This is going to be the first of a bunch of posts about Gen Con 50, which has turned out to be the BEST Gen Con I’ve ever been to. I’ve done so much and seen so many cool things over the past few days – and it’s not all going to fit into one post, so I’m going to do a handful of them – one on the overall experience, one on events, one on awesome experiences in the Dealers Hall, and one entirely devoted to cosplay!
The first thing I noticed about Gen Con, mostly because it was the first place I went, was the fact that Will Call was EMPTY.
I’m guessing it was probably due to no on-site ticket sales because Gen Con was sold out for the first time in Gen Con history, but still, it was eerie to see Will Call so quiet! As always, though, everything went smoothly – I got my press badge quickly, got event tickets even more quickly, and enjoyed all my time at the convention. It was fantastic, I swear.
And what was really awesome was the fact that Gen Con took over Lucas Oil Stadium – the home of the Indianapolis Colts!
I think spreading things out over three or four hotels, the Indy Convention Center, and Lucas Oil Stadium really helped spread out the crowds. My introvert self really appreciated it. The game lending library was right there on the field at Lucas Oil, as well as a mini museum documenting the history of Gen Con – which was fascinating.
I went to awesome events, had lots of compliments on my costumes, saw SO MANY other awesome costumes, and got to spend lots of time with friends.
I also got to help set up a LARP, got to listen to one of my favorite authors ramble about things and read his two “children’s” books, and ate tasty food from all sorts of places – food trucks, restaurants, and more.
I used to say Gen Con 2013 was the best Gen Con, but I think this one trumps it. By a lot. So many fantastic things happened – again, I can’t just cover it all in one post, so tomorrow I’ll share my experiences in the events I went to! After that, it’ll be fun from the Dealers Hall, and then the final Gen Con post will be on the epic cosplay! (And there may be an entire post dedicated to Pat Rothfuss, too.)
Well, apparently that tiny little game has spawned a tiny little parody. World, meet Munchkin: Loot Letter.
A quick refresher: in Love Letter, your goal is to get your love letter to the princess. You’ve got a small deck of cards which are numbered, and there are various amounts of those numbered cards – there are far more of those lower number cards than higher number cards, and there’s only one 8 – the princess. Once you get the princess, you pretty much win the game unless someone forces you to discard her.
Well, Loot Letter is pretty much the same – only there’s no princess. Only loot. And Ducks of Doom, and a Dread Gazebo. And a lot of potted plants.
I got the chance to play Loot Letter with some dear friends over dinner recently, and it was quite a bit of fun. J and Kasi had played it on their own previously, and found out there’s a lot less strategy involved and a lot more luck when playing with just two players. Adding a third player, though, made things more fun, and introduced more strategic moves to try and win the loot. Even though I goofed up a few times by not entirely thinking through some of my moves (like using a Dread Gazebo to swap hands with someone without really thinking about the effects of someone else ending up with the cards in my hand), I somehow managed to win the most loot!
If you’re in need of a short game to pass the time while waiting for food at a restaurant, or for a TV show to start, but don’t feel like something sappy, then Munchkin: Loot Letter is the game for you.
Yes, I finally did it: I went to a LARP. A real, actual LARP.
And it was FUN.
A little backstory for everyone: when I was a freshman in college, many many years ago, a couple of friends felt it’d be a great idea to start a Vampire: The Masquerade LARP. They loved role-playing, and they thought it’d be awesome to do some live-action Vampire: The Masquerade stuff. So, they herded together a bunch of friends who they thought would have fun in a Vampire LARP, and nudged us in the direction of character creation, and then bam! LARP night at their house!
It didn’t work out all that well.
First off, we didn’t have actual character sheets – we were just told to pick a vampire clan and go with that. We ended up with a very unbalanced group, given that 3/4ths of the people playing chose to play characters from one clan. Second off, there was no combat. Or story. Just a bunch of college kids, sitting around in the living room of a former fraternity house, acting crazy and wearing costumes, drinking wine if you were old enough and pretending it was blood.
I went to maybe two games before I gave up and said “this LARP stuff really isn’t for me.”
But then I met J. And learned what LARPs are really like if they’re run well.
When I met J last year, he told me about the LARP he ran – Kishar – and said I was welcome to come to a game if I wanted to. And I ended up waffling about it for a year or so, based on my bad experiences in that Vampire: The Masquerade LARP I went to back in 2000. I kinda wanted to join up, because as you probably know, I do enjoy any excuse to get into a costume. And I was always interested in boffer fighting (where weapons are made out of foam and latex), even though I wasn’t ever sure where to get started with that. And the setting, which draws on the Arabian Nights stories for inspiration, was intriguing.
So I said “heck, why not? I’ll go to a game, see what it’s about.” And I did – at the end of March.
I wasn’t feeling super well that weekend, so while new players typically play monsters, I ended up trailing the group while they were out in the woods fighting, and taking pictures. It was a really good way to get a feel for how combat works, and to listen to the story and see some action as it happened. While I only knew a handful of people in the group, everyone was welcoming and friendly, and despite feeling pretty cruddy physically, I had a pretty darn good time.
After I absorbed everything going on in Kishar for a weekend, I ended up deciding “yes, this is a thing I want to do” and started crafting a character in earnest. My character will be Ëlinyr (pronounced ay-lin-ear), a sun elf scholar who studies and uses magic. And as I started putting together my character, I realized this is the most perfect way to get my crafty nerdiness on. Not only do I get to make a roleplay character (and therefore indulging in my nerdy side), I also get to put together a costume (which brings in the crafty side of things). And as I said earlier, you all know how much I lovemakingandwearingcostumes. Most of this past weekend was spent working on Ëlinyr’s costume, to get it ready for the next game.
So, I’m really excited about having this new place to get my craftiness and nerdiness on. As I said to J after the game ended, Kishar feels like Gen Con and summer camp combined, and it’s awesome. And who knows, maybe I’ll get Ross into it too, and we can run around the forest in costumes together!
And no, I’m not talking about Pokemon here, heheh.
One of the things I’ve noticed as an emphatic collector of things that relate to my most loved fandoms is that my collections tend to evolve, especially the longer I end up in the fandom. When I’m building my collection, I tend to buy anything and everything relating to my favorite show or game. Sailor Moon hairbrushes? Sure, I’ll buy six! Twilight Sparkle toothbrush holder? This would be amazing in my bathroom! Princess Peach change purse? Doubt I’ll ever use it, but Princess Peach stuff is so freaking rare that I’ll buy anything I see with her face on it! Toothless coin bank? You’re coming home with me, buddy. Anything with a scooter on it? I MUST HAVE IT. And so on.
But after a while, I get overwhelmed with the largeness of my collection. At one point, I must have had about fifty little brushable My Little Ponies. And my Sailor Moon collection, back in its heyday, was absolutely ridiculous. I had such silly things like a Sailor Moon birthday party set – cups, plates, etcetera – still in its original packaging. And six Sailor Moon hair brushes. I’ve got a couple pictures below of the Sailor Moon collection, circa 2005, along with other assorted anime goodies – forgive the quality, the photos were taken on a digital camera that was old in 2005…
There are some of those hairbrushes I was talking about…
Another hairbrush! I still have most of those plushies.
There’s the birthday party set. I don’t think I ever used it…
And some mini Sailor Moon dolls. I still have Luna!
I also used to own a Princess Toadstool cookie jar. (Oh, the stories I could tell about wanting that silly cookie jar, and my excitement when I finally got it…)
And don’t even get me started on the My Little Pony collection…
Last year, I did a collection of free cross-stitch patterns – and everyone loved it! I think that’s one of the most viewed posts on the blog. So, as a holiday treat, I’m going to share ten more awesomely nerdy cross-stitch patterns that are completely free! Simply click on the image for your desired pattern, and it’ll take you to the pattern’s website.
With all the hype surrounding the remake of Final Fantasy VII floating around the internet lately, and with the lack of classes for the next couple of weeks, I figured now was the best time to get re-acquainted with one of the most applauded and well-loved RPGs around. (It also didn’t hurt that FFVII was on sale for $3.60 on Amazon/Steam on Black Friday, either…) For those of you who haven’t ever played the game before, there are some spoilers in here, so be forewarned.
Now, I’ve got a long history with this game. A long and ridiculous history. It goes way back to 1998, after the game first came out – I wanted to play it, really badly, but my mother didn’t think we needed a PlayStation in addition to our slew of Nintendo consoles. So, I borrowed a friend’s player’s guide and read through it. I read through the freaking instruction manual for the game a billion times. I’d listen to the neighbor kid tell me his progress in the game as he worked his way through it, living vicariously through him. And when I finally made it to college, and got a job, I bought the PC version of Final Fantasy VII. And man, was it buggy, and playing it on a keyboard was rough, but I loved it. I soaked up all the fan fiction and fan art I could. Somewhere in my ancient stash of MP3 backup CDs, there’s a disc full of FFVII music I downloaded from Napster way back in the day. That game was my life.
After classes ramped up, I ended up putting the game aside – and if I remember right, I ended up loaning it to a friend, never to be seen again. Fast forward to when I managed to acquire a PS1 of my very own – I bought a used copy, and played it religiously until midway through Disc 2, I think, where my copy had a scratch and simply refused to go any further than a cutscene somewhere in Cosmo Canyon of Red XIII howling at the moon. Some years later, my friend Patty gave me her copy of FFVII and the player’s guide, and made me very happy. And I played the heck out of that, from the beginning, because I lost the memory card that my original save game was on.
And then I somehow lost the copy Patty gave me. I have no idea HOW. I still have the player’s guide that went with it. I even have the memory card my save file is on, just in case I actually find the game again. I’m still miffed about its disappearance. Why couldn’t I lose Final Fantasy VIII? That game was far more infuriating to play, with its weird junction system. Anyhow. Fast forward again, to when Bryan buys a PS3. I find out I can get FFVII from the PlayStation store, and of course I buy it, and play through the beginning of the game a FOURTH time. Then I bought a PS Vita, Bryan and I split, and I had to start FFVII again. A fifth time. (At least the version I bought from the PS Store worked on both the PS3 and the Vita!)
Then, of course, I sold my PS Vita because I never actually used it for much aside from the occasional “oh maybe I should play Final Fantasy something-or-other”. So, Black Friday this year rolls around, and I figure, why not? I’m gonna buy a fifth copy of FFVII on Amazon/Steam. Because I can, and because I am DETERMINED to beat the game. Even though I know how it ends, because my friend Tyler spoiled it all for me back in 1998. So I did, and I even found the dongle that allows you to hook up a PlayStation 1/2 controller to a computer through USB. Success!
Playing the Game
Now that I’ve got the game again, and I’ve made it through roughly 8 hours of the game, I’ve noticed quite a few things about this PC release. First off, there’s been some tweaking to the character models – the polygons look nice and smooth now. Which makes for a HUGE contrast when compared to the backgrounds and static objects in the game, which look incredibly pixelated. My first couple hours in this replay were spent playing in front of a 28 inch monitor hooked up to my Surface, and my first thoughts were “wow, this game has not aged well, graphically.”
Another observation I had: I don’t know if the characters always looked like this, or if this is just due to playing an old game on an HD computer monitor, but whoa, do the characters eyes look WEIRD.
They’re incredibly pixelated, compared to the typical gameplay character models. And it’s weird. Did they always look like that, or is it just emphasized because they smoothed the heck out of the character models? I have no idea. I’ll say this for sure – the game looks far better on smaller screens, like the Surface Pro – you don’t notice the super-pixelation or the weirdness with the eyes on the character models all that much.
The battle character models look a bit better than they used to, which is nice! The polygon smoothing and extra sprucing up worked out well in this department. They’re good looking, better than 1997 standards. I actually kinda like going into battles, especially with newly acquired characters, to see how spiffy their models are looking.
One thing that hasn’t changed at all are the quality of the cutscenes. Which were absolutely fantastic for 1997, and are a little grainy now but still hold the storytelling impact they previously did. I spent last night holding my controller tightly as Cloud talked about his past with Sephiroth, and even after playing through Kalm Town for the third time, I still find the story as immersive and gripping as I did the first time I played it.
One thing I’m not quite too sure about is Square Enix’s implementation of the Character Booster – it’s helpful, yeah, but it’s not quite what I was expecting. When I read about it, it seemed like it was meant to max out all your character’s stats – and their level, too – to 9999, therefore making it easy to push through the game for the story if that’s all you care about. What it does in reality is boost the HP/MP of the characters currently in your party to their max levels (around 9999 HP/999 MP, but it’s different for each character), and maxes your gil out to 4999999999 or some other absurdly high amount. And don’t get me wrong, that’s helpful, but it’s not what I was anticipating – and it means I’m still stuck level grinding so I can actually do damage to enemies. Plus, I have to remember to go back and tweak the Character Boost stuff every time I get a new party member – I just picked up Red XIII, and he’s only got 450 HP, compared to Barret’s 9900, so back to the Square Enix website I must go to boost my stats…
I’m looking forward to finally beating the game, though. Sure, I’m only 8 hours in, but I’ll get there eventually. Especially considering the motivation I’ve got for finishing – having the whole story under my belt before the FFVII Remake comes out. And who knows, maybe this’ll rekindle my inner gamer. After all, Final Fantasy VI is being released on Steam this afternoon…
Well, I found myself with some unexpected time on my hands today, and I’ve been intending to review this game for a bit, so….
Pairs: The Review
I’ve had this game on a shelf since September, waiting for the chance to get to play it. I discovered the Kickstarter for Pairs through Patrick Rothfuss’ blog, sometime last spring, and eagerly backed the project and snagged three decks as a result. (I mean, come on, Pat could put his name on anything and I’d be likely to back it.) There were many decks available to choose from, and I picked three with artwork from Pat Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles series, as I do love those books and was curious to see Shane Tyree and Nate Taylor’s artistic interpretation of the characters I’ve enjoyed reading about. Once the decks finally got delivered, I opened them all up, looked at the beautiful artwork, and then set them in my “let’s play this later” pile on my bookshelf.
Fast forward to today – the day housing access opens up on Gen Con’s website! I eagerly awaited the coming of 12:00 pm, to see how long of a wait I’d have to get to the housing portal…
So, Ross and I figured this would be a good time to pick up Pairs and play. Based on what I’d heard about it from the Kickstarter page, and what I’d read in the rules when I’d first opened the games, it seemed pretty simple – points were earned by getting a pair of cards, and the person with the highest score lost. So, going off of that, we figured we’d shuffle the cards (which turned into an ordeal, due to the fact that neither of us can properly shuffle a deck of cards without turning it into a game of 52 Pick-Up) and start a game! I read off the rules while Ross and I took turns slowly shuffling the deck – and the rules ended up being a little less straightforward than we initially thought…
Gameplay, for Ross and I, went as follows: Whoever dealt took five cards from the deck and put them face-down to start the discard deck, as the rules suggested, and then the dealer passed out a card to each of us – whoever had the lowest card went first. Then, we’d take turns drawing cards, hoping neither of us would end up with a pair – especially a high scoring pair. (The deck is a pyramid deck – there’s one 1, two 2s, three 3s, and so on, making your chances of getting a high numbered card pretty large.) When one of us ended up with a pair, that ended the round – we’d set aside a card from that pair to keep score, and the rest went into the discard pile. We repeated that until one of us hit 31 points, the suggested “losing” score number that the rules gave us.
It was actually pretty fun – and once we figured out what we were doing, we enjoyed it. I think we ended up playing three games – I lost twice, Ross lost once. It didn’t help too much that Ross kept commenting on the artwork on the cards – it hinted at what cards he had, haha. The artwork for the Commonwealth Deck (the one we played with), done by Shane Tyree, is absolutely gorgeous. While I wish the art focused on specific characters in the Kingkiller Chronicles, the game is mentioned to be played in the universe of the stories – and characters from the story seeing themselves on a card, well, that’d be rather odd.
Overall, it was a pretty fun game, and a good way to kill time. I think it might have been even more fun with more people playing, but for Ross and I, it was pretty good too. I might even bring this along with me if I’m going out to eat with a group of people, as a fun way of keeping everyone entertained while waiting for food. If you want to learn more, visit the Pairs page on Cheapass Games’ website!
And it meant a half-hour’s worth of time not spent looking at the computer, anxiously waiting our turn for housing. (At the time of this writing, I’ve got fourteen and a half minutes left – I hope hope hope there’s still room in the JW Marriott or even the Hampton Inn…)
How many of you remember me posting about HabitRPG, the to-do and habit building site/app that turns your life into an epic adventure where you can earn experience for taking the dog for a walk? Well, if you can’t quite remember it, here’s the post I wrote.
I’ll admit – when I first started using HabitRPG, I was thinking “oh, I know me, I won’t stick around for long. I’ll use it diligently for a few weeks, and then stop.” That’s usually how it goes with me – but not this time. Oh, definitely not this time.
Logging in day after day, checking off my to-do list and daily habits and getting experience for them, well, the novelty did wear off after a little while. But then I went on some quests. I fought Vice and got some pretty impressive goodies such as a staff that makes my awesome Mage just that much awesomer. I conquered The Spirit of Spring, The Hedgebeast, and Octothulu and earned quite an impressive menagerie of pets. And most recently, I banded together with all the citizens of Habitica to fight off the Dread Drag’on of Dilatory. The quests are definitely one of the things that keep me coming back.
And I can play with friends, too. There’s two ways to do this – you can have a party of people you go questing with, or you can create a guild and participate in challenges. Either way is a great way to keep yourself coming back. There were some days where I was feeling lazy, and didn’t really feel like logging in and marking my stuff off as done… but then I’d remember I was part of a quest with my party members, and if I didn’t log in, they’d take damage, and I didn’t want that to happen – which motivated me to get off my butt, get stuff done, and help fight off whatever boss we were tangling with at the moment.
Now it’s been around eight months since I got an account and started leveling up my little character. And in those eight months, I’ve developed some good habits. No snacking late at night. Walking every day, and taking short walk breaks when I’m in the office all day. Making sure I actually eat breakfast AND lunch each day. Keeping hydrated by making sure I drink enough water. My habits and daily tasks are constantly evolving, too. When the end of August comes and classes start up again, I’ll likely be adding tasks to make sure I get my homework done. And with the new house, there’ll be new chores too (I expect to be vacuuming a lot more often, given I’ll not only have carpeting pretty much everywhere, I’ll also have a cat!), and of course I’ll need to get into the habit of doing them regularly. And I know HabitRPG will help me with that!
So, if you’re already on Habit, look up the guild The Crafty Nerds. It’s the official guild of The Crafty Nerd (you’ll know you’re in the right place if you see Scooterlou as the guild leader, I mean, come on, who else would name their character after their old scooter but me), and I’d be happy to have you there! And if you’re not, why not join up? It’s free, it’s easy to get the hang of, and will definitely help you build some good habits. Plus, the retro art style keeps things fun, and the wide variety of quests to do, pets to collect, and people to meet in the Tavern will keep you coming back.
One thing that I am horrible at is building new habits – and sticking to them. Sure, I’ll wear my Fitbit for about a week, excited about all the data it provides to me about how far I’ve walked and how many times I woke up in the middle of the night, then forget it at home one day… and sure I’ll say “I’m going to read ALL THE BOOKS this year” and then, without fail, end up on the computer all weekend and watching Law and Order to fall asleep. Or I’ll start a craft project, work on it for a few weeks, and then go “oooh I should start another Doctor Who scarf” and forget about whatever it was I was working on completely.
Yes, that’s my little tiny character, clad in leather armor, brandishing a sword. I need to keep up my good habits in order to earn a helm.
The premise is very simple – build habits and complete tasks, earn XP and gold pieces to spend on in-game goodies to keep you from losing too much health should you forget to complete a given task in a day, or to redeem for real-life privileges and treats. When you log in for the first time, you’ll see four columns – Habits, Dailies, To Do, and Rewards. You’ll also see a little pixel version of your character up in the left hand corner of the screen, which you can customize to your liking. HabitRPG will suggest some habits and daily tasks for you, as well as suggest some possible rewards you can give to yourself – the first thing I did was set up some habits that I’m working on (like wearing my Fitbit every day, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, bringing my lunch to work) and also add some daily tasks I wanted to make sure I did every day (including reading a book for at least 30 minutes, and spending an hour away from the computer – which you might think is easy, but when you work in IT, your entire life is computers!). To-do comes in handy as a reminder list that also earns me gold and XP – and the Rewards section is where you can go spend your gold.
Don’t think that it’s just a cute way to remember to walk the dog and mail out the bills, however. There are QUESTS. (Or, as HabitRPG calls them, challenges.) Yes, you can compete with/against other HabitRPG warriors for the potential to earn goodies while building good habits! Which is pretty awesome. And you can randomly get pets – I picked up a wolf egg when I checked off one of my dailies today. 😀
And so you don’t have to go it alone – you can create parties, join a guild, and more. I’m currently going it alone, as there’s no easy way to share a link to a party so others can join, but if any of you readers join up, shoot me a comment on here or on the Facebook page with your User ID (which can be found either here or here, but you must be logged in) and I’ll add you to my party!
So, for those of you who have some trouble sticking to new habits, or just want to find a new way to make doing all that laundry exciting, give HabitRPG a try! I’m enjoying the heck out of it, and may have freaked out a little when I neglected my chores for a day and though “nooo, my little warrior is going to die if I don’t clean!”, heheh.
Last night, I had the opportunity to play a new game – it’s a short and sweet little game called Love Letter. Michael and I played it while at dinner at the local Chinese buffet place – because why not have a little game with your dinner?
The premise of Love Letter is simple – Princess Annette is pretty darn popular, and has quite a few suitors wanting to get a love letter to her. However… she’s locked herself in a tower, and it’s your job to try and cozy up to the people closest to the princess in hopes of getting your letter to her.
There’s a small deck of cards with various people from the castle, with different numbers on each card. The number indicates how close that person is to the princess. Each card also has a condition on it – for example, the Priest card makes it so another player has to show you their cards, and the Countess card has to be discarded if she’s caught with the King or the Prince in the same hand (scandalous!) – these conditions can make game play pretty interesting.
At the end of each round, whoever has the highest numbered card in their hand gets their letter to the princess, and they earn a token of her affection (which is a little tiny red cube). Once a player earns enough tokens, they win the princess’s affection (and therefore the game). The game can be played with 2-4 people, and the amount of tokens needed to win changes with the amount of people playing. For two players, you need seven tokens to win. It’s a pretty quick game to play, especially depending on what cards you end up with.
Michael and I managed to play through an entire game in a half hour – I was wiping the floor with him for a chunk of the game, as I kept getting lucky and getting the princess card (I mean, how much closer can you get to the princess when you’ve got the princess card?) – however, then Michael kept getting cards that made it that even once I’d gotten the princess card I’d have to discard it (and therefore lose the round, because the princess card’s condition? When discarded, you lose the round). In the end, Michael swooped past me, captured the princess’s affections, and won. I was so close, too – I was two tokens shy!
So, in short, this is a good little game to play if you’ve got a little bit of time to kill and want a small game to play – the entire game fits into a bag roughly the size of a dice bag, and doesn’t take terribly long to play. It’s also pretty entertaining, too, and is pretty inexpensive to boot! You can find it here on Amazon.
So, in short, The Crafty Nerd’s verdict? Pretty darn awesome, and I suggest you give it a try!
I know, I know, I’ve been neglecting the blog horribly over the past week. Blame Python. More accurately, blame three days of intense Python-learning for a class. I feel pretty darn nerdy, though, cramming so much Python into my brain in so short a time! And I just finished and submitted the final exam – while my brain is reeling from cramming so much code into it, I do feel rather accomplished. Plus, Python shares similar syntax to PHP, which I’ve been learning on my own,
So, in lieu of a rather involved post, I’m simply going to share some pictures from the past couple of days – expect a more exciting post when I get my brain back later this week!
First off, I found a TARDIS night light! I’m rather fond of it. It does a good job lighting the way from the bed to the bathroom in the middle of the night. And it’s the TARDIS.
I love playing video games. It’s one of the first nerdy things I’ve ever done – play games on my Atari when I was 5 years old. I especially love retro video games – the older, the better. After a friend of mine posted about the Sailor Moon games that came out for the Super Nintendo/Super Famicom back in the height of Sailor Moon’s popularity, I figured I might as well see if I could find some of my old favorites to play with. And I wasn’t disappointed!
Here we’ve got the Sailor Moon S puzzle game! I have no idea what the actual official name of it is, as I can’t read Japanese much more than identifying the kanji that stand for Sailor Moon, but this is my favorite of all the puzzle games that were released for the Super Nintendo.
Most Sailor Moon fans of a certain age on the internet will definitely recognize these sprites – they were on Lycentia’s Sailor Moon Graphics Site! She’d lovingly pulled all the sprites from all the Sailor Moon Super Nintendo games, and animated some of them too. This is the character select screen – you can play as pretty much any character in the series up to the S season. I picked Jupiter, as she’s one of my long time favorites.