a couple of hours ago they released the People’s Patch. It has a ton of updates. I’m going to get this tomorrow. The best part is that the developers, Hello Games, are a small, no make that tiny company with only 4 chaps working there. How cool is that?

This game reminds me a little of this really bizarre indie title I used to play many moons ago called Action Supercross:

I wasted many hours not doing homework on this. Created my own levels, played a bunch of online downloaded ones, it set the bar for community gaming, just no online or anything.

Now with Joe Danger, you get kick ass graphics and online and easy level sharing. Perfect!

So that’s games, how about toys?! Did you catch this weeks Dragons Den? Did you see that super bitching awesome magic wand remote control? Here:

Ok, so it’s just a One4All, but it’s a wand dammit! I’d love something like that. Actually, not really, I’m not all that much of a gadget nerd. I bought a remote control with a slide out keyboard for my PS3. I still use the controller for typing and watching DVD’s. It’s collecting dust in a box somewhere.

With that, I bid you farewell. I have a sneaky suspicion that Joe Danger is going to make my Fings Friday tomorrow…

Too much detail?

Still getting to grips with my new camera but I figured I’d post about my lenses in a little more detail.

This is the standard Nikon 18-55mm that you get as part of the kit:

It takes some cracking shots. It’s really light, fairly quiet, good close up range. I’ve always been a fan of Nikon lenses. It’s one of the reasons I bought a Nikon body. However, they tend to be quite expensive.

This is why I’ve had to settle for a Tamron telephoto macro lens:

I was never a fan of Tamron lenses. Build quality and most importantly image quality were usually quite poor. Things have improved over the last few years though. It’s not a great lens by any means but it will suffice. It did only cost me £120 as part of the deal.

As a telephoto it’s pretty good. I can totally spy on the neighbours!! I’m currently working on a series of bird shots for a post I plan to do. We have a tree out the back and it’s a good roosting spot. I have a clear vision from the bedroom window. At 300mm the tripod is a must. I’d be no good as a sniper!

The macro kicks in at 180mm. One slight annoyance is how far away you have to be from everything. It’s about 95cm but then you do get a good picture from it. I think that coming up from a compact and being able to get really close to the subject in macro mode, I’m finding it a big change setting up so far away. But on the plus side, it means less flash interference, no camera shadows, more prep and organisation. I’m sure I’ll get used to it.

The on board camera flash is pretty powerful and lights quite well even at a distance.

It gives a 1:2 ratio apparently. Not sure what that means though. Need to read the manual more. I also just got a copy of the Nikon D5000 for Dummies which should make some good reading.

As you can see here, it really picks out the details:

In case you’re wondering, that’s my leg.

And as a teaser for something that’s coming up soon, how about this:

These little guys are only 25mm at the base and the goblin is just over 10mm high. With the Tamron lens, they fill a frame.

With that, I bid you farewell…

Fings I Like Friday (9)

Oh dear, it’s been a week since I last posted!

1) Sunshine. The British summer is here. It’s marvellous. It’s so hot I can’t sleep. It’s so hot I want go have a nap at 3pm. It’s so hot that I’m wearing shorts. While working! I wouldn’t have it any other way.

2) Killer Bunnies. I got a new expansion set this weekend. I love this game. Each expansion pack makes it harder and longer (oo-er) and we set a limit of 90 minutes and just managed to finish with a couple to spare. I won. Go buy it. It’s hilarious!

3) Fish. Yes, I like fish. I never used to like fish. Except cod in batter. Tis the Northern way. Over the last year or so, the missus has introduced fish into my diet. I’ve had cod, haddock, plaice, salmon, smoked salmon, pollock, prawns, sea breem and trout. I appear to like fish! Mr Park loves fish. Only this afternoon in fact he tried to steal the fish from my plate.

4) Eggs and soldiers. Remember these from when you were a kid? A boiled egg with a runny yolk and toast cut into strips and called soldiers. I have no idea why! We have introduced them into our breakfast routine since I stopped having dairy milk and moved to soya which is just disgusting on cereal.

5) The missus. Again. I guest posted over on her blog.

Toys/Gaming Thursdays (1)

Ok, new post feature thing!

Every Wednesday the PSN Store gets updated. If anything tickles my fancy, I’m going to blog about it. Last night’s update was awful but as a I never got round to doing the one from the week before, I’ll do it now!

I love my PS3. Perhaps too much. I like what some of the mainstream developers are doing but what I really really like is what some of the independant guys are doing and the PSN only titles are a really good way for these guys to get their work out to the masses without as big a cost as a packaged product.

I was dubious at first about downloadable content (DLC) but I’ve kinda given in over the last 6 months. Sure I can’t trade it in, but at only £8 a title, I’m actually ok with that.

So first up was the Hustle Kings snooker pack. For a couple quid you can update the existing pool game (which is brilliant) to include snooker. I LOVE snooker so this is really cool. I bought it straight away and I am definitely not disappointed.

Me and snooker games have an interesting history.

I think it started out with Parlour Games on my Master System. It had billiards. In 2D. Check this out:

That’s super lame right? Still, for the times it was addictive.

Then I got a PC and I had this mate who had an uncle who worked for the local cop shop. Whenever they did piracy raids, they’d keep some for evidence and the rest would be distributed amongst the force, who in turn would duplicate and distribute to friends and family. I kid you not. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary ladies and gentlemen!

So I managed to get hold of a copy of Interplay’s Virtual Snooker. They made pool too but as a different game which was exactly the same! Now we’re into 3D and check this out:

Sexy huh?!

That’s been pretty much it for me for the last…oooo…14-15 years I guess. Another reminder I’m getting incredibly old!

Then along came Hustle Kings. Look at the difference:

Put that in full screen and be amazed. It’s a truely wonderful game! It handles really well, the rules are well structured, the sound effects are fantastic, the difficulty is more balanced than the pool which is interesting. I still can’t believe that the full game and this expansion comes in around £10. There are £40 games on the shelf right now that don’t come close. Sure they have licensed players but does anyone really care that much? It’s just snooker!

The next title I looked at, I’ve mentioned before. Planet Minigolf. It was launched in the US on Tuesday and I read a review over on IGN and it wasn’t too good, mentioned a few flaws. I downloaded the demo and couldn’t find anything wrong with it. It’s a true blooded effort! It’s nice and faithful to the concept of minigolf. See:

The power ups are a really nice touch. I haven’t bought this yet, been playing too much snooker, but it’s a steal at only £6.29. In fact, I’m gonna go buy it now. I may update this with a proper review after playing the full game but for anyone else, go get the demo and love it. It’s 9 holes which I really wasn’t expecting. Thanks guys!

Finally, something I don’t often do is go back and play a game on a harder difficulty. Sure it’s more challenging but when you’ve been through the story once, it’s a bit boring. I think the only thing I completed fully was Goldeneye on the N64, on all four difficulties! Someone please remake this in HD!! I decided to play Modern Warfare on the next difficulty. It’s the third one. I forget what it’s called. It’s really hard! It might actually add to the story in this instance and it has been a while since I played it first time round so maybe I’ll get a few surprises.