Target(s) Update

Last month I posted a list of short-term goals to push me towards my long-term goal of becoming a professional, to “earn money from my journalism and photography”.

A few weeks later, and I have not actually succeeded in any of the tasks that I set myself, admittedly, but I have in several rather important others, and I am working my way slowly towards the rest.

Progress on existing goals

  • “Gain 200 Likes on my FaceBook Page”
    I am almost at the one-hundred milestone, halfway to that goal. With two very large conventions on the way in the coming weeks and business cards aplenty to hand out, I am hoping that will bring me many more Fans…
  • “Update website to have price list, references, etc, to encourage potential paid work”
    I am currently redesigning my website to do that, and more.

New goals I am now setting myself are

  • “Update the Blog seven days in a row.”
    This goal was born from the fact that, this week, I have updated three days (four, as of this Post) in a row. So why not push myself for a full week?
  • “Complete three Challenges set by my FaceBook Fans”
    I posted a request for “challenges” a couple of weeks back, and there has been a good response so far. It will be good practice, and set me on-track for working outside of my comfort zone and to targets, etc.
    Would you like to challenge me? View the FaceBook Post here, Comment with a suggestion below, or Tweet me.

And, with two conventions scheduled and potential (non-paid) “gigs”, that New Year’s Resolution is coming along quite nicely…

Need For Speed: The Run Xbox 360

Introduction
I rather ashamedly completely forgot to post this! This review was finished in August, my apologies.

Review

NEED FOR SPEED: THE RUN
a “newbie” racing game player tries the newest addition to the “NFS” franchise

There are three very important things that you need to know about me before reading this review. The first, that I know nothing whatsoever about cars. The second, that I have played very few racing games, and completed none. The third, that this is my first playthrough of any Need For Speed game. These three things are rather important because they are the basis for my review.

Is Need For Speed: The Run suitable for a “newbie” racing gamer? Or is it designed only for the more established fan of the genre? Read on to find out…

– – – –

Racing games are not usually to my taste, but I was recommend this particular addition to the “NFS” franchise by the media, fans and friends, so I made a point of renting it to see whether it would, indeed, be the racing game that would bring me into the fold.

It was not.

– – – –

The first thing that I noticed about this game is that I enjoyed the concept a great deal. On first observation, the idea of racing from one end of the country to the other through various terrains, fighting through hundreds of other racers to win is a very intriguing, exciting one.

The plot, as well, seems to really addition to this excitement, with cut scenes that have the main character literally racing for his life, because the mob, who he owes a tidy fortune, want him dead. This gives reason for a challenging addition to the gameplay wherein there are races that feature cars, and even helicopters, that possess gun power to slow you down, or, ultimately, knock you out of the race for good, and “interactive cut scenes” that really pick up the pace.

All of this is well and good, were it not for the fact that, rather than being one really long race with “checkpoints”, this game is instead a collection of dozens of races that require you to pass a certain number of racers to reach a certain overall race position, to “make up time” (which is essentially a “Time Trial” mode), or to defeat Boss racers one-on-one. They really missed a trick here, as I am certain that one really long race would have made the game stand out from the crowd. As-is, however, it just seems like a cheap gimmick that ultimately fails to work, because, once the game is over, you are left saying to yourself “was that it?”, with a rather unfinished plot and a game that seems all too short.

– – – –

The second thing that I notice, which makes me wonder whether this was in fact a “rushed release”, is that the Cut Scenes, and even during gameplay itself, the graphics are very pixelated. I felt many times as though I were playing a game on my Playstation 1 rather than my “Next Generation” Xbox 360 console. Considering the funding that the Need For Speed franchise possesses, this was a huge disappointment. It felt lazy.

Cut Scenes not “skippable”, including the rather lengthy one at the very start of the game, so, if you plan on playing through the game more than once, be prepared for that irritation. You should also be prepared for the fact that, should your wireless controller run out of battery in the middle of a race, the game will not pause, which, from my experience, is a major cause of crashing and general race failures.

Another major “gripe” is that the “Auto Log”, a part of gameplay included in all the newest Need For Speed games, no matter how I tried to fix it, and even a full month after its release, failed to work for me, or my friends who also played. The Leaderboards were inconsistent, sometimes Friends failed to even appear on them at all, and there were tasks that, once completed, failed to actually be marked as so…

– – – –

This game may be full of faults, but, if you are someone who enjoys competitive play, it does have one saving grace, and that is its online multiplayer. I was not able to play online for long, but the few games that I did play I found to be quite exciting and varied.

It has its faults, of course. No online multiplayer is perfect. The first game that I played, I was put into the race on the final lap, in last place! I am not sure why they included the option to enter mid-race, as to me it seems to be irritating and pointless. Another problem is how easy it is to be thrown from the track by other players. From what I hear, most racing games have a system in place to ease the gameplay, but here, you have to be prepared for the brutal nature of the system, it takes no prisoners.

Those factors aside, there are many different modes, or “Playlists” to explore, including team ones, and with the end of each match there is a “Bonus Wheel” to be spun which can reward you with new cars, bonus Experience Points, or even certain Achievements, so there is plenty of variety and fun to be had for the competitive player, but only online, as there is no split-screen offline multiplayer.

– – – –

Another thing that saves this game is its “Challenge” mode. As you race through the Campaign, you unlock new areas and new challenges to play through in this mode, which rewards you with cars and Experience Points that will help you in the Campaign, as well as Leaderboards and “Autolog Recommends” additions that allow for lots of replayability that is non-existent in the Campaign itself.

I did, however, find the Challenge mode to be inconsistent in its difficulty. With the Campaign, you have different Difficulties to play through, whereas with the Challenge mode, every challenge must be taken as-is. For an inexperienced player such as myself, this was a real problem for some of the races and Time Trials (etc). A prime example of this was that one of the earliest challenges is one that requires the use of some of the fastest cars in the game, whereas in the Campaign I had only been racing rather slowly at the point where I had unlocked that Challenge, so I found myself constantly crashing and “spinning out” or off of the track from shear lack of experience. Surely the Challenge mode should only challenge me with races appropriate for what I have learned in the Campaign? Apparently they assumed that this game is only going to be played by gamers who are not new to “NFS”, or indeed racing games.

This games inclusion of “Rewind”, where you can travel back to the last Checkpoint if you have made any mistakes, however, counters this and makes it very open to someone who is not as good at racing games, or even for the more experienced player.

– – – –

When comparing notes with a gamer that is more versed in racing games, and indeed the Need For Speed franchise itself, I found that, alas, he was just as disappointed as I. He, too, found it a chore to complete. He did not enjoy the online multiplayer at all, rather interestingly, in comparative to my liking that the most. It is clearly a matter of personal preference.

So, overall, alas, it would appear that this is a game that I cannot recommend for someone who is new to racing games, nor who is a fan of them. It had so much potential, but it was clearly rushed and ill thought-out so that the end product is, in all honesty, a chore to complete, has an anti-climactic ending full of plot holes, and will, ultimately, fade into memory very quickly, rather than being a game that should have stood out from the crowd.
There are clearly far better racing games out there, and though I did enjoy this one at first, by the time I was finished with it, I could not send it back in the post fast enough.

Not recommended.

Feedback
It is important that I receive feedback from my readers. I would truly appreciate any feedback at all that you can provide me. Posting comments of encouragement, or constructively critiquing my efforts. I really want to further myself as a writer and with your help I can.

Thank you.

February is a busy month!

Making up for a long absence… 

After much drought with my journalism and photography due to ill health, I have started anew in 2013, and I am flinging myself straight into the deep end, with a busy schedule of events to attend and report on, potential photography “gigs”, and a long list of articles, interviews and reviews to write up.

My New Year’s Resolution seems to be right on schedule, with the past few weeks being more productive than the past few months of work.

First on the list is spending the next couple of days typing up the interviews from Euro Gamer 2012, a long overdue task that I hope will be well worth the wait. I had the pleasure of speaking with Special Effect! about their charity who work to make computer games accessible to everyone, even those with mental and/or physical disabilities, and two young gentleman who were part of the team who’s original game won Virgin Media’s 100 Day Challenge.

This weekend is GEEK (Game Expo East Kent) 2013, a games-dedicated convention held throughout Margate, which I shall be reporting on and photographing. I hope to bring you updates at the end of each day.

The weekend after is The Sci-Fi Weekender, a residential convention held in Wales which will require a thirteen hour coach ride to travel to and cost a tidy fortune and a lot of organising to get tickets for, but will be well worth the effort. There is a very prestigious list of Guests, Talks, film showings, and even a party DJed by none other than Craig Charles, aka Lister of Red Dwarf! It will be a big task to report on, but I welcome the challenge and I hope I can share my experiences with you as-and-when they happen.

There are also plenty of artistic photographs almost ready to share with you, a couple of potential unpaid photography “gigs”, and my website, though it has been offline for several weeks now, looks as though it might (fingers crossed!) finally be fixed (“within 48 hours”).

So… A busy month indeed! I hope it will compensate for my lengthy absence and get me back on track.

Keep watching this space.

Challenge. Accepted.

Quote

“Nothing worth anything in life is ever easy”

This is something that I often say to people, and it defines the very principle by which I live my life. Life is the most worthwhile thing in the world, and is therefore the most difficult.

As I have posted about recently in my article about New Year’s Resolutions, I have suffered many personal issues this past year that have really pushed me from my path of becoming a professional journalist and photographer. Because, life is not easy.

Barney Stinson quote, How I Met Your Mother

“When I get sad, I stop being sad and be awesome instead. True story” – Barney Stinson, How I Met Your Mother

I have made it very clear to myself, my friends, my family, and my readers, that this year I have every intention of finding a balance between my personal and professional life, and earning money from my photography and journalism.

It is not going to be easy, at times it will be darned hard, but it is going to be really worthwhile. So, as Barney Stinson of the How I Met Your Mother television series has said many, many times…

“Challenge Accepted!”

I am breaking down my target into short-term, more achievable goals

  • Advertise my services
  • Gain 200 Likes on my FaceBook Page
  • Update website to have price list, references, etc, to encourage potential paid work
  • Send selection of works from photography and journalistic Portfolios to magazines and newspapers for consideration of publication
  • Brainstorm ideas and write enough “short and sweet” articles to set up the Blog to publish one every week for two months. This will develop my ability to write shorter articles and within a time limit.
  • Type up the interviews from Euro Gamer Expo 2012 and publish them
  • etc, etc, etc – more targets on the way soon!

I shall be posting updates on my progress, which you can follow in my Personal Progress Blog category, Subscribe to my updates with the ‘Stay Informed’ button on my starting page, ‘Follow’ me on my Twitter, or ‘Like’ my Fan Page on FaceBook.

If you have any comments or suggestions to help my in my task, I encourage you to Comment or Message me.

Image credit: Offset-Zero of deviantART

New Year, Fresh Start

Introduction
Irony can be quite harsh! I initially wrote this article at the very start of the new year, but, thanks to a huge influx of personal problems, I am only now posting it, which is precisely what the topic is about: my New Year’s Resolution to balance my personal life and my professional efforts.

So, it would appear that thus far, I am not succeeding very well in my task, but, here is my article, finished, and published. A start, though a delayed one, is better than no start at all.

Thank you all for your patience.

Article

NEW YEAR, FRESH START
a history lesson and a fresh perspective on new year’s resolutions

– – – –

When I initially started this Blog in March 2012, I had made a decision to pursue my dream of becoming a professional journalist and photographer. I was determined that my move to Margate, a fresh start in and of itself, would be the push in the right direction that I needed. A new place, new people and plenty to write about and photograph.

Whilst those first few months were relatively productive, I found that my personal life was holding me back. My suffering poor health and having family and friends in turmoil, my writing and photography was taken almost to an utter halt, made a secondary priority, essentially, to life. But, the longer I went without posting, the more I realised how much I truly missed it, how much I truly needed it.

– – – –

Having thought long and hard about this dilemma, of the “pros and cons” of attempting to balance journalism and photography with a stress-filled personal life and poor health, I have now, ironically in the month of January which is considered worldwide as the beginning of a new year and a fresh start, decided that it is of the utmost importance that I return to my passions, to start anew what I began last year.

So, with the timing of my fresh start falling on the New Year, you would not be mistaken if you considered it to be a form of New Year’s Resolution, one that aims for me to have a healthy balance between my personal and professional lives, and begins with me spending days of researching facts and figures on the history of this worldwide tradition to inspire me, and my readers, to embrace it..

– – – –

New Year is a tradition dating back hundreds, if not thousands of years which originates from dozens of cultures and historical civilisations. It is believed that it was Julius Caesar of the Roman Empire who first suggested that the year begin on January 1st, in honour of the Roman God Janus, after which the month was named. This was all the way back in 46 BC, but it was not until 1752 AD that the Britons adopted the Gregorian Calendar, with its twelve month cycle ending in December and beginning in January. Prior to this, we actually celebrated our New Year as “Lady Day”, believed to be the day when Mary, Jesus’ mother, was informed of her son’s coming birth, on March 25th.

The tradition of New Year’s Resolutions can also be traced back just as far, if not further, although what was considered the start of each year was different. The ancient Babylonians and the Romans began their calendar year by making promises to their Gods, and the Knights of the Mediaeval era took “The Peacock Vow” at the end of Christmas each year to re-affirm their commitment to their code of chivalry, to name but a few examples. It is unknown as to when or how the modern, international tradition of New Year’s Resolutions came to happen, however.

– – – –

Interestingly enough, New Year’s Day is quite possibly the only global Public Holiday, even though many countries have their own unique calendars for their national faith or heritage. This fact literally brings the world together, breaking down all boundaries of skin colour, sex, country of residence, religion, or culture, and that is a truly beautiful thing.

So, why is it that the majority of people fail to succeed in the goal that they set upon themselves? In recent surveys it has been discovered that eighty-eight percent of UK residents that were questioned had failed in their prior year’s goal. Surveyed Americans fared even worse. With these negative statistics, many people would not be blamed for taking a “why bother?” stance on the concept. I, however, prefer to have a “glass half full” perspective.

– – – –

These same studies show that, though many failed, there were very valid reasons as to why. They set themselves unrealistic, almost unachievable goals, or far too broad ones. “Lose weight”, “get fit”, “get a job”, these are all achievable, but more difficult to reach because of the lack of specifics or their long term nature. One is far more likely to succeed in one’s goal by setting smaller, more realistic tasks, or step-by-step lifestyle changes to achieve it, such as losing a certain amount of weight each month, or changing ones diet. This should, in theory, create a regular, positive feeling of achievement in the person, compared to the dragging negativity that results from many months of supposed failure.

Further examination of studies into New Year’s Resolutions shows us that there are also distinct differences between how each sex succeeds in their tasks. Men are more successful when they broke down their resolution into smaller, more achievable goals, whereas women found more success when they made their goals public and drew on the support of friends and family.

– – – –

I have decided, for my New Year’s Resolution to succeed, it needs to combine everything that I have learned. My resolution must be clear and concise, broken down over the year into smaller, more achievable goals, and shared with my friends and family so that I can gander support and advice throughout my efforts.

So, my overall resolution for the year, though originally something such as “pursue journalism professionally” or “Blog more”, has moulded itself into “earn money from my journalism and photography”, through smaller weekly or monthly goals such as “reach 200 Likes on my FaceBook Page” and “send Portfolio to magazines to consider for publication”, the progress for which I will be sharing through social networking.

– – – –

The facts and theories are sound. Whether, however, they work in practice, remains to be seen. Perhaps, this time next year, I shall be writing a follow-up article of my personal experiences and conclusions on the topic. Only time shall tell…

In the meanwhile, I leave you all with my findings, and hopefully, the inspiration to take them in your own stride and embrace this new perspective on a very old tradition. Will you, as I have, set yourself a New Year’s Resolution this year, and try to see it through? Comment and discuss…

Further Reading
The Mental Health Foundation’s guide to New Year’s Resolutions
Wiki-How’s guide to succeeding in New Year’s Resolutions
US New Year’s Resolutions statistics, updated in December of 2012
An interesting article on the history of New Year’s Resolutions
The History Channel’s history of New Year’s Resolutions

Feedback
It is important that I receive feedback from my readers. I would truly appreciate any feedback at all that you can provide me. Posting comments of encouragement, or constructively critiquing my efforts. I really want to further myself as a writer and with your help I can.

Thank you.

Writers On Writing

Quote

posted a Blog with quotes and facts regarding many published writers’ setbacks before publication. I have had such positive feedback and so many views for the aforementioned post that I have decided to expand upon the theme.

Today I am posting quotes from writers with regards to their art. I hope that you enjoy reading them and that they make you smile and they inspire you as much as they did me.

FICTION

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”
– Douglas Adams

“You don’t become a writer because you want to. You become a writer because you have to. Because – and I court double nagatives here – you cannot not become a writer. It’s the only way to quell, however temporarily, the voices in your head that demand you become their vessel.”

– Peter David

JOURNALISM

“And I believe that good journalism, good television, can make our world a better place.”
– Christiane Amanpour

“I still believe that if your aim is to change the world, journalism is a more immediate short-term weapon.”
– Tom Stoppard

GENERAL

“Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
Never use a long word where a short one will do.
If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
Never use the passive where you can use the active.
Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English
equivalent.
Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.”

– George Orwell

Nothing in life worth anything is easy, and writing is priceless, to both word smith and reader.

Keep on writing, and perhaps someday something you say will be written down and quoted to writers in the years to come…

Further Reading
More examples of quotes from various writers about their art can be found on this website and this website.
The Peter David quote was taken from his published work, Writing For Comics With Peter David

Lots of big changes

So, it has been a month since my last update, and though I apologise for this drought in my Blog Entries, I have good reason – I have been very busy!

First and foremost, I now have a website. Do please visit it here where you can browse my Photograph Portfolio, read about my work, and even book me (currently no charge) for a shoot or an event.

Secondly, I have been planning my trip to this year’s Euro Gamer Expo, a huge convention held at Earl’s Court in the centre of London celebrating computer games. I am taking my camera and my dictation machine, the result of which is that I plan to report on the event on this very Blog at the end of each day. So, if you are interested in computer games news, or you are considering attending the event and want to know if it is worth it, “stay tuned”.

Thirdly, I have several exciting photoshoots that I have been planning, but I am keeping my ideas top secret 😉

So, in the coming weeks, expect this Blog to be very, very fruitful, but in the meanwhile, my most sincere apologies for the wait.