Advice to Writers?

This is a response to a fairly strong calling out of games writing the other day on bitmob. I like it. I’m sharing here.

The original post is here.
A follow-up post is here.

Gamerly Musings

This is an incredibly sad thing to read: an aspiring writer is forced to reconsider their passion as a career. Though perhaps what is more sad is how often it happens without any blog post to mark the occasion. Having questioned the viability of writing as a career choice more times than I can count over the past 2 years (heck, I think just yesterday was the last time I did so), I feel for him. And considering the caliber of the average “help for aspiring writers” advice being offered, I feel for him even more.

This is difficult, because I want more than anything to respond to his piece, but I fear that any attempt to do so will be seen as arrogant, condescending, mean-spirited, and just downright rude. But he raises some interesting issues that I would at the very least like to provide a second perspective to. I have…

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Sony’s New PlayStation Handheld Shows Some Vitality

Sorry for the awful pun in the headline, but, well, you know. Sometimes it has to happen.

I purchased the Playstation Vita the other day, after a long process of swearing I’d never get one. Of promising myself that the PSPGo would be the last Sony folly I’d purchase.

But there was a DSi, a PSP 3000, and a PSPGo sitting on my desk, mocking me. They’d been there for a while, wishing they were an iPhone or an iPad, or perhaps both. “I don’t want a handheld console anymore,” I declared, fruitlessly as it turns out. “I’ve got my iPhone with me all the time.”

When all was said and done, though, two of my handhelds and a bunch of games traded in later, I have a Vita. And, wow, I hate to say it, but this is a pretty amazing little gaming device.


Little is more of a figure of speech. The screen on this bad boy is the same dimensions as my iPhone. The entire iPhone, not just the screen portion. If I were to cut out the PS Vita screen with an Xacto knife, I’d be able to slot the iPhone in there.

The screen resolution is nice–not new iPad nice, but the same chip is at play here–but tons have been said about that already. It’s pretty, yeah, ok. It makes PSP resolution games look a bit hazy. But still, this isn’t a console replacement. The iPad can do almost console-quality graphic performance, if my observations are true. The PS Vita, on the other hand, still looks a bit less than console awesome. Of course, the tech is new and all that, but still. If Epic can make Infinity Blade II on the iPad look that good? Someone should have been able to do so on the Vita.

But that’s not my point here. My point is that Sony has obviously taken some cues from other successful products. The two I notice most now after a few days? The touchscreen and the, well, whatever they’re calling the XMB area. The place with all the apps.

I thought the touchscreen would be a gimmick, something bootstrapped onto a PSP for stupid handheld tricks. Not so. The touchscreen makes this baby sing. Typing, for one, is finally usable. If I never see another ridiculous three letters and a number per space typing interface again, it’ll be too soon. Typing on this is how typing should be. THere’s even a rudimentary word-prediction feature that’s pretty nice.

The Vita interface is slick, and obviously designed with a touchscreen in mind. Games and other apps seem to pause when the PS home button is pressed, shrinking down into sheets that can be swiped left or right, or diagonally down fromt eh upper right corner to dismiss. It’s got a bit of WebOS feel to it in this sense. Great way to have it work. Tap the PS home button, freeze the app, move it aside for another. It feels like multitasking. Bravo, Sony. I thing the circular app icons are a bit too “not-apple-at-all-no-way” for my taste, but they are easily moved, and app pages are easily added. All in all, a great effort.

The Vita, so far, is a slick piece of kit, just like the original PSP was lo those many moons ago. I miss my original PSP. It felt like a quality piece of hardware, and the Vita has a similar solidity. The power button is (FINALLY) moved away from my clutching right hand, and the dual analog-esque sticks are great. The D-Pad is a little wonky with it’s single piece of plastic design, but I suppose Sony couldn’t get it ALL right.

I dig playing around in the interface. i like “Near,” the answer to Nintendo’s StreetPass system. I like the idea of near, and even in my small city suburb, I’ve found a few other folks playing the same Uncharted and Rayman demos I am. It’s a clever idea, well-enough implemented.

Speaking of Nintendo, while Sony took its cue from Apple in designing the touchscreen, they definitely hired the Nintendo Shopping dude to create their music. Whenever I’m browsing the PSN store or goofing around in Near, the music sounds like the Wii music. There’s no denying the friendly atmosphere of that music. Fascinating choice, there.

Overall? I haven’t bought any games yet, and have only downloaded PSP games I already own, and the demos available for Vita launch titles. But this is a slick piece of kit that I’m fairly happy I picked up. At least it’ll look better on my desk gathering dust than the last three systems that sat there.

Top 10 iOS Games from Last Year

I wrote this up for GamesBeat early on in my time with them as a freelance writer. I had fun putting it together, and learning how to write to a more “Top Ten” crowd than ever before. Here is part of it, and be sure to link through for the whole thing.

What makes a great mobile game? Eye popping visuals? Solid gameplay and controls? Ease of entry, pick up and play features? Are casual games the best suited for Apple’s disruptive gaming device? What about core gaming, is it yet possible on these magical devices? What about social games, shooters, platformers?

The answer: Yes. All of these make great games, and the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad will play them.

Apple’s iOS devices and operating system have proven to be a popular and disruptive force in gaming. Games of all stripe compete in the same marketplace; there are games for just about every type of gamer – and non-gamer – out there. From simple to complex, intuitive to intelligent, iOS games are the next big thing to happen in the gaming world. Since there are more than 100,000 titles to choose from, we thought it might be fun to take a moment here to look at our picks for the top ten iOS games from 2011.

READ THE WHOLE POST TO SEE MY 10 PICKS

Been A While

Right?

Last post I wrote here was from GDC 2010. I’ve been to two more GDCs since then. I’m writing for payment now (woohoo!) and loving the hell out of every minute. I’d like to start using this space, ordinary swords, again, to start showcasing my gaming and tech writing, as well as write a bit about stuff that doesn’t fit anywhere else.

So, welcome back!

Here’s a review I wrote up for VentureBeat’s lastest push, GamesBeat. It was my first review for their site.

Infinity Blade II

Infinity Blade II is debuting today, and the mobile game reminds us of the attractions of iterative game development. The risk is low, the potential for gain is high. While an innovative game can change the course of development in its own right and become the fastest selling game in iOS history, a well done sequel can polish what the first game got right to a high gleam, and add just the right amount of extras and enrichment to become something even sweeter. We’ve seen it with a series like Games of War, another Epic Games property, and now we can see it again with Infinity Blade II, my pick for the most console-like experience on the iOS platform to date.

Infinity Blade II (Epic Games & Chair Entertainment) is out for the iPad 2 and the iPhone 4S [update: Chair informs me the game is also compatible with the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPad, iPod
Touch 3 (16GB+) and iPod Touch 4].

There’s something primal about the way combat happens in this game. It would seem as though, on paper at least, that swiping and tapping on a glass screen wouldn’t feel so damn, well, tactile. Infinity Blade, the first game, gave us all a sense of place and a sense of impact with stabbing, blocking, dodging and slashing our way through the same path of evil warrior beasts and humanoids again and again, only to die at the hands of the God King at the end of each hard-fought road. Death became us, though, as we were reborn after each successive death at the hands of our arch-nemesis, and we again picked up the heavy mantle of hero, trudging ever onward to our doom.

READ THE FULL REVIEW