I Read Stuff!

Hanlon's Razor: Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Panels

We did actually make it to some talks about game design and story telling. There were some very key lessons learned during these few hours. As I said before, lines form early to everything at PAX, so plan accordingly. However these lines are different than what you find at Six Flags or Disney Land.

We joined the queue about halfway back, and were immediately embroiled in a game of Apples to Apples or a discussion of Plants vs Zombies. In one line a spontaneous multi-round 'face off' occurred where the participants attempted to come up with the most creative dirty look. It was co-op too, so you were judged on how well your face warping worked with your partner's.

(As an aside, you can see us playing Apples to Apples for about a half second in Penny Arcade: Season 2: Episode 1. Sam is the easiest to spot at about the 12:40 mark.)

Once inside the theater, a harsh truth is realized. The panel's fun factor is 100% dependent on the panel leader's experience. Our first group had a couple of crazy indie developers who's games no one at PAX had played. If no one at PAX knows about your game, it might as well not exist.

Luckily, there was one lady who had worked on Assassin's Creed and Guild Wars. She had interesting comments to make, which were put into context because we'd played those games. So remember the lesson, the session name is little more than an advertisement. Make sure more than one speaker has experiences you care about.

After the session, the floor was opened up to questions. This brings up another excellent lesson. Vary your panel topics from day to day, because the questions for story telling and pen & paper RPGs are exactly the same.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Convention Floor

We got to spend a lot of time on the convention floor on Friday, hours in fact, and we still didn't see it all. We were still discovering new nooks and crannies on Sunday.



Ultimately I think the best strategy for taking it all in is to avoid lines. Generally speaking the lines formed in front of the AAA titles. These are the same titles with huge marketing departments, so you are bound to already know a lot about the game. In fact, we generally knew which games we were going to buy and which we were going to skip.

Don't spend time on games you know you're going to buy! All you're doing is exposing yourself to spoilers, seeing early development bugs, or making yourself pine for a game not due out for 6 months. None of that is good!

Look at the both setup itself! Talk to developers about where the game is going, but don't wait in a line for 5 minutes of gameplay. It'll take you that long to figure out how to invert the mouse.

It was a lot more fun to talk to some of the indie game developers, and play games like Drumskullz and End of Nations. The draw of the AAA titles was clearly the booth itself. I mean, they had a TRON light cycle and a Nazgul. What more could you want?



One booth caught our attention because there didn't seem to be an entrance. In fact the whole thing seemed designed to prevent us from seeing what in the hell FireFall was.

After circling around we found the front where they were signing people up for their newsletter campaign. This is exactly what we don't want. We want to see the game itself.

Slipping by the front lackeys we found a sequestered booth were some guy was playing the game. He was explaining the action to two other guys, so we stepped up to listen.

We liked what we heard, so we started asking questions, a lot of questions. In fact, the guy was suddenly giving us a demo instead of the original visitors. We were just getting excited about the game when we were interrupted by one of the lackeys from the front.

It turns out this was FireFall's exclusive launch, and we had just crashed a press event.

They kicked us out. (yeah, that's twice in one weekend)

But we got what we wanted! And it turned out to be an exclusive!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Consumerism

We left the main stage in search of food. This was the first true failing of PAX. What do you do for lunch? You would guess that feeding 70k would be a priority in the planning of such and event, but you would be wrong.

PAX relies almost 100% on downtown Seattle's supplied eateries. There's a small concession stand on the second floor, but I dare not call it food. We were forced to survive on Subway, Chipotle, and Jimmie Johns for lunch. It wasn't until Saturday night that we found a great local bar/flatbread place to dine.

Yes, we walked all over downtown, and yes, we had the power of the internet in our hands, but none of that really helped us fine 'the' place to eat lunch downtown.

The second major failing was swag. I brought money to burn on my soon to be fashionably geek chic daughter, and was denied. The place was jammed packed with families of all makes and models, but there was no baby attire. No baby geek jokes. No Ring of Sauron pacifiers. (Seriously, it comes with a plastic ring and rules the happiness of everyone within 100 yards. Why isn't this sold everywhere?)

The swag failure wasn't limited to kids. Sure you could jump through hoops to get some crappy free T-Shirts but nothing especially clever. Even the Penny Arcade merchandising booth was seriously limited. I can't help but think this has to do with them reorganizing their store, but they weren't carrying any of their best shirts.

In the interest of full disclosure, both Tom and I got suckered into their book + shirt sale, but we were dying to buy something!

Monday, December 06, 2010

PA Q&A

We promptly about faced and headed to the main theater. It's important to note that planning should be done on a real map, not the one handed out to convention goers. The main theater was at Benaroya Hall, a mile away. It's a lovely theater that holds 2,500 people, or 4% of the people at PAX. We arrived at 10:20 AM at the end of a line that circled the entire building and wrapped multiple times through the building. Our place in line was somewhere between 2,500 and 3,000. You can imagine our ire.

Lucky for us, there was a break down in seat management, and we were able to get into the theater by standing against the back wall of a balcony. We were clearly a fire hazard, but who cares! The developer of Wing Commander, Deus Ex, Thief, Ultima, and System Shock was on stage!

We were soon kicked out.

Not to be discouraged, we used our encounter power 'Mosey'. When activated the player is inconspicuously placed at the end of the line -- In this particular case, the end of the line of people being kicked out i.e. the front of the line of people waiting to get it. Within seconds someone left and we were in with real seats.



Yet another lesson, they clear the theaters in between each session. That means that you will be at the end of the line for whatever show is happening in that theater next. When choosing panels you want to see, realize that you can only see one of two shows separated by a 30 minute window.

Choose wisely.

That being said, they violated the rules and didn't clear the theater after the keynote. We were in prime seats for the first appearance by the internet demigods, Mike and Jerry.

This was our indoctrination to the most important lesson of PAX. The PA kids are hilarious. Not just funny, but truly and genuinely entertaining. Take a look at the schedule, and plan to attend every single time they take the stage. You will not regret it.

Think of it as an Evening with Kevin Smith, except there are two of them.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

PAX

The show floor opens at 10 AM and Warren Spector speaks at 10:30. Our plan was to hit the Guild Wars 2 booth, acquire tickets to their private talk about dynamic emergent events, and be at the main theater by 10:30. Seems like a reasonable plan except we're at a video game convention filled with people just like us. Did you know that a record breaking 67,600 people visited PAX this year? That's 25% more than the largest KU football game ever. Dangerco Field, the Seattle Seahawks football stadium, could not seat us. There isn't a major league baseball stadium in existence that could hold us.

Geek Pride!

Whoa, sorry, blacked out there for a minute. Where was I? Right, we arrived at the queue room at roughly 9 AM. As you can imagine, we weren't the only ones there.



First lesson, the queue room is a must visit. There are huge video boards run live by someone with a sense of humor. Quizzes, games, commentary on the audience, and videos abound. Waiting in the queue room was better than some of the panels we visited.

Second lesson, it isn't a queue. The show room floor is separated by a giant accordion wall. They open the wall at 4 different locations along the wall. One of those locations is at the END of the line. If you showed up at 10 AM, you'd walk right in.

Third lesson, you want to visit a private show? For Guild Wars 2, first you stand in line, a long line, to play the demo. You will then receive a bandanna for playing, which you must wear all day. If you are seen walking around by a Guild Wars 2 employee somewhere on the show room floor, you will receive 2 playing cards. You need to collect a set of 5 out of 15 total card types. You then turn those cards in... to be entered into a raffle, for the tickets to the show.

Give up, now. You'll be a happier person.

Also, it will probably be online online when you get home.


Games
GameInterestRelease Date
Civilization IV1
C&C 31
Company of Heroes1
Half Life 21
Half Life 2: Episode One1
Supreme Commander1
Call of Duty 22
Darwinia2
Dungeon Runners2
Dungeon Siege II2
Far Cry2
Galactic Civilization II2
Hitman: Blood Money2
Jade Empire2
Neverwinter Nights 22
Prey2
Psychonauts2
Sam & Max: Episode 12
Titan Quest2
Dark Messiah Might and Magic3
Defcon3
Heroes of Might and Magic V3
Indigo Prophecy3
KOTOR II3
LEGO Star Wars3
Marvel Ultimate Alliance3
Space Rangers 2: The Rise of the Dominators3
STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl3
Stubbs the Zombie3
War Front3
Warhammer: Mark of Chaos3
Infernal35/8/2007
Shadowrun25/9/07
Pirates of the Burning SeaM6/1/2007
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars?6/5/2007
Two Worlds?6/26/07
Sins of A Solar Empire?8/1/2007
BioShock18/21/2007
Mass Effect19/7/07
Age of ConanM10/30/07
Crysis1Fall 2007
Elveon?Fall 2007
Half-Life 2: Episode Two1Fall 2007
Portals1Fall 2007
Spore1Fall 2007
Stranglehold?Fall 2007
Tabula RasaMFall 2007
Team Fortress 22Fall 2007
Dragon Age?Winter 2007
Fable 2?Winter 2007
Field Ops?Winter 2007
Halo Wars?Winter 2007
Gods & Heroes: Rome RisingMWinter 2007
Haze?Winter 2007
Hellgate: London1Winter 2007
HuxleyMWinter 2007
Kane & Lynch: Dead Men?Winter 2007
Left 4 Dead?Winter 2007
The AgencyMSpring 2008
Empire Earth III?Spring 2008
Guild Wars 2 MSpring 2008
Jericho?Spring 2008
Sacred 2?Spring 2008
Savage 2?Spring 2008
Time Shift2Spring 2008
Universe at War: Earth Assault3Spring 2008
The Witcher?Spring 2008
CellFactor?2008
Darkest of Days?2008
On The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkeness: Episode 122008
Warhammer OnlineM2008
Alliance: The Silent War??
Alone in the Dark??
Assassin's Creed??
BioWare MMO??
The Crossing??
Dungeon Hero??
Fallout 3??
Lego Batman??
Mythos??
Overloard??
Space Seige??
Culdcept SagaPC??
Gears of WarPC??
God of WarPC??
Beautiful KatamariPC??
OkamiPC??
Resistance: Fall of ManPC??
Odin's SpherePC??
Castle CrashersPC??

1 - I will buy it
2 - I'll buy it at discount
3 - Other people think it's good, but I wasn't interested when I first heard about it
M - Mainly Multiplayer. See if friends get interested.
? - Find out more about this game
PC? - Will it be released on the PC?