New menu – Gallery

I’ve added a new menu link: Gallery, up at the top ^^ there.

Ronnie Renton from Mantic Games kindly gave me a copy of the fantastic DreadBall. It seemed rude not to have a go at painting Mantic’s wonderful minis, even though I’ve not painted any for 15 years or so. (There’s nothing like a good challenge!) I found myself really enjoying having some music on and getting my old paints out.

The painted Trontek 29ers and Greenmoon Smackers minis were well received on the pitch and this led me to being commissioned to paint a genestealers army, along with converting a Rhino tank for them. Next up I was asked to paint an urban / futuristic little and large dwarf / ogre army.

Due to being given a copy of FFG’s amazing X-Wing Miniatures Game, I decided to have a go painting engines for the Millennium Falcon, X-Wings, Y-Wings, TIES, a TIE Advanced and a Decimator.

I’ve also been working on Mayhex! – a fantasy card game for Thornway Games. This has entailed creating many, many designs and pictures for the game.

Head over to the Gallery section for a the full picture list.

Welcome back!

Sometimes life tries to throw as much as it can at you – during such days getting time to update the site / muck about online can be a struggle to say the least.

So what’s been happening while I’ve been off air? (I won’t bother you with the dull, stressful stuff – I’m sure you have enough of that sort of thing in your own life.)

1. First off, Internet Explorer seems to have fallen out with the site. Sorry about that – I’ll try and fix it ASAP.

2. Next up, Nokia have finally killed the Symbian OS. This, unless you’re a US technology ‘journalist’, is a bad thing. “But I had a N96 / 97 and it was awful,” I hear you think. Yes, good point. After the amazing N95 they were horrifically poor phones, however did you use an N8 loaded with Symbian Belle? That OS is fantastic. It’s the best looking mobile OS and is wonderfully versatile. I’ve been out of contract for a while now, which would normally mean updating to the latest device, however I and still have and love using my N8. Why? Because nothing on the market today can do everything it does. Which is very annoying. Why Nokia seems to take one step forward then two steps backwards, have a sit down, a little nap, ponder about moon fairies, decided maybe it should possibly make something not bad, change it’s mind and so on, I don not know. I’m sure their Windows phones are great, but until they can do what the N8 does (FM transmitter – so you can beam your music to a radio), HDMI out, so you can plug the phone into a TV (you can also plug it into a CRT TV if you wish) to play music via your surround sound kit, or watch bits and bobs you’ve filmed or movies in HD, it can record sound clips in stereo and can be used to read USB storage devices (when plugged in to said USB stick / HDD), I’m not going to bother.

Yes, Symbian was fragmented and had quirks, but what a loss.

3. We moved house.

Mrs. Thornway and myself now have a garden! It’s not a big garden, but there’s some grass there (when the snow’s not decided to make an appearance). Downstairs is almost decorated and we have broadband again! Life without internet is not good.

4. Due to the lack of broadband (BT decided to cancel out order six times for reasons beyond me) we were given a YouView box, a couple of internet plug adapters, for free (including free delivery, along with some money off our bill – rah!). I didn’t know much about YouView, but it had a PVR and we didn’t have one at the moment, so I thought I’d give it a go – and I’m very glad I did. This thing beats both Freeview and surprisingly, Sky.

Sky+ or Sky HD as all the kids have now is a really good device, however YouView just seems better. It’s far faster to boot up (when not in eco mode) and it’s quicker scanning through the EPG as well. The ability to go back in time to check out programs you’ve missed is pure witchcraft. If your phone line / broadband is playing up, nag your provider for one of these things, you’ll be very happy if you get one.

5. What else? I met Ronnie and co at The North West Regional Gaming Centre, Hallam Mill, Stockport, where Mantic’s Clash of Kings tournament was being held. If you’re into gaming, miniatures, painting that sort of thing, then get yourself along to one of Mantic’s events, you won’t regret it.

6. Speaking of Mantic, I got a copy of DreadBall. What’s DreadBall? Go here for more details. Figures have been glued and paint has been applied. I’ve not painted a miniature for years – I forgot how much I enjoyed it. The first DreadBall game takes place this week, let’s hope Team Panache don’t perform too badly!

7. I’ve finished editing a book which I can’t really talk about at the moment, however the publisher is pleased and wants me to work on the next one. I’ll give you more details on this as soon as I can. 

8. I have to mention the little matter of Rispin Quill, The Dragon Tongue Book Two – I’m happy to say that everything is coming together nicely! It’s a shame writing takes so long!

Want to buy stuff?

I’ve added a new tab up at the top bar, helpfully called: ‘Buy stuff’ which links to Amazon.

What does this entail? You can look at / buy some stuff selected by me / look at / buy stuff that’s recommended by Amazon.

Disclaimer: buying products from that page doesn’t cost you any more, however I receive a small amount from Amazon, which helps pay the bills. Many thanks if you do buy something from there.

You need to watch this right now…

Stephen Fry (@stephenfry – which I’m sure knew already) posted this message on twitter…

 “Lawks! These @bare_mettle fellows have the most amazing physics I’ve ever seen in a game engine. Truly awe-inspiring!

He isn’t wrong. Please click on the link below and watch the world of Sui Generis come alive. It’s incredible work. Many congratulations to the Bare Mettle team.



George Lucas sells the farm to Disney

Well, I didn’t see this one coming! George Lucas has sold Lucasfilm to Disney for $4bn. For that they get Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Willow, ILM,  Howard the Duck, the lot. Wow. Disney have announced that they’ll be releasing Star Wars Episode 7 3D (which will be the start of a new trilogy) in 2015. Wow again. I’m not sure how to feel about this at the moment.

New Star Wars? Yep, count me in. Disney Star Wars though? I’m not too sure. Why the concern? Simple: John Carter. (I think I was one of the twelve people who saw it at the cinema.) That was not a good film.

George Lucas is planning on staying as a creative consultant, which I’m really pleased about. Why? A lot of venom is spat at the Star Wars prequels and I wish I could’ve had a crack at rewriting the scripts a little, however considering these were kids films, the subtext of corrupt governments, political backstabbing, etc was great to see. Will Disney add that spice to the mix? I hope so.

What will happen? Who knows? There needs to be a war going on for the name to work, so what went wrong after Return of the Jedi? Maybe Ahsoka Tano, Anakin’s padwan from The Clone Wars cartoon series turns to the dark side, get frozen in carbonite, then is accidentally released. Maybe Luke Skywalker, destroyer of the Empire and hero of the republic is murdered at the beginning, and this assassination causes an uprising? (I hope Luke doesn’t die, by the way. The way the other films have gone though – Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, it doesn’t look good for the farm boy.)

I’ll be there opening day, obviously and hoping the new film will be fantastic. Best of luck to everyone involved – I hope you make a great film.

What else might Disney have in store? More games I hope. (I have a feeling Star Wars 1313 will be a PS4K / Xbox3 launch tile.) If they’re in the mood to make some easy money, feel free to rerelease / update the arcade Pod Racers game for the PS3 / Move controllers (and make it 3D while you’re at it, please!).

Retro thoughts

With working and running around I don’t seem to have played any computer / console games for a while – until the Play Expo in Manchester the other week, of course. That place seems to have given me the bug again.

To correct my mistake, I’ve fired up Tekken 4 on the recently dusted PS2 (‘Ultra Hard’ setting, obv!), which is great, but annoying. I’m experiencing that feeling that most gamers probably have had, where you were once pretty much invincible at a game, then don’t play it for ages, then return, expecting to be the master, however you get your backside well and truly kicked. I know, I know – it just means I need more practise. (If you’re waiting on tenterhooks for The Dragon Tongue book two I bet you’re delighted to read this! Don’t worry, writing comes first, however we’ve all seen The Shining and we all know what ‘all work and no play’ does to a writer, right?)

Having the retro bug got me thinking about favourite games of all time. One of these is the (just slightly older than Tekken 4) masterpiece called Avalon, which was released in 1984 for the ZX Spectrum. I loved that game, but never finished it. (To have game saves back then!) I’d be very happy if Sony released an emulator for the PS3 with tons of these gems. Anyway, here’s a YouTube video walkthrough of one of the best games ever…. *projects soul*

Wii U, Halo 4, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, ZombiU and… Phoenix

I had a good go with Nintendo’s latest console, the Wii U this afternoon at the Play Expo in Manchester – I’m sorry to say I didn’t think too much of it.

The main problem the Wii U has is its new ‘tablet’ controller. Demonstrators cheerfully called out, asking if anyone wanted to play a game with Nintendo’s groundbreaking invention; much to their embarrassment, most people didn’t.

It seems when you do play with the hottest development in gamepad technology, you’re relegated to ‘helping’ other players, rather than actually playing the game itself – except for ZombiU, where the tablet’s screen shows a radar. Regrettably though, I forgot about that bit straight away (which, thinking about it, doesn’t bode well for the whole multi-screen idea), so I ended up eliminating the pursuing undead using only the TV in front of me for eyeball guidance – all the while wishing I was using a less weighty, better contoured, controller.

The situation reminded me of being back in the day when you’d be round one of your friends’ houses and everyone would be bickering as to who got the ‘proper’ branded joypad, and who got the cheap ‘dad got this from the market, but it’s just as good, honest’ one. Best of luck with all those arguments this Christmas. I’m sure games will be made for it, but at the moment it comes across as being very gimmicky and the ugly sister to the old faithful (and far cheaper) Wii wands.

Mr. Parablax on the Wii U

Another problem I experienced with the Wii U was the game load times. I’m not quite talking ‘homage to the ZX Spectrum’, but it was a close thing. Nearly all the Nintendo demonstrators apologised for this, squirming variations of: “I’m really sorry, I don’t know why it’s taking so long…” Maybe the software will be tweaked before launch; I really hope this is the case – and that the console’s CPU isn’t to blame.

Another gripe: if you ever played Pod Racers on the N64, you’ll remember the demoralising disappointment as the contests crawled along. (If you played the same game on the PC, it flew – it was amazing and a true predecessor to the Burnout / Need for Speed series.) Well, that crushing feeling’s back with the Wii U’s version of Tekken. Your fingers rocket around on the controller, only for nothing to happen on screen. The characters move, but only in slow, soul-killing motion. This wasn’t helped by having a PS3 Tekken Tag Tournament 2 stand nearby, where you could see how the game runs on planet earth.

I’m sure the Wii U will sell by the bucket load as parents buy their kids the latest gizmo for a present. If the family’s happy with having an HD Wii, then that’s great. The graphics do look good – on par with this generation’s PlayStation and XBox. I like the fact you can use your old Wii controllers, but overall, there was nothing inspiring; no spark to the machine. I can’t say I’m that keen to get one and I wonder how well this console will sell next Christmas when the new PlayStation and XBox hit the streets.

The Wii U will be released on the 18th November in the US, the 30th November in Europe, and on the 8th December in Japan.

Enough negativity. What good stuff did I see / have a play on? Well, retro games wise, Street Fighter 2 on the Super Nintendo was as great and fun as I remember, and then on to possibly my favourite cabinet game ever: Phoenix, which always gets a 10/10. [There was no sign of Rastan, Robocop or the fantastic, huge, four player Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game. I hope this is addressed for next year!]

The new stuff… Halo 4 looked very impressive on the 360 (one of the maps looked very ‘Bespin’ like, so who wouldn’t want to have a go on that?). Next up Tekken Tag Tournament 2 on the PS3 – which is a far better game than the depressingly poor Tekken 6. It’s very fast, beautiful to look at and finger achingly addictive. Need for Speed Most Wanted was very playable, however was also somewhat ‘Burnouty’ to me. (Not a huge shock there considering both games are from the Criterion stable.) I do wish ‘street racing’ games would have the option to turn the bumper-car options off, though. I just want to press ‘start’, have my car appear at the line, then ‘go go go’. I don’t understand why anyone would want to have to find the race’s starting point. Please – enough of the ‘sandbox’. (Or give me the option to turn it off.) I’m also not bothered about the crashing. Some crashing is fun, but if I want to play a racing game I want to race, not to stockcar race / do speed camera runs / longest jumps, etc. Make no mistake, when you do race in this game, it’s good – I just wish there was more of it.

The game that stole the show? Probably Studio Ghibli’s Ni no Kuni, which looked stunning and very intriguing. Want.

The Kindle Paperwhite is almost here

So long Kindle Touch – my favourite Kindle device is no more. Amazon have decided to no longer sell that wonderful eReader, as their new flagship device, the Kindle Paperwhite, is taking over.

What’s different about the Kindle Paperwhite? Well, you’ll no longer have to clip that annoying, cheap little light which you received last Christmas on to your Kindle’s protective cover while you read your latest ebook *cough*Rispin Quill, The Dragon Tongue*cough* in bed – this baby has an illuminated screen which uses Amazon’s patented magic, enabling the Kindle Paperwhite to somehow direct light back down towards the appliance, so not to scorch your eyeballs / to make reading easier. One or the other. Possibly both. The battery doesn’t seem to be troubled by this new development – apparently it can still last up to eight weeks on a single charge.

Amazon are taking orders here for the Kindle Paperwhite (which will be released in the UK on Thursday 25th October 2012). Price: £109 for the Wi-Fi version and £169 for the G3.

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