Or, how Trion is awesome
I’m back from PAX, avoided the pox (this is good, it has been brutal to folks the last couple of years), signed up for betas, got some swag, played lots of games, and hung out with awesome people. So, basically, PAX!
This PAX was actually a bit different than usual for me. I spent a lot more time exploring the non-video game content, and my wife spent a lot of time in panels. As a conscientious observer of things that are wrong in the gaming world, she attended a number of panels on LGBT issues, as well as harassment and community building. She also attended a couple on gaming and children (one of which I went to, and was hosted by GeekDad and GeekMom), since that is on the horizon. I will hopefully get her to do a run-down of the panels later, but for now, more on my experience.
The very first thing we did was head to the Trion booth. The purpose here was two-fold. First, we both really love Trion. They seem like awesome people making awesome games, and the folks at the last couple of PAXes have definitely carried that attitude with them. It’s great to have a chance to talk to people working on games that I love. They also gave out cool swag. We came away with RIFT shirts, plushies that make a gigantic hell monster alien from Defiance look cuddly, pins, and a mousepad. Most importantly, though, we came out with tickets to the Trion after-party. And that was the second reason for heading directly to Trion. They throw a really cool party, and kept the food and drink flowing! I don’t necessarily want to give away the secret, but there are a ton of (fun) parties, and I feel like they deserve the love. It’s a great time to mingle with the Trion team, ask them some questions, etc. So, a big thanks to Trion for a second year in a row!
On Sunday, Telaan and I went back around their booth and got a super-awesome demo of Storm Legion stuff. It wasn’t publicly playable, but someone from the QA team (I think it might have been the head? She seemed familiar from the party, but there was much drinking…) was running around in the world while another Trion employee answered questions and directed her to do random stuff if it would emphasize his point. And let me just tell you, it was awesome. When we walked up to the booth, they were in a Dimension (the in-game housing), building a crazy ladder to the moon. “We weren’t sure if they put in a ceiling, and we wanted to find out.” was the answer I got. The tools are incredible – I believe they are a subset of what Trion’s artists have access to – and she was just dropping things (like a freakin’ tree) out of her bag and into the world. I asked about bag space, and they said they’d be open to changing the way things were stored if it became an issue.
We never did see the ceiling, because we decided to teleport to a huge vista and then start killing things with the new Mage soul. Which, by the way, I have totally dibsed. No backsies. We also saw the big zone event live (and you know it was live because it didn’t work the first time, so they had to reset it), and found out about some secret achievements that will not stay secret for long, but which I will hold over your heads until then! So yeah, I’m excited about what I saw out of Trion and RIFT.
Doesn’t PAX have more than just RIFT?
Why yes, it does! I’ve already gone on for too long, and RIFT was definitely a highlight of the show for me (not unexpected, given my current gaming focus), but there were some other things, which I will lay out in the form of a list!
- Casual card games!
- Cards Against Humanity was a big hit, even though it sold out literally everywhere all the time. A friend managed to pick up an expansion or something, and we got the basics out of that, and it was hilarious.
- We Didn’t Playtest This At All was also great. I picked up a copy of it, but it’s basic rule is “play a card, do what it says”. Games last from one turn to ~10 minutes, and it is similarly wacky and fun to toss down.
- Pen & Paper / Board Games
- Reaper Bones minis – My whole crew ended up painting minis the series (you know, the one with the Kickstarter that reached almost $3.5 million?) We have a ton coming, so thought we’d give it a shot. The minis are plastic, but really hard to break. They also look great, and take paint very well! I’m excited for the larger shipment. We happened to also be sitting painting them right next to one of the sculptors from Reaper who was literally working on the Dwarf Mage for the Kickstarter in front of our eyes. This is awesome.
- Microscope – This year was my first time going to the “find a GM, play a game” room, but I think I’ll make a point of it in the future. We played Microscope, which is a cooperative/non-cooperative history building game. You lay out a brief overview of a timeline, and then start adding in epochs and events and scenes within each of those. When you get to the detailed level, you roleplay out the scenes Fiasco-style. It was great fun! And only $20.
- Dungeon! – Apparently Wizards of the Coast is going to rerelease the classic board game (which I had never played) with updated art, etc. The rules are the same, and are all printed right on the board. There were 5 copies in existence, and all of them were at PAX. Three of us managed to sit down with a copy, and had a good time with a low learning curve. Also only $20, and I will totally buy a set when it is available.
- Video games
- There are too many to really list. The ones that stood out are here:
- Borderlands 2 – the line was massive, so I didn’t play (it was available at some other booths, but it’s coming out next week so I figured I could wait).
- Defiance – Trion’s 3rd-person MMO shooter / SyFy TV series. I’m actually really intrigued. They had a PvP arena thing going, and the game looked gorgeous (it’s cell-shaded like Borderlands, but still somewhat unique), and the loadouts were fun. I believe they said it is primarily skill-based, so you level up your shotgun skill by… shotgunning people. And there’s crafting and all sorts of goodness. More on this later. (Note: It will not be cross-platform. Not because Trion doesn’t want do it, but because the console companies have made it hard. They seemed disappointed not to be able to have it work that way.)
- Forge – A Kickstarter-funded (or semi-funded? I’m not sure, really) game that’s buy-once-play-for-free. There will be DLC, but it’s intended to be cosmetic, and no leveling system. They are mixing 3rd-person shooters and MMO-style abilities in a battle arena thing. I really enjoyed running around as an assassin in the game I played, and have decided to back them.
- Hawken – F2P mech-based shooter. I expect that their F2P mechanic will be something I’m not into (it didn’t seem totally locked down, yet), but it’s always fun to run around in 40-ton mechs and shoot people.
- Smite – A gods-based MOBA that plays more like a 3rd-person shooter than a top-down click-to-move game. I hear that the portrayal of certain gods is considered offensive (I think there’s a semi-sexy Kali, in particular), but the actual gameplay was fun. It’s F2P and made by Hi-Rez Studios (Tribes Ascend), so we’ll have to watch how that pans out.
- League of Legends – It’s hard for me to talk about LoL, since I have a lot of conflicting feelings. I think the gameplay is fun, and especially so when you are playing with/against friends. I think the community needs work, but apparently so does Riot. I think their F2P model is pretty good, but I dislike just how vast their character base is and how hard it feels to learn the game as a new player. Anyway, they were having the North American Regionals, and it was fun to watch and be a part of an e-Sport event that large.
I’m sure there’s way more, but this got kind of out-of-hand. I had a grand time at PAX, and I am looking forward to a number of new games and betas to play. It seems like I’m also going to have to figure out the point at which I am comfortable Kickstarter-ing things, and what level of F2P I am comfortable with. Because, if you just looked at PAX, those two things would seem inevitable.