Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Nablopomo and other aliens: Day 30

Thank goodness for that! I didn't quite manage to post one post a day for a month, but I don't think I'll be trying again for a while until I am a) a full-time writer or b) a lady of leasure/mad woman in the attic.

Normal service will resume in a few days.

the girl from f.e.a.r.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Nablopomo and other aliens: Day 29

Things tend to come in threes. Well-Rendered has had a makeover, made its way onto The Escapist, and now this:


Adjust yourselves accordingly.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Nablopomo and other aliens: Day 28

First, thank you for the insightful comments on Friday's post. I really appreciate thoughtful feedback and think it's only right that I devote time to responding to them properly. So more of that is in the Well-Rendered pipeline, currently resembling the one drainpipe leading out of Dethklok's shower on hairwashing night. A little metal joke for you there.

National Blog Posting Month is limping towards its end, which means I'll soon be able to get back to the business of writing about video games. I'm playing F.E.A.R. at the moment, a 2005 FPS with a horror bent. It's genuinely creepy, and I'm planning to write about it next week.

Keep the lights on.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Nablopomo and other aliens: Day 26


This blog post is a game I haven't played. It makes reference to discussions I haven't heard, and it doesn't have a conclusion. Those seeking properly written articles need to look elsewhere today.

Oh, and there are barely any pictures either.

*     *    *

My interest has been raided this week by Call of Duty: Black Ops and a discussion about child-friendly basketballing role-model Kobe Bryant appearing in an advert for it.

Here's the advert:

Now I'm not really the sensitive type, but something about that makes me feel ever so slightly uncomfortable. Partly, this is because the whole point of video games is to leave your physical body and become something or someone else, and engage in activities which are not really happening.

The implication int he advert that Black Ops enables you to feel the visceral thrill of killing other human beings makes me feel a little bit uneasy. That's not why I play video games, even the gory ones. The line between the satisfaction of performing a head shot on a video game enemy and the desire to kill other human beings in a war is not really a narrow one, but it's one which this advert does a good job of blurring.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Nablopomo and other aliens: Day 24

Like any healthy narcissist, I've been reading the comments to my article on the Escapist (about how video game characters' homes can be used to express their personalities).

This is sort of relevant, but really I just like the picture.

One thing which struck me in the first few comments was how people said they used their own characters' homes in order to give them a sense of personality in role-playing games. Oddly, this hadn't really occurred to me.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Nablopomo and other aliens: Day 23

The exciting occurrence has occurred. I have been published in The Escapist.

If you followed the link to Well-Rendered from The Escapist, you probably don't need to read this bit. Try clicking on one of the links to the right instead.

I'm really happy about this for all kinds of reasons. Mainly (if I'm being completely honest) about the really nifty buffout/bone graphic they put around the article.

If you haven't read it yet, here it is.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Nablopomo and other aliens: Day 22

National Blog Posting Month has shaken Well-Rendered Towers to its very foundations. Or perhaps that's just the dodgy radiator. If nothing else, it's re-enforced for me the importance of taking time to research, compose and edit posts properly, and that if something's worth doing, it's worth doing well. It's also driven me to look further afield for different things to write about. Unfortunately, it hasn't really given me time to write about them, so you'll see more on those mystery topics once November is over.

I spent a lot of my researching time on The Escapist. If you haven't had the pleasure, this magazine brands itself as "The Mouthpiece of the Gaming Generation", and has a vast bank of contributors. Its diversity is probably its greatest strength, and this is most immediately apparent in the video section.

Although everything on the site is worth a look (I Hit It With My Axe is a fast-emerging cult favourite), I spent a happy lunchbreak the other week watching Extra Credits, which professes to take "a deeper look at games; how they are made, what they mean and how we can make them better". It's all pretty inspiring stuff, and I don't mind saying that I wish I was as good as them.

This episode, for example, beautifully summarises the some of the symbolism that lies at the heart of gaming whilst still being enjoyable to watch and simple to understand. It sets the bar for (animated!) video game criticism pretty high, which can only be a good thing. I just wanted to share that with everyone.

*     *     *

You might have noticed three very long posts today. As you might have twigged, I wrote them a while ago for Studycove, but Steve kindly gave permission for me to post them on my own site as well.

The exciting mystery occurrence occurs tomorrow.

Bayonetta Review

This review originally appears on Studycove, but it's reproduced here by kind permission from Steve.

2010 has been a bumper year for video games. Red Dead Redemption, Bioshock 2, Mass Effect 2, Fallout: New Vegas, Enslaved and Final Fantasy XIII have contributed to a sparkling year of new releases as the current generation truly comes of age. And yet my very favourite game of the year came out in its first week.

Bayonetta is, on paper, an unconvincing prospect. It seems to be composed of a lot of unrelated ideas hashed together into an over-excitable whole. The game is a spiritual sister to the Devil May Cry series (they are both directed by Hideki Kamiya), and tells the story a witch who can summon demons through her hair which she uses to send angels (yes, angels) to hell. The plot makes no sense no matter how many times you play through the game and the soundtrack can only be described as choral electro-jazz.

Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness Review

Crippled by bugs, poor design choices and gaping plot holes, Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness is generally held to be the worst of Lara Croft’s outings. The game - which follows Lara’s race through Paris and Prague to clear her name following her mentor’s death - was a critical and commercial disappointment and led to publisher Eidos dropping British developers Core in favour of the American Crystal Dynamics.

But behind the game’s numerous problems lies the most interesting Tomb Raider to date. Although many of the game’s shortcomings can be attributed to practical issues such as new hardware (The Angel of Darkness was the first Tomb Raider title to be written for the Playstation 2) and timing constraints, the most glaring of the game’s flaws arise from Core’s excess of ambition, not their lack of it. For the curious (and patient) gamer, time spent exploring The Angel of Darkness’ hidden corners can yield rich rewards.

Tomb Raider Chronicles Review

Tomb Raider Chronicles is the fifth game of the Tomb Raider series and the last developed for the original Playstation. Varied and imaginative, it takes the form of short episodes told in flashback following Lara Croft’s accidental entombment in a pyramid (oh, Lara).

The premise is an unusual one: Lara’s friends, Charles Kane, Winston the Butler and Father Patrick Dunstan gather at Croft Manor to remember her adventures. Between them, they tell the stories of four forgotten exploits, each exploring a different area of Lara’s past, a different part of the world and – to an extent – a different kind of gameplay.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Nablopomo and other aliens: Day 18

So it's been established that I can't really write a blog post a day. But the fact that I only have a day to process each gaming thought means that a lot of them are left undeveloped. Consequently, I'm building up a nice bank of things to talk about, once I have the time to research, write and edit them to a standard I'm happy with.

For example, here is an interesting article about the therapeutic effects of Tetris on trauma patients. Right now, I barely have time to read it, let alone write an interesting response. But it's something I'd really like to write about because I know a bit about narrative and trauma (not to be a total bore, but I wrote a dissertation on this book), so I'd like to look more into gaming and trauma. Why not? I may as well use my existing membership to the British Library.

Oh, and Naomi Alderman's article drew my attention to this video from 2008:


Truly old-school Well-Rendered followers will remember that I sweetly thought I was the first person to have this jolly clever idea back in 2009, without even having typed "Tetris movie" into Google.

I was pretty wide-eyed and idealistic back then, and I knew a lot less about video game journalism than I do now. Various article rejections, comments, criticisms and correspondence with people far more experienced than me have taught me a huge amount. I still make awful gaffes, but they're getting less frequent, and tend to come from impulsive clicking of the "Publish" button rather than lack of research.

Five days to go until the marginally diverting occurrence.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Nablopomo and other aliens: Day 17

Guess what this is about...

Well, there's a rumour that it's got something to do with everyone's favourite hot-panted kleptomaniac.

Game Informer is a little more specific than me (and has probably had more sleep), but it looks like we'll find out on December the 6th.

I know Well-Rendered is not a news site (the very idea of anyone going "I must have up-to-date information on the games industry! Quick! To Well-Rendered!" is the stuff of science fiction), but I do love Lara, and this is the best I can manage today.

Six days to go until the exciting mystery event.

"Event" makes it sound so monumental.

Six days and counting to the exciting mystery...occurrence.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Nablopomo and other aliens: Day 16

Well, we're over the National Blog Posting Month hump. 16 days down, 15 to go. Hurrah!

I'm still snowed under, so a couple of important points. Firstly, I re-read this post, and come to the horrifying realisation that in my hurried state, I made a thoughtless comment that suggested that Halo isn't fun.

If anyone thought that's what I meant, please let me assure you that it is not. What I said was that Halo was overblown. Now that, I stick by. "Overblown" and "fun" are by no means mutually exclusive. Any heavy metal fan will tell you that.

Dethklok, fictional stars of [adult swim]'s hilarious Metalocalypse.
For a further explanation of my views regarding Halo, fun and the merits of slaughtering an alien as opposed to a marine, I will refer you to the comment section of the aforementioned post.

And following a short hiatus, Studycove is back up and running. I've added a tab especially for it because I'm planning to contribute more in the future. If you fancy writing some reviews or sticking around for the forums, your presence there would be much appreciated.

And I'm beginning a week-long countdown to the most exciting mystery event in Well-Rendered's short history.

I will be really embarrassed if anything happens to jeopardise this in the intervening time.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Nablopomo and other aliens: Day 15

National Blog Posting Month is a good idea and an interesting exercise, but I don't think it's doing my writing my good. It's making me write poorly thought out posts and throwaway comments because I just don't have the time in a day to come up with anything that I'm happy with.

On the plus side, when I typed "Kratos Angry" into Google images in order to furnish my post with an appropriate picture of how National Blog Posting Month is making me feel, I found this:

It's the work of the very talented Mark Newman, and it made me feel a whole lot better.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Nablopomo and other aliens: Day 14

So clearly I really like sunsets.

I think I am about two thirds of the way through Red Dead Redemption. I am really enjoying it, and I think the decision to apply Grand Theft Auto IV's sandbox engine to a game set in the dying days of the wild west is brilliant. The scenery is utterly incredible and the horse riding is super fun.

But more on that at a later date. I mention Red Dead Redemption today because it is possibly the most serious game I have ever played.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Nablopomo and other aliens: Day 13

As you can see, Well-Rendered has had another makeover.

Mainly, this is because I was becoming quite daunted by my web design homework so decided to try some CSS out on Well-Rendered instead.

Now I feel less afraid of CSS and Well-Rendered has a sparkly new frock.

Thank you to Jacq's Blogger Tips for the invaluable advice.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Nablopomo and other aliens: Day 12

If you haven't read Wednesday's post about the BBC breakfast response to Call of Duty: Black Ops, you might want to.

Come to think of it, if you haven't had anything to eat yet today, you might want to do that, and if you haven't visited mainland Europe, you might also want to do that at some point. There's a whole wealth of things you might want to do in your life, but in relation to today's blog post, reading Wednesday's post is about the only requirement.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Nablopomo and other aliens: Day 11

Blogger won't work on my computer for some reason, so I'm on borrowed time here. One blog post a day is certainly an interesting exercise, but it does mean that sometimes, bloggers are going to get caught with their pants down.

I was going to put a hilarious picture of a video game charater in their underwear here but the pictures I found on google were so foul that I just didn't have the strength to wade through them.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Nablopomo and other aliens: Day 10

I was watching BBC Breakfast this morning before I trundled off to work, saw a report on Call of Duty: Black Ops and have spent my spare minutes today trying to find the names of the guests.

It turns out my faith in the internet ("no, I won't need to find a pen to write this down, it will be on the internet later" munch munch sugar puffs munch coffee slurp slurp etc) was misplaced, and I can find neither the names of the guests nor any direct quotations.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Nablopomo and other aliens: Day 9

Reverent commentry on Red Dead Redemption, Manifest Destiny and the frontier forthcoming. But not today. This is because in order to gallop on horseback (necessary for fast getaways and winning races) in the game, you need to repeatedly tap the "A" button on the XBOX controller. I've been playing the game for a week now, and my thumb cramp is so bad I can barely operate a mouse.

I don't know if this is a design flaw or a lifestyle flaw (both?), but it means that you'll have to hang onto your saddles for a short while yet.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Nablopomo and other aliens: Day 8

I wonder what the crossover is between players of video games and players of board games? I ask because I just saw this, and now I have a funny feeling in my tummy.

There are several Tomb Raider board games, and this one (Underworld) is apparently the highest rated on the peerless boardgamegeek.com.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Nablopomo and other aliens: Day 7

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light was a pleasant surprise for everyone when it came out in September.

It gathered praise not just for being a great little game in its own right, but for being an imaginative twist on the Tomb Raider series. That said, it's not technically a Tomb Raider game, it's a "Lara Croft" game, featuring an entirely new mechanic and - most interestingly - a second playable character.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Nablopomo and other aliens: Day 6

Oops! Just remembered I'm supposed to be writing a post per day. Just got back from having South African food and doing the biggest load of housework you have ever...

...I'm sorry, this is supposed to be a video game blog!

I've succumbed to the Southern lure of Red Dead Redemption. Consequently, all I can offer is a couple of sneak previews as regards future episodes of Well-Rendered.
  1. An episode about Red Dead Redemption from the point of view of someone who spent the last 3 years studying American Literature
  2.  An episode about Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light with a couple of worthy digressions.
No-one reads Well-Rendered on a Saturday night, do they?

Friday, 5 November 2010

Nablopomo and other aliens: Day 5

The other day I made an idle comment on Twitter about how I was listening to Wheatus whilst playing Chip's Challenge.

Generally I use Twitter to inform people of what I am eating or to fish for compliments, so you can imagine how bemused I was to discover that Wheatus (for I believe it was they) had seen my idle tweet and actually replied with the question "what is Chip's Challenge"?

Well. I was not about to tell the "Teenage Dirtbag" legends to google it. I was far too starstruck. Instead I told them that it was a video game and then said something gushing about how I was listening to their lesser-known second album, Hand Over Your Loved Ones, whilst playing it.

The lesser-known second album is, as every brown-noser knows, the correct choice when name dropping the work of any artist.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Nablopomo and other aliens: Day 4

I do hope this isn't cheating. I know it's supposed to be one blog post a day, but today I'm going to link to something I wrote elsewhere instead.

It's a review of the wonderful Bayonetta for Studycove!

Here it is.


Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Nablopomo and other aliens: Day 3

Today: Assassin's Creed and the art of multitasking.

Well-Rendered towers has been in possession of a copy of the original Assassin's Creed for over two years. For some reason, it's the special edition. One of these days I might just have to send the limited edition postcards to someone.

No-one's ever played this particular copy all the way through. Several people have tried, but they've only managed to play for a few hours before their eyes glass over and they start drooling.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Nablopomo and other aliens: Day 2

I am ill.

So I'm not really up to much today. Chip's Challenge is going well (thanks for asking) but the music was giving me a headache so I'm going back to bed.

I was on The Escapist's forums yesterday, and someone mentioned Venus Envy in passing. I started reading it this morning and now I am hooked. It has nothing to do with video games.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Womengamers and the winds of change

Hi everyone. I know it's supposed to be one blog per day, but I couldn't let this one go.

The wonderful Womengamers.com is on the move. I'll let them explain:

In 11 years, we have watched this industry grow immensely.  The atmosphere for the next generation is notably very different today than it was back then.  It’s no longer a matter of whether women play, but what they are playing that is now in question.  Gamer shame is dwindling, and the world is changing.  We too must change with it.  This is not a good-bye letter.  We are not leaving the gaming industry, but rather are adapting into more of a development role.

So there you go. If you've linked to womengamers from your site, it might be a good idea to amend your links accordingly.

It's good to know they're still going, albeit in a different form. They've always been a valuable industry resource, arguably more so than a journalism one. They've done a lot of good, and I'm sure they will continue to do so.

Nablopomo and other aliens: Day 1

Morning everyone!

I was reading Salaryn's Sword yesterday. Salaryn writes a gaming blog which touches on all kinds of subjects. I like it because she writes quite a bit about online games, which is something I know little about.

Anyhoo, she mentioned yesterday that Novemer is National Blog Posting Month. At the time of writing (about 1pm on November the first), the charmingly-titled NaBloPoMo site has crashed. I would have thought that this is because today is the first day of Na(tional)Blo(g)Po(sting)Mo(nth) and the site is seeing a lot of traffic.

But that doesn't matter because I read Salaryn's post so I don't need Nablopomo to coerce me into posting one blog post per day for the next 31 days.

It'll be a good discipline, and maybe I'll relay some nuggets which might otherwise have been lost in the composition of longer posts.

Speaking of discipline...