Magazine Round-Up – February 2011

Edge, March 2011

A Nintendo 3DS rising out of an embossed pool of lacquered plasma decorates Edge’s cover this month. As well as features on Nintendo’s next handheld, this issue has a look at Portal 2, PlayStation Camp and reviews of Killzone 3, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and de Blob 2.

Official PlayStation Magazine UK, March 2011

It’s all about swords, quests and mythical lands in OPM, as they reveal Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Elsewhere, they have hands-on details about the new NGP, talk to Evolution Studios about developing 3D for PS3 and review DC Universe Online.

Wired UK, March 2011

Wired performed one of most innovative and attention-grabbing moves I’ve seen in magazine publishing for quite some time when they sent out personalised copies of their March issue to some subscribers. These copies had personal details – all sourced legally – printed on them to prove a point about how privacy is becoming increasingly hard to maintain. I don’t think my copy, which I haven’t seen yet, is personalised, but it sure was a great stunt. Hear more about it on the Wired UK podcast.

Develop Magazine, February 2011
A recruitment special takes up the bulk of Develop’s latest issue, and their feature with 16 of the UK’s top developers is a useful starting point for any aspiring developer. I especially like this offshoot website feature on ‘How to get your foot in the door’, where Alice Taylor, Jon Burton, Paulina Bozek and Phil Harrison offer some sound advice that I my 16-year-old self could have used when deciding whether I wanted to pursue a career in game development.

Whatever happened to the Killzone comic?

Even with the demise of DC’s WildStorm imprint, the number of video game licensed comic books is showing no signs of slowing. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see comics announced for Uncharted, Crysis, the new Tomb Raider and the new Devil May Cry.

So with these possible conversions in mind, I thought it would be nice to look at a video game comic that failed to materialise. Killzone was to be made into a comic back in 2005, but the publisher, DreamWave Comics, went bust before even a single issue was published. Shame really as scriptwriter John Ney Reiber was onboard and the art showed promise. And instead of still images of cover-to-cover shootouts, narratives could be built out of Killzone’s existing universe.

There’s actually a respectable amount of background to the Killzone series, which you can view on The games themselves only give you brief hints of this, with most of the story given over to atrociously bad dialogue and objectives that have to be done “now, now, now” because you’re moments from getting gunned down and curve stomped by metal-faced shock troopers. In comic book form however, I think there’s a wealth of intriguing material for writers and artists to draw on that would be good for an ongoing series showing the First Extrasolar War, the formation of the ISA, the rise of Scolar Visari, and so on.

Seeing as we’re on the eve of Killzone 3, I also have a few personal ideas that would be perfect for the serialised medium of comics, as I’m almost certain Guerrilla aren’t going to fulfil my narrative wants with this third title. I’d like to see a short story following Hakha, the bald, half-Helgan ISA spy from Killzone 1 – his intelligent reasoning made him one of the characters I regret not seeing in the game’s sequels. I want to see Luger without her wet flannel of a mask on. And I’d like a humorous recurring strip, ‘1001 ways for Sgt Rico to bite the dust’, because, yeah, that dude just gives every black guy of the future a bad name.

Given the current trend in video game licensed comics, I see no reason why a Killzone comic couldn’t surface eventually. Whether it would leverage its narrative potential is a question I would dearly love to see. In the meantime, we’ll find out next week whether Killzone 3 manages narrative and dialogue better than its predecessor.

Farewell Bizarre Creations

It’s with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to talented game developer Bizarre Creations today.
They were one of the oldest and most successful studios still going in the UK games industry. In their time they made a number of significant titles that were not only technical showpieces for the consoles they appeared on, but also compelling games in their own right.
Racing was their gig, and their rise really began with Formula 1 for the original PlayStation. That’s the game that led Sega’s Kats Sato to track down Bizarre and invite them to create a launch racer for Sega’s upcoming Dreamcast, Metropolis Street Racer. From there Bizarre’s expertise attracted Microsoft, which saw them create possibly their most famed series, Project Gotham Racing, simultaneously with three technology launches (Xbox, Xbox Live and Xbox 360). Signing away their independence to Activision in 2007, Bizarre’s final racer was to be the tragically underappreciated Blur. In late January, Activision revealed there was a likelihood that Bizarre would be closed and its entire staff laid off.
I remember seeing PGR3 running for the first time on an HDTV in early 2006. Since then no other game so far has had me stand still, fixed in awe at the visual beauty on display. At a time when HDTVs were something of a luxury, feeling the effect of that racer had me immensely excited for how artistic, atmospheric and magnificent the games of the current generation would be.
Beyond the games themselves, I’m personally disappointed for many of the great people that I’ve met from the studio, including Geometry Wars creator Steven Cakebread, Chris Pickford and, communications manager and all-round easygoing guy, Ben Ward.
Bizarre made some of the most accomplished racing games ever in my view and the studio had so much more to give. Many their memory never be forgotten. 
Bizarre Creations 1994-2011


Comics I Wish I could find in Paperback

A collection of comic books I wish I could get my hands on, but can’t because they weren’t physically released or have now disappeared from their very limited regional releases. Not that I don’t have enough limited edition doodahs as it is, however, I’m a sucker when I comes to well-crafted expanded narratives, and a few of these comics provide that extra sliver of backstory, showing another side to characters and giving new reason to events in the rest of their universes.

Metal Gear Solid: Sons of Liberty #0 (2005, IDW)

A limited precursor to IDW’s second sell-out Metal Gear Solid comic adaption, this book likely looks at Snake’s past or extra early exposition to set up the series. The content of this issue is available in the compact 552-page omnibus released last year, but that’s no substitute for the full size issue if you find it.

World of Warcraft #0 (2007, WildStorm)

A first look at the original World of Warcraft comic book series, and incidentally WildStorm’s first big video game license under their new ethos of publishing miniseries, licensed projects and select original works. They cut the series at the end of 2009, only for DC to reinstate it in late 2010.

Mirror’s Edge 2008 Convention Exclusive (2008, WildStorm)

Convention exclusives have been a staple part of Comic Con and other events ever since the entertainment biz realised just how serious fans were about collecting every last cover variant, action figure and t-shirt. Mirror’s Edge, written by Rihanna Pratchett, was part of a new wave of video game licensed comics from WildStorm. Yet, living in Europe means I have even less chance of attending some of the bigger conventions than Canadian residents, never mind getting in line or buying tickets when they go on sale. I’d still like to track down this series preface if I can.

Street Fighter IV Limited Edition Comic (2009, Udon)

Ah, don’t you just love pre-order incentives? Because of their supplementary nature, these comics tend to be less engrossing than you’re originally led to believe, lasting no more than a five minute tea break in between bouts. I’m positive this would be no better than the SFIV miniseries story-wise, but Udon’s stuff is always great to look at.

Halo Wars: Genesis (2009, Microsoft)

Included with the limited edition, Halo Wars: Genesis sets up the game by exploring why the Covenant are interested in the human colony Harvest. It was co-written by Phil Noto, Graeme Devine and Eric Nylund, writer of several books for the Halo series and other fiction for Microsoft Game Studios.

Dante’s Inferno 2009 Convention Exclusive (2009, WildStorm)

EA went for a more direct marketing approach for Dante’s Inferno at San Diego Comic Con 2009, releasing this limited edition issue #0 preview comic along with lithograph print. The tainted spirit-like art is by Diego Latorre, who accomplished converting the full gory adaption to comics in the six-issue miniseries.

inFamous: Post Blast (2009, Sony / IGN)

Released physically in very limited quantities as competition prizes, this comic is a direct prequel to inFamous, penned and inked by the team at Sucker Punch. Unlike their previous Sly Cooper comics, Post Blast has never been made available on the Sucker Punch store, though is available for fans to download for free from IGN. DC is also producing a full six-part miniseries to bridge the upcoming sequel.

Batman: Arkham Asylum – The Road to Arkham (2009, DC Comics)

A prequel to the one of the greatest comic book games ever released? Yes, please. Written by Alan Burnett and pencilled by Carlos D’Anda, The Road to Arkham sees Batman returning The Joker, Scarecrow and other villains to the dingy halls of Gotham’s most secure asylum.

Darksiders (2010, WildStorm)

Though I’ve heard rumblings that it’s more of an artbook, this Darksiders comic, released digitally on the PC Hellbook Edition and in a select number of hardcopies (available from UK retailer GameStation as a pre-order incentive), and illustrated by ex-Marvel artist and Vigil Games creative lead Joe Madureira, is one I’d love to track down. However you prefer to see the game, derivative or homage, inspired by the comic book world itself I’d love scoop some of its fiction.

StarCraft #0 (2010, WildStorm)

Another limited edition pack-in, this time for StarCraft II. Written by Simon Furman and art by Federico Dallocchio, this issue #0 comic chronicles the mech-suited War Pigs first encounter with the Zerg species. WildStorm scraped their planned ongoing StarCraft series after just seven issues.

Driver #0 (2010, WildStorm)

This issue #0 comic, titled ‘The Pursuit of Nothingness’, was released at last year’s Comic Con to promote Ubisoft’s upcoming reboot of the Driver series – I have a soft spot for the original PS1 game. David Lapham is on scribing duty, while Greg Scott handles the inks (above, cover by Mark ‘Jock’ Simpsons). Shadowy, low rider art style? Let’s hope it does justice to the 70’s car chases that have inspired it.

Red Faction: Armageddon #0 (2010, WildStorm)

According to Big Download Blog, there’s a Red Faction comic on the cards from DC. Sourcing images for this post was the first I’ve heard of it. Though I didn’t play THQ’s Red Faction: Guerrilla, it’s combo of salvage and survival received enough acclaim for this comic book accompaniment to be of interest if DC does release a full series this year. The comic team includes Scott Rogers, Pal De Meo, Mike Miller and Jason Masters, and is available from the game’s official site and some digital comic outlets. To my surprise, a one-shot prelude comic was also released for Guerrilla in June 2009.

Strategy Guides: Expensive aid or completionist’s best friend?

Strategies guides have long divided the gaming community. Some see them as expensive cheaters’ books that defeat the purpose of thinking for yourself, while others turn to them for much needed guidance as a means of finishing those near impossible tasks that are holding them back from the illusive ‘100% complete’.

These days I occasionally buy the odd strategy guide, but for a good number of years purchasing the official strategy guide was a ritual reserved for several of my favourite game series.

It was after 2001 that I really started taking note of video game strategy guides. Hidden away in my pretend operations room playing Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun, I would scan the Prima guide to see if it held any useful tips to assist with my missions. Being someone who was fascinated by Dorling Kindersley books on ‘how things work’ and had the complete set of Star Wars cross-section books under his bed, strategy guides also satisfied me desire to learn more about the characters, technology and history of the game worlds I was interacting with. Whether as a manual was just an introduction, these books held advanced tactics and encyclopaedic knowledge on the games they covered.

From me, a strategy guide wasn’t just a fast track to completion, it was a meanings of understanding more about the game itself.

And the very first time that I remember a strategy guide being more than just a guidebook, was playing Jak II: Renegade on my brother’s birthday with the accompanying guide by Piggyback. The term ‘guide’ is a disservice to this book, it’s a full colour tome, printed on high quality paper, that’s bursting with original artwork and design that puts many in the same field to shame. Inside, there are maps, a breakdown of all the characters, detailed information on vehicles and items, quick references and walkthroughs carefully arranged to cater to different skill levels.

Jak II is a non-linear game, and in terms of using the book as a guide, my brother and I found we could dip into it as much or as little as we wished. Absorbing the sights and sounds that came with experiencing Haven City for the first time, I remember feeling some excitement simply from scanning the district maps and helping my brother to navigate the labyrinthine streets to our current objectives early on. Giving us a heads up on alternative routes, missions to persevere with or avoid and secrets, this guide enhanced the enjoyment we got out of Jak II.

Having seen want they could do, I went on the hunt for two strategy guides in the summer of 2004. A friend and I had been desperately trying to get all of the Skill Points on the first two Ratchet & Clank games. My hunt for the official strategies, which contained the much prized information, lead me to high street bookshops and eventually to order Going Commando’s guide, which wasn’t readily available in the UK.

Many strategy guides are often written by the writers covering the games industry or by creative firms, like Off Base Productions, who also handle copywriting for game manuals and design packaging and marketing materials. The primary publishers of strategy guides are Prima Games, BradyGames, Piggyback and Future Press.

Seeing as most guides are produced in the US before the game has actually been finalised, I’ve come across tons of mistakes and things which are irrelevant for readers outside the US in some of the guides I own – Prima and Brady have always been the biggest culprits.

For a time, I ended up purchasing strategy guides merely to add them to a growing collection of video game paraphernalia. My thought process was very much: Ow, Sly 2 is coming out, and there’s a strategy guide, I better get that with my pre-order. I’m slightly ashamed to say I even have a couple racing guides, which are about as useful as a hedgehog that only knows the phrases “slow down” and “speed up.” (Incidentally, if you are after racing game reading material, I recommend the Driving Games Manual: The Ultimate Guide to All Car-based Computer and Video Games by Joao Diniz Sanches). Looking back, I feel pretty foolish to have bought some guides which I have not used at all.

I no longer feel the need to buy strategy guides, mainly because of cost and the fact that all of the information can now be found on the internet. However, I don’t mind the odd one if I plan to devote a lot of time to a particular game, like an RPG (Rogue Galaxy, Elder Scrolls) or creation tool (LBP), or am interested in a piece of historical video game reference, often by Piggyback or Future Press because of their exceptional production values.

My point is strategy guides are more than just completion aids, they’re game-specific logs of characters, events, technologies, game worlds and more. And for those times when we do wish to indulge in a game world away from the controller, I’m glad they’re around.

Why PS1 games take time to arrive on digital distribution platforms

If you’ve wondered why games for the original PlayStation take so long to hit the PlayStation Store then this post is for you. Ross McGrath, a member of SCEE’s PlayStation Store team, has explained why so many huddles have to be jumped before we can purchase and play at the click of a button.

Something I’ve wondered is why some games that appear on the US store, don’t appear on the EU ones. Turns out that right issues and technical problems that arise from their PAL encoding are some of the reasons they’re delayed for so long. Hence why, Crash Bandicoot 2 only just hit the EU PlayStation Store this week, when the US has had it since 2007.
This post appeared on the EU PlayStation Blog, something which has fast become one of the brands most effective ways of communicating their messages to consumers and the gaming community. I think it’s fascinating how blogs like this one are reshaping how businesses and organisations of all kinds are viewed by the public. These blogs have become virtual receptions, where users drop in to give their two cents, seek advice from the organisation and other users, and go to get in touch with members of the organisation directly.
What would have once been the work of a feature story by a journalist is now coming in the form of posts directly from members and partners associated with an organisation’s blog. This has lead to companies being more open with their audience, sometimes providing the odd tidbit of internal information that a feature writer may not have gotten wind of, such as in McGrath’s post.
I have to wonder what things will look like in the future as more and more organisations use online media for their own interests.

Electronic Spreadsheet Heaven for Data Buffs

Here’s something for those of you who love to ponder what your video game collection would look like if you had every game available for the formats.

Sony Index is a huge reference database of the regional serial numbers for almost every PlayStation game ever released. You can search by name too, looking at games released for the original PlayStation right up to PS3, in North America, Europe and Asia. Because why wouldn’t you want to know the first 10 PS3 games in your region by serial number?

The site was down for sometime in 2008 due a hosting issue and doesn’t appear to have been updated since then. The owner did used to have a forum operational for users to provide the names and serial numbers of new games too. Even with C64-era aesthetic and basic list arrangement, it brings together a library of platform reference that few websites provide so clearly.

Since Sony has inconvenienced us all by doing away with their official database, you can see a user compiled PS3 backward compatibility list at

A useful site if you need to dig up the serial number for a PlayStation game. You’ll find an index with more useful link, though only for PS1 games, on PlayStation Museum. GameFAQs also has info on regional release dates and serial numbers, though it can’t always be trusted. If you happen to know of good reference sources for other consoles I’d love to hear some of them.

Image: (user: Nyxus)

My comic vice just got more affordable

Of all the things that living away from my parents has taught me, the most important is probably how to budget and use money more carefully. Will limited cash to spend, I’ve gradually become more thrifty since arriving in Nottingham back in 2008. Do I spend money on adventurous foods or do I go for the usual? Do I spend my disposable cash on cheap DVDs, the odd game, a night out or save it for another time?

Comics are the one thing that I’ve been buying regularly each month. On another of my trips to collect my latest standing orders from Page 45, I had a pleasant surprise when I discovered that DC Comics have fixed all their standard series at $2.99 (£2.25). All of the video game comics I purchased in past from DC imprint WildStorm were $3.99 (£2.99), so this news means I’ll be saving a moderate amount in the long-term – which is fantastic for my driving lesson plans.

What I’ll have to try and avoid now is getting hooked on too many tertiary series and losing more cash through quantity alone (DC Universe Online Legends came out today. I picked up issue #1, but this 26-issue miniseries would dent my wallet like nobody’s business if I do subscribe – plus, can’t quite get PSN friends’ comments, like “DC IS STILL BROKEN,” out of my head).