Odyssey Con 12: Brought a Friend

     This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending Odyssey Con 12: Apocalypse Cow. It's a Science Fiction literature and tabletop gaming convention held every year in April at the Radisson Hotel in Madison, WI. It also sports a suite converted into an animation viewing room, a consuite (with hot dogs, pizza, chips, bagels, donuts, candy, coffee, soda, and homemade miso soup), a LAN, a Dealer's Room, an Art Auction, and five panel rooms. This year's guest included Larry Niven, Steven Barnes, and Kenneth Hite.
     I first heard about Oddcon back in 2007, when the fact that it existed surfaced as I was helping plan Geek.Kon. After finishing work on my own convention, I registered for Oddcon 2008 and only then did I notice they had George R.R. Martin lined up as a guest. I've been going ever since (with the exception of 2009, when No Brand Con in Eau Claire, WI fell on the same dates).
     This year, I was able to bring a friend, "Mad" Matt Winchell. I mostly go to this convention for the panels, as the panelists are entertaining and the subject matter is engaging. I'd have to say one of my favorite panelists are Richard S. Russel who's Science Fiction movie reviews can be subscribed to by sending a blank email to: RSRSFMR-subscribe@yahoo.com. We went to his "Fantasy Films of 2012: The Year of the Superhero" on Friday night, and found out about a few films that had flown under our radar. In particular, I'd like to check out I am Number Four and "The Skin I Live In. Biutiful topped the list for best fantasy film of 2012, and Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives was at the bottom. This surprised me, especially since Uncle Boonmee received such critical acclaim, so I think I'll check it out and make my own decision. The winner of the Muzzy award for worst movie of the year went to The Smurfs. I'll never forget the look on Richard's face when someone complained that they actually liked the Smurfs movie! Overall this was a fun panel with mandatory audience participation.
     Other panels we attended on Friday were: "Deconstructing Green Lantern," focusing on the less than stellar new movie; "Combat in SF" which we were late for, but seemed to mostly discuss incorporating realistic armed and unarmed combat into your writing; and "TEOTWAKI: Literature."
     There were two panels focused on the theme of The End Of The World As We Know It, one in literature and the other in mass media. This discussion focused on Truly Apocalyptic fiction, where nothing survives; the Post-Apocalyptic fiction, with some vestiges of society remaining, and Metaphorical Apocalyptic fiction, which tells of the death of certain philosophical ideas. I was particularly interested in the third category, since matters of the mind seem to intrigue me more than physical challenges. Some of the themes from this category included: death of spontaneity (Brave New World), death of idealism (The Once and Future King), death of freedom (1984), death of corporeality (Childhood's End), and the death of biology (Do Androids dream of Electric Sheep?). Sunday featured another TEOTWAKI panel, this one focused on television, movies, video games, and media other than literature.
     Saturday saw Matt help in setting up the AV for the "Moons of Barsoom" panel. It was a good thing, too, as this panel featured a slide show of past cover artwork dating from when the Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom series was published. Apparently, A Fighting Man of Mars has been cursed with the largest amount of poorly drawn cover art. "Are we becoming Earth-bound in media SF&F?" had panelist Janet E. Lewis demand "more weird aliens in space!" One of the other panelists, Patrick Tomlinson, pointed out that much of Sci-Fi and Fantasy seem less fluffy and more character oriented and were better for it. Although I like series like A Game of Thrones, some stories can become a little too soap opera like and begin to drag if they aren't done right. I, too, yearn for the days when aliens and spaceships dominated the large and small screens. I had forgotten how much campy fun the original Battlestar Galactica was. Looking at it now, I see the old series as almost an ersatz Star Wars Expanded Universe. "SF on TV" was another Richard S. Russel panel examining what was new, cancelled, and ongoing this year with Science Fiction television. I managed to film at least half an hour of the "Star Wars vs. Star Trek" panel which was a lot of fun. "The Hobbit after 75 yrs" was all right, but I felt it could have been a little more comprehensive. We fairly tired so we skipped out on the Guests of Honor speeches, the DJ and guest band (Sparklef*ck), and the drumming circle and headed home for the night.
     On Sunday, we attended the "D&D 5th Edition Wishlist" panel, where we compiled a list of things we'd like to see in the next edition of the Dungeons and Dragons pen and paper RPG. Rewards for diplomatically finding a way out of a situation rather than fighting, bonuses for supplemental work like crafting, and the ability to buff into gear and items were all mentioned. As was THACO. Next we stayed in the same room (Mooshenko's) for "The Muse Feels No Respect" which focused on where us creative types draw our inspiration, especially concerning copyrighted material. One of the panelists pointed out how disappointed she was that someone had retyped one of her poems word for word on their blog without asking permission. Jim Frenkel, an editor for TOR books and a favorite panelist of mine, mentioned that technically titles for books couldn't be copyrighted as long as the font and general design of the title was differed from any other books with the same title. "So, technically, you could title your book The Lord of the Rings!" Afterward, we headed to the "TEOTWAKI: Media" panel. However, in order to make it to the Geek.Kon meeting and get some dinner, we had to miss the "Game of Thrones SPOILERS" panel and Closing Ceremonies.
     In the end, I had a good time, captured quite a bit of footage, and got to see my friends, some of  who were experiencing the con for the first time have a good time. If you are ever in Madison, WI around Spring time, check out this convention. It's a smaller event (only about 400-500 attendance) compared to some of the cons I've been to which have attendance in the thousands,, but there's plenty of fun to be had.


Great Expectations: The News So Far...

     If you haven't seen it yet, the monthly update posted by Game Director Lindelu on Anarchy Online's forums was a big one:

     I'll be sad to see the Org cities disappear from the landscape, as they were some of the most familiar landmarks to make for if you were under attack and needed a quick escape. While they were fairly uniform in structure, they still had to be set up by the org owner. This lent to a feeling of player ownership and the idea that players could control, in a limited way, the landscape around them. That being said, I am interested to see what the devs come up with to replace them. The fact that they are willing to make such drastic changes to the game, changes that every player will notice no matter what their level is, points to the fact that the devs very much want to improve this game and keep it going for years to come.
     A change I'm really looking forward to is the possibility of a new GUI. I've always had some problem or other with the current GUI, mostly accidentally dragging a portion so that it detaches and won't click back into place. I usually eventually get it to work, but not after spending a bit of time trying to remember what to do. Friending people is another area that could use improvement. Pretty much now you type in the tag: /cc addbuddy PLAYERNAME. It works, but then I'm spoiled by the City of Heroes option of right clicking on someone, or their name, and sending a request to either their specific toon, or their global name.
     The new GMS will be quite helpful to use on my paid account, which I re-upped for about a month. I like the idea that they are at least letting fr00b account players look at the what's for sale in the shops.
     Also, am I the only one who doesn't think a server merge is the death of a game? The devs have assured the players that they are looking to keep the game going and in order to do so, it would be better to move everything onto a newer machine.
     This is especially true when/if the new graphics engine hits. Speaking of which, a new teaser trailer was released for the graphics update (WARNING! This trailer involves strobing lights which may cause seizures or blackouts. Proceed with caution):

     From what I could glean from the trailer, everything looks good. While I agree that the current graphics are very old looking, I still like the cyber punk feeling the overall art design presents. This is a game that thoroughly embraces ugliness as well as beauty, which I find refreshing.
     Lately, I've been playing some City of Heroes. I've mostly been working with Matt on getting the Midnighter missions out of the way for some of my characters. In fact, I've always wanted to post some of my character bios from that game. Hopefully something to make note of for the future.