Prose & Pixels

Prose & Pixels #10: Following the Fellowship, Part 1

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Prose & Pixels is a feature that combines two of my loves: books and video games. Here I’ll discuss all sorts of things to do with the two, whether it’s recommendations, influences or just a good old chat.

This particular topic is going to become a sort of sub-feature of Prose & Pixels. It is based on a Tumblr account I ran a few years ago, which is now closed. I want to show just how detailed The Lord of the Rings Online is, by illustrating excerpts from the book with screenshots from the game. I’ve previously spoken about how much detail the developers have added, including so many tiny features that you wouldn’t notice unless you looked closely, or other things that may only be familiar to the biggest fans.

Bag End

LOTRO1 LOTRO2

“The riches [Bilbo] had brought back from his travels had now become a local legend, and it was popularly believed, whatever the old folk might say, that the Hill at Bag End was full of tunnels stuffed with treasure.”Chapter I: A Long Expected Party, The Fellowship of the Ring

Bag End is located at the top of the Hill, overlooking the Party Tree. Players are able to enter Bag End and look through several rooms – although many others are blocked off by piles of furniture. Who knows what lies down those tunnels?

The Ivy Bush Inn

LOTRO3

“… The Ivy Bush, a small inn on the Bywater Road…”Chapter I: A Long Expected Party, The Fellowship of the Ring

LOTRO has many inns and pubs for your character to visit, and several of which have unique ales and wines. You are able to ‘drink’ these, and the more you drink, the drunker your character becomes. You hear them start to sing and hiccup, and your screen becomes blurry and shaky for a short period. My hobbit Isolde sampled the Ivy Bush’s 1404 Vintage, which put her in a very jolly mood…

Bagshot Row

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“… [Gaffer Gamgee] had tended the garden at Bag End for forty years, and had helped old Holman in the same job before that. Now he was himself growing old and stiff in the joints, the job was mainly carried on by his youngest son, Sam Gamgee. Both father and son were on very friendly terms with Bilbo and Frodo. They lived on the Hill itself, in Number 3 Bagshot Row, just below Bag End.”Chapter I: A Long Expected Party, The Fellowship of the Ring

Just as described, Bagshot Row is located down the Hill from Bag End. You can even talk to Gaffer Gamgee, who sells tools and consumables for the Farming skill.

This is just a small preview of the detail included in the game – I will be sharing more and more throughout these posts, some things so tiny that you really wouldn’t notice them unless you were looking out for them specifically.

Have you ever played Lord of the Rings Online? Are there any particular locations you’d like me to find in the game?

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Prose & Pixels

Prose & Pixels #9: Currently Playing (July 2015)

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Prose & Pixels is a feature where I discuss one of my other loves: video games. Sometimes it also combines the two. Here I’ll discuss all sorts of things, whether it’s recommendations, influences or just a good old chat.

Today I wanted to share the games I am currently playing!

Cook, Serve, Delicious!

Cook, Serve, Delicious!

Cook, Serve, Delicious! is possibly the most fun I’ve had whilst simultaneously feeling stressed. It’s a restaurant management sim, and brands itself as ‘hardcore’. It pretty much involves serving customers food and drink, whilst keeping your restaurant clean and tidy, working your way up from a greasy spoon to a five star restaurant. You must pass safety inspections, you can take part in the ‘Iron Chef’ TV show, date other chefs and more. Frantic button mashing ensues. There is something very, very addictive about it, and I’m now working my way from a four star to five star restaurant.

Far Cry 3

Far Cry 3

I really really love open world games, and Far Cry 3 is an amazing one. You play Jason, a young man on holiday with his brothers and their friends, when their skydiving adventure goes horribly wrong. They find themselves on an island where they are taken hostage by pirates. Jason manages to escape the camp, and is rescued by a group of people known as the Rakyat. They begin to teach him the path of the warrior, and he sets out to rescue each of his friends from the pirates. Whilst the main storyline sees you rescuing everyone, there are so many different sidequests and places to explore. It’s a huge tropical island, with not only dangerous people but also animals like tigers and komodo dragons. SUCH an atmospheric game!

Lego Jurassic World

Lego Jurassic World

Yessss, I already bought Lego Jurassic World. It was on sale on Bundle Stars, and I managed to pick it up for only £13. It doesn’t just cover the new film, but all four. I absolutely love the Lego games, so combined with one of my favourite films it is perfect. Plus you can be a dinosaur!

Do you enjoy playing video games? What are you currently playing?

Prose & Pixels

Prose & Pixels #8: L.A. Noire & Crime Noir

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Prose & Pixels is a feature that combines two of my loves: books and video games. Here I’ll discuss all sorts of things to do with the two, whether it’s recommendations, influences or just a good old chat.

Today I want to talk about: the influences of crime noir on the video game L.A. Noire.

L.A. Noire is one of my absolute favourite video games. Set in Los Angeles in 1947, the player takes on the role of Cole Phelps, an LAPD officer, who works his way up the ranks and through the various departments. It uses very unique technology, in that each of the voice actors were actually filmed as they recorded their lines, making each character’s face very realistic. The reason for this is that the player, as Cole Phelps, must interview and question various people, making judgements based on their facial responses, expressions and body language.

LA Noire

Influenced by crime noir films and books of the 1940s and 1950s, the developers have made sure this is reflected in everything from the colour palette used to advertisements seen around Los Angeles, from the language that the people use to the songs and radio stations on Phelps’ car radio. Each case that the player must attempt to solve borrows from crime noir film and fiction in various ways, and I wanted to share a few of those bookish influences with you today.

The Big Sleep (Philip Marlowe #1) by Raymond Chandler

The Big Sleep

When a dying millionaire hires Philip Marlowe to handle the blackmailer of one of his two troublesome daughters, Marlowe finds himself involved with more than extortion. Kidnapping, pornography, seduction, and murder are just a few of the complications he gets caught up in.

Raymond Chandler is possibly one of the biggest influences on L.A. Noire, an infamous crime writer whose noir fiction has been well-loved since publication. The Big Sleep is the first book in his Philip Marlowe series, and like Marlowe, Phelps finds himself embroiled in a lot more than he expected. As well as being an influence on the game itself, there is a small tribute to Chandler’s work – the theatre on Sunset Boulevard within the game also advertises a screening of the film of The Big Sleep.

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

The Maltese Falcon

Sam Spade is hired by the fragrant Miss Wonderley to track down her sister, who has eloped with a louse called Floyd Thursby. But Miss Wonderley is in fact the beautiful and treacherous Brigid O’Shaughnessy, and when Spade’s partner Miles Archer is shot while on Thursby’s trail, Spade finds himself both hunter and hunted: can he track down the jewel-encrusted bird, a treasure worth killing for, before the Fat Man finds him?

Although The Maltese Falcon is set in San Francisco, rather than Los Angeles, there is no denying its influence on L.A. Noire. As the author who popularised ‘hard-boiled’ detective novels, the crime noir genre owes Dashiell Hammett a lot. Like The Big Sleep, the developers made a nod to The Maltese Falcon when they made the film one of the hundred film reels that Phelps can collect around Los Angeles.

L.A. Confidential (L.A. Quartet #3) by James Ellroy

L.A. Confidential

Christmas 1951, Los Angeles: a city where the police are as corrupt as the criminals. Six prisoners are beaten senseless in their cells by cops crazed on alcohol. For the three LAPD detectives involved, it will expose the guilty secrets on which they have built their corrupt and violent careers. The novel takes these cops on a sprawling epic of brutal violence and the murderous seedy side of Hollywood.

L.A. Confidential is the third in James Ellroy‘s L.A. Quartet, and probably the most famous of the series – as well as being one of the longest crime novels ever written. Although it is set four years after the events of L.A. Noire, the game used similar ideas of corrupt cops and showing the less glamorous side of Hollywood. It is also not the only Ellroy book that inspired events in the game: his account of the real-life events of the Black Dahlia Murder (The Black Dahlia) also influenced one particular case within the game.

I have to say that playing L.A. Noire has definitely made me more interested in reading some crime noir fiction. Thanks to the game, I feel a little more familiarity with the events of the period (and the music, oh the music!) which makes fiction set then more appealing. I also loved how Phelps’ character was built in the game – he is definitely not flawless – and would love to read about more characters like that.

Have you ever played L.A. Noire, or read any crime noir books? What did you think?

LA Noire LA Noire

I found a nice shiny new car… and this happened five minutes later. Oops. Bye bye, nice shiny new car.
Prose & Pixels

Prose & Pixels #7: If You Enjoyed Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood…

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Prose & Pixels is a feature that combines two of my loves: books and video games. Here I’ll discuss all sorts of things to do with the two, whether it’s recommendations, influences or just a good old chat.

Whoa, whoa, it’s one of these posts again! Yes, it’s been a while. But I feel it’s been that way with most of my features to be honest… Anyway, I recently FINALLY finished Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (the best so far, in my opinion), and thought it would be fun to share some book recommendations based on the game. Each book cover links to the Goodreads page.

If you want to read about… the Borgias.

The Borgias: A Hidden History by G.J. Meyer The Borgias by Christopher Hibbert Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant Lucrezia Borgia The Borgia Bride The Prince

If you want to read about… assassins.

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1) by Sarah J. Maas Way of Shadows Graceling (Graceling #1) by Kristin Cashore Grave Mercy Fool's Assassin Assassin's Apprentice

If you want to read about… the Renaissance.

The Birth of Venus The Agony and the Ecstasy The Decameron The Divine Comedy Leonardo's Swans The Medici

And of course, the Assassin’s Creed books set in Italy.

AC Renaissance AC Brotherhood

Have you played Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood? What did you think? Do you have any recommendations to add?

Prose & Pixels

Prose & Pixels #6: Gone Home

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Prose & Pixels is a feature that combines two of my loves: books and video games. Here I’ll discuss all sorts of things to do with the two, whether it’s recommendations, influences or just a good old chat.

Today I want to talk about: the game ‘Gone Home’.

Gone Home is a classic example of how a video game can tell just as powerful a story as a book. It is an unusual game in that there is no combat, no levels, no equipment to collect – just good old fashioned exploring. You play a young girl named Kaitlin, who has returned home after a year abroad. It is a stormy night in June 1995, and no-one else is home, as they weren’t expecting Kaitlin to return for a little while longer. As Kaitlin, you must explore the house and work out where your parents and sister have gone.

What is at first a pretty terrifying experience – a big, empty mansion during a huge thunderstorm, lights flickering, dark corners – becomes more and more calming as you play, as more is revealed. Putting together the pieces of the puzzle becomes addictive, and you will soon start to see a beautiful story unfold. There are not many video games that have actually made me cry, but this was definitely one of them.

Gone Home

The sudden switch between feeling terrified of being alone in this creepy house in the middle of a storm, and the realisation of what is going on with Kaitlin’s family leaves you feeling emotionally vulnerable in a way, something that can be built upon further by encountering all these memories.

Just take a look at the trailer (the game calls itself a ‘story exploration video game’), and you’ll see what I mean:

The conclusions may surprise you, they may not. Either way, it’s a highly emotional story that will be familiar to many players in many different ways. Even if you’re not really a gamer, I really recommend you give this a try. It’s more about the various layers of the story and how they combine than a ‘gaming experience’.

This is a game that creates more of a story in two hours than many books manage in five hundred odd pages. Once you’ve finished it, there’s the opportunity to go back and replay, and find more bits and pieces that you may have missed – the game is so detailed that it’s guaranteed you didn’t quite get everything.

Have you played ‘Gone Home’? What did you think of it? Are there any other games where the story really impressed you?

Prose & Pixels

Prose & Pixels #5: Beginner’s Guide to Video Games & Novelisations, Part 2

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Prose & Pixels is a feature that combines two of my loves: books and video games. Here I’ll discuss all sorts of things to do with the two, whether it’s recommendations, influences or just a good old chat.

Today I want to introduce some video game series, and their novelisations.

This is Part 2 of a post I did in July, and I’ll probably post on this topic several more times as there are so many novelisations! This post is mostly aimed at people who are new to video games, or those who are interested in playing but don’t know where to start. I’m listing some well-known series, as well as their novelisations, in case you want to try the books out too!

The Dragon Age series

Dragon Age Origins

[icon name=”fa-question-circle”] What is it?

A sprawling epic fantasy series, currently with two main games and tonnes of DLC plus the upcoming Dragon Age: Inquistion, where every choice you make counts. In the first game, Dragon Age: Origins, you play a Grey Warden, part of an elite force who protect the word from evil known as ‘the Blight’. You can choose from a variety of origin stories which also have an impact on the conclusion of the game, combined with the choices you make throughout. You also have the option of pursuing a love interest – ALISTAIR EVERY TIME. In Dragon Age II, you play as a character called Hawke (either male or female, but always human), who begins as a refugee in the city of Kirkwall, but gradually works their way up to become a champion. Like the first game, you have choices to make which affect your playthrough, and you can have a love interest (Anders every time!). And finally the upcoming Dragon Age: Inquisition promises to be bigger and better, where the player takes on the role of the Inquisitor and can explore a huge, ever expanding world. I can’t wait!

[icon name=”fa-thumbs-up”] Why should I play it?

Rather like Mass Effect, which I discussed last time, Dragon Age is a game where your every choice matters. Plus the cast of characters is just adorable and you really, really don’t want to lose any of them. Bioware are especially talented at creating something with a great narrative (you won’t skip a single cutscene) as well as a wonderful mode of play.

[icon name=”fa-book”] Novelisations

There are both novelisations and graphic novels for Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne, The Calling and Asunder by David Gaider, The Masked Empire by Patrick Weekes and Last Flight by Liane Merciel (novelisations), The Silent Grove, Those Who Speak and Until We Sleep by David Gaider (graphic novels).

Deus Ex

Deus Ex

[icon name=”fa-question-circle”] What is it?

The original game was released in 2000, with a sequel entitled Deus Ex: Invisible War in 2003, and a prequel (Deus Ex: Human Revolution) in 2011. I’ll just talk about the most recent game here as that’s the only one with a novelisation. Set in 2027, mechanical augmentation has just been introduced and many people have replaced or improved parts of their body with cybernetics. The player takes on the role of Adam Jensen, an augmented security consultant. The game focuses around the idea of cybernetics and control over humans through them, as well as cyber-terrorism, technology and conspiracy theories.

[icon name=”fa-thumbs-up”] Why should I play it?

Okay I have to admit, I haven’t yet played this one myself. But it’s in my Steam library and I’ve heard SUCH good things about it. I remember that we had the original on PC, and I did try it one time – but at ten years old, I didn’t really know what I was doing! It’s one of those games that isn’t afraid to explore loads of different themes, no matter how controversial, and it really makes you think. And like many amazing games, it has a gorgeous soundtrack.

[icon name=”fa-book”] Novelisations

There is one novelisation, based on the most recent game: Deus Ex: Icarus Effect by James Swallow.

The Halo series

Halo

[icon name=”fa-question-circle”] What is it?

I haven’t really played much Halo, I have to admit, so I’ve grabbed a synopsis from IMDB: Mankind is being destroyed by a conglomerate of alien races all under the flag of the Covenant. A human spaceship is under attack and has no chance to survive, and now the only hope for mankind is for the Spartan-II forged Master Chief to make sure the Covenant do not get a hold of the ship’s AI, and thus discovering the location of Earth. But the survivors of the ship are stranded on a strange alien planet called Halo, and everything is stacked against them. It becomes a desperate battle as the brave crew, lead by the Master Chief and the AI Cortana, try to survive the Covenant’s assault.

[icon name=”fa-thumbs-up”] Why should I play it?

Even if you don’t play video games very often, I’m sure you’ve heard of Halo. It’s a HUGE franchise: video games, TV shows, films, action figures and more. If you want to try out a FPS (First Person Shooter), this is the place to start. I’ve only ever played Halo with some friends, and the co-op mode was hilarious – particularly as me and one friend had never played before.

[icon name=”fa-book”] Novelisations

Novelisations include: Cryptum and Primordium by Greg Bear, Glasslands by Karen Traviss, First Strike, The Fall of Reach and Ghosts of Onyx by Eric S. Nylund, The Flood by William C. Dietz, Contact Harvest by Joseph Staten, and far too many more to list!

Are you new to video games, or have you played any of these? Have you read any of the novelisations?

Prose & Pixels

Prose & Pixels #4: Beginner’s Guide to Video Games & Novelisations, Part 1

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Prose & Pixels is a feature that combines two of my loves: books and video games. Here I’ll discuss all sorts of things to do with the two, whether it’s recommendations, influences or just a good old chat.

Today I want to introduce some video game series, and their novelisations.

This post is mostly aimed at people who are new to video games, or those who are interested in playing but don’t know where to start. I’m listing some well-known series, as well as their novelisations, in case you want to try the books out too!

The Assassin’s Creed series

Assassin's Creed

[icon name=”fa-question-circle”] What is it?

The series follows a man named Desmond Miles, who using a machine called the Animus, delves into the memories of his ancestors to learn more about the rivalry between the Assassins and the Knights Templar. The games cover several time periods: the Third Crusade (Assassin’s Creed), the Renaissance (Assassin’s Creed II, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood and Assassin’s Creed Revelations), the Colonial era (Assassin’s Creed III, Assassin’s Creed Liberation and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag), as well as the French Revolution (the upcoming Assassin’s Creed Unity). Playing as his ancestors (the most famous of which is probably Ezio Auditore), you must uncover the secrets to becoming a master assassin, as well as the Templars’ plans.

[icon name=”fa-thumbs-up”] Why should I play it?

Because you get to be an assassin? Also, meeting various historical figures like Leonardo Da Vinci, the Borgias and the Sforzas (Caterina Sforza even quotes her infamous line) and Niccolo Machiavelli is amazing. The digital versions of locations like 15th century Venice and 16th century Rome are also gorgeous. And did I mention you get to be a super stealthy assassin?

[icon name=”fa-book”] Novelisations

All of the following are by Oliver Bowden: Renaissance, Brotherhood, The Secret Crusade, Revelations, Forsaken and Black Flag.

The Bioshock series

Bioshock Infinite

[icon name=”fa-question-circle”] What is it?

A series of games that explores the idea of a dystopia/utopia. In Bioshock and Bioshock 2 (which I have previously discussed), the player ends up in an underwater utopia known as Rapture. Unfortunately, the city isn’t quite what it once was, and is now filled with drug-addled mutants, psychopaths and terrifying hulking creatures known as Big Daddies. In Bioshock Infinite, the third game in the series but the first chronologically, the player finds themselves in a seemingly utopian city floating in the sky. Booker, the player character, has been instructed to rescue a young girl who is imprisoned there in order to pay off his debts. However, how it always is with these sorts of places, things are not quite what they seem…

[icon name=”fa-thumbs-up”] Why should I play it?

In regards to the first two games: because they’re scary and so, so immersive, you may be terrified but you’ll keep ploughing on! As for Bioshock Infinite, it is an absolutely BEAUTIFUL game with a mesmerising (and heartbreaking) story.

[icon name=”fa-book”] Novelisations

Rapture by John Shirley and Ken Levine, and Bioshock Infinite: Mind in Revolt by Joe Fielder and Ken Levine.

The Mass Effect series

Mass Effect

[icon name=”fa-question-circle”] What is it?

A trilogy set in the future, where the human race have discovered faster than light travel – and many, many alien races. The player assumes the role of Commander Shepard, a completely customisable character who can be either male or female. During the first game, Shepard must stop a rogue by the name of Saren from taking over the galaxy with an army of sentient mechanised beings, called the Geth. However, Shepard soon discovers that there is a much bigger threat on the horizon – an alien race known as the Reapers, who purge all life in the galaxy every 50,000 years, and their deadline is fast approaching. Through his or her journey, Shepard builds up a loveable squad to join them aboard the SSV Normandy, not all of whom may survive the mission…

[icon name=”fa-thumbs-up”] Why should I play it?

Mass Effect is my favourite game series for so many reasons. But the main reason is that you are in control of every choice Shepard makes – and whatever you choose may have a permanent effect on the world, the galaxy, the universe – forever. Let that planet die and it’s gone, its people wiped out, no more resources, nothing. Betray that squad mate and that’s it – they’ve left you, never to return. Every choice you make has a consequence, whether it be bad or good. Not to mention that every single character is fantastically created, and you feel a genuine connection with each and every one. This video game makes me cry, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

[icon name=”fa-book”] Novelisations

There are both novelisations and graphic novels for Mass Effect: Revelation, Ascension and Retribution by Drew Karpyshyn, Deception by William C. Dietz, Redemption, Evolution, Invasion, Homeworlds and Foundation by Mac Walters (graphic novels).

I’ll be doing a couple of posts of this type, look out for Dragon Age, Deus Ex and Halo in the next post!

Are you new to video games, or have you played any of these? Have you read any of the novelisations?