ON!VG! Episode 107: The Most Essex Thing I’ve Ever Heard

Posted by Mat on 27th March, 2014 | There are no comments on this article.

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Is deck building actually any good? Should Mat focus his entire games journalism attention on minutely discussing PR Bullshit?


Escape Goat 2


Source For The Show Art
The Other Video Of Pac Being Back
A Poster Of Ninja Gaiden Z: Yaiba
Anne Hathaway: An Erotic Mouthscape
I Love You But You Kiss Like A Girl
queers in love at the end of the world

I Like: Luftrausers

Posted by Mat on 22nd March, 2014 | There are no comments on this article.

If the aeroplane which you pilot in Luftrausers takes damage, then over time your health will gradually return as long as you choose to stop firing your gun.

Let’s say that wasn’t the case; forget everything I just told you about the way this whole Luftrausers thing works. We’re going to do a fun thought exercise. Evil Game Design Elves have gone back in time and scribbled out the original design and replaced that mechanic with something else entirely. Now the player’s health returns to full every 5 seconds. Or it comes back in a burst when you boost through nebulous flying Health Rings. Or whatever. Now there’s a different system in place to ensure your continued survival, one where you could keep shooting and still regain health. If that were the case, it’d be unnecessary for anyone to ever stop shooting, right? It wouldn’t be advantageous for the player to ever take her finger off the Shoot Button. They’d only be losing the ability to cause damage without gaining anything in return.

If it were unnecessary to ever stop shooting, why would a developer even map “Shoot” to a button? Why wouldn’t you just have the player be constantly shooting?

Every design decision in Luftrausers seems to follow this logic. When the player performs an action it’s in contrast to an equally relevant inaction. Cutting your engines helps you turn quicker and potentially escape damage better than going full bore in one direction with a limited movement arc. Not shooting is sometimes as good as shooting. Staying still (if falling slightly due to the effect of gravity) is sometimes as good as moving.

Okay. Thought exercise over. The elves have been banished back to fucking Elf City. You can see Luftrausers is the result of thought and polish which few developers other than Vlambeer throw their weight behind. The purity of the design is best felt when you’re fucking around with different loadouts for your plane and seeing what feels right for your playstyle.

Picking a build should always be about the player asking themselves which limitations they feel most comfortable with. It’s inevitable that there have to be downsides from your decisions. It’s when you pick a part which removes a core challenge from every other type that Luftrausers truly reveals its depth.

Every engine but one has the player take damage while they’re underwater. If you’re using that one, now a core problem has been removed and your actions can be replaced by a new strategy. You’re not able to move as fast to dodge bullets, but you can spend more time dipped underwater and avoiding them entirely. Shame is, you’re only able to fire when you reach the surface so you alternate between being safe underwater but harmless, then in danger above it but able to dish out attacks in response.

From there, you decide on the parts for the rest of your plane. if you want to have more armour so that your time above water isn’t as treturous, or if you want to take no damage when you crash into other planes or boats so that you can start smashing into enemies head first when you exit the water, or do you want to explode when you take enough damage and wreck shit carelessly in a final blaze?

What about when you shoot? Do you want to shoot constantly and do tiny accurate flecks of damage? Do you feel like you have time for that? What about a single burst shot with a huge reload time? Do you think you can deal with the pressure of knowing that if you miss your attack then you’re probably fucking dead?

Every build feels good, even if it’s not meant for you. Every choice feels meaningful, from your decisions before launch to the nano-second decisions to jet away as far from danger or turn and fight.

Luftrausers is a fuckin’ great video game. Maybe you should buy it.

A Comprehensive List Of Which ON!VG! Members Are SJWs

Posted by Mat on 21st March, 2014 | There is one comment on this article.

All of ‘em.

ON!VG! Episode 106: Metal Gear Is The Only Media To Cover Government Surveillance

Posted by Mat on 20th March, 2014 | There are no comments on this article.

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Oh my gosh! We’ve got a dang Patreon! If you like the show, maybe think about kicking us some dollars? We’ll use it! To make the show better and do more stuff! We’ll be more specific next month!

This week we get a little too in-depth about player action feedback design. That’s the part where we sound smart. Watch for that.


A Dark Room
7 Wonders
Gang Beasts
Out There


The Art Of Screenshake
Game Feel by Steve Swink
Wizard People Dear Reader
Fuck Videogames
The New Street Fighter Character
That Out Of Place Hitman Absolution Scene
Icarus Proudbottom’s World Of Typing

Nothing To Hide – How Watch_Dogs Might Be An Inconsistent Mess

Posted by Mat on 17th March, 2014 | There are no comments on this article.

everywhere i go, your face i see, every step i take, you take with me, yeah

There’s a bit of marketing guff for Watch_Dogs which Ubisoft put together about a year ago. It’s called WeAreData. It skims a bunch of publicly accessible geo-tagged messages that people throw onto social networking sites and allows anyone to get their grubby talons on them. Which they already could, but shh. The information is presented in this hilarious cyberspace overlay which hopes to imply your actions within it have a clandestine duplicity but instead makes you feel like you’re playing an upmarket Hacker Typer. You’re supposed to have a two-fold response: first, shock that you might be being watched by someone else, second, curiosity over what you can then discover.

What you should do with this website, maybe the only thing you should do with it, is choose to look at London and then see if you can find Westminster. There’s a massive cluster of Flickr posts all in one specific place in what Google Maps will reveal as the Government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Most of these photos have William Hague in them and so I’m lead to assume the man is as vain as he is completely motionless.

Just up the road from there you’ll see a fuck-off square of people taking photos of famous landmarks. Which there are a lot of in London. I don’t know if you know.

I point out these two examples because they’re fantastic displays of Social Media’s entire aims all within walking distance of the same tube station. Twitter is a place for people to connect and share their views with each other, but not because it was developed as an intentional tool for the expansion of democratic values, it’s a service to brands who hope to raise their profile with a pre-existing embedded and highly concentrated market. Your holiday photos are important, but not as important as photos of William Hague. Sexy Sexy William Hague.

WeAreData tells me a little bit about what Ubisoft think that Watch_Dogs is about, in that they’re not sure what it’s about. People there sure have a few ideas, but they seem to conflict. I’m concerned it’s going to lead to a product whose creators tout it as being staunchly against the ideas of mass-data gathering, but it still shows people continually benefiting from it.

I mean, they can’t even quite get this right in their advertising. The logic goes: Twitter and such are bad because you’ve no idea who could be looking in on your posts, but please pay attention to our carefully constructed marketing feeds, with cute community building exercises and humanising campaigns. There’s a lovely irony to Watch_Dogs’ mere existence as a product now, that it warns of a future where our willingness to give up data will doom us, while the marketers that are attempting to sell it proliferate awareness through the same systems.

The actual game might be even worse. It seems to revel in how brilliant it’d be to have unfiltered access to the background of everyone standing around you. I get a horrid suspicion we’re going to see another Far Cry 3. A game where the creator believes they’re making a statement without ever actually attempting to make that statement. If we’re lucky, there’ll be a 5 minute monologue about how awful information gathering is after the reported 25 hours worth of the lead character benefiting from it. But that’s not a criticism, that’s overt endorsement.

A lot of the pre-release interview response from the developers has them hand-waving away this issue by claiming that it’s up to the player to decide if they’re the good or bad type of vigilante, but I think even that justification is pretty dismissive. It doesn’t seem up to the player to decide if this is a good thing or not if the only argument on either side is one that permits it. Lampshading the source-material’s inability to take a stance isn’t depth, it’s an admission of an inconsistent idea.

It’s not impossible to make a game about social media and surveillance without it appearing positive. The excellent Nothing To Hide is a game set in a world where constant visibility is an absolute necessity. It hammers home how awful it is to live there and go through this by mechanically making it difficult to achieve your goals and still abide by the rules. Watch_Dogs would like you to believe the same process is bad while using the system to your own benefit.

Namco Had Some Children Dance In A Few Train Stations For A Bit

Posted by Mat on 6th March, 2014 | There are 3 comments on this article.

Pac, despite our bewildered and saddened response, continues to be back. We literally cannot stop him. We don’t have that power. We aren’t ghosts. Or, we are ghosts, and he’s picked up the big pellet that allows him to eat us. That’s more like how I feel because after the ghosts are chomped they all respawn back in the middle and continue to give chase until whoever’s in charge of him runs out of money to carry on.

Namco-Bandai have yet to run out of money.

For our amusement and in order to celebrate… Pac… being… back? The company’s UK PR team have collected children and had them serve as a dancing Flash Mob (Remember Flash Mobs? From a decade ago?) right in the middle of some London train stations. The dances were backed by a cover of the Pac-Man Cereal Commercial Song by Popular Ska Band Less Than Jake. Forgive me if that last paragraph made you pull a weird face as you try and piece it all together. Dancing exists, so does the band Less Than Jake, and Pac-Man too. Where the cross-over point is, I don’t know. I feel like I’m a detective with a cork-board and string just trying to put the pieces together. There’s something here, chief, I just need more time to chase these leads.

My favorite part of the video is when they’re dancing in the packed tunnel in South Kensington. The press release says that this stunt was an attempt to “bring a smile among miserable commuters” and sure there are a couple of people standing around watching, but there are also a ton that are just trying to push past and probably get to work on time. Anyone actively enjoying the performance is either coming from or headed to the Natural History Museum. What do they need cheering up for? Their entire plan for the day was to learn about dinosaurs.

I could understand just doing this thing at Waterloo or Paddington or Kings Cross. Stations with a lot of layover time. I’m at Kings Cross a lot. I know there’s often a stretch between arrival and your next train. I’d savour the distraction as I eat a sophomoric burrito. Thing is, I’m not commuting, I’m just a man who likes to get drunk and knows people in London who will hang out with me while I do it.

Speaking of which: Included in the Press Release is this photo, meant to accompany articles about the… Thing? The thing that happened?


Woah. Was that really the best place to take this snap? I know because I’ve been there that this was taken at the Namco Station Arcade, but to anyone else it just looks like you took these children to a wrap-party at a club. Alright kids, great dancing, now who wants a Jagerbomb?

Was this whole thing your idea, man standing on the right with a bit of laminated paper and a bottle of water?

Funny thing about Namco Station: There’s a Pac-Man Battle Royale machine upstairs. If you’ve never played PMBR I absolutely recommend it. It’s the kind of tight arcade experience that the new slate of competitive indie games are trying to pay homage to. If they put Battle Royale game in the middle of Wild Rumpus there’d be lines around the fucking block. If you’re trying to show how relevant Pac-Man is to the Modern Age, why not show off the literal greatest thing with his name on it? Or maybe even intersperse some footage of the new game? Is… is there even a new game coming out? There can’t be. They’d have mentioned it by now.

I didn’t get into this last time, but I don’t entirely understand why “Pac” is suddenly “Back”. Where did he go? According to this wiki page he’s appeared in several games every year since 2005. If ever there was a time for people to be reminded of how Back he is, now probably isn’t it. I feel like I finally understand what LL Cool J was on about.

There’s a strange sadness to that. Knowing Pac-Man has always been with us and yet we’ve taken him for granted. It’s taken 5 minutes of light projected onto a building and half a day of children dancing in train stations to remind us of what Pac-Man represents.

PR Manager Lee Kirkton describes this stunt as being about “working together, supporting one another and combating issues like bullying, negativity and online trolling which many kids are victims of today.” He goes on to add: “What better mascot to inspire children than PAC-MAN”.

I personally agree with the guy. These were values I’d always connected to a video game about collecting cherries for points in a ghost maze and it’s nice to see them being spread wide through the power of dance. My question is, can you have the same mascot represent pranking another company a week prior and also be totally against victimisation? They seem like ideas that are almost counter to one another. I can’t know for sure, though: I’m not in PR.

Why choose this song? I’m struggling with that. The song’s not about Pac-Man. It’s about Pac-Man Cereal. A thing you can’t buy anymore. Pac is Back, sure, I’ve read the hashtag, but there’s nothing around with his face on that you can eat. Is that not a little embarrassing to think about? That the attempt to revive the brand in-itself contains a reminder that the cultural weight of the property has already dissipated and isn’t ever going to rise that high again? Kids don’t care about Pac-Man. They’re all doing tweets on whatsapp to their snapchat facebooks.

God, remember Less Than Jake? I honestly think some of those kids might be young enough that the last time I listened to Less Than Jake was further back than their conception. Am I going to die one day? Is that what this whole stunt is trying to teach me? That I’m old now and nothing can stop that?

We have reached out to Less Than Jake for comment. I don’t know why. I don’t know what I expect to learn from them. I… This is just… I…. What?

ON!VG! Episode 105: Pin The John Travolta On Nicolas Cage

Posted by Mat on 3rd March, 2014 | There is one comment on this article.

​The Video-Game People You Should Be Following On Twitter

Posted by Mat on 28th February, 2014 | There are no comments on this article.

Indie Game People


Triple-A Development People


The Suits






Official Feeds


Critics and Journalists


ON!VG! Staffers


Namco Projected An Image Of Pac-Man Onto Sega UK’s HQ For A Bit

Posted by Mat on 25th February, 2014 | There are no comments on this article.

Sega’s London HQ is in the district of Brentford, though people say it’s in Chiswick because that’s shorthand for anywhere west on the District Line. It’s a well known building to anyone on that side of central. In my youth we’d make rare trips in our Peugeot 305 from our flat in Burnham along the M4 and Mum would point out the massive adorned picture of Sonic greeting us on the way in to the city.  Last night, Namco Bandai Games UK hired out a Very Big Projector and put a  wobbly image of Pac-Man beneath this figure, along with a slogan which doesn’t parse properly as it contorts to the building where, I once assumed, all of the games I played on my Megadrive were made.

Incidentally, my childhood assumption turned out to be technically incorrect. Years later I fell into a job working for Sega in QA and I wasn’t ever expressly invited to step foot in that building. The company rented an office near Gunnersbury Tube Station to accommodate all of our lot; almost as if we daren’t grace the hallowed shrine their mascot guards with his trademark wry disrespect. I can only assume that higher management were fiercely protective of the divide between actual grown ups who earn a proper yearly salary and people like me who shower infrequently and drink a lot of shitty energy drinks.

Now that I’m in my early 20s I see that specific massive image of Sonic a little differently. He isn’t waving to us, acting as the furry herald of a world capital, as I would have once assumed; He is clearly captured in mid-sprint, dashing away from London as if he’s escaping, trying to jump off the wall onto the M4 himself and carry on zooming until he’s in Llangennech. He’d probably pay the toll at the Severn Crossing in fucking golden rings, the cheeky dickhead. That’s not legal tender, mate, not even in Wales.

It wouldn’t have always made sense for him to attempt a dramatic exit. Sega served as a pillar of the UK gaming industry, propping up home console sales and also providing an overly expensive battery eater for the portable market. London became a surrogate home for the Sega Brand, with Soho’s Piccadilly Trocadero housing Child Paradise SegaWorld up until it was renamed at the turn of the new millenium and later shut down entirely.

In a post Dreamcast world Sega is a remnant. I tell people that I once worked for the company and the response is usually to ask Whatever Happened To Them. If Sonic really is running away now then I don’t think he’s just conforming to his nature. He’s a rat escaping a sinking ship, only, a Hedgehog. Duh.

Namco’s publicity stunt doesn’t seem very well considered, mostly due to all the provided photographic evidence showing the image conforming terribly to the shape of the building (Pagis bazz? What does that mean?) partly because they’ve decided to connect their brand to Sega’s in a form of implied-reverence-through-disrespect without much further thought to what that suggests of themselves

It is not simply that Pac-Man has encroached on Sonic’s “Turf” and “Tagged It Up”, as they say. Through this act Pac-Man affirms himself more important than Sonic, more relevant, a better representation of what a Mascot is in what remains of The Fiscal Year Of Luigi. Pac-Man is your new friend. Forget about Sonic. Pac is Back and He Is Here To Stay.

It just… It sort of comes out of nowhere, y’know? Sonic isn’t the cultural force he once was, not even he seemingly believes this now, as he packs his bags and dreams of retiring to quiet life in the aforementioned coastal Cymru village. We aren’t thinking about Sonic in hushed reverential tones, save for one of us. Pac-Man replacing Sonic is like Pac-Man replacing Zool. Did you hear, Gladys, Pac is Back. Now pass the Custard Creams.

I worked on two games during my all too brief tenure at Sega. The first was Sonic And All Stars Racing Transformed, which fans will tell you is a celebration of the Sega That Was. A racing game which acts as a retirement home for their classic licences that haven’t the cultural foothold to be brought back in any meaningful stand-alone form. You can be a man from fucking Skies Of Arcadia and race around in a track based on fucking Burning Rangers, and the soundtrack is a Fucking Banger and it feels fucking amazing to play.

The other game was Aliens: Colonial Marines, which… is what better represents the Sega Of Now.

What’s Namco’s message from this act of impermanent graffiti? Is it to kick Sega while they’re down? Alternatively, are they trying to suggest their brand is on-par with Sega’s? Neither seem to justify the effort, especially if they’re implying that they’re as good as a brand with dwindling cultural value, that no one is talking about, while absolutely fucking up their attempt to do it with terrible cropping and logo design?

Plus, y’know, it’s uncharacteristic. Pac-Man is not rebellious by nature. Pac-Man is a Man who wanders a maze and tries not to die. Pac-Man is practically a Modern Day Theseus.

The Press Release’s Title is “Friends Reunited. Pac to the future.” I think this gives away a little of the intent (Though I don’t believe Pac-Man and Sonic have ever been friends, more vague acquaintances that would pick up the same conversation they left off a year ago at the last house party they both attended). They’re clearly saying that Pac-Man will prevail where Sonic does not. That Pac-Man is the one to bring us into the light. Guide us, Ye Man Of Pac, and we shall be rewarded.

Or I dunno. Maybe they haven’t put as much thought into this as I have, which is a prospect too scary for me to even consider. Imagine spending all that money for barely any reason. That can’t be right.

The Real ABCs of Games Journalism

Posted by Mat on 23rd February, 2014 | There are no comments on this article.

Aftermarket Cybernetic Upgrades: You’ve started a career in video games journalism and received the requisite necessary post-human robotic merger as is standard for all freelance work, but you’re quickly beginning to realise the beginner spec doesn’t entirely meet your needs. The Mark.II advanced neck-servos are an important investment to minimise the lag between viewing one of your wrist-mounted display units and your primary work monitor.

Brackets: Some people call them Parentheses (but not you). Use a lot of them. They make it seem like the point you’re trying to get across is so good that it needs defining even further (people will think you’ve got so much to say (like, enough that you can’t fit it into what you were already writing)).

Casper, Friendly Ghost: Print out this photo and hang it on your wall. You have much to learn from it.


Dib-Dabs: Buy, like, thirty packets of the fucking things and keep them by your desk. They’re jet fuel for getting audio editing work done. Scrubbing through your podcast? Shove a lolly in the sherbert and lick the thing while you cut out all the awkward pauses and jokes that don’t land. Don’t forget to put it all on your taxes! They fall under travel expenses, because they’re a bare-knuckle roller coaster ride to a land of productive work.

Etcetera: Never finish lists. Always have the audience assume there are more examples than you can think of, you can do this in reviews, previews, features etc.

Fly: You are imbued with the power of flight. Did… did no one tell you? Fuck. The rest of us have all been bloody zoomin’ around with our hollow-avian-journalist bones and you’ve been hanging out on the ground. No one should have to hang around there. That’s where all the dirt is, dude! Gross!

Gin: It’s a mistake that writers all drink Whisky. They do, I’ve seen it and done the personal research, but summertime rolls around and brings with it tonic and limes. Have seventy of them and sit out in the sun. Why not.

Hove: Listen to nothing but Jay-Z.

Inspiration: What kinds of things do you like to read? Poems? Allegorical Novellas? Sounds nice. I like that Dan Brown myself. Really has a flair for prose.

Japes (aka: Hijinks): Sometimes you should spend an hour writing practically a thousand words as a joke making fun of a piece of shit someone else put genuine malicious effort into.

Killing: The only game mechanic worth discussing and, honestly, the only real game mechanic anyway. That’s all that games should even try to do and anyone who disagrees or wants to talk about anything else is probably some kind of social justice weirdo trying to “not actively be a shitty butt to other people”.

Libel: All Games Journalists do gross farts!! I will not apologise for this remark you will have to lock me up in sing-song. I’ll do the nickel with a smile, get out and say it again. You can lock away a man but you can’t lock away what he knows to be the facts.

Mondays: I hate ‘em. Like Garfield. Ha ha. He’s an ornery cat with a lot of things to complain about.

No no, no no no no, no no no no, no no: There’s no limit.

Obelisk: The thing all the apes touch at the start of 2001: A Space Odyseey. What if I told you… it’s real. It’s… it’s me. Touch me. Please.

Pokémon: You’ll probably write about it at some point. I dunno.

Qwerty: Throw that shit right out and get yourself a DVORAK keyboard to help yourself with typing speed. Never mind that it’ll fuck up the keybindings for all your games, get used to moving your fictional characters around with a game of hand-twister.

Realism: Literally the only thing a graphical style should aim to meet.

Sound: If you’re watching a trailer and the soundtrack doesn’t go all, like “BWAAAAAOOOOUMMM. CHUCKA CHUCKA DUN DUN DUN” just turn the thing off. It’s probably some kind of European Truck Sim.

Truck Sims: Oh. Oh these are actually alright? Shit. Sorry.



Virtual Boy, The: Y’know? I think it was probably a little underrated. This is honestly a real pitch here amongst all this bullshit. I’d really like to see a retrospective of the Virtual Boy closer to when the Oculus Rift gets a real consumer release. It’d be great to see the impact and spread of goggle-based virtual reality over the years with that as the initial focal-point. I don’t want to write it myself but someone probably should. That one’s for free.

Weezer: The first album is still alright. I liked Pinkerton for a while but I’ve really gone off it since I started actually thinking about what Rivers is actually saying in a bunch of the songs. You want a subserviant asian woman who only wants to hang out with your forsaking the entire rest of the world? You’ve got a problem, dude!

X: Always end your text messages with one. It is very cute lol x

Yuck: If you make a joke about cum you’ll probably get a laugh out of it.

Zealotry: Your opinion is the best because you’re the smartest and everyone else cares too much about weird things that don’t matter.

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