And we comes to Day Four of Dragon*Con, the cruelest of Dragon*Con days. Why? Because most people don’t stay through Tuesday, seeing as how everything is done by 5pm (the panel schedule is so light that most people won’t find much to attend), it means they have to check out. By noon. Or 11am. Or whatever hour their hotel kicks them out. And many people when faced with the dilemma of having their luggage sit in the holding area under bellhop guard or just proceeding out to the car and heading home will head home. Checking out means Dragon*Con is over.
Where will I be today? In the Sheraton, Savannah room, hiding. We run a panel on legal issues in MMOs, another on Guild Wars 1 & 2, and our last panel of the con is where we talk about how the track did: what rocked, what sucked, and what we missed.
But what about yesterday? The Guild panel was great. Sandeep (Zaboo) and Jeff (Vork) are both great guys, oh and Sean Becker too (the director). After that I took my annual tour around the exhibitors and dealers halls, things were bought, pictures will be posted in the aftermath post tomorrow. I enjoyed the rest of my afternoon in my hotel room, trying to stay off my tired little feet. But after not going to and later hearing about the Kingdom of Loathing party, I knew I had to go. Plus, you know, last night of the con. Essentially, it’s like going to a room party in a hotel, only you don’t have to have a secret handshake to get in, we post it in the schedule and invite everyone! Day Three was a smashing success.
And look at that… I didn’t stumble into bed until nearly 5am and my 8am post is only 45 minutes late. I am a con warrior!
Day Two is often less painful that Day One… except when you need to get up and dawn thirty. Gooooooood Morning, Dragon*Connnnnn! This is not a test! This is MMO!!! Time to rock it from Azeroth to the realms that are free! Today I’ve got lined up another long day of working panels. Starting with the Live Snarkcast in the Savannah room then I’m off to the World of Warcraft Q&A in the Capitol Ballroom. Next, a Q&A with Sandeep Parikh and his work on The Legend of Neil. After that it’s back to Savannah for WoW Addon Kung Fu, back again to the Capitol Ballroom for the WoW Meet & Greet and Trivia, and finally once more to Savannah for a Machinima panel. Tonight is also the big MMO Gathering of Heroes party which is sponsored by SOE, AQ Worlds and Comcast Xfinity. I’m not working it, but I’ll probably be there.
So how did Day One go? Every panel went great and we had attendance in numbers from 50 to 141. The only small turnout that I worked was the Funcom panel, which we expected because Funcom wasn’t able to attend, but we love them so we ran the panel anyway. I didn’t stick around for the Guild Q&A with Vork and Zaboo because I needed food and sleep, and I decided to spend the rest of my night wandering the con.
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.
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…
When it comes to Dragon*Con, four hours sleep is a lot. And remember, you can’t be hung over if you are still drunk. Really, it doesn’t take much too keep yourself going all day, that canteen I have isn’t water, its vodka and Crystal Light Lemonade, because, you know, I’m trying to watch my diet.
The day begins with a car alarm. I shit you not. Not even seven in the A.M. and there is an annoying *BEEP BEEP* alarm that I can hear… in my room… on the 38th floor. Jeez… So, once awake, I figured I’d just stay up. Three hours later I’d find myself sitting in the Free MMOs panel, listening to Krystalle tell us about some nifty free MMOs some of which I knew about and some of which I did not. Expect to see a few of them tested out and reviewed here, because these days in this economy I am all about the free.
Made my way over to the Hyatt for a panel on How To Draw Monsters. Interesting stuff, will definitely utilize some of that in my Saturday doodles when they return. While I was in the area I sped through the Art Show… Some people like to take their time and carefully examine the art, but I’ve been to enough Dragon*Cons that, no offence to the artists, I’ve seen most of this before, either exactly these before or items very similar. Lots of the same artists with the same styles they always have, and almost all of it is incredible stuff… but its not new, and most of it is not the kind of thing you stand considering for hours letting the emotion of the piece work into your soul… its fantasy art, with dragons, and women showing boobs, and guys with swords, and little monsters, and fairies, and women as the seasons, and aliens, and henna, and Celtic knots, and all the stuff you would expect. Good stuff, but at this point I can speed through the hall and if it doesn’t jump out and grab me then I’ve probably seen it before. This year didn’t even have one of those awesome miniatures scenes I’ve enjoyed from the last couple years.
I also took this opportunity to make a first trip through the exhibit halls… much like the art show, it is a lot of the same stuff every year. As is typical, I spent a little time in some of the book sellers looking for deals or books I’m missing, but overall, great stuff that I’ve seen before and so really easy to speed through.
Then it was off to the MMO Roundtable. People from Cartoon Network, CCP Games, Funcom, Hi-Rez Studios, and Sony Online Entertainment answered questions about the MMO industry. Lots of good stuff here. I ran in Ferrel from Epic Slant, and he gave me a t-shirt. Woohoo! Free stuff rocks!
With my head full of MMO industry goodness, I wandered over to Watch the Guild where we did exactly that: watched season one and two uncut. It was interesting to see each season without the breaks, the credits for every short segment. It played well. Ms. Day was great. Being that she’s a bit of a geek herself and a big reader, she seems to really like Dragon*Con, so hopefully this means she’ll make many returns, even if it means she has to miss PAX.
It is important to break for dinner prior to going out to party and drink. I did so, and then did so. Frankly, as much as I love the MMO track people and the MMO track, the WoW Party getting the giant room was a huge waste when you consider to do so meant pushing the BSG party into a piddly half-ballroom. They reach max capacity very fast and had a massive line. Seriously, on the first Dragon*Con after the series ended, did they expect attendance to diminish? Its the funeral, the big send off… BSG had a huge turn out. The show may be over, but fans always swell and linger at the end. The Firefly Shindig, forced to use just half a ballroom as well was in a similar boat, though not anywhere near at severe. Meanwhile, I strolled right in to the WoW party, took one of the many empty seats and almost immediately got up to leave. I wanted to party, but I couldn’t get in to the good parties… so instead I resorted to the Marriott lobby, people watching while sipping spirits. I did manage to run into and catch up with quite a few friends, but still, I’d rather have been able to get into a party instead. That said, I still enjoyed myself and made it well beyond 3AM of another day at the Con.
Day two ends as day two should, exhausted and drunk. Not the highest of highs, but high enough.
The day began as no day should… waiting in line for registration. However, once let inside, well, lets just say that a couple hundred geeks in a room being forced to walk a maze of a line can be pretty hilarious. Some people shot video of it, I’ll provide a link if I ever see it posted online.
After a spot of breakfast I headed off to the “Write a Story in an Hour” panel, which I visit every year, because its funny to hear people shout out story elements and craft a beautifully weird story… not by the panel, mind you, they tend to ignore the really out there stuff, but there is always a group of us taking the best ignored suggested, like a typewriter possessed by the ghost of Hunter S. Thompson that requires a bottle of liquor to be poured on it before it will function, and making our own ridiculous plot.
Then it was off to the Fallen Earth panel where we got to hear that people who work on games tend to like working on game, and that crafting is the center of the game, and that they have no current plans for a series of Fallen Earth novels, but everyone would like to see that happen.
Next up… the Crypt of Trailers, where we watch movie trailers and make snappy jokes, like how the new Twilight movie, New Moon, would be much better if they just added a Predator, or some Aliens… yeah, Aliens vs. Predator vs. Twilight. Hollywood? Are you listening?
After that I got to sit and listen to a panel of writer’s talk about how fun it is to destroy the human race in the Apocalypse Writer’s Roundtable. John Ringo, S.M. Stirling, Kevin J. Anderson, Walter Jon Williams, Michael Z. Williamson, and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. They were a very talkative and funny bunch, while also being very knowledgable and open. Excellent panel.
Down into the bowels of the Hyatt I went to join the wife for a panel on Steampunk. Steampunk, if you didn’t know, is the new Goth, or perhaps the new Vampires. Everyone is steampunking it up, and it is awesome. I’ll post some photos later as I take some around the con. Beautiful stuff.
The third rule of Dragon*Con (the first being: shower, and the second being: sometimes you must go down to go up – if you’ve been, you know what that means) is don’t forget to eat. Nothing ruins a party like drinking on an empty stomach and passing out early, so remember to feed yourself. In accordance with this rule, we took a short break for sandwiches and chips.
With a full belly, I hit the Machinima panel. I have an odd relationship with machinima. The idea behind it is very cool – to take a game/game engine/game art assets and make a movie out of it. Some of the best machinima, however, is clearly rendered in professional tools just using assets, while items rendered in the game engine often look stilted and of poorer quality, especially when it comes to characters talking. Anyway, the result is that I generally don’t like the machinima people actually create, but I respect the ideas and effort that goes into their creation. That said, Ignis Solus is just awesome:
I decided to end my day of panels with the Zombie Walk, which in hindsight was a poor choice. Not enough zombies showed for it to be really great, and I never did complete my Francis from Left 4 Dead outfit, so it ended up being about 20 zombies walking through the con… I gave up and left them half way through. Maybe next year.
The way a day at Dragon*Con should end is with parties, but I lost my enthusiasm for the Zombie Prom, and the line for the Time Travelers Ball was too long, so I hung out with some friends for a bit and then made my way to the All-Night (5am) Global Agenda party where I played absolutely zero Global Agenda. Instead, I spent a good hour or more, maybe two rockin’ the mic in Rock Band. Thank you Atlanta! Good night!
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…
Last week, I finally decided to call in service on my refrigerator. The panel with the water and ice dispenser in it has been loose for a while. So I went looking for the receipt and the service numbers which resulted in my sifting through the piles of papers and junk that has collected in my filing cabinet since we bought the house. After dealing with the fridge (which turned out to be that the panel was never installed properly, not that it was broken), I decided to clean up my files.
Dealing with old papers has always been a thing for me. I’m a pack rat by nature, and I keep everything. Not that I keep it organized so that it is useful or anything, I just keep it all. Since I have had my mail stolen a time or two, and I know there are people out there who go through the trash looking for items to perpetrate fraud with, I wanted to make sure I disposed of everything properly.
This isn’t the first time I’ve done this. About 8 months ago, I did a semi-cleaning of sorts and I threw out some stuff, but not a lot, so I just tore everything up into small pieces by hand. But for this new overhaul, I knew I’d have more to throw out, so I borrowed an electric paper shredder from my father. 🙂 Man, is that thing fun to use. You just drop paper in the slot and it powers up and shreds. It even has a nifty warning label on it specifically telling you not to put your tie in it, just in case you were tempted to try it.
Even I was unaware of just how much crap I had accumulated. Back in 1992 I got my first job doing night stock work at the local Kroger, and after a few paychecks I went and opened a bank account. I actually had in my filing cabinets, 16 years worth of bank statements and canceled checks. Well, almost. The canceled checks stopped back in 2000 and I went to eStatements in 2006. I also had every credit card statement from 1993 to 2006, and some even to 2008. I had warranty cards for items I haven’t owned in more than a decade.
Overall, if makes me proud of myself to know that most of that can’t happen again. I’ve gone to electronic everything as much as possible, and most companies offer to keep PDF versions of your statements and check images and whatnot for up to seven years if you turn off your paper mailings. So I get to keep the same records I had, only now I’ve got them all on a hard drive instead of in a filing cabinet. However, as proud as I am of that, I also now have more than three full thirty gallon Hefty trash bags of shredded documents. I checked, and my local recycle place won’t take shredded paper for recycling, only unshredded. Seems silly to me, but I guess they must have a reason.
Oh well, at least its just a one time thing, dumping this much paper into the regular garbage instead of the recycle bins.
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.
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.