PODCAST Episode 6 – It’s Been A Whiiiiiiiile

It has been a stupidly long time since I did a podcast that I uploaded.  This was just a quickie in which I am cleaning up the house whilst talking about the Christmas rush, lack of podcastery and a general overview of things going on with the store.

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I intend to do more – despite me rushing around and breathing funny due to a cold, the sound quality on the Turtle Beach headset seems pretty damned good!

Destiny Review (PS4)

I’ve spent a few hours on Destiny – not as much as I would like – damned work/kids/life in general!

Despite the lack of playing it over Christmas (PSN DDoS attacks), when I finally got on it, it turns out it was well worth the wait.  I love it.  Yes it’s repetitive, yes it’s samey.  But it’s beautiful and challenging.

I’ll get my criticisms out of the way first .

  1. Despite the large environments, the lack of other players except at the Tower feels a tad underwhelming.  I’ve played games like World of Warcraft etc. and you couldn’t move for spying other players questing and generally dishing out death and inadvertently saving your ass.  Destiny has a smaller number of players roaming the game world outside of the Tower and the fact that a ‘fire team’ consists of only 3 people it seems less populated despite the number of players online.
  2. Due to the lack of players on the various planets, getting members on your fire team for the trickier missions is nigh on impossible.  I’ve only had 2 people join mine in all my time playing and even then they disappeared after like 10 minutes.

Other than those, there are a few minor gripes but nothing worthy of actually noting here.  For the most part, the game is truly amazing.  It has a fantastic voice cast (including Peter Dinklage and Bill Nighy) and the story is your familiar fodder that allows you to just get stuck in.

Visually, each word is lush in its own way, for example Venus is a beautiful haven of greenery consuming and enveloping the architecture – think of Poison Ivy when she breaks loose and lets Mother Nature have her way with Gotham.

PvP is something I’m yet to delve into – I have had a quick go on a few match-ups and had my ass kicked for the most part.  Player matching seems a bit off in the sense that some folks have stupidly advanced gear and for newbies like myself, it was a proper arse-rapingly embarrassing affair.

At this time, I haven’t bought the expansions so my experience is based solely on the original game.

Overall, yes it is an extremely good game and I think I went in with expectations on the scale of WoW but it seems more like Bordlerlands in the sense of a more drop in/drop out co-op multiplayer gameplay.  If you enjoy shooters then this is a must.  If you can get past the the niggling feeling of solitude (at least that’s how it seems in my experience, but may vary if you have a lot of buddies on PSN that you can hook up with to take down some Fallen nasties rather than hoping strangers will join you on your journey).

Here’s a video of some gameplay of mine a few days back.  I died.  Lots.  But the 2 other players were randoms I bumped into and we banded together (we weren’t in a fire team).

[su_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3jkx0EQIeE”]

Once I’ve had more time on this and tried out Expansion I ‘The Dark Below’, I’ll try and update this with a bit more ‘meat’.  But for now, game on!

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Knowing Me, Knowing You

I recorded a podcast and seem to have lost it amongst a plethora of recordings that I haven’t had a chance to sit down and edit.  The premise was that I would have an episode to speak about me (which I both hate and am not good at).  The idea behind it was to allow folks to know who is behind Nerdgazzum and to, I suppose, inspire more confidence in the sense that there is no anonymity or clear accountability behind the face of the business.

As I hate talking about myself in a serious manner, I don’t really know how to start so I guess I shall begin by telling you that my name is Craig Stewart.  I was born in Edinburgh in 1984 and currently live in South Wales (for almost 10 years at the time of writing this).

I work in a call centre in customer services full time (12 hour shifts practically) and started Nerdgazzum in February of 2014 as a means of breaking free from the tedium that has set in after (at the time) 8 years of working there.  As of this April, it’ll be 9 years.

On top of working full time, I also have 3 daughters – at the time of starting the business I had 2 with one on the way.

I always wanted to do something I enjoyed – my previous jobs have lost their novelty at a certain point and so I moved on to pastures new but, working for others soon became my issue and working for myself is the dream.  I read Kevin Smith’s “Tough Sh*t” – yes, I’ve blogged and posted on social media about this before – and it inspired me to do something I want to do; something I’m interested in.

I inadvertently started on my path when I subscribed to Nerdblock — a monthly subscription of mystery goodies – and had some items I wasn’t particularly interested in and sold them on eBay.  The biggest sells were 2 Funko POP!s – Invisible Bilbo Baggins and Jabba The Hutt…these sold for way more than I expected and my ‘eureka’ moment hit me.  I soon set off on a journey that I didn’t think would amount to anything – I e-mailed companies and chased up leads to figure out how I’d start.

At the time, there were to be 3 of us involved.  Myself and 2 of my colleagues but due to events in their personal lives (one was expecting a baby and the other was having issues that I need not mention here).  So, it was either a case of sink or swim.  Let the seminal idea go or stick with it.

I stuck with it and, with a small investment from each of us (£13 each) I started the website – this had been done prior to the decision to go it alone.  With another £80 I started off with 6 Funko POP!s (Harley Quinn with Mallet figures).  It was a struggle, mainly selling to friends and eventually friends of friends.  But, by securing some San Diego Comic Con 2014 items, it pretty much set me on course for a more successful venture.

It’s been tough, and it still is – as time goes on, managing a website that displays almost 1500 items and trying to maintain it whilst holding down a full-time job and just general family life and domestic chores there have been times that I have been close to jacking it all in.  At one stage, I came so close it wasn’t even an idle threat.

But, despite how hard I found making my mark and getting people to hear of my site and trust me enough to spend their hard earned cash on me, an unknown in an ever growing market, I carried on – to which I am glad as it’s the only thing that got me through the darkest part of my life and the hardest part of 2014.

In May, I discovered my Mum had been diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in the January just gone.  The cancer was untreatable and it was basically months that she was given.  In June, I took the family up as we always do each year, to visit and spend time with my family as well as celebrate my 30th birthday (June 16th).  My Mum’s birthday is the day after mine.

In August, it turns out she had been admitted into hospital into the Margaret Kerr Unit (palliative care).  At this time, my partner was heavily pregnant and our third addition to the family was expected on 2 September, but on the run up it seemed like she may arrive sooner.

I had a tough decision to make – do I go and see my mum one last time and leave my family behind to possibly miss the birth of my daughter (or worse, not be there if any issues arose).  In the end, we all went up.  That was the toughest decision of my life but I am glad I did it.  I dropped them off at my Mum’s house and got them settled (this was around 1am by the time we arrived).  By 1:30 I was at the hospital to meet my sister and I stayed up all night (well, morning).

I won’t give a blow by blow account of my time there but, the following night, I stayed with my Mum on my own in the hospital to give my sister a break and my Mum, throughout the night and the wee hours, opened her eyes which she had never done before.  She showed signs of strength that she hadn’t demonstrated since being admitted; trying to move and re-position herself in the bed as well as wanting a drink.  In my mind, I wanted to believe that my presence was giving her some form of strength and a bit of fight back.  Maybe my Mum would come back?  Immediately as that thought occurred, my senses kicked in and told me not to be stupid.  She was not being fed nor watered, she was on a drip of painkillers and nothing else.

On August 29th, about an hour into my shift in work, I had the fateful call that my Mum had passed away.  The following week, after my daughter was born and had come home, I hit the road to Scotland.  Alone.  I recorded a solo podcast on the road which was a shoddy rant at a few things.

To say 2014 was challenging is to say that Batman is a little bitch.  But, by the time my Mum had passed, I felt I had come so far that to give it all up would be criminal.  My father passed away earlier in the year, but as I hadn’t spoken to him since I was 12, his passing didn’t affect me all that much.  But the fact that both of my parents were now gone, it made me question my own mortality.

I know children should survive their parents – it’s the natural order, after all – but I would have traded places if I could.  But I couldn’t, and all I could and can do is do my Mum proud and not quit.  I normally choose the path of least resistance.  At the first sign of difficulty I usually quit – a videogame mentality, hit a hard part, save it and maybe come back later.  Or, quit and put something else on, haha!

But, as I always believed, things that are worth doing are never easy.  If they were, everyone would be doing it.  And so, I carry on and at this stage I feel like I’ve accomplished something.  There’s still a lot to do and it’s only going to get tougher before it gets easier, but I’m not getting any younger and I need to focus on this.

I’ve had some criticisms and some shitty e-mails and comments from people.  Yes, sometimes I may take a while to update folks on their orders or or maybe take a while to update my store with date changes and what-not.  But, for those that keep coming back – they know they can drop me an e-mail or Facebook message and double check.  Considering how hectic life is generally, no one can deny that I am pretty damned diligent in my responses – if they’re not straight away they’re mostly not far off it.  Some may take longer as I may be in work and can’t use my phone unless I’m on break.  Or I may take some time to look into something.

But how many retailers will reply to a private message at 3am?  Or message you straight back and have a laugh and joke with you?

A lot of people seem to think, and have called me a liar when I have said to the contrary, that Nerdgazzum is a big business.  It’s not a limited company.  It’s not a buzzing hive of employees all working together as one.  It’s just me.  And considering that I have no business experience prior (except Business Studies and Accounting & Finance in high school) and the fact that this is my pet project as a dream to get me out of my day job and into this as my career, I haven’t done that bad (I’d like to think).

Anyway, I need to get back to number crunching as I’m amassing a HUGE order (including the much anticipated Gold Smaug figures and a few other figures of sheer awesomeness).

I wanted to take the time to let folks know who is behind the name, what drives me and that, after all, I am one mere mortal trying to fight it out amidst the bigger names and companies with buying power and remaining pretty damned competitive while I’m at it.

Remember, if you have any doubts about something on the store (item availability etc) just drop me a message on the Facebook page or send a Tweet or even an e-mail.

Have a good ‘un!

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Playstation 4 Review

I finally got this bad boy fired up on Christmas Eve!  I didn’t get much gaming done, mind – most of my time was spent downloading game updates, installing the games and redeeming my codes (Season Passes etc).

This isn’t a review per se – it’s more a run-down of my perceptions of the console (I haven’t tried everything out yet).

 

First Impressions

Despite the fact this is more powerful than its predecessor, it is significantly lighter than the original PS3 (Fat 6oGB).  The almost alien look of it and cool strip light is a pretty suave, futuristic thing of beauty.  The controller took a bit of getting used to – it feels familiar but at the same time, getting used to the lack of ‘START’ and ‘SELECT’ buttons is still a struggle.

The touch pad is a pretty cool feature and again, feels a bit unusual, but once the old creature comforts die out, the controller is a mean piece of kit!

 

Getting Started

So, my Christmas Eve on the console consisted of installing GTA V, Destiny, Lego Batman 3, Far Cry 4, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Injustice: Gods Among Us, The Last of Us Remastered and a few other PSN games I downloaded.

Then the games needed software updates.

One thing I do love is the fact that you can multi-task now – as a game is installing/updating, you can flick to another game or app and play it while you wait.  No more boring black screen with a seemingly stationary progress bar.

 

First Game

I was torn as to which game to play first, but I settled with GTA V as I wanted to get online and claim the free items as part of the Festive event.  I was fortunate enough to be able to sign into PSN after 2 or 3 attempts and had a quick go online.

I then decided to hit the story mode and enjoy a game I had spent hours on on my PS3 in a new light – this game looks even more fantastic than before!  It took a bit of getting used to using the touch pad to change camera views and the first-person driving, whilst it looks lush, is just not my thing.  I also tested out my Turtle Beach Ear Force Z60 headset and was amazed!  I wasn’t sure if it’d work – my PS3 allowed voice chat but gameplay was still heard on the TV.  I plugged this in and felt a bit deflated as I had seen a video on Youtube saying it worked but didn’t specify what (would it just be the same as on my PS3?).  Googling turned up no info as to how it worked so I was glad that I finally got to test it myself and find that the PS4 has an option to send the audio to the headset as well.

On top of the awesome surround sound quality, I shortly discovered that my control pad also speaks to me.  You can pick up police radio chatter and phone calls from GTA V on it and the light was having an epileptic fit of blue and red flashiness as I was being chased by the cops in the opening mission.

Impresssed was not the word.

 

Disaster

So, Christmas Day hit and I was on the console off and on throughout the day.  PSN seemed intermittent and I just assumed high levels of traffic due to other new users as well as folks getting Destiny and the like.  Later in the evening, I discovered it was due to DDoS attacks.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say it ruined my Christmas but it did piss me off – I was dying to get onto Destiny and see what the fuss was all about!

In the meantime, I made do with playing Injustice and the story mode on CoD for a bit as well as bouts of GTA V.

Boxing Day was much the same and then I was back in work the day after.  After a few days, PSN was back and I still couldn’t get on but thanks to a post on Twitter that I spotted, it made mention of changing the MTU settings and voila!  Back on.

 

A Far Cry

Having played Far Cry 2 (for some reason I never got round to getting number 3), I loved the game and Far Cry 4 seemed like a good buy.  I wouldn’t say it’s shit but I’m just not…feeling it.  Visually it’s lovely and there is so much scope for activities and so on and I think that’s why I feel so miffed by it.  I see a fantastic game but I am becoming more and more apprehensive of vastly open worlds.  I get a tad anxious as it’s daunting trying to figure out where to start and what to do.  Plus, with the sheer abundance of side missions, easter eggs and collectibles games like this wind me up no end.  I will play it properly and I will no doubt over come this hurdle – a similar hurdle that I have with Lego Batman 3.  I know it is a rather linear game but there are large numbers of choices as well as the replayability freeplay gives you to go back with other characters to unlock new items and explore previously blocked areas.

 

Socially Twitchy

The social features on the PS4 are pretty neat – uploading videos and screenshots to Youtube and Facebook respectively and of course live streaming on Twitch.  This is something I plan on using a lot as part of the social and networking side of Nerdgazzum and tie that in to game reviews and so on.

 

Traveller’s Tales

Finally, I get to play Destiny the night I get my PSN back.  Despite my previous comments about anxiety over large, open world games this wasn’t so bad.  Again, it has its linear moments but the open world isn’t THAT open.  Having played other MMOs (namely World of Warcraft), this felt immediately familiar and quite comfortable.  Unlike WoW, though, I suck at PvP games so I think I’ll be spending my time levelling up and getting shit-hot gear before I tackle the Crucible events again.

The voice cast (Bill Nighy and Peter Dinklage for example) is awesome and the visuals are retina-scorchingly beautiful.  Again, there are a few things that need getting used to (events and so on) but I am thoroughly enjoying it.  One thing I’m finding odd, though is the number of players (or lack thereof).  I know millions upon millions play it but, unlike WoW, when you go to the likes of The Tower (the game’s hub basically) there aren’t that many other players there.  Trying to get folks to join a Fire Team is a chore and i just seems to dampen the experience for me at the moment as most missions are mainly tackled by myself.

 

Summary

So, in short – the PS4 is amazing.  There are a plethora of features and apps and what-not that I have had a shot on and many more I haven’t tried yet.  Add to that, the scope of possibility and other apps and abilities.  One thing I really wanna try is the Game Share feature just to see how well it works.

Stay tuned for more reviews as the PS4 is going to play an integral role on this blog for gaming reviews, funny moments and possibly even walkthroughs at some stage.