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Salt Lake Gaming Con 2016


A few weeks before the convention opened, the Salt Lake Comic Con (SLCC) (the larger, more powerful convention here in Salt Lake City) purchased 50% of the ownership of the Salt Lake Gaming Con (SLGC). At first I was curious as to what that meant, exactly. The SLCC is a ruthless corporate machine willing to turn the hearts and souls of Nerddom into a quick profit. Arriving at SLGC, I instantly smelled the essence of the Comic Con. They’re well known for their lack of preparedness and Kafkaesque queue lines and entry system. Last year at Gaming Con, the press was invited to arrive a day early. We received information packets detailing the coming events of the weekend. We were shown around the places and told where useful things were. The press room was in a back corner. It was nice and quiet; a decent space to work. The room was filled with water and occasionally snacks.

all hail our new overlords
                                            all hail our new overlords

Comic Con has a clear fuck-the-press attitude, which was made more than clear at their main event last year. Here at Gaming Con 2016 things are not quite as organized as they were last year, and I blame it on the new interference of Comic Con.

(This woman was so nice)
                                                                      Best Cosplay at the con

Starting off, we were shown around the exhibit hall by a coordinator and eventually led to the press area; a small corner right next to a giant TV. At this point, the journalists and I started questioning where our press passes were. The response we got was: “There might not be any.” No fucking Press Passes! This is the one thing that lets me talk to developers and booth operators with a bit more authority than the standard con-goer. Later I learned that before the takeover, press passes were, in fact printed. When Comic Con came in, the passes were all scrapped and a new design was created. We eventually did get press passes a few hours into the con, but the lack of knowledge about it was what really threw me off.FILE0033

Everything has been so spotty. “Right now I’m working without Internet in the press room. Christ Alive! Why is there no usable Internet here? We have to share with the PC open play area. I can’t load a fucking website to save my life.” Yup, this is the stink of the fuck-the-press mentality mentioned earlier. The Press Coordinator was doing his best to try and help us, but he knew about as much of what was going on as we did. The Internet we were promised never came. Other press members resorted to using their phone as a hot spot to connect to something. I sat there in vain, refreshing my webpage again and again. Walking around the con I could definitely tell there were some major changes. Things felt more like Comic Con than a typical gaming con.FILE0041 The vendors were the main attraction this year (in the past the developers and gamer’s were the main focus). The booths set up for them took up a large space and were definitely the centerpieces. Now it was a bit different this time. There was still a space for developers…it was just smaller. Some developers were allocated weird corners and tiny booths, shoved away to make room for the moneymakers. It was like developers were here just to meet some sort of quota.

“Ok, we now have enough video games here to call it a ‘video game convention.’ Now let’s get more people selling pop! figures”.

The infection spreads
                                                                          The infection spreads

To the con’s credit there were huge areas where people could play video games. Rows of PCs were set up for anyone to jump on and play. A lot of people just spent the entire con in this area, having a good time playing Overwatch or League of Legends. There was a large section for board games, and an even bigger one for tabletop RPGs. This was definitely refreshing to see, and one of the few decisions made by the original Gaming Con management.


Once again the people who truly shined here were the ones who showed off their art, rather than trying to make a quick profit off of the con-goers. The Utah Games Guild (UGG) was back to show off some new projects, as well as some improved from last year. Titles such as Crashnauts and Legacy of the Elder Star have returned, donning shiny new designs.

One such new game was We Must Go Deeper, an illustrated 2D co-operative submarine experience.FILE0151 Each players mans a different part of the sub, such as helm or weapons. They work together to reach the bottom of the sea and fight a deadly giant squid. The game is still in development right now, but I’m very excited to take a look at it once it’s ready. During the demo, I played in the weapons section. I had to manually load each torpedo I fired. I had to run around the sub, wrench in hand, fixing holes that sprang up due to the attacking sea creatures.

Another title was Ethos, a dark AMMORPG rumored to have an entirely player-driven economy, and boasting Dark Souls-like combat mechanics. The demo featured a boss fight against a massive troll. Right now they only have a “proof of concept” ready. But if they take their time and refine what I played, they could have something truly special. I’ll definitely be following the development of this game as it progresses.FILE0159

The people over at UGG are working hard on their games. It was amazing to talk to them about their progress and aspirations. This group is certainly dedicated to their art. I love the UGG’s ideals. Like-minded people are brought together to collaborate and bounce ideas off one another. It’s great to have other creative people around you while you work. It really shows in their games.

One thing that was pretty exciting was the abundance of VR at the con. There are a lot of places who were just using VR as a gimmick to sell their products. One product was a VR Cardboard. Purchasing one of these got you 15 minutes in the HTC Vive. Another booth just had a Vive and an Oculus Rift set up. For the price of $10 you could spend 10 minutes on their systems (except Microsoft for some reason). This is the only free VR experience I’ve found here; although it was only for 5 minutes and the line was huge. This seemed bizarre, since you’d assume Microsoft would be the first to try and lure people into buying something, or even more heinous pre-order a game. However, Microsoft was just sponsoring another group.

Steven Ogg Playing VR
                                                                     Steven Ogg Playing VR

Wil Brown, head of the Utah Virtual Reality (UVR) meetup group, has done a great job of setting up and showing off the wonders of VR. To hear him talk about working in VR space was simply incredible. He has such a passion for it and I couldn’t help but see just how amazing the technology actually was. He should have had his own panel, instead of stupid shit like the dumb PS4 vs. Xbox One debate they gave him. I’ve set up some special deals with Wil and will be covering UVR here in the near future. In my random chats with Wil, we discussed some incredible stuff. We talked about the Vive and the Oculus. But then he showed me something that isn’t on the market yet, and something to which few developers have access: the Microsoft HoloLens. This mixes both reality and virtual reality into the perfect sci-fi experience…or it will once it’s ready for consumers. As of right now it’s just a “developer’s kit”; Microsoft trying to create some programs for it. At most you can create 3D images that sit in the middle of real space. From what I experienced with it though, this is the dawn of the future. Soon enough this thing and things like it will be widely available.FILE0015

On the non-video side of gaming, there was plenty to see…surprisingly so. Piazo, a tabletop RPG company was there to host some Pathfinder Society games. An employee for Piazo held a panel about upcoming releases and general RPG talk. FILE0003The panel was pretty small but the people attending were all interested in RPGs, so it led to some good discussion. Additionally, I decided that it’d be fun to do a bit of role-playing. I sat down for an hour-long session of D&D and played Lockwood, the arrow-slinging animal whisperer. Although I tend to enjoy other systems more, it was really enjoyable to revisit good ol’ Dungeons and Dragons. This is what the con was truly about. This was the best part; a few strangers sitting down and sharing a hobby. Despite all the corporate chicanery, stuff like this was still able to shine through. It’s easy to get caught up in the money-hungry nonsense that conventions draw, but at the heart of it all these are still these brief moments of happiness and excitement.


-Jordan Kamm-

Haven Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan

Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, Raphael

Four turtles and a very intelligent rat who got covered in glowing mutagen ooze, became humanoid and smarter. Aside from becoming as smart as humans, they have an unnatural caving for pizza, partying and talking in surf lingo. Not only do they have the names of four famous Renaissance artists, they are also highly skilled ninjas. Eventually they crawled out from the sewers and decided it was a good idea to fight crime, as the city is infested with “Foot Ninjas” commanded by the terrible masked Ninja Lord “Shredder” and his

Worst bomb disarming scenario ever!

questionable henchmen. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) is a comic book turned into an animated series, then another series and one more series after that (not to mention several games). Personally, I never grew up with the turtles, but I’ve watched some here and there in different incarnations. Some of them are actually quite good and very entertaining. Regretfully, English is my second language and I can’t pronounce the name of this game! TMNT is an action game, where you fight as one turtle, while the rest is CPU-controlled. You can also play with others online. Let me tell you, the AI is not very smart, nor is combat rewarding, interesting or engaging at all; you will die a lot. Luckily, reviving is as simple as pressing the correct key. This is at least a thing the computer is very good at, they are quite relentless in their quest for revival. Too bad this does not hold true for survival. The basic strategy is to beat things until they stop moving, and flail at floating foes! The enemy is not much better. The lot of them can get stuck in different places and spawn out of nowhere. The worst example of this is a bomb-diffusal mission in the middle of a subway track with speeding trains. Unless the timing was picture-perfect, it was impossible to disarm the bomb.

A visually confusing slow mo finish!

This is done by holding down a key until a bar is filled. The moment I was almost done, the damn train ran me over and flung me into another oncoming train, which in turn made me a permanent wall fixture. That is the biggest problem with the game. Sequences where I have to transport something somewhere are total crap…even if they did an honest attempt at making it varied, such as balancing on a ball. Fortunately, there is a silver lining to it all. Most of these minor quests only incur a light penalty if failed. However they all have a pesky timer. Each level has a boss at the end, who is taken straight out of the turtles rogue gallery, and they are all dumb as stones. That’s saying something when one of the more beefy mooks roaming the levels is just that, a rock soldier!


Anyone familiar with the way Platinum Games handles combat, then there is not much to say. One of the level’s random orbs has a small chance of dropping a random usable item and points that can be used to upgrade abilities. When the player reaches a certain level, each turtle can be equipped with four different abilities and charms, which add extra bonuses. Other special attacks have a healthy cooldown timer. All turtles can spam shuriken and normal attacks, When the enemy eventually glows red or orange, the player can dodge and instantly retaliate, with correct timing. Don’t expect your AI partner to do such things. It will just do a relentless series of attacks and focus on reviving its allies, including the player. Every now and then it’s possible to stealth-kill enemies that have not seen you yet. It’s possible to give the AI different orders, but those just make them even dumber and more useless. The best bet is to wail at the enemy with sharp pointy things instead. It’s totally possible to grind on any sort of railing in the levels, from feces to pipes and electric cords, where live wires could be considered a serious problem.

Multiplayer is a very streamlined and simple process. However it’s not possible to turn voice capture off; only to set the volume to zero. Luckily there are very few annoying kids to play with. I’m not convinced people actually play this game or know of its existence. Bosses are terrible things with annoying patterns and horrid attacks that must be dodged at all costs. The environment is also littered with ulockables, such as comic book covers from the original series. Too bad it’s not the comics themselves.  Replayability comes from the different difficultly levels, skills to unlock and grinding.

TMNT is the riveting poster boy for being repetitive. The music is composed of short loops that keep on going and going and going. I can’t stand those at all. The fact that the whole cast has way too few lines does not help at all, either. Hurling ninja stars will cause the current turtle to switch between two lines of dialogue, which are not very good. The voices are okay for the most part. The models in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are decent, cartoonish and quite polished. The same goes for the levels, that unfortunately reuse assets a lot. The new sewer system clearly goes all the way down to the center of the earth and also comes with an intelligent sewer shark. Despite how similar the turtles look, there has been a vague attempt at giving them different personalities (aside from their tell tale weapons and color-coded masks). One is a glutton and a walking joke, while one is kind of serious and short-tempered. Then there is the overexplained geek and the snarky thrill-seeker. The voices and cut scenes are not bad, and the character animations are decent, I’ll give the game that.

Game play video, its a must watch!

Personally I can’t recommend this title at all, unless you happen to be a masochistic die-hard turtle fan, and are also bored. At least it has a decent frame rate, polished graphics and cartoon-like art direction. A friend or two is recommended for optimal happy fun time.

If you feel like it, here is the Steam store page.


Disclaimer:  We received this game for review purposes only. As such, all views in this article are our own. No money has been exchanged for this review.

-Njål H Sand-

Haven Editorial: Conversations with Nicki Rapp




Information was taken from meeting and talking with Nicki Rapp at various instances at the convention, and not just from one main interview. I first met Nicki at her booth on the convention floor, we had a lovely conversation about the basics of her career. I wanted to ask her about her favorite characters, upcoming projects, and general information about working as a voice actress.


She was being promoted by the convention as the voice of Lily from The Walking Dead. Although, this being her most famous role, it wasn’t her favorite to play. Her favorite was the character of Lili from Psychonauts by Double Fine. Nicki told me that it’s one of the characters that she’s played that she best connects to. I lightheartedly replied by telling her Lili was my favorite character from Psychonauts, and probably out of all the characters I’ve seen her in so far. For the most part Nicki has worked in voicing characters in Adventure games. She’s worked with both Double Fine (Tim Schafer being a close friend of hers) and Tell Tale, whom she has probably worked the most for. Including titles like The Walking Dead, Tales of Monkey Island, and Sam and Max. She also voiced children in both Sims 2 and Sims 3. As she has demonstrated she is still able to easily create Simlish. She said that if she thinks too hard about it the language doesn’t come. She has to completely shut off her brain to do that kind of improv. She also mentioned to me a couple of upcoming projects she’s been involved in. Including Firewatch by developer Campo Santo, who is made up of members of both Double Fine and Tell Tale. She plays a character named Lilly, as kind of an inside joke for those who know her previous work. She also mentioned a Cartoon Network Mini-series coming out called Long Live the Royals. Where she plays a character named Alex. She went into more detail about that in a press interview that was held.



“I Booked the pilot four years ago. And my agent had told me that if it gets picked up it’s possible that they won’t keep me. Because I’m not a celebrity.” “I got the Email and the call saying this is what’s going on, but they were inviting me to re-audition.” “I literally have $500 in my bank account, I spent it all to get to LA from Oakland, and I did it. And I saved it, and I got it. It felt so good and victorious.”

She was very excited to be getting this project. I asked her if she wants to do more cartoons, and she told me that working for Cartoon Network was on of her career dreams from the very beginning. She said that cartoons were the biggest reason for getting into voice acting in the first place. She would rush home from school everyday to watch Animaniacs. She was ecstatic to get to go into the CN studio and have her name on the audition list. I’m definitely Excited for it myself, and to see where it goes after the mini-series is over.

“I was listening to Tress Macneille, being Dot, and I was like wait, I could do that. I could totally dolilly that.”

She spoke the most about her biggest role, Lilly Caul in The Walking Dead in her panel. She said that Lilly was absolutely the most serious role she’s ever played. Which Nicki actually liked. She said that it was the first time she was really able to show off her acting chops. She said that the way she got her voice to be like Lilly’s was to go to a voice range she calls “LadyTown.” It’s definitely a range she loves to go to, even saying that it feels good to do. Like a massage on the throat. However, most studios hire her for her higher more bubbly voice. Tell Tale was the first to actually want her to use “LadyTown,” and now that she has such a well known character in that range under her belt, she hopes that more studios will let her explore the various ranges of her voice more often.

Nicki is an amazing voice actress and a wonderful person to have had these conventions with. I’m more than excited to closely follow her upcoming work, and interested to see where the future will lead her.

If you are interested following Nicki’s work, please check out Firewatch, , and Long Live the Royals, both scheduled to be released sometime this year.

Thanks again to Nicki Rapp for these wonderful conversations.

-Jordan Kamm-