Flameseeker Chronicles: PAX 2010 travel diary page two

I had much more free time on this day than I had Friday, albeit in very small increments, so I took advantage of it by prowling around the Guild Wars 2 booth. I took photos, chatted with staff members, and watched all of the demos happening to see what players were exploring. It was striking how overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic the fans were. The booth space was incredibly crowded with people waiting in line for demos and swag. The demos were a generous 40 minutes each, so every single person in line in front of you represented a wait of the better part of an hour. And yet I saw no complaints. I heard of a little impatience here and there, but overall it was a completely happy crowd. People were chatting with their friends, chatting with ArenaNet staff members, watching the ongoing demo play, or just occupying themselves with handhelds, and the wait seemed insignificant.

I mentioned swag, and I want to take a moment to mention the system that the company had worked out. Every aspect of it was so unusual and fun -- I was incredibly impressed with how it worked out. T-shirts are a con swag standard, and the normal distribution method is to stand on a stage and fling the shirts into a screaming crowd. ArenaNet pulled together a system that was at once so versatile and so simple, it seemed surprising that nobody had thought of it before. Attendees were allowed one GW2 t-shirt. (Once you got your shirt, an ArenaNet staffer would punch a small hole in your PAX badge.) But -- and here's a novel concept -- they were allowed to choose a style and size that fit them.

If you wanted a t-shirt, you got in line at the booth to receive a t-shirt token. These were small cardstock squares with an image of a shirt -- either a green sylvari shirt, a red Rytlock shirt, or a dark gray GW2 logo shirt. You chose the token that represented the shirt style you wanted and took it to a t-shirt shop on the first floor. There were two silkscreen machines set up in that shop, along with a mountain of green, red, and gray shirts. Give the employee your token, tell him your size, and watch your new shirt screened with the image before your very eyes. The system gave fans a generous amount of choice ( particularly considering it was a free item) saved ArenaNet a lot of valuable booth space, and brought some extra traffic to the t-shirt shop.

Staffers were also on hand to pass out bandanas to demo players and help with the trading card and stamp game. The take-home treats for fans were high-quality and generous, and I heard nothing but excited praise for all of it.

Finally it was time for the Guild Wars 2 party at the Hard Rock cafe. Unfortunately, I had to leave after an hour, but it was an ideal meet and greet event. The buffet was delicious, the bartenders busy, and the guests content. Mike O'Brien took a moment on stage to thank everyone for attending and share his excitement about Guild Wars 2, then he kicked off the party to a round of applause and went to mingle. The entire Guild Wars 2 crew worked hard to mingle and chat with fans.

Day three

I said Saturday night that I didn't think anything could top the fantastic day that was Saturday, but I think I was wrong. Sunday -- today -- was at the very least its equal. I had a long list of work to do, but in between I was back at the Guild Wars 2 booth, taking my last chance to indulge myself a bit. I had planned to get in line for the demo as often as I could this weekend, but time just did not permit it. I finally got a chance to jump in and play for a bit, so I took the opportunity to explore Divinity's Reach, which I hadn't seen up close yet.

I was interested in exploring the noble's home instance and wanted as much time there as I could get, so I zipped through character creation, dashed around yelling at villagers to get out of harm's way, plowed through the centaur invasion, and got my character knocked unconscious by a flying wheel in record time. Once I woke, I hurried to the home instance and began exploring. I enjoyed the details that defined the indoors areas as the home of nobility. The furnishings were finer, there were touches such as bed hangings and a suit of armor, and there was an overall feeling of luxury that was absent from the other home instances.

I explored outside quite a bit as well, enjoying every encounter: a Shining Blade soldier, a disgruntled charr who couldn't get an audience with the queen, and an asura guarding an asura gate. The team obviously made an effort to fit a lot of familiar lore into this game, and it serves to make the place feel like home -- there are years of history here, and we've shared in those years thanks to Guild Wars 1. It was a welcoming touch that I found over and over in my travels.

The rest of my afternoon was spent exploring the exhibition floor, and eventually Larry and I hobbled our sore feet to the cafe for dinner. While we ate, several ArenaNet employees happened by and stayed to chat for a while. I enjoyed some fascinating conversation and a lot of laughs, and at the end, Mike Z asked us to check out the final 3-D demo at the nVidia booth. I hadn't found time to see it all weekend, so I happily accepted.

The demo was fantastic -- I almost wish we could have Guild Wars 2 in 3-D all of the time, and it ended with a bang. Martin Kerstein ambushed me in the last few moments of the presentation by announcing into the microphone that Mike should step aside and allow me to finish off the swamp boss on the demo warrior character. Mike obliged, and it was... well, if you were there, I sincerely apologize for my abysmal performance. It was just embarrassing, and yes, I could hear you laughing. (It's OK, I would have laughed too.)

As I wrap this up, I am 36,000 feet over Montana, and I'm still trying to process everything that I've seen. Mike, Jon, Martin, Tirzah, Regina, Gaile, Emily, and Kristen, you guys, your spouses in a few cases, and all the rest of the Guild Wars 2 crew made this an unforgettable experience for me. More importantly, everywhere I looked I saw the same expression on the faces of fans that I felt on my own face. You guys worked hard to share your passion for this project and make your fans feel special.

Well done. %Gallery-101467%

Rubi is a longtime Guild Wars player and the writer of Flameseeker Chronicles here at Massively. The column keeps a close eye on all the events in Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2, and anything bridging the two. It's also the home of a weekly summary of the travels of [MVOP], Massively's Guild Wars guild. Email Rubi at rubi@massively.com.