EB EXPO 2017 – Liveblog

Observations from this year’s EB Games Expo.

11.10

Last day of the annual visit to EB Expo, kicked off in style with a quick early access and walk around the empty hall. A nice run of stands that suit the venue better than last year in Sydney. Most notable is the impressive Nintendo stand which mirrors their success this year with the Switch launch and solid catalogue of games.

11.16

Hands on with Super Mario Oddessy:

We beat the queue and got hands on with Mario on an empty stand, from ten minutes of demo it’s really obvious that this is a Switch killer-app. Throwing Mario into a multitude of Kingdoms, free roaming and full of activities.

The visuals are spot on and there is plenty of depth to get lost in, not forgetting the couch co-op where one player is Mario and the other is his ever useful hat. It’s fun, family friendly and will be under a lot of Xmas trees.

 

11.50

The Playstation stand was as usual filled with lots to do. VR furore may have taken a step back this year, but new titles like Inpatient were on offer and more importantly Gran Turismo. Yes, GT in VR, which incidentally blows away the Driveclub VR competition, even though I’m a fan of that.

Activision and Warner were present on stand, so CoD was on offer and we got to have some time hands on with the new Lego games. The next chapter of Lego Marvel Superheroes being the big draw card there, for all the titles they pump out the Marvel ones are way out ahead.

Being Human looks cool and the next Playlink games were on hand, but I had an age restricted plus one, so we gave it a pass.

13.05

After a quick and perhaps nasty snack it was time to hand out at Ubisoft.

Another strong stand, following their usual circular design. Assuming from above it matches the Ubisoft swirl logo.

The games:

FarCry5 – looking fantastic on a bank of PS4 Pros. More free roaming FPS action, set in a fictional US state and with a narrative not overly far from the world today it feels great and will certainly be a must have in atet post-Christmas wasteland.

Crew2 – More vehicles, better graphics and lots to do. The Crew was fun, the Crew2 expands on that.  In the wake of all the serious racers hit around now, its good to see a plain old vanilla arcade racer still has a place.

Assassin’s Creed Origins – Backed up by a wealth of historical detail the AC series has me back on board with this one. Having missed a couple of years I’m keen to get to grips with this. Running in Xbox 4K it looks very pretty indeed, apart from that the gameplay is unmistakable and offers up the excellent ‘tourist mode’ for people that just want to experience the knowledge that Ubi have accrued.

Another dancing title – well, let’s leave it there…

13.52

Hands on with Skyrim for the Switch.

Yes, its an old game that nearly everybody has played, but the Switch makes it attractive again by adding flexibility. Allowing you to play on etc mini screen or big screen, being able to take Skyrim wherever you go and being able to use a multitude of control methods, the most immersive being the twin joy con method where you can block and attack independently. That said, the rumble feature works wonders when you get down to some serious lock picking.

Certainly worth etc pick up, even if its while we wait for the VR version.

13.59

The Xbox stand covered a decent amount of space which was mostly split between Forza and Shadow of War.

Both titles look fantastic, the weather effects in Forza alone are worth the asking price and as for Shadow of Mordor – it’s more of the same only bigger, deeper and better. People that love the first game can’t go back after this.

Across the stand Player Unknown Battlegrounds made an appearance, as did Cuphead, Age of Empires and a smattering of Minecraft. No surprises there.

14.33

Retro Baby.

This Expo had a lot less floorspace compare to Olympic Park, which made it cosy and brought a few of the outdoor areas into the main floor.

One of which being the Retro Zone, stocked by Weird and Retro. This was a slice of gaming heaven with machines ranging from Space Invaders on an Atari 2600 through to Rouge Squadron on etc Gamecube. Spanning a lifetime of games each screen brought a memory back to life and I got to introduce Rufus to the joy of Dreamcast Soulcalibur and C64 Basic. Nothing like a bit of rose tinted joy amongst the megabits of today.

15.08

Overall this year’s Expo was smaller, but there was plenty to do. Stands had more presence and the venue felt fully used over the voids that Olympic Park offers.

As for showing there were lots of great new titles on offer, most of which will be in homes over the next 2 months. Around etc place everybody seemed to be enjoying themselves and there were a few sizeable queues for limited demos on exciting exclusives.

As ever the EB Store made a decent appearance, while not really feeling like a bargain hunt, it is always worth a trawl. We picked up a few Minecraft torches at a reduced price and there were still a good pile of SNES mini consoles stacked up behind the counter when we left.

This was a good show, it didn’t try to do too much and gave the consumers what they wanted. Although decent Cosplay was  bit thin on the ground today, maybe Sydney people just do it better.

The good news is that this year, I’m looking forward to next year a lot more.

Wargaming Transports Kiwi Players Back To WW1

June 13, 2017 – Wargaming recently held its inaugural New Zealand Player Gathering in Wellington, in an effort to bring the local Wargaming player community together, through an insightful historical event.

Over 35 players from Wargaming’s Wellington player community were given the exclusive chance to attend the event which was held at the Dominion Museum.

Focusing on The Great War Exhibition created by master film-maker, Sir Peter Jackson, players were given insight into the historic events and were able to commemorate the role played by New Zealand in the First World War.

ANZ Country Manager, Travis Plane, said he was thrilled that players were able to see a piece of history brought to life. 

“Video games often allow historical moments to gain new life by transporting players into interactive virtual worlds, and at Wargaming we pride ourselves on bringing history to life in our free-to-play games.

“We hope that by hosting these community events we can build greater relationships with our Kiwi players and continue to bring them more of what they want,” said Travis.

Greater involvement with the New Zealand player community has become an important focus for Wargaming.

“We value our player community and this is the first of many events, we are planning in future. For each community interaction, we hope to make it fun, interactive and educational, just like our games,” concluded Head of Player Experience APAC, Michael Mucci.

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A Gremlin in the Works, a book by Mark Hardisty

I grew up in a golden age of gaming, an age that even now we look back at with rose tinted pixelated vision. There are times I wonder why I missed out on some late eighties pop culture, but now I’ve remembered.

I had different Rockstars to my peers – they were magician-like programmers, my posters where full-page game adverts torn from magazines and most of those memories come flooding back when I leaf through this book.

I say book, it’s actually two. Two beautifully presented (in a display box) hardback books weighing in at around 600 pages of fascinating interviews, images and excerpts from the world of Gremlin. It’s a shock to see the salary of a programmer thirty odd years ago.

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Destiny: A Hate/Love Story

I love first-person shooters and my all-time favourite series in the genre is Halo. So, by extension the minds behind the combat mastery in Halo, Bungie, are my favourite developer…..or at least they use to be. In 2014 when they released their ‘next big game’, Destiny, and I was all a quiver. Bungies swansong from Halo, ‘Halo: Reach’ was stunning. Then all had gone quiet from my beloved Bungie for a few years until BOOM! Destiny was teased in early 2013 and I lost my shit.

Watching that, Bungie were talking a big game. Both literally and figuratively.

All the way up to release, Destiny was bit of an unknown, but the rhetoric from Activision and Bungie leading into the 2014 launch was that of a huge first-person shooter. With a sweeping story, amazing actors and a players ability to blaze their own trail in the stars. Suffice to say…..I WAS ALL IN! Let’s add it up- Massive money from Activision, Bungie talent, Sci-Fi setting, Co-op gameplay, Epic mysterious story! Everything was there for Bungie to rule the gaming world.

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EB EXPO 16, LiveBlog

logo_eb2016It’s 2016 and we embark once more to Sydney’s Olympic Park (maybe Brisbane next year guys?).

This should be an interesting collection of thoughts as the day goes by in a blurry exhausted haze.

Remember to read from the bottom up.

 

09.54

PlayStation Stand EBExpo16

It’s been a long day so far, waking late and racing for a plan, 4 trains and now an hour into the show. I need coffee and bacon STAT.

First impressions, the show is loud and full of hands-on experiences as usual, but exhibitors do seem a touch thin on the ground. Sony have the majority of real estate with a heap of VR hands-on and queues to match, not forgetting CoD and Skylanders, as they brought Activision and partnered with Warner too.

With Battlefield 1 weeks away the absence of EA is noticeable, Ubisoft and Xbox have hefty stands while Namco/Square and 2k are present. 2K with their Mafia 3 inspired movie theatre.

Bethesda have a big Dishonored 2 showing, More on that later.

09.56

Hands on with Tombraider PS4.

Yes it’s been on the XB for a year, but this is the first time I have had a play and it look terrific. The weather effects (I was in a blizzard) are top notch and it feels very familiar to the recent reboot, amongst other third person leaping adventures.

My only concern after 5 minutes was Lara’s relentless internal monologue…

10.02

Farming Sim

Strangely quiet over here….

10.39

Popping Corn Theatre
Phil Spencer and Xbox presentation – imminent.

14.12

So, Phil Spencer the actual Head of Xbox came to Sydney and addressed the crowd. I have to admit initial scepticism, but the man sells a genuine story his focus is the community and exploring the best future for his brand.

I have to say I was won over by his no nonsense approach along with the rest of the crowd. The message is clear Xbox might not be launching into VR this year, but they are laying the foundations for the future.

The line up of recent and future games looks strong, Forza started the session along to the tune of “I don’t want to fall in love” – the game obviously has other ideas. It’s stunning and the social aspects or Blueprints that were demoed are a step up.

Follow that with an enthused showing of Dead Rising 4, even though it’s hard to forget the failings of the series back in my 360 days.

Gears of War looked shiny and exciting, returning to an older Marcus is the draw for me, but being without Xbox – it can likely wait.

As for the hardware, the recently released XboxS looks very nice in the flesh, more compact and sexy. However the chat was all about the Scorpio which will be raising the bar come 2017.

Now, where’s mister Spencer – I need to ask for an Xbox handheld…

14.20

Hands on with Steep.

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Steep is a mountainous playground for thrill seekers in the snow.

What more do you need, the demo offered all types of the 4 sports on offer. Controls are pretty intuitive and the visuals are really quite breathtaking, if a little white.

I jumped onto a snowboard eager to relive some1080 style skills, which almost got there, but ended up being more of a Snowboard Kids wipeout.

I might not manage being the fastest on the snow, but love the Wingsuit and Paragliding for some nice views.

15.43

Driveclub VR hands on.

PlayStation Stand EBExpo16

Ok, managed to get into a quiet slot and jump behind the wheel of some Driveclub VR and it was awesome.

The depth of field is nice with a floaty 3D effect, the response time of the visor to the screen is good enough. Not forgetting this is a mass market product for the home. And the immersion just got me straight off the bat.

The race started and I was driving, really driving, while the VR and sound did a lot for that you have to credit the steering wheel and force feedback with som of it. Regardless, I’m so in – even with a minor problem. I am somewhat myopic and not wearing glasses with VR doesn’t work for me. As such my varifocals struggled to keep everything in focus, I may have to resort to contacts and that’s my excuse for hitting a few walls, even if I did manage to bash my way to the front and win.

VR 10 mins in? Yes please.

17.33

Skylanders Imaginators, making amends.

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Had a play with Imaginators and while it may just another Skylanders game it is fair to say that they are bringing something really new this year.

Forgetting the vehicles of Superchargers, Imaginators lets you build your own Skylanders from hundreds of options.

So, the traditional figures are pretty much bunk. Time to throw Creation Crystals into the mix, but here’s the rub. Once you create a character it’s pretty much locked to that crystal, some people won’t like it, but I don’t mind. It makes you think about the strategy of building your ultimate Skylander and probably being priced around. .99 cheaper than the figures of 2015.

The crystals are elemental based and give access to base body types, then you can dress them up with unlockable skins and weapons. I like the system, it’s breathing life into the franchise. There will be Sensei figures that will add upgrades and experience to your creations, so there is still the need to gather some of the new batch plus you will be able to introduce your old characters too.

After that it’s a classic Skylands adventure, platform and smash and level up, with a few experience earning gizmos thrown in. In fact the selfie mode is more appealing than the Dead Rising one.

Back to Skylands? Yes please, sign me up.

A day in the life of the #EBExpo15 (live-ish-blog)

EBLOGO2015It’s time for the annual mission to Sydney, an early start followed by a redeye flight, a few hours on the show floor and time to chat with some like minded people while poring over this years exciting new releases.

The plan is to hit this post up with a story of the day, so let’s see how it goes.

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2 Weeks and counting… #EBEXPO

EBLOGO2015Just under two weeks before the doors are flung open at Sydney’s Olympic Centre for EB Games and their now annual extravaganza. We might not have an event of E3 calibre, but its a great way to give the industry a pre-xmas hype right on the cusp of Silly Season, also known as the October to November release window.

With hands-on demos galore and the chance to spend time with the occasional developer the show is well worth a visit for anybody remotely interested in seeing what’s around the corner.

Latest press release follows and a few appetite whetting videos.

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#EBExpo2014

Christmas comes but once a year, so does the EB Expo.

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We may have PAX in Australia, but we don’t have an E3 so EB have done a great job creating a beast of a show split across Trade and Public days, giving themselves some terrific retail opportunities and allowing the games industry somewhere local to flex their presentation skill(z) and queue management muscles.

This is the fourth year for the Expo and my third, every year it seems bigger, brighter and better constructed. It is a veritable buffet of game related fodder that offers something for everybody.

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TGS, Sony and a Vegan

TGS_bannerIt was a bittersweet experience getting an invite to the Sony press conference at this year’s Tokyo Game Show, but then I remembered fellow Kiwi Ben (living in Japan) was actually going to attend, so we managed to get him queue-jumping instead. Here is his takeaway from the weird and wonderful world of gaming in Tokyo…

Wow. I am still reeling from the mind boggling amount of awesomeness I bore witness to at this years Tokyo Game Show. The new generation of consoles may have been slow off the mark in terms of games, but the drought is nearly over!  I don’t have enough space to go into every game I saw, so I will run through my top picks of the show.  Continue reading

The biggest line up ever announced for this year’s EB Expo!

EBEXPObannerOur own homegrown mini-E3 is hoving quickly into view and having missed out on last year’s trip to Sydney, I’m actually getting quite excited…

EB Games are thrilled to announce a huge line up of unreleased games will be making their Australian debut at this year’s EB Games Expo. The EB Expo 2014 will be held at Sydney Showground, Sydney Olympic Park, October 3 to 5. For tickets go to www.ebexpo.com.au

Full press release after the break… Continue reading