Apr 042013

I planned on having an article for each day at PAX, as shown by my previous article that ended with “Day 1”. The realities of doing such a thing were outweighed by the fact that Saturday night is always a late night at PAX East, thanks to many of us from the Destructoid community closing out the Elephant and Castle at 1 AM, and Sunday night was a road trip to stay with my cousin on Connecticut for a few days. So much for daily reports.

The second day was definitely my most memorable of this year’s PAX for me. One of the biggest surprises for me happened while playing a demo of Third Eye Crime in the rather large indie game section. Someone stood next to me looking at the material for the game. As it turns out, he was none other than “Reverend” Anthony Burch, who I recognized immediately. Anthony is the lead writer of Borderlands 2 and the popular web series Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’? (“Reverend Anthony” was his nickname when he was with Destructoid.) When I told him how much I love Borderlands 2 and that I have over 300 hours of play time with it, he said, “Holy shit! I wrote the game and I haven’t put anywhere near that much time into it!”

One of my favorite games of 2012 was that Xbox Live Arcade release of Dust: An Elysian Tail, which I also reviewed here. I have a great respect for hand-drawn animation, which how Dust: AET was done, as well as the fact that the game was done primarily by one guy, Dean Dodrill whose company goes by the name Humble Hearts, who as he said simply wanted to learn how to program. Instead, he ended up getting recognized by Microsoft who helped to fund this experimentation into a full game with remarkable results.

Dean and Dust: AET writer Alex Kain gave a wonderful seminar about how Dust: AET came to be.  (The entire session can be seen here: start the video at around the 2 hour, 53 minute mark. Ignore the loud music at the beginning. It will go away.) It was a brilliant, funny seminar that used the Dust: AET engine to explain how the game came together. After the seminar I got several photos including some of a full Dust cosplayer, available in my Google+ photos, as well as autographs from both men on a custom autograph card that I made using the Dust: AET press kit.

I was really pleased to see that the name “Humble Hearts” is accurate. It was clear that Dean and Alex were overwhelmed by the large number of people at the seminar and seeing how many people truly love his game. Even showing them the autograph card that I made evoked a surprised look as well as “I’m so honored!” from Dean and a big smile from Alex. It was evident that both men were still trying to absorb that their labor of love is loved by so many and it was a please to meet both men and hear their story.

They also announced at the session that Dust: AET will be available on Steam in the next few months. BUY THIS GAME!

The rest of the time was spent doing what PAX is all about: gaming, playing demos, standing in long lines, overpaying for convention food and drinks, and so forth.

The large indie section was quite impressive and I found myself going back to that area often. The vast number of games that were there warrants its own article with a bit more in-depth description of what I played or watched, so I’ll save that for another post. I support the indie scene as much as I can not only through the major outlets of Steam, XBLA, and PSN, but I also support the Humble Bundle and the Indie Royale collection of indie games by donating more than the minimum whenever a new bundle comes out, even if they contain games that I’ll never play. After all, that $10 or $15 that goes to the indie developers means more to them than your $60 “license fee” to EA, Ubisoft, or Activision will ever mean.

I found myself going back to the Nvidia Project Shield area several times because , even though I still am concerned about the cost of the unit when it’s released, it’s still an impressive little handheld. The ability to remote-play games from your PC over WiFi in addition to the built-in HDMI interface could make PC gaming on big-screen TVs much easier than trying to connect a PC to the TV.

I also had a chance to talk with one of the guys there about the Sheild. He admitted that part of their big showing was to get feedback from the gamer community regarding what they like, what they don’t like, what they’d be willing to pay, what would be considered to be too expensive, and to get other ideas.

I still have some concern about what it would cost Nvidia to sell the Shield and have it be a viable option; however, while talking with him I realized that although the Shield is a Tegra 4 chipset and is therefore newer than the Tegra 3 chipset in the Nexus 7 tablet, the Nexus 7 is available for only $199 in a full tablet. If it’s possible to sell a full 7” tablet with Tegra 3 for $199, it might be possible to sell the Shield with a significantly smaller touch screen and plastic body to sell for as low as $250 and possibly still be profitable for Nvidia.

One thing that I did suggest, and the gentleman I spoke with agreed that it would definitely be a good value-add, is the ability to stream 3D over HDMI. Depending on the game, I currently use the red/blue anaglyph 3D that’s built into the drivers for my Nvidia card. I get varying degrees of success, but the idea is that the drivers are designed to handle 3D even if the game itself isn’t. If I’m streaming a game from my PC to my TV through the Shield, then why not have it do the 3D calculations like it normally would and pump it out to a 3DTV? Hell, I’d be glad to play red/blue games in 3D on my 47” TV as opposed to my 23” monitor. So, if the Shield eventually gets a 3D-over-HDMI option, you can thank me for it.

(And, no, for everything that I did at PAX I did not wait in Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls Online demo line. That was the favorite of the PAX crowd this year, so when PAX first opened every day, people streams to the back corner of the center and the line surged to a 3-hour wait within minutes of opening!)

The last day is when everything starts to wind down because most of the people who are from out of town start to leave, and Sundays are generally just lazy days for a lot of people. With the exception of Elder Scrolls Online I was able to get into a few major game demos, including a second round at Neverwinter and Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen, and a number of indie titles.

Unfortunately, this also means that vendors with products to sell start to pack up early, like Cooler Master did when I went back at 2 PM to buy a keyboard. PAX doesn’t end until 6 PM, but CM had already packed the keyboards away! Not “Cool”!

I have to admit that I’m not a fan of tabletop games. I’d much rather have a controller or keyboard/mouse in my hands than a deck of cards; but I did go through the tabletop section. Unfortunately, because PAX is meant for an adult audience, I couldn’t find any kind of tabletop games that I could potential enjoy with my kids.

Upon looking back at this post, I’m disappointed by how disjointed and inconsistent it is. The real problem with an article like this is that PAX East has so much. Many of the events that go on have had no mention here. Concerts, console gaming, original 1980s arcade games, tabletop games, and so many other things are going on until 2 AM for the Friday and Saturday shows. If I mentioned everything that can be done, this article would be several times larger than it already is, and it would sound more like an advertisement than anything else. I don’t want that to happen but trying to put everything I did at PAX into a single post would scream “tl;dr” even more than it does now.

My next article will focus on the indie games that I tried or at least watched, so hopefully that will be a bit more coherent. But at this point I think it goes without saying that if you’re into video or tabletop games, PAX East is your Mecca: you should go there at least once in your life if you can manage it.