Halloween is one of my most favourite holidays. In fact, I think the only reason I don't love it quite as much as Christmas is because the UK still hasn't quite cottoned on to it, whereas we've always done Christmas pretty well. I've spent a bunch of Halloweens in America, where I can find whole houses decorated for the occasion, shops embracing cobwebs and plastic spiders and more parties and events than you can shake a spooky stick at. Over here, we're getting better, but we're not quite there yet. I want haunted houses, spooky mazes, themed parties and scary movie cinema marathons!
One thing that's made Halloween a little more awesome though, despite the lack of any 'real life' events, has been the way my favourite video games embrace it! Maybe I can't dress up and go to an awesome party, but my favourite characters can!
League of Legends - The Harrowing
From 2010, League of Legends has enjoyed its own version of Halloween called 'The Harrowing'. Each year is different but they all typically feature special spooky new character and ward skins. One year, the whole main map was transformed into a spooky wonderland of cobwebs and pumpkins, where the health potions were candy corn and where mana came from encrusted apples. This year, as well as some new skins and icons, their 3-man map Twisted Treeline is now part of 'Hexakill', with an awesome new 6-v-6 game mode, and they've also created this gorgeous animated short to advertise the event:
Guild Wars 2 - The Return of the Mad King!
I'm really new to GW2 but I'm really really enjoying it, and I'm so glad I decided to pick the game up just before Halloween! My buddy Luke has been playing for a while and he always said how much fun their Halloween events were, and he wasn't wrong! On launching the game, you're given a letter which opens up a whole crazy area of spooky fun! There are extra quests, games and events all themed around the arrival of the Mad King (and Halloween!), and you can even mine for candy corn!
Team Fortress 2 - Scream Fortress!
Okay, so I've saved the best till last! It's no secret that TF2 is my favourite game of all time, so of course I love their Halloween offering every year! Entitled 'Scream Fortress', each year Valve goes all out to make it a truly awesome little event. Going since 2010, we're now in our sixth year of Halloween madness. 2009 was a simple affair, we were given some masks to wear and achievements to achieve. My personal favourite was 2010, which saw the Horseless, Headless Horsemann make an appearance as a 'boss' enemy we had to defeat ( as well as each other!) In 2011, continuing the boss theme, we had Monocoulous, and then we met Merasmus, who cast spells on us while we played and generally caused havocs during the game. Each event takes place on an awesome reskinned map for the occasion, and is usually accompanied by an amazing little comic to flesh out the whole thing. Last year, following the comic's plot, Redmond and Blutarch, the brothers behind the RED and BLU teams (TF2 has a really complicated story, now!) bickered as ghosts around us, and this year, Mersasmus is back, with a creepy carnival and some awesome tricks, treats and spells (including a TF2 bumper car mode! I mean really?? LOVE it!)
TF2 is such a fun, silly game. It's the game we keep coming back to because it's just so much fun. What's awesome about the TF2 Halloween events is that they're not entirely limited to once a year. The special hats and costumes you get can be used every month when the full moon rises, which makes it even more fun collecting the weirdest, best costumes you can!
So, that's my plan over this Halloween! What about you guys? What do your favourite games do for the season? <3
MCM Expo comes but once a year! Well, twice a year. Well, actually, there's a whole load of MCM Comic Con events now, dotted around the country - but the biggie is the London one, which happens twice, and the biggiest of them all is the London October one.
And it was big.
MCM has had issues with crowding and queuing in the past, but from what I could tell they really managed to resolve it this time 'round. This was the first time MCM actually made full use of the entire building, with both halls spread out and filled to the brim with fun things to see and do. There was also a much larger gaming presence this time around, with plenty of sit-down-n'-play consoles and setups. Sadly, it looks like we've seen the end of the DDR-UK setup with Rock Band, Smash Bros and Street Fighter etc., which is a pity, but can safely say I really liked the direction the whole con is going in.
From a Comic Village point of view, where I had my little table, it was a quiet one for me again. I say this fully aware that I think I do as well, if not better than a lot of the folks in Comic Village, simply for the sheer bulk of stuff I sell, but this year sales have been less than half what I've taken in the past. I'm not sure why, though I've got a few theories. One think I'm tempted to try out is shelling out towards a dealer's table. It'd position me away from other artists and right in the fray amongst the merchants and wholesalers. I'm thinking about this as a good thing - so much of my art is popculture and I think it might appeal to those not necessarily in the market for prints. The dealers area gets so much extra footfall from people who aren't necessarily interested in comics and artwork, and I'm wondering if a table there might just catch more people's eye. Who knows!
When not at the actual convention, my friends and I spent the evenings at the local pub and wine bar, playing Belle of the Ball, a really fun little game I kickstarted a while back, Loveletter, Coup and Magic the Gathering. Oh, and Smash. There was a lot of Smash Bros. played this weekend.
As usual, I didn't take many photos. I rarely get chance to when I'm behind the table so long, and when I do escape I spend so long running around trying to do everything instead! But, here's a few. Mainly League of Legends cosplayers again.
Last weekend, I attended UK Ponycon up in Leicester. It was the first year in a while that I wasn't on committee in some form, so the whole weekend was an excuse to let my hair down, dork out with some wonderful friends, and spend a lot of money on plastic ponies.
Ponycon is a convention that started life as an event for collectors of Hasbro's My Little Pony. It was the perfect place to trade and sell ponies with other collectors. Nowadays, My Little Pony is really popular again with the 'Friendship is Magic' revival, and the convention has taken on a whole lot more. Bronies (adult fans of the new cartoon specifically) and children both joined us oldschool collectors this year and it meant the convention was a lot busier and varied than usual - and it was great!
The actual con had some pretty huge hiccups for me. An after party was advertised, but it was actually an 18+ event which boggles my mind since this is a My Little Pony convention that always put 'family friendly' at its highest priority. What's worse was that the 'after party' was little more than a room with the band in - fully lit, no dancing area, no party lighting. This might have been a little better had the band not been playing for free all day during the convention. We were mislead that the 'after party' ticket included karaoke and a late night panel, two things we found later to be free and available to all.
There was a panel (basically introducing oldschool ponies to Bronies, and explaining the new Brony influx to the collectors) that I attended which was informative and fun - it's always nice getting discussion between Bronies and collectors. I also watched My Little Pony Mr & Mrs, which is always a delight, took part in the traditional Pub Quiz (and our team won!) and watched a bit of karaoke.
Generally, panels and events were a little thin on the ground this year. The past few years have featured screenings and video games as well as a full schedule of panels aimed at both collectors and Bronies. This year, I was hard pressed to find something to do with all my time, and spent most of Sunday just sat around mingling with folks. There were three panels scheduled on Sunday but for some reason they were all on at the same time of the day, so I could only attend one (Mr. & Mrs.) The cosplay masquerade was huge and disorganised and there was no raised stage for them to stand or walk on - even the auction was difficult to watch since there was no stage for the auctioneer to stand on.
Another really disappointing thing was that Ponycon was billed as a two day weekend con, but everything was done by 4pm on Sunday. We forked out a lot of money for a hotel room Sunday evening when we could have probably gone home and saved a lot of money. Considering the convention was selling Sunday Only tickets, this seemed like a really huge oversight and I feel sorry for anyone who purchased one.
BUT, don't let my gripes put anyone off Ponycon! These were all little niggles that are easily fixed with a little organisation next year. The con as a whole was so much fun! I only bought two 'ponies' myself -Baby Pockets and Cha Cha the Llama (who cost a whopping £70 but she's the last one I needed of that set!) My friends Laura and Archer joined me in a Cutie Mark Crusader trio cosplay and we spent half the con just dorking out. We managed to get involved in an adorable art swap on our hotel corridor when somebody left a lovely sketch of Luna outside our door. We started sending art back and would wake up every morning to a new by our mysterious trade partners! We managed to ruin the tone during Mr. & Mrs and I was up until about 4am reading terrible fan fiction out loud to a bunch of people and laughing so loud that guests on the 3rd floor of the hotel could hear us.
It was an amazing weekend, all in all. I absolutely can't wait to go back! I'll probably be helping out in some form next year and I'll certainly have a table to sell some doubles and MLP inspired artwork - this con was busy !
Yesterday, I learned that Wireplay, a company that hosts servers for various games including Team Fortress 2, has closed down. I had no warning, and actually only found out when somebody messaged me asking what had happened to Vikings. CTF_Vikings was the reason I ever cared about Wireplay, and when I discovered that Wireplay had ceased operations, meaning that CTF_Vikings, a dumb map featuring two Viking ships with adjoining gangplanks, had also stopped existing, I was absolutely heartbroken. I still am, really. Writing this blog entry is hard.
For the past six years of my life, Vikings has been everything to me. It's the reason I started to really love TF2, where I found a community of people who would in time evolve to become real, genuine friends. Of course, it's also where I met Moose, who became something a little special in my life. It constantly hits me how unlikely our meeting was, how unlikely it was that he happened to be on the same server, at the same time, as me, Of the thousands of servers out there, somehow this guy in London enjoyed Vikings just as much as me, and returned there every day, just like me. Over the months, Vikings really did become my little social place, like the local pub I'd visit every evening, filled with regulars, and laughter, and silliness.
The regulars created a little 'group' (not a clan!) called the Pantheon of Awesome; the PoA. We were nothing special, a group of folks who had our own little Steam page, who met up on Vikings and, occasionally, other servers. People used to beg to join the PoA, like we had something they all wanted. It was absurd really, thinking back now. All we had was a community, and everyone who joined Vikings was a part of it, whether they were in the PoA or not.
Over time, I became a Wireplay admin. I'll admit, I only did it for Vikings. By then, we were regulars, every night, and knew the tricks and problems, and we knew the problem makers too. Vikings was a simple, crude and ugly map, with faults and problems a little polishing would have fixed easily. Admin work was necessary, we were called in daily - hourly sometimes - to kick or ban idiots. As of Wireplay closing, I was still an admin there. It was something that meant very much to me, because it meant I could take care of Vikings. There were a lot of admins before me, on Wireplay, and some of them were very regular and very involved in Vikings' maintenance, but I felt a special duty to the place for all it had given me.
At some point, a few years ago now, something happened to the servers. I don't know, or don't remember, the details exactly, but the servers broke and were offline for a very long time. Eventually, people moved on, away from Wireplay, or away from TF2 and gaming in general. A lot of the teenagers that once had limitless free time for gaming were now young adults with college and university to contend with. The PoA essentially dissolved, and when the servers finally came back online, they were unplayable, with constant rubber banding and lag that took its toll on the few returning players.
By the time Vikings became stable again, a lot of the older crowd had left, myself included. I still popped on from time to time, sentimentality and nostalgia the prime factor admittedly, but the lure of other games crept in. By now, a small group of PoA folk had moved on together. We had our own Teamspeak server, and took ourselves to other games; Minecraft, Terraria, League of Legends, Starbound. Occasionally, TF2 would sneak back in, and we'd find ourselves back on Vikings, slotting easily back into the rolls we'd always held - basement camp, cannon camp sniper, intel capper, battle medic - and I would admin when need be. It was important to me that the place stay friendly and populated.
I took it personally, really. This server, of all the servers, felt like home. I suppose that's why the closure is so hard for me. To me, this is like visiting my favourite pub, somewhere I frequented every evening, filled with familiar laughter and silliness and friendly faces, to find it torn down to nothing but rubble with no warning, and no notice. There are plenty of other servers, or pubs, or places to call 'home', but this one was the special one. This one mattered, and now this one is gone.
I know this is all daft and sentimental, emotional claptrap, that it's ridiculous to care so much about a game server. I know. But I genuinely can't bring myself to imagine where my life would be without Wireplay, and without Vikings. This January, Moose and I celebrate our fifth anniversary. He's the guy I'm planning my future with, who has shaped the past five years of my life into something utterly unrecognisable from the girl I was before TF2. The majority of friends I have now are people I know through him, or through Vikings itself. Hell, just next weekend I'm going up to London to hang out with our Swedish friend, Anthony, who's here for a week visiting. I met him around the same time as I met Moose, on TF2, in Vikings.
It's crazy. And sad, and empty, now, too. Moose says he wishes that we'd known, that we'd had some notice, so we could play on Vikings one last time and send it out with a bang. I suppose that might have been nice. I don't know if I could have done it, though. I can't imagine signing onto that server, knowing that it'd be the last time I ever did.
So, here's to Anthony, Fecker, Xharag, Saran, Wrath and Fillin, people I speak to every day of my life, who round off every night in Teamspeak with League of Legends or TF2 or Whatever Game We're Currently Into.
To Wunn, Alastor, Rick, Thug, Shas'la, Quinton, Bemon, Statick and Triki, who all still play with us when the mood strikes, who competed in ETF2L's highlanders with us, and who kicked my ass far more times than I'd like to say.
To Sean, Ryan, Abe, Freak, Kyanne, Kingsley, Nibbsy, Rexen, Madman, Pingu, Deva, Kalle, LSD, Lt. Smash (and assorted Smaller Smashes), Spud, Koto - and a bunch of others who all moved on far away from Vikings long ago, but who helped make it the place I remember with such fondness.
And to Moose. Who remains everything.
Goodbye, Wireplay. And goodbye, CTF_Vikings.
I've wanted to attend Eurogamer for a very long time! It's the largest gaming expo in the UK but unfortunately it's always clashed with Moose's university terms and we've been unable to attend until this year, which is kind of prophetic since this is the last year it'll be held in Earls Court, London. The expo is moving up to Birmingham in 2015 which is a bit of a pain (Moose currently lives in London and has family there) but I'll definitely be back next year if I can make it, because we had a really great time!
On Saturday evening, we bought tickets for a Eurogamer after party that was being held at the Namco Funscape arcade on Southbank in London. It was pretty... poor, to be honest. The tickets were only £6 so we didn't lose much, but the main attraction was the offer of free games and bowling, and the sheer amount of people meant we didn't get many goes on any games, and the bowling was a complete no-go. The bar was so busy that it took us about half an hour just to get to the front to order, and a lot of games (the ones that gave prizes, understandably) weren't free anyway. It was nice to say we did it, but I doubt we'd bother again.
We actually only scored tickets for Sunday afternoon so we had to cram a lot into not much time. Because the big blockbuster games were so popular (with really long queues to match), we mainly stuck around the Rezzed (indie gaming) and retro sections, and I finally got a go on an Oculus Rift! I played a bunch of indie games, my favourite of which being Haunt the House: Terrortown, a cute size scrolling puzzle game in which you play a little ghost, where the goal is to scare away (or, y'know, kill) people. It was super addictive and fun. I also spent a ridiculous amount of time on a mobile game called Kitty Powers' Matchmaker - which I started playing for kicks and actually got really into. The humour and sass behind what at first glance was a typical dating game was absolutely hilarious.
Eurogamer was a proper expo, not a convention, and as such it had a really different (and really nice) vibe to it. Don't get me wrong, I obviously love conventions, but this event was a lot calmer, laid back and, frankly, far more my cup of tea. I'll definitely attend again, probably on a Thursday-Friday to avoid the crush so we can actually get a chance on some of the larger games. It's a shame its leaving the Earls Court venue - but sadly I guess it's necessary; Earls Court is being pulled down in the next few years to be turned into flats or something equally vulgar. The building itself is gorgeous, with proper 1930s art deco architecture. I've been there a couple of times now and always loved the event space it housed, and I think it's a great shame that yet another piece of history is being demolished for housing (despite a huge campaign to save it, sadly).
Oh well. Wherever Eurogamer takes us, I'll be there next year, with far more time to spare so I can get my grubby mitts on even more video games. The UK doesn't have many gaming cons, so for now Eurogamer is getting all of my love.
I'm Selena, an artist, blogger and gamer - but maybe not always in that order! Dream Somehow is a blog dedicated to travel, geeky adventures, vintage style and a little bit of Disney Dreaming! If you'd like to learn a little more about me, click here.