Sunday, November 12, 2006

Last Weekend in Melbourne

I finished typing this up Friday night but was going to pull a picture off my camera but forgot about it. I've been slaving away at Customer Service Tools all weekend and only realized I didn't post this when I went to shut the computer down and found the doc still open. So anyway without further ado I spent last weekend at the Game1 expo in Melbourne. Let me tell you about it…

First of all Ashwin doesn’t show up at the airport. He is one of the two marketing guys going to the show with me. The second marketing guy, Paul, is supposed to take another flight. Ashwin is the guy running the show, he knows who we are getting the rental computers from, where we are getting the monitors from, where we are getting the plasma TV from, who to talk to about setting up the booth and other little stuff like where the expo is actually being held. He’s the guy in the know. Me? I’m just the guy carrying the GIGANTIC, two-handed laptop computer that will be running the server. The problem is that Ashwin hasn’t shown up at the airport.

I get on the plane and after about 10 minutes sitting at the gate there is an announcement on the PA that if Mr. Segkar was on board could he please make himself known to a member of the flight crew. I look around… nope he’s not here. Then about 5 minutes later a ground crew guy comes on the plane and starts giving me the third degree right there in my seat where all of the other passengers can assign this delay on me.

“Am I traveling with Mr. Segkar? Did I check in with Mr. Segkar? Have I seen Mr. Segkar at all this morning? Is there a phone number where I could try to call Mr. Segkar?” I think he even asked me I was, or have I ever been a member of the Communist Party?”

I’m sure they are going doubly nuts because of the foreign sounding name. All I have that I can think of to give them before they start in with the thumbscrews is the cell phone number of Andrew, my assistant producer. I don’t know if he has Ashwin’s phone number or not, but hey it’s early in the morning and I figure he’d probably appreciate the wake up call. They leave me alone after that and about 15 minutes later we take off. I shrink back into my seat, pop on my $500 Bose, noise reduction headphones, and pretend I can’t feel the eyes of the other passengers on me.

I should interject that my Bose, noise reduction headphones ROCK. The whole background airplane noise was gone. I have The Prestige by Christopher Priest unabridged audiobook on my iPod. I saw the trailer for the movie adaptation a few days ago and it looks awesome so when I saw the audio book on Audible.Com I grabbed it. The movie is already out in the states but doesn’t open here till the 17th which is still a week away for those of you reading this at some alternate future time.

Consider that a message from our sponsors, back to the story…

I land in Melbourne and get to the hotel. We were supposed to stay in the Holiday Inn but it was booked up as it is the weekend before the Melbourne Cup horse race. Instead we get a place right around the corner. I was told the Holiday Inn got 3 stars and this place got 4, though I realize now that I don’t know exactly what system this is and what it’s star’s might mean. For all I know the stars could represent the number of unsolved homicides in the hotel the previous month.

This place is several very old buildings chopped up on the inside, divided into closet sized rooms with a tiny bathroom added on. It has a 12 inch TV mounted way up in the corner of one wall with no cable or movie service. I can’t remember the last time I went to sleep in a hotel room without the Discovery Channel on the background. It has a little internet room down in the lobby but the wireless doesn’t even connect from the room.

It did have a very large piece of green, furry, spiked, carpet that crawls along the baseboard.

But who cares about the room, it’s a place to sleep and I can live without the Discovery channel especially with the wonderful wildlife already living in the room. I toss my bags onto the bed and call Andrew to find out what’s going on.

Ashwin had problems with his rental car return, told the airline he would need to take the next flight and they removed his bags from the plane. The problem appears to be the ground crew didn’t get that update. All they knew was they had some guy with foreign name not show up for the flight but had luggage on the plane they couldn’t actually find. It must have been fun for them.

The important thing is that he was actually on his way which is more than we can say for Paul. I heard one story that he was bleeding from the ears and was taken to the hospital and another that had something to do with him getting a tooth pulled the day before and him not being well. Never did find out what happened there.

Fast forward a few hours and Ashwin arrives and goes right to the Expo center. He gives me a call and tells me to “grab a cab” and head on over.

Have you ever tried to grab a cab, downtown in a major city at 4:00 on a Friday afternoon? I go out front and give up after a few minutes. The hotel is on the very corner of the central business district and the street outside is very busy and had a physical divider along the center. All the cabs driving by on my side of the street have already gone through the city and have passengers, all the cabs entering the area are on the other side of the barrier.

I go back into the hotel ask the front desk to call me a cab. The receptionist tells me that there is a cab stand around the corner in front of the Holiday Inn. I go up and around the corner. There is a cab there. I ask him if he is on duty and he says yes. I get in. He asks where I want to go. I say the Melbourne Expo center. Suddenly he can’t take me because he is waiting for somebody in the hotel. Umm… Okay. I get out.

But a woman comes right out of the hotel and gets in the cab. He puts her luggage in the trunk and gets back in. Then there is some arm waving and shouting type gestures from both of them and they both get out and he takes her bags out of the trunk. She demands his card and says she is going to report him. He drives off with out a passenger and she leaves her luggage on the curb and storms back into the hotel. By this time there is a couple waiting for a cab as well. The problem here is the traffic is at a dead stand still so no cabs are going to get here any time soon. Eventually one works its way up and two businessmen come out of the hotel and walk right up and into the cab. We shout that there is a line. The guys looks at me and says, “Its okay, you can get the next one.” I give him a suggestion that he probably would need several years gymnast training to accomplish and go back to my hotel and tell them that the cab stand is a bust and I need her to call me a cab.

Fifteen minutes later a cab shows up. I get in and tell him I’m going to the Melbourne Expo center. He looks at me confused. He points out the window, “But that’s right there!” One city block in the cab, 10 bucks. Granted though it was a long city block, a good 10-15 minute walk. Except that isn’t the end of it. I go into the Expo center and ask the woman in the front desk how to get to the Game1 Expo. She apologizes before telling me that I have to walk the length of the expo center, go out the back, the width of expo center, then back halfway up the other side. The length of the expo center is about the same distance from the hotel.

So about another 20-30 minutes later I BS my way into onto the floor because of course I don’t have a badge or any sort of registration. Ashwin tells me that the computers have just arrived too. Oh that’s great! Only it isn’t because of the 7 computers we were supposed to get (6 and a spare) we have 5. They should all have 2 gigs of ram and two of these have 1 gig and the 3 have 512mb. Ashwin takes care of this. We have the guys doing our computers for the up coming eGames get us computers. Ashwin we have need more tables, he finds more tables. We need chairs, he finds chairs.

I set up the computer. Yes me. Normally I am the LAST person you want setting up computers and installing things because things just go wrong for me. But no this seems to all be working. Turn them on and half of them boot right up. Check the others and then they boot right up too. Install “Fury” and “Call of Juarez” on them just in time for them to kick us out at 11pm. Show runs 10 to 10 the next day and I call Andrew and tell him to expect my call at 9 (8 his time as there is no daylight saving time in Brisbane) to have him walk me through setting up the server. We had prearranged that he would have to walk me though the server set-up. I set the alarm for 7 so I’ll have time to eat something in the morning except that who ever put the clocks forward in the room got the AM / PM thing messed up. After oversleeping and missing breakfast I do manage to get to the expo floor at 9:00 and call Andrew. Setting up all the IP stuff goes fine but although machines can ping the server just fine the game won’t connect to the server and we can’t figure out why. We start calling other people, we believe people from playtest are in the office but can’t find a phone number that will bypass the “Auran office hours” recording. Eventually Andrews manages to get ahold of Chris Bergman who calls me and after a few minutes he solves the problem. The server is trying to use the ‘main’ database which isn’t there instead of the local database on the machine. To make the mater worse the program to switch which database the server uses isn’t installed on the laptop. So Chris talks me through editing the registry to repoint it to the right database. Me editing the registry are another thing you generally don’t want me doing but again this time it all works find. The machines connect, the game loads, yay!

So the rest of the show went pretty much okay not counting there are only two of use for a booth that really needs 3 minimum, 12 hours show days, and one of machines kept overheating while another kept losing connection to the server. I never did get to go stand in line to try out the Wii but looks like people were having fun with it.

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