Tuesday, July 17, 2012

SDCC 2012 : Comic Con Experience

I recently just came back from a trip to Comic Con with my Brother and I really wanted to share our journey in the exciting convention. It was really a great experience, really fun and something I would one day like to try again. For those that don't know, Comic Con is a massive convention which started off only featuring comic book related material. But as its grown now to feature hit TV shows, movies and even games. The newest of all this media are shown and people attending Comic Con are given sneak peeks at them as well as some panels telling the process of creating that media. But enough with the intro, let's start with the journey.

Here is a quick list of all the games I was able to get to play at SDCC 2012.

Day 1 ~ Wednesday - Preview Night

Despite Wednesday being titled Preview Night, my brother and I didn't  decide to actually go and see any of the previews. The previews would have been for new upcoming shows that haven't aired yet, one of them being a Green Arrow (DC comics) show but instead we opted to check out the extremely large exhibition hall, one of the highlights of Comic Con.

Exhibit hall, near the Microsoft Booth

The place was already packed with people but we wouldn't even see the worst of it till later. Amongst the booths featured at the exhibit hall that I looked into were Capcom (Resident Evil 6), Microsoft (featuring Halo 4), Nintendo (New Super Mario Bros 2), Activision (Transformers Fall of Cybertron), Ubisoft (Assassin's Creed III), Square Enix (Tomb Raider, Kingdom Hearts 3DS), Sony (Playstation All Stars), Showtime (Feat. Dexter), Warner Bros (The Hobbit), Marvel (Iron Man 3), DC (Injustice Heroes Among us), and a TON more. The booths ranged from having merchandise (Some booths specifically having only merchadise instead of having displays), to having playable demos, screens showing previews of their movies, shows or games, autograph signings with famous peoples, etc. The ones I listed had way more to offer than what I listed in the paratheses but its just a taste. I will go into more detail on the specific days I actually went to the exhibits. But there was just so much in the exhibit hall, you could spend most of your time in Comic Con there easily.

Microsoft Booth featuring 343 Industries and Halo 4

The first thing we actually did was of course look around the booths. But the first one I actually went to and got up close with was the Microsoft booth. The only thing they had featured there was Halo 4 but that was good enough. Since it was only Wednesday it was not as busy as it would be in the later days but still took an hour to get through the line up to play Halo 4 multiplayer. I managed to get my hands on with the game which you can find in this link here. But boy it was fun for sure and that booth got a ton more people later on that I simply couldn't get into it again to try. Dommage.

The Capcom booth

Up next I checked out the Capcom booth where they had Devil May Cry, Resident Evil 6 and Lost Planet lined up. Unfortunately I didn't actually realize DMC and Lost Planet had demos there so I only walked around aimlessly and by the time I got to the RE6 demo line, it was pretty late and I probably wouldn't make it in. I did however get to try my hand at Marvel vs Capcom Origins (a release of the original Marvel Super Heroes and Marvel vs Capcom for Xbox Live and PS Network). Boy was I terrible at that game, not to mention I was also awful at using a fight stick. I felt shame that day.

Activision Booth

I also looked around the Activision booth briefly, which had Transformers Fall of Cybertron (which I for some reason didn't try and demo), previews of the Walking Dead game and some others I can't quite remember. Assassin's Creed was also right next to it but I didn't get any hands on time with it either. I hit the Sony booth shortly after and got my first hands on Impressions with Playstation All Stars Battle Royale.

Poster for the Hobbit

The rest of the time had us just looking at a few other booths. I checked out the Warner Bros. Booth which had posters of the cast of the Hobbit which I promptly snapped photos of. I went further down and saw a WETA workshop display (the people who made the miniatures and big miniatures of the Lord of the Rings and various other movies) and they even had some stone trolls on display featured in both the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit (which I also got a picture of).
"Look Mr. Frodo, it's Mr. Bilbo's trolls"

That was pretty much it for the first day, I didn't get much farther than those booths since we only had about 2 hours in that place anyways.

Day 2 ~ Thursday - Panels everywhere

This was the first full day of Comic Con so it was bound to be even more exciting than the 2 hours on Wednesday. As a special note, my family usually doesn't do all that much in one day but for these next 4 days, we made sure to jam pack every day with as much stuff as we could. It definetely paid off thats for sure.

Note: The following pictures will just be randomly from the exhibit hall since we weren't really supposed to film or take pictures in the halls. At least I didn't, I wasn't a rebel.

Anyways we first checked out the exhibit hall briefly before my brother and I split up. I went towards a panel on writing stories while he continued to check out the exhibit hall. In Comic Con, line ups for panels can be pretty long and chances are, depending on the popularity there are high chances of not going in. You HAVE to be there early for sure, at least for most panels. I came to the panel maybe 20 minutes early and I barely got in.

So the panel was moderated by Maxwell Alexander Drake, a writer of fantasy stories. He gave us tips on "Building the foundation to a page turning story" and another panel about "How to create a character driven story". It was about an hour for each panel and of course he couldn't teach us everything about them but he did what he could with the time he had. I took a lot of notes and he even has everything posted online. http://www.maxwellalexanderdrake.com/ He was definetely pretty funny as well so it was enjoyable experience regardless of what I learned in the class.

That took me to about 12:00pm where I met up with my brother and had lunch in the exhibit hall where they served Pizza and hot dogs. Immediatly after we headed for the Street Fighter 25th anniversary Celebration which had a massive line up in one of the bigger rooms in the convention center. Again it took a while to get in and there weren't many seats left afterwards.

The celebration started off with a video showcasing how Street Fighter has influenced the world, including some rather hilarious "Confessions" from Street Fighter fans. These confessions were actually set up in the Capcom Booth where you could confess in a man sized booth about whatever you wanted related to Street Fighter (though I did not do it). The video also featured pro players Justin Wong and Daigo Umehara talking about how they got into fighting games because of Street Fighter.

After the video ended, there was information and a trailer for Street Fighter X Tekken for Vita that was discussed by one of the producers. Eventually executive produer Yoshiori Ono showed up who gave us a video showing an announcement from the creators of the Street Fighter short "Street Fighter Legacy" and that they are now sponsored to make a series now. Definetely an interesting annoucement as I enjoyed the short very much (you can easily find it on youtube). Following that there was a short Street Fighter quiz for the fans which I could have answered most of the questions to, including a surprise Tekken Question.  Katsuhiro Harada (Producer of Tekken) suddenly appeared to bomb the panel (though to be honest it was no surprise because I found him with Ono just outside the room minutes earlier). He and Ono had some playful banter before finishing up the trivia before ending the panel. It was definetely a fun panel thats for sure but I am sure other people were looking for cooler annoucements.

Handheld Portal Device

From there I decided to head to the exhibit hall briefly then head towards the gaming area I had heard about. From there I pretty much spent the rest of the day there. They had a large variety of games there, featuring Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3, Halo Reach, Super Street Fighter 4 AE edition, Skullgirls, Soul Calibur 5, Gears of War 3 and Modern Warfare 3. 

However I spent pretty much the whole time this first day just playing UMVC3. They even hosted a tournament which I managed to get first place. I won a copy of Lego Rock Band, a bag and a t-shirt. Not bad considering the tournament was free. The rest of the time I was just playing casuals (just for fun) matches with other players, talking with others and just chatting. Everyone was really friendly in the gaming room (and pretty much all of Comic Con) and even if I wasn't playing, chatting it up or watching others play was very fun too.

Activision booth once again

I picked up dinner then finished the day off by heading to one last panel which was how to get a job in the video game industry. It was actually pretty interesting. A number of employees from Capcom and some from Activision (Formerly) talked in the panel. They were from a variety of different fields and explained how they got into the gaming industry or how they got the job. One was just a college student who asked to work for free, another got in by entering an art contest for kids by accident but getting offered to work for Game Pro magazine then eventually moving to the game industry. They told those stories as well as giving advice on what to do to actually get the job. The most important things I remember was contacts, to get your name out there and get out of your comfort zone. That you need to keep going at it in order to move up as well since pretty much all of them started off on the lower side of things or were in completely different vocations in the company to rise up to the high status of what they have now. Definetely one of the most important panels for me in terms of learning things at Comic Con.

That was pretty much the end of the day as the exhibit hall was closed down at that point.

Day 3 ~ Friday - Look at all the Models

Close up view of the Resident Evil 6 booth

The thing I learned from the last day is that some demos are just way too hard to get into. Thats why we went there early, lined up for the exhibition hall and I went straight to the Resident Evil 6 booth because apparently they were giving out tickets with a specific time. This meant you could pick up a ticket and then do whatever until your time slot. I couldn't get one of these on thursday because they sold out within the first 10 minutes of opening. So crazy. I got mine for 5:30 pm.

Sideshow figure of Boromir from LOTR

From there I checked out more of the exhibition hall. I looked around and saw a large display from a company called "Sideshow" which had some of the most detailed and exquisite models I have seen. There were models of characters of all sorts, from Mortal Kombat, to Marvel villains and heroes, Terminators, Aliens and Predators, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Diablo, Batman, there were just way too many to count. I will make sure to upload photos of them but they looked really, really great.

Bust figure of Superman at the Sideshow booth

I also saw the Iron Man 3 booth which had about 6 or 7 of the Iron Man armors, the variations from each movie on display as well as the new Iron Man 3 armor as well. I made sure to take some pictures of that because, why not? Its Iron Man. I could have gotten up on stage but I was in a bit of a rush because I was going to head for the "Legend of Korra Panel".

Collection of Iron Man armors at the Iron Man 3 booth

Speaking the Legend of Korra, I didn't get in. It was located in the 2nd biggest hall, and I underestimated how hard it would be get in. I was 1 hour and a half early and the line up was already full. I pretty much gave up at that point and went to the game room to chill for a bit.

I actually forgot to take a picture of the gaming area, so here is a Batmobile

Except I didn't just chill, I decided to enter another UMVC3 tournament and this time won again out of a 12 man bracket. I took the finals rather easily this time as I was getting adjusted to the game now (the TVs had laggy screens). The rest of the time I just played for fun with the people once again and I even saw familiar faces (this would happen for every single day).

Gears of War Retro Lancer

From there at 2:00 pm I hit the Gears of War : Past, Present, Future panel. The panelists included Cliff Bleszinski (Design Director), Rod Fergusson (Director of Production), Writers Tom Bissell and Rob Auten and the voice of baird, Fred Tatasciore. They talked about what it was like to make the game over the years, as well as some of the design choices for past games such as the evolution of the trademark Lancer chainsaw gun. The audience was shown a bunch of images of concept art for the Lancer, at least a dozen. 

More Retro Lancers!

They also talked about the new Gears of War Judgement game and why it focuses on Baird rather than the other main characters. They did it because Baird never got any focus or as much development as the others such as Marcus, Dom and even the Cole Train. They followed up the discussion by showing a new trailer and tutorial for the mode Overrun which was first shown at the panel and is now up on youtube. 

Gears of War Overrun tutorial

The panelists continued to talk about a lot of old stories during development as well such as Fred Tatasciore getting a lot of leeway in choices for dialogue, with most of the dialogue for Baird actually being non-script takes by the voice actor. The session ended with some Q&A with many questions being about the locust and their Queen Mira. Rod Fergusson didn't want to say anything as he said it would take away the mystery and that the locust would not seem as interesting after that. The session was pretty entertaining overall, with a lot of banter between the panelists that was genuinely enjoyable, not to mention hearing about Gears of War was interesting anyways.

I ran out of Gears of War pictures, so here's Gandalf

From there I went back to the game room, trying to win another UMVC3 tournament but unfortunately having to leave due to my 5:30 resident evil demo. I probably would have won it too (Made it to Grand Finals), tis a shame. So I proceeded to head down to the Resident Evil booth where I got my hands on time with the game.

One last look at the Resident Evil 6 booth where the demo is being played

Afterwards I decided to check out a few more booths before chilling in the gaming room for a bit more time before ending off the day.

A Lux (League of Legends) cosplayer I ran into just before the day ended

Day 4 ~ Saturday -  Demos and Tournaments Galore

Square Enix booth where Tomb Raider and Sleeping Dogs were featured

I started Saturday off extremely early, because my brother and I wanted to get official Comic Con T-Shirts which has an extremely large line up. I managed to get into the exhibition hall early and still had to wait around 30 to 45 minutes to get our T-Shirts. After I managed to snag those I headed towards the Square Enix booth and managed to get my hands on time with Tomb Raider and Sleeping dogs.

Aerial shot of the line for Hall H, where the hobbit and other Warner Bros. previews were being shown

I wanted to hit the Warner Brothers preview as well as Iron Man 3 panels located in the largest Hall in the convention center but I knew there was no hope. Aerial shots in the news have depicted the hobbit as having a line up going all the way across streets and up and down and everywhere. I knew it would be near impossible to get in without wasting the entire day and waking up at 4:00 am in the morning. I decided to spend my day mostly in the gaming room actually.

No Gaming room pics, so here's Diablo

I had some of the most fun in the gaming room that day, with some stiff competition for UMVC3 this time. I also joined 2 other tournaments, one for Soul Calibur 5 and one for Skullgirls (Neither of which I had played in months). I managed to get 3rd place in UMVC3 still and snagged a 3rd place in Skullgirls. Somehow I managed to get 1st place in Soul Calibur 5 however and netted myself another game (Star Wars Kinect) as a prize. As usually I saw many familiar faces in the gaming area and had a lot of fun with them as well as new faces showing up.

Brackets for Soul Calibur 5, they never did update it with the winner...

I managed to snag the last bit of my time in the convention center that day in at least one panel, this time being for Gaming Kickstarters. Here were the panelists "Gaming industry veterans Oded Sharon (developer for Leisure Suit Larry), Chris Jones (Tex Murphy), Chris Pope (Two Guys from Andromeda: SpaceVenture), Jordan Weisman (Shadowrun), and Chris Avellone (Wasteland 2) ". They talked about the prospect of a gaming kickstarter as a way of sourcing a game's funding instead of a publisher. They talked about the stories of their own kickstarters and provided tips on how to run a kickstarter and why.

More pics from the showfloor at the Konami booth

For those that don't know, a kickstarter project is essentially a project that is funded by your customers instead. You give them options to donate a certain amount of money for the game and give them benefits such as free gifts, a copy of the game, allowing them to feature their creations in the game, featuring them in the game, etc. Giving higher amounts of money would also give them the benefits of the lower tiers of features that you'd offer.

Pictures from near Petco Park, promo for the Walking Dead

Key points I remember were that a kickstarter allows for more freedom to talk with the community, where as a publisher may limit you. You can talk to them, listen to what they want and make changes more easily. That was the main point about kickstarter was that you didn't have to listen to the publisher. The problem is that there is more at risk since you're now risking your customers money as well as your own for the kickstarter. Another advanatage though is that you can get great support from fans as well as other developpers around. So really the kickstarter is like a community based funding. Appeal to your customers, talk to them, having forum discussions, make a game more easily for them. This was easily another important panel for me to hear about because now I have another potential method of funding a game in the future.

Star Wars cosplay!

That was pretty much the end of Saturday, with learning!

Day 5 ~ Sunday - Tournament with a Pro

Though this was the shortest, this was by far the most intense day by far. I started off the day in the exhibition hall, checking out any last minute booths I wanted (note that I hadn't bought anything besides the T-Shirts yet). I finally got to the Devil May Cry booth for some demo time, the Injustice booth at DC comics and also some final hands on time with Playstation All Stars.

Injustice Gods Among Heroes at the DC booth

I also spotted the Rooster Teeth and Mega 64 booths though I didn't actually buy anything from the booths. It was still cool to see nonetheless. I spent a good while just looking around at various booths for anything to buy, make sure there was nothing I missed for sure. I probably did miss some things but oh well. After I was satisfied I headed to the gaming area for the last time.

Dexter at the Showtime Booth

I originally only planned to be there for a short duration, I wasn't even going to join a tournament. However I got too tempted by the thought and ended up joining 4 tournaments, one for UMVC3, Super Street Fighter 4, Soul Calibur 5 and Street Fighter X Tekken.

Finally some images from the game room, provided by those that ran the event, Fanboy Gaming

Ultimate Marvel started off simple enough, I fought my way up but got knocked into losers bracket. Basicaly I had to lose twice (losing entails losing a set of 2 out of 3) and now I only had one more chance. It turns out one of my opponents had dropped out but instead of getting a free pass, I had to fight one of the UMVC3 pros, Dios X. The runners of the tournament allowed people to join in to replace anyone who was a no show so basically now I was fighting for my life to get past a Pro who's repeatedly gotten top 8 in a lot of Marvel tournaments.

Other people that aren't me, playing UMVC3

I can't even describe how nervous I felt, it was crazy but somehow I managed to play the best I ever have. I felt almost like a pro. I'd never felt so much hype and nervousness in any single match of any fighting game in my entire life and since this was my first time against a pro of this caliber I was not surprised. Somehow though, thanks to my concentration and not breaking up and screwing up everything I actually won. I won twice in a row in fact though the matches could have easily shifted in his favor if I screwed up. It was definitely one of the proudest moments in my fighting game history. 

"For me it was the most important day of my fighting game life, but for Dios X it was Sunday."

My Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 Team (Wesker, Doom, Dante)

Not only that but I made it to Grand finals where since I was in losers bracket I had to win 3 out of 5 games, then I had to do it again in order to win, so I had to win 6 matches. The other player was extremely good as well and it came down to the very last match, where I actually won. The best part was that I only used a single team and I seemed to be making my opponent think a lot about what to do, as if he had doubts about what was effective against my team.

My opponent kept switching teams to try to find a more effective counter for my team but I was to pull through with my team of Wesker, Doctor Doom and Dante. I went from losers bracket, having to fight a pro and a really close finals with a player I suspected might have been a pro and snagged a copy of Prototype 2 for the win. It was definetely the most exciting tournament I have ever done (not that I've done many tournaments) and I would call this one of the top highlights, if not the highlight of my trip.

Picture with me and Dios X

Since I had already won the tournament I agreed to a money match with Dios X (Basically bet money over whether you will win or lose match) and he destroyed me. I knew he would though since he is a pro and all and he had a good counter for my team now, I just couldn't keep up. It was okay though, I only lost 4 dollars and I had always wanted to try one anyways.

Picture of me and Justin Wong

That wasn't the only exciting thing happening. I saw several other pros enter into the gaming area as well which were Justin Wong, Sherry Jenix, and Clakey D. I managed to get a photo with all of them as well. I didn't do so hot in the Street Fighter 4 tournament however (since I also hadn't played that in months) and even had to face Clakey D twice. I proceeded to lose both times but snagged a game or two so I didn't do awful. I don't even know what happened to the Street Fighter X Tekken tournament, it just vanished.

Picture of me with Clakey D. and SherryJenix

The day ended off with Soul Calibur 5 where I fought the same person I did in the last Soul Calibur 5 tournament. We both played Pyrrha, the same as last tournament. I completely dominated this time where as it was close last time, snagging a complete victory with not a single match or round lost. I got one final game, which was MICHAEL JACKSON EXPERIENCE, since I pretty much had every other game they were offering at the time.

Hey they got a picture with me in it

From there that ended my gaming room time in Comic Con and went into the exhibit hall one last time where I managed to snag a Chun-Li figure for 45% off the original price due to it going on sale and also a bit of haggling. I ended Comic Con with that last purchase and had my last dinner at Denny's.

 My final goodie from Comic Con

Final thoughts

Overall Comic Con was so much fun, it was an amazing experience. All the panels I went to were interesting and a lot of fun and the exhibits looked really great. I held off from buying too much stuff as it was alredy enough just to be there and soak up the atmosphere. Also because I didn't have that much room to pack extra stuff. Getting free goodies was good enough which included posters, t-shirts, bags, etc.

My rewards from the tournaments

The tournaments were also an incredible experience. It makes me consider going to more fighting game tournaments now and even attending the biggest fighting game tournament Evo, in Las Vegas next year. I really had some of the best thrills of my gaming life at this event. And I love prizes but the most important part was having fun.

Tournament Standings
Total Number of Tournaments Attended : 9

1 Tournament - Had to leave (UMvC3)
1 Tournament - Never happened (Street Fighter x Tekken)
1 Tournament - Loss (Super Street Fighter 4)
5 Tournaments - 1st place (3 - UMvC3, 2 - Soul Calibur 5)
2 Tournaments - 3rd place (1 - Skullgirls, 1 - UMvC3)

Total Prizes : 5 games, 2 bags, 3 t-shirts

One year I would like to go to Comic Con again, I don't need to next year but maybe some other time in the future.

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