Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Go Fish

In a dusky, smoke-filled room we sat around a small round table covered to the brim with playing cards and chips and ashtrays and half-consumed beers. I glanced across at my opponents, trying not to give away any indication of what a monster hand I had been dealt. The smuggler to my right threw in ten million ISK worth of chips and looked to see if I would call. I took another sip of my drink.

"Call" I said calmly as I pushed my money into the center and then dropped my cards to show what I had been concealing all along. "All reds. Go fish!" I stated and folded my arms smugly as the rest of the table slowly look back and forth at me and my now exposed hand, trying to figure out if I was being serious.


The pirate to my left realized that this was no joke and a grin crept across his face. "All reds is not a hand in poker. Hell, you have that instructional card on how to play poker as one of your cards... that thing shouldn't even be in the deck. What the hell is wrong with you?" I slunk back into my chair slightly and frowned as my money was stacked and taken. Stupid game. As I considered simply pulling out my sidearm and removing these three meatbags from the genepool, I heard a call come in through the radio in the back corner about a sighting of the Amarr milita flying dangerously close to our home system.

"Well I've got to get going, meatbags" I said grimly as I got up and slowly touched my hand to my blaster pistol. They all froze as I laughed and strolled out of the room with my beer in my hand and the smell of their fear in my wake. I met moments later with other pilots of our pirate coalition that had responded to the call to cause some havoc among that poor excuse for a milita. They should know not to fly around so close to our home. Now they would pay. Lars Lodar, Alevi, Andrea Skye, Lachesis and myself all boarded our battlecruisers, undocked and warped to the Siseide gate in perfect formation. Minutes later we were sitting in Auga, on the Siseide gate, salvaging the remains of the one milita peon we had managed to tackle as the rest of his useless friends scattered to the winds and left him to die. Poor fella. I picked my teeth with a toothpick as we went through the loot. Lars jumped through the gate to check the other side.

A staticy and cut-off transmission came through moments later. "-coming through *hsss* gate!" Huh? What was he yelling about? "Megathron Navy Issue *hsss* through right now!" I jumped up in my seat and sent out a hasty transmission. "Get back in here Lars!" The gate fired and flashed as our potential victim was arriving. He had to be some sort of newb to be flying such a expensive bulls-eye of a ship through these systems. "Everyone get webs and scramblers on this guy. I want full DPS. Do not let him burn back to the gate." The Megathron Navy Issue uncloaked and for a moment I simply couldn't react. Life slowed down, the sounds around me felt so distant and muted and I could heart my heart thumping slowly in my ears. There is nary a more beautiful and intimidating ship in existance than the Megathron and my chest ached a tiny bit inside as I thought about what we were about to do it.

I took a deep breath and fell back into reality. Within moments we had three Drakes, one Ferox and my Myrmidon applying full damage upon the battleship but he was going down very slowly. This was no newb of a pilot... he had an enormous amount of armor plating. The sense of predetermined victory and celebration crept out of me as he began firing back and quickly tore into Andrea Skye's Ferox. "I'm going down... I'm going to go down! I can't get out!" he yelled as he tried to steer his ship away from the combat zone. He wasn't fast enough as his battlecruiser burst and the debris flew across my viewscreen. The Megathron was now halfway into armor but he had turned his weapons upon my Myrmidon. My beautiful Myrmidon.


I had been flying this ship for weeks now. This ship, this very hull had partaken in the destruction of over one-hundred victims. It is rare for one of my ships to last a dozen encounters so this ship was dear and special to my heart. She had been through thick and thin and I was not about to let her down now after she had always been there for me. I launched all the drones I had left. I pushed all my armor repairing modules to the brink and tried to hold out against the awful onslaught of seven battleship sized blaster cannons. My Myrmidon was rocked again and again by volleys of antimatter until she was bleeding into structure when suddenly it all stopped. He had stopped firing? Why? We realized at this point that the Megathron pilot had been very slowly inching back towards the gate he had come through. No, no, no. This could not happen. If he refrained from fighting back for a full 60 seconds then he would be able to jump back through and escape.

We pushed our ships to their very maximum in damage. We prayed, we begged and we pleaded. As the Megathron Navy Issue reached approximately 50% structure, our targeting computers lost their lock and we watched the magestic ship flash out of existance. The Siseide gate in Auga fired and our target was launched safely into the next system. He had escaped.

We sat in stunned silence.

Friday, September 25, 2009

ECM

European Christian Mission? Enterprise Content Management? East Coast Mechanical? Nope, nope, nope. Today we will be talking about Electronic Counter Measures. For a quick background on what this means in real life, take a look at this wonderful Wikipedia article. All done? Good. Now let me throw you against a giant wall of text about ECM as it applies to Eve and what needs to be changed.

Just in case anyone is not quite familiar with ECM in Eve-Online, it is a chance based mechanic that causes the targeted ship to lose its lock and ability to lock on other ships for an extended period of time (20 seconds to be exact). A ship that fits ECM modules can basically target another ship (or ships), activate it's modules and then prevent it (or them) from keeping or obtaining a lock on any other ships. The discussion as to whether or not it is overpowered or balanced is certainly not a new one and tends to be very polarizing. The truth is that ECM is the most ridiculous form of electronic warfare in Eve and that there is absolutely no place for it in the game in its current overpowered state.

None of the forms of race specific E-War are really overpoweringly effective when used on a ship that is not designed to specialize in it and this includes ECM. The problems and imbalances really begin to manifest when we discuss Recons or other ships that are specifically designed via ship bonuses and module layouts to take advantage of that races electronic warfare. Let's start with a rough estimate of what all the recon ships can do:

(1) Arazu/Lachesis: Can scramble from longer range which provides an advantage against faster ships, especially those utilizing a microwarpdrive. Can disrupt the targeting range or targeting times slightly to multiple ships or significantly to one ship (assuming a standard fit with three remote sensor damps). Does low DPS. Can generally operate around 30km to 40km from the target.

(2) Rapier/Huginn: Can half the speed of two to three targets or can nearly stop the movement of a single target. I generally do not ever see people fitting target painters to take advantage of the bonus as the mid slots are better used for other modules. Does moderate DPS. Can generally operate around 20km to 30km from the target.

(3) Pilgrim/Curse: Can cap out any single target or seriously hurt the capacitor pool of multiple targets. Can significantly effect the optimal or tracking of a turret boat or two (depending on how many tracking disruptors are fit). Both cap warfare and tracking disruptors are very effective but their effect is extremely limited to only certain types of ships that are active tanked and require cap to fire their guns (lasers/hybrids). Very vulnerable to missile ships or anything with a passive tank. Does moderate DPS. The Curse can operate from around 20k to 30km while the Pilgrim has to operate inside of 12km in order to take advantage of it's neutralizer bonuses.

(4) Falcon/Rook: Can jam any type of ship but is weaker to those that have a naturally high sensor strength or have ECCM fitted and running. All ships are significantly affected by the inability to lock as they cannot keep points, webs, remote armor repairers, guns or other targeted modules running and drones cannot be instructed to attack once the lock is lost. Depending on the skills of the pilot and the fit of ship, can equally affect several ships. Jammers are chance based and can fail. Standard fits do very low or no DPS. Can generally operate around 40k to 50km away from it's targets.

Reading over these, it might sound like things are pretty balanced but in practice they are not. The problems? There are a couple:

(1) ECM is a much more effective and abstract form of electronic warfare than the rest. Damps only have a fairly small effect on the targeting abilities of a ship. If you're in close or someone has already targeted you, they are generally useless. Webs only slow ships down to 50-60% of their speed and it does nothing to prevent drones and guns from still being fired. Neuts give cap dependant ships a hard time but there are plenty of ships and fits that do not rely that heavily on their cap to be able to fight and many ships fit capacitor boosters as they are effective and useful modules in many situations. By comparison, ECM has a much more blanketing and devastating effect. Losing lock has a negative impact upon every single target in the game. There is no ship or ship type that will not be very significantly affected by it. All other forms of electronic warfare target a specific aspect of their opponents capabilities and effects them in a narrow or limited way.

(2) ECM ships can neutralize too many targets at once. Most other forms of E-War can either disrupt several ships to a small degree or one to a high degree. ECM can impair several very significantly, almost to the point of them being completely useless. ECM and it's associated Recon ships need to follow the same pattern as all other Recons.

How do we fix it? It isn't easy to understand how any of these would work without some significant testing but possible solutions include:

(1) Add stacking penalties. If a ship is targeted by more than one jammer, have each jammer beyond the first become penalized in its effectiveness. This would encourage pilots flying ECM ships to stop filling every mid slot with an ECM module and perhaps fit propulsion, tank or other forms of electronic warfare similar to how other Recon ships do.

(2) Make ECCM more effective. Of the top of my head I can think of a case where a Falcon permanently jammed three battleships that all had ECCM modules running and overheated during the entire duration of a fight. It is absurd that ships can fit a module specific to countering one very specific type of electronic warfare and still not have it make a difference. ECCM should either make a ship immune to ECM or should be increased very significantly in strength.

(3) Remove or redesign ECM completely. This is probably my favorite suggestion because frankly, ECM is a lazy excuse for E-War and simply does not contribute towards generating fun and/or interesting engagements. As to what it could be changed to, the possibilities are endless. Modules that considerably reduce the velocity of missiles? Modules that lower a targets armor or shield resists? How about a module that creates duplicates of your own fleets ships in space and on the overview, similar to how chaff would function against radar? Your guess is as good as mine.

The bottom line is that ECM is too powerful and too generic of a capability to exist in Eve. People can argue all they want that it is chance based, that Caldari only gets one type of E-War instead of two and that there are counters to ECM (like fitting ECCM kitted out snipers) but the actual real in-game experiences and results don't lie. ECM ships and Falcon's specifically are overused and cause fights to become extremely imbalanced, uncompetitive and frustrating. There is no place for such a mechanic in Eve.

I expect a couple whiny responses to this about how I am crying or I should just bring my own Falcons or about how my penis is small. All I can say is that this is my opinion and... well... it's right.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Great Hunt

One of my most important personal rules in Eve is to try and be patient and always expect that people will make stupid mistakes. Did that newb just warp to a station? Sure he might dock up, but follow him just in case... maybe he warped to 30KM or has an aggression timer or went AFK to get get a Slurpee. You really never know what is going to happen or what dumb stuff people will do until you are willing to be patient and wade through the other 90% of targets who don't do anything dumb and waste your time.

So grab a chair, put on a blanket and grab an orange cream Slurpee because I am about to tell you an ancient story about a group of rebels who were rewarded for their perserverance and fortitude against a newb...


Long Epic Version

It was a cold and stormy winter night. Myself and my good friends of the Python Cartel were snuggled warmly around a nearby stargate, ganking every poor soul that dared to venture through. A cry came through from Helicity, who had been generating some yellow snow, far off in the distance.

Helicity: I see a Navy Mega on scan over here!

Spectre: Your pee is mega clear?? Why do I need to know this?

Helicity: NO! I SEE A NAVY MEGATHRON ON SCAN OVER HERE!

Oh! A Navymega! One of the most fearsome wintery creatures to ever roam the land! It's pelts were extremely valuable and it's horns were a trophy that every hunter would prize. We rushed back to the cabin to grab our most appropriate shotguns and rifles and grenades and nuclear tipped assault missiles. I called upon my skills to locate the beast and quickly was able to track and guide our party to his hunting grounds. As the prey became visible, we discovered he was not alone! Another hunter was already engaged in combat with the monster and at the sight of our group, both fled. In disappointment, we watched as the great Navymega escaped towards his distant lair. Not wanting to give up on such a magnificant opportunity, I ran ahead of my friends before we lost its trail. I arrived at the entrance of his glowering lair and stood before the great beast, expecting him to dive inside to safety. What happened next was unthinkable. He gave a great roar and attacked!


I dove out of the way and began firing my puny weapons. I could not handle this challenge alone but my friends began to arrive and our combined might was far too much for the Navymega to withstand. He let loose a piercing howl as we punctured his skin with our weapons and part of his arm was blown off by a rocket propelled grenade. Soon it was too much and he collapsed to the ground, barely alive but clearly beaten. We had captured a Navymega! Even more amazing was the treasures that we discovered inside his lair only moments later! We would be rich beyond our wildest dreams:


Short Boring Version

We probed out a Megathron Navy Issue in a mission. The pilot was out of point range and already being tackled by another pirate. They were both spooked and they both warped away to a station. We followed the Megathron and he attacked me instead of docking. At 50% hull he ejected and left us the ship. It was faction fit and we estimate the overall value of what he left to be around 1.7 billion ISK. We were happy.


I Always Wanted One Of These

Instead of simply taking my share of the loot, I have decided to put it towards purchasing this ship from everyone involved in its capture. I am not planning on really undocking it until I have finished training Large Blaster Specialization for T2 large blasters and perhaps Gallente Battleship V (which will be months from now). I was considering a fit that would go something like this:

[Megathron Navy Issue, No-RR]
Damage Control II
1600mm Reinforced Rolled Tungsten Plates I
1600mm Reinforced Rolled Tungsten Plates I
Amarr Navy Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane
Amarr Navy Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II

Quad LiF Fueld I Booster Rockets
Faint Epsilon Warp Scrambler I
Shadow Serpentis Statis Webifier
Medium Capacitor Booster II

Neutron Blaster Cannon II
Neutron Blaster Cannon II
Neutron Blaster Cannon II
Neutron Blaster Cannon II
Neutron Blaster Cannon II
Neutron Blaster Cannon II
Neutron Blaster Cannon II
Heavy Unstable Power Fluctuator

Trimark Armor Pump I
Trimark Armor Pump I
Trimark Armor Pump I

Ogre II x5
Warrior II x10

This fit is of course dependant upon the Dominion navy ship changes that have been proposed. The navy mega is supposedly recieving an extra 55 CPU, 775 grid and 50m3 of drone space which is reflected in the fit above. I am not expert on battleships and their fittings, so any suggestions would be wonderful. This of course is intended as a ship for station games only. I have other disposible and affordable battleships for less safe situations (ie: unrigged Domi's).

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Your Tears Fuel Us

We invite a two month old pilot in a Hurricane to join our fleet. He accepts:

[02:04:34 ] Spectre3353 > hey dude
[02:04:40 ] Spectre3353 > do you know whats going on with the guys in 3-1???
[02:05:04 ] Spectre3353 > lyls???
[02:05:09 ] Lylsburg > not a clue
[02:05:13 ] Spectre3353 > well we just saw like
[02:05:15 ] Spectre3353 > all these cruisers
[02:05:17 ] Spectre3353 > in uhhh
[02:05:41 ] Lylsburg > osoggur p3m1?
[02:05:56 ] Spectre3353 > what does that mean?

We warp our friend to a safe spot and begin firing upon him with three low-DPS artillery fit Thrashers:

[02:06:42 ] Lylsburg > andrea why are you hitting me?
[02:06:47 ] Spectre3353 > accident
[02:06:48 ] Spectre3353 > skye stop
[02:06:49 ] Spectre3353 > friend
[02:07:07 ] Bfoster > stop skye
[02:07:08 ] Andrea Skye > my guns wont turn off
[02:07:14 ] Bfoster > shall we kill skye?
[02:07:16 ] Spectre3353 > SKYE STOP DUDE
[02:07:30 ] Andrea Skye > DEY NOT TURNIN OFF
[02:07:34 ] Spectre3353 > DOOD
[02:07:35 ] Spectre3353 > D00D
[02:07:36 ] Lylsburg > wtf
[02:07:37 ] Spectre3353 > STOEP
[02:07:55 ] Spectre3353 > I DONT KNOW WHY U HITTIN WTF
[02:07:59 ] Lylsburg > how do you accidently get point on me and start attacking
[02:08:05 ] Spectre3353 > ACCIDENT
[02:08:09 ] Spectre3353 > WE DUN KNOW HOW DIS HAPPEN
[02:08:12 ] Andrea Skye > ACCIDENTAL
[02:08:16 ] Bfoster > STOP
[02:08:20 ] Bfoster > I LOVE THIS GUY
[02:08:20 ] Spectre3353 > stop nao
[02:08:22 ] Spectre3353 > STOP NAOW GUYZ

Lylsburg's Hurricane blows up and we pod him:

[02:08:51 ] Bfoster > did you die lyl?
[02:08:57 ] Lylsburg > thanks a hell of a lot
[02:09:03 ] Bfoster > skye?
[02:09:05 ] Bfoster > wtf?
[02:09:13 ] Bfoster > you always do this to my men
[02:09:13 ] Lylsburg > completely lost my ship and killed me
[02:09:15 ] Andrea Skye > sorry my guns were stuck
[02:09:25 ] Lylsburg > bullshit fukcing griefers..
[02:09:30 ] Spectre3353 > fuk i dun know man
[02:09:31 ] Lylsburg > ok so who's goign to compensate me?
[02:09:33 ] Spectre3353 > i dun know what happpen
[02:09:34 ] Andrea Skye > DUDE IT WAS A MISTAKE
[02:09:36 ] Bfoster > can we still be friends?
[02:09:38 ] Andrea Skye > I WAS BUGGED
[02:09:50 ] Bfoster > i am gay
[02:10:26 ] Lylsburg > i'd keep your eye out for goons in the future
[02:10:30 ] Bfoster > i can compensate
[02:10:35 ] Bfoster > i like man love
[02:10:39 ] Spectre3353 > OH NOES NOT GOONSS NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO



A few minutes later, a member of the Minmatar milita sends me a mail containing a conversation that just occurred in their intel chat:

2009.09.13 02:19
Lylsburg > fuck i just got totally owned by a fleet i joined.. stupid ass move
fffuuu > ,,, they shot you?
Lylsburg > no python corp
Lylsburg > andrea skye, bfoster, spectre3353
Chigy > lol pwnt
Chigy > Spec is te CEO
Lylsburg > sigh... that's why i hate this game sometimes
Lylsburg > sit in militia channel asking for fleet, never get one, finlaly get a fleet and they kill me
fffuuu > dude, they were pirates, what did you expect?
Lylsburg > it's just mindnumbing sometimes to try and do anyting in this game


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Penny Arcade Expo 2009 (Day 3)

Again I woke up feeling bruised and beaten. I had no choice but to overcome the results of the beer and late night concerting as this was my last chance to see what would become one of my favorite parts of the weekend... the SWtOR demo presentation!

Star Wars - The Old Republic


My wife and I ditched the rest of our lazy group and rushed down to make the Sunday morning demonstration of the newest Star Wars MMORPG, The Old Republic. I haven't seen much in the ways of the demo videos or screenshots or info on the web related to the game yet, so this would be mostly new to me. Having played Star Wars Galaxies during it's release and hating it and also having played KotOR and other Bioware games and loving them, I was curious as to where in the spectrum that SWtOR would fall.

The presentation started with one guy from Lucasarts and two from Bioware being way too chipper and nerdy for my liking. "Shut the hell up and show me the game you fucking turds" I muttered to myself as they rambled about stuff I didn't need to know. One thing that Bioware has been stressing since The Old Republic was announced was that it did something no other MMO has done before - focused on story. This never really made a lot of sense to me as I have played a lot of World of Warcraft and some other MMO's and while they aren't perfect, they all have some semblance of story. WoW specifically has an extremely elaborate backstory with thousands of quests and dungeons that let you take part in the outcome of the world so I really don't know what the hell Bioware thinks they are talking about.

I Would Be Lying If I Said I Wasn't Sexually
Aroused When This Title Screen Appeared

It began to make a little bit more sense as they demonstrated various parts of the gameplay... it would be safer to say that Bioware is taking the story aspect of MMO's up a notch by implementing NPC interaction the way that a single player story-driven game like the original KotOR would. A scene was demonstrated where a quest was completed and a cut scene was played. The unique aspect of this was that both the players could both respond to NPC's with custom dialogue selections. In addition it was pointed out that all dialogue in the game is voiced and that your decisions have direct consequences and effect on later on quests and environments. While I still don't buy into Bioware's arrogant claim that no one ever cared about story in a MMO, I see that they're putting a lot of effort into it and definitely taking things a step further than any other MMO (that I've played) has so far.

Republic Trooper Class Being Demonstrated

In addition to being shown the story aspect of things, the Bioware presenters went through some of the basic combat using a party of one or two and utilizing the Bounty Hunter, Sith Warrior and Trooper classes. As far as I can tell, it is very similar to World of Warcraft or any other generic modern day MMO. This might sound like an insult or a letdown but after experiencing the monumental fuck-up that was Star Wars Galaxies, I am stoked that they were smart and played it safe the second time around. Give me WoW in a Star Wars universe and I am liable to crap my pants and play for years. That being said, it is still pretty early and Bioware has a fantastic track record so I can only assume that more tidbits will appear to separate The Old Republic from any other MMO as it comes closer to release.

As a last little bonus, everyone was given free Knights of the Old Republic Steam codes as they walked out. I nabbed one for myself and a couple for my friends who had not attended the demo. All-in-all it was a very good hour and I feel as though everything else in life has had the color and brightness turned down. Food no longer tastes as good and the world seems dull and gray. I will not be able to enjoy life until I am locked in a room playing a Bounty Hunter. Please hurry up Bioware. My life depends on it.

Exhibition Hall - Blizzard

This might be an Eve blog but I can't help but think you were all still waiting for this part. Even the biggest Blizzard haters are Blizzard lovers deep down inside. I know that I personally pissed away enormous portions of my life playing Diablo, Warcraft, Starcraft and all their associated sequels and MMO variations. For this reason, a chill went down my spine and I peed a little as I looked off into the corner of the exhibition hall and saw that giant Starcraft II sign with a picture of a dirty space marine.

Starcraft II - The lines for this one were retardedly long. I did not bother waiting for a chance to play but sat off to the side and watched a few other people go through. The only playable race was Terran and... well... it looked like Starcraft with better graphics. I don't think I can make any serious judgments on this until I actually get to sit down and play it for real.



World of Warcraft: Cataclysm - The line here was actually quite short but I didn't have much of an urge to play WoW in the middle of a convention. The little that I watched pretty showed the Goblin/Worgen starting zones which as usual seemed pretty solid. I am torn as to whether or not I'll bother playing this when it does come out. If there is one game I have played into the ground beyond the point of it being fun anymore, it's World of Warcraft.


Diablo III - My reluctance to stand in line finally caved when I got to the Diablo kiosks. I got into line and expected I would be waiting at least an hour for my chance to give D3 a shot but luckily several people in front of me got bored and left. Suckers. Finally my turn came and I put on the headphones and chose to try out the new Monk class. A little exploration through the menus showed that the talent trees are not yet implemented and that only a small number of skills are usable. I quickly got myself aligned with the skills and set out to click on some monsters.

The bottom line? It felt like Diablo. Everything about it felt familiar. Even the zone I was in reminded me of Act 2 in Diablo II. The most significant new additions I was able to pick up from my 10 minutes of play were:

- The graphics and especially the animations are much nicer than Diablo II. No surprise considering this is actually a 3D engine and that it's been quite some time since D2 was released.

- You can now assign skills to be swapped around and easily used via the tab key. Gives a little more flexibility than only being able to have a couple abilities accessible via the mouse at a time.

- The game seems to keep track of at least some basic stats. When you kill a certain amount of monsters in a short time you get a "Massacre" message that pops up in the corner and if it's the most you've ever killed it tells you that it is a new record. It immediately reminded me of the whole achievements thing and now I wonder if maybe achievements will now be tied into Battle.net and all Blizzard games?



I ended my session at the Blizzard booth by walking up to one of the exhibitioners and asking if he could give me an exact release date on all three games. Unfortunately he was not able to provide me with any useful information. Who would have thought?

Wil Wheaton

Two years ago when I first attended PAX, the event was kicked off with a wonderful keynote speech by Wesley Crusher himself. Anyone who is a nerd and has never listened to Wil Wheaton's 2007 keynote should click here now and give it a listen.

This year when I checked the schedule I noticed that Wil might not have been the keynote speaker but he was on several panels and had his own Q&A session called the "THE AWESOME HOUR!!1". I knew I had to attend and so I did. The panel was mostly a number of stories from Wil from his book/blog and ended with a few questions from the audience.

Wil Speaks

McFrontalot Makes Wil Rap

Omegathon - Final Round

For anyone not familiar with Omegathon, twenty PAX attendees are picked mostly at random to participate in a multi part competition that goes on during the convention. They are pitted against each other in various games until only two remain and those finalists combat in front of pretty much the entire expo at the end of Sunday for the chance to win a trip to Japan along with a few thousand in spending cash. So with the rest of PAX over and most of the Omeganauts eliminated after playing games such as Rock Band and Connect Four, we got into line to watch this last round:

That Is A Lot Of Smelly
Nerds In One Long Line

After waiting in a gigantic line for what felt like hours and walking past Robert Khoo yelling at someone on his phone about some apparent issue that was delaying things, we were admitted into the main hall. The contestants were introduced and the final game was unveiled... Skeeball!

It's More Fun When You're Drunk
At the Jersey Shore

Skeeball...? Sounded cool on paper but it was a pretty anticlimatic ending as Skeeball isn't exactly the most intense sport I've ever witnessed. Even the machine wasn't excited about it as it kept breaking after every round. We creeped towards the back of the room to beat the rush as the competition ended...


Conclusion and CONSARS

...and so ended our PAX 2009 experience. Myself and a couple of my friends did stick around Seattle for most of Monday to walk around and see the sites but something weird was going on. Half of our party had gotten sick with flu-ish symptoms! When I got home and viewed the Penny-Arcade site on Tuesday I realized that it wasn't just us that had some issues with catching disease at the expo. There were a large number of people that had contracted Swine Flu or other various diseases that were being collectively referred to as CONSARS (Convention SARS... get it?). As I write this, my wife and several of my friends are still incapacitated by some nasty flu symptoms but I have been spared. It must be because whiskey fortifies the immune system.

As far as the convention went, I had been looking forward to returning to PAX for nearly two years and I can say that I was not let down. Perhaps my favorite part of attending isn't just the superficial aspects such as the games and panels and free swag but the people and sense of belonging. Everywhere else in the world you go you may always be judged at least a little bit for being a nerd or geek or dork or combination of the three. At PAX there is a sense that everyone is like you and there is no judging or negative connotations associated with the fact that you like spending 10 hours straight playing video games or that you actually know what an Icy Manipulator is. I know I am not the only person that felt this way as even several of the presenters and speakers made comments about feeling the same way about being at PAX.

I am already looking forward to PAX East 2010 and will be driving up to Boston to attend it. March can't come soon enough.

Additional Misc Pictures From PAX & Seattle




Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Penny Arcade Expo 2009 (Day 2)

I woke up Saturday morning with my head throbbing and my eyes blurred. A large amount of travel coupled with a busy day and too much whiskey was threatening to ruin my morning. With a painful sigh I forced myself up out of bed and got ready for a full day of nerdy fun. As we made our way down to the convention center, I noticed that (1) half the places we tried to get breakfast were closed thanks to the Labor Day holiday, and (2) everyone was wearing purple LSU clothing. I guess there was some college football game going on? Why were these people worried about that silly shit with PAX going on just down the street? I just cannot understand it.

Penny Arcade - Make A Strip


Our entire group piled into the Penny-Arcade "Make A Strip" panel. Before it started, they were running game trailers. Most were stupid and boring but at one point I looked up to see what appeared to be spaceships and a video of pure awesome. An EVE Apocrypha trailer! How wonderous!

Eve Apocrypha Video

Soon after, the panel started. The entire purpose of of it is pretty much to watch Gabe draw the actual PA comic on a big screen so that everyone can get an idea for how he does it. In tandem with this, Tycho answers questions during a Q&A session for people in the audience. As an unexpected surprise, Scott Kurtz had to stand-in for the beginning as Tycho was busy thanks to his wife having delivered a baby earlier in the day. Part-way through he showed up anyhow, reinforcing my shared opinion that video game conventions trump everything, even your newborn children.

Gabe and Scott Kurtz Answer Questions
During the Make-A-Strip


Tycho Answers Questions As Gabe
Draws A Strip


Exhibition Hall - Lots Of Stuff

With a good chunk of time open, I attempted to examine what was being shown in the exhibition hall. It was much larger this year than when I had last attended in 2007 and there were so many games I was interested in that it was almost too much to handle. I took a quick glance at the Blizzard booth and their huge lines around the Starcraft II, Diablo III and WoW: Cataclysm kiosks and decided to leave it alone for now (more info on Blizzard stuff will be in the next post about PAX Day 3).

Bioshock 2 - I played the original Bioshock on the XBox 360 and while I felt it was way, way overhyped, I still enjoyed the game quite a bit. When I first heard they were capitalizing on the games success with a sequel I was very skeptical but after watching the demo video I can say that all my skepticism has melted away. The game is actually a prequel to the events that happened in the original game and they have you playing as the original big daddy character. There are now sequences and areas that are outside of Rapture and underwater and the combat as a big daddy looked quite solid. I am now looking very forward to playing this.

A Poor Shot of the 2K Games Booth

Left 4 Dead 2 - I walked by this booth several times but I didn't actually bother getting into the long line or spending much time watching people play. What little bit of gameplay I did watch seemed pretty much identical to the original L4D, although I did notice one guy running around slicing zombies with a katana. Melee weapons do look fun.

Left 4 Dead 2 Demo Display With
It's XBox 360 Machines and Long Lines

Beatles: Rock Band - There was a pretty big setup for this in the very back of the hall. The game looks pretty much identical to Rock Band 2 except for the addition of multiple vocal tracks that display in the vocals section at the same time. Seems like a cool addition but I cannot honestly see spending money for that and some Beatles songs (and I actually do like the Beatles). From what I have been able to tell, some of the normal parts of Rock Band have actually been removed for this version of the game which just further enforces my WON'T BUY feeling towards it.

Mass Effect 2 - As much as I love Mass Effect, I only spent a short time in this booth and didn't stand in line to play. I don't really have any urge to try to get in 5 minutes of play for an engrossing single player game in a loud busy room where I will only be teased and won't be able to enjoy it. That being said, it looks like Mass Effect should look and I will be standing in line to buy and screaming like a happy little girl the instant it comes out.

The First Wonderful Thing You See When You
Walk Into the Exhibition Hall

Nintendo - They had a booth full of a bunch of good looking stuff including Kingdom Hearts DS, Metroid Prime Trilogy and New Super Mario Bros Wii. Nothing absolutely show stopping but still some pretty solid stuff.

Scribblenauts - This seemed to be the "it" game of the show. It didn't have a huge booth but everytime I passed by this DS game it was mobbed with people trying to play. I also heard it mentioned several times by other attendees and even during some of the panels. For anyone not familiar with the Scribblenauts premise, it is an action/puzzle game where your goal is access and gather stars. Sounds pretty normal for a video game until you see that the tools you are given to achieve your objectives are... well... almost anything. You simply write down the name of an object using the stylus and if it's in the list of the 10,000 objects that exist in the game, you will spawn it and be able to utilize it. I heard stories about people spawning Bikes, Boards, Tornados, Cthulu and even Jesus himself. I simply cannot wait until September 15th rolls around to go pick this one up. Extremely cool looking.

Other Misc Pictures
From The Exhibition Hall:







Cigars

After a long day of panels and gaming, we stepped outside to get some fresh air and partake in a nice cigar break. In normal PAX style, it did not wind up being nearly as boring as it sounds. We met a wonderful young fellow named Reginald (not his real name but I just like Reginald better) who began telling us a plethora of wonderful dead baby jokes. What is the difference between a pile of dead babies and a Ferrari? I don't have a Ferrari in my garage! Oh my.

Reginald Tells Our Group About
Some No-Longer-Alive Infants

Reginald stuck around with us for much of the night as we visited the nearby Sheraton bar for drinks (and Bomberman DS) and then went to the PC Freeplay room at the expo to play some Team Fortress 2.

One of These Handsome Fellows is the Notorious
Pirate Spectre. You'll Never Know Which.

Concert

After another long day and another expensive beer, my wife and I entered the Main Hall in order to view the last half of that nights concert. We saw the end of the Paul & Storm set and then all of Jonathan Coulton's show. After rousing renditions of "Skullcrusher Mountain", "The Future Soon", "Still Alive", "Re: Your Brains", "Code Monkey", "My Monkey" (but sung to Wil Wheaton) and others, he finished off his set with an encore of the extremely romantic "First of May".



Entertained and exhausted, we headed back to the room and I only vaguely noticed that the clock said 3:00 AM as I drifted off to sleep...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Penny Arcade Expo 2009 (Day 1)

It Begins

In 2007 I boarded a plane with my wife and several of my friends and flew to Seattle to attend the Penny Arcade Expo. What followed over the next couple of days was one of the most entertaining weekends I've ever experienced. If my wife didn't read this blog I might go and compare it to my wedding day but for the sake of my marriage I am going to go and say that my wedding day was more special than any gaming/geek convention could ever be. Seriously. I really, really mean it. Oh, and Happy Anniversary by the way!*

* Let's all thank Outlook and it's automatic reminder popups!

The next year in 2008 we reserved a hotel and prepared to return once again to join my brethren in what I wanted to become our yearly pilgrimage to the geek mecca of Seattle. Alas, it was not to be as most of our trip-mates backed out and I didn't feel right attending without them. I sat and read the reports and the forums as the event unfolded, tears of pain running down my face during that day late in August, knowing I was missing it. I vowed that in 2009 I would be there, regardless of who was with me. If I had to hitchhike across the country, giving oral pleasure to truckers and eating out of garbage cans, I was going to be at PAX 2009.

So with great jubilation and much anticipation, I woke up at 3:30 AM Friday morning to get ready to head to the airport. Well, actually, I think I said "Fuck PAX" in tired frustration and tried to go back to sleep before I was forced awake by my travel-mates. Regardless, we embarked on our trip and by noon on Friday we were leaving the Seattle-Tacoma airport and heading to what I like to call "The-Ridiculous-City-That-Some-Retard-Decided-To-Put-On-The-Side-Of-A-Really-Steep-Hill" (also known as Seattle).

Arrival

The first thing we did after checking into the luxurious Crown Plaza was to run over to the convention to try and catch the first question and answer session with Gabe and Tycho. Unfortunately we had missed the keynote speech with Ron Gilbert but we were able to make the afformentioned Q&A. What did I learn during this session? That when a girl gives a teabag, the common term used is not "Teabagging" but "Flower Petalling" or another term that even I am not comfortable with writing here (it's pretty gross though). After we were done, we jumped up and ran off to the exhibition hall to get a load of all the new games and most importantly, the EVE-O booth!

Q&A With Gabe and Tycho of Penny-Arcade

Exhibition Hall - EVE

We quickly made our way to the side of the hall where the Eve booth was set up. It was quite easy to spot as it's very slick looking and stylized display stood out, even among the extremely flashy and boisterous mishmash of other companies and games:








The booth wasn't very big but it was really slick looking and I made sure to wander around it for a few minutes, basking in that wonderful Eve feeling. Eventally I went around to the front area where they had a desk and noticed a large stack of E-ON magazines sitting just behind.

"Are those free?" I asked a young man with an EVE shirt who was standing behind the counter. He gave me an unconvincing grunt and handed me an issue. Nice! I addressed him again by asking "Is this the newest one?" It wasn't intended to be a demand or an accusation but I was quickly handed another E-ON with a different colored cover that was apparently newer. Without even intending it I was now in possession of E-ON issues #14 and #15 which were labeled as $14.95 each, for free. I grabbed a couple of free Eve pins and then ran off into the sunset, before anyone could notice that I had stolen all their swag.

When I had some downtime later in the day, I opened both issues and read them cover to cover and discovered something that I sort of already knew but had forgotten about. I was in these! EVE Newb and PC Ransom Board were both nominated under the "MOST PROMISING NEWCOMER" category. Neither even came close to winning but it was still awesome to see myself mentioned in the publication even if it was without any associated information or a link to either page (can't win them all I suppose):

The Only Thing Better Than E-ON
Magazines is FREE E-ON Magazines


Quafe & CCP Buttons


Look Ma! It's Me!

Scott Kurtz

Later in the evening after grabbing some grub, we waited patiently in line and sat in on the Scott Kurtz Q&A. For anyone not familiar with Scott, he draws and writes PvP, an online comic that has close ties with Penny-Arcade. I don't really have much to elaborate on here except that it was an entertaining panel and it's amazing how well a bunch of internet comic nerds are able to do when it comes to publicly speaking in front of a large number of people (I would probably pee myself multiple times).

Whiskey!

After a busy day of travel and expositioning, we headed back to the hotel to wind down by playing some Mario Kart DS and drinking whiskey. We ran out of cups and Brandon was forced to use the pot:

Hint: IT'S NOT COFFEE