Archive for the 'Gaming Industry' Category

SOE FanFaire 2011 Photos – Las Vegas

Friday, July 15th, 2011

The Sony Online Entertainment FanFaire, was held at Bally’s in Las Vegas, Nevada from July 7-9th.

Going on close to 10 years, you’d think most every one attending must surely be on at least their 2nd time attending yet I met a bunch of folks who had never gone before, as well as recognized faces from past FanFaires (who also ended up being repeat customers!).

I didn’t take that many pics this time as I was just too busy for anything else!

If you attended, I hope you had a blast and if you’re featured in one of the pics, feel free to email me for a higher res copy!

Full set of SOE FanFaire photos.

SOE FanFaire Costume Contest – People’s Choice and a Surprise

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

“Snickers” who is well known to regular SOE FanFaire goers for his hand made Froglok costume, got a special call out at the end of the People’s Choice portion of the costume contest.

Emceeing the show is Jace Hall (Producer of “V” and a gamer and game producer) and Brassee (the bearded dwarf alter ego of Linda Carlsson, SOE Senior Community Manager).

I captured it on this video which shows the end of the People’s Choice portion of the contest as well:

I have the entire introduction of the costume contest (where they first get introduced and go on the stage) on video too. I’ll post it in parts.

EverQuest II Extended – SOE Announces Free to Play Option for EverQuest II

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

EverQuest II ExtendedHere’s another MMORPG with a no subscription model. EverQuest II is going to keep their subscription model and add on EverQuest II Extended.

Beta for EQII Extended is scheduled for launch on or around August 17, 2010.

Some of the differences with the free plan and the top level subscription plan include a level cap (limited to 80 for the free, Bronze level, option), customer support options (free plan only has access to the Knowledge Base for support), race and class restrictions (free option is limited to 4 and 8 respectively), and chat options.

You can see a chart with the full matrix of of differences here.

Quotes from their press release:

Extended players will finally experience the vast depth of content only available in EverQuest II without a subscription, credit card or software purchase. Extended will include free access to all EverQuest II game zones through The Shadow OdysseyTM. Players will be able to purchase power-up potions, armor, classes, races, weapons, mounts and more through the marketplace.

Both EverQuest II and Extended players will enjoy a plethora of recent user-interface improvements designed to improve functionality and game navigation. Players will experience a new and improved character progression through the Golden Path while creating their own legend with the Storyteller adventure journal that visually displays quest exploration. Additionally, both titles received a graphics quality update that gives a more realistic immersive experience to fully enjoy the beauty of Norrrath.

The Extended adventure includes the recently added New Halas, the ultimate starting zone with premium designed content for players levels 1-20. Extended also gives players quick and convenient game access through the web-based streaming download application that lets players get into the game quicker than ever before. Extended will also feature multiple tiers of service upgrade options that allow players to customize their gaming experience to fit their needs.

Warcraft Movie – Sam Raimi to Direct

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

The game, movie cross over trend shall be complete. A Warcraft live-action movie is in the works.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – July 22, 2009 — Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. and Legendary Pictures announced today that Sam Raimi has signed on to direct the eagerly-anticipated major motion picture based on Blizzard Entertainment®’s award-winning Warcraft® universe. Raimi has, in the course of his career, clearly demonstrated a genius for developing and adapting existing fictional universes for mainstream audiences while staying true to the spirit of the original content.

Raimi directed the Spider-Man trilogy, which has broken box-office records around the world and garnered five Academy Award® nominations. Known for his imaginative filmmaking style, richly drawn characters and offbeat humor, Raimi wrote and directed the cult classic, The Evil Dead and produced 30 Days Of Night. He most recently wrote and directed the supernatural thriller, Drag Me To Hell.

“At its core, Warcraft is a fantastic, action-packed story,” said Raimi. “I am thrilled to work with such a dynamite production team to bring this project to the big screen.”

My first thought was that they were going to make a film of “World of Warcraft” that might be a good comedy but it was a little hard to think of it as a live action film since so many people play WoW with differing play styles (can you imagine Gold Farmers in the movie? ha). Since it’ll be about Warcraft I’m thinking it has a chance ;)

Full press release here.

E3 2009 What I Liked

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

Firstly it’s the motion stuff that got my panties in a wad.

I’m most interested in Microsoft’s Project Natal for XBox. However, I’ll be really excited when we can see how close it gets to the well edited and created trailer. Even so, it’s one step closer to the holodeck! Microsoft isn’t telling anyone a release date though.

Secondly I liked Sony’s answer to motion control, particularly because of its precision controls, and since this is an actual demo I was quite excited to see the sword play. One step closer to a real virtual fencing game! OK I may not be in the majority for that wish but hey, I’m allowed to wish! Looks like Sony’s aiming for a launch in Spring 2010.

After the battle of the motion controllers, “The Beatles: Rock Band” got me so excited that I pre-ordered the game. I’m a Rockband fan more than a Beatles fan but I just love the idea of being able to play Beatles songs and I’m even looking forward to going through their career as a band.

For other goodies, I’m sort of interested in “Assassin’s Creed 2″ but after getting excited about the first one at E3s in the past & then seeing how it went from there, I feel a little burned by that title. We’ll see. Mario? I’ll wait on those. As far as the other titles, well I’d like to get a PS3 and an XBox but I don’t have them yet so I’ll have to wait to play friend’s games :P

Confessions of a Star Wars Galaxies CSR

Friday, March 6th, 2009

GMS, CSRs, if you’ve ever played an MMO you probably have stories to tell about your interactions with them. But what about stories they tell on the other side? An ex Sony Online Entertainment In-game Customer Service Representative / Game Master named Jason shared 8 “behind the curtain” tales on his blog.

The post begins with a shocking tale about a CSR from EverQuest stabbing himself with keys out of frustration, I don’t know if that story is true or not, and the author of the post admits to not being there to see it but I find it rather sad and shocking in the way that I bet a lot of folks could empathize with someone doing this. Which, by the way is also an element of a good “urban myth”. I plan on asking about the validity of this event but I don’t expect to get any “on the record” answers.

This particular event happened in the Everquest area, before my time. Dealing with irate customers is no picnic, and can send a lot of people over the edge. Long story short, a GM who will go unnamed was at his wits end, and one day he snapped. Going bat shit insane, he grabbed his car keys and started jabbing himself with them in a complete nerd rage. This guy was let go but his story will live on forever. Up until this day, you will see keys taped to a select few monitors in the building. Bad joke, but funny in a dark way.

However, most of the eight confessions are about amusing stories from the Star Wars Galaxies universe, for example, this story about a new CSR using the teleport command:

Eventually SWG launched it’s space expansion. It was a bitch to assist customers in space because, well – they would fly away. I always just told them “Hey send me a msg when you’re done in space and I’ll try to help you then.” In one case another rep from India decided he would speed up the process by teleporting the player back to a planet. I guess he wasn’t thinking that if he did this, there would be an unpiloted ship flying around, but something much much worse happened. When he targetted the player, he actually targeted the entire Yavin 4 space station (mass wise one of the biggest items in the database). He then executed the teleport command and *poof* the entire space station was planted in the middle of Naboo. Players shat themselves. Knowing that there wasn’t much we could do, we ended up taking some screen shots, then photoshopped McDonalds and Starbucks signs on the front.

There are also a few stories about PvP play, including the spawning of an AT AT which I would’ve loved to see. Maybe they could’ve sic’d Yoda on it? ;)

SWG PVP t-shirt

You can read the full confessions post here.

WoW’s 4th Anniversary Gift – Baby Blizzard Bear!

Monday, November 24th, 2008

World of Warcraft celebrates its 4th anniversary today by giving out Baby Blizzard Bears (aka little polar bears) to anyone logging in. You get a letter which includes the summon pet ability as an attachment and then you can access your pet from your Character pane.

I got mine for some of my avatars, here’s a shot of him sitting down. Cute isn’t he?

Baby Blizzard Bear Sitting Down

I haven’t yet activated him for any of my Horde characters yet, perhaps if I could make him look a little more menacing somehow?

Yeah, you’re right, he’s just a cute ball of fur! Hmm fur…

Happy 4th Anniversary Blizzard, seems like yesterday we were running around in Friends and Family Alpha!

EDIT: PS the Achievement is called “Can I Keep Him?”.

Prince of Persia Animation Reference Video

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Old School, we’re talking 1989, 2D Prince of Persia. And yet, the animations looked so smooth. That was due to the use of rotoscoping by its creator and programmer, Jordan Mechner. Mechner has recently shared the videos he used for that process, showing his younger brother jumping and doing other movements gamers will recognize.

Prince of Persia Animation Reference 1985 from jordan mechner on Vimeo.

Check out his pants too! :)

Link to Mechner’s blog entry.

E for All 2008 Overview Report – Steve Wiebe, Fatal1ty, Gamer Aptitude Test

Monday, October 6th, 2008

Gamer Obstacle CourseIt was a grey, drizzly morning in Los Angeles on Saturday, October 4th, but aside from a few slow areas, it was a relatively smooth drive to the Convention center for the second day of E for All. It’s the second year in existence for the public video game convention, and I think it still has hopes of filling E3 of old’s shoes. The ease in which I found parking (even for a Saturday morning) was evidence that the new con still has plenty of toe room, if not the wrong shoes on entirely. Arriving in the West Hall lobby, I noticed a lack of lines at the badge counters. There was a fairly long one to the doors of West Hall itself though. A band was playing to entertain the crowd, they sounded pretty good and plugged their MySpace page — a Sign of the Times. The lead singer was also using an unusual guitar (it was a Guitar Hero guitar which he wasn’t actually playing).

The doors opened a little past 10:00am, the first thing one saw was the Into the Pixel art exhibit and Educational section. I listened briefly to a girl talking about video game websites and how to break into working for them.

My first appointment was supposed to be at 10:30AM with John Bates, Business Development from Entropia. He was running late but I was able to talk to some of the game’s “Ambassadors”, actual players of the game who Mind Ark had paid a stipend to travel to E for All and talk about Entropia. It was a good way to learn about the money driven MMORPG at the player level so I was glad the official guy hadn’t shown up yet.

While waiting I walked over to the 3D vest booth. If you haven’t heard about it, it’s supposed to translate things that happen to you in a game into real life sensations. An example I’d read on the web is that you would feel chest blows. As I neared the booth I saw a camo vest draped on a chair and a guy asked if I wanted to try it on. I asked if there was a girl version and the guy said they did have one, it was pink. I don’t think he really understood my concern. I had to elaborate by explaining that in fencing girls wear chest protectors. His eyes got a searching look and he just said that he didn’t know if the pink vests were made differently. I had another interview to go to and he said I should come back later. I don’t know, the whole idea is kind of funny, I don’t know if I’d really want to get all beaten up in real life. I mean even if you win in a game, you’re getting hit and throwing yourself around a lot in a FPS.

So on to my next appointment. This one was about a game called Beyond Protocol. It’s a MMORTS game set in space. It hadn’t been on my radar but I had been contacted by their PR guy who had said he’s tried to contact The Safehouse before because he thought we’d be interested in the Espionage aspect of the game. I have to say that games like these are what used to be in Kentia Hall during the old days of E3. I called Kentia “the Dungeon” because it was located on the lower level of the Convention building and because the Big Guys generally bought space in West or South Hall and the others were banished to “The Dungeon”. I liked going to Kentia Hall because you could find gems of games there, or, at the very least something unusual. Beyond Protocol has the potential to be one the gems for “hardcore” gamers, who they admit is their target. They have an open beta going on right now. I’ll include more about the game in an upcoming article.

Then it was time to roam the floor. I noticed a lonely booth which seemed to be selling Rockband drum covers (each cover matched the color of the drum rim). There was a large booth for mobile games which looked sterile and uninviting. A good portion of space was taken up by the World Cyber Games USA for the National Finals competition. Another large section was set aside for Intel Extreme Masters Global Challenge. WoW was one of the games in the Global Challenge but I didn’t see anyone playing it when I went by.

While the game makers themselves seemed to be sparse there were a number of stations set up at various booths where gamers could play the games themselves. Target’s area seemed to have the biggest variety and number of play stands. Star Wars: the Force Unleashed seemed popular, but unfortunately they only seemed to have it for the Xbox360 and not for the Wii. I had hoped to be able to try it out on the Wii.

At another booth old school arcade games like Donkey Kong and Berserk were set up for public play, they were near stations set up for attendees to take the Gamer Aptitude test, dubbed H2i which tests hand to eye coordination and was once only used on pro gamers. One person was just wrapping up their test when one of the girls near the box asked if I wanted to try it. I don’t like playing new games in front of people but there wasn’t a crowd so I said, “Sure, why not.”

My first test instructed me to just click a target on the screen with a mouse click. Another was to hit the A or D key (or the left arrow and right arrow) according to which of these symbols (< >) appeared on the screen. As I was taking the test I became aware of more people crowding around. Then the guide person told me, “Not to make you nervous or anything but there’s a whole bunch of people watching you now.” Well I was aware of it, one of those folks was Jonathon “Fatal1ty” Wendell, who was apparently showing the test to someone else I couldn’t quite see (another top gamer I guessed). I got embarrassed because I missed a target and then of course missed another. Then on the next test I didn’t read the instructions correctly and let seconds go by before realizing I just needed to click a target shape even though it hadn’t turned red.

In the end my score was 54.77. I declared, “I suck!” To which Jonathon said, “You ranked 5XX out of 5XX, you’re not last!” Note here that I don’t know the exact numbers he used because I was slinking off in shame, but he was correct, I wasn’t last, but I was definitely in the bottom half, if not the last quarter of scores tabulated thus far. I think the last thing I heard was the guide girl telling Fatal1ty that I was going to be interviewing him at 2pm. Guess I’ll be memorable at least. I think there were prizes for top scores, I of course didn’t qualify but the guide girl wrote my score on a sticker and stuck it on my badge. I didn’t take it off, I wore it as a badge of shame.

After that ordeal I had to take a bit of a break and went back to my role of photographer rather than participant. The gamer known as Mama McCann in Vanguard circles had spotted me earlier and she was now taking her test. I took a few shots and also talked to her husband. I then left them so she could better concentrate on the test (and because I had to take another kind of break if you know what I mean).

Back roaming the floor, I passed by the NoS energy drink booth. They had free samples out on their table. I asked if I could read the ingredients. High Fructose corn syrup, Taurine, Caffeine. A girl told me it tasted like grape soda. I decided I could use some energy and took a sample. She was right, it tasted like lightly carbonated grape soda. Not bad. In fact maybe too good. I don’t really want to like stuff that is ultimately bad for me. I saw a dad with two young boys each take samples. Watch that group in a few minutes.

Passing by the Target area again I noticed a guy just finishing trying the Shaun White Snowboarding game using the Wii Fit board. I hopped on and hit Restart to do the same run. The guy and his friend came back to watch. I somehow did a trick on the board and ended up with my person facing the opposite way that I was standing in real life, it didn’t seem to matter much though, it was all about the leaning and maybe the jumping (it was kinda hard to tell if I made my guy jump on a rail or if he just did it automatically). Forward lean, unlike in Wii Fit Slalom, didn’t seem to affect speed at all. The guy asked if I snowboarded, I said, “I fall,” and added that I’ve gone once. He then said to his friend, “I was overdoing it,” in regards to the leaning. As I finished my run the guy admitted I’d done better than him. Hey, after my performance on the H2i test, I’d take the ego boost.

I wandered over to Fatal1ty’s booth. They had a series of things going on, one was an obstacle course where the top three times would get a $300 gift certificate to Best Buy. It involved diving through a pool of play balls, doing one Wii Fit ski jump, running tires, doing one Wii Fit marble screen, walking across some beams, doing 20 hulu hoop rotations on Wii Fit again and then riding an adult sized tricycle to the finish line. I watched some guys have a go and they did it in around 53 seconds. The guys talking said you could have unlimited go’s at it. If I had more time I’d do practice runs.

On the main stage I watched Fatal1ty take on a few competitors in Quake 4. It was two against one and Fatal1ty was handicapped according to a spin on a handicap wheel. I saw the tail end of one set he wasted handily and before the next set the emcee asked him which handicap he thought was worst, he replied “Melee only” and decided to use that handicap on the next set of contestants even though it hadn’t come up on the wheel. So two guys had guns, Fatal1ty had none. He still wasted them, moving into the corners of the map to anticipate their jumps so they would get a nasty landing. I was impressed.
Walter Day and Steve Wiebe being interviewed by G4
I walked by the booth where the game tests and old arcade games were again and recognized Steve Wiebe and Walter Day, a small crowd was around them asking for pictures and they were obliging. I took a turn too. Walter grabbed my badge, saw it said “Media” on it and told me, “Stay right there, don’t move!” He then grabbed gamer, Triforce, and a poster, he told me hold this, and then more pictures were taken with the group of us. The poster was for a Feed the Homeless drive that a bunch of gamers were supporting. TriForce was its Director. You were to bring a can of food, unfortunately, it was held only during E for All so I’m afraid this report is a little late to help much except perhaps urge you to watch for it for next year. I spoke to Steve a little apart from the picture taking. I asked if, “All this,” indicating the noise and crowd, “hurt his chances for breaking the record.” He said, “Well last night I got one million, so it hasn’t hurt. I think if it’s just at a constant level I can tune it out.” “What if folks were to cheer for you?” “Well if it’s between screens, that’s ok”. When I first met him, after Walter had noticed my Media pass, I had said, “I’m here as Press but I’m a fan too” He answered, “that’s great, I need fans!”. Naw, I think everyone who’s seen the movie is a fan of his. Nice guy, humble and with a lot of patience for picture taking.

About this time I had my appointment with Fatal1ty set up. He was a little late, “probably geeking out on the floor” as his PR person told me. I had a chair and peanut M&Ms so I was happy to wait. When he showed we shook hands and as I said, “I was the girl taking the test earlier…” He said, “Yeah I remember 5XX out of 5XX”. I swear I’m not blanking that out because of pride, I really can’t remember what the numbers were. Some kind of psychological block I’m sure. I knew our time was a bit limited so I cut to the chase to questions about being a professional gamer and his business.

He was a nice guy, I can see why he is still liked. He had an easy going manner about him though he got intense talking about this business and about competing. I mentioned fencing when we talked about competing and he excitedly told me that he won a gold medal in fencing in 5th grade, apparently he had gone to a Magnet school and they had all sorts of sports available and he apparently excelled at most of them. This guy is a competitor all right. I got a few momento shots of us together at the end but the girl taking them wasn’t used to my camera so they didn’t turn out that great.

The day was feeling pretty long for me at this point but the Entropia folks had tried to reschedule my appointment and left voicemail messages for me so I dropped by one more time. John was there this time, wearing a very bright blue suit. I asked him higher end questions about real money in a MMORPG environment, the answers of which I’ll include in another article.

One of the last booths I went to was the Mana Energy Potion booth, they make a caffeine / taurine energy drink that is meant to be taken as a “shot” and is packaged in a cute potion bottle. They gave me a sample and though I was tempted to try it out right then, I remembered that I’d had the NoS drink earlier and figured I had better not OD on caffeine.

With that, I was out of there. My over all impression was that it had been worth attending, especially if you are a Southern California resident since you could save on travel expenses. Last year I wondered if they would even have another one. This year I find myself hoping that they do. It’s still not E3 of old and I predict never will fill those shoes, but I do think it’s a fun event.

Jack Johnson Disbarred

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

Well it (finally?) happened. Jack Johnson, famous for blaming video games for a variety of ills, has been disbarred. Judge Dava Tunis recommended permanent disbarment. “This action was in accord with this Court’s opinion dated March 20, 2008, which sanctioned respondent for abusive filings and barred him from filing on his own behalf.”

What does he have to say? He’s not taking any of the blame himself of course, he’s saying it’s in “retribution” for a civil rights action against “The Bar, the Supreme Court, and all seven of its Justices”.

References: Kotaku articles 1 and 2.