The Penny Arcade Expo was a hit, in my opinion. I was very happy to be a part of one of the largest fan targeted game/geek conventions. Moving it to the Seattle Convention Center was a grand idea. Except for a couple peak hours within the exhibition hall, the air conditioning and space of this huge place was great and allowed for comfortable navigation of the exhibits and various other attractions. I am completely pleased I got to go this year and I will definitely be going to any future expos.
The convention spanned Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I went on Friday to sign up for the Counter-Strike tournament and check out some of the booths. Crowds were smaller that day and parking within the center itself was freely available. Sam’s fianc?e was in the Guitar Hero II tournament so we stuck and and watched. Oh, and I had sushi at the Dragonfish in Seattle a block from the Convention Center. Yes, I finally had sushi for the first time. It was an adventure. There was eight of us and everyone ordered various tasty foods from the menu. I ordered the bar-b-que pork which was very good. Sam encouraged me on as I made a wasabi sauce and dipped in my first piece. Chew… weird… salty… cough… hmmm… It was okay. I tried another one with some raw tuna and salmon in it. Squishy… fishy… meh. At least now I have tried it. The restaurant itself is worth checking out and I admit that I will not shy away from more opportunities to try this type of food.
I left at ten in the evening the first night only to come back as early as possible the next morning. I dropped Henry off with Crystal at her work and got to the Expo around eleven. I was able to park in the convention center itself. It was pricey (for parking; twenty-eight bucks) but well worth it. This second day was noticeably busier.
When you first walk in to the left was Microsoft and its huge Games for Windows/Xbox 360 display. Their area turned out to be kind of a lounge and I didn’t get a chance to play any games. I did watch a few guys play World in Conflict which was actually pretty awesome. It reminded me of a much more complicated Company of Heroes. Our company bought all of us three day passes. The lanyard, however, was World in Conflict themed. There were some Russian uniformed babes in eye catching short skirts. Women in uniform? Yes please!
After swinging by Ubisoft I saw an interesting killing spree game called Kane & Lynch. The Rockstar booth was weird because it took me two passes to realize they had a game featured there. There was Torque (a graphics engine licenser), some anime tables, and various other smaller vendors and games along the walls.
Our booth had two sides. It was one of the bigger displays since we were the fourth largest sponsor. The one side had a lounge with video and autograph signing table where some of the artists passed out their artwork. The other side had several computers LANed together for a Guild Wars tournament. This year Sam and I got to finally print out our cards. Last year’s are available for download and soon we should have these year’s up as well.
So here is one of 1,234 sheets we printed. There were 12,000 cards total. Basically, Sam designed the cards and then I took my programming skills and created all the cards using the various skill data and icon paths within various XML files. Once those thousands of skill cards printed I created decks of three-by-three sheets. Other than writing text using various libraries, it also involved merging images, alpha blending, and other interesting programming tricks to get this to look good.
Rendering the sheets took almost eight hours. I had to create the golden text manually using an image with the alphabet within it because the various libraries in PHP don’t have much to do with fancy fonts and styles of Photoshop. The fiasco I went through late Wednesday night to get these printed resulted in me getting to pick up Henry from his babysitter a little late. Luckily they did a marvelous job and the decks looked very (and I mean very) well done. I had to make some last minute calls and I think that I made the right decisions.
So Crystal and Henry finally show up and we went around and looked at the Wii exhibit. Close to it was a cute booth babe I had to get Henry’s and my mug shot with so with Crystal (who is much, much cuter) behind the camera Henry and I strike a couple poses.
She got in close but like a pro Henry grabs the gun and decides he wants to play with it. She seemed unsure on this one. I don’t blame her! When little Henry makes up his mind, the gun was his.
Yeah, so the gun is in his hands and we all had a laugh. So all you single dads out there with a young one: this is how it’s done. Take notes!
Right across from our booth was the Halo area. The guy playing Master Chief must have been boiling inside that costume. We saw quite a bit of press there. Incidentally, I just watched Q13′s coverage of the event and it was totally ass. They showed a couple people playing computer games and some dude playing Guitar Hero. Grrr.
Henry was a pill most of the time there. Here we stopped by the THQ booth which has my favorite RTS game’s sequel’s demo playing for folks to check out. There were so many games to pick up and play. Sometimes there was a little wait like this game. The most packed booth was Warhammer Online. I am sad I didn’t get a chance to check it out but from what I saw it looked like a mix of Lord of the Rings Online and World of Warcraft.
“Right now I wish I could drop him off inside the car, shut the door and come back. He is being the biggest squirmy pain in the ass. Yeah, take the picture; it’s your turn to deal with him daddy.” The smile was genuine. We all had a great time seeing as much as we could.
I don’t think there was a Bioshock booth or anything but they featured “Bubbles” from the game on the corner of the Microsoft area. It’s been scoring well and it might get Game of the Year. I saw EVE Online which had it’s own booth and some developers were mingling in the crowds. Pirates of the Burning Sea looked intriguing but I am not sure it will do any good. Our parent company, NCSoft, had a booth adjacent to our and they seemed very busy.
Yes, Ace Combat 6! I am so there it isn’t funny. 5 was really disappointing but after playing 6 it seems they turned the series back into the winning formula: fly around and blow stuff up while following a pretty awesome story. Eternal Sonata was being demoed right next to this station.
Crystal really wanted to check out the Wii games. I ran after Henry through the crowds while she looked but it was hard for us to really get into everything. It was cool to see every age group at this thing.
Sam, Henry, and I keepin’ it real. Sam has been going to Counter-Strike tournaments at PAX for a few years and this year we got enough people to have to teams competing. His team was our main team with the best chance of placing and then we came along to give it our best. There was [AT-ST] which is Assault Trooper Scout Team and [AT-AT] Assault Trooper Attack Team. We had shirts made and everything. The logo was a modified Counter-Strike logo that had a Star Wars storm trooper and then our name on top and the team name below.
That’s my game face. Serious? Inside is a ruthless killing machine. Slightly exhausted from walking and sleeping only a few hours the night before, it’s closer to a “Huh?” face. After our first round we went to lunch in the West Lake Shopping plaza. Everything after this point become game lingo. Going to the bathroom? “Plant the bomb”. Seeing your friends? “Enemy spotted.” Seeing a seemingly crazy guy who had just gotten done playing some cheesy violin tunes trying to convince a couple that the two English bulldogs that were snapping at their little children were completely friendly? “Team, fall back!”
Yeah, so here we are. It was really cool to finally meet everyone we’ve been hearing over the game for a couple months (yes, we practiced). AT-AT, my team, won the first round and lost the next two. At least we didn’t die during single elimination! The other team, AT-ST, placed fourth. Man, good time! There were many other tournaments going on and free plays as well. The PC room must have had a couple hundred PCs filled with top of the line machines. My frame rate never dropped below 100 on Counter-Strike. I never got a chance to see any of the console gaming. Their tournaments and free plays were on the other end.
ArenaNet, my company, threw a huge after Expo party at Gameworks across the street. From six to seven we had the whole place to ourselves. After eating the free food and booze we played a couple games and then the place opened to all PAX ticket holders. We ran into Erin which was totally awesome. We left at eight to finish the Counter-Strike tournament. I had a Red Bull to cool off before setting out for home. I listened to the main theme to Hunt for the Red October that morning; I listened to it that night on my way to the ferry. Man, what a freaking cool experience.