Five Games that Caught Breakthrough Gamings attention at EGX Rezzed 2015

Rezzed is far more than just any other games convention. It is a hub for indie game developers to test out and showcase the games they have in development. This kind of acts like a pre-show for the BAFTA games awards in which Tobacco Dock becomes a promoting playground for budding games designers and enthusiastic gamers. Upon entering you’d be overwhelmed by the vast array of video games. Many titles at the event looked very intriguing however here are the titles that clasped hands over those controllers.

The Memorable Moments at the 2015 BAFTA Games Awards

The BAFTA games awards allows the big names of the games industry to flock to Tobacco Dock to celebrate the most distinguished games of the past 12 months. It provides an incentive to put down the controller and think about the painstaking time and effort that goes into creating video games. With less glitz and glamour than film and TV, BAFTA games focuses solely on the talent of the industry. This hasn’t yet gained the attraction from mainstream press but due to BAFTA’S efforts it’s getting there. From a night packed full of admiration, class and humour to celebrate the world of video games it is evident that the games industry is brimming with talent worthy of estimed recognition.

The torch of presenting the BAFTA games awards was passed over to Rufus Hound from Dara O’Brien, handing over his duties in a barmy little opening skit. So here is a summary of  memorable moments at BAFTA games awards 2015 in which breakthrough gaming were live on the scene.

To introduce the night’s awards, Riva Taylor performed an original song for BAFTA called Earth to Earth to commemorate the nominations, with memorable gaming moments interspersed throughout her song. Taylor is no stranger to lending her vocals to video games such as Journey and Assassins Creed. She also expressed her enthusiasm for the awards by saying to BAFTA: “I’m thrilled to be a part of the BAFTA Game Awards this year. I feel very honoured to be opening the ceremony with an original song which has been specifically written for the occasion.” Taylor also handed out the award for best music to Farcry 4 which was accepted by Cliff Martinez, Tony Gronick and Jerome Angelot. The games soundtrack was praised for its subtle and unconventional musical motif.

Riva-Taylor

Riva Taylor’s opening song was a highlight at the BAFTA game awards. Image Source: BAFTA

Surprise winners came in droves at this years BAFTA’s, for example Oscar winning actor Kevin Spacey who portrays captivating villain Jonathan Irons in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, lost out to Ashley Johnson in best performer category. Johnson portrayed Ellie in Last of Us: Left Behind, a very convincing 14-year old in a post-apocalyptic scenario. Johnson also won last year for the same role which adds to the shock factor. Upon receiving her BAFTA she said “I feel so lucky to have played Ellie, she is a strong female character who isn’t sexualised, a damsel in distress or even the opposite of that”.

Ashley_Johnson_win_3231803c

“This is for the tomboys, and the misfits, and the weirdos…” Image Source: The Telegraph

When the nominations were read out for best family game they all received the biggest cheers compared to other nominations. This category proved to be very close to many peoples hearts due to their wide range of appeal and the togetherness they provide. It is an important category in this respect because of this broad appeal. The winner of Best Family game was the Minecraft: Console Edition with pixelated block stacking still proving to be popular even after a re-release and receiving a special award in 2012.

The most controversial moment however would have to go to best game award which was hyped up by excitable YouTubers letting loose there passion for each nominee via recorded messages throughout the night. The expression of how amazing every game was did get a bit tiring. Even Rufus Hound joked about it being dragged out for a while. The winner was finally revealed by magician, Dynamo with Bungie’s massively multiplayer game Destiny receiving the one of the most talked about awards of the night. The game received mixed reviews and was branded by some to be too repetitive, however the game is praised for its interactive nature and addictive gameplay. Some gamers have a love-hate relationship with this game. Most shocking of all however is that Destiny did not win for any other of its nominations in Multiplayer and Games Design.

20823568_destiny1_090914_1280-1410485320761

Bungie follows on from Halo’s success at the BAFTA’s with Destiny. Image Source: IGN

Although some may be displeased with BAFTA’s decision in awarding Destiny Best Game the academy recognises not just the big studio driven, triple A titles but also independent developers who are now receiving the spotlight. Indie games are becoming more and more triumphant thanks to BAFTA and also gaining great publicity from Indie Game: The Movie. A plethora of indie games were nominated for this year’s BAFTA’s. Examples would include skateboarding video game, OlliOlli winning best sports game. The team were immensely humbled by the win probably thinking to be out of there element being nominated alongside Fifa. The game has a retro looking style to it and is now recently available for Wii U and Xbox One owners. Other successes from the Indies include puzzle adventure game Valiant Hearts, taking place during the conflict of world war one. Valiant Hearts won Best Original Property and was created by the same team behind Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends. The mobile game Monument Valley also won multiple awards including Best British Game and Mobile game. Monument Valley is appreciated very much for its artistic achievement something which smaller budgeted games typically excel in.

monument-valley-

Indies and mobile games shared the spotlight amongst the blockbuster titles. Image Source: Pocket Gamer

The most prestigious award of the evening which gained a standing ovation would be the BAFTA Fellowship Award for David Braben, for his work within the industry that spans 33 years of games design. Fantasy author Ian Livingstone stressed the limitations Braben worked under in creating his 3D game Elite in the 80’s which was made with 22k of memory which is the equivalent of the same size of memory in an e-mail today. It could be due to the extraordinary challenges faced by Braben that spurred him to create the Raspberry Pi project which allows accessible use of computer programming for school children to encourage a career in computer sciences. In the programme handed out at the awards ceremony Braben stated, “We wanted to offer to the kids of our mind-set today the same opportunities we had”. Upon receiving his award Braben mentioned the growing impact of games, stating we’re on the”cusp of a golden age for video gaming”.

o-DAVID-BRABEN-570

David Braben received the Fellowship Award for his outstanding contribution for over 33 years in the video games industry. Image Source: Raspberry Pi 

For more BAFTA coverage check out my interview with chairman of the games committee Harvey Elliott about his role at BAFTA.

Ten games that you won’t believe came out Ten years ago

To many people ten years could  be seen as cut off point for something to be considered old. And from old age comes nostalgia. 2005 was a brilliant year for gaming the Xbox 360 was released and the glossiness of High definition gaming with it. Games are still coming out for the system today. Nintendo released its revolutionary Nintendo DS. The dual screen technology was incredibly innovative at the time, now we just take it for granted. The PS3 was on the horizon while the PS2 was still going strong. This list will take you back to the past and make you think “gosh that long ago.”

What will e Sports bring to the U.K?

eSports is a trend that is just catching on in the U.K. It has fans of over five and a half million which is quite a significant following and is only gong to increase in numbers. In other countries however, such as the U.S it is an extremely popular way of playing games, drawing in crowds of around 71 million people to watch two or more professional video game players go at it for a cash prize and no, we’re not talking about virtual currency here! This is proper cash being earned by playing games such as Fifa, Call of Duty, Halo, League of Legends and basically any popular game that can be played competitively. With the best players earning around £200,000 a year for their skills in League of Legends, shows that competitive game tournaments are no longer an underground hobby.

The appeal of eSports comes from having the chance to get your video game playing ability noticed. So if you find yourself beating your friends consistently on your favourite game, that they don’t have a chance at winning and refuse to play with you anymore – you are perhaps a suitable candidate to take on the nations greats.

It’s not just great for the pros that are in for the chance of winning hundreds of thousands of pounds. It also allows fans of the games to pick up tips from the players that have truly dissected the game to get the edge over the average player. Most importantly however it will make games more than just a solitary outlet by bringing together a community of fans for a particular game.

In America this is evident. Player friendships have been forged, this has even generated in a documentary called The Smash Brothers consisting of members of the Super Smash Brothers community and the stories behind how they mastered the game. The documentary consisted of not just why these Smash Bros players were the best in the world, but the stories and characteristics of a lively bunch of people. Some fit the stereotype of the geeky shut in gamer that cares solely about the game others did not and had social lives outside that community.

The_International_2014

Japan take their eSports very seriously. Image Source: Wiki commons

 

All of this is the goal for Neville Upton director and co-founder of Kingston based games company, Gfinity. He describes eSports as “a major sociological change.”

For those also doubting the legitimacy of eSports as a genuine sport Neville draws comparisons between the two. He says: “The pros are training over ten hours a day. They have very strict nutrition and fitness regimes. eSports have all the attributes to other sports accept for the fact there is physical aversion. There are lot of other sports that do not have physical aversion such as darts, snooker, shooting curling. Otherwise it’s got players, fans and competition. It’s got rules, it’s got structures, it’s got all the attributes of normal sport and it’s growing really quickly.”

Neville Upton

Neville Upton has exciting plans for eSports in the U.K.

Work still needs to be done however to gain mainstream media attention. Neville added: “I think a lot of people recognise it as sport. The next big step is that the traditional media such as Sky and the BBC should start reporting on it in the sport section. Hopefully that will happen over the next 12-24 months.”

Gfinity’s aim is towards creating a competitive tournament scene with an eSports arena being planned. This will provide U.K gamers with a hub where they can meet like-minded individuals with a passion for play as well as compete in playing their favourite games. The Major League Gaming Tournament could also be held in the U.K so British gamers don’t have to stream the tourneys on twitch and can experience the event for themselves. An eSports arena will essentially operate as a glorified arcade parlour for gamers.

Most important of all it will contribute to the growing mainstream status that video games have now become. It is one of the many ways gamers can enjoy their games especially those who see themselves as devotees to the medium.

With the announcement of where the arena will be built at the end of the month, those who want to go for glory have a lot of practice time before the arena opens it’s doors.

But can video games be genuine sports? We asked some gamers at South Essex College to get their views.

The Legacy of Ralph Baer

Widely-known as the Thomas Edison of video games, Ralph Baer was a pioneering force in interactive entertainment, creating the first ever home video game console. He passed away in December 2014, aged 92 and will be fondly remembered as the grandfather of video games.

Fleeing the rise of Nazi occupation in Germany, Baer and his family immigrated to the U.S in 1938. At the young age of sixteen, Baer became fascinated with television and it’s communicative power. He signed up to a correspondence course before being drafted into the army where he designed surveillance technology for the military, which fueled his inspiration into creating something far less destructive and more akin to his passion for play.

After the war, Baer earned a degree in Television Engineering. However in a world full of post war blues something fresh, new and unique was concocting in Baer’s mind – something incomprehensible to the mass market – playing games on your television.

Baer decided to use joysticks that resembled the flight controls of airplanes. This was very much inspired by his militaristic background to control simple little white dots on the screen that are reminiscent to a blip on a radar. But with these dots you’d get the same amount of enjoyment today playing with the cursor on your computer! It seems primitive by today’s standards but was revolutionary in scope back in the early seventies. The prototype was dubbed “Brown Box” but it is better known by it’s commercial name, the Magnavox Odyssey.

Magnavox-Odyssey-Console-Set

The Magnavox Odyssey, the console that started it all. Image from Wikicommons

To the first ever gamers in 1972, interacting with their entertainment was groundbreaking technology. Long before the days of HD they were colour overlays that used static electricity to stick onto your television screen for each different game you played. Audience’s back then had to use a lot of imagination while playing Ping Pong. Baer however provided the initial spark for games to evolve, with the founder of Atari, Nolan Bushnell applying to his own home video console on the Atari 2600 which ditched the overlays for built in computer graphics.

There was however a legal scuffle over the licenses of Ralph Baer’s Ping Pong game and Nolan Bushnell’s Pong, which was eventually resolved in a million dollar settlement.

Peripherals were later introduced, including an incredibly authentic looking light gun that plugs into the console. If it were on the market today, parents would freak out.

Playing on an Odyssey today you won’t get much enjoyment out of it. Comparing it to the conventional video games of today, it barely (no pun intended) qualifies as a video game. That said, without Ralph Baer the landscape of the video game industry would not be the same today, perhaps even non-existent. In 2006, his legacy was also appreciated by George Bush awarding him the National Medal of Technology.

Gaming has evolved astronomically in its relatively short lifespan and when Ralph Baer named his console the Odyssey it was a very fitting title of the start of the video game phenomenon. RIP Ralph Baer thanks for the games.

Ralph Baer receiving the National Medal of Technology in 2006. Image Source: Wikicommons

Ralph Baer receiving the National Medal of Technology from the Presidant of the USA in 2006. Image Source: Wikicommons

 

Virtual Reality: The Next Step For Gaming?

The question on many gamer’s minds is what’s next for the future of gaming? How can it possibly be topped from the pristine graphics of the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One? Sony’s answer to this is through Project Morpheus, a virtual reality headset that provides full immersion into your gaming experience. It looks like donning the headset and immersing ourselves into a simulated world is making a resurgence.

Of course the brief VR boom in the 90’s, which never really caught on due to the technology just not being ready. People preferred the simplicity of the Gameboy rather than the eye-melting redness of the Virtual Boy.

 

Virtual-Boy-Set

The Virtual Boy was a flop in the mid 90’s Source: Wikicommons

The recent success of augmented reality games such as Microsoft’s Kinect camera, wowing players by how the camera detected their every move and translated it on screen proved very successful for Microsoft. With Kinect being the “fastest selling electronics computer device” according to the Guinness World Records, the time now seems to be right for the next step back into hopefully a less eye straining experience of the world of the virtual. Only a select few have experienced the initial amazement of the breakthrough innovation of Sony’s Project Morpheus and the Oculus Rift, which is still in its prototype phase with no confirmation of a release date. CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerburg has also seen the potential of this blossoming new technology and acquired the Oculus Rift.

To provide insight into this untapped form of technology were the panel at the latest Games Question time event at Bafta who know first-hand what VR is like.

From what was gathered at the event, the experience of VR is presented as a theme park where you can experience genuine thrills. Physical reactions of peoples awe and wonder have been recorded at tech demos to present the emotional response of this unique kind of technology.

Patrick O’Luanaigh CEO for ndreams, a games developer specializing in VR technologies, described the psychological aspect, with visuals within the game stimulating real life reactions. For example leaping from one platform to another would heighten the tension because the risks will be all the more apparent when wearing the goggles. O’Luanaigh said, “The Brain believes if there is a drop in front of it and that’s great, it’s very powerful”.

Obstacles are however present in creating this new form of entertainment. Keza McDonald, a games journalist for the website Kotaku believes that already existing games being converted to the Virtual Reality format would not work as well. She says, “A mistake people make is that I’ll be able to play the same games now only in VR and that is only a mistake of the potential. It actually seems more passive experiences will be better, things where stuff basically happens to you and you react to it ”.

The more passive experience that Keza talked about was showcased at the talk. This involved watching a video of the Studio Director for Sony London’s Dave Raynard’s mother being underwater in a shark cage. She was shocked to say the least.

A more serious concern is the moral panic that has been taken into consideration even in the early stage in development. Dave Raynard, Studio Director at Sony London said, “I think it’s fair enough as long as the age rating is fair”. It was also suggested that because of the intensity and realism horror games designed for VR have, the ESRB age rating will be higher than horror games not designed for the hardware, due to the added realism of the violent content. Foreseeing the Moral panic journalist, Keza McDonald also specified, “I do think there is a level of responsibility to think about what is acceptable in VR…it’s a concern I share and the potential for outrage is quite high”. It would seem a moral panic would is imminent upon the release of Project Morpheus and Oculus Rift.

Despite the disturbing potential the violent games will bring to VR, the technology can also provide a uniquely relaxing experience taking you out of the mundane and into exotic environments and maybe even the erotic, in providing our sexual kicks, with McDonald jokingly stating “Porn will be a huge deal for VR”.

Regarding education, O’Luanaigh believes VR has the potential for more of a serious usage. He suggests, “You’ll see Project Morpheus grow and expand for education. Imagine being in a school and learning about the trenches in World War One by actually being in them and seeing in them”. It may also help with learner drivers and the military in providing a convincing method of training within a safe context away from the dangers.

The possibilities in what VR can do are almost limitless, but what are you thoughts on VR?

9 Retro Video Game Songs That will Never Leave Your Head.

Music is an integral part of the video game experience. It establishes the mood of the game you’re playing whether it’s jovial or epic, the melodies keep you motivated while playing.

Today video game music has the same amount of care and detail put into them as a film score. The London Philharmonic Orchestra brought a recent compilation of the best of the best together into one album. The soundtrack transformed the retro tunes into glorious compositions. Rolling Stone magazine, even named it “the weirdest hit album of 2011”.

In the early retro games the bleeps and bloops that accompanied the gameplay was all you had. It had a unique charm that became a staple of video games in the 80’s and early 90’s. However, there is sometimes a game where the music ingrains itself into your brain and stays there for the rest of your life. Here are just a few memorable tunes that are guaranteed to keep you humming as you go about your day.

Once you finished checking out this list, why not let us know some of your favourite retro video game soundtracks in the comments below.