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.

Uh oh!

Just saw that this blog got linked to on Massively. Does this mean I have to start updating it for real?

Here’s the quick update: Assassin’s Creed II: Buy it. But not until you’ve forced yourself to play through the first one. The first gets a bit repetitive, but the payoff is worth it to play the second, which is just amazing.

After I beat ACII, I immediately switched over to the first Mass Effect and finished that up. Excellent game, but I was sad to see that I killed off two of my party members. Wish that had gone differently.

And now, I jumped right into the sequel. I hear it’s much better, so it remains to be seen.

That’s the quick gaming update. Yes, it’s true, I’m no longer with Cryptic. I wish them nothing but the best, as I love everyone in the company. In the meantime, if anyone knows of some awesome Community position anywhere, please don’t hesitate to let me know 🙂

The Birthday/Friendship System

Over the past few years, I’ve refined a system that had been subconsciously formulating in my head. Here it is: Your closeness with a friend is directly proportional to the method by which they communicate “Happy Birthday” to you once a year. Seeing as today is the one day a year I put this system into motion, I thought I’d share it with the general community.

This system divides your friends into three categories:

1. Those who call you on your birthday.

2. Those who text you on your birthday.

3. Those who Facebook you on your birthday.

The first category is easy: These are your close friends. These are the ones who take time out of their day to have a conversation with you.

The second category is for those who are close enough to you that they’re willing to have a synchronous conversation with you, but not so close that they actually want to have verbal communication.

And the final one are the people who like knowing that they’re a good person, enjoy saying that they keep in touch with you, but aren’t really super close. The acquaintances.

I may judge people based on the system, but mostly it’s just always interesting to see if your perception of the relationship you have with a friend is the same as theirs. Sure, I’d call this person on their birthday, but I’m curious if they’d do the same for me. Over the past few years, I’ve never actually been extremely surprised by where someone falls within the rankings, but it’s always fun to guess if anyone’s moved up or down since the previous year.

Oh, and there’s also a fourth category, aka The Insane People Who Think They Are/Want To Be Your Best Friend. This system does indeed include your actual best friends, but it also includes people who consider themselves to be much closer to you than you actually are. These are the people who A) Write really insanely long/thought out posts on your Facebook wall and B) Call you and C) Sing to you and D) Continue to do so throughout the day.

I freely admit I fall under that category for a few people. People who I am not close with.

Hello and Goodbye?

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, and I’ve thought a lot about whether I even want to keep up this charade of a blog any more. It’s not that I don’t like the blog idea, because I really do. It’s just that…this can no longer be a personal blog. It wasn’t so personal to start, but now that I’ve got a job that takes place in an online space, I’m a sort of online public figure, in a way. I know that people in my community have discovered this blog, so it’s not like I can pretend to hide it. It’s sad to admit it, but I’m just not sure that I’m going to try to stick with this blog anymore. The sacred few friends who I know read this (Yes, I’m talking to you, Ron and Jackie) I keep in touch with anyway, so I don’t feel so bad about that. And for all my “real life” friends, there’s still Facebook. I still proudly admit that I’m legitimate friends with everyone on my Facebook, and that I refuse to accept random friend requests. My Facebook profile is still my personal private bubble. Sort of. I mean, nothing’s private on the Internet.

I guess the moral of the story is that if you’re reading this, and you want to keep up on my life, just give me a call. Don’t rely on this site anymore, just be my friend.

Yours truly,

Me

Finally, an update

Oh, man. I know, I know… I’ve been neglecting my blog again. I go through these spurts of posting a lot, and then posting nothing. Forgive me, I know all five of you that read this blog are probably really upset with me. Or, you are sitting next to me in class right now. Hey, what’s up?

Anyways, as you may have heard, I’ve gotten a job at Cryptic Studios as an Online Community Representative. I started two weeks ago, and it’s been awesome. Not just because of the job, but because I finally can come out and say: “I AM IN BETA AND IT IS AWESOME!”

At NYCC, I got a chance to play the demo Cryptic was showing off, and I was, shall we say, less than thrilled. They gave out beta keys, though, and I grabbed one and installed the game as soon as I got home, just to give it a second go. Usually at conventions, they can’t let you play on the normal beta servers, and so they might set up some individual server solely for the convention. So, you basically have to play in this big, lonely world, that allows you to experience the game without lag, but also without people, which, in my mind, is sort of what defines an MMO. So, I gave it a shot when I got home, and wow! There is a huge difference between the demo at Comic-Con and the state of the actual game. The game is way further along than the demo led me to believe. Also, now that I have an actual grasp of how to play, rather than the 10-second glimpse you’re given at a convention, it’s super-awesome.

Now, I know what you suspicious people are thinking: “Hey, David. It can’t be just coincidence that you’re posting about how awesome a game is right after that company hired you…” Well, it is, and I have proof! I talked to a few friends before getting interviewed / hired at Cryptic, and any one of them can tell you how much I talked up Champions before anything remotely resembling a job came into focus. It’s unfortunate that the NYCC demo didn’t do the game justice. Being hired just allowed me to talk about my beta experiences more openly now, since it’s kind of obvious that I’d be playing the game while working at Cryptic.

That’s all the fun news for now. I was in California this week, picking an apartment, buying furniture, doing all the stuff to get me situated out there after school ends. It’s very scary and very exciting at the same time. Just let me graduate already!

The Magic of Disney

Ah, it’s nice to be back from winter break. Actually, that’s a lie. I really didn’t want to go back to school. Senioritis has kicked in hard. But it’s okay, one more semester and I’ll be out of here.

Break was pretty busy. I went skiing on Christmas (best time of year to go, the slopes are empty except for us Jews), we went to NYC to see Shrek the Musical (it was amazing!), and then I went to Disneyworld for my best friend’s 21st birthday. Four of us went, we’ve been friends since elementary school, and it was awesome. I went to Disney last February, with two friends from college, and it was fun, but they weren’t as into it as I was. I knew that us four would be a much better team, and they’d also let me plan out the parks the way I wanted to do them, since I consider myself an expert on gaming the system. Allow me to show you what I mean:

I went to Disney with a youth group in December 2003 (or 2004…I don’t remember). It was over my birthday, and one of the staff had worked at Disney for a few years, so he grabbed me a birthday pin to wear from Guest Services. I asked if the pin did anything special, and he said, “I dunno. Maybe you can skip all the lines or something.” And so I tried it out on a ride, and it worked! They let me jump the entire line and hop right on, which was great!

I’ve kept the pin since then, and I brought it back to Disney in February, but my friends refused to let me use it to try and jump the lines, because “It was unfair to everyone else”. Oh well. We still got to do everything, but I never learned whether it actually held magic in it or not. This time around, I gave it to my friend, and we used it on EVERY RIDE. We skipped hours of lines just by asking nicely if we could get to the front because it was her birthday. We got free Fastpasses handed to us, we got special tickets letting us jump the line. It was fantastic. I’m wary to actually post this on the internet, lest our secret be divulged, but oh well. It was totally worth it, and if it never works again, I’ll be okay with that. Besides, Disney now has a special program where you can visit the park for free on your birthday.

My absolute favorite part of Disneyworld, however, is the effort they put into the park to hide the day-to-day stuff that goes on behind-the-scenes. They really try to keep everything “magical”, and I really love that. While it’s fun to see the gears operating the animatronics, it’s even more fun just to relax and enjoy the show. We loved every minute we spent in Disney, and I think I’ve almost convinced my parents to take a family trip there sometime in the next few years. Maybe after the Monsters’ Inc. roller coaster is built.

Shrek The Musical Music Player

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