Thursday, August 20, 2009
I was very lucky to get the time off for Quakecon 09 this year, and it was a good thing because this was a good one. Dan came down with the normal group of Tim, Adam, March, Matt and Steve. Also there were Brian and Joe. As usual, they drove down, which took about 19 hours. They somehow get faster at it each year. Unfortunately I wasn’t at home when this happened because I was working, but a few hours later I got home to find about 15 more computers in my apartment than normal. It was pretty funny to see all the laptops everywhere and I wish I got a picture of it. People slept on our sofa bed, on our air mattress, on heavy comforters, and even on our footrest thing. By the time I woke up the next day, most everyone was gone already.
I had a slightly different strategy for the line this year. Instead of waiting all day to be at the front of the line, I wanted to wait until it started to move before heading down to the Gaylord. With Tim and Adam and the group volunteering, they would get in first and let us know when to come down. Typically we’d arrive at the line around 2pm and wait 9-10 hours for registration to start. On top of that, I had a new motherboard/CPU/RAM combo in the mail from Newegg. My desktop is intel based for the first time ever, a Core 2 Duo 2.93 Ghz, Asus motherboard, and 4GB of RAM. Woot! It arrived mid-afternoon and I spent about an hour or two rebuilding my computer right before quakecon. It would give me some problems later, but nothing that ruined the experience. After I finished rebuilding my computer, Dan and I decided to head down and get in line anyways. I was pretty lucky to get a shirt right away as they were thrown to the crowd. I don’t hoard shirts anymore, but I like to get one per year. We waited for about 4 hours in total, which wasn’t too bad. Had I waited another hour after Tim texted us we might have been able to cut that down to 3 hours, but there were plenty of people who showed up after we did, so I don’t think it’s possible to entirely skip the line. That night you basically set your computer down on the table where you choose, and walk out. We had a good spot near the tech desk and the NOC, but next year we need to sit on opposite sides of the aisle, instead of around the table. If someone is on the other side of the table, you basically don’t see them the whole event.
This was the first year I woke up early enough to get down to the event when it actually started, 9am on Thursday. After dropping Alison off at the airport to go home for the weekend, Dan and I went to iHop for breakfast and then to the Gaylord. The layout was similar to the 2005 layout when it was at the Gaylord before. The vendors were straight ahead through the door with the BYOC to the right. I always like the sponsors that let you use their products while playing a game, like when Razer had the copperhead display. There didn’t seem to be much of that this year. There were some laptops like that, and some consoles and intel systems, but I could pretty much get the same experience at my own computer. I’m looking for stuff that will make my computer better, not just the same experience somewhere else. They did have cool stuff though, the new Wolfenstein game looks sweet, and playing Doom 2 was fun on the xboxes. I think it really says something when your game is still fun to play like 15 years later. These days a game leaves you bored after 4 hours. Bawls was there selling cases and drinks and we got one. Around the sponsors was a lounge area where you could watch the tourney matches with commentators describing the match. That was pretty cool and fun to watch. And there was the Quick Draw stage where they held the “how much of your humanity will you give up for something free” events and the Quick Draw Quake matches. It would be fun to play a quick draw match, but you have to be present to win, and the odds of me getting called are so low that I don’t think it’s worth my time to hang around there. I’ve also watched plenty of noobs play quake before, so the match itself isn’t appealing enough. If you want to win a shirt, it’s the place to be though.
We got to our computers and set them up. The main game this year was Quake Live again, like last year. They used Quakecon as an announcement for Linux and Mac support which is cool. Quake Live is a great game, and it’s basically what Quake4 should have been. And despite what people say, it’s NOT just Quake 3. Should I go into it? The weapon strengths are different which alters gameplay and it took a little while for me to get used to it. The machinegun is weak as all hell now. You can pump 100 rounds into someone and still not kill them, which means that getting your revenge frag is harder. Instead of going for the quick MG frag after you die, its now a better strategy to give it up and look for a weapon. Quake has always been a game about controlling items, and this makes it even more important. The shotgun is stronger but spreads more, making it strong enough to kill almost anyone at really close range, but even more useless if someone is medium/far distance. With a longer weapon switch time, it’s also harder to get the SG kill. The Rocket Launcher is similar. It does lots of damage when it actually hits you, and far less when you get hit by splash damage. You can bounce around your enemy all day and hardly hurt him, while he’s probably pwning you with Lighting. The LG seems to be the center of the QuakeLive experience, with it being found everywhere and ultra powerful, quick reload time (meaning you can switch from it quickly), and instant damage. You can own at QL by having a LG and switching to the RL to finish the kill. It also seems easier to rail people in this game. All in all, it’s close enough to be fun like Q3 and mastering the new skills can be fun. QL’s web interface and stats will let you play against people with the same skill level as you so you’re not just always being pwned by one person, and that’s probably a good thing. It’ll help people learn and like the game better so all in all QL is a win.
The events there were pretty hit or miss, like usual. It’s never quite been the same since HardOCP left, but I had high hopes for the Nvidia event and something called the hardware event. I heard a rumor in the forum that Nvidia was supposed to do something big so when I got the day right, Dan and I and the group headed down to it and were excited to see a big pile’o'prizes, HardOCP style. It became clear pretty quickly though that the prizes were for the few that they brought onstage. Not only did Nvidia have nothing to talk about, but they couldn’t even give prizes away without embarrasing themselves. They had a mod-a-PC contest between two groups that was okay, but then they wanted to wax a guy’s chest and when it came time to start eating live crickets and fish, I had had enough. I’m not sure but I think I was one of the first people to walk out of the mainstage. Like I told Adam and Dan, it’s not so much that I was grossed out, it was just boring. I’ve never been excited by people eating things on fear factor and such, and I’d just rather be in the BYOC if Nvidia has nothing to talk about. I was surprised when the rest of the group was behind me again in about 5 minutes and we decided to hit up Logan’s for steak. Much better use of the time, indeed.
The Hardware Workshop by PC Perspective the next day saved Quakecon events. This was basically a return of the HardOCP workshop, and those guys did a great job of putting it together and keeping it interesting. AMD was there showing off their overclocking tool, and it was cool to see just how far their processors could be pushed, but it could have been even better if they talked about the basics of overclocking. What steps to take first, where to start with, etc. Would have been very cool to learn some real stuff at a workshop like that. They did manage to overclock a 3GHz Phenom to 5.5GHz, something like that using liquid helium. Pretty impressive, but not practical at all. I don’t see a lot of 3dmark2007 tournaments anywhere. They called tickets for prizes and threw a lot to the crowd, even processors. Dan wants me to mention nvidia douche who somehow showed up again at this event. He was giving away prizes, but would run around screaming trying to pump people up but would rarely actually give anything away, and when he did he just gave them to people seated on the aisle. So we learned pretty quickly to not be impressed or excited from him. Everytime we turned around nvidia douche was there it seemed.
I didn’t feel like going to the closing ceremony or finals, and I don’t know who won the Shelby Mustang from Ventrillo. I still think that money would be better spent on more video cards for more people. A lot of people worked hard just to win a 99% chance of losing that mustang. Other than QuakeLive I played a little Quakewars, Q3…and uhhh…ok I guess I played a lot of Quake Live. Also got some more TV shows like Seinfeld, House MD, XFiles, Stargate SG-1. My plan to upgrade my computer right before QCon was mostly a success, although there were times when my computer threw an absolute fit. I didnt reinstall Windows XP, just let it redetect my hardware when it rebooted and reactived windows, and I got pretty good speed out of it. Quakewars looked great at 1920x1200, but then it would start to throw explorer crashes and firefox crashed a lot (which is not helpful when QL is launched from the web browser). Reinstalling Firefox seriously helped it not crash all day Friday, but on Saturday it started again and early Sunday night I installed Windows 7 with Adam’s help. It’s actually not too bad and has been completely stable, so maybe it was just WinXP and not bad hardware after all. I should probably RMA the motherboard just to be safe, but laziness will probably prevail.
All in all, it was a great time, I’m glad everyone could come down again. Glad Dan finally made it down after 6+ years of trying. I tried to balance out sleeping and playing, tried to not get dragged into drama and all that that comes with less sleep. I think this year was an overall really good year. It was a record setting year for Quakecon in terms of attendance, it seemed well-organized this year with twitter and google calendar updates, and I hope we can do it again next year! Thanks for coming everyone!
Check out more pics in the Quakecon ‘09 Gallery