I’ve been going to Dragon*Con for many years, so many that when I think about it it pains me. I’ve been a staff member since 2010.

2006: Day 3 – An Age in a Day

I could write about the panels I wasted my morning on. Well, wasted isn’t really the right word… the swordfighting display was cool, as were the various writing panels, but the free form discussion of game modding was kinda lame. I mean, how many different ways can someone ask, “But what if it doesn’t work?” and the guests respond with a new form of “Then you fix it.” I showed some friends the undead siege art. But I’m not going to spend much time on that, because frankly, I want to live in the Age of Conan.

Funcom is here and they have a booth for their upcoming game, but today they did a full blown demo using the current beta client and servers (they actually used their live data thanks to the Hilton providing the internet access). All my worries for this game have been pushed aside, and if Vanguard still wants my business they better show me something cooler than this.

The first thing we are shown is the character creation. Have you played City of Heroes? Their costumes are cool, but the body and face creator in AoC is freakin’ amazing. You can give yourself scars or a broken nose, you can be all sorts of skinny or fat, its just awesome.

Then we see combat. Auto-attack doesn’t exist. For range attack with a bow, you draw the bow, then it smoothly transitions into an aiming system, pick your target and fire. We only saw bow, but I’d guess it works the same with everything ranged, perhaps spells. We didn’t see spells. But we saw close melee combat. Your character has six sides… front, left front, right front, left rear, right rear, rear. If you swing through a side and someone is in it, you can hit them. So yes, you can do a wide arc swing and hit multiple targets. Hitting someone is a series of key presses which determine the kind of swing and the location of the strike… almost like one of those console fighting games, but without the mad slamming of keys to make super-ultra-mega-death-combos. There are combos though, as you learn more fighting moves you can use them. But the absolute best part of combat is that you actually interact with each other. When you swing at them, you swing at them, not just in the same swinging motion you always make. You slash at legs and torsos and heads. And finishing moves can actually involve grabbing the opponent, running them through and then letting the body slip to the ground. It makes for much more visceral experience. And there is mounted combat. You can ride past someone and slash at them as you go. You can trample people. And the horse leans when it runs, just like real horses.
Then there are the towns. Player towns. Run by guilds. And you have to defend them from NPCs who rise up to fight you. Towns are strickly PvE, but for PvP they have tower keeps, and you can siege them, with real siege gear, that you have built. You actually can build, arm, aim and fire a trebuchet with a rolling flaming shot that slams through the approaching forces or the enemy keep walls. Since guild towns are PvE, they are instanced, which means the landscape doesn’t get cluttered. Tower keeps being PvP are limited in number, contested.

Basically everything about the game looks great. So far, it is the game I will buy a new computer for.

I saw a preview of Neverwinter Nights 2 also. It was pretty good. It beats Conan only in that it has DM tools so you can make your own modules and there is no monthly fee. Conan wins at everything else.

There was, of course, much hanging out, costume watching, and drinking.

2006: Day 2 – Deal or No Deal

The main reason I come to Dragon*Con is actually to attend the panels. Meeting authors, actors and other people in various industries, listening to them speak and speaking with them is cool. But, I can’t deny the lure of the Dealer’s room and the Exhibitor’s hall. The Exhibitor’s are there to sell stuff or just show off recent or upcoming stuff. Neverwinter Nights 2 is down there (and it looks cool), so is Age of Conan (and Funcom is also still peddling Anarchy Online too), as are many craftsmen and gaming companies. The Dealer’s room is less refined… comic books, t-shirts, bootleg TV shows on DVD, old movie posters, etc. Porn stars are usually in the Dealer’s room, except ones like Traci Lords, because she’s a legitimate actress (at least in the eyes of Sci-Fi and Fantasy fans).

The only issue with the draw of the stuff for show and sale is that it takes half a day or more to see it, so you basically miss most of a day of panels. Today was that day. But not at first…

I have never gotten anything autographed on purpose at Dragon*Con. I think I got a poster signed once by someone who I didn’t know on a poster I wasn’t planning on keeping. The wife, however, really wanted to get something signed by MaryJanice Davidson, who happened to be doing signings at 10 AM. So, rather than go to the parade, we went to the signing. We were supposed to have friends in the parade, but it turns out they didn’t go so thankfully we didn’t waste our time. It was interesting to watch the wife get so excited talking to Mrs. Davidson, about the books and introducing friends to books and other books. A real treat.

Then we went to the Art Show. There are alot of really talented artists out there. There are some that suck too, but that’s to be expected. And of course, talent is in the taste of the beholder, or something like that. One piece really stood out, and sadly I can’t share photos of it with you because they don’t let you take any, was a huge diorama of the front of a castle, mote and gate, being sieged by the undead. It was just very damn cool.

After that we hit the Exhibitor halls and the Dealers’ room, and saw a great many things that would be great to own. But alas, most of those things are simply not in the budget.

It was about 5 PM by then. So the day was pretty shot for alot of the panels.

We hung out and watched the costumes go by a little while and then went to Star Wars trivia. I don’t know nearly as much as I thought I would. We heckled instead. And then went back to hanging out and costume watching.

At 9:30 PM we made the decision to go see some short films… that started at 10, and the line was huge. We wandered around again, but returned at 11:30 for another round of shorts. We got in. I really wish we hadn’t. It was billed as comedy, and two of the four items were… one was weird but oddly humorous… the last was… well, it was neither comedy nor short. Forty minutes of some crap about a Jedi and some other Jedi and a group of Jedi and an army of Sith and a tree with black bark and roots and a snake and some of the stiffest melodrama ever filmed. It was… gut wrenching. It just droned on and on, and it wasn’t even bad enough to be made fun of. It just sucked.

More hanging out and watching costumes intermixed with stepping into various rooms to find out that I don’t like hentai, or filking, or watching TV shows in a room full of smelly people, or the drum circle, or DJs spinning techno, or Cruxshadows. Bed is nice. Its 4 AM and sleep is good.

Tomorrow, panels.

2006: Day 1 – The Best Laid Plans

It was simple. I told my boss I’d be off September 1st to the 4th. The wife request off the weekend from work (a year ago). We’d be off, come down to the Con on Friday, get our room first thing and spend four glorious days among the freaks, finally heading back to our regularly scheduled lives on Tuesday.


She didn’t get the day off. So she’s working until 12. Fine, she’ll drive down after work. But then I have work to do in the morning too. So I’ll be a little late. By noon, I’m just finishing up. She comes home instead and we drive down together.

We check in to the room, which is supposed to be right next to the rooms of two friends, we reserved as one and were assured a block of rooms. When we ask if its possible to switch from the two double beds to a single king, we are told that doing so will split us from the group. Well, if we are with the group we can suffer. Only, after we get up to the 28th floor, we learn one group of friends is on 23, and the other is on 35. Back down in the lobby, I complain and get our room switched. We are up on 40 now, much better view, and the king beds are nicer than the doubles for sharing. But… unlike last year’s room we have no fridge and no microwave, and the couch has been replaced by a single comfy chair.

Whatever, its fine. So we head to registration. Its in the Hyatt. There are signs. We follow the signs. At registration we are told that you have to enter from Baker Street, from outside, this is exit only. None of the signs leading us here mentioned that. But we go outside and eventually find the one sign that says it is the registration entrance.

By the time she got home, we load the car, drove downtown, checked in, twice, and registered, its 6. We hooked up with some other friends for a snack and plan to start catching panels at 7. Nothing starts that we want to see until 8:30, at least nothing that we didn’t miss completely. To pass the time until then we go try to find the people we were supposed to be rooming next door to.

They are at Wrestling.

Of all the things you expect to find at a Sci-Fi and Fantasy convension, wrestling isn’t one of them. But its funny. Some of the guys aren’t bad at the acting, some are horrible. Everyone gets into it and is yelling and laughing and screaming.

When that’s done, we stand out in the halls and watch the costumes stroll by. Some people have made excellent costumes, some people… haven’t. Pictures will come eventually.

Pretty much nothing went according to plan the first day, but once we got here it was fun. Hopefully the rest of the weekend will be more of that and less of the other stuff.