Write your own God Damn Strategy Guide (or, ‘Encyclopedia’)

So, I’ve been going back to Final Fantasy VIII a lot recently. Why? Likely a mix of formative nostalgia and masochism.

Every time I return to it, I keep trying to achieve the ‘perfect’ save, it’s sort of an obsession. Hit all the right notes in the first hour of the game (which soon turns into 5 hours, as I pace through the halls of the opening environment, Balamb Garden and the surrounding countryside, trying to max out my trading card collection as early as possible).

Pretty much everything you need to do has been meticulously poured over in online faq’s, or the definitely-not-quite-comprehensive-despite-the-reasonably-high-shelf-price strategy guide. Someone else has gone through the trouble of doing all the groundwork – making sure that everything is meticulously stated, all the secrets un-obfuscated, and all the pixel hunting has been done for you.

This is especially vital if you want to perfect your ‘exam’ at the start of the game (though non-essential, it wouldn’t be a perfect play-through if I didn’t – or so I keep telling myself), unlock the ‘hidden’ guardians of the game, including the incredibly elusive Doom Train (alluded to in magazines hidden throughout the game, though you’d be excused for thinking that said magazines were just mad ramblings), and to search for rare drops to make the best weapons in a game.

So the thing that’s been scratching my brain recently – what if there were a game with the scope of Final Fantasy VIII that was entirely unique – a game that no single strategy guide could adequately catalogue.
Take a roguelike – some sort of procedurally generated dungeon – ignore that bit, take the procedural generation out of that – but introduce random aspects to EVERYTHING else.

A game like FF8 has a cast of something like 300 monsters and 80 boss monsters. For your base monsters stats could be randomized, rare drops and drop frequency changed up dramatically, and locations shaken up – making hunting for that elusive monster with that elusive rare drop becomes a task of David Attenborough-esque documentation. For boss monsters, mix up the special effects and assign them randomly so that boss strategies have to be formulated on the fly.

Essentially, playing through the game and traversing the world would be the equivalent of building your own encyclopedia – everyone would be playing the same game, but their own unique instance.

What other parts of the game would get the same treatment remains to be seen, but I’m keen on the idea of procedural generation giving everyone who plays with their own bespoke experience.

On Three


We’re one day away from the biggest relaunch on 5WF in ruddy ages, and my stomach is in free-fall right now.

The news is, David Boskett and I are releasing an album tomorrow (16th Jan), with (almost) all of the bits and pieces we’ve been working on for FiveWhoFans over the last Three years.

The album is titled, “Three“, and helpfully, the lead single is also called Three.

I thought I’d do a bit of a write up about the last few years of collaborating with David, and give a bit of an insight into making music for FiveWhoFans.

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The Best Modern Games

So it turns out I have a hell of a lot of trouble working out what games I’ve had any significant interest in over the last decade or so.

BUT WHY? You ask. Possibly.

While I was writing up some of my favorite classic games, most of my memories came flooding back at once – perhaps it’s because all of those old games were so ruddy long, or because my younger mind was more focused on one game at a time, or because everything felt so new and exciting, or maybe it’s because of some strange, unquantifiable value I dismiss as ‘nostalgia’ – but for all the more modern games, it’s been a bit of a struggle on the old brain matter.

So without further ado…

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The Best Classic Games

You know how you can tell a lot about someone?

…besides just asking nicely. Obviously.

Ask them what they like playing!

Chances are, if they like games, you’ll sit down and have a massive chat and talk about old times, like the old 486x that your dad bought for the house when you were 10(ish), and how you bought it because it had Encarta, and the original plan was for you to do lots of homework on it, but then he bought back some floppies from work with “X-Wing Disk 1-6″ written on them and the very notion that you were ever going to do any work on it went WAY out the window.

If you’re staring blankly at the screen, wondering either:

  • what you mean by ‘What do I like playing?’
  • what point I was going to start talking about my prestige levels in Call of Duty

Then this blog isn’t for you, and we’re probably not going to have any deep and meaningful discussions.

Sorry. Maybe next year.

So first of all, I thought I’d get all introspective and look back at all the games that made me what I am now. Obviously, this is going to be a quick glimpse, more than a in depth, crazy super tl,dr style post. They’re coming later.

PS. I pretty much define a ‘Classic’ game as ‘Something I was playing before the turn of the millennium. Ish.

Anyway! In no particular order!

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The Several Commandments

The Main Three Commandments

  • Each week, I’ll try my best to write an editorial on videogames as a whole – be it mechanics, zeitgeist, trends, or anything.
  • On top of this, each week, I’ll try and dissect a videogame which I feel has been in some way important – either personally to me, or to videogames as a whole – if possible tying into that weeks editorial.
  • Each month, I’ll try to present something I’ve learned from game development as a whole. I’ll do my best to document the methods I’ve used to learn about development and try to present this information as painlessly as possible for anyone else in my position.

Appendix: The Additional Commandments

  • Disseminate as many ideas and prototypes into the world as possible.
  • Invite some like minded people onto the blog to join me in talking about games.
  • Occasionally do some videos. Maybe. No promises.
  • Much like God, I reserve to right to add or remove commandments ad nauseum.

Ready? Set? Go(als)!

Day One.

Okay! So here’s my idea.

In order to motivate myself in achieving a lifelong dream of making a videogame (which fits neatly alongside my other lifelong dream of writing an episode of Doctor Who) – I’ve decided to start this blog.

My plan will be to talk about, analyse and disseminate what makes some of my favourite games tick – and build upon what I’ve learned to come up with a number of prototypes from which I’ll build up from.

I’ll be looking into a variety of different methods of building games, and hopefully providing a helpful resource for anyone else in my position (i.e. someone who knows bog all).

On top of analysis, nostalgia, prototyping, venn diagrams, pie charts and all the other things you’d expect from a site of this nature – you can also expect some generic blog stuff – I will definitely wax lyrical about things I like and don’t like until I’m blue in the face. I’m definitely not a journalist or critic, but I definitely am an opinionated hack.

Also when I write, it tends to be reems of conscious thought instead of neatly and beautifully presented prose.

But you’ve probably already noticed that.