PAX East ’15: Splatoon hands-on

Knowing full well that Splatoon would be one of the hotter tickets at the Nintendo booth — and all of PAX East 2015, for that matter — I made a point of getting in line early so I could get my hands on the upcoming Wii U shooter. And although I’m not a big multiplayer shooter fan myself, I was completely taken in by the game’s delightful personality and creative take on shooters!

The basic premise of Splatoon is a face off between two teams of four squid-like “Inklings” with the goal of covering as much of the arena in your team’s color ink. And the more ground you cover, the more special weapons you’ll get access to. Plus, since you have the ability to submerge into your own color and travel quickly around the arena, making sure your color is everywhere is a real help during battle. Plus, submerging into your color also refills your ink tank… something I would very often forget to do.

wiiu_splatoon_e3The demo featured a quick tutorial to teach you the basics of the controls, and then two rounds of battle. I’m proud to say that not only did our team win both matches, but I was actually the MVP of the first match, having covered the most ground! Although I actually think that I did so well because while everyone else seemed more interested in attacking each other, I took the time to run around undisturbed and paint up the ground in our team’s particular shade of purple.

Having that be the main goal of the game helps make Splatoon a fun variation on the multiplayer shooter. Simply going after the other team isn’t enough. You have to be a little more strategic. And I also found it interesting that it’s kind of a single-player multiplayer game, if that makes any sense. The four of us were all standing next to each other, but we never spoke to each other except to congratulate each other in victory (and smack-talk the other team). Nintendo has always been careful with implementing communication in their online games, so this could be a smart move. While painting your way through the arena, you can easily save a teammate you see is under fire, but I found myself mostly on my own painting as much as possible. There wasn’t a lot of strategizing amongst team members.

splatoon-jan.14-02vcua1The game is full of personality, with the adorable character designs and bright, neon colors. And I look forward to personalizing my own Inkling with all the options to make mine distinguishable amongst all of my friends online. My only real complaint (other than only being able to play two rounds) was the controls were slightly hinky. You moved around with the left stick, but you used a combination of the right stick to look left and right and the gyroscope controls of the Wii U GamePad to shoot. The final game will have multiple control options, which will help, because I wasn’t crazy about the gyroscope controls. There’s also a map on the GamePad screen, but I have to admit that with the chaotic fun going on in front of me on the TV, I never looked at the GamePad once.

I’m also a wee bit concerned about how much fun the game will be when you’re not online playing against seven other people. Nintendo says there will be single-player challenges like cover this much area in this much time or hit this many balloons. At least even if the single-player games aren’t as much fun as the multiplayer, it should help you hone your skills for online matches!
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As expected, Splatoon had one of the longest lines at PAX East this year, so it looks like Nintendo might have another hit on their hands. Which would be nice because it’s a brand new ISP, and also a surprise, because who would’ve expected such a great multiplayer shooter from Nintendo? We’ll find out for sure when the game releases this May!

HBO’s Looking goes to GaymerX

Last night’s episode of HBO’s Looking saw its gay game dev couple Patrick and Kevin make their way to GaymerX, the first ever queer-friendly gaming convention. Today on Talking, the show’s official podcast, GX organizer (and GayGamer bff) Matt Conn speaks with some of the show’s creators about the episode, titled Looking for Glory.

Having attended the first two GaymerX conferences, and looking forward to number three later this year, I found the portrayal to be pretty spot on. The spirit of the con, the variety queer identities and types of booths present, was perfectly captured for the few brief scenes of the con we got. Even the extras were authentic! During filming the crew reached out to local Bay Area gaymers, and actual GX attendees, to make sure the background players weren’t just random people but actual gamers. (There were even a bunch of GayGamer writers that you could spot.)

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The show, now in its second season, has really been upping its gamer-cred with much more screentime given to Patrick’s career as a developer. He even dressed up as Half-Life’s Gordon Freeman for Halloween, a stroke of genius that signaled a major shift for his character. This season has also really picked up its narrative pace (thanks to a wonderful new assortment of writers) making for a much more satisfying program to tune in to each week. Last week’s episode 7, Looking for a Plot, was a hands-down series standout with its focus on Lauren Weidmann’s character Doris.

Looking airs Sunday nights on HBO. The third GaymerX will take place this December in San Jose, CA. You can get your tickets and book your rooms at the official GX3 website.

Wootini’s Weekly Video Podcast #213

Well, that’s another PAX East done! Sadly, the Diversity Lounge seems to be fading away, but I saw a bunch of cool games, some of which I talk about in this episode. For the rest, you’ll just have to keep checking back as I post articles about them! And sadly, my planned co-host wasn’t able to make it because he had an appointment, so I’m flying solo again.

But on the plus side, at least it means it’s a normal-length episode so you won’t get bored! #brightside

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Korrasami artwork to support LGBTQ suicide prevention

Bryan Konietzko, creator of Avatar the Last Airbender and its sequel The Legend of Korra, took to his tumblr to share a glimpse at a piece of artwork he is contributing to the The Legend of Korra / Avatar: The Last Airbender Tribute Exhibition at Gallery Nucleus in Alhambra, CA.

The piece features the pairing of Korra and Asami, a relationship made canon during the series’ groundbreaking final episode. While the series’ only ‘official’ demonstration of them as a couple was a hand-hold and a longing gaze, this piece from the show’s creator shows them cuddling up while on a date.

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Konietzko had this to say about the turtle-duck date night:

This is my piece for the upcoming The Legend of Korra / Avatar: The Last Airbender Tribute Exhibition at Gallery Nucleus, opening this Saturday, March 7th, 6:00pm to 10:00pm. Mike and I will be there doing a signing for the first half of the reception (there are a limited number of spots in the signing line, but I’m not sure how they are working that), and hanging out for the rest. I think there will be a raffle, and plenty of cool stuff to purchase. A bunch of the crew members from the production will be there too (hopefully including some ATLA folks), so it is going to be a fun family reunion for us. I can’t wait to see all of the incredible artwork.

As for this piece, I used and modified Emily Tetri‘s production painting of Harmony Tower (designed by Lee Jung-Su). Otherwise, I drew and painted the rest of it. I based the turtle-duck boats on the charming swan boats I saw while visiting Ueno Park in Tokyo. Gallery Nucleus will be selling the above artwork as an exclusive print, in a limited edition of 100, to be released on opening night (and I’m pretty sure I’ll be signing them). I will be donating 100% of my share of the proceeds to an LGBTQ suicide prevention hotline.

I hope to see you Saturday! Get there early, as the lines for these Gallery Nucleus openings wrap all the way around a city block. If you can’t make it to the opening, the show will be hanging for two weeks. There is an event being planned for the closing as well. More on that later.

If you’re a fan of The Legend of Korra, and aren’t far from Alhambra, you won’t want to miss this exhibition. If you can’t make the opening night festivities don’t worry as it runs until March 22nd.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go stare at this piece and tearbend some more.

Meet Zarya, Overwatch’s answer to more diverse body types

The first person shooter genre isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when I think of ‘diversity in games’ but Overwatch, Blizzard’s upcoming multiplayer FPS, is making a name for itself with its ever growing cast of diverse playable characters.

Since the game’s initial unveiling at BlizzCon in late 2014. The game’s developers have gone on record that one of their goals with Overwatch is to create a shooter experience that was accessible to as wide an audience as possible. On Polygon Jeff Kaplan and Chris Metzen shared how their colorful cast came about,

“We’ve heard [from] our female employees and … even my daughter tools me out about it,” he said. “We were looking at old Warcraft stuff on YouTube, a cinematic … and my daughter is like, ‘Why are they all in swimsuits?’ And I’m like ‘Ugh, I don’t know, honey.’

“I think we’re clearly in an age where gaming is for everybody,” he continued. “We build games for everybody. We want everyone to come and play. Increasingly, people want to feel represented, from all walks of life, boys and girls, everybody. We feel indebted to do our best to honor that. There’s a lot of room for growth, but specifically with Overwatch, over the past year we’ve been very cognizant of … trying not to over-sexualize the female characters. I don’t know that we’ve over-sexualized the male characters. But it’s something that we’re very sensitive to.”

“We want that to be a part of who we are, what our brand looks like and appears to our community. Mike [Morhaime] talked in a roundabout way to that in his speech this morning. So it’s something we’re very cognizant of. We want girls to feel kick-butt, equally represented.”

The cast of Overwatch, as it was originally announced, included multiple people of color like Pharah, Hanzo, and Symmetra, alongside everything from talking gorillas to robots.

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However there were still complaints about some of the more stereotypical elements Blizzard employed in creating these characters, including how similarly all of the women in the game were built especially when compared to the variety of male bodies offered…..today Blizzard proved their commitment to listening to fans with the introduction of Zarya, a female tank who offers a rarely seen female body type in games.

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Some have expressed concern that the butch Russian strong-woman is as much a cliche as everybody else, while others have expressed joy that this rarely seen archetype is being included in a mainstream game at all. On her creation, Blizzard had this to say about Zarya:

We have been hearing a lot of discussion about the need for more diversity in games,” he said, adding that there are a lot of types of diversity that are being discussed. Among those, he said, diversity of body types. “We’re listening and we’re trying hard. We hope Zarya is a step in the right direction and proof that we are paying attention.

As Patricia Hernandez on Kotaku says, the addition of Zarya shows that the developers of Overwatch really are listening to  and, more importantly, trying to do better for their fans.


What do you think of Zarya? Excited for Overwatch?