Sega of America held a Community Day Event at its San Francisco headquarters on November 12th. Fans were able to participate in a Phantasy Star Portable 2 Battle Mode tournament, Valkyria Chronicles II team tournament, and Sonic the Hedgehog 4 feedback session. HUnewearl_Meira, a PSO-World moderator, was at the event and has submitted his report of the proceedings. Be sure to click on the "Read More" link to read his report. Also, check out the image gallery to view pictures from the event.
Credit goes to HUnewearl_Meira and HAYABUSA-FMW- for providing the pictures.
PSO-World.com Community Event Report: Sega Community Event 2010
This year's November Community Event at Sega Headquarters was a little bit bigger than last year's, with 55 invitees, as opposed to last year's 30. This year, the focus was divided across Phantasy Star Portable 2, and Valkyria Chronicles 2, both for the PSP, iced with a feedback session for Sonic the Hedgehog 4 right on top. My wife and I traveled 130 miles with our daughter in the car, so that we could be there for it. A trip that I am experiencing no signs of regretting, save for the sole caveat that this year, as last year, RubyEclipse has obligated me into purchasing a handheld game console that I probably can't afford. There are worse burdens to bear in this world.
San Francisco is a place where traffic happens, and parking soon gets complicated. Sega of America's neighborhood at 350 Rhode Island Street, is no exception. There are hills and other drivers to contend with, a fact further complicated by an extensive collection of signs arranged with careful nuance. These signs may or may not forbid you from leaving your car next to them, depending on various factors including the time of day, day of the week, duration of your stay, and whether or not the chicken bones were thrown in the proper direction. After parking my car where I was reasonably certain it'd still be there when I returned to it (after consulting a brief mental checklist constructed from surveying a nearby sign), my wife and I strolled down the street, to Sega's building.
Sega's facilities here, are part of a slightly larger complex, and entered by means of an atrium accessed from the sidewalk. Because this is San Francisco, not all of the buildings involved exist on the same starting elevation, so after walking down the entry corridor and ignoring the doorway into a culinary school on the right, a left turn is made, where a wide set of stairs is found. The whole area is decorated with well-chosen vegetation, and honestly reminds me of a number of areas in some signature Sega titles, though I believe the closest I can think of is Phantasy Star Zero's Paru, if with distinctly fewer machines bent on your destruction. On the whole, it's a very pleasant view, regardless. As we had our daughter fastidiously strapped down into a stroller, my wife and I circumvented the stairs by way of a ramp to their left, traveling parallel to the corridor through which we entered, then looping back to arrive at the top.
The entrance to the building was about fifty feet away, and opens up into a lobby. Sega occupies the top two floors of this 4-story building, and after two and a half hours in the car, Maegan and I took the opportunity to relieve ourselves in the lobby facilities, as well as change our daughter's diaper (a deed which I have less involvement in, than did my wife). While waiting in the lobby for my wife to return, PSO-World's HAYABUSA-FMW- appeared from the fading light outside. We had originally planned to meet up with Hayabusa as well as Mixfortune ahead of time, but it seems that all three parties arrived later than planned, each of us just on time to meet the 5:00 PM start.
With greetings exchanged and certain biological facts attended to, we hit lobby elevator. Our destination was the 4th floor, as the 3rd floor, while it is Sega's domain, is some sort of a shipping facility, used not for receiving guests, but for much of the real business of distributing video games. When the doors opened again, we were met by a crowd somewhat more dense than last year's, in Sega's now familiar reception area. To my surprise, this year, we were not required to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements, though we were soon collectively informed that if we were discovered taking photographs outside of designated areas, then we would be sent away with haste. Bound by no Non-Disclosure Agreement, I can tell you what I saw in those corridors that were off-limits to cameras, and what I saw was chairs. Carefully chosen and placed chairs, which discretely played Gandalf to my Balrog.
After signing in, and identifying myself as HUnewearl_Meira to a group of PSO-World members, RubyEclipse explained that since we were such a larger group, we would be segregated off into different rooms this year, so that it wouldn't be as crowded as it was during last year's Phantasy Star Zero event. He started bringing us into the Focus Room by groups of four. The station which Maegan and I took, was at the start of the room, near a large mirror, which sat above the evening's meal-- a bank of sandwiches, that ran the length of one of the short walls of the rectangular room. Hayabusa and Mixfortune found a pair of seats along the edge of the room, opposite from where we entered.
This is where Maegan and I spent most of the evening. After everyone had been assembled around 5:30 PM, RubyEclipse gave us some explanation of his grand plan, and the Phantasy Star people were loosely divided from the Valkyria Chronicles people. The latter group was taken to a side room, along with several flats of sandwiches, and we were given leave to wage our attack on dinner. During this half hour dinner session, we were also provided with sodas available across the hall. Soon, a tray of cookies of unusual size was brought to us, and we were beseeched by Sega's staff, to see to the cookies demise-- a task which, to much berating from my wife, this Diabetic made his contribution.
I don't know, from where Sega's sandwiches game, but they were delicious and many. A wide variety was supplied, and while Maegan gutted one to feed to our daughter, I selected one which turned out to be of the vegetarian variety. I wasn't sure what was in it to begin with, but its sort was populating the box next to me when we were given the all clear to dig in, and it seemed as good an option as any. After recovering from the surprise of a generous helping of chopped green olives, pesto and lettuce, I felt I had to redeem my carnivorous appetite with salami on rye. I am aware that there was at least one vegetarian in the group, which validated their choice in ordering vegetarian sandwiches.
RubyEclipse seemed to be stretched rather thin, that night. He was the primary coordinator of activities for a rather large group, and his behavior of the evening was the precise sort that inspired metaphors involving decapitated poultry. The Valkyria Chronicles 2 competition fell encountered a problem, in that there was some substantial discrepancy in the estimated number of copies of the game would be needed for the evening, and the actual requirement. This was solved by a delicate juggling of the UMDs available, but it was a scramble for pretty much of the evening. PSPs were promised to be made available to those who could not supply their own, and indeed, Sega had a collection on loan from Sony. After names were placed on a sign-out sheet, black and Miley Cyrus-Pink PSPs were distributed with only moderate levels of discretion. While I received a piano black machine, my wife received the more feminine option, while a tall representative from Sonic Stadium proclaimed the peerless masculinity of the pastel lavender device he had been assigned.
After receiving mine, I immediately dug in, and created a new incarnation of my PSO-World namesake, Meira, in preparation for my coming entrance into the Player versus Player competition. Against Ryna's advice, I made a Hunter of my Newman, and before I could get through the game's introduction in single-player mode, it was time for me to join my assigned teammate, a fellow named Paul. Last year, my Phantasy Star Zero team named itself, "Team Phail", for reasons that should be easily inferred, and though PSO-World's Nai_Calus has moved well beyond reasonable traveling distance just to spend a single evening at Sega of America, I was re-united with the other two members of the team. This time, I faced off against them in Phantasy Star Portable 2's PvP mode, where they vigorously wiped us out.
The contest in which I participated, was by the rule, Catapult Jump. The launching of our characters through the sky was a neat effect, I thought, as this sort of thing was unavailable in previous Phantasy Star titles. Not having had time adequate to adjust to the PSP's version of the control scheme, I found myself scrambling unsuccessfully to find my stock of healing materials, but generally wound up pounded to the dust, instead. A valiant effort was made on my part, but victory went directly to those with superior, practiced skills. On the whole, the return of PvP to an online Phantasy Star title was refreshing.
After my fierce battle, I took over watching my daughter, so that Maegan would have a chance to play Phantasy Star Portable 2, while the darker half of Team Phail moved on to another room, and the next rung of the competition. Through the course of the event, my daughter took off to wander around every time she managed to get her feet to the ground. She was two weeks old for last year's event, and this time, she was approaching 13 months. Where she was rather docile last year, this year, she was walking around, grabbing at things, and shouting incoherent noises in response to announcements. Her presence was unavoidably apparent to all in attendance.
Approaching 8:30 PM, RubyEclipse announced that the main Focus Room would be shifted for use for the Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Feedback session. After fifteen minutes or so, a Dry Erase board was brought, and RubyEclipse was accompanied at the head of the room by Sonic 4 Brand Manager, Ken Balough, who had earlier made a point of meeting with Sonic Stadium's Ben Kalough, also in attendance-- a pair whose coincidence of names has given me trouble, from which I may never recover. With sage wisdom (not to be confused with wise sagdom, which may be another matter altogether), Ken Balough stood off to the side, and allowed RubyEclipse to take the point position, as the feedback began.
RubyEclipse is a patient man, and as the feedback rolled in, I made it known to him from across the room, that I did not envy his position. Of all the titles I've seen Sega release, I've seen none so harshly criticized as Sonic titles, and if Sonic Unleashed was criticized with 100-grain sandpaper, then Sonic 4 has been criticized with a weathered, splintering 2x4, coated with broken glass and impaled with rusting nails. After a brief joke about Sonic's green eyes, complaints were briefly levied about Sonic's green eyes, followed by more serious discussion about the game's physics, with particular inclusion of Sonic's incredible lack of momentum in the air. It was around this time, that RubyEclipse realized Ken Balough's game, and transferred the session's authority over to him.
The Sonic 4 feedback session wasn't entirely angry ranting, and in fact, I believe that tempers were kept pretty well in-check, with only one participant speaking in a voice of passion. The first attempt to move on to the next activity, the raffle, was unsuccessful, as the collective motivation to vent was too great. Further attempts were made, and eventually, free goods were being distributed. Before the raffle prizes were distributed, the winners of the evening's contests were announced. The winners of the Phantasy Star Portable 2 tournament were given crowns to wear, and a Japanese promotional display for the game. The winners of the Valkyria Chronicles 2 competition were likewise given hats, but of a colorful, more assorted variety, comically reminiscent of those thought to be worn by promoters of the sort of ladies who recruit their customers in the street.
The first item raffled off, was a Sonic-themed toy car track, not yet released for sale by vendors. This was followed by a pair of Sonic R-themed toy cars, about which, the winner quipped, "Look! Sonic Racers! And they're actually going where I want them to!" Also given away was a Sonic-themed wall clock, a Valkyria Chronicles figurine more expensive than the game itself, several large goodie bags filled not only with the standard Sega decal, inflatable Rappy and Valkyria Chronicles buttons, but also with assorted Sega titles released in the last year or so. My own raffle ticket yielded a Bleach doll, which fascinated my daughter for minutes. A visitor who happened to be wearing a hooded sweatshirt over a Sonic t-shirt, was awarded a Knuckles-themed hooded sweatshirt, which he immediately donned. The match appeared to be destiny.
The traveler who made the longest journey to attend, was a man who came from Vancouver, and was awarded with a choice between a portrait of PSU's Ethan Waber, or Laia Martinez, both of which autographed by Sonic Team's Satoshi Sakai. There was emphasis made that the portrait of Ethan on a blue background was far more masculine, than the portrait of Laia on a pink background, and this emphasis influenced the Canadian's decision. Perhaps by my own lewd motivations, it is unclear to me that a man should choose a picture of another man to look at, over a picture of a fit young woman, regardless of the color scheme, but it appears that Ethan will be making his home North of the border. The other portrait still remaining, the crowd was polled for the woman in the group, whose trek bore the greatest distance, and that woman turned out to be my wife, for all the other women present apparently lived within 130 miles. Laia has come home with us. After the raffle, open game was declared on the remaining goodies in RubyEclipse's box. My daughter claimed her prize, as a Japanese gatcha ball containing a figurine of Phantasy Star Zero's Sarisa, which she refused to release, thereby making my wife's choice for her.
The party began to break up, after that. Goodie bags were passed out, as attendees left the gathering, each containing 1 inflatable rappy, 1 package of Valkyria Chronicles buttons, and 1 SEGA bumper sticker. In the lobby, a spread of t-shirts was distributed, and we were encouraged to take as many with us, as we would wear. Many of us continued to linger longer, variously discussing the event with eachother, and with those of Sega's staff who were present. Finally, as the clock struck 10:00, RubyEclipse engaged in a ploy involving the promise of photography, to get those of us remaining to take the elevator back down to the ground-floor lobby, and then, outside to the atrium. Here, all hands were shook as needed, and parting greetings were passed about liberally. Thus concluded the orgy, and we all went our separate ways.
I, for one, only regret that I do not currently own a PSP to play Phantasy Star Portable 2 on, and will have to remedy this. I'd like to thank RubyEclipse and the staff at Sega, once again, for both their hospitality and their generosity. This year as last, we were treated to good food, good games, great prizes and all sorts of free swag. He's hoping for many annual returns of this sort of festivity.