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My Overwritten Journey To SDCC 2017: Day 3 – Sidewalk Burritos, VR Mechs, and Mango Freakin’ Salsa

Saturday 22nd July 2017 by Derek Kraneveldt

Read day 0 here.
Read day one-ish here.
Read day two here.

I feel like garbage today.

I figured that it must have been after eight AM, when I woke up, but when I groaned to my bed buddy, Matt Kelly “What time is it?” I learned that it was only nearly seven. This is a pretty typical wake up time for me, but for some reason I felt groggy as hell as I finally made my way over to the shower.

I realized that this feeling was likely due to the absolute zero quantity of water I’d consumed since I arrived in San Diego (it’s been Chillers, soda, and small amounts of alcohol thus far). Zack and I headed out towards the convention centre together, and I attempted to quell this feeling by grabbing a bottle of water another Chiller at the nearest 7-Eleven.

On our way back to the action we chatted about our experiences working in the film industry (which I don’t do a lot of these days and miss dearly), what sort of film experiences that we’d had, our addictive personalities (he’s at the point where he could almost build a house out of Funko POP! figures, while I keep asking my fiancé if we can spend money that we don’t have on a WWE Replica title), cool restaurant experiences from San Diego, how effective Fox’s marketing for The Gifted has been thus far, and subsequently about just how many people will watch a TV show based on a giant image of said show being plastered on the side of a hotel. I see giant Once Upon a Time images on the side of Petco Park every single year, have worked on several episodes of it, and I still haven’t had an inclination to watch an episode. That The Gifted though, that hotel marketing really, really got to me.

As we still had a ton of time before the show floor would open (today I realized that I haven’t actually walked the exhibition halls yet, which I’m hoping to make time for later today), so we decided to check out the embarcadero in the rear of the convention centre. The area featured things like the Adult Swim on the Green, FXHibition, and The Gifted testing facilities. I thought that we may be able to walk around these areas before the convention centre opened, but everything was completely blocked off and there were gigantic lineups outside of each venue. We continued to walk the embarcadaro, admiring things like the #Wrecked setup over the water, the IMdBoat, and mostly the incredibly long lineup for Hall H, which extended into a parking lot that reminded me of the tent city that Vancouver’s homeless population often sets up (though I think that there were significantly less needles here).

Way less needles.
I was getting pretty hungry now (and still feeling pretty gross, the Chiller didn’t help for some reason), and I thought that I’d have to go against the approaching thousands back into the Gaslamp district to grab a bite (which would be a terrible, terrible experience). Then we saw it – somehow, away from most of the crowd, tucked away next to an elevator, there was a single food truck. It was called Tacos Mexico, and there I consumed a glorious, dry as hell steak, egg and cheese burrito that was just what I needed. I also took this opportunity to grab a coconut water, and shortly after I downed it I began to feel significantly more energized.
Zack needed to leave in order to get to the booth on time (and grab some sort of LEGO exclusive along the way), and I took the opportunity to stay seated and give my fiancé a quick call (I ended up waking her up, oops).

I didn’t have anything on my slate until 11AM, so I went up to the SDCC Press Room to grab some (real) water, and to utilize the wifi to work on a couple of articles. As far as I know, last year was the first time that the convention actually offered this room, and I really appreciate the fact that the powers at be decided to continue the room this year. Space is a hot commodity around the convention centre (and the entire Gaslamp District), so to have a room away from the crowds, with wifi and water is a freaking lifesaver. In previous years I remember walking the (sometimes miles) for some peace and quiet and wifi (the three go hand in hand), and for the opportunity to actually be able to get some work done. These days, it’s a five minute walk from the booth (and an even shorter walk from the other panel rooms).

11AM fast approached, and I made my way down to Mary Jane’s at the Hard Rock Hotel to meet with some representatives from Skydance Interactive, a division of Skydance that’s less than a year and a half old, who have released two games (that I had a lot of fun with) in the past seven days. It’s clear that the company wanted to make a big impression, as the entirety of the restaurant was adorned in decorations for the two games, Archangel, a giant-mech VR shooter, and PWND, a multiplayer area FPS with some super original mechanics.

I met with one of the Skydance representatives, Matt. While I waited to check out Archangel, which is available now for PlayStation VR and coming early August for Oculus and HTC Vive, we chatted about Vancouver (where I live), and he noted that he recently visited the city for the first time to check out the sets for Skydance / Netflix sci-fi series Altered Carbon. The series itself sounds bad-ass, and I was a little sad in this moment as I once had an opportunity to work on the series, but after the year that I’ve had I rarely find myself doing film work anymore.

Only at SDCC is it okay to play VR without a shirt in a restaurant.
I spent about 15 minutes enjoying the hell out of the PSVR version of Archangel, which Skydance notes as its first original title, stating that it’s “an action-packed, story-driven shooter that was created exclusively for virtual reality.” In the game, “you are dropped into the cockpit of a six-story-high war machine, a one-of-a-kind weapon that must stop a tyrannical corporation from taking over a post-apocalyptic America. Archangel delivers detailed graphics, engaging storytelling techniques, memorable characters and explosive action like no other.”
The game is an on-rails shooter that (as noted above) puts you in the cockpit of a giant mech. The level that I played had the mech making its way through an all but destroyed, desolate city, where I fought waves of varied enemies (including a variety of tiny aircraft that took a lot of ammo to destroy due to their small size and quick movement). The level featured a ton of plot points, and had me getting to know the team of ships assisting me in getting to my destination, as well as the corporate enemy that was all but destroying America. The game was a blast, the story was intriguing, and I’m certainly looking forward to checking out more of Archangel.

The other game being shown off was entitled PWND, which is marketed as a “throwback to the golden age of the high-speed, multiplayer arena shooter” The game, which was conceptualized by Skydance Interactive long before they were Skydance Interactive (CEO Peter Akemann and much of the staff were previously of The Workshop, and Treyarch preceding that. The company notes that “Modernized Rocket jumping controls create a ridiculously fast-paced and highly three dimensional battle experience for PC. In PWND, you don’t score by simply killing your opponents, but by performing a “victory dance” over them before they respawn. ”

I was freaking awful at this game, but I thought that the mechanics were super smooth, and the idea revolving around the “victory dance” was freaking hilarious. You don’t actually receive any points for killing a member of the opposite team – you essentially need to get to them and take the opportunity to teabag them before you’ll score. If you die while in this process, you’ll actually create a “stack”, and the player who is able to perform a “victory dance” on the stack will receive a far more substantial amount of points.

I played two rounds of the game in my time at the Skydance Lounge, and got my ass kicked both times. I think that I was playing with other folks online rather than just the other convention goers present at the lounge, and it was clear that at least a few of the folks that I was playing with had spent a bunch of time on the title in the 24 hours since release. That, or I’m just really, really bad at first person shooters.

You can look for my full write up on Skydance Interactive’s titles, including an interview with CEO Peter Akemann in the coming days.

Next up, I made my way to the FXHibition for an appointment at Sessions: The ‘Legion’ Mixed Reality Experience. I won’t spend too much time on that here, but Sessions marked my first Hololens experience, my first real augmented reality experience, and it was an unreal mix of live actors and insane technology. I had so much fun here, and I really, really hope that Hololens and AR catch on. If this is one of the first really impressive experiences that’s been offered on the platform, I really can’t imagine what companies will be doing with the technology over the coming years.

No cameras or recording devices were allowed inside of the experiences, but I’ve written up a recap of sessions right here. They also let you take a selfie at the end, and I look like a freaking dummy.

I hadn’t scheduled much else for the rest of the day, so I shot Zack a quick message asking if we could go to Rockin’ Baha. We did. Finally, I could put it inside me; the glorious mango/pineapple salsa that had been eluding me all week. I ordered some tacos that I didn’t really care about, and I loaded the hell up on Baha’s homemade (I assume) tortilla chips and incredible, to die for salsa. It was heaven, and along with running into Renee Young (and re-bonding with much of the Geekscape family), it was a definitely highlight of the convention.

I’m feeling pretty exhausted at this point in the day (I’ve done significantly less walking around than yesterday, and have now downed a butt-ton of water so I’m not exactly sure why) so I decided to do a quick walk of the convention floor before checking in with the folks at the booth. If you’ve not been to SDCC before, calling the show floor shoulder to shoulder, in many cases is an understatement. It’s shoulder to shoulder in the less crowded areas, and in the busier areas (Marvel, Netflix, DC, Entertainement Earth, Funko, etc), it basically feels like everyone is inside of each other (and not in a good way). Also, as is the stereotype, for everyone in this culture that bathes and puts on deodorant, there are four or five that should do it more often. Your nose is going to experience some odd things at this convention, and it can strike you pretty heavily if you’re not prepared for it.

I stopped at the Mondo booth to gawk at all of the prints that I can’t afford this year (while also remembering that I still have several at home that I’m still waiting to frame), went to Netflix to check out the neat video wall (and to try to score my fiancé a Stranger Things hat… I failed), and then took a look at all of the new WWE figures at the Mattel booth (where I was also curious to see an Eva Marie doll in the new WWE Superstars fashion doll line). I checked in with the folks at the booth and figured out some plans for after the convention before realizing that another panel that I really wanted to see was just minutes away.

Didn’t Eva Marie leave?
This was the “Life Is Strange: Before The Storm Developer Showcase’ panel (which I was lucky enough to walk right into), in which Tech 9 games talked about their experiences developing the game, answered fan questions, and also gave the first live gameplay demo of a new section of the first episode, which brought us to an area of Arcadia Bay that we’d never seen before. The demo took us SPOILERS AHEAD to an abandoned mill where an illegal concert by the band Fire Walk was taking place. Chloe, who naturally had no business being there, snuck in and proceeded to get into worlds of trouble. We saw a few familiar faces, including Frank and Pompidou, and even Rachel Amber herself, who helped Chloe escape from a pretty sticky situation. The whole demo was a pretty neat reveal, as the developers on stage allowed the crowd to decide which choices Chloe would make throughout the demo. Fans were super vocal about these choices, and the entire room would yell out in unison for certain options, which was pretty cool to be a part of.

In answering a fan’s question, the developers noted that the game would again feature a series of licensed tracks along with an original score, noting that naturally the soundtrack of the game would be important to the story as well as being important to the fans, and that the soundtrack decisions were being made at the same time as high level story points were. They also noted that as you’re playing a different character this time around (Chloe instead of Max), Chloe is going to listen to different music, and so fans should expect a vastly different soundtrack that still feels very Life Is Strange.

One fan noted that one of the things that he had done a lot of while playing the game was crying, and he was wondering if he could expect the same with Before the Storm. The developers gave a pretty simple answer here, stating that “On August 31st you can cry again,” and “Buy your tissues now.”

I was super glad to have made it into this panel. Life Is Strange was my favourite game of 2015, and I’m beyond excited to learn more of Chloe’s backstory, and to simply get back into the world of Arcadia Bay.

The panel ended about half an hour after the show floor closed, and after much confusion (my group texts were apparently not functioning correctly), I ended up back at the WWE Shop at the Horton Plaza (read all about it here) by myself… and then found everyone else outside just a few moments later. We went to eat at some sandwich shop called Panera (which I kept calling Pandora) which had decent sandwiches (everyone had talked it up and it was nothing special) at a decent price. Their macaroni and cheese was pretty damn good though. While there, we chatted about Puyo Puyo, I ransacked Josh and Megan’s bag from the WWE Shop (it’s going to be hard not to go back tomorrow to grab a New Day water bottle and some Bayley gummy bears), and got pretty in depth about the new Yu-Gi-Oh mechanics (it sounds like a much more complicated game than it was when I played it in elementary school and retired undefeated).

There were plans to go to a couple of events in the evening, but as soon as I sat down at Panera I knew that as soon as I got back to the hotel I would definitely not be going anywhere else. Matt missed out on Panera, so before we settled down Zack and I walked him to Subway (24 hours, woo). Matt went upstairs to eat (when we got back to the hotel), and Zack and I stayed behind and chatted about the differences between Canadian and American playgrounds, Jake The Snake Roberts, small town living, and numerous other random topics.

I head back up to the hotel to finish tonight’s piece, and I realize that tomorrow is my last full day at this year’s convention. I’m flying out mid-afternoon Sunday and recording a Geekscape Games episode earlier that morning, so tomorrow may even be my last day on the floor and around the Gaslamp.

What will I do tomorrow? With time running out, I’m beginning to stress out about it. I’d love to record a piece for this year’s post-SDCC show, there’s that Nikki Bella signing at the FYE WWE Pop-Up Shop, I just read that there’s a Slusho truck somewhere in the area, and I still haven’t spent too much time walking the show floor (or even checked out the Nintendo lounge, IT experience, Petco Interactive Zone, or one million other things).

I’m not ready for this to end.

I finally saw these guys again!