I like games... and tattoos. Yes, those.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Spliced Magazine

I have been very scarce, I'm aware of this. Hopefully once you see the reason why I will be forgiven, because I've been working on an incredibly exciting project.

For the past month, together with some amazing creative people, I've been in the process of putting together and launching Spliced Magazine, a hybrid pop culture magazine that showcases gaming, comic books, movies, tech and lifestyle.

I could wax lyrical about the fantastic response we've gotten from the public and about the process that went into making this a reality, but instead I'm going to show you a picture of the awesome cover, and encourage you to go and take a look.

A large portion of my gaming content will likely now make it's way on to this platform along with our website which will work in conjunction with the magazine to provide additional content. I will still be using my blog to post content that doesn't fit in that space, so feel free to check back every now and again.

In the meantime - welcome to The Spliced Life.


Find us at www.splicedmagazine.com
On Twitter @SplicedMag
On Facebook /splicedmagazine

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Animal Crossing New Leaf - Blogger Challenge


With a few days left to go I thought I should do a round up of my ACNL experiences, and the progress my town has made.

As I've mentioned in other posts, my town is called Elioton, and my first ordinance that I instated was a policy of cleanliness and beauty. There's nothing I find sadder than a town that looks derelict, and in an effort to avoid this I wandered around pulling up weeds, planting flowers and trying overall to make the place look spic and span.


In fact, much as I love my house, I would say my focus is more on my town than my house, which largely ends up being a storage facility for stuff I don't want to sell but need to empty out of my pockets.

On the other hand, any money I earn is focussed on improving my town, although damn it takes a long time to do this, and Elioton's residents really don't contribute very much to the campaign overall.

The streetlamp I built, partially because it wasn't quite the cheapest thing on the last, but close to it, generated a fair amount of excitement, but the next project I moved on to was an additional cobblestone bridge so I didn't have to walk the entire length of the countryside to cross the river.


I haven't spent a great deal of time cultivating the "High Street" in my town, mainly because shops seem to be opening up and doing fairly well on their own, although I have no idea what I did to incite this kind of growth.

I can mainly admit to loving the island I visit with regularity, partly because of the challenges I can complete, and also because it's nice to have a change every now and then. Take a load off. Relax.

Animal Crossing is a game that requires a substantial investment of time, time that as a rule I generally don't have! That said I've attempted to make a real effort to grow and develop my town, and even though that progress has been slow at times, at least I've made headway.

I've developed relationships with the other residents of my town, cultivating friendships, visiting their houses, attending birthday parties, and see the town grow and expand has been very gratifying as new people move in.


On one occasion I had someone want to leave, and I'm not sure if it's because they were feeling neglected or if they just needed a change, but with a bit of encouragement I coaxed them into staying.

I may not win this blogger challenge. I may not have the biggest and best town of all the participants. But I've become invested in my town and in it's inhabitants, and sentimental as it may sound, isn't that the point? This is not Sim City, where you expand and grow into the biggest metropolis in the region. This is Animal Crossing. Small, but intimate.


Monday, August 12, 2013

ACNLZA Gallery - Blogger Challenge

So just in case you don't believe that I've been clocking in my hours on Animal Crossing New Leaf, I thought I'd put together a little gallery of my journey so far, including some of the more random moments...

Meeting friends


Town business


Catching butterflies


Trying on hats


Cherry picking


Exploring the town at night


Digging for treasure


Island paradise


Mining


Happiness is...


Sailing


Party at Yuka's place


The town has a street lamp!


Flowers


Fortune teller


Star Matrix


And the fireworks begin!


Exactly!


Fossil collecting


Meeting new peeps


Creepy Mario room... says me while I'm in someone else's house...


This pretty much says it all!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

ACNLZA Blogger Challenge


I've neglected my town. For a whole 2 days. It's true, I'm a bad mayor.

Ok, in fairness I've spent the last couple of days in bed with the flu, dosed up on meds and sleeping, but I was quite ashamed of myself when I arrived back in Elioton (this is my town's name in case you hadn't guessed), to find my towns folk telling me (in the nicest possible way because they're rarely grumpy) that they were feeling like I should pay more attention.

They are completely right of course, I can't run a town and then not put in any effort. Especially when I have bills to pay!

I'm busy trying to pay off the renovations on my house, as well as the public works project of building an additional bridge to cross the river that runs through my town because I was tired of having to walk the entire length of the town in order to cross the river.

Luckily of course when I can no longer collect stuff to sell during the day, I can still make a night time excursion to the island to go on tours and gather exotic fruit... to sell the next day when I get back to Elioton (at an inflated rate for imported goods of course!)

Oh! Also forgot to mention that you need to be careful when shaking trees! I dislodged a beehive and got stung quite badly so I'm currently a bit worse for wear with one eye swollen shut... Good thing I'm not allergic...

I've been taking screenshots regularly, so will post my town in pictures later when I get home for work...

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

#MyAcerA1

I recently became a brand ambassador for the nifty Acer Iconia A1 tablet. It launches in the country tomorrow, the 24th July 2013, and the launch event promises to be a tech geek's dream.

So my dream basically.

Well, mine and a couple of other lucky peeps who were also selected to be a part of the Acer family.

This not quite 8-inch tablet is run on Android, and is super fast with 1GB of RAM. In comparison to some of the other Android tablets I've used it doesn't lag at all.

As is the usual with Android it's completely customisable, but my favourite feature has to be the multiple user functionality.

This means I can load up all my stuff, customise how I want it to look, and then set up another profile for my husband or my kid, that is completely unique to them. It doesn't interfere with mine at all. Pretty nifty when you have a toddler who likes to move app icons around!

Looking forward to the launch event tomorrow!

Anyway, for more updates on the awesomeness that is the Iconia A1 (luckily I really do like this tablet!) make sure you check back, and follow the #MyAcerA1


Monday, July 15, 2013

Animal Crossing New Leaf Blogger Challenge!

I have to state up front that I have never really played Animal Crossing before. Sure I knew it existed, I'd heard all the rave reviews, but the idea of it never really appealed to me.

And then Nintendo South Africa approached me about taking part in their Blogger Challenge. They sent me a code, I tried it out and I've now been playing Animal Crossing: New Leaf, the newest game in the franchise, for around two weeks.

I. Am. Addicted.

It's undeniably cute. It's about building and expanding your town (of which you are the mayor incidentally), and there are a great many little tasks to complete in order for you to do this, but ultimately it's about building relationships with the anthropomorphic creatures that live in your town.

You can visit other towns (or go on state visits as I think of them) as well so you're not confined to a single location. 

And now, beginning on Wednesday the 17th July, the Blogger Challenge goes live in which 8 of us will compete for votes from you guys for the best town.

Plus if you vote you can also win a 3DSXL hamper. Pretty nifty right?

So make sure you vote for me! It would make me happy...

In the meantime, watch the trailer below :)




E3 2013 - Lost Planet 3 Developer Interview

This year at E3 I was lucky enough to be able to sit down with one of the producers of Lost Planet 3, Andrew Szymanski, to chat a bit about the upcoming game and discuss some of the challenges they faced in development.


What are your thoughts on Lost Planet 3? Are you looking forward to it or are you going to give it a skip?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Grand Theft Auto V - Is it bigger and better?

This in depth look at GTA V and it's always impressive and visceral gameplay has just got me excited about this game all over again.

It's always the danger of course - leave a game too long, delay it too often, and you run the risk of losing momentum. Gamers are a fickle bunch and after a while they are no longer excited about your title.

Rockstar as always I think, have managed to pull yet another rabbit out of a hat.

So sit back, relax and enjoy the latest offering for GTA V...


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Saints Row IV: Excuse Me Mr President



You play as the President of the United States.

Right off the bat that is one of the most ridiculous concepts I’ve ever heard. It’s also awesome, mainly because it’s Saints Row, and never has there been a more ridiculous, crazy action adventure franchise.

Well maybe there has, but if so I haven’t found it.

Saints Row IV features Matrix style superpowers, aliens, ridiculous weapons and loud, gaudy locations and vehicles in abundance.

Presidential duties be damned as, in a nutshell, aliens attack the earth and try to imprison everyone in a virtual prison of their own mind. Of course what they didn’t bank on is that the President of the United States is also the leader of the Saints (yeah of course it makes complete sense), and is therefore a complete psychopath.

You must go into other’s virtual nightmares and rescue them, battling additional enemies other than the aliens, some of which are characters from previous games.

I’m sure there will actually be a storyline, and there definitely are missions that require completion, but this crazy open world game was quite honestly so much fun that I didn’t really pay much attention to the narrative at all.

You can drive cool vehicles, including an actual UFO, yes you read correctly, as weoll as weird and whacky weapons such as the Dubstep Gun and Inflate-O-Ray and a White House cannon. Because of course, the President of the United States needs a cannon. 

Saints Row is always over the top, and always chaotic, but in typical Saints Row style it’s bright, loud and most importantly fun.

As is the usual deal with this franchise, you’ll find two player cooperative multiplayer in much the same style as Saints Row III meaning you can share the fun with your friend.

Saints Row IV will be out on the 20th August 2013 for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.

Company of Heroes 2: Behind the scenes with Relic Entertainment

Company of Heroes 2 is the follow up to the successful real time strategy World War 2 game, Company of Heroes, which first hit our PC’s in 2006.

This year at E3 I got the chance to chat to Quinn Duffy, from Relic Entertainment, one of the game’s creators to find out just a little bit more about the title that will hit our shelves in a mere two weeks time.

The most important thing for some of the developers it seems, was a complete love for the franchise and the subject matter, especially considering the disruption to development when their initial publisher THQ, went under. Luckily SEGA picked up the title, and development could continue.



There’s been a fair bit of research into this title too, as the team spent time in Russia and Germany getting to grips with the historical aspects of the game and gaining insight into how the title was to develop. COH2 focuses this time on the Eastern Front of World War 2, and Duffy argues that it was all about authenticity and making sure that not only was the game good, but that it was historically accurate.

The game is narrated by Lev Abramovich Isakovich, through flashbacks as he is interrogated about his war time experiences.

The subject matter especially is considered emotionally sensitive, and not only did the team have to be aware of this, but it was emotionally draining for many of them immersing themselves in it for such a long period of time. This again was also coupled with other challenges like the change in publisher and trying to finish Space Marine at the same time.


Company of Heroes 2 is to be released on PC only, and although Duffy hints at the fact that there might ultimately be an expansion and some DLC, there is nothing confirmed as yet.

There was also some discussion about thoughts around tablet integration, but again nothing that can be confirmed.

Company of Heroes 2 will be out on today, the 25th June 2013 on PC.

Wolfenstein: The New Order


Wolfenstein is one of those classic franchises that brings to mind, certainly for the slightly older gamer, our youth. For the developers, as we were told in a private press screening at E3, it was the reason many of them went into video game development.

Wolfenstein: The New Order harkens back to Wolfenstein 3D, assuming the role of protagonist BJ Blazkowicz, in an alternate history where the Nazi’s won World War 2 using a mysterious technology. BJ is still the action hero originally envisioned by the first Wolfenstein game, but he is recontextualised in a whole new way this time around.


The game is set in Europe, and you and a new character, Anja, must go undercover to infiltrate the Nazi strongholds. While the game is as always, filled with action as you blast your way through Nazi’s left, right and centre, there are also some atypical emotional and romantic moments, making the protagonist just slightly more human at the same time.

The first level we’re shown in this private screening has us engaging a rather psycho (to use the developer’s words!) Frauline and her boy toy Bubi. You’re subjected to a series of racial tests in order to detect if you have “impure” blood, and the tension of this encounter is counteracted only by the emotional response and engagement with Anja following it.

As always this is an FPS game, and the fun, typically aggressive nature of the Wolfenstein series is summed up by the character referring to the “Nazi F****n’ Spacemen”. The humorous narration is balanced by some excellent first person gunplay, with seamless switching between a variety of quite awesome looking and powerful weapons. Visually it also impresses, with gorgeous high resolution textures and suitably cool explosions.

You can also get your gangsta on by looking out from behind the weapons from multiple directions, giving the distinct impression of badassness.

Maybe it’s just me, but my only criticism would be that the AI didn’t seem particularly bright, however having seen such a limited amount of gameplay, I can’t attest to whether or not this is just a first impression or an actual flaw in the gameplay itself.

On the whole Wolfenstein: The New Order looks pretty darn awesome. It’s out on PS4, PS3, PC, Xbox 360 and Xbox One by the end of 2013.

The Evil Within - behind the scenes of Bethesda's newest franchise



I join the queue of video game journalists eager to catch a glimpse of what, up until now, has been a tantalizing and terrifying blood filled trailer.

Shinji Mikami walks out to an attentive audience, explaining the concept briefly in broken English before allowing his translator to take over a more in depth discussion of the gameplay levels we’re about to see.

Mikami describes The Evil Within as a “terrifying game taking survival horror back to it’s roots”. “Pure” survival horror he calls its, jokingly adding that it has no “boring QTE’s”.

You play as Detective Sebastian Castellanos, called to the scene of a crime at a mental hospital, and drawn into a dark and evil world unlike anything you have ever experienced before. With limited resources and ammunition, you must use other skills, including sneaking and your wits, to destroy your enemies.

The lights go dark, the anticipation heightens, and before we even see any visuals, eerie music fills the room.


Visually this game is gorgeous, even at this early stage, with realistic looking lighting and water effects, beautifully modeled and textured characters, and already there is a sense of the dramatic in the storytelling.

The music and sound effects are also superbly designed, really adding to the sense of ambience permeating this demo. In fact, already I am getting chills watching the opening sequence, and the tension in the room is palpable.

The voice acting isn’t misplaced in the slightest. In so many games you get a sense that it’s scripted (which of course it is, but it shouldn’t seem that way), but The Evil Within hits the mark at every turn.

You begin by walking through a mental asylum, where dead bodies greet you at every turn. You and your colleagues don’t know what to expect, but you know right away there’s some weird s**t going down. It only gets weirder of course when a semi-invisible guy is caught slaughtering guards on camera, and then looks right into the camera and sees you watching him. He promptly disappears and reappears right behind you.

The actual gameplay starts with you hanging upside down among a host of other bodies as a guy is being decapitated next to you. Of course you manage to escape, there wouldn’t be much of a game otherwise, but as you try and sneak out there is a sense of urgency as you are acutely aware your gaoler might turn and see you at any moment. The drone of flies and the tinny classical music playing over a loudspeaker is so provocative that you can almost smell the blood and decomposition.

What follows in this, the opening level, is a headlong flight from your captor, that is reminiscent in part of Silent Hill’s Pyramid Head chases, combines with the maniac from Texas Chainsaw Massacre. You need to be constantly cognisant of the position of your attacker as you sneak through the shadows to avoid him.

So much of this game is about quick reactions, if you turn the wrong way, if you hesitate for a moment too long, you’re not getting out of it alive. There are continuous surprises thrown at you along the way, constantly keeping you on your toes.

Later we’re shown another level demonstrating combat, where headshots must be used to take out the deformed creatures attacking you, or if you manage to bring them down, be sure to set them alight with the matches you’re carrying if you don’t want them to rise again.

This is a third person perspective game, with the camera positioned just behind the protagonist, and this coupled with the music, the character design and the monsters, seems to draw obvious comparisons to Silent Hill. This is by no means a bad thing, as it brings together all the best elements of “pure” survival horror as Mikami calls it.

The Evil Within is weird, creepy, gory but in so many ways it looks like the game that might just spark my interest in the survival horror genre once again. Of course there’s no current release date attached to it yet, so in the meantime we wait, in the hope that this is the survival horror game you’ve been looking for.

Credits: Bethesda Softworks YouTube channel
PS4 daily

Puppeteer - a dark and twisted fairytale


I have an innate love for fairytales, especially those of the slightly darker variety. I was therefore delighted to hear the developers of Puppeteer refer to this game as inspired by Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam and Tim Burton, as these might be some of my favourite animators and filmmakers of all time.

Puppeteer is a side scrolling platformer currently in development by Sony Computer Entertainment. Not only does it feature a talented development team, but it also features superb musical compositions by Patrick Doyle, composer of blockbuster films such as Carlito’s Way, Thor and Pixar’s Brave.

In the game you control a boy named Kutaro, who has been turned into a puppet and had his head torn off. Yes, it sounds suitably dark and weird already, but of course it gets even better. Kutaro is sent on a quest to find a pair of magic scissors, which he then uses not only to attack enemies, but also to cut up the environment around him to advance through the game and reveal hidden secrets.


The entire environment is a constantly evolving and indeed revolving magical theatre set run by the narrator of the story. The sets change constantly, meaning you’ll never have the same experience twice. The game is inspired very much by the theatre, including things like audience reaction and the way the stage and set is lit.

Puppeteer draws inspiration from shows like Monty Python in more than just style however, as the characters also interact with the player, breaking the fourth wall as they talk directly to them.

The character and environmental design definitely carry through the elements of the dark fairytale. The Moon Bear King captures the souls of children to serve as puppet guards in his castle and the protagonist Kutaro is one such unlucky soul. He displeases the King, and his head is ripped off and eaten while the rest of his body is thrown away.

On his journey he finds a replacement head, as well as allies that help him steal the Moon Bear King’s magical scissors in order to escape and find his way home.

Kutaro can pick up different heads on his journey, each of which acts as a life, as well as special hero heads, which bestow a variety of powers on him. Each of those heads is used a different tool, sometimes in conjunction with others, in order to navigate your way through levels and solve puzzles as you go. You also have a couple of different sidekicks that will help you along the way.

According to the developers there are over one hundred different heads that will you can find and collect as you go.

The background in this game is completely interactive, and you must use the scissors to cut it up, find secrets, and navigate your way around the landscape. The scissors can also be powered up in different ways, so they really are a multi purpose tool.

It’s not all tricks and puzzles however. There are enemies to fight, including thirteen different bosses, which consist of the Moon Bear King’s generals as well as the King himself.

Puppeteer is a platformer, so there will definitely be a two player element to this game.

Its an outrageous, sometimes silly, amusingly dark, but ultimately very fun concept and one I greatly look forward to playing more of.

Puppeteer will be out on the 10th September 2013 on PS3.



Credits: Playstation UK
US Playstation Blog

A Perspective on Sony's E3 Press Conference


I have to put it out there right from the start that I am not a fan girl. I’ve never held any particular preference to a console – I play games according to title and platform, but maybe, just maybe, that might be about to change.

Sony couldn’t have started E3 2013 on a better note. The last press conference of a long day that began with Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft and finally Sony, was left on a high note as Playstation knocked it out of the park.

The event kicked off with a spectacular stage show, typical of all the big budget events today, and an announcement that Sony would still be supporting the PS3 and the Vita.

Considering the Vita hasn’t sold well in general, this is a valiant attempt by Sony to revitalize their handheld console, and indeed they even stated that this would be the ultimate companion device to the PS4. If the rest of the announcements are any indication, then they might just, in fact, succeed.

After a quick round up of still impressive titles for the PS3, including Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us, which incidentally is one of the best games I've played in ages and has received rave reviews, Sony leapt right into their reveal of the PS4, with the announcement that the PS4 was still focused on the gamer.

Yes, it also engages with Cloud based technology, and it was described by its makers as “sleek and visually impactful”. The look and feel of both new next gen consoles this year seems to be tending towards the boxy, although I do prefer the design of the PS4 overall. That said, design means nothing if the machine and the content it offers don’t deliver.

Luckily for Sony, that doesn’t appear to be the case. They described their new machine, and indeed the Playstation family, as “defined by breakthrough content” that was “relevant and meaningful”.

It might sound like all talk, and indeed there was definitely a great deal of PR jargon being bandied about there. I noticed in particular the careful avoidance by the speakers of the word “television”, speaking instead about “entertainment” on this new platform, when referring to Video and Music Unlimited services. Sony certainly weren’t going to make the same mistake as Microsoft and were diligent in their attempts to emphasise that all the entertainment on the PS4 would be tailored specifically to meet the needs of the gamers, although how they can identify what types of entertainment all gamers like is beyond me.

That said, they definitely concentrated more on the gaming aspects of this platform than anything else, which speaks a lot in their favour.

With an impressive gaming line up in store, they showcased an entirely new exclusive PS4 title, The Order 1886 by Ready At Dawn Studios, plus titles we’ve already heard of such as Killzone Shadow Fall and Driveclub, both of which will be available at launch, as well as Infamous Second Son and Knack.

A beautiful demo of The Dark Sorcerer by Heavy Rain developers Quantic Dream had us marveling at the PS4’s capabilities as we saw some amazing real time rendering demonstrations including cloth, particles and hair, displaying smoothly without a moments lag all at the same time.

Sony confirmed that not only would they continue to support Indie developers, but that in fact they were offering developers the opportunity to self publish their own content. They then showcased a number of titles that would be available via the PSN in the coming months.

Final Fantasy Versus XIII and Final Fantasy XV made an appearance, both of which have been confirmed for PS3 and PS4.

Assassins Creed Black Flag, wowed us with a gameplay demo, right up until the point that it froze and they hurriedly switched to a different feed, that of one of the most anticipated next gen titles, Watch Dogs.

This was the game most of the assembled journos had been waiting to see at the Ubisoft conference, and were sorely disappointed by the absence of gameplay. It therefore came as a pleasant surprise to all when it made an appearance at the Sony conference. It certainly left most incredibly impressed, heightening anticipation for this game even further.

After a quick sports round up by 2K Sports where Lebron James spoke to his digital self, it was revealed that The Elder Scrolls Online by Bethesda Softworks would be coming to PS4 next year. A rather unexpected Mad Max trailer also made a brief debut.

Sony revealed that there are over 140 games in development worldwide at the moment for the PS4, with 40 of those titles carrying exclusive experiences for the console.

Then came the bombshell.

The Playstation 4 will support used games.

And the Playstation 4 will not require a constant Internet connection.

The assembled crowd broke into cheers that continued with each fresh announcement.

The fact that you’ll now likely have to pay to play online by buying a Playstation Plus membership was almost forgotten by most, and completely overshadowed by the “no DRM” announcement.

In fact, most people seem to feel that as compromises go, it’s a fair one compared to Sony’s competitor and their distinct lack of comment regarding the DRM issue.

After a last demonstration of some Destiny co-op gameplay, which while beautiful, was mostly forgotten in light of the discussion about the console, Sony put the cherry on the top.

The Playstation 4 will be priced at $399.

That’s a full $100 cheaper than the Xbox One, which was confirmed by Microsoft at $499.

While Microsoft has indeed now made a significant turnaround with regards to their DRM policies etc, at this point my money is on the PS4.

+1 to Sony.

Credits: Image from Official Playstation Magazine UK

Monday, June 10, 2013

Big Budgets, Big Names, Big Impact

You might think you've experienced big game releases, until you've been to E3.

Nothing comes close to the experience of sitting in a packed auditorium, your seat vibrating from the reverberation of the speakers, your remaining senses being assaulted by the audio visual extravaganza on show before you.


Who would have expected Hollywood actors and musicians such as Drake on stage, not talking about a product but merely introducing the real stars of these shows, the developers.

And then there are the games, new titles, developed specifically for XBox One and PS4, aiming to impress.

And impress they did. In EA's conference alone cheers went up from the audience of game journos at various intervals, punctuated by claps and appreciative mutterings.

The game on everyone's lips for EA? Mirrors Edge 2, the closing announcement of a spectacular gaming lineup from EA. Coupled with Battlefield 4, demonstrated in all it's glorious 64 player multiplayer, and Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare, meant that EA are definitely on the hot list this year.

Ubisoft's showcase was unfortunately significantly less impressive, although they did still have some good titles on show. They suffered more from a lack of momentum however, and the overwhelming response was a mixed bag of, "Wow [insert title] was cool" to "Meh, I was falling asleep".

What certainly did impress however was their showing of The Division, a new IP based on modern day biological warfare.


I'm not going to go into detail here, suffice it to say that it's immediately evident that no one knows the business of show business like the Americans. E3 might be considered by some to be ostentatious and loud, but it dresses to impress.

Mission Complete.

Image via Kotaku.com

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

E3 2013

Quick and short post - I've been a bit lax in the past weeks, mainly because I've been preparing to attend E3. Yup, this will be my first time at the world's most well known gaming trade show.

I'm off tomorrow evening for a week in LA, most of which will be spent finding out what the gaming world has on offer for 2013/2014.

And E3 2013 promises to be an absolute kicker of a year, with announcements on the cards left, right and centre.

Be sure to watch this space, I'll be updating whenever I'm not having too much fun!



Tuesday, May 14, 2013

ConTessa Online - An Online Gaming Convention By Women For Everyone - Interview



A week or so ago I stumbled upon Contessa Online, slated as, "An Online Gaming Convention By Women For Everyone". I was intrigued by this title, and the concept especially since I was in two minds about its execution, purpose and overall success.

On one hand I applaud the initiative taken to organise a free online convention of this nature, dealing less with the topic of women in gaming and more with women who happen to love and play games.

On the other hand I can see the idea attracting criticism for its moderation procedure (or lack of), and somewhat frivolous content, the latter of which is completely intentional.

I'm also personally divided as to the choice of artwork style, which might seem like an odd thing to feel uncomfortable about, but I feel that it's overly cute, even in the fun context of this convention.

That said, speculation doesn't help, and the only way to find out more information is to ask questions - so I chatted to Stacy Dellorfano, the organiser to find out more.

Let me know your thoughts.

1. Tell us about ConTessa - what is it and how did the convention come into being?

ConTessa is a 4-day gaming extravaganza celebrating the women who play games, write games, and love games! Entirely run by women, ConTessa is all about showcasing the women who run, write, design, play, talk about and create games. Run by women, fun for everybody! ConTessa is not a forum for debate on gender issues and has no political agenda. Events will be fun, positive and informative – giving women center stage to talk about what they love about gaming and to share the games they love with everyone.

I started ConTessa after I noticed that most of the time when I and other women are invited into a conversation about games, we're asked to discuss our experience as women in gaming rather than as gamers. While relating our experiences and coming up with ways to make them better is a great thing to talk about and certainly important, it's easy to get caught up in the arguments and forget that the whole point of being gamers is to have fun. It started out as a hastily written-up Google document that I put together while on vacation over the holidays at my in-laws, and has been growing since then. 

2. What are you hoping to achieve with this convention?

Fun, fun, and more fun. The whole point of the convention is to give all of the women in the gaming world a platform to talk about the things that they love, and boy do they want to talk! The excitement that I've seen around the convention has honestly blown me away. There's going to be a lot of great stuff that comes out of this convention, which means that it can achieve lots of things. Education, great gaming, fun, networking, and new experiences are all great potential take-aways. 

3. Why did you make the decision to go purely online?

I run and play a lot of games via Hangout myself, and have found the Google+ RPG community to be a fantastic group of people and a brilliant set of resources. Having the convention online enables us to make it a truly worldwide convention. Plus, using all free tools online and a volunteer workforce allows us to put up a con that's free for all. 

4. How strict is the moderation process? 

Not terribly. The only thing I'm looking for is that the event adhere's to the spirit of the convention, and that the automated form system hasn't screwed up any of the formatting. Beyond that, if you want to run a game or put together a panel, all it takes is coming to our website and registering! 

5. This is a multi-pronged question you can answer in any way you wish - Do you think there's any danger of not being taken seriously? Conversely, do you WANT to be taken seriously? The artwork that you've chosen to use for the con definitely falls into the cutesy realm, and while that certainly has an appeal, why do you think this helps rather than hinders your cause?

I prefer to call the style whimsical. As an apolitical convention, we don't really have a cause. We're not here to change anyone's mind or prove any points. There are other places suited for that kind of work, one might even say the entire rest of the hobby. ConTessa is strictly a space for women to go and talk about, run, and play the many and varied games that they love.

6. What kind of person are you hoping to attract? 

We're hoping that the convention will pull together a nice cross-section of the gaming world. 

7. Obviously each session is limited in numbers, if there is a high demand for a specific session would you host multiple sessions on a single topic?

The great thing about Google Hangouts is that there really aren't the same amounts of limitations. While only a certain amount of players can play in a particular Hangout game (or video game or board game depending on the format), anyone can watch on YouTube over Hangouts on Air, and that means that panels don't have an audience restriction at all. Questions are taken through comments on the Google+ post that contains the Hangout video, and the panel moderator can read them off for their guests to answer. As for multiple sessions, that's up to the individual creating the event!

8. How do you feel a convention like this will benefit the perception of women in the videogaming arena?

Honestly, I've had more people interested in tabletop gaming than video gaming, but I'm hoping we'll get some panels and events centered around video games. They are one of my root loves, and I spent about ten years working in that industry, so seeing more women talking about video games would be splendid. However, I don't really have an opinion one way or another on how it will benefit or not benefit the perception of women anywhere. It'll be interesting to see what some of the residual effects are, but that's really not the point of the convention. Perceptions are for other people. ConTessa is for women. 

9. Have you faced any opposition or criticism when organising/publicising this event? 

Yes. My first draft was sloppy and far too biased towards my own personal opinions. It drew opposition from the fringes of either side of the debate, and a bit of trolling, to be fair. I did my best to look past the trolling and the mocking and the bad behavior to see what the real root concerns people had were, and I found that those concerns were valid. Future iterations contained less and less of my personal opinion, and I've now pretty much wiped it out entirely. I, of course, have my personal opinions, but ConTessa is sanctuary. It's that place where those opinions don't matter, just having fun. 

Since the latest few rewrites, however, I haven't really had any criticism. I don't necessarily expect it to stay that way, but people are welcome to their opinions and they're also welcome not to attend if their feelings on the subject are that strong. All we're here to do is to provide a place to have some fun. 

10. Anything else you'd like to add?

Just be sure to come by and check us out at http://www.contessaonline.com!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Watchdogs - Next Gen gameplay trailer

Watchdogs is a game that has been on my radar for a while - unique concept, visually awesome, complicated moral themes that comment on the Big Brother culture that permeates so much of our society. Definitely my kind of game!

Anyway, the guys from CVG recently got the chance to see a preview of this incredible open world game, and there are their thoughts on it. It's a long video so make sure you have about 30 minutes to spare, the banter that goes on is a bit long and they could probably have abbreviated it somewhat, but it's an interesting enough discussion, and this preview hasn't detracted from my enthusiasm at all.

What are your thoughts? Do you think Watchdogs will be successful?

Assassins Creed IV: Devs talk PS4

Ubisoft devs talk about the development of Assassins Creed IV for the PS4 in this pretty cool behind the scenes video. I won't waffle on about it however, check out the video and see for yourself.


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Revisiting Sparkly Things - Infamous Second Son

I saw this trailer back in February, while looking at screens of the upcoming Infamous: Second Son today, I remembered how cool the trailer looked.

So I thought I'd share it. So just a little sparkly sparkly to brighten up your day :)


Wolfenstein: The New Order Trailer

If you're a Wolfenstein fan, whether the new or the old version, you're sure to be drooling over Bethesdas's latest trailer for Wolfenstein: The New Order.

To be honest the trailer is very pretty but doesn't give much indication of the game itself, but the music is well chosen and combined with the visuals is certain to garner support.

Take a look.

PAX Australia 2013

For some reason I missed this initial announcement (made in Feb!), but either way, I just discovered that the Penny Arcade Expo is going to Melbourne, Australia this year.


Why should you care you ask? Well maybe you don't. But I do. Apart from the fact that the Southern Hemisphere is getting some attention, Australia has a wonderful thriving gaming industry, one which is very close to my heart for a variety of completely personal reasons.

It was then with great excitement that I discovered that not only is the Penny Arcade Expo, or PAX as it is commonly known, making it's way to Melbourne in July 2013, but that one of the people influential in making this happen is in fact an old family friend, Tony Reed, now CEO of the Game Developers Association Australia.

Tony was one of the people who introduced me to games such as Out of This World (also known as Another World), while working at Interplay, and even more importantly, to the game that shaped my love of gaming - Tim Shafer's Full Throttle.

Out Of This World

It's an exciting prospect to find people who have been so influential in your own love of video games doing things on such a global scale.

Sadly it's unlikely I'll be able to attend PAX Australia this year, but if you have the cash and want to make a trip Down Under, you'll find both the mainstream and indie scene thriving, the people welcoming, and the excitement palpable. 

Full Throttle

Friday, May 3, 2013

Yes, I neglected to post what is quite an awesome trailer. Bad Pippa.

I neglected to post this trailer a couple of days ago - mainly because Call of Duty isn't normally high on my priority list. It's not that I don't play them when they come out, but it's not a game I'm fanatical about.

Although I saw it I was busy and since COD is normally not an "Eeeeeeeeee!" game for me I never got around to sharing the trailer, which I'll be honest, even if it's not reflective of the actual gameplay (the trailer doesn't indicate this in any way), is pretty damn awesome.

Nevertheless, I was pulled up on the fact that I didn't post it - and that's a fair criticism, I should have. But if you haven't seen it, whether you're a fan of COD or not, here it is.

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this new approach...


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

GTA V New Trailer - Eeeeeeeeeeeee!

Yes, I might have jumped up and down just a little bit...

New trailer for GTA V showcasing the primary characters.



Monday, April 29, 2013

Watchdogs - new trailer, release date & collectors edition details - Hooray!

Yes, I drool just a little bit every time I see something about this game...

So here is the latest trailer, complete with release date (Nov 22nd 2013), as well as collectors edition details at the end...


FLD Laptop/Tablet Bag Giveaway

A week or so ago I posted about the FLD laptop and tablet bags that have recently hit the local accessory market.

The kind folks at FLD wanted to spread the love and are giving away 3 pretty awesome prizes:

1 13 inch laptop bag




1 15 inch laptop bag




And one tablet bag




All you have to do to win one of these pretty darn awesome bags (and I have one, they really are great quality!) is to

1. LIKE and FOLLOW FLD on Facebook and Twitter.

and

2. Tell us which one of these products you would like and why.

Competition closes Friday 3 May and winner will be announced Monday 6 May.

Right! Get cracking!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Rebirth: Thoughts on South Africa's most hyped graphic novel


Yes, I know Rebirth, brainchild of Josh Ryba and Daniel Browde, was released a month or so ago, so I'm a little late to the party here, but I only finished reading Rebirth this morning whilst sitting in bed with my coffee.

With all the hype that has surrounded the production of this graphic novel, at least in the circles I move in anyway, I was expecting the story to blow me away. The concept is a pretty unique one - it combines the supernatural with the South African history that was drummed into us as children, the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck off the Cape of Good Hope.

This combined with the idea that the HIV virus is attacking vampires, is a completely different take on our local history and the socio-economic problems that plague South Africa. Rebirth combines locations as well, and jumps backwards and forwards in time between Jan van Riebeeck's arrival in Cape Town and the present day in Johannesburg.

Unfortunately none of these pretty amazing ideas can save this graphic novel from being forgettable - which make no mistake, saddens me. I tried very hard to like it right from the beginning, but my first impressions after a mere 10 pages were that it was rushed, and the concepts could have been developed further.

Let's begin with the quotes at the front of the book. Like so many works of literature these days, there are quotes from notable figures expressing their admiration for the work. Fair enough. What baffles me however, is the choice of people these quotes are taken from. Ok, not all of them, there are some very relevant quotes, but somehow including Rasty, a (granted well known) tattoo/graffiti artist and Jacques Moolman, leader singer of Shadowclub doesn't bring credibility to your work.

These people are very cool certainly, and I know them, they're interesting, intelligent and funny, however they have absolutely nothing to do with graphic novels, comic books or writing and in my opinion are simply not qualified to be talking about a work of this nature. Lauren Beukes would in my mind have been an excellent choice - she's worked on graphic novels with Bill Willingham and she's one of South Africa's most well known science fiction writers. There are some film makers there that I feel work, as this is a story that could translate well into film, but being more selective in your endorsement choices makes all the difference when trying to recommend your work unless you're merely trying to sell it on celebrity endorsements.

Next I'd like to discuss historical accuracy. I'm going to try and avoid spoilers here, as there is a pretty big one, but if I seem vague at this point know that I'm trying to protect you.

Yes, I know this is a vampire novel, yes I know it's not real. That said, if you're going to bring in historical figures as a major selling point of your story, you'd think that there would be key factors and moments in that persons life that you would need to adhere to in order for it to tie in at least tentatively to the facts as we know them. Rebirth does this in the most cursory of manners.

Maybe it's just me, but surely you should attempt to tie in the historical context in some manner, otherwise there's no real point in having an historical character at all - Jan van Riebeeck could just as easily have been a random settler that came to the Cape aboard one of the boats. Nameless, but more easily assimilated into the story.

The story itself starts off a little clumsily and battles its way through, jumping through time and focusing on a couple of different primary characters. At this stage there is no real indication of what drives the characters. You get hints of their background and motivations, and I would hope that this is something that will develop in Book 2 (is there one? I don't know yet).

My major issue with Book 1 was that by the end of the book I felt the story hadn't really developed very much, which is surprising considering how thick it is. You're halfway through when you realise that the story is really only in its infancy and there is no possible way it will progress much further by the time you're finished.

This is not to say that I didn't enjoy Rebirth, I just feel the storytelling and narrative motivations could have been tighter, the characters could have been more developed, especially Jan van Riebeeck, who I personally would have loved to have seen more of. In all the tweets and comments I saw promoting Rebirth the key selling point was "Jan van Riebeeck as a vampire!" and yet this is such a small part of the story that it's really a let down by the end.


Apart from the writing, the other key focus of any graphic novel is the art style, and this is also something that is inconsistent. At times the characters and environments look beautifully rendered, with crisp lines and at other moments it looks as if two different people have drawn the characters. There are moments where they look incomplete and rushed, the outlines suddenly get thicker and blurry, and the lack of consistency is a little off putting, with characters vacillating between a clean, angular feel and a rounded, smudgy one.

I need to reiterate that it's not that I didn't enjoy Rebirth, but my biggest criticism overall would be that the entire product looks rushed.  I saw so much hype about it in the months leading up to release that although I didn't rush out and buy it immediately, it was high up on my "to read" list.

If I had to recommend it to others I would still have it on that list, perhaps just slightly lower down than it was before.

Rebirth is ambitious, and there are bound to be some teething problems. I'd definitely like to see a follow up, perhaps even more than one, and if you're as hopeful as I am about an original story that is set against the backdrop of places you know and a city you love, then even with the criticism Rebirth should still be in your collection.

See what the authors had to say below:

Thursday, April 18, 2013

FLD - Local laptop/tablet bags you want to invest in...




Want to support good quality local products and help a small business grow? Well, you can't really go wrong with FLD.

Good looking, durable laptops bags and tablet sleeves made in a variety of sizes and colours (the pink is my personal favourite!) that express your personal sense of style while still looking classy.

They're designed to carry all your assorted cables, plus have additional pockets to fit your personal belongings as well and cut down on the number of bags you carry with you.

The company itself is fairly new, and run by two young entrepreneurs who are passionate about technology and looking for an alternative to the imported laptop bags on the market that looked good and protected their equipment adequately against scratches, falls and knocks.

Laptop and tablet bags are already available in selected stores, and sleeves are on their way in coming months.


Watch this space - I'm sure you'll see more of these guys in coming months.