Sunday, 8 October 2017

Recent-ish Purchases #7

Usually I wouldn't like to make a purchases post with only a few small bits to display but since I may want to write about a few of these soon, I thought it best to show them first. I've certainly been watching the pennies a lot more as of late for various reasons and so I haven't exactly set out to buy games in general. The spoils below didn't cost me much at all however.

Devil's Third for the Wii-U has been on my wanted list for a while now. When it released, I didn't have the money to drop on it and when it started to get heavily discounted (being a weird, obscure game that the critics slammed), I just didn't happen to spot any copies on the cheap. I had pretty much forgotten it I suppose but then a cool guy on a forum who I have traded with before put this copy up for a mere £6.00. Needless to say, I snapped that baby up.

Of the PSP games, Space Invaders Extreme is the only title that I actually paid for. It's a pretty fun update of a game that has been done to death already and features funky, pumping tunes and a more trippy style of gameplay. It's very hard though and I have to say that being able to continue from the last stage unlocked (rather than start the whole thing over) is utterly essential. I can't remember how much I paid but it was definitely sub-£10 on ebay from a charity sale with no image. Other copies with the same original cover (I didn't want the 'Essentials' re-release version) were up for over £10 so it was a bit of a gamble that paid off.

Buzz and Mercury were actually given to me for free on the same forum where I purchased Devil's Third for such a great price. They were sent my way from another user who I had previously sent a fair few freebies to, proving that the community spirit I spoke about in another post is alive and well. Mercury is something I have certainly been intrigued by for a while since I do enjoy unique puzzle games for the PSP. As for Buzz, I have never played a game in the series and don't really "do" quiz games in general but it does look like it might be fun so I will give it a shot. For free, it would be rude not to, right?

Monday, 2 October 2017

Selling on ebay: too much of a hassle in 2017?

Bit of a different topic today but one which is perhaps still somewhat linked with gaming considering how intertwined the second hand/retro gaming market is with the worlds "number one auction site". Except that isn't strictly true anymore is it? Not the numero uno status but the "auction" part of the statement. Y'see, it's been a LONG time since ebay was actually an auction site. These days, fixed price listings (Buy It Now) are the dominant format and the site is more like an online marketplace for businesses (corporate and small scale) with less oppurtunity to snag a bargain on an auction. The knock-on effect is of course that auctions will be more fiercely contested as prospective buyers seek to avoid Buy It Now prices which are higher than they suspect an auction might sell for. I've seen this happen to the extent that auction format listings sometimes sell for more than a fixed price listing for the same item which was available at the same time. Clearly, some people just can't concede defeat!

But this isn't really a post aimed at the buying side of ebay because we've all heard and (unfortunately) probably experienced the dark side of the place: damaged items, terrible packaging, nothing received at all, lies etc. I've even received personal threats from one person for reporting them to ebay for not receiving an item.

No, this is going to be about selling on ebay. It used to be great but in 2017, not so much. The main overall issue is that ebay seems determined to force everybody down the route of being professional and business-like with an increased focus on high standards and private sellers - clearing out crap from their home perhaps - are expected to operate as if they are a business. Stricter dispatch times and the general language used by ebay (calling everything an "order" for example) are just two things that I have noticed creep in over the last few years. As far as selling privately goes, these things are counterbalanced by the fact that large amounts of monthly free listings and related promotions save you a lot of money. As long as you aren't trying to sneakily operate as a business beneath the designation of a private seller then you won't be listing loads anyway and so the bad side of ebay may not be so obvious if you aren't spending a long time there.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Playstation Round-Up #1

Cool Boarders 2 - WEP Systems/Sony/1997

"Cooooooooooool BOARDERS!!!!" That gnarly cry on the main menu may well be the coolest thing about this game. My history with Cool Boarders is pretty limited non-existent. I played the demo for Cool Boarders 3 back when the PS1 was still current and this copy of Cool Boarders 2 was only acquired as a case-swap for Soulblade since both games come with a slightly different box to regular PAL Playstation games. Anyway...I really wanted to like this game because I haven't played any snowboarding games aside from 1080 Avalanche on the Gamecube and also because there is some fucking awesome music on here that could not be any more mid-90's if it tried. Unfortunately, I found the controls for pulling off the tricks to be utterly hideous, convoluted and unresponsive. I gave it a fair bash with some downhill time trials and a few races but I quickly grew frustrated with the bloody controls. Perhaps I am missing something but I couldn't be bothered to carry on. That music though...

Gundam Battle Assault 2 - Bandai/2002

I love 2D fighting games and I love huge mechs so what shouldn't there be to like about Gundam Battle Assault 2? The sprites in this game are huge and multi-jointed, looking very impressive indeed considering that the host hardware often struggled with 2D sprite-driven fighters. Unfortunately, the game itself just isn't that exciting. First and foremost, I know nothing about Gundam so all of the plot and characters are completely lost on me. I can't hold that against the game though as that's a bit unfair. What IS a fair piece of criticism is the slow speed of the thing and extremely limited pool of moves for each character. I randomly picked "Gundam Wing" (as it was a suit that I recognised the name of and looked cool) and managed to clear the story mode by using the same few moves and spamming a (admittedly awesome-looking) massive laser super move as much as possible. This combined with an extremely unsophisticated moveset really failed to grip me and I couldn't see myself wanting to play this again. Definitely a pretty game that's worth seeing in action but whether you want to pay the £10+ that a PAL copy typically sells at for the privilege is another question. Gundam fans might be able to look past the flaws however.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

My Videogame Soundtrack Collection

Many times, I have mentioned that I really value the music and art of videogames. Sometimes I find these things more interesting than actually playing the games themselves but I digress. Like a lot of gamers, I listen to gaming music on Youtube all the time but there's something extra special about hunting down a physical soundtrack CD for your collection. Typically there are two barriers to buying these sorts of CD's.

Firstly, they tend to be import-only so obtaining them from Japan via places like ebay is usually the only option. The other issue is that they can be expensive! Naturally, soundtrack CD's are a little specialist so they aren't often produced in huge quantities like general, commercial CD's which quickly become worthless and are printed numerous times, always being available from somewhere. You also have to consider that game music (especially for older stuff) isn't readily available from the likes of itunes or other digital music vendors so unless you are going to download the music or torrent it from somewhere, an imported CD is sometimes the only legit method of treating your ears to some great tunes.

I personally think that it's all a matter of perception with people seeing a CD that costs more than £10 and believing that it isn't worth it just because it is a CD and CD's rarely retail for more than £10 brand-new in the charts. The point that they are missing is that soundtrack CD's aren't mass-produced and actually have collectable value to them. It's the same for a lot of movie soundtracks too. For all intents and purposes, they are a completely different product.

I don't have a big collection of videogame soundtracks myself but I do really appreciate them and am always after more as and when funds permit. Here is what I have so far...

Tekken 2 Strike Fighting Vol.1 + Vol.2

These two CD's contain all of the arranged music from Tekken 2, one of my all-time favourite games. The arranged OST for this game was simply stunning with each theme being distinct, atmospheric and memorable. This was Namco's sound team on a real high and it sadly went downhill from here. Tekken 3 was decent and while the following sequels all had a few standout tracks, the OST's as overall products never impressed me quite as much.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Collection Downsizing

I suppose a lot of gamers have been here: that stage when you take a look at your collection one day and wonder to yourself, "what is the point of all of these games?". It's perhaps something that a collector might not see but as somebody who buys games with the intention to play them, it is inevitable that the amount of time required to get through them all will - at some point - suddenly become apparent. It's a bit of a reality check and if you are the kind of gamer who is fine with the excess because it's a) a collection and it doesn't really matter if you play everything or b) you would just rather that the games be there in case you suddenly fancy playing them then I guess you may not see the big deal.

Personally, there are a number of reasons that totally justify a major downsize for me. Those reasons being:
  1. Storage Space - Games take up a lot of room. I'm not the kind of person who believes in simply creating/finding more storage to house more stuff. It's a get out of a jail free card and doesn't encourage any sort of focus. I have two shelves (two rows deep), multiple crates rammed with stuff and other random bits everywhere. It's too much and I want to aim for a bit more minimalism with things in correct places and no more having games and consoles stacked up anywhere just because I can.
  2. Money - I could do with the money for other things and when I have games sitting around that are worth decent money and I don't think I will get around to playing them then it's time to cash in.
  3. Materialism - Recently, I have taken a good, hard look at a few aspects of life and realised how unimportant "stuff" really is. We are all materialistic to an extent and - exceptional circumstances aside - I believe that it would be impossible to fully cast it away but I don't think it's healthy and I would much rather put more of myself into the 'real' things that matter rather than pursuing more material goods that won't make me happy. We're getting a bit deep here but stay with me - please.
  4. Time - As mentioned in the intro to this post, there simply isn't the time to play and complete all of these games, especially when my time is increasingly being consumed by other things. Owning lots of huge time-sinks doesn't really make so much sense with that considered.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

The importance of gaming forums/communities

Let us begin with the obvious: forums in general (not just those dedicated to gaming) are dying, being starved of fresh blood and contributions by the almighty killer that is Social Media. The likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have become the go-to places for people to discuss anything or keep tabs on people/companies that interest them but today I want to talk about forums and the communities that they nurture. I bring this up now because I felt that it was a worthwhile topic to promote given how I recently received a fair few games for free from people on forums - people I have never met in real life and may never do - who have displayed incredible generosity and selflessness in giving stuff away to those they consider would get more use out of it. I'm not just talking cheap things either: I've received no end of stuff that the sender could have easily sold on the likes of ebay for decent money but instead, they saw somebody who might enjoy it and decided to spread the love. For this, I am extremely appreciative and so I want to talk about why such communities are good for the gaming scene.

Just like social media platforms, forums are full of people which means - also like social media - there will always be some utter dicks, trolls, keyboard warriors waving their "huge" virtual penises around and people you will simply never gel with. I want to open with this in case anybody is rolling their eyes and expecting me to praise the pants off forums while slating the likes of Facebook. The truth is, I haven't used Facebook since 2011-ish so while I have heard of gaming discussion groups of selling groups dedicated to gaming, I don't know what the scene is like over there which means I am unable to pass judgment. I have however spent rather too much time on gaming forums over the years so feel qualified to point out the positives and big them up. I have been a member of a fair few in that time and will attempt to list them in the order I joined...

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

My opinion on the Photobucket meltdown

I suppose this isn't very much a gaming-related subject but since I've largely used the free image-hosting site, Photobucket, for uploading pictures of games to forums and such, I thought it was at least semi-relevant. The way it worked is that anybody could sign up and have access to a certain amount of free image hosting (10GB last time I checked) with greater storage and options costing money via a subscription. You could also purchase prints of people's photos through the site but I imagine that the majority of Photobucket's revenue would have come from the ads (as is typical of a lot of sites offering services for "free").

Recently however, Photobucket did something that has outraged the internet. Essentially they placed a block on people's images displaying wherever they were linked, said images being replaced by messages informing potential viewers that the owner had to upgrade their account if they wanted their photos to display correctly. Such a move was of course an irritation for anybody using Photobucket casually but it was worse for anybody who had hundreds (or even thousands) of images linked to money-making websites or blogs. Not everybody can afford their own web-hosting or knows how to go about it after all so a site like Photobucket became the perfect solution over the years. However, by becoming reliant on it, users suddenly found their images effectively being held to ransom by the site. You COULD download everything in bulk from your account to retrieve it but from what I have heard, the process was slow and glitchy and had to be performed in small chunks.