Hi again, and thanks for your patience. Due to technical issues and WiFi access, today’s update is one day and a few hours late.
With PAX currently finished, I’m feeling a bit of a mix of emotions while sitting in the breakfast area of our hotel. On one hand, I had so much fun, met so many great people, and had so many once-in-a-lifetime experiences, that I’m sad it’s over. We’ve been here for almost one full week now, and I’m beginning to feel like it’s my entire life. On the other hand, I’m happy it’s over: my feet are sore, my wallet is empty, and my voice is a little gravelly. That being said, I’m already imagining next year, and looking forward to meeting new people and playing new games.
But that’s not what you’re here to read about. You’re here for the summary of day three. Day three was one of the most interesting; I only had two interviews booked, and one was cancelled, so I had the opportunity to check out a lot of the show floor, and try out a lot of games.
As soon as the day started, we ran into a middle-aged woman loading random gamers onto an unmarked black van with tinted windows. She mentioned that it was try out Lawbreakers, the new game from Cliff Bleszinski’s new studio. After a bit of convincing, Jonathan boarded the van, and was carted off to a seedy nightclub 25 minutes from the convention center. Fortunately this wasn’t an elaborate organ-harvesting scheme, and he made it out alive with a few awesome stories to tell. Unfortunately, none of those stories can be told due to the NDA he signed, but here’s a tweet they sent with footage of him playing the game.
— LawBreakers (@lawbreakers) August 30, 2015
Meanwhile, I finished my summary a little early and had an hour to kill before my only interview booked for the day. Walking by the main entrance, I stopped to take a picture of a cosplaying ninja, who was promoting Speedy Ninja, a mobile game from NetEase. The studio is huge in China, but this is their first foray into the North American market. The game is an endless runner which tasks the player with collecting coins and dodging traps while running along a tightrope. It also features a bit of a Dark Souls-esque twist: you may encounter the ghosts of players who have died before you, and you can exercise them with your swords for additional points.
With a bit more time to kill, I walked around the perimeter of the Indie Megabooth, checking out a few of the games:
GALAK-Z is a Gradius-like shooter from studio 17-bit. It features reactive facial reactions like DOOM, but with a sleek art style reminiscent of classic animes like Robotech. They were showcasing their new mech mode, which was a lot of fun. The Steam version is coming soon.
YIIK: A Post-Modern RPG from Ackk Studios is a throwback to old PlayStation-era JRPGs, rife with hipster humor and featuring an active battle system reminiscent of Super Mario RPG.
To Leave, by Question, is a difficult 2D precision flying game where you must carefully navigate an industrial city maze while flying on a very fragile magic door. If you touch any non-magical surface, your door dies. It reminded me a bit of the submarine portions of the underwater levels in Earthworm Jim.
After checking out these games, it was time for my interview with developer White Lotus, who are making Xing: The Land Beyond. After some basic technical troubles (yet again), we had a quick interview on the Convention Center sky bridge, and chatted a bit afterwards. Again, everyone I’ve interviewed and met at PAX has proved to me that game developers and fans are some of the greatest people.
After we split ways, I headed to the PAX Rising area, which was a bit like another Indie Megabooth. The first game I played there was (fittingly) called First Wonder, and is a spiritual successor to Giants: Citizen Kabuto, made by the original creator (who also worked on Earthworm Jim) and his new team, Rogue Rocket Games. At this point, I was a little bit starstruck, since Earthworm Jim was literally the first game I played, and is basically the reason I love video games to begin with. We chatted for a bit while he kicked my ass at his new game, and then he gave me a t-shirt and we exchanged cards. This is when it all started to go to my head; I exchanged business cards with one of the founding members of Interplay, an original member of the team behind Earthworm Jim and MDK. Even thinking back to it now, my heart is racing.
Just behind First Wonder was a game called Hard West from developer CreativeForge Games, which was basically X-COM set in the old west. Its controls and interface are very similar, but the Wild West setting gives it a gritty, unique character that was distinctly its own. It was very immersive (and quite difficult), and I ended up playing for at least 20 minutes. Frustratingly, though, it lacks an overwatch mechanic, and if you’ve played X-COM you’ll know is an integral part of the game design. Even more frustratingly, the enemies do have an overwatch ability, making this game considerably more difficult than X-COM. I imagine in the final game they will find a way to balance the difficulty, but I found it to be a bit punishing for this reason.
At this point, I was getting a little hungry, and would this be a true daily summary if I didn’t mention the PAX food? For lunch, I visited the Cards Against Humanity food truck. I had a special braized tofu rice bowl that was unreal, with just the right amount of spice. It’s funny: a running joke at PAX this year is that the Cards Against Humanity business is going under due to silly business choices (such as purchasing an island), so they’re diversifying by getting into the food business. Honestly if they were, and if this was the product they sold, I’d be quite happy with that decision.
Walking back on the show floor, I met up again with Jonathan, and we noticed that the Alienware booth had a very short line. Curious, we decided to check it out, and found that they were demoing Steam Machines and the Steam Controller. After a 20 minute wait, we had an extensive demo, and learned about some of the customization features. In “Trackball Mode” the mouse pad features haptic feedback which made it feel exactly like a real track ball, if a little loose. However, the customization options allow to you change sensitivity, or use the track pad as a joystick, or simply a mouse track pad. It also features a built in tilt controller similar to Sony’s Sixaxis. The sensitivity on this was customizable as well. The placement of the buttons felt a little odd (it feels like the face buttons and track pad should swap places), and the sheer number of shoulder buttons was honestly a little overwhelming. That being said, I could see myself getting used to it, but ultimately I would still prefer a conventional controller or keyboard and mouse. I’d like to give it another shot before I give a final judgement though.
Making my way back to the PAX Rising area, my brother and I noticed a very short line for a Morpheus demo called Wayward Sky. This was a cartoon-style “look and click adventure” with a lot of character. The (presumably placeholder) voice acting was so bad and quiet that it honestly felt cheap, but the sound design and 3d sound itself was immersive. Using the Playstation Move controllers along with the headset felt very similar to the HTC Vive, especially when someone else handed me the controllers. I experienced no motion sickness.
We then made our way to yet another official Morpheus demo appointment. I tried Headmaster, which basically puts you in a soccer prison where you’re taught to literally use your head to bump a ball into targets and goals. The opening of the demo started with a monotone announcer asking you to nod your head to agree to start the demo. I thought this was a charming way of teaching people to move their heads in VR. If I’ll be totally honest though, the gimmick of this demo lost its appeal pretty quickly. Worse yet, it made me feel pretty queasy. Of the three games I tried on Morpheus, this was by far the worst.
My brother, on the other hand, tried the London Heist demo, and from the look on the monitor, it was almost as good as Vive, if a little more stationary. The demo allowed you to open and close drawers using the playstation move controllers to simulate your hands. It even allowed you to stand up and shoot, or crouch to take cover. To reload your gun, you had to use one Move controller as the “magazine”, and the other as your “gun”, and then slide the magazine into the gun manually. It looked amazing, stable, and my brother mentioned that he experienced no motion sickness. Every time I see the Morpheus I continue to be more impressed. I think it may honestly be a true contender in the VR market.
I spent the rest of the day on the show floor trying games in the Indie Megabooth area. To rattle them off quickly:
Eco, a Minecraft-like game which has finite worlds populated by multiple players. Their actions can pollute the land, cause mass extinctions, and destroy the planet, making it a bit of an environmentalist game. Servers will be private and publicly hosted, each with own player-voted laws to prevent (or allow) griefing. This one will be great for education.
Armello, a digital board game from a developer that came all the way from Australia. The cutscenes are absolutely beautiful and charming, with anthropomorphized animals. The game play looked charming, but I didn’t have the chance to play it myself. The developer mentioned that it promotes temporary alliances in the same way that Risk does (aka: teaming up with one of your friends to take out the powerful one, then turning on one another after).
Wattam, basically the most ridiculous game there, made by the original creators of Journey and Katamari. I remember when this game was first announced, it was at Double Fine’s indie-focused panel in E3 2013, revealed with a crayon drawing on a napkin. I remember thinking it was one of the silliest announcements I’d ever seen, but to be honest the game turned out to be quite fun (and of course very, very cute). It’s basically about making friends, and encouraging people to become friends by using their unique talents.
After the show floor closed, we headed to Seattle Indies Expo for free beer and snacks (and of course, indie games). Here, I played two incredible independent games.
Trial by Viking was a 2D sidescrolling platformer where you played as one of two vikings. It was just like a classic platformer, with tons of environmental hazards and pitfalls, secret areas, and item collecting.
The Last Shore from Pulpo Games is dialogue-free, atmospheric Legend of Zelda-like RPG where you played as woman traversing the sea to unlock new magical weapons. It was very immersive, and I’ll definitely be picking it up when it’s finished. The artstyle was reminiscent of Legend of Zelda, Sword and Sorcery, and Ecco the Dolphin. I think this may have been one of my favourite games from the PAX trip in general, never mind just at Seattle Indies Expo.
Infinite Scuba, which was technically also featured at PAX, is an exploration-based diving game based on real diving sites. I talked with the developer for some time about education through gaming, and how they reconstructed the dive sites based on schematics of sunken ships.
Finally, we left Seattle Indies Expo, and ended the night with expensive tequilla and cheap (but delicious) Mexican food at a place called La Cocina Oaxaquena. Again, I cannot recommend this restaurant enough. The food in Seattle has been mostly great so far, but this place was one of the highlights.
As always, I’ll end this post with a gallery of the awesome cosplays I saw through the day. Thanks again for reading!
Thank you to all of the unbelievable cosplayers who let me use their pictures in my articles. The following cosplayers gave me their cards, so I’d like to share their social media info so that you can check them out:
@cnepoy on twitter, @thewazaaman on twitter, @drlongshotx on twitter, @trojanwarred on twitter, @SuperSprill on instagram, undiscoveredphotography.com/cosplay, facebook.com/lovelyladyace, facebook.com/dv8props, and everyone else who did not share their information. If you see your cosplay here, and you would like me to link to your page, please let me know!
To read up about the other PAX days, check out the following: