[GW2] Paws-on at Comic Con

Starting with some admissions:

1. I very very very very rarely actually watch any pre-release videos or trailers these days, am a bit strung out on hype for MMOs

2. I’m in a massive MMO rut at the moment due to extended periods of back pain and 8 weeks of physio when I was told not to sit upright for more than 30m, this has made me as disinterested in games as I’ve ever been (thus the lack of blogging)

3. Have never played or seen Guild Wars, know very little about it. Knew GW2 was upcoming and lots of my friends were starting to get excited about it, but have been far too lazy to read ANYTHING about it.

4. Of course, I still told people I’d go to the Comic Con Guild Wars 2 panel, but it clashed with a TV show one I /really/ wanted to see, so I bailed on that promise, and just read Spinks’ live-tweets of the panel. Sounded pretty good.

When Spinks joined me, after whatever I’d been doing and told me about her Guild Wars 2 hands-on, I was intrigued. I still didn’t know much about the graphics or background to the game, but it was enough to colour me intrigued. And though I was fairly sure I wouldn’t get a chance to spend 40m playing the game, I kind of wanted to for the first time. I think the fact they gave you 40m to play, and I’d had a 5m look over people’s shoulders the first day was what really caught my attention.

Bex Sat 061

And on the final day of Comic Con, when the queues for the panels we wanted to see were heinously long, we decided to revisit the Exhibit Hall. First to see how crazy the SWTOR lines were first thing, and secondly to see if I could play some Guild Wars 2. SWTOR had a 2h wait, so we dashed over to Guild Wars 2 – which was actually a LONG WAY away. While Spinks was looking over some shoulders, I, with ninja-reflexes honed on the London Underground, spotted a free demo computer and scuttled in – then yelled at Spinks to come join me (after I’d created my char, ofc).

So I made a female norn, for mostly the same reasons as she did. The humans and charr all started at higher levels and I wanted to see if the new player experience was as cool as she’d said. Yeah, sisters – we’re suspicious of one another until proven otherwise. I can’t remember all the bits I picked for my character, except it involved being drunk, losing things and then.. I made her a ranger. No idea why, I’m totally not a ranged dps kind of gal, but of the options available I figured it’d be easy to get to grips with. I didn’t fancy a warrior and I don’t generally like casters much, and as I knew Spinks had tried the engineer. And so Nim the Norn was born. Best initial bit, they asked what animal companion I wanted between bear, wolf, and snow leopard. As anyone who knows me will attest, this was NO-CHOICE. There was a large cat, and it got picked. This pleased me right away (though honestly, I like wolves and bears too!).

I think honestly, that Spinks probably has more of a sense of what I did than I did. Which actually bodes really well for the game for me, and also backs up some of her comments. I know I intended to pick up a bunch of quests at the first hub and go do them. This got immediately derailed when I was handing in my first quest and one of the next questgivers asked me to help him guard some booze which he was transporting on massive cow-like-thing to a nearby town. Guarding booze? Right up my alley, and one of the options was ‘I’m ready to leave now’.. so without thinking about my original plans, I just set off. We killed stuff, I marvelled at the giant cow-like-thing, and as I killed stuff some ‘events’ got updated (to kill x number of bad faction people – yes, deal with it, I remembered NO names), but I didn’t even feel like I needed to stay and do the event – I was far too focussed on delivering booze safely. Which we did. Heroism = booze delivery!

GW2

Then, I explored a little randomly as I got a bit turned around and lost trying to find something on my map. I left the demo zone a couple of times and got warned to turn back, so once I got the hang of directions, I headed firmly back into the zone. And that’s when things got super cute. I found a hill with a Shaman of Snow Leopard on it, asking me to honour Snow Leopard.. I was very much in the ‘blah blah, skim read, do stuff as quickly as possible’ mode when I realised one of the text options was ‘transform me into a snow leopard’. And there were snow leopard cubs around me. Oh yes, I found a quest to be turned into a snow leopard and perform tasks which would honour my totem; by cuddling cubs, killing wildlife, or reviving injured snow leopards. This wasn’t a ranger quest, but available to all. It gave a kind of faction bar, which I could increase by doing any of the tasks mentioned. I, of course, cuddled LOTS of cubs. Spinks said at this point I actually just grinned at the screen. But more sensibly, I was really impressed I could mix and match the tasks to fill the bar, and it didn’t take very long at all either.

After this excitement, I only had around 10m left and decided more random quests were in order, though I started off doing the next one I was given by the Shaman.. which triggered more events, and which I was idly doing just to test out my skills. My pet died a few times, but I blame it much more on my actual skills and not paying attention than anything else, since I actually had a self+pet heal ability! While exploring some caves for this event (another kill x thingies quest), I saw I was down to 5m and also found some water. Knowing only that underwater was a whole ‘cool’ thing about GW2, I readily dove in. Yes, I got a face mask immediately, which let me breath underwater. Loved it. Got new skills too, relevant to underwater, and a quest to pick some underwater flowers. Now, I’ve played a fair few MMOs, and I found the swimming very easy to get a hang of. I didn’t have anything to fight, so unfortunately didn’t get to test out any skills, but we did get to see some swimming at least, so I was quite proud of myself for that.

Overall, I came away with a kind of glowing feeling. The 40m sped by, and I’m excited that in a live game I’d have time to really build my character and learn a lot more about it and its skills. It’s a very pretty game and plays nicely, it felt extremely intuitive – which is what I need while in gaming doldrums. From being remotely interested in the game, it’s become a must-buy for me. Of course, there’s no guarantees I’ll love more than the low level game, but what the hell, I’ll take that right now. I know Spinks commented that for her it was like the WoW beta, for me I felt a twinge of Dark Age of Camelot. No idea why, but I guess that was the fierce loyalty I felt almost immediately and for no tangible reason.

The specs we played on, for reference:

Bex Sat 059

[SWTOR] Notes from SDCC, and scarce code is scarce

OK, a few more notes about The Old Republic to catch up on what we’ve seen last week, following up Arb’s summary of her flashpoint yesterday.

As an observer, I was mostly taken by:

  • Smoothness of the character animations. This isn’t LOTRO where the game is gorgeous until someone moves. It’s all very nicely animated.
  • Loved the female sith bounty hunter that Arb was playing, she looked very cool and badass. So did her armour.
  • It wasn’t all that easy for me to tell the various characters apart, aside from the sith inquisitor in his robes. Expect the inquisitor/ consular to get picked on a lot in PvP because they’re so easy to spot. As well as potentially being healers.
  • The dialogue wheels were lots of fun. I could see Arb settling into her character when she started instantly picking the most sarcastic options (which got darkside points, naturally.) What she couldn’t see but I could was that the guy sitting next to her was picking the exact same options with similar lack of delay. It’s almost a shame that the game can’t point out afterwards, “You know character X you met in that team? You guys have a lot in common and picked similar options, maybe you’d get on.” Would be especially neat for light side empire and dark side republic characters to be able to spot each other.
  • The instance was pretty much corridors (dressed up nicely as a ship) with mobs in them, broken up by the occasional boss or dialogue. There was an obvious influence from WAR in that side quests such as “kill 30 republic soldiers” kept popping up and it looked as though the team was completing them fairly organically just by running the flashpoint.
  • You do get to mow down lots of enemy mooks.

The point Arb made yesterday was that she could imagine groups getting very impatient if one member was slow to read or select dialogue or went AFK because the game does require everyone to make a selection before things continue. I assume there is a timeout, but we know how fast faster faster gogogo people get in instances.

Star Wars Panel

Bioware ran a 45 minute panel at Comic Con, at which they showed a few trailers, introduced some of the character voice actors, and answered some questions. G4TV recorded the whole thing, along with a commentary – mine would have been better (obviously) if I hadn’t run out of power on the iPod towards the end :)

The room was packed, and people cheered the trailers (which do look awesome on a big screen with proper sound equipment.)

Main points:

  • New trailer. This one briefly introduces the classes, it’s all made up of in-game footage, no cinematics. And I’m assuming you get to hear the actual voice actors who’ll be voicing the player characters. (The Imperial Agent not only looks geeky, he sounds geeky too! I may be a bit in love.)
  • No overlap of quest between class/ faction. For example, the bounty hunter and jedi knight have no quests in common from 1-max level. I’m assuming there may be some faction quests in common but definitely got the sense that the vast majority of class content is not repeated.
  • They discussed the solo endgame. There will be an entire planet devoted to this.
  • Planets can be quite large. They gave the example of 30 mins to run from one end to the other, although players will have faster transport than that.
  • You’ll be able to customise your companions, including changing their skin and hair colour. So yours don’t have to look like everyone else’s.
  • There is a LOT of dialogue in this game, which I think had been well broadcast previously. The voice actors discussed this, and the sizes of the scripts they had to read. They both really seemed to enjoy their characters and praised the writing (I hope the woman playing the love interest is ready for the amount of fan reaction she’s likely to get :) ).
  • They showed an example of the dialogue wheel, with a jedi vs sith fight where the winning jedi got to choose at the end whether or not to kill their opponent. They let the crowd choose, based on how loudly people cheered for each choice (cheers sounded about equal from where I was sitting). They said they expected people to choose killing, but showed both alternate endings. In the light side ending, the guy said he would change his ways, and they said you might run into him again later.
  • I can’t remember the character’s name but the twilek who ends up as a possible companion to the sith warrior is hilarious. They showed a couple of clips of her sassing people.
  • Level 50 was noted as the max level.

Pricing and Scarcity

There has been a lot of debate in the blogosphere (to put it mildly) about the pricing of the SWTOR pre-orders and collectors editions. Yes, they’re high, but they’re also bang in line with pricing trends for AAA games.

This will not be the first game to offer a $150 collectors edition, and it certainly won’t be the last. I don’t really understand the outrage on this particular point, collector’s editions were always supposed to be something a bit special for the hardcore (and rich) fans.  Having said that, I think Bioware could do fairly well if they sell the soundtrack separately.

Similarly, before complaining about the price of the standard edition, stop and think about how much MW3 is likely to be selling for later this year. Will it stop people buying the game? Hell no. I share the dismay on pricing trends, but this is pretty much in line with the way things are going.

Another issue is the deliberate scarcity of pre-order copies of the game. I have heard some obscure conspiracy theories around EA doing this to push prices up. I have also heard some more plausible debates about how to stop the servers getting swamped on launch (along with suggestions that EA should just somehow manage it.)

In any case, the real take away point I took from seeing the game and the dev team at Comic Con is that no one is trying to fool anyone. What you see is what you get. The game is very much for real. If you don’t like what you’re seeing and hearing in the interviews and demos right now, then it may not be for you. And I trust Bioware that if they are keeping the copies scarce, then they have a good reason for it.

It is a shame if players outside the US and EU have to wait a few more months for their servers, but we did that with WoW and it didn’t kill us. My advice is that it’s worth the wait to have local servers if you were planning to play the game anyway.

[SDCC] San Diego Comic Con, the geek Mecca

Last week, Arb and I were in San Diego along with 150000 of our closest geeky friends to attend the annual fan fest which is San Diego Comic Con. (Alas, no pictures since I lost my camera out there somewhere.)

I’ll be writing more about the con this week, including posts on individual game-related panels and demos (inc. SWTOR and Guild Wars 2) as well as some posts about the exhibition floor and events going on outside the convention centre, to try to give a flavour of what it was like out there.

Although there is a sizeable gaming presence, it’s just a small part of the whole event. The heart of Comic Con is still with comics, just about, but the film and TV industry run the largest and most popular panels.

Another site sums up their favourite of the film and TV panels based on popularity. I think judging on popularity may be a mistake, because we found that some of the less hyped panels were at least as entertaining. But I did hear that the Game of Thrones panel was very good (I was at the SWTOR panel which was at the same time.)

The convention that ate San Diego

San Diego is a delight, I’m glad we arrived there a couple of days in advance so that I could see what it’s like when not completely taken over by Comic Con. The weather is gorgeous (warm and temperate), it’s by the sea, the public transport is great, it’s clean, people are friendly, and it’s not too big. There is plenty for tourists to see and do, and you can get to Tijuana on the trolley bus if you wanted to poke your nose into Mexico as well.

But wow is it ever different once the convention opens!

It isn’t just that there are posters everywhere, hordes of geeky tourists, and that every restaurant and shop in the area has a poster up saying that SDCC fans are welcome. HUGE posters line the sides of hotels near the convention centre – and when I say HUGE I mean they take up half the side of the hotel. The trolley stop closest to the con was rebranded in comic typeface and speech panels. Everywhere is busier, and as you get nearer to the convention centre, the con tends to spill out onto the streets. There are booth babes handing out badges and fliers, carts selling food and produce, and stands/ tents/ hotels taken over by companies such as Sega, Bioware, Marvel, etc so that they can run their own events, parties and demos outside the convention centre for all comers. It gets loud. Everywhere. All the time.

Even on the convention floor, individual stands host Q&A sessions or events at different times or days: for example, I saw Stan Lee being interviewed at the Marvel Stand.

The inevitable queuing

Comic Con not only has a huge number of attendees, but it’s pretty much accepted by all comers that there are too many people for the size of the convention centre and the size of the event. It was on everyone’s lips to wonder how much longer they can continue holding the con in San Diego purely for this reason. Still, this didn’t stop us from doing any of the things we came to do – the exhibition floor was navigable, I didn’t have any major problems getting into gaming panels or playing demos, although the reason I didn’t try the SWTOR demo was because I didn’t fancy queuing 2.5 hours to play a 15 min demo. Props to Bioware that others did, though.

CBS reports in more detail on the future of Comic Con.

One of the side effects is that there is a lot of queueing. We got a first taste of this when we spent 5 hours or so queueing just to pick up our (pre-booked) tickets on the day before the con began. Tickets including preview night access for next year are already sold out.

One of the other ‘features’ of Comic Con is that they don’t clear out the panel rooms (which vary in size from a bijou 250 up to the vast 6000 seater Hall H) between sessions. So if there is a popular session scheduled for the afternoon, the only way to guarantee getting a seat is to be in there all day. And if the panel is really that popular, that means getting in queue early in the morning, just to be sure. Oh yes, the queues also start way before the convention centre opens.

So if anyone was wondering why we didn’t go to the Game of Thrones panel, that’s the other reason why.

Swag: not just a 4 letter word, it’s a way of life

When you pick up your comic con tickets, you are also given a huge and mostly empty bag. Why was this, I wondered. It’s for swag, said Arb knowingly, as we decided whether we liked the pictures on the sides of our bags or whether we should get Arb’s friend (who is apparently good at bag trading) to try to trade them in with other people for ones we preferred. I decided to stick with the Arkham City one.

Swag comes in many different flavours at comic con. You can pick up a fair amount by just wandering around the exhibition floor. In particular you will acquire badges, postcards, bags, free/ preview comics, fliers, and posters just by sticking your hand out as they’re being distributed. I also picked up a couple of t-shirts that were being given out by gaming companies after you had demoed one of their games.

There’s more strategy needed for a maximal swag grab, as some stands only give out swag at specific times of days, or give out different swag at different days/ times.

Swag can also be achieved in panels, and I saw some being given out to people who asked questions in panels. Other panels gave out swag to all attendees, such as the SWTOR pre-order codes given out by Bioware, or the very stupid hats given out by the cartoon network.

Some swag can be grabbed outside the convention centre too, such as the inflatable omniblades at the Bioware Base, or the angry birds badges that I saw being given out on the street by people in angry bird costumes. Or the really nice posters and captain america 3D specs that we were given at the cinema when we went to see Captain America.

My personal favourite swag was:

  • the educational comic about Tesla and the Chicago World Fair, illustrated with lots of pigeons
  • Dragon’s Dogma T Shirt
  • omniblade
  • Captain America poster from the cinema, which I’m going to get framed

It was the best of days, it was the worst of days

We (as in europeans) tend to have a view that Americans are really good at organising things,  especially when the things are also large events. SDCC really bore this out for me. Yes, there was a lot of queuing, yes there probably were too many people there for the size of the event, but all the staff I spoke to either on individual stands or as part of the convention staff were polite, helpful, and professional. Events happened at the right time in the right place, bang on schedule.

I don’t know if I would go again, although I’d certainly go to other (smaller!) cons but we had a fantastic time.

Comic Con (and holidays)

Arbitrary and I are off to San Diego Comic Con next week, which means posting is going to be on the quiet side until we get back (this does depend a bit on wifi accessibility and if my Eee holds up.)

On the one hand, this gives you all a chance for a break!

On the other, we’re hoping to get some good gaming (and geeking) in to write about when we get back, including a first hand look at both SWTOR and GW2. Bioware and Arenanet are both going to be running demos at the con, as well as panels during the convention.

Since I don’t go to California often (read: this will be the first time I’ve been there other than changing planes at LAX), is there anything else we should do or try while we’re out there if we have time?

Also, the schedule is here and we’re open to suggestions if anyone is desperate for a writeup on any specific panel.  (Confusingly, their ‘gaming track’ seems to be all about playing card games, with no mention of any other sorts of  games at all.)

Commercialisation, and the appeal of an amateur fanbase

A lot of gamers will tell you that the opposite of pro is noob. It’s one opposite, I guess, but back in the meatworld the most common opposite of professional is amateur.

Amateur means a lot of things. It can mean bad (amateurish isn’t usually good), it can mean hobbyist, it can mean idealistic. For example, the Olympics is intended for amateur sportspeople, on paper at least. This idea that amateurs were purer hobbyists who did their sport/ game/ profession for the love of it, untainted by filthy lucre is starting to look rather old fashioned now.

So why talk about amateurs? In the wake of the EVE addon changes (which I wrote about yesterday, along with lots of other bloggers), I think there’s a backlash from a lot of people who just don’t like the idea of having their favourite game’s ecosystem commercialised. The amateur way is the purer fanbase, playing and making guides, websites, addons for the sheer love of the game.

The roots of the MMO hobby that I personally love come directly from amateur gamers. MUDs were originally based on  open sourced code, created and staffed by people who just loved them as a hobby. Things have moved on since then, become more commercialised, better in some ways and worse in others. The community itself hasn’t much changed, although it has grown a great deal. Yet the games themselves were once LOVED by their creators and their players, not consumed.

It may be that the majority of gamers would slaver over a more commercial ecosystem. They love wowhead, curse, EVEMon, and all the slew of professional quality player tools that have become available and would happily buy and use more if they existed. I do wonder though what gets lost in the transition.

Yet I think of the fan run scifi conventions I’ve been to compared to commercial conventions. I have seen good quality versions of both, but the fan conventions had more soul and connected with attendees on a much wider range of levels. People ran sessions based on what they personally thought would be fun and interesting, rather than on how many bums they could get on seats. It felt so much easier to connect personally with both other fans and people running the convention (who are of course also other fans), the power differential between producers and consumers just wasn’t there …

It’s on my mind at the moment since Arb and I are off to Comic Con in a few weeks time, which is easily going to be the largest commercial convention I have ever seen. I think it will be brilliant. There will be sessions that no fan convention could ever in a million years hope to match. But it doesn’t affect how much I want to get to Eastercon next year, which I think will feel more like ‘home’ (actually George R R Martin is scheduled to be at both, and lots of authors seem to enjoy the fan convention scene.)

[Conventions] Kapow Comic Con 2011

I’d love to write more about people’s experiences at conventions, so please contact me if you’d like to write a guest post about a convention, or share any links with a really good convention writeup.

kapow_2

Last weekend was the first ever Kapow! Comic Con, an attempt to kick start a convention in the UK that would be comparable in style (if not size) to the San Diego Comic Con.

Arb and I went, along with some friends/ partners/ sisters and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. This is a very different style of convention from the scifi/ fantasy ones like Eastercon, which I’ve written about previously. It’s funded and organised by professionals rather than fans, so there is a very different type of atmosphere. Less of the wackiness, craziness, and warmth, and more queuing, organised sales pitches, and people from film/ television as well as writers.

Having said all that, it felt like a friendly event, full of fans of comics, cult TV shows (a category which apparently includes Merlin these days) and – yes – computer games. And they were very sharp with making sure that events ran on time.

We went to a panel which was a Q&A session with Mark Gatiss who aimiably chatted about Sherlock, Doctor Who, The First Men on the Moon, history of horror, why he prefers writing screenplays to books and just about anything else for the hour.

A few computer gaming companies turned up to show off upcoming releases, and I actually got close to a Nintendo 3DS for the first time. Which was long enough to ascertain that yes, the 3D pictures look very cool. I was also amused to see someone brought along some booth blokes dressed as soldiers rather than scantily clad booth babes.

kapow_1

There were plenty of cosplayers around, even on the Saturday (the cosplay competition was on Sunday), mostly in superhero costumes with a smattering of medieval. I’m not sure who this woman is dressed as but thought it was a great picture with her friend in the scarf.

Unlike computer gaming conventions, there was a fair number of women represented in the attendees. Or in other words – geeky girls represent!

I haven’t mentioned the comics yet, which took up the main body of the convention floor as you can see in the picture at the top.

There was some brilliant merchandise available – as well as back issues, there were models, posters, tshirts, mugs, et al. We came home with a really cool poster of Spider Jerusalem, a mug (for me) that reads “evil fluffy bitey things”, and the first issue of a new comic produced locally and which comes with its own CD where the entire creative team had turned up to make the pitch. Go check out their website for the Mister Who comic. It’s pretty darned awesome.

Anyone else go to Kapow last weekend? What did you think?

Are any gaming conventions fun?

I’ve read a few blogs from people who went to PAX East over the weekend. And what they had in common is that no one really found the convention itself to be all that fun, it was more about being able to meet up with fellow bloggers/ guildies/ etc there.

Now last year I went to a couple of conventions. One was the Eurogamer Expo, which is a gaming convention, has a show floor full of demos that you can try, and that’s about it. I wasn’t impressed. I wonder if it was partly my own fault – what did I really expect from a gaming convention anyway? There were games, right?

The other convention that I went to last year was Eastercon, which is a sci fi convention. We had a blast! There were panels on all the time, there were films to watch, demos to take part in, panels with well known authors who you could go talk to, a chocolate tasting (yes really). even a room full of board games to play. Some of the panels were even about games, and we also got to meet friends from around the country.

I know which convention I would go to again and it would be the scifi one. But why the big difference? I wonder if it’s because sci fi conventions tend to be fan run, with lots of volunteers stepping up to offer to run sessions on just about anything under the sun, lots of families and family oriented activities, and people with years of fandom under their belt who are keen to welcome newbies into the convention scene.

Maybe it really is about the people, and not about the big shiny demos that you need to queue for hours to play or the devs who probably don’t have time to talk to you anyway.

In any case, me and Arb are going to Comic Con 2011, one of the biggest conventions of them all. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit nervous. Will it be more like the scifi conventions with fans, fan run activities, panels and crazy things to do, or will it be more like the gaming conventions with silent anonymous queues to see the good stuff.

Has anyone actually had fun at a gaming convention? I wonder a bit about Blizzcon too, because really the main fun there seems to be meeting guildies which you don’t actually have to do at a Blizzcon.

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!