The following is an overview of PAX East by Jasmine Hruschak:
Penny Arcade concluded their third successful East edition of the popular PAX convention this past Sunday and I was lucky enough to be among the tens of thousands of Boston convention goers. Three straight days of nothing but games, games, games – and a little dose of drama.
A number of anticipated big name titles were represented on the expo hall floor from TERA to FireFall to The Secret World and a great many more. With the traditionally long lines to play most upcoming titles being no shorter this year it was almost impossible to play everything that caught your eye. At the end of day three I felt like I could have spent another weekend there and still be left wanting more demo time.
The game I got my hands on that people have seemed the most eager to hear about, was Funcom’s upcoming ARG-heavy MMO, The Secret World. The game is set for a June 19 release with betas happening between now and then. Funcom was tossing out dog tags to the large, waiting crowds around their booth – the tags featuring one of the three icons representing the three secret societies in TSW — Dragon, Illuminati, and Templar — and came in a small plastic bag accompanied by keys that granted access to an upcoming beta weekend.
What my time playing The Secret World at PAX East really did for me was spark a solid flame of interest in the game. My curiosity had been casual at best beforehand and only a few minutes into playing I started thinking about all of the games coming out this year and trying to figure out how to budget TSW into my schedule — and wallet. It felt like a game I needed more time with before I could evaluate it properly. When I put on my headphones and ran up to accept my first quest the game struck me as “different”.
The term “WoW clone!!!111!!1!” gets thrown around a lot in modern day MMO culture, usually with at least that many 1s. What a game has to do exactly to be considered a “WoW clone!!11oneone!” isn’t set in stone, but usually comes along with a similar UI, which was the first thing that stood out to me in The Secret World.
No, not that the interface is similar to WoW, but that it’s refreshingly different.
You’ll still recognize it as an MMO UI for sure but Funcom has gone with a more minimalist approach to interface design with TSW. My screen didn’t feel cluttered with data. My first quest’s text was on a suicide note and presented in such a way that I felt interested enough to read through it, instead of finding the closest “accept” button. When I put on my headphones I got into the environment immediately – I forgot that my chat log, my minimap, my hot bars, or anything else on my UI even existed. This backfired on me when the immersion got the best of me and I attacked the first thing I saw without reading skills, trying to figure out ff the mob was too tough for me, or if he had any monster friends with him. I escaped with my character’s life and a lesson about getting too sucked into the environment!
I played until my particular demo computer lost connection to the server. The Secret World definitely requires a longer play session to evaluate fairly. I snagged a dog tag beta key package and I look forward to playing through the beta weekend with the rest of my PAX brethren.
Riot — creators of League of Legends — actually had another one of the more popular booths on the expo floor. They had a Wheel of Fortune style game that would let you win things like the code for a PAX Sivir skin. However their most interesting attraction was definitely the way they were giving away Teemo hats. Teemo is a popular League of Legends champion that’s usually pictured with his iconic green hat with red goggles pushed up onto it and his little ears poking out. Riot was giving away Teemo hats to people who were able to find Teemo mushrooms hidden throughout the conventions!
One of Teemo’s abilities is called “Noxious Trap”, which places a poisonous mushroom on the ground for his enemies to step on. Riot employees hid cup-sized replicas of these mushrooms all around the convention, including in other companies’ booths! If you came back to the Riot booth and showed them your Noxious Trap mushroom they would present you with one of the iconic Teemo hats.
In related news, I’m terrible at finding things.
When I wasn’t on the convention floor I was either attending panels or in the handheld lounge relaxing on the Sumo bean bag chairs. I played through a decent chunk of Resident Evil Revelations while I was relaxing but I’ll admit a major focus of my weekend turned into spending an embarrassing amount of time collecting Miis over Street Pass on my 3DS. I won the Find Mii game — which took roughly 200 Miis — and collected pieces to all of the available puzzles I had. I did not anticipate getting into the simple game as much as I did but I have no regrets over sinking hours of my weekend into hitting “A” over and over and over again.
As for panels there were countless interesting options but my favorites were, as always, the keynote speech and the first Q&A that follows — in which it was announced that Child’s Play would expand to support women’s shelters as well! In this year’s keynote we heard from the creator of Prince of Persia, Jordan Mechner. He spoke quietly but with clear passion about his work. He took a bizarre audio interruption in stride — somehow our room picked up another room’s mic feed — and the community convinced him to release the first game he ever developed, despite his protests. The community wanted to fund full development of the amazingly named Death Bounce through Kickstarter. Instead Jordan released a disc image of Death Bounce onto his blog, free for anyone to download.
Finally, let’s cover the drama that came out of this year’s PAX East. Mike Krahulik aka Gabe explained all of the drama in a detailed blog post that can be found here but let’s go over the two kerfuffles real quick.
First let’s talk about Nathan Barnatt, aka Keith Apicary, being banned from PAX. I really couldn’t say this any more concisely than Mike aka Gabe already has in the above blog post:
“Last year at PAX East Keith Apicary got kicked out after disrupting multiple panels by jumping up on stage and taking his pants off. He approached Robert over the summer and asked if he could please be allowed back to the show this year. Robert said sure but had him sign a contract saying he would not disrupt any panels this year by jumping up on stage and taking his pants off. He agreed and then on the very first day of the show he disrupted a panel by jumping up on stage and taking his pants off.”
The whole situation is pretty straightforward. If you sign an agreement to not do something, nobody should really be shocked when you get banned for doing it.
On to Jessica Nigri! She’s a skilled cosplayer who won a contest to essentially be a promo model for Lollipop Chainsaw — an upcoming console action game. She cosplays as the main character in the game, Juliet Starling. Con goers complained about the outfits she was wearing being too revealing. For reference, these are the outfits she was wearing — all images from Jessica Nigri’s official Facebook fan page:
Because of the complaints Jessica was asked to change outfits or stay inside of the bus on the con floor where Lollipop Chainsaw was actually being demoed. She changed into the following outfit and continued her promo model work on day 3:
According to Mike’s post there are no hard feelings at all between PAX staff, Jessica, or the rest of the Lollipop Chainsaw crew.
Oh and by the way, Bioware was giving out codes for baby tauntauns. What do those codes look like? They look like this: EBVT-42A9-VPRT-XS88. If you were the first SWTOR player to read this article, congratulations on your new tauntaun fawn!
All things considered, I had a fantastic time at PAX East 2012. It’s everything I was looking forward to and more. I played games, met fans, and spent all weekend immersed in the geek culture I love so very much.
The countdown to PAX Prime 2012 has begun! I’ll see you all in Seattle!