Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dammed If You Do ...

Given that this story is unspooling right at the bottom of the hill beneath Grubb Street, I'm going to stay with it. And the story is the partial failure of the Hanson Dam and the resulting risk of flooding along the Green River valley this winter, which includes Auburn, Kent, and Renton.

Here's the short version - the ground around the dam is seeping water, weakening the dam. The Army Corps of Engineers is working on a patch, but in the meantime they cannot hold as much water back, which means that in case of a major rainstorm, they will have to pass the water along, flooding the valley.

Last time we checked in, I applauded the local leaders for recommending flood insurance, and getting it sooner as opposed to later. Now simultaneous to that, a lot of insurance companies have determined the risk in the valley was too great (meaning they would have to pay out if something went wrong), and both stopped writing business policies and tried to terminate existing policies.

Hmm. Insurance companies trying to retroactively cancel policies once they realize they may have to pay out. That seems vaguely familiar. If only there was some sort of option, perhaps a public one, that people could turn to. We could call it a "public option". Yeah, that would work.

Actually, as far as flood insurance, there is such an option from the government. That's the good news. The bad news is that while it will help, it won't cover enough for the businesses that have shown up in droves in the valley over the past forty years or so, which have a lot of expensive and generally immobile equipment. The whole story, with a particular eye towards the effects on the business in the valley, is found here in the Seattle Times. And while it states that most of the residences would be OK with government insurance (And if you have flood insurance, double-check - regular home-owners insurance doesn't cover this type of flooding), a lot of the immobile resources of the businesses, large and small, outstrip that coverage.

I expect the various leaders in the valley, from local to national, are trying to address this, and there will likely be more to this as we move forward. The article notes that the advanced warning provided for this potential flood has contributed to the insurance companies bailing. If the dam just broke suddenly, they wouldn't have the chance to get to higher financial ground in time. How fortunate for them.

On an unrelated note, there is another matter that's crossed my mind. The Hanson Dam is in the Tacoma watershed. If they can't hold as much water back, what kind of challenge does that present to them? Has that subject been brought up yet?

Yeah, this is going to be ongoing.

More later,

Republican Health Plan

While a lot of lefties have been entreating the Dems in Congress to grow a spine and stand up to their more conservative brethren, one guy finally "went there".

Mind you, the Republicans are insulted (and the only reason you don't hear them being insulted is that this is the after-hours speechifying for the cameras - there are about three guys in the chamber).

But I don't see the irritation - I've been using this joke since the Reagan Administration. (But I think the Representative should check in with Senator Franken to work on his delivery).

More later,

Update: OK, now he's just trying to push their buttons.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Quids Today

So I'm walking through the UW Campus, looking for the giant head of Edvard Grieg (but that's a story for another time). When I come across the following (click to embiggen).

Here's a closer look -

The goalie is standing in front of three hoop-shaped goals. She is riding a broom. In fact, all the players are have brooms between their thighs as they run around with a number of balls.

Quidditch. They are playing quidditch.

I'm not quite sure how to react to this. If you were 8-10 when the first Harry Potter books came out, you'd be about college age now.

But watching a large pitch of fans cheering on the game makes me miss the more gentile, reasonable sports of an earlier generation, now abandoned. Ones that were creations of masses as opposed to being presented in popular fiction. Immortal games of contest that we could truly call our own.

You know, like frisbee golf.

More later,

Monday, September 28, 2009

Questions and Answers

So a Facebook friend from Germany named Moritz sent me a large, wide-ranging list of questions that ranged from Marvel Super Heroes to Manual of the Planes to Life at TSR to Writing Books with the Lovely Bride. You can find Part One here.

More later,

Update: And Part Two is here.

Also, other bloggers interested in interviews can contact me over at my grubbstreet address (see the sidebar). I am free to talk about old stuff, previous designs, and gaming in the age of the dinosaurs, but anything related to my current gig (ArenaNet and in particular Guild Wars 2) will have to pass through the company's media/marketing guy. More later,

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Gee, Twenty

So the G-20 conference was held in Pittsburgh late last week, and though if you pay attention to the media you might have missed it, for most of the folk in my home town it was a pretty big deal.

The meeting itself involved the top twenty developed countries meeting in one place to discuss how to run the rest of the world. So of a regular mega-summit (and I remember as a child summits were rare, important things - sort of like World's Fairs). But except for the latest move in the nuclear chess game with Iran (where Obama told everyone we knew about the Iranian secret reactor and Iran responded with "Oh, you mean THAT secret reactor"), it was pretty procedural - a few good announcements, some self-congratulation that the economies haven't fallen totally off a cliff, a big dinner at the Phipps Conservatory, and pushing off climate change to the next of these regular events.

Seriously, there was lousy coverage. The Daily Show showed up to mock the media coverage, but there wasn't a lot of it to mock. I had to do some digging to find what was happening, with the best reporting coming off the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Blog (which is devilish hard to access from their front page). Even the liberal blogs were mostly quiet, but then, they had been in town in early August, and still had leftover Primanti Brothers sandwiches in their fridges. But still, the national discourse for the summit itself was pretty lame.

But leading up to this mostly-ignored event, Pittsburgh was in a dither. We are a fretful people, we Burghers. Anyone who has seen me in the run-up to one of our Christmas dinners or gaming day parties know about fretful. Now imagine an entire city caught up in this - Do we have enough rooms? Will the renovation to the local Hilton be complete? What about the stalled and bankrupt projects on Mount Washington? Will the guests get a good opinion of the city? Will they tell their friends? I was in town in early August and we had already hit a fever pitch of frantic worry.

And the local media helped not at all, identifying every tourist with a camera as an advance man for the waves of anarchists that would flood the city. So the city did something that no protesters could do - it shut itself down. Seriously. bridges shut down, shops closed and boarded up, people told to stay away, apocalypse after-the-plague empty streets. Or as they usually call it, Sunday Afternoon. Two full days of Sunday Afternoon.

And they took a hard line with potential protesters, denying permits, tightly constraining permitted sites, and spending a lot of money on bringing law enforcement in from all over the place. Seriously, the cop-to-protester margin was so high, the protesters had their own personal law enforcement valet ("Hello, my name is Officer Gregg, and I will arresting you today"). The cops had clubs, dogs, tear gas, beanbag shot, rubber bullets, and in an advance that will make Pittsburgh a future footnote, the first use of sonic weapons on a civilian population (and no, I'm not talking about the midnight fireworks display at PNC park Saturday night, which steamed MORE people off).

One of the end results of all the hard line was that the cops confronted the illegal protests not downtown, where property damage could happen, but in neighborhoods like Lawrenceville, where the locals got front-row-seats (well, front-stoop-seats) of the conflict plus the bonus of being tear gassed for living in the wrong part of town.

And there were anarchists, though not in the bogeyman numbers raised by the media. In fact the local police are saying half the listed damage was from one guy. Now anarchists are sort of the left-wing version of teabaggers, in that it doesn't take a lot of them to blacken the honest intentions of other protesters. But unlike the teabaggers, anarchists don't wear flags as clothing, don't have the same level of organization and don't have a cable news network planning their rallies for them.

Seriously, anarchists. If you want to get some traction, get a network sponsorship. Maybe Bravo or Cartoon Network.

The largest Thursday conflict was in Lawrenceville neighborhood, where police squared off against 500 illegal protesters. Now, as a point of reference, for WTO in Seattle, they ARRESTED more than 500 people, so this was very, very small. Friday's "official" protest was a well-controlled amble past lines of heavily armed troopers, and numbered around 2000 marchers (again, for reference, we had a pro-health care rally in Seattle with 3000, which was so unremarkable the local paper forgot to cover it). And there was the standard collection of Greenpeacers hanging signs off bridges, monks chanting, protestors hula-hooping and doing interpretive dance (my favorite photo caption was "Protester taunts police by doing handstands"), and some guy from PETA dressed up as a clubbed seal. Or as we in Seattle like to call it -- Sunday Afternoon.

So Friday, everyone goes home, and things go back to normal. Well, except for the Police Riot up at the University of Pittsburgh, where the heavily-armed riot police, with nothing else to do went after a trailing edge of protesters and in the process nailed a bunch of locals, students, and oh yes, a reporter who was guilty of not looking old enough to be a serious journalist. Up to that point, the city pretty much escaped the worst of the police brutality accusations, but riot cops taking pictures of each other standing on downed students pushed that hope off a cliff.

So Saturday night, of course, there was a protest to protest the protest from Friday, but wisely, not as many cops showed up (the out-of-town help apparently went home) and things moved more smoothly (the cops put a couple undercover agents/agent provocateurs in the crowd, which the crowd spotted and outed quickly).

So the end result? More damage was done to Pittsburgh bySteeler fans after the last Superbowl than by the hated and feared anarchists (um.. anarchist). Pittsburgh shut itself down and gave the delegates the impression they were in a heavily militarized ghost town (the Russians were taking notes). A lot of Pitt students and Lawrenceville locals are more radicalized than they were before they were tear-gassed for their own protection. Most of those arrested will have charges dismissed (except for that one guy, and hopefully whatever neanderthal broke the windows at the Irish Design Studio on South Craig). And the city will have to shell out more cash to handle the court cases from over-zealous, heavily armed out of town law enforcement. And the circus moves on to Toronto.

Which is, all things considered, is probably the best we could expect.

More later,

Friday, September 25, 2009

Art Book

So, remember the art book we (ArenaNet) were giving away at PAX? And you said to yourself, wow, if I knew that, I would have showed up and paid admission and gotten one? Well, now you can be the proud owner of a Guild Wars 2 art book, containing the brilliant concept art of our brilliant concept artists.

All this, and without the risk of the Pax Pox.

More later,

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Apparently, we in the Panther Lake area (which includes Grubb Street) will be voting this fall on whether to abandon our status as part of unincorporated King County and join the city of Kent.

This has been a long time coming, but color me surprised. I didn't find this out from a mailing from Kent, or an announcement by King County, or an invitation to a discussion, or a visit from a representative of the new government. I didn't find it out by reading the Seattle Times (no real surprise there) or from the local news channels. In fact, googling through back files of media, all I can find is mush-mouthed references that such a proposal "might be on the ballot soon", such stories dating back from a few months ago to a few years.

But no. I had to find out that this measure was on the ballot through the Stranger blog, which provided a reference (but no direct link) to the Municipal League and its endorsement that Panther Lake should join up with Kent and make it the region's 5th Biggest City.

Now, I'm generally in favor of this turn of events both in terms of representation and as a matter of tidying up the community borders. There are a lot of islands unclaimed by any local authority all through King County, and in the absence of some local community, the County is responsible for them. This is all well and good with mostly rural regions, but as exurbification intensifies and the populations swell, the county is responsible for an archipelago of varied territories. Folding us into Kent makes a modicum of sense, and while I'm willing to entertain other arguments, I am for it.

But gee, a lot of Panther Lake residents are going to find out about it for the first time when they get their ballots (or worse yet, when they read it on this blog). Right across the Soos Creek, there is a flurry of yard signs arguing about incorporating Fairwood as new city. But Panther Lake joining Kent? Very, very low key.

Its almost a pity date of a political merger. You know, Kent is all "I hear that King County wants to dump you and if you're free, maybe we can go out sometime" and Panther Lake is "Yeah, you know, maybe there's a dance in a couple weeks and we can go with a group" and Kent is "Yeah, whatever." It is so, you know, high school.

Mind you, I think its a good idea. But flowers would have been, you know, nice.

More later,

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Settlers 7

A long time ago (in blog time), I was involved with creating The Settlers: Rise of an Empire game with Blue Byte software. The game was also called The Settlers 6, and the series has been very successful in Europe (S6 won a writing award, among other awards - woo-hoo) but did not get as much traction in the US, which was a pity, since the sandbox-medieval-village-builder with military options was a cool design (oh, and it had a good story as well).

Time moves on, and now Settlers 7, or rather Settlers: Paths to a Kingdom has been announced. I didn't have anything to do with this one, but a friend sent me the link showing off the first advertisement for it. And it is really, really cool. I really like how the Settlers series is going back to its early, more cartoon-like roots in character design and animation, and the cinematic captures the major points of the game - the world-building, the upgrading of structures, the interesting characters, and the fact that combat is a component of the game, not the dominant activity.

I look forward to this release, and point it out to guys in the States, since games like this get buried in the latest FP shooter.

More later,

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hail, Hail

Busy today - so you guys are just going to have to go play in the Effing Hail.

Just doing my part to destroy your productivity at work. More later,

Monday, September 21, 2009

Will Success Spoil Dr. Horrible?

So this is all over the Internets this morning:

So, where to begin, for those not paying attention? First off, Neil Patrick Harris is Doctor Horrible, who starred in "Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" with Nathan Fillion and Felicia Day and was made during the writer's strike by Joss Whedon and released to the Internets to a collective nerd-gasm. And Neil Patrick Harris was ALSO the host of the Emmys this year, and DHSAB was nominated in the "Best Regalia" category (at least, I think so - I didn't watch), so it makes sense to see the character turn up there.

And the Emmys are in the throws of a discussion that is well-known to gaming professionals - are awards to recognize individual achievement or to promote the general product (See the last 25 years of discussions about the Origins and GenCon Awards)? But that is an argument for eternity. Instead, the bit presented picks on the Internet, with Doctor H going on at length of the superiority of the Nets while showing the flaws of the current system.

And I was suddenly reminded of Tony Randall. Yeah, from the Odd Couple, but before that he was in a lot of romantic comedies of the late fifties and sixties, most of them set in New York City in corporate environments and were based on Broadway Shows (as opposed to now, where all Broadway Shows are based on Old Movies). Anyway, he was the lead in "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?" with Jayne Mansfield, playing an ad executive, and extolling the virtues of television while revealing its flaws.

Now the original Broadway play of "Will Success..." attacked Hollywood screenwriting, and in no way resembled the eventual film, which mocked the new technology of TV. Right down to pointing out how small the picture was. But of course the studios embraced the new tech while mocking it, with the end result that the relationship between TV and the movies is only one of choice of the delivery system.

And so it will be with the Net. While we are busy posting on our "tweety pages and biggidy blogs", the dark shadows of larger corporate predators are moving beneath these waters, enclosing the net into their delivery system. Its already starting, despite declarations that no one knows how to handle the 'net. And who knows. Fifty years from now, there will probably be a net show complaining about mind-beam technology, with all its crass commercialism and limited bandwidth.

In the meantime, more later,

Sunday, September 20, 2009


So this is what happens when you put things aside - the mainstream media gets hold of a story before you get around to talking about it.

I've been meaning to post about the Hanson Dam situation. Sacnoth has been doing a good job keeping up with it, but then, living in the Green River Valley, he has a vested interest in the entire situation.

Here's the story. The Green River flows out of the Cascade, north through the valley to the sound. Once it was joined by the White River near Auburn, but after a flood, that river changed its banks and now flows towards Tacoma. And it was once joined by the Black River, which disappeared when the level of Lake Washington dropped with the Montlake Cut. So it does not have the force it once did.

However, it does have a lot of force, and I've seen pictures of the early days when the local farms and racetrack was inundated by floodwater. In the early 60s, the Howard Hanson dam was installed upstream of the valley to regulate the floodwaters, and in addition, the river itself was dredged and banked with a series of levies, changing its flow from a ever-changing meander to its present course.

And in the wake of that control development spread through the valley floor, including the huge mall (still called by the locals Southcenter, though it is really now officially Westfield) and a lot of light industrial and residential growth.

Which is all well and good as long as the dam does its job. However, after the flooding of last year, the dam began to leak. Waters usually held back have found other paths, and the integrity of the dam is threatened. As a result, the dam will pass along water that it would normally hold back, or else risk failing. And that excess water passes downstream to the developed valley.

The current plan is to inject a grout curtain to stem the leakage, but this is at best a patch, and the results of the patch won't be known until the rains come again. So everyone downstream is getting a little nervous.

And they are looking towards the levees. There have been a couple failures in the past few years creating localized flooding, but the idea that there will be a systematic flood is making all the valley residents very concerned. In the wake of Katrina everyone started looking at their infrastructure, and a lot of levees came up, pardon the pun, short. Here's an article from USA Today that noted levees that were in such bad shape that, if they failed, the Army Corps of Engineers would provide funding to rehabilitate them. A lot of them listed in Renton are for the Cedar River (which is another valley, and I suppose a discussion for another time) but there are candidates on the Green as well. And mind you, these are just the ones that are so bad that the Army Corps doesn't want to deal with them. Not included are those that will be overtopped during a major flood.

All this puts local politicians in a bind - spend the money for levee improvements and get castigated if the floods don't come, or holding tight and being villains if Kent and Renton go underwater. I am in favor of the improvements (and the eventual replacement of the Hanson dam - no one seems to be talking about it, but its not like its going to get better over time). In the meantime, those on the valley floor should be thinking about flood insurance and go-bags, at least until we know the patch is holding and that the levees are up to snuff.

The local media has picked up on all this, and noted that the new Kent courthouse is ready to move at a nonce and the King County Elections Offices have already relocated. However, there is this large MALL right where the Black River used to flow into the Green which has just completed major renovations (and is not going anywhere), along with the new US Mint building and, oh, the Olympic Pipeline Hub nearby as well. Not to mention companies that range from Wizards of the Coast to biotech startups throughout the valley floor. So yes, the dam is the first line of defense, and the levees are the second, but should all watery hell break loose, this could be a major disaster.

But for the moment - flood insurance and go-bags.

More later,

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Friday, September 18, 2009

Local Politics: Yardage

One of the side effects of the new non-partisan-ness of a lot of local races has been the sudden explosion of the rainbow in our yard signs. Previously, it has been pretty traditional - shades of red among the Reps, blue among the Dems. And though there are exceptions (Ron Sims and his yellow signs from his last campaign), it has been a pretty good shorthand.

Not anymore. The rainbow has erupted in the yard sign universe, and the printers are opening their crayon boxes for a plethora of shades. I'd say green is the new red/blue on the roadsides at the moment, but I am surprised to see yellows, whites, oranges, and even teals (though in one case, that's the candidate's name, so that's doubly good). Party identification is vanishing, even for offices that still are partisan, and the color wheel provides no solace for those lost in its abundance.

Most signs are just getting the name out, but there is a lot of iconography over in the port races. Holland has a lighthouse (Guidance?). Creighton recycles his compass (Direction?). Doud has a globe (World-view?). Veitch has a cargo ship (an ORANGE cargo ship, but a reminder - hey, its a PORT). Nothing from Albro yet, and nothing like the orca image that I think put Bill Bryant in office.

Finally, a lot of signs are using multiple fonts, usually a friendly first-name, often script, with a solid, dependable sans serif boldface for the last name to be remembers. A shout-out goes to Susan Hutchinson's initial sign, which uses four or five different fonts, and looks like the true-type files were run over by a magnet on the way to the printer. No zapf digbats, thank the lord.

It is going to be interesting going forward. Lacking party connections voters will have to actually paying attention this fall, and the relentless commute reminders may prove be more of a factor in a campaign of hidden support and murky messaging.

More later,

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Yes, that's a real picture.

Yes, that's the President of the United States.

Yes, he's wielding a lightsaber.

Want to bet he's making those "shrrroooon" sounds that you always make as well?

More later,

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Busy with other things, so I'll just celebrate the 50th anniversary of Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" (the epitome of "cool jazz" for me) with this mashup of Brubeck and Radiohead.

More later,

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Our After Eleven World

This is a new thing. Usually a new president is judged after the first 100 days, an arbitrary time, comparing back to his predecessors and to FDR and other modern presidencies. But another comparison now exists, another milepost has set up in the road - How a new president has done up to the 11th of September.

It is an important date, a date that changed everything. I know it hurts, but throw your brains back to September 10th, 2001. The media had pretty much settled into the idea that the Bush presidency would be a sleeper - its leader the likable but slow son of a modestly-successful previous president. The whole election huggamugga had been buried, those still complaining written off as being unseemly. The presidency itself wanted to be an A4 Presidency, which referred to the page in the paper they would prefer to see the news about them. A quiet operation. There would probably be a small war or two, just to keep their hands in. The political cartoonist had gotten the Prez's Alfred-E-Neumann grin in place and Comedy Central had a show running called "That's My Bush", in which the president was hayseed good-old-boy who would do things like launching WWIII while trying to get free cable for the White House.

Then the planes hit, and everything changed. A4 was no longer the place, and we were thrown into the deep end. At this point, to compare following presidencies made no sense - the entire paradigm changed. To make a date-by-date comparison made no further sense.

So I was thinking about achievements of the current administration to this point, during this final, level playing field, and what has been accomplished. Fortunately, author Paul Kemp has done a good summary (on the domestic side at least) of the story so far. And its wonky and granular and reflects the efforts of more than just the efforts of one man. But to be honest, since my main requirement the new administration was that we a) recognize we are in a hole, and b) stop digging, they're pretty impressive. Go take a look.

More later,

Sunday, September 13, 2009


So the Kent School District teachers have been on strike for the past two weeks. This has had its most notable affect on Grubbstreet only in that we haven't heard school bells in the morning (while not in Kent proper (yet), we are part of the Kent School District, and our property backs on an KSD elementary school, and we contribute to the millage for support thereof.).

The strike has been first and foremost about class size (number of meetings and salaries are secondary issues, but it is class size that is apparently sticking in everyone's craw at the moment). The average size of an elementary school class is 33 kids, mandated by a previous contract. That number swells up to 45 students in high school, where no such cap exists.

That's a lot of kids to a classroom, so I can see the teachers pushing for reduced headcount. The Kent School District has been less accommodating, such that they've gone to court to fine the teachers heavily for walking out. Then they stopped negotiating. Then they started negotiating, but declared that school will reopen, no matter what, on Tuesday. No pressure, mind you.

Oh, and the teachers brought to the table a proposal costing less than what the school district was demanding of it. And the school district rejected it. I think we're just moved into the realm of union-busting here.

You'd think the parents, whose kids are being deprived of an education, and in addition are around the house for an additional two weeks, would be on the school board's side. Some are, but it seems like the bulk of them are supporting the teachers, to the point of movements to toss out the school board. Strange times indeed.

Now most of my data comes from the Seattle Times which is interesting in that it is providing both sides of the issue in an unusual way. When I read the reporting, I would say that it is pro-teachers (pointing out stuff like the fact that Kent SD has a $21 million budget right now). But the editorials are rock-solid pro-management - the teachers should quit all this silliness and get back to the cattle pens to instruct their kids. If they have to buy a megaphone, its coming out of their own pockets.

Now I have a modest proposal. Well, not a Modest Proposal because that would note that we have a surplus of students so we should start building additional schools out of them. Instead, here's this - no more development in Kent until we can provide the infrastructure to support that development. Seriously. We don't build another house in the area until we have schools that can service the additional population.

Kent has been a sprawling, expanding exurb, and dealing with that growth has been a major challenge to its elected officials. And to be honest, they haven't done too shabby a job, revitalizing their downtown and paying attention to growth and environmental issues. But the simple fact is that we have teachers working with huge classes and every school has a outpost of "temporary classrooms" that have become permanent. We're at the limits, so we need to stop taking more people in.

(And yeah, I could say "no more kids", but that's just unfair to prevent people from living somewhere just because they have children, so I'm willing to bite the bullet on behalf of the non-marrieds and childless couples and ban everybody).

It would solve a problem, and allow the school board to spend the money they're saving on bringing up the quality of the local education (already high, so thanks to both sides on this - I like smart kids). OR the school district could get serious about the talks and stop jerking the teachers, parents, and kids around to get the show back on the road and the kids back in school.

I offer this simply as a choice. No pressure.

More later,

Update: Strike settled as of Monday AM. Class size reduced for lower grades (good), but still uncapped for high school (good luck, kids!). Reduced meetings to 8/month and modest (very) pay raises. Teachers saw a lot of support from the community in all this despite the inconvenience for their kids. Still think we need to consider school capacity as a basic infrastructure concern for new development, but then, that's just me.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

League of Extraordinary Jeff Grubbs

I have a relatively unique name, but there are other Jeff Grubbs in the world. One is an NPR radio host down in Santa Cruz. One is a coroner in Saskatchewan. One is a chef in Louisville (and owner of Lentini's). One is a rugby referee in New Zealand. And one actually reports on the computer game industry.

This last Jeff Grubb, who writes for Bitmob and Forwards Compatable attended PAX, and I had hoped to get our picture together, both to prove that a) there were multiple Jeff Grubbs in the wild, but also b) to see if the sheer concentration of Jeff Grubbness would rip the time-space continuum and turn the entire world into a living Jeff Grubb Day.

Such was not to be, but Jeff Grubb (the other one) took a picture of Jeff Grubb (Me) at the Guild Wars booth in mid-signing, with a huge line (off stage right).

So we got two Jeff Grubbs within twenty feet of each other, and the universe as we know it survived. I'm encouraged by this fact, since it now means I can go to Regina or Louisville with less fear and foreboding.

More later,

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


So I mentioned the phenomena of ConVoice last time out - the dropping of my voice a half-octave in timbre over the course of convention. My voice doesn't strain so much as it grows barbs that rattle in my throat to the amusement of others. It is generally harmless and (provided I stop talking) goes away soon enough.

But there is also the legendary ConCrud, which is that exhausted feeling you get after a full-tilt weekend of not relaxing so much as plowing full tilt through a loud continual party. And for those of us WORKING that party, it is just as bad, if not worse. After a convention, participating companies can see increased absences as well as reduced productivity for about a week.

But sometimes it goes above that level, for example, the PAX Pox, or as someone on the AION team termed it - SmallPAX. There have been cases of flu (swine and otherwise) reported out of PAX, which was a perfect breeding ground for germ-swapping (all of those controllers and keyboards passing through multiple users). So the casualty list from the convention is larger than normal, and in addition, some of our number are home just staying out of the way to avoid either coming down with something or spreading it to others.

As a result, I've gotten more done in the past two days, but now I'm getting the wooziness as well. And I don't know if it is just general issue exhaustion (Yeah, I spent Memorial Day playing games with friends) or something much more dire.

And come to think of it, if belonged to a major competitor that was looking to cripple the rest of the industry, PAX would be an ideal vector to spread a virulent, productivity-crippling virus that would immobilize the designer/programmer population.

Of course, the release of Rock Band: The Beatles will do the same thing.

More later,

Update So the local channel Q-13, which handled the convention minimally throughout the weekend (no other records on their web site), now LEADS the evening news with report. Yahsee, its only NEWS when bad things happen.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Convention Report - PAX

Usually when this site goes dark for a while, it is a sign that I am on the road. But the past week has been heavy in workload, and I have just been dodging this particular responsibility in order to address other matters.

But I have passed through 2/3rds of PAX and lived to tell the tale. Well, mostly lived. I've talked so much that I've got a bad case of ConVoice, which is where my dulcet tones deepen and I can do a passable Sean Connery imitation. And my right wrist hurts from glad-handing and signing autographs, but more of that later.

PAX, then, or as it is more fully known, the Penny Arcade eXpo. Its origins come out of this web comic that sits over on my blogroll to the right, but has grown by leaps and bounds into an amazing creation that yearly tests the foundations of the Washington State Convention Center, and turns downtown Seattle into this fantasy world of wonkdom. It is Nerdstock. It is the Burrning Geek Festival. It is a Most Amazing Thing.

The official attendance is 60,000 people, and tickets were sold out (though a few last ones have now been made available). That number is hard to roll over the mind, so here's another data point to consider - the AT&T networks crashed in the area from the number of iPhones collected in one spot. All of them live-streaming the panels.

Despite the huge numbers, the con was incredibly manageable and navigable. I was in the exhibition hall for most of it, and generally could get around without hitting Soylent Green levels of ground traffic. There were fanclots, of course, Left 4 Dead's zombiefest captured huge lines, as did Diablo III. As did our booth, when we were giving away the books.

Ah, the books. So two weeks ago ArenaNet finally let the world in on what we've been doing for Guild Wars 2 with the insanely great trailer. For PAX, we had a small booth, and were just showing the trailer, having a few panels, hanging with the fans, and giving away an artbook.

An artbook. An 128-page glossy hardbound artbook that contains the incredible concept art we've been generating for the past two years. And we created our own fanclot as the lines ringed the booth on three sides, then jumped across the hallway to a far wall, ran down the wall past the foodstands and almost to the exit itself.

So I've been told. For two of the giveaways I had my head down, doing signing, and I signed an awful lot of books this weekend. And the raw enthusiasm of the fans was extremely exciting. Mind you, we've been under radio silence for two years, and to finally be able to say even a little about the game was a relief. And the response, so positive, so enthusiastic, created this weird feedback loop. The fans got excited, and that made us excited, which made the fans even MORE excited. It was a contact high that Bumbershoot (also this weekend) would be pressed to match.

My other main task was Media Duty, talking to various websites mighty and modest, about what we were doing. It was delightful, since we didn't have to lay of lot of groundwork this time (most of them had seen the trailer already), we got questions about philosophy and definitions and intentions and mechanics (which we aren't at the point of revealing yet) and the upcoming novels.

Ah, the novels. We had author and Alliterate Matt Forbeck out from his Wisconsin home to visit the company, meet with our staff about the story, to hang out in the game world (note to other companies - YES, it is a good thing to let your writers play the game, even if it is not complete), and to appear at PAX at a few panels. And again, the excitement about the coming book is rising (It IS canon, and it WILL be a bridge between GW1 and GW2 and most importantly, it WILL be out before the game).

I did get a chance to wander about, seeing the other booths. Most of the usual suspects were present - NCSoft with a nice Aion setup, of course. EVE and WoW and CoH and all of our other three-letter MMOs. Cryptic is already pushing Star Trek Online (STO), and Bioware had a separte room for The Old Republic (TOR). But there also were miniatures and gaming tables and RPGs and boardgames. There was a strong non-electronic component to PAX, and this year I was impressed by the size of the board/RPG contingent, spread out through numerous open gaming rooms and into the central courts as well. PAX is more than just a computer game show (which is pretty much what the media celebrates) but is dominating gaming as a whole.

So my ears are ringing and by voice is shot and it is raining heavily in Seattle (finally), and I intend to spend the day in full recovery. I have been threatening to rest my signature-sore hand in ice this afternoon. Ice surrounded by alcohol.

Still sounds like a plan. More later,