The Hunger Games, Dredd and the 12ification of culture


I initially thought that The Hunger Games was a really good film. A really good film. It had all the ingredients, after all: a perfectly-cast Jennifer Lawrence in the lead role, Suzanne Collins as screenwriter, and a sympathetic director who really seemed to understand the material. The opening scenes of shaky-cammed apocalyptic gloom offset against the slick Truman Show-style televisation were perfectly pitched, so it was disappointing as the film inexorably slid into mediocrity the minute the violence started. Or didn’t, as it turned out.  Continue reading

More awe-inspiring Skyrim, Morrowind and Oblivion fan art


Freddo just threw me down the rabbit warren that is DeviantArt, where I found these astonishing fan images of our favourite Elder Scrolls games. I’m constantly awed by the infinite variety – the unique interpretations of that spine-tingling world by each artist. Each collection is distinctive, using its own palette and style. The Morrowind ones are particularly evocative, making whole and real that fabulously alien landscape and culture.

The caravan by ~Lelek1980

The group of silt striders is crossing the desert lands of Vvardenfell near the Red Mountain. Some daedric shrine has been left behind. The steam and smoke are bursting out from the bowels of the earth…

In this work I wanted to show Vvardenfell like a something between the Galapagos islands, Iceland and Kamchatka.

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ORE interview with Bethesda’s Megan and Erik

The following article appeared in the January 2008 issue of the Oblivion’s Real Estate newsletter (a game modding site). Princess Stomper interviews Megan Sawyer and Erik J. Caponi from Bethesda.

Something’s very wrong here. Computer game designers, by all rights, ought to be socially inept nerds – the hellish spawn of Comic Book Guy and Napoleon Dynamite. They surely shouldn’t be like environment artist Megan “Ghostgirl” Sawyer – pretty in a cute, funky sort of way, with a penchant for cool toys and loud music. They certainly shouldn’t be like writer Erik “DoctorSpooky” Caponi – strikingly handsome, with “Vin Diesel’s haircut” and a rock band goatee. He has the highest quality-to-quantity ratio of almost any poster on the Official Forums. Oh yeah, and he makes quests. We’ll start with him.

Erik: I came on pretty late in Oblivion’s development. I got the chance to work on a few of the Settlement Quests as well as various late-stage writing and design tasks. I was one third of the design team for Knights of the Nine and was responsible for a few of the quests as well as the final battle against Umaril’s minions and the battle with his spirit in the sky over Cyrodiil. On Shivering Isles, I was responsible for Retaking The Fringe and Symbols of Office as well as a lot of freeform design. I was also the designer on a couple of the downloadable content packs. Primarily what I do around here is known as “Freeform Gameplay”. I started with it on Shivering Isles and it’s now my full time role on Fallout. What it means is that I’m responsible for gameplay content that isn’t related to quests. This can take the form of incidental dialog, NPC behavior, scripted scenes, town dialog, world encounters, lore, conversation systems, as well as any one of a million different things that might not be tied directly to a particular quest.  Continue reading

ORE interview with Bethesda’s Gstaff

Matt at Arcane University

Matt at Arcane University

The following article appeared in the November 2007 issue of the Oblivion’s Real Estate newsletter (a game modding site). It was my first interview of any kind – and my first piece of journalistic writing – since 2001, and long before I was invited to moderate Beth’s forum. The questions were compiled from responses in an open forum thread, and there were many ‘hug’ requests in the thread which saw their way into the final interview.

It was all going horribly wrong for Bethesda. After effortlessly acquiring the “love brand” status other companies spend millions trying to manufacture, they’d grown too quickly to keep pace with their legion of adoring fans and were increasingly seen as an Aloof, Faceless Corporation that Didn’t Care. The forums were horrible, the DLCs a PR nightmare, and “we modders” were demanding – needing – to feel appreciated and supported. To be hugged a little bit.

Enter stage-right 27 year-old “GStaff”, chief fanwrangler for the past six months. The blog’s up, there’s a free DLC, the forums are friendlier than ever, but we still don’t really know who our CM really is. So, GStaff agreed to take questions from the ORE floor, starting with a proper introduction.  Continue reading

10 Things we want to see in Elder Scrolls Online

Elder Scrolls Online Game Informer cover

The internet is abuzz with the news that the world’s worst kept secret – Elder Scrolls Onlinewill finally be revealed in this month’s Game Informer. Sure, we know that the domain was bought umpteen years ago, and seen the various public recruitment ads from ZeniMax Online, but we still don’t know what they’ve been doing all this time.

The scant information published today suggests that the new game will take place a thousand years before Skyrim, back in the Second Era when Oblivion‘s antagonist Molag Bal was on the rampage. From the teaser cover, it looks as though the whole realm of Tamriel will be included, and the article indicates that three main factions will be involved – the player joins one of these for PvP battles.

Check out Game Informer‘s hub tomorrow for trailers and further news, but in the meantime, here is my personal wishlist for Elder Scrolls OnlineContinue reading

5 virtual vacations from video games

The weather outside is horrible, it’s dark and cold and miserable. You want to go somewhere to cheer yourself up, but you’re down to your last 27p until payday and will have to live on dry crackers for the rest of the month. What do you do?

Why, slap in a disc (or fire up Steam) and pretend! A few minutes in these lovely places will soon have you right as … um … rain.

5. Sadrith Mora, Morrowind

Balmora is filthy, Suran is sleazy, Vivec is snooty, and Ald’ruhn is under a perpetual cloud of ash. Sadrith Mora is just completely weird, and that’s what’s so great about it: you’re really going somewhere else. You even have to use a passport to get in, and there’s plenty of interesting things to do. Given an unlimited choice of places to go, who wouldn’t want to visit a trippy city made out of giant psychedelic mushrooms?

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I’m going to play every game I own on Steam part 2


Doom 3

On the load-up screen, the game required two security keys, but I could only find the one key. Since it was therefore impossible to play, I had to skip it and make a mental note to contact Steam to find out where to get the other key.

Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil


Can you believe it? I had never played a Doom game in my life until tonight. Oddly enough, it’s just like the Doom movie, which is based on the Doom III game. It’s a very simple if rather slick run-and-gun game, though the sound effects are wonderfully creepy and it is genuinely tense. Mostly you’re just shooting floating heads out of the sky. I didn’t stick around with it long, but I can definitely see why the games are so popular.

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April Fool’s Day 2009

For the third year running, APY at Planet Elder Scrolls very kindly hosted my Bethesda-related nonsense. Thank you once again, PES, for being my partners in crime.

Bethesda “Sorry” for OblivionNews Story at Planet Elder Scrolls

In a surprise move that has shocked the gaming world, Bethesda’s Executive Producer Todd Howard stepped forward at GDC on behalf of the company to issue a public apology for Oblivion. The announcement follows years of campaigning from disenfranchised members of the Elder Scrolls community to persuade ZeniMax and its subsidiaries to take responsibility for the “unprecedented damage” the game has unleashed.

Bethesda: Heads bowed in shame

Bethesda: Heads bowed in shame

“We would like to apologize to everybody who bought our game, and to the world at large, for the problems that we have caused,” said Howard in his tearful and emotional speech, “And we very much hope that by taking ownership of the situation that we can limit the legacy of destruction that our game has wrought upon the world.”

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