Be part of something big: Kick-start a new gaming convention!

The SyperByte 2013 website banner.

The SyperByte 2013 website banner.

My gamer readers may have heard of, or attended, The Euro Gamer Expo, GEEK (Games Expo East Kent), Rezzed, or any of the other established games conventions held throughout the UK, but I can almost guarantee that you have not heard of this one.

SyperByte is a gaming convention held in Manchester with a twist. Two twists, actually.

The first twist is that it is a retro gaming convention that is not just about the games, but the music. It is more like a music festival than a convention. But with games. There will be DJs and artists coming from all around the country to perform their interpretations of retro gaming soundtracks, and original music made with the classic consoles, etc. This is known as “Micro Music”.

Kickstarter Logo

The second twist is that this convention will be “Crowd Funded”, with the use of Kickstarter. This means that they are looking for money not from sponsors, but from you, the fans.

The convention is not completely “new”, it was actually founded last year, to great success, but they do need funding to make the convention bigger, and better.

Funding this event will mean it can expand to not one, but two days, there will be more games available, more live music to enjoy, film screenings, workshops, and lots more. See the full Press Release here.

I, for one, shall be contributing funding to what I think will be a unique, brilliant, and very fun event for gamers such as myself. Funders get their money’s worth, too, with thanks on the website, free ticket/s for the event, exclusive Limited Edition merchandise only available to backers, and even one lucky £250 contributing fan will get to take home the banner that will be held over the main stage throughout the weekend!

There are four days left in the Campaign, and they have got the money that they requested, but the more that they make, the bigger and better this can be. I see so, so much potential here, so I wanted to share it with my readers and give them an opportunity to be part of this, like I intend to be.

So, what are you waiting for? Visit their website to read more about the event, and if you like what you see, get funding!

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Event Report: GEEK 2013, Day Three (Saturday)

Introduction

I promised to do a daily Event Report, and though this one is late due to illness, here it is. As with Thursday’s Report and Friday’s Report, I am keeping things simple and used categories and a bullet pointed system. Please note, all images are copyright Illisia Adams 2013. Do not reproduce them without prior consent, thank you.

Report

Layout

The main gaming floor has an interesting colour coding system for genres of games

The main gaming floor has an interesting color coding system for genres of games

Now that I had the lay of the land, it was easy enough to find my way around. Though admittedly the names of the different halls, etc, was still a little difficult at times, when announcements were made, to figure out where to go. It is one thing to know the layout, it is another to know the names of the places you are walking through, especially when the map is difficult to understand.

That said, I had the pleasure of meeting the lady who was responsible for the blocks of GEEK logos (etc) hanging from the ceiling in the main games hall, and she informed me that, actually, the different games genres as marked and colour-coded on the map can be seen physically in the games hall, with different square blocks showing different colours in each area. For instance, ‘Fighting’ is orange, and therefore if you are interested in fighting games, you look for the orange blocks. I felt absolutely stupid for not noticing it before, as it seemed so obvious once I knew, but the fact that no staff had told me this, either, was disappointing.

Games

The new Crowd Funded console, still awaiting release, was playable at the convention at the Fists Of Awesome stand.

The new Crowd Funded console, still awaiting release, was playable at the convention at the Fists Of Awesome stand.

I spent time with the Independent games today, there were some really interesting, unique ones on offer, of different genres and available on varying platforms.

Fists Of Awesome, a very “old school” inspired game with plenty of humor that is oddly addictive, was drawing in the crowds with its Ouya console, a gaming platform that has yet to be released, but was available there due to the game being one of the launch titles of the Crowd Funded console.

Another game, Chompy Chomp Chomp, was a multiplayer game for up to four players where you face-off against your competitors to literally “chomp” one another by chasing after the player who’s color you have been given. I found it ridiculously challenging (I scored zero points three rounds in a row!), but also lots of fun.

The third independent game I unfortunately did not manage to play today, but it seemed very popular with the crowds, which is no surprise given how it seemed to be a form of retro games emulator.

Talks and Workshops (etc)

The Complete History Of Video Games In Ten Minutes!

The Complete History Of Video Games In Ten Minutes!

… It drew in quite the crowd!

Today I listened to a Talk and sat in for a few minutes on a Workshop about cosplay. Fascinating stuff, by people who clearly know what they are talking about from years of experience.

Another Talk that was beyond fascinating was Matt Fox’s The Complete History Of Video Games In Ten Minutes. The seats were all taken, and crowds were piling around the back and the sides, as well, he had everyone enthralled. And for good reason, too. Not only is a ten minute history of video games a seemingly impossible task, but when you manage it with such humor and interaction with the crowd. This Talk was to coincide with the release of his second book, The Video Games Guide volume 2. We swapped contact details and I have every intention of hunting him down for an interview.

Cosplay

A group shot of cosplay on Saturday's stage.

A group shot of cosplay on Saturday’s stage.

Saturday, being the most popular day of course, drew in quite an impressive cosplay crowd. Even my partner and fellow journalist, Matthew Brown (seen here in the center, in the top hat) aka Lord Matt was drawn into the Cosplay Masquerade, with his steampunk-esque clothing, which ironically is his everyday wear!

Four of those cosplayers came all the way from Scotland, and they were an absolute pleasure to speak with, and even later on, play games with. A long way to come for gaming and cosplay! Word of GEEK is clearly spreading…

Exhibitors

There were plenty of stalls with a wide range of games from different genres and consoles. The stand owners seemed very knowledgeable. My friends at Groovy Frog in Ramsgate were also there in full swing, and not just as an exhibitor, but also hosting various workshops on the games that they sell there.

Food

The Irie Soulfood Cafe staff (right) and founder (left) taking a short break as the crowds lessen.

The Irie Soulfood Cafe staff (right) and founder (left) taking a short break as the crowds lessen.

Today I decided to try the Jamaican food available from The Irie Soulfood Cafe‘s stand. I have eaten their food before, last summer in Cecil Square during the Diamon Jubilee celebrations, if I recall. They are still holding strong, and their food is just as gorgeous and their staff and founder just as pleasant as I remember.

Staff

After three days of being at the event, I have found myself seeing familiar faces in amongst the Crew, who greet me by name when they see me and make recommendations for Talks, Workshops and games. I swapped contact details with several of them, I can see us being good friends. These people are geeks, and very polite, friendly ones who are well informed, at that. Questions that could not be answered in days past, ongoing problems, etc, are now easily resolved by them, they are clearly learning from mistakes. Good to know.

Over 18s Late Play

Geeky gaming-themed poetry, courteousy of Game City Nights, as read by Dan Simpson and others.

Geeky gaming-themed poetry, courteousy of Game City Nights, as read by Dan Simpson and others.

There were plenty more Tournaments. Once again, I entered a Call Of Duty one, this time for the original Black Ops (not last year’s record breaking sales sequel). I got lots of comments from my fellow gamers about how a woman aught not to be so good, much to my amusement, and the Replay Events (who host the Tournaments and provide many of the consoles at the convention) staff knew me by this point, cheered me on, and even waited for me when I was running a little late for my turn.

Once again, however, there were many problems with the way that the Tournaments were structured and played. For the Black Ops one, people were told they could not use Custom Classes, but persisted in making them anyway, and the maps used varied from match to match, which made the games unbalanced. There is clearly needs to be more effort to make these games fair for whoever plays them, next year, but nonetheless, I had lots of fun and made many friends.

GameCityNights also provided alternative entertainment for the adults with a gaming themed poetry recital from Dan Simpson, and others. I recorded it, so I can share it with you all at some point in the coming weeks (keep watching this space, or Subscribe to know when it is posted). It was quite brilliant.

Other Notes

  • Disabled Access is limited, but available.
  • The toilet facilities are well maintained.
  • The “GEEK Around Town” events have been well received and recommended by all.

Conclusions

Saturday is widely regarded as a convention’s busiest, and therefore most difficult to run, day. I think that, although there were problems with the schedule, etc, considering the crowds, GEEK did a good job.

Event Report: GEEK 2013, Day Two (Friday)

Introduction

I promised that I would do a day-to-day report, so here is my Report from Friday’s convention. As with Thursday’s Report, I am keeping things simple and used categories and a bullet pointed system. Please note, all images are copyright Illisia Adams 2013. Do not reproduce them without prior consent, thank you.

Report

Layout

The GEEK 2013 Map

I photographed the map to share, so you can all “get the lay of the land”.

There are more halls and rooms open today than there were yesterday, and honestly, the map provided was a little confusing at first for myself, and several other visitors that I spoke with, but we soon go the “lay of the land” after speaking with Crew members and asking advice.

The layout is actually a lot simpler than it seems, and it gives you lots of space to move around in, none of the horrible “shuffling” through crowds that other conventions suffer from. Even the main games hall which looked quite crowded when I first entered was actually rather spacious and well organised so that there is little need for queuing and it is easy to find the game/s that you are interested in.

Talks, Workshops and Food, again, though a little confusing at first, were easy enough to find and were spaciously arranged.

Games

The Video Games Carnival

Outside of the main games hall, there is a Video Games Carnival which had laser games, 3D handheld games, and even giant size games and games controlled using fruit!

There were many more games available today. The main games hall had more games than it did yesterday, including several new independent ones. The entrance hall where the Talks and Food Court has a Video Games Carnival with retro 3D handheld games, giant size competitive gameboy play, and even a PacMan game controlled with the use of fruit (isn’t science fun?)!

Talks and Workshops (etc)

I did not “sit-in” on any Talks or Workshops, but I did walk around the room and I could hear clearly what was being said so the sound travels well for the Talks, and I passed by several Workshops which seemed to be interesting enough to be drawing in the crowds.

Tomorrow I shall attend Workshops and Talks.

Cosplay

Cosplay Group Shot

The Cosplay Masquerade entrants pose for a group photograph.

I met the cosplayer organiser, she is a very pleasant woman with lots of passion for and knowledge in the field. The Cosplay Masquerade was well organised, though there were a few technical difficulties that had it running past its scheduled time, and during the Masquerade there were a few mishaps with the music being played, etc, but jokes were made and laughs were had when this happened, it was very professional. The judging system seemed very efficient and fair, and there were two prizes available. I agreed with their choices, well deserved. Many more photographs to follow.

Exhibitors

The Exhibitors were different today, much more available for purchase.

Food

Hand Prepared Food

The Food Court had much on offer, including a stall selling hand prepared sandwiches.

The Food Court has now been opened, and though it is a small area, there is a reasonable variety, dependent on your preference and budget.

Mr Simms Sweet Shoppe from Margate’s Old Town were there selling imported goods, The Great British Pizza Co were taking orders and having them delivered directly to GEEK’s venue for attendees, a local Jamaican food restaurant (name to follow, bare with me) were preparing hot meals on-site, and there was a stall with plenty of hand made cakes and freshly prepared sandwiches.

  • I decided on the sandwiches. The stall staff were very pleasant people, lots of smiles and very polite, and they even made me a sandwich that was not on their pre-prepared menu, at my request, and for no extra cost. It was well “filled-out”, quite filling, and good value at three pounds. I later tried a lemon cake, a ninja shaped ginger bread man, and an Angry Birds themed cookie. I was pleasantly surprised by the effort to make “geeky” food, and they were quite “yummy”.
  • A fellow attendee purchased a pizza, which he waited around half an hour for, and he allowed me a slice of to try. It was absolutely delicious, lovely and warm, beautifully presented, and not a bad price, given the size of the pizza and how filling it was. Five pounds per pizza.

Tomorrow I shall try the Jamaican food.

Staff

As with yesterday, I found the volunteers to be wonderful people. As you interact with them more and more, you find some even start to remember you and treat you as though you are an old friend. They are happy to answer questions, recommend things to do, and one even got me a glass of water to take pain killers with. Again, no unpleasant experiences with any of them so far, I am very pleased with them.

Over 18s Late Play

Tournament Winner

The winner of the Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare Xbox 360 Tournament

The main gaming hall was opened late for adults only, and a special section with 18 rated games was additioned. I like this concept, it means that adults that do not want to share their gaming experience with teenagers and children can purchase an evening only ticket.

I myself entered a Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare gaming Tournament, a game that I have never once played, and reached the Semi-Final. I am not happy with the way the Tournament was hosted, I noticed a lot of screen-peaking from fellow players, and even some communication between friends in the Tournament together. This definitely needs improving for tomorrow’s Call Of Duty: Black Ops Tournament.

There were other Tournaments from other genres of gaming (racing, fighting, etc) as well, so there was something for everyone, and the lack of crowds in comparison to during the day meant there was much more freedom in what you could choose to play and how long you could play each game for.

I definitely approve of the Over 18s Late Play.

Other Notes

  • Disabled Access is limited, but available.
  • The toilet facilities are well maintained.
  • The “GEEK Around Town” events have been well received and recommended by all.

Conclusions

Though the map is a little difficult to read, and the schedule of events was overrunning, I like the spacious layout and the range of games, talks, events, exhibitors and food that was available today. A big improvement on yesterday’s start. The Over 18s Late Play was also a fantastic addition.

GEEK 2013: An Introduction

GEEK 2013

GEEK, aka Games Expo East Kent, is a gaming convention spanning several days held yearly at Margate Winter Gardens, and other venues around the town, celebrating retro and modern computer games alike.

The concept launched to great success in 2012, so much so that, to help it grow, this year there has been much more community involvement, with several Meetings being held to discuss ideas for the event.

My questions are is this event really worth attending, and how does it effect Margate? And, Press Pass in-hand, I have every intention of finding out… So, I intend to post a day-by-day report of the event, with photographs, interviews, personal opinions of my experience, etc, and an over all review of the event when it draws to a close.

Need For Speed: The Run Xbox 360

Introduction
I rather ashamedly completely forgot to post this! This review was finished in August, my apologies.

Review

NEED FOR SPEED: THE RUN
a “newbie” racing game player tries the newest addition to the “NFS” franchise

There are three very important things that you need to know about me before reading this review. The first, that I know nothing whatsoever about cars. The second, that I have played very few racing games, and completed none. The third, that this is my first playthrough of any Need For Speed game. These three things are rather important because they are the basis for my review.

Is Need For Speed: The Run suitable for a “newbie” racing gamer? Or is it designed only for the more established fan of the genre? Read on to find out…

– – – –

Racing games are not usually to my taste, but I was recommend this particular addition to the “NFS” franchise by the media, fans and friends, so I made a point of renting it to see whether it would, indeed, be the racing game that would bring me into the fold.

It was not.

– – – –

The first thing that I noticed about this game is that I enjoyed the concept a great deal. On first observation, the idea of racing from one end of the country to the other through various terrains, fighting through hundreds of other racers to win is a very intriguing, exciting one.

The plot, as well, seems to really addition to this excitement, with cut scenes that have the main character literally racing for his life, because the mob, who he owes a tidy fortune, want him dead. This gives reason for a challenging addition to the gameplay wherein there are races that feature cars, and even helicopters, that possess gun power to slow you down, or, ultimately, knock you out of the race for good, and “interactive cut scenes” that really pick up the pace.

All of this is well and good, were it not for the fact that, rather than being one really long race with “checkpoints”, this game is instead a collection of dozens of races that require you to pass a certain number of racers to reach a certain overall race position, to “make up time” (which is essentially a “Time Trial” mode), or to defeat Boss racers one-on-one. They really missed a trick here, as I am certain that one really long race would have made the game stand out from the crowd. As-is, however, it just seems like a cheap gimmick that ultimately fails to work, because, once the game is over, you are left saying to yourself “was that it?”, with a rather unfinished plot and a game that seems all too short.

– – – –

The second thing that I notice, which makes me wonder whether this was in fact a “rushed release”, is that the Cut Scenes, and even during gameplay itself, the graphics are very pixelated. I felt many times as though I were playing a game on my Playstation 1 rather than my “Next Generation” Xbox 360 console. Considering the funding that the Need For Speed franchise possesses, this was a huge disappointment. It felt lazy.

Cut Scenes not “skippable”, including the rather lengthy one at the very start of the game, so, if you plan on playing through the game more than once, be prepared for that irritation. You should also be prepared for the fact that, should your wireless controller run out of battery in the middle of a race, the game will not pause, which, from my experience, is a major cause of crashing and general race failures.

Another major “gripe” is that the “Auto Log”, a part of gameplay included in all the newest Need For Speed games, no matter how I tried to fix it, and even a full month after its release, failed to work for me, or my friends who also played. The Leaderboards were inconsistent, sometimes Friends failed to even appear on them at all, and there were tasks that, once completed, failed to actually be marked as so…

– – – –

This game may be full of faults, but, if you are someone who enjoys competitive play, it does have one saving grace, and that is its online multiplayer. I was not able to play online for long, but the few games that I did play I found to be quite exciting and varied.

It has its faults, of course. No online multiplayer is perfect. The first game that I played, I was put into the race on the final lap, in last place! I am not sure why they included the option to enter mid-race, as to me it seems to be irritating and pointless. Another problem is how easy it is to be thrown from the track by other players. From what I hear, most racing games have a system in place to ease the gameplay, but here, you have to be prepared for the brutal nature of the system, it takes no prisoners.

Those factors aside, there are many different modes, or “Playlists” to explore, including team ones, and with the end of each match there is a “Bonus Wheel” to be spun which can reward you with new cars, bonus Experience Points, or even certain Achievements, so there is plenty of variety and fun to be had for the competitive player, but only online, as there is no split-screen offline multiplayer.

– – – –

Another thing that saves this game is its “Challenge” mode. As you race through the Campaign, you unlock new areas and new challenges to play through in this mode, which rewards you with cars and Experience Points that will help you in the Campaign, as well as Leaderboards and “Autolog Recommends” additions that allow for lots of replayability that is non-existent in the Campaign itself.

I did, however, find the Challenge mode to be inconsistent in its difficulty. With the Campaign, you have different Difficulties to play through, whereas with the Challenge mode, every challenge must be taken as-is. For an inexperienced player such as myself, this was a real problem for some of the races and Time Trials (etc). A prime example of this was that one of the earliest challenges is one that requires the use of some of the fastest cars in the game, whereas in the Campaign I had only been racing rather slowly at the point where I had unlocked that Challenge, so I found myself constantly crashing and “spinning out” or off of the track from shear lack of experience. Surely the Challenge mode should only challenge me with races appropriate for what I have learned in the Campaign? Apparently they assumed that this game is only going to be played by gamers who are not new to “NFS”, or indeed racing games.

This games inclusion of “Rewind”, where you can travel back to the last Checkpoint if you have made any mistakes, however, counters this and makes it very open to someone who is not as good at racing games, or even for the more experienced player.

– – – –

When comparing notes with a gamer that is more versed in racing games, and indeed the Need For Speed franchise itself, I found that, alas, he was just as disappointed as I. He, too, found it a chore to complete. He did not enjoy the online multiplayer at all, rather interestingly, in comparative to my liking that the most. It is clearly a matter of personal preference.

So, overall, alas, it would appear that this is a game that I cannot recommend for someone who is new to racing games, nor who is a fan of them. It had so much potential, but it was clearly rushed and ill thought-out so that the end product is, in all honesty, a chore to complete, has an anti-climactic ending full of plot holes, and will, ultimately, fade into memory very quickly, rather than being a game that should have stood out from the crowd.
There are clearly far better racing games out there, and though I did enjoy this one at first, by the time I was finished with it, I could not send it back in the post fast enough.

Not recommended.

Feedback
It is important that I receive feedback from my readers. I would truly appreciate any feedback at all that you can provide me. Posting comments of encouragement, or constructively critiquing my efforts. I really want to further myself as a writer and with your help I can.

Thank you.

Lots of big changes

So, it has been a month since my last update, and though I apologise for this drought in my Blog Entries, I have good reason – I have been very busy!

First and foremost, I now have a website. Do please visit it here where you can browse my Photograph Portfolio, read about my work, and even book me (currently no charge) for a shoot or an event.

Secondly, I have been planning my trip to this year’s Euro Gamer Expo, a huge convention held at Earl’s Court in the centre of London celebrating computer games. I am taking my camera and my dictation machine, the result of which is that I plan to report on the event on this very Blog at the end of each day. So, if you are interested in computer games news, or you are considering attending the event and want to know if it is worth it, “stay tuned”.

Thirdly, I have several exciting photoshoots that I have been planning, but I am keeping my ideas top secret 😉

So, in the coming weeks, expect this Blog to be very, very fruitful, but in the meanwhile, my most sincere apologies for the wait.

How To Train Your Dragon: The Game Xbox 360

Introduction
My second product review

Review

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE GAME
my verdict on the game of the popular film

I went into this game expecting the best thing since sliced bread.

I am a huge fan of the film; I love the world, its characters, its adorable (and sometimes scary) dragons… That world takes me so far from mine that I forget, when I come back to reality, that I am not, in fact, a child, but an adult, and that a game designed for children may not necessarily be to my taste, though I want it to be…

– – – –

This game is, by no means, “bad”. I have played far worse, especially games adapted from other formats (comics, films etc). I do think, however, that it could have been so much better.

Though my expectations were high, making me almost certain to be disappointed, I honestly think even children would find this game difficult to tolerate. Children are far more intelligent than games developers often give them credit for, and this was clearly no exception.

– – – –

This game’s biggest fault is that, though the characters and dragons and setting are there, and the animation and gameplay itself is quite good, the established mythology of the film appears to have been completely disregarded. The dialogue seems to suggest that Vikings have been taming dragons for centuries, though it is well established in the titular film that Hiccup is the first of his people to ever accomplish the feat.

The basic concept says that “every year” tournaments are held between dragon tamers and their dragons, who fight each other for Viking glory. A plot that is, to be honest, an utter let down, considering the emotion and the depth of the film, and, as aforementioned, contradicts the established history. If you are not an established fan of the franchise, however, you will of course have no difficulties accepting the premise.

Another big problem is the repetitive gameplay and dialogue. You will find yourself walking back and forth from place to place, doing mundane, repetitious tasks in order to level up your dragon and advance the plot, and that the AI characters say the same three lines over and over, much, doubtless, to your annoyance. But, if you play this game in small segments, rather than long sittings, you will find that it maintains its quirky charm and fun-factor.

– – – –

Problems aside, I did very much enjoy training my dragon and fighting other characters in the various tournaments, and the cut scenes between did make me smile, even if not nearly as much as the film. The Arcade Mode, which allows you to fight off against your friends sharing your console, or against the computer AI, also allows for more replayability than you would normally expect from film tie-ins.

Adults who want to find that “first RPG” for their mini-geek will also enjoy the game dynamics, which require the player to complete various mini-games and quests in order to advance their dragon’s rank and gain new skills, very much in the style of the Elder Scrolls or Final Fantasy games, but on a much smaller scale. They might also find that they enjoy it themselves, as a light hearted “guilty pleasure”, though I recommend playing it in small quantities as it can be quite draining, with its repetition.

Gamerscore hoarders will also be very much be at home here, as many of the Achievements (or Trophies, whichever applies) require not so much effort, as time. Ten or twenty hours of playing through the campaign as either character, and many of them will occur through natural gameplay.

– – – –

In conclusion, this is a game that, though not really working with established continuity, lacking in the heart and depth that the film has, and a tad repetitive, is lighthearted fun that the whole family can enjoy together, or that the more “hardcore gamer” can enjoy as a guilty pleasure and a welcome break from the seriousness of their usual gaming taste.

“Give it a shot, why not?” very much applies here. It is by no means a waste of money nor time, but it is also not something that I would recommend rushing out to by and spend hours of enjoyment playing. I recommend this as a rental, or a “sale buy” for fans of the film, parents of young children, or for hardcore gamers looking for something more light hearted that can still give them a nice gamerscore boost.

Feedback
It is important that I receive feedback from my readers. I would truly appreciate any feedback at all that you can provide me. Posting comments of encouragement, or constructively critiquing my efforts. I really want to further myself as a writer and with your help I can.

Thank you.