Archive for RevJB

E3 2012 Reaction

Well the dust is still settling from the opening keynotes of E3 2012 and in fact there are more announcements and revelations still going on. With the big 5 over, I thought I would put together my reactions to the keynotes from the opening 36 hours.

Overall this has been a good E3 in my opinion we have had substantial service developments from multiple companies, a new console, a raft of excellent look sequels and some killer new brands announced. I was worried that this year was going to be quite disappointing with a lot of big sequels already announced, either at last years E3 or over the previous 12 months. This made me concerned that we might just have new trailers relating to those games, which while good to see progress can get a little stale. I was pleasantly surprised and we saw, I think, an almost perfect balance between new and returning.

I’m just going to stick to the highlights in this entry. If I don’t cover something you want to talk about, stick it in the comments.

So my highlights from the big press conferences that opened E3 2012.

First of all comes Microsoft’s SmartGlass for the XBox360. This is a service that looks to combine tablets and smartphones with the console experience. The general gist of it seems to be that it is the main selling point of the WiiU without the need for extra hardware (assuming you already have a table or smartphone or both.) The example shown was that it can be used to pull up extra information or control the game in a different way. Specifics were in Halo 4 upon reaching a waypoint the table flashed up with extra info about the environment and location the player found them self in. It was also demoed that game invites can appear and be accepted from the tablet. The smartphone example they gave was the ability to use it as a track pad to control the new XBox live internet browser. All in all this seems like a cool add on and almost a direct response to some of the functionality of the WiiU, it does make me a little jealous that i don’t have an XBox.

The other stand out points were mainly the games on offer. Some exclusives, sequels and some new IP’s that look exciting.

The Watch Dogs logo shown at E3

If connection is power i need to stuck up on USB hubs.

The game i am probably the most excited about was the announcement of ‘Watch Dogs’. This is a new IP that is being touted as multi-platform, consoles and PC. The basic premise is that you play a character who is part of an organisation that can hack into the computer systems that control cities. So the network that controls bridges, traffic lights, water, etc.. In the demo the player sneaks into a club by cutting out communications in an area, scans the people in the club for personal information, makes his way outside and causes a car crash by meddling with the traffic lights, and in the extended version he proceeds to escape by jumping over a bridge he has triggered to open to prevent followers. It looks really good and the potential flexibility using the hacking system really interests me. It seems to have a very GTA inspired style, big open world, violence, car jacking and all the usual bells and whistles. I guess one reservation i have is that there is the potential for the solutions to missions being very scripted, this would drain the excitement from the premise. If the developers give the player a chance to be creative i think this game could have huge success. I’m certainly excited.

Another new IP i was excited about was ‘The Last of Us’, this is a survival based game in which you play a man in an abandoned city escorting a small girl around. The demonstration given seemed to suggest a shortage of weapon ammo, so combats would be a mixture of firefight, melee and stealth based takedowns. The ability to ‘craft’ items was shown, in game a bottle and a cloth were mixed to make a molotov cocktail. This grabbed my interest , a good survival game is always fun, especially if it was that promotes the balancing of strategies through careful thought. When mentioning this to some of my friends i was told that is almost identical to an older game, although i can’t remember the name of it. If it rings any bells feel free to let me know. I might even do a 60s review of it.

Splash art from E3 2012

Why is the little girl holding the 'penis compensation' rifle, is that a hidden twist?

Quantic Dream revealed their new project as well. This was ‘Beyond:Two Souls’, this was revealed with a very creepy trailer in which a women in questioned at a police station. It was very atmospheric and culminated in apparent poltergeist activity and then the arrival of a SWAT team. The first thing that struck me was the quality of the graphics present in game, but then this is a follow up to Heavy Rain so i guess it was to be expected. I have subsequently seen another trailer of this game, in that one it played up the supernatural element, and it was made clear that you possess the ability to wield these powers, i felt this diminished it slightly but not enough to disinterest me. It will still be interesting to see where it goes. Not only that but it has prompted me to play Heavy Rain which i have been told is excellent and still haven’t got round to playing.

That about covers the new IP’s which takes us on to sequels. There were 3 that really stood out. One of these is Simcity, i am extremely excited about this but i’m not going to talk about it to much. I am going to plan some stuff around the launch of that, maybe some pre-launch plays of the precursors, 60s reviews and all sorts of other goodness.

The other 2 are Assassins Creed 3 and God of War:Ascension. These stood out for different reasons. Assassins Creed i was not excited about at all, not only that but it’s been announced a while and i think it was shown in 3 of the 5 conferences. It looked dull, there i said it, sorry if you are a fan but that’s what i thought. They showed some gameplay of you stalking through a snowy forest, being attacked by wolves and then an assault on a fort, and it just looked a little dull and samey, and i was not interested. Then Sony showed it, now it’s not because i’m a Sony fanyboy (i am a bit, but ignore that for now), but my opinion changed. The reason it changed was that they showed something new. They showed part of the game that involved commanding a boat in the Caribbean, this section had navigation and broadsides as well as up close and personal boarding operations. It was something that was new and fresh and it looked really cool. It was mentioned that there was a dynamic weather system that could change at will (surprise surprise it changed at that moment of the demo, coincidence?), and that was shown as the nice calm blue waters turned grey and almost mountainous swells rose and fell. That clip was enough to awaken my interest in the franchise and i will be watching it more closely than i previously was.

Splash art of the latest God of War game

This could be the splash art for 'God of War:Gymnast'

This leaves us with God of War:Ascension. Now don’t get me wrong i love God of  War, i have played the PS2/3 versions not the handheld ones and loved them. One of my favourite series of games without a shadow of doubt and i am super excited about the new one. That being said, i have to admit…i was a little disappointed (please forgive me o mighty Kratos). The reason i was disappointed was that it’s the same, and i think after 3 games same needs to change. The first one sets the tone/scene/style, the second one develops that/experiments with ideas and the 3rd one nails it shows off the polish (It must be noted that the Metal Gear Solid series is the exception to this, it needed 4 and 4 was a masterpiece!). I feel God of War is losing it’s edge, yes it looks amazing, yes they have refined the combat again, yes they have added new powers, yes IT NOW HAS MULTIPLAYER! OMGOMGOMGOMGWTFBBQ! …BUT they are on very delicate ground. It’s true i don’t want a complete overhaul, i’m not looking for God of War:Accountant but maybe some big changes could really reignite interest, i know it’s risky but it may pay off. Although in conclusion i am still very excited and i will still get it at launch and i will still rave to everyone has amazing it is, but still change can sometimes be good.

So overall i think there was some interesting stuff and i am now excited about the next year of gaming, which before E3 i’ll admit i wasn’t, except for Simcity.

Well that’s what i think, let me know what you though in the comments.


PrE3! Pre-E3, Clever? no? ahhhh leave it…

Well to quote Andy Williams, It’s the most wonderful time of the year. No folks it isn’t Christmas, but E3 2012!!! Hoorah! The Electronic Entertainment Expo is a big date on the calendar of gamers. With it potentially being the date that a lot of exciting gaming news is released. This annual trade fair has seen huge announcements in the past from consoles being debuted, the Play Station 3, to long awaited sequels and reboots being announced, Castlevania and God of War, and even the revelation of exciting new peripherals, Microsoft’s Kinect and Wii Balance Board. And these announcements were just in the last couple of years.

Shot of the front of the E3 expo

E3 has a long pedigree of being the go to place for big games announcements. That being said the reverency of this trade fair has waned slightly over more recent times. This was due to a decision to move to invite-only during 2007 and 2008. This meant the public could only watch from afar, this pushed publishers to use the other games fairs to show off their new products. That being said E3 is still considered one of the best and still attracts the big announcements.

With these big announcements being made you can start to see why Gamers like myself get quite excited around this time of the year. As such i will be watching the press conferences with baited breath… interestingly you can follow along here by either clicking this link: or by clicking the “Liveblog” Menu button…but that’s all the way at the top of the page, so i recommend the link.

I also though i would put some of my hopes for E3 2012 up here for you guys to look at and discuss. So here we go!


E3 2012 Predictions

So i’m going to discuss some of my ideas and predictions for this years E3, some of them i have thought about and i think are serious, others have been mad flashes of inspiration so enjoy.



Well Microsoft are starting the show (5:30pm Monday 4 June) so i guess it is only fair to begin my predictions with them.

Xbox 360 Logo

If i’m honest Microsoft has been the company that i have thought the least about in the run up to this years E3 this being said i have a few ideas. First of all it’s worth noting that Microsoft have come out and flat out said that there will be no announcement of a new console this year. So the XBOX 720 Next  3 looks unlikely, i guess there is always the small chance they were lying but i doubt that. Which means they are going to be focussing on their current console with them having no handheld to flog. Microsoft have always been about integrating the XBOX into the living room. Last year saw integration with Twitter and ESPN this added to their compatibility with Netflix meaning that not only can you use the console for games but films, sports TV and social networking. I think this is a really good focus and will draw people in, i can’t wait for the day when i have one box that does everything, it will make things so simple (People will argue for the PC at this point, but shhhh!). I feel that this culmination of “things you do” will continue to be pulled into the XBOX increasing it’s status as the hub of your living room. Quite how they will do this i am not sure, maybe more partnerships will be announced. I certainly see a big push on streaming media as well, it can already stream films and you can download games and this functionality will only be increased and improved, the age of physical media is on the way out and adaptation is important to stay relevant.

Regarding games, we will certainly see more of Halo 4, Gears of War maybe a new Fable and a raft of new Sports games but not being an XBOX gamer myself i won’t attempt to tell the XBOXer’s what they should be excited about.

Another announcement i wouldn’t be surprised with would be the revelation of Kinect 2. This piece of hardware was something quite revolutionary on release and it still receives a lot of attention, but there are products that are beginning to compete so an update could well and truly be on the cards.



Sony are next up! Now i am a Playstation child so i’m quite excited about this conference, but i will do my best to try and avoid Bias.

Sony Ps3 Logo

Once again just like Microsoft, Sony have stated there will be no next-gen playstation at E3, again i guess they could be lying but let’s not go there. So with no new console improvements may be announced for either the PS3 of the PS Vita, Sony’s handheld device. I think we may see a Vita price drop, it seems to be at that point in the product lifecycle, try and capitalise on a less than stellar performance of the 3DS but i can’t see any major changes coming in for the Vita. Regarding the Playstation 3, well this is a difficult choice, it’s starting to feel like it has been round forever, Microsoft keep updating the XBOX with bigger storage and other minor changes, but this helps keep it fresh. The Playstation hasn’t really had this, there was a form factor change but not much else. There have been renders recently of the Playstation 4/Orbis so maybe another change in form is coming. One crazy idea i had was fuelled by the rumours of there being a “Steambox” console made by Valve. Well Sony partnered with Steam to bring it to the PS3, and this has been used very little. So what if we get a Sony/Valve joint console, that can play PS3 games and download PC games from your Steam account! Crazy yes, but it would spread Gabe Newell’s Empire, it would mean some of the money could come from Valve rather than cash starved Sony and in the age of the All-in-one solution could be a bold step forward…who knows. Just remember you heard it here first!

With games we will no doubt see another raft of amazing sequels. Metal Gear Solid, God of War, LittleBigPlanet and Something awesome from Naughty Dog. Although a lot of these have been announced already which is great to build buzz but it means E3 runs the risk of just being one big trail rerun. I’m holding out for some exciting new IP’s. We will no doubt see some more from the Playstation Move although apart from a slew of new games i think that will stay quiet on the hardware front.

Again we could see some improvements to the Playstation Network which has (and will) always play second fiddle to Microsoft’s XBOX Live. I think it’s likely we will see similar directions from Sony with a push on integration and streaming coming in. Maybe this year we will see Television receivers in them, partnerships with SKY or something, who knows.


And that leaves us with Nintendo. Nintendo are interesting, they either announce something that is amazing and sells a million billion copies (Nintendo Wii) or they announce something and everyone goes “Wha????” and it disappears into obscurity (Wii Vitality sensor). Although i am lead to believe the Vitality sensor is being fine-tuned in development.

Ninetendo Wii Logo

Either way Nintendo have the potential to be the most interesting and the most surprising. That was until they released a load of information about the Wii U (their new console) in a Pre-E3 event. Overall the Wii U looks a little disappointing, with reports it’s just about up to current generation speeds while we are on the cusp of having a new generation announced. Saying that the Wii was considered technologically underwhelming and that sold like figurative ‘Hot Cakes’. So the verdict is still out on that one. Personally i think it will struggle, the Wii did so well because it appealed to everyone, it was and still is a fantastic family party game and has some brilliant games for the casual gamer and even has a few titles ‘hardcore’ gamers can enjoy. It was pitched at a perfect price and as such it worked. The Wii U, well i don’t think it can capture the market in the same way, but i may be surprised.

Games wise, we will see sequels for Mario and Zelda almost certainly for the new console. What will be interesting is if they announce much for the Wii itself or if they get right behind the Wii U. The same can be said for the DSi and the 3DS as i am aware of a couple of games that are being released on the DSi but not the 3DS. Nintendo often get badly credited with being predictable and not doing new things, but i am sure they will announce at least a handful of new games focussing on using the various pieces of technology they have at their disposal and i could actually see them announce more new IP’s than Sony and Microsoft.


In conclusion i think E3 this year has a couple of paths it could follow. We will see lot of games, but whether these games are new brands or direct sequels is still up in the air. There will be a lot of sequels, there always are but i would like to see a few attempts at new concepts and games, endless sequels tend to drag a bit and personally i think a trilogy is long enough, except for a few exceptions. That being said i am sure i will be quite excited about a couple of the sequels announced and as long as the game is good, i don’t care.

Hardware wise, we will either see a small amount or loads! We are definitely getting a new Nintendo console, what Microsoft and Sony decide to do is a mystery but i think if one does something the other will as well. With that in mind, i think any new hardware announced by these two will really need to add something, either as a concept to test or to push the market somewhere, i think that will be towards streaming.

As a generic rule we will see:

2 x Annoying presenters over the course of the live keynotes

4 x Botched demos

5 x Jokes fall completely flat

6 x Celebrities bought on to help publicise a game

1 x Completely inappropriate reference

Thanks for reading, i know it was a long one. Feel free to leave some comments below, tell me i’m wrong, have i missed something, are my ideas bang on the money, are you disappointed there won’t be donkeys. And tune into the live blog! comment on that, Tweet me during the conference etc. Also if you are reading this after E3 has happened let me know your reactions what you like/didn’t like.

A picture of a Donkey, that you won't see at this years E3

This is the donkey that won't be at E3!

Cheers Guys, Happy Gaming!

Bang for your Buck!

As the title suggests you guys are getting some bang for your buck today! Another post for you, this one is another of my MSN UK Space Blogs. I really enjoyed writing this one and it has one of my favourite ‘factoids’ regarding science funding in the UK. This was originally posted back on the 18 November, but the content is still relevant. Enjoy!

UK Science gets Bang! for it’s buck.

On Tuesday 15 November 2011 we saw Dr. James Green, Director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, present a statement of concern to the White House. In his discussion he spoke of the success of the space program to date, ‘NASA spacecraft have visited every planet in our solar system, as well as many of the variety of small bodies such as comets and asteroids that have much to tell us about the solar system’s formation.’, but urged the committee that continued investment was imperative to future success’, especially when considering the ambitious plans to return material from other planets for analysis.

In the recent global economic downturn a request for more funding often seems misguided and provokes questioning surrounding the ‘value’ of particular areas of funding. One area that often suffers harsh critique and questioning is the one of science research, specifically the field of space exploration.  This could be a result of it being seen as a luxury and the general public can sometimes feel that there are more important areas that should receive increased funding.

While avoiding the debate as to what areas deserve the most funding I would like to take the opportunity to investigate and postulate some reasons as to why space exploration is given the funding it is. One thing to note is the total cost of space exploration; here in the UK we spend around £270million pounds a year on our involvement in space. Now this seems like a huge sum of money especially when you compare it to the value of your house, but these sums of money are relative.  So if we instead compare the bill to something more significant, say healthcare, the numbers become a lot more revealing. Many people agree that the NHS is pretty good and deserves its funding, and I have on several occasions faced the argument, “What’s the point in going into space when we can’t even keep people well on earth?”, so let’s consider diverting all the money from space research and exploration in the UK to healthcare. TheUKspace programme’s funding would run the NHS for less than a day! If we compare it to something else, space funding in theUKwould pay approximately 4% of the unemployment benefit paid out each year in this country.

The point I would like to reinforce here is not one about government spending, I mentioned before that I am not questioning the funding in any of these areas; it’s important that all areas get some degree of funding. It is important to note that the UK is very efficient with its funding of the space industry.  As a country we stand as one of the forerunners in many areas of space research, yet we achieve this on a very tiny budget. This is something to be very proud of as a nation.

[NigeraiSat-2, Built by UK engineers at Surrey Satellite Technology Limited. Image Credit:]

Another point I would like to raise is that space exploration is often seen as being done just because we can. While I think this fact, coupled with an inbuilt curiosity, does drive us to investigate and explore space, science research can have a major impact on areas not directly related to that being investigated. Examples of this include robotic surgery, the artificial heart pump and imaging methods used to decipher ancient artefacts, all of these have come almost directly from technology developed by NASA. Even the World Wide Web as we know it originally began life as a method for sharing scientific data generated at CERN, this was augmented by a project Tim Berners-Lee was developing and we get the point-and-click experience that we are now familiar with.

In summary it should be reiterated that the purpose of this article is not to try to convince the reader that science should be funded above all else, as mentioned previously, funding for all areas is important. The goal is to highlight that space research can have some unexpected offshoots as well as helping us pursue mankind’s curiosity and desire for exploration and knowledge. The UK space industry generates over £7.5 billion and employs close to 100,000 people in direct and related jobs. As an industry it is incredibly efficient, taking a very small income and turning it into world leading knowledge, opportunities and products. We are the world’s experts in satellite technology, and compete very highly in many other areas of space research and exploration. We should appreciate and be proud of the fact that even on a tiny budget theUKspace industry is one of the best in the world.

The real Dragon rises!

As I am sure many of you aware, history was made this weekend. SpaceX’s Dragon capsule became the first commercial spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station. This is a landmark achievement for them and I imagine the team, is insanely proud of themselves (I know I would be). The fact remains that the saga isn’t over yet, the capsule still has to detach safely and return to Earth for the test to be a complete test, but I think most people agree that the biggest hurdle has been overcome.

I am finding this developing arm of the space industry fascinating, the idea of the competition that will be in the private sector almost hints at the emotion that drove Man to the moon back in the 60′s. I think we may be on the cusp of seeing a real explosion of space technology to develop as several of these big companies really start competing for contracts and the recognition of achieving landmark goals first. SpaceX clearly have a small advantage but a couple of organizations are nipping at their heels, such as Orbital Sciences who also have a contract to resupply the ISS. I think we are in interesting times for the space industry.

Below you will find the most recent blog entry I wrote for the MSN UK ‘Exploring Space’ Blog. This was posted after the launch of the Falcon rocket but before the docking took place. As a side not you may notice that some of the MSN articles I post will be slightly outdated, especially while I upload the back catalogue,  so please go look at their site. But I would also love if you read the articles here and let me know your thoughts. So here is the article.


Dragon Rising!

SpaceX was the first company to put a privately built spacecraft into orbit and return it safely to Earth. The company’s CEO took this even further. He declared he wanted to be the first company to put an astronaut into orbit.

Lift off of the Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon capsule.

3, 2, 1 - We have lift off!

On Tuesday 22 May they moved one step closer to their goal. Lift off of their Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule combination took place at 8:44am (BST). This is a demonstration mission that culminates in the docking of the capsule with the International Space Station (ISS). If successful this will be another first for SpaceX, being the first privately built spacecraft to dock with the station, If all goes to plan this mission will start an era whereby the ISS will be by private companies. SpaceX already holds a contract with NASA to provide the cargo transport for the station but the success of this mission is vital to show that SpaceX is up to the job of successfully transporting human crew.

Over the next four days the orbiting capsule will go through a series of maneuverability tests and system checks. These are designed to check that the capsule is functioning as expected and intended. Once these checks have been performed SpaceX will be given permission to allow Dragon to drift within 10 meters of the ISS. After the capsule has reached this distance the astronauts on board the space station will grab the capsule using one of the robotic arms. This will pull the capsule into the docking position. This method has been used twice before, for the capture of two Japanese supply craft.

SpaceX have worked hard over the last 10 years to achieve the bold goals they have set for themselves; already looking to develop crew transports, heavy lifters and even looking towards a Mars capable craft, but it hasn’t been an easy ride.

Timelapse of the Flacon 9 rocket's lift off.

A path to the heavens

SpaceX suffered a few minor setbacks during the development of their first rocket, the Falcon 1, with engine issues resulting in one lost vehicle and two other unsuccessful missions. Development of the current rocket, Falcon 9, has been a lot more successful with only minor setbacks concerning some of the systems and safety precautions on board providing any resistive forces.

The launch on Tuesday represents a rapid recovery from an aborted launch attempt just a few days earlier on the 19 May. This abort was caused when one of the engines was not operating as expected, this resulted in an automatic shut down and launch abort. The issue was then investigated and measures were taken to resolve the problem, which led them to a successful launch on Tuesday.

As this mission gets off to a flying start it marks the beginning of a period of intense worry and frustration. The Dragon capsule needs to perform well in the subsequent tests to ensure it gets to make its mark of becoming the first commercial capsule to dock with the ISS.

We will be watching this mission very carefully and wish SpaceX the best of luck.

Written by Josh Barker, Presenter at the National Space Centre.

Dragon Rising!

This weekend it won’t just mark the rising on the SpaceX Dragon. Finally and with a small amount of trepidation the launch of my blog has occurred! It has been long awaited threatened and I have finally taken the plunge. I have gone on about having a blog for about 4 years now and well part lazy-less and part complacency has meant that I have never achieved it. Well as you can see, yep with your eyes, it has finally happened! Spurred on by others and feeling a small amount of “well I said it first!” I have finally taken the plunge. So enjoy.

I guess this being my first post makes it a good chance to give you an idea of what you can expect. Well a good place to get an idea about who I am and what I may write about can be found here: That way I don’t have to write it out again. To summarise, I am a geek. So you can expect geeky things, from games to films, space to technology and many other things in between.

I also plan on using this site to present a few other online presences I have. So you will be able to find links and content that comes from them as the site develops and as that content gets produced. This will include things such as my MSN UK ‘Exploring Space’ Blog posts I write, my gaming stream and videos as well as some other things as well.

So in conclusion, the site is very much in its infancy so expect things to change, stuff to be added and generally progression will happen. With this in mind, feedback is a wonderful tool and I would love loads. So please feel free to get in touch, via comments, tweet at me or email me. This can be about things I could improve, features I could add, something you particularly liked, your opinion on a subject I have discussed or even just to have a chat. It would be great to hear from you and I hope you enjoy hearing what I have to say.