FNG Logo created by Nick Serr

06 September 2012

That One Time at PAX with Ubisoft

Ubisoft has shown a growing interest in PC Gaming in relation to LAN events and tournaments over the past year or so.

Partnering with Intel, Ubisoft sponsored the first official USA TrackMania 2: Canyon tournament that I organized at GEEX 2011.  I had a wonderful time working with Noemie and they were very gracious to get us on the GEEX stage as the premier Friday night tournament and supply killer prizes for our competitors ($2500 custom gaming laptop for first place, and just released 2nd-gen i7 2600k CPUs for 2nd and 3rd.)
They also supplied hundreds of limited edition TrackMania 2: Canyon t-shirts to give away at the event.

GEEX 2011 TrackMania 2: Canyon tournament
I later had the opportunity to help Ubisoft support Macduffman, a prominent USA member of the TrackMania community in organizing and pulling off another TrackMania 2: Canyon tournament at the A&G Ohio convention.

And last weekend, in an incredibly generous gesture, Ubisoft flew me (ThatOneGuy) out to PAX Prime 2012 in Seattle, Washington to assist them with their ShootMania booth.

SpeedMonger's "Cliff Jumpers" Royal map
on the big screen above the stage of the
ShootMania booth at PAX
I helped configure dedicated servers that would introduce players to the Royal and Elite modes at the booth, and helped make sure the computers were running well for the event.  I also got to talk with players and help them learn how to play the game.

My PAX Prime badge
It has always been my dream to attend a huge video game expo and was very humbled and grateful to have this amazing opportunity.  The booth was bigger than life and really awesome to finally see Nadeo games getting big USA marketing attention.  Ubisoft seems to really be backing their games now, and I look forward to what they'll do with the next release of TrackMania 2: Valley!

The greatest excitement for me, above and beyond attending the PAX and seeing Nadeo in the spotlight there, was to meet in-person and make friends with really really great people from Ubisoft and Nadeo Live.  I had so much fun spending time with them and wish I could have stayed the entire time (I had to fly home Saturday afternoon.)

From left-to-right:
Alex (Nitroguy), Josh (Ubisoft), Jeff (ThatOneGuy),
Edouard (Nadeo Live), Julien (Nadeo Live), John (Ubisoft),
Noemie (Ubisoft), Nickola (Nadeo Live), Anne (Nadeo Live)
The Ubi/Nadeo crews are passionate about their games and about the players having incredible experiences with their games; and I got the feeling after my conversations with them that they really want to support local LAN events on a smaller, more "grass roots" level.  Anne Blondel-Jouin from Nadeo Live told me (paraphrased) that doing these big shows (like PAX and E3) is fun, and great for getting the word out about their games, but they want to be involved on a much more intimate level with the players.  If you are running any ShootMania or TrackMania tournaments locally, get in touch with me and I can get you in touch with the right people there.

I got to meet Alex (Nitroguy), from TrackMania and ShootMania fame, who won the map-making contest and got himself a trip out to PAX courtesy of Ubisoft.  Nitroguy made maps for my GEEX 2011 TrackMania 2: Canyon tournament.  I have enjoyed playing TrackMania and Shootmania online with him for a couple of years, so it was great to finally meet in-person.  (And Nitro, you still need to get your winning map "Rockets and Rails" posted on Mania Exchange!)

ThatOneGuy, Nitroguy, AskJoshy(guy)
ThatOneGuy and Nitroguy watch an intense
ShootMania: Storm Elite tournament
I also made some awesome new friends from the Frag Dolls (and Cadettes): Amy (Valkyrie), Kim (Sabre) and Tracie (Miss Magitek)!  They were awesome and worked well with those attending the booth to help them understand how to play the game and get some qualified for a $500 tournament Ubisoft/Nadeo Live put on at the show.

Amy (Valkyrie), Jeff (ThatOneGuy), Tracie (Miss Magitek)

Kim (Sabre)
I couldn't find her for a pic with me
before I had to leave PAX,
so I borrowed one from their website.
Another unexpected surprise was to discover that some of the players that have graced our Team FNG ShootMania Royal server work for IGN and were there to help cover the ShootMania booth and shoutcast the tournaments.  Among the awesome were Ron (DarkRabbi), Josh (AskJoshy) and Kevin (CatsPajamas). They did a wonderful job and it was fun to get to know them in-person.

Kevin (CatsPajamas) and Josh (AskJoshy)
playing some Royal on setup day

Ron (DarkRabbi) and Kevin (CatsPajamas)
shoutcasting an Elite tournament

ThatOneGuy and DarkRabbi

AskJoshy in pro form

You can watch for the Frag Dolls and IGN/IPL players online in ShootMania (and maybe even play with them on our Team FNG ShootMania servers sometime.)  I know the FragDolls have some ShootMania servers of their own as well.

I also had the pleasure of becoming friends with Anna Prosser who helped with announcements and interviews for the ShootMania booth.

Anna during a ShootMania interview at PAX

Anna Prosser and ThatOneGuy
I had an incredible time.  It was electric being at PAX and I can't thank Ubisoft enough for bringing me out there and letting me have this opportunity to help make their ShootMania booth a success.  I hope it will help begin making the title as well-known in the USA as it is in Europe, and that we will start seeing more LAN events and tournaments happening across the country.

I hope in turn it will bring more TrackManiacs to the scene and that we will see an even bigger/better booth next time with the release of TrackMania 2: Valley!

Keep up the great work Ubisoft and Nadeo!  Keep ManiaPlanet awareness surging through the USA!

Finally, one last shout out to my good friend Noemie, who is the reason all of this happened for me.  She's amazing and I appreciate all she has done for me and the ManiaPlanet community.  You rock!

ThatOneGuy and Noemie (Ubisoft)

Reason to Love Ubisoft Again! DRM Getting Toned Back Down

I've had somewhat of a Jekyll/Hyde relationship with Ubisoft for a few years now.  I love them because there is a division within that is really focused on making gamers' experience awesome for LAN events, tournaments, etc. (you'll find many articles here about their support for our GEEX TrackMania tournaments in the past couple of years; and my next post will feature an incredible thing the Ubisoft/Nadeo crew did for me last weekend.)

However, you will also find many articles discussing my disgust and disappointment about their Online Services Platform always-on DRM.

I'm pleased to announce that I hopefully can abandon the DRM hate and just return to love for Ubisoft after a fantastic announcement on the "Rock, Paper, Shotgun" website was made yesterday morning.  The website  announced that Ubisoft is "scrapping always-on DRM for PC games."

"Rock, Paper, Shotgun" published a full interview 2 hours later where they spoke with Stephanie Perotti, Ubisoft's Worldwide Director for Online Games and Michael Burk, Ubisoft's Communications Manager.

According to Perotti: "We have listened to feedback, and since June last year our policy for all of PC games is that we only require a one-time online activation when you first install the game, and from then you are free to play the game offline."

I will test this very soon, as I boycotted several games that I'd wanted to purchase, but was unwilling to put up with their always-on DRM... titles like "Prince of Persia: Forgotten Sands" and the "HAWX" series.  I was awarded a copy of Forgotten Sands at the end of last year, but haven't installed it because of said boycott.  I'm excited to see if what they said is true, because I'd really like to play the game.

However,  it was unclear to me in the article (someone please comment if you can confirm) if older games would have it removed, or if the DRM decision was only being applied to releases from that June date forward.  I hope it will be removed for these other games I've wanted to play.

Regardless, this is a huge step in regaining faith in Ubisoft for PC gamers, as well as faith that other publishers in the industry will follow suit.  Those of us that have been voting with our wallets now need to do the same and support this move.  I hope I will find out I can go back and buy the games I missed because they chose to remove the DRM from them as well; and look forward to future titles from Ubisoft that will allow me to play my games whenever, however and wherever I like.  Let's hope it keeps for a very long time!

Thanks, Ubisoft!  Here's to a bright future.

03 September 2012

ShootMania: Royal and Elite - Open to the Public at Launch!

Nadeo Live and Ubisoft made a killer announcement at PAX Prime.
When ShootMania is released, their Elite and Royal modes will be open to the public; much like Nadeo did when they released TrackMania Nations for ESWC.

There will still be the pay-for version that will have many more modes and other extras; so for those that have already ordered the beta, there is no need to fear.  :)

It was so fun to meet so many cool players there and I hope to see you online with us on the Team FNG servers in the USA | Utah zone.

Unfortunately, there wasn't a release date revealed at PAX Prime, but we hope it will be within the next month or two.  But don't wait... go pre-order at a discount today (heck, get 3 or 5-packs and get your friends playing too!  They are discounted even more.) and get in on ALL the fun action this family-friendly FPS has to offer.