It was a quiet Friday afternoon. Thresh had just finished a round of Quake II Rocket Arena and stepped out to grab a drink, and I was testing out Microsoft's force-feedback steering wheel (for a future review of course) with the awesome Viper Racing demo. Suddenly, I hear an e-mail notification chime from Den's computer. Nothing out of the ordinary, but as I'm always nosing around for juicy tidbits (and blackmail opportunities), I glanced over and un-minimized his e-mail application. The first thing I noticed was the author of the message - Gabe Newell, co-founder of Valve. The first thing I think is "Holy crap, he gets e-mail from Gabe?" So I called Den back to his desk, and we race to read through the entire message. Amidst the Christmas season rush, Valve was down to the wire and finishing up Half-Life. They had written to ask if we were interested in helping with playtesting for a few days. Who would say no, right? A few e-mails later, and we're confirmed. Score!
Our itinerary was to fly out Sunday afternoon and return Wednesday morning - short notice for everyone, but it meant we were able to see the game all the sooner. With two hours before our flight, I had a stroke of genius and decided to do my laundry. An hour and some later, and with a bag full of half-dried clothes, we raced to a cab and told Keshma (at least that was the name on his certificate) to step on it, cause we were in a hurry. To our disappointment, all he did was change lanes several times to give the illusion of passing slower cars. Luckily, we made it to the airport on time (barely), sprinted to the gate, and didn't relax until we were on the plane and taxiing to the runway.
We arrived at SeaTac around 5PM, where Doug Lombardi from Sierra was waiting for us. We checked into the Woodmark hotel, where Sierra made us some truly pimped-out reservations. No Ho-Jo in sight for this trip J He then drove us directly to Valve Software, where were introduced to some of the crew, including (but not limited to) Dave Riller, Steve Bond and John Guthrie, Robin Walker and John Cook of Team Fortress, Ken Birdwell, and Yahn Bernier. We ate dinner at the "Fish Café," a restaurant on the third floor of some building overlooking Washington Lake - very posh, and excellent food. I for one was getting spoiled already - maybe more trips up to Washington were called for!