As has been previously hinted at, I'm working on plans to bring a Digitiser web series to fruition. The end of next month will see the launch of a Kickstarter to get this sucker funded, and I hope that you'll consider chipping in, 'cos making things ain't cheap.
It'd be useful to hear what sort of rewards you might expect in return for your investment. And please don't say DVDs. I probably won't do those next time around.
Talking of.... for those of you still waiting on your rewards for Found Footage, we're just waiting on completion of the behind-the-scenes documentary. Having looked into Blu-Rays, they're a lot more expensive to manufacture than DVDs, so I think we'll be looking at offering a "top-up" fee to those who'd want a Blu-Ray. The other issue is.... we've a ton of behind-the-scenes content that isn't necessarily going to all fit on a single DVD (and, obviously, making it a double set will again bump up the price), so I'm considering releasing some of the extras online, exclusively to backers.
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, please send your filthy emails early to this place here: email@example.com
Hello, I really like your game reviews. Your game reviews are really good. I like the way you review games. Your game reviews actually feel like they haven’t been written in five minutes during a bus journey.
I’m not knocking your other stuff. I really like your game reviews, though. Could you do some more, please?
If you’re too busy with other things, do you know a site that has current reviews that aren’t terrible?
That said, I've got a couple of review "things" up my "pipe" which I'll hopefully do soon - why, you might even get one of them next week. Also, don't forget that it's January, so nothing good comes out.
1. I've recently gone back to Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines. A game I recall loving but finding incredibly difficult. What I've found is that with 20+ years more experience and patience I have a far better approach to it now and I love it all the more. What games have you gone back to and found you've improved with the passage of time?
2. Light Guns for consoles used to be a mainstay, practically every console had one of some description, yet they were rarely very well supported and the games were, to me anyway, quite lackluster. I assume they no longer make them for consoles. Why were these a standard alternate controller for so many generations?
3. Straddling kids TV and gaming as you do, what are your thoughts on the phone-in style interactive gaming that used to be all the rage in the nineties? I'm thinking the likes of the CBBC one with the caterpillar eating the apples in the maze (that kids would phone in and shout directions repeatedly) and later when Games World rigged up that system that allowed people to play with touch tone phones.
4. May the Snakes meet Turner now please?
2. I guess they were sort of easy to make, and people like shooting things. I've no idea really! I've been to a couple of shooting ranges in America, where I fired an assortment of weapons. At one of them, you could rent packages of guns see in popular movies. So, there would be a Rambo pack, Terminator pack, Dirty Harry pack etc.
I can't remember which one I went for, but I got to fire - among others - one of those big, belt-fed, tripod guns. I felt a bit weird that the targets were photos of Middle Eastern "terrorists", but - being surrounded by a bunch of gun-wielding #MAGA types I wasn't about to get all snowflake-y on them. And I wanted to know how it felt - after years of firing them in games - to fire a real weapon.
And yeah. Actual guns are really a bit scary; big, heavy, lumps of metal, which spit out other lumps of metal. Give me a lightweight, plastic, light gun over those any day.
3. I don't have an opinion on this. But I can tell you something related: while we were working for Digitiser, Mr Hairs and I were approached by one of the satellite kids channels - might've been Nickelodeon or Fox Kids. Off the back of Digi, they offered us a job, writing the live dialogue of some computerised on-screen cat, or something. They offered us 12 grand a year between us; six grand each for a full-time job. We turned them down.
Also, get this: I was offered a job on the CITV show Ministry of Mayhem, writing for the puppets. I turned that down, because I didn't want to drive to Maidenhead every day at 5am.
What was your question again?
4. Yes. Press reveal to see this meeting of the ages:
It had to happen - I got an ear worm I could not shift. I can usually get rid of them by either finding the music on YouTube, iTunes and play it. This one was one of the kind where I could hum it, even play it (I was at the brink of locating a recorder to try to pick out the melody), but the thing that would not exorcise this particular demon was its anonymity. I could not identify the tune, yet I could “hear” it really, really clearly.
The music was, in my memory, electronic. It was from a game - but not a recent one. This was definitely those wonderful plings and plonks that only 8 bit, and possibly 16 bit machines would play. So that plants it firmly in the early 1990s, or even the 1980s for me.
My life at that time was dominated by three machines - a MegaDrive, and Archimedes and a BBC Micro. Alongside the work I used them for (well, the Arc and the Beeb), there was a shedload of games.
I decided that it wasn’t a MegaDrive game, or even something on the GameGear I had managed to acquire. This had to be something on one of the Acorn machines I owned.
And that’s as far as I could get for over a week. This bloody tune crashing around my mind. It was literally doing my head in. I tried to systematically eliminate games that I could remember. I soon realised that it couldn’t be anything from the Archimedes as by then, games were using more sophisticated sounds, and there was quite a lot of funky music coming from games and demons on that machine.
So that takes me to the BBC Micro. Again, what game? What games? Was it even the BBC? Could it have been a friend’s machine - something from Sinclair? That would kill it for me, as my knowledge of Spectrum games isn’t great.
So I stuck with what I knew. I knew it wasn’t Frak! - the dubious caveman game with a yoyo. There were only three levels to that, and the music wasn’t what I was being plagued by. However, the platform format of Frak! kind of rang a bell.
Then, at 1am it came to me. I was in bed, just about to drop off, and I remember saying "squirrel game" out loud. I suddenly remembered a game that I had on the BBC Micro that featured a red squirrel jumping on platforms made of logs and flowers. Was this the game I remember? Could this be the source of the music?
I had to find out. I dug out the iPad, and started on Google. And, yes, there was a such a game. It was called Nutcracka.
And there was a video on YouTube. And, yes, that was it. I had found the thing that was plaguing me for over a week. Here, for your amusement, is the video I found. The music as rougher than I remembered, but this is what was causing me so much irritation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnvIJi3xsk8
This episode concerns me slightly. I have nightmares of me in my dotage, struggling around various nursing homes, tormented by computer game music that I can not easily identify. Imagine that at the end of your life.
All the best,
Another one. This time more serious. YouTube have done something idiotic - they have decided that not everyone can have monetised content on their channel. From next month, you'll need a certain level of subscribers, or a certain level of views. I'll never get to those dizzying heights because my use of YouTube is a bit chaotic. I tend to put up experimental stuff, things I want to archive, or stuff of interest.
However. I do know that people who are below the threshold of 1000 subscribers, or 4000 views per year, are capable of getting a payout - clearly enough to encourage them to keep doing what they do. Certainly, the world of YouTube big hitters has been rife with controversy recently, with punishments meted out seeming somewhat inversely proportional to the outrage and offence caused.
We've also seen Patreon backtrack on a similar kind of policy - again one that would have penalised the smaller operator in favour of the "super stars". It seems that the outcry and dismay on social media forced a change of mind.
Am I affected by this? Well, yes - to the tune of about £60 a year. Every so often, my video of a Naiper Railton car starting up (https://youtu.be/UwDSBxxfigo) gets a bunch of views.
I won't be sobbing over my own loss, but it's certainly a smack in the face to those who do produce regular content, more out of love and enthusiasm, and every so often they get a nice reward for their efforts. I like that kind of encouragement, and I start to wonder how many will shut up shop, or reduce their output as a result of this. A payout means they can perhaps buy some extra equipment, maybe just go out with the family for a day.
It starts to be a less democratic system. It's certainly starting to look more two-tier now. The rewards are there, but there is now a clear threshold to cross to get them. I'm hoping that Google changes their minds on this, but I won't be holding my breath.
All the best,
Thanks a bunch, all of you who didn't bother watching Found Footage. Yeah. Fine. You enjoy your safe, watered-down, unchallenging stuff. You enjoy it. Enjoy it good. I hope you're looking forward to my forthcoming series of My Little Pony unboxing videos.
I haven’t sent you a missive for a while, because LIFE. Sorry abut that.
So I see Nintendo have released a thing that promotes fun with colouring in and cardboard models. It looks great. I’d grab one in a heartbeat, especially if it had been about when I was a wee nipper, being all creative and into model-building/colouring-in/sticking things to walls etc.
But I do worry that Ninty is 30 years too late with this. Do enough kids of the current gen like this kind of thing (sticky back plastic, felt-tips, cutting and sticking) to make it financially viable? Obviously Ninty will have done a heap of research. However, I can’t shake the feeling that the majority of kids today are so digitally entrenched that they simply won’t get it, or want to.
Then there’s the parents, over-worked, underpaid, already struggling to keep the house from looking like the aftermath of an explosion in a jumble sale and now Nintendo want to fill their homes with cardboard models, glue, tape etc. Hmmm. I’d love it, personally, but I’ve a feeling I may be in the minority.
A quick, anecdotal survey of peers with kids seems to indicate they love it, but they’ve no plans to buy it for their nippers as:
1. They can’t stand the thought of the mess/storage.
2. Younger kids will destroy the models in seconds, older kids will get bored of it in seconds.
As I said, I love the idea of it and think Nintendo deserve many, many hurrahs for having the courage to put it to market. I just hope I’m wrong and that kids/families haven’t changed too much in the last 30 years.
Nevertheless, in theory, like you I love the concept of Labo. And I share your concerns. That doesn't stop it being a brilliant, brilliant idea. I just hope they make the robot backpack big enough for parents.
While you’ve written a lot about your time as a games critic and jokesmith, I don’t remember you saying much about that time you penned a videogame story. Did you get much of a feeling game development? What was it like to be on the other side of the critical lens?
The Pickford Brothers gave me a structure for their game, and a rough idea of what the story could be about, and I wrote something around that. And that was it really. I probably went a bit too hard, impenetrable, sci-fi with it in places, and there weren't many jokes... but I had fun doing it.
I did make a few suggestions regarding integrating the story with the gameplay - like putting the dialogue/narrative elements inside the actual gameplay missions - but in the end they made the choice to go with more traditional cutscenes instead.
My original idea would've set it in a multiverse of video gaming, where every level was themed around a thinly-veiled, post-apocalyptic, version of an iconic game (i.e.; Sonic, Mario, Tomb Raider etc.). But that didn't happen either, for whatever reason.
The most memorable part of the process was getting to go to the voice recording sessions. Jason Isaacs - now in Star Trek Discovery - was among the cast. As was Simon Greenall, who - because of Future Tactics - I ended up casting in Biffovision as the voice of BW.
Anyhow. In short: I'd love to write another one. If somebody offered me enough money. Money is time.
Apropos of nothing your little jaunt down memory lane has made me want to pirate Atari ST games ahead of them becoming trendy again, but I'm struggling for a name. North Warwickshire Winkles or Near Nuneaton Noodles dont seem to cut it. Needless to say there will be parallax scrolling. Any help appreciated.
I used to read Digi every day, despite not owning a console. Therefore, I know a bit more about games than I normally would.
But not this: are there still games which are only available in their land of origin these days? Or has the internet/streaming let us turn all these rare titles into import-me-dos?
Now that I can go on eBay and get the rare import-only Japanese live albums I couldn't afford in the 90s for small sums, I'm both happy that everything is more accessible these days and nostalgic for the thrill of digging out something hard to find, so I was wondering about this.
And not just because I'm going to Tokyo next week and hoping to find some weird 'sims'.