So many cool upcoming games at this PAX in Boston, it was impossible to see everything and very difficult to sort out what was best, but after much deliberation MMOGames would humbly like to present our choices for the 2015 PAX East awards:
Most Anticipated: Star Citizen
Many of us are aware of how successful Star Citizen has been in crowdfunding its incredibly ambitious project, but until visiting this PAX I had no idea just how mentally invested its fans until I saw the packed throngs of backers at their offsite demonstration.
Thunderous applause broke out over the crowd after the announcement of a slight expansion to the number of possible weapon designs that are allowed be installed on a particular type of gun mount. This was a change that was requested by the community and hotly awaited, and the elation that spread when they learned it was coming was almost a little terrifying. This is not an everyday fandom, this is a following of gamers that have paid a lot of money well in advance for a very ambitious game that they are both psyched and desperate for. People were salivating over an FPS duel between floating astronauts with tiny pistols, in a game that so far has only delivered a starfighter sim experience.
Star Citizen is the game whose fans did not just anticipate it most, they anticipate it best.
Best Technology: Oculus
Oh ho ho… Oculus. No question.
CPUs, GPUs, and peripherals were all struggling to get your attention on the PAX floor, saying “come look at how we make this same experience marginally better.” Oculus had to say, “Go the Hell away, too many people want our incredible goodness that totally changes the experience that you love.”
Honorable mention must still go to Alienware for their Steam Machine. It doesn’t let you enter a virtual 3D gamespace, but it’s a nice little piece of hardware if you can afford it its whopping price tag.
Best PvP: Gigantic
Sixteen class choices, contested territory for summoning upgradeable units, and a shared colossus NPC for a team leader. Gigantic is essentially a PvP version of a constant final raid boss battle every time.
The entire weekend Gigantic commanded a massive crowd of players attempting to quickly master its frenetic strategy. It’s easy to pick up, can be played in several different styles, continues to give you a chance to make a comeback against a team that has been trouncing you if you suddenly learn to be better, and always ends with the satisfaction of watching a titanic monster defeat another titanic monster.
Most Innovative: Wander
The rise of MOBAs has slightly decreased the importance of PvP in MMOs, but it’s not common yet to do away with it altogether. It’s certainly abnormal do also do away with PvE, and remove combat altogether. Wander had managed to lock up Most Innovative before I even started playing as a shape-shifting tree creature following a strange chanteuse towards a flying mountain.
What I think tips this project over the edge, is the unique communication system that varies based on the form your character is in, requiring but also facilitating you to overcome a language barrier to coordinate your needs in this very cooperative game.
Best Shooter: Overwatch
It was tempting to give the Best Shooter award to the Halo Championship Series tournament, which provided a lot of entertainment to PAX attendees over the weekend, but Overwatch has really come together and delivers an intense and fun firefight experience.
One imagines that a conversation happened over at Blizzard along the lines of, “What? An FPS? Have we just gotten bored succeeding at everything else so we have to take over new game types as well?”
And the response was probably, “Yes. Yes we have, and shut up because you know we are going to do as good a job as we always do so stop complaining. And refill the coffee pot in the break room when you take the last cup, Jenkins. This is your third warning.”
I’ve digressed, but the point is any naysayers about this company operating outside of their wheelhouse were silenced by the chance to play.
Alexander will weep when Blizzard has no worlds left to conquer.
Best MOBA: Gigantic
I could just repeat everything I said for the Best PvP award, but it needs to be said that Gigantic still had to work hard as the field of competition was pretty steep for MOBAs this year. Mainstream and indie titles alike were providing a wide range of different takes on the genre, but Gigantic won out for making something new that was easy to get sucked into quickly, and had people slugging it out like pros in a massive battle. The bright and slightly cartoony style stood out, and the stolen RTS elements, which could have fallen flat if implemented badly, instead tied everything together.
Humantarian Award: The Cookie Brigade
Let’s show some love to the Cookie Brigade, those kind individuals who spent their time wandering the outskirts of the Convention Center distributing freshly-baked complimentary chocolate chip cookies to tired and hungry people waiting on long panel lines. They demand nothing in return, but collected donations for Child’s Play, allowing the grateful cookie eaters to share and pay forward the generosity they had just received. They do this for every PAX, and they always deserve this award.
Best Looking Booth: Guild Wars 2
Shiny molded plastic robot bases and overly cute fake castles dotted the landscape, but the jungle temple theme built essentially to pack Guild Wars 2 fans in to watch a giant screen repeat their looping video really stood out visually both from the floor and from the giant catwalk tunnel that loomed over the hall. Description can’t really do it justice, but if you were at an angle you couldn’t read which game the booth was for, you were asking who built that awesome booth.
Most Popular Booth: Oculus
Twitch ruled over PAX like they were an invading, and Wargaming never didn’t have a huge crowd, but no one could compete with the hype that the otherwise inconspicuous Oculus booth had cultivated. To have people lined up around your area non-stop, waiting four or five hours to get to see what essentially amounted to a five minute tech demo video… that is when you know you’ve won.
Best MMO: Guild Wars 2
For major mainstream MMOs, new reveals come often enough that there weren’t a lot of surprises saved for the show. Despite the commercial success of the Warlords expansion, Blizzard saw fit not to have WoW at this show, either because there is not much else new to talk about, or because there was a conscious decision to have their three new properties have the spotlight and not be overshadowed by their three older properties. Square Enix impressed long-time fans of FFXIV with their panel, but the demonstration on the exhibition floor was somewhat lacking in the style they would usually show off with.
Rising above its competitors, Arenanet decided this PAX belonged to them. There is more in the new expansion than could really be appreciate in the short amount of time available to demo it, but Guild Wars 2 is still straddling that difficult line they always have to hover over between traditional MMO and unique, unconventional MMO. Just a little misstep and it wouldn’t work, but it does.
Best Indie MMO: Wander
Indie MMO was a tough choice this year. We looked at many, and the words “community driven open world sandbox” followed us everywhere. And while most of the indie projects were in pretty early incomplete stages, it was clear there were many serious contenders for this award and that it would be difficult to stick out. Wander hooks you in immediately with its style and environment in a more powerful way than the other titles we saw.
To be honest, we’re not sure we’re a hundred percent sold on Wander’s concept. It’s beautiful, it’s serene, and it’s incredibly unique, but it’s obviously a game which will need to develop a strong player base quickly if it’s going to be able to fully pull off the interaction it needs to succeed. While that is true of any new MMO, it is a bigger deal when you are taking a risk with a truly novel kind of experience. But if the community is established Wander promises to stand out in online games and deliver something new and different.
Best in Show: Guild Wars 2
Choosing the Best in Show award was quite difficult this year, so many impressive and interesting things were seen. The field of competition was tight, but in the end Guild Wars 2 had to win out.
First public exhibition of their new expansion Heart of Thorns, Championship Finals of their PvP tournament (with live Twitch simulcast), and an awesome looking booth just slightly tipped GW2 over the edge in what was overall an incredible PAX.Related: Awards, Gigantic, Guild Wars 2, Heart of Thorns, Oculus Rift, Overwatch, PAX East, Star Citizen, Wander