Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Nerdicus PAX EAST 2014 Retrospective

Well all, as you may have noticed I missed the Friday and Monday post, but that's because I was attending an event that every gamer needs to go to at least once in their lifetime. I am of course talking about PAX EAST 2014. Now, I've been to quite a few PAX in my time, and they seem to be getting better each year. The fact that I come home exhausted with a true lack of sleep says something.

I'm pretty much falling asleep at work now...ah well. Worth it.

The fact of the matter is, I couldn't ask for a better opportunity to join forces with my fellow nerds. I absolutely love events where we can forget about what people mock us for, and just respect each other for what we love. Whether it is gaming, cosplaying or even roleplaying, it doesn't matter when we're here. We're all one unit. ONE MASSIVE NERD ARMY!

And I love it.

I wanted to take this post day as an opportunity to reflect on my weekend, and talk about some of the up and downs I had at PAX. And of course, talk about some of the delicious food in Boston, MA. I'll make the food portion quick and easy...seafood...seafood...seafood...and $500+ worth of sushi.

I made my way into the convention right after the floor opening on Friday morning, which was roughly around 11 am. Now when I say it was packed, it was freaking packed. Barely any move to squeeze through, and sweaty bodies rubbing up on ya. You're all friends there, so it's all good lol.

Right when I walked in I lucked out, and I was able to meet Scott Kurtz (of PVP fame). I got him to sign one of my PVP posters which was an excellent investment because I have been looking for some new art to put up in my man-cave. Because no one must have known he was there yet, there was only one person ahead of me. Lo and behold, as soon as I left the crowd was already forming. Sneaky bastards.

And of course, I told him to charge some doors during Acquisitions Inc. He agreed.

The first day was really about checking out the floor and figuring out exactly what I was going to do the next few days at the convention. But even through my quick run through, and the subsequent days, I noticed a few things that struck me as surprising.

The Lack of DnD 

First and foremost was the lack of a DnD presence. I know DnD Next has been in testing for the last few years, but I was honestly shocked that I didn't see as many tables as I had hoped. Last year, half of the table top section was cornered off for people to learn how to play DnD. Of course, I was looking for the opportunity to get my hands on some DnD next play time, but as it turned out you there was very limited table seating this year. You had to show up hours before the scheduled play session to even have a remote chance of being able to play. Unfortuantely, I wasn't so lucky. It looks as if Wizard of the Coast was focused more on advertising MTG : 2015. While I understand it's their new product, you would think they would push more DnD gametime on con-goers, especially since Acquisitions Inc was there.

Overabundance of PIXEL ART gaming / odd Indie Games

Listen, I love pixel art just like the next guy, but indie gamers are taking it a bit too far. The market is SATURATED with pixel art styled gaming, and most of it is nothing spectacular. We're at the point now I believe where if you are going to develop a PIXEL ART styled video game, you need to do something different. Take a look at games such as FEZ. They aren't anywhere near being a traditional game, but they still use Pixel Art as their forte. The problem is, most games are either RPG's, or side-scrollers. That's just not enough to grab my attention. Pixel Art on it's own was a stand out a few yearsa go, but today it seems like everyone is just trying to jump onto the bandwagon.

Most Indie games didn't leave me with any marks, but a few caught my eye such as a game called BELOW which was absolutely incredible. The artwork was phenomenal and made it look like a cross between Shadows of the Colossus, Zelda, and Dark Souls. If you're able to do that, then you've got something going, otherwise, you're going to get lost in the market.

Of course, there was Hotline Miami 2, and if you haven't played the first one, hurry up and get your hands on it. Embrace the 80's.


As you would guess, the Oculus was at a number of booths this year. I for one, am only interested in the Oculus because the middle-grade book I wrote about video games revolves around a VR based console. Other than that, I hate VR. I don't know why, but to me it just feels gimicky. As I walked around the convention, none of the games that were using the Oculus looked impressive. In fact, it looked like it was taking a step back. I didn't get a chance to try the Oculus, so I can't judge on it's performance, and I know it's still experimental, but there was little there to prove to me that it's going to be amazing addition to the gaming world. I need to be blown away by this if I am ever going to buy it. I will admit, from what I seen it looks to perform pretty smoothly on the games it was running, but we need a wow factor. The VR gimmick is just not enough.

Bring it on, Oculus. I want to be amazed. I'm rooting for you to prove me wrong

Lack of a New Game Presence from Major Developers - but a few EPIC ONES!

I think different from previous years was the fact that there weren't many games that were being announced that were big. Last year we had Nintendo and Sony there showing off their goods, and a bunch of developers backing them up. This year, we only had the Xbox One (which had a less than impressive booth). I was really looking forward to news on some games, but those I did receive news on didn't really do anything for me.

I'm sick of hearing about Watch Dogs. I've pretty much lost all interest on the game at this point. I honestly feel like it's just never going to be released at this rate. The Evil Within seemed to be a huge disappointment. The game just didn't impress as much as the trailer did. I'll still give it a shot, but who knows what will happen from now until release.

The Borderlands 2 prequel was there, and I am extremely annoyed that I missed out on the panel. Apparently Gearbox gave out full version codes of the game to those who attended. Curse my foul luck. It looked good, but I'm hoping it's not a glorified expansion.

Blizzard had a humongous booth where you had the chance to play their new DOTA game, HEROES OF THE STORM. The line was insane for that game, so I didn't even get a chance to get near it. BUT, I did manage discover the Godsend that is HEARTHSTONE. This epic card game released by Blizzard has rekindled my faith in the company. It's easy to learn, fun to play, and addictive as hell. Thank God for card games making a comeback. Luckily for me, I found out a way to download it for my US Ipad so I can have the game in it's fully glory. Time to buy some packs.....

The one game that really stood out however was EVOLVE. This game looks incredible. I can't even tell you what the look on my face was when I was watching the demo. It was pretty much everything I expected and more. The gameplay looked extremely fluid, and the hunters vs. monster battle system actually seemed pretty balanced. I'm really aching to get my hands on it, and this is going to probably be the one game that keeps me hooked for a few months after I snag it.

And just check out this Evolve statue! HE'S A BEAST! Was at least 20 feet tall! The most imposing thing at the con.

Where were all the Cos-players!?

Maybe it was just me, but I barely saw any cos-players this year. Last year the convention was booming with people dressed up as their favorite video game characters. This year however, I felt it was lacking. I must have just been at the wrong place at the wrong time, but those that I did see dressed up went all out as usual.

My favorite though? The Hotline Miami cos-play team. Insane job you guys and gals. Pulled straight from the game!

The Highlight - Make-a-Strip panel and ACQUISITIONS INC

As usual, the highlight for me was the Make-a-Strip panel with Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins, the brains behind Penny Arcade. The hilarity that ensued with the red envelope / white envelope gags were priceless, and it's always good to see them answer the serious questions. They're some brilliant creators and businessman and they just keep going strong. Penny Arcade has been blowing up over the years, and I'm proud to say that I've been following them since day one.

But the true icing on the cake? Acquisitions Inc. of course. This is the first time PAX EAST has gotten the famed live DnD session hosted by dungeon master Chris Perkins. This time we had Mike, Jerry, Scott, and guest intern Morgan Webb take on the vile Dragon Cult. Let's just say, things didn't go as planned, as I don't really want to spoil it for you...well..I do..everyone dies...SORRY, almost everyone.

It was one of the greatest DnD performances since the start of Acquisitions Inc, so be sure to check it out once it pops up on YouTube. I'm just hoping they finish up that cliffhanger in the pod casts soon.

That about sums up my PAX EAST 2014 experience. As usual, I'm exhausted...but that is to be expected. When you encounter this much nerd-epic-awesomeness, you're bound to be a little tired.

Until next year...or maybe if I have the time PAX SOUTH!



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