PAX East Roundup

Let’s get the important stuff out of the way first: I have a job! Can’t spill any details beyond that just yet, but it’s nice to say out loud. And hopefully you’ll be excited when you discover what betas I can get you access to. Onto more relevant (and less secret) things.

PAX East! My very first pure video game convention was a great success. Not only did I avoid contracting any form of plague, but I also got to meet up with a ton of awesome Internet friends who I’ve known for a while. I spent a great deal of time with my good friend who runs Bioware Quest, which I highly recommend you check out and support. I also got to meet up one night with the Community Managers from the industry, including folks from SOE, Turbine, Perfect World, CCP, and Red 5. I even got to meet the Massively team, whom I love ever so much. But enough about the social stuff, let’s talk about the games.

I can honestly say that I did not play one bad game the whole convention. Was that because I avoided games I thought wouldn’t be good? Not intentionally, at least. And I was pleasantly surprised with everything I played. Let’s break it down:

APB: This game is GTA IV: MMO Edition. What that means is that if you enjoyed GTA IV (as I did), you will love this MMO (as I do). Choose a side (Enforcers or Criminals), and start doing missions to raise your rep with that faction. Then, while you’re doing missions, the other side will be alerted as to your attempts to complete it, and will be offered the chance to take you down. Suddenly, you’re teamed up with a handful of folks on your side, and you’re stealing a car and piling into it in order to destroy the other team and prevent them from reaching their goals. There’s no “PvE vs. PvP” argument in this game. If you’re playing, you’re aware that the other side is out to get you. Though I don’t understand the restrictions, I did notice that you couldn’t always attack the opposing team while wandering the city. Maybe you have to catch them doing something wrong? Not clear yet. The vehicles handle a little strangely, but the overarching concept of the game is awesome. I can’t wait to play beta.

Splinter Cell: Conviction: I loved the demo on my 360, and they were showing off the co-op mode. It was difficult to play, mostly because it was hard to hear my partner in the loud expo hall, but the gameplay seemed solid. I was so impressed with the home demo that I’ll still give it a shot.

Crackdown 2: I wasn’t going to wait in line for this, but I glanced over the shoulders of some people playing it. Multiplayer in the Crackdown universe? Sounds like fun.

Monday Night Combat: Watched my friends play this. At first glance, it’s a TF2 clone. But it’s so much more than that. It’s a tower defense game, it’s a game with loads of strategy, and a game that requires you to actually strategize with your team. The classes, while very similar to TF2, are distinct enough that it’s fun. Plus, as you collect money in a match, you level up your character and his skills, making him better. Player progression = more engaging.

Prince of Persia: Again, I didn’t get to play this, but I watched for a bit. Looks like they went back to their roots a bit (in the Sands of Time direction). Lots of parkour going on, lots of fighting. One awesome thing? The Prince is swinging around a pole (like he does). Behind him, a waterfall. He flips off the pole and through the waterfall to land on the other side. Now he goes back to the pole, and before leaping this time, he freezes time. Leaps off the pole, rebounds OFF THE WATERFALL and onto a higher pole above him. Whoa.

Slam Bolt Scrappers: Think Tetris plus Tower Defense plus fighting game. This game was part of the Indie Showcase, and I wanted to go back multiple times to play it again. It’s a 2v2 game, where you attack monsters flying in the air who then drop tetris block. You drop those blocks on your tower to match up colors in order to build weapons, which then attack your opponent’s tower. First to destroy a specific gold block on the other team’s tower wins. It was chaos of the utmost fun. I will definitely buy this game.

Red Dead Redemption: First, I am ashamed to admit that I waited two hours in line to play this. It’s not like I was even that excited to play it. I was just hanging with my friends and before I knew it, we had waited two hours for it. The game is GTA IV in the Wild West. It’s even got the same UI, same controls, etc. This is not a bad thing, however, because without the development time necessary to create an engine, Rockstar’s been able to focus on the fun parts of the game. Lasso yourself a horse! Tie up a random dude and put him on the back of your horse! Kill a coyote and skin him! Rob a stagecoach! The gameplay is easy to master if you’ve played GTA for an extended period of time, and I think there’s definitely a need for a good Western game in the market right now. I really hope they release a demo.

Finally, I’d like to report on my total haul for the weekend. Bear in mind the cost of this trip for me was about $300 total. ($45 for a 3-day pass, plus $200 for plane tickets, plus somewhere between $50-$100 for food).

  • $100 gift certificate to Jinx, courtesy of Tritton Technologies
  • Free copy of LOTRO Collector’s Edition ($30 value)
  • Free copy of Unreal Tournament 3, courtesy of Intel ($30 value)
  • Free signed hat from the folks at Rooster Teeth ($20 value)
  • Networking with other industry folks (Priceless)

I think I made out pretty well. That’s over half the value of my trip in swag.

And that’s that. Next convention? Don’t know. Hopefully this new job sends me to all of them, in which case I guess the next one would be E3? That’d be amazing.

Oh, and PS. Major Nelson is actually pretty short in real life. Wasn’t expecting that.

This Week’s Playlist

Visiting the other side of the country means I struggle to survive without my DVR. I’ve been trying to keep up with my favorite television shows, but I now have so many that I forget what they are. Here’s what I’ve been watching/playing this week:

Battlestar Galactica – I’ve got 4 episodes left of the entire series. Can’t wait to finish it.

Dexter – Started watching Season 3. Why is this show SO GOOD?!

Psych – Season 4 wrapped up this week. I’m an episode behind, but excited to finish it. What a fun show!

Lost – Don’t get me started talking about this show, or I’ll never stop. Ask me when it’s all over if it was worth it (Hint: It was).

Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks – This game is frustrating beyond belief, but I’ve got to finish it, because hey, it’s a Zelda game. But damn do I have an unfair hatred for trains now.

Elite Beat Agents – Old DS game that I can’t ever put down. The song selection is great, and I just seriously enjoy restarting and playing it through over and over again.

Things I will be playing next week:

Blur Multiplayer – Got me a beta code, can’t wait to try it.

Unnamed Beta – Rest assured, this game is one of the best MMO’s I’ve ever played. I want to talk about it so badly.

Bioshock 2 – Yet again, I got part of the plot spoiled for me, but now I need to keep playing through to learn the rest.

World of Warcraft – The two week break from the game has been nice for me, but I’m excited to get back in and continue gearing up. I think I’m geared up enough to start running some ICC, which should be really cool.

Derek Smart Is Hilarious

I guess I’m the only one who doesn’t already know who Derek Smart is. But the best part is that it doesn’t matter. Within a few hours of taking over Alganon’s development, he already posted what I believe to be the Best Post of 2010. Yup, I’m calling it right here, in mid-March.

The post seems to have edited out some of my favorite parts of it from last night, but there’s still plenty to enjoy:

“Dave Allen didn’t “depart”. I fired him back in February for insurbordination and for acting against the best interests of the company, the LLC investors (who I represent), the game and the team.”

“The average gamer is as finnicky as a hummingbird on acid”

“My community sticks with my games because I’ve always stayed focused on the people who actually buy and play my games. Those are the people who I have catered to. QOL is going to focus on the community that buys and plays Alganon. If you don’t like Alganon the game for what it is and not what you want it to be, fine, don’t play it, don’t come here, go and play something else. No hard feelings.”

Derek’s posting style is totally a nightmare for any Marketing/PR person at Quest Online, and especially tough for any Community people they have over there. For now, the community seems like they’re frolicking around hand-in-hand with Derek and are happy as can be that he’s taken over, the honeymoon is not going to last long. He tends to intentionally infuriate people who are being rude, and guess what? Those people make up a good percentage of your community.

Even though right now the community likes seeing someone with a strong fist come crashing into their party to shed some light on the situation (that was going to be a metaphor but sort of died a quarter of the way into the sentence), my guess is that soon he’ll start rubbing them the wrong way, and we’ll see a bit of friction between the players and the development team. Or, more specifically, Derek Smart.

MacHeist!

I’m a sucker for good deals. And every time MacHeist comes around, I almost inevitably jump on it. This time, being unemployed, I figured it was best to be hold off and not spend any unnecessary money. Until I saw that the $20 deal included 10 apps, one of which was all five episodes of Tales of Monkey Island. And not only that, but it includes both Windows and Mac versions too (since I can’t run it on my Macbook).

So, one of the apps it came with is called “MacJournal”. It lets you write blog posts and whatnot on your computer, then one-click publishes them to the Interwebs. So if you’re reading this, it means the app works, and I have a new toy to play with. Joy!

Valve <3 Macs!

Valve announced that Steam is coming to the Mac, and along with it, support for simultaneous releases on both PC’s and Macs of all their future products. The best part?

“We have added a new feature, called Steam Play, which allows customers who purchase the product for the Mac or Windows to play on the other platform free of charge.”

This is excellent news.

Infinity Whoooooa

This week has revealed some of the scariest news I’ve ever heard. This whole thing with Infinity Ward is freaking me out like nothing ever has. And as the week goes on, more details are slowly leaking out that make the whole ordeal even more insane. Let’s start from the beginning.

On Tuesday, reports started leaking out that hired goons showed up at Infinity Ward to forcibly remove the two heads of the studio from the premises. As the day went on, it became clear that the two heads, Vince Zampella and Jason West, had been fired by Activision for “insubordination” and “breach of contract”. Kind of strange that the heads of the studio that made the two best-selling games of all time were fired, but okay, fine.

Of course, the next day reports are out that Zampella and West are suing Activision , also for “breach of contract” and some other claims. Wholly expected, in my eyes, after their sudden departure. But here’s where it gets good.

West and Zampella’s lawyers released a statement, with these details:

Activision conducted the investigation in a manner to maximize the inconvenience and anxiety it would cause West and Zampella. On little notice, Activision insisted on conducting interviews over the President’s Day holiday weekend; West and Zampella were interrogated for over six hours in a windowless conference room; Activision investigators brought other Infinity Ward employees to tears in their questioning and accusations and threatened West and Zampella with “insubordination” if they attempted to console them; Activision’s outside counsel demanded that West and Zampella surrender their personal computers, phones, and communication devices to Activison for review by Activision’s outside counsel and, when West and Zampella asserted their legally protected privacy rights, Activisions counsel said that doing so constituted further acts of insubordination.

(Blockquote shamelessly stolen from Scott Jennings, via Broken Toys. Apologies.)

Yes, Activision supposedly submitted West and Zampella to intense interrogation for 6 hours, berated the rest of the staff, and repeatedly threatened them with “insubordination”. Now, I’m not one who is going to judge anyone before the entire truth comes out, but I highly doubt that this quote is completely false. Given how close everyone is in this industry, the truth is going to come out eventually, and my guess is that it’ll be sooner rather than later. Everyone knows people at IW, so I’m going to patiently wait and see what comes of this. The story is just getting started.

I’m actually an Activision shareholder. I bought into them when they acquired Blizzard, mostly as a safe investment since I highly doubted Blizzard was going anywhere anytime soon. But when this story broke, I immediately called my dad (we discuss financial stuff all the time) and talked about the implications of this. Regardless of whether I’m taking a loss or not (which I would), I’m not sure I can buy int0 a company that treats their studios, especially their most successful ones, as disposable. I’ve voiced my displeasure at Infinity Ward before, but as a part of “the industry”, you can’t help but be angry at the treatment of the employees. But again, let’s wait to see where the truth leads is. Can’t wait to hear where this story goes, though. I’m on pins and needles.

Oh, and lastly, I was hearing rumors via Twitter (probably the most unreliable source there is) that these two were shopping IW to EA. Does anyone know anything about that? I don’t want to perpetrate this rumor, but I am very curious if that’s the next chapter of this story to be revealed.