New Consoles Launch Amid Poor Review Scores and Developer Pressure

By Alasdair Crews

Microsoft's Xbox One, which launched earlier this month.  Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft’s Xbox One, which launched earlier this month. Credit: Microsoft

The successful launch of the new Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles has been overshadowed by poor game review scores. Both consoles launched in the U.S. earlier this month with both console producers, Microsoft and Sony, proclaiming that thier machine have sold more than one million units in North America within 24 hours of going on sale.

Unfortunately, the successful sales for both machines have been dulled by a succession of poor review scores for their flagship games. PlayStation 4 exclusives “Killzone: Shadow Fall” and “Knack” and Xbox One-only offerings “Ryse: Son of Rome” and “Zoo Tycoon” have received mixed reviews across the gaming press.

The added pressure game developers are under when working with new hardware could have contributed to the poor review scores.  An assistant producer with Ninja Theory, Colin Chang,  said: “With development of those titles having lasted at least two years and working on theoretical hardware (that changed as time went on) at the beginning of the next-gen SKUs. [It's a challenge], especially if you’re a launch title with such a constrained deadline.”

Having to develop parallel versions of games for the new consoles, as well as the consoles already being on sale, has also affected quality.  Chang said: “I can imagine this would have affected third party publishers and developers like Activision and EA the most as they would’ve shipped 4-5 SKUs of games such as Call of Duty Ghosts and Need For Speed Rivals.”

Alongside the middling review scores, technical issues have plagued both new machines. Faulty disc drives in the Xbox One have led to Microsoft offering affected customers a free game download; whilst Sony has had issues with a blue light on the PlayStation 4 causing the console to reset itself and cause other operational issues.

Both companies maintain that the issues affect less than one percent of the consoles sold so far. With both consoles expected to be top sellers this Christmas, Microsoft and Sony hope that these issues remain isolated.

Related Story: Retailers Braced For PlayStation 4 Launch

Vinyl Lovers

Record Store Day took place this weekend, and saw musicians, artists and the record-buying public come together to celebrate the unique scene. Set up in 2007 it was established to promote independent music shops by selling exclusive vinyl recordings to fans.

Our reporter, Shiv Das, spoke to Avalanche Records, in Edinburgh, discussing how the weekend went.

Edinburgh is home to five independant record stores-

1.Avalanche, 5 Grassmarket, Edinburgh

http://www.avalancherecords.co.uk/

2. VoxBox, 21 St Stephen Street, Stockbridge, Edinburgh

http://voxboxmusic.co.uk/blog/

3. Elvis Shakespeare, 347 Leith Walk, Edinburgh

www.elvisshakespeare.com

4.Underground Solushn, 9 Cockburn Street, Edinburgh

5.Vinyl Villains, 5 Elm Row, Edinburgh

http://www.vinylvillainsrecords.co.uk/

Breaking news: Cowell’s crazed fan remains in custody

Cowell was left shaken after the incident

The woman accused of breaking into Simon Cowell’s London home on Saturday night has been refused bail.

29-year-old Leanne Zaloumis was charged with aggravated burglary at West London Magistrates’ Court and will remain in custody until her next hearing on June 12th.

Officer’s were called to the music mogul’s £7.5 million mansion shortly after the first episode of the new series of ‘Britain’s got talent’ was aired on ITV.

The intruder, described as an ‘over-zealous fan’ was said to have got in through a downstairs window after evading extensive security at the Holland park property.

Sources close to Cowell, 52, said that the talent show creator was ‘understandably shaken’ after the incident.

Cowell is well known on both sides of the Atlantic for his role as a judge on shows such as The X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent and American Idol and is estimated to have a fortune in excess of £200m.

BAFTA Scotland winners announced

By Georgi Bomb

Copyright: BAFTA.org

It was all about the suits and gowns last night as the BAFTA in Scotland New Talent Award ceremony took place at Glasgow Film Theatre.

Celebrating fresh young talent, awarding students, and highlighting the future of Scottish film, television and digital media.

The night belonged to Lou McLoughlan who received two awards for Best Director: Short Form and Best Student Work. His work, Caring For Calum was a moving portrait of a man looking after his father in the Scottish Highlands.

The horror genre was well recognised with Hanna Stanbridge winning Best Actor/Actress award for her role as Petronella in Outcast, an Edinburgh-based horror. Naysun Alae-Carew scooped Best Producer: Short Form for his zombie take on High School Musical, Zombie Musical.

Ewan Angus, Chairman of BAFTA in Scotland said: “In today’s current economic climate, it is especially important that we take the time to recognise the outstanding level of talent emerging from the Scottish moving image industries. Tonight demonstrates the enormous wealth of potential we have within Scotland, and we’re proud to be able to give the winners the recognition they rightly deserve.”

For the full list of winners, check out the website.

Kinect moves gamers.

By Oliver Hughes

Last night avid gamers queued for hours in the November cold to get their hands on Microsoft’s latest, and

Microsoft have bigger living rooms then most.

distinctly “hands off”, piece of technology. Kinect works using the latest in motion control technology, implementing 3D infrared cameras to sense the gamers movement and generate an in game, virtual model from over 40 points of a players body working in almost real time.

[Read more...]

National News In Brief

Ed Miliband’s election as Labour leader has seen his party lead the Tories in a Guardian/ICM poll for the first time since 2007. This is due to a slump in support for the coalition’s impending cuts as opposed to an increase in Labour popularity.

BMW and Rolls-Royce are recalling over 10 000 cars due to a braking fault. The recall covers the BMW 5, 6 and 7 Series vehicles powered by V8 and V12 engines from 2002-2010 and some Rolls-Royce Phantoms from 2003-2010.

Hollywood legend Tony Curtis has died peacefully at his home aged 85. Mr Curtis, who was married to Janet Leigh, starred in over 100 movies, his most famous being his starring role with Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot.

Prego on Touring, Writing and Recording

London Quintet Prego

by Jamie Mann

A band can only hope to project their sound to curious ears by evolving musically and creating music which invigorates its listeners. Prego’s pre-album releases are already solid featuring verses filled with ambience and allurement which ignite into vehement choruses that leave you temporarily immobile.

Should this band’s sound be deemed even more enthralling, 2010 should grant the quintet the chance to be everyone’s favourite ‘new’ band rather than mine and more importantly 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq and NME journalist Mark Beaumont.

Such music has been written by Caspar Williamson (bass), Christian Wieland (guitar/keyboards), Edd Simpson (vocals, guitar, synthesizers), Paul Jennings (drums) and Will Leslie (guitar/keyboard).

Beaumont in fact set up Year Zero Recordings, (named after the London club at which he first witnessed Prego) solely to release an earlier Prego single ‘Cause and Resolve’.

The label was retired after serving its purpose: to help promote the band. As Beaumont stated, after thirteen years of observing new bands, he labelled Prego as “the first band I’ve ever seen knowing that I’d be a fool not to help put out records.” http://www.melodic.net/newsOne.asp?newsId=13829

After almost 2 months of recording their debut album, the London 5-piece embarked upon an October tour in support of Fightstar; Prego demonstrated to numerous UK cities the intensity of their many singles and the compelling debut EP Primaries which sold out its 500 copies of the original pressing; they then went on to unleash a set broadcast live on BBC Radio Suffolk.

Most recently they headlined a local Battle of The Bands in Ipswich, where 3 members originally hail from. After more than 4 years of performing, Prego will again project a soundtrack of melodic guitars, dynamic bass lines, diverging drums and colossal synths to blessed audiences. The release of Prego’s album is set to conceive a revolution for shoegaze rock and for the band themselves.

Prego’s sound has often been compared to the likes of Death Cab for Cutie, Sigur Rós and Explosions In The Sky all of which they cite as strong influences. Though many have labelled their sound solely as Indie, Prego incorporate a variety of genres into their music which is diversified by experimental rock and also features rhythms and harmonies attributed to post-rock; the trio of contending guitars create a wall of sound which points towards shoegaze rock.

Genre labelling aside Prego must be heard to be understood. The video for the latest single “Cause and Resolve” created and directed by Grant Berry is featured below.

 

 

I talked to front man Edd Simpson and bassist Caspar Williamson about life in Prego and the processes of writing, touring and recording:

Could you describe the writing process, do you group-write often? Have you scrapped many tracks over the years when perfecting your sound?

Edd: “The writing process generally involves me penning the song in its most embryonic form (i.e. me and a guitar) and then it takes on a whole new life when the other guys put their thoughts and ideas to it. There are constantly ideas that go by the wayside, sometimes you think something’s great only to then hear it again and realise it’s actually crap!”

Caspar: “The writing process varies, however most of the time Edd will come in with the bare bones of a song, the melody and a verse/chorus mainly, then we will go at it as a group, it pretty much always becomes clear what sort of direction it will take. For example ‘Cause & Resolve’ started as a 6min post-rock song!

We have but some great tunes on the backburner for the time being until we figure out what we want them to become, save them for the second album I guess.

Other songs we have scrapped, such as ‘Three’ of Primaries, we will never play that song again as it isn’t Prego as we are now.”

What is your schedule like in Prego? I feel fans are always kept updated on MySpace blogs – the content suggests constant writing/touring/writing.

Edd: “The schedule over the last year has been very much about touring and recording and less about writing. The majority of the album has been written for a little while so recording it this year was the big aim, and thankfully we’ve done that.”

Caspar: ”We are pretty disciplined with the schedule, we rehearse/write at least once/twice a week, the band definitely comes first and it can be awkward at times when you’ve got other plans, but we are all going for the same goals here so we know where the priorities have to be.

We’d love to tour more; it’s just hard with no outside funding from labels or management etc. We won’t write for a while as the album has been our main focus and is being mastered just before Xmas so it’ll be all wrapped up.

We have a facebook group with around 800/900 people as well as Twitter so we are trying to branch out on the contact with the fans! We love getting emails, but as we do all this ourselves we can take a while to write back.”

What has been your proudest moment in Prego?

Edd: “My proudest moment in Prego was probably listening back to the album for the first time, it’s been 5 years hard work and I’m thrilled with what we’ve come out with.”

Caspar: “There have been too many proud moments to mention for me personally, but a few would have to be;
-finishing the album and having a body of work I am proud to play for people
-getting support from radio and press I never dreamed off (Radio 1, Jon Kennedy Xfm, Kerrang etc)
-Playing venues that I will remember for the rest of my life, notably Glasgow ABC, Manchester Academy 1, and Shepherds Bush Empire.”

How did the recording of the album differ to that of Primaries?

Edd: “It was a hugely different experience in every way I think. We’d only been together a very short time during Primaries and I think that’s reflected in both the songs and the production, we were less evolved sonically, and it was a very different line up and a different producer. The album was a far more cohesive and focused experience and I think we knew exactly what we wanted to achieve sonically as well.”

Caspar:

“-Better musicians
-More time
-Good friends recording and producing us, Guy Massey is the man.
-Much more pimp studios!
-Dare I say, all killer no filler!?”

Has there been a progression in sound compared to what the world have already heard of Prego?

Edd: “Without a doubt there’s a progression in terms of recorded sound on this record compared to what we’ve released before, it’s far more epic and expansive, and we’ve thought about the sounds we use intensely through the process of making the record.”

Caspar: “I think the album will surprise a lot of people, the most jaw dropping moments aren’t necessarily the ‘epic Prego’ tunes one there… you’ll have to wait and see!”

Prego have played several festivals, what have been the largest crowds you have performed for?

Edd: “We performed for about 3-4,000 people at Wireless festival, that was an amazing experience.”

Caspar: “02 at Leeds was pretty scary at the time, nearly 1000 by the end of the set, but since the Fightstar tour we have nearly doubled that a couple of times, Shepherds Bush had a lot of people, 2,500 by the end of the night, I’d say two thirds of that where their by our final song! It’s just exciting now, we wouldn’t be fazed by doing arenas and stadiums; the sound is built for it, the more the merrier in our opinion.”

Caspar, Could you tell me about the t-shirts and the artwork for the Vatican Sessions E.P. which you designed last year?”

Caspar: “Yeah the imagery for that came from my interpretation of Edd’s lyrics for ‘Cause & Resolve’ actually, it kind of had a running theme into ‘Vatican Sessions’
Edd told me the song had parts about when you are having horrible nightmares about really bad things that you’ve done, or events that have happened, and the point at which the dream gets so bad you wake yourself up, only to realise after a few seconds of consciousness that the problems are actually real and not just a dream.

I was interested in the space between the two, the constant battle of being trapped in a form of limbo or twilight, and the idea of escapism or being trapped in that world…it was all very Labyrinth!”

Prego Official Website: http://www.pregomusic.com/

Prego Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/pregomusic

Government propose to change live music law

By Jamie Mann

sparrow-and-the-workshopThe government has expressed their will to improve the UK live music scene after proposing to allow small capacity venues to hold gigs without a licence last Thursday.  Though the proposition is currently undergoing a 12-week consultation, musicians and venue-owners alike have been offered hope for a prominent music scene; the scene has been somewhat restricted since the initiation of the 2003 Licencing Act.  The act currently enforces that venues of any capacity must possess a licence in order to host musical entertainment; obtaining a licence is not a simple task  as many have found to process strenuous and expensive to complete.

Nick Stewart, manager of the popular club Sneaky Pete’s agreed that the government’s proposal would be an asset to Edinburgh’s music scene with numerous clubs and pubs who could grant customers live music.  Stewart did not deem the process of achieving a licence an ordeal mentioning that it was “pretty easy” however, the capacity of his club was reduced from 120 to 84.  Though Stewart highlighted that the 2005 act affects Scotland and differs from the 2003 act, should the government’s proposition be successful , an improvement Edinburgh’s music scene could be imminent.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2009/oct/21/police-law

http://lesbonner.mycouncillor.org.uk/2009/10/22/government-proposals-for-live-music-are-a-damp-squib/

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