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!

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