PAX Withdrawal

So another PAX East has come and gone. I wrote up daily ‘reports’ on the show over on Google+. Some of them were written under the influence of too much good beer with good friends, and none of them are particularly noteworthy or in-depth. I went to PAX purely as a spectator and didn’t corner anyone for interviews or insider information. But if anyone not on G+ wants to read them let me know and I’ll dump the raw copy into a post.

Short version: PAX was crowded and noisy and good for my soul. I was considering ditching the whole thing but Angela really wanted to go, and I’m really glad she didn’t let me follow my melancholy. I came back from the show with my love of gaming totally re-energized. Now the melancholy I’m feeling is from wanting to be back among my people!

The highlight of the show was, once again, the Tweetup. For me, it’s really the only time of the year I can sit around with serious gamers and just ‘talk shop’ for a few solid hours. We arrived at about 8:15 pm and packed it in at 2 am. My only regret is that I didn’t do a better job of mingling at it. @creeptheprophet & @grimnir_ are both people I’ve ‘known’ from afar on social networks, both were there, and other than hello and goodbye I didn’t spend time talking to either of them. I was always too engrossed in the conversation immediately around me. Maybe next year we need to set up the Tweetup like a Speed Dating Event!

Anyway, my apologies to everyone who was there that I didn’t talk to. It was definitely my loss.

Anyway, I’m back-logged on post ideas but I’m also back-logged on the day job, so I’ll do my best to get caught up. I jumped on a new Kickstarter project while waiting in line for a PAX Panel, and there’s a new project coming out today I want to talk about. Been playing some games, both old and new… lots going on, so stay tuned!

Oh, almost forgot. Turns out my phone with digital zoom is a terrible device for taking pics of fast-moving gameplay so very few of my shots are worth looking at, but Angela had a real camera, so check out her photo gallery from the show.

Ubisoft at PAX East

Ubisoft just sent out a press release detailing their plans for PAX East, coming up in Boston on the weekend of April 6-8th. Thank you Easter Bunny!

Fanatical Dedicated Far Cry 3 fans can get a (permanent) tattoo on the show floor, choosing from several tribal designs inspired by the game. Slightly less fanatical dedicated fans can get a mohawk like the one worn by Far Cry 3 villain Vaas. Getting either a tattoo or a mohawk will also garner you a Far Cry 3 tank-top.

Assassins Creed III will not be playable but will be shown-off in an enclosed theater (which sadly means long lines, but I imagine it’ll be worth it for fans). In addition to seeing some gameplay footage you’ll get some ACIII swag for your efforts.

If you’re going to PAX East to play games, Ubisoft has you covered with playable versions of Far Cry 3, Mad Riders�, Tom Clancy�s Ghost Recon Future Soldier�, I Am Alive�, and the free-to-play PC game Tom Clancy�s Ghost Recon� Online as well as a few iOS games: Babel Rising, Monster Burner, MotoHeroz� and Prince of Persia� Classic HD.

You can also buy your way into some swag by pre-ordering a few titles on the show floor:

  • Assassin�s Creed III � Official T-shirt or SteelBook� designed by award-winning comic artist Alex Ross
  • Far Cry 3 � Bloodied pint glass
  • Tom Clancy�s Ghost Recon Future Soldier � Free limited-edition bandanna designed by Penny Arcade and a personalized lenticular photo print-out from Tom Clancy�s Ghost Recon Future Soldier

Ubisoft will be in booths 824 (next to the Xbox booth) and 836 (across the aisle form 824 and next to Square Enix). here’s a link to the show floor map [pdf].

PAX East 2011, Day 2

The sun came out in Boston this morning, both literally and figuratively.

All of my frustrations from yesterday kind of melted away. I found out that the lines I was bitching about yesterday were only really bad for 1 particular theater, and that was because the people running the convention center wouldn’t let the line stretch where the event planners had intended it (along an elevated section of hallway). So they had to really cram people in to make up for the lost space.

Other lines were long, but more relaxed. A good thing, though in the end I only went to one panel but it was a good one; a Q&A with a group of MMO big-wigs. At 1:30 in the morning I’m not even going to try to remember everyone’s name, but 38 Studios, Turbine, Trion, Bioware, ArenaNet and other MMO dev companies were represented. Most of the panel was Q&A and there were some pretty good questions and lots of good discussion among the panelists.

The show floor was *packed* today but having got over our travel-induced grumpiness, Angela (@g33kg0dd3ss) and I dove right in. We saw a lot of interesting games; I’m now looking forward to Dungeons from Calypso, Swarm from Hothead Games, Smuggler Truck (??) an iPhone game, Orcs Must Die from Robot Entertainment, DragonNest from Nexon, Faxion (the last two being free-to-play MMOs) and Slam Bolt Scrappers from Firehose Games.

Yeah, there were a lot of “big name” games there too but their booths were still a bit too crowded for me to deal with. Specifically I didn’t play SW:TOR or Guild Wars 2. But in the end that didn’t matter.

In the evening was our Tweet-up, Jazz (@girl_vs_mmo) was there. She’d had the chance to play Guild Wars 2 and had gone to a panel on it as well. I’m not a fan of Guild Wars and have been turning my nose up at Guild Wars 2… but after hearing all about it, now I want to play! Ditto SW:TOR… @MMOGC had a chance to play that one, and now I’m excited about it, too. I think it might be more fun to listen to friends talk about a game than it is to test it your self.

We left PAX at 6, freshened up a bit then went out for a quick meal which took forever… really the eateries around the convention center were over-whelmed this weekend. We got back to the Tweet-up location right at 9 to find the bar we’d planned to have it in packed. We had to improvise and I was fretting about how lame the whole thing was turning out, but then everyone pitched in, we grabbed tables and scoured the lobby for chairs and pretty soon there we sat, a dozen gamers, most of whom only knew each other previously from twitter or reading blogs, having a few drinks and yammering on about the show and games and Star Wars and Star Trek and Munchkin and on and on… I had a great time (and remember, I can’t stand people) and I hope others did as well.

List of attendees of our first PAX East tweet-up: @Scopique, @adarel, @sera_brennan, @kylehorner, @girl_vs_mmo, @MMOGC, @Hawkinsa1, @_jwgoodson & of course @g33kg0dd3ss, plus some spouses/relatives/friends who aren’t on twitter. Thanks again to all of you for making the effort to fit this little sojourn into your packed PAX schedules!!

OK the clock just sprang forward an hour… I better get to bed. We’ve still got another day to get through!

PAX East 2011, Day 1

So I guess day 1 of PAX is over for me. I’m back in our hotel room, rolling around the idea of prowling the halls to see what late night PAX is like, but while the mind is willing the flesh is weak and the idea of putting my shoes back on…not appealing. 🙂

We didn’t get to do a lot today. We started late because we were watching coverage of the horrific earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Then it took longer than expected to get Lola into her DoggieHotel, and then we hit traffic on the way into Boston. We arrived about noon, just when the first panel I wanted to go to was starting (38 Studios showing off their new RPG).

Since it was too late to catch that, we grabbed some lunch at the temporary food court and then headed off to our next panel on dialog in gaming. The panel itself was ok, but I was disappointed that Emily Short didn’t make it. But I was more disappointed with the experience of the panel. The lines were awful last year but the show is in a much bigger venue this year. But it seems a much larger number of people came, and the lines, or at least that line, was awful once again. It isn’t the duration of them that bugs me, it’s the way they cram you together while you wait. They want the lines as compact as possible so they’re constantly urging you to move forward, and they stack the lines side by side. So I’m standing there with my nose in the hair of the person in front of me, and if the guy behind me gets an erection he’s going to have to buy me dinner, and I’m rubbing shoulders with the people on either side. It’s hot and claustrophobic and terribly uncomfortable and you’re gonna be standing like that for 30-60 minutes.

Last year, before they got the system dialed in, they’d just let you stand in line. People would just sit on the floor and play cards or video games or chat and it was fine. Towards the end of PAX East 10 they got the cramming system perfected and they rolled it out on day 1 of PAX East 11. Boo! I say!

We’d planned to go to another couple of panels today but I just couldn’t face that experience again. Instead we finished checking in (the hotel had stored our bags until 3 pm check in time) and got the laptops and stuff set up (internet: $12.95/day for the slow package) and then went for an early dinner in one of the pubs in the hotel (hamburger: $14)

Then we kicked around the exhibit hall for a while. I watched a lot of SW:TOR being played, peered over someone’s shoulders as they messed with a 3DS, snooped around Bethesda’s booth looking for new Skyrim info (nope, but lots of workstations running Brink and Hunted) and loitered around a few smaller or indie dev booths. Orcs Must Die looks real fun, and Slam Bolt Scrappers is pretty as hell but still confuses me.

I didn’t actually play anything. Waiting in line for half an hour to play a game demo for 15 minutes just isn’t me, really. I like to savor my first moments with a game and would rather just watch now and play when I have time to explore at my own speed.

PAX East 2011 Day 1 was feeling a bit melancholy. And then we hit the Rift party that Trion was throwing. Great shindig. Open bar, free buffet, hot apps being passed around by friendly waitstaff. And then we started meeting people. People we’ve only known from twitter & people we didn’t previously know and really should have. And we started talking about the show and the game and this and that and finally it clicked.

PAX isn’t about games. PAX is about gamers.

Now I can’t wait for tomorrow night’s TweetUp. Currently the plan is to meet at 9 pm at The City Bar which is right in the lobby of the Westin Waterfront. The City Bar itself is pretty small but essentially the entire Westin lobby is a bar of sorts, or at least it is this weekend. I don’t think we’ll have any trouble finding a spot to gather, have some drinks and put faces to names. We’re using the hash tag #paxeasttweetup11 or you can just follow me (@pasmith) or @Scopique and we’ll guide you to us.

If you’re at PAX East and have some time tomorrow evening, I hope you can stop by.

Prepping for PAX

OK, it’s time to turn the tone of the blog around once again.

PAX East #2 starts on Friday and against all odds, we’re going. I’d all but written it off this year what with everything happening with my mom. Once she passed I thought funeral plans would conflict with PAX. Well, my brother suggested to me that rather than have a funeral, we’d wait until a bit later in the spring and have a memorial for her. A kind of celebration of her life, at her house…everyone together probably for the last time. Since my mom wanted to be cremated, and that actual process happened yesterday, there’s no time pressure for when we honor her. And this makes it easier on people who have to come from far away. She has a sister in the DC area, and one of my step-sisters lives down in Alabama and wants to drive up.

Anyway, long story short, nothing having to do with my mom’s death is going to conflict with PAX. At first I still wasn’t going to go because it didn’t seem ‘proper’ but then people told me I was being silly, and besides ‘losing myself’ in PAX for a few days seems like great therapy. So, plans were back on!

Then Monday I bent down to pet the dog…something I do probably 50 or more times every day because she’s so darned cute. But this time… *crunch* my back went out in a bad way. No idea why. (Stress maybe?) I shambled, bent over, to the bedroom and collapsed on the bed and there I lay for most of Monday. I could barely roll over on my own, the pain was so intense. So I wrote off going to PAX once again.

Luckily I had taken some days off from work anyway, and through lots of heat, muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatories and just laying there like a sack of meat for the remainder of Monday and all of Tuesday, I seem to have more or less cured myself. I’m still twingy and I’m worried about those long lines and sitting on the floor while waiting in them (I still don’t think I could manage to get down onto the floor or up off it) but we still have tonight and all of tomorrow.

So PAX is back on again!

As soon as I remember where I put the badges. /facepalm

They’ve got to be around here somewhere. And we’ve got hotel reservations at the Weston for Friday and Saturday nights, and doggie-hotel reservations for Lola (who is going to be spoiled to death I think…this place offers doggie ice-cream)!

I still haven’t had time to really look at the schedule but last year, when PAX East was smaller, the problem was more about what to give up rather than what to do, so I’m pretty confident we’ll find plenty to occupy our time.

Of course Saturday night at 9 is the PAX East Tweet-Up at MJ O’Connors. Assuming Irrational gets the heck out by 9 pm. We’re using hashtag #paxeasttweetup11 to communicate about that.

Next step for me, is to talk myself down from bringing every piece of hardware that can play a game with me. I really don’t need a laptop and iPad and PSP and Nintendo DS and Android phone to keep me occupied. In particular it’s hard to resist installing a boot-camped Windows partition on my work laptop and installing Rift on there. If last year is any indication by the time we get back to the hotel room at night we’ll have just enough energy to flop into bed, and Saturday and Sunday mornings will be about showering and getting back to the show floor ASAP.

I think I’ll just bring my iPad and phone and call it a day.

So one day back to work tomorrow and then Friday morning we’re off to PAX East! Woot!

So who else is gonna be there?