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PAX 2013 – Day 4

We hit the road late on this first Monday of a PAX Prime, banking on crowds being smaller. As expected, the parking was far more reasonable than in the earlier days of previous years, but the crowds were not diminished. In fact, they seemed every bit as crazy as Friday. Once inside the Convention Center, we tried the Penny Arcade Merch Booth again. This time the line wasn’t at capacity, so we were able to acquire a few necessary items. Then we hit Starbucks for refreshment (another Ms. Pac Man Frap) and wandered back into the Convention Center to wait for the Expo Hall to open. Read more…

PAX 2013 – Day 1

Today was all about Peter Molyneux’s keynote, for me. Josh, Bryce, and I saw Adam Sessler at Starbucks and Jerry Holkins on the Expo floor, had a good lunch at Gordon Biersch, and did a fairly complete circuit of the chaotic Expo Hall floor, but the keynote was the best. It was also, in a way, the oddest PAX keynote that I’ve seen. Read more…

PAX 2013 – Pre-PAX

*tap tap* Is this thing on? Hello, can anyone hear me? It’s once again the time of the year where my brother flies up to Seattle and we spend a week playing games in and around the Penny Arcade Expo. I realize that I didn’t post last year–I’m sure folks really missed it–but Julie reminds me that we had a new puppy this time last year. So that explains it.

This year I wasn’t paying attention when the tickets went on sale and we were only able to snag single-day tickets on Monday. Later I managed a couple of Friday tickets from a co-worker, so we’ll only be doing two of the four (4!) days this year. That will leave lots more time for things like the Science Fiction Museum and other Seattle touristy things.

As far as PAX, itself, goes, there’s lots to look forward to! Friday’s highlight, for me, is definitely Peter Molyneux’s keynote. After that it’s all games, games, games! I can’t wait to get my hands on an Xbox One controller. Even though it has been developed just a few blocks away from my office, I’ve never seen one in person, let alone touched one. Then there’s all of the indie stuff and the new offerings from Wizards that I’ll drool over but not buy. Since the puppy is better adjusted this year, expect lots of details as the week progresses!

Mass Effect (n–1)

It’s no surprise that I’m behind in the series. I’m behind in most serieses, may they be video game, book, or television. That said, I don’t feel compelled to hurry through Mass Effect 2. The story is too engrossing, and there are too many side-quests and DLC quests that will affect the Mass Effect 3 world, that I don’t want to short-change the experience. I’ve just finished recruiting my crew and gaining their loyalty (except for the one whose loyalty quest I failed, quite spectacularly) and I’m about to move into, what feels like, the beginning of the end of the game. Perhaps by 2013 I’ll be wrapping this one up and looking for copies of Mass Effect 3 in the post-apocalyptic wasteland that our world will surely have become by that time1.

1 One series I’m not behind on is Doomsday Preppers.

A weekend’s worth: Diablo III

Last Wednesday I received an email from ‘Blizzard Entertainment’ inviting me to join in the Diablo III closed beta. A few months ago I probably would have been pretty excited to receive an email like it, but anyone who plays a Blizzard game knows how often these kinds of emails are underhanded phishing attempts. So I closed the email and jumped onto to verify. Sure enough! “Download the beta client” followed by two links, Mac and Windows. That was Wednesday. On Thursday I got home early enough to actually download the client, and then on Friday I finally booted it up and started a character.

My first character was a Barbarian, an imposing gentleman with a height of about eight feet who tears around the countryside outside New Tristram wielding a pair of axes or an enormous two-handed sword. From the very first undead monstrosity that I dispatched, one word came to mind to describe the experience: satisfying. Every bone-breaking swipe feels hyper-realistically substantial and the action comes rapid-fire. What also comes rapid-fire is progression. I played through the entire Beta questline with the Barbarian and got to around level 10. Each level brought interesting new mechanics to the class, but with a streamlined, no-nonsense approach. Gone are the five talent points that need to be assigned to a bevy of inscrutable stats (not that there’s anything wrong with that…). Instead, the character’s base progression is made without player intervention. Talents are delightful as well. They are all unlocked automatically. The only choice that the player makes is which two talents to assign to the mouse buttons at any given time, and which talents to assign to the four(?) additional number keys as they unlock. The system has already been overhauled repeatedly during the beta, but I love the direction that they’re taking.

When I finished the hour-or-two of the Beta questline, I looked around at the rest of the game. The achievements, specifically, caught my eye. There are achievements that are specific to the Beta, which is just about the most diabolic (*ahem*) thing that I’ve ever seen. So of course I need to get them. All.

I played the whole questline through twice more with my Barbarian to get him up to the (Beta) level cap of 13 (Achievement!), and then moved on to one playthrough each of the Demon Hunter (Achievement!)—an acrobatic ranged class whose twin resources are Discipline and, I’m not kidding, Hatred—and the Monk (Achievement!). All three classes played very differently. The Barbarian tends to leap bodily into conflict, swinging and shouting. The Demon Hunter stays at range, firing off showers of bolts from his twin crossbows, and leaping away if anything gets too close. The Monk dashes into the fray with debuffs and fists flying in equal measure. All three classes were extremely satisfying. I can’t wait to try out the Wizard and Witch Doctor.

The game promises to be quite a time-sink, in just its Beta form. I can’t imagine how many hours it will require when it is released.

a week’s worth – 1/16/2012

I haven’t expounded about my weekly gaming for a long time, mainly because it hasn’t been varied enough. “I played WoW some more” is only funny the first thirty times you write it. Lately I’ve done a reasonably good job at mixing things up—lots of games on lots of platforms—so I’ll try to write these things more often.

Read more…

Age of Empires Online

When Age of Empires Online was in its free beta phase, I played for several hours on a Saturday to qualify to be included in the game’s credits. Then when the game was released, I downloaded it, played a few levels, and filed it away for later. It wasn’t until this weekend that I had a chance to get back to it and really try out its breadth. Wombatopolis just hit level 8, so I think I’m ready to say a few things. Read more…


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