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Tor Thorsen Ornament

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This blog is a part of the scavenger hunt.

Share a couple of items on your Christmas wishlist this year.
Burton 161 Custom snowboard, Bose QuietComfort 15 noise-cancelling headphones 2010 PIT BOSS Camelbak winter hydration pack

What games will you play during the holidays?
Call of Duty: Black Ops and Red Dead Redemption (again)

What are the kinds of food or drinks you must have during the holidays?
Sushi and Asahi beer

ORNAMENT HUNT ANSWER - CLUE 31

GDC 2009: Vlogging the show floor, part three

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A few feet away from Sony booth was that of German developer Crytek. The developer of the slick PC shooters Crysis and the original Far Cry was touting its just-announced CryEngine 3 middleware, which can also run on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. To lure prospective customers, they had a two-minute demo clip showing the engine running on both consoles--and this video doesn't do the impressive footage justice.

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Behind Crytek's booth was the Independent Games Festival area, where attendees could play both the winners and losers of the previous night's Independent Games Awards.

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Those included Excellence in Game Design winner Musiac Box, a combination music and puzzle game:

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And Student Showcase winner Tag! The Power of Paint, which sees players spraypaint strips which launch them from rooftop to rooftop, Mirror's Edge-style.

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SOUTH HALL
Across Howard Street is the Moscone Center's South Hall. Its central Esplanade Room is where all the BIG events are held, including the Satoru Iwata and Hideo Kojima's keynotes and the Game Developers Conference Awards. To see extensive video footage of those events, click on the link stories above. The clip below conveys a sense of the Esplanade Room's vastness, however.

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WEST HALL
Though it is where the vast majority of knowledge is disseminated via GDC's dizzying array of sessions, the West Hall was pretty low on spectacle. Its most notable feature was the throngs of people bustling about, going from sessions to session, pausing only to pounce on the tables of free lunches put out each midday.

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Thrilling, eh? However, for those attending GDC to try and get a job, the West Hall held the most important place at the expo--the recruiting fair. Inside yet another massive room on the ground floor, a range of developers and publishers with internal studios were taking applications.

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Besides the cash-flush Activision Blizzard, which wooed potential employees with a Guitar Hero stage:

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Curiously, companies which had recently seen massive layoffs--like THQ and Sony Computer Entertainment--were also actively recruiting at GDC. Hopefully by the time GDC 2010 rolls around next March, they'll be in better straits.

GDC 2009: Vlogging the show floor, part two

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Nintendo, too, had spokesmodels, albeit in far more tasteful and modest get-ups. But it wasn't their attractive smiles that had droves of people packing the Big N's booth.

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There, the main draw was the hardware on display. There was a wall of Wiis running the Punch-Out! and several other games.

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More importantly, visitors could hold, touch, and play the DSi handheld, which his US stores on April 5.

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All the DSis--which were literally attached to either a table or the wrist of a spokesmodel--were running the camera-enabled party game WarioWare: Snapped. Despite the humiliation suffered by a demonstrator during Nintendo president Satoru Iwata's keynote address…

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…One unlucky GameSpot correspondent had to try it himself. The results were no less embarrassing:

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Across the aisle was Sony's booth, which had a row PlayStation 3s playing currently available games like Little Big Planet.

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The line of PSPs featured several unreleased games, including Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, due out later this year. Towards the rear, Sony was showing off a technical demo of Phyre Engine, the new free middleware the company is giving out to help promote PS3 development.

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GDC 2009: Vlogging the show floor, part one

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SAN FRANCISCO--For years, the Game Developers Conference was the smarter little brother to the Electronic Entertainment Expo. From its onset, the event was engineered to bring together the often-unbelievably intelligent and artistic people who make gamesto exchange ideas and best practices to further hone their craft. As such, it was never meant for public consumption, but rather tailor-made to the industry's cognoscenti and illuminati.

The E3/GDC dichotomy changed in late 2006, however, when the Entertainment Software Association announced they were scaling down E3 from a 60,000-person neon spectacle to a 5,000-person insider trade summit. A few months earlier, GDC organizers CMP Media (now called Think Services) announced that its last show's attendance had topped 18,000 people, and it was permanently relocating from San Francisco's Moscone Center because it had simply outgrown San Jose's convention center.

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Though E3 2009 is being touted as a 40,000-strong return to the eSturm and iDrang of the past, for now, GDC is the biggest game-industry event in the US. (The largest public event is the Penny Arcade Expo, with over 58,000 tickets sold.) It remains, however, geared towards game professionals. As such, the show floor isn't nearly as flashy as that of E3 or the Consumer Electronics Show. However, there still were a good number of things to see--hence this virtual tour of the GDC venue.

NORTH HALL
The Moscone Center's North Hall is where all the main exhibits are, with a variety of hardware, games, and other technologies on display. Upon entering, the first thing a visitor encounters is Microsoft's gamers' lounge, which had a number of PC and Xbox 360 games on display.

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Also on hand was the sleek new Xbox 360 dev kit, which will be released this summer. It boasts 1GB of RAM--twice that of a civilian 360--and a sexy metallic blue and black finish. Instead of green, the ring of light on the console is also blue--and since it boasts the new "Jasper" circuitry inside, it won't get the Red Ring of Death. (In theory, anyway.)

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After taking the escalator to the basement--sorry, lower level…

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…attendees enter the main show floor.

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The first thing atendees will encounter is the N-Gage booth--yes, the N-Gage. Nokia is still trying to flog this very dead horse, which has been rebranded as a smartphone development platform rather than a plastic taco which requires a toolkit and an engineering degree to change its games.

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To help out, Nokia hired about a half-dozen startlingly fit spokesmodels, stuffed them into impossibly tight Logan's Run-esque white spandex body stockings, and perched them atop patent leather platform heels only a pole dancer could love. Despite their uncomfortable get-ups, they looked bored to tears, since other than the occasional ogler, the N-Gage booth was almost completely abandoned at all times.

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In Part Two: Nintendo and Sony's booths!

CES 2009: Sony booth vlog

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With the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show in full swing, GameSpot has been in Las Vegas much of this week covering the goings-on. Arguably the biggest event was Sony CEO Sir Howard Stringer's keynote address, which revealed some new information about the PSP/PS3 user base and Little Big Planet's 1.3 million units of sales. The company also reported $1 million worth of items have already been sold via the PlayStation Home virtual world/gaming service hybrid, and that 330 million items have been downloaded from the PlayStation Network.

But while there were some game appearances, the thrust of Sony's presentation was its vast catalog of electronics. Those were on display--up close and muy personal--at the Tokyo-based company's massive booth on the CES show floor. Naturally, the booth had its own PlayStation 3 section.

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The PSP was in full effect as well.

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However, the most interesting gaming display was over in by the vast television area, where Sony was letting attendees check out footage of MotorStorm and Gran Turismo 5 Prologue rendered in stereoscopic RealD 3D footage. Without RealD 3D glasses, you literally see double images, since their slightly askew nature is what makes them 3D. We toggled a pair of 3D glasses over the lens to show the difference, but the footage of the 3D image is obviously not 3D itself.

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Right behind the 3D action was a booth showing off Sony's pricey and ultra thin OLED--Organic Light Emitted Diode--television. While mind-bogglingly thin at 3mm, the screens for the models currently on display are only 11" wide, even though they have the pixel density as a 40" LCD TV. It costs $2,499.

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For those who like their screens larger and only slightly thicker, there was a 40" ZX1 Bravia with a 9.9mm-thick screen on a rotating dias right around the corner. You'll need a fat wallet to own the slim thing, though--it's $3,999.

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Next to the ultrathin Bravia was the P Series "Lifestyle PC", which looked like an old Sharp Wizard organizerfrom the future. Its feature set was pretty impressive, though--the base model is just $899.99 and comes with a 60GB hard drive and built-in cell modem that uses Verizon.

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Speaking of the future, the highest-tech part of Sony's booth was its flexible OLED display. Though the poor-quality video below doesn't convey it very well, the small circular display first shown is being bent slightly by two metal poles. Along each side of it were two conceptual designs--so conceptual that the two burly security guards shooed photographers away from them. The first looked like a thin booklet with the screen inside, the other was a bracelet which could act as a video display and what appeared to be a sleek button-less phone.

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The video footage above is a GameSpot News Vlog, and is not official GameSpot video content. For the all the latest trailers, interviews, reviews, and original HD video programming, visit the award-winning GameSpot Live.

On Production Value and Vlogging

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As a writer, I obviously appreciate the written word--I kind of have to, as per my job description. But as the saying goes, a picture is worth 1,000 of those little scribbles, and a video is probably worth at least a dozen grainy snapshots. With that rationale, myself and the rest of the GS News team are going to be supplementing our event coverage with small video clips which we'll be subtitling vlogs (short for video blogs).

The first GS News Vlog footage has already begun to surface. And yes, they don't have a lot of what the great Don Cornelius called "production value" in the underappreciated Tapeheads (Warning: video clip has PG-13/TV14 rated language). However, we like to think they do capture the essence of what reportage is--taking our readers and users into events that they themselves can't attend.

CES is just the start! Look for a lot more of this guerilla footage to bubble up as 2009 progresses.

CES 2009: The Gamer Primer

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About two seconds after the New Year's Eve ball drop in Times Square, the game-news cycle begins anew, popping back up like one of the non-player characters in Fallout 3 that just. won't. die. The first big stop on the media crazy train is the Consumer Electronic Show, the massive expo where hundreds of thousands of the latest gadgets, gizmos, and newfangled thingamajigs are shown the public.

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Though regrettably no longer held alongside the Adult Video News Awards--the Oscars of porn--CES has been ground zero for major game announcements in the past. In 2001, Microsoft enlisted Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson to unveil the original Xbox and fake-intimidate then-Chairman Bill Gates. In 2005, the event was the American coming-out party for the PSP, a keyboard for which unveiled at last year's show…but has not yet hit retail.

Unfortunately, often CES is only a footnote on the hectic game-industry calendar. Though last year's keynote address by Gates was historic for being his last, it was light on news. The biggest headline was that Xbox Live had hit 10 million active users, a figure which increased by 7 million in the following 12 months.

This year's two game-related CES keynotes are rumored to be even less exciting for gamers. According to the blog TechCrunch, the biggest news at the keynote by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will be new footage of two previously announced games: Halo Wars and Halo 3: ODST. Tomorrow morning's speech by Sony CEO Sir Howard Stringer might be more exciting--but for all the wrong reasons. The Times of London reported earlier this week that the event may precede a "sacred-cow killing" restructuring of the struggling electronics company, possibly even including that most divine of bovines, Sony Computer Entertainment.

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While often short on game news bombshells, CES does see a series of game viewings for the press--as GameSpot Previews will show as the week progresses. In the meantime, though, the usual pre-event rituals must be observed: early flights, long cab lines, clueless hoteliers, and bureaucratic snafus. For the second year running, many attending GameSpot editors were not in CES' system, while several absent ones were: If anyone asks, feature producer Tyler Weingarner is his colleague Homer Rabara, and I'm "Dan Mihorbek," GS Live tech guru Dan Mihoerck's dyslexic cousin.

One of the sources of the snafus is the sheer scale of CES. The event is big. Huge. Massive. Gargantuan. Last year's event attracted nearly 130,000 attendees--twice what the last large-scale Electronic Entertainment Expo did in 2006. A major portion of those attendees are journalists and bloggers, who come from all corners of the world to mob virtually every event. In 2008, the free press lunch took on the atmosphere of a prison chow riot, with shoving matches breaking out as hundreds of underpaid freelancers threw elbows attempting to load up on chicken fajitas.

Not far from this year's press cafeteria melee, GameSpot's sister site CNET is at CES in force once again, plucking the top technology from the silicon flotsam and jetsam. GameSpot will also be on hand, with continuing coverage throughout the week, such as the apparent revelation that Rock Band 3 won't arrive this year.