Comic-Con Report

[San Diego Comic-Con International] I headed down to the San Diego Convention Center this weekend for the annual geek fest known as Comic-Con. No matter how much you may try to act non-geeky, the site of Optimus Prime from the upcoming Steven Spielberg produced, TransFormers live action movie is enought to make anyone who grew up watching the show and playing with the toys have a little geekgasm. [Click here to go to the official movie page and see a clip of Steven Spielberg waxing poetic abour TransFormers] It’d be too hard to write about all the awesome stuff I saw there (man, I’m even writing like I’m 8 again :) so I’ll just focus on the MMO stuff I got a look at.

I only noticed 3 booths that had MMO related products to promote. If you look at the exhibitors list on the Comic-Con website there are more than 3 MMO companies listed. This means 2 things. 1) I gotta pay more attention. It’s hard with booth babes trying to hand you stuff, celebrities wandering around, and freakin’ Optimus Prime sitting behind a tarp on the showfloor. 2) The companies I missed gotta work on getting traffic to their booth. With few exceptions, the video game companies did the absolute worse job at this. A friend that was with me has attended E3 in the past (lucky bastardo) and he commented that the video game companies weren’t really at the top of their game. It seemed like they dumped some displays and demo stations on the floor and that was about it. It wasn’t as if the displays weren’t nice, in fact a lot of them were likely shipped over directly from E3 in LA, but having a staff consisting of one guy that is just there to make sure things don’t get stolen is not going to draw attention to your booth when Lions Gate Films right next to you has Rob Zombie signing autographs and giving out free posters. (To be fair, THQ and Nintendo had very nice boothes that were fully staffed and had cool freebies). I think video game companies are just starting to promote outside gaming and electronics conventions so they haven’t been putting their full efforts into things yet. Movie companies only began becoming a major presence the past few years, but now they have some of the nicer presentations at Comic-Con. Anyways, enough of that and let’s get to the booths I did visit:

1) [Blizzard Entertainment] This was one of the first booths I visited. I had no idea they would be there and ran into them quite accidently. They had a very small booth against a wall with 5 or 6 computers set up and and a plasma screen showing cinematics from WoW and Ghosts. Mostly people were just playing with newly created characters in the lowbie areas. They really should have had some lvl 60 test server characters in BattleGrounds for play, but still, there were long lines to try the game out. For a booth their size they attracted a lot of attention, mostly with their cinematics. People seemed to really enjoy the game and the looks on their faces reminded me of when I first started playing. WoW is very friendly to new players and the ability to jump into the game without the long tutorials of other MMOs helped make it popular among the attendees. But that is not the big news. The BIG NEWS is that they had a playable demo of StarCraft Ghosts! (So much for the BlizzCon premiere huh?) I didn’t get a chance to play due to the long lines, but it actually looked pretty good. I had little interest in the game until I saw it at Comic-Con since I assumed that the delayed development would mean a game that isn’t exactly cutting edge. Well I was wrong. The game looked and sounded excellent and appeared quite fun. Take that with a grain of salt since I did not get a chance to play myself, but if it plays as good as it looks I’ll be getting it. Hopefully they’ll spring for a bigger booth next year, but their product did attract a lot of attention despite a crappy booth location, no booth babes, and no freebies.

2) [Planetwide Games] They were there mostly to promote their Comic Book Creator software. Basically it is a program that lets you turn screen shot from your favorite games into a comic book. It is a very interesting concept although they probably won’t be able to find a wide market unless they sell it for a relatively low price. They were also promoting their MMO called RYL (Risk Your Life) and had 2 pretty girls on hand to attract attention to the booth. I haven’t heard much about RYL except they have some sort of tournament going on ingame with a $1 millon prize (that’s $1 million US real life dollars). I didn’t spend too much time at their booth, but hot chicks at a comic convention meant plenty of attention to their modest sized booth.

3) [NC Soft] They were by far the largest MMO presense. They had multiple computers running Guild Wars and were handing out Guild Wars posters at their huge, centrally located booth. They also had screen showing trailers from their other games, but the main focus was on promoting Guild Wars, which I found odd given that Comic-Con would have been a great place to build some hype for City of Heroes and City of Villians. I guess the main reason was because Guild Wars, where you can created a maxed out lvl 20 character and play on the PvP servers, is much easier to demo. Players could start out getting a taste of the endgame rather than the newbie area like at the Blizzard booth. I think NC Soft did a good job and build some hype for all their games. The trailers for Lineage 2 were very well received. That game has some amazing details and designs. Auto Assault seemed to confused some people who didn’t know if it was a MMO or a game in the vein of Twisted Metal, but people seemed to dig the cute female charater in the trailer. City of Heroes didn’t seem to have the same effect as the other titles, maybe partially because a lot of the attendees were comic book fans who probably have heard of it again. However, a lot of people at the convention were talking about City of Villians (I never saw a demo or a trailer while at the NC Soft booth so I don’t know what kind of presentation they did for that game, but it was probably behind the DreamWorks Optimus Prime display in terms of what I overheard people talking about the most).

Well, that’s it for this year. As you can see I completely missed the Sony Online Entertainment booth and a few others. But I guess I gotta save something for next year!

DC