Thursday, August 16, 2007

GenCon 2007: Day One

So I arrived at Gencon 07 with some different expectations this year since I actually had events and things to do, expecting to keep busy instead of having a 4 day shopping spree. During the past few weeks my fears started to grow that I was part of the group of people that had not gotten their badges even though I signed up and registered in February. Sure enough the day was here today and nothing in the mail, which would mean I had to leave around 5am from the Chicago area to make sure I got to Gencon in time to get in the customer service line and have my badge printed. I had an event at noon and didn't want to be late. Turns out by how crappy the event was it really would not have mattered but more on that later. In fact I got in so early that the area in front of the exhibit hall was dead when the doors had opened. I noticed that this year the badges were being taken in the hallways instead of at the exhibit hall door, leaving you free to enter and roam once you passed the security. This has so far kept the doors clear but the real rush will start tomorrow.

Ok so I get in and get my badge, the guy behind the customer service desk was actually helpful and got me out of there fast. I headed over to Grand Ballroom 500 and found my Fantasy Flight games table where the Marvel Super Heroes board game event leader was waiting. Now me being a nerd I really get into my gaming at Gencon, I usually don't hold back too much when it comes to meeting other nerds since we are all here with the same interests and to game and have fun. I knew immediately though as soon as I sat down that I was in trouble and had gotten one of those guys that just didn't know the game that well. He was a volunteer and he did his best, but he messed up on a lot of rules and eventually a kabitzer (or a game observer that butts in and tells people how to play) had to correct the demo guy on things he was teaching us wrong. This makes the game demo agonizing to sit through and very hard to understand. The couple we were playing with were losing interest fast, so fast that I had to crack really bad jokes like "I'm playing Colin Farrell" when I played Bullseye or "I wonder if he was drunk" when Iron Man was defeated in combat. Of course only true comic book or movie fans will catch that stuff, but I had to try. Despite all my efforts I never managed to make the very bland couple across from us crack a smile.

This happens year after year to me and I know that the people that demo games are volunteers, but damn FFG needs to make an effort to match these volunteers up with people that actually KNOW the game and can teach it well. In the end my wife destroyed all 3 of us with her Spider Man team and the game ended two hours early. While it was ok, it left us with a negative attitude for the days event. I could have taught it better and ended up having to clarify a lot of rules that I had skimmed over in the book. I never cut off or corrected our demo runner though, unlike the rude fella that was supposed to be watching and couldn't keep his mouth shut.

Well after that I decided to go to the exhibit hall to catch what vendors and booths were setup for this years spending spree. I managed to run into Steve Kramer, a game designer with Sony Online and he gave us a great demo of the Rise of Kunark expansion. Turns out Steve did most of the work for Darklight Woods and the Sarnak starting area so he had a great wealth of stories to tell. Also I got a confirmation that Karnors Castle will be built exaclty off an old map of the zone, so old school EQ1 players will not be let down. In fact that zone is Steve's zone and he is really quite proud that he gets to bring it alive. I told Steve that every Sarnak should start with a Sarnak Courier note in their backpack as a little practical joke on EQ1 players that may be famaliar with that annoying loot drop. He wrote it down, I hope he uses it but Steve that will be $10,000 for rights to my practical joke :)

Elsewhere we ran into the NC Soft booth where they were displaying Tabula Rasa, Guild Wars and its new expansion as well as some City of Villains games. Another hugely crowded display was the Warhammer Online booth, which around 3:30 pm did a beta giveaway raffle. About 15 names were called and no I did not win, but tomorrow more will be given out. I managed to get a glimpse of Warhammer Online in action and holy cow the interface looked exactly like WoW, it was almost scary, right down to the radar and health bars. The graphics were pretty sharp but without playing it I cannot really say how the game played and felt. Of course the HUGE draw was the new World of Warcraft expansion Wrath of the Lich King. Blizzard has about 12 kiosks here, loaded with Starcraft 2 films and the oppurtunity to play a few zones of the new WoW expansion. It looks fantastic, the graphics have had a slight overhaul and the buildings and new mobs look gorgeous. I was not able to get in and play but watched for several minutes various games of people at different areas in the new zones. Blizzard was allowing people to create level 70 characters, spend talent points and go exploring.

Well that is about it for my day one report, I will see plenty more tomorrow and I have to give a huge thumbs up to the Gencon 07 schwag bag this year. It came with a brand spanking new WoW Trading Card game starter set (Burning Crusade expansion) and a free booster box of Axis and Allies miniatures. NOW that is schwag that a geek can learn to love. Until later, this is the Private signing off and going to get some sleep!