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The Game Press: The Sinkering

A few disclaimers:

First off I stole that title from the Qt3 forum.

I’m not a huge Mass Effect guy. I’ve played both games. I enjoyed them. In fact, I played ME2 twice which something I rarely do with RPGs. When ME3 drops I will eventually play it but I’m not going to be chomping at the proverbial bit to fire it up day one. I’ll read about some stuff here as I know most of the NHS team will be in Shep-Land soon enough. I’ll get there eventually. I usually do.

I also don’t care about voice casting. Martin Sheen. Cool. The dude from Platoon. Cool. That guy from the Wing Commander movie. How can you go wrong there?

I must admit that I had no clue who Jessica Chobot was until a few days ago. Savvy game press guy that I am, I’m sure most of you know more names of the people in the game media than I do.  That pic up there? That’s her.  Giant Bomb writes this about her in its database:

During this time, she had started modeling to support her gaming and anime habit, and coincidentally had a photoshoot on release day for the PSP. She picked up her PSP on the way, and during the shoot took her now infamous photo. She jokingly sent it to a friend who worked in video game product placement, who encouraged her to send it to Kotaku. She did, but expected nothing of it. Kotaku posted it however, and was deluged by emails asking about her. Encouraged by the photo’s success, she accepted an offer from the Kotaku’s editor to write game reviews for a partner site.

That year, she used her EB Games employment to get into E3, where she coincidentally stayed in the same hotel as Kotaku. She accompanied them to the IGN E3 party, where she met an IGN representative who encouraged her to talk to their entertainment editor as a potential booth model. Impressed with her gaming experience and fascination with Japanese culture, the editor instead offered her freelance work for their insider channel. So she left her old life, including her husband, to move to California to take her dream job.

I am kicking myself for not trying this. My career path might have been very different had I decided to get kinky with a Rock Band microphone.

She’s done work for IGN as well as G4. In fact, just last month, G4 posted a video preview of the Kinect tools for Mass Effect 3 with Jessica as the reporter on the scene, interviewing team members and showing gamers how the Kinect features work. By no fault of her own, the preview made the Kinect version of M3 look about as absurd as it sounds. You can watch that here:

A couple of days ago we linked a Cast Announcement Trailer for ME3. But then a funny thing happend on the way to the cast party. Jessica Chobot was revealed as a member of the voice casting team.

Wait, what?

Jessica Chobot of the game press? She’s previewing ME3 a couple of weeks ago and now is …IN the game?

Yep. Here’s an article ON G4 talking about it.

“It’s a dream come true. I’m excited, stoked and honored. I’m seriously in 7th heaven,” Chobot said. “It’s cool just because it’s in a video game, but it’s also for one of my favorite companies of all time, Bioware, and in one of the most epic series of all time, Mass Effect 3.”

“Last I heard, I am one of the ‘romanceable’ characters in the game,” Chobot said. “I think you can bring me on the Normandy, I think you have the option of kicking me off too. I’m not sure if that’s before or after you romance me, so we might have a Jersey Shore moment. I think you can romance me with a man or a woman. We’ll see when the game comes out,” Chobot added.

When asked whether she planned to “romance” herself, Chobot said, “Oh, I’m gonna give it to me so hard.”


It’s good to know that Maxim has finally infiltrated the game press and BioWare continues to fuel the repressed sexual angst of both teenagers and lonely adults.  Never fear, now you’ll get a chance to nail a virtual Jessica Chobot! Maybe she’ll even do a Fem-Shep scene! Dream come true, indeed. All of this is so slimy, so juvenile, and so…profitable.

Truth is, I don’t care if Jessica Chobot is in Mass Effect 3 or not. I mean look, if I don’t care that Martin Sheen is in it I really don’t care that someone who licks PSPs makes a cameo.

G4 should care, though.

They should care a lot.

We have discussed the “close” relationship between the media and game publishers before here on NHS — not as much of late but we have driven down that road a few times. It frustrates me to see stuff like this because it goes against the very heart of what we should be trying to do as members of the media. If BioWare/EA want to pay this woman good coin for appearing in a role-playing game and shaking her money maker, godspeed. But how can anyone really expect her to be taken seriously as a game reporter? Is she just a pretty face? Is she just a gaming “personality”?

It seems somewhat difficult to look at G4’s coverage of Mass Effect 3 in any other light other than “compromised”. (Not sure if light can be compromised but you get what I mean.)

Jessica loves ME3. She totally loves BioWare. She’s told you as much. She’s also in the game—and on the EA payroll. Part of me feels sort of bad for her. She’s clearly stepped into something that perhaps she didn’t anticipate, as I’m hardly the only person to feel a bit perturbed about this. Then again, Jessica has used her sex appeal from the get go. She doesn’t get a job via Kotaku if she licks a PSP but looks like Ernest Borgnine.

I’m not a terribly naive person. I know that this sort of thing only matters inside a small vacuum occupied by an even smaller number of people. Mass Effect 3 will come out, people will play it, the galaxy will be saved and all will be right with the world. No one is really going to care if she’s in the game or not or if she shilled for EA while working for G4.

But this is just one more example of how we’re supposed to all be under the same umbrella — the enthusiast press.

We Heart Games.

No matter what.



Like many small boys growing up in 1980’s Britain my first introduction to computing and computer gaming was the dreadful ZX Spectrum with its terrible colour bleed, clunky cassette loading and creepily tactile rubber keyboard. Most of the games I played on it were awful, but I played them because I had nothing else, but one was different. One was so good I still play it on emulators, occasionally, today.

That game was Chaos...

Chaos was the first (and until relatively recently the last) foray that Games Workshop took into computer game publishing, back in 1985. It featured up to eight wizards each of which could be human or computer controlled, trying to kill each other on a featureless battlefield. The wizards themselves were fairly puny so each had a randomly determined collection of spells. Some buffed the wizards, some were direct attacks, some were downright odd like Gooey Blob or Magic Wood, but most summoned creatures.

One of the many interesting things about Chaos was the fact that the more powerful creature spells had a higher chance of failing, so the player could choose instead to cast them as an illusion. Illusions always worked but could be instantly killed by the “disbelieve” spell that was available to all wizards and cast-able every turn. So every summons had an immediate risk/reward choice to make alongside it, giving the game more strategy than it might first appear. It appeared a very simple game on the surface but there was actually quite a lot going on under the bonnet (hood for those of you in the states). I’m not going to run it all down for you: you can read the rules and indeed play various versions of the game on this excellent fan page.

Everyone I know who played Chaos loved it. Every turn, every move was crammed with tension, not knowing what on the board was real, or what the other players had up their sleeves to cast that turn or even whether any of the spells lined up would work properly. Inevitably we all had our own suggestions about how the game could be improved and by far the most common was that it needed a non-random spell selection as some spells were more powerful than others so starting spell selection often determined the winner. Duly a sequel to the game, Lords of Chaos, appeared which included this alongside other upgrades such as big maps with terrain and an expanded spell palette. And, whilst not awful, it was nowhere near as much fun as the original. Giving players the chance to choose spells just meant they always picked the best, reducing the variety and fun in the game. And big maps with complex terrain made it take too long as well as reducing accessibility.

But so many people loved Chaos that it was never going to be left to die. On 16 bit machines there was a little know game called Celtic Legends which was clearly inspired by Chaos and was pretty good, even if it got a bit repetitive. But with the retro-gaming explosion in later years there were numerous people making copies of Chaos, most of which fell by the wayside either being unfinished or falling into the trap of trying to improve the game and rendering it rubbish. I’ve already pointed you at one of the few successes.

It struck me recently that it’d be an absolutely fantastic tablet or mobile phone game. So imagine my annoyance as an iPad owner to discover that it’s one of the tiny handful of games that’s available on Android but not iOS! I’m off to email the author about porting it – in the meantime I suggest you go back to my previous link and get playing it.

How Crowd-Funding Let Yokai Die

(Brian Rowe is a new member of the team here at NHS. Brian has worked with us for years at GameShark and he’s going to be talking about industry stuff as well as more of the indie scene. Brian is also one of the nicest people you will ever meet…so we’re still not sure how he’s going to exactly fit in here..but we’ll make it work.)


2Bad Company seemed to be on the right track for success. The indie duo from Portugal wasn’t overloading anyone’s radar, but Yokai – their first game in development – had an enticing art-style, solid gameplay, and a pleasing little trailer (above). They blogged, tweeted, made videos, created demos, and yet, almost no one paid 2Bad Company any mind.

The result: failed crowd-funding attempts on IndieGoGo  and Playism, a rejection from IndieFund regarding a second game, and now…

“The future of 2Bad Company is uncertain, let’s just hope it’s not the end.”


By no means am I wagging my finger at the good people of the gaming community. This is the sad route that some projects take. Sometimes it’s easy to see why a game spreads through the the press faster than bird-flu in a wildfire, and subsequently becomes a crowd-funding poster-child, as in the case of Against the Wall:

YouTube video

And then there are successfully funded games like Pissed Off Penguins and Cafe Murder that inspire complete bewilderment. I don’t like being mean (maybe a little), but why people are willing to pay for something that amounts to a learning project is beyond me. In the latter case, the average donation was over $100.

Perhaps it’s time I reinstalled FlashPunk and changed careers.

From a development standpoint, there are two benefits to crowd-funding that are not often mentioned; lower barriers to entry, and the ability to bypass the press. You can make a bad game, and hop right on the train (or ship) without repercussions.

I won’t say much about this next trailer, but, after so many years in this business, you gain a sort of extra-sensory ability to look beyond the ‘cool’ snippets and cuts of trailers and see games for what they really are. I am not enthused.

YouTube video

The overarching point is that, had Muse Games relied on traditional sales models along with reviews and previews, a few people may have been out of jobs last year. Sure, you could say that crowd-funding offers people second chances at success, or even their first chances, but you could also argue that some people weren’t ready for that chance in the first place.

Was 2Bad Company ready? I don’t know. I didn’t try the demo. Actually, I’ve never contributed to a single crowd-funded project. In other words, I’m one of the people who let Yokai die.

Now that I’ve flamboyantly dismounted face-first from my high horse, what are your thoughts on crowd-funding? If you participated, how did you judge which projects were worthy of your money?

Paradox Shows Off Its 2012 Lineup

No High Scores

Note: I wrote this about six hours ago and, of course, the wireless here has been non-functional all the live-long day, so I’m only getting to post it now. It figures, the one time I’m timely with something…. sigh.  
I just got out of the Paradox Convention 2012 press conference, in which we heard from CEO/”Lord Protector,” Fred Wester as well as their business development specialist and producer/”Corporate Paladain” Shams Jorjani. Now, it’s imporatnt to note these sorts of things are built with the express agenda of getting people like me to say nice things about the company. This cannot be denied. That said, it’s really easy to like this company. 
There was a lot of talk about improved sales numbers (seriously, these guys are making money hand over fist), but it’s how they’re thriving –by focusing on publishing into niches that other larger publishers tend to ignore– that makes Paradox interesting. I’ll write more about this stuff later, when I’m not running out of time before dashing out to start a day-long stint of game demos. But for now, here’s the stuff they’ll be showing off this week, which includes three newly annonced titles (no, really, they were just announced for the first time in the last 30 minutes; for once, I’m timely):
The new three…