Firstly – what the fuck have they done to the Games Radar site? Jesus, talk about fucking up something that didn’t need to be fucked around with. Seriously – go there and have a look at the new layout. It didn’t look like that until yesterday; previously it was a bit like a blog where every new story would just go to the top and push the previous ones down and off the bottom of the front page onto page 2. Now it looks like Lawnmower Man has thrown up all over the screen – there doesn’t seem to be any logical arrangement to the articles...just complete random chaos. Sheesh. Think I’ll be going elsewhere for my daily gaming news until they sort that design car-crash out. Ho-hum.
In slightly related, but not at all related news, I feel I must pay homage to the late, great Sir Patrick Moore who passed away at the weekend. Obviously, his main interest and knowledge sphere was astronomy and all things extra-terrestrial (by which I mean planets and quasars and all that malarkey), but to pretty much every gamer of a certain age, Sir Patrick was also the face of Thursday night gaming television on Channel 4: he was the Games Master. Fair enough, Dominic Diamond and Dexter Fletcher were also in there (the former much more than the latter, I know), as were several other UK-based industry types (publisher Dave Perry and developer Peter Molyneux among them), but it was the titular Games Master who set the challenges and was the main focal point of the series.
For those who never saw Games Master, there were several series set over a few years and it was a show I used to watch religiously whenever it was running. The format was sort of like a game show where there was a presenter (the aforementioned Dominic Diamond, and for one series Dexter Fletcher) and contestants who would come on to take part in challenges set by the Games Master. The Games Master was basically Sir Patrick Moore’s head with various CG overlays, who spoke from a giant screen. If the contestant was successful in the challenge set, he or she would walk away with a coveted Games Master Golden Joystick. The best bit was that these challenges were usually set in games that were available to buy for the consoles of the time, and if you watch the episodes back on Youtube, you can sort of tell the era they were from by the games they were using. As well as the challenges, there were reviews and news items focusing on the latest games. Back in the early to mid nineties, gaming was still seen as a bit of a geek’s hobby (and probably still is by most people) and Games Master went some way to establishing the medium in the mainstream, certainly in this country. Obviously, the PSX had a little bit to do with it too, but I’d say that GM also had a fair part to play.
Alongside the TV programme, there was a magazine (titled, er, Games Master Magazine) which I would get monthly as part of my regular haul of gaming mags. It was a really cool mag, and was kind of like an all-format Amiga Power-lite, in that it was written in a fairly adult tone, with lots of references to real-world happenings. The magazine is still going, but has since taken a bit of a diversion and is squarely aimed at the younger gamer these days. I suppose that’s why GamesTM and Edge now exist; filling a niche and all that jazz. But Edge is a self-important load of old toss, so we won’t mention that particular mag again. So yeah, what I’m trying to get at is that Sir Patrick Moore died at the weekend and I’m sure most people will remember him fondly for the part he played in the whole Games Master saga.
Again, following on in this games-related diatribe, I read last week that Nintendo have re-launched the original Wii console (there it is, up there!). I say ‘relaunched’ but that’s probably taking things a little too far – they’ve pooed out the Wii Mini into Canadian stores (?). The Wii Mini is basically a stripped down original Wii, with all the internet functionality and backwards compatibility taken out, and repackaged in a rather garish looking black and red casing. The question remains: why? They’ve already confused half the casual gaming world with their Wii U, and now they’ve gone and added to the confusion further by releasing yet another ‘new’ Wii. Baffling.
I took the Macbook to the Apple Store in Bristol on Saturday. The two people I spoke to on the phone last week said that I could have the chipped palm rest replaced in-store and even though I was slightly sceptical I still traipsed down the M5 (and discovered I had a flat rear tire on the way...which wasn’t fun) and took the Mac in to their ‘Genius bar.’ Genius?! More like Retard bar! The guy didn’t know what he was talking about for a start and then after he’d consulted his iPad for about 10 minutes just came back and told me they couldn’t do the job (even though I had been told otherwise on the phone by TWO different ‘Geniuses’). He did, however, go on to tell me at great length that there was a place in Cheltenham that would do the repair, but “it wouldn’t be cheap.” What happened to Apple replacing these palm rests for free?
I rang the place in Cheltenham and they said the same thing – they’d have to send it off to their workshop blah fucking blah, and that it wouldn’t be free unless I called Apple and got their approval. Yes – call Apple. And get their approval for a free repair to my computer. As if that’s going to happen. I fobbed the guy off and hung up.
Something made me go back into the Apple Store though, I don’t know what. I suppose I just wanted to have a muck about with the new Macbooks and stuff. It’s been a while since I’ve been into an Apple Store and just had a play with the sexy gear on show. And it’s amazing what you pick up just from being able to see the whole product range of a company just laid out and easily accessible. For one, I didn’t know that the Macbook Air and the new Macbook (with Retina display) don’t have DVD drives. Who the fuck thought that was a good idea?! Sure, the omission of an optical drive reduces weight...but what about being able to watch a DVD without having to lug an external drive around with you? It’s almost as if Apple and Nintendo are working together to wind people up by doing stupid things with their new hardware (the whole ‘you can’t use a USB stick on two different Wii U consoles’ thing is equally strange). That neither of those two systems (and the new iMac) have optical drives instantly makes me look elsewhere.
And as a matter of fact, I did: at the Macbook Pro. The normal, £999, 13,” 2.5 Ghz, 4GB RAM, 500 GB HDD model to be precise. What an amazing piece of engineering. I can see why people love Apple hardware, with it's super-sleek aluminium casing and quality feel. I had a play around for a good while and instantly fell in love with it – the two-fingered mouse pad commands were something I had never come across but instantly didn’t want to live without. So I just went and bought one. Right then and there I just went up and asked for a 13” Macbook Pro and paid for it outright. And I have to say it’s the greatest purchase I’ve ever made (apart from the HS30 EXR, naturally...but they go hand in hand what with iPhoto and all the other cool Mac photo shit). It’s been two days now and I’m still fascinated by the thing and all the cool stuff it does. Not too impressed that you can’t plug normal headphone-jacked speakers into it without getting this weird buzzing noise (something to do with feedback of the current or some crap), but I’m totally blown away...and while it doesn’t have a Retina screen, it does have a DVD drive so I can watch my Warehouse 13 series one boxset when I eventually get around to it. I still have the used Macbook white sitting on a shelf, but that badboy’ll be going on Gumtree by the end of the week.