PAX 2013: Top 10, and the Record Speed Bureaucracy that Got Me There

Well hello there!

Been a while.  It’s been a little slow going on the writing front; sometimes it’s a slog, and you just have to muscle through it.  ._.

I just got back from PAX!  Penny Arcade Expo is a huge gaming convention in Seattle, and this year it went from Friday August 30th to Monday September 2nd.  Four days of wicked awesome gaming fun with my best friends, and 80,000 other people.

We had an 8 bed room at a hostel.  I made a nest up on the top bunk by the window, and it was excellent.

But I’m getting ahead of myself…

This is perhaps the most clutch example of bureaucracy I will ever recount.  I still cannot believe it happened.  Truly, I am in the luckiest timeline.

9PM the night before leaving for PAX: someone in my group posts on our coordination thread that they just realized that their passport was expired.  The rest of us gave our condolences and continued packing.

So at about 9:05PM, the night before we leave, I also discover that my passport is expired.

There was much freaking out, but I kept it together.  Discovered that it was possible, though not likely, that I could get a new passport in time to make my 11:30 bus the next morning.

10:05PM: get passport photo taken.  Thank goodness for late night convenience stores that take passport photos.

That night I packed and figured out the timeline for the next day.  If I got up at 6, I could get in line for the passport office at 6:30.  When it opened at 7:30 I was the first in line, of about 40 people.  I explained my situation to the teller with a good a mix of urgency, optimism, and cheerfulness, but with an underlying panic that was impossible to conceal.

Longer story shorter, my new passport was handed to me at 11:17AM.  I was in a cab at 11:20, and on the bus with all my friends at 11:25.

I cannot believe that worked.   The people at the passport office in downtown Vancouver are wizards, literally wizards.

Bonus: my friend who was in the same predicament got his passport as well and made it to PAX in time for An Afternoon With Patrick Rothfuss.

Onto PAX!  Here I shall share my top 10 games to check out.

#10: Against the Wall

Against the Wall is a first-person platforming-adventure game set on the side of an infinite wall.  You have a weapon/tool equipped to manipulate sections of the wall, pulling them outwards so you can climb on them.  This game looked challenging and fun and I look forward to trying it out. (by Michael Consoli)

#9: Mushroom 11

I only got a quick look at this game but it seemed really neat; you’re herding an ever-growing fungus through a side scrolling maze. (by Itay Keren)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EkFGbMYmeT8#t=5m54s

#8: Orbitor

There was a contingent of Australians up on the 5th floor of the main convention hall, near the PAX10, and I had a brief peruse to see what would catch my eye.  Orbiter jumped out at me because of how insanely beautiful it is.  It’s a space game where you orbit stars and moons and blow them up for energy.  The effects are eye catching and the soundtrack is great.  Just a beautiful game that I look forward to playing more of.  (by Tim Stasse)

#7: Aarus Awakening

This game was eyecatching- everything in it started hand drawn on paper.  The concept was neat and challenging- little beasty-dude can teleport to where your mouse cursor is.  I had a tough time picking it up, but that was mostly because I was exhausted by the time I got to it.  This is one game I will be playing again, when I have skills like basic hand-eye coordination, and brain function once again.  A neat game.

#6: Cannon Brawl

Cannon Brawl is out right now.  My husband plays it a lot.  He was very excited to meet the creators of it; he made a shirt and they were pretty thrilled to see how into their game he is.  They signed it for him, and played the game with him.  The creators are super cool, and their game is absolutely fantastic.  Think Worms Armageddon meets tower defence, with real time zeppelin warfare and destructible terrain.  It’s super fun!  Check it out, and get your Cannon Brawl on.

The next three on the list are all about sound.  Visuals and gameplay are great, but mostly it was the soundtrack that drew me in.

#5: Soundodger

It’s like asteroids, but you can bend time.  Oh and also the soundtrack sometimes kicks into reverse, and so does everything else but you.  It’s hella cool, and free to play.

#4: Electronic Super Joy

Sidescrolling 2D platformer that has a kickin soundtrack to accompany you on your perilous journey.  The look and feel is really great.  Bought it when I got home.

#3: Crypt of the NecroDancer

This is a fantastic concept that’s so well implemented I could have played this game all day.  You move to the beat of the music to keep your combo multiplier going, and it rocks my socks.  This had such a crowd around it, mainly because they had a DDR pad hooked up to it, so people had to get their feet moving to the beat to dodge skeletons and fight dragons in this roguelike rhythm dungeon crawler. No picture could do it justice; you have to hear it to believe it, and everyone watching was bobbing their heads along to this awesome game.

#2: BattleBlock Theater

This game was round 2 of the Omegathon, and boy oh boy was it fun to watch.  It’s like Smash Bros, but with more game types, and with the cute factor pumped to 500%.  Customizing your little battle dudes before the fight is super fun; there’s a jillion different heads to get.  I bought it when I got home, and have a stoic lion head as my mug of choice.  Want a party game?  This is the one.  Epic fun times ahead with Battleblock Theatre.

#1: Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime

Holy moly this was fun.  Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime at the top of my list for sure: it’s beautiful, sounds amazing, and is so inventive I fell in love with it immediately.

It’s two player co-op.  You and your partner are manning a ship, and there are four guns, a shield, a giant space lazer, and thrusters, and you have to operate the ship in real time while being assaulted by space aliens, and simultaneously trying to save whole planets that are being attacked.  It’s super fun, and I cannot wait to play more of it.

But wait there’s one more: it was the most hilarious thing to watch and then to play.  Octodad: Dadliest Catch is a game where you play an octopus in disguise as a normal human dad, trying to fake his way through normal human stuff without letting on that he’s an octopus in a suit.  Controlling the jelly-noodly-flip-floppy-cephalopod resulted in constant laughter.  Having to do such mundane things as “Get your daughter the milk” and “Make coffee” resulted in near catastrophe as my flailing tentacles sent things flying around due to my inept control.  It was so, so funny, and I will make everyone that comes into my house play it, so that I can laugh at them.

So that’s *my* PAX10.  PAX11 I suppose.  There were so many games, and even more that I list here that I’m looking forward to.  The final round of the Omegathon was “Spy Party” and I think I’ll get it and play the heck out of it, and I will learn a new meaning of the word “subtlety”.

(My lanyard by the end of the con!)

That’s all for now folks!  Thanks for checking it out.  I hope I’ve inspired you to take a look at a few of these games and see if you like them.

Cheers.

Heidi out.

12PAX: Coming at it as a Writer

This was my first PAX.

For those not in the know, PAX is Penny Arcade Expo, a gaming convention.  It spanned the three days over the Labour Day long weekend, and had many things that interested me.

I went to a ton of panels with interesting people talking about interesting things.  I mostly tried to come at it from my perspective as an author.  It was nice; a lot of the talks really applied to writing, and not just in video games.

I wanted to share a bit about some of the writing related panels I went to, and the points I took away from them.  The speakers were engaging and humourous, informative and well thought out.

First up: Loving The Alien: Non-Humans in Fiction and Games.

This is extremely relevant to writers of science fiction and fantasy in particular.

The panelists were Erin Evans, author of Brimstone Angels and The God Catcher, David Noonan, lead writer of TERA, and referenced weekly in our D&D campaign, and Keith Baker, creator of the Eberron campaign setting in D&D, writer of two trilogies, as well as the creator/writer on a host of other RPG and computer games.

I know, right?  Writers makin’ it.  So good.

These good folks talked about non-human characters and the challenges faced by writers trying to flesh them out.  It was interesting, though I felt rather pretentious when I had the thought “I know all this.”  I DON’T know all this, but I guess it feels like that sometimes when you’ve spent time thinking about a topic.  …But then, I’ve been doing A LOT of thinking about this; I am in the throws of writing a novel where the main character is non-human.

The one point I hadn’t really thought about was, when you have non-human species, show them interacting in places where they’re forced together with other species.  You get to see all kinds of tensions, their differences, but also their similarities when you show where their borders clash.  Showing a non human character in their element is fine and dandy, but show them at odds with other species to really make them shine.


The next day, a panel that caught my eye was called Making Magic Work: Designing Magic Systems for Games and Books.  I was, unfortunately, behind the last person admitted.  :/  The Tabletop Theatre was consistently too small for the number of people that wanted to see the panels there.  I saw tons of people turned away from every talk there!  I hope next time they have a bigger venue for such interesting panels.  I found an interesting read if you’re into magic systems.

One good thing happened there, even without me actually getting into the panel: a girl in the line got a game going.  It was a simple game to learn, and a lot of fun.  It drew strangers together.  I purchased it post haste!  I ended up proliferating her idea, and started a game of it while waiting in another line up.  It was just a fun social interaction that left everyone feeling great.

The game is “Spot-it” if you’re interested.  Colours and shapes; you’d think it was easy.

Anyway!

Later that evening, I attended “Setting the Mood”, on what makes a good RPG.

I was pleased to see Keith Baker again; he had a lot of interesting things to share about his experience with RPGs.  Also on the panel were Will Hindmarch and Logan Bonner.

These guys had a lot of RPG experience between them. They went over many great ideas, from using music as an aid, to party cohesion, to dealing with problem players. It was all about steering the story in the direction it should go, helping players play their characters, and just having a good time.

Ok, not explicitly about writing, but it was about storytelling.  It was a lot of anecdotes, some good Q&A, and just a lot of fun.

On the third day, I went to a panel called “Sympathy for the Devil: Creating Killer Villains for Games and Books.”

This was a lot of fun too.  It was hosted by, again, the fantastic Erin Evans, as well as Susan Morris (author of Writers Don’t Cry, five books, and D&D for kids!) and Philip Athans (author of several of the Forgotten Realms books).

What this panel made me want to do was just talk with them about vilains.  Interesting panels have this effect.  It sometimes causes the Q&A to get a little dumb (we’re here to hear the panelists, not you, random audience member).  But my friends, who were also listening with me, and I had some great discussions afterwards about villains and villainy.

It was interesting hear the panelists talk about their favourite villains; my friends and I made observations about them based on which villains they identify most with.  I completely agreed with Erin Evans, who said the her favourite, Ozymandeous, was not actually a villain.

One of the most interesting points they made was to have someone trusted turn out to be the villain.  Guy keeps supplying you with weapons?  Arms dealer bent on destabilizing the region for his master plan.  Sometimes it’s easy to have a stereotypical view of villains.  But the best villains have good ideas, make you want to join their cause, help them carry out their grand plans.  It just so happens that they’re going to kill millions of people in the process.

The more human you make your villains, the more compelling they are.

So, that was PAX from a writer’s perspective.  There were a lot of other interesting things going on, and I think in my next post, I’ll write about it from the perspective as a gamer.  Good times.

…Especially when the creative team from Ubisoft joined our gaming session in our hotel on the last night.  Wow.

But more on that in my next post!

Thanks for reading.

Heidi out.