Up early and out of the house by 8, we made great time to the convention center and found the parking lot barely half full. We made our usual stop at the Starbucks just outside the convention center to see what PAX-themed drink they’d thought up. This year, it was The Kong Frapuccinno:
It was no Ms. Pac Man Frapuccinno, but it was pretty tasty. Bananas (of course), chocolate bits, and (maybe) hazelnuts. Caffeine and sugar managed, we headed back inside and took up a pretty solid position in the line room. In Line Entertainment was quite a bit different this year. In years past, there was a violently loud reel of ads and information blasting, along with beach balls flying. This year, the room was almost sedate. A bit before they let us in, a League of Legends hawker did scream at the attendees for a bit, and there were a few Enforcers making their ways around the periphery, challenging folks to games of skill and chance for fabulous prizes. But all in all it was on the verge of being ‘chill.’ I happily stood and raked in the Street Passes as fast as I could consume them.
Once inside the Expo Hall, we made a quick circuit. All of the usual players were in their usual places; the Behemoth was just inside the skyway, with Microsoft and Sony next to each other on the other side of the skyway. We perused the Blizzard booth and the Indie Megabooth. Even the Expo Hall seemed different this year. In years past, there’s been a steady increase in the size and volume and overall sensory overload of the Expo Hall. This year, I’d swear that the booths were shorter, the walking lanes wider, and the noise and flashing lights were turned down to a minimum. I wouldn’t say that it was entirely pleasant, but it was a vast improvement.
Once we’d gotten the lay of the land, we headed back towards the front and got in line at The Behemoth’s booth to play Game 4. The line seemed reasonably short, compared with lines I’ve stood in for games in the past, but it still took us almost two hours to get to the front of the line. This is because, as I learned, the custom PAX demo had a ton of exposition and took roughly twenty minutes to complete. When it was my turn I was led to a cow-spotted stool in front of a bizarre arcade console with an Xbox One built into it. The controls were a joystick, a giant green button, a smaller red button, some other…buttons, and a big Y-shaped lever. Headphones on, push the big green button, and I was treated to the narrator from Battleblock Theater filling me in on the game world. Yes! The game is classic hex turn-based strategy. The controls are exceedingly simple. During your turn, you move each of your characters to a new position. When they’re in the positions that you want them in, you pull the great big lever and your turn ends. Then all of your characters that are in range of enemies will attack them. Then the enemies go. Then you go. Then the enemies go. Then you go. Then you kill everything. The narration and sound were hilarious, there are all kinds of bizarre customizations and upgrades, and the whole thing is kinda Roman. I think. There’s also an enormous space bear. Man, I could really go for some more of it right now.
By the time we were done with the line and the game, it was lunch time. Again, the secret to eating lunch at PAX without standing in line is to walk at least one block in any direction. The food places within sight of the convention center area are zoos. Walk a few blocks and things become exceedingly civilized. We went to Pacific Place and ate at Mexico Cantina y Cocina. Full of burritos and chile rellenos, we headed back into the Expo Hall. This time we did a circuit of the tabletop areas and then headed back into the main hall. We didn’t wait in any more lines that afternoon–one 2 hour wait is enough for me, per day–but we did get to see plenty of gameplay for games like Heroes of the Storm, Sunset Overdrive, and Halo: The Master Chief Collection.
Other than that, we just kinda browsed and walked and drank it in. I did break down and buy my first Pinny Arcade pin. I don’t really ‘get’ the pin trading and collecting Thing. I never did it at Disneyland, so I didn’t have that nostalgic element to drive me, and the madness of trading seems like something I’d rather avoid. But the opportunity to get my talent pipes was too good to pass up.
Satisfied that we had seen what we wanted to see, and convinced that we weren’t interested in waiting in line to get hands-on time with another game, we took our leave of PAX for another year.
Day Two just wrapped up. Bryce and I weren’t at the Expo today, nor were we there yesterday, but I still feel as though we’ve been celebrating the spirit of the event. We’ve basically been playing games for two days. Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition has entered prominently. We both transferred our characters from the 360 edition of Diablo III so Bryce’s barbarian was starting at level 60 and my witchdoctor was starting at level 30-something. By the time we were done with those characters, Bryce was at 70 with 20-some Paragon levels and I was at 68 or 69. We also managed to clear an Xbox One Challenge–the limited time no-gamerscore ‘achievements’–for beating Malthael in the first week of release, which is the first time I’ve gotten one of those. There has also been plenty of time for split-screen Mario Kart 8–note: bloopers are way more chaotic with split-screen than they are full-screen–and World of Warcraft.
The thing that had me most bummed-out about missing Day Two this year was that we’d be missing the Acquisitions, Inc. live Dungeons and Dragons show for the second year in a row. Luckily, Twitch had our back! I hadn’t even been paying attention, but there’s apparently been a Twitch livestream of PAX going on for the entire event. So we just got done watching the entire D&D show live on our Xbox One. It wasn’t the same as being in the theater, but it was still an awful lot of fun. I’ve told a few people about these Acquisitions, Inc. shows and the common response seems to be “Why would you watch someone play D&D in person? That sounds awful.” I agree, it does sound awful. But it isn’t. It might help that I started out listening to the podcast D&D games, but I think you could jump right into the live ones. You start to warm up to them immediately–these are funny folks, with some great guests–but the first time someone rolls a natural 20 (or Jerry rolls a natural 1) the whole thing gels. Every die roll is a chance for something awesome or terrible to happen and Celebrity DM Chris Perkins will make sure to get the most out of every one. It’s a unique experience and I’d recommend giving it a chance.
Tomorrow, we’re giving the Xbox One a bit of a rest and going out to the movies. For part of the day. Then more games. By the time Monday rolls around, our actual in-person PAX day for the year, we’re going to be so tired of holding controllers that we might not be able to play any games. Haha, good one. We’ll still play all the games.
Here we are again, on my Ostensibly-Video-Game-Focused-But-Really-Just-PAX blog. PAX 2014 has come out of nowhere and blindsided us. Suddenly I’m on vacation for a week from work and I’m picking up Bryce at the airport in mere hours. Yipes!
Just like last year, PAX is four days long. Also like last year, we blinked and when our eyes reopened there were only Monday tickets left to the show. Unlike last year, I wasn’t able to secure additional tickets. So unless a pair of Saturday or Sunday tickets manifest on my desk via massive quantum unlikeliness, we’ll only be attending ONE DAY of PAX this year. What’s more, after dutifully attending the keynote on the first day of PAX for six straight years, I’ll be missing this year’s presentation by… um… the keynote by… *actually has to check http://prime.paxsite.com/* oh hey! Mikey Neumann! Ah well.
With only one day to spend at PAX, constructing a viable schedule will be more important than ever before. There will be no “eh, we’ll come back to this.” There is no coming back! Luckily (to look on the bright side) there’s not a lot on Monday’s schedule that’s screaming out at us as must-sees (I might drag Bryce to get something autographed by Patrick Rothfuss; we’ll see). In fact, we may end up spending the entire day roaming the Expo Hall playing games. This might be a great idea. Blizzard will be there this year, after being conspicuously absent for a while. I’m not sure who else is going to be there, since I haven’t seen the official Expo Hall map published anywhere yet. But it usually does come in a little hot. I’m sure that The Behemoth will be there with something to show.
There’s also always the SWAG. This year, there are a few Pinny Arcade pins that look kinda neat (Adventure Time! also, are those… pipes?) and I’m sure that Wizards of the Coast will be in full 5e blitz mode.
In addition to the time spent at the actual show, there’s also plenty of geekiness to get up to. Microsoft is hosting an event on Thursday in building 92 on campus that’s going to show off ID@XBOX games. So that sounds pretty cool. We also have a few gaming-related goals in mind for the next week (Diablo III: Ultimate Evil edition on Xbox One will figure prominently) and there’s plenty to get up to around the Puget Sound.
Now’s as good a time as any to stop typing words and get to prep.
(I found this as an unpublished Draft so I’m just going to finish the sentences and publish it. For posterity)
As far as PAXes go, this one was kinda weird for us. Probably owing to a few factors:
- We only had tickets for 2 of 4 days. This meant that we couldn’t go see the Acquisitions, Inc. show, and we only had two days to soak in the Expo Hall.
- I was getting sick, and sick, the whole time. I don’t think it was PAX Plague, because I was already feeling a little crummy on Friday, but it still made it a little harder to enjoy things.
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…
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…
*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!