Pax East on the cheap – where to sleep

Where do we sleep at PAX East?  The answer is the bean bag chairs!  I’m kidding of course. 

If you have ever been to Boston, you know that one of the big expenses of visiting the beautiful city is the rental of a bed, or other surface, to sleep on.   The first year that I attended PAX East we got passes just for Sunday to try it out.  This was eight years ago and we’ve been attending every year since.  This month I will be going over what I’ve learned over the years attending gaming conventions.  Last week I talked all about what to eat to save money at PAX, in this post I’ll be talking about where to sleep while you’re in Boston.  When planning a big trip like PAX East I always start with a general budget.

Sample Budget:

  • Convention Badges
  • Lodging (hotel, airbnb)
  • Flight/Train tickets
  • Driving (gas, parking at event and at hotel)
  • Meals (coffee/breakfast/lunch/dinner/snacks)
  • Swag/Souvenirs
  • Taxi/UBER/T-pass (to and from airport or convention center)
Decompressing in the beanbag chairs at PAX East

Lodging: I’ve found that it’s best to make plans for where you will be staying as soon as you know the dates of the event. Usually this is before tickets go on sale. In my experience, it does not pay to wait till the last minute.

  • Hotels: The Westin Boston Waterfront is attached to the convention center but you will pay an arm and a leg to stay and eat there. I’ve found that it’s best to shop around in the surrounding area. Many of the hotels in the area have shuttles that will run from the hotel right up to the door of the convention center. You can see a list of hotels and shuttle routes here. If you find a hotel that is not listed check your maps, often there will be a shuttle stop within a block of hotels that are not listed.
  • Airbnb: If we have a group of us going we have been opting to rent a local apartment or house. Not only is this often cheaper per room than staying at a hotel, but you get a kitchen which can be used to save your group even more money! We usually try to find a rental within a mile of the convention center so that we can walk if the weather is nice but also we can take an UBER for a reasonable amount if we would rather not walk.

You may be wondering: Is it worth your time to stay further away from the convention center?  Lets first look at this as a math equation.  

Assume that we can save $100 per night by staying 8 miles away.  

UBER – $24 per day (assuming $1.50 per mile) 

Driving – $45.28 per day which is $9.28 (assuming $0.58 per mile in gas and wear & tear) + parking at the convention center $18.  The parking at the hotel would be there if you were had your car parked there the whole time or if you moved back and forth each day, so for that reason I’m not including it in my figure.

The second thing to consider is how much your time is worth.  If you value the time to travel to and from the convention center more than you value the money that you would save, you’re better off staying closer and paying a little bit more.  

 

A few things that I look for when finding a place to stay for the convention:

  • Fridge – I save some money if I’m are able to store food in our room. It increases the variety of snacks that we’re able to bring. We’ll also save leftovers from eating out and sometimes grab some beverages to keep in the room (hotel pregame anyone?) Just don’t get too loud or risk your party getting shut down.
  • Want a way to keep beer cold for just the night? You can buy a bag of ice and if you are lucky enough to have 2 sinks, fill one with ice and your beverages. A box and a plastic garbage bag can work in a pinch as a makeshift cooler.
  • Proximity to parties/convention center. There are a lot of offsite adventures to be had after the show floor closes for the day. You can find a list of parties and events outside of the convention center on the Penny Arcade forums. A lot of these events require you to sign up ahead of time. There will be unofficial meet ups all over the conference area if you want to play it by ear.
  • WiFi – Check the hotel reviews for wifi. I’ve found it to be very hit or miss depending on where you stay and if they offer upgrades to their wifi. I often rely on wifi over my cell service for streaming/tv channels and also to save data on my cell plan.

My hotel room checklist

  • Google chrome or amazon firestick. Some nights we are beat but want to watch the streamed events that are broadcasting on Twitch. We have netflix and amazone prime, so it’s nice to have easy access to those services.
  • Laptop is a must anytime we travel. It’s an easy way to read up on the companies that you are interested in visiting on the show floor.
  • Headphones if you’re staying with friends or family. There’s always one person that wants to stay up later than me, (spoiler alert: it’s my husband) the headphones allow him to watch a show or play a game without the sound keeping me up.
  • White noise machines are amazing. If you are not use to all of the city noises you will want to explore some white noise. You can also use a white noise app or the bathroom fan to help block out the sirens and car horns that drone on throughout the night.
Taking a moment on the sky-walk to soak in all that the show floor has to offer.

What’s most important is having a clean, safe place to crash for the night. Trust me when I say that you will be exhausted at the end of the day. It may be tempting to explore the convention all day and party all night but make sure you allow enough time to decompress and rest up for the days ahead.

Pax East on the cheap – all about food

It comes as no surprise that I’m a big lover of video games. When it was time to my gaming fandom to the next level many years ago, I decided to check out Penny Arcade Expo (PAX). Conventions are not cheap events to attend and it seemed like each year we were shelling out more and more for hotel, travel, and event tickets. So now, I like to head to PAX each year with a plan and a budget to keep us on track.

Sample Budget:

  • Convention Badges
  • Lodging (hotel, airbnb)
  • Flight/Train tickets
  • Driving (gas, parking at event and at hotel)
  • Meals (coffee/breakfast/lunch/dinner/snacks)
  • Swag/Souvenirs
  • Taxi/UBER/T-pass (to and from airport or convention center)

In this post we are talking all about food. You will probably want to eat while attending the convention. There are a lot of options to fill your tummy in the area with different advantages and costs to each.

  • Restaurants – There is no shortage of dining establishments in the area but this would involve leaving the convention center, maybe paying for an extra coat check (you may laugh but paying a few bucks every time you leave adds up). In my opinion, the quality of food is better than eating at the convention center. You can expect to pay $15 or much, much more depending on your restaurant choice.
  • Food Trucks – If you venture just beyond the sliding glass doors there will be a variety of food trucks lined up and waiting for your business. I’ve found the food trucks to be hit or miss. My rule for food trucks is to always go for the ones with a big line. This may go against your instincts to get food as quickly as possible, but trust me when I say that you probably don’t want to eat at an empty restaurant or a dead food truck. Expect to spend $12
  • On Site – There are vendors in the convention center with a large variety of food but be prepared to wait in yet another line to eat. Last year the on site dining did not offer alcohol and I haven’t been able to find a definitive answer on if it will be offered this year. If you like your beer with lunch this is something to keep in mind. Expect to spend $8+
  • Packed Lunch – We’ve been attending PAX East for the past 8 years and we only eat out for every meal when we were staying at a hotel with no fridge. Fueling my body with a bunch of junk was not a good call. The best thing that you can do to save money on food is to hit a grocery store at the start of the convention weekend. If you do not have a fridge where you are staying, get some sandwich bread and peanut butter and fluff. While you are at it, grab some pastries for breakfast as well. One loaf of bread will yield 9 sandwiches. This will run you about $0.72 per sandwich.

Brown bagging your lunch is the way to go! Not only will you save roughly $10 per person, per meal but you will enjoy a more satisfying and healthier option to the food that you might otherwise consume. We pack all of our snacks and lunches the morning of the event and usually get to the convention center shortly before it opens at 10am. March in Boston is usually cold so we won’t worry about the temperature of our food staying warm for too long if we decided to head over early and wait in line outside. You will want a food that tastes good cold or room temperature.

We usually plan the following food schedule:

  • 8am – Breakfast at the rental/hotel – pastries, eggs, toast
  • 11a – Snack of fresh fruit or anything that you brought that you don’t want sitting in your bag all day
  • 1pm – Lunch time! We usually do sandwiches and some light sides to go with
  • 3pm – Snack of nuts, jerky, granola bar or anything else that we brought
  • 6pm – Dinner back at the room. We take turns cooking and will usually do something easy to make and satisfying. Little prep is the name of the game!

Here are some lunch ideas:

  • Sandwiches – Peanut butter is probably one of the cheaper options but deli meat sandwiches are also great.
  • Salad – Load up on dark leafy greens, protein, cheese, veggies and your favorite dressing.
  • Pasta/Potato Salad – best done in batches if you are traveling with a group. Or this can be done at the beginning of the trip and portioned out for the week.

My Favorite Snacks:

  • Seeds or nuts
  • Hard boiled egg
  • Peanut butter crackers
  • Granola or granola bars
  • Fruit leather
  • Cheese sticks
  • Raw carrots or other veggies
  • Jerky

No one knows your body better than you do.  So make sure you are making decisions about what to eat that will keep you satiated and avoid the bubble guts.  One of the worst experiences that you can have, is suffering through stomach pains when there is a whole world of gaming to explore at the convention. Any convention is not a great time to start taking iron supplements when you’re not used to them.  Ask me how I know.

If you are staying at a place with a kitchen, use it! We usually have at least one person driving in to the event and we will have them bring a crock pot for an easy meal that can cook all day while you are out exploring and be ready as soon as you get back to your room. If you are cooking from scratch each night, some easy meals after a long day of walking around are:

  • Tacos
  • Pizza – get already cooked crust
  • Chili
  • Chicken and Rice
  • Pasta

Don’t be limited by this list. Any meal that you are comfortable cooking and doesn’t involve a lot of preparation will work for these nights. The goal is to make it easier to cook than it is to spend the time finding a restaurant with open seating. Set yourself up for success and look forward to your meal at home. Your body will thank you later for not over doing the restaurant food.

Boston is a great city with some amazing restaurants. If you decide to take advantage, like we do, limit your eating out to one or two outings. We like to meet with local friends (guildmates) that live in the area and will usually eat out with them. I like doing one lunch and one dinner on separate days. We know ahead of time what days these will be on so we know where we are eating and when. I find that this makes our days much easier if we have things planned and we don’t have to make so many decisions.

New BFA raid Siege of Zuldazar! Method vs Limit REMATCH!

The latest World of Warcraft expansion has received a fair amount of criticism, Blizzard has made a lot of design choices that fell flat with their audience. One thing that Blizzard is doing well in the Battle for Azeroth expansion is showing unique story differences between the Alliance and Horde factions. If you like playing the game on both factions you are able to experience a completely different story and zones. In the second raid for the BFA expansion they have carried forward this theme by having unique horde and alliance perspective encounters. This doesn’t mean that you are limited to the bosses that you are able to experience but rather you are changed to the opposing faction depending on the fight.

On Tuesday the Mythic version of the raid will be available for play which will no doubt be an event to rival the popularity of the Uldir race to world first. What I’m most looking forward to is the rematch between the guilds Method and Limit. Both were neck in neck for the World First title with Method pulling the win in the end. For the first time ever, several of the top raiding guilds were streaming their boss kill attempts gaining a huge audience on Twitch.tv. Historically guilds would not publish videos with their attempts or strategies until well after several guilds have figured out the fight for themselves. With the growing popularity of streaming games on twitch, there is a lot to gain by showing your attempts. I know that I was watching Method’s attempts, sometimes on the edge of my seat as they had those super close attempts and 1% wipes.

Limit has been pulling out the stops when it comes to preparing for this next race to World First. I’m hoping that Limit will join in with streaming their own content, which could generate a lot of fans and revenue for the players of the #1 US guild. Limit has reportedly transferred over to the Alliance faction in order to take advantage of the benefits that the faction will receive from warmode. Will they transfer back to Horde side which has been their home or will they capture the hearts of the newly adopted alliance brothers and sisters? It would be refreshing to see Limit represent the Alliance in the race and hopefully help balance the represented factions in high end raiding.

Method will be streaming their raid attempts once again will no doubt be flooded with support for their stream team. I’ve been watching many of their players maintain steady viewship since the release of Uldir back in September 2018. Prior to Method streaming their Uldir progression I would have told you “World of Warcraft raids are not that popular to watch on stream” but here I am eating my hat. The streaming of Uldir brought streaming of wow to a whole new level and some well deserved attention to all the players that work so hard to play at a high level. They once Method will be teaming up with Redbull to give their content a professional level of production value.

I’m hoping to see more high end raiders get into streaming. I know that I will be tuning in to twitch to watch those gracious enough to share their journey with us plebs. Tune into Twitch.tv for this epic event starting on Tuesday January 28th and get hyped!

New PC Setup!

I first built my dream desk back in 2012 after graduating college and when we bought our first house. I wanted a big desk with plenty of room to spread out and one that was visually appealing. I was very much into IKEA hacks on reddit at the time wasn’t able to find anything that I want that was pre-built…as a desk. So I dreamed up my future gaming space and started planning it out in my head. I would need space for a second monitor and a large surface for my mouse. I wanted my desk to be ergonomic so that I could avoid the chronic back pain that seemed to creep into my life when I was spending a little bit too much time at my desk. I explored our IKEA store and found each part of the desk that I had built in my mind. Instead of a desk I opted for a table top and legs for more space, I found a shelf and the legs that go on the bottoms of most of the small dresser to make my monitor shelf. It’s was a project that I gladly assembled and enjoyed for years.

I tend to update my gaming PC in stages, so a new graphics card one year and then a new motherboard/processor another. I have been building my own computers for the past 10 years, it is just like a big lego set with interlocking pieces. My desk is an extension of my gaming experience. For many years I’ve enjoyed my set up, the monitor height, the ability to push and pull the elevated shelf as I needed. Even though I loved my desk there were a few things that started to annoy me about my set up. When I added my microphone (which is my new love) it limited where I could attach it the arm. Also the legs of the monitor shelf would tend to interfere with where I wanted to move my mouse around. I enjoyed my desk but I was ready for a change.

Black desk with raised monitor shelf and Darth Vader
To my old desk: You have server me well for many years. I throughly enjoyed you but now it’s time for a change.

In my family, we are not big gift givers. So when the extremely thoughtful gift of wireless headphones needed to be returned due to my discomfort, I was left with funds to play with and the opportunity to select my own gift. My gaming set up needed a face lift! I already had some experience with desk mounted monitors with my set up at work and how my husband’s desk was set up. I wanted to free up all of the space that the monitor shelf took up and also gain a bigger range of motion to move my monitors around. So I ordered my mount!

2 Monitor Desk Mount on Amazon

I waited a few days and when I got my mount I was super excited, except there was one problem….One of my monitors wasn’t able to be mounted. My husband pointed out that now was a good time to update my monitor since they were far older than my desk was. So I put him to work shopping!

What? He is way better at finding the deals.

He picked out a BENQ gaming monitor which boasted a refresh rate miles ahead of what I had. He mentioned that this new monitor wouldn’t likely align with my old monitor on my new mount. This made me a little bit sad, would this bother me? I thought about it.

The hubby says to me “you know….you could just get two monitors”

I was surprised, “could I do that?”

Of course he would give me a smart ass response “yes, you see this box right here where it says quantity? You can make it what ever number you want and they’ll send that many to you”

I was super excited to be getting a monitor upgrade for the first time in a long while and probably the first time ever where the monitors that I was using wasn’t broken. Set up was easy since this is the 4th monitor mount that I’ve assembled. I still need to redo my cable management but for the most part everything is how I want it.

I love this more minimalist style of desk, I have a lot more room and the monitor height is adjustable to a much greater range. The whole space just feels more open. ❤ my new set up!

Farm Together keeps getting better!

I’ve been playing quite a bit of Farm Together since one of the streamers that I regularly watch played it earlier this year.  To date I have 70 hours logged for this game mostly in the early access version as they were still adding a lot to the game.  This is a farming sim with beautiful graphics, animations with robust game play and the choice to either be social or keep to yourself.  It’s created by the indie game studio Milkstone Studios by a 5 person dev team and is available on Steam.  

This is one of the houses that you can set up and decorate inside.  You also have pets that you can customize that will follow you around.

I want to start out by saying that every time I go to write down my thoughts about this game I get utterly sucked in and end up playing for hours before I can tear myself away.  I think I spent 4 hours working through my quest log and visiting other people’s farms.  It reminds me of the first time I played the Sims back in 2004 there were endless possibilities of what you could create.  You can get lost just exploring other people’s creations and chatting to people as you visit their farms.  

Farmers are working rain or shine.  Sometimes we are rewarded for working through the hard times.

I play this game on an occasional basis and it’s perfect for taking a break from the MMO grind when you just don’t want to do another dungeon run.  Every time I log in this game it gets better.  I picked this game up in an early access state but you wouldn’t know it from the amount of content that was already introduced and they just kept adding.  New animals?  yes.  New crops?  yes. Minigames and missions? YES! Player housing?  WHAT? YES YES YES.  On top of all the new systems and assets they’ve added, when I logged in today I found that a lot of the small annoyances in the game have been changed.  Dev team that listens to it’s players?  CHECK!  No more punishment for not being able to log in regularly (your crops used to die and not give you resources).  Your gas tank goes further as well!  I don’t remember getting the hybrid version of a tractor but better gas mileage is always better.

My daughter always wants to to go feed the piggies!

If you want a community to chat with or ask questions of you can join the game’s discord https://discord.gg/ngEYx4W  The always-active developer, Waaghman, posts updates and patch notes weekly as well as responds to bug reports.  The community is so very helpful with questions and there is a great screenshot thread.  Happy farming all!

Looking for Officers!

Last week I told you all about the attendance struggles that I’ve been having with my guild and I have to say that it was a lot easier to manage a guild when I had 1. more free time and 2. Had couple other people helping with the admin duties.  So how do I find people that want to sign up for work?  What benefits do you gain by helping to run a guild?

To run a successful guild it can be as time consuming as having a second job.  And while I love managing my guild and playing with my friends I also know that I only get out what I put in unless there are other people that are willing to put in their own blood sweat and tears.  In the past I’ve had those people in my circle but now that we’re getting older and busier with life, we all can’t contribute on the same level as we used to.  There’s also the game.  When my friends aren’t having fun the game it makes it that much harder to keep things going.  As of today there is only one of my friends left from when we started BFA back in August.  I have made some new friends that I’ve been playing with and hope to continue to foster those relationships going forward.

So many fond and infuriating memories from the Barrens…

The new 8.1 patch comes out today and with it will come some streamlining of systems and a boost to leveling.  The much anticipated new mini raid and the new allied race of Zandalari trolls will not be available at the start of 8.1.  In the mean time I’ve been playing with the hand full of players left in the guild running dungeons or joining pug raids while chatting in discord.  I’ve tapped the breaks on recruitment and have toyed with the idea of moving everyone back to my old guild before the merger occurred (since all that is left are a few players most all from my original guild).  Another choice would be to look for a guild that could accommodate all of us (roughly 7 or so) or I could set off on my own and get back into the competitive scene of raiding and join a new to me guild.  I’m still thinking things through and plan on waiting till the new year before I make any decisions.  

My rogue that I have solely to do farm old dungeons and lock pick chests 🙂

Looking towards the future of my guild, I’m really getting amped up for World of Warcraft Classic and want to work on creating a giant guild of active members.  The goal won’t be to raid the end game, but more so to enjoy the journey and nostalgia of the game.  The function of the guild will be to create a place for people to chat, create small groups and to create friendships.  Part of me wants to start working on building up this guild now or at least start figuring out what all is out there.  I definitely need more of a support structure and while I can’t predict or control if people will quit after making a commitment to server in a officer role, I need to do my best to make plans to keep things moving forward.  What I’m envisioning for my WoW Classic guild is about 400 active members prelaunch.  This should give us a robust base of players to collaborate with and hopefully it will give me some new friends that I can rely on for officer duties.  I want to do all the fun stuff that I love like scheduling fun community events, pvp, dungeon runs, level 1 races, etc.  

Is personal loot killing raiding guilds?

It’s been a rough couple of months both in and outside of the game.  I was sick with one thing or another for about a 2 month stretch and have finally kicked the illness!  The only thing is, now that I’m finally well again I’m tempted to invest in surgical masks to keep it that way.  My daughter brings home all forms of sickness from daycare and it just goes with the territory in this phase of life.  

Before the holidays I told you all how my guild entered into a guild merger which seems to have failed spectacularly but not in the way that you would think.  We were as egalitarian as we could be in these sorts of mergers and acquisitions.  Myself and the GM of the guild that were combining forces with entered into a co-gm type relationship which before now I would have balked at for being an smoke screen for disguising who was really in charge.  Turns out that it was me by default, since the other GM seems to have vanished into thin air.  On our third week as a new guild we had abysmal attendance and all of the former officers and big guild contributors had quit and were citing the game as the problem.  We had 30 people the first week ready to play together, and then 21 the second week and now 8 the third.  

I’m finally feeling great again, health wise, but find myself with the scraps of a guild, all my friends have decided that World of Warcraft is now boring and not worth their time (including my husband).   I still want to play, so what’s a girl to do?  For the last several weeks I’ve been joining pug raids, pug being the gamer term for Pick Up Groups, and have been enjoying these random encounters and variety of players I meet.  

I’ve been spending time on alts and should be spending time making money in the game but it’s so different from what I typically what do to make money that I haven’t spent the time to learn new methods of gold generation.  

Remember racing to a chest and hoping that you would be quick enough to grab it’s contents before the person next to you?  Oh the good ol’ days

I’ve also been day dreaming about World of Warcraft Classic and remembering a simpler time where people needed to actually show up if they wanted to get some loot.  Personal loot may very well be the death of a large number of raiding guilds since much of the incentive to stick with the same group was loot driven.  Why would anyone stick with a group if you could just walk into any guild and instantly get gear without having to go through a month long trial period or wait your turn for the most sought after items when your guild is using DKP or loot council?  What personal loot does is cater to the casual player and kills social communities that are bound together by their desire to better their characters through raiding.  It’s not all bad I guess, since I’m able to pug raid on my alts and not worry about having items I can use ninja’d away from me, which was the big argument for switching to this system.  As upsetting as dealing with this unfairness was, it pushed me to create strong ties in a community where I can play with the same people each week and make friends that kept me playing the game.  Assuming that personal loot remains a thing going forward, is WoW going to be a strong enough game to keep those casual players playing without the strong social ties that we typically create in raiding guilds?