Archive for Dragon*Con

Dragon*Con 2008: Day Two

A better day of panels… I got to see SOE demonstrate FreeRealms, which, in the simplest terms, is Puzzle Pirates on steroids and crossing genres.  It definitely is something I am going to look into, and at the price (free), why not?

Force of Arms, a mechanized armor fighting MMO being built on the Multiverse system, has a lot of potential.  However, right now, potential seems to be what it has the most of, and everything about the actual game play seems to not be nailed down just yet.

On the other hand, Champions Online, looks like it is going to be City of Heroes squared… at least.  The two gents who showed off the game left me feeling really good about this one.

I took some time to go through the dealers’ and exhibitors’ halls… and it was pretty much the same.  The same dealers with the same stuff for sale, the same exhibitors with the same products.  Oh, there were some new items here and there, but nothing really to blow one’s shirt up.

And then the nightlife began.

The planned events by the Con were fairly normal… and like normal they were hum-drum.  The Colonial Fleet party for Battlestar Galactica was alright, with it’s 80’s soundtrack… it got better when some of the cast showed up.  The Shindig for Firefly was boring.  But later in the evening, the BSG fans had a party of their own on the 10th floor of the Marriott, and those cats know how to throw down.

Yeah, the day is for panels, but the night belongs to the parties… its what the Con is all about.  It would be a shame if they ever tried to move to a convention center and lost the hotel party nightlife.

Dragon*Con 2008: Day One

One of the things I enjoy most about Con are the panels.  Yeah, the costumes and parties are cool and all that, but I also come for the panels.  In a good, well run panel, you can actually learn quite a bit, participate in discussions and meet people with similar interests.  In a poorly run panel, the only thing you learn is that there is a reason for having a moderator who actually cares about the subject at hand.

I’m not going to point any fingers and name names, but many of the panels I went to today were not well run at all.  People asking stupid questions, panelist meandering through unrelated subjects, entire topics being misunderstood and abandoned…  Not a good day at the con at all.

But then came the drinking and the people watching, which is always fun.

To cap off the night, the wife and I decided to duck into a concert.  99% of live performances by bands are not intended for people who like lyrics and don’t already know the songs by heart.  The music is cranked so loud that the only thing you know for sure about the words is that the song does have lyrics, and sometimes you can make out the tones, but actual phrases are lost beneath the thrumming beat and the wailing guitars.

Oh well… there’s always drinking and people watching…

Dragon*Con 2008: Day Zero

Before one can go to the Con, one must pick up one’s badge.  This is one of those cases where getting there as early as possible is a fantastic idea.  We didn’t get there so early.  Well, we did, sort of, but we checked into our room and unpacked first.  We shouldn’t have unpacked.  It took an hour and a half to get our badges.  But I hear the wait got up to be over two hours.  Saturday morning will be worse.

But, we got checked in, got our badges, and all is right with the world.

In previous years, Thursday night had always been more about getting a head start on Friday.  You got your registration, your room, and you prepared for the weekend.  Some people and groups would meet up for drinks and that sort of thing, but not a whole heck of a lot.  In recent years that has been changing, and this year Thursday night was Fan Party Night.  As I walked around the host hotels, I saw many large gatherings, but nothing beat the fan group from Battlestar Galactica who met up on the 10th floor of the Marriott.  They we big and loud and pounding shots.  Sadly, having to work in the morning I left early.  I hear there were push up contests and other revelry until quite late.

Next year…

Gone to Con…

It is that time of year again, when despite living “in Atlanta” I drive downtown and stay in a hotel for four days.  Dragon*Con.

As I have the last couple of years, I’ll be posting my rundown on what I see and do each day, as if anyone cares.  Mostly I do it so that I can remember what it is I do myself.

Anyway… if you happen to be going, I’ll probably be spending a bunch of my time around the MMO track or the Apocalypse Rising track or the Writer’s track.  The only place I know I will be for sure is Sunday at 1pm I plan to attend the screening of 20 Years After.  I would say, “I’ll be the guy with the shaved head and the goatee” but there will be approximately 2,851 people who match that description as it is, as my friends call it, “the Dragon*Con uniform”.  Instead, look for my hat… I’ll probably be wearing or carrying a tan baseball hat that says “Founded 1733 Savannah, GA” on it.  If you approach me, be sure to speak the passphrase, “The Cheese Stands Alone”, so I’ll know who you are.

2007: Aftermath

As with every year, I really enjoyed Dragon*Con. I actually says a lot about the con when my biggest complaint is that I can’t see everything I want to see because there is so much I want to see.

The new Apocalypse Rising track was very interesting, although, at times I did feel a number of their panels were repetative, but that is the nature of the beast when talking about a topic that is very focused but encompasses so much. However, it was the first time around in the new format, so I’ll cut them some slack and see how they grow for next year.

The Game Programming (with a heavy MMO bent) spinoff of the EFF track was another favorite. The only downside there is that people seemed to want to talk about WoW too much, even when the moderators and panelists tried to veer off to another subject the attendees would drag it back to WoW. I guess that is proof that WoW really is the 800 lbs. gorilla in the market. I think this track can only get better.

In both cases, I’ve finally found tracks that have inspired me to get involved. I’ll be keeping an eye on both and seeing where I can lend a hand.

Other than a few panels here and there, or a couple trips to the short films room, the bulk of my time was spent in the above two panels. I never made it down to the Writer’s Track, which is where I normally spend most of my con time.

With panels and programming out of the way, let’s talk hotels… The Marriott is still under construction, however from seeing the parts that have been completed I have high hopes for the future of the space for Dragon*Con. Seriously folks, you really need to stop defaulting to the Hyatt bar and lobby. I know it has traditionally been the place to be, but even before the renovation the three levels of the lobby area of the Marriott were better. Lots of space for costumers to show their stuff, and even places where distance watchers can view the chaos without getting involved. The only drawback to the Marriott previously was the cruddy location of their only bar, but this year with the opening of Pulse on the atrium level, the Marriott is turning into the new place to be. Next year when they have the other 70,000 square feet of ballrooms and whatnot open, there should simply be no reason to remain in the cramped Hyatt lobby except to get a quiet drink at the little out of the way bar.

The Hilton also blossomed well this year. The halls of rooms for panels (used for gaming last year, which this year moved to the new business center of the Marriott) were fantastic, even if a little small for some of the panels they put in them (*cough*Zombie Squad*cough*). The exhibitor halls were nice, but I do have a small complaint about the dealers’ room… entering into the center of the hall and having to make several circular trips through to see everything was just odd and annoying. Some of this may end up back in the Marriott next year, but the Hilton Halls shouldn’t be left unused…

One thing I’ve always hated about Dragon*Con and still hate is the use of the itty bitty teeny tiny Learning Center in the Hyatt for the Film track. Every single set of short films ends up with a line and they have to turn people away, every one. They need a bigger room, perhaps the Marriott will have something they can use, or maybe if one of those Hilton Ballrooms winds up empty they can utilize one of them. The Learning Center is nice though, for smaller screenings, perhaps for invite only or contest won passes to exclusive screenings of new movies. That would be sweet. Or hey… you know about that Writer’s Workshop they do every year? Maybe they might consider a Film Maker’s Workshop…

The only other real complaint I can come up with about Dragon*Con in general is the lack of signs. Because of the construction in the Marriott, the traditional method of going out the back was blocked off. Thankfully, rather than forcing people to walk around the outside of the building, they opened up four staircases for use. The intent was obviously that two would be for going up and two for going down. They did place a Marriott employee there most of the day telling people how to use the stairs to get to the Hilton, but, across the street inside the Hilton is a Kinko’s, and for probably $20 or less (definitely less than the cost of manning the post all day) they could have printed up 8 very nice signs (4 staircases, 2 ends of each staircase) indicating the direction of travel, UP or DOWN. 90% of the traffic issues would have been solved right there. Other signs around would have been nice, maybe even ones indicating where photos should be taken instead of just a few signs stating when and where they could NOT be taken. They did have some signs around for things, but most of those signs where floor level signs… meaning that you can’t really read them until you are practically on top of them. Head height should be a minimum for signs, six feet, seven would be better.

So, with that I bid adieu to another year at Dragon*Con. 359 days until the next one…

2007: Day 4

Nothing much ever happens on day 4 of Dragon*Con. Everything is shutting down, people are checking out, it is both hectic and lazy at the same time. I had planned to go to a few of the programming track round ups because I’d like to give my opinion on what they did right and what they did wrong, but of course they pretty much all do those at the same time, so I picked the Apocalypse Rising track to visit… and then never made it there.

I did make another pass through the exhibitor’s hall to view the stuff and make sure I didn’t miss anything I wanted to see. I didn’t really.

Tomorrow, when I’m feeling more energetic, I’ll write an Aftermath post about the con and some views on a few things I intentionally skipped or glossed over.

2007: Day 3

Day Three always seems to start late, perhaps its because of the long day that day two always is. So, I’m pretty sure I always miss the 10 a.m. panels on day three. This year is no different.

But I did make it down for the 11:30 panel on the Future of the Game Industry in Atlanta. Pretty much as I expect the answer to “how is it?” is “how is what?” Atlanta has White Wolf, which owns CCP now and is making an MMO. There is also GameTap and the stuff the Cartoon Network is working on. Outside that it is little shops doing either gambling sites or no-budget games. Currently the best bet for anyone in the Atlanta area who wants to work in games lies in leaving Atlanta. But, that might change in the next few years. The Georgia Commerce Department recently created a division to look into drawing more entertainment ventures to Georgia. Movies, TV, games and other things are in their sites, and they really want to try to ramp up Atlanta as another entertainment hub for the US. We’ll have to wait and see.

Then I went and saw some comedy short films, a panel on Eureka (I love the show, the fans… not so much), a panel on Apocalyptic themes in media, and then some apocalyptic short films. All the short film stuff is great… okay, not all of it, but most of it, some of the shorts I have to only applaud the effort put into making the film and the determination to get it done because the writing and/or acting was horrid.

But lets take a half step back and revisit the Eureka panel. I think the only thing that prevents me from going to more TV show based panels is the fans. In the case of Eureka one of the earliest topics of discussion was the character of Carter not really being dumb, but just not being book smart and college educated, that he is actually smart but in a more intuitive manner. Yes, score one for the people who watch the show, because every single episode in some way involves Carter solving a problem other “smart” people can’t. So the next topic is… Carter not really being dumb. Fine, I hear you started your comment with “I really don’t think Carter is dumb…” but we’ve covered this. On to the next topic… Carter is apparently not dumb. Whatever, we agree. Moving on… Carter’s daughter isn’t dumb either. Cool, kind of some new ground here… except that now we are talking about Carter not being dumb either. Check, not dumb, got it. Allison is a good leader for Global, oh and someone interjects that Carter is not, in fact, dumb. Oh. My. God. Carter might not be dumb, but I think many of the fans are. Either that or they just don’t listen… ugh.

In any event, after the Apocalypse short films we had dinner and then hooked up for people for partying, drinking, talking and people watching. Another day at Dragon*Con ends… time to hit the sack.

2007: Day 2

Breakfast is good. Expensive, but good. Luckily this year we’ve got a ton of Marriott gift certificates to use to we basically eat for free… go, go credit card rewards points!

On to the zombie walk… okay, lets talk about a good idea: Get a bunch of people together dressed as zombies, stumble down the street. Now lets talk about poor execution… do this at the same time as the parade, along side the parade, but not in the parade. Seriously, a better show, since they didn’t get into the parade, would have been to pick a time, say around noon, and walk as a group through the three participating hotels. Ah well, maybe next year…

Saturday was looking to be a zombie day as I headed over to see the Zombie Squad. They were hilarious, but at the same time informative and cool. While they take on the far flung fantasy of a zombie uprising, they do so in focusing in general disaster preparedness. Take a look around your house, if you were to be cut off from communications, power, running water… if it were to all shut down, could you survive the first 72 hours on what you have?

A visit to Dragon*Con isn’t complete without a trip through the Art Show. Definitely some cool stuff to look at, but some times I wonder how they come up with the prices of the art… I see one piece, very nice, oil painting, $300… a few booths down, another oil, $6,500. I didn’t really see much of a difference between the two. There was another 1/8 scale diorama this year, last year was undead which was very cool… this year is Star Wars. Something about the little bastards of tattooine… jawas, storm troopers and sand people. Very nice.

After a short break, I went down and caught the end of the “Is Warcraft an MMO with training wheels?” to which the answer was a resounding “Yes” even though the “hardcore raiders” didn’t want to hear it. People were calling their game “easy” and “simple”, and it is, from level 1 to 60 (now 70) you don’t need help, you can level on your own and be just fine, but at the level cap the game gets “hard” because you wind up needing a guild, or at least a few friends to power through Arena and Battlegrounds.

That was followed by a panel on the nitty gritty of MMO Design. Mostly the room seemed to be filled with people who didn’t want to hear “Its not easy, in fact its a lot of hard work and takes a whole team of people.”

Ever watched a movie about the end of the world? Ever watched a bunch of them? Ever notice that the same archetypes of characters keep showing up? I attended a panel to discuss exactly that: what types keep showing up and why. Most interesting was the aspect of how American films differ from British films and both of those are miles away from Asian films. Fun talks.

While I skipped out on a screening of “The Signal” earlier in the day (I’ve seen it), I did want to attend a Q&A panel of the cast a crew. A.J. Bowen likes to wink at me, but I think only because I wink back… but its not in a gay way. Really.

The day ends as it always does… with drinking and people watching, running into old friends, laughing and talking… and sleep.

Good night.

2007: Day 1

Day 1 began as it always begins, check in. Really, seriously, I need to start planning on coming down on Thursday to avoid Friday. We really didn’t have trouble getting our room, it just wasn’t clean yet. So we got new rooms, but not before the bellman had brought up the bags to the unclean room. Why exactly are there two sets of bellmen? One helps you from the car to check in, the other helps you from check in to your room… two people, they each get half a tip.

With check in behind us, we set out to meet people and do stuff…

This year is seeing a few changes around the old Dragon*Con. Some tracks have been combined or changed, and there are some new ones. The old Tribe stuff has been pulled in to a new Apocalypse Rising track. I think I’m really going to like this one… I went to the kick off panel and we discussed all the ways the world can “end”, but of course apocalypse stories are not about the end of the world most of the time, they are about people surviving the end of the world they knew. Good stuff.

Next up was the MMO Obituary panel where we dragged out the corpses of all the dead (or dying) MMOs and continued to flog them, while at the same time discussing what they did do right and what we hope to see again. The Game Programming track that has finally broken away from the Electronic Frontiers Forums track looks to be another keeper.

Then we decided to wander through the dealer’s room and the exhibit halls… largely its all the same crap that is there every year. Not anything surprising, but some of it is still cool.

Back to the Apocalypse track to discuss pen and paper games. Lots of good stuff out there… Twilight 2000, Fading Suns, Aftermath, Rapture, Shadowrun, Deadlands, the Morrow Porject and more…

Some obligatory standing around and looking at costumes. Some people are crazy, and some are insane, and some simply should not be wearing that.

Last up for the night was a panel called “How NOT to get into the game industry.” I’ve been to the How To panel before, and this was a slightly more humorous take on the same subject… mostly I went to possibly meet Brian “Psychochild” Green, but he canceled, so poo on him.

Time for bed because I’ve been up too long today… and tomorrow is another day…

2006: Day 4 – On The Turning Away

Every year, the 4th day of Dragon*Con is a little sad. Not just because its the last day, but also because something always forces me to leave early. So there isn’t much to say about day 4, I woke up, I packed, and then I went to the Exhibition and Dealer rooms one more time. 10 AM on Monday is such a peaceful time to browse. In the words of Verbal Kint, “And poof. Just like that [it’s] gone.”

So, here’s looking toward next year, and hopefully checking in on Thursday and checking out on Tuesday.