Another fun year. I really wish it was not over. So I guess I can put down how it went. The first day Ben, Jason, and I spent a great deal of time hanging out in the main theater area. But we started out in a smaller room where we caught the end of handheld gaming. Really it seems that the focus is how do the small developer shops survive in relationship to the large publishers. Seems like a pretty scary industry to be in, but if you really love all things games, then maybe it is for you. I will stick with playing.
Next we moved to the main room and watched the keynote address as given by Wil Wheaton aka Wesley Crusher of Star Trek: TNG fame. We followed that up by watching the Q&A session with Mike and Jerry (Gabe and Tycho). Both of these session were super entertaining. Wil gave very passionate address on gaming is about socializing, about coming together with others just to have fun and compete. That those who say that it is an anti-social behavior are just plain wrong. If you want to listen to it, there is a link from Wil's page.
Mike and Jerry were great as well. I have been reading Penny Arcade for many years and this is the 3rd PAX I have been to, but this was the first time I got to listen to them. They were pretty much up to answering any question (which there were very, very diverse questions). They kept it moving pretty good and only harassed a few of the questioners.
Then they brought on their super secret guest speaker, Uwe Boll. This is where I felt totally ashamed of the behavior of the games, especially after Wil pleaded his case to "not be a dick". Uwe has made a number of movies that were based on games. Very, very loosely based on games and generally not the best of movies. This has left a number of gamers with a bad taste in their mouth and after watching clips of his next movie Postal, they proceeded to spit on him (figuratively). I want to first give him credit for coming in front of a hostile crowd and presenting what he works on and why. I however could not stay for all of it as I couldn't take the way people were behaving. All I can say is that it is a good thing that Jack Thompson didn't come. That would have been worse.
We grabbed a little dinner and tried to listen to Girls and Games. That session was super packed as they tried to talk about what games would appeal more to woman gamers and how to increase the number of them that would play games. What was more interesting was actually the Pictochat session going on at the same time. (Pictochat is a chat program for the Nintendo DS allowing 16 people to chat wireless via text and pictures). Alot of the people were bringing up some very relevant discussion points and a little snide commentary. It would be awesome if this were some how projected on the wall to show others what is going on. If only we could filter all the drawings of penises...
We next played a rousing game of Pink Godzilla Dev Kit where Ben won again. He is super cutthroat. Then we had to run to catch the last half of the session on Episodic Gaming with talks given buy Valve/Steam as well as the Sam and Max serial currently going on. I personally see this as the way things will end up going, just from the fact that development tends to have higher success rates with smaller scoped projects. Plus publishers will make MORE MONEY in episodic content than they will in traditional one shot deals. Overall this was an excellent session with good questions and points about developer pain, project timelines and return on investment. As a note, if you quit playing half life content cause it is too hard, Valve knows this (via Steam) and keeps metrics as to how many people are quitting at certain points and how many times they die. Would love to see this info...
With that we wrapped up day one.
Day two saw us getting to the Washington State Convention center super early so that a) we could get parking and b) we could get the wrist bands to get into the concert that night. First thing we did upon getting through the 3/4 mile long line was go hang out in the exhibition hall for a few hours. I ended up buying some Merch and playing some cool demos. Most of the big players were they talking about upcoming games as well as some companies showing off their game engines. I got a chance to try out Geometry Wars on the Wii as well as a ton of other games. I don't think I could really do justice to all I got to see and do and will let the other game blogs talk about the exhibition hall. Although I do have to say that the new Midnight Club due out next year looked absolutely fantastic. Probably one of the most gorgeous games I saw there.
Jason and Ben went and watched the Red vs. Blue panel (which I caught the end of) while I went in to stand in line to get a signed copy of Jonathan Coulton Thing a week project CD set. The dude was super cool and nice. If you are in to the acoustic guitar folk, then this is definitely your type of CD. He really has a fantastic voice and really interesting lyrics covering a series of geek and non-geek topics.
After catching the end of the Red vs. Blue panel, we stayed on for the real reason for being at the main theater again. We got to see live game footage of Assassin's Creed video game. Luckily we had a game developer with us (Ben) to damper our enthusiasm over wonderfully scripted fighting sequences and absolutely gorgeous environments. This could be a fantastic game. Or it could flop. I am leaning toward fantastic.
We then grabbed some lunch, played some Ninja Burger (I won!) and Citadels (Ben won and then I won). Grabbed some dinner and then played Mario Kart DS while we waited to get into the evening concert.
So we find out that the stupid wristbands didn't actually mean a thing. The convention center really wasn't setup to handle the traffic movement so it was moot. I am really totally ok with that. So we got to watch a round of the Omegathon (gaming competition). First Mike, Jerry, and company came out and rocked out with Rock Band to Wanted Dead or Alive by Bon Jovi. Was super awesome and they totally nailed the song. Of course this was a precursor to the Omeganauts have to compete as two teams playing Creep. One team really dominated the other team. Impressed by the game overall, but still suffering from a little sticker shock.
Finally we get to the concert where Jonathan Coulton, MC Frontalot, and the Minibosses are playing. Jonathan totally rocked the place. A ton of folks around me were commenting about how much they loved it (and kept asking who it was). To be honest, it was why I was there. Next they had MC Frontalot, nerdcore rapper. It took a while for him to warm up the crowd as the music was drastically different in feel. Overall not my cup of tea, but there was some interesting music there. I have to say his bass player really impressed me. Finally, we got to the minibosses which is what Jason was waiting for. We made it through song 3 (Castlevania) when we decided to head home being tired and thoroughly deaf. They had the music a tad too loud as the speakers were distorting heavily.
Overall, I will be going back again next year, so no one make plans with me for the last weekend of August, unless you are planning on hanging out a big gaming geek party with me.