Wow, I’m nearly 80!

I have been the most casual of WoW players since my return near the beginning of the year. I re-joined to try the Refer-a-Friend thing with Spinks and we zoomed through levels 1-40, the bit I was dreading from over-playing them previously.

But then I took a break, the R-A-F thing ran out, and we started getting busy in our lives. So I’ve been shambling along, doing dungeons, questing, ranting about why I couldn’t fly when I first got to Lich King content, ranting about how obtuse parts of the game seemed.. and here I am, about a thumb’s worth of xp away from level 80.

I cheated for two levels and let my husband play my char while I was at Comic Con. He always loved Shaman and has an addiction problem when it comes to MMOs, so this is about the only way he can play – for a limited period of time. But he did me proud, he levelled my first aid (which I left languishing at silk levels) and he kept my jewelcrafting appropriate to my level. He also got me (as I said initially) a couple of levels, from 75-77 – and I could fly again! Hurrah!

How’s it been? Definitely an eye-opener, coming straight from LotRO back to the fully finished Lich King. I felt rushed, not by friends and family, but by the game seemingly focusing on getting those next few levels till you got to Dalaran, the next levels to fly again, etc etc. And I felt fairly inadequate for much of it. Yes, if I’d read quests better I’d have done better, but a lot of them didn’t grab me. Until I got to Grizzly Hills, where I read them all and fell in love with the zone. Let that be a lesson to me. But I got a clue early on with each zone about whether I’d like it or not, and having such a rich choice of places to level was a little intimidating.

Of course, to Spinks, I was a bit of a burden. I’d launch into fortnightly rants about how rubbish WoW is, how hard they make it for no reason when you start Lich King, and that telling me it’d all get better doesn’t help. I didn’t really have the same negative reaction to the Burning Crusade content, probably because the dungeon finder got me through any rough points – I do remember a very negative response to my first bombing runs though, so maybe I had the odd rant then. I’d also prove how noobish I was in the middle on dungeon runs she was trying to explain for me. But she survived, I think and now has been guiding me through more obtuse bits like what the hell the tabard rep system is, why I should/might care, and what tabard I might want (to save me looking it up for myself).

And that’s probably been one of my enduring take-aways from my levelling. Having a very knowledgeable friend/sibling/guild member really made me a bit lazy, but I also didn’t ever feel the need to go read up on the minutiae of the game – but everyone I was playing with had assumed I probably would. I looked up some speccing advice and that was it. To me, it’s been a casual game, getting some cash and a feel for the world again before Cataclysm launches. It’s not really been about being the best, more about being ‘good enough’. Because of that a lot of my focus is heirlooms for alts, crafting that might be useful, getting a vague feeling about zones I like – rather than reading up on how all the systems work. In fact, if you questioned me now, I’d be pretty vague on heirlooms, PvP honor marks, tabards and rep and what the hell a heroic is (except people will inspect my gear, tell me I’m shit at everything and then I get better reward for suffering through it, if we succeed!).

Still, overall, I’ve had fun, and during my ranty times I’ve been online less, but I’ve not given up as I did with previous attempts to return to the game. I’ve plugged away at it and on sunday, I’ll have my first ever level 80 in World of Warcraft.

Important Poll! (Dilemma no. 23)

As those who followed The Book of Grudges will know, I’m definitely the whimsical non-serious blogger of the family, so here’s my current contribution…

This Friday and Saturday I’m going to be meeting some of my kinmates from LotRO (kin = guild and although I always call it a guild, I try and be good on ‘paper’). Met a few of them before, but not as many as will be around this weekend. And, of course, being a geek, the main question is what I should wear that strikes the precise balance between being geek-cool and amusing to me. T-shirt, of course. So here’s the choices, and you get to vote on what I should wear for a LotRO kinmeet on saturday:

Hawaii Five-O (I got lei'd - gettit?)

Sauron gets his Ring

Dragon Quest smily slime

Lost & propaganda

The Quick Brown Fox...

Over to you:

LotRO: the Endgame Experience

(One big difference between LOTRO raiding and WoW raiding is that although there now are some raiding guides and websites, those mostly didn’t exist when Arb’s guild did these raids. They had to work out these encounters for themselves, with a mostly casual player base. Even now, raid guilds are quite cagey about sharing their tactics for more recent raids …)

First of all, some disclaimers:

I’m in a fairly casual kinship in LotRO, but we’re big and we have a lot of players that enjoy raid content, myself included. We’re a mature bunch who’ve built up a certain level of skill playing together and we’ve always managed to clear endgame content just before a new addition to the game. Because we take it quite casually, we have a rotating raid group rather than a fixed one, where anyone who wants to (and who has the required radiance) can join the pool. This has worked in my favour and against it as we have had a fluctuating number of Captains, and somehow people still find Captains useful in raids ;p

I’ve been playing LotRO since just before the official launch in Europe. I don’t really like to alt, so I’ve stuck with my Captain throughout. That’s a melee secondary healer to you non-LotRO folks (and to many LotRO folks who don’t really pay attention to what Captains do much). We can heal, we can buff, we can use a get-out combination of skills which reduces damage across our entire group by 50% and takes it upon ourselves, coupled with a self-invulnerability which lasts a short time. It’s the latter thing we are seen as ‘essential’ for. We do a TON of other stuff, and contrary to popular belief we even do some dps!! But the heal/buff/last stand combo are the raid essentials.

I do also have a Minstrel (primary healer) which I levelled up purely to help with Rift raids in the early raiding days before the kin swelled a lot, but I never got the Minstrel any radiance or to level 65 – I’ve let it languish at level 64 out of pure stubbornness. So, I have a Captain.

Helegrod

thorog

Thorog

The first LotRO raid is Helegrod, soon to be scaleable, so everyone that skipped it can go back and do it in chunks at appropriate levels. The end boss is an undead dragon. It’s a throwback to the old days of LotRO, a raid designed for 24 with distinct ‘wings’ – the giants, the spiders, and the dragons, leading up to the big fight in the centre. Not a lot of casual kins did it because of the 24-man requirement and the end boss, Thorog, was a notoriously nasty fight that Turbine needed to tweak a lot, and which changed quite often. I’ve done it a couple of times and it holds a good whack of nostalgia for me, so I do look forward to returning to that one soon (with the Free-to-Play a lot of old content has been retooled and made scaleable and given radiance rewards, so you’ll be able to get your radiance gear from your choice of a variety of places).

The Rift

Then entered the Rift, so so controversial at the time for introducing Thaurlach to the world – a Balrog that /players/ could fight and kill. Well, with the help of a First Age elf to keep within the bounds of the Lore, but still. Wow, I remember at the time I didn’t like the idea one bit, and yet, for many of us the Rift represents the halcyon days before radiance gating made raiding in LotRO feel like a chore that only the select few who worked hard on their radiance to take part in.

The Rift is 12-man, and introduces the Eldgang (a slow and sonorous race, who’ve been a little conned by Evil), the fights are challenging, as any raid – and learning them certainly presented many months of week-in, week-out failures and little successes. Many of our amusing raid tales stem from the Rift; little slip-ups that became comical. And, through nostalgia, we forget the relentless depression of some of the wipes, the frustration over learning how to take on Thrang (second-to-last boss).

But, it was the taking down of the Balrog that gave me personally my first really excited/relieved/cheering moment in LotRO raiding. At the time we had a fairly fixed group with some revolving dps classes, and many of us went for every single raid. It was a big commitment, and it paid off. While we needed a big break from it at one point, I now really love going back there to show it to others, or just have a nostalgia kick with the benefit of some level 65s being along.

Moria, and Radiance Gear

With Moria, we gained a ton of new 6-man instances, all needed for radiance. Initially they had to be done a ton of times, now the process is streamlined, there’s also some 3-man radiance instances and as I said before, soon you’ll be able to get radiance from all sorts of places including the Annuminas instances which are a ton of fun – so I definitely recommend them, they were my favourite ones to work out the tactics for, and they’re not really done that much these days. Why back to instances from raids? Because with Moria we had radiance gating, something that separated those who COULD raid gearwise, and those who needed more gear to do so. We also got two one-boss raids; the turtle and the Watcher in the Water.

The turtle is a gateway drug raid. One boss, no radiance needed, but drops tokens and the occasional radiance piece. It’s a dps race, not THAT interesting or exciting, but it’s there and you can practise working as a 12-man group there. Once you get the tactic and you have a relatively decent mix of classes, you’re good to go. The last proper non-gated, ‘pick-uppable’ LotRO raid. The Watcher is a 3-stage raid, which is tough on positioning at first and then demands some element of focus and stamina and knowing how to play the raid. It’s short when you know it, but it’s caused more wipes because of its length than many!! Expect big repair bills. It also needs radiance, so you need to play other parts of the game to even get in there.

Dar Narbugud

Then the 12-man raid in Moria – Dar Narbugud. It’s dark and dank and takes place underground, working through corrupted orcs/goblins/many ugly pestilent thingies and it has some challenging and interesting encounters. It involves more radiance than the Watcher and has more bosses (6), leading to The Mistress of Pestilence (a giant slug thingie). I used to find it quite depressing and again, had to make almost every raid night as we were down on Captains at the time. But, when you get to the knotty bits of tricky fights, I enjoyed it again. Hell, now I’m almost nostalgic for the place, which just shows you how crazy our minds are.

Mirkwood and Dol Guldur

And Mirkwood, more radiance needed, more 3-mans and a 6-man to get you the higher radiance needed for the final LotRO raid of the moment; Barad Guldur in Dol Guldur, leading to a fight with a… Nazgul. Not as controversial as a Balrog, after all, there were more Nazgul in the books, right? And it needs the highest radiance, and is probably the least forgiving of any of the raids in terms of positioning, being on focus and lots of tricky tactics to take on board. Really, people should raid in the mornings not when starting to feel sleepy! Anyway, it only has 3 bosses, but you have to do them in both normal and challenge modes to really get all the gear/deeds from the raid. Which is actually kind of annoying, because the fights don’t change THAT much between the modes, they’re just harder/easier. For me, I think it’s meant it’s grown old faster than the old 6-boss content. We’ve done the first two bosses both ways, but inconsistently, and we just have the Nazgul left – it’s not a particularly enjoyable fight for me, but I have no doubt we’ll get it on ‘farm’ eventually.

High Points of LOTRO Raiding

Rather than focusing on the negative and my dislike for the radiance gating, I thought I’d end this piece with a list of my favourite raid encounters from LotRO so far:

  • the Barad Guldur non-stop fight gauntlet – I love the mania, and I feel I actually make a difference, but mainly I like the mania
  • the spider boss fight in Helegrod (I love being a poison bomb, honest!)
  • Thrang in the Rift (because I love the Eldgang dialogue during it, I adored working it out however frustrating, and it’s multi-stage flows really really well)
  • Istum in Dar Narbugud for.. the mania (work out a pattern here), well, it always feels like an accomplishment to kill him, however skilled and experienced we are – acid pools, exploding worms – what’s not to love?

It’s always great to get the end boss down, sure.. and I love the housing trophies they drop, but sometimes we forget the journeys.

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Comic Con Day 4: The Final Day

4.5 days of insane geekery is over and done for another year for me, as I lie in my hotel bed thinking about yesterday’s events. Sundays tend to be a bit lighter than other full days at Comic Con, mostly because people are planning to and heading home. But the streets are still packed and the convention center even more so.

My day started very early when I read a tweet from a friend suggesting that the line to get into the center had started before 2am and that they were freezing and needed coffee. So, around 5am I headed down to the line, with orange juice, a blanket and coffee to deliver, and then took my place at the end of the line, which was a good bit longer than for any other day. I should explain the queues, actually. Before the building opens in the morning there are two queues outside; one for Hall H and one for everything else.

Hall H is the 6500 seater room where the big studios do their big presentations, and people traditionally queue a while to get in, but often you can turn up at a far more sensible time and still get in the room. We queued overnight for TRON but could have showed up at 6am and still been fine, but in the back. It all depends what’s in Hall H.

The Harry Potter presentation had the longest queue this year, unsurprisingly – but it still wasn’t as crazy as either Twilight or Lost from last year. So, there was no programming in Hall H this sunday, so forget that line. The other queue is to get to everything else! That’s Ballroom 20 (second biggest room), the exhibit hall (to queue up for exclusives or nab especially nice swag) and then every other programming room. So it’s a huge queue also, but last year I never noticed, because I didn’t once queue outside for the general opening last year. This year was a bit different as a few panels I wanted to catch were hugely popular and first thing, and hell, I was awake so I wandered down. And the line this sunday was the longest one I’d been in for just general opening – why? Well, final day for the exhibit hall, coupled with Ballroom 20 programming of Smallville (final year), Supernatural (final year, perhaps), and after a gap, Glee. So three pretty popular shows.

The main star of Smallville, Tom Welling, only came to Comic Con for the first time last year, and that was only leaked the night before. This year fans have known for months, so there were a TON of them. For me, Supernatural was the focus as all four leads were there, whereas last year the two main chars hadn’t made it. And I knew I couldn’t stay for Glee if I wanted to say a proper farewell to my Con buddy, which I did. So a light day panel-wise of just Smallville and Supernatural.

Smallville was kind of cool, it got a great reception and they always sell the show well, but I simply don’t watch it. There was a lot less asking the cast for autographs this year, and better questions – about what they’d do next, their favourite episode, etc etc. Once it was done though, the party really started with a sneak peek at episode 4 of the new series of Supernatural – and it was /electric/. Directed by Jensen Ackles it’s a Bobby-focussed story that brings Crowley back and looks fantastic. The rest of the cast then emerged to talk post-Apocalyptic Supernatural, and it was good-natured and hilarious, but also fans didn’t ask trite questions too much, which was nice. Jensen talked a bit about directing and killing vampires,  Eric Kripke smacked down M Night ‘Douchey’, and Misha Collins.. well, was just ridiculously funny AND good-looking. Ha ha, I know, already, I’m usually serious, but I have a crush :-) My favourite Supernatural TV critic has put her thoughts and the full audio of the panel here – she sums it up perfectly, and I’m tired!

And with that Comic Con 2010 was done for me. Still the streets were crowded. We had lunch and I waved off my friend as he got his cab to the airport (when he checked out we were standing next to James Marsters, for a last little geek-out moment). I braved the world and got a trolley up to Fashion Valley mall to go check out the Apple store for an iPad camera connector. The trolley ride was fun, the Apple Store not so much, with chaotic and REALLY unhelpful staff. I actually hated it, and decided I’m only ever shopping from Apple online if that’s how ridiculous, rude and ill-informed they are. I literally got shunted around 6-7 staff before overhearing an EIGHTH say they had none of those items. The others just sent me on a run-around, so in disgust I wandered to the Microsoft Store to watch Kinect being demoed. Actually, as a cynic, it looked kind of fun – though obviously their set-up in terms of space and room was optimal. As with anything it’ll depend on the software they bring out for it and how compelling it is. Irrelevant to me as I have no console! And no space in my living room thanks to an enormous coffee table.

It’s over, though, and I had another great time. So here’s the info people asked for last year. The 4-day Comic Con pass cost me $100 (next year was being sold for $105). They only do a certain number with the preview night, and someone said those had sold out already, but I can’t remember if last year they put up more preview night tickets when they opened online sales. Online sales WILL start soon though, so keep an eye out.

Preview night isn’t THAT remarkable, but it’s a nice way to check things out with a slightly smaller crowd and no panels – it’s basically some TV previews, and the exhibit hall. And you CAN buy a 4-day pass without it. Um, my flight to the US cost £560 flying into Chicago and out of San Diego, but it would have been around the same for direct flights to San Diego.

The train trip from Chicago to San Diego was $172 for the train ticket plus $150 for the room on the train ($295 for the room, but split between the two of us) and that included all meals on the train. Hotels in San Diego are pretty pricey, so I’m not going to break down that cost for you, but having used the trolley service ($15 for 4 days travel or $5/day) I’d not be averse to staying outside of the centre – though, I have to say I have enjoyed the luxury of a nearby hotel the past two years. And no, I didn’t get a ticket for next year, I think I want to branch out and try PAX or DragonCon or Gamescon in Germany.. before returning to a Comic Con.

Comic Con Day 3: Star-spotting, and sitting. A lot of sitting.

Day 3 of Comic Con and there were big choices to make.

Everyone and their dog wanted to see Chuck, but doing so meant probably missing Leverage and a few other things. Still, we bailed on Chuck last year for Lost, so honour had to be restored. And it was well worth the long queue (we got there around 5am, the panel started after 10). And it was a lot of fun, with throwing t-shirts into the crowd, Jeffster dancing to Bad Romance, etc etc. It’ll be online I’m sure! We then hoofed it to the Hilton to catch the start of the Leverage panel (their first time at Comic Con), which included Wil Wheaton. I missed the free shirts, but was great to see most of the cast up on stage having fun. They mentioned the Leverage RPG, due out sometime later this year I think, and Wil said it was definitely a good one if you like Leverage and like RP!

After Leverage there were big choices. My friend stayed at the Hilton to see Venture Bros, The Guild and Community panels. I went to walk the Exhibit Hall and ended up seeing Wesley Snipes, LL Cool J and being moved out of the way by security for Kenneth Branagh (so he was around a foot from me, but I’m quite a Brit about these things, and just let him wander off). The Hall was crowded and insane, and though I walked the length of it, I failed miserably to find the Nintendo booth I’d been searching for. Also couldn’t queue at the Warner one cos the Chuck gang were all doing signings there. I also almost wandered into Robert Kirkman’s signing, but then saw the queue for it and quickly turned around.

So I next went up to one of the smaller rooms (it only holds 2k people!) and ended up in two cartoon panels. The first was kind of like Pictionary, but with professional cartoonists – which was fun and very cool. Then there was one about voice acting with a ton of famous voice actors. I was pleasantly surprised at how interesting the non-TV panels were, and if I go again, will try and catch these two panels another time, for sure.

But, after these were the panels I’d really been waiting for and the ones I actually skipped out on Fringe/V for (tbh, I’d have had to sit through Family Guy, The Cleveland Show and two others before Fringe and V and would have been stuck in that one room for fear of losing my seat). It was Warehouse 13 and Eureka, back-to-back. Loved them. They were funny, charming and the casts of both shows obviously love them dearly. And Felicia Day turned up to announce her multi-arc coming up in Eureka (along with Wil Wheaton). Plus I got to touch Eddie McClintock as he did a run past the crowd, whacking all our hands (though I prefer a more geeky guy!). I’m glad I made those choices, I went for fun over the shows I might prefer, but that’s all good and part of the crazy decisions you have to make here.

After the two fun Syfy shows I was ‘treated’ to the pilot of Nikita. It looks horrible. I’m sorry, I’m sure there are people who’ll enjoy it, but I almost fell asleep, and well.. I won’t be following it at all. Why did I stay? It was followed by Human Target, a show I adore and which clinched the missing of Fringe and V. I’m so glad I stayed. They announced there will be two new female roles in the show (including a boss for the boys), bigger gadgets, and lots of fun for the gang. I really recommend the show as action silliness, and just sheer fun.

It was a gruelling day though, finishing at 7pm. So I just headed to hotel to eat and fall asleep, ready for another early start on Sunday.

Comic Con PanelFAIL

Comic Con Day 1

Comic Con Dragon Age 2 Panel

First an admission – I probably like TV more than I like playing games.

Secondly, I didn’t make it to the SW:TOR or Fallout 3 panels.

The second is somewhat due to the first, except I did leave a little time between panels to try and get into the gaming ones – just they were a LOT more popular than I expected. So, instead, I went back to the exhibit hall and had another look at some of the gaming stands, but realistically I wasn’t going to hang around and try and play Red Faction (sorry to any fans), and the queues were pretty long. I did stop by NCSoft but they still didn’t appear to be doing much, and most people with Going Rogue up were just using the costume designer (no surprise there!).

Have no fear though, this update does have a (kind of) gaming aspect to it. I just spent part of my evening at Flynn’s Arcade, playing Mission Control and Pac-Man. And I’m rubbish at those games. But to be back in an arcade after *cough* possibly more than 20 years, well, it was very cool. The whole room was set up as a replica of Flynn’s in the original TRON movie.

Then the back door was opened surreptitiously and people allowed to explore through it to Flynn’s office, where we stood until enough people discovered the location and watched a small presentation, which ended up in a bit of zapping and another door being opened into the fluorescent world of TRON, a bar location with the newest TRON: Legacy trailer playing on all sides, and with the bars giving out Coke Zero, while you could look at displays of costumes and models. Super-fun and a little spooky.

As for the first part of my day, I started at the Hawaii Five-0 panel. No excuses, they promised a cool T-shirt (‘I got lei’d at Comic Con’) and also it was followed by the panel for AMC’s The Walking Dead, based on Robert Kirkman’s awesome comic series. Both panels were a lot of fun and got great receptions, so I don’t regret it, except for missing SW:TOR which was 30 mins after the AMC one finished, but people were being turned away from the queues. And I really didn’t want to sit through a ton of other stuff I wasn’t interested in to see it. Same happened with Fallout 3, though I turned up there over an hour beforehand and the queuing people were being told it was full (at Comic Con, they don’t clear rooms between panels, so people turn up and ‘squat’ for a few panels if there’s something they really want to see. So I did make an effort for you all, but I didn’t want to compromise the stuff I wanted to get done for myself.

We queued to buy exclusive TRON merchandise and I now have a die-cast mini light cycle. It was a pain to get but was genuinely on my list of things I wanted. It’s lucky I don’t mind waiting around a lot, I’m getting well-practised.

I’ll see if I can check the gaming stuff out some more, but if I don’t, it’s honestly because of my uppermost admission. I’m here for the TV mostly!

Day One: San Diego Comic Con 2010

Zombies at Comic Con 2010

Three days with no sleep standing in line for the Tron panel ...

It’s been a crazy day and a half, since I’m rolling the preview night into this write-up. Preview night, for me, basically means having a look around the Exhibit Hall, meeting people I wanted to try and catch and getting the atmosphere soaked up before the real work starts. In other words, I didn’t go to watch the actual preview this year, which was the TV show Nikita. Not that interested.

We all got Warner bags this year with our registration stuff. They’re huge, and they have different designs on and people used to queue at the Warner booth for them, so it’s been nice this year to just have one handed over. My friend got Human Target and I got a Batman one, so I grabbed the Human Target one, while he engaged in a game of bag-trading that saw him work through Clash of the Titans, Batman, Scooby Doo, Chuck, Fringe and finally The Big Bang Theory. But I’m happy with my Human Target one. The Exhibit Hall is huge, it’s just huge. And it runs the gamut from comic artists and book publishers, to games companies, along with the obvious film and TV presence. And people queue. They queue for swag, they queue to buy exclusive items, and they queue for autographs. And I hate queuing! So I go pick up the easy swag on the first night and see what else I might want. I did score lots of goodies from publishers, including a copy of George R R Martin’s Game of Thrones, and a bizarre book-related jigsaw. Also a Twilight iPhone cover.. hrrm, I shouldn’t mention that, right?

In all fairness, this year I wanted to check out games more, but they didn’t seem to all be ready to rock on preview night. So I might have to head back there. City of Heroes: Going Rogue had some terminals up, but no way to bag the in-game ghoul costume (and since I don’t play the game, in-game play didn’t really go it for me, but it looked pretty). DCUO was there (for the person who asked), but I didn’t check it out – they had lovely lanyards and my friend snagged one somehow.. we shall return. Then we went to see Super Hero Squad Online, as I’d promised to go hug the CM (long story, follow twitter ;p). My friend took the controls while we chatted and I have to say, I’m totally sold on it. Yes, it’s kiddie, but it’s gorgeous and the housing is honestly the most FUN MMO housing I’ve seen – complete with Hulk throwing sofas around the room to let off steam. So, that was a bit of a surprise to me, only because I’d never really considered it.

So we wandered, we got swag, we met friends from last year, and then we went to check if there was a line for Tron the next day. There was. And I’m a fool. So we took spots and settled in for a freezing night in a line. At least there was cover this year, as it rained. Also the Hilton sent us blankets, pillows and water. Was still freezing though!!! So let’s ignore the night in line, it’s not that interesting, but I had excellent company which helped.

And it was Thursday, the first full day of the con and I was near the front of the Hall H queue. First up was Megamind, a superhero/villain 3-D animated film starring Will Ferrell, Tina Fey and Jonah Hill, oh, and Brad Pitt. The first three showed up, with Ferrell in costume. I’m not a huge fan of any of them and they didn’t disappoint, I found it quite a stodgy panel, with nothing quite as funny as they wanted. But, and it’s a big but, the film looks awesome and fun and is definitely on my radar now (not least cos they gave us all watches!).

Next up was Tron: Legacy which was as awesome as expected. They showed 8 mins of footage, they showed the new trailer, the entire main cast were there and made interesting comments (the panel is almost certainly on YouTube by now, so honestly, I’m not going into details). They recorded us yelling De-Rez, and other terms and they’re hoping to insert it in the film, so whee, I might be in Tron: Legacy!! That’s a cool give-away and a half. But when they packed up to go early, it was obvious Disney had more in store for us. Firstly we got a 3-D Johnny Depp Pirates teaser trailer, the next one will be about Fountain of Youth, and he’s so great in character, again, I know the footage is online, so go seek!

Then, Guillermo Del Toro came out to reveal his next project is Haunted Mansion for Disney. And they’re rebooting it, forgetting Eddie Murphy ever existed and making it scary and cool. Hrrm. I’m not a massive Disney kid, Haunted Mansion to me was an ok ride in the theme park… so colour me a little disappointed that he left The Hobbit for this. But – the first 999 in the hall got a signed, numbered Haunted Mansion poster (signed by the artist), so yay for swag?!

We left the Hall post Tron and went to find food before heading back to pick up our Haunted Mansion swag. I had wanted to dash to the 38 Studios reveal, but frankly I hadn’t eaten in over 12h and I was HUNGRY. Got to see the Westboro Church protest and counter-protest and headed back to the Convention Center. I did manage to catch the last 15 mins of the panel, but mostly when they were wrapping up. Luckily they have the game’s website up now, so all the info will be there. There was a reason I headed to that room though, and that was for the other panel that was on my must-see list – a Quantum Leap retrospective. But first I saw through the Aqua Teen Hunger Force panel, which was frankly a little bit awkward. Still, it was over and people enjoyed it!

Then I settled down for an hour with Scott Bakula discussing the impact of Quantum Leap with someone from TV Guide. It started off with the show’s credit sequence which almost made me well up and then Bakula took to the stage. He got a standing ovation, which both surprised and pleased me, and I totally joined in. And it was just a magical hour of him speaking and clips from the show, including the final minutes of it. Shockingly, perhaps, he annouced that a Quantum Leap movie was ‘on’ again and that producers were getting on-board and it should all go ahead this time. He did say that he and Dean Stockwell would be in it, but not as the main characters anymore. I’m not surprised at that, but glad that the project is underway and they all seem to be happy about it and on board to star in it regardless of characters!

And then I went to see Dragon Age II…

((If you’d like to see another take on Day 1, Geeks are Sexy went to some of the same panels as Arb but also went to the Scott Pilgrim one instead of Quantum Leap.))

Return of the Inflatable Sword

dragon age 2 header

So, last year at Comic Con, one of the things I missed was Dragon Age and the chance to have a play on it. In fact, I skipped the computer games entirely because my main focus was going was to watch TV and film panels.

This year is slightly different and I’m trying to correct mistakes, so, when I had a gap in my ‘schedule’ I decided to leave the Convention Center and check out Dragon Age II.  In fact, as I walked across the road away from the Convention I was even handed a ‘come play Dragon Age II’ postcard, so even serendipity was on my side. I kind of ignored the fact there was also Dead Space 2 in the same location, so sorry about that folks – it’s not my cup of tea so I didn’t pay it too much attention (though I did get an inflatable weapon from them also!).

Ah yes, the inflatable sword swag – something I brought home from last year. They had inflatable swords advertising Dragon Age and I assumed this was just leftover stock, so I grabbed another couple – but these are branded Dragon Age II, so they just must know how much we all loved them. In addition, there were some blood splatter tattoos advertising the game, and showing a good sense of humour about one of the things people (myself included) mocked about the original game.

I should say now, don’t expect any pictures of the game or gameplay – we signed enough of an NDA to cover that, but I did specifically ask about blogs and twitter and that’s all fine, I mean, they obviously want us to spread the word. There was a queue to get in to Dragon Age II, and no queue for Dead Space 2. Make of that what you will. 12 people were let into a room at a time to get some hands-on experience, plus a couple who could stand around and watch, which is the option I took, since I just wanted to SEE the game.

We were treated to a little overview first, explaining some of the main changes and how they’d all come from customer feedback from the first game. The graphics are sharper and use a slightly different style (I thought this would be fairly minor, but when you see the game in action it is genuinely a lot more beautiful!). Fighting is punchier and looks a hell of a lot more responsive – mages now have a cool death blow animation equivalent to jumping up and stabbing things in slow-mo, blood is less ridiculous but still flies around a lot, and some of the spell and fighting effects are just gorgeous – we saw a warrior and mage taking on some hurlocks and an ogre, each showing off their special attacks.

There’s a couple of big differences which I think will prove quite interesting, but obviously which we can’t really see in a short playtest. First of all, the hero is voiced! No more silence. Apparently, this is going to avoid situations such as a silent response to diatribe in a Landsmeet, and the little clip we saw of it was great, but it’s still a very hard one to judge. But, they do have it so you’re not just repeating a dialogue option, the options paraphrase what your char will actually say. Oh, and while we’re on dialogue options, they now have icons next to them that give you a hint how they might affect things (it looks like there are only a handful of icons to get used to though, and I quite like the idea).

Secondly, the narrative structure of the game has changed. The game covers a much longer period than Dragon Age, and is told by a couple of (not necessarily reliable) narrators – the tale of The Champion (that’s you, that is!) and who s/he was. This allows Bioware, and the player to play key points in the life of the character, with each being able to have a massive influence on the rest of the story. Your character escapes Lothering and heads north, and you know becomes The Champion of their new locale (Kirkwall, or something with Kirk in, anyway – sorry, this is all from memory). And the world is on the brink of war by the end of the time period being discussed. So you get to see how this Champion became who they are. I was dubious, but I quite like the idea now. Bioware said it helped them actually show a longer and more fulfilling timescale, and avoided things like an epilogue that just told you what happened years later, now we’ll be able to play so many flashback sessions that we get to see our character’s full story.

The section of playable game was chosen to show off some of the fighting and a little of the dialogue, but it was pretty short. I thought it definitely looked like the combat flowed more and I liked what I heard of the voices and what I saw of the new art style. In fact, there really wasn’t much I didn’t like about the changes and I’m now really looking forward to playing the game, due out in Spring next year – in perfect time for my birthday!