Mar 222013

For those who are not in the know, PAX East is the biggest gaming convention (both video and board games) on the east coast. It’s the sister convention to PAX Prime, which is held in Seattle, and the newest addition, PAX Australia. All of the PAX conventions are the brain-children of the on-line comic Penny Arcade.

(To see the photos that I took at PAX, please see my Google+ album here.)

The first day of PAX for me is primarily exploratory. I usually don’t partake in game demos, but I took an exception to this today and sat in on demos for “Assassins Creed 4” and the new “Splinter Cell” game. (Of course, I also preordered them while I here, getting free t-shirts in the process. Hey, if I’m going to buy them anyway, I might as well get free stuff from it.)

PAX East has definitely grown from last year. The video game section now takes up 3/4 of the convention center. The last quarter, which was open with tables and a small food court for the past few years, now has over 1/2 of that space taken up by the tabletop game section.

As usual, the cosplayers were out in force with several iterations of Chell from “Portal 2”, the Ghostbusters, and several variants of characters from “Borderlands 2”, “League of Legends”, the upcoming “Bioshock Infinite”, and the “Mass Effect” series. There was even a very accurate Bloodrayne walking around.

One highlight for sure was talking with the developers for “Sanctum” and the upcoming “Sanctum 2”, which I did play because I love the original. I won a Facebook contest last year to design a weapon for “Sanctum 2” which netted me a box copy that was autographed by all of the developers. I brought the box with me and both of the developers that were here recognized it, which was cool. It’s a really great game and I recommend it to anyone who likes tower defense and first person shooters. The one developer said that they would have been happy if they sold 5,000 copies or maybe 6,000. So far, they’ve sold over 600,000 copies!

As a big supporter of indie games, this was really great to hear. I also had a chance to talk to the guys who run Indie Royale, a pay-what-you-want program (above a certain minimum) that offers at least five indie games for as little as $4.50. That’s not “each”, that’s “total”, but of course they hope that you won’t be a cheap bastard by paying only the minimum. Again, as a big indie supporter I never pay just the minimum, and it was cool talking to them about how they come up with the various packages.

The big disappointment was the announcement of a new game from Blizzard, which ended up being nothing more than a collectable card game, like “Magic the Gathering”, but in the “World of Warcraft” environment. I don’t play these types of games and was hoping for something more “Diablo” based or at least along the line of how “Diablo” plays.

One thing that I did try out is the upcoming NVidia Shield and, frankly, I don’t think it will be successful. Yes, the graphics were smooth and very fluid; the screen was bright; and it’s a lightweight unit. The feel of it left something to be desired, though. The analog sticks do not have as much distance to move as do PS3 or Xbox 360 controllers, and it just didn’t feel like it fits the hands as well as console controllers do. Anyone who has a Tegra 2 or Tegra 3 tablet with the NVision app will recognize the interface immediately. I just don’t see how they can sell this for less than $400 (they still haven’t announced a price point), but I think most people will consider that to be too expensive for what it offers. The Shield is only for the hardcore gamer, I think, especially when Tegra 3 tablets like the Nexus 7 are only $200.  I guess we’ll know for sure once they finally announce a price.

Other than that, tomorrow will be a bit more hectic because all of the people who had to work or go to school today will be here, so it will be far more crowded than today. Sunday’s usually the easiest day because most people leave early to catch planes or trains to get back home. But it’s still worth coming here at least once if you’re a true video or tabletop gamer. (Casual and Facebook-only gamers need not apply.)