Sunday, 30 September 2007


The first person shooting genre wasn’t much to shout about during the Emap era. Sure, we had a classic selection of blasters on the PC like Doom, Duke Nukem, Hexen etc but setting them up for play on our crappy office PC’s was a nightmare. During the Maximum years (well, months actually!) we begged for a decent console FPS but always had to turn to the PC for a decent LAN match along with the essential control combo of keyboard and mouse. That day is now over I believe. It seems the biggest FPS names are making the headlines first on the consoles and Xbox is clearly leading the way. Bioshock, Gears of War and Halo 3 have already kerb stomped the PC to the head. Now we have Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and the bullet to the brain, has at last, been finally delivered. No painful installation process, no Starforce protection b*llocks, no performance issues because your graphics card needs updating. It is just amazing, incredibly solid online action with stunning graphics and one of the best character customization features of any shooter to date. Oh and did I say it plays like a dream on the control pad? Sadly today is the last day to enjoy the beta build so if you have an account then hop on and pop some more terrorist scum before it’s turned off!

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Attack of the Mutant Tat!!

Probably one of the nicest gentlemen in video games today is Shigeru Miyamoto. I doubt I met or interviewed anyone as much as this chap and he always had time to talk to you, answer any question and scribble his name on anything thrown in front of his face. One such item was this hand crafted ocarina we picked up in Japan and took with us for one of many interviews we had at NOJ headquarters. These instruments are readily available in Japanese stores so they are quite easy to come by. Purchasing one that is signed by the legend who also adorned it with a little triforce drawing will be next to impossible though.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Feel old just thinking about it!

Long before NMS and Mean Machines existed I sat at home in my bedroom earning a few bob drawing fantasy art for various tabletop games companies and magazines. Most of my work was for Games Workshop in the form of Warhammer 40k. The success of this work earned the occasional stint for TSR and White Wolf but it was with GW that I did most of my work. Games Workshop was a cool and laid back company in those days. Not anymore it would appear. I found this out when I tried to secure some of my old artwork back from their evil dungeons earlier this year. I was up against the modern day equivalent of a castle wall with automated phones, personal assistants and legal departments throwing up every defence imaginable to prevent access to my old artwork. They were just too lazy to fish a few pictures out of a drawer and mail them to me. What was annoying was the fact that they placed an ad across the internet asking for artists to reclaim the material as they were clearing out the old artwork! They tell you to get in touch and then tell you to get lost when they change their minds. Any budding artists out there take note: Never send originals!

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Tat of our Time

Not Japanese and not particularly desirable but this ancient Time Boy is purest tat nevertheless. It was considered the coolest of covermounts at the time and did it’s fair share in shifting NMS when it was first launched. Didn’t know I still had one but found it lurking under a crateful of hoarded tat up in the attic.

Halo good? A myth surely...

Living in a games-filled household I naturally keep an eye out for upcoming product that might entertain me or my boys in the future. I have several categories for the games which I update each day based on reviews, recommendations from mates and other sources. Bioshock was classed as a must-buy. No plodding through Ebay looking for a bargain, no wait-for-weeks Tesco rental. I had to own it without delay! Other games like Overlord and Prey were listed under wait and see. They looked decent but did not quite justify those extortionate retail price tags. I got both of them for silly money on Ebay after waiting patiently for a decent auction to appear. With so many products shipping in the next few months I have a huge list to work my way through. One game that’s not on my list is that pile of spank known as Halo 3. I find the whole Halo experience quite boring and shamelessly derivative. The Sun are calling it the 'Game of the Decade' and I am willing to renounce my Halo-hating ways if Micro$oft write me a cheque for a similar amount. Bungie need to return to their roots and bring back a updated version of Myth. Maneuvering a pus-filled explosive zombie behind your opponents line of archers and then… boom! Now that’s magic!

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Saturday Night Stupor

Another Saturday evening stuck in front of the computer. I suppose it’s a good thing I have plenty of work coming in but people need sleep for heaven’s sake! Still, typing this post has me slightly more alert than formatting another instruction manual in Spanish or perhaps downloading artwork for the umpteenth time. If you are curious as to what I get up to nowadays you can wait a few more weeks for my site update which will show some nicely arranged images of recently completed projects. The PDF method I currently employ is not as immediate as some people would prefer so I will be adding a gallery on the site instead.

Not much gaming this week due to work and the kids hogging the plasma with the sickeningly garish Wii incarnation of Paper Mario. I will admit to playing and enjoying the first Paper Mario but after few years of Xbox 360 ‘therapy’ I no longer have the patience to tolerate these sugar coated offerings from Nintendo. I need thrills, suspense and a little grit from my games at the moment and titles such as Cooking Mama, Tamagotchi Party On and Mario Party 6 Billion aren’t cutting the mustard. I grabbed a few demos from XBL this week and will give those a blast when I get some time. Timeshift, Stranglehold and the Call of Duty 4 beta all await. I know, all guns, all killing but that’s my bag right now. Almost all the big games around nowadays such as Bioshock, Halo, GTA, Lair, Heavenly Sword etc all involve… well death basically! Except on Nintendo. They have floating pink dresses and pastry rolling.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Off my feet!

Going to be short on updates while I work through a mountain of projects. Got lots to talk about but no time to write it or find the right pictures. I managed one resized image for the Lair story a few posts down. These new pics look much more effective and will allow me to show either larger images or a collection of images in a comic-panel style. All the earlier posts will get tweaked at some point. Where's a Tardis when you need one??

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Blogspot breaks

Just changing some things on the blog today so hang tight while I switch the header graphic and make the pictures bigger and meatier. Tried it once and the site just hangs and can't finish the job. Technology today eh readers!

Ok, header done. All the post images need to be reworked to the new size so I need to do some photoshop jiggery. Then things will not look like you're viewing the blog in glorious 'cack-a-rama' vision.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Little Men

Another idea poached from the pages of Famitsu were the comment box characters of the staff writers. Famitsu review section had its own little drawings of the four main writers and everyone agreed it was the best approach for the Mean Machines reviews. Not only did we miniaturise the staff we took on the super deformed Japanese style with the tiny bodies and massive heads. Sketching countless variations of characters was easy to cope with especially as a lot of the drawings were generic figures that could be reused again and again. It was not so easy when new staff joined the magazine and a brand new set of character drawings had to be made. I got so lazy near the end that I just drew the heads and stuck them on the old bodies.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Tat Attack #2!!

Nintendo are the masters of tattle and probably keep more kids locked in warehouses packaging plastic toys than any other games company in the World. The star of this particular tat update is an oddball card game for Mario Kart. You seemingly build a kart track using the cards and that's about all I can figure out from the box. Complete pants but still more entertaining than most of the rubbish that’s released on the Wii.

Sony Suxxors?

Another incredible week for Sony. Crappy PSP sales, rampant ownage by Nintendo in Japan, major PS3 titles getting kicked in the teeth. Oh, lets not forget the almost daily hilarity of Sony staff getting caught doing retarded things like a shambling review of Bioshock and this week’s editing of the Halo 3 wiki entry. I’ve worked with SCEE on a few occasions and their PR department always seemed to be staffed with chimps and gimps so I shouldn't be surprised anymore. Still, recent activity beggars belief don't you think?

The jury is still out on the PS3 as far as I am concerned. I’ve yet to see that killer title and there’s nothing on the horizon that won’t be out earlier and play better on another system. Lair is the latest next-gen tragedy to receive a Kipper with some truly appalling review scores. I recently finished the design for a Lair promo guide and was forced to use a load of pre-production artwork instead of screenshots so it wouldn’t look so... err... naff. Still, the onliners who have recieved a copy seem to think the reviewer's guide is 'elaborately illustrated' so mission accomplished!

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Black lines. Don't do it.

My first few weeks at Emap were spent creating illustrations of one sort or another. I had a technical illustration background along with reasonable freehand skills so most of my day at Priory Court was spent preparing the templates for the launch of Mean Machines. I was put to work constructing the icons, symbols, score panels and the 'little men' charicatures. We took inspiration from Japanese magazines and game packaging. Famitsu magazine and a host of game manuals and boxes were always strewn across my desk for inspiration. It's also interesting to note that we never had any computers for the design department when Mean Machines began! All layout was created by hand then photocopied and stuck to paper templates using a wax machine. We endured this 'method' for two years before we got our first Macintosh Quadra for the launch of NMS.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Weekly Tat Update #1

Keeping to the chicken theme I reckon it would be neat to reveal snapshots of some of the hoard I’ve collected over the years. I'll select one item a week that looks either interesting or completely rubbish. First up are some cool metal figures that came as part of a pre-order freebie when you bought SNES SF II. The figures were randomly thrown into the package so you had no idea which characters you would get. Vega is a keeper but the others aren't that exciting.

A shocking theme

It’s not often I go through a game again so soon after beating it but such is the case with Bioshock. Doing it again on Hard (which isn’t hard at all), listening to the soundtrack and searching the web for any Bio-related malarkey that might be available. What isn’t so good is the Cult of Rapture theme for your Xbox that Eurogamer are currently pimping. It’s free but you’ll need to give over some of your personal details before you can claim it. Anyways, got my code, downloaded the theme and… ugh. Nasty, porno colours and an uninspiring choice of preproduction artwork thrown across cheap textures nicked off the internet. Who is responsible? Are they colourblind? An interface similar to the faceplate with the rusty, metal textures would have been so much better.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Tastes like chicken

When I worked at GameFan we had a word to describe all the freebies sent to us by the software companies. That word was chicken. We loved chicken. We hoarded chicken. We fought wars over chicken. Chicken made every day worthwhile as we worked tirelessly to get our grubby mitts on the hottest software, toys and promotional garbage that would bombard our postbox each morning. I had an advantage with a brother living in Japan whose monthly chicken round-up was the envy of all the other staff. Most of it was magazines, games and game guides that we would tear apart for news and other stories. The rest was a selection of weird plastic licensed tat that included card games, stationary, novelty toys and plushies. Most of it is gone now as it just took up too much space but I did keep a lot of Street Fighter merchandise. We gave more coverage to the Street Fighter series than any other game hence the huge amount of material we had managed to blag over the years.