Dark Templars are sweet, and by sweet I mean totally awesome.

Blizzard (or Activision Blizzard). You might know the company for their big title game…The Lost Vikings, but did you know they’ve made a few other games? Really great ones, in fact. 12 years ago, they made a game called StarCraft which was a grittier version of a game called WarCraft and it was set in space. 11 years ago, I began playing said game and it not only ate up my time in college, it digested it slowly and let its stomach acids marinate and dissolve my grey matter during the hours I should have been sleeping. The first few years resulted in a feverish and compulsory gaming of StarCraft, much like masturbating when you finally realize it won’t make you go blind. After that, my habit was sated with playing only a couple nights a week for 4 or 5 hours on those nights. As the years went by and other real-time strategies piqued my interest, I would lapse in my Craft, but I have never gone more than about 6 months without jonesin’ for a little Protoss action.

A couple of years ago, SC2 was announced as a current Blizzard project and my RTS-weenie started spinning out of control (along with all of South Korea’s). Since then, I’ve managed to get along with my life in the way a 3-legged dog still hops around and makes do. No, literally. I’ve been living as a 3-legged dog hopping around and making do – Austin is very accommodating.

Earlier this year, the public beta was announced and I signed up and allowed Blizzard to deeply probe the annals of my computer…What? There’s a lot of history on this ol’ computer of mine. Then, the beta came out! And I wasn’t on the list. Then someone at work had a beta invite they weren’t going to use! And I received the email a day late, long after someone else had snagged it. Finally, I contacted an old boss of mine who had sworn to me long ago in a pact with Satan himself that when the StarCraft 2 beta was out, he would send an invite my way because he knew “someone on the inside”. I never heard back from him. I can only assume he had made other such pacts and that the devil had collected the reward of that man’s eternal soul by the time my email made it through.

With all options exhausted and no stone left unturned, I lost hope. Yes, friends, I admit it: I was down-trodden and allowed my mind to fill with dark thoughts and sin! But then!!!! Two days before I was leaving on a trip to that sacred holy land known as Hawai’i, I received an email from Blizzard welcoming me, with open arms, into its bountiful, blizzardy bosom. I had finally been accepted into the beta.

“Drew, what did you do about Hawaii?” you may be asking. I’ll tell you what I did. I ripped my plane ticket in half and in half once more, logged on to Battle.Net and began a journey of downloading, patching and overall StarCraft 2 mayhem that would not end until the night of June 7th, 2010 when the beta was stripped from my clawed and crippled hands.

Not really. I left for a week and a half, got home, ordered new Internet service which is sloooow (thanks CLEAR) and took 2 days to grab all the patch data. From there I responsibly played the amazing SC2 beta for approximately 4 hours a night for 3 nights (never missing a bit of work, mind you) and like that <poof!> it was gone.

The game looks great, plays incredibly well and while it doesn’t reinvent real-time strategy games (or its own brand) by any means, it gives die-hard fanboys like me and newcomers exactly what they should want: many long nights of glorious, uninterrupted pleasure without any need for protection or morning-after pills.

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A little late in the reporting, but Wednesday, the SXSW/Screenburn crew joined hands again with the likes of Bob McGoldrick and the Austin Community College for the 3rd annual Mixer before SXSW. Real quick, are any of you making it out to Southby this year? It’s March 13th – 22nd and loaded with booths and contacts for interactive media, movies and music. As far as gaming in Austin, TX is concerned it is one of the Big 3 events of the year, so try to make it.

The Mixer held a panel with popular names such as Rich Vogel (EA/Bioware) and Billy Cain (Heatwave Interactive), along with others that are becoming gaming household names including Rodney Gibbs, Frank Roan and Lori Durham. Austin’s Chamber of Commerce member, Tony Schum, also delivered information on the economical state of Austin’s gaming. The overall mood was a bit somber as the realization of cutbacks and layoffs was heavy in the air. The silver lining seemed to be that gamers can look forward to solid games being released as companies can’t afford to grapeshot money at projects that have no value. It was great to see some familiar faces again and let’s face it, being around fellow gamers and developers is almost always good company.

The “& More” bit of the title is all about a link to my most recent work: Blogging for The CW Source – Smallville, in particular. You can check out my first paid blog here! Please leave comments here and on that site; it’s how I know you love me and how my boss knows I’m worth keeping. 😉

Farewell, Kristin Kreuk!

Farewell, Kristin Kreuk!

From new friends to slammin’ parties and everything in between, the AGDC was everything I hoped it would be. Maybe more. I will try to be brief but invite all of you to ask any specific questions you may have about the goings-on of the conference.

Sunday night: The writers gang met at the Gingerman around 8:00pm and I met who would turn out to be the usual suspects: Jeff Spock, Rhianna Pratchett, Andy Walsh, Ron Toland, Susan O’Connor*, Haris Orkin, Richard Dansky, Tom Abernathy and others (sorry to any I may have left off…there was alcohol involved). Without missing a beat, Andy launched himself into several rants that were informative and entertaining all at once; not a bad skill for someone who would later be giving a lecture about OnDemand Dialogue.

*Meeting Susan will be forever memorable as I made a giant fool of myself by asking her husband if Susan was married. As a writer, this was a moment of poor word choice.

Me, Rhianna Pratchett, Andy Walsh & Richard Dansky

Me, Rhianna Pratchett, Andy Walsh & Richard Dansky

Monday:I arrived early to the convention center and brought two dozen donuts along with sign-up sheets, coupons and an easel. Registration was quick and painless and I got a shirt, a schwag bag and a water bottle. I met Kristy Bowden who brought boxes full of literature and books for our table. I set everything up with some help from Ron and things looked good!

Celtx guys watch Andy dance the Robot

Celtx guys watch Andy dance the Robot

I spent the day going to a few panels (including a brilliant session with Shana Merlin on improv storytelling and a critic-al workshop hosted by Richard Dansky) and manning the booth. I met Tim Langdell and we had a couple of drinks before leaving the center and making our way to the ArtHouse for music, art and drinks. There, Tim and I met with John Canning and left to eat dinner at Thai Passion. After this, the three of us went to the Sky Lounge for the Heatwave Interactive party. Open bar, food, cookies and Rock Band 2 competition – ‘Nuff said.

Tuesday: Waking up was a little difficult on Tuesday, but I still managed to arrive early with some donuts and kolaches. Interestingly, the booth, books, literature, poster and drapes were all gone! Mix up with CMP, but things got fixed while I attended Andy’s panel on the Prince of Persia and OnDemand Dialogue. Kudos to Andy on what seems like a very interesting way of handling story through dialogue in an open world. I had a chance to walk the Expo floor (pretty small and packed) and later attended the Writers’ SIG meeting to put many more faces withnames. The night was devoted to Valve’s party (I met Marc Laidlaw – the man behind the story behind the game of Half-Life) and the Gingerman.

Daniel Greenberg & Haris Orkin @ the Gingerman

Daniel Greenberg & Haris Orkin @ the Gingerman

Wednesday: The last day was slow for the first half, perhaps because Andy had left us. I manned the booth and then went to lunch (leaving the booth in the very able hands of Jeff Spock). Upon returning, I attended Adrian Hon’s panel of We Tell Stories and finished with an excellent presentation (or conversation speech) by Ground Zero Productions’ Flint Dille covering the necessary practices of writers wanting to break into the industry. A group of the writers ate at P.F. Chang’s and then split to attend different parties (most heading straight to the Gingerman).

P.F. Chang's FTW!

P.F. Chang's FTW

I was sad to say goodbye to so many of the writers and even though I’ve already read emails from a few, I hope to see them again before next AGDC. Call me a pushover, but the 3 days and 4 nights of the conference have made me feel that a lot of the writers are more than just names on an email list now. They feel more like friends.   

Again, if you have any specific questions about the conference (I know I was pretty vague here), please ask. I’d be more than happy to talk about this some more! Also, join the IGDA Writers’ SIG email list!

I would love to be writing more about the Austin GDC that is quickly approaching, but all things have their time and place. Activision’s The Bourne Conspiracy is here and now.

Activision's tips on avoiding the draft

Activision's tip on avoiding the draft

 The Good: Per my post about Bioshock, I played through this game as a Trainee (easy) and still found moments of solid challenge. What the fighting lacked in combos, it more than made up for in QTEs (Quick-time events). The QTEs truly resonated with me for this style of game because for the few hours it took me to play through the levels, I felt that I had the quick, decisive nature of Jason Bourne from the movies (not the books…dear Lord, not the books). In the middle of tapping the triangle and square buttons to deliver brutal punches and kicks, you have mere seconds to tap the correct button during a QTE to stave off an opponent’s vicious attack. If you fail, you don’t necessarily die (unless someone is shooting you), but you do suffer a hard knock to your health meter and in a fight with a boss, that health meter needs to last.

And. The boss fights = greatness. After the first two or three, you know what to expect, but they’re never over-the-top. Simply put, a man in a position that requires him to be better than the men below him is harder to beat than the men below him. Or maybe that wasn’t so simply put. Eh, figure it out.

Lastly, the movie-to-game adaptation is handled better than I’ve seen in most games like this. I’ve seen the movie. I love the movie. But the game flashes back to missions Jason ran before the incident on the boat left him for dead in the Mediterranean Sea. Thank you, Ludlum group, for allowing Activision some artistic license to create an entertaining back story and fresh scenarios that were unpredictable.

The Bad: Not a lot to say here other than the controls were a bit quirky. Okay, in all fairness, after my first hour of playing, I was tempted to put the game down due to control-induced frustration. When sprinting through gun fire, Jason Bourne – a $30 million perfect weapon – runs like Mike Myers’ Philip the Hyper-Hypo, run and jerked to a stop…into boxes, fences, cars or anything else that gets in his straight path. I was finally able to come to terms with it later when I realized the shooting was made a lot easier through the “Bourne Instinct” (aka Spidey Sense). Just take cover, pop up and shoot. If you want a headshot, move the crosshair up a hair.

Overall: Play it. With the slowly growing library of games for this console, it is definitely worth your time.

Perhaps a bit overdue, but nonetheless, here we are discussing the upcoming Austin GDC! Not sure what others are hoping for, but as this will be my first official conference to attend, I am…giddy, for lack of a better word. The Writers’ Track alone looks amazing, not to mention audio portion and other key guest speakers.  Personally, I am looking forward to the speech: Endgame: How to Build High-End Gameplay for Your Most Devoted Players by Damion Schubert, Bioware, Austin. So, maybe I’m a little biased about this one because I absolutely love Bioware’s products, but it’s nice to know that the company does think about its most hardcore fan base (“They love me. They really love me!”).

And on to some (not all) of the individuals that I am eager to meet.

First up: Rhianna Pratchett. Not only is she the narrative designer for the upcoming Mirror’s Edge by EA Digital Illusions, she put the “bad ass” in Nariko from Heavenly Sword. Plus, she has all but promised me a quick Q&A session – more than likely nothing you haven’t read elsewhere, but I’ll be the one asking the questions. (Insert evil, maniacal laugh here…unless you are Rhianna Pratchett, in which case, you should have only read the first two sentences of this paragraph)

When I think about you, I touch myself...Get it? Get it?!

When I think about you, I touch myself...Get it? Get it?!

Another presence that I’m looking forward to is Austin’s own Susan O’Connor. Okay, I’ve devoted two different blog entries to Bioshock’s amazing story so, all of that applies here. Now. To this woman. ‘Nuff said.

Richard Dansky’s workshop is another one pulling me. I’ve actually spoken with him briefly on the phone once, so…I don’t really know what that equates to, but it’s out there now for the record. Can’t I just be excited to meet people in the industry without having to qualify it all? Who are you to judge me? (grin)

That is all I have for now. If you’re going to be there, be sure to stop by the Writers’ SIG Booth as I will more than likely be there most of the time. And say hi to me. I would like to meet my two or three readers!

Repetition ingraines the idea

Repetition ingrains the idea