Over the weekend, I traveled to Marlborough, MA for the first-ever GameUniCon, a convention that was being hyped as New England’s largest video gaming convention. I arrived on Thursday night, as I tend to do for these things, picked up my badge, and got ready for the weekend.
On Friday, I realized that this, frankly, was set up unlike any other gaming convention I had been to to this point. Most other conventions have a large Free Play room for general gaming, and tournaments are either held in smaller rooms, or within the larger Free Play room. At GameUniCon, the biggest gaming room could best be summed up as “The Madden and Fighting Game Room”, mostly with the various Super Smash Bros games, though there were some systems running Street Fighter IV as well. There were various smaller Free Play rooms set up throughout the hotel, plus a Rock Band/Guitar Hero room and a Halo room. I also thought that the event was, overall, quite a bit smaller than was hyped, although I have to admit that I didn’t have any interest in what were advertised as the biggest tournaments (Halo, Smash Bros. Brawl).
That said, some of the competition that was there for the various tournaments were definitely top-tier in their respective games. For one, ScoreHero had a huge presence in all of the various rhythm game tourneys, which really shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone. I wandered in and out of the Rock Band room throughout Friday, waiting for the Vocals tournament to start. Finally, at about 8PM, it got underway (It was supposed to start at 5PM. This, honestly, is par for the course for convention tournaments in general–my CTCon 08 Addendum has an amusing story of how I missed a tournament when I took this effect into account in my plans…and the tourney miraculously began on time. Ben, who was running the Rock Band room at GameUniCon, noted that he thought they didn’t give him nearly enough time for the Guitar and Drum tournaments earlier in the day [It was the Guitar tourney that ran long in particular, which set everything else back].), with something I didn’t expect–because of a spotty Internet connection, the Rock Band Import songs couldn’t be accessed, making the tourney Rock Band 2 songs only..a major help for me. My first two matches were, to sum up, easy (I won on Down With the Sickness, Cool for Cats, Shackler’s Revenge, and Any Way You Want It, though it took me until the last one to actually 100% something). Unfortunately, then I ran into other ScoreHero denizens (ScoreHero’s official motto is “Graciously Documenting Our Future Arthritis”. Its unofficial motto is “Welcome to ScoreHero. We are all that guy.”)
Match number three was against John “JohnIsADumb” D. We both 100%ed the two songs in the match (Drain You and Go Your Own Way), with him picking a slightly better Overdrive path on Drain You (Leading to a win by about 1200 points on his end), and managing to hit a vocal squeeze on the second activation (Squeezing dates back to early Guitar Hero, and is basically activating your Star Power and/or Overdrive as late as you possibly can to try and “squeeze in” a few more notes/a bit of the next phrase under that precious double scoring.) on Go Your Own Way, beating me by under 300 points on the song (The score was, roughly, 149,900 to 149,600, for an idea of how little 300 points actually is).
My fourth (And last) match was against Cameron “Cam101” Brock. I actually won the first song (Aqualung) by about 6000 points. Then, when my turn to choose the song came, I made what would amount to a tactical error. After considering picking Tangled Up in Blue, I wind up going with The Trees: Vault Edition. Similarly to Drain You in the last match, I lose due to not having the best pathing/squeezing skills (I fell behind on the squeezing aspect; the bad path I picked at the end was just a formality, though it did put me further behind). After two tie-breaker songs picked at random were rejected (Today, for not being difficult enough per the rules, and Aqualung, because we had played it earlier in the match), we settle on…Welcome to the Neighborhood by the Lybians as our tiebreaker song. This is seriously one of the most obscure songs in the game, to the point where I’m not even sure what the general consensus on it is quality-wise (At least people hate Visions…). But it fits, and as Cam said, “Well, a random song is a random song.” I was hoping I could win via the song’s sheer obscurity, but no such luck–apparently the only two people on the planet who ever played the song were Cam and myself, and once again, I get outsqueezed to lose the match and get knocked out of the tournament. This leads to the following conversation:
Me: Let me guess, I finished just short of the money, right?
Ben: …yeah, you tied for fifth.
Me: Awesome! Spectacular!
(The top four places paid out, in case you couldn’t figure it out)
Ultimately, JohnIsADumb wins the tournament, a guy named Tobias comes in second, and Cam, who eliminated me, takes third.
Furthermore, I managed to miss Freezepop play on Friday night. This sucked mainly in that finding out they were headlining the Friday night show was what took me from “This sounds pretty cool, maybe I’ll check it out.” to “I am so going to this.” Although, thinking back on it, my missing the concert was probably for the best….
…because I still had one more tournament to go: Myself (On Vocals), TH3DARKM3TAL (On Bass, and the guy who approached me about forming a band for this tournament in the first place), SeanFTW (On Drums), and Gaara (On Guitar) were signed up for the Rock Band Full Band tournament on Saturday. But first, drama (Amazingly, not related to my scrambling to find a band)! It seems that someone got drunk and tore lights off of the hotel walls on the third floor on Friday night/Saturday morning…and the hotel was threatening to shut the entire convention down if the culprit wasn’t found. This became “We’ll let the convention keep going if the damages are paid and someone takes the blame for it.”, which eventually turned into “Don’t worry about it” as the official word from the convention. As I understand it, the actual culprit was eventually found.
With that, the full-band tournament began, slightly later than expected. Perhaps as karma for my easy first two matches in the Vocals tourney, in the first round of the full band tourney, OHai (Our band name) is immediately paired against (Insert Epic Band Name Here), which consists of, amongst other people, Hellashes (AKA “The first guy to full combo Jordan“)…who is a top-tier drummer in addition to being an insane guitar player, and Tobias, who came in second in the Vocals tourney. Sigh.
We lose on Shackler’s Revenge, then actually win on Everlong primarily to their drummer’s drum kit malfunctioning. There was a bit of controversy here concerning (Insert Epic Band Name Here) and looking up overdrive paths for Everlong after the match had already started. It’s quickly ruled that they can’t do that (Looking up paths is not allowed after the start of the match)…at the time, I thought that the ultimately-agreed-upon definition of “Start of the match” was a bit sketchy (It was decided on “When the first song is officially picked” as opposed to “When the match’s pairings are announced.”), but now realize that, depending on who picks first, there isn’t that much functional difference. In any event, our tiebreaker song was Give It All, which we ultimately lose for an express ticket to the loser’s bracket. This is not starting well.
Our next match thankfully goes better–we win on Battery thanks to some well-timed Unison bonuses (If everyone hits the phrases that give them Overdrive, they get bonus overdrive) that coincided well with when I activated my Overdrive on Vocals, meaning we spent a lot of the song in X8 bonus territory. Carry On Wayward Son was actually the most “fun” song in the tournament for us–our opponents failed out of the song early on, essentially handing the song and the match to us by default. This led to Sean and T.D.M. switching instruments in the middle of the song during a break where vocals are really the only thing going on, and myself getting into the act by singing to a camera that was recording snippets of the tournament as opposed to looking at the screen to find out how well I’m holding the pitches the game wants (I still 100%ed the song). Suffice to say we get through the song (It was ruled that despite our opponents’ failure, we would still have to pass the song to win it), though we could have done much better had we been taking it more seriously.
Match number three also saw us winning both songs, Rob the Prez-o-Dent and Visions. Amusingly, I managed to 100% the former (Mostly talkies, but with some hard singing phrases if you’re not paying attention) and somehow miss a phrase on the latter (Entirely talkies. Even better, I missed on a phrase that has essentially filled itself on literally every other time I’ve played the song). With only six bands entered, this put us into the top 3 and the money, such that it was. Woo-hoo!
Round 4 put us up against the band That’s What She Said for a ticket into the final two. Unfortunately, our run ends here, as we get absolutely crushed on Aqualung to the tune of about a half-million point gap (As Jim Mora would say, “
Playoffs?! Don’t talk about….playoffs! A disgraceful performance….In my opinion, that sucked!”), though I do 100% the song, something I didn’t do the night before. That’s What She Said pick Almost Easy, and that seals our fate, as we lose by 100K or so. Adding some measure of insult to injury, That’s What She Said’s singer was…Cam Brock, making this the second tourney he had eliminated me from. Oh well.
The finals would pit That’s What She Said against (Insert Epic Band Name Here), so at least we could say we lost to the top 2 bands, however the finals played out. After the latter win on their pick of Panic Attack, an amusing conversation follows, that went roughly:
TWSS: Okay, we pick Get Clean.
(IEBNH): Okay, but we like just played that.
TWSS: We don’t pick Get Clean anymore.
*Laughter in the room*
That’s What She Said ultimately select Peace Sells as their song choice, but it doesn’t matter, as (Insert Epic Band Name Here) win that and the tournament.
In the end, our third-place payment comes out to $9 each, or $1 per person less than our entry fee. But officially, darnit, I got paid for playing Rock Band, which is pretty cool. All in all, I knew going in the caliber of competition I’d be facing in both the Vocals and Full Band tournaments, and I gave a good account of myself, proving that I’m at least in the same league as them–despite my lack of pathing/squeezing skills, I 100%ed all of the songs I lost in the Vocals tournament, meaning I didn’t give/choke anything away. In fact, while I’m still kicking myself in terms of tactics for not picking Tangled Up in Blue on Cam (I found out later that it was one of three songs in Rock Band 2 he had yet to FC), in terms of actually executing the songs, Almost Easy in the Full Band tournament is really the only one I wish I had done better on, and I don’t know that not making the mistakes I made would have made up the difference by itself. So I’m happy with how I played all weekend, and proved to T.D.M. (Who was the person who initially contacted me and said “Hey let’s get a band together for this thing.”) that he made a solid choice as far as finding a vocalist.
On Saturday night, I happened to check out some of the concerts, being done with my tourney obligations. Jesus Candy (The band of Jamie, who was the main man behind the whole convention and, I believe, the owner of Game Universe, the store behind the con) were great, as was what I saw of Powerglove, and Bang Camaro brought the house down, in spite of not playing Night Lies (I had hoped to see the song done right, as opposed to my butchering of it at CTCon ’09.). Great shows all around. I shouted myself hoarse by the end of it, and it’s my tendency to do this at concerts that probably made it a good thing I didn’t get to see Freezepop on Friday night.
Sunday mainly saw me watch the Guitar Hero: Smash Hits and Guitar Hero: Metallica tournaments. Both were won by the same person, who goes by GuitarHeroDude on Youtube and is an absolutely incredible player (He scored something like 898K on Through the Fire and Flames in the finals. This wasn’t even his best run of the song in the tournament; he hit 920K or so in the semi-finals. He also won the Metallica tournament by 100%ing Battery as the final song).
The ride home was pretty uneventful, thankfully. In all, it was definitely a fun time, and I plan to go next year if a second one is held. Despite what I linked to in the Unofficial ScoreHero Motto, everyone from the site was actually really cool and more than capable of having fun, both in terms of playing the game and just talking to them.
- According to Scorehero, it’s actually been 100%ed by about 300 people just on the XBox 360. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they can all do it consistently, though.