We’re running on (mostly blissful!) fumes here after an action-packed four days, so this will be a quick one….

  • Pleasant Dreams
    We talked about Mech Deck and the Boston Game Makers Guild on Saturday, and Pleasant Dreams also benefited from that game designer collective–and it offers yet another reason to be thankful for the dense goodness in the Indie Megabooth tabletop zone. In this smart and cute-but-creepy card game, you’re trying to maintain your blissful slumber while stacking the deck with nightmares to wake your opponent up. The dark imagery and clever tarot-style card design really set this game apart, and gameplay involves alternating happy and macabre images. You’re constantly counting cards in the deck and figuring out how far you can push your luck–and one of the coolest mechanics involves holding the deck under the table and blindly trying to place cards (whether good or bad) for maximum effectiveness.The game’s core dynamic is straightforward, but you get two one-time use cards each game that will completely change your strategy–and that gives this otherwise slight game some serious legs. Like any game of prediction and bluffing, repeat games with the same person are also especially fun. Check out the rules and printable version on the Pleasant Dreams site.pd
  • Pit People
    We had a great time catching up with the latest content in the demo for Pit People, the upcoming game that you might remember from last PAX Prime as “Game 4”–this being the fourth game from beloved developer The Behemoth, probably best known as the makers of Castle Crashers. (Speaking of, we are not a little excited that Castle Crashers will soon appear on Xbox One in “remastered” form.) Pit People is a “fast-paced, turn-based co-op adventure” that continues and builds on the cute, snarky art style that defines all The Behemoth’s previous games–with BattleBlock Theater’s Narrator star Will Stamper joining in again, too. Even if you normally might find turn-based strategy games too slow or intimidating, Pit People will surprise you with its snappy approachability–and that’s no accident, with the studio’s philosophy of bringing fresh takes to genres they haven’t tackled yet. It felt like forever as we eagerly awaited BattleBlock Theater over several PAXes, and Pit People will likely be no different–but it’s hard to complain when the art, music, voice work, and design are always all so perfectly baked.
  • So… How Do You Create the Perfect Panel? We’ve seen quite a few panels over the years, at PAX and other gatherings, and while some have made us smarter, happier, and more informed, others sent us politely lurching for the exit. We want to see more of the first kind, so here’s our guide to making your panel that much shinier next year:
    • Pick a topic and stick with it.
      The best panels are easy to explain. If yours takes more than a couple of sentences to cover everything you want to cover, consider trimming. Make sure all your panelists know what to expect and why they’re on board. Digressions are always welcome, but the moderator really needs to make sure that the conversation loops back to the main topic when it strays.
    • All things in moderation.
      Before you can steer the ship, you need to learn the ropes. Make sure you’ve done your time as a panelist before stepping up as a moderator, as that role requires more out of you than quick, thoughtful ad libs—already a tall order. You also need to set the tone with your introduction, keep the conversation on track, make sure all panelists get more or less equal time, monitor the audience for attention and questions, and plenty more. Some moderators are at their best fading into the background and letting the panelists shine, while others are better off mixing it up as a kind of super-panelist. Consider your style and that of your panelists, and then decide beforehand how you want to interact with them.
    • Diversity is vital.
      It’s essential to include many different voices, and yes, we have to keep saying this. It’s partly about fairness and decency and community building and all the other SJW stuff we endorse, but it’s also partly about communicating effectively (which we also endorse). Your presenters are part of your message, and if they’re all white guys, that speaks volumes—like it or not. Challenge yourself to ask for help improving your panel’s diversity; it will only be awkward until it’s not anymore, and you can help us all get there.
    • Choose panelists with care.
      This is where things get tricky. It’s not completely essential that panelists have strong public speaking backgrounds, but they do have to at least prep themselves and take direction from the moderator before and during the panel. We’ve seen folks who were plainly too terrified to speak or (worse) were too quick to fill in gaps and thus dominated the conversation. If they’re not pros, they’ll likely need coaching, but you’re doing them, your audience, and the community a great service.
      Beyond mere public speaking competence, it’s also a great idea to get people with different perspectives. That doesn’t mean you need to engineer a shouting match—the world has enough of those already—but thoughtful disagreement is almost always more interesting than unanimity. You could also just go for panelists with varying experiences, so everyone isn’t just repeating each other’s lines.
    • Nerdhole’s rules of thumb for panelists:
      • Speak slowly
      • Speak into the mike
      • Pay attention to the audience

All righty then, that’s all we’ve got for PAX 2015—but we met many developers, designers, and other assorted geniuses whom we’ll be following up with in the year ahead. This PAX was bigger and better than ever, and we’re looking forward to the next one already. Nerdhole out!