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PAX Pix 2011, Part Three: Halo Fest

Running concurrently (and adjacent to) PAX Prime was Halo Fest, a tenth anniversary celebration of all things Halo, and admission was free to PAX attendees. Although I had initially intended to avoid Halo Fest since I’m still new to the franchise, my curiosity got the better of me, and we found ourselves lining up by its entrance on Sunday morning. It was a longer line than I had expected, and though there were a couple of inconsiderate smokers upwind, the wait wasn’t bad. A guy in a Halo: Reach costume walked down the line shortly before the doors opened; at first, I thought he was a cosplayer, but soon realized that his presence here was official.

Acting on a tip from a PAX East exhibitor (some of the tabletop gaming companies were in the same wing of the convention center), upon entering Halo Fest, we circled around and picked up swag bags, each with a limited-edition Warthog Mega Bloks set included. From there, a quick trip to the Halo merchandise store was made for a couple of the things in the Part Zero pic. After I got all the goodies I wanted, it was now time to take in the event itself.

There were several little areas set up, each devoted to something different. Many of them were devoted to specific multiplayer modes, and there was also a small stage set up for Halo-related panels and presentations.


Near the entrance was a wall filled with images of fan-made tenth anniversary maps made in the map editor Forge. Some of these maps were really neat; my favorite is probably the one which contains an outline portrait of Master Chief made entirely of weapons.


Around the corner from the Forge screenshots were two pieces of artwork, a Van Gogh parody painted for the annual Child’s Play auction, and a wooden mashup of Mega Man and Master Chief. The same area held a glass case with recent and upcoming Halo action figures from Square Enix Products. Two of these Play Arts Kai were red and blue Halo: Reach figures originally released as San Diego Comic Con exclusives, and available for purchase at this event as well. The other two items on display were the upcoming Halo Anniversary Play Arts Kai, one of which—the silver Spartan Mark V—is slated to be a New York Comic Con exclusive. If you’d like to see these figures in more detail, I’ve posted additional pics of them on Tsuki Board (a shot of the Deus Ex: Human Revolution Play Arts that were shown, but not sold, in the Expo Hall is also in that set).

Scattered throughout the area were several sculptures and other displays: there were 1/1 scale statues of Halo: Reach characters, Mega Bloks versions of Master Chief and robotic flake 343 Guilty Spark (which, unfortunately, I had forgotten to get a picture of), a diorama of a battle scene, a photo area where you could get a picture of yourself gunning down a Covenant Elite, and a life-size, working Warthog built by Weta. It’s pretty much impossible to make out in the picture shown here, but on the front window by the driver’s side are little silhouette stickers marking units killed; in a bit of black humor, the top row included a couple of children and an old lady pushing a walker.

There isn’t much left to say about Halo Fest. Like the costumed guy outside, others milled about in Spartan gear, posing for pictures, and there was also an information booth of sorts, at which was an old Halo 2 promotional statue. Available at this booth were Halo Fest schedules, an issue of Official Xbox Magazine with articles about the series’ anniversary, and a couple of exclusive Halo-themed 360 avatar items (a Cortana Chip and an Energy Sword), among other things. Once we were done taking in all things Halo, a brief escalator ride brought us back to PAX’s Expo Hall.

In our next and final installment: remember that awesome Gordon Freeman cosplay I mentioned in Part Zero? Well, there will be that, and more!

PAX Pix 2011, Part Two: The Panels

Actually, there aren’t too many pix for this installment, since many of them came out blurry. Besides, although the panels we went to were great, there isn’t anything really exciting about a photo of group of people sitting along a draped table—”you had to be there” really applies in such cases. Anyway, here’s a rundown of the panels and other scheduled events we attended (unless otherwise noted, each event lasted for an hour).


What They’re Saying About You: How Marketing Segments and Targets Gamers (10:30 AM, Raven Theater) – The title pretty much says what it was about. Marketing ideas, trends in research gathering, the peculiarities of marketing to the PAX crowd, and so forth were discussed for an hour in front of a small but interested audience. The stories and insight from Pete Hines, the don’t-call-him-a-marketer from Bethesda, was the highlight of the panel.

Omegathon Round 1 (2:00 PM, Wolfman Theater) – The first round of PAX’s ultimate gamer competition consisted of some madcap rounds of Mario Kart: Double Dash! An extra bit of chaos was added when it was revealed that the players wouldn’t know which of the five screens they would be playing from, and even this was switched up on each new track. At the end, four Omeganauts were eliminated, but for two of them, their fate was only determined after a tie for last place and a sudden death round. The PAX crew stuck to random maps for this round, though the audience really wanted to see them duke it out on the game’s version of the infamous Rainbow Road.

Retrogame Roadshow: Are Your Old Games Buried Treasure? (5:00 PM, Unicorn Theater) – A panel tailor-made for collectors, with the audience bringing up various rarities to show off while the panelists debated their value. Among the highlights were an NES obscurity titled Panic Restaurant and an extraordinarily rare port of M.U.L.E. (I believe it was the IBM PCjr version).

Friday Night Concerts (8:30 PM ~ 1:00 AM, Main Theater) – This was our biggest must-see of PAX, mainly due to favorites the Video Game Orchestra (see PAX East 2010, Part Two) and the Minibosses (who we had never seen live before). Sandwiched in between were MC Frontalot and Metroid Metal. The entire concert was awesome, and a lot of fun. I especially liked the inflatable metroids that Metroid Metal tossed out to the crowd for them to bounce around in the air (though said metroids wound up on stage more than a few times). Most unexpected moment: the VGO playing tunes from Plants vs. Zombies and Angry Birds!


Infinite Respawn: How Gaming Can Keep & Save Your Relationship (10:30 AM, Serpent Theater) – Now here was a topic very near and dear to our hearts: love and gaming. Though many of the panelists’ experiences didn’t quite match up with ours—in part since neither of us are inclined toward multiplayer or co-op—there was a lot else that was the same, and it was comforting to know that our experiences aren’t unique.

Discover the Forgotten Masters (12:00 PM, Serpent Theater) – This panel, which opened with two very amusing Fist of the North Star clips, was presented by the two guys behind GeekNights. Although some of the info presented wasn’t as obscure as they had perhaps thought it was (such as who David Crane is, or what the NES game Spy vs. Spy is like), I still learned a few things and was introduced to some fascinating retrogames, ranging from a gunslinger game (Outlaw for the 2600) to a multiplayer airline management sim (Aerobiz Supersonic for the SNES). I also agree with the point of the panel: that there’s a lot of old ideas in gaming that are ripe for revisiting.

Game Development Secrets Exposed: Everything You Wanted To Know But PR Won (3:00 PM, Raven Theater) – I have no idea what this panel was like… or rather, what it would’ve been like, since it was cancelled at the last minute! Moving on…

You Call That Fun?! (6:30 PM, Wolfman Theater) – This was a lively panel where four friends and game industry colleagues came together to discuss that most intangible of game qualities, “fun”. One of the most interesting parts of this panel was the discussion of difficulty and how it needs to be optimized for the player’s needs; for instance, a bunch of developers who have become experts at the game they’re making are hardly the best judges of difficulty.

King of Chinatown (10:00 PM – 11:30 PM, Serpent Theater) – Thanks to some technical difficulties, this screening was delayed for over half an hour. Anyway, King of Chinatown follows Street Fighter IV player Justin Wong and his rise as a pro-gamer, but that’s only half the story. The other concerns the group Justin was a part of, Empire Arcadia, and its founder, Isaiah Triforce Johnson. Triforce was already known to me as a fixture in the NYC gaming scene—I first became aware of him at the Wii launch, where he was at the head of the line, several feet away from our group—but I had no idea of his role in the pro gaming scene. Without giving too much away, this film is fairly even-handed, but does not paint Triforce in a favorable light. Despite some muddy sound, it’s a good indie documentary, and worth checking out.


Making Art from Art (12:00 PM, Raven Theater) – A panel by a bunch of nerdcore rappers and one fanfic writer about all fan-made derivative works might seem somewhat imbalanced, but despite the lack of discussion about the (admittedly enormous) realm of ROM hacking, fan mods, and fan/doujin games, they handled the topic well enough. During the Q&A, an audience member brought up the topic of female fanworks makers twice. The first time, the all-male panel addressed it well enough, I thought; the second time was redundancy defined, though it was clear then where her tastes lay (mentioning Pixiv but not deviantART was a sure sign), and I could swear she referenced Vocaloid fandom without saying the word once. There’s one at every con, I guess.

Insider Insight: Awesome Video Game Data (2:30 PM, Kraken Theater) – This was probably my favorite panel of the show. Presented by EEDAR President Geoffrey Zatkin, it served as a brief glimpse into the world of video game research and data. Lots of statistics were presented, ranging from trends in the music game genre to the likelihood of games with ninjas showing up on the Wii, painting a fascinating picture of what the video game marketplace is really like. If this talk is repeated in some form for a future PAX, I highly recommend it.

Omegathon Final Round (5:30 PM, Main Theater) – And at last, as “The Final Countdown” came over the sound system, the remaining two Omeganauts took to the stage. Each finalist chose a “spirit animal” from the group of disqualified Omeganauts, and Tycho and Gabe teased the game as one having space marines, racecars, and gazelles. Of course, it was no such game. Instead, much to everyone’s surprise, it was The Legend of Zelda! The goal was to be the first to obtain the first Triforce piece, and their helpers’ role would be to guide them along with the help of an FAQ. It was a really exciting match to watch, and once a winner was declared, the show was wrapped up and officially ended, and we headed out to the Console Freeplay area for some last-minute Child of Eden and eventually dinner.

And now that I’m back at home, guess what I started recently. Yep, The Legend of Zelda. This is the first time I’ve ever played a Zelda game, by the way; as of this writing, I’m up to three Triforce pieces and am currently after the fourth.

Such is the hold that PAX has on me, I suppose.

In our next installment: WORF WORF WORF.

PAX Pix 2011, Part Zero: Swaggalicious

Got in from Seattle yesterday afternoon, and have been recovering ever since from that most awesome of festivals known as the Penny Arcade Expo. It was our first time going to “Prime”, which was much bigger than the inaugural edition of PAX East we attended last year.

This time around, I took a lot of photos, and now I have to sort through them all. In the meantime, though, check out all the swag and assorted promotional stuff I picked up over the weekend. This pic doesn’t include a few small items I was unable to locate at the time (such as an Angel Slime pin), nor any duplicates. Still, it’s a lot of stuff, and save for the Covenant Grunt plush, the UNSC bumper sticker, and the Video Game Orchestra CD (and the PAX and Halo Fest passes, of course), all of it was free. The League of Legends code is going to a friend, and some of the other items might be recycled or sold, but otherwise, I think I’ll hang on to much of it.

Over the next few days, I’ll post impressions of the show and games, and even more pics—including ones taken during panels, of the Expo Hall, of Halo Fest, and of the best Gordon Freeman cosplay ever. Stay tuned…

Devil May Sigh

My lazy ass has taken up fanart again, hardcore. I haven’t drawn much in awhile, and needed to get back into it, so I dove into some pieces that I’d left hanging months ago. The three that I’m currently working on are coming along well, so far, and I hope that I can shake off the last remnants of rust from my skills by the end of the month. What are they? Well, all I’ll say at the moment is that they involve Final Fantasy VII (of course) and two games I beat this year.

Having an account (and running a decently-sized group) at deviantART, I see a lot of others’ fanart on a regular basis. However, my favorite bit of recent fanart I saw on a forum; it’s the one to your right, which, via the “Reaction Guys” meme, is an accurate description of what many Devil May Cry fans felt when the Ninja Theory-developed reboot DmC was unveiled at the Tokyo Game Show last month. To whoever drew this very true reaction, I salute you.

Yeah, I don’t like Dante’s new look either. I’m also a bit wary about Ninja Theory taking the helm of this game, which will be the latest in a series which is traditionally action-packed, combo-heavy, and charmingly cheesy. From what I’ve heard about Heavenly Sword, it wasn’t all that, and early impressions of Enslaved have me suspecting that although DmC might have the Hollywood associations that Ninja Theory likes to include in their games, it probably won’t have the Devil May Cry series’ tricky controller gymnastics. So far, the funniest, weirdest, and scariest thing about DmC is how much the “new” Dante resembles the lead developer. Egad.

While DmC makes me sad, the blog Opposable Thumbs makes me happy. It’s one of a very few number of sites sites I’ve added to my daily games-related internet reading this year. I haven’t liked everything I’ve read there so far, but in general, it’s quality. Some recent pieces I would like to recommend are their history of the Civilization series, the much-discussed article on elaborate press goodies, the review of text adventure documentary Get Lamp, and, my favorite of these, a hands-on look at the latest Cabela’s hunting game.

To round things out, here’s some other recent articles, blog posts, etc. that I’ve found interesting. First off, it seems that Stephen Totilo and N’Gai Croal were at it again, asking developers to play their game “Canon Fodder”, the aim of which is to list the ten greatest games of all time. You might recall that I attended the first season panel at PAX East. It seems that PAX Prime 2010’s Season Two brought a lot of its own drama, especially since that stubborn Ocarina of Time was completely removed from the list. Good stuff, and I’m looking forward to Season Three come PAX East 2011 (hopefully). And speaking of PAX East 2011, registration is now open! Unfortunately, the hotel info isn’t up yet, but you can bet we’re booking as soon as it is.

Ian Bogost’s article Persuasive Games: Free Speech is Not a Marketing Plan looks at the recent controversy surrounding the Taliban’s role in the upcoming Medal of Honor game and laments on how easy it was for EA to deal with it. The most relevant bits were quoted in this GameLife post, if you just want a summary. On a lighter, and totally unrelated, note, Gabe’s promo art for Comic Jumper (second post down) is a hilarious—and well drawn!—homage to the horrible but distinctive comic book work of Rob Liefeld.

Finally, some JRPG-related stuff. RPGamer posted a “retroview” of Final Fantasy VII that is honest and fair, though I don’t agree with the reviewer’s take on the field navigation. Meanwhile, Andriasang has posted some interesting and wonderful pics from Japan, namely a comparison between old-style Disgaea sprites and the new Disgaea 4 ones, and a drop-dead-adorable plush of Final Fantasy XIV moogle Kuplu Kopo.

I’m probably never going to play FFXIV, but I must have that moogle.

The Best of E3 2010… eBay Auctions

As someone who doesn’t/can’t/won’t attend E3, one of the best parts of the annual event is the swag auctions that crop up on eBay. The tchotchkes placed on sale are neat little windows onto the expo, inherently different from the avalanche of news reports, written impressions, screenshots, trailers, and press conference livestreams that are available to anyone and everyone with a decent internet connection. They are trinkets that were actually there, instant collectables that show how an industry markets itself to itself, and to the world at large, in physical form.

The E3 goodies on eBay traditionally take many different forms. Every year, without fail, there’s at least one auction for the daily magazines/guides for the event itself. There are also always auctions for t-shirts, as well as lots containing a variety of items; the latter listings are very hard to find after E3 has come and gone. Other common items that appear year after year include lanyards, magazines, keychains, and, for some reason, Square Enix catalogs.

Other items are more on the quirky side. One of my favorites this year—and not just because I love the character and the franchise—are the patches that were given away to promote Kirby’s Epic Yarn. How better to promote a fabric-themed Kirby game than with a fabric Kirby? Several of these patches, with a Buy it Now (BIN) of $9.95, sold quickly, and at least one that has gone up since then as a regular auction is hitting an even higher price. I thought the initial $9.95 BIN listing was a bit high, but I’m a born cheapskate, and now I’m wondering if I should’ve bit before that same seller doubled their price.

Another item of note this year is the Epic Mickey cloisonne pin. Not only is there a huge Disneyana collecting scene, but there is a subset of Disneyana collecting that specializes in pins. Throw in video game memorabilia collectors on top of that, and you wind up with BIN asking prices as high as $24.99 for these pins. A search of completed listings has revealed that only three of these pins has sold so far, which makes me think that the highest of these BINs are too optimistic.

Two bits of Natsume swag have caught my attention. First is the Harvest Moon: Grand Bazaar plush horse. Since Natsume typically gives away plushes as preorder bonuses, I think we’ll be seeing this specific item again, on a wider scale, in the future. More unusual is this catalog for Natsume’s games. Again, I believe this to be an overly optimistic BIN. Meanwhile, one enterprising auctioneer has combined the two into one lot.

Some things which could become scarce in the years ahead are the Sonic Colors plush and the two Portal 2 t-shirts. There haven’t been many posted, which is always an interesting sign. The Dreamcast shirts are a little bit more common, but seem to be quite popular. And then there’s the Zelda shirts, of which there are a ton, but might also become nice collector’s pieces, given the size of fanbase and the popularity of past Zelda-related swag of all kinds.

Some general shopping tips: swag traditionally starts hitting eBay on the first day of E3, and BINs, if utilized, trend toward the high end. Both starting prices and selection generally improve toward the end of the event and in the days afterward, but bidding can be fierce. Even so, during and after E3 is the absolute best time to get one’s hands on a piece of swag that might be rare down the line. Please note that it’s sometimes hard to know what will be valuable, even for the most seasoned collector; as with any other type of collecting, it is always best to go after the pieces you personally like the most.

In the months and years following an E3, it will, naturally, be harder to track down many items on eBay or other auction sites. However, when older E3 stuff does pop up, it can sometimes be had at a relative bargain, since there isn’t nearly as much competition. Here are the results I got for “E3 2009” in the Entertainment Memorabilia category, which contained the most number of relevant results. Slim pickings, to be sure, but I bet that Left 4 Dead 2 poster was going for a lot more last summer. It should be interesting to see what an “E3 2010” search brings up a year from now.

Special Stage Extra: Let’s Rock, Baby

Aside from being busy with other things, I’ve been playing a lot of Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, an intriguing game of mushrooms, chortles, and globin. However, today’s post isn’t about that, as I’ve not yet beaten it (actually, I’m very near to the end, so expect that entry soon); rather, today I have a roundup of links which have caught and/or been brought to my attention lately.

If this isn't girly, I don't know what is.

If this isn't girly, I don't know what is.

Bayonetta has been on my mind for a long time now, and even though it’s finally out, it’s not so much of a priority that I went out and got it right away. Still, I’ve been reading and hearing things about it here and there. The most interesting piece I’ve come across so far is Leigh Alexander’s Bayonetta: empowering or exploitative? She makes a great case for the title character being a truly feminine protagonist. I played the demo not long after reading this piece and through that small glimpse, I can completely see what Alexander is getting at. Bayonetta is sexy and appealing, sure, but she’s also not just a male character in a female skin—she really is feminine. I think a lot of it’s in the details, like the blown kisses, the butterfly wings that sometimes appear on her back, and the way she reacts, in a cutscene, when flowers sprout up from the ground beneath her feet. It’s all so stylish, but I expect no less from the designer who previously gave the world another sexy piece of eye candy in the form of Devil May Cry‘s Dante.

Speaking of which, a new printing of Dante Alighieri’s poem Inferno is now available in bookstores, with a cover that has to be seen to be believed. Both aghast and amused, I took the news to Fandom Lounge to share this horror with others; there are many gamers who frequent the group blog, but also many more avid readers, and their own reactions were not unexpected. The wallpaper-sized version of the obligatory Penny Arcade comic that followed has been trimmed down and is now on my desktop.

Cheers to StarKnightX over at the CAG Forums for posting the link to Bitmob’s article Dangerous Ideas to Improve the Video Game Industry. I don’t know if I agree with some of the points made, but in general, it’s a thought-provoking piece, and well worth a look.

Finally, something funny I ran into while lurking over at a certain forum, as I do every so often: a comprehensive BioWare RPG Cliché Chart. A great companion to the classic Grand List (see the Links page for that if you don’t know what I’m talking about), and, from what I can tell, about as spoilerific, so take care.