Extra Life 2014: Kat’s Recap!

It’s been over a week since Insert Coin to Begin’s Extra Life marathon and I wanted to do a little write-up about it. Returning from last year’s marathon were: Bobby, Rizz, and Julie. This year, we got Sorg to join in with the festivities. Although I don’t think it needs to be said, I think I can safely say that we all had a blast playing video games for the kids.

So far, Team ICTB has raised $915 toward our $1,200 goal. (If you’d like to help out, you can donate until December 31, 2014.) This year, we played for St. Vincent’s Children’s Hospital in Erie, PA.

Dragon Age: Origins map
Dragon Age: Origins

I decided that my main game of the weekend would be Dragon Age: Origins. With Dragon Age Inquisition coming out in two weeks, I wanted to finish up my playthroughs. As of this writing, I still haven’t finished my DA:O run, but maybe this weekend…? (Although you can change your choices for DA:O and DA2 in Dragon Age Keep, I don’t think it would be fun without doing a complete playthrough!)

A little after the halfway point of our marathon, I found my attention span waning. My gaming goal was to get a good chunk of DA:O completed and to play some games I hadn’t played before. Sadly, I didn’t last more than 15 minutes in Pillars of Eternity, Broken Age, or Papers Please.

After staring at the screen for so long, I needed something that didn’t take a lot of thought. So, I decided to play Game Dev Tycoon for a bit. I managed to create some awesome games:

Funkytown Bobby
Funkytown Bobby, an alternate history and strategy game
Juuuulie, an evolution simulation game
Rizz Effect
Rizz Effect, a space action game
Sorg!, a vocabulary game for kids


I shuffled through more games and wandered back to Mass Effect 3 co-op. I thought I’d be awesome and solo a bronze game…but I ended up dying during the extraction (last) wave. Unfortunately, I was unable to take screenshots of my tears.

Sometime after ME3 and a horrible time of getting stuck in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2, I jumped back into Dragon Age: Origins.

Overall, it was a great weekend. I had fun with the team, played video games, and got to help a worthy cause. I can’t wait for next year’s marathon!

Here is the complete list of games I played for Extra Life 2014:

Dragon Age: Origins
Animal Crossing (requested by Jennie!)
Pillars of Eternity
Crusader Kings 2
Broken Age
Papers Please
Mass Effect 3
Geometry Wars 2
The Force Unleashed 2
Bejeweled 2
Cards Against Humanity
Heroes of Dragon Age
Game Dev Tycoon
Mass Effect

Finally, I’d like to give a special thanks to my family, Kate, Jennie, Maddie, Claudia, Angela, Ryan, and Holly for donating. :)

If you were unable to catch the stream, Sorg created this really cool time lapse video of our 24hours.

You can also get Sorg’s thoughts on Extra Life on his Good Morning podcast.

ICTB Exclusive: Interview with Raphael Sbarge

ICTB Exclusive

Raphael Sbarge is an actor with dynamic range. His acting background includes roles in video games, television, and theater. In video games, he has voiced the roles of Kaidan Alenko of the Mass Effect trilogy and Carth Onasi from Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. He currently stars in the ABC television series, Once Upon a Time, as Archie Hopper/Jiminy Cricket.

Not only does Mr. Sbarge have the talent for acting, he is also a bonafide environmentalist. It was his fascination for the environment that lead him to create the non-profit organization, Green Wish.

We had the opportunity to ask Mr. Sbarge some questions about his passion for the environment, voice acting, and his roles in Mass Effect and Once Upon a Time.

Raphael Sbarge (Image credit: IMDB)
Raphael Sbarge (Image credit: IMDB)

Insert Coin to Begin: You have tons of acting experience with different mediums: theater, television, and film. How did you get involved with voice acting?

Raphael Sbarge: My voice acting was an extension of the work I do on stage and on camera. As actors, we are freelancers and always looking for new places to do what we do. I started by working in commercial voiceover, after years of doing on-camera commercials, starting at 13. I did some early video games; that then lead to “Babes in Toyland,” an animated feature for MGM, and ultimately, the Star Wars games, Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect series, etc.

What is interesting or challenging about voice work is that it’s you alone in a room with a microphone and your imagination, and that’s it. I have to say that my time working in the theater is the single most valuable asset to assist in doing this kind of work.

ICTB: Do you have any rituals or routines that help you get into character for the recording booth?

Sbarge: Not really—only that I try not to drink too much coffee (ha!) so I am loose and easy. I also warm up my voice, so that it’s “resonating and ready.” It’s always best if I’m at the recording studio early so I’m not rushing (tension, in my opinion, goes into an actor’s throat).  Loose, easy, voice warm— everything you would do for a night in the theater, as well.

Carth Onasi. (Image credit: GameInformer.com)
Carth Onasi in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (Image credit: GameInformer.com)

ICTB: One of your first voice acting roles was for the character of Carth Onasi from Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.  How did you learn about the role, and what were your thoughts on his character?

Sbarge: I loved Carth. I loved his sense of humor, his devil-may-care attitude, and the fact that he was kind of a funny guy, who could also be bad-ass when you needed it. I auditioned for this game, as I did for many others, and had a blast recording it.

ICTB: For the Mass Effect trilogy, you had to record thousands of lines. Do you have any favorite lines or funny stories from the recording sessions?

Sbarge: Oh, boy, that’s a tough one. There were indeed thousands of lines over almost 10 years (for parts 1, 2 and 3). I would say that my favorite parts were where they explored the Kaidan/Shepard relationship. The tension between Shepard being the commanding officer and them having feelings for one another was great writing, with lots of levels, subtext and tension underneath simple exchanges. Loved doing those.

In general, what I loved about the writing in the ME series was that it was more like a film. Yeah, we had our share of shooting and shouting, but we had moments of intimacy, and relationship, and personal struggles that got to come through, as well. This really made all the difference; it’s what has defined the ME series, created fans that have such a passionate voice about the characters (because they “felt something” for them), and made it all so much more fun to be a part of.

Kaidan Alenko from Mass Effect (Image credit: PCGamer.com)
Kaidan Alenko from Mass Effect (Image credit: PCGamer.com)

ICTB: During your interview with Kimberly Brooks on your Barking Frogs audioblog (http://www.BarkingFrogs.com), you mentioned that you’re finally going to start playing Mass Effect. Did you ever get to playing it? If so, what is it like for you to play as Shepard and then hear your own voice through conversations with Kaidan?

Sbarge: Ha! Yes. I did. And I can say it’s a rather odd experience to play a game with someone who is not you, with your voice. I spoke to Mark Meer about it, and he told me you get used to it after a while. Let me say that I am not a gamer—I haven’t had the time to commit to it, at the moment. But I can see how thrilling, exciting and addicting it is to step into another dimension and get lost.

ICTB: Along with voice acting, you have quite the background in theater, film and television. Is there a character you’ve played with whom you identify best?

Sbarge: I believe that every character that is working has a piece of you in it. As an actor, you find a place in yourself that you are connected to, and work from there. Because of that, there’s a little bit of you in each character, and it’s hard to pick a favorite.

But let me say that I feel deeply about Archie Hopper— that is, that he traveled down some dark personal roads to get to a place where he is intent on doing the right thing. I do resonate with that, for sure. As well, both Kaidan and Jiminy Cricket seem to have an underlying theme of “conscience.” I aspire to be a man of conscience (sometimes more successfully than others) and do try every day to make a difference, so while I had no control on how people cast me for these roles, I do find it interesting that one’s personal “passionate commitment” in life seems to resonate through the work into characters we do.

ICTB: Let’s talk about your other projects. You are the founder of Green Wish (www.greenwish.com), and you are producing an online series, On Begley Street (www.onbegleystreet.com). Can you tell us about your environmental passions and why you became involved with these projects?

Sbarge: I think I have always just had a natural tendency toward the environment. I have a thing for trees— they kind of speak to me, as it were, and I have felt strongly about doing my part. I compost, recycle, have had a garden (not currently due to my travel schedule, sadly), drive a hybrid, turn off lights, conserve my water usage, etc. I have for a long time.

I have also been alternately shocked and alarmed by the news I read of how humans are overwhelming the planet. Things look a little complicated ecologically (to say the least) if we continue on our current course. So I have tried for many, many years—both by example with my kids, as well as for my own personal sense of “doing the right thing”—to make decisions that consider the environment. Seems to have come quite naturally, as it were.

Simply put, Green Wish is a nonprofit that raises money for other nonprofits that have green/sustainable goals. The idea is to find organizations that are local and doing good work within the community and get them much-needed funds.  What happens is that a new chapter gets formed in an area with a board and a group of concerned individuals. They reach out into their community to identify organizations that are doing important work within their area, and then vet those nonprofits. We ask that the groups range across a spectrum of earth, air, water and sustainable education. They then work with retailers, businesses or individuals who are interested in a “community helping community” message, and raise money and awareness for the work being done right around them. This is, effectively, an “open source” charitable giving concept. New chapters work within our existing nonprofit status but then raise money locally to go into their communities. Ed Begley Jr. is the face of Green Wish, and on the board—which is just wonderful, as he’s arguably (other than Al Gore) the person most associated with environmental activism in the U.S.

Archie Hopper from Once Upon a Time. (Image credit: Once Upon a Time Wikia)
Archie Hopper from Once Upon a Time. (Image credit: Once Upon a Time Wikia)

Out of the inspiration from Green Wish, I have developed and now produced a show about the Begley’s new home— a LEED Platinum-certified home that’s being built in Studio City, California. The series is called “On Begley Street,” and it captures the Begleys’ adventure of building this new home. It also explores the science, technology and innovation associated with building, all of which, frankly, has exploded recently. Make it Happen Productions is the production company with a “conscience” and a commitment to using media to promote this idea, and the producers have all agreed to donate a portion of the proceeds to Green Wish. We have plans to launch the new show both on the Web, as well as PBS. The network has given us strong support, and we feel this is a perfect place for us to do this show.

ICTB: “Once Upon a Time,” is back from its midseason break. What can we expect to see for your characters, Dr. Archie Hopper and Jiminy Cricket?

Sbarge: Well, let me say that that I believe that still waters run deep. That he does his work because he cares and truly wants to do the right thing. He seems to have “done wrong, so he can do right”—and honestly, we are looking at some yet new chapters yet to be explored for Archie, such as his love relationships, some of his personal life. And his decision to stay in Storybrooke to fight, to try to make a difference. Stay tuned!

ICTB: And finally, is there anything that you would like to say to your fans out there?

Sbarge: I want to thank everyone for the incredibly kind expressions of support you have given me over the past year. I invite anyone who is interested in finding me to join me on Twitter @raphaelsbarge, or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/officialraphaelsbarge). I do spend time reading postings, and welcome you to join in. As well, I can let you know about news, updates and developments with everything I am working on. Please also visit GreenWish.com for more info about what we do there. Cheers!

You can watch Raphael Sbarge in his role as Archie Hopper/Jiminy Cricket on ABC’s Once Upon a Time – Sunday nights at 8PM EST.

Guild Wars 2 resumes sales

Image courtesy of ArenaNet and NCsoft


Guild Wars 2 is back on the market. The game, which was released on August 28th, had record-breaking sales of 400,000 copies sold on the first day and one million copies sold pre-launch. However, two days later, ArenaNet suspended both sales due to problems with servers being overloaded.

To remedy the problems, new servers have been deployed in Europe and North America — which will expand the game’s capacity. ArenaNet has also doubled the number of their customer support agents.

“Preserving the customer experience has always been our top priority,” said Mike O’Brien, president and cofounder of ArenaNet. “We’re supporting Guild Wars 2 for the long run. We’ll always do what it takes to deliver the best online gaming experience for our customers, even when that means throttling sales.”

ArenaNet released a live-action video, “Our Time is Now,” in celebration of reopening sales.


(Source: Guild Wars 2)

Mass Effect 3’s Operation: VIGILANCE

It’s time to grab your gear (or not). BioWare is hosting another Mass Effect 3 multi-player event. What’s the catch? You cannot use any consumables (medi-gel, missiles, etc.) throughout the entire mission.

The. Entire. Mission. However, I think this can be easily doable on the Bronze level.

The allied mission is a tad easier: complete escort missions on any difficulty.

Operation: VIGILANCE (September 7th-9th)

Unexpected attacks have taken out several squads and damaged vital Alliance equipment. We will deploy drones to repair damage and investigate the nature of these attacks.

Squad Goal: Complete up to and including wave 10 on any difficulty without using a consumable (medi-gel, ammo, Ops pack or Cobra missile launcher).

Allied Goal: Complete 250,000 escort missions on any difficulty.

Special Circumstance: None

Squad Goal Success: All individual players awarded a Commendation Pack
Allied Goal Success: All players awarded a Victory Pack

(Source: BioWare)

NASA unveils free game for Xbox 360

Mars Rover Landing

On Monday, NASA unveiled a new video game called “Mars Rover Landing.” The Xbox Live game was produced in collaboration with Microsoft and utilizes the Xbox 360’s Kinect motion sensor.


Mars Rover Landing
Screenshot of “Mars Rover Landing.” CREDIT: Microsoft/Smoking Gun Interactive

“Mars Rover Landing” allows players to take control of Curiosity’s spacecraft as it streaks through the Red Planet’s atmosphere on a harrowing journey that mission engineers have dubbed “seven minutes of terror.”

At the end, a rocket-powered sky crane lowers the rover to the Martian surface on cables, then flies off to crash-land intentionally a safe distance away.

“Families can get a taste of the daring that’s involved in this, just landing this mission on the surface,” Doug McCuistion, director of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, told reporters today. “It’s going to be very similar to the way the team actually is going to do that.”

It is free and available to download from the Xbox Live Marketplace and Kinect Central.

(Source: SPACE.com)

Mass Effect: Paragon Lost

James Vega
This week at San Diego Comic-Con, a trailer was revealed for the new animated movie, Mass Effect: Paragon Lost.

The movie revolves around the life and career of James Vega (Freddie Prinze Jr.), prior to joining the Normandy in Mass Effect 3.

It will be released on November 13, 2012 and is available for pre-order.

Earlier this year, BioWare and FUNimation released the Dragon Age movie, Dawn of the Seeker.


Kat Reviews: Neverwinter Nights overview

Neverwinter Nights

Wow. Okay, what is this? A review of a ten-year old game?

Well…I jumped on the Neverwinter Nights bandwagon a bit…late in the game. I’ve been wanting to play this game for a long time (years), and only until now, have I been able to get my game on.

Plus, it gives me an excuse to write stuff for the website. I guess the correct terminology would be an ‘overview’ of the game. (Disclosure: I’m only halfway through the original campaign.)



Your city is afflicted with a magical plague, the Wailing Death, and you’ve been sent out on a quest to find the cure…!


The game is shown in third person, with the ability to zoom in/out and rotate the camera. It utilizes the rules of Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Edition.

Character creation is a very extensive process. You select your character’s gender, race, class, alignment, and abilities. However, if it is a bit overwhelming (or you’re a newbie like me), you can select “recommended” for certain options.


The game can be played using only a mouse, keyboard is optional. It does not work the other way around, as the mouse is needed for targeting. Hotkeys can be configured through the Options menu.


Despite being a ten-year old game, Neverwinter Nights has a devoted following and community.  If you’re interested in constructing your own adventures, the game comes with the Neverwinter Nights Aurora Toolset. There are plenty of mods (and multiplayer!) out there that add more replay value to the game.

If you haven’t played the game before and love RPGs, Neverwinter Nights is an absolute must.


Here are a few links to check out:

BioWare Social Network
– the official BioWare NWN community

Neverwinter Vault – the definitive resource for mods and files with a fantastic community

Neverwinter Connections -find multiplayer servers and players

Neverwinter Nights Podcast – A NWN podcast created in 2006 – still going on strong!

http://playnwn.com – a Neverwinter Nights server

Xbox Surface?

Another leak has revealed the specifications for a product called the “Xbox Surface.”

According to the document, the Xbox Surface will be a 7″ device with a maximum resolution size of 1280 x 720. Some of the specifications include:

  • 250 GB hard drive (storage can be expanded via USB drive)
  • SD card support
  • full Direct3D 11 support
  • four USB ports

Xbox SurfaceAccording to TechCrunch, the Xbox Surface will work as an e-reader (built-in conjunction with Barnes and Noble) and is rumored to have Xbox Live streaming capabilities.

LiveSide.net has obtained another document with additional information about the rumored device.

Interestingly enough, Microsoft has a “major announcement” scheduled for this evening, June 18, at 6:30 PM EST.

(Source: Shifted2U)

Xbox 720: Kinect 2 and the Kinect Glasses

A 56-page document has recently leaked across the Internet detailing the plans of the rumored Xbox 720.

The document includes information of the Kinect V2 and Kinect Glasses.

Kinect V2 is said to include: improved voice recognition, better 3D Play Space recognition, four player concurrent tracking (the ability for simultaneous four-person play in one play area), dedicated HW processing, and a better HD RGB camera.


Xbox 720“With all your entertainment brought together, its easy to create and mix gaming and video for completely new and innovative experiences that break down the walls between TV, movies and gaming. Watch and play a match of Tiger at St. Andrews and see his shots inserted in real time in your game experiences.”

 Xbox 720
“New entertainment experiences with multiple TV streams incorporated into a single Game environment, e.g. enjoy your virtual Sports Bar with your Fantasy Football league.”

Kinect GlassesKinect Glasses (Project Fortaleza)

According to the leaked documents, the Kinect Glasses — also known as “Project Fortaleza — will not be released along the Xbox 720, but later in 2014.

The Kinect Glasses appear to be a set of glasses that will work with augmented reality. Slides from the document seem to indicate that the glasses can be connected through WiFi and/or a 4G connection. Unfortunately, hardware specifications were not mentioned.

The Glasses AppStore is listed as a service for 2014.

(Source: The Verge)

What kind of games would you like to see with the Kinect V2 and Kinect glasses?

My Xbox Live app now available for Android

My Xbox for Android

My Xbox Live for AndroidMicrosoft has released an Xbox Live app for Android phones. It is available as a free download through the Google Play store.

Some of the features include:

  • ability to edit your Xbox Live avatar and profile
  • send and receive messages to your Xbox Live friends
  • manage your friends list
  • check and compare achievements with your friends

Major Nelson has posted some screenshots of the new app here.

Source: Major Nelson