ExtraLife Gameathon 2016 – Team Bombshelter

Well, first off, the final numbers aren’t in yet but:

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Yeah. Given that we’re a Canadian team, and that’s in US Dollars? I’m incredibly happy, and proud of my team. Seriously, they all come together at the last minute, and it just works. And they’re brutally generous with both their time and money.

That’s also not the end of the story, either. I’m currently sitting on about $325 Canadian in cash donations from the day-of (we keep a donation bucket).

And finally, if you’re so inclined, you can donate until December 31st, 2016. Just click right about here, and we thank you. Please, remember that this is in aid of CHEO (the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario), so,if you’re Ottawa, Kingston, that kind of area, and have, or know kids, chances are, someone you know will make use of CHEO’s services at some time. It’s a great cause, and we’re always happy to try to help them out in some small way.

So, the event itself!

I must admit, I had some trepidation going into it. It’s been … All round it’s been a rough year – I’ve had a lot going on at work, and personally, and I’m exhausted. So, it was tough to organize this year, and I almost didn’t bother. Almost. But, I had some concerns that we were going to get a super small turn out (we didn’t) that donations were gonna be tough (they weren’t) and that maybe the events time had passed for us (it hasn’t).

Call it a minor crisis of faith.

Well, I did the traditional lessons learned – We sold our pool table (that came with the house when we bought it) last winter, so that opened up a ton of space in the basement. That really made the PC gamers a lot more comfortable (And a lot more comfortable than they deserve! Basement trolls, every one of them). I picked up a couple of sets of folding table LEGS, and built two more “door tables” to provide as much space as I could, and that left us with an extra tabletop space surrounded by bookcases (which was actually really nice, the ambience was pretty great!) The network was strung from the ceiling like a spiderweb (main connection to gigabit switch, out to a gigabit switch on each set of two tables). I actually planned the layout of the house for the event on paper this year, and had myself an honest-to-god checklist, rather than just doing it all in my head. And, it all appears to have worked out fairly well.

So, speaking of that house layout, this is what we had:

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The living room – aka “Xbox Alley”. All consoles, all the time. Three years ago, this would have been the primary hub of activity, this year, not so much. We did have some bodies out sick, though, which made a big difference. Even so, our console division dropped off, which is interesting to note (also, smaller screens showing up this year, with the exception of my own, more on that later).

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Like I said, my own TV was the exception. In the dining room, I took over: That’s 65″ of 4k love – It’s my house, dammit, I’ll play the way I want to. I also knew I was going to have a huge set-up, anyway, because of my racing rig. What you see in front of you was: Xbox360, Xbox:One, Logitech G920 racing wheel/pedals/shifter, LED backlighting on the TV from the powerbar (those are AWESOME), and my Republic of Gamers G571 laptop. I was all set to play pretty much anything. Next to it was @pingoderp’s Xbox360, which basically got used for Portal.

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Family room was a general congregation area, and Rockband/DJ Hero. I was surprised at the turnout for the Rockbanding. Very good though. And the SumoSac’s were, as always, well loved by the kids for flopping out and spending time on mobile gaming, and Nintendo DS.

Basement. I wasn’t kidding. This is where the PC Master Race is shunned… I mean, situated.

Tabletop room 1!


Tabletop room 2!

I ended up not involved (for obvious reasons) but for a number of reasons, we tried a “PokeWalk” – a couple of the parents (primarily organized by @Yumi Kiddo) took a number of the kids to Carleton University to do a few hours of Pokemon Go. It does sound like it went well, and definitely helped us at the house, because it lowered the crush of kids running around for the afternoon (our highest volume of bodies is about noon to 9pm, and it can be a distinct “crush” of people in a relatively small space). I get the impression this went very well, but may have been a horde of babbling kids tearing at the nerves of a couple of parents *grin*

Lessons learned? Always.

  • the couch in the family room can’t be on the west wall – kids would jump onto it, and bump the wall-socket network cable, taking everyone out down in the basement
  • Rockband, even on a smaller scale, is still a success – IF it’s separated from all the other gaming, because it’s loud, and not everyone wants to listen to it
  • upgrading the connection (from 27/3 to 60/10 made a huge difference, and no one had any issues beyond the bumping from the couch).
  • consoles have dropped off, tabletop has grown hugely, and PC gaming staged a notable increase
  • it remains a huge amount of work to set up. Like…. a lot.

    How much? Well, take a look at the pictures, and you see what goes into the rooms. We move furniture around. the networking consists of eight gigabit switches, and somewhere around 700 feet of Cat5e. Four of those switches were new this year. We upgraded the connection, as noted, and that costs money. Ok, sure, I wanted that too but. There’s the hydro – November is our biggest month of the year for obvious reasons. It’s about an extra fifty percent of our monthly bill, for that weekend. Food, that we lay in, beyond what other people generously provide.

    And mostly… time. It takes A LOT of time to set up, tear down, organize, lead, and fundraise for. Probably 130 hours of pure, physical set-up and tear-down, plus time talking to people about the event, what we’re doing, how we’re doing it.

    This is the thing. We’ve now done this for five years. And it IS a lot of work. And early on this year, it was somewhat disenchanting to see the… lack of enthusiasm. And I know, times get tough and get better and we have good years and bad years.

    But, what I know at this point is, to turn the house into a charity fun-house (which is really what we do) for about eighty people coming and going (which is about what we have) costs me. Well, us. It costs money – I spend about $200/year now – it was more three years ago, but now we’re down to just replacing broken/obsolete things, and any hardware needed. It costs time as noted.

    But you know what?

    It’s still worth it. It really is. The event comes together, it’s really fun, we have a great time, there are some great moments, and once we’re doing it, I’m reminded of just how awesome the people I’ve surrounded myself with, are. I’m incredibly fortunate. And that good fortune is one of the reasons we still do it, despite the work, the frustration, and the inconvenience. Because we can, and it is just work, frustration, and inconvenience, and we can deal with that.

    Because at the end of the day, we do something good, and that’s really worth it. Especially right now.

    So, will we do it again?

    Well, at five years? Yeah, we’re totally going to. I’m not completely sure what form it’ll take. We may have some other options for a location coming up. Something that would really take the pressure off us in terms of the intrusion of the event into our home for weeks. I’d miss having the event at home, for sure, but it’s grown to a point now that it may really not be viable to keep doing it at home. However, a bunch of other stuff will have to come together for that to work, too.

    Cryptic much? 😀

    At the end of the day, we do it for CHEO, and I think we do an amazing job. I haven’t heard what the numbers are for fundraisers for Ottawa, for CHEO specifically, but we are regularly near the top. Which means we really are doing something good for the world, and for our community.

    Pretty much every parent we know has made use of CHEO’s facilities at some point or another, and those that haven’t? Likely will. It’s that kind of facility.

    So, one more time, with feeling, if you want to drop a few bucks, it would be hugely appreciated. Just click that link up there at the top. You know the one. Go on. Click it. You know you wanna. Makes you feel good. Doooo iiit.

    Seriously, if you’d thought about it, but didn’t get around to it, now’s the time! so, please do, if you can.

    And yeah, we’ll probably be back next year.

    But for the moment, I’ll leave it with this. I’m wicked proud of my team. Players, fund raisers, donators, all. All amazing. Thank you again Team Bombshelter, you’re awesome, and I don’t do this by myself.

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  • 2015 #extralife #gameathon

    Yes, I hashtagged my title. Live with it.

    I had previous written this “We’re right on top of the Gameathon”. Well, I never posted that. So, this is a little bit of pre- and post-gameathon.

    First things: if you don’t know, it’s a charity event that benefits the Children’s Miracle Network, via Extra-Life. In turn, you choose your hospital, in our case, that’s CHEO, or the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.

    With that explanation, if you’d care to donate a few dollars, five, ten, fifty, five hundred, whatever you can, the best place to do so is here, through me!

    Donate via me!

    Yes, we have already completed our gameathon for 2015: However, donations are still counted towards this years totals until December 31st, 2015. So, if you want to donate? Please click the link. CHEO is a great, great cause. And, honestly, I would expect them to be busy in the new year: Refugee kids are going to need help, and I’m sure CHEO will be part of that effort.

    Anyway, back to the event!

    The team has become this weird combination of nerds, geeks, car-people, and .. yeah. General weirdos. There’s Chapter 11 Section 62 representation, @wrenchhaus, and the old university crew: The Bombshelter. Basically, we are legion.

    This year, we changed things up. How? well, you’d need to know last years, first. So, here’s last year:

    This year, instead of the island in the livingroom, we’re trying a long table around the walls. I think it’s free’d up a bunch of space: we had a problem last year with people needing to get in and out (food, bathroom). I think we’ve alleviated a lot of that with the new set-up.

    On top of that, with The McFee being out of town, we’re skipping Rockband and making room for more PC’s. The entire basement, in fact, is dedicated to PC gaming this year.

    Then, we’ve set up two bedrooms/offices upstairs with tables and chairs for serious tabletop action:

    At this point, in fact, we’ve got a full walk-through video for 2015, again. My apologies for … yeah. that’s me doing the voice over. So, I apologize in advance.

    Once again, I failed to do a second walkthrough. This year did, in fact, end up being signficantly different to previous years: not only did the Tabletop gaming get a lot more attention, but at the same time, one non-nerdy-family-game got played for no less than four straight hours, by a group that grew to nearly fifteen (somewhat intoxicated) bodies: “Catch Phrase”. I know. I don’t get it either. Sadly, I didn’t get any video of the idiocy involved, either, but that’s life. That said, we brought in the kids, too, and there were games of My First Carcasonne, and the like. The adults delved into a group favorite, Pandemic, as well as Elder Sign, and a multitude of others.

    The PC master race was, as is appropriate, well represented by basement dwellers. I mean, I set up the PC gear in the basement. Note the network cables EVERYWHERE.

    Speaking of the hardware, this is what it takes to set-up the house, to do things the way we do it. I’m not sure I’d recommend this to others: it’s a ton of work, and every year I end up buying more and more gear, especially networking gear. I got very lucky this year, and a neighbour was throwing out two tables (and by tables, I mean doors, with those folding legs bolted to them) which I picked up for free. Without that, we’d have had issues, so it was incredibly fortuitous.

    So,yes, the hardware and set-up. Couches get moved from basement to ground floor: the ground floor is entirely consoles.

    Also, my racing rig, which I finished at about 11pm the night before the event, and stood up extremely well. Althuogh I think I need addtional plyons… I mean, bracing.

    The hardware!

    Ok, so the house is rigged, before anyone shows up, with:

    Ground Floor:
    -Asus AC68u router
    -TP Link 8 port switch
    -TP Link 5 Port switch
    -TP Link 16 port switch
    -350′ Cat6 network cable

    Basement:
    -TP Link 5 port switch
    -TP Link 8 port switch
    -TP Link 32 port swtich (it’s what we had)
    -250′ Cat6 Network cable

    Once everyone was plugged in we had:

    Ground Floor:
    -11 TV’s (32″ to 50″)
    -5 Xbox360s
    -6 Xbox:One
    -1 lonely PS4

    Basement:
    -12 gaming PCs of various sizes, shapes, and forms

    This year, though, we didn’t blow a breaker. You laugh, but last year, we blew breakers repeatedly (due to a bad piece of wiring we’ve since had corrected) so badly that it blew a hole in the breaker itself, which had to be replaced, last winter. I’ve never seen anything like that. Compared to last year, I think we were actually bigger this year, but it’s hard to tell, because, as I pat myself on the back, I think we organized much, much more effectively this year.

    So, while it IS a ton of fun, both in the set-up, preparation, and the event itself, there is a point to all this. And the point is, to raise money for CHEO. Which we did in spades.

    Again, donations don’t close on this year’s event until December 31st, 2015. So, feel free to click that link up there, and make even a small donation.

    Here’s the numbers so far though.

    We’re showing up as the 285 biggest fundraising team in the event (international, 6265 teams, total). However, once the $400 USD I have addtionally makes it to the organizers (next week) then we’ll jump… We may jump into the top 100 teams. Which is INSANE. Most of those top-100 teams are corporate, and where they’re community teams, they have dozens, even hundreds of members raising funds. Again, I’m incredibly proud of my guys and girls: they put a ton of effort into this.

    And yes, I know it’s not a competition. But boy, leaderboards, am I right?

    Team Bombshelter is, once again, the #1 fund-raiser for CHEO, via Extra-Life, and the gameathon. I’m incredibly proud of not only our direct team, but the people who support us (with fooooooooood, in large part), those who donate incredibly generously, and those who come to wish us well. Our numbers are not 100% yet: I have a number of cash donations that are still coming in, but it looks, on the surface, as though we’ve (in what we thought was going to be an “off” year) broken through $3200 USD. That’s somewhere around $3800 in Canadian funds, going back, directly, to CHEO. Over the last four years, we’ve raised juuuuuuuust about $15,000 in Canadian funds[1].

    It should be noted, however, that the newly-formed “Ottawa Guild Superstars” were nipping at our heels this year! That’s pretty damn, awesome, too.

    [1]we lost our team historics this year, and we still don’t know why. Fortunately, I had screen captures of the previous years’ totals, so we’re not totally lost, but it is a shame, and I have to get back in contact with Extra-Life again to see if that can be rectified. It’s not a huge deal, but we are gamers, and our leaderboards are important to us. 😉

    ExtraLife2014

    Once again, Team Bombshelter took part in ExtraLife. This is the biggest we’ve ever gone, for several reasons.

    The long and short, as I’ve talked about before, is that Extra-Life.org coordinates an event wherein you play games (console, computer, tabletop, whatever you like) for twenty-four hours. The money is organized by Children’s Miracle Network, and distributed to the Children’s Hospital that your team chooses to support. In our case, that’s the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, or CHEO. This is a great cause. Doubly so, because despite the trouble that charities have had with, ummm, “overhead”, 100% of proceeds go to the hospital you choose.

    We’ve done this for three years now. This is, in fact, my birthday event. It costs me a bunch of money, but, honestly, it’s a great cause, I have a good time, and it’s a good party, too.

    This year was, admittedly, planned to be big. @thirtyyearhouse and I bought a new house in February, and we planned to have space to entertain (in our own, distinct manners). Which means I may have gotten enthusiastic in the way we set-up. On top of that, we not only grew the staples (PC Gaming, Xbox360, Xbox:One) but we also added tabletop.

    What we ended up with was:

    15 TV’s varying from 32″ to 55″
    1 projector (at about a 120″ screen)
    8 xbox360s
    5 xbox:ones
    1 PS4
    1 PS3 (epic rockband setup)
    15 PCs, gaming laptops, and Alienware
    1 combined game of Cards Against Humanity and Crabs Adjust Humidity
    1 room devoted to tabletop gaming

    So, yeah. You can imagine the parking we took up on the street (at least it’s a relatively quiet street! who knows what my neighbours think?)

    The list there is pretty impressive. But you don’t really (I don’t think) get the scope of it until you SEE it all:

    SO, yeah. That.

    We blew the breakers twice: primarily for the xbox360 room, and family room (PC game overflow). The power meter read 36216 on Saturday morning, and 36316 on Sunday morning. I don’t know how that measures, what the units are, but I’m intrigued to see the power bill.

    On top of all the direct gaming hardware, I upgraded the entire house’s network. Fortunately, I have my connection through Distributel and had ZERO issues all weekend with my 28 down / 2 up connection. There’s no cap on it either, so all the updates that people inevitably had to do, won’t cost me.

    The network:

    1 ASUS AC68u Dark Knight II router
    1 ASUS 24-port gigabit switch (basement/PC Gaming)(borrowed)
    1 TP-Link 8-port gigabit switch (Xbox:One room)
    1 TP-Link 16-port gigabit switch (xbox360 room)
    1 TP-Link 8 port gigabit switch (basement overflow room)
    10x Cat5e 10′ cables
    1 Cat5e 25″ cable
    1 Cat5e 50″ cable
    1 Cat5e 75″ cable

    Why the gigabit cabling? Well, all the consoles, and PC’s have a wired network: not everyone uses it regularly, but it’s there. With the sheer volume of devices, I figured that was going to be a better way to organize: messy, but we weren’t going to kill the wireless throughput (good thing too: pretty much everything in the family room, which we weren’t expecting to use for electronics, went on wifi, as did our lone mobile gamer, @simonsage (who also brought MobileNations into the fray as a sponsor, and with them, Nvidia, and Gameloft. Gameloft donated a thousand freakin’ dollars! So, HUGE thanks to them): Basically, what I’m saying in this tired, near-fugue state is that I wanted to keep the wireless for people who definitely needed wireless.

    So, the gaming!

    The gaming was excellent: I didn’t get my Forza 4 race this year, but I did venture out into the online world for some racing for a few hours. There was some typical (about three hours) HALO shouting (you put 10 people on consoles in the same room, playing HALO, there’s gonna be some shouting!) and the Xbox:one guys, with the exception of jumping to 360’s for the HALO 3 multiplayer (we had enough copies of HALO3: I’d have preferred CE/10th anniversary, but… what do you do?), played the entire time on Destiny. SO much so, that the servers was so empty at 4:30am they all ended up gathered and chilled out, together, despite technically being on different servers!

    There was TombRaider (2013); @thirtyyearhouse and ProonJoos played the entirity (I think) of Portal 2, together; Fallout3:New Vegas, PAYDAY 2 (PC), WOW (PC), Borderlands2, Borderlands2:ThePreSequel (PC & Xbox), and, oh, of course:

    Rockband.

    I know, if you’ve read the previous years, you know that @blingdomepiece‘s rockband setup is pretty damn epic. But, if you’re new here, here’s a few shots:

    He brings all of this in one car-load. It’s pretty impressive. And even more so/more fun with it being on the projector, with the right sound behind it. It’s a hell of a lot of work to tear down, move, and set-up, and he does this every year. He’s one of our total heroes here, because there’s a lot of love for Rockband in our group, and he makes it just a little bit more special than you expect with rockband.

    The other thing I have to bring up is the food. We’re a (mostly) middle-aged group now: most of us have been friends for closing on twenty years, and we met in university. But the way people put effort in before the event to ensure there’s enough food for people, is spectacular.

    There was (and I’m pretty sure I have a kitchen picture), 9.5 dozen assorted homemade cookies (Loralei), Chicken Tika, made fresh (Bundy), Ribs (Magoo), Chicken BBQ Dip (SketchedOut), Two pans of Lasagna (Phae), McMuffin fixin’s (Pwned88), vegetable and fruit platters (thirtyyearhouse), Dr Pepper & Keiths Lager, and Canadian (Dwight), cupcakes (Kathy & Phae), pizzabites (Jiff), and so much other miscellaneous foodstuff…. Unbelievable. No one was going hungry. So much coffee, as you can imagine.

    Not everyone managed the entire twenty-four hours. No one is required to. We value the effort, and as I said, this is for charity.

    4am Eternal.

    Here’s the thing.

    Even after all of the above, I’m blown away by the generosity of my friends: this core group, and the ones surrounding us. As I write this, I need to go to the bank and make a cash deposit: we keep a bucket at the door, and ask people to make donations that way, if they just want to come hang out: it’s not obligatory, but it’s nice if you can throw a couple bucks in (Five dollars, a handful of change, whatever). Again, these people? So far above and beyond, it’s not even funny. There were TWO hundred-dollar, effectively anonymous cash donations. It’s OK. I know who you are, and thank-you. Twenties abound. Tens. A plethora of fives.

    A four year-old boy, Moe, who is awesome (and drove some Forza), donated the contents of his piggy bank:

    ANd it’s so friggin’ dusty in here, we’re all tearing up on the internet.

    All told, there was somewhere around $420 in the bucket when I turned it in to the bank this morning. I then made that single, lump donation with my VISA so it gets to the tally-card quickly.

    WHere does that leave us?

    Not so fast. There’s some serious shout outs.

    Again, I want to thank our PRIMARY, leading fund-raiser. That’s @simonsage. Yes, he brought in a single donation of $1000. He didn’t stop there, and did more than $700 on top of that.
    I’ll pat my own back too: prior to making the lump-sum cash from the bucket, I was at $715 raised.
    Jason pulled in next, at $590.
    Bambi: $390
    Greg M: a new-comer, $301!
    Sean: $240
    Rob: $165
    Ryan: $165
    Greg: $130
    Jaron: $125
    Alex: $100

    Here’s the thing. The top three teams in the event raised between $190,000 and $250,000 each. HOWEVER. They have thousands of members on their teams. RoosterTeeth (who are awesome) had 3000 members on their team. They raised about $80 per team member. Which is fantastic. But my guys and girls, who I am superbly proud of, averaged $380 per person in terms of fund raising. That takes serious effort. Asking people for money is hard, it really is. And my guys and girls do an awesome job, and have done all the way back to the days of the Labatt 24-hour Relay.

    One more thing. Donations are US Dollars. SO, that $5100 or so is in US. We raised in Canadian. That means it’s closer to $5800 in “our” money, for our local (Canadian) hospital. Damn.

    SO, the final numbers. I know you want ’em.

    Well, you can see any movement that may occur in the next month over on the Team Bombshelter page on Extra-Life.org, but the day-after numbers look like this:

    There’s a couple of things there that stand out. First: we raised more than FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS. For a Children’s Hospital. It was noted that, even prior to the event, we were the largest-donating group who’s target hospital was CHEO. That’s a big deal to us. The whole point is to make a difference. And that, apparently, is what we’ve done. Second, we’re gamers: leaderboards count. There were nearly 6000 teams participating in ExtraLife this year. We were the 94th biggest fundraiser, as a team. We did better than a lot of notable corporate teams. We, as a community team, with a dozen members, did better than a large number of corporate and community teams, who had more members (in some cases, a lot more members). SO, yes, I am totally, again, patting us on the collective back, because you guys deserve it. For everything I’ve written about above, you deserve it. Those who fund-raised, those who contributed, those who ran coffee runs, wrangled kids, helped trouble-shoot electrical and network problems, everyone who spread the word, shared the links on social media, everyone who was part of the whole thing, thanks.

    It’s something this group of people I call my friends do very, very well. I just rarely see it laid out in a format like this. It’s pretty damn awesome, and I’m proud of all of you.

    That’s the entire international event. How cool is that?

    The Extra Life Gameathon is a truly wonderful time. Let not speak of it again for a while, because… wow. Just so tired. Worth it, but so tired.

    Also… can we have a fundraiser to pay my electrical bill? 🙂

    [GAMING] Extra-Life.org 24-hour Gameathon – Plan Version 2

    Well, this is getting crazy.

    Right now, it looks like we have the previously mentioned ultimate rockband set-up happening.

    Additionally, I’m setting up at least one table, possibly two, for PC gamers.  At least one person is bringing their desktop rig, three or four are bringing their own Alienware laptops, and it appears we may get to borrow some machines directly from Alienware.  WTF??  How does THAT happen?

    The xbox thing continues to grow, I think.  The three are guaranteed, with a 32″, 42″, and 47″ TV to run ’em on.  We may also have another 42″ TV showing up, in which case, I think the second 42″ will join the 47″ and first 42″, and the 32″ will go upstairs with the Wii, where there will be a MarioKart Tournament.

    Problem now is, where do we plug all this stuff in?

    And the problem is solved by the arrival of at least one, but possibly two 8-port switches, an additional router, and… Hunh. I guess I need to see if we’ve got enough CABLE for all this, too, although I’m sure a bunch of the PC’s will be able to hit the wireless just fine.

    It also occurs to me I’m gonna need a ‘charging station’ area for people’s phones/tablets, etc.

    On top of all that, we’re now sitting in the “closing on $1000” range in donations for the team, so if I might respectively bug anyone who’s reading, once more, for a donation? I’d LOVE to see the team break that threshold, with only three weeks of fundraising.

    marks donation page

    Or, you can go to the Team’s page, and make a donation to anyone of the team members: team bombshelter donation page

    As of this writing, we’re at $661 showing.  HOwever, Jeremy “The Senatron” Strydonck got in costume last weekend and wandered around downtown soliciting small-change donations.  He came up with a hundred and thirty bucks.  I also know I have at least another hundred bucks coming in donations, as long as everyone who’s promised a donation makes one.  That puts the team around nine hundred dollars (and semi-officially at $791).

    With four days left to go, I’m CERTAIN we can break a grand.

    WON’T YOU THINK OF THE CHILDREN?

    [GAMING] DLC or “Why Are Your Fingers In My Pocket Again?”

    Downloadable Content. DLC.

    I don’t know where I stand on it. The gamers are weighing in on it. It’s obvious why the industry likes it: More money out of an existing product without extensive redevelopment. But, at the end of the day, is it an industry screwjob, or is it a legitimate and logical extension of the online world that is modern gaming?

    I’m not against DLC, I’ll say that first. Some are, and a fair argument has been made for “I paid for the game, don’t sell me seventy percent of it, and they charge me more for the other thirty percent”. I’ve had that thought myself with some DLC, especially early on, while a lot of companies were trying to figure it out.

    And I’m a cynic, and occasional misanthrope, too, so, you can imagine where I’m leading with this.

    But, you’d be wrong.

    I’ll use a couple of examples here.

    First, Borderlands 2, which I just wrote about specifically in terms of DLC. The new game followed the old games’ formula: four character classes to choose from, a fully fleshed-out storyline, with, I’d guess (I’ve not finished yet, I’ve started three characters now, and am moving each of them along different paths, where possible) thirty to forty linear hours of gaming without doing the replay thing. I’ve already got forty hours in, with those three characters. I’m also about, I’d guess, about half, maybe two-thirds of the way through the game, as sold to me (if you consider the game completed on one game through, with one character). So, my entertainment-cost-per-hour is about a buck and a quarter (I paid $59.99 for the basic game).

    Except it’s not quite. Because, I bought the Mechromancer for 800 xbl points. Now, I could have had that free, if I’d gotten off my ass and pre-ordered. But still, that’s ten bucks. So, make my entertainment-cost-per-hour two bucks, if you include tax on the game too.

    But that’s only going to go down, as I play. By the time the first DLC mission/story comes out, I’ll likely have played through the game once with at least three characters, for about 30 hours each play through, and probably be working on a second play through with one of the characters. So, by then, my entertainment-cost-per-hour has dropped to what? Maybe a quarter an hour? Something in that neighbourhood?

    SO, that’s a pretty good return on investment, as far as I’m concerned.

    But even beyond that, one of the arguments (I linked to it up there, and I subscribe to the site LinkDeadGaming, I like ‘em, I like their opinions: I’m just not sure I agree with this one) is that we’re being trained to pay for 70% of the game, and then buy 30% of it later.

    To carry Borderlands 2 a little further, I don’t think I only got 70% of the game. There might be an argument for 95%. But, the original game was four characters, the new one is four characters. You don’t NEED the fifth character to enjoy the game, I know that from experience. But if you want that extra bump, it’s there, and, it is additional development and writing, there’s cost associated with providing it. SO, a fee is probably legitimate.

    Same goes with the additional areas/stories/stuff that will come with the Borderlands 2 DLC over the next eight or nine months. They’re just that: additional. If they’re on a par with the first games DLC? They’re going to be worth the money. I had a blast with The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned, The Secret Armoury of General Knoxx, and Claptrap’s New Robot Revolution. And I got HOURS out of each of them. They were exactly, in my mind, what DLC should be: well written, well thought out, planned, extensive, and offer something beyond the original game, while still being true to it.

    SO, yes, for Borderlands (the original) I paid sixty bucks for the original game, and ten bucks for each of the three DLC packs (there were four, but I didn’t need the arena stuff in Mad Moxxies). So, ninety bucks for a game with, by the time I was done, probably a hundred hours of direct, linear (with some grinding for achievements, I tell no lies: shootin’ zombie heads off is FUN) game play.

    And yes, the “seasons pass” for Borderlands 2, at 2800xbl points ($35 give or take) is not cheap. But that gets you all four of the new stories.

    I don’t feel that those should be included as a matter of course. The game you get on the disc is complete. You don’t need the add-ons to enjoy it.

    Are you still with me?

    So, am I 100% in favor of DLC?

    No.

    Because it can be done badly, too. And that can go two ways.

    I love Turn10’s Forza4. Truly. But there are, every month, one to four community/rivals races I can’t take part in unless I buy the car-pack of the month, for 800xbl points. And THAT I actually do need to buy, to enjoy the game I paid for, to the fullest. There’s an achievement I can never achieve, In a game segment I HAVE ACCESS TO, BUT CAN’T PLAY, unless I spend that extra money. And on top of that, they’ve been doing this every month since the game came out last September. If you bought ‘em all, that $60 original purchase is now up around $200, if you have all the DLC.

    And yes, the cars take time to develop. And they cost money in licensing. I get that. But is it necessary to charge for five variants of effectively the same car? The Viper, Corvette, and Mustang are the primary offenders here: there’s all these variants that aren’t a lot more than visual differences, and you get a couple of ‘em in each pack. Well, I’ve driven a ‘vette in the game. I don’t need four more from the same generation of the car. I’d rather see strange and rare cars (preferably not exotics, too!) I think this is an example of what some people complain about: there’s no real value added with these car packs, but they do influence your ability to play the game you bought.

    Can Turn10 get me back with DLC? For sure.

    How?

    MORE TRACKS. I’ll buy track packs. They do a brilliant job on the tracks in the game, real or imaginary, and I would pay 800 xbl points to buy a licensed, real-life track. Definitely. In fact, I’ll tell you where they need to start. Bathurst, Australia.

    The other side is even worse: when DLC gets released as a new game, with a full new price.

    Left 4 Dead 2, I’m looking at you.

    Left 4 Dead, much like Borderlands, wasn’t supposed to be a hit. I mean, I’m sure every company puts out their gaming hoping, but it wasn’t a pushed title, it was, for lack of a better description, a mid-season filler.

    And, it was fantastic. It scared the shit out of me. I was playin’ with Mightydogking over XBL one night, and the phrase of the night was

    “AAUUUUUUGH! NOOO! GETITOFFGETITOFFGETITOFFMEEEIT’SEATINGMYFACE!”

    The first time you disturb a witch, you shit your pants.

    Thing is, L4D2 is also excellent. But it came out a year later, at full-game price, and it was EXACTLY the same game. Exactly. Basically, it was DLC, or a mild expansion pack. It was NOT a full new games worth: not in the way that Borderlands2 is: A couple of new character skins, and a new monster or two with a couple of new environment/levels? That is NOT a new game. That’s DLC. And if it’d been 600 points per level, as DLC, it would have been a smash. But it was a $60 game. And the fanboys were, rightly, pissed.

    They rushed it to get the money while the first one was hot (this is, of course, my opinion) and yeah, they got paid. But I think they’d have done better, long term, if they’d have done DLC, and worked hard at a new game, two or three years later.

    Either way, I know almost no one who raved about L4D2, even though (maybe because) it was exactly as good as L4D.

    And that’s the situation with DLC as I see it. I like DLC. It’s good for the companies in terms of additional revenue, and it’s good for the fans, as they get more of what they like. If it’s done well, and if it’s not done solely to generate some cash, but to advance the game, and expand it. DLC is not inherently bad, or a screw job: it’s not an excuse for companies to put out an unfinished game and then make a few bucks “topping it up” to what should have been released.

    At least, it shouldn’t be.

    What it should be, I think, is what’s happened (and continues to happen) with Borderlands, and a few other games have figured out: It’s an opportunity to grow the franchise by giving the fans more (and here’s the important bit) of substance, to carry them over until the inevitable sequel comes out.

    But it’s the “of Substance” that is important. It’s got to be a new story that expands on what has gone before, combined with new levels (if it’s level-driven character/skill development). It’s got to have a new spin on the same gameplay, but still be the game you know. Basically, it’s got to offer you something new of substance. And it’s up to the developer to decide what “of substance” means, for sure. But it’s also up to the fans to tell the developer if they don’t think there’s enough substance.

    DLC is a developing idea, there’s no doubt. Games themselves have had a long evolution, and I expect the same from DLC. But for people to want to buy it, it’s got to have worth. Which means it can’t just be a cash grab, pulling on fans heartstrings.

    DLC is here to stay. Here’s hoping it gets used, not abused.

    PaxEast: More Games

    I may have mentioned before, but it bears repeating: I specifically went to PAX East with the intent of NOT playing a bunch of games. I wanted to see things, for sure, but standing in line for an hour to play a game for ten minutes, when I know I’m going to buy it anyway? That seems pointless to me.

    So, it should come as no surprise that I didn’t bother to play Diablo 3, or Torchlight 2. In fact, I specifically mentioned them in a previous post.

    That said, I love both games. Here’s the thing though. I don’t have a PC that’ll play either of them. For that matter, I can’t play Tribes: Ascend, either.

    For the last couple of years, I’ve run my life off my laptop. It (just) played the original Torchlight, and I played a lot of that. I even loaded up Diablo 2 once in a while, just for kicks and memories. It (the laptop) still chugs along tolerably with Civillization IV, but won’t play Civ V.

    What this means is, buying either, or both, of Torchlight 2 and Diablo 3 makes either games’ cost somewhere in the realm of a thousand bucks.

    Because I have to buy a new desktop to play ’em on.

    However, I installed the trial of the original Torchlight on my xbox, as a download from XboxLive. I’m intrigued to see if they’ve got the dynamic of the ARPG to work with a console controller. I mean, we all played the hell out of Diablo, right? And we did it on the PC, with a mouse. And the mouse REALLY makes the difference. But I’ve adapted really well to using a controller instead of a mouse for FPS’s. Is there any reason why, with a decent interface, I can’t adapt to RPG’s with a controller in the same way?

    *cue Jeopardy music*

    Ok, well, after five hours, and actually purchasing the game, I can say I’ve thoroughly playtested the idea of using an xbox controller for these types of games.

    And I’m shocked.

    It works REALLY well. It’s really intuitive, and I find I’m using more of the secondary abilities than I have previously (on the PC). Absolutely zero issues with using a pad controller to play an ARPG. In fact, I’d almost go as far as to say.. I prefer it?

    Is that blasphemous?

    I’m not sure, it might be.

    Ok, so, the caveat in all this is that while Torchlight is on XBL, and there are rumours of Torchlight 2 being released for the xbox, it’s a pretty iron-clad guarentee that there will not be a Diablo 3 for Xbox, or any other console.

    Which means that, however good Torchlight is currently on XBL (and the only issue is difficulty: normal is a walk in the park, Hard is barely challenging) the reality of the matter is, I’m going to have to buy a new PC to play both Diablo 3, and Torchlight 2. And, honestly, Civ-V. Because I do love me some CIV. In general, I think I need to be both a PC and console gamer. There, I’ve done it again. More blasphemy.

    I think the gods of gaming may strike me down. Or at least the zealots. I shall be the Galileo of Gaming: persecuted for my belief that both console AND PC are worthwhile platforms!

    Or, you know, not persecuted at all.