Tag Archives: penny arcade
September 5, 2011

True Fan Boost 2011

Having been on the road a good 14 months now, I haven’t had as many opportunities to support my favorite artists this year.  But that’s why I came up with this whole True Fan Boost idea in the first place, isn’t it?  To use Labor Day as a reminder to do just that!

So even though I’m unemployed and living off savings, I’m going to make sure to give at least a little something to the people’s whose work I enjoy.

Jonathan Coulton

Jonathan Coulton, who made headlines this year with his interview on NPR, has just released a new album — perfectly timed to coincide with my Labor Day purchase!  I just picked up the $10 digital download version of Artifical Heart, but I’ve yet to listen to it (I’ll wait until I have the time to give the first listen my full attention.)  JoCo’s put a lot of his music out there already, but this album is different.  It’s his first studio-produced outing and also his first major album with a theme.  I also see he’s got Suzanne Vega on there!  I’m looking forward to this.

But I’ll confess one thing.  I haven’t played Portal 2 yet, so I removed one song from my playlist until I first listen to it at the end of the game.  Spoilers!

Roam The Planet

If you’ve been following along on our travel site, Postcard Valet, you’ve probably heard me mention a couple new friends.  We met Wendy and Dusty in Ecuador, hooked up with them again in Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina, and even lived in the same building for a time in Buenos Aires.  We expect to see them again in Thailand in a couple months, too.


September 7, 2009

True Fan Boost 2009

Last year on Labor Day, I posted an entry on this blog about something I called “the True Fan Boost.”  The idea was to use Labor Day as a reminder to support the independent artists we love, either financially by buying some of their work or at least by sharing their work with others.  I’m going to do the same again this year.  If you like the idea, I invite you to do the same on your own blog, Facebook, or wherever seems most appropriate.

After the jump, in no particular order, are the artists I’m going to shell out some bucks for right now:

September 1, 2008

True Fan Boost 2008

The Long TailWith only a week before Labor Day, it was a long shot that my little blog post would fire up the Internet with the True Fan Boost concept. I did send out an e-mail or two, on the off chance that someone with a larger readership would push the idea. I actually got a response back from Kevin Kelly, but after rereading it a few times, I realized that I may not have been clear enough in what I was trying to accomplish.

Kevin thought that I was out of synch with the 1000 True Fans concept by using Labor Day to support any and all artists (i.e., He thought I was encouraging people to go out and buy Aerosmith albums, Stephen King books, or any other products by established artists.) Not true. I want nothing more than to “boost” the sales of independent, internet-based artists with this idea. Aerosmith is out, Jonathan Coulton is in.

Kevin also seems to be focused only on the TRUE true fans – the ones that will drop $100 a year on their favorite artists. What I’m trying to do is mobilize the Lesser Fans (as he calls them), in addition to the True Fans, into an economic force. This may be beyond my means.

I really appreciated the comment left by Patricia on my last entry; she came at the idea from a marketing angle. She’s distilled my whole post down to one sentence:

True Fan Boost: Commemorate Labor Day by actually purchasing the creative work of that wonderful artist you told yourself you’d support “someday.”

If you change “that wonderful artist” to “those wonderful artists,” then that’s what I’m going to do right now:


October 23, 2007

PAX IV: Stress and Accomplishment

The view from the back of the concert hall

So, yeah. I got to create a couple videos for PAX 2007. Definitely the highlight of the show for me, but also the cause of great stress.

It all started with a phone call. I’d been on familiar terms with Travis for more than a year, but it was the first time I’d ever talked to him without a game interface between us. He wanted to talk about creating specific Halo 3 visuals for the Omegathon, but the secrecy was so tight on the final round, he couldn’t risk accidentally mistyping anything over World of Warcraft. It may seem trivial – knowing the final game of the Omegathon – but it’s a secret some people would pay money to have.

The idea, passed around the Penny Arcade office, was to have the Minibosses play a rocking cover of the Halo Mjolnir theme. Everyone was expecting a decades-old, retro video game, so they wanted to create a huge spectacle when they revealed one of the most anticipated video game titles of the year. What would complement the Minibosses? Someone suggested extracting the Cortana images from the Halo 3 2006 E3 trailer.

Calls were made to Bungie, to see if they wanted to whip something specific together, but they were busy putting the finishing touches on Halo 3 for the looming September release date. In the meantime, could I do something with the E3 trailer as a plan B? Hell, I didn’t know, but I sure wanted to try!

The next day I downloaded the highest quality version of the trailer I could find, a nice fat 1280×544 HD Quicktime video. My first impressions didn’t give me great hope. The isolated segments of Cortana were very short. When I went frame-by-frame, I discovered that most of the blue static that gave it such style was actually composited over the top of the too-recognizable Halo elements. I wasted some time in Photoshop, seeing if I could isolate just the blue and white, but I always ended up with highlights from the background, too. All I could really get were tiny, one-or-two second pieces of Cortana. Not nearly enough to fill out the presentation.

Not only that, but there was audio underneath Cortana’s monologue. I eliminated some of it with Audition, but to reduce it any farther began to alter her voice.

I spent much of that afternoon slicing up Bungie’s intellectual property (and feeling bad about it), looping and rotating and reversing and duplicating elements of their static, just to get maybe 20 seconds worth of video. I wasn’t sure it would be enough.

I compressed the rough edit down to something reasonable for e-mail and fired off a copy to Travis. I wanted to be clear that it was a rough edit, that I didn’t consider it finished by a long shot, but I needed to know if I was heading in the right direction. Here’s my e-mail, with a link to the video file I attached:

Okay, so a progress check.

I know that Bungie might come through with something that’ll make this project obsolete, but that’s fine. Great, in fact. I feel a little weird mangling their IP.

First and foremost, this is a rough draft (in iPhone format!) just to see if I’m going in the right direction. Watch it first, maybe, then check the notes below.

Things I’ve noticed:

Placing the bits of monologue right next to each other emphasizes their differences. The bits of notes and chords that are still there, the differences in the voice because some audio editing was done. I don’t think we’ll ever be able to completely repair the audio, but it could be good enough.

Especially if, you know, loud music is playing over top of the whole thing.

(Knowing the exact length of this mini-event would be great. Probably won’t happen. How are we going to sync this with the live music?)

Much of the blue flashy light effects are duplicated from other areas in the video. When you watch the original trailer, you’ll realize a lot of that static goes on over top of the recognizable Halo figure and background. I had to trim all that off. To fill in black areas, we can alter (reverse, play backwards, flip, etc.) any section we’re already using.

The sections of a recognizable talking head are so short that I don’t think we’ll be able to keep the head on screen the whole time. Too repetitive.

The ending, I think, could be awesome. Especially if we can somehow sync to the music like the original trailer did. I left the end-music in this rough draft to get a feel for how it could be done.

I think the “3” logo should definitely stay. I think the Bungie logo can go, but that means cloning in more blue static. I replaced “Finish the Fight 2007″ with “Omegathon 2007,” though “finish the fight” is rather appropriate for the final round.

Comments? Be brutal with your criticism.


I expected to get a lot of feedback, some good directions for the next step. I didn’t expect Travis to forward it to the Penny Arcade guys, nor the responses I’d get from them.

September 18, 2007

PAX III: Brush with Fame

Jonathan Coulton sings Baby Got Back

While I was still debating about whether or not to go to PAX, Gabe and Tycho began to announce their lineup. Wil Wheaton was giving the keynote, Jonathan Coulton and Freezepop would be playing in the concerts. If Gabe and Tycho weren’t big enough draws, any one of the others might have been enough for me to commit. Put all of them together and you might not have been able to prevent me from flying to Seattle.

Just before leaving Juneau, I discovered that the first round of the Omegathon round was scheduled right up against Wil Wheaton’s keynote address. I couldn’t believe it! When I mentioned it to him, Travis promised me that the round would be over quickly and, at the very least, I could leave at any time to watch the keynote instead. Without a time limit, the last Jenga match dragged on forever. I could have left, but the suspense and anticipation was so high at that point, I didn’t want to miss the moment the last tower fell.

Gabe and Tycho attended most of the Omegathon, but they were always focused on the competition. I couldn’t bring myself to get all fanboy and introduce myself to them.

(Later in the day, I did ask Travis to introduce me to Kara, Gabe’s wife. I’d played a time or two with her in World of Warcraft and wanted to say hello. He introduced me as “Arlo,” and I think she saw me as just another one of the hundreds of black-shirted enforcers. I mumbled something it being nice to meet her after raiding with her a time or two. I will label her smile and reply as “dismissive.”)

I’d missed Wil’s speech, but I was sure the keynote would be all over the internet by the time I got home. It wouldn’t be the same as listening to him from the audience, but it would suffice. Besides, I’d spotted the booth set aside for his autographing session. Perhaps I would be able to spot him there later in the day…

Alas, no. I stopped by many times, but as far as I could tell, Wil never set any time aside for book signings.

Freezepop, who wrote one of my favorite song in Guitar Hero II, played on Friday night. However, my lack of sleep combined with a general lack of interest from the rest of our group of meant that I was easily talked into a casual dinner and early bedtime, instead. 0-for-2.

It was a good thing I was having so much fun hanging out with my new friends, because other than escorting the Neskimos to the stage for their sound check, I didn’t meet a single famous person on Friday.

Saturday and Sunday more than made up for it.

September 11, 2007

PAX II: The Omegathon

Mike Krahulik, aka Gabe

When I pre-registered for PAX earlier this year, I did so without even knowing if I would attend.  I did it in the hopes of being selected for the Omegathon.

The Omegathon is a video game competition among 20 gamers who are randomly selected from all those that pre-register.  There are five elimination rounds conducted with predetermined games and a final round between the two remaining players.  The culmination of the entire PAX conference is the last round of the Omegathon and the final game is always kept secret.  Prizes are amazing – expensive custom PCs, a complete Nintendo Entertainment System with every game ever published, a Toyota Scion with an XBOX 360 thrown in for good measure, and this year, a trip to Tokyo and $5000.  The final games for the first three Omegathons were Pong, Atari Combat, and Tetris, respectively.  After seeing the 2005 crowd’s reaction to the Combat match, I knew I had to a least throw my name into the hat.

With 20,000 attendees last year, my odds of being selected as one of the 20 were slim.  But if I were to be selected… Well then, that would have forced my hand.  1 in a 1000?  I’d have to buy a plane ticket to Seattle.

The Omeganaut announcement came and went, and predictably, I wasn’t chosen.  However, by that time I’d already committed to going.  Turns out I was to become more involved in the Omegathon than if I’d been merely playing as a contestant.


September 5, 2007

PAX I: Background

2007 Omeganauts with Gabe and Tycho

It’s been almost two weeks since I attended the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) in Seattle. I’m still distilling my own thoughts and emotions on the weekend – the pleasure of meeting new friends, schmoozing with famous people, the incredible stress of my volunteer workload, the joy of showing my work to so many people, and the praise I received for it. It’ll take some time to write it all up, edit the videos, and sort through the hundreds of digital photos. Instead of waiting until I get it all down, I’ll post as it comes.

First, some background:

I’ve been a casual reader of Penny Arcade for a long time. At first I was attracted to Tycho’s writing, but I came to be impressed by Gabe’s obvious work ethic and sense of humor, too. I’d visit their site from time to time, but it wasn’t until they proposed a Penny Arcade Alliance on World of Warcraft that I became a real fan.

Despite starting my character about 30 levels behind, I managed to catch up and play with Dudefella, Gabe’s character, on the Dark Iron server. It was he that invited me into the Fancy Lads guild, it was he that invited me on horde-hunts nightly through the Western Plaguelands, and it was he that recruited me into Dudefella’s Arathi Basin Crew. I even ran Molten Core with his wife a time or two.

Sadly, Dudefella and Kimbela have stopped playing, but it was in his AB Crew that I met a friend of his, Elli. I’ve been running battlegrounds with Elli for, oh, probably more than a year now. We’ve chatted over Ventrilo and despite never using our real names, managed to get to know each other fairly well. Since the Burning Crusade expansion pack came out in January, Elli’s real-life friends and my own have formed a tight-knit little raiding party.

Earlier this year, I made a commitment to go to PAX, the Penny Arcade Expo, in Seattle. Oksana readily agreed to go with me, if only so she could do some shopping shop while I toured the video game related booths, panels, and concerts. When I mentioned to Elli that I’d be coming down for the convention, suggesting that we might be able to meet up, he went a step further and recruited me into his volunteer team of Omegatechs. His offer would be the catalyst for an amazing weekend.

At the last minute, our friends Mike and Amelia decided to join us. We booked hotels and flights, paid for our conference passes, and arrived just before the last weekend in August…

(To be continued…)