WANTED: Your Housing Experiences And Opinions

THE PITCH
Housing is becoming a big problem within the UK. There are more people than there are homes, a ridiculous amount of people claiming Housing Benefit to claim their rent, record numbers of homeless living on our streets, “slumlords” and Estate Agents cashing-in on people’s desperation, and of course the Housing Benefit restrictions now coming into play.

I want to write about all of these things, and more.

WHY?
I want to spread awareness of the positives, and more importantly, the negatives. The aim is that people will read the facts, figures, and opinions that I will be writing about, and they will be inspired to take action, partaking in charity campaigns, signing petitions, etc, to try and fight back against the difficulties I will be writing about.

MY INSPIRATION
I have been inspired by my own recent experiences and those of my friends and family, changes being made to the system, and by fellow journalist Lord Matt of Thanet Star (see ‘Further Reading’ below) who recently blogged about housing problems in Thanet, where we reside.

I can really see this being a series of articles, rather than just one. There are a lot of things to be covered!

HOW YOU CAN HELP
I am writing an article regarding landlords, estate agents, Housing Benefit, council housing, etc, etc, etc, and I want YOUR experiences, YOUR facts and figures, YOUR opinions, YOUR say.

This is going to be a big project, I am going to be speaking to members of the public both employed and on benefits, several councils about their housing policies, estate agencies, etc, etc, etc.

Please, if you have anything at all to say on the topic, no matter how small, no matter where in the UK you live, no matter your circumstances, let me know.

Comment, or email me (contact at illisia dot co dot uk, or via my FaceBook) in confidence (nothing you say will be used without prior consent).

Thank you in advance for your help.

FURTHER READING / REFERENCES
Stamping Out Rogue Landlords In Thanet
Is Thanet Ready For The Immigration Of People On Benefits?

Mind Controlled Gaming Is Possible: Kickstart It!

Kickstart A Multiplayer Psychic Combat Simulator!

I posted earlier today regarding a really interesting gaming scoop that has come to my attention and, as promised, I am now going to share with you how you can be part of what could potentially be the future of interactive gaming…

The last few years has seen some major developments for console and computer gaming. Microsoft’s Kinect, Playstation’s Move, Nintento’s 3DS and most recently Wii-U, have made the seemingly impossible, possible, as the ability to use physical movement to effect gameplay, or have games become more real, “jumping out at you” and responding directly to voice commands, etc, has become a reality.

Virtual reality is another futuristic technology making the headlines and getting gamers talking, but what you probably did not know about is the obscure technology produced by NeuroSky which utilises neuro science (the science of the mind) and things called bio sensors in their peripheral product, the Mindwave, which allows software developers to create programs – and games – that respond to the way our minds work.

NeuroSky

This might be able to change the face of gaming”
– Lat Ware, Programmer for Throw Trucks With Your Mind

Lat Ware

Lat Ware, “veteran of the games industry, and the programmer-mastermind of this crazy idea”, with his prototype.

One such developer is Lat Ware, a talented gentleman who has worked on some rather prestigious titles including Star Trek Online. Lat has seen the potential of this hardware and created a prototype/Pre-Beta game entitled ‘Throw Trucks With Your Mind’ and tested it on some of his fellow gamers to see how it fared, the feedback for which has been so positive that he decided to quit his job (!), and risk everything to Kickstart it into reaching its true potential. You can watch his “pitch” for funding below, and see footage of the existing product which he is expanding upon.

The basic premise and mechanics of the game are simple. The game is a “Multiplayer Psychic Combat Simulator”, the first of its kind in the world, which pits users against each other, or AI (intelligent computer generated players), by interacting with the world around them. There are no guns, swords, or any weapons whatsoever, except your mind. Your mind picks up objects, and combats or defends with them.

How? Users wear the Mindwave, which actually measures their level of calm and concentration much in the same way that a lie detector senses lies, and how you measure on these scales directly effects your gameplay. Players move around the world and select powers with a standard keyboard and mouse. Actions can – or cannot – then be completed, dependent on your ability to control your mind. For example, you can lift things with your calm and then you throw them with your focus.

It is easy to see how critics and fans have drawn comparison with the Jedi powers of Star Wars.

Character designs

Throw Trucks With Your Mind will be compatible with both Windows and Mac computers, will be a light-hearted, amusing thirty-six person multiplayer experience, and include game modes such as ‘Capture The Fridge’, ‘King Of The Hill’ and ‘Hunt The Hunters’.

The Mindwave headset is a $79.99 (there are Australian and European shops as well, but please be aware of currency conversion, Shipping & Handling costs and possible importation fees) compulsory purchase in order to play the game, but once you own it there are dozens, if not hundreds of games, utilities and Apps available to download – both free or purchased – with it, and if you are a games developer yourself, you have a new piece of hardware to experiment with…

Throw Trucks With Your Mind Limited Edition Kickstarter Poster

$15 minimum donations receive a copy of this Limited Edition poster

Kickstarters get some impressive incentives for contributing funding, from something as simple as Special Thanks ($5 minimum) in the game credits to free Mindwave headsets ($125 minimum) to actually being able to have your own objects ($200 minimum) or character designs ($1,000 minimum) included in the finished product!

The target has already been reached, but beyond the minimum funding are “Stretch Goals”, including extra game modes and online matchmaking, so the more money gained for this software, the better the end product.

Funding for the Kickstarter Campaign ends on March 14th, so if you want to become part of what looks like gaming history in the making, get funding and Share, Share, Share!

Further Reading
The Kickstarter Campaign for the game, with promotional video and lots of information about the game
Throw Trucks With Your Mind Is The Best Star Wars Game Ever, a Venture Beat article about a fan’s experience with the prototype (warning: explicit words contained within)
Mind Games: Using Brain Waves To Play A Video Game, an article from The Los Angeles Times about the game’s prototype, as told from the perspective of a ten year old gamer’s father

Image Credit
NeuroSky’s FaceBook
The Kickstarter Campaign
Venture Beat

If You Build It, They Will Come…

Today I logged into my professional email account, and I find a message in my Inbox from a games developer with a Kickstarter Campaign that he wanted to tell me about, in the hopes that I would give him coverage.

This is a really big step towards becoming a professional, and I am really excited by this.

My next professional milestones will be when a fan emails me in a “tip” or request, when publishers, distributors, etc start giving me games, films, books, etc (hopefully in advance of release) to consider reviewing, and of course, when one of my reviews or articles is quoted in an external source.

Kickstarter Logo

The best part is that the Kickstarter Campaign is a really unique concept and I am very interested in writing about it and informing my readers of it. In his own words:

“This might be able to change the face of gaming.”

So, three guesses what I am finding the time to type up today…

Variety Is The Spice Of Life

Worry not, non-gamers, I have not forgotten about you. There will be plenty of Blog Posts, photographs on my Facebook and website, articles and reviews, etc, in the coming weeks that are nothing to do with games.

Games have been a prominent part of my Blog of late due to GEEK 2013, so I have been aiming many of my Posts at that target market.

But, for fans of other media, photography, and more serious journalism, on the way I have

  • The Sci-Fi Weekender Reports, photographs and over-all Review
  • Photographs
    • Snowy shoots
    • Animals and Wildlife shoots
    • People/Modelling shoots
  • Reviews
    • Film
    • Games
    • Television
  • Articles

So, please bare with me. There is more to Illisia Adams than simply gaming!

Success!

I just noticed, I have succeeded in one of my short-term goals, having posted an update to my Blog seven days in a row.

And, as the research suggests, I am indeed feeling more motivated and more able to continue in my long-term goal of becoming a professional*, aka “earn money from my journalism and photography”.

So, on to my next targets…

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.