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.


Is a CM part of Marketing?

I had a great time the other night having dinner with Sam Houston, Community Manager of GamerDNA. (Check out his Twitter) I had a great time talking with him about Community Management and what is really was, and where it seems to be going. I’m young, as is pointed out to me a lot these days, and therefore inexperienced, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t talk about how I see Community Management. Actually, I think it’s a plus that I haven’t been in a Community role for very long, because I haven’t yet stabilized into a day-to-day role, and therefore my view of the Community team is constantly changing.

When I get asked what my job is post-college, I always have to explain in more depth what I will be doing as an Online Community Representative. Currently, in order to keep it simple, I just say “It’s a little bit of marketing, a little bit of PR.” It doesn’t really explain what an OCR is, but it is enough to keep my family satisfied. But Sam and I got to talking about whether a CM really belongs under a Marketing/PR umbrella, and I came out of the conversation really thinking that it does fall under it. Public Relations is exactly that: forming (and maintaining) a relationship between the public and the company. In my mind, that’s EXACTLY what the Community team does. We are, in some respects, the “face” of the company, in that the majority of players interact directly with us on a day-to-day basis. When people run to the forums to post about something, most of the time (with various exceptions depending on which company you are talking about), you’ll be interacting with the Community team. At Flying Lab, most of the posts on the forums were from me (Community Liaison), Dani (Forum Administrator), Aegir (Community Intern), and Rhaegar (Community Lead). There were various other developers who posted when a response was necessary, but besides that, we were the ones the community tended to know the best.

Some people get pissed off when you describe Community Management as a Marketing/PR position. I can’t understand that. Maybe someone can explain it to me. How can you deny that a position which is required to interact with the public on a regular basis doesn’t have anything to do with Public Relations? I’m not saying that the job doesn’t extend beyond PR. I’m just saying that I don’t see how a person can deny that it falls under that category of PR in the first place.