Author: John Pawson


The Quotable – March Writing Prompt Contest

March 18, 2013

So, I’ve entered the writing prompt contest for March on the Quotable (

The concept is to write a 100 word micro-story based on the prompt provided. In this instance a visual prompt of Greek characters, and a quote: “…it was Greek to me.” – William Shakespeare.

There’s currently only one other entrant, so its not exactly the most highly contested or sought after of competitions, but the prize for the victor isn’t to be sniffed at – entry into a competition to win a copy of the Quotable, and publication in the Summer 2013 edition (a publishing credit).

The rules are simple – the entries are written as comments to the initial contest post. Visitors to the page can give a thumbs up to the entry that they like the most. The entry with the most thumbs up at the end of the month wins.

So if anyone actually ever lands on this blog, please do me the honour of giving me a big thumbs up on the contest page! 

What’s more, the prompt has actually worked and got me thinking about a potential story running off the back of the 100 words I’ve entered!


I have Skyrim… or is it the other way round?

October 11, 2012

Well once again I’ve failed to keep up with my blogging… I could make up an excuse of course – perhaps I’ve taken an arrow to the knee, or been Fus Ro Dah’d (or however its spelt). The truth is – I have gotten Skyrim… or rather Skyrim has gotten me. Here comes the review…

As a fan of RPG’s since I first picked up the SNES controller and battled through Zelda: A Link to the Past, I was excited to get my hands on the 5th entry into the Elder Scrolls series – the first that I have played.

My wood elf dude.

From the outset I’ve loved it – unfortunately my wood elf character didn’t end up looking quite as cool as he could’ve done, but I was chomping at the bit to get on with it, so character creation was a fairly quick affair, and besides, its not like there’s a lot of looking at his face either way.

After nearly having my head cut off, and the brief built in tutorial (all too brief) I was on my way. Being a virgin to Elder Scrolls meant I wanted to follow the dude that had helped me get away from that Dragon all the way home, so I did. And then I realised how huge, how flexible and how utterly bewildering I was going to find Skyrim – at first, the sheer size of the map worried me, and the lack of clear definition as to what I should be doing next made me wonder if this was the type of game for me after all.

I had previously owned Fallout 3, and after sort of enjoying it for a while – grabbing hold of story strands and clinging on for dear life in case I should get side-tracked – I eventually gave up on it… my character, a would be goody two shoes, ACCIDENTALLY killed someone in plain sight of some other NPC’s (that is to say, I planned to kill them, but that other guy should have just stayed asleep and we could’ve all carried on our lives as normal) and unfortunately my wish to keep my save files nice and tidy, my idiocy to not think ahead, and an unfortunate autosave/save corruption happening all at once meant I could not clean my virtually bloodstained hands by simply reloading a previous save – perhaps a lesson that we should all take heed of kids – in real life, some things can never be undone!

Anyway, I simply couldn’t be bothered to carry on; after being a saint, saving lives, whole townships, I was – after one act of witnessed criminality (fair enough, murder) – deemed an outcast. Anyway, I gave it up then, I’d had enough.

I became quickly worried that Skyrim could end up going the same way… thankfully, so far so good, and I’ve got to say, its one of the most in-depth, compelling and “just one more dungeon” inducing games I’ve ever played.

That said, the number of quests currently in my log of things to do is a little bit ridiculous, and I’ve already forgotten who has assigned most of them. The important thing of course is that those that I am enjoying I understand and keep track off, but if I had one criticism its that there’s almost too much thrown at you all at once – I literally don’t know how people keep track of it all.

The only other tiny little issue I have with it is the whole crafting thing… I understand a lot of people want to do that sort of crap in a game, but to me, playing a game like this should be about doing exciting things – slaying dragons, performing magic, silently wiping out whole enemy strongholds – not repeatedly making  weapons and armour for hours on end so you can raise a skill to give you the best goodies in the game – its just not for me – for one thing I don’t have that sort of time to waste. Unfortunately that limits my character to using all the bits and pieces that I pick up along the way instead – which apparently aren’t as good as the ones you can make. Never mind.

These niggles aside, the game has provided a great level of flexibility, and the sheer size of the game world has gone from a daunting prospect to an interesting and varied challenge. From bears jumping out of abandoned houses, to the occasional Dragon popping up and trying to incinerate you, it really feels like a world that you’d have trouble surviving in for too long, which helps make the sheer distances you have to travel all the more interesting. I do wish that the Dragon’s would just land a lot of the time so I could cut their heads off and get on with it… desperately shooting arrow after arrow at them in the hope they’ll notice you and “have a go” does get a bit tiresome.

I still feel that I’m barely into the storyline yet – I’ve taken a long break from what I’d consider the main plot and gone off to become a thief, assassin and various other guises (did someone say werewolf!?) in the factions and guilds you can join. In between times, plenty of people have asked me to clear out this bandit camp or go and collect this particular ingredient and I’ve got a list as long as my bowstring of incomplete miscellaneous tasks… I’ll get to them all in the end I’m sure (?)

I’m playing on whatever the standard difficulty is (adept maybe?) and have found it about right in terms of the challenge. My guy’s only at level 24 so still not too far into it, but already is becoming something of an expert in sneaking about, stabbing people through the back and then sneaking off again afterwards.
Or sneaking about, shooting them from a distance, then waiting for their buddies to go take a look at why Jimbob has taken a lie down with an arrow through his throat, only to then assist them in joining him in said lie down. Either way, its nice to feel superior to a bunch of programmed pixels, and the learning curve and skill levelling system has been rewarding, and not over the top.

Anyway, I’m sure I will continue to play for a long time to come. I do love it when you know will see you through until the next big release – no matter when that will be.

So far, I’m giving Skyrim a nice juicy 9 out of 10.

Teachers comment would read: Inspired creativity, a compelling, intriguing and epic piece… just please don’t let the lines between reality and fantasy blur, for all our sakes.


In the market for an RPG – where to start?

July 6, 2012

Well the title says it all really… I’m looking to get myself a decent RPG for the PS3 (yes, PC gamers, they DO exist) and I’m not sure where to start – there seems to be so many to choose from!

I’m leaning toward Oblivion or Skyrim at the moment – I love how deeply customisable everything appears to be (though this is just off of others reviews etc) and this is one aspect of RPG games that I love.

But I’ve also heard good things about Demon Souls, Dark Souls, Dragon’s Dogma, Kingdoms of Amalur and a whole bunch of others.

I’ve played the demo of Dragon’s Dogma, and have to say from what I could get out of it, it seemed like great fun. The thing that puts me off are those weird “Pawn” things that have no backstory but accompany you… they just seem a bit odd and I fear could disjoint the story somewhat?

I also downloaded the demo of Kingdoms of Amalur, and while I did find it entertaining, it seemed a little “fairytale” like. Graphics were bright and colourful, and the main race that I seemed to encounter looked like cutesy garden gnomes… Now, I’m a big fan of the xbox Fable series, which was of a similar style, but that just had something else – the humour, the all-star cast and the fact that it’s made by the people that brought us the Black and White games just gives it that edge.

I’ve played Fallout 3, but I’m in the mood for some old school middle-earth-like RPGing, rather than post-apocalyptic FPSRPG-ing. And besides, I had sort of liked Fallout 3, wasn’t in love with it, but was trying to play through as a good guy, accidently misinterpreted an objective, shot a civilian and then was outcast – my game’s save was overwritten and a good deal of hours gameplay (in my eyes) was wasted.

Oh I’ve also completed Mass Effect 1 on the xbox, but not sure I’m all that into it. It’s pretty much Star Wars but without lightsabers… so what’s the point?

Here’s what I’m after

  1. Decent player customisation
  2. Genuniely interesting story (if it has 200 hours of playable time, but all the missions are “run here, kill this thing, get a reward” and not cleverly disguised, I can’t be arsed)
  3. Good controls and varied combat
  4. Good graphics and soundtrack would be a bonus

Will Oblivion/Skyrim meet these criteria? Are there any others to consider? HEEEEELP!

If anyone out there in the inter-world is reading this, please post your comments below and help me figure out what to go for!


The Woman In Black

June 25, 2012

We went to watch the woman in black on stage on Saturday night at the fortune theatre. I had heard that it was pretty scary and cleverly done, so really looked forward to it. Thankfully it didn’t disappoint.

the woman in blackThe story begins quite slowly – the main character, an older man and retired solicitor has sought the help of a young actor to help him to tell his story – a true story from his younger days that he feels he must tell his family in order to purge himself of it and finally put it to rest. These two men will play out the entire story with the young actor taking on the main character’s role and the older (whose story it is) playing out all those that he met on his journey. The tone is light and comical in places to start, instilling a false sense of security. Hearing the story through the actors in this way is a little jarring to begin as you feel yourself getting into the actual story just as it is stopped abruptly for the actors to discuss how they are acting it out. But again this all adds to the suspense and intrigue.

I won’t go into much more detail about the actual story than that, as I wouldn’t want to write any spoilers. But what I will say is that the lighting and sound effects were fantastic, the woman in black herself was very scary and moved as though she was floating.You could feel the suspense building around the entire room, as people held their breath and waited for whatever the next shock would be – and it didn’t get stale; I for one was unable to guess where the woman in black would appear next.

At times you felt everyone in the audience physically and audibly jump. My wife in fact threw her water in shock at one point – the man sat on her other side was very forgiving, thankfully.

I know I’ve not gone into much detail here, but let’s face it no-one likes to know the ending of these sort of things. A really great evening – a fantasticly spooky and jump-filled performance. I would suggest to anyone to go and see it – but make sure you take a friend with you.


Worms 2: Armageddon iOS – quick review

June 19, 2012

Worms ArmageddonWorms. As soon as I hear this word I don’t think of gooey, long, thin things that slide around in soil and get stuck onto hooks as bait. No, I think of a few pink pixels, holding a few dark green pixels blowing kingdom come out of other sets of pink pixels on a randomly generated landscape. I was a big fan of the original worms game way back when, and subsequently of a number of its sequels – Worms Armageddon for PC was a particular favourite of mine. I’ve known about the iOS versions of these fantastic blow ’em ups since before getting my iPhone but, as with all things Appy, I have a reluctance to spend money on something that I can’t physically hold – I’m a bit old fashioned like that I guess! Anyway, not long back the price  for Worms 2 Armaegeddon plummeted to 69p, and I thought that it was high time I gave it a go…

Though I’ve not yet completed the campaign mode I thought it was time for the review. I’ve found it a mixed bag. Part of me loves it – the conversion to iOS seems not to have taxed the graphics, soundtrack and customisation options, which all impress, as does the increasing level of difficulty that gives newer players a chance to get up to speed.

Worms armageddon - performing the backflip
Performng the elusive backflip

But part of me is just not sure – there’s no tutorial, meaning controls are something left mainly to guesswork. The weapons aren’t introduced at all – most of them are clear if you’ve had some previous Worms experience, but some are a little obscure, and to find out how they work, you have to enter the inventory and hold down over the icon you’re interested in. This wastes precious move time, which I’ve found occassionally to be a real problem (You could always spend time in practice mode/quick games and try out all the weapons, but I just wanted to jump in)

Controls is something that needs to be discussed. A number of times, I’ve been 3-4 worms up, with the final enemy worm on less than 20 health points, only for each of my turns to send my own worms diving to oblivion or blowing themselves up out of seeming ineptitude. As it happens, I believe the controls are largely to blame more often than not. Jumping, back-flipping, ninja-roping and jet-packing are all very much a hit and miss affair. You build up confidence of control over these movements for a while, only to end up drowning yourself the very next time you go to hop over a barrell. Before long you’ll be finding ways to avoid making any movements at all other than where absolutely necessary, which for me cuts out some of the most fun parts of the PC version – having a turn that takes you from one side of the terrain to the other, dropping off a stick of dynamite or holy hand grenade before reaching a nice safe ledge to watch the fireworks from.

Worms Armageddon - about to be blown up
Having a boogie before being blown up

Additionally, navigating the camera around the terrain is a bit of a pain. You are limited to the area around your worm, and though you can zoom out, you can’t actually zoom far enough to see the entire play area. The zoom limit means you sometimes end up firing a little blind. For really long shots, I’ve found myself using one of the location weapons, such as airstrike of homing missle, just to get a view of further along the landscape, before switching back to my actual weapon of choice and trying to remember the exact direction and distance of the enemy. More often than not this ends in a bazooka shot just smashing into a wall or flying off into the ocean, but occasionally you end up blowing up comrades. Friendly fire – not great.

These niggles aside, the game is a lot of fun to play. Sticking headphones in and playing on the train makes the journey fly by, as your worms commentate the warzone in your chosen dialect/accent and, as mentioned above, the cute cel-shaded style graphics are great, with fantastic animations. I understand the transition of a PC keyboard/mouse setup to touchscreen must be difficult to get really intuitive controls, so I can forgive the controls to a certain degree.

Worms Armageddon - banana bomb
The ever effective banana bomb

However, I don’t understand why the camera can’t zoom out to view the entire terrain – that to me just seems lazy. The “mission complete” screen’s graphics are fuzzy, as is the App icon itself, which again just seem like laziness that I wish Team 17 would sharpen up a bit.

Multiplayer is great fun, especially since the latest update has introduced completely asynchronous, turn based play – meaning you don’t have to both be playing at the same time, think Wordfeud/Words with Friends or Draw Something. This brings a whole new dimension to multiplayer as you can play against online friends or (automatched enemies!) completely in your own time.

I’ll probably give an update once I’ve finished with campaign mode. But so far, I’m giving it a nice 7 out of 10. I can get over the issues, but maybe that’s just because I’m a huge worms fan already?

Teachers comment would read: well done, a few areas for improvement (see my notes in red) but all in all a good effort.


The Fenix has definitely Rizen…

June 15, 2012

Tenacious DFor those that don’t know, I’m a huge fan of Tenacious D. From their first album, I’ve loved the combination of Kyle’s incredible guitar playing, Jack’s incredible voice and the duo’s great in your face, often toilet humour based, comedy.

After loving their debut album I bought their Masterworks DVD, which introduced me to their HBO series that I knew nothing about… awesome. This was during my Uni days and I remember laughing hysterically with a couple of the guys when watching the episodes and the pair’s extra skits “Hey JB, what are you and KG doin’ out here in the desert” being a line that I still regularly use when I catch up with those guys.

Then, after waiting in hope, Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny arrived, and I think I might be one of the only people I know who actually liked the film – yes it’s juvenile, yes the humour is off the wall, often toilet-humour based – but that’s what the original episodes had all been about too. It wasn’t everything I’d hoped, and while there were a couple of gems on the soundtrack (Kickapoo, Car Chase City, Storm the Gates) there were also one or two real flops for me (ahem… Papagenu)

The critics tore both the film and the album apart, and if I wasn’t a fan already, it probably wouldn’t have turned me to the D cause.

Thankfully, rather than shy away from their critiscm, Jack and Kyle have faced up to it with their opening title track from their new album “Rize of the Fenix”. For me, this album more than makes up for the couple of let downs from the last album, and then some. “Senorita” is an incredible track, as is “39” which has had me in hysterics more than once. Meanwhile the video’s that have been released for “To Be The Best” and “Roadie” are Jack and Kyle back on solid form (see below for the “To Be The Best” vid)

The whole album just works, each song leads on well from the last with the usual comedic lyrics and interludes that you expect from Tenacious D.

For me, it’s a welcome return from the D! Long live the D!


Call of Duty – Black Ops – quick review

Ok, so I also recently completed Black Ops. The reason I’ve completed some games in a funny order recently is that I bought Black Ops before I made the PS3 purchase. I’d got a little way into the campaign on one of the harder difficulty settings on the Xbox and had gotten stuck, infuriatingly stuck. I thought the levels I’d played were ok but I couldn’t be bothered to pick up the campaign when I traded my Xbox version for the PS3 copy- which I did because I had a group of mates to play with on PS3.

Anyway after completing all the other FPS’s in my collection I thought what the heck I’ll give it another go, but I’ll just run through it on normal. And thank god I did…

My goodness, this game is good. The storyline, which I had originally thought a bit lame, is actually brilliant. I learned to love the characters quickly, enjoyed their exploits, guessed the main twist a while before the end (which gave me a nice smug sense of satisfaction at the reveal) and I defy anyone to not enjoy diving to prone!

The mix of action type (i.e. stealth, straight up shoot-out, prison break etc) hit a sweet spot for me, and was nicely split throughout the game. Characters from World at War making an appearance was a great nod to the previous game, and I thought this added to the depth of the storyline, though (as with a certain other main characters demise in MW3 – see my recent post about MW3) the death of Dimitri was a mixed bag for me – he did deserve a better death, as Reznov states.

The final flash-forward style scene was a nice touch, and made me jump straight onto the net to see what others made of it.

Multiplayer is great fun, again diving to prone all over the place is always good for a laugh! And the levelling system was enjoyable. For me, having played and made some substantial progress on the Xbox multplayer, and then having to start from scratch on PS3 was a little irritating, but at least I now know that prestige really isn’t for me.

Well done Treyarch – a COD game to really rival the Modern Warfare/Infinity Ward series.

Final score is 9 out of 10 – more than MW3 because my initial expectations were lower for this game.

Teachers comment would read: great work, some of the best I’ve seen – gripping, varied and interesting to the very end.


Modern Warfare 3 – quick review

June 14, 2012

Modern Warfare 3 is another of the games I have recently completed on the PS3.

I am a huge fan of the whole COD franchise, especially the modern warfare strain. When the first Modern Warfare came out I couldn’t believe how good it was. The next gen of shooters had landed on consoles and I loved it. The campaigns storyline, variety and characters were fantastic, multiplayer was simply immense, unputdownable, and I couldn’t wait for the next instalment when the sequel was announced.

MW2 was another great one for me though the storyline left me scratching my head a few times and the gameplay hadn’t been changed that much from the first – for me that wasn’t a problem, given how much I had enjoyed it.

MW3 was a brilliant way to tie of the trilogy- I think I’ve enjoyed the multiplayer on this one more than any other FPS – they got the balance spot on for me with this one.

Single player was really enjoyable too, though a few moments left me a little disappointed. SPOILER ALERT by the way…

The demise of Soap seemed like a really unfair and sudden goodbye to the series original protagonist. Yes, it could end just like that if it were real life, but then it’s not real life is it. This is the guy who survived being blown up, before saving himself and Price on the bridge at the end of MW1, who got stabbed in the chest at the end of MW2, then pulled the knife out and threw it into the face of the guy who’d stabbed him, again saving Price. To get blown out the top of a building then dragged through the streets to end up just dying on a table seemed like a bit of a sad way for this hard man to go, especially since at the time you’re having to control the newbie character in the game, who at that point you’re not even entirely sure is a good guy.

Dunno, just doesn’t seem a fitting end somehow. The ending itself was a bit cheesy for me too. But I did get a great sense of satisfaction as I pressed the button combination as Price to finally kill that bastard.

Multiplayer continues to keep me entertained – I actually do ok most of the time and I love the weapons, perks and killstreak flexibility that this game brings. I’m not a prestige-er and never have been, as I don’t generally have too much time to replay through games, so I’d rather not give up all the loot I’ve worked so hard to accumulate over such a long time! I understand why people do it, to give the game longevity and keep things fresh, but I find I can do that just by swapping load outs around, using new weapons etc without resetting all my hard earned unlocks!

Spec ops hasn’t grabbed me and to be fair I’ve not given it time to try it out- if I ever wander from campaign mode I’m all over multiplayer.

Anyway in summary I’m giving it a nice big 8 out of 10.

Teachers comment would read: Not as inspirational as previous work, but fantastic none the less. Well done.


Recycling… iPhone games article

In the interest of recycling – not the saving the planet type, but the saving time and reusing things that are still good type – here’s a link to an article wot I wrote a little while back for the e2community site…

Its about iPhone games ‘n that. I still stand behind each of the reviews, and still have all the apps on my phone! Have a read and enjoy…



Battlefield 3 – quick review

June 13, 2012

So here’s a review of my second recently completed game: Battlefield 3

Who am I? Don’t worry,
you won’t care pretty soon

I bought Battlefield 3 second hand and immediately bought the code so I could play online (well done games developers by the way, you’ve figured out a way for second hand games purchasing to be a ballache). I’d bought it after being told it was incredible, better than any Call of Duty game (a big claim in my book!) and where the action was at…

Not sure if it’s me, but I don’t get it. The controls – on the PS3 at least – lag terribly and make it a sluggish experience. The maps are overly large and for the most part devoid of action. My experience of the multiplayer is pretty much: spawn miles away, finally make it to the action, see someone, take aim, pull off a full clip, missing every time, then get one shot killed. That on repeat. Perhaps it’s because I’m used to the fast paced COD action, but to me it just suuuuucks. I don’t know.

Anyway with multiplayer forgotten about – I did give it a good few games by the way, especially since I’d paid for the online code – I turned my attention to the campaign mode. Hardcore Battlefield fans will be cringing and shouting already that battlefield is ALL about multiplayer. But in my mind, if its ALL about mutliplayer, surely they wouldn’t have bothered making a campaign. I jumped in with an open mind…

The start of the campaign was great, lots of action on a train sequence, promising for some pretty cool story as to what the hell you were doing there. However the flashback story that then takes over for the rest of the game seemed a little old hat to me. The guy sat being interrogated, telling his story and flashing back to the events… remind anyone else of a certain recent COD game?

The gameplay itself got old, very very fast. I quickly found myself either speeding through entire levels just by pressing a series of buttons or running the entire thing without even flinching, or on the flipside getting continually mauled down, as every enemy AI in certain levels seems to shoot solely for you, and none of your incompetently poor-shot squad mates. There were points that I thought I might just give up because of this, I’d be having to literally creep up the level, hiding more than anything else, and peeping out to try and see where all the bullets were coming from – but as soon as you show the even the tiniest little whisker on your head, it seemed the suddenly incredible-shot AI also had x-ray vision and were just stood pointing their guns at the rock you were hiding behind. Perseverance and patience finally got me through on the couple of occasions that this happened, but it was so boring by the end of it that you just think, “What’s the point in that then?!”

Another particularly poor level is one taking place in a jet. Great, I thought, mix it up a bit. Plus maybe I’ll get a bit of an understanding as to how I’m supposed to fly the bloody things for multiplayer. WRONG! The level doesn’t, at any point, give you full control of the jet- someone else is piloting, you have to boringly take out targets and fire counter flares. I kept waiting for the action but it never arrived. What a let down and a missed opportunity from my point.

A few missions later and I’d literally given up caring about any of the characters or the storyline at all. I could see where it was going and just didn’t give a monkeys about them. I played it through to finish it off though – as my Dad always says by watching a crap film you can appreciate a good one so much more – the same applies with games.

When I did finish it, I felt relieved to be able to put the game disc back into the box and move onto something else. If Battlefield is ALL about multiplayer (and all about PC multiplayer specifically, so I’ve been told previously) then don’t port the bloody thing to PS3 and smash together some rubbish campaign mode!

Utter let down, especially after all the hype.

Final score 3 out of 10

Teachers comment would read: get out of my class and think about what you’ve done.

P.S I’d like to point out that this isn’t some COD fanboys excuse at having a go at Battlefield – I honestly went in with an open mind, tried to enjoy multiplayer, completed the entire campaign… it was just rubbish. I wouldn’t have bought it if I didnt think it was going to be good!