Post event Post. No fancy lead-in. Let’s just get to it.
This year, I accidentally booked the wrong hotel. I signed up for the Renaissance Waterfront, not the Westin Waterfront, but after walking from the hotel to the center, it wasn’t so bad. We were spared the foot-traffic, but missed out on the convenience. But there was a benefit, as we made a friend on Friday morning while standing in the 30F weather outside the convention hall. Yvonne was attending the convention from New Jersey, and was there with her boss. Turns out her company prints the cards for Cards Against Humanity, a game near and dear to our hearts. She and I attended the Blizzard panel, while Matt went to the keynote, and Chris and Keven held down the line to the expo hall.
Blizzard: You’re Only Disappointed In Yourselves.
Blizzard’s presence at PAX was a Big Deal. They hinted at some kind of reveal. People were peeing their pants in anticipation. Our queue room was full, and people were being turned away. That Blizzard was making a reveal outside of Blizzcon was massive, at least to us, so we had to be there.
So it was a collectable card game (CCG) set in the Warcraft universe. The internet (and the room) deflates, and excitement is replaced by polite applause.
But really, what did people expect? Titan? Announced at an East coast gaming convention that was well outside the usual bombastic spectacle of Blizzcon? From what I saw, the game is pretty slick, and looks like fun, but then I remembered that gamers instantly hate things that don’t meet their expectations or cater to their whims, and it all made sense.
In no particular order, I got to lay hands on the following in one way or another:
- Neverwinter: Nothing new here. I got to drive the control wizard, completed a short area at one of the higher levels, and got a real-world bag and an “invisibility potion” (an empty bottle with the Neverwinter branding). We did get to talk with Brandon Felczer about Star Trek Online, though, which was cool.
- Marvel Heroes: We started this off at the panel, and then went down to the floor to check it out. I didn’t play it myself, but watched Keven and Matt play. It’s a Diablo-esque brawler which centers around collecting heroes. Oddly enough, you can’t buy new characters in the store!. You earn them all through game-play although you can buy tokens to increase your odds of rare character drops. Their founders program is rather convoluted and I don’t really understand it, so I’ll not try to explain it here.
- Wildstar: In all of the years of MMO games that have been compared to World of Warcraft, Wildstar looks very much like WoW. It has the same color pallet, the same blocky-like art, and while WoW is at time unintentionally funny as a result, Wildstar seems to focus on the humor. At the panel, the Carbine folks seemed more intent on selling us on the humor than they were on the reasons we’d want to play/continue playing the game. I enjoyed the demo, though; it was smooth and interesting, and talking to the devs in-line answered several questions I had. And their housing system seems very cool.
- The Elder Scrolls Online: Winner of the “Better Than Expected” award. This was the last “Must See” thing on my list — and on everyone’s list. As soon as the queue line broke on Sunday morning, several hundred geeks were speed-walking, cutting through exhibits, and bouncing off one another in an approximation of the world’s largest and geekiest bumper-pool game. As it was, our position was estimated at an hour wait; the line quickly spread around the convention hall, and was capped at somewhere around 5 hours. But the game is beautiful, and while it’s not Skyrim, it retains a lot of familiar Skyrim aesthetics. It won’t cause heart palpitations in anyone but the most rabid TES fans, but if they price it right, it’ll be a nice addition to the pantheon of MMOs.
- The NVidia Shield: I was excited to see this, and was stupendously pleased to see that it actually worked as advertised. The main purpose is not to stream from the PC; it’s to play Android games on a larger screen and a more powerful device than you have on your phone. Still, the streaming aspect worked great, and we were dumbfounded to find out that a PC with at least a GTX 660 and a laptop with a GTX660m can do the exact same thing. The streaming is an aspect of the driver package, and I suspect that the Shield’s drivers are simply taking advantage of this as a happy side effect.
- Zombie Dice: Chris bought this simple dice-rolling game from the tabletop zone, and we played it several times while in line during the weekend. Highly recommended, even for kids. It really has little to do with zombies, so it’s totally safe for the entire family.
We hit up a few panels this year.
- Blizzard: Again, STFU. Play or don’t play.
- Gazillion (Marvel Heroes): It seems like a good group play game, or a good casual play game. Keven is a Marvel/DC fan, so he was all over the founders packages, as was Matt.
- Music in Games Composers panel: THIS was the highlight of my weekend. Inon Zur, Kevin Riepl, Greg Edmonson, Jason Graves, and Jack Wall were there, which pretty much represents one of my top playlists in Spotify. If Marty O’Donnell and Jeremy Soule had been there, it would have been perfect. But all of the panelists were insanely appreciative of our attendance: there were no spare seats, and they ended up thanking us more often than we were able to applaud them.
- Gearbox: This was a more appreciated reveal than the Blizzard panel. We got to hear about the new Vault Hunter for Borderlands 2, and got a code to get it for free (a $10 USD value!). We also heard about the upcoming level cap increase, third run-though-mode, pearlescent weapons, and a tease on the fourth DLC. When they brought up Aliens: Colonial Marines, though, the room became as slient as a crypt, with only polite applause to let the panel know we were still there. I felt for the poor Geebox guy who had to talk about it: he sounded horribly nervous, and it was obvious he’d rather have been anywhere else, doing anything else, than being on the firing-line.
This year, I think there were fewer exhibitors, or else the expo space was smaller. The queue room was larger, and more space was given over to non-expo space (tables, fringe walking-space, etc). As a consequence, walking was kind of tight, although I suppose no different from previous years.
The anchor for the expo was League of Legends, for the sole reason that they had a very large booth showing live matches, always had a crowd, and as a consequence, was the loudest booth in the place. You could orient yourself based on which direction the cheering was coming from. Riot really should have had it’s own section in the complex. People would have sat there watching the matches all day.
There were booths for The Last Of Us and Watch Dogs, neither of which I stood in line for. The indie section was a big as ever, although I didn’t spend much time there this year, as nothing really caught my eye. Hardware vendors were seemingly in short supply; Intel’s booth was over in the PC tournament area which was outside the main expo hall. Conspicuously absent was local developers Turbine, although they had some kind of party on Friday I was told.
This was a bizarre, bizarre year for events. First, I heard that the representatives from Wargaming.Net didn’t even show up to their panel, and that some audience members actually took over for them. Then there was the Bethesda party debacle, in which anyone who showed up was allowed in, causing some kind of overwhelming cluster-fuck. We had some tickets for the Curse Wildstar party, but opted to spend an hour playing Borderlands 2 on the free-play PCs. From what I heard, we made the right choice.
Our Tweetup went well…sort of. Apparently, using the lobby bar as a place to hang out got leaked to the general population, as the lobby was packed by the time we got there. To make matters worse, it was “Earth Hour” that night. At 8:30, they shut down most of the lighting in the lobby, leaving us in the dim glow of peripheral lamps, and we were serenaded by some kind of hippie quartet doing cover versions of I can’t remember what. The bar service was terrible, when we could get someone’s attention, and although everyone had fun, we had disbanded by 10:30. I’m considering alternative options for next year, as it seems that our secret is out. We were in the lobby bar before it was cool.
I left this part for last because I’ve been dreading it.
Even before I got into the expo hall on Sunday morning, I just wanted to leave. The people this year were more crass, more obnoxious, more everything that’s stereotypically wrong with gamer culture than ever before. It wasn’t the crowds, and we actually met good people there this year, but ultimately, the one-off douchebaggery was piling up, in the queue lines, in the expo halls, in the panels, and even in my social network streams. People just seem to really prefer being angry, annoyed, and grumpy, and find it easier to give into the need to let anyone and everyone know about it. I cannot fathom how people claim to love gaming, yet feel that it’s more important to be negative, to be abusive to one another, and to treat one another and the hobby like absolute shit.
By the time I got home last night, I was contemplating how far I could go to sever my ties to the overall community while still retaining connections to the painfully few people that I actually love and respect. I hated gamers that much after this weekend. All of them. I wished that if all they had were negative things to say about games and about each other, that they just find another hobby. Please.
Still, this weekend was a positive experience, as it usually is. There are so many people there that the only way to deal with it is to blank them out when you’re in the middle of them so that they become background noise, allowing you to focus on the games themselves. In this mode, the people were tolerable; we were all there for the same reason, and by and large people were respectful of one another, apologizing for bumping into one another, and letting folks pass. The cosplayers were just OK this year, but they were all accommodating for those who wanted pictures. There seemed to be a lot more kids this year, and I swear there were a hell of a lot more women overall. But on the down-side, I’m going to suggest a panel for next year on proper intestinal health, because for some reason, folks had a lot more trouble with that than they had in years past.
Leaving the convention left me with a feeling that I cannot find suitable words for. When we go on vacation, we have fun because it’s a distraction. We go to amusement parks and ride the rides for that “in the moment” enjoyment, and when we finally head home, we’re more sorry that we have to go back to work the next day than we are about leaving the vacation behind. We rely on our pictures to remind us of the fun we had, because let’s face it: vacations rarely change our everyday lives.
When you’re immersed in an event that is focused on a core part of your life, though, leaving is like walking through a door that dumps you out into an alien world. The convention was the “normal”; driving home and looking at the houses near the highway and thinking about doing laundry and sweeping floors and making dinner and watching TV, and seeing the businesses where people go in the morning, sit at their desks, make small talk with the co-workers…that all just felt surreal and boring. The world around me is populated by people to whom I can’t talk about the things I like and know about. They don’t “get” it when I make a reference, and although they may tolerate some conversation on the subject of gaming, they’d rather talk about something else. There is a very deep sorrow to detaching oneself from what is more of a pilgrimage than it is a vacation, or even an event. You can’t just leave something like that behind and not be affected by the leaving.
It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for! No, the other one. The one after the other one, then. Surely this has been on your “most anticipated” list for…really? Number 223? Huh. Well, OK then.
For everyone else, then…
PAX EAST TWEETUP 2013!
That’s right, kids! Come join us at THE premier event of the PAX East event this year (after all the more important ones, that is).
THRILL! to the comfy seats!
BASK! in the glory that is the physical presence of the people you only know as weird, postage-stamp-sized avatars in your social network stream!
DRINK! overpriced drinks in the hotel lobby!
MARVEL! at the crappy decor!
SHUT UP AND TAKE MY RESERVATIONS!
No reservations needed, folks! Here’s what you need to know:
- WHO: You. Or, if you want to posess another body, your host or proxy
- WHAT: PAX East Tweetup…are you even paying attention?
- WHEN: March 23rd, 2013 at 8PM EST
- WHERE: The lobby of the Westin Waterfront Hotel (the one the convention center is attached to)
- WHY: Because we like one another online, and we’ll like one another even more when we’re all drunk!
- HOW: If you’re staying at the Waterfront, just take the elevator! If you’re staying off-site, take the shuttle. No, I will not carry you.
Le Fine Print:
To those who cannot make it this year: you will be missed These tweetups have been one of the highlights of the event for the past two years, and I hope we’ll have enough folks showing up this year so we can add a notch to the ole’ successful tweetup belt when announcing the event in 2014.
We’ve been fairly successful in the hotel lobby, mainly because after about 10PM people start drifting off to other places, allowing us to commandeer tables into some kind of makeshift-flotilla that earns the ire of the hotel staff. Sadly, getting an official bar venue has been difficult due to the various sponsored parties that reserve them far in advance. Maybe next year we can start a pool, and outbid them for a better venue, but it’s all about the company anyway, right?
If there’s one thing the shooter genre is missing, it’s humans-versus-dinosaurs. I think the reasons for such a pairing are pretty obvious, the most notable being that it’s horribly unrealistic. I mean, look at that guy over there…who brings a flamethrower to the jungle?
Primal Carnage was a gem we stumbled upon in the corner of the expo hall. It was a two sided booth that wasn’t very crowded when we got there, so we stopped to take a look over-shoulder.
The game is a team-deathmatch design (at least the map we saw was such) where one team is humans, and the other team is dinosaurs. The humans can choose from classes such as the shotgun wielding Native American, the female scientist with tranquilizer gun, the crazy Australian with a Bowie knife, the dude in the picture there with the flamethrower, and Standard Video Game Grunt #327 with Standard Military Armaments. Got to meet those quotas, people! On the dino side you have the small but obnoxiously fast Compsognathus (Compy), who can jump huge distances, the Pteranodon, that can crawl as well as fly and which can pick up the humans and drop them from great heights, the venom-spitting Dilophosaurus that will coat an opponent’s vision in disgusting green goo, and the Raptor, the dino’s assault class. There is, of course, the T-Rex, and he’s MASSIVE, but slow.
So aside from this game being the fruition of someone’s fourth grade playground games come true, the real reason I wanted to single out this game from the sea of AAA titles that we saw was that the game was a hell of a lot of stupid fun, and was surprisingly well balanced. You’d expect the T-Rex to be one bad mutha…and it is, but with coordinated effort, the humans can take it down (granted, at least someone will get eaten in the process, but that’s the price we pay). The Raptors and Compys are very hard to hit if they keep moving, unless someone mines the area, uses AoE (flamethrower), or if the biologist uses her tranquilizer darts to slow them down.
The game had some clipping issues, where the characters (mostly dinos) would pass significantly through the geometry, but overall the game was smooth and pretty worry free. Except when you’re heading out of a building just in time to see the head of a T-Rex crammed into the door, snapping his jaws at you. I almost had to change my pants at that point. The game really reminds me of the days of Unreal Tournament or Quake where there was no overhead by way of stats or unlocks or story. All you did was boot up, log in, and start blasting away for some good old fashioned…dinosaur hunting…fun…
So another PAX East has come and gone. I think that for me, this was both the best and the worst of the oh so many of these event’s I’ve been able to attend, which is a lot like saying that my trip to the Moon is both the best and worst of the dead and lifeless places-in-outer-space that I’ve visited. That includes New Jersey.
Last year, we got bumped from the cozy Westin Waterfront to a hotel across town because the Westin had overbooked. This year, we gave them the middle-finger so they knew not to screw with us again: instead of going down on Friday, we went down on Thursday. Take THAT, you greedy bastards! This was advantageous, because we were able to get to the expo floor early on Friday, which means we were in lane 12 in the queue room instead of lane 15. Seriously, some people must have camped out on the concrete floor to get a place in line. Considering how some people smelled, I don’t think I’m too far off the mark.
One of the issues I had with the event last year was that the use of expo space in the BCEC. The lanes were crowded, and once you emerged from the privacy curtains that ringed the exhibitions, you saw that there was probably about 200 feet of empty distance to the nearest concrete wall on all sides. This year, they did away with that, giving the exhibitors more floor space, which thankfully translated into the same sized footprints but more room in between exhibitions. At least it felt that way, as traffic was, for the most part, pretty fluid (except when the assholes from G4 show up and cordon off the walkways like they own the goddamn place).
Most of the panels on tap weren’t all that appealing to me. I had wanted to attend several of the D&D themed events, but found myself too apathetic to get my butt upstairs to do so, which meant that I spent more time on the expo floor this year. We covered what we think is the entire floor, and actually stood in line for several games like Borderlands 2 (got a cool shirt!), XCom: Enemy Unknown (got abducted in the middle of the night!), and Firefall (cleared for the beta at home!). One of the unexpected highlights of the time spent there was finding Primal Carnage tucked away in a corner of the hall. In this indie multiplayer shooter, you play as either a human, or a dinosaur. Hell yeah! While that might actually induce eye-rolling in some, the game felt really, really well balanced, where a good, coordinated assault by the humans could take down a T-Rex with minimal (not zero, minimal) casualties.
Some other daily things of note: I didn’t get to really scope out the tabletop section all that well this year. I always want to, but my local friends aren’t really into that kind of thing, so paying upwards of $50 on an elaborate game would be kind of a waste. There were also a lot more kids this year, I think. We’re talking age 10 and under, some of the tiny variety, strapped to the torso of a parent. And this may be anecdotal, but two thing we believed to have observed were that A) there was more cosplay this year then last, and B) the majority of the players were female, and most of those were walking around with guys who weren’t dressed up. No, I have no point, but we thought it lopsided enough to discuss it in brief at some point.
Our Tweetup went very well this year. We managed to integrate several tables this year as they became available, and got to hang out with @girl_vs_mmo, @Hawkinsa1, @Mindstrike, @pasmith, @g33kg0dd3ss, @grimnir_ (and oh man, I lost the card on which I had written his friend’s Twitter name on, so if I could get those again…?), @CreepTheProphet (and Ray, but I didn’t get if he had a Twitter account or not), and @OrwellsSmith. Once again, we closed up shop around 2 AM. Some people had to retire to their off-site accommodations, and for the rest of us, the bar had closed so we figured we might as well just call it a night.
I do have to say that my earlier feelings that PAX would cause my irritation with the “gamer culture” to flair up were mostly unfounded. It was a very pleasant experience, with the wider lanes meaning less shoulder-to-shoulder encounters with everyone around you, and I didn’t subject myself to too many panels, which meant I didn’t have to listen to audience members stumble over their recitations of their personal gaming manifestos in front of the captive industry folks. Everyone on the floor was kind and courteous, although some were rushed and spent more time looking at the exhibits when they should have been looking where they were walking.
Had it not been for the anticipation of the Tweetup on Saturday night, I really felt that I could have left Saturday afternoon and been satisfied with the amount of exposure I got this year. I decided that this year, every moment still counted, but not every moment needed to be crammed full of “being somewhere specific”. I got to see more games, spend more time with the games, and actually play more of the games this year (and spend more time in lines to do so), but I feel far more comfortable with what was accomplished this year then I had expected.
Update: It’s a week away! We’ve finalized the details, and apologies to those who aren’t able to make it
The meeting will be on Saturday, starting at around 8PM in the lobby of the Weston Boston Waterfront (the hotel attached to the convention center).
Last year, we didn’t close up shop until 2AM, so if you find that you can’t commit to the event due to previous engagements, we might still be in session if you happen to drift through the lobby later in the evening!
It’s almost here! In less than two months, PAX East will be taking place at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, snarling traffic and hopefully breaking last year’s attendance record of 69,500 like-minded souls.
Continuing the tradition (is it a tradition if it’s only happened once?), we’re bringing back the PAX East Tweetup! Actually, the “we” is “anyone” and the “bringing back” is “bringing the idea to people’s attention”.
Those who attended last year’s tweetup may remember that we had a hell of a time finding a location. Our original intended location was overtaken by a private party, and so we were relegated to the hotel lobby bar. But! It was available, and despite some evil glances from the staff, we managed to lash enough tables together to accommodate everyone who showed up. Fun was had by all, I’d say.
After the environment surrounding the convention center was recon’d last year, it was painfully obvious that the lobby was actually the best option available. Despite being a convention center, there was a noticeable lack of decent venues in the area, and those that weren’t taken over for private parties were so packed with general PAXers that it would have been difficult – if not impossible – to get everyone together. Or hear one another.
So here’s the thing: This year, we can play it by ear. We can start out in the lobby of the Weston Boston Waterfront – the hotel attached to the convention center – at 8PM on Saturday. Depending on the vibe (or if our little secret has gotten out, and the hotel bar is crowded), we can elect to migrate like a heard of thirsty water-buffalo to one of the external locations in search of a better venue.
Note: This year’s event is kind of squirrely due to the fact that PAX East is taking place on Easter Weekend. Although Saturday is the first choice, some people may elect to leave early to make it home for Sunday. If that’s the case and if people want to move the event to Friday evening, that’s totally an option.
PAX East 2011 Tweetup