Tuesday, March 26, 2013

We Are The Line - PAX East 2013 Overview

This was the line at 9am. Not even a fraction
of the massive-ness that it grew into by 10.
If I can summarize PAX East in a word it would be this: Lines.

I was unable to attend some of the non-dev panels because of it. There were just so many lines. Long lines. Swirly lines. Zig-zag lines. Twisty lines. Everywhere lines. I don’t mind the waiting, it’s to be expected, but others in our troupe are not line friendly. It had to be something really worthwhile to do the line game over and over again. Attending a panel about Gamification wasn’t really on the top of the priority list. (Some panels were live-streamed and will be online. Hopefully I can view a few of the ones I wanted to see.)

I have already learned that if I attend next year (which I want to, and will make the effort to do so) it has to be all 3 days. There just isn’t enough time to really see and experience PAX in 2 days. Camping out the site for the 3 day passes next time. :D

Because of all of the lines, the big booths like League of Legends and Elder Scrolls online were benching at the 5-6 hour mark for wait times. It was impossible to get access into the booths. So we did a lot of passing by, photos, and tried to jump over the shoulders of others to see a few seconds of gameplay. The booths that were the most open were Nintendo and SquareEnix.

But let’s roll back a bit and do a day-by-day, play-by-play. Word-smithing not intended.

Friday we got up and moving just before 8:30. PAX recognizes that a lot of people show up and are spread throughout the city, so they offer courtesy shuttles during peak times in the day to help take people to and from the convention center. Which is nice and awesome! We found out that even if you get there by 8, you’re still too late to line up for panels. The Blizzard DEV panel closed off before 9 (doors to the convention were open at 8, but none of the events began until 10). Other panels that I wanted to attend that morning, which I thought wouldn’t be at a high capacity crowd, were also full. The Expo floor had a line wrapping all the way around the halls and then some.

paxeast13-019Gamers are devoted. We’ll get up before dawn to stand in line and play your product.

We opted to walk around, explore the convention center, and see what it had to offer. We wanted to hit up the Square panel in the early afternoon, so we knew that going down to the Expo floor was out of the question (there was still a line to get in an hour after the doors opened). But it did give us a chance to really experience the PAX community. There’s a mutual understanding true gamers have with each other. Love of the game. I know for as much as we all have been discussing issues of sexism recently, the core group of gamers are respectful to everyone. It doesn’t matter you age, size, race, gender, religion, etc. You’re a gamer. That’s all that matters.
So after roaming and eating lunch, we grabbed a seat in the line to the Square Enix panel at 11:30. We were pretty much near the front, and the line was capped about 40 minutes later (with 40 minutes to go until programming began). I borrowed my friend’s 3DS and played Theatrythem while talking to others in the line about Final Fantasy 14, and how my group and I met on Final Fantasy 11.

From the SE Flickr page. There's me!
Nabbed a front-row seat to the SE panel, dressed as Celes. Hindsight: I should have worn Lady Lilith. While no one else on the floor would have had a flipping clue who she was, the guys holding the panel were all from the 11 dev team. They would have appreciated it. Well somehow had to. I got no love down on the Expo floor in the SE booth. They had to ask me who the character was. “Hello guys. It’s Celes from Final Fantasy 6. Come on now…” There was a Rydia, Black Mage, and Noel in the panel as well. I think our status as cosplayers was pretty low on the totem pole but at least amongst ourselves we enjoyed having that connection.

What I got out of the panel is that FF14 really has been re-worked from the ground up. It’s going to have some pieces of the original game still there, like the races, job classes, and those weird crystal quest points of interest. But the game is being developed as a fan’s game. Pieces from other Final Fantasy games are being pulled in to pay homage to the past , while bringing the franchise to the future.

paxeast13-044For those who don’t know, FF14 got a somewhat WoW + Star Wars:Galaxies treatment. When the game was online, they created an event where a comet, holding Bahamut, crashed into the planet and created a cataclysmic cyclone which officially killed the servers. To help save the race, you, the player, were transported 5 years into the future. That is where FF14 2.0, A Realm Reborn, takes place. Key cities and locals have all been transformed by the timeline. The job system where swapping weapons changes your class is still in effect. But now there is more emphasis on being able to fine-tune your class and create any multiple combos of fun jobs. They’re also introducing a pet system where you can have a Chocobo fight alongside you in battle as a melee, healer, tank, etc. Protip: Everything is way cuter with a baby Chocobo. You will get people to play when you add those into your game. For those who don’t know, FF14 did not have Chocobos or Moogles. They’re in there now.

What really makes 14 stand out is that a lot of little details are being thrown into the game. Things like clothing design, helmets, weapons, and tools that are pulled from other Final Fantasy’s (such as the Warrior of Lights helmet from FF1, Magiteck enemies from FF6, Limit Break combos from FF7, just to name a few). Those little bits are really going to help shape the game.

After we left with our shiny new art cards and beta codes, we went down to the Expo floor. I left with some new pieces to my Final Fantasy collection (an original Mystic Quest Nintendo Box, mint condition), and some swag. We tried out the MOGA, a controller for Android based phones that allows you to game anywhere. I was pleasantly surprised at how light it was. They were handing out mini versions of the controller but again, such a long, packed line, it was impossible to make your way through it. It supports a 15 hour battery life. You basically dock your phone at the top of the controller, much like your iPhone or iPod to a docking station to charge it up, and within a few seconds it detects your settings and off you go. Apparently I’m a bad gamer because I play inverted. *shrugs* Sorry guys. When I push the up button, I want to look and move forward. Up is Up. Down is Down. You can’t convince me otherwise. It’s available now at most major retailers, and if you’re an Android gamer looking to beef up your experience, I recommend it.

We hung out around the Expo until just before closing, picking up even more swag, checking out the booths, and watching others game. Really if you didn’t get into a line by 8am you weren’t getting anywhere. But it was nice to see Pikmin 3 (which runs just like the other games, but with smoother graphics), Lego City (everything you expect in a Lego game, but in a giant city), Dead Island 2, Saints Row IV, and the latest Monster Hunter. Unfortunately there weren’t exclusives being released or announced. It’s all content that you can find online. The Capcom booth was a disappointment. They had a demo of the current Resident Evil Revelations, and other recent releases. In fact, almost every booth with the exception of Elder Scrolls Online had content that was already out in stores, or you could see the demo videos online.

Saturday was another early day in a desperate attempt to get to the lines as early as possible. I dressed up again, of course, but went into Mass Effect mode as Aria T’Loak from 2/3/Omega DLC. Immediately that made the day better because people wanted my picture (though it was nice to roam around the halls in costume and not get pulled over for photos constantly. It’s good sometimes to just relax.) We grabbed a spot on the Expo floor line early so I was able to walk through to the RoosterTeeth booth and pick up another Griffball, this time for my brother. Gus and Miles were there, and complimented the crap out of my costume. Even took a picture of me. That was nice. I just wanted a Griffball. :D

paxeast13-073 We also got a better look at some of the smaller devs and independent booths. Plants vs. Zombies had a carnival game set-up with a Zombie kissing booth, Test Your Strength game, and other activities. We got free downloads of their newest PvZ product, and lots of plushies. One involves an alien. I’m not sure how or why, but we’ll roll with it.

There was also a Bunny Samurai game for iPad. That’s the code name. I’m sure you can find it pretty easily on Google. In fact mobile games made up most of the indie dev floor. The one game that looked the most promising was the new Penny Arcade game that looked like RPG Maker mixed with a hack and slash. And it was just funny to read through the dialogue.

We made another sad attempt to get into the League of Legends booth, but that was moot. Picked up some t-shirts, more freebes, and it was off to BioWare. They had a full day of programming involved and we didn’t want to miss out. In the early afternoon they had a Mass Effect Retrospective, giving their favorite moments of the series, taking Twitter questions, and showing off some amusing stats from Mass Effect 3. I was surprised that the split between Paragon and Renegade players was fairly even. And even the Renegade players cured the Genophage. Only 8% chose not to. That's astonishing.

The best part? I got VIP seating right next to Rana – The Face of Samara/Morinth, who is so ridiculously nice it is insane. Why did I get VIP? Because I was in cosplay and representing their game. Glorious. All of the cosplayers got front row seats. Yippie!

Aria T'Loak. Official member of the Foot Clan.
Saturday gave me a brand new respect for BioWare. While EA is trying to reign them in and beat them down, they are still about their fans. They want to talk to people, sign things, ask questions, and take any feedback they can get. They respect the opinions of the fans, and that’s awesome. Friday I was getting awkward looks at the SE booth, a company that I loved back when it was SquareSoft. Saturday, I was treated like a true fan. I was even able to hang out in the BioWare base as I pleased-as if I were an employee and had full access to everything. Do you know what was even cooler? The dev’s wouldn’t leave until every person that waited to see them had their turn. Past the cutoff time? No worries. They'll still talk to you and sign your stuff. That was amazing.

BW, you gave me hope as a fan that being a fan is appreciated. So thanks.

So the rest of the day was basically love on BioWare. We hung out around the Base, took photos, talked to other fans, and enjoyed being there, in that setting, away from the nonsense of the world. Fans being fans.

It was a great time at PAX East. I would love to go back and get a third day in, hopefully to snag some more gaming time. Maybe next year they’ll have more new, unreleased products available to demo.
We met a Nyreen. Fangasim ensued.

Oh, and this really happened and we’re still fangirling!


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