Spoilers! Big, bouncing spoilers for Arkham Knight up ahead! If you haven’t played the game yet, or if you don’t want anything ruined for you, go read another article now. Seriously, we’re dealing with the big one here.

Alright, this time it’s another bit on how the most recent Batman game failed my expectations, and I realise that I’m sounding pretty down on a game that was actually really good. There were only two major problems with it: the quality of the PC release, and the identity of the Arkham Knight himself.

For those of you who haven’t been following the news, the Arkham Knight was a character invented for this game by Rocksteady themselves, a sort of evil reflection of Batman who wears an Iron Man-style suit with a vague militaristic theme, and has some sort of grudge against Bats himself. A key part of the main story is the big question, “Who is the Arkham Knight,” and sure enough we find out about this mystery figure in the final third of the game.

You want to know who it is? You sure? Last chance to back out.

Alright, it’s Jason Todd. And suddenly the history of Batman has to be repeated because most people won’t know who the hell that is.

Basically, there have been three people who have held the position of Robin. The first one was Dick Grayson, an acrobat who had his family murdered or something. He went on to become Nightwing, probably because people kept making fun of the Robin costume and Batman was being the joyless that prat he is.

Then we had Jason Todd, who gets killed by the Joker (except that he didn’t), and he was a bit violent and kind of a wanker. No great loss there, I think. There’s something kind of embarrassing about a snot-nosed brat acting like the Punisher and trying to be all gritty and dark. Oh, shut up, training bra. Go watch Scooby-Doo and we’ll let you play with the big boys if you’re very good.

And now we have Tim Drake, who pretty much got the job because he briefly met Grayson one time and managed to work out who Batman was. Sounds like a circuitous route, but I guess Starbucks wasn’t hiring.

Anyway, Todd is back. I mean, he’s around in the comics too, as the vigilante Red Hood, but this is set before that, and Todd is revealed to have been secretly left alive. He’s imprisoned in an unused wing of Arkham Asylum, tortured by the Joker and made to hate Batman, whom he thought had abandoned him. After burning letters into his face and generally having a good time hitting him with anything he could find, Joker then sets him lose, whereupon little Jason spends several years training his own army and getting billions of dollars. No, I don’t know where he got the cash, put your hand down.

Knight 2

Holy uncomfortable helmet, Batman!

Anyway, Jason returns in a mech suit, calls himself the Arkham Knight and sets up a big plan with his new buddy Scarecrow to torment Gotham for some contrived reason I couldn’t quite work out, all so that he can kill Batman.

Wait, can’t you just go and beat him up? Jason seems pretty reluctant to get involved with Scarecrow’s plan at all, and keeps breaking away from the schedule in order to go kill Bruce Wayne. There also doesn’t seem to be any reason to hide his identity, but he does anyway. Surely knowing that his old sidekick is trying to kill him would hurt Batman more? For a guy who’s spent years working out his revenge, he’s missed some rather obvious points. Or maybe he just read the script and knew how to pace the story.

I’ll be honest, I’m not impressed with this reveal, for a number of reasons. First of all, Todd had no presence in the games up until this point. He wasn’t mentioned until this instalment, having basically been considered ancient history until now. When he was brought up in an off-handed way it became immediately clear that he was the Knight, to the extent where I wondered if they were trying to bluff me. It seemed a little too obvious, you know what I mean? Surely Rocksteady can write a better set-up than this?

No, it turns out that they can’t, but there’s other stuff that’s iffy too.

The developers claimed that the Arkham Knight was a completely original character, for one thing. And whilst the design of the suit is certainly new, I think it was a little cheap to say he’s a fresh concept when the guy inside the costume has been around since 1983. I guess if you stretch the logic somewhat then it’s not quite a lie, but I still think it’s also not the truth. If I wear Groucho Marx glasses and a fez, it’s not quite right to say that I’m an entirely new citizen. Maybe they’re playing on the dual-identity of the character and we’re supposed to view him as a new man, but I don’t care much for these metaphorical shenanigans.

The problem was that among die-hard fans, Todd was a very early suspect and considered one of the most likely entities to be dwelling behind the helmet. And whilst I understand the writers trying to lure us away from the reality by stating that it’s a fresh concept, it ends up diminishing the reveal of the character.

See, we like to have all the clues to hand when we look at a mystery. We want a fair examination of the facts, so that we can grin at the eventual revelation and see how every fitted together. But giving false information… Well, that’s just cheating. Especially if it’s fake info given in an actual interview, and not in the game itself – that’s sacred ground, isn’t it? You can’t just trick the fans before we’ve even bought the game, we’re assuming that everything said to the press has been honest. I don’t think we should have to study your PR campaign to work out when you’ve been sniggering behind your hand or not.

The other thing that made it eye-rollingly obvious was that part of the pre-order DLC for Arkham Knight was the “Red Hood” pack. As mentioned before, Red Hood is the title that Jason takes when he returns from the dead, and this just made his presence even more likely. It would have been like Darth Vader wearing a “world’s best dad” barbeque apron in The Empire Strikes Back.

The end result of all this was a vague sense of disappointment and frustration from the fans who’d been engaged in the mystery. To those who didn’t know the comic lore, it seemed like Todd had been thrown in at the last minute to fill the gap. To those who were aware of the history, it confirmed one of the first suspicions they’d had and came across as too easy.

I wasn’t impressed either, not least because I could think of several characters who could’ve worked as the Arkham Knight without disappointment. My personal preference was Barbara Gordon, aka The Oracle, aka Batgirl, who I think would’ve been almost perfect, if they’d just tweaked a few details.

Think about it. The Arkham Knight is only assumed to be male because of that voice distortion gizmo he’s got in his helmet. Imagine the reveal, hearing that electronic growl slowly revert to the calm, younger voice of the Oracle, and seeing Batman’s face turn to shock as he realises he’s been betrayed. She also has the motivation, losing the use of her legs because Batman let the Joker live one too many times, a disability that the Arkham Knight suit could have been built to cancel out. Another possible twist that would have made sense.

Actual Knight

You might have everybody else fooled, but I’ve got my eye on you…

Like the Knight, she’s a technical genius with an intimate knowledge of Bruce Wayne and access to money and resources – Bruce’s money and resources, more specifically. It would’ve been a chilling moment for him to return to the Clock Tower and discover pieces of his old suits had been combined and altered to make this new one. On top of which, remember that all the information he obtains about this new foe comes from her. It would be fun to watch him get lured around by this cuckoo in the nest, feeding him a false trail of breadcrumbs.

There’s other good reasons why it should have been Barbara. She’s had a strong presence in all the games, so the impact would have been at its highest, unlike Todd who meant little to the series. Her death is faked halfway through the story, so she would’ve had free reign to orchestrate her plans as the Knight from that point on, and she’s had a lifetime of practicing acrobatics and combat as Batgirl. It was almost a perfect match.

I do think this would’ve been the better option. Admittedly, it still wouldn’t fit with the “entirely new character” smokescreen that Rocksteady threw up, but I think we’ve just got to put that one to the side for now. Exactly what original characters could’ve been in there, Quincy Sharp? That pudgy old man wouldn’t have been very impressive to watch, not to the mention the fact that I wouldn’t have cared at all if it had been. No, it had to be an established character so that they could have some emotional weight. It’s just a shame that the writers couldn’t admit it to our face.

Despite all of this, Batman: Arkham Knight is still a great game and worth your time. Just not on the PC. By the way, how’s that coming?

Arkham Knight Delay

… Fine. I can wait.


I realised recently that there’s something missing from Elite: Dangerous, something I’m glad to see didn’t make the final cut. You see, E:D always sold itself as an MMO, but something so iconic to MMOs has been left out: the levelling system.

Most of them have one, of course. You know the sort of thing I’m referring to. Bing! You’re now level twenty-eight! All your stats have marginally increased and you have some points to drop into a skill tree! You are now better at the game because we say you are! Although you might have become this legendary hero simply because you’ve been wandering around the starting area, killing millions of frogs with a spoon for all we know, because experience is experience and you might simply be a dedicated amphibian-smasher.

I find myself wondering about the point in levelling systems as I play more games, especially when it doesn’t seem to contribute much. Shadow Of Mordor does it best in my mind – rather than affect your stats in any proper way, and go through the risky business of making you overpowered, instead you just spend points on a grab-bag of tricks that are all helpful, but never fundamentally change anything on their own. That’s something I like, it makes the game more dependant on skill than statistics. You’re not just the best because you have the best numbers, you have to put some effort in, boyo.

But in many MMOs it’s simply not about skill, only about your stats. Any game in which a completely new player with eight thumbs and their eyes pointing backwards can still smash buttons and win against an veteran player with a lower level character, that’s a game that seems to have missed the point.

ED Anaconda

It looks impressive, but it’s being piloted by Hans Moleman, Mr Bean, and the police force from the Blues Brothers. It’s only a matter of time.

It’s why I like the Elite: Dangerous system – yes, you have a far lower chance of winning against a massive space cruiser, but you can still do it. Fly smart, use tactics, keep out of range and try to get the best angles, it’s not as hard to beat those star destroyers as you think. Better weapons don’t count for much if you can’t aim them, and a fast ship won’t help if you keep flying it into asteroids.

Borderlands 2 had a level system that implemented increased stats too, and it was just as pointless then. All it meant was that going back to old areas became insultingly easy and turned into an absolute chore. A level four rakk? Please, I’m level thirty-two and running DPS out the wazoo, you might as well surrender now and beg for mercy.

Some people like going back to old areas just to stamp all over the local enemies that troubled them the first time, but I’ve never seen the point. It just seems boring and repetitive, though I know this is standard formula for many MMOs. Why not just ditch stat tweaking as you level up, and have all the enemies at set difficulties to keep a consistent challenge going? Ironically Borderlands 2 seemed to realise this after a while, and added a mode where enemies scale to match your level. Yes, it’s an improvement, but you’ve still missed the point, Gearbox. Just ditch this number stuff, and you wouldn’t have to struggle with all the level balancing.

That said, I do know why games include levelling in this way, especially online games with subscription fees like World Of Warcraft. It’s because levelling is seen as progress, albeit progress of a boring, uninspired kind. You’ve put in the legwork, do you really want to give it up now after all you’ve, ahem, “achieved?”

I get that it has a curiously addictive feel to it. You’ve levelled up! Look at this little fanfare and the way your character lights up like a beacon! Yes! You’ve done it! You’re the best player ever! Anyway, get back to mindless grinding for two months more and maybe it’ll happen again. No, don’t think about how bloody tedious the actual game is, just focus on the experience bar and work on filling it up for the fiftieth time.

It seems to me like this is similar to holding a beer mug underneath a slowly dripping tap. It takes days and days to fill up, watching the dull process of how it gradually trickles out in tiny droplets, but when it does – a drink! A lovely, crisp, cold beer. Right, now that it’s over, we’re giving you a slightly bigger mug and a tap that drips slightly slower. Here we go again.

Not to mention the fact that with subscription fees, you’re paying money to endure this horrible process. Why on earth would you do this? I wouldn’t sign up for Chinese water torture if I got a chocolate bar every other week.


And yet, this empty courtyard is perhaps one of the most interesting things World Of Warcraft has to offer. Don’t believe me? Well, tell them that. This is one of the screenshots they’re advertising the game with.

The other reason that subscription games include levelling is that it’s an aspirational thing. Your friend is the highest level and you want to match his accomplishments, but if there wasn’t a difference to that mechanically, it wouldn’t be worth much. But if being level eighty-thousand means you can fell an Uber-Dragon with a single blow, then people will put in the effort, forgetting that it’s functionally the same attack but with a different particle effect and a higher number stamped on.

But all these reasons don’t mean much when it comes to your enjoyment. They’re not there to make you have fun, they’re put in to encourage you to keep playing. They want you to get addicted, and the false idea of progress is as tantalising a drug as any other.

Occasionally I might concede that levelling is necessary. In Pokemon, for example, you’d have to do some major restructuring to the mechanics to make levelling obsolete, otherwise it would be silly if you could take on the Elite Four from the very beginning. But then again, the fact that levelling is at its core doesn’t mean it’s good. One of the constant problems with Pokemon was that you could just grind to five levels higher than you needed to be and stamp all over any gym leaders that happened to be in your way, regardless of whether they had type advantage or were supposed to be a challenge.

So I’m not sold on levelling as a system. Maybe I’ll be persuaded otherwise, but I’m not so sure. It’s going to take some work to urge me that basing a game around a spreadsheet and a lot of patience is the best thing for the player.


You know, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently. A lot of consideration about the industry we’re looking at. After my plea for a greater consumer awareness at the end of the Arkham Knight article, I was looking back over it and thinking about the statement I made – that the big publishers don’t respect us.

It’s not universally true, of course. Valve has a fairly good history of treating players with dignity. Nintendo make some mistakes in my mind, but I suspect that it’s usually down to stupidity rather than nastiness. There can be good publishers, I wouldn’t say otherwise. If it wasn’t possible for a publisher to be good, I wouldn’t spend so much time lamenting the fact that so few of them are.

But these paragons are a minority. For every Valve, there’s a dozen Activisions. For every Nintendo, there’s a dozen Ubisofts. And let’s not forget the real wicked witch, the black hole of gaming: Electronic Arts. That’s EA to you and me, or more possibly just AAAGH!

God, where to start? After looking at a truly bleak history, you can see how they got the “Worst Company In America” award for two years in a row. It would be strange to see them not get such an award after the tricks they’ve gotten up to.

How about we start with their utterly awful creation, Origins? A service that will sell you downloadable EA games at the prices of physical copies, for no reason other than a blatant attempt to scrape money out of your wallet? How about the fact that they gouge more and more content out of each instalment of major franchises like The Sims, so that it can be sold additionally to you as DLC? What about the fact that they refuse to innovate and reduce all their products into bland, formulaic sludge to give everything a mass-market appeal, ironically pleasing nobody?

It’s not just their disrespect for the players that shines, they make it miserable to be part of the company too. Have you heard about when EA had to be slapped on the wrist when it was making workers put in over a hundred hours a week, even when there wasn’t a need for it? Or about their habit of buying and then destroying smaller games companies, when they demand the developers take responsibility for the failures that EA put them up to? Ask yourselves, where is Bullfrog Entertainment? Or Pandemic Studios? Or Westwood Studios, Black Box Games, Origin, PlayFish or Mythic? All dead, all gutted by the hungry entity that is EA, and that’s not even the full list.


If you want to get this much done in Dungeon Keeper Mobile and you’re not willing to pay, it could take a while. You might have to give your phone to your descendants, because you’re not getting this done within your lifetime.

My favourite example of all this evil was the Dungeon Keeper Mobile incident. You see, Dungeon Keeper was a respected old game from the nineties, in which you had to build and manage your own D&D-style labyrinth. And EA, seeing the potential for using nostalgia to their advantage, made a mobile game with the same premise, using a free-to-play model based completely around micropayments.

It was awful. The game was essentially unusable without these constant fees to speed up the process. Just digging out a four-by-four empty room could take the best part of a day, if you weren’t willing to cough up the green to accelerate it.

EA’s reaction was so wonderfully faceless and corporate-like, it made me laugh. When called out on this by angry fans of the original game, and by those who felt insulted by such an obvious attempt to scalp them, Frank Gibeau, the guy who ran EA Mobile, had this to say.

“I don’t think we did a particularly good job marketing it or talking to fans about their expectations for what Dungeon Keeper was going to be or ultimately should be. Brands ultimately have a certain amount of permission that you can make changes to, and I think we might have innovated too much or tried some different things that people just weren’t ready for.”

Yes, I think you did innovate too much Franky, in the same way that throwing an assault rifle into a kindergarten might be considered an innovation to the idea of kiddy’s playtime.

I mean, you see what he’s done there, right? Rather than admit that the game was a nasty attempt to take cash from you, he’s told us that it’s our fault for not keeping up with the times. Ha! Right back at you, EA. People who work their staff like slaves and can’t catch up with the quality of modern gaming shouldn’t tell us that we need to catch up with them.

EA is probably the worst offender, but it’s not the only one. Everything they’ve done has, at some point, been done by other games publishers too. It’s just a nice example of one of the more horrible corporations out there, and what they’re willing to do to you to make money. Think about it. It’s not aimed just at other people, they’d take your cash too if they could. I have a friend who flatly refuses to buy any product from EA, because he can’t bring himself to give money to such an awful cause. I can’t say I blame him.

But this leads back to that first troubling thought. Why? Why are they all so willing to rob us in this manner, to give us so little respect? This doesn’t happen at the same level when it comes to other entertainment, like music or books. Even the film industry looks almost saintly when you compare the two.

Maybe it’s the fact that the games industry is so comparatively young and has exploded so suddenly in the last few decades, to the point where it’s all exciting, untrodden ground. Maybe they have to push these boundaries until they find what the limits are, and that’s when they’ll get pushed back.

Or maybe it’s the fact that an industry based around play is always going to view its audience as childish and immature, easy prey for the good con-artist. We know that many high-ranking executives don’t know anything about games themselves, they make the jump from other industries, mainly packaged and physical goods, and find themselves in positions of power in an artistic movement they have no interest or respect for.

The good, the bad and ugly

Grand Theft Auto V, or as it’s known in the games industry: Ker-ching!

Or maybe it’s just the money. Gaming is now the biggest entertainment industry in the world, GTA V and its absurd success showed how much there is to be made here. Perhaps they just can’t resist, can’t drop the thought of making a little more cash and profit at the expense of this culture. After all, those indie developers can deal with the artistic side of gaming. We’ll just sit here and make box-ticking blockbusters, we’ll be the Michael Bay of gaming. Isn’t that a horrible thought?

It almost doesn’t matter what the cause is, because we know the cure. A combination of tenacity, self-discipline, and self-righteous anger. The first two suck, I know, but the third one is pretty fun. And we’re going to need all three, because we have to start telling these companies when they’ve gone too far. We have to refuse to buy products that treat us like idiots, rather than just putting up with it. If enough people dig their heels in and refuse to budge, it WILL work. If EA, Activision and Ubisoft start losing money, they’ll listen to what we have to say. They won’t have a choice.

It won’t even be that hard. If two major releases from a publisher flop badly enough, I think they’ll sit up and take notice. They’ll put an ear to the public, and the public message will be this: stop treating us like arseholes.

It’s not much to ask of them. I think it’s about time we took our dignity back.


You’ve probably seen that old Simpsons episode, the one where Homer ends up trying to jump an enormous chasm on a skateboard and it all goes horribly wrong. Falling short by several metres, his fall is thankfully broken by a jutting piece of jagged rock. And another. And another. By the time he’s halfway down he’s hit more stones than a miner with good work ethic, and they just keep coming. When he finally reaches the bottom he’s a bruised and bloodied mess, beaten into submission and needing to be taken off by an ambulance

I was reminded of that episode by the horror surrounding Arkham Knight on the PC this week. Every time it looked like that game had ballsed up as much as it was going to, it was suddenly struck by another rock and it all starts over again.

Let me be clear here – I’m referring to both the game as it ran on my computer, and to the general management strategy of Rocksteady Studios and Warner Brothers. They’ve all committed the kind of errors that need a bloody ocean of Tippex to even think about cancelling out.

I should probably explain to those who aren’t in the know. Batman: Arkham Knight, the highly anticipated conclusion to the critically beloved Arkham Series, came out three days ago. It was, by all accounts, a very good game, at least according to those who played it on the PS4 and the Xbox One. Not that those who bought it for their computer would know, because on that platform it’s unplayable.

That’s not an exaggeration. For most who downloaded it off Steam, the framerate was so poor and the game so riddled with glitches that it’s essentially unusable. I bought it myself, determined to see what the fuss was about, and it’s pretty bad. I have a high-end gaming laptop, and even on the lowest settings it still found a way to chug, still managed to fuck up everything it tried to do. I even downloaded a specialised driver that the game recommended, and it didn’t do anything to help. Eventually I got it to the level where I could basically play it (though it still resembled a slideshow at times and never actually looked good) and decided to power through, cataloguing every error and fault I could see.


The Batmobile – terror of villains, monsters, and PC framerates alike.

By the end of this process I had cramp in my writing hand. It’s a horrible mess. Aside from the constant framerate issues, there were the usual suspects to back it up. The game crashed a couple of times when I went to a new area, the  positioning of enemies often warped when I wanted to do takedowns, and anything involving the Batmobile, gliding, or combat – the three main mechanics of the game – made it freak out and cause the framerate to fall even lower. Not to mention a couple of other problems that were so absurd that they were almost funny.

For example, dialogue is spoken at a consistent rate, but the game is unable to handle something as complicated as one character moving their lips, and starts to slow down the visuals so it doesn’t explode. This usually means that after a character has finished their sentence, they still flap their mouths at the person they’re talking to for a few moments, making wildly emotive gestures in awkward silence, until the other person decides to interrupt just to put them out of their misery, only to do it themselves. This wasn’t a rare thing, mind you, it happened for all the dialogue that wasn’t in CGI cutscenes, and there’s a lot of that.

Another one that made me laugh was when Commissioner Gordon walked purposefully across the room in a highly dramatic scene, only for his gunbelt to bob behind him in perfect unison like it was auditioning for the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. It took the tension out of the moment, but I think it was worth it. It’s about the only thing that was.

It’s sad, because the game itself seems to be really good. The brief moments of functionality I managed to grab were genuinely enjoyable, and there’s a horror-based sequence near the end that was one of the most chilling moments I’ve witnessed in a video game in years, not to mention a phenomenal moment where you have to navigate around a major villain without being spotted as he… Well, I won’t spoil it for you. I’m incredibly happy to say that the game worked on those moments, but it’s not enough to be worth buying it. Not that you can buy it anymore.

You see, at time of writing there’s been quite a bit of scandal around the whole thing. Quite rightly so – if a major product is sold in an unusable state, people should get pissed off. It should be a scandal. Immediately the game was hammered to death on Steam, where reviews currently put it at thirty-two percent positivity.

Thirty-two percent! Aliens: Colonial Marines is on fifty-four, and that game’s a load of dishonest wank. Things were not looking good. And then the companies really went and put their foot in it.


Guess she played the PC port of the game too, judging by that reaction.

Weirdly, they’d actually done it twelve hours before the game was even out, but somebody noticed and made a note of it. And then they got the word out, and EVERYBODY noticed. Half a day before the game was playable, they very sneakily altered the required specifications for the game without saying anything about why. They also mentioned something that people might want to have known before:

“There are some known issues with the performance of Batman: Arkham Knight for PC owners using AMD graphics cards. We are working closely with AMD to rectify these issues as quickly as possible and will provide updates here as they become available. We thank you for your patience in this matter.”

“Issues” is the right word. Whilst it was buggy for most, the game was unplayable for those who were unlucky enough to have older AMD graphics cards. I’m sure they might have wanted to know that, but by that point they were already downloading the thing.

It became even worse with an update later on, this time all about the various computer specifications you’d need to run it in “greater” detail. The final straw was when they told us the recommended specs, the ones that would cause the game to dry heave with the strain and which weren’t even that good, and then they said the unforgivable.

“The Recommended Spec is intended to deliver an experience on par with the current generation of gaming platforms.”

Now I don’t know about you, but if I fork out over twice the price of a console on a gaming computer, or potentially even more than that, I don’t want to be told that I’m lucky if I can reach the level of a PS4. No way, no how. You don’t get away with it that easily. Let’s forget for the moment that the game has been proven to be less visually detailed on the PC than on the console versions (though I know I won’t), but it’s still inexcusable.

Finally, thankfully, Warner Brothers realised what they had to do this morning.

Arkham Knight Delay

Took your time there, lads. Guess even the evil deities that run triple-A games publishers can understand that it might, just might be bad publicity to be selling a game that doesn’t work.

So who gets the blame for this farce? Well, I doubt it’s Rocksteady’s fault. They’ve gotten a lot of flack, but judging by my knowledge of the games industry, I’d be surprised if they really had a hand in this. It’s more likely that they made a console version as they normally do, and Warner Brothers provided a company afterwards to make a PC port.

Except in this case it was Iron Galaxy Studios who had to do the PC work, or rather, just twelve people from Iron Galaxy. With only eight weeks to do it. Well, hardly surprising then, is it? Especially when we recall that Iron Galaxy aren’t seasoned PC coders, also focused more on console work, and that they helped ruin the launch of Arkham Origins too.

Oh god, it’s all so obvious now that we know the facts. If I had understood exactly how little care was going into this project, I’d have hidden beneath the bed and kept my PC away from me with a spear and a copy of EA Origins.

Honestly, I suspect that Warner Brothers are the ones to blame. They would have known what this game was like before it was released, they’d have been in charge of finding a group to do the PC work, and they’d also have made the decision not to push back the PC launch until it was ready, something they’ve now been forced to do. I can only suspect that they’re pressuring the developers into taking some of the blame for this, as the big publishers always tend to, so now the prestigious Rocksteady is getting wounded by their efforts too.

Contrary to what you might think, I’m not even angry about all this. Just kind of sad and bitterly unsurprised. You see, I worked something out as I was writing this – that the video game industry is one of the most toxic industries that has even walked the earth. One of the most nasty, the most deceitful, the most uncaring and calculating systems we’ve ever seen.

It used to be better, back in the early days of the PS2. We all knew how it worked then – symbiosis. If a publisher and developer produce a good game, then we will buy it and fund their lifestyle as well as the production for other games. We all kept each other happy and satisfied.

It’s not like that anymore. It’s a sustained conflict, in which they are trying to gouge every penny out of you as fast as they can, before you catch onto the next trick they’re planning. We have to keep watching, keep being wary, because they will do anything they can to us and developers, if it will raise those profit margins. It’s stopped being symbiosis and has become parasitic.

This is the price that is going to have to be paid. In any war, there are casualties. Last year it was Assassin’s Creed and Unity, this year it’s Batman and Arkham Knight, two big sagas that have been inherently damaged by publisher’s attempts to con us. It’s always sad when a beloved franchise takes a bullet, but there’s no way around it, not now. We let them get away with too much, and now they want to see how far they can push it.

Choke a bitch

This would be a good technique to deal with major publishers. Sadly the law stands in our way.

So I’m not angry about that, because this is just the way it is if you want to play games. But I am angry because of something I saw. When I was looking through news sites online, observing people’s reactions to the story, one comment said that we shouldn’t be so hard on Warner Brothers. Everybody makes mistakes now and then.

Fuck you. How dare you make excuses for that kind of behaviour? How dare you try to stop people being angry at such an offensive attempt to rob them? Do you really think that this was a mistake? Do you really think that they didn’t know how horrible this thing was? Do you really think that they were unaware of the product that they were selling?

Bullshit. They knew, of course they knew. They proved it with the update before it was released, it was all damage control. They were hoping we’d suck it up, that we’d sigh and say “well, it’s just one of those things.” They’ve only taken it off Steam because we forced their hand, because we locked all the other doors and told them that this was their only way out. Don’t make excuses for them, don’t tell us to go easy, because these companies don’t respect you.

They really don’t. They made a calculated decision before release, they weighed potential profit in one hand, and your dignity as a consumer and as somebody who might care about the product in the other. And you know what? You were found wanting. You weren’t good enough, your happiness came second to a thirty-five quid profit.

How is it, to know precisely how much they think of you? Thirty-five pounds or less, that’s what you amount to in their eyes. That’s what they think of you. And we all know this, but it’s inexcusable to forgive them for it, to tell us to stop being so mean to the poor little mega-global corporation. I’m not surrendering, and neither should anybody else.

This is the dilemma – I love video games, but I hate the video game industry. It’s partly why I do this site, because I feel that people need to understand how ugly these companies can get if they think they can take your money, how games we care about will suffer if they are permitted to do as they will. Because games often suffer, Arkham Knight suffered just this week. It won’t ever get that stench off it now, it’s too late. I didn’t want it to happen, but it did.

But we need to understand that it’s only when this happens that we can provably point at something and say those six magic words. “Don’t you dare do this again.” If we make apologies for them, it will happen again, because they’ll think that they can do this sort of thing to us, and to this great art form.

Don’t let them get away with, my friends. Love and forgiveness are greatly overrated.


This is a warning to all villains satanic,
to terrorists and Chinese and those who are Hispanic.
And you’re doomed to violence verging on the volcanic,
If you’re from nineteen-forties and even partly Germanic.
Because I’m armed with weapons and vehicles titanic,
And people keep saying that I’m messianic.
Basically, now is the right time to panic,
If you’re not American and fairly gigantic.

Context is something that I’m just not needing,
The premise is simple and hardly misleading,
Just make sure that all that you see ends up bleeding,
And when you’ve killed more than smallpox, just keep on proceeding.
Regardless of whether their force is receding,
Or if they’ve put down their guns and are desperately pleading,
They’re just dandelions, and we’re here for weeding.
Besides – they’re so poorly armed, they can’t stop us succeeding.

Joel Franey, 2015


Like so many good things in the gaming industry, Valve did it first and best. “Meet The Heavy,” the first animated trailer for Team Fortress 2, was released in May 2007, featuring the Eastern-European colossus getting overly excited about his minigun, like somebody on a train trying to explain YuGiOh cards to a stranger.

It was a funny little video and since then there have been about a dozen separate TF2 shorts to promote the game. But recently I’ve started to see others like it, most with that detailed animation style and emphasis on character humour. The funny thing is, they all keep coming from a certain type of game.

The free-to-play market is one of those things that started out with so much potential. Good games could be released to the public for no cost, and if they provided a good experience then players would be motivated to donate money for additional gameplay benefits, or even just to show their appreciation. Loadout is a good example of this – a fun game that doesn’t require any money, but unlocks more options if you do feel like putting some cash into it. Everybody wins.


Why don’t you at least be honest, Final Fantasy? Have the characters beat the bad guy to death with wads of cash or something.

Then it became this horrible, bastardised version of what it was. You weren’t downloading a game any more, you were downloading a platform onto which you could basically rent gameplay for a short amount of time. Then a barrier would be thrown up again, and the game would demand more money like a baby demanding regular feeding, only a great deal less lovable.

The Simpsons: Tapped Out, Dungeon Keeper Mobile and Final Fantasy All The Bravest are probably the most offensive examples, particularly the last one. In FFATB, you essentially just pay a micropayment, at which point the game will briefly play itself for a little while, until it gets tired and needs more cash.

Nothing could have been more insulting, it showed what Square Enix really thought of its fans. This kind of mentality is what leads to publishers thinking of customers as “whales.” You know what I mean, and you who think like that know who you are. “They’re just profit on legs, and any way we can cut the money out of them is to our advantage.” You know, it is possible to make some green and still retain your mortal soul. It’s easy – look at what EA does, and then do the opposite.

But anyway, for some reason I’ve kept seeing animated or even live-action trailers for free-to-play games online, and it’s weird. Clash Of Clans, Boom Beach, that Game Of War trailer with the distractingly buxom goddess – it’s baffling to me how these things help, because they’re inevitably unrepresentative of the game itself. If they showed tiny little sprites blipping around a cut-rate management game, that would be fine, that would make sense. That would actually be the game they’re selling you, but they’re not showing you that. They’re doing character jokes, and physical comedy, or having that chick with the enormous rack ride in slow motion in front of the camera, just to give you no credit whatsoever.

Cleavage Queen

Game Of War would like to remind you that breasts exist. Thank you for your time.

And I’ll admit, some of the trailers can be cute or funny. I laughed at a couple of the Boom Beach ones, but I didn’t laugh when playing the game. It was just boring. But I think I now know why they do this, they’re trying to make that TF2 lightning strike twice.

See, one of the things that raised TF2 above the level of the average shooter was the characters. They all had distinct visual personality with exaggerated features and physiques, and would often make funny, conversational quips during matches. The online trailers served to reinforce those personalities and flesh them out, until we were playing with genuinely likeable characters whom we could understand and appreciate properly. Whenever somebody asks me my favourite class to play as in TF2, I’ll usually say the soldier. But when I’m asked my favourite class in total, I usually say either the Spy or the Medic, both of whom make me laugh and are truly amusing archetypes.

BB Gameplau

I think if you show this gameplay to somebody for ten minutes straight, it has the same effect as a beer with a roofie in it.

But these free-to-play games don’t have that. All they have is boring gameplay with financial barriers added in, so what do they do? They try to inspire personalities in their little sprites, and hope we get attached, hope we feel invested. Look at Clash Of Clans – the games don’t tell you jack about all these disposable minions and how they feel about things, but the trailers would have you think otherwise. The barbarians are nuts, the archers are sensible and the wizards are egotists.

It’s fairly empty, but it’s all they can do. It’s like giving names and character traits to all the furniture in the living room, in the hope that people will enjoy sitting on it more. They won’t – it’s still bland, basic furniture – but they don’t want to risk showing us actual footage. They want players to think that it’s all a wacky, sitcom-esque series of jokes and one-liners behind the cash wall and the dull gameplay.

Boy, are they in for a disappointment.



Bloody hell, what did I just see? The Microsoft HoloLens was one of those things that I hadn’t even heard of until I saw it demonstrated, at which point I had to pick up my jaw where it was dragging against the ground. Sorry, when did we get interactive 3D holograms? I kinda feel like I should have been informed earlier, that’s some Iron Man tech if I’ve ever seen it.

The HoloLens looks good, that’s the long and short of it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an extravagance, and I’d rally against it being pushed into games in which it didn’t fit, but there’s a lot that would work with this new device. Pretty much anything in which you take a top-down view would fit nicely, though I’m baffled by the choice of Minecraft as an example. I can think of much better games that would suit it, like XCOM and Civilisation, or maybe even something like Hotline Miami. Who wouldn’t want to see a tiny digital psychopath, charging around with a katana in full hologram mode? Or peer down on a simulated battlefield like some disinterested general, pushing little soldiers towards the enemy with the tip of your finger?


Foolish mortals! Your tiny, cuboid world is nothing compared to the might of Giant Glasses-Wearing Man!

The HoloLens looks best suited to tactical gameplay, and I hope it gets the attention it needs. It’s the best kind of gimmick, that which adds to the experience of gameplay rather than distracting from it. That said, I expect the technology will probably cost too much in the foreseeable future. Maybe get it when it’s going cheaper in 2020, but show your support for it now, otherwise we’ll be seeing more sputum like the Wii U controller.


Oh EA, why? No, that’s not me reciting random letters from the alphabet, it’s what I said when I was watching the fifteen minute Battlefront gameplay trailer.

It started off so well. I was really getting excited, because it was the sort of thing I wanted to see from E3, that I wanted to see from every presentation. Pure examples of core gameplay that’s mostly unedited and untampered with, why is that so much to ask? And I was as surprised as everybody else seeing EA resorting to such an honest advertising method, it would be like the government in 1984 suddenly spinning on their heels and turning into liberal hippies.

But the video seemed like a good thing, and the gameplay itself looked pretty nifty, especially bringing down the big AT-AT with a satisfying crash and hearing all the rebels wooping, like boozed-up frat boys crashing their friend’s car. There’s also interesting elements such as air strikes, which should add to the chaos a fair bit, and the playable heroes look pretty badass – basically, I was getting invested.


God, this is easy. I just can’t that horoscope prediction out of my mind, though… “You should beware of starships with wire guns.” What on earth could it mean by that?

But then, right at the end, they went and spoiled everything. In what was probably the most scripted bit of gameplay ever to emerge from E3, a single rebel hears the hum of a lightsaber activating behind him, and turns to see Darth Vader and several bodyguards looming over the poor squaddie dramatically.

And right then all my enthusiasm for the game trickled out of my trouser leg and started to make the room smell. EA had decisively shown that they were happy to show a gameplay trailer, but had thrown the whole thing into suspicion. How do I know that anything I saw was really valid, that it wasn’t the eighth take on an attempt to get that perfect shot? I don’t, quite frankly. And for that, they get a big thumbs down.


Oh, god, it looks like the angry brigade is back. Should I take my steroids now, or just wait until my soul patch has grown in and my douchebag bandanna has arrived in the post?

There’s always been something terribly cringeworthy about the Gears Of War franchise, the kind of thing that makes me want to roll my eyes and throw the disk away. I think it’s the way it seems to have so little self-awareness, the way it really believes it’s cool. And yet watching Marcus Fenix and chunky squad growl their way through the previous games was only boring and slightly irritating, because everybody on that team seemed to be utterly one dimensional.

Think about it. Fenix was basically angry 24-7, to the extent where he probably had to shout abuse at his cereal before he could eat it. Cole’s character was “Eighties action hero” and anything else got lost in the planning stage. Even Dom was no more than “Misses his wife quite a lot.” Yeah, OK, whatever. Why do we care about her, though? I guess the thirteen year old writing this shlock must have neglected to ask that question. There’s a reason that Bulletstorm felt the need to make fun out of this sort of thing, and it was right to do so.


He might look cool, but whenever they get back to base he just won’t shut up about his Magic: The Gathering cards.

And then there’s the visual design, stuck halfway between the worst parts of Warhammer 40k and Halo, with a bit of grungy Half-Life thrown in for good measure. Everything is so overdone to the point where it looks silly. You can’t wear normal kevlar and helmets, even simplistic power armour like Masterchief. No, you have to fit inside a big, bulky flak jacket with glowing lights dotted all over it, that covers your chest and nothing else. You get given guns that are stupidly big and look more like farming equipment than firearms, and to top it all off we add the worst elements of fashion from a biker gang and set these wankers lose to fight the alien menace.

I can almost hear the protests of a confused recruit. “But sir, what if I get shot in the arm, where there’s no protection? What am I supposed to do then?”

At which point his sergeant stops doing weight-lifting and wearing tank tops, and other manly things, and spits his cigar out with rage. “What? You mean to say you haven’t built up enough muscle to render yourself bulletproof?! Get straight back in the gym, young man! Also, you’re going to be a main character, so put that helmet down! We’re getting you a headscarf and an over-designed weapon. And I’d better see a chinstrap beard by the time I get back!”

It seems that Gears 4 has taken all of these complaints and ran with them, at least in the gameplay trailer. Yes, that elaborate cutscene was a gameplay trailer. We have them bumbling around for several minutes, trying to fit through doorways and making snarky jibes about pondwater (no, really), before we see a lightning tornado and a monster, at which point it just sort of ends.

Well, at least it was quick. Thank god for smell mercies, eh?


Well, well, well. Of all the things to pop back up out of the woodwork, who expected Doom? Nobody born after 1995, that’s for certain. I was surprised that anybody remembers what Doom is this far forward.

But yes, the new Doom game was revealed at E3, and it’s got all the subtlety and temperance of a suicide bombing, though I don’t think it’s without its charms, in a weird, homicidal way. It seems to have shrugged off the sludge of modern shooters pretty well, avoiding aspects like cover and regenerating health, whilst focusing more on psychotic murder sprees and beating a monster to death with its own leg.

I have to admit that I started grinning when the double-barrelled shotgun made a sound like a sledgehammer coming down on a bob-bomb, and all that was left of the victim was a couple of surprised legs that slumped to the floor a moment later. I’m even willing to ignore the fact that this was stolen from Bulletstorm, so happy was I to see something that was just so… Gleeful? Is that the right word? I hope it isn’t, but I suspect that it is.

You can’t help but be slightly stunned by how much Doom clearly delights in wretched amounts of gore. Gunshots leave visceral splatters, melee takedowns involve terrifying feats of brutality, and one puzzle is solved by watching a monster kill someone before finding the victim’s corpse, so that you can rip his arm off and slap it on a palm scanner. How about next time we just go with a keycard, yeah?

Doom hands

Look, will you hold still? I’m just trying to get the sand out of your eye!

I will say that I hope that Doom doesn’t try to do horror at any point. The gameplay made it clear that the Marine is the most powerful thing since Superman on steroids, so any attempt to threaten him is going to seem silly when he’s just ripped out a demon’s intestines and garrotted it with them. You can’t say it’s not tonally consistent for there to be horror, but I’ll be honest – it would surprise me if any demon had a kill-count anywhere near that of the protagonist’s by the end of this game. Perhaps I’m getting the wrong impression, maybe this is the set-up for an Alien: Isolation style game in which you play a frightened Revenant, trying to avoid the evil, unstoppable Space Soldier who will think nothing of murdering you in the most awful way possible. Huh. Now I kinda want to play that too.

I do wonder if it’s in Bethesda’s interests to resurrect Doom from the grave this late. The old Doom titles have a great lineage and demand respect, and nothing pisses off a fanbase more than a company bastardising the memory of an old franchise so they can make some cash from name recognition. Thief, Syndicate, Prince Of Persia, XCOM, and the embarrassing mess that was Duke Nukem Forever, they’re all examples of this. The only way to get away with that is to make the best game you can, and I’ll be damned it if doesn’t look like they’ve done that.

Let me add that I much preferred the Doom presentation to the Fallout 4 one. That’s what I wanted to see, Bethesda, ten minutes of uninterrupted and varied core gameplay giving a good indication of what we’re going to be experiencing, not dialogue trees and the most boring combat scenes in the game. If village maintenance reared its ugly head in Doom, it would get a fist pushed so far into its face that it would be able to smell its own brain. And speaking of utter absurdity through violence, let’s look at the game properly.

Doom scanner

The most intellectually sophisticated thing in the gameplay trailer was centered around ripping off a man’s arm. I’m strangely OK with that.

As mentioned earlier, the guns look nice and cathartic, with two exceptions – the plasma rifle and the chainsaw. The former is easier to explain, it just looks boring, making generic pew-pew noises with no sense of weight or impact to it. But the chainsaw seems odd, almost a bit pointless. The game already established that we can kill an enemy if we’re close enough, and not only that, we can do it quicker than the chainsaw, which takes longer and runs the risk of breaking flow. Though that isn’t going to stop me from using it often – I mean, it’s a chainsaw for killing demons. Even if I had to break my fingers every time, I’d still do it, because IT’S A FUCKING CHAINSAW FOR KILLING DEMONS.

I’m also very much in favour of how the game keeps a fast pace by having enemies drop health. Good action games like Saint’s Row 4 have remembered this, it’s a fantastic way of rewarding reflexes and going on the offensive, and of course Doom is nothing if not offensive. I like how you move really fast, I like that there were no directional icons when the puzzle bit came up, I like how you can hold more than two weapons, and I’m definitely going to find a place in my stony heart for the Heavy Assault Rifle, a gun that wouldn’t look out of place on top of an aircraft carrier and was so powerful looking I’m pretty sure you could bring down a planet with a couple of clips worth of ammo.

So at the end of the day, I guess Doom looks pretty good. I’ll be interested to see what kind of story there is – “Hell invades Mars” is all very well for the nineties, but I’d like to see a bit more thought put into it this time, just to contextualise it nicely. But if that hits the mark, then I’ll definitely be on board. Here’s hoping that E3 was actually honest today – because if not, then I’m going to be very disappointed.


Right, it’s eleven in the morning, a couple of days before I normally get up, but today I’ve made an exception, to bring you the cutting edge in gaming news. I hope you all appreciate the sacrifices I make for you lot.

Actually, I was watching the last episode of Game Of Thrones season 5, but because of that I had something to watch whilst it was loading. Killing two birds with one stone, or perhaps that should be shooting two of them down with one burst from a plasma rifle – yes, it’s Fallout 4 again! It debuted at E3 last night, and after watching the presentation I feel very strongly about it, but only about the fact that I would like to see some actual gameplay to feel strongly about.

I started to get suspicious when they cut away from the entrance to the vault and the detonation of the bomb, having only gone through character creation and a couple of dialogue trees in the video so far. Hold on, I thought, I was just getting into that. Why have you pulled away from the game literally as it was getting good?


Welcome back, Robo-jeeves. Can I swap you out for the dog that’s following me? You seem like a better conversationalist.

“We don’t want to spoil anything,” explained the presenter, and then went about spoiling the fact that everybody else in the vault died and you’ve been asleep for two centuries for some reason. Sounds engaging, I thought. Could I possibly get to see that? This is basically the stuff you’d put on the back of the DVD after all, and I’d quite like to see something that wasn’t completely scripted. If you’re going to warble on about player freedom, then you could show it to us.

Either my wishes fell on deaf ears or somebody behind the scenes had lost the video file they were looking for, because the next ten minutes were Bethesda talking about the collector’s edition of the game and some free-to-play app that I couldn’t have been less interested in. Fast-forward, fast-forward.

Ah, we’re back. Oh shit, it’s crafting.

Alright, some of it looked interesting. I like the manner in which you hammer bits of weaponry together, because that’s in keeping with the theme, but the house-building dynamic made me rear back like a viper. No, no, no. I know Bethesda aspire to create something for everybody, but this just looks dull. The most boring aspects of Skyrim and the last two Fallout games were always the house management mechanics, and adding turrets isn’t going to spice it up much when I could just wander out to find enemies myself.

I realise I sound like a downer here, but there is stuff I like, and most of my beef is with the manner in which it was presented. I like how Power Armour can be tweaked and seems like more of a vehicle than actual clothing, and when I saw the jetpack I began drooling uncontrollably, a bit like that dog that follows you around.

Speaking of which, I do have some demands about Muttley. Firstly, if it can’t look after itself than I will drop it at the first Deathclaw nest I see and be on my merry way. I’m not interested in playing post-apocalyptic Nintendogs, that animal is going to have to feed and heal himself. Secondly, I suspect that he’s going to glitch a lot, so please, please have that fixed before we get the game. I thought it was cool that you can send him to get stuff for you, but even in the presentation he had to stop suddenly and wrenchingly turn to face the right direction, not to mention that Bethesda games have history of glitchy behaviour.

What else is there? Well, the Pip-Boy now seems more intuitive than the average brain operation, which is nice, and looks less like a badly-made menu system and more like an actual tablet device, though I don’t know why they bothered putting in archaic minigames inside it. If I pay fifty quid for a cutting-edge title, and it immediately asks me if I want to play Donkey Kong, I’m going to politely decline, thank you.

There’s not a lot to be said about the combat, mostly because we didn’t see it much. There was one boring conflict with the most standard enemies and weapons you can get, and then there was just a highlight reel featuring a lot of flash and no substance. Why not show us a low-level fight and a high-level one, so that we can compare the two? By the time I could work out what I was seeing, it had already flicked to the next bit. I hope there weren’t any epileptics in that audience, they’d be in more trouble than the molerats.


Look out! That molerat’s wearing a high-visibility jacket!

Fallout 4 still looks good and whilst the graphics are still letting it down, the actual visual design continues to be superb, capturing the atmosphere and sense of history well. But I’m worried the game is spreading itself too thin, because we really didn’t see much, even though it was trying to show us everything. One fight, a sped-up crafting demonstration, and all the less interesting bits of the plot, and to top it off, the presentation still had to be padded with the dull-looking app and the Collector’s stuff. Look, Bethesda, why don’t you show me what this game is actually like before you try to convince me to buy the version that costs over a hundred bucks?

I’m inherently suspicious of gaming promotion and E3 in particular, but there’s almost nothing to be suspicious of here. If the game isn’t finished, then say so, but this was just weird. It spent so long bouncing between unconnected threads that we didn’t focus on any one thing long enough to understand it. I hope that wasn’t intentional, but like I said, E3 makes me very wary.

You know what I wanted to see? Half an hour of the best gameplay it has to offer, uninterrupted, unedited and live. Fallout 4 seems to be interesting, and it’ll probably be really good, but nothing makes me nervous like the feeling I’m being manipulated, and this presentation gave me that feeling quite badly. It didn’t help that after watching it and feeling kind of average about the whole thing, I was greeted online by an unnervingly rabid fanbase, who’d either been watching a different presentation to me or had all been smoking weed in preparation. It was like stumbling through the doors of some weird cult and suddenly wishing you could leave as fast as possible.

Anyway, what’s next? Battleborn? Yeah, let’s do this.


Yes, we’re back, and yes, I know that Game Of Thrones has already had video game adaptations, though I should point out I haven’t played them yet. Telltale’s approach to the series is in my Steam wishlist, but I haven’t gotten round to buying it.

Anyway, last time we focused on what games would translate well to our TV screens. I voiced an opinion, everybody in the universe agreed with it, badabing badaboom. High scores all round, especially to me.

But this time we’re looking at what TV can bring to games, and whilst HBO’s softcore-porn-and-hardcore-violence series has been a huge success, it seems it hasn’t quite brought its A-game when it comes to the world of interactive media. The best translation is apparently the Telltale one, and even then it’s considered one of their weaker titles, at least in comparison to gems like The Wolf Among Us and Tales From The Borderlands.

But it seems to me that they’re all going the wrong way about it, because the key to Game Of Thrones has always been the enormous scale of Westeros. The decisions of an elite few shape the destinies of many, so why not reflect that? Get that right, add in some nude shots and throat-slitting, and you’re golden.

The duo

Of course, some Kings you could let die, to gain morale instead of losing it.

The idea I’ve been tossing around is a sort of hybrid of Sid Meier’s Civilisation V, XCOM: Enemy Unknown and Star Wars: Battlefront, with a bit of Shadow Of Mordor thrown into the mix. As you’ve probably guessed from this crazy cocktail, this might get a little complicated, so bear with me. Then again, if you’re a fan of the show, you can probably deal with complexity.

Firstly, you pick a house, and I don’t mean a nice two-bedroom semi-detached with a garden. No, you pick one of the seven houses to be a member of. Targaryen, Stark, Tyrell and so on. Each one will give you different perks accordingly, such as a bigger budget for the Lannisters or uglier soldiers for the Ironborn, that sort of thing. You could even pick the The Night’s Watch to fight against White Walkers, which would be fun.

Then you get your base somewhere in Westeros, like Winterfell or King’s Landing. You spend money and resources on certain aspects like technology or expanding your lands. Perhaps you fill your halls with food to prepare for an enemy siege or the threat of winter.

Then we have war! No, I don’t care why or who with. It could be one of the wars mentioned in the show, but it doesn’t have to be. Remember that George R.R. Martin’s massive world has some history behind it, so we could always play something from its past, or just take a little creative liberty.

So what then? Well, you play the game like a general for a bit, moving your armies around to prevent the enemy getting close to your base, protecting your resources and making tactical decisions. You spend money when you have to, take it back when you can, maybe run the risk of being indebted to Littlefinger, who will have demands in return.

And what happens when armies clash? Well, you drop down to join them. You take control of a commander in real time, fighting your way across the contested land and moving soldiers to strategic points, but still getting stuck in and slashing your way across the battlefield if you have to, which is where Battlefront and Shadow Of Mordor come into it. If you die, you take control of another commander, but your army loses morale. It might not even be a battle – you could demand the assassination of a target, only to play as the assassin. And if he fails, it’s permadeath, and your next attempt becomes that much harder when security is bolstered. Of course, you could always just bang the local red priestess and get things sorted that way.


Think about it. Talion’s already got the job of standing on a big wall to keep out all the uglies from proper society. Swap out the bear cloak for a big black feathery thing, and the boring elf ghost for Ghost the dire wolf, and we’re ready to roll.

I guess I want to make combat a living, breathing thing. It’s always annoyed me how in otherwise superb games like Civilisation 5 that a whole battle – its strategy, its ideals, its people, its equipment – are all just boiled down to a vague percentage and a yes/no option. It just seems a bit lazy, a bit unworthy of the concept. What if I win, but I’ve committed soul-destroying horrors to do so? What if I lose, but the death of my men motivates other powers to get involved in some way? I don’t want it reduced to just statistics. It would make it too distant, and of course, we want to see the fight itself. We’ve earned that much.

Speaking of other powers, I definitely think that contracts and secret deals should play a big part of this game. Game Of Thrones is nothing without its nasty political backstabbing and two-faced advisers. We touched on Littlefinger (ew) and the idea of going becoming financially indebted to him with some rather worrying consequences. That should be part of a major aspect to the game, in which you can talk to many influential figures across the land and try to make decisions that benefit you. Well, I’d like to borrow some livestock, so how about a payment of ten grand a month for a year? Oh, you want my armies, do you? Well, how attached are you to that daughter of yours? I’ve seen her giving me the eye, and I think we can come to some sort of arrangement.

Ahem. Moving on.


We may have to rethink the “child murder” policy, my Lord. It’s starting to affect your standing in the polls.

The endgame should of course be victory in war, but there should be multiple ways of doing that. Either a straight battle, in which you march to the enemy’s king and lop his head off; or perhaps a battle of the minds in which you destroy the morale of his kingdom. Cut him off, quarantine his lands, prevent any trading with the outside world and watch them starve. Then it’s only a matter of time before the civilians and soldiers surrender and bring the monarch to you. It’s evil, but when did that stop a Game Of Thrones ruler?

I gotta say, I’m pretty proud of this one. I like proper combat like in Shadow Of Mordor, and I like tactical stuff, but the two rarely work when they’re mixed into one. But what we’d have here is one influencing the other. Imagine that you move your army on the map to go against another military force, and the reports say that this should be an easy win. But when you get there you screw up on placing your soldiers, you have eight commanders killed and everybody gives up and goes home. The battle is lost, and suddenly you have to deal with the result.

Actions influencing decisions, decisions influencing actions. Round and round it goes. It would be complex, but intuitive, like Civ V. You can work it out as you go, because it all makes sense. Yes, stockpile food when you can afford to. Yes, put the archers on that high point. No, I don’t want to swap a dragon for that quilt your mother made.

And of course, never, ever go to any weddings. It’s just not worth the risk.