The Adventures of a ZAM Contest Winner

Dylen Turnbull was the winner of the EQ2 ZAM Sweepstakes and got a trip to Fan Faire with three friends. The following is his Fan Faire Adventure.

ZAM WinnersI have to tell you that all the folks at ZAM made this an unforgettable time. Right from the initial meeting with Draknorr and Allison, who went out of their way to get my crew and me set up and ready to roll, to a great time hanging out with Allakhazam, Illia and Calthine at the banquet. The folks at SOE made sure we got all the good seats. This was purely a fantastic time. I figured I would slap together a recount of my time for anyone who ever thought that really real folks don’t win this stuff, I have to say Bamf! Wrong, I am living proof.

Day 1:  Hello ZAM and Hello Vegas

My flight was uneventful; I arrived in Vegas in style. I was greeted by Aaron, an SOE community representative. He was a great guy, very upbeat. He even had the sign and everything. It was pretty exciting. Our driver was a bit grumpy but he was ok too, someone in the airport pointed out that he was an 80’s sitcom star but I cannot remember for the life of me which one, still sleuthing on this question.

When we got to the Bally’s we were handed off to the folks from ZAM; Allison, who has no secret identity so we will just call her “Marketing Goddess” and Ryan Bohrmann (Draknorr), who plays WOW, but since he was an awesome dude we will let that slide. They kept us company while we waited in line to check in. We talked about my strategy write-ups and what not and I hit them up for a permanent blog on ZAM and I think they are going to let me have one (crosses fingers). Yay, more places for me to ramble about EQ II raiding. The check in took a while Draknorr and Marketing Goddess were so kind as to procure our VIP badges so we didn’t have to wait in the rapidly growing line of gamers. Thank you two for that; I am an impatient guy and lines stink.

We finished up there, thanked our gracious hosts, and were off to check out the room. The room was modest, not really all that impressive but I am biased,. Having been to China first class my standards are a bit high. Hey we were in Vegas at a gaming convention. All I needed was a place to change, shower and crash so, it was perfect.

We headed down to the convention hall to have a look around, grab our goody bags and got signed up for both the EQ II – Conquering Kurn’s Tower event and open gaming for the next day. The hall was well set up and flowed nicely, the usual vendor stuff, a nifty gaming area and a bar. I will toss some photos your way a bit later on.

Day 2:  EQ II Contest, Panels, and The Community Address

Well, after a few Advil, some coffee and an awesome bagel our day was off and running. My wife, Meridith (Verna) and I headed off to the convention hall to snoop around. The early Friday panels were kind of hum drum, at least for an EQ II player but the focus for me and my crew in the morning was to get psyched up for the EQ II in game contest and that we did.

The Game Area

The contest was pretty straight forward. We logged into test on our respective characters and got ported to the entrance of Kurn’s Tower where we talked to a Burynai named Nikai Knicknack. He gave us all a quest to go into Kurn’s and wipe the place clean. The instance was a pretty standard version of Kurn’s with all the names changed and the objective was to complete the zone in less than 30 minutes, Had I known this I would have had my crew practicing this run over and over. We logged in and set up as best we could. The run had to be done with no UI mods so for us, no Profit and they could not get the VOIP working so no voice chat, this really hurt. We rely heavily on voice chat and to top it all off they would not let us sit together. Even with all these inconveniences we managed to place 6th out of 20 plus groups which is not bad. Under ideal conditions I think it would have been whole different ball game. What can I say? I am a competitive guy. After the tower was conquered we strolled around the convention hall a bit. Marketing Goddess introduced me to Tamat the Editor-in-Chief of ZAM. He was a good guy. She gave intros for a few other dev guys from the ZAM site as well. Thanks Marketing Goddess, you rock!

Tamat, me, and Marketing Goddess (not a flattering photo of me but oh well)

Then we headed off to some panels, the first of which was “kill 10 rats”, a panel walking though the tools and processes surrounding how the developers create quests in EQ II. I had been getting mixed reviews of the panels; some said they were boring others said they were good if you get in the right panel. I have to say that some of the questions were let’s just say, not very well thought out. I have more colorful ways to describe these questions but that may not be appropriate for ZAM content. I found them to be very informative, but I am a full on gaming fanatic; my interests in the industry span the whole of the gaming industry so getting a look at the tech and processes inside my favorite game was a rare treat for me. I was hooked on the panels after this. I went to the 3 pm and 4 pm panels EQ II Adventurers Guild and Potpourri the rest of the day which kept me glued to my seat until 6 pm or so. A lot of great information was shared in these panels and of course more of “those” questions. I won’t go into detail on what was discussed in many of the panels since that stuff is either already covered on the ZAM site elsewhere or I have plans write it into a more in-depth article later.

We went up to the room and got all gussied up for the Community Address which we were a bit late for but no matter to me I had the uber seating waiting for me, or so I thought. After a couple phone calls and some text messages Marketing Goddess came to my rescue and introduced me to Tim Granich, SOE’s Senior Global Brand Manager. Tim was great, very welcoming and he hooked us up with the best seats in the house. There is nothing like watching the address so close up that you could toss ice cubes at Smed and Brenlo. This is not recommended mind you, Brenlo is mean, but if you wanted to you were well in range. I wonder if they drop good loots. I did have the best Defiler Assassin and Templar on Antonia Bayle sitting with me, a Shadow Knight; I think we could have taken them. We actually got to sit in the VIP area with these guys for the address. It was exhilarating, a bit awkward to be in front of 2000 SOE fans, but fun none the less.


 Jaack & I                                                                     Verna & I

After the address we had a few drinks listened to the karaoke and called it a night. Smed and Brenlo have some pipes for a couple of rich game geeks.

Day 3: Panels, Panels and More Panels

I was up bright and early, made up some coffee from our coffee and amenities we brought with us, thanks Calthine great Fan Faire tip, then we headed down to the convention center where Verna and I split off she headed to the G.I.R.L. two hour event/panel and I went to the ZAM panel. The ZAM panel was pretty cool. I have been a reader on since the early days of EQ. So, for me, this was not only a chance to meet Allakhazam and Illia but a stroll down memory lane. Allakhazam, or Jeffrey Moyer, took us though a historical recount of how the ZAM site started and grew to what it is today, finishing up with a glimpse into the future of ZAM and the EQ 2 site. I got my plug in for bringing the character maker and upgrade finder to the EQ II site and Illia was kind enough to let the crew know that, once they finished sifting through the 600K+ files SOE sent them, they would get this up and running, which I cannot wait for personally. There were a few other topics that were discussed and the panel concluded a hit in my book. All the folks at ZAM are good people, no air of pretension, just down to earth game geeks like the rest of us.

After this I jumped right over to the “Silver” room which is where all the EQ II panels were and proceeded to geek out on five hours of panels for which I took copious amounts of notes. Most of the information was non raid specific which, is where my interests are, but there was a fair amount of raid related information bandied about and I feverishly jotted it all down. Now, if I can just get some time with the devs who work on this content, I would have some really great goodies to share with you all. Rest assured I am working on this angle.

I managed to run into Tim Granich again who was kind enough to introduce me to Anthony Royce, an Associate Brand Manager at SOE. We chatted a bit about how I won the contest and I touted my wares talking a bit about the goals behind making all the strategy information public with the goal to bring raiding to a wider audience and they perked up a bit which I think, judging from many of the discussions in the panels is a big goal for the EQ II team and apparently a pet peeve of Brenlo’s. Anthony asked if I was getting much support from the community team at SOE and I had to answer “well, umm, not really” not because they don’t want to but mostly because they don’t know about my stuff. He said that he could help with this so, mark my words; I plan to cash in on this offer ASAP. The rest of the panels were very informative; more of “those” questions but a fair number of good ones too, well worth enduring the others to witness the good ones. I did take a one hour intermission to go watch the 1 pm showing of “Evercracked!” which was very entertaining and I found out that my old guild Ghosts of the Jaggedpine ended up in the film which was very welcome surprise.

I finished my day of panels at around 6 pm which gave me enough time to get up to the hotel room and relax get in a shower and clothing change and head down for the banquet.

When I got down to the banquet the line was humongous but, thanks to the folks at SOE and ZAM, I did not have to wait in line. I ran into Calthine and Sutures on the way and we breezed right on by the line. I almost felt guilty, ok not really but it was awkward. Hey, I won the prize so might as well take advantage. Calthine ushered us into the banquet area swiftly. I have to tell you Calthine rocks. She is, for lack of a better way to put it, a force to be reckoned with, so I just followed her lead. We picked up Allakhazam and Illia and a few others on the way, like an avalanche of game geeks rolling into the convention hall. We finally found Tim and he showed us to our table right up front. Whew time to sit, which was awesome because I got to sit with a bunch of folks from ZAM and hung out with them for the remainder of the banquet. Being an old dice and paper gamer it was a pleasure to sit and chat with Allakhazam about Larry Elmore and how cool the art work was for the old D&D 2nd addition books. The night rambled on with an endless torrent of comical antics from Brenlo who was amazingly entertaining to watch. I would not describe Brenlo as merely a great speaker, more so he was a larger than life presence on stage. How he gets away with half the stuff he does is beyond the comprehension of this mere mortal.

The Costume Contest                                      Monk Girl

The night drew on and finally the big moment arrived and my “mention” came around, which I thought would be a one liner where I would stand up and wave to the crowd from the safety of my seat. Well it was not that. Brenlo pulled us all up on stage and tossed a couple insolent gibes our way, which we resisted, and he talked a bit about us all coming from the Antonia Bayle server and they snapped a photo. Pretty painless, but not what we anticipated at all. In true fashion my crew rolled with it and had fun.

The rest of the night was good fun. I snapped some shots with Allakhazam, Calthine and Illia, thanked them for a great time and then my Crew and I spent the rest of the night hanging out with our gaming friends.

Allakhazam, Illia, Me and Calthine

Day 4:  Heading Home

This day was pretty uneventful we had lunch with more gaming friends said our goodbyes and were taken to the airport by the same driver, bringing our amazing time at Fan Faire to a close.

Boomba Squad and Friends



Post Comment
Great Writeup!
# Jul 08 2009 at 10:28 AM Rating: Excellent
1,577 posts
It was great meeting you Dylen. Thanks for sharing your story! :)
Fly High Daevas,
Tamat ~ Andrew Beegle
Community Manager
Great Writeup!
# Jul 08 2009 at 2:00 PM Rating: Good
Thanks for the Kudos Andrew. It was a pleasure to meet you as well.
Post Comment

Free account required to post

You must log in or create an account to post messages.