Props – Star Wars: Expanded Universe – Tenel Ka Djo’s Lightsaber

This is an old blog entry I wrote in… 2011, maybe? But I’ve gone through and updated it a bit due to a couple of broken links and so on! I also added a photo to the top which wasn’t at the top of the entry from 2011 because the photo was taken in 2012– OR WAS IT? /cue record scratch and gasp

Jacen Solo & Tenel Ka Djo

A shot of our Young Jedi Knights Jacen Solo & Tenel Ka costumes from Dragon*Con 2012!

Tenel Ka Djo has been one of my favorite characters for well over a decade and I’ve always adored her lightsaber (the one after her accident!) – she made the hilt out of a rancor tooth because she is pretty badass. There’s also the fact that she’s half-Dathomiri and it’s part of her heritage and all that jazz, but it’s mostly because she’s a badass. XD

When I was first going to do a Tenel Ka costume at Celebration III in 2005 (the NJO/Strike Team version and the first Queen Mother version seen at the bottom of the Tenel Ka costume page), I knew I would need to figure out a way to make something that resembled a tooth. I had absolutely no idea how to do this though. There hadn’t been any pictures of her saber released at that point and I wasn’t good with anything prop-related (not that I am now, lol). Enter my sister and a trip to Home Depot. We fiddled around in various sections and ended up getting some bits and pieces, a length of pipe and some spraypaint that made whatever you’re spraying look like stone. It was a tannish-beige color and I thought it could pass for a tooth well. My sister helped me throw it all together and I was pretty proud of what came of it. It didn’t have a point at the end (it had a decorative little swirly trinket that was actually a drawer handle XD) – but the texture and leather-wrapping and stuff gave it toothy/Dathormiri-ish sort of feel, which I was happy with at the time.

Fast-forward to a couple years later, when I had the urge to make another version of this saber! I ended up with another thin piece of pipe and gray stone spraypaint this time, along with black leather wrappings. I had a plastic replica of a T-Rex tooth that was cut and whittled down to fit into the pipe and I loved this version as well. It was after I finished this version that Tenel Ka got her own book cover (Legacy of the Force: Tempest)! And look, her saber! Besides that image of it, another one popped up in The Essential Guide to the Force. I was so giddy that there was more art of her as well as her saber. That was when I stumbled across Nocturne Armory! They had made a version of her saber that looked exactly like the one in the The Essential Guide to the Force and I fell in love with it and emailed them about ordering one. This one actually had a blade and lit up too! They had toned down the blue and added a bit of yellow to give it a more turquoise shade and I was so nervous every time I was in costume with it cause I was afraid I would mess it up (I am so clumsy, it’s not even funny). It is definitely a prized possession of mine since I am a huge nerd. ;D

Old sabers! To the left are the three versions I have had in the past, two made (top – 2005, middle – 2006 and one ordered in 2008). :)

In the summer of 2010, the stupid bug bit me again about making another one (I don’t know what it is with me). And I was told about ultrasabers.com! Nate was looking for a saber he could use for his Jacen and/or Caedus costumes and my brain started working at a way to make a Tenel Ka lightsaber myself by modifying one of the ones from the site (even though the closest they had to her blade color was bright blue). The idea hadn’t really formed, it was just sort of hanging in the back of my mind – but when I saw a few weeks later that they had two new blade colors, one of which being Sunrider’s Destiny (which was a lighter, slightly more greenish shade), I knew I had to go for it. I had a vague idea of what I was going to try so I bought all the supplies I would need and then ordered the Rifter hilt from Ultra Sabers (a hilt which is no longer available on the site).

When it arrived, I played around with it like a dork (you know, the norm: making lightsaber noises, hitting furniture, the whole nine yards) and then detached the blade and started to attempt to figure out how to get the idea that was in my head out. I used paperclay to cover the hilt and start shaping a sort of tooth texture. I knew that I wanted to keep it as thin as possible – I knew it wouldn’t be as thick as the picture from the The Essential Guide to the Force – because I am short and have small hands, hehe. I wanted my hand to be able to fit around it comfortably, but besides comfort I didn’t want it to look SUPER GIANT when I was holding it. XD I knew it would be longer than the images as well, since I had to cover the whole hilt and then add on the tip of the tooth at the end. I was fine with that though, as long as it wasn’t awkward to hold.

The paperclay worked so much better than I had hoped. It was lightweight and dried on its own (I wouldn’t have been able to put it in the oven to dry since it was around the saber). After the initial part of the hilt was covered, I had a grand old time trying to figure out how to make the tip of the tooth and then be able to remove it to replace the batteries when they ran out of juice. I finally settled on making the tip out of paperclay and fashioning the other end to fit into the opening where the batteries were. I covered the end in felt so it had a snug fit and then made some touch-ups with leftover paperclay to the main part of the hilt. I also added some details here and there – scratches, marks, wearing, etc.

(Note from the reposting of this entry in December of 2014: the first set of batteries still hasn’t run out yet. ;D)

Unfinished saber!

The saber before the painting phase!

The three blue crystals I added above the switch are for decoration (and fall in with the whole half-Hapan thing as well, since there was talk of gems of Gallinore when she made her saber – even though those were the focusing crystals, hehe) and were chosen for their colors. I thought they matched the blade well and I sort of fell in love with them when I found them. In one of the images of her saber, there is a dark orange gem near the blade, but I ended up going with blue because none of the orange ones I looked at caught my eye. Plus, if I had an orange gem then I would have orange/blue (in the blade) and those were my high school colors. Somehow in projects I always subconsciously avoid putting those together because it just reminds me of high school. XD I just ended up going with all blue. I added the crystals while the paperclay was still moldable and then waited for the whole thing to dry.

After that came the part I was REALLY worried about. I’ve never been good at painting things!

I had three shades of acrylic paint I was planning on using to paint the hilt: Unbleached Titanium, Raw Umber & Raw Sienna. The one I ended up using the most was the Unbleached Titanium shade. I gessoed the whole thing first (main part of the hilt and the removable end) and I used a small brush to paint the whole thing with the titanium shade. Then with sponges and other brushes, started adding little details in the scratches and ridges and so on. I didn’t really have a plan on what parts to paint specifically, I just kept adding some here and there until I thought I needed to change colors and so on. When I had finished painting it late one night, I set it down and went to bed not really thinking about it. That seemed like the best thing to do though because the next day when I looked at it with a fresh eye, I really liked how it looked. For a project I had been so worried about (who am I kidding, I worry about every project), I was really proud of the way it turned out.

 

The completed saber!

Click the photo to go to the dA page!

 

There are definitely a couple things I would like to fix – keeping the tooth tip more secure and snug in the main hilt would be at the top of the list! But I am very proud of it nonetheless. :D

Halloween: That Time of Year

Orange Pumpkins

Tomorrow is Halloween! Even though we’re too old to Trick-or-Treat it’s still one of our favorite holidays. We love it so much that as of right now we have ourThe family. wedding date set for October 31, 2015! Why do we love it so much? There’s a number of reasons. Obviously we have a ball dressing up as people/things we love – which, sure we do that at conventions, yeah, but ARGH!this is a time when everyone’s dressing up as well! It’s a giant costume party (with candy!) from neighborhood to neighborhood. We also have always been a fan of spoopy spooky things. Especially me. And I think that is the fault of my Mom and sister – who you can see in the photos accompanying this paragraph, hehe. They taught me well as I grew up (Stephen King, as an example) and encouraged me to explore very dark places (like Silent Hill, which I played while peeking out from behind the couch while my sister cackled at me).

Back sometime in the 90’s (’93 maybe? ’95? Somewhere back there…) my Mom and sister decided they were going to make a big image to put in the front window of SO SPOOPYour house for Halloween. A couple weeks ago when Nate and I were cleaning the basement and going through boxes we found it and it made me think about how all-out my family went for Halloween from then on. TheSHRIEK front yard would become a cemetery every Halloween, covered in spiderweb and bathed in weird lighting. We started putting things in all the windows – a Bates Motel sign, a brain in a jar of green fluid, a Styrofoam head covered in what looked like dirty bandages – all kinds of stuff. We’d scare kids, give out (and eat) candy, greet our friends, compliment costumes – all that plus the fact that 90% of the time (aka when it wasn’t raining) the fall weather was perfect.

When Nate came into the picture in 2009, I warned him about how Halloween was Super Serious in our household. He was excited because he enjoyed the holiday Me and Momtoo. He told me a story about Wee Tiny Nate and howErin & Ronnie! he saved up his money to buy a scary wolf mask one year. I knew he would fit right in after that. Before this he was in that stage where you were too old to Trick-or-Treat but too “meh” to find anything to do on the holiday itself. He started dressing up again for Halloween in 2010! THE HOLIDAYS ARE MAGICAL. …He would’ve dressed up in 2009 but that year we were leaving for vacation on a very early flight the next morning so Halloween was cancelled. :\ He had to wait a whole year to experience Halloween the way I always did. AT FULL SPEED.

I’m excited for this Halloween because we’ll be celebrating the 10th anniversary of one of our favorite ridiculous and perfect movies with our costumes – Napoleon Dynamite. We’ll have to make sure we shove some tater tots into Nate’s pockets. Besides that, it’ll also be my nephew’s first Halloween! Basically, I will get photos of tiny adorable nephew in a tiny adorable baby costume. Also, candy. And all this purple, orange and black around go smashing together. See, Halloween is great for a number of reasons. The sights, the activities, the costumes, the candy, the parties, the creppiness creepy things. We’ll also be excited because a year from this Halloween we’ll be having a giant party celebrating our Hallowedding!

What are you doing this Halloween? What are you being this Halloween? ;)

Con Report – Magfest 8.5

Magfest 8, the last Magfest in Alexandria’s Hilton Mark Center.  Some say that was the height of its greatness.  Others (myself included) believe the space was rapidly becoming too small.  Actually I know this, as Magfest 8 was the first and only Magfest to enforce an attendance cap.  The National Harbor’s Gaylord was an excellent choice for attendee AND arcade room growth!  But I heard some attendees raved about the glory days, and desired to relive the memory again.  Enter 8.5, a reboot of the “glory days”.

gameroomWe arrived Friday evening and quickly ran into one of the issues of a smaller venue: parking.  I was lucky enough to snag a spot in the garage from someone pulling out, but I suspect others had a hard time.  Registration was easy, and the lack of elevators didn’t pose too much of a problem.  Naturally we had to check out the games room first!  The console room was ample as you would expect from Magfest, though I thought the arcade side was a bit lacking.  The arcade rhythm games were housed on the console side and to my surprise there were some new things there I hadn’t seen before:

  • NeonFM: I’m not going to lie, this was probably the highlight of the whole video game room.  Its a fast and fun indie developed rhythm arcade game with an excellent soundtrack.  Unfortunately there aren’t too many of these machines in the wild.
  • Reflec Beat: An interesting pinball inspired touch-based rhythm game.  Ok so someone set it up on a Dell computer and touchscreen monitor instead of the actual arcade machine…close enough!  It was a lot of fun.reflecbeat
  • Sound Voltex: This one was right behind Reflec Beat.  Unfortunately I didn’t get to play it but uh, it looked really cool!  Also set up on a Dell machine instead of the real thing.

flamewarIf memory serves correctly we headed over to the tabletop room to check out their wares.  The room was packed, but thankfully we found some chairs and used one of the plastic game storage boxes as a makeshift table.  We ended up playing a quick(ish) card game called Flame War, had some laughs, then headed back to the room for alc…er…soda pop.

The next day I went to my one and only panel on indie game development.  I didn’t learn a whole lot, but I listen to some interesting stories from indie devs.  One of the indie devs in question worked on NeonFM!  After the panel I headed back to the room to witness Heather become one with the animatronics!  By that I mean put on her Five Nights At Freddy’s costume.  Next I believe there was a lot of mulling around between the video game and dealer rooms for a few hours.  Then back to the tabletop room for more fun in the form of Betrayal at House on The Hill.  betrayal  This was one of the few board games I’ve played that is more co-op that free-for-all (although there is a traitor in the midst).  The estimated on box playtime is 1 hour, but I’m pretty sure we broke the 2 hour mark.  The way that things unfold mid-game is really interesting and should add to a lot of replayability.  Heather already went ahead and bought it!  I think we went to the game room for a few minutes before heading back upstairs for more “soda pop” and the next game, aptly titled “We Didn’t Playtest This at All”.  This is quickly becoming one of my favorite large group games right behind Cards Against Humanity.  Its extremely simple to learn, fast paced, and fun can be multiplied by an increase in “soda pop” intake.  The box claims its for 2 to 10 people, though I wouldn’t play it with less than 4 (or at least 3).  The more the merrier!  Did I say merrier, I meant maddening.

So that about does it for Magfest 8.5.  Did it live up to the hype?  I still prefer the mainline Magfest due to its larger selection of arcade games, panels, and general events, but 8.5 was well worth the money.  If they can find a bigger area for the arcade section (or use part of the console room) they’ll be on the right track.  If they can demolish that crappy parking lot I’d give them a high five.  Whoop whoop!

Costumes – Toy Story 3 – Barbie & Ken

We get a lot of questions about these costumes, especially around Halloween so we thought we’d edit this older post with more info on the process and bump the date up to now so it can easily be found by anyone who might want to be Barbie & Ken for Halloween this year! It’s is coming up fast! :) The con photos on this post are many thanks to the lovely Katsuya Weller! <3

NOTE: This year we are selling parts of these costumes because we need room and funds to work on new costumes/get to cons! If you have any interest in either the Barbie or Ken costumes or other costumes pieces that we might selling, check out our shop!

In front of a toy store~ XD

For Halloween 2010 & Katsucon 2011, we had the awesome opportunity to make and wear Barbie and Ken costumes from 2010’s Toy Story 3. We had the idea after the second time we saw the movie in theaters, but didn’t think we would be able to pull it off. Once October 2010 rolled around, we decided we’d go for it and started to get things to work on to try to get the outfits all put together. Here are some of the behind-the-scenes things (from a post on my really old blog) in case anyone is thinking about making their own Barbie and/or Ken costumes!

The first thing we focused on were the main parts of the outfits – I ordered a turquoise bodysuit from River’s Edge Dancewear and found a pink belt on ebay. Making the Ken shirt.

Nate’s outfit was proving to be a tiny bit more difficult. We found a pair of blue shorts at the thrift store and a very flashy gold belt on ebay, but we knew a blue leopard-print shirt wouldn’t be as simple to just stumble across. We already knew that we would have to make one. We had a pattern for the shirt but the only leopard-print fabric we could find (after scouring the internet and a couple stores) was either faux fur or a very floaty see-through silk. The fur just wouldn’t look right (and was way too thick) and the silk wouldn’t work right for the pattern we had for the shirt (and was also a little darker blue than what we needed). We bought the silk, thinking that it could possibly be fudged, then realized what we could do. We took a light blue, short-sleeved button-up shirt and basically attached pieces of the blue leopard-print fabric around/over the shirt. We had six pieces to attach – the collar, the two sleeves, the two pieces on the front and the piece on the back. The pieces on the front covered the buttons/button holes, but we figured it didn’t matter since Ken clothes never have real buttons anyways (it’s usually the plastic snaps or velcro – which is what we used to keep his shirt shut). XD

Ken's shoes! Barbie’s shoes were simple – I ordered a cheap pair of hot pink heels (that are a bit painful to walk in!). Nate had to find blue slip-on shoes. That was easier said than done. He ended up getting a pair of slippers and painting them with blue fabric paint. The best part is that they have fake fur inside so they were very comfortable and warm, especially when it was a little chilly on Halloween.

I was aiming to make a pair of legwarmers that looked like hers with a pair of plain white ones and three colors of bias tape, and they looked good while they were in the process of being made but the white ones I had were weak and didn’t hold shape very well so they stretched and sort of stayed that way, so at the last minute I ended up using a regular pair of legwarmers with colors that matched well enough (there were a couple extra colors in the ones I used). The best part though is that they looked really good and instead of hunting for more later, I’ll probably just stick with the ones I used on Halloween. I love when stuff like that happens.

As for hair, I looked through a bunch of wig sites and on Ebay. I found a specific “Barbie” wig that was in a ponytail and sort of a dark blonde. But the ponytail was a little lopsided and it was super expensive. I ended up finding a lighter blonde wig on ebay with a detachable ponytail that was $30 cheaper! I ordered that Barbie's wig one and cut the bangs past my eyes. I was going to cut off the little curls on the side too, but I ended up liking them too much and they helped cover up my own hair by my ears — my hair is really frizzy and BIG and always a pain to keep under wigs.

I sewed the pink sash that goes in her hair (and sewed Nate his ascot, haha!) and the makeup was simple eyeliner, pink eyeshadow and pink lipstick. Hot pink nails too, of course. >D

For his hair, we fiddled around with the idea of making a plastic headpiece, but figured if we just used a product that could make his hair rock hard then it would work just as well. Then he wouldn’t get “hat head”/sweat profusely in a plastic hair piece. We used lots o’ hairspray (still not enough!) and used a little bit of hairspray color to make his hair more of a reddish-blonde.

We loved the costumes so much after wearing them on Halloween that we decided to bring them to Katsucon in February (along with our mini-Lotso!)~ The con wasn’t too far from us and we were familiar with the location, meaning I wouldn’t have to wander around in those crazy shoes trying to get to con-space! Those things hurt like a mofo – it wasn’t even the height, but the pointy toes. -_-

With Jessie! :D

This has to be the most colorful costume we’ve worn and the most bubbly characters we’ve dressed up as! ;) Draetheus was lucky and had a pair of super comfortable slippers he painted blue. The inside was toasty warm and had some support. He also got to hold little Lotso, which we (and everyone around us) snorted all night cause he smelled like strawberries.

Please feel free to ask any questions you might have about the costumes so we can help out if we can!

Costumes – The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead starts this Sunday! Have you been counting down? We have! We’ve also been counting down to American Horror Story: Freak Show which is a whole ‘nother thing (clowns, y’all). In celebration of the upcoming season 5 premiere, Denis joined us as Glenn (and Roger as the photographer!) for a trek around a nearby abandoned prison in the Daryl Dixon and Carol Peletier costumes we haven’t had a chance to wear much.

Besides the bugs and the smell of an outhouse that we walked by, the day was nice! The weather was finally cooling off and this place is only a short drive away. We’ve wanted to take Walking Dead photos here for a while and we’re glad we finally got the chance to. Many, many thanks to Roger for putting up with our dorkery and taking the photos. :D

There’s still a couple things we’ve been meaning to do to these costumes – for example, this Carol wig doesn’t have very dark roots yet. I had to get a new one since the other one was too short to hide the lion mane I have on my head. Speaking of hair, we commented to Nate that his hair looked too clean to be roughing-it-in-the-woods Daryl. He apologized for washing his hair that morning.

Obviously we couldn’t get on to the actual grounds of the prison, but the area around it is a park with some trails. The recreational area outside the walls (but still on the property/behind the fence) was actually turned into a little league baseball field also. So traffic and foot traffic around it isn’t that rare. There are a couple security guards who drive around the park as well. We got a couple of slow drive-bys from them as we wandered around with toy guns, machetes and a crossbow. We just sort of smiled at them and Roger held the camera up near his face so the guards could see what was going on. Not that we were doing anything wrong, but I’d be curious too if I saw all this fake weaponry happening and I wasn’t invited to the party.

Are you excited for season 5 of The Walking Dead? Will our survivors head to D.C.? Or will Terminus be the end of them? Will Coooraaal Carl ever take that hat off? WE MAY NEVER KNOW. Let us know what you hope to see this season here or over at Twitter or Facebook!

Con Report – Intervention 2014

From August 22 – 24, in Rockville, Maryland, the 5th Intervention Con took place. Over a month after the convention and I’m finally able to sit down to write how our experience at it was this year! This is our third year attending this convention and each year it’s been getting better and better. Normally around that time of year we’d be getting ready for Dragon Con and freaking out about finishing costumes and packing and driving and all that jazz, but since we haven’t been since 2012, Intervention has been a very welcome replacement for both of us for an “end of the summer” con. (MAGFest 8.5 was too, look for the report on that soon!)

We headed up to Rockville on Friday night and checked into the hotel, which always goes smoothly – this Hilton knows what they’re doing when it comes to this event and T-MODE, which is also held there in the spring. Getting badges was a breeze and we got to take a souvenir ball from the registration table’s ball pit (which was a big basket full of plastic ball pit balls, of course). After cackling about that and scribbling on our badges, we wandered into the convention area and checked out the board game room, the video game room and of course MAGFest’s arcade cabinet room.

One of the big things we adore at Intervention is how chilled out the console video game room always presents itself (heck, the whole convention is like this and that’s A+). There are a number of systems scattered around the room and you go to the main table and let them know what you want to play (there are lists everywhere of what they have) – they come put it in the system for you and there you go, play to your heart’s content! We played Payday 2 for a bit since we had wanted to check it out and then Nate Rock Banded for a little while. This adorable girl came up and was the singer for a few songs – she just sort of hummed along with the words and it was all kinds of great. She drummed for a song also which was equally as magnificent. Then she took a break from being a musician and chatted with her fans… aka her and I talked about Frozen because Anna and Elsa were on her shirt. (I’m totally a fan though, she was definitely stealing the spotlight up there. ;D)

On the way back to the room, we saw Intervention’s amazingly perfect and detailed harassment policy, which delighted both of us. The video game room also had a big note on one of the white boards that basically said something to the extent of, “If you don’t feel comfortable with someone/something, let us know. We want everyone to have a great time.” I know it’s not as easy for bigger conventions to enforce this kind of thing but I would love to see it more.

Saturday was a day full of panels for us. We brought our new Napoleon Dynamite costumes to wear but we never even got a chance to change in to them since we were running around so much that day! (They’ll make an appearance on Halloween though, no worries.)

The first panel we went to was Aaron Teplitsky’s Introduction to Video Game Development Using Unity. One of the projects Nate would love to do in his lifetime is make a video game. With the tools to do so becoming more prominent and easy to get a hand on these days, he’s ready to jump in and try it. This panel was a great introduction to Unity and Nate was excited to see some of the basic procedures of the program. It really lets you focus on developing the actual game and story and not focus on learning a ton of tools and programs before being able to begin. Also, Aaron’s instructions were great because I have Absolutely No Idea What I’m Doing when it comes to this stuff and I felt like I might be able to actually pull off some semblance of a game if I tried now. It would be the most lopsided, wonky little game ever but I might be able to do it!

Second we hit up one of the workshops – Creative Coding: Doing Cool Stuff with Code. Bree Rubin, the woman running this workshop, was as informative and helpful as she was completely personable and funny. We broke into little groups and worked on Arduino kits she brought with her which ended up turning into a light pendulum with some instruction and tinkering. Nate wants to work with Arduino and Raspberry Pi and all that jazz more in the future and we were both also checking out the LilyPad Arduino online later – which is sewable electronic pieces. You know how we love clothing/pieces that light up!

Regular Zhobot guest Denis had joined us during that workshop and we showed him the chill wonders of Intervention after that. He joined us for the last panel of the evening also, Living the Dream: Planning a Sustainable Creative Career. This was a great overview of the kind of things you need to look at if you’re planning to make a career off of an artistic venture or thing you love to do. Rob Balder, the author of the webcomic Erfworld, was the speaker and his presentation was a giant mass of useful information. We were definitely interested in every second of it – of course we have no idea what either of us could do artistically for a living… but maybe we’ll figure something out one day?

There was another panel we wanted to make that covered custom vinyl toys but we were veeery hungry and needed to walk around. One of the things we really love about Intervention (and T-MODE) is the location. The hotel is great and the food options around there are even better. We always make it a point to eat at Rolls ‘n Rice with a side of Pizza CS and Ize’s Deli and Bakery (which we actually got breakfast at that Saturday morning) if we can fit them all in over the weekend! We ate at Rolls ‘n Rice for dinner, got some coffee-type drinks to keep us fueled and then returned and headed to the video game room!

This is where we found one of the most ridiculous – and actually pretty amusing – games we’ve ever attempted to play. It was on the Ouya and it was called Amazing Frog? Yes, there is a question mark there. I’m not sure why, maybe because there are so many questions you have while playing this game? Questions like, “What exactly am I doing?” and “Is my frog farting?” Your frog is most definitely farting and this gas is helping him get around. I started playing the game just to goof off while chatting with Nate and Denis but it became at least an half-an-hour ordeal where we traded controllers back and forth and tooted our way back and forth across the map. It most definitely held our attention and we have looked into it since Intervention.

Denis headed out after that and we wandered over to the Drink and Draw Artist Jam in the main panel room since some of our friends – the fabulous and talented ladies Megan of Cross’ Critters and Chrispy of Buttered Bun Studios – were going to be there. We met them in 2013 when we sold at T-MODE (we were all neighbor tables!) and we always make it a point to go bug them when we know we’re at the same con as them. We had already bugged them in the dealer’s room that day but were invited to bug them again at the Drink and Draw so naturally we did just that. Neither of us can draw, not by a longshot, but we can drink. So we were halfway there!

Megan gave Nate a piece of paper and he began to draw this snake thing. I think mythical creatures was the current subject of doodling at that time, so Nate’s started out snake-like and he wasn’t sure how to finish it so he just added a butt. Megan was very moved by this (and by moved we mean with giggles) and gave Nate a dollar for it. Even without a table, Nate made a sale at Intervention! Huzzah! Much fun was had at the Drink and Draw; drinking, drawing and catching up with everyone since we hadn’t seen them in a while. One of the main things I love about Intervention are the people and the fact that you can chat and network and make new friends so easily. We met a lot of amazing people in the dealer’s room alone not to mention all the people we met at the panels!

Sunday was sort of a lazy day for us. We made another round in the dealer’s room and this is where I found out I had won something I had bid on in the charity auction! It was an Archibald The Squid Plush from Lucky Squid Studios! I paid and placed him on my head as we left the convention. He also rode in the front seat with me all the way home. Look at this stud.

We’re definitely excited to go back to Intervention next year for their sixth year! We have a better time each year we go back so we’re pumped to see what’s in store for 2015.

Costumes – Five Nights At Freddy’s

Have you heard of Five Nights at Freddy’s? It’s an indie horror game that has taken the gaming world by a storm made up of slimy pizza and creepy animatronics. In the most basic of explanations: you are a guy named Mike Schmidt who must really need a job because he spends five nights being a security guard at this place that’s pretty much Chuck E. Cheese’s evil(er) doppelganger – Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza. The security guard before you calls you every night and gives you a few tips and a heads up that the animatronics sort of walk around at night. If they see you and get a hold of you, they’ll stuff you in a suit like theirs. You have to save your electricity throughout the night but you also have to keep an eye on Freddy and his friends with your security camera and keep them out of your room with the doors – all of this zaps your electricity. If your electricity runs out then you’re in for a world of matted fake fur and hurt. There’s a backstory about missing children and the “Bite of ’87” too – all of it is ridiculous but it’s ridiculous in the best way.

Such entertainment!

A few days before MAGFest 8.5 (which was a couple weekends ago and way too much fun – look for Nate’s recap on it soon!), I got it in my head to make a Five Nights at Freddy’s costume consisting of stuffed animals. Thanks to Amazon (and Amazon Prime, oh man), four cheap Beanie Babies showed up at the door the Thursday before the convention.

The little additional bits (Freddy’s top hat, Foxy’s eyepatch, Chica’s bib, making Bonnie’s ears stand up etc.) were added last minute and look like a hot mess but in the end it was worth it because the reactions went from “Cutest version of Five Nights at Freddy’s!” to “THAT BEAR SCARED ME.” That last one was from a tiny little girl that the elevator opened to while Freddy was sitting on top of my security hat. I’m just about 100% sure she had no idea what Five Nights at Freddy’s was, but the fact that it scared her meant Freddy was doing his job.

We also had to make sure we got ~PIRATES COVE~ photos of Foxy!

Foxy no!

We recently decorated our house for Halloween and these four little punks have actually become official Halloween decorations in our house now. The game terrifies us, so it’s perfect for Halloween, right? Do you hear that music at night too?

Gaming – How I became a Dark Soul

I don’t have the mass quantities of free time I had in my teens. The thought of sinking 100 hours into a game is almost unthinkable. And even if I could, would any game hold my interest for that long? I haven’t touched a Final Fantasy since 10, I burned out of WoW after the Burning Crusade expansion, and you know what? I tried playing the latest Pokemon X and Y series, but I lost interest after the first few hours.  As far as I knew I was all RPGed out.

Recently I’ve been playing two different categories of games:

  • Indie games: Typically they are shorter and only try to do one thing really well (instead of half-assing 20 different gameplay features).
  • Co-op games: There’s something really satisfying about working together against obstacles.  There’s something even more satisfying about working together against obstacles while intoxicated.

Not that I’m exclusively locked in to those types, but I highly doubted anything else would be able to drag my attention away for so long.  I recall lazily checking the XBL free games last June and seeing Dark Souls up for offer.

“Oh, that’s that game Brian likes.  I guess I could give it a shot.  I think its supposed to be really hard.  Wonder if I’ll even make it through the first hour.”

And then I started playing: “Whoa, a combat system were you ACTUALLY have to block?”  “Nope, nope, fuck this, too annoying.”  “Actually I think I can make it through this one part now…” “NOPE NOPE FUCK THIS TOO ANNOYING.”  “Well actually now that I think about it if I can just…”

10 hours later: “THIS IS SUPER ANNOYING BUT I’M STILL HAVING FUN AND I DON’T KNOW WHY BECAUSE IF THIS WERE ANY OTHER GAME I’D BE MICROWAVING THE GAME DISC.”

Dark Souls - O&S

The cause of near disc microwaving.

And therein lies the secret.  The game is so well balanced that any amount of failure is countered by the extremely consistent and natural learning curve.  After every time I died I thought, “Well I got a little further that time.” (Though Ornstein and Smough gave me microwaving thoughts again).  So despite the fact that I’ve put 80 hours into the game so far, it (almost) doesn’t feel like it because nothing feels like a chore.  There is nothing in the category of what I would call “typical RPG quests”: collect X number of items (ok there are some of these but they are from beating bosses, and not always in a particular order), grind for X amount of time to make it to Y (there is ALWAYS strategy that doesn’t involve leveling), wander around the world-map for god knows how long (in fact there is no world map, just a series of semi-open unlockable areas each with a unique style).  There is also no forced 1st person persona.  You look how you want, you play how you want.  Want to kill all the NPCs?  Go for it, its not going to affect the ending.  Not to mention the level/costume/weapon designs are all super gorgeous, AND the interesting way in which other people playing the game can interact with you.

Alright, I’ve brown nosed the game enough.  I’ll just say that if you are sick of the squaresoft formula like I was, I highly recommend picking it up.  I still have a few hours left before I’m through, plus I’ve got the prequel and sequel to play.  So that’s like what…another 100-200 hours?  Sheesh.

SPimH – Myst

I meant to post this back in Autumn of 2013, but with the last stretch of the year which is always crazy around my house (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year – all while getting ready for MAGFest!) and then my utter laziness and the weird first half of 2014 I never got a chance to. Here’s the second installment of Special Place in my Heart.

Last year, on the 24th of September in 2013, it was the 20th anniversary of the first game that took me to another world. Or worlds, technically.

Twenty years ago on that day, Myst came out in stores. I didn’t get it right away and by “me” I mean my mother, who was getting into computer games at the time. I had a Nintendo and I would play Super Nintendo at my friend’s house. When my mom got Myst and started to play it, she’d call me in the room because she thought I would like it. I was eight years old and instantly pulled in by how pretty it was, not to mention the music and the sound effects. Everything just came together in a way that absolutely hypnotized me. I had started playing on my own and had to fall back on a strategy guide for some of the puzzles, but I didn’t care. I mostly just wanted to get to every single corner of this universe and explore. I would stop and listen to the birds on Myst Island or the sound of trickling water in the Channelwood Age.

My favorite was the Mechanical Age, followed closely by the Stoneship Age. The Stoneship Age never jumped to #1 because I was terrified of the compass and the lights going out when you were underwater if you hit the wrong button. I knew there was nothing in the water but I was always afraid there would be something there. I was a bit of a wuss, and I was a bit of a wuss with a phobia of being underwater. :\

The Mechanical Age

I couldn’t get enough of the characters either, and you rarely saw any. Sirrus and Achenar became staples of the geeky section of my brain and I thought it a little weird that I kind of had a crush on them as I continuously went back to the game in the years following its release. Their rooms were filled with all sorts of nasty (but nasty in such an amazingly creative way) and they obviously didn’t want to be your friend. But my first crushes were Raphael from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Bart Simpson, so I didn’t think too much of it. There was something so intriguing about them, and about Atrus and his kidnapped wife. How did this family get this way? How did the brothers become so corrupt and so horrible that their father basically put them in prison? I wanted to know these things. I wanted more.

Besides the family, there was this whole idea and skill introduced in the game – certain people could write books that opened gateways to different places. Completely different worlds that you could reach by placing your hand on the moving panel in the book. How many worlds were out there that had books written to take you to them? Only the ones on Myst Island? Were there more? Hundreds? Thousands?

Everything about this game completely captivated me. I had played video games before, but nothing like this. Nothing that I wanted to be a part of, nothing that I wanted to visit. This was different.

They released three novels that went through different parts of this family tree – I read them all when they came out. There was a comic book about Sirrus & Achenar’s childhood (and eventual corruption) that was released and then cancelled after the first issue – I still have my copy safely on a shelf. There were subsequent games – Riven, Exile, Revelation, URU, End of Ages – all of them good (Riven was especially wonderful). I always come back to Myst though. Sometimes I’ll load up a new game, make my way to one of the Ages and just look around a bit. It’s kind of like visiting your childhood home, in a way. There aren’t many games that feel like that to me. (And you know how I feel about video games. <3)

Oh, Sirrus, stop frontin

I remember getting the From Myst to Riven book for Christmas in ’97 when it came out and I remember reading it all in one sitting. I remember sprawling out in an empty cubicle at my Dad’s office when I went into work with him on the weekends and working my way through The Book of Ti’ana. I was obsessed with Bush’s album Razorblade Suitcase and still to this day I can’t listen to the song “Cold Contagious” without thinking of Ti’ana & Aitrus. I always associate that album with that book since I was taking in both at the same time. There are all of these little things that remind me of how this game has trickled its way into my brain. Songs, sounds — even the weather. When it’s a cool Spring or Fall day and there’s a slight breeze it makes me think of the dock on Myst Island.

In the years following Myst’s release, I remember sitting and waiting for the dial-up to connect so I could sign on AOL and talk to all the friends I made in the Myst chatroom. We would talk about how awesome it was that these two brothers, Rand & Robyn Miller, got together and created an always expanding universe. We would talk about how awesome it was that they played Atrus (Rand), Sirrus (Robyn – who also did the music) & Achenar (Rand) themselves and quote the brothers and share puzzle ideas. I would sit in that chatroom for hours until it was bedtime (or well past it – whoops).

Out of all the video/computer/etc. games I’ve played, whenever people ask me for my favorites there’s usually a rotating list depending on what I’ve been in the mood for lately. But Myst is always in the list. And the older the game and I get, I still can’t see it leaving my top five. It drew me in, inspired me and it always calls me back.

I know it’s a little late, but Happy 20th Anniversary, Myst. <3

Can I live there plz.


Special Place in my Heart is a random feature here at Zhobot where, when the need strikes us, we write about something video game-related or otherwise that holds a geeky place in our weird little hearts.

Gaming – Our Top 5 Upcoming Games

Between E3, the upcoming PAX Prime and all the gaming announcements around/in between those dates (and at other cons!), there are definitely a lot of games we’re excited to play in the future! Here are our top 5 lists, as well as the release date — or supposed release date/year if it hasn’t been announced yet.

HEATHER’S TOP 5

Hotline Miami 2

5.) HOTLINE MIAMI 2: WRONG NUMBER – Q3 2014 – Now, I am totally admitting up front: technically I won’t be playing this. I was horrible at the first Hotline Miami but enjoyed the hell out of it while watching Nate play. I’ll definitely give HL2:WN a shot but when I die 289374892378947 times, give up and run screeching into the night, I will be come back right away to watch Nate play. I was so enthralled with the first one – the atmosphere, the colors, the music. Since I wasn’t playing it was like I was watching this action movie full of neon perfection. I am now having withdrawals of that.


Sunset Overdrive

4.) SUNSET OVERDRIVE – October 28, 2014 – We don’t have an Xbox One in our household yet but this game and an honorable mention of mine are both Xbox One games so I figure we might get one one day. Jet Grind Radio & Jet Set Radio Future have always held a special place in the video game pantheon of my heart and that was one of the first things I thought of when I first saw this game. Except you get to shoot humans-turned-mutants (because of an energy drink!), not spraypaint anything. And I’m all about creating a ridiculous character and shooting some mutants. ALL about it. There is also the adorable energy drink mascot, Fizzie.


Tales From The Borderlands

3.) TALES FROM THE BORDERLANDS – mid-2014 – Telltale Games knows exactly how to tell wonderful stories. They may not all be happy rainbows and sunshine stories, but they know what they’re doing. The fact that they’re going to be working their brand of magic in the world of Borderlands is something I never would’ve thought of myself and if I did, I never would’ve dreamed of it actually happening. Dreams you don’t even know you have DO come true, kids.


Obduction

2.) OBDUCTION – mid to late 2015 – It’s too bad I can’t just have a paragraph of gibberish and keyboard-smashing because that is how pumped I am for this game. When Cyan announced a Kickstarter for a new game, I basically did a SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY. You see, Cyan is the company behind the Myst series – which holds two of my very favorite games in the universe, Myst & Riven. And if they want to make a new game, I’m all for it. What’s been revealed so far has left me wanting more and I know that once it’s released, I will hate finishing it because I’ll never get to experience that game For The First Time again.


Persona 5

1.) PERSONA 5 – 2015 – We literally know next to nothing about Persona 5 and maybe that’s why I’m so excited about it. There are so many possibilities to what it could be about, what the characters could be like — everything. I loved Revelations: Persona (sorry, the first one I played was the horrible/amazing NA translated one and I still fell in love w/ it somehow) and both Persona 2 games. Persona 3 was alright, but Persona 4 took everything I didn’t really get into in 3 and fixed it. That makes me very positive about Persona 5. GRAB YOUR ASSES AND RUN!

Honorable mentions: Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! (C-L-A-P-T-R-A-P!), Dance Central Spotlight (I will miss The Glitterati and Murder of Crows but at least Miss Aubrey is in), Persona 4: Dancing All Night (because I am gross AND I’M SO EXCITED), Armikrog (The Neverhood was a big part of my childhood so this makes me giddy), Fantasia: Music Evolved (Disney + Harmonix = <3), Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright (This reminds me of an OBJECTION)…

I know I’m missing some that I’m sure I’ll think of later and facepalm when I realize I forgot them. But these are the ones off the top of my head. With that said, here’s Nate with his five!

NATE’S TOP 5

Gauntlet

5.) GAUNTLET – Summer 2014 – I’m a huge fan of co-op games, especially local co-op. There’s nothing quite like 4 people gathered around a TV screaming at each other. Recently I’ve gotten caught up in Dungeon Defenders (which I highly recommend with a group of friends). In my recent Steam search for more co-op gems I discovered Gauntlet, the reboot of a series I enjoyed back in my Nintendo 64 days, will be coming out shortly. Because I need another excuse to continue TV screamathon 2014.


Bloodborne

4.) BLOODBORNE – 2015 – I haven’t been a huge RPG person as of late, and even less of a JRPG person. I’ve kind of gotten the feeling of “played one, played them all”. That all changed when I learned of Dark Souls. 60+ hours later and I’m still as addicted as the day I started playing. So even though I have DS1, DS2, and perhaps Demons Souls to get through, I’m still excited about the next in the franchise: Bloodborne. I’m less excited that I need to buy an entire new console just to play it though.


Below

3.) BELOW – ??? – Developer Capybara first landed into my sights at PAX East 2013. I’ll be honest, there’s nothing I recall that piqued my interest at the time. However after watching the trailer and developer commentary for Below, I’ll just say this: A Link to the Past and Dark Souls had a baby.


Ori and the Blind Forest

2.) ORI AND THE BLIND FOREST – Fall 2014 – I had to pick my jaw up from the floor after the E3 trailer. Absolutely stunning visuals, sound, and what will hopefully be a very compelling story. Plus you know CUTE THINGS! Anyone who enjoys deep platformers (Braid, Limbo, etc) should be on the lookout for this one.


The Witness

1.) THE WITNESS – ??? – Game mechanics are tricky to get right. Too simple and you will leave players bored without a lot of extra to make up for it. To complex, and you will make players frustrated. Braid is very close to my idea of perfect game mechanics. Complex enough that they aren’t immediately obvious, but simple enough that you can learn the pattern(s) and apply it to the puzzles at hand. So naturally I was excited when Braid creator Jonathan Blow announced his next project: The Witness. There doesn’t seem to be a release target, but hopefully it won’t reach Duke Nukem Forever levels of insanity.

Honorable mentions: Project Spark, Evolve, Half Life 3 (I believe)