I was pretty excited to hear about a sequel to my favourite game of 2014 – State of Decay. I was so dedicated to saving my local town, that I accidentally played for 10 hours straight. By all accounts, I was pretty happy. State of Decay 2 is currently available on Microsoft’s Game Pass subscription service, and with a 14-day free trial, I thought “What do I have to lose?”

Currently, State of Decay 2 (SoD2) is only available through the Microsoft Store (although rumours of a Steam release for later this year are rife). I struggled a bit to find the correct area to download SoD2 without it trying to charge me for it.. It took me longer than I’d like to admit to find the correct link to download State of Decay 2 using my Game Pass since I couldn’t do it through the Microsoft Store app on my PC for some reason. Once I figured it out, it was a fairly smooth operation – minus the snail pace of my internet connection.

This is where I started to encounter issues. It took 4 attempts for SoD2 to make it past the main menu / splash screen where I would push a key to start, and it would crash to desktop. And this wasn’t an isolated incident – it happened repeatedly. After lamenting this on Facebook, it highlighted a larger issue with people trying to play the game with little to no luck.

Once I was able to finally get into the gameplay, it was a new, but familiar scene. You select which character pair you’d like to play with and you’re thrown into the post-apocalyptic world. State of Decay 2 attempts to flesh out the opening characters with some story, but I was more interested in their base stats which are vital to their survival. You pick up characters pretty quickly into the game and start establishing your home base. It’s similar gameplay from the previous games, in the way scavenging works, but the UI has been updated. It’s more user-friendly, and yet not. I think I’ve played so much of the original SoD that I have muscle memory for the previous controls, but certain elements just don’t make sense. Things like silent takedowns, and final kills were executed by press ‘Z’ in the previous game, but now it’s a combination of left CTRL + a button or mouse click which is distracting and means I got chomped on more than once.

There’s a new type of zombie to deal with, and a new style of infestation to go along with our undead friends, and all the other zombies have had a facelift – along with the rest of the game. Everything definitely looks more modern, but is still suffering from a mildly outdated look. It isn’t distracting, and doesn’t take away from the game at all, but if you’re a hardcore graphics fiend, you might complain.

Unfortunately, this is as far as I got to play. There was a large (20GB!) patch to fix the launch bugs which meant that I had to wait another day to play (Thanks NBN!) When I started up the game, I was faced with a working splash screen, but the following image.

A friend of mine had a similar issue. A part of the patch had failed to download correctly. But since this isn’t as easy as steam verifying files and downloading the necessary bits it needs, it meant the whole 20GB patch needed to be downloaded. Again. I’ve spent more time downloading State of Decay 2 than actually playing it – and I’m so disappointed.

Because I’m on ADSL (thanks again, NBN!), I have a small monthly allowance to use between two heavy users (netflix, downloading, etc) which means that downloading 40GB of data has chewed through just under a quarter of my allowance for the month. This might sound like a rare issue for some gamers, but since the state of Australian internet means that there is a huge portion of people in the same boat as myself.

Two days and a huge chunk of data later, and I’m reconsidering my decision to buy it later this month.

I can’t comment on the storyline, the development of character relationships, the gameplay, or anything else vital to games review because I haven’t been able to play it. The rare times I got it to work, it was great – but not enough to make a definite comment. It looks like something I’d love to spend time investing in, but I’m spending more time trying to make it work and I just can’t be bothered.

I wanted to like this game. I wanted to love it. I wanted something that would continue the same style of game I loved in the first State of Decay, but make it feel like a more desperate attempt for survival and I got a game that barely works. I can only hope it’s an issue with the PC distribution platform and not the Xbox One download because the series is a great spin on zombie survival horror, but I think I’ll just wait until State of Decay 2 drops on Steam, or run it through my Xbox One because it’s not a happy experience on the Microsoft Store.

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Editor’s note: this review will be a little different to the regular format. I’ll be discussing key changes between the Inspiron 15 7000 (7567) 2016 model and the Inspiron 15 7000 (7577) 2017 model. If you missed the original review, catch up here and follow along.

Earlier in the year, I reviewed the Dell XPS 15” Inspiron gaming laptop and apart from some minor complaints (storage mostly), I thought it was a pretty solid laptop. Recently, an improved version of this laptop was released, and while there are some changes under the hood – overall it’s still a great gaming laptop for your on-the-go gamer.

At first glance, the aesthetic changes between the 2016 and 2017 models are minor – if there were any at all. Sleek, black laptops with pops of colour to accent logos and WASD keys are fairly standard through gaming laptops and it’s nothing that needs to be changed for the sake of updating.

The thing I did notice about the 2017 model was the bezel around the screen. Maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention to the 2016 model to notice the size, but the 2017 model seemed to have the screen surrounded by a thick, black border. I showed this to a friend of mine and he noticed as well, noting that it seemed to take away from the actual display – which I completely agree with. The screen on the Inspiron 15 7000 series of devices is beautiful, and capable of playing video and games in 4k. The border around the screen seemed to be less of a edge to define the screen, and more like an eyesore to distract the user.

The major change that Dell incorporated into their latest iteration are the options available for your GPU. The 2016 model wasn’t underpowered by any means, but the 2017 model includes the ability to upgrade your NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1050 to 1050Ti with 4GB GDDR5 to a NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1060 with 6GB GDDR5. While the changes may seem minor on the outside, greater processing power means an overall better experience while gaming. Along with more dedicated RAM to help improve textures and frame rate.

It also means your games won’t become obsolete as quickly – It’s only a series apart, but the 1060 seems to be the goto requirement for a lot new games.

What’s disappointing about the upgrade in graphical prowess is the downgrade to actual power. Moving away from an integrated 74 WHr, 6-Cell Battery to a integrated Quick-charge 56 WHr, 4-Cell Battery means your battery won’t last quite as long away from the wall. The quick-charge is a nice addition, meaning you’ll be on the move to your latest LAN in shorter time, but as someone who likes to move around with her device and not always to somewhere with a plug, the smaller battery is a disheartening. However, the change in battery may have been more to do with actual space than anything else.

The last major change is the addition of a Thunderbolt™ 3 port. This ties into the quick-charging battery, but also allows for lightning fast data transfer and a move into the new normal. USB 3 / Thunderbolt™ is quickly becoming the universal adaptor for phones and computers. The problem is that it only includes one because of the traditional USB ports – but that’s more of a general consumer dependence on traditional USB products.

Dell have taken a lot of consideration in how they update the Inspiron 15 series of computers. While sacrifices to battery were made, they were to improve space and power and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Happily, the updates mean that you’re getting better value and a better experience from your Inspiron 15 laptop. It’s still a sleek device that’ll keep up with a mid-level gaming rig, with the bonus feature of portability – so you’ll always be able to game with your friends at home, or at a LAN.

Laptop provided by Dell for consideration.

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Portability is one of the most important features for any on-the-go freelancer. Trying to balance power, battery life, and size tends to mean sacrificing one in favour of the others. Want something with a lot of power? It’s not going to last long without a power point. Need a long battery life? Prepare for that sucker to weigh a tonne. The Dell XPS 13” 2-in-1 balances the trio well without sacrificing too much to deliver a lightweight device.

Unboxing the XPS laptop was a new experience for me when I was presented with a tiny 13” laptop in sleek silver exterior. The laptops I normally unbox are 15”+ monoliths encased in black and red details which don’t really suit being an everyday carry. Weighing in at 1.24kgs, the XPS 13” is the perfect size to slip into your backpack, handbag, or satchel and jet off to your next meeting. I took it out with me several times, and it even came on an excursion to paintball training where I was helping my team with some social and sponsorship deals.

Working with the laptop on the go is a fairly painless experience, if not a tiny bit terrifying. I’ve never used a convertible laptop before, so bending the screen backwards was an anxious experience the first time, but provides a whole new way to work. It can feel a little awkward if you’re using the laptop as a tablet, as you’re pressing keys on the exposed keyboard but a quick readjustment of your hands sorts that out. However, it feels clunky in the converted mode, and not just because of the keyboard. Despite this laptop measuring in at 13.7mm thick, it doesn’t feel as slim while in tablet mode – possibly because I’m used to tablets being paper thin.

The size of the keyboard isn’t an issue, however. While it takes a moment to adjust to the size of a smaller keyboard when you’re used to using a full-sized desktop but it’s a comfortable adjustment. It’s a quick keyboard and makes it easy to type up short or long documents with the short keystrokes and smallish-keys. The only issue I had was bumping the touch pad which would send the cursor into a mysterious position, but this is definitely a PEBKEC issue because I do it with every laptop ever. Also, for those who are into this kind of thing – the keyboard is quiet, so you won’t annoy the people around you with the constant tak-tak-tak of furious typing.

Opening the device can be difficult at times. The 13” XPS has a 5.2mm InfinityEdge bezel with a Corning® Gorilla® Glass NBT™ screen which means there’s no notch in the edge to separate the screen from the keyboard. It’s really fiddly to open and I often needed two hands to hold the laptop steady while I tried to pry it apart. But when you do, the screen is bright and displays colours fantastically. You get a bit of glare from sunlight on the glass, so it’s not a laptop I’d recommend to use in the sun – find a shady spot close to Wi-Fi and go nuts. It’s a great screen to watch or stream videos and doing some minor image editing on.

My major issue with the screen is that it marks so easily. Because the XPS 13” is marketed as a touch screen device, you can use it as a tablet (as mentioned above), but I hope you don’t mind fingerprints and smears all over the glass. It turned me off using it as a touch screen device because I didn’t want to spend 20 minutes every few hours cleaning off marks to keep using the screen.

The other test I put this neat little device through was some gaming (obviously). While it isn’t a dedicated gaming machine, the basic specifications would give you enough variety for some on-the-go time wasters. I also tried streaming games through Steam. This seems like the better option if you’ve got a good connection as you’re able to play games in full-spec while away from your rig. Since streaming isn’t as resource heavy as playing games directly off the hardware, you won’t need to worry about pushing the little laptop to the limits.

Battery life won’t be an issue either. I managed to get a few days of life from the battery when I was using it on my travels. You’ll supposedly get just over 8 hours of battery life for everyday use, and a little over 7 hours for your Netflix binge sessions. Even at home while I was using it as a dedicated media screen while working on projects, the battery was consistent and didn’t need too many settings adjusted to really get all the juice out of it.

It uses a Thunderbolt™ 3 connection for the AC adapter which is great for a quick charge and keeps the frame of the laptop as thin as possible. You’ve also got a MicroSD slot, USB-C ports, fingerprint scanner and all the other basic necessities you’d expect. The power button is hidden away on the side which took a bit of getting used to, but again, it’s all designed to keep the size down.

Like all current generation laptops, it comes preloaded with Windows 10 and a range of software options available. To me, retail installs of Windows 10 feel a little bloaty. You can have a range of storage options on the XPS 13” (up to 1TB), but you’re going to spend some time uninstalling the software you’re not going to use. There’s also no optical media drive which isn’t a huge surprise for a device which prides itself on its side – if you’re worried about this, USB optical drives are cheap and portable too.

The Dell XPS 13” 2-in-1 is a tidy machine. It stands up to the quality expected of Dell in their XPS line and balances portability, power and weight nicely. I’m still not sold on convertible devices as they tend to feel chunky and not as nice as dedicated tablets (something I’ve felt from years of working in tech retail). But, if you can overlook a messy screen and sometimes clunky feel from tablet mode, the XPS will fit right into your life. It’s stylish, lightweight and easy to use as an everyday carry.

 

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The website is celebrating it’s 7th birthday this year! Thank you to everyone who reads, shares, comments, and subscribes to this crazy little website; you make it worth it. And a big thank you to the companies who provide me the sweet toys and games I get to review – it’s great to be working with companies who believe in building a community with smaller sites.

Since going solo and hosting my site, I’ve been using the same look and it’s starting to look a little dated. I’m in the process of redesigning things and giving Rade’s Gamer Diaries a new look, a new logo, and a whole new feel.

Over the next few months, you’ll start to see those changes appear. Firstly, I’m branching into topics outside of gaming which are going to include cosplay and convention guides, announcements, and rundowns – you probably noticed my Convention Calendar post a few months back, which ties in nicely with the PAX guides I write every year.

A new review series called “And now for something completely different” is going to be introduced later this year with these reviews focusing on non-gaming tech. I’ve already got something lined up for it, so keep your eyes open for that. (Yes, I’m a huge Monty Python fan)

I’m also going to start streaming on my Twitch channel a lot more and be more alive (so to speak) than ever before.

There’s also going to be a huge overhaul of the website as far as design goes. Like I mentioned earlier, we’re getting a little long in the tooth, so it’s a fantastic time to bring in a new look. I don’t have an exact time frame on this, but it’s happening I swear.

All this should happen before the end of the year, so we’re going to be hitting the ground hard and fast to get everything into place. If you’ve got any suggestions on what you’d like to see, hit me up on Facebook or leave a comment below. Again, thank you for making the last 7 years awesome. Let’s make the next 7 even better.

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My first laptop was a Dell XPS M1530. It was a monster of a thing that stood up to a lot of hardcore gaming, university and an month-long overseas trip. Ultimately, it was the overseas trip that killed my precious laptop, but it served me well. It’s the gaming laptop that I hold all laptops up to as my standard – despite its age, and the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 gaming laptop held a pretty good candle to my ol’ faithful.

Unpacking the Inspiron 15, the first thing that struck me was the matte black finish on the laptop, with the red Dell logo standing proudly in the centre. The edge of the keyboard has a red metallic pattern which brings just enough colour into the picture without being overpowering. As I’ve mentioned in earlier reviews, I like the look of more understated laptops with a minimalist feel. The other option you’ve got for the lid cover is matte red with a black logo – so at least you’ve got some choice in the design.

Since gaming laptops are made for gaming on the go, I carried this thing around with and sat down where ever my legs decided – it feels deceptively light. I stuck it in a backpack and carried it around in my arms, and it wasn’t ever uncomfortable, even while carrying around extra weight with the charging pack, a mouse and a few other bits and bobs. While it’s one of the bigger laptops I’ve reviewed, it carries the weight well.

But like all these laptops, it’s about how good they are to game on. The Inspiron 15 holds a Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti as standard – you know it’s going to take everything you throw at it in stride. The only time I had an issue was with State of Decay where the whole operation thing crashed – although, I think that had more to do with the optimisation of the game, more than the laptop itself. Other than that minor trip up, everything I played ran beautifully – and can be played up to a 4K resolution. Like I’ve said in earlier reviews, 4K Gaming isn’t really my bag but if you’re into that, you’re going to be very happy. However, the screen can take some getting used to and can sometimes look a little lacklustre when you’re looking for real exuberance – especially in 4K.

Big exhaust vents on the rear of the laptop make sure that you’re not going to see spikes and dips because of the hardware shutting down. The only time I really noticed any uncomfortable heat was while I was working in bed and had the laptop sitting on my lap against the quilt – but even this was a minor issue.

I also loved the fact that I could get a good few hours out of the Inspiron 15 while I was working. Not having to rely on the power pack and an available plug means that you could easily take it to university or to your favourite spot and work without a worry. I can’t say the same for a hardcore gaming session, but when you’re running your resources at full speed, battery life is the trade off.

Since I’m a writer, that was another big test. I was working on a few other commissions on Inspiron 15 and the keyboard was comfortable and easy to use. The touch pad gave me the most issues – it’s very touchy. Although, since I’m used to typing on standalone keyboards and spend half the time adjusting my cursor on my everyday laptop because I’ve accidentally knocked the touch pad with my palm, I’m not sure if that’s an issue with the pad or me. Probably me.

The thing that urks me the most is the lack of an optical drive. Call me old-fashioned, but I like having the option – especially if I was to run older programs that aren’t easily downloaded. Although, there are 3x 3.0 USB ports, 1x HDMI and a media card reader to keep you happy if you need to load something on the laptop – If you’ve got the space.

Dell are big on being able to customise your laptop with various options available through their range. Their base laptop only has a 256GB solid state drive which isn’t huge in the grand scheme of things. Game downloads are getting bigger and bigger (60GB+ downloads are a regular thing), you would have to be very selective about what games you install on your hard drive if you end up purchasing the entry-level laptop. Spending the extra $400AUD to move to the middle-tier doubles your RAM and gives you an extra 1TB of space – although the compromise is downsizing your SSD to 128GB.

Overall, it’s a good-looking quality laptop for a decent price if you’re looking to get into the gaming laptop market. Some of the faults (HDD space and screen) can be frustrating but don’t make the Inspiron 15 unusable. It’s compact, pretty and packs enough power to get you through whatever you need to do without breaking the bank – although it’s probably worth throwing a few extra bucks towards the second tier laptop if you’re looking to load your entire Steam list.

Laptop provided by Dell for consideration.

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I’m starting to become a seasoned pro when it comes to reviewing laptops – and I’m starting to notice the things I really like and dislike about the humble gaming laptop, as I’ve used more and more of them. Since I’ve only ever actually owned two laptops in my life (and one was a gaming laptop), getting my hands on other kinds of tech is fun.

ASUS were kind enough to send me a ROG GL502 laptop to play around with and I’m pretty sure this is my favourite one out of the bunch – with one caveat.

To really give the GL502 a run for its money, I essentially replaced my gaming rig/work PC with it since I had a bunch of work to do while reviewing. Two birds, one stone.

The GL502 laptop is a lightweight, compact laptop, designed for the more mobile gamer. It weighs in at just 2.2kgs (4.8lbs) which means that being able pack it up and take it with you won’t break your back. It’s also incredibly slim for what you’re getting. It packs a 15” screen that can display games in either Full HD or UHD, meaning that 4K gaming isn’t out of your reach. Although, my opinion on 4K gaming is similar to 4K TVs – just because it’s there doesn’t mean it’s necessary. I don’t really have any wish to play games in 4K because I don’t think it’s really worth it. However, if you’re one of those people who likes to crank everything to 60+ FPS and see every miniscule details, the option is there.

ASUS continue their red and black colour scheme across the GL502 laptop, but it’s far less overbearing than in their other laptops, and that’s something that makes me endlessly happy. The GL502 detailing is scaled back and more subtle, which makes it more pleasing to look at in my mind. It’s not as “Cockpit of a fighter jet” as the other laptops I’ve reviewed, it’s far more sleek and refined which makes me think I’d be happier to show it off on a desk. The red has changed slightly to a more orange undertone which is a little off-putting on the black background, but the accent colour doesn’t dominate the entire laptop, making it easier on the eyes.

Let’s talk about my favourite and least part of this laptop – the keyboard. The keyboard is amazing to type on. I wrote several articles for my freelance gig, plus a few for myself and a bunch of other work stuff I’ve had going on in the background and it handled like a dream. The laptop keys only travel 1.6mm each keystroke so you can be quicker in-game and in real life. The WASD keys are highlighted in the orangey-red tone to give you the impression that this is a gaming laptop and your hands sit nicely atop them.

The thing I hated, and this is no-fault with the series – but the review laptop I got, was that my keyboard was French. If you’ve never used a French keyboard before, it’s in AZERTY format and not QWERTY – however, the GL502 was in English mode so everything was where it should be. This made writing on the laptop a nightmare. While it felt amazing to type on, if I concentrated too hard on what I was doing and didn’t let the muscle memory of touch-typing take over, my brain would confuse my hands and everything was a mess. But that’s a problem for the editors – it doesn’t take away how the GL502 laptop feels in a general sense.

Gaming on this laptop was really nice. Everything I threw at this game from Prison Architect, to Borderlands 2 and everything in between was handled without a fault. The Full HD screen displayed games without missing a beat and it was easy enough to adjust in low light and sunlight without struggling to see what I was doing.

The downside to hardcore gaming sessions on this laptop is the battery life leaves a little to be desired. While the GL502 worked well as an everyday laptop for my freelancing work, any long gaming sessions I wanted to do required a closeby powerpoint so that the battery wouldn’t drain after a few hours. However, if you’re planning on taking it to a LAN, you’re not going to be up and wandering around with it, are you?

The ASUS ROG Strix GL502 is definitely an investment with the RRP sitting above the $2000AUD mark, but you’re paying for portability and style which isn’t something you can get with a standard PC rig or some other gaming laptops on the market. The particular review model I was sent had 32GB DDR4 RAM installed, along with a NVIDIA GeForce 1070 and a 1TB hard drive. And as I mentioned before, it’s incredibly light for a gaming laptop.

The ASUS ROG Strix GL502 is probably my favourite ASUS laptop that I’ve been able to review (minus the French keyboard). It’s compact and light, which is perfect for taking it on the go, but it packs enough power and hardware to be able to stand up to anything you can throw at it. It’ll age well, which is something a lot of computers don’t do in the current era of gaming, it’s great for your everyday projects, and it’s not exactly bad to look at. This is the laptop you want to consider if you’re looking to upgrade.

Laptop provided by ASUS for consideration.

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Trigger warning: This post discusses mental health, including depression, anxiety and suicide. If you are risk or know someone who could be at risk, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, or use the links below.

Mental health and mental illness carries a huge stigma of weakness and loneliness for those who suffer, despite depression topping WHO’s list of ill health and disability worldwide – an increase of 18% in 2017.

This issue is something that the gaming and wider geek community has taken very seriously for quite a while, and with recent studies exploring how video games may actually improve symptoms of depression, an Australian non-profit organisation is creating a new Kickstarter to help produce a web series to assist gamers with their mental health.

CheckPoint is an organisation which revolves around mental health and video games. Their service provides chill-out spaces at conventions, resources for different mental health issues and information for gamers and game developers to improve their mental health. Their latest endeavour is The CHECKPOINT Series which aims to “raise awareness about mental health issues and helping those affected, using the power of video games.”[sic]

CheckPoint have an early target of AUD$55,000 to produce a 16-episode web-series aimed at gamers using evidence-based information which could previously have been out of reach for individuals and their families about mental health.

Divided into two seasons, the first season will focus on what CheckPoint calls the “Mental Health Essentials”, which contain education about different types of mental illness (depression, anxiety, personality disorders, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, drugs, alcohol, and addiction, and well-being for the games industry) with the goal of raising awareness around these illnesses.

Season two focuses on breaking down the stigma around mental health, which stops a lot of people seeking the help they need, and how videogames can be used for therapy, as well as how the industry can improve representation around mental health in healthy and effective ways.

Mental health is something that impacts pretty much everyone – whether you suffer or you know someone who suffers. I’ve been dealing with depression and anxiety (GAD) since I was in my teen years and it’s not something that’s easy to admit to yourself, your family, your friends and it’s definitely nothing something that I’m comfortable openly admitting to in a professional sense, but the important message that The CHECKPOINT series aims to tell is that it’s okay to not be okay, and it’s okay to ask for help.

The Kickstarter officially launches May 4th, 2017 (that’s today!) and provides a great range of incentives for backers for participating and providing valuable funds for such a vital service. If you’re interested in checking out the Kickstarter, or anything that CheckPoint do, you can check it out here.

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A few years ago I embarked on a mission which, in hindsight, was a bad idea. This year, I refuse to learn from my mistakes and try it again.

I am of course, referring to the Steam Challenge.

The idea is pretty self-explanatory, the execution can be a little more difficult. My Steam list consists of about 140 games, give or take a few betas and demos, and some of those games are multiplayer-only with no real story mode (Let’s Starve Together for example), or VR games (for which, I don’t currently own a headset.)

I’ve decided to approach the challenge with the same gusto I had when I approached the Steam challenge from last year which I failed to complete, but this time, I’ve got Math and ScienceTM on my side – and by that, I mean I have a spreadsheet.

The spreadsheet is a new addition as it’ll be my way of keeping track of what games I’ve started, how far into them I am, and what I’ve finished. I hope that being able to properly keep tabs on this information will keep me motivated to continue with the challenge without getting horrendously burnt out.

Burnout is something I need to be aware of too. While I have just under 150 games, I get tired of things easily and revert back to old comforts (I’m looking at you, 600+ hours in Borderlands 2) where I can get almost instantaneous satisfaction.

My biggest issue with my Steam list is working out how long to spend on those games that don’t really have a definitive end. Some games have a great list of achievements I can use to use as goals to set as “finish points”, because other games could probably use 10-15 hours to be completed or even longer. But I’m also one of those people who likes to spend some time with a game (see Borderlands 2 play time above) and if I really get into something, I might just accidentally lose half a day in a single game alone.

But to take a lot of the indecisiveness out of the challenge, I’ll be using the rules I found on the Geek Bomb forums. They read as such:

1.You must beat every single player game from start to finish on any difficulty.
1a. With large RPG/Sand box games like Skyrim, you must complete the main story line and the main story line in all DLC expansions you own (ie. Dawngaurd).
1b. In games where there is no ending or main story line (ex. Terraia and Sim City). You must play at least 10 hours.
1c. If a game is far too difficult for you to complete (Super Meat Boy) you must complete 15 hours before rule 1 is satisfied.

2.You must play at least 7 hours of PvP multiplayer or complete every single co-op mission (ie. Left 4 Dead).
2a. If a game has both you can either play one or the other (ie. Team Fortress 2).

3. You can either start from ascending or descending order; you are allowed to skip games if they follow a few exceptions.

3a. You can skip a game if playing a game have become impossible in situations like the following:
.Banned from multiplayer (if the game has single player, you must play single player component)
.An online game (like a MMO) is no longer supported.
.Your machine is not powerful enough to run the game.
.Your OS or chipset is not supported.
.Unresolvable issues that make installation or running the game impossible.
3b. If you already have satisfied rules 1 and 2 on any game then playing that game is optional.
3c. You may skip a game if there are essentially duplicates in your library (ex. You have both Half-Life and Half-Life: Source), but you must play one or the other. This includes Beta clients (ex. Team Fortress 2 Beta)
3d. If it is in your library, you have to play Amnesia to the end you fucking baby. Nut up man, it’s just pixels.

In order to keep this entertaining, I’ll be streaming and recording as much as possible – especially in games like Amnesia and F.E.A.R where I know watching me scream like a huge baby will be rewarding to everyone involved. I’m also trying to get my friends involved to keep me motivated.

I’ll be started the challenge on Saturday 1st, April. I’m not sure what game just yet, but be sure to check my Twitch channel to watch it all kick off and to see me succeed! (Or fail miserable – YMMV)

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Pre-built computers for gaming weren’t always a viable option for your hardcore gamer – they just didn’t have the power to run your favourite games. And if you weren’t confident enough to build your own PC, you probably didn’t want to sink some of your hard-earned cash into a puzzle that can go wrong.

Happily, pre-built gaming PC’s are now becoming reliable for gamers who want a “set it and forget it” option. ASUS’s ROG G20CB is a great looking computer, with the power to back it up – and it’s VR Compatible.

I don’t know what I was expecting when it arrived at my house. Was it going to be a huge tower like my gaming rig? Would it be a tiny case, filled to the brim with processing power? Despite the enormous packing box, it was actually somewhere in between.

While the ROG G20CB 9.5L tower matches the aesthetics that the previous ASUS ROG items I’ve reviewed, it’s definitely something special. It looks aerodynamic, masculine and stealthy – which isn’t my jam. But the front panel has twin colour-changing LEDs hidden behind an alien ruins-esque design when the PC is running. It was an odd match to the rather angular edges on the case, but it was a nice thing to catch your eye mid-gaming session.

Around the back you’ve a variety of 2.0 and 3.0 USB ports to ensure the quickest data transfer and enough room for all your peripherals. Alongside a HDMI-out port (more on this later), LAN port, a Kensington Lock (so people don’t run off with your computer at a LAN) and 7.1 audio.

Under the hood, the ROG G20CB I got to play with has an Intel i7 Processor, NVIDIA GeForce GTX1080 8GB, 8GB DDR4 RAM with room to expand up to 32GB RAM and two hard drives (1TB SATA 7200RPM and 512GB SSD). All this hardware makes for a really nice computer.

All of that works together to bring one of the more impressive features for the G20CB. My review computer came with an Oculus Rift headset for some VR gaming goodness.

I’ve played with VR in the past at PAX and it wasn’t the best experience. The Oculus dev kits were awful in hindsight and didn’t sit well with my migraine-prone brain. Luckily, the retail kits are a marked improvement. To really test out the playability of the Oculus, I invited around a few friends to enjoy some games and drinks, and it was definitely a great night. The selection of games I had to pick from wasn’t huge (early access games aren’t my jam), but I’d managed to pick a few winners and the ROG G20CB handled them perfectly. “Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes” was great fun in VR, when you’ve got four people sharing one set of instructions and screaming conflicting things at you.

@kristyyleighh’s boyfriend is being mindfucked by Oculus

A video posted by Rade (@gamer_rade) on

But one game “Emily Wants to Play”, was the most fun to play with the Oculus headset. The horror survival game is based around creepy dolls and jump scares. I’d show you the footage of my boyfriend noping the hell on out of there but the footage seems to have disappeared…

Creepy, right?

This computer isn’t without its faults however. In larger computers, you either have a small, external power supply (think laptop size) or it’s contained within the computer itself. Because the ASUS ROG G20CB case is quite slim and small, the power supply is external and it’s huge. The G20CB power supply unit actually has two separate power supplies to power this beast (180W + 230W). If it was my regular computer, I’d be concerned about it getting quite warm under my desk.

Another issue I had was setting up the Oculus. The computer has 2 HDMI ports; one on the motherboard and one on the GPU – but the one on the GPU comes disabled. This isn’t a huge issue if you only need one HDMI port, or know how to reenable the port on your GPU, but if you’re a “set it and forget it” kind of person (no shame in your game) and you did buy this to use a VR headset, it could become a bit of a pain. This isn’t necessarily an issue with the computer, but I hate finding these things out after the fact and having to waste time fixing a problem that shouldn’t be an issue in the first place.

Consumers may have trouble with the investment needed with the ROG G20CB. The computer I got to test will set you back a cool AUD$3999 – that’s no small amount of cash to part with. The ROG G20CB has been designed to age well and not need as frequent hardware upgrades as your homebrew computer, thus the larger than usual price tag. Again, you’re paying for the “set it and forget it” PC option. If you can get past the price hurdle, this computer would be an investment that I think would make the most hardcore gamers happy.

The last issue I had was a total user fault: It took me 20 minutes, some adult supervision, and a Google search to figure out how I turn it on. As I mentioned above, the front panel of the computer has an intricate design which disguises the power button quite well. I was worried I’d have to email my friends at Asus and tell them I couldn’t review the computer they’d sent me because I couldn’t figure out how it worked! It’s actually quite embarrassing for someone who does this for a living…

The Asus ROG G20CB is a big investment for any gamer, but with a variety of specifications available through the website, you’re able to get the best bang for your buck. While the issues I had were minor (and mostly my fault),it’s still a great computer if you’re just looking for a computer that’s going to stand up to the best games for the next few years without showing its age. It’s sleek, small, and portable. It made a great PC to have attached to our TV in our loungeroom, and would make a great PC for any study or gaming den.

Listen @asusau, my cat has claimed the G20CB as her own. I can’t send it back without her.

A photo posted by Rade (@gamer_rade) on

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N.B: Dates used in this piece are from the 2016 year and may not be the dates these conventions are held during 2017. All care has been taken to try and confirm these dates with organisers, but let’s be honest, they won’t let me announce their conventions for them!

The Australian convention scene is well and truly coming into its own. Compared to 10 years ago, or even five years ago, you’ve got an incredible variety of conventions to satisfy your hunger for geekdom. If you’re anything like me and totally unprepared for the upcoming con season, check out this handy-dandy guide!

January – Nothing good happens in January. For the cosplayers, we’re all a bit too heavy to fit into our costumes after the Christmas / New Year’s period. For regular attendees, save some money for the mayhem that’s coming through the rest of the year.

FebuaryRTX Australia is back for its second year. If you missed my not-so-great review of RTX Sydney 2016, I said that the convention was plagued with problems from air-conditioning (or a lack thereof), VIP ticketing issues and an awkward venue. This year, RTX Australia is christening the brand spanking new Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre, right on Darling Harbour. This will hopefully clear up all the logistical issues I had.

March – Perth kicks its con season off with two conventions in March. Oz Comic-Con starts its national tour with a myriad of guests yet to be announced. Oz Comic-Con is a great cosplay convention for beginners and more advanced hobbyists alike with the Australian Championships of Cosplay choosing one winner from each state to compete in the national competition. The Championship helps choose the Australian contender for the ‘Quest for the Crown’ – an international cosplay competition.

The first Anime Festival of the year is also being held in Perth.  The newly annual national event, hosted by Madman, brings cosplay, concerts and anime culture to convention goers. It’s a refreshing change from regular conventions which focus primarily on a catch-all pop culture scene. AnimeFest is anime/manga specific and unites fans from all fandoms in one area. Madman will also be hosting their prestigious Madman National Cosplay Championship with contestants being picked from states around the nation.

The incredibly talented AmenoKitarou (A.K Wirru) is a frequent guest at the convention and successfully competed in the competition, placing 2nd back in 2013 and being crowned Champion in 2010 and 2014 with his stunning Odin cosplay.

April – If you’re a fan of pop culture, then April is the month for you! Supanova starts its national tour in the Gold Coast, with Melbourne following the weekend after. Supanova is another great convention if you’re new to the scene with an easy-going feel and wide selection of international guests. It’s also a great place to check out your local cosplay scene, with many cosplayers bringing out their costumes for people to oogle. The trick with Supanova (and Oz Comic-Con) is that their tours are done in different segments. Melbourne and Gold Coast usually experience different guests to Sydney, Adelaide, and Perth; but this is entirely reliant on guests schedules. I’d recommend hitting up the “Supa-Star Guests” page on the Supanova website to see where your favourite celebs will be. Holiday to the Gold Coast, anyone?

May – With the weather starting to cool down, May slows down in the cold with Comic Gong dominating the calendar month. Comic Gong is a one-day event in Woollongong, south of Sydney. While the event sounds small, it definitely packs a big punch with well-known Sydney cosplayers regularly attending the event. If you’re keen to dip your toes into the convention scene, and you’re in the area, Comic Gong might just be the one for you.

June – Supanova swings into Sydney and Perth in June. Sydney Supanova is arguably the biggest Supanova in the tour and often attracts a very enthusiastic crowd of fans and cosplayers alike. The Artists Alley is always a delight to hit up if you’re keen on lightening your wallet a little.

Madman brings their Animefest to Brisbane early in June. Another round of the Championship will discover the Queensland contender for the cosplay crown.

July – First off the rank is Haven Expo, held in sunny Mackay, Queensland. A big event for a lot of cosplayers – they’re already announcing their guests who include Californian Lyz Brickley and Aussie cosplayer Yeliz Cosplay. Both women are incredibly talented artists and you’ve probably seen their work in various areas of the internet.

AvCon is a standalone convention held in Adelaide and it’s definitely on the list for a lot of con-goers. AvCon covers anime, gaming, and cosplay so that all your needs are covered, as well as holding a variety of different competitions for cosplay, lolita, digital media, and speed running. AvCon is a unique convention specifically for Adelaide fans and it’s on my convention bucket list.

Oz Comic-Con hits up Melbourne in early July, too.

August – August brings you Sydney SMASH. SMASH is definitely one of the more relaxed conventions. With a focus on anime and manga, SMASH combines cosplay, workshops, and a great museum-esque collection of Gundam to keep you entertained for hours. SMASH is held at Rosehill Gardens, near Parramatta, which can be a bit awkward to get to, but it’s definitely worth it if you’re interested.

September – September is Oz-Comic Con month, with the tour coming to both Brisbane and Sydney. If you’ve avoided Oz Comic-Con Sydney in the past because of the location, they’re now going to be gracing the halls of the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre. Brisbane always attracts great crowds and equally great cosplay. Recently, Oz Comic-Con reviewed their props policy to make it easier for cosplayers to add more detail to their costumes, as long as it’s within reason.

October – October brings EB Expo to Sydney at Olympic Park. EB Expo has a trade-show feel that’s open to the public. Last year was a disappointing year for EB Expo, with a strange layout and an unenthusiastic crowd. Hopefully EB bring some new and exciting things to their expo this year.

November – November is the biggest month in the convention calendar. Supanova finishes their national tour in Brisbane and Adelaide – we’ll find out who wins the chance to compete in the cosplay championship. The 2016 winner Henchwench is competing this year to hopefully keep the crown that Major Sam bought home in 2015.

Madman are also finishing their short tour in Melbourne. We’ll find out who wins the Madman National Cosplay Competition. It’s another competition that always manages to bring some spectacular talent to the stage.

PAX Australia returns to Melbourne for its 5th year. This is my biggest convention of the year, and a lot of my friends feel the same. The 3-day event seems to be the time when everyone blows off steam and just relaxes – or as much as the gaming/cosplay/nerd community can relax in an energized city like Melbourne. In 2015, I had the pleasure of being on a panel with some of my wonderful friends, met some new friends, hung out with some awesome cosplayers, and to got to attend some really cool parties. PAX Australia weekend is the weekend that the whole industry just seems to bring it.

December – Nope, con season is over. I mean, where else are we going to find time to get fat for January.

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