Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Cons, Things and the Group

As I mentioned previously (and with breathless excitement) I recently ended my embarrasing lack of Con experience by hitting up London Super Comic Con and had a great time. I talked briefly about how not having been to a Con was kind of weird for an internet 'Geek' commentator like myself and that, along with the experience myself, got me to thinking about Conventions and the central place they've come to occupy in the hearts and minds of Gamers, Comics-Lovers and other assorted brands of what we might call geekdom.

Lest we Forget...Source

The first things we'd probably recognise as 'Cons' started in the 30s, around the time that Science Fiction and Fantasy were starting to gain some ground as serious mediums rather then schlocky 'Genre Fiction' like John Carter (read the books, everyone is naked the whole time) or the stuff of childish fairy tales.

Don't get me wrong, 1930s New York and London weren't crawling with mustachioed men with funky outfits and Nerf Guns but the point of the Cons hasn't changed since these early meetings. It was, and still is, a profoundly liberating experience to gather together in one room with others who you knew, by their mere presence, appreciated the somewhat borderline things that you did.

This instant inclusion, the feeling of being at home, is a profound one; Particularly for those of us who grew up either hiding our obsessions or being bullied because here, possibly for the first time, you find yourself in the majority. This is a feeling we may not have experienced before.

Give me your Thors, Your Iron-Men and Huddled FanboysSource
 Inclusion is a powerful thing, speaking to something deep within us as Human Beings. It's why sports fans will scream themselves hoarse in the stands and in bars; why every major election is a pitched screaming match between party supporters and yes, sometimes it's why grown men dress up as Jayne Cobb and aim nerf guns at the camera.

I literally cannot thank my mother enough for that hat
I could talk all day about the whole warm feelings, lovey-dovey and generally hippyish feelings that I don't imagine I was alone at experiencing at my first Con but I'm going to do something better instead.

I'm gonna talk about Vikings.

More specifically, I'm going to talk about how they used this natural, all-too human need for inclusion to stop Iceland tearing itself apart. See, Dark-Age Iceland was a pretty hairy place to live (both literally and metaphorically...Vikings.) with Blood-Feuds, honour-killings and general nastiness going on often enough to fill several very readable Sagas.

The only thing keeping the whole place from descending into a massive Battle-Royale was the government of the time. Uniquely, it wasn't a particularly badass Viking Warlord who had final say. Instead, it was everyone.

For the last time, Han shot first! Drop it Thorvald!


See, while the Greeks are generally credited with introducing Democracy in the West its kind of a con. The Greek democracies were actually Oligarchies (rule by a small minority), run exclusively by old and extremely rich men while younger and poorer free citizens had absolutely no vote. In Iceland however, while the most powerful men could meet and set laws they were then presented to every single free man and woman in the country, all of whom came to the Thingvellir (Assembly Fields) to meet, hear the news and listen to legal cases.

If you broke a law in that time the worst punishment was to be declared 'Outlaw' (literally Outside-the-law) and therefore exempt from the protection or interest of the Althing. Basically, a walking target.

The Althing was often the only place Blood-Fueds could be settled with both sides still standing.

Yep, it could even stop Vikings from killing eachother.

Now, if that's not an argument in favour of heavyset, bearded men and women in chainmail all gathering together I just don't know what is.

Until next time friends, let us say Skål!and drink together

Monday, 25 February 2013

London Super Comic Con

I have sucessfully returned from the London Super Comic Convention (LSCC) which was, in a word, amazing. You see,while Conventions, or Cons, have been a mainstay of Geek and Gamer culture for a few decades, I myself had never been to one. Until now, that is, and may I just say that it was most definately worth the wait.

Myself, a few friends and may ever understanding wife got together and made our way up for the festivities on Friday. My wife had actually arranged the trip as an early birthday present for me, which should tell you everything you need to know about why I married her.

If I'm honest, I wasn't sure what to expect. What I got was a sea of very vibrant, excited people talking about comics, films and all things Geek; usually while dressed as one of their favourite characters. The standard of costumes was incredible with representatives of Marvel, DC, a handful of Judge Dredd-style Judges and one or two characters who I completely failed to place.

I left with a boatload of Comics swag, and some pictures to share with you all...

Punisher Captain America...Apparently this is a thing that happened

Thanks to my buddy Ami and Joe from 3-Legged Sofa for some of the pics.

Until next time, Let us say Skål! and drink together

Friday, 22 February 2013

PS4 Announced

Well it was a press conference full of flash and low on substance, but Sony finally confirmed that a PS4 is nearly ready for release.

You'll probably have heard the basics by now but here were the main points that stuck out for me.
  • They confirmed nothing about the hardware spec, but were eager to compare it to a PC rig. This is a dumb road to go down in my opinion, as no console will keep up graphically with upgradeable PCs. Methinks the rumored SteamBox has them scared, and theyre positioning themselves to fight it.
  • Looks like there might be no backwards compatability. Lame, but not unexpected.
  • No price, eh? Either they're waiting to undercut Microsoft or they don't want it to kill the launch like the £600 PS3 pricetag did.
  • Like the recent Xbox rumours it seems that Sony are moving for a always on connection to limit the secondhand market. Advertising Diablo 3 as a launch title pretty much confirms that. I still think its a mistake.
That was the basics, sorry if this seems rushed but I'm in a car on the way to Londons Super Comicon. Pictures and post will follow on Monday!
Until next time friends, let us say Skal and drink together!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Aliens: Colonial Marines

Playing Colonial Marines is a bit like having a drunk friend try to explain the experience of Aliens vs Predator 2. In between the poor decision making, annoying asides and assorted bullcrap there is glimpses of something definately worth playing.

Unfortunately, it takes a lot of sifting to find the diamond in this particular bit of rough.

Protip: If your Aliens game features close combat, something
has gone horribly wrong.
Lets start with the games introduction. Thing start allright with the usual Ooh-Rah speech by the resident military tough guy and a distress call by Corporal Hicks from the Aliens film. So in no time you, Cpl. Winter, and a band of plucky marines are sent across to the spaceship Sulaco to see what's wrong.

It's at this point, about 2 minutes into gameplay, that things first fall down. As you walk across an embilical between your ship and the Sulaco things actually start exploding and bodies rain through space. Suddenly, with absolutely no build up, you are in the middle of a Michael Bay movie and things only get more action packed from there.

When you're on the ship there are dead bodies and Alien goop everywhere, along with the obligatory friend who's allready been facehugged. Yet, because everyone is so busy shooting guns and causing explosions, noone even vaugley reacts. While there may be the occasional 'Whats that?' the marines, for the most part seem to take their declining situation in stride.

Their sexy strideSource
 Of course, maybe they're so calm because the Aliens just aren't that scary. No, far from the slink, swift-moving death machines of the films and Rebellions seminal games the Xenomorphs in Colonial Marines are boxy, badly animated and apparently fond of the Michael Jackson moon walk.

They employ all the same tricks of every Aliens game and film ever made but while the slowly speeding beep of the motion tracker preceding a burst vent and black shiny death used to get my pulse racing here it just makes me sigh wearily before despatching the latest in a long line of disposable foes.

Things only get worse when the human enemies appear, while previous entries in the Franchise have made human betrayl a key story point here it's clear that the humans are only there as more active foes then their alien counterparts. More then likely because somebody at Gearbox thought 'People liked Gears of War and that had guns in it' and shoved them in here.

Sadly for that genius the combination of their poorly executed appearance, cliched getup (They're not even Weyland Yutani security...they're a 'PMC' aka that thing every game had two years ago) and bad AI make them even less consequential then the Aliens.

Weyland Yutani: Screw you, that's whySource
As I said, every now and then we get glimpses of the game that might have been. The weapon sounds and occasional snippets of dialogue are captured perfectly and the Pulse Rifle is once more modelled with loving detail.

When the game is allowed to slow down and build tension we get the best sense of what we missed. There are a few moments of genuinely great storytelling and gameplay, mostly focussed around the shady dealings of Weyland Yutani and the fate of LV-421s doomed colonists. There's even a character nod to Vasquez always dies, which is nice.

Overall I could not be more disappointed. I have been looking forward to, and actively promoting, this game for months. I had hoped for a return to the greatness of AvP 1 and 2, what I got was something that very nearly rubs shoulders with the atrocious reboot from a few years ago.

Until next time, Let us say Skål! and drink together..

Monday, 18 February 2013


So I start my new job (amazing, just fyi) and after finishing sit down to write this post. Of course my computer picks this moment to die.

Ah well, as promised I'm going to break down the changes coming to the blog. Unfortunately, it boils down to fewer posts a week.

While I was previously able to post 5 days a week, I'll now be moving to a three update schedule. Posts will now go up Monday, Wednesday and Friday, though there's the chance of small updates or news flashes outside this.

For anyone who needs more Viking Gamer in their lives there's. Always my twitter feed (later nk to the right) which will continue being updated.

Until Wednesday then my friends, let us say Skal! and drink together

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Brief Intermission and Changes to the Blog

Hello! As some of you will be aware yesterday was my last day at a job I had been plugging away at for several years. The more canny reader may have noticed that most of my updates were done during working hours and only on work days. The reason for this is that while I was good at my job and worked with some charming people I often had free time I decided to use creatively.

Now, on Monday I will be starting at my new company and expect a much heavier workload. However, before that I am busily fitting a new kitchen in the Great Hall and as such will be preoccupied for the next several days.

What this means in short is that the blog will have a short intermission for the rest of this week, and pick up again on Monday.

On Monday I will be announcing some changes to the post schedule to better reflect my increased workload.

Thanks to everyone reading this for helping me get this far, and I hope you'll bear with me for the future.

               The Viking Gamer


Tuesday, 12 February 2013

3 Real Weapons we need in Videogames

I'm a big advocate of Videogames in many respects, and one of my favourites is promoting games as stress relief. It may sound odd but there really isn't anything that calms me down as much as sitting down, zoning out and blasting pixelated enemies into gory oblivion.

But I'm not crazy! Right Guys?...Guys?Source

I've spoken before about how the best tools for these cathartic rampages are those with soul and substance...but since we're obviously gonna continue down the Borderlands/Jak and Daxter route of craziness for the sake of craziness I have a few real-world weapons that would make even the Gunzerker blush.

These are the weapons too crazy for games, not quite crazy enough to not exist.

3) Weaponized Dolphins

Imagine you're playing a game that allready has some pretty crazy weaponry, let's say Dishonored. Now, on this particular play-through you've fallen into the water to escape a strider but what's this? Your health is dropping! A damn hagfish is attacking! Except of course, because this is a game, you can't hit them back because water is to videogame protagonists what carbonite is to Han Solo.

At this point you can either suck it up and take the damage, jump out of the water and shoot at it like Cnut on a really bad day at the beach or reload and try not to get spotted in the first place.

Now imagine if you could throw a dolphin at it. A highly trained, Liam Neeson of a Dolphin.

Know this, I have a very particular set of skills that make me a nightmare
for tuna like you...

This was basically what the US Navy was thinking when they commissioned the 'Marine Mammal Programme' and started training Dolphins and Sea Lions for a variety of naval warfare missions. Now apparently none of these involved blowing themselves up like adorable underwater terrorists but that doesn't make them pretty intense like this quote from that wikipedia (pinch of salt warning) article:

"When an enemy diver is detected by a dolphin, the dolphin approaches from behind and bumps a device into the back of the enemy's air tank. This device is attached to a buoy which then floats to the surface, alerting the Navy personnel of the intruder. Sea lions carry a similar device in their mouth, but instead attach it by hand-cuffing one of the enemy's limbs"

Holy crap! As somone who used to dive pretty frequently let me just say this: If you're getting body-slammed by a dolphin or handcuffed by a sea-lion then that is one seriously bad day.
2) The Speech-Suppression Gun

Now, let's say you've been on a serious gaming binge. You've played for six hours straight and are nearing the end. Finally you kick in the final level door and are greeted by 300 goons, all shouting their single line of recorded dialogue. 

Just one line, over and over again.

It's enough to drive anyone crazy...but what if you could actually silence them with just one trigger pull (instead of one very loud and noisy spray). Well, if your game is made in Japan (Hi there Androgynous Heroes!) you should be doing just that because a research team in Japan made a speech-supressing gun that fires your own words back at you making your brain do something akin to a face-plant.

Well, I sure don't see any troubling future implications of this!       Source

1) The Lightning Missile

(Quick Hat tip to for educating me that these exist)

Farcry now, and you're waiting for the convoy to complete it's incredibly aribtrary route before it comes back and detonates the mine you've set in the road. It's a routine you've done at least a dozen times before in order to get all the upgrades from the local arms dealer.

If only there was a way to make it more exciting, something a bit jazzier then a normal explosion.

Something like this:

Hallelujah! Thor is Real! And he's Pissed!Source
That picture, which looks like Thor and Zeus both really hate that tower, is the aftermath of a Lightning Rocket a completely real thing which uses rockets with some form of conductive agent (wire, superconductive liquids etc) to cause a weatherfront to prematurely give up it's electric love.

Why? Well apparently because while some Scientists study rocks or global warming, other scientists look at a thundercloud and go 'You know what, Fuck that guy'.

Until next time, Let us say Skål! and drink together...

Monday, 11 February 2013

The Church

So, this happened.

It also got me thinking about how much of an impact the Catholic Church still has on the world even when we in the West are in increasingly secular societies. I mean the story is covering half of the BBCs news page and a quick browse around the web shows similar coverage on every major news outlet along with alot of chatter on most social media sites.

Even Gaming, a thoroughly modern medium and one that normally goes out of its way to not offend anyone (well, normally) by even mentioning religion, probably owes more then you'd think to the Holy See.

Pope-Kart Racing never caught on though...Source

See, while the modern church is more famous for scandals then it is trendsetting, the Church itself has been around for nearly 2000 years. That's plenty of time to spawn some pretty ass kicking tropes, especially for an organization that's not been historically shy to throw its weight around.

To illustrate my point I'll need you to think of any religion that featured prominently in a game, particularly fantasy games but not necessarily . Do any or all of the following points apply:

  • Fanatical, heavily armed adherents
  • A singular, clearly defined 'Evil' enemy
  • Tendency towards brawny guys in full suits of armour
  • A promise of salvation/paradise for falling in action
Congratulations, you've just conjured up the Church Militant and its many subtle variations. This is almost always the way that in-game Religions are built. Sometimes because it's a useful Quest-giving tool, sometimes in response to the unimagineable evil present in the world and sometimes as the villain. Whatever the reason for their appearance, they all can trace back to a singular parent in the Orders Militant of the post-Crusades Catholic Church.

Hell, The Agency from the Hitman series is literally just this; a group within the Catholic Church acting as violent assasins...kung-fu nuns sold seperately.

The only obvious exception to this trend is in Dead Space. There the Church of Unitology is a less-then-subtle take down of Scientology. In fairness, I think most people can get on board with that.

Now all that remains is to ask: With the Pope leaving does this mean Agent 47 can gain the seat of St. Peter?

Until next time, Let us say Skål! and drink together...

Friday, 8 February 2013

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Xbox 720 Rumours

Well, if the Daily Mail reports must be true!

Seriously though, rumours have been going nuts for the last few weeks about the new Xbox (probably 720 but possibly 'Kryptos') and how it will run. There's a pretty comprehensive breakdown over at GamesRadar, but for those of you who want it right now here we go:

  • Unsuprisingly, it's going to be stupidly powerful. The term 'Teraflop' is one that sounds like the arousal caused by MMO and chainmail bikini purveyor Tera online but actually means a ridiculous amount of processing power.
  • Depending on who you believe it will either be £300 odd pounds or £100 but act as a cable/satellite set-top box. GamesRadar quotes Comcast but as Sky already have a distribution app for customers on Xbox I could see a similar deal coming forward on this side of the pond. Good way to tie up entire households leisure time in one source.
  • Supposedly it's going to require an 'always on' internet connection. A lot of people are up in arms about this but realistically I think this is how games are going. We've seen it more and more on the PC and PS3 and eventually the Xbox would follow up.
  • Of more concern is reports (like the Daily Mail story above) that the 720 (I refuse to call it Kryptos) will require games to come with 'activation codes' that stop disc-swapping and second hand sales. Now we've all heard how the second hand market is under attack by the Games Industry, eager to get some of the money back from retailers, but this would be the first real step on consoles.

    It could also tragically backfire, if this turns out to be true not only have Microsoft abandoned one of the fundamental strengths of console gaming but they leave themselves open to Sony, prepping their own PS4, to either abandon DRM or simply come up with something a bit easier and a significant chunk of sales might swing their way.
That's the main points for now, apologies for the text heavy post, flu continues to assail me!

Until next time friends, let us say Skål! and drink together

Wednesday, 6 February 2013


Seasonal flu caught up with me in a bad uhh...did you guys know some Danes built a longship and sailed it across the North Sea to Dublin?

Well, they totally did!

Until next time friends, Let us say Skal! and drink together

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Vikings hit the History Channel

I stayed up to watch the Superbowl, because I love American Football (it requires more commitment in the UK, by the time the Ravens won it was 4am) sadly I missed out on this superbowl ad until the morning.

The History Channel, apparently remembering a time when they were about historical figures and events instead of people with ridiculous professions have launched their first scripted series.

Awesomely, it focuses on the Vikings.

It's not 100% clear from the trailer what the storyline will be in the series but given the constant references to 'Going West' it almost seems they're doing some version of Erik the Reds life, or possibly his son Leifs (discovered Greenland and America, respectively).

That being said, while Erik was certainly an Icelandic Outlaw and something of a rough and tumble man generally he doesn't fit the cry of 'This Man has no respect for our Traditions!' because he was actually the quintessential Viking. Pagan to a fault, a man who fought at the slightest insult and who was a master sailor. It was the rapidly Christianizing Iceland that had moved on without him.

A quick trip to IMDb and it seems the story will focus on Ragnar Lothbrok who, while a hell of a Viking in his own right, is hardly the first man to think of raiding West. In fact, as Ragnar was largely active during the mid to late 800s, he was active at the peak of Viking raiding. The first raids, meanwhile, were back in 793 when a group of Norwegian Vikings sacked the monastery on Lindisfarne (modern evidence suggests that Scandanavian traders and sailors were active on the British Isles even before this date).

Now, aside from those historical quibbles the tone and brief glimpses of action seem spot-on for the Viking world and I for one will be looking forward to this most eagerly.

Monday, 4 February 2013

3 Things better then a JJ Abrams Star Wars

With the news that JJ Abrams, fresh from the second film in his Star Trek reboot, will be directing at least one of Disneys new Star Warsfilms the internet went a little bit nutty.

 Lens Flare!

I’m more or less on the fence with this one, leaning towards worried. I didn’t mind the first Star Trek reboot but then again I wasn’t a massive trekkie previously (watched a bit of TNG and DS9, shockingly I like Klingons the best). Star Wars, on the other hand, is my childhood. I spent years watching the original trilogy over and over on VHS and when my wife bought the cinema releases on DVD I made a noise similar to a six year old girl.

I was Sports Pub-HappySource

Now, it goes without saying (because this is the internet) that I hated the prequel trilogy. The plotholes, annoying side characters and complete destruction of Darth Vader as any kind of threatening character (I should be the most powerful Jedi! Wah. Wah. Wah.) made me angry to the point of frothing, trolling rage. Add that to the fact that Mr. Abrams track record isn’t excactly flawless (Lost) and you’ll see why it’s been occupying my thoughts a lot lately.

So, to get this stuff out of my head I decided to come up with three things that could have been better than a JJ Abrams Star Wars. If I’m already let down by these not happening it will cushion the blow if his effort does fall short.

So without further ado, here’s the list of things we’re missing out on.

Josh Whedon making a smuggler movie

Han Solo is the coolest thing in Star Wars, there is no arguing against this. He’s a slick smuggler who shoots first (screw you Lucas) and asks questions later.  He’s also got a fair few similarities to another slick Sci-Fi smuggler you may remember.

In the future, everything is pistolsSource

Now imagine if Joss Whedon was given free rein to explore the world Han operated in; the torrid deals and underworld trades of SWs famous smugglers. Think about it, not only is the formula there for a stealth return to Fireflys ship, crew and job formula but it would be a brilliant way to introduce large swathes of the universe in only a single movie as the ship and crew have to travel between worlds to do their jobs.

Genndy Tartakovsky making a feature-length Cartoon

If I say Star Wars cartoon to you, most people will think of the godawful 3d animated effort from a couple of years back. Yet before the blue Twi-lek with ‘attitude’ and a boxy Hayden Christensen there was the superb Clone Wars shorts by Samurai Jack creator Genndy Tartakovsky…

Amazing right? Now picture that, except feature length and with a higher budget.

I don’t think I need to say any more.

Let Michael Bay make a Michael Bay movie

Michael Bay gets a lot of stick on the net, mostly because of his less-then-faithful Transformers adaptations…

Oh yeah, this was a good ideaSource

But what people often forget when bad mouthing the racist robots and Meagan Fox is that Michael Bay knows how to make things blow up, and blow up BIG.

One of the problems with the Prequels was that they couldn’t decide if they were silly action movies or serious drama. If Disney decided to abandon all pretence and just make a big, loud movie then Michael Bay is probably the man to do it. After all, Bad Boys and Bad Boys 2 are among my favourite films of all time. 

Now picture that boat-trailer chase scene...but in Space!

Until next time friends, let us say Skål! and drink together.