Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Pax Prime – Day Two ((late post!))

I'm no walker. I spend 90% of my time these days indoors sitting at a computer working or playing games. By the second day of the convention, my legs were reminding me that while the virtual characters I played never tired of walking, running, jumping, skipping -- that they had no such unlimited supply of strength and energy. And my feet even saw fit to reward my previous day's adventures with a lovely blister.

However, despite these physical obstacles, the excitement of the new surroundings and the pleasure of watching so many high energy people was a most excellent balm to the pains and I found myself really throwing myself into the new day's events. And the kick start was something that may not have even been related to the convention, but still sits in my mind as something that cheered me the most.

Before heading out to the convention, a friend of mine from back when I was going to school in Florida dropped me a line to tell me to meet him the Bioware/Lucas Arts booth before 2:00pm. So I gathered my stuff and headed up the two blocks to the convention center. As I walked up the ramp to the main door, I realized a little older lady was following me up towing luggage. I opened the door for her and offered her the chance to go in first, not really thinking much of it other than being polite to someone else.

But she gave me such a warm smile. As cheesy as I feel saying that. But it was such an honest smile and so direct and she told me that I had given her one of the nicest starts to her day that week. And it was her gratitude and those kind words of thanks, that I think really set the tone of my day. In some ways I wonder, if that memory of that little old lady won't stay with me longer than the actual convention does. haha

Outside my mission to make it to the back of the exhibit hall to see my friend at his booth, my goal for Saturday was to see as much of the hall as possible while still catching a panel or two. I considered stopping by the Square Enix booth to test the game out for myself, especially after the awesome panel the day before, but there were more than 5 people per computer waiting, and with a 30 min per person, I didn't relish waiting that long to try the game.

I did swing by the booth for Cryptazoic - the new partner with Blizzard for their trading card games. The previous day, they had been running a deal, where you bought a starter deck for $5 and then got to go down to the "hidden level" and spin a wheel. The wheel had loot cards on every peg. And whatever it stopped on, you would get that card. The previous day, I managed to get Goblin Gumbo! haha

The next part of the deal was, I could get a second spin if I bought two additional booster sets and showed the barcodes to the guy at the table. So Saturday, I bought two more packs and headed down. While I didn't get the turtle mount like the girl two ahead of me in line - I did get the sandbox tiger! Which I think is pretty adorable.

After picking up my new loot card, I headed upstairs again and to the Bioware/Lucas Arts booth. I couldn't find my friend and no one knew could tell me where he was, so unlike the previous day where I'd passed by waiting in line to try the Star Wars: The Old Republic game, I went ahead and threw myself into line for one of the computers.

Those trying the game were given 15 min each to experience the opening bits of game for whatever class their computer was showing off. When I got to try the game, I found I had been in line for the Sith Warrior. I didn't much mind as watching the fellows in front of me and perked my interest about the capabilities given to the character.

The one ability I came to really enjoy using was the Force Leap. Which allowed me to target an enemy from pretty far back and leap through the air to them, while delivering a bit of damage on the side. I didn't get to experiment with it as much as I may have liked, but in some situations, it seemed I could bypass some mobs to a group without aggro'ing them when I used it. As if it sailing over their heads didn't seem to trigger their notice. Which seemed pretty cool and perhaps may have some interesting later on in other situations.

Outside the game play, I was pleased with the visual appearance of the UI. There was little to guess about when it came to cool downs being over and abilities being free to use again, thanks to a vivid, electric color veritcly lowering down the abilities. The map hud and map overlay were similar - with the lightsaber-like glow over their elements.

Targeting was also fairly easy and I didn't find myself losing targets. In fact, when something died, I found that using an attack ability immeadiately picked the next closest enemy for me, rather than forcing me to or click the mob.

Overall, my experience in those 15 min for a game I didn't know too much about beyond my friends comments on how it looked good, really got me interested. And my excitement grew thanks to my friend, who I found after the demo. He gave me a VIP pass to view the demo later that day at 5:00pm! I was thrilled! He told me with it I would be able to skip the main line at the theater and would be guaranteed a tshirt.

He had to get back to work before I could talk more, but I figured I'd see more of him that night and resumed my spelunking of the exhibits. I actually got caught up for quite a while watching groups dancing to a new Wii game from Ubisoft called "Just Dance 2."

Using popular music such as Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend" or Britney's "Toxic," they had four people come up onto their stage and dance. I thought it seemed pretty fun and you got to see some pretty wild cosplay moments up there too. I took a photo of Vanille ((Final Fantasy 13)) and Tifa (Final Fantasy: Advent Children)) dancing at a point. And here is a quick video moment someone else took of BigDaddy ((Bioware's Bioshock)) dancing to "Satisfaction."

I would say a majority of the booths were pretty fantastic to stand around and watch. And it wasn't until 3:00 that I made my way back to the hotel for a quick lunch of leftover chinese from the night before. At which time I took the shoes off and massaged the redness out of the feet. After a short hour break, I headed back out, this time making the long walk out to the operah house where they held the larger panels - the same one from the day before where I had seen the Square Enix Panel.

As I had been told, I showed my VIP pass to the guy at the door and was let right and into the main waiting hall where about 80 other people stood or sat waiting for the panel. I grabbed my shirt and found a nice spot to sit while I waited. And I found out that the passes were from an early morning twitter announcement that the first number to the booth would get a VIP pass, explaining to me how and why so many were around.

Up above us, we could see dozens of people waiting in line to come down and go into the theater. Kids dressed like jedi here and there, and even one guy with a imperial storm trooper helmet on. We all waited patiently until finally they opened the doors and let us in. I was seated in the very front row, right in the middle before the big tv they had set up. I wouldn't be able to necessarily see my friend live while he demo'd the game, but I would definatley see him on the television.
The room was absolutely packed with people. And everyone was absolutely excited. Gamer + Scifi nerds packed into an auditorium. It was smelly, loud and filled with so much excitement that you could only join with them in the anticipation for the demonstrations. And it was a panel that brought you that.

Lucas Arts took the stage first with a dramatic opening movie of their new upcoming game, "Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II" Apparently with the first game, you play Darth Vader's secret apprentice, code named: Starkiller who in the end dies to save the rebels. Or did he? Seeming more powerful than anything, he seems truely unleashed. At least from what they showed on the video moniter.

Game play seems pretty inside with a possible multitude of actions you can use to maim, kill and destroy your enemies. Watching them demonstrate it on the screen, I felt excited but I doubt I will try the game out myself as it seems likely I would end up a mess of nerves from the boss fights which seem to require a lot of instant reaction and plotting. Things I can do with practice, but tend to get very aggressive about while trying to master.

After their ground shaking applause, the Bioware team stepped forward. Far less stiff in presentation and more open and jovial with the crowd, they were, in my opinions the winners of the pressentation. I enjoyed the banter between them both quite a bit. The video for the game played with great enthusiasm and then they brought they began the demo.

Because Star Wars: The Old Republic is a MMO, they had four people demonstrating the game. My friend played a smuggler, and the other three played a jedi knight, a jedi counselor, and the Trooper. The Trooper is a tanking class, the knight a pure dps, the counselor a combative healer, and the smuggler a ranged/rogue-like class.

They placed them in a gauntlet-type situation, where mobs continued to flood in after breaking down a door. And it was interesting watching them play through. I was particularly interested in the Counselor, considering how much of my mmo type has been spent as one. The healer was able to deflect attacks targeted at her with her lightsaber, use a force grip on targets to lift/crush/drop targets, and heal. It was hinted later in the Q/A following the demo that she had other damage abilities as well, but since she was used as the camera, she didn't have many chances to display that.

Moving from gameplay, I was also very excited about the storyline and your/our role in the Old Republic world. Bioware is absolutely fantastic with creating games where your "Choice" influences the outcome of the game. And Old Republic will be the same. Much like Dragon Age, you will be given choices that will affect how attuned to the light/dark your character is and how their world will interact with them.

Much later that night over dinner, I would ask my friend who works for Bioware, for some insight into how that would work in the multiplayer setting. Say you were all on the 'darkside' group and had just finished a quest. In the end you have someone you can either kill, or spare. The group will all see the same options and cast their 'vote' as to what to do. The game will take the vote with the most people in agreement and do what has been dictated. So assume your three team mates voted to kill, but you wanted him to be spared.

What might normally happen is points towards the dark would be applied to all. However, Bioware understands this isn't particularly fair to the fourth who would have voted differently. So while the person will die, you will be given points towards the light.

During discussion during the panel I was stuck by an answer to a similar question. You could be a Sith Warrior who ends up good. He used the situation with Hans Solo as an example. Solo was definately not a light-guy when he originally meets up. But he gets outvoted in a way by the good guys and ends up sticking with them because of convenience and money. He wasn't necessarily 'light.' I'm very tickled by this notion and I certain find myself intrigued by the idea of being a Sith who may be closer towards the light. Though to go back to the panel -- the playing of a 'good' Sith will be far harder than a 'dark' Sith. haha

Another interesting element of the game, is that this will not only be a choice based mmo - but a fully voiced mmo. Every character -- even yourself -- will interact with voiced dialogue in the game. This idea already has me looking at other MMOs and thinking about how odd it IS to have the NPCs holding conversations with a very mute you.

The panel overall was a massive success. Certainly, if it took me, who knew little about the game and probably won't have paused to look at it at Best Buy at release -- to someone who would probably buy it to play when it comes out with some anticipation -- means they are succeeding in selling the game very well.

After the panel, I made the long walk back and enjoyed another hour walking around the convention center before going out to grab some dinner at the chinese place around the corner from the hotel. Might I put a word in now, that "Dragonfish" in Seattle is fantastic with their food -- but avoid their booze. Nasty. bleh.

Then I got a call from my friend and met him for some drinks and enjoyed seeming him grow shy with everyone singing happy birthday to him. It was a good end to a night and I returned to my room buzzed and happy from a really full and good day. I passed out pretty quickly - i was so tired I didn't rouse with my roommates tried to wake me to enjoy some pizza.

Day 2 of Pax Prime was definately a successful one. Peace!

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