LoK Convention '98
[Written by Dunbal]
It was an interesting 1437 mile drive from my home in cloudy Vancouver, British Columbia to parched Las Vegas and LOK CON '98.
I arrived shortly after 8 o'clock on Wednesday night, only to find out that Treyner had arrived only minutes before. Although he didn't say anything about it at the time, he told me later that he guessed he had spotted me due to my car and its Canadian license plate, as well as the computer, the wife and two kids.
When I arrived at my room at the Excalibur hotel, the message light on my telephone was already flashing - it was Treyner giving me his room number. I returned his phone call and left a message saying I would love to share breakfast with him and his lovely wife.
Being a true addict, I managed to get my computer set up it pitch darkness (so as not to wake up the wife and kids), and began to talk to several people, including the lovely Daphne and Fizzlebum, our demi-ghod. Fizzlebum informed me that he would be arriving at exactly 11:45 the next morning, and would love to meet Treyner and myself in the lobby. We decided we would both wear our GameStorm tee-shirts, since we have never met before.
The next morning (Thursday) I met up with Treyner and his wife outside the Round Table buffet. After a smile and a brief awkward moment (probably due to the merging of fantasy with the real life that we call LoK, and possibly the presence of wives who are not LoK lovers), we immediately began talking about interesting things, such as eating toads and berries, and casting icestorm to shorten the long lineup of townies who were standing in front of the counter, preventing us from getting our own food.
After a disgusting breakfast (well, it's the cheapest restaurant in the hotel) we were sitting around chatting when suddenly I felt a tap on my shoulder (someone was petting me?) and my name was being spoken. I turned to look and was dazzled by the sight of our very own Maggie, accompanied by two tired players (DK.LadyMaia and Warwiz.BAD) who portaled all the way from Germany to attend LOK CON '98, and a third (Cory - I forgot your exact character name, but you were there!) player.
After a brief exchange of greetings, due to our frazzled Maggie's need to attend to conference duties, Treyner and I decided to wander around the dungeon, er, hotel basement, inspecting the various arcade games and attractions.
On the stroke of 11:30, we moved to the lobby to await the arrival of Fizzlebum. True to his word, and his ghod-like nature, he arrived at 11:45 sharp and was immediately spotted by us, much to the relief of the several security guards who were by now keeping a nervous eye on us. We decided to move to a less crowded area, since Vegas is full of gamblers no matter what the hour. We found our way upstairs and sat at some benches designed for the audience of small performances that were given every few hours for hotel guests.
Since Treyner and I had already experienced the reality clash of switching from 9600 baud to real-time, we could immediately engage Fizzlebum in conversation, which mostly concerned shop talk. It was later rumored that one Porphyry...CURE would be arriving shortly, and we returned to the lobby to find him.
Probably it was the GameStorm tee-shirts, but I like to think it was the flask of potato nectar I carried in my pocket, but in either case, Porphyry soon found us and stumbled up, a finished drink in his hands. The greeting was almost as heartwarming as that first sip of the day while watching the sunrise over Axe-Glacier, and we linked up with Corey and old Por immediately led us on an excursion to new lands, or that was the excuse. What he really had in mind was ride the roller coaster in the New York, New York hotel. Porphyry generously treated us all to a free ride - well, either it was generosity or he was prepared to pay in order to see us throw up...
Although I survived the roller coaster ride without any embarrassment or dry-cleaning bills, it is not an experience I am prepared to re-live. We then headed towards the MGM Grand hotel, in search of further adventure in the theme park, only to discover that it was closed until next spring. At this point, my children (and feet!) could no longer keep up with the rest. We recalled to our room while Por's gang continued the hunt.
I suppose it was a rather successful hunt, since I could not reach any of the group until the very next morning, when Maggie called me and informed me that quite a number of people had turned up at her hotel room (I told you the raw meat would work, Maggie!). I really wish I could remember the names of all who were present, but my memory is not what it used to be... I know for certain that Guardian (aka. Spandex) was there, as well as Puck, a very high level thaumaturge, and a quite a few other players whose names I can't remember for the life of me (sorry!).
We exchanged greetings, beads and trinkets and cigarette smoke, and then split up, as Maggie still had conference things to attend to, others wanted to visit the casino and spend a few coins, and still others wished to visit the lounge for coffee. I went with the lounge group, along with Spa... er Guardian, Puck, Warwiz.Bad and DK.LadyMaia. We immediately attacked Puck with questions about the game, and he and Guardian quite impressively reversed our line of questioning by saying "Well, what would you like to see in the game?"
The things brought to Puck's attention included the sorely missed Advanced Game, which once existed in Island of Kesmai but was never implemented in the Legends version, some bugs and problems with the current Gamestorm update (1.20 as of this writing), griffin boots, new weapons, and more quests.
Just about the only thing that was brought to Guardian's attention was a particularly leggy blonde.
The answers we received were, as we expected, extremely vague. What seemed very clear to me, however, was that Puck clearly saw LoK as being a game with more segments in the future. Another important aspect was that Puck feels that the game should give the player options in terms of combat, weapons, armor and techniques; instead of imposing limits based on character class or weapon capabilities. It was also emphasized that, from the programmer's viewpoint, it was just as easy (if not easier) to create entire new segments than to restore the AG of old.
At this point an ancient player from IoK days - Jadeknight.tree, spotted us in the lounge and joined us. Jadeknight obviously came fully prepared for the encounter with Puck, since he listed many, many suggestions for the game, having to do with quests, weapons for lower level players, items for ma's that restored stamina at more than the normal rate, much like a robe of power restores mana, etc.
Although Puck was wise enough not to commit to any of these suggestions (and so he gets to keep his job), he certainly perked up his ears a few times, and seemed to be making constant mental notes.
Another thing that was very clear from our conversation was that the update to Legends V 1.20 paved the way for a great deal of easy expansion in the future, by removing the Front End's reliance on ODBC. This version, Puck said, allowed for the stability of the game which would later be expanded upon. The long, long wait for an update since the Underkingdom update on GameStorm was primarily due to the programmers' aiming to make the code stable, before implementing new features.
After speaking to Puck, I am convinced that expansion in terms of segments, quests and items, is clearly on the agenda now. How long this will actually take is up to the programmers, which, like construction workers and government employees - use a deadline as an educated guess rather than a promise.
Well the clock on the wall now said 3pm, and LOK CON '98 was due to start in one hour - just enough time for a bite to eat. After sharing a meal with DK.LadyMaia in McDonalds, I headed up to the conference room level. I was immediately greeted by Foo, SunTzu, Backflash, Toshin.Ryu and some others. Just before 4:00 Maggie announced that it was done, and we headed into the conference room. Within moments, dozens of people arrived and began lining up at the door. In all, approximately 75 people showed up that first evening. All comers were given LOK CON robe certificates, as well as Gamestorm merchandise including pens, tee-shirts, stickers and buttons.
I immediately grabbed some ale and met up with Por again at the bar, as the room filled with visitors and gold exchanged hands in preparation for that night's dinner and the re-establishment of Maggie's credit rating (she had personally financed the dinner for 80 people because the hotel had insisted on payment in advance - what dedication! That's $2,800!!!).
Many, many players arrived - too many to mention here. I myself met up with our beautiful Daphne and Cyzra from AOL, Snafu was present of course, as well as Ebony..Rose. Bonsai and LuzyWildboots, those most honored trees, viciously fought off the many attempts made by IcySnarl...Wolf to mark fresh territory. They were assisted by Iana.tree. In a flash of light, Amber materialized, and many, many other players suddenly began having a great time. If you have been left out of this story it is not a reflection on your personality or character - but simply because I can't remember everyone!
In short, as a group we had no problem in cranking up from 9600 baud to realtime, and soon the only thing that could be heard at the reception was laughter and talking, and an occasional "hic" from Por, who was found about 2 hours later under one of the six tables in the room.
At about 6pm many players had wandered off, either in an effort to prepare for dinner, or an effort to decrease their material wealth in the Casino below. I remained at the reception, discussing LoK things with the hardy few. Suddenly, my wife appeared. I greeted her with a smile, and failed to realize that she had changed alignment on me. I was momentarily stunned, and went after her, while a few angry words were exchanged in the corridor. Unfortunately I had not given her proper directions to the reception, and she and the children had spent hours looking for me, thus causing her to turn evil. Well, after eight years of marriage, and twelve years in Kesmai, one learns subtle tricks to deal with these problems. Her lawful status was restored, I cured and changed clothes, and we proceeded to "King Arthur's Tournament".
Arriving at the house of Cornwall, I was greeted with cheers of "Huzzah!" from my fellow LoKers (or was that just the show?). The food was decent, especially since no utensils were required. As part of the performance, sections of the audience were expected to cheer by house. Fortunately Maggie had the good foresight to book an entire section for LoK, and this permitted us to cheer together to encourage our Yellow champion. Needless to say, we were the loudest by far. Huzzah!
With the dinner over, Ebony..rose, that master thief, invited us all to the secret lair where the guild meeting was to take place. We skulked up to our private room, and guild matters were discussed between the many guild members who attended.
Although no specific information will be given out here, mainly because I didn't take notes and I don't want to mis-represent any guild; it was generally agreed that the Guilds in LoK form an integral part of our player community, and can be an extremely useful community resource in educating newer players by setting an example. The guilds agreed that taking a newbie to obtain special items, such as dragon scales (or magical weapons/items), is a much better example than simply handing them out. An alternative to actually taking them could be by asking the newbies to quest for certain things. The guilds all agreed that newbies need challenges rather than hand-outs, and although no specific method was agreed to by any guild, nor did guilds become designated as trainers, leaders and members renewed their pledge of friendship, community and assistance in need to all LoK players.
After a very short sleep, it was now Saturday, and time to aid in setting up the 10 computers for LOK CON. Thank you once again to the people who made their most cherished possessions available to us. The reason we only had 10 computers available was because the hotel could only provide us with 10 telephone lines. Very soon the die-hard LOK players began logging on through various ISPs and gateways, and the sounds of combat were soon heard. Come to think of it, the stench of combat (cigarette smoke and sweat) was also there.
On schedule, Treyner arrived to give his knight demonstration. Clearly a skilled player, Treyner showed the would-be knight how to convince Daisy to give him an agate, as well as tips, techniques and tricks. The bloodthirsty crowd of knighthood-seekers were desperate for more carnage, and so Treyner obliged by gathering up a group of warriors for the Axe Glacier trio.
I decided to assist Treyner with my MA. Unfortunately it seems all I could do was hamper this unstoppable knight. I have the dubious honor of being the second person to die at LOK CON '98. Was I killed by the drake? Was it Mama that did me in? Or could it have been Yorick, that dastardly yeti that was my undoing? Nooooo, it was a tiny little lizard just below the lairs, who somehow managed to sense that my f+i amulet was a dud. He called his friend Mr. Bear, who obliged by hitting me for 70 hits or so, and then proceeded to cast his icestorms. I died while listening to myself slurp a balm that never made it to my stomach...
Well after an embarrassing moment (I mean, if you die at LOK CON, about 40 people hear your death rattle), I confessed that I had indeed died. Fortunately I was promptly raised by a thaum and we proceeded past the empty drake lair to face mama.
Treyner and his bunch of warriors were so skilled that all I managed was two hits on that evil creature before she died. We then made our way up to the yeti lair, where two other martial artists dispatched him before Treyner could even move past the crowd blocks. Still, it was an impressive demonstration, and many took notes of the skillful techniques he shared.
The next demonstration, of martial artists, was one that I couldn't attend due to other concerns. It is rumored, however, that virtually every lair critter in the game died in those brief two hours.
The next demonstration was performed by Ebony, a member of that honorable and ancient guild of thieves, the Roses. Thieves are no doubt the most difficult class to begin - even more so than wizards due to a thief's lack of offensive magic, and so many, many people paid a great deal of attention. His respectable 19th level thief taught everyone present the safest way to solo the Leng Drake with a single balm, and then he fulfill any thief's dream and kill Carfel. The fight with Carfel lasted quite a while, and Ebony relied on his streetwise better judgement than his 5th dan ma skill - especially since Carfel had managed to kill Ebony only a few days before. After watching this demonstration, however, I am convinced that Carfel simply got lucky that time. Ebony made short work of him, and onlookers drooled as he picked up yet another pair of returning daggers, and quickly looted the lair, as is a thief's wont.
The next demonstration was that of the Thaumaturge. Although the name and statistics of the demonstrator escapes me, he was clearly very skilled with that character class. This impressive thaum soloed quite a few creatures, the highlight of which was the Leng drake, who managed to get him down to 26 hit points, and later 11 hit points, before he could balm. Clearly the combination of lightning, stuns, and poison, makes any solo of the Leng drake nigh on impossible, but this thaum showed a level of skill that is virtually unsurpassed in the game. Cheers and applause drowned out the Leng Drake's death rattle.
Finally came the moment that probably everyone had waited for, including the previous demonstrators and even some Kesmai employees. It was time to roll out the big guy, Snafu. Although Snafu is rarely seen in the game, primarily because he is probably the only person who is paged more than Daphne, we were all going to get that special treat. But Snafu, being the expert showman that he is, decided to save the best for last. He first demonstrated many tips and techniques with low and mid-level wizards, and the emphasis throughout all of this was strategy and training.
Finally the "big guy" was dusted off and taken out. Probably the first command Snafu typed was "PAGER OFF". Although there will be much more information on this demonstration by other reporters (I am sure of it!), the highlight was Snafu's Overlord solo. With amazing skill, Snafu took on the "big one" and they traded ice-spears for what seemed an eternity. We all watched with awe as Snafu calmly explained what he was doing, and more importantly, why. For all we could tell, he could have been parked in Por's tavern and having a friendly drink. There was no edge to his voice, and no mistakes were made; although there were a few close calls, most players barely noticed - they were handled so skillfully.
The Overlord finally died, and Snafu still had two balms left in his sack. He then proceeded to show us a few more spells, and met up with a friendly thaum and an entertaining thief. After giving us (and especially the thief) a magic missile demonstration, we then got to see spells such as lightning lance, firestorm and lava in action.
I would like to add that Snafu as a person stuck me as a genuinely nice and sincere individual. I asked him the reason why we so rarely see "the big guy" in the game. I was told that the primary reason is: the moment people see Snafu online, they page him, try to engage him in conversation, or simply "tag along". Although group hunts are certainly an attraction of LoK, unfortunately Snafu's reputation leads to so much player interest that he is, well, persecuted!
Although this is not a request from Snafu himself, I personally wish that players would allow him a degree of privacy, and allow him to actually play his character once in a while without having to deal with dozens of questions and "gate-crashers"...
Snafu did tell me, however, that he is often in the game, "incognito" as it were. If you run into a really nice wizard once in a while, think to yourself "this is probably Snafu". And unless you fancy yourself tougher than the Overlord, you better be nice back :)
After this demonstration, Toshin..Ryu began handing out LOK CON '98 robes in the Emerald Kesmai locker room. I sat next to him and watched, as a player who was not at LOK CON offered him 3 million coins. I suggested that Toshin insist on cash in advance, and once he received it, inform that the player could come and pick it up in Las Vegas <veg>. The LOK CON robe is extremely pretty to look at, and the artwork is even nicer. The many players who are drooling with envy simply have to attend the next LOK CON to get one.
At 8:00 it was time to attend the banquet. There was a wedding in the conference room next door to us, and Toshin quickly dealt with two gate-crashers, while I guarded the doorway in my best "bouncer" pose. It is not a wise idea to crash an LOK party, as they soon found out. The food was excellent, and the spirits and merriment flowed everywhere. They flowed a little too much in one player who decided to knock back four "Long Island Iced Tea"'s in a row. A few minutes later this suddenly very ill player had to be taken out of the banquet, where he quickly got rid of the drinks the same way they went in. I have no idea what that was supposed to prove, since all it really managed to do was ruin his evening, make a big mess in the bathroom and force two others to have to change shirts.
It was at this point that IcySnarl...Wolf decided to take matters into his hands, to ensure responsible drinking for the rest of the evening. He delivered a wonderful speech, partly written by his good friend Porphyry...CURE, in which he decided to thank those wonderful people we all love so much. Puck, our resident programmer, was invited to share a drink of the "potato nectar" with Maggie, by way of thanks for organizing such a wonderful convention. Then it was time to thank Amber, our ghoddess, and Puck was invited to share a drink with her, since, as Por says, "It's a sin to make a friend have to drink alone... <hic>". Alodar, the long time programmer at Kesmai, was also celebrated with drink, and again Puck was invited to keep him company with a glass of "potato nectar". Icy proceeded to thank everyone who is so wonderful and helpful in the game, and everyone who contributed to help make LOK CON '98 the smashing success that it was. They were all thanked in small groups, and for each group, of course, Puck assisted in the drinking with a glass of "potato nectar".
Just around the time when Puck collapsed back into his seat, Amber gave us all an exciting history lesson on the origins of Island of Kesmai. Then it was heard that a challenge was issued by the KORT guild - they claimed that their sole ambition was the total and ruthless domination of nothing less than all of Kesmai. A brave band of warriors, The Alliance, led by stealthy Ebony...rose, responded to this challenge, and a guild war was begun. To avoid needless bloodshed, marks, and pking, however, it was decided that this guild war would be fought by "Por's Rules". The rules were as follows:
One guild would issue their challenge by song (the exact wording of which I can't reproduce here unless I want to violate more than a few Rules of Conduct, however it did have something to do with a desire to be a type of fowl, locations, elevations and azimuths, and a great feeling of relief while excreting some white substance on the cephalic area of the opposing guild). The other guild would then respond by downing their drinks. No one was forced to drink alcohol of course (except Puck, who was under the table by now), but the rule was that they had to have the same drink as they had been drinking previously, and no one could do something so despicable as to drink water... This way, the guild would preserve their honor.
Well this first round ended in a stalemate, and so the battle would continue later.
Puck was then woken up, and he stumbled to the podium to assist Alodar in a question and answer session about the game. Despite the huge quantity of "potato nectar" Puck had shared with everyone, a true personal sacrifice on his part (what a martyr!) - he actually seemed quite sober. I guess he had just needed a nap. The first questions, asked by Snafu, was "About the AG..."
Well, there were no surprises, nor were any "secrets" given out. The two programmers did assure us that the primary goal to date was to ensure that LoK was a stable program. Apparently V 1.20 (despite complaints from players about bugs) is considered a stable version. It was pointed out that a stable version was required before any further expansion would be done to LoK. The two coders also assured us that they also wanted to see growth in LoK, as well as class and weapons restrictions. We were also informed that if the AG segments (Annwn, Torii, Rift Glacier and Shukumei) did come back, it would most likely be without a hit doctor. They would also be fully integrated into the game, and the "one way portal" idea would be scrapped. We were all reminded, however, that it was just as easy for Kesmai to produce entirely new segments as it would be to restore the AG.
From what I inferred from these vague answers, I deduce that the programmers will now be working on game expansion for future updates. Expansion would mean more segments to explore, more quests and weapons, and greater challenges for all levels of player. Although the answer everyone wants is "when", I don't think that even they know... just yet. I also gathered that the reason it took so long for Gamestorm to receive the most recent update (V 1.20) was due to the removal of ODBC, and I strongly believe that future updates and enhancements will not take as long to be implemented.
Well the Alliance decided to challenge the Kort guild, and after much singing and drinking, another stalemate was reached. At this point the two factions decided to settle their differences amicably, and instead issued a challenge to Kesmai employees, who had to respond with drink, in the honorable way.
Our wonderful Maggie, who spent most of the time worrying that no one was having fun at the convention she so skillfully organized - despite the fact that absolutely everyone was having a fantastic time, helped Amber give out door prizes. The prizes included a lot of GameStorm merchandise, ranging from shirts to alarm clocks to a wristwatch. There were also some special sets of color maps of all segments (including the UK) that were given out. These maps were skillfully prepared by Critter...DOOM. I was saddened to learn that the next day, however, an unscrupulous individual stole one set of maps from another player. You know who you are. Fortunately that was the only thing that went missing from LOK CON.
After the banquet, the famous UW races were held. Although I am unsure of the winner (I was in the bar at the time), I heard that all participants enjoyed those races. Many players brought other games since we had such a great shortage of computers, but amazingly no one seemed to be interested in them. We were all too busy having a good time! Well done Maggie!
As the evening wore on into the wee hours, Foo invited us all for drinks in a tavern he had found in Praetoseba (the Luxor hotel). Unfortunately we could not go into the other lounge since they had been thrown out of there the night before :) Foo was in a generous mood, and ordered 30 rounds from an astonished bartender. Puck, who was having a hard time blinking at this point, tried to smoke a match (I guess he thought it was a cigarette) and joined in the festivities, downing another couple drinks. Guardian quickly spotted a nubile nymph at the bar and engaged her in conversation. After a few minutes, Por, concerned for this young lass, made sure that she knew who she was dealing with...
Conversation was difficult at times due to the noise from the casino (and the quantity of alcohol consumed). I did manage to engage Puck in conversation, however. We decided it would be a good idea to convince some of the players present to take on the Axe trio, just before reset. Puck called it "the attack of the high level drunkards". Of course we began to think a little more rationally, realizing that first of all, they would probably never find the way up there, and secondly, if they did manage to make it there they would probably just throw up in mama's lair.
It was at this point that Puck, programming genius that he is, received inspiration for a new command. It would be as follows:
This command would be similar to a spell (except you wouldn't need to type CAST), and would only work if you had previously downed sufficient ale and/or wine. It would affect the hex the player was standing in (area effect) by poisoning any player or creature in that hex, as well as casting a FEAR spell on them (no saving throw). The person using this command would feel better for a while, but then begin to succumb to normal alcohol effects. If a player had a certain amount of alcohol in their blood, the PUKE command would be able to be directed AT a creature or player, instead of just the one hex...
Puck promised me that this command would be in the very next update, and I even managed to get him to write it down and sign it. Unfortunately, the writing and signature on this paper is so bad that I would have a hard time convincing a judge that this was anything but a forgery... drat!
At around 1 am I decided to head back to my room and left a huge crowd that were still enjoying themselves in the Luxor. As I left, I noticed that Guardian was still working very hard on that brunette at the bar. Rumor has it, however, that later on Foo simply walked up to her, whispered something in her ear, and they were last seen leaving the bar together...
The next morning I was invited to break fast with the ghods, something that mere mortals rarely do. Although I was sworn to secrecy, on pain of being permanently turned into a neutral toad, I can reveal that Puck was nowhere to be seen (he was last seen headed vaguely in the direction of his room the previous night) despite the scrambled eggs that were being served. We all know that scrambled eggs are the number one cure for hangovers... I wonder why Puck chose to miss out on that...
Guide-type things were discussed at this brunch, and to be honest they didn't tell us anything we didn't already know... isn't that always the case? :)
I believe the brunch was more a thanks, from Amber and the rest of the Kesmai staff, to the many guides who take endless hours helping people in the game. Fortunately, there were plenty of goodies left over from the brunch, and instead of letting the waiters throw it out (do they throw it out, or serve it to the next bunch of people?), we brought the whole breakfast thing into the other room so that everyone could have it. The many die hards in the computer room (some of which had pulled all-nighters) made short work of the food.
All good things must come to an end, and the same was true for LOK CON '98. Sadly we said our good-byes and posed for many photos, including a staff picture that I am sure will find its way onto the internet. The computers were broken down and taken away, and bit by bit people wandered back to their homes. Unfortunately I decided to stay an extra day before driving back. Now the hotel seems empty, and as I walked by the conference rooms earlier I felt a deep sigh rising from my chest and a tightness in my throat, remembering what merriment had been happening just right there, a few short hours before.
Rumor has it that LOK CON '98 was the most attended LOK CON ever! Rumor also has it that LOK CON '98 was the MOST FUN LOK CON ever! Thank you Maggie! And thanks to EVERYONE WHO ATTENDED TO CONVENTION! I know that I certainly had a great time :)
Until next time.... Dunbal