Monday, September 03, 2012

Penny Arcade Expo 2012

Another PAX up and gone.  Given this was my 8th PAX I think that I have really hit my stride in managing my time there as well as any associated stresses of going.  There is just so much to see and do that you have to consign yourself that you are going to miss truly great events in favor of other truly great events.


For Friday, I did not have much on my plans to hit. I was interested in doing some D&D as well as hitting the expo hall and seeing what folks had brought in.  Instead of jumping into the queue line, I was happy to see that the Penny Arcade Merch line was already open and nearly empty, so I jumped in and got my yearly tee shirts and book.  After getting through the mega line (which I got to talk to two nice guys in the insurance business, seriously), I was able to check out the insanely crowded expo hall.  After quickly looking through the expo hall, I settled into line to watch the live play demo of Assassin's Creed 3 which was absolutely incredible.  Besides being blown away by the graphics, it was just incredible to see what they have done in terms of interacting with the environment.  When Connor was climbing a tree, it was not climbing a ladder or rope, he was moving branch to branch in a very realistic manner.  My friends went through earlier and mentioned that their playthrough included stopping to pet a dog in the street.  Just wow.

After meeting up with my compatriots outside the League of Legends tournament (which I hope is not part of PAX next year, but separate and nearby) and grabbing lunch, we headed over to the Annex and starting going through one of the special encounters where we all got to play evil drow.  The DM was a little distracted, but we still had some fun (got a free d20).  We realized that the queue line was nearby to try out D&D Next.

While in line we met some nice blokes from Canada.  One of the folks in the room also broke out Cards Against Humanity which was sick, disturbing and cool.  Basically I have been told it is similar to the game Apples to Apples where you basically do Mad Lib.  Cards Against Humanity contains only the most foul aspects of humanity to use in sentences that can only end horribly.  Once we got into the game, I was shocked at how well balanced the game felt and how much fun we actually had playing.  The story the DM put together was fun, and coming from the 4e perspective I was a bit skeptical of the characters with few abilities and few hit points.  But once we started playing, I saw that it was really a playground for the players and DM which required way less math and fiddly bits and focused on what D&D should be about, which is a group narrative that is fun and engaging.  For instance, one of the characters in the group was a priest of Lathandar, which could be done fairly dry and just playing the mechanics, but instead the player basically put life into his character where he tried to convert every creature he met to his god whether they be undead, animal, or person.  Plus he monologued... a lot.  Scott's character was a halfling rogue who used to be a chef, so when he got the chance, he backed some poisonous pies to feed some Orcs.  Just had a seriously good time.


On Saturday, I had two things on my agenda: Acquisitions, Inc and the DM challenge.  Up until that point, I decided it was time to hit the expo hall again and time permitting, I would check out the board game area.  Well time didn't permit and we got sucked into all the cool games.  While the big triple A games were cool, what we came away with was how cool the indie games were, although part of that is probably that we could actually go play them and talk to folks working the booth as opposed to the big titles and companies were just overwhelmed with people.  I did get a chance to try out Doom 3 3D, which left me feel nauseous.  I was impressed by the look and how smooth it was, but felt like my eyes were about 2cm too close together for what they wanted to show.  Another cool one I saw was Hawken which had some awesome mech action coupled with neat visual cues on damage taken.  Also I got roped into trying a controller that attaches to Android devices via bluetooth called Moga which felt incredibly smooth and comfortable... if I had an Android device.

After lunch, we were able to get in another D&D encounter before we began the long line sitting exercise known as waiting for Acquisitions, Inc (and a blog that has good pictures as well).  While waiting we met a few groups playing Zombie Dice (best line game ever) and decided to join forces to have a bigger game, which included a couple from the UK named Ben and Jen as well as Dennis, a friend of Scott's and also Glen and Amy.  After that we switched up and played some Cards Against Humanity.  The D&D session had some incredible set pieces as some cool effects, but at its essence it is about watching Wil Wheaton, Scott Kurtz, and Mike and Jerry at their best.  It was fun, entertaining and loaded with butt jokes.

After that, Jason and I headed over to take part in the DM challenge while Scott went to the Avicii concert. Our DM had flown in from London and I was lucky enough to land again with one of the guys we had met the night before.  In addition, the DM from the challenge last year was part of our player party this time.  The encounter set was placed in Menzobarranzan with evil Dark Elves (a theme for them this year).  The campaign was pretty interesting and I can see what the DM was trying to do, but as normal players we didn't cooperate.  In either case, what he planned was super slick, but what ended up happening was also very interesting.


Instead of waiting in line for the expo hall, I was ran into an interesting guy from California and we talked a lot about interesting games.  He headed onto the hall, and I learned that the Wil Wheaton Awesome Hour was already full up so I headed down to talk to the folks at Reaper Miniatures who put on one of the largest kickstarters of all time.  I took some time to paint a miniature of my own and found it super relaxing and fun. I am afraid I have found a new hobby.  Once I left, I headed for the expo hall to see some more of the indie games and get a chance to play Forza Horizon and another game from Dream. Build. Play.

After lunch, I met up with Lindsey and her daughter, Sam.  We wandered about looking for a place to buy Cards Against Humanity but gave up.  I was surprised at Sam who at only 7 months was having the time of her life waving at everyone she saw and just being a bundle of smiles.

At this point, I am completely worn.  I find a nice quiet place to rest my weary legs and wait to have dinner with Amanda, Scott, and Jason.

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