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Blah, Hamumu, Etc.06:31 PM -- Tue September 23, 2008

Well, I've now blogged about something Hamumu related! Bye!



I kid. For you very small but very very vocal group of people who constantly demand screens of the game, you're out of luck. I've worked on nothing but internal giblets for weeks now. It's all about how the game connects to the server and the way they communicate. So, nothing to see, but I am making rapid progress in some areas, zero progress in others. It doesn't make for interesting journaling, but a lot of stuff is coming together and I can assure you that this next month will be full of good things to hear about.

I wish I could tell you more exciting things... so I will! Halloween's coming soon, and that's my favorite holiday! I've got some plans perhaps, and maybe the more astute readers have an idea of what some of those plans are. And there's always the delightfulness of Halloween Horror!

Also, on an unrelated note that will cause groans with the majority of the readership, I'd like to announce that The Hamumu Clan has officially formed in WoW! We've got 3 Hamumians on board besides myself. Let me take this opportunity to re-advertise so you can get in on it: it's a Horde guild on Caelestrasz server (Oceanic). Anybody in the guild can invite you in, so find one of us when you are on! Since that's impossible to do, PM me when you are on, and I'll go on to invite you. It's a guild dedicated to just hanging out and gaining levels, no big whoops like raids or PvP (you're welcome to do it, and welcome to invite the guildies along, but nothing is planned or organized). Maybe we should try to arrange an official get-together in it this weekend or something, a time when we can all come on and do some team whomping. I've never been in a group bigger than 3 before, it would be a revelation.

I know it's been pretty blah around these journal pages for the last month, but things are coming that will blow your mind to smithereens. Stay tuned! I might be blogging less for the next week or so, just because of that. There's not much I can tell you with the kinds of stuff I'm working on, and I don't want to keep saying "Just wait!" So if I have something exciting to say like I saw a lizard in the yard, I'll be back, but otherwise, this is Jamul de Hamumu, signing off.

Stay classy, San Diego.
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Bit o' Help, Everybody?12:48 PM -- Mon September 22, 2008

Hey, if you are a WoW subscriber, you could do something super handy to help me out! Log in to the Crazystreet server (it's in the Oceanic server set, and is actually named something like Caelstratz, but I don't know exactly what. You'll recognize it), with an undead character. If you don't have one, make one! Then come sign my guild charter! PM or email me to let me know when you can do this, so I can be online to provide it. I got 7 signatures so far, so I just need 3 more, and really only 2 if my friend that I always play with would ever log on! Note: If you are on a free trial, you can't sign guild charters, unfortunately. And if you're wondering, the reason I say you need to be undead is that my guildmaster is hanging out in the undead starting area. You could be something else, you'd just have to take a long trip (you do have to be on the Horde side, of course!).

And, most of all, if you would like to stick around on that server, you are welcome to stay in the guild once it forms. You can also delete the character you made as soon as it's formed too, if you want (or just quit the guild if you want to keep it). All up to you! The guild's called The Hamumu Clan, which is about time I had one with a name like that. My highest level character on that server is only 13, so we're taking it from the bottom and working our way up. Join the fun!

I recognize that this was entirely a WoW post, but I figured this would be a good way to get the signatures I need. I hate the signature-gathering, it's awful. I could totally see this would be what it's like to try to collect petition signatures in real life. All you can do is nag people, and it's no fun for you or them! But I met some cool people who sound like they'll stay in the clan, so it's good. Another activity it is similar to is pulling teeth. Your own.

So I will blog on something more related to Hamumudom tomorrow, but for now, if you can help me out, please do! And besides, it'd be cool to get The Hamumu Clan really going! Of course, on that note, don't forget I've also got a much more advanced Alliance guild already on the Ravencrest (US) server, which actually includes a grand total of one forumer besides myself! You are welcome to join that too.
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Big Halloween Election!03:22 PM -- Sat September 20, 2008

Halloween Horror 9 is gearing up. We've had the chance to submit names, now it's a matter of voting for your favorites. So click that link and do so! There's an absurd number of choices for your perusing pleasure. You have until October 1st to get votes in, then it will be building time!

Speaking of that, I learned whole new worlds of things you can do in MySQL the other day. I've been working exclusively on stuff connecting the game to the server, and it is mighty technical, and sort of fun. I'm definitely learning a lot. It's not terribly flashy, but it's getting things done.
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Bacon Helps Everything!10:26 AM -- Thu September 18, 2008

At PAX, somebody was going around handing out free samples of Bacon Salt. It is, as the name implies, salt that tastes like bacon (and it's vegan, low-sodium, and kosher!). Their theory was that everything tastes better with bacon. I finally managed to use some the other day, putting it on my corn on the cob. It didn't make it taste better. It was okay. I would've been much happier with normal salt.

And therein lies the problem with Bacon Salt. Try, just try, to think of something that you would like to put bacon on, that you also want salt on. Hmm, maybe scrambled eggs... I don't think so though. I don't want them to taste like bacon, I want bacon to interact with them in a physical way, with crispy deliciousness. Can't put Bacon Salt on a burger (we have fake bacon for that!), because you don't want a salted burger. Not on a salad either. I just can't think of a time when I want an overall flavor of bacon, along with salt, spread over my food. In every case, bacon or bacon bits is a greatly superior choice.

So whilst I admire the humorous notion of creating a substance that makes everything taste like bacon, I am fairly well convinced that there is no actual useful niche for such a product in my life. Perhaps your life differs. Discuss.

Still... I might have to try scrambled eggs.
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Bashing Happily, Everyday07:16 PM -- Mon September 15, 2008

I don't have anything I can report to you at this juncture as far as work getting done, but I wanted to post just to assuage any potential concerns. I know sometimes things get a wee touch lazy around here, but that is not the case at the moment! Much is occurring, progress is being made, gameplay is coming together, and whatever. Nothing tangible I can describe, but progress, rest assured.

I have also started many millions of new characters in WoW. I erased all of my horde guys (and cleverly sold off their goods and worked with my friend to transfer the money over to my allies!), and now on Ravencrest I have a full complement of 9 characters, one of every class. The tenth slot is, of course, holding out for my upcoming death knight. I also have every race (both genders of each, once the death knight - female gnome, of course - joins), and every profession (multiple times). Now my friend and I have started to create hordies on a different server (Caelstratz or something like that, in the Oceanic set). I've only got one so far, but it seems inevitable that one day there will be 10 over there too.

And one last WoW note: if you do play WoW and are on Ravencrest, or wish to be (start fresh, I just started a bunch of new ones!), look for Hamumu (at last, I have one with that name!), Decapitatrix, Flambe, or Necrognomico online and whisper them to join our guild! Let's Hamumu it up. The guild is lamely named BR00D (those are zeroes... sigh), because it was one that some guy just gave to me at some point. I didn't mind not having to collect signatures!
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Been Here Exercising09:28 AM -- Sat September 13, 2008

A Wii Fit report:

It's good! I'm not saying it's fun, because it only kind of is. It does a good job of giving you incentive to work out, and once I got enough stuff unlocked, it actually gave me a pretty good workout. It's funny, but once you accumulate 30 minutes of exercise on it, it makes a tinkly noise and the pig dances (there's a pig that counts up your minutes, why not?) for about 2 seconds. That tiny little nothing is enough to make it so that I always do my full 30 minutes no matter what. I can imagine there's something even more spectacular (assuming such a thing is possible) at 60 minutes, but I have no intention of ever finding out.

Other than having a lot of assorted back problems, I've always felt like I am in functional shape. Not good shape - very flabby, need work. But I feel like I can bend to pick things up, don't have to grunt getting out of a chair, run around as needed, and all that. Perfectly healthy and fine. Doing Wii Fit Yoga proved I was completely wrong. The exercises in the yoga section are all (at least up until the end few) extremely easy to actually do. They basically say "stand in this slightly awkward position for 20 seconds". But doing that, I'd feel like shards of glass were jabbing into my shoulders, and my arms would go numb. That is happening less and less, and things are getting better. I'm gaining little bits of flexibility I never knew I was missing. Sitting at a computer for 20 years will do that. So I am really glad to be working those kinks out again after so long.

I've tried various exercise tidbits throughout my decades of otherwise slothlike computer usage, and never has it been like this. I've even done serious stuff like six months of kickboxing, and a year or so of a full-fledged gym membership (where I actually went!). And those things would lower my weight (a teeny bit) and build some little muscles and all that, but running around and doing muscle-building is not the same as doing serious intensive stretching. As someone who has pretty severe back problems, I issue this as a challenge to you: get moving around! Not just aerobics, not just weight lifting, but get to stretching out your muscles. My hamstrings have for years been wound up tighter than a rubber-band airplane set for a transatlantic flight (I worked a long time coming up with that metaphor, so don't mock it), and I just ignore it because it doesn't limit me... but it's bad for the back! I thought I was getting in shape when I was doing the gym, and I was losing fat and gaining muscle, but there's a whole other side to things you just don't think about usually. And if you do too good of a job building up muscle, you're just making the flexibility problem even worse.

And Wii Fit will show it to you! Enjoy the pain.
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Bedazzling Halloween Eponyms05:25 PM -- Tue September 9, 2008

Hey, if you hadn't heard, Halloween Horror 9 is coming up. So suggest names for it! That's about all I have to say today. Halloween Horror is a grand Hamumu tradition, so you ought to participate and feel the Dumbness flow through you.
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Building Hitsuji Editor03:39 PM -- Mon September 8, 2008

Or not! This weekend (as the first weekend of every month, since a couple months ago) was a Mini-LD contest at Ludum Dare. That means a 48-hour development contest, but without all the theme-picking rigamarole. It's hosted by a single person who picks the theme themselves and can tweak the rules all around. In this case, the rules were bent entirely out of whack with the theme of "Tool". No, we didn't have to make a tool-themed game. Rather, we had to create a tool that would help us make games in the future. I thought about it and ended up working on two different things, but neither for very long:

First was SheepEdit. Remember in Hitsuji, how the sheep animated smoothly, because he was made of a series of separate images that rotated around? A lot like South Park or Monty Python really. I was planning to make a more powerful and easier-to-use version of the editor I made way back then, allowing me to make these kinds of characters in the future for some crazy sidescrolling action. Pretty cool idea, lots of math involved (well, lots by my standards).

Second was Pixeltron, a paint program for making low-res retro sprites. But once you drew them, it would've let you apply various filters and effects to them, getting nifty modern-retro looks, like having your sprite surrounded with a glow or neon piping. That could've made Moon Invaders 2 pretty cool!

But I just did a little bit on each before giving up entirely. These Mini-LDs just don't put on the pressure that a full-sized LD does (perhaps due to the amazing and fabulous prizes that regular LDs offer?), and I have yet to actually complete one. They've all had very interesting themes, though.
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PAX Day 312:00 PM -- Thu September 4, 2008

Day 3 began with a return to Creperie Voila. Our escape from the concerts the night before allowed us to get the jump on the crowd... and unfortunately on the crepologists themselves. The place wasn't even open when we got there, so we sat around waiting for it to open, then stood in a line of about 4 people and got some more awesome crepes! Yay for crepes!

(Spot the yerfhat here!) Then it was time to stand in line for Family Feud, PAX Edition. It sounded kind of amusing, but mainly we went because it was in the theater where they were holding the second Penny Arcade Q&A panel, so we had to go to be sure we'd get into that. It was probably not necessary, but we didn't have anything else to do at the time, so we hung out. They handed out pipe cleaners to build things from. I made a pig you can see in the monthly Newsletter.

The game was rather entertaining. They had surveyed PAX-goers and the questions were based on how they had answered.

When it ended, we stayed in our seats and enjoyed the the second Q&A panel! Sol exercised unimaginable courage and fortitude, getting in line to ask a question herself. Unfortunately, she wanted to ask them to sign the Yerfhat, and before she got up, someone else asked about signing and they were very clearly not going to do it. Apparently, they had had a signing table at some point on Saturday, and we never knew it. It was not in the schedule! So we lost out there. But eventually, about 2 people from the very end, she got to ask her question! She said some stuff about how their comic helps her to communicate with her gamer husband, and then went up and gave Gabe & Tycho each a copy of our CD. I'm sure they weren't interested at all, but whatever, it was cool to give them out to influential people even if those influential people will never speak of them to anyone. It just takes one getting hooked though... if JoCo doesn't blog for a week and then comes back with "Oh, sorry guys, I was totally caught up playing Supreme With Cheese!", then we get rich! Right after Sol asked her question, the Bad Horse chorus went up and Bad Horse'd the Penny Arcade guys. I saw the video of that on Youtube, but sadly Sol was already out of sight when they started filming.

Next, we sought out Wil Wheaton again. This was our last chance to get him on the Yerfhat! Crushingly bad news... we showed up and an Enforcer told us the line was cut off because he had to leave. We wandered off into the expo hall for one last visit before the show wound down. Nothing terribly exciting inside, but we did manage to dispose of the last of our CDs. Also, it was a lot emptier. Many people had left before Sunday, I think, because there was actually room to walk in the expo hall on this day.

We came out of the expo hall set on getting lunch and moving on with our day, when the Enforcer who had stopped us from getting in line came running up to us. He said "I've been going around trying to find the people I turned away! Wil has decided to keep the line going for another hour!" So there it is! And how totally cool of that Enforcer. We ended up being about 3 people away from still managing to get cut off anyway, but we were in. We were out of CDs, which of course meant that people suddenly were desperately interested in Hamumu. We talked to about 6 different people while standing in that line who had all kinds of interesting questions, but we had no CDs to give. One of them did type the address into his blackberry for future reference, at least. Then we got up there, told Wil he was awesome (his writing that is - we own all his books, and know not to torture him with Star Trek), and got him to sign the Yerfhat. We of course had reserved one final CD, which went to him. He did a truly amazing job of looking like he was excited about it.

So that was kind of the big finish. The denouement goes like this: we had lunch at the hotel restaurant again, then returned for the final Omegathon round (we missed the Jenga round which was earlier in the day), which is sort of the show's finale. It was packed. The game turned out to be Vs. Excitebike, a Japanese-only release of Excitebike with special features for competitive play. It was pretty fun to watch, and then Gabe & Tycho played a round of it themselves. The show concluded with them thanking everybody and saying we were awesome, and that was that!

We went back to the hotel and had dessert for dinner, went to bed, and flew home the next day.

What I left out of this report were the details of our day-to-day wandering from place to place. Everywhere we went, we got looked at funny, our picture taken, and so many times people came up and told us our hats were cool. It was great. Every time they did, we gave them a CD. We kept the CD distribution to a really personal level like that, rather than running around flinging them at everyone, and it made things a lot cooler, and I hope it made people a lot more likely to actually try out the disc instead of throwing it away. Haven't noticed any suspicious new sales yet, but we'll see.

All good things must end, and frankly, I was ready for this one to. I loved it, totally. Had no idea it could've been that much fun. But I was exhausted physically and mentally, and it probably wouldn't have stayed fun for more than about another day. Three days of this a year, I wholeheartedly approve of. And I can't wait for next year! Look for the Hamumu booth then, because I'm thinking it's got a solid chance of happening! You all need to come out and see it. We're talking about holding a 48-hour contest during the show, so people can come up and watch games get made. A little like Mongolian BBQ, with less cabbage.
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Pax Day 205:59 PM -- Wed September 3, 2008

Day 2, we woke up at a reasonable hour very tired from our late night of revelry. Hats back on again, and we headed out for breakfast.

La Creperie Voila (insert various french punctuation marks) is a tiny little crepe stand outside the convention hall. They've got crepes with all kinds of things in them. You could literally eat every meal there and be healthy. But I went for the good stuff - both times we ate there I had a strawberry, vanilla custard, and whipped cream crepe. They are not cheap, but they are awesome. There was a big line of course, because it was right there at the convention. We were awake a little earlier than most geeks, but not enough. We still stood out in the bitter wind for about 45 minutes. I say it was worth it.

Saturday began at 10am, so we had a big day ahead of us! We started out, once properly creped, with the Advertising & PR panel. We somehow managed to miss the beginning of it while eating our crepes, but it was in the Walrus Theater, which is the one 'theater' that is actually just a corner of a big room, so you can walk right up and stand there. I wish the others had been like that! We hung about and listened. Didn't learn much as they talked about how they spend their $5 million advertising their products... not a lot of discussion of things that I might be able to actually do.

Then finally, we got to see a round of the Omegathon for the first time! The Omegathon is a big game tournament, where the contestants are picked randomly via a variety of methods, and they don't know what they are competing in until a couple of weeks before the show. There are 6 rounds, each competing in a different game, and the final one is a mystery even to the contestants right up until it happens (well, I think they got an hour or two notice... they seemed to know the controls). Obviously people are eliminated from the roster with each round until only two remain for the final showdown. I really like the concept, because with its completely random set of games (this year, Jenga, Peggle, Rock Band, and Geometry Wars were among the games featured), it's much more laid back. You don't have hardcore Halo nuts just Haloing away, you have people flailing around with stuff they have no idea how to do, and nobody is good at every game. The prizes make it quite serious though - $5,000 and a trip to Tokyo to go to the Tokyo Game Show!

Anyway, round 1 of the Omegathon was no spectators allowed because it took place in the BYOC room - a place where people could bring their own computers to set up. So for security reasons, they didn't have spectators. That round was Peggle.

Round 2 was Boom Blox. We could've seen it, we just missed it.

This was round 3, and it was Geometry Wars. We saw it! It was fun enough, I suppose. I'd never actually seen Geometry Wars in action before, and by the final round (it went for 4 rounds with 3 players in each, since there were 12 remaining Omeganauts by this round), we in the crowd understood the game well enough to do a lot of "Oooh!" and "Awwww!" when there were great escapes and unfortunate deaths.

Lunch break! We ate at the restaurant in our hotel, which was actually very good, and of course very expensive. There was a big wait, but we sat in the bar instead, which had open tables. No wait for us!

(This is one of those things you're supposed to stick your face through and take a picture... we stuck Yerfdog through instead, and it amuses me) We went back to the same theater then to see the Mega64 panel, followed by a screening of a Mega64 episode. All I really have to say about them is that it was fairly funny, and they're really really juvenile, and their episodes are really funny when they are just blatant live-action enactments of video games (complete with being yelled at by bystanders or cops), and a lot less entertaining when they have plot to them.

BUT! Something amazing and spectacular happened during this screening! We were just watching the episode when someone tapped me on the shoulder. It was Darkaruki, who is a new member of the forums, and the brother of Blackduck, who was also there! He handed me a Loonyland 2 Collector's Edition CD and a pen, and sign I did. Rather poorly, sorry about that. It was unexpected. So that was exciting, right? To have a fan come up and want something signed? But wait, that's not the crazy part.

When I signed the disc, this kid sitting in front of me turned around and watched, and his eyes got really wide. We had given him one of our Freebie/Demo CDs earlier, and I guess he didn't think too much of it... until he saw somebody wanted my signature. Suddenly, he slides over, turns around, and starts quizzing me. You could just see he was absolutely starstruck. He didn't know why he was supposed to be in awe of me, but if somebody else wanted a signature, then by gum, I must be somebody interesting! I had to control myself to avoid laughing out loud at the absurdity of the situation.

Then we headed downstairs and met Blackduck, Darkaruki, and their mom properly (hard to do while people are trying to watch a movie), and took that picture with them. We also managed to give a CD to the older lady who was doing convention security. She was intrigued, and said that she wasn't allowed to take things, but she'd slip it in her jacket anyway. I hope I didn't just get her in trouble by writing this.

Our next move was a mad dash back to Bandland in hopes of catching Wil Wheaton (I left out an earlier Wheaton Failure, too. We went by his booth many times to no avail), but he was not there. He did have a schedule posted this time though, so we knew we had to come back tomorrow. So we hit the exhibit hall for a few minutes and ran into Phil again, who invited us to dinner. We wandered for countless hours trying to find a place to eat. Did you know that Seattle closes at like 6pm? Everything was closed! On a Saturday!

We eventually found a nice little place down in the Pike Street Market, which had good food like all the other places we tried on this trip. Food went well every time!

We hit the expo hall again, and checked out the Pax 10 there. Those are 10 indie games that got chosen as special to be voted on at the show. We looked at all of them, and played a couple. We placed our votes for Chronotron, which is downright clever. Several of the games were gravity/magnet themed and frankly not that interesting. I still don't get why people think Strange Attractors is good.

Our last event for the night was similar to our previous last event: concerts! We got no wristbands this time, and stood in line for a while, but it was no problem getting in. We went to our favorite corner again and set up our foodless picnic.

The pre-show for this evening's concerts was actually Round 4 of the Omegathon! Logically enough, it was Rock Band. It must've been pretty cool for the contestants, because it was like truly being a rock star as 5,000 people were jumping up and down cheering as they 'performed'. They broke the eight remaining contestants into two bands of four for this event. I'm curious how they did that, since it seems kind of unfair to lose because your teammates (who were previously your opponents) weren't any good. But anyway, one team outscored the other (just barely!), and four contestants remained. Oh, also, the Penny Arcade people performed a Rock Band number before this, all playing on Expert, very impressive.

Then the first act that actually produced their own music was Anamanaguchi. Just didn't like them. They'd start every song with a little videogamey chiptune melody, then after a couple of seconds, completely bury it under a wall of thrash noise. Not for me.

Next up was The Darkest Of The Hillside Thickets. They are a Lovecraft-themed band, which would've been funny if the lyrics were hearable (remember, the sound at all the shows was very bad. It occurs to me today, though, that that may have also related to our location. It probably sounded a lot better in the middle near the stage). Their outfits were definitely entertaining, with two guys with goat legs and horns, one with tentacles all over, one with a Cthulhu head, and one... well, he just kinda was covered with light strings and cords and things. Did Lovecraft ever write about robots?

We actually left shortly into the Thickets set. We were far beyond tired after two very very full days of being 'on' all the time and walking around. I was sad because I really wanted to see MC Frontalot, who was up next (The Minibosses would've followed him as well, but mainly I've been intrigued by Frontalot for some time), but I was happier just to sleep. And I swear the second night concerts were even louder than the first. Or maybe it's just that I was yet one more day older. I am too old.
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PAX Day 109:41 PM -- Tue September 2, 2008

(Wait, some day 0 first)

We arrived very late on Thursday night, to discover that the Sheraton, big fancy hotel that it is, lacks a shuttle service from the airport. Not classy. We eventually managed to get a cab shared with another couple heading to PAX! It was crazy going into that hotel. All these people who work there, all prim and proper in their suits, and every patron there was clearly a PAX geek. It was just overrun with people in shorts and black t-shirts adorned with random slogans. It was surreal. But we slept, and awoke the next morning to PAX Day 1.

Day 1 didn't begin until 3pm, so this was our one day where we actually had some time to do something else. On the other hand, we had a scheduled event of our own. We were to meet Mark of Laughing Dragon for lunch. We also found Phil of Galcon fame and added him to the roster.

But first, we had to have breakfast! We ventured a few blocks down to reach the Pike Street Market, which is where they throw fish. We saw them throw a fish, and it was exactly as exciting as it sounds. We grabbed some pastries and peaches there, and took them back to the room for a relaxing breakfast. Of course, Sol had to tune into the Law & Order marathon while we did. We saw a few more of those as we waited for lunch time.

And off to lunch! We ate at a Greek and/or Italian place and chatted about the tribulations of trying to get people to buy games. It was good. That was the last of Mark because he lives near Seattle, but was not a PAX attendee for some perverse reason. Phil, on the other hand, we got to hang with several more times through our three days as he assisted the Brawndo people at their booth and did whatever other ridiculous things he does around PAX.

Then we donned our yerfhats for the first time, and headed out into the wilds of the convention. We had little idea of what to expect, but we proceeded bravely nonetheless. The first step was to stand in line for the opening of the show. People who lined up early got wristbands for the night's concert (a wristband means you get in first, while non-wristbanders have to take their chances and line up for the concert itself). We of course had our lunch date, so no chance of lining up early. We got there about half an hour before opening time, got way in the back of a long long line, got our swag bag, and after a little while, wandered off into the show. And yes, there's a wizard in this picture (A Black Mage for those in the know. We saw a better one with light-up eyes later, though).

Our first stop was intended to be the exhibit halls, but we got sidetracked because Bandland preceded them. Bandland was a short, wide hallway with the various bands that were going to perform were available for signing stuff and selling stuff. Wil Wheaton was also in that location. We quickly hopped into the Jonathan Coulton line, which was actually really short at that point (and was never again remotely short the rest of the weekend, lucky us!). We got up to him in no time, and gave him a copy of Free Dumb Games! Lucky him! Without a doubt, he rushed home and began playing. We also asked him to sign my Yerfhat. He wanted to know why Yerfdog was the mascot of Hamumu, and that made me realize there is no reason. He's just a character I drew that I thought was really befitting of the Hamumu style. I think he works as an icon for Hamumu - seeing him, you hopefully get what we're all about right there. We did not take a picture with Jonathan Coulton, sorry (but wait for day 3 for celebrity madness! Or day 2 for surprising celebrity that you didn't think was celebrity).

Then we did actually enter the exhibit halls. We have no pictures of those, so here's a word-picture:

darkness, we're sardines
games i can't play due to lines
seems pretty pointless

That gives you the idea. But seriously, sardines. That hall was not big enough for what all was in it!

So, we got nothing out of that, then proceeded on to our first panel: Video Games, Politics & Policy. It was rather dry, but I wouldn't say uninteresting. Not really relevant to my life in general. We ducked out after half an hour, not out of disappointment, but rather because we had something very important to do!

The first Penny Arcade Q&A Panel! Yep, this is actually the best picture I have of it. You can also see the blurry Tycho-traveling-through-a-wormhole picture in the previous day's post. That one's cool, actually, but only by chance. This panel was great. We got there late and only caught about the last half of it, but it consisted of people going up to the microphone and asking whatever question (though "who would win in a fight" was expressly forbidden), then being gently ridiculed by Gabe & Tycho. It was very funny throughout.

Next up was a dinner break. We walked halfway back down to the market, in order to avoid the insane crowds of PAX visitors. Everything near the convention was utterly swamped the entire weekend. But we found a little Thai place that was busy, but no waiting or anything, and sat down and had a really good meal. It pays to be adventurous.

We came back to the expo at night with two options in mind: there was the screening and Q&A for The Guild (created by and starring Dr. Horrible's Felicia Day), and there were the Friday night concerts. We opted for the screening, only to discover that we were too late. We stood in line for about 30 seconds before someone came back to tell us the line was being dispersed because they had just closed the doors. The unwritten rule we found with PAX was: be at everything half an hour early. That first day, we were always at everything 'on time', which meant 'too late'. So, defeated, we figured why not try the concerts after all?

We won! There was an Enforcer (those who don the black to become volunteer security at PAX) standing outside the room, giving away dozens of wristbands as we walked up. So we hopped right on in. As you might expect of a concert, it was all standing and jumping up and down, but we found a section over to one side where people were laid out on the floor like it was a concert on the green, only the green was concrete. So we joined them, set up our little foodless picnic, and enjoyed.

First up were the One-Ups, conveniently. They do covers of video game songs, but with real instruments (and lots of them - I recall violin, saxophone, piano, guitar, drums, and possibly a tambourine). It was kinda fun, because they'd start up the song, then after about ten seconds, play footage of the game in question. So you had a moment there to try to guess. I guessed none, but many of them were things I had never played anyway.

The second band was Freezepop. They're not so much related to video games as in them - their music is in lots of Harmonix games, and I think some others. It's very 80s synth-pop. They were okay, had a couple songs that were really good, others that weren't so special. I would also like to point out, with regard to all the acts on both nights, that the sound was really bad. I think the sound crew was not good (secondary evidence: most of the bands yelled for changes to their settings more than once, like "could you turn up this guitar?"), which also impacted some of the panels that were in that main hall too. Anyway, all the bands were too loud so that their sound was really distorted (okay, it's too loud, so therefore I am in fact too old, I totally acknowledge it... but it's not like the music was too evil for me, I wanted to hear it clearly is all! Wow, speaking of me being old, at one point I accidentally called them "The Freezepops", a real 'internets' moment).

And last but opposite of least, was the musical act we came to PAX for! Jonathan Coulton performed live, and thanks to being on an acoustic guitar, he was not loud and distorted and was just awesome. He rick-rolled the audience at one point, which went over very well (and we heard about 1/3 of the Rick Astley song as he refused to relent), and for Still Alive, he brought out Felicia Day to perform with him! That's what is pictured, and besides being a really bad picture to begin with, it's also a picture of a video monitor. A direct picture of the stars from where we were sitting would've made them 3 pixels tall. He came out for two encores, one of which was of course Re: Your Brains, with the entire audience acting as zombies. One of the cooler things he did was to play Flickr, which is a song that just describes a random series of pictures he found on Flickr, while showing the pictures it describes on screen. It was cool to see them at last and see how they differed from the mental image. When he was going to play Mandelbrot Set, he yelled out "So who likes math?" and got an overwhelming cheer that was just... yikes.

So, that was our first day of PAX. We got out of that concert at around 1:30AM, which is infinitely past our usual bedtime, stumbled off to bed with our ears ringing, and woke up bright and early for Day 2. Tiredness was a major theme of the whole convention, in fact. Stay tuned to see how *I* am a rock star myself!
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PAX Day 008:20 PM -- Mon September 1, 2008

It's going to take quite some length to recount all the intricacies of PAX, so prepare for it over multiple days. Right now, I'm just going to give you the basics of how PAX works (it's pretty awesome!), and tomorrow I'll cover Day 1, then 2, then 3.

There are, to my mind, five main elements to PAX:

The Exhibits
This is your standard expo-type area, where different vendors have booths set up and give out swag and want you to check out their products. You could go in there whenever and just see what was around. There was also a spot in front of the exhibit hall where the performing bands would sign things, and Wil Wheaton too, despite him not being a band.
The Panels
There were a whole bunch of different panels, talks, and events scheduled at certain times, and you could go to those. You mostly didn't have to wait in line for these, you just show up a little bit before they start and have a seat. These ranged from technical talks about advertising and politics (as they apply to games), to fun stuff like watching people compete in Jenga.
The Big Events
These are really the same as the panels, but they are monster events in the main theater, and you definitely do need to line up for them in advance. These include the Penny Arcade Q&As, and a couple other big things, like the Family Feud game which was quite entertaining.
Tournaments
There were game tournaments of many different popular things. We completely ignored this element, although one time we saw a massive line that stretched all the way through the building, probably 500 people, and were afraid it was for whatever panel we were going to. It turned out to be for the Smash Brothers Brawl tournament, which is just weird to me. These people were missing the entire day (or more?) of PAX just to play a little Brawl! I suppose there were probably prizes involved. But crazy.
Concerts
On Friday and Saturday night, there were a series of concerts by geeky bands. You definitely needed to do serious lining up for these if you didn't have a wristband. I almost lumped them into The Big Events, but I couldn't do it. They are separate.

We had made up a chart of the things we wanted to attend (which always overlapped other things we wanted), and had it mapped out to where there was literally a half hour of free time on Friday, another half hour on Saturday, and one hour on Sunday. The rest was booked solid. As you will see, we were not remotely able to stick to this schedule, and in fact went to very few things at all. We just didn't count on needing to be at things half an hour early, and some things just having huge lines and all of that. Next year, we will be a lot less ambitious in our planning.

Whenever we did have to line up, it was pretty nice. The lines were about 10 feet wide, roped off, so there was lots of room to sit down, or sometimes lay down, and just hang out. And there were always interesting things to look at. One constant throughout the weekend is that about 80% of the attendees have Nintendo DSes, and so there is tons of Pictochat going (a built-in chatting/drawing program on the DS, which connects wirelessly to all nearby DSes). It couldn't handle the huge numbers of people, though, and it would lag and have all kinds of weird problems. But it was fun to see. And by the way - PAX is not remotely family-friendly. It's extremely friendly, I should point out, extremely, but about as vulgar as a drunken sailor who hammered his thumb on accident. Pictochat was the epitome of that vulgarity, and that's about all the details I'll give on that. I enjoy vulgarity, so it was fun. Anyway, I was talking about lines, and we'd often have to be in line for an hour or more for various things, but it was not bad. It still felt pretty fun even then.

And by the way, you all lose the betting pool. Except for important occasions like not blocking people behind us at panels (and sleeping), the hats stayed on the whole weekend!
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