Author Archive

The Elitist, Part Five: Hunting Dogs

By Brendan Caldwell on November 19th, 2014.

Brendan continues his life as space misfit in our Elite Dangerous Diary. In this final entry, he finds himself settling down among the stars with a steady delivery job. But how long can the simple life last?

There she is, the Asp Explorer. A gargantuan beast of a spaceship, she is able to blast every wannabe outlaw out of the sky and still jump 10 lightyears to drop off one-hundred tonnes of coffee to some jittery, caffeine-starved miners two systems away. Able to function both as a military vehicle and a civilian transport, she is the interstellar equivalent of a Land Rover. Standard fittings include multi-cannons, heat sinks, point defence turrets. Average engine mass of 500 tonnes, power usage threshold of 17.00mw. She is wonderful. I watch as the Asp veers over my head, out of the docking bay and into the black beyond. The Asp is not my ship. No. This is my ship…

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The Elitist, Part Four: Spacer, Miner, Robber, Jerk

By Brendan Caldwell on November 12th, 2014.

Brendan’s misadventures in deep space continue in our Elite: Dangerous diary. This week, he tries out the new features of Elite’s Beta 3.0.

I was lounging in Alison City station listening to to the Lauren Laverne show when the call came in. I say “when the call came in” to give you the image of a space rat in his natural habitat, feet up on the sensor monitor, drinking spiced wine and flicking the dust off the thruster in boredom until his screen lights up with “INCOMING MESSAGE” and he dives for the comms panel. What I really mean is: “when the bulletin board lit up”. The bulletin board marks all the jobs in Elite’s many space stations. My eyes fell from one job to the other – dead, fed-up eyes – then faltered and stopped as they saw a plain-looking advert marked “Light cargo transports required”.

I slouched closer to the screen, utilising the powerful hunch that would inevitably give me repetitive strain injury. This can’t be right, I thought. 174,000 credits for one job? That’s crazy. I’d be lucky to get 20,000 for a single gig. I clicked on the ad. The orders: take 18 tonnes of gold to Foucault Landing. Good lord, is that all? I instantly accepted the job and smiled an obnoxious, greedy smile. Then I looked at my mission screen. That’s where I saw the catch.

I had 14 minutes to get there.

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Party Games: Dog Park And GameCity’s Grand Finale

By Brendan Caldwell on November 4th, 2014.

Every month, we dispatch Brendan to some of gaming’s best blowouts to schmooze and play party games with the partygoers. This week, he visits GameCity, pretends to be a dog, and listens to some spoken word performances about games.

It’s Saturday night and I’m standing in one of Nottingham’s oldest pubs, where a Tekken 3 arcade cabinet is blinking in front of me. Two of the bar’s regulars have just challenged me to a game. My opponent picks Jin out of the line-up, his favourite character. Meanwhile, his friend explains something to me – this cabinet has something of a personality. The joystick on the Player 2 side does not recognise ‘up’ or ‘down’ commands. But because this pair are always here, always playing this machine, they will let me use the Player 1 controls, effectively handicapping themselves. I put my drink down on the game’s bonnet and prepare myself. The time is approximately 1am. I have selected Law.

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The Elitist, Part Three: Picking A Fight

By Brendan Caldwell on October 29th, 2014.

Brendan’s misadventures in deep space continue in our Elite: Dangerous diary. This week, he gears up for some risky bounty hunting and runs into his old foes, the space police.

It was the silence that worried me. I had dropped out of warp into a pocket of space marked on my navigation chart as a ‘High Intensity Combat Zone’, and yet when I looked into the distance there was nothing but empty, quiet space. The only thing on my sensors was another lonely player, floating through the noiseless void, probably just as spooked as I was. It did not make sense. Where was everyone? Then we heard it. The instantly recognisable sound of trouble.

WHOMP.

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The Elitist, Part Two: The Exploratory Romp

By Brendan Caldwell on October 22nd, 2014.

Brendan continues on his journey through space in this series on Elite: Dangerous. This week, he sets out to discover strange new worlds, in search of profit and prestige.

Well, here we are. The rickety, unsanctioned outposts of the Gamma Serpentis system, where dismantled shipwrecks lie opposite a huge skull mural painted, somehow, in Zero G. I’m sitting on landing pad number 1 of the Tepper Relay outpost, brimming with fury. Not because I have been blown up in some ridiculous crash, or because I’ve been mugged by an intergalactic pirate king, but because I have gone all across the starways in search of glory and this — this! — is all I have to show for it. A measly, pathetic, laughable 459 credits and a parking spot in the interstellar equivalent of South Armagh.

Sigh. Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself. It is possible to do that in the space-age era. (No, I mean you can literally get ahead of yourself, something to do with faster-than-light travel). Let me start from the beginning.

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Skyrim Survival Diary: Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks

By Brendan Caldwell on October 22nd, 2014.

There are lots of survival games, but there are also lots of games which could be survival games with the right mods installed. Over the course of Survival Week we’ll highlight a few of those games and i)write a diary of our experience playing with it ii) explain how to do it yourself.

I found Meeko sitting by the side of the road. He is one of Skyrim’s shaggy, grey wolfhounds that look as old as they do stupid. He saw me, turned around and ran into the thicket. I followed him through the trees, where he led me to a run-down shack. I looked inside and there, lying still and grey on the shed’s single rickety bed, was Meeko’s owner. He was dead. The mongrel looked to me, blinked in the cold and seemed to whine. All right then, I thought, you can follow me. It was a decision I never came to regret. Later on, Meeko killed a lot of people for me.

But more importantly, Meeko kept me warm in Skyrim’s deadly mountain passes. One of the mods I have installed is Frostfall, which gives the player a few extra things to worry about. Exposure can leave you freezing to death, while being wet means you succumb to the cold even faster. You have to keep yourself warm at fires and fill up on hot soups to keep your ‘exposure meter’ from dropping too low. Once, I tried to swim across a small, icy river and before I could get a fire going on the opposite shore I passed out from hypothermia. I woke up in a familiar inn, penniless, frostbitten and with this note in my pocket.

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How To Make Skyrim A Survival Game

By Brendan Caldwell on October 22nd, 2014.

There are lots of survival games, but there are also lots of games which could be survival games with the right mods installed. Over the course of Survival Week we’ll highlight a few of those games and i) write a diary of our experience playing with it ii) explain how to do it yourself.

You may have already read my Skyrim survival diary and if not, why not? It sees me struggling to ward off frostbite with wine and adopting the game’s most lovable dog just to keep my feet warm. If you want to plod through the winter wastelands of Tamriel with the same ‘survival mode’ in mind yourself, these are the mods you’ll want to add. Most of them come from a single source, the Nexus modding community. Before you grab them, it is best to have their Nexus Mod Manager installed, as well as something called SKSE. (You will also have to register to join the Nexus community to download these files). Getting all this architecture in place is a minor frustration compared to the improvements you’ll see in the end. It will be worth it when you find yourself freezing to death under a rocky outcrop with no wood to start a fire.

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The Elitist, Part One: How To Make Money In Space

By Brendan Caldwell on October 15th, 2014.

Elite: Dangerous was recently updated with some new features. Brendan takes us on a journey through space in this new series, where he will be exploring faraway stars and getting into trouble with the space police.

My first mistake was packing my cargo hold full of stolen explosives. My second mistake was trying to fly that cargo full of explosives, at high speed and with my engines off, through a tiny opening in a giant space station. By the time I realised my trajectory was all wrong, I had already belly-flopped into the metallic surface of the station, hundreds of metres away from the gateway I had intended to speed through. I exploded on impact. Such is the fate of many pilots who try to emulate the Isinona Manoeuvre.

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Party Games: Gang Beasts And The Wild Rumpus

By Brendan Caldwell on October 3rd, 2014.

Welcome to a new (probably monthly) series on the rise of the party game, where we celebrate all things ‘local multiplayer’. How do we do that? We dispatch Brendan to some of gaming’s best blowouts to schmooze and play with the partygoers. This week, The Wild Rumpus and a chat with the brothers who made Gang Beasts.

There’s a paddling pool full of water outside a nightclub in London. Beside it, a group of young men are wrapping condoms around PlayStation Move controllers. The shrinkwrapped controllers are attached to an elastic string and flung into the water, and three players roll up their trousers and enter the paddling pool barefoot. They are the Jellyfish Stompers.

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Hands On: The Crew

By Brendan Caldwell on September 25th, 2014.

The Crew will see players zooming around a huge map of the United States and teaming up with friends for various feats of speed-freakery. We sent Brendan to take an early look at Ubisoft’s ‘MMO racer’.

The open-world racer was perfected on PC in 2009. I’ll let John and Jim argue over whether it was Burnout Paradise or Fuel that holds the honour. In terms of videogame history debates, I’m happy just to get the date right. Ubisoft, on the other hand, are not a company to let such claims rest. In a couple of months they are releasing The Crew, an MMO racing game with 6000 miles of reconstructed USA to zoom around. The titular Crew is, in keeping with an emerging Ubi-trend, you and three pals, each sitting pretty in your souped up Ford Mustang, Ferrari, Lamborghini or Other.

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Wot I Think: Planetary Annihilation

By Brendan Caldwell on September 17th, 2014.

Planetary Annihilation is best enjoyed if you are a robot. A cold, cybernetically enhanced supercomputer capable of thousands of thoughts per nanosecond. No emotion, no mercy. Just a deathly, speedy logic and a finger that clicks like a woodpecker’s beak. It is a brilliant, ludicrous RTS and I will probably never try to play it again. Because I am a frail, fleshy human being whose idea of multi-tasking is using a fork AND a knife at the dinner table. But you may not be like me. You may be one of the Machines.

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Impressions: Galactic Civilizations 3

By Brendan Caldwell on August 21st, 2014.

Gal Civ 3 has warped from Early Access alpha to Early Access beta, and brought with it more (but not all) features to the famous, 4X strategy game. Is it worth your time or money yet? We sent Brendan to investigate.

Picture the scene. You are a peaceful, religious race of extra-terrestrials, but you are inexplicably at war with the three rival civilisations that surround you. Your people love you for your mindfulness but they are upset that they don’t have more money to spend. Your desert planet full of shopping centres is deeply unhappy. Your planet full of scorpions is booming. Huge lettering drops from the sky! GALACTIC CIVILIZATIONS III.

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Hands And Face On: Alien Isolation On Oculus Rift

By Brendan Caldwell on July 7th, 2014.

Imagine the Xenomorph from Alien is in the room with you right now. Where exactly? You don’t know. But you do know it’s in there. You lean a little forward, peeping over that stack of empty pizza boxes. Meat feast. You have been meaning to tidy those away. You peer into the gloom. You hear something above you. Something scuttling. Something dark. You look up! But it is too late. You have been eaten. Well done, imagination!

Of course, it is looking possible you will not need your imagination to enjoy these scenarios anymore because the folks making Alien: Isolation at Creative Assembley and SEGA have been tinkering with the Oculus Rift development kits and have shown us their deliciously scary ‘prototype’.

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