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Modern

G A M E R

Meet Blazing Griffins Last one Standing Metropolis: Lux Obscura for Nintendo Switch Octopath Traveller The Man Behind the Visuals

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In This Issue

Simon Eriksson Jamie Glover Ross Gilchrist Siobhann Dunn Manuel Cardo Nicolle Cassels Selina Mclean


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Modern

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an n i l Se clea M Contents

Meet Blazing Griffins Virtual Reality Used to Prepare Inmates Video Game Music Concert School Warnings Over Online Chatting Last One Standing Metropolis Lux Obscura for Nintendo Switch Fog of War Octopath Traveller The Man Behind the Visuals Game Research

Gaming Career The Long Journey From the Bottom Wreck and Ruin Women in Gaming Lenovo Explorer Mixed Reality Headset Roccat Khan Aimo Photosynthesis Mansions of Madness the Streets of Madness Touchgrind BMX 2 PUBG Mobile Ash of Gods H1Z1 Bonus Content


Feature

Meet Blazing Griffins By: Selina Mclean

Selina spoke to Blazing Griffin about the Scottish game industry and about their upcoming title Murderous Pursuits SINCE 2011, Scotland’s own Blazing Griffins have grown from a three team venture to a fully functioning company producing the best in film, TV and game production straight out of their Edinburgh and Glasgow bases. Focusing mainly on the cohesion of storytelling and technology as the key to their ongoing success, they have so far produced many well-known titles including the BAFTA award winning Distant Star with more much anticipated releases on the near horizon. Having just returned from PAX East in the USA, of which they premiered their latest release Murderous Pursuits, they said: “It is such a buzz you get from finally getting your game in front of the public and getting instant feedback. We were overwhelmed by the constant lines of players waiting to play our new game and how excited they were for its upcoming April release.” Launching on April 26, following a positive response from recent Closed Betas, this multiplayer game is set on board a Victorian-era ship and sees the player at the centre of a murder mystery saga in this dark and often twisted real-world Wink Murder. This is one of the company’s largest projects for 2018, with their feature film Anna and the Apocalypse hitting theatres December 7. Working closely with BBC Scotland as well, there is a real home spirit with the Blazing Griffin’s team with Creative Scotland and Scottish Enterprise being agencies who have supported the company’s growth over the years and has been “instrumental in our success” they confess. “Scotland punches above its weight in a whole number of industries. Gaming is definitely one of them. We have a strong gaming community in Scotland with Dundee becoming quite a hub for gaming graduates and several well known companies in the big cities. We are a proud bunch, us Scots, and the gaming community is no exception.” Look out for some mammoth releases from Blazing Griffins throughout 2018.

Murderous Pursuits


By: Siobhann Dunn

Virtual Reality used to prepare inmates for a life outside of prison

At first, they are given access to recreational 360-videos, easing them into the use of the VR, as many have never been exposed to this level of technology. Next, they are given the popular HTC Vive system and are exposed to real life situations, such as self- service checkouts and card machines. Though it is not just modern technology the VR provides an insight to, it also puts users into confrontational social situations, helping them under-

HTC V IV E

THE new program in Colora- stand how they can deescalate do will help long-time prison- them, ultimately lowering the ers adjust to modern day life chances of them recommitting crimes. As these inmates The thought of prisoners using were placed in prison as teenVirtual Reality headsets may agers, many would not have seem like a contradictory one, experienced such interactions however, this seemingly pleas- in the past, but now as adults, urable piece of technology, is the technology provides them for rehabilitation purposes a chance to be exposed to and only. The prison in Colorado act out real-life scenarios, behas given a group of inmates, fore they integrate back into serving long-term sentences society again. since they were teenagers, access to VR to prepare them for T the outside world, which has DSE A E changed considerably over H the past decades.

NEWS Classic FM presents a concert in celebration of video game music The “Playstation in Concert” event will take place at Royal Albert Hall in London CLASSIC FM have partnered with Playstation and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to present a night of celebration in London next month to bring together a show highlighting the best of video game music. Hosted by Classic FM’s very own BAFTA award winning composer Jessica Curry, the night will feature some well loved Sony favourites including Uncharted and Little Big Planet. Not only will this be accompanied by a spectacular light show but also be the first concert ever to use EnCue technology throughout the night to deliver related media to people’s smartphones as the night goes on. The event will take place on May 30 at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

By: Selina Mclean


News

School sends out warning about online chatting in games School sends out letter raising concern over online chat A school in Northern Ireland has warned parents ‘not to let their children play two popular online games unsupervised”, according to the BBC. Roblox and Fortnite are interactive games which allow players to chat online, but the school in Armagh sent a letter of warning to parents.

their behaviour is different”. The girl complained to her parents that someone was sending inappropriate messages asking to see pictures of her and they raised the alarm to authorities: “Someone older was talking to her and we were not even aware this could happen. So, we contacted the Police who are now investigating it, they took her phone and comThe letter suggested the “absolute need” to su- puter trying to trace where the messages had pervise their youngsters on these games, that come from”, she explained. they don’t know who they could be talking to. Although this is not the first time that this Not realising how easy it was to access her concern has been raised over concerns of inter- daughters account, the mother reckons that active chats being misused, resulting in under the school could have done more in the first inagers being trolled. stance to educate all children on the dangers of online chats. She continued: “I think the more A mother from Paisley said her daughter had they speak about this in school, the more the become victim to inappropriate chats online children are aware that this can happen”. via her Xbox and explained that she felt it could have been avoided with help from her daugh- However, another school in the area does supter’s school. She said: “I think the school have port families with online guidance. The school a responsibility, because most parents are not have policies in place to help support both as clued up in technology as kids are. Maybe children and their families in recognising the the school should have workshops and invite growing concern of online interaction. parents on how it all works because kids go up into their bedrooms and play. It would be good Head Mistress, Sharon Mazzoni, said: “One of to know if there are wee things to look out for if our teachers started a group to teach parents


By: Siobhann Dunn

about safe use of internet access and at the beginning and end of each term we deliver a programme of this to pupils as we know this is the hotspot times for children being more active online and gaming.” “Although, we can not tell children not to do something, when they are not at school, what we can do is teach children and guide them to safe use online with the help of community officers, who do workshops and hold assemblies for the children, teaching them who to talk to online. Is it someone you know or is it someone else, and knowing the difference”, she explained. She feels that educating children, as the mother suggested, was an important factor in protecting children online, but pointed out that it is up to the children what they do with that information: “It is a scary world out there and gaming as a whole can be part of this with online chats and children playing games that are not for their age. All we can do is educate them to make the right choices”, she concluded.


News

Last One Standing brings the Fortnite: Battle Royale formula to tabletop By: Ross Gilchrist

“ANYONE can play, but in the end, only one can remain. Will you be the last one standing?” With the April 14th announcement of an approved Kickstarter, Last One Standing, the Battle Royale Board Game, from first time designer Brendan McCaskell, brings the hugely popular Fortnite: Battle Royale formula to the tabletop space for the first time. The Kickstarter exclusive promises to distill the essence of gameplay to a mere eight players and a breezy eighty minutes over a brisk, but brutal, ten round matches. The basic conceit of the game remains the same; players are ‘parachuted’ into a large woodland arena containing the weapons and treasure necessary to defend themselves and eliminate others, while the map itself forces the players together by constantly downsizing itself, forcing players into battle until the inevitable and bitter end, hoping to be the titular ‘Last One Standing’. The game wears its influences on its sleeve, down to recreating the aesthetic of Fortnite with cartoonish graphics and simple graphic design. McCaskell has also been quick to allay fears about the player elimination mechanic (not something board gamers are ever terribly keen on), claiming similar downtime to the evergreen ‘King of Tokyo’, meaning that it if you do end up dead sooner that you hoped, it will not be long until you reset the board, jump back into the action and claim your vengeance. The game has been in development since October with the Kickstarter due for launch on May 1st, 2018.


PREVIEWS


Preview

Metropolis: Lux Obscura for Nintendo Switch By: Ross Gilchrist

THE super adult, definitely not for kids, noir-motion-comic-match-3-homonculous: ‘Metropolis: Lux Obscura’ makes its way onto Nintendo Switch very soon. It’s as unlikely a title as you could expect from ‘The Big N’: Nudity, drugs, violence, it’s all here in an uber-stylish, largely black and white package. The nature of the content definitely raises questions about the appropriateness of playing it in public, what with its hyper-violent, vodka-soaked sexuality. It would certainly be a sight to see someone play this on the number 7 bus in front of Gran and the kids. From what is apparent in the demo, the game runs smooth as butter at a locked 60fps and 1080p, something we would expect considering how lightweight the game is, so how it runs won’t affect how it plays. Speaking of how it plays, the game itself is an odd variant of the Telltale adventure game series mixed with Pop Cap’s classic, Bejeweled. You navigate the game through an isometric map of the city. Your ex-con player character has just returned home to a less than friendly welcome after a stint in prison for a crime which we are told he was set up for. We take jobs from the local Don trying to discover the identity of the person who framed us, presumably to enact vile and violent revenge on them in the only way we know how, by playing match three puzzle games. The match three game itself differs from the usual fare. Instead of only being able to switch out the tiles immediately adjacent to each other, you can now swap any tile with any other tile that shares an orthogonal line with. It’s an interesting change that makes for some pretty cool match chains, however, the result from battle seems to be highly dependent on the randomly generated board set ups. When you win any of the match three battles, you are allowed to level up one of four skills that provide specific bonuses in the match 3 game. It’s an innovative take on what is now an all too common genre. Metropolis: Lux Obscura is a highly intriguing title that displays all the promise of a studio coming into their own as a creative force in Ktulhu Solutions and is due for release this April, doubtlessly causing Nintendo all manner of headaches when the cries of misogyny begin attacking a game that proudly advertises it contains such material.


Preview

FOG OF WAR PREVIEW Developer: Monkeys Lab Platform: PC

By: Simon Eriksson


WE have tried Monkeys Lab’s bleak upcoming rendition of the Second World War and are struck by how familiar it feels… Many developers draw inspiration from other games. Most of the time it is done in a healthy way, but some studios decide to take it a bit further. Besides being a tactical multiplayer shooter set during the Second World War, Fog of War shares many more similarities with Red Orchestra 2. From the very start, it is clear that the developer Monkeys Lab has been inspired by Tripwire’s brilliant team-based warfare and has copied the gunplay, look and structure wholesale. As a fan of Red Orchestra, this initial discovery is not a bad thing. The feeling of being part of an army is ever present, with teammates running beside you at all times. As a soldier, you feel vulnerable, which creates a good tension that is characteristic of tactical military shooters. Sadly, the faults begin to shine through quickly after the first few minutes. The sound design lacks the punch you would expect, with guns sounding especially weak. The control options are minimal at best, leaving a lot to be desired for custom settings. The game modes are overly complicated, the user interface ugly and it is difficult to distinguish friend from foe at a distance. The graphics are simple, with muddy textures and a clear lack of detail. Even on the highest settings, Fog of War has a blurry, washed out look that takes away the full immersive potential. Fortunately, the gunplay feels right and hits the sweet spot between realism and accessibility. Monkeys Lab have done a great job giving each weapon its own feel, which requires players to adapt to different mechanisms over time to be successful. Every weapon has its place,

but I found the mounted machine guns to fit best to my playstyle – working well both offensively and defensively. In its current state, Fog of War already has over a dozen maps - based on locations in Germany, Romania, Finland and Slovakia. While the number is impressive, the map design does not feel entirely thought out, negatively impacting the pacing and ends up not providing players with enough clever tactical options. Furthermore, the environments lack detail such as furniture in buildings, taking realism away. It feels like two factions fighting in an empty movie set as opposed to an actual battlefield. While some maps are better than others, such as Factory, this is an area of the game that will need a lot of thought going forward. Fog of War is still in Early Access and a lot of the issues can be improved upon until the full release. In terms of features, it does currently not offer anything new to the genre and it is impossible not to compare it with Red Orchestra 2 (which is a superior experience in every aspect). The similarity to that game is both its appeal and its curse. With that being said, there is room on the market for another tactical multiplayer shooter and with enough polish and rethinking, Fog of War will be in a lot better shape in a few months’ time.


Preview

Octopath Traveler Developer Square Enix :

Platform: Nintendo Switch By: Ross Gilchrist


Old meets new when Square Enix returns on Nintendo Switch with a role-playing adventure game set in 2D-HD‌

THE return of the retro aesthetic has created some bone fide classics. Undertale and Stardew Valley were huge successes on Steam and have only increased the growing tide of 16-bit-looking games washing over the platform. The ease of porting titles to Nintendo Switch was perhaps developed in part to cater for that burgeoning market. Who would not prefer to grind levels in some glorious JRPG than listen to Chantelle and Debra talk about how Mikey got lifted and is back in the Barny on the bus? Nintendo have been eager to cater to that market with the seemingly unending deluge of indie titles being released on the Switch, but with the announcement of an Undertale port and now (the oddly but charmingly named) Octopath Traveler, it would be difficult to argue that Nintendo do not have that market sewn up tighter than a piccolo snare. This very publicly developed title from JRPG powerhouses Square Enix is fit to burst with homages to the heyday of the 16-bit era. From the visuals, to the sound, to the story, everything about this game screams indie gem and classic retro JRPG at the same time. It does it convincingly (while being neither) and without being paradoxical to the subtle whispers of innovation creeping under all that nostalgic yelling. The sprite design looks almost identical to the various incarnations of Final Fantasy on the SNES and manages to maintain the charm of the originals while adding just that little bit more detail. The way the characters move through the pseudo-isometric, 2.5D world manages to evoke nostalgia without steeping you in it until saturation point. It is still strange to see this kind of game in 1080p without scan lines, but that is because this writer is old. However, is this a game that makes us wish Square would just port all their classics to the Switch, or does it make us forget all about the past and look with bravado and daring into the future?


Octopath Traveler is even being developed in a similar way to a Kickstarter indie title. Square Enix released a video in January detailing the impact an audience survey would have on future builds, leading to a huge outpouring of fan support and in turn generating an almost unsettling amount of goodwill. This kind of fan interaction is unheard of from Square or Nintendo, hopefully it portends a continuation of the new way of working for both companies as we progress through the Switch era. Gameplay is the usual turn-based fare, save for a couple of tweaks that do more than enough to drag the formula from the 90’s to modernity. You have hit points to track damage and ‘SP’ that dictate the number of times you can use special abilities, but the most interesting combat feature is the boost mechanic. Every turn, you receive a boost point that you can spend on generating multiple attacks on the same turn and if you do not use them, you keep them until you do. The more boost points you have (up to five), the greater the damage of your special abilities and the more numerous your standard attacks, but it is surprisingly satisfying and definitely makes combat that much more interesting. Moreover, the game adds differing weapon types for each one character and it is not just as simple as equipping specific items for specific situations, no, this is an integral part of combat. Some enemies will be weak to swords, others to spears and so on. You have to choose which attack will more effectively break your enemy’s shields, stopping them mitigate

the damage of your attacks. Shields, at least in the demo, carry one to three points, and must be broken for your attacks to deal their maximum damage, once broken, they will remain so for a turn or two, depending on the baddie, allowing you to spend all your aforementioned boost points on a huge attack that will take them down while they are vulnerable. It is an interesting system that has the potential to generate some truly involving decisions and hopefully it lives up to the promise shown thus far. The two characters we are able to preview in the demo is the stoic to the point of saccharine Knight Olberic, who is in hiding after his king was slain in an act of treachery, and Primrose, the ultra-beautiful dancer, who is looking for the mysterious, crow-branded men that killed her father. They are not earth-shatteringly new archetypes or anything, they are fun and more than serviceable, but hopefully the other six characters (hence the name: Octopath) provide some greater narrative diversity than the almost paint-bynumbers, sub-Tolkien fantasy provided thus far. So far, Octopath Traveler looks to be a little bit of an understated show stealer. It has all the potential to be a classic RPG and with it being on the Switch, if it lives up to its promise, could even be a system seller for Nintendo. As a long-time fan, it is a joy to see Square back with Nintendo after such a long hiatus. The Switch’s 2018 would certainly seem a lot lighter were it not for this title, but if any team can develop a game that lives up to such a storied partnership as Nintendo and Square, it is Nintendo and Square.


SUCCESS STORIES

GAMING EDITION


SSGE

The Man Behind the Visuals

What is it like to create the objects, textures, scenery and characters of a game? IT takes time, detail and immense precision to create the visual elements of a video game. Each visual is planned and developed decisively before the game is brought to life. The role of a games artist is complex and the industry itself is extremely hard to break into. However, it is proving to be a breeze for 22-year-old Ross Garrard from Wishaw. Whilst studying 3D games modelling at college, Ross was asked to work with the producers of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. This was an amazing opportunity for the young aspiring artist as Counter Strike is a highly recognizable title to work with. It is also unusual for an aspiring art-


ist like Ross to be approached by such a big company right at the beginning of his career. Ross, who now has a degree in Computer Games Design, was requested by the organizers of the game to help create additional visual content. The company found Ross's work online where he had been sharing some of his design skills. The company were particularly interested in his 'Wolfenstein Inspired Gun'. He said: "I was really buzzing when I was contacted by the company to do work for them, I was not expecting it." Counter-Strike is a hugely successful multiplayer first person shooter franchise. The game involves a group of terrorists carrying out bombings and gathering hostages, while a counter terrorism team battles to stop them. The first Counter-Strike game was released in 1999 on PC. Since its release, the game's success has led to a series of five Counter-Strike games. Global Offensive was originally available in 2012 and is one of the most recent to be released. Ross said: "I was asked to work on new content for the game doing 3D modelling and texturing and I was there working on the game for around 3 months. It was very exciting". It is the games artist's job to create the characters, clothing, objects, scenery and textures which enable the game to look realistic. The games artist works closely with the game designer to come

up with concepts for the game. Both the artists and designer work together to create scripting language and artistic vision for the game. Ross stresses that artists must demonstrate a range of techniques when creating these visuals and ensures it is not an easy career. He said: "You need to be really skilled in the programmes and software that is used to create 3D game assets. You also must have knowledge in game engines".

ying at New Lanarkshire College. He tells us that there are a huge number of young aspiring games artists however, it is a tough industry to crack. Ross recognizes that having a good showcase of individual work is important and says he would advise any aspiring artists to get their work out there. He said: "It is good to have a really strong portfolio and try to get in touch with as many recruits as possible, they can get your work seen by bigger companies".

The artist is also responsible for creating storyboards for the game while it is in the development process. The storyboards help to communicate the intended outcome of the game during the production phase. The process of designing a game is extremely time consuming and must be done with extreme care and attention to detail. Ross stresses that it takes great concentration to perfect the visuals of a game. He said: "It takes a lot of time to get everything right when working on games, you can not just rush it".

He added: "It is quite difficult to be a games artist, but it is mostly a lot of time and learning new techniques off other artists as well. Also learning from people in the industry is important".

Ross worked alongside the Counter Strike experts to create guns and other weapons for the game. It was thanks to his online portfolio which the company discovered and landed him such a great opportunity. He said: "I think it is a good idea to put your work online to show people what you can do and get your work seen". Ross won first place at the UK World Skills Awards for 3D Digital Game Art in 2016 whilst stud-

Ross' work on Global Offensive has helped get him recognized in the games industry. He is now working as an artist on a new game which has yet to be released. He tells us: "I am currently working on a game remotely that is based in Hollywood, it is set in a sci-fi genre but under a Non-Disclosure Agreement, so I can not talk about the specifics of it". Games artist's must be highly skilled in a range of programs and techniques. Creating game visuals is a delicate and time-consuming task. Ross was given an amazing opportunity at the start of his career. This opportunity has allowed him to get his name recognized in the gaming industry and he says he is looking forward to progressing in the future.

By: Nicolle Cassels


SSGE

Game research An alternative way of working with games

By: Selina Mclean


AS a doctoral researcher of game applications at Glasgow Caledonian University, Andrew Reid, took what started as a childhood escape and developed that into revolutionary social and political development within the field to prove that a life-long profession can be made from entertainment. He describes his work as “research in game design aimed at purposes and intentions beyond entertainment, looking at how to design the rules and systems of games for educative or participatory purposes with the goal of enriching our digital society.” Growing up, Andrew was always surrounded by gaming, he says: “There is no time where I remember not having video games in my life. One of my earliest memories involves loading up a Sega Master System II and playing Alex Kidd in Miracle World.” This is a love that has has stuck with him all the way into adulthood. “As a child, video games were always a way for my twin brother and me to put aside our ‘brotherly love’ and figure out who the best racer (me) or football-controller (him) is. Now, I enjoy bringing people into the world of video games, whether it is reigniting my partner’s childhood love for Super Mario Bros, or introducing my nephew to Mario Kart and FIFA.” It is a way of life that can not be faulted, and something that so many people can relate to, yet never realise the avenues that can be taken to make it a “real” job.

Andrew realised the potential he had when pursuing it at degree level: “While I was at Abertay University, I started to research meaningful game design, and how this craft could be used in the context of society. I found myself more motivated to seek out knowledge and theories of games applied to various contexts beyond the route to commercial entertainment. That is when I figured a career in academia was right for me.” This was a natural transition, close to home, which would allow him to go on to make serious sociological research in the industry, despite the preconception that a career in gaming in Scotland would not be a viable choice, of which Andrew says: “Scotland’s games industry is filled with some of the most helpful, friendly, and inspiring people. Do not be intimidated to put yourself out there or ask for help - we all share a common passion for games and are happy to talk about it until we are blue in the face.” When looking into a life in gaming, there can be a common misconception that the only path that can be taken is within design or development perhaps. However, Andrew found strong attachment to the wider effects they have, not only on the development of the people that consume them, but also the impact they can have on society as a whole. In reality, the scope of being involved in this industry is in fact wider

than first thought. After a fascination with the Scottish Independence Referendum back in 2014, Andrew used this as the basis of his Honours research to see how gaming technologies and designed systems can help maintain the interest voters had in politics at this time to create a so called digital democracy. “We see the perceived dangers of technologies in democracy with the unfolding events in the US, and it would be ignorant to overlook the impact of these events on a global scale. But it is also an example of how pervasive technologies have become to daily lives and social structures. I believe there is real potential to integrate positive interactions between people and ‘power’ that would be more conducive to the representation of societies in the digital era.” For Andrew, academia was a gateway into realising there was more to gaming than first met the eye and urges those looking to get into the field to use their time at university (if that is their chosen path) wisely. “You may have coursework that results in a demo or two for your portfolio, and you are very proud of that. But there are your classmates with the same demo, and almost 20 courses in Scotland alone, with students doing similar coursework, all looking at the same job adverts as you. So what more are you doing? Do you take part in game jams? Do you help out at a code club? Do you take part in, or run, a society?”


Even outside of the classroom, building foundations in the community around you is also a vital part of really getting to grips both with the industry on a local scale, but also the people that make it up as well. “I try to attend as many IGDA events in Glasgow, as a student in Abertay, I signed up for everything any events, conferences, or public demonstrations, I usually found my way there. I think that is what has helped me to build up a rounded understanding of games. For example, I might not be the best programmer, but I can speak about code principles and practices because I found myself around others doing precisely that.” There is a real importance in becoming familiar with the work being done close to home and seeing how this is impacting elsewhere but also an ideal way to learn the craft yourself if there are perhaps aspects that you are weak with, it is a prime way to build your experience whilst realising it is a completely doable career choice. For now, Andrew is working on a project tracking sedentary behaviours and dietary habits among teenagers particularly influenced from the Pokémon Go craze and how that managed to get a mass of people to be active: “We are currently putting together user testing opportunities with our prototype before moving into our main production pipeline.”

SSGE

There are many routes that can be explored when looking for work in the gaming industry and if development is not for you, then research might be.

Career Paths In The Mode World Of Gam ing How do you become part of the industry you love?

By: Jamie Glover


s ern m-

SINCE its inception in the 70s, and meteoric rise in the 80s, gaming has become a goliath in the world of entertainment. However, even amongst arguably the golden age of video games, (the 80s) very few managed to acquire any type of recognition, other than their initials on a screen. Similarly, there were few avenues to acquire any kind of financial gain for impassioned and skilled gamers. One video game player who broke the mould to achieve both was the now disgraced Billy Mitchell. Mitchell used his now discredited world records in gaming and cult like status within the arcade scene to springboard into fame. This, along with features in publications such as Life Magazine, allowed him to spin a web of fame, and financial gain. However, as mentioned, Billy Mitchell reflects an ultra-thin minority. But the video game industry is now more lucrative than ever. There are multiple routes for professional gamers and gaming enthusiasts to follow for legitimate careers. These routes will now be explored for anyone considering a career in gaming.

The first option is competing as a professional gamer in tournaments to earn cash. To the scorn of some, video gaming is now considered a sport. Esports tournaments are now shown live on TV stations such as Sky Sports. Reflective of the talents of traditional sports people, the gulf in prize money is astronomical. In the lower levels players can sign up online on websites such as Major League gaming, for small tournaments for as little as $20. However, this is swamped by the gigantic sums on offer in competitions such as the Dota 2 World Championships, which gives away more than $20 million in prize money. Again, this is an option for the ultra-talented, but even mediocre opposition may be able to carve out a liveable wage, entering the smaller competitions. Following on that trend, professional gamers can offer their services by coaching clients to become better at gaming. The revolutionary idea mirrors that of the personal training industry where cli-


ents pay a monthly fee for coaching. Websites such as Gamer Sensei give a platform for gamers to offer their expertise, charging prices dependant on their experience. As the website states, the application process is fairly easy: “Simply fill out your Sensei profile to the best of your ability, being sure to include all relevant experience and accomplishments.” Another avenue for gamers, which does not require as much talent, is the video game marketplace option. Gamers can sell accounts and video game items for money. I spoke with Mike, a representative from EPICNPC who gave us the rundown on their marketplace. “Members basically list things for sale and other members contact them to purchase those items or services. We mainly use Paypal. We accept Bitcoin payments, but this only makes up a small percentage.” He also talked about which accounts sell for the most amount of money: “Right now Fortnite is the most popular category, but World of Warcraft, Dragon Ball Z: Dokkan Battle, Instagram, Counter-Strike and Overwatch accounts are also very popular. Accounts are the biggest selling items.” Mike also underlined this method as both a wallet

expander and a legitimate career path: “Most people on our site are gamers that just come here when they want to buy something for a new game they are playing, or selling something when they quit. However there is also members that have been here for 10 years making a living from it.” Next up is the video sharing option headed by the main players Youtube and Twitch. Many Youtubers upload or live stream gameplay action with little to copyright claims. It is thought that many games companies do not challenge the copyright status of Youtubers, as they welcome the exposure. As an added layer of protection under ‘fair use’, many gamers will provide commentary over their gameplay, on sites such as Youtube and Twitch. This option allowed the extremely eccentric personality PewDiePie to become one of the most popular, highest earners on Youtube. Ironically, due to his controversies triggering the Youtube ‘adpocalypse’, PewDiePie has made becoming a gamer on Youtube infinitely harder. A Youtuber will have to accrue 1000 subscribers and 4000 hours watch time before they can even apply


for monetization. Speaking from personal experience as a Youtuber this is no mean feat, I did not reach 1000 subscribers until I had amassed over one million views. The main difference between Youtube and Twitch, is that the former allows you to earn per view from advertisers, and the later offers payment through paid subscriptions and donations. Whether streaming or uploading game-plays, trolling, or more general gaming, earnings are heavily dependent on the charisma of the gamer. Now for the academic option. Many different universities now offer courses for students looking to pursue a career in the industry. I spoke with anime artist, and games design student Holly Strain. I got her opinion on the different career paths her course can offer, and which one she finds most appealing: “Combat designer, Technical artist, UI designer and Level designer. For me, character design and concept art would be my chosen path. I am excited to shape fantastical worlds to offer others the same en-

joyment that the games industry has given me. Most of my inspiration comes from the games industry, so it made sense for me to do something that I love as a career.” With the previously mentioned rise of Esports, Staffordshire University has developed a course focused on the business side of these events. Students will learn how to create and manage events, and business marketing among other topics. Successful students will receive a Bachelor of Arts after three years of study. Career options for this course are listed on the official website as: Shoutcaster/host, Coach/analyst, Journalist/content creator, PR/Marketing executive, Product manager, Sales/partnerships manager, Admin/referee, Organisation owner/manager, Community/social media manager, Broadcast/production crew, Event manager, Agent, other roles like statistician, lawyer, finance or support and other gaming careers (developers, publishers or distribution)

It seems that parents and cynics alike were wrong about gamers ‘wasting their time’ playing video games. There are now many, often lucrative options, for making money in the gaming industry.


SSGE

THE LONG FROM THE


JOURNEY BOTTOM By: Simon Eriksson


We spoke to Freaky Creations, an indie studio that has spent the past six years working towards finalising their dream project IT was late March 2014. I was at the Games Developers Conference in San Francisco, one of the biggest business-to-business gaming expos in the world. I had not slept at all due to the six-hour drive from my apartment in Santa Barbara, but I tried not to let the drowsiness bother me. I knew I had a long, important work day ahead, full of interviews I needed to be ready for. Together with my camera man, I walked into the exhibition floors to meet game developers from all over the world who shared the same passion for gaming. One of the booths we visited that day belonged to Freaky Creations, a small indie developer of 12 people from Ecuador. I spoke to Jorge Blacio, Game Producer, and Estefano Palacios, Creative Director, about their game To Leave that had caught the attention from Sony and was set to release as a Playstation exclusive. A hand-painted platform adventure - revolving around a manic-depressive boy, owning a flying door, who wants to send himself to heaven where he can be free – was definitely a strange premise for a game. To Leave was set to feature over 80 levels, each one with a distinct setting and style. On the surface, it looked like a classic platform game like Donkey Kong, but with puzzle sequences added in. Now, four years later, I speak to Jorge again. To Leave is set to release later this month, a project that has been running since 2012. A

long development period, especially for small independent teams, usually results in many surprising changes to the game along the way. While the components of the game already described seem to hold true on paper, I was curious to know how To Leave had been affected by this long journey. Jorge explained: “The main theme of the game has been through a lot of changes to be able to synthesize the essence of what we are trying to tell. Also, the game itself, its rules and elements have been through some changes as well, all in the sake of reinforcing this ever-changing theme and bringing it all together in a congruent manner. We even explored other perspectives such as isometric cameras and even 3D - all for the sake of being able to tell a better story. Some of those explorations gave us really strong tools for storytelling that ended up in the final game.� Freaky Creations started out as one of the first indie studios to produce a game in collaboration with Sony for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita, something that brought a lot of added pressure in terms of rules to conform to and platform specific issues that were complicated for the team to figure out at the time. In the beginning, this took a while to get accustomed to. Nowadays, Sony offers a lot of material and information to help rookie developers in the best way possible, but in 2012, this system was not yet in place.


When looking back at the past few years of developing To Leave, Jorge admits that the team made mistakes, but points out that they were important lessons: “Having a smaller team would have been better in the beginning. Starting with so many people, at a point when nothing was certain, was a two-edged blade. We did a lot of exploration and the clash of ideas from so many different minds amalgamated in something unique. At the same time, this made the game grow in so many directions to a point where it was unsustainable. I am not saying that having a big starting team size is all bad, but it would be better if you can focus their efforts in things that are a little more grounded.” Jorge says that few game studios are founded in Ecuador and he hopes that the hard work on To Leave will help change this. Freaky Creations felt isolated from the game development community for geographical reasons and while this likely made them take more creative risks, having other Ecuadorian game studios to bounce ideas off would have been beneficial. “With this game, we have big hopes that Ecuadorian enthusiasts that are in doubt of making a game, or young people that see game development as something great but unreachable, can see that it is possible,” he says. While the development cycle is over, a new work phase begins. Freaky Creations wants to ship the game to other platforms to reach a broader audience. Feedback from players will be taken into consideration as the game will be improved upon after launch with regular updates. After that, new game projects will be pursued, but with a limited budget. This largely depends on how To Leave does in terms of sales. Jorge acknowledges that he deserves some rest for a few days before chasing new dreams and laughs: “Right now I will sleep and maybe

Features


Wreck and Ruin By: Ross Gilchrist


AFTER Mark McKinnon’s job ended, he decided to follow a dream. Not in the Disney sense of the phrase, where dreams are a nebulous reclassification of an almost unrealistic aspiration, but in the truly literal sense and again, unlike the Disney sense of a dream, this adventure has been wrought with difficulty. “It started with a crazy dream. I can not even remember the dream now, I just dreamt about cars crashing into each other and fighting and I had just started getting back involved with board games and stuff like that and playing far too much Fallout on the PlayStation. The two of them somehow combined into this idea, it was not that I set out to create this game, it started off just as a creative outlet, I wanted to be involved in board games, but I had no one to play with and I was fed up playing the PlayStation myself. I played it [Fallout 3 on PlayStation 3] for a few hours and it just dawned on me how much of a solitary experience it was, it kinda made me stop enjoying it so much.” This dream became the post-apocalyptic vehicular combat deathmatch that is Wreck and Ruin and forming his own company, Dream Big Games. Wreck and Ruin is a game for up to four people that sees the players assume the roles of one of four factions, The Reapers, The Salvoes, Ruin Army and the Desertkin. These four factions vie for the disintegrating remnants of technology the apex of human development left behind and ultimate militaristic superiority… and victory points. Mark’s personal story evokes countless other testimonials for the cardboard hobby that many in the enthusiast press and coteries on social media have anecdotally espoused. The story being, that there is a sense of isolation that comes with playing video games that more social character types and even more introverted gamers are quickly discovering, and that same isolation is becoming more wearisome as the years inexorably roll on. It seems like a radically hilarious and ironic plot twist: the same gamers whose parents derided them in the 80’s for staying indoors and playing video games have begun to go outside. Moreover, these gamers prefer this newfound social interaction to the clinically sterile interfacing between gamer and computer and have consequently found in that space a creative outlet that previously escaped them. “So, I started writing for fun and it was not until I started writing about that, I kind of wrote out a rough draft of rules and then I looked at it and I was like, ‘You know, this is actually shaping up not too badly.’ So, I took it round to my brother and said, ‘I have got this idea, do you want to play it?’ So, I was drawing grids on pieces of paper… em… just little pieces of paper with a bike drawn on it and stuff like that and we sat down and played it. The first iteration of the rules was so broken it was unbelievable.” Mark was a huge fan of miniature games like the ever-ubiquitous Warhammer in his formative years, and it was his intimate understanding of those rules structures that saw him being unafraid of the iterative and cyclical process that


writing rules is. “The idea of five actions was always there from the beginning, but initially, there was no limitations on what you could do with those actions. So, you could spend all five actions on one vehicle and do multiples of the same action. We ended up in a situation where you would always just use your biggest and baddest [sic] vehicle. You could spend three actions and move it across the entire table and still be able to shoot twice with it, which is the most powerful attack in the game. I quickly worked out that that needs to be limited somehow, it was from there that I came up with the ‘two actions per vehicle and they can not be repeated’. At that point the game was played on a square grid and I was developing it based on that, the only reason that it was squares was that I could draw a square grid [laughs], I could literally fold a piece of paper into a square and that’s what got me started. I stuck with that idea and I started creating the miniatures I wanted.” A charming titbit from Marks’ development cycle is that when I first play-tested Mark’s prototype for review in an empty pub in Glasgow on a morose-looking Sunday afternoon, Mark’s miniatures were adorably sculpted in model clay, a far cry from the muscular, ‘Fury Road’ looking plastic pieces that would soon be made for his ever-expanding prototype. “[I then] Built up my factions… and this was January 2016 I started it all, so, in April, I went to Conpulsion [Scotland’s biggest analogue gaming convention], because I saw this post that said they were having a ‘So, You Want to Design Board Games?’ forum. So, I packed up my prototype in my bag and went to Conpulsion and I never showed it to anyone. I do not know what it was, yeah, maybe it was a bit of trepidation, you know, ‘Am I ready to accept the feedback from it?’ So, I went, and I was the only one there asking questions and I

just kept putting my hand up and I essentially grilled the panel on my own! [laughs]” This is exhibitive of Mark’s unashamed enthusiasm for the design process, in the many times I have spoken with Mark, he frequently acknowledges what he perceives as his lack of experience with the modern developments of the hobby. Mark was not aware of the watershed moment of the ridiculously successful ‘Die Seidler von Catan’ or ‘The Settlers of Catan’ created in 1995 and the consequent explosion of European-style games that continues to this day, nor was Mark aware of the huge increase in the quality of components in the American school, or even the Kickstarter revolution that saw games like Flashpoint: Fire Rescue become solid mainstays in top ten lists by sites like The Dice Tower but that certainly did not stop him learning, and learning fast. It is not long before we get onto the subject of Kickstarter and the strange, alchemically arcane meta-game that exists therein. Seeing as we are a mere seven hours and a few thousand pounds away from funding at the ending of his second Kickstarter campaign for Wreck and Ruin, I ask him if he thinks it will fund and the immediate tone of resignation is apparent in his voice when says: “I do not think it will, really. I do not how many times you try before you give up, but I think I have got one more in me, it is hard to keep the enthusiasm when you know everything is just falling apart around you. I will need to establish what the issue is, I think it is maybe price point. There was a point a couple of weeks ago where I went through a phase of losing a few backers. I probably lost twelve hundred pounds on Kickstarter. I gave them the opportunity to give me feedback and none of them got back to me. All the reviews I have on my


page are genuine reviews that have something they did not like about it. I am trying to keep it honest and balanced, and maybe that is what is putting people off. The whole process is psychological. I picked that date because I thought it would be better at the start of the month at the end and I guess it comes down to when people get paid. I do not know if there is a sweet spot.”

done a satisfactory number of things on their turn] The other thing is that other people feel the turns are quite quick and it is maybe about knowing what you are doing before your turn comes around. I mean, I know with this game I know what I am doing before it comes back round to me. So, it could be just about what kind of player you are.”

We also discuss the strange psychological effects funding target numbers have on Kickstarter backers. Mark explains that he needs £20,000 to make the game the way he would like it made, but stating this high a number as the intended goal may put a lot of people off funding in the first place, as the more money actually required can instill the idea that the project is too expensive to produce, and therefore, highly unlikely to fund leading to potential backers not funding the project, but if he sets it to under £12,000, it is more likely to over-fund, meaning he should not have to add too much of his own money to the project to get the game published. He also explains that should the target be set too low, somewhere around the £8,000 mark and the target is reached but not adequately over-funded, then he would be in the position that he would not be able to add the huge sum of money required to bring the project to life.

Mark is not shy about where he thinks his creativity comes from, citing a life-long battle with epilepsy as the primary source for his profound dreams and imagination. “I always joke that my brain is too bright for its shell. I have to weigh up the balance of taking my medication against the idea that you’re chemically lobotomizing yourself and that I could lose my creativity. But I needed to take my medication, so I could get my driving license back, because I needed a year seizure free to get it. It is tough, especially when you want to be creative.”

It is wonderfully refreshing to hear a creative be as honest as Mark. Many designers attempt to hide their problems behind a veneer of faux-perfection, but not Mark and that is why he has rapidly become a well respected and liked designer in such a short space of time. Undaunted by his failures, Mark told me that Wreck and Ruin is due to start its third Kickstarter When I ask him what critiques of the game he has re- soon after the second campaign ended with a mere ceived and if those critiques may be the reason that the £3000 left on the goal, most of his backers continue game did not fund the first time around, he says: “A to engage with him and encourage the continuation of lot of the criticism is about the downtime [downtime the project, hoping that, someday, they may be able to meaning the length of time between a single player’s venture into the wastes again and again. turns]. It might actually be the actual number of actions, in reducing that maybe it will cause other problems, I do not know! [laughs] I think we are looking at three actions per turn, but it is about whether or not that is enough. [to make players feel like they have


Feature

The pros and cons of screen play By: Siobhann Dunn


The double-edged sword of kid’s increased screen time AS the use of screen play rises, so does the concern of its long-term effects. From claims of screen time causing depression and violence amongst teenagers, to aiding education and social skills amongst others, the views are varied. What are the pros and cons for youths using screens? With conflicting suggestions, here is an educational expert’s view on screen play among youths.

She continued by explaining that one of the biggest concerns is a link to people’s mental health: “Lack of sleep through screen play is a result of the blue light that is in the screen. This makes your brain more active and thinks that it needs to be working. When you try to sleep, your brain is not ready to sleep yet and is still alert, which can have a knock-on effect to education and can cause depression.”

Dealing with children day-to-day, educational psychologist assistant Kristina Azubalyte has a variety of experience in this particular subject. She says: “Screen play varies and it all depends on what age they are and what they are using the screens for. What sort of games they are playing and how long they are playing it.”

There are also other issues with regards to the social aspect of gaming: “With a link to depression there is also online bullying, but this is the same on social media, it is not a particular game, it is the online chat that causes this."

Kristina works closely with children of different ages and abilities and finds many pros in screen play, in particular online gaming chats. “Some cases children play games in teams, online with different players across the world. This can help children who have social communication difficulties, maybe kids with ASD. They find it easier to communicate when they are playing, as well as more engaging by having peers to talk to.” Though, she admits: “The other side of this is that the child might be spending too much time on the computer which means they can be isolating themselves and they would not make friends with their neighbours and classmates if they spend all their time gaming.” With different platforms such as Steam on PC and Xbox Live for Xbox users, there is an abundance of vibrant, attractive games for youths to absorb and Kristina says there are both pros and cons for this interaction: “Benefits of games would be playing some sort of games that focus on literacy and numeracy can help for younger kid’s development. However, shooting games will not develop their skills."

Although there are links from sleep deprivation to depression, affecting learning as a whole, Kristina says there is no real link to suggest that gaming will heighten violence and crime in youths: “There was a massive outcry about shooting games and violent games making kids more violent. There was a massive worry that kids could commit more crime due to using them. Though, there has been a lot of studies on this but there has not been a real link between this and real life. They do not have real scientific evidence to prove this as a concern.” When asked if gaming should be used specifically in educating children through curated learning experiences, she said: “Yes, we use a lot of apps, specifically for helping with numeracy and emotional intelligence, they are very useful.” In summation, it appears as though there are as many pros as there are cons for screen play, gaming and online chatting. It all depends on how often and in what social capacity they are being used.


Feature

Gaming Is Not For Girls? Incorrect... By: Jamie Glover


IT has often been speculated that gaming is a male dominated interest. However, this does not appear to be the case. A 2014 study by the Internet Advertising Bureau has shown a slim majority of woman play video games. Long term gamer Jayne Scott shares her opinion on this: “As a female who enjoys playing video games, this does shock me. I think that male gamers are more likely to play collectively with peers through Xbox Live Chat or instant messaging. I think women feel more of a sense of achievement whilst gaming on our own." It has also been suggested by publications such as political provocateurs Buzzfeed that the video game industry is sexist. However, the female gamers I spoke to do not agree that sexism is an issue in modern video games. They even held up Lara Croft (a character often criticised as being overly sexualised and sexist) as an inspirational, strong, female figure: “I believe that sexism in video games all boils down to perception. In the past, many video game posters portrayed women in slinky outfits as extras to the main game. However, powerful women appear more and more in the virtual world, appearing just as strong as their male counterparts, in the likes of Tomb Raider, Uncharted, and characters like Clementine from The Walking Dead series. Furthermore, a lot of recent games allow players to choose the genders of their ‘game-world’ hero” Jayne said. Design student Holly Strain: “A lot of games marketing is pretty gender neutral nowadays and many games from genres which were traditionally thought to be masculine now feature strong female characters. An example of this would be the FPS/MOBA Overwatch with characters such as Tracer, Widowmaker and Moira. While the female character was usually sexualised eye-candy for male players in the early days of gaming (think Mortal Kombat's females), you

now have characters like Tekken's Alisa, The Witcher's Ciri and Horizon Zero Dawn's Aloy. I feel that this gives women, especially younger girls, characters they can relate to and opens up the games industry to female players who would otherwise never have picked up a controller/ keyboard. I know that in my own experience, as a child I was fascinated with the Tomb Raider games, because my ten year old self literally idolised Lara Croft." Holly also mentioned that she has not experienced any of the often-cited bullying online of female gamers: “I have only ever encountered discrimination a few times, and truth be told, it was always other females.” President of the Sims Label Nancy Smith cited in 2008 that females were the core gamers of the Sims. I asked Jayne Scott’s opinion on this: “I believe that most women like to create. Having spoken to many of my female peers, it is inevitable that we like to be able to design with tools provided by each game. “For me, the idea of being able to create a perfect world at your fingertips is thrilling in itself. Whilst playing out fantasies in Sim form reflect perhaps unachievable goals from the real world, that is creating the perfect dining room or being a surgeon for the day." It seems that male and female gamers are more closely interlinked than previously thought. An extremely close percentage split between the genders destroys the myth that gaming is exclusive to males. So why does the myth persist? Perhaps it is the propensity for males to be more social in their gaming habits. It seems that gaming is one of the rare areas in life that males are more socially expressive. One thing is for sure, in an ever evolving, growing field of gaming, the female audience is extremely strong, and their playing habits, and opinions are fascinating.


review

LENOVO EXPLORER MIXED REALITY HEADSET Platform: PC Developer: Lenovo By: Simon Eriksson


A Check the end of the magaR zine for extra content on VR T X E


WITH the new Windows Mixed Reality headsets, Microsoft has asked big PC companies such as Lenovo, Dell, Asus, Samsung and Acer to create their own designs using the same concept and specifications provided by Microsoft. The Windows Mixed Reality headsets have two big selling points; the high-resolution display and its internal cameras. Lenovo sent a review kit of their Lenovo Explorer to Modern Gamer so that we could try out their version of a Windows Mixed Reality headset. The resolution of 1440x1440p per eye is a significant step forward in comparison to the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift and an even greater jump from PlayStation VR. Everything is sharper and easier on the eye, which anyone who has experience with VR will see as a huge benefit. As a PlayStation VR user, the difference between that resolution and the one in Lenovo Explorer is like night and day. I can truly say that I feel like I am there in another world while playing or watching a movie. It is an experience that is hard not be impressed by. While the image quality is greatly enhanced, that is not to say it is perfect. A 1440p resolution is still far from optimal when the screen is so close to your eyes, and as I initially suspected, resolution has a long way

to go before the image is completely sharp. I estimate that an 8K resolution or even 10K for each eye would make VR completely satisfactory and it may take 1015 years for that technology to cheap enough for consumer use. Compared to the HTC Vive, PlayStation VR and Oculus Rift, the Windows Mixed Reality headsets all use internal cameras. This means that you do not have to attach two or three cameras in the room to have the headset recognise room scaling and the user’s movements. In theory, only having internal cameras could lead to problems such as the headset not recognising your movements behind your back, and while this holds true to some degree, the tracking works remarkably well and is rarely an issue. Connecting the headset to the computer is a simple process that only takes a minute or two. Only one cable is needed. No other VR headset on the market right now is this user friendly in the setup and the lack of cables hanging around is appreciated. When connected, you are instantly launched into the Cliff House, Microsoft’s hub system for the Mixed Reality headsets. You have your own virtual mansion that you walk around in and all apps are here at your


disposal to select. Icons can be moved around to tailor your style and holograms can be placed everywhere in the house to give it some added character. If you feel a hub system is too much, you can always start programs directly from the desktop as you normally would. Personally, I found the hub to be a little confusing and constricting at first. Initially, I could not find everything I needed within the interface, but after an hour of exploring, I started to get the hang of it. Even so, it is clear that managing settings or programs are more easily done outside of VR. The Mixed Reality headsets are compatible with many programs. Connecting to Steam VR works well and all games are available to access, which is a big plus with the Windows Mixed Reality headsets. While far from all games are officially compatible, many work surprisingly well. To boot up The Lab or to go shooting in Pavlov is therefore possible. The precision of the motion controllers is good. There is a slight sense of delay, but for wireless controllers, this is to be expected. The ergonomics of the controllers are decent, but I found them to be straining to hold for long sessions, such as in Zombie Basement or Machine Hunter – games where the player needs to constantly hold the controllers up to aim and shoot at enemies. I do appreciate the two thumbstick buttons on each controller, which can be used for a variety of games to control player or camera movement. It is mind-bog-

gling that VR headset manufacturer before Microsoft has had this setup on the controllers before. However, there are a few issues with the Lenovo Explorer. The controllers shut themselves off whenever you put them down or do not wave them around for a few seconds. This is an annoyance that strangely enough cannot be changed from the settings menu. Another annoyance is that the lenses fog up easily, causing me to wipe it every other minute, but this is something I have encountered with all other VR headsets and may say more about my sweaty eyebrows than anything else. Furthermore, the build quality is decent, but not impressive. For 400 pounds, it is surprisingly plastic and fragile in places. The motion controllers, especially, can easily be bent or crushed. I would also have liked a slightly larger field of view than 110 degrees, because at times, it is quite apparent that you are looking through a pair of googles rather than being in the virtual world. All in all, these are minor complaints of an overall excellent product that offers a VR experience that is hard to beat at the moment. The Lenovo Explorer is the best VR headset I have tried and for 400 pounds, it is a great buy. Even though the resolution is sharper than ever, I still cannot help but thinking how good VR will be in ten years from now with 8K on each eye‌

A high resultion display and an easy setup make this VR headset an excelent choice

e r o c S /10 9


review

Roccat Khan Aimo

By: Simon Eriksson


Is high resolution 7.1 surround sound as impressive as it sounds?

WITH the Khan Aimo, German gaming accessory manufacturer Roccat is delivering the first high resolution 7.1 surround sound in a gaming headset. Historically, stereo headsets have offered better sound quality for the same price as surround headsets, but with the competitively priced Khan Aimo, gamers can get the best of both worlds – high resolution sound and surround sound.

easily pinpoint where gunshots came from in Battlefield 1 and enemy footsteps would reveal positions better in Battlegrounds. None of the issues I had with the sound mix in Roccat Kave XTD are present here. Gone is the lack of detail in the bass and the lack of punch in the middle register. The sound in Khan Aimo is also more natural, even though it still has lots of character.

The Khan Aimo does this to impressive results. The bass is strong, but never overpowering, unlike some other gaming headsets I have tried in the past. It is easy to distinguish different tones and sounds in the mix, making it a great choice in hectic multiplayer games where sound is vital.

Outside of gaming, the Khan Aimo continues to impress. For movies, the headset is a great choice with a large dynamic range. When listening to music, the Khan Aimo performs well over a range of genres, especially in bass heavy metal music such as Walking With Strangers, The Plot In You and Whitechapel. Even for music, it holds up well in comparison to my Pioneer SE-MX9, which is surprising. I would still choose the MX9 and even the JBL’s E-40 BT for music, but for a gaming headset, this is ideal.

Having surround sound really does make a difference. I have tried the Khan Aimo together with games known for brilliant sound design such as Battlefield 1, Star Wars Battlefront, Rainbow Six: Siege, Grand Theft Auto V and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. I could

Furthermore, when testing the microphone, I


found it to be fantastic, probably the best sound quality I have heard for a headset. Also, when chatting with other people, voices are never piercing – instead they are soft without ever drowning in the sound mix when playing games or feeling too timid. An interesting feature is the Roccat Swarm, a software that lets you switch between different sound profiles to fit different types of games, such as “FPS”, “Action” and “RPG”. You can even assign sound profiles to certain games, making the headset remember and switch between the different modes for you. I found it fun to fiddle around with the presets and I can safely say that there will be one that suits you. For example, if you ever feel like the bass is too heavy, there are presets here that will balance that with more treble. Gaming headsets are often designed to be comfortable for longer sessions and the Roccat Khan Aimo is no exception. The Kave XTD was brilliant in this regard and I am happy to see that Roccat has continued this tradition. The ear cups are soft and sit perfectly on the head without pressing too tightly, meanwhile the light weight of the headset means that you can wear for hours. The noise cancellation works well, without being too extreme and blocking all other sounds. While I have not tested it in a rowdy LAN environment, I would imagine that it works well for that purpose. I would have loved to see the Khan Aimo being wireless, but this is not the case. Fortunately, only one cable is required and two metres should be long enough for most users.

Score 9/10

Aesthetically, the Khan Aimo appears like a very typical gaming headset – it has a large microphone, big Roccat logos and LEDs that change in colour. The colour scheme is black, as with any other Roccat product. It is clean and stylish, without being distracting, but at the same time, there is nothing terribly exciting or risky about it. It looks much like Roccat products always have. The RGB lights on the side of the ear cups is a feature that is often seen on gaming headsets, but never has a real purpose. This is no different. The headset is itself is fairly robust and while it is made entirely of plastic, it holds up well. It is not a headset that should be treated roughly, but the average user will not have any complaints in this regard. It is perfectly acceptable, even though I would have liked to see metal instead of plastic in parts to make it sturdier for the long term use it should have been designed for. The Roccat Khan Aimo is an excellent headset that delivers premium surround sound for gamers. It is only slightly held back by feeling a bit plastic and by not being wireless. If you can afford it, 110 pounds is an investment that will make your game sessions a lot more enjoyable.


llustrated by Sabrina Miramon Published by Blue Orange Games By: Ross Gilchrist

review

Photosynthesis


INTUITION is not always one of those things we think about when we think about board games. In fact, I would wager most non-board gaming people think of complicated rules, boredom and unintuitive rules. However, if there is one thing Blue Orange’s frankly beautiful Photosynthesis excels at, it is pure intuition.

spaces, large three spaces.

I can not tell you how much I adore these mechanics. It perfectly replicates the actual biological competition for resources at a level of abstraction that feels intuitive, yet not bogged down in replicating the minutiae of the processes that take place in a complex cellular cycle like respiration. In Photosynthesis, players take the role of a genus The production is just utterly beautiful, with art of tree, be that sycamore, maple, oak or fir, and at- that uses a palette of pastel colours that is equal tempt to be the player that collects the most ‘light parts pastoral and user-friendly. Which is what points’, plants the most seeds, creates the most this design excels at - intuitive design. It is a retrees, and consequently, completes the life cycle markably easy game to teach, as most of the rules of as many trees as possible. follow in a linear fashion from one into the other Players start the game folding out a beautiful and by virtue of that fact, it is also immediately board, placing the three differing sizes of trees of competitive and tactical, making the game engagtheir genus on their super-cute player board and ing from turn one. placing their light point tracker (in the form of a little sun) on the zero space of their player boards. If there was a complaint to levy against the game Then, players place one of their smallest trees on it is that while it may be very tactical, the evthe outer edge of the main board and after select- er-changing nature of the board state seems to ing a first player, they are ready to begin. rob the design of strategy. Play mostly falls into the trap of responding to what happened since At the beginning of each round, the sun tile, an your last turn instead of developing and executodd yellow beast that looks like Pacman’s waifish ing a grand strategy incepted from the beginning brother, moves a space around the board, project- of the game. As a family weight game, Photosyning light in straight lines and providing bountiful thesis excels. A full playthrough lasts approxisunlight to trees in its path. However, all trees cast mately what it says on the box, that being, 45-60 a shadow depending on their size. Small trees cast minutes, which is the board game equivalent of a one-space shadow, mediums a two-space shad- the rare white stag and it will play well with peoow and large trees a three-space shadow. Any ple ages 8 and up, which again, is rare as all get trees of smaller or equal size sitting behind trees out. If you are looking for another family game in the immediate path of the sun are considered that is of the same weight as a Ticket to Ride or a in shadow and therefore do not generate the light Carcassonne, this will easily fill that niche for you points needed to produce more trees and prolifer- and it will do so beautifully. ate the species, though trees larger than the ones in front of them still produce light due to their size. Planting seeds to create new trees follows the same rules as light generation, small trees have seeds fall one space around them, medium two


Mansion’s of Madness: The Streets of Arkham (Expansion)

Developer: Fantasy Flight Games Platform: Board game

By: Ross Gilchrist

review

Score 8.5/10


Is the gameplay good enough to make up for the high price tag and a lack of new additions? IN Arkham, Massachusetts, the last reaches of the western amber sun rest languidly on the awnings and cupolas; the slated roofs and wooden facades are doused in increasingly deeper shades of violet and red. Yet, the fates set their irony in counter; the unsettling green of the flowing Miskatonic river rises as a dread, uncanny phosphorescence and the moon, waxing gibbous, in sympathy, climbs its inexorable path. Mansions of Madness: The Streets of Arkham, is the latest addition to the ever-expanding monster that is Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition. This table-swallowing, night-devouring, player-killing, eldritch evil spawned in 2016, and very much like some kind of ancient nightmare beast it… just… keeps… growing.


really not an issue once you ‘get’ how to input a The Streets of Arkham currently costs around £50, click. Most might argue that you should not need a shall we say, less than modest price for 17 map to learn something so rudimentary as how to click tiles, 4 new characters, 7 new monsters, and admit- and, yeah, they would be right, but it would not be tedly, a shedload of carboard tokens. £50 for an ex- the first time we have had to learn to negotiate bad pansion is asking a lot of your customer base, that controls in a haunted mansion, now would it? could be two or three whole new games. Never mind that when the game launched in 2016, Fan- In the main, this box is just more of the stuff that tasy Flight were ultra-keen in getting that money you have already got, save two major additions. The out of your pocket, releasing two expansions at the Tower Puzzle, a new and fairly interesting matchsame time as the base game (conversion kits for ing puzzle takes place in the app - that is sure to owners of the previous edition, new material for cause arguments among your friends - and a whole new players). They soon released a third expan- new mechanic that takes place not on the board, sion prior to Streets of Arkham called Beyond the but on your character sheets. Now characters can Threshold with much the same quantity of materi- acquire elixirs. These can be spent to improve your al seen here and they released downloadable con- character’s statistics, the introduction of a staple tent for the app that included new scenarios. What mechanism familiar to most Arkham Files games. Fantasy Flight have asked of the audience for this game would be too much for most brands to han- The scenarios added are so emblematic of the evodle… if the game was not as good as it is. lutionary nature Mansions of Madness’s development has come. Astral Alchemy sees the halls of This game is phenomenal and much of that is academia buttress this dimension against the elder thanks to the app and the streamlining of Fantasy gods, Gangs of Arkham is a murder mystery ridFlight’s ‘RPG in a box’ game engine. It is remark- dled with inter-gang politics and Ill-Fated Exhibit, ably easy to teach. As in, it barely takes two min- the piece de resistance, is a three-hour, role-playutes. You give someone a character and say: “This ing murder mystery set in the Arkham Museum. is your character sheet, they have statistics that de- The amount of replay value in these scenarios is fine what they are good and bad at doing, as well as quite astounding. From what my group and I have a special power, unique to you. During your turn, been able to gather is that Ill-Fated Exhibit is a you get two actions. You can choose between move procedurally generated mystery that should have a and/or interact with something on the map. The different outcome and a different antagonist every win condition will be dictated by the application time you play it. when it tells us the backstory” and you are done. The rest of the game you can teach as you go. Especially compared to Eldritch Horror or even El- It is the perfect solution for Halloween gaming, or der Sign, dear Shub Niggurath, so much easier. I for when you do not have the time to write your have had nightmares teaching the travel mechanic own Call of Cthulhu role-playing scenario. Sure, alone. the writing is not winning any awards, but it does not have to. It is functional, unambiguous, and free of clutter and that is why it works. The app, played on any tablet device, provides ex- In role-playing games of the traditional tabletop cellent music, interactivity and a normally quick variety, it is always left to the dungeon master to response time. The app still has some issues in come up with the scenario, the characters and the terms of the double click functionality, but it is player motivations.


It is often a burden that causes many a campaign to collapse under the weight of responsibility and often it means that one player has to work extra hard just to play the game, never mind enjoy the damn thing. This can lead to resentment if it feels like the work is going unappreciated. Mansions of Madness removes all of those logistical annoyances and allows everyone at the table to relax equally by the use of the app. Or, at least, relax as much as you can when you are about to be eaten by demons from forgotten realms. Should you buy Streets of Arkham? If you already own Mansions of Madness, you probably should, with one caveat I will explain in a second. It is possibly the physical expansion that brings the most original material into the game, and not only that, it rebalances the game by allowing players to level up and increase their attributes, something that makes your chance of beating a scenario increase dramatically (which is a good thing, because this game is very, very difficult). If you do not have the base game and are intrigued by this review to get it, categorically buy the base game. You will not regret it. If you have bought Mansions of Madness and felt even the slightest pang of disappointment in the quantity of components in the box, steer well clear, it does not add anywhere near enough to justify starting to collect again.

e r o Sc 0 1 / 8


Touchgrind BMX 2

review

By: Nicolle Cassels

Developer: Illusion Labs Platform: iPhone, Android

TOUCHGRIND BMX 2 will have you staring into your phone screen for hours as you twist, flip and spin through the air. Once you start playing you will not know how to stop – it really is that addictive. The game's release comes following the success of the original Touchgrind BMX. The game was originally named one of the top three iPhone games of the year not long after its release in 2011. The game involves one player riding on a BMX through various tracks while performing different stunts. It is simple, yet highly exhilarating.

ing jumps or you will be set back to the beginning of the track. The moves are easy to do once you get the hang of it and the more you play, the more stunts you can do.

Different trophies can be won for completing different levels of the game and there are many to unlock. The bike can also be customized to suit the player once a certain level of the game has been unlocked. The colour, frame, handles and seat can all be changed to suit you. You may earn points to unlock new levels which get increasingly difficult So how do you play? You control the bike with two as you move up. There is also an option for a mulfingers - one on the front of the bike and one on tiplayer game which allows you to battle against the back. This allows your BMX to move forward. opponent for points and trophies. The player with Once the bike is mobile it will approach various the most advanced skills and tricks wins. hills, ramps and sharp corners which you must tackle. When the bike approaches these obstacles, The design of the game is basic but effective. Each this is when the game gets exciting. level reveals a new scenic track with different surroundings ranging from the skyscrapers in VertiBy moving your two controlling fingers in a di- go to the shady slopes of Montãna Alta. Howevversion of ways, it enables the bike to perform a er, there are only three free levels before the full variation of thrilling of tricks. These include back- version must be purchased - you can also pay for flips, barspins and tailwhips which will all earn specific tracks to be unlocked. The full version is you extra points. The longer the jump, the higher £7.99 and each track costs £1.99 to unlock. Howthe points and the more advanced the trick, the ever, it is a price worth paying for a game that will higher the score. The bike moves at a fast pace have you glued to your phone for hours. which makes it all that more thrilling as you must try to avoid crashing into anything. Just make sure to use your fingers to stabilize the bike when land-


The game is not perfect, but it is great fun. The only downside is that the tracks are very short and it does not take much time to complete them. This is unfortunate if you do not have the full version but the free tracks are still fun to play. The game would also benefit from including some backing music to liven it up a bit as the only noise in the game comes from the bike as you hear the pedals turning and the bike skidding. It is easy to play once you get the hang of it and the more you play, the more stunts you will be able to perform. Therefore, the more levels you will unlock and the more trophies you will receive. In comparison to the original BMX game it has improved greatly. It has many more features, levels and trophies than ever before. The tracks and surroundings in each level have got bigger, brighter and better which makes the game all that more enjoyable. It is definitely worth downloading if you want something that will keep you occupied and engaged for hours on end.

Score 9/10


Developer: Tencent Platform: iOS, Android By: Simon Eriksson

A surprisingly solid version of last year’s biggest game FOLLOWING the massive success story that was PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds on PC last year, Chinese developer Tencent has ported the Battle Royale survival shooter to mobile devices.

a small touch screen is admirable, it is a bit finicky at times and the many buttons you need to press press can be a cause of frustration - especially in the heat of battle. Further streamlining of some game mechanics would have helped greatly in The core experience remains as 100 play- reducing the ergonomic complexity. ers fight against each other singly – or in teams – on a massive island. As the are- Taken for what it is – a free-to-play PUBG na slowly shrinks, survivors are bound on the go – it is a strong effort that deto clash. Everything from the inventory serves to be commended, but anyone who management, the items and the vehicles has the option of buying the PC version to the lobby system and the customisa- should do that instead. In the end, that is tion is intact in this version. The gunplay where the true experience lies. is appropriately more forgiving to fit the mobile format and the graphics have been downgraded significantly, but in large, players can experience the thrill of survival that PUBG always executed so well. Where the mobile version lacks is in its controls. While Tencent’s job of translating an already advanced control scheme on PC into an experience that works on

e r o c S 10 / 7

review

PUBG MOBILE


review

Ash of Gods Developer: AurumDust Platform: PC, iOs By: Manuel Cardo

1

Check character descriptions at the end of the review

2


3


EERIE brass music plays over a silent battlefield where war standards flow gently in the breeze. Two armies face each other. Millions of stern faces stare through the dust, bathing in palpable tension and expectation… These are the first brush strokes on the beautifully crafted painting that is Ash of Gods. and then in comes Mr. cheesy dialogue with a pickaxe and we end up with a broken canvas and a bunch of drift wood. Yet…Can it be saved? Hailing from a small independent developing team based in Cyprus, AurumDust, Ash of Gods is a game that combines the magic of text adventures with the strategy of turn based combat and trading card gameplay. Intrigued?

backgrounds and some of the best designed characters I have ever seen in a videogame. After reading the dialogue you will be able to pick your character’s answers from a slew of possibilities that never left me feeling fenced off or strong-armed… cringing in a fetal position, however, most certainly so. The writing has its strong moments, but it is often let down by spelling mistakes, weird ungrammatical constructions and, most of all, massive clichés easily spotted by fans of the genre. Here is an example. When you first start the game, the “Second Reaping” is predicted with the following sentence: “Rivers will run red with blood”. Sounds familiar? Well it has been used in pretty much every medieval fantasy since it was first lifted from the bible… Don’t let this put you off, though, because there is oh so much to love in this game as I am about to show you. On to the second gameplay mechanic! As we all know Fantasy as a genre needs maps as peanut butter needs jelly and, oh, are ArumDust talented sandwich makers.

The game kicks off with a beautifully animated sequence (ala 50’s Disney), that lets you in on the history of this “fantastic” world you are about to inhabit. Around 700 years ago a group of demon-like, irrevocably evil creatures (mask and everything) have spread plague, heart-break and misery throughout the land. If not for the sacrifice of six brave soldiers the world as we know it would have ended, then and When you are not engaging in dialogue, you are most there. likely traveling the land with your group of misfit friends. You do this by opening a stunningly detailed This attack on humankind is now known as “The map and picking the path you want your party to Reaping” and, today, it is mostly recounted as a kid’s take. These paths are simply and efficiently described fairy tale. As the spring breaks over the “Valley of in small paragraphs. Do you want to follow the crumMercy” however, you find out that “The Reaping” bling mountain road and take two more days to reach might just be real and the signs of another one taking your destination, or follow the main highway and place in the near future are impossible to ignore - so risk being attacked by predatory bandits? It is your your adventure begins. choice, but remember: Every decision you make will inevitably have consequences that will change the Ok that is fair and it all sounds very interesting, but course of your story for better or for worse, so choose how do you actually play the game? Well, put down wisely. your phone and focus because this is about to get multifaceted, bloated, exciting, weird and dare I say, Another aspect of the map gameplay is that you can slightly complicated. choose to set camp and talk to your travel companions at any time. This, for me, is a highlight of the The core gameplay mechanic has you reading through game and a massive achievement for videogame stodescriptions and dialogues laid over slightly animat- rytelling in a broader sense. The mechanic that aled (only hair strands, eye lids and dust particles are lows you to interact with your companions has been blessed with movement) , but still beautifully painted in videogames since the days of CRPGs, but I have


never seen it done this cleverly. In Ash of Gods talking to your companions is not just a shabby way to go over backstory or to try and fabricate a sense of personality in two dimensional characters. No, no, no. In Ash of Gods characters have their own reasons to be around you and seem to, almost organically, adapt their goals and moods to the choices you have been making, without ever feeling predictable or robotic. Well done coders and writers alike. I almost forgive the latter for the weird clichés. Almost…

tifully animated, gory chess. When battle arises, you will need to pick up to six companions to battle it out on the field. Other than your companion’s sharp medieval weaponry, you have a deck of magic cards to help you out. The combat will then run in turns, but be careful, it is not the one turn per team kind of situation that the genre has accustomed us to. In Ash of gods you will only be able to move one companion per turn, so be sure to think ahead.

In the end the indie title by ArumDust takes you Lastly, the combat. Yes. You did not think that saving back to those Sunday afternoons of D&D adventurthe world of something as evil sounding as “The Reap- ing in your friend’s basement, but without the need to ing” would go down without violence and death, did deal with your snotty, pesky, childhood friends. Who you? Sure enough, travelling through rotting and cha- would not want that after all? os riddled lands under the deadly course of an apocalyptic event is no safe task and I guarantee that you will be faced with many occasions where talking wont be enough to save you. So, when the time comes to draw your swords (and hammers, spears, bludgeons, daggers… you get the point) you better be properly caffeinated because you will need to think this through. The combat in Ash of Gods is turn based and limited to a grid-like movement. Think of it as chess. Beau-

e r o Sc 8/10

Subtitle of playable Characters 1. Hopper Rouley: Healer, scribe and part of the original army that faced the first reaping (yes, he is over 700 years old). 2. Lo Pheng: Thug for hire, Cold blooded assassin… with a strict moral code? 3. Thorn Brenin: ex-military man, father and husband, professional brooder.


review

H1Z1

Developer: Daybreak Game Company Platform: PC

By: Simon Eriksson

Stuck between a giant and a tall thing‌


H1Z1 was first made available to the public as an Early Access title back in 2015. It was a zombie survival shooter, directly aimed to compete with the immensely popular DayZ. The reception was mixed and the game changed direction a year later, resulting in the development of two separate games. The zombie survival game was renamed Just Survive meanwhile the second game, named King of the Kill, was originally a Battle Royale mod created by Brendan Greene, who would later make PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. King of the Kill is now released in full under the first name H1Z1 as a direct competitor to the Battle Royale genre giants Battlegrounds and Fortnite. As part of being a Battle Royale game, the premise is a fight to the death. Alone, or in teams of two or five, you have to survive in a game world that is slowly filled with poisonous gas, forcing you to advance closer and closer to the centre. While 200 players parachute in, that number will lower dramatically as the map gets smaller and players confront each other. The game world is comparable to Erangel in Battlegrounds in terms of environmental setting; lush forests, ruins and mountains are mixed together with various villages, towns and cities. It is a huge world that takes a good amount of time to learn how to navigate. The search for equipment is less important in H1Z1 in comparison to its competitors and items are plentiful. Within a minute you will have found several deadly weapons, ammunition and first aid kits to survive for most of the match. This means less downtime in the beginning and allows for more intense shootouts, something that trigger-happy players will prefer. While Battlegrounds is slower paced and focuses on quasi-realism, H1Z1 is considerably faster and features the use of vehicles more frequently. It has a slightly cartoonish look and a vivid colour palette, which makes it sit in the middle between Battlegrounds and Fortnite aesthetically. There is something about this middle ground that makes H1Z1 largely forgettable. Somewhere along its chaos and identity crisis, it is not nearly as entertaining as it should be. The feeling of tension is what all Battle Royale games strive for. In H1Z1’s case, it is present in short glimpses, but it never reaches the same heights as in Battlegrounds.

Luckily, there is one area where the game shines. H1Z1’s second game mode, Auto Royale, puts you in a car together with three other players. One sits behind the steering wheel and the rest are shooters. It is very chaotic and surprisingly deep, where your team must cooperate well to stand victorious. Petrol, new weapons, ammunition and first aid kits can be picked up by driving through certain markers scattered across the map. While more conventional weapons do exist, methods such as dumping oil behind the car to have enemy vehicles slip are very effective. Moreover, as the driver, you can jump (yes, jump) with your car, defying the laws of gravity to quickly get over obstacles. This is an unexpected game mode that is the highlight of H1Z1 due to its originality that cannot be found among the competitors. In comparison to Battlegrounds and Fortnite, H1Z1 ultimately falls somewhere in between, both in its graphical style and its gameplay. The execution here is not as good as it could be, but since it is free to play, it is worth checking out if you cannot get enough of the genre. The Auto Royale mode is a great addition to the game that in short bursts, together with friends, can be a great experience.

Score 6/10


Staff Talk ep.1 In this episode of Staff Talk, Simon, Ross and Siobhann are discussing the hot topic of virtual reality - its challenges, opportunities and downsides.


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