Wednesday, 31 December 2014

PAX Australia 2014

I was going to write about my experiences at PAX Australia 2014 earlier but I was at the time swamped with work so I will write about it now, before the year ends.
For those who don't know, PAX aka Penny Arcade Expo is basically a convention dedicated to gaming in general (video games, table top, trading cards, you name it!) and the Australian PAX expo has been held in my hometown for the past two years (& will be again for at least another few years!).

I was lucky enough to be working at the convention this year, promoting the French MMO Wakfu from game publisher Ankama Games. We had people sign up and play BoufBowl for a chance to win prizes ranging from stickers, lanyards, redeemable in-game item codes and, if they were REALLY lucky, an action figure! Additionally, I ended up signing up for Wakfu myself following this experience and am looking to do future posts related to the game.
 

Before, after and during helping with the Wakfu booth I  saw some pretty epic cosplays which I managed to get some photos of~ Here are some of my favourites (including a Team Rocket Slowpoke Tail salesman who let me have a tail) which I thought were definitely worth featuring. [click the thumbnails to enlarge]





PAX was not only an excellent opportunity to catch up on gaming (something I hadn't had much time to do thanks to university and work), but it was also an excellent time to go shopping and I ended up buying a Legend of Zelda inspired Heart Container necklace as well as a heap of official PAX merch including a t-shirt and hat. A guy who stopped by the Wakfu booth also let me have his Razer hoodie for free because it was waaayyyy too small for him (& coincidentally he also won a major prize!).

Did anyone else reading my blog go to PAXAUS in 2014? What were your highlights and was there anything you perhaps didn't like? Were you one of the people who stopped by the booth I was at in the tabletop section? I would love to know what you thought so feel free to send me a message or leave a comment.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Favourite Pokemon Samsung Galaxy (& iPhone) Cases

I currently have a relic of a smartphone by today's standards - a 2011 HTC Sensation - and recently it's been starting to play up on me so it's been decided I'm getting a Samsuing Galaxy S5. I don't know too much about phone's as I didn't really own even a basic mobile till undergraduate university so I won't be talking much on specs or anything in this article, mostly showing off my finds in a quest to find myself a new case. I really loved my 3D black cat case for my HTC Sensation so initially I decided to look for similar ones but, to my dismay, could not find any soooo I decided I'd go with the next best thing: Pokemon. Listed here are some of the cases I found and would recommend to others looking for a case (especially if it happens to be a Pokemon case with a bold/arty edge!).
Apple user? Don't despair! Whilst I was after Samsung Galaxy cases, many of these designs are also available for iPhone.

Join Team Aqua/Team Magma
Given my obsession with Pokemon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire along with the bold yet simplistic design, I thought these designs being sold on RedBubble by user mindhoneyisgood were absolutely perfect. If I was to choose any drawback for these it would probably have to be the price as I think forking out $30-40USD (depending whether you want snap, tough - with added silicon shock absorption - or a vinyl skin) is a bit much for a phone case, especially if you're converting the price to AUD. Still, irrespective of the price I think I'm going to get the Join Magma one anyway and, before I forget, the design also allows convenient access to all ports, buttons and camera lenses.

PKM101 Studios
PKM101 Studios (site: www.pkm101.com or Etsy: www.etsy.com/shop/PKM101) from Canada do Pokemon themed Samsung and iPhone phone cases with a modern art touch and I absolutely love some of these designs! Compared to the RedBubble prices these cases are more affordable in price (even with shipping costs), however there isn't the option for silicon shock absorption for those of you known to be rough with your phone. The cases themselves are made of a plastic that goes over the phone but leaves openings for things like camera and buttons plus the art style is colourful and eyecatchy and there are a number of different Pokemon to choose from! Additionally, as well as phone cases, PKM101 feature their designs on pillows, mugs and posters.




YYKawaii (www.etsy.com/shop/YYKawaii)
Here's one for the Pokemon fans out there after something cute and 3D (perfect if you're a sweet lolita into Pokemon or know someone who is!) phone cases. I love the detail in these and the 3D bits sticking out (everything about them screams ADORABLE!) as well as the fact YYKawaii makes these for various different phone models (see dropdown Phone Case menu in Etsy product ordering screen for a complete list). Main drawbacks for these I would consider the lack of variety to choose from (Sylveon, Marril and Bulbasaur/Ivysaur/Venusaur are pretty much the only Pokemon ones at the moment but they also do other anime stuff!) and the price (~$42USD for a phone case). The bits which stick out may also get in the way (or even damaged) if you intend to carry your phone in your pocket so this one's also more recommended for those who prefer carrying their phone in a bag.
Ok I think I'll be leaving it at those three for the time and I would love to know in the comments section (or on Twitter or Facebook) what you think and if there are any other Pokemon inspired phone cases I should check out. I am aware there's many Pokedex, GBC and starter Pokemon themed ones but I personally found them a bit too cliche for my liking so wanted to find something that was still Pokemon related but a bit different.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Proposal For an All Regions Pokemon Game

To quote Junichi Masuda from Game Freak on the prospect of an all-region Pokemon game: "If we could come up with a way to really make that interesting, then it’s something we’d implement – but for me, personally, as a theory, I think it would be more fun for us all to enjoy different locations and then share that experience together than all have the same experience in the same region."
Yes, even though it's not currently planned, if someone can come up with an idea in order to make it work - and work well - it may *fingers crossed* just become a reality. I've been thinking on the idea and personally here is what I want to see.
 Let me know what you think (the good, the bad, the ugly).

- Firstly, I loved the amount of trainer customisation in Pokemon X and Y and would love to see this carried over to an all-regions game as it would add a feeling of having a unique character rather than just a default boy/girl. e.g. being able to change your character to give them different hair and clothes throughout the game as well as choosing the name and gender.

-I've read many suggestions about chronological order gameplay starting in Kanto but in my opinion that would still result in the "same" or similar experiences going from region to region. How about instead of all starting in the same region we get to choose which region we start in and where we're from? It would give more dimension to the character, let us set up our own "Pokemon journey" and make the game have a whole lot more replay-ability value as well. Depending which region you start in would also determine things such as who your first/main rival is and which starter you choose.

-Adding to the previous suggestion, I feel that Pokemon should do what games like Mass Effect do and make different events occur based on your in-game decisions which could be influenced by various factors such as which region you begin in, which starter you choose, who your rival is etc. I also feel like adding in character alliances such as "ally" or "rival" alongside regular "trainers" you encounter. I also think the game should include all the crime teams from all regions and there should be a consequence of some sort based on which villain "Teams" you defeat. For example, I believe if Team Magma is defeated, there is a subplot involving Aqua whereas if Aqua is defeated there is a subplot involving Magma. Once you beat the Elite 4 and champion in one region you are given a freedom of choice to decide which region you want to visit next and I believe the order in which you visit regions should impact the events which follow in subsequent regions.

- The idea of leveling as it currently stands could pose a major hurdle as Pokemon are capped to level at 100. I think perhaps leveling should be slowed with the starter Pokemon being level 1,  a heightened experience curve and less EXP gained from Battles. The idea of EV training should also play a large role in the in-game battles and not be limited exclusively to in-game competitions, adding an element of strategy and difficulty to the games. I also think that the gym leaders and elite 4 in your starting region should be weaker and get stronger as you move from region to region (the game should be programmed using to adjust to your current level as is done in a lot of games these days such as Borderlands).

-I believe in perhaps expanding on double battles since they've always felt overly gimmicky to me. I would love a feature where you could, for example, "romance" an NPC to the point they become your boyfriend/girlfriend (sort of like in Harvest Moon) who you can later find in your house and choose to bring them along with you (they tag along with you) as a double battling duo partner. Additionally I feel you should have a separate menu in which to manage your partners Pokemon. Your partner's Pokemon level up in a manner similar to EXP share if they battle with you OR even if they are not with you whilst walking similar to daycare.

-Keep many features such as the online play (including Wonder Trade and GTS) as well as O powers, Pokemiles, Pokemon Amie, etc. Also bring back the option of having a Pokemon walk behind you (though make it possible to choose not to have a Pokemon behind you as well) which I thought was one of the things that worked best in Heart Gold and Soul Silver. I also think different regions should have different extra things e.g. Goldenrod radio in Johto and different TV broadcasts in each region. I really liked the Fame Checker idea in Fire Red / Leaf Green and would love to see it make a comeback!

-If all maps are included I would hope this would also include the Sevii Islands (arguably one of my favourite parts of FR/LG) and Battle Frontier! Including the Orre Region would be interesting too since I am curious how that would translate from Pokemon Colosseum to the 3DS.
-An epilogue! You've beaten the elite 4 of every region, you're a champion everywhere AAAANNNDD you've completed the Pokedex! What now!? I find the current certificate of completion and Hall of Fame induction a bit lacklustre. I think that, based on your decisions throughout the game and which region you started in, each character should get a different epilogue and ending story attached to them. Did they disappear some place and were never see again? Did they marry and start a family? Did they retire from Pokemon training altogether? Did they open their own Pokemon Academy? Did they just continue to train Pokemon and become godly and unstoppable?  What's next!!??

The Weird and Wonderful World of Pokemon GBA ROM Hacks

There are some pretty weird and wacky Pokemon ROM hacks out there. Some are very boring and usually just end up making things like shinies and legendaries commonplace and many never see completion due to the creators abandoning the projects but I thought I'd do a small feature on some of the more out-there ones I've noticed featuring things ranging from incorporating other franchises to drastic (often hilarious) changes to dialogue and sprites and bizarre "Fakemon".
Warning: Some of these may be NSFW.

Pokemon Sweet Version
Welcome to Candy Land! It's as if Willy Wonka took over Gamefreak. Yes, it's a Pokemon game where everything - from the buildings to the Pokemon - is made from candy!


Pokemon Z
The concept is hacking Pokemon and making into a Dragon Ball Z game. So far what I've seen from the screenshots actually looks quite promising and in a way reminds of the Legacy of Goku games. Except WHY IS RADITZ A PSYCHIC AND WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH POKEMON?



fLLare Red
An XXX rated Fire Red hack with some NSFW dialogue and a Professor who's pretty openly a pervert. If the first game isn't enough, there's also a sequel out there called fLLare Red2.
 

Pokemon My Ass Version [Warning VERY NSFW!]
This ROM hack takes things a step up from fLLare Red and features some rather NSFW edits of in game sprites such as gym leaders and the playable character (you're naked for some reason) along with changes to the dialogue.
& let's not forget that Teenage Mutant Ninja squirtle!


Pokemon Chaos Black
Ok the concept for this doesn't really sound bad and it features some original and quite out-there "Fakemon" including Mewthree.

Pokemon - Digimon Version
I understand the connection between Pokemon and Digimon. Yes, they're both creatures with special abilities which may even look interchangeable but as someone who's watched both Digimon and Pokemon there is definitely a marked difference so I just don't get how this game is supposed to work. Concept seems neat but in all honesty I just don't think it the best mashup.



Other ROM hacks I've seen include a reasonably well done Dragon Ball hack in Spanish, a Mega Man version and one where you play as Team Rocket (which is basically not much different to the original game but someone changed the sprite).

Now, my readers, I leave you this question: What are some of the strangest Pokemon ROM hacks you've seen? Feel free to share links and screenshots in a comment. I might even put up the download links to some of these in the comments section.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Pokemon meets MMD!! (aka A Pokemon -themed beginner's guide to MMD)

If you have been on the internet as of late you may have noticed a new trend sweeping sites such as Youtube and Tumblr involving what appears to be in-game models of Pokemon characters, most prominently Maxie, Archie and Steven, busting a move or two to the tune of some well known songs.
Reading through the comments of these videos I have noticed a number of people asking exactly how these are made so I thought I'd provide a run-down as well as provide a bit of a concise beginner's guide to MMD using Pokemon models as an example to anyone who is interested.
An example of the videos I am talking about are these two in featuring Pokemon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire bad guys Archie and Maxie as well as Champion Steven and the male protagonist:

First and foremost, these are made using a program known as Miku Miku Dance (often abbreviated as MMD). Using MMD it is possible to import 3D models of characters and, well, as the name of the program suggests...make them dance!

MMD can be downloaded for free in English from here (make sure you get the latest version):
http://www.geocities.jp/higuchuu4/index_e.htm

Got the program? Good! If you open it, it should look something like this:

It looks rather empty at the moment so next we need the dancers aka the 3D models to import into MMD.
The source of these 3D models is usually DeviantArt where a lot of users are kind enough to post up their MMD models for general use. Here are just some of them: http://mmdsatoshi.deviantart.com/favourites/55779542/Pokemon-Models

There are also stages you can download from around the internet (DeviantArt is a good starting place for resources though!) so the background isn't just plain and white.
Once the models are downloaded and you unzip the folders you should these .pmx files in each of them.
If you have the latest version of MMD you can simply drag and drop the file into MMD from the task bar. If all's good you should run into a prompt similar to this:
Click "OK" and voila! (do the same for each individual character model you want)

At this point you would have your character(s) just standing there so time to animate them! There are two ways to do this: a) individually pose your characters using the rotation tools frame by frame b) download some pre-made motion data. In regards to the dance moves you see in the majority of MMD videos, more often than not they're made using pre-made motion data which is imported alongside character models and stages in a similar manner to how you imported the other things (except you have to keep in mind that for some parts of motion data you need to be in the camera/lighting mode).

Some of the more popular motion data used in MMD videos is some choreography to Britney Spears's Womanizer which can be found available for download here:
http://www.nicovideo.jp/watch/sm23154603 (password is "open")

Once you click and drag your motion data for each model & add a stage and some music give yourself a high five because you've just made your very first MMD music video!

& that concludes this guide! Feel free to share with me your creations and ask if you need any help on anything else or just tell me what you thought of this article in the comments section below :) Considering MMD is a program with many different features and there's a lot to cover, I might do future posts on it with more in-depth tutorials and links to more free-to-use MMD resources.