Tag Archives: PAX 10

0

PAX West 2019: Imagine All the People

by

First of all, Rob’s not here. Let’s just be clear. If you came here for Rob, he’s… fallen. But hopefully among us soon again. In spite of that, we’ll try to capture what Rob might have felt.

Rob (but actually Mary, but Rob agreed with her) always said that PAX is like summer camp: you hang out with folks you only see once a year, you party hard and bond intensely, and at the end you go back to your life a little sad that the rest of the world doesn’t share that same community feeling. This year that special PAX-y vibe was the topic of multiple conversations we had with longtime fellow campers: PAX veterans are less enthusiastic about 4-hour lines to try big name games they’ve already pre-ordered and much more interested in sharing quality time with friends trying a new board game or cruising the Indie Megabooth. PAX gives us all an excellent excuse to hang out. Don’t get us wrong: the triple-A booths maintain a baseline level of ambient impressiveness–the current winner is probably the frost dragon lording over the Monster Hunter booth–but it’s the friendship that’s magic.*

Rob would have noticed that tabletop is alive and well and swarming in a new hive called the Regency, kitty corner to Olive 8. Floor after floor and room after adjacent room of games hums away—Scythe, Pantone: The Game, Welcome To, Thornwatch, Weave, Wingspan, Terraforming Mars, Azul, Battlestar Galactica, et al. This is, like, the easiest place you’ll ever find to hop in on a fun game, likely with super helpful Canadians. (Although, you know, avoid tables where you hear someone saying something like, “You focused, you moved, you evaded. What don’t you understand?”)

Had Rob been here he would have agreed with Mary that many of these games had truly inventive and remarkable artwork. (Mary was particularly enchanted by the mid-century modern aesthetic of Welcome To.)

Special mention goes to two especially popular games: 1) We’re Doomed, which (based on a hand-wavey description) involves various governments attempting a zero-sum negotiation amongst themselves to escape a dying earth, involving a 15-minute hourglass timer for the entire game (GENIUS) and such feats as making up national anthems and hopefully rousing political speeches on the spot (we are so getting this) and 2) the excellently illustrated Root, a game that everyone was playing but no one seemed to wholeheartedly love, because it took so long to figure out every different character and how to play optimally given the mix of other characters (perhaps a classic Cosmic Encounter misstep?). One Root gamer attributed the popularity to a big board game talk earlier at PAX that tried to avoid mentioning any trending boardgames, but accidentally mentioned Root.

Of course, some games you can only experience at a place like PAX, like a 60-odd person game of Two Rooms and a Boom. It’s loosely freeform like Mafia or Werewolf, but there’s a President, a Bomber, and a Red Team (President killers) and Blue Team (President savers). Every several minutes everyone votes on who should switch rooms, until eventually we find out if the President and Bomber end up in the same room.

As we’ve alluded to, triple A is no longer even worth kicking for its noninventiveness and lack of timeliness (we all get the economics), but even more than ever the only slivers of fun are in the indies.

Some of our favorites:

Final Assault, a PAX 10 winner that captures the fun of “army men” with an immersive VR tower-defense/MOBA style WWII battle, where you’re plopping down tanks to rumble into battle and hearing Nazi fighter planes buzzing in your ear like gnats. The game gives you such a good visceral feel for the battlefield (with a map that you lift and shift like a skirt), that it begs the obvious question for a sequel: What if instead of an avatar silently navigating and influencing the battlefield you could be a big ol’ Field Marshall kaiju kicking Nazis around your own damn self?

TinkerTurf (also in the Regence) makes all-pro minis terrain surprisingly affordable. This is cool skirmish gaming terrain (currently SF, but they’re working on more genres) but printed flat for you to assemble and (if you want) customize. Minis gaming is so f-ing expensive, how is this not a breakthrough product?

Plunge (another PAX 10 winner) is such a joyful little arcade puzzler. It’s a feel-good PAX story too, with a dev (moonlighting from Nike IT) who tested the game out wandering the crowd with a screen on his back through a couple of PAXes. With the idea validated, the trio of creators forged ahead to make this crunchily cute game, in which you navigate through fast paced (but turn based) dungeons with simple up-down-left-right controls, plus some neat RPG-style leveling along the way. Brilliant winning illustration/aesthetic vibe, solid nugget of gameplay. Sold.

We’re barely here (mourning over Rob, obviously), but we’ll try to keep making the most of this PAX.

*But also we’re liars because we spent a fair amount of time reminiscing about Bethesda booths of PAX past, and we missed their presence. Last year’s Bethesda Game Days at the Hard Rock were also a delight. And there’s ways they could’ve shown up in a lo-fi way… Borderlands went all in on cosplay this year and Bethesda could have drummed up some good will towards Fallout 76 with some of the same. (Rob would certainly have gotten his photo taken with a cosplayer in full Brotherhood power armor. Or at least we assume.) We also mourned the lack of a full Magic: The Gathering extravaganza… remember the Eldrazi sculpture, the giant Beholder, and the Kaladesh bazaar?! We hope there’s more of that soon! And also more Rob!

0

PAX West, Day Two: Heroes and Villains and Bunnies, Oh My!

by

We’re wisely pacing ourselves this year and focusing on a few things instead of trying to do ALL THE THINGS. We hope to continue this trend through the evening and be in good shape again tomorrow (#HangoversofPAXPast.) At any rate here’s what caught our attention today.

  • We sat in on an Acquisitions Incorporated Intern Program orientation session, and were mighty impressed with the efficiency and deadly humor on display. Two AcqInc Career Counselors laid down the law, instructing new D&D players on the basics of gameplay with delightful snark and an amazing video straight from the Ninth Circle of Human Resources. With slogans like “Do Don’t Die” and “Sometimes teamwork means not being on the same team” (that last one ad-libbed by a deft Career Counselor), the interns were well prepped to head out and collect treasure.
  • Mary attended the World of Warcraft: Legion panel, which she’ll write about at greater length later. The mood was jovial, and both the fans and devs had a great time discussing the new content. The biggest news was the announcement of the Legion Companion App, available for iOS and Android. Launching this coming Tuesday, September 6, the app will allow players to complete certain tasks and quests from their phone when they can’t be in Azeroth. This has been a much-requested feature and the room erupted in whoops and applause followed by a lone shout of “THANK YOU!!!!” Check out the trailer below:
  • We passed a group of women in costume, each one a mash-up of a Playboy bunny and a superhero. Mary had some complicated feelings about the costumes: “I had heard that’s a thing and thought it couldn’t possibly be a thing. It’s not that I’m against sexy cosplay at all (my love of nerd burlesque is well-documented) and I absolutely believe everyone should wear whatever makes them happy. But I find it problematic to use such a blatant symbol of the male gaze since it seems to play right into the idea that girls aren’t fans, they’re just dressing up for male attention. It would be great if they were commenting on that terrible trope, but that didn’t seem to be the case.” Feel free to mansplain to Mary in the comments why she’s wrong. (Rob and Paul are pretty sure she’s right.)
  • We demoed a prototype of the Penny Arcade–Lone Shark Games collaboration Thornwatch today—with Paul running the demo!—and had a great time. The last time that we playtested this game was literally in a garage three years ago, and while it was already fun then, it’s really matured into a solid little gem. It’s part board game, part card game, part graphic novel. Play is quick and the learning curve is gentle as you master the deck of one of five members of the Thornwatch, but even crunchier gamers will appreciate the elegant ideas in play here—especially a “momentum” system that melds damage and initiative into a satisfying and constantly shifting back-and-forth. (Fellow fans of PA will of course swoon over the source material.) We exhort you to try the game either at Lone Shark’s sixth-floor booth or (even better) in the Thornwatch freeplay area on the third floor of Olive 8. The Kickstarter has already more than doubled its goal.IMG_9675
  • We made some Xbox One custom controllers the hard way back in the day with non-OEM parts, YouTube videos, and some sharp little arcane plastic tools. This is oh so much cooler.  And yee, look at the Swatch one! Plus, with your gamertag. So ordering.IMG_9653IMG_9657
  • Indie games can take a long and winding road to release, and it’s heartening to see Night in the Woods so close to coming out (“this fall!”) on the PS4 (and PC/Mac/Linux) after its successful Kickstarter way back in 2013. Described at one point as “like Gone Home, in third-person, with talking animals,” Night in the Woods has a kids-book style but with a smart, intricate melancholy to it. You play as a wayward college dropout Mae (yes, a cat), back in her hometown and slowly discovering that something weird is up. Most of the exploration comes through dialogue, and the town is full of well-realized characters (apparently over 60 of them), and your choices affect the path that you take through an 8 to 10 hour story. What a nice weird break amidst the giant Sony presence.
  • We took a look at a few of the PAX 10, and were as impressed as usual. Blockships was a sweet little shmup that is strongly reminiscent of Galaxy Trucker. You start as the core of a starship and then race to collect new components to add to your ship while other folks are doing the same and trying to kill you. They keep it simple with just gun, engine, and power components, but there’s an interesting richness to it because each hit knocks off components that anyone can grab. It’s 10% off on Steam now through 9/9.
  • Splitter Critters, also in the PAX 10, looked a little intimidating until we learned that we were watching a very advanced level. It’s a lovely puzzle game with a unique mechanic—players swipe to split the level and then can shift the pieces to create new configurations. It’s easier to show than describe, so check out the trailer below. We’re psyched that this has been Greenlit on Steam.

(This post has been edited.)