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Interview with Jess Ratcliffe of GaBoom.co.uk

Have you ever wanted to set up your own business? Well, not just a business but one that was doing something you love? For a lot of you reading this that would be video games. I know I have thought of it a lot, “what can I do that will make me money and means I work in video games?” I have yet to find that answer, I’m still trying don’t you worry, but for some people they have made their dream a reality. 

Recently I was looking to get rid of a copy of Deadly Premonition. I had recently purchased it from my local store and hated it. I knew I wouldn’t get much money for it anywhere so was at a bit of a loss as to what to do with it. I had seen on Twitter a mention of a service that would allow me to swap my games online with a user base. I managed to find someone willing to swap Deadly Premonition for Assassins Creed: Brotherhood and the rest is history.

GaBoom.co.uk was the service I used and will be the service I use for the rest of my time on this earth. GaBoom is an easy to use service giving me the option to swap my game by connecting directly with the other user, by Escrow where each user stumps up £18 deposit and then sends the game out using recorded delivery with their deposit returned when the game is received or by using the GaBoom secure swap system where for a minimal fee both users send their game to the team at GaBoom who check the discs and then send the games out to their new owners.

The owner of GaBoom, 21 year old Jess Ratcliffe is very active on twitter (@GaBoomTweet) and since the service went live in July 2010 Jess has managed to amass over 10,000 active members. After chatting to Jess online I asked if she would be willing to answer a few questions. She was, and here are the answers:

Where and when did you first get the idea for GaBoom? 

Jess: I first had the idea for GaBoom when I was 15 years old and hanging out around the corner from where I live. There’s a large field, so a group of friends and I used to play out there all the time, climbing trees, skateboarding and then going inside to play video games. I used to swap my video games with my friends and neighbours and one day thought, ‘wouldn’t it be awesome if you could do this on a larger scale!’ The idea grew from then on.

What was it that sparked you to look into setting up the service?

Jess: As soon as I had the idea, I knew I wanted to make it a reality so I started looking into getting work experience at local web development agencies.  Fortunately, it was around the time of work experience week at my senior school, so it fitted in perfectly! I got myself a weeks work experience at a web development agency in Guildford and it was there I explored the possibility of setting up the service. Unfortunately, the agency quoted me £10,000 for the work, which was way out of my budget at 15 years old! So, I hired a web freelancer over the internet and that’s when things took a turn for the worst, and I soon realised I had been taken for a fool, when the developer walked away with my money without delivering the website he had agreed he would. Then when I was 19 years old at in my first year at university, I was able to take the idea back up again and I’ve never looked back!

To read the rest of the interview and find out Jess’s thoughts on the kind of games she likes and also her time on BBC TV show Dragons Den then head over to Death By Robots by clicking here.

Also, check out GaBoom.co.uk – a great place to swap games you don’t want, for ones you do.

 

Newbreview.com Podcast

Newb Review Podcast

Just a quick one to let you know that I was a guest on the newbreview.com weekly podcast this past week. It’s well worth a listen, not just because I’m on it but because it is a very good podcast that you should subscribe to.

Here’s a brief summary of the topics discussed.“Tom and Kieran are joined by special guest Joe Dale to discuss the incredibly important topic of Zombie Games – following the release of Dead Island have we finally had enough of them?

We also have our regular 60 second review and Adam Thinks features, as well as a bit of banter about what we’ve been up to since our last podcast (a regular thing).”

Click here to check out Newb Review Podcast Episode 40.

FIFA Manager 12 – Preview

Let’s get this out of the way right now, not everybody loves football management games. It could be because they don’t like Football in general or it could just be that people find them too fiddly, and I can understand why people would feel that way. As someone who plays football (when I’m not injured) and who has tried my hand at coaching and managing a side, I am one of those people who really quite enjoy the genre, and find it a perfect way for me to see if I can manage the egos of a top class football team (though I draw the line at trying to keep them away from ladies who aren’t their wives).

FIFA Manager 12 is the eleventh instalment of the FIFA Manager series and also happens to be the first time I have ever seen a FIFA Manager game running. Based in Cologne, the developers, Bright Future, have been working on the FIFA Manager series since 2007 and, since taking over the development reins, they have managed to produce a game that has gone down quite well with the critics. This year, FIFA Manager is looking to blow the competition out of the water with some brand new features and refinements of old ones. During a visit to EA’s offices last month, Producer Adrian Curry ran me through some of the new features for the game and talked over what I could look forward to getting out of this one…

The first thing that struck me is the quality of the presentation. In football management sims, I’m used to staring at the same dull menus – a massive issue for me in this genre as you’re usually just staring at a screen full of boxes and menus – but Bright Future have picked up on that and created some beautiful and intuitive menu screens. This was best shown off in the game’s 3D match engine, an enhanced and tweaked version of the previous FIFA engine that not only looks good, but provides minimal loading times in the transition from menus to game and certainly looks impressive.

The game plays out as if you were watching a game of FIFA but, at any time, you can make changes to your formations and tactics, differing from rival footy management sims by allowing you to make all of these decisions right there on the pitch, without having to trawl through lots of menus and sub menus. If you know that the opposition striker is dangerous and needs close attention, you can find the defender on the screen and check out his man marking stats while the game is still in full flow, and then instruct the defender to man-mark that target. As soon as you have made that man-marking call, you will see your defender attempt to get close to the striker, though unfortunately in our demonstration the opposition striker scored within seconds of being marked, but it just showed that it’s not a guaranteed way of always keeping your opponents from scoring. With defending as just one example I was shown, you can also make changes on the fly all across the pitch, instructing your midfielders to take more long shots and wingers to cross the ball more often, all while the game is unfolding in front of you, just like a real manager.

To read the whole preview click here to be transported to GamingLives.com

The Secret World – Preview

Forget what you think you know. Imagine a world where the lost city of Shambala suddenly reappeared on the world map, imagine a time where the lost city of Atlantis rises out of the sea and imagine a time where the earth that we live on is revealed to be hollow. Those stories, dismissed as myths and legends, are now all true and, with these truths revealed, dark forces come forth, storming the earth and spreading the shadow, waiting to claim anyone who dares to set foot into the darkness. The end of days is upon us, there’s nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. Time is running out and now is the time to choose a side; The Secret World is appearing in front of us.

The Secret World, a brand new MMO from Funcom, places you in a real world setting where everything you thought you knew about this world must be discarded. With darkness seeping into the world, there only are three secret societies willing to stand in its way:

  • The Illuminati; with headquarters in an abandoned warehouse in New York City this group of shadowy figures are looking to rid the world of the darkness. By having their plants in high profile positions in governments and businesses around the world, they can do as they please without giving too much away about themselves.
  • The Dragon; based in Seoul, South Korea, the Dragons motives are not entirely known to the other two factions. The Dragon feel they know the true meaning of the world and are the ones who sit in between the other rival factions, at times being able to manipulate them and bend them to their own will.
  • The Templars; a lavish mansion in the centre of London Town is home to The Templars. With rich heritage and a history of battling the dark forces for thousands of years, tradition means everything to The Templars, although they are aware they must change with the times in order to keep up in the fight.
Not only will these factions be battling demons and the mythical creatures found rising from the depths, now they will be battling against each other. The Templars and The Illuminati are directly opposed, both wanting total control of the world but for totally different purposes. The Dragon on the other hand are very shady, slithering between the factions, ready to turn their back on one and offer their help to the other, but always in a way that benefits them, so that when the time is right, they will be the ones left standing when the dust falls and the sun sets on the end of days. “You can be whoever you want to be and play however you want to play,” says Ragnar Tornquist, creative director on TSW. One of the big differences with TSW compared to other MMOs is that this is a class-less and level-less game, where you are able to progress exactly as you please. PvE missions act as the base for you to gain skill points in order to equip new skills and powers to your character and, whilst I got a quick look at the skill wheel, the presentation I sat in on was unfortunately all in German, so I couldn’t tell exactly what was going on… helpful, I know!
To read the rest of this Preview click here to be transported to gaminglives.com

Why I’m Excited About Google+

So Google+ is here, In a limited way of course. People seem to be falling over themselves to get on the latest Social Network. I was lucky enough to get an invite from a friend on Twitter and it has got me really excited, and this is why;

As a young marketer I am still learning, there are some things I know and I do well at but this industry is ever changing, new ways of doing things come around every single day, every single hour. There is nowhere that I feel that I can get access to quality information quickly. Facebook is full of school “friends” that I haven’t seen for 8 years, must of who are whinging about their life. LinkedIn, while great for networking and keeping in contact with people you meet isn’t great for sharing information. LinkedIn groups, in my opinion, are pretty useless, far too overused with not enough good coming out of them. Maybe I have joined the wrong groups but I don’t find much of use on there.

Google Plus Logo

I am always looking to learn and develop myself. I want to be the best at my job that I can be. Going forward I want to be working hard, earning a good wage and producing quality work and to do that I need to be able to find out about the latest innovations from people who know what they are talking about. I think Google+ will give me the opportunity to find out what others are talking about, what they like, what they don’t, campaigns that are out at the moment and what innovations are coming down the line.

By using the “circles” feature I can sort out the streams of information I am seeing. I I am looking to see what fellow marketing professionals are saying I can. If I want to see what’s going on in the world of Video Games and what articles people are writing I can easily switch to that and not have to trawl through endless updates of “Oh no, my cat scratched my face and Champagne isn’t listening to me, she’s such a little madam lolz”.

I have seen a few bloggers asking if people will be bothered to sort their connections into specific “circles” and I can’t see why not. The system is easy to use and when you first join you can do it before you really get stuck in.

Google Plus Screen

To steal a line from Natalie Griffith who commented on a Google+ post of mine recently: “Having a targeted forum to knowledge share and discuss useful/interesting stuff with the ‘right’ people will be a huge plus, pardon the pun.” And that is the exact reason why I am hoping more people get on board with Google+ when it is eventually opened up.

Do you have any thoughts on Google+? Do you see many positives for the network or are you forseeing another flop in Googles social offerings? Comment below or speak to me on Twitter or Google+

An Open Letter To Joseph S Blatter

Dear Mr Blatter,

I have been playing football for as long as I can remember. Whether it is just having a kick about with some friends on a piece of green, my first organised game at eight years old playing out a 2-2 draw and being named captain or the eleven a side game I played at the home of football, Wembley Stadium, just a few years ago after winning a competition. I have had passion for this sport throughout my entire life. Being born into a family obsessed with the game I was always going to be involved with it.

But I, unlike you and your organisation, find myself in a crisis. At the beginning of the 2010 / 2011 season I found myself captaining a Swindon Sunday League side that had just started up. The manager was the most passionate man I have ever had the pleasure of playing under, every training session was a joy because I could see that this man cared about his players, he wanted to see each and every one of us improve. I remember having conversations with him where he mentioned that he rarely slept the night before a game because his mind was racing with thoughts on the next day’s game. This man lit a fire under me and I wanted to play every second I could for him and the team, unfortunately it wasn’t to be. Five games in I tore the cartilage in my left knee and had to have an operation which kept me out for the rest of the season.

Tragedy then struck for our Sunday League team. The manager lost a member of his family and had to leave the club leaving myself as the captain and our club secretary to run team for the second half of the season. We struggled through the remaining 10 games of the season scraping together a team at times so that we could fulfil fixtures. I must admit that I very much enjoy the coaching aspect and at one point could see myself setting up a kid’s team, helping bring through the next generation of footballers but more on that later.

I have recently found out that I must have another knee operation and this is where I find my crisis Mr Blatter. As someone who loves the sport of Football I find my enthusiasm, my passion, my love wavering. I am on the verge of taking the next year out of football because I do not think I can put everything I have into it. There’s a big chance I would miss the beginning of the season injured and do I have it in me to come back from this to play again? In a time when football is a tainted word in a lot of circles, do I want to work hard to come back into a sport that is rotten to it’s core?

What you must remember Mr Blatter is that what happens at FIFA has a knock on effect to anyone involved in the game, at all levels. If I wanted to start up a children’s team in my local area how could I convince parents to let their children start devoting a big part of their life to a sport whose name is mud? Wouldn’t they rather their children took part in a sport that people in the street had respect for?

Now, I do not claim to know the inner workings of FIFA but how difficult is it for you to come out and be transparent. You speak about the damage done to the reputation of FIFA and you claim to be sorry for the fans of football worldwide. If this was truly the case you would listen to the millions of real football fans calling for you to resign so that FIFA can be rebuilt, from the ground up. You refuse to see that the organisation is crumbling around you, two of your biggest commercial partners Addidas and Coca-Cola are getting worried, if they pull out of their dealings with FIFA would you still claim that there was no crisis?

With footballs name being dragged through the mud, with no end in sight, I can see myself staying away from organised football when I am fit again. I think you would agree that would be a shame and surely I can’t be the only one? There are probably hundreds of thousands of people worldwide who are becoming disillusioned with the state of the game, the game that you have ruled over since 1998. I know football will go on without me but it would be sad for the sport to lose someone who at one time had thoughts of giving back to grassroots football.

Mr Blatter, if you truly cared about football you would come out and admit that your time is up and that your position is no longer tenable. You should make the decision to halt proceedings of this week’s sham election. You should also allow an outside organisation in to investigate the numerous allegations of corruption, if FIFA has nothing to hide like you seem to think then surely it wouldn’t be an issue.

Remember Mr Blatter, football is bigger than all of us and will ultimately prevail but it will prevail a lot quicker without you.

Yours Faithfully

Joe Dale

Mass Effect 3: A Chance To Get It Right

When I first started sitting down and writing about video games I never thought I would breach the subject that you are about to read. But after the announcement by Mass Effect Executive Producer Casey Hudson via his Twitter feed that Mass Effect 3 will allow your Commander Shepherd to engage in same sex relationships and seeing the response from gamers on both Twitter and Facebook… I wanted to write a little bit on what I have read.

My twitter feed was mostly positive about the announcement. I think people have trust in Bioware to treat the subject without resorting to clichés which is normally what happens in video games. One response did put a good point forward though. It certainly wasn’t against the idea but raised concern about how seemingly straight characters in the first two games would suddenly be open to a relationship that wasn’t accessible in the first two instalments. It really is a valid and well thought out point (not all were) and it’s one that Bioware will have to address within the game especially after a lot of players hold a connection to THEIR Commander Shepherd, after spending 80 hours plus with him/her.

But let’s remember that a relationship doesn’t necessarily mean sex. This could be a point that a number of gamers miss, especially those of a certain age experiencing certain feelings for the first time. Throughout the events of the story so far Shepherd (for the basis of this Shepherd is male) has been through a lot with the different characters. From helping out Garrus hold off gangs that were after him on Omega to gaining Thane’s trust, the relationships could be built out of a connection occurring through these life changing events. These characters could have formed a bond with Shepherd that just bursts out at some point.

For the rest of this article please head over to Death By Robots.

REVIEW: Gatling Gears

I didn’t really start getting into gaming until the early nineties when my brother and I were given a Mega Drive to share. I was never around in the days of ploughing your hard earned pocket money into an arcade machine so I don’t really hold any ties to arcade games in general. This could be one reason that when I first picked up my PS3 and Xbox 360 I neglected the arcade and indie games on offer.

I was a slave to graphics even though I would always deny the fact. But when I started playingKatamari Damacy I found that I could love a game even if it wasn’t a graphical powerhouse, it was all about the gameplay. In the past 18 months some of my favourite games have been from XBLA or the PSN; Flower, Limbo and Braid to name a few, but I hadn’t played any top down shooters. Watching them on screen I just couldn’t understand the appeal of them. My first real hands on with one of these was the recent arcade game that was included in Call of Duty: Black Ops. I enjoyed it but only played it once by myself and once with a couple of friends.

So, in steps Gatling Gears. A twin-stick top-down shooter from Vanguard Games who created the well received Greed Corp. Gatling Gears tells the story of Max a pilot in his heyday who was able to take control of one of the Empires newest weapons, The Walker. You are given the basic tutorial of how the Walker works, the left stick moves, right stick fires the machine guns, right trigger fires a rocket, left trigger fires a grenade which you can also aim using the left stick, and Y drops a shock bomb that obliterates all the enemies on screen. When you have completed your initial training an enemy force called the Freeman attacks the empires base. Max sets out to repel the invading freeman and save the Empire base… from there Max leaves the Empire after disobeying an order to destroy a village of innocents retiring to his countryside village to lead out a peaceful life… until of course the dastardly Empire comes after Max, his village and the natural resources.

To read the whole of the review visit Death By Robots – Trust me, It is worth it.

PSN – What Sony Can Do.

So, as I’m sure we are all aware the Playstation Network has been hacked. A bunch of scumbags somewhere now have access to personal details of Sony’s users including name, DOB, purchase history and although Sony hasn’t confirmed it, credit card details.

Now, I don’t claim to be an expert on security so I can’t really comment but I can tell you my thoughts on the situation:

Am I that annoyed that the PS3 has been hacked? Not really. If someone wants to hack a system with enough perseverance and time I’m sure they will get their way in the end just look at security attacks on The Pentagon and NASA, companies are, at times, powerless to stop the attacks. But what Sony can control is how they handle this crisis (and it is just that, a crisis). So far Sony has taken 6 days to tell their customers that their personal details have been compromised, 6 days just isn’t good enough. Whilst we don’t have an inside track into what’s going on within Sony HQ we can take an educated guess that they knew this as early as Friday 22nd March considering some Credit card companies had been made aware then.

The backlash has already started, Fanboys of other consoles are already sticking the knife in to Sony on social networking sites and even users of Sony’s products are venting their frustrations. The story has also made headline news on the mainstream news outlets meaning uninformed people will start having an opinion on the matter, Sony’s stocks have dropped and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. So what can Sony do to help themselves in this situation? What will happen to the company and the Playstation Brand over the next few months? I’m here to have a guess.

To see my suggestions head to the full article at Death By Robots.

Sequels & Remakes – A Rant

was doing my usual web surfing at lunchtime the other day when I stumbled onto Capcom Europe’s website. I flew into a bit of a rage and felt the need for a rant on two subjects: HD Remakes and Pointless Sequels. The below is the product of that rant, unedited and uncensored. Fanboys beware… you may find some of the following offensive.

HD remakes are all the rage at the moment; when a developer doesn’t have anything better to do they re-release an old ‘classic’. Don’t get me wrong, Beyond Good and Evil is the type of game that deserves that treatment; a critically acclaimed game that didn’t sell very well, but can someone tell me why the hell we need a HD version of Resident Evil 4?

To read the rest of this Article head over to Death By Robots