29 August 2007

PAX Day 2

I'm combining my posts for the rest of PAX, mostly because I've already lost track of which things I did on Saturday and which were on Sunday. Saturday of PAX weekend was most enjoyable. Saturday night was fantastic, but I'll get to that. I could only manage to sleep in until 8am, but with the time difference it felt more like 11am. I didn't have to work the booth until 2pm, so I had plenty of time to walk around town and see stuff at the convention center. I decided to walk a couple blocks around my hotel to see the city in the crisp, cool morning air. I took a lot of pictures this morning, you can see them here. The first thing I noticed were these crazy pig statues everywhere...

My assumption regarding the swine en masse was some kind of city culture fundraiser. Turns out I was mostly correct.

So blah blah blah, great downtown area, on to PAX day 2.

I spent most of my time before booth-time thoroughly investigating the exhibitor hall. I roamed from booth to booth, watching gamers try out sacred previews of this fall's red hot line up. The lines to play the games wasn't bad at all. Everything except Rock Band only had a line of 3-5 people. Despite that, and this is going to sound odd, over the course of a three day gaming convention, I played games for about fifteen solid minutes. I was more than content to watch others demo the games for me, then travel to the next exhibit. Except Rock Band =)

Rock Band was worth the wait. People, this game is going to pwn my soul. Let's just get it out of the way; there will be a mega launch party for Rock Band at my house, Tuesday, November 20th. BE THERE. (edit: cancelled!)

I really dig the new guitar controller. It took about 30 seconds of playing to get used to the new style of the fret buttons. They are now flat along the fret board, so you press into the neck instead of pressing protruding fret buttons with the Guitar Hero axe. Not sure how this will affect face melting solos, but I enjoyed it for the song I played. The width of the guitar is about half of the GH controller, but has the same weight. The design of it is leaps and bounds ahead of GH. This looks more like a Fender turned game controller than the other way around.

I am very pleased with it. Didn't get a chance to wail on the drums... bummer. Everyone I saw playing them looked like they were havin' a blast. Not a doubt in mind they rock as hard as the guitar. I captured a short video of the Mega64 comedy troupe playing on the Harmonix "stage", check it out-

Hmmm, what else did I do or see:

- Saw StarCraft the board game in action. No, thanks. Looks way more complicated than the PC game.

- Met Wil Wheaton! He seemed like a really nice guy. I got a good picture with him, he signed my PAX badge, and he was pleased to learn that GameTap now has Mac support! I thanked him for the stories he writes on WWdN.

- Castle Crashers looks bad ass. I wasn't sure about it for a long time, but seeing four people have a go convinced me of the fun times to be had.

- Walked into the Assassin's Creed live demo. Didn't see Jade Raymond. Walked out.

- Annoyed the hell out of Robert Khoo (Penny Arcade manager) by asking him to give Jerry and Mike the GameTap swag. :)

- Drank a Bawls. It tastes like Sprite.

- Talked about GameTap with one guy for 30 minutes. I'll be damned if he isn't a customer by now.

- Lamented the lack of playable StarCraft 2. Blizz, now that I'm a blogging industry figure, I'll be expecting my SC2 beta key.

- Ran into Flynn De Marco several times and discussed the good stuff we had seen at the con so far.

- Saw an AMAZING Peach player (Smash Bros) at the GameTrailers booth. She dominated the three guys playing against her in a way that made my jaw drop.

Ok, so Saturday night. During the show on Saturday, I was in the White Wolf/CCP Games booth and noticed a sign "Now hiring: Programmer, QA Lead, Senior Artist". ORLY? I inquired about the posting and they told me the QA Lead position was in Atlanta! The guy also told me that anyone who applied that day would get an invite to a private party that night. Heck yeah! The application form felt like a canned, fast food application. High school? Vocational school? WTF? I'm a Georgia Tech grad workin' at Turner Broadcasting, that's all you need to know. I jotted a few things down and told them I would e-mail them a real resume when I returned to Atlanta (still haven't done that yet...).

I went to the bar on the invitation a little early, just to make sure I could find the place. The dude at the door gave me two vouchers for free drinks on White Wolf. Sweet, free booze! I straight to the bar and ordered a drink. Scoping out the bar, I counted about fifteen people from White Wolf/CCP and maybe ten or so applicants. Then I saw the three cute girls at a table in the corner. Hmm. Schmooze with devs or talk to cute girls... I totally sat down at their table. An hour and two drinks later, I haven't really spoken to any of the devs yet, but I was having a great time talkin' to three Seattle nurses. I told them about the convention in town, that I was working my company's booth, asked about the pigs, etc. Who happens to join us at the table but the freakin' Penny Arcade webmaster! What a world. And some private party =P. He clearly scoped me talking to three wiminz and tried to get in on that. Though try as we might to keep the girls in the conversation, we just couldn't help ourselves. Within five minutes we were discussing server backends and Penny Arcade's bandwidth trends. The nurses didn't tune us out or leave, but they did start up their own conversation at the table. I know, we suck.

Another hour goes by, the PA guy goes to talk to other folks. I ask the nurses if they are doing anything else that evening, nope, so I headed out. The convention center was on the way back to the hotel, so I stopped in to see if anything was going on (~11pm). It was like no one had left yet. Everyone was still there, playing games, hanging out, it was crazy. I remembered there was a concert going on the top floor that night, so I checked that out. And that was my introduction to nerdcore rap. Holy crap, it was strange. About 1000 people were listening to this guy in a bright orange shirt and bright blue tie, square glasses, shaved head, sing some absolutely silly stuff. His name was MC Frontalot. Whoaaaaaa. I stayed for about two songs, wide-eyed and mouth open. Here is a self pic I took on my phone as I walked out:

I'm'a go ahead and say nerdcore is not for me.

OK, I suppose those were the highlights... not much else to report from Sunday. Delta delayed our red eye flight from 1045pm to 1245am. Not cool. I got home around 9am, took a breather and a hot shower, and went to work. Ten bucks says no other co-workers on that flight were at work on Monday!

28 August 2007

PAX Day 1

OK, I failed at blogging while on a B&P trip (business & pleasure?)... can you blame me? I didn't feel like lugging my laptop around the con to make use of the free WiFi, nor did I feel like overpaying for service at the hotel. I tried Starbucks the morning after - Verizon customers only. Library down the street - not open yet. My efforts to blog were thwarted. This weekend was the first time I truly desired an iPhone. Think about it. I could have used it to get directions in an unfamiliar city, find nearby restaurants, call a cab, check my e-mail wherever, and even live blog from PAX! If the mobility of my job ever picks up, I will seriously consider buying one.

Anyway, on to PAX - day 1.

After a five hour flight to Seattle, which passed quickly thanks to the narrative prowess of Philip Pullman and the His Dark Materials series, I arrived at the Washington State Convention & Trade Center with a co-worker from GameTap. What's the first thing I see as I enter the building? A dude dressed in the best Princess Peach costume ever. Needless to say, I was concerned about the flavor of the weekend to come. It was amazing to see this guy walk down the hall and receive nothing more than a friendly smile nine times out of ten. The tenth guy lol'd.

We stopped by the GameTap booth to check in with the rest of the gang, although I didn't have to start manning the booth for an hour. The exhibition hall was a good size. Not large enough to get lost or take significant time to traverse, yet accomodating 30,000 attendees so that we weren't shoulder-to-shoulder. It's also important to comment on the atmosphere of the hall. This was not the main hall of E3, trumpets blaring and sirens beckoning witless young men to lavish booths of electric sex and video game glamour. As I entered the hall, I had a strange realization: I could hear the people around me talking at regular volumes. I wasn't assaulted with neon lights or cleavage. The enviroment of this exhibition hall was oriented towards weaving gamers around the exhibitors and putting controllers in their hands. What a concept! Kudos to whatever force produced this experience, be it man or coincidence.

After a brief once-a-round of the hall, I snarfed a banana and an apple turnover and started my shift at the GameTap booth. Sadly, I'd say 80% of the attendees missiled by, snatching up our Tomb Raider Re/Visioned poster and dog tags swag, without so much as identifying us. This was to be expected given the volume of booths to see, swag to collect, and other events to attend at the convention. The rest kept us busy though, asking questions about GameTap, inquiring about Re/Visioned and our collectible dog tags, or taking a break to fire up their favorite game in our lounge. Check out some pics of our booth and PAX in general.

After the exhibition hall closed to attendees, some catering rolled in for a pleasant surprise - exhibitor party! Woot! Scored some free drinks and roast beef fresh off the bone. The GameTap crew met up at the hotel that evening and we went out to eat at an upscale surf & turf called "Brooklyn". It was crazy expensive @ $30/plate, but on Turner's dime I can't complain! Not much else to report on day one. Retired to the hotel and crashed in a hella compfy bed. Day two blog will come tomorrow!