EGX Game Expo: How far we have come.

As I walked into the arena at EGX I wasn’t expecting to get blown away by anything in particular. Having played video games for over half my life it hard for me to get excited about anything any more (The last game I got truly excited about was Witcher 3). Indeed its difficult to get excited as most games companies prefer to take the safe road and invest in tried and tested IP as opposed to investing into something truly new and unique. Its said that everything ever  written can be boiled down into seven plots, something which can easily be extended to game-play.

However despite the negativity something happened at EGX I didn’t quite expect. I finally got Excited about gaming again.

Gaming has always had an issue with Hardware, allot of bottleneck on games happened for the prolonged period in which the Xbox 360 and PS3 just wouldn’t fuck off and die (they still haven’t), being a PC gamer things have been pretty dry and thanks to marketing, and just generally how things are PC ports became the new norm. Anything released on a console would get wrapped up and released onto a PC, however because hardware is released every 5 mins on a PC it quickly out grew the consoles, but had to suffer with games designed for the console from 5 years ago.

Then the big announcement, ‘Next Gen’ (I assume next gen will be ‘Next Next Gen’ ?), new shinny consoles doing all sorts of new and shiny things – and no games.

But things seem to be warming up, and it all seems to have kicked off with – CD Projekt Red releasing Witcher 3, which despite my opinion was still a massive achievement. It looked visually stunning, it felt like a truly immersive next gen game. The type of gaming which we always wanted but never quite got. I recently picked up MGS5, another game that’s pushing the barriers and giving us something which visually looks amazing.

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I never quite realized this however until I went to EGX and got to see some of the up and coming games hitting the market later this year and early next year.

What truly sold it to me was the tech demo for the new Hitman game coming out March 2016. I have had very little interest in Hitman, I still have very little interest in Hitman. It’s more about what it represents, the level design, the game-play everything about it shouted “Next Gen”.

I doubt will see any true disruption in the gaming industry until they sort out all the 4D virtual reality stuff which is in the pipes from Valve and Facebook – I’m just happy that things have finally taken a step in the right direction.

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EGX 2015 Viewpoint from a Casual Gamer

This year was the first time our little group attended EGX, driving up to Birmingham in our mini convoy to check out the final day.

I will say this – we definitely underestimated the whole experience. I for one plan to go again next year, and make the most of the whole event. The chance to speak to developers, youtubers, bloggers and general fans is an amazing opportunity (cliché as it sounds).There were people there handing out business cards, and I ended up asking one of those organised Youtubers to scribble down our website on the back of a piece of card. Terrible! But despite that, I did write down some thoughts on the event so here they are!

The real jewel in the crown was not the big players (although I will get to them), but the fantastic Indie and smaller dev turnout. Sega provided a sponsored a rather…interesting area (I felt so sorry for those guys who essentially brought their own kit and wrote on their space on the wall), but the rest of the Rezzed area looked amazing and really professional. The way the games were all laid out it was really easy to just sit down and try out a game.

I found Four Sided Fantasy, and the game met my expectations. Cute simple aesthetics, and really easy to pick up gameplay. I got stuck a couple of times, and I noticed myself run through walls and floors which I wasn’t *entirely* sure I was meant to do, but the game was only an Alpha demo, so I was more than forgiving. The screen wrap and freeze mechanic was easy to toggle, and the game was really light and fun. Definitely want to pick that up. Sadly I didn’t get to speak to the developers to find out any more information, but they did leave out little cards and a place to jot down your email to find out more information.

Four Sided Fantasy

A developer I did get a chance to speak to was the lovely (and very pregnant) Anna from Makin Games (@makingames). They were in the far corner showing their game Raging Justice, but it was not stopping them getting a lot of traffic and attention for their game. Raging Justice was absolutely brilliant. I played both levels that they were demo-ing, and from what I could see it looked pretty much ready for release. It was a homage to the classic 2D side scroller games I grew up with (definite Streets of Rage flashbacks which I *constantly* mentioned whilst talking to Anna. She told me that everyone had one game that they loved which they saw in Raging Justice, so clearly she had been dealing with people like me all day the poor woman!). They plan to release the game on Steam and Xbox 1 in early 2016, and then move on to release versions for tablets and other consoles later on in the year. I really enjoyed playing this game, so will definitely be picking up a copy when I see it on Steam. I saw an interview with these guys from EGX where they were asked about rumours of going for Game of the Year, and I think they stand an excellent chance if they were.

Another Indie game I managed to play through was a game called Mute. This game was ok – solid graphics, good response to controls. The only thing was the level they were demo-ing was a complete bastard to play: your character had to successfully run through a canyon against a number of stampeding wildebeest, and if one of them so much as *brushed* against you then you were dead and had to start again. One of the developers came up to us whilst I was playing and spoke to my fiancé, and one of the features that he told us was that the animals are programmed to react to you, to the extent that predators can smell you and track you across the map. If I’m honest I didn’t get to experience much of that (too many wildebeest in my face). Interesting idea, but the demo didn’t excite me too much.

Mute

I have spoken great lengths about the Indie offering, but what about some of the main contenders?

One of my favourite experiences from the whole day was over at the Rock Band 4 area. They had a whole band kit on a rig/stage setup, and were inviting people to come up and entertain the crowd. Now I cannot miss an opportunity to show off, and my friend commented how he turned his head for 1 minute and turned back to find me on stage, microphone in hand. I gave a stunning rendition of Boston (which got some good cheers), a little sad that the microphone was busted by the time I got there so the percussion parts were not picking up properly, but you can’t have everything! There is a video of my most epic performance, so if anyone is interested put a shout out in the comments below and perhaps we can get a clip of it up for your viewing pleasure 😛

Rock Band dominated the music game offerings at EGX. They had the presentation down perfectly – the whole reason people play that game is to pretend they are rock stars and everyone was geared up to treat it as a mini concert/battle of bands. The presenter there did a fantastic job at working the crowd (he gets bonus points for complimenting my hair and singing along to Boston, but hey a little bias doesn’t hurt). Guitar Hero on the other hand completely missed the mark in my opinion. They hid their game in a (impressive looking) giant amp, which meant that everyone had to queue whether they wanted to look at the game or have a go. They completely shut out anyone walking by, and I think this was where they went wrong. People want to join a crowd that’s clapping and cheering to see what’s happening, not a queue when there’s lots of other things going on.

Guitar Hero Amp

Nintendo had a brilliant look to their space. With archways across their different areas, and a casual area with beanbags for people to connect and play their DSes, it was a bright and cheerful family look – something Nintendo do very well. What I didn’t think was so great was their choice of presenters. It was like they had watched the presenters on E4 and gone “that is how we should do it!”, and their false banter was grating and annoying after a while. They had stands for their big hitters – Zelda, Pokemon and Monster Hunter were some of the key titles that were available to play. They also had Disney’s Infinity and the new Animal Crossing game that is coming out. Pretty safe stuff guaranteed to pull in people.

The PlayStation area was also ok, with a lot of focus on their VR tech (sadly we didn’t get there in time to book a slot to try it out), some FIFA, Destiny new expansion and of course the new Metal Gear. There was a couple of screens for the new Ratchet & Clank (looks pretty standard stuff) and a massive TIE Fighter signalled the area for the new Star Wars Battlefront which was cool. Overall I tended to just skim past the Playstation area, as the people they were trying to attract were not really my demographic. The same was said for Xbox, and I barely looked in on their area as they showed nothing to really grab my attention. It was all shout outs and flash, although I did see a bit of the new Lara Croft trailer as I went past which looked pretty similar to the last LC game, but something that could be interesting.

Star Wars

EGX also had a small board game section in one of their zones. It was a really relaxed area where they had games constantly being set up and played. Friendly volunteers coaxed people to come join and explained the rules before letting people just get on with the game which I really liked. The games being demo-ed were all fairly old games (Munchkin, Sheriff of Nottingham – games that have been released a while). My fiance and I managed to get in and play a game of “Sheriff of Nottingham” with a father and son who were really nice and didn’t mind us butting in (I came last! I’m too honest clearly). I’d never played it before and I really enjoyed it. I was up for buying a copy then and there but no stands were selling any board games. Opportunity missed EGX, I bet they could have sold a tonne of games! That was a real shame really.

Sheriff of Nottingham
Another disappointment was the merchandise that was on sale. Naturally there were plenty of geek t-shirts, but all guy-style round-necks as far as I could tell. I saw one tank top amongst all the stalls, in a size that was clearly small. This brings me nicely to my personal pet peeve – as a big girl why should I only be offered male tops? I want geeky girly tank tops too! I rarely find a band t-shirt or geek top that is my size and either lady-t or strappy in style. Apparently someone somewhere has decided that large women do not exist, or if they do they just wear male clothes – meaning if I want breathing room round my neck and any kind of shape I have to buy a top and cut it up myself. Unimpressed does not even cover it sometimes, and other times it just leaves me feeling depressed. Some places were offering prints and I spotted one manga/anime stand, however if you wanted anything other than a t-shirt or a hat your choices were *very* limited. I know I was going on the last day, and stocks would be running low, but generally I was left feeling unimpressed and uninspired.

In terms of the venue, the whole space was well laid out and organised. It wasn’t a chore or particularly difficult to move through the different areas, and to navigate around the different stages. One thing I did before going was to download the EGX app with their maps, I found these incredibly  useful to get around. Car parking was easy, and going through to get my wrist band was pretty quick and painless. There were some good cosplays walking around but the focus was (rightly) on some excellent games being shown.

Overall I found EGX to be a fantastic experience. I met some really enthusiastic and helpful people, and the time flew by whilst I was there. I will definitely come back next year, and I intend to make the most of all 4 days.

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Things I’m looking forward to at EGX 2015

With EGX opening its doors today, I thought I would write a small something about what I am looking forward to when SmashFace journeys up to Birmingham for the final day on Sunday. We’ve managed to obtain a couple of press passes, and the app is downloaded with guides on my phone, so lets get started!

So what’s intrigued me?

Four Sided Fantasy

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Link: http://foursidedfantasy.com/

Originally when I saw the title I thought this would be a generic fantasy rpg in some form or another, but I was pleasantly surprised when I clicked on the site for more details. The game utilises the screen wrap feature regularly used in games as a key mechanic to progress in level and negotiate past a number of obstacles (think when Pacman wanders off screen to appear on the other side). This develops into a number of interesting abilities as the player manipulates the screen.

The graphics look simple, but in a cute cartoony aesthetic, and it looks like something that could be picked up fairly quickly. I can definitely see the Fiancé playing this if it’s available to demo. I’d like to see if there is an option for multiple players, and to see how far this mechanic can go.

Raging Justice

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Link: http://www.makingames.com/

I’ve already tweeted about my interest in this game, for the simple reason that it looks like a sequel to Streets of Rage. Similar aesthetics (obviously brought up to the modern day), similar looking game play – this has the chance for some hilarious gameplay. Lets hope we see some, and maybe chat to the devs to see how much SF inspired them.

With the big games there are a couple I want to drop in and have a look at – Rock Band 4 (since we’re still enjoying the Rock Band Revival in our house), Ratchet & Clank, Lego Dimensions, HTC Steam VR, Playstation VR, Mad Max, Mario Maker. I definitely have a lot to look around! We’ll be spoilt for choice!

In terms of sessions scheduled, I’ve spotted a couple that have caught my eye. Whilst there seems to be a big focus on cosplay for the final day (prepare for photos people), I’ve spotted a couple of talks I might go sit in;

  • Teaching Robots to Play Spelunky: Why Scientists Love Gaming
  • Interview and Q&A with Mike Bithell
  • Zombie bites – a live demo
  • Eurogamer Let’s Play – Mario Maker

This is my first EGX, and first big gaming event. I’m really looking forward to heading up, and sad we could only make the final day. However I hope to meet lots of people. I’ll be running around introducing myself, so if the name clicks and you’ve read something from our blog, say so! I’d love to chat and get some feedback from you guys.

Have I missed anything? Let us know in the comments!

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