All round gaming fan, visit my site at www.TeamVVV.com the site is aimed both at the motor racing enthusiast and the gamer, we'll strive to cover every racing title on every format both past and present in unrivalled depth supported with both guides and analysis. So if you're a gamer or a motor enthusiast new to gaming, everyone is welcome to get stuck into the community and share the passion be it 2 wheels or 4. Team VVV will be following all key racing titles through their release and beyond maintaining the community and aiding developers with feedback and support. This will combine with news on all of the major racing, a monthly round up of notable news in both cars and bikes while focusing on major events surrounding both industries, we'll also be cherry picking the best from the world general gaming. Offering news, in-depth features and interviews with major players from both the motor and games industries asking the questions you want answered and putting real gamers and motor enthusiasts in front of the new products rather than just journalists who have no real passion at ground level.
It's been a while since my last blog post, a busy year but it hasn't quite held all I've been hoping but with E3 coming up it's good to regain that excitement. This years E3 represents a step very much into the unknown, yes we know Natal (or whatever it will be called) will be there along with Move and 3D-DS but the software is completely unknown at this stage and I'm hoping for a few surprises.
On the racing front it's all GT5 but word is that the Criterion Need For Speed is shaping up nicely and then Codies with their ever popular F1. So I'll be on for the conferences, those usual dulcet tones from Reggie as 50cent comes on to show how cool the new Gameboy is, :P so I'm going to get ready, hard work ahead and if you haven't been, always feel free to check out my rambles at www.VVVGamer.com
So Christmas has come and gone and we enter a new year with all of the hopes and aspirations it brings. For me I'd like to expand my local gaming community, arrange meet-ups and talk about my passions so if you'd like to learn more, keep reading :)
VVV Gamer is all about every aspect of automotive gaming, from Forza to Outrun, Virtua Racing to Gran Turismo, Mario Kart to iRacing, basically racing on any format, if you love it, we love it. We also cover the motor industry, meeting racing stars and discussing their careers, below are a few VVV stars from 2009.
Right now we're looking to grow our community team and an our community staff in general. In particular we're looking for London UK based (or near to London) racing fans who are over 18. As well as the online action I'm keen to build a group where we can meet up, go for a few beers and discuss our racing passions, giving a personal edge. You don't have to be the best player in the world (of course if you are its a bonus haha) but personality and getting involved on the site is what we're all about.
Of course running a site like VVV requires a lot of work and so we're looking for community staff, helping with competitions, or writing articles, of in you're concerned about your writing skills, whack up a few blogs? And who knows, if you put the work in, you may get some opportunities in return? Some VVV members already have.
A passion for cars or bikes? Show us your ride? If you've got a gaming set-up you want to show off, lets see that too and don't forget to add us on Facebook, Twitter or Youtube!
The key thing is no pressure, just a relaxed place to talk about your passion with like minded people and have an active hand in developing the site. So we welcome all new comers, please feel free to say hello on our forums and get stuck in!
Well another year passes, another Christmas comes and goes, rather typically I've been burning the candle at both ends and ended up being run-down on the big day. No new games on Christmas day for me this year, its the first time thats happened for as long as I can remember, becoming a fulltime gaming journalist meaning I get many of the titles as they're released. But then things are different, not like say 20 years ago when I only ever got games at Christmas.
But I'm still having never ending fun on the Gran Turismo Academy Demo, the more I play it, the more I realise how subtly brilliant the handling really is. It's important I remember my gaming routes though, always helps in keeping that passion, a few games of ThunderFore 4 I needed I think, though nothing on XB Live arcade is grabbing me at the moment, lets hope Raiden Fighters gets a UK release soon.
Last Sunday I attended a rather unusual invitation, that being the Grand International Cosplay Ball. This of course being something slightly outside of my usual remit but itís the lifestyle of gamers, gaming and their associated hobbies that really interest me. Itís often inspiring to see the passion from every aspect, be it motoring or gaming, in taking it that stage further, people releasing their own creative influence. Indeed Cosplay is an interesting phenomenon, I use that word because though itís been acceptable in Japan for many years itís only in recent times that itís began to properly expand in European markets. Popular in Japan, Cosplay is huge and almost common place, the Japanese like to dress up, not as a sexual event but by a fun form of action, essentially acting out their favourite video game or anime characters, you get the chance to be someone else, completely transform while having a great deal of fun.
Moving to Europe and it was initially a cliquey affair, almost dominated by niche Anime fans itís expanded due to a more publicly acceptable approach. Very similar to video games themselves, taking a committed hardcore to expand and rightly so, itís a fun and welcoming scene, though be prepared to drop those inhibitions. This is now backed up by shows such as the MCM Expo we reported on in October with many thousands of visitors attending, demonstrating a healthy level of growth even if it is still not fully understood by many of the general public.
So onto my personal experience of the Ball, located in the decadent surroundings of the Clapham Grand night club, itís a perfect scene for this kind of event. Spread over 4 floors there are loads of places to route around or find your own space. On walking in I was instantly impressed with the quality of costumes, stunning examples that wouldn't have been out of place on a movie set. This being an awfully long way from the poorly made ill fitting examples of yesteryear. Everything was covered from period drama to Disney to anime, gaming and Hollywood. Finding my feet and it was time for a few snaps, and how handy it is for a photographer to find willing participants, everyone was friendly and approachable, as ever a very welcoming atmosphere.
The stage performances were also well selected, a varied range of musical talent and stage live action, suiting the atmosphere. Indeed it was entertaining to hear one the singers hitting the Initial D style tracks, always brings a smile to my face. The longer the evening went on the better it became, not least helped by ever consuming alcohol but on saying that it was a fun and sensible crowd though it has to be said, the drinks certainly weren't cheap. But that didn't stop everyone having a great time and indeed I took the opportunity to bust out VVV Afro Ninja. As you can see he wow'ed the crowds with his unique ninja stylee, or maybe his ninja skills made him just too invisible.
As the night wore on and my feet began to feel the strain it was time to head out into the pouring rain and make my way home but as a closing thought, the Cosplay Ball was both welcoming and entertaining and if you haven't investigated the scene its worth popping along to one of the major Expo's. I for one will be looking forward to covering future events, roll on 2010.
Earlier last week I was invited along to the historic Silverstone race track where Iíd get the opportunity to race Forza 3, then go onto the circuit and see how our skills had improved. As a racing fan this is always a wonderful opportunity to view behind the scenes; in this case a nose around above the pit straight. A bit like ďThrough the Key HoleĒ except you donít meet the owner (or in this case BRDC members), damn I was dying to meet Damon Hill alas that will have to wait, still its very exciting having a nose and rummage, while appreciating the classic events this venue has seen over the years.
A great view above the pit lane, the Champions Room as seen after any given Grand Prix[/B]
On to the morning breakfast briefing and as the racing gaming community expert of the day it was my job to do my bit in informing a range of journalists on the basics of the games content and clean driving, gear changes and braking markers, then giving some helpful assistance where required. Initially it was slow progress but continued practice yielded greater results, of course there was that pre race tension in the air. A great buzz at a circuit, from karting to track racing youíll always feel it before you step into car and get on with the job at hand, everyone just wanted to get their experience and for first timers its always a fear of the unknown, as they sign their lives away on the regular racing forms. Its funny, Iíve been here many times but the buzz of excitement of getting to a new piece of the circuit or behind what are usually closed doors always gets me, imagine watching the Grand Prix from this viewpoint.
Informing the gathered press on the key details Forza 3 contains before giving a driving demonstration
Running the South circuit it was unfortunate that this happened to be the only variant not featured in the game, hence FM3 practice sessions were conducted on the Grand Prix circuit in the Lotus Exige. Following a briefing by the racing instructor it was off to Stowe Corner where lucky journalists would have their opportunity to try the real thing, how would it square up? The Lotus Exige is a very sporty car, a low centre of gravity combined with great power to weight ratio makes it great fun for anyone to drive while giving that racy experience. So making our way down to the corner itís a quick scenic tour of the typically freezing circuit before pulling up next to the two motors that would be the feature of the dayís events.
Mike the Instructor gives an explanation of what we'll be doing
Stowe cabin, our cosy'ish home for the day
Helmets at the ready and the all important, lifesaving heater fan
Alas I couldnít fit into the car or indeed out of the car, but in preparation for this I rolled in Pat; Pat was our cameraman of the day and has supported VVV in many ways over the years so it was nice to give something back. Concealing his enthusiasm he goes for a quick spin around the circuit while I take a few sporty snaps, first a couple of slow laps by the instructor then its time to swap drivers. I asked Pat to give his impressions of the racing experience:
Lotus Exiges at the ready, alas I tried in vein to fit in but with no joy
My years of Yoga and study of special circus contortion techniques came in handy for me when it came to entering the side window of the lotus (Oh sorry was that the door?). You suddenly feel your world has shrunk, surrounded by the race spec roll cage interior of any given racing car; I do up my very elaborate safety belt/harness, as my instructor talks me through what we would be doing today. First a two lap warm up of the Southern circuit by my instructor, with me sitting in the passenger seat as he shouts out over the roar of the engine what gears will need to be selected for each corner, when to accelerate when to brake and also where i need to be positioned on approach to the bends I feel fully confident in taking this power house around the track and giving it my all.
Pat pushes a bit harder in his later laps The time arrives to swap positions and for me to demonstrate my skills, ( I havenít told the instructor that I already own a fiercely powerful supercar, a 1994 1L fiat Panda. So I expect that vast experience of darting around the Streets of London at 29 miles per hour in the Panda will hold me in good stead. Seatbelts sorted, seating position adjusted and Iíme ready to go, noticing the Pedals are tight, the gear stick is tight, everything feels very close together, forget luxury this is a racing machine!
Pat = Racing Hero
First gear selected, I over-rev the engine darting forward, 2nd Gear, working progressively though the gears reaching 120 MPH and now learning about speed deception. I could compare it to Forza 3, only that instead of hurtling off the track and pressing the rewind button, my friendly instructor shouts "BRAKE!" as i approach a right hand bend, ok so shifting down to 3rd and taking the corner smoothing, accelerating out at some crazy speeds. After a few laps my instructor has a quick talk and explains a few things to increase my speed and handle the car better, so off we go again this time keeping a constant speed around the corners instead of the aggressive and somewhat jerky accelerate/brake/accelerate method I had previously been using. Much smoother driving follows, picking up my vision in to the distance and breezing around the track. The handling of this car is excellent; every bump every turn is felt giving great feedback while I improve my overall feel of the car and circuit.
Note the brake disks used as weights, previous remains of an unlucky spectator
Following a 2 hour session it was back to the pits and a that all important test to see if the driving experience of the real circuit could improve those in-game lap times. The result was a resounding yes with all contenders at least 5 seconds a lap faster, all noticing the key details of the real course expertly recreated within the game. So following his racing experience and as someone not totally sold on the video game realisation first time around, how did Pat find Forza 3 now?
Itís hard putting this kind of experience into words, so Iíve picked out a few key bullet points, main differences and benefits of playing Forza 3 and real race driving are as follows:
1) You donít have any danger of dying if you crash in the game.
2) Game has rewind button / real life doesnít.
3) Electricity costs a lot less then Petrol and i would imagine this baby uses a lot of petrol!
Finally i would like to suggest how you can add a little bit more realism whilst racing along with Forza 3:
1) Play Forza as normal with a wheel set up, use a racing seat and TV positioned fairly closely; important to wear a crash helmet!
2) Position your washing machine / tumble dryer / electric drills/ lawn mower / cement mixing machine and anything else that makes a lot of noise behind you and switch them all on when racing (replicate amazingly loud engine sound).
3) Have someone who shouts really loud sit next to you shouting "Brake" "Accelerate" "get to the left you idiot" and have this someone occasionally take the wheel from you to correct your racing line.
4) Have a few other people kicking the bottom of your chair every now and again for when you touch the sides or spin off in to the distance.
5) On that note you could also have someone nearby with a few very angry dogs to be unleashed if you crash or spin off (Simulate crash injuries ) - could provide adrenaline rush.
So some helpful advice on replicating the experience but did it result in better times for Pat? Yes again he was faster, noting the exact details present in the game and replicated perfectly in the FM3 realisation ďits perfectĒ noted Pat, ďI can see all of the markers just where they are on the real track and recognize every corner, its identical to the real thingĒ. Its great seeing this test working but this is where driving games are quite unlike any other gaming experience. Driving games require exactly the same controls to play the game as it would a real car, the feeling is of common sense and the heightened perception from being in a real racing environment it what worked to improve these drivers. Coming back they focused on what they would do in the real car, what braking markers to look for and how to get out of trouble, how to hit apexes; keep consistent apex speed and acceleration, overall how to be a better driver.
You canít replicate the visceral feeling of being in a racing car but if you can detach that element and look to the basic operations and interaction of the driver its all here and as technology improves itíll only become better. Overall a successful experiment and this is what VVV is all about, gaming fans getting into real racing and vice versa, it gives an opportunity many of us will never experience while the safety of never risking our lives.
If there's one thing about racing, it always brings a smile to everyone's face
Wrote this a couple of weeks ago but thought I'd share it here, the MCM Expo has been running for several years now, from its humble beginnings the show has grown to a behemoth of, for want of a better word "creative culture". From anime, to gaming, Sci Fi to cosplay, everything is covered with the offering always expanding.
Having been several times myself, it can be a mixed bag so embarking on my journey I went along not knowing what to expect, always finding shows within the genre to be a mixed bag. These depending heavily on the product range displayed or the quality of entries to the ever popular and ever growing cosplay competitions. On arriving at Docklands Custom House Excel Center I immediately felt a huge buzz in the air, great waves of cosplay fans surrounding the venue.
Let us just add that Snow White is definitely the fairest of them all...
Battling through the huge crowds, everyone was having great fun with a friendly atmosphere, while mixing and open for a natter about any aspect of their given passion. Working my way into the main hall and it was encouraging to see support from games companies increasing in its variety, the Expo is an ideal opportunity to show off gaming wares to a more mixed audience and there's no doubt all who attended were glad they did, all around were positive comments, especially from key Community Managers. Indeed more than just playing games, Koei were selling a range of wares while running show activity really embracing the atmosphere of the show. Capcom, Namco Bandai and Sega also consolidating their ever dedicated following though alas the Bayonetta girl was not present, a missed opportunity but there were more than enough *ahem* sexy cosplay opportunities present.
Elsewhere on the show floor, we found a full size fully working Halo Warthog, a stunning replica of the iconic in-game vehicle; we had a chat with the owner and will be running more in-depth content relating to this soon. Indeed there were other automotive displays including the ever popular Ghostbusters car and a surprising replica of the Back to the Future Delorian, complete with all working internals and accurate movie props, a surprising but exciting find.
Of course from the many stands selling unique bitsín pieces to the all important cosplay competitions and this was an area that has always required investment, happily the organisers have finally addressed this issue with quite frankly the best organisation and selection of cosplay Iíve ever seen. Exquisitely designed costumes were all abound and great kudos to those who really pulled it off, indeed Iíve never seen so many attendees in costume and it demonstrates how the show continues to go from strength to strength, expect an even bigger turnout next year.
Overall itís a great day out, with the options to make new likeminded friends from a range of fantasy genres, but be warned you will need some spare cash as there are simply too many goodies on offer, I for one will be back next year but until then Iíll leave you with a range of pictures of our adventures.
So to finish off the day, how about a bit of music from a rather unusual band...