Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Dad Plays Games at Lunch Episode 4 - The Division

Taking a little break from the PAX East recap posts I wanted to show a little more of my Let's Play series Dad Plays Games at Lunch.  In this episode I was playing some Division days after launch and wowee was it laggy and tough to play.  I have since finished the game and it is collecting a bit of dust but I plan to re-visit to check out how it has evolved.

The Division is fun but very flawed, the game really falls into a series of patterns very quickly as I highlighted in a Review on BlogCritics recently.  Get into new zone, complete a couple of story missions (which are quite good) complete the same exact side missions from the previous zone but against slightly different enemies.  I also found that the customization has some high points - Gun layouts and modifications, and low points - really, REALLY boring outfits which has me wondering why I am exploring so much.  In Destiny the armor just looks cooler and cooler, in The Division I get to choose between a purple or black Parka.  A little lame :/

Anyway, here is the Let's Play, it is early in the games launch and the load times and glitches were pretty Epic, the first few minutes is just loading screens which got much better as time went on - Enjoy:

Thursday, July 07, 2016

PAX East 2016 Coverage Part 2




Sorry for the long delay, life gets real busy around here!  So on to more PAX East coverage, one of the things I love best about the show is how diverse it is.  I attended panels on games, but also on diversity, tabletop, game design and more.  I also get a chance to check out hardware such as the HTC Vibe and Occulus Rift as well as unconventional playtests like board games.  PAX East is an incredible experience in how involved the attendees are, everyone is happy, cosplayers are everywhere and the vibe is always incredibly positive.  On to the coverage from the show:

PAX East 2016 Preview: Betrayal at House on the Hill – Widow’s Walk Expansion


PAX East is not all about video games or nerd culture; it also has a robust tabletop and roleplaying experience that is easy to lose hours in, if not days, during the conference.  At this year’s show I was able to try the upcoming expansion of the classic game Betrayal at House on the Hill called Widow’s Walk. The original game, released nearly 10 years ago, is still played regularly all around the world. The expansion adds more of everything that is great about the game and expands the experience in a natural way that is appreciated.
The premise of Betrayal at House on the Hill is that you are a group of strangers exploring a creepy house one room at a time. In this tile-based game, as the characters move they add room tiles to the house, making the game unique every time you play it. The base game had a basement, main floor and upper floor; the expansion adds a fourth floor in the form of a roof/attic level, and dumb-waiter icons that allow quick travel between floors. The extra level (which includes a room called the Widow’s Walk, of course) adds a further level of depth to the game, as you can have interactions across four levels of the house.
PAX East 2016 Game Preview: Seven – The Days Long Gone
I love games of all types – racing games, Lego games, first-person shooters, third-person shooters, and RPGs of all types – but the type I have a true weakness for is isometric RPGs. If they are done right I lose myself in those games; I just enjoy the perspective of seeing the world and controlling my character as he/she interacts with everything.
At PAX East I was able to check out a game called Seven – The Days Long Gone, an isometric RPG set far after the Apocalypse, where technology and fantasy meet. The game certainly has its rough edges but there is plenty to like, and there are some ideas I have not seen before in a game like this.
Not much is revealed yet about the lore of Seven, but I do know that the entire game world is a prison complex that you need to navigate. Your character starts as a new prisoner and you need to hit the ground running and figure out whom you can trust and what you need to do to survive and move deeper into the prison world. The game has a striking visual look and feel, the characters are slightly cel-shaded, and the world is a mix of vibrant sci-fi motifs and dilapidated slums and warrens.
PAX East 2016 Preview: Pyre
Supergiant Games is on a roll, their first two games, Bastion and Transistor, were groundbreaking games that had vastly different gameplay styles from each other but both focused on innovative narrative styles and featured music that not only enhanced the experience, but was a necessary part of the games.  Now they are back with their third title Pyre, a stylish adventure/strategy/narrative game that stood out as one of the best titles at the crowded PAX East conference.


Pyre gives an outstanding first impression with it’s stunning art style as soon as you start playing it.  The game oozes personality with the quirky characters introduced right away, and the vibrant color palette is a welcome sight with so many games focusing on gloomy visuals.  The game starts with you near death and found by a group of exiled wanderers; they nurse you back to health and discover that you have the rare ability to read and decipher the lore books they need to compete in the Rites – a secretive competition through which they can find a way to return home.  They welcome you into their travelling wagon, which will be home base and where most customization occurs and head out into the world called the Downside to initiate the Rites and start their journey.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

PAX East 2016 Coverage Part 1

I attended PAX East once again and as always it was an amazing time, the show just never gets old for me. You can browse Triple A blockbusters like Overwatch and walk 10 feet to see a small game called Thimbleweed Park in the Indie Megabooth. There are huge Tabletop areas that you can sit and join Magic or D&D rounds (as well as dozens of other game systems), you can chill in the arcade or handheld lounges, get food, attend panels and just have a glorious time. 

The fact that it is in Boston is the icing on the cake, it is such a cool chill town with hundreds of years of history, architecture and amazing seafood. I attend PAX every year to represent Blogritics.org as a freelance writer and tend to write 8-10 articles about games and events at the show. I checked out a ton of games, panels and events, but I have to say Fated on the VR platform was one of my favorite items. Below is the first block of articles I wrote while attending the show this year. Enjoy! 


PAX East 2016 Preview: Fated: The Silent Oath

This year can easily be called the year of Virtual Reality, with the Occulus Rift, HTC Vive and Samsung Gear all out in commercial release and The Playstation VR coming later in the year some amazing VR titles are arriving. I tried a very promising title called FATED: The Silent Oath at PAX East and it wowed me with it’s detailed interactions and focus on storytelling.

The demo was unique to the show as I was sitting on a bench holding horse reigns and there are some scents, wind, and fog that hit me as the demo runs, but even without that it would have been a stellar experience. The game takes place in a Norse mythology infused world, and I was part of a family trying to stay alive during the end of the world – Ragnarok. 

The game starts with my family and I on a carriage as I guide the horse using the reigns. It starts calm at first with the wife and daughter chatting with me; my daughter sat next to me as the journey progresses. As this is VR I could look all around, looking behind as the family talks or all around at the waterfalls, trees, and mountains surrounding me. At one point two giant ravens landed on the carriage and I found myself jerking away from them, the immersiveness of VR in this game cannot be understated. The main character doesn’t speak (part of the story focuses on him losing his voice) but because of head tracking I could nod and shake my head to answer. 

Click Here to read the rest of the Preview on Blogcritics.org

PAX East 2016: Inside Gearbox Panel

Gearbox has a long history in video games with their start as a mod developer for Half Life and then as an independent developer creating Brothers in Arms, porting Halo to the PC and then finding major mainstream success with the Borderlands series.  They have had highs with Borderlands and theHomeworld remasters and lows with the Duke Nukem Forever completion and Aliens Colonial Marines, but they never fail to entertain with their dynamic presence and passionate approach.

I checked out their panel at PAX East and, while it was a little awkward and uneven, they had some interesting information about their upcoming titleBattleborn and some tidbits of the very early (at the conception stage really), but inevitable next title in the Borderlands franchise.

The panel started slowly and with some magic from the President of Gearbox Randy Pritchford as they waited for Kinda Funnys Greg Miller to join them a tad late. Once he arrived they entered into a discussion about Battleborn, which just ended it’s open Beta as it nears the May 3rd launch date.  Randy was joined on stage by producers, art directors, and writers from the series to discuss the creation process and lifecycle plans for Battleborn.  Right at the start they talked about how they will provide 5 new characters, and the game starts with a staggering 25 already, for free over the next few months and that the Season Pass will offer 5 DLC packs that focus on story and co-op content.  All PVP (Player versus player) content will be free for all owners of the games which is a welcome change from the Call of Dutiesof the world.  This promises to reward players with a steady stream of content both on and offline which is great news.

Click Here to read the rest of the article on Blogcritics.org

PAX East 2016 Preview: Thumper

PAX East is as full of Triple A games as it is independent and quirky ones. I had the pleasure of trying Thumper by Drool Games on the Playstation VR platform, and this is a game that shows what great audio and visual design can accomplish on the Virtual Platform.
Thumper is described as a “Rhythm Violence” game in the vein of Rez and AudioSurf. You are represented by a silver ship that looks like a futuristic Beetle as you coast along vibrant and whirling rails towards portals and bosses. Music is your guide, and the name Thumper comes from the need to jump and thump on light symbols on the ground. You also need to hold on to the button or ‘note’ when passing through flat lines on the ground, and you need to aim into corners to avoid taking damage. All of this thrown together with the electronica soundtrack pulsing and changing as you progress made for a trippy and enveloping experience as I soared though the neon-infused landscapes.
Played on the Playstation VR system (which by far is the most comfortable of the three big VR vendors) added an immersiveness to the experience that is hard to describe. You can see the winding track ahead pulsing and changing as it stretches to the edge of your vision. Explosions, lights and pulses rock around you and make you feel like you are jacking into the Net as Cyberpunk movies portray it. You swiftly fall into this world in the VR experience and move in tandem with your ship as you try to navigate to the end of the level.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Dad Plays Games at Lunch - Episode 3 - Diablo 3 Re-Visited

Episode 3 of a Dad (me) playing Games (in this case Diablo 3) at Lunch (I had a sammich I think?) was a chance to re-visit Diablo 3 after many months. I bought Diablo 3 day one and finished the game pretty quickly and swiftly got bored. The games was bogged down by terrible loot drops, a real money market that imbalanced the game and real progression required multiple playthroughs. In the last three years though Blizzard has added so many modes and features as well as an expansion called Reaper of Souls. I jumped back in and finished the expansion and saw what the new loot drop mechanic is like (it is awesome) and got acquainted with the Seasons mode, bounties and many other great modes. Enjoy while I run through the start of the season and see the carnage I inflict as I run through a chunk of the early game.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Dad Plays Games at Lunch Episode 2 - Grim Dawn

I continue to play games at lunch and tend to be all over the map on what I will play on a given day. For episode two of my series I played a section of a game I backed on Kickstarter called Grim Dawn - this is from ex-Diablo veterans and really echoes that early Diablo vibe. Dark, gritty, visceral and a lot of fun. The game is finally complete, with 4 acts and a ton of character types. I really enjoy this game, it is not as slickly polished as Diablo 3 (but what is really) but the core game is deep and satisfying....the enemies are really gruesome too which is awesome!

Monday, April 04, 2016

I have started a new series of media called Dad Plays Games at Lunch which is simply me (a Dad) working from home and playing games on my lunch break. I usually do this anyway and I thought it would be fun to record myself doing it and share it online. The first episode focused on the AMAZING game Darkest Dungeon. This is a brutal game that keeps me coming back despite it killing my favorite characters over and over again. It is a dungeon crawl that focuses on the stress and psychology of adventuring and what the terror would do to characters. You need to manage resources, items and skills as well as the stress levels and phobias of your characters. Great fun and a game everyone should try.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Keeping Healthy and Fit at 40

At the young age of 40 I have no parents, both of them were lost to horrible diseases, my Mother passed from Cancer over 10 years ago and my Father passed away from heart disease a year and a half ago.  I have always been blessed with a high metabolism and in my 20's and early 30's I was always active but I ate like crap and had no real plan to stay fit in a proper way.  In my 30's I made a decision to eat better, cut out soda (Coca Cola in particular) and work out consistently.

I want to be active and around for a long time to enjoy my Children and their Children. So to that respect I worked through a number of training regimes from Karate, to self directed, to Shaun T's Insanity.  I have now settled into a really great workout routine and when I started to document it I realized it is actually quite crazy.  I do this a minimum 3 times a week, optimally 4 times depending on work meetings (I have a gym at my office). I feel great, muscle tone is amazing, and I have the lean tone physique I have always wanted.  I just need to fully clean up my diet if I ever want to get rid of the lingering softness around my belly. :)

With this workout and overall better eating I have lost a belt size and shirts that were snug fit amazing now.  Another helpful thing I do is always use the stairs at work.  Each day that amounts to  20 - 30 flights of stairs.

Start - Cardio
  • Warm up the upper body with Tewaza routine from Karate.
  • Punch drills x 10  - Uppercut each hand, low punch each hand, high punch each hand, side punch each hand, cross punch each hand
  • 400 skips on Jump rope (200 traditional, 200 butt kick style)
  • 80 Traditional Jumping Jacks, 20 Power Jacks
  • 13 Minutes of High Intensity Elliptical (treadmill is a strain on my knees for whatever reason)
Stretching
  • 4 Deep Breath cycles (cycle is 10 seconds)
  • 3 squat stretch cycles
  • Knee stretch cycle - each side
  • Ankle stretch cycle - each side
  • 2 Low stretch cycles  
  • 2 Running stretch cycles - each side
  • Hamstring stretch cycle - each leg
  • 3 Deep Breath cycles
Core  Work
  • 4 Handstand drills (unassisted handstand holds)
  • 10 deep pushups - tapping alternating shoulders on rise
  • 10 Tricep pushups
  • 20 wide pushups - with alternating raised legs (always supported by only one leg)
  • 4 alternating raised leg Plank cycles
  • 4 alternating raised arm Plank cycles
  • 30 Alternating Leg lifts (back is curved, leg raised to ceiling) for Abdominals
  • 20 Bicycle crunches
  • 14 shoulder dips
  • 14 narrow pullups
  • 14 wide pullups
  • 20 Medicine Ball lifts alternating sides - 10lb medicine ball
  • 10 Medicine Ball overhand lifts  - 15lb medicine ball 
Weights
  • 20 Bench Press - 170lbs
  • 40 curls each arm - 25lbs
  • 10 tricep curls each arm - 25lbs
  • 10 shoulder lifts each arm - 25lbs
  • 20 Butterfly - 130 lbs (Pectorals)
Stretching
  • 4 Deep Breath cycles (cycle is 10 seconds)
  • 3 squat stretch cycles
  • Knee stretch cycle - each side
  • Ankle stretch cycle - each side
  • 2 Low stretch cycles  
  • 2 Running stretch cycles - each side
  • Hamstring stretch cycle - each leg
  • 3 Deep Breath cycles