PAX East 2018: Day One

So many changes for my sixth year of PAX East. For the first time since 2012 it is just Andrew and I making the trip to Boston. Truth be told, I actually miss the company – no fancy dinners at the Barking Crab, no ridiculous Airbnb to party in on Saturday, no one familiar to bump into on the con floor (and I mean no offense to you Andrew). It’s not the same without a crew, but sometimes change means new opportunities (like not having to worry about restaurant reservations for thirteen people).

On a slightly better note, Andrew got us a hotel about two blocks from the convention center. It’s called Yotel and it’s… charming in its own sort of way. Everything is super modern, the bathroom walls are made of glass with privacy curtains, and the main light is set to pink. I feel like we’re in a Simpsons joke right now.

In order to diffuse some of the awkwardness, Andrew and I watch Silence of the Lambs and play some Cuphead co-op on his laptop.

Wake up at 8 a.m. You are now well-rested. Did I mention I left my con passes at home? Such a Neuteboom move, am I right? Thankfully Andrew ordered an extra set that he was unable to get rid of.

Con floor opens at 10 a.m. Andrew and I play an F-Zero-ish game called Antigraviator (actually it basically is F-Zero in a lot of ways, minus the cool announcer). One thing that does catch my attention is Kingdom Come: Deliverance, which is actually already out. It’s a medieval sandbox RPG set during the height of the Holy Roman Empire. I think one of the developers got in trouble for saying something mean on the Internet, but whatever, it’s still a pretty good game from the looks of it.

Andrew later points out how many games on the con floor actually are already available to buy – SuperGiant Games just has Pyre to show off. Divinity: Original Sin II is back on the floor but came out last year. Below is back but is actually not out yet (coming this summer… again!)

Now Andrew is at a panel called “Race to the Bottom”, which is about indie game development. I need a break, let’s go check that out.

I’m twenty minutes late and they’re mulling over “games as a service”, something Andrew and I were discussing on the way up.

A lot of AAA games these days are really game “platforms” – titles that offer more content through competitive multiplayer or by being open world. Companies can extend the lives of these games by adding new content mid life-cycle or selling unlockables such as skins and lootboxes. These games then continually generate money for their companies, which is quite literally needed these days to offset the costs of new games.

Games as products (ie. the single player experiences) are now mostly done by indie devs, oddly enough. And it is true, most of the single player games I’ve played within the last two years have been by indie studios: Sunless Sea, Darkest Dungeon, Cuphead, Gods Will Be Watching, etc. But even those indie titles are dominated by rogue-likes, something I jokingly mentioned at a previous PAX East. Still, there are exceptions to this rule – Doom, Uncharted 4, and Wolfenstein all come to mind, and all of those were fantastic.

Panel is over and… wait. Is that snow outside? WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH BOSTON, WHY IS THIS THING HERE!?

After gasping at the weather for a bit, nothing like a quick stop at the Jackbox lounge, which is now consistently one of my favorite parts of the con. New Jackbox Party Pack 4 games on display. Tomorrow I’ll actually stop by and see if I can grab a spot in a party instead of just being an audience member.

On the floor I stop by to watch some Splatoon 2, which looks really fun (although I can’t tell the difference between it and the first one). After that it’s the indie floor. In no particular order:

  • I Hate Running Backwards from Devolver Digital is a fun litttle co-op shmup.
  • Church in the Darkness caught my eye last year and it’s back this year. Is it out yet? Maybe I should check this one out tomorrow.
  • City of the Shroud is some sort of real-time tactics game where you queue up combos.
  • Flinthook is on the floor and is also already available to buy on Steam! Andrew owns it, but he’s never played it.
  • My Memory of Us basically feels like Valiant Hearts mixed with A Tale of Two Brothers. It’s essentially a point-and-click about a man’s childhood friendship with a girl during what appears to be Nazi-occupied Europe.
  • Ancestors Legacy looks like a really gore-filled Viking RTS.
  • Revoke is a Chinese-developed VR shooter that was surprisingly fun to play, though awkward to figure out the controls.

I actually won a mousepad playing this whack-a-mole game game with three other people. I also got a raffle ticket for a few CPUs and a graphics card, but by the time of the raffle drawing there were about 200 people crowding out the booth and I didn’t win jack shit.

Con floor is closed, time for panels. Go to meet Andrew and… wait, is that a bonfire from Dark Souls. And people have their phones chargers jacked into it? Clever.

I am briefly tempted to jump into the Jackbox panel at 6:30 p.m. (god, that game is fun), but it would ruin my chances at the Giant Bomb panel at 8 p.m. (Andrew is not joking – you literally need to line up for that panel two hours early).

This has been the first Giant Bomb panel I’ve been to since I think my first year here. It’s their 10th anniversary, and their memories about their early days are pretty charming, even for someone who doesn’t follow them closely. I mean, who doesn’t get sentimental looking back and remembering past times? I think that’s a feeling we all enjoy indulging in from time to time.

Andrew’s got some games he wants to play tomorrow. In the meantime, down to the bar so I can poop without stinking up the room. Possible dinner plans tomorrow night.

The Pink Panther theme is playing in the elevator on the way up. This is place is weird.

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