It would be untrue to say that there was no warning, but there was precious little of it. My only contacts with Ubisoft until that point had been to collect third prize in a Cosplay contest they held at Comic Con Stockholm where I had attended with my Rainbow Six Cosplay and a few twitter messages in order to use Cosplay characters and in-character talk to get myself a invitation to the Rainbow Six: Siege Alpha. The mission was successful thanks to Chase Straight; The games community manager. Shortly thereafter I was asked to provide a few details over E-mail and then I just forgot about it, thinking they might contact me about something closer to the release of the game.
I suppose this is the only chance I will get where I can talk a bit about the Cosplay itself so do not mind if I do so. It is based of the Medium Blue Outfit in Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield and as you might guess, it is my favourite game and outfit in the franchise. Made for two gaming conventions during the autumn of 2014, it was surprisingly well received and took less then a month to complete, mostly because I already had the more difficult items on the list. The Cosplay is - from top to bottom - Replica Helmet, a very thin face mask, Tactical Googles, A Bowman Headset, A Blackhawk Omega Tactical Vest with magazines, flag, ID Card, Arm and Kneepads, and a belt with a holster. The foundation is a blue BDU with the Rainbow patches on the shoulder. The primary weapons for the outfit are my H&K MP5/10 or the H&K 416C; no weapons was however brought on this trip.
|Photo: Stas Konstantinov|
I refused to believe it; simple as that. I thought it was a hoax, or a joke or anything that is not something that you think is too good to be true. So instead I twittered Chase again who confirmed that it all was valid and correct. I did however early on give myself the promise that I would not get my hopes up until I had the flight tickets and other travel details. Said items did however come quickly enough. My flights got confirmed quickly enough and my many questions got answered to my satisfaction. But the lack of hype meant that the time passed rather quickly and suddenly I found myself waking up, having a cup of coffee and heading out to Arlanda Airport to board the first airplane that would take me to London.
It was bloody uncomfortable, one of the design flaws about the Boeing 737 is that it seems to be unaware that some people are long so my kneecaps was in constant contact with the seat in front of me. At any rate, with the good help of music and Rainbow Six (The Novel) I soon arrived in London where I was met by a staff member from United Airlines who simply wished to assure themselves that me and a few others was aboard the aircraft. After promising not to leave without us, it was a quick jaunt to the next aircraft trough another Security Checkpoint and onto the Boing 777 that was to carry me for the next eleven hours across the pond to the United States.
The Flight was one of the better ones I had with great service and decent in flight entertainment. The food was rather good for being airline food. The only downer was the fact that I could not use my computer; with most others sleeping most of the trip and pushing their seats back there was not enough room but at least my knees did not have to suffer constant pressure. The flight felt surprisingly quick but that may be because I made full use of the Entertainment Screen in order to host my very own Harry Potter Marathon; a rather good use of my time.
|Los Angeles International Airport|
I was lucky enough to get off the Airplane quickly, mostly because I am an obsessive planner and did not have three or four items of Carry-On Luggage that needed to be fetched or wait for others to fetch theirs. My bag was stoved at my feet and I was out of the aircraft before some other passengers had woken up after sleeping the entire journey. The advantages to this are that if there is a single line to the Customs, you do not need to stand behind the 400 other passengers and since all my papers and passport was in order, getting into the United States took me less then ten minutes including waiting in line. Having fetched my bag I then stumbled out the doors and into the introduction of this very blog entry.
It is not like they left me hanging. About twenty minutes later, a Star Players sign appeared and me and others rallied behind it. After checking so everybody was present and accounted for (a check that included a tour to other terminals in a air conditioned Airport Shuttle) we where sent off to the Hotel. The ride into Downtown hammered one impression into you. Los Angeles is big. Very big. You can look at a map all you want but you will not understand how big the city really is unless you have actually been there. There is one particular spot where this is obvious; when you just left the airport and can see Downtown in the distance and it looks like toy houses. The ride itself did however go smoothly and there was few issues with traffic.
It was a car filled with star-struck star players that ten minutes later gazed upon the Convention Center as we drove by and was duly informed by the giant poster outside that there would be another Call of Duty released; a fact that was met with groaning and jeering all around.A few minutes later, we reached the hotel, only to find a line for a pool party. You have to give it to Ubisoft; any hotel that hosts a Pool Party is a good hotel. Dragging my bag into the lobby, I was duly informed that my room was not ready yet but this was hardly a disadvantage as I am certain my room was upgraded. A bathtub in the living room; how can you say no to such a sign of civilisation?
In the room there was also a Goodie Bag waiting for me - quite literally as all the content was in a small shoulder bag with the Star Players Logo on it. In it was a small rubics cube with Ubisoft Game Art, a piece of candy and a Grey T-shirt marking my lofty station. The bag would prove most useful during the week; both on its own and as a compliment to my backpack.
|The Hotel Room|
At any rate, while I did stay and chat for a while, the fact that I had been awake for more then 24 hours at that point meant I did not stay long. Instead I decided to try out the bed, only to find out that what looked like pillows was some kind of oddly shaped cloud that disappeared once you tried to put your head onto it. I was however way too tired to actually care about this and feel asleep almost at once. Jetlag is however a tricky thing, so my body decided that three o clock in the morning local time would be the perfect time for me to wake up. I am not big on trying to force myself to sleep but I really had no choice but to do so. The rest of the night was long but I got the rest I needed to stay trough the next day and at least I was somewhat in sync with the timezones.
The hotel breakfast was excellent; lots of fruit and bread and coffee; all the stuff that is vital for a long day in a hot city. Meanwhile, we all compared our agendas. Some would go to a theatre to rehearse for the Press Briefing that would take place later that day, others had free time. On my sheet stood the rather bland words "Workshop". Simple words but they are a double edged sword; it can either be something very interesting or the quite opposite. So the designated group took to the streets in order to go to the Ubisoft Lounge in the Bank Tower, one of the - if not the - highest buildings in Downtown Los Angeles. The view was simply put magnificent despite the smog and well worth the rather dizzying elevator rides up.
The only thing I did not like about the lunch was that we where late and I loathe trying to eat fast resulting in that most of my Sandwiches was left untouched before we had to depart. The walk to the press conference was short and very interesting as it passed the Diamond district with a lot of stores with cheap jewellery and private security officers. Arriving at the theatre itself, our lofty status meant that we could skip the line and sneak in trough the back door. Me and Dave from DB The Division Cosplays snuck away in a corner and geared up while people still poured into the place. Sitting down in all the gear was not an easy thing to do but I managed it somehow.
If you have not seen the Press Conference Itself, you can do so here if you have two hours to spare but I have to admit that aside from the Rainbow Six: Siege content, it was the announcement of a new Ghost Recon: Wildlands that I liked the most, especially as it came out of the blue. I sat there, praying during the video that this would be Ghost Recon and I was not disappointed. It also made sure to put Friction by Imagine Dragons on my playlist. After that, there where some oppertunities to walk around in the Cosplay and get pictures taken and after that, we packed up and got going to the hotel for a well needed shower. As you may imagine, the Cosplay Gear can get rather hot depending on the location and the theatre was not the best place to use it. For it to stay cool, I need air flowing trough the face mask meaning movement or a very good A/C and there was neither.
After a well needed shower and change of clothes, the Star Players departed for the resturant of the evening; an Urban Farm place that had the best Pork Chops I have ever tasted and made us all content and tired. This put a dent in some of my plans since I had recruited a crew to head over to a gun range with me but we where all too well fed and sleepy to actually do it. Considering the time, it was probably for the best. And so ended the first day.
|Fellow R6: Siege Star Players|
During the breakfast we noticed that Star Players from The Division apparently had been in the Dark Zone and got out without betraying one another and with The Dark Zone I mean a special dinner with the developers. They got out of there with some really need loot; collectors edition watches and wrist holders for their smartphones that was enough to make the rest of us green with envy. During it all, the Just Dance Star Players continued their sacred tradition of making sure everybody knew the Dance of their People. If there ever was a moment when they did not dance, I did not see it.
My schedule said free time (My contract stated sight seeing) so I decided that what I was going to do but since I am too much of a coward to go out in a city where I know nobody and have no internet connection to use a map; I decided to join up with some Star Players that was supposed to get a SIM Card so they would have what I did not - working Internet for their phones. The Dance Crew also tagged along and after a splendid sight seeing of the inside of several banks we where on our way. The fact that some of us wanted drop by stores did however mean that we had to split up. Some of the shopping I got away with that morning was a wrist watch of my own and some really cheap items of clothing.
The lunch was interesting to say the least, but I have to question the wisdom of having three courses as "lunch". It is not really what I myself accommodate with it. The place was a "northern coastal Mexican" place that showed plain and clearly that when Swedes eat Tacos, they do not eat Mexican; they eat the Swedish Interpretation of Texan Interpretation of Mexican Food. It was not really to my liking - Way too spicey! - but good food regardless. As we left the place, I talked some more with Dave; A The Division Star Player who had went to the Gun Range I planned to visit the day before. He believed himself to have missed the rest of us and taken a cab to the place only to discover that the rest of us was not there. Since the place do not allow single shooters, he had to go back. I promised him that no matter what, we would go back after dinner because visiting a range is something I really wanted to do. That settled, we went up to the Uplay Lounge in the Bank Tower.
|Just Dance Star Players. They lived up to the name, only stopping to dance for meals and sleep.|
Diving into the schedule; I figured the dinner would run late. The Master Classes for Rainbow Six: Siege and The Division was late that evening also and I worried about being able to go to the Gun Range at all. So, Asking one of our kitten herders; One of the Ubisoft Employees tasked with taking care of us Star Players I arranged that we could leave the lounge and head for the firing range at once and come back in time for Master Classes and Dinner. He agreed; mostly because the argument that I wanted to make a small video about us firing weapons from the games. So I rushed to find Dave who was clear-headed enough (I was way too excited!) to ask the reception to call us a Cab that arrived rather quickly and we where off with the promise to return within three hours.
The drive took us through Downtown and some of the less privileged areas of Los Angeles. To get to the Arts district near the river to the range location, we had the dubious pleasure of seeing Skid Row, home to the largest population of homeless people in the United States. It was several blocks of abandoned buildings, different missions providing food to the population and what little that seemed to still be inhabited had bars on the windows and tall fences. It was a sobering experience that made Swedens trouble with EU Immigrants to seem almost trivial by comparison. At the edges of the district, we arrived at the Los Angeles Gun Club, A place I had actually been advised against visiting but it was much closer then LAX Gun Range and being dependent on a Cab to get there, it was the only option.
The staff was however very friendly and recognized Dave from his visit the night before, nothing the company. There was some argument about what guns to shoot but we settled on mostly rifles and carbines seeing that both of us had experience with pistols before. In hindsight, I wish I had tried a shotgun but I think there will be opportunities for that later on here in Sweden. For myself, I chose the H&K 53 (with a long barrel) and the H&K G3 to shoot with Dave being preferable to the SCAR-H. There was some argument about the fourth weapon with Dave briefly considering an AR but I vetoed it so we settled upon the IMI Tavor. Aside from the Tango Target, we also got ourselves ammunition; 50 rounds for the Tavor and H&K 53; 20 rounds for the H&K G3 and the SCAR-H. With range time, the bill settled on a comfortable 214 dollars for the both of us.
|The Agony of Choice...|
The video we made became somewhat longer then either of us expected with me adding interviews and reflections into the mix and ending up being 15 minutes long but I have to say the experience was well worth both the time and money; so if you want to know my opinions of the guns; the video is your best bet as if I where to write them down, the blog entry would probably be a lot longer. The Gun Club was kind enough to call a cab to take us back to the Uplay Lounge in the Bank Tower and there was a brief hesitation when we realised we did not know the street of the place.
At any rate, Ubisoft had thought of that and in our Roadbooks we had been issued; the adress was found and we returned with plenty of time to spare to the lounge itself to grab some of the dinner from the bar. Considering the rather heavy lunch and my custom of only eating twice a day; I was rather full already but it did not hurt with a little more energy before the Master Class. The Master Class was not really what you would expect for an event called such. Game Briefing might have been a better word for it, since there was no actual class about how to actually play the game and that is what the name implied; and what I expected. Instead, we got some more information about the game, was shown more gameplay and had the opportunity to ask questions. Some additional benefits of being a Star Player was shown here since we had reserved seats in the front and seemed to have priority on the questions.
My question about Select Fire in Rainbow Six: Siege was more or less deflected without a definitive answer but I was pleased regardless, as they remembered that I had asked the very same question in the subreddit. It is rather nice to know that the developers and community managers do remember what feedback have been submitted even if you sometimes feel they do not listen; or are of the opinion that it does not fit their vision. At any rate, the Master Class was a really fun event to attend, especially after seeing the developers fail miserably at the new Terror Hunt mode; showing that you need to be on top of your game to be able to handle the White Masks if you are foolish enough to play on the hardest difficulty setting.
After that, I tried to play The Division, but the booth was closing down for the upcoming Master Class but I was not really bothered by that seeing how it was played with controllers only, something that sadly was par for the course for most games in the Lounge. Only Rainbow Six: Siege was available with a mouse and keyboard; something that made playing that somewhat easier; especially as I am not accustomed to playing anything with a Gamepad; not unless you count my Nintendo 64 or GameCube games. I did also attend the Master Class for The Division but considering I still refuse to be hyped for that game; I think I did it more to learn more about it then anything else. Its on my "might-buy" list at any rate.
Waking up on Wednesday was a rather interesting experience. It was the first time I actually woke up by the alarm clock rather then just wake up early in the morning with my body deciding I had slept enough. It was also somewhat annoying seeing how I only had one night left in town before I had to go home. Packing my cosplay into the tactical backpack and hanging the helmet onto it, I discovered that the place for eating breakfast had been changed. Instead of the usual room, we had been sent up on the roof to have the eat there, a rather marvellous location if you ask me. Aside from the calm atmosphere and the cool air, you also had entertainment in the shape of all the warning signs for the pool. Considering I wore my long, blue BDU pants, the cool air was something I would wish for the rest of the day. Thankfully, Master Kitten Herder Justin Kruger decided to brave the risk of horrible cab riots and got the Cosplayers a Uber Ride to the Los Angeles Convention Center and E3.
It is difficult for people who are not Gamers to comprehend what E3 really means. Some of us has heard of it our entire lives as this mythical paradise for gamers but that might be because the event is not open to the general public. To attend, you need to be part of the industry or invited by such. This means that the Convention Floor is a lot less crowded then what I expected but considering I was wearing all listed above, that was actually just a relief. The convention center also had a pretty good Air Conditioning system meaning that it was not too hot beyond my mask, at least not if I kept on walking. Of course the first thing I did was to join Jason of AGR-S in a game of Terror Hunt in Rainbow Six: Siege alongside game designer Andrew Witts and fellow Star Players Rocky & Mattshotcha,
Assuming command of the team, the entire thing went rather smooth. Jason say we lost one of our team; I have no recollection of that but I have no reason to doubt his judgement in this regard. It most certainly was not me. Playing on normal difficulty, we quickly secured both objectives and emerged victorious for Team Rainbow.
|Despite the ID, Flag and other things; there are some people who claims this is not me...|
I was also grabbed by two Payday Developers who thought it was really fun to see another Swede; but that said there where quite a lot of us between The Division, Battlefront and Payday. They complimented me on the out but they may have acted differently had they known I took the Payday Crew into custody more then once. Aside from that, going around in my cosplay was rather relaxing. Since E3 is not a fan driven convention, there are not as many requests for photos or people who want to talk about the gear. While I at first where disappointed by this, I also think it was for the best.
Talking with Jason Vandenberghe alongside PetraCat, Creative Director of For Honor, I got the answer to a question I had been wondering ever since he walked out on stage after showing off the new IP. The epic cane he have; alongside epic beard and epic personality does not contain a sword to my disappointment. It should however be noted that I am not the first nor the last to think so as he told a stories about the time he have been asked about it from Police Officers.
Of course I did not squander my opportunities to talk with the developers and community leaders of the game I was there for but I readjusted my gear somewhat first. The face mask had become increasingly warm and smelly (usually I throw it in the washer after each use) so I removed it and the helmet; the biggest problems for a cool existence during the convention. My first objective was to get Andrew Witts aside for a talk where I asked an annoyingly specific question that he answered to my full satisfaction and after making sure no White Masks interfered with the show of a Terrorhunt match on the Ubisoft stage I made sure to take a selfie with Geneviéve Forget.
As the time started to approach lunchtime, I packed my stuff and got ready to depart to the lunch restaurant of the day. Due to miscommunication either on my or their part (I am not sure), I did however miss out on the lunch the very day they headed off to get a true American Burger. How unlucky can you be, I ask you? That said, there where compensations for it. Deciding to find a McDonalds or Burger King on the way to the hotel (and a well deserved shower!), I bumped into two tents with barely any lines at all. When I saw what was inside them, I gawked.
This was Star Wars Battlefront. And you did not need to wait in line; consoles where available at the instant allowing you to try out the Tattoine Co-Op Scenario. Having defeated the Imperials on the ground I went to the other activity offered at the same tent. You see, they offered you the chance to get yourself into an X-Wing Cockpit - they lent you the outfit - and record a short movie of the adventure and since I wanted to become an X-Wing pilot since the age of 9, the choice to wait in the rather longer line was not a difficult one.
|Blue Leader, Standing by!|
After that rather cool experience - tough it looks better on film - I decided it was time to get a shower and a change of clothes and headed after that straight towards the Uplay Lounge where I arrived just in time to see the gang from the restaurant arrive with doggybags. Apparently so few had turned up at lunch so they decided to get the remaining food and bring it to us. That kind of service was really appreciated.
We did not spend all that much time at the Lounge this time around and aside from trying For Honor and attending the Master Class, there is not much more to mention. I do however feel I need to mention For Honor seeing that it is a rather interesting IP. The Gameplay is based around duelling and swordplay; if you meet another player you will lock onto them and a personal duel will begin. You can attack and block in a single direction but this can be changed at any time.
The game mode we tried was with knights only but had a really interesting customization option where you could make the character almost any way you wanted. After a brief Tutorial where I struggled with the controls (the Playstation 4 Controller was unfamiliar to me) we went into an epic battle that our team sadly lost. The Master Class was also rather interesting. Jason Vandenberghe, the creative director of the game have a certain presence that is noticeable even in a room full of fans; especially when he asked who was a Knight, who was a Samurai and who was a Viking and got wholehearted responses from each group. Departing the Uplay Lounge, we headed straight away to the official Ubisoft Party; an event I had mixed feelings for - mostly because I had no idea what to expect.
It turned out that what I expected was pretty much what happened and aside from some dancing and tasting the worst glass of water (L.A Tap) I ever had in my life, I did not stay for long. It became too crowded for my taste and the kind of parties where you dance is not really the social setting I prefer. The water did however come back to haunt me in a rather uncomfortable way during the night giving further merit to the idea of having a bathtub in the living room.
The next day was the day we all would go home. I was not very keen in the general idea of another eleven hour flight but at least there was no need for me to rush things. I could go buy gifts for my family and some more clothes and I eagerly took that opportunity to spend the last of my American Currency. Besides, my earphones needed to be replaced since my previous one had broke on the trip to the states and I absolutely refused to go on a plane without such a device.
The shuttle arrived neatly on time and took us to the airport without much incident. I tried to use the time to get more stock footage for my video but it was a fools errand considering the rather bumpy ride. The Check-In went smoothly despite my bag being a tad too heavy but at least I evaded fines on it. What I did not manage to evade was the special selection in the TSA Security Screening. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise since that path was a lot quicker despite the rather close inspection they gave my bag. I do not blame them, considering it was filled with electronics of a wide variety. I also enjoyed a rather decent Pizza on the airport. I suppose the owner was either kind or stupid since it was not even overpriced and when it comes to food on an airport, that is very important indeed.
As I waited for my aircraft, I also experienced a sense of relief that had everything to do with the fact that I had not been put on Norwegian Airlines direct line between Stockholm and Los Angeles. Said Aircraft had been delayed with nearly seven hours and since I was another aircraft I thought that I would have a relaxed flight despite having to change aircraft in Frankfurt. I did however underestimate Lufthansa in this regard and ended up having very wrong.
It all began with how they issue their in flight information. Every time they wanted to say something, the Entertainment Suite is paused and in some cases this would freeze the screen, forcing them to restart every single screen on the aircraft. The information was delivered in five minute monologues in German and about thirty seconds in English. As if this was not enough, they decided that they should also play travel guide, even during the time the airplane was in sleep mode meaning blinders was closed and the lights out. I have never been able to sleep on an Airplane and for once I was glad, because otherwise I would have been woken up every hour to see some feature of the landscape or another. Departing the aircraft eleven hours later, I was already unhappy with Lufthansa.
It would turn out that I would have even more reason to be so. They had failed to notify my connecting flight that my flight was late (or if one source is to be believed, that I was on it). After running trough Frankfurt Airport I missed my plane. I was not even late, it was just that Lufthansa had told SAS it was okey to go so of course SAS took the chance to be early. It was quite the opposite result for me who had to find a service desk and then wait for three hours at Frankfurt until I could board the next flight. The mediocre behaviour of Lufthansa did not stop there; they tried to stop me during boarding of the new plane and said the plane was overbooked.
My reaction is one that is fully to be expected by a person that by that point had been awake for more then 24 hours. I just said "no" and kept walking. I suppose they do not really know what they where supposed to do because nobody ran after me after that. I took my allotted seat and nobody ever came to challenge it. To increase my annoyance, it was not a window seat, something I had been promised on the SAS Flight meaning this was the trip where I did not have a window seat on any part of the trip. At least I had aisle seats on the way back meaning I could get up and stretch my legs without bothering somebody else in the meantime.
You might guess what happened when I got home; but I will not bore you with the details, this blog entry is quite long enough. Suffice to say it was a really great trip and I am really happy I got the chance to tag along. Most of the people - if not all - I met where truly Awesome people and I really hope I get to see them again during future events. If you want to follow my future adventures in Cosplay or just drop in and say Hello, I recommend the Facebook Page shown below.
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