Posted on

Retro Games Holding Their Own In A Modern Video Game Industry

Why, with visually superior releases, are so many gamers dropping cash on and playing retro games? Are classic games making a magnificent return, or have they been there, epically pixilated and accumulating worth in a vintage games store, all along? 

The modern video game scene is, from an industry perspective, plump and healthy (let's just ignore recent micro-blemishes). There's a game out there for everyone. You want to be a goat and lay waste to suburbia? Take it by the horns. Want to sit back, relax, and duel your buddies in an online CCG? It's a few shiny card packs away. Maybe you just want to plant bombs and cap those pesky counter-terrorists. I could write a bible's-worth listing different genres and deviant games, but the point is we are spoilt for choice, whether you are a twelve-year-old with an oscillating voice or Jabba the Hutt seething B.O. in your parents' basement.

The tube started it.


So why this indomitable wave of classic games? (I will be using "retro games", "classic games", and "vintage games" fairly interchangeably.)

Retro Games Are Simpler 

Complexity isn't always a good thing. Sometimes having forty-nine quests billowing out of your journal is a hindrance. Sometimes being able to pick up a controller, jump up and down and bust open crates and consume questionably psychedelic mushrooms is all you need. 

People game for different reasons, many of which are influenced by the amount of time one can sink into gaming. Classic games are the working-human's (see what I did there?) dream. Rather than coming home from eight-hours of brown-nosing and having to negotiate a treacherous mountain pass while managing your inventory and contemplating the socio-political disrupt in an entirely fictitious but heinously in-depth world, the working-human may want to simply chew ghosts as a gliding yellow maw. 


Classic games are easy to pick up and play. There doesn't need to be an epic, evolving lore. There doesn't need to be seventeen different buttons, each with an alternate version if held in combination with another. Nor does there need to be an online update that always happens to coincide with those precious few hours your partner is off exercising or socialising (both an absolute waste of time, I can assure you). Like in the world of literature, less is more. And retro games are definitely less.  

Retro Games Are Harder

Just because a vintage game is simple, doesn't mean it's inherently easy. Often a classic game is easy to pick up and play and gain enjoyment from, but difficult to master. This appeals to modern gamers, who feel that nowaday's games do a little too much hand-holding. Having to go through tutorials can be tedious and boring. Following a waypoint and letting your monitor blur into the foreground causes you to miss the intricate details a developer has suffered to include. It's sometimes better to let the player make mistakes as they learn the controls and navigate the world. 


Many vintage games have an entirely different style to modern as well, in that they are all about setting new high-scores, rather than "cheesing" your way to each checkpoint, and building, sluggishly, toward one final and emotionally-detached cutscene. High-scores and endless waves of enemies add to that perceived difficulty. You are always under the thumb, floundering faster until you perish in a hail of shame and fury-infused perspiration. And that's fun.

Retro Games Are Everywhere 

Accessibility has something to do with the retro trend. There will always be hardcore vintage game collectors who will shed the blood of a nation to acquire a sacred (original) cartridge, although this needn't be the toil of the common gamer. Technology brings vintage games into the modern age, and it does so through a variety of mediums, relatively cheaply. 

Retro Games Emulation 

Emulating a game from an older platform to a newer platform is no revolutionary thing. But it is important to address just how accessible it is for anyone with a computer or phone. You can jump online, find a console (platform) and a game (as a ROM) on a ROM website, and then install it on your PC or smartphone or whatever via an appropriate emulation program. It's easy, it's free, but is by no means "plug and play". 

Retro Games Platform In Your Pocket 

Aside from the games you may emulate on your smartphone (yourself), there are official versions of many classic games available for both iPhone and Android. They don't always feature the smoothest controls but I have had a whole bunch of fun playing games like Secret of Mana and the original DOOM on my phone while overseas and what not. You have to take it for what it's worth, and realise that this isn't the ideal way to play the game, however.

Thumbs on the screen, buddy.


Plug And Play Classic Games

Now, this is kind of what inspired me to write this article. I recently got my grubby little hands on a SNES Classic Mini (unwilling to share what I paid to get it, nor the vile undertakings I undertook to get that money), and so far I have had so much fun with the thing, particularly battling aliens side-by-side with my GF in Contra 3: The Alien Wars

The SNES Classic Mini is a "plug and play" console with twenty-one classic SNES games built into it. You can't insert cartridges into the slot or anything, so it is limited in that aspect, but having twenty-one games bundled in, ready to go is an easy way to secure that much-needed nostalgic hit. It's great to see Nintendo thinking about its retro fans while they're busy with their modern consoles like the Switch.

Vintage games packed oh so nicely.


Of course, there are other "plug and play", revisioned, remastered, miniature consoles like this, and many more to come. They, to me, are the perfect way to experience retro gaming. No hassle or stress, aside from getting your desperate, craving claws on one.

Vintage Games At Every Turn

Maybe I just didn't notice them as a kid, but I seem to stumble into a vintage games store everywhere I go. It's like an antique shop for nerds. Obviously the more vintage games stores around, the greater the chance you have of picking up vintage games, assuming you want to sell your house and live in a box with a CRT TV running off a push-bike generator. 

Age Of Gaming And Gamers And Non-Gamers Views Of Gamers

Mouthful intentional. 

When does a video game become retro? Well, that depends, but it's probably something around twenty years. This golden number (that I have in no way estimated or fabricated — trust in my infallible wisdom) provides enough time for a game to sink beneath the surface of the antique realm. What I am working towards is video gaming is now old enough to have classics, which is certainly a factor contributing toward the current retro boom. 

As well as gaming itself ageing, so too have gamers. The dudes and dudettes that played the original consoles are now relapsing. They crave button-mashing with junky-like intensity. And they now have money to spend. 

On top of this, the video game industry is — slowly and torturously — becoming recognised as a real industry in which there is actual professional skill and money involved. People were so quick to shun gamers when they themselves sit brainwashed by the idiot-box for hours, days. Now video games are (almost) right up there films and other mediums of entertainment. Being a nerd is finally cool! 

Old-School/New-School

Good business recognises trends and capitalizes on them. There is no shame in doing so. Many modern game developers reimagine that old-school style in their games. There are so many games nowadays intentionally pixelated or stylised to appear like vintage games. Like being a nerd — and crocs and bucket-hats — this is cool. 

A fantastic example of a modern take on a classic style is Studio MDHR's Cuphead. It's also nothing short of impossible to complete. Bite your nails and tear your hair out over this one, retro gamers. 


The TV show ushers in the old-school upon a contemporary carpet, and so too does BonusXP Inc.'s Stranger Things: The Game. On top of being a fantastic little compliment to and promotion for the series, it is also free-to-play on mobile devices, making it available to pretty much every kid handed a smartphone at nine-years-old, or earlier. 


Falling vertically rather than traversing left to right is enough to provide Moppin's Downwell a competitive edge. This platformer is available on most platforms, employing classic pixel graphics to produce a challenging yet enjoyable experience. It really nails that fusion of retro and modern. Like Hannah Montana, you get the best of both worlds. 

I Think They Have Been There All Alone

I think we understand now why gamers are callousing their thumbs playing retro games, but how about the question of classic games being "there all along"?

It is really hard to properly "kill" a game. Someone's always got a copy laying around, a developer's build stashed on a drive somewhere. So, of course, classic games have been there the whole time. They are now just resurfacing and even dictating the future of the gaming industry.

The ideal circumstance — taking the above three games as evidence of existing success — is developers taking the best features of classic games and melding them with modern technology to produce the games our grandkids will call timeless and retro while they're whipping over solar-streets on hoverboards and uploading their innocent minds passively and unwillingly to the cloud.

Writen by Nick Petrou 

Posted on

What Makes A Video Game Timeless?

Video games are a form of art, only the uneducated would deny the fact. And like other art mediums, the gaming industry has spat out countless masterful and timeless creations. But what about a video game makes it timeless? What beyond palpitating gameplay and so-close-to-photoreal graphics lures gamers to a second or fourteenth playthrough? I have narrowed it down to three main aspects, and they all, conspiratorially, begin with the letter "S" — storytelling, soundtrack, and style. 

Ingredients For A Classic

I believe a well-balanced combination of storytelling, soundtrack, and style, on top of sufficiently fluid gameplay, is all that's required. Of course, a game's success hinges upon effective marketing, developer and player relationships, and a range of other, non-art-related factors. But here I focus on creative form. Nail the storytelling, soundtrack, and/or style, and players will melt in their seat and forget about the decaying world outside their window.

That's a bit vague though. To understand why the three S' are so vital, you'll first have to consider that squishy, watery, electric thing between your ears. 

"All the Kid had to work with was his hammer, and the clothes on his back."


Tricking The Brain

It is all about perception. Sensory organs absorb the physical and chemical environment for the brain to processes and interpret. The world around you is real because you have been convinced or have convinced yourself of it. So what if someone or something came along and shook your reality, woke you up to some new way of thinking or belief? This happens all the time in our human lives but on much more minor — or extreme — scales.


My point? Without our inherent ability to be convinced, fictitious works could not exist. As a creator — be it of books, films, games, paintings, comics, anything — you want your audience to enter and perceive the world you have so delicately crafted. You strive to produce an illusion and convince — if for but a fleeting moment — their brains think that it is real. 

You needn't spend a billion dollars on photoreal graphics or virtual reality to achieve such immersion (in fact, I am making a point to overlook technology in this article), you merely require a combination of S'.

What were they again?

Storytelling

Now, this is a broad subject in itself. Probably the most important too. Good storytelling is all about showing rather than telling (ironically), syphoning empathy and evoking emotion, and generally investing the audience. Notice that I say "storytelling" and not "story". This is intentional. You could have a great story stowed away in your mind, with unexpected teenage heroes, hidden Illuminati triangles, and feline astronauts, but if you cannot communicate that story in an engaging way, your audience will never feel as excited about it as you do. Storytelling is how you express your story. 

You could get by with just fantastic storytelling. But then you would have a book and not a video game.

Interactivity 

The difference between books, films, and video games is the degree of interactivity. Games with great storytelling are those that capitalise on this. Nobody wants to sit there and watch a half-hour cutscene. They came make decisions and suffer the consequences of those decisions; gain something resembling a first-hand experience, stresses and glories included; or bust incendiary rounds into peaceful aliens. 

Quantic Dream's Heavy Rain was decent for what it was. But the entire game can be summed up with "pressing X to Shaun". Heavy Rain leans more toward being a film than a game. It doesn't capitalise on the degree of interactivity that separates video games from other storytelling mediums. 

In short, the player needs control, and if there are going to be interactive cutscenes, they need to transition smoothly from real-time gameplay. Or better, there are no cutscenes, and you experience the events of the game whilst in control of your avatar. That way, if you physically escape the maw of death with nothing more than your wits and keyboard/mouse dexterity, it feels tense and exhilarating. Remember, the game should attempt to convince your brain. You sweat and shudder in the heat of a digital battle because your brain interprets external stressors and triggers a physical response. 

Linguistic Narration, Or The Lack Of

A book would be but bound paper without linguistic narration, whereas films and games have an arsenal of visual and audial elements to substitute or compensate the narration of a story. 

Some games rely on obvious and well-acted narration. For instance, Supergiant Games' Bastion. The narrator verbalises your actions in third-person, and he is an NPC within the game, "The Stranger". The narration is well-timed and unobtrusive, and the voice actor's tone and accent complement the setting masterfully.

Others tell great stories without any linguistic narration. The best example I can think of is Thatgamecompany's Journey. You waken to a world of shimmering, windswept dunes as some robed, near-featureless being. It is up to you to interpret the story through what you see and the emotions evoked via an incredible soundtrack (we will get to music soon). There is no deity looming above you filling you in on history or the meaning of your ascent.


I don't think there is an all-inclusive rule with narration other than avoiding boring exposition dumps. 

Exposition 

You need context in any story. But that doesn't mean you need someone to sit there and read aloud the entire history of a fictitious world before you can create and name ("yourmum420") your character. The who, what, where, when, why can be interwoven into a story in a natural and simply non-boring manner.  


A great example is of finely filtered exposition is From Software's Bloodborne. This hauntingly beautiful RPG offers fragments of an underlying story with poetic dialogue; paper fragments and item descriptions (which you need read only if you so desire); and subtle hints in the environments, characters, and enemies you encounter between each grim death. This game shows you the story. No one holds your hand and tells you if you are dreaming or not. 

Worldbuilding 

In-depth worldbuilding can streamline exposition. If you understand the happenings of the world you have created, you might understand how the characters within that world feel about them, and thus express exposition in a natural manner through natural dialogue. It is really obvious when this is done poorly. 

Is it tho?


The depth of fictional lore in the Witcher series is phenomenal. The main characters are called into action because of the events transpiring in that world, and hence shape that world with their actions. These become, of course, your actions, as you slay beasts and sorceresses alike, and engage in political and interdimensional struggles. When you play a Witcher game, it feels real, as though you have possessed a living being in a breathing world with near as much attention to detail as our own. NPC's exhibit depth and genuine character, creatures are always unique and well-suited to their environments, towns and establishments have exclusive architecture and reflect the colours of their occupants—— I could go on. 

To be fair, this is the Witcher 3's profile picture.


Often invented worlds are interesting purely because of the effort a writer has gone too to create and justify it. Although this doesn't mean that stories set in our world (past, present, or future) with perhaps some dramatic twist aren't equally as enthralling. Sometimes its the people within them that are the most intriguing. 

Characters

I, like most, love a good character. We know humans. And we know that they are rarely one-dimensional, intergalactic forces of evil that seek solely the destruction of matter. Humans — and so far we have only that species from which to draw character — are complicated, dynamic beings. We have proud moments of light and friendship, and shameful moments in darkness, alone. We act logically one minute and then completely irrationally the next. Of course, stories have not the time (words) to delve fully into this incredibly complex series of peaks and troughs called life. But they can focus on pivotal events and compress the complexity into meaningful and relatable character arcs. 


In Naughty Dog's The Last Of Us, you play mostly as the incredibly survival-prone Joel, with a headstrong Ellie by your side. Suffering from the loss of his own daughter, Joel struggles to empathise with Ellie at the start of the game. However, by the end, he will literally forsake humankind to grant her a life battling terrifying zombies and cannibals. We, as the player, empathise with Joel and Ellie's relationship and feel comfortable justifying Joel's heinous actions because we have following him on his character-arc-journey. Joel is human and we attach so dearly to him because of it; if he was a heartless bullet-sponge, we simply wouldn't care and The Last Of Us would be just a decent third-person survival shooter. 

A character responds to the trials embedded in a story, developing, for better or worse, as they do. Often such trials can be simmered down to reflect an underlying theme, something that we as the audience can determine and relate to. 

Themes

Now you don't need to experience a moral epiphany every time you read a book, watch a film, or a play a game. But some of the best stories are those that leave you with something to ponder afterwards.

Using The Last Of Us as an example once more, you might consider moral themes such as our tendency toward violent, primitive recession in absence of authority; how enduring strange or dangerous situations sculps the strongest relationships; or even the extreme, irrational lengths we will go to to protect ourselves or the ones we love. We watch Joel and Ellie wrestle with the associated trials of such themes, and contrast their reactions with how we think we would have acted.

I remember getting stuck here and near axe-kicking my PlayStation.


Another great example is Oddworld Inhabitants' Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee. While someone else might suggest it is about vile practices in the meat production industry, I would say that the theme of Abe's Oddysee is racial (or species) oppression — taken to an extreme in the form of slavery — and the toil against it. However, I didn't ponder that in my first playthrough, as a child mind you, and it wasn't required to enjoy this classic. 

You can extract themes from stories as intently you wish, and will always emphasise themes you found personal value in. When it comes down to it, game writers have likely done the same thing, honing on particular themes and underpinning values as they went along. 

Soundtrack

Soundtracks make or break games as they do in films. It comes back to good storytelling.

Music evokes emotion and can be produced and timed to complement and reinforce storytelling. A great soundtrack follows the peaks and troughs of a story. When the story dives into a depressive trough, music is the catalyst that causes you to shed a tear. When building toward a joyous peak, music is the friend behind you urging the climb. 

All of the games I have mentioned so far have brilliant soundtracks. My Spotify account reinforces that. But one which stood out to me above the rest was that of Supergiant Games' Transistor. Composed by Darren Korb (the same legend who composed Bastion's soundtrack), the musical score for Transistor tells the game's story on its own. It is a blend of jazz and electric, which emphasises the disparity between Red, the protagonist and a human, and the Process, the cold, cryptic swarm of robots assimilating her world. Transistor's dreamy visual style is charming whilst also haunting all on its own. Bolstered by the musical score, it is truly a sensory indulgence. 


While Transistor's soundtrack clings tightly to the events of the relatively linear game, other soundtracks act as themes for particular environments and activities. A great example of this is Bethesda Game Studio's The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. The music is essentially ambient. It changes when engaging in combat, levelling up, entering a dungeon, waking from a heavy night in the Bannered Mare, or casting max-level destruction spells on non-conformist spriggans in the woodlands of the Rift. 

With all that said, sometimes the best soundtracks are merely catchy and iconic, complementing enjoyable gameplay all but absent of story. Think about simple games like Galaga or even Robot Unicorn Attack

Style 

Now, style comes somewhere close to meaning graphics. But not exactly. Like I mentioned at the start of this article, it's not all about the biggest budget and best technology. A game can reach a timeless style with no more than pixel art. A lot of gamers aren't looking for a second life. They merely wish to liquify the stresses of a hard day with some bright colours and brainless button mashing. 

I do find that if a developer strives for stylised visuals, their game passes the test of time naturally. They were never trying to be photoreal, so it never really has that tacky look to it.

What better example of timeless style than the recently released Cuphead, developed by Studio MDHR?

My brain on memes.


When a game tries for photorealism, it probably looks decent upon release. But several years later, when the technology has surpassed it and other games within the genre have been released, its age begins to show. 

For instance, when id Software's DOOM 3 came out, I was blown away by the visuals, lighting in particular. And although it is probably the worst game in the DOOM franchise, I went back to play it just recently. It had not aged well (eluding the BFG edition entirely). Now, the classic DOOM games are far, far inferior in terms of graphics, but that pixelated style continues to appeal. I forget quickly that I am playing such a basic shooter, with graphics falling dismally short of photoreal, and sink into a mental realm similar to that of reading a well-written book. My imagination smooths those rough edges.

My first encounter with the cyberdemon cripples me still to this day.


Online Short-Straw 

All the aforementioned games are mostly single player experiences, in that their identities do not rely on online multiplayer. Online multiplayer games are at a natural disadvantage. Sustaining servers for online gamers takes money and dedication. Although there are plenty of classic games that have dedicated teams still maintaining servers, an online game is always going to be more prone to degradation than a single player game due to the necessity for playerbase. 

But then there is Runescape.


It's A Bit More Complicated Than Three S'

This is nowhere near a comprehensive guide. And it is of course subjective. There are so many intermingling facets on top of storytelling, soundtrack, and style. The balance of the three S' can vary too. There are plenty of games that get by just fine with merely a wacky, fun visuals, or a unique style. Furthermore, a timeless game to me may reside in the recycling bin of another. And a game I consider trash today may develop a cult following in ten years time. Who knows?

Next time that inevitable wave of nostalgia envelopes you, and you find yourself playing a classic, sit back and ponder what makes it timeless, what aspects draw you in gradual-but-sure like the well of a black hole?

Written by Nick Petrou.

Posted on

Fortnite Battle Royale Review: The Best Of Times

Written by Nick Petrou 

Venturing into the periphery of game development myself, I now have little time and energy to spare. Moments glaring at my monitor must be worthwhile. I cannot, for my own health, play video games for five hours after working on the same screen for eight. Well, such was my attitude before Fortnite Battle Royale. 

The Hook

If you haven't seen the sun all year, like me, then you likely have heard of battle royale games. I know that Daybreak Game Company's H1Z1 may have been the first of the genre, but let us not elude that it was made popular by Bluehole Studio's PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds. For ReasonsUnkown, the hype never swayed me. I had a friend offer to purchase me PUBG as a gift, but still, I refused to worsen my carpal tunnel and give it a go. I cannot pinpoint the reasoning behind my lack of enthusiasm for it. 

What is this "physics" you speak of?


Then, through a grey and cynical cloud struck a potent beam of light. My eyes beheld a cartoon world of wacky physics and afternoon skies better than those in the waking world. I played Epic Games' Fortnite Battle Royale on my PC, and in the very first minute, I realised what this game had that the former did not. Fortnite does not try for photorealism. It is highly stylised, and if I have learnt anything from gaming, it's that games with a unique style age like a fine wine. It hooked me immediately.

But what kept me playing after that initial hook? And what will keep me coming back?

Popular For A Reason

There are reasons why the battle royale genre is so dominant (just have a look at Twitch). Primarily, I believe it's because it is outright fun. Although Fortnite Battle Royale is my icebreaker, I know eerie advances over open ground and sweaty firefights are a genre standard. Fortnite can be tense and overwhelming, but simultaneously hilarious. When I die (which is unhealthily often), I ponder immediately how I could have done better, but also how ridiculous my demise was. With each death, I find myself grinning madly.

The engagements themselves test your skill and wit both. You may be a gun with a mouse and keyboard, but if you have no game sense or cannot out-think your opponents, you may find yourself stuck. Technically, you can win without firing a bullet, so it is about picking your battles, and sometimes patience. I won't go into strategy too much here (because mine is a literal reliance on pure luck), but it is its necessity that separates the battle royale genre. 

Fortnite-Battle-Royale-Review
It's over, Anakin! I have the high ground!


I think the accessibility attracts gamers to the genre too. There isn't really any cumulative character progression in Fortnite Battle Royale — outside of leaderboards, statistics, and the recently added cosmetic customisation — and I believe this adds to, rather than subtracts from the game. In an RPG, your character gains strength via statistics tied to a level system and acquires new armour and weapons and such. But in Fortnite, you go into each match with nothing and leave with nothing. It is a balanced fight for survival, not a grind, which means that you can hop in, play a game or two, enjoy the hell out of yourself, and then move on and finish that essay that's due tomorrow. 

Fortnite Battle Royale Review
Skinned uppp


One Must First Destroy

The idea of in-game, essentially instantaneous, construction at first concerned me. I thought it would merely confuse and roughen the transition into a new genre and game. I have yet to master Fortnite's construction, but all of those initial concerns cease to exist. Construction makes this game. It is your superpower. Physics outrageously flawed, you can build a bridge over thin air, erect a staircase against the side of a mountain, close yourself off in a little box, or block your buddy's grenade lob and ruin your entire squad. 

Fortnite Battle Royale Review
Tradie Simulator 2017


On the other side of the coin, is destruction. When finished mauling a downed opponent, you can use your pickaxe to mine wood, stone, and metal. These resources come in natural forms throughout the map such as trees and rocks, but also man-made sources such as abandoned homes and vehicles. You can pretty much destroy everything except for the ground on which you walk and the air you breathe. 

No cover? Build it. Need a grenade launcher angle? Build it. The best players are the best builders.

 

Polished Good And Nice

When a game is in early access, you would be a fool to expect perfection. But call me a fool, because I think Fortnite Battle Royale comes scarily close. In the odd month that I've played, I have yet to experience any major lag or FPS issues. The game runs smooth and it looks fantastic. Take note, Rust

And honestly, less is more with Fortnite; complication would serve only to deter from the aesthetic. 

Fortnite Battle Royale Review
Dink!


Potential

Although less may be more for Fortnite Battle Royale, that doesn't mean the game should allow itself to stagnate. Players are always going to want fresh content. There are a few ways Epic Games could provide exciting new features without compromising its lavish identity, some of which they have addressed already. 

Character customisation became a thing during the writing of this article. So far, it is quite limited, but I can imagine it only to diversify. Cosmetics features such as this will always provide an effective reward system too. The existing map/island is nothing short of gorgeous. And although it isn't unmanageably large, it is expansive enough to disorient me and allude mystery. Imagine how epic it would be if we got another map. Icy tundra, barren wasteland, or whatever looney biome they can conjure, I am sure it would enthral. Even the existing map in a different season would be cool. Adding new weapons can't hurt either, as long as they are balanced correctly. 

It is also great to see Fortnite Battle Royale on the PlayStation and Xbox stores. Previous to this game, there were no real battle royale options available to console gamers. It just goes to show that the developers are willing to adapt and allow their game to flourish. 

I've Got Friends 

Our parents and significant others may not agree, but gaming provides us with a convenient and powerful social medium. We can safely tiptoe the line dividing introvert and extrovert. We can stay home, alone, and hang out with our friends concurrently. And all the while, we can be entirely pantless, in the most metaphorical sense of the word.

In saying this, it has been way too long since my friends and I have fallen in love with a game. We want the obsession. We want phone calls at 3:00 am telling us to get on Discord. Fortnite Battle Royale brought all that in on a floating party bus, totally unexpected. In the lobby, we catch up on each other's lives, say kind words about each others' mothers, and chat about other games. Diving into the map, we offer loose strategies and freak out over a rival squad ransacking our precious Retail Row. Then we touch the rolling fields below, and its all compass shout-outs and flanking — a total immersion in the tense happenings of the match. The solo queue is fine, but truly, Fortnite Battle Royale shines in squad play. This game is a friendship adhesive. 

Fortnite Battle Royale Review 5
My hero, Bifdus


Price 

Fortnite Battle Royale, unless you want to support the developers and buy some cosmetics, is entirely free (eluding entirely the PVE counterpart to the game, Fortnite Save The World). I don't mind paying for games, but before punching numbers, I always conduct rigorous research. With Fortnite Battle Royale, taking that initial leap is guilt free, and I need not sink hours into forums. I can't imagine Epic Games to regret this strategy. Fortnite would have definitely made my previous free games list.

This Is A Review, Right?

And you are longing for that score. But first, let us summarise. 

Fortnite Battle Royale is undeniably beautiful and free, so it has that first impression nailed down. It capitalises on an incredibly popular genre, although it takes the initiative to be unique, rather than coast in PUBG's wake. For an early access—— no, for a game, period, it is deftly polished and absolute. In it, players see a potential for growth, not catastrophe, and in the current gaming climate, this is a rare thing indeed. And, of course, Fortnite is pure joy to experience on your own, but especially with friends. If nobody sees your 360-no-scope someone from across the map, did it really happen?

Fortnite Battle Royale Review
Aaand watch me miss


Fortnite Battle Royale ventures beyond ticking generic quality boxes to provide casual and neckbeard gamers both with an enjoyably competitive experience. Truly, I have not so seamlessly enjoyed a multiplayer game in years. If Fornite remains on its current trajectory, I can imagine my squad and myself to play it for years to come. 

It's a solid 9/10 for me, and I feel that the last point is a mere patch away.

Posted on

A SALARY CALCULATOR FOR STARTUP FOUNDERS

Salary Calculator

Written by Marty Spargo

As a startup founder, you put all your waking hours into your beloved business. It's your baby. So, how much should you pay yourself? When setting your pay, what factors must you consider? Employing a user-friendly salary calculator, how can you model the appearance of different salaries? Below, we introduce our own startup founder salary calculator to clarify the eagerly debated issue of startup founder salary

You will want to compare many different scenarios as your company evolves. So, I recommend bookmarking this page to find it more easily when you want to come back.

HARD TRUTHS OF THE STARTUP FOUNDER

To the question of "What's the optimum remuneration for a founder's blood, sweat, and tears?", any budding founder will likely answer "As much as possible". Startup founders work harder than almost anyone, it's true. But is it appropriate to extract as much money as possible from your business? It is time to acknowledge some hard truths.

THE RIGHT ATTITUDE

An alternative mindset to that stereotypical of the corporate world is necessary. In that environment, salaries are perceived as an "every man for himself, take as much as you can" free-for-all. Things are different when you own a piece of the company.

THE LONG GAME

It is important to understand that you are in it for the long game as a founder. Your goal is to build long-term value and be rewarded on a medium to long-term horizon. This occurs through the increasing value of your equity. 

THE DRY SPELL

In the very early stages of a startup business, unless you've been fortunate enough to raise capital at the idea stage, taking any salary is almost always out of the question. Taking little to no salary ensures that your company has as much capital as possible. In such times, it may feel like you are receiving very little pay. And you are. But remember, in addition to any cash that you take in salary, you are also "getting paid" via a constantly increasing equity value. That's if you're growing your business, of course. Even though it will take a lot longer to liquidate that equity into spendable cash, and even though your wallet feels empty, you are still doing far better than you would have yourself believe. 

THE BIG QUESTION

As your business gains traction and you start to generate revenue, you have an interesting decision to make: Should you continue to forfeit your founder salary, or should you start paying yourself a wage? Enter the salary calculator. You can use its power to assist you in figuring an optimal answer. Although to understand it, you need to have some knowledge of the unit economics of your business. This means that you need to have a grasp of what sort of returns you get from money spent on advertising to acquire customers. If your business is at the point where you are generating some revenue, you will already have some idea of what unit economics look like. 

WHAT IS BEST FOR YOU?

If you have a good business model that generates high returns from money invested, you will want to continue to invest as much money as you can into further growth. The higher the percentage of the company that you own, the more relevant this is. However, if your business is seeing only mediocre returns, or if you own only a small amount of the overall equity pie, you may be better off angling for the highest possible salary for yourself. To better understand your personal situation, try our salary calculator below.

OUR SALARY CALCULATOR

STEP

1

a dollar banknote

I want to pay myself this much

Monthly salary

magnet

We see these revenue returns on our marketing spend

Assumed R.O.I %

calendar

It takes this long to see those returns

Time (months)

calendar

We are this profitable

Net profit %

calendar

The corporate rate in my country

Tax %

multiply

Companies like ours trade on this multiple

Pre-tax revenue multiple

pie chart

I own this much of the company

Equity percentage

STEP

2

$x

$x

$x

$x

$x

$x

0

1

2

3

4

5

YEARS

How much worse off the company is

Impact it has on the value of your equity

How much you have paid yourself

$x

$x

$x

$x

$x

$x

0

1

2

3

4

5

YEARS

By paying yourself $0 Per month

The company is $0 Worse off after 1 year

The company is $0 Worse off after 2 years

The company is $0 Worse off after 3 years

The company is $0 Worse off after 4 years

The company is $0 Worse off after 5 years

Additionally

Your equity will be worth $0 Less after 1 year

Your equity will be worth $0 Less after 2 years

Your equity will be worth $0 Less after 3 years

Your equity will be worth $0 Less after 4 years

Your equity will be worth $0 Less after 5 years


HOW TO USE THE SALARY CALCULATOR

This salary calculator is designed to compare different salary levels and to assess the impact they have on the future value of your business. It's not feasible for certain people to go without any salary at all (we've all gotta' eat!), but it is intended that this calculator is used to compare a modest salary to something a bit "nicer". This way you can see the different impact each of those salary alternatives have on the future value of your equity. Think at the margin when comparing results. 

You should note that though this salary calculator is set to dollars by default, all of the inputs are still valid regardless of currency. 

You will find the input fields for your personal situation in the top left-hand area of the salary calculator (boxes one to seven). 

BOX ONE

You should enter the monthly salary you are considering paying yourself in the first box.

BOX TWO

The second box of the salary calculator is where you should enter the return on investment your business sees from marketing dollars spent. 100% return on investment, or ROI, means that for every dollar spent you get $2 back. 200% ROI means you get $3 back for every $1 spent. Some people might better know this metric as their LTV/CAC ratio. 

Pro tip: You want your ROI to be a positive number! 

BOX THREE

The third box in our calculator is the length of time in months that it takes your business to see the returns that you expect. Do you get paid a lump sum upfront from each customer or do you see revenue trickle in over many months like most SAAS businesses? Put that number in this box. 

BOX FOUR

You should enter your profit margin percentage in the fourth box. The higher the percentage, the more profitable your business is.

BOX FIVE

The fifth input for our calculator is the corporate tax rate in your country. Taxes reduce the amount of profit that can be reinvested into the business. 

BOX SIX

The sixth box of our salary calculator is the profit multiple that you think businesses like yours trade on. This can be difficult to assess for innovative early stage businesses. Although, you can usually point to a comparable business that has come before you as a yardstick. This calculator uses pre-tax net profits for equity valuation purposes. 

BOX SEVEN

The seventh and final input field is simply the percentage of the business that you own. 

INTERPRETATION OF THE SALARY CALCULATOR 

What you likely saw in your results was that the better your business and the more of it that you own, the smaller the salary you should be taking. It seems simple, doesn't it? If your business is growing rapidly and is very profitable, you will get a better return from investing more into the business than you will by taking cash out to spend today. 

This salary calculator is also useful for people who are in the opposite situation; i.e. people in mediocre growth businesses who own a small amount of equity. Although you may not care about how much your salary is costing the company (the "hit"), you should certainly care about how much your salary is impacting the value of your equity. The equilibrium point will be different for everyone, but this salary calculator will help you to understand your own situation better. 

NEED FURTHER PROOF?

Still not convinced that taking the lowest salary possible to allow yourself basic living expenses is advised? Take a look at what prolific Angel investor, Jason Calacanis has to say about the issue of high salary founders. 

IN SUMMARY 

You will want to pay yourself the bare minimum that you need to survive when building any kind of successful business. However, this is only until a later stage of growth and funding, when a slightly higher salary (still below market rates) can be justified without putting undue pressure on the business or harming its growth potential. 

Paradoxically, if you are part of a failing business, you will want to pay yourself as much as you can. But don't expect that gravy train to last too long!

Posted on

How to Stay Energised When Travelling the World

Written by Nick Petrou

Human beings travel for a variety of purposes. It may be that they perceive the terrain over the hill to be a verdant oasis, and their own hovel basic and stale. It may be that they wish to immerse themselves in a different culture, and thus appreciate how truly diverse their species has become. It may even be that they travel solely for business, with the underlying intention to better their living circumstances back home (grow their business) or acquire the funds to later travel for pleasure. Though, regardless of destination and intent, humans, in this era of existence, are mortal creatures. Travelling Earth's many countries can be an exhausting venture.

 

But we are privileged. Certain efficiencies in our modern world can make the pursuit of travelling a far less fatiguing endeavour. I speak principally of this enigmatic, seemingly airborne collective intelligence deemed "the internet". Through this elusive medium, those of us who travel the world can share advice for subsequent adventurers - "travel hacks". And thus the practice of "travel blogging" has evolved. 

You have quested into a spot of luck, dear reader. For now I will share you with you a number of my own travel hacks, finely blended with those of only the most revered travel bloggers, and travel professionals. You will find that a lot of it is mere logic. 

A Dose Of Shut-Eye

Need I stress to you the importance of sleep? This unconscious practice can be applied throughout all phases of your travelling. For instance...

Before you leave to acquire a cheeky bit of trench foot along the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea, it's a good idea to rest up sure and good. Acquiring illness becomes easier when you are unrested, and I have found myself particularly prone to it while inhaling the dry, rebreathed gases of an aeroplane's conditioning system. 

When returning from the Louvre in Paris, bypass the men and women offering you "friendship bracelets" for exorbitant prices, return to your two-star hostel and collapse headfirst into your lumpy pillow. There is no shame in taking a siesta. For after a solid hour of wrestling foreigners to catch a four-second glimpse at the Mona Lisa, on da Vinci's wizardly beard, you've earnt it. 

"Travelling and working can be exhausting at times, so to lift my energy levels I stick to the winning combination of a regular sleep pattern, exercising, eating healthy, staying hydrated, and of course my morning caffeine intake always helps." -  Jayne Bray, Slow Travel Co. 

Let me at her!

"Long term travel is a tiring journey. You may not feel it after the first few days, but after a few weeks you can really burn out. This is where rest days are so important. These are days when you can sleep in, relax by the pool, and focus on planning the next stage of your trip. No buses, no trains, no hikes on rest days!" - Josh Shephard, The Lost Passport

Easy On The Sauce

What better way to see the medieval streets of Prague than with a drunken horde of Australians? The pub crawl was a lordly idea at the time, but now you suffer torturously for it. Your liver yelps at you: "Why doth ye mutilate I?" But you are trying to ignore it because your travelling companion is eager to repeat last night's dark actions. This may be the occasion on which you bend the knee to your well-being.

To a conclusion you may not wish to hear: alcohol is bad for you. In the correct doses, it can be a divine social lubricant, a real kick-start for the ol' brain. But if you have something that you wish to be in knightly health for the next day, it may pay to refrain from excessive consumption. 

"Traveling can be disastrous for your daily routines, and for your body's natural rhythm. Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, and don't skip meals, no matter how busy you get. And while it might be less fun, it's important go easy on things like caffeine and alcohol that slow you down and make you feel drained." - Theresa Boehl, BeachDeals 

Mobility Is Key 

Just because I say take a nap, doesn't mean you should sit idle and watch the blue sky blacken. You will find that some of the most energetic people are the ones that use their legs.

If you are staying a mere two kilometres from the National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II in Rome, walk. If you employ your locomotive appendages to traverse the streets of this city, not only will you save money and feel healthier, but you will see a great deal more along the way. If I had never seen that old man vomit into a bin on Via del Corso, I would have considered my entire European holiday a misuse of my precious time. I was a lucky traveller indeed. 

Don't forget push bikes either. 

"I'd argue that travelling makes you energised because you're experiencing new stimuli with new experiences, food etc. It might be easy for some to just laze around and do nothing, but I do like mixing it up by doing something active like walking around all day, bike riding etc." - Anthony Bianco, The Travel Tart.

On ya bike.

Travelling Light

Now, this is always going to vary depending on your age, general health, or how you like to travel. But you should always try and bring as little as possible. The less junk you have to carry, the more mobile you are, and the less you have to worry about your belongings being lost or stolen. I often dream about travelling the world with the clothes on my back and some futuristic passport embedded into my skin. I am not one to buy a whole lot of gifts overseas either. It's just more to carry, and more to spend. Sorry family. 

Intravenous Vitamin Injection

Just kidding. But providing your body doses of organic compounds will certainly improve its well-being. Like sleep, this travel hack can be applied throughout the many phases of your conquesting. Before I go anywhere, excluding from my house to Coles, I load up on vitamins. Those orange fizzy tablets you drop into a glass of water are easy to carry and widely available. They are pretty general purpose too, and have, unless it was entirely a placebo effect, pushed me back from the dismal precipice of illness many times. 

"How do I stay energised? With good nutrition and a killer morning routine to set me up for the day. I start each day with lemon water and apple cider vinegar. Not only does it flush out yesterday's toxins but it kick starts my metabolism and helps digest the nutrients from my food that day." - Monika Pietrowski, mymonpie.

Organisation

Missing your flight, train, bus, or hovercraft is always a stressful procedure. You stand there, flushed and sweaty, while creatures of the night close in on you. Save yourself the stress - plan your transportation ahead at the very least. Winging accommodation as a backpacker can be fun sometimes, but missing a train isn't. Keep on top of this stuff. Have your little print-outs or phone notes. This is particularly important in countries where English isn't the primary tongue. 

"The best way to stay energised while travelling is to get excited about the destination that you're heading to. I'll usually download a few videos of the destination that I'm heading to and watch them on the plane to keep me excited and to keep me from getting annoyed during the trip!" - Sam Williamson, Lahlatini Luxury Safari

Sea Water

Drink as much salty ocean water as possible. Again, a terrible joke. But that isn't to say don't take a swim in it. There is little else as cleansing as a dip in the ocean. Just be sure to avoid surging open waters, hammerhead breeding grounds, and abyssal chasms wherein dwell ancient leviathans.  

In terms of drinking water, fresh is usually the go-to. Just be aware that the tap water of many countries is undrinkable. Bottled water, though its plastics are destroying the very planet on which you jaunt, is a great alternative. Drink plenty of it. I don't need to echo that oh-so-annoying fact that every human feels so scientific to recapitulate: "You are seventy-percent water!"... or whatever it is.  

"Far and away the best advice I can give - stay hydrated and start exercising in local time to get over the jet lag faster." - Shane Thompson, Airline Pilot for QANTAS

Consume Organic Matter

Whether you enjoy plant or animal matter, eating, and eating healthily, is of vital importance. Certain foods weigh you down, often in the most physical of manners. Without ruining the enjoyment of your well-earned holiday, avoid eating junk food. Basically, if you look upon a heap of meat and cheese and think: I am undoubtedly going to regret this, then bypass it and buy your sorry self a piece of fruit. Eat something that is going to be as enjoyable on the way out as on the way in. 

Getting Fat On A Cruise Ship 

It would be easy to do the same old thing every day. But how many times can you wake up at eleven PM, eat brunch, take a chlorinated swim, eat dinner, then sleep? My point is that you need variety on your travels. Do things that you would otherwise never do, within reason, of course. Aggravating a mob of gypsies, for instance, I would consider unreasonable. Taking a leisurely kayak in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam, I would consider very reasonable. 

Energised Travelling - Ha Long Bay
As a bonus, there are no sharks.

"What I am doing at this very moment is special, I am thankful and so lucky to be here experiencing this. How can I make this day even more special?" A line Dan Boland, Holidayers, says to himself to avoid become blase.

The Spice Of Life

I always thought Siracha sauce was the spice of life. Turns out I was wrong. It is a sonic vibration induced for entertainment purposes - music. Bringing your 2005 iPod shuffle along with you may provide you with the melodious defibrillation you never knew you needed. There is a reason that those psychotic people who jog regularly are always wearing earphones. It brings a beat into your life, one that just may breathe a hot lungful of optimism into your travelling ventures when you are jet lagged or homesick. The theme song to my most recent adventure, in New Zealand, was Will Smith's "Switch". 

Sometimes You Just Need A Kick

Sometimes the above strategies just won't cut it. These might be the times to go for a coffee or an energy drink. Wink wink nudge nudge. But seriously, REIZE sachet's are so well suited to travelling. They weigh near to nothing, and all the foreigners will think you are a rad time-traveller if you whip one of them out.

 

Posted on

Top 10 Free Games – Opinions Of An Australian Gamer

Written by Nick Petrou 

Before we begin, very rarely is a game entirely free; many "free-to-play" games have paid features; and these paid features differ between games...

Some gain you access to purely cosmetic enhancements, some literally make your character stronger. The latter, coined "pay-to-win", is frowned upon in the gaming community. Similar to, but not the same as, pay-to-win features are "boosts". Boosts are usually associated with in-game experience or currency, allowing a player who purchases a boost to advance more rapidly than others. There are games that provide a portion of their content for free, but also offer extra, paid content, like greater in-game world access or extra maps. Many games allow players to unlock in-game items via either in-game currency or a real-world transaction. Although this may be considered pay-to-win on some level, it is not so evil because any player, provided they commit time to the game, can unlock every item just from playing the game. People who spend real-world money on such items just get them faster... so it's kind of like a boost. Common to many games nowadays is the loot box system. With this system you can purchase with real-world money loot boxes, card packs, loot chests etc., but their content is random. You have no way of directly selecting a specific powerful item. 

Many free games will have a fair chance of making this top 10 free games list as long as they do not feature any direct/instant pay-to-win features; i.e. as long as they do not have an option to instantly increase the strength/power of your character or unlock powerful items/heroes/champions that are unavailable for purchase with in-game currency.  

10) Team Fortress 2

Valve Corporation's Team Fortress 2 has been said to be an inspiration for many modern, hero-styled shooters, some being in this list. It is a fast, skill-based FPS with an undeniably cheeky graphical style, which is still going incredibly strong in the gaming scene of today. Though Team Fortress 2 was initially released in 2007, it was not until 2011 that it adopted a free-to-play model. And this was a damn good decision too, because going free-to-play, with microtransactions for cosmetic-only purchases, boosted Team Fortress 2's revenue by a factor of 12. 

Never skip leg day.

9) Paragon

Now, I know that there hasn't been a whole lot of love for Epic Game's Paragon. Well, what I mean is that it is near impossible for me to find a match. But that doesn't take away from how much I love this game. The visuals are just beautiful and the character design is phenomenal. I really enjoyed the third-person perspective, which was very different for me after smashing 3-4 years of League of Legends in a limited isometric perspective. Even just playing against bots with a team of real people was great fun... I can only imagine how good competing against actual people would be. Paragon is free, but employs real-world currency purchases of cosmetic items. Every hero is immediately available to you from the start. 

Love me them graphics.

8) DOTA 2

Even though I may have only played Valve Corporation's DOTA 2 for a short while, I can honestly say that it COMPLETELY RUINED ME. I was a League of Legends noob, there is no doubt about it, and I thought I was pretty damn good. But then I played DOTA 2... It was like I was a crying infant in a dark room filled with malevolent demons. I really did enjoy my time with this game, mostly because the character design is so unique and fantastic. DOTA 2 just has to be on this free games list, it has one of the largest player-bases. It's free as a bird, although in-game cosmetic items can be purchased for DOTA 2 through the Steam marketplace. 

League of Legends for adults.

7) Path Of Exile 

When I was playing this game it was during the "Mum's work laptop" days. It was jittery as hell, and overall this stopped me from getting really stuck into this gory, chaotic murder-fest. Even though the laptop's built-in graphics literally gave me PTSD, I still remember Grinding Gear Game's Path of Exile being a whole lot of fun. Aside from dying in "hardcore mode", where upon your demise your character essentially loses its worth. Just thinking about this hacky, slashy good ol' time is making my teeth flare. I wonder if my PC can handle 1000 exploding corpses?  Path of Exile allows for the purchase of cosmetic items like weapon and armour effects, and pets. 

Only thing I've ever been exiled from is Sizzler.

6) Hearthstone 

My friend kept on pushing and pushing: "Dude, come on, this game is sick."
And I would just be like: "If I want to play a card game i'll play Yu-Gi-Oh or something."
Then one night, after a few beers, I was convinced to play. 

Within about 2 or 3 matches I had already decided to purchase myself some card packs - you know, some of them sweet microtransactions. And behold, for the last card of the last pack I opened I received none other than a golden Ysera. At this point, it kind of felt a tiny bit pay-to-win, for when I summoned her, and my opponent could not directly shut her down, she spawned all sorts of dreamy trouble. But realistically, it was pure luck that I snatched a Ysera that early into my fruitful (3 month) Hearthstone career. You can unlock card packs just from playing the game, albeit it is quite a commitment to stay on top of daily gold challenges and such. Blizzard's Hearthstone is obviously backed by - you guessed it - Blizzard, arguably one of the most successful video game developers in the Orion Arm of the Milky Way galaxy, so it kind of has to be good.

Oooh... shiny.

5) League of Legends

When you are looking for a game to consume your life and cause you to weep when your connection drops randomly because the desert worms from Arrakis have tunneled through your cable internet, look no further. I spent years playing League of Legends, and I remember thinking: Free? W-what? Pfft, and, As if I am going to purchase skins. It took me all of 3 days to purchase my first - that Katarina skin where she has gray hair and a sexy tattoo across her ribs. I was hooked on Riot Games' MOBA for a good 3 - 4 years. The satisfaction of getting a kill can only be likened to... I guess... scoring a goal in soccer. Though I truly suck at all ball sports and anything requiring co-ordination beyond that of operating a keyboard and mouse and controller. As I have mentioned in a previous article, on the 10 best games of the decade, I have now gone completely off the now salt-fest that is League of Legends, but I will never forget the good times... and all of them free, aside from the $200+ dollars I ended up spending on skins.

I think we can all relate.

4) Planetside 2 

My first experiences with Daybreak Game Company's Planetside 2 were pure chaos. It took me a good while to gain a sense of direction and purpose; however, when I did, this game began to truly impress. It is a massively multiplayer first person shooter - I believe the only one of its kind - and this really does show. There are so many ways to play this game: You can skulk around with a pistol and invisibility, hacking people's computers and exposing their search history. You can fly bad-ass planes and crash them into your own base. You can try and squeeze your tank between the roots of giant trees in an alien swampland. And you can also try and play the game normally, following the strict commands of your squad leader to bring the Terran Republic to victory (the other two factions are both jokes). 

Look at these Vanu scum, pretending they know how to play the game.
40% OFF ON REIZE ENERGY DRINK - FUEL YOUR GAMING WITH OPTIMAL BOOST

3) Quake Champions 

If you have read my previous article, a review on the Quake Champions Beta, you would know how I feel about this gorgeous arena shooter. Interestingly, Quake Champions is a free-to-play game that you can also buy. At first, my tiny brain failed to properly comprehend such a contradiction, but alas, it soon pulled through. id's Quake Champions starts you off with access to one playable champion (some brawny space-dude with an infinity stone or something), and allows you to earn in-game currency which can be used to hire the other champions. Or... you could be a top bloke/blokette and purchase the "champion pack" to unlock all of the champions while simultaneously supporting a bunch of hard-working game developers. Your call. You can totally purchase in-game currently with real-world currency to get look boxes and all that as well... pretty standard. Bare in mind that paid features were unavailable for the beta, and that things may change upon the game's release.

Miss it already...

2) Seashine

I'm sorry... what? I bet you didn't expect to see a phone game on this list, and I bet that you have never even heard of Pated's Seashine. I was travelling about Europe, getting seriously frustrated not having access to video games for that time. But then I realised that I can actually play games on my phone and use a hostel's shitty wifi to download them. It got me through that grueling 3 months of travelling (I will never leave home again). Basically, Seashine is a high-score game, with an explorative, poetic twist. The gameplay is smooth, thrilling, beautiful, and unique; and the developers are still updating it constantly. After not playing it for a good year, I jumped back in to find that a range of new playable jellyfish had been added. Pated is also always adding new challenges, such as new deep sea creatures and environmental dangers. This game fills its role just so well... and it's totally free. I will always have a special place in my heart for Seashine; it just had to be on this list. 

I thought only the Japanese eat jellyfish?

1) Oldschool Runescape

Just when I thought it was over I get a prodding message from my friend: "Buying rune scimmy". 

Itching like a smoker who has caught the scent of a fresh pack of sweet, sweet tobacco, I fought a most dire urge. Must... not... download... Runescape. Needless to say, I crumpled, and within minutes, had re-downloaded the Oldschool Runescape client. Like many Scapian's, I have grown alongside this game. Through the bad times and the good, I was there for Runescape and it was there for me. I go to quit, to rage, and exclaim that I will never touch it again... but there I go... here I go, right now... playing it once more. I can never pinpoint exactly what it is that draws be back. Is it the sense of accomplishment? The comradery between long-time players? The depth of its customisation? I really don't know why I love you, but I do. Oldschool Runescape can be experienced as a free-to-play game, and it stands strong as this in its own rights. But the true Runescape experience is that of subscribed membership, where the world of Gielinor is opened to you in its gloriously poor-visual totality. 

Guess which one is me...

In Conclusion 

You would have definitely recognised, if not expected, most of the games I had included in my top 10 free games list - there are some pretty massive titles thrown in there. However, I am certain there is at least 1 or two that were a bit unexpected, maybe a bit out of place. Perhaps you believe that some of the games I had included are actually pay-to-win? I suppose it can be a bit of a vague term. At the end of the day, game developers are probably sinking much of their life-force into their job. If  you throw a lot of time into a free-to-play game, spending the odd few dollars and buying some bikini armour skin or flaming sword effect is a great way to show your support for its developers. Personally, my favourite kind of free-to-play financial models are those that offer cosmetic items solely.

Thanks for taking the time to read this top 10 free games list. Happy gaming 🙂 

Posted on

Quake Champions Beta Review – By An Australian Gamer

Written by Nick Petrou

A child sails down a gleaming, white isle. Peering down upon him are video game cases - hundreds of them, all begging for his attention. He smiles and glides, spinning in an infinity of color. But which shall he choose? There are so many... The child takes a sharp turn at the end of the shining isle in his silver, shopping chariot. Before him burns a golden light, which fades slowly as his watering eyes adjust. When the brightness is bearable, the boy sees a glorious game case reading "Quake Champions" in a powerful and foreboding text... 

Now that might be a bit over dramatic, but it illustrates so well the excitement I felt when first playing id Software's Quake Champions beta. We are all children on the inside. 

Arena Shooters Back In The Good Old Days 

I'll be honest, and this might show my age a little, most of my arena shooter experience in "the good old days" was split-screen with friends and single player matches against bots. 

Red Faction 2
In space, no one can hear you scream.


I played FPS games like Volition's Red Faction and Epic Games' Unreal Tournament 2004, and it was great... but I never knew the depth of the genre, and I never knew of Quake. Upon conceiving online gaming, I was too busy with Call of Duty and other FPS games to recall the screen-cheating, bot-slaying glory of my youth, or explore the online communities of arena shooters. They seemed to have passed me by. 

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a nostalgic spark came into existence... 

The Kick That I Didn't Know I Needed

I am talking about the latest entry into my favourite game franchise of all time, DOOM. (I am a definite id software fanboy, if you can't tell from one of my previous articles on shooting games.) Initially, I was latched into the insurmountable embrace that was the hype surrounding the DOOM (2016) single player campaign. For me, that is what DOOM games have always been about... never really its multiplayer aspects. However, I did learn that this new DOOM would feature an arena shooter multiplayer experience, and this got me excited, got me thinking about the good old days.

My hands after touching the metal part of a seat belt in summer.


And after playing it (once completing the single player campaign, of course), I can honestly say that I walked away with a legitimate smile... but there was something missing... or, more accurately, there was too much there; i.e. DOOM had failed to modernize the classic arena shooter genre by adding too much stuff, like load-outs. I think, in the end, the multiplayer experience prevented DOOM from getting a much higher rating among game reviews. 

But to the point, I was re-introduced to the genre... enough to get me looking for modern and popular arena shooters. I found nothing, and I kind of gave up. I mean, its not like there is a shortage of games out there to get me by.

Light In The Dark

I don't remember exactly when I heard about Quake Champions... and I kind of let it slide, as there was no release date and I was preoccupied by the tragic things I do when I am not gaming. Then I saw that the open beta had been announced. I was hyped to say the least, but I wasn't sure if us Australian gamers would be allowed a taste. And I am sorely used to drawing the short straw as an Aussie gamer, so I kind of let it slide... again. 

Over here, mate.


Then, about a week ago, my friend messaged me: "Quake open beta. Australian server. Get on."  That was all I needed. I said: "Farewell girlfriend, it was nice knowing you." And then proceeded to initiate the take-off sequence of my flying car and dispatch for home. I played for eight straight hours. And that night as I slept, I dreamt only of Quake.

You might say I nailed it.


So What Is Quake Champions?

Running, gunning, jumping, mauling, exploding fun. Quake Champions is the very definition of speed.

Put simply, it is an first person arena shooting game. You run (or should I say jump) about in various maps/arenas, picking up guns, health, armor, and various other buffs, to ultimately kill your enemies, complete objectives, and win the game. Quake Champions is all this, but it has a twist to it too... one that many veterans of the Quake franchise were/are skeptical about: champions. Rather than entering a match of Quake as a basic, universal character, you select a champion, which has one or two passive abilities, an active ability, and specific health, armor, and movement speed statistics. 

Strongest gun in game.


QUAKE CHAMPIONS BETA REVIEW 

Before I divulge my personal experiences with this action-packed return to a classic genre, I want you to understand that this review is more about how the game makes me feel. After all, gaming is about having fun. And if I am to be honest, I have not had this much fun playing any video game in a very, very long time. 

I've got to get a bit of a rant out of the way first... 

QUAKE CHAMPIONS BETA REVIEW: A QUICK RANT

Looking at other Quake Champions reviews, I found that many of them remark upon matchmaking and connectivity issues. It appears that people are having issues finding a match. I have yet to experience this problem... bearing in mind I play on the Australian server in Sydney, if that at all makes a difference. As for connection problems... maybe I have experienced a tiny bit of lag in a couple of games, but I do believe that is to be expected in a beta. Overall, my ping has always been pretty stable, as far as I can tell. 

Also, people seem to be a bit upset about the in-game shop. Although the shop is limited in the beta and you can't yet purchase "platinum" with real-life money, you have, for now, the option of renting champions using the entirely in-game currency, "favor". I don't understand how this is at all a problem. Favor is so easy to acquire, and I have not yet been so short on it that I cannot afford to hire my favourite champion, Sorlag.

I suppose the existing free-to-play model might become a bit of an issue if you wish to hire multiple champions simultaneously. But at that point (once the game has come out of beta), you are simply a tight-ass if you can't help the developers out and throw in a bit of cash to unlock the champions you want with platinum. Also, through leveling up, I have unlocked a further two champions... and that was totally free. Be realistic, guys, the game is free, but that doesn't mean that people haven't sweat and cried to get it to you. Buying the odd bit of platinum is an easy way to say thanks.

Sorlag is love, Sorlag is life.


QUAKE CHAMPIONS BETA REVIEW: CHAMPIONS 

First of all, lets address the rocket-launcher wielding reptile in the room: the champions.

A lot of people have been saying that implementing champions is some sort of attempt to feed off the popularity of the hero shooter genre. In a way, I guess this is kind of true, but the focus of the game is still the arena shooter aspect, not the champions. From my experience so far, it seems that champion selection makes only a slight difference to performance, and that most people that are dominating are doing so because they have great aim and fantastic movement. For me, I find that the implementation of champions simply adds a bit of flavor, and only very slightly detracts from the style of the genre.

It feels great to spew out a ball of acid onto a fight between two enemies in a deathmatch while I clean them both up with a heavy machine gun. I even like being able to customize my champion a bit too. It allows me some form of identity, which I think can definitely be a good thing, especially if you love a specific champion and want to kit them out to prove it.

Tac-yack...


QUAKE CHAMPIONS BETA REVIEW: GUNPLAY

Even though many other reviews have made negative comments about matchmaking, game connections, and the champions, all of them seem to agree that the gunplay is absolutely on point. It truly is. 

No reloading, barely any aiming-down-sight, carrying seven weapons... this is what I am all about. Sometimes games shouldn't try and be realistic; in fact, I respect more a game that doesn't try and pretend to be. So far, every weapon has been an absolute joy to use. They all feel unique, all suited to specific roles, and I think they all look great too (I admit, I am a bit of a sucker for sci-fi weapons). I found that the skill required to use each weapon is pretty on point as well. None of the weapons are necessarily easy to get kills with. They all require precise aiming and/or timing; more so because the hit-boxes in this game are a lot tighter than many other FPS. 

If I had to pick my favourite gun so far it would certainly be the rocket launcher. Simply because it is not only a weapon but a tool as well.

If I had to state my best weapon it would definitely be the heavy machine gun. I seem to get the most kills with this one for some reason. Maybe because I can combo it well with Sorlag's acid vom.

 

Come back! I just want to talk.


QUAKE CHAMPIONS BETA REVIEW: MOVEMENT

The pace is amazing.  I am on edge the whole time I am playing - constantly trying to out-shoot and out-wit my opponents... and constantly trying to smoothly traverse the arena. What I mean by that last point is that, even though you may not be in combat for a second or two, you still have to think about pickups like health and armor, and more importantly, the quad-damage buff. To do this effectively, players need to master "strafe jumping" and "rocket jumping", both aspects of the game that, for the moment, I honestly suck at. It just adds that extra element that many modern FPS games don't have. There is never a dull moment with Quake Champions. Straight up: it is bloody fun.

QUAKE CHAMPIONS BETA REVIEW: ACCESSIBILITY 

What I mean by this is essentially how easy it is to get into the mindset to play Quake Champions. If I was to play a match of Overwatch, I have to prepare myself to communicate and work with my team. With Quake (at least in the casual mode available currently), I can jump into a match, worrying solely about my own survival, whilst blasting music and having the time of my life. I think this type of accessibility will be great for players that can only dedicate a small amount of their lives to gaming. I guess it just requires less commitment. And personally, I am fricken sick of teammate toxicity in other games, so Quake is a well-earned breath of fresh air. 

QUAKE CHAMPIONS BETA REVIEW: THE VERDICT

DOOM's not-so-great arena-styled multiplayer buttered me up for a great arena shooter. I find it so fitting that such a game has been provided to me by the same developers. Quake Champions has been the game that I didn't know that I needed. I have fallen in love with it... to the point where my girlfriend has become jealous. 

Yes, the game can definitely improve; for instance, they can sort out these fabled matchmaking and connectivity issues that no one I have spoken to has been having. But it is in beta. Finding aspects for improvement is the purpose of a beta, is it not? 

After spewing out my qualitative feedback on the Quake beta, I am finding it rather difficult to apply a numerical figure in summary...  My score must acknowledge that the game is in beta, and allow space for improvement. So, for now... for me... its a solid 8/10. 

What is that headed right at your feet?


Release Date And The Quake Community

The time between the closing of the beta and the actual release of the game will seem eternal. Especially when an actual release date has yet to be announced. What will I do? Where will I get my arena shooter fix? Has Quake Champions ruined my appetite for other video games? 

I have watched a lot of Quake Champions YouTube videos and streams. From this I can discern one thing: people want to re-ignite the Quake community. I for one, am all for it. I will do my very best to oxygenate the gaming world with nourishing molecules of Quake, a most welcome modern take on a kick-ass old-school genre. There is one particular YouTuber, Rocket Jump Ninja, who has an undying passion for the Quake franchise. His videos are super informative and incredibly spirited, and if I haven't convinced you to at least give Quake Champions a go, I am sure he will

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope your attempts at strafe jumps and rocket jumps are more successful than mine.

Posted on

The New And Innovative Nintendo Switch: Will I Buy One?

Written by Nick Petrou 

When I was a child I remember faking sick to stay home from school and play on my Game Boy. I would lay there in bed and play games like Pokemon and The Legend Of Zelda for hours... days. All the kids in my street had Game Boys too, and we would stay out as late as we could on front lawns playing with them... when I hadn't been faking sick. I remember how jealous I was of my neighbor when he got a Gameboy Advance. And I remember how excited I was when my grandma surprised me with one for Christmas. I don't think i'll ever forget that moment. I don't think ill ever forget that device either — it hosted some of the best games available... ever. 

But now, all the kids have grown up, moved out... and I haven't owned a handheld gaming device in years. So, you can imagine how my soul was flooded with both nostalgia and intrigue when the Nintendo Switch reared its innovative head. 

So many consoles, so little time.
CLICK HERE FOR A FREE SAMPLE OF REIZE ENERGY DRINK – FUEL YOUR GAMING WITH OPTIMAL BOOST

Nintendo's Brave New Console: The Nintendo Switch

If you haven't heard about Nintendo's new hybrid console, the Nintendo Switch, it is likely that you have been dwelling in some subterranean labyrinth.

The Switch's power lies within a panel that features a high resolution touchscreen and all necessary inputs and outputs — this is the console. You are able to attach/detach Nintendo's "Joy-Con" controllers to/from the left and right sides of the console and operate it as a handheld device. Another wicked feature of the Joy-Cons is that each of them functions as a separate controller and can be used for local play/split-screen experiences through the same device. Obviously the control scheme would not be as complex; hence, the games suited for this mode of play are limited. 

Give my back my Joy-Con, creepy hand.

The console can also be stood upon a surface (using the featured stand), and the controllers can be detached to control it wirelessly. The Switch takes it a step further though: you can slide the console into an included dock, which is connected via HDMI cable to a TV or monitor, and now the Switch operates as a home console. 

Seems pretty straight forward...

Like other available consoles, the Switch has online services. At present, these services are free... but also limited. It is not until later this year that the Switch's online potential will be fully realized, and that will come with a paid subscription. The service will feature online gameplay, access to Nintendo's eStore, exclusive deals, free monthly games, and much more. I think this kind of approach is to be expected these days, and that it is totally justifiable as I have explained in a previous article.

Moving On...

I am not here to review the Nintendo Switch as a console itself — this has been done to death. But I will be looking into the current games available, upcoming games, and also the future of the Nintendo Switch and the implications the hybrid console may have on the gaming industry. I will do all of this to help clarify my decision making and figure out if and when I am going to buy the thing. Hopefully my insights bring about a certain clarity for you as well — I know there are many of you that still reside upon the fence. 

Hey, get down from there!

One of your first questions may be: "What games are available on the Switch?" or, "Does it have Pokemon?"

Current Games On The Nintendo Switch 

The Nintendo Switch has been criticized for having very few launch titles with its release on the 3rd of March this year. This is totally true. But it's not as if this is the first console to be released in such a way. Take the PlayStation 4 for instance — I think the only launch title I was excited for was EA DICE's Battlefield 4.

A beast unchained with the consoles release was obviously Nintendo's The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild. But other than that, what else was released with the Switch? The answer is... not much. Well, not anything that I found especially appealing. From the small list of games released with the console, aside from Zelda, only 2 of them caught my attention. These were Tokyo RPG Factory's I Am Setsuna and Yacht Club Games' Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove

A game cartridge? Classic Nintendo

Although, after the initial release of the Nintendo Switch, there has been a few interesting games made available for hard-copy purchase and/or Nintendo eStore purchase. But of those, the only games that at all appeal to me include Nintendo's Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Nicalis' The Binding Of Isaac: Afterbirth, and Vertex Pop's Graceful Explosion Machine.

All in all, I would have to say the the amount of games currently available is fair, considering the short amount of time the console has been available, but still disappointing. Aside from Breath Of The Wild and maybe Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, there just aren't any AAA titles, and I feel that a console needs those to establish itself in such a competitive industry.

Personal Experiences On The Nintendo Switch 

To gain a personal perspective of the Nintendo Switch I have been allowed the privileged of borrowing my buddies' console for the last couple of days. Unfortunately he did say that I have to give it back...

I was able to play was Nintendo's The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild and Vertex Pop's Graceful Explosion Machine. 

The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild

This game was the catalyst to the release of the Nintendo Switch, and I think that the console may have fallen flat on its face without it. Pretty much every review for Breath of the Wild ends in a perfect score. I can only support such praise. Its style is absolutely gorgeous, the map can be traversed in a multitude of exciting ways, the combat is fast and exhilarating, and, with the short time I had with it, I found that the game runs beautifully on the Switch. This Nintendo exclusive rivals every AAA single player RPG available. And I believe it has given the Nintendo Switch a fighting chance among other non-Nintendo consoles, which expansive, open world games are so often confined to...  for now, at least.

Where's your harness buddy?
40% OFF ON REIZE ENERGY DRINK - FUEL YOUR GAMING WITH OPTIMAL BOOST

Graceful Explosion Machine 

My friend, the same bloke who loaned me the Switch, sat by me with his eyes glued to its screen for a good few hours. I was like: "Dude, lets play Overwatch." I mean, I went to his house for a night of it, and all he could say in response was: "You HAVE to try this game." 

That game was of course the indie, side-scrolling, arcade shooter Graceful Explosion Machine, and, of course, I gave it a go. Through my experiences that night, and during the time in which I have borrowed it, I found it to be just the perfect little indie game for the Switch. It feels great to play, its colorful and fun, the sound effects are awesome, and it is highly addictive. 

Such a simple game, but just so perfect for the Switch... Pew! Pew!

Upcoming Games On The Nintendo Switch That I Am Psyched For!

Here are some upcoming games that will definitely help loosen my wallet:

  • Tequila Works' Rime. — Such beautiful, stylized visuals, which I think suite a Nintendo console so well. 
  • SEGA's Sonic Mania. — Nostalgia, nostalgia, nostalgia... 
  • Capcom's Ultra Street Fighter 2: The Final Challengers.  — As I will discuss soon, this was the game that sparked much of my enthusiasm for the Switch. 
  • Nintendo's Super Mario Odyssey. — You can't have Nintendo without a few specific games... and Mario is one of them. 
  • Bethesda Game Studio's The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. — This here, is a definite oddball. But a very, very welcome oddball, as I will go on to discuss. 
I think I am quite ready for another adventure!

Expectations 

It is definitely reasonable to expect certain things from the Switch and Nintendo... 

Abuse The Switch's Practicality 

Even though the Nintendo Switch may have less muscle than other available consoles, it is able to compete due to its indisputable practicality. Through either an online or offline local connection, the portability of the Switch allows local gaming to be a thing of ease. And I think that this is a step in the right direction, as I find that, in today's video game market, this style of gameplay is rarely encouraged. I do expect both Nintendo and third-party game developers to continue to utilize the practicality of the console as it is such an appreciated, enjoyable way to play, and a great way to bridge the gap between casual and full-form gamers. 

What better way is there to settle a dispute among friends than a fighting game? Capcom's Ultra Street Fighter 2: The Final Challengers will be a perfect way to facilitate such brawling via online or offline local play on the Nintendo Switch. You could set up massive tournaments around a big wooden table, which could be held frequently due to the consoles practicality. In fact why do you need the big wooden table? This could be done in a park. I believe this upcoming fighting game is a fine example of a third-party game that utilizes the strengths of the Nintendo Switch. 

Release AAA And Third Party Games

As I have mentioned, I consider Breath Of The Wild to be pretty much the only AAA title available on the Switch right now. In saying this, the AAA title, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, is set for release on the console later this year. This seemed such an odd move by Nintendo, but I do believe that it will pay off if they continue to follow such a path as it will allow the console to be even more versatile, and hence, appeal to a far broader audience. I do expect Nintendo to continue to accommodate for AAA, third-party games as, for me (someone who nowadays doesn't frequent Nintendo devices and games), the news of Skyrim for the Nintendo Switch, was what sparked much of my curiosity for the console. 

Pokemon

Nintendo have released a bunch of different styled Pokemon video games since 1996 — Pokemon RPGs being the most popular.  I believe it is therefore reasonable to expect Nintendo to release a Pokemon RPG for the Switch. Great news too: such a game has already been hinted at under the title of Pokemon Stars. It would be a fricken' awesome to play a Pokemon RPG up on a big screen. Imagine the visual appearance of such a game when considering the relative power of the Switch in comparison to Nintendo's other hand-held devices which Pokemon RPGs have so far been exclusive to. 

Possibilities 

With all this innovation and promise, I cannot help but think about the future. Nintendo have tried something totally different, taken that first leap; and I think it has undoubtedly paid-off for them. But what are the implications of such a console on the gaming industry in general? Where can it go next?

The line between gaming technologies is blurring. Imagine, in the near future, that all games are playable on any device and that exclusives are non-existent. Even though it may be unfeasible from a marketing point of view, this is truly what I long for: no more rivalry between console, no more PC master race rubbish. I want gaming platforms to be a window to the limitless creation of the mind. And I want them to be PORTABLE. How is this relevant to the Switch? Well, I believe that the console will prompt other console developers to consider more portable options and place a greater value on local play. I admit, it's not hugely difficult to stuff my PlayStation 4 and monitor into my car. But I am lazy — I want things to be easier still. I think Nintendo get this. I think they are on the right track. 

Don't get me wrong, this is great fun. But I think that we can all agree that it is a highly inconvenient.
40% OFF ON REIZE ENERGY DRINK - FUEL YOUR GAMING WITH OPTIMAL BOOST

The Verdict...

Yes! Yes, I will be buying one.

But when? And, why?

Well it comes down to the specific games and the overarching practicality of the console.

When? I will literally transmute matter to generate the gold coins necessary to purchase a Switch when a Pokemon RPG is released. Aside from that, I will likely wait for a few more solid titles, particularly those suited for local gameplay. As a bonus, the cost of the console may decrease while I wait. 

Why? Imagine the luxury of travelling to your friends house with but a backpack housing your Nintendo Switch and accessories... and that's it. No full-sized gaming tower. No absolutely essential gaming chair. Just you, and your Switch. Easy, as it should be. 

Thank you, fellow gamers. I hope my perspectives have made your decision easier!

Posted on

Playstation Network and the Benefits of Playstation Plus

Written by Nicholas Petrou

Sony Interactive Entertainment's PlayStation console franchise has been at the forefront of console gaming since the release of the PlayStation 1 (PS1) in 1994. Although the PS1 was incredibly popular, it was superseded in sales by the PlayStation 2 (PS2) — which happens to be the best-selling console of all time. 

Though limited online experiences could be set up for certain games on the PS2,  a dedicated online service for the PlayStation franchise was first introduced late into 2006 on the PlayStation 3 (PS3). This dedicated online service was deemed the "PlayStation Network". The PlayStation Network, including the PlayStation store, revolutionized gaming by allowing players to connect to each other with ease, buy games online, and access a range of other online features. To date, the PlayStation Network is available on the following PlayStation devices: PS3, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation Vita, and PlayStation 4 (PS4). The PlayStation Network can also be accessed via mobile applications, and of course, via an internet browser.

PlayStation
Generations of playing with my stations.
CLICK HERE FOR A FREE SAMPLE OF REIZE ENERGY DRINK – FUEL YOUR GAMING WITH OPTIMAL BOOST

I believe online gaming services and marketplaces like the PlayStation Store, are something we take for granted. The ability to easily connect with other players — whether it be friends or randoms — is incredible. Online services have propelled us into a new era of gaming, and, most importantly, allowed us to remain social whilst hiding within the confines of our homes. It is particularly significant that online services are nowadays available to console gamers, as they had previously been almost exclusive to the realms of the PC.

Overview Of The PlayStation Network's Features

So what are the specific benefits of accessing the PlayStation Network? 

PlayStation Store, An Online Marketplace For Video Games

A game-changing feature of the PlayStation Network is the PlayStation Store. Through the PSN store, you can purchase digital copies of video games that are available as a hard copy. You can also purchase games that are only available in a digital form. And there is an abundance of these digital games — not all of which are indies, classics, or arcades, but AAA games that are naturally free such as Paragon (Epic Games) and Smite (High-Rez Studios). Obviously such games couldn't be free if you had to purchase a hard copy... 

Although you can purchase some game expansions in the form of a hard copy, most expansions, like "full" games, are also available in digital form. However, downloadable content (DLC) that supports or adds to a video game, but is far less than an expansion, is only available in a digital form (as far as I am aware). The PlayStation Store allows gamers to purchase and download said expansions and DLC, therefore allowing gamers access to new content and experiences (and, of course, pointless cosmetic add-on's). 

Personally, I found PlayStation Store games to be to be expensive in comparison to their hard copy counterparts. This issue, however, can be overcome by employing a certain degree of patience. In other words: wait for the games price tag to drop, or wait for a sale. 

PSN Sales And Discounts  

Like any good store, the PlayStation Store has a fair share of discount sales. The PlayStation Store is quite affectionate with its discount events too — as in, they are both frequent and significant. For instance, an Easter Sale is featured currently on the store, and it offers, for reasonable prices, many cheap AAA titles such as EA Dice's Battlefield 1 and Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto V. Also, through another recent sale, I picked up Naughty Dog's The Last Of Us Remastered for under $20! (And for the record, it is a true beauty, well deserving of the praise it has received.) 

All of the games on the PlayStation Store, and certain sales are available to everyone that can access the PlayStation Network. But, a with a subscription to PlayStation Plus (PS Plus), your savings will be far more bountiful, and your experiences, far more interactive. 

Access To A PlayStation Plus Subscription 

Honestly, I cannot see how someone would justify not subscribing to PS Plus! As well as bonus discounts on top of regular PlayStation Network discounts, you have access to a fresh variety of free video games every month! And you need only add them to your library and maintain a PS Plus membership to play them!

Of course, some of the PS Plus monthly games could be classified as "fillers" (e.g. games with low production value, often developed by lesser-known game studios) — and at first, I thought this made the subscription unworthy. But I soon found that I had been narrow-minded, as many non-AAA games, such as indies, classics and arcades, are of exceptionally high quality and enjoyability.  Allowing these smaller games a chance broadened my gaming spectrum; and through my subscription PS Plus, I have been introduced to some of my favourite games in existence. (Keep reading to find out what some of these games are!)

Unfortunately, if you forget to add a free monthly game to your library during its featured month, you will have to purchase that game yourself (assuming you want it)... There are ways to combat this, however. Let's say you are overseas, away from your PlayStation and unable to access PSN Australia. In this circumstance, you can still add games to your library via the PlayStation Network application on your smartphone, and then download and play them when you return.  I actually did this whilst exploring Europe for 3 months; it provided me with a sense of satisfaction during that long deprivation from video games... 

Extra Benefits of PlayStation Plus 

Other benefits of subscribing to PS Plus include the ability to upload 10GB worth of save files to a cloud, the ability to automatically download patches, and ability to access Share Play.

... And there was one other thing? Oh, yes. You cannot play games online without a PS Plus subscription.

Surprised PlayStation Plus
No online gaming?!

Now, this might sound ridiculous, but then you weigh up the aforementioned benefits of PS Plus, you realize that this is a totally justifiable and reasonable move by Sony. It also means that now, because we pay for our online services, a naturally higher quality is to be expected - you don't expect to have issues with PSN status. Bear in mind that free-to-play titles available through PlayStation Store do not require PS Plus to play online; e.g. Epic Game's Paragon and High-Rez Studios' Smite.

When it comes down to it, with the discounts you receive, with the free monthly games, and with its various other benefits — a subscription to PS Plus is totally worth it from a financial point of view. Still need clarification of this? In 2016 PS Plus provided subscribers with $1150 worth of games; you would have paid a minimum of $69.95 (AUD) for that whole year; even if you liked... let's say... 4 or 5 of those games, it is likely still worth it. 

Communication, Friends, Parties and Communities 

What is online play without the ability to communicate with other players in your game? 

Although, when playing on my PS4, I primarily reserve communication to friends of mine, a lot of games have built-in communication features; for instance, EA DICE's Battlefield 4 and Blizzard's Overwatch. This type of communication can be quite handy when you want to communicate with players that aren't your "friend".  Then, if you wish, you always have the option to add them as a "friend". You can even create a "party", in which you can communicate and facilitate online gaming with your PlayStation Network friends.  The PlayStation Network also features player "communities". Communities are essentially constructed groups to which you can invite others for the ease of facilitating communication and online gaming. I remember being a part of an Overwatch community for some time  — as in before they kicked me.

Now, this all sounds great, but, I have found the PlayStation Network's "party" feature to be quite temperamental. Sometimes, I will party with my buddies, only to find that we cannot communicate with each other. (And yes, we have suitable NAT types.) However, this has been an infrequent occurrence, which has not detracted from my communication experience via the PlayStation Network significantly. 

First and Third Party Apps and Entertainment Services 

Coming standard with access to the PlayStation Network, is the ability to access many first and third party applications. Some first party applications include Live From PlayStation, PlayStation Music, PlayStation Video, and PlayStation Now. And Some third party applications include Spotify, Netflix, YouTube, and Stan. The ability to access these applications makes the PlayStation experience more versatile as a whole. And I believe this is a good thing because consoles have PCs to compete with.

The ability to play music, through Spotify, while I game, is a massive deal to me. I find that music and video games are two peas in a pod. There is nothing like chewing through hordes of enemies with a machine gun, whilst listening to heavy metal. I had been waiting for such a feature since playing on my PS3 back in the day. It definitely beats cramming my iPhone earplugs inside of my gaming headset...

And of course, being able to watch my favourite shows, through Netflix and Stan, is a massive bonus. I now don't even have to leave my room, which is good, right? 

My Favourite PlayStation Plus Monthly Games

There have been a ton of fantastic monthly games released since I first subscribed to PS Plus; in no particular order, here are some of my favourites, each with a brief summation of my experience:

Helldivers (Arrowhead Game Studios) — Best played with friends. Friends you are happy to lose. 
Transistor (Supergiant Games) — I have referred to this game in a few of my other articles, and there is a reason why: it is one of the greatest indie games in existence. 
Limbo (Playdead) — Grim and dark. Definitely not the children's game I thought it would be...  
Lords of the Fallen (CI Games) — A "Souls-like" game that has an undoubted uniqueness to it. 

Apotheon (Alientrap Games) — Completely unique, with such a timeless art style. Little difficult to get the hang of the controls, but well worth the struggle. 
Race The Sun (Flippfly) — A time-filler, for all intents and purposes. But it does this well.
Resident Evil  (CAPCOM) — Who would have thought such an old game would cause me to scream like a child?
Valiant Hearts (Ubisoft) —  Stylized and unique. So much more that a puzzle-solver. The feels, man.

PlayStation Network Hacked!

It was horrible... I had to go outside! 

In the month of April, in the year 2011, the PlayStation Network was compromised. 77 million gamers were exposed to the real world for a total of 23 days (or... you know... they gamed on another platform). The attacks, which occurred between the 17th and 19th of April, forced Sony to pull the plug on the PlayStation Network a few days later, on the 20th of April. On the 4th of May, Sony made a public announcement stating that personally identifiable information (i.e. home addresses, email addresses, passwords and credit card data) from those with a PlayStation Network account, had been exposed.  It wasn't until halfway through May of that year, that the service was back online. Although, with the return of this service, the dudes at Sony, being such top blokes,  provided players with a bunch of free features and games as a form of compensation for the outage. 

This cyber attack resulted in both a loss of over $171 million for Sony, and the upsetting of 77 million console peasants.  Damn you, Hackerman. 

An Overall Review Of The PlayStation Network And PlayStation Plus 

Even when faced with adversity, Sony has always been able to bounce back; I think this resilience is something that deserves a certain degree of respect.

I have spent a whole bunch of my own (and my parents) money on an expensive gaming PC, and still I use my PS4 and keep on top of discounts and the PS Plus monthly freebies. These behaviours are a clear indication of my overall happiness with the console and the PlayStation Network in general. 

So, overall, I consider the PlayStation Network to be a user-friendly, versatile online service that provides excellent online gaming services, whilst also catering for a wide variety of other forms of entertainment. I see myself continuing to stick by the PlayStation Network, and the PlayStation console franchise for a while yet. 

I hope your PlayStation Network experiences have been at least as pleasing as mine so far!  

Happy gaming! 

Posted on

The 10 Best Games of the Decade So Far: Opinions of an Aussie Gamer

Transistor

Written by Nicholas Petrou 

Since the beginning of the decade, we have seen both glorious highs and dismal lows within the video game industry. Many classics have been born — some of the best games in human existence, I would have to say; however, in the same 7-year-breathe, many game franchises and game developers have also had their names tainted and their creations shunned... *Cough* Hello Games *Cough* .

As a species, our technology has skyrocketed, and with this exponential growth, the gaming community has become more diverse and interconnected than ever. The players have a far louder voice, and their opinions now make all the difference to the success of a game's release. It is so easy for a game to crash and burn if it lacks or exceeds in community hype. "All aboard the hype-train," so the say. 

The number of video game platforms has also increased alongside our technologies, naturally; and I must say, the rivalry between them is stronger than ever, as I am sure many of you with access to the internet are aware.

 
PC Master Race - 10 Best Games
Bow down, console peasants.

Although the decade has not yet concluded, I think a quick re-cap of what I believe to be the decade's best games is necessary. This "best game list" has been created irrespective of gaming platforms, and is based solely on my personal experiences as an average Australian gamer... and as a fresh member of the PC master race. (I cannot tell you how glad I am to finally rid myself of mum's work laptop!)

Be realistic guys, I cannot dedicate my entire existence to video games. So, many of the games the community considers to be top-10'ers  may not be included in this list. It might be simply that I have not yet had the opportunity to play them! (And in my preemptive defense, I am about 15 minutes from finishing downloading The Last Of Us Remastered!)

Oh look, a countdown:

10: Battlefield 4 (2013)

 
You said the sky was clear, Carl! - Battlefield 4

With utmost certainty, the most laughs I have had in a video game. Playing EA DICE's Battlefield 4 (BF4) with the release of the PS4 for the first time is fond memory of mine. I remember being blown away by the intense visuals and sheer scope of the online multiplayer; and lets be real, people play Battlefield games for the multiplayer. In-depth customization; a ton of different vehicles, each to tame a certain medium of combat; and a good mix of maps and game-modes, some with massively destructive in-game "levolutions" (such as the falling of a skyscraper) — the game has endless content and so many possible interactions (particularly with up to 64 players in each match for the large conquest game-mode). BF4 was released in 2013 and I still play it today... even with the current variety of online first-person shooters (FPS) available.

9: Transistor (2014)

 
Transistor - 10 Best Games
"Look, whatever you're thinking, do me a favor; don't let go" - Transistor

I picked up Supergiant Games' Transistor as a monthly Playstation Plus freebie, not expecting much. It took me a while to get used to the "frozen planning"combat style (as I am so used to hack and slash's), but only seconds to fall in love with the games gorgeous visuals and hypnotic soundtrack. Transistor, I found, was quite a deep and emotional experience. The game-play doesn't divulge excessive amounts of lore directly — it allows the player to explore and build the backstory on their own; and I have to appreciate it this as I consider it to be good story telling. As a gamer, I don't like to be babied so much; I want to think harder and look deeper to find clues and meaning. Video games are a form of art, after all, and art is often up to interpretation. Transistor was the game that opened my eyes to the realm of indie games, and also Supergiant Games' other masterpeice, Bastion, which I enjoyed just as much.

8: Destiny (2014)

 
Destiny - 10 Best Games
"You can fight by my side anytime, Guardian" - Destiny

The initial release of Bungie's Destiny left a bad taste in everyone's mouth, and this was completely understandable. Bungie had a massive budget for this sci-fi FPS — something near 500 million dollars, I had heard (but apparently this was majorly exaggerated). With a budget like that, you would expect the developers to deliver upon their promises... however this was not the case. The game was "unfinished" and took several paid expansions to achieve what is expected in release-content of a full priced game. I have to agree, disappointment does suck; but I consider myself lucky, as I did not board the hype-train for Destiny, and when I purchased the game I honestly had such a brilliant time playing it — mainly in the player-vs-player (PVP) Crucible however. Hopefully we will see Bungie accommodate for the features that Destiny lacked with the release of the soon-to-be-announced sequal.

7: Countertrike: Global Offensive

 
Counter-tewwowists - CSGO

In terms of a competitive FPS, Valve's Counter-strike: Global Offensive (CSGO) sets the standard. The Counter-strike series has had a long time to establish itself — and the result of this time is a well balanced, skill-based competitive FPS with a steep learning curve, but also a highly satisfying reward/ranking system... Or is it frustrating? I can't remember. I love the emphasis CSGO places on teamwork and effective communication. Yes, you can solo carry a team; and yes, you can remove your microphone, listen to heavy metal, and ignore the responsibility of making calls — but more often that not, it is essential to maintain good communication and provide valuable insight for your team (maybe on enemy positioning or an intended bomb site plant) to achieve victory. To top it off, CSGO continues to stay strong in the Esports scene, and I do not expect this to change any time soon.

6: Bloodborne (2015)

 
Nice doggo :s  - Bloodborne

"Prepare to cry." Oh, I literally did... Came all too close to launching my Playstation controller over my back fence as well. I honestly thought I was a decent gamer — above average at least, and pretty versatile among genres — then I played From Software's Bloodborne. Bloodborne — and similar games from From Software, i.e. the Dark Souls franchise —  are well known for their extreme difficulty and epic combat systems. All of the creatures and bosses in Bloodborne were equally wretched, cruel and unforgiving. I have never been so frustrated in a video game, never felt so rewarded either. Hmmm, and then I see people completing the game using a Band Hero drum-kit or something. Feels bad, man.

Looking for a challenge, my fellow gamers? Pick up Bloodborne... Enter the hunters dream...

5: The Witcher 3 (2015)

 
Hunting monsters... and wildflowers - The Witcher 3

The single greatest regret of my life is allowing Triss Merigold sail away from me... CD Projekt Red's The Witcher 3 has won more awards than any other video game in history —  and this is totally justified. It is often a feat of RPGs to exhibit many monotonous quests, some of which being similar to quests previously repeated i.e. find 30 of this item... or kill 30 of this creature. It is with these common traits that the Witcher 3 disagrees. Quests in the Witcher 3 (yes, even the side quests) are all unique and will often divulge new enemies to murder, new allies to befriend or seduce, or fresh new places and landscapes to explore. I found that the depth of character interaction was unalike any game I had played before. The way you interact, and the decisions you make, influence the world quite significantly; there are many paths which you can take playing as Geralt of Rivia, and all of them are as interesting and unique as the last.

4: League of Legends (Late 2009 - oops)

 
ADC Raka OP - League of Legends

I admit, I have gone completely off Riot Games' multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) League of Legends (LoL), but I cannot leave it off this list, simply for the sheer amount of time I sunk into it. (And yes, I realise the game was released toward the end of 2009, but I had never heard of it). This game broke me into the MOBA genre, and allowed me to facilitate some of the greatest friendships I hold to date. The game-play is fast-paced, skill-orientated, and often requires an effective use of teamwork to claim victory. Even though LoL remains a giant within the realm of Esports, it is often correlated with a highly "toxic" or "salty" community/player-base, and is therefore considered of bad taste among many "mature" gamers — myself now, being one of them. Me...mature? It is unfortunate that LoL has taken this sort of path, but I do believe that "salt" is near inevitable in any online competitive environment. At the very least, LoL allowed many gamers to branch out from previous genres, and explore the quick-action stresses of a MOBA.

3: Overwatch (2016)

 
I'll be watching over you - Mercy, Overwatch

Of course Blizzard's Overwatch is in this list: it is such a polished game, and in my opinion, only short of perfect. What can I say? It ticks many of my boxes: FPS —  check; online —  check; team-based —  check; stylized visuals —  check; and the list goes on. This sort of quality is to be expected when a game is backed by Blizzard. I am looking forward to seeing how Overwatch evolves and will forever do my very best to claw my way out of gold division.

2: The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim (2011)

 
Don't worry Sophia, Lydia won't be bothering us ever again - Skyrim: Special Edition

There is simply no single player experience that can compare to Bethesda's Skyrim. A vast, open world riddled with threats ranging from a mud crab to a dragon; one of the most in-depth character creation and skill/item customisation systems in video gaming; beautiful scenery —  expansive plains, icy mountain peaks, festering volcanic wastelands; a plethora of interesting quests supported by a diverse range of NPC's — Skyrim has it all. It is the benchmark for single player RPGs, and what I consider the pinnacle of the Elder Scrolls series. The best thing about Skyrim is its  thriving modding scene. Modding allows the game to stay fresh, as people other than the game's developers, can add new features... Like a Bob Ross moon, for instance. On top of consistent player modding, Bethesda themselves recently released Skyrim Special Edition, a remastered version of the game. Really, it ceases to amaze me how incredible this game truly is. I think I will always go back to it, maybe even show my hypothetical children.

 
"This would be a good place for my little squirrel to live" - Bob Ross
40% OFF ON REIZE ENERGY DRINK - FUEL YOUR GAMING WITH OPTIMAL BOOST

1: DOOM (2016)

"...and those who tasted the bite of his sword named him... the Doom Slayer" - DOOM 2016

If you had read my earlier article on shooting games, you would have seen this one coming... I can say, with a straight face, that id Games' DOOM franchise is the greatest in the entirety of video gaming. Of course, this is my personal opinion... but who doesn't enjoy this kind of fit-inducing carnage? DOOM (2016), to me, is the epitome of a video game: fast-paced, challenging, beautiful and utter fun. If the developers had nailed DOOM's online competitive element it would be impossible for a reviewer to score it less than an 11/10. Just like the original games, I think I will go back to this classic time and time again.

Fight like hell. 

Some Honorable Mentions

Making that list was hard — real hard. Perhaps a "top 100" would have been easier? I hope you find yourself in agreeance with at least some of the games in my "10 best games of the decade so far" countdown. If not, take a quick look at the list below! In no particular order, here are some close contestants that I unfortunately failed to make the cut:

Bastion (Supergiant Games) —  2011
Journey (Thatgamecompany) —  2012
Abzu (Giant Squid) — 2016
Battlefield 1 (EA Dice) —  2016
Rust (Facepunch Studios) —  2013
Far Cry 3 (Ubisoft) —  2012
Tomb Raider (Crystal Dynamics) —  2013
God of War 3 (SIE Santa Monica Studio) —  2010
Bioshock Infinite (2k Games) —  2013
Red Dead Redemption (Rockstar Games) —  2010
Grand Theft Auto V (Rockstar Games) —  2013
Mass Effect 3 (BioWare) —  2013
Helldivers (Arrowhead Game Studios) —  2015

 
Journey - 10 Best Games
The real magic is the friends you meet along the way  -  Journey

Thank you, fellow gamers. Let us all hope that the remainder of the decade provides us with a plethora of great and unique video games across a wide span of genres. I can expect that game developers will learn from their own mistakes as well as the mistakes of others — and therefore, I remain optimistic for the future of the gaming industry. See you for a final countdown at the end of the decade!