Been a hectic week around here, so I just now am getting around to posting a PAX report. Just my personal experiences…
Photo-heavy. Click through for the write-up and pictures.
Things I saw:
Warren Spector’s keynote. Was very excited to hear him speak. Funnily enough the people behind me in line were just in line because the long line looked interesting to them, but had no idea who he was. His talk was one-half autobiography, one half excitement about the potential future of games as a medium. He showed a slide with Farmville on it, just because he wanted to be the second person booed at PAX. Though his point with it was that he believed social games such as Farmville do a lot to help games be accepted by the mainstream.
Funnily enough, from his photos, I own a Disney art book that he also apparently owned in college. I took a look at the date it was printed – 1975. He has some powerful Disney fan cred and seems thrilled to be working on a Mickey game.
Did get to play Epic Mickey as well. Enjoyed the platforming and the throwbacks to old Disney cartoons!
City of Heroes panel. I’m a long-time subscriber and CoH is my only MMORPG. I’ve even resisted World of Warcraft. However, I haven’t played CoH/V very consistently for many months. Was interested in learning a bit about Going Rogue to see if I wanted to come back in. I very much do, but, time constraints and so many games! It was cool getting to meet some of the devs; a few were there last year, but some like War Witch were not and as far as game authorship goes she’s an example I use a lot in my classes because of her awesome stylish take on game dialogue and content creation.
Both concerts. I’m a fan of the nerd music.
New Mortal Kombat. Played as Mileena. She comes across as really skeevy in this version and even I was grossed out a bit by the things I was making my avatar do. That, I’m sure, is intentionally designed of course. I’ve always liked Mortal Kombat and I’m not easily offended, but that was just an observation. They have this thing going on in MK with in-game battle damage that I’m on the fence about. On the one hand, it’s cool that the fight actually seems to do real damage to your character and makes them look like a mess by the time it’s all the way over. On the other hand, the battle damage slowly starts to cover up the iconic costume and look of the characters I like to see, which is sort of disappointing. Maybe there’ll be a way to turn it off.
Marvel Vs. Capcom 3. I’m terrible at the Marvel Vs. Capcom games to be honest, but I adore everyone in the cast and in particular I’m a huge fan of Deadpool, so I will probably get the game anyway.
Behind that booth, Justin Wong beating about 20 people in a row in Street Fighter IV. Just interesting to watch, at least for someone like me who enjoys seeing high level play but probably isn’t going to reach it any time soon. I also saw the fancy Chun-Li branded sticks, but beauteous as they are I can’t justify getting one to myself until I’m maybe a little bit better at the game.
Sonic 4 and Sonic Colors. “It looks like they’ve finally gotten the hang of classic Sonic! Let’s all get our hopes up!” (There is a complex implication in the use of the little sarcasm airquotes.)
Fable 3. Looked like Fable 2. I liked Fable 2 so I’ve been keeping my eye on this one. I was amused by the placeholder art for NPCs.
Final Fantasy 14… actually I went to the Squaresoft announcement panel on Friday, because, well, here was my thought process: “An ‘TBA’ panel from Square? That might be something amazing!” It turned out to be games that I already knew about, though it was footage I hadn’t seen from either.
I have a few words to say about both demos that they showed. Either it was an intentional special slow-mo effect, or Final Fantasy 14’s beautiful intro cinematic was dropping frames like crazy. Now at first I really was interested in the world it described. It had some generic fantasy trappings – you all meet in a bar; there’s halflings, except they have cat-ears! – but I kind of liked that about it. The idea of walking in to a world that at least feels partially familiar and almost home-like makes it seem more down-to-earth. However then the cut-scene kind of moved into a giant insane chaotic air battle and it sort of lost me. I guess I have officially lost interest in the anti-gravity, wire-fu way that SquareSoft depicts Final Fantasy combat these days. (While I was waiting on line for this panel, I played Dissidia, but that is a whole other entry.)
From here they showed the opening cut-scene from the game, and the pitch was something to the effect of “as you can see, your character that you create is a real driving force even in the cut-scenes.” But I didn’t get that impression at all from actually watching the thing. Sure, your character that you create is PRESENT in the cut-scene, but your character doesn’t actually really enact any events. She (or he, but the shown was a female) instead sort of gets to stand mutely by and look astonished while voice-acted NPCs are the ones actually doing things. It’s cool to see a hi-rez player-created character in a cut-scene at all, but it seems sort of disappointing that your major hero-type character is still taking a back seat to NPCs because of voice acting limitations.
The second demo was the new Deus Ex. Memorably, it crashed. That’s okay, though; honestly, to me, it looks great, once they get the bugs out. It seemed to have most everything I liked about Alpha Protocol in a more cyberpunk-like environment. Put side by side with FF14 this interests me a lot more.
The combat part of the demo was jacked up so that the player character had all the cybernetic upgrades, so that the cool stuff in the game could be shown off right away. I know when I actually play it they’ll make me get XP so I earn the upgrades one-by-one and I can’t do everything that’s cool in this demo. In a way that actually makes me feel kinda sad, like it’s a missed opportunity. Some time some developer should just give a player all the cool powers up front and see if that breaks anything.
Moving on… Spy Party. I had been looking forward to checking this one out! I caught some of the tournament they were doing at the end of the con, and let me say it’s pretty intense.
D&D’s new Red Box. Did a quick Dungeon Delve to see how it played. Seems ok, though not a product I will pick up on account of already running a full 4th edition game.
Interactive Fiction’s “secret” Suite. Just to check it out (I had accidentally missed the IF panel just due to running around too much and too much to see). When I dropped in, they were playing Action Castle. There is a Fishing Pole here.
Panel about the Humble Indie Bundle. Just for the fascinating sales stats.
A DeLorean. Okay, Telltale Games was just all over this place with the advertising for their series new and old. I have generally positive feelings about them, though the only bundle I’ve picked up in full so far is Strongbad.
Fallout New Vegas. Looks good. I mean it looks like Fallout 3 and Alpha Protocol had a baby, right; what’s not to love? (If you liked those games I mean. I did.)
Kinect. Specifically played the goofy little sports suite that they have for it. It was cute and fun in a large group of people, but that kind of game does not really constitute a day one purchase for me. Maybe if they come up with some more compelling uses for this experience.
Super Scribblenauts! It … looks like Scribblenauts but more super! What struck me the most was how much bigger their booth was this year
Finally, the thing all the big media outlets can’t wait to report on: lots of cosplayers! I like to take cosplay photos of people doing things the character wouldn’t do rather than “posed” ones, but I got a bit of both. I often feel that I would love to go cosplayed myself some day, but I’m a little too old for it and too professional, right? Though I’m seeing a Halloween costume, the one day in the year when grown-ups like me can still get away with it…
And there were a lot of other things I saw, but that’s mostly hitting the highlights. If you’re wondering if I saw X thing or Y thing I didn’t mention, it’s possible, except for the exceptions I’ll list below…
Stuff I intentionally took a pass on:
…anything with a line that looked like an hour or more just to play it. That means I didn’t play Duke Nukem Forever. I saw the booth, and can confirm there is a game there and that it exists, but it was a tough crowd to fight through to get a better look at it. The internet at large knew the game was there before I did. I’ve told this story a million times already out loud, but, I didn’t know about DNF until I physically walked up to the big black booth, and asked someone, “What is this line for?” “Duke Nukem Forever.” “…No, seriously, what is this line for?”
Getting something signed by the PA guys. I wanted this, but the line again was just too darn long for me to get in to. Instead I walked off to the side and checked out this cool Diablo-like game being made by some fellows out of New Zealand. I’ll link up to it once it actually gets launched, looked very neat. [EDIT TIME: here is the game, finally, being covered somewhere other than here! Path of Exile. I was pretty impressed by it but it was another one of those “hidden demos” you had to stumble on.]
City of Heroes’ party… okay, I didn’t really intentionally take a pass, more like, I had a concert wristband already, wanted to see JoCo, and just can’t physically be in two places at once. More than one person has reccommended a Time Turner for me in recent times, citing successful use by one Hermione Granger of Hogwarts. I can see how this item would definitely enhance both my congoing experiences and my day on the job.
Stuff I missed, out of stupidity of not realizing it was there:
The Witness. Jonathan Blow, you are a sneaky person, not announcing your game and hiding it right over there by Monaco! I could slap myself on the forhead for walking right by that at least twice and not checking it out.
The Minibosses. I feel really stupid about that one! I stayed for Metroid Metal’s set at Friday’s concert, and at some point they mentioned “The Minibosses are here.” Are they? They weren’t on the program, I thought. So I look and no, nothing at all is really explained on the program, so, I assumed they were just there in the AUDIENCE, which happens sometimes, and left after the Metroid Metal set. It was already pretty late and I had some jetlag to contend with. To be honest, it would’ve been nicer if the communication about which concert acts were happening when was a little better. I realize that to some extent, a lot of that stuff isn’t figured out until the last minute though. I still regret missing this set because I basically own all their music and would’ve enjoyed seeing their show… so I hope I get another chance.
The Old Republic MMO. It was actually there last year. I thought it was almost done then. Turns out it was here this year and almost done now? But I just missed it with all the other stuff. My hopes really weren’t as high for this one as some people’s are. Maybe just because I’ve never been all that interested in Jedi.
Finally, for the “woes” section, my camera broke! The last photo I got was myself with Jonathan Coulton at the Bandland table. Not a bad photo for the camera to go out on, and I managed to pull all the photos off the memory card, but it took some doing.
Overall a great convention, but I’m pretty tired too. Most grown-ups are going to ask me if I saw much of the city while in Seattle, and the answer to that is no. I did get to see it when I went out last year though, but this year I spent all of my time at the convention or its surrounding parts.