E3 2013: Greatness Awaits

Going into this week’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, I was as jaded and cynical about the video gaming industry as I have ever been. In years gone by, for every E3 in the past eight years, I have gone in excited to see what was going to be shown. Ready and eager to be wowed by the big three platform holders. Usually, at least one always did manage to excite me. More often than not, it was Nintendo, whose fun-first games design philosophy has always really spoken to me. But many a time, Sony showed a Killzone 2 or Microsoft a Halo: Reach (Halo. But with jetpacks) or what have you, and I was as delighted with their showing as I as when I first saw Nintendo’s Wii in action, in 2006.

Last year though, nothing anyone had to say about home consoles enthused me especially. Nintendo’s Wii U revelations were neat, and it’s undoubtedly a cool bit of hardware, but not in a “huge leap forward” kind of way. And aside from the interest in the exciting newness of Wii U, nothing but 3DS games really caught my eye and made me go “wow, I need to own this!”.


The back half of last year, I got Halo 4, Epic Mickey 2 and Borderlands 2. There were some other games I was interested in enough to have played if I had more money, but nor was I sat in my room before E3 2013 thinking “gosh I missed so many good games”. I’m going to be playing XCOM: Enemy Unknown from tomorrow, thanks to Sony generously giving me a free month of PSPlus, and I have wanted to check it out. But it was the game’s coverage upon its release at Giant Bomb which got me interested in that game, not E3 2012.

Really, I left E3 2012 feeling throughly bored. Very little in the home console space felt new, exciting or fresh. The PS3 and Xbox 360 were still pushing Call of Duty and Fifa and Madden…I’m so done with Call of Duty I can’t even describe it. It bores me to tears. And seemingly every other game being touted was an out-and-out clone of it.

Madden and Fifa were given frustrating prominence at Microsoft's #XboxReveal

Madden and Fifa were given frustrating prominence at Microsoft’s #XboxReveal

Microsoft’s damp squib #XboxReveal event, where they unveiled the improbably named third Xbox; the Xbox One; compounded my feelings of detachment and boredom with the console gaming mainstream. All I could see were games I’d either had my fill of or never wanted to begin with. Sony’s “The Future of PlayStation” PS4 reveal event left me with a slightly more positive impression a while before, but it was too early to say for sure if the games were going to draw me in.

Microsoft’s event in particular presented a vision for the future of gaming which, to me, was a total non-response to everything that was wrong. It was as if Microsoft were oblivious to how expensive and unsustainable things were. As if they saw no problem with assembly-line sequels to generic games with little creativity. As if the rise of the increasingly high-quality and inventive indie games on platforms as diverse as iOS, Android, Windows, OS X, Wii U, PlayStation 3 &  PSVita was mere rumour and conjecture. Here then was a console which would do what AppleTV and Roku already do at a significantly lower cost (and without the recurring subscription fee Microsoft demands for Live Gold to get at the media streaming services) and also play a load of painfully unexciting games which are virtually indistinguishable from the ones you’ve been playing for the past seven years. Except for those powered by EA Sports Ignite, which are distinct in that the engine makes character models more detailed but a million times less believable.

Apple's diminutive AppleTV already does a lot of streaming video, for a low cost

Apple’s diminutive AppleTV already does a lot of streaming video, for a low cost

I had been told to wait for Microsoft’s E3 Press Conference. There, it was said, Microsoft would roll out the games that make the Xbox One worth a damn. Well; after confirming ahead of time that yes, they are – unaccountably – messing around with the existing game sales model; Microsoft trotted out first at E3 and showed some relatively interesting games. None that made me sit up and really go “whoa”, but some decent ideas that had some nice graphics. Then they said they wanted £429.99 for their console. A price eerily similar to the one Sony charged for the PLAYSTATION 3 (£425), back before they resolved to make amends for their hubris in planning that system’s launch. Nothing I saw from Microsoft, game-wise, justified that cost of entry.

So then, it fell to two of the third party juggernauts to have their say. EA and Ubisoft. EA said the magic words for me with “Star Wars Battlefront”, but I was (at the time) disappointed that it was coming to platforms I wasn’t planning on owning. Nothing else they showed particularly excited me. Their next-gen sports titles continue to look horrible, and their presentations annoyed me with their superfluous buzzword names for minor physics and graphical subroutines. Ubisoft showed a couple of games I was already interested in (South Park, Watch_Dogs, Assassin’s Creed 4) but had nothing new that piqued my interest. And to be honest, I would go on to be more enthused by the Assassin’s Creed and Watch_Dogs demos in Sony‘s Press Conference than those in Ubisoft’s own.

Ubisoft's inventive "Watch_Dogs"

Ubisoft’s inventive “Watch_Dogs”

Then came the wait for Sony, with me in a sort of “Meh” sate of mind. Nothing I’d seen of E3 had yet completely sold me on the continuation of the big-budget high-end video game. However, I had less reasons to run in the opposite direction than previously. If nothing else, at least they had stopped parading Call of Duty in front of me as if it was new, and had instead shown things like Watch_Dogs which are a bit more inventive.

Sony nailed it. They sold me games-wise. Kingdom Hearts 3’s mere announcement was a standout, along with the demos of Assassin’s Creed 4 & Watch_Dogs (As I mentioned), the trailers for inFamous: Second Son & Killzone: Shadowfall, the procession of great looking indie games like Transistor, Outlast and the Abe’s Odyssey remake and…Well, the real jaw dropper was Bungie’s Destiny. I was already mostly on board with the game conceptually. But seeing it in action floored me. It combines the appeals of Halo, Borderlands and MMOs into a gorgeous package. For me, it looks very much like Destiny is the next big thing – succeeding, with any luck, the painfully repetitive Call of Duty. And probably obviating the need for more Halo.


Then, as if that wasn’t enough, Sony confirmed the PS4 will not lock down games with draconian DRM, won’t require online authentication checks and is coming in £80 ($100) cheaper than the Xbox One, at a more than reasonable £350 for the 500GB hard drive equipped machine (And yes, it ships with a headset in the box, undoing a frequent PS3 frustration – unlike the Xbox One incidentally, which instead includes the divisive KinectOne. Also in the box is an HDMI cable, undoing another PS3 foible). Their hardware is significantly more attractive too, evoking the much-beloved PS2.

Indeed, the only bad news from Sony was them putting multiplayer gaming on the PS4 behind the PSPlus paywall. But with online entertainment services like Netflix still available on the free tier (Unlike on Microsoft’s platforms), and PSPlus being so compelling a service as it is with Instant Game Collection that I was planning to buy at least a year’s worth later his year anyway, I wasn’t particularly phased by that.

You can buy a PS4 and a year’s PSPlus, and be set for a year. You’d get a new game every month, for an upfront cost less than the price of one new boxed game. It’s tremendous value. Which is the key thing here. Xbox One, and the vision of the next generation it follows, and which I was afraid of, is terrible value for money. PS4, in stark contrast, is terrific value for money. I’m on board. Sony, you’re PS4 is my number one pick among next generation hardware.

So where does that leave Nintendo? They went earlier today with a slightly more understated event, a Nintendo Direct @ E3 broadcast. They didn’t blow me away. But nor was I disappointed. Mario Kart 8, the latest entry in my favourite franchise, looks fantastic. Similarly, Super Mario 3DWorld and the new Super Smash Bros pair look like wonderful new games. And the Wind Waker HD remake sure looks pretty, and having not had a chance to play it the first time around anyway, its lack of out-and-out newness doesn’t really bother me. Oh, and on a handheld aside, the new Pokémon games look like must-haves.


Definitely a more attractive slate of exclusives on the Wii U than on the Xbox One, for me at least. I’m still interested in having a Wii U, but now it’s behind the PS4 in the queue, so to speak. A PS4 I am willing to buy any time I can from launch day onwards. With the Wii U, I can wait at least until Mario Kart 8. If Nintendo are smart, they’ll do a Mario Kart 8 bundle, and I’ll probably buy that. It seems likely, given the success they had bundling Mario Kart Wii with the Wii.

So there you have it. E3 2013, when I was successfully brought back into the core gaming fold. Bravo Sony, keep on trucking Nintendo, make Battlefront good EA, for the love of god, just make it good. And Microsoft…Well, there’s always the integration of Bing with Apple’s Siri to console yourself with.

(Oh yeah, that reminds me, iOS 7 adds gamepad support, so AirPlay games are about to get a lot more awesome. That happened yesterday too. It was a busy day.)

Eldon Art

Eldon Art is a special one hour live outside broadcast show, showcasing various art forms and art work produced by students from the University of Portsmouth in the Eldon Building. The show features live interviews, caricature drawings and live big “Art Attack”. Presented here edited, not As Live.


Tea with Paul – Pilot Episode

The Pilot Episode of my University Chat Show, Tea with Paul, for University of Portsmouth’s CCi TV! Featuring guests Liam Smith, from CCi TV’s “Eldon Wanderers” and Umby from CCi TV’s “The Manual”. This time, we chat about the year that was 2012 plus myself and Matt take on the tea-tasting challenge, to see if my years of reviewing beverages for the internet have made me significantly better at judging the tastes of drinks.

This video was produced in partial fulfilment of the TVBRO Unit on the University of Portsmouth’s BSc (Hons) Television & Broadcasting Course.

TVBRO Week 15 21/1/13-27/1/13

Well, we did it! Tea with Paul and the 10 minute version of CCi Live went on air as scheduled on Friday, ran pretty much perfectly to time and went incredibly smoothly.

But it’s not like we simply walked in on Friday to do the shows. CCi Live was pretty much taken care of by Tuesday, as I only had to make a relatively minor revision to one line of the script and from there we just needed to get the paperwork ready, which myself & Laura took care of on Thursday with no real problems.

On the day, I thought CCi Live went very well. We did have some problems with sound, where the audio channel for our guest had stopped working. This meant Peter, on the Sound Desk had to run around trying to fix the problem and so at one point there was a brief delay on the fade up for the presenters’ audio. Generally though, the show came together very well. The Interview went great and Umby’s performance in the News was top-notch. In general, we got standout performances from all three of our presenters, so I was very pleased with my choices.

Tea with Paul though required a fair bit more effort to get to the air though. On Monday, with no opening title sequence ready, Jodie and I shot a collection of stills in the studio which I then stitched together into an opening title sequence by animating them moving and interacting with each other over the next couple of days. This was essentially me running in “disaster recovery” mode, as our previous efforts at title sequences had failed and we simply needed to produce something.

To that end, my preference would have been to use photos of a rehearsal to produce the opening, but as we needed the sequence to be done before Thursday, which was the day of our rehearsal, we had to make do with me simply posing and performing various amusing actions in the studio on my own. As such, the title sequence isn’t really to my satisfaction and I have every intention of replacing it entirely for the second and final episode.

Meanwhile I had to redraft the script several times as changes in the edit suite to the inserts trickled through to me.

One of these changes ultimately led to what I consider to be the biggest problem with this pilot episode of Tea with Paul. The editors found that they didn’t have much usable footage for some of the topic areas in the VOX Pops. This presented a problem because, though we took to referring it as “an” insert, we were actually planning on splitting it up into several shorter inserts to air with each area of discussion within the 2012 topic.

Because of this low amount of usable footage for some subjects, the editors felt that some of these shorter inserts were going to be too short and would seem odd to the viewers. As such, they recombined all the topics into one, longer VOX Pops insert.

In and of itself, this wasn’t too bad. The insert was well produced and looked visually quite appealing. The problem is it really disrupted the intended flow of the show as a whole, especially since the Tea Challenge insert went very far in the opposite direction (From being a good few minutes to less than two). The pacing of the show was thrown way off by this reversal, going from relatively fast-paced and exciting to stopping dead towards the middle for the sedate VOX Pops insert.

This was exacerbated by the fact that putting all the VOX Pops together meant there was nothing to break up the various areas of 2012 discussion in the studio. As a result, the studio discussion covered the same areas as the VOX Pops immediately before, but felt much more rushed as everything was crammed in together, and over a relatively short period of time to boot. Even though the discussion would have featured the same amount of actual studio time if broken up by the VOX Pops, it would have been more spread out over a greater length of time. This, I think would have prevented it from seeming quite so rushed.

As a result, I think for the second episode, we will be ditching the VOX Pops idea entirely and simply taping two remotes like the Tea Challenge, which I think should run for a time less than the VOX Pops did, but longer than the Tea Challenge itself was – say, three minutes apiece.

I also think we should use them to shuffle the format somewhat. Instead of a “discussion” format, we should go for an “interview” style, where guests come out one at a time to talk directly to the host about themselves and what they’ve been up to etc. The second guest can, of course, remain “on the sofa” during the second interview, but the idea is to consider each guest in turn to make things a bit more focused and orderly. The two inserts can go immediately before each guest’s segment and used as an opportunity to bring them onto the set, get them mic’d up etc.

I’d also like to move to a bigger studio space, like the Rotunda – a larger, three-camera studio elsewhere in the University Campus. The virtual studio space is slightly limiting and the space and furniture available caused the show to look slightly cramped. With more space, we can open things out a bit more. With a third camera, we will have the ability to look at either myself as the host in closeup, the guest or guests in closeup and a wide, instead of having to choose two of these at a time. Similarly, released from the constraints of a virtual set, we will have a lot more freedom to move and re-position cameras between shots, which will definitely result in a more visually interesting show.

With these changes I think we can definitely take Tea with Paul to the next level, and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in to Episode 2 later in the year.



TVBRO Week 14 14/1/13-20/1/13

We really got down to business this week. On Monday, we shot some footage we were planning to use for the Opening Titles and then later the Tea Challenge insert, which we have decided to make into a competition between myself and Matt, which will mean we can partake in some good-natured trash-talking in the studio. Unfortunately, we didn’t wind up using anything we shot on Monday because of separate issues at each shoot (lighting and stylistic issues with the titles shoot and a sound problem with the camera for the Tea Challenge).

As a result, we re-shot my half of the Tea Challenge on Thursday – with Matt’s half being shot in the intervening time.

On Tuesday, we had another big meeting to finalise the show ahead of going further into full-scale production. There was a push at this meeting to change the show’s title, based i part on a perception that Charlie Watts, the Course Leader was not keen on the title. I pushed back against this change for several reasons. Firstly, the proposed replacement title (The Lunchbox) was guilty of many of the same apparent problems with “Tea with Paul”. One of the things said about Tea with Paul as a title was that “tea” wouldn’t necessarily be thematically appropriate for a Friday Lunchtime. Aside from the fact I don’t believe this is entirely true, “The Lunchbox” would similarly be inappropriate if the episode was replayed at any time other than lunchtime.

Second, and more importantly, we had already begun some minor promotional work around the Tea with Paul name, which means that by the time thee idea of changing the name came up, the original title was already floating around some of the CCi Channel’s audience. And thirdly, if we changed the name, the “Tea Challenge” insert, which was our only planned remote with the VOX Pops being our only other VT, would be a major non sequitur. Ultimately, it was agreed that we would stick with the “Tea with Paul” name.

We also used this meeting to decide who to invite on as guests. We had initially considered using, for example, comedians from the Union’s Comedy Society. Ultimately, we chose to book Umby and Liam Smith, from the CCi Presenters pool mainly because it was more convenient to do so given the protracted time frame we we were dealing with. Umby & Liam are each hosts of other Commissioned Shows for CCi Live, so we decide to feature them as if they were promoting those shows in the same way most guests on professional chat shows are there to “plug” a current project.

I also began making plans for what I’ve been calling the “CCi Live Light” – the 10 minute version of CCi Live which will be airing before Tea with Paul. Since it is so much shorter, the CCi Live Light features just two segments – the News and a feature. To save us from running into problems with an insert not being ready or too short because we had been focusing on Tea with Paul, I opted instead to make our feature a live interview.

Using my contacts with the University’s Go Karting Society (Of which I am a Veteran Member), I booked the Vice President to come in and give us a rundown of what the advantages of Karting with the society are, how to get involved and so on. I also selected Jo Walker and Charlie Jackson to host, as they have both done good work for us as presenters in the past so I know I can rely on them. For the news, I’ve booked Umby as he will be around for Tea with Paul anyway so the opportunity to give him some extra airtime seemed too good to miss.

On Friday, it was time to design the Tea with Paul set, using the Tricaster’s Virtual Set functionality. We had opted to use pastel blue, orange & yellow colours in the graphics & promotional art, so we matched those colours in the various controllable attributes of the set. The set also contains a couple of spots in the background which will display the Tea with Paul logo art. Apart from that it consists of a circular central “stage”, onto which we will superimpose the stools, coffee table and sofa which we are using as the physical elements of the set. Stylistically, it resembles the set of the BBC’s The Graham Norton Show, albeit considerably smaller (And mirrored – I sit stage left instead of stage right).

Over the weekend, I’ve been writing the scripts for the two shows. I have the initial draft of the CCi Live Light completely finished, but Tea with Paul will need to be tweaked as the inserts are finished during next week.

TVBRO Week 13 7/1/13-13/1/13

This week we had our first big meeting to plan out the specifics of our chat show, which airs live on the 25th of January – just a couple of weeks away! Our first concern was to name the show, since up till now we had just been referring to it as “the chat show” or “our commissioned show”.  We held a brainstorming session to come up with a list of names which fit into the conventions of the genre, which meant various riffs on the word “chat”, references to times of day or activities and use of the presenter’s name. The list we came up with was as follows:

  • Paul Douglas Chatty Guy
  • The Friday Lunch Project
  • TVB Crowd
  • Loose Paul
  • Tea With Paul

We ultimately decided to go with “Tea with Paul”, which provides a nice balance between using the name of the host and using an activity. The idea of the name is to suggest that guests are stopping by for “a cup of tea and a chat” with me, the host, and Matthew Eldridge, who we have drafted in as a sidekick in the vain of Ed McMahon or Andy Richter.

In terms of a theme for the episode, we explored several ideas for things to talk about – mostly relating to the time of year – but ultimately we chose to go with talking about “The Year That Was, 2012”, since last year was a big year in a lot of different ways and we believe reminiscing about it will be accessible and interesting to a lot of people, as well as keeping the show from being out of place when replayed on the CCi Channel later in the year.

More broadly, I stressed the need for the show to have a lighthearted tone. The kinds of chat shows we are aiming to be like are the light entertainment variety – shows like The Graham Norton Show, The Jonathan Ross Show & TBS’s Conan. As such, we need to be talking to people who have entertaining and amusing things to say. We’re not aiming to be hard-hitting, news-y or informational. This is light entertainment, in large part because that is my personal wheelhouse. I do my best presenting when things are relaxed and lighthearted.

In terms of inserts, we plan on shooting some VOX Pops of members of the public giving us their thoughts on 2012, which we will use a jumping off point in the show for the discussions about various significant parts of the year. We’re also planning a remote which riffs on the show’s title, and my existing Web Series “Paul Douglas Drinks to Beverages”, which is a drinks review show. This is the “Tea Challenge”, in which my beverage critic talents will be put to the test by trying to identify five varieties of tea by testing them.

Christmas Letter 2012


Seasons Greetings, Letter Recipients!

So here we are again, me writing a needlessly rambling and (allegedly) amusing recap of the year along with seasonal well-wishes in place of sending Christmas Cards; and you, [Your Name Here], rolling your eyes/skimming through it briefly/hunting out any fodder it provides to respond mockingly (Delete as Appropriate).

As you can see, the letter is mildly customisable this year, so…You know…enjoy that, I guess.

2012 sure was intense. I for one was concerned we’d all had it when that plane with John Cusack and Amanda Peet on it was engulfed by the pyroclastic flow from that volcano…

Wait that doesn’t uh…That doesn’t sound right…

That was the movie wasn’t it?


Ummmmm…2012 the year was the one with the South Korean bloke dancing weirdly on YouTube, right?

Well that was pretty good too. And in an added bonus, in the year we all get to live, and not just the people who made it to the comically oversized and suspiciously well-hidden ships like in the movie.

And living was worth it, because we got to see Wiggo, Andy Murray, Jess Ennis, Mo Farah et al make this pretty much the best year ever for British Sport. If you’re from some other country you probably care less about that. I on the other hand thought it was awesome and I am clearly objective (he wrote, shamelessly wearing his Team GB London 2012 Tennis T-Shirt).

But if the very British Olympics is what caught our viewing attention this year, our musical tastes were captivated by some very different styles. There was the aforementioned fit of global insanity, Gangnam Style. To paraphrase a great movie, a million record sales isn’t cool. You know what’s cool?


Oh mankind, your priorities are amazing.

But it wasn’t just crazed Koreans. There was the year’s other ear worm too, the anti-Friday, proving that if 2011 was a year of cynicism then 2012 was going to be about boundless, unashamed joy (perhaps because we were all pretending to believe there was even a tiny chance the world would end in December even though the reality is nobody’s actually that stupid).

Yes, Canadia have finally made up for Bryan Adams (For whom their government has apologised on a number of occasions) with Call Me Maybe. Which seemed perfect fodder for a One Hit Wonder, but then Carly Rae Jepsen did that song with Owl City and we all went “huh, I guess she’s sticking around after all…I’m okay with that.”

Yeah, it was a good year. The Newsroom debuted this year, The Dark Knight Rises AND Avengers Assemble came out over the summer and now we’ve got The Hobbit.

Myself, I turned 21. Which is…Weird. And I also finally made it to Walt Disney World, which is basically like heaven if you’re me, so…Yeah. Good times.

I was a bit worried things might have been taking a turn when the Yellowstone National Park Super Volcano erupted in Woody Harrelson’s face, but it all worked out.


That was the movie again, wasn’t it?


Never mind then.

So anyway, here’s to a great year, the year that was (and – for a little while longer, I suppose – still is) Twenty Twelve. I had a blast, so hopefully you did too.

Looking ahead to the new hotness of 2013, I have to go find an actual job using my training in TV Production and my particular skill in drawing attention to myself when in front of a camera.

…Oh boy, 2013 is going to be tricky, huh?

Eep. Well, anyway, to you my family/valued friend/casual acquaintance/random person reading this by mistake (Delete as Appropriate), I wish a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

And, in the interests of multiculturalism, Feliz Navidad.

Hah, you thought I was gonna say something politically correct like “Happy Holidays” or “Have a Happy Hanukkah; Kwazy Kwanza; Solemn, Dignified Ramadan etc.” or something like that didn’t you? Well I didn’t, instead I worked in a way to shamelessly add that I started learning Spanish this year for no adequately explored reason.

…And then I wound up saying all those politically correct bits anyway, huh?


Your Pal/Relative/Acquaintance/Fellow Human Being – whether you like it or not (Delete as Appropriate)
Paul Douglas

I leave you with these very important parting words:
¡Por favor, manténgase alejado de las puertas!