Gamescom 2013 – Day 1

 Posted by on August 21, 2013  Community Gatherings, Conventions  Comments Off on Gamescom 2013 – Day 1
Aug 212013

Day one of gamescom is over! It’s been a good day with a couple of surprises on the show floor. I’m going to be doing a few game reviews based on what I saw today, covering Elder Scrolls Online, Project Spark, Beyond: Two Souls and Dragon’s Prophet. That’s going to take some time (maybe will have to wait until I get back) so I’m going to bridge the gap in the meantime with some of my pictures from today.

There were 2 things that struck me about the convention in general today.

  • There were more cosplayers than normal for the trade/media day. Lots of Assassin’s Creed cosplay, but I also saw a Lara Croft and various other anime cosplays I couldn’t place.
  • It was insanely busy. It seems non-media/trade visitors were allowed in from 2pm and the lines for some games shut 3 hours early as a result. I’m not overly happy about it (I travel especially for Wednesdays so I can get more done) and I’m worried how the booths will cope tomorrow.

Anyway, here’s some pictures!

PS: If anyone would like to use one of these in their blog or other publication, please get in contact with me through my About page and I’ll give you the unwatermarked high resolution pictures

Gamescom 2013 Preview

 Posted by on August 19, 2013  Community Gatherings, Conventions, Guild Wars 2, MMO Gaming  Comments Off on Gamescom 2013 Preview
Aug 192013

August rolls around again and that means it’s gamescom time!

I love gaming conventions. Not only are they a good way to get your hands on games you’re looking forward to and find new ones to get excited about, but they’re fantastic for dipping your toes in the water with new peripherals you’ve been considering. That’s before you get to the real reason I love the conventions – people. Wonderful people.

Gaming has broken into the mainstream of late but it’s still very hard to have a meaningful conversation about it with people you meet going through life, mostly because of platform divisions. Experiences of the same game differ wildly on different platforms and people play different games because of exclusivity. It ends up being quite difficult to talk to your neighbour who plays games because you don’t actually share that much in common experiences.

Conventions sweep all this away. You get the full spectrum of geeky awesomeness; cosplay to esports, board games to virtual reality and everything in between. gamescom turns Cologne into a gamer’s paradise for a few days (there’s stuff going on in the streets after hours), and 270,000 people flock to that paradise. With that many people, it’s easy to find people who are just as passionate as you are about your gaming niche.

I’m going to be going to gamescom on Wednesday (I’m trade, not press), Thursday and Friday. Thursday is turning out to be the big meet and greet day but if you happen to see me around on any day feel to grab me and say hi, even if I’m waiting in a queue (I changed my twitter avatar so I’m a little more recognisable). Please don’t be surprised if I don’t recognise you without your handle and/or avatar picture, I’m terrible with names and far better with locations. So saying something like “I’m blah from Twitter” is going to jog my memory a lot more.

This year is going to be a bit thinner on the ground for MYSTies than other years, but I’m going over with my husband Somnium and my friend and deputy guild leader Andypanda, who has his reporting hat on for Split Infinity Radio (check out their coverage). We’re going to be meeting up with a few of our German guildies there too, which should lead to fun times. Add to that the parties and it’s going to be a great few days (providing I shake off this cold). I’m also going to be meeting up with a few people from the Guild Wars 2 universe, like Paeroka and Bookahnerk from Nerdy Bookahs, Screenager from Afterlife Gaming and hopefully many others from the Twitterverse and I Can Outtweet A Centaur [TWIT].

And of course there’s the games. I’m looking forward to having a snoop around the MMO market, especially seeing how Elder Scrolls Online is doing, having a look at some of the smaller developers and trying to get freebies from Valve. Also I really hope to get some hands on time with Watchdogs, which is one of the games I’m mostly looking forward to for the rest of the year.

Hope to see some of you in Germany!

Sep 282011
I start this post with an admission: size counts. I’ve always steered clear of all UK conventions on the basis that as a nation we have very few big exhibition centres and they weren’t really relevant to my interests. Earl’s Court One, where Eurogamer Expo was held, is roughly the same size as 1 of the 7 exhibition spaces of Gamescom. Smaller venues mean fewer titles and less entertainment, so going to a smaller venue than this doesn’t seem worth the expense of travel and accommodation.

Conventions are always best when they are accompanied with friends and this one was no exception. My husband and I dragged my dad along for his first convention, and we met guild mates Andypanda, Entropy and Ku there, who has brought her friend Dave along too. Andy’s mission for the day was simple – get lots of free loot. Ent and Ku wanted to play Guild Wars 2, while the rest of us were happy to meander and see what was around.

The queue to get in was delightfully British – long but moving quickly and well organised. Once inside… well the show is definitely on a different scale to gamescom. The big stands and shell schemes are replaced with constructed walls, deep enough to get a door on the end (for storage) and long enough to get 4 laptops or consoles against. The big stands were reserved for the likes of OnLive, Rage, Nintendo and Samsung who had obviously invested the big bucks in the event.

Look! You can see carpet!

Guild Wars 2 was being advertised on the side of the free goodie bag that was being given out, and there were various adverts for it around the expo. They also had 3 constructed walls with a total of 24 stations where people could play the game, although when I first found the Guild Wars 2 area, I only thought there was one by the way everything was set up. Derp. It was there we met up with Cornish and Will, who I plug regularly on this blog. They’re as much of a delight and pleasure to chat with in the flesh as they are on Twitter and Skype and we spent a lot of the day milling around together.

In the morning we introduced my dad to Rift, had a wander around the retro gaming area and most of the 18+ zone. Andy managed to score himself a few t-shirts, a few miniature tanks and a Little Big Planet keyring.  While waiting for Entropy, Ku and Will to come back from the Guild Wars 2 Developer session, we all hit up Trackmania Canyon.  I’m a big fan of the Trackmania series and this one is looking good although I’m in desperate need of practice!

After lunch the less dedicated gamers (read: Dave and my dad) left and the rest of us wandered around the expo.  I got to try my hands on a 3DS, playing Zelda.  While I wouldn’t say the 3D aspect added to the experience, it certainly wasn’t as distracting as some have said it is.  3D on 3 22’’ monitors though? Yes please!  The indie games arcade and career fair were a little on the small size but perfectly adequate.  I tried my hand at Waves, an Indie top down shooter, which is oodles of mildly frustrating fun that makes you want to hit “try again” in the same way Tetris does.

Other highlights of the day include OnLive giving out vouchers to get their TV console for £1 (usually £70), but I remain unconvinced by the entire deal.  If I’m going to pay £30 for a game, I want to own it.  Choosing a subscription seems a good idea, but with a rather lacklustre library at the moment I’m very sceptical.  Towards the end of the day it got obvious that there wasn’t as much here as there was at Gamescom, and Somnium, Andy, Cornish, Will and I retreated to the bar for a couple of pints.

Ku plays Guild Wars 2, while Cornish, Somnium, Andypanda and Ent watch

In the meantime, Entropy and Ku were queuing up for Guild Wars 2.  The lines were a lot still shorter than the 5 hour wait I’d endured at Gamescom a few weeks ago, but still Ku was in the last 15 mins of her play session when we arrived at nearly 6pm.  While snapping a few pictures, she finished her demo and joined the throng of fans gathering around Colin Johanson asking questions.  Poor guy, he had 15 or so obviously hardcore fans bombarding him with questions, but not once did he stop smiling. Total pro.

Amongst the various questions about betas, release dates and stuff, I asked about activities for an upcoming article I’m writing.  The highlight though was probably Colin apologising for Polymock.

“I do need to apologise for that. It wasn’t how I intended it to be.  When I first designed it you played your pieces on a board in front of you and battled that way.”

“Kinda like chess?”, a fan asked.

“Yeah kinda like chess.  In the end the release date for Eye of the North was approaching and the developers came to me and said they didn’t have enough time.  What made it into the game was a compromise.”

When asked if Polymock would be going into Guild Wars 2, Colin told us that nothing had been decided yet but he was hopeful the original idea would make it.  The event made it onto the ArenaNet Flickr stream before a couple of burly security guards ushered us out of the Expo at 7pm.

Colin speaks with fans

All in all the day was good. Andy counted the day as a plus, leaving with a decently full loot bag (provided by Playstation) of stuff he’ll probably never use or wear. The queues were shorter and my feet didn’t ache anywhere near as much as they did at the end of day 1 at gamescom.  It’s a mildly disappointing experience when compared to the huge conventions, but I’m glad of the time spent in Earl’s Court and the for the excellent company.

If you want to check out more of what happened on the day, the photos are up on my gallery.

Eurogamer Expo 2011: Preview

 Posted by on September 21, 2011  Community Commentary, Conventions, Personal  Comments Off on Eurogamer Expo 2011: Preview
Sep 212011

Yup I’m at it again. This Friday I’ll be down in London attending the Eurogamer Expo 2011, meeting lots of familiar and new faces and playing a few games.  I didn’t plan on going to this convention at all, but seeing as how our plans for this time of year changed it seems silly not to go to one that’s less than 2 hours drive from my front door.

I’ll be armed with my trusty (and fully charged this time) camera again, and will be sliding my pictures the direction of Will and Talk Tyria.  Of course, the pictures will also go up on the gallery linked at the top of my blog in due time and I’ll let you know when they’re there.

Mystic Spiral will be representing again, with 7 of us attending over the course of the 4 days.  I’ll also be bringing my Dad along to his first gaming event, who is very nerd friendly after reading “Fantasy Freaks and Gamer Geeks” a couple of years ago (I recommend it by the way).  He’s also been an avid gamer as long as I can remember – he taught me to play Lemmings at a really early age and I stole his original Game Boy console at every opportunity.  He was quite a serious Civilization 3/4 player at one point and although his gaming now consists of Tiger Woods and alike, It feels like coming full circle.  We’ll make a proper gamer of him again!

Keep an eye out over the next week or so for my impressions of the Expo, and how our offering fares next to the German’s.  If you spot me at the expo, feel free to come over and say hi.  I don’t bite and love putting faces to handles!  Likewise, if you fancy going out for a drink Friday or Saturday, tweet or email me (tasha.darke <at>

Sep 062011

This post is a continuation from Gamescom 2011: Saturday’s dash of culture.  You may also wish to read Gamescom 2011: Friday and the thief.

To Sunday then and our last day in Cologne.  Our flights weren’t until early evening so we all left our hotel and headed back to gamescom to tidy up any loose ends and pass the time.  On Friday I’d gotten hands on time with Guild Wars 2 and the thief and had a few questions that wanted answering.  Somnium and Jareth wanted to watch the final of the DotA 2 competition and others wanted to play various other games so we all split up.

Heading to the NCSoft stand with Zeflakey, our first port of call was to find Katya and Zerk who were queuing up to have a go on the game.  After saying hello and having a quick chat I went looking for Ree, which wasn’t hard as she was only a few paces behind us.  I introduced myself and started by asking her about Aleem’s Penance and who Aleem was.

“You know I’m not sure, but you’re right the name does sound familiar.”  She paused. “I really don’t know if I can answer that one.  Eric Flannum named the areas in Sparkfly Fen.”  Smiling she added, “our fans come up with the best questions.  One of them asked me earlier how many fingers asura have.  There’s 4 on the drawing up there but I thought there were only 3 in game.”  Turns out there are only 3 fingers on the in game models.  And male asura wear the cutest boxers with little carrots on them.

I asked her why dungeons were being limited to 5 players and started explaining why that was tough as a guild leader wanting to take my guild through dungeons.  Ree shook her head.  “Don’t do dungeons,” she replied.  “Do the big world bosses instead.  Some of them take 4 to 5 dynamic events to be completed before they’ll spawn and having numbers will help you a lot.  The reason we don’t allow more than 5 in a dungeon is because any more than that and the performance of the game starts to suffer with all the animations.  But in the open world we deal with it slightly differently and can cope with the numbers.”  That’s laid to rest any possibility of scaling dungeons, but I am quite disappointed with dynamic events (even epic ones) being the only thing to do for large parties of near max level players.  With a finite number of bosses I fear the options will get old fast.  Enough of that for now though, I have a piece on guilds in Guild Wars 2 coming up in the next few weeks.

Finally I asked her why there’s so much time between the Guild Wars 2 novels being released in the US and Europe.  “We don’t have anything to do with that.  Its all the publisher.  I send them the manuscript and in a few weeks it appears in the book store – we don’t have any more control over it than that.  Maybe you can preorder?” she asked.

“Its still a 3-5 week wait for it to be shipped.  The first book I was able to buy electronically on Amazon but for the second book they’d blocked UK buyers from the US store.” Ree looked shocked at my reply. “In the end I did order it to be shipped from the States, but it meant I pretty much had to stay off all fansites in the meantime.”

She looked apologetic. “Well I can’t promise anything, like I said its out of my hands but I can bring it up at the next meeting.”  I thanked her for her effort on this and the rest of the world she’s helping to make, wished her a good convention and safe trip home.

Entry for the case modding competition

Zeflakey and I wandered around for a while before meeting up with the others for lunch, after which we went to check out the case modding competition.  There were some amazing entries; a 1u chassis that had been burnt that housed a computer, a pc that had water pouring over it, buildings and a stunning perspex case that had been etched all over.  Jareth had a go on Sonic Generations which actually looks like a surprisingly good game (you can toggle 3d and 2d views), and a few of the others played Zombies Must Die, a party game where players must make their way out of the town while mowing down zombies as best as possible.  Check it out – its a perfect game for when you have mates over.

Minecraft house on the fridge

Sadly that was our time up at gamescom.  On the way out we stopped by one of the merchandise stalls to get some t-shirts & other bits and bobs.  Somnium and I picked up the last pack of Minecraft fridge magnets from the stall.  There was one more foam pick axe there which a lady next to us wanted to buy, but the merchant wouldn’t sell, saying they were going to be auctioning off later in the day.  She was distraught at the news saying she really wanted to get the pick axe so she could get it signed by Simon and Lewis of the Yogscast who were at the convention.  We’d looked for them lots and hadn’t found them, or gotten one of the cardboard hats that were being given out.  Thinking she had an impossible task ahead of us we headed to the airport.

As we were going through border control to get on the airport, Somnium tapped me on the arm and whispered to me, “Hun, you see those guys in front of us, isn’t that Simon and Lewis?” I looked and sure enough it was.  After following them through passport control we saw that yup they were getting on the same flight as us.

I managed to control myself until we got to passport control in the UK when someone in the party noticed that Lewis had his bag open.  The inner fangurl couldn’t be contained any longer and blurted out “Um Lewis your bag is open.”  Creepy stalker or excited fan? There’s a fine line.  Maybe I crossed it but we all have our heroes and I’ll probably never get another chance to meet them.

So the verdict of the entire trip? Gamescom may have gotten too big to be enjoyable.  The length of the queues for the big games is too much for anyone to consider going in unless you have all week or that is the only thing you want to play.  As for Guild Wars 2 itself, I’m very impressed with the improvements in PvE, pleasantly surprised at how fluid the thief is compared to my less than awesome experience with the ranger last year.

My concerns for the game have mostly boiled down to the lack of observer mode or replays for pvp, what guilds are going to do as a group and what will the ranger be like once all the tinkering is done.

Bring on Eurogamer Expo!