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GenCon Day Three: “The last, best hope of gamerkind…”

Well, it’s the last hope for me at least. I plan on taking a quick visit to the con today and then hitting the road back towards Chicagoland. I’m glad to be heading back home today because I’m just flat out tired mostly. It’s nothing to do with the hotel or anything like that. In fact, if Grimwell or CmdrSlack haven’t mentioned it yet, this is one of the nicest hotels I’ve ever stayed at (Country Inn and Suites @ Indianapolis Airport). The beds aren’t the typical overly squishy soft ones you usually find, their continental breakfast is awesome, and having shuttle service right to the convention center can’t be beat.

No, I’ll just be glad to be getting back home is all. Spending the better part of three days walking is hard on the body, and mine is crying at me. Due to a bad decision on Thursday (carrying a shoulder-style bag for swag instead of using my backpack), my lower back is just in pain after a while. And walking on concrete, even if it does have a thin rug over it, is just hard on the body. Plus I woke up this morning with my sinus’ screaming at me, and a sore throat as well. Marvelous.

After the confusion of 5 adults and 3 kids packing up and clearing out a hotel room, CmdrSlack and fiancee headed back towards Chicago while the Grimwell family and I drove to the convention center for our final attendance day. There was parking right across the street for only $10, a bargain that would have been even better if it had been possible to find a stinking drive-up ATM in the area. We got ourselves all parked though and walked across the street to the entrance. You really couldn’t beat those parking arrangements.

Grimwell planned to have today as a pure family day, but he did have one goal – drag me to the DDO booth to playtest one of the dungeons. I had seen the booth, watched some other people playing and had even taken some photos, but I just never stepped up and tested the demo. Grim wanted to rectify that omission. Along the way, we ran into a friend and his family who were also attending – my current D&D GM as a matter of fact and another online gamer who’s wife has recently been bitten by the MMOG bug (“Hi, Ameladys!”).

Our group, now enlarged by the addition of 2 more adults and another child, made our way to the DDO booth, and most likely due to the relative earliness of the day, all three of us (Grimwell, me and Popanut) got into the demo at the same time. My quickie review – I liked it.

Grimwell had played the demo when he was at E3, but this was really the first time I’d seen the game up close. I didn’t even look at the controls because the devs are using what I would consider the “default” setup. I hit “I” and whaddaknow.. the inventory screen opened up. Movement is WASD and so on. I didn’t even have to think hard about how to do most things since there wasn’t a new and “unique” system to learn. The hardest thing I had to remember was about targeting. This is more FPS-like, there is no automatic target lock. If you aren’t aiming at whatever it is you want to hit, then you aren’t going to hit it. In fact, you aren’t even going to come close in most cases. I had a few floor explosions before I got the hang of things and started zeroing in on the mobs, but once I did, things went far more smoothly.

Grimwell, Popanut and I all started in town, and grouping up was simple and fast (that “typical” command thing again). Once we had all accepted the same quest line, “poof” away we went into the dungeon. Unfortunately, we didn’t complete our quest objective before time ran out (prevent the bad guy from opening the portal) but we came pretty darn close. And I rather enjoyed myself. I did get a bit confused about where to go in the dungeon a few times, but since Grim had seen it before, we didn’t (or couldn’t) get lost.

One of the most impressive parts was the puzzle section of the dungeon. There was a room with glowing lines on the floor, but they only crossed part of the room. Your goal was to turn the floor tiles in order to connect the lines inscribed on them so that there was a continuous energy flow line all the way across the room. With three of us, that was done fast, but I was really impressed with the concept of the whole puzzle.

After getting my DDO initiation, we did a bit of playtesting over at the Upper Deck booth for a trading card game intended for young girls (pastelly colors, sparkles and lavender scented cards) called WinX. Grimwell said it’s probably pronounced “winks” and I can’t say either way, I never heard anyone say the name of the game. After finishing that demo (and one for the VS. system), we headed off to have lunch and then to a few more demos (The Grimwell kids to completely pwn at HeroClix and the Muse and I to check out the “Tsuro” board game. Grim was right, that is a cool game, and I think I’ll be picking it up when it comes out next month).

Once the demos were done, it was time to split up. The Grimwell family was off to just check out the parts of the main hall they hadn’t seen yet, and I wanted to see the art show. This year it was located in the main hall instead of being hidden down 2 levels and in a corner like it was when I was at GenCon last. I think the artists probably got far more traffic than usual, since people just wandering the main hall came through. I saw some awesome work, some OK work and a few that were “meh.” I also grabbed as many business cards as my fingers came across. One thing I don’t understand though is what the difference is between an artist located in the main hall vendor area versus the art show area. I’m sure there is a reason for the choice, but I can’t think of one right now.

After I had my art fix, and a quick trip back over to the other side of the hall to see if a print I really liked was still available from one of the vendor floor artists (it was, but I decided I just didn’t want to spend $30 on a print, even if it was matted already), I drug my weary body out to the parking garage and hit the road.

I’m not going to go into the drive home, and how I think I added at least an extra hour to my trip because of my frequent stops. I was feeling so parched that when the gas station attendant pointed out that the 20-oz bottle of water I was buying was on sale buy2, get 2, I jumped at the deal. Let’s just say that imbibing 60-ozs of water in the span of 4 hours means you have to stop a few times and leave it at that. Oh yeah, there was the half-hour nap I took at a stop along the way before I went into the gas station to buy some pain medication (I already mentioned my sinus’ were killing me), but even with all my dinking around, I only turned a 4 hours trip into a 5.5 hour one. Not too bad.

I’ll be going through the pictures that I took over the three days of the show, and I know Slack and Grim took photos as well. If they need me to, I’ll edit theirs as well and we can put up a little photo retrospective of GenCon to show everyone tomorrow.

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