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larkanderson Blog

All These Things I've Done

The last month has been a harrowing time for everyone around the office. Between the beta site (which launches very soon in final format), E3, and Comic-Con, we've had a lot going on. And this won't be changing anytime soon, with Leipzig, the Penny Arcade Expo, the Tokyo Game Show, and all sorts of other events like the EA Studio Showcase and Nvision on the horizon.

Here's a list of things that have happened already or will be happening in the near future that I've touched, in an effort to catch up a bit:

* Soulcalibur IV and Madden NFL 09 launch centers are up and they're looking great. Lot of good ones coming up too.
* QuakeCon totally happened
* Our Editors' Choice Awards for E3 just went up
* I was on The HotSpot last week
* I'm working on a new game for review, dood
* I'm hosting a live gameplay marathon next Friday for the beta of World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King. More details on OTS today.

Oh, and if you're into that sort of thing, check out my panel write-ups from Comic-Con:

* 20th Century Fox: The Day the Earth Stood Still, Max Payne, and Wolverine
* Capcom: The Making of Street Fighter IV
* Episodic Games: Rewriting the Adventure Genre
* Stargate Worlds
* Capcom: How to Get A Job in the Video Game Industry
* Xbox Creator's Showcase: Gears of War 2 and Fable 2
* Penny Arcade

Welcome Back, E3

Good to see you again! I know you've had a rough year, but it's good to be back in familiar waters, isn't it?

Enough of that. Conversing with personified non-entities isn't something anyone should do very often. Ok, you shouldn't do it ever. That said, it's that time of the year again for games, and while we've all actually been working on it for the last few months, I'm proud to unveil GameSpot's home for E3 2008.

Right now, it's full of some of the biggest stories that have cropped up in the last several gamers' day events, but I encourage you to keep your eyes on it over the next couple weeks to watch it change and evolve as more preshow coverage crops up and it gets closer to go time. As always, we'll be providing you with the very best in live coverage of the big three press conferences, and we also have a great many special guests, awesome games, and cool surprises for you in our live show, which will span a full three days.

As someone who knows the terrible secret of space, it's tough not to just blurt out all the details. Of course, that hasn't stopped the occasional behind the scenes sneak peak. As I've heard Ryan MacDonald say around the office over and over again, this year will be our best E3 yet, and I believe him.

So keep an eye on our E3 site, hang out and chat about what you're looking forward to in the forum, and get ready for what we do best!

P.S.: If you want to check out last year's coverage, it's easy to find right here! And the year before is here!

Metal Gear Solid 4 World Tour 2008 - San Francisco

Friday night was quite the night for me. Along with a bunch of friends and co-workers, I got a bleacher seat at AT&T Park to watch the Oakland Athletics play against the San Francisco Giants. I'd never seen a baseball game live before, and so I was looking forward to it, but ultimately it wasn't too fantastic. What was fantastic was the 80's Night garb that some of our guys donned. After the game was finished, I came back to the office to wrap up some work on a few projects and wait for another group of friends to show up, because we had a whole different type of outing planned--a decidedly crazier type of outing.

Saturday marked the final North American stop of the Metal Gear Solid 4 World Tour 2008, and game creator/director Hideo Kojima was scheduled to show up at 4pm for a two our signing session along with Ryan Payton, Yumi Kikuchi, and Kenichiro Imaizumi. With the knowledge that I could get a Kojima autograph, I decided to join Patrick, Julian, and Chris in the waiting game.

It all started out at around midnight, when we did the first location spot check. Granted, we were crazy, but we didn't want to be the first guys in line. That entails a whole different kind of responsibility that we weren't willing to assume, and we really only wanted to be in line as long as we could. The office is only a couple blocks walking distance away from the Metreon, and so we walked down to check for the early stages of a line forming, and upon discovering that there wasn't any we came back. At 1am we did another spot check, and again returned to the office, where we got a few hours of precious sleep in.

Old Snake and Meryl The front of the line in the AM The line

At 5am, we ended up doing our last spot check, upon which we discovered that there were already nine people there and quickly got in line. The group that had already formed was full of some really nice people, but I couldn't help but notice how under-prepared I was for the event--some of them had camping chairs ready, and they were definitely wearing some thicker jackets than I was or had blankets. Being unaccustomed to overnight line camping, I just had a hoodie, my DS (with a game I'm doing a review of in it; yes, I worked while I was there), and a book (Altered Carbon, a good sci-fi read). In the very unlikely event that I do something like this again, I'm coming packed for bear.

Those guys at the front of the line had been there since 2am, a fact they pointed out with pride to anyone who asked. They also fought tooth and nail (and believe me, they had to at some points) to make sure that everyone knew they were at the front of the line. For a significant stretch of the day, one of the good-natured guys, a huge black fellow wearing camo who was incredibly nice but had a fantastic stern glare, held up a hand-written sign that simply read, "START OF LINE" with "WE GOT HERE AT 2AM" written beneath it.

At around 7:30, we needed to make a food run. Across the street was both a Mel's and a Denny's, and we decided to go to Denny's. Mostly because the food at Mel's always looks and smells so appealing, but is ultimately incredibly disappointing and borderline terrible, whereas Denny's is consistently somewhat awful. But when you hadn't eaten real food in 15 hours, you'll pretty much eat anything, right? So Patrick, Julian, and I made our way there while Chris stayed behind to hold our spot, and await the fruits of our return, because apparently Denny's does to go food (I really had no idea). It was a little while after we got back that things started to get real crazy.

The line part 2 The line part 3 The line part 4

By 10am the line was already most of the way down the 4th street side of the Metreon. The day before, I had stopped by the PlayStation Store to see if they had any plans for the event, and it turns out that they of course had no idea how they were going to do anything. The complete lack of planning started to show around this time. The Metreon opened its doors, and of course the crowd in line began to surge inside the building. It wasn't until a significant portion of the line was already inside and waiting that the PlayStation Store manager came out and indignantly informed us that we weren't allowed to wait and had to move it back outside. For reals man, it's not like you didn't see the line, it would've helped if you actually tried to look like you knew what you were doing.

So the Manager Jerk pushed us all back outside, all the while with an attitude of bitter resentment that would continue throughout the day. As the day went on, more and more people showed up, and at this stage some crowd control methods were called for. Despite the fact that the Manager Jerk knew where the front of the line was, several of the people at the front reportedly had to enter the building and double-check that everyone working knew where the line began. This had to happen again once they finally managed to get some ropes up to keep the line orderly, as there was again confusion by the Powers That Be about what part of the line was the front and which was the back. All throughout the day, I had heard horror stories about how the LA event was botched by the group behind us, who didn't even make it inside the building and drove all the way up and got in line at around 5:30am just to make sure they didn't get screwed out of it again. I was hoping that wasn't going to happen this time.

Cosplayers began to show up throughout the day, including a guy about 7 people back who donned a Naked Snake outfit complete with face paint. Out of the people that I saw though, the best costumes belonged to a group who had unfortunately shown up too late to nab autographs (though they hung out by the window looking in the entire time, so here's hoping they were seen). The group consisted of an Old Snake, complete with awesome looking Octocam suit and a wicked sweet 'stache; a crocodile head helmet wearing Naked Snake with a slice of watermelon; a decked out Frog soldier; and a really good Meryl Silverburg. Update: I've since heard that I must've seen Meryl at a bad time for a variety of reasons. She actually seems pretty nice, despite what I had here before.

Naked Snake, Old Snake, and a frog soldier You've got me! Naked Snake in action

Around 2ish I want to say, Manager Jerk showed up again (having reared his ugly head several times earlier to make sure we were all standing and lining up against the wall properly or something). This time, he came with a couple ladies bearing wristbands for us all, proclaiming that without a wristband you weren't getting in. Finally, some order, if not a bit late. He ended up trying to screw a couple of the guys that had been there since 2am out of wristbands because they weren't in line the precise moment that he came by, but they did get theirs after a lot of complaining--unfortunately, I heard that there were a few others who didn't manage to get wristbands later on, despite complaints. In addition to wristbands, Manager Jerk also brought a series of draconian rules that he proclaimed loudly:

- Kojima will only sign the gunmetal grey special edition PS3s or a supplied slipcover, nothing else. The store had no gunmetal grey PS3s in stock, nor did they have any limited edition copies of the game.
- You aren't allowed to pose with any of the guests, nor could you ask them to pose for you
- You have to be in and out ASAP
- You cannot look directly at Kojima, nor can you speak unless directly asked a non-rhetorical question**

Apparently, Kojima would sign anything you asked him to sign (I saw posters and limited edition copies of the game signed), but I decided not to press my luck and ask for a DS signature (hey, he was a producer on Lunar Knights). I blame Manager Jerk for not knowing what was going on, and also the dude who asked him to sign a pack of Marlboros. I mean, really dude, WTF?

At around 3:30pm, a car came up to deliver Kojima and group, and the line surged down to look on to see him wave and smile. There weren't many people who actually stayed in line at this point, and I was thinking to myself that it would have been the perfect time for some less scrupulous types to try and sneak their way to the front, but apparently that didn't happen, or I didn't see the fights. I think the weirdest thing that happened to me the entire day was that someone came by asking for where the line ended (at this point, it literally wrapped all the way around the building and was over 500 people long), and then ended up chatting with me for a bit when he recognized me for my Super Smash Bros. Review. That's the first time something like that's ever happened! I wish I remembered his name, but I blanked out on it due to sleep deprivation as soon as he left. Sorry dude!

Kenichiro Imaizumi A place for Hideo Yumi Kikuchi

Finally, at about 4pm, we were let into the building where we were pushed through a signing gauntlet that began with Kenichiro Imaizumi, moved on to Hideo Kojima, and ended with Yumi Kikuchi. Sleep depraved, I didn't really do much besides thank them and tell them that I loved Metal Gear, and then I headed out and collected a rad MGS4 dogtag, and then it was over.

Looking back on the ordeal, it was certainly a crazy but awesome experience. It was fun, and I'm glad I did it, but I'm not sure I could do something like that again. In the end though, it was totally worth it, and I'm proud to have gotten a Hideo Kojima autograph by waiting in line for 11+ hours. Special thanks go out to Patrick, Julian, and Chris for setting this whole thing up and making sure I tagged along!

* All photography by Chris Lovos
** Not really true

MGS4 is going to be good

Going back to my previous post, I managed to snag one of the 80GB MGS4 PS3 bundles off of Amazon last Friday, minutes before the entire Internet discovered it was up for pre-order and refreshed simultaneously, breaking it.

Anyway, just got my shipment notice, and thanks to the miracle of next-day delivery, I'll have it tomorrow. This makes Metal Gear a good game.

Oh wait, I've still got an SD TV (I'm waiting until I move to buy a new one), so it'll actually be a bad game because it'll look bad.


MGS4 is going to be bad

Update: This was meant to be a joke, but a lot of people didn't get it, apparently. As I commented later on, it's foolish to believe that a game is bad based on its soundtrack, and vice-versa.

I know this because the soundtrack is pretty terrible. Unlike the earlier games in the series, this one pretty much only has two songs worth listening to, and one of them (Metal Gear Saga) doesn't really count because it's just a remixed version of the Metal Gear Solid 3 theme. The other song, the theme of the Beauty and the Beast Unit, is pretty decent too, but the individual unit member battle songs are awful. Oh, and don't even get me started on the garbage of a lyrical track, Here's to You. I'm really disappointed.

Speaking of disappointments, my plan is to get one of the 80GB MGS4 PS3 bundles (not the gunmetal grey PS3, which is an overpriced hunk of junk--and this is coming from a huge MGS fanboy), but no retailer really seems to know what's going on with that, despite whether they are taking preorders or not.

On the other hand, Alone in the Dark is going to be amazing, because it has an amazing soundtrack. Those crazy, haunting Hungarian (or whatever) vocals are totally rad.

Busy, busy times

Recently I've had to cut back on my blog posts because of how busy I've been. I'm not an editor--though I do write the occasional preview, review, or feature--but rather a producer. My job in particular is a pretty much half project manager and half air-traffic controller. I do a lot of things on the site, from manage story promotion to being in charge of game launch centers. We've got this little thing called E3 coming up--maybe you've heard of it?--and that's taken up some of my time, though it's mainly being watched over by the others in the office, and of course there are other things up and coming that I can't mention just yet but and incredibly excited about. You guys will find out soon enough!

The last month or so in particular have been kind of a milestone for me. I'm called a producer but I don't really feel like I've really "produced" much. I'm talking about from the very beginning, taking an idea and running with it. I've managed to see that Community Game Night got its own feature page, which is something that has been in discussion since around February I want to say. It's not everything we wanted it to be right now, but we've got some big plans for it and will be revisiting it later in the year. From the Bleachers now has its own home as well, and I'm really happy to see that Brian, Shanker, and Aaron's podcast has got the page that it deserves. Finally, I was able to make a gameplay marathon for Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures happen on a really short notice, which is something that I was able to build from the ground up and worked really hard to pull off.

I hadn't planned on hosting it, but I'm really glad I had the opportunity to as it was a ton of fun. I've only had a few on-camera experiences, and I know that I say "umm" and "you know" and "good times" way too often, but overall I don't think I did too bad of a job. Going into it, my plan was to be very conversational, very much the smartass, and know nothing about the game–the last one because I wanted an outsider's perspective on it. I think I stuck to my guns on that pretty well, and anyone who knows me should be able to vouch for that as that's how I really behave. I mean, I asked a teabagging question and rambled on about riding sweet mammoth mounts!

Of course, I would have liked for us to have been able to answer a lot more questions and show some end-game stuff, but Kevin had only really played it for about 3 days and so that wasn't something that could have happened. Rest assured that he is very serious about making sure he's able to get the time in to give it a full and meaningful review. If you're still on the fence after seeing the early portions of the game with us, you should watch the reviews blog closely, read his impressions of it, and keep an eye out for the review.

Currently, you can watch a highlights reel of the show if you missed it, but come Tuesday you should be able to watch the full thing. Sorry it won't all go up until then, but it's a holiday weekend (Monday is Memorial Day here in the US) and the GS Live guys deserve the break.

P.S.: Watch the replay of Fight or Flight, our Super Smash Bros. Brawl tournament! It was a lot of fun and I had a great time commentating on the matches. One hilarious fact is that we realized around 2pm that the in-studio Wii didn't have any characters unlocked on it, and so Chris had to jet home and back to Berkeley (about 25 minutes away) to grab his. He made it back literally 5 minutes before the contestants came in, but it turns out that Wolf wasn't unlocked. I managed to rush my way through The Ruins level in SSE (thanks to Jeremy for reminding me which level it was!) and defeat him with Lucas just as Ryan called 3 minutes. Hilarious stuff.

It's that time of the month again...

Since it's that time of the month, I've updated my profile theme again. Coincidentally (or is it?), it's a Smash Bros. Brawl theme, which ties in with this week's Super Smash Bros. Brawl Fight or Flight Tournamente TV finals.

If you're planning on watching the show, which I encourage all of you to do, you'll see some of the best players in the GameSpot community battle it out in an action-packed 1v1v1 match for supremacy. You'll also get to see me, Chris Watters, and Mechberg provide in-depth running commentary on amazing topics like the possibility of a subspace dimension existing inside of Kirby's mouth, whether Ike really does fight for his friends or for himself, and where Solid Snake hides that RPG.

Should be good times!