Posts Tagged ‘Fans’

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Funcommunication

August 9, 2012

Everyone gets those warm, fuzzy feelings for a company when they make a good product, but for me and many others that’s only a part of the story. When it comes to MMOs and the game makers that produce them, quality customer care and communication can go a long way in making up the rest of it.

A few days ago, my husband and I were playing The Secret World and had the misfortune of running into a bugged quest, one of those profoundly and irreversibly screwed up situations with a stuck objective which could only be fixed with a petition to a GM. It was the first time since I started playing this game that I had to do this, but I’d heard nothing but good things from many of my friends who have had contact with customer service, so I was admittedly quite curious as to what my own experience would be like.

Honestly? I was pleasantly surprised. On a Saturday evening, right smack in the middle of a busy celebration weekend, both my husband’s and my tickets were answered by a helpful in-game representative within ten minutes, and within another five we were all fixed up and ready to go. Let’s face it, bugged quests are irritating as all hell and no one ever likes running into them, but the sting sure is lessened by a prompt response and swift resolution to the problem. I was very satisfied.

Granted, based on the inevitable complaints on the forums, not everyone has been as fortunate. So maybe you can say that my husband and I just happened to hit the GM lottery.

Still, no one can deny the other ways that Funcom has attempted to reach out to their customer base and fans of their game. From their efforts, I gather there has been a push to improve customer service and communication since the days of Age of Conan, especially in the realm of social media.

For the most part, it’s been pretty effective on me. Recall the /headdesk inducing chat bug that plagued TSW for weeks, at a time when the game is still so new and getting to know your fellow players is of the utmost importance. Several choice words not limited to “unacceptable” and “game breaking” came to mind, but while I can’t speak for others, I know I for one was immediately appeased when I saw this update post and understood that they were working on it and that the problem was more complex than expected. Well, that and Indiana Jones references get me EVERY TIME.

Between following @Morteia and @funcom_tsw accounts on Twitter, I know I can actually count on staying up-to-date with TSW happenings. In particular, I have also been impressed by Creative Director Ragnar Tornquist’s presence on Twitter, forums and game sites, interacting with players and answering their questions. Thus far, he has responded to pretty much every one of mine. As a player and a fan of his work, I won’t deny that felt pretty damn amazing. To see such a celebrated designer and someone so integral to the game’s development get so involved is very rare indeed and I gotta say much appreciated.

That’s not all. After watching this hilarious webcast from yesterday, I also have to give a special nod to the livestreams hosted by TSW devs about once every other week. With the hosts drinking beer and swearing up a storm (though given that PvP was involved, I can understand completely), the recording is most decidedly NSFW, but still I have to say its genuine and unscripted nature is what I love best about it and why I will always make the effort to tune in each time.

I know not everything can be revealed due to spoilers and I certainly don’t begrudge a company’s need to keep certain information hush-hush during development. And yet, I can’t help but feel that the kind of candidness I saw in yesterday’s livestream is a breath of fresh air at a time when it’s way more common to hear the dreaded words “We can’t talk about that right now” come repeatedly out of a developer’s mouth. Open and honest communication and Q&As like that give me high hopes for the future of TSW.

As well, aside from showing everyone that he is one cruel tease, Ragnar’s random revelations (yay for alliteration) such as Peter Stormare doing voice work for the game are quite significant. They’re not particularly telling, nor are they true game updates, but those little tidbits do a good job of letting me know that there are some big things up the pipeline to look forward to (can you say Odin and Norse mythology?!)

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SWTOR: Sounds Good

May 20, 2011

A quick note on the Star Wars: The Old Republic Friday update today, as the start of a busy weekend awaits me in approximately T-minus 3 hours. Luckily, it was a short update. I’m happy because I get to play padawan to the master of bullet points today!

  • Fan Friday revealing the usual community creations, fan site interview, concept art and forum avatars, but this time also a SWTOR event schedule for the year…listing all the huge conventions I will probably never be fortunate enough to attend. I think PAX East is plenty excitement enough for me, though some day I hope to be able to make it — at least once! — to the geek mecca that is the San Diego Comic Con. It’s on the bucket list.
  • The accompanying Studio Insider featuring a dev blog on Combat Sounds. I think it’s interesting that they hit upon many things that went through my mind when I first heard of the topic, most of all the fact (and Scott Morton puts it so well) that such a “long legacy” of signature sounds has been associated with the Star Wars universe. In a nutshell, they can play around with these — but just a little bit — as for the most part they must retain their “iconic aural identity”. In other words, don’t screw with the lightsaber whoosh or blaster pew pew.
  • I liked how they threw in that trivia tidbit about the core sound used by Ben Burtt for the TIE fighter’s screaming engines in the original trilogy —  an elephant call! Reminds me of a Jurassic Park documentary feature I once saw, where I found out the screeches of the fearsome velociraptor were actually created using a combination of walrus and dolphin sounds. When everything’s layered together, you can’t even recognize the source sounds anymore.
  • The example videos in dev blog show how it all just adds up to one big cool Bounty Hunter boom.
  • I love the idea of aural character for each class and establishing a “sonic palette”. The process behind capturing the “Zen-ness” of the Jedi extends even to the colors of the visual effects, and making the associated sounds match them with a “smooth and wavelike” quality.
  • The Q&A topic is something that I have a personal interest in — the art of the Old Republic. I’ve never made the comparison of the game’s look to the Clone Wars series, but I can see why some would. Mostly, I feel SWTOR’s style stands on its own. Clint Young’s “Old Republic’y” comment is the technical term for it, I guess?
  • Finally, the Fansite Summit Report. Recently, BioWare brought 15 fan sites around the world to their studio to play SWTOR. The PvP experience was the highlight for me, since until now we haven’t heard many hands-on stories about it at all.
  • The video is outrageous — fans actually being excited about a game that their entire fan site is built around? No way!
  • I do wish the report had gone beyond the usual “Awesome!” or “Epic!” comments and focused more on the soundbites with more substance, but it is uplifting to see that a wide range of people played and enjoyed the game, from younger men to middle-aged women.
  • AARRRRRGH! Jealous!
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Stunning

April 28, 2011

I’ve been taking in all of today’s news coming out of #SWTOUR (the Star Wars: The Old Republic’s Fan Site Summit) with casual aplomb, until I saw this exclusive screenshot of Nar Shaddaa from Oldrep.de that almost made me wet myself.

Wow. I mean, futuristic sci-fi cities aren’t exactly the easiest game environments to pull off, so shots like these tend to catch my eye. For this reason, for all the scenic beauty of Alderaan or nostalgic charms of Taris, my favorite planet will probably end up being Coruscant or something. I’ve always felt more at home in big cities anyway.

For more general information out of the Fan Site Summit, I’ve been following Darth Hater; nothing too earth shattering thus far, but interesting nonetheless.

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SWTOR: Product Of Your Environment

April 15, 2011

It’s that time of the month again for another Star Wars: The Old Republic Fan Friday and its complement feature Studio Insider. The topic of the latter is of particular interest to me — Environment Polish.

I couldn’t help but give a little chuckle when I read the quote from Senior Environment Artist Robby Lamb that said “Environment art often goes unnoticed in a game, as it’s the creation of the world around your character.” Well, maybe some people overlook it, but yours truly has been known to take screenshots of in-game wall paintings and even of the patterns of cobblestones beneath my character’s feet if I think they look interesting.

The environment artists of SWTOR ensure the game will still be playable at a decent framerate even after they add touches like lighting and props. So much of the look and feel of SWTOR appears to be involved in this process, which also made me think about the game’s art style. I’ve seen words like “cartoony” and “unrealistic” used to describe the graphics, but I really don’t think they’re that bad. Keeping the minimum system requirements at a reasonable level may be one of their main priorities, but at least to my eyes, there is also a certain timelessness to the stylized look. And quite honestly, nitpicking the graphics is the furthest thing on my mind when I see a purdy screenshot like this.

I know one thing for certain — this game is going to look fantastic on the highest settings.

Onto the Community Q&A, I thought this month’s was one of the best so far. I wouldn’t mind if they did more of their future updates in this format, not just for their Studio Insider. Every month, information delivered this way always seems so much more detailed and specific — and more relevant to what the average player or fan would want to know, in my opinion.

The two things that piqued my interest in the Q&A; first:

Furthermore, you can customize your companions with kits that add extra abilities such as Grenade Launchers, Flame Throwers, etc. Regardless of which companion you choose to travel with, they will shape how your character approaches combat and will complement your strengths or help make up for your weaknesses.

I found out a lot about these “kits” while I was at PAX East, chilling and chatting with a bunch of other gamers while we were all waiting in line. While each companion will belong to an archetype and have their own ability set, you are also allowed a bit of flexibility to customize them. One person gave me an example to illustrate this: say, you have a companion you really like (or maybe want to romance!) and you want to bring them with you everywhere you go. But what if you’re a healing class and they are of a healer archetype too? Will this be redundant? As I was made to understand it, no, you can still bring your companion-of-choice along regardless, because you’d be able to equip them with a kit that would give them other useful abilities that help supplement your playstyle. Indeed, it sounds good if this is the case.

Second:

If changing skill distribution also involves a role change for the character (such as from damage focused to medic), chances are you will need to obtain a new set of equipment to go along with the change in gameplay experience. If no role change is involved (e.g. changing skills within the Gunslinger Advanced Class), you are likely able to reuse most if not all of your equipment.

D’oh. One thing I’m loving about Rift right now is the way I can juggle multiple roles on a single character and still keep my equipment sets to a minimum — unlike my “Swiss-Army knife” druid that carried around no less than four different sets of armor, 10 rings, and like half a dozen trinkets at all times. I doubt it would be so bad in SWTOR, but still…I’m a big fan of having inventory space.

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Developer Appreciation Week (DAW): Saying My Thanks!

March 21, 2011

Last year, Scarybooster came up with a concept — one that I would love to see become a tradition — called Developer Appreciation Week (DAW) where for one week, gamers put aside all their criticism, gripes, and general negativity to show our devs some love.

I thought this was a wonderful idea. I mean, we all play the games we do for a reason, right? We play them because we like them, and because we find things we enjoy about them, and because they are fun. But too often when I look around the blogosphere, these reasons are overshadowed by even the smallest grievances and complaints. So how great would it be that for one week, we get to bury all that for a change, and just focus on the good things? To lavish praise where it is due? To be given leave to be as big a fanboy/fangirl as you please?

Last year I participated in DAW with a post that thanked entire teams and companies for making the MMOs I have enjoyed over the last twelve months, and I think I will continue with that format today. It’s too difficult for me to even pick one creative team to focus on, let alone an individual person! As Scary himself says, it is such a hard process to find a specific developer to praise because each of them deserves it. It takes a team to make a game, and they’ve all done such great work in my eyes.

To Funcom and the Age of Conan team – Thank you. Thank you for all the hard work you’ve put into improving AoC and for the Rise of the Godslayer expansion released last year. You brought to life the breathtaking world of Khitai and gave me the chance — even if it was only for a brief time — to experience the meaning of true beauty in an MMO. To this day, the time I spent in AoC remains one of my most immersive experiences. To Funcom, keep up the good work and I look forward to The Secret World.

To Cryptic and the Champions Online and Star Trek Online teams - Thank you. Thank you for being the company that works its butt off. Cryptic will always have a special place in my heart, for all the great memories their MMOs have given me and continues to give me every day. In making Champions free-to-play, I was able to jump right back into a game I never truly really wanted to leave in the first place (technical difficulties) and I never realized how much more fun it was in that game to play with other people. F2P makes that easy — I look forward to fighting villains with my friends Blue Kae, Talyn, Oakstout and others again soon.

To Daniel Stahl and the hardworking men and women developing STO, the good things I want to say can probably fill a book. I was so happy to be part of their one-year anniversary in-game celebrations. The game has had its ups and downs, that is true…but I have seen much passion and effort in the past year reflected in the updates and Q&As, and you listen to your fans, which I respect immensely. I still feel this game is one of the more underrated ones on the market; issues with ground combat and complaints about the awkwardness of ship maneuvering abound, but rarely have I seen real praise for what I truly believe is a unique and innovative crew system. And no appreciation post would be complete without a nod to their Feature Episodes — I am eagerly awaiting the next arc, as my weekends feel a little more empty now without them.

To ArenaNet and the Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2 teams - Thank you. Thank you for daring to be different, and for giving gamers the gift of more choice — from offering us subscription-free business models to other innovative approaches in online gaming. I was glad for my opportunity to delve into Guild Wars this last year, and I am eagerly awaiting to see what Guild Wars 2 will bring. It is hard not to get excited, when each piece of news or information that comes out is filled to the brim with creativity and interesting ideas.

To Turbine and the Lord of the Rings Online team – Thank you. Thank you for giving me a home in Middle Earth and for the months of joy LOTRO has given me this past year. I’ve always thought of the game as my “MMO spa”, a place to which I can escape for a relaxing game session — and going free-to-play did not change that. My compliments to the developers, who have worked so hard in ensuring that when I log into LOTRO, I feel as if I’m entering a different world. They’ve done so much in creating an immersive experience and fostering a fantastic community, I can’t help but repeat a thought I had last year — that if J.R.R. Tolkien was alive to play the game today, I think he would be damn proud.

To Blizzard and the World of Warcraft team – Thank you. Thank you for still being willing to take risks even after more than six years of success. Despite what others may say, I did think Cataclysm was a gutsy move. I know I’ve complained enough times about my disdain for WoW endgame, but have rarely ever talked what I did like about the expansion — questing and leveling. Yes, I know I say that about practically every MMO I play, but the new quests in Cataclysm were really something. Even if it was only five levels, I personally enjoyed them for what they were. Questing my way through each zone was like working my way through a storybook, and for the first time in years, I actually felt interested and excited about what WoW quest text had to say again.

To BioWare and BioWare Austin – Thank you. Thank you for advocating a bigger focus on lore and character, for pushing the boundaries of video game writing, and for putting story first. Thank you for making groundbreaking RPGs in recent years like Mass Effect and Dragon Age, and delighting me with choices, consequences, and interactions with the game environment and NPCs in ways I’ve never imagined. Thank you for the desire to bring those elements to MMOs. To the Star Wars: The Old Republic team, I appreciate all the weekly updates on the game, even the Fan Fridays and the tiniest lore reveals. Not too many companies do that for their fans.

To Trion and the Rift team - Thank you. Thank you for releasing a complete and polished MMO. And the more I play Rift, the more I find to like about it — from rifting to artifact collecting, from the soul system to running dungeons with my guild. I’ve seen for months people saying Rift is a fun game, but that Trion hasn’t really made any huge breakthroughs or done anything that new — but I tend to disagree. For one, the devs have bent over backwards in some cases to listen to their players. Yet they’ve also stuck to their goals, to bring about their vision for the game. And finally, they made full use of the beta process and managed to pull off an incredibly smooth launch. I feel Trion has in fact managed to do something very few MMO companies have done before. I know it’s a different argument, but it counts for something.

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TGI-SWTOR-F

March 18, 2011

No doubt BioWare is still winding down from their crazy PAX East weekend, so I wasn’t surprised to see a Star Wars: The Old Republic Friday update that was a little more on the light side. No pun intended.

The Fan Friday update features all that we might expect — new fan creations, new forum avatars, new concept art, and even a fan site spotlight. But as usual, my attention was drawn to the Studio Insider.

When I think “cinematic animation”, yeah actually, I do picture that place “where people wear skin-tight suits with ping pong balls all over them”. It’s how the movements in the game manage to look so fluid, natural and realistic. The neat thing too, of course, is how it could look just as smooth when it’s done by hand. And what I find really amazing, is how even the tiniest motion or gesture can add so much to a scene, yet often those little movements are the ones that are so easy to miss.

For instance, the 8 seconds of footage in the video they showed was over so quickly I barely even had time to register much of anything beyond the fact it showed a couple of Hutts being owned, let alone that one was holding up its hands and the other one was trying to get away. It wasn’t until after I read the commentary that I noticed those details when I watched it again. But of course, paradoxically, if those little movements hadn’t been there in the first place, one would have observed right away that there was something “off” about the scene.

The Community Q&A also interested me this week, because it’s focused on the topic of flashpoints, and also because some of World Designer Jesse Sky’s responses resonated with my own thoughts so well. In fact, it’s a little creepy. Quotes like his answers about mob fights requiring coordination and players to “think on their feet” reflected exactly how I felt when I played the demo for the Taral V flashpoint at PAX East. And of course, his answer to the question about whether class roles are fixed (“some sections of Flashpoints are paced in such a way that healers can switch into damage roles and tanks can get a bit more reckless”) actually made me breathe a sigh of relief — mainly because I definitely felt those shifts in style and roles while I was playing, and I’m happy to know I wasn’t crazy and just imagining things.

Also, by being away the whole of last week, I just realized I broke months and months of my blog’s tradition by skipping a post about last Friday’s update. Normally I’d just let it go, but it was such an awesome trailer, it would be a great disservice if I just pretended it never happened.

There had been rumors flying around before PAX East about maybe seeing another cinematic trailer debuting at the show, and I guess they were half-right. I for one think it was for the better that it didn’t turn out to be another cinematic as we already have two great ones and a third would just be overkill. Cinematic trailers make for excellent eye-candy, but I have a feeling that at this point people are going to be more interested in seeing actual in-game footage and some action from the game. Unfortunately, I wasn’t on the exhibition show floor when they showed this for the first time on the SWTOR stage last week, but I was able to see it later in the day. I think it’s everything from the visuals to the music — this trailer gave me chills.

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My PAX East 2011 Recap

March 14, 2011

So PAX East weekend is at an end. I feel a little sadness at that, since I had such a great time, but there’s a bit of relief as well. For one thing, I am exhausted.

This is the first chance I’ve gotten in days to get online and give my blog some attention again. If there’s something I learned, is that PAX lines are the great leveler. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, how old you are, everywhere you look everyone is groaning, gasping, cringing as they shift on their tired feet and stretch their sore back and leg muscles.

Anyway, here are the highlights of my weekend, which included some hands on time with Star Wars: The Old Republic. Mission accomplished!

Friday

We arrived in Boston after about 9 grueling hours on the road. We were delayed earlier in the day by traffic and other complications, such as a 5-month old puppy with an overactive bladder. By the time we were settled in, it was already almost 9pm. I had wanted to hit up the Rift community meet-up, but even as the hours passed by as we were driving, I knew the chances of making it were pretty slim. We were just so tired by the end of our trip, I opted to crash early so we could wake up tomorrow refreshed. Such a shame, though; I heard afterward that the Trion crew threw a rockin’ party.

Saturday

So the real fun begins in earnest. My brother-in-law lives in the area, so he knew all the best places for cheap parking around the Convention Center. However, we arrived to find out he had forgotten his PAX pass at home! As a result, I was dropped off to enter the building on my own.

I waited in the line to get in, noticing I did pretty good for myself. The doors finally opened at 10am and we were released from our taped off corrals like cattle. You know me; I made straight for the EA booths, specifically 912 where Star Wars: The Old Republic is located. I stopped in my tracks as soon as I saw a wall of TV screens showing off the Taral V flashpoing gameplay and just stood there and watched. This was the first time I’ve ever come so up-close-and-personal with the game, and I think I just wanted to take a quiet minute to appreciate the moment.

It was kind of hard to do. There were so many people. It wasn’t long before there was an announcement on the stage, telling visitors that the lines for the demos were already capped for the day. And this was barely 10 minutes after the door opened! Crazy. I heard they weren’t going to let anyone get into the line anymore, but that was okay with me. I knew before coming that there was going to be an iffy chance whether or not I was going to be able to get some hands-on experience with the game, and I’d already come to terms with myself about that.

Imagine my surprise when someone from Bioware wearing an Old Republic shirt came up and told me and the group around me, “You guys are looking at about a 3-hour wait,” before moving down and counting heads again, then telling those people “4-hour wait”. Apparently, by wandering straight over with the crowds to ogle the TV screens, I had unwittingly and cluelessly queued up for the demo line. Hell, I wasn’t there on Friday, I didn’t know! I just followed everyone else and it turned out to be the right place! I couldn’t believe how lucky I got.

Of course, that meant I’d left my husband behind and he wasn’t very pleased. He hesitated to ask me to get out of the line though, even before I told him it would be like me pulling him out of a Superbowl game when his favorite team was playing. He said, “No, it wouldn’t!” but he was understanding and made me promise I would wait in line again with him tomorrow if he wanted to play the demo too. Hey, to try for another chance to play SWTOR? No complaints here! I have the best husband in the world.

The time went by quickly, especially after I got to know my neighbors in line and started talking to them about the game. In a bizarre twist of fate, the nice gentleman beside me I was chatting a lot with turned out to be none other than TheDarkKnight, creator of the epic thread on the SWTOR general discussion forum, “Information gathered on the Old Republic so far!” I don’t think I’ve ever interacted with him on the forums personally, but I see his posts so often that I almost feel like I know him. It really struck me then; people talk all the time about how fan expos and conventions are such great places to meet up with your online friends, but it didn’t hit me until that moment — you can literally run into anyone in the community here. I was so glad to be in line with someone I “know”, and like his forum thread, he was a wealth of SWTOR information.

Finally, the moment of truth — as I neared the front of the line, all of us were asked what we were interested in demoing. I’ll admit I was sorely tempted to play the Taral V flashpoint. But being more popular, the wait was going to be a little longer. I decided not to test my husband’s patience and decided to play an Origin demo. I was plucked from the line along with TheDarkKnight who also opted to do an Origin, and led to another cordoned off area to await my chance to play — and if you’ve been following my SWTOR posts, my choice won’t come as a surprise — the Bounty Hunter starting area.

Sorry to tease, but I’m afraid my hands-on experience will have to wait for another post. I just have so much to say, but my brain is so tired right now, I can’t promise I can communicate all I want to say in a coherent manner. And also, I want to write it together with the hands-on experience I got the next day, because as it turned out, I managed to play the demo for the Taral V flashpoint after all…

After I finished the demo, which was about half an hour long, I gathered up my SWTOR swag consisting of a poster and a couple shirts. I received one of the latter after playing the demo and TheDarkKnight offered me his since he already have some — he said so that I could have both a Republic version and a Sith version. I was so touched and thankful! Bless good people. Bless gamers.

I went in search of my husband and my brother-in-law, who had been walking around checking out the rest of the expo. I had originally wanted to check out the Guild Wars 2 panel at 3pm, but I got done just shy of 2pm and BAM! Twitter informs me that they were already 100% full. Like, as in don’t-even-linger full. I should have figured.

I found the guys finally; they had been exploring, checking the Warner Bros/Turbine booth. My brother-in-law discovered free-to-play Lord of the Rings Online and they’d grabbed a couple game discs. I met up with them in the Nvidia area, where they’d been playing some of the demos there in 3D, and my husband wanted me to give it a try as he was impressed enough that he was actually willing to consider getting a computer with 3D capabilities for his next rig.

Ugh, I don’t know. First of all, everything’s a lot darker with the glasses on. Bugged the hell out of me. Also, I have messed up eyes, my left eye being far-sighted while my right one is near-sighted. Things generally balance themselves out, so I’ve never actually required glasses — but you can imagine what weird things that can do with my depth perception at times.  Anyway, I learned something that day. My vision gets screwed up when I attempt to see through 3D glasses, to the point I actually wonder if I see the same thing as other people with normal vision. Even if I was wearing my contact (yes, I was only ever prescribed one contact lens, and I’m only advised to wear it while driving) I don’t think I could stand having something resting on my nose while I’m trying to play a game. It’s why I disdain glasses. I’m fussy like that. Sorry, 3D, no thanks for now.

I also wanted to check out some Guild Wars 2, but was surprised to see no booth for them. Instead, their demo stations were spread out around the exhibition hall. There was one at the Alienware booth, for example. I knew there was also on at the Nvidia booth, so I went and looked for it. There was quite a handful of people waiting to play, so all I was able to do was watch for a while. I was quite impressed with what I saw. The person playing was a Charr — and the movement and combat I saw was exceedingly smooth. Not being able to get some hands-on experience with Guild Wars 2 was probably my only regret for PAX East.

We took an hour or so afterward to eat and go home to check on the doggies. My brother-in-law has a dog too, so it’s been a madhouse here with three hyperactive dogs running around. After cleaning up the mess the little puppy made, my husband and I took off back to the convention center to attend MMORPG.com’s “The Future of Online Gaming” panel. It was my first and only panel at PAX East, and boy, was it a good one. Information was sort of missing from the program, so I’m trying to go by memory here — panelists included Craig Alexander from Turbine, Scott Hartsman from Trion, Curt Schilling from 38 Studios, Colin Johanson from ArenaNet, James Ohlen from BioWare and a couple other devs from big companies. It was fascinating, to say the least, being able to hear what these bigwigs had to say about the genre and to see what their visions are for their games.

Interesting thing happened at the end of the panel. I knew from the conversations on my feed that many of my Twitter pals also attended this panel. I tried to see if I could spot any of them…and lo and behold, I caught sight of someone I thought might be Pete from Dragonchasers, just from the description he provided me of himself earlier last week. But see, I wasn’t sure. How embarrassing would it be if I was wrong? But I saw a woman with him who I thought might be @g33kg0dd3ss, and just went, ah, screw it, I’m gonna go ask!

I go, “Hi, excuse me, are you…” then wondered what the heck should I say? If I said “pasmith” his Twitter handle and it turned out not to be him would I just look like some random whackjob? So I quickly finished with, “on Twitter?” And when he said “Yes, I am!” that was when I finally relaxed and realized I was right. It sure was Pete and @g33kg0dd3ss! I also got to meet @Scopique briefly before I had to go to dinner. But I knew I was going to have a chance later that night to get to chat more — I was going to the PAX East 2011 tweetup!

So glad I made it. It was so much fun, meeting with some of the people I’ve known on Twitter for what feels like ages — @Scopique, @girl_vs_mmo, @adarel, @sera_brennan, @kylehorner, , @Hawkinsa1, @_jwgoodson, @g33kg0dd3ss and @pasmith. I wonder what my husband and brother-in-law made of it. I think to a certain extent it might have amazed them that some of us are only meeting in real life for the first time, the conversation was so lively and cheerful. Everyone had such a great day and we were all sharing our experiences and stories, and I just couldn’t help but think wow, this is the spirit of PAX.

It was almost 1am when I left the meet-up. As reluctant as I was to go, I knew it was getting late. It was also the night to “Spring Forward” and we were going to lose an hour of sleep. I had to be rested, for I had a BIG day ahead of me tomorrow. My husband is going to make me get up bright and early to make it into the SWTOR line again, after all…

Sunday

Sunday was light compared to Saturday. I hadn’t even originally planned to do much on this day, before I got roped into my promise with my husband. Thought maybe I’d sleep in late, walk around the exhibition hall a little, visit the gift shop and just have a relaxing day.

So I was not a very happy camper when I was dragged up at 7am in the morning, after only 3 hours of sleep. I sat bleary-eyed in the passenger seat while we drove to the convention center once more. I fought the urge to curl up in a ball and fall asleep on the ground while we waited to be let in.

Long story short, as early as we showed up, we still ended up in the SWTOR line waaaaaay near the back, to the point we weren’t even sure we were going to get to play today. I turned to my husband and asked him what he wanted to do. It was his day, I promised him. So I was going to let him call the shots. He figured we could afford to wait a little and see what happens.

It turned out he was right to follow his instincts. Within half an hour, the line had shrunk and we were bumped up to only a few hours wait. Being a Sunday and the last day of PAX East probably had a lot to do with that, with people taking today to do everything they had missed and of course, those with day passes would be reluctant to spend half their day in a line.

I had wanted to save instance content for when the game is released, but you know, when you’ve waited hours in a line and you’re suddenly faced with the opportunity to play it, I was just like, ahh screw it, gimme flashpoint NAO! So that was how I ended up being able to play the Taral V demo.

Again, I’m just going to have to sit on the write-up of my experience for now. It’s going to take some time to gather my thoughts during that whole time while I was being bombarded with so much stimulation and information. It’s not just about my excitement and anticipation while I was playing the game; the atmosphere around me itself was just chaotic and insane. Imagine trying to play with your group without any effective way of communication, while hundreds of people are talking and shouting around you and watching and commenting on your performance being shown to the crowd on a big TV screen. Add to that, you’re thrown into this instance as a level 32 character you’ve never played before and know nothing about. And if that wasn’t enough, you literally only had seconds to familiarize yourself with the ability set up in the action bar, as well as the really clunky gaming mouse they provide you with.

We were given some time before we were seated to learn our abilities and decide on our class and discuss strategies, but it’s just barely enough. It’s no wonder we saw so many groups flounder on the boss. During our briefing, we were told only about 15 groups have made it, as in killed the boss, which is about 1 in 5 or 6 groups. However, the BioWare employee helping us out at our station told us it was probably less than that, closer to 1 in 7.

I am so proud to say that our group consisting of me, my husband, and a two guys that we got to know who were beside us in line, got to be in that minority and beat the boss! We didn’t exactly do it gracefully, as it was one of those really hectic encounters that leave you wondering, “Holy crap, did we seriously manage to survive that?” Actually, our tank died. Usually when that happens, it’s a wipe. I had no idea how we managed to hold out, but at the end, we were so shocked we actually made it that we didn’t cheer for victory until our booth assistant cried out, “You guys did it!” I think even our audience watching our TV screen was a little shocked. The instance was already awesome, but the way we ended it just made it EPIC.

All in all, we got 45 minutes to play. There are some people questioning why they just don’t decrease the amount of time the demos take, so more people get a chance to play. It’s a nice thought, one that I’d entertained many times myself while I was in the line, but at the end of the day, there was just no other way to get so immersed in the flashpoint experience. To be able to play through the content, utilize your abilities and enjoy the combat and story dialogue, you simply required that much time. I have to admit, any less wouldn’t do it justice.

We got kudos for being able to “complete” the flashpoint, and received posters as a reward. Since my husband and I were both in the group, plus the poster I got yesterday, I now have a set of Republic-side and Sith-side posters, plus an extra Sith poster. Methinks they will look good in the game room once we set it up in the new house.

After our demo, we went around and took some pictures, did some last-minute things. For example, I desperately wanted to look at a 3DS and see what this glasses-free thing is all about. Instead of heading for the Nintendo booth, I found a much smaller crowd at the Capcom booth, where some of their games were being demoed on 3DSs. I didn’t really want to play; I just wanted to look. And the effect I saw was sort of…underwhelming. After all the great stuff I heard about the 3D effect of the handheld, it wasn’t at all what I expected. But hey, maybe it’s just my screwed up eyes. I’m probably doomed to never be able to enjoy 3D technology, until I suck it up and wear my contact, or get laser eye surgery.

I didn’t stick around long after that. I was pretty exhausted. I went home and — what else? — fell into bed and took a nap. Like I said, this is the first time I’ve managed to power up my computer and get online. What a crazy weekend, but it was one to remember. I’ll definitely never ever ever forget my first ever PAX!

Now, I shall crash. I’ll try to post about my thoughts and experiences with the Bounty Hunter origin and Taral V flashpoint demos tomorrow, if I can. Good night!

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