Friday, January 29, 2016

Away to PAX South I Go!

Year 2 of PAX South begins today, and I'll be returning again for more nerdy gaming coverage.

Last year PAX settled in nicely to the new event. I know a number of people will disagree with me because it didn't have a bevy of big name developers nor panels (though I argue otherwise as I felt the panel content was not only expansive, but varied), but given the history of PAX first year attempts, they did a phenomenal job. We even broke the record for highest attendance for a first year. The convention ran very smoothly. With the exception of Riot changing their panel at the Expo and not notifying PAX (thus leading to a lot of very confused gamers), I was impressed at how much PAX improved the first year experience.

This will still be another trial run for PAX. This time around there are even less big developers on the floor. Why? A few reasons:

This time of year is weird for developers. Most new products are not released, let alone announced, until closer to E3. Which is why you see a bigger push for marketing in March/April.

It also means that January and February are crunch months. Beta testings, fixing coding issues, refining last minute changes - it's a busy time for game developers that there's little time to go out and promote your game.

Whereas with indie games, they can release as they see fit. They're typically not under the same time constraints or contracts as the big devs that if they decide to release their game next week, they can. That's their call. So it's easier for them to take a weekend away from the desk to promote their new games.

But that's one thing I enjoy about PAX in general. While people focus on how many big develops go to Prime and East, they seem to forget that the other 80% of the floor is covered by indie games. PAX has a great history of promoting the unsung heroes of the gaming community. The people who work 7 days a week for years on end to put their $1.99 game out on Steam, and then dive right back to their computer to create another. PAX supports indie. And I'm glad that they do! Some of the biggest names in games in 2015 started with a booth at PAX.

So I'm really looking forward to seeing all of the new games from new developers. The floor is littered with them!

That isn't to say that I'm not a bit sad-face that Bioware won't have a presence. They typically have a standalone panel room that they dub their "base" of operations and have fun events throughout the weekend. But they appear to be skipping it this year. Which is fine, they're allowed to. It's just odd given that their big MMO studio is in Austin. You'd think they'd at least do something for us Southern-folk. Throw us a bone every now and then. Oh well.

But all is not lost! The highly anticipated X-COM 2 will be making a debut at PAX South with demos and even a tournament, where they are flying in X-COM professional gamers to duke it out with the rest of us.

Panel-wise, there is quite a bit of content for diversity in gaming, developing indie games, the rise of YouTube gaming along with the ethical questions it poses, and the usual random panels - RoosterTeeth is going to teach us long division. I'm also looking forward to the Omegathon challenges. This is one of the few times where they have listed the games beforehand, with the exception of the final round. I kind of wish I was chosen. The first game is Beautiful Katamari. I would have kicked ass at that.

Given that last year I met and spoke to Sid Meier, who is in my top 5 people I hope to meet before I die, I highly doubt any other PAX will surpass that. But I'm looking forward to what South has to offer this round. It's going to be a fun weekend and I'll report back on my findings.


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