Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Combobulater: December 5th 2009

Hey Guys,

It has been a while since I looked at this blog and since myself and Burnsy last got together to record. Things have been rather busy over the last number of weeks. Behind the scenes I am still looking to work out our move to WoW Radio.
Expect a new intro to the show this week and a music bed in the background. In the meantime I have also been trying to keep on top of my studying. Hence the serious neglect of the blog, forums here and my duties elsewhere!! Hopefully things will settle down in the New Year but for now I am still running round like a headless chicken.

Plenty to talk about on this week's show. Despite all the chaos there has been some room for gaming. Both me and Burnsy have thrown ourselves into Dragon Age recently, join us as we share our thoughts on Bioware's epic fantasy adventure.

Our main talking point this episode is 'Games we think will fall under the radar'. Quarter four is always a busy time of the year for publishers as they all look to cash in on Christmas, but is it always wise to throw your game in amongst the heavyweights?

We give you a rundown of the five games we think have or will perform under the expectations of the publisher. Including titles such as Bayonetta, Dead Space Extraction and more.

Email in your thoughts on games you think will be overlooked in the rush this Christmas, and do the big hitters (MW 2, AC 2) deserve their place at the top of the chart this year?

Thanks for joining us,

Music this week was produced by 'Dr. Manhatten' and can be found at

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Combobulater 14th November

Hey Everyone,

This week sees us change the format of the show ever so slightly as we look to fit in with our potential new hosts, The WoW Radio network!!

There are still some details to be worked out so I can't say exactly when (or if just yet) we'll be presented by the station but in the meantime this show was knocked up as our pilot episode. Join us as we kick off the show with a brief discussion on kids and gaming. It's amazing to see how quickly kids pick up our gaming habit, and at such a young age!!

We then move into what we've been playing including a look at Fallout 3, S.T.A.L.K.E.R and Burnsy's latest attempt to replay games including Assassins Creed.

To conclude the show we examine Left 4 Dead which is due to be wheeled into the morgue on November 18th as Left 4 Dead 2 goes live. We look back at the games strong points and its let downs, reminisce on those intense movie climaxes and lament the fact we can't afford L4D2!

Music on this week's show is provided by:

Koch - a work friend of ours that knocked up an awesome Mario theme remix.

Big Giant Circles - Check out this Sonic 3, Ice Zone remix at

Cheers for tuning in,


Monday, November 02, 2009

The Combobulater: October 31st 2009

Hey Everyone,

This weekend saw myself and Burnsy catch up on what we've been playing including some talk on Fallout 3, recent 'Ultimate game of the Year' winner and Burnsy's third playthrough of Mass Effect. Yes, I did say third!!

We cover a variety of other things including a quick run through the Golden Joystick awards which saw a record breaking 1.2 million votes cast.

To wrap the show up we discuss our visit to the Eurogamer Expo in Leeds, 2009. We share our opinions on what we got to gawp at, including God of War 3 (and Emeny gets his hands bloody with the exclusive demo mailed out by Sony this weekend!), Dante's Inferno, Sabateur, Split Second and a few other bits and pieces.
Enjoy the podcast and thanks for tuning in!


Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Combobulater & the Eurogamer Expo

Hey Everyone,

This week Burnsy and myself took a trip to Leeds to swim in the tide of over 2000 gamers that took part in the Eurogamer Expo 2009.

Armed with a camcorder we took a look at a host of games set for release in the near future, including Dante's Inferno, Left 4 Dead 2, Split Second, God of War 3 and more.

Check out part one of the video here.

*edit* Part two and part 3 are now live!! There is some slight audio issue where it is out of synch but nothing so harsh you'll be upset!! I hope :-D

In short the show didn't quite live up to our expectations, perhaps we were expecting too much from the event but the venue wasn't all that big so it didn't take long to absorb all that was there. Crowds populated certain areas more than others, it was hard work getting a look at Assassin's Creed 2 for instance and Dante's Inferno had steady interest. Surprisingly God of War 3 wasn't all that busy and nor was the Star Trek online area, though these were both housed in a seperate building so I do wonder how many people realised there was somewhere else to go!

Join us on the podcast this weekend where Burnsy and I will share our thoughts on the games we got to gaze at and those we had some hands on time with. If you're a gamer that likes to pick up as many of the top titles as you can then you're going to be very busy in the coming months!!


Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Combobulater 11th October & 16th October

Hey Guys,

We are anything but consistent as last week saw two shows put together back to back only for us now to take our usual two week break!

The latest shows are a little off the wall, covering topics from me getting dangerously close to quitting WoW only to decide that I need to go on a WoW diet instead. I did that and come the next show I'm discussing how I completed Fear 2 and had almost wrapped up Killzone 2 as well.

Burnsy joins me on the 16th (with the 11th being a solo effort) and we discuss the cost of PC gaming in comparison to consoles. Is it worth spending so much money on various PC upgrades, what is the difference between the PC and the console experience? We intend to take this apart in more detail in a forthcoming show as I think there is good room for discussion in this area.

Things have been a little slack round here lately, I could blame the hangover from a tough few weeks at I will!

Next week sees Burnsy and myself head off to the Eurogamer Expo for a day so we shall be back very soon to share our thoughts on that. I'm tempted to do a post mortem on Fear 2 and Killzone 2, so look out for that too in the near future. In the meantime studying and avoiding WoW is keeping me busy.

Cheers for tuning in,


Monday, September 28, 2009

Get it together Grunts!

Alright, listen up grunts!

We have a rogue agent out there tearing the place up. God knows what his motives are but our orders are simple; bring him in dead or alive. All those years of training, all the effort that has gone into forming you, the elite crack unit comes to this! Before I send you out there I want to run you through a handful of tips to keep you alive:

Make sure all of your body is in cover – There’s no point hunkering down next to the destructible box or volatile barrel if your arse is hanging out, or your elbow is poking free. Learn to keep your head down and whatever you do don’t go darting from one place to the next, if your cover is solid then hold your ground grunt!

Grenades are your friends – Use them don’t lose them! If that sucker has holed himself up and is acting all yella’ then toss a pineapple his way and prompt him along. Flush that sucker out of his hiding hole and riddle him with bullets.

Work together – You are a team guys, moulded and crafted to work together. Spread out, flank your target and wrap that net tight around your target. In no circumstance is it right for you guys to line up and march single file on your enemy.

If your partner is shot... – Take cover you dolts! If you come under sniper fire then get into cover grunt and don’t dally! It sickens me when some coward picks off folk from a distance but watching you grunts run round like headless chickens makes me choke on pure rage. Pro tip, if you see a pile of corpses at a doorway then don't go poking your nose around the corner.

Shoot to kill – This ain’t no action movie grunt, we’re dealing with live rounds here and your very being is on the line. Aim straight, shoot straight and don’t cock it up grunts!

That does it, take this advice on board and go show that yellow-bellied rebel just what it means to be a part of the videogame elite squadron.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Should the monthly fee die with WoW?

Hey Guys,

Here follows a brief transcript from a mail I put to Darren from the ‘Common Sense Gamer’ blog and ‘Shut up we’re Talking’ podcast:
“On this week’s Combobulater (Sept. 19th) we discussed subscription models for today’s MMOs and weighed up the pros and cons of the two most prevalent options which include monthly fees and the free to play/micro transaction.

With this in mind we went on to consider Aion’s recent launch which sees the typical monthly fee adopted and NCSoft announcing the closure of Dungeon Runners (a small monthly fee) due to it not proving to be profitable. We also looked at the success of Wizard 101, DDO, Maple Story and Runes of Magic as examples of how developers have taken micro transactions forward and made them a relevant and ‘good value for money’ option.

The question I’d like to put to you is this, should the monthly fee model for MMOs die with World of Warcraft? Blizzard have hinted that one day WoW may adopt some sort of free to play model, most likely when their next MMO appears, so when that does happen I’m of the opinion that the monthly fee could die with it.”

I’d now like to expand on this further and share my thoughts with you, The Combobulater audience. I have narrowed my thoughts down into five bullet points which without any further ado we shall dive into.

Not paying for down time
We’ve all had to suffer down time in one form or another. Servers are taken down on a weekly basis to apply updates, defrag machines and generally maintain the stress of hosting an MMO. I don’t begrudge this down time, don’t get me wrong, but when you think on it you realise that you are paying for time you can’t play with.

Maintenance is one thing but what about glitches and server queues? Are you happy to know that your money is paying for time that isn’t actually worth anything? This is especially true of new MMOs that take off with a big launch, from what I hear Aion players are suffering queues that can last hours at peak time which is surely eating into the actual time you can spend with the game and thus impacts your value for money.

If the monthly fee was dropped then players would only be paying for the time they are playing, and therefore you get more bang for your buck. If the servers are down or maintenance is applied then sure it’s frustrating that you can’t play but at least you’re not paying for that! Furthermore, what if you’re not around to play for personal reasons? Maybe you have some project at work that demands your time for a few weeks, or you go on holiday or perhaps for just a couple of weeks you need some time away from the game. Your monthly fee is still ticking over while you’re absent so this once again boils down to not getting the value of the money you plough into the game.

Account Security

Reports have suggested that your MMO account is amongst the most hotly sought after info on the internet. A variety of unsavoury types are always on the lookout for a means of getting hold of your details. Not only can accounts yield virtual currency which can be stolen and passed on to those idiots that buy gold, your personal info can also be raped. Credit card numbers, your full name and address, date of birth...all of the details you need to verify your credit card and setup your monthly fee light up your account like a Christmas tree.

Combating this type of fraud is also an expensive fight for MMO companies, 'Chargebacks' are another way that criminals exploit the system to rip off companies and with so many MMOs accepting credit cards the cost of this particular problem is never ending!

Granted, there are alternative means of paying a monthly fee for games such as WoW, you could get by with buying game time cards and never having to hand over your bank info. However how many of us really do that? The convenience of setting up a direct debit to your credit card or bank is just too easy to resist and I would suggest that the majority of a game’s player base opt for this.

Removing the monthly fee though opens up the possibility of a company not having to hold your details on record. Imagine paying for your MMO as you would if you were to shop at Amazon or Play, you pick the item that suits your needs and you pay for it in one single transaction. Players could choose to have their details saved, that’s a risk you decide you want to take or you could decide to not have your details saved and once the transaction is complete your details are scrubbed. If your account was to be compromised then at least your account is not tied to your bank or your credit card, which in itself makes hacking your account that little bit less appealing.

Removing barriers to entry

As detailed above the majority of MMO subscriptions are tied to a credit card but not everybody has access to a credit card. If you can’t pay for something online then you are going to struggle to setup your MMO access. This hassle itself could be enough to put a player off but let’s continue.

Look at how many MMOs adopt the monthly fee. The biggest games on the scene include WoW, LotrO, Warhammer, Age of Conan and more recently Aion and Champions Online. New titles are emerging such as Fallen Earth and there is no doubt a ton of others I could have listed here.

There is no way though that I would consider trying to dip my toe in all of these titles. As much as I would like to sample Aion or dabble in Champions I really don’t think it will happen because I don’t want the hassle of setting up a monthly sub.

Playing multiple MMOs demands a lot of time, the very nature of the game being that to get the most out of it you need to focus your attention on one title. This is counter to a player that might want to flit between titles, especially when your value for money would diminish with the less time spent per title.

With the subscription removed though a player could buy the time they want to spend in an MMO and chip away at that in their own pace. Value for money is there and the likelihood that you would sample other games is now viable. This won’t suit everyone of course, some of you are likely loyal to a single title and that suits your play style. That’s cool, but there are plenty of people that like to try out a variety of MMOs and the subscription fee is a barrier to doing just that.

Encourages Innovation

Without a fee to compel players to spend time with an MMO developers would be pushed to constantly innovate and keep their game relevant in the market place. Games like Wizard 101 and Runes of Magic maintain a decent player base by constantly updating their game with something to encourage players to boot up their title.

You could argue that Blizzard have nailed this by releasing big content updates every few months and an expansion pack every couple of years and I can’t say that you’d be wrong. Blizzard have led the way in providing content in this fashion but that said, they are far from perfect. Players that burn through content complain at the length of time between updates and those that can’t afford a new boxed expansion are simply left behind.

Free to play games trickle their content on a regular basis which players are either given as a free patch or can weigh up the choice of buying or not. If you don’t want to buy into a new zone, or some new class then you can choose to pass this offer up or put it off until a later date. The game will continue to evolve but the pace can be somewhat dictated by your choice. In the meantime it is interesting to see how developers tackle this free to play model and what they can do to tempt players into their game. I reckon it is on this free to play scene where MMOs are likely to push boundaries and change the way we play MMOs in the future.

Steady player base

I base my opinion on the dramatic drop in subscribers that afflicted Warhammer Online and Age of Conan. Both games saw a sizeable uptake upon launch but as the game settled down they saw player numbers decline. I believe a big part of this (amongst many other things such as quality issues) is because consumers don’t wish to pay for multiple monthly fees. Most gamers in the MMO scene are likely subscribed to something like WoW or maybe LotrO and when they pick up a new game it is likely they are thinking that if the new choice proves a sustained interest they will cancel the first MMO.

In the case of Aion I am going to predict that it sees a similar fall in subscribers in a few months time, once the ‘newness’ has lost its gloss. I believe players are comfortable in one MMO and if the pull of their comfort zone is strong enough to keep them subscribed (and thus paying the fee) then the new game will eventually get canned.

Of course I could be wrong, Aion may yet buck the trend and hold onto its player base but I think my point is valid. If Aion had taken a chance and come into the market with a different subscription model (for example, offering players the chance to buy a chunk of time at a fee as is popular in the east) I think it could have paved the way ahead for dropping the monthly fee as the dominant subscription model and taken the scene in a new direction. Its success (as I am sure it will be at least in the short term) could have been used to make a point. It is time to give players more choice when it comes to offering an MMO experience and both Aion and Champions online (and many more to come) are missing the opportunity to innovate.

In conclusion

To wrap this up then I’d like to echo what was said at the end of the podcast for September 19th, it’s about time MMO developers offered players more ways to pay for their MMO experience and moved away from the ‘set in stone’ subscription model. I don’t think that monthly fees have no place on the scene, but I’m of the opinion now that the monthly sub should give up its throne and make room for a new way to pay.

I feel that Blizzard have a great opportunity to lead from the front with WoW and whatever their next MMO project is. If Blizzard can make a success of a new model (as has already been demonstrated by multiple titles) then I think other developers would take notice and start to follow suit.

Let’s see what the future brings.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Combobulater goes to the Eurogamer Expo!

Hey Guys,
This week Burnsy and myself booked ourselves tickets to the Eurogamer Expo happening in Leeds on October 27th and 28th.

We'll be there on day one for a look at the avanlance of titles due over the next few months, including AvP 2, Leaft 4 Dead 2 (I so want to see this!) and many more including Uncharted 2 and Assassins Creed 2.
For a glance at all the titles scheduled to be there take a look here.
Watch this space for more thoughts on the Expo as we intend to snap as many pics, grab as much footage as we can and will share our thoughts on the event in a special 'Eurogamer expo' podcast.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Combobulater: September 19th 2009

Hey Guys,

The latest episode of The Combobulater has been set free to roam the intertubes! We have a special guest with us this show, Andrew from the blog 'Of Teeth and Claws' (which you will find if you move your eyes a little to the left) and a listener to the show who volunteered his time to help us redesign the site.
Join us as we kick off with our usual 'what you been playing' which includes Emeny being hopelessly addicted to WoW, Burnsy being hopelessly addicted to...oh wait no apparently he's going to kick the habit again! Andrew gives us his thoughts on the games he's catching up on including Monkey Island and Bioshock.

We then jump into a segment which Burnsy and I have been hinting at wanting to tackle for a while now and with Andrew on board we felt that we had some extra insight to take us through this topic.

With so many MMOs on the market now each staking a claim on a huge player base, which of the payment models that are currently popular do we think will survive and are still relevant to todays market?

In our discussion we look at the pros and cons of the following:

Monthly subscription fee

Games such as WoW, Warhammer and the recently released Aion all adopt a standard monthly fee to play these games. Does this fee represent good value for money though and how do you as a player feel about having to pay this fee?

Does it tie you to a game and thus demand your time? Is this monthly subscription model a barrier to entry to certain people and does it have an impact on your decision to pick up the game at all?

There are some advantages though right? It's in the best interest of a company to have you playing their game so if they can compel you to do so then that's a win for them. This model is also fairly easy to setup and players are familiar with the system, if they are prepared to stump up a fee every month then why not take advantage?

A monthly fee though does apply a level of expectation that a publisher/developer must live up to if they are to survive. It's no good whacking a fee onto your game and then letting it idle, you only need to look at the dramatic playerbase plummet of games such as Age of Conan and Warhammer to appreciate that developers need to be on the ball.

Free to play models/Micro transactions

These days there are a lot of games that offer a free to play experience which can be supplemented by microtransactions. In our cast we discuss how this has evolved over the years, as developers mature in their approach to this model players are now offered genuine value for money on the form of micro transactions.

They're not all perfect of course. You could argue the value of a mount in game against that of an expansion pack or new content. It is interesting to see how these games have come along and the choice that they offer players that pick up these 'free to play' games. We look in detail at Wizard 101, DDO and Runes of Magic.

Give players more choice

We wrap up our cast with Andrew sharing his thoughts on the an Asian payment model which sees players paying for chunks of time which they can spend as and when they choose to. Therefore eliminating the feeling that you have to play and allowing you to enjoy the game at a pace that suits you.

Why hasn't this model caught on in the West and are there any developers out there that might take on the challenge of bringing this model over here?

Join us as we thrash this out on The Combobulater, September 19th 2009!

Thanks for tuning in.


Monday, August 31, 2009

The Combobulater August 30th 2009

Hey Everyone,

This week sees Emeny flying solo since Quarter 4 is upon us and weekend work is going to start cutting into our time at home.

It's been a few weeks since we did a show though so I didn't want to leave you guys hanging. This week sees the Combobulater's debut 'community driven' podcast, where you guys have made the content!

The plan for this show has always been to get you guys involved as much as possible. This week I have taken a thread from our forum and discussed the content. Beltrad kicks off this discussion with some points raised regarding our recent hate on Activision.

Should we be worried about the RRP of games being pushed up? Is it fair to pay a little more for a triple A title and is this really any different from other industries?

How about the impact on Indie developers and other companies watching Activison take the lead in pushing up the RRP. Does Activision hold a responsibility to lead by example, and if they do are they setting the right one?

All of this and more is discussed on this week's podcast and can be found on our forums. Dive in and share your thoughts on this, and other topics and who time it could be YOU!!


Monday, August 24, 2009

Blizzard: Damned if they do and damned if they don't!

As the dust settle on Blizzcon 2009 I find myself tuning into a variety of podcasts and opinions in an effort to digest the splurge of info.

It's a shame, in my opinion, that a lot of the 'oomph' was taken out of the announcements with leaks splashing their speculation around the web a week or so in advance of the event. No real harm done I guess but if you're not actually at the event I think it's harder to get excited about something that you already kind of knew about.

Aside from that though there has been something else that has got my goat. Why do people throw up their arms and wail in protest to Blizzard lifting inspiration from other games?

It's a criticism that has been aimed at Blizzard so many times, even by our good selves on the show but when I sit and reflect on this I realised that it's really not fair at all to slate Blizzard for this trait.

Recent announcements include 'Guild Levelling' which will allow you to spec your guild in such a way that you can cater perks to suit your play style. Mass resurrections will make a 25man wipe in a dungeon much more manageable as your downtime is reduced. I'm sure there'll be perks for PvP players as well, but this idea of levelling your guild is apparently already done in titles such as Warhammer and DDO.

Lord of the Rings Online also has similar features in the way that the better standing your guild is on the server the more access you have to things like guild housing (something Blizzard are still resisting in WoW), so it's easy to say 'Blizzard has ripped this off'.

Achievements in WoW come as a direct result of the popular Microsoft Gamer points and Battlenet looks as though it has taken a big leaf out of Steams 'how to...' book.
Is any of this a bad thing though? Of course not!!

It would be absolutly nuts to blast Blizzard for taking what makes one game or service good and implementing it in their own way. Are the people that call out Blizzard on this really stupid enough to think that Bliz should simply watch other people enjoy the benefits of an idea or innovation?

It seems to me that Blizzard are pretty much damned if they do and damned if they don't. Imagine if Blizz didn't take on board successful features, how stagnant would WoW be now? Whether or not you personally enjoy the new features in WoW you must at least be able to see that Blizzard have succeeded in keeping their franchise a relevant gaming choice in a market that has suddenly got incredibly crowded.

If Blizzard were to rest on their laurels and simply assume that their game will stay in the front of the pack just by 'being' then WoW would very quickly be lost in the deluge of MMOs. As it stands Blizzard have a duty to see how other games enter the market and where it makes sense they should lift out successful innovations and turn their hand to them.

I think it's great that Blizzard respect their competitors (imitation is the sincerest form of flattery) and they have their heads screwed on when it comes to looking after their franchise and their service to the gaming community. That's what makes them Number 1. Anyone thinking that Blizzard do little to innovate and simply rob ideas from other developers would do well to find a cliff and test their weight against the pull of gravity!


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pay what you want...

Hey Guys,

Yesterday saw Eidos launch Championship Manager 2010 on their Champmanstore, but this is no ordinary launch!!
Taking inspiration from Radiohead, who released their album 'In rainbows' in 2007 as one of the first download models to try this approach; Eidos have released this game on a limited 'pay what you want' basis. General Manager Roy Meredith says,

“This is the best Championship Manager the studio has ever made and we want as many people as possible to try the full new game,”

I'm not sure how many of you out there will be leaping to take advantage of this particular deal but I was compelled to post about this and wonder how this is going to affect the industry.

Should this initative work out for Eidos (as apparently it did for Radiohead) then how will this shape future projects? In a world where Kotick is pushing for the RRP of games to be raised it is refreshing to see a company take a wholy different approach. Especially when considering the global recession we are in.

I think this is a smart move by Eidos and I applaud their bold venture into the murky waters of something new.

To be fair the Championship Manager series has played second fiddle to the 'Football Manager' games, with veterans of the football management sim following the staff that left Champ Man to make up the Sega team behind Football Manager (confusing eh!?). Launching the game at this 'pay what you want price' (ok, I should point out there is a minimum £2.50 transaction fee) will push the Champ Manager series into people's minds and grab their attention.

It will be interesting to watch this unfold. The game will go on general release come September 10th at the typical price of £24.99 in the shops. How many people who pre-order the game for just a few pence or pounds will determine just how much money this gamble will cost Eidos. Still, if you funnel your marketing expenses into this approach then how much difference is there really, and would you grab the headlines in quite the same way?

I for one am very likely to take them up on their offer and that's at least a penny more than they would have got out of me this year ;-)

If you're able and if you're interested I encourage you to go take a look. You have until September 10th to grab this deal. Watch this space for any news and opinon on how this goes, will any other company dare to take up some innovative way to sell their games?


Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Combobulater 8th August 2009

Greetings Combobulater fans,

The latest episode of the Combobulater has been released into the wild where we hope it will propagate and run free!

Join us this week as Burnsy explains why he sat through Watchman, twice! Emeny is fed up with LotrO but finding new life in WoW and Fat Princess may have been a sting on the wallet.
We're joined this week by Riknas, part of the Free to play Podcast on Virginworlds Riknas is setting up an ambitious project 'EndGrind' in an effort to catalogue and review the world of MMOs.
Exactly how long should you spend playing an MMO before you can apply a reasonable score, or offer a critique? Project EndGrind sets out to answer this tough question and is on the hunt for contributors. If you are a keen blogger and willing to dedicate yourself to offering your critical insight on an MMO of your choice (assuming it isn't already taken) then be sure to get in touch with Riknas.

We wrap up the show with a look at Kotick's latest comments that have incensed the Combobulater crew, and it would appear ars technica share our feelings (enjoy their art!). Are activision pushing their luck and just how much will the gaming community take before it wakes up and snaps back?

This crew hope it's sooner rather than later, especially knowing that the WoW community sit in the palm of Activision!!

Be sure to check out our forums which are coming to life, a big thanks to everyone that has posted so far.
Cheers for tuning in and be sure to share your thoughts.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Combobulater: July 25th 2009

Hey Everyone,

The latest show is live!! This week we mosey on through what we've been playing, which includes chat on WoW, LotrO, Ghostbusters and Fable 2.

This week wasn't quite as well prepared as we've been of late so we jumped into the second half of the show and decided to venture into territory we haven't touched in a long time: Movies!

Join us as talk about Aeon Flux, National Treasure 2, Hellboy 2 and the recently remade Halloween.

The segues neatly into the recent announcement that Sam Raimi is set to direct (or at least chip in on) the World of Warcraft movie! How much credability does Raimi bring to the setup and will Bruce Campbell be handed a cameo as a Tauren bull or Goblin voice over?

We also consider Rockstar's recent announcement that quash the idea of a GTA movie, unless they can resolve their creative concerns. A fair stance from the studio that wishes to uphold the integrity of their franchise.

Finally, we reveal how Burnsy is cooking up a Swine flu super virus and apparently the world will end at the hands of Agent 47, bar a handful of people (11 to be precise) who will repopulate the Earth.

Go grab the show and check it out :)

Thanks for tuning in,


Friday, July 17, 2009

World of Warcraft Vs. Lord of the Rings Online!

Hey Everyone,

Ok, so this post isn't actually going to be as 'explosive' as my headline might suggest! I've wanted to jot something up about this for a while now but I've been plagued with the one thing that seems to cripple most writers and bloggers these days.

No not 'writer's block' - I wish it were that complicated! I'm talking about pure, bone-idleness! Curse my laziness, but rather than dwell on that let's kick this off.
I've been playing LotrO now for a couple of months, I have a level 26 Hobbit Minstrel and on the whole I've enjoyed my time in Middle Earth. My main game though is still World of Warcraft and ultimately in about a month or so I shall focus my efforts in WoW 100% and likely put aside LotrO.

Obviously as I've been playing I've been comparing LotrO against WoW. In many ways Warcraft does show how much polish it has compared to LotrO, those extra couple of years in development really do make WoW stand out as a MMO experience regardless of your actual opinion on recent changes to the game.

LotrO is still very much rough around the edges, the map is next to useless and the HUD feels rather clunky. Graphically it can be very nice, animations are good in places and there's some nice effects when you're 'morale' dips, I don't want to beat on LotrO too much because out of all the other MMOs I've looked at this one stands out as the best WoW alternative.
The point of my post here though is to lift out some ideas that I think Blizzard will 'adopt' into their next MMO. Let me say off the bat, I am well aware that other MMOs are bound to feature what I'm discussing (guild housing in Everquest for example) but since I know very little about those other games I shall stick to what I do know in LotrO.

So, what should Blizzard consider bringing into their next MMO project?

1) Guild Housing

In LotrO players can settle into a cosy home and make their mark on Middle Earth. Decorating your home will give it that unique touch you're after, though you must be able to afford the upkeep of your house else the hobbit baillfs will turf you out!!
If you're part of a Kin then a kinship home can be purchased which will provide you with a staging area outside to hold meetings and such. Both accommodation options will grant you personal vendors that offer up to 15% discount and a mailbox on your doorstep. You can also purchase safe boxes to add extra storage for all the junk you collect, and in my experience storage is precious!!

WoW players have been calling out for guild housing since forever, so I'm sure this is on Blizzard's radar. A place for guilds to mount their trophies and display their triumphs would be a great touch. Whilst LotrO does offer this feature it does not seem to boast what the WoW players are looking for, it comes across as Animal Crossing meets Middle Earth. Not a bad thing as such, but to be honest I've not invested in a house yet as I reckon the housing costs are too high! A recession in Middle Earth, bringing the housing market to its knees so my humble Hobbit can get on the property ladder, is required in my opinion :-D

2) Professions and Crafting

The Professions in LotrO do take a lot of effort to build up; right off the bat you're required to pull in resources picked up by professions you don't have. For example, as a Yeoman I have proficiencies in 'Cooking', 'Farming' and 'Tailoring'.

My farming does provide materials for my cooking, but to level my tailoring I need leather, which can only be boiled by other classes such as the Woodworker.

I actually found this quite frustrating when I got started but of course this is an MMO so is it really such a bad thing that this game pushes you to interact with people? That's a seperate argument, so to keep this on track let me move into what I do like about the professions in LortrO.

Each tier of crafting (you start as an Apprentice) can be filled twice over; and when you complete that chore you become a Master of that tier. Once mastered it is then possible for you to 'crit' when you make an object in that tier. For example, if you can craft a bow then with the mastery (and a special mat picked up) you have a chance to crit when you make that bow and add extra stats to the item.

This is a great way of creating interesting and different items. I like the idea of setting to work to create an item for someone and there being a chance that I could actually make a better item. It rewards your effort and drives you to complete each of the crafting tiers.

In WoW professions are quite straightforward and one weaponsmith can craft you pretty much what the next thirty can. Only unique patterns picked up in the world make any one person stand out, whilst in LotrO you have to work hard to forge your niche in the market. Ultimately this is only a small difference, after all when everyone is a master then nobody is unique but the idea is there and I think Blizzard could develop it further.

3) The Cosmetic Doll

Ok at the risk of sounding like a little girl, I actually really like this feature!!

We all know that when you are levelling through WoW you often look like a clown. Mismatched armour pieces can make you look like some sort of court jester but in LotrO you don't have to put up with such things!

In your character sheet you have two 'dolls' which you can dress up however you see fit. Then, simply choose the doll you like as your display and voila, your character is now running around in a tidy little outfit.

As long as your class can wear the gear (so no clothies wearing plate) then you are free to wear whatever you want. Your actual gear (stats etc.) is not affected as these are still technically worn, but your outward appearence can be customised to suit whatever look you're after.

So even as a high level raider if you really liked that cloth set you picked up at level 10 then you're free to strut around in that gear!

This adds a lot to the customisation of your character and that feeling of a unique look. In WoW people are often complaining that their gear makes them look like every other Tom, Dick and Harry in town (especially as picking up gear gets easier). I think this cosmetic doll is a great idea and I'd like to see something similar in WoW.

4) Group Combos

This is a tricky one for me to explain because in all honesty what I have seen of these in LotrO have been rather clumsy and awkward.

The idea is that when a party engages an elite mob there is a random opportunity for the fellowship to strike in conjunction. Players are presented with a coloured wheel and according to which colour you choose a particular combo will unfold.

My experience of this has been limited but not all that hot. Nearly everyone I've been grouped with has demanded that you simply 'hit the red one' - which should result in a big hit. On occasion this has worked ok and looked good (summoning giant demon things to strike your enemy looked cool) but more often than not I don't have a red button on my wheel so what am I supposed to do then?

I often feel as though I've let the group down because as a healer I'm not generally within melee range so my 'red' button is crossed out. Ahh well, it sort of works. The different colours on the wheel represent other opportunities, such as dealing damage over time, restoring Power (mana) or Morale (health).

I really do like the idea of this though, the party pulling together to deliver a devastating blow to the enemy you face, or buffing the group to turn the tide of a fight. Adding this to WoW could be awesome, especially if they could figure out how to make it that little bit more engaging. A less random element would help I think, for example have something like:
  • A Warlock casts a spell that begins the summoning of a great demon >>
  • A Priest channels their mana into the spell >>
  • A mage hurls a fireball into the catalyst to spark things off (maybe an icebolt brings up a new element.
  • The creature is formed and released into the mix
Sure the effort to produce something like this would distract from the main fight going down but if handled with the right level of cooldown I think this would look pretty awesome. That's a fairly simple idea as well, I'm sure the boffins at Blizzard could drum up something far more spectacular and interesting.

5) The Epic Storyline

I feel that LotrO handles its storyline very well, missions that relate to the story are highlighted as chapter quests and these also tend to be 'bookended' with a cutscene.

These cutscenes are short and sweet but they do pull you along with the narrative and relate the story of LotR very well. Imagine if Blizzard were to treat you to more cutscenes in their MMO! We have a hint of what they can do with the Wrathgate event in WotlK and that scene is fantastic. To be honest, I'd say that it was one of the most interesting things I've done in WoW so to see some more of their work would be a real treat.

Whatever Blizzard plans to do next I hope that they give their art & animation guys a chance to play with some more cutscenes and storytelling.

I'll wrap this up here, this article has babbled on for quite a while now! I'm sure there's plenty more out there I could pull into this discussion, maybe I'll revisit this some time.

In the meantime, I'd like to prompt anyone out there that is only playing WoW to go broaden your horizons. Sure WoW does things very well and Blizzard have a proven track record of innovating other people's ideas but there are games out there that are taking those first steps into something new so go jump on board and help them along.
I'd also like to say a big hello to any Rawrcast fans reading this, your support is much appreciated!

Cheers for reading,


Monday, July 13, 2009

The Combobulater: July 11th 2009

Hey Guys,

The latest episode of the Combobulater podcast has been uploaded.

Join us this week as we figure out how bad a friend Emeny really is to Burnsy! How did I forget his birthday so blatantly!!

Also, there's plenty of talk about the games we've been playing including a look at LotrO, WoW, Ghostbusters and more.

Headlines pulled from lead us to discuss Sony finally having a say on the potential price drop on the PS3. All signs point to No at the moment but can Sony really hold their ground in the run up to Christmas '09 - we think not!
We also briefly look at Microsoft considering adding a fee to their recently released 1vs100 title on Xbox Live! Is this one step away from introducing gambling on our consoles and is there any danger here of kids getting sucked in?

Be sure to sign up to our forums and have you say on these topics and anything else you'd like to bring to our attention. Give us some content to play with folk :)

Thanks for tuning in.


Friday, July 10, 2009

The Fat Princess: PS3

Hey Guys,

I've heard a fair amount of talk about Fat Princess, currently in development at Titan Studios, and the other day I happened to find some footage go up on the Playstation Store.
There are a handful of videos you can go grab, the one I pulled detailed gameplay and featured interviews with various members of staff describing how the game is played. I was hooked!!
The graphics have a vibrant, cartoony look to them that keep things simple but look really sweet. Much like WoW ages very well thanks to its art style I see Fat Princess looking good forever.

The gameplay though is where this game comes to life. The objective is simple, bring your princess safely home from the confines of your opponent's castle. Essentially a dressed up version of capture the flag but have you ever been able to feed your flag (making it heavier and harder to carry) in an effort to hinder your enemies? I found it hilarious to watch as players ran around the map scooping up slices of cake to throw at the greedy princess who just can't help herself. Only for rescue to turn up and really struggle to carry the porky lass!
Don't worry though, as potentially offensive as some people are bound to find this Titan studios cover their bases by suggesting it's magical cake!

Players have access to five distinct classes, immediately familiar to anyone that's played an MMO or any other RPG game. A well armoured warrior will absorb damage and deal heavy hitting melee attacks. A mage wields fiery spells and aoe but is likely cut down fast; whilst the Priest can heal friends and turn the tide of battle.

Classes are slected by donning a hat, which are produced by machines which in turn can be upgraded by 'workers' who forge out and gather materials to aid their team. Players will have to communicate and work together to ensure an even level of gear progression, attack and defense. If you are out and about in the world and you want to switch class then no problem, pick up a hat of a fallen friend or foe and you switch on the spot!
Simply put this game looks like a whole lot of fun and mayhem! Unfortunately I didn't look into this soon enough and the beta is now closed. With no firm release date settled either this is on my watch list for now, more details to come as soon as I find any!


Monday, July 06, 2009

Speed Racer

It's that time again...Blog!!!!

This time I want to briefly talk about the relative commercial failure, Speed Racer, a 2008 Wachowski brothers film based on the popular Animé of the same name.

Well, actually I don't really want to talk about the story. This is not to say that the narrative and the performances are bad. Not at all. It's more the fact that this has to be, in my opinion, one of the most visually spectacular and arresting films I have ever seen.

I had the pleasure of watching Speed Racer on Blu-Ray and it was just amazing to see. The things that they do with the CGI...let's just say that the efforts in the new Star Wars trilogy fail in comparison.

And a fair comparison it is too. Both Speed Racer and Star Wars were mostly shot in a studio with the various backdrops created and rendered on a computer. However, the new Trilogy, despite looking great at the time, by general consensus, overused CGI. Moreover, Lucas even went as far as creating it's creatures this way which now, stick out like a soar thumb. They just tried too much. Speed Racer on the other hand isn't trying to attempt anything that would otherwise look in contrast to the overall theme of the picture (think of how obvious the green screen was in Star Wars).

Speed Racer is much different in realising it's world. This is pure manga madness! Think of the style of Sin City, the vibrancy of Lazy Town x10, the cartoon violence of Wacky Races or Twisted Metal and the speed of a Wipeout or F-Zero. That's Speed Racer in a nut shell.

The entire film is just a joy to behold, be it the numerous riveting action packed races that just ooze imagination in their set pieces or a simple drive through the lush neighbourhood the Racer family live in. Everything is just so bright, luminous and shiny.

This is psychedelic awesomeness at its best and you owe it to yourself to check it out.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Michael Jackson 1958-09

It's been a few of days now since it was announced that Michael Jackson died. Since that morning I had debated with my myself whether I should add to the millions upon millions of blog posts, tweets and messages of all kind. For a few of days now, the lump in my throat just won't go away!

At almost 29 years of age, I have been fortunate enough not to have experienced what it's like to lose a loved one. This may sound odd given the fact that I didn't know the man but I feel like I'm grieving! He's been a person that has been around since I can remember. He's been someone I admired as a child and felt sorry for as an adult.

It's strange even now to think of a world without Michael Jackson. Some how it doesn't seem quite real. It always felt like he was someone not quite of this world and could life forever. We know it happens to all of us. Death, the inevitable outcome of life and I would've seen this great man die of old age in 20 or so years. It just feels odd to think of a world without a Michael Jackson in it now. He was taken from us much too soon and so suddenly, before he had one last chance to show us what a great performer he was.

Here I am now listening to his last truly great album HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book 1 and watching tribute shows celebrating his musical genius with a tear in my eye. There will never be a Book 2.

I have looked through the little book that came with the multi-disc album and it's somehow prophetic that it feels very much like a commemorative booklet, as though his career, if not he himself, was already dead.

It's hard to disagree – I've always been a fan of his and continued to buy his records including his last album Invincible. However, it really did feel like a man chasing his past glory. Be it his music or his signature dancing, it all felt so “dated”. I'd like to think that his up coming tour would've either been his last and he'd retire from the music industry on a high or that he was somehow going to re-invent himself and continue to be an inspiration for people the world over. And now, we'll never know...

I'll leave you with his last great music video, Ghosts from '97.

My thoughts are with his children and family.

May Your Soul Rest in Peace.

You will be missed.

God Bless.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Not to be outdone by Emeny, I decided to try my hand at writing a review for the latest TV show we finished watching; Joss Whedon's Dollhouse.

To start, the show is/was being aired on Fox, a channel that is notorious for canceling shows before they have a chance to shine, most notably a favourite of ours Journeyman and Mr. Whedon's own Firefly. So it was understandably that the news of Joss’ latest creation being aired on Fox was met with some trepidation. Would the show get a chance to establish itself or would the hammer of termination descent just as it’s becoming good?

The premise is fairly original. Volunteers are being wiped of their own personalities and imprinted with whatever persona prominent clients wish their dolls to have. So far so unique.

The show isn’t exactly a slow burner but for several of the initial episodes it does feel like it was going to be a “personality of the week” kinda show and a platform for the Eliza Dushku , a Producer and one of the leads who plays popular doll Echo, to show off her acting chops by being someone else in each episode. None of the other characters are all that engaging either, such as the cocky genius guy who reminds us of his superiority almost every time we see him.

Yet, about 6 episodes in, there is a shift. What threatened to be just another formulaic TV show suddenly reveals itself to be much deeper. Many of the characters become charming and interesting. The show becomes not so much about the concept but takes on a more philosophical angle; namely what makes us human? Is it our character traits or is there something akin to a soul that defines us?

No matter. It definitely feels like Whedon and co. hit their stride in the 2nd half of the season, be it because they didn’t know if another season was to be commissioned and they wanted to offer their viewers a satisfying conclusion regardless of what was to become of the show. Or the fact that everyone involved simply got incredibly comfortable in their roles (writing staff included).

To sum up: we liked it a lot and the pay off near the end is well worth the initial “struggle” through the first half a dozen episodes. There is reason to rejoice as well. Unlike other shows which had a cult following but then were canceled, Dollhouse is getting another season and, personally, I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.


The Combobulater: June 20th 2009. Activision Vs. Sony!

The Combobulater for June 20th 2009 is up and this week sees us tackle an interesting pair of articles that can be found at

As Sony struggle to pull their profit margin into line, at the cost of 16,000 jobs and various divisions having to shut up shop, Activision come along to offer a real kick in the teeth.

Activision CEO Bobby Kotick reports that they are seriously considering dropping support for Sony's platforms unless a price reduction is forced onto the hardware. Activision claim that 'attach rates' are significantly less on the Playstation 3 when compared to rival platforms and if something isn't done to address this issue then the consequences will be quite harsh on Sony.

Is this all Sony's fault though? Discussion on our cast points out that Sony are the ones here that have invested heavily in R&D to get the PS3 out to consumers. The fact that the market place fails to conceive it's value for money is not entirely Sony's fault. Though I agree more could be done to incentivise buying a PS3 (better bundles at the RRP for example) the Combobulater crew are not convinced Sony could do much more. Especially at a time of global recession and restructuring within Sony's company.

Tune in for our discussion on this issue, and more, in this week's Combobulater podcast and drop by our forums and share your opinions with us.



Thursday, June 18, 2009

Half Life 2: Probably the best gaming series, ever!!

I've finally joined the ranks of people clambering for Valve to hurry along and publish Episode 3 having wrapped up HL2: Episode 2 yesterday lunch and I'm here now to say that anyone reading this should make it a priority to play through these games!!

I can blame WoW for the fact that it's taken me so long to get to this game but that would be unfair. To be honest I have no good reason for putting this off for so long and if you're sat at your PC trying to drum up an excuse for not having played this series then stop! Go pick up a copy of Half Life 2, the Orange Box providing the best value at the moment, and get cracking!

Half Life offers pretty much everything that makes gaming great. Intrictate puzzles that rarely frustrate but actually feel rewarding to work out, though sometimes obviously 'gamey' the level design in Half Life is awesome. For example, having got stuck in a room I spent some time trying to figure out how to escape. Initially I started moving barrels into a bookshelf prop, creating a naughts and crosses style effect I could use to jump up to some pipes above. Having got high enough I realised I couldn't jump across to the ledge I could see because the ceiling was too low, but from this vantage point I spotted some crates hanging overhead and thought 'great, I'll pull those down and create a stairway up. Only, when I pulled the crates down I spotted a ladder that had been there all along!!

Ok, perhaps not the best example but the point is that there is always something in the environment that gives you a little push in the right direction. Subtle enough to make you work for the answer but not as patronising as a bright glowing arrow screaming 'THIS WAY!'

The shooting mechanics feel good, there are some satisfying weapons to fire and some great enemies to take down. Killing a Strider is a lot of fun and the audio used is absolutly spot on. In fact, the finale to Episode 2 is perhaps one of the most satisfying things I've done in a game for a long time.

I'm sure there are faults to be found in this game, Burnsy would argue that events are often too finely scripted leaving little room for innovation and I can't entirely disagree. The story is very much dictated to you as Freeman is pushed around as a pawn in some greater plan that lies just beyond your grasp of understanding, and the fact that it's taking years to get Episode 3 out is quite frankly absurd. It's fair to say that the episodic experiment has outright failed in this case!!

That said, I will no doubt be buying Episode 3 the moment it's released and I can't wait for this epic storyline to bring itself to a conclusion. The weight of expectation is huge for episode 3, easily matching anything that Blizzard have to face from their community. I can only hope that Ep. 3 lives up to that expectation and I'm confident Valve will deliver yet again.

In the meantime you should get on and catch up with this game, if like me you've put this off then now is a good time to pull it from the pile and enjoy one of the finest gaming experiences to date.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

'Drag me to Hell' - Review

Hey Guys,

I recently got to the cinema for the first time in ages and watched 'Drag me to Hell', the latest horror flick from director Sam Raimi. The advertising boasted his recent Spiderman hits but I, like most I imagine, associated this more with the Evil Dead franchise and as it turns out fans of this series should be right at home with this movie.

It's time to strap on a pair of protective goggles, keep your mouth firmly shut and checkout the trailer for Drag me to Hell before I go on.

So, what did you make of that? Looks like a straight forward horror film right, plenty of creepy things going on and enough to make you think this is a serious film. This was certainly what I was expecting having seen the trailer and heard some guys at work talking about the movie. 'You'll need a strong stomach' I was told...right!

Drag me to Hell is a blast, not at all a serious attempt at horror but rather a true return to his roots for Sam Raimi who must've had a whole lot of fun filming 'Evil Dead' and wanted to revisit this style of 'casual' filming after a bout of high budget movie making. I'm surprised the cast weren't all suffering whiplash with the amount of nods to the Evil Dead series, from possessed people being made to jive in the air to the cheesy one liners that made Bruce Campbell's career! 'I'm gonna get me some' ring a bell to anyone?

Not quite 'Come get some' but you see what I mean! There was even a reference to a visit to a log cabin out in the woods part way through the film, though unfortunately the film didn't go there the mention was loud and clear!

The cast play their part reasonably enough, this film isn't going to grab any oscars but then it would be absurd to think they were ever going to try! Alison Lohman plays the main lead, Christine Brown, in the film as a young, career focused woman who inherits a gypsy curse from the hair grabbing Mrs. Ganush played by Lorna Raver. It's a surprise Christine has any hair left by the end of the movie as Mrs. Ganush certainly makes a good effort to yank it all out in pretty much every scene she's in!

From the moment Mrs. Ganush is removed from the bank the film begins its trek down the absurd, with a crazed old woman 'gumming' her victim as she desperately tries to bite her victim; and later a talking goat that is very reminiscent of the famed 'Dead by dawn' mounted deer. I know I keep harping on about the similarities here but they jumped out at me so many times that they have to be acknowledged.

It would be easy to sum this review up by saying that if you enjoyed Evil Dead then there's no doubt you'll enjoy this movie but should there be any of you that have taken up residence under a rather large rock I feel I should wrap up my thoughts on this with a little more detail.
Drag me to Hell is a fine twist of horror and comedy, which if you get behind then you'll love but if you're after a proper fright then this isn't the film for you. There's eye-balls popping, embalming fluid gushing and demons jigging, what more could you ask for!?!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The New Look Combobulater site!!

Hey Everyone,

Welcome to the new look Combobulater home page!!

First order of business is to extend a huge amount of thanks to Andrew Anderson who has taken the time to redesign this site and integrate a blog into the Combobulater homepage. I'm really impressed with the way the page has come together and in such little time!!

The idea now is to press forward with the podcast and expand our audience and our content. So where do we plan to go from here, I'm glad you asked!

The podcast has always been a casual affair with myself and Burnsy getting together every couple of weeks to chat about what we've been up to and share our views on gaming/movie/TV gossip and headlines. We're not hardcore journalists scouring the web for news and we're not sophisticats airing our opinions.

So the blog will follow suit, albeit in a more regular form (I hope!). My aim is to blog at least once a week and articles will come as a mixed bag of sharing news and jotting up thoughts on the state of various things. For example, I'm keen to discuss what Blizzard should learn from other MMOs which will involve me pulling up examples of interesting traits found in multiple MMOs that are lacking in World of Warcraft.

Meanwhile gaming headlines will no doubt grab my attention and I shall share those with ad-hoc.

So there you have it! The Combobulater has taken its first foray into a regular blog and I hope those of you that listen to the cast will share your comments and get involved with the community we're striving to setup here. Be sure to jump into the forums, air your own views and prompt discussion on the cast!!

Catch you later,