Saturday, August 28, 2010

PAX Prep List

I may work two more days before I go on vacation, but I'm mentally preparing for PAX, and I thought I'd drop a post to let you all know what plans I'm making, so you can know what to expect from this blog and yours truly over the next two weeks. A more detailed PAX itinerary will be put up once I know the full picture. This may be a benefit to others attending PAX as well to help organize your thinking. So, I'll break this post into two parts; prep work and The Event.

PAX Preperation:

1. Let's start with the most banal... I need to pay my rent. Not paying and then going on vacation would kind of tick off the landlord.
2. I need to review and have prepped the resume I wish to put forward if I was to apply for a game industry job, and be armed with copies of it, plus writing samples, in case an appropriate opportunity knocks to pass those along.
3. Get all PAX, Hotel, and Plane paperwork together in one spot so it's easy to find when I need it for travel.
4. IMPORTANT! Do my homework on any individuals I will be interviewing (yes, I'm doing actual interviews!) and get some familiarity with the games they're working on. With that knowledge, develop some intelligent questions to ask them.
5. Pack up...

PAX Packing List:

1. Clothes and necessities (duh). Included in this is some business attire to go with the nerd clothes. I'll be casual on Thursday for the x360a meet and greet, but if I'm sitting down to interview someone in the industry, I want to be dressed like someone professional and worth taking seriously.

2. Entertainment for down time, travel time: Book, iPod Touch, Computer, Nintendo DS

3. Media Capturing technology: Camera, camcorder, rechargable batteries, and a bunch of SD cards.

Now, when the prep work is completed, here's what you can expect from me during the eventself!


X360A Meet and Greet - Are you going to PAX? Are you participating in the x360a meet and greet? If so, I'll meet you there! I'm looking forward to meeting the people behind the gamertags I hear so much about. It'll be good to talk achievements with other gamers who actually care about them, and get to know fellow gamers beyond just the gaming.

PAX Panels - I previously posted my list, and I'll be attending those that will work around my appointments (except for a small few I told Webb were non-negotiable... there were only four of those over the three days, one of which was Warren Specter's keynote address). If filming is allowed, I may be filming some of the panels I attend. If I can film, what panels I film will be posted to YouTube.

INTERVIEWS and/or APPOINTMENTS - I don't know who or how many yet, but there'll be a few. The content of those interviews will be posted to x360a after the convention. I'd like to record my interviews if the people I interview are OK with that. For one reason, it allows for a more natural discussion on my end, as I can focus on what they're saying and ask good questions, without having to furiously scribble notes. Then I can review the tape afterword to write up everything accurately for a feature. Or, if the video looks good, it could used as a feature in its own right. If I have any hands-on time with a game, I'll be taking notes as I go.

DAILY VIDEO PODCASTS* - Time and sanity permitting, rather than take the time to crank out a compotent blog post, I will be pointing a camera at my face, pressing record, and talking all about what happened on that day. If Xylo and Silva are interested, they are welcome to participate too. Think of them as mini Hand of Thrawn video shows. These videos will then be loaded to YouTube, though not necessarily the day they are shot. (May do shows Thursday - Sunday, and then upload them one per day after I return to Minnesota).

WIN SWAG? Depending on what (if any) goodies I'm able to pick up or purchase at PAX, I may have some items to give away to my loyal blog and Twitter followers. We'll all just have to wait and see on this one.

I can't wait! Next weekend will be incredible!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Would You be my Rival? / An Afternoon in the Dying West

Would You be my Rival?

I came to the realization last night that I'm starving for achievement rivals. You know, the people you engage in friendly trash talking with, and regular banter about who has more points in what games. Bishop and Silva would be perfect if my score was closer to theirs, but they're both 30-40k ahead of me... so that won't be a friendly "rivalry" any time soon. MR BLACKMAGIC on my friends list has potential, as he's one of the few people in the state of Minnesota with a higher gamerscore, but again, 30k difference, and we almost never talk. Ducky x360a used to be a great one. Back when we did our first GSL, our gamerscores were both 20-25k. We stayed close for a long time, then I opened up a 42k+ lead on him. He needs to kick as in x360a's GSL to make things remotely interesting again. Derek or Buck? I passed them a while back, and neither is on much.

Xylofreak03 is my Obi-Wan Kenobi... my only hope for a good rivalry. We trash talk periodically. He vows to catch my gamerscore. I tell him to keep dreaming. He's only 8k behind me. So, I do have one friend who is legitimately interesting to track from a "rivalry" standpoint. I could use a few others.

Do you have a gamerscore in the universe of 140,000? (Not many do, let's just be honest with ourselves) If not, do you think you have a realistic shot at catching me? Want to see who can hit a milestone first? Who can be better than who at a specific game or genre? I'm receptive to "rivalry" ideas. It's been too long since I've had 3-4 people whose cards I routinely checked. Existing friends of mine are free to tell me how we are in fact "rivals." Hope to hear back from you and get the smack talk rolling!

An Afternoon in the Dying West

I've been pogo-sticking through my collection of games lately, playing whatever I feel like playing more than sticking to a set few. The two games that have benefitted from this approach to gaming, Record of Agarest War and Read Dead Redemption, are both games that are challenging and time consuming to complete, but would make impressive completions on my card. In Red Dead, I have about 27 hours total playtime, so I will be updating Raptr with that game once Dragon Age is finally correct.

My personal play style for Red Dead has been to focus on the story first, and handle all the activities second. While I have allowed myself to get distracted from time to time with the stranger missions, it's mostly been off on one mission after another. I've loved it overall, but I think I agree with the reviews I've read that say the Mexican civil war aspect of the story drags on too long and isn't as interesting as it could be. John Marston allows himself to be errand boy for far too long before a nugget of information for his primary quest shows up.

Yesterday was a productive day in Red Dead, with over a dozen story missions completed. After looking at the achievement guide again on x360a, I'm feeling the glimmer of hope that I may actually complete this game, but I have some questions:

Who wants to help boost 3 straight FFA wins?
Who wants in on some Advanced Co-Op missions?
Who else is getting the Legends and Killers DLC?
How will I manage the 8-player posse?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Yes, Seriously (2.0)

After hours upon hours of kill grinding while listening to podcasts and music, I can add another achievement to my war chest of gaming "accomplishments." That pain-in-the-ass known as Seriously 2.0 in Gears 2 is now mine. I'd like to thank the Major Nelson Podcast, Lucana Coil, Dream Theater, Apocalyptica, KOXM, and Blind Guardian for their efforts in preserving my sanity over the course of the grinding.

I noticed in my Raptr feed after unlocking the achievement that just 1% of Raptr users who have played Gears 2 have that achievement. Rare indeed. How many trueachievement points is it worth, anyway?

Gears 2 is done. No more listening to Xylo swear at me as I inched closer to the goal. No more Xylo rage kicking me from the party when I got it (I LOLed). No more Social King of the Hill boosting. Act 2 in the Gears trilogy is now sitting atop Avatar on the stack of games I'm going to trade in for Fallout: New Vegas when that comes out. With the 5 completion points I've attributed to the game, I'm at 16cp for the year. I just hit bronze. Yay!

In the last couple days, I've added JJB (things blog's most frequent commenter hands down), Bishop, and Petturi to my Raptr friends list. Nice to see other people checking out the service and the features it offers. I'm a little scared to think that every hour I log into Gears 3 and Fallout: New Vegas is going to be recorded for the record... those totals will be HIGH. I set Raptr to publish a daily twitter summary of my game play, but any hours totals are going to be high for a while, as I continue to pad select games with fake marathons until the site matches my in-game timers for the games I'm interested in tracking.

Tomorrow is shaping up to be a busy day, as I procrastinate on my to-do list. No gaming tomorrow until 7pm. If you see me online before then, it means I'm watching a movie on my lunch break. I've got the regular to-do list, plus everything I need to do for PAX and the fact that I'll be abandoning my apartment on vacation for the first half of september. Fun times are coming soon, but first I must slog through the boring necessities.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cameron's Avatar Completed

Finally! It's been a while since I completed every achievement in a game. As I sat down this morning deciding what I wanted to play on my first day off work (the day I refuse to do any work and just relax), none of the games I've been currently working on had any appeal to me, so I flipped through my biner of games and stopped on Avatar. I love the movie. I'll be seeing it in theaters again when it releases this Friday, no doubt. I was reasonably close to done, with just 2 areas left in the campaigns before I burned out on the game last time, so I figured I'd give it a whirl and see how far I could get.

Completing the campaign for the Na'vi wasn't too tough, but hunting down the last A-Pods for the sector challenge achievements wasn't fun at all. Despite the bad reviews this game has gotten, I quite enjoyed it. I picked up the game new for $20, and feel I got $20 worth of entertainment out of it. Of course, if I'd paid $60, the feelings of enjoyment I have now probably wouldn't be the same. You could do much worse than this if you're looking for an action game to kill a weekend with.

Due to the amount of time needed to sleep-grind the multiplayer games, and the fact that I rented a second copy at one point to boost myself, I'm calling Avatar a game worth 2 completion points, as the sum total of all play (or AFK grinding) exceeds 40 hours. This is my 9th completion this year, with 11 completion points in my annual self-challenge. 1 more point and I achieve bronze... My goal is Silver. You can track my progress in one of the boxes down on the right.

After listening to the Major Nelson Podcast and Apocalyptica's excellent new ablum "7th Symphony" while kill grinding in Gears 2, I stand at 86,250 kills. I'm growing ever closer to Seriously 2.0 and the FIVE completion points I'm declaring Gears 2 worth (I truly believe I've got over 160 hours of playtime total in that game).

Through Molneze, I discovered a site that will make tracking how games fit into my 40-hour rule much easier. Check out The site lets you follow friends and send messages across multiple gaming networks, and keeps track of how many hours you've logged in any game (it's not retroactive, of course). I'm using it to track how much I've played games now, and creating some fake gameplay sessions through manually adding hours to bring the total in line with what in-game timers are telling me. I won't do this for every game, but the ones I'm still working on or care to have represented on the site will be gradually updated until the gameplay totals are correct. If you've ever wanted to know how much you've played a game, this site is for you, as it'll work with everything, and it's a better indicator of what games you've truly played the most. (360voice's counter of days played isn't the best. Which is more, playing a game one hour on ten different days, or 4 hours on three different days? Since raptr measures actual time, it's much better)

Monday, August 23, 2010


I just kicked (no, punted) someone from my friends list on Xbox Live, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to put the rest of you on notice, though I don't I'll have further problems with this.

Here are the two messages I receive, which I have smashed into one for ease of reading:

Hey everyone- I have now started doing achievements for other Xbox Live users in return for microsoft points. If your not into that then please ignore this. However, if u want an achievement real bad thats either too hard for u or u just dont want to-
spend the time to get them then im your man. Also since you are my friends u each get a discount- the people that i do this service for will remain nameless unless otherwise requested- also bring me 4 customers and u will receive1600MS points 4 telln ppl!

If you EVER send me one of these types of messages, here is what I am going to do to you (and am working on for this individual):

*Not necessarily in order*

1. Remove from friends list
2. Block Communications
3. I take screenshots of your messages, and pass the word on to Microsoft enforcement, and I'm sure this is against terms of use.
4. Avoid you in Xbox, and report from within the system.
5. Is your friends list visible? If so, I will take the time to send each one of them a message about how bad an idea that is, and how you should be avoided.

Don't send me these messages. Better yet, just don't engage in this behavior. Hell, by saying he won't name his clients, this idiot even know what he's doing ins't right. /sigh

Friday, August 20, 2010

Epically Epic Epicness

That's right, today's post is sponsored by the word EPIC. From this point on, every time you read it, you have to scream at the top of your lungs and wave your arms around like they did on PeeWee's Playhouse whenever someone said the secret word, mmmkay?

This post has two parts. Part 1 deals with my gaming activities, part 2 talks about PAX.

Part I: EPIC gaming exploits

After three long days of work where I was the only Assistant Manager on duty (that's a party, let me tell you), I finally had a day off, and took some deserved time away from responsibility, to enjoy a day of almost nothing but gaming. I posted to Twitter asking what game people thought I should play over a marathon, as I couldn't decide... they all sounded awesome to me. After a tie vote, I flipped a coin and Dragon Age won out. Before I arrived at Dragon Age, however, I was playing a few other games.

First on the docket was Blacklight: Tango Down. I got in a few games of team deathmatch before tiring of the behavior of people I got paired up with. It seemed to be national EPIC spawn camping day, with loads of teabagging. Sigh.

After that, I downloaded the trial of Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light... and proceded to redeem a 1600 points code minutes later to buy the game. I love the arcadey, dual stick combat action, and the puzzles and platforming have a true Tomb Raider feel. Microsoft definitely held the best Summer of Arcade game for last. As a matter of fact, if I had to rank the four Summer of Arcade games that I've played, I'd put them in the following order:

1. Lara Croft
2. Hydro Thunder
3. Limbo
Distant 4th: Monday Night Combat. Can I have my 1200 MSP back please? Blacklight at its worst has been more fun for me than this game at its best, thus far. Will expand on these feelings some other time.

After getting through the first three levels of Lara Croft, it was time to move on to Dragon Age. I've been away from this one for a while, as it's entering my "burnout phase." No matter how much I love a game, even with the best games I'll enter a phase where I'm bored of them and need to take a break to play something else for a while. Since this game will be worth a large sum of Completion Points towards my annual challenge when completed, and I want to be through it before Dragon Age 2 arrives, there's no time like the present to dive in.

Over the course of play, I completed the main story quest with the Dalish elves and the werewolves, using multiple save files to get the achievements for both decisions on the same playthrough. I have to laugh that I have over 700 achievement points in that game, more than 45 hours played, and I'm still not even 50% complete. There's a reason my RPG completion ratio is so low LOL... those games all last far longer than my "burnout phase" allows, and I'm hit and miss about coming back to them later.

Although I had wanted to, I just couldn't play Dragon Age for six straight hours, so I took a break before settling into my second huge gaming session of the night: Halo Wars. DarkTharen and I are trying to get together once a week to play this game until we've completed it. We successfully completed to game on easy, with gold medals on every mission. We then got through the first two missions on Legendary, with the help of the beneficial skulls activated. There's still one skull and black box I'm missing, and a few mission specific 5 point achievements, but I'm not in a pressing hurry to get those.

Late in the evening, Molneze showed up and joined us for some 3v3 action over Live. We lost every match we played. I'm not going to grief Dark or Molneze for how they played, but it's clear some practise is in order. Molneze's chief difficulty was that since he hadn't played in so long, he totally forgot the tech tree, and couldn't remember what he should be building or the proper order. If made for a frustrating night of play, but Molneze showed he had a good head for tactics during our battles, so after taking some time to relearn the tech tree, we should be sailing along just fine. We had a pretty EPIC 2 vs. 2 match after Dark went to bed, which we of course lost, but it was a back-and-forth struggle, with each side eliminating some of the other's bases more than once. I don't mind losing when the fight is good.

Part II: PAX EPICness

PAX is coming within two weeks now, and I just got my 3-day badge in the mail. I purchased it as an insurance policy, so just in case anything fell through with the x360a press pass, my vacation wouldn't be screwed. (What's a $55 pass for insurance after spending over $500 between flight and hotel?) I'm so excited to go, it's driving me a little crazy. The biggest challenge now (beside the six work days between now and vacation) is deciding how I will spend the time at PAX. How much time do I devote to the exibition floor, and how much to the panels? Webb may be taking it easier after E3 and Gamescom, but as someone who doesn't have the opportunity to go to these things often, I plan on going all-out for all three days. (The only other gaming convention I attended was a Nintendo convention in Osaka, Japan, back in 2006, where I got to play the Wii a few weeks before the system's release.)

WHat you'll see below is a shameless copy/paste from the PAX site some of the panels I really, really want to see. This will give you an idea of some of the stuff I'll be blogging and article writing about over the coming weeks. I've tried to make this a coherent schedule free from overlap, as I sadly can't be in two places at once. Yes, this list is extensive, so I won't blame you for checking out now if you have no interest in everything I'm doing at PAX.

Friday, 10:30 AM - 11:30 AM, Main Theatre
PAX Prime 2010 Keynote
Best known for his work on the Thief series, System Shock and Deus Ex, we welcome Warren Spector as he delivers the keynote for PAX 2010. His history as a master storyteller and game designer will no-doubt play into his keynote as he shares his insight on games and gaming culture in the Main Theatre at Benaroya Hall. Note that the theatre will not be cleared between this session and the first Penny Arcade Q&A.

Friday, 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM, Pegasus Theatre (would miss the start of it)
Hal Halpin and Adam Sessler Talking Games
ECA President Hal Halpin and G4's host of X-Play and Editor-in-Chief of games content, Adam Sessler discuss the hot topics that are affecting the video game industry today and look at trends that could impact gamers in the future. Topics of discussion will include net neutrality, digital rights, and the upcoming violence in video games U.S. Supreme Court case. The panelists will take questions from the audience if time permits.

Panelists include: Adam Sessler [Host of X-Play and Editor-in-Chief of games content, G4], Hal Halpin [President, The ECA]

Friday, 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM, Wolfman Theatre
The Basics of Good Game Design
Veteran designers James Ernest and Keith Baker have designed nearly every type of game imaginable. Board games? Pen and paper roleplaying? MMORPGs? Transparent gothic storytelling card games? Button based fighting games? They've done it. Join them for a discussion of the underlying principles of good game design, and a few laughs as well.

Panelists include: Keith Baker and James Ernest [Loneshark Games]

Friday, 3:30 PM - 4:30 PM, Wolfman Theatre
Making Stories Worth Playing
For years, interactive fiction authors have grappled with the often conflicting demands of story, gameplay, interactivity and immersion. Good stories are not always good games, and while simulation and emergent story can ease pressure on designers, they come with their own problems. Interactive fiction authors and graphical game designers unite to discuss their solutions.

Panelists include: Robb Sherwin, Andrew Plotkin, Annie Carlson, Deirdra Kiai, Dan Shiovitz

Friday, 4:30 PM - 5:30 PM, Unicorn Theatre
Movin’ on Up: How to Make It (Or Not) in Videogames Journalism
Do you run a videogame website and not getting enough PR love? Do you write about videogames and looking to go pro? Are you looking to get into videogame journalism? We’ll drop knowledge on how to get your site or writing noticed by the right people, how to run into the “right” people, and how to just get started in the first place -- all straight from PR folks, veteran, and panelists who have gone virtual unknowns to writing for some of the biggest sites or publications out there. We’ll also dedicate a good amount of time to answer to your questions, so come prepared!

Panelists include: Arne Meyer [Community Strategist, Naughty Dog], John Drake [Manager, Communications and Special Projects, Harmonix Music Systems], Chris Kohler [Game|Life Editor,], John Ricciardi [8-4]

Friday, 6:30 PM - 7:30 PM, Main Theatre
Square Enix
Details TBA

Friday, 8:30 PM - 1:30 AM, Main Theatre
Friday Night Concerts
Join us and rock out with our musical guest friends. The lineup for Friday night includes: Anamanaguchi, Metroid Metal, The Protomen, and The Minibosses. Wristbands granting priority access to this event will be given out Friday morning to those at the front of the WSCC and Main Theatre lines, with the remaining seats being given away on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Saturday, 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM, Pegasus Theatre
The Community Manager Challenge Part 2
Join our lovely Community Managers for the exciting conclusion of the worlds first (and only) Community Manager Challenge!

Panelists include: Larry Hryb [Major Nelson, Xbox], Stephanie Bayer [Community Mgr, Bioware], Alexis Hebert-Ruiz [Community Mgr, Terminal Reality], Will Kinsler [Community Mgr, EA Sports], Sam Houston [Social Media Mgr, Perfect World], Christa "Trixie360" Charter [Xbox], Arne Meyer [Naughty Dog], Will Kinsler [EA Sports], Kathleen "cookiecups" Sanders [Xbox Indie Games], Robert "fourzerotwo" Bowling [Infinity Ward], Jeff Rubenstein Rubenstein [Playstation], John Drake [Manager, Communications and Special Projects, Harmonix]

Saturday, 1:30 PM - 2:30 PM, Raven Theatre
Game Writing & Rabid Badger Combat
Do you want to be a game writer? Do you like single handedly fighting rabid badgers while building a miniature version of the Eiffel Tower in a glass bottle? If you answered yes to either of these questions this is the panel for you! This panel will primarily focus on how to improve your chops as a game writer, discuss the future of storytelling and narrative design in games and answer your questions about how to become a game writer. As rabid badger fighting is vastly simpler than game writing it will be covered more briefly as, while it is an essential skill for any game developer, you should be able to pick it up at home through our series of instructional YouTube videos or the excellent, recently published, Idiot’s Guide to Rabid Badger Combat (chapter 10 covers how to build bottled miniatures while fending off omnivorous weasels). All skill levels are welcome, from hobbyist game writers to industry veterans to gamers who just want to get more out of their games. Join James Portnow, Tom Abernathy, Anne Toole and John Sutherland as the cover the ins and outs of writing for games.

Panelists include: James Portnow [CEO, Rainmaker Games], Tom Abernathy [Game Writer, Microsoft], John Sutherland [Game Writer, Microsoft], Anne Tool, Gary Whitta

Saturday, 5:00 PM - 6:15 PM, Main Theatre
Star Wars Games - REVEALED!
LucasArts and BioWare unite on stage once again to give PAX attendees an exclusive in-depth look at Star Wars: The Old Republic! Don't miss your chance to be the first to hear and see new details about the MMORPG that everyone is talking about. As an added bonus, attendees will also get an explosive look at a demo of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II, the sequel to 2008's blockbuster best-seller. LucasArts will demonstrate now fugitive Starkiller's devastating force powers in an exclusive look at this galaxy-altering game.

Saturday, 8:00 PM - 9:00 PM, Serpent Theatre
Twittering for the Man: Social Media & Game Publishers
Community managers have long been an asset to game developers -- but spokesgeeks for publishers? That's a fairly new one. Some of the biggest publishers are building direct lines of communication to their biggest fans and harshest critics, so GamePro’s editor-in-chief John Davison will ask some of the most well-known architects -- Microsoft's Larry "Major Nelson" Hryb, Activision's Dan "OneOfSwords" Amrich, EA's Jeff "Greenspeak" Green, and Sony's Jeff "JeffPS" Rubenstein -- to explain their unusual roles, carefully balanced between the fans and The Man. How much freedom do they have under a corporate umbrella? How much are they making it up as they go along? And how come none of them seem to do their jobs the same way? Their answers will Twitter your Facebook off. Or something.

Panelists include: Larry Hryb [Director of Programming for Xbox Live, Microsoft], Dan Amrich [Social Media Manager, Activision], Jeff Rubenstein [Social Media Manager, SCEA], Jeff Green [Editor-in-Chief,, Electronic Arts], John Davison [Editor-in-Chief, GamePro]

Sunday, 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM, Main Theatre
X-Play LIVE: A Show on Television
Through 12 years, 3 name changes and over 1,084 episodes X-Play has persevered as the most watched videogame show on television and was almost nominated for a Primetime Emmy. Each episode is packed with brutally honest reviews, hands-on demos, and the occasional off-hand reference to early David Cronenberg movies. Join hosts Adam Sessler and Morgan Webb with correspondents Blair Herter, Abbie Heppe and the X-Play crew for their biggest live event ever (**this year**). They'll take questions from the audience, reveal world exclusive behind-the-scenes stories, and mock whoever dares ask about the infamous "Crisis Core" review. Be there for the event of a lifetime and learn what it really feels like when you win a Telly, how deep cable is a life changing experience, and why having a career playing video games can actually be as fun as it sounds.

Panelists include: Adam Sessler [Host and Editor-in-Chief, Games Content, G4], Morgan Webb [Host, G4], Blair Herter [X-Play correspondent and Deep Teaser, G4], Abbie Heppie [Games Editorial, G4], JP Shub [X-Play Supervising Producer, G4], Wade Beckett [X-Play Executive Producer, G4]

Sunday, 1:30 PM - 2:30 PM, Pegasus Theatre
Xbox LIVE Enforcement: Tales from the Din Part 3: The Conclusioning
Enforcement on the Xbox LIVE service isn't just about whacking the bad guys. Join Stephen "Stepto" Toulouse, head of Xbox LIVE Policy and Enforcement, as he walks you through the ins and outs of policing the service (along with some fun stories), working with game developers to keep ahead of the miscreants when designing their titles, and working with the gaming community as a whole to understand how gamers want to be safe online. Stepto and his team will also take your questions about banning, cheating, or anything else you'd like to know about protecting the service. This panel will complete the trilogy of the previous parts presented at PAX Prime 2009 and PAX East 2010 with all new content and fun.

Panelists include: Steve Clark [Enforcement Program Manager, Microsoft], Boris Erickson [Enforcement Program Manager, Microsoft], Andreas Holbrook [Enforcement Program Manager, Microsoft], Stephen Toulouse [Director, Policy and Enforcement, Xbox LIVE, Microsoft

Sunday, 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM, Pegasus Theatre
Gearbox Software continues the now well established PAX tradition of “What’s up with Gearbox” panel! We’ll be discussing Borderlands and the DLC packs, the Brothers in Arms franchise and Aliens: Colonial Marines. There will be time during the panel for gamers to get answers on all their favorite Gearbox games. There may even be a little Claptrap surprise!

Panelists include: Randy Pitchford [CEO, Gearbox Software], [Brian Martel, Executive Vice President, Gearbox Software], Mikey Neumann [Creative Director, Gearbox Software]

Only problem here is that there's so many panels I want to see, I couldn't see all of them due to overlaps. It also means if I went to all of these that I won't be spending as much time in the expo hall as I'd like, so I'm going to probably have to shave this list down a little to make more time for that. So much to do in just 3 days!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Contest After Thoughts: The Snowball Effect

For ease of following, this post is divides into 3 parts. (1) Data from the contest (2) Why I attemted this contest (3) Particiant Feedback.

Part 1: Contest Data:

My first prize-giving competition is over, with PriusGuy2004 winning the 4,000 Micosoft points. Each entrant was assigned a number (and only counted once, if you send the code through Twitter and Xbox), and then I used a random number generator on my ipod to pick the winner. Now, before you all scatter to the winds, I thought I'd share some info and feedback from the contest.

Congrats to everyone, as every person who submitted the code had the numbers in the right order.

When I started the contest, I had only 18 followers. Over the weekend, that number has risen to 79, an increase of 61 people.

Over the 3 days of the contest, this blog registered 2,038 hits, including 1,084 on Friday... by far the busiest day this blog has ever seen. (Full disclosure: The way my hit counter is set up, every time someone loads a page, it counts as a hit. So, if one person got every post right in sequence on the very first try, they'd likely count for 7 hits. That means this number isn't quite as impressive as it looks, but still, that's a lot of activity.)

Of course, the next question is about the attrition rate. Now that the contest is over, and a winner has been named, how many people are going to stick around, and how many will be gone for good? I'm hoping looking through this blog and reading a little of what's on offer here will be enough to convince the majority to stick around. Only time will tell on this one.

Part 2: Why have this contest?

Naturally, I want to try to build up my audience on Twitter and this blog, as the more eyes I can get on my work, the better that is for my future goals (such as working in the game industry, for example). Besides offering up some fun shenanigans and a bribe to get people to check my Twitter and blog, I wanted to see first hand what I call the "Snowball Effect." (I got a degree in Sociology folks, wanting to conduct 'social experiments' comes with the territory) Imagine a small snowball rolling down hill. As it goes, it picks up speed, growing by leaps and bounds as it picks up speed. The same sort of effect can be replicated in the Twitter-verse.

I started with 18 followers. As far as I can recall, only 2 of my original 18 retweeted my message. Using their follower counts as a guide, from just 2 retweets, my message reached almost 400 people! And once those 400 retweeted to their lists of followers, the number of people my message may have reached quickly becomes too difficult to accurately track. I'd have to add up the follower counts of every one of my followers to even come close, but considering one of the participants has about 1,600 followers (and another on quick glance had 1,000), I'd say the message got out as well as I could have hoped. That's a lot of views from an initial dispersal group of just TWO people!!!

Seeing firsthand how data can spread through something like Twitter was a valuable lesson to learn, as the transmission of data through places like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube will play a part in the novel I'm slowly, gradually working on. Seeing a good snowball from this end of it was worth the 4,000 Microsoft points alone, but any additional following is one hell of a bonus.

Part 3: Participant Feedback

So, was this contest any fun? Here's what a lot of you said (note I'm using the GT or Screen name form the source of the message; sorry for any typos):

ChainsawCharlIe: nice scavenger hunt

PriusGuy2004: Thanks for the contest! Nice job on the scavenger hunt!

Kasanagi2k5: Thank you for hosting such an awesome contest.

Azazel Hellion3: That was fun. I don't know how you will do this... Thanks for the contest.

il Radd: very interesting way to do a contest.

alee67: Thanks for this generous giveaway!

NeT ReAPeR ZERO: Hi Nate, thanks to your contest I finally had to succumb to the evil trend that is Twitter and create an account just to follow you. The scavenger hunt was a pretty neat idea, but a bit too easy.

Neo_Ravager: This was something different, but I don't mind working for a chance to win & variety is the spice of life.

PenultimateHero: Good morning Nate. After an hour rummaging through your blog yesterday, I finally found all six numbers.

Garry_Grant: Brilliant idea to do a scavenger hunt to be eligible for your contest. :)

Phantoms_Heart: That was quite tough, but here is the code. Thank you for such a great contest!

xylofreak: that was fun good job with the hunt

Since the reception for the contest was so positive, I'm sure I'll do another in the future. Next time, I think I'm going to make it harder. Most of the clues led to a title of a post, and with the number and next clue at the top of the post, reading wasn't truly required (though I'm glad several of you did read through the blog).

The next one will require reading through posts, and possibly even direct people off-site, to things like my reviews for x360a. The rewards will be worth the effort though... I will be trying to pick up a little swag at PAX early in Sept. for the specific purpose of audience giveaways. We'll see if I'm successful at that. =)

Thanks again everyone for playing, and I hope you stick around!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Win 4,000 MSP! The Great Scavenger Hunt

As I close in on 300 blog posts, I though I'd have a little fun, and use this as a chance to build up a little blog and Twitter following through some fun shenanigans and a little bribery =)

So, here's the deal. Scattered across this blog are SIX PRIZE NUMBERS, which will form a six-digit code. If you can find all six numbers, you could win 4,000 Microsoft Points! I have to make you work for it a little bit... we're talking about $50 in points here! =)


1. To be eligible, you MUST be following me on Twitter.

2. You must also RETWEET my tweet that announces this contest. I will also accept any RETWEETs of any subsequent tweets I make that specifically reference this contest. Be sure to knock out those two eligibility requirements right away!

3. Once you have found all six numbers, send them to me, in the correct order, via XBOX LIVE MESSAGE to my gamertag, which is also ThrawnOmega, or via Twitter Direct message.

4. A winner will be selected by random number generator at 11pm CST on Sunday, Aug. 15th. The winner will receive the code via Twitter Direct Message.


I will leave you clues on which post has the next number in the code. Once you find the post with the first number, you will also find a clue to the second number, and so on. For the duration of the contest, I have moved my blog archive to the top right of the blog, to make your searching easier.

You will know you have found the right post if you see SCAVENGER HUNT at the top of the post. Good luck folks. Time to start raiding my back catalogue. Good luck and have fun!

CLUE #1: There is one completion on my gamercard that deserves a special place in the underworld for the unnecessary amount of time it takes, and it nearly ruined the fun of achievements for me. Find my rant about that game for first number.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Apps I'm Rocking

I've been pretty obsessed with my Ipod touch since I purchased it, and have dropped a fair amount of some applications. I thought it would be amusing to share what apps I've decided to customize my ipod with and why. Feel free to make any inferences you wish as to what type of human being I am from this:

Osfoora: It's a nice Twitter app that makes it easy to see what's happening in crazy old-twitter land. Easy to navigate with.

ESPN Scorecenter: Free, and it gives score updates, so I can follow my favorite teams even if I can't watch the game.

iBooks: In case I'm ever desperate for reading material and don't have a REAL book handy. Downloaded the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe for free. If you don't find that epic as hell, shame on you.

Gamespot: The site's app for news and video.

IGN: Ditto

J Sensei: An awesome app for expanding my Japanese vocabulary. Has over 10,000 words, with native speakers saying the words, and all words are used in the context of a sentence. You can be quizzed in numerous ways, like hearing the word and having to give the english meaning, or seeing a kanji and having to give the Hiragana for it, as well as several other ways. Lessons are broken down into managable 10-word intervals. I would not recommend this app to anyone just starting to learn Japanese, as it won't teach you any grammar or the writing system, but if you have that down already (which I damn well should after 5 years of study) then it's a fantastic way to build up that vocabulary and restudy words you may have forgotten. At $16, it's one of the more expensive apps out there, but trust me, it's worth every penny.

Toodledo: For $4, this app will make my job much easier. I can enter all my tasks in, and it helps sort them by priority based on my inputed priority value and due date. With a single click I can mark tasks off as done. Helps to to remember what I need to do each day without lugging a clipboard of paper around.

Acme Lists: A very simple list making application. Useful for my job and personal life.

IMDB: For whenever I need to know movie info while sitting on my couch.

Civilization Revolution: It was free; haven't played it yet.

World Series of Poker: A bordom-killing poker sim for travel times.

Wikipedia: See IMDB.

Mixologist: A virtual dictionary of different ways to get oneself drunk. Can show you where local bars and liquor stores are, and can recommend drinks based on what you tell it is in your cabinet. My favorite thing may be the "random" option, where you shake the ipod and it comes up with a drink at random. Click on the name of the drink and you have the recipe. SO using this the next time I go to a bar. Maybe play the random game against Silva some time during PAX.

Epic Fail: A gathering of images from the Fail Blog. Can easily download the images into the system's hard drive. Good for quick LOLs.

APPZILLA: A $1 app that does a million things I'll never need... but wanted anyway. I know it will actually prove useful from time to time.

Flixter: Allows me to see movie showtimes and reviews with ease.

Sudoku: Another travel boredom killer, and brain stimulant.

1337pwn: An xbox live friends list application. I use it to see who is online while gaming without having to hit the guide button. Know I don't have to be near a computer or my console to see that Xylo isn't catching up to my Gamerscore =)

Countdown: A $1 app that, as the name implies, counts down to events of your choosing. I will be programming the big game releases I'm looking forward to into it. For now, Countdown was kind enough to tell me that my flight to Seattle for PAX is scheduled to take off in 22 days, 8 hours, and 18 minutes... TOO LONG!

What do you think of this early app list? Any you would recommend I check out?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The XNA Experiment

For better or worse, I'm one of those individuals where gaming is more than just a hobby, it's a lifestyle. For a while, my ambitions in chasing a job in the game industry were on the backburner, but I've come to the point where I feel I need to keep chasing that dream if I ever expect to actually live it. So, I spent the better part of my afternoon starting to research. Which companies are hiring. What they are looking for. The qualifications desired and what the job responsibilities are. I also downloaded a great 108 page PDF magazine full of articles and tips. You can find if from THIS SITE. Always happy to share what info I find.

While my Plan A is still to chase writing positions for print or web groups like OXM, Game Informer, or IGN (to give a few examples), or a writing position for a developer or publisher, I'm looking at Plans B and C too.

Plan B is researching other job openings where I might be able to ply skills I've picked up in my current position or through my Sociology coursework. Haven't researched this extensively enough to say much on what I'm looking for.

Plan C, which is the most long-term of the ideas, is to start teaching myself a lot of the skills employers are looking for, and I don't possess. On my next day off, I will be compiling a list of such skills, and evaluating which ones I can realistically go after. As a part of Plan C, I've downloaded XNA and everything I need to run it.

Yes, that means I can theoretically make a game you'd play on your Xbox. Of course, I'm going to have to teach myself literally everything before I could even start on such a project, so don't think you'll be seeing anything from me on the Indie marketplace any time soon. If I can teach myself the skills to make a game through XNA, making a game would be great for my resume. It could be used as an example when applying for a game design position, or, if I could convince Bioware or similar developers to look at it, I think my ability to write excellent dialogue would speak for itself. (If I can say one thing about my writing, I do awesome dialogue. I know I need to improve in other areas, but not there).

So, I'm going to have to reshuffle how I spend my free time, with less time actually playing games and more time doing the research needed to move into the job of my dreams. I've got nothing against my current employer, and will continue striving to do the best I can in my current position, but it's foolish not to keep chasing the job you want above all others, right?