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Author Archives: Max Urso

Kon or Die Trying

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No RWOG adventure seems to go off smoothly, and Zenkaikon was no exception. Don’t get me wrong, we actually started off on time, which itself should have been an indication that things would not go well.

The parking structure attached to the hotel was full, so we grabbed a spot on the street and paid the fee at the parking kiosk. Press were offered parking vouchers, so we were not concerned. As we circled the block, we saw other people with Crayola colored hair and we new were heading in the right direction.

Entering the air-conditioned Vine street entrance was a much needed relief. I don’t do heat. Stepping up to pre-registration we found out that Vanri and Thia were still on the list as Crymson’s press associates, but it was no problem for them to switch in Aiks and myself. First obstacle conquered.

It was here we also learned that the people with the vouchers would be back later, and that vouchers did not cover street parking. “Sorry…” I quickly asked Aiks to look into finding a parking structure that would get us reimbursed, but Crymson had already marched off into the crowd.

As we stood to the side of the crowd to test our equipment, we found the shotgun microphone for our camera was dead. Thus began, after much frustration, the quest for a mic that worked. Back into the heat of early afternoon Lancaster we went. As we left the area we spotted an open parking structure and all of us made a mental note to come back to that one.

Best Buy was our first stop. A helpful associate riding a mobility device with a Nintendo flag lead us to an empty display peg. Unfortunately, they were sold out. Cursing her luck, Crymson thanked the clerk for her help and we rushed out to the car to try another location.

Wal-Mart. My hopes were not high, and as we left empty handed again, I took in the sight our regal leader: red dress, black corset, blue hair, and gold crown festooned with gems. Crymson was a people-of-Wal-mart. I suppressed a chuckle as Aiks drove us to one last store.

Radio Shack is going out of business, and with most everything still in stock bearing an 80% off sticker…we were desperate. Sadly no shotgun mics were to be had. Dejected, we headed back to the convention.

Our fearless leader swallowed her frustration and mustered on, working with what we had. The interview with Ellen McClain and her spouse John Patrick Lowrie was incredible, and did boost the morale of our trio. Crymson was ecstatic and took to the tasks ahead of us with a renewed vigor.

Zenkaikon had begun.

Zenkaikon 2017: Impressions

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Hi gang! I’m no stranger to anime. In high school, in the mid ‘80s, my friend had quite the talent for drawing and introduced me to BattleTech, The Macross Saga, and Project A-ko, to drop a few names. When Crymson asked me to assist her in covering the convention, I had no problem saying yes, though taking time off from work to attend was a different matter

I felt vastly out of my element, though. I don’t really know current anime. There were a few exceptions to everything being anime, however. There are plenty of Poison Ivys, Harley Quinns, the occasional Deadpool, Halo warriors, and the rather stifling looking fur-suiter or two as well. When I’d spot one of them, my isolation would fade a teensy bit.

I am confused with the liberal use of white face on the anime cosplayers. Why? Is it an integral part of the character to be ghostly white, or artistic license using contrast to make your colors “pop”? It didn’t seem to fit within the context of the costume, I just don’t get it.

The convention center has some curious points of interest. First, down by registration, behind glass windows sits an archaeological dig. This water cistern seems to have been converted to house runaway slaves. In 2011, the residence, law offices, and Kleiss Tavern of Thaddeus Stevens were named as a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom site by the National Park Service.

From there, the hall rises in several tiers of stairs, escalators, and elevators as the side streets are uphill. The second curiosity is the historical site about midway through the tiers: Montgomery House. This renovated mansion dates back to 1804 and is currently used for catering and special events, having been surrounded by the convention center itself and preserved. It was in these rooms that we had the pleasure of hosting our interviews.

My most comfortable moments, both physically and socially, were when I sat in the upper lounge near Marriott entrance. The “Café” was a string of kiosks one might see exiting a big box store full of hot dogs, pretzels, popcorn and other convenient food. This is where I parked myself to take notes and jot down my impressions before I forgot them. Several tables and a multitude of chairs allow for relaxed people watching. As Moon sailors mingled with monsters, X-men, and Ricks (sans Morty), I found myself identifying with the forgotten odd parent or two. Yes, here waited the guardians of the non-adult cos-players with pretzel and soda in hand, probably thinking the same thing I did.

I am so out of place.

Game Review: Randal’s Monday

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Game Review: Randal’s Monday

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Daedalic has a winner here with Randal’s Monday, a point-and-click adventure game currently available on Steam. The humor is crass, vulgar, and full of nostalgia.  Randal is a kleptomaniac douche who swipes his buddy’s wallet and the engagement ring within.

The bad news, for Randal, is the ring is cursed. What follows is a time-loop scenario with a slight twist: whatever Randal changes stays changed and alters the space-time continuum wreaking havoc on reality.

The dialogue is all spoken, sometimes though with a speed that left me frantically clicking to advance it. The artwork is decent with many hidden Easter-eggs to well known fandoms. There’s even a sci-fi convention, and a guest star (voiced by the actual actor, if my ears are correct) who has slightly more than a cameo in the tribulations of Randal.

8/10 paws

 

Top 10 (Nerdy) Ways to Spend Your Tax Refund

So here we are, deep into February with March right around the corner.  It’s the beginning of tax season and with all that’s fit to buy, I’m going to offer up my top ten choices to spend a tax refund on:

10. Steam Wallet

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First off, Steam is addicting. With a sale for every season and weekly deals the year round, I suggest you dump part (or all) of you refund into your steam wallet. When the Spring sale starts, you won’t be able to cry you don’t have money in your bank account; it’ll be right there on Steam waiting for you to spend.

9. Kickstarter

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Following a close second to the constant games on sale are games yet to come out. Feeling nostalgic for a game you used to play? There’s likely a reboot, or an anniversary edition being crowdfunded on Kickstarter. I’ve got my 20th Anniversary Whiskey Box Edition of Deadlands coming and I can’t wait. New ideas abound there as well. There might be an awesome game you don’t know you’ll love just waiting for you to back it.

8. VR Equipment

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Virtual reality is hot, even Pornhub is into it (so I’m told). The high end phones, and even the PlayStation all have VR tech waiting to gobble up your cash.  There are inexpensive models you can purchase for your phone if you’re not ready for a setup the same price as a full console.

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Review: Grim Dawn

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Review: Grim Dawn (7/10)

I don’t know what it is about steampunk and muzzle loader guns that attract me so, but I do love them in an RPG. Grim Dawn (available on Steam) is just such a game.

In Grim Dawn you play one of the Taken, a victim of demonic possession in a world gone to hell. Freed from your servitude at the end of a hangman’s noose, you are left with a connection to those demonic energies. This connection allows you to use Rift Gates as shortcuts to jump to and from the hubs you’ll encounter along the way of the linear story progression.

You’ll also be able to wield magical energies, as well as martial, as you level. The combination of two classes (chosen from a variety pack of 6) each with its own multipath of trees to specialize in. The customizations available are vast, and that’s got to be one the things that draws me to this game time and time again.

To date, according to Steam, I’ve logged 97 hours in the game. I still haven’t gotten out of the second chapter, or progressed beyond the mid 20s in level. That’s my fault though, too many creation choices.

The graphics are gory, the sound squishy, and the color scheme of the first areas a tad depressing. It is an apocalyptic setting however, so I urge you to look past that. With only a single body type of each gender to start with, your gear is the sole way to make you YOU. Find a weapon that suits you in all the myriad of colored-fantasy-rpg-rarities, summon your pets, carry a few potions, and by all means loot the bodies. Iron bits don’t grow on trees.

The Aetherials won’t kill themselves. Go face the Grim Dawn.

Please, Stop.

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Lords, ladies, lads, and lassies, I am Max Urso and I implore you: Please, stop.

This is not a rant, this is a plea.

The gaming industry is inundated with pre-ordered, crowd-funded, early-access betas that fill the internet with hatred and vitriol when they fail to appease. We’re so addicted to instant gratification that we can’t wait for a finished product to come out. The game developers are more than happy to take our money to fund their unfinished products. It’s a dysfunctional relationship, and I’m not sure who the abuser is and who is the enabler.

Mind you, I’m as guilty as the next guy of feeding into this destructive behavior. My Steam library is full of early-access games that I’ve booted up maybe once or twice, only to toss them aside in favor of the next new game that’s not quite ready for the light of day. I have over 100 games in there that aren’t getting played because I’ve drifted back to World of Warcraft and Diablo III. That will change in an instant though, bets are already placed as to how long I’ll stick with my WoW subscription this time. All it will take is a shiny new game on the horizon to catch my eye.

Then, there’s the case of games that are blatant lies. No Man’s Sky sold itself on false promises. There were over 200,000 players on launch day on Steam alone, and today there’s slightly over 2,000. That’s a 90% loss due to features not present in the finished product but talked of in the promotional media leading up to it’s release. These remaining few die hard fans who read between the lines, ignored the hype, and knew what they were buying are the only ones still playing it.

My gaming habits aside, I still play NMS. I like it, but I made it my own (The Lost Files 1). I don’t play it everyday, but I do enjoy it. My point is that we, as consumers, are obligated to think before we spend our money. It’s too easy to click-click-click and purchase a game without thinking of the consequences, but we must. The game developers will keep offering pre-orders if we keep buying into it.

Day one patches, and paid DLCs (that years ago would have been free) are more of the same bad relationship symptoms between us and them. If nobody bought DLCs, then would they still make them? Would they instead offer them for free or as part of the initial content?

Use the power of your wallet intelligently. Wait for the release. Wait for reviews. Sure, most critics seemed biased or possibly even show a preference, but that’s why we need to do our research. Stop giving the game developers an excuse to release a shoddy game. It is the responsibility of the developers to put out a finished, polished product, and it is our responsibility to hold them accountable by not paying for anything less.

 

Top 10 TV Distractions From Gaming

*This Article Contains Spoilers*

Summer is over. Gone are the heatwaves and lovely days spent in air conditioned game rooms, typing away furiously at our keyboards. October, with its fall TV lineup beckons us to give our fingers a reprieve, even if briefly. Here are my choices for worthy distractions from gaming:

1. The Flash

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Season three is coming up and they’re starting off with “Flashpoint Paradox.” Barry’s lost his Dad, his Mom, and has experienced so much anguish due to what he perceives as his actions, that he’s gone back and altered the timeline. With the interconnectivity of the four DC shows on the CW, this will most likely have repercussions for the others as well.

2. Arrow 

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Oliver and Team Arrow have dealt with Damien Darhk, thwarted a global nuclear event, and lost a member of their own team. Has Team Arrow become unstrung? Hitting its fifth season, this gritty vigilante show is a can’t miss! I still believe that Oliver Queen was a replacement for Bruce Wayne, but the CW couldn’t get the IP rights to do a Batman show while the Dark Knight trilogy was on the big screen. There have been several names and organizations that were part of the Bat lore, and this only goes to support my theory.

3. Supergirl

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The Kryptonian 20-something finds herself switching networks this season, and possibly due in part to the repercussions of The Flash. Her cousin, Clark has been cast, and there are rumors that Batgirl and other female DC heroes will make an appearance. With a new network that has a good record with the genre so far, I’m hoping they lean away from the “After School Special” of Kara’s first season.

4. DC’s Legends of Tomorrow

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The fourth installment of CWs DC lineup has a time traveling spaceship with several of the network’s second string heroes bouncing through time attempting to fix timeline errors.

5. Supernatural

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The Winchesters and crew have put over a decade on the air dealing with all manner of monsters, reality bending magic, and even self-deprecating humor. A friend of mine has said they jumped the shark back when Chuck revealed himself to be the Creator. Happy Days jumped the shark in its fifth season and went on for six more after that. Not a bad record to follow. With Sam thinking Dean has sacrificed himself, Dean finding his Mother has been returned from the afterlife, and Chuck and Amara taking a powder and leaving earth on it’s own, season 12 has me chomping at the bit to see what becomes of Moose and Squirrel.

6. Luke Cage

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Netflix is doing great with their Marvel titles, and this one looks to be no different. A reluctant hero with impervious skin and great strength, Luke brings a cool element to the planned line-up that’s still rolling out. Next year we are scheduled to get Iron Fist and The Defenders rounding out the last of Netflix’s Marvel heroes and the aggregate team show.

7. Gotham

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This show has gotten a lot of hate, and going into its third year has been no different. Roles are being recast, leaving many fans to wonder if Batman will be fighting villains escaped from the old folk’s home once he gets his suit on. I am willing to let the storyline play out and see where the writers take us. DC is known for its alternate universes and I see no problem with that. I almost wonder if Jim Gordan and Bruce Wayne will be this Gotham‘s Batman and Robin.

8. Agents of Shield

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Marvel TV brings us the fourth season of this super-spy team. Phasing out their X-men comic titles due to property right arguments has brought the Inhumans to the forefront on TV. Things are still a bit rocky as the movie adaptions of the Inhumans has been delayed. I love the dynamic of Coulson, Fitz, Simmons, and the rest of the team, though, and I will be trying my best to fit them into my TV watching schedule.

9. Doctor Who

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What’s this? No capes? The Doctor is still a superhero in my book, and I regret that I must catch him after his seasons have aired.  When Season 10 hits this fall, that should unlock Season 9 on Amazon Prime which has acquired the airing rights here in the US.

10. The Walking Dead

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Rick Grimes is a badass. After dealing with Walkers, The Governor, and the Wolves, he now has to contend with the Saviors and Negan. Somebody will die, and possibly two as the show has a history of running parallel to the comics and making fitting substitutions. I also predict that AMC will be ending the show after this Negan plotline is dealt with.