Tortoise Butler launches a site of its own

Written on April 11, 2014 – 11:05 am by Ding

TortoiseButlerSite

The delightful crew that I make films with on a regular basis and who have taught me everything I know has launched a lovely little site housing our short films and a blog written by the film crew.

Keep your eyes peeled for posts that will be going up over the next few weeks (my first post about creepy film locations is already up) and a new film that should be going live next week after we finish another 48 hour film challenge!

The main site can be found here: Tortoise Butler

A far wetter way to learn English (April Fools!)

Written on April 1, 2014 – 8:00 am by Ding

UPDATE: This is of course a contribution to my favourite day of the year and was a huge amount of fun to work on!

By day, I currently work for Kaplan International and they’re doing something very exciting. They are launching a really brave product that is set to take the education industry by storm. The video below should explain things a little more.


They let me help out making the launch video too and we’re all very proud of how it has turned out.

More information can be found here: Kaplan Underwater English

In Defence of Dungeon Keeper Mobile

Written on February 20, 2014 – 9:30 am by Ding

Dungeon Keeper Mobile upset a lot of fans of the original series. Once the dust had settled a little, I wrote a piece defending it for Den of Geek.

Some will tell you this heralds the end of gaming as we know it.

Some will tell you this heralds the end of gaming as we know it.

really wanted to write a piece actually defending it as a game outright as opposed to what I went with in the end. Tempting as it is to play devil’s advocate and fight for a position you don’t really hold, I just couldn’t produce anything approximating a positive review of this thing.

My distaste for the non-game pay-and-wait model is overwhelming and my suspicion of micro-transactional features runs deep enough that it actually threatens to stop me enjoying perfectly excellent games like Hearthstone which carry similar strands in its DNA.

At the same time, I do like change and I do welcome companies trying new ways to make money out of an industry that seems to lose far more of it than anyone expects. With yesterday’s news that Irrational was being wound up, it shows that even large well established studios can be hit with the financial failure stick, so if a few shoddy games can provide the data points needed to explore new revenue avenues, then it’s realistically a small price to pay.

Yeti Hunter Review

Written on January 28, 2014 – 12:55 pm by Ding

This review for Yeti Hunter, a free PC game from Vlambeer, first appeared on X, a site I now pretend never existed.

The first time I saw a yeti, the hairs on the back of my neck rose and prodded the nerves that coiled round to my temples and then proceeded to stop me breathing for the next three seconds. It was the first indication that I was not in fact alone in the blazing white snow-scape I had found myself in and that there were in fact yetis out there, or at least one, for me to hunt.

Always a pleasant sight to welcome you to a game's world.

Always a pleasant sight to welcome you to a game’s world.

Having come away from the game for a few minutes it occurs to me that I’m only assuming that I was the hunter because I was the one holding the gun and because on this particular occasion, the yeti was running away from me. There was no guarantee that this would always be the case or that the Yeti was even aware of my existence. Perhaps it was just frolicking, blissfully unaware of the terrified and quivering wreck currently cowering behind a cross-hair.

Yeti Hunter from Vlambeer is something I wouldn’t be surprised to find in an art gallery. In terms of atmosphere, it should be played by anyone who is in any doubt of the potential evocative nature of gaming as a medium, even through a retro aesthetic. The landscape is a crude, pixelated affair, outwardly resembling something that would be spat out by an ancient Atari, but the flickering snow and blinding white haze reveals a graphical sophistication that older machines would have been incapable of.

Not shown by picture: my fear-bulged eyes.

Not shown by picture: my fear-bulged eyes.

As for the atmosphere, the first time the scene snapped from day to night, and I do mean to use the word snapped, my heart decided it wanted to occupy a space that was half its size, contracting down with the shift in music. Said music, from Kozilek, does an incredible job of further pushing the tone and feeling of extreme solitude in a hostile or at best bleak environment.

The scratchy, shaky appearance of the snow and pixel-trees, accompanied by the haunting music played through my headphones in combination with the fact that I rather foolishly played this in the dark with the flickers of torrential snow lightly strobing against my walls, meant that the one thing it put me in mind of the most was the horror film The Ring. Upon exiting the game, I half expected to find an email from the yeti reading ‘seven days’.

I scare easily in games. I put the controller down very early on in Silent Hill 2 because unlike in a horror film, actually walking away is of course an option. That said, the atmosphere and tension that Yeti Hunter manages to build on such few resources is astounding. It is in no doubt a short form game, and not exactly something you can play for very long, nor I doubt very often, but it is an example of a supreme piece of game design and highly compelling, even if the lack of instruction or definitive objective can be a little unsettling.

It is really rather difficult to convey just how much atmosphere this game has in these screens.

It is really rather difficult to convey just how much atmosphere this game has in these screens.

I have yet to actually kill the/one of the yetis. I’m not even certain it’s possible and to be perfectly honest, I’m a little concerned of the potential consequences of doing so. If I find myself actually face to face with one, it will be interesting to see if I can pull the trigger and I appear to have taken to hiding up trees instead.

Verdict: Yeti Hunter didn’t feel the need to give me a score, so I won’t do the same to it. This should be looked at by any budding designer, anyone who needs convincing that games can be artistic, or anyone who wants a good atmospheric scare.

Yeti hunter was developed by Vlambeer with music from Kozilek. It is available as a free downloaded on the Yeti Hunter site.

Update: I wrote this long ago before I knew who Vlambeer were and and before the studio had done a huge amount. They have become one of the most interesting indie developers currently on the scene, and as a bonus recommendation, its mobile game Ridiculous Fishing is one of the few mobile titles that can be whole-heartedly recommended.

Check out this page for a selection of more video game reviews. They may not be the latest games or the most regularly updated, but they are definitely reviews.

The Candy Banner Saga

Written on January 27, 2014 – 2:15 pm by Ding

King, purveyors of the saccharine free-to-play money-generating pit that is Candy Crush Saga had a busy time in the headlines last week thanks to its legal shenanigans. The company has attempted to trademark the word Candy and has also tried to assert its ownership of the word Saga, which has put them at odds with indie developer Stoic, the studio behind Viking legend-themed RPG, The Banner Saga.

The Banner Saga

A typical shot of The Banner Saga. Beautiful art style and a ton of polish.

Back in 2011, I wrote something about a lawsuit between Bethesda Softworks and Mojang with the former claiming that the latter’s upcoming game “Scrolls” would confuse players into thinking it was somehow associated with its “The Elder Scrolls” series (more commonly known amongst gamers as Skyrim, Oblivion, and maybe the odd older title such as the far superior Morrowind). The King vs Stoic incident is similar, even down to the size of the companies involved.

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Hearthstone Beta Review

Written on December 31, 2013 – 5:36 pm by Ding

The Hearthstone Beta review

Initially Hearthstone comes across as a shameless copy of Magic: The Gathering. Of course, Magic: The Gathering is an excellent game marred only by the fact that your friends are smarter than you, know which cards go together perfectly, and don’t keep getting distracted and filling their decks with low-health creatures. I may only be speaking for myself there of course.

hearthstone_main

I was ready to write off Hearthstone as Magic: The Copying and call it a day but there’s just something about Blizzard’s level of polish that makes that quite hard to do. Four hours later I had fully filed my nails down with my teeth and had both feet tucked up onto my chair as the last few points hung in the balance between my confused Paladin (he didn’t know why his cards were all low-health creatures) and a suicidal Warlock constantly hurting himself to get better cards whilst I ineffectually poked him with a town guard.

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is a Blizzard Entertainment project that looks to be lining its cross-hairs on the lucrative (I initially typed ludicrous and I’m not sure I was right to correct it) free-to-play market. It is a digital collectible card game whereby players collect cards, build decks out of those cards, and then battle each other with those decks. You unlock cards by levelling up or earning gold through the game, or by putting your credit card details down to buy more of them directly.

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The UK youth work ethic: The simplest mystery

Written on September 3, 2013 – 4:50 pm by Ding

This post is filed under “r” for “rant”

Jamie Oliver made the media jump around in excitement and caused small disgruntled and self righteous youth eruptions around Facebook a few days ago in an interview with Good Housekeeping by saying that his restaurants would be unable to run if it wasn’t for the help of young foreign workers to pick up the slack of the UK’s own home-grown talent.

Claims that the UK’s youth workers lack a work ethic, lack ambition, are lazy and generally “wet behind the ears” as he put it were predictably met by protestations from hundreds of genuinely hard working young workers who disagreed with him. As with any inflammatory statement, there is no right or wrong answer here and both sides have merit, but I’ve been thinking about those young workers that are actually apparently lazy and all I can really think is “it’s really not their fault”.

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Giant Red Bull chases after tiny Redwell for reasons

Written on August 14, 2013 – 5:49 pm by Ding

 Update: Red Bull has backed down, on the proviso that Redwell doesn’t put its name on energy drinks.

Redwell's beers. Or wait, is it Red Bull? I'm so confused!

Redwell’s beers. Or wait, is it Red Bull? I’m so confused!

Red Bull, the mega-brand behind the caffeine/taurine/tastes-a-bit-like-death-filled energy drink as well as massive amounts of sports sponsorship including fully owned sports teams, a hefty F1 sponsorship deal and extreme sports sponsorships including its own air race has issued legal warnings to small Norwich-based microbrewery Redwell Brewing.

The mega-brand is worried that there will be confusion in consumers between itself and the micro-brand and has demanded that Redwell changes its name, Redwell being a small business with eight people working there.

 

This might seem like an odd thing to get fired up about, but it strikes me as corporate insanity and I’m clearly in an easily rattled mood.

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Oh look, it’s a blog

Written on January 31, 2013 – 8:06 am by Ding

I’m sure a lot of you have been saying “gosh, you’ve been awfully quiet over there haven’t you?” and you’d be right, I have been quiet, at least on this particular digital outlet.

I have been writing on a very regular basis at my old haunt Bit-Tech. I write something news-like over there pretty much every morning and even have a regular column on their blog. You can click here to see  the David Hing Bit-Tech blog archives. Not only am I writing there which is of course a massive draw for anyone,  but the other guys writing for the site are uniformly excellent.

I’m also no longer working at M&M and am instead working in digital marketing for an insurance company. Although I was initially reluctant to cross over to the “dark side” that is marketing, the work’s pretty good, the company is Not Evil and they let me write crazy things like this from time to time.

I’ve got a couple of projects in the works once again, most of which gaming related, and I’m tempted to write a little bit about them although I find actually writing about a project is the fastest way to kill it off for good, so I’m a little reluctant to talk about the game that I am making and have got quite far with. All I shall say is that it is set in space and I no longer recognise half the code I’ve actually written.

Additional Notes:

Fun fact: It’s really rather difficult to post something on a blog that has been dormant for as long as this one has. If you go through my archives, you’ll find quite a few posts that basically make excuses as to why I haven’t posted for a while.

There’s even a sub-category of that type of post whereby I comment on the fact that there are a lot of posts where I apologise for not posting for a while.

Self Portraits

Written on July 5, 2012 – 9:04 pm by Ding

I have a belief that anyone trying to create anything will inadvertently create self portraits of themselves over and over again without even realising.

I have started working on some pixel art for a new project and was very proud of some alterations I made on my ‘Ding sprite’ from Ego to make him a low level dungeon-crawling adventurer.

 

 

I thought that looked pretty good, until my girlfriend noticed the following things:

1) That’s probably closer to my actual hair colour anyway.

2) I appear to be wearing that particular tee-shirt today.

Right down to the V-neck.

Score one for extra confidence in a theory, lose one for falling back into artistic self-insertion habits.