Tag Archives: Video Games

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PAX West 2019: Imagine All the People

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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!

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Pax Day 4: No, YOU Calm Down

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And so we say goodbye to another PAX. We can’t wait to see how much more VR will be at the next one, and how that will drive non-VR content. For now, we’re going to rest our strained muscles and settle into waiting for all the fun stuff  to come out IRL. Here’s what we saw today:

  • We wanted to like Don’t Starve more than we actually did, but Klei’s new game looks like it’ll keep us happy. It’s called Oxygen Not Included, and it’s a space colony sim that feels like Fallout Shelter with legs. There’s a lot more to do, the art looks just as sweet as Don’t Starve, and the interface seems to have learned a lot from other sims.
  • We liked watching Objects in Space, a “modempunk” stealth space trading game, but were too intimidated to give it a shot ourselves. It’s built by an Australian brother and sister team (he designs, she codes), and it came to PAX with an insane Arduino controller set that looked delightfully scrungy. The garage/DIY aesthetic is lovely,and the gameplay revolves around stealth combat avoidance, with occasional battles using remote sensors. Madness, but seemingly good madness.
  • OMG YOU GUYS. [Mary here.] OMG FALLOUT VR. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever played a demo that I loved as much as this. Paul and I waited two hours in line for an eight minute demo and it was worth EVERY SECOND. We’re easy marks since we’re such huge Fallout fans, but I’ll be as objective as I can be. At E3, Bethesda announced that Fallout 4 will be available in 2017 on the HTC Vive, which is the device we used. The demo takes place at the Red Rocket truck stop. When you phase in, your good buddy Dogmeat is there and I can’t tell you how great it was to see him there. You have a Pip-Boy on your left wrist and a pistol in your right hand. You are able to cycle through the Pip-Boy modes with the Vive controller. It’s relatively intuitive, and I imagine with more time it becomes second-nature. You can then pick up a laser rifle, a shotgun, and a Fat Man from a table and cycle through them with your right controller. That’s when the action begins. The first wave is a few raiders, pretty easy to take down. Sadly they shot the Fat Man off the table before I had a chance to grab it (I might have been distracted by the fact I was IN the Commonwealth) and it glitched and disappeared so I stuck with my pistol and shotgun. (Paul used the Fat Man on everything and made short work of it all.) The next wave is feral ghouls… I screamed SO LOUD. It’s one thing when they’re hurling themselves toward you in 2D, but in a virtual environment it’s absolutely frightening. I got a little disoriented making sure I’d taken them all down and the next thing I knew, a Deathclaw had come up behind me… If the feral ghouls were frightening, the Deathclaw was pants-shittingly terrifying. I finally killed him and spent a few minutes exploring, which was just wonderful… Being fully transported into a world I love so much was entirely satisfying. Pretty much anything you can interact with in the game is also available to interact with in the VR version, including the crafting table, though the demo didn’t have crafting as an option. VATS wasn’t available in the demo either, but presumably it will be in a full version of the game. The only downside for me was not enough time to learn the interface, a problem that will certainly be solved with time on my side. Others have noted that this is more a proof-of-concept tech demo than a game, but if you’re familiar with Fallout it’s impossible not to see the potential. Also, you guys, feral ghouls and Deathclaws in your face! [/Mary]

    Paul checking out the wasteland of the Commonwealth. That's just wall art in the background, they asked that we not share images of the content.
    Paul checking out the wasteland of the Commonwealth. That’s just wall art in the background, they asked that we not share images of the content.
  • The extremely charming roguelike Rogue Wizards drew us in with its vivid graphics and fun interface, but we swooned when we read this on their site: “A narrative with a core message of gender and class equality.” Awwwww! It’s out shortly on Steam.
  • If you, like us, missed out on the PAX screening of the live-action Lookouts short film due to the injustice of our universe’s temporal laws, you’ll be glad to find out you can watch it online. Please, though, try to watch in on a big screen if at all possible. (Speaking of the Lookouts, read about Thornwatch in Saturday’s post and get in on the Thornwatch Kickstarter while the getting is good. It has now tripled its goal, if you’re keeping track!)
  • Let Them Come is a soon-to-be-out mobile and PC game that essentially lets you relive the sentry gun scene from Aliens—but with you on the trigger, prosecuting an endless stream of alien extermination in the strobing light and staccato sound of your trusty mounted space gun. This was one of those games that sucked us in at first with a fun idea and art, and then we were kind of surprised (given the game’s limited scope) to still be playing it 20 minutes later. That addictiveness bodes well for mobile! You fight enemies in waves, with new and more tactically interesting aliens (and bosses) getting thrown into the mix.When you inevitably succumb to the onslaught and get overrun, you get a chance to buy active and passive upgrades to improve your odds next time around. A fun touch: you get to the upgrade screen by clicking on your “BoomBox,” which is sitting behind you blasting out tunes appropriate to the task at hand. You also collect “mixtapes” and choose your soundtrack. Fun! A bonus: Let Them Come is published by Versus Evil, which also publishes two other games we love, Guild of Dungeoneering and Banner Saga 2.
    Splat_2
  • Elder Scrolls: Legends entered beta at the beginning of August and there was a pretty huge booth dedicated to it at PAX. Joining the ranks of Hearthstone and Magic Duels, Legends is an online deck-building game featuring familiar characters from the Elder Scrolls universe. [Editor’s note: Yeah that’s great… Did I mention how awesome Fallout VR is?! I mean, I love Elder Scrolls, but can I fight an enormous virtual dragon?! You guys. Seriously. Fallout VR.] When Legends launches, it will be available on iOS and Windows.

    Elder Scrolls: Legends booth at PAX
    Elder Scrolls: Legends booth at PAX… there was about a 90 minute line to play.
  • How can there still be undiscovered arcade ideas that are this elegant and fun? Inversus is in this year’s PAX 10 and it’s like frantic high-speed murder Othello. The trailer below can modem a description of it into your brain faster than we can describe it:
  • We can’t wait to explore Moon Hunters more. We first saw this helping judge the PAX 10 and it accomplished the unlikely feat of mixing a meditative mood involving world-building with sprinting Robotron-style arcade combat. Read some of the impassioned reviews on Steam if you need convincing, it’s designed for 1–2 hour playthroughs with 1–4 players coop, where you relive the same fateful few days building your individual reputation and legacy. (How can you not love this from the developers: “Moon Hunters could be described as a mythology generator.”)

Check out our long-ago PAX coverage right here.

[Editor’s note: Did I mention how much I love Fallout VR?]

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PAX Prime 2015, Day One

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Eldrazi means business.
Eldrazi means business.

Rob woke up with a migraine and Mary couldn’t make it ’til the end of the show (stupid day job), but we still managed to take in lots of great PAX action, starting with the amazing Eldrazi sculpture outside the Magic show in the Annex (see above). Here’s our report:

  • Trivia Night
    We kicked off this year’s PAX in a big way by cohosting Nerd Trivia Night at Raygun Lounge. The house was packed, and while we suffered some unfortunate tech issues, our cohost Andrew of A Podcast [,] For All Intents and Purposes handled everything with grace and charm. Mary’s “Shitty Vampire Things” category was a big hit, and the winners were super-stoked thanks to our extremely generous prize donors:

    • Pelgrane Press gave a 13th Age core rulebook, Eyes of the Stone Thief mega-adventure, and a super-sweet icon die spinner ring. Check them out in Room 206—they’ve got tons of cool stuff going on.
    • Wargaming.Net gave two delightful (and practical) prize bags containing World of Tanks gaming mice, minifigs, and more. It is almost literally impossible to miss their huge presence in the main expo hall, so make sure to check them out when you see them.
  • Paperback
    This stopped us cold in the Indie Megabooth tabletop zone. A small, handwritten sign read “Scrabble + Dominion = Paperback.” WHAA? We watched a bit of a demo and are going to try to play it sometime over the weekend. Like Dominion, you start with a small deck of cards, each of which has a letter (sometimes two) and many of which have special rules attached. On your turn, you use your cards to form a word and score points to buy new cards for your deck. Victory points come in the form of novels you help write, which are added to your deck just like in Dominion. There are some nifty complications that look like they could give this game some real legs.
  • Antihero
    We have a friend who runs a landscaping business, and his advice for picking a landscaper is to choose the one with the best-looking business cards. His reasoning was that appealing design was a relatively reliable indicator for just generally Caring About Things, and–fair or not–it’s not a bad way to apportion your attention on the showfloor at PAX. That’s a long way of saying that Antihero grabbed us first with its cartoony good looks (see below!), and then likewise proved to have equally satisfying gameplay–fun, fast, quirky, and scratching many of the same itches as games that inspired it, like the beloved Civ series and seminal mobile game Hero Academy. You play a Victorian-era skuldugger, managing a thieves’ guild that’s trying to 4X its way through a mist-shrouded city. Play is turn-based (with a 1P campaign and asynchronous multiplayer), and involves juggling several-but-not-too-many resources, upgrade trees, and menacingly cute units like thugs and urchins. Like! And good news: it’s been Greenlit.
  • I Heart PAX
    Rob here. I just need to break in on the journamalism to express my deep, sincere affection for PAX culture. My generation was ruined by degenerate irony, so it can be hard for me to feel all the feels I should be feeling, but I love seeing all the young nerds unburdened by my cultural baggage. They are who they are and they love who they are, and I love them for it. That goes double for all the folks who have been (and, sadly, continue to be) underrepresented and/or exploited by nerd culture over the years.
  • Cards Against Humanity
    We don’t have too much to say about this party game that hasn’t already been said—but their marketing this year is brill. They’re selling oversized popsicles with small packs of cards inside. They look yummy (we found the truck just as they were closing shop) and are great at provoking curiosity in onlookers. Great job, marketing team!
  • Brigador
    If you like isometric games where mechs, tanks, and other belligerent vehicles destroy everything in sight using multiple weapons and smashy-smashy physical attacks, then check out Brigador. The WASD/mouse controls can take some acclimatization (especially with a mech), but it’s got a nice Crush, Crumble, Chomp vibe with its destructible environment and pell-mell attackers.
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PAX Party Planning: Nerdhole at Raygun Lounge and More!!

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geekouttriviaPAX GEEK OUT TRIVIA
Thursday August 27 / 8:00 pm / Raygun Lounge / Free!
featuring special guests from A Podcast for All Intents and Purposes and us, Nerdhole!

Come kick off your PAX weekend with Nerdhole! We’ll be at Raygun Lounge’s weekly Geek Out Trivia night, hosted by MC Andrew. All three of us will be in attendance, and we’ve got some sweet swag to give out as prizes! Look forward to seeing you there!

rule

And here’s some other ways to spend your non-con hours, even if you didn’t score a PAX pass:

ALL WEEKEND:

THURSDAY:

FRIDAY:

  • Nerd Concert at LoFi “We have chiptunes, we have rock, we have hip hop, we have cheap booze, we have give-aways, and a few arcade machines just for good measure.”
  • Give Me a Quest at Raygun Lounge Play arcade and board games with the staff of Bitch Team Alpha and Can’t Talk Media! Cover is $1 and all proceeds benefit Take This Project, party is 18+ only. No PAX badge required.”
  • Insert Coin: Mortal Kompax!! at The Eagle Brought to you by Queer Geek! Seattle, this event has EVERYthing: music, cosplay, booze, dancing, and Mortal Kombat!
  • All Your Dance Are Belong To Us A video game-themed dance party with DJ Morgue Anne. Chiptunes, Nerdcore, Geekstep, and beyond in a night combining a love for video game culture and dance music. Costumes are encouraged and prizes will be given out to the best dressed.

SATURDAY:

  • Super League Gaming PAX Red Carpet Meet & Greet Gameplay Event Play Minecraft while you watch it on a movie screen! Meet Captain Sparklez, Parker Games, and other YouTubers on the red carpet and in the theater!
  • Pink Party Prime 7 featuring voice actor Troy Baker Queer Geek’s Pink Party Prime 7 will feature actor and voice-over artist Troy Baker, a VIP lounge, and the Official Pink Party $1,000 Cosplay Contest. With DJs Krot and Futurewife and gogos Bolt and Tyler Rush. Proceeds from Pink Party Prime 7 will benefit Gay City Health Project.
  • Ms. Pak-Man: Bonus Stage! Watch this world-renowned video game superstar of the 1980s try and stage her big comeback (again) after years of popping too many power pills. A cabaret-style theatre experience starring Scott Shoemaker (Ian Bell’s Brown Derby Series, Homo for the Holidays) as the loveable trainwreck Ms. Pak-Man.
  • NerdSquatch GameBoy Music Festival “5 different GameBoy artists – Trey Frey, GRAZ, RTR0 DR34M, 8-Bit Zero, and bryface plus a bard from hyrule, and visuals and lazerz by Lightlinked”

SUNDAY:

  • That Other Party More excellent music for your weekend: nerdcore, chiptune, electro jazz, and more.
  • PAX Prime Karaoke Time 2015 with Mike & Tifa “Want to hang out with awesome people in the gaming industry and sing your favorite nerdy songs? Mike & Tifa have partnered with The Mercury* and Baby Ketten Karaoke for an amazing night of nerd karaoke!”
  • Starr Mazer Concert Join the Starr Mazer crew in a concert featuring a bunch of different musicians at Chop Suey. No PAX Prime badge needed.
  • Poropalooza 2 A giant PAX after party at Q nightclub featuring a party bus available from the front of the convention center to the club. Free for cosplayers.

MONDAY:

 

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Episode 16 – Spouses in Video Games

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If you like it then you should have put a Ring of Regeneration on it.
If you like it then you should have put a Ring of Regeneration on it.

Marriage in video games adds humor, pathos, and practical support — just like IRL. Different games incorporate spouses in different ways. Some are smart, some are tacked on, and some are windows into the dark souls of game writers. We look at our favorite game spouses and highlight some affecting (and off-putting, and downright weird) moments from in-game marriage.

LINKS