Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Play.com Live

Last weekend - Saturday 15th March to be precise - Fruitbat, Qu_be and I headed to Wembley Stadium for the Play.com organised gaming event "Play.com Live". The event was advertised as a chance to play this year's forthcoming games months before release. The last event of this kind here in the UK was Gamestars back in 2004, which I attended with J. These events do need more support here, so when Qu_be linked me in, I jumped at the chance to go along.



I was a little worried that the event would be poorly attended, as the advertising campaign seemed somewhat lacklustre. I needn't have worried - as soon as we entered London there were adverts plastered all over the place!



Once we got inside the event it was clear that the only problem with attendance was one of overcrowding. The two halls that made up the convention were busy, noisy and hot. Initially it was offputting, but once we got into the swing of things we were on the prowl for games and swag-o-plenty.



Microsoft made Rock Band their centrepiece, and it was clear that the hugely anticipated rhythm game was one of the major draws of the entire event. There was a large crowd waiting for the chance to play for the entire time we were there, and with only one setup most people left disappointed. Two lucky makeshift "bands" were given the chance to play a song on the main stage later in the day.



A couple of movie tie-ins were situated just inside the entrance in the form of Kung-fu Panda (which was especially enjoyed by Fruitbat) and Lego Indiana Jones. Whilst I didn't get any hands-on time with the latter, it certainly looked up-to-par with the Lego Star Wars games.



The Ghostbusters and Prototype booths were a let-down, both having only one small screen playing short trailers which will no doubt be available on Youtube shortly if they're not already. That fight with Marshmallow Man does indeed look epic, however.



Square Enix fans would have raced straight up the stairs in the main hall, only to be sorely disappointed that the booth consisted of just a few HDTVs playing a loop of trailers. No hands-on here guys, but were you really expecting it?



The second hall proved a lot more interesting for me personally. First off, Sandisk were offering the chance to win an 8gb memory card for your phone. The idea was to pull a card from a big bowl, then they insert it into a phone and if it autoruns an application, it's an 8gb card and you win it. Nobody in front of me in the queue won, and neither did anyone else I saw that took a dip.



Also upstairs was a gallery of playable 360s and PS3s all with recently released, or soon to be released games. Games like Halo 3, Gears of War with extra multiplayer maps, Devil May Cry 4, The Orange Box, Conflict: Denied Ops and a bunch of throwaway games were all present in an attempt to boost sales.



One of my favourite booths was an indie games booth run by one of the educational establishments that I've embarrassingly forgotten the name of. They were showing off the finalists and runners-up of an amateur games development competition. Some of them looked really cool, and it's definitely something I'd like to see more of.



I've saved the best 'til last, of course. Qu_be and I got hands-on time with a very alpha build of Soul Calibur 4. I couldn't believe that they had bought it along in this state (the game was running on 360 devkits) but I was so pleased to see it. Normally we don't get to see builds this early here in the UK. Only three characters were playable (Mitsurugi, Taki and Sophitia), but already the quality is shining through and I'm definitely picking this one up after playing the hell out of 2 on the Gamecube.



To top things off, I played a quick game of Terrorist Hunt on Rainbow Six: Vegas 2. Plays just like the first, but there's definitely some extra shine to it. Should be good.



All in all, not a bad event. I didn't feel the same excitement that I felt for Gamestars, and I think the cramped nature of the event certainly contributed to that. There was a lack of pre-release games and definitely too many video-only booths. If you're going to show something at an event like this, make it playable. If I want to watch a game trailer I'll do it on the internet, thanks.

Will I go again if they run the event next year? Probably, but I'm a sucker for it. It'll need to be bigger (or at least, more spaced out) and there'll need to be a few more titles that I'm interested in to make me really excited for it.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Flood!

Never really been this close to a flood before - here's some pictures from my office complex taken at around 12:30 today:


I managed to get my car out in time, luckily!

Monday, 3 March 2008

Band videos and other bits

Haven't had much of a reason to post about anything of late, so I thought I'd force myself to find something interesting to write about today.

Saturday I uploaded some newish videos of Puritan Slain in action. Taken at our last gig at Christmas, I really just wanted something to freshen up my Youtube profile. Thankfully, we're started to get gig offers trickling in and by Summer we should have played another couple of shows. It sucks having new material and not being able to show it off.

Also at the weekend, I made the leap to Vista on my home machine. I still don't know if it was a good idea. I've been pretty anti-Vista for a while, and whilst I'm fairly comfortable with using it now, it still seems to run very slowly in some places. It's my own fault for trying to install it on a three-year-old PC though I guess. I'll stick with it for now anyway.

A couple of interesting things are happening this month: Firstly, I'm off over to Portsmouth on Saturday to have a friendly jam with my good buddy Dan and the drummer from his band. I'm dragging Mister Carl with me to provide some basslines. It's going to be interesting, as we'll have a range of musical abilities between the four of us. At the end of the day though, it's just going to be an all-day pissup with a couple of murdered cover versions thrown in. I'll be getting together with Carl beforehand to get him musically motivated before the day!

And then the following weekend, I'm off up to Wembley to attend Play.com Live. I have no idea how this event is going to pan out as it really hasn't been advertised as widely as it should have been. Still, the publisher support seems to be in place, so I'm hoping to catch a couple of upcoming games at least.