1985. There was no internet or cell phones. The video game industry was sagging, and things looked grim. Unless you had a ton of quarters for the arcade, or were friends with the rich kid in class that had an Atari, video games were a spectator sport for you, a treat if you were so lucky.
If you have been paying attention to social media this week, you have a basic idea of what came next. The product that revitalized the industry and became the benchmark for future consoles and video game companies.
Nintendo released the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in North America, selling over 60 million units. We learned the subtle nuances of a side scroller in Super Mario Bros, the vast expanse of the topdown adventure in Legend of Zelda, the sheer rage of aiming a blaster in Duck Hunt.
As those who follow us on Twitter and Instagram know, Tech Geek Gamers were at the Edmonton Expo this past weekend, and we had a blast. The Expo has grown in recent years and now encompasses the entire Expo Center. A quick walk from the Coliseum LRT station, we made it past the fleet of food trucks despite our lack of coffee (not Cory-he had FIVE CUPS because he’s a machine), and made it to the lines.
Thank the gods for press passes.
Attendance numbers were up this year, and the sheer number of amazing cosplay, local businesses, and fun venues really made the time blow by. The weekend found us interviewing attendees, giving away pairs of Gunnars, and visiting local talent like the crew of Filthy Casual, cosplay queen Nica Stone, and Extra Life, where we donated a pair of Gunnars to the charity auction.
Gunnar winners weren’t the only ones who walked away from the Expo with loot. With so many artists and shops, it was hard not to!
Before I get to my list of awesome finds, I’d like to point out that this is the first time I have not blown my cash on oldschool game cartridges. It felt so odd to not leave with a bag full of NES or N64 games, but what I did find definitely makes up for it.
FCJD Grey tank top-Filthy Casual Co.
Anyone who partakes in the alcomohol will recognize this one. Based on the classic Jack Daniels whiskey logo, this cotton blend dark grey tank features the FC brand info instead. Super comfortable! Check out their huge line of shirts and more!
Copic Sketch Markers-Copic
I love art, and one of my past times includes drawing a semi-autobiographical cartoon. When I choose to color them, finding realistic skin tone colored inks can be a pain in the butt. Fortunately local art supply shop Colours had a booth selling pretty much anything a cartoonist could need. I now own three color tones that can only be described as ‘so Irish you’re almost translucent’. I can’t tan worth a damn. Shut up.
Custom printed Lego bricks-BrickRadar.com
Calgary-based business Brick Radar creates custom designed bricks, from your name to your favorite console, you name it. With an impressive library of creative lego designs anyone can build, collectors and lovers of the best toy ever can help you make whatever your heart desires.
I desired the smallest Atari 2600 console I’ve ever seen. And Speak n’ Spell. Also an Etch A Sketch.
I may have a new addiction.
Legend of Zelda t-shirt-Chop Shop Goods
I bought something LoZ themed. Shocker, I know. This black cotton shirt is a custom, on-location printed shirt. You select your shirt color and style, then choose your design from the Chop Shop Goods catalog full of pop culture goodness. Half an hour later, you have yourself a shirt!
My shirt features the Song of Time from Ocarina of Time. Loves it.
Original Art Sketch-Robin Morley
During a previous job I got to meet Robin Morley, a local artist who pretty much does it all- traditional art, comics, game art design, you name it. Whenever I go to an Expo I stop by his booth to see what’s new.
This year Robin featured some amazing Star Trek themed art, a what-if comic book cover inspired by Nathan Fillion and a plethora of art from his speed paints and online sessions. What he does in Photoshop with just a basic idea of a concept would blow you away.
I picked up an original sketch from one of those sessions that features Red Sonja. The details found throughout this piece, the simplicity, the form…love it.
I MAY have demanded he draw her during a session where he posted an excellent Conan the Barbarian à la Frank Frazetta.
Conan was the first comic I ever read (stole a peak at my cousins stash as a kid). This will be framed and hung by my bookshelf holding my comic collection.
The beautiful thing about the Expo, aside from being surrounded by hundreds of like-minded lovers of all things geek, is the opportunity to meet with local talent, be it cosplay, game designers, or artists. We met a lot of fun groups we hope to be able to involve with the show, be it via guest appearances, games, etcetera.
Thanks again, Edmonton Expo, can’t wait until next year.
Well, it’s the end of summer, and there’s no real big anything going on. A perfect time to round up the latest tech, geek and gamer related news this week!
Google announces official launch of YouTube Gaming
FINALLY. A little over a year ago that YouTube announced that they will take gaming more seriously, and considering the sheer volume of gaming content, I think it’s about time. Although an attempt to acquire Twitch didn’t pan out, the new YouTube Gaming site will focus on Let’s Plays, streams, and anything gaming related.
Similar to Twitch’s ‘Following a game’, YouTube Gaming will offer pages for each game (with over 25,000 games to be covered, as well as channels from creators and game publishers. Imagine the sheer size of the Minecraft channel library.
Where Twitch is exclusively for Let’s Play style streams, the YouTube version is a little more flexible, allowing users to also stream non-gaming related content. Keep in mind it’s still in Beta right now.
Long story short; YouTube is taking gaming content seriously and we’ll have our first look at the new service this Wednesday, with the new site and apps for iOS and Android. I hope the new site generates more views for creators, and hopefully suffers no major glitches.
We’ll see how major contender Twitch responds to the direct competition.
Ah, the great outdoors! The sun, the mass exodus of weekend warriors to the lakes and the province wide fire ban. Yep; it’s summer on the prairies all right.
You know what that means…
…Steam Summer Sale!
It’s back and slightly different from the usual sale we’re used to. Yes, you can still expect flash sales, daily deals and yesterday’s deals as per usual. What has changed this time around is we now have to earn special discounts on titles by joining the community in playing a game made just for the sale. The ‘Monster Game’ is an in-browser team game where you fight waves of enemy monsters and bosses by joining a group of Steam users and working together to reach daily milestones to unlock the next days’ special deals.
It’s a great idea, except the game was borked for the first two days, with many Steam users getting an ‘unable to connect to game, please try again’ error message, or getting lagged to death. Today was the first day I was able to play, and it is addictive.
You start on level one and earn in-game coins by killing monsters that spawn in three tracks, which you can pan between. You can then use the coins to upgrade your weapons, armor, and get upgrades to help out your team.
Although the game is fun, it’s a click-to-shoot, where you are spamming the left mouse button until your wrist falls off. Not much diversity. Another point is there’s no way to coordinate with your team as there’s no way to communicate with anyone. There is a feed that says who used what item, but that’s it.
Yes, it has flaws, but it’s a game made solely for the summer sale, so you can’t fault Steam for much. A nice touch is that once you’ve joined the fight, you can leave and your character will keep collecting levels and gold, which is awesome, as the upgrades become more expensive as you progress.
It’s a game that gets people involved in the sale and you earn summer sale badges from. I’ll take it happily, though my mouse will likely kill me.
Blizzard heard the rage, and LISTENED
I know; a company actually listened to its consumers. Crazy, right? And in the gaming industry, no less!
World of Warcraft Patch 6.2 will be the next big patch, opening up the long awaited Tanaan Jungle area, complete with new factions, dungeons, and baddies out to kill you in record time. When the patch notes were originally released, it was stated that there would be no flying in the expansion at all, as Blizzard wanted to keep the experience of trekking through the world as immersive as possible, and the ability to skip over entire sections diminished that.
As you can imagine, players weren’t happy, some going as far as to cancel their accounts after filling the forums with rants and rage. I get it. I have been playing since vanilla, and have a vast stable of mounts, many special flying ones.
As of last week, however, Blizzard has released an amendment to the notes, saying they listened to the feedback of the WoW community and changed their plans. There WILL be flying in Draenor, but it will require players to quest and work for it. Sounds good to me! I actually prefer the challenge instead of just getting a “DING! Grats you can fly now!” just for hitting the level cap. The community seems appeased; now let’s hope the patch pleases those who have gotten bored of running the raids and grinding out dailies.
Bring it on.
Oculus Rift comes to mass market next year
It’s official; the Oculus Rift, the darling of Kickstarter and Let’s Play streamers alike, has reached it’s final form and will be available for purchase in the first quarter of 2016.
The headset is still wired in (at least it’s just one small cable on one side), but offers the comfort of being able to accommodate glasses for bespectacled players, and the distance of the lenses is adjustable for a more personal fit. A built in camera will track your head for a more fluid reaction in game. As for the sound, you can use the included headset or swap it out for your own.
The part I liked is the controller. Although each headset will come with an Xbox controller, Oculus is planning on releasing a motion controller, the Oculus Touch. The Touch is two small controllers that fit in your hand. Although each are equipped with the traditional analog stick and trigger buttons (it looks like they cut a standard controller in two), the Touch has sensors that track gestures, allowing for a more immersive feel as you play a game.
No price has been confirmed as of yet, but rumor is the full set, both the Rift and the Touch will set you back around $1,500.00USD. Preorders aren’t open yet, so we’ll have to wait and see.
Humans need water to live, who knew?
Buy our smart water bottle, because you’re too dumb to remember to drink. That’s what I took away from a rather interesting Kickstarter product that made its way into the Trending feed. The campaign for HidrateMe Smart Water Bottle assumes that you’re so busy this day and age that you need a physical reminder to drink. The premise is that we’re not drinking enough water, so fund this smart water bottle that will send you a message via your smartphone to stop whatever you’re doing and drink, dammit. It even tracks your water consumption. I can only wonder if I get a gold star for remembering to stay hydrated.
Now if I can only find a plate that launches food at my head in timed intervals so I remember to eat I will be set.
The face that this campaign has not only met its goal of $35,000USD, but is currently sitting at $300,849USD with 29 days to go not only amazes me, but scares me a bit. The people that need a reminder to perform a basic action every other carbon based life form instinctively knows how to complete without a second thought are out there among us, driving vehicles and making decisions.
I’m done. I’m just…no.
RIP Sir Christopher Lee
We lost another great actor this past week. Christopher Lee, best known for his recent portrayals of Saruman in LoTR and Count Dooku of Star Wars, has passed away at the age of 93 from respiratory problems. His acting career spans 70 years, he served in Her Majesty’s Secret Service, he even played a Bond Villain (Man with the Golden Gun)!
Thank you for playing so many memorable villains, sir. You will be missed.
Update: Hot Topic will not be acquiring ThinkGeek
In my last news post I mentioned the pending purchase of ThinkGeeks’ parent company by Hot Topic. Apparently that deal has since been cancelled, as GameStop outbid them. This seems like a good thing to me, as ThinkGeek’s catalog includes a large amount of video game related items. Another fair point is, have you noticed how much random gaming related items are in GameStop/EB Games? There’s a whole wall dedicated to gamer apparel, mugs, board games, and other sundries. It makes sense to diversify a bit to help bolster the sale of physical games in an age of the digital download, but with ThinkGeek now a part of GameStop, it will be interesting to see how that wall o’ stuff changes, or how this affects the ThinkGeek website, if any changes are even made.
It’s a better fit than Hot Topic, which caters to whatever’s currently in style at that moment with the tweens.
Does that make me a geek purist?
Now back to watching Let’s Plays of Splatoon, while I yet again debate the purchase of a WiiU for the sole purpose of playing a handful of games.
Last May I reviewed Ernest Cline’s sci-fi action title Ready Player One. The book absorbed me utterly- I did little else until I finished reading it, and even then it wasn’t enough.
Onto the author’s homepage I went in search of more of OASIS and Wade Watts, more nostalgia intertwined with futuristic possibility. I was not alone. There I discovered a large fan base offering everything from their favorite nostalgia to their views on the characters and their rather grim dystopian universe. One thread in particular grabbed my attention- the mention of Warner Bros. purchase of the movie rights back in 2010.
The fan base welcomed this with a serious case of excitement mixed with trepidation. Will it come to pass? Who would direct and star? Would a story that relies so heavily on licensed nostalgia translate well, or would all that made the story so engaging be lost in negotiations and rewrites?
Last week, the fan base rejoiced in two things; Warner Bros. announced plans to finally make the movie AND that they got Steven Spielberg to direct.
The script has been in development for some time now, and with the author involved I’m not too worried about that particular.
What does worry me is how Spielberg will bring the virtual reality world that is OASIS to the big screen in a believable way. In the book, you’re dropped into this virtual world where most people live their true lives, away from the hell that the real world has become since the economy crashed hard (for a more in-depth view of the world of Ready Player One, go here). The budget will likely be spent on this feature alone. That is, if the rights to use all the licensed games, music, and other 80’s references are cleared without too much fuss..
This is the second big part of the book; nostalgic pop culture and video games. The creation and evolution, as well as the actual playing of certain classic titles like Joust and Pac-Man are what carry the action in the storyline. Coupled with references to pop culture from that era, it’s a trip down memory lane for many fans (even those who weren’t born yet). This is something that can’t just be omitted if the book is to keep it’s allure intact through the movie process.
There are a LOT of great titles that were strong in print, but fell apart when someone tried to bring them to life; think Howard the Duck for the most cringe-inducing example. Fingers crossed that having such a big name like Spielberg involved in the project will help keep the core of what made Ready Player One such a great read intact.
Cline is keeping fans in the loop with updates on his official Ready Player One movie page here, if you’re interested in following the process.
Oh, and his next book, Armada, hits the shelves July 14th. I MAY have already pre-ordered it for a future review…and because I loved the hell out of RPO.
If you now have a serious case of nostalgia, there’s dozens of rom sites like OpenEmu where you can play the games mentioned in the book (if you’re having trouble finding a good site, go to Reddit for links and the community’s opinions on who offers the best what).
If 8-bit isn’t your style, Royston Ross created the first level from Super Mario 64 in HD that plays in a browser. As of this post, said browser page was crashed due to traffic, but you can play a downloadable version from the developer’s page here.
Another fun nostalgic fix are the musical stylings of YouTube’s Starbomb, a band made up of Ninja Sex Party and Egoraptor. The songs are video game parodies, mostly titles from the 80’s and 90’s. NSFW/NSFKids as there’s f-bombs and adult-ish humor.
The first album is uploaded in full on YouTube to promote their latest offering, Player Select. Both albums are also available on iTunes, Amazon Music, and in physical format (links under the video). Check it out here and prepare to laugh your butt off. So much win.
I was going to write a review of the new 3DS remake of The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, but as I just got the damn charger today (because nothing says ‘compensate for lackluster console sales’ like having to buy the adapter separately), that will have to be delayed a bit.
Blizzard unveils WoW Token, gold farmers panic
It’s a tale as old as MMORPG’s- you log in to your toon, stroll through the gates of your main city and BAM-gold seller spam. Badly written offers to sell you thousands of gold for fifty U.S. dollars or cheaper. All it takes is a possible compromise of your account and a possible ban for buying gold likely earned through gold farmers of account hacks. The almighty banhammer can only do so much.
The spam in World of Warcraft isn’t nearly as bad as it once was, but it’s still annoying. Not to mention the poor hacked accounts that have to deal with the oh-so fun stress of account recovery, item and gold loss, and having your toons returned to you in nothing but their underwear.
Blizzard has announced a new option available to players through their WoW Token. Players can buy a token in the online shop, then sell it in the Auction House for gold. Players who play month to month can then buy the token, worth 30 days game time.
The benefits go both ways- players have a safe way to earn in-game gold or play time, and Blizzard makes a little extra cash while rendering gold farmers obsolete. Sounds like a good player retention move to me. Players with a little disposable income basically pay the subscription fee for another player in exchange for in-game gold. Both parties are happy, and Blizzard keeps their subscriber numbers up.
The actual launch day for the token is still to be determined, but it will be interesting to see how this affects the realm economy and population on my server, not to mention how the gold farmers will respond.
I like to think of it as karma for all those hacked accounts and times I’ve tried to complete a ‘kill 20 of something’ quest, but had a gold farmer camping the spawn points. Hope you get a better job, dude.
IKEA furniture gets better, still Tetris with hex keys
At the recent Mobile World Congress in Spain Ikea announced plans to incorporate Qi technology into their new line of furniture, and I’m excited for it.
Qi tech is already in hotels, airports, and other public venues- you may have seen it already. It’s wireless charging for mobile devices that is supported by nearly 100 devices. It’s a sleek, almost sci-fi alternative to clunky, unattractive cables. You just plunk your smartphone on the charging hotspot and leave it. Simple as that.
As for existing Ikea furniture, you will be able to install a Qi charging hotspot yourself by buying a charger package, so no need to replace all your furniture quite yet.
Not sure when this technology will come to Ikea Canada, but I’m looking forward to the convenience, and seeing if you can charge more than one device at a time.
Forget edible cups; this one’s a freakin’ Tree
You’ve likely heard of edible coffee cups- fast food chain KFC announced a limited test run of their own design and I’ve seen recipes on Pinterest (if anyone has successfully recreated one is to be determined). Basically they’re a cup-shaped cookie coated in icing to prevent the coffee from leaking out and softening the cup prematurely. It’s an intriguing idea for reducing waste (also, hey- COOKIE), but might prove ineffective for slow drinkers, breakage and expiry dates for the actual cup.
Enter the biodegradable coffee cup from California-based company Reduce.Reuse.Grow. The cup itself is seeded paper that, when planted, will grow everything from local wild flowers to trees. Even if you don’t plant the cup, it will self-plant in the landfill. I have planted seeded paper products before, and have had great results.
The Kickstarter to fund the cups has 11 days to go, so if you’re interested in helping out the earth while getting your coffee fix, check it out. As of this post, they have just hit their goal, (yay!) but we’ll see what happens with their stretch goals.
Five Nights At Freddy’s 3 released because screw sleep
Perhaps you’ve seen the creepy splash page on Steam for Scott Cawthon’s nightmare fuel, Five Nights At Freddy’s (FNAF); a horror/suspense game that takes my fear of crappy, Chuck-E-Cheeze style animatronics to a whole new level of kill it with fire.
Seriously- they’re horrifying enough in the first game…then in the second one they introduce new versions of oh God why. The third game in the series takes all that was creepy and stressful from the first two games and ratches it up several notches with less mobility, more mechanics to deal with, a new animatronic horror and the worst jump scares since Slenderman was a thing.
As with his other titles, Cawthon released the demo, then promptly released the full game to the fans who have been eagerly awaiting the much-hyped third installment. The internet is filled with FNAF conspiracy theories, not to mention a plethora of fan made art and stories, some of which proves the need for eye bleach, like the Chika and Foxy fanservice (you have been warned).
The storyline of FNAF has developed over time, becoming more and more insidious as more details are gleaned from the games. The game started as a simple jumpscare title, but has evolved to something more. I love it, despite my unladylike responses throughout the game. It’s on sale for less than nine dollars on Steam if you want to never sleep again…or want to have to explain to your partner why you insist on sleeping with the baseball bat.
I have never been so happy to see the clock hit 6am in my life.
PAX is about to happen! Are you going? What’s your take on this week’s news?
Learn about asteroid mining to impress your friends!
Deep Space Industries
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)
Tholen and S.M.A.S.S. classification