I was definitely not a camp kid. I didn’t like camping growing up, either. The most I ever enjoyed camping was when I lined up in the wee hours of the morning for an iPhone 4. Even at that, I didn’t enjoying camping out for the phone, just the end result.

This weekend, November 3rd and 4th, we’ll be at Gamercamp here in Toronto, which has exactly zero things to do with camping. Looks like there are a lot of smart people in attendance – don’t believe us? Check out our podcast with Jaime Woo, the festival’s co-founder and organizer. There, told you so. 

Oh, and some games release this week. Insert something here about a tomahawk to the face and needing speed. I’m tired.

Friday, 5:20 pm – Ricky

Just got back from Day 1 of Gamercamp! So. Much. Awesome. I can’t wait to share on the podcast tomorrow, but until then, here are my hilights:

  • Jonathan Mak’s talk stole the show. He was so candid, honest, and open about his personal experiences with game development. He shared the highs and the lows, and we all left that theatre better people for it. Can’t wait for that talk to be available online early next year.
  • Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime was a great experience on the morning showroom floor. Gavin and I had a blast playing it together, and it’s definitely something I could see myself playing online with a buddy. Definitely one to watch if you like shmups.
  • Every play musical chairs as a kid? Ever want to play musical chairs as an adult? Cue European Rainbow Training. Lay a TV screen flat, start with 4 players in the corners of the screen, and have them platform jump as they race to the center. But here’s the twist: gravity changes for each person, so you must follow an on-screen arrow telling you where to stand so that you’re back at your cardinal points on the controller. Brilliant, though likely not super feasible in a living room. Though we didn’t have a chance to chat with Kyle Dwyer, the game’s creator, I’d have to think that it’s crossed his mind to put that puppy on an iPad, Bluetooth in wireless 360 support and initiate the best party game.
  • Hokra is a little indie title I could see the Gamentary crew sinking a lot of couch-time into. Think of it as 2-on-2 basketball where you score point by holding the ball in one of your team’s two corners. To dispossess someone of the “rock”, you barrel into them with a dash. You can also pass the ball around with a teammate to set-up sweet plays. All of this is done with a pongesque vibe – it’s just a square of 4 pixels fighting over a single pixel. Really simple and really, really addictive.
  • A title I’d heard about coming out of the big con scene is Gucamelee, but I hadn’t had a chance to really SEE it – I had seen screenshots, but not a video. The lead character, Juan, is a luchador who can turn into a chicken and jump throw portals to fight enemies on either side of the environment – kind of a light world/dark world environment. I was also able to team up and co-op through part of a level. The thing that really catches your eye is the sharp artistic style. It’s colourful and echoes a bit of a cell-shaded style, but with more Samurai Jack. Juan also graces the cover of the Fall Gamercamp magazine, our featured photo for this post.

There was a ton more to see and do, including Capy’s new title Super TIME Force and games for the blind from University of Toronto. Good thing there’s still tomorrow!

Friday, 10:02 pm – Ricky

Shakespeare was the First Hipster (where we talk gamercamp and hipsterdome) – Get the podcast details here.

Gamentary Round 14 – November 20 2012 (right click and “Save As” to download the mp3, or use the player below)

Friday, 2:42 pm – Ricky

There’s always someone taking it further, matt! For some gamers, WE’RE the guys taking it further. All depends on your perspective, I guess.

For example, we’ll be podcasting tonight in anticipation of Gamercamp, which begins tomorrow and runs through Sunday here in Toronto. We’ll also be chatting a little bit about what we’ve been playing over the past couple of weeks. Look for another cast early next week focusing solely on our Gamercamp wrap-up and review!

Thursday, 5:56 pm – matt

Nice wrap up on the videogames live, the pictures are great too. Its always nice to know that no matter how much i like playing videogames, there will always be someone taking it a step further. I’ve been busy in real life so videogames taking a little bit of a backburner, but recently picked up Max Payne 3 and Dead Island for the Xbox cheap so been enjoying those two titles. Riptide should be coming out soon so hopefully my brother in arms returns from California to lend a hand in taking down the zombie apocalypse.

Ricky and I also need to play some Max Payne online.

Thursday, 8:56 am – Ricky

Halo 4 reviews are dropping in today as the embargo is lifted – overall, a very positive showing for the 343 Industries joint. I know we don’t have a lot of Halo fans around here, and I would hardly consider myself a core fan of the series, but I think it’s been the most solid FPS series of the last 2 console generations, including Call of Duty.

Despite a developer change from Bungie to 343, nothing seems to have been lost in the transition. The new developer took on a challenge – from Microsoft, certainly, but mostly from long-time fans of the series – and they appear to have met it with vigor, vim, and balls-to-the-wall-shoot-that-alien-in-the-face action. I’ll be picking up the title at some point before the end of the year; I always enjoy the single player, and I usually only dabble in the multiplayer, so I try to pick it up at a discount if I can.

I also played a couple more hours of Assassin’s Creed 3 and I’m getting into the meat of the game. I’m still not an “assassin”, but I’m closer to it than I have been the previous 5 hours. A slow ramp-up to be certain, but the deep back-story should pay-off in the end… I hope…

Wednesday, 10:11 am – Gavin

The extent of my experience with Ass Creed 3 is listening to two kids talking about it on the bus today.  I won’t repeat the vulgarity, but generally speaking, they approve thus far.  WHAT A VALUABLE CONTRIBUTION, GAVIN.

I suppose the other takeaway I had from Video Games Live was how amazing the introductory theme to Super Smash Brothers Brawl was.  Like, seriously terrific.

I’ve been casually exploring video game design software lately.  I am not particularly interested in developing a game, but I’d like to think that I could be fairly representative of an average gamer (not necessarily in taste, but in experience) – I have played a lot of types of games over the years, I have opinions on what I like and don’t like, and I have more than a passing casual interest in games these days.  However, I have no technical skills whatsoever beyond some slight BASIC programming.  If you want to write a book, or even shoot a movie or TV show, you don’t technically require much to be able to produce something functional – a computer or typewriter for the former, a video camera for the latter.  It may not be good, but you can produce something.  Can the same be said for video games?  How accessible is the video game design community for those who have never designed something in their lives?  We’ll get a glimpse of that at Gamercamp, and you would have great exposure to that at a Game Jam event.

The majority of media consumers are just that – consumers only, not producers.  To steal an archaic term, Web 2.0 did shift that substantially with the Internet, and technology has only gotten cheaper as time goes by so it’s not difficult for a budding musician to acquire a microphone to hook into their computer to create the most basic recording studio.  Someone can even do the same with board games – it takes time to figure out what works and what doesn’t, but it’s not a matter of technical skill to produce something functional – only time and logic.

Can the same be said for video games?  I can’t tell you right now because I’ve never tried.  However, free game designers exist – my friend Joel Minty produced a free turn-based RPG, The Sword and the Fish, using RPG Maker 2000.  It took him years to make something substantial, but he did it and released it and it was downloaded over 1000 times by 2006.  Who knows where it stands now?  The Unity engine has a free game design tool, and to that end, if you just type in “free game design software” into a search engine, you’ll get back more hits than you can get through in a reasonable amount of time.

Do you have any experience developing a game from scratch?  Was the technical aspect a stumbling block for you, if you have no programming experience otherwise?  Let us know!

Wednesday, 8:21 am – Ricky

Wednesday morning updates for everyone!

Natural Selection 2 looks intense – I’m not sure I’m seeing the Starcraft influence, but I’m guessing they’re talking about the races from Starcraft rather than the RTS genre. Still, looks pretty fun. Might be a good Steam sale pick-up in the future!

Heading into Gamercamp this weekend, we’ll be podcasting on Friday night and hopefully getting it out shortly thereafter. We’ll definitely hear about what we’re looking forward to at Gamercamp, and I’m sure we’ll hear alllll about XCOM. You’ll also hear a little bit about Assassin’s Creed 3, which I played last night on launch.

After about 3 hours in the game, I’m still not playing as the guy on the cover. Conner has been hyped as the next Assassin, and his trademark tomahawk can be seen in all manner of traditional and digital marketing for the game. Still, I haven’t played a single minute as him. Without spoiling too much, I’m playing as a Brit name Haytham Kenway. He’s got the hidden blade and some pretty good swordplay, but Conner he is not.

I’m all for setting up the story, the plot, the character, etc. But I’m also very heavily invested in the Assassin’s Creed series, and I’ve been following all of the marketing. MINOR SPOILER ALERT —– you still here? I know that Haytham is Connor’s father, because I know Connor is part British and part Native. To that end, I know that this is setup for playing as Connor.

However, if I wasn’t as invested in the series, or if I hadn’t followed the pre-release marketing so closely, would I be angry about the way this game has started? It’s definitely possible. You see a dude in a white assassin’s outfit nailing a tomahawk into a red coat’s chest on the cover, and you’re not that dude after the first few hours? It’s an interesting question, and I’d be curious to hear from those who are new to the series.

Still, I’ll be playing more this evening and getting my story progress on. You may have read my impressions from a couple of weeks ago; if not, here’s a summary: The game plays and feels exactly as you expect it to. They’ve beefed up the animations and the freerun controls, and the environments look great. It’s a bigger game with (reportedly) more to do. I’m looking forward to seeing what the game holds for me on the story front.

Wednesday, 7:42 am – Albert

Happy Wednesday! One day closer to Gamercamp! I’m excited to go to my very first one and after speaking with Jaime about the all that is happening at the event, I know my weekend will be filled with games… sweet sweet video games.

Speaking of sweet vid games, I was hearing a lot of hype about this game called Natural Selection 2 that is released as of now and the first comment was that it was a blend of Starcraft and Counter-Strike…. Yeah. So those games are amazing. Check out this video and let me know what you guys think.

So recently, I’ve been kinda going through some first world problems where I just don’t know what I want to play. This is what I’ve been playing:

1. XCOM: Enemy Unknown – Of COURSE i’m still playing this brilliant and amazing game, which blends tactical and strategy elements in such a elegant and profound way that it borders on erotic gaming pleasure. I’ve just beaten my 3rd playthrough on Classic. Waiting for the DLC to drop before attempting to play it on Impossible Difficulty Ironman Mode… wow. I debated on deleting that line to make me still seem like I enjoy life. Too late now. To make it worse, I have six achievements left.

2. Age of Empires III – I was longing for some awesome resource management and some tolerable fighting on an RTS scale (which I just was not getting from Stronghold 3). This game can still stand the test of time and was a joy to play. The computer was surprisingly difficult. I was trying to herd sheep and all it wanted to do was break my walls and kill my villagers. Assholes.

3. Anno 2070 – Did I mention resource management? Yeah, Anno 2070 is that game. This game is COMPLEX. I really need to devote a lot of time to learning this game, but I just wasn’t feeling it at the time. Looks gorgeous. This is the supermodel of RTS/Strategy games.

4. TF2 (MVM) and L4D2 – I’ve been getting a lot of invites from different friend groups to play this game. L4D2 most likely because of the Steam Halloween Sales which is fine by me! These two games never get old. The amount of fun that you can have with people in these games is like getting a mullllttitiikilllll…

5. Max Payne 3 – I was late to this train, and Ricky laid the track. This game looks INCREDIBLE. I’ve maxed the graphics and the gunplay is smooth and gorey. Nothing like a slow mo view of bullets piercing someones face and exiting the rear of the head to make you appreciate life. The story is fast paced and as Ricky mentioned, the difficulty is ramped up. I died in the first mission… aka tutorial. Who does that? THIS GUY. I’ll be playing this more. Don’t you worry. Then i’m sure Ricky and I will play multiplayer… which now has new DLC.

What’s everyone else been playing?

Tuesday, 1:01 pm – Ricky

Great write-up Gavin! The concert was definitely a good time. I think that it’s something most core gamers would enjoy experiencing at least once, though to Gavin’s point, I’m not sure it’s something I’d go see again. The folks sitting behind us had been before (based on what I overheard); they were audibly surprised by some “new additions” since they had last seen the concert, which means Tommy tries to keep it fresh. Still, it’s not the kind of thing I think I’d see again for a while.

My favourite pieces were from games I knew – there were a number of pieces from games I wasn’t even remotely familiar with, including Castlevania and Kingdom Hearts. I really enjoyed the Skyrim piece, and the choir did a great job of filling in the vocals, with Laura Intravia leading the charge. I even recorded it and passed on to Albert – for private use only, of course. The Tetris opera was equally amazing, and I enjoyed the “dynamic” rendition of Super Smash Brothers: Brawl while 4 audience members played a live game on stage.

I’d recommend you go if you’ve never been before. Odds are you’ll enjoy yourself and just nerd out for the evening, then move on your merry way.

Tuesday, 8:53 am – Gavin

Sorry for being incommunicado last week, folks.  The weekend was jam-packed and I’m pretty sure I caught bird flu.

I’m continuing my Deus Ex: Human Revolution rampage.  It’s much more fun to play after abandoning my pacifist run.  I abandoned it quite a while ago, but I still try to stick to it when I can.  However, I’m less fussed when I need to pick someone off.  It’s made getting through it much faster now.  I did encounter another boss fight that really threw me for a loop in terms of the boss’s weapons vs mine, which I understand is the common complaint.  It took me quite a few tries, and the boss moved so quickly that I couldn’t actually tell if I was doing damage or not.  In the end, I’m not as upset with them as others are, but they are a touch jarring.

As promised, a couple of photos from Video Games Live from last week.  I enjoyed the concert, but it often left me wanting.  We heard music from Civilization, Kingdom Hearts, Zelda, Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, Pokemon, Donkey Kong Country, Final Fantasy, Earthworm Jim, Chrono Trigger/Chrono Cross, Tetris, World of Warcraft, Super Smash Brothers: Brawl, Castlevania, Super Mario Brothers, Portal (gee, I wonder if you can guess which song), and others that I can’t quite remember off the top of my head.  The best part about the show, aside from the technical skill of the performers, was easily the crowd, who got right into it.  It was very representative of the video game culture as a whole, emerging from the shadows of sub-culture to mainstream.  Here we all were, thousands of us lined up outside Massey Hall waiting to get in to hear the damn Zelda theme that we’ve all heard a million times before.

I think the biggest problem a show like that has is that it can only scratch the surface of the games to which it is paying tribute.  There’s so much amazing music in Zelda, Final Fantasy, and Chrono Trigger (for example) that they’ll play a minute of the opening theme and then a minute of Frog’s Theme and you’ll sit there thinking “Wait!  Play the boss theme!  Play the Zeal theme!  Play Schala’s theme!  PLAY MORE OF THAT GAME.”  There are two unrelated concert series currently working their way through the United States just focused on music from Final Fantasy and Zelda.  I feel like that would have been more up my alley.

That’s not to say at all that I didn’t enjoy it – obviously I did, because video game music is awesome.  However, I guess I wanted more than just a taste of a bunch of games.  Of course, that’s just my opinion, and you can’t organize a concert just around pleasing me, which would be awesome, but they understandably don’t do that.  The organizer and host, Tommy Talarico, is a composer and has been doing video game music for nigh-on 20 years now.  You can tell that he loves what he does, but you can also tell that he loves the fame that goes along with it.  Any time that he was playing the guitar on stage, he made sure the spotlight was on him and that he was getting most of the attention.  He was often battling the vocalist, Laura Intravia (whom you might recognize as Flute Link – she was terrific), for attention.  She was phenomenal, and worked very well with the Humber College Choir in the background.  Their rendition of Tetris in operatic form was probably the best piece they did all night, in my opinion.

All in all, would I go again?  Nope.  Musically, I could get the same experience at home.  However, as a cultural excursion, it’s absolutely worth it.  It’s comforting to be in a huge venue like that, just surrounded by people who love video games as much as you do.

The stage setup. No pictures allowed during the performance

Some FF and MM cosplayers.

My favourite cosplayers of the night – Paula and Ness from Earthbound.

Tuesday, 7:49 am – Ricky

It’s new release Tuesday! Whether or not you’re picking up a new title today, you have to be a little bit excited to be heading into the final 4 weeks of Fall releases. I’ll likely pick up Assassin’s Creed 3 today, so don’t contact me tonight or tomorrow.

Arthur Gies of Polygon went on a bit of a rant yesterday about the official Assassin’s Creed 3 launch trailer being spoiler-y, so we’ll avoid posting it here in case folks are sensitive to that kind of thing. I have to say, I watched it and didn’t notice anything major, but in fairness, I haven’t played the game and he has.

Monday, 8:05 am – Ricky

Spent some time this weekend playing Borderlands 2 with Preezie, but that’s about the extent of my gaming. I really love that game, and I’ve decided I need to commit more time to it. With so many titles coming down the pipeline, it’s tough not to get swept up in the hype, but there are still some many good games from earlier in the year to enjoy.