Welcome to Comic-Con, it's unlike anything you've experienced before. I went into my first San Diego Comic-Con with mixed expectations, believing I'd find something along the lines of PAX's fan-centric, community-oriented atmosphere with E3 packed halls and long lines. I suppose I wasn't far off, but there were a few things I didn't really expect that really became the focus of the entire experience.
Really the only thing worth mentioning of the bunch is just how self-satisfied the population of nerds becomes at Comic-Con. Today I sat in on half a dozen panels and each of them had some form of Q&A. Out of the many questions asked, I don't recall a single one that actively contributed to the subject of the panel in any meaningful way. On the other hand, I can recall a number of questions where the askee took their time to inflate their fandom in front of the myriad of celebrities manning each panel.
The best of the panels were experienced in the ways of Q&As and while they took questions from the audience, would often retake control of the conversation offhandedly as necessary. Inexperienced panels would sit as the most tedious and inane of panels drove the energy in the room into the ground. Considering most of the gaming panels had little new material to show, the sort of Q&A sessions they held ultimately decided the quality of the experience.
Where PAX somehow manages to stay on subject and minimizes the self-aggrandizing rants, so far SDCC has wallowed in the murk. Nevertheless, I sat through each panel and enjoyed myself despite my disappointments with the structure of the event.
Here's a brief recap of my panel experiences of San Diego Comic-Con's Thursday:
- Building Halo Worlds and Wonders - The best and worst part of this Halo panel was the fact it was primarily focused on Halo: Spartan Assault. They mixed in giveaways of Microsoft Surface tablets, merch like pins and Megabloks figure, and the big announcement that Spartan Assault would be launching later in the day. Then what had to be one of the worst Q&A's of the day came up. The panel dodged questions about future Halo titles, potential future platforms for Spartan Assault, etc, etc. They did what they could to market the $6.99 Microsoft mobile device exclusive Halo game, but it's still a Microsoft mobile device exclusive.
- Batman: Arkham Origins - A particularly fun panel that again was relatively light on subject material that did the best it could by letting panelists run wild. Joker and Batman voice actors Troy Baker and Roger Craig Smith respectively, joked and clowned around, doing some great impressions while creative director Eric Holmes announced the inclusion of Copperhead. There was plenty of discussion about DC's partnership with and support of Arkham Origins too. Yet again, the Q&A failed to produce any substantial exciting material, unfortunately. Everyone was wearing their PR hat in the panel and thus many subjects were very hush hush.
- Blizzard Entertainment Licensed Product Showcase - A Blizzard licensing team took to the stage and discussed a ton of great upcoming products from Blizzard. From upcoming statues of Deathwing and the Queen of Blades to graphic novels and companion books, Blizzard is likely making something for every one of its millions of fans. Here I saw what was probably the best Q&A of the day, as the team seemed genuinely receptive to requests from fans regarding the direction of their franchises and product lines.
- The World of Capcom Games - Capcom had decently organized panel where they went over all of their upcoming games including Dead Rising 3, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney -- Dual Destinies, Ultra Street Fighter IV, Lost Planet 3, DuckTales Remastered and then also announced a new 2D adventure -- Strider.
- South Park: The Stick of Truth - Trey Parker and Matt Stone took the stages demanding no questions about South Park: The Stick of Truth or South Park in general for that matter. Considering both gentlemen are absolute geniuses when it comes to humor, they could have sat in absolute silence and still made a great show. Instead they did an hour of Q&A. An hour of the most cringe-worthy and nonsensical questions you've ever heard. Virtually no aspects of the game were discussed. At one point Trey said Chef would be in the game, but he might have just been joking. That sums it up!
Altogether, beyond the very focused and planned out announcements that were made, San Diego Comic-Con is not a great place for games. Even the booths on the show-floor are pushed into an often-untraveled area and very few games are readily available. I think the impression I'm getting is that game companies respect the size of the event, but also understand how much of an unappreciative black hole it turns out being.
That said, and I suppose that's saying a lot, the events themselves still turn out to be a lot of fun. Panelists do their best to please, which is really all you can do for these non-livestreamed events that still have thousands of live attendees. Small teasers and announcements are better than none at all, of course. Still, most of what's said is just as easily read on Twitter as seen in person, without drowning in a sea of con-goers.
It's still an experience unlike any other. That's something I feel confident in saying without doubt.