Tag Archive for Games

Shiny New Things!

Thanks to a lovely person called James i now have a great new Logo/splash screen that you will see attached to all my game related stuff. Here it is making it’s internet debut! Let me know what you think of it.Logo-1080

It was always gonna be like this…

Hey guys,

In true Josh Barker fashion, this blog has fallen by the way side. It has severely suffered from a lack of updates.

Well no more!

I am going to try in earnest to be a lot more productive with not only this website but with my life in general! So if you see me, make sure i am doing something!

To kick off this new productivity i have here a little game review, the next in my 60s Series. I talk very quickly about Rogue Legacy. There will also be a new “60 Minutes of Starcraft” video going onto YouTube very shortly. SO check back for that.

If you want to know more about any of this, leave a comment and i’ll get back to you.

Enjoy the review.

What a Fiasco!


Well, I have decided it is time for my first written game review. I have done video 60 second reviews (here) but this tie I wanted to dedicate a little more time to it. So here goes.

In this entry I am going to review the pen and paper role playing game, ‘Fiasco’ by Jason Morningstar.

Splash and tagline for Fiasco

The tag line pretty well captures the spirit of the game.

To start off with I will define a few things for players new this area of gaming, bear with me if you know all this. A pen and paper role playing game is a game you play with friends/other people and is based around you doing a bit of acting. You design a character and then you play that role throughout the game, deciding what they would do, what equipment they might use, how they might interact with others. As you might be able to work out, role playing games (RPG’s) are pretty flexible and open. A pen and paper RPG is not played on a computer buy instead, most likely round a table with friends using pens and papers to record the action, track equipment etc. The most popular example of this is Dungeons & Dragons. Most role play games have one person running the game, a Game master or Dungeon master or something like that. They look after the world, design stories and plots for your characters to follow and conjure up enemies and problems to beat.

Personally I really like RPG’s, I find they are incredibly social, it’s a great opportunity to meet up with a group of mates and hang out for several hours. Also they have a heap more freedom then any videogame I’ve ever played, giving you a chance to get creative. So that covers the basics of RPG’s, now onto Fiasco.

Fiasco is a little different to most RPG’s in a couple of ways. First of all Fiasco doesn’t have a game master, it doesn’t have someone building the world for you and ensuring you play within the rules of the game, in fact there are very few rules indeed. Most RPG’s have a strict set of rules and mechanics to work out what happens. “So you want to break down the door? Well take your strength score, roll a dice add those together with any modifiers you have. Does your total beat the door? Yes, congrats!” This is generally how most RPG’s go, revolving round stats and dice. Fiasco is all about acting out the character. The best way to describe it is, acting out a film and that is how it is designed, with a session expected to last around 2-3 hours. “But hey! With out a Games master how do we know what to do?” I hear you cry, well have no fear. In Fiasco you work together to work out a story and through your roleplaying you make this happen. Fiasco does have a small amount of guidance though; this is part of the setup.

Fiasco Setup

During the setup for Fiasco, you work out a rough framework for your session. First thing to do is pick a setting, so Gangster London, Bible belt America, a Submarine, a Theatre, the list of free play lists is quite extensive. After that you roll a load of dice, this is to generate some random numbers. These numbers are used to start determining how the player’s characters are related, important locations, objects that might feature and characters wants and needs. These features are then used to give you some context and a framework to start on and develop through the story.


Act 1

After the setup you will have a rough idea of certain elements that will feature in the story as well as the relationships between all you characters. In the two games I have played we took a small amount of time here, to work out exactly how the story would start and some vague links between the elements. Now we are ready to start act 1.

The way fiasco plays is you take it in turns to direct a scene from the story. These scenes usually involved characters interacting and doing something, but can include monologues, just descriptions of actions or anything else that is necessary or relevant. So you describe what’s going to happen, then you and all involved parties begin acting it out. Part way through the scene your friends will decide if it’s going to end well or badly for your character, and assign you a dice (these become important later on). You go round, so that each player gets two scenes then Act 1 ends. Act 1 tends to be used to set up the action for Act 2, so coming up with plans and schemes that will almost certainly go wrong!

Poster for Fargo

Fargo is one of the films that inspired Fiasco.


The Tilt

Plans have been made, traps have been set, and relationships have been forged. All is going well until… THE TILT!

Halfway through Fiasco everything goes wrong! Just like any good film something that happens that is just not expected and chaos ensues. This is what the Tilt table is for. After act 1 you roll for 2 elements on this table, they represent some type of disaster. So someone might die, something might get set alight, an object may go missing, betrayal anything and everything could happen.  This is where it gets interesting.


Act 2

So act 2 starts up playing out very similarly to act 1. Everyone gets to participate in or direct 2 scenes each that start to resolve conflicts, action plans and generally start to conclude the story. All this has to make progress towards or resolve what happened in the tilt. Although the tilt is rolled before act 2 starts that is not necessarily when happened. This makes for interesting scenes as you work towards that goal, or try and deal with the fall out. While act 1 has the players establish a lot, act2 definitely sees lots of resolution. It all changes slightly in act 2 as the player gets to decide the outcome of their characters scene. So you may opt to negate the outcomes you received in the first act or concentrate on maxing out positive or negative for an exciting ending. Action will ramp up, characters motives and schemes will unravel as things go wrong, but what will happen in the aftermath!



The aftermath is when you find out what happened. You take the outcomes you have been assigned (dice) and you roll them on the aftermath table to see well or badly your character overall. So you roll positive against negative, work out the difference and that gives you an outcome, ranging from “The worst thing in the world” to “Fan-F***ing-tastic!!!” You then take a few short sentences to deliver the films closing montage of your character. These can often be tragic spirals of depression of glorious rises to fame, or just mediocre existence, but are inevitably a good giggle.



And with that…you have your Fiasco! Around 3 hours from top to tail, of story and role play driven fun.

I was originally introduced to Fiasco via Will Wheaton’s “Tabletop” Youtube series and was instantly intrigued. I promptly picked up a copy and do not regret it at all.

'Tabletop' logo

Fantastic webseries by Will Wheaton, him and various people play games.

So far I have played in two Fiascos, and they were both wildly different. The first was set in a Titanic-esque setting aboard a transatlantic cruise ship the and in the other we were part of a small time theatre group. The cruise was full of lies, gangsters, betrayal and death, whereas the theatre was a den of debauchery, filth, one-upmanship and snakes! Both were incredible fun reducing all those involved into fits of giggles, toe curling awkwardness and heartbroken tragedy as the exploits of our characters unfolded.


Final Thoughts

I must say so far I have been thoroughly impressed. Fiasco requires zero preparation time and the equipment list is 4 dice per player, some paper, a pen or 2 and access to a playset (I printed these but you could read them from a screen, you only need them for setup). I got hold of Fiasco to help me develop my story telling ability, I have always found ‘setting the scene’ difficult when I have played in previous RPG’s and this has really given me a chance to practice and hone this skill (purely because that’s pretty much the entire  game). It does away with complex rules, there are no mechanics to look up or remember. I even feel you could probably do away with the dice altogether if you really wanted, although I like the semi randomness, the dice force a narrowing of the options available, so you have to work with what you get.

I would very strongly recommend this anyone who enjoys role playing, especially if you prefer the role play bits to the dice rolling bits. This is purely written as a one shot system which means each session and story is separate, that being said, I guess you could do a couple of sequels if you so desired.

So, it’s a brilliant game, super simple to pick up and endless replay ability due to randomness of dice and a multitude of free playsets. Pick a copy of this up, you will not regret it. Keep it in your bag and that one day a player doesn’t turn up, throw it on the table, and roll up a one shot.

Buy it here!


Tabletop Fiasco Videos:

-Setup: here

-Act 1: here

-Act 2: here

List of all the current Fiasco playlists: here

Paradigm Shift

As many of you are probably aware, I love playing games. I think that is one of my main characteristics. I have always enjoyed games and always seek out new ones and a chance to play them. I don’t particularly have a favourite type, i will play anything from video games to board games and of any genre, racing, strategy, first person shooters and more. Yes obviously I have favourites…but in general I’ll play most things.

I have played games much the same way since I was younger but just recently there has been a change in my game playing habits. I’m going to have a look at that and why that has happened.

Way back at the beginning  I had a NES and a SNES and I loved them and it was great. I will never forget leaving my SNES on for over 24 hours just so I could complete Super Star Wars as it had no save system. Back in those days I had a real passion for platformers and puzzle solvers, playing Lemmings, Earthworm Jim, Star Wars, Puzzle Bobble and the like. I also dabbled with RPG’s which is started to develop a taste for. As time went on new systems were introduced, we got a family PC and my sister received a PlayStation One for Christmas (I was so shocked and disappointed that it was hers, not ours or mine. She didn’t even really play games). With the new technology came new games, I moved on. I discovered the wonderful world of strategy games on the PC, not before a stop off at the Magic School Bus ;-), platformers and RPG’s stayed constant with me eventually acquiring Final Fantasy VII for the PS (this remains one of my favourite all time games.). This was the time that I shifted well and truly into games.

Image from Final Fantasy VII

My favourite RPG of all time. Got me well and truly into the Genre

I enjoyed games, I liked the story telling, the mechanics. I revelled in solving problems, figuring out quests and beating my opponents. This stuck with me as I grew up, I never moved on. I played games with friends or I played games on my own, I didn’t care as long as I was playing. The next major stage was the acquisition of my PlayStation 2, on release day. Although I didn’t really use it till about a year after, the launch titles didn’t excite me. I don’t want to think about the countless hours I have ploughed into the box of electronics. It was an exciting time for games with a lot of them coming out and I played as many as possible, I still played my usual sample but also branched out into the racing and sports genre, as they had good multiplayer potential and a lot of my friends played them.

All the time I played games on the family computer, highlights include Age of Empires, Medieval: Total War, Machines, SimCity and Total Annihilation. I found myself using the PC purely for strategy and simulation games (that’s a lie i played Turok as well). I even managed to rope my family at times. I was furious that my dad worked out the secret to a successful SimCity 2000 city before i did!

This structure stayed the same until recently, Strategy and Sims on the PC/Laptop and all others on the Console PS2/PS3. I always preferred the controller for things like FPS games and the like (I know shoot me, but that was my opinion.)

This all changed in September of 2011, I graduated from University and decided to reward myself with the purchase of a proper Gaming PC, I had never had one of those, making do with a cheap laptop throughout Uni (I always attempted to optimise my game playing potential when picking a computer though). My new PC was fantastic! I could play anything, all the PC games my laptop couldn’t run now became available, services like Steam made it easy to get hold of them and I played furiously! I would even go so far to say that i had too much, every waking moment I was playing stuff and to this day my console has fallen by the way side. Although this may be some sub concious value for money thing.

This was spectacular for the first few months. Games like Skyrim, Civilisation V, Shogun 2: Total War absorbed as much time as i could spare, and then something changed.

I tried League of Legends…

League of Legends

A group of my friends had discovered it, this game is a DOTA clone, it’s a copy of an old mod for Warcraft 3. Essentially you and your team select a hero each and you do battle in an arena with another team, first team to kill the other teams base wins. No story progression, not complex puzzles to solve, no grand strategy (people with argue with me on this) just you 4 other people manipulating your champions and their abilities to best the other team. Of course there is strategy, what stat augmenting items do you buy, when do you engage, which heroes make a balanced team but you aren’t trying to design a transport network or plan a countries military strategy.

Usually this game would not interest me, perhaps hold my attention for a week or so but in the last 8 months or so i have logged more than 685 hours of gameplay, that’s 20 hours a week! So what has lured me into spending to much time playing this game.

Well having I think about it and looking at my normal game playing habits, it’s the social aspect. Whenever I am playing League of Legends I am on Skype to at least one other friend, usually 2 or 3. This is the really appealing aspect. We can chat about work, things in the news, recent games tournaments results all while playing my game. It’s like going out for a drink, well without the face to face bit or the alcohol but you get the idea. No longer is it just me and the computer. Gamers have an unfair stereotype that they are all unsocial, live in basements and just eat pizza, but that’s completely untrue in this day and age. I spend several hours each night on Skype to at least 2 or 3 friends…if I don’t it’s usually because I’ve gone out to see other friends. I think that is far from unsocial, and this has what has hooked me, I like talking to people and I like games and I can combine this. I think this is why I have recently got back into board games.

This is obviously not just applicable to League of Legends, I do the same thing when I play Team Fortress 2, Starcraft 2, DOTA 2 and so on. It’s not a new thing either, communicating while gaming has been around for an age! BUT, it’s the first time I really have done it.

This has now affected my other game playing habits, i now find it really difficult to play single player games on my own. Just doesn’t feel right, I recently played Bastion (60s Review coming very soon) and I played through it all while having a conversation with a special lady via Skype. Not sure if I would have stuck with it  if I’d have been on my own.

This has been a big revelation to me, it’s why over the last few months i’ve tried several free to play MMO’s with my Friend Fred (go read his blog!) because we can sit and chat on Skype while playing games.

I still play single player games, don’t get me wrong but I have now moved to a stage where playing with other people makes a game more appealing. These is a possibility that now I’m older I am finding the single player experience less rewarding, so I am looking for something else to add to a game, it will be interesting as a couple of big games are coming out in the next year or so, and these don’t look to include much time for Skype based multiplayer, so I will be interested to see how much time I plough into them.


So there we go, i’m playing much more social games now. You should totally join me, we can chat and game and stuff. Just get in contact and we’ll play together. Also if you are interested in League of Legends (and you should be it’s a great game to play with friends) then let me know before hand, I can send you an account invite, we both get some goodies :) SO e-mail me or leave a comment and I’ll sort that. Let me know about your gaming habits, would be interesting to see if anyone else has had a similar experience, or even gone the other way.

Happy Gaming.

E3 2012 Checklist Update

Just a short entry. In the last post i didn’t update you on E3 bingo.

I did quite well i think, i predicted:

2 x Annoying presenters over the course of the live keynotes Achieved: Ubisoft…say no more.

4 x Botched demos Unsuccessful: I didn’t notice any.

5 x Jokes fall completely flat Achieved: I’m counting the whole Ubisoft set.

6 x Celebrities bought on to help publicise a game Final Count: 6

1 x Completely inappropriate reference Possibly: There was a woman wearing an inappropriate shirt, it had buttons in exactly the right place to be nipples. Also i’m sure the Ubisoft pair said something.

Hope that clears that up.

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.