Thursday, July 28, 2016

PAX East 2016 Coverage Part 3

This is the final instalment of my look back at the PAX East 2016 conference and the articles I wrote there.  As mentioned in the previous posts this convention is not straight videogames and it is certainly not about marketing speak.  There are real chances to speak directly to developers, I had some great chats with the creators of Battleborn, We Happy Few and Fated to name just a few.  The show is always terrific and the atmosphere in Boston is incredibly welcoming.

There are always a number of after events to attend and this year and I was lucky enough to attend a few of them.  I always show up for the annual alchohol infused but charity driven PokeCrawl and this year I also attended a social with the Fated developers, headed to a Hitman party and then had late night drinks in the suite of a middleware developer and his friends that I met at the party.  The point is that PAX East inherently brings out a great, friendly and inclusive crowd and I can't wait for next years event.

PAX East 2016 Preview: ‘Thimbleweed Park’

As a long time fan of adventure games (mostly rooted in classic Lucasarts titles) I was more than a little excited to check out Thimbleweed Park from Lucasarts alumni Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick at PAX East.  What made the experience even better was having a chance to chat about the game with Mr. Gilbert directly at the show.  Thimbleweed Park is a refreshing throwback to an older generation of adventure games that feels modern while still retaining the look and feel of the classic titles.

At PAX East there was a relatively small slice of gameplay available to try but it introduced me to three of the main characters from the upcoming title.  The first two are FBI agents Ray and Reyes who at first glance have a very Mulder and Scully from the X-Files vibe that I asked Ron about.  He told me that when they initially developed the characters they wanted to have two agents who meet for the first time in game and have some conflicts that added narrative to the characters.  He mentioned that similarities to the X-Files heroes was unintended but noticeable now, they may look like the characters from the Television series, but they act quite differently.  The demo did not give me much room to get to know them but it did teach the first hints of character switching and transferring items to get the initial simple puzzle, taking a picture of a corpse, completed.

Read the rest of the Thimbleweed Park Preview on Blogcritics.org

PAX East 2016 Preview: ‘Let it Die’

In the gaming industry there are few people as unapologetically authentic as Suda 51 from GrassHopper Manufacture and at PAX East I was able to meet him and try his new game Let it Die. The game itself surprised me with how much I enjoyed it because it will be a Free-to-Play title and that usually ends my interest pretty quickly.  Let it Die has all the hallmarks of a Suda 51 game, crazy characters, over the top scenarios, and shocking visuals, and in the end I could not help but enjoy myself playing it, the fact that Suda was next to me reacting as I played didn’t hurt the experience at all either.


Suda was on hand when I checked out the title and, with the help of a translator, I learned that the world of Let it Die is one formed after an apocalypse event has occurred and all of the surviving people are in a sprawling tower.  It is a brutal existence Suda told me so everyone is out to get you and each other so you have to kill to survive and let it all die as the game title suggests.  The game is a third person survival action title and as the demo booted up I was greeted with a character only outfitted in a dirty pair of underwear.  I smiled and noted to Suda and the translator that it now feels like  a Grasshopper game; I am running around almost naked.  They laughed and Suda let me know that I would soon find some gear and weapons. I also asked if I would be able to customise characters in the full release and they assured me that many customisation options would be available so the character represents what you want on the screen.

Read the rest of the Let it Die Preview on Blogcritics.org

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Whiskey of the Year?

Late in 2015 a relatively inexpensive, frankly cheap, whisky from Canada called Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye won a very prestigious award - Worldwide Whiskey of the Year beating out out champions from Scotland, Japan and the US.  In the words of the reviewer Jim Murray:

“Crown Royal Northern Harvest pops up out of nowhere and changes the game,” said Murray of the whisky, which he awarded a record-tying 97.5 out of 100 points. “It certainly puts the rye into Canadian Rye. To say this is a masterpiece is barely doing it justice.”

Naturally as a developing Whiskey connoisseur I wanted to try this $40 bottle of Rye Whiskey myself, but an announcement like that broke the walls of the drinking world and the Northern Harvest Rye has been selling out for nearly 6 months with further accolades coming in the meantime:

In addition to being named 2016 World Whisky of the Year, Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye received a double gold medal at this year’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye is part of Crown Royal’s vast portfolio of variants for whisky lovers to enjoy, including Crown Royal Regal Apple, the #1 innovation launch across U.S. Spirits over the past 12 month period, according to Nielsen and NABCA (Source: Nielsen xAOC 52 weeks through 10/10/15, NABCA 52wk ending 9/30/15), and Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel, a double gold recipient and winner of “Best Canadian Whisky” in the 2015 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

Well I finally got my hand on a bottle yesterday as stock levels are now steady (with many local liquor stores having nearly 100 bottles in hand) and I gave it a try last night.  I used a chilled glass and drank the golden liquid neat (no ice) and I have to say I was far from blown away. The first sign that this would not be the World's best in my (very humble) opinion started with the aroma.  It was not the smooth almost gentle notes I get from a Macallan Amber or the strong vibrant whiff of Glenrothes Select Reserve Single Malt Scotch Whisky.   Instead it was strong, almost overbearing smell that evoked a feeling of a strong spirit instead of a subtle one.  Because of the strong aroma, perhaps due to the high percentage of rye, I was not able to discern any of the ingredients at first smell.

Next came the taste, a healthy mouthful to start and here at least I was impressed at the beginning at least.  The flavors did come out as the Whiskey hit my tongue, I could taste fruits, some vanilla and other hints of ingredients I could not place.  I like that the Northern Harvest Rye sat well on my palate and the taste and warmth slowly spread.  Drinking the gulp down the result was a very smooth drink, but one that almost shocked my system with heat and potency.  I am not sure what I expected from this drink as naming something the best in the world has to be a very subjective (despite years of experience) process, but this drink was just overbearing.  There was nothing subtle in this whiskey, it is not terrible, in fact I quite like it, but it is far, far from the best.  In the past five or so years I have tried many different whiskeys and this one is good but nowhere near the top.

What is my top choice thus far?  Well the ones I mentioned above are my top two - Macallan Amber being my favorite and a very different style the Glenrothes Select Reserve Single Malt Scotch Whisky being my second choice.  Glenrothes is the better bang for the buck, but the Amber is oh so smooth, delicate and wonderful on the palate.  If you have the means always have a bottle of the Macallan Amber in your cabinet for those special occasions or rare casual drink

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.