Saturday, 28 May 2011

World of Tanks

Since my last post I've encountered the delights of tear-arsing around Ibiza in Test Drive Unlimited 2, I've finally prestiged in CoD Blops and I've tentatively dipped a toe into the 14 day free trial of Star Wars: Galaxies. But it is World of Tanks that has really captured my imagination, and hoovered up hours of my gaming time. I bought L.A. Noire, but it sat unopened on my shelf for three days because I was having so much fun pottering about in my little tank.

World of Tanks (WoT) is described as an MMO, but it isn't like any MMO you will have come across before. It's 100% PVP for a start, and instead of an endless roam-able world the gameplay is limited to short instanced battles of 15 a-side. In fact it seems to have more in common with the Battlefield's and Call of Duty's of this world than the Everquest's and World of Warcraft's. The main difference I can see between WoT and Modern Warfare 2, for example, is that everyone is on the same server so you never have to worry about finding a populated server with a good ping playing the game-type you want etc, etc... You just select the tank you want to use from your garage, make sure there's ammo in it and click join battle. Hey presto, 29 other folks who have also just clicked Join Battle will be thrown in with you and off you go!

When you think of a tank, you think of a huge armour plated behemoth with a massive gun on the front, so when you jump into WoT you expect to be this invulnerable machine of mass destruction and while you sort of are, you really aren't at all. I shall explain. The tanks, even the little tier 1 vehicles that are little more than an upturned tin bath with an air-rifle stuck on top, feel big and powerful. The sound effects of roaring engines, creaking and clanking tracks and thundering guns, coupled with the lovingly recreated models of WWII era tanks really do make you feel like you are driving this hulking metal monster of death. The fact that everyone else is also driving one however, kind of brings everything back down to the realms of your normal FPS, it's very rare, at least until the heavy tanks are introduced at around tier 5, that you end up sat slugging it out for ages with an enemy tank, bouncing shells off each other. Two or three good hits are usually all it takes to finish off a tank of a similar level to you, and the fact that you are often in matches with tanks two or three levels higher than you can often make you feel very squishy indeed! Killed within the first minute of the battle? No matter, you can choose to wait until the battle ends, spectating the action from the viewpoints of your surviving team mates, or you can hit Escape, select leave battle and go back to your garage. The tank you just lost will stay in that instanced battle until it finishes, meaning you still get any XP or credits awarded during the fight, but leaving you free to pick one of your other tanks and jump straight back into the action.

And best of all, this fantastic diesel-powered destruction is absolutely free! WoT is calling itself an MMO, and as is the current trend with that genre it has adopted the free-to-play cash-shop model. This means that all you have to do to play is go along to www.worldoftanks.com and download the client. The whole game is free and can be played fairly unimpeded without ever spending any money at all. The game uses two kinds of in-game currency, the first are called credits and are accumulated in game by participating in matches, the better you do, the more you earn. These credits can be spent on upgrading parts for you tank, and eventually buying new tanks, tank destroyers or artillery. The second type of currency is Gold and this can only be bought from the online store for real money. Gold can then be used to buy premium tanks, none of which are particularly better than the regular tanks, but it removes the need for you to grind out loads of credits if you fancy trying your hand at a higher tier. It can also be used to buy premium ammo, which I'm not so sure is a good thing, as it is definitely more powerful than regular ammo, and I'm not happy about anyone being able to 'buy' an advantage on the battlefield. However, ammo soon runs out, and it would prove very expensive to keep re-supplying with premium ammo! There are a few other uses for Gold that I feel are far more useful:
Extending your garage - allowing you to have more than four vehicles to your name at once.
Converting XP to 'Free XP' - You gain XP in battles which can be used to research upgrades for your tank, once everything is researched the tank keeps gaining XP, but can't do anything with it. You can use Gold to convert this tank-specific XP into 'free XP', allowing it to be spent on any vehicle, very handy later on when research starts needing loads of XP even for the most basic of upgrades.
Purchasing Premium Gametime - Increases the amount of credits and XP you earn in battle by 50%. It may not seem like much, but this boost really makes a difference, especially when saving up credits for your next tank!

A few downsides for balance, and the main one is, ironically, balance. Tier 1 is fine with everyone roaring around in tier 1 light tanks and the occasional tier 2 medium tank, but when you get to tiers 3 and 4 you often find yourself in with tier 5 and 6 heavy tanks, and as a general rule, a tier 3 light tank can't damage a tier 5 heavy tank no matter how many times it shoots it, and a tier 5 heavy tank will one-shot a tier 3 light tank almost every time. This does get annoying, but you find ways around it, becoming more of a scout, picking out heavies for your artillery to take out, whilst simultaneously hunting down the enemy artillery yourself. My other bug-bear is that it can feel a bit grindy, especially when you are trying to get the credits together to buy a tank from the next tier up. At the moment I'm enjoying the game, and it's still fresh and new enough for me to not really care, but I think as I near tier 10 it could become more of an issue. Also the fact you can only play with friends in groups of three, or full platoons of 15 seems a bit restrictive, but I haven't gotten involved in that side of things too much yet to be able to say properly how it works, maybe being in a clan enables the game to put several groups of 3man teams from the same clan into a match together, I don't know.

On the whole then, I'm having a blast in World of Tanks, and at the recession busting price of FREE there's no reason why you shouldn't give it a go as well. Just remember to buy some gold if you enjoy it, games like this still need to turn a profit, and the cash-shop model seems to fit this title like a glove.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

A Quick Catch-up

Hello blog. Yes I know, six months without an update is probably not the best way to build or maintain a readership, or even be able to remember which password I need to get in to you. Let us never speak of it again.

So, a lot has happened in my little corner of the gaming world since I was last here, not least of which would be my involvement in the open beta and subsequent release of Trion Worlds grand new MMO 'Rift'. The game that went into open beta was a finely honed and polished product that appeared to have already been tested to within an inch of it's life. So good was it in fact that even before it was released it was of a far higher quality than many games that had already been running for a number of years! I used the time in beta to try out some of the different classes in the game, and to familiarise myself with, (and test the limitations of), the
new Souls system of class building that the game introduced. At first glance it would appear to make for an incredibly flexible way to get the balance of Healing, DPS and Tanking ability that anyone could want. You start off by choosing your base archetype, Warrior, Cleric, Mage or Rogue. Each of these classes then gets to pick three Souls (basically skill sets) from a list of eight with which to build the character you want to play. Warrior souls are mainly defensive tanking or strength based offensive DPS, Clerics are mainly healing with some ranged or melee DPS, Mages are mainly ranged DPS with some healing, buff/debuff options, etc, etc... To start off with I chose a Warrior with Paladin, (classic sword & board tank type skills), Voidknight, (a kind of resistance tank, vulnerable to melee but impervious to magical attack), and an offensive soul which i can't remember now. I figured this would give me a nicely rounded offensive tank with plenty of resist and block ability, and it worked, to a degree. What actually happened though was that out in the wilds versus trash mobs I was a one man wrecking machine, but in really tough fights I wasn't offensive enough to kill the mobs before they killed me, and I wasn't defensive enough to withstand their attacks for very long. Fortunately there is another really nice mechanic in the game which means you can run several different soul combinations at once, with a button on your hot-bar to toggle between skill sets. You can also clear out any of these 'roles' at any time and slot in different souls as you see fit. Eventually I gave up on the all-rounder tank and went for a more traditional setup, with Paladin and Warlord as my main souls and the recipients of most of my skill points. When the game launched and I joined up with my clan mates I decided to roll a healing biased Cleric and have been steadily slogging away ever since. I think being involved in the beta for an extended period before the game actually launched my have shortened the games lifespan a little for me, because even though my Cleric is only in the mid level-20's ,(out of a current maximum of 50), I've started to drift away from Rift, even though it is a fantastic game that I'm really happy to have been involved with from such an early stage. I still enjoy my time in there, but the times I'm in there are becoming fewer and farther between as the months go on. I'm determined to reach level cap with at least one of the 10 or so characters I've got in there, (DAMN YOU, accursed alt-itis!), but it may take a little while yet as there are so many other games to play at the moment! I look at my shelf of unopened Xbox games and despair!

But, rather than opening one of those, i've decided instead to get back into the multiplayer side of Bad Company 2, still a fantastic game, if a little frustratingly one sided at times. As with all online FPS's you are only as good as the rest of your team, and I do seem to end up surrounded by useless muppets a lot of the time in that game. Still, it's good fun, especially on Team Speak with friends, and I've finally unlocked all of the weapons so can now just relax and play whatever class I fancy at the time, rather than constantly chasing the next unlock.

There's also been a little PlanetSide action recently, following the announcement that a PlanetSide sequel is well and truely on the way! Will it be the saviour of gaming as me and my outfit mates have been praying for these past five years or so? Only time will tell. Until then though a few of us have ventured back into the creaking husk of the original for one last hurrah. The strain is beginning to show to be honest. It's still a damn fine game, but the low, frequently drastically unbalanced populations make it an often frustrating and thankless chore rather than the sweeping epic it once was.

Console wise there's been Assassins Creed Brotherhood which I'm yet to finish, the massively disappointing Homefront , which i'm probably never going to finish, and the outrageously excellent Bulletstorm which I did finish and thoroughly enjoyed. There's also been a fair bit of jumping about like an idiot after getting Kinect for my birthday, but that seems to have been a fairly short-lived fad as I haven't used it in a good few months now.

And that, I think, brings us about up to date. Hopefully the next update won't take another six months as I intend to do more frequent "What I've been playing" type posts just to keep my hand in and to get me used to writing again. And with that I think i need a lie down. My brain hurts.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Like a kid in the worlds most expensive sweet shop

All summer long there was barely a single game release that made me feel like I had to have it. Now, it feels like the pre-Christmas floodgates have been flung open and all the goodies that should have been gently trickling into my shopping basket throughout the year are pouring out in a tumultuous cascade. I'm swamped in triple-A releases that I have no way of keeping up with.

I've plucked a few choice items from the swirling torrent over the past few weeks, mainly 'Halo: Reach', 'Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock' and 'Castlevania', but so much else has gone sailing by! Games like 'Enslaved: Odyssey to the West' and 'Vanquish' have really piqued my interest, and if they'd been released back in the great game drought of the summer I'd have snapped them both up on release day. But when I'm having to leave games like 'Medal of Honour' and 'Fallout-New Vegas' on the shelf because I simply can't afford to buy any more games this month, what chance do the smaller, less well known releases have?

Yesterday was a prime example of launch scheduling gone mad. Three of the most anticipated games of the year (for me at least) were released on the same day. 'Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II', Fable 3 and of course, the one I've been waiting for with bated-breath, Rock Band 3. Just the games alone would set me back somewhere in the region of a hundred and twenty quid, but when you consider the fact that the big selling point of RB3 is of course the instruments then things just start getting silly! Amazon is selling the Keyboard peripheral bundled with the game for £99.99, the new multi-buttoned guitar controller is going for £109.99 and the new souped-up cymbal-bedecked drumkit goes for another £99.99. So just for Rock Band I'm looking at £309.97, add to that another eighty quid for the other two games and I'm looking at a layout of almost FOUR HUNDRED POUNDS! For COMPUTER GAMES! IN ONE DAY!!!

Thank you games industry, your infinite wisdom has decreed that no-one is going to buy games in the summer, but everyone is willing to shell out hundreds of pounds every week in the run-up to Christmas; and as a result, many of the games I've been waiting months to play will now have to wait many more months. Hell, I may even be tempted to start shopping second-hand.

What a bunch of jerks.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Halo: Reach (Contains spoilers)

"Remember where it all began. Remember... Reach."

This was the mantra of the advertising campaign that ran up to the launch of one of 2010's most anticipated games, along with some very powerful, live action trailers of regular folks living on Reach going about their daily lives, blissfully unaware of the catastrophe that is about to befall them. Unfortunately all of this was wasted on me, because I am probably the only gamer in the 'verse who had no idea that Reach was a planet, let alone it's significance in Halo lore. At least I didn't before playing this.

The first two titles in the Halo franchise passed me merrily by without troubling me in the slightest. I never had an original Xbox, and the little I saw of the PC version of Halo: Combat Evolved didn't exactly make me want to rush out and buy it. So when Halo 3 launched on the 360 I stumbled into it with a vague idea of who Masterchief was and very little else. Being dropped straight into the middle of an ongoing story with no idea what was happening, really hard fights, confusing maps and an impenetrable plot, I quickly got bored. I put the 'Chief back in his box, set him on the shelf and was quite content to leave him there safe in the knowledge that Halo wasn't for me.

When Halo: Reach launched in September, I was tempted by it. I'd been hearing good things, and it was after-all going to be (developer) Bungie's last foray into the Halo universe, so it was pretty much guaranteed to be a decent game by anyone's standards. I was still in two minds about buying the thing or not right up until the point I slipped the disc into the draw of my Xbox. And as I started playing, I suddenly "got it". I was starting from scratch, playing a prequel without foreknowledge of what was to come which made the whole thing more exciting for me, I believe, than for a Halo devotee who would have known exactly what had happened on Reach.

The game starts on a reveal of the helmet you just chose from the armour selection screen sat in the middle of a scorched wasteland, sporting a huge bullet-hole in the visor. Ominous, yes, but I'm not nearly fatalistic enough to jump to the obvious conclusion of YOU ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!!! I mean, I didn't realise from my hour or so of playing Halo 3 that Masterchief was the LAST Sapartan! How could I have known?

The game breaks you in gently enough, with a mission to investigate the actions of a local rebel group, which turns out to be a small expeditionary group of Covenant, the coalition of alien forces intent on wiping out humanity. The fights and set-pieces get tougher and more spectacular as the game progresses, until you finally discover that it's not just an expeditionary force, it's a full scale invasion! Cue some of the most jaw-dropping battles I've ever seen in an FPS. The mission to knock out a sensor jamming station is just awesome, with you tearing along in your trusty Warthog flanked by dozens of others and with huge ships thundering overhead, like flying battleships, pummelling the enemy with enormous ordnance. There's a nicely handled space battle thrown in for good measure, lots of varied vehicular sections and some of the best on foot running and gunning I've had the pleasure to encounter. Another highlight for me was the point where you get back onto Reach from the Covenant mothership. You find yourself alone in a city which at first glance looks normal, all clean lines and white buildings, but then you start to notice litter everywhere, and here or there the unmistakeable slumped form of a dead body. As you progress through the level things get dirtier and darker, smoke and fire start appearing, just glimpsed in the distance at first, but getting closer every time you pass a window. It's exquisitely done, and just helped suck me into the game all the more. The game is driven along by a beautifully written and acted series of FMV set pieces that really ramp up the tension and sense of hopelessness.

The campaign really got it's claws into me, so much so that I finished it in three sittings, (make sure you stay for the post-credits sequence, it's awesome!) The way Reach ends leads me to believe that Halo: Combat Evolved takes place immediately after, and it left me wanting to see how the story continues. Take note Bungie, I think an Xbox Live Arcade launch of a pimped up HDified Halo 1 and 2 would make you a killing off the back of Reach! Anyway, without having access to those first two games, I made do with playing through ODST, which I also thoroughly enjoyed and completed, and now I'm back in Halo 3 and about half-way through the campaign there two.

Halo:Reach. Simply the finest campaign in any first person shooter to date. Now for completing it on Legendary in co-op!

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Game Cinematics: The New Hollywood?

I've been neglecting this blog again lately, mainly because I'm still in a place where I'd rather be spending time playing games than writing about them, which I think is a good thing. My free time is being taken up at the moment with a return to Warhammer Online on the PC and on the console it's Rock Band 2, complete with a shiny new drum-kit.

But I've not come here today to talk about what I've been playing, I thought I'd do something a little different for a change. I spend a fair bit of time online perusing YouTube when I'm not actively playing a game, and one of my favourite subjects are the increasingly sophisticated trailer videos for upcoming games. Like Hollywood in miniature, these two minute masterpieces deliver massive bang for your buck with all the excitement and action of a summer blockbuster movie, only in 100% CGI. I thought I'd take a few minutes here to share a few of my favourites.

First up is the trailer for a game I've had an on-off relationship with since it launched, Mythic's Warhammer Online:



Like most of these trailers, this is utterly useless if you were hoping to see if the game itself would appeal to you, as there is no actual gameplay footage in it whatsoever. But that's not really the point of these videos. After seeing that, who wouldn't want to have a go at being a Shadow Warrior, (the athletic, dual sword wielding Elf), or a Bright Wizard, (the pyro-maniacal ginger), or an impractically under-dressed Dark Elf Sorceress? It's a pretty epic piece of cinema, even at four and a half minutes.

Next up we'll stick with the Warhammer theme, but this time moving on to the Warhammer 40,000 franchise and the trailer for next years Space Marine:



As things move on, and technology is improving we're starting to see a blurring of the lines between Full-Motion-Video and gameplay footage. It's a little hard to tell, but I think the Space Marine trailer actually contains a fair amount of the latter, and man does it look GOOD! I'm really looking forward to this one.

Finally for this entry I'm going to go with a game I'm not particularly looking forward too, but who's trailers thus far have been absolutely superb, Star Wars: The Old Republic:



That's just a really good cinematic. Well scripted, well acted, well choreographed, jaw-droppingly good looking... why couldn't they have let theses guys do the Star Wars prequels and kept that oaf Lucas out of the way?!

Considering the level of sophistication we are starting to see here, merely to advertise a computer game, I'm starting to wonder why we aren't seeing more in the way of fully CGI movies at the box office. Pixar and the like are doing wonderful things with the CGI equivalent of cartoons, and Cameron had a decent stab at it with Avatar, but even he wasn't bold enough to go all in and make a 100% CGI movie for adults. Why not? That movie proved beyond doubt that CGI characters can carry a film to enormous success. The lucrative teen-to-mid-30's male audience has grown up on computer games, and the recent massive successes of games such as Modern Warfare 2 and GTA IV proves that there is a market for computer generated entertainment. A movie that I'm hoping is going to prove this point, (but it won't because it's too niche), is the forthcoming Ultramarines movie, which makes this post nicely cyclical.

Movies of computer games are notoriously rubbish, maybe it's time we let the guys who make the computer games have a go at making their own movies!

If anyone reads this (unlikely I know) I'd love you to leave a comment on some of your favourite game cinematics. cheers,
Dok.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Turbine and Twisted Pixel work on "Secret MMO"

I was talking gaming the other night with my friend Welshtroll, as happens quite often, and he pointed me in the direction of this article on joystiq.com. A statement from Twisted Pixel, (Splosion Man, Comic Jumper), confirming that they had been contracted by MMO giants Turbine, (DDO, LOTRO), to work on an as-yet unannounced console MMO! So, this got us thinking as to what this game might be.

For the MMORPG genre to finally make the jump to console it's going to need to be something that lots of people want to play, including, or should that be especially, people who have never had the slightest urge to play an MMO before. Star Wars already has an MMO out in the form of SOE's Star Wars Galaxies, and another one on the way, BioWare's hugely anticipated Star Wars: The Old Republic. Another massive franchise that already has an MMO is Lord of The Rings, which, like the Star Wars games, is only available on the traditional MMO platform, the PC.

The only IP I can think of that carries enough clout to finally bridge the gap between the hardcore PC gamer and the casual console user is, of course, Harry Potter.

There are a few clues in the statement that would back this up. For the game to be in or nearing a state of completion, the full arc of the story needs to already be known, but for an almost finished game to have not even been announced means that the publishers/developers are waiting for something to happen to time their announcement to. The Harry Potter franchise fits this bill perfectly. The series of books came to a close a few years ago now, giving Turbine all the story, background and world detail they need to make the game; and with the release of the final film later this year there is the perfect event to tie the announcement in with. Also, the fact the final film is being released in two parts is an ideal marketing situation for any tie-in game. If the announcement is held off until the launch of part one in the autumn, Turbine can piggy-back on the massive Hollywood publicity machine, and ride the hype all the way through to the summer of next year when they can launch the game to coincide with the release of the final movie in the series.

The other major clue is Warner Bros. recent purchase of Turbine. At the time, it looked like this was a move to ensure Warner had the rights to all of the Lord of the Rings game franchises, but the fact that Warner are the studio behind the Potter movies seems to now reveal ulterior motives behind the acquisition.

So there you have it. Turbine will announce Harry Potter as their next MMO title sometime around November 2010, and will release the game on PC AND console somewhere around July 2011.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Catch-up.

It has been many long months since I graced this blog with an entry. Mainly it would seem because I am currently a happy and contented gamer, and as a rule happy contented people don't need to blog about stuff. Also, between work, my burgeoning hobby as a photographer, and actually playing games, I've had very little time to actually write about playing games. So for tonight I'll just run through a brief re-cap of what I've been up to, and then over the next few days I'll hopefully get around to focusing more closely on a few of the areas that have caught my attention recently.

Last time I was here I was extolling the virtues of the Battlefield: Bad Company 2 single player campaign. After that I moved on to Batman: Arkham Asylum, a game I'd been looking forward to playing for quite some time. It's a nicely atmospheric, story lead third-person action game, set in a world that is exquisitely realised and suitably dark and brooding. A delightfully mischievous Harley Quinn and a fine performance from Mark Hamill as The Joker give you some interesting and unusual villains to go up against, and there are the regulation big fights against the likes of Bane and Killer Croc. It's a fine game, but for one reason or another I ended up moving on before I'd completed it. Silly of me really as I know I'm not very far from completing the main story arc... I 'll definitely go back in though, Arkham Asylum's Batman is a hugely enjoyable character to play, it's a fun universe to visit, and I'd like to see how the story ends before I forget what it was about in the first place! Definitely one for the to-do list.

Next up was a brief sojourn into the world of Gears of War 2, again, a great game on first impressions. Mad, relentless action, huge set-piece battles and more fire-power than you can shake a (boom)stick at. My time here though was cut short by the announcement of a free week in Lord of the Rings Online, a game which I have played and enjoyed, on and off, for about 2 years now. I rolled two new characters during the week, a Champion who I managed to get into the mid level 20's and a Warden that I got to about level 17 or so. I won't go into LOTRO to much here as I'd like to do a few more in-depth posts on it in the future, but, suffice it to say, I enjoyed the week enough to be tempted by the massively reduced Lifetime subscription offer that was running at the same time. I'll also definitely be heading back into Gears 2 at some point. It was a lot of fun and I'd have probably played it through to the end if the new shinys hadn't gotten in the way.

My journey through Middle Earth was soon halted by my old clan mates making a return to my all-time favourite all-time game of all-time - PLANETSIDE! PlanetSide is one of those games that, as long as I have friends playing it, I can come back to time and time again. The website count-down to the games 7th anniversary event was the main reason everyone had signed up again, and as with all things PlanetSide over the last 3 or 4 years, it turned out to be a massive let-down. But, the old gang all back together in the old stomping ground was priceless. When you've got a good bunch of friends all on voice in that game and things are going your way on the battlefield, I don't think there's anything out there still that can rival that experience. After the let-down of the event people started drifting off again, and after missing a few weeks due to a busy work schedule I found myself back in the land of the console again. Though I am still subbed to PlanetSide for now, and hopefully we'll get some more sessions in before my sub runs out.

Back in console land I found myself taking on the role of Rico Rodriguez, secret agent, regime-change specialist and all-round ice-cool Latino bad-ass in Just Cause 2. This is 100% the MOST fun single-player game I've ever played. EVER. A huge open world to explore (400KMsq to be precise) and cause chaos in. A living, breathing country full of civilians, revolutionaries, corrupt police and military and one mad ruthless dictator. And your job is to run around blowing stuff up and killing bad guys in the most comedic ways possible. Probably another game I'll do a more in-depth look at as there's just so much to say about it, so for now I'll just say, if you are looking for a fun single player experience, look no further than Just Cause 2.


JC2 is now nicely wrapped up, although there's still plenty to see and do even after the main story is complete. I can see myself dipping into that one for a long time to come, but not before I've finished my current game, the almost equally awesome Red Dead Redemption form Rockstar Games. I'm currently having a blast roaming the not-so-old west as retired gunslinger John Marston, in a quest to find and kill a member of the gang I once rode with. The story so far is fantastic, the characters are believable and increadibly well realised. But the biggest star of the show is the world itself. It is staggeringly well made. Every time I play it I feel like I'm in an old cowboy movie. The light is perfect, the landscape is stunning, the place is alive with wildlife, the interaction between your character and the locals feels real and believable, and there is just so much to see and do. I'm 25+hours in and just over 50% complete; and that's before we even start on the multiplayer aspect of it all!


So, that's pretty much what I've been up to, and if you read all that, well done! Between LOTRO, PlanetSide, Just Cause and Red Dead, there's enough material to keep me blogging for months. They are all fantastic games in their own right, all unique in their own way and all fine examples of where gaming stands as this century heads into it's teens. PlanetSide is the old man of the group, a dying game with an ever dwindling playerbase, but with ideas and mechanics decades ahead of its time that needs to be learned from. Lord of the Rings Online, a traditional MMORPG very much of the old-school, but currently being injected with new life as whole new subscription and "free-to-play" models are being introduced. Just Cause 2 and Red Dead Redemption are at the forefront of gaming, to the point where they almost feel like a hybrid of traditional games and MMOs. A Massively-SINGLE-player game if you like. These are turbulent and exciting times for the games industry, and I for one can't wait to see where it goes next.