Opinions

My Take On: Religion by Allison James

It is and always has been a touchy subject. For some people, religion is their life. For others, it's a big part of it. It's everywhere - in our language (for Christ's/God's sake, goddamn, holy [swear word], etc), in our events (Christmas/Hanukah/other, Easter etc), in our buildings (probably 99% of villages, towns and cities have at least one church or chapel, larger places often having tens of them). Everybody has their own take on religion, here's mine.I personally am agnostic - the belief that no human can know or prove the existence of one or many higher powers. If one or many was ever proven, somehow, I wouldn't deny it either. But I do not dismiss most other religions altogether.With Christianity, there are some things I like about it. The general upbeatness of many of its members, and the positivity around it, I love. There's a "feel" to it which is just nice. However, I cannot believe in it. While I understand the majority of the Bible is not factual, but a compilation of stories with positive end morals, there's some of it that's contradictory to itself, some of it that's outright mean (scare tactics with the whole Hell thing?), and anything that forbids things or restrains freedoms isn't great.Preachers are my number one hate of Christianity (not that it can 100% be blamed for them) - single-minded, loudmouthed dicks that go around pushing their beliefs on other people and just end up turning them off it all for life. You do get preachers, minor (people on the 'net, for example) and major (the ones that go into towns with loudspeakers), for other religions too, including atheism/agnosticism - for the record, I dislike them all. Live and let live, heck.My number one hated trait in any religion that has it is when they strictly forbid doing anything with anyone of any other religious belief, encourage attacking of other believers, etc. Basically, the trait that causes every single religion-based war that has happened in the past, and every one that will no doubt happen in the future. Why would anybody want that? And why would anybody think a higher power exists/ed that wants/ed that? It makes no sense to me and only ever results in deaths, and no converts.That's generally my thought on religion though. I like the togetherness experienced by people that share one, but dislike the conflict between those that differ. I don't like pushiness of anybody and their religious beliefs (including those that do not believe in a God or multiple gods) - I've made an educated and informed decision on my religious beliefs and anyone that tries to change them will only make the case for me turning to theirs worse. And to extend, I don't like that there's so many of them.If everybody else is willing to believe in Goduddhallanesh, heck, I'm in.

Ideas for Life: "Unpasswords" by Allison James

This is an idea I've come up with, though I'm sure I'm not the only person to have thought of it.Wherever there are accounts, there are reports of scamming, hacking and stealing. On Facebook, people can have their identities nabbed or false statuses/etc posted under their name. On things like Habbo and Second Life, if you've put any money into them, your account is seen as valuable. If you follow some kind of notorious "get free credits/money" link associated with these games and give them your password, it takes one guy just a few seconds to empty your character of everything he or she has. On banks and PayPal... well, I'm sure the huge amount of phishing you've heard about, or even noticed through dodgy spam emails, has shown you how scammers are out to get your money.So my idea for life for today is the Unpassword. When you sign up for an account with any website, you put in both a Password and an Unpassword. What exactly is an Unpassword, then?The idea's this - if somebody tries to sign in with your username, and the Unpassword as the password, they get shit for it. It could be their IP on the site's blacklist, some sort of tampering to their computer, whatever you like and whatever would be most feasible (I have no idea what'd be best).So what do you do with your Unpassword? Simple - if you ever get one of those spam emails, virtual life free-credit website things, anything like that, you don't give them your password. You give them your unpassword. They try logging into your account with it - they lose, and you could be notified when you next sign in (properly) that there was a dodgy attempt.Especially for minor-league scammers this would be a massive deterrent. I'll use Habbo as a good example, as put simply, anything you scam off people in Habbo is only of any use in Habbo. Imagine every item/credit you'd ever scammed, locked out of your reach because you'd tried logging into someone else's account with an unpassword. Are you going to want to keep doing this? Heck no, you're not.I'm sure high-end scammers would work their ways around these things, but the more they did, the more websites could pile crap on anyone that used an unpassword. After all, 100% of people trying to log in with it are doing it for negative reasons. It's not like the massively flawed thing you see on some sites where 3-5 incorrect logins place a quarter of an hour lock on the account itself.That's my idea for the day anyway. If it's of any interest, my PayPal password is "saybyebyetopaypalaccess15".

Ripoffs by Allison James

If there's one thing that irks me about gaming, it's the sheer number of ripoffs of other games that exist. I'm not talking about games that are similar to one another (eg any FPS and Doom/Wolfenstein 3D), games that take popular (or even unpopular) games, change a few things then slap it out to the public and smile.The source of inspiration for this is an iOS game I bought out of intrigue a month or two ago and have only just gotten round to playing, the uncatchily titled Pirates vs Ninjas vs Zombies vs Pandas. Yeah. It was 59p and I was interested to see what sort of odd game that title could hold. To my deep disappointment, it's basically Angry Birds. The premise is that for each level set (near-identical to the sets you get in Angry Birds) you're one of the four different titular groups, taking on another one. Essentially, each one has its own little traits (like the different birds in AB), and the enemy sits stationary (like the pigs) in a physics-affected castle (guess), waiting for you to be slingshotted/slungshot/whatever at them. Every mechanic is the same, down to the bonuses for unused "ammo" characters and for the number of blocks you break/damage.The worst thing about the game is that for quite a while it was sitting very, very high in the iOS charts - above Angry Birds itself at one point. These guys were profiting quite heavily off someone else's concept. This sickens me - it's not quite as bad as just selling the game with ripped sprites, but it's damn close.I don't get the mentality behind it at all. I struggle to imagine the concept meetings the PvNvZvP team members had."Let's think of a great new game!""We could rip off Angry Birds to get lots of money!""Well gee whizz, you're fantastic!"I guess from that perspective it pretty much worked. But that brings me onto ripping off within free, independent development. There's no monetary gain to be had from this, so anyone that's a part of it is in it for two things - the fun, and positive reception.Now, where along the line of thinking is it even remotely plausible that stealing somebody's ideas for your own use will garner positive reception? 95% of the time, the person you stole from will be well-known in the development community. Within ten plays someone will have recognised what you've done, and you'll start eating the backlash. From there you can either apologise and either credit the original developer or take the game down, or you can deny it's a ripoff, shoot your reputation in the foot (which you'll have done anyway, but this makes it oh so much worse) and never get it back, or at least not for a long time and a lot of making up for it. Both the fun and the positive reception die during any of those routes.Note that this doesn't include fangames, where you are showing your appreciation for the original game (though this is still pretty unimaginative when you could show your appreciation by referring people, then put your skills to better use), and instances where you take the idea, turn it into something of your own accord, then credit the original developer (much better, as it shows initiative and appreciation in one).It's a mentality I will never understand, and thankfully have never had in the past myself, though I've definitely been inspired by people before - see Ne Touchez Pas and FKR, inspired by Mark Essen's "Flywrench" and Cactus' "xWUNG" respectively, but I've always given credit where credit is due and have had a reason to create both (simplification of a complicated concept, and a different take on a similar concept respectively).Nintendo 3DS still rocks, by the way. But the games are currently a bit shit - mine serves as a Pokémon Black upscaler at the moment! If you also own a 3DS and would like my Mii gurning on it, then scan my current YYG avatar with Mii Maker's QR Code scanner. (Apologies to readers in the future that are interested in this after the next YYG avatar change, whenever that inevitably happens!)

Ideas for Life: Relative Rating Scale by Allison James

It seems every piece of media in the world gets rated nowadays. Magazines, websites, all sorts of things exist to get reviewed and a number slapped onto them. I'm personally a big magazine fan - I get Official PlayStation Magazine and PC Gamer UK every month, and magazines like PSM3, Xbox 360 World and Official Xbox Magazine to fill the empty half of the month where I've read the two regulars.But the rating systems irk me a bit. A great game will get the perfect rating, then a significantly better game will be stuck to get that same rating despite being better. An instance of this - Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty was given a 10/10, with 10 rewarded in each individual aspect too, in the old Official PlayStation 2 Magazine. This was, like, 17 issues in - the magazine ran for 100, covering the entirety of the PS2's popular lifespan. Sure, it's a very good game. But perfect? In comparison to some of the other stunning games PS2 got? No way.Another annoying thing with current rating systems is they falter when non-significantly-different sequels to games come out. Dynasty Warriors is the perfect example - there's been, like, seven of the main games, and they differentiate so little it's almost embarrassing. But magazines, peeved by this, kept rating the sequels lower and lower. This is despite them being technically superior!So my idea is this - a relative, uncapped rating system. There is no perfect score. It starts with 100 being as high as is expectable at the time, and 0-10 being god awful. So you could have given Metal Gear Solid 2 a 95-100, yeah. But by the time games like TimeSplitters 2 and GTA: Vice City come out, they could start nudging 105 or so. The stellar games late in the console's lifespan could be getting 150-200, with even the lesser games in the 100 region thanks to their ability to get more out of the system. Then, when the console's successor comes out, the games could continue to be compared to this system, with the likes of Metal Gear Solid 4 perhaps getting 250.This would also be good for the repetitive sequels. Dynasty Warriors 193 could get the same score as Dynasty Warriors 192, which is fair - but all other, more original games would be constantly raising the average bar, leaving that game behind.While it's true there's no "maximum" to aim for (and it'd mess with aggregation sites like Metacritic), the highest-rated game at the time could be the one to beat. Anyway, I just feel this would be a superior way of handling ratings to the current "GTA: San Andreas - 100%! GTAIV - wait, shit, 100% as well I guess!".

Karma Shmarma by Allison James

Though it's been around for a long time, a recent popularity boost seems to have been administered to the "Karma" system - instead of ratings on things, a thumbs up/down system often not only on the primary content of a website, but also on its comments. And it's a load of crap. Why is this?If you've been on YouTube at any point within the last several months you can probably answer that yourself. Karma clearly means very, very little, yet as a result of these arbitrary numbers and thumbs, videos get inundated with junk comments. The most annoying by far is the one from people that seem to need karma to be happy with themselves - "Thumbs up if _______". Since the Game Maker Community got a Karma (well, a +1) system, numerous people's signatures contain a little or large arrow trying to steer people to clicking it. Furthermore, you can tell there are people that are just commenting for the Karma, even though they don't mention it.Another YouTube commonplace annoyance is "[number of people that dislike a video] people are [something bad mentioned in the video". This isn't just trying to vacuum thumbs ups, it's also a prime example of the internet trying and failing to be funny. Sure, it may have been mildly amusing at first, but on popular videos 20% of all posted comments could be people with their repetitive quips.The ability to "thumbs down" just attracts attacks too. Take any video by the likes of John and Edward Grimes ("Jedward") or Justin Bieber. Though I can't hate Jedward - I find them far too hilarious - Bieber's music makes me want to go deaf (not that I hate him as a person, I'm sure he's a friendly little girly-voiced boy and if I could be in his position I'd be singing songs about how I'm considerably richer than you!). But because I don't like Justin Bieber, I don't watch his videos. As a result of this, I don't thumbs down his videos. The vast majority of people would be in the same situation - not rating down his stuff purely because what's the point? Yet, thanks to the "4chan-minded" - people that find it hilarious to try and ruin a successful 16 year old kid's life - the thumbs downs match or even beat the ups.And it does genuinely steer what you say. The dicks will try to collect thumbs downs by going around dissing everything everyone else likes. The people worried about their reputation to any extent will change their opinions so people don't go against them. The sheep will just reiterate what other popular people say to get those same thumbs from them.It just all seems so stupid to me. You're welcome to comment on this with your opinions on Karma systems, but keep your thumbs to yourselves.

Favourite Games On... PS1 by Allison James

Following on from a discussion in Game Jolt, I thought I'd make a blog entry on my favourite PlayStation 1 games. Really fun system, I was just old enough to catch the "first ever *cool* game console!" wave which meant that forever after I just couldn't enjoy Nintendo's systems as much. I still do, but their games just don't appeal to me half as much. That's off-track though. PlayStation games!Ape Escape - my favourite PS1 game. The first, and one of the very few, in which using an analogue controller instead of the stick-less digital pad was mandatory. As a result, it used a unique and intuitive control system - left stick to move Spike (the protagonist), face buttons to quick select between four items in the inventory (which could be customised in the pause menu), shoulder buttons to jump, crouch etc, and most importantly, the right stick to use the item. With the net, you could swing in any direction by moving the stick in that direction, or swing the net around in a circular motion to "scoop" up monkeys by turning it. Spinning attacks with the light-saberish weapon were possible by rotating the stick. The catapult worked by holding the stick in the opposite direction to the way you wanted to fire (as you'd expect - if you hold a catapult, you draw the ammo back so the elastic pings it forwards). Though the camera suffered a bit - L2/R2 and the right stick were all taken so your only camera command was "snap to back of Spike" - Ape Escape was an excellent game. It was followed up by two sequels (2 and 3) and numerous spinoffs, mainly on PSP, and is apparently coming to PS3 as Ape Escape 4. And yes, to end on a pun, if this is genuine, I will go apeshit.Tombi - as fantastic as the demo I had years back suggested. Tombi mixes platform adventure with RPG to bring an original and genuinely brilliant fun game, which is loaded with content too. You can save up experience points, kill pigs with frontflip flings, learn languages, get high on mushrooms and have your weapon replaced with giggling fits that make poisonous mushrooms nearby start giggling too, making them vulnerable. It's apparently coming to PSN - I can faithfully say that Tombi was worth the £65 it cost me to obtain, so it will sure as heck be worth the £5 or so you'd have to buy to play it on PS3 or PSP.Spyro 2 & 3 - I wasn't a big fan of Spyro 1, but its two PS1 sequels hit the nail on the head perfectly. Amazing soundtracks, a deeper-voiced Spyro, some of the most memorable levels I've ever seen (Cloud Spires! Zephyr! Okay, the names aren't memorable but I can truly visualise at least 20 separate levels from each of the games). Infact, just thinking about these games, which I've already completed at least twice each and at least once each to 100%, makes me want to play them all over again.Crash Bandicoot 2 & 3 - not including 1 just because I didn't get a PlayStation until after its release, and didn't really grow up with it. I owned 3, and my cousin owned 2 - both absolutely fantastic games. A little on the difficult side for me - I still struggle to get to 50% and am very hard pressed to ever see Cortex as a boss - but nonetheless some brilliant games that knew 3D was a new thing, so kept it nice and simple and used it well.Crash Team Racing - maybe I'll get lynched for this, given the game is basically Super Mario Kart with Crash characters and that I said up top that I find PS games generally more fun, but this is a near-perfect karting game (certainly my favourite in the genre), and I'd even go so far as to saying it's my favourite Crash game. As well as being a lot less difficult than the platformers that proceeded it, CTR was an absolute blast in multiplayer (as well as single player!). Plenty of variety mean this game is still played by me and friends to this day.Gran Turismo 2 - my age when I got this was actually very helpful. GT5 has less than wowed me if I'm being honest (I guess I should expect that when I try and put a Burnout-warped mind to a realistic sim racing game!), but back in 2000-2001, a brand new PS1 game was the only new PS1 game I was seeing for three months. I ended up getting hugely far in the game, built up a massive garage of cars and was completely in love with the game. One of my fondest silly moments was blowing my entire starting fund on a crap car. Instead of having the intelligence to just start again, I entered it into a 50-lap endurance race. I was lapped 30 or so times and it took around five hours to finish, but the last-place consolation prize was enough money to buy a better "first" car!Grand Theft Auto 1 & 2 - more 2 to be honest. As a 9, 10 year old kid, a freeform game in which you got to go around running people over with stolen cars was essentially naughty heaven. GTA1 is included as it was the first one I owned (which was after GTA2 was released - I remember getting it because a friend showed me 2). A couple of years later though I got 2 and the memories from that one stuck with me far more. I actually nabbed both of their soundtracks from the discs - I love them. (I think "Sterlin - Standing On My Own" is the name of my favourite song.)Hogs of War - along with Crash Team Racing, Hogs of War was a multiplayer-is-best game that is still often played between me and friends. Infact, me, a friend, his girlfriend and his sister played it for a couple of hours at the end of December last year! It's essentially a 3D version of Worms that is far superior to the actual Worms 3D that came out in 2003 or so. Brilliant game and very funny (mainly thanks to the voiceovers provided by the hilarious Rik Mayall), damn shame it never got a sequel or rerelease.Worms - these days it's easy to make a level. Throw LittleBigPlanet 2 at the level and start Popit-ing things like nobody's business. 12 or so years ago, I was doing it by setting the turn time limit in Worms to infinite, allowing infinite uses of both the ninja rope and girders, and going around making girder forts. The game largely fell out of multiplayer favour thanks to Hogs of War, and Worms Armageddon/World Party (more fun, but lacking the ability to set turn time to infinite, making creation more of a chore).Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 - fond memories like no other. For a large chunk of my childhood I had a "girlfriend" - we played THPS2 to the death. I haven't properly played it in years and I can still mentally map out the vast majority of the maps, even the secret ones like the in-space level. It's taken Skate 2/3, released ten years after, to finally bring a skateboarding game I've been able to play as much as Pro Skater 2.Rugrats: Search for Reptar - okay, now you're getting silly. Or am I? While an absolutely poor game, even in its time, there's a weak nostalgia with R:SfR. But added to that, there is the fact that I've actually completed it about ten times. Why? It only takes 30 minutes to do! Half an hour of nostalgia and a game completed 100%? Oh, go on then!V Rally - on the opposite end of the spectrum to Gran Turismo 2 comes strictly-arcade V Rally. Played this an absolute ton. If I'd had my current mentality on racers back when PS1 was a current console, I have no doubt this would be my favourite racer.Vib Ribbon - I always feel I have to justify how much I like Vib Ribbon. But it's great - stylish, odd, and so simple it can store the entire game in the PS1's RAM and generate a level for absolutely any piece of music on any music CD you own. Replayability to the absolute extreme.Bishi Bashi Special - the worst thing about Bishi Bashi Special is that none of my friends loved it as much as I did. When it's predominantly made for multiplayer play, it's not great. But I'm still very, very fond of the game, have sunk tens of hours into it just by myself, and recently it saw a new bit of life when I bought it on PSN and was able to play it anywhere on PSP. If you're unfamiliar with BBS, take WarioWare. Increase the length of the microgames to around 20 seconds each, include a little video introduction, and pump the game full of Japan-isms.Overboard - one of the first games I played on PS1. Simple, but very fun - topdown-ish pirate ship shooting game that somehow mixes puzzling and strategy into itself. Very originalThere are so many others that deserve honourable mentions. As a kid, having a game like "Oddworld: Abe's Exoddus" with its own button for letting rip was always going to be a winner. Was also one of three first games I *owned* for the console, along with the slightly crap "B-Movie" and the slightly crapper "Sensible Soccer". Speaking of football, "Soccer 97" was one game I did enjoy. A game I'm just buying on eBay now, that I haven't seen in over a decade, is "Star Gladiator Episode I: The Final Crusade", a very fun and very Street Fighterish beat em up in 3D (better 3D than Virtua Fighter). "MoHo" was original and funky, as were the two "MediEvil" games. "Devil Dice" was an amazing demo. Never saw a copy of the game anywhere sadly. Same with Kula World, though that's out on PSN. And also same with Bugs Bunny's Lost In Time - another fun demo, but the game? Where are you?!Oh, who am I kidding? The PS1 had so many noteworthy games it's not even funny. Next time, I'll either cover SNES or PS2. PS2 will be a danger zone. I have tons of favourites. Eep!

To Catch a Predator - Why Don't You Take a Seat? by Allison James

Many popular US shows have a UK equivalent, regardless of which is the original. Both have a different version of Whose Line is it Anyway, Britain has Dirty Sanchez to US' Jackass (though the latter is more popular here, being the original). US has had pilots of Red Dwarf and Top Gear that have been poor compared to the original UK series and failed, and an Americanised version of the British The Office which is better than the original. Finally, there are the likes of Wheel of Fortune, which is still running in America, though was sadly cancelled in UK long ago. I don't know which country's version of that came first.But recently I've been watching an American show online of which there doesn't seem to be any British equivalent - Dateline: To Catch a Predator. And while I'm a massive fan of the general dry satirical comedy of any British comic, I don't know if it'd be the same without the voice of the presenter, Chris Hansen.I find it enjoyable and hilarious to watch To Catch a Predator, and I think it's mostly him that makes it so. Seeing people that go around wanting to shag youngsters brought to justice is all well and good and certainly no joke, believe me. There are some guys that are "ill", who I can feel sorry for, but for the most part (and mainly when they go through the pathetic excuses - "We were just gonna talk", "I always have these condoms", "I was drunk/high when I set this date up") it's great to see them gone from the planet for a good few years.But, come on. Just seeing perverts thrown behind bars wouldn't be the same with that voice that you could distinguish in a crowd from a mile away. From the "Why don't you take a seat?" to the "you're free to leave any time", with the "I have the transcript", "I'm Chris Hansen", "You wanna try again?" and everything else in between, he's the only person I know who can be deadly hilarious and deadly serious 100% simultaneously. How the paedophiles can resist laughing, I don't know. (Yes, that was joking!)It's also fun to think what Hansen is like when off-camera and in casual mode. Does he really have that elocution? No idea. It's like imagining Joe Pasquale in social settings, though if I had to spend any extended time in the hearing radius of that squeaky voice I'd chop my own ears off.I don't really have much to say, other than I kinda wish there was more To Catch a Predator. Since I've been watching it quite a bit over the last few days, and I still have an odd desire to blog, I thought it'd be worth doing. Have to stop writing now, footage of a guy that's being caught a second time by the show is being shown and I sure as hell don't want to miss him taking a seat.

A Love of Wrestling (and Everyone Else’s Hate) by Allison James

Fairly quick post, as I shouldn’t really be up at this time! Dratted insomnia.As some people may know I’m a big fan of wrestling. I’ve bought the WWE games since the first SmackDown! game on PlayStation 1 (and every instalment since by THQ for PlayStation 1/2/3), and have since February 2009, the day after that year’s No Way Out PPV, followed and loved the television shows. I’ve also been watching rival TNA iMPACT! for over a year now, though its obsession with the older guys and the reduction of inclusion of guys like the Motor City Machineguns have begun to wane a bit.It was also the Royal Rumble on Sunday night, my favourite show of the year (just over WrestleMania), which had, to my glee, upped the wrestler count from 30 to 40, giving me an extra 20 minutes or so of main event that I soak up like a happy sponge.But it occurs to me that some people just don’t “get” wrestling. When people find out I love it, there’s probably a 40% chance I’ll be met with a “you do know it’s fake, right?”. I am not an idiot (in this sense, anyway). To be honest, I should start replying to that question with “when you watch a film, do you think it’s all real?”Because that’s what wrestling is. It isn’t trying to look 100% real. Sure, it doesn’t advertise that it’s staged, but then look at any soap opera, film or general visual media and let me know if you find a “Warning: this is not actually happening”. What it should be viewed as is a number of ongoing and everchanging storylines, tied together with some fantastic and sometimes downright brave athletic displays.That’s one of the big points. It may be staged, but it goddamn hurts. You jump off a 15ft high ladder and land on your stomach on what is essentially hardboard on a set of weak springs, and tell me it doesn’t hurt. Have yourself thrown straight through a metal table, or have a folding chair smack you square in the back, or heck, just have someone slap you round the face. Or, for the less PG organisations, how about digging a razor into your forehead to make yourself bleed? Doesn’t hurt a bit, right?But it’s just a general perception of professional wrestling that gets me. There’s no explaining to some people the enjoyment from watching it – seeing trained, multi-year-experienced professionals perform complicated acrobatics, tell stories and form likable (or indeed dislikable) personae. If you’re one of those people, then please, go back to your movies.You do know they’re just faking it, right?

My Thoughts on Logo Redesign by Allison James

As anyone with eyeballs will no doubt be aware, companies these days seem to love changing their logos - reinventing their brand or just making it look sleeker. Or outright worse. Anyone that's seen my Formspring page will know my main "one" has been Pepsi, whose new logo is... ugh. Just ugh. And while nowadays I've stopped noticing it, I still think it's a piece of shite.But as someone who quite likes graphic design (read - not art) and in particular typography, every time a familiar brand does this, I get thoughts about it. So I thought I'd share them.Google (top - old logo, bottom - new logo) would probably receive a hell of a lot of grief if they ever properly altered their logo. It's just so familiar, even though it's just a plain font with some seemingly randomly chosen colours. Luckily, their recent update was just a polishing of it, brightening the colours, downscaling the bevel and removing the drop shadow. Very nicely done.PlayStation 3 (left old, right new)'s new logo, stand-alone, is better in my opinion. Simpler, more identifiable (as it's just an evolution on the PS2 and PSP logos), and doesn't immediately make you think of any Smashing Pumpkins LPs or Tobey Maguire superhero movies. However, it was an evolution brought about by the new matte-black, slimline PlayStation 3. Although I've warmed to it now I own one and have managed to gawp at one in the flesh, I still think the shiny original looked nicer. And the worst change brought about by the new logo, to me, is the box art for PS3 games, which has changed from a sleek, faux-shiny side-bar to a topbar with a black-grey gradient. Bleh.Starbucks just went simpler for their overhaul, shedding the green "Starbucks Coffee" and turning the black innards green. Can't say I like this change yet. The "central" circle of the new logo is completely offset and makes it look a tad odd (though this is also the case for the old logo, it's less apparent as it's not as in-your-face and it's out of the "main two circles"). Not the worst thing in the world though. Just waiting for them to shed the other outer circle now and just have a woman's face and some long hair as their logo!THQ went simple and bevel-free. Both logos are a bit fugly, to be frank, but I'd grown warm to the overly slanty older one. If the new logo's H hadn't had its shoulder amputated I think I'd like it a lot more. At the moment, it looks like the T is a table, the H is a chair sitting by it, and the Q is Yivo from Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs, waiting to ram its face into the neck of whoever dares to sit on the H.Gap hired a complete moron to redesign their logo. There is no way of elaborating on that.Wait, there is. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?!Argos did the subtle modernisation thing, and it works rather beautifully. Infact, this is one of the few logo redesigns I preferred over its predecessor from the moment it was unveiled. Cleaner and less pointy while retaining its simplicity and colour scheme. To be honest, though, I'd personally go one step further and kill the cheesy underline-slash-fake-smile that's sitting on a ton of other logos these days (see Kraft's abomination of a new logo and Amazon, which I guess can be let off as it serves the other clever purpose of pointing from A to Z, the letters of the alphabet the website can cater for)iTunes went bleck. I can see the thought process - CDs, while not dead and probably for the foreseeable future won't be, aren't particularly popular these days. Particularly for those that use iTunes often - the people Apple would want to be steering towards their own online music store. So fair enough, that can go. But the musical note, in a generic blue circle, with a generic white outer shell? With generic gradient and gloss effects? It's not awful, it's just bland. To make matters worse, it looks like the logo's blue was taken from iTunes' interface, which is now almost colourless.Quicktime / Quicktime X's overhaul fares better. I never got why a little segment was cut out of the Q in the old logo, and if Windows gets Quicktime X I'll never have to know. It's still a tad generic - shiny Q, with a shiny centre ball, and as a sister program to iTunes their logos bear next to no resemblance (not that they ever did), but all in all it looks superior.Windows Media Player may as well get a mention while I'm at it. While iTunes ditched its CD references, WMP added them with their logo revamp (I believe a change that came with Vista-exclusive WMP 11), turning a very Simon-ish logo into a set of three CD cases and a big orange Play-button-wielding disc. My big problem with this is that it pretty much killed its identifiability. Windows things have the Windows colours on. That's just a bunch of clear bits of plastic that could quite happily be slapped onto WinAmp, the disgusting RealPlayer, you name it.There are plenty of others worth noting, though I won't link to them (if you search on the internet for "logo redesigns", "logo revamps" or anything along those lines you'll find professional designers who have dissected the living daylights out of them). KFC altered their colours more than anything, turning the red-beige-blue into more of a red-beige-brown. They look nigh on identical so it just seems to me like a waste of marketing money. I've seen a new MasterCard logo circulating the Internet - if that thing takes over their current logo I think I'll have a bit of a cry. Burger King and Walkers (US: Lays Potato Chips) have done revamps but nothing major over the years, which always look okay in exception for that hideous monstrosity Walkers had for a short while. And of course, Pepsi. What the hell were you thinking, Pepsi? You dicks.-----Since I don't blog much, just thought I'd make a little addendum. Today, I spent £58 on sweets - enough to last a damn lifetime! I got me:- 1,200 Rainbow Dust tubes- 40 Rip & Tip Sherbet, little bags filled with sherbet of either raspberry or orange- A bag of those Pink Pig things that are nice until you've had about four; sickly thereafter- 500 flying saucers (the foamy UFO-shaped things filled with sherbet. I like sherbet.)- 50 foamy bananas and 50 foamy shrimp, essentially a pick 'n' mix delicacy- A kilogram of those E-number-packed letters that are kinda crunchy and sweet- 150 double lolliesIf I was able to experience a sugar rush (I never have and doubt I ever will), this would be it!Anyway, that's all from me. This took an hour to write that could have been on LittleBigPlanet 2 (which owns heartily, by the way). No more time to lose!

"Sandbox Mode" by Allison James

I've been playing Dead Rising 2 for around half an hour now. I always stick it in when I have a lust for creative, violent bloody mass deaths - baseball bats with nails through, fast slamming sledgehammer shots, or just throwing a chair at zombies' heads and watching them recoil angrily. But I currently can't do that. I have to wait until the in-game time hits between 10 and 11am so I can do a mission. If I don't do this mission, the game kicks me back to the Load Game menu. If I do anything else and lose track of time, I don't get to the mission in time - I have to start it by 11am in-game. One hour in-game is four minutes of real time (nowhere near enough to finish a sidequest or get from a further-away area of the mall to the trigger).And you know what the worst bit of all is? The missions are frequently balls. One a while ago saw me riding a motorbike, chasing down and trying to jump on a train so I could fight my way across the carriages and to the game's main antagonist. It was executed awfully. The motorbike feels like a hoverbike - it floats around and isn't nice to ride. Enemies trying to bomb the bike look naff. Dodging the bombs is a matter of luck - there's no time to react, you're either hit or you're not (though a pipe bomb to the face is only worth one hit point of damage, apparently). The train is clearly in a loop, as the corpses of zombies you haphazardly kill are then passed again a minute later. And the carriage section is pathetic. At one point you have no choice but to walk into enemy fire for several seconds (which again does next to no damage) so you can somehow attack an enemy.But while all this is happening it really makes me wonder why more people don't include a sandbox mode in their games. In some cases it's worse than others. Dead Rising 2 is a bad example - as far as I know there is no way, unlockable or otherwise, to just be able to go around and kill zombies. Whether it's a time limit, the game's constant need to push you in a direction you don't want to go for a mission you don't want to do, the killing of zombies is almost always limited to "en route" - when you have to walk from one destination to another. Grand Theft Auto is a lighter example, but still one nonetheless - you only have to do one or two introductory missions before you are actually free to wander, but then to unlock three quarters of the map and all the fun minigames, weapons, cars etc, you need to progress further through the story. This is hours of your time - unlocking the full map can take 10-20 hours, while actually finishing the game, getting rid of all the little mission blips and things, is more like 30-50.You know what I'd like in GTA? A true sandbox mode. It doesn't have to be connected to the "main game" at all. I want something where I get the whole map instantly. I want a bunch of options that can do things like alter my health (normal health, infinite health, one hit and I'm dead, etc) and ammo (normal, infinite, normal but infinite clip, infinite clip and ammo). I'd love a load of modifiers resembling GTA: San Andreas' and Saints Row 2's cheat lists (if you own either game but haven't played with the cheats, look them up on the internet and go and play with them ASAP - they're amazing) - silly things like superpunch, crashing into other cars making them float away comically, having it rain pedestrians then having dead pedestrians immediately float up to the heavens. Useful/fun things like spawning any vehicle infront of you, or destroying them all, or turning them all bright pink, or turning them all into Smart cars. Stuff like that, for me and I'm sure countless others, would make the game incredibly more fun, while still keeping the normal game 100% intact.Dead Rising 2 would benefit from modifiers I'm sure, but the lack of a mode in which you can just kill zombies is baffling to me. I can only imagine the meetings of the developers, in which nobody even suggested a freeform mode, or the one or two that did were scoffed at by the rest - a group of pretentious pricks deciding none of the game's fans knew what they wanted (I saw tons of requests for such a mode after the original Dead Rising was just as awkward to play).The only way to have any kind of fun like this is to play on PC, but even then nothing official offers anything remotely similar to this. You have to rely on unofficial modifications to bring about sandbox modes (if you've ever played Gmod, aka "Garry's Mod", or seen videos of things made in it on YouTube, you'll know how remarkably fun it is).You can pick any game with "sandbox" gameplay and immediately come up with ideas that could have been implemented was a "sandbox mode" included. A couple of other examples I can come up with spontaneously as I type this:Burnout Paradise: "Invincible traffic checking" - in Revenge, if you rammed a car smaller than yours from behind, it would send them flying and your car would continue unhurt. Imagine how fun it'd be if you could play around, hitting ANY other vehicle, destroying it spectacularly but not throwing you into a multiple-second crash animation. Or what about a simple key press crashing YOU? When it's not part of a race, slow-motion detailed crashes can be fun to watch. You could also have sliders for damage levels, perhaps with a cheeky "Gran Turismo" mode in which no cars ever took any physical damage.Skate 3: To some extent this actually does have a sandbox mode - there's a Free mode in which you can change the density of traffic and pedestrians (no pedestrians = gorgeous), and in any mode you can spawn skating equipment or mode existing equipment/other skatable items like benches and ramps. Could have the ability to spawn pedestrians/traffic wherever desired at will, play with your own physics to allow super-low gravity, slow motion etc (akin to the cheats/tweaks found in the likes of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 and 3 - 3 also had a badly executed but fascinating nonetheless "First Person" mode).All my opinion though. I'll still go nuts when the next Grand Theft Auto comes out. It's just that a sandbox mode as suggested above would make me go Marmite Cashews, not regular, bog-standard nuts.