Ideas are a dime a dozen… Or that time I “Invented” Uber but didn’t do anything about it.

I just opened up a text editor I have on my phone that I use to take down notes and ideas, and I found an idea for an app that I came up with, complete with monetisation strategy and everything.

I never built this app… But someone else did…

Taxi dispatch system consisting of 3 components

  1. Server component to keep track of driver locations and hires.
  2. Customer App (Android and iOS) allows customer to request a taxi. Track location of driver and pay for taxi ride.
  3. Driver component, notifies driver of jobs, tracks driver location.

Customer component will give quote for ride using distance to drive from x to y.

Customer component sends exact coordinates to driver if required and allows driver to see picture of front door.

Driver component transmits location of driver to server/customer to give estimate of how long till driver arrives.
Map integration for customer and driver.
Different version of customer software made available for each customer.

Download via QR code on receipt.

Monetization

Apps are free but 5% of hire is taken as transaction fee if paid through app.

Customisation of customer app is available at a one off cost, depending on level of customisation.

It’s not quite Uber, more “Uber as a service” to taxi firms, but still because I never built it I can just sit and wonder what would have been…

Well that went well…

Apparently I’ve not posted in over a year, so my last blog post was a lie. It does look like my host have upgraded their hardware and software and my blog is slightly more responsive though.

I might start posting again.

Here’s hoping…

Mysterium: The Haunted House

There aren’t enough cooperative asymmetric boardgames, especially not ones that feature a silent ghost trying to give players clues by means of cards with completely abstract art on them.

If you have ever said that to your self then Mysterium is the game for you… Before I start lets talk about the elephant in the room, you may have noticed that the title of the box in the image above doesn’t say Mysterium, it says Tajemnicze Domostwo, which is apparently Polish for “Haunted House”, the reason for this is that Mysterium doesn’t have an English edition, yet…

There is an English Edition on the way, and it will have some improvements / slightly different game mechanics, but as far as I’m aware it doesn’t have a concrete release date as yet. The thing is, that doesn’t really matter. Mysterium has not text in it, apart from the rules which you can get a translated version of over at Board Game Geek.

The story of Mysterium is that there is this house on the outskirts of Paris, and 100 years ago someone was murdered there. The wrong person was put on trial and executed for the murder and they have haunted the house ever since. In an effort to appease the spirit the owners have called upon the worlds foremost paranormal investigators to spend a week in the house to try and figure out who the real murderer was and put the spirit to rest.

Mysterium plays like the bastard child of Cluedo (Clue) and Dixit, but it’s better than both put together… One player plays the ghost, the other players play the paranormal investigators. Over the course of 7 rounds the players have to figure the circumstances under which the murder took place and who the real murderer was.

This is done by way of visions that the ghost player gives each player, the visions are large art cards, which are very reminiscent of the cards from Dixit, each player is assigned three cards in secret:

  • An item: representing “What”
  • A location, representing “Where”
  • A person representing “Who”

The players have to first figure out the what their assigned person was doing, then where they were doing it, and finally who they actually were (I think the new English version changes this order) based on the vision they were given by the ghost. Discussion is allowed among the investigators who can assist in interpreting the vision, but at the end of the round each player has to chose what they think the ghost was referring to with the vision by putting their token on it.

Once all the tokens are placed the ghost is allowed to affirm or reject the investigators guess. If an investigator guesses the correct item they then have to guess the location in the next round and then the person when they have guessed that.

The interesting thing about Mysterium, are first that the Ghost isn’t allowed to communicate with the investigators in any shape of form apart from giving them their vision for the turn and telling them that they guessed correctly or incorrectly at the end of the turn, this leads to a lot of frustration and hilarity on the Ghost’s side because the vision cards are so vague that most of them could literally mean anything. Trying to keep a straight face and not yell at the investigators for being idiots when one immediately guesses the correct card but is then talked out of it by the other players if really difficult

The vision cards are beautifully  illustrated, with tons of elements that you can use to try and hint to the players, the thing is not everyone see’s the same thing when they look at the cards, in fact it frequently occurs that a player will point something out on a card that you never noticed, for example one of the items is a clock, it was multiple play throughs in with 3 three different groups before a player to said they thought that the vision was eluding to the clock because there was a mermaid on the clock, none of us had seen the mermaid up to that point…

Being the ghost is really fun because you essentially know what is going on, and you have to think laterally to try and pick visions that will guide the players to pick the right cards, however, given how bonkers some of the cards are you will get a lot of abuse from the players for picking cards that in their eyes have nothing to do with what they are trying to guess, or worse cards that are blatantly telling them to pick the wrong one, the thing is you can’t defend yourself until the game is over, you just have to adjust your card choices the next turn to line up with the different players’ way of thinking.

With one group we played a game where I was the ghost for the first game, one of the investigators spent the whole game incredulous at my choice of visions, I was “Clearly doing it wrong” because nothing I had played made any sense. That player was the ghost in the second game and they saw quite how difficult it is to guide a bunch of players with only a limited number of really abstract cards.

I genuinely love this game, it looks nice it plays well and it gets your brain going. It also works well for anywhere from 2 to 6 players.

The English version should be out later this year, it changes the setting to a Scottish castle, adds a screen for the ghost to keep his cards in order and hidden, and changes some of the art. To be honest it is probably worth waiting for the English version just for the screen, but the game plays really well as is and you don’t need to speak a word of Polish to play the Polish version.

Hive: Nothing Buggy About This Game


There are some games like Chess, Draughts (Checkers), or Go that are incredibly simple and so easy to teach, but can take ages to master. These games usually have a set of really simple rules and a win condition, that is easily understood. Hive is one of those games.

Hive-Pieces-1

Hive is hexagonal chess with bugs, in the base game each player has 11 pieces which represent 5 different bug types, each of these bugs can move in a different way:

  • 1 Queen Bee: Can move exaclty once space.
  • 2 Spiders: Can move exactly 3 spaces.
  • 3 Soldier Ants: Can move around the outside of the hive as many squares as required.
  • 3 Grasshoppers: Can hop over the hive in any straight line
  • 2 Beetles: Can mount the hive and move exactly once space.

There are expansions that add a Mosquito, a Ladybird and a Pill-bug, the first two are included in the Pocket and Carbon edition out of the box.

Players take turns either placing a piece or moving a piece, with the ultimate goal of surrounding their opponent’s Queen Bee.

The only real rules are that you have to place your Queen within your first three turns, you can’t move any placed pieces until you have placed your queen, and you cannot break the hive.

That’s it! It’s that simple!

Of course within that is a world of strategy, do you place the queen early or late? Do you go on the full offensive and hope that you can capture your opponent’s queen before your opponent? or do you play defensively moving your queen out of the way? Can you trap your opponents crucial pieces to prevent them from using them?

The beauty of this game is the simplicity and variety of bugs, which allows for and astounding amount of variance in game-play styles. Although when playing with just one opponent I’ve found that the game can fall into a stagnant rhythm of playing the same moves or trying variations on the same strategy, which can get very frustrating, it’s astounding when playing with a new player how you get those “I never thought of doing that!” moments. Sometimes you just have to think outside the box.

hive-pocket

Hive probably isn’t as deep as Chess for example, but it’s a lot less intimidating, and for a new player it has the advantage that there aren’t books upon books written on how to play this game effectively, I’m sure there are winning strategies and patterns to be discovered but I think that the permutation space for hive might actually be large enough that it’ll take a while for them to be figured out.

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Putting all that aside, hive is a joy to look at, the pieces are gorgeous. Whether you are playing the original game, the pocket edition, or the new “Carbon” edition, the hexagonal pieces are stunning, and feel really nice in your hand, like Dominoes or nice Mah Jong tiles.

Hive is also a great travel game for two people, it takes up very little space, and comes with a carry case/bag to keep all the tiles in (At least Carbon and Pocket do) and you can play it on any flat surface.

Hive is also available on iOS (£1.49) and Android (Free).

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Tanto Cuoro: Do-maid-ion First impressions

tanto

There are two types of board gamers, those for who the theme of a game is important and those for whom the theme of a game doesn’t matter a toss as long as the game has solid mechanics. (OK so putting everyone who participates in a hobby on a binary like that is ridiculous but I’m not exactly about to formulate an ontology of board gamers based on mechanics Vs. theme I’m just writing the opening paragraph to a shitty review, calm down…)

I bought Tanto Cuoro as a gift for a friend, partly because I’d read that it wasn’t terrible, and partly because she is obsessed with some really weird Japanese niche cultures. I wasn’t expecting the game to be that good, I didn’t even expect to play the game at all to be honest. But then I did…

Gameplay

At it’s heart Tanto Cuoro (Which is Italian for “A lot of heart” apparently) is a deck building game not dissimilar to Dominion, your goal is to assemble the a collection of maids to serve you and become the ultimate master of the house.

Each turn you get a hand of cards from you deck which contains a set of maids and or some “Love” cards which are the games currency, (Yes maids are paid in love not money, I’ll let you think of that what you will) and initially you are allowed to be “Served” by one maid per turn.

Being served by a maid means you play that maid and gain the benefits that maid provides usually this is one of:

  • Extra Love: Giving you more currency to buy maids.
  • Card Draw: Allowing you to draw more cards in the hope of getting more love to spend.
  • Extra Servings: Allowing you to play more maids
  • Extra Employment: Allowing you to hire more maids to your household.

Love is spent in the Town where you can either employ maids or purchase events, the maids you buy are added to your discard pile and are shuffled into your deck when it runs out, you can also buy private maids which don’t go into your deck but give you an ongoing effect which is usually helpful.

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Events are basically a way to screw the other player over by making their maids ill which negates their bonuses, or giving them bad habits which loses you victory points.

You can also promote maids to “chamber maids”, which takes them out of your deck permanently and may give you bonuses at the end of the game.

Once two of the piles of maids is depleted the game is over and each player tallies up the the maids in their house hold and whomever has the most victory points wins.

Opinion

I wasn’t expecting to like this game, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t think it would be a terrible game… I just didn’t think it would be for me. I actually really enjoyed playing it though. Behind the cute anime maids in skimpy maid outfits, are some pretty solid mechanics, the art is also very well done if you are into the theme then that is a bonus, but building a household of maids and then trying to figure out how to chain them to get the most victory points is actually quite fun.

I’ve not played Dominion in 5 years, so the rules for that are a little rusty in my head, but I think this might oddly have a little more depth than the games of Dominion I played, which I found surprising.

If you like deck building games and either the theme appeals to you, or you are willing to ignore it then this game is well worth a look. Also if you don’t want to invest in the physical game there is a version available for iOS and while it’s not free it’s pretty cheap (£2.49 last time I checked) it also benefits from having a tutorial built in to it and varying levels of AI.

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My crowning achievement was chaining a set of maids to add love and servings to my pool such that I managed to accrue 18 love allowing me to employ two copies of “Marianne Soleil” who is worth 6 victory points.

 

Pebble Time Steel One Month On

TimeSteel

I don’t think you can write a review of a device like a smart watch or smart phone until you’ve had a little time to use it. So although I got my Pebble Time over a month I’ve not wanted to write a review of it until I’ve had a chance to put it through it’s paces.

Design

I personally don’t like the look of the regular pebble, it looks too plasticky, so I was disappointed when the Pebble Time was announced that there wasn’t a Pebble Steel analogue, of course it didn’t take long for Pebble to announce the Pebble Time Steel.

The watch may not be to everyone’s taste, but personally I like it, it looks like a watch, and for the most part it doesn’t have the “Oooh is that a smartwatch” aesthetic that the Apple Watch and the regular Pebble have.

Straps

As a Kickstarter backer I got the leather and the stainless steel strap, I’ve tried both and although the leather strap is really comfortable, I didn’t find the steel strap to be very comfortable, it’s possible that I removed one too many links when I was resizing the strap, but it just didn’t feel as nice.

That brings me to my first qualm about the stainless steel strap, although it’s easy enough to get the leather strap off I found it quite difficult to get the stainless steel strap onto and off the watch. Also although the number of links on the steel strap was rather generous, you needed a tiny screwdriver to remove the links to shorten the strap, and it would have been nice to have a small screwdriver in the packaging.

Buttons

The buttons on the watch have a nice feel to them, although I get the feeling that the watch was designed with only right handed people in mind. Although I am right handed I’ve always worn my watch on my right hand rather than my left hand, and the buttons didn’t feel like they were in the right place to use on one’s right hand.

I’ve taken to wearing the watch on my left hand, which is going against 35 years of habit, and for the most part it’s been okay.

There are a total of four buttons on the Time Steel, one on the left which functions as a back button in most cases and three on the right which normally function as up, down, and select buttons. It’s a paradigm that works quite well and it’s relatively intuitive.

Screen

The big new feature of the Time series is the colour e-ink screen, this is the first consumer device I’ve seen with a colour e-ink screen and to be honest I’m quite impressed. The refresh rate is good enough for animation, and the display is probably on par with a GameBoy Advance. You can play games on this, and the refresh is not noticeable, I don’t know how many colours the screen supports, or what the refresh rate is but for a wee screen on my wrist it’s more that good enough.

UI

This is is my first smart watch, so I had not idea what to expect from the UI, I new that pebble had added something called Timeline to the OS but I had no idea how to access it. I found navigating the UI to be relatively straightforward though, it helps that the afore mentioned buttons almost always do the same thing, the once caveat to this being one app where going back required a long press on the back button rather than just a press, so I didn’t think to use the button for anything other than back.

The menu is just a list of options and apps, which you install from the phone app, and selecting an app and using it is fairly straightforward.

It took me two days to discover that clicking up or down opened my “Timeline” though, I probably could have read a manual, or watched a video on using the pebble, but I didn’t so I didn’t know this.

Functionality

The core functionality of the Pebble Time is as a watch, and as a notification system for your phone, it does both of these tasks quite well. This is not a fitness watch, although there are some apps that have some fitness functionality, it’s not what the watch is designed to do.

That said, how useful that watch is depends on your phone, basic functionality like showing you notifications and your timeline works fine regardless of whether you have and iPhone or an Android phone, however, I found that the ways to respond to a notification on Android were much richer than on iPhone, where you could just dismiss the notification.

I was actually quite impressed with the fact that I could dictate a text message to my phone in response to one I had just received, and confirm the message on my watch before sending it. You can’t do this on an iOS device, I dont’ blame Pebble, I blame Apple for not opening up the API for this though…

One thing that the Pebble Time does, that I doubt either Android Wear or Apple Watch can do though is the ability to pair the watch with two devices, with two different operating systems at the same time. The use case for this is probably quite narrow, but if you have an Android phone for work and an iPhone as your personal device then it can be a godsend.

When I tried it I managed to pair an LG Leon and an iPhone 5S to my Pebble Time, and the Leon used regular Bluetooth while the iPhone used low energy Bluetooth. I did have to manage the watch from the Leon, as for some reason I couldn’t manage it from the iPhone, but that wasn’t the end of the world.

Battery

The battery life on the Pebble time is nothing short of amazing, although I never got the reported 10 days, I usually got at least 5 days use out of the watch, and I lived safe in the knowledge that ever if I woke up to a 10% battery warning that I could probably get most of a day, if not a whole days, usage out of the watch. Compare this to my other half who have to charge her Apple Watch every night and for some people that is enough to justify the Pebble.

There was one day where I left an app (Pixel Miner if you must know) open and it drained the battery in a day and a half. That being said, when the battery died I discovered that the Pebble Time goes into a super low power setting that just tells you the time, this lasted for a day and half so if your smart watch runs out of juice you can still use it as a watch for quite some time before you have to find a charge cable.

Apps and Watch Faces

The Pebble Time has the advantage that it’s backwards compatible with all the old Pebble watch faces and apps, so it already has a vast library thats waiting to be used, a lot of which is in black and white though so you don’t get to make as much use of the lovely screen, although there is a growing number of really nice apps, some of them have more polish than others.

There also doesn’t seem to be as much of a drive for corporations to publish apps for the Pebble, it’s mainly Silicon Valley companies where an engineer has blatantly thrown together the app in his spare time. For exaple I have apps for Swam and Yelp but not for British Airways which would be useful.

The selection of watch faces is vast, many of them actually require explanation on how to read them though…

I currently have Nyan Can on my wrist, and it animates when the light comes on, although I can’t change the date format from US format which is annoying.

nyan

There are also a number of games available if playing games on your wrist is a thing you want to do, including a version of Flappy Bird which is actually not terrible, and a fake Pokemon game.

It’s also really easy to write your own watch faces, within 20 to 30 minutes of loading up the developer kit I had written my own watch face that told the time and a little message which is quite cool:

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Overall Opinion

Overall I’m quite happy with the Pebble Time Steel, it lacks in some of the features that the Apple watch has, so I can’t send my heart beat or drawings of penises to my friends who also happen to have the same watch (Apparently this is what people with Apple watches do…) but it tells me the time, and allows me to keep my phone in my pocket and just check my wrist for notifications. Also the battery lasts for ages, so I don’t need to worry about it running out of juice at the end of the day.

While a smart watch is never a must have device, it is a nice to have, and I’ve found that for the most part the watch has helped to curb my bad habit of receiving a notification on my phone and accidentally opening Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or any of the other millions of distractions on my phone. I can glance at my watch, decide whether or not I need to do anything and just go on with whatever I was doing which is really liberating.

I think I’d like the watch more if I had and used an Android phone more often, because the options for interaction with your phone on iOS seem hamstrung, which is a real shame.

If you have any questions feel free to ask them in the comment, I’m willing to try messing about with the watch to answer most questions.

Update: This Time It’s Personal!

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Woof!

So I’ve not posted in quite some time, If you are some kind of crazy fan of my blog and you have been checking this blog daily then you haven’t seen very much. I’ve been really busy with work and that means that I’ve not really posted anything…
This may or may not change, I’m still really busy with work, but with different work!

I HAVE A NEW JOB!

OK maybe not tomorrow… More like a month ago… But you get the idea.

I’ve gone from working for a small to medium UK based company to working for an enormous company based in Silicon Valley, like seriously I was at their main office a few weeks ago and it’s bigger than Disney Land, they even have a turtle pond.

This is really exciting, and it means that I’ll be really busy working learning a hell of a lot of new stuff, but I’m the master of my own time, so long as I deliver I can choose how and when I work which is nice…

In my last job I was almost alway juggling 4-6 customer projects at any time which meant that I was almost always working on something that needed my attention RIGHT NOW, I’m moving to working on a single product just adding features and fixing bugs so hopefully I won’t be in crunch mode all the time and I’ll get a chance to actually have a life…

Work/Life Balance… It’s important!

I’m really excited about this, but it’s also really scary as almost everyone I work with is 8 hours ahead of me, so I don’t really have anyone to ask questions of when I get stuck. This is both a challenge and an opportunity, I’m going to get a hell of a lot better at learning stuff myself…

Anyway… I felt the need to post something as I’ve been ultra quiet for way too long. I’m going to try to post more often, and I’m going to try to not have all my posts be image dumps of Disney Princesses…

If you are a regular reader and you just want my geeky stuff I say so and I’ll try and work out some way to allow you to just see that and not all the other crap I plan on posting. That said this may be the last personal post I ever do and it might be nothing but Pokémon dressed up as Disney Princesses performing Water-Bending forms from Avatar from here on out…

WordPress Always check the Log Files

Recently I built a new PC and I ran into an issue where for some reason I couldn’t login to WordPress on my blog from the new PC. I could still login on my laptop, but not on my PC.

Every time I tried to login I got hit with the following error:

ERROR: Cookies are blocked or not supported by your browser. You must enable cookies to use WordPress.

This appears to be quite a common error but none of the solutions I found for it seemed to work.

My browser was accepting cookies, they were definitely not disabled, I’d noticed that WordPress had recently auto updated to 3.8.1 so I assumed that was the problem and it would hopefully fix it’s self in the next update. Anyway it was working on my laptop so I could still login.

Then all of a sudden a couple of days ago my laptop stopped being able to login to WordPress with the same error…

I searched and searched for a solution, I edited themes, manually removed plugins, deleted themes, created my own plugins to explicitly set the cookie, tried to ensure the that domain was correct.

NOTHING WAS WORKING!

I’d seen some people say that a reinstall helped so I reinstalled WordPress, after taking a backup, and then copied back my wp-config.php because it had the login details for the database in it.

NOPE

Hunting for a solution for a couple of hours I decided to check the error log…

I wish I’d done this earlier… The log was full of errors most of them had something along the lines of:

PHP Warning:  Cannot modify header information – headers already sent by (output started at /home/ohmznet/public_html/wp-config.php:34)

Ok Lets look at wp-config.php… Lo and behold:

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What’s that after the end tag of PHP script? Two new lines…

It turns out that the second you write anything to the actual page, the header gets written, which means that you can’t set cookies. That includes whitespace.

Those two blank lines broke my WordPress site so bad that I couldn’t login.

So yeah, I’ve learnt a lesson I should already know:

ALWAYS LOOK AT THE LOG FILES!

My Top 10 Video Games of All Time: With Some Honourable Mentions

I was chatting to an acquaintance on twitter a while back who works as a recruiter in the video game industry and she mentioned that one of her favourite questions to ask candidates was to name their top 10 games of all time, this got me thinking about what my top ten games were and why. This list is the result of a lot of introspection, and is my personal top 10 favourite games. I stress this list is MY list there are many like it but this one is MINE

1. Chrono Trigger [Square 1995 – SNES]

Chrono Trigger is without a doubt my favourite game, it’s one of the few games that I have gone back to multiple time and completed multiple times, and it served as my main introduction to the JRPG. In a way it’s a shame that this was my introduction to JRPGs because it’s so good that it sits up there on a pedestal and other games tend to be judged by it and usually pale in comparison.

The Intricacies of the plot, the time travel and exploring the consequences of your actions hundreds if not thousands of years later make this game really resonate with me. The writing is spot on and it has a tendency to move the goal posts in such a way that you never really know whether you are about to head to the final show down or not. The fact that on your second play through you can in fact head to the final show down at any point for a different ending only adds to the magic.

The graphics were/are beautiful and, having recently replayed this game on the DS still stand the test of time, there aren’t many 19 year old games you can say that about.

I’ve had a play through of the Sequel Chrono Cross, which although very good didn’t quite capture the magic of Chrono Trigger, I’d love to see a modern reinterpretation of this type of game, be it in the same universe or another.

Note: I found it really hard to add Chrono Trigger to this list and not add two other games that I played at around the same time: Final Fantasy VI and Secret of Mana. Final Fantasy VI introduced me to the FF series and was also critical in igniting a love of JRPGs in me, and Secret of Mana (Which was originally going to be the same game as Chrono Trigger but they had too many ideas and split them into two games) will hold a special place in my heart as one of the best 2D action RPGs I’ve ever played, possibly better than any of the instalments of the Zelda franchise I’ve played, although I think they are a different type of 2D action RPG one focusing solely on combat and the other on puzzle solving.

2. Kings Valley 2 [Konami 1988 – MSX]

It really saddens me that this game hasn’t seen a re-release, there are various remakes of it that you can download for free, but I’d love to see Konami revisit this series the same way that they revisited Metal Gear.

The original Kings Valley was a variation on Lode Runner, you were an Egyptologist who ran about the inside of a pyramid chasing being chased by mummies and hunting down soul gems which when collected would allow you to progress to the next page. Rather than having the ability to dig whenever you wanted to you could only dig if you had a pick axe and once you’d used it up it disappeared. It was more puzzle orientated than Lode Runner but it was fairly simplistic if quite fun, but there were only a limited number of levels that looped when you completed them.

The sequel though, improved the graphics tenfold, added a host of monsters that chased you in different ways, traps and door, and many more tools to your arsenal like the boomerang the drill, the shovel, and the hammer. More importantly because there were so many more levels it added a password password system so you could carry on playing where you left off later and a level editor so you could create and share your own levels with your friends on disk or cassette tape.

This game still haunts me, I often find myself humming pieces of music from it years, the puzzles were genuinely difficult requiring both the ability to figure out how to solve them and the dexterity to actually pull off your solution without getting killed by one of the monsters that inhabited the pyramids.

3. Salamander/Life Force [Konami 1986-1987 – Arcade,MSX,NES,PC Engine, PSP etc…]

I was going to put an entry in the Nemesis/Gradius Series in this list, but to be honest the spin off Salamander was just better than the original series. Salamander, which was released as “Life Force” in the US, came out on a heck of a lot of systems, and was also available as an arcade. It was a spin off of Konami’s popular Gradius series (released in some territories as the more sinister sounding Nemesis which is how I was introduced to the series).

After a little research it looks like as a kid I was lucky enough to play the best version of Salamander released, the MSX version took the original Salamander game and added some elements that had been removed from the Gradius formula in previous version, the graphics were improved and the game was given a story or sorts which involved you navigating the inside of some giant monster.

This is a shoot-em-up of of the purest form, survive through a swarm of enemies and bullets, and then fight a boss at the end of the level. The game had a few extra features that made it better than it’s predecessor and in some ways better than the other elements of the Gradius franchise.

Chief among these was simultaneous Co-Op play, this meant that rather than waiting for your friend to die to take your turn, both you and your friend could play together sharing power-ups and saving each others skins, there was even a powerup that allowed you to merge your ships into one super ship, this I’ll be honest was something my friends and I never got to do very much because the game was quite difficult, but when we did it was glorious!

The game also features horizontally scrolling levels as well as the traditional vertical levels which added a little bit of variance to the game play.

All in all, this is my favourite Shoot-Em-Up game of all time and I really like shoot em up games, I can see how some people could prefer the R-Type series, but apart from a brief stint on the Amiga and playing a version of R-Type on the PlayStation R-Type just doesn’t have the nostalgia of 7 year old me lying on the ground, sharing a keyboard with a friend on an MSX trying to blast those weird clover shaped enemies out of the sky (Come to think of it they were probably meant to be amoeba).

 4. Fallout 3 [Bethesda Game Studios 2008 – XBox 360, PS3, PC]

When I started making a mental list in my head I thought that none of the games would be 3D, and definitely none of them would be first person shooters, then I remembered Fallout 3. I’ve had a long and awkward relationship with the Fallout series, I remember getting a demo of Fallout on the cover of some Mac Magazine, it allowed you to play through the first battle of the game, I think I might have played that battle over 100 times, I was obsessed, and I really wanted to own this game. Sadly I lived in a country where it was incredibly difficult to get Mac games, and this was before you could buy anything you wanted on the internet so I never got to play Fallout or the sequel Fallout 2.

Then I got an X-Box, and Fallout 3 was released, and I played it and played it, and played it. There is very little not to love about this game, the story its self is a little on the short side, but you can ignore the story and just enjoy the setting. Blast super mutants, and listen to the amazing music.

I’m not going to lie, the hours I spent playing fallout has made me start listening to new music, I have gone out and bough Ella Fitzgerald CDs because of this, and the music from this game will forever be associated with Christmas for me, as that is when I go the chance to play it the most.

This is the only X-Box Game I own that I have not only completed but that I have gotten 100% of the achievements for, I think my play count for this game is something in the region of 160 hours, a lot of that was spend just wondering the wasteland looking at how beautiful Washington DC is even after it’s been blown to bits, I even recognise some of the places in the game from when I visited DC years ago, and oddly it’s made me want to revisit DC again.

You don’t play Fallout 3 for the main story, you play it for the side quests, for the setting, the music, the characters, and to blow stuff up with cool weapons.

5. E.V.O.: The Search for Eden [Enix 1992 – SNES]

These days the default type of game that anyone makes when they come up with a concept seems to be a first person shooter, when I was growing up the default gameplay type was the 2D platformer, as such 2D platformers have a special place in my heart.

It was really tempting to pick a Mario title as my favourite game that represented a 2D platformer, Super Mario Bros 3 was very nearly on this list as my example of the genre, but if you’ve played one Mario Game you’ve played them all, sure they are tweaked a little, the odd power-up added here and there new game design elements innovated, but at their heart you are a plumber who eats mushrooms trying to save a princess by jumping on other mushrooms and turtles.

E.V.O. is different, the bane of platform games has always been the aquatic levels, very few games get it right, E.V.O. does, the first hour or so of the game is an aquatic level, but that’s fine, because you are a fish.

In E.V.O. you start off as a fish and gain EVO points by eating other fish and or plants, you can use these points to evolve better jaws, a bigger tail, armour, a spike among other things, how your character turns out is up to you, you will eventually emerge onto land where you will spend the rest of your time, unless you evolve into a bird later (I seem to recall having the choice to evolve into either a mammal or a bird but I could be wrong).

It’s a really clever game, and the evolution mechanic is really well done, it lets you tailor your character to play as you want to play.

People lauded Spore for doing this in 2008, but E.V.O. beat Spore to the concept by 16 years. What other game lets you start off as a fish and through the decisions you make lets you evolve into anything from a Dragon to a Human?

6. Castlevania: Symphony of The Night [Konami 1997 – PlayStation]

I only recently started playing Metroid on my 3DS so the Castlevania series is the only part of the “Metroidvainia” pairing (a duumvirate if you will) that I have much experience with. I’d played the original Castlevania or Vampire Killer on the MSX and I’d played Simon’s quest and Super Castlevania on the GameBoy and SNES respectively, but none of those games stick with me like Symphony of the Night.

It’s partially the extensive castle that gives the series it’s name, this was the first game in the series that allowed you to explore and re-explore areas of the castle with parts becoming available as you gained different abilities.

It’s also probably partially to do with the main character, rather than playing a love struck Belmont on a quest to save the damsel in distress, you are an angsty half vampire on a mission to redeem yourself and stop you father’s reign of terror. Not only that but instead of the series’ regular whip you get to make use of a veritable arsenal of weapons, armour, magic items and spells, as well as being able to transform into a bat, a wolf, and a cloud of toxic mist. Aaaaaaaand! you got to have one of a number of familiars which aided you on your quest by killing enemies from afar or pointing out hidden secrets!

This game was essentially a 2D platformer RPG, and a lot of the elements pioneered in this game have been carried forward in later iterations of the series, especially the handheld incarnations.

Also you can’t mention Symphony of the Night without mentioning it’s soundtrack, the synth metal gothic riffs made full use of the PlayStations capabilities, and really helped to build atmosphere and tension. You could even listen to some of the soundtrack if you put the game disc in a CD player and skipped to the 2nd track.

The developers of Symphony of the Night opted to stay true to the series’ 2D heritage rather than going 3D, they used the extra space to pack the game with some of the most beautiful sprites that have ever graced a console, and given how the later Castlevania 3D on the N64 turned out I’m really glad they stuck to two dimensions, this game is stunning and still stands the test of time, and it’s available on the XBox 360 and PlayStation Store.

7. Tetris [Alexey Pajitnov 1984 – Every console/computer under the sun]

This game needs no introduction, it’s one of the most widely sold games in the world and is available on almost every platform with a screen, and probably some without. I got Tetris with my GameBoy in 1989 and was quickly addicted.

There is a lot to be said for simplicity in game design, and it doesn’t get much more simple and elegant than Tetris, this game spawned a bagillion remakes and inspired a whole genre of games, giving birth to everything from Columns to Dr. Mario and beyond.

One of the magic things about Tetris is that by some fluke the number of combinations of 4 blocks is 7 which is apparently a “Magic number” for the average human brain, in that it’s the maximum number of things the average person can keep in memory at the one time. This allows us to be prepared for any of the 7 Tetronimos.

Apparently playing Tetris too much changes the way you think improving your spatial awareness and even making you a better driver.

8. Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem [Silicon Knights 2002 – GameCube]

I’m not really one for survival horror games, I remember playing one of the Resident Evil games with a group of friends once, but to be honest they don’t really scare me, although I’ll admit that Dead Space stresses me out, when I play it I think it’s stress and not fear.

Eternal Darkness isn’t a survival horror game, sure it’s a horror game where you have to survive as in any game (I can’t think of any games in which the object is to die I’m sure they are out there though). This game takes a leaf from the works of HP Lovecraft, it’s Eldritch horror and it’s done really well.

A core mechanic in Eternal Darkness is the sanity meter, if your sanity goes below a certain threshold you start to go crazy. The clever thing about this is that the game messes with you as a player some of the insanity effects are:

  1. A fly buzzing about the screen
  2. Going into a room and being brutally killed then flashing back to before you entered the room.
  3.  The screen goes blue and displays Video 1 in the top corner as if the video cable has been disconnected.
  4. The game pretends that the console has crashed and rebooted and that your save is corrupted.
  5. The game makes you think you’ve accidentally deleted all your saves
  6. Controls get inversed
  7. Screen is flipped upside down

The game also plays really spooky sounds the more crazy you get, it’s really atmospheric.

This isn’t just a concept piece though, the game it’s self is really good too! You play Alexandra Roivos, and you are investigating the mysterious death of your grandfather, in doing so you discover a book bound in human flesh, and when you read it you play through a series of characters through history all uncovering a plot to summon an Elder god to this world and bring about the end of the world.

The range of characters is excellent and along the way you pick up runes which when combined allow you to cast various spells, the nice thing about this spell system is you can experiment and find out spells or you can wait till you find guides for particular spells.

It’s a real shame that Silicon Knights have gone bust, this is a game that needs a sequel, sadly Nintendo has patented the sanity mechanic and given Nintendo’s reluctance to release games aimed at adults I don’t see them making use of that patent any time soon. There was a Kickstarter campaign to fund a remake called Shadow of the Eternals but it didn’t even make half of it’s funding goal.

9. Mass Effect [Bioware 2007 – XBox 360, PS3, PC]

I never got a chance to play the Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic games, I’ve since seen bits and pieces of them being played and I understand their place in video gaming history. Mass Effect is the spiritual successor to that series, this game is what happens when you take as many science fiction tropes as you can think of put them in a bag shake it up and add amazing story telling.

On this surface this game could conceivably be seen as a StarWars game with all the licensed stuff ripped out, that would be unfair though, the creators of the Mass Effect universe have gone to great pains to weave a deep and interesting setting. The story telling is top notch, the extra fluff that you don’t even need to read is actually interesting, and the characters are well thought out.

If I had to take issue with one thing it’s the polarity of the alignment system, everything is boxed into either “Paragon” or “Renegade” and you progress along a track towards one or the other. This ends up being you either being a goody two shoes or being an ass-hole, when will game designers realise that being an ass-hole is not the same as being evil?

The choice of classes is top notch too, if you want to play this game as if it were an FPS you can, if you want to pause it and cast spells etc. you can do that too, there are even middle ground classes for the indecisive.

Mass effect also get’s top points for it’s cast of NPCs and the relationships you can choose to form with them, or not, your decisions will at points decide whether members of your party live or die, at one point at your own hands, I like the permanence of that.

10. Bomber Man [Hudson 1983 – Almost every system under the sun]

I have vague memories of playing a version of BomberMan on my cousin’s MSX, I have fond memories of both the multi-player and story mode of Super BomberMan on the SNES, and I still rave about playing 10 player games of Saturn Bomber Man.

There is something cathartic about running about a maze trying to blow your friends to bits. BomberMan is a really simple game concept that requires both reflexes and forward planning, navigating the maze avoiding the little red balloons is almost PacMan like, but instead of relying on power pills you rely on bombs, everybody loves bombs.

The strategy of bomb placement to try and outsmart or trap the AI opponents, or even another player, the frustration of accidentally boxing yourself in and blowing yourself up, the satisfaction of triggering a bomb that was meant to kill you and instead blowing one of your friends into smithereens, there is nothing like it.

Honourable Mentions:

A few games didn’t quite make the cut for top ten, I feel the need to mention them though, so at the risk of making this a top 15 or top 20 I’ve included a few honourable mentions, that might not be in my top 10, they may not even be very good games, but they are games that mean an awful lot to me and either kindled my love of games or cost me a lot of spare time when I should probably have been doing something more useful.

1. Sinistar [Williams 1982 – Arcade]

The words “Beware I Live!”, “I Live! I Hunger!” and “Run Coward!” will forever be etched into my psyche. This was one of the arcade games that they had at the recreation center where I grew up and I spent so much money on it it’s unbelievable.

2.Blast Corps [Rare 1997 – N64]

It doesn’t quite have the retro appeal of BomberMan, but there is a lot to be said for trying to destroy as much of a city as possible with large vehicles.

3. Frogger [Konami 1981 – Everything!]

I’m not sure if this was the first game I ever played on a computer but if it wasn’t it was the second. I made up a whole mythology about why the frog had to get across the road to get flies to feed his starving family.

4. Spaceward Ho! [Delta Tau Software 1990 – Mac, although currently also available for PC and iOS]

I spend hours playing this eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate, before we had network connections my friend an I would take turns walking away from the computer and not looking while the other took his turn.

5. Penguin Adventure [Konami 1986 – MSX]

I think this game sparked my love of penguins, not quite an infinite runner, but close. I’ve already written a whole blog post about this game so I won’t rant on too much.

6. Airborne! [Silicon Beach Software 1985 – Mac]

I’m not sure games get much simpler than this, it’s essentially a military themed missile commander with an army theme where the enemies come from one side of the screen and you have to click to shoot bullets at them. I’m not sure I ever survived past the F15 swooping in, the memory  of the roar of it’s engines still sends a shiver down my spine.

Conclusion

So that was my top 10 games, what is yours? Leave a comment with a list, and if you can be bothered tell me why.