Monthly Archives: December 2013

Telltale games, please don’t overkill the point-and-click adventure genre

Telltale deserved the GOTY in 2012, I just hope they don't go mad with power.  Source: northbaybusinessjournalist

Telltale deserved the GOTY in 2012, I just hope they don’t go mad with power. Source: northbaybusinessjournalist

The games industry is littered with moments where publishers saw something that people liked, jumped on the bandwagon and held on until people got fed up of the same dross. It happened with games trying to take World of Warcraft’s MMO crown, it happened with the endless Guitar Hero games and it’ll happen eventually to the yearly Call of Duty release.

The reason why I bring this is up is I’m a little worried that Telltale Games could be doing the same with their interactive storytelling games. As announced during the VGX awards, Telltale will be making Tales from Borderlands and Game of Thrones in the next year, on top of their other in progress franchises The Wolf Among Us and The Walking Dead.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love what they’ve done and The Walking Dead Season One was easily my game of 2012. But that’s where it all starts, much like Call of Duty 4 or Guitar Hero 2, one of the games is highly rated by critics, blows up with audiences and then companies see it as a banker.

This was crazy good, Season 2 and the rest of their new flock have a lot to live up to.  Source: dualshockers.com

This was crazy good, Season 2 and the rest of their new flock have a lot to live up to. Source: dualshockers.com

I’ve just played the opening episode to Season Two, it’s great, and I plan on sometime playing The Wolf Among Us but that’s where I fear things may start. We are bound to have the other two franchises at least start sometime in 2014, how long until their style and the storylines become a little tedious? How long until you’ve told enough from one franchise, will they give it up?

It’s unlikely, publishers know that they’ll take in money regardless of how much they change and that’s becoming an issue. We are seeing less genuine hits of inspiration and more copies of the same style as last year with updated walking cycles or destructible environments.

I hope I’m wrong, I hope they don’t go too crazy with the amount they are taking on and overload the market too early with the well-timed resurgence of the point-and-click adventure. But the warning signs are there but if the gaming world is to yet again ignore the past, it is doomed to repeat it’s mistakes.

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The Stream Of German Talent Is Never-ending

Ozil, Gotze and Reus are three high-profile success stories, could these be the next to follow?  Source: Eurofootballweb

Ozil, Gotze and Reus are three high-profile success stories, could these be the next to follow? Source: Eurofootballweb

There are many reasons why the English papers love talking about how we should adopt the German model of bringing through young players. We’ve seen a mass of talented young players in their ranks for the past few years and that conveyor belt doesn’t look like drying up just yet. Here’s a look at four more products that have excited in the first half of the Bundesliga season.

Timo Werner – VfB Stuttgart

Timo Werner is an exciting talent that is now been given a real chance to shine.  Source: Bundesliga

Timo Werner is an exciting talent that is now been given a real chance to shine. Source: Bundesliga

At just the tender age of 17, Timo Werner has shown so far in his short career that he could be another German star-in-the-making. Making his debut against Bayer Leverkusen back in August, he’s played 14 games so far this season and with each passing match his influence on a relatively mediocre Stuttgart side is growing.

Mainly played on the left-hand side of a forward three, he operates much like a winger but has the tendencies to cut inside but also the ability to drive past the outside of defenders. What stands out the most is that, whilst he could play in the middle, he has the ability to be a wide man compared to the numerous number ten’s we’ve seen recently.

His stand-out game was the 3-1 win against Freiburg, where he became the youngest player in Bundesliga history to score twice in a single contest. It showed his ability to take responsibity, like all good players do, and come up with the goods to get his side the win. He is certainly someone to keep an eye on for the next few years as he continues to rise in stature.

Maximilian Arnold – VfL Wolfsburg

Arnold may struggle to establish himself internationally but Wolfsburg won't mind.  Source: Bundesliga

Arnold may struggle to establish himself internationally but Wolfsburg won’t mind. Source: Bundesliga

Just as Wolfsburg seem to have a fire lit under them, young Maxi Arnold has really started to shine on a consistent basis. Since coming into the fold last season, many at the club have hoped that Maxi would be a home-grown player that could be a staple for years to come.

This year didn’t start off well, a deserved red card against Hannover on the opening day took some gloss of what many expected to be a good year for the 19-year-old, but since then he’s been terrific. He’s becoming a real key player for the Wolves, having scored five goals this season at crucial times and whilst he hasn’t made an assist yet he’s created 40 chances in his 10 appearances, an excellent return.

Internationally he may be frozen out by the other talent that play in the hole behind the striker, but if he can continue on this vein of form he’ll be difficult to ignore. Dangerous inside and outside the box, Arnold has the talent to both score and create regularly which can only benefit Wolfsburg’s European hopes.

Max Meyer – Schalke 04

He can't escape the spotlight now, but Meyer has been excellent for Schalke so far.  Source: goal.com

He can’t escape the spotlight now, but Meyer has been excellent for Schalke so far. Source: goal.com

With many people talking about team-mate Julian Draxler, Meyer has been given the chance to slowly grow within the Schalke side. However, after Draxler’s recent injury and Meyer’s excellent current form, no-one can take their eyes off the 18-year-old.

Voted the best player at the U-17’s European Championships in 2012, along with being top goalscorer, it was clear that he had the talent to become an eye-catching footballer. Yet another attacking midfielder, Meyer is more in the mould of Mario Gotze, using his pace, cleverness and great dribbling ability to create opportunities for his team.

Three goals and an assist so far this year, he’s shown that he belongs in a Schalke side full of youthful talent. He signed a new deal until 2018 last month which was key for the side from Gelsenkirchen, who may lean more on Meyer if Draxler was to leave in the summer.

Kevin Volland – Hoffenheim

Volland has really impressed and could get a big move in the summer.  Source: Bundesliga

Volland has really impressed and could get a big move in the summer. Source: Bundesliga

A relatively well-known name in Germany for a few years now, it seems that Kevin Volland is now showing just why he has been the striker on everyone’s lips to become a future force in the national side.

The 21-year-old is blossoming in a much-improved Hoffenheim, seven goals in 15 starts shows his prowess in front of goal. His no-fear attitude brings excitement to the fans, willing to run and tussle with defenders to get into profitable positions on the field. He can also score every type of goal, from 25-yard belters to 2-yard reactions that come off the knee, he’s that kind of striker that wants to score.

He’s being tipped to be the replacement for Robert Lewandowski at Borussia Dortmund (assuming he still goes) and that should only help speed up his development. And with Miroslav Klose not getting any younger and Mario Gomez struggling with injuries, it might open up a spot for him to join the national team on the plane to Brazil this summer.

Stand By Your Man: Why Owners Should Stick By Their Managers

Andre Villas-Boas has been the most high-profile head to roll this past month after taking over just last summer.  Source: Daily Mail

Andre Villas-Boas has been the most high-profile head to roll this past month after taking over just last summer. Source: Daily Mail

Brian Laws, Guy Whittingham, Richie Barker, Sean O’Driscoll, David Flitcroft, Martin Jol, Dave Jones, Owen Coyle, Steve Clarke, Andre Villas-Boas and Gianfranco Zola have all lost their jobs in football management in the past three weeks in the top four English divisions.

What is most shocking from these 11 managerial sackings is that the longest reign of all of them, which is Jol’s stint at Fulham, was just two-and-a-half years. That is seen now as almost the maximum benchmark for changing a team’s fortunes and that just shows you the pressure every single coach is under to produce.

Obviously every single situation is different and there can be justified reasons for each of those sackings, but eight of those bosses had either just under or just over a year in charge before getting the boot. Feasibly in most cases, even if it was going poorly, it’s not enough time to change this around and the win-now culture is becoming out of hand.

David Flitcroft, sacked by Barnsley, found a new job at Bury. He lasted less than a year in Yorkshire.  Source: BBC

David Flitcroft, sacked by Barnsley, found a new job at Bury. He lasted less than a year in Yorkshire. Source: BBC

Lessons should be learnt from the teams that have had success, such as Sir Alex Ferguson’s tenure at Manchester United. At times, especially in the beginning, he struggled but he eventually turned the team to a powerhouse of the past few decades.

There are even examples this season of a manager’s longevity providing a return. Arsene Wenger was hounded after losing the first home game of the season but now he’s the one smiling with Arsenal on top of the Premier League. It’s even shown further down the league structure in League One, with Russell Slade finally breaking Leyton Orient’s mid-table mediocrity with his side currently in first position.

Sometimes you have to live through a bit of pain before baring some results but people don’t seem to see it anymore. Liverpool have had a poor time of it but they have found the right man to take them forward in Brendan Rodgers, Wigan stuck by Roberto Martinez and even though he couldn’t keep them up he brought them silverware.

Slade's Orient finished 7th in 2010/11, 20th in 2011/12 and 7th in 2012/13. The faith showed in him could pay off in promotion this year.  Source: The FA

Slade’s Orient finished 7th in 2010/11, 20th in 2011/12 and 7th in 2012/13. The faith showed in him could pay off in promotion this year. Source: The FA

You have to give a man time to get things right, rushing to decisions too early can kill a team’s season off regardless of who comes in. I guarantee that at least half of those teams who have sacked their manager will see a difference until the start of next season and those that do succeed might have a tough period come next year, and that’s why you sometimes have to ride it out. The only example of chopping and changing “working” is at Chelsea, but at the same time they have the financial clout to not have to worry so much about any personnel issues.

It could be worse; statistics by Sky Sports this past week show that the average tenancy in English football is 21 months whilst in Spain it’s eight, which is beyond a joke. However, that average will be coming down very soon and what worries me is that it will discourage those who do want to try coaching to avoid it without the job security.

At the end of the day, some of these sackings will have been the right decision. Some will be proven as rushed and that others may have been at fault, but owners really need to start wanting consistency that can lead to regular success rather than a one-shot deal that can end in disaster.

Hull City Are Proving Everyone Wrong, So Far

Hopefully the owner's name change doesn't impact things on the field.  Source: Daily Mail

Hopefully the owner’s name change doesn’t impact things on the field. Source: Daily Mail

Many people tipped them to go straight back down without as much of a whimper, but Hull City have impressed many with their sturdy displays so far this season.

It got off to a worrying start, going two goals down away to Chelsea in the first half that could have gone very bad if the Blues had converted more of their opportunities, including a penalty. But then, they had a second half that has so far defined their season, they continued to play in the way they wanted to and remained calm to keep the score as respectful as possible whilst also posing a threat.

Currently in 12th on eighteen points so far, Hull have pulled some excellent results in the first half of the season. Wins against the teams around them (Norwich, West Ham, Sunderland), solid draws (Everton, Cardiff, Aston Villa) combined with some terrific wins (Liverpool, Newcastle) have given the side a platform to avoid relegation if they maintain the course in the second half of the season.

Huddlestone, easily bargain of the season.  Source: Daily Mail

Huddlestone, easily bargain of the season. Source: Daily Star

Steve Bruce has done a superb job with a relatively average group of players that he added to in the summer with a bit of Premier League quality. Tom Huddlestone is my pound-for-pound bargain of the summer transfer window, he’s brought a steady calm to Hull’s midfield, always available to take the ball and keep the side ticking on by doing all the uncelebrated things no-one likes doing.

Jake Livermore has been excellent on loan, linking with Huddlestone well who he played with at Tottenham whilst also being a link with the front players when the Tigers break. Also an underrated addition is Curtis Davies, a solid mid-level Premier League centre back that has just given them that bit of solidity next to the less experience James Chester and that all important top flight know-how that really adds to a team like Hull City.

The addition of Maynor Figeroua at left-back and the real development of El Mohhamedy as a right-back have also helped, keeping the team solid whilst also giving them a nice attacking edge most smaller sides don’t have. Others have made the step up nicely, Robbie Brady and Sone Aluko have that no-fear attitude, tormenting defences with their skill and speed whilst also contributing with goals.

Steve Bruce is a good manager, it just didn't click at Sunderland like it is again at Hull.  Source: Guardian

Steve Bruce is a good manager, it just didn’t click at Sunderland like it is again at Hull. Source: Guardian

This all circles back to Steve Bruce, he’s really shown his coaching credentials that were so hurt when he was sacked by Sunderland. His team are hard to beat, which is one of the toughest things to achieve when you’ve just been promoted, whilst also posing a bit of a threat when going up top. The only thing I think he’s done wrong was not getting Shane Long through the door, he would have added that perfect counter-attacking edge and they would have won more games than they already have.

It will get tougher for the Tigers as teams begin to try and stop the way they like to play and it’s not the ideal team to come from behind, but there are so many positive signs from the team many thought were goners. With maybe one or two more additions in January and avoid any off-the-field hoo-haa, Hull could continue to ply their trade in the top division of English football.

How Jacksonville Jaguars have turned a corner

Props also go to Jaxson de Ville, the craziest mascot ever.  Source: Daily Mail

Props also go to Jaxson de Ville, the craziest mascot ever. Source: Daily Mail

I did not see this coming at all. I’m not trying to be disrespectful to the team, their players or their fans, but I honestly did not think that the Jacksonville Jaguars would win a game all season. They were getting pretty comfortably beaten each week, didn’t have any real outstanding talent on the team anymore and looked to be playing for that top pick in 2014.

Then, coming off their bye week, they go and win four out of their last five games, including a double over an admittedly-terrible Houston Texans. Who would have predicted that at the start of the season? Many will point to the wins coming against poor teams like the Browns and the average Titans, but this is a side with only one real name player in Maurice Jones-Drew.

MoJo is still the major talent, but he's not getting younger.  Source: Jaguars.com

MoJo is still the major talent, but he’s not getting younger. Source: Jaguars.com

It took them nine games to get a win, ten to get their first touchdown at home but finally the Jags seem to have found their feet a little. First of all, in three of their four wins, they haven’t been behind at any stage of the game. This is particularly important to a team with less talent especially at quarterback, so they don’t have to rely on turnovers or plays on offensive to dig them out of a hole.

And because they’ve been ahead in games, it’s limited the amount of turnovers the team have made over the past five weeks. Ignoring the Cardinals game where they were behind for long periods, Chad Henne has only thrown three interceptions and that’s allowed the offence to have more time on the field to be productive.

They are also winning in multiple ways, whether it’s through Chad Henne’s better consistent play, Jones-Drew dragging the team down the field or the defence creating turnovers, they are now finding a way to win each week whereas before they couldn’t get anything from anywhere.

Gus Bradley brings the best attitude to a struggling team, it'll pay off if talent comes in.  Source: philly.com

Gus Bradley brings the best attitude to a struggling team, it’ll pay off if talent comes in. Source: philly.com

Everything circles back to first-year head coach Gus Bradley and his excellent work with this group of players. He did a great job in Seattle with their defence and many dismiss the Pete Carroll “rah-rah” style of coaching but it’s worked perfectly in this scenario with a downtrodden group that needed that arm around the shoulder.

I’m not saying this team is good, far from it, they have limited talent and will need to be improved personnel-wise in the offseason. But what is positive here is that Bradley can coach despite the talent and if the pool is a little bigger next season, you could see their first positive season in a while.

Atletico Madrid are real title contenders in La Liga

Diego Costa has stepped up his game, much more than any expected.  Source: Sky Sports

Diego Costa has stepped up his game, much more than any expected. Source: Sky Sports

For the last five or so years, there have only really been two teams in Spain challenging for the title in Barcelona and Real Madrid. However, currently sat on equal points with table-toppers Barca, Atletico Madrid should be considered genuine title contenders for the La Liga title.

It shouldn’t be so much of a surprise, Atletico were terrific last season as they finished third and beat Real Madrid to win the Copa Del Rey, but no-one thought any side could challenge the established top two. It’s even more impressive considering they sold their best player in the summer in Radamel Falcao, who also scored the majority of the side’s goals.

Where their success has started is in defence, with the side conceding just 12 goals through 20 games so far in all competitions. They have a solid back four in Filipe Luis, Miranda, Diego Godin and Juanfran who give them a solid base to build on in every game, even against tough opponents.

Thibaut Courtois has been a revelation is his three years on loan from Chelsea.  Source: Daily Mail

Thibaut Courtois has been a revelation is his three years on loan from Chelsea. Source: Daily Mail

Even if a team gets past them, they have to try and score against one of the best goalkeepers in Europe at the moment in Thibaut Courtois. It’s crazy to think that the side have got him on loan for the third time of asking and unsurprisingly they were more than happy to welcome the Belgian back. Chelsea have a big decision in the summer, because he won’t be going out on loan again.

They’ve built on this solid base from the back by converting chances at the other end, too. David Villa has been an excellent addition, especially at the price they bought him for, returning to the form and position that brought him so much success in the past. The midfield in Koke, (who’s really playing well) Arda Turan, (who’s always excellent) Tiago and Gabi (who have worked well in defence too) have added to that potency in the attacking half of the pitch, giving the side plenty of options when they are on the offensive.

Diego Costa is the real X-factor this year though, who has raised his game to that next level and has given his side that something a little special. His regular hot-headedness has, so far, turned into focus and at the moment he’s scoring for fun against any opponent in a variety of different ways.

Diego Simeone has been terrific, keep an eye out when another big job comes around.  Source: ITV

Diego Simeone has been terrific, keep an eye out when another big job comes around. Source: ITV

What also impresses me is the depth inside the team. Signings like Tony Alderweireld and Joshua Guilavogui combined with the youth of Leo Baptistao and Oliver Torres gives the side options to rotate and change personnel when needed, which is crucial for them to sustain a challenge throughout the season.

All credit must go to boss Diego Simeone, as his hard-working, hard-nosed style is really working with the players at his disposal. His side are fighting for him on the pitch every week, it’s clear to see and he’ll certainly be a man to watch in the future if he can continue to help Atletico to grow.

So the real question is, can they keep it up? They passed the first big test in beating Real and have kept pace when many thought they’d slip up eventually, so the next test is to get something when they meet Barcelona in January. If they are still within touching distance at that time and come away with something positive, no-one will argue that Atletico are rightful contenders to the Spanish crown.