I'm really feeling it!

MAGFest 2015 Day 1: Balmung Brigade

Here is part one of my trip to MAGFest 2015. That's "Music and Gaming" for those of you who haven't heard about it. It was held at the Gaylord Convention Center at the National Harbor in Maryland. It's literally the last exit before you head into Virginia on the beltway. Can't get any more out of Maryland unless you, you know, actually leave.

I had been invited by my brother-in-law to go with him, and thanks to some circumstances we were unable to carpool together. It wasn't such a big deal, at least at the time.


Day 1

I arrived at MAGFest 2015 at roughly ten in the morning. According to the schedule, registration didn't start until noon but sure enough Hall B had registration going strong already. I got my 4-day pass, got stuck with a brown lanyard (all other colors were gone already) and sat out in the hallway with 3DS in hand and waited for the marketplace and game room to open. The marketplace was scheduled to open at 1 PM, and the game room at 2 PM. I had a lot of time to kill.


I sat for most of the time just dealing with Street Passes. I had never had this many at once to deal with, and I was really beginning to hate Nintendo's ten at a time set up. I just couldn't help but wonder how many I was missing because I could only deal with sets of up to ten at once. I went into MAGFest with just over 100 Street Passes. Remember that number for later folks, there will be a pop quiz.

As I collected puzzle pieces and played Find Mii, I watched people going past. There was a huge line for overpriced convention merchandise which I ignored. Thirty dollars for a shirt is pretty pricey. There were a lot of nice costumes. There was one poor soul who was covered in Zubats carrying a sign with the simple question "Got Repel?" written on it. Sylveon must be a break out favorite because there were only about a million people with all level of costume to look like the new Fairy type eeveelution. I spotted a man dressed in the Weaver gear from Final Fantasy XIV and approached him and his group to see what server they were on.

It turns out this guy and his Free Company Seventh Ministry, of which 80% of their members were attending, were all from Balmung where my own character resides. One of their members was dressed up in White Mage gear from FFXI, and another came dressed as Admiral Merlwyb from XIV. We chewed the fat for a while until the marketplace opened up and we wandered through there. I followed the Weaver and his group as we, no pun intended, weaved our way through the crowds and checked out stalls. He was on a quest for a PS3 controller for the Hatsune Miku games, which he found, while I was on a quest for things unknown.

After checking out the marketplace the game room finally opened and we walked through there. It was here we parted ways, the Weaver and his group off to get lunch, and we said our farewells. I walked through the game room to see what was set up, also using a spare moment to sign up for the Smash Bros. tournament that would be running that night. The staff members at registration were barely ready, the only tournament they were truly worried about keeping proper records for was Smash Bros. All other tournament participants were quickly scribbled onto paper to be keyed into their system later. This didn't bode well at the time, but I figured things would work out in the end.


I wandered back through the marketplace and ended up getting most of my purchasing done then and there. After much deliberation I picked up a Hyrule Warriors scarf from one vendor as well as a Link hat from another. I found a vendor that was selling the sets of gym badges and, unable to make up my mind, I picked the Generation 5 badges and the booster set to have the ten different badges from B&W and B&W 2. I continued to walk through the marketplace, eyeballing every booth and just taking everything in. I eventually came across a pair of empty booths with papers denoting they were reserved for bands.

"Protoasses" and "Protofucks" had been written on the two papers. Here it was. The Protomen would be setting up their sales booth here eventually. Their boxes of wares were already under the tables ready to be displayed. I made laps of the marketplace until people finally showed up to begin unpacking those boxes. And I waited for two hours until they were finally ready to make sales. I got myself an Act 2 shirt and poster and a shirt for a friend. I wanted to get a vinyl, but they were apparently out. They had a new album, but it was on casette. As much as I would have liked it, who the hells has a casette player these days?


After making my purchases from the Protomen it was time for the MMO panel that I knew the Weaver and his Free Company were going to attend. I made my way up to the panel and met up with them there. We sat in the front row, and waited for the panel to start. I booted up Theatrhythm: Curtain Call and played various tunes from Final Fantasy XIV. We were close to having a Good King Moggle Mog sing-a-long, but it didn't quite happen. The panel, Successes and Failures of Modern MMO's, began, and we were ready to heckle.

The speaker was some graduate of UVA who had a masters in... something. But he was also an avid MMO player, and had played just about every one on the market. He started his presentation with Elder Scrolls Online, which garnered a chuckle through the crowd since it had just been announced that the game was going Free to Play. When he asked for a show of hands of how many people had played and I saw quite a few I was surprised. When he asked how many were still playing and not a single hand was in the air anymore, I wasn't. The next game on the list was Wildstar, and many complaints were to be had about it.


Next up was Final Fantasy XIV. The group I had attached to for the day, who I had taken to calling "the Balmung Brigade" and I were well heard during this segment. We had lots of things to say and there was general agreement from the attending crowd. There was mostly positive reaction to the game and the few complaints were little things that were issues common in every MMO. After that we continued to make fun of every following game, joked about the slides in the wrong order in the power point presentation, and had a good time.

After the panel I left the Weaver and his group to go get some practice in on Smash Bros. before the tournament that night. I jumped into a game, using my 3DS as a controller, and played for about a couple hours. We were constantly doing six, seven, or eight man fights. With my fighter of choice, Charizard, I couldn't place higher than second to last. I was a little disheartened, but chalked it up to the craziness of eight man battles. It's all a completely random mess. For every brilliantly timed KO I scored, I was also the victim of happenstance to someone else' lucky strike. I faired only slightly better as my other preferred fighter, Rosalina.


Wanting to make sure my 3DS battery lasted the remainder of the night, I bowed out and started watching some of the other tournaments. A Skull Girls tournament was well under way and while I'm not familiar with the game I was still able to enjoy watching. There was one fight where one combatant was on his last character, the tiniest sliver of health remaining, and he came out victorious. He ended up losing later. For all the fun I had watching, it was here that I began to worry about the tournament I'd be entering later. This one was not brackets, but elimination. The victor moved on against the next challenger, continuing so long as they continued to win. The other issue was the staff member trying to shout names above the din of the crowd. No microphone, no megaphone. What kind of shoddy thing did they have going on here?

To kill some time I played an indie game called Earth Night. It was a sidescrolling endless runner and pretty interesting. I scored enough to win a free t-shirt from the developers and went on my way. I watched some of a Kirby Samurai tournament, one competetor winning match after match, the excitement of the crowd reaching fever pitch, until he was finally defeated. When that was over it was ten minutes to 8, and I finally found the group gathering for the Smash tournament.


No game had been set aside, no brackets posted, no staff member pointing people in the right direction. Numerous staff members I asked had no idea where the tournament was being held. There were only two Wii U's set up with Smash Bros, and they were being played by attendees. Were we just going to commandeer those? And to make matters worse, the crowd of people enrolled in the tournament was just getting larger and larger. There were three hours slotted in the schedule for the tournament, I knew it would be large. But this many was ridiculous. Rumors began spreading through the crowd that it would be eight man elimination matches and that only the player in first would move on. How was that even remotely deemed a tournament?

With my previous failures in eight man matches while practicing, I knew there was no way I'd have any chance of placing or making it into a bracket if they even made them. The last two tournaments I watched had no brackets at all. All too quickly the tournament looked like a huge waste of time. I left before attendance was taken.


I arrived home less than an hour later after stopping at McDonald's for food. I hadn't eaten since breakfast. I showed off my loot to my wife and told her how much fun I had. She asked if I had heard at all from my brother-in-law, apparently he had arrived there at 4. Not a single text or call from him. I guess he didn't want hang out. I went to bed planning what I'd need for the next day. I was going to throw together one of my quick and easy cosplays and I was anxious. I don't know why I always set myself up for disappointment.

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