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Fable posted 3/29 at 9:02:52 PM PST by Gaiiden

I had to miss the Booth Crawl this year, but getting to see Peter Molyneux's new masterpeice Fable was well worth the change of schedule. I remember reading about Fable a few years ago in a magazine. You begin the game as a young boy, and as you progress your character begins to age into an older, more mature man. The even cooler part was that the world would age around you, so you could leave your house and come back "years" later to find it run down or maybe owned by someone else due to your long absence. It was an intriguing concept, but it fell off my radar soon after. In fact, I hadn't heard much more on it since that first article, and until now that is. This was probably due to the fact that it turned into an XBox-exclusive title (*screams and froths at the mouth*) and I'm not a huge XBox fan. I'm pretty sure it was a PC magazine where I read that article.

So I arrived at the small ballroom at the Fairmont where MS was hosting the event (it was actually the same one AMD had that kickass Suite Night party last year now that I think about it) and got my stamp of admittance. There were various stamps, some guys were getting a spider on their cheek, others a normal stamp on the hand, I chose a star and told one of the girls to stamp me in the middle of my forehead. Nice. Anyways the room was curtained and lighted to depict two different sides, evil on one side and good on the other. There were four televisions set up around the perimeter of the room with XBoxes hooked up playing Fable. I didn't notice it until much later, but the games were set up with the one farthest to the left featuring the character as a young boy, and the one farthest to the right featuring the character as a grown up man. Very cool. In the center against the wall opposite the doors was a small platform with a plasma screen for the demo. Of course, the XBoxes were all packed with people waiting to play, so I just stood back snapping pictures and taking movies whilst sipping on my free drinks.

Peter stepped up to the stage about half an hour into the party, and launched into a description of the game while a demonstrator played the game on the plasma screen. Taking from Black & White, the game can be played in either a good or evil way, and how you play will have an affect on both the story and the way your character looks and is looked upon in the game. For example, if you are evil and enter a town, windows will shutter and parents will pull their kids indoors, whereas if you're good, people may come out and have a parade for you, or offer you goods and services. At each table in the room were cards that gave examples of some of the decisions you can make in the game. A couple I picked up are: put out a house fire or pass by a burning house; trade a weapon legitimately or attempt to trade a cursed or compromised weapon, passing it off as sound; volunteer information about the whereabouts of a lost child or sell the information to the distraught townsfolk; save a farmer and his wife from a bandit horde or join the bandits as they raid the small farm; find the deed to something and return it or sell it to thieves. You get the idea. Next, Peter talked about the combat system. Fable has a real-time combat and magic system, and the swordfighting demo was pretty cool, with special "flourish" moves you can perform at certain times, thanks to context buttons that allow for easy combat control. He also demonstrated the bow and arrow, although there are certainly other weapons to be had in the game as well. In the bow and arrow demonstration, Molyneux was quick to point out that you "can keep the button pressed down. Now that's really important because you can build up the power of an arrow to the point where you can actually decapitate people. You can build it up even further so you can take it past two enemies. The arrow will pass through the first person, taking their head off, and [embed itslelf] into the eye of the the next person." How awesome is that? The magic system was demonstrated next. You can mix and match spells, we were shown a power-up spell that increased your character's strength and a cool lightning spell. Finally Peter brought us into a town so we could see the character interacting with people. The best part was when the character was talking to a village girl and did the "pelvic thrust". Hilarious. I happened to stop recording a split second before he did it, but I managed to catch it again in another clip, when Peter had the character running around the village in nothing but his underpants (which were blue with a British flag on the back).

After the demo, Peter stepped down into the mass of press to answer questions and whatnot, and everyone else returned with renewed vigor to the XBox consoles. I still hung back and snapped a few more pics, then decided to jet off to the Sammy Studios party. It would have been cool to talk to Peter, but he was constantly surrounded by other press, and I hate standing in line. Still, I did happen to run into him at the Fairmont lobby bar Friday night and speak to him for all of five minutes. He is a busy guy after all. I'm happy for the time I got.

So my thoughts? It looked like a damn fun game, and I'm sure that if I had actually gotten a chance to sit down and play it that night someone would have had to beat me over the head with a blunt and heavy object in order to make me relinquish my controller. The depth of it looked staggering, I'm interested to know exactly how much playtime is in it. Worse yet, it may make me go out and buy an XBox as much as Wind Waker made me go out and buy a GameCube. I'm weak-minded like that. What can I say. Although the thought that I would be bending to the will of Microsoft could help deter me from such a fate. Bring... Fable.. *gasp* to the... PC... *choke*... evil... Microsoft.... *passes out as the black-gloved fist of Darth Gates clenches*

Pictures! Pictures!

I held the camera up over my head to take a pic of the room we were in. Wow. So this is what the world looks like to John Hattan. Cool.
In this shot I happened to catch an explanation of how being good or evil will affect your status in the game world
Awww you start off so cute-looking...
...and grow into a man legends are made of. Well, legends or horror stories. Your pick
Now this is a cool poster. If anyone from Lionhead is reading this, can I have one? Pleeeeze?
The Man himself, chatting it up before the presentation. They had cool concept art on all the tables as well
Peter Molyneux in the flesh (yes, that's pronounced "molly-knew")
A look at the weapons selection screen. Augmentations? Niiiice
Obviously the idea is to make your enemies laugh themselves to death when they see you attacking them while wearing a dress. Genius!!
I could come up with the lame excuse that I was taking a picture of the cool art on the doors, but the girls at the door are just too cute.
She looks prettier without the red devilish eyes, trust me. I guess she should have been on the Evil side of he room

Movies! Movies!

Movie 1 - The character interacting with some NPCs
Movie 2 - The character fighting some NPC baddies
Movie 3 - Peter's Demo Part 1 - swordfighting
Movie 4 - Peter's Demo Part 2 - bow and arrow
Movie 5 - Peter's Demo Part 3 - magic
Movie 6 - Peter's Demo Part 4 - village at night
Movie 7 - Peter's Demo Part 5 - village during the day
Movie 8 - Peter's Demo Part 6 - character interaction (with a twist)

G.A.N.G. Awards and party hopping posted 3/29 at 1:10:33 PM PST by sande

I started off the party/non-suite night by going to the Microsoft Fable party. It's no suite nights this year, but there are still plenty of parties (albeit invite-only!) Still, this is no detriment to the party-crashing crowd. Tess Snider, Donovon Boden of Vision Videogames came with me. They got an Evil handprint; I got a good. We saw the demo of Fable, but missed the talk by Molyneux. I counted about 8 parties I wanted to attend, but I only made it to 3 and the G.A.N.G. awards.

We tried to get into the Aussie party but were shooed away (even though we were genuinely interested in Aussie game companies). We ended up at the Charles River Media party. It was low-key but got more packed since there were no guardians at the entry like at the other parties. Thereupon, I saw a lot of people I knew, and davidrm came by with an IGF Finalist (an Aussie, with a clear tie to the Aussie party!) and I kinda lamented how nobody wanted to move from the CRM party. For at the same time, there was Sammy, there was USC, there was Nokia, and I wanted to make it to all of them.

The G.A.N.G. awards were very long. And each Diamond sponsor seemed to get an award and a commercial. During this time, the CMU party was going on. Daniel Greenberg, of Vivendi, had wanted to come because a lot of his products were up for awards. I wanted to come to meet loudlouderloudest - they were playing in the ceremony their Retro Game Medley. After the ceremony, we came across Michelle Sorger, of S'Digital, who told us about the Microsoft Xbox party at the Bankers Club. She had no idea how to get there and we didn't either. (Btw, afterwards, on Saturday, I received 12 voicemails from Thursday all from people telling me which party they were at, or asking me if I knew where a party was. Unfortunately, by Saturday, it was too late!)

Jia Ji, of eGenesis, was there, serendipitously, and he said there was a Harmonix party in a suite, and also, the speakers party at a club, if we cared to crash it. We didn't have a pass to the Microsoft party (it somehow involved getting an invite in the mail, then signing up on-line, then waiting on line for a party pass). Still, we boarded the rental car and had no clue where the Bankers Club was. Tess had been there before, but she didn't know how to get there. Finally, I called Michelle and she said the party was still ongoing and we wouldn't be able to miss it on account of the crowd in front of the building. We turned around and the surroundings began to look familiar to Tess so we found it.

The bouncer wouldn't let us in because we didn't have a pass nor a handstamp, but it was late, and I said I was press, and they're with me, so we got in. (davidrm, it seems, didn't have such luck) Stuff was ending at 1:30 AM. I did want a massage! And a henna tattoo! And I wouldn't have minded playing casino blackjack anyway. But I didn't go empty-handed. I got a neato red blinky Xbox ice cube in a blueberry martini from the dripping ice bar. There were girls dancing in cages and edited film noir clips (edited fast). While on the line for the massage, we heard drunk guys complaining about the plasma screen on top of the urinals in the men's bathroom... the woman on the Xbox material was sucking on a cigarette and saying things like "Wow, you better not poke anybody with that!"

Lights started going up around 2 AM'ish and we were all swept out, and it seemed like the party spilled out onto the sidewalk. I didn't partake, because I was already feeling woozy.

Sammy Party posted 3/28 at 8:21:38 PM PST by Gaiiden

I hit up the Sammy Studios party for a little bit. I didn't feel like waiting in line to play Fable, even though the game looked cool as all hell, and that left me an hour gap until the Charles River Media party. The Agenda, the club where Sammy held the party, hadn't changed much in the year since I'd been there. They did have the basement level closed off, only the main level, patio, and upper levels were open. It was kind of raining off and on so the patio, although covered, wasn't that great a spot since the weather was cooler than usual. I took a quick walk around the club to snap some photos, then plopped myself down into a chair by the door so I could snag people walking in. Caught up to Rodger Pederson and a few others before I had to leave and hour later around 7. By then it was getting pretty packed anyways to the point where there was a traffic jam to the upper level because people were standing by the top of the stairs to get the cooler air. At that point it sucks trying to wander around and meet people, so it's a good time to opt out. Which I did.

They had a bunch of games set up on the upper level
It would be nice if there was a sort of timer system or something that would cue people to get up and relinquish their turn. Some don't seem to be affected by the legions of people waiting to play a bit
Another shot of the upper level towards the bar and pool tables
The main level. They had the DJ up in the corner abover the bar and food spread out along the tables in the center. There's Rodger Pederson dead center in the pic

Liquid Development wants YOU! posted 3/26 at 11:52:07 PM PST by Gaiiden

Okay now these guys are smart. For the past three years now (maybe more but I've only been attending that long), they've forgone the traditional methods like getting a booth or sponsoring a party or placing an ad in the GDC tote bag. Instead what they do is one day during the Expo, they have some kind of hand-out they give to people... outside the convention center. Yea. No paying CMP umpteen thousands of dollars to have a dinky little booth on the show floor. This year they had people dressed in militia-like uniforms handing out cards with expressions like "Holy crap! I can't close my eyes!" and "If your models aren't airtight *pic of sailor in submarine* this man may die". All this is promoting themselves as an outsource company for art. Additionally, the backs of the cards, when placed together, let you create an image. I didn't get the complete set but it looked like some sort of demon-girl with wings and in a compromising position. That's all I have to say. I don't question - just report. Anyways it wasn't as cool IMO as their little "demonstration" last year, but unique nonetheless, as always.

The Gaurdian Angels on patrol
The front of the full set of cards that were being handed out
The back of the set of cards. Am I good or what?? I had only the lower right and lower left cards and was like... uh huhhh...

Carmack's Keynote - Perspective #2 posted 3/26 at 10:33:59 AM PST by Gaiiden

I also attended John Carmack's keynote with Ron, especially since I've never seen the guy in person before. The Civic Auditorium was pretty packed, and I just sat off to the side where I could see one of the huge ass projection screens rather than worrying about seeing the stage itself. (though that damn jittery camera still bothered me. I had to refrain myself from yelling at the camera operator to stop moving in his seat). Anyways, Carmack came out after a short introduction and began his speech - the amazing part about it all is that he talked for 45 minutes straight (he had a water bottle but didn't swig any 'till it was time for Q&A). Even more amazing is that he did the entire talk with no prompting of any kind. And here he is spitting out figures and numbers off the top of his head. It was a very well organized talk, and you could tell he was a bit nervous about it all but he still managed to carry on without any serious pause for thought. Kudos.

So yea he talked about many things, looking forward at the direction the industry is heading. He discussed how audio is pretty much a done thing, that there's really not too much more we can do with audio. Physics, he said, is coming along nicely though we still have a ways to go to get full-blown physics simulations in games. He spent a lot of time talking about how the growing complexity of games works it way into the production pipeline. For instance, years ago you could change a map in DOOM in less than 30 minutes, he said. Nowadays it can take hours or days to redo a level and re-render it and whatnot. And designers want all sorts of fancy tools in their editors, like being able to see the in-game render - John even said that his level designers were complaining about having to open the color picker and choose a color so now they have drag and drop color picking. All this is lengthening the production cycle considerably and increasing game budgets which, as he rightly points out, isn't a good thing. Carmack quoted a budget of $100 million dollars in the future. That's definetly not good. He didn't have any real thoughts on solutions for this issue, but just said it's out there and growing.

In all it was a good talk. I couldn't stick around for the Q&A unfortunately, but it was great to finally see The Man himself.

NAViGaTR Game Awards posted 3/26 at 12:46:15 AM PST by DavidRM

Today at noon, and again at 2pm, I presented the NAViGaTR Game Awards.

Never heard of the NAViGaTR Game Awards? This is their 3rd Annual presentation. Where you *been*, man? Get with the program. I mean, really.

The noon show was basically a bust...there was an audience of 1. And he wasn't paying attention. Don't think I'll forget that, you @#%!

For the 2pm presentation, I demonstrated my ability to learn, and brought my audience with me. Well...John came with me, is what I mean. His appearance of rapt attention spurred other curious passerbys to stop and listen as I read the categories, handed the double-sealed envelopes to my lovely assistant, Kathleen, and then read the dramatic news. John even took a couple pictures (on display in the Expo coverage for the 3 curious people).

The presentations went quickly, but they were a lot of fun. And a bit of practice for my standup routines. Sorta.

Carmack's Keynote posted 3/25 at 4:13:34 PM PST by Ron Penton

Well, today is the big day of Carmack's keynote. The auditorium was pretty well full; everyone wanted to see Carmack of course. He had a lot to say, and it was mostly interesting. But first, the pics:
The Civic Auditorium.
The Announcement Sign

Anyway, he had a lot to say, mostly about where he thinks the industry is heading. He said that we're still off by a factor of 1000 or so to the point where we get realtime photorealistic rendering, which in my opinion seems a little high, but he's the expert in this stuff, not me.

He talked a lot about the future of game technologies, and where they are heading; stuff like complete physics engines (he said something about games of the future simulating the weather perfectly... seems a bit overkill to me).

One of the most interesting things he talked about was the fact that being given a limiteless schedule where you're allowed to tweak everything to perfection is not, in fact, a good thing. I can personally attest to this fact; when you're given an open schedule, you tend to go back and rework things a few hundred times until they're "perfect", and you never really get any progress done. The only time I'm ever really motivated to finish something is when someone is standing over me with a deadline.

So now we know why we still don't have Doom 4... :)

Anyway, Carmack says he sees some trouble in the console industry in the near future, simply because of the fact that all the next gen consoles are switching over to multi-processing systems, which are notoriously difficult to manage, and almost impossible to manage efficiently.

Overall, it was a very interesting speech.

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