Chicago Fan Faire Report

Posted by Derek
Sep 30 2003

Myself and a few friends travelled from North Dakota (one actually from Canada) to Chicago for the Everquest Fan Faire. The journey was perilous and not without danger…

A lot of the following probably:

  1. Won’t make much sense unless you know Illia, Howjan, Wulin, and others mentioned;

  2. Won’t make much sense unless you are vaguely familiar with Everquest, conventions, or some combination of the two;

  3. Won’t make much sense at all.

But read on.

In most games these days I go by the handle ‘Agamenoar,’ or just ‘Ag’ in newer games, chat rooms, et al - when the developers trying to /summon you to testing events can’t spell your nickname when it’s on their own screen, clearly, you need a shorter name.

On with the travelogue! Tuesday. Illia arrives in balmy Minot, ND (population: 4 people and a gopher, the remainder of the population are actually being six-boxed by the gopher) somewhere around 7pm. Much rejoicing ensues as Howjan, Wulin, myself, and a couple others go to dinner and drinks, then migrate elsewhere for more drinks/pool/darts until our collective asses get punted out at close. Retreat to Howjan’s estate, drink a little more, pass out.

Wednesday. The North Dakotans pile into the Canadian’s tiny Audi at 8am, amputating arms and legs and tying them to the bike rack on the roof to make room. This lovely work of German engineering is completely unforgiving of English units; everything in the car is marked in Celcius or Kilometers. Panic ensues until Wulin breaks out a notepad and begins converting speed limit signs in realtime. As we didn’t get arrested, his math must have been mostly right. I briefly bitch about the overhead controls in the rear seat missing the stewaress call button.

Hurtling down the interstate in Minnesota and Wisconsin at speeds that we can only assume were approaching the sound barrier, we arrive in Eau Claire at four PM, stopping briefly to obtain rooms for the night as we’ll likely be too drunk/confused later to remember to do it then. Someone manages to find Kuddo’s phone number and contact with the EauClaireans is made. An International agreement later we arrange to continue diplomatic relations (read: eat something and drink a lot) with Kuddo, Takrogoth, Astryd, and Mugg at a nearby brewery/restaurant.

Finishing dinner, it is decided more alcohol is required for good relations to continue, so the conference is relocated twice as the first new location had been assigned a cover charge for the evening. Positive relations for the future are forged as the night draws to a close; I get tossed Illia’s keys and proceed to attempt to burn out the clutch in his Audi as I relearn how to drive stick. We manage to survive the trip back to the motel and pass out.

Thursday. Having failed at burning out the clutch, we get back on the road at 9:30 am. Hampered briefly by road construction we arrive in Chicago near 2pm, drive blindly around the city for anything that resembles a hotel, and finally locate ours. Obtaining our rooms we drop off our things and begin to wander around the establishment. The checkin for the Fan Faire itself begins at 4pm; I go to pick up my badge only to be told they can’t find one for me, and here’s a blank one that I can write my name on. Sigh, oh well, these things do happen.

I wander around solo for a while longer, glancing through the Bazaar briefly and discovering Velsha and Trisa browsing the wares as well. Greeting them merrily I wander on, attempting to locate Illia once more to determine where we shall be convening for the dinner plans made earlier in the week. Locating him in the hotel lobby, I am introduced to Allakhazam, Xenaida, Kaikachi, Gallenite, among others, as we pile into a small detachment of the Chicago Taxicab Fleet and migrate to Morton’s of Chicago, “The Steakhouse” according to the fine print under the name.

Holy shit. Holy holy HOLY shit. The cheapest thing on the menu barring appetizers, salads, and beer, is prime rib. I shit you not, they carry a seventy-two ounce cut of porterhouse steak. This four and a half pound side of beef is enough to feed an entire country for a year. Add hooves and a tail and you’ll have enough meat to know what the cow looked like down to the color of its eyes before they started to cut pieces off. No one daring to risk the wrath of bovine throughout the world, other meals are ordered in the stead of The Porterhouse.

We return to the hotel to allow the most remarkable steak dinner I think anyone in the room had ever been priveleged to look at, let alone consume, settle. We find Alturick camping the door waiting for our arrival. Takrogoth, Kuddo, and Kerasota (the creator of Lucy) also spawn. We attempt to get a repop of the lobby to ward off these even /cons (the paladin however is more of a lightblue) but the only members of the dev crew that we manage to locate are already working on their Alcohol Tolerance skills. Much joyous sampling of the hotel’s brews continues into the hours of the morning.

Friday. The crack of noon rolls around and the North Dakotans seek nourishment. Howjan and Wulin attempted to make peace with the hotel gods by eating in the steakhouse within the hotel. By the stories of even the ashtrays being so prim and proper one could drink from them and cure the diseases of the world, we determine something somewhat less stressing to the wallet is in order.

McDonalds it is. This fine dining establishment was found approximately four blocks away, allowing for roughly 1/1000th of the calories consumed to be burnt off on the walk back to the hotel. Returning to the event at approximately 1:30pm, we head to view the various panels being run by the staff of the Faire. I attend a demo of Everquest II, then migrate to another hall to observe the Everquest Live team answering questions.

Gallenite, Xenaida, Lyndro, and Rashere get raked over the coals as the people we normally only see trolling boards step into the light and get handed a microphone to ask whatever happens to be on their mind. For example:

Random_Necro00: “Necro’s need a targetable feign death that we can use to save wizards when they overnuke” Gallenite: “If a wizard is overnuking, the wizard needs to die” (many cheers from the crowd)

Random_Druid00: “Druid CH should be 2 seconds faster to cast” All_ClericsInRoom inhale Panel: “Uh… no”

Random_Enchanter00: “When I’m in groups as the only enchanter I’m doing so much I can’t get slow off fast on the mob the tank is tanking, please make our slow faster” Vein_onHowjan`sNeck00 bulges as his eyebrow twitches

We attempt to help calm the dev crew after the panels by inviting them to an Irish pub Illia discovered across the street. His socks apparently proc Find Guiness. Lunch and drinks are served, and we have a good time up until eight o’clock when the Fan Faire staff runs a reception event back at the hotel. Giving up our prime seats we wander back and observe Tom Taylor tossing back drinks behind the podium on stage as we attempt to find the Test table. Finding we need more room we comandeer an ajacent table (ninjalooted it from Xev) and greet those who we’d not had the pleasure to drink with yet. Hadler, Oakrunner (he’s twelve, no wonder we hadn’t seen him in the pub), Sarah (apparently has run Melbourne from time to time) and a big norsk looking dude that I can’t recall the name of. Allakhazam joins us as well.

Shotglasses, wine goblets, teeshirts, video cards are all given away. The names drawn seem to have more and more ‘A’s in them as Tom becomes more and more incapable of pronouncing them at all. But, of course, if names with too many ‘A’s are being drawn… The table bursts into laughter as my name appears on the screen; Tom doesn’t even begin to attempt to pronounce it, tossing back another drink instead. Go me! What did I win? Not a shirt, nor a shotglass or wine goblet… Not even a video card. So what hallowed prize gifts my hands?

A year free hosting at Guildportal.com.

What in The Fuck am I supposed to do with that? TP has maybe six people that play. So I consider the larger picture, to use it for TSF… but we have a messageboard, we have a calendar (when did that get added? it wasn’t there last week), and we have a roster (a very good one I might add cough). Oh well, maybe I can sell it on playerauctions. “Offical Fan Faire merchandice!”

The drawings complete and the entirety of the Test server (minus oak) plus most of the dev crew uses (in Lyndro’s most eloquent terms) ‘Succor: Pub’ and returns to the Irish pub across the street. I spend some time talking with Absor, just chatting about random things and enjoying the atmosphere until they kick us out at close.

Saturday. Begins approximately like Friday; food at McD’s follows the observation of dev-raking instead of preceeding it. However, one minor change in questions is presented:

Shaman_ThatWeWon`tName00: “Slow mitigation, it sucks, you use it too much, cut it out” Absor (who was passing around the microphone) “That wasn’t a question” Shaman: “In your humble opinions, what is the purpose of the overuse of slow mitigation on experience-granting creatures throughout the world of Norrath?” Panel: “Game balance, next”

After food I split off, wandering into the pub and finding Illia as expected - half-pint in hand, full-pint on standby. Alturick and another soul are helping keep him company as he conquers the beast that is Guiness on tap. Considering that the night will likely go as the previous did, I swing by the hotel lobby and extend the room stay by a day… No one is going to be ready to leave Sunday morning. We’d be lucky if we’re conscious by checkout time.

On a whim I wander back into the bazaar area to waste time before the banquet at 8pm. In the main halls there are banners for each server and each class, each one up for silent auctioning… However, at the close of the auction, they turned it into a “let’s see if anyone else wants to bid” auction and began naming off servers and collecting last minute bids. Tom Taylor is running this as well, however lacking a microphone it’s rather hard to hear him over the crowd. Banner after banner goes by, in no particular order… And Test’s finally comes up. current price is $25. Toot! I’ll bid 30…

Some guy on the other side of the tables tosses in 35… Now, this guy just picked up another banner for 200 bucks. I can’t make out his badge but he’s not a test player. One of the SoE staff behind the table bids 40; the unknown player goes to 45. I decide not to let this heathen scum have our server’s banner, especially if he doesn’t even want to socialize with us at our table! I bid 50. He counters every bid… 60. 70… 80. 100… 125. 135… 150. Okay, fuck you - 200! I win, rawr fucker, RAWR!

(as an aside, the cleric banner later was sold for 1k, and a couple class banners went for 700+. When I discovered this I felt much more sane about my purchase)

So, feeling my wallet loose weight even though payment and pickup wasn’t until Sunday, I trundle off to inform the Test crew of my win, then head to the banquet with them. We once again annex an additional table (tarew marr this time) and several of the dev group join us rather than sitting up at the SoE staff tables. This of course raises our morale and makes us feel good about ourselves. It’s promply quenched as we discover it’s merely because the SoE tables are full. Damn refugees.

Tom Taylor is up at the podium once again, and it seems that an unofficial contest begins between Povar, Veeshan, and Stormhammer to see who can take him the most alcohol. Stormhammer, of course, can afford to do this. Not nearly so many ‘A’s come across the screen as he draws for prizes. No one that matters wins anything, so we retreat to the pub once again. I steal Illia’s camera and head back to the hall to get pictures of the costume contest before joining them back at the pub. Niami (EQ Traders) joins us and she, Maddoc, and a few others have a fun discusson about tradeskills (bet you didn’t expect to see ‘fun’ and ‘tradeskills’ in one sentence) among other things until close.

A brief interlude is made to the SoE suite, but the North Dakotans get punted out after about 20 minutes. “If you don’t collect a check from sony, get out.” It wasn’t that we were being bad, it was more that he was trying to reclaim his room so he could sleep. I think.

Sunday. Auction pickup opens at 10am. I collect the phat lootz (including three alcohol tolerance pins, one for each of Illia, Howjan, and Wulin) and scour the hotel for a marker. By god if I’m paying 200 bucks for the banner, the SoE dev crew can take 30 seconds and sign it. :D

As I roam the hotel searching for people to hand the marker to, I realize that more than just the dev’s should be signing it, so I get the remaining few Test people (excluding Howie and Wulin, since they suck) that I can locate to sign as well. And what the hell, got Tom to sign it too, since he seemed to be running things.

Signatures collected: Tom Taylor, Gallenite, Lyndro, Prathun, Kaikachi, Xenaida, Solomonr, Holly (the lady who did the LDoN lore), Odyean (GM on Stormhammer), Illia, Velsha, Absor, Maddoc, Rashere, Azaliil.

Went to breakfast with Absor and some of the other SoE crew that hadn’t already left or gone to see the city; Illia wanders into the cafe, complaining about still being drunk. Apparently he didn’t get kicked out of the suite when we did. After about 30 cups of coffee and two pitchers of water he tells us a sad tale about waking up at 5am in his hotel bed, no clue how he got there, and only having one shoe off.

Breakfast out of the way, we head back to the hotel. I jog back to the room to grab my sunglasses, but in the process of doing this I seemed to have neglected to note that I was going to go along to sightsee and get left beind. Bleh, oh well. Howjan and Wulin regain consciousness and need sustanance, so I show them to the cafe. They eat, then we get directions to find a place to acquire a camera battery so I can ressurect Illia’s camera. It would seem that we’d missed a rather large shopping district a mere six blocks from the hotel.

Taking out a small loan to afford film for my camera and a battery for his, I make the purchase while Howjan negotiates to trade a used ranger for a box of toothpicks. The camera roars back to life as the battery is replaced, shooting several pictures of the area before consuming a small bus as a sacrifice. The North Dakotans wander on through the area, finding actual green grass in the bustling metropolis as we attempt to discover the path we followed to arrive where we were.

Angels sing as the hotel appears around a corner; we retreat to the safety of our room and watch some TV for a little while as I begin chronicling the events of the past week. Illia joins us as the last of the SoE crew leaves for the airport. We head to a nearby bar for dinner (as the irish pub had been comandeered for a private party, sigh) then head back to get sleep before our early departure.

Monday. 4:15am rolls around. We gather up our possessions and go wait in the lobby for Illia. He requests for the car to be brought out of parking. And we wait. And wait… and… some 20 minutes later he goes to find out what’s going on with the car. Apparently where you hand them keys is not where they are returned to your possession; the car had been waiting for 15 minutes in the basement parking area and no one had bothered to inform us of this.

We load up, head to the gate… The gate machine requests a token, which the parking people had conveniently neglected to provide us. Beating the hell out of the attendant we steal a token and escape the lot and attempt to locate the interstate. Somewhere in the area of Grand avenue we manage to find an onramp, which merges into the LEFT lane of the interstate and gives you approximately ten feet to accelerate from a near standstill to 80+ MPH if you don’t want to get rear-ended by the cars forever trapped circling the city with no way to exit.

Chicago vanishes behind us as we travel westward. Illinois and Wisconsin pass by quickly; Minnesota lasts a small eternity. Illia advises we write our congressional representitives and just have it deleted from the map as it seems to be a waste of space. A chorus of agreement rises from the car.

Onward we go at near-lightspeed velocities, yet still being passed by nuns on unicycles on the interstate. Finally making it back to North Dakota, we breathe a sigh of relief as Minot appears on the horizon at 7pm. Detouring for dinner at Applebee’s we then return to Howjan’s estate to finish the evening in relative peace.

Summary. In this adventure we (the North Dakotans) have had the opportunity to meet Absor, Lyndro, Prathun, Rashere, Xenaida, Kaikachi, Gallenite, Maddoc, Solomonr, Xeib, Bulkeen, Kerasota, Illia, Allakhazam, Niami DenMother, Ngreth, Velsha, Trisa, Handor, Oakrunner, Alturick, Kuddo, Mugg, Astryd, Takrogoth, and others I can’t remember right now (and perhaps some who’d rather not be recorded… )

We’ve learned:

1) Howjan curls into a fetal position when on the Interstate system near any major city.

2) Ag is no longer allowed to drive stick.

3) Wulin doesn’t appriciate Guiness. (nor does Howjan nor myself, but, I needed something for him and it’s late )

4) Illia needs a car that speaks American.

5) Finally, The Most Important Thing We Learned:

Viva Las Vegas, Baby

(translation: Next Fan Faire is in Vegas. If you don’t show up, we’ll hunt you down and kill you. Howjan has guns somewhere and I’m sure Wulin knows how to fire them)

Disclaimer. The opinions expressed above do not necessarily express the opinions of the North Dakotan Group (though they agree on most of it). Dissenting opinions are likely to be noted once the rest of the crew sobers up.