Tuesday, September 7, 2010

PAX 2010

For those of you who aren't already aware, I attended PAX in Seattle over the Labour Day weekend. This post will essentially be a travelogue of all the amazingly awesome stuff that happened to me at my second PAX most of which involves Guild Wars 2. I also apologize in advance for all the typographical errors which will almost certainly appear in this post.


My good friend Kevin picked me up along with 3 other really tall guys. It wasn't much fun with all five of us crammed into his car for the six hour journey to Seattle, but nobody complained to much. Kevin had printed off directions to the Peace Arch border crossing, but we somehow ended up at the Sumas border crossing in Abbotsford. Still not 100% sure how that happened. We also got stuck behind this train which couldn't seem to decide what direction it should be heading in, but we took advantage of the situation and got out to have a nice stretch. Once we crossed the border it was smooth sailing to Seattle and our dirt cheap hostel. We met up with some other guys who took the train in (what it lacked in economic soundness it more than made up for with a complimentary beverage) and wandered aimlessly around downtown for a few hours. Damian and I found a parking lot where some DnD stuff was going on and took our picture with a Beholder. We ate dinner at some silly restaurant which doesn't seem to understand how reservations worked and then I caught some much needed sleep. I had to get up early tomorrow if I wanted to be one of the first people to the Guild Wars 2 booth.


My alarm clock failed to wake me on time, so I got dressed, skipped breakfast, and bolted for the convention center. Fortunately for me, there were three doors into the expo hall and I just happened to end up in a line that was situated directly in front in one of said doors. Unfortunately I was alone in a line-up for 2 hours. Or so I thought until Damian came to the rescue by cutting in front of the line. Hooray Damian! We looked through our swag bags, found a pack of magic cards, and played a round. My deck was shit so I lost. My first Guild Wars 2 related encounter occurred when some devs game into the queue hall and started handing out GW2 bandannas. I got all excited and shit, but then ran out just before they got to me. Like literally, the person standing in front of me got a bandanna, but I didn't.

My disappointment quickly dissipated however when the doors open and I sprinted to the GW2 booth. I was one of the first people there and didn't have to wait in a line to have my turn, so that made me super happy. I rolled a human elementalist of the nobility and had a blast playing through some dynamic events and personal story missions. Based on first impressions, the game lived up to all the hype. After 40 minutes, my playtime was up and I was given a bandanna, so my fretting earlier was all for nothing. I spent the next while tyring to figure out how to get into the GW2 panel. I found a dev who was handing out collectible cards and trivia competition tickets (or silver tickets as I call them) if they could answer some Guild Wars related questions. If I got the question right to get the silver ticket, then I could attend said competition. If I answered 2 out of 3 questions correctly there, then I'd win a (golden) ticket to the GW2 panel . Did you follow that? If not, then you probably don't care anyway so you can just skip ahead. So my question was, "Over what continent did the Primeval Kings rule over?" which is obviously Elona, and thus I won the silver ticket. I still had some time to kill before my first panel, so I played some stupid MMO called Rift, which after GW2 seemed like crap (though it was very prettiful) and an older game called Two Worlds, which was also crap, but I got a T-shirt out of it.

The first panel was Make a Scene with Telltale. While waiting in line for that, I was pulled aside by some enforcers to participate in a trivia competition. The first question was, "What was Captain Jean-Luc Picard's borg designation?" and I buzzed in and said, "Locusta," even though I knew the answer was Locutus. I was extremely disappointed in myself. But that's okay, because I got that Red and Blue were the first two Pokemon games and that Spore and SimCity were both designed by Will Wright. Alas, I still lost to the guy standing to my right and only won two buttons. The panel itself was also pretty cool. We cobbled together a half decent scene featuring characters from almost every Telltale game (Monkey Island, Sam & Max, Strong Bad, etc.) which ended with Tycho (from Penny Arcade) turning into a Velociraptor.

After that it was back to the show floor for some Little Big Planet 2, LotRO, and some robot fighting game who's name I forget despite the fact that it was actually pretty fun. Soon it was time for the GW2 Trivia Competition and shit was I nervous. If I didn't win a golden ticket then PAX would be a big fat failure for me. I was 17th in line and while I waited for my turn I traded cards with people standing around me while discussing the difficulty of the questions and how much we were going to fail. The guy in front of lost, which made me sad since he was a super cool guy. He even stayed around to congratulate me after I won (spoiler alert: I won). My questions were, "What nation did the Order of the Sunspears declare war on?" (Kourna) and, "What happened to Lieutenant Thackeray and Captain Langmar after the War in Kryta?" (To which I gave a long answer that was apparently much more than was necessary). And that's how I got my golden ticket. We grabbed a bite to eat and then headed down to watch a play called Of Dice and Men, which is about some friends who play DnD together. I wasn't sure what to expect from it, but overall I was impressed with the quality of the script and the acting.

We ended the day by attending the PAX Late Show, hosted by the same guys who do Geek Nights. The show itself was alright, it had its ups and downs. But the most important thing is that this is how I learned that Duke Nukem Forever was at PAX with an actual demo. ITS NOT VAPORWARE ANYMORE!!!!! It also had a 4 hour lineup, because everybody who saw it wanted to try it out just so they can say that they played Duke Nukem Forever and it's actually a real thing now. When I discovered this, I realized that I don't really care that much about Duke Nukem. Once the Late Show was over I headed back to the hostel for some much needed sleep.


My day began with the GW2 panel. I got there early, mainly because I didn't have anything better to do, but a little bit because I was super excited. Three of the major devs were inside and they gave us the rundown on how dynamic events work in the game (old news for me), before launching into the real meat of the panel which was having the 50 member audience design their own dynamic event. We got a look at some new maps, races, and interesting bits of lore to give us some background on the areas we could potentially be putting our event into. After some voting, we finally settled on designing an event revolving around the quaggans' (a peaceful, amphibious race that resemble land belugas) battle with their nasty neighbours, the krait (aquatic creatures that resemble naga). The final product involved bringing together numerous races to build a super weapon, rally an army, and create some potions to take down a giant, killer shark minion and its Sea Witch master who lives at the top of a krait tower in the middle of a lake. It was sufficiently epic.

The most adorable abominations I've ever seen.

Once the panel ended I tried to get a hold of some of my friends, but to no avail. Luckily you never run out of things to do at PAX, so I just wandered the expo hall for a while. I got a signed copy of the GW2 novel, Ghosts of Ascalon (made out to Dr Strangelove X). I then played Tron, which has pretty bad controls IMO, Infamous 2, which is a lot like Infamous except you have this super tornado attack which pwns the shit out of everything, and Star Wars: The Old Republic. I was pretty impressed with the brief amount of time I had to play it. I like the cover system they have, although it makes the combat system nowhere near as active as it is in GW2. People seem to be pitting GW2 against TOR as the next big MMO, but I don't really see how they compete given the different business models, themes, and gameplay. All they really have in common is a focus on story.

My final stop in the show room that day was the Portal 2 booth. I was sad to find that there wasn't a playable demo, but I was impressed with the presentation they gave. It showcased their new co-op mode and even the first level add some entertaining puzzles requiring the players to work together. They also had a screen outside displaying some of the new single player features such as blue paint which causes you to jump higher, and red paint which makes you move super fast. Out of all the games I saw at PAX, only this one and GW2 are games that I am definitely going to buy.

I ran over to the Sheraton across the street where the Acquisitions Inc. panel was being held. The theatre was jammed pack, and the show was hilarious. It featured Gabe, Tycho, Scott Kurtz, and Wil Wheaton playing DnD live on a mission to rescue Wheaton's character from being sold into slavery in Hell. Far and away, this was the most hilarious panel I've attended at PAX despite the fact that I've never played DnD. The show got out late however, and there was not enough time to make it to the Star Wars panel, so I headed back to the convention center and went to a panel where some industry experts tried to pick the 10 top games of all time. I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of this panel. It was funny, insightful, and had a good amount of audience participation which always makes things fun. I'd definitely attend next year if they run it again. The final panel for the night was about mechanism design which sounds really boring, but the hosts did a great job of making it interesting and accessible. It made me look at board games in a very different light.

I was still alone at this point, but I was lucky enough to run into some friends just as they were walking in to the PC freeplay room. The wait was like an hour, so we went to console freeplay instead and played Halo for a while. But we all wanted to play Left 4 Dead 2, so we decided to tough it out and headed on back. I spazzed out a lot while playing L4D2 and for that I apologize, but come on people, you need to stick together! We followed that up with some TF2 which was much more tame despite the retards spamming their mics. Around midnight we decided to head on back for some sleep and prepare for our final day in Seattle.


Sunday was spent entirely in the expo hall as I desperately scrambled to play every game that I wanted to check out. I failed dismally at this goal. I started by playing the charr half of the GW2 demo IN 3D! Overall it lived up to expectations, though I discovered its hard to play wearing 3D glasses over top of normal glasses. I made a necromancer and ran around helping out with some fun events, the most notable of which was the epic dragon fight which was epic. The necromancer death shroud mechanic (where you turn into a wraith and get new skills) worked a lot better than I originally thought it would, and they had lots of other cool skills to boot (like summoning undead minions).

At this point some guy standing behind me tapped me on the shoulder and told me to let someone else have turn. I still had 10 minutes left on my demo timer and was almost tempted to be a dick and tell him to screw off, but I decided to be nice instead and wandered on over to the Deathspank booth. It was fairly similar to the first one, but still a lot of fun to play with funny dialogue, fun combat, and tricky puzzles.

I headed over to the Bethesda booth where I conveniently found two of my friends near the end of the lineup for Brink. I discretely joined them and had a blast playing the game despite the fact that we lost horribly, and any game where you can lose and still have fun is a good game in my books. If you haven't heard of Brink it's essentially Team Fortress 2 crossed with Mirror's Edge. You have similar classes and gameplay to what you get in TF2, but with a greater emphasis on movement like Mirror's Edge.

Afterwards we went to the Star Wars booth so one of us could play TOR while my other friend and I played Force Unleashed 2. It's also a lot like the original with superpowered attacks that destroy anything that looks at you funny. The plot leaves much to be desired. As it turns out, Darth Vader is an idiot who keeps cloning his last pupil from the previous game, despite the fact that his original pupil turned on him, and all of the clones either do the same thing or go insane.

We decided to get in the long lineup for Dragonage 2 as a way to end the day/PAX. When we finally got in, we were treated to a presentation which we'd already heard the entirety of while standing outside the booth. Then we go to play the actual game which was pretty good I must say. Combat was fun, and in comparison to most games with a morality system, this one seems pretty well thought out. I made a rogue type, but found myself warming up to the mage and played her most of the time instead. The graphics were nice, but there were a few times where they dipped into the uncanny valley. Some characters appear to be in a state of perpetual panic.
We still had 20 minutes left until closing so we ended by playing Dead Rising 2 which is a very silly game indeed.

Here's a list of some of the games I sadly missed: Fable 3, Killzone 2, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, Epic Mickey, Tera, Deadspace 2, Duke Nukem Forever, and Scribblenauts 2.

We were played out of PAX to the tune of Rick Astley's Never Gonna Give You Up and made our way to the car. The trip back was rather uneventful due to the fact that we were all extremely tired. We stopped an IHOP for dinner where when one of my friends was asked what he wanted to drink, he replied, "The blood of the innocent." I've never seen a waitress more creeped out in my life. At the border, our driver was noticeably nervous and said some rather stupid things to the border guard, but to spare him some embarrassment I won't repeat what Kevin Rey said. Once back in Maple Ridge we said our goodbyes and made our merry little ways to bed. Overall it was the greatest PAX ever.

The End.

Bonus points to whoever can find me in this picture.

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