Monday, August 27, 2007

PAX: Day 3 - All Good Things...

This post is a bit late in coming. I'm now at home, we all got back safe and sound. I was going to use the amazing powers of the mobile Internet to post on the way back, but I drove until late and they were using the computer anyway. But I get ahead of myself.

Sunday morning we slept in after our late night of playing DOOM. We got up, dressed, packed up the car, and checked out of the motel. We crossed over the bridge hoping to make the best of our last day of PAX.

As with the other days, we headed up to the expo room first. We took some more pictures and wandered around. That's when I saw it. I don't know how I had missed it the first two days. They had the new Bleach fighting game for the Wii! So we jumped in line and checked it out! Personally I found it to be very fun. It has some complexity to it, but for the most part it is very simple and straightforward. I like that. It makes it really accessible. Hardcore fighting game lovers probably won't like this game for that reason, but personally that's why I like it more. Anyone can play that game. And although you can practice a lot and really master the game controls, a new player can still (even if accidentally) counter your attacks. And there's not really juggling in the game. Thank goodness.

Anyway, after playing the Bleach game a few times and talking to the guy there at the booth, I found my friends and we went back to try the DOOM board game again. I bowed out of the game to let another guy try it out. This was good because although the game is pretty fun, I just wasn't in the mood to play it. So instead I kicked back and relaxed for a while.

During this time, I went back to the car to get my backpack. When we parked the car David was saying how creepy it would be if the Mantis' Hymn from Metal Gear Solid were to play while we were in the indoor parking garage. So I cued it up. The payoff was pretty solid when we left later.

For a while I wandered around and really didn't do much. Eventually I ran across one of the BioWare guys. He was really nice and accessible. I asked him to compare Mass Effect with Knights of the Old Republic. He spent a while talking to me about that. Basically he said that since Mass Effect is their own IP, they can do a lot more with it. The storytellers have a lot more flexibility to create a gripping story.

Eventually the day was wrapping up, so we headed back to the Microsoft booth hoping to win the raffle for an XBox 360 Elite w/ Mass Effect faceplate, signed by the game developers. Sadly none of us won. But it was fun nonetheless.

Our final PAX event was watching the last part of the last round of the Omegathon. The final game was Halo 3. They got to play on new maps with new weapons. It looked pretty awesome. Then Gabe and Tycho duked it out for fun.

And thus ended our PAX '07 experience. With tears in our eyes we said goodbye to the convention center and got on the road for the long journey home.

David had two hilarious moments that just must be shared. Of course, you, dear reader, may not find them as funny as we did at the time.

  • During a bout of sleep-talking, David has this conversation with his brother (Chris was awake):
    "I'm so glad you didn't buy that StarCraft game."
    "Because the box is so *&#$@(# huge!"
    The StarCraft board game does indeed have a big box, but in his dream it was the size of a coffin.
  • At dinner I got a little bowl of Honey Mustard to go with my chicken. We had no sooner commented on what it was when David asked, "What is that?" Naturally we told him it was custard. He came so close to eating it. He said that if we had called it lemon pudding instead that he would have gobbled it right up.
    *Sigh* Missed opportunities.

The only really note-worthy event that happened on our way back was getting chased by a van full of psychotic murderers.


Okay, we don't really know if they were murderers, but they were certainly idiots. As I was driving along, we started a retarded game of leap-frog with this van. When I would pass it, it would blink its brights and would come up later to pass me. But then after passing me it would slow way down to obstruct my way. This happened over the space of some 30 minutes. We didn't constantly pass each other during this time, but it happened enough to get me frustrated.

Eventually I decided to risk being pulled over and pressed the pedal to the metal. Literally. I got up to just under 100 mph and put some distance between us. Then suddenly they were catching up. Not cool. So when the next opportunity came I made a last second exit from the freeway and they sped on by. We didn't see them again.

As a final note, I'd like to apologize to my companions for my crankiness when I got far too tired. And I forgive you for keeping me awake with the loud sounds of screaming music, BioShock, and How I Met Your Mother. =)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

PAX: Day 2 – The Long Haul

We stayed up too late. But it has been good day. We started off by re-visiting the expo hall. I had a chance today to talk with some of the guys working on/for Rock Band. I was curious about how the vocal (microphone) part works and some of the general game mechanics. They were happy to explain and it looks like it will be pretty solid. It actually made me kind of excited to try out the singing part – secretly on my own at first, of course.

There was an awesome live demo for Assassin’s Creed today too. The creative director for the game talked about it and played the demo. He had some interesting things to say about their vision and philosophies for making the game. They wanted to give the player a lot of freedom by binding you to “real world” rules instead of “game rules.” The best example of this is how you can climb around the city. They didn’t go around the levels adding special areas, anchor points, or certain textures you can climb on. Instead it was built into the engine and model design. So you can just look at things in the game. If they jut out you can climb on them to go virtually anywhere.

I looked at the Warhammer MMO booth for a while, but although people were playing the demo, it was hard to really get much detail. What I saw looked a lot like World of WarCraft in general terms, but the look was grittier. So how it will differ from WoW will depend a lot on details which I didn’t really have available.

(Image credit: Gamers First)

I spent a little while talking with the model at the Sword of the New World booth. I hope she was getting paid well, because she was on her feet for like 8 hours wearing a somewhat uncomfortable (albeit attractive) costume. Also, she’s a gamer and she won’t really get a chance to enjoy PAX. It was fun to talk to her though. It turns out she’s a lawyer’s assistant and just does this kind of thing for fun. She likes FFVII and most console RPGs. Even the booth babes like PAX!

Later I crashed as my friends played the upcoming 4th edition of Talisman. It looked like fun, but I just couldn’t keep awake. But after napping I did try out the DOOM board game. It reminded me a lot of Space Hulk, but it definitely has it’s own feel and gameplay.

Finally we packed up everything and made our way back to the motel. Tomorrow we’ll finish off our time at PAX and start on our way home.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

PAX: Day 1 – First Impressions

Today the glory that is PAX began. We woke up bright and early… which is to say that it was light outside by the time we got up. We found some food and made our way to the Seattle Convention Center. The roads were familiar. It turns out that while getting lost on Thursday, I had accidentally taken us right past the building where PAX would be the next day!

Parking turned out to be easy. We parked in a big lot right under the convention center. And we hardly had to wait in line at all to buy our passes. So all that was left was to wait in line for the expo to start. And thus began our adventures of waiting in lines.

There were a lot of people waiting in line. Quite a lot. There were two big lobby rooms through which our line snaked. We discovered that the Nintendo DS was the handheld of choice – practically everyone had them. We waited for several hours while we talked to people and looked through the bags of swag we received. We even enjoyed a bottle of Bawls guarana, complements of the PAX Enforcers.

Finally 2:00 rolled around and we were herded up to the exposition hall. To make a long story short, I’ll summarize some of the things I saw:

  • Castle Crashers - Totally awesome. We got to play a demo level. The controls feel pretty tight. There’s a lot of polish on this game. I’ll be buying this when it hits the XBLA.

  • Mass Effect - The BioWare guys (and the smart, cute girl on the controller) showed us a demo of the first section of the game. I was totally impressed seeing it live. It’s a very sharp looking game. I can’t wait to play this. I’ve been excited for a while, but this confirmed to me that this is the #1 title on my list to play this Gamevember.

    Oh, and we got free Mass Effect t-shirts. Sweet.

  • Rock Band - Today I got a first-hand chance to find out about one aspect I’d been wondering about for some time: the drums. They are really cool. I got to play a song (I forgot which already) and it was a lot of fun. I felt like the first time I played GH1… fumbling around trying to figure out how to play. But I caught on pretty quick (I only played on medium) and I can tell that it will be something I’ll really enjoy once the game comes out.

    The drums are also pretty durable. One of them was having a little trouble registering the yellow hits, but they withstood quite a beating from all the players crowded around to play. While I was watching, somebody broke one of the drumsticks! The tip flew back toward me, so I grabbed it and pocketed it. The drums were more solid than the wooden stick at least.

  • Warhammer MMO - There was a booth with some 15-20 computers all set up to play this game. I only glanced at it today, but it looks pretty good. I’m not too interested in it personally, but one of my friends is, so I’ll check it out more tomorrow.

  • Wii - I saw some people playing the new Metroid Prime for the Wii. There was also some other RPG which I don’t know the name of, but it looked pretty interesting.

After hitting the expo hall, I caught most of a keynote talk given by Wil Wheaton (a.k.a. Wesley Crusher from The Next Generation). He was funny, witty, and clever. He told some awesome stories about his experiences playing games while growing up. And then he talked about how really gamers are not evil, violent, anti-social freaks. For the most part we are normal people leading normal lives and trying to have some fun along the way.

There are a few other things we saw which I should mention:

  • StarCraft board game – Looks complex and takes a long time to play. But the design looks cool and a lot of the units from the RTS made it into the game.
  • Ninja Burger – A Steve Jackson game. It was pretty funny. Easier and quicker than Munchkin, once you get the hang of it. But very similar in spirit.
  • Costumes – Besides the sweet Master Chief and the pirate booth babe which were a paid part of the expo, there were some other… interesting costumes. We saw the Black Mage from last year, a blue Link, 2 guys dressed as NOD officers (from C&C), and a guy with a robot head. But the one that takes the cake would be he whom I call Prince Peach. That’s right, a Princess Peach (i.e. Smash Brothers) costume. Worn by a man.
  • Bungie Store – They sold some cool Halo 3 stuff, but we most liked the little UNSC satchel.
  • FFVII on GH2?! – I discovered a modded PS2 in the console free-play area which had a lot of special downloaded songs, not the least of which was the boss fight song from Final Fantasy VII.
  • Pet Smuggling – As I was walking around the expo hall, some guy asked me to get him a “mini pet” or something like that from a nearby booth. I think it was for Guild Wars. Anyway, they were only giving out 1 per attendee. They marked my PAX pass, I gave the guy the little paper, and he gave me $5 for my trouble.

I also met up with a few of my old Squirrel Legion guildmates: Kapoc, Lactose, and Notricks. Good times.

Tomorrow I’m hoping to score a Sam & Max button. I’ll also be on the lookout for a Hidden Sandwich card from the Spoils TCG.

Friday, August 24, 2007

PAX: T-minus 1

I woke up this morning to find us traveling through some beautiful green canyons. I must have fallen asleep after they stopped playing such scream-tastic music. Bleary-eyed and half asleep we wandered into an IHOP and had breakfast.

Somehow I remembered a lot of the street signs and locations as we came into Bellevue, so we managed to make it to the mall where we visited the LEGO shop, and I easily found our hotel. We checked in, set up an XBox 360, and then I managed to fall asleep despite the sound of people playing BioShock.

After sleeping the afternoon away, we eventually got up to go eat and catch a movie. (I know we could have seen a movie at home, but hey it’s our vacation and we’ll do what we want!) My luck in driving took a turn for the worse however, as we found ourselves lost in Bellevue and then traveling over some really long bridges. But the scenery was neat and we eventually found our way back around to I-90. Then I almost got lost again, but somehow some tall buildings appeared magically from behind some trees and we were there.

But probably the best moment of the whole day was when David asked Chris if he would touch his buns. Chris kept saying no, and David kept asking louder and louder. Apparently he had one hot and one cold hamburger bun.

Tomorrow will be the first day of PAX. I'm pretty excited.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

PAX: T-minus 2

Tonight’s blog entry comes via the magic of technology. I’m writing this on my friend’s laptop as I ride in the back seat of my own car for the first time. Using his cell phone we have Internet connectivity. How cool is that? Well, I’ll tell you, it’s plain awesome.

Speaking of riding in the back of my car… I bought my car new last year (an ’06 Honda Civic) and so far only 3 people have driven it since. The first was me, obviously. The second was my brother-in-law. And the 3rd is my friend who is currently driving. At least I think that’s the case, I can’t remember ever letting anyone else drive it. But I’ve always sort of wondered how the back seat is in this little sedan… so far so good. I’ve also always thought about being the passenger and looking out the moon roof.

Anyway, there are 4 of us here in the car on our way to PAX. And since I have the capability, I intend to make a few posts to describe our journey. We are all really excited about the trip. I went to PAX last year and really enjoyed myself. I’m looking forward to this year’s bigger and better version.

The trip so far has consisted of about 6 hours of me driving and listening to my music. I’m pretty tired now, but we’ve made good progress. I doubt (and rather hope) that there will be anything worth posting about until tomorrow, so until then I’ll leave you riveted on the edge of your seat waiting for more.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sharing is Caring

My brother is coming home this Wednesday. I am very excited. I haven't seen him in 2 years. I'm so used to having him gone that it will be strange to have him home. A lot has changed in the last two years:

  • Mom is working basically full time at the bookstore.
  • Dad has been working evenings and thus has a strange schedule.
  • My sister is married.
  • I graduated, got a full-time job, bought a car, and bought a townhouse.
  • We fixed up the house (my parents' house): painted and re-carpeted the basement, bought some new furniture, and made an upstairs room into a library.

I'm sure he'll be able to identify many other changes, but those are the big ones that I could think of.

My brother and I have a lot of interests in common, so I'm looking forward to sharing many things with him once he gets home. There are movies, shows, games, and other stuff that I'm excited to share with him. At the top of my list is to watch Bleach with him.

I've been thinking lately about how important sharing time and interests are with people you care about. I noticed recently that people tend to mostly talk about a few subjects:

  • Friends and family
  • Work
  • Recent personal events
  • Interests

I noticed this due to the abnormal amount of time I've been spending dating lately (i.e. I've actually been dating recently instead of my normal anti-social behavior). I'm not a great conversationalist, so I'd try to think of good conversation topics. In that mindset I noticed that the above topics came up over and over -- not just in dating, but in most conversations.

Anyway, I guess the point is that I'm excited to spend time with my brother and share my interests with him. And I'm looking forward to what he will share with me.

(I'm also looking forward to sharing time and interests with a woman, but that's a whole other story.)

Monday, August 6, 2007

Mood Ring

Isn't it strange how a person can get in a mood where they just don't know what to do? When I'm at work sometimes I feel like all I want to do is hurry home to be free. But often when I get home I don't know what I should do with my free time. After giving it some thought, I feel that for me the important factors seem to be mood (i.e. emotion) and interaction with people.

When I'm in a bad mood or feeling lonely it seems harder to find something fun to do. But when I'm in a good mood everything seems fun! Or when I'm with friends the time passes by and I have fun regardless of what we do (which often is just sitting around talking or watching some show). And actually when I'm in the proper mood I throughly enjoy being at work! Of course, that has not a little to do with loving what I do...

It is almost disturbing how powerfully women affect my mood. They have the uncanny ability to push my emotions into extreme states such as irrepressible giddiness, abyssal melancholy, or unholy wrath. I find myself happy to do almost anything for a girl if I think she might like me even a little.

Apparently there is a way to harness this power. They call it marriage. Unfortunately it surpasses my understanding. But I hope that someday I will find someone who will help me to really enjoy every day of my life.