I Picked The Wrong Next-Gen Console.

I picked up a PS4 a few months ago when Destiny finally launched as a full game. I was excited about Destiny after playing the beta with friends on my Xbox 360.

A white PS4 with Destiny and The Last of Us: Remastered from Dick Smith (where I work) for cheap? It was too good to be true. I’m starting to regret my decision, now.

My first console was a PlayStation. Many hours were wasted on 40 Winks, Crash Bandicoot, Croc: Legend of the Gobbos and Spyro. I moved on to the PlayStation 2 and the brilliant library that came with that console.

My love affair with the Xbox started with a second-hand Xbox when I was 13 or so. I can’t remember why my Mum bought it for me, but I got Halo 2 and a few other games with it in a deal EB Games had going at the time.

It was instant, life-long love and I’ve never really looked back. My first Xbox 360 was so well “loved”, that the disc drive failed. A common fault, but for a relatively old Xbox 360, surviving the 7 years that it did was a great feat. My second Xbox is slowly gathering dust until I can be bothered to connect it to my bedroom TV. Its place in the lounge room was replaced by the PS4.

The Destiny hype suckered me into buying the PS4. My friends suckered me into buying the PS4. The price I got from work suckered me into buying the PS4.

It sits quietly on the shelf above the TV, making friends with the Blu-Ray player I bought my parents a few years ago. My PS4 is unloved. I think my PS4 was a brilliant investment, don’t get me wrong. It’s something that I think will get plenty of use in the future, but looking back on my choice, I would have waited and picked the Xbox One.

I own the Titanfall Xbox One controller, I’m considering picking up the Halo: Master Chief edition without owning the console because my dedication to the Halo series runs so deep that I’m pretty sure my blood is khaki. I want an Xbox One, but spent my money on a PS4.

Giving up the PS4 isn’t an option with plenty of quality games coming out on it in the future, but in the present, all I want is an Xbox One, Halo, Sunset Overdrive and a weekend off so I can play video games until my hands form Xbox One-shaped claw hands.

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PAX 2014 Round Up

The sad reality of things is that it’s the day after PAX and PPD (Post-PAX Depression) has already set in. I woke up this morning with a bit of a broken heart because I couldn’t take the 20 minute walk from my hotel to the Convention Centre and hang out with the coolest people I know.

So, in a vain attempt to combat the PPD blues, I thought I’d do my write up of the weekend and the mind-blowing things that happened.

The major change between 2013 and 2014 was the venue. For those who couldn’t attend PAX Aus 2013, it was held at the Showgrounds in Melbourne. Because of the more “outdoorsy” venue, moving between theatres and halls could be troublesome. Forgiveable, considering it was the FIRST PAX being held in Australia the organisers listened to the complaints and moved the event to the MCEC.

Such room.

Much success.

Wow.

But seriously, the new venue is a major improvement. While the queueing is still an “issue” (tens of thousands of people trying to get into one place? THERE’S GOING TO BE A LINE.), the larger theatres and rooms made sure that if you waited in line, you were going to get a seat. It was a great improvement over last year.

Friday.

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Pete Hines – Meat Shield

Friday was Rade-Sim day. By that, I mean that I was in civvies with a plumbob headband. My take on “casual cosplay”. Friday was spent exploring the convention, meeting people and attending panels. The first two I checked out were the Keynote (hosted by Pete Hines) and the Q&A by the ever hustlin’ Mike and Jerry, creators of Penny Arcade. Pete Hines had an insightful look into what PR in video games industry is like. His keynote was full of stories from his career and all the ways that Bethesda has grown. Oh, and horse armour.

The format for the Q&A was different to last year and I’m thankful for that. Robert Khoo picked out questions from The Internet for Mike and Jerry to answer, and were categorised by the type of question that was asked. Red envelopes were for more “serious” questions and white envelopes for “light-hearted” questions. A running joke of the panel was that white envelopes were a lucky dip of serious and light-hearted questions. But it meant that some guy couldn’t go on for 10 minutes about his telescope (check out the Q&A from last year) and bore everyone to death.

I got to spend time hanging out with my friend Tehkella (who writes good shit. Check it). She lives far away, which makes me sad but PAX brings us together. Which is what PAX is really all about.

With that major block of panels out of the way, I checked out the rest of the expo. The first place I headed was to was the Walk-Thru Walls booth to see the guys there. I met them last year and they’re cool kids. They also let me review for them, so that’s awesome. Then begun the wandering.

Wandering around the Xbox booth, through to the Cards Against Humanity area and just… around. I got lost in the expo hall. Listening to outrageously loud dance music, wondering how the fuck you get an enormous tank into the middle of a expo hall (no, seriously. Magic?) and just admiring all the fantastic cosplay. I’d managed to kill a few hours, but I hadn’t destroyed enough minutes to make it to the next panel. Cue the return home to my hotel and a quick costume change for my next panel. Little did I know, the next panel would be the highlight of my… month? Year? Probably writing career.

The panel was “The Realities of Writing About Games.” 5 people were about to destroy the dreams of a theatre full of people. It was a learning experience about what the people I want to work for want in your work. I found out I need to improve a bunch of my skills. But the best was yet to come.

The highlight for my PAX weekend was meeting Mark Serrels. He’s the editor for Kotaku AU and porridge enthusiast. I got to tell him about how he messaged me after an article (and subsequent comments) about some horrible shit at E3 and told me that I shouldn’t listen to the horrible people and keep going. This is something that has stuck with me through everything. This industry isn’t kind, but knowing someone believes in you is something to cling to, especially in the desperate times.

I told him this at the end of the panel, and he was just gobsmacked. Or, I think he was. But apparently I’d struck a chord with him because he wrote about me in a Kotaku article. [ insert fangirling here. ]

Everything after that was just… a bonus.

Saturday.

Cosplay day 1. I spent the morning wandering again, but this time dressed as a buzzaxe-wielding psycho. Had a few photos taken, screamed about poop at the top of my lungs (worth it!) and just doing normal con junk.

I decided to head off to a panel about Fake Nerds, featuring my friend Jimmy and hosted by my friend Jessica. Unfortunately, Jess’s schedule was all screwy and she couldn’t attend. But the panel was fantastic and by the packed room, it was clearly a hot topic.

Walking home after the panel, I hit the post-spring carnival race crowd full of drunks and then found one who couldn’t keep his mouth shut. Pro-tip to everyone reading this: Don’t call the cosplayer wielding a buzzaxe fat. The temptation to smack your face with it is NEARLY overwhelming.

Saturday night made up for drunk, asshole guy because I got to hang out with some friends at a really creepy restaurant and a really cool bar. Lots of drinking and impromptu karaoke.

Sunday

Whee~ Sunday! Sunday was the day I was looking forward to. After a late night and a VERY early morning, I headed to my friend’s hotel room so we could get into our Borderlands gear and go to the Gearbox panel.

After a superb Gearbox panel (free games, woo!) and a huge Borderlands cosplay group photo, we headed off to the Gearbox signing and got to meet the Gearbox crew and a photo with Randy Pitchford.

groupAfter that, we stopped at the Smithe booth so Maya could drop her bag off for work later and photos at the Xbox booth and 2K booth in front of their “Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel” wall panel… thing and trying to find the massive cosplay group shot. There were like… 60 of us at least in this photo and that was just the people who’d found out about it in various Facebook groups or word of mouth.

I met people I’ve been stalking heavily investigating on Facebook and take photos with them and scream about meat bicycles and junk. It’s the most amazing feeling to growl “I LIKE MY LOOT LIKE I LIKE MY BABY STEAKS… RAAAAAARE” with another dude and immediately become friends because of it.

PAX Australia is one of those things that you wonder about what it’ll be like and have all these expectations and then when you get there, you see a sign that says “Welcome home” and that’s what it feels like. It’s home. There are 30,000 cousins in this family who enjoy the same stuff you do and you all bond over that, it’s the best feeling ever.

 

Rade Reviews: Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!

It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I am a Borderlands addict. My addiction led to nearly 600+ hours in Borderlands 1 and Borderlands 2, I own both the Borderlands 2 pre-order chest and the Diamond-played loot chest, a CL4P-TP figurine and David Eddings signed Gentleman CL4P-TP figurine. I also convinced my cousin to name a foal “Butt Stallion” and I’m an avid Krieg cosplayer.

…yeah. I have a problem. Clearly, the solution was to get my hands on Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!

Borderlands: The Presequel! is told like a flashback by Athena, a highly-skilled mercenary captured by Lilith, Brick and Mordecai. Throughout the game, you’ll hear commentary from Athena and the others about the events you’re playing through. BL: TPS explores Handsome Jack before the mask; back when he was just John. An attack on the Hyperion orbit station, Helios, finds you teaming up with the future pretzel-eating villain to, get this… SAVE Pandora’s moon, Elpis and the people who inhabit the surface.

Crazy, right?

aaaaaaFour entirely new classes have been added to Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. Instead of Assassin, Siren, Soldier and Gunzerker, you get:

Athena: The Gladiator. Athena made her first appearance in the Borderlands 1 DLC “The Secret Armory of General Knoxx.” Her shield packs a punch which you can throw at enemies, and of course, shield yourself with.

Nisha: The Lawbringer. Nisha will be familiar to Borderlands 2 players. She was the Sheriff of Lynchwood, the Eridium-mining town. Nisha’s skill tree “Law & Order” can give buffs to gun damage, health or shields. You can also duel-wield when you spec Nisha’s “Fan the Hammer” skill tree.

Whlhelm: The Enforcer. As you spec Wilhelm’s character, you slowly see him develop into the cyborg-human death machine that you fight in Borderlands 2.

Finally, you’ve got Claptrap: The Fragtrap. His “vaulthunter.exe” skill tree gives players (and co-op partners) buffs based on their current situation. He can also use skills used by previous by the previous vault hunters. At last, he’s the badass he wanted to be.

Gameplay is essentially unchanged from Borderlands 2 at its core, but with some interesting changes. Because you’re on the moon, gravity and oxygen are a new challenge to wrangle with. Instead of relics to change character stats, you now collect Oz Kits; masks that give you oxygen to breathe on the moon’s surface. They also provide elemental bonuses for your gravity stomp. Which is awesome.

Using gravity to your advantage, you can jump or boost jump (another Oz Kit advantage), you can slam down on your enemies and inflict elemental damage. With that elemental damage and a swift shotgun blast to the face, enemies can be promptly dealt with.

Gravity jumps and boost jumps can be a little difficult to work with in the beginning. Having your character accidentally jump off the map because of a misguided jump gets old pretty quick.

Another noticeable inclusion is the hundreds of Australian accents. Borderlands: TPS was developed by 2K Australia, so you’d expect one or two references about Australia (Like the bosses “Red” and “Belly”, to make “Redbelly”. A notorious snake in Australia), but it’s more like the residents of outback Australia were abducted and transported to Elpis in some bizarre experiment to see what Australians can survive. (Hint: It’s everything.) Plenty of jokes to keep Australian gamers happy, but maybe some of it will go over everyone else’s head.

I do have some complaints. While the writing is still on par with previous games, the ‘Straya thing it’s got going on can be a little (or a lot) over the top, and borders on insulting in some parts. I can appreciate the effort in trying to capture Australian culture, but sometimes it comes off more like a Crocodile Dundee movie than anything close to real Australian culture (says the city-slicker)

It also doesn’t feel as polished as the rest of the series. Characters clipping through moving platforms and AI bugs are a few things I’ve encountered through my gameplay. A little disappointing considering the quality of the previous two Borderlands Games.

All that said, the new heroes, new setting, new characters and new story work well with the old formula that made Borderlands and Borderlands 2 so popular.261640_screenshots_2014-10-19_00009

If you’re looking for something new from the Borderlands series, maybe wait until Tales from the Borderlands is released. If you played Borderlands 2 until you were blue in the face (like I did), then Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is right up your alley.

STOP BEING ELITISTS YOU GUYS

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There are a lot of problems in video games at the moment, and the one I’m super sick of (other than everything else) is this whole “Master Race” PC gaming bullshit.

Today, my friend linked me this Imgur post where OP essentially calls console gaming a niche market and that it’s ruining modern day gaming using screenshots from the currently unreleased Star Citizen and ArmA 3 games. He also applauds Cloud Imperium and Bohemia Interactive for not releasing the games on console because it would “ruin our games for PC gamers.”

What I’m getting from this is that he’s angry that there are really shitty PC ports of games and that it’s somehow the fault of people who game on consoles and NOT the fault of lazy developers.

Bad PC ports are awful, I’ve played a few in my time but I don’t blame people who enjoying playing games solely on their Xbox or PlayStation. The blame lies on developers who aren’t optimising their game for computers.

Console gaming isn’t ruining the video games industry, elitism about what platform you “correctly” play on is destroying video games. Whatever happened to playing games because you enjoy escaping into some fantasy world to avoid reality, or sitting down with your friends for a several hour long grind session? Is it too much to ask that people stop trolling others because “Hurr, you’re gaming wrong”?

Guys, let’s have a serious talk here: Play on whatever you want to play on, whether it’s on PC or on your Xbox, PlayStation, GameBoy, Wii, or whatever you play games on. If playing your favourite game gives you joy, don’t let any elitist asshole try to tell you that you’re doing it wrong. You’re doing it right because you’re enjoying video games, and that’s what’s it’s all about.

</rant>

So you want to be a video games “journalist”?

Over the last few months, I’ve had people coming to me for advice about wanting to break into the video games industry as a reviewer or journalist. To be entirely honest, I’m not sure I’ve actually gotten into the industry yet but I’ll give you whatever advice I can give. I’ve also asked friends who work in journalism or video games about what advice they’d give people, so that’s thrown in too.

“Video Games Journalism”

Let’s be honest with each other, there aren’t that many legitimate journalists in the video games industry. Not traditional journalists, anyway. A lot of what video games journalism is these days is regurgitating media releases and reporting on rumours. Doing legitimate journalistic work is pretty hard to come by, it’s more editorial work. Not that there work isn’t out there, but it’s probably being done already. You’ll need to prove yourself.

So, the advice I’ve got:

                On writing

It sounds simple enough, but depending on where you want to get into, your writing style needs to suit that style of publication. Read previous reviews of the publication you want to write for and get a feeling of their style. Having a range of writing styles is a great thing to have in your arsenal as a writer.

Write about anything and everything, it’s the only way to improve this utmost vital skill. Find press releases and rewrite them, write fake news stories about the characters in games, write reviews on everything you’ve used, played, seen or read. Start yourself a blog and put your opinions out into the world. You’ll get a range of people looking at your stuff and they’re going to give you their honest opinion. Just remember, all criticism can be useful if you don’t get upset by it.

On video games

Understanding how video games work is probably important if you’re interested in video games. Ask developers what goes into making a game, or take a basic coding course (there are some available online) to give you a greater insight into how what goes into a game. Your passion for video games is what got you interested in this kind of writing, a deeper understanding never hurts.

On industry shows

Go to every event you can get in to. Last year at PAX Australia, I introduced myself to indie developers showing their wares and built relationships with people. A few weeks later, I got an email from one of the guys I’d met asking me to review their game. I took down business cards with my contact details (work email, mobile number, website) and they sent me a copy of their game. Going to industry events is important for networking. Sometimes it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. It’s in your best interest to know everybody.

For stuff you can’t get to (E3, anyone?), streaming and live-tweeting are going to be your friends. Getting involved in hashtags will help you get into the conversation and gauge the reaction of your intended audience.

On the Internet

The Internet is a big, scary place and it’s full of individuals who have strong, conflicting opinions and you’re likely to meet someone who disagrees with you. And maybe, they’ll disagree with you so much they’ll call you nasty names, say horrible things about you to their friends and try to rubbish you so that you don’t get more work. It’s bound to happen. What’s important to remember is that there are people who agree with you, too.

It’s also a vital part of what you want to do. Traditional print doesn’t have much room for video game editorials or reviews (outside of video game publications), so it’s best to make yourself an online presence.

About yourself

Be honest. People will read your work under the impression that you’re being completely honest and transparent in your work. This is especially important when reporting news and writing reviews, even your editorials needs to accurately represent your opinion. If someone pays you to write something; announce it upfront. If you’ve been provided with a product; acknowledge that the product was provided by a company. If you don’t disclose everything, people will find out and you risk your reputation.

Have confidence in yourself, and your writing. If you’re not confident of what you’re writing, it’ll be reflected in your piece. This is something I struggle with time to time, but I have a good circle of support to help me realise that sometimes I write English good (yes, that was intentional.) Find people who are willing to read your work and give you feedback, it’s the only way you’ll learn.

If you’ve got the talent and the drive to be successful, you’ll be successful. People respond to people who are confident in their ability to progress and succeed. With help, I’ve written for Player Attack, been retweeted by PAX Australia and reviewed for ASUS and Walk-Thru Walls. Have the guts to ask for help and send your stuff to everyone. If they reject you, ask for feedback about what you can improve. If you’re accepted, ask what they liked about your piece. Every little bit helps.

 

Thanks to James McGrath, Lauren Grey (and her friend) and Scott Rhodie for their help with this post.