Please do come along, love. I'll be wearing my special jacket. I went to Blackpool Play Expo last year, and it's really great. Get tickets here.
And now? And now an epic Friday Letters Page!
If you'd like to appear here, or you've something you'd like me to give some attention to in our occasional Plug Zone, or you've got a picture of a bin you wish to share, please send your filthy emails to this place here: email@example.com
A year ago I asked a few questions, so it's a good time for some follow ups:
1) How did you feel about the ending of Rebels?
2) Clone Wars is returning, how much of a story do you feel there is left to tell between episodes 2 and 3?
3) Resistance looks interesting, what gaps in the story do you think they may explore?
4) Also the art style reminds me of Wind Waker, bit of a departure from what we've seen before. Any idea why the three animated series have looked so different?
5) Which has been your favourite visually?
6) Have you played Stardew Valley yet? Multiplayer is out now... Digi Farm? Bum Farm?
7) In the event that the wonderful Chris Bell, Jason Robertson and yourself manage to complete the entire archive of classic Digi do you feel it could be released as a book?
Thank you for continuing to bring the smiles and laughter.
2) Uhhnnhhh. Well... there are always stories, no matter when or where they're set. It's an infinite universe.
3) I honestly don't know. Which leads me to believe I'm less interested in the First Order-era of Star Wars than I thought I was. I mean, what IS the First Order anyway? You got what the Empire was in the original films. It was an evil empire. What's a "First Order"?
Even if they just had a line on-screen stating that it's, I dunno, the remnants of the former Empire. Or maybe they did, and it was lost on me. Plus, what IS the Resistance? In The Force Awakens there's a galactic government of some sort. What's the deal with the Resistance?
And yeah, look, I know all this is explained in the books. And that I'm a huge nerd.
4) Shouldn't you be asking Dave Filoni these questions?
5) I'm not a massive fan of any of the art styles. The hardware in Resistance looks cool, but I don't like how that cel-shading looks on the characters. It looks cheap.
6) I have played it, and I didn't know what I was meant to be doing. I got lost in some fields, and couldn't find my house, and then I got tired and my walking got all slow, and I switched it off and didn't play it again.
7) That would be a BIG book. Also, it'd all be online already. Do you need a book?
After the fortnight's focus on Lara Croft I wondered what you thought about her portrayal in the recent Tomb Raider movie (if you bothered with it). It went at great lengths to portray her as 'one of us' as we first meet her having rejected her fortune, but she still turns into a murder-happy psycho by the end.
This is also the point where I plug the podcast I co-host with my brother Rory: Games on Film (https://www.soundcloud.com/gamesonfilmpod), which covers video game movies and tackled Tomb Raider in its first episode. It is a very silly podcast.
Todays letters are:
See you next week!
Hi Biffo, I’m long overdue a proper letter in to you. But in the mean time I’m raising money for Prostate Cancer UK after two members of my family were diagnosed earlier this year.
Running a 10k can donate here.
But this training video is what I’d like a plug me do of if there’s room in your big fat column:
I've long been a fan of pallets. Pallets and forklifts. What exasperates me though is the amount of pallets and, to a certain extent forklifts, is the fact they are not portrayed accurately. Even in modern games you would think they'd take the advice of an expert when it comes to such minute details? I am such an expert.
For instance, I was messing around in GTA V the other day and saw some four way PB 40" x 48" pallets (PB: perimeter base).
However, upon closer inspection and roughly working out the size of the helicopter I crashed into them it turned out that they were completely odd sized and not to any conventional specification! Granted, I know the game is set in the U.S. of States and in Britain, even though in the trade we still call them 40 x 48s and that here they actually measure 1000mm x 1200mm - which is actually 39.37" x 47.24" - there really is no excuse for such lackadaisical tomfoolery.
Then there is the forklift stuff in Shenmue II. With that race bit (to 'warm them up' or something, I can't remember) well, that goes against every health and safety rule in the book!
Also, if you knew anything about driving a forklift, the way the handling of said vehicles is treated is ridiculous; turning corners at such high speed in such a heavy but compact piece of industrial vehicular machinery designed with utmost precision engineering would still render it 90° to what it should be.
This might not be so bad but not once did I see any of the characters 'buckle up'. 'Why should they' you may ask? 'They don't move that fast surely'? No, they don't. However, in a falling forklift the natural inclination is to jump from your seat to safety, only to be hit by the protective overhead metal frame, causing massive spinal injuries or, even worse, death. The belt is there to stop you self ejaculating from the vehicle.
These issues need to be addressed by game developers. If any of you are reading this then please - feel free to contact me through Twitter or suchlike, because, as I mentioned earlier, I am an expert in such matters.
I am unfit but strong and also had a new washing machine installed today,
Do you ever have to deal with writer's block? You seem to write a lot.
Really, though, I find that just writing - anything - can get the inspiration flowing. What I am bad at doing is walking away from the laptop on days when I'm feeling uninspired. Sometimes a walk would help, or I should go off and play a game for a bit, but I just sit there grinding away, trying to force out the words.
This past couple of months have been a mixed bag of emotions for me. Here are snippets of my life in list form, along with whether I am happier or less happy because of them.
1) Been dealing with a family bereavement this past couple of months which has been quite hard going. Everything takes so long to sort out. (-5 happy)
2) My eldest graduated from Uni a few months ago with a degree as a Theatre Tech. He started his first job on Monday just gone. Proper proud Dad moment! (+3 happy)
3) My youngest started Uni a couple of weeks ago. Again, proper proud Dad moment. (+2 happy)
4) My car broke down. As I write this email, I’m sat in a garage watching mechanics delve up into its underside and remove random pieces of metal. Some mechanics are just stood there scratching their heads and looking unsure how to proceed, while others seem to be laughing and joking.
I was advised before they put it onto the ramp how much it is likely to cost me just for this apparently humorous “diagnostic”, so I’m sure when I leave later this evening I’ll be a good few hundred pounds worse off. (-3 happy)
5) I’ve just found out that you’ll be bringing a small version of Digitiser to Play Blackpool, and I’m please about this. (+2 happy)
6) I realised that my website will be 20 years old in June next year, so to celebrate I have decided to finally put a bit of effort in and start a podcast. Been meaning to do this since around 2010. After I committed to the idea and mentioned it on the Twitters, I realised I needed to learn how to make podcasts, and get some guests. Anyone got any advice on what to use for recording/editing? (even stevens on the happiness) (+1 happy)
7) I’m going to be in London next Friday afternoon, waiting for a train for two hours. Although I’m delighted that I’m finally allowed out of the North West for a bit, I know I’m going to be bored. Anyone fancy buying me a coffee? (-1 happy)
8) When time has been allowing, I’ve been making my way through the recently re-released version of Shenmue on Xbox. Really enjoying replaying one of my favourite games ever. (+2 happy)
9) I’ve just pre-ordered NostalgiaNerd’s book about retro tech! (+1 happy)
Total Happiness Score : I didn’t keep count.
Thank you for your informative review on the electronic fan heater I was thinking about buying on Amazon:
That was a good review, and couldn't agree more with your review of Madonna's sex book:
214) While I cannot prove it, I think that a significant reason for Telltale Games' shut-down, other than repeating their formula a little too often, is that Let's Play videos on YouTube/Twitch etc. spoiled their stories for many people.
There wasn't much reason to play the games, no offence intended, without the narrative, so this must have hurt their sales. Is there a moral duty for streamers to avoid this sort of situation? Obviously I don't expect them to feel that way.
215) I'd like to suggest that you explain how to fix Command and Conquer. On that subject, which was your favourite? Mine was Red Alert 2.
216) Is it my imagination, or does it seem like a long time since there was a genuinely great driving game that offered something different?
217) Who has been your favourite computer game NPC?
215) Yes! Good suggestion. Doing that next week. Red Alert 2 was also my favourite.
216) I do believe you're right. And while I'm on the subject... I'm going to say it... I've not really enjoyed a Mario Kart since the first one.
217) Dog from Half-Life 2. He so cute!
Long-time reader, first-time letter writer, staying away from the bins.
I was disappointed to discover on Twitter that TV channel Dave has cancelled Go 8-Bit. (Which is apparently how the team behind it found out too!)
While it wasn’t the perfect gaming show, there was a lot to like in it and its spin-off show DLC.
At a time when gaming is under attack again from clueless politicians and witless parents who ignore the ratings on the box, it was great to have a show dedicated to the pastime on TV.
Do you think there is even the remotest chance that Digitiser could spearhead a campaign to get gaming back on TV for more than a three-minute roundup of E3, for something more in-depth than endless trailers that don’t contain actual gameplay footage, and that could entertain us in a jolly, madcap way that possibly involves dressing up celebrities in various silly costumes?
Retro gamer and games journalist
I think TV, for whatever reason, is very anti-video games. You could get all conspiracy theorist about it and say that TV people view video games as a threat to their industry - and to a point, that would be correct. I fear that any campaign to get gaming back on telly is going to be fighting an uphill battle.
I do think that Digitiser The Show is utterly unlike any games show there has ever been, but I'm under no illusion that its YouTube/Kickstart origins (two more things that are a threat to traditional telly) are going to count against it, were we to pitch it to a broadcaster.
But do we even need TV? I honestly think that Digitiser The Show is good enough to be on TV, but traditional, linear, TV programming is on a downward slope. And yet there's still a perception that getting something on telly is some sort of "prestige" achievement, when the reality is that many online shows get views in excess of TV ratings. Take it from someone who works in TV for his living; there's nothing magical about it. At the end of the day it's all content, and at least online stuff is less committee-led, and more personal.
The main benefit that I'd see from doing a Digitiser show with a TV company would be the increased budget. It'd be nice if everyone involved was able to get paid, and that we could afford a little more time to make it.
Now that everybody seems to be getting in on the mini games console business, do you think there's any chance that Channel 4 will make a new series of Gamesmaster presented by a tiny wee Dominik Diamond?
When I look back upon my life, it's always with a sense of shame.
No wait, that's the Pet Shop Boys, I'll start again.
Life's a bit of a pisser sometimes, isn't it? For all the good things going on, and all the exciting new experiences I'm having and stuff I'm doing I wouldn't have guessed I'd be up to this time last year, and the lovely people I've met and continue to meet, I'm being hammered emotionally by my father's ongoing illness.
He's a little weaker every time I see him, and he's unable to do something else that he could do before. Over the last few months I've had something of the changing of the guard with my rats, the old boys are all gone now.
One of the three young boys I got to provide company for my old man died suddenly and unexpectedly. I'm hoping against hope that I can have a bit of time between losing things I love, and that I don't lose my father anytime soon.
All I can do is try not to think about it while I'm doing other stuff, but this event is looming on the horizon that I know is going to break me utterly. It happens to people all the time, but I have no idea how it'll actually affect me, I just assume the worst as I always do, because that's probably the safest bet.
Your recent exploits with the Tomb Raider stuff inspired me to write a little something I think everyone will enjoy about how I think a Tomb Raider-style story could be told. I have included it right here, right now:
MR BIFFO AND THE MYSTERIOUS CAVE
Once upon a time there was a Very Good Boy called Mr Biffo, who lived alone in a mansion with his dark and tortured past because his dad shot himself in the face with a butler or something who cares IT WAS REALLY DARK AND STUFF OK. Mr Biffo was a lonely boy who dreamed of visiting mysterious far off lands and plundering their burial sites for treasure like any red-blooded Englishman should.
Mr Biffo was walking around a city one day when he noticed a mysterious staircase leading down into the bowels of the earth. His curiosity aroused, he slowly crept down the stairs one by one, alert for any signs of ancient traps.
The stairs finished their descent and opened into a dimly lit cave, which had a damp, mouldering smell about it, with a sharp edge of artificial citrus. Mr Biffo was very excited - this cave wasn’t a natural formation at all, it was clearly man-made. Perhaps the strange lemony scent was an ancient perfume the likes of which hadn’t been smelt for thousands of years.
Mr Biffo groped his way through the gloom and as he stumbled deeper into the cave he noticed a strange water trough along one of the walls, which occasionally seemed to briefly refill every so often, perhaps powered by some unseen mechanis.
The water drained away almost as quickly as it filled, pooling only briefly, presumably to avoid becoming stagnant. He scooped a handful of the water from the trough as it filled and tasted it. It had the same citrus tang he’d caught a hint of in the air, and a hint of something bitter in the background. “Perhaps this is the fountain of youth and I will live forever! Haha!” He said to nobody in particular.
Mr Biffo turned and wandered deeper into the cave, and came to a short hallway with small structures that resembled closets or rooms, each fitted with a door. Mr Biffo wondered if these were perhaps individual burial tombs or graves.
Mr Biffo tried each door in turn, and most of them opened to reveal nothing but an empty urn, with water collected at the bottom, no doubt from years of seepage into the cave from outside. “Perhaps there have been robbers here before” he mumbled to himself.
The final door he came to was stuck fast and a strange rumbling sound came from within, almost like a cough. Mr Biffo grappled with the door, and as he did the sound grew louder, until there was a loud cracking, splintering sound, and the door flew inwards. An enraged humanoid figure squatted behind the door on top of one of the urns, with a ruddy face and murderous gaze.
It howled in rage and tried to grab Mr Biffo, who deftly stepped backwards and sideways, and the creature toppled forward, tripping over some kind of cloth binding fastened around his ankles, its head bouncing off the tiled floor.
The monster fell silent, but the smell emanating from it monster was foul, and Mr Biffo wondered if it was some kind of undead tomb guardian created by ungodly rites to protect a great treasure. Certainly the foul matter oozing from one of his orifices suggested decomposition was in process.
Mr Biffo noticed that the urn the creature had been guarding was filled to the brim with some kind of damp bandages and earth, and despite the lingering smell of the creature he decided to investigate the contents of the urn further.
Mr Biffo dug into the urn with gusto, digging through the wet earth and sodden bandages with his bare hands, and scooping the invading water out from his excavations and flinging it over his shoulders. Finally, he reached the bottom of the urn, and was astonished at what he found.
He reached down and gently lifted the mysterious and beautiful item and placed it carefully in his treasure collecting pouch. At that point he was tapped on the shoulder by a policeman who arrested him for breaking into a toilet cubicle and causing a man having a poo to knock himself out.
“Oh well,” said Mr Biffo, and he didn’t wake up because it wasn’t a dream.
That wasn't very good, was it? That's why I've stopped doing them you see, I'm rubbish these days.
OK BYE HAVE A NICE WEEKEND EVERYONE AND I MIGHT SEE YOU IN BLACKPOOL IF YOU GO THERE FOR THE PLAY THING YEAH OK SEE YOU LATER.
I know it costs dollar (which you probably don’t have enough of) to do but have you ever thought of hiring a P.O. Box so people can actually write you real letters like out of the olden days? Not just letters though, cheese or bits of string etc etc etc you get the jist.
It’d be a bit of a laugh to send a real life letter again or are people too bloody lazy to do that these days?
To be fair, I’d probably not be arsed either, but it’d be nice to try it for one month maybe!? Byeeeeeeee!
That said, I quite like the idea of people sending me presents. I LOVE PRESENTS.