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My name is Wayne Chamberlain and I'm a geek daddy who is into Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, books, movies, video games and talking to creative people about their work in these mediums. And that's what you'll find here, along with news, previews and reviews. I'm a journalist, an editor and co-host of the Star Wars Book Report podcast. So come on in and feel free to geek out in a fun, friendly environment.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Geeky news and notes from the past week

Some weird, wacky and wonderful tidbits from the past week for you to chew on:
* The 11th annual NAVGTR (The National Academy of Video Game Testers and Reviewers) will be announcing the final nominees for its awards on Feb. 15. The event, which honours the best of video game art, technology and production, will be presided over by actors Tom Sizemore and Tara Platt. Not sure if this qualifies as community service for Sizemore, who has had a few run-ins with the law, but as a game reviewer (though not a member of this group) I am always keen to stay on top of what’s going on in the gaming industry.
* Feb. 28 marks the day that PlayStation 3 users who are members of the Call of Duty Elite Premium service will be able to get their first two DLC (downloadable content) packages.
Liberation and Piazza are their names.
Liberation, a militarized Central Park in the heart of NYC, features a vast landscape ripe for long-range sniper and LMG kills. Mounted turrets on opposing ends of the map offer overwhelming firepower to anyone brave enough to man them, says game publisher Activision in a release.
Piazza, meanwhile, is set in an idyllic seaside village, an Italian getaway gone rogue, where blind corners and a complex network of branching pathways pose danger at every turn. Visceral close-quarters combat dominates in Piazza, and attacks from above and below are an ever-constant threat.
* I attended my first Fan Expo Canada in 2011 and enjoyed it, despite some rough spots with some of the overly aggressive and uninformed volunteers.
Patrick Stewart has been announced as one of the headline guests for 2012.  The Brit thesp is best known for his roles as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation and as Professor Charles Xavier in the X-Men films.
Fan Expo Canada 2012 is also going to play host to writer/director Kevin Smith and his actor/pal Jason Mewes. They will be performing their show Jay and Silent Bob Get Old on Friday, Aug. 24, at 8 p.m. Tickets for the show are $39 for general admission, or a $69 (hey, it’s Kevin Smith) priority package that nets you better seating, a limited edition 8x10 autographed photo of Kevin and Jason and a complimentary one-hour preview of Fan Expo Canada.
Fan Expo Canada 2012 takes place at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre from Aug. 23-26.
* Good news for Star Wars gaming fans this week as The Old Republic looks to be a success out of the gate.
The Massively Multiplayer Online game, from Canada’s BioWare Corp. and LucasArts, has sold more than two million copies and publisher Electronic Arts says in a press release that there are more than 1.7 million active subscribers playing the story-driven title.
“We’re truly honored and humbled by the incredibly strong support from our players who are enjoying Star Wars: The Old Republic,” said Dr. Ray Muzyka, co-founder of BioWare and general manager of EA’s BioWare Label, in a release. “Our entire team worked very hard over the holidays to deliver a smooth experience at launch and the resulting response to the game from our fans and critics has been exceptionally gratifying.”
Added Dr. Greg Zeschuk, co-founder of BioWare and general manager of the BioWare MMO Business Unit: “We’re actively listening to our community for ongoing feedback to help us ensure the game and service continue to improve, and we’re working to deliver spectacular new high quality content on a regular cadence going forward.”
According to EA, there have been more than 239 million in-game hours, or more than 332,000 months and 27,000 years of in-game time played in the first month. There were over 20 billion NPCs killed and more than 148 billion credits spent.
I’ve had some time with the game and it’s definitely enjoyable. I plan to publish a review when I’ve spent a bit more time with it, so stay tuned.
* In the mood for some arcade titles? Well, Xbox Live has launched a new campaign called House Party.
Starting Feb. 15, 360 gamers can access a new downloadable game every Wednesday through to March 7. As a reward, if you buy all four of the games, you’ll receive 800 Microsoft Points, Xbox states in a press release.
Up first on Feb. 15 is Warp, from Electronic Arts, which costs 800 MS Points. You will play as Zero, an alien with a big score to settle in this puzzle-based stealth action game. Captured by the villainous Commander and imprisoned in his underwater facility, Zero must plan his ultimate escape using his arsenal of alien abilities — warp, frag, echo, swap and launch.
On Feb. 22, Alan Wake’s American Nightmare goes on sale for 1200 points. In this stand-alone game, novelist turned action hero Alan Wake fights the evil Mr. Scratch.
On Feb. 29, THQ delivers Nexuiz for 800 points. An arena-based first-person shooter, the game explores a reality TV show where you can alter the rules of the match and the laws of physics while dominating opponents in ever-changing hostile environments.
And then on March 7, Ubisoft launches I Am Alive, for 1200 points.
One year after a worldwide cataclysmic event wiped out most of humanity, a man struggles for survival. Faced with an insecure, decaying and hazardous world, he scours a desolate city, searching for his long-lost wife and daughter. Survive the suffocating, murky streets covered in dust. Climb the teetering remains of last-standing skyscrapers to reach breathable air and find untouched resources. Explore the crumbling ruins of a once-thriving metropolis. Discover a changed human condition, punctuated by distrustful survivors, dangerous armed gangs and victims in need. 
Sounds fun.
* Capcom confirmed that Resident Evil 6 is a go. It will be releasing Nov. 20 this year. Can’t wait.
* And finally this week, if you like some arcade action before or after you take in a movie at the theatre, Canada’s Cineplex Entertainment announced it has merged its New Way Sales Gaming with the amusement game and vending assets of Toronto-based Starburst Coin Machines. 
The new venture, Cineplex Starburst Inc., will form the largest distributor and operator of arcade games to the amusement industry in Canada.  The deal is worth approximately $4.5 million.
Starburst has supplied and serviced the arcade games located within all of the original Famous Players brand theatres for many years.  They also supply equipment to numerous arcades, amusement centers, bowling alleys, amusement parks and theatre circuits, in addition to owning and operating Playdium, the Family Entertainment Centre in Mississauga.
New Way supplies and services the equipment located within Cineplex Odeon and Galaxy Cinemas in addition to a number of other businesses. Following the merger, Cineplex Starburst Inc., will supply and service all Cineplex Entertainment theatres across Canada and continue to supply and support numerous other third parties.
Cineplex is the largest motion picture exhibitor in Canada and owns leases or has a joint-venture interest in 130 theatres with 1,352 screens serving approximately 70 million guests annually.

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