Saturday, September 29, 2012

Note For Note: August / September 2012

Low Cut Connie – Call Me Sylvia
Straight outta Philly and as grimy as the bar circuit they hope will take them to greater fortunes, Low Cut Connie, led by the Jerry Lee-esque Adam Weiner, slightly soften the jaggedness of last year’s classically crusty debut, and throw in some love songs and big-throated ballads which struggle for breathing space when seated next to their band-on-the-run tunes. As much as they want to channel the Rat Pack on “Cleveland,” it doesn’t make me want to move there, or even visit, and “Desperation” doesn’t sound as desperate as it should. Instead I’ll take “Boozophilia,” and its line about sleeping in a balcony and the “Pity Party” quip about still living with your parents. At 15 songs, their night of debauchery goes too long, but the sudsy last call of “(No More) Wet T-Shirt Contests” is the perfect way to kick start a hangover. “I wear my undies on the outside like a fallen woman in a pew,” Weiner sings cheekily. “But I wear my undies with pride. What else am I supposed to do?” GRADE: A-
Key Tracks:
“(No More) Wet T-Shirt Contests”
“Brand New Cadillac”

Bob Dylan - Tempest
After several advanced reviews warned of how “dark” and “strange” Dylan’s thirty fifth album supposedly was, I expected a more sinister version of 2009’s Together Through Life, an LP which wasn’t quite as lovely as its love songs wanted it to be. I waited for the essence of those tunes to sour and curdle onTempest, and listened for Dylan’s perpetual rasp to spit bile against his trespassers. Instead, I heard a drifter, tired of wandering, searching for a sense of home. Where 2006’sModern Times, the finest album of his renaissance era, found him merrily rolling from one shanty town to the next, here he’s grown tired and bored. “Listen to that Duquesne Whistle blowin / Blowin’ through another no good town,” Dylan growls on the opening song. The entirety of the album’s first six minutes is spent in gold plated nostalgia. He imagines an oak tree he used to climb, and the face of a woman he can no longer touch. The present? It’s turned stiff and impersonal (kinda like his band). “I ain’t seen my family in 20 years,” he sings on “Long and Wasted Years.” “That’s not easy to understand / They may be dead by now.” Some of these songs are his most personal. But where he’s personal he’s also devastatingly distant. Almost half the album’s 70 minute running time comes from two stagnant tracks – a 14 minute ballad about the Titanic (no choruses) and a nine minute tale of a love triangle gone murderously wrong. It’s not as if his storytelling or lyricism isn’t as sharp as it ever was, but even legends can’t go on forever. Save that shit for the history books. GRADE: B+
Key Tracks:
“Duquesne Whistle”
“Pay In Blood”
“Scarlet Town”

Monday, September 10, 2012

Welcome to Shadow Era

New games come out like clockwork and the myriad of games that are available to gamers is astounding. It almost makes getting into something that is often viewed as leisurely intimidating as you try to figure out what game best suits you.

Shadow Era, a recently new trading card game (TCG), hopes to introduce seasoned gamers and newcomers alike to a new kind of card game that offers depth through gameplay but still keeps things simple.

Shadow Era creator Kyle Poole holding his favorite card, Zaladar.
“The first thing I wanted to ensure when making this game was that it was easy for new players to pick-up very quickly,” Kyle Poole, creator of Shadow Era, said. “A lot of the more complicated mechanics of other more established games that might be very hard to teach someone we took and simplified them. So the game is intended for both new players, but also has enough depth so that more advanced players can take it, understand it better and play it more competitively.”

Released a year and a half ago for Apple products, Android and online play, Shadow Era was released for free download and has remained free throughout its lifespan. Recently psychical cards have been released to go along with the downloadable game so that tournaments can be played at events like Gen Con and hobby stores.

“One of the major complaints about TCG games is that they cost a lot of money so one of the main things I wanted to do with this game was to release it on iPhone, Android and the web and have it free to play,” Poole said. “I think that the strategy has helped get our large player base that we have now very quickly, we had 2 million players within a couple months of the games release.”

The downloadable game allows players to buy cards online through the use of gold which is acquired through battles played in game, another option for players to buy points which allow the purchase of cards. This leaves players with the choice to either spend their time playing to get cards or spend money to buy the cards.  Players also have the option to play people from around the world using decks they’ve made.

A Shadow Era tournament being played at Gen Con 2012.
“We’ve had a lot of great response about our game from the community, and we’ve listened to all their feedback about the game through forms and such on how to improve the game,” Poole said. “It took us about a year until the first set of 200 cards was complete, so we took all their feedback and tuned the game mechanics, balanced the game until everything was really well tuned. After that point that’s when we started to print the physical game.”

Kevin Manning, a member of the design team behind Shadow Era, came from the early community of Shadow Era players and now develops the lore of the game.

“Every member of the design team came from the community,” Manning said. “So we all love the game and the thing about this game is that it is 100 percent community driven. People love the physical and online version of the game and we listen to our players and try to make them happy.”

The physical version of the game was made possible through the community of digital players by a crowd funding campaign. With a goal of $20,000 the Shadow Era team raised $250,000 thanks to their players. The physical version was released at this year’s Origins Game Fair.

Cards from the physical version of the game that are available now.
“The response to our campaign was really overwhelming,” Poole said. “So raising that kind of money has allowed us to make a high quality product and also release it to retail stores to compete with other major card games.”

The first set, Call of the Crystals, features 20 heros that gameplay revolves around. Having the game be played and fine-tuned through community feedback has made the printed first set customizable for players to make whatever kinds of decks they want.

“All the heros in the game are very balanced,” Poole said. “Shadow Era is one of the few games where the first set is very balance and competitive. So there’s a lot of flexibility for players to create whatever kinds of decks they want and still be able to compete.”

With the recent release of the physical card version of the game fans of the game have raced to acquire some of their favorite cards from the online version.

“The response from fans over the physical version has been crazy, we’ve completely sold out of some of the heros,” Manning said. “I think we’ve had an advantage being a true multiplatform game because the physical and online versions are completely the same. Our fans can find cards they like online, buy the psychical game and create decks they’ve already made and tested.”

Shadow Era is a free download for Apple products and Androids and is also available on the internet. The physical cards can be bought online or through selected retail stores. For more information about the game go to and follow them on twitter @ishadowera.
Poole and company working the Shadow Era booth at Gen Con 2012.

“For people interested in the game I would say go out and download the game because it’s free, you have nothing to lose,” Poole said.

Be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on twitter, @poptometry, for all the latest pop culture news and updates about our site. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

GenCon: A Photo Recap

By Scott Raychel

As mentioned earlier on this illustrious blog, GenCon was this past weekend in our fair city, and Poptometry was there to cover it first hand. It's a big four-day convention showcasing and celebrating the latest and best in table-top gaming. It's fairly common knowledge though, that any event ending with a name ending "Con" will also attract scores of cosplay fanatics, which is an important part of the experience of GenCon, or any Con for that matter. What's special about the whole thing is the feeling of community and blatant acceptance of geek culture that can be experienced while walking through the halls of the convention center hosting an event such as this one. 

For four days out of the year in Indianapolis, everyone gets to let their geek flag fly, something which used to be seen as out-of-the-ordinary. More popular, yet similar events like the San Diego Comic Con, the rise of the super hero movie, programming like G4, and various other factors have lead to geek culture becoming more accepted in the mainstream. Even when wandering outside the convention center into Downtown Indianapolis during GenCon, you'll see a Ring Wraith standing on a street corner, Harley Quinn ordering food at Taco Bell, or even a wizard decked out in a purple robe and cap with yellow stars and moons hanging out at Steak N Shake. But when in the halls of GenCon, cosplay is something that's not only acceptable, but appreciated and encouraged. This post is a dedication to the art of cosplay, as seen on display at GenCon. All photos by yours truly.

The World Magic Cup: Creating the Olympics for a Card Game

By Roberto Campos

Team Brazil competing in the Magic World Cup
It’s become common for the world’s countries to come together and compete under one roof to see which country’s competitors reign superior, and at the 45th annual Gen Con, Magic: The Gathering continued this tradition.

The World Magic Cup was one of the must see events at this year’s Gen Con. Rarely is a card game put on in with as much spectacle – except for ESPN’s coverage of poker tournaments. Estonia, Chinese Taipei, the U.S. and 68 other countries came from all over the world to the Indianapolis Convention Center for a chance to make their country the top dog in the Magic realm.

Even if you’re not a fan of the game, or have never even hear of Magic: The Gathering, to see the lights, cameras and cash prizes for this tournament was astonishing. Chinese Taipei won $10,000 cash prize for winning the World Magic Cup, but it wasn’t a pot split between each of the four teammates, each team member won $10,000 – a hefty pot for a card game. However, it gives prospective on just how large this game has become since its inception.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Gen Con: A Gamer's Paradise

By Roberto Campos

A statue for Magic: The Gathering

As you pull up to the Indianapolis Convention Center for the annual Gen Con convention, a certain kind of excitement hits you.  An excitement that is felt by all attendees, an excitement that can only be described as a combination of pure joy and anticipation as you are unaware where the weekend will take you.

Walking into Gen Con on the first day is a surreal experience. Seeing the hundreds of cosplayers, decked out in lavish costumes which pay homage to their favorite gaming characters, makes you realize that Gen Con is more than a convention, it’s a celebration of the entirety of gaming culture.