Gamer’s Thoughts: Gaming Expos and Conventions

IMG_5853-1940x709.jpgThis week, it’s time for something completely different. The people over at Vegas.com inspired me to write an interesting article about my experiences on the various expo’s and conventions I went to. Why do I talk about them in my introduction? Well, they offer quite interesting Las Vegas travel deals if your planning on going to the LVL UP Expo! The LVL Up Expo is celebrating its fifth year in Vegas bringing some of the best gaming and technology experts. So, like I said before, in this article; I’m going to share some stories and experiences from the conventions I went to. In the comments, I would like to hear what experiences and stories you have from going to cons and expos. Feel also free to write a comment about the subject and or the content of this article. 

Sidenote: this isn’t a paid article.

What conventions did I go to?

gameforcethumbailcalendar.jpgI have been to quite a lot of conventions and expos. The last one I went to was in late 2016. That was GameForce in Mechelen, Belgium.

Conventions I went to are: Made in Asia, Minecon (Twice, in 2012 and 2015), an expo about gaming and education amongst others. If I’m allowed to count the number of garage sales I went to, I honestly lost count. They are quite popular in Belgium. As in,  in the spring-summer time, there is a garage sale almost every day somewhere in Belgium.

Storytime with Jonez

Let me share two stories. The first story is about one of the first expos I ever went to in my life. I wish I could the name of the expo, but it has been over ten years and I can’t find the name on the internet.

It was an expo where you went through the history of gaming. How the first games got made and how games are now. In each time period, you could buy games from other collectors. It was quite fun.

So, after we visited the area of the 80’s, one of my friends was quite thristy. Let’s call him Alex. So, Alex and I went to a soda machine. It was 1€ for a soda. But he only had a piece of 2€. So, he inserted his piece of 2€ and pressed the numbers of the soda he wanted. Instead of getting his soda and 1€ in return, he got two sodas and to make matters even worse, he got the wrong sodas. That actually happened. It was a moment I wished my mobile had a camera. So, I was able to film it. But alas, I was sporting an old Nokia back then without a camera.

Other things happened with that same soda machine, but my memory is quite fuzzy on it. I remember somebody getting two sodas with paying 1€. So, Alex got annoyed because he felt he got robbed.

The second story is more recently. So, my friends and I were just too late to pay for VIP tickets to go to a certain convention. So, we paid for the normal tickets. Fast forward to the convention itself and one of my friends saw some boxed with bags sticking out. She took one for each of us. We continued to walk and when we returned ten minutes later, a security guard was standing there and stopping people from grabbing bags.

It turns out that it was the VIP Loot bags that she grabbed. The SMITE-figurine is standing on my desk from that day on.

Going to a convention or expo?

What are some important dos and don’ts you’d suggest to someone attending their first convention?

Don’t…

… go unprepared to the convention or expo. Read up about the history, events, and exhibitions of the convention or expo. Also, this way you avoid buying duplicate games/items.

… take pictures of people cosplaying without asking. Some people don’t like to have their picture taken without them knowing.

… take too many valuable items. At cons and expos, there is always a big crowd and things can happen.

… go spending right when you enter. Take a look around before you spend all your money. Otherwise, you are out of money before lunch.

Do…

… plan out your route. But don’t overdo it. Give yourself the chance to distract you.

… enjoy your time there. Be yourself! For example, what I did at Minecon was one day to see the con and one day to see some panels.

… read up about the rules of the expo and/or con. Are you allowed to take drinks and snacks?

… go with friends that are also interested in the subject of the expo and/or convention.

What items should you bring along with you?

A wallet with some cash, a bank card, a mobile phone, a camera, a water bottle (if allowed), a snack (if allowed), a good mood, a 3DS (man, the Streetpass hits you get are crazy!).

Also, some advice, if the con or expo has an official app. Download & install it. It usually contains the map and planning of the convention. You never know when you need it.

What should you wear?

Comfortable clothing and good walking shoes. Unless you want to cosplay, then go in your costume.

Believe me, you will do a lot of walking at the convention or expo. Get a good rest the day before the convention.

Speaking about cosplay, research your character. I have seen various times that people didn’t know a lot about the character they are cosplaying and they fall out of character. This is a no-brainer of course but look at the rules of the convention or expo. Don’t go cosplaying with a gun if they aren’t allowed.

What are your favorite activities and exhibits?

My favorite activity at expos or cons are the ones where you can hear your favorite group has a panel. I attended the MindCrack panel at Minecon 2015. I was just too late to attend the panel in 2012. The room was full, so we were unable to attend.

My favorite exhibits are the ones where I can buy merchandise of my favorite games. Since I live in Europe, it isn’t that easy to get merchandise of Japanese and/or American products. Since I have to pay a big shipping fee and things like that. So, that’s why I go to cons.

And of course, I love exhibits where I can see an upcoming product I’m excited about. Oh yeah, before I forget, exhibits, where I can buy games to add to my collection or complete my collection, are great too.

Wrapping up

After the convention and/or expo is over. Feel free to take a look back at the past day(s). What have you learned, bought, experienced… I always had a strange lonely feeling the day after a convention or expo.

Usually, after I went to a garage sale, I post a picture of my loot on my personal Facebook or on my Twitter.

But, I think I’ll wrap up this article here. Thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, take care and have a great rest of your day.

Review #040: CSI – Hard Evidence (PC ~ Steam) ~ Strange Case

256px-Csi4boxcoverSteam store link

So, today I want to take another look at this very old case. Wait, scrap that. If I try to be too original in my introduction, I might ruin the beauty of my previous CSI article. Yeah, remember that first impression article I wrote about that CSI PS2 game? I tried to set the mood in the introduction and if I repeat that in this one, it might get boring. Yup, I’m rambling on instead of writing a decent introduction for this game. I just finished it and I want to review it. Before I actually start to review it, I’ll come clean. I enjoyed the other CSI games I played. In total, I know there are 3-4 games like this about CSI. I think that this game is the latest in terms of trying to go for realism instead of a more cartoon-y approch they did in the DS games. In any case, I enjoy the tv-show a lot myself. Too bad that my local channel broadcasts the series out of order. As usual, feel free to leave a comment on this article with your opinion on the game and or the content of this article. 

Mediocre game? 

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I know that this game was also released on the XBOX360 and the Wii. But for this review, we take a look at the PC version of the game. It’s developed by TellTale Games, who you might know from the Walking Dead series. One might think that this game must be good. I mean, they make all sorts of amazing adventure point-and-click games.

If I look around the internet to what other people think about this game, I read mostly negative reviews. But is this game a cheap cash-in of a very popular series? Let me play devil’s advocate and say no. Sure, there are some problems and you might rest assured I’ll address them in this review but overall, this game is a nice one.

The evidence for that is in the story. Each and every case feels like a CSI episode. The characters are quite memorable and the voice acting is decent. I have to disagree that the voice acting is the best the game has too offer since I sometimes don’t feel the emotion in the voice. I also had moments where I felt that the emotion was acted or forced. But that might be because I act on stage myself.

Addressing the criticism

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The negative you see popping up in each and every review is that the graphics look outdated. This is quite vague in my opinion. The area’s you visit and objects look quite clean and decent. They aren’t the best the genre or the system can offer but that’s not the issue here.

The issue here is in the animation of the models. That’s quite flawed. If this game had a rushed development schedule you can see it in the animations. I didn’t had many visual flaws on my gaming laptop but on my desktop with a much stronger graphics card/CPU/RAM… the mistakes are coming quite clear. Mostly around the mouth area, that’s the worst. In the 4th case, I even saw gaps in the mouth were the model wasn’t finished.

 It’s a shame since the visuals of the cutscene video’s give another impression of this game. This game might have looked so much better if they polished up the animations. They could have looked a whole lot better, since you know that TellTale is able to create amazing stuff.

Why did I play this game?

I can be rather short about the music. In this game, the music isn’t meant to be memorable or catchy. It needs to set a certain mood. The music does this job perfectly. It gets me in the right mood to try and solve a murder case and to catch bugs. If you watch the series, you might know that one of the characters is very interested in bugs. In each case, there are several bugs hidden and if you find them all, you get a bonus.

Talking about the bonus content, while it’s a nice addition, it’s quite lackluster. When the title of the bonus material says: “storyboards of case 3” for example, you just get three storyboards of a fragment that took 5-6 seconds in game. They are quite underwhelming and they wouldn’t add to the experience if you want to 100% the game.

CSI4_screen_4

You might start to wonder why I even beat this game. I point out mistakes in almost every category. Well, this game is a good game but it mainly lacks polish. The sound effects create a great feeling of actually being a CSI but not all the time thankfully. It also gives you the feeling that it is fake, created for a TV-show.

All elements of this game blend together quite well and if you put the time into this game instead of focusing on the negatives of this game, you get a nice experience. Before I forget, I have a few things to mention before I go to my conclusion.

First of all, the saving system is just wonderful. Thanks to the automatic save system, I didn’t need to worry that my progress would be lost.

The difficulty of this game is right in the middle. While this is one of the easiest games I played in the series, it can be challenging and puts everything you learned in the tutorial case to the test.

Anyways, I think I talked about most of the things I wanted to talk about, about this game. So, let’s get on with the conclusion.

Conclusion

The bad:

– Animations can be quite bad.

– The interface isn’t always good to work with.

– No cloud saves.

The good;

+ Acceptable visuals.

+ Nice experience for a CSI fan.

+ Easy but sometimes challenging game.

+ Decent length.

+ Nice and responsive controls.

+ Great voice acting.

Final thoughts:

I said it in my last paragraph, this game lacks polish. If TellTale put a bit more time into the animations, the interface and the game as a whole… I think this game wouldn’t get such a bad rating.

This game can be quite a fun game in the right hands, but if I need to look at it objectively: this game is a mediocre one. But as a fan of CSI and point-and-click games… it isn’t half that bad.

If you start to play this game, don’t set your expectations too high. It isn’t a masterpiece and it’s flaws show quite clearly. If you look passed them, you get 5 interesting cases to play through that each CSI and crime story fan will enjoy.

Score: 70/100.

NekoJonez: Rant #008: Console Wars, a war fought wrong.

CaptureRead more rants for this author.

“The Nintendo 3DS is for kids, the graphics are ugly and the PS Vita is just better. It has way cooler games.”

Really now? Is this how we are fighting the console wars? And is this war even needed to be fought? I realize that I haven’t written an article in a long time, since I’m busy with my college exams, but this is something that got me worked up recently. After a deep sleep of this series, I decided to write a new rant as my return to get this stuff out of my system and so I can continue my life. 

Console wars, are they even useful?

tumblr_lscb2oAwaH1qi9hlso1_500To be quite honest, probably not like you expected me to say, but yes. I do think console wars are useful. But not executed in the proper way.

The use of console wars is to allow the fanboys to get in big heated debates for me to laugh at. It’s an use nonetheless.

In all seriousness, I have some arguments why I think a console war is useful. First of all, you learn the gamer to choose each and every new console release. Since most people don’t have the time or the money to be able to purchase all the systems, you make gamers think about their products. Thanks to this, console developers have to pay attention in what they create. They can’t simply slap something together. They need to make something new or better to improve on their previous product.

In console wars, developers can also learn what works for a certain audience and what doesn’t. With this information, a studio can learn which series they should try to get to their console as an exclusive and which to leave in the dust.

But a console wars, is also extremely idiotic. Think about it for a moment. We discuss about a console hardware and what it can do. This is just plain ridiculous. Take for example the Wii U. Such a great system with amazing potential. But since it doesn’t have great 3rd party support, it doesn’t sell well. And this has nothing to do with the console wars.

My point here is that a lot of the meat and bones of a system is in the software you run on it. I have a crap 2nd Dell laptop that I use to do my research for my blog on and play some low-end games that don’t keep me distracted of my college work for too long.

In addition to that, we compare, like we say in Dutch, apples with pears. The Wii can’t be compared to the PS3. Not in the slightest. We talk about innovation against raw power. Two opposites in the gaming world. Talking about the Wii, why is Nintendo always pushed to the side of the console wars? Oh, and let’s not forget the PC!

That the PC isn’t included, I can understand. Since you can custom build a PC, so you can’t compare it to a console. Since nearly everybody PC specs are different. A computer is personal and actually tells a lot about yourself. But that Nintendo is left out… since it’s more a family console… Err, yeah right. Really fair war there. Leaving out part of the competition.

Look mom, the PS4 is so much better.

imagesThis picture I found while researching explains enough. I started talking about it in my previous part, the console wars is just done totally wrong.

First of all, there aren’t only consoles. You also have handhelds. A console wars seems only to be about the consoles. Why is it never boarder to handhelds as well. I simply don’t get it.

Secondly, a console wars can’t be won. The winner of a console wars is the console(s) you own. And as a hardcore Nintendo fanboy, I admit that I have a PSP and a PS2. And I highly enough them. And if somebody bashes Nintendo, I don’t give a care. Unless they say Nintendo is a kiddy company. Then I have a whole slew of arguments to prove the trolls wrong.

And the final argument is, are we going to ignore beautiful innovations, with a lot of potential like the oculus rift, shifto cubs… Or the Steam box. Oh yes, I’m going there. Apart from being incomplete, a console wars never takes new gadgets in to a count. Such a same.

I think I’m going to close off this article. Console wars really make my eyes roll. The urge to slap somebody in the face when they say that a console is better then another is always big. Each console has it’s strong points and selling points. And in the end, the best console is the enjoy were you enjoy yourself with. And besides, the console wars are always plagued with trolls, haters and fanboys. It’s impossible to make a decent talk about it.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed reading this ranting of mine. Sorry that it isn’t up to quality to my other articles. (In my personal opinion.) And I hope to see you next time somewhere. Oh, and normally I always ask at the start to leave a comment, but now that I’m sure that you read my article, I’ll ask it now. Since otherwise I just get troll and idiotic comments.

Review #011: Assassin’s Creed – Brotherhood (XBOX360) ~ Rest in peace.

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Link to the entry on the Assassin’s Creed wiki.

Well, what’s going on here? NekoJonez reviewing while he is at a friends place? It’s true since my good buddy Blindshot is a big fan of this series. We started discussing about games and I talked about my first review here, Tomb Raider. I saw it on the XBOX360 and it’s surely different. But now I give him the chance to review a game. He isn’t good at writing but I wrote the review, yet he provided me with the material. A fun writing challenge too. So, this game series has been on my to play list for such a long while. Yet, the stealthy gameplay is keeping me off since I am not that good in these types of games. I remember the sneaky part in Tomb  Raider, I was stuck there for quite a while since I can’t get passed the guards unnoticed. Long live “balls to the walls action” baby. So, now it’s time to review the 3rd game in the series. Are we going to rip it a new one? Or, the other possibility, give it some (more) praise. Let’s find out with this review. With the help of Blindshot. In this review, he tried to describe me the things without spoiling me too much since I want to play this game without spoilers. 

No ninja’s here.

assassins-creed-brotherhood-the-da-vinci-disappearance-achievements-trophies-guide-screenshot-clowning-around

The piece of Eden. Again a quest to get this artifact. Just like in some previous entries of the series. In this game it’s time to win it back. Like in one of my favorite game series, Broken Sword, those Templars are at it again. They are trying to take over the world. Unlike Broken Sword, they don’t try to get our asses burned with a giant dragon. Thankfully.

The pacing of the story is bad, wait no I meant good. Well, actually it’s at your own pace. You can start the missions whenever you feel like it. So, you can make the game linger as much as you want or go speedrunning it.

The story is accompanied by a nice looking world. The world is very detailed and a fun place to explore. But we shall dive deeper into the gameplay later. Everything is made with great attention to detail and draws you into the game even more. But the animation has a few flaws. Like ropes disappearing and the hay thingies are lacking the fine attention to detail then the looks of the game. But that’s the only thing we could find to sad bad about it. The murders and other animated jazz is done pretty well.

In almost every mission, you have different ways to reach your goal. The level design is very good. But Blindshot told me that he had some issues with the camera where his guy didn’t do what he wanted. Like trees that disappear. Oh jolly good fun. The level design is pretty realistic since the developers went on location to create this game.

Rest in peace, biches

611593-assassin-s-creed-brotherhood-xbox-360-screenshot-the-latest

The controls didn’t change from the first and second entry in the series. So, playing with this set of controls is extremely easy. Well, not meant that the game is easy. Nothing feels stiff or stuck. Taunting enemies is something Blindshot enjoys. But how is the difficulty of the game?

The game has an inconsistent difficulty. And this game takes the difficulty to a whole new level. It goes from difficult to less difficult. Of course this is the story but that’s a given. Blindshot told me that there are parts where the guards are super mega extremely attentive and other times you can just murder them in front of their face. This makes for confusing moments. Like some types of guards don’t do a thing when the see you running on the walls.

Some missions are nearly impossible to complete. For getting that lovely 100% mark that is. Thanks to the locations being to crowded or other things like that. And this might piss off several gamers who try to get all the 100% in every case.

 The game got shorter then the previous entries. The game isn’t extremely lengthy. Blindshot thinks that the gameplay for the main story gives you 30 hours. But thanks to the various side missions and other unlockables the game suddenly makes worth for your money and might give you a 50-ish hour game.

In the game there is a big variation. The game won’t get you bored easily. And thank god, the tutorials are free to follow. You can even disable them. This gives a nice welcoming door for new players. The gameworld is rather large but there is fast travel which takes out the boring parts of traveling the whole way. And the game saves often enough to not give you a big setback.

The music is super. The composer of the music, Jesper Kyd, made an amazing soundtrack. On each occasion there is another track. this really keeps you into the game and makes the game that more satisfying to play.  And the music isn’t stopped just like that. It goes gently from one track to the next. The sound design is extremely well done. There is no delay. But there is an issue with the hidden blades and the sounds. It sounds, wrong.

A gem of a game?

611570-assassin-s-creed-brotherhood-xbox-360-screenshot-some-missions

This game has a few flaws. Things like jumping into hay from many meters high and having not that much damage takes a way from a lot of the realism of the game. Like not being able to get stuck with the parachute.

Blindshot was also not pleased with the addition of the parachute. It takes a way a lot of fun he said.

The game gets easier thanks to the crossbow. Too easy since killing the guards and targets becomes just a breeze.

The death animations are slow, much too slow. Mostly on roofs. They are mostly like dolls and the animation is not there. Also when they hit the ground, then the animation starts.

And we are going to leave it here. Of course this game has a lot more to offer but we can’t talk about it all.

Conclusion

The good:

+ Story.

+ Sound & music.

+ Gameplay.

+ Nice locations.

+ Tight controls.

The bad:

– Animation is flawed in some parts.

– There are some bugs.

– Crossbow is overpowered.

– Parachutes.

– Difficulty.

Our advise:

We might not have completely gone in depth about the gameplay but this game is a nice title in your collection. It’s accessible for you new comers but also great for you veteran players. Compared to the previous games is it a good step up. It’s a lot better then the previous entries but it is still not perfect.

It’s an extremely enjoyable game to play, while you overlook the flaws.

Score: 77 / 100