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Insomnia LAN Gaming Festival returned for it’s 56th incarnation at the NEC in Birmingham for the first time through the 11th-14th of December. Established as the uk’s biggest gaming festival many attend for the tournaments and social LAN gaming elements, but many do not realize that there is also a gaming expo associated with the event.

The expo hall had a good variety of content, from an indie games section, more established franchises like dark souls and halo, as well as competitive zones for those who didn’t bring their own computers such as the smash bro’s and minecraft zones. On top of this there were two main stages featuring a plethora of youtube and gaming personalities over the weeekend as well as a cosplay section showcasing various tools of the trade with cosplayers available for advice and tutorials.

I visited on the friday so unfortunately was not able to delve into the main competitions and talk to those taking part as these had not yet began, but I did get a glimpse of the true silver champion hearthstone trophy which was very impressive indeed, so much that I would consider beginning playing so as to get the possibility to win such a trophy someday.

Comparing the expo to EGX the hall is smaller, as EGX spread through 3 halls and this event was contained to one, with a seperate hall for the LAN arena and another for tents (it is a true festival after all, and does not require you to purchase a hotel, although camp fires would not be advised nor barbeques unless you wished to take them outside onto the car park. Saying this at one third of the size the number of visitors and the queue sizes were significantly smaller, this lead to a more chilled and relaxed atmosphere, attendants were accustomed to the friendly and social aspect of LAN gaming and the event, so when there were queue’s these were very small; literally waiting for the current time period to finish then play. While waiting in any queue everyone struck up conversations with each other and the entire event was very chilled out, much like the ice and winter theme of the expo.

While at the event I decided to take part in the super smash bro’s tournament mostly because I was asked by the pretty lady on the stall and I figured why not, I got through a couple of rounds but ultimately failed by picking little mac and flailing off the edge in over ambitious attacks attempting to counter my opponents ryu game where he could be hit blazing to the edge and off the screen yet still come back, so verticallity for victory seemed ideal with a well timed uppercut. For the most part we tied on percentages and I only failed by my own ineptitude.

There were a number of stalls to purchase all sorts of geeky goodies too, from plushies to t-shirts and even knitted winter jumpers with geeky styles. And for the dedicated gamers there was a GAME stand selling not only electronics you may require for the lan (new keyboards, mice etc should yours break) but also some discounted special edition games and even tickets to the next insomnia festival at a discounted rate.

Some of the indie games I will attempt to bring to you on the main gaming channel with their own reviews, still awaiting confirmation. One game I wouldn’t be able to but was fun was a game called unbox, taking the irony of “unboxing” to a new level you play as a cardboard box in a variety of mini games from races to downright elimination of the other cardboard companions. The game was very fun however the local multiplayer only element of the game may make this difficult for some, and would be the reason I couldn’t take it on at present, perhaps I should’ve asked to record at the event gameplay as the games were very fun and I enjoyed playing with who I presume was the developer of the game and would recommend a purchase should you be able to get people together to play.

The latest halo game was also available to play with an ironic queue for photographs with two spartans yet no queue for the main game itself, a little out of practice the level of the demo threw a horde of enemies upon you with very powerful tank like minions who could down you in one go and your AI companions would then rush in to pick you up getting downed themselves proving a rather difficult challenge indeed, at least I assumed they were AI the potential is that they were interconnected machines and it was the other demo participants also getting downed by the fiend either way it shows that halo is not a casual shooter in any respect (at least on the difficulty the machines were set to)

From this I went on to play dark souls 3, noticing the demo at present lacks any leveling system as I rested at the campfire after dispatching a few enemies hoping to up my defense a little due to the difficulty of some of the enemies. I notice that things are a lot more linear in this incarnation of the franchise, not to state that there aren’t other paths as there were two distinct ways to progress interwoven through the level, I focused on taking down the extra tough minion up the stairs on the left who seemed to raise the dead as he was tougher than the other enemies hoping to get some decent loot but alas to no avail, from this I progressed the main way finding secret windows to progress through leading down to the dragon. The dragon was very apt at setting fire to your path if you didn’t use cunning, it is entirely possible to chug estus constantly and rush through it however the smart amongst you would note that you could taunt the dragon to go one path then double back up to his origonal position and through the safety of the building before the next area you would require to race the flame once more. Having spent my time exploring and trying different things and paths I ran out of playtime unfortunately, but would hope to be able to bring a demo play to you should I be able to get hold of a copy.

Other experiences around the event included a racing simulator which you had to pay £5 for, which unsurprisingly remained unused considering people had paid to enter the event such a game was not very well received, especially as another driving game with steering wheel and (loose floppy) pedals was available for free in the center of the event. Also there were a few 3d experiences, knowing that I missed out the vive at EGX I immediately signed up and got to play on this, where the games were very impressive, there was an underwater experience watching a whale get close, a 3D drawing game where of course you have to draw something of an immature and penile nature… In 3D! then the real games began and there was a 3D western zombie shooter which I unfortunately forget the name of but was very fun and showed just how responsive and accurate the controls were, and of course I completed it flawlessly! Finally there was an aperture science 3d experience with GLaDos and the co-op robots which contained the usual portal humour but also some intimidation with GLaDos towering over you, and the floor beneath you giving way before finally you get crushed out of existence. The vive will be coming soon with development kits going out in january, and an estimated release around april. You can find more details at www.htcvr.com and I would love to bring more should HTC desire to send me a version and some demo’s ;-)

The vive was very much off the rails, so you were’nt constrained to following a set path or a rollercoaster as many existing 3D experiences tend to be, you were free to move around fully up to virtual walls, which represent by honeycomb shapes when you get too close (imagine a star trek holodeck saying hey the wall’s here don’t walk into me) and I can imagine the software and games developed for such a system could be very inspirational indeed.

There was also a Merge VR for the lower budget which converts Iphone’s into a 3d Experience, obviously lacking compared to the vive as there aren’t the handheld controllers which get sensed regardless of where you leave them, and lacks the native room based intelligence, but was a reasonable on the rails experience.

The final main game I played was battleborn which is an online first person shooting moba style game, with a variety of champions to choose from and an in game leveling system to keep ahead of the competition. Playing the game it was very fun and seemed promising, currently in beta I would have to keep up to date to see how things progress and hope that the game doesn’t get a toxic community like super monday night combat did as a game like this is very dependent upon the community and I would hope it would remain fun and fair.

There were a number of giveaways at the event itself, along with freebies to collect. One competition I took part in was with #gamestate a unique game development method where the game will entirely be designed as to the whim’s of the website’s members giving everything a choice and open to forum suggestions. I took part in the competition because I was told that the prize was a cap, a pair of headphones and a rugged looking backpack, all on display at the event and needing a new set of headphones which were decent I decided to enter. I sat around during the drawing process where a few names were selected but as they were not there to claim prizes these got dismissed, finally they narrowed it to the three of us that were there and my name was selected, I got excited thinking I would be getting all of the prizes but instead was given the snapback hat with blocks to put on it, the only thing I wouldn’t ever use. Being a community based game design where the users get a choice if you ignore the fact that I was mislead to believe that all of the items were the prize I would have chosen either the headphones or the rugged backpack, both of which I would use constantly as I carry a backpack everywhere and a rugged strong one would be very useful, and the headphones would be good for recording and playing games, the cap I would never wear as it is not my style let alone the childish brick part of the cap. So sadly although I won this was very dissappointing.

Other freebies I received included the battleborn t-shirt, a sonic hat which I am more likely to wear as a novelty than the stupid cap, and some in game dlc. I’m sure there would have been more freebies on offer but I don’t tend to ask but when provided I happily accept.

The expo also had two stages which a variety of content could be seen throughout the show, from competitive gameplay to youtubers putting on a live “lets play” and even talk panel shows with live audience Q&A sessions. I sat down and watched gassy mexican and daithidenogla play a couple of sessions of keep talking and nobody explodes, as a live setting it was very interesting to see them shouting instructions across the stage from each other in an attempt to diffuse the bomb, both having their own style of play, gassy listening to daithi but ultimately never having played before not knowing in some of the more difficult puzzles what was required due to unclear instruction, and daithi’s style on the bomb was to often ignore gassy and just panic cutting wires and exploding the bomb immediately. As this was a live show it would have added further entertainment if there was a penalty for exploding the bomb (like a water bomb to the face or something) but either way was very entertaining to watch.

Ultimately as a comparison on an expo level I would recommend visiting I56 for the shorter queue’s (and often non existent queue’s) and for the more relaxed atmosphere, perhaps taking advantage of the indie games at EGX and saving the hefty queue’d games for a visit to I56 where you could play the titles such as rise of the tomb raider, halo, assassins creed syndiccate etc with absolutely no queue where at EGX the wait time had been in the 1 hour plus frame. Furthermore if you wanted to get really social and play in the lan tournaments you should definitely get a BYOC ticket and camp at the event in style (or at least your tent) I would say if you’re a gamer you should check out an insomnia event for yourself and get the full experience.

The next insomnia will be held 25th to 28th of march with full details at insomniagamingfestival.com whether you choose to only visit the expo or take part in the lan gaming festival you won’t regret your visit.

The Insomnia gaming festival returns this weekend with I56, renowned for its 24 hour lan gaming competitions and E sports you might want to plan your sleeping schedule to at least get a little sleep over the 3 days if you plan to attend.

With a convention showing featuring playable games and talks from game developers, sessions and talk panels with youtubers, and the well known BYOC (bring your own computer/console) tournaments there is a little something for every gamer here.

The known playable games are as follows:
· City of the Shroud, Abyssal Arts
· DiscStorm, XMPT Games
· Flight of Light, Crystalline Green Ltd.
· Gang Beasts, Boneloaf
· GRIP, Caged Element
· Havenrise, Pixel Balloon
· Help: Real War is Not a Game, Sheena Bourke (War Child)
· Jump Stars, Pixel Blimp
· Lifespeed, Wee Man Studios
· Natures Zombie Apocalypse, Aniode
· Networm , Cuddly Zombie Games
· Perpetual Night, Studio Genkan
· Spectra, Gateway Interactive
· Super Rude Bear Resurrection, Alex Rose Games
· The Mists of Audazzle, Audazzle
· Cuphead, Studio MDHR
· SUPERHOT, Superhot.
· Aaero, Mad Fellows
· Beyond Flesh and Blood, Pixel Bomb
· Gear Gauntlet, Drop Dead Interactive
· Jump Stars, Pixel Blimp
· Kingdom, Noio and Licorice & Raw Fury
· Raging Justice, Makin Games
· Spectra, Gateway Interactive
· Super Dungeon Bros, Wired Productions & React Games
· Unbox, Prospect Games
· ElemenTales, Total Monkery
· Kaiju Panic, Mechabit
· Pure Space, Gateway Interactive

I will be attending the event and giving you more information about what is available and what you could see on the friday, but for now I would suggest if you’re into gaming and wish to take part in the competitions or even play any of the games listed you should definitely attend.

There are still details yet to be confirmed including evening entertainment, but if you wish to find out more and see a full list of youtubers you can see around the event and holding panels check out the insomnia website for full details.

Get your tickets to insomia now while you still can. http://insomniagamingfestival.com