Monday, May 27, 2013

Cosplayer Interviews from AwesomeCon DC

Hey all, regarding my BioShock on a Budget project for AwesomeCon DC, ATMEtv DC posted a YouTube video of the costume contest which includes interviews with a number of the awesome cosplayers in attendance, including us! You can check it out below.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Redefining Hunger Games...

I love, love , love Jennifer Lawrence.  But somehow I don't think her eating habits will help me get in shape for Comic Con.
Any other time, I'm right there with ya, sister!
I love eating. "Work out to pig out" is a mantra I have embraced in the past. I would never take on a diet that left me starving all the time.  While I have still been eating reasonably since starting the Getting in Shape for Comic Con initiative, I didn't realize how unbalanced my diet has actually been for the last, oh, ten years of my life. I don't eat much junk food, but I certainly have not been eating the right kinds of things to recover from workouts, keep my energy level up, and slim down.  Case in point: on a rigorous workout day--one where I am burning 800-1000 calories with high intensity interval training--I need to be consuming about 110 grams of protein on that day! That is a LOT of protein. To give you an idea, one protein bar typically has 10-12 grams of protein.  I had no idea that my protein intake was too low until a few weeks ago, and now I have to really think about the protein in all my meals, which I never did before.
If you are looking for a decent post-workout recovery protein drink, I would recommend Melissa's Mix, which you can get on  it is much less expensive than the more well-known competitor brands, has the same composition and is actually better in that it is formulated for women.  There is a chocolate brownie flavor that tastes really good with coconut water or plain water.
Another thing to watch out for, ladies, particularly if your dairy consumption is low, is how much calcium you're getting.  Since I have eliminated most dairy from my diet (it causes me to bulk up really fast) I have to ensure I take a multivitamin to get enough calcium. Or drink milk! Bone strong = Captain Marvel strong!
Of course I am writing this on the evening of a splurge day which is being capped off with a few hours of adult refreshments and playing I should wrap this up before I make some not-so-healthy recommendations. I'll have some new opinions out about Defiance soon!Photo via

Sunday, May 12, 2013

It's a Dance-Off! A Comparison of PS3 Dance Titles

"I got started dancing because I knew it was one way to meet girls."
--Gene Kelly

No more wallflowers -- get 'em singing and dancing!  We are avid party hosters, karaoke participants, and gamers, so naturally I have a small collection of song-and dance-oriented games in my PS3 library.  For several years, Singstar and Singstar + Dance have been my go-to staples for party entertainment.  However, I recently acquired Just Dance 3 and 4 which definitely left me wondering why I had waited so long to check out these titles?  Since both game franchises have strengths and weaknesses, I wanted to do a comparison of them for any of you out there looking to hone your dance skillz, entertain at a party, or get in shape for Comic Con like us!

SingStar + Dance
We started out with SingStar, a Playstation exclusive title, before they added on the dance capability.  We were looking for a good karaoke-type game to use at our house parties, and SingStar was wonderful for just that.   The thing that drew me to SingStar over other karaoke games out there was that they featured the actual music videos as the background while singing, as opposed to a cartoonish animation themed after the artist or song (a la Konami's Karaoke Revolution).  In addition, SingStar had hundreds of songs available in their library on the PlayStation Store, on a pay-per-song basis.  Although it was an additional fee, the variety and quantity of songs available for download was a major bonus when trying to keep content fresh and interesting for multiple parties (and for our own personal use!).
Another fine example of the fun that
can be had by party-goers with
At some point, the SingStar franchise decided to get in on the PS3 Move / Eye action by launching a dance component to the game.  As a big fan of dancing (and former avid DDR player), I immediately bought the dance version and was pretty pleased with it.  The gameplay allows for various combinations of singing and dancing roles, such that one person could both sing and dance, or the roles could be split between two different people (i.e., one person could do the dance while another person was singing).  This was especially helpful for party situations to encourage more timid guests to team up.  The online library in PlayStation Store contains about 90 songs available for purchase that have a dance routine associated with them.
For the dancing component, the SingStar display features an avatar in the bottom right corner which the player emulates.  It evalutes the player's dancing accuracy using inputs from both the PS Move Controller and the PS Eye camera, so it is quite accurate and, in my opinion, more challenging than XBox Kinect dancing games.  This aspect of the SingStar + Dance can be both a strength and a weakness depending on the situation....harder evaluations can be discouraging for party guests that do not normally dance, but they can also afford longer playability for someone who intends to use the game repeatedly over time.
One downside to the game for party use is that when using the Team Mode--particularly applicable when playing with large groups--any PlayStation Store-downloaded songs in your library are not available for play.  "Play solo" mode has to be used in order to take full advantage of your song library...not a deal-breaker, but it does restrict a player's options depending on what your priority is: larger selection of songs versus use of various team mode options (for example, Pass the Mic, Battle Mode, etc). 
One other limitation of the dance component of SingStar compared to other dance titles on the market is the lack of a tutorial mode.  Games like Dance Central offer a mode in which to practice different moves, breaking them down step-by-step to simplify the dancing.  SingStar does not have this, and takes a "jump right in with both feet" approach.  There is a practice mode in which a player can sing or dance without the pressure of being scored, but it doesn't really do anything in terms of slowing down the gameplay to make it easier for first-time dancers.
Good: Large song library, additional modes for large groups, simultaneous sing-and-dance gameplay options
Bad:  Limits on using downloaded songs, challenging/frustrating for first-time players, pay-per-song beyond in-game library
Just Dance 3 &4
Enter the competition: The Just Dance franchise.  I bought both 3 and 4 simultaneously just so I would have the additional song library for variety; but for the purposes of this comparison I'll limit myself to Just Dance 4 since it has significantly more features than its predecessor. 
Just Dance uses both the PlayStation Move and Eye to evaluate the player.  Up to four players can dance at once, provided there are enough Move Controllers available.  Although I am still unlocking content, there appears to be approximately 30-40 songs available for play in addition to alternate song versions and "mash-ups" for the fitness mode of the game. 
I thought that not having the actual music videos as the background for gameplay would be a major let-down, but Just Dance does quite a good job with avatars and theming for the various artists and songs--I imagine many of them are more interesting than the real-world music videos.  For example, the song "Final Countdown" features two dancing avatars dressed as wrestlers and the routine incorporates some wrestling-inspired moves.  Very entertaining.  Another nice feature for the dance aspect of the game is the use of dance move "prompts" at the bottom which show the next one or two upcoming move(s) in the routine.  I have also noticed that the scoring in Just Dance is significantly more forgiving than SingStar + Dance, which tends to make partygoers more receptive.  We observed that significantly more guests are willing to get up and participate with Just Dance compared to SingStar. 

Don't hesitate, participate!  Busting some moves in Just
Dance 4.

As indicated by the title, Just Dance 4 is primarily a dancing game, but also offers a "karaoke mode" in which the song lyrics are displayed along the bottom of the screen, and the PS Eye is used as the audio input device. However, the game does not evaluate or provide any feedback to the player on singing performance. This is a downside when compared to SingStar if the player desires fully scored singing and dancing features.
In addition to multi-player dance modes, Just Dance has a mission component where new content can be unlocked following completion of five tasks for each song; for example, achieving a four-star score, completing all "gold star" moves in a song, etc.   This is nice for large groups in that it provides potential team goals to collectively work toward, or a way for groups to compete against each other.  The additional content is unlocked in-game but also can be earned through a Ubisoft UPlay account via the PlayStation store.  As a solo player, I relish the prospect of unlocking new dance content and the missions offer incentive to come back to a particular song even after multiple play-throughs.
Good:  Multi-player dance options, dance move "cues," mission achievement component, easier scoring for newcomers
Bad:  No scoring/feedback for karaoke mode, somewhat limited song library
So who's the winner of this dance-off?  If you're looking for a dancing game, I would definitely say that Just Dance offers superior playability for both the solo dancer and for large groups or party situtations.  If you're looking for a solid singing game with a so-so dancing option, SingStar is still the way to go.  They're both pretty inexpensive at this point, so you may as well get a used copy of both games from GameStop!