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.

First Impression: Golden Sun – Dark Dawn (DS) ~Sunny Weather

Goldensun3.jpgWikipedia entry

It’s time that I talk about a Golden Sun game. I have been putting this off for way too long. After I listed it in my favorite DS games ever made, I never talked about it. Apart from some music tracks here and there. It’s time to correct that. This week we are going to take a look at a game, I honestly thought I talked about before. In any case, the title and the box art here already gave it away.  It’s the 3rd game in the series, Golden Sun Dark Dawn. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on this game and/or the content of this article. 

(Note: to make this article more readable and understandable for everybody, I didn’t to use the lore of this game and used a generic term.)

Special powers

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The story of this game takes place a few years after the original two games. The story starts out simple with two children getting into some trouble with a sort of magical hang glider. But rather quickly, this story changes into your typical “save the world from doom” story.

While the story is your typical RPG story, it’s the journey and the writing that makes it memorable in my eyes. Each main character and side character has his or her own personality.

But what I really like about the story is how all the lore is explained in a non-intrusive way.  As you may have guessed, this game is a JRPG and because it’s the 3rd game in the series, there is a lot of lore.

But instead of the characters explaining the lore in some dialogue or some boring exposition dump, it gets underlined. When you tap that word, you get an explanation on the top screen to get you up to speed. Also, all those words go in your encyclopedia so you read them at your own pace. This is something that all other RPG’s should do! That way, there can be more focus on the story instead of explaining everything so newcomers can enjoy the game. This mechanic can also serve as a nice reminder for hardcore fans when he or she has forgotten the meaning of a word.

Fighting like on the GBA

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The gameplay, in general, hasn’t changed a lot compared to the GBA games. But in this game, some mechanics are tweaked for the newer hardware.

First of all, I want to talk about the exploration part of the game. The world this game takes place in is huge. I love exploring in this world. Since each town has it’s own unique feel to it.

The puzzles in this game are amazing in my opinion. The puzzles use the special powers you have in creative ways. I had to think outside of the box sometimes. And when you are stuck, one character gets a special power which allows you to see what objects you can interact with and which powers you should use.

Secondly, the battles are quite interesting as well. Since you have three possible attacks. You can fight with your weapons, use your magic and/or Djinn. Djinns are special creatures you find all over the world.

The mechanic of Djinn is one of the most interesting things in this game. I love trying to find them in towns, dungeons and in the overworld. But after you found them, a rather tricky meta-game starts. Depending to who you equip which Djinn, you can make a character even stronger or even weaker. Not only that, which magic powers they can use will also change. This makes for an interesting balancing exercise to make sure you have the perfect build to advance the plot.

When you use Djinn, they go into, what I like to call, the summing pool. When you have enough Djinn of a certain type, you can summon a more powerful creature. But beware, when a Djinn is in the summoning pool, the character it’s attached too, will lose its perks.

If this sounds interesting to you, this page on the Golden Sun wiki will explain it in more depth.

This world is golden

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The presentation and design of this game are top notch. While some animations take a little bit too long, I have no other complaint.

The world looks colorful and really pops out. The visual presentation in this game is one of the best I have seen on the system.

There is one issue I have with the design. And that’s that the menu system can sometimes be very annoying. It’s difficult to explain, but I felt that could have been done a lot better with more traditional menus. An example is the inventory system. It’s quite messy in my opinion. When you are looking for example for some herbs and you forgot to which character you have given them too. But it’s something I got used to.

The music and sound design of this game are excellent. The sound design gives this game the right charm it deserves. And the music, well, I have the soundtrack in my music library and I play a track here and there. It’s a very nice soundtrack.

The controls are great as well. Since you can use both buttons and the stylus. So you can choose and use the playstyle you prefer.

This game isn’t easy but isn’t difficult. But, I will give my final verdict on that when I finish the game. Since I know that there is another DS game that is rather easy but the final boss is extremely hard.

Something that could have been improved in this game is the frame rate. In some parts of the game, I saw some great frame rate drops. It mostly happens when there is way too much happening on screen at once. But it doesn’t happen very often thankfully.

Something I have to mention is that I had this game crash on me twice at the same spot. In the first cave you visit, I had this game crash on me. It was a great lesson in saving this game often. Also, thumbs up for having three save slots. Really helps!

In any case, I think I said everything I wanted to say about this game for now. When I beat this game, I might write a review. I hope you enjoyed reading this first impression as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to welcome you at another article on my blog, have a great rest of your day and until then: take care and game on!

Gamer’s Thoughts: A little ramble about blogging

blogging-encouragementLet’s do something totally different this week. This week I have been thinking about various subjects I wanted to write an article about. While I think I got some great ideas, I realized something. All of the questions I asked myself would make for a great article to discuss how I see gaming & blogging. So, in this week’s article, I’m going to talk about how I think blogs could improve and how I see games. It’s time to put some of these gamer’s thoughts on paper. And as usual, feel free to leave me a comment on the content of this article down in the comment section below.

Why do I blog about games?

1.7One of the most important things when writing a blog is that you are passionate about the subject. That you write a blog about something you know you won’t get easily bored of.

Since I play a lot of games, I picked that as a subject. But truth to be told, I tried to blog about other things. In the past, I wrote articles with my views on life, movies, anime and much more.

But the articles about gaming just stuck with me. I loved writing them and creating them. At first, I was thinking of making a YouTube channel and making video reviews. But after a while, I got bored of it and I stopped making YouTube videos.

Why do I continue to blog about games? Well, it has several reasons. For one reason, I want to share my love of gaming with the rest of the world. It’s so rewarding for me to see how many people read my blog.

But where is the root? Why do I BLOG about games? What got me started? Well, my story isn’t as any typical YouTuber would say that he or she got inspired by somebody or the community. I just gave it a shot. I thought it would be fun to write an article every week and 5 years later, I still enjoy it quite a lot.

Can (game) reviews contain spoilers?

Shep-Red-Background-Spoilers-BWhen I write an article, I’m always thinking about if it’s fine to spoil the game or not.

It’s an interesting question to think about really. Since I can find arguments that are pro and contra.

I think spoilers in a review are fine since a review can serve as a reflection. When you would limit yourself to not spoil the end of the thing you are reviewing… It feels incomplete. You can’t talk about the end part in depth. Here is a perfect example:

Today I finished an anime I would love to recommend but the ending of the 2nd season ruined the series honestly. I’m not alone in this. The whole final episode was just in a totally different style than the rest of the anime that I threw me off. I spent nearly an hour reading different forum discussions and watching rants on YouTube on people who got annoyed by the ending as well. Oh, and if you wonder… It’s Haganai. It’s an amazing anime but the final episode of the 2nd season is just terrible in my eyes. It doesn’t wrap up the story at all.

When I would talk a bit more in-depth, I could warn those who are interested, so they can prepare themselves for the ending. But then, on the other hand, I might scare some people of giving the anime a chance.

So, I think spoilers aren’t good for a review since you might scare potentially interested people away. Also, some people read reviews so they can decide if they would buy the game, anime, movie, book …

It’s a very difficult balance for a content creator. Should you or shouldn’t you include spoilers. One fact stands, I’m glad we have people who put up spoiler warnings. Since then I could stop myself from hearing things I don’t want to hear yet. Since spoilers can ruin an experience. That’s something we can agree on, right?

A thought I had was: if I would use spoilers, I would only use it in a review. Since it’s a reflection of the game I just played. But I would avoid spoilers at all costs in my first impression series. (Notice the letters I put in bold please.)

Why a tablet is a must have for any game blogger!

380kvIn the past, I wasn’t a big fan of tablets. I thought that they were just a cheap laptop without a physical keyboard. Apart from in business situations, I never saw a real point for them.

But then I found it. The reason I bought a tablet and why I actually am glad I bought it as because it’s a cheap laptop without a physical keyboard.

When I’m playing I game I used to write my notes in my notebook. But then one day, I forgot my notebook at work and I wrote down some notes in a different notebook. I think you can see where this is going. I have notes everywhere. So, yeah. A tablet is a perfect place to store them all in. And when I forget my tablet at home or at work, I use my PC and edit my notes that way. Since I got them synced using Dropbox, I always have the latest versions of my notes at hand.

Also, it’s really easy to access the internet without having a clutter of tabs open. When I write an article about a certain game, I have a lot of tabs open with other peoples their opinion and various other sites with information on the game. I see it as a sort of secondary screen I can easily set up and use. While you could argue that an actual second screen for my computer could do the same thing… Well, it keeps my mind focused. A tablet is for research and PC is for the actual writing part. It keeps me focused.

If you wonder, I got myself the Asus ZenPad S 8.0. I bought it on a sale so I got it pretty cheap. And after almost 2 weeks of using it, I’m really glad I got myself a tablet. The previous tablet I owned was a cheap one. One where the battery died after almost a year.

Other uses for my tablet are: being able to read my notes for class while I’m on the train to work. Testing out some things in simulations on the go. Being able to quickly look something up when I’m not at the computer. Being able to review the Android games a bit better on a bigger screen and most of all, it’s a really helpful organizer.

Closing off

Thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. When I have more ideas for a ramble, I might write another article like this.

When you have something where you want my opinion… Well, feel free to contact me.

In any case, I think I’m going to wrap up this article here. Have a great rest of your day and I hope to welcome you in another article! But until then, take care :).

First Impression: Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl (3DS) ~ Dungeon Crawler with own maps

SoulFinalOfficial website

Back when the 3DS wasn’t released, I played an overload of DS games. More then I care to admit. There was one series I wanted to get into but actually never gave a fair chance. That was Etrian Odyssey. So, two weeks ago, I decided to pick up one of the 3DS games. Since the core game mechanic interested me. Now, I haven’t played many other games besides this the last two weeks. But why is it so good to me? I will explain in this first impression. I hope you are ready, since we are going to the labyrinth. Wait, no… This is real life, not the game world. So, I have to say my usual sentence. Feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and or the content of this article. 

Going old school

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Alright, first of all. I’m blown away by the story. Most of all, I think this is one of the best writing I have seen since I played Corpse Party. Sometimes the writing is as if you are reading a book. While nothing that much happens on screen, the short yet extremely powerful descriptions you are given are enough to immerse yourself in the world and give you the feeling to be there in the world.

The characters are also memorable. The story goes about a girl that lost her memory. But, strangely, the story wasn’t the main focus of the story until the point I played. It was something different. There are other side stories that are all leading up to one interesting setup. It’s almost like a real life as an explorer. There are so many things going on and you try to make the best of it.

The characters are what makes the story even more interesting. They might be your typical hotheaded mage, wise healer, strong (female!) tank and silent main character. Yet, they have been written in such a way that it doesn’t bother the story. The characters even get fleshed out and thrown in day to day situations.

But enough about the story. I can’t praise it enough. What I love the most about this game is the fact you have to draw your own map on the touch screen. This takes me back so many years, when I was first playing The Legend Of Zelda on my cousin’s NES. We both started to draw maps together and tried to find and share secrets that way. The wonder I get when I find an unexplored part on a floor I thought I completed is just amazing.

Music to enjoy.

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So, this game has a very nice map creating tool. It doesn’t punish you by not allowing you to the next floor until every square has been discovered, it rewards you to try and get to hard to reach area’s with amazing treasure.

I’ll talk a bit about the gameplay later. First, I want to talk about something else. The music of this game is really well done. In fact, I even replaced my main ringtone with one of my favorite tracks from the game.

Another thing that also shines in the sound department is the voice acting. The voices are really well done and add a lot of character … to the characters. They also are really helpful. The shout what they think is the enemies weakness in battle. This is where I have some minor nitpicks. The battle system is where some polish of this game … well, I has some minor mistakes.

The “auto” feature doesn’t always chooses the best option to attack and looking up a monster while fighting can’t be done in sub menu’s. That are just two examples of issues I have with the battle system. The randomizing of the characters don’t bother me that much, since that brings some element of luck to the game… Which I really like.

The presentation of this game is what I really think doesn’t need an upgrade. I have barely anything negative to say. Apart from some lazy recoloring of some enemy models, I think they made some eye candy to enjoy while playing this game. If only the added some more ambient sound effects into the game to make it a bit more alive then it already is.

Enjoying this game like mad

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To say that this game is perfect would be a lie. There are some minor annoyances, like the deleting of icons is kinda tricky to do… But most of the things I find are mostly minor. Even the controls, I can’t seem to find any major issues. They are responsive and work pretty well.

I could argue that there isn’t anywhere to heal your party for free, but that just adds the strategy element of this game. You need to keep exploring and find enough items and treasure to sell so you can keep healing.

That price always goes up, from what I understand… along with the levels of your party members.

Is this game for everybody? Well, that seriously depends on what mode you play. I’m playing classic mode. That means I get the full story yet the game is a bit more challenging. I wanted to play a game that could kick my ass if I wasn’t ready for a battle or if I wasn’t paying enough attention. It delivers on that front. With some well placed traps and the introduction of really strong enemies really early, I’m always on my guard.

From what I read, the story mode is much more forgiving. But I wanted a challenge and I’m getting it for sure. And I’m enjoying it. That much, that I had trouble with writing a really coherent article. So, I tried to talk like an excited friend that tries to sell you on this game. I hope I succeeded in that. Even when you aren’t interested in this game, I highly recommend you watch a let’s play episode or something since the game is so well put together, I think it’s a shame if you would to miss out on this. So, I’m going to wrap up this article right here. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. And hopefully, I would like to welcome you at another article. Until then, take care.~