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Old 08-30-2011, 01:43 AM   #1
wyeast
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Wyeast's Field Journal @ PAX Prime

Now, I wasn't operating in an official media capacity, but I know a lot of Coggies were not able to come to PAX Prime this year, so this is just a random hodgepodge of notes and impressions to help you guys live vicariously through this past weekend...

THE JOURNEY




For most people, going to PAX involves freedom gropes, nudie backscatter machines, and flying in an aluminum tube in the sky. My trip involved hours in a car that smelled of DELICIOUS DONUTS. Peeps on Beluga thought it was a wonder I didn't crash the car somewhere along the way. I will admit, it was a difficult drive.

THE ARRIVAL, AND THE COG



As I mentioned in AniAko's community focus interview, PAX for me is mainly about the gettin' together with my peeps. Games and demos come and go, but memories are forever, and you guys are part of why I make the journey every year.

Let's face it. Last year was sad. Sad, sad, sad. The economy sucked ass, and most people couldn't make it out.

This year, a lot of people still couldn't make it, but those who can found resurgence. Cue the 30+ mob at Von's.

We had a lot of familiar faces, but also quite a few new faces. People who traveled far and wide to come partake of the PAX Experience.

Curiously, although Von's booked us as a private party in the back room, they only allocated 1 1/2 servers (meaning one main gal, and another who showed up a couple of times to drop off food). Our server was well intentioned, but clearly overloaded with us hooligans.



Since I was staying with friends on the outskirts of town, I still missed a lot of the late night activities. One day I vow to rectify that problem. But there was still plenty of good times to be had trolling around on the show floor, randomly encountering other Coggers, including basking in the celebrity glow that is Rouge the Hunter.



As with tradition from the past couple of years, I did my best to drag people away from the mundane and overcrowded eateries close to the convention center, and so a few people did get to enjoy some food adventures around Seattle.





Saturday was the private dinner @ Marcela's Creole Cookery, masterminded by Ghostbear. We had the joint all to ourselves!



Despite the occasional worry that we wouldn't live up to our commitment, we well and truly did pack the house. Dinner came out slowly, unsurprising for having a massive crowd showing up all at once.



But the food was delicious and the service was as attentive as could be.



LiquidRain went a little camera berzerk on us before the dinner. Jackel and I did our best to keep up.



We weren't the only ones going a little food drunk on Creole...



THE SHOW FLOOR

Ok, so PAX isn't just about the people. There's a show to be had!









Communications were again iffy this year. Not only were there pockets of little/no signal. Even in times where there was good signal, it was obvious that everything was oversaturated so you still couldn't get anywhere much of the time. Text and Beluga (except for Rogue on Friday) seemed to be the most reliable. Web access was shitty for me most of the weekend anywhere within the convention center. Crossing over even to the Sheraton usually made it better.

I didn't get to try out all the games I wanted to try, or see all the panels I wanted to see, but here are some highlights/lowlights of the things I did happen to catch.

2K @ PAX - Borderlands 2 & Darkness 2



Borderlands 2 was sadly not publicly playable, but they were demonstrating gameplay for people herding into a little room. I tagged along w/ Psykoboy2, so managed to bypass the line (but sadly, also bypassed the t-shirt line. C'est la vie)

For those familiar with Borderlands 1, the game's style and basic mechanics remain the same. However, for all the little details, I had described it to people as "Borderlands on Ecstasy". More on that later in the panel discussion.

Leading the demo was "Executive Mikey" Neumann, creative director and voice of Scooter in the original Borderlands. He and the other Gearbox guys present really showed a humility and appreciation for their player audience that you don't often see. He started the demo by asking a show of hands of people who knew of Borderlands, who played it, and finally a show of hands of people who came and saw when they first demo'd Pandora at PAX '09. He then stopped to talk about how nervous and scared they were in those early days of showing the game, and express his thanks to those fans.

Darkness 2 was playable, and it was visually intriguing, although Psykoboy2 remarked that the art style seemed to borrow a little from Borderlands comic-book visualization more than the predecessor. Gameplay in the short demo run was dramatic, but a bit hampered by the complicated gameplay mechanics, having to juggle both your hands/guns, and demonic tentacles at the same time. Often times you would find yourself just shooting or flailing wildly.

Rocksmith



We got a chance to talk a little bit about the game w/ Fragdoll "Glitch" about this guitar-focused rhythm game. Going further than Rockband 3's pseudo-guitar, Rocksmith can accept input with virtually any electric guitar, or any acoustic guitar through an accessory electronic pickup.

Glitch also talked about the sliding difficulty scale, with the game being able to handle skill levels from literal non-player on up. She mentioned a snapshot video of someone (honestly, I forgot who specifically, some executive w/ the company, maybe the president?) working the same song over a period of 10 days - transitioning from not playing the guitar at all to playing a somewhat inaccurate, but passable rendition w/o assistance, all through repetition via the game.

Gears of War 3



I actually didn't stay and watch/play much of this, but what I did notice was the utilization of money for guns/ammo. The group I happened to be watching was playing Horde on wave 10, spending several minutes against literally a single Locust opponent. A nigh-invulnerable sort of hydra-like mob who only seemed to take damage when a tiny hole in his chest would open up (seconds later, followed up by spewing of lethal hot lava-like material). During that time, at least 2-3 guys went down for the count, having run short of funds to enable a mid-round respawn.

The Secret World



This mmorpg wasn't really that known to me, so it seemed to come outta nowhere when I happened by and inquired how to get one of their shiny dogtags. (Note: Dear Funcom. The choice of extremely thin, cheap metal for the dogtag unfortunately meant that my hard-earned "Dragon" tag broke off and was lost literally within an hour from my walking away from your booth. Boo. )

Having been shown before, this year's booth highlighted the three different player factions in this virtual world where secret societies and conspiracy theories all come to fruition. The Illuminati, The Templars, and The Dragon. Based on my answers at their survey booth, the Dragon appear to tend towards a sort of Daoist approach, seeking balance in the world.

In an industry becoming heavily stocked in mmorpg-type games, the premise behind this one may be one to watch. If well executed, I think the storylines could be compelling and rich in weaving history and fiction.

Star Wars Kinect



I will admit I gave this one a look mainly on the premise that my kids are going to demand it's purchase. From what I saw, Star Wars Kinect (and the companion Kinect-enabled games at the MS booth) all seemed to suffer from the same malady. On the one hand, some aspects of the game are engaging and fun. Swinging your arms wildly, thrusting your hand out to virtually pimp slap those battle droids to send them scattering was satisfying indeed. But with a control scheme that forgoes a physical controller, it's movement that kills the buzz. With Star Wars, you have to lean in to induce a sort of gimmicky lunge that seems out of place, although necessary. Similarly, down in Halofest when I tried out the Warthog Autovista, looking around felt natural and well executed, but actually moving around the vehicle was a little clunky and felt out of place for the experience. Gunstringer was the same way. Some people really liked the way the control felt. For me, the gun-toting bit was ok, but the marionette-like action of the other hand felt a little out of place and I couldn't get a good hang for it.

Orcs Must Die



This game seemed to be the little darling of PAX this year. Everywhere I went, people were all "Hey, did you see that Orcs must Die game??" Tower defense, orcs, death and destruction, what's not to like? Gameplay was fast and addictive. A friend of mine sat down early on Friday because it happened to be empty, and we had to peel him away after just a few minutes.

Ghost Recon



They bring out the ol' Ghosts again for some more PvP team action at the booth. As I played, I thought both the game looked nicer, and still seemed to inherit some of the clunkyness of past Ghost Recons. You'd run, right past cover and keep sliding the wall into the street rather than "sticking" like you do in Gears. The way enemies were revealed behind cover seemed inconsistent. On equal elevation, they seemed to have no problem seeing me, but I couldn't see them at all. In one instance I was pretty sure I saw myself (scout class) in active camo, but the killcam had me clearly visible laying on the ground like a sucka. What gives?

I also seemed to notice that it was the Ghosts (one side of the booth) that seemed to get their ass kicked most of the time. Made me wonder if the map was asymmetrical, and/or if maybe they needed to at least have you switch sides mid-round.

It was also a bit of an early build (as told to us) - some things like crouching and taking cover at the same time was missing, and the station next to me kept crashing. They also took out the crazy 8 player co-op, which will be missed, but understandable for the benefit of having 4-player co-op in campaign.

Last edited by wyeast; 08-30-2011 at 12:37 PM.
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Old 08-30-2011, 01:45 AM   #2
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THE COSPLAY

As usual, the cosplayers came out in force. With some homebrew, some quite creative. Intermixed with a few booth babes, and you have an avalanche of costumes.

The twitter seemed to elude to some "inappropriate" booth babes' attire, although I don't recall seeing anything specific on the main floor - I think most of that was going on up on 6th, which I actually didn't get to this year.


It wouldn't be PAX without the obligatory Master Chief


Lots of zombies of varying flavors.


I don't think she was a boothbabe, there was just enough homebrew in her outfit, although someone probably knows since she seemed to be constantly interviewed by passing media...


There were a lot of ME cosplayers this year. Hers was one of the best outfits I saw.


Definitely homebrew outfits, but the flag and the multi-color on the girl's visor were particularly nice touches.


These guys were bopping along and having a good time by the escalators.


Not every day you see a dress made out of Magic Cards.


Booth babe, but her resemblance to her in-game persona was particularly striking.

THE PANELS

Really, I only ended up going to 2 1/2 panels. First up, Acquisitions, Inc!

Acquisitions, Inc.

The yearly D&D adventure took place at the Paramount Theater, this year's PAX Main Venue. Unfortunately, this meant the lineup was outside in the sun for several hours...



Yes, that guy is smoking. Right in the middle of the line. Thanks, dude. >_<

Despite the mild Seattle summer, standing for hours on hot pavement can take it's toll. I was thankful to have my hat and shirt from End of Nations/Rift, so I went with the ghetto Lawrence of Arabia look. Rogue rocked the swag tent.



Some had to get more creative in desperation.



Even the World of Tanks guys had to stand in the heat.



Dear PAX: Yes, we like sunshine. But hours on hot pavement might actually take a toll on some people. You may want to consider relocating the line and/or making provision for shade next year.

Once inside we were thankful for the shade and air conditioning. Unfortunately, we all had to sit behind the "VIP sections" which bogarted virtually every front section on the balcony we were on. Based on how empty they were, my guess was there were similar sections down on the floor as well.



Yes, we get that many special people like to see Wil Wheaton and Scott Kurtz go at each other in a live venue. But when you have hundreds of people bordering on heatstroke, it's just a little slap in the face to say "oh, sorry guys, y'all gotta sit in the back of the bus. Sorry."

Which wouldn't have been quite so bad for those of us on the balcony, except we hadn't expected the game table to be down low in front of the curtains, rather than center stage. >_<

At least the musical accompaniment was excellent.

Not to say we couldn't see. We could. Mostly on the tv monitors, which begged the question why were we here instead of comfortably watching the webcast with a beer?



Education Through Play

I didn't actually go to the panel itself (being in conflict with our Marcela's adventure), but I went to the afterparty because my friends were caught up in the post-panel discussion that continued after they had to clear the room. We were there more then 2 hours after the panel had concluded, dozens of people in spirited discussion about the future direction of education and video gaming. Apparently Valve has an interest in taking charge in that direction, too. Seeing this kind of lively interest into the wee hours was the sort of thing I didn't often get to see at PAX by sleeping way-offsite. Makes me wonder what else I've been missing.

Inside Gearbox

I went to this one on a lark. My friend was going to see a different panel in the Sheraton, and I had figured I was too late and this would be all full-up, but I peeked inside the queue and saw it was only half full so far (subsequently filled), so I figured at the very least I'd get some pizza and get to hear the guys talk about Borderlands some more.

In line I had an interesting conversation w/ some Arena.net folks about Borderlands, and The Secret World, and Orcs Must Die. And how they were urged by their fellow developers to attend this panel, so I knew I had to stick close for some good times. Also managed to score a t-shirt voucher (Thanks, Kristen!), easing my dismal failures at stalking the NCSoft booth.

So we grab our pizza and go inside. We're treated to a little bit of high energy, loud music, and a visit from Dr. Ned, Lilith, and Duke Nukem, who sit at the guest couch on stage, but otherwise are unspeaking. A buncha guys in back get invited to moshpit on some pillows at the front of the room, and the panel opens up with a little introduction and quick show-and-see scissor reel of Aliens:Colonial Marines.

The snippets we got were fast paced, brooding, and strongly reminiscent of various scenes from Aliens. I'm pretty sure some scenes were literal redos of actual movie scenes, either intentional or subconsciously done by guys who grew up with that movie like me. Unforunately they're apparently left a little hamstrung by legal, so we got few details about the game itself after the trailer was over, other than some bits about how they're still playing around with how the acid damage will play out in the final game. Also that they intend for the game to support drop in/drop out co-op like Borderlands. Still, for an old Aliens kid, it looked exciting.



They also showed us a video titled "Inside Gearbox Software", meant as a bit of a "hi and thanks" from some of the Gearbox Folks locked deep in the development dungeons who couldn't come out to PAX. The video was crackpot and firmly tongue-in-cheek, really no surprise from the guys who come up with stuff like Mr. Shank and Chaz.

They talked a little about how things fell flat w/ Duke Nukem Forever, but they also looked forward towards making their own wholly in-house part of the franchise.

Then they got to Borderlands 2. Much like the Demo, they were very limited on what they could share with us, much of the same things about more variety and more everything. Weapons made of 30 parts instead of 9, stuff like that.

Touching back on the demo and how I was describing it as Borderlands on Ecstacy. Through the demo everything was more vivid. Not in the literal sense, but with how everything behaved. AI opponents weren't just running blindly at you. Psycho's ducked and rolled to avoid gunfire. Robots would continue to crawl at you when their legs were shot off. Weapons showed greater diversity. Terrain was more varied. Golram robots were raining down from the moon in the middle of battle. And you could see their excitement in what they created, feeding off of the crowds' excitement. Every time we cheered or ooohed at something in the demo, Mikey got all fired up and was all "You gotta get a load of THIS shit coming up!"

But to get back to the panel. Much of the same energy was present, as they announced an initiative to hook into how Players play on Pandora (Borderlands B-Test) in order to better understand what works and what doesn't, so they can apply those lessons into Borderlands 2, as well as moving to the cloud in order to better secure the online experience (and at the same time, standing by their support for the game to function offline as well).

Then they start to wax philosophic about Oprah, and people start handing out "Certificates of Appreciation" to the audience. It was heavily implied that they were going to give away something. DLC? Yeah, got them already. A game? No way, that's crazy. Maybe Duke Nukem Forever? They probably have a pile of them somewhere...

Then, with a lot of emphasis that they could only have done this with 2K's support, they drop the mother of all F-Bombs. That's right.

FREE

Borderlands 2.


The room goes ape.



The guy sitting next to me noticed sadly that the card said "US Only" (he was Canadian). A band of people went first in line at the Q&A to ask the same question. CEO Randy Pitchford replies back that they'll need to consult with 2K on how to make it happen, but they are firmly intending for everyone in the room to get theirs, regardless of nation of origin. iirc, he asked for those people who got the certificates but couldn't redeem them to contact Gearbox for further instructions once they sorted out the procedure for them.

Some of the certificates were tragically blank. Randy told those guys to come up. Not only were they getting a replacement card, but he was throwing in Aliens tshirts as well. It's like Christmas!

Amidst the ensuing buzz, a few tantalizing bits of detail gets hinted out. Yes, guns are more complex, now scopes are in wider variety. There may be new armor types. Artifacts will have wider variety of effects on players. Split screen is not only supported but they tweaked the menus so that it'll actually look right and not be blocked/covered in supporting it. There may be more than just Maya the Siren as a playable female character. There will be a gatling-style rocket launcher (hello, Vladof!) and yes, Salvatore can also dual wield those (as well as any gun on Pandora)

And just like that they've run out of time, and people simultaneously surge out the door to gloat to their buddies, while an equal number (myself included) bum rush the stage to shake hands, thank the Gearbox guys, and talk some more shop before they kick our sorry asses out.

THE SWAG

Aside from the above mentioned experience, the swag was a bit meager compared to past years. Gone were the wild and crushing hordes of people clamoring for thrown tshirts (except for a few places like Guild Wars 2, and I managed to score some shirts at LOTRO). Many instances, you had to do something for your stuff. At a lot of places, it hinged on "Liking" on Facebook or something similar. WB had a bunch of ilyk stations where you could wave a wristband tied to your FB account (which would then auto-post something to your wall) to get some messenger bags. At Sennheiser you manually did it on a laptop they had on station. At 2K I got some shoelaces for showing them I tweeted about them on my phone.

My own personal low experience was over at Bioshock. We stood in line, chatted up the booth babe (pictured above), picked up a lithograph, and got our hands stamped before staring at some concept art for a while. Then we went to the station to take a quiz about the concept art we just saw.

I answered 4 out of 5 correct. No shirt for me. FAIL.

Ok, I get that you want to throttle how fast the shirts fly out the door to stymie those clowns who show up just to shovel the stuff onto Ebay, but when people have stood around for a while and stared at pictures, you're gonna tell me no swag for me because I couldn't remember a blue banner on a piece of concept art? Really?

Things were similar at the Gotham City Imposters booth. You got put into a PvP team match, and only the winners got to have shirts. So I guess I was a 2-time loser. At least there I got to play a game for my troubles.

Meanwhile, over at OnLive, things were bananas on Friday because they were giving away free Microconsoles and of course everyone is afraid they're gonna run out, so the line crushed for hours. I went on Saturday, and they switched it up, with a short limited line that got capped, then 15 (approx) minutes later, they'd re-open the line to let people surge back in. This kept the line from crushing all the neighboring booths, but it also created a little bit of chance for people unless they loitered nearby waiting for the next opportunity to join the line. I happened to stumble into the crowd just as they opened the line so I managed to keep my wait down to 15 minutes.

HALOFEST



What the hell is Halofest? I thought the same question when our badges arrived in the mail and I saw that there was one for Halofest. As it turns out, it was pretty much exactly like it sounded. There were stations all over the 3rd floor of the Annex to showcase different gametypes for Halo CE's reboot. There were statues (I think the same ones from last year announcing Reach, except now separated instead of all on the same rock). A bigass Warthog. Minature dioramas. A store. Building blocks. Even a tie-in with Forza Motorsport showcasing an autovista of a Warthog. One of my cronies is a huge Halo/Marathon fan, and he was sadly unable to come to PAX this year. Right now I am certain he is crying into his pillow about missing this.

(note: We talked with the guys at the Forza booth - they actually were the ones who told us that the autovista was here at Halofest. We asked them about Warthogs in the game, and they said the official line is that they couldn't do it because Pirelli balked at giving them "real tire data" on a fictional vehicle, thus breaking their focus on simulation.)







And that, in a nutshell, was my PAX experience for 2011. Good times, good friends. Looking forward to more of the same next year. If you have any questions, I can try to answer best I can, but if I didn't see it / didn't play it, you're gonna have to ask someone else. See you then!



For other sizes of these pics and more can be found at my set in the CoG flickr.
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Old 08-30-2011, 09:38 AM   #3
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Tremendous report, Andy. I need a better camera, better shoes, and stronger liver to match your level of gonzo journalism.

Thanks for taking me offsite for Cuban sandwiches and hot surfer girls! Sadly CoG, those pictures only exist in our minds. It took both hands trying to keep our sandwiches intact.
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Old 08-30-2011, 10:30 AM   #4
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Great post andy, I almost feel like I was there. *



*Turns out I was.
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Old 08-30-2011, 11:20 AM   #5
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Jealous. At least the report kicked ass so I can pretend I was there (and so wasted that the weekend would only exist in my mind as a slideshow).
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Old 08-30-2011, 11:24 AM   #6
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Andy, I forgot to write down what the reflector was you used...what was it called again?
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Old 08-30-2011, 11:31 AM   #7
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This thread delivers. Well done, sir.
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Old 08-30-2011, 11:32 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bone View Post
Sadly CoG, those pictures only exist in our minds. It took both hands trying to keep our sandwiches intact.
*laugh* Good thing, too. While Cosplay girls and booth babes are ok with taking pictures (as long as you ask them nicely), surfer girls just give you a punch in the dick.

Ghostbeer - I have a pic of you at your table @ dinner, but I wasn't sure if you wanted the same level of fame for your family - so I hadn't added it to the photodump yet.

Jackel - It's a Rogue Flashbender. There's 3 models. Mine's a "Small Reflector", but it's actually their mid-sized model. The larger one is the same width, but a square. The smaller one can't curl the sides in.

I've seen a similar brand/style of bendable card as the smaller model, I can't remember the name, but I do remember that the surface was more of a gold or silver foil, where the Rogues are white. I don't remember seeing larger ones that could curl or snoot-ify in the same way, tho'.
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Old 08-30-2011, 02:57 PM   #9
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They are not my family in the blood sense. However I would love any of those pics. so would they I think.
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Old 08-30-2011, 05:14 PM   #10
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I'm trying not to be so, so sad...
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Old 08-30-2011, 05:47 PM   #11
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Hey, where's that pic of me chugging a gigantic glass VASE of coke? I got so hopped up on caffiene that I ran six blocks in thirty seconds before rushing to my room and peeing FIRE.*

*not really, but you get the picture, or you will once it gets posted here.
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Old 08-30-2011, 06:04 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by astranoir View Post
I'm trying not to be so, so sad...
Don't be sad. I post with love, hoping those who couldn't be there can share and see a little like you're there in thoughts. That's why the pics are kinda random and sometimes mundane.

Dork: dunno if i have that pic. I have a few more that I haven't gotten to watermarking yet, but most aren't being posted because of too dark/out of focus, etc...
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Old 08-30-2011, 06:58 PM   #13
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Great coverage Andy! Love this journal.
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Old 08-30-2011, 08:04 PM   #14
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Some event numbers from a friend of mine who works as an Enforcer:

Two booth babes kicked out for "inappropriate attire"
At least 100 people kicked out for having fake badges.
Countless small fires all over the building that the Enforcers had to put out.
15,000 swag bags made up for the event, total time to make them: 36 hours non-stop in shifts.

And some CoG PAX numbers (feel free to add to this)

Bar tab for Von's (combined): $600.02
Total people at Von's: 35+
Amount of MtG starter decks handed out: Two boxes (in addition to the one deck they put in every swag bag, I ended up with five starter decks by the end of the weekend)
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Old 08-30-2011, 08:11 PM   #15
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Bar tab for Von's (combined): $600.02
Total people at Von's: 35+
2-3 (mixed) drinks per person.
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Old 08-30-2011, 08:18 PM   #16
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Bar tab for Von's (combined): $600.02
Total people at Von's: 35+

Apparently we've all stopped drinking the copious amounts we did in years past. How many folks were there for that thousand dollar tab?
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Old 08-30-2011, 08:43 PM   #17
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I thought we stayed at Von's longer in 2008? Plus, this year we pre-gamed for a bit in Von's front bar. Either way I still drank too much that night by the time Blue Skittle was done.
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Old 08-30-2011, 10:47 PM   #18
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The first check was always smaller because we would then move on. The $1000+ tab was Sunday of '08, and we stayed most of the night.
Still, $600 for about an hour and a half? Redonkulous. Bone and I partied like rock stars most of the weekend, and I'm terrified at how much I spent on booze.
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Old 08-30-2011, 10:56 PM   #19
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Added some more pics to the set - mostly stuff from Von's and Marcela's that I didn't have time to watermark before.

Pale Ale: I think she's Elizabeth from Bioshock Infinite.

Totally forgot about the ridiculously long "pledge" Randy had us all repeat after announcing the BL2 giveaway. You could tell Mikey's seen Animal House, as he had a good chuckle after the entire room dutifully repeated, "I... state your name..." (there's a video of it somewhere, I think maybe Kotaku or something)
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Old 08-31-2011, 05:18 AM   #20
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Apparently we've all stopped drinking the copious amounts we did in years past. How many folks were there for that thousand dollar tab?
We were only there for four hours. Look at it as between two and three drinks per person in that short a time and it's fair to assume had it run till midnight the totals would be a lot more.
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