I attended a panel with Gabe as Tycho was out on Saturday as his wife was having a baby (Really! Who schedules these things!) Gabe explained the mantra of PAX in that it’s supposed to feel like a festival or a giant sleep-over at your friends house rather than a media event. Sure, sure, the media is there and the marketing people are there, but it’s not a media event in the way E3 is and, if they have their way, it never will be.
The explanation is simple, they aren’t afraid to tell people “NO!”. They have been approached by movie studios for PAX floorspace. Do they want to be over-run by a bunch of Doom and Resident Evil movie memorabilia? No. EA asked them if they could bring Madden NFL 2010 and all that that entailed. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” was the response. The guys know their audience and they know that the people who are coming to play table-top dead tree based games or pen and paper RPGs are not only not going to care about Marc Ecko, there’s a high probability that the game will be met with open derision.
So with all that in mind here are some quick closing thoughts on the show.
The “I wish I had more time with that” game
Scribblenauts. By virtue of the media badge, we were allowed into the show an hour early on Friday. Even with that leg up, the line around Scribblenauts was still four deep. It looks great, I didn’t see anyone stump it and it’s already on my short list of games to buy without waiting for reviews.
The “You’re trying too hard” games
(Tie) League of Legends and Dungeon Fighter Online. You’re trying too hard to be my friend. Stop it. It’s creepy. The sad thing is the games look more or less acceptable – it’s just that whoever is in charge of marketing them is selling them too hard and in ways that are unappealing.
The “I wish I didn’t suck at strategy games” award
StarCraft II. It looks gorgeous, but I’ve never been able to wrap my brain around strategy games. I watched the guys play and had absolutely no clue what was going on. I acknowledge this is a personal flaw on my part and resolve to do better.
The “I wish I had time for tabletop gaming” award goes to Geek Chic
One of the main spaces on the PAX floor was dedicated to hand crafted wooden tables made exclusively for table-top board gaming by Geek Chic. I spoke with one of the guys, and he has vowed to make a table large enough to play Arkham Horror and every single expansion they have ever made or plan to make. You would be surprised at how much floor space at PAX is dedicated to table-top and paper and pen RPGs in addition to the ballrooms filled with consoles hooked up for play. Consoles going back all the way to 8 bit.
The “Will some publisher PLEASE pick up this game already?” award goes to Shank
I wrote about this on my first day at PAX, Shank is one of the best little games that you might not ever see unless someone picks up the publishing rights to it. The developer was there and was completely unable to say when it would be out because he doesn’t know himself. If Robert Rodriguez (Desperado) made a game it would probably look a lot like this.
The “Online Whining Doesn’t Correlate to Real World Whining” award
(Tie) Left 4 Dead 2 and Diablo III. Nobody seemed to be bothered about the bright friendly color palette of Diablo III, although half the demo stations were playing in a brown desert environment instead of the bright green forest setting so maybe that had something to do with it. I didn’t see anyone whining about Left 4 Dead 2 coming out too fast either.
I did get to play Left 4 Dead 2 and first, I was surprised at the love the game gets in person compared to all the complaining going on about it online. Nobody seemed to mind that the sequel was coming out “too fast”, nobody was bothered that people may switch from the first game to the second game. The line went around the booth multiple times and nobody had a beef with the game at the show.
As for me, the thing I liked about it best was that it seemed more balanced than the first game. The first title, IMO, brought out the “goofy” zombies too quickly. There wasn’t enough build-up fighting the hordes of normal zombies before you got hit with hunters, boomers, etc. The second game allows the dread to build as you take out the undead inhabitants of a cheesy motel, for example, BEFORE you get hit with the next tier of enemies. That turned me off the first game pretty quickly.
Thoughts on Halo3: ODST
To be honest, I didn’t think about this much. It’s the latest iteration of a top tier franchise so it doesn’t really matter what I think about it. I wanted to spend more of my time discovering titles like Brink and Shank than playing something that’s going to end up selling 12 million copies. (Speaking of Brink - Read my PAX coverage and Jonah’s E3 coverage here.)
The “Bayonetta is just freaking ridiculous!” award goes to… um, Bayonetta.
Sega’s demo booth was all Bayonetta all the time and I got to play the first level of it. The guys there asked me what I thought and all I could come up with is “It’s ridiculous!” I don’t know if I mean that as a good ridiculous or a bad ridiculous yet.
Example: It looks like your typical hot chick with weapons game until you realize that her sexy skin-tight outfit is made up of her own hair. When fighting the first level boss, I did an over-kill attack which caused all the hair to fly off her body, soar up into the air and turn into a giant black dragon made out of hair which then bit into the boss and tore it to pieces all the while leaving Bayonetta stark naked because her clothing is made out of her hair too. Yes. A giant dragon made out of your own hair. I know, ridiculous, right?
All in all it was an exciting, exhausting trip. I got to see some cool new things and hang out with some good guys in the media booth. Now it’s just a matter of waiting for all this good stuff to come out, and as they say, the waiting is the hardest part.