Monthly Archives: November 2015

Watch some havoc from the first hour of Just Cause 3

I have to admit that although I’m probably not going to buy Just Cause 3, it looks like you could have an insane amount of fun just, well, creating a mess and trying to destroy everything in the game world, set in an island paradise called Medici.

If you are going to buy Just Cause 3, you might not want to watch this video which shows the first hour of game play from the game, thanks to SquareEnix and Avalanche Studios. That said, just because the video shows a certain way of playing Just Cause 3, it doesn’t mean you’ll play it that way.

Let me know what you think. Are you going to buy it? It’s out on December 1, I believe.

Fallout 4: Welcome to the Wasteland, my friend

Fallout-4I’m only about 11 hours into Fallout 4 but it’s grown on me more than I expected it to.

What I’m saying is that I didn’t think I’d like it as much as I did: It has some things I don’t like, it’s buggy and at one point the narrative didn’t sync with what I’d done earlier  but I’m enjoying it. I’ve taken on Super Mutants at a Brotherhood of Steel armoury, traded gun fire with synthetic humans in a hideout and see strange two-headed cows carrying supplies. The Wasteland is a strange, strange world. It’s set in what’s left of Boston.

I didn’t like Fallout 3 that much. In fact, I don’t remember playing much of it at all. It didn’t help that I had no idea how the VATS system worked or how deeply involved the RPG side could get. I gave up. I don’t regret that. It didn’t grab me so there was no point playing it.

Fallout 4 seems different, though. It seems lot more accessible than F3, but maybe that’s just because I’m more open-minded about the series now and am taking time to play it. I don’t have the time to sink 72 bajillion hours into it, neglect my family and be chained to my PC (I”m playing on PC) all hours  – I have a job to go to – but I’m playing an hour or so each night, so I guess you say I’m hooked.

I’ve met some interesting people along the way and I’ve tinkered around a little with the base building, too, and yeah, it’s fun. Actually, it could be the most engaging part of Fallout 4, even if Bethesda hasn’t really told people how to get the most out of it.

I built a rather shitty little hut in Sanctuary that had mismatching roof panels and gaps between the walls but the game let me hook a generator up to it and some lights. For some reason, I plonked a computer terminal outside it.  I should have taken a screenshot [note to self: Take some screenshots]

I don’t like the fact that it doesn’t take long for my character’s pockets/backpack/inventory to be full: The game constantly telling me I can’t run because of it and it’s buggy at times. During one mission, after I got into an elevator, my AI companion suddenly appeared beside me after the doors had closed. Then I managed to push him through the side of the elevator just by nudging him. I know people know Bethesda games are buggy, I hear people saying that all the time but is that acceptable? Should we accept the game in that state?

Fallout4_PrestonI know Fallout 4 is a huge game – hours and hours and hours long – but Bethesda just seem to get a Get out Jail Free card sometimes for the buggy nature of its games just because of the sheer scope and magnitude of them. People are saying Fallout 4 is Game of the Year material. I don’t know yet. If you’d asked me six hours into my play through, I would have said “Nope, it’s not Game of the Year for me”. Now, I’m not so sure. I’ve played a handful of really good games this year so I’m not picking that one yet.

I’m going to keep plugging away at Fallout 4. I want to explore more of the Wasteland, scavenge more useless stuff, and take out Super Mutants in my Power Armour. I want to meet more interesting characters like Nick Valentine.

Oh, yeah, about the Power Armour. You find it quite early in the game (I’m sure that’s not a spoiler), which I think kind of takes away the mystique of the whole thing. Someone told me that it took hours in Fallout 3 before you were even ready to use the Power Armour. In Fallout 4, your almost handed it on a plate during an early mission. Yes, the Power Armour is cool (until you run out of power core juice) but come on, Bethesda, let people work a little harder to get it, huh? I like the fact that you can customise your armour at special workstations and craft weapon mods and stuff. That’s really cool.

ScreenShot0Oh, hey, wait: I’ve just found a screen shot I took of me wearing Power Armour. I’m in the sky. On an airship owned by the Brotherhood of Steel.

So the long story short, so far, is that I’m liking Fallout 4. Whether I’ll still be enamoured in another 10 hours time, I’m not sure. I’ll keep you posted.

Leaping Tiger app jumps to Android

The good folk at Wellington-based Leaping Tiger, a location-based friend finder app for gamers, is now available on Android platforms, after initially releasing on iOS.

LeapingTigerThink of the Leaping Tiger app as like social networking for gamers where you can find fellow gamers, let them know what current game your playing and be friends.

One of the founders, Amy Potter, describes Leaping TIger as If Foursquare and Tinder had a baby, and that baby was really into gaming, that’s Leaping Tiger”.

I’ve used the web-based Leaping Tiger and it’s great, even if I don’t use it enough when I game. I remember by the time I’ve almost finished playing!

Now that it’s available on Android, which is my phone operating system of choice, I’m happy.

Here are some links, depending on what smart device you prefer: iOS; Android

 

 

Sipreme: A liquid meal replacement made in NZ

Dinay Steyn and Bri Janese Van Rensberg are behind Sipreme, a New Zealand company that has come up with a meal replacement that they’ve just successfully funded through Pledgeme.
Dinay (or Dee)  comes from a film background, Bri has a mechanical engineering. Dee emailed me a few weeks ago, flattered my ego saying they really liked my blog and wondered whether I’d be keen to talk to her about Sipreme and what the future holds for their start-up.
How could I resist?
1428795391What was the catalyst for starting up Sipreme? 
Bri (Mechanical Engineer) and I (filmmaker) have been dating for four years. One of the most frequent spats we had was around how little time we got to do things together. Taking a geeky approach to solving the issue, we calculated our free time – subtracting shopping, making food, eating, dishes, and house chores from it. There’s almost no time left over, and it just wasn’t enough for us. There is so much stuff to do in life – I want more time to do it in.
That, combined with us being chubby and terrible cooks, made us Google for a food solution.
We found American Soylent, and it was awesome. $400 for a whole months’ food, mixed and ready in seconds, and it’s super healthy? Sold. We had to bring it in through YouShop as Soylent doesn’t ship to NZ, which is $180, then the $US vs $NZ exchange rate took a toll, as well as customs fees etc, so it ended up being over $800 for one month’s worth.
We did it anyway, and loved it. We lived off of it for two months – 90% of our meals. It was a total heaven send. More time, more energy, less fussing. After month two, we thought we could join the DIY Soylent hacker movement, and mix it ourselves for cheaper. We bought the various ingredients online and waited for them to arrive in drips and drabs. Trying to mix 10 powders together for hours and making it taste like anything remotely edible actually sucks. It ends up being just as much (if not more) of a mission than cooking. It wasn’t cheaper either. We binned that idea. It’s interesting but not practical.
So it hit us: There’s an opportunity here – supplying future food to kiwis.
Sipreme is quite similar, I guess, to the Silicon Valley craze over Soylent but what are the main differences between the two?
The community around Soylent – the DIY recipes, ingredients and constant discussions/debates on the forums – all really helped. It’s a great concept and Soylent provided a well researched starting point to work from to develop our own Kiwi version.
We are now on the 40th iteration of the recipe and have worked really hard to get it tasting good and being nutritionally complete – with a lot of help and input from over 100 beta testers. We have also worked with nutritionists and food techs, and followed the Ministry of Health NZ guidelines for amounts and types of nutrients the average adult needs. Tadaa – Sipreme was born.
The biggest difference we brought into Sipreme was the flavour options. When we drank Soylent 3 times daily for months, eventually pouring another glass of the same flavourless goop for dinner makes you feel like you want to run for the hills. Instead we ran to McDonalds. The next morning we feel like we have a hangover, because our bodies just weren’t used to that kind of food anymore.
It’s not that Soylent starts tasting bad – it’s just that your body knows you need to eat different things with different tastes – or you might die. Which is smart if you are a hunter gatherer, but not when you live in the coolest technological age ever, where science rocks, and you can eat one food with with the goodness of a thousand things in. So to convince our taste buds that everything is cool, we worked on some different flavours. Problem solved.
We’ve also included higher levels of sodium in Sipreme than Soylent does because we’ve found that we experienced salt cravings due to insufficient sodium intake with Soylent. In the future we will also diversify into salty flavours that you can warm up and have like a soup for winter, as well as weight loss and high protein muscle gain versions.
How long did it take you to come up with the current Sipreme formula? 
Oh man, we haven’t stopped changing it since we started at the beginning of the year. We are manufacturing the first batch in this month and are still finding things we could add. “Oooh!!! Resistant Starch! Ooohhh!!! Inulin!!!” It’s a never-ending quest to find the “perfect food”. The science around nutrition keeps being updated, and we want to keep updating Sipreme to keep up with the best recommendations on what is healthiest for our bodies. Sipreme will keep evolving.
What has the public reaction to Sipreme been? 
Initially, it divides people: You love it or you hate it. But from the lovers, we’ve had a tonne of positive feedback.
The benefits are clear. It’s super quick, easy to mix, and costs around $4 a meal. What more do you want from a healthy fast food? Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation out there regarding food, and some people are justifiably skeptical. Many people associate Sipreme with diet/protein shakes and meal replacements, but these products have gotten a bad reputation as an attempt at a quick fix – an unhealthy fad. Sipreme is just a new food: A super scientific one.
There are also fears that Sipreme is intended to take away the pleasure of food and sharing meals with your friends and family. It’s not. It’s just there to grab and run as a super healthy food, or instead of crappy takeout or skipping breakfast because you overslept.
It’s just a fear of the unknown. Most of the time, if you take the time to chat to people and explain that Sipreme is an entirely new kind of food, based on solid science and is as nutritionally complete as possible, they get it.
So the natural choice of target market is the early adopters in the science/technology fields. Geeks are generally more open to try new ideas and technologies and willing to trust that science can improve our lives instead of being afraid of it. Once the public sees that thousands of people are happier and healthier because of Sipreme, then I think mass market adoption will take place.
Do people like the taste and texture or are people still wary of a completely liquid diet?
Men in their 20s and 30s have shown themselves as our most eager customers – they understand the logic of Sipreme’s “fast, easy, affordable, healthy” purpose. They get past the “not-quite-as delicious-as-a-steak” taste very easily, too. IT people, engineers, programmers and gamers love it. It solves our needs, gives us more time, and is tasty enough.
Sipreme, primarily a super healthy convenience food, is unlike anything out there in terms of taste or texture. It’s thick, to keep you fuller for longer, and tastes a bit like cereal due to the oat flour it contains, so it’s something your pallet needs to get used to. If you want really delicious food, a restaurant is a better option. It’s different ballgames. That being said, we are always working to make Sipreme tastier. Interestingly, we save a lot of money by drinking our product and tend to go out to fancy restaurants much more often, which is cool too 🙂
In terms of a liquid diet – you don’t really miss chewing. The science checks out too. Basically, we chew food and mix it with saliva to break it down into smaller pieces, increasing the surface area of the food so we can absorb more of its nutrients. Sipreme is a powder, which has a massive surface area, and doesn’t need to be chewed to break down, thus it is very easily absorbed by the body. Boom.
An important thing to remember is that you can eat something solid whenever you want because Sipreme is not a rigid diet program or product, it’s just a healthy source of nutrients that you can use in whichever way best suits your lifestyle.
You’re both gamers so do you see this as the perfect gaming food?
Totally. If you have seen that Southpark episode, “Make love, not Warcraft” then you know it sucks to have to get up and cook while slaying creatures. Lol. Wait… Scratch that episode reference 😛
We have had a good response from gamers, and actually presented at the NZGDA and Software Developers meetups in Auckland. Three hours a day less cooking and dishes means more sleeping late, more beach walks, more Skyrim, more working on that game you are developing. No more cravings for chocolate and burgers – literally – which were our old staples. It’s incredible how your body feels on this type of food – light, awake, healthy. I can’t describe what it’s like other than to say it’s fucking awesome. Giving your body exactly what it needs according to science feels like .. a super power or something. Just try it. No more yawning during the day. No feeling lethargic cause you are lacking some vitamin you haven’t even heard of but are supposed to get in somehow.
Could you realistically survive just on Sipreme, if you chose to?
Absolutely. Not just survive: Thrive. I’ve lived on chocolate and white bread for 25 years and Bri on burgers and Coca Cola. If you can live while eating that garbage then surely getting the complete recommended intake of nutrients, vitamins and minerals is much better for you.People say “but it’s not natural – it contains chemicals!!!” and I want to sigh and send them this video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkhhCi7nMFI&feature=youtu.be
All foods are made of elements, and we break it down to those elements to give our bodies building blocks to grow and repair itself. Sipreme just takes the base elements we need and combines it into one source. And we will keep changing it and updating it too, so rest assured – we got your back.
You can still eat whatever you want, whenever, with whomever – but we see a big gap in the healthy convenience food market, and personally love it and eat it most of the time.
Also, there are people who have come to us because they have no other choice in foods due to allergies, intolerance, medical conditions and even terminal cancer. We are out to do good, have fun, and eat better in NZ.
You’re reached your funding target so where to now for Sipreme? What the next phase?
Now, we chew our fingers to the bone while waiting for long lead-time ingredients to be shipped here, and answer all the “WHERE IS MY FOOD!!!” emails. Then the easy part (if nothing goes wrong) is manufacturing, bagging and shipping to backers. Our online store opens after that, allowing the public to get their hands on this future food, and then it’s grow, grow, grow. We will be doing endless tasting events at companies and meetups next year to get it into people’s mouths and minds.
I really want to thank Dee for taking time to talk to me. I hope it all goes well for Sipreme.
If you want to know more about Sipreme, or chat with Bri and Dee, you can get in touch with them at this email:  info@sipreme.co.nz

Rise of the Tomb Raider: Lara’s all grown up

RiseLaraHere’s some advice for when you’re playing Rise of the Tomb Raider: Don’t try to stealth knife a bad guy in the back while you’re holding a molotov cocktail – it’ll only end in tears.

And flames. And blackened limbs. And screaming. And eventually, death. How do I know this? I did it. Twice.

Rise of the Tomb Raider is first game in the series made for the current generation – exclusive on Xbox One, for a bit – and guess what? It’s bloody good. Visually, it looks impressive (the snow in the game’s opening level glistens so beautifully and the world just looks alive and lived in) but importantly, it seems developer Crystal Dynamics have learned from the criticisms aimed at the Tomb Raider reboot and made a game that’s much better than its predecessor.

What’s better? Well, for starters, the challenge tombs are much, much better. I’m not saying the tombs in the reboot weren’t any good but there weren’t enough of them and, frankly, they weren’t challenging enough, and they tended to reward you with useless things.

Rise-of-the-Tomb-Raider-Ice-ScreenshotThat’s all changed in Rise of the Tomb Raider, where conquering them actually gives tangible rewards that are worth something in the game. The tombs are also a challenge, too, which is what gamers want: A challenge. There’s also plenty of leaping, ledge shimmying, and wall climbing.

Returning to Rise are the base camps, save points where Lara can upgrade weapons and equipment and fast travel to unlocked base camps, and the game world, which revolves around a central hub location, is bursting at the seams with collectibles: Scrap (to upgrade weapons and equipment), survival caches, documents, relics) and animals to hunt and resource. A new feature is that Lara can now craft anywhere if she has the right resources handy and heal mid-fight, which comes in handy if you need a band-aid or two.

The narrative, written by Rhianna Pratchett, is engaging, pitting Lara against the evil group Trinity who are both trying to discover the secret to immortality, but Lara this time around seems much more hard-edged, much more mature She’s not the victim anymore but a young woman who can look after herself.

RiseRise of the Tomb Raider is a rollercoaster ride that paces itself nicely and there’s some supernatural goings-on and simply put, it’s a fantastic game that’s also full of surprises, like when I was searching an abandoned Russian base for hostages and I bumped into what was a dead body – only to discover it was a very much alive enemy soldier!

I tried to see if I could play the game as stealthily as possible, trying not to kill too many enemies, but it proved too difficult as many situations just seemed to lend themselves more to gunplay or aggressive situations. That said, I used the bow and arrow as much as I could, upgrading it as fast as I could. That was my go-to weapon, especially once Lara had learned to craft grenade arrows.

If there’s any sticking point for me, it’s the combat, with some of it stuck in gaming’s past with mechanics that should be retired. Maybe it’s just me but I’m tired of the heavy-armoured/shield carrying enemy that takes a lot to take down or situations where suddenly several enemies attack you in a room. A lot of enemies, especially the tougher ones, seem to be bullet sponges, too, taking several bullets to take down.

Rise of the Tomb Raider is a fantastic game that shows what can be achieved when a developer focuses on what works and focuses less on what doesn’t. I know that Fallout 4 is also out this week (what was the publisher thinking?), and will no doubt swamp Rise of the Tomb Raider, but Lara Croft deserves attention in her latest outing. It’s genuinely one of the best  gaming experiences I’ve had this year.