NicoleRenee00's Blog - Jul to Sep 19 (84 followers)

PermalinkFeatured Community Interview - winginor
Please note that these interviews are unofficial, and therefore do not reflect the staff or site in any way. The opinions stated belong only to the interviewee.
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For those of you who noticed the slight change to the title, I've decided to add something new to the blog. As a few people have mentioned previously, not every person, even those who achieve something great, will put themselves down for an interview. So starting today, I'll be adding featured interviews to the blog to combat this.

Featured interviews are interviews which revolve around a user who is currently doing something special in the community. Whether it be an impressive milestone, a first place position in a competition, or an admirable accomplishment outside of gaming. Unlike other interviews, these users won't necessarily suggest themselves (though they can if they'd like). Instead, I will contact them myself, in hopes of showcasing their achievement in an interview.

A few other things to know about featured interviews:
-Because they are based on accomplishments and not accounts, one user can have multiple interviews.
-There is no limit on interviewees. Multiple users/groups to be interviewed together, such as developers or teams.
-The content of featured interviews may vary, but will still include generic questions as with most interviews.
-The amount of featured interviews per month will also vary, simply based on what I can find.
-As per usual, anyone can suggest or apply for a featured interview as well.

And that's all there is to it! As always, if you have any suggestions or comments to improve the idea, let me know! This week's featured interview goes to winginor, after hitting his 10 year achievement streak!

Current Interviewee: winginor
Previous Interview: Priinz 31er
To Apply for an Interview: See here

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Gamertags almost always tell something about their owners. Tell us about yours. Does your gamerpic also have a purpose?

I'm a big fan a fantasy novels and at the time I was reading "The Wheel of Time" series by Robert Jordan, one of my favorite all time series. I still hope it gets a good game or even TV series at some point.

One of the bigger bad guys, the corrupted or lost, I don't know what they are called in English, was named aginor. I somehow liked that character and named some of my accounts after it. For Xbox that one was already taken so I tried a few other things. One of the English words I really liked was wing as it reminded me of Final Fantasy VII with Sepiroth as One-Winged-Angel and some other characters like Deathwing and others. So I ended up with winginor as a combination of wing and part of aginor.

My gamerpic is a simple picture of my previous avatar that was somehow reset the last time I downloaded my profile on the 360.

Describe yourself in just a few words. How do you think the rest of TA knows you?

I'm a bit of a nerdy IT guy that likes to do a lot of sports and gaming. On TA, I'm probably mostly known because of my streak which has gotten quite insane by now. I was also quite high up in the RPG leaderboards and still am at the top for my country for completed RPGs.

How long have you been gaming? What’s the first game you remember playing and do you have any fond early memories of gaming in general?

I have been gaming for almost as far as I can think back. I had friends with Amiga and C64 computers. Still remember that I really liked Giana Sisters back then. When they started a fundraiser on Kickstarter for a sequel, I sent them quite a bit of money to help with the funding, as this brought back childhood memories.

I'm not sure if it was before or after that, but on weekends my father sometimes took me with him to his workplace where I could play some kind of an early space invaders game. It only was two colors and everything was only ASCII symbols but it was quite fun.

A little later we had a 3/86 computer and I played Lemmings and Monkey Island together with my father, and also sometimes Civilization which I was not able to understand at that time and built all the cities next to each other. Years later I completed that saved game with a friend which was quite interesting as it was a bit tricky.

It's pretty awesome that you completed your save from so long ago! And it's nice to hear that your father helped to foster your interest in gaming. Personal life next. Hometown or state, spouse and kids, any pets?

I'm single, no kids or pets, and I'm also someone who is not comfortable with having people around me all the time. I guess to each their own, but work, sports, gaming and friends keep me quite occupied. I live in Germany in the city of Hanover which was quite well known around the world till some time ago for the worlds biggest IT fair CEBIT.

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Hanover, Germany

And your job? Any accomplishments outside of gaming?

I'm working as a software developer, so quite a perfect fit for someone nerdy. For everyone around me, it was quite obvious already early in school that I would be studying IT at some point, even if my chemistry teacher almost changed that due to how interesting she made that class.

So that would be one of my biggest accomplishments; finishing my studies of Business-IT with a diploma and already having my job before I was done. Also, as I play lots of sports, I was quite proud winning a few Badminton tournaments in the lower classes and finishing a season without any losses. And have been doing weight lifting for some time now and was quite proud when I was able to lift 100kg in bench pressing the first time, even if it isn't incredibly much.

Sports and IT is an interesting combination. So, back to gaming. Do you remember your first Xbox game? What piqued your interest in achievement hunting?

My first games on XBOX were Kameo and Enchanted arms. Was primary looking for RPGs for my PS2 and my local dealer had a cheap used XBOX and said Enchanted Arms could be interesting for me. I got hooked pretty fast as I really like statistics and having my achievements displayed on my account was something that really got me.

I was playing some long RPGs before that like Rogue Galaxy, Star Ocean and Persona before, and often tried to max them out in some way. Having a kind of proof of my work on my profile was a really cool thing. It's also a real nice way to look back at the games when going through my profile. It's like going through some old gaming magazines which I also sometimes like to do.

You've mentioned your love for RPGs and Strategy games already, but you have a favorite game? A least favorite?

My favorite game probably is Final Fantasy 7. Still have so many childhood memories with it, as it was really special at the time it came out and I got a PS for Christmas and played it all the time over the Christmas days. I really wasn't sure if I should play it again after it came out on Xbox as parts of it are pretty outdated and I didn't want to harm my nice memories of it.

But anyways I had quite some fun playing it again and with the boosters especially the one to speed up everything it was really nice to play. For real Xbox games I would say Dark Souls, as it was really special. Stayed away from it way too long as everyone said it would be so hard. But I was getting through quite smoothly and it is kind of a perfect game in many aspects as it has the simplicity I really like in games and is always fair and not so random as many other games. That every enemy could easily kill you and you had to try to always fight enemies one-on-one made it real special, also compared to the newer parts of the series. It also has the most interesting learning curve that I ever experienced in a game, as after playing the game for some time I could really see that I made progress with my skills there.

For least favorite I don't have anything special. As I said, I even enjoy bad games as from a programmers perspective. But a few did annoy me with random achievements that were totally random or even buggy. For example, Flowers where the score achievement simply never unlocked because of some bug, or Skyler and Plux where I have played through most of the game a few times and a puzzle was almost always bugged and prevented from progressing any further. I think such developers are a shame when they even refuse to correct their game-breaking bugs.

What do you enjoy most about video games? Are you excited for any upcoming releases?

I mostly enjoy simple game concepts that get me hooked in any way. Gems of War, for example, is one of those simple games I still enjoy and play quite often. The gem matching is almost as simple as it can get, but there is so much more behind the game that you can do and collect that it stays fun. Also that the developers still add content all the time is pretty fun.

I'm not really excited for any new releases, as I normally don't find the time to play anything directly after release. So I tend to wait till the games get cheaper, as it doesn't make much sense buying things new and let them lie around for months before playing. There is only one exception, which is when an new Final Fantasy comes out. I tend to buy that directly.

I'm also looking forward to the release of Final Fantasy 8, as that was a great one and I really enjoyed back then. And really hope they will bring Parasite Eve and Secret of Mana, and maybe even Fallout 1&2, Lands of Lore and Might and Magic at some point as well, as these were some real childhood highlights for me. Especially Secret of Mana. It was incredibly fun as it was the first RPG on SNES that could be played with 2 friends.

I'd love to see more RPGs as well! But back to the discussion. You mentioned in the article that you enjoy playing "bad" games because you can see them from a developer's perspective. What do you think developers struggle with the most?

I think developers often want to do way too much and make things overly complicated, ruining otherwise good games.

For example, I really liked Assassins Creed, but at some point they added bombs that you could compose and throw and so much other stuff that it got to over complicated, in my opinion, to play for a short time after work and make any progress. Also, if you wanted to run away on the streets, every time you came near a wall the character tried to run up or against the wall and such things where the same button is used for different actions. Also using the same button for too many things sometimes really goes on my nerves. If "A" is used for picking something up and a a character runs into your view and you start a conversation every time instead of picking up your item, it really isn't fun.

With the amount of time I have, I often tend to enjoy a simple 2d Jump-and-Run after work and sports in the evening way more than an triple A title.

With your interest in the programming side of gaming, would you ever design your own video game?

I have done a few smaller games already. I started back in school where IT was an optional course and we could learn the programming language, Pascal. I programmed variants of snake/nibbles and breakout back then which was quite interesting. Especially breakout with the collision controls, and basic physics was something I had to think about a lot.

Later when studying, I programmed a Mahjong game as part of a programming project. At the start it was 2d but I added some pseudo 3d to it later and was quite proud when a company gave me some money to put it on a merchandise CD at the time. I also had it available as a JAVA applet on the internet for several years, but when I recently checked the web space provider seems to not exist anymore.

Later I had some ideas and concepts for a small Jump-and-Run that I started working on but had some problems with calculating the physics. It unfortunately ended after I began working as a software developer. The furthest thing I got after that was installing the development environment on my PC, but couldn't motivate myself to do more programming after doing that all day on my job. It's also a lot of work, especially if you aren't or don't have a good artist for the graphics.

With all the engines available today it would probably be way easier to get something done, but for the moment, I don't feel the urge to really do something in that direction while I can use my free time for a bit of gaming myself. So unless I lose my job at any point or retire from work, I probably won't be working on games myself.

It's still pretty cool that you've already programmed some things yourself. You mentioned that you're not a fan of over-complicating games. But is there anything else that irks you about gaming?

As previously mentioned, I really dislike game breaking bugs and developers not willing to fix them.
Buggy and unobtainable achievements are also something that sometimes goes on my nerves. And of course, the random nonsense where developers seem to think it's fun doing something a hundred or thousand times for a small chance to get a cheevo.

Other things are games that could have been really great but were ruined by the developers due to poor controls, over complicated mechanics, or other bad aspects that can make an otherwise real good game no fun at all.

With all of this in mind, do you think there are more good games then bad in the world?

On consoles, I would say definitely more good games, as developing for console is more expensive and so we don't get too many bad games as on PC. But with the latest changes and porting getting easier and cheaper we tend to get more bad games than previously. But I would still say we have far more good ones.

As many already know, you have the longest-running achievement streak on TA. A full 10 years of unlocking an achievement every day. It's a really cool feat! Have you been working on any other goals on the site?

Aside from the streak, I don't have really specific goals. I try to see and complete many games and keep my position on the leaderboards. Especially on the RPG leaderboards. I would like to go up again a bit but these often take way too much time and there are some insane guys playing even the JP only versions and who seem to have much more time for gaming.

So I keep my gaming in a way that I can enjoy it almost all the time, as for me, it's something to look forward to after work and sports. That's also the reason I normally prefer easier games where I can make some progress with the time I have available.

It was kind of interesting at the start, as I mostly used Xbox Voice for tracking. Didn't sign up for TA that early as I thought it would be mainly for multiplayer and, as an RPG fan, I more often prefer single player games than to multiplayer games.

Do you think your streak will eventually fail? What will you do if it does?

Looking back, I was already amazed that I didn't end up in hospital again for longer than a day during all that time and never got really ill. It wasn't too hard to keep it up till now with having prepared cheevos that can be unlocked within some minutes.

If it ever fails, I would probably start over. As I said earlier, doing things regularly is kind of a trick for me to keep things going. Also thought of switching back to PS as they have way more RPGs, but I would also miss my friends on Xbox and would probably miss the GS constantly going up.

Your streak requires you to pop at least one achievement every day. Does this affect how you play games? Do you ever feel like you're missing out on content because you need an achievement? Or do you still play every game to the end?

I often feel that it does, as I would like to play all of the RPGs, but since I started working, I simply don't have enough time. On the other hand, if I really like a game, I tend to play it through even if I have all achievements.

I still continue to play Gems of War and Idle Champions regularly despite having all achievements.

Do you have any tips for other people looking to keep up their own streaks? Any advice that you wish you would have known before you began?

I would say if you have the possibility to stay up long enough, try to do the achievement shortly after midnight. In case anything happens. Then there are 48 hours till the next achievement necessary. I've already experienced a few outages of Xbox live where logging in wasn't possible for some time, and was happy already having the achievement for the day. Also, it's quite a good sign for MS as it also means their service has never been out for more than a day within the last 10 years which is something, especially compared to PS Network.

It was also really interesting reading what others have done to keep their streaks alive in comments under the recent article about my streak. It has also gotten way easier with Windows Phone, Win 10 and being able to use phones as a hotspot for the Xbox. I had to use the hotspot variant myself during some vacations. I took my Xbox with me when having no other internet connection and it works better than I would have expected.

I appreciate you taking the time for this interview during your vacation! And once again, congrats on the feat! Are there any shout-outs you'd like to give as we wrap it up?

I would like to thank all the nice and helpful people I have met throughout my time on XBOX live and TA. Especially III Torpedo III and sachsenhusky who are real good friends.

Posted by NicoleRenee00 on 26 August 19 at 03:43 | There are 3 comments on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.
PermalinkCommunity Interview - Priinz 31er
Please note that these interviews are unofficial, and therefore do not reflect the staff or site in any way. The opinions stated belong only to the interviewee.
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Current Interviewee: Priinz 31er
Previous Interview: x Mataeus x
To Apply for an Interview: See here

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Gamertags almost always tell something about their owners. Tell us about yours. Does your gamerpic mean anything to you as well?

Yesh! i always use anime gamerpics because anime is a big part in my life. The Gamertag is a funny story: me and my friends wanted to name ourselves Priinz but i didn't know what exactly to pick. So he called me a 31er which kinda means you're a rat or traitor. So I thought it would be funny to name myself this way, haha.

Hopefully it was all in good fun! Continuing on: describe yourself in a few words. How do you think the rest of TA knows you?

Hmm... i would say I'm a pretty nice guy who tries to be friends with everyone but I'm also a person with a dark humor, who thinks some memes and jokes are funny that others would probably not like. Which is why I "try", haha.

You seem nice to far! So, how long have you been gaming? What’s the first game you remember playing and do you have any fond early memories of the hobby?

I think started gaming when I was like 5 years old. I cant remember at all what my first game was but one of the first ones I think was Mario on the Gameboy Color.

Mario is a classic. Let's hear about your home life next. Hometown or state, spouse and kids, any pets?

I lived in Klagenfurt, a big city in my country but I moved to a smaller town because I started living on my own and my work place is near me, so that's good too. And nope no gf and no kids (I'm too young for kids anyways haha).

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Klagenfurt, Austria

Moving out is always a hassle. But how is your work? Do you have any hobbies or accomplishments related to what you do?

My job is being a caregiver. I've been taking care of older people for almost 2 years now. My main hobbies are gaming and watching anime, but I also enjoy doing thing other people my age do like going to festivals and such. No real accomplishments as of now.

You mentioned festivals. Any that stand out?

Yeah, I'd like to visit Electric Love next year which is a pretty big event in Austria. I also really would like to go to Defqon1 since I'm also really into hardstyle.

You said you don't have many accomplishments yet. But is there anything in your life that you would like to accomplish? A dream job or something like that?

Well i would like to start working full time because I'm working part time currently. I would like to own a nice house and a nice car that I would drive around in daily.

Sounds like good goals! You also mentioned anime being a second hobby of yours. Name some favorites!

Some of my favorites are Steins;Gate, Made In Abyss, Kimi no na wa, Monogatari, Re;zero and many more. When it comes to anime, I could talk the whole day about it.

If you had to pick your favorite anime character, who would it be and why?

Probably Hikkigaya Hachiman from OreGairu because he just really sees how things are and doesn't try to see everything in a way brighter light, and I can relate to him on many levels.

Is there a particular reason as to why you like anime? Nostalgia, maybe?

When I was 13, I played Call of Duty with someone and he had an anime profile pic. He was talking about anime and that I really should try it. After a few days, I saw that the whole Elfenlied anime was uploaded to Youtube so I watched it, and then anime pretty much took over my life.

Do you watch anime with subtitles, or with dubbed voices? Is it a big deal to you or not at all?

Always sub and yes, it is. Because it just sounds so much more natural to me. I also don't like the English or German voices most of the time which is a minus.

Would you say that anime gets a bad rap sometimes? Do you think it's deserved?

Depends depends. Some people call it cartoons for children, some call it tentacle hentai.

In short, yes. I do think that many don't really know much about anime and then join the ones who don't know either, haha.

Have you ever watched an anime that you didn't enjoy?

Yes. I've watched over 1000 anime, so I've also watched some pretty bad ones, and actually also finished most of them because I don't like starting something and then not finishing it.

There's a pretty wide range of shows and genres in the world. What would you say makes a particular anime stand out? The plot or the characters? The design?

A bit of everything; the characters are important but so is design, plot, art-style and animation.
But it also comes down to the person. Some love Tatami Galaxy, but I really dislike the art-style. But that's just me and my taste in anime.

Have you played any games that were based off of anime? Were they good or bad?

On Xbox, just the Naruto games and Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet. The Naruto Storm games are nice, fun fighting games and also offer some story if you didn't watch the anime. SAO FB was surprisingly a nice, addicting loot shooter that I liked more than other loot shooters like the Division.

We've talked quite a bit about anime, but how about manga?

Yes, I also do read manga, however, not as much as anime. So any recommendations are always appreciated!

Back to gaming. What do you enjoy the most about TA?

The people, who all have the same hobby and enjoy hunting achievements. And the site in general, because I can check all my stats with ease.

What piqued your interest in achievement hunting? How long have you been on the site?

If I like something, I really want to collect a lot of it. I started getting more achievements and it really took me in. And so now I'm here and collect as much as I can. I've been on the site for 5 years now but that not really much compared to other people.

Do you intend to stay on the site for a long time?

Yes, for as long as it stays up (forever lets hope).

Would you ever change consoles or accounts in the future?

Nope. Xbox is pretty much my family. I would like to play some games on other consoles but I'm never going to switch from the console I used for over 10 years.

Do you have a particular genre that you enjoy? Any favorite games?

I like all genres to be honest. My favorite genre is probably role playing, even though I almost never play them because of the time investment. And my favorite game that I still play is probably Rainbow Six Siege.

And what about a least favorite game?

I would say a big thing for me was Wildlands. I really thought its gonna be a nice, big, and fun game with a good story, but it was just a empty map with repetitive missions.

Do you have any long-standing goals on the site? Any accomplishments so far?

Yes, I really want to get to at least 80 percent completion because I have so many games that I still haven't played.

Considering that you're working on your completion percentage, are there any games you've had to pass up out of fear that you wouldn't be able to complete them?

Not really actually, since my percentage is pretty low. If I had 90 percent, I would probably skip some games to be honest because I'm not the best gamer. Some hard games will be impossible for me.

Are there any games on your tag that you haven't/couldn't complete?

Way too many. I wish I could complete some of the longer games like The Witcher 3 and Skyrim, but I sadly don't have enough time to play games that take longer than 40 hours.

You mentioned mechanics. Do you think that developers use video game mechanics to their full potential? Or do you think they miss a lot of opportunities?

Yep, most don't do the games justice. But I can kind of understand it because they surely don't want to copy and paste other games. And in the end, it's money. And if games still sell well even though they have bad mechanics, then they have no real reason to change anything.

Is there anything that irks you about gaming? Achievements, industry news, microtransactions, so on?

Microtransactions are only bad, in my opinion, if its more than just cosmetics. Also, achievements kind of changed how I play and see some games. Which is pretty normal for most of us, I think.

What do you enjoy most about video games? Are you excited for any upcoming releases?

That you can dive into another world and enjoy many different stories and gameplay mechanics. I do look forward to many games like Code Vein, Doom Eternal, Cyperpunk and many more.

It's been great talking to you! As usual, we're ending the interview with shout-outs. Any you'd like to give?

Yes, I'd like to thank you for doing all those interesting interviews. toast

Posted by NicoleRenee00 on 23 August 19 at 19:30 | There are 4 comments on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.
PermalinkCommunity Interview - x Mataeus x
Please note that these interviews are unofficial, and therefore do not reflect the staff or site in any way. The opinions stated belong only to the interviewee.
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Current Interviewee: x Mataeus x
Previous Interview: ManicMetalhead
To Apply for an Interview: See here

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Gamertags almost always tell something about their owners. Tell us about yours. Does your gamerpic mean anything to you as well?

Way back in 2005, I was playing Outrun and Splinter Cell Chaos Theory on Xbox Live at a friend's house. We both shared the same first name, Mat, and originally he called himself Mateus on various online forums and the like. I don't know why. However, for reasons unknown colleagues at my various day jobs have always called me Mateus when shouting me from across the room, or in a playful way to get my attention. Again, I don't know why!

So anyway, when it came to hooking his Xbox to Live to play the aforementioned (awesome) games, he randomly called himself Dakkaboom, as one does. Apparently this represents the machine gun fire and bomb-dropping of WWII games, neither of which Outrun or Splinter Cell represent. So I thought “I'll have that other name then”.

When upgrading to Xbox 360, I added in the 'a' just for fun and created a permanent profile for myself, as I now had Xbox Live at home. But disaster struck! When updating the profile to be an online one, I lost connection midway through the process. Afterwards, it wouldn't let me sign into the profile because it said the information I'd entered was incorrect, and it wouldn't let me recreate it because the gamertag already existed. I know it bloody did! It was mine! So I played it offline for a year, then in 2007 I started afresh with x Mataeus x and have never looked back... Although there are still achievements in GRAW and PGR 3 that I had on my <2007 profile that I still haven't gone back and unlocked again some twelve years later. Shame on me.

As for the gamerpic, well it's something deeply important to my childhood: The Last Ninja. A superb trilogy of C64 games that really pushed the boundaries of musicianship, gameplay and graphics back in the late eighties, early nineties. I also have it printed on a T-shirt, which was a present from my brother (Brandi 13 – add him!)

So now I get to walk around with a T-Shirt with an exact replica of my gamerpic on it, which is pretty cool. Not wearing here though. Obviously.

Quite the story! It's interesting to think that we might have known you as Mateus instead.

Describe yourself in just a few words. How do you think the rest of TA knows you?

This requires two very different answers, and I'm going to do them in reverse.

I think the people who know me on TA see me as someone who is a little grumpy, and only really steps into conversations to complain. Very opinionated and slightly argumentative. A bit of a Marmite character, depending on how I conduct myself at any given time.

Here's the thing though: It is just an online persona. I play devil's advocate, to stimulate conversation. I know I occasionally come across as a provocateur and I know I can be blunt. I also swear too much.

But that's not the real world me, for the most part. I'm a fiercely loyal, unwaveringly honest person, even when it's to my own detriment. I love kindness, whether it's buying a sandwich and a hot drink for a homeless guy or just holding the hand of my lovely partner as she steps off the bus.

I know those two personalities contradict themselves and make me sound hypocritical, but I'm a bit of a weird guy. I just think, be kind to everyone you can, but stand up for your beliefs. I try to balance those things as best I can. There's a line in Scarface: “I have two things in this life: My word, and my balls. I don't break 'em for nobody”. But, y'know, with kindness and love instead of a mountain of drugs and firearms.

How long have you been gaming? What’s the first game you remember playing and do you have any fond early memories of the hobby?

Since about 1987. I had a friend in primary school called Dean, and he owned a Commodore 64. I had another friend called Craig, and his personal computer of choice with the Sinclair Spectrum +2, with the built in cassette deck. The C64 ended up being my first ever computer, and to this day it's my favourite piece of technology of all time. The way programmers used to use it to eke out extra memory and functionality was genius! I remember indie developers back in the day using the cassette deck buffer as extra RAM, where they would store temporary files between playing and loading, to create a more seamless experience.

Some incredible software was published on it, including the Gold Box AD&D RPG series: Hundreds of hours of role-playing across huge environments, all running on a machine with 64kb of RAM, and a CPU that ran at 1mghz.

My brother and I made awesome memories playing games like Dizzy, Target: Renegade, The Great Escape, Trapdoor... Great times.

Sadly, I'm not sure I do remember my first game. It was probably an arcade game in a seaside amusement arcade. I do remember playing Operation Wolf in the arcades, which would have been 1987.

You mentioned your C64 in the previous question. Are you passionate about technology? Would you ever work in the field of IT? Have you ever built your own piece of technology?

No I'm not. I like technology as much as how I can use it to improve my every day life, and how it helps me realise my hobbies and passions. Technology is everywhere, whether it's a pencil or a microchip. But I don't live for it. Quite the opposite in fact - I long for a simpler life.

I have worked in IT many times, including as an assistant systems manager for the NHS. My last IT job was programming Android terminals - forty at a time!

If I could change one piece of technology, do you know what I'd do? Un-invent the internet. No, seriously. I genuinely would. The excitement of midnight launches, going shopping on release day and reading the manual for your new game as you go home on the bus. Counting down the days until the release of the latest album from your favourite band. Buying magazines to read reviews. The smell of news books. Having to meet people to swap games and borrow films.

No Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram - real contact with real people.

I'd give up the internet to bring that back to the first world any day of the week.

That's pretty deep. So if you're not into technology, do you have different hobbies to keep you busy? Anything that you're well known for?

Yeah, loads! I love to write, usually articles and reviews but I have story ideas up my sleeve too. I love reading all kinds of fiction, from Terry Pratchett to Sophie Hannah. I also have one of the largest collections of Fighting Fantasy books in the country, and used to run The Unofficial Fighting Fantasy Forum (under the handle Master Chief of all things). I'm a musician, so I get carried away creating all kinds of weird tapestries on my guitars. Ad-libbing on the fly, just seeing what comes out is a real thrill for me, lost in my own mind, playing until I'm sweating like a pig. Such a lovely image!

My other half and I love getting out and about, whether it's camping in a tent in the middle of a valley or exploring the beaches of Morocco. It doesn't matter if it's a trip to the seaside or an excursion abroad, we always have the best time.

You mentioned that you enjoy reading. Do you have any recommendations? What's your favorite book that inspired (or was inspired by) a video game?

Absolutely! Any of the Sophie Hannah crime novels are great to get engrossed in, if you want to get into whodunnits with a plot you can't predict. The very first one, Little Face, is a bit ropey but the rest are superb. If you're into sci-fi, I can't recommend Peter F Hamilton enough. His Night's Dawn trilogy is exceptional work, but at 1,200 pages per book it's hardly light reading! Everything is in there though, from the smallest human detail to the grandest depictions of space opera. If you're British and have a dark sense of humour, the seven World According to Clarkson books are superb.

As for books based on games, I own several Halo and Assassin's Creed novels. Halo: The Fall of Reach is an awesome read.

And for music, do you prefer a certain genre? Have you played a live show, or have any intentions to?

I have an eclectic taste, but I'm not a genre man - same with films. I enjoy well crafted, talented productions when it comes to both, regardless of where it gets pigeonholed. Because of that, it's much easier to list my favourite music artists:

Iron Maiden, Disturbed, Cradle of Filth, Marilyn Manson, The Cult, Tori Amos, Bjork, Sia, Bat for Lashes, Florence + The Machine, Sisters of Mercy. Many others too, but they're who I mostly listen to.

As for playing music, I've played live a couple of times, first time at college, and I sessioned on an album that was pressed on vinyl a number of years ago. Now though, I mostly just create for myself. It's hard to get people interested when you're lost for hours in your own world!

Speaking of getting lost in worlds, do you have a favourite game? A least favourite? What genres do you prefer?

I don't have one particular favourite across all genres, but Final Fantasy IX, Riven: The Sequel to Myst, Tomb Raider (1995), Magicland Dizzy, Fallout 2, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Broken Sword and Deus Ex are all right up there.

Least favourite is easy: Call of Duty. Any of 'em. They do nothing for me. As for genres, I would say RPG, strategy / management, racing and platforming in that order.

What do you enjoy most about video games? What do you enjoy most about TA?

As much as I adore chasing high scores in, say, pinball, I love being lost in another world. Seriously man, just plug me into the Matrix and let me go! I get so absorbed in good games. Morrowind was probably the first time I truly found myself living another life in another world. About 500 hours on Xbox, and many more on PC. Every time there's a new Elder Scrolls or Fallout title, that's it, I'm gone for the next three straight months.

It doesn't matter if it's open world, something more self-contained like My Time at Portia, something linear such as Prince of Persia SoT... As long as I get engrossed in either the world, the character or the stories being told, they are my favourite moments. Absolutely.

With TrueAchievements, I enjoy being able to see how my gaming stacks up against the rest of the world. Not necessarily leaderboards, but being able to follow other people's guides and contribute my own is a big plus.

If you had to pick one game that had the most immersive world, what would it be?

Morrowind. No question. Deus Ex would be a close second, then probably Fallout 4 to be honest.

In your bio here on TA, you mentioned your love for indie titles. Do you have a favorite indie game specifically? What, in your opinion, makes indie games great?

Jeez, that's tough! Again with the genres thing, there's such a multitude of games and styles across so many platforms... If we're sticking to the Xbox One, then I'm probably going to say Stardew Valley. But there are some fantastic ID@Xbox titles: My Time at Portia, Fell Seal, and the amazing experience that is Elite Dangerous. I've been playing a community game too, Siralim 3, which is like Pokemon from a very, very small dev team where most of the work is done by one guy. No cheevs, but it's really great if you're into that kind of thing.

As for what makes indie games great, Well, my missus just said of this question: "Nothing. You have to rifle through twenty tons of shit to find something decent". She's being lighthearted of course, but surprisingly, that seems to be a lot of people's attitude on TA as well. I always see folks commenting on sales, for example, saying things like "Same old ID@Xbox trash". I guess non-AAA production just turns some people off.

For me, the great thing about indie games is the lack of any real filter between the developer's vision and the end result. There's no shoehorning in of microtransactions, no publisher to satisfy. Of course, this can lead to absolute garbage and it occasionally does, especially on Steam, a non-curated storefront which sees the launch of 12 new games a day on average. But there are some outstanding experiences out there that big publishers just wouldn't touch: The Turing Test and What remains of Edith Finch, for example.

What do you think all game companies (both indie and AAA) seem to struggle with during development? (ex: most games suffer from bugs, or something along those lines)

Announcing too early. Historically, Bethesda are the only company which don't do this, with the exception of that one teaser screen for TES VI. AAA companies tend to announce then push people into crunch, which is a bullshit situation in the first place, and indies tend to get over-excited and announce stuff which doesn't materialise for years.

In your opinion, what makes a developer "good"?

Doing something they believe in and want to do and not compromising their vision. OK, sometimes content will have to be cut because of feature creep or time and technology restraints, but that's a whole different thing from bowing to publisher demands or unfairly monetising their game. When I look at the studio which calls itself Bioware today, it's not the same passionate team of individuals which created the brilliant Baldur's Gate titles. It's not even the same as when they were making Mass Effect 1 or DA: Origins. It makes me sad, and it makes me angry that dozens of people would choose the simpler road of acquiescing to an overbearing publisher and creating Anthem, which is not something that allows Bioware to build upon their heritage and experience at all, instead of taking charge and saying “You know what? I'm out of here. This isn't what we do; what I do”.

You can argue, well, mortgage to pay, kids to feed... But you have to be true to yourself. Jump off the cliff, and build your wings on the way down. The greatest risk in life is the risk of doing nothing.

Do you think that AAA titles are more successful than indie titles? Should they be?

Speaking in terms of sales and income, yes, of course they are. It's not even debatable. People love things which they can show off: Huge choreographed set pieces, amazingly detailed graphics and fantastically memorable scores. They want to be awestruck.

It's the same reason why huge blockbuster movies are always expensive, action-focussed spectacles shown in IMax and 4DX. Occasionally a story-based biopic will come and steal the show, yes, but for the most part the cinema is built for spectacle.

Consoles and PC accessories are built the same way: For blockbuster entertainment. But every so often, a Stardew Valley comes along and captures the minds of people beset on all sides by the Halos and Gears and Forzas.

I fucking love indie games. Always have. I own about 150 XBLIGs on the 360 – they don't even come with achievements or anything, just little passion projects that won me over enough to support them. If you feel the same way, consider joining my Xbox Club: Fanatical About Indies.

Back to TA, do you have any interest in climbing the ranks? Or do you have other goals in mind?

Not really! I'm number 1 in Xbox One Pinball Games in England, and I haven't even played Pinball Arcade or Zaccaria Pinball, so I suppose that's an accomplishment. My only goals are to write reviews, walkthroughs and guides to the best of my ability.

Share your biggest accomplishments on the site! Do you hold any impressive leaderboard positions? Any difficult completions?

Apart from the aforementioned #1 leaderboard placement, the completions I'm most pleased with are N+, Trials HD, Elex, Bike Mayhem 2, Nine Parchments, Sacred 2 and American Fugitive. Not particularly difficult, just one's I was happy with completing.

What's something that irks you about gaming? It can be a game mechanic, developers, industry news, anything.

Obviously loot boxes, disguised gambling, etc etc. Let's take them as red. Apart from that, one thing that really bugs me a lot is timed events. They don't have to be achievement related, I'm just a big believer in owning what you buy, so when developers decide that one weekend they're going to do some sort of special event in a game that's lost forever afterwards, well they can fuck right off with that shit.

You've recently written some really amazing walkthroughs. Care to talk about the experience or the games?

Thank you for your kind words! A few years ago, on the XBLIG marketplace on the 360, a really great RPG Maker game cropped up called Doom & Destiny. I loved the humour, the world, the setting, and played it through to it's completion. When the devs released it on Steam and then made a sequel, I dived straight in. So when they announced it was going to be released for Xbox One, I knew I had to be the first to complete it and write the walkthrough for it. I contacted the developers, they gave me a key, and I went to work, completing the game three more times: Once for my initial playthrough, then again when writing the walkthrough and again when testing it. I wrote the walkthrough in Open Office, and it came to 53 pages of A4 without the TA specific bits added in, or the post-edits I made based on user feedback. It took me bloody ages! I had to stitch maps together in MS Paint, create spreadsheets and tables and all kinds of stuff. When I'd scoured the world for every bit of data – I wanted to do a full strategy guide, and not just an achievement run through – I had to decide the most efficient order to do things in.

I didn't get everything right first time, and there's still one issue with it: There's a spell available (the game calls them 'powers') right at the start which I forgot to count, and there's an achievement for obtaining 180 of them. So throughout the game, every time I point out where you pick up a new power and add it to the “x collected out of 180” list, you'll always have one more. Luckily this isn't detrimental; in fact it means you'll pop the achievement one power before I say you will in the guide. I could go back and change it, but it would mean re-ordering AND renumbering the powers across all 53 pages of content and the checklist at the end. Because it's in no way detrimental to the player, I'll probably never go back and do it.

The second walkthrough I did was for American Fugitive, which included hundreds of collectibles across three large maps. Again I was the first person to complete the game, and I played through twice to write the walkthrough.

In both cases, the developers were very happy with my work. The genuinely appreciated the time and effort, and even promoted it through their various channels. With Doom & Destiny, I'm going to be given ready-made maps and item lists etc in advance of the sequel releasing on Xbox to avoid the hours spent stitching together screenshots and removing characters from them in Paint. So expect a first completion / walkthrough combo when that arrives, too ;-)

Nice! And on top of walkthroughs, you also write quite a few reviews, correct? Any that stand out?

Writing reviews is a serious passion of mine, but they don't all get written on TA. Some have been done for website one-offs, some on Steam and other platforms. I was also one of the unfortunate victims of the whole Brash Games implosion – it's difficult to come back when your name gets dragged through the mud purely due to association, but with how public that ended up being – Both Jim Sterling and Kirioth TV made episodes about how despicable it all was – us Brash writers managed to turn things around for ourselves.

My anxiety chip was running overclocked when Jim read out (I'd chosen to remain anonymous at the time) the email I'd received from Paul Ryan, but the exposé needed to be done.

To bring things back on topic, if I had to pick an example of both a terrible and a great game that I've reviewed, I'd recommend these:

Review of Zombie Pinball

Review of American Fugitive

Based on the previous questions, it seems like you really enjoy writing. Is there a specific reason why? Do you like to write some content more than others?

Dunno really. I just enjoy the process of articulating my thoughts into something which I can share with other people. In no way am I the type of person who shoves my opinions as 'fact', nor do I care about being right / wrong in a debate. I just like to make people think, make people laugh and possibly look at things through an alternative lens. I adore listening to others, and absorb differing points of view with gusto, whether I subscribe to them or not.

As a review writer, what do you think a game must have to be considered a success?

It's subjective to the individual, but again, it's got to be the developer's vision and not someone else's. For example, most people never hear any of the music I create. It'll never make me rich, famous, revered or reviled, but if I create a piece of music which touches one person, somewhere, and creates an emotion within them, that for me is success.

I feel the same about games. Being successful for a developer could be creating a game which keeps them in business, which allows them to create something else, to build a career – I'm sure every game developer who loves what they do wants that.

Speaking on a personal level as a consumer, a successful game is one that gets released when it's finished, when it's goals have been attained. Again, it all comes down to sticking to your guns and doing what you believe in.

With all the games you've reviewed so far, would you say there are more good games than bad ones? Or vice-versa?

From my experience, yes. I love games and have played thousands across the last thirty-one years, so I find it difficult to believe the bad would outnumber the good or I'd have left the hobby behind a lifetime ago!

Do you intend to take your review writing and walkthroughs even further? Any plans to work for a gaming website, or start your own?

Yes and yes.

If you had to name your favourite thing about the community here on TA, what would it be?

The selflessness of its members. People spend countless hours figuring out games and their secrets, tactics, achievements, glitches and everything. They then take those findings and make them public in walkthroughs and achievement solutions, regardless of how it affects their personal goals of leaderboard positions or TA score. I joined TA not for the competition, but for the cooperation. It's incredible.

Finally, do you have anyone on TA that you'd like to give a shout-out to as we end the interview?

Too many to mention them all, but yeah:


Clad master

Punk Nine

Chad Wilburn


Finally, two people who I've been friends with for a long time and mean a great deal to me:


Nod Nolan

Posted by NicoleRenee00 on 23 July 19 at 21:56 | There are 10 comments on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.
PermalinkCommunity Interview - ManicMetalhead
Please note that these interviews are unofficial, and therefore do not reflect the staff or site in any way. The opinions stated belong only to the interviewee.
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Current Interviewee: ManicMetalhead
Previous Interview: Dwaggienite
To Apply for an Interview: See here

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Gamertags almost always tell something about their owners. Tell us about yours. Does your gamerpic mean anything to you as well?

ManicMetalhead has been my tag for as long as I can remember. I'm pretty sure I was hunting for a unique tag when I first started gaming online and went along with my other big love at the time, which was (perhaps unsurprisingly) metal music. Then 'Manic' just came from looking for a unique name where I didn't have to add any numbers to the name. Also, it's Manic, not Maniac, which is what I sometimes get called.

Usually, whenever you see ManicMetalhead on any site (with the exception of Twitter, where someone beat me to it), it's me.

My GamerPic is just a screenshot of my avatar, after the most recent Xbox Avatar update, nothing all that special. laugh

Describe yourself in just a few words. How do you think the rest of TA knows you?

I'll be honest, I'm never particularly good at describing myself, I feel as though it'd be too much like trying to sound cool, when I'm pretty sure I'm not. I love all types of animals, exploring new worlds (real and virtual) and am overly fond of being sarcastic.

I don't know how much the rest of TA knows me, but hopefully it's for all the walkthroughs I've poured my time into, rather than anything else. laugh

How long have you been gaming? What’s the first game you remember playing and do you have any fond early memories of the hobby?

I've been gaming since I was pretty young. The first I really remember is playing Pokémon Crystal on my GameBoy (I wasn't old enough for Red, Blue and Yellow when they were released, I was only 4) and playing with my brother and cousins through a physical link cable. I remember using the family PC on a dial-up to play Runescape, and then getting my first PC that could actually play proper games.

I have a lot of fond memories of games I played back then (I still have most of them now). Star Wars Battlefront I & II, Star Wars Republic Commando, Star Wars: Empire at War, you can probably see a bit of a theme developing here. laugh I spent hundreds of hours on both Rome Total War and Medieval Total War II though, and those games are what started my interest in ancient civilisations.

My current setup is a bit more up to date, but nothing special, mostly just neatly tucked away:
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Tell us about your home life! The real-life job, spouse, kids, anything.

I'm a pharmaceutical scientist in real life, which is as thrilling as it sounds really, but I enjoy it. My girlfriend and I have been together 3-4 years now and we live in the UK. We're both childfree as well, so never any kids. There's a question a couple down to show what we spend our time looking after instead.

A pharmaceutical scientist sounds pretty impressive. Is it your dream job? Did you plan for the career?

Thank you! It's not my dream job, I don't know what would be but I can guarantee it would involve working with animals. Probably running an animal sanctuary, if money wasn't an issue.
I just went with what I was good at while at school, which turned out to be chemistry and biology, then studied chemistry at uni, and then was lucky enough to find an interesting job in my field that actually uses my degree (well, maybe 20% of it, the rest hasn't been needed so far!)

Do you have hobbies outside of gaming? Anything that you're well known for?

I do indeed! My main hobby is caring for my pets, but that's covered in the next question. I also enjoy baking a fair bit. Cakes, bread, pastries, you name it. I volunteer for a local greyhound rescue as well, and we walk some of the rescues whenever we have some spare time. My girlfriend and I like exploring the world as well, and usually visit somewhere far-flung and exotic. Our favourite so far is Costa Rica!

Not sure I'm well known for anything, although I do have a claim to fame. I used to be a film extra (when I had the time). I've been in a few films, but the only one that anyone can actually see me in very briefly is the Muppets: Most Wanted. I filmed for about 14 hours one day in London, and I'm in the film for a total of about 10 seconds, split over a few scenes

A movie star and also a world traveler; sounds like a lot of fun! Any other locations to share besides Costa Rica? Any locations that you're dying to visit?

It really is! My other half had a head-start on me and has been travelling the world with her parents for years. We've been all over since we became a couple and have many more places planned.
Only a handful to share: while Costa Rica has been my favourite so far, Mexico is also absolutely amazing. I mentioned before that I have a love of ancient civilisations and the Mayans are one of those. Seeing some of the ruins there, and finding out that the Mayan people still exist today was incredible.

We want to do a few more: Caribbean islands, Thailand, Bali and I'd love to take my other half to Norway (one of the few places that I've been that she hasn't yet). I'm sure we'll find all sorts of interesting places to visit over the years, especially with our lifestyle choices.

You mentioned your taste in music when talking about your gamertag. Do you have a favorite genre? Any particular bands in mind?

Hopefully that's obvious! When I created the tag, I listened to purely rock and metal, from classic rock to black metal. I've mellowed out a bit as I've grown up and while I still love some of the heaviest music I can find, I also enjoy pop-punk, some of the more rock groups you find in the charts, and I have a bit of a soft spot for the classical themes from movies and games. All-time personal favourites are Amon Amarth, Rush, Devin Townsend and Ghost.

Everyone who knows you likely knew this question was coming. Tell us about your pets.

Haha! Thought there might a question like this. I have some slightly different pets. As of this moment I have 15 pets, although that will surely grow when my other half and I move into a new place. We rehome all of our animals and once they're with us, they'll stay with us for the rest of their life, as long as we are able to adequately care for them and give them everything they need.

I have 9 snakes (5 corn snakes, a royal python, an albino Nelson's milk snake, a Californian king snake and a western hognose snake), 2 tarantulas (a Honduran Curly Hair and a Mexican Red Knee), a scorpion and 3 red-eyed tree frogs.

I know there are a fair number of people who aren't snake/arachnid fans, but I love them all as does my other half. We end up inviting people over to meet the snakes, as each has their own little personality, of sorts.

Pictures incoming (hopefully they aren't too blurry!):

Inca - our first snake. She's a normal-type corn snake, and she loves being out of her vivarium, such a chill snake:

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Voodoo - He's an amelanistic (or amel) corn snake, and was the second snake we got:

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Indy - She's also a corn snake, we think she's a ghost pinstripe morph:

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Vandal - Our snake-y hermit. Not a big fan of people, and feeding her is akin to the scene in Jurassic Park with the goat. She wasn't well looked after before we rehomed her, and is a bit under-sized and stroppy. She's an anerythristic (or anery) corn snake:

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Felix - Our longest snake, and our oldest. Felix is a snow corn snake, is around 6ft long and is around 10 years old.

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Bandit - He's a bit of a special one. Our Californian king snake, He's the one who's bitten me the worst, when he managed to get himself stuck in a decoration and panicked when we got him out, but we love him all the same!

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Houdini - She's earned her name a couple of times over. She's particularly good at finding the smallest gaps to escape from. Similar to the corn snakes, but she's a lot more flightly. She's an albino Nelson' milk snake.

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Fergus - Out pet rock. Fergus spends most of his time sat in one of his hides, just chilling until we go to bed and he come out to explore. He's our thickest snake, and is a normal-morph royal python.

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Bertie - The smallest of our snakes, Bertie is a our western hognose. He's actually venomous, but he's more likely to hiss at you than bite, and even if he did get you, the venom wouldn't kill or even maim anyone. It's deadly to frogs and mice, but that's about it.

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Toast - The Honduran curly hair tarantula (Brachypelma albopilosum. He was our first tarantula. He's fascinating to see and he's built himself a nice little nest in his vivarium, all webbed up. He's actually quite fluffy, and both he and Mariachi are have urticating hairs that they flick at you if you get too close, rather than bite you.

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Mariachi - the Mexican Red Knee (Brachypelma hamorii). She's quite similar to Toast, and is generally quite a chill spider as well.

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Blueberry - He's a Laos forest scorpion. He gets his name from the fact that he glows blue under a UV light. He's absolutely tiny at the moment, and probably will be for a little while yet. We only have a couple of photos as he spends most of the day hiding, only coming out at night.

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Tico, Papaya, Límon - Our red-eyed tree frogs. These guys are absolutely mesmerising to watch at night. They are beautiful, colourful and spend a lot of their time jumping around their viv, hunting for crickets. Tico, the male, spend a lot of his time reeting as well, which is quite cute.

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They're surprisingly cute! Is there a reason why you and your partner specifically chose to adopt snakes?

We were both fascinated by snakes when we were younger, and apparently, it just needed us to become an item to convince each other to actually get one! After getting the first one, Inca, we found out how many snakes there are in need of rehoming, whether its because their current owners have had a change in circumstances, or whether they've been overbred and dumped, so we decided to rehome as many as we could properly look after.

Do you intend to add to your collection of dangerous animals? Is there any animal that you can't own, but you still want?

Absolutely! We're not sure how dangerous we'll go, it'll all depend on what needs a home. We're big supporters of a place called the National Centre for Reptile Welfare, here in the UK, and once we have more space, will happily help rehome more from them. All it comes down to is what animals are in need of home and if we know enough to look after and care for them as best as possible. At the end of the day, it's all about what the animals themselves want.

Again, with more space, comes more animals, as long as we can still look after everyone properly. I'd love to have both cats and dogs. I'd also quite like to own a beehive at some point. My other half and I have a list of snakes we'd like to get if one is put up for rehoming and we've said we'll get a boa constrictor as a moving-in present when we get our new place.

Do you feel that, as a snake/arachnid owner, that these animals generally get a bad rap? Do you worry that they might hurt someone, or are they just like any other pet?

They do. We've had numerous friends come over and visit who were scared of snakes and, as long as they agreed to it, the started by looking in the vivariums, then we got out the friendliest snakes for them to meet and even hold if they fancied it. After that, they're usually completely fine with the snakes.

You get plenty of people online making statements like "if I ever saw a snake, I'd have to kill it" and that they'd never even visit someone who kept snakes, when really they're some of the most chill pets you can have (at least some of the more common species are, you obviously get snakes that are either massive, venomous or both, which can be complete dicks). Just treat them with respect.
I've been bitten a couple of times, but each time has been for an obvious reason either I still smell of mouse after feeding another snake, or the snake is stressed and bites defensively, etc. As long the snake has a place to escape to, it is far more likely that it will run away from you, rather than bite.

As far as I know, there's one species that will actively chase you away (and are pretty venomous) and that's the Fer-de-lance (we went looking for snakes in the wild in Costa Rica, luckily no fer-de-lance, but saw a handful of common boa constrictors and an eyelash pit viper).

Arachnids/invertebrates are the same really, as long as you treat them with respect, you'll generally be fine (we did a load of research on proper care, conditions and safety before getting any new type of pet, that always helps).

Back to gaming! Why did you join the site? What piqued your interest in achievement hunting?

I've always enjoyed popping achievements and finishing games, but when I was younger I wasn't particularly good at entirely finishing games. After properly finding TA, I found a lot more resources to help, with solutions and walkthrough providing the most help, and later on, joining gaming sessions whenever I could. After a while on-site, I wanted to help give back to the community and applied to become a staff member.

We work together on the walkthrough team. Care to talk about the job? Anything special to share?

I quite enjoyed writing my own walkthroughs, after taking the plunge with Slime Rancher in 2018. As you know, we do a fair amount of work behind the scenes to make sure all the walkthrough on site are up to standard, and it's fun to see both sides of the walkthrough writing process, both writing and checking/publishing. As both the writing and checking are all voluntary, it's also nice to see so many in the community come forward and want to write a walkthrough in their spare time.

As you just mentioned, you write your own walkthroughs too. Are there any that particularly stand out?

Short answer, Quantum Break. I think it's probably one of my best walkthroughs, but as well as it being a walkthrough that many wanted, it's also one of the more detailed that I've written. I'm also quite proud of the walkthroughs for Slime Rancher, as my first one and Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2. I also gutted and rewrote the Viva Piñata and Viva Piñata: Trouble In Paradise walkthroughs and I like the detail I put into them. Hopefully everyone else does too!

You recently posted in the walkthrough forums (seen here) about your goal to improve published walkthroughs here on the site. Tell us more about the goal, and why you chose to improve walkthroughs that are already published.

It always seems like a large number of walkthroughs need to be updated after DLC comes out, links are broken, or that they're too old and simply not up to the standard that we now hold walkthroughs to. I wanted to go through as much of that list as possible and bring them up to scratch, as they generally seemed to be ignored. I've made a shortlist in my blog of all those I have in my sights and once those are completed, I'll be targeting the others. Hopefully I can whittle the list down quicker than it grows.

If anyone has a specific walkthrough that they'd like me to take a look at, I'm happy to give anything a look. Not only do I get to pick up some fantastic games that I may have otherwise missed, hopefully my rewritten walkthroughs encourage others to do the same!

You're also on the mod team here on TA. Care to share some details about what you do behind the scene?

Quite a lot! The mods deal with all the requests to do with the site, whether it's helping reset password (we don't actually see any password details, just to reassure everyone, everything stays private even from us), or to help with broken achievement streaks or removal requests. Basically any time someone uses the "Contact Us" feature, it comes through to us.

As well as that, we moderate the forums and work hard as a team to try to keep them as fun and as helpful as possible for our ever-growing community. We're all volunteers and started off as just standard site users the same as everyone else, and in most cases, all mod actions are decided on by the whole team.

As a mod, do you interact with the community differently? Do you think people are careful with their words around you?

I don't think I interact much differently from my usual interactions. I generally try to be helpful in any case. I'm not sure if some people are always aware that I'm a mod in some forums, but that's fine by me as everything is usually civil.

Do you have any interesting stories to share while being a mod?

There aren't really any specific ones I can share, but we get a surprising number of contact requests from users who have been directed to us from Xbox Support, usually for achievement issues that we have absolutely no control over.

Does volunteering on two different teams eat up a lot of your time? Do you ever think about throwing in the towel?

Not as much as you may think. Moderating takes up more time than being a walkthrough overseer. The walkthroughs usually come through every now and then, and don't often take too long to check and send for publishing, and they are entirely reliant on when the writer has finished with them, which can be months after they are first assigned, depending on the walkthrough.

Moderation takes up a little more, but also goes through cycles, some days are quieter but some days we got loads of contact requests as well have some popular forum threads at the same time.

I enjoy both roles though and don't see myself stopping for a while yet.

Do you have a favourite game? A least favourite? What genres do you prefer?

One of my all-time favourites is BioShock, nothing quite like that first view of Rapture as you descend in the bathysphere, and the rest of the game continues at the same level. There are many other games that hold a special place in my gaming heart, some I mentioned above, like Rome: Total War, and others I play a lot more and enjoy now, such as SMITE, and both Guacamelee games.

I'm not fussy about genres either, I play almost everything, perhaps with the exception of sports games, minus the odd NHL game or two. I love a good puzzler, platformers are generally quite fun, RPGs are exciting. I'll give pretty much anything a go if it looks well designed and entertaining. I enjoy fighting games as well, but I'm not all that great at them.

I don't really have a least favourite game. Like many, I dislike broken achievements, especially ones that never worked and never get fixed, so games like that are way down my list, unless the game itself is well recommended or looks fun.

Share your biggest accomplishments on TA! Do you hold any impressive leaderboard positions? Any difficult completions?

I think I'm decidedly average. My best TA accomplishments are probably my walkthroughs, as I love pouring as much details as possible into them. Even if only one person uses a walkthrough of mine and finds it useful, it's worth it. In term of achievements, SMITE is probably one of my better games.

Hopefully by the time this interview goes out, I'd have finished Snake Pass as well, which I absolutely loved. I'm one level away from finishing the no-death run.

What's something that irks you about gaming? It can be good or bad, about game mechanics, developers, or even a specific game.

I'm generally not a fan of anything exploitative or anti-fun. I generally play games to enjoy them and experience them. Granted, I have plenty of short, quick (Ratalaika) games on my tag, but as long as I have fun playing a game, that's what makes it a good purchase.

Another irksome matter is that there are too many good games . There are so many I want to experience to the fullest, that I will inevitably have to miss some, although I'll be finishing off as many as possible, even some of the really old 360 games that I have hanging around in the back of the shelf.

Do you have any opinions to share on industry news? Loot boxes, micro-transactions, developers? Feel free to be as opinionated as you like.

Lootboxes that affect the course of the game are part of the anti-fun mechanics that I mentioned above. I'm generally fine with loot boxes that only give out cosmetic changes, as I can choose to buy them or not, but it's a massive turn off. I know this is something a vast majority of the people here and gamers, in general, would agree with.

In positive industry news though, I love seeing games, both indy and AAA, that are absolutely beautiful and engaging to play. When I was younger, I didn't pay enough attention to indy developers and I really missed out because of it. I have a great many on my list of games to go back and play, and I'm always looking for more.

What do you enjoy most about video games? What do you enjoy most about TA?

Video games are my go-to choice of entertainment. I enjoy a good film as much as the next person, board games are always a good laugh, I love reading (if anyone hasn't read Ready Player One, I highly recommend it) and listening to music, but gaming just takes it up another level. Plus, there aren't many other mediums where I can switch from such vastly different environments simply by pushing a couple of buttons.

TA provides a platform to find others to play with, helps me find new games and help pop some more achievements. I most enjoy the walkthroughs (obviously) and the events (like GTASC and the Bean Dive, for example), as even if I don't do all that well in them, I end up going back and finding old games that I had otherwise forgotten about.

Do you have any future gaming goals? Anything that you're working towards as you play?

Mainly trying to finish off those games that only have a handful of achievements remaining before a completion, just hanging there in a limbo until I find the time or gain the skill required to finish them off.

As we wrap up the interview, are there any shout-outs you want to give to the community?

In real life, my girlfriend without a doubt. Some of the games she's had to put up with me playing. Luckily she enjoys gaming as well!

On-site, anyone who writes or has written both walkthroughs and solutions. This site wouldn't be where it is without you all, and many of you are often unsung heroes. Also, my thanks to Nici, for setting up these interviews!

Posted by NicoleRenee00 on 13 July 19 at 06:14 | There are 12 comments on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.
PermalinkFeatured Community Interview - Dwaggienite
Please note that these interviews are unofficial, and therefore do not reflect the staff or site in any way. The opinions stated belong only to the interviewee.
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I want to thank everyone for the kind words they've shared so far! I'm very excited to get these interview rolling. If you would like to volunteer for an interview, see here.

This specific interviewee was actually hand-picked before the previous blog post went live. I chose Dwaggienite for the first Community Interview because of his recent involvement with a DLC pack in The Z Axis: Continuum, which he was able to design himself. So without further ado, here he is to share some insight into the process.


See the man himself as he explains the recent title update.

Gamertags almost always tell something about their owners. Tell us about yours.

Ah this is simple. My favourite pokemon is Dragonite, and my name for about 15 years online has been 'Dwaggie'. Dwaggienite sounded perfect. It rolls off the tongue, and it's a name I've used to kind of... increase my 'brand' I guess, from Mixer to TA, to Xbox, to Twitter and Youtube etc.

Previously, my gamertag was 'TSG Dwaggie', the TSG standing for the The Speed Gamers, who are a group of gamers who do Speedruns in various series in events for charity. I did full speedrun playthroughs of Metroid Prime 1, Metroid Prime 2, and Metroid Prime Pinball in the August 2008 charity event, in which I was lucky enough to have the honour of performing those games, in hard mode, live, in front of the developers of the games, Retro Studios. At the time, I did them at world record pace, before most of the speed tricks and exploits were discovered. I did the first ever live recorded one-round defeat of the Elite Phazon Pirate in Phazon Mines (Metroid Prime 1) during that speed run. As a thank you, and as a reward for doing so well at those three titles, Retro Studios sent me this...

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Describe yourself in just a few words. How do you think the rest of TA knows you?

I've had my share of encounters on TA, from some really loyal friends to some downright hatred and harrassment. Sadly, that's part of today's world when you put yourself online. I honestly don't know how the rest of TA views me. What I'd like to be seen as is that I'm someone who always tries to do the right thing, always tries to help out, and is always open as someone to talk to, if people give me common courtesy and respect. Whether people see me that way, I guess that's for them to judge.

How long have you been gaming? What’s the first game you remember playing? Do you have any fond early memories of the hobby?

I've been gaming since I was 2 years old. The first game I ever played was on a green-screen Amstrad PC when I was 2. It was on one of those computer screens that only has the bright lime green text. It was a simple maths game that would just ask simple maths questions, E.g 4x5, and you'd type in your answer. I was doing (and beating) that at the age of 2.

It should be said that I have a form of autism, called Aspergers. This does make me a little socially awkward, and rather isolated and quiet. Now, when I was younger (this is 30 years ago), hardly anything was known about Aspergers, or autism in general. It was basically just put down as 'bad behaviour'. Anyway, I was about 4 years old before I actually properly started speaking. It's not because I was slow, I just, watched, learnt, and observed. I was a very quiet kid. Anyway, long story short, I was typing before I was talking, and my earliest memory is of that maths game on that old green-screen Amstrad.

Some people wouldn't call that gaming though. I think my first proper "video game" memory, was a Sega Master System. That was my first proper console. I'm pretty sure my first game that I played for that was a game called Wonder Boy 3: The Dragon's Trap (which last year had a remake on Xbox One). I didn't have the Sega Master System for long though.

My parents bought me a NES for christmas when I was 4 or 5, and I grew up playing Super Mario Bros., Duck Hunt (by cheating by holding the light gun right in front of the screen :P), Power Blade, amongst others. I'm pretty sure I had the first Legend of Zelda too. I also had a gameboy, and, like everyone, I had Tetris. One of my earliest 'favourable' memories was 'clocking' the lines of tetris by hitting 999 lines. I did that at the age of five.

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As per tradition, we have Dwaggie's gaming set-up for all to see.

You mentioned TSG (The Speed Gamers) in your previous response. Do you have other fond memories outside of the August 2008 event? Would you ever go back to speed-running games for charity?

Of course I would! Although, sadly, I don't think I'm good enough to speedrun at world-record pace anymore. I think I've found a good niche with the achievehunts, the full playthroughs, and the 'chill' content, such as realm royale, etc.

Let's hear about your home life.

I've spent my whole life in the middle of England. I currently live in a nice, quiet village, which is quite peaceful. You can hear the birds when you wake up, it's wonderful. It's common to see squirrels outside in the trees. It's nice to be away from the loud noises of the city. Not much else to say there really. :)

Do you have any special gaming memories? What piqued your interest in achievement hunting?

I mentioned my first video games above, but the first one I actively went back to was Tetris. I think when we look back in the past at video games, we don't look back at the video games themselves, we, as nostalgic as we get about past games we've played, look back at the memories they've given us. The 'moments' that I mention that come to mind for me are:

1. The first time I got a Tetris. Everyone remembers the first. I was sitting upside down on my bed, my legs half-way up the headboard of the bed and up the wall.

2. Our first caught Pokémon. I'd saved pocket money for 30 weeks (£1 a week at the time) to buy Pokémon Red. Every saturday for 12 weeks after that, I went to WHSmiths to see if they had it in stock yet. They didn't. I had to wait over 9 months to play that game. It was so depressing. Eventually I got it though, and my first caught Pokémon? It was a Pidgey. Level 2. High Attack stat. I named it Podge. Can't remember why.

3. The first time I loaded up the gamecube to hear that gamecube entrance graphic. I did a month's work in Toys 'R' Us as a till operator over the Christmas period. Whilst I earnt just enough money to buy that console (it was the first console that I ever bought with my own money), it served me to realise that I never want to work retail again.

4. The first time we yelled at our sibling for picking Oddjob in Goldeneye. I hate that little midget. *Grump*

5. Playing 2-player Red Alert 2: Command & Conquer, creating a butt-load of Tanyas and just going into my brother's base and taking over every single building because he had neglected to build Tesla Towers.

6. Pokémon Snap. For the first time, we saw Pokémon in 3D, and not 2D sprites. It didn't matter to me that all the Pokémon weren't in the game. The first time I saw that 3D Dragonite bellowing his roar, I saw... I felt what gaming could be.

In regards to achievement hunting... when I moved home, I got a new console, an Xbox 360. It was one of those old Pros that were super-susceptible to errors such as red rings, graphic errors, etc. I went through 5 of them (all with graphic rendering issues, no red-rings, thankfully - must have been a bad batch), but eventually I got one from Gamestation that worked fully. Got it with one game, Harry Potter & The Order Of The Phoenix. Despite what TA says, where for some reason it counts offline achievements as earned on the day you created your TA account, I actually completed this in about two days or so. It was my first completion on Xbox, and I was hooked.

Do you have a favorite game? What genres do you prefer?

With over 1¼ million gamerscore, it's hard to have a favourite game. I think I'd point people to what games I play specifically for fun, despite getting all the achievements in them. I regularly play Overwatch and Realm Royale with friends, because I find those very fun. I like the world of Overwatch and the lore. I've actually purchased multiple statues from the Blizzard store; D.Va (and her Mech), Widowmaker, Tracer, and Mercy. I would like them to make a Symmetra statue though. As for Realm Royalee, I'm pretty good at that. Both alone and solo, I've racked up a total of over 300 wins to date.

Off Xbox, I do like playing Tetris 99 on Nintendo Switch. A battle royale for Tetris is the greatest idea Nintendo have ever had.

What about games and genres that you don't like?

As for games I don't like, I can't stand grind-fests, such as Final Fantasy games, or any MMO. I'm not a fan of fighters like Killer Instinct or Street Fighter, either. I hate the battle systems, I hate how we have to memorize button combinations. I find it to be the complete opposite of fun, to be honest.
When it comes to Genres, I LOVE puzzle games, especially ones that give unique mechanics, such as Z Axis Continuum (shameless plug, more on that later :P), Yosumin, Puyo Puyo, Puzzle Fighter, and things like that.

Do you have a preference towards single player games or multiplayer?

It depends upon the game. I prefer stuff that can be done single player, because then you don't have to rely on others to be available, but co-op stuff, set in games that are "specifically" for coop can be fun too. The co-op only game 'A Way Out' was a fantastic example of this, and I truly hope the developers will come up with more titles similar to that.

You mentioned your Switch. Do you play on other consoles?

Yes, I play on Nintendo Switch occasionally, although I don't own many titles for that, smash bros ultimate, tetris 99, minecraft (for the achievements :P) are basically it. And I'll be getting the Zelda: Link's Awakening remake in September. I also still own my gameboy colour, gameboy SP, Pikachu N64 (20+ years old and still working like a dream), and my gamecube. I was a huge gamecube and N64 fan. I have most of the classic games for those two consoles.

Would you ever create a new tag, or switch to achievement hunting on a different console?

Nah, I'm at 1.25 mil on this tag, not gonna change tags now :p I've got no interest in playstation trophies, or steam achievements, but I do enjoy playing the above-mentioned games on Nintendo Switch :)

Share your biggest accomplishments on TA! Do you hold any impressive leaderboard positions? Any difficult completions?

Oooh! Now I have a few things to be proud of here. I've been the first person to complete multiple games, Taptiles (Win 8), Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition, Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition (Xbox 360) , The Culling, The Jackbox Party Pack 5, ACA NEOGEO Gururin (Win 10), Awesome Pea, and Puyo Puyo Champions.

However, I think my proudest moment is a world record that I seriously believe will probably never be beaten. I purchased the japanese-only release of Puyo Puyo Tetris for Xbox One. To date, I am the only person who 'clocked' the scoreboard of that game, hitting 99,999,999 score, but going above that with the game bonuses after I purposefully ended the game so my score could be uploaded.

Puyo Puyo Leaderboard

As you can see from the leaderboard, I ended up with a score of 137,057,499. You can see a video of me purposefully ending the record-setting run here:

This was less of a score run, and more of an 'endurance'. How long could I continue? How long would my body hold up? I decided to go until I clocked the scoreboard, and so, to my knowledge, I'm the only person in history who's ever done that.

Your site rank on TA is #33. This is pretty impressive. Are there any gaming goals that you're working towards as you climb the ranks?

I'll be honest. Dependant on if I'm in the mood for gaming or not, I've been fluctuating site position between 33-38 for months! I'm more focused on the completion leaderboards, where I've been #1 in England for quite a while, and 2nd in europe. I've been fluctuating from 6-8th worldwide for the last couple of years, also. I'd like to continue completing games, and doing videos. I've kind of created my own Hashtag, #AchieveHunt, which I use for my streams, and I upload these achievement hunts to my youtube channel. This is where I basically take a shortish game (normally an ACA, Sometimes You, or Ratalaika game recently :P) and do an AchieveHunt of it, popping all the achievements in one sitting. Heck, if I can do it, anyone can.

So you stream and use your own hashtag? Do you have other goals with your content? Any favorite pieces to share?

My goals are just to entertain. If I never get big, or even if I do, there's a gigantic archive of my content on YouTube, which people can always watch. All of the various youtube content is also linked to from the 'About Me' part of my mixer stream page. I've pretty much standardized my youtube thumbnails too, so that anytime people see a thumbnail, they should be able to go, "Oh, that's Dwaggienite. I know him, he does good stuff.", and then, watch it. And unlike most youtubers, I refuse to put my face on the youtube thumbnails. xD I HATE people who do that. I believe it shows extreme narcissism. I think the content should be the game being played, not the player playing the game.

As a content creator yourself, are there any Youtubers or streamers that you enjoy watching?

I like watching some streamers. I completely stay off of Twitch because I find the community to be so extremely toxic. It's a junkyard of idiots, in my opinion, just like youtube comment sections. Lol. I stick to Mixer nowadays. The community is much nicer there. I'm also trying to push for partner there, and I satisfy all requirements except the concurrent viewers before I get to get that.

I love watching SovietWomble's stuff on youtube. I also love watching both Slinkonage and LyndonSG on Mixer. I count both of those as very good friends.

Looking at your completion percentage, it's quite high. Are there any games you regret starting? Any that were too difficult to finish?

Oh god yes!!! I wish I never started Dead Rising 1. A game that has to, in my opinion, go down for the worse gameplay and saving mechanic in the history of any game. And don't get me started on the freaking survivor AI in that game. ARGH. Absolutely BAD game and I would happily lose the gamerscore from that title if I could get that POS from my card.

Another game I regret starting is Mirror's Edge; not because it's a bad game, but because the time trials are so ridiculously difficult. I also regret Dark Void. This one's a weird one, however. At the time I bought it there had been DLC with achievements that had not been added with the Xbox Achievements service for approximately 11 months. So I bought the game, and got the easy 1000G from the base game. And then, just my luck, the DLC achievement were added to the xbox service a week or so late. The DLC achievements are very hard. Just my luck, right?

Finally, another game that I fully regret starting is Pure Pool, on Xbox One. The developers outright refuse to put a top-down viewpoint on it, and seem to think it's fun forcing people to level up across hundreds, sometimes thousands of hours to get that last achievement for the highest rank. Message to developers: if your game does it, you're unconsciously telling me something: "We're putting this achievement in to get people to play for long periods because our game can't get people to play for that long on its own." - THAT'S what your developer choices tell me. And you know what that tells me? The game's crap and not worth my time. Actively doing that LOSES you a sale from me; SOLELY for that reason.

I think I can only think of three games that have been actively too difficult for me to finish at the current moment in time, or at least, the ones I've not mentioned above.

1) Tetris: The Grandmaster Ace Achievements. This was a japanese-only, region-locked xbox 360 launch title which couldn't even be played if you weren't a gold xbox live member. Now, I want to make it clear, I am phenominally good at tetris. I'd estimate myself to be in the top 1% of all players worldwide. However, as this game is in full japanese, and there's no pause, I have to translate with my very bad japanese to work out what I have to do, and you have extreme time limits for the last few achievements that I've not attained. Sadly, I gave up. Still, I ended that with 43/50 and 805/1000 so I'm relatively pleased with that. I really wish I could have finished it, however.

2) F.E.A.R.: First Encounter Assault Recon Achievements. This game had some really crazy achievement score divisions. Whilst I only have 5 achievements left out of 47, that totals up to 210G. Including some achievements require me to go through the whole playthrough under specific rules (killing every enemy, less than 500 rounds of ammo, etc.), and some of that I fear is near-impossible. I'd love to complete this game, but tbh, I can't see it ever happening.

3) Perfect Dark Zero Achievements ; One of the hardest games I've ever played, tbh. I would literally pay someone to carry me through Co-Op Perfect Agent and Co-Op Dark Agent so that I could unlock those achievements, just so I can get the 75% done for Rare Replay. Rare replay is the ONLY reason I started this title. I was playing coop with a friend a few months ago, and we've just not gone back to it.

What's something that irks you about gaming? It can be a game mechanic, developers, or even habits of other gamers.

Buckle in, this is going to be detailed. Lets segment this between game mechanics, developers, and other players.

Other players:

1) Players who join into a competitive team game, whilst they're in a private party chat with their friend. They join team games in pairs, and don't communicate, then complain or rage quit when they're losing. For me, this is a massive problem with Overwatch. If you're in a party chat and don't communicate with your team? You instantly get avoided after the match and reported for bad sportsmanship/teamwork. If you want to do that, go to Quick Play. Not competitive. By not communicating, you're putting us at a disadvantage, and to me, that's unsporting conduct.

2) Leaderboard hoggers. People who've known me for a long time will know exactly which games I'm talking about here. There is a group, many of whom are long-term members of TA, who actively block leaderboards in certain games to stop people getting achievements. I'm not going to mention the games, or the people, but we all know who they are. Yet, they're allowed to continue using TA to communicate and actively block these leaderboards, and there seems to be no repercussions for them. If I had my way, I'd permanently ban them from the site. They are NOT good for the gaming community, and they are incredibly selfish, asking large amounts of money to ALLOW you to get the achievements with their hard work. Not only is this against Microsoft's TOS, but it's morally wrong.
A few years ago, I was involved in (and organising) getting people some leaderboard achievements in a set of games where their stacks all got their leaderboards reset in a one-off event. It was going fine, until the original blockers of the leaderboard decided to infiltrate and ruin it. These people are scum, and should be actively removed from our community, because they've consistently shown that they are not contributing to it, and do not deserve to be a part of it.

3) Gamers who try to push their labels on others. I'm being very careful with my words here, because the people in question are so sensitive to any sort of criticism that they call it ____phobia, or whatever. Fact of the matter is, I'm a gamer. You're a gamer. That's all that matters to me. Gaming is transcendent above everything. I don't give a rat's ass what your gender, sexuality, race, political leanings, or any other label that you wish to give yourself are. My only care is, 'Can we work together to accomplish the gaming objective?'. If we can? Great! Lets get on with it! If we can't, go away. I don't care about, nor do I have the time or the will to care with drama. I see you as an equal. Period. No exception. No labels are needed. If you feel the need to bring labels into it, that's a 'you' problem, not a 'me' problem.

4) 'The Blazers'. You know the type. These are the ones who are most likely to have 'XXX', '420' 'BLAZE' 'Snypez' or the like in their gamertags. If you're have these in your gamertag, or you go on about how high you are, I'm not going to think you're cool. I'm going to think you're an uneducated moron not worthy of my time.

Developers/Game Mechanics:

So, before I start, I'm going to make it quite clear. I analyze what developers do very carefully, and I look beyond public remarks to what they aren't saying. You may have thought this from an earlier question. So I'm going to list some things that Devs do that irk me, and I'm going to say how I read the situation, and how I read what they're not saying in whatever it is that they do.

1) Lootboxes for pay-to-win items (This specifically does NOT include cosmetics, e.g. Overwatch).
Oh boy, I'm sure you all knew where this was going. So Devs, I'm speaking straight to you. If you put lootboxes (that you can buy with real money) in games that are full retail price? It's an INSTANT no-purchase for me. If I've paid for a full game, and you're asking me to dish out more money for a chance of getting a better gameplay item, you can shove your game up your arse. You will not see a single penny from me. Needless to say, this automatically cuts out all EA Sports titles, 2k sports titles, and quite a few other so-called 'AAA' titles, such as Call of Duty. Please note that, dependent on the situation, if your game is free, I understand the need for these pay-to-win mechanics, otherwise you simply cannot support the game unless your game is completely covered in ads. If you simply must put lootboxes in game, put them in for levelling up, and just have them as cosmetics and stuff. Also, and I can't stress this enough, if you're going to put it so players can get duplicates of items, allow players to transfer these duplicates into equal-value game-currency, or allow them to upgrade/trade these items to higher-tiered items. NEVER should lootboxes be paid for. Any items from lootboxes should ALWAYS be tradeable to other players in-game.

2) Escort missions. Ugh. The bane of my existence are escort missions where the escortee is a damn moron. If you're escorting someone who you can't give a gun to, or a melee weapon to, THEN WHAT USE ARE THEY?! Resident Evil 4... "LEON, HELP!". Mmmf... I was so pleased when I got her the knight armour for the Professional Difficulty playthrough. I renamed her 'The Human Bollard', which I felt was much more adequate.

3) Griiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinding. Now, I know some of the JRPG players love grinding in RPGs for levels and such. Fair play to you. I find it monotonous, boring, and a waste of my time, which is why, until recently, I've never played a Final Fantasy game in my life. I recently started Final Fantasy VII on Xbox One at the behest of one of my friends who said, "Give it a try, it's easy.". I honestly can't see why this is a cult classic. It's BORING AS ALL HELL. Oh my god, lets run around and grind levels and kills to level up our limit breaks and our materias so we can grind gold to get decent weapons and get the awesome super power mega golden chocobo. WHOOHOO. -.-; Seriously though? I don't enjoy grinding for levels and stuff in videogames, and I can't see why anyone does. That's just my opinion though. If you like, it more power to you. I won't criticize you for that. Different folks enjoy different things.

4) Unobtainable achievements. This one's a simple one. If you can't be arsed to test your game's achievements; which has been a vital part of the Xbox system since launch 2005, then it's clear you can't be arsed to test the rest of your game. If you aren't going to test your game and make sure everything works, why the hell should I play your game, Devs?

5) Sales on Season Passes (ESPECIALLY for episodic games) before the entire season/series is available. Ok, launch day for Episode 1 comes out for £4, with a season pass for £16. Four more episodes to come. I'm loyally supporting the game by buying these two items day one. Episode 3 (of 5) is released. Season pass, which has episodes 2-5 in it, is down to £8. Devs, please tell me why I should keep buying season passes at launch when you're gonna put them on sale for half price before you've even released half the game? Telltale were and Dontnod (Life is Strange) are NOTORIOUSLY bad for this. It is a slap in the face to the loyal Day One supporters of your game. This is specifically the reason why I refused to purchase Life is Strange 2, and decided to play it on Xbox Game Pass, for free. It's your own fault you lost a sale, Dontnod.

Developers I actively avoid: EA, 2K, Ubisoft, Activision, Rockstar, Epic Games, Bioware, and Konami.
Developers I actively support: Rebellion (I LOVE their games, some of the best I've ever played!), Artifex Mundi (I love their graphically beautiful hidden-object titles), Sometimes You, Ratalaika, ID Software, Indie Developers, ID@Xbox Developers

Do you have any opinions to share on industry news? Loot boxes, micro-transactions, poor developers? Feel free to be opinionated.

I think most of this I've said about already. However, omg Doom Eternal can't get here quick enough.
Also, I'm eagerly awaiting the release of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening remake on Nintendo Switch. I'm really wanting the limited edition to this, but they've all been bought up by ebay scalpers who want at least double the price. It's disgraceful. Nintendo need to pull their finger out and meet the demand so that the scalpers can't make profit. Nintendo always has this problem, whether it's with amiibos, limited editions, or their damn consoles. It's so disappointing.

What do you enjoy most about video games? What do you enjoy most about TA?

The escapism, as well as 'The Moments'. I've spoken about the 'moments' earlier in this interview, so let me explain 'The Escapism'. Games that have the ability to put you into the games, and make you feel isolated, are some of the greatest games. Telltale's Episodic games did this well. However, more recently, Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice and A Plague Tale: Innocence did this phenomenally well, by putting us in the stories, and letting us be the characters, feeling AS the characters. It's little things of development brilliance that bring us into the game rather than making us feel like a spectator. It's those developmental tricks that turn good games into great games.

As many already know, you designed your own DLC to the game The Z Axis: Continuum. Tell us about the experience!

To answer the question about the title update, it basically goes back to a few days after the game was released. I basically had a thought where it was simply, "I can do things with this engine.", and I put an email across to Jamie to ask if I'd be able to design some levels. This was in early August 2018.

Originally, Jamie was considering giving users the ability to make their own levels, and share them across the Xbox platform (similarly to how Doom 2016's level share works), however, due to limitations of the Xbox platform's service, this idea was shelved.

Instead, he gave me the go-ahead to design some levels. You can see one of my early designs for Trial 1 here:
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Now, for those who have played the title update, the latter half of that Trial changed considerably to what has now been released. The reason for this is because the Unity development system (Unity is the software that the game was coded in) was causing frame-rate drops for longer, 'thinner' levels. This was easily fixed by instead of having two long segments (like in the design above), we could instead change it to four shorter segments in a square-level formation, and having a warp-door for each ball that was going to be created. In the design above, the balls haven't even been added into the design yet. The final design was designed to teach new players (i.e. those who had not actually played far into the main game) to look at 2 things at once, rather than a single item. This is a skill necessary for the final trial (more on that later).

After we set the basic design for Trial 1, I set to work on Trial 2. I wanted to use a mechanic in the game (the moving segments) that hadn't really been focused on with gravity rotation for multiple items at once in the original 30 levels. I decided a simple 'logjam' trail would work for this, which would teach the player to plan ahead for the movement of the logjam pieces, whilst also being careful to not have the player character fall into the logjam 'passageways', and get killed by the spikes. This was to teach the player to check the surroundings before rotating gravity.

Trial 3 is where things get really interesting, as it introduced a mechanic not available in the main game; ball collisions. However, this caused a major issue in the game engine. The game would completely lag down to about 0.2 frames per second.

For a month or so, we couldn't think of any solution to this issue. Jamie then came up with an idea. He introduced a bit of coding to the engine named 'The Dwaggie Optimization'. You can see this here:

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When building each level in the game, there's two 'layers' that get drawn into the game. The first is the obvious textures - the shapes of the wall, i.e. the black 'walls' that you see. The second layer is the collision detection, a.k.a. hitboxes. When all the balls were hitting each other, it was sending so much physics data to the engine that the engine couldn't cope. Ironically, the achievements for this level are the 'K4rn4ge' achievements.

The workaround for this was to have a special bit of code (the Dwaggie Optimization) which on every frame, checked the velocity/speed of each moveable bit of collision detection on each frame of the game, and it would preemptively work out the physics of the collisions in advance, thus stopping some of the framerate stuttering. However, this still slowed the game down to about 2 or 3 frames a second. For Trial #3, that was completely unacceptable with what the level was designed to do.

Further optimization was needed, and with that, Jamie came up with a brilliant idea. Segmenting collision detection into three groups. The first group was 1/3 of the hitboxes of the level. The second group was the 2nd 1/3 of the hitboxes of the level. The third group was the 3rd 1/3 of the hitboxes of the level.

What this new optimization did was turn off 2/3rds of all collision detection for every frame of gameplay, but the thirds that were turned off would alternate every frame. So the new optimization worked like this:

First frame: The game would turn off collisions for the 2nd and 3rd 1/3rds of hitboxes, and would examine collisions for only the 1st 1/3rd hitboxes, then it would play the physics of the collisions out on the next frame.

Second frame: The game would turn off collisions for the 1st and 3rd 1/3rds of hitboxes, and would examine collisions for only the 2nd 1/3rd hitboxes, then it would play the physics of the collisions out on the next frame.

Third frame: The game would turn off collisions for the 1st and 2nd 1/3rds of hitboxes, and would examine collisions for only the 3rd 1/3rd hitboxes, then it would play the physics of the collisions out on the next frame (which would be the 'first frame') and the sequence would repeat.

This simple bit of coding basically opened up the engine for much more levels, and it solved all the framerate stutter. It was a very, very clever bit of coding, and I can only give my admiration for Jamie coming up with it. With all this done, Trial 3 was designed to teach the player how to interact with multiple physics-based moving objects, and how to get one of those objects to do exactly what the player wanted it to do.

With the first three Trials now being done, and ready in the title update, it was time to put all the skills that the player would have learnt in the first three trials to use in the 4th trial. This was the big one.

Trial 4 is designed to get the player to put to use everything they've learnt from the previous 3 trials. From rolling balls proficiently, to using the gravity to get round a maze quicker than running, to being able to control multiple moving logjams, and being able to control a single, specific ball amongst the chaos of multiple 'annoyance' balls.

This final trial is a trial that didn't really change much at all from the base design. The only major modification was that originally, the player character was supposed to stay in one segment, and rotate the camera around with it zoomed out massively. However, on smaller screens, this made it near-impossible to actually see what was going on. To get around this, we introduced a simple 'warp room' in the middle of each area, which would lock the player in place until the task of each area was completed. The player character could then get back to the 'door corridor' to allow them to progress to the next segment of the trial.

The final segment of the final Trial was one of the most engine-intensive bits of level design that we had to do. With well over fifty switch-doors, and well over 150 physics-collision balls, this really put the earlier-mentioned 'Dwaggie Optimization' through it's paces, and luckily, it passed with flying colours.

Originally, this room was going to be designed to be a more pachinko-like level, with pins and such sending the balls in annoying directions. I then came up with the idea to have segmented switch doors. At the top of this final room, there are five white doors which need to be opened. However, they can only be opened by the single glowing white ball that the player can move around in this area, and to open them, the player has to guide that single white ball through the chaos of 150+ red balls to five switches located in different segmented alcoves of the room. With all the flashing switch-doors, however, we found that finding the switches was hard for a player.

To counteract this, Jamie came up with the excellent idea of highlighting the current switch target by a red 'spotlight' around the alcove in question, showing the player where they needed to direct the white ball next. This solved the problem, and also gave the player a sense of direction.

With that being done, all we needed to do was get the code compiled and put into the Xbox game via a title update, and thus, The Dwaggienite Trials came to fruition, and at 1am on 8th July 2019, the title update went live, bringing 500 gamerscore to a title which many people had sadly overlooked.

Many people have asked why we did only four levels. The simple answer is that we wanted to see how far we could push the purpose-built engine that Jamie had created. This title update allowed us to see how far we can push it, especially with physics objects, and we now know what we can do with it.

I do intend on creating many more levels for this title in the future, so any further updates will have more than 4 levels, and also, have more achievements in free title updates.

Both the developer, Jamie Holub, and I believe that once you have played a game, you shouldn't have to pay for additional content. We also firmly believe that achievements should be based on what the player can do, not on if a player can be faster than another player (i.e. leaderboard achievements). Speedrun leaderboards may come in the future for each level, but it is a 100% guarantee from us that there will be no achievements tied to the leaderboards (or your positions on them) at all.

As it is, this is a bit of gaming history for me. We have provided a bit of gaming immortality for some gamers by getting their gamertags as the names of achievements, and that's something that can't be replicated, and is something that a very, very small amount of people have been able to have. I believe this might be the first time that this has ever happened, and in my opinion, that is truly, truly something special.

Gaming is about those single moments in time where, throughout the rest of your lives, you can look back at those single, small moments of time, and go, "I remember, and that was awesome." It doesn't matter if it's getting your first 'Tetris' in a game, catching your first Pokémon, beating Bowser for the first time, this update provides memories for those named in those achievements, and they're memories that will never be forgotten; "Achievement Unlocked: You."

Having moments like that is what games should strive for; to have something memorable, and for those people named in those achievements, it's a small part of immortality that will live on for as long as the Xbox Achievement system exists.

There are a few other TA members honored in the achievements besides yourself. Are these friends of yours? And if so, are they excited to see their gamertags attached to a game?

Yes, the TA members named in the achieves are those who have supported me in my streaming channel, and markhamfists is a long-term friend of about 9 years. I wanted to give these individuals something that will be forever there, as a thank you, giving a little bit of immortality to these people who I really care for and appreciate.

For those who are hoping to complete your new addition to the game, is there any advice you'd like to give them?

The DLC is simple, but the par times are slightly more difficult. Trial #1 is basically teaching you to use both eyes to move things. Trial #2 basically teaches you how the physics of the logjams work. Trial #3 teaches you how the physics of collisions work in the game, and teach you to move one physics object through a large amount of others. Trial #4, the final trial, is the culmination of these lessons. To get under the par time, you'll have to learn all three.

Now that it's out for everyone to see, is there anything you'd change about the DLC?

I am extremely happy how the DLC turned out, and ignoring a timer bug (which the dev has already patched and put through to Microsoft in a hotfix which should be released ASAP), I wouldn't change a thing.

You mentioned that you have plans for additional levels? If you could, who else would you give shout-outs to?

I can 100% guarantee you that additional levels for Z Axis will be designed in the future. Both myself and Jamie have some excellent ideas now that we know how far we can push the engine, especially with the use of the Dwaggie Optimization. I have plenty of ideas which will be unlike anyone has seen before. There will definitely be more shoutouts to those who I couldn't get into the achievements for The Dwaggienite Trials. I believe that loyalty and friendship should be rewarded, and I want to give things that can be permanent memories.

Are there any friends you'd like to give a shout-out to now as the interview wraps up?

There's too many to mention, but I'd just like to thank everyone for their support, and I'd just like to give shameless plugs to my twitter ( ) where I commonly have giveaways for easy 1000G games. My Mixer channel ( ), and my Youtube (

I always want to entertain, and that's what I try to do with my streams. I want to help people, that's what I do with my achievehunts. I want to build a community that cares and looks after each other.

Posted by NicoleRenee00 on 10 July 19 at 16:58 | Last edited on 24 August 19 at 13:54 | There are 25 comments on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.