NERD PARADE COMPLETE

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I have successfully braved the six day Nerd Parade and survived another insane year at Comic Con! As i said earlier last week, my intention was to spend as much of my free time in lineups for game related activities. In the weeks leading up to the Con i had very little time to plan anything or even look up what was happening or where. I went in cold this year with not a damn clue what was on display and playable. Off the cuff i'd say i waited in line for about 3 hours a day average, which isn't bad considering the 2 day line for the Star Wars panel this year. Yup, lineups, they stank When your heels are pounding and (if your over 30) your lower back is screaming for any sort of horizontal respite and you hear some neck bearded mouth breathing nerd yammering on about sword varieties you know where you have ended up, and you can blame no one but your hopeless inner fanboy. The sights and smells are equally fascinating. A beautiful elf woman floats by leaving an enchanting fragrance behind her, contended with the punctuation of the eggiest farts EVER, then pepper in some middle eastern B.O. and fresh vinyl toys and you've got yourself 'Essence of Con.' Of course i am completely exempt from all of these descriptions regarding nerd/geek or poindextrous accusations.

Here were some things worth waiting in line for:

 

HTC VIVE

The appointment system was so good in theory. The lovely young lady yesterday (friday of the con) told me to come back to the trailer tomorrow at 10am to book a VR appointment (which I'm sure will be a thing soon). Problem is when I showed up this morning the deal was off. Valve believed if they cut the experience to 15min instead of 30min and had a line they could get more people through. Bit of a dick move steam but what is a boy to do? So I wait. My wife is working her booth without me for a few hours I guess, this is a line I will suffer.

It's a beautiful day, everyone in line is spouting off information they have heard or half remembered about the VR technology and comparing competitors hardware opinions. The staff are handing out water and letting liner upers try on the vive to get a feel for the weight and fit. It's lighter than I thought comparable to the oculus dk1.

The truck and trailer are pristine. There are 3 suites off of a hallway on the trailer. Presumably to facilitate the lighthouse  integration. It's a beautiful thing. This is the first stop on a tour valve and htc are doing to promote the experience before its end of the year release. Because for the first time ever in game history it's impossible to show off the demos from home. You have to physically experience it.

2 1/2 hours later im escorted into a room in the trailer about 8 x 10 feet. Its dark. The crack of light from the floor of the front shows me the lighthouse conduit and a small table with the Vive sitting upside down. The demo tech introduces himself and asks me if i have ever experienced this before. I had, i bought a Oculus DK1 a few summers ago when i was too impatient. I put the surprisingly light headset on. No lens type either, its a one size fits all now. I was then handed two seperate controllers for each hand. Like the nunchuck only bigger with a big thumb wheel on the top with force feedback and some beefy triggers on the back.

DEMO 1 - SHIPWRECK

The leap from the Oculus DK1 to this is ridiculous. The resolution is no longer a distraction at all. Suddenly i was underwater on the deck of an old pirate ship. I was standing so i could move around the deck, look over the edge into the depths. Amazing. The wood on the mast attracted me for some reason, such detail.

A school of fish began swimming in circles around my head. Newsflash: everyone's going to look like an idiot with these things on, and sound pretty silly too. I was all "WHOAH COOL MAN, AWWW NO WAY...no way, what the fuck this is amazing, whoah WHOA aw hey there little guy." i hopelessly attempted to pet the fish, then I had to duck under a huge Manta Ray, or i felt like i had to duck so i just crouched a little. When i turned back around to lean off the railing a huge eye about the size of a basketball was right in my face. A giant grey whale was swimming right over me. The scale of this cannot be understated. I get goosebumps jsut thinking about it. The immersion is complete. I even walked a bit too far onto the ship deck and saw a grid wall flash in front of me. This is the lighthouse intigration at work making sure you dont hurt yourself and stay in your playpen. I still ran into a physical wall though, felt like an idiot.

DEMO 2 - TILT BRUSH

By far the most impressive demo of the three was the 'Tilt Brush.' In the first demo the controllers were not used, presumably to ease you into the world. The Tilt demo melted my brain! I could see the controllers in the demo! So integrated controllers now. No hands though which felt strange, no feet or body either. The focus was on the room and the tools.There was a dark room with a slight grey grid pattern along the floor and walls. Each controller was a tool left was a wheel that i flipped with different brushes and copy icons, in the right was the brush. I kicked myself for not being stoned for this part; when i held the brush down and doodled it painted it in a wide flat brush with a slight blue neon hue. Wow! I began drawing a 3D doodle; pulling the controller towards me and all around my body. When i let the brush go i instinctively felt like the line would disappear, but no! I could actually physically step back from my creation and walk around it. I could add to if from any angle i wanted. "This is absolutely incredible, i am totally on board with this and that was the moment i became a 'believer.' You will all get a chance to experience this soon. Definitely go out of your way to try this demo if you can. It's gonna change everything.

For the last few minutes of the demo i selected the star tool and held the trigger up around my head and did some waving motion. glowing stars began raining down all around me. The implications of these tools are limitless.You could make your own 3D comic. You could build your own world, but exist within it while its being created....i can't even.....

DEMO 3 - BUSTED PORTAL ROBOT

At this point i'm beginning to notice a few flaws. The Vive is not wireless and comes married to about 3 or 4 cables which act like a pony tail. They all branch out together up and over the top of the users head and down there back. I tripped over the cords many times and consequently 'fell' into the physical wall, the real world solid wall that is. Ok this could legitimately kill people, just wait. Some kid's gonna walk right off there balcony. i though.

The heat from my forehead hasn't fogged up the display too bad but i'm starting to feel the weight. Maybe a built in fan or something? And for some reason i'm starting to notice, for the first time, the 'blinders' on either side of my eyes. That is, the goggle part of the headset which cannot display images. Maybe because the environments are a lot brighter in this third demo.

I'm in another room. I'm in portal, which is fantastic! loooove portal. I have some difficulty with the controls here but again i can see my physical controller in the game, very immersive. I'm asked to start rummaging through cabinets. I'm looking for blueprints, one of the portal bots is busted and i have to fix it. Admittedly i fumbled my way through this one. A comical intercom voice informs me that i have not found the correct drawer. Again, drawer incorrect. A bay door opens and Atlas is brought into the room on a conveyor belt. Hes sparking and twitching. A strange sensation came over me. Maybe it was the friendly character design but i felt true empathy and had a strong sensation to help this thing. The demo ended as i began dismantling Atlas and spinning his many parts around helplessly.

If your skeptical or unsure as to how you feel about VR you wont be in about 4 months. I haven't even played any actual games yet and i'm pumped...and i don't allow myself to get pumped very often anymore. My biggest fear before this demo was motion sickness, The Oculus DK1 = barftown. I could only wear it for about 10-15 min before i began sweating and getting the saliva buildup indicative of a full on yack. Certainly DON'T play 'Mirrors Edge' with a DK1. Or DO play Mirrors Edge with a DK1 as a drinking game and whoever pukes first loses, or pukes last wins. One is much more messy but funnier so it balances out. 

So my biggest fear has been laid to rest, with the Vive at least. I'm convinced. I'll cram Gabe's face with my money come November. Check out the Vive tour for dates near you.

 

 

                                            Nerd Machine pavillion ath the 'childrens museum'... thats not a typ-o its called the childrens museum.  

                                            Nerd Machine pavillion ath the 'childrens museum'... thats not a typ-o its called the childrens museum.

 

BATTLEFRONT

A heck of a game. Don't worry everybody...its GOOD so you can all relax. I spent about an hour with the PS4 version and about 2 hours on a PC LAN with 39 other geeks.

PS4

The PS4 stations had a split screen co-op mode, this was the only PS4 demo. i played as the Rebels and the idea here is to defend waves of stormtroopers of varying difficulties. There were 7 waves and they would get more difficult of course as the game progressed. Sounds generic i know but there was enough variety and smart level design to hold your interest. As well as defending waves you get objectives to defend. These seemed optional to me; if defended successfully they would dispense points or power-ups or extra lives. You and your partner share lives in this mode so be prepared for a bit of friendly arguing. I had a bunch of fun with the jetpack. Your character can have specific loadouts, if you don't like flying then you could trade the pack for a shield dome or a launcher of some kind. All of which require a lengthy recharge time between uses.  

Our map was on Tatooine in a canyon. The game looks fantastic, even after seeing the PC version fans will not be disappointed with how the games graphics turned out for home consoles. The lighting, classic sound effects and soundtrack will cause geeks everywhere to gasm in there pants. 

I was surprised to find that the enemies were well matched. I never felt too strong or cocky. The varied trooper units kept things interesting and the AT-ST battles are lots of fun. The controls feel right; i wasn't even that pissed off aiming with a controller. Ill definitely pick this game up for my console. And the game allows you to switch viewpoints like the other battlefronts, i used both for about the same amount of time. the rounds were about 15 minutes and i wanted more after every round. I can't empasize enough how well the game sounds and plays, smooth 60fps all the way through. If im ready to buy it now i wonder how ill feel about the campaign. Lets face it here, were coming for the campaign and staying for the multiplayer. With games like Battlefeild and COD its all about NOT playing the shitty 4 hr campaign. Hopefully DICE gets it right and draws out the story a bit, i mean they have enough material to draw from right!?

PC

This was a different animal. It reminded me of Battlefield but less insane. We didnt't play an attrition deathmatch,. it was more objective based. This was the demo for the video everyone flipped out over last month at E3. The battle of Hoth. So if you know the movie well enough you can guess if your the Empire then youll be riding into town on Imperial walkers and destroying generators. 

The weapons don't have ammo, this is the past and back then lasers were all you needed. So they all have a cool down time if you get too trigger happy. This applied to both teams. There was lots of back and forth action, I was the rebels, so we were defending turrets and attacking the walkers as well as shooting all the things. 

My favorite part was the random power-ups littered all over the level. If you ran over one you got an x wing, if you played the empire you could get an Imperial walker. Activate it and your marching up the plane with a huge robot, it felt pretty cool. Another guy beside me found a power-up for Luke Skywalker...i was jealous. He went on a 7 man kill streak. 

This game doesn't feel like the old Battlefronts. I hadn't ever really got into a Star Wars game mostly because i though i would just be disappointed, that my kid brain would never accept anything that couldnt rival the films. Now i feel that time has come and i'm allowing myself to get excited about this one. Looking back at old Battlefront 2 videos makes me laugh. The Hoth battles are pretty lame, In this new demo there was a circuit of trenches on the field to hide in. 

 

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MAD MAX

If youve seen gameplay of this then you might be thinking to yourself "this is Batman in the desert." And in a way you would be right. But this notion didnt stop me from having a great time playing it.

The line up for the game wasnt that bad. It was in the XBOX pavillion at the Hyatt Hotel next to the Con. The game booth was hidden behind the stage they had setup so no one really knew it was there. I got about 20 minutes hands on with the game and i walked away impressed, it felt like Shadow of Mordor and Batman (Arkham) had a three way with Max.

It looks gorgeous. I chose to do a raid of a nearby camp. My car was pretty cool, they are all customizable, but i got the impression that this car was from the storyline. I also had an NPC companion. He shouted and pointed out camps to raid and wastlanders to waste. He would also do repairs on the car while it was moving a la the movie. 

Each camp seemed to be guarded and fortified. I was told over my shoulder that most of the camps are designed to be a bit of a puzzle. There are many ways to infultrate them and its up to you how to do it. I used the grappling hook from the car on the gas tank above the steel door. I hit revers on the car and it took a second but it worked. Then the fighting started.

Its impossible not to compare the fight mechanic, in this way it doesn't seem new and innovative. But thats fine because i like the combat that way. Simple.

You use one button to attack and one to dodge. I found the dodge window in this game to be much less forgiving than Shadow or the Arkham games. But soooo satisfying. If your near an object Max will use that to his advantage much like Uncharted 4. I beat them all up and blew up the camp and moved on. I paused the game and checked the map. Its pretty big...i guess. Its no Witcher 3 thats for sure. So i suppose ill be disappointed with map sizes for a while. Also the controls are maddeningly clunky. Maybe i was suppose to drink water or eat a lizard or something to sharpen those reflexes cuz pointing Max left took a lot longer than it was suppose to. The framerate was also a bit off. Big explosions slowed the game down a bit. Enough for me to notice, its not a deal breaker. 

The most interesting this i noticed right away was the similarities to the movie. The attendant helping me sai that there are elements of the film that made it into the game. He emphasized that this game is NOT using the storyline of the movie. There were 'thundersticks' like in the movie and Warboys as enemies as well, guns seem common but not like in the film. I can see this being a game i'd get just because i love the franchise and it satisfied my inner wastlander.

 

I played a few more games:  Transformers, Godzilla and Street Fighter 5. All of which were fun but didn't captivate my imagination like the others listed above have. I hope this sheds some light onto your assumptions about the coming tide this year. Its going to be an interesting fall/ Christmas.