Well, as usual, I’m running a bit behind on this blog. Since Sunday and Monday I spent the majority of the time on the show floor, I’m going to mainly talk about what I saw there and what perked my interest.
Oh, let me cover a few non-expo hall things first.
If there was one thing I was a bit disappointed about this year, it was that the swag was currently lacking. For those of you who had never been to a gaming convention, swag is the free stuff that is handed out at the booths. It is also almost a mini competition to see who collects the most swag. And in the past, the items they handed out were pretty awesome; t-shirts, plushies, bobbleheads, hats, etc. Back in college, I only had to actually buy one or two shirts a year because I would get a weeks worth of free shirts at the convention. Add that to the collection of shirts from the previous years, and even today my closet is 80% shirts from the convention. However, over the last couple years, as expected with the rise in attendance and the poor economy, exhibitors have been holding back on the really good stuff. The used to hand out the shirts to anyone who walked by their booth, then you had to at least play the game before they gave your the shirt. Ok, except that you had to usually wait an hour or more in line to play if it was a popular game. Now you usually have to pre-order the game first or by the shirt separately at the game’s merch table. Even so, I managed to snag a couple free shirts this year. There were a lot of things that tempt you to spend money as well. A few vendors managed to separate me from my money. I picked up a Rooster Teeth Podcast shirt and shotglass at their booth, a PAX 2013 shirt, and a Cards Against Humanity starter box.
The main floor is pretty much what you expect, major studios and publishers showing off their upcoming games, many that will be released this fall and Christmas. There were
also hardware makers as well showing off their latest tech. Microsoft had several games playable for their upcoming Xbox One console, the biggest was their upcoming game Titanfall. Attendees waited in three hour long lines to be the first to get their hands on the highly anticipated first person shooter that allows you to control a 30 foot tall mech. Another highly anticipated game at the booth was the upcoming Battlefield 4, the successful multiplayer military shooter. Other than a updated graphics engine, it’s pretty much good ol’ Battlefield gameplay. The game I played at the both was the one I was really looking forward to, Forza 5. The physics engine has been revamped to simulate the tiniest handling detail that you would find on an actual race car. If you play the game on the new Xbox one controller, the triggers vibrate under braking to give you that loss of grip feedback you would feel on the actual brake pedal. The graphic detail is amazing too, they even simulated the imperfections in the paint of the McLaren P1 that I was racing around the streets. This game alone is tempting me to get an Xbox one at launch. The best part was playing the game at the booth in their race seat and wheel setup. I will admit that the there seemed to be a millisecond delay with the wheel that was just noticeable enough that it was difficult to make the fine corrections when driving. But I blame that on the hardware used and not the game itself.
Nearby was the Wargaming.net booth that was promoting the Xbox 360 version of their hit game World of Tanks as well as their game World of Warplanes. This is not to be confused with World of Warcraft or Minecraft or…ok, now I’m confusing myself, LOL. But anyway, the game is pretty basic. You go online to do battle with other players from around the world (like the General Board on the Lit forums) and hop in a tank and do battle. Of course, there are different classes of tanks depending on what role you want to play on the battlefield. The light tanks are great for moving fast and capturing control points or using as scouts, but will not stand a chance against heavier tanks individually. But while the heavy tanks have more armor and firepower, they are slower moving and can can be sitting ducks if in the wrong place. I did not get a chance to get my hands on World of Warplanes though, but it looks awesome.
Sony had a large booth there promoting it’s upcoming Playstation 4 console and many of it’s other games coming out. They even had a guy dressed up as Ratchet from the Ratchet and Clank series. But I haven’t really played any Playstation games since when I owned a Playstation 2 for Guitar Hero back in college. Ubisoft had a nice booth promoting Assassins Creed: Black Flag. There was also….oh wait, that’s right, this is about what I saw and was interested in. Well, lets just say there was a lot of things there, and didn’t get a close look at everything either due to lines or time. But I’ll continue on.
The hardware manufacturer, Nvidia, was showing off some of their new graphics cards as well as their new Nvidia Shield handheld gaming device. This self contained handheld not only has it’s own games that can be downloaded onto it, but can also stream games from your computer over WiFi. At first I wasn’t impressed when I played a side scrolling helicopter game on it. But then I switched the game to Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and I was super impressed with the controls and graphics. I would have really liked to have gotten a chance to test its streaming capabilities, but alas, it was not meant to be.
The Bethesda booth as always had some nice things to show. After some line waiting, I got a chance to get my hands on Elder Scrolls Online. Like all the other Elder Scrolls games, this takes place in the realm of Tamriel. You will get to explore the lands from the prior game; Daggerfall, Morrowind, Cyrodiil, and Skyrim in a massively multiplayer online world. I enjoyed the combat system because it played like all the other Elder Scrolls games, left click for attack and right click for shield. It’s not set up like the click enemy then click different attacks system that other MMOs have. So it should be a really simple game for anyone to learn. The only downside is that unlike other MMOs that have moved to a free to play system (then pay for the good armor), Elder Scrolls Online is on the old subscription system of $15 a month. As much as I want to play the world of Elder Scrolls with my friends, that may be asking too much in terms of price. But they did get fucking Michael Gambon to voice the trailer! Bethesda is also bringing back the classic Wolfenstien series with their upcoming game Wolfenstien: The New Order. I didn’t get a chance to play it, but I don’t expect it to have any groundbreaking gameplay. If anything, it will probably be a very linear shooter. But who can complain when you’re killing goose-stepping Nazi’s, LOL.
There were a few games that surprised me there as well. One that is being made by UbiSoft is a racing game called The Crew. You have to compete in various types of races including point-to-point and pass through the gate. You also are assigned missions such as taking down a large SUV carrying drugs by ramming it. It reminds me of the newer Fast and Furious movies and it’s a game that wants to compete against the Need for Speed game series. An addicting fighting game there was Dive Kick. There is no complicated combo system or hidden moves, just two buttons; dive and kick. You press dive to make your character jump into the air, then kick to drop kick your opponent. So the game focuses more on timing your moves rather than what combos you know. Devolver Digital was there to show off their reboot of the the politically incorrect 1997 shooter Shadow Warrior. You play a Lo Wang, a gun toting and sword wielding hero as you fight off demons. The game is filled with over the top gore and inappropriate stereotypes and is tons of fun to play.
But the games that stole the show were the small “indie” games. Unlike the large studios who have hundreds of millions of dollars and an army of programmers, these indie developers have only a handful of people. Digipen college had several games created by their students there. My favorite game from the Digipen students was Super Space. The setup is very similar to the old Asteroids arcade games, but there are some major differences. You and three other friends each control a turret attached to a random shape. You then shoot at the “asteroids” that fly onto the screen. However, your ship will be pushed in the opposite direction of your shooting due to the recoil and zero gravity. Also, and asteroids you miss thicken the walls of the “barrier” you are allowed to fly in. So not only do you need to destroy your targets, but you need to keep control of your ship as well. Oh, and to make things more complicated, different shapes handle differently. I tight shape, like an “L” or “H” shape, will probably be easier to control. However a flat bar will easily spin wildly. As a result, some rounds only last a few seconds. I really can’t wait until this is finally released on the Xbox marketplace because it is the perfect party game.
But my favorite game from the indie booth was The Stanley Parable. This game started out as a Half-Life 2 community made add-on and has now grown to its own game with a new engine. In The Stanley Parable, you play a man named Stanley who one day discovers that all of his co-workers have vanished from the office and decides to look for them. What makes the game unique is that there are no puzzles, no weapons or enemies, just you doing what the Narrator is telling you. Ah, did you catch that? The Narrator is the other character in the game, and in some ways, the antagonist as he tries to tell the story of Stanley. As the soothing voice tells the story of Stanley, you have the option to follow or disobey. For example, if you approach a pair of doors, the Narrator might say “Stanley went through the left door.” You can go through the correct door and continue with Stanley’s story. However, you could also go through the other door instead in which case the Narrator will become irate over the fact you are ruining his story. Deviate too far from the story, and the Narrator will kill Stanley.
For PAX, a special demo was created just for the event. Like any exhibition demo, the player is tasked with showing off what The Stanley Parable is about. Of course, the demo goes “all wrong” and never quite gets underway, causing the Narrator to panic and desperately find some way to salvage it. At one point he makes the player walk all the way back tot he start point, stand up, and apologize to the other PAX attendees for playing the demo so terribly. I downloaded and played the mod after PAX and I’m really looking forward to the full game, especially with the superb writing it has.
In the end, this was a really good year at PAX. Originally, I had decided that after 10 years I would stop going for a couple years. But I might just have to go next year. I know I missed a few things, so if you have any questions about anything else that was or wasn’t there, post that question in the comments. Thanks for reading!