Greetings, from snowy and frigid Boston. PAX East is up and running in full force, and this show does not disappoint. Here are just some of the things we saw on day one.
Behemoth has been showing off Game 4, another of their cute time wasters that they always make excellent. This one looks to be a post-apocalyptic fantasy RTS, that honestly would feel a bit slow and frustrating if it weren’t dripping with Behemoth’s usual fun style.
Some cosplayers have been turning blue due to exposed skin and having to wait outside the doors, but it saves money on body paint.
Blizzard debuted some more Overwatch characters, and it seems a new Hearthstone adventure is around the corner.
It appears that hardware may rule the floor this year, Alienware, Oculus, and Logitech are showing off incredibly cool tech that I can’t afford but really want.
We got to took a close look at some unique upcoming projects like Star Citizen and Wander, We’ll have more in depth information about these games in the coming days.
Both Trion and Echo of Souls threw some pretty nice parties last night. Presumably others did also, but you can’t be everywhere.
On Day 2 we hope to find out what Square Enix has been up to and possibly more about this Guild Wars 2 expansion. Come back here every day of PAX to find out more about our trip.
PAX continues unabated, lines several blocks long in freezing temperatures will deter no one.
The mysterious white cube structure that is the Oculus booth was again surrounded by lines of patient people desperate to undergo the Oculus implantation process. We’d like to tell you what goes on inside, but that line is several hours long.
Over at Frontier Developments, though, it was possible to get your face into an Oculus headset for a short demo of Elite Dangerous. The resolution was set low and there was only time for one enemy, but you were inside the cockpit and didn’t have to wait four hours.
While Elite Dangerous definite looks better on a screen, there is much to be said for the experience of piloting a spaceship in VR.
Also in terms of crowds, the Wargaming booth also commanded surprising traffic. At first we expected this was from people itching to finally see World of Warships, but the audience appeared more obsessed with information on the Xbox One version of World of Tanks.
The new continent in Final Fantasy XIV is interesting to look at. Alright, “new area of existing continent,” or whatever, it’s new land and you can ride a flying chocobo. If you aren’t already playing XIV this paragraph will not matter to you, but if you are this is great news and you should be very happy. The new Heavensward expansion will not drastically alter the game, it’s just going to give you a lot of new content to enjoy.
Was a little surprised to not see the Shroud of the Avatar booth giving out branded Moleskin notebooks for you to make quest notes in, since Lord British declared long ago there will be no quest log in game or yellow exclamation points floating over the heads of important people. Garriot was here the first night reiterating why this change I necessary to bring challenge back to immersive worlds, but he managed to elude us today for further comment.
Had a chance to see My Dream, a rather experimental community MMO. The game is still in alpha and is a long way from ready, but the concept seems to be that you have the regular yard-wide grid of squares you would get in any voxel-creation game, only the pieces you get to place are more intricate so the result is not a world of cubes.
Being placed on the ground were automated defense turrets and sections of grass with comparatively detailed individual strands. The long term plans sound to be for a complex resource-based economy, so you’d be able to build some fantastic looking things but only if you can get people to cooperate to get the materials.
I can’t be trusted near the EVGA booth for long, but everyone should write my editor and tell her she needs to buy me one of these GTX 980 Classified cards. I need it. It’s for the good of us all.
Gamers unfamiliar with Star Citizen are varying degrees of impressed when the concept is explained to them at the booth, but long-time backers of the game showed way more enthusiasm when they got to see footage of the anticipated FPS mode at on off-site event. A gunfight with laser pistols between two soldiers leaping through a zero-gravity area resulted in painfully deafening cheering.
But in terms of celebration we have to hand it to Motiga for knowing a good time, their on-site soirée to celebrate the strategic MOBA Gigantic had a great energy, the festivities failing to derail the intense tournament they were running in the middle of it. It turns out that fast, angry PvP and giant monsters murdering each other make for surprisingly good party atmosphere.
Too many good things left to see tomorrow, but we’ll do our best to cover everything we can.
Sad to wind down this PAX, but they all must end eventually. The best thing about Sunday is with things being a bit quieter we finally had enough time to chill at the Indie Megabooth, one of the best parts of any PAX that should never be overlooked.
For those unaware, the Megabooth is an area where several smaller independent studios have banded together. Getting space at a major convention is difficult, and Indie Megabooth makes it possible to showcase games that otherwise wouldn’t get to be seen at all. This includes an area called the Minibooth, a shared space where each game barely gets more than a single demo station, but it’s still infinitely better than having made a game and never getting to show it.
Platformers seemed to be the most common choices, but a wide range of genres were present. In particular, Dad by the Sword and Boot Hill Heroes 2 (both in the Minibooth) were a lot of fun.
We had a short break from the floor to attend the Dark Stories panel. This is another reoccurring feature at PAX, where a group of game developers relate the worst tales of inhumanity amongst gamers that they have witnessed or been a part of. One example given of a day that an entire QA team spent trying to find however many dirty and vile things would get past the chat filter on a childrens’ game (including what substances in bottles under the sink should be ingested) was by far not the most terrible story.
But the real usefulness of this panel is to spread knowledge, particularly one important fact that needs to be disseminated amongst the populace. Apparently the average griefer (and, oddly, most players in general) don’t seem to realize that anything you say to another person in a game can be monitored. The admins can (and do) listen in on things, and they can (and do) go back a read chat logs after the fact. Anything you have typed in the past can be found by them and used as justification for your banning, and your subsequent mocking at a panel at a video game convention years later. I always assumed that everyone assumed this was possible, but it seems many other people do not. So yes, they are spying on you. Whenever they like.
We got to experience Orcs Must Die: Unchained at their booth. This newest installment significantly evolves the gameplay from the previous two Orcs titles, what was previously a pretty textbook castle defense game has morphed into a full MOBA, with character options that would allow you to defend against invaders by laying traps (if you want to continue the same experience from its prequels) or take an offensive role, leading minions in an assault on an opposing teams defenders and the traps they have prepared.
Unchained had really rounded out our MOBA experience at PAX. Arena games are showing a wide diversity of gameplay this year, with Heroes of the Storm obviously dominating the traditional style. But we also got to take close looks at Gigantic and at Warhammer 40,000: Dark Nexus Arena. Warhammer has been designed with a control scheme to make it function like a twin-stick shooter, which Gigantic seems to mix third-person PvP with RTS elements and raid bosses. The duality of possible roles in OMD:U provides an interesting endpoint to the range of options we’ve seen, and our expectations for the rest of this year is for MOBAs to be all over the map.
Meanwhile back over at the MMOs, the push for sandboxes continues in independent titles. We had a chance to sit down with two separate teams on Sunday working on very different projects with the same general goal: Repopulation and Utherous are both open-world community driven games with a focus on developing a thriving city in a primitive world. Another game with a similar bend, Life is Feudal, also had a booth here where they proudly displayed framed in-game screenshots of supposedly character created areas. These types of MMOs have been a small trend for a few years, but the concentration we’re seeing now definitely indicates that this is becoming a focus.
Repopulation is a science-fiction MMO where different tribes of clones are competing to colonize an alien world. Look for our interview with the team in a few days. Utherous, on the other hand, is in a medieval fantasy setting, although you apparently progress to steampunk technology if you advance your civilization far enough.
So, to sum up, if you want an obscure MMO this year you are going to be building the world as you go. If you want a MOBA, you could wind up with anything.
But, finally, the biggest victory of the day was finally getting in to see the Oculus demonstration. A very big deal has been made about Oculus lately, but for good reason. Yes, the wait to get in was crazy long. Yes, the reservation system for appointments had many flaws. Yes, there were no big surprises, it was just a short hands-on test of the equipment and what you already know it does. But the important thing about all this is the gear works.
There were many reactions to Oculus Rift when the project started. Some asked why it was the 90s again, while others wondered what exactly took so long. But overall, we all knew any previous attempts at this sort of technology have just never panned out, they were just too expensive, too unwieldy, and the quality was too poor. Oculus is proceeding along amazingly, improving with every iteration.
Inside Oculus’s mysterious booth, individuals were escorted into tiny dark soundproof rooms where we had to stand still on a mat and await to be murdered. The new version of the headset is strapped on, and you realize that everyone has stood on line for hours to watch a video a few minutes long. The demonstration was just a series of short environments one could look around in, alien landscapes and virtual cities and more than on curious dinosaur. The simplicity of what you actually got to see was only undercut by the subtle interactivity of seeing it, creatures turning to watch you as you turned your head, or peering around something to see a better angle. At one point a mirror starts changing your reflection into different objects, which move and animate differently based on the angle and momentum of your head.
The whole thing was so brief and so basic that the experience would have resulted in riots if it didn’t work so well and feel so cool, and make me want to buy one so badly. The peak was standing on a platform at the top of a skyscraper surrounded by blimps, where you are strongly tempted to leap forward into the air and plummet to the ground just to see how much more you can see on the way. If Oculus continues to improve their hardware the way they have, they will be able to completely deliver the immersion they have promised and more.
This was a long PAX, without too many mind-blowing announcements but overall with a lot of nice tastes of what we have in store in games this year. Thanks for reading, and we’ll continue to provide more detailed coverage of the things we saw in the next several days.Related: Convention, PAX East