Late Post PAX Write-up

At the end of August a friend and I hopped on a plane to Seattle for our first PAX. I’ve never had so much fun spending three days with 70,000+ people in a confined space, but sadly it seems that those number of people bring in larger numbers of diseases which is what has delayed my PAX write-up for over two weeks. So, as a first time PAXer with a delayed write-up, I thought I would approach the issue by writing about what has stuck with me most about PAX 2011 now that some time has passed.

The first thing that comes to mind in remembering PAX was how the first day lineup for the keynote with David Jaffe, the Q&A with Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik the creatures of Penny Arcade, and finally the Rooster Teeth panel was amazingly worth waking up at 6:30 in the morning. After waiting in line from 7:30 until the opening at 10:00, we had made a new friend in line, got second row seats, and all three panels were very entertaining. David Jaffe (creator of God of War and Twisted Metal), who I have no great interest in as a gamer gave an entertaining keynote-turned-motivational-speech about finding and following the inner voice that drives you forward and leads you to a life you are proud of and enjoy. I think some of the audience may have found it cliché but I found it to be a positive and entertaining start to an Expo that is really all about doing what you love. The following Q&A with Jerry and Mike was truly a highlight of the show, with people from all around the world standing and asking questions that ranged from serious good questions about Penny Arcade to “could you ask Wil Wheaton, to ask Felicia Day to look at my manuscript” disasters. After that comical hour, finishing off with the Rooster Teeth panel provided a preview of their new episode of Red vs. Blue and a welcome amount of silliness.

The Firefall logo. Look familiar to anyone else?

Once we hit the show floor a few booths visually dominated the others. The Firefall booth stands out to me as the biggest over-selling of a game at the show. Their booth was huge and there were signs with the Starcraft-ripoff Firefall logo everywhere. However upon playing the game, it struck me as a fairly generic shooter that was developed primarily for 3rd person while it had no reason not to be in 1st person. The game felt felt a bit like Team Fortress meets Halo: Reach, only not as nicely tuned as either.

A quick photo I snapped of the Skyrim dragon. I want one for my lawn.

On the other hand, The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim deserverd the giant dragon looming over their booth. We were able to rush to the line first thing on the last day of PAX getting far enough ahead that we only had to wait about half an hour to try Skyrim. I spent the entire 10 minute demo trying to climb as high as I could up a mountain, found and defeated some bandits, and in the end barely scratched the surface of everything I wanted to try in that world. The game is gorgeous however, and for fans of Oblivion or previous Elder Scrolls games it looks like Skyrim will provide another way to sink days and days into a video game.

Counter Strike: Global Offensive, the new version of Counter Strike soon to hit most platforms, generally had about an hour wait for the short multiplayer demo, but was well worth it for the free shirt and CS:GO beta key. We ran that line multiple times to get beta key’s for friends. I’ve never been very good at CS myself, but the game seems to me to be a well done console friendly remake of the CS experience, intense firefights, weapon buying, bomb planting, and all.

Most of the small or indie games at PAX had lines that tended to be 10-30 minutes, instead of 1-4 hours, and often provided excellent demos. Of these Twisted Pixel’s new Kinect game The Gunstringer was one of the most fun. My friend and I got to play co-op, pointing our right hands at the screen like a toy gun, flicking up to fire, while one of us used our left hand as if we were holding a marionette to control the movement of the character. The Gunstringer seems to be an on-rails shooter with humor only matched by its whimsy, and has largely increased my desire to own a Xbox Kinect. Also of note was Retro/Grade by 24 Caret Games. This space shooter meets music game is very difficult to explain so I suggest looking up videos online, but the basic idea is that you are playing a side-scrolling space shooter in reverse time. Best played with a plastic Rockband or Guitar Hero guitar, players press various note buttons to move the ship onto different tracks, and as time goes in reverse you must strum the guitar to absorb the shots that your ship fired in the past, and dodge the enemy shots coming from behind that your ship debatably already dodged. Like I said, it’s hard to put into words, but the gameplay matches the music and provides a take on the music/action genre crossing I hadn’t encountered before.

There were more great panels to see then there was time, and I missed many that I think I would have enjoyed. Aside from the initial Q&A I’d have to say that I most enjoyed the live Weekend Confirmed podcast, and I’d like to give them a plug. I’ve tried out lots of gaming podcasts and Weekend Confirmed is the only one I never get tired of. Garnett Lee runs an excellent show. Give it a try if you haven’t.

There really is too much much at PAX to mention everything that is good, but these are the games and experiences that stuck with me as the best of the best. Any gamer who can should try to get to PAX at some point, it’s a great place to not only have fun, but I came away with some new friends with similar tastes. Just a warning to anyone who flies to PAX however, bring as much empty baggage space as you can, you’ll need it with all the swag you’ll collect.

This is only some of what I came home with.

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