Because this was a long and awesome-filled week, I'm splitting this up into the general report on the con (this post) and a real-life-friends-related post.
GenCon '08 was a blast, as expected. I spent most of my time at the con itself touring the dealer's hall, but that was plenty. There were even a few surprises, both good and bad.The Good
First and foremost, The Gamers: Dorkness Rising
(or The Gamers II) finally made it to DVD release! It was a lot of fun to preview it two years ago at GenCon '06, and I've been waiting impatiently ever since to get my hands on my copy. I got it signed by some of the Dead Gentlemen Productions crew, but was unfortunately unable to collect the whole set. Fortunately, I did manage to talk to most of them individually and catch up on old times and future plans, however briefly; I'm very much hoping to continue working on Demon Hunters RPG projects, since they're just an awesome group of people to work with.
On the text front, the Cortex System RPG (Con Preview Edition) and the Serenity Adventures books both made it to the convention, which I was glad to see. They both look good (barring some internal artwork I'm not too fond of), though I haven't had time to read through either of them yet in order to evaluate production quality.
Oh, and White Wolf's Hunter: The Vigil also premiered recently, though it hit some stores and cons slightly before GenCon itself. I picked up a copy for my brother, but I'm not sure if we'll wind up using it or not.
And one computer game event managed to catch my attention: the demonstration booth of Bioware's upcoming RPG, Dragon Age: Origins, the 'spiritual successor to Baldur's Gate,' as the demo guy called it.
The demo booth itself was eyecatching, being a plaster faux-stone-walled-keep in the middle of the dealer's hall. It had a barred wooden door guarded alternately by guys in armor and bored-looking guys in t-shirts, which let you enter a small theatre area with exposed wooden beams above and wooden benches inside, arranged before a podium and a large flat-screen. I think it's worth noting that they had an extremely comfortable carpet inside, too.
The demo was narrated by a man in armor while one of the t-shirt-dudes, now less bored, played it out. We saw an in-game cutscene (3/5 stars; good looking, not amazing on the voice-acting front, used in-game graphics, but stuttered occaisionally), heard a bit about the world and the character-creation system (basically a standard fantasy world, but with an emphasis on the idea that your character's background story and early life would be very significant to the story and NPC reactions), witnessed a few in-game conversations (4/5 stars; looked a bit like KOTOR, sounded a lot like Planescape: Torment in terms of 'conversation = important', but I wanted more than 3 options more of the time), and then saw a bit of combat.
Battles were conducted in a manner a reminiscent of of BGII and KOTOR. You get a full party (I saw up to 4 characters grouped, but I'm not sure what the max is), and you control them one at a time in a combat that is real-time, but lets you pause between attacks in order to assign moves and actions to each character, unless you feel like letting the AI handle things. However, according to the demo man, Bioware has thrown the recent move to make games easier to play out the window: just like in Baldur's Gate, if you don't prepare for a fight fully, and then fail to use appropriate tactics, you'll "be eliminated." The game is supposed to be tough. I don't know if it'll wind up that way, but the demo man did die and reload at least once, and in a big fight lost all but one character.
I'm not going to rate combat fully here, since it was clearly an in-development feature of the game. Some AI characters bugged out and stuttered, some had horrible pathing errors where they got stuck on each other, and so on. The spells did both look and 'play' amazingly well, though, and we got to see them interacting with each other, when a Grease spell was ignited into a flame patch by a Fireball, which was then doused by a Blizzard.The Bad
For some reason I haven't yet researched, Blizzard (of Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo fame) wasn't at the con. I was really, really looking forward to demoing Starcraft II and Diablo III, since Blizzard had a HUGE presence at the con last year, including playable demos of SCII and the upcoming WoW expansion. I was taken in by WoW-card-game related adverts, which I think must have been a deliberate bait-and-switch, but there's nothing for it. I'll just have to wait for the public releases just like all the other mortals who couldn't make it to BlizzCon.
There was also a corset-shop set up right near the MWP booth, so I had to pass it several times; the creepy-old-man proprietor managed to make a female friend of mine a bit uncomfortable. The people in corsets I could just avoid looking at; that, however, pissed me off.The Awesome
I did spend some time at the con talking to writers, publishers, and artists, including MWP. The coolest stuff includes (in no particular order): I shouldn't have a problem securing a third-party license to do a Cortex sourcebook, I'll soon be getting some income from my freelancing work, an artist I met two years ago remembered me and said he'd be happy to have me commission some work from him, and a friend and fellow freelancer is putting together a writing commune/consortium of some kind which may provide some additional work.