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Author Archives: Trever Bierschbach

C2E2 is Still Better than Comic Con

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Yah, I said it.

I used to go do Wizard World Chicago every year, like a religious pilgrimage to the closest shrine of comic geekdom we had. Then, one year, everything changed and it was suddenly Comic Con Chicago. Vendor booths, artist alley tables, and dealer areas were eaten away to make room for roped off and curtained no-go zones for those who paid big bucks to get signatures from celebrities like Bruce Campbell and Patrick Stewart.

Around the second year of that, if memory serves, we also went to C2E2, Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo.  I believe it was their second year, and it was a small convention, but it reminded me of the early years going to Wizard World.  We had a blast and decided that would become our regular yearly stint.

A bonus was that we always had to make the choice between GenCon and Wizard World. WW always won out due to price.  With C2E2 being earlier in the year, that opened up the opportunity to start going to GenCon as well.  We went to Comic Con one more time after starting to go to C2E2 and, if possible, it was worse than the time before.  It wasn’t about comic books and artists anymore.  It was all about getting in to pay ridiculous sums just to get a glossy picture of an actor signed.

C2E2, while mostly about comics and artists, doesn’t pretend that it’s only a comic book convention.  They do dedicate most of the floor space to comic artists and vendors though.  The amazing part is that in just 7 years they’ve gone from a small show with just shy of 28,000 attendees to a juggernaut topping 80K this past year.

McCormick Place is the perfect venue as well.  Where Comic Con is limited in growth by the Rosemont’s (Donald E. Stephens Convention Center) limited space at 840,000 square feet, McCormick Place boasts 2.6 million, 1.2 of which is all on the same floor.  Just three years ago C2E2 topped New York Comic Con in size, with over 670,000 square feet of space used.  It’s safe to say if it exists in the world of geek culture and you can’t find it at C2E2, you aren’t looking hard enough.

Due to its size, I recommend any attendee go for more than a day.  One day used to be enough for us, whether it was Wizard World, Comic Con, or the early years of C2E2. After the 2015 trip though we knew that wasn’t going to be enough. We were there from opening until about an hour before the floor closed and we felt like we only saw half of it.

Even this year, with two days in Chicago, we didn’t see everything, but we ran out of spending money about lunch time on Saturday and the crowd was getting to be a bit much.  Take your time. Don’t rush; and don’t spend all your money right away.  Best practice, see everything you want to see, and if an item you saw earlier in the day is still on your mind, then go back and get it.  Better to have to backtrack than buy something early and find an item you want more later, but have spent yourself out of funds.

Here’s some other tips for anyone new to large cons:

  • Deodorant
  • Comfy shoes – the show floors are hard despite the carpet
  • Backpack with water bottle compartment – water fountains are free
  • More deodorant – halfway through the day, you’ll wish you could jump into the bathroom and refresh with a damp paper towel and application of deodorant
  • Print/poster tube – pick it up early at one of the many booths selling Dick Blick products. You’ll be glad you did if you buy any art.
  • Phone charger/backup battery – Your battery will drain fast if you use your phone for anything inside a steel and concrete building with no signal strength
  • Dress light, even if it’s cold outside – no matter the temp outside it will be hot in the hall. A short cold walk beats a long sweaty day on the show floor.

Of course, C2E2 is also an entertainment con, so it has a long list of celebrity guests, and some of them cost a lot just for one signature.  The convention does a great job of giving the celebrities space without taking away floor from the comics, artists, and vendors.

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Many of the celebs you meet will also vary in price for autographs from free on up to $60.  I would avoid the meet and greets, though, honestly.  My wife did a meet and greet with Wil Wheaton this year. $60 for a picture with him that he didn’t even sign.  Want that signed? Another $40… yeah, a little disappointing for a long-time fan.

Sure, you get to stand next to them for a second, maybe get a, “Hi, how are ya!” but Michael Cudlitz (Walking Dead, Band of Brothers, Southland) was doing autographs and taking a ton of selfies with fans at his table, and actually talking to people.  We watched from the line to meet Timothy Zahn and it was great to see Mr. Cudlitz treating all of his fans like friends.  He didn’t even sit behind his high table they set up for him.  He came around the side, standing right there with the fans, and it was fantastic.  Granted, Cudlitz had far fewer people in line, but damn if he didn’t show the utmost appreciation for every single one of them.

Other than all that, plan ahead.  Make sure you know what you want to see, and prioritize. You can be in line for a signing longer than anticipated, so don’t schedule anything back to back.  Look for things that aren’t at your local shop, or easily ordered cheaper on Amazon.  Really scope out the deals and find those items that you must have and are hard to find.

Make frequent trips to the car to drop off stuff, but also to get out of the crowd and noise for some fresh air.  The population of a decent-sized city descends on that convention hall and sometimes you just need to get away from it to recharge before diving back in. Above all, have fun.  Any convention you go to is ultimately about that.  Sharing your love for geekdom and having fun.  That’s what makes it all worth it.

Games to Get Excited About: August 2017

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August is looking to be a much better month for game releases with more than 25 games coming out, including Ark, Uncharted, and another Life is Strange title.

There’s a good mix of console and PC releases, and Nintendo continues to slowly add to the Switch library.  A few are continuations of popular franchises, and a couple are re-releases of games we’ve had for awhile, so it’s a mixed bag of new, almost new, and official releases of games we’ve already been playing.

It’s looking like a good month, but a difficult one to pick out a title despite the selection.  Ark is certainly a contender for most exciting release, but unfortunately my experience with it has been hit or miss.  Various bugs, memory leaks, and now unable to even join a server due to a strange error after the last patch has worn down my pleasure with the game.  Then there’s a lot of sports and racing games that just aren’t my cup of tea.  I’d be excited for the Pillars of Eternity Complete Edition release, if I owned a PS4 or XBox, but that’s one I’m sure a few are looking forward to.

That leaves me with one game I’m sort of excited about, even though I haven’t played the original series.  Thankfully, this is a prequel, so I might pick it up to play before going back to the first series.  Life is Strange: Before the Storm Episode 1 comes to us on August 31st and will tell the story of Chloe Price three years before the original game’s story line.  Chloe forms a bond with Rachel Amber, and together they help solve the mystery of Rachel’s family.  Some of the game mechanics have changed, most notably the removal of time travel.  Chloe will instead have a conversation feature called Backtalk that will allow you to manipulate characters in the story.

Why Should we Be Excited?

Obviously, this is a popular series, and a lot of gamers are going to be excited to jump into this world again.  For those of us who have not yet played the first, this could be a good place to hop on the train.  As a prequel one can step into the story without having to know the previous games.  If we enjoy it then we can pick up the first series and continue the story chronologically.  We’re also going to see an added episode covering a character named Max Caulfield, expanding the world’s lore even further.

Whether you’re jumping in to start here, or continuing the story of Chloe in a way, it should turn out to be a good release for August.  I’m seriously considering adding it to my list.  Maybe it will change my mind about this type of game.

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Notable Releases for August

Ark: Survival Evolved – The official release for a game long in early-access comes to us on August 8th.  It’s unclear if the bugs that have plagued it recently have been cleared up, but we’ll see early in the month.  Here’s to more dinosaur taming fun.  The release is for all systems.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice – Also releasing on the 8th for Windows and PS4 is a action game from Ninja Theory, who are touting it as an “Independent AAA” game.  The story works with Norse and Celtic mythology and takes place in the underworld.

Sonic Mania – Sonic rolls into all systems on the 15th as a classic side-scrolling game that the franchise is known for.  The game received a good deal of acclaim at E3 and gamers are excited to return to the feel of what made Sonic a hit.

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy – Dropping on the 22nd this installment follows the story of Chloe Frazer, and stands alone as its own story in the world of Uncharted.  Beside the new characters the game will be much like others in the franchise, incorporating combat and platform play in third-person.

Hello Neighbor – A strange release hits the market on the 29th.  This stealth game has the player attempting to enter his neighbor’s house without getting caught.  The neighbor sets traps while you try to break and enter. Interesting, but odd concept.

 

Games to Get Excited About: July 2017

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As we start through the summer months, the releases to feed our gaming addiction get slimmer and slimmer.  There really only seems to be three actual new games coming in July from any major publishers, and a couple of expansions or re-releases.  That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to look forward to, but this will be a bit of a short post since we don’t really have much to talk about.

Following up on one of the more popular release of 2015, Splatoon 2 is coming near the end of July.  This time the game will be released exclusively on the Switch on the 21st.  Like the original, this will be a 4v4 multiplayer shooter played in the third-person view.  Leading up to the game’s release, you can read the Squid Sister Stories on the official site and catch up on events between the two games.  Players in Europe and Japan will also be able to snatch up pink and green joycon controllers released with the game, though I expect they’ll be available to gamers around the world through third-party suppliers shortly after.

As the story goes, after the first game the sisters go back to relatively normal lives.  They start to do their own thing, but Marie worries that her sister might be having trouble with the events of the first game.  After spending some time together, Marie leaves Inkopolis to see her parents.  When she gets back home she discovers that Callie is missing and the Great Zapfish has been stolen.  Marie believes the Octarians are responsible so goes looking for a squid recruit to infiltrate the Octarians and save the day.

Why Should we be Excited?

Splatoon was popular for a reason.  The game was fun, colorful, and whimsical.  People could play competitively, without the super serious nature of games like Siege or Battlefield.  Those games are fun of course, but sometimes we just want to throw down on some goofy fun, like shooting paint at each other in a ridiculous world of multi-colored squid people.  I think this will be another fun game for people who like to goof off but also have a good time being competitive.  The original spawned a lot of fan art, stories, and even a manga, so it’s likely even more colorful squids are in our future.

Notable Releases for July

Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age – Coming out early in July is a remaster of International Zodiac Job System for Final Fantasy XII that was previously a Japanese-only release.  It’s coming to Playstation 4 exclusively.

Miitopia – An RPG coming to the Nintendo 3DS at the end of the month.  It was previously released in Japan in December of 2016.  It is a fairly standard JRPG using the popular Mii avatars for characters.  The characters interactions will affect combat, meaning if they don’t like each other they will be less effective.

Dragon Quest XI – This JRPG is coming to Nintendo Switch, 3DS, and PS4 at the end of the month.  It mixes traditional turn-based combat with exploration like previous titles in the long running series.

Hey! Pikmin – Another game coming to the 3DS at the end of the month this will be a side scrolling adventure game based on the Pikmin franchise.

Games to Get Excited About: June 2017

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June is showing a slimmer release schedule than the earlier months of the year, but there are still a few choice games coming to us for the last month of Spring.  Today, I started playing Little Nightmares, a game I talked about a couple months ago, and I enjoyed it quite a lot.  Hopefully, June will also turn out an equally fun title for all of us to enjoy.  Without much more babbling; onto the game that looks to be the most promising of the bunch.

Tekken 7 is probably the most anticipated game coming in the month of June.  Originally, it was released in Japan in 2015, with an expansion called Tekken 7: Fated Retribution released in 2016.  As with previous titles, Tekken 7 focuses on 1-on-1 fighting, but has added new mechanics.  Power crush allows players to attack even when they are being overwhelmed by their enemy, though it doesn’t stop the damage.  The second new feature is rage art which allows the player to trade their normal attack power increase for a more damaging critical hit.

The game’s story features a darker theme according to the producer Katsuhiro Harada.  It is the conclusion of the Mishima Clan saga and will answer the questions about the feud between the Mishimas and Jin Kazama.  There are several side stories related to non-Mishima characters, and Akuma from Street Fighter will have a guest spot.  The cast of fighters is huge and as diverse in technique and nationality as expected of the series.

Why I’m Excited

Why am I excited?  That’s a good question on this one, because fighting games aren’t normally my bag.  Except for Soulcalibur that is.  I won’t be buying Tekken, but there is reason to be excited to see a tent pole franchise get another release with a lot of excitement and discussion.  It means we’re more likely to get another Soulcalibur release before too long.  Hopefully in time for me to pick up the Switch next year or so.  So yah that’s me being honest, I’m excited for this one because it might mean another release of about the only fighting game I liked.

Notable Releases for June

Seiken Densetsu Collection – Originally released as a Final Fantasy game under the title Final Fantasy Adventure the Mana series is an action RPG set in a fantasy world.  The game releases on June 1st and will include Seiken Densetsu: Final Fantasy Gaiden, Seiken Densetsu II, and Seiken Densetsu III.

Dirt 4 – Coming early in June is the 6th installment of the rally racing game Dirt.  It’s the 12th in the Colin McRae Rally series.  Spanning 5 regions around the world players will race on various surfaces, under changing weather conditions, and can even race in procedurally generated tracks to keep things unique.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn – The last expansion for the Final Fantasy XIV MMO comes out at the middle of June.  The base game has been through a roller coaster of criticism, development and redevelopment, and finally success.  This will also mark the end of PS3 support for the game.

Much Ado About Medocrity: The Drama Around Mass Effect

Much Ado About Medocrity: The Drama Around Mass Effect

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The Mass Effect series has been a highly regarded RPG franchise since 2007.  Even with the widely criticized ending of Mass Effect 3, the series is considered by most to be the pinnacle of story-telling RPGs.  In my opinion, it has been the game that’s kept Bioware on the map all these years when compared to other releases from the company.  It has spawned comics, film prospects, novels and more, and has over 14 million units sold before the release of the latest installment.

Now, ten years after the release of Mass Effect, Mass Effect: Andromeda is out and the reception is less than stellar.  On Metacritic, where reviewers and gamers rarely agree, the game has a critical score of about 77 out of 100 (as of this writing) and right about 4 out of 10 with gamers.  It’s being criticized for everything from bad animation, rehashing of dated mechanics, and poorly developed story.  A couple of reviewers whose opinion I trust give their initial reactions as a mediocre installment at best.

While much of the criticism is without a doubt justified, some few have gone beyond that.  You can’t really go on Twitter without seeing memes, gifs, and screencaps of the bad animations in the game.  That’s all normal for something like this.  What isn’t normal are the people going after one animator that doesn’t even seem to work for Bioware any longer.  Whether she was involved is a matter of debate, but targeting one person on a team for actual harassment isn’t acceptable at all.  Linking them here would be pointless, but if you look, you’ll find a couple of amateur trash bloggers out there with some pretty terrible pieces on the subject.

Then came the defenders to stir the pot and make it worse.  Articles coming out blaming whole swaths of gamers for the harassment, which is completely untrue.  Commentators and games media saying you should support the developer by buying the game and so on.  People defending the game out of pure righteous indignation because of the negative feedback.

All the drama boils down to this.  A lot of people dislike a mediocre game.  A few people have decided to be jerks about it.  A few other people have decided to defend it with large sums of money.  All of it over a game that doesn’t appear to be up to the standards of the franchise.  All this drama, over nothing really.  The worst part is, I can see this eventually becoming the next big marketing ploy.  Crank out a lackluster game, get some bad coverage, stage some harassment or drama, signal the defenders, cash the checks.  We all know publishers aren’t above some seriously low garbage to sell games and get good reviews.  This is well within the realm of possibility.

So, if we want better games, stop buying bad ones for stupid reasons.  Don’t harass developers because they didn’t do a good job on a game.  Stop letting the media blow things out of proportion or convince you to throw your money after bad ideas.  And for Gods’ sake, play some decent games.  I hear Neir Automata is good.

Games to Get Excited About: May 2017

Games to Get Excited About: May 2017

I love FPS games, multiplayer and solo.  It’s a hard tossup between them and RPGs for my favorite type of game.  This means I have to be picky in the games I choose because I have neither the time, nor the money, to get all the games I would like.  For solo shooters especially, this means I’m looking for something that’s part of an established franchise I already know, or something new and unique.  I’m looking for something with a twist on classic mechanics, like the shooter that isn’t a shooter, Portal.  It also helps to have a unique story that gives the game more to offer than simply “kill the waves of bad guys as you navigate down the hall.”

Shooters that are primarily multi-player get a bit of a pass from me, because I know I’m not buying say, Battlefield 4, because I am looking for a good single player experience.  For single player shooters (or mostly single player) I’m looking for something like Half Life 2, DOOM, or to a lesser extent The Division and Ghost Recon: Wildlands.  I want a good world to play around in with a good story, a reason for your protagonist to be fighting the good fight.

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May’s feature game seems to be one of these.  After a rocky start, cancellation, name and engine changes, and settling on a reboot, Prey is finally coming out early in May.  Originally, we were to get Prey 2 from 3D Realms, then Human Head Studios.  Finally, Bethesda announced that the Prey reboot would be made by Arkane Studios, and while it would borrow the setting and lore from the previous game, it is going to be a complete reboot without any previous elements of the cancelled sequel.  It is being developed by part of the team responsible for Dishonored, and has been built from the ground up around the original game’s concept.  It is being described as more of a psychological thriller than a horror game.

In Prey you take the role of Morgan Yu, a character you can customize from appearance to gender at the beginning of the story.  You’ll navigate the halls, and the outside hull, of Talos 1, orbiting the moon.  In Prey’s alternate timeline, Kennedy survived and the space program went much further than reality.  During events of the original game, an alien army called the Typhon was imprisoned on Talos 1, and now you have to go back and fight the aliens trapped there.  The developers promise different endings based on your choices in the game, and a non-linear experience.  I like the concept, and the promise of a story with multiple paths.  If Arkane can deliver, they may just give us one of the better FPS games this year.  It will be available for all systems early in the month.

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Why I’m Excited

I am loving the alternate timeline part of the story.  I’ve always liked books and movies that show our world but with a ‘what if’ twist.  Of course that’s most of sci-fi or fantasy, but a lot of them deal with the ‘what if’ of things happening in the future.  What if the world were taken over by aliens, or people had to abandon the planet because it blows up?  Prey goes back and asks what if Kennedy had lived and the space program became one of our top priorities.  The repercussions of expanding into space, of course, is a war with the Typhon, and the building of a joint space station to hold them.

Watching a couple videos, the graphics are great.  What little bit I saw looks suspenseful, but not on the level that Doom 3‘s Mars base was.  It’s more like the sterile creepiness that made Portal fun to explore.  I like how big it looks, at least from the videos I saw, and how clean the textures look.  We’re not dealing with a run-down mining station in space, or an old military outpost (anymore).  The Talos 1 station is meant to be a corporate outpost, and it looks it.  Of course that may change as you progress through the game, but I like the looks of it.

I’m also excited because it promises to fit all the criteria I have for a good FPS.  That doesn’t mean it will deliver, but a multi-path story, mix between FPS and RPG, and a game that’s good to look at.  If Little Nightmares (last month’s feature) doesn’t take too much of my time, I may get this when it comes out.

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Notable Releases for May

Injustice 2 – The sequel to Injustice: God’s Among Us releases on May 16.  Like the first game, this will be a DC Comic themed fighting game featuring all your favorite DC heroes and villains, with a lot of new additions.  Along with Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman you’ll get to play as Black Canary, Deadshot, Poison Ivy, Supergirl, Swamp Thing and more.  The game will be available on PS4 and XBone.

Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia – Coming to 3DS on May 19th, this is a full remake of Fire Emblem Gaiden.  This is a Japanese tactical RPG and is said to incorporate all of the elements that set Gaiden apart from the rest of the series.

Disgaea 5 – Another tactical RPG coming in May, but this time for the Nintendo Switch on May 23rd.  Players will travel the Netherworld to build an army to fight the Void Dark.

Ys OriginYs Origin is coming to Vita on May 30 and is the prequel to the 7 previous games, taking place 700 years in the past.  The game features three characters with different fighting style with a distinctive story for each that you play in succession to open up the entire plot.  It was previously released on PS4 back in February.

Star Trek: Bridge Crew – This is a VR title coming on the 30th as well which will put four players in control of the U.S.S. Aegis, a starfleet ship in the Kelvin Timeline.  Players will take the role of captain, tactical officer, helm and engineer and work together to operate the ship.

 

Games to Get Excited About: April 2017

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Did we skip a month? Sort of, but not really.  I realized that giving you games to be excited about in the same month as the article doesn’t give you much time to get excited, so the editor Goddesses have let me shake it up a bit and give you a little over a month to let said excitement build.  There’s a few games coming in April, including another Switch title, but the game I’m really excited about is Little Nightmares.

Little Nightmares is a puzzle-based platformer in which a nine year-old girl named Six is trapped in a creepy old house.  The girl is taken to a place called The Maw, which is a twisted resort for the rich and demented.  Given the chance to escape, you must navigate The Maw, looking for a way out, and solving the puzzles in each room with the items you find in each room.

Why We’re Excited

This game looks like Tim Burton and Guillermo del Toro got together and produced a cute, twisted interactive movie.  Watching some of the gameplay videos showed a creepy game with some very cool art style and sound.  It looks like you can explore just about anywhere while to look for ways to unlock rooms and find your way out.  It has a great use of lighting and sound to enhance the experience.

I’m also excited because this reminds me of classic games like Myst and The 7th Guest.  While I enjoy games with combat, fighting, and adventure, sometimes it’s fun to sit back and enjoy something different.  I loved that about both the Portal games as well.  Exploring, solving puzzles, and working my way through a game without having to blow things up and kill imaginary people.

Finally, the art style is probably what hooked me the most.  The game looks beautiful, and unique.  These days any company can give you a realistic world with great character models, and some of them look as real as any CGI in a movie.  It’s getting to where the realism of Battlefield or Arma is the rule rather than the exception.  With Little Nightmares, the art isn’t realistic at all.  It’s got a very unique, exaggerated style that looks like that world would probably look to a frightened child.  Everything is overly large, and strangely distorted.  The bad guys are all grotesque and demented looking.  It looks like something right out of a childhood nightmare, and it’s not like anything I’ve played myself when it comes to the graphics.

Little Nightmares comes out in April of this year and will be available for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.

Notable Releases for April

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – A port of Mario Kart 8 for the Nintendo Switch, this version will feature all of the previously released DLC.  This will bring the franchise we are all familiar with to Nintendo’s new platform on the 28th of April.

Dragon Quest Heroes II – A continuation of the popular hack and slash, Dynasty Warriors style game comes to PS4 on the 25th.  This series combines the play style of the popular Dynasty Warriors with the characters and monsters from the Dragon Quest franchise.

Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 – Is an open-world FPS in which you collect intel to find missions and complete your objectives.  From CI games we’ll see this on PS4, Xbox One, and PC on the 4th.

Persona 5 – Officially the 6th installment of this popular RPG, Persona 5 comes to PS3 and PS4 on the 4th of April.  The game is described as a social simulation and RPG, as you take the role of the silent protagonist living through a year of high school