It was no contest. The line around the Supergiant Games booth dwarfed the indie side of PAX East. It looked as if everyone and their cosplaying mother wanted to get their hands on Transistor, the spiritual successor to Bastion. Supergiant’s first big hit made a lot of fans back in 2011 for its superb soundtrack, painterly visuals, and inclusion of a gruff narrator who told your tale in real-time as you played it. The deep-if-not-exactly challenging gameplay helped, yes, but it was Bastion’s lush presentation that set itself apart and captivated so many. Though it shares the same isometric view and a similar emphasis on sound and art style, Transistor takes the formula established by Bastion even further.
Nestled in the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center’s west wing was an area — along with the Indie Megabooth — that defined my PAX East 2013 experience: the free-play classic console room. For old timers like me, or those who love the relative simplicity of games from yesteryear, it’s a must-visit destination as you can play anything from an Apple II to a Dreamcast.
I knew next to nothing about Wildstar pre-PAX East, but as I bounced from panel to panel, its promotional banners caught my eye. I also heared snickering and side conversations in which people pegged it as the next World of Warcraft. Anyone who’s played MMOs knows that when a game is compared to WoW you can’t simply ignore it. So I didn’t. Yet, when I wandered into a Wildstar Q&A I wasn’t expecting to be smitten, but I did. Wildstar is a new IP from NCSoft. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, NCSoft is the company behind Guild Wars and City of Heroes, so you can expect a quality MMO.
Sony brought a thirty-minute demo of The Last of Us to PAX East. There wasn’t a single moment when the line for this survival horror/action game wasn’t capped, and there was a damn good reason for it. The Last of Us is a damn fine game.
Fallout, Borderlands, Left 4 Dead, Metro, and other post-apocalyptic games have one shared aspect in common: A lack of realism. If the world were to be laid waste by nuclear warfare, there wouldn’t be bullets and food everywhere. That’s where The Last of Us shines.
I love video games.
Everything about the medium delights me. The music, characters, level design, stories, and every single morsel that goes into creating a game — I love it all. My mother often jokes that my first word was SEGA and that Nintendo soon followed. It’s not surprising; I’ve been around games since the day my mother brought me home from the hospital, thanks to my older brother’s Atari and Master System. Everyone in my immediate family is involved in some form of gaming. Although the gamers in my family vary from the hardcore to casual I can safely say that everyone has enjoyed games at one point or another. My mother holds the house Tetris record with 150 lines and is currently obsessed with Bust-A-Move on iOS. Games are a part of my daily life no matter the console. I love them all.
As PC gaming becomes increasingly popular thanks to games like League of Legend, services like Steam, and the platform’s overall convenience, PC peripheral/accessory/component manufacturers have stronger presence at gaming conventions. Nvidia had a strong showing at this years PAX East with a prodigious booth that featured lots of gaming goodness. Gamers could sample their favorite games at their highest graphical fidelity thanks to the Geforce Titan (more on that beautiful beast in a bit), or give Nvidia’s new portable Shield handheld a whirl. Nvidia took us on a booth tour where we latched onto the Shield for hands-on impressions.
PAX East’s magic lies in its ability to bring together all aspects of the gaming industry — developers, gamers, and press. The three-day nerdapalooza is a rare opportunity for those three segments to mix and mingle in a surprisingly laid-back environment.
I had the pleasure of doing just that with Katie Hallahan, designer & PR director for Phoenix Online Studios. Fittingly, Katie and I met and sat in front of the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center’s Phoenix Theater to discuss Phoenix Online Studios’ new adventure game series, Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller.
At PAX East, we were all together in the same enormous room! And after a few drinks we decided to record our conversation. The chat swings from Capcom and the treatment of their franchises, especially Mega Man, to the ridiculous state the overall industry has fallen into where games sell 3 to 5 million copies yet are still considered failures, to indie developers to games journalism. Eric Guzman and Editor-in-Chief Jeffrey L. Wilson dominate the discussion with input from Gabriel Zamora, Isaac Rouse, Terry Lewis of The Other View and me.
Montreal-based Spearhead Games, made up of developers who worked on Assassin’s Creed, Dead Space, and Army of Two, had Tiny Brains to show at the indie section in PAX East this past weekend. Clad in lab coats and surrounded by flasks and beakers filled with blue liquid and, well, tiny brains, co-founder Simon Darveau (he was design director on Assassin’s Creed 3) and his colleagues introduced me to their action/puzzle game designed around co-operative teamwork. Darveau said this game was built for yelling at friends, pizza parties and yelling at friends during pizza parties. After a play session with three other PAX-goers, I saw what he meant.
Indie developer Red Barrels, made up of ex-Ubisoft and ex-Naughty Dog veterans who worked on Prince of Persia, Assassin’s Creed, Splinter Cell and Uncharted, is looking to keep the genre made popular by Resident Evil alive with a new survival horror title called Outlast.
Set in the Colorado mountains, you play a journalist named Miles Upshur, who investigates an abandoned asylum taken over by the Murkoff Corporation. Sounds familiar, right? Abandoned building, evil corporation… But there is no combat. You’ll have to flee from threats. The only reloading involves batteries you can find around the environment to power your camcorder, which you’ll need to see in the dark. And Outlast is dark.