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PAX 2017 – Day 1

I continue to be rubbish with two things:

  1. Writing about anything but PAX on this blog
  2. Planning for PAX more than 24 hours before it starts

This year, as last year, we have passes for all four days, so we set out to take it relatively easy so that we survive the entire weekend. And yet, as I write this, a couple of hours after getting home from the first day of the convention, I can barely keep my eyes open.

As usual, we were out of the house by 7(ish) to drop off the dog at his pet sitter for the weekend. Traffic for a Friday morning into Seattle was unusually light and soon we were standing in an interminable line. At a Starbucks. This year’s themed drinks were Portal related: the GLaDOS and the Cake. The GLaDOS wasn’t my kind of thing (white mocha with some chunks of things with something drizzled on it) and I can only assume that if I tried to order the Cake (something involving matcha) the barista would inform me that it is, in fact, a lie. So I ordered a nitro cold brew. My brother and I split from my wife and we headed to Benaroya to wait for the Storytime.

The ‘keynote’ of PAX has evolved over the years. Back when I started going, it was a single person, at a podium, delivering a prepared speech that was part autobiography and part rallying cry for the geeks in the audience. Then last year (maybe the year before?) they transitioned the keynote event into Storytime. There are a pair of chairs on the stage. Jerry ‘Tycho Brahe’ Holkins sits in one. A gaming luminary sits in the other. Jerry interviews the luminary, usually to comedic effect. It’s a great format and I think that it opens it up for people who aren’t really “solo rallying cry” sorts of people, but who have really interesting stories to tell.

This year’s luminary was Luke Smith, design lead for Destiny and design directory for Destiny 2. I really enjoyed his insights and his ability to laugh off Jerry’s bullshit. Sometimes when Jerry conducts an interview, he holds the interviewee in reverence the whole time. Which, let’s face it, these interviewees totally deserve. But some of Jerry’s funniest repartee comes from savaging someone, in a good-natured way of course. The dynamic played to this strength. I’ve never really gotten into Destiny, but I left the Storytime feeling really good.

Then the music hit and out came Jerry (again) and Mike ‘John “Gabe” Gabriel’ Krahulik to answer questions. I’ve mentioned it before, but the Q&As are another format that the PAX folks have refined over the years. They used to set up mics and let audience members ask questions. But this tended to create cringe-inducing situations on the regular. Now all of the questions are vetted beforehand and they read them off of cards. It removes some of the spontaneity, but more than makes up for it by keeping the whole business on track. This year’s topics ranged here and there, with a reveal about next year’s PAX East being four days long, and ending with a bittersweet question about parenting.

Back outside, blinking in the sun, and we were off to lunch. We have only a very small handful of lunch places that we generally go to. Today we went with Gordon Biersch. Yeah, it’s a chain, when there’s so much good, local food within walking distance. But we know it well, the food is good, and the beer is good. After lunch, we stopped by the Child’s Play Charity Beer Garden. I think it’s a great idea. Even better, they got local brewery Old Stove Brewing to brew a special beer for the event. The beer was very good. It’s a ‘hoppy brown’ called Zagernezzer, after an ale in the Acquisitions, Inc. Holiday Special. The location, unfortunately, was a little rough. It was in a parking lot that was a mere block from the convention center, but it was hidden behind a loud (searing both the ears and the eyes) Monster Energy Drink Extreme Energy Truck (or whatever…). So it was tough to find and, once found, was kinda noisy. There were also only a few seats under an easy-up and the rest were in direct parking lot sun. It’s clear that they are floating the idea–probably to determine if there’s sufficient interest and if people can control themselves and not drunkenly brawl into the streets of Seattle–so I hope that it catches on and upgrades to nicer digs next year.

Our final goal for the day was to sweep through the Expo Hall and snag a few pieces of choice gear that we didn’t want to miss. At the Thimbleweed Park booth I LOADED UP with a T-shirt, a pin, and a set of magnets:

Thimbleweed Park gear

Thimbleweed Park was probably my favorite game this year and the opportunity to visit “ThimbleCon ’87” was too good to pass up.

Then we went looking for Toonhound’s booth to pick up the new Table Titans book. We did a pass and totally missed it. We were standing on the side with Scott Kurtz (of Toonhound fame) came over and stood next to us.

Me: Excuse me, could you tell us where the Toonhound booth is?
Scott: *snorts* Yeah, you’re going to go down there and to the right.
Me: Thanks! *starts to walk away*
Scott: But I wouldn’t go. I hear it’s a real shithole.

All in all, it seemed like a pretty authentic exchange.

Finally, I had noticed a booth by the Living Computer Museum while walking through the Expo Hall, so I stopped back to see what they were showing. My friend who works at the museum walked us through a game of Mazewar, running on the emulated Xerox Alto that he wrote as part of his work at the museum. It was so cool to play a snapshot of first-person gaming history. It takes a little getting used to, but the game is legitimately fun once you get the hang of it.

At this point we were all quite sleepy from the day, so we jumped in the car to sit in downtown traffic for a while. I’m a little worried that we’re going to wake up zombies tomorrow after a packed day, but we’ll see. There are three more days of PAX 2017 and there’s still a ton to see.

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the curiosity continues

I still don’t know what to make of the ‘game’ that I wrote about last time, but the mystery of Kelsey Marine Salvage continues in full force. I now know that there are many of us involved and some seem to know more than others, but nobody is completely clued in. Really can’t wait to see where this is going!

a curious package

This isn’t the type of thing that I typically write about here. Let’s be honest; the type of thing that I typically write about here is lately my accounts of PAX West. No, this is something different. I can only fathom that it’s a game, so this seems like the correct place to write about it. Other than its gameness, there’s very little that I’ve been able to conclude.

Read more…

PAX 2016 – Day 4

Today is not Day 4 of PAX West 2016. I’m a bunch of days late in posting this. I didn’t write it on Day 4, for reasons that will become obvious shortly, and then it kept slipping my mind.

Day 4 started similarly to the previous days. My brother and I were up and out nice and early. Since it was Labor Day, there was neither traffic nor notable contention for parking. The day took its main nose-dive after I got out of the car. I was putting my parking ticket in my wallet when I noticed that both my driver’s license and my ORCA card were missing. I looked around on the ground and did a cursory sweep of my car. Nothing. It’s safe to say that this put me off of my game, quite a bit. Still, there’s no use crying over lost identification (and potentially imminent identity theft). Coffee at Starbucks, a stroll down Pike, and we were once again near the front of the line at Benaroya for the first show of the day, another Q&A with Gabe and Tycho. The line seemed to go quickly, owing largely to my 3DS and the now-nearly-overwhelming number of mini-games in the street pass plaza.

The Q&A was funny, as usual. The Monday Q&As have a very different feel from the Friday Q&As. Everyone is tired. The room isn’t very full. Things are a little looser.

After the Q&A we stopped by the Convention Center to see if anyone had turned in my ID. They hadn’t. So we hoofed it to Pacific Place (again) and grabbed lunch at Mexico Cantina y Cocina. I also checked at Gordon Biersch to see if they found my ID. They said they’d have the manager call back in a bit. The manager never did call, now that I’m thinking about it.

The rest of the afternoon was a bit of a blur. We stood in line to play ReCore at the Microsoft booth. We just happened to be walking by when some room opened up. The line took us about 1hr45min. The game was fun and definitely exhibits its Metroid Prime roots. Lots of toggling weapons for different enemies and quick movements. The real bummer for me during the demo was the jumping puzzle that they threw in. A finicky jump off of a robot, two relatively simple jumps, and then a complex jump requiring a dash, a double-jump, and an air dash. I saw what I needed to do, but I couldn’t get my tired, dumb hands to do it. And any miss meant doing it all again. After I’d missed the last jump a few times, watching my time tick down, with people in line watching me fail, I suddenly didn’t want to play the game as much anymore. Shortly after I finally made the jump, the demo was over and we were back on our way.

We circled a bit more and made our way out and that was pretty much it for PAX for us! The rest of the day, and the following day, were dedicated to chilling out and not standing. Oh, and the following morning I found my ID and ORCA card. They were hiding in a narrow space between my car’s seat and center console.

Until next year!

PAX 2016 – Day 3: Addendum

Another incredibly strong live D&D session from the Acquisitions, Inc. folks, filled with dragons, giants, and a serious inflammation of the urinary tract. There were also rhymes.

PAX 2016 – Day 3

Day 3 is done! At least the in-person part! My brother and I got there early again and lined up in Freeway Park. Throughout the hour and a half that we were in line, a Japanese film crew was working the crowd, getting footage for a Final Fantasy XV commercial. I hope I get to see it, because I was RIGHT up front!

At 10 the doors opened and we walked at a leisurely pace to the Microsoft booth and got in line for Halo Wars 2. When it was our turn we got onto one side of a table with another guy, and three other people got onto the other side. And we played 3-on-3 Strongholds. Strongholds is like many other King-of-the-Hill/Capture-and-Hold gameplay types, except that each location you hold is basically a microcosm of the rest of your base. You can build all sorts of units from it. So it’s really a game type that distills the typical RTS base expansion and conflict conceit.

Each player starts with a base–3 on each side of the map, in our case–and you battle over the 7 bases in the middle of the map. The team to hold all 7 for a minute, or the team holding the most when time runs out, is the winner. The action was frantic, with several of the locations being traded back and forth multiple times during our game. All the while we had a Microsoft representative in our team’s headset giving us suggestions and answering our questions. In the end, our team triumphed, but everyone walked away with a t-shirt and pin.

Then we grabbed lunch at Gordon Biersch and headed back into the Expo Hall. I really wanted to play ReCore, but every time that we walked by the Microsoft booth, the lines were capped. In fact, that seemed to be a common theme after the initial lull in the morning. After walking through pretty much the entire Expo Hall twice, taking a look at the tabletop area in the Annex, and perusing the indie stuff (omg Battletech; omg) we called it a day. Hopefully tomorrow the crowds will be more sedate and we’ll be able to play ReCore and a few other things.

But Day 3 is not completely over! Tonight is the yearly live Dungeons & Dragons game and it’ll be live on Twitch again tonight at 6:00p. I know what we’ll be doing at 6.

PAX 2016 – Day 2

Day 2 complete!

Today’s festivities were brought to you by Blizzard Entertainment. Specifically, World of Warcraft. Even more specifically, the recently-released Legion expansion.

Out of the house by 7:10a, we dropped off Benny at a pet-sitter for the rest of the PAX weekend. He’s happy to go there and we’re happy to be able to be away from the house for hours at a time, potentially late into the evening if something interesting comes up. The rest of the drive into Seattle was smooth and parking was easy. We hit the Starbucks again and got in line in The Queue. This year, and maybe last year, PAX has foregone the old Queue Room construct in favor of a long, meandering queue out into Freeway Park and back. Despite the slight drizzle and some overly-friendly squirrels, I really like the change to an outdoor setting. It’s not as nice to sit down and wait, but the setting is much more soothing. Additionally, it gives all of that space to the Expo Hall to add more goodness.

At 10:00a they let us into the Expo Hall and our party made a beeline to the Blizzard booth where we got in line to play World of Warcraft: Legion. You might be asking, “Erik, haven’t you already been playing Legion for the last several days?” Yes, I’d reply. Then you might continue, pressing the matter, “But Erik, don’t you think that’s odd?” No, I’d reply. Two things make this not-odd. For one, I got to play some Legion intro content with a class/race combination that I’ll probably never play in the game. For two, by completing the demo, I got a neat pin:

LegionPin

I don’t really understand pin collecting and trading. But I appreciate the form factor for pins that are personally relevant.

Because we got done with the Legion demo so quickly, we had time to grab lunch before our next scheduled event. So we headed out to the Seattle Westin and grabbed lunch at the Relish Burger Bistro. This set us up for an easy transfer upstairs to wait for the 1:00p Legion Panel by a number of the Blizzard Game Designers. The panel was really cool for a fan. A little bit of the background and thought process that went into the expansion, some looks forward, and, critically, the announcement of something new.

By the time the Legion panel was done, we were all buzzing with WoW goodness. Rather than risk getting (any more) worn out, we took the positivity and headed home to play some more Legion. Back tomorrow for more time actually playing video games (Microsoft booth, perhaps?) and maybe some tabletop? Who knows! Two more days of PAX have an awful lot of possibilities.