I finished Fallout: New Vegas recently. For whatever reason, when it first came out, I couldn’t get into it. This was exceptionally odd given how much I like Westerns and how many hours I spent in the Capital Wasteland. Perhaps the significant time that I spent in Fallout 3 made it harder to love a post-apocalyptic RPG again. At any rate, my character (‘Ace’; ugh) just sat there, collecting dust. Then a few weeks ago I had a sudden urge to play a Fallout game. Read more…
It’s Day 4 of PAX and we just got home from a frankly exhausting day. Guess I’m just not as young as I used to be.
We started out earlier than usual. Typically PAX is on Labor Day weekend, so the Monday is a holiday. That means less traffic and more parking. But today isn’t Labor Day. It’s just like any other Monday and that means traffic galore! We got out of the house by 7:45a, and the drive still took a solid 45 minutes, but there was plenty of parking left at the convention center when we got there.
Car stowed, the first order of business was the Traditional Starbucks Trip. The Starbucks next to the convention center always gets into the spirit of the convention and sells themed drinks. This year’s were a pair of drinks advertising… er… celebrating Star Wars Battlefront: The Yoda and the Darth Vader. I opted for the Darth Vader, which proved to be more pink than I was anticipating. It wasn’t the pinkest Frappuccino that I’ve ever had–I had the Kirby a few years ago, after all–but it didn’t exactly scream Sith. Still, it was a sugary way to start the day.
Once we were sufficiently juiced-up, we headed down Pike, took a left at Third, and arrived at our next destination: Benaroya Hall. PAX has grown over the eight years that we’ve been attending, from a part of the convention center, to all of the convention center, to all of the convention center and some nearby hotels, to its current state: all of the convention center, several hotels, the Paramount, AND Benaroya Hall. Benaroya Hall serves as the ‘Main Stage’ for the largest events at the show, and this morning that meant a Q&A with Gabe and Tycho. We were surprised to find a tiny line for the 11:00a show. Typically those main theater shows have some of the longest lines in the convention, but we were within 20 people of the front of the line. AND there were chairs. I’m not complaining. We sat in relative comfort playing video games until they let us into the theater. The actual Q&A was smooth and funny, but relatively subdued. No doubt this was due to the relatively early hour and the fact that it was the fourth day that they had been doing Q&As and other appearances around the convention. This was also the first time that we’d seen the new format for the Q&As. It used to be Gabe and Tycho would walk out on stage and people from the audience would like up behind mics and ask their questions. This led to a variance in the quality of the questions. Some would be interesting, some would be rambling, and sometimes they would be horrifyingly awkward. Nowadays, they collect the questions in advance. People still get their questions asked, and some of the questions are still a little weird, but the flow of the show isn’t broken up by people too nervous or odd to ask their question succinctly. I’m a fan of the new format.
After the Q&A we grabbed lunch and then headed into the Expo Hall. A few things quickly became apparent:
- There weren’t any games being exhibited that we especially wanted to stand in line to play. This is fine, since there’s plenty to see without playing anything, but it’s still a little sad. Also weird, since big names like Bethesda didn’t even bring any games to the show (although Bethesda still had an enormous booth teasing their upcoming games: Doom, Dishonored 2, Fallout 4).
- The last day of PAX is not the day to go hoping to buy some hot merch item. Booth after booth looked cleaned-out, from a merch standpoint. All of the limited edition PAX stuff at the Penny Arcade booth was gone, t-shirts were only available in limited quantities, and the Fallout pin was, as the photo on the right illustrates, sold out. I’m sure the Doom pins were solace, though.
- I’m not as ‘over’ my cold as I thought that I was. A day on your feet at one of these conventions is hard on a healthy person. After eating lunch and walking a few times around the Expo hall, up and down stairs, down to Benaroya and back, I’m feeling fairly #rekt. Glad to have a couple of days before going back to work to recover.
That’s not to say that the post-lunch experience was bad! The Expo Hall was quite a bit bigger this year, with the stated goal of increasing the size of the walkways between booths and increasing traffic flow. This seemed to work, mostly. There were a few places where people managed to looky-loo their way to gnarly back-ups, but I didn’t feel like I was a part of a herd of cattle the entire time. A plus! I found a good spot to stand and watch folks play Halo 5 and it looks absolutely amazing. There’s also a lot of VR on display. I don’t think that I could care less about VR games at the moment, but one game in particular looked really clever.
One thing has become apparent with two single-day years at PAX. It’s good to go for more than one day. Unless you can get a really robust plan of things to see and games to play, it takes a day of wandering around the Expo Hall just to get a sense of what’s available. In the past, it’s the second or third day where we really seemed to hit our stride and figure out what we were doing. The first day is always such a sensory overload that it’s nearly impossible to efficiently tackle the entire show. It’s probably just the way that my brain is wired that I’d prefer to know a few things that I plan on doing, rather than finding them organically while wandering the halls, but there it is.
So PAX is over, but our Week of Games is not! My brother doesn’t fly back until Wednesday, so we still have a lot of hours to devote. If you will excuse me…
It’s also worth mentioning that, while we did not attend PAX on Friday, we still got to watch what has become one of our favorite PAX activities: the Acquisitions Inc. live Dungeons and Dragons encounter. I tell people every year how much fun it is to watch, and every year I get bemused expressions and rolled eyes in response. Probably the best response came from a co-worker: “that sounds like the most boring thing imaginable.” You’d think so, because you might imagine the stereotypical image of a bunch of dudes crowded around a table in their parents’ basement arguing over rules. It’s definitely geeky, but it’s surprisingly not boring. See for yourself, since the Twitch video is still available. It also probably wouldn’t hurt to catch up on The Lore surrounding Acquisitions Inc, which began as a series of podcasts.
Another PAX is upon us! And again, like last year, we only managed to snag tickets for Monday, the fourth day of the long PAX weekend. But we are nothing if not adaptable and we’ve found plenty of ways to fill the week thus far. As usual, my brother flew in on Wednesday. A new twist was that he basically came to stay in an influenza hot zone. Both Julie and I have been fighting, and continue to fight, some pretty serious colds.
Nevertheless, we’ve found plenty of time to play World of Warcraft and couch co-op Diablo III. My brother’s Diablo III character is so massively higher level than mine that I just run along behind him and gain levels as he destroys the legions of Hell. In WoW we started a pair of taurens in our Horde guild and played up to level 20 (so far…). Having spent most of our time in the Alliance, it’s novel to get the Horde point of view, as well.
And then yesterday, just as we were getting settled in to play some more WoW, a massive windstorm blew into the Northwest. With it came falling branches, flickering lights, and, eventually, an 8 hour blackout. Rather than letting this slow down our gaming, we cleared off the dining room table, opened up every blind and curtain, and broke out the board games. We started with a couple of games of Wrath of Ashardalon (we actually won the second one) and an exciting but ultimately disastrous game of Pandemic in which the world was completely overcome by both the Black and Blue diseases (we’d managed to cure Yellow and eradicate Red, but ran out of time).
Today we braved the post-windstorm wasteland of the Seattle Eastside to see Ant Man and now we’re back for more games. At some point we’ll need to actually think about what to do about tomorrow, since tomorrow we actually need to go to PAX(!). I’m sure we’ll manage. Somehow.
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.