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Master_Craig Master_Craig's Blog
Welcome Home - PAX AUS 2014
Posted on Tuesday, November 18 2014 @ 11:26:56 Eastern

This member blog post was promoted to the GameRevolution homepage.

Last night I returned home from PAX AUS 2014. Long story short, it wasn't perfect, but it was quite possibly the best weekend I've had this year. It was a lot of fun. If you'd like to continue reading, the long story is just below.

Buckle up. This is gonna be “tl;dr”.

The Penny Arcade Expo, or PAX first came to Australia in 2013. A poll was held online asking readers where they feel an international PAX should go and lucky for us, Australia was the top voted country, so it became a joyful reality.

PAX came to Melbourne in Victoria, Australia. Melbourne is one of the biggest cities in Australia, having a diverse, multicultural population of nearly four and a half million people. Melbourne is also known for its art, as well as its “food and coffee culture”. Out of all the cities in Australia, it's the perfect place to go.

I went to PAX last year and it was amazing. I ventured there with my older brother and his girlfriend, while also catching up with a few friends of mine in the process. I even had the honour of meeting Mike “Gabe” Krahulik and Jerry “Tycho” Holkins. It's no secret that I look up to these guys, admire them, they're my Goddamn heroes really. I also had the honour to meet other staff members such as Gavin Greco, Josh Price, Kiko Villasenor, Levin Sadsad and Penny Arcade's president Robert Khoo.

I was pleasantly surprised that Gavin remembered me and my brother, as we had a very engaging conversation with her last year and we met again this year. She was even nice enough to give me a pin to give to my brother this time, since unfortunately my brother couldn't attend this year's show with me. My girlfriend couldn't attend with me either, but lucky for me I was able to sell my second pass to a friend of mine from work so I'm glad it went to someone who's passionate about gaming just as much as I am, perhaps more so.

Back story done, now to talk about PAX.

Day 1 (Friday 31st of October)

My friends and I arrived to PAX first thing in the morning, about 7:30 AM. We eventually joined the queue which just seemed to grow and grow. I'd never seen so many people before. Last year's show was big, but this year due to the bigger venue it was huge. Rumours were flying around that the numbers were ranging to about fifteen thousand people. I believe that.

The first thing we did was watch the opening keynote, a “story time” featuring Pete Hines of Bethesda, which was really entertaining, funny and very revealing about Bethesda and the company that it is, in a good way of course. Straight after was the first Penny Arcade Q&A featuring Gabe and Tycho. Gabe and Tycho were drawing pre-asked questions that readers submitted online some time ago. Questions came from a white envelope or a red envelope. Supposedly, the red envelopes were the “hard” questions, but Gabe and Tycho often found difficult questions in the white envelopes.

I was happy to hear one of my questions were in those envelopes. I submitted a question and it was regarding their games. I asked them if they were planning on going back to making games, whether it's sequels/prequels to the Precipice series or perhaps an entirely new game. Mike explained that he doesn't really like making games but Jerry does and that Mike would like to see an RPG of the Lookouts, while both Mike and Jerry agreed that a game about Automata, developed in a similar way to the Telltale Games (perhaps by them even) would be awesome. I certainly agree.

We spent the rest of the day exploring the main expo hall. There was a lot going on and I mean a lot. A massive League of Legends competition, cosplay, many booths and indie games. The lines were huge so it was very difficult to see something that I wanted. I also spent more money than I care to admit on merchandise of Penny Arcade and other pop culture variety, but funnily enough the latter merchandise I bought was mostly gifts for friends.

Due to standing in lines a lot, I ended up playing a lot of Super Smash Bros. for the 3Ds via local wireless multiplayer. I don't mean to sound like a douche but in all honesty, I'm pretty good at Smash Bros. Out of the fifty local multiplayer matches I had that weekend, I only lost to one guy and even then we were even, he'd win one, I'd win one etc. but I'll explain more later.

We saw the first round of the Omegathon, a gaming competition and elimination tournament were twenty PAX attendees are randomly selected to compete against one another in a series of games. The first match was flying shooting game Ikaruga, which was a lot of fun to watch.

While hanging out in the hand held lounge, a young fella, probably in his early twenties and just said to me “Smash?”, so I thought sure man, let's go. I introduced myself but instead of responding, he put his ear phones in and put his game face on. I felt that was a bit rude, but I shrugged it off. We had our first match which he won. I would say “Good game man”, “Well done”, “Nice one” but he never responded. I found every time I knocked his character off into oblivion, his hands would shake and he would become frustrated.

We played a few more rounds and we were very evenly matched but he rarely spoke. When we were done, I said he's good and I enjoyed playing, then I introduced myself again and offered to shake his hand. He shook my hand and replied with his name. At first, I thought this guy was quite rude but then I thought to myself that I shouldn't think so negatively, the guy probably has a bit of awkward social issues and approaching me to play probably took some guts on his behalf. I think in the end it's great we got to play a few games together.

My friends and I visited the console free play area, we wanted to play Diablo III: Reaper of Souls for the PS4 with four players but unfortunately we were only allowed two controllers, so we ended up just playing Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U. While my friends played, I sat back and drew on my Microsoft Surface Pad Pro 2, drawing a cartoon of Delsin Rowe from Infamous: Second Son, since one of my mates was cosplaying as him. Speaking of which, cosplayers were everywhere, some were great, some were incredible and some were not so great, but in all honesty good on 'em for trying and giving it a go. They have more patience and more confidence than me, that's for sure.

We watched some of the music concerts they had at PAX. Australian comedy band Tripod played, my favourite song called “My Guy”, a song about their characters from Skyrim. Another duo eventually came on but unfortunately I didn't know who they were. We left shortly after that.

While on the way out, I actually ran into Tycho. Here's a short and embarrassing story. I was withdrawing money from the ATM, I was so tired (considering my lack of sleep and my red eye flight the night before) and he walked past. I thought “Oh ****! It's Tycho!” because I wanted to meet him again and get some stuff signed by him. So I managed to call him over, and he and his mate were like “You should probably finish getting you're money out”, here I am thinking “Oh ****, you're right”. Mean while, I'm withdrawing two hundred bucks and some people nearby saw me withdrawing cash and saw Tycho standing nearby. They asked, “Are you giving him money?” and I said “No no it's mine!”, it was really embarrassing. Tycho was nice enough to have a small chat with me before signing my stuff, then it was off to the hotel for me to get some Goddamn sleep!

Day 2 – (Saturday the 1st of November)

Once again we arrived to PAX ridiculously early, in line for Penny Arcade's second Q&A and the draw a strip. That was really fun, hilarious to watch and listen to.

When we got out, we ventured around the expo again. I took my camera out, taking photos of the area and the cosplayers. My friends were doing that QR scanner hunt thingo with their smart phones. It looked fun but I was way behind, I didn't worry about it.

A group of LARPers (Live Action Roleplayers) were doing a segment on swash buckling lessons. It sounded like a lot of fun but in the end I didn't do it. I was worried about doing something stupid. We watched 'em, basically they were on this damn big pirate style boat outside (the convention has some docks right next to it) and there was this massive brawl of LARPers, all sword fighting and stuff. It looked really rough! We saw this one fella charge into people with his shield. I thought to myself it was probably a good idea I didn't do it, just in case I accidentally used a judo throw on someone. I'm surprised, but glad no one got hurt considering they were fighting on a boat.

I also got to meet web comic artist Abby Howard. For those who don't know, Abby was one of the finalists of Penny Arcade's web series Strip Search. She was my favourite contestant and it was great to meet her, I'm a huge fan of her comic Junior Science Power Hour. She also has a very successful Kickstarter The Last Halloween.

Another embarrassing story... shortly before I met Abby, the buckle of my belt broke and I had to hold up my pants. So for a while, I was walking around like a cowboy. I decided to leave the venue and go to the nearby mall to buy a new belt but I saw Abby. I wanted to meet her but I didn't want to risk losing the opportunity to meet her by leaving and buying a new belt. So, I approached her like a cowboy, and quickly like an idiot I explained that my belt is broken, I'm trying to hold up my pants, sorry for being weird. 

Day two was honestly a bit of a slower day for us. We spent a lot of time just walking around looking at stuff really. We managed to check out a presentation by Ubisoft for their upcoming title The Division. I didn't know much about The Division but the presentation gave me a much better understanding. It's one I'm looking forward to.

I had a number of people approach me inquiring about the pins I had (since I'm into the Pinny Arcade pin trading). A few people wanted pins that I can't let go due to sentimental value. Even had a few people offer me money. Sorry guys, I can't do it.

I left the venue early around 9ish PM, I was so tired that I just needed to get some sleep, it was ridiculous.

Day 3 – (Sunday the 2nd of November)

Day three was the busiest day, despite being the shortest. I arrived to PAX extra early, 7:30 AM, because I wanted to try and buy one of those PAX ten year anniversary pins for my brother. I made it and I got one, which was great.

My friend and I lined up in the queue quite early and despite being near the front, we couldn't make it to the Oculus Rift. By the time I had arrived the wait was already an hour long. So bugger it, no worries. Instead I went to try out the new Super Smash Bros for the Wii U, which I thought was incredible. The graphics are amazing, it ran at a smooth and solid sixty frames per second and using a Game Cube controller was much better than using a 3Ds. After my match, I went to check out the new 3Ds and 3Ds XL and I really like it. The new button layout as well as the much needed introduction of the C stick does wonders for the console.

My friends and I also tried out the upcoming Battlecry by Bethesda. Battlecry is almost in the Beta stages and will be released first to Australia and New Zealand. It'll be a free to play, third person team based arena game, set in a sorta steampunk setting. When I played there was a choice of three character classes. The class I chose was the Enforcer, a tank-style class who wields a massive sword.

Players automatically sprint across the battlefield until they draw their weapon out for combat. Players can also dive roll into and out of fights as well as use grappling hooks to hook onto specific points to quickly go up to higher areas. 

Combat is very straight forward. As an Enforcer, the left mouse button swung my sword, the right mouse button turned my sword into some kinda groovy shield to block incoming attacks. As you fight, you have an "adrenaline" meter which builds up. By pressing the shift key, you can unleash your adrenaline and become more efficient in combat, dealing more damage and taking less. Should you fill all four bars of your adrenaline and use it, you'll unleash your ultimate skill which sadly I didn't get to do.

Each character class comes with three skills, used with the Q, E and F keys. Each skill when used must cool down, so it can't be used immediately after. The Enforcer has some kinda shout skill (dunno what it does), a spinning attack with his sword and finally his sword can become a fire sword. It's pretty cool. The strategy of Battlecry is to know when to use your adrenaline and your skills in battle. 

The match we played was a control match, everyone knows what that is. At first my team didn't do very well but we eventually won the ten minute match. 

After Battlecry, I wanted to see the final Penny Arcade Q&A but unfortunately it was suggested to me that if I wanted to meet Gabe and Tycho for the scheduled signing, I would have to pick one or the other, so sadly I skipped the Q&A and lined up early for Gabe and Tycho. They signed my stuff and I asked them a few questions which they were more than happy to answer.

I rejoined my friends in the table top area and from there we played a few rounds of Cards Against Humanity, which is so much fun. It's great because all you need is a sense of humour and it's really easy to learn.

After we played for a while, we eventually lined up to the main theater to watch the final round of the Omegathon, which serves as the closing ceremony of PAX. The final round involved an old Atari game called Combat, which is a shooting tank game. It was hilarious and so fun to watch and be a part of.

It saddens me that PAX is over, amusingly people call it “Post PAX Depression” and to further add salt to the wound I got sick on my way back home. That being said, I had an amazing time at PAX, I can't wait until next year, I'd like to try and make this an annual thing. It's a great and fun experience that I recommend to any nerd, geek or gamer. If you identify yourself as any, or perhaps all of these things, then you have to experience PAX.

Come home.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of GameRevolution, but we believe it's worthy of being featured on our site. This article, posted on November 3, has been lightly edited for grammar. You can find more Vox Pop articles here. ~ Ed. Nick Tan 

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Nostalgia, or something more?
Posted on Monday, June 2 2014 @ 13:05:57 Eastern

This member blog post was promoted to the GameRevolution homepage.

A few weeks ago I had finally finished Dark Souls II for PC. Since finishing that game, I haven't really been playing anything else. I should be, considering I have a few unfinished titles for my 3DD but I prefer to save them for times when I am traveling and on the go. I picked up Watch Dogs last week for my PS4 and despite the mixed views it's receiving, I like it, but I have a sneaky suspicion that Watch Dogs may go on hold for a while in favor of Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U and now The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, the HD edition.

I love Mario Kart 8, it's an incredible game and I've praised it enough on here at the GameRevolution forums so I won't go into much detail. What I had completely forgotten about though and was reminded thanks to an article here at GR, is that for a limited time, if you register your copy of Mario Kart 8 to Club Nintendo online, you can download one Wii U game for free from a list of ten. I chose The Legend of Zelda.

I first played The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker back on the GameCube in 2003. That's eleven years ago. I was fifteen years old at the time and it was one of the hardest times in my teenage life. Now, I mean no disrespect to anyone but I'm sure there are people out there who can relate to what I am about to discuss.

When I was a teenager I didn't have a very good time. I didn't have many friends at school and those who were apparently my friends were not so much when behind my back. I was bullied, a lot, for about five years. Most of the time the bullying was verbal but there were times when these encounters became physical and violent. I hated going to school and quite often I would pretend to be sick so I could stay home and not go to school to face those bullies. I felt so bad and ashamed about myself that there were times when I honestly wanted to, how can I say, just end it.

I was picked on for absolutely stupid reasons. I was overweight back then. I was quiet and shy (still am). I didn't have the privileges or possessions many of the other kids had. These are all reasons that people, whether it's kids, teenagers, or adults should not be copping abuse for. Despite not having the same privileges and possessions of the other kids, my brothers and I were lucky to receive video games every now and then, usually for birthday or Christmas presents, something I am eternally grateful to my parents for.

I've grown up with video games my whole life and they're a big influence on me. Like many of you, I love games. I love the stories, I love the interaction, the graphics and visuals, the sound and music, the gameplay. Nintendo games always have a way to nail all these aspects on the head. Games in general also helped me through these difficult times as a teenager. It's sad but I must admit, I used games as a form of an escape.

I remember my older brother got The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker for Game Cube for his birthday back in 2003. I remember this, because I remember when playing this game I was going through one of the toughest times in my teenage life (which I won't get into). I just remember that this game was something that seriously helped me during those times. One of my favorite things about the game was the travel mechanic, sailing on a boat.

Back then when I was fifteen years old and playing this game, I would sail on the digital seas of Hyrule, traveling from one destination to the next whilst listening to the in-game music and strangely, I would feel so calm, so at peace. I would think about the things in my life that made me happy and I wouldn't think about all the things that were making me so miserable. It was a really nice feeling.

Now that I have the HD edition for the Wii U, almost the exact same feeling struck me again as soon as I started sailing for the first time. While it was a similar feeling, a calm feeling of peace, I wasn't thinking about things to make me happy but rather, I was reflecting, thinking about myself eleven years ago when I played this game, thinking about the times and what I was going through back then. I then wonder, as I sail those digital waters, the kids who bullied me back in my teenage years, where are they now, what are they doing? To confess, normally when I reflect on bullies of the past, it usually fills me with negative emotions; however, when I reflected back on these bullies whilst sailing in-game, I felt no negative emotion, I only felt peace.

One of the reasons I love The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker so much is because not only is it a great game in its own right, but it seriously helped me through one of the hardest times of my teenage life, and funnily enough it was mostly because of the sailing aspect of the game.

Do you have any games that have helped you through tough times? You don't have to tell us what was going on at the time, but I would love to hear what games helped you through these difficult times.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of GameRevolution, but we believe it's worthy of being featured on our site. This article, posted earlier in May 31, has been lightly edited for grammar and image inclusion. You can find more Vox Pop articles here. ~Ed. Nick Tan

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One month onboard the Normandy
Posted on Monday, December 2 2013 @ 00:11:34 Eastern

This member blog post was promoted to the GameRevolution homepage.

Warning: This blog entry may contain spoilers about the Mass Effect trilogy.

About four weeks ago I was bored, really bored. It was a Saturday night and like the loser that I am I was at home bored. I had recently finished Batman: Arkham Origins and wanted to play something else. I couldn't play anything on my PS3, because my brother and his girlfriend were using my TV to watch stuff off Netflix. I rummaged through my old PC games and curiously, I pulled out the first Mass Effect.

I first played Mass Effect back in 2010, a little late considering it came out in 2007. With little knowledge about the game, other than the fact it's an RPG developed by Bioware, I bought Mass Effect on a whim for like... twenty bucks. Nowadays, I would honestly consider Mass Effect to be my favourite video game franchise.

I have finished all the Mass Effect games before, but it was over a period of time. I didn't play Mass Effect 2 until a couple of months after I finished the first one and then I waited over a year for a chance to play Mass Effect 3. Overall, it's an emotional experience and a lot of people won't disagree with that, but what would the emotion be like if played over a shorter period of time and not having to wait? So, I made John Shepard, Earthborn Alliance Navy Commander and Soldier, the Sole Survivor of a mission gone terribly wrong.

As much as I love Mass Effect's storyline and dialog, I forgot how clunky the game feels and how static the cut scenes can be and oh my God the Mako vehicle segments suck hardcore.

When I finished Mass Effect, I immediately began to install Mass Effect 2. Because I wanted the best storyline experience I felt possible, I also purchased and installed all storyline related DLC for both Mass Effect 2 and 3. Following the Paragon path of the first game, I decided to try and remain on Paragon the entire time. I basically wanted to do what I felt was the right thing.

I forgot how much better Mass Effect 2 feels compared to 3. Being able to vault over cover, having simpler but more effective shooting and melee mechanics, a simpler and more streamlined skill and item system... a lot of people disagreed with Mass Effect 2 feeling it was more shooter and less RPG, but I certainly approved and appreciated this new formula.

I also appreciated Mass Effect's 2 much darker storyline. The first game had a great plot, don't get me wrong, but Mass Effect 2 felt so much more intense. It wasn't about just completing a mission; it was about survival. In the first game, Shepard and the Normandy crew were chasing a rogue Spectre all over the galaxy in order to stop him, while Mass Effect 2 is about fighting a very dangerous group who is barely seen, let alone known by the galaxy, diving into a mission that has such low chances of survival, it's deemed as suicide. Well... Shepard's entire squad survived. The entire Normandy crew survived.

Even though the main storyline of Mass Effect 2 was finished, I still had the storyline DLC to do, such as Overlord and Arrival. I've never played Arrival before, so completing Arrival to me felt like the real conclusion of Mass Effect 2 and makes the beginning of Mass Effect 3 makes a little more sense to me. Once Arrival was done, I immediately installed Mass Effect 3 as well as all accompanying storyline DLC, some of which I have never played before, such as the Citadel and the Extended Cut. I was looking forward to the Extended Cut because, like many fans, the original ending left me with mixed feelings. The Extended Cut is in my opinion how the game should truly end.

To me, Mass Effect 3 is definetely the most fun to play out of the three. The combat system is enhanced slightly, being able to vault over cover without hiding behind it to begin with, extra melee attacks, being able to jump and roll around. It feels a lot of fun to play. The graphics are certainly a lot better, I love the sheen and shine off Shepard's armour.

The Citadel DLC was amazing. Quite possibly the best DLC I have ever played for any game, period. For my playthrough I decided to save the Citadel DLC until the very end, right before the second final mission, which is storming the Illusive Man's base. The Citadel DLC is very well-written, funny and really provides emotional closure for you and the characters. To me, this seemed like the perfect way to in a sense, round things up, the calm before the storm. Storming the Illusive Man's base is a one-way trip, as once that's done, it's time for the final battle on Earth and from there, there's no going back.

It was the finale onboard the Citadel with the Catalyst that got me the most. I chose the "green" ending, the synthesis ending. Seeing Shepard run toward the chasm before leaping inside without a second thought, his body slowly tearing away with his energy becoming part of the Crucible's energy. Shepard's memories flashing to those who have sacrificed themselves in the Reaper war, then to his friends and comrades and finally his loved one. You then see the crew of the Normandy, the ship's pilot Joker frantically at the controls before one of the crew members takes him by the shoulder and says, "We have to go". Joker clearly doesn't want to, he doesn't want to leave Shepard behind, but he's got no choice, "Damn it." he mutters, before flying the Normandy away from the activated Crucible.

Those last words, "Damn it", was the biggest hit to me. Because those words meant that it was all over. This was the end.

Not to stray too far off topic, but I feel kind of stupid for being so emotionally invested in a video game. In all fairness, though, people may react in a similar manner to watching movies, television shows, reading a book or listening to music. All those forms of media have the potential to reach out to people, pull them in and really create some feelings in that person, to make them feel emotion about the story, which I think is a very beautiful thing.

I discussed this briefly with Daniel over the forums, but the Mass Effect series is very emotional. You invest so much time in learning the personalities of other characters as you get to know them, you explore strange, brilliant and imaginative worlds and cultures and you do so much for the galaxy, or yourself if you choose such a path. That's the beauty of the series; while it is Shepard's story, it's essentially your story. My playthrough may be considered boring to some or even most, but to me it felt right and it was the story I wanted to hear. The people around you, the galaxy itself and the overall storyline takes new shape and form depending on your actions and decisions. Seeing it all come to a close, seeing it all finish, seeing an end to Shepard's journey, to your journey, it's very emotional.

It took me four weeks to play the entire Mass Effect trilogy. I played mostly on the nights of a weekend (Friday and Saturday nights) with a couple of hours in between throughout the week. It may just be a video game but to me it felt like so much more. It's story, a journey of great and epic proportion, with brilliantly realized and written characters, a unique and huge universe and so much to see and do. Seeing it all come to an end makes me happy, but at the same time makes me kind of sad, in more ways than one. Still, playing the Mass Effect trilogy and only the Mass Effect trilogy from start to finish over a month? I don't regret it. It was worth it.

I can't wait for the next installment of Mass Effect, even if Shepard will have nothing to do with it. I'd love to cosplay as Shepard one day, but I would probably look like an idiot.

The opinions expressed here does not necessarily reflect the views of Game Revolution, but we believe it's worthy of being featured on our site. This article, posted originally on November 28, 2013, has been lightly edited for grammar and image inclusion. You can find more Vox Pop articles here. ~Ed. Nick Tan

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Quick enough for quick time?
Posted on Wednesday, February 25 2009 @ 04:30:20 Eastern

So what's everyone's thoughts on quick time events?

Personally, I'm not very fond of them, unless they're done right. How they're done right though is a good question because everyone probably has different opinions as to how it should be ...   read more...

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