If you're an Aussie and you've ever tried ordering things over the internet you've probably discovered the prices are lower on any number of things in America, but American stores typically won't ship to Australia. Why? Nobody knows!
Previously you could use services like Shipito to circumvent some of these restrictions. You get a US based address with them and have your goods delivered there, then they ship them to you for a small fee plus postage.
I guess AusPost wanted a slice of that pie because they recently launched ShopMate, where you get a US based address to ship your goods to then pay AusPost the cost of bringing them to you.
So, cool. Does it work?
What made me try it was a Star Wars themed "mystery box" that ThinkGeek wouldn't ship outside the US. Why not? I have the box now and I still don't know. Maybe it's illegal to export Death Stars, even when they're only tea infusers?
Anyway, I chucked that and some themed polo shirts in my cart and placed an order on the 12th of November. ThinkGeek shipped it the 13th and it arrived at ShopMate on... the 20th. A whole week for delivery within the US. Okay.
It then took another week to go from their warehouse to my door, halfway round the world. Arriving on the 27th means it took 15 days, which isn't particularly fast but not painfully slow.
As for the cost? If ThinkGeek had been willing to ship directly to me it would have cost around $US55. As it was technically being shipped to a US address and they had free shipping at the time I only had to pay the ShopMate fee.
Which came to $AU59.70. It ain't cheap, but after the currency conversion it worked out cheaper than the direct option, oddly enough.
The only really disappointing part of the whole experience was the lack of tracking available between ShopMate's US location and the parcel arriving in Australia. You don't get any kind of update until it's in the country and ready for delivery. It's a bit of a nitpick, it doesn't really matter so long as your stuff arrives, but it would be nice. Maybe you can track it and I just can't find the right bit?
One test run isn't conclusive but so far it's reasonably priced, reasonably quick and super easy to use. I'll certainly be using it again. Possibly to get some Lego...
Skipping around the internet consuming everything Destiny I have occasionally (foolishly) wandered into comment sections. The most common complaint?
"It's just another generic shooter."
It isn't. Read Brenna Hillier's piece on that over on VG247.
The most common compliment? It's doing something new in the shooter genre, or it's something new to consoles.
It isn't, on either count. Trion did pretty much everything you love about Destiny with last year's Defiance.
Defiance is a shared-world shooter with RPG staples like character advancement and loot mixed in. Open world events? Sure, plenty of those.
If you want to be really nitpicky they're even both set after apocalyptic events kicked off by the arrival of aliens. But that's neither here nor there.
Many of the quests in Defiance are done without ever leaving the open world and the rare times you do venture into a private area it's only after traipsing across the terrain to get there.
Random events pop up as you wander from place to place, ranging from very simple roadblocks to storming crashed space ships, fighting your way inside and facing down an epic boss. There's also large set pieces that are only active every so often and can draw quite the crowd.
There aren't any classes in Defiance, instead you choose one of four key skills to have in your loadout and then invest further points in various perks as you advance. It's fewer than Destiny's options, yet affords a little more freedom since you're not locked into one set of skills and perks.
Weaponry can be looted, awarded by quests or bought from vendors. There's rarity levels for weaponry (plus shields and grenades) and in addition to a selection of built-in stat boosts you earn experience for each weapon, eventually unlocking a further boost. While Destiny has addons like scopes and barrels as part of the weapon skills/perks system, Defiance has scopes and barrels and stocks as individual items so you can choose which ones suit you.
Grenades are open season as well, with players able to equip whichever they like in Defiance.
It's a recurring theme when comparing the two. If Destiny has something, Defiance usually does too. Often with a greater degree of freedom.
Yet ever since the Destiny beta opened it's pretty much all I want to play. Everything just flows so much better, from the gunplay to the missions right down to looting new gear. Don't need to press a button to collect my loot? Good heavens, such luxury.
Destiny's not really a new idea at this point, though it may well have been when it started development. Bungie's been dropping hints since 2009 and all that time has clearly been well spent as Destiny is a supremely well polished game.
If only it was on PC, not just the consoles. Keyboard and mouse for life, y'all.
Having already twittered quite enough about the entire thing today I thought I would break the blog out of semi-retirement for a short babble on some of the things that impressed me most from the first day of E3.
Obviously the big things were the Microsoft and Sony presentations but I don't have a lot to say there that hasn't been said everywhere else already. Sony "won" the traditional battle of E3. Microsoft put on a good show for their console but pretty much every fair criticism of the Xbox One is something Sony is doing the "right" way with Playstation 4. Coupled with smart multimedia deals, pursuing indie developers to get them onboard and some neat exclusive games and if you can only purchase one console the PS4 is the clear choice. All that could change before launch, but Microsoft's pretty deep into their particular hole, so I'm not betting on it.
But what about the games?
There were a few standouts for me, so in no particular order:
- Destiny (Gameplay video) - From Bungie, the guys who made Halo, comes another shooter which I had honestly dismissed prior to E3. The images shown prior could just as easily have been from a Halo title and nobody would have known. Seeing it in motion is a whole different thing. Beautiful lighting, vibrant colours, some interesting AI to fight, literal drop-in multiplayer, a public event (read: boss battles) system and bunches of loot to collect? Very much my cup of tea. (Multi-platform)
- Ryse: Son of Rome (Gameplay video) - Better known for Far Cry and Crysis, Crytek have branched out for an historical action fighter-y thing. The gameplay video shows the player storming a castle as a Roman Centurion, which is a thing I would like to do. The quick time events system may end up ruining this as there was a lot of "Press X to finish him" stuff going on... but it's Rome and sword and such! (Xbox One)
- The Division (Gameplay video) - It's actually "Tom Clancy's" The Division, but who cares. Shortly after the breakdown of society in an open world setting you raid buildings for supplies and... you know, I'm really not sure what the goal is, other than shooting a bunch of things. But it all looks fantastic. The gameplay video has players shooting precise bullet holes through glass and metal on cars, using skills and combined tactics to defeat their enemies and at one point a drone pilot drops in to assist them before buzzing back off to parts unknown.
Those're just three truly new games I saw that really grabbed my interest. There are no doubt more I'll see in the next week that I'll also fancy. Not to mention games I already knew were coming, like Watch Dogs.
But the one I'm most excited about is also the one there's virtually no information on: Star Wars Battlefront, coming from the creators of the Battlefield series of games, DICE. And that's all the information there is on Battlefront.
Please sir, I'd like some more!
Most every gaming site puts out a game of the year list once all the major releases are accounted for and most every gaming site gets it hopelessly, horribly wrong.
But that's half the fun, isn't it? Ask five random gamers and you're not going to get the same answer out of all five and the same applies when it's five separate groups of ill informed clowns.
Of course some places are objectively wrong, and you should absolutely tell them that. Loudly. And often!
But in the spirit of flailing a hand in the air and begging for attention, here's my not at all comprehensive list of games I thought were really pretty great in 2012.
Not every game leaves much room for exploration and even those that let you wander off the beaten path don't always have anything to see when you get there.
Guild Wars 2 has things to see and do in obscure locations, but even if it didn't, I think I'd still waste a bunch of my time exploring...
Lots of games have high score boards. It's been a staple of gaming practically since gaming was invented. Old arcade machines let you choose three letters to digitally scratch on the board beside your score and in the modern era a lot of score based games upload your result to the internet, assuring virtual immortality.
And that's neat.
But Zombie Driver stores a player's Slaughter-mode high scores on the internet via Steam. So you can see exactly how well your friends have done on any given map and set yourself a target.
The bit I really like? While playing the game your next highest scoring friend has their name in the upper right corner of the screen, alongside how many more points you need to surpass them.
It's such a small thing to include and many may never even know it's there. But I like it.
Zombie Driver is just $10 on Steam, if running over zombies while competing against your friends is stuff you like.
When given a choice between a male and female when creating and customising a new avatar for a game, more often than not I'll choose a female. My primary alter ego in most MMOs is a redheaded, ponytailed lady, when customisation options allow.
This isn't a gender identity issue, I don't think I'm a woman trapped inside the body of a manchild. And it isn't the oft-repeated reason of other male gamers - if you're going to stare at an arse for hundreds of hours it may as well be a ladybum. Nor do I ever pretend I am a lady in real life, mostly because the people who ask such things are only asking because they're sleazebags.
No, the reason I do it is because when it comes to customising a look and choosing an outfit and all the rest of it, it's a lot more fun doing so for a woman than it is a man. In part because it's not something I could do ordinarily, where I could dress a bloke up however I wanted, whenever I wanted, because I am a bloke.
But also because most games offer a more interesting set of options for female avatars. Sometimes that just means more "revealing" clothing or a slider for boob size, but not always.
I know it seems a little silly, especially in games where designing an image for a character is lost on most due to combat oriented gameplay being at the forefront.
But what it comes down to is that this:
Is much more interesting to me than this:
Maybe it is an issue that exists more in my mind than in reality. Most games do offer plenty of options when creating male characters and have heaps of clothing/armour to choose from. Yet most of the time I get sick of trying to create a guy I'm happy with and start the creation process over as a chick.
I really wanted to post some more pictures of past female characters but it turns out that, even when I do remember to take screenshots, I don't have any sort of plan to keep track of the resulting files.
Since I have a blog, I might start taking a nice picture or two of my character/s when I inevitably play more games. Maybe I'll include a little bit about whatever the game is, what that character's goals are... maybe I'll just throw a picture up.
Maybe I'll forget altogether and this will be the last entry on the subject.
I'm not a fan of "gay" being used in a derogatory fashion. Both when it's used to demean other people and when it's used to express dissatisfaction with some thing or concept or... whatever. This is not a secret, I've railed against it any number of times.
But why? Why isn't it okay to say a Team Fortress 2 map is gay? Or the pen that keeps running out is gay? Or paying extra for pineapple on your pizza is gay?
Because every time you use it that way you're reinforcing the notion that "gay" is synonymous with "bad". And therefore being gay is bad.
You may not mean it in the sense of homosexuals being bad. It likely doesn't cross most people's minds at the time they utter it. It's become so ingrained in some people that they'll actually defend their usage of the word. They think it's been "reclaimed" or somehow repurposed to not refer to homosexuality anymore, despite the prominent usage in various advocacy groups and celebrations like the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
I am not a writer.
I say that a lot, especially of late, but I don't think people really understand why. It's not false modesty, or fishing for people to tell me I am one, or that I am good at it. It's that I think the standard of writing required to be labelled a writer is markedly higher than my own skills in the field.
Compiling recaps of The Biggest Loser isn't much more than transcription with a few swears and observations thrown in. It's more about having the ability to type a decent amount of words per minute than it is any particular ability with shaping those words into something worth reading.
If you've played Star Wars Galaxies in the past couple of years you could be forgiven - barely - for thinking the game is nothing but a World of Warcraft style MMO when it comes to selecting and playing a class in that galaxy far, far away. It hasn't always been so.
What you've experienced is what Sony Online Entertainment dubbed the "New Game Experience", commonly abbreviated as the NGE, introduced in 2005 in a misguided attempt to recapture player interest in the game.
But what came before the NGE? How did players develop their characters before the dark times?