02/26/2008

“The Beginning Of The End”: San Francisco & GDC 2008 Part 1

by Matthew Hawkins

And… I’m back.

California was, simply put, fucking awesome. So much stuff went down that right now I am totally beat. Yet I have to get my ass in gear and get it all down because, aside from the fact that a number of folks really want to know all about it, and how I am dying to tell said folks as well (that and some of it is already “old news” and I don’t want to it get any dustier), a lot will be happening right here at home in the coming days.

I’m also annoyed/disappointed by the fact that I didn’t post as stuff happened all last week as originally planned, due to mostly… “technical difficulties”, which prevented me from even talking about solely cell phone related stuff (which by itself there was a ton of) over at Zedge, for the folks who ponied up money to get my ass to San Fran and provided shelter (hence another reason why I’m so damn busy right now). Long story short: the piece of shit Dell laptop I got from work is truly a piece of shit, and despite the fact that San Fran is the city of free WiFi, my computer was not able to utilize internet, at least for more than two minutes at a time. Hence why the most I could do was pass along bits and pieces along via the forum. Plus, despite having more than enough power and speed and memory for Photoshop, even when I first got it, I can’t do much with it these days. Oh well, at least when I returned to work yesterday, there was a shiny new MacBook waiting for me! Albiet a few weeks too late, but whatever. Back on topic: I guess I could have simply typed stuff up in heat of the moment, but I also had hardly a quiet moment my entire time there, mostly due to all the after-party shenanigans that I took part in (whenever I made it back to my hotel room, I almost immediately crashed). Which is why I still feel a bit stupid. Anyhow…

Oh, so some might recall that before venturing to Cali, I made my yearly trip back to where I came from, Washington State. But unlike before, I’m not going to really talk about it. Why? Cuz there’s really nothing much to say. Each year, and each subsequent trip, becomes more and more thoroughly depressing. Even going back to familiar childhood haunts has lost all their meaning. I guess when you hit a certain age, which in my case is 30, or you get to a certain point in your life, one really can’t go home again. Not helping is that I had to spend an inordinate amount of my time with my family, which as most folks who know me can attest, is not something I look forward to. Those who follow me on Twitter already know some of the details… at a certain point, I got so pissed that I wrote this long, rambling diatribe, but due to lack of consistent internet, I never finished it, let alone pass it along to this forum thread as originally planned, and at this point, I really don’t care anymore, though I think the one key detail I did provide is more than enough evidence of the madness I had to put up with for nine solid days. Otherwise, I spent some time with Suzanne, the one last friend I have from the glory days, and surprise, we were constantly struggle for just even a place to sit around and do nothing. So yeah, Washington = blah. At the very least, my dad still hasn’t gotten rid of the digital cable, so aside from copious amounts of Match Game on the Game Show Network, I discovered the new greatest thing ever, that being NINJA WARRIOR (!!!) on G4. Though I also caught the constant “X-PLAY WILL BE AT THE GDC!” ads that ran ad nauseum, which made me more than a little nervous about what laid ahead…

But anyway, needless to say, I was fucking ecstatic to finally board that plane to San Fran. And once I arrived and was in the van on the way to the hotel, rolling down the highway, I was immediately floored by the awesome architecture. Which I wish I had captured on camera (I got a new one btw, NOT purchased at Best Buy, of course) but it was in my luggage, and besides, pics of from a San Francisco highway is probably not as exciting as pics from a Japanese highway for most.
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San Fran… Actually, San Jose

I didn’t do much during my first day to be honest. After checking into my hotel, which was a nice little place called the Hotel Britton, though despite my unfamiliarity with the area, I immediately recognized as being part of the ghetto, I checked to see if I had G4, for Ninja Warrior of course. No dice. Next I called Slonie, my virtual buddy from the west coast that is into video games, as well as cars. The plan was to finally meet in the flesh, and while he drove to the city, I did a little bit of exploring. Note: not all my pics are going to be touristy, so relax…

Once Slonie, real name Lee (as in Lee Slone), picked me up in his sweet sports car, we drove around the city a little bit before discovering that he knew relatively little about San Fran, and because traffic was a nightmare at the time, we went on the highway and headed towards his home turf, San Jose. We ended up doing a bit of arcade hopping, in hopes of going head to head on Daytona, then when I got wind that Daytona GTX, 2004 Edition was not some NeoGAF created hoax, but in fact reality, I demanded to see the machine in the flesh. Which unfortunately meant going out even further. At the very least, Slonie’s fave Mexican eatery, or La Taqueria as they call them in those parts, were on the way. And holy shit did it live up to the hype; Christ, Mexican food in San Fran, and I’m assuming Cali in general, blows the fucking doors off of the shitty excuse we have here in NYC. Which, given its closeness to Mexico, is hardly a surprise, I know. Though also helping is how its fucking MEXICANS making the food, and not CHINESE PEOPLE. But I digress. We also rolled by Slonie’s place of work, which is kinda top-secret, hence why I won’t go into details, otherwise he might get shot and I kinda don’t want that.

Eventually we made it to a nickel arcade. Yes, all the machines accepted nickels. Though not all games only cost just five cents to play, though some did! Others were also on free play! Not that I needed actual evidence to prove how much California’s arcades kicks the asses of those in New York City. Anyway, in the realm of fighters, aside from having Power Stone and Tech Romancer, neither of which I knew to have arcade releases, they had one of the Mega Man fighting games, plus , I have no idea what its about, other than the character designs looked to be a bit Range Murata-like, hence why I went ga-ga over it…

And here’s Slonie playing a upright edition of Jambo Safari (again, I had no idea a stand-up version of the game existed)…

Re: shumps they had both U.N. Squadron and its arcade sequel. We both killed a bunch of nickels on Time Crisis 4 (Katie’s fave), the Japanese version of 911, and what appeared to be a sequel to Namco’s Tokyo Wars, that multilayer tank simulator, but with dudes in robot suits instead (but it had the same exact tank controls)…

And here we have Slonie playing Para Para Paradise, the ugliest of the many red-headed step-children that Dance Dance Revolution. For those unfamiliar with it, you wave your arms around instead of shuffling your feet to the beat of the music…

… The key to success is to act as gay as possible, which is why I guess I did so unusually well. I’ll post the pics that Slonie took of me with the game later on. Or maybe not.

And here it is, the holy grail of WTF for any die hard AM2/Daytona lover, the totally illegal GTX “upgrade” that gives your car a boost that sends it hurtling at around 500 miles per hour, to the point of tearing through all the polygons around it…

… Or so I hear. Unfortunately, the machine was all fucked up. Damn it.

Afterwards, Slonie drove me back to the city, and on the way to my hotel, we swung by a downhill road,Vermont Street, that no one knows about. Ever heard of Lombard Street, that famous zig-zagging road that you’ve seen a hundred times in old movies and TV shows? Well it’s the same exact thing, except once again, no one knows about it, hence zero congestion, so we were able to wip down at super speed several times. It was awesome.

So most of day one in San Fran was spent in San Jose. Oh well!

GDC Day 1

Got up bright and early the very next day for the opening keynote of the mobile summit. The premier event for professionals working in the field of video games, the GDC is a five day affair that is comprised of two days dedicated to various summits, and three days that is a combination of lectures covering a variety of topics and an expo. I naturally spent most of those first two days attending the mobile summit, for Zedge, which folks can learn more about over there, though I did check out some of the things happening elsewhere. Mostly, industry people, talking about industry stuff.

To be honest, and as I’ve stated many times before, I ultimately had no idea what the GDC was going to be like. All I knew is that it was this thing where some of the biggest names and the brightest minds in the world of video games all get together to share their experiences and insight with the rest of professional world. Which in the end, sounds rather vague. All I knew is that I had to get my ass to it, someday, as did others (hell, at one point, Dave Roman was trying to raise money among my other friends to help make it possible). So it was quite the thrill to finally be at the dance. Though I will admit that I was a bit concerned going in; as I’ve also stated multiple times, I’ve never been to E3 and have always been a bit sad and depressed by that fact. Which is also why I always found it so annoying to hear other writers bitch and moan whenever they had to cover the event, as if it was the worst thing in the world. Oh no, its too loud, there’s too many people! What whiny bitches. “It’s everything that’s wrong with the industry! It’s so bad it’s soul crushing!” Jesus fuck, give me a break. Whenever anyone would bitch about it (and they still do, to this day, believe it or not), I would imagine some dirt-poor soul working his second consecutive shift at a ultra shitty McDonald’s in the middle of the hood, right before he has to go off to the even seedier Burger King where he also works, standing there, making his 50th Big Mac for the day, and thinking to himself “Well, at least I don’t have to play the latest piece of shit from EA!!!” Though I will also admit, as much as I wish I could have gone to E3, I was beginning to feel as if the GDC might be becoming the next E3, which would totally suck for various reasons. Hey, if I’m some student that scraped together the close to $2,000 for the entrance fee, the last thing I want while trying to network and get a job or simply learn something, and to only be pushed aside from X-Play’s Morgan Webb. Thankfully, at least early on, it didn’t feel that way.

It kinda, sorta felt like a comic con, in the sense that while you’re running around taking care of business, you run into all sorts of different folks, like friends and colleagues. Though obviously instead of comic folks it were video game peeps, and mostly people I already see on a regular basis in NYC, but in a different setting, which was at least pretty neat. I also got to meet some pretty cool people for the first time, as well as finally shake hands with those I had long wanted tom but I’ll get to those later on. Though that’s not to say that it still didn’t feel like a carnival to a certain extent; there was plenty of wacky folks that you only see at trade shows as well, yet once again, things were kinda different in this instance, primarily because games makes more money than comics. Case in point: strippers. A bunch of women of the night showed up around mid-afternoon, passing out flyers for their venues. Since I am the inquisitive type, plus I’m always looking for shit to write about, I decided to ask one of them some questions. Unfortunately, she would not be the only woman I would encounter last week who viewed anyone associated with the show as some hopeless 30 year old virgin who only knows only where the secret stage is in some game and not where a woman’s clit is on her body. A rather annoying stereotype regarding “nerds” in general… and this on-top of how nerd-dom in general has been parlayed and whored out by pretty much everyone, to the point that the term has pretty much loss all meaning, which is why even I’m confused as to why I was so offended by this particular woman’s, and others’, sentiment. Anyhow, I didn’t get very far with… something starting with a C, though it naturally had to be a fake. Usually, most folks are pretty open to talk to me if I have a badge that states I’m a member of the press, but in her instance the effect was the total opposite, for obvious reasons. I didn’t bother ask to take her picture, since I knew the answer would be no, plus she had such a poor make-up job going on, I would have somehow felt bad anyway.

Time for a random picture: here’s a shot of the expo floor from the outside looking in, as its still being set up. It’s some big screen in test/debug mode. I think its neat looking at least…

Another random pic, this time from the GDC bookstore; among all the thick books and tutorial DVDs, for whatever reason, they had this shirt…

… I guess I’m really out of the loop; James Kochalka is making a game? Or is this just another sign of how much of a fan Simon is of the guy? I wonder why he hasn’t gotten him to do an article for GSW?

After concentrating on mobile for the entire morning and most of the afternoon, I decided to check out the serious games summit (for those of you unfamiliar with the term “serious games”, it’s basically stuff that is not focused on entertaining, but educating and even helping). There was a panel on journalism students being taught how to investigate the scene of an accident via a Neverwinter Nights mod, which was rather interesting. Basically, the instructors recreated a real life accident in the virtual world, and modeled almost two dozen characters after those related to it. The students had to talk to them, gather information, keep track and verify all that they uncovered… basically, all the stuff you do in a RPG, except its also the same stuff that you would do in real life. Instructors urged the students to constantly check the source of their information and to never automatically accept on what the officials stated, which made creating all the dialog in the game extremely challenging. It was stated that students were given a variety of responses to go from, to reinforce the notion of treating people the way you would like to be treated, which is makes sense and all, but was it that much of a shock to students that if they answered in a jerky way that they got jerky answers? Overall, the exercise was a success, though not without some minor bugs here and there; one had students being thrust into a fight out of the blue (obviously, the mod itself has zero combat built in) if a certain character was found in a certain room. The key to the game is not succeeding the first time, but to constantly backtrack and do the same things over, to see the difference, which is a basic staple of serious games.

But the true highlight of the day, perhaps of the entire week, was the panel afterwards, which was on games that emphasized relaxation, meditation, and self-exploration. Three games were highlighted, the first being one being Healing Rhythms, which uses biofeedback to help a person relieve stress. You pop in the disc, attach the biofeedback modules to your fingers, and hit play. The software analyzes your stress levels and engage in several activities to help control them, such as teach breathing techniques or metal exercises. There’s one in which a blank canvas is presented, and once the mind is clear and focused, stuff will appear, like floating rocks. Very Jedi mind tricks, I know. Featured in Healing Rhythms are various big names for the field of mental wellness, like Deepak Chopra and Dean Ornish… not only is it very new age-y, its also very thorough. Gotta respect that.

Next was GURU meditation, which is kind of along the same lines of Healing Rhythms, and somewhat combined with Wii Fit. Not sure if everyone is familiar with the upcoming Wii fitness and wellness software/hardware combo, but one of the exercises has you sitting very still, in deep meditation. Well, apparently, Amiga back in the day had a peripheral called the joyboard, which closely resembles the Wii Fit controller. Problem was, it was very finicky and hardly ever worked, which meant users always got the Amiga error screen that said, for some reason stated “Guru Meditation”. So all these elements have been combined to form a homebrew Atari 2600 title…

The last game presented, quite honestly, blew my mind. I was in such a state of shock and awe that I was literally beside myself, almost trembling due to sheer delight. The game in question is called The Night Journey and I still have no idea if its old news to some, but to me, not only is it new news, but VERY big news. Here are actual screenshots of the game in action…

… Kinda hard to tell what’s going on, right? Well, that’s somewhat the point. Plus, please excuse the blurriness. You know, shaky hands + poor lighting, and all. Then again, I’m afraid most won’t be able to tell which pics are the shaky ones anyway. But trust me when I say that its even more beautiful in motion.

There are several reasons why its gotten me so excited, to the degree that it is now the game I must absolutely experience, more than anything else. Plus without even touching it, I’m pretty certain I will love it to death, as I have with Rez. First and foremost, it just looks drop-dead GORGEOUS. You just have to see it in motion. There’s a spooky, surreal quality that has yet to be properly expressed in any video game prior, despite numerous attempts. Watching it in motion, it instantly dawned on me why, as much as I like games like Silent Hill on principle, in the end, I don’t find myself playing them that much, because, ultimately, no matter how unsettling and creepy they try to be, in presentation, the core gameplay is too goofy for its own good. No matter atmospheric those opening vids or exploration set-pieces are, in the end, you’re often in some goofy environment, awkwardly swatting a bat or a pipe at zombie babies or something equally retarded. Sorry, I know the series has its fans, but the way people talk about it simply makes my eyes roll; its like hearing people say that the movie Seven was “fucked up”. Yeah… right. But anyway, I guess in the end, stuff like Silent Hill just does not go far enough. Either it doesn’t know how to, or simply thinks it is and talks the talk, but most certainly does not walk the walk.

In The Night Journey, there’s is no goofy combat. There’s no real “action” to speak of really, just exploration. The game goes at a very slow, deliberate pace, one that encourages and rewards the player for looking deeply, and adheres strongly to the “human perception system.” It’s the belief that everything the player does in game is just one half of a journey, and the he or she brings to the table the other. And part of this journey is the notion of self exploration, reflection, which then leads to “enlightenment”… hey, did I mention that the game is based upon the work of Bill Viola? I’m a huge fan of the man’s work, who has a profound influence on me as a kid; I used to watch his stuff on Alive TV on PBS as a kid in junior high and was one of the key reasons why I wanted to study art in the Big Apple… that and Night Court. But hence why I was geeking out so hard. I guess to put it in terms that others can understand, just think Silent Hill crossed with that Japanese games for the PSone, the one based on dreams, LCD. That’s Night Journey in a nutshell. God I can’t wait to play it!!!

Anyway, that was the end of day one. I was famished, and earlier in the afternoon, I had intercepted an email from Raina, who is originally from San Fran, and who also provided me with a lengthy list of stuff to see and eat. Once of which, Mel’s Diner, was right around the corner from the Moscone Convention Center. Had a San Francisco dog and some strawberry lemonade, the later of which refined the very notion of what strawberry lemonade can and should be. Then it was off to the very first of many parties that I would go to that week, this one for Telltale Games. Hooked up with Dave Gilbert form Wadjet Eye, Brandon Van Slyke from Vicarious Visions, Bill Folsom from Manifesto, and even Rob Sable, another ex-student of mine during my teaching days at SVA. Basically, a bunch of NY dudes in a SF bar. Also finally met some other folks from the internet for the very first time, such as Insert Credit’s Brandon Sheffield and Eric-Jon R?ssel Waugh. Oh, and Steve Purcell, creator of Sam & Max was also there, but since I didn’t have much to say to him (other than, “I think your stuff is awesome” and I’m pretty sure he hears that a lot as is), so I didn’t bother him. The night ended with Brandon and I drunkenly telling the bartender how cool the city is and how everyone is so nice and friendly (which is totally true). Dude was nice, though he did say that “but folks don’t know how to party here, like in New York City.” Which, hey, is true, but what can you do?

GDC Day 2

Day two was kicked off with another big speech by another bigwig in the cell phone biz, the head dude from Nokia, which once again I will be covering over at Zedge, though it should be noted that Nokia people were all over the place. Hardly a surprise, given that Nokia has been a name in the cell phone gaming biz since day one (they did create the very first cell phone game after-all, a little thing called Snake). Which was good for me, because I caught wind of a super big Nokia party scheduled for later that night and was unable to get my foot in the door before setting off to the west coast. But earlier that morning, on the way to the convention center, I spotted a very lost looking Finnish guy roaming the somewhat ghetto-tastic streets and set him on the right course. My thanks was a number to get me into the very exclusive affair, though later on, I’d also get into conversation with another Nokia dude, about the iPhone I was using actually (not my own, but the company, which due to all the problems I had with my Dell, was absolutely indispensable when it came to checking my email and keeping track of appointments). I asked this dude about the party, and was immediately referred to a PR lady who gave me a golden ticket… literally (okay, it wasn’t golden, but it was a ticket, a blue one), so I didn’t have to resort to my plan of trying to sneak in by posing as a buddy of mine who works for IGN after-all!

After attending various mobile-related things, including the actual award ceremony for the IGF and a seminar on the state of Japanese cell phone gaming, which could roughly be summed up with the terms “WarioWare” and “S+M” (trust me, there’s plenty more over at you know where)…

… I went to see what D3 Publishing had cooking; they, like a few others publishers, decided to take advantage of all the press in town by holding a media event in a nearby hotel. The one game that caught me by total surprise was Bangai O Spirits, the sequel to the super awesome platformer/shmup by Treasure for the N64 and Dreamcast! Believe it or not, the game totally feels like the original, and even looks pretty damn close to it too. A number of details have yet to be finalized, but one that is final is so fucking crazy sounding that you simply have to hear it for yourself. Unfortunately, I am unable to state what this exactly is, due to an embargo, but it will lifted later tonight, so come back here at around 8 pm to find out what the deal is. Unless you’ve already heard: someone over at NeoGAF spilled the beans last week… oops!

EDIT: Okay, it’s past eight here, time to spill the beans: so the new Bangai O will have a level editor, which by itself looks pretty neat. You can create levels from scratch, or edit existing ones. In fact, while playing any level that you’ve already unlocked, you can hit pause and make changes to it right then and there, hit unpause, and continue playing! Plus there’s absolutely no restriction to the size of the level, simply the constraints of the DS card itself (and I was told that they are gonna go overboard in terms on memory). But that’s not the best/craziest part! Treasure wants folks to share their custom-made levels. How? Well, when you want to export a level, what the game does is take that information and turn it into… get this… an audio file! Say I want to give my friend a level I made. Well, I simply plug in some ear phones, then put one of my ear buds to the microphone of my friend’s DS, hit play on mine while his is recording, and there you go! Totally fucking nuts. Treasure also wants these custom made levels to be totally viral, and want them to be passed along via email or posted on message boards. Fucking insane! But anyway…

One of the biggest sessions of the entire conference that I knew I had to catch was at the end of that day, entitled The State of Indie Games. But before that was a presentation by WayForward, makers of the cult Game Boy Color game Shantae, and more recently, Contra 4 (speaking off, virt, who did the outstanding soundtrack, was supposed to be in town, for the indie games party later that night, but had to sadly bail), on how they’ve managed to stay afloat, and independent, over the quite a few years. They also presented suggestions and methods on how to sell a game, such as in this instance, a PowerPoint to get the idea across…

To the left you’ll see one that was actually used to sell the idea to Konami that they would be the perfect people to do Contra 4. To the right is a screenshot of the real thing, which is pretty close. Can you guess where the boss in the mock-up is originally from?

Also learned that Sigma Star Saga was a sequel to Star Axiom! Namco approached them to do a sequel to Star Axiom, but it had to feature different characters, different settings, different gameplay, and even a totally different name. Yet, it still had to be “a sequel.”

Afterwards was the big State of Indie Games round table, which included some of the hottest names working in that space today, including Jonathan Mak, creator of Everyday Shooter. And it was also the moment of truth… The verdict? I know what I’m going to say is going to rub a LOT of people off the wrong way, though I will say that almost none of my friends are included in this because, at this point, I no longer have the patience for such bullshit, nor for the people engaged in it. But basically, if you go to any small press comic event, and to a similarly themed panel, featuring various folks from the world of indie comics, what will you get? A lot of bitching and moaning. Some if it will be justified, at least at first, but ultimately it becomes very loud and pointless. For whatever reason, tons of indie cartoonists out there have these gigantic chips on their shoulders; they all love to scream loud and proud that they’re cartoonists, but more importantly SERIOUS ARTISTS. And there’s nothing wrong with having pride in what you do, yet for the most part, a lot of it comes off as poorly veiled attempts at self-validation and overbearing self righteousness. I’m sorry, its great and all that instead of going out and partying on a Friday night, you’ve decided to lock yourself in the studio/bedroom to draw comic pages, but considering it was your choice, why the need for a parade? Though what really gets me is the narcissistic tone, intentional or not, that such dedication (and the associated thoughts and feeling of isolationism and misunderstanding of their craft) is exclusive to them; like all other writers, musicians, filmmakers, actors, and the like don’t go through the same exact trials and tribulations. Give me a break. But yeah, I was somewhat afraid I would get the same shitty, self-absorbed vibe, but from folks who make games. Which totally was not the case; everyone was passionate for sure, but were not douchebags the least bit. In fact all of them were quite laid and relaxed, even humble. No one was jaded or bitter, nor did they have anything to prove, aside from showing the world that different types of games are possible, either ones that the bigger companies are no longer willing to produce, or the kinds that they simply can’t due to lack of creative freedom, and that you don’t need a billion dollars in the bank to make them happen. There was no desperate need of a pat on the back. All of them loved doing what they did, obviously, bit they knew full well that it wasn’t going to make them rich (unless they are very fortunate, in the case of Mak), and they perfectly, and honestly, fine with that. Each person knew that video games was the best form of art/entertainment/self-expression out there, which is how everyone feels about their chosen passion, naturally, but the most importantly, to them it was obvious and therefore no big fuss had to be made. Plain and simple. In fact, certain folks, like Mak, was wary of too much talk; he was annoyed by the desperate need to analyze and over categorize games, which to be honest, is mostly the fault of critics and journalists, as a part of their need to be a part of things, as good or bad as that might be.

BTW, I just want to say that over the coarse of my five days at the con, pretty much every single person I met was completely cool. Not a jerk-off or head-case anywhere. Which was f’n amazing and fantastic. Also, immediately after the round table, I was approached by Phil Fish, the creator of the game Fez, which I’ve talked about here before…

Anyway, Phil reads this site! Awesome! And yeah, totally cool dude.

So the day’s activities was over, and it was time to party! Tuesday night was THE party night, with a billion things going on. I originally wanted to figure a way to sneak into the East Meets West shindig, but began to lose interest when A. it became apparent that none of the “cool” Japanese game peeps that I’ve long wanted to meet (and who usually show up to the GDC), such as Tetsuya Mizuguchi (you know, Rez) and Keita Takahashi (you know, Katamari Damacy) were going to be in town, and how B. it’s mostly a networking thing for financial types. Next was the Nokia party, which again, I thought I would have to finagle my into, but with actual ticket in hand, I was off!

Though on the way, I had dinner with another New York buddy of mine, George Kokoris, an ex-Atari dude. We ate at a Hawaiian BBQ joint that had this neat poster hanging over us…

Anyway, the Nokia thing. The focus was on the new, upcoming N-Gage ver 2.0 (don’t laugh, but it might be something cool… again, check out Zedge regarding the details… hopefully, my bosses will appreciate the constant plugging), and the venue was the ultra upscale and ritzy Supperclub. It took less than half a minute to realize that I was easily the most under dressed person there…

… I was wearing my TATE shirt btw (click-stick, NEVAR FORGET). Yeah, I know; the general rule is “for a comic show, wearing a video game shirt/for a video game thing, wear a comic shirt”. But I couldn’t pass up the chance to score some easy cool points.

So aside from the fact that they were pouring expensive liquor down everyone’s throat as much and as fast as possible, all the wait staff had wacky futuristic make-up on, with a strong Blade Runner aesthetic. The place was filled with very pretty (and tall) people, all too cool for me, though I end up getting my ear talked off by some German dude that created a pretty popular MMO for cell phones.

Here we are in the lounge area, where you had a DJ spinning records and huge couches to just relax and chill…

They also had women giving massages….

As well as ones on trapeze…

Oh, and I know its not very clear in this pic, but here’s a woman wearing a bunch of oven mitts around her, like waist, like a belt. She encouraged everyone to stick their hands in one, and dig in real deep. What was inside? Spring rolls…

Man, those Finns do know how to party.

After doing what I had to do (basically, I’m trying to get my hands on a N81, and I believe I’m getting one, so score!), I then bopped over to the IGDA after-party. Last year’s had some absurd number, like in the 2,000s, and this year, the RSVP list was close to 3,000, so many folks such as myself debated if it would even be worth bothering with. Besides, the whole point of these IGDA events is to mingle and network, but with so many people to contend with. Yet I did have a drink ticket for the affair, burning a hole in my pocket, so I had to cash it in (despite being already super drunk thanks to Nokia)…

EDIT: Katie earlier today had this one complaint about my latest post; no pictures of me. Well, for her, here’s a pic of me and Dave Gilbert, at the IGDA function. Maybe you can’t tell, but I’m already pretty trashed by this point…

Originally, I was going to head on over to the big Sony party, mostly because there was going to be some GGGRRRLLL gamer bullshit, which is always fun to catch, like most train wrecks, but instead, I went off to the ultra hush-hush indie party, aka the 9-bit party. I guess the best part was upon arrival; when I asked the doorman at the bar if it was the place, he just gave me this look and stated “Yeah, it is. And its a real sausage party too.”

As already noted, virt was supposed to come to town, to perform at the party actually. But despite his absence, there was still plenty of chiptunes, courtesy of Chibitech and X|K. Though beforehand was a DJ who looked like porn star Ron Jeremy dressed as Mario (I’m pretty sure you’ve seen the pics already, so I’m not gonna bother linking to them) who used Wii-mote to mix the music…

Chibitech’s set, as expected, as nitro-fueled giddy NES beats. I even told him beforehand that I managed to nab a copy of Fantasy Force, this pretty crappy 2D shump for the PS2 with very nice retro graphics but horrible gameplay. Anyway, the best part of the game is the soundtrack, which he did, and Chibi even played a song from it for me upon request…

The audience reaction was surprisingly sullen. I guess I’m so used to everyone dancing away as soon as they hear that Game Boy “ping”, whereas the folks here didn’t seem to know what to make of it, so they mostly just stood back and watch. Pretty much, it was just Phil and I, dancing the night away.

I was also pretty damn drunk by this point (Phil had way too many drink tickets to give away), and made a total ass of myself when I ran into MTV’s Steve Totilo, whom I hadn’t seen in months, so I decided right then and there to go down the long list of stuff that’s happened, and all the stuff I’ve been working on, in a drunken-rambling fashion. Though I mostly feel stupid for making an ass of myself in front of area/code’s Frank Lantz, who Steve was talking to (Steve thankfully doesn’t mind me acting like a fool at parties). Also, I told Steve my latest game idea (for whatever reason, Steve is the one guy I always run my game ideas by), and he really liked my latest one, which is sorta up his alley, which was great to hear. Plus, he heartily recommended the new Bret “The Hitman” Heart autobiography, which I now have to get.

Didn’t stick around for the X|K set unfortunately; it was getting late and I had work in the morning, so I then made my exit…

… And I guess that’s it for now. Next time will be day three, aka the first day of the expo! Plus more pics to come.

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