Shoot From the Lip: Take me to Your Leader
Of late I’ve found myself deviating from videogames and devoting more of my precious time to music, having neglected my ukulele for a number of weeks. I was somewhat inspired to another strumming session after seeing local North Yorkshire band “The Conspirators” live at one of the local public houses, subsequently buying their single from HMV and then mimicking their style to a number songs – badly. I suppose I was captivated by the fact that a bunch of people that lived down the road from me were mere inches from greatness, right on my doorstep. Living normal lives in a normal town, suddenly they were in the public spotlight, playing gigs around the area and having radio stations – including the BBC – requesting that they be put on their playlist. It made me wonder how easy it could be to get yourself noticed, to go from zero to a relative hero in a short space of time.
Moving from the obvious plug and more into a videogames theme, it was the launch of various XNA games from the Creators Club that proved you didn’t have to jump through too many hoops to get your work out there. It only seems like yesterday since Net Yaroze on the PlayStation had its very own disc free with Official Playstation Magazine, full of games built by universities, small companies and even bedroom developers. It was something I felt was important to the industry in trying to find new and untapped blood, but bizarrely any such schemes appeared to have fallen out of favour since then, until Microsoft launched its XNA Creators Club through Xbox Live.
Representing the changes in videogames since the PlayStation era, XNA has been available to pretty much anyone given its advertisements through Xbox Live and various universities. Suddenly anyone with some nouse of programming language could pour their hearts into a piece of software for scores of gamers to have a look at, and get themselves noticed in the process. There’s even talk of Microsoft giving a percentage of the earnings from each download back to where it originated. Having such a club based on the internet opens so many more avenues than a disc stuck on a magazine, as any small business with an eBay account will tell you.
Speaking of developers, I spotted a comment on Chris Sawyers Locomotion message board over at GameFAQs stating the opinion that Mr Sawyer is something of a has been in the videogames industry and that none of his games have deviated from the graphics or gameplay of his Rollercoaster Tycoon or Transport Tycoon series. At first I felt obliged to respond to this young whippersnapper with a good strong backhand, but instead I decided to try and find out where exactly he had gotten to – and I haven’t a clue. For someone that was considered a PC giant with regards to PC gaming in the late ’90s, dear old Chris seems to have disappeared fully from the scene; even his website was last updated way back in the summer of 95. Here’s hoping he’s holed up in a bedsit somewhere plotting videogame domination against Will Wright’s Spore, which appears to have attracted a Mafia crowd shrouding any musings of critique.
Since first writing this edition of Shoot From the Lip I’ve gone and upgraded to an Xbox 360 Elite, with its sexy black design, whopping hard drive and swanky BenQ disk drive (thou shalt not bringeth disc read errors anymore!), enabling me to take advantage of Xbox Live Marketplace thanks to considerably more than 6GBs of free space. After a month or so of non-stop action in Crysis, it was pleasing to see that you don’t need photo-realistic visuals, various licenses and top notch AI in order for a game to be any fun, as N+ reveals. Taking control of a rather spritely ninja fellow you can navigate your way around simplistic levels purely by timing jumps correctly. It’s the feeling of accomplishment seeing our tiny martial arts hero strike a pose in the exit box after jumping 8 successive platforms being chased by blue lightning balls, and it didn’t even need a whopping graphics card to play it. Ace.