Wednesday, March 23, 2011

C2E2: Post Game Part 3

So here we are. The last portion of my adventure. It all ends here on Sunday.

I slept awful. The fighting outside my door between a group of drunken baboons lasted much longer than it should have. And when that skirmish had ended, the next of wave of moronic twits spewing the slurred speech as a side effect of too many vodkas had moved in. I don't know when I finally fell asleep, I just know I slept an hour longer than I should have. I had to get in gear and have my booth set up before the floor opened to the public. Dave asked me to hand off a commission to a customer for him. He knew he was going to running late, and I had no problem with covering for him at the time. This was not at that time. My sluggish feet wouldn't move right and my head felt like a half inflated balloon. But I had to press on. It doesn't matter. Sunday's probably going to be slow anyway.

I arrived at the show with a worn out grimace. I didn't shave (in fact, I still haven't. The stress didn't stop at the show folks!) and all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball, wrap up in a warm blanket and dream about laying on the beach with super models feeding me grapes and cooling me down with a palm tree leaf. I checked in with some buddies and chatted about this and that. As it turns out, I chatted for way too long and the floor was starting to fill up with geeks. I rushed back to my table and began the day.

Before setting up and starting business, I took a long hard look at my table from all angles and made a stunning revelation. My neighbor Stephen's displays were set up in a way that hid my comics from certain angles. I hadn't noticed before now, because I was always set up before he arrived. Damn it! How many sales could I have made if I had realized this sooner. I quickly shifted my books around and placed them more towards the center. I thought in my head how I could boost my pitch. Twilight Pop Presents was doing remarkably bad on the sales front. I noticed every time I said "Anthology," the customer would drop the comic like it was dripping puss all over their hands. Dave had recommended saying, "a collection of short stories" on Saturday. Perhaps I should try it.

Despite my set up adjustments, interest for my comics was especially abysmal today. It was a good hour or so into the show and I hadn't pitched my new hooks all day. My first sale went to anther buddy from Indiana. Disappointment began to set in, and this time, my sleepiness was preventing me from maintaining a positive mental attitude. Dave arrived soon. His customer was impressed with his commission and Dave was happy about that. At least one of us had a good start to Sunday.

All of the sudden, the alley began to flood with people. Over the entire weekend, Artist Alley had not been nearly this packed. I began selling like crazy. Interested creators, new friends made from previous days, podcatsers, interviewers, upcoming writers, they were all surrounding my table. I was pitching people on Star Crossed Galaxy two at a time. It was like an assembly line of customers. I was on fire today. I couldn't go more than a few minutes without some form of interest in my stuff. Even if people weren't buying, they were still eager to know more about my comic or ask for any tips about comic book creation. It was turning out to be one hell of a day. I was terrified to leave my table for a second the way I was selling. I was actually looking forward for things to calm down instead of hoping for it to pick up!

A lot of people stopped by my booth. A friend of my cousin passed by my booth. He was also set up in Artist Alley and thanks to my cousin, decided to stop by and say hi. He had some of his own work he wanted to pass along to me to take a peak at. I felt bad that he was just giving me a sample of his work and getting nothing in return, so I handed him a free copy of SCG. One of the guys I ate Chinese food with on Saturday night, Rock, stopped by too. How cool is it to be named Rock? Totally fucking cool that's how. Matt McElroy of visited my booth too. He told me that they were starting their own Print On Demand service similar to Kablam's. he also let me know he was a big fan of Star Crossed Galaxy and was eagerly awaiting issue 2.

The day had finally begun to wind down. It was still early, but the alley was clearing up a bit. This was my last chance to talk with any editors. I took a little stroll to see what was what at the Dark Horse booth. They said that all the editors were down in Artist Alley taking a peak for any potential talent. Same story was at a few other publishers. Damn it! Perfect time to leave you doofus! I headed back to Artist Alley, hanging on to a teeny tiny glimmer of hope that some editor might stop and just say "You've got potential my lad!" Yeah I know, I'm a silly idealist. A guy can dream right? Yeah...

The show had now officially ended, and with the dimming lights came a hurricane of cheers. All the exhibitors, editors, writers and artists had congratulated each other with a feverish wail of both excitement and relief. I packed my stuff up and said my goodbyes to my neighbors. Dave, Stephen, Jeremy, it was a real thrill. Thanks for making fun. I strolled down to meet up with Andy. We'd be riding the train back together so it seemed like the right idea. to my surprise, Andy was long gone. Only a book that read WORD lay in his spot. Strangely appropriate, I thought. I checked in with Terry to see what was his plan. He invited me to ride back with him and Al in their car. I already paid for a round trip ticket back to Indiana on the train, but Terry could get me back an hour and a half earlier. No brainer. I rode with Terry. His car was packed with a ton of shit, so it was a tight squeeze. Claustrophobic's be warned.

After stopping for a brief meal and being flirted with by the cashier girl, it was time to head home. An hour and half earlier as expected. After getting home the first thing I did was take off my shoes (and my pants). It was the end of my first convention. My initial expectations were anywhere from 5-10 sales. By the end of Saturday I had sold 15. All in all, I sold 36 comics! It was more than half of my stock. I was very pleased with my first outing at C2E2. I did better than I could have ever hoped. To any and all up and coming creators looking to start conventions, I offer this advice: be yourself. Don't be too pushy. Relax. Have fun. Be good to your neighbors. Don't be too concerned about "bar con." But above all else, don't worry about selling anything. Go for the memories and the experience. I did well for my first convention, but even if I didn't, it still would have been an absolute blast! Now go make a comic!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

C2E2: Post Game Part 2

Continuing my epic saga at C2E2, I give you Saturday's tale.

Saturday started out perfectly on schedule. I was awake, showered and ready to go right when I wanted to be. After eating my $4 almond and cream cheese danish (Chicago is so damn pricey!) I set out for the show. Sadly, the bus delayed my near perfect timing but at least I didn't have to pay for a cab (sorry Andy).

I arrived at the show and checked in with my buddies and my neighbors. Booth setup was a breeze this time, and everything was ship shape when the customers started rolling in. Saturday was said to be the biggest day of the show, and having already met my low end sales goal on Friday, I was eager to see what the biggest day of the show had in store. Unfortunately, I was about to be disappointed.

Friday started about as slow as a pegged legged turtle caught in molasses. My first sale was to my dad and my second was to one of my comic book friends from Indiana. Following Dave's advice, I took it in stride and didn't let it bog me down. I took a moment or two to investigate the show floor and see what was what. The Ghostbusters toy display was particularly cool. I also ran into some cool characters like Dizzy and Anya from Gears of War, the best Jango Fett I've ever seen, and a kick ass Juggernaut. I also tried to talk with some editors at Dark Horse, or Zenescope, somewhere to publish some creator owned material, if nothing else just to get my name out there. Sadly, I was overcome by my nerves and decided to take it slow for the rest of the day. This was my frost show after all. I'll try again tomorrow. I was out for a bit longer than I wanted to be, so I had to head back to my table.

Upon returning, Dave was giving advice to an aspiring comic artist. She came to the con looking to absorb as much info about the biz as possible. Ah, reminds me of myself back in Wizard World Chicago circa 2007. She was pretty cool and she hung around for awhile. I think her name was Becca. This is what I was looking forward to at the show, giving advice about what I have learned over the years. I'm no pro yet, but I've learned my fair share of tricks. Dave and I offered everything we could, and hopefully, she got some great tips to mull over for the next few weeks. the funniest thing about Becca is that she came back much later in the day. Maybe she had a little crush on Dave, who knows. I like to compare her to the sweet little puppy who followed us home. I don't mean in a bad way either.

At this point my sales began to pick up and I was making some new contacts. I met so many people that I couldn't remember them all. I know I lost more than a few business cards along the way, too. Bad first timer, bad! Anyways, with sales picking up I felt much more comfortable about the day. I was able to sell more comics than Friday, but not by much. Big Saturday wasn't all that big for me, but since I surpassed my high end expectations, I was still very pleased. I closed up shop for the day and headed to chat with some friends. Instead of hanging out with my dad again, I thought I try my hand at networking.

I tagged along with Andy and his pals. They were some great folks and we had a great time getting semi-trapped in an elevator and stumbling along Chinatown in downtown Chicago. We ate at a nice little Chinese restaurant with a screaming baby that lead to an abundance of Alien themed jokes. Although the food was good, it wasn't very agreeable later.

After our meal we went to the Hyatt where all the comic book creators were hanging out and networking. I ran in to Dave again and we chatted a bit. I also caught a glimpse of the Ghosthunter dude and Badger from Firefly. It seemed appropriate to run into him considering my pitch for Star Crossed Galaxy was "It's like Firefly meets Pirates of the Caribbean." Sadly, I was having better luck networking on the show floor then here. I called it a night early. I was tired and had work to do. I stayed until about one and didn't actually get a chance to sleep until two. Unfortunately, some drunken mongrels ion the hall of the 30th floor at the Sheraton guaranteed a long night for me. The next morning was not about to go over smoothly.

Monday, March 21, 2011

C2E2: Post Game Part 1

I'm back from C2E2 and decided to recount my experience in full. This will be three parts (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) of everything I did at my first ever con.

The day started earlier than it should have. Sleep was nearly impossible. I was far too busy worrying if I had packed everything and if I would miss my train. Maybe I would be mugged in Chicago, or worse, get lost and never find my way home!!!! I'm a country mouse about to be thrust into the big city. I've been to Chicago many times, but this was going to be the first time I spent a weekend in downtown Chicago pretty much on my own. I arrived at the station with no food in my belly and dying of thirst. My friend Andy was purchasing his ticket as I walked in. We both bought round trip tickets just to be safe. Perhaps a bit preemptive on my part, but we'll get to that later. And so began the adventure. The train ride was long and tedious. Andy and I chatted most of the way, talking about how these cons work. Since I was such a rookie, I was eager to learn whatever I could. Andy's advice: be yourself, and don't be too pushy.

The train wouldn't drop us off at McCormick because of some retarded bylaw about weekday travel to the convention center. BS. Luckily, the train's last stop was Millennium Station, 3 or 4 blocks from our hotel. I had my own room, which I would be sharing with my Dad and brother when they came up for the Saturday show. Andy was bunking with some of his cohorts who arrived the day earlier. They were kind enough to meet us at Millennium Station and guide us along the way. Not that it was all that confusing, but it was still a pretty stand up gesture.

We walked out of the station and into the big city. It was dizzyingly huge. Little city mouse had arrived and was somewhat overwhelmed. I took in the sights as we trekked to the hotel. It was hard to here the conversations going on with Andy and his buds, with all the traffic and wind (they don't call it the Windy City for nothing) so I took it all in slowly, rather than be too vocal.
At last we arrived at the hotel. It was stylish and classy, but I expected that much from Chicago. Andy went up to his room to drop some things off, so I decided to check in. They put me up on the 30th floor. Dad would not be happy about that. Oh well.

After getting all set up, it was time to head to the con. One short shuttle ride was all it took. I headed down to Artist Alley, excited to set up the booth and get down to business. I had to split a table with another artist, but I didn't mind. It gave me a chance to network and expand my contacts in the industry. I already did some investigating on my neighbors. I was familiar with Jeremy Dale. He and I knew a lot of the same people, being that we're both from the same town. I had met him at C2E2 2010, where I was just a spectator. It was nice being nearby someone I was at least somewhat familiar. To my left was Stephen Bryant, who despite all my googling, I could not find anything on (it kept taking me to Steven Bryant, who was also at C2E2). But the guy I was really nervous about was Dave Crosland. I would be sharing the table with Dave all weekend, so if we didn't get along it was going to be an uncomfortable weekend. Fortunately, Dave turned out to be a great guy. I seriously could not have asked for a better table buddy. He was also quite experienced with these conventions. Dave's advice: Don't get too wrapped in the sales. Just relax, have fun and chat with be good to your neighbors. Nothing is worse than a bad neighbor, thankfully, I didn't have one. Also, Dave's work is absolutely astounding. Check him out. Go on, I won't be offended. In fact Jeremy and Stephen had some incredible work too. Google them while you're at it.

Back to topic. The show was about to begin. My first sale was to a guy who was clearly very excited about my comic. I didn't even need to pitch it to the guy. He just needed to buy an issue of Star Crossed Galaxy. I'd rather have one person who needs to read this than hundreds of people who want to read this. I think I just paraphrased Joss Whedon, but I'm not sure. Needless to say it was just the confidence boost I needed for the show.

At this point the show finally opened to the general public. I was having a great time networking with some of the pros, but it was time to get busy. Friday started a bit slow. There was a lot of trial and error on my part on just how to deliver my hook, but once I got it, I really got it. By the end of Friday, I had a total of 7 sales for Star Crossed Galaxy and Twilight Pop. I predicted I'd make 5-10 sales for the whole weekend, so I was very happy with result of day one.

With the show over, I went around and met up with a few of my friends. I was curious about this "Bar Con" that I've heard about. I chatted with my pal Terry, also more experienced at these conventions. terry's advice: skip bar con. Taking Terry's advice I decided to forgo hanging out and networking at the local bars in favor of some family time (I had work tomorrow after all). My dad just arrived in Chicago with my younger brother, so I planned on catching a bite with them. We ate at a pizza joint just a few blocks away from our hotel. It reminded me of my younger years when I followed my dad around Chicago way back when he worked for WMAQ. Good memories. The pizza was good, but the appetizer burned my mouth so bad, that I couldn't taste anything in the morning. Maybe I should have blown on it first.

With dinner done, we headed back to the hotel and caught a much needed night sleep. It was the end of a great day. But, the best (and worst) had yet to come.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Order Dictates: Bioware Silences Negative Opinions?

Earlier this week, Bioware released Dragon Age 2, the sequel to the smash hit Dragon age Origins. Though critic reviews have been generally positive, the fan response has been catastrophic. Metacritic rates Dragon Age 2 at a respectable 84 out of 100 from critics. It’s certainly one of the weaker scores the prolific RPG developer has received over the years and a far cry from the 91 it received with DAO (note: this is based on the PC ratings). Fans however, are being particularly harsh on DA2. 3.0 out of 10 is the current aggregate score from user reviews. An unfortunate score to be sure, but honestly, it should have been expected. DAO was marketed to the hardcore RPG demographic, whereas DA2 seemed to have been marketed towards and entirely different audience (if you’d call it marketing. Where the hell was the launch trailer?!).

I personally have not played DA2, nor do I have an interest to, which is a testament to the failures of the game in and of itself. I have been a loyal Biofan since the days of Neverwinter Nights. I have played nearly every Bioware Game to date (with the exception of Baldur’s Gate and I never finished Jade Empire). I even wrote a review calling Dragon Origins Bioware’s opus. My initial excitement for DA2 waned dramatically as more information came to light.

For the record, I don’t begrudge Bioware’s decision to try something new and experiment with different methods and styles. I do however begrudge Bioware for their handling of the aftermath of DA2’s release. Fans have been highly outspoken in their criticism of DA2 over the Bioware Social Network. Bioware’s response was creating a sticky topic of fan reactions on the forum to avoid cluttering the message board. That makes sense. The only problem is, only the negative threads are getting locked down and marked as spam. I visited the forum and found no less than 20 negative topics locked down. That is an excessive amount of threads sure, but the problem is that I found nearly as many active topics praising Bioware for such a fantastic game. Why is Bioware not holding positive feedback to the same standard as the negative feedback? Are they attempting to alter the perception of the fan reception by locking all negative opinions and keeping the praise active? Considering the swirling rumors about Bioware’s attempt to remove certain negative reviews from metacritic’s website, I’d say it’s a strong possibility. EA has also been accused of bullying critics that rate their games poorly in reviews. Wow. Looks like they may be imposing order on the chaos of video gamers’ opinions.

None of this makes Bioware, EA, or the fans look good (calling forum moderator Stanley Woo an ass just because he locked down a thread is both juvenile and pathetic). Most the negative criticism is being painted off as PC gaming elitists and internet trolls. I find it highly unlikely that every single person who reviewed on metacritic is a troll. It is far more likely that they are an emotional and bitter fan base who felt they were getting a sequel to a game they loved rather than a reboot designed for a completely separate audience. This is all just personal observation and conjecture. As I said, I have not actually played DA2, but considering the sheer size of the negative response, I find it highly unlikely that this is a simple smear campaign. Bioware fans feel betrayed. I sincerely hope that Mass Effect 3 turns out okay, because as of right now, I don’t have much hope for my former favorite game developer, now that EA is busy assuming direct control.

3-28-11 UPDATE: Earlier this month Escapist magazine reported that a suspiciously positive review on Metacritic for Dragon Age 2 was taken down recently. The reviewer gave the game a perfect 10/10 score stating, "The immersion and combat of this game are unmatched! A truly moving and fun epic... Anything negative you'll see about this game is an overreaction of personal preference. For what it is, it is flawlessly executed and endlessly entertaining."

This review was written by a user named Avanost, who is more commonly known by his real world name, Chris Hoban, an applications engineer currently working for none other than Bioware. The review, of course, made no mention or disclaimer to such information. Yikes.

So let me get this straight Bioware, if I were to play Dragon Age 2, dislike the hell out of it, and complain to you directly how much I disliked this game, my opinion would be invalid due to the fact that I am clearly overreacting due to personal preference? I thought you guys listened to your fans, not write them off when they say something you don't like. I guess this explains why Ashley and Kaidan have been completely erased from the Mass Effect universe. I admit, I'm having trouble believing just how far this company has fallen in such a short amount of time. Have you sold your soul to the EA devil? Sorry. Just had to say it.