Toys that READ YOUR MIND

It was extremely strange going back to the same exact convention center for a second weekend. But it was really cool to see the entire place change over in just a week to a completely different show. I got to join my dad in his excursion to the New York Toy Fair, and annual show that is closed to the public. People bring their crazy inventions, hoping to get them mass produced, while other big-name companies show off their upcoming fun stuff for the next year. It was awesome to see some upcoming toys, and also to check out some cool concepts. My personal favorites:

  • The company Mega got the license to produce Halo Wars products, and I was really impressed with the detail of the models, considering they’re just made of building blocks. Even the Banshee’s lid opens up like it does in the game. Plus the mini Spartans, grunts, and Arbiters were adorable.
  • Rubik has a new touch-sensitive cube coming out. It’s electronic, and you swipe the sides to rotate them. Plus it has a hint and undo button. I didn’t get to physically see it at the show, but there were plenty of displays about it, plus I read the Engadget writeup on it today.
  • This new product came out called Tracksters. From what I understand, you buy a little diecast car, and the car includes a code which you enter online. Then you can race that exact car online against other people and earn points to buy upgrades. They’ll also be selling booster packs of cards which also give you upgrades online. Interesting concept, but I’m concerned because they already have a product-online game tie-in that doesn’t seem to have done very well. I’ll give it a shot though.
  • My personal favorite: Mind Flex. This was the toy I wanted to play with more than anything else, and I got the chance to. You wear a headband, and the game measures your brainwaves. The more you concentrate, the higher a ball floats, and the more you relax, the lower it floats. You then have to navigate it through an obstacle course. I played with it for about 10 minutes, and it was HARD. But I’ve never seen anything like it, and it’s the first of its kind to read your mind, so I think it was awesome. Unfortunately, I can’t see it being a success with an $80 pricetag attached. Maybe once mind-readers are more affordable, I’ll get one.

So, that was a cool show. It’s nice to be at a show that’s closed to the public, but I really did enjoy the chaos of Comic Con. When’s the next convention?

Comic Con, the Conclusion

I promised a continued story from the last post, and I apologize for the delay. Last week was pretty busy. But given that I’ve got a week off of school now, I figure I’ve got some time to update on the rest of the Con.

Sunday

So, the last day of the Con we were tired. But we had to push through a few more panels and make sure we saw everything before we could go home. So we took a deep breath, and waded back into the sea of dorkdom. Here are the highlights:

  • Chuck – The creators of Chuck held a panel to talk about the show and where it’s heading, with a special appearance by Yvonne Strahovski (aka Striker), who plays Sarah on the show. They were nice enough to produce a little trailer that showed the rest of the season, as well as answer a few questions about what to look forward to. However, the panel took a dive when they opened the floor up for questions. About every other person stepped forward to ask Yvonne for an autograph. And three of them had the same exact story about how their father didn’t want any television except Chuck and all he wanted was an autograph from her. Someone even made her the honorary grand marshall of the New York Polish Parade or something like that. I mean, come on people. Ask some good questions. Don’t just drool. That’s rude. It really hit rock bottom when two kids stepped up to the mic to ask a question, and then DIDN’T LEAVE. They just stayed at the mic, commenting on what the panel was saying, asking more questions, etc. I wanted to punch their little faces clean off. Yes, I was bitter that the panel wasn’t as good as it could’ve been. Also, Josh Schwartz (one of the creators) told us that his parents were there. I really wanted to meet them, because who ever introduces themselves to the relatives of a creator of a hit show? I thought that would be cool, but I didn’t get to do it.
  • Prototype – Yeah, I know I already mentioned this. But my other friend didn’t get to play on Saturday, so he checked it out on Sunday, and we watched. And we STILL saw things we hadn’t seen when we played. It was STILL FUCKING FANTASTIC. I need to get my hands on this game.
  • Dollhouse – Joss Whedon held his panel on the then upcoming show Dollhouse. The panel was cool, I really admire his work and I loved seeing him in person, and the questions were much better than the Chuck panel’s were. We also got to see the first few minutes of the pilot episode, so that was pretty cool. Plus my friend was wetting his pants over some dude who was there who is in Dollhouse but played someone on BSG as well. Hilo? Tahmoh? Something like that.
  • Jumpgate Evolution – My bestest friend Katie Postma is the CM for this game, so I had to give it a go. I don’t know anything about the Jumpgate Universe, but the game was really easy to jump into. It’s a space game, you pilot a ship, and shoot other ships. It’s not like EVE, because it’s more of a space shooter. Which is cool. I played Freespace when I was younger, and it was awesome. Plus, I hear the game’s THIS CLOSE to beta, and it supports joysticks, which will make the game so much more enjoyable. I’m excited to play!
  • Champions Online – When we first checked this out on Friday, it didn’t seem very fun. I gave it a second go on Sunday, and it still didn’t seem too exciting. DCUO is much more of an action game, and the MMO aspects of Champions didn’t thrill me. I loved the art style, but the play needs some tweaking before I would give it another try. One good thing: Travel powers. Everyone starts with them, from what I could tell, and you can use them whenever. That’s very nice of them. The translation from a pen-and-paper game to a video game has transitioned well, I just don’t know if it’s the game for me. I guess I’ll have to use this beta key I got from them to see 😛

I think that’s about everything. We left the convention exhausted, but I wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything in the world. I also was heading back to the Convention Center the following weekend (yesterday) for the New York Toy Fair. I’ll post on that in a bit.

Comic Con Revisited

I declare my first convention a success! I got to play lots of unpublished games, I met a player of Pirates (the first one to know who I was!), and I met up with a bunch of my friends. It was awesome! Let’s break down the highlights of the weekend:

Friday

Friday the convention opened at 1PM, so we had a half a day. My friend and I were pretty overwhelmed by the whole thing, and we just sort of aimlessly wandered through the convention, taking in the sights and sounds. We met up with a bunch of my industry friends, and I physically met a few people I knew face-to-face for the first time, which was great. We ran into a mob of hundreds of Asian teenagers, staring excitedly up at a glass balcony. Some Japanese guy suddenly walked into that room, the mob went nuts, and we stared blankly at the guy. No idea who he was. Some reporters were nearby reporting on the pandemonium, and we asked them who it was. “I have no idea,” one replied. Journalism at its finest.

The only real thing of note we did on Friday was to see the new Futurama movie, “Into the Wild Green Yonder”. It was hilarious. Enough said about that.

Saturday

Saturday we went to the Gabe and Tycho Q&A panel. They’re funny guys, as I’m sure you’re aware. We also went over to the 38 Studios panel, but as soon as it became clear they weren’t talking about their game, I ditched it for some lunch. We found some of the best games of the show on Saturday, including:

– DC Universe Online – I was not expecting to enjoy this game as much as I did. The game is more action-oriented than any MMO I’ve ever played. You run into battle, you click to shoot at things, you use some super powers. If ever there was an MMO that would translate well to a console, this is it. We actually played the game using a PS3 controller. We were extremely impressed. I also got my favorite swag at the Sony booth, a pen that shines the Bat Signal when you push a button.

Prototype – Our favorite game by far at the convention. Free-roaming in New York City, fighting inspired by parkour (free-running), and controls that flowed extremely well together. I watched my friend Mike play it, and we kept going “WHOA!” every time something cool happened, whether it was running straight up a skyscraper, or picking up a bus and smashing people with it, and then when I got my chance to try it out, we still kept discovering new awesome things about the game. Leap off a building and fly around! Jump up in the air and smash down on a tank. Rip someone’s head off with your sword-arms! We were speechless by the end of the demo. And what made us realize how awesome the game is was when we returned to it on Sunday, and our other friend was trying it out. We then realized we still hadn’t discovered everything. Pick up a bus and start running, and you’ll lower the bus and smash everything in your way. Jump up on a tank and you can hijack it and take control. Pick up a car, toss it at a helicopter and watch as it crashes down onto people. I hope there’s still stuff we haven’t discovered yet, because we definitely want the game when it comes out in June.

    We also tried out some pretty bad games on Saturday, like:

    – Tenchu: Shadow Assassin – Firstly, the game just didn’t look good on the Wii. The controls were very touchy, and while the kill animations were cool (once we slid under a guy, and stabbed him in the crotch), the game itself was too slow and boring. It was like Splinter Cell, minus the fun part.

    – Velvet Assassin – I’ve been hearing that this game is great, so maybe I just didn’t understand the controls, but any game where you’re sneaking around, trying to kill, and then you inject some morphine and suddenly you’re wearing a pretty dress, doesn’t sound like a game I want to play.

    – GTA Chinatown Wars – I was really hoping this game would be good. And it was okay. The driving around the city is cool, but much more arcadey, in that you smash through cars, you spin around easily. They went less for the realism of GTA4, and more for a fun DS experience. I didn’t get to try out any missions, but the game just didn’t pull me.

    – Deadly Creatures – Besides the fact that I’m a squeamish arachnophobe, I couldn’t imagine how a game where you play a spider and scorpion could be good. And from what I watched, I was right. The spider runs around, kills some other spiders, eats some grubs, and then dies. Wow. Thrilling.

      I also got to check out the Up panel, where Pete Docter showed us about 30 minutes worth of clips from the movie. It looks and sounds great, even though it’s not “finished” yet, and it’s definitely got that Pixar charm. Those of you who hated WALL-E, this one is going back to the “typical” Pixar movies, so you should be pretty happy. I didn’t get to go to the Up screening, because they only let in 300 people, and I was number 310 in line. But I didn’t mind so much. At night, we went to the SOE fan party, where we enjoyed delicious food and a Q&A session with the developers. Afterwards, we went to the EA/Mythic party at Dave n’ Busters on 42nd St. They set up Rock Band for us to play, and I’m proud to announce that I saved Paul Barnett after he failed out during a song.

      I’ve got more to talk about, but I’ll continue in another post soon. Enjoy!

      New York Comic Con!

      In a fit of genius, last Friday I suddenly decided, “Hey! I should road trip to NY for Comic Con!” Comic Cons have expanded over the years to include much more than comics (which I have no investment in), and now include television, movies, and video games, so it’s much more relevant to me. Over the weekend, I recruited a friend to join me, and we put together cohesive plans to get to NY, stay at a friend’s, and hang out all weekend. I’m just about as excited for this as I was when I got hired as an intern last year (actually, that happened around this time too, didn’t it?). A bunch of my friends are going to be at the Con, including some I’ve met in real life and some I haven’t, so I’m hoping to do some awesome networking (thanks to some of the tips I’ve learned from Darius Kazemi), and just have a great time. It’s my first actual convention I’m going to for anything, so I’m hoping to get lots of pictures, lots of free stuff, and lots of new friends. Hopefully I can post photos each night to Facebook, so keep an eye on it. Maybe I’ll toss some up here as well.

      Also, here’s some of the fun stuff I’ll be seeing at the convention:

      • Pixar’s premiering the first 50 minutes of their latest movie, Up!
      • Futurama is screening their new movie
      • Champions Online is giving out beta keys
      • Jumpgate Evolution is showing off their game (sidenote: their CM is my favorite. Sorry, Troy Hewitt.)
      • Joss Whedon is having a Dollhouse panel, complete with the first part of their pilot episode
      • LOTS of people in crazy costumes

      Plus, I just learned about Bolt Bus, a new company that provides power outlets and free wifi on the bus ride. I’m not sure how well it’ll actually work, but COOL! More updates from the convention as I have them.

      And now for something completely different

      Here’s an interesting read. Not because it’s a cool article (which it is), but because I notice something on it that I’ve never noticed on another company’s site before. They specifically address questions which compare the game to other games, and they purposely mention aspects of other competitors. Obviously City of Heroes/Villains comes up a lot in conversations about Champions Online, but it’s awesome for them to publicly post questions asking if they’ll have Feature X which Warhammer Online has, and for Cryptic to say either “Yes, we’ll have something, but here’s how we’ll make it better” or “No, we won’t have that at launch.” Maybe other companies have done that, but I’ve certainly never seen it. Why bring up the competition on YOUR site? As a developer, I understand why you wouldn’t. As a player, I certainly appreciate the acknowledgment that other games do exist.