PAX IV: Stress and Accomplishment

Posted by Arlo on Oct 23, 2007 under Life of Arlo, Videos

The view from the back of the concert hall

So, yeah. I got to create a couple videos for PAX 2007. Definitely the highlight of the show for me, but also the cause of great stress.

It all started with a phone call. I’d been on familiar terms with Travis for more than a year, but it was the first time I’d ever talked to him without a game interface between us. He wanted to talk about creating specific Halo 3 visuals for the Omegathon, but the secrecy was so tight on the final round, he couldn’t risk accidentally mistyping anything over World of Warcraft. It may seem trivial – knowing the final game of the Omegathon – but it’s a secret some people would pay money to have.

The idea, passed around the Penny Arcade office, was to have the Minibosses play a rocking cover of the Halo Mjolnir theme. Everyone was expecting a decades-old, retro video game, so they wanted to create a huge spectacle when they revealed one of the most anticipated video game titles of the year. What would complement the Minibosses? Someone suggested extracting the Cortana images from the Halo 3 2006 E3 trailer.

Calls were made to Bungie, to see if they wanted to whip something specific together, but they were busy putting the finishing touches on Halo 3 for the looming September release date. In the meantime, could I do something with the E3 trailer as a plan B? Hell, I didn’t know, but I sure wanted to try!

The next day I downloaded the highest quality version of the trailer I could find, a nice fat 1280×544 HD Quicktime video. My first impressions didn’t give me great hope. The isolated segments of Cortana were very short. When I went frame-by-frame, I discovered that most of the blue static that gave it such style was actually composited over the top of the too-recognizable Halo elements. I wasted some time in Photoshop, seeing if I could isolate just the blue and white, but I always ended up with highlights from the background, too. All I could really get were tiny, one-or-two second pieces of Cortana. Not nearly enough to fill out the presentation.

Not only that, but there was audio underneath Cortana’s monologue. I eliminated some of it with Audition, but to reduce it any farther began to alter her voice.

I spent much of that afternoon slicing up Bungie’s intellectual property (and feeling bad about it), looping and rotating and reversing and duplicating elements of their static, just to get maybe 20 seconds worth of video. I wasn’t sure it would be enough.

I compressed the rough edit down to something reasonable for e-mail and fired off a copy to Travis. I wanted to be clear that it was a rough edit, that I didn’t consider it finished by a long shot, but I needed to know if I was heading in the right direction. Here’s my e-mail, with a link to the video file I attached:

Okay, so a progress check.

I know that Bungie might come through with something that’ll make this project obsolete, but that’s fine. Great, in fact. I feel a little weird mangling their IP.

First and foremost, this is a rough draft (in iPhone format!) just to see if I’m going in the right direction. Watch it first, maybe, then check the notes below.

Things I’ve noticed:

Placing the bits of monologue right next to each other emphasizes their differences. The bits of notes and chords that are still there, the differences in the voice because some audio editing was done. I don’t think we’ll ever be able to completely repair the audio, but it could be good enough.

Especially if, you know, loud music is playing over top of the whole thing.

(Knowing the exact length of this mini-event would be great. Probably won’t happen. How are we going to sync this with the live music?)

Much of the blue flashy light effects are duplicated from other areas in the video. When you watch the original trailer, you’ll realize a lot of that static goes on over top of the recognizable Halo figure and background. I had to trim all that off. To fill in black areas, we can alter (reverse, play backwards, flip, etc.) any section we’re already using.

The sections of a recognizable talking head are so short that I don’t think we’ll be able to keep the head on screen the whole time. Too repetitive.

The ending, I think, could be awesome. Especially if we can somehow sync to the music like the original trailer did. I left the end-music in this rough draft to get a feel for how it could be done.

I think the “3” logo should definitely stay. I think the Bungie logo can go, but that means cloning in more blue static. I replaced “Finish the Fight 2007” with “Omegathon 2007,” though “finish the fight” is rather appropriate for the final round.

Comments? Be brutal with your criticism.


I expected to get a lot of feedback, some good directions for the next step. I didn’t expect Travis to forward it to the Penny Arcade guys, nor the responses I’d get from them.

Gabe wrote back first:

This is totally amazing. It’s perfect. Exactly what we need! I love keeping the 3 logo and the way you have suggested the music should kick in towards the end of the scene.

And then Brad chimed in:

This is total shit. Get out of the business now.

Wow! Gabe likes it! I’m on cloud nine! Wow! Who the hell is Brad?

Brad turned out to be a friend of Travis and Mike; he was in charge of the stage at PAX. I figured he was riffing on my “be brutal in your criticism” line, but my insecurities demanded I double-check with Travis first. He was.

I went a couple more e-mails with Gabe, ironing out the details. I tweaked the presentation endlessly over the next week or so. At one point, Bungie offered to help out by sending us a new, never-before-seen clip of Cortana that we might be able to integrate into the project. I downloaded it straight off of Bungie’s FTP server and took a look.

It was terrible. The images of Cortana that I’d extracted from the E6 trailer were “cinematic” quality. Not only was the Cortana clip they provided a completely different color – green instead of blue – it was only “in-game” quality. Even the voice actress was different. I couldn’t see any way to integrate it into the presentation I was working on. I kept the clip, but chose not to mention it one way or the other.

The pre-expo planning must have kicked into overdrive the week before the convention – neither Brad nor Gabe could sign off on the project. At one point, a few days before I was to get on the plane, Travis told me that Bungie was definitely not planning to create their own production for PAX. “As far as I know, you’re now Plan A.”

I had the clips ready to go, but no one could give me an answer on how we’d be playing them back in the concert hall. I assumed it would be on a computer, but that only narrowed the possibilities down to infinity. Mac or PC? Quicktime or AVI? What resolution? How will we synchronize the individual clips? Windows Media Player? Powerpoint? iMovie? There was an A/V company involved – would they have some proprietary system?

I needed to be prepared, needed to have my tools with me. Fortunately, I was due for a new computer at work, and wrangled my way into a firewire-enabled laptop. The computer itself was loaded down with university software, but before I left, I added the Adobe suite of tools, some encoders, converters, and, at the last minute, extra RAM and a DVD-R drive.

The very first thing I did at PAX, literally six hours before the doors even opened on Friday, was find Brad and show him what I had. It was then that I learned that my own laptop would likely be the playback device. That was scary.

The Windows XP build on my staff laptop had synchronization and encryption enabled… and I was off the network. That meant that every once in awhile it would attempt to connect and back up my files. I envisioned a big “attempting to synchronize” dialog box appearing on the screen in the middle of the presentation. I disabled every synch setting I could find, but didn’t know enough about the software to be sure I got them all.

Next, I tried to find some combination of programs that would allow me to project the Cortana clips on screen. Windows Media Player’s “full-screen” keep popping up the playback buttons. Powerpoint wouldn’t play back the 1280×544 HD clips reliably. I began to worry.

The general consensus was that I should burn the clips onto a DVD. I liked the idea of taking the computer out of the equation, but I hated to lose all that extra resolution. Still, there didn’t seem to be a better option.

That’s when the laptop started acting up. First, Premiere Pro crashed on me. After experiencing all manner of lock-ups and slow-downs, I decided to reboot. I got a blue screen. Oh, not the blue screen of death, just the baby-blue screen of boot-up. Nothing else. No login dialog box, no audio, no ctrl-alt-del, nothing. I began to worry more.

Each reboot took me to the same screen. Finally, I decided to let it sit. Amazingly, after a solid 5 minutes or so, the boot process continued and I was finally able to log in. Was it something to do with the synch settings I’d changed? No idea, but it continued to stall out every time I rebooted.

Too bad Premiere Pro never launched again. It seemed the first crash corrupted some driver or plugin and the program flat-refused to run. I’m not going to panic, I thought, I’m just going to go back to the hotel tonight, pay the $10 for an in-room broadband connection, and download the Premiere Pro 2 30-day trial from Adobe’s website. No problem!

600MB and one overnight download later… big problem. PP2.0 wanted to install some files in the My Documents folder. My My Documents folder was actually a partition on a hard drive 1000 miles north. Thank you synch software! I was really starting to hate that laptop.

Early Saturday morning, I mentally reviewed the tools I had at my disposal. Encore could make me a DVD, but it couldn’t import the non-NTSC video clips. After Effects, while not nearly as user friendly as Premiere, was at least able to convert the videos. From 6am to about 8:30am, I worked a very strange DVD. 7 clips, totaling only about 20 seconds, became an 7-chapter, 15-minute title. I typed up some instructions for the A/V guy and used them to create the DVD’s menu.

The best way to explain what was on the DVD

I burned the DVD, tested it, and then carried it around for the next day trying to get Brad to take a look at it. I thought up a new, improbable reason why the DVD wouldn’t work for every hour that our meeting was delayed.

That was the day I learned that I would also take responsibility for the Omeganaut slideshow. I didn’t think it’d be too big a problem, as all I really needed to do was select a few dozen of my best photos and have them play over a pre-selected song.

Saturday was another late night, and Sunday was another early morning. I set the alarm for 6am, and while Oksana slept, I began copying hundreds of images off my compact flash cards. What should have taken, at most, 5 minutes, turned into a 120-minute process. I have no idea what caused them to copy to the hard drive so slowly, but after two hours of staring at the progress bar, I could have happily chucked that laptop from our 22nd story window. I kept my rage in check by paying another $10 for another 24 hours of internet access and proceeded to search for Tycho’s animal pictures. Yeah, you know crocodiles and lemurs.

When Travis called at 8:30am to pick me up for our private Omegatech appointment at Harmonix’s Rock Band booth, I was officially behind in my work. I packed my laptop with me. At least the photos were finally all on the hard drive.

It kills me that we had to bail on the Rock Band preview because Brad was finally available that morning to take a look at the DVD. He cleared the entire concert hall, locked it down tight, and we played the clips back on the projection screens. Everyone was satisfied… until the Bungie representatives showed up with their Xbox 360.

The Minibosses were on stage, most of the Penny Arcade VIPs were nearby. No one else was around. Brad ushered the Bungie guys behind the stage, offering to show them what we’d been working on. On a small preview monitor, Cortana said her lines, came and went. After the Omegathon 2007, Bungie, and “3” logo had faded to black, there was a long pause. I may have been holding my breath.

“So,” the Bungie rep said. “You decided not to use the clip we sent you?”

Now, in addition to not breathing, my heart stopped beating.

Brad, bless him, came to the rescue. “Well, it’s just that it didn’t really fit in with the rest of the clips we had…”

No response from either Bungie guy.

“I mean, we could find a way to put it in there if you want us to, but…”

“No, no. No. Whatever. It’s just that we worked really hard to get you that clip. It’s straight out of the game, no one’s ever seen it before, and it’s really creepy.” I didn’t agree on that last point, but I felt bad for him. My only objection was that it didn’t match what we had.

Brad continued to smooth it over with the Bungie guys as they went about setting up their game. I didn’t realize quite what I was seeing while I looked over their shoulders, but it turned out that they were showing us the power of Forge. I’ve never been much of a console gamer, never played Halo before, but I was duly impressed with their level editor.

When the Minibosses were ready, we began practicing the big finale. There was a lot of miscommunication at first. I thought that they were playing only what was in the 2006 Halo trailer, but they were actually playing the full-length Mjolnir theme. I was the intermediary between them and the A/V guy as we went through the pacing, and after 5 or 6 faulty run-throughs, we had to sit down and reassess. It was only after I wrote out each and every line of Cortana dialog on a piece of paper, complete with the number and timing of the breaks in between, that the two groups were able to see eye-to-ear. By the end, we’d completed two perfect run-throughs, complete with stage lights, smoke, and Scott hauling open the curtains at just the right moment. It was amazing. That’s when I got hugs from both Brad and Kara.

The rehearsals took far more time than I’d anticipated, and I was worried about how much more time I’d have to spend on the slideshow. I sat down to talk with the A/V guy, trying to find the best format that would work for both of us. We decided to keep it simple: Buy the track off iTunes and drop the images into iPhoto. With a flash drive to get the files from my laptop to his, it should have been as simple as that. I promised to meet him at 3:30pm, 1 hour before the big show.

As I left the concert hall, I took off my Enforcer shirt; I needed to work undisturbed. I found a table next to a power outlet and fired up the laptop. For the next hour or two, friends stopped by to keep me company as I selected, cropped, color adjusted, and scaled about 100 photos to 1024×768 for the projectors. I kept them all in rough chronological order and saved them with new, numerically ordered filenames. Of course, the laptop just barely cooperated. Bringing up a “Save As…” dialog box inexplicably took an extra 10 seconds for each file, and at one point the numlock key engaged and wouldn’t turn off.

Jay bought me a sandwich and Diet Coke at one point. I had time for sips of Diet Coke, but the sandwich just went into my pocket for later.

There was one more Omegathon competition that afternoon. I showed up just long enough to get a few photos of the last four playing Puzzle Quest. The matches were “best out of three,” so after just one round I was able to get those valuable “look of victory / look of defeat” shots. Before long, I was back at my table again, integrating the new photos into the slideshow without even knowing who won.

I was half an hour late and on the verge of panic when I finally finished. I walked into the locked-down concert hall with my laptop still on. I found Gabe supervising the stage setup and asked him if I could take three minutes of his time so he could approve the slideshow.

“Sorry, man, I’m really busy. I’m sure whatever you’ve got is great!”

Shit, shit, shit!

I went backstage and found the A/V guy. We transferred the jpegs from my computer to his and fired up iPhoto. I requested the “Ken Burns Effect” transition, just to give all those flat images the illusion of motion, and he set up the configuration. That’s when iPhoto, the so-easy-you-won’t-even-need-configuration-settings Mac program that it is, told us we couldn’t do the Ken Burns Effect with 96 photos. He did everything he could, but with time running out, the best solution was to just sit down and delete 25 photos. I thought it did harm to the pacing and “story” (such that it was) of the video, but I didn’t have any other options.

We ran through the slideshow once and it seemed like it was going to work. Before the concert hall’s doors were opened, he projected the first slide up on the big screen. We noticed that the image seemed quite dark, but he assured me he could store the image in his switcher and brighten it there. I had a nagging feeling that many of the other photos would come out dark, but there wasn’t enough time to check them, let alone do anything about it. I asked him if he needed me for anything else; could he handle the slideshow and the Halo 3 intro, or did he need me backstage? When he said he thought he had everything under control, I was relieved. I wanted to have the responsibility taken from me.

I met up with Dave and Oksana in the crowd and waited for the show to begin. With my duties behind me, it felt good to melt into the horde and watch the show like everyone else – that is, not through the lens of my camera.

Display settings

The Final Countdown blared out through the speakers and Gabe and Tycho appeared on stage. They didn’t take long before introducing the Omeganaut slideshow. It played okay. The video guy put it up on screen before launching the slideshow, so the iPhoto interface was revealed – that got a few laughs. Jerry was right; the animals went over pretty well. We lost the audience a bit when the Calling All Cars photos went up – the projector really was too dark to see what was going on – but we got ‘em back with the Rock Band pictures. I couldn’t say I was terribly happy with the results, but at least it worked.

Here’s an updated “director’s cut” of the slideshow.
Download it here.

A few minutes later, they introduced the final game. The intro didn’t go… exactly as we’d rehearsed. First, the blue static that set up the “technical difficulties” played without audio. Second, the video guy botched the playback of the DVD. Even after analyzing recordings of the show, I don’t know how he did it; we certainly never had a problem like that in the rehearsals.

What happened? He queued up the same track twice in a row. In a carefully choreographed-with-the-band show like this, it could have ruined everything. In what was planned to be a back-and-forth between Cortana and the Minibosses, suddenly the clips and the music were playing on top of each other. My head fell forward, Oksana asked what was wrong, and I told her, “They fucked it up.”

The Minibosses, who must have been gnashing their teeth back stage, soldiered on. Somehow, miraculously, the video guy managed to get the tracks synched back up again. The last clip, “This is the way the world ends,” came in slightly late, but the Minibosses patiently waited for it and then hit the big notes right on queue.

The idea to fake those technical difficulties saved the show. Because everyone was thinking that the show was FUBAR – and they did; Dave turned to me at the first blue static screens and asked with real concern, “Is that supposed to happen?” – when the video clip played twice in a row, it didn’t even register as a blip on the audience’s radar. Besides, when the curtains opened and the Omegathon/Bungie/Halo 3 logo appeared on the screens, we had achieved what we’d set out to do – the crowd was going wild.

The Halo 3 matches played after that, and I was finally relaxed. For better or worse, my part in the show was over. Dave and I tried to explain to Oksana the audience’s reactions to particularly brutal kills, and before long, the show (and the conference) was officially over. As the crowd dispersed, I retrieved my video camera from the rear stage and we waited around for the rest of the Omegatechs to finish up.

Travis appeared and pulled me back stage. Gabe and Tycho were back there with their families and some of the stage crew. They were exultant. Gabe was the first to approach, shaking my hand and thanking me for helping them put on such a damn fine show. I waited an extra moment to talk with Tycho. Endearingly, he was celebrating first with his wife and child, receiving a kiss from each for surviving what must have been one hell of a weekend. When he was finished, he shook my hand and thanked me for both the slideshow and the Halo 3 intro. Travis said, “Didn’t I tell you I had the right guy for the job on my team?” Tycho fired back, “I know, and what an addition!”

It felt good. It felt real good.

As the theater cleared out and the enforcers began to clean up, I sat down on the stage to talk with Oksana, my fellow Omegatechs, and the winner of the whole Omegathon, Accalon. In the middle of the conversation, I felt something in the thigh pocket of my cargo shorts. I pulled it out and exclaimed to everyone, “Hey, I can finally eat my sandwich!”

After the weekend-long conference, Oksana and I flew to North Carolina to spend a week on the beach with my grandparents. Front the comfort of a hammock, I reflected on my PAX experience. It sort of blew me away that I helped put something together that played in front of 5,000 people. Standing in the middle of a crowd like that is one thing, knowing that you had a part in creating something that can evoke a cumulative reaction out of so many people is pretty amazing.

(Make no mistake. I fully recognize the heavy lifting was done by Penny Arcade, Bungie, and the Minibosses. Nobody was there to see Nameless Omegatech Guy’s presentation. I was but a small piece of the puzzle.)

Once again, here’s the presentation from the audio stage.

In the weeks that followed, I took great delight in watching the presentation from different angles on Youtube. It gave me the ability to rewind, pause, and playback the best moments. I’ll never be able to see the production without thinking about how it could have been even better if only they nailed it like we had in rehearsal; but still, there are a few moments that always leave a smile on my face:

    The first guitar chord. The laughter in the crowd at our “technical difficulties” gives way to a “waitaminute, what the heck is this?” murmur when Cortana first appears on screen.The few (and far between) shouts of “Halo!” early on, when some recognize Cortana for who she is.

    The mayhem when the Omegathon logo comes into view, escalating when the Minibosses appear, and finally exploding when the Halo 3 logo is revealed.

    Huge sections of the crowd chanting na-na-na-naaa, na-na-na-naaa with the music.

    And, of course, Gabe rewarding all our hard work with his comments once he took the stage, “Holy shit! How awesome was that?”

5,000 people. That’s peanuts! Literally hundreds of thousands of people have since viewed the presentation on sites like Youtube and Gametrailers. Of course, not every commentary was complimentary, but there was an awful lot of praise to be found in various online news sites, blogs, and comments. My ego can’t help but list a few of my favorites for posterity. You skip to the epilogue, if you like.

Arstechnica interviews Tycho:

When we talked during the show you said that you thought you should have saved Jenga for the final event instead of the first, but that Halo stage show was pretty damn impressive. How do you think the final Omegathon went overall?

We did a couple dry runs just before the show and met a week before PAX to cover all the specifics—the plan wasn’t hatched in its entirety until then. It was a series of celestial miracles that made it happen—our lucky timing of the show and the fact that Bungie is local to us really helped. As for the competition itself, I think finalists MNC Dover and Accalon comported themselves with as much dignity as they could muster. Frankie and Luke goofed around with the maps’ weapon load outs to create maximum carnage, and the results speak for themselves.

PAX: Omegathon final pwns everyone with the energy sword of rock
by Jonathan Neuls, also writing for Arstechnica:

The final round of the Omegathon is, without a doubt, the climax of the festival; the last hurrah, the final dose of joy before everyone returns to their previous existence. The Penny Arcade duo introduced a 2007 Omegathon slide show set to a deliciously rockin’ soundtrack. This was, however, only the calm before the storm. Gabe and Tycho ran from the stage suddenly, leaving only static on the two big screens flanking the stage and random tones being emitted by the PA.

The curtains swept to the side to reveal the Minibosses jamming out the Halo theme as the Halo 3 logo flashed across the screens. The room friggin’ exploded. At the exact same moment, every single person in the main theater knew what the final game would be. The excitement of the reveal coupled with the Minibosses utterly rocking out the theme song was overwhelmingly beautiful in its execution. If nothing else, the crew of Penny Arcade know how to put on one hell of a show. As the band finished, to an uproar of cheers and applause, Gabe and Tycho returned to the stage. Gabe inquired rhetorically, “How awesome was that!?” earning the duo the applause of thousands of gamers once again.

The Grand Finale (Kotaku):

The Omegathon is a Penny Arcade tradition dating back millions of years and while normally competitors would go head to head with olde school games, this year Gabe and Tycho had something new up their collective sleeve, Halo 3. As you can imagine when it was announced, the crowd went crazy apeshit bonkers and it was a few minutes before I could actually hear anything again, even now my ears are still ringing. Also on hand for the festivities were nerdcore favorites The Minibosses who entertained the rapturous crowd with their version of the Halo 3 theme before the final showdown.

PAX: Scenes From The Omegathon Final Round (Wired Blog):

The last few contests had all ended with simple retro games: Pong, Combat, and Tetris. Arriving on stage, Tycho and Gabe teased that they were having trouble setting up the “ancient machines.” But then a video teaser of Halo 3 kicked in, and the game music rock cover band The Minibosses suddenly appeared on stage playing the game’s theme song.

It was the single most impressive thing I’d seen all weekend — I felt like I was back at the Video Games Live concert, with 5,000 screaming people at my back.

Fool’s Paradise (Blog):

Speaking of the final round – this was a spectacle to behold, the climax of a show that had already exhausted its patrons to the point of screaming “No more! Please, it’s just too good!”
I wandered with a throng of worn, tired gamers into a dark theater, and waited anxiously for the announcement of this year’s final round (which was, as per tradition, shrouded in secrecy to all but the people running it).

Eventually, the two large screens on either side of the main stage flashed blue for a brief second, stirring up a small commotion. Seconds later, the flashing became slightly more frequent, but more chaotic. A familiar voice spoke in the background. By this point, people were realizing that this was, indeed, what they thought it was: Halo 3.

Over the cheers of joy in the room, the old theme began to play. People were hysterical, cheering, screaming, crying. Once we all had a chance to realize that yes, we were going to be seeing a live match of Halo 3, the curtain was pulled back to reveal a full band playing the theme. Looking closer at the musicians on stage, we realized that this wasn’t some stage band playing. The Minibosses were on stage, playing the Halo theme to thousands of people who seemed ready to simply explode at any moment.

Hotty McBloggy (Blog):

Now begins the awesomeness that is Halo 3. Sit down, buckle up, and please remain seated during this ride. It is a good one. […]

Typically the final round of the Omegathon is a random old school game. Past years have found Pong, Combat, and Tetris played. This year they decided to do it a little bit different. I almost didn’t attend PAX at all on Sunday but heard that the final event should not be missed. That was the understatement of the millennium. Notice I didn’t say year. Or century. Oh no, I said MILLENNIUM. […]

As the final round of the Omegathon started, they aired chopped up pieces of the original Halo 3 trailer to begin hinting towards what was in store for us. After hearing Cortana’s voice, the room then came alive with the trademark Halo song. As smoke filled the room and colored spotlights lit up the stage, I realized there were actually people performing this song. Oh yes, the minibosses were there playing their hearts out. The guitarist was phenomenal. I wish I could explain the awesomeness of this performance but there are no words to accurately describe it. I got chills during the song no less than three times. It was absolutely surreal. […]

I have very little voice left today after screaming for about 2 hours straight at this event. The whole experience was too amazing for words (except for the 1351 I just wrote).

Selected Youtube comments on this clip:

Most epic event of my life.
The way Cortana spoke, the musical timing, the setup — It was all FLAWLESS.
And I was the last person into the auditorium…
Plus, the game itself was neck n’ neck — great show, great players.
And then Jerry & Mike went up against each other…

EVERYONE was going crazy. There were 3000-4000 people in that room. Trying to describe the immense feeling there is like looking at a globe and saying “That’s big.” I lost my voice the next day cause I was cheering so hard.

Give me shivers every time, awesome.

Greatest moment at PAX ever.

Greatest. Finale. Ever. Thank you so much for getting all this, Andy, good memories.

Lol, I wasn’t even their and I am getting’ shivers watchin’ this. lmao

See video of new Halo 3 levels from PAX (Joystiq):

Two challengers are brought before a massive audience to test their opponent’s gaming mettle on a gigantic screen. Though the game is familiar to them, the rules have been changed. There are new levels that they’re unfamiliar with, new items they’ve never used. Two will enter the battle, but only one will leave victorious. It’s the final round of Video Armageddon and the game? Super Mario Bros. 3! … No, wait, that’s not right. It was the Omegathon, and the game was Halo 3. But the similarities are striking, aren’t they?

Omegathon Finale (Slashdot):

Hundreds of people packed into the Main Theatre on Sunday afternoon to see the climax to PAX, the completion of the Omegathon, and the announcement of the secret final game. That announcement was made in a dramatic way, as a spliced version of the Halo 3 trailer played on the monitors while guitars picked out elements of the iconic theme from behind the black stage curtains. With Cortana’s final words “This is the way the world ends,” they were drawn aside to reveal the Minibosses at their instruments. They jammed through a rendition of the Halo theme that had the crowd cheering at the top of their lungs. […]

What was amazing about the spectacle was the enthusiasm that the crowd showed throughout the event. As new weapons showed up, or an opponent made a particularly daring move, the crowd would ‘oo’ and ‘ahh’ with excitement. In the YouTube and GameTrailer recordings, it probably sounds staged, or even corny; I can assure you that in the moment it was very real. If you’ve ever seen the Fred Savage classic film ‘The Wizard’, you’ll recall the final scene introducing Super Mario Bros. 3. This experience was exactly like that … only not annoying, and real. It may be strange to say that you feel privileged to have been a witness to a match of multiplayer Halo, but this event felt special in some way that’s hard to quantify.


?!?! That was stuid…any person who has never touched a video editor could make that with a very basic tut. I thought that it would be something like a joke or a thing with Cortana, just for that, not some low level editing, considering it was PAX.

[Sorry, couldn’t help it. That last comment gave me a good laugh!]

A little bit of an epilogue:

I got an e-mail a week or two ago from Robert Khoo. He’d found the presentation video I’d uploaded to Youtube and was wondering if it would be possible to get a copy for the PAX 2007 DVD. I told him of course, asked if there was anything else I could do to help. I made a copy of the whole tape and, because they were facing a tight deadline, overnighted it to them. He offered to reimburse me with a check “or a tee… or something!” I replied that I didn’t have a chance at PAX to buy anything, and free merch definitely sounded better than a check for $35. “Surprise me!”

Yesterday, he surprised me. A big box arrived in the mail with 15 — FIFTEEN! — Penny Arcade T-Shirts!

Those Penny Arcade guys, I swear. So fucking awesome.