My turn at the wheel

As I said before, I’m helping out with the MMO Track at Dragon*Con this year and part of that is every couple of weeks I post videos on the blog.  This week is my turn, and here is my entry.

Mostly, I point this out because, A) I’d like to drive what little traffic I have over there because every little bit helps, and B) I had a particularly clever turn of phrase in today’s entry.

“And now you MMO, and MMOing is half the battle.”

Sometimes I kill me! Ha!

Participation Level Up

I’ve been going to Dragon*Con for years.  I’ve probably been ten times, my first time being probably in 1993 or 1994.  I’ve missed some years, but I’ve attended more than I’ve missed.  If you have never been to Dragon*Con, I recommend it.

As much as I do love the con, I’ll be the first to admit that if you go with any frequency, certain aspects of it will get… repetitive.  If you are interested in writing and getting published, the writing track has panels that are good to attend where you can listen to published authors talk about how they got published.  Better yet, you can probably ask them yourself.  (Just don’t hand them a manuscript, they aren’t -generally- publishers or editors themselves.)  However, after you’ve been to that panel a few times, unless they add some new and awesome guests you don’t need to attend it again, or at least just not every year.  Go to con enough years and you’ll find that you’ve “seen everything” – which you really haven’t, believe me, just when you think you’ve seen it all at Dragon*Con someone will walk out in a costume or some guest will sign on (Shatner and Nemoy last year!!) and prove that you haven’t – but when you get to feeling that way there are really only too options: coast or step up.

To coast would be to attend every year, go to the parties, visit a few panels, maybe wear a costume and just enjoy the weekend.  Nothing wrong with that at all.  But the other option, to step up, would be to volunteer for staff.  Dragon*Con is a con for fans by fans.  Grim said it pretty well:

Now, here are some major differences between Dragon*Con and “everybody else”…

GenCon is gaming, only gaming, nothing but gaming.  They are the Mac-Daddy gaming convention, and they do gaming very well.  They do not, however, have concerts, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Costuming, or any of the other “3 hotels worth of stuff” that Dragon*Con does.

Penny Arcade Expo, is run for gaming companies, by gaming companies, and caters to an established audience.  If you are a computer or console gamer, this is a great convention.  If, however, you want to have drinks with celebrities, or are not a hardcore gamer.  PAX isn’t for you.

Comic-Con focuses on Sci-Fi and (duh) Comics.  You’ll have a pretty good chance of seeing celebrities there (since it’s located near Los Angeles and New York) and there is a correspondingly large media presence there.

There is only one convention that does “all of the above”.  There’s only one convention that isn’t so hip-deep in advertising and sponsorship dollars that you can save yourself the trouble and just download press-releases all day.  There’s only one convention that boasts 24-hour, round-the-clock, non-stop “stuff to do”.  There’s only one convention that is run by fans, for fans.

That’s us.

And it is with this in mind that I noticed last year I spent about 80% of my time in the MMO Track, so I’ve volunteered and joined the staff.

Recently, Grim wanted the gang to start updating the track blog more, to keep a flow of information to help build and cement a community around the track.  I suggested and volunteered for Saturday Morning Cartoons.  If you know of any good MMO videos, be they music videos, comedy routines, awesome raid take downs, Easter eggs, or anything worth watching, especially if it’s for a game that isn’t WoW (no offence to WoW, but there is just so much for them that finding WoW-stuff is easy… not so much other games), let me know.

Another place I’m involved is in trying to track down guests, or companies that want to send us some swag to give away… if you happen to read my blog and Dragon*Con looks like fun to you and you happen to work in the MMO industry, let me know.

We’re about five months away from Dragon*Con 2010, and I’m more excited about it this year than I’ve ever been.  This is going to be great!

Where there’s a Wil, there’s a way.

My hatred of PAX stems from two important facts.

  1. It happens on the other side of the damn country so I can’t go.
  2. It happens the same weekend as Dragon*Con and I love going to Dragon*Con too much to skip it.

The new PAX East solves problem number two, and actually lessens problem number one.  It’s still far away, but going is more possible.  But not this year… you know, since it happened last weekend.  Wil Wheaton gave the keynote speech, and not only is he a pretty good speaker he’s also a real gamer.  If you have an hour, watch it… if you don’t have an hour to just sit and watch, let it play and listen to it while you do other stuff.

Heading into the Weekend

It’s been a long week.

Have you ever had a problem that you can’t see?  You can see the effects of it, but not the direct cause.  Slowly sifting through the symptoms, ruling out possibilities.  A whole week of that and what I have to show for it is a problem still unsolved, but at least I know a few dozen things it isn’t.  Perhaps next week will shed new night.

This is also the last weekend before Script Frenzy.  I really enjoyed participating last year even if I didn’t finish.  I’m more ready this year than last.  For one, I’m not just starting a new job.  I’ve also already done my taxes AND gotten my refunds.  In just about every way possible, I’m in a better place this year.

I don’t know if you are paying attention, I know I often don’t.  But over on the right side of the page, down a bit, there are a couple of progress bars.  One of them recently moved.  Sure, the number is a complete and total guess, but I’ve actually moved forward, crossed some items off the “To Do” list and adjusted it accordingly.  Feels good.

Also have the first real meeting for the Dragon*Con staff where I’ll get to sit around with the MMO Track folks and try to figure out how to get BioWare to show up and talk about The Old Republic… among other things, I’m sure.

Overall, as March heads to April, and as Winter passes to Spring, everything is looking pretty good.  Let’s get the weekend started…

Hello 2010!

I am excited for this new year.  The job is going well, life is good, and everything is swinging upward.  Awesome.

The best part however is that my birthday, being October 10th, will fall this year on 10/10/10.  I don’t want to jinx it, but that is going to be a perfect day.

So, what sort of resolutions shall I make for the new year?

First, losing twenty pounds over the last year has been great, and I want to keep going.  That said, the new year is going to bring an examining of my diet and a look at shaking up my exercise a little.  I also want to run the Peachtree Road Race in July, so I have a goal.  Lack of a goal is usually the hard part.  I lost my last twenty because I wanted to be under 200 pounds, and since then I haven’t had much in the way of a solid goal.

Second, writing… One of the issues I have with writing is that it is almost impossible to do on my desktop PC.  The location of my desktop is not inspiring, and the PC has too many distracting things installed on it.  Luckily, I may have an opportunity to obtain a netbook, one of those little mini laptops, and that should help, allowing me to take my writing with me anywhere.  We shall see… in any event, I want to spend a little more time writing, and to help with that I have vowed not to start watching any new TV shows.  I refuse to get sucked in to shows that get canceled or wind up being mediocre.  Instead, I will only watch shows I am already invested in and new shows I’ll see on DVD or streaming courtesy of Netflix.

Third, programming… I am still, occasionally, working on my little games and my one business idea (see progress meters on the right).  I hope to be able to finish something in 2010.  I think I will try to work on finishing one of the smaller games and get it posted just to see if I can.  It is going to be lame, and for that I apologize in advance, but finishing something is an important step I need to take.

Fourth, the house… yeah, um, I might clean up the yard or something when the weather gets warmer, and there are a few trees I need to take down.  But let’s not get our hopes up…

Not a resolution, but this year will also be my first participating as staff for the MMO Track at Dragon*Con.  I’ve reached a point with the con that most of the panels are retreads of panels I’ve already seen.  This isn’t a bad thing, as newcomers will find those panels to be as exciting as I did when I was a newcomer.  But it means that the last couple of years I’ve been bored in some of them and more willing to skip them altogether when given the chance.  In fact, I pretty much only go to the MMO and Writing tracks with the occasional special event.  So I decided since I was spending so much time down in the MMO rooms, why not volunteer and help out?  I did, and I am.  Should be a lot of work and a lot of fun.

Anyway… welcome to 2010…

A World Where That Can Happen

September 11th, 2001 was a tragic day for a great many people.  Myself, being unemployed at the time, I spent the entire day in front of the TV and talking to friends over the Internet.  For some random reason that morning, I’d turned on the TV and it was on CNN.  I think there had been some special news report or something I’d been watching before bed the night before.  I was actually watching when the first reports of something hitting the World Trade Center came in, and I stayed there all day.  I don’t think I even took a break for food until dinner that night.

As tragic as that day was, however, it was the next day, September 12th, when everything sunk in, when the ripples of the event started to be felt, when the world became a different place than it had been just two days before.  Terrorism, of course, was not new.  People had been dealing with attacks like that, though not in the same scope, for a very long time.  Suicide bombers in cafés and other public places were old hat in some parts of the world.  Even hijackings and blowing up planes was something that had, to some degree, become accepted as a possibility.  The largest ripple coming from the September 11th attack was simply that we now lived in a world where that could happen.  A world where someone can fly a plane into a building, not on accident, not a small plane as a personal act of suicide, but a large passenger flight turned in to a weapon that can bring down a building and kill thousands.  On September 10th, it was unthinkable by most people.  On the 11th, it happened.  On the 12th, it was added to the list of possibilities, or if it had already been there, its rank on the list of probabilities rose.  It went from being some 1-in-a-million things to an event that happened, and now proven effective an event that would be planned again.

One of the tracks at Dragon*Con is called Apocalypse Rising.  It is a very odd track compared to many of the other fandom based tracks like Star Wars and Star Trek and the Whedon Universe because it lives in two worlds.  On one side you have zombies and an array of Sci-Fi movies and books, and people talk about their favorite “end of the world” and they wear Mad Max costumes and pretend to hunt zombies.  On the other side, you have panels with people who are well versed in the practical procedures of surviving disasters talking about the things you can do, the things you should do.  It is in the second half where discussions about the inevitability of larger events happen.  We talk about how the September 11th event was a shock to the United States and most of the world, and about how technology advances, and arms caches of fallen regimes make their way into the market, and how once upon a time people used to discuss about the remote possibility that a nuclear weapon or other massively destructive thing might one day be unleashed on a city in the US or the UK, and how events like sarin gas being released on a Tokyo subway and September 11th and more have turned that remote possibility into an eventuality, about how we’ve stopped talking about “if” something will happen but “when” it will happen.  And it all reminds me of a line from Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, “On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.”

Somber thoughts for a sunny Saturday, I know, but I can’t help it.  Its on my mind and it had to come out somewhere.  On a brighter note, I’m alive, I’m in love, and while I may not have everything that I want, I want everything that I have, and that’s a pretty nice place to be.

It has been eight years since that day, and other lengths of time from other tragic days.  To those that we’ve lost, I wish them rest.  To those they’ve left behind, I wish them restoration.  And hopefully “when” will be a very long way off.

Movie Round-Up: September 11th, 2009

I skipped last week because A) I was at Dragon*Con, and B) I hadn’t seen any of the movies.  The funny part is, all three movies (All About Steve, Extract, and Gamer) are ones I wanted to see.  I’ll catch them on DVD for sure.  Anyway, on to this week…

Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself:

I’m a big fan of Taraji P. Henson, but even she can’t get me excited about a Tyler Perry movie.  Nope.

Sorority Row:

A remake of sorts of The House on Sorority Row.  Now I love me some scary movies, but I do prefer them at home, where its quiet and I can have the lights off and cuddle under a blanket with the wife and help her hide from the really scary stuff.  I got a pass to see this one at a screening, but I had a work emergency and was unable to attend.  So I guess I’ll be waiting for the DVD.


Bring a jacket.  No, seriously.  For one, temperatures outside are dropping a tad, but it’ll be weeks before theaters adjust their air conditioning properly, and also this movie does a really fantastic job of showing you the coldest place on Earth.  If you are even mildly suggestible, the movie is bound to make you shiver.  The story here is about a US Marshal, played by Kate Beckinsale, who handles the law in the region and is just days away from leaving when someone finds a body.  Essentially, this movie is an action/mystery film following the Marshal as she tries to find out who did it and why, all under a deadline and the threat of an oncoming storm.  Overall, it was a good solid movie that I really enjoyed watching.


If I were to rate this movie on its visuals alone, I’d gladly give it an “A”.  However, once you include the bland, unsurprising and ultimately disappointing story, this movie can’t be given more than a “C” … or to go on a numeric scale, 9 is a 5 at best.  Most of this has to do with how it ends, which is fairly lame and mildly confounding.  It doesn’t make sense.  Two things people should know before going to see this film: 1) It is not for kids, really, it is not. Don’t take them, they probably won’t enjoy it.  2) Lots of advertising is tagging this movie as a Tim Burton film, and technically it is, however, he did not direct it and he didn’t write it, he only produced, and the result is that 9 is missing Burton’s touch.  If I hadn’t seen this for free, I’d be demanding my money back.

Dragon*Con 2009: The Aftermath

I don’t remember which year was the first time I went to Dragon*Con.  I’m not sure if it was before or after I got out of college.  I think before, so it was probably 1996 or 1997.  The first couple of times I went down it was for concerts and people watching and the dealers hall.  At some point, probably 5 years ago or so, I started actually going to panels.  Not just one or two, but spending pretty much all my time in them.  From year to year I would go to new tracks and see more stuff…

Before I go further, I want to say that everyone should take some time and see the panels.  They cover great topics and the people are very passionate.  Just think about the things you are interested in and track down a panel or two and go.

… that said, after five years, many of the panels are content stagnant.  Hey, if you’ve never been to the Star Trek author’s panel, go, but if you’ve been before, unless there has been some big shakeup in the publishing or some game changing new book released, they are more likely to just discuss the same things they discussed the last time.  Much like I wrote about in this year’s daily posts concerning the Art Show, Exhibitors and Dealers halls, once you’ve gone through a track’s panels in full once or twice, you can skim them in later years and just pick up the new stuff.  After five years, you are pretty much skimming all the tracks, and some tracks, while being full of awesome people and awesome content and perfect for people new to the track, there is so much less “must see” items on their schedule.

When you get to this point, you will find out which items you are really interested in by which tracks you continue to visit.  This year, I spent most of my time in the MMO Track, with a few trips off to the Writer’s Track and Apocalypse Rising, and those side trips were only to see those “skimmed” panels of content either new or deeply interesting to me.

So what do you do when attending the panels is winding down?  For me, it means I’m thinking about getting involved.  Why just go to Dragon*Con when you can help bring it to be?

Beyond that revelation, I also discovered that being in better shape physically makes for a better weekend all around.  Four nights in a row of getting 3 to 5 hours of sleep at best and I wasn’t exhausted.  Even now, in the aftermath, I’m more mentally tired than physically so (though I did get about 9 hours of sleep last night).  Getting healthier is having all sorts of cool benefits.  I even managed to go through the whole weekend without gaining weight.

All in all, Dragon*Con was as good as ever, and I’m really looking forward to next year.

Dragon*Con 2009: Day Four

Perhaps next year we’ll stay until Tuesday, but when you are leaving on Monday, day four of Dragon*Con always begins with packing.  After leaving our luggage with the bellman, the wife and I headed out to see some last few things.  For me, it was a short day of two events.  First, a Q&A with Felicia Day.  We watched episode one of season three of The Guild, and then she talked and people asked questions.  Fun and funny, even with the lady who wanted her Penny/Bad Horse fan fiction signed.  Yes, slash fiction.  Yes, he is a horse.  Felicia signed it, but I think everyone was more than a tad creeped out.  Afterward I went to the MMO track post mortem.  The guys of the MMO track are a great bunch, they run a fantastic track, and I look forward to the future of it.

Normally I end day four with a trip through the exhibiters and dealers halls, and maybe the art show, but given my previous posts describing my changing feelings toward them, I didn’t go.  So instead we picked up the luggage, got the car from the valet, and made the trek back home… about an hour away.  Man do I love living in Atlanta when it comes to Dragon*Con.

Unpacked, ate a real meal, and now the tired is settling in.  Dragon*Con, I’ll see you next year.

Dragon*Con 2009: Day Three

Day three of Dragon*Con is usually when the cracks begin to show.  Its that second (or third) night of little to no sleep that leaves your feet shuffling a little more than walking, the enthusiasm is there but the expression of it has waned… and this is how I entered my first panel of the morning, “Oops!” – an apocalyptic track panel about things you need to know about surviving catastrophe.  I’ve gone to this panel every year that they’ve had it.  Its fun to listen to people who’ve done more research than you tell you stuff like “We all like to make fun of SPAM, but seriously, Hormel canned meats are something you need, and with the right dry spices and preparation it can be tasty… well, as tasty as SPAM gets.” and “Buying bottled water is good, but you have to rotate your stock because it will go bad.” and watching people furiously taking notes and the looks on their faces as the wisdom of these little nuggets sink in.  And for those that don’t go, here is the short version: In the case of any disaster, you are on your own for 72 hours, so you should always have food, water and supplies to last at least that long, if not longer.  Oh, and make sure your disaster recovery plans don’t rely on the things that will likely be lost in a disaster, like electricity.

Then there was a Champions Online panel… no developers, just fans talking about the beta and playing the game.  The kind of panel you just don’t get at other conventions.  I followed this with the “What’s wrong with WoW?” panel… the short version: Everything.  The long answer is that WoW does many things right, from a certain perspective, and if you are an MMO veteran who isn’t looking for the RPG version of whack-a-mole then WoW really isn’t for you.  The real long answer is… well… a series of posts that I might do later.

With no interesting panels for a couple hours, I took a lunch break and visited the dealers’ room.  Much like the Art Show and the Exhibiter Halls, I’ve been here before, a lot, and it is pretty much the same things every year.  But I made my way through the “5 for $25” shelves of graphic novels and didn’t find any I couldn’t live without.  Though, he did have a complete set of the huge leather bound looking Absolute Sandman series.  I wish I had that kind of cash to blow.

Back at the MMO track I settled in for an afternoon of SOE.  First, Free Realms… really, if you haven’t at least tried this game, I don’t know what to say.  It is free, it streams the client so you create an account, create a character and log in, the game downloads as needed and it does it very well.  Sure, its largely a collection of mini-games, but its fun.  I think it is anyway.  Second, The Agency.  The more I learn about this one, the more I like it.  It looks like an MMO version of the old Top Secret RPG.  You are an agent, you get skills, you do missions, you have other agents who help you out, you shoot stuff, you sneak in places, espionage…  it just looks cool.  Third, DC Universe Online.  You know, I really wanted to love City of Heroes, it had lots to like but in the end was too grindy.  When I saw Champions Online, I was excited, but from what I’ve read by the people who are playing, especially about how the graphics didn’t turn out to be the cell shaded awesomeness the screenshots originally portrayed, I’m not buying in yet and am waiting to here some ringing endorsements.  But from what I saw and learned about DCUO today, I’m really interested.  The physics of the game are just incredible.  As the example they used goes, you can freeze one bad guy in a block of ice, then pick him up and beat other bad guys with him.  That sounds like a comic book.

A smiled my way back to the Marriott then and attended a panel about upcoming post-apocalyptic movies and TV shows… not really a whole lot I didn’t know already, so nothing really exciting to report.  Book of Eli, Zombieland, The Road, V, Day One, Daybreakers… lots of things coming up I want to watch.

As the final night of Dragon*Con, it is also the final night of parties.  The Pirate Party is always a popular choice, though I imagine that many men choose it because of all the cleavage that comes with women dressing like pirates and wenches.  The highlight of this particular pirate party was watching one pirate make many frontal assaults upon the virtue on one wench, which she repeatedly rebuffed.  We also managed to catch the end of the Mad Scientists Ball where they had Tesla coils arcing toward a box within which they allowed ladies to dance.  Genius.  I didn’t make it to the SOE Party for the MMO track, and I wish I had… hopefully they will be back next year and do it again.

To wrap up the night, I spent it people watching in the Marriott.  Really, watching the other people, seeing the costumes that people create, is one of the best parts of the con.  It is so very inspiring.

Good night Dragon*Con, just one more day is left with you, but tonight was the last night.  Until next year…