Tag Archives: PAX 2015

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PAX Prime 2015, Day Four

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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!

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PAX Prime 2015, Day Three

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We’ve made it through Day 3! Here’s some of what caught our eyes today:

  • Lego Dimensions
    The LEGO Toypad, left, and the lengthy list of Doctors, right.
    The LEGO Toypad, left, and the lengthy list of Doctors, right.

    We got to spend some quality time with SkyLEGOs LEGO Infinity LEGO’s entry into the buy-a-bunch-of-things-to-put-on-a-thing console genre. The gameplay should be instantly recognizable to any LEGO console fan, and the execution is world-class. E.g., if you’re playing as the Doctor, you can pick literally any Doctor (see above) and any Tardis–and the First Doctor’s Tardis is even in black and white. Smart, like much LEGO console humor. But all that’s beside the point: If you’re a fan of LEGO’s console games and one or more of the IPs involved, it’s going to be impossible to resist the mashups made possible by Lego Dimensions–like who wouldn’t want to watch Batman save Gandalf from falling at the Bridge of Khazad-dûm so that they can go fight Daleks together? And that’s without even getting into Portal, The Simpsons, Jurassic World, et al. This game genre seemingly can’t last forever, but it will for at least one more title.

  • Minecraft: Story Mode

    We were lucky enough to get in quickly on the Minecraft: Story Mode demo this morning, which has turned out to be the longest line at PAX,with a 2+ hour wait–and that’s if you’re lucky enough to catch the line at all when it isn’t capped! You’ll have to measure your own personal Minecraft mania to judge whether it’s worth it (we had a couple of kids with us, so our visit was mandatory), but the demo is pretty great, and definitely as polished as Telltale’s previous PAX outings with The Wolf Among Us and Tales from the Borderlands.
    The demo stitches together a couple scenes from the final game, involving finding a pig named Reuben and navigating a crisis at “Endercon,” and the gameplay is a nice mix of classic Telltale dialog choices (what kind of person are you? where are your loyalties?) and some light action and circumscribed exploration in a convincingly Minecraft environment. (And, but of course, there’s even some crafting.) As a bonus, if you played the demo as a male character and were like, “Hey, am I Patton Oswalt?” you were right!
  • Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime

    This peppy little indie game made the PAX 10 two years ago (and it’s the second beneficiary of The Behemoth’s Gold Egg Project), but somehow it’s escaped us every year. This PAX, we finally logged some time piloting our lovers (two little space bunnies, in this case) and wow, is it fun. A two-person couch co-op game at heart (although you can play solo with an AI), Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime has you and a pal sharing the controls of a slowly floating spacecraft bristling with weapons and gadgetry. You’re being attacked from all sides as you navigate large, obstacle-strewn levels, but the trick is that your bunnies are running around your small craft between all the individual control panels. So, for example, one player might be steering the ship while the other is firing one of the turrets, and you have to constantly swap around as the threats outside keep changing. The game also keeps switching things up, with six ship layouts and four campaigns–each with four randomly generated levels and a boss battle. The best news of all: it is a glorious spacetime for Xbox One owners, with the game arriving there (and on Steam, for Mac and PC) on September 9.
  • Mushroom 11

    Trying to describe the gameplay of Mushroom 11 is difficult: you’re pushing a mass of self-replicating slime through a maze of different obstacles by erasing carefully selected parts of it to force further replication… you can see why this might be hard. But the conceit is so novel and the play is so uncannily satisfying that it’s a game like no other–definitely a must-play if you’re touring the Indie Megabooth. The original concept came from a wife-and-husband team (Julia Keren-Detar and Itay Keren) at Global Game Jam 2012, and this was their take on the jam’s Ouroboros theme. The initial idea came quickly (coded in just 10 hours), but the pair teamed up with another couple (artist Simon Kono and producer Kara Kono) and spent a year and half getting the feel, physics, and camera angle just right. The effort shows. Get it on Steam now, or watch for it next year on iOS and Android when everyone will be talking about it. It’s going to be an amazing fit for touch controls.
  • enfu
    Detail from the cover of enfu's book, Cute Grit.
    Detail from the cover of enfu’s book, Cute Grit.

    We’re always stoked to see Seattle artist enfu at events, and this year he’s signing copies of his book, Cute Grit, and other swag at the Penny Arcade merch booth. He’ll be back again tomorrow, Monday, from noon–2 pm. Ask him about his new pin project!

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PAX Prime 2015, Day Two

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Tumblestone
Tumblestone

We had no troubles getting ourselves together for Day Two, and we had a delightful time traipsing through the show with Friend of the Hole–and invaluable assistant–Tom. Here’s our report:

  • Queering Up Misconceptions: LGBT Game Industry Life
    We started the day at this panel, which was a rollicking good time—and largely quite optimistic. Five industry pros talked about their experiences and what they want to see going forward, and it was gratifying to hear that most of them had no problem coming out at work. One, Hangry Studio‘s Chris Wright, was certain that he had outed himself to coworkers with a shirtless Hayden Christensen pic on his desktop, but was later told “I just thought you were really into Star Wars!” Moderator Gordon Bellamy kept it grounded and summed up the vibe with the line “Being allowed to exist is super powerful.” Good stuff!
  • Mech Deck
    Another sweet tabletop title at the Indie Megabooth, this one involved mech construction using modular mech parts that give players various weapons, capabilities, etc. It’s played on an expandable hex map and uses a card-based system to handle combat and other interactions. They’re launching a Kickstarter next month and we are sure to follow up then.
  • Tabletop Smarts
    Patrick, the big brain behind Mech Deck, while explaining his development process, blew our minds when he told us about the Boston Game Makers Guild. This meetup group includes a bunch of local tabletop game devs who playtest each other’s games and then vote them up to get additional attention by the group as a whole. Playtesting, networking, support—it sounds like a brilliant way for game makers to hone their craft and get their ideas to market. If this isn’t happening in Seattle, let’s make it happen.
  • PAX 10: Dark Echo
    The PAX 10 had a few winners this year (though of course they’re ALL winners), and we have some serious affection for Dark Echo, a sweet survival game featuring a nifty visual sonar system. It rewards experimentation and is really easy to pick up—Rob, who is terrible with new games, was happily evading obstacles in seconds. It was developed as part of Ludum Dare and is available on Steam, iOS, and Android.
  • PAX 10: Ninja Tag
    This title is pure PAX 10 gold–a tiny, well-executed game by an underdog developer who learned to code while creating it as his thesis project. (That would be Leandro Ribeiro, a Brazilian economist going to school at the NYU Game Center.) Ninja Tag is a 2D, very fast-paced four-player death match between disappearing-reappearing-backstabbing ninjas armed with swords and crossbows (perfect for much animated giffery). It’s a natural party game, with a constant backdrop of woots, groans, and profanity. You might need to play it a few times to master the controls and the rhythm, but it’s definitely worth it–and super fun if you’re lucky enough to play with the same group for several rounds, so you can develop mature vendettas.
  • PAX 10: Tumblestone
    Tumblestone is a tense-but-fun cross between a bubble-shooter and competitive Tetris. You compete against up to three other players, racing to deplete your tiles by matching three tiles of the same color at a time–but you must also solve the puzzle of which colors to match first before the others do the same. It’s easy to learn, fast-paced, and good fun. See the demo here. You can also catch it in the Indie Megabooth!
  • PAX 10: From Light
    This sweet-weird platformer gives Ninja Tag a run for its money for PAX 10 underdog goodness: it was an Intermediate Game Design project by a small pack of USC Gaming Design sophomores and juniors, with help from friends at the Berkeley College of Music for the sound. It’s hard to describe the gameplay adequately–watch the video below–but it involves a clever puzzle dynamic that mimics long streaks of starlight in long-exposure photography. (The cute conceit of the game is that you’re guiding a fallen star back to the moon.) The art in the demo is still primitive, but they’ve posted some lovely art in the booth (finished just last week!) that gives you a better idea of how the final game will look.
  • AbleGamers
    We got to meet the nice folks at the AbleGamers Foundation up on level 6 today. You should definitely say hi: they have candy. They also have a really cool and worthwhile cause, helping gamers with disabilities get access to often expensive assistive technologies to help them play. If you’re such a gamer–or a caregiver, or an interested dev–you should get in touch. Also, slight spoiler: go to their panel Sunday at 9pm to learn about a new program they’re announcing, which will get gamers with disabilities involved interning with developers.
  • Don’t Starve: Shipwrecked 
    What caught our eye about Don’t Starve: Shipwrecked is its delightful Tim Burton-esque, sketchy art style. The gameplay looks like lotsa fun too, though we’re not familiar with the original Don’t Starve. Check out the trailer for the original here to get an idea of the style and gameplay. Here’s the teaser for Shipwrecked–it’s just a quicky promo.