Category: PC

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)

(Originally published on Player Attack)

One of the biggest tragedies of Grand Theft Auto V is in how little its moralities are spoken on. The characters are reprobates, the actions amoral in the best case and utterly reprehensible in the worst.

They are monsters of the most depraved calibre, and with a single document, I wondered if I shouldn’t be among them.

At the end of Grand Theft Auto 5, you’re presented with a psychoanalysis of your playthrough by the in-game therapist Dr. Isiah Friedlander. The doctor’s observations are harsh, brutal, and entirely honest. Mine read as follows:

– Fascinating. Rarely have I encountered someone so deluded.

– Good at compromise. Not so good at willpower.

– Terrifying egomaniac.

– Irresponsible with money and with rest of life.

– Likes to show off around women.

– Morally conservative about some things – which is weird.

– Not good on giving time to others.

– Keen to be a part of the American dream, which is odd.

– Psychopath or sociopath? Both.

– Magpie who will steal whatever takes their fancy, time and time again.

– Ignores anything spiritual.

– Lazy.

– Friendly, in a way.

– Easily distracted.

– A real mess.

 

I didn’t understand what any of this meant until I went back and thought about it. Some of the points are fairly obvious: I stole anything that wasn’t nailed down (but I do that in Skyrim, too). I have to admit I avoided any physical activities. Triathlons, swimming, biking, and anything explicitly physical was something of a bane. My money was better spent on vices, like clothing, cars, and comforts.

It is easy to get wrapped up in it all. Having the money to lead a lavish life of fast cars, cheap booze, and easy comforts make work infinitely less appealing. Anything that required dedicated effort was, by default, infinitely less attractive. The best things in life should be easy, or fulfilling, and fun.

With Benjamin’s exploding from my pockets, I never needed to do anything other than exactly what I wanted. And no one wants to work, do they? Is it really so wrong to live the American dream, to be distracted, messy, and dedicated to living the high life without the high responsibilities?

Dr. Friedlander seemed to think so.

What could x have meant, though? Other points are less obvious, and I still haven’t shed much light on the subject. More research is required, but to what ends. What would exploring Dr. Friedlander’s possibilities mean making me do?

Grand Theft Auto 5 has an unconscious morality system. While I can choose certain things to differ the ending, other things aren’t in my control. My actions are taken note of by Friedlander and judgements are made. I’m not sure whether to be offended by Friedlander’s assumptions or impressed by Rockstar’s new take on the traditional morality system; if it can even be called that.

You don’t really have a sense of right or wrong in Grand Theft Auto 5. As a player, you know that behaving the way you’re encouraged to in-game would be considered wrong, but within the context of the game world, it’s entirely okay. Other games like Mass Effect give you a variety of choices based on your characters morality, but in Grand Theft Auto 5, it’s an afterthought.

My biggest issue with the traditional morality system (in games like the original BioShock or by some extension, the Mass Effect Trilogy) is that you’ve really only got three options: Teachers Pet, Boring or Pure Evil. There isn’t enough depth into how your choices changed the game world or your character.

The analysis by Friedlander gives a more in-depth look at how you played. I’m well aware that Rockstar probably has a pool of lines to pick from that depend on what choice you make, but it’s a nice change from “Oh, you harvested all the little girls? I bet you kick kittens, too.” Oh, come on game!

I harvested like two little girls. ”In the original BioShock, if you harvest one too many girls, it tips the scale from good to evil quite quickly, implying your choices have dire consequences. While in BioShock: Infinite (the third instalment) of the game, any choices you make have no impact on the outcome, implying that your destiny is chosen for you no matter what.

The mini analysis post-game definitely made me sit up and think about how I played Grand Theft Auto 5 and it’s making me rethink the way I play through now. Did I ever question what the game was making me before I read the report? Should I have? I still murder indiscriminately, but there’s some forethought going into it. I’m constantly aware that the in-game shrink is making notes and silently judging me and I wonder if I’m really a sociopath, a psychopath or both?

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.

keynote edit

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.

 

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.

paxaus-590x535

Last year, I made a post about preparing for the upcoming PAX Australia convention. I drew on knowledge I’d gathered from other events I’d been to, and asked people who’d been to PAX cons in the US for advice. All my research still didn’t prepare me for just how massive those three days are! Now that I have some firsthand experience, I’m hoping that Survival Guide 2.0 helps new attendees and seasoned con veterans prepare for the event.

Hotels

With PAX Australia being just over two months away, getting any last minute accommodation sorted out would probably be a good idea. Hotels near the area would fill up fast, so look for ones near public transport (see below) for an easy commute. If you’ve already got your accommodation organised, call your hotel/motel/etc about a week before to confirm your booking and check in times. Some places have late arrival times, so knowing what time you can dump your luggage is going to be handy. Make plans if you’ve got some time to kill before you can get into your room.

Travel to/from PAX

The closest airport to the event is Melbourne International Airport. As well as having rental car and taxi options for your convenience, there’s also the Skybus which travels to the city centre from the airport every 10 minutes. The timetable and routes are available here.

This year, PAX is being held at the Melbourne Convention and Entertainment Centre (MCEC), which has five paid car parks scattered around close-by. These car parks are owned by Wilson and can get kinda pricy. ($12 an hour pricy) Carpool if you’re driving and split the cost. As the MCEC is a major convention centre, taxis ($$$), trams, trains and busses are all available and will have a stop close to the centre. Investing in a Myki and having credit loaded on to it will save you time and stress. Check (and double check) routes from where you are to where you need to be.

Getting lost sucks.

Getting lost in an unfamiliar city sucks more.

Tickets

Tickets for the event have sold like hotcakes. 3-day passes are sold out, as are Saturday day passes. International 3-day passes (for those of you flying into the country) are still available, as well as Friday and Sunday day passes.

What to wear

Enjoying yourself is key at events like this, but Melbourne is notorious for its temperamental weather. To avoid some of the PAX Plague, you’ll need to dress and pack accordingly. (Edit: A commentator on Twitter mentioned that when it rains, it pours in Melbourne. Take an umbrella or one of those $2 ponchos.)

Shirts: T-shirts are always comfortable and you’re bound to have a few favourite nerdy shirts lying around.

Pants: Jeans will keep you warm while you’re outside but aren’t going to overheat you while you’re inside. Let’s face it, you’re going to be doing lots of different activities (walking, sitting, gaming) and you’re going to need something that moves with your body. If you wanna wear skinny jeans, you might find they’re a little difficult unless they’re a day old or so.

Jumpers/Jackets: This is where things get difficult. A warm jacket is great for when you’re waiting for transport outside or outside the event, but they can be bulky. Try for something that you’re not going to be bothered carrying around with you all day and night. If you can put it in a bag (or tie it), the better. Same with any accessories like scarves and beanies. Any extra bulk is extra weight that you’re going to have with you the whole day.

Shoes: Whatever you know you can walk in for 8+ hours. It varies from person to person.

Note to Cosplayers:

Cosplayers, remember a jacket at least or layer up so you don’t fall into the same trap I did the first time I cosplayed Black Canary and end up with some kind of death plague because you didn’t dress appropriately.

PAX has some rules about what cosplay weapons you can and can’t bring into the convention. Information is available on the official website, and the Penny Arcade forums.

The organisers also say “Cosplaying attendees may be asked to alter or modify their costume if it is considered to be overtly sexual.” More information about this is available on the official PAX website, under the “Booth Babes” heading. These rules are to make sure that the event is enjoyable for everyone, since PAX is still a family event.

Planning ahead

Planning can be what makes or breaks your weekend. Last year, one of the few complaints people had with the convention was the size of some panels and how long the queues were. Deciding what, who and where you want is going to give you a fighting chance at seeing everything you want. The schedule is available here.

The Guidebook app was a miracle last year and I’m expecting the same this year. It’s available on Android, iOS, Windows and Blackberry so everyone is covered. The MCEC website also has a map of the area, which can help plan where you want to meet up with friends. Edit: PAX released their map of the event, available here.

 

Keeping Fed/Watered

The days will be VERY long and it’s important to keep your energy up.  Keeping yourself fed and watered is going to make sure you’re going to have the energy to get through the day. Make sure you’ve got a bottle of water in your bag so you’ve got something to sip other than energy drink and Coke is going to make sure you’re always hydrated. Lunch and snacks are going to be your major issue.

Either bring food with you, or bring some money for the stuff that the cafes that the MCEC is going to have available. Having cash on hand is going to come in handy for the whole event, but having it with you to buy a quick bite is going to save you bank fees and a lot of time.

The south wharf promenade along the Yarra River has a great selection of bars and restaurants for you to grab a bite to eat during the day. Melbourne is famous for its bar scene, with some of the best places to eat and drink being in the city. PAX have organised a discount for PAX attendees with the owners and licensees of the venues!

Edit: A friend mentioned the 4-2-1 rule.

4 hours sleep (it’s a LONG weekend.)

2 square meals a day (actual meals, not snacks or something)

1 decent shower (for the sake of everyone)

Finally

Remember, have fun! That’s what is most important. There’s tonnes to do over the weekend in and around the event itself so be on the look out for cool stuff to do so enjoy the weekend.

PC gamers have a love/hate relationship with gaming laptops. Some can see the use for them (it’s how I started PC gaming), especially when it comes to portability, but others see them as an expensive and underpowered. The Asus ROG G550J has some decent grunt to keep the most hardcore gamers happy, but still lightweight enough to take to LANs for those all-nighters.

Straight out of the box, the Asus G550J is pretty to look at. The Asus Republic of Gamers logo stands proudly among the brushed aluminium front. Under the lid, it’s all matte black and red. The keyboard is printed with red keys and has a matching red black light, which you can dim or brighten with function keys. The base is even lined with red. Since red is my favourite colour, I’m pleased with the colour scheme, but I can imagine it’s not for everyone.

The keyboard took a little getting used to, like all new keyboards do. But once I knew the positioning of all the keys, writing on the Asus G550J was a comfortable experience. I decided to re-write a couple of old reviews to get a real feel for how the keyboard would work in an everyday environment. The keys press nicely and are a nice size. One of the problems with 15.6” laptops with a full alphanumeric keyboard is the small size of the keys. Luckily, that’s not an issue with this keyboard.

The G550J also boasts enough ports to keep even the most intense user happy. With three 3.0 USB ports (two on the left side, one on the right), you can still plug a mouse in to the laptop, charge your phone and still have a port left over. There’s also a HDMI port (right side), an optical Blu-ray drive, a mini display port, an SD card slot (always handy) and a headphone jack. Something you won’t see on all laptops’ is the small yellow port near the charger, which is where you plug in the sub, which comes with the laptop. The sub looks like a small can and certainly boosts the low-end sounds of games, movies, and music.

I picked two games to test the limits of the Asus G550J with the help of a friend of mine. We took into consideration the graphical strain and how resource heavy the games would be and decided on The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, and The Witcher 2.

Both games can be played on their highest settings and look beautiful on the 15.6” LCD screen with the help of the Nvidia 850M 4GB graphics card.

During the initial set up, The Witcher 2 auto-detected what settings can be best played on. The surprising (or not so surprising)        result was to play in Ultra Spec. In Ultra Spec, everything is cranked to the max. Shadow details, character details and graphical details are all set to ultra.

When I started to play The Witcher, I had a few issues in the beginning with the touchpad getting in the way and trigging some menu options (an issue I have with all laptops), but once I switched the touchpad off and got back into gameplay, it was all smooth sailing.

The same can be said about The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. While I don’t run Skyrim with too many mods (just an inventory mod and a “realistic” skin mod), it can still be a difficult game for some computers to handle. The G550J automatically ran Skyrim on Ultra where all details are played in high (or ultra, where applicable.) With the battery in high powered mode, there’s plenty of power to play both The Witcher 2 and The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim in their wonderful glory.

The good thing is that I didn’t notice the laptop getting too hot during sessions of long gameplay. Having it sit straight on my desk, there was enough room for proper ventilation to keep the laptop comfortably cool.

The Asus G550J does make a lot of noise. The fan can be distractingly loud at times, even in balanced mode. While I had the laptop idling in balanced mode, it sounded as if it was playing a game in high powered mode. While it’s not a huge deal, with the noise being easily drowned out by background noise or headphones, it could be distracting while using the laptop in a quieter environment.

I could get 2-3 hours out of the battery with some general use (Wi-Fi on, brightness at max, battery on balanced). However, when playing games, I changed the battery into high power mode and made sure the laptop was plugged in. While a good habit to be in when it comes to gaming, not necessarily a great habit for reviewing.

Overall

The Asus ROG G550J could easily satisfy any PC gaming enthusiast with its looks and power. However, with the hefty price tag of AU$2,699, many gamers could find themselves resorting to cheaper options. Paying the extra isn’t without its benefits. The LCD screen performs wonderfully in all angles and all the power under the red and black colour scheme can easily play the most resource heavy games without becoming outdated too quickly.

The SSD drive size (256GB) leaves something to be desired for a gaming laptop, but it boots quickly and quietly, which could be enough for some users to load their favourite games and still have room left over for whatever else they needed to store on the drive.

If I had to pick a new laptop for gaming, the G550J would definitely catch my eye. It’s stylish, easy-to-use and powerful enough to do whatever I need it to.

tl;dr

Specifications:
• 15.6” LCD screen (1920 x 1080 resolution)
• 256GB SATA3 SSD
• 16GB DDR3 RAM (2x 8GB sticks)
• i7-4700 CPU @ 2.40GHz
• GeForce GTX 850m (4GB)
• Optical Blu-Ray drive
• 1 x HDMI ports
• 3 x USB 3.0 ports
• SD Card reader

Great for gaming, SSD is a little small, very stylish.

 

 

Stacy, taking bathroom selfies with her friends.

This is Stacy. She’s my GTA: Online avatar and I have a strange affection for her.

When GTA: Online first launched in October last year, it was a disaster that most users experienced. It wasn’t until Rockstar had figured out how releasing an MMO-style online experience for their wildly successful game probably needed a LOT more server support that it originally had, that everyone started to really enjoy the experience. My friends and I created a crew for our clan and rode around on the Vespa knockoffs, which we had customised in various shaded of neon colours; just to make it that much more special and it felt like our characters could actually be real; if Los Santos was a real place full of gun-toting psychopaths who rode around on hot pink scooters.

She likes selfies

Selfies with the Vinewood sign.

I wanted to give my avatar a little more life and for whatever strange reason, I fleshed her out a little bit. I named her Stacy. She looked like a Stacy to me. The story I’d picked was fairly generic; when Stacy turned 18, she got all her stuff and moved to LS to become something, not sure what that something was, but it was more than the menial job she was in at whatever small town she was leaving.

After arriving in LS and performing the first few jobs she could to raise some money, she met her friends (seen in the bathroom selfie) and despite them being the bad kids your parents warn you about, these were her people.

As someone who doesn’t really get THIS in to RPG’s, it’s funny that I’d grow so attached to Stacy. It’s like having a Barbie, but in an ultra-violent setting; I change her hair, make up and clothes regularly and make sure that she’s not too bruised up. Although, if you’ve seen the way I ride a motorbike in game, Stacy bares the brunt of it.

She’s my favourite part of GTA: Online. When it’s released on PC and my friends finally start playing again, I hope that I can transfer her across. I’d be a little upset if I couldn’t continue to play with my virtual Barbie.

 

I remember when I was a kid and my Mum got us our first computer. It was a giant cream coloured beast. I was so excited because I could play the copy of “Age of Empires” that was the prize in a box of Corn Flakes.

I’m pretty sure I still have it somewhere.

After installing it and starting a new Blue civilisation, everything went downhill. I was so happy hoarding resources, I forgot I had an opponent to defeat.

Within a few ages, the Reds descended upon me. It was a massacre. Luckily, a few innocent Blues managed to escape the carnage. With all the food, wood, gold and stone I’d collected before the first downfall of my empire I rebuilt stronger and with new determination. My new purpose was to crush my foe.

This was difficult with a population cap of just 50, but my small legion of builders made me an army that made my Red opposition tremble.

With a tide of horses and archers, I rained fiery Blue vengeance on those tiny red pixel people.

“You Are Victorious” flashed on to the screen, and I had my first taste of video game victory. This innocuous silver disc, pulled from a box of cereal is what I remember as my first real video game.

It started a love affair not only with the RTS genre of gaming, but could be responsible for my drive to write about games. I have fond memories of other games, but none have the nostalgia that AoE does.

I’ve got AoE games that follow that first game, but none draw me in like Age of Empires 1. They’re still fun, but they don’t hold a candle to the woo-loo-looo of AoE 1.

sodState of Decay is one of those games I’d heard great things about but already felt burnt out on. The zombie genre is a favourite with developers and the market is flooded with hoards (puns!) of them. But when my lovely friend gifted me the base game and the DLC, I decided to have a go at it.

At the time of writing, I’d played almost 10 hours straight without realising it. Thank GOD for days off, right?

State of Decay is a third-person zombie shooter with elements of stealth, resource management and base building thrown in. These gameplay elements help add extra depth to the immersion for the player. You need to make sure that all your characters are at full health, that there’s ammo available and you have an escape plan to get out of any sticky situations. My problem with a lot of zombie/survival games is that it’s run and gun; there’s no strategy. But State of Decay almost encourages you to have a strategy.

As you gather up more survivors to play as, they have mood swings and rely on other members of your group to help them through. The characters have enough personality to give you someone to pick as a favourite, but are plain enough so that you can put yourself in their shoes. Although, the way I’m playing, it’s a bit like an episode of Game of Thrones; I get attached to one particular character and then BAM! Eaten by a zombie. It’s a little tragic.

Gameplay and mission can lull from time to time, making things feel a little boring and repetitive. There’s a lot of potential for a variety of missions, but it’s mostly: go here, clear out this, come back.  I’ve currently found myself going around trying to find resources, waiting for missions to spawn because I’ve completed all the available missions. The missions I have completed have a good learning curve. You can do them on your own comfortably, or take along a fellow survivor to watch your back. Although, the AI can be a little… backwards when it comes to watching out for zombies; either super helpful or a major hindrance. The more you use a particular character, the better their stats get and the more helpful they can be.

My major problem with the game are a few rather annoying bugs I’ve come across when it comes to starting or closing the game. I found the game would crash when the music was muted, and I’m not sure what’s causing my game to bug out and crash when I’m trying to close the game from the main menu. The developer forums are helpful for finding work-around solutions for these bugs, but patching them hasn’t worked as of yet. From some Googling, my problems seem to be fairly common, so I’m hoping the developers are working to patch these out.

The music and graphics aren’t astounding, but it’s not a major drawback. In a world where everyone focuses on lifelike graphics and Oscar-worthy music, it’s kind of refreshing to have something that’s “not up to scratch”. The animation is a little buggy when zombies look like they’re outside, but are actually just clipping through a wall. I’ve wasted many a bullet hitting a wall where I thought I was aiming perfectly at a zombie’s face.

For a fairly generic zombie survival game, I’m sinking a disgusting amount of time into it. It’s got its claws right in and doesn’t really want to let go. The Lifeline and Breakdown DLC have great reviews online and the friend who gifted these to me raved about them when he bought them originally on Xbox Live. If you’re looking for a time sink, some good old fashion violence and nothing too complicated, State of Decay is perfect.

e3-2014

E3 is like Christmas in June for the video games industry and gaming fans everywhere. With the new generation of consoles being launched, purchased and firmly ingrained in households, Microsoft and Sony came out with a new line up of games and console attachments for their next gen consoles and some great stuff for their current gen consoles. Let’s talk about what Microsoft and Sony had to say at this year’s conference.

Let’s start with Microsoft, since they were the first off the mark.

The thing that got me the most foaming-at-the-mouth excited this year was the announcement of Halo Master Chief Collection. Microsoft reminded us that Halo 2 is 10-years-old this year (anyone else feel old?) and for the anniversary, they were going to combine Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3 and Halo 4 on ONE disc for all your intergalactic, space needs. Bringing back Halo 2 multiplayer and rendering it to current generation specifications. Seriously, you guys, they announced this and I stopped paying attention. Along with the Master Chief collection being released, there’s also a Halo 5 beta you can get in on. Reason 1 why I now need an Xbox One is because Halo. Yes, I am a fan girl.

Another series that made everyone terribly excited was further offerings from Assassin’s Creed. Ubisoft announced Assassin’s Creed: Unity which includes up to 4-play co-operative mode. Set during the French Revolution, you form your own brotherhood of Assassins and get stabby with it. While separate from the single-player mode, this was the main showcase of the Assassin’s Creed presentation.

It’s no secret that I’m not a huge fan of the Assassin’s Creed series any more. After everything that Ubisoft continues to bring out, I gave up on having a good story in lieu of being used as a cash cow. It’s disappointing because the new multiplayer aspect looks terribly well done. Unity continues the tradition of looking gorgeous, but I’m starting to wonder if that’s enough. It seems to be for fans of the series.

Fans of the Tomb Raider series will be happy to hear that there’s a new Tomb Raider gaming coming to Xbox One. Set after the end of the last game, Lara appears to be going through therapy, trying to work through the events of the island she was stranded on. She’s definitely becoming the Lara we’re used to: ass-kicking, strong and won’t take crap from anyone. Like the last game, this trailer looks full of promise.

There was also stuff about Call of Duty…

Sony is up next with what was a fairly… mediocre presentation but had some excellent games and hardware to show off.

The biggest surprise for the crowd was the announcement of Grim Fandango being remastered and bought to PS4 consoles around the world. Everyone I know holds Tim Schafer’s Grim Fandango in their hearts with loving nostalgia. I’d never played Grim Fandango, but last year at PAX Australia there was some excellent cosplay and listening to Ron Gilbert’s keynote speech reminded me of why those games mean so much to people. This would definitely be a good reason for me to pick up a PS4.

Another reason to pick up a PS4 would be Little Big Planet 3. Three new characters to help you get around more player-made levels and new levels of depth, why wouldn’t you pre-order this now? Little Big Planet is the game I show my non-gamer friends who want something easy to play, but you can spend hours being terribly entertained. Also, Stephen Fry.

Sony didn’t focus solely on the games. They announced a white PS4 coming to North America in September. It looks stunning and it’ll definitely give me enough time to wait for all the games I want to come out and drop in price. Although, the Australian time frame hasn’t been confirmed, hopefully a global release is in our future and some awesome bundles come along with it.

It’s hard to decide a “winner” from the battle of Microsoft and Sony but, personally, I think Microsoft won it. Out of the two conferences, Microsoft had the best offering of games that interested me. Sony has some great ideas coming up for Sony branded TVs, for the Vita and Playstation TV (which sounds AWESOME), but a lot of their non-game related stuff didn’t really grab my attention. However, this is just my opinion.

What did you guys think? Who was the big winner for you and what grabbed you the most?