PAX East 2012 – My Thursday and Friday

TSW at PAX East

Yes! I survived another PAX, East this time. That’s a new one for me. Boston is cool, history and all that jazz. The streets are a pain in the ass but the rest of it isn’t so bad.

The first two times I went to PAX, I went to PAX Prime in Seattle. I lived in Seattle so it wasn’t a big deal, I could hop into the expo, hit a panel or two, and head home. None of this get a plane ticket and hotel nonsense.

But! Both times I went to PAX Prime, I went solo. I didn’t really have any local gamer friends in Seattle when I went to PAX Prime in 2009. By my second PAX (2011) I did have gamer friends. Some of those folks were even at PAX Prime, but I never managed to hook up with them.

Doesn’t matter though cause I was still able to chat with those folks and folks that weren’t able to make it. Even though I was by myself, I wasn’t alone. I was e-mailing my best friend and gaming buddy Savvy. I was posting stuff on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, even my blog.

I was by myself, but I wasn’t alone. My online friends were there for me. Which was awesome for a lot of reasons. This last year even though I had a blast at PAX Prime and Halofest, my life offline was craptastic to say the least.

I’m not going into that though.

So there I was going through my e-mails and Savvy floored me. I told him about PAX East coming up in a few months and he wanted to go.

So a few weeks later, PAX East badges came available. Talking to Savvy over Skype I asked if he still wanted to go. He said sure, we got passes, each got rooms, got plane tickets and I rented a car since we picked a hotel that was out in the BFE.

Oh and pro-tip, get a hotel by the convention center and walk, you’ll save a bunch of money. Even if you have to shack up with guildies or anyone you can wrangle into going with you. There’s turn pikes, parking and gas. Even though we saved on the hotel, we pretty much paid on the rest of it.

Months go by. Eventually the day arrives. I leave Alabama, Savvy leaves Texas, we both end up in Boston. We’re both fried on arrival cause neither of us could sleep the night before. I mean come on, getting to go to PAX is like going to Disney world, but better, you get free stuff and pay half as much, and you get to play with all kinds of cool games that aren’t out yet.

How was I gonna sleep?

As I get off the plane I look at my phone. I have a text telling me to go to the Info desk, I finally find the info desk, look around, I’m still not seeing Savvy. I talk to the Info desk folks, they say there’s a few other info desks.

I facepalm.

Savvy messages me asking me where I’m actually at. I scan the place and tell him which concourse I ended up at. He tells me to stay there, he’d find me.

That was cool.

OK to be honest he knows I’d either get lost or distracted by a shiny and he’d be waiting and wondering if I got snatched or managed to get myself into trouble. So it really was better for me to wait for him.

Sadly though, that meant -I- was waiting.

I’m ADHD and NOT good at waiting. I was pacing all over the place. I was starting to panic a little cause I didn’t even have a picture of Savvy with me, I wasn’t sure if I was going to recognize him.

I finally see a familar face walking up smiling at me. I was so happy to see him I gave Savvy a big hug.

Trust me, he’s earned it. This guy has had my back through game after game. Years ago he even played a short stint in WoW with me and had to help me keep my mother alive when she’d run past us dragging half the zone’s mobs behind her yelling “help me! help me! help me!” as she went. He always tells me about the cool games coming along and about all the beta’s he’s getting into.

Savvy is pretty much a pro-am beta tester, I don’t think there’s a single company that wouldn’t want him in their closed beta, and if they don’t they’re missing out. He knows how to push a game’s boundaries to find spots that need fixing, he knows how to document it, and unlike me, he doesn’t have a blog.

Safe to say, I’m lucky that he’s willing to talk to me, let alone travel halfway across the country to keep me out of trouble for a fun filled weekend of games and geekery.

After the hello’s we wander out onto the airport drive. I’m perpetually confused and get us on the wrong car rental shuttle. I forgot to actually READ my itinerary until we got ON the shuttle. Another facepalm moment.

We get off that shuttle, and wait for the right one, hop on and head over to the rental car place.

Anyone else would have been chiding me for being a noob, but Savvy’s known me long enough to just shake is head and laugh. He knows I’m a spaz. I don’t hide this. There’s some spazziness you can hide, mine however is so blatent that hiding it just makes it that much more obvious.

We get to the rental place and we get a Ford Focus. It was kinda fancy, had Microsoft Sync, electric locks, windows and automatic headlights. The damn thing might as well have been the starship enterprise. I didn’t figure out about the automatic headlights until we hit the I-90 tunnel.

After we throw everything in the car, we decide which GPS to use to get us to the hotel. Savvy just joined the smart phone world and really wanted to test out his phone’s GPS. I was cool with that and we gave it a shot.

That of course is when the Android vs Windows Mobile wars began. It was a weekend running gag. I’m still kinda dissapointed that he didn’t have a lightsaber app.

Yes, the lightsaber app sold me on Andriod…. Again a story for another time…

We get through a toll booth, go over a cool rusted green bridge, over a suspension bridge and after turning around a few times we actually get over the highway and to the hotel.

I end up with a big room with two double beds all to myself. I had a total “woah” moment just staring at it and wished they’d let me keep the smaller room.

After getting settled, I text Savvy and we meet up to figure out where to go to get foods. I hadn’t eaten all day so I had a hunger. We agree on and look up an Indian Restaurant and drove out to it.

We saw all kinds of cool houses, cool rocks and even a fallout shelter. It was in a fire station.

Safe to say we spent some time roaming around, getting lost, taking pictures, and totally confusing his GPS unit. That in its self could have become a meta game by the end of the weekend.

“Let’s drive out somewhere and see how long it takes the GPS to figure out how to get us back on track!”

I think the word of the weekend for our phones was “Recalculating.”

ANYWAYS, we get back to the hotel, talk about games for a while, agree when we’re getting up in the morning, and hit the hay.

Next morning I’m up WAY before my alarm goes off. This is not normal for me, I’d been a sleeper for months. There I was though, up and wide awake. I was checking twitter, checking Facebook, sending e-mail, hitting Skype, checking Google +.

I was dressed, actually put on make up and was ready to go by just a bit after 7. I texted Savvy, he was pretty much ready to go. We got some food and hit the road.

We no more than left the hotel and Savvy says, “I left my badge at home.”

I glanced at him for a sec, because I was driving and asked “Do we need to go back to the hotel?”

Savvy says, “No I mean at home, home.”

All I could think to myself was …oh crap… It’s not like we could swing by Texas on our way to the convention center.

We keep heading out anyway figuring we’ll have to work something out. Regardless I told him that I wasn’t going to leave him hanging out in Boston by himself, even if he couldn’t get the badge replaced.

I haven’t left him hanging in game, out of game isn’t any different.

We finally manage to get to the convention center, after I neglect to have faith in my GPS unit and end up taking a detour out by the airport. Two toll booths later, we get to the convention center, pay for parking and get the car settled.

Unlike PAX Prime, THERE WAS PARKING!

I would have been squeeee-ing all over the place if we weren’t worried about getting a replacement pass for Savvy. We get out of the car, get everything together and head inside. We figure we’d hit willcall and see if they can help us out, shivering all the way to the door as the wind blows right through us every step of the way.

We get up to the counter (after asking just which line we should be in) and we beg to get his pass replaced. The gal says she’d be happy to do it if he had any of the paperwork or his purchase e-mail and a photo ID.

Fortunately Savvy had the e-mail on his phone, showed the gal his ID and she handed over a 3 Day Pass.

I was ready to jump over the counter and give her a hug. I was so happy. We were gonna get into PAX!

Savvy was pretty happy too, he was smiling. That’s pretty much what you get from Savvy, he’s a low key kinda guy. It’s one hell of a contrast to the little hell cat he was stuck with for the weekend.

Our enthusiasm barely held though once we wandered downstairs and got into the queue for the Expo area. We were probably in the 10th or so spot down the line. Each line held about 50 or more people.

Now we had to wait for the remaining hour or so for the Expo hall to open. Though it did mean standing, more or less in once place, I wasn’t gonna complain, at least we were getting into PAX not headed back to the hotel.

Then they let loose the beach balls of DOOM!

OK they didn’t explode or anything but I was totally waiting for for Savvy to elbow me between the eyes when the beach balls were released, but meh, it was all in good fun. Hey when you’re standing in line for an hour or so waiting for the expo floor to open, it’s nice to be able to have a little entertainment.

And really, watching a dude get a beachball in the back of the head while messing with his phone, priceless. Just sayin’.

OK that and the people laughing at me while I was dodging fists and elbows. I’m just short enough I couldn’t hit the balls before everyone else could but just tall enough to be in prime bloody nose range. Fortunately, I made it through unscathed. I think my rogue boots gained a +10 to Dodge.

Day one getting out onto the Expo floor was awesome. The first thing we hit was The Secret World. A friend asked me to check it out so I totally accosted the Funcom Staff. Hey I got a beta key out of it, so it wasn’t all bad.

I’ll do a full review on TSW after I get this written, but at PAX East, it really was still a little clunky. I’m pretty sure they were giving us a basic build so we wouldn’t be able to get into too much trouble with it, though me and Savvy TOTALLY tried. I’m kinda hoping to see a lot more once I get a chance to use that beta key. That won’t be till May.

Once we’d played with that a while and started to wander a bit more, I decided it was time to meet my one goal for the day.

Stocking cap.

I NEEDED a hat, my ears were freezing in Boston cold. They ain’t elf ears, but they’re still sensitive. Dammit.

I didn’t really want the reversable Penny Arcade cap, but I knew that Rooster Teeth had a booth and figured they might have something I’d want. Eventually me and Savvy make our way over to the booth and I wriggle my way up to the glass looking for a hat.

I did NOT leave nose prints if that’s what you’re thinking. If you weren’t, at least now we’re clear on the subject.

I see a red ‘Sarge’ cap that looks like it’d be just what I need. I ask a nice gal for the hat and after looking up I see Gus Sorola hanging out in a funny hat. I say hi, he says hi, then he wanders off to sighn something. While I’m distracted getting my hat from the nice gal, Burnie Burns knocks the cabinet and jokes that he saw me do it. I say jokingly “look at me, does it look like I’m big enough to push anything around?”

We both laugh and Burnie agrees to sign the chevrons on my Sarge cap. Burnie gets Gus to sign it too. I told he he could just make an x on it if he wanted, it didn’t really matter to me if anyone else could read it.

This whole time Savvy is patiently waiting while I’m geeking out over getting to chat with the guys that make my favorite show and get my cap sighned by Gus and Burnie.

I’ve been a Red vs Blue fan before I even got back into games. In fact, using video games to capture video is one of the things that got me sucked into games. That and being able to play high end MMO’s cause I’d built a machine powerful enough to run the games AND capture video.

Though the desire to make movies left me some time ago, the people I met in games have kept me coming back for more. OK that and my Mom needing heals in World of Warcraft.

Once I get my hat and stop grinning like a fantard. Me and Savvy wander around again for a bit and then head over to get some food, the free breakfast at the hotel being LONG gone.

After I almost finish off a pretzel that was big as my head, me and Savvy went upstairs to get in line for the Rooster Teeth panel. That was like 15 minutes before the panel and OF COURSE the line was all the way down the stairs and around the corner. We totally missed out.

I would have been cranky since that was one of the only two panels I really wanted to see that day, BUT I had my signed cap. Anything else I needed to know I’d find out on the Rooster Teeth website later. I was hoping I didn’t miss some video, but meh, I was still on a hat high fueled by blatant fandom and sharpie fumes.

Me and Savvy wandered back downstairs and looked to see what we could see. Looking around I couldn’t believe that I didn’t see a booth for Diablo III or Guild Wars 2. I also wanted to see if I could find a Minecraft booth, but sadly no bueno. It’s all good though because I did see some familiar faces at a booth I didn’t expect to see at PAX East at all. The game? Novus Aeturno.

Passing by their, booth I saw one of the designers and recognized him after chatting with him at PAX Prime. I started bugging the dude about the game and could see that they’d put a LOT of work into the game since August. There were more ships and there was a lot more to the game.

He showed us how he was working on defeating one of the other designers, I laughed, we got a card for an in game item, me and Savvy wandered off.

Savvy wanted to show me combat in Tera. A booth dude gave us a hand getting a new assasin type build set up for Savvy. Savvy ran around killing some stuff, using the dodge and some other stuff while trying to kill stuff.

It looked kinda cool, and the world looked pretty, but it didn’t reach out to me and say “YOU MUST TRY ME, TRY ME NOW!” Then again, I’m kind turned off by pretty looking fantasy games lately. I mean I’m kinda tied to WoW right now, so anything else that wants my attention is going to have to offer more than shiny graphics and dodge. For folks that don’t have my kind of obligations, I’d say try it.

After the noob zone killing in Tera we wandered around some more and checked out a booth full of arcade games. They even had Pac Man! We only played the Mortal Combat machine. I played Sonya of course cause I love hearing “Sonya Wins!” Yeah they don’t spell it right, but who cares. I still win.

Well when I win. Out of the battles I only managed to win one match. Then again when all you’re doing is randomly mashing buttons, there’s not a lot of skill there.

Next up we wandered to the World of Tanks demo area. Savvy said that it had become a kind of a big deal. There were tournaments and lots of people loved the game.

I can see why. Lots of tanks, you get to plow things over and you get to blow things up. What’s not to love?

I couldn’t get the hang of World of Tanks, but I like the concept, the combat and all the tanks they had available. Savvy sits down and of course makes me look like a noob. I think that’s why he likes me, I make him look good.

We stop off at The Secret World booth one more time before heading over to the Borderlands 2 demo line. I tweak a build to come up with a fist weapon and magic setup that kicked some major butt. Just as I’m enjoying my unstoppable rampage, the client loses connection with the server and the world ceases to respond.

LAME!

Wasn’t their fault though, sadly the TSW booth had a poopie net connection. The Novus Aeturno guysand a few other booths had the same issue.

I just played it off that my awesomeness crashed the game.

Hey, it was the only time over the weekend that I got to be awesome so I’m going with it.

After that we wandered over to see if we could get in the queue to try Borderlands 2. I didn’t get a chance to try Borderlands, but everyone says it was awesome. I figured, hey, it’d be totally worth trying Borderlands 2.

Sadly by the time we got there the line was capped since it was getting close to closing time. I chatted with the Enforcer running the line and he said we could try again tomorrow and was totally cool about it. It’s a good thing I did chat it up with him, it came in handy later.

So our Borderlands 2 plan was fail. I looked at Savvy and suggested we go wait for the Future of Online Gaming panel. I mean after all, we’re both MMO gamers. So that was totally the panel of the hour for us. OK well, the NEXT hour. Thing is though, I figured that if we got there soon enough, we might actually get into it. I’m glad we did cause that panel also had a line that wound around upstairs and continued on down the escalators.

While we were waiting I ended up with two t-shirts. A Defiance tee and a Planetside 2 tee.

The Planetside 2 tee was WAY too big for me. The lady handing it out told me that it would be a good t-shirt to lounge in on Sunday mornings while at my computer slurping down a cup of coffee. That totally painted a picture for me that was SO me that I couldn’t refuse the shirt.

We got into the panel, picked a chair and listened to the funky music. I played the Minecraft demo on my Driod while me and Savvy chatted. After what seemed like, well at LEAST long enough, the panel began. The first guy to come out looked like he should have been on ESPN, not an MMO panel. That of course gave me pause. I find out later that Curt Schilling of 38 Studios had been in the Baseball World Series or something.

I don’t know a damn thing about baseball, but out of all the panelists, I think it’s funny that I agreed with him the most.

He said was the guy that said that no one really LIKED the 4 hour corpse runs in Everquest. You just did them because there was nothing else to do.

Curt is also the guy who dressed down a member of the audience by saying that the audience member’s “thinly veiled comment” kind of included the fact that more than likely the dude had gone to play WoW and got his ass kicked. That even though WoW is easy to get into, it’s hard to master. I can SO tell you that’s the case, and don’t get me started on bitching about Blizz changing things up on me.

It can go on for a few hours.

Thing is though I came away from that panel realizing that the guys that make the good games, the ones you really enjoy playing, the different games the unique games, yeah, they’re all made by gamers who want to build a game for other gamers. Gamers who want to build a game because when they’d played a game they were looking at it going… dude, seriously? Who was on crack when they decided to do this?

Don’t look at me like that, anyone who’s played an MMO knows what I’m talking about. Ask a Warhammer player, just make sure that you leave enough time for a long talk. You might also need to buy them a beer, it’s a tough subject.

The panel discussed:

Guild Wars 2 and the public event system. That looks kind of neat. Shifting out your skills for group combat looks pretty easy as well, so they’re doing that right. Apparently they have huge maps in Guild Wars 2 that also sounds pretty promising. Combat looks cool enough with the dodging and stuff, I tried that out at PAX Prime. Really swapping skills when you swap weapons was more of a seller in my mind. Folks that aren’t super into combat will just be stoked they can swap easily between one set of skills and the next, but that’s from my care bear explorer perspective. My PvP brain says, sounds cool, but I’d have to try whomping someone to see how effective it is. That and as always, GW2 isn’t a monthly sub, so that’s always bonus.

Defiance looks like something I want to try out. Yeah it kinda looks like a Halo kind of deal, but it is MMO style, it’s gonna be cross platform, AND it’s going to tie in with a show on the Scify channel. So not only is it cross platform but it’s cross media as well. You also get to shoot at big ugly aliens, so come on, what’s not to love? That and it’s something I might be able to get Moms into, so that would be a nice break from WoW once in a while. What can I say, it’s nice to blast npc’s into oblivion sometimes.

Those were really the two games with videos and that were discussed in any detail.

TSW was at the panel, but they had a booth downstairs. Planeside 2 is pretty much relying on people who played the original Planetside to want to try out a new version of Planetside, so there wasn’t a video or a ton of info set out.

Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios was there mostly to talk about being a dev studio where gamers were building better games for gamers. Including talking about making a game that made the devs want to stop logging into WoW on their lunch break.

That guy CRACKS ME UP!

After wandering out of the panel and walking away with a set of 3 beta keys to Guild Wars 2, Savvy and I ended day 1 by heading back to the hotel to chat for a bit and pass out. Hey I’m old, I got up early, AND I had to drive. So finding an after party didn’t really have much hold with me on Friday night.

Saturday was different, but that’s going to be another post.

4 Comments

  1. Scopique April 10, 2012 7:23 am 

    WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME SAVVY HAD A WINDOWS PHONE!!?!1! XD

    The think I’m always amazed at is how much Curt Schilling has his finger on the pulse of a lot of the grievences that MMO players talk about. He really does seem to know his stuff.

  2. Scarybooster April 10, 2012 7:38 am 

    Great post! Love the humor and insight

  3. Creep April 10, 2012 7:54 am 

    Thanks Scary!

    And Scopique, I know right? It’s cool to see folks who’ve been on both sides of the fence making games. That kind of insight is pretty important.

  4. pasmith April 11, 2012 5:34 am 

    Stay at the Westin but don’t rent a car. Parking there was $33/night.

    But there’s a lot to be said for having your room right there. You can zip up there to unload swag or even catch a catnap between panels.

    The only time we left the convention center was to head up the road a bit for some awesome Italian food. We took a cab since Angela is a wimp about walking in the cold and the cab was like $6-$7 each way, before tip.

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