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GDC Diary
Bar Harbor
Wow, that was crazy exhausting overwhelming cool. Definitely net positive, but I'm totally wiped. Will post session notes later, this is more about my personal experiences.

Virgin America planes now have interactive multimedia stations at every seat, with TV, movies, games, chat between different seats, etc. There's a slot for your credit card and you can buy food, drinks, and wireless access during the flight. I wasn't really into all that, but I did like the screen where you could see exactly where the plane is on Google Maps :) I spent most of the flights writing (including this!), reading, or trying to nap. I had some games with me, but never really played any of them. (Except for a few dozen openings of Vanitas, which is good for when you're already zoning out.)

Had a lousy experience with hotel checkin Wednesday night. Shane Mathews and I (who were going to be rooming together) arrived about 10:30 PM local time. I was pretty fried, and looking forward to unpacking and crashing. The checkin lady told us that there was a slight glitch; they *did* have rooms for us -- but a large block of rooms had just now been freed up by an ailine crew checking out, and they hadn't been cleaned yet. The rooms should be ready in half an hour or so, and we were fifth in line. In the meantime, here's a voucher for dinner for two at any of the hotel restaurants, and why don't you check your bags down here. So we checked our bags, and headed into the bar to socialize with the other GDC folks. Indeed, after about half an hour, we got called back to the desk. Another slight glitch; no rooms available with double beds. We'll have to take a single bed room, with a rollaway. Just for tonight, though; if we leave our luggage packed on our beds in the morning, they will move it to our new, double bed room. Remeber how I had been looking forward to unpacking? Arg. Shane and I argue for a bit over which one of us will nobly take the rollaway, but he eventually plays the "I'm younger and stronger" card, and I concede. The bellhop we checked our luggage with was nowhere to be seen; it took us another 15 minutes to find someone to dig out our bags. It takes us a while to find the right bank of elevators; there are three: High-rise, Mid-rise, and Low-rise. The signs clearly tell us that we need to use the Low-rise elevators to get to our room, but we can only see the other two. Eventually, we discover the Low-rise bank hidden away at the back. Feeling very much like second-class citizens, we went up. The screen inside the elevator that normally displays ads was instead displaying a Blue Screen of Death. I later observed many more of these, as well as ones which were stuck on a failed bootup screen. We drag the gear up to the room and stow it. By now, I'm pretty hungry, and suggest using our dinner voucher. Shane agrees, and we head out -- only to discover that all the hotel restaurant kitchens are now closed. I head back to the room to eat some of the emergency snack food I cleverly brought, and finally crash around midnight (3AM internal time).

They *did* actually move our luggage to the new room, and they did eventually honor the dinner voucher, so points there. But just for a final bit of Hotel Fail, Friday morning (our first morning in the 'right' room, the alarm clock went off at 6 AM, housekeeping having failed to turn it off after the previous tenant set it. The process for turning the alarm off was somewhat non-intuitive, and explained on a piece of cardboard prominently displayed underneath the glass table-top -- but *double-sided*, so I had to extract it to get the information I needed! The Marriot Marquis is very pretty, has a great view, and is quite convenient to the Moscone Convention Center -- but man they are unimpressive in most other respects.

Checking in at the con was pretty painless, and largely automated. The badge holders were large, sturdy, and on lanyards. The badges themselves were quite small compared with the holders, which I thought was a real missed opportunity. They displayed the first name large enough to be seen at some distance, but the full name and employer were in small type that you had to be very close to to read. I partially remedied that on my badge by sticking one of my business cards in the badge holder, over the badge proper, with the Irrational Games logo prominent. Note to self: add a small roll of tape to the Bag of Useful Things -- the business card often slipped.

One thing the con did which I think worked extremely well was their volunteer marking (and density). You were never far from a person in a brightly visible lime-green shirt, with a GDC logo on the front, and the back reading in large, friendly letters: "Ask me, I can help."

The crowds were quite daunting. Huge halls and corridors in the convention center, but still frequently subject to traffic jams. My crowd-phobia had several flare-ups, but I didn't have any complete breakdowns.

Two high points happened on Thursday at the panel on Environmental Storytelling. First, one of the example slides was a piece of my work. Secondly, after the talk I spent some time chatting with Tim Stellmach. When I first joined the industry as a lowly QA Peon, he was the Lead Designer who I idolized. And here I was, talking shop with him as an equal! There has been some talk on various people's LJs recently about the annoyances of feeling old -- but here's a major upside; not just meeting your heroes, but *joining* them.

There was a QuartertoThree dinner at Hunan Harry's on Thursday night. Chatted with Dean O'Donnell, Mike Sofaer, and Syren. Brad Wardell (of Stardock fame) showed up late, and we had some of the mutual admiration thing going -- he's a huge fan of Freedom Force vs the Third Reich :-)

At various points during the convention, I ran into and got to chat with a bunch of former colleagues: Tim Stellmach, Sara Verelli, Dean Tate, JP LeBreton, Jeff Dixon. Got to meet Harvey Smith, whose work I have enjoyed for a long time, and Zack McClendon, who was Lead Designer for BioShock 2. Ran into an old college friend, Hugh Sider, who I hadn't seen in literally decades, and we chatted some about the future of the industry. Met some academic types by accident, when I was passing by, heard them discussing H. P. Lovecraft, and had to join in :-) Turned out that they were BioShock fans, which was gratifying.

Friday night, a bunch of Irrational folk went out to dinner at The Stinking Rose, an awesome specialty restaurant: "We season our garlic with food." Everything on the menu has at least a little garlic, and most dishes have a LOT. My palate was quite delighted.

Sadly, the next morning, I discovered that a long-held theory of mine was false -- there IS such a thing as too much garlic. My digestive system was in distress until early afternoon.

Sunday morning, I got up pre-dawn to take the BART to the airport -- only to discover that the BART doesn't start running until 8 on Sunday! Luckily, the doorman at the hotel let me know this on my way out the door, and pointed me to an airport shuttle van.

My new netbook did yeoman service during this, its first really serious usage. In fact, I am typing this on said netbook on the plane going home. Very much looking forward to being home! (Though by the time I post this, I presumably will have been for a while.)

Later: Ack! The approach to Logan may have been the bumpiest airplane ride I've ever experienced. Quite harrowing. Thankfully, the landing itself was near-perfect. Safe home now!

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Your whole post from "Vanitas" in the last sent of par.2 to the end seems to be linked to one single hyperlink. I suspect a missing "</a>".

It's a second <a> instead of a closing </a>.

Weird. That that displayed 'correctly' in my browser, causing me to miss the error.

They displayed the first name large enough to be seen at some distance, but the full name and employer were in small type that you had to be very close to to read.

As cvirtue is fond of pointing out, many people need to learn Very Basic Heraldy.

Consider this: you've now been in the business considerably longer than I had back when we made Thief.

Oh hi! Didn't know you were on LJ too. I like the user name; Oz ref?

Yes, indeed. Why am I not surprised that you've read more than the first book?

Actually co-wrote an Oz LARP many years ago. And still use the catch-phrase "We love you in soup!" :-)

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