By Manny Nolasco
From Columbia, Missouri to Dallas, Texas
It was shortly after 4 am when my trip to SGC began on Thursday, June 19, 2013. I was fortunate not to be alone on this arduous road trip, but accompanied by my close friend Cory Smith. Together we traversed the interstate highways in his mother’s luxurious Hyundai Sonata, while listening to the sweet sounds of electro house and trance music. But even the latest tracks from Shreddie Mercury or Armin van Buuren could not calm us from the road obstacles we would face later on.
My biggest complaint about the drive would be the toll booths and turn pikes. As this was my first long distance trip to a convention (from one state to another), I quickly learned that my life would have been easier if I carried smaller bills for the numerous toll fees. Our arrival into Dallas was equally hectic when changing lanes in order to get off at the right exit at the last second. Still, Dallas was an awe inspiring city with towering buildings that went into the clouds and taco joints at just about every exit.
Overall it was a 10-12 hour drive, only stopping twice for gas and food. After talking with Cory at the end of our trip, we both agreed that our next trip to Dallas would be by plane with all the expenses and stress associated with driving considered.
Photo provided by courtesy of Cory Smith, personal friend and president of TheOvershield.com
The Hyatt was an excellent choice of venue to host SGC. The hotel was very spacious. Its hallways and general gathering places made it easier to manipulate long lines of gamers who were waiting for the next panel. There were several locations within the general areas that were perfect for conducting secluded interviews, or spots for attendees to privately talk about their experiences with their friends. The real eye opener to the hotel was the cocktail bar and lounge on the second floor. Embedded into the center of the marble tiled floor was the giant Star of Texas, adorned in golden highlights with a black trim along the edges. This area would later serve as a prime location for guest panelists and gamers to casually converse over their experiences, including members of Iguana Entertainment.
Jared Knabenbauer/“Pro Jared”
With Jared’s departure from the ScrewAttack team in late 2012, anticipation and curiosity were the best words to describe the 15 minute wait before his panel. Was this going to be his opportunity to make satirical remarks towards ScrewAttack and how he has more time to dedicate to his personal projects? As he comes across both energetic and quick witted in his 1-20 minute video game reviews, Jared Knaubenbauer in person is far from the manic character he portrays, but is rather a gentleman with class. He had nothing but kind words for ScrewAttack, but his professionalism did not stop there. From the beginning to the end of panel, Jared would not only answer audience questions with enthusiasm, but he was equally quick to thank each audience member after his response. During this Q&A session, Jared revealed that some of the source material for his reviews and skits stem from his earlier work experience from GameStop. While on the topic of his work, Jared described the process of making his show by emphasizing the importance of organization:
“Right next to my computer, I actually have a white board with my own schedule and I have a list of all the videos I want to do, a schedule of events and game releases and when I want videos done…so yeah, it is awesome but you really got to kick yourself to get into gear. That is a good question, thank you man.”
The overall feeling I had when I left Jared’s panel, was not that of listening to a celebrity describing their stardom to fame; instead, I felt like I finished an hour and a half interview with a friend. Surprisingly, Jared consistently displayed a comical, yet insightful demeanor when asked easy questions-like if there would be a review on Monster Hunter Tri-as well as with the uncomfortable questions, such as his complete freedom of choice after leaving ScrewAttack. For all the Pro Jared fans in attendance, both new and veteran alike, anyone could agree that Jared is among the list of “a gamer’s gamer” and that the “Pro” associated with Jared’s name is a humble understatement.
Nathan Barnatt/“Keith Apicary”
During my teenage years, I always thought it would be cool if the red Kool-Aid Man would burst through the walls of my 10th grade algebra class and say “Oh yeah”. Sadly, this never happened, but seeing Nathan Barnatt (or “Keith Apicary” - his reckless alter ego) in person for the first time had a similar effect. As grandiose as the man himself, Keith storms the conference room during the beginning of his panel with 8-bit rock and roll music blaring in the back ground. Unlike the other panelists before him, not only does Keith make his way from the front to the back of the room, but in style as he starts by hugging, then tackling random fans and ends his charade by crowd surfing back to the front stage. All eyes remain fixed on Keith as he refused to stand on the stage, but on top of the panelist table instead. Such chaotic and unpredictable behavior would normally end in Nathan’s exit with a security escort. Who remembers Pax East 2012 when Nathan was removed for interrupting Rooster Teeth’s panel by walking on stage and pantsing himself while spontaneously dancing? To everyone’s surprise, the staff of SGC did not intervene and the energy created by Nathan’s entrance remained consistent to the end of his panel.
Rather than briefly going over the history of himself or his show, Nathan immediately started his panel with a Q&A session with the audience. I originally thought this could have turned out horribly with fans demanding more stunts from Keith Apicary. Fortunately, the decision to start with questions proved a successful gamble on Nathan’s part, as this allowed him to reveal his upcoming projects and tidbits on his lifestyle. Of the many projects Nathan mentioned, the Keith Apicary Show that was originally going to air on Adult Swim was cancelled, has now drawn the interest of Comedy Central. A collective sigh of disappointment resonated within the room when Nathan mentioned that his character, Keith, would have less of the nerd-like gamer qualities and more of the reckless behavior that was demonstrated at the beginning of the panel. Despite this, fans still applauded for Nathan’s attempt to revive his character Keith into mainstream television. The event concluded with Nathan battling his friends via video game matches on his Sega Dreamcast. Overall, I left with as much energy as if I had consumed a 24 pack of Kool-Aid boxed drinks.
One interesting bit I’d like to point out about Nathan is his sociability. Among all the guest panelists, he was the easiest for me to approach and carry a conversation with. In fact he agreed to conduct a personal interview with my friend Cory, but unfortunately had to cancel due to an injury he incurred during his performance later that day. Despite Nathan’s absence, fans still bragged of his memorable performance at his musical mayhem event at SGC.
James Rolfe/ “The Angry Video Game Nerd”
The transition from Nathan Barnatt to James Rolfe’s panel was a harsh reality check to the senses, since James chose the traditional sit down and Q&A session. Nevertheless, his panel required the same level of maturity as he forewarned the audience of explicit language and content, therefore staying true to the nature of his show. He opened his segment with a barrage of quotes from his show The Angry Video Game Nerd, or better known as AVGN. I was amazed at James’ ability to recite quotes like a human jukebox with little to no reference from his notes, or his friend Mike Matei. In addition to his work on AVGN, James mentioned his YouTube channel Cinemassacre, where he and Mike post videos of their work or commentary on other horror films. Fans were quick to remind James of his other shows like Board James, where James and his friends satirically play random board games.
What I liked most about James’ panel was that I was able to catch my breath from Nathan Barnatt’s comedy hour; however, I was reluctant to do so after laughing so hard from James’ furious satire from his quotes on video game reviews. One particular quality I admired about James was his ability to multitask as a director, actor, producer, and writer. As he mentioned himself, it is easy to become overwhelmed with multiple roles and sometimes one’s direction can become clouded. Despite these challenges, James is a prime example of someone who came from humble beginnings and has proved that with patience and perfectly timed satire, one can truly become a master of their craft.
Ironically, I went into this panel with the mindset that vulgarity and explicit content would be worse than James Rolfe’s event. In addition to being wrong, I was pleased to see a balance between humorous and serious responses to the development and disband of Iguana Entertainment. From beginning to the end of the panel, games like Turok, Batman Forever, and South Park, was constantly being shouted from the audience. Iguana members would respond to these exclamations by briefly discussing the development of each game. Iguana CG Artist, Michael Daubert, acted as a mediator for the group, usually being the first to answer on behalf of the group and then directing the Q&A session.
Turok and South Park were the two titles that received the most attention. As big of a turnout that Turok came to be, this game was not destined to be Acclaim’s cash cow. The concept of Turok was as random as the game itself and was produced with the hope that it would make money. Deadlines being met and having a physical game on the shelf was more important than content itself – hmm…does this sound familiar? In summary, Iguana Game Artist, Adam McCarthy best described Turok’s development:
“Being a new IP, was like this is going to be the bastard child. We’ll throw a few bucks at it and if it makes a few bucks, we’ll be happy with it…and that’s why it had such a small dev team, it became a huge hit but people thought it was such a target, or afterthought at the studio.”
So what title could possibly deserve more precedence over a game about killing Velociraptors with futuristic weapons? South Park. Again, Adam described Acclaim’s mindset as the focus of gaming was shifted towards familiar titles with the importance of cranking out this specific game by the end of that year; however, this would prove difficult with the events that expired at that time. One obstacle that neither Acclaim nor Iguana expected was the Columbine Shooting. A game that was originally going to be an FPS about shooting other school kids with guns and possibly on school premises, was not going to be Acclaim’s final statement prior to the holiday season that year. According to Iguana Effects Designer, Scott Brocker, creativity was at its peak during this time as alternative gameplay was considered for South Park. One of these alterations included the change from firearms to snowballs and the idea of being able to throw urine-coated snowballs. He went on to say that in some ways, this type of creativity is what fueled the development of Turok.
Of all the panels I attended, Iguana Entertainment was my favorite due to the diversity of responses amongst the panelists themselves. I thought it was interesting to see a team of veteran developers unite after 20 years later, having formed families and careers of their own. Yet despite this absence, the feeling given off by Iguana members was not that of disassociation, but re-connection. Each member was proud of the fact that he contributed to not just a game, but helped define an era of gaming through their accomplishments. For every copy sold of any game developed by Iguana, along with it silently went the memories, struggles, and achievements, of Iguana members. For the first time in 20 years, those feelings were shared with gamers at SGC.
When the games go off, the costumes go on...
Cosplay Contest: When Cosplay and Gaming Collide
As this was my first time at SGC, I originally thought the focus of this convention would be strictly on gaming and that copslay would be an afterthought. After all, the only guest panelist I could picture in cosplay was maybe Lisa Foiles and possibly one of the members of ScrewAttack. Sadly, I did not run into Ms. Foiles so I cannot verify if she was in costume; however, I can say that many gamers did appear in costume and with good reason as a cosplay contest was held Saturday evening. Of the more memorable costumes I saw, Ganondorf, Mad Moxxi, and Harlequin, were the top three costumes in my opinion. The detail to the costumes would lead you to believe that they were commissioned, but were actually designed by those wearing the costume. As you can see in the pictures, Ganondorf was probably designed to scale, adorned with glowing lights and hooves bigger than my waistline. Kudos to the person wearing the Ganondorf costume as it was a two or more person job to lead them on/off the stage and in some cases for crowd control. For a better depiction of the cosplayers and the variety in costumes, checkout our pictures and coming soon will be a video of the cosplay contest.
Unfortunately the lighting in the game room was consistently dimly lit or completely dark in some areas. As it may not be an issue with gamers, without a low light lens, I was unable to get pictures or video. I can say that the selection of arcade machines was more than expected. Several stations of 4 or more arcade machines were aligned back-to-back in a plus or star formation. The result was the ability to compact a lot of arcade machines in a confined area, while maintaining adequate spacing between each gamer. The machines that received the most attention were Fearless Pinocchio, Street Fighter II, and Pac-Man. As these games were constantly occupied by other gamers, I found myself spending the most time playing the first Ridge Racer while driving manual. Thanks to this game, I might have to consider a steering wheel and shifter for the PS4.
Aside from the guest panelists, this was the other half for my reason of going to SGC. As it is cool to see my favorite gaming studio to release the next hottest game, I think it is just as cool to see that the next big title is actually an Indie game. Who would have thought that Super Meat Boy would have had the success it does now during development stage? For me, this question reminded me of the motives that fueled the development of Turok and how much of a gamble would be associated with its release; which is why I’m so fascinated by the motives of Indie developers. Sometimes making a profit is not one of the top goals for Indie developers, but rather seeing a need and filling it. Even SGC promoted the setup of free booths for Indie developers for the entire weekend. But you do not have to take my word for it, checkout what the 5 Indie groups that I interviewed had to say on this topic.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Osiris representative David Gates, who is also the founder and president of his group. He informed me that SGC was their first public showing and opportunity for gamers to try out their upcoming title, Mists of Stagnation. Designed to be a multiplayer first person shooter with real time strategy components, Mists of Stagnation aims to separate itself from other familiar FPS titles like Call of Duty. One way of achieving this is by introducing a steampunk theme, where weapons, vehicles, and upgrades, are all centered on the scientific advancements made during the era of the steam engine. Weapons like the “boiler maker” (a gun that shoots pressurized steam – similar to the effect of a flame thrower) contribute to this unique style of gameplay. Even the rifles and pistols will have a steampunk-like feel to them as they may be spring loaded or require a buildup of steam to operate them. As for the RTS component, capture the flag, king of the hill, and team death match, will be incorporated into the multiplayer battles. In addition, teams will have a leader that can utilize currency or skills attained by team members to unleash special abilities to gain the upper hand. To hear more from Osiris Studios or the official release of their upcoming title, Mists of Stagnation, checkout the following pages:
Switching gears from FPS to side scrolling games, Justin Pierce talks with me on behalf of Overpowered Games about their current title, FishMoto. FishMoto has been out for a year on the iPhone, but its big announcement would be its release on the Ouya. One of the reasons for the transition was the natural feeling of the controls when using a controller, rather than a touch screen on a hand held device. According to Justin, one of the ideas of developing this game was to challenge players to solve a puzzle and think out of the box, while still having fun in the process. As a result, Justin revealed that gamer feedback was positive; however, the learning curve can be steep for first time gamers being introduced to this style of gameplay. Currently more levels are being added to FishMoto before its debut on the Ouya. Justin did mention that he would consider the development of other multiplayer games, but currently FishMoto is the center of this focus. To find out more about FishMoto or Overpowered Games, checkout the links below:
While looking at the other Indie booths, the wife of website developer and team leader Chris Palmarozzi, kindly pulled me aside to introduce me to her husband and his business partner, Sudhir Prakash. Together, Chris and Sudhir convinced me that I could not leave SGC without checking out their website, ShinyLoot.com. As the name implies, there is a lot to be found on ShinyLoot, games in particular. ShinyLoot is dedicated to serving as one-stop hub and search engine for gamers to find Indie games of certain genres. The overall goal of ShinyLoot is simplicity and affordability. In order to achieve this, ShinyLoot allows gamers to quickly find the games they want, pay a low one-time fee, and immediately dive into the game. With a library of 350 games and growing, there is bound to be something for everyone. An additional feature to the site-which is completely optional to gamers-is to receive email updates of patches, new games, or added features to the website itself. Convenience is also a key focus to the site, as the games are entirely web based and without the need to install a separate client to download or play the games. I especially thought it was reassuring to hear that the contact support for the site consists of Chris and Sudhir. So who better to answer your troubleshooting questions or inquires about the games than the developers themselves? ShinyLoot.com is currently active and games are readily available for purchase and playability. ShinyLoot has its own page, but they can also be found at these sites:
- google+ account (lookup shinyloot)
Addison Ziegler and Multiverse
While I was putting away my equipment after concluding my interview with the nice folks at ShinyLoot, I could not help but notice the small crowd that started to form around one of the booths nearby. From the second I approached his table, Addison immediately greeted me with the same curiosity and enthusiasm that probably fueled the development of his group’s project, Multiverse. Multiverse is a multi-level design game and was influenced by similar games like Super Meat Boy. The idea of Multiverse was created by Addison and his fellow classmates at the University of Texas at Dallas (UDT). As part of the programming curriculum, students were given the assignment to create games within a classroom environment, but still had the tools needed to produce professional quality games. One of the similar trends of Addison’s team, as well as other groups like Overpowered Games had in common, was working in smaller numbers between 5 and 6 members at a time. Frequently, developers within a group would move onto other projects or graduate. As those students moved on, Addison and his current staff have started to reap the benefits of their hard work, as seen with their premier of Multiverse at SGC. Among the other challenges Addison mentioned, classes, exams, and semester projects, can add to the number of distractions to the development of Multiverse. The great thing about Multiverse is that it will be free to download on PC or Mac and the projected release is late this year or early 2014. For more information on the release of Multiverse or any other games from Addison’s development team, check them out at the following links: - twitter.com/Frogmafia
Electronic Super Joy
Have you ever walked by a store and before your eyes can process what is being sold, the beat of the music already has you hooked? For me, I had this same experience with Electronic Super Joy. Luckily, I was greeted by an equally energetic Indie developer, Cassie, who represents Michael Todd Games, founded by none other than Michael Todd. I was informed that Michael usually creates his own games; however, this game was the exception as he worked alongside Cassie, sound designer Ryan Roth, and musician Envy. Together, this close knit team cranked out a spectacular visual of pixelated explosions, character design, and music that was supported by audio chants like “Oh yeah” from an invisible narrator. This game had similar qualities to Super Meat Boy, except it had more shades of blue than red and the club-like music was motivation enough to complete the level. For Cassie, games like Mega Man, Super Mario, and Kirby, all influenced her concept of level design. The overall goal was to create a challenging experience with entertaining qualities, such as its heart pounding soundtrack. Having traveled all the way from Toronto, Canada for SGC, Cassie revealed that one of the biggest challenges for her group was organization. This included the arrival of handouts (pens and posters), which sadly did not arrive for her group in time of SGC. Despite these setbacks, Michael can be proud of the presence that his group made at SGC and the hype gained from premiering Electronic Super Joy. If you would like to hear more about Michael Todd Games or Electronic Super Joy, checkout the following sites:
At most conventions I attend, I can usually count on some downtime when attendees sit by the corner of a hallway for a break in between events. I would normally use this time to conduct interviews with other con-goers and get their thoughts on the overall experience. In this case, I was reluctant to do so at SGC, which to me is a great sign of planning on their part with plenty of panels to attend. I was however, lucky to run into Louis, one of many gamers who was checking their Nintendo 3DS for street passes. As Louis shared with me the many games and anime that he is currently into, his proudest statement was being able to say that he was among the list of kick starters who contributed to the funding that enabled SGC to happen. It turns out that Louis is one of the many diehard fans of ScrewAttack who attended the Iron-Man of gaming back in 2007, and continued his support when the name of the convention changed to SGC in 2009. Ever since his first year of attending the conventions ScrewAttack hosts, Louis said that he was amazed at how high the bar of expectations is raised and met year after year. Whether it is the panelists, the game room, or the venue itself, Louis returns to each ScrewAttack convention knowing that he will leave satisfied and wanting more. It was this feeling that I wanted to experience myself and see the reaction of other fans that went with a similar purpose.
As cliché as it may sound, SGC was truly a unique experience. From the second I was greeted by “Nervous Nick” when we arrived to the hotel, to the final goodbyes from ScrewAttack members at the closing ceremony, I always felt that my presence was more than welcomed, but appreciated. At a convention such as SGC (with both a large venue and an equally sized fan attendance), I could see how at one could get lost in the numerous activities. For me, this was the never the case as SGC staff was always cheerful and ready to help me find my way in the hallways. Despite the many panels listed back to back, I never had that feeling one might get from standing in line at a theme park. It was easy to strike up a conversation about James Rolfe with the person standing in line in front of me. The one fact that I can proudly say, is that at no time did I feel like I was amongst strangers. Everyone who attended SGC went for the camaraderie of friendship, gaming, and for the love of watching their favorite members of ScrewAttack. If funds permit, I will most definitely attend SGC 2014 and I look forward to seeing new guests panelists, but also the friendly familiar faces of ScrewAttack.
~On behalf of MissionStartPodcast, I want to thank the ScrewAttack staff for assisting us in all our media needs, in particular, Sean Heinz for working diligently with me. I also want to thank all the guest panelists, including those I did not see, as I appreciate everyone’s attendance to show their support to the fans.
Thanks for checking out this review of our experience at SGC 2013! Stay tuned for more pictures and video of the cosplayers, guest panelists, and my interviews/gameplay with the Indie developers. They will be announced on our Facebook and YouTube pages once they become available. In the meantime, you can also checkout more content from me on my Facebook and YouTube channel by Google searching "ThatCosplayGuy".
This is Manny a.k.a. "ThatCosplayGuy" signing off.