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Archive for October, 2012

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It’s almost here, and the cretins will definitely be hopping.

Our very first Halloween Hoohah is really coming together. And we want you ghouls, geeks and goblins to be there. So RSVP on our Facebook Page!

Here’s the complete scoop for our event at The Suffolk Bar, 107 Suffolk Street, next Monday, October 22 at 7 p.m.

1) We’re giving away a true collectors item: a copy of Dishonored, signed by – gulp – 20 members of the Arkane team.

2) We’ll have a Dishonored-themed drink called Piero’s Spiritual Remedy. “Guaranteed to Lift Your Spirits.”

3) We’ll also give away a signed copy of my  narrative history of videogames, All Your Base Are Belong to Us, How 50 Years of Videogames Conquered Pop Culture.

4) We’ll also have a new Tomb Raider t-shirt and a new Plants vs. Zombies t-shirt.

6) Our panel on Horror-Oriented Games is completely set. It’ll include Evan Narciss from Kotaku, Adam Rosenberg from G4TV and Alex Navarro from Giant Bomb, and me. (You won’t be able to stop me from mentioning Undead Nightmare and BioShock.)

7) Robert Gehorsam, the smart CEO of Image Metrics who helped to launch EverQuest back in the day, will be talking about his game company after the panel.

8) And check out the walls of The Suffolk. If you want creepy for Halloween; it’s definitely there. (The space the Suffolk’s in also houses one of New York’s best Halloween haunted houses.

All the Circle’s fine critics plan on having a great time.

We hope you dress up in a costume if you want to – maybe Granny Rags – and have a great time with the  New York Videogame Critics Circle.

See you on Monday!

–Harold Goldberg, Founder

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How do you inject life and vibrancy into a franchise that’s been around for nearly 18 years?

Victor Kalogiannis, our stalwart videographer, asked Creative Producer Hamish Young to wax on about the latest in Electronic Arts’  and Criterion’s upcoming open world game, Need for Speed Most Wanted.

Herewith is Victor’s in-depth report, with just a tad of old school film humor super-injected for the sake of pure fun.

–Harold Goldberg

 

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The caffienated nature of NY Comic Con: Loud, nerd cheering, boisterous as a stadium huzzahs. Hot, sweaty cosplay. Skinny guy in a Sonic costume, posing on a motorcycle long as an SUV. Completely energetic dancing girls in the booths, so peppy, they could fly like a 60s comic book hero. None of these visions had one whiff of the darkness present in today’s graphic novels. There was just excitement and glee in the familiar fiction they chose to honor.

There was one thing that was completely unusual, something that appeared to be out of place when I first saw it: the Craftsman tools booth. The only reason I stopped by – and I stopped by with trepidation – was because I own a Craftman nail gun, and that nail gun was invaluable in helping me rebuild a balcony at my secret lair in the mountains, my version of the Fortress of Solitude.

So why show tools at the Comic Con? Craftsman hired the minds at DC to create a giveaway comic featuring a hero called The Technician that uses one of the company’s new tools as his superpower. He partners with the Justice League as a fixer of the Batmobile and the Invisible Jet. Not a bad book at all. Get it here.

Inside the booth, builder and TV host Mike Senese was toiling away at creating a wooden version Superhero HQ using Craftsman tools. He was all gunned up to go, tool in hand. By the end of the con, it was ready to go.

So why is this piece on the Circle’s site? If Craftsman can do a fairly elegant presentation at NYCC, they can do it with games, too. In fact, I hear that may be their next plan. The Technician, done right, could make a great iOS game. Designed with heart and tech savvy knowledge, it could become a compelling puzzle game or a platformer.

Yes, you could say Sears, Craftsman’s parent, is a big, slick company, one that’s horning in on nerd culture. But if you want games to be a mainstream form of popular art that, as we in the New York Videogame Critics Circle hope it to be, you’ll welcome the smarts and muscle of a company like Craftsman – as long as they can work respectfully with a company like DC or with the great indie game developers who could create a dynamic game starring a nuanced character like The Technician.

–Harold Goldberg, Founder and Editor-in-Chief

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It’s going to be such horrid fun!

The New York Videogame Critics Circle will hold its first Halloween Hoohah on October 22nd at 7 p.m. at The Suffolk, 107 Suffolk Street, on the always-Halloween-y Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Admission is $5 ($4 if you come in costume). You’ll want to come in costume because we’re giving you a chance to win a signed copy of Dishonored from Bethesda Softworks. It’s truly one of the year’s best games.

And we’ll give away a copy of All Your Base Are Belong to Us, my award-winning narrative history of videogames.

And there’ll be other cool giveaways as well.

But wait: there’s more.

There’ll be a critics panel on the import (or lack of import) of Halloween games.

It’s a chance to meet your favorite critics, like Adam Rosenberg from G4TV, Jason Schreier from Kotaku, Lucas Siegel from Newsarama, and many more.

And you’ll meet our very cool interns, Anna and Victor, as well.

Plus, we may well have some very special demos as well. In fact, if you’d like to demo yourindie game, send me an email.

More on all this soon.

RSVP now!

See you on the 22nd.

-Harold Goldberg, Founder and Editor in Chief

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Herewith, we continue our in depth look at the Razer Blade gaming laptop.

Once I got a good feeling for the design and general strength of theRazer Blade, I soldiered onward to game play. Ramping up slowly and steadily, I cautiously played more and more powerful games. My worried concern? I didn’t want to see any drop in frame rate, or worse, freezing of the computer as whole.

There is one caveat, however. Razer suspects that all who play via the Blade will use Steam, Valve’s expertly designed game service, to download and play games. They do not include an optical drive inside the laptop. I’m old school, and while I use Steam, the everpresent nerd within still likes having a disc and game package around to show off on my many shelves. So while I know Steam is the future, and many say the future is now, I purchased a $30 USB-powered DVD burner at an online store to load PCs games like Diablo III onto the device. I also added programs like Word, and my guess is that you will, too: at $2,500, this will likely be your primary computer.

So I took to the beta of Offensive Combat, the free-to-play online multiplayer game you can open in your browser. The graphics were of console quality, and I detected no choppiness at all, even when there were as many as seven opponents jumping and shooting in the same battle zone. The Razer Blade made the game a joy to play. But admittedly, a game like Offensive Combat isn’t going to strain the Intel i7 quad core processor very much.

Next up was Diablo III, Blizzard’s tour de force which hit store shelves in the first half of the year. I loaded it up for the USB DVD burner. The opening sequence, which showcases hand drawn art which sets up the branching story line, featured a fair amount of panning of the camera. While the scene never felt choppy, it wasn’t quite the smooth experience I expected. Diablo III’s graphically robust opening movie is full of action and movement; it shows the earth rent asunder from a fiery falling star. The hole in the earth devours the already grizzled Deckard Cain as the movie played as effortlessly as a film in a theater.

As I plodded forth through the grim and foreboding land of New Tristram, I noted how superb graphics on the Blade were. At one point as I crossed a bridge and the game’s camera moved up, over and forward, I could have sworn the game was in 3D because the shadowy trees had the same kind of depth as they would have had in real life. And when Diablo III went into overdrive with many monsters moving at me on the screen at once, there were no dropped frames, nothing at all to upset my flow or my suspension of disbelief.

I did note that while the LED screen was very, very good, the visual clarity wasn’t quite as stellar as an LCD screen I have on another machine.

Finally, I moved on to Battlefield 3. The Blade was placed on medium settings as I played. My tank chugged realistically through its Middle Eastern desert environment and when the warworld became a battle zone, there were still no hiccups. Jet combat had one or two fits and starts, but they were mere moments. Through all this, the Blade didn’t heat up substantially. It was just a bit warm, the way my other, more inferior computer is when I simply have 20 tabs open in Chrome.

Through all of my battles, the Blade never ran hot.

Below is a bit of a public relations walkthrough from Razer itself.

Next: The Wrap Up.

–Harold Goldberg, Founder

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As we continue our long form look into the newest Razer Blade Gaming laptop, I want to take on a few more design points. While this might not seem as important as clock speed or graphics performance, it’s going to make a difference when you play games and when you use the laptop for other tasks.

The keyboard’s look and feel is very much influenced by the latest Mac laptop. The keys don’t have an HP or Dell-like super-spring-like typewriter feel to them. They’re positioned low and close to the laptop base. While they have a slight springy feel to them, it’s easy to tap them. My guess is they’re easier on the fingertips than most laptops.

But the keyboard and the surrounding area do indeed become fingerprint ridden. That’s probably why Razer includes a cleaning cloth with the system. I wasn’t eating prior to using the device. But there still was a fair amount of oil present on the keys.

The touchpad isn’t in the middle of the laptop. It’s to the right of the Blade’s keyboard. It took some getting used to after using a touchscreen placed below the laptop’s center for over a decade. What I did find eventually is that the up and down keys (near the spacebar) and the touchscreen work really well with my thumb and pinky.

Above the touchpad are two rows of five buttons. These have Steam, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the like already programmed in for your convenience. They’re called Dynamic Adaptive Tactile Keys, which is saying a mouthful. But what’s impressive is that you can change them and add your own links fairly easily. If you like the Circle site or Polygon or Kotaku, you can put those in as well.

The touchpad has a fascinating twist: it becomes a kind of second monitor, a mini-screen which might be useful for viewing YouTube game tips or Wikis while gaming, or while momentarily pausing your game.

While I found using the touchpad as a mouse to be very precise and a breeze to use, I found tapping a link on the touchpad a bit of a problem. Sometimes a tap worked immediately. Sometimes, I had to tap three or four times, or more, for the monitor to go to the desired link.

And how does the Blade feel on the lap? It balances there quite well. It hasn’t overheated while playing to the point of burning my thigh – like my previous HPs and Dells have done. It’s just gotten a bit warm. And it has never gotten hot on the keyboard area, either.

One final note: I used the laptop’s camera to Skype my talk about videogame writing with the University of Iowa’s journalism school last night. (They’re using All Your Base Are Belong to Us as the textbook at the college’s first videogame journalism course.) Happily, there was never any drop of audio or of one video frame during the hour we spoke.

Note: Part 3 is coming on soon. So stay tuned.

-Harold Goldberg, Founder

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