May Update: Google I/O & Clockwork Alchemy

Farewell to May. This month seems to have come and gone a lot faster than the others. I wonder what happened?

First, an update on my health. The new doctor was very helpful (and very prompt!) and we got the medications I needed right away, which I took for the last few weeks or so. So I would say that my health is improving for a change, but let’s keep the fingers crossed with hope that improvements continue to have an upward path. 🙂

This month there were a couple of events, the first of which was the Google I/O conference in Mountain View. In case I haven’t mentioned it before, I work in mobile apps as a UX designer and thought it might be beneficial for me to attend this conference since I was one of the lucky few to win access (Google I/O is notoriously exclusive b/c of high demand, so Google distributes tickets via a lottery system. I got accepted from the wait list last minute, so went).

This is where my opinions of Google I/O take a negative turn. I’ve never gone to a Google I/O conference before, but their reputation as an important, exclusive, event with nice swag and developer experience persuaded me to attend, even though the online schedule didn’t exactly have a lot of panels of interest to me. In the past, Google I/O was held at the San Francisco Moscone Center but this year, Google decided to host it closer to their headquarters in Mountain View by making it an outdoor event at the Shoreline Amphitheater.

To summarize the experience, I would say that the content of the conference was interesting, but the logistics and location were poorly designed. Outdoors in 90 degree heat for a tech conference where most people will have laptops and intentions to do business… set in a location that is difficult to get to by car (and does not have hotels in walking distance) is not a good idea. Unless you were press, there was no place to sit besides the ground and it was a hunt to find any place not directly under the sun. The panel sessions were in closed tents with A/C pumped in, but unfortunately, every tent was way smaller than the number of attendees present at the conference, several only fitting about 50 people at full capacity. You had to line up 30-45 minutes in advance in the heat (on tarmac!) to get in. And the sessions were all back-to-back so if you went to one, you weren’t getting in to the next. I felt sorry for anyone who was there in business casual clothing actually planning to do some legitimate tech networking that day. 2nd day was better, but again… I really missed the presence of actual tables with chairs to sit a laptop on and network.

Unfortunately for me, all this meant I could only get in to half of the panels that I wanted to attend. And the heat made things difficult on my health so I really had to shorten my stay and just go home early when I could (Being in the heart of Google country, traffic around rush hour (which start at 4pm and end around 7:30pm) is near impossible to get through). I heard the concert and after party were great, but without a place to rest or an easy way to go home and come back later (traffic, and lack of parking), I didn’t have the energy to stick around to find out. So for me, even though I wasn’t footing the bill, $900+ for Google I/O is just not worth it, especially when all the talks (the important takeaways) are available for free online.

Swag-wise, I got a t-shirt and a sports bottle. Not quite the “new phone” or “chrome book” of past conferences that Google is known for. We got credits to the new Google Cloud Platform later on via email, but that’s not useful to me at all. Bummer.

But… The following weekend, I went to Clockwork Alchemy!

Clockwork Alchemy is a steampunk convention (convention, not conference… There’s a difference, Google!) held every year in conjunction with Fanime, the anime convention of San Jose. I intended to only go for 1 day but after arriving, I impulsively bought the weekend pass and am so glad I did.

Clockwork Alchemy is small, at least in comparison to its sister conference, Fanime. Held at the Double-Tree Hotel, it takes up several of the conference rooms and the ballroom with various activities and displays. The small size allows them to coordinate some uniquely fun activities, like a scavenger hunt coordinated by the Sacramento Steampunk Society, where you had to find certain vendors (not all of them labeled either!) and perform a task for them (usually something silly, like reciting text) to earn a stamp. Completing the hunt earned you a prize! Which for us (Nite was with me), was a wooden fan and a bullet pen.

bullet pen and wooden fan
The prizes for completing the Sacramento Steampunk Society Scavenger Hunt.

I loved the tea parlor too. And the writing panels I went to were really useful! The war room was a little silly, and a little dangerous (I nearly got whacked in the head when a pole arm ricocheted off someone else’s stick during one of the “games”. The lack of moderation and training made me decide not to stick around for a round 2), but fun if you picked the right panels. Again, I didn’t partake in the after hours activities due to exhaustion, but I think next time I’ll book a hotel room to share with friends so we can retreat during the slow hours and return for the parties later on. I hear the Emperor’s Ball is the highlight event of the entire convention. Personally, I loved the mix of cultures and fandom here. Fanime being a conjoined convention meant we had some people coming in and out of each

deadpool serving cookies
Deadpool donned an apron and began serving cookies and biscotti to the patrons at the Tea Parlor in Clockwork Alchemy steampunk convention.

My favorite event had to be the fashion gallery. What an eerie display! Models stood behind wooden frames and either took a still pose, or moved slowly as if they were animatronic figures instead of real people. It reminded me of that scene from Firefly where they go to Persephone and Kaylee ogles fancy dresses on models in a display window. Very posh-feeling. Of course, the models and attendees eventually started talking to each other, which was less posh, but who cares. It was all done in fun and fantasy. 🙂

A model showcasing a Steampunk dress
My favorite “display” at the steampunk fashion show at Clockwork Alchemy 2016

February Update: Board Games and MMOs

February seems to have flown by fast! It makes sense (somewhat) because of the missing days, but that really did seem to disappear as soon as it arrived.

I’m still sick, but, I think, slowly improving… I was able to do more this month than the last. I’ll call that a step in the right direction. 🙂

This month’s social activities probably had more to do with game playing than anything else.

I went to a board game meetup in Palo Alto and finally got to try out 7 Wonders… a board/card game where you compete with your neighboring players to build structures and monuments for your ancient civilization by taking and passing around resources and cards. Surprisingly fast and simple, once you start playing. Probably the more advanced players will strategize the type of cards they hand off to the neighboring player, but since we were all noobs, it was a randomization, in a way. I liked the variability. The initial cards you take and the selected civilization you play for can change the strategy you take on for point collection.

Another day, a friend had a game night at his place where I introduced a bunch of friends to Pandemic. Pandemic is a collaborative board game where you take on the role of CDC members and fight against the rapid spread of a disease. It is extremely difficult and even on easy mode, is not easy to beat. After borrowing the board game from a friend months ago, I finally was able to crack it open and get some people to sit down and play. It can be a slow game due to the potential amount of collaborative thinking required, so finding time and willing participants is always a challenge. We lost at the very end, though I think we had a good battle going while the game lasted.

I also got to try a new card game called Machi Koro while at work (a coworker of mine, also an avid board game player, brought it in for some Friday afternoon gaming). Machi Koro is a town-building game that mixes deck-building with dice-rolling. You buy cards with earned coins and roll dice to activate the purchased cards. It’s a nice blend of strategy and chance, planning out the best set of cards for bonus coin and attacks, hoping and praying for a rolled 8 (or 9 or 10) so you can collect the big money and clear the game. There are more types of cards in the box than you put on the table during a game, so each game can play differently depending on the layout.

Onwards to digital gaming! A coworker got me to take the plunge and buy a copy of Final Fantasy 14. It’s not my first time playing it, though this IS my first time creating a character on my own account. Initial reaction is still not positive. It’s very slow and full of Japanese game design choices, like excessive un-skippable dialog, silent staring, a crowded UI filled with text, and the purposely-added up-panty camera angles. The panties have lace trims, btw.

Coming from a year’s worth of Guild Wars 2 playing, FF14 just isn’t quite cutting it for me. The battle system is slow and there’s no sense of direction or purpose. I just don’t feel like I have the freedom of movement as I do in GW2. Nor the sense of an expansive open world as I did in GW2. The map is confusing and moving around in it is not as streamlined. Thus far, it just feels like I exist as a random character in this world. There’s no motivation (and I’m rather blocked by my low level anyways) to seek out some excitement. GW2, at least, made it very easy to feel drawn in with their many world events that chained with each other. The voice acting too, is very impressive.

That said, I know a lot of people like FF14 and I have more friends who play FF14 than GW2 (no one wants to return and join meeeee 🙁 ). I still have ~20 days on my subscription, so I’ll keep trying it until that expires, then likely back to GW2. FF14 just feels too much like a grindy chore.