Having been at the first PAX East last year, I was really excited to come to the show this year. There were capacity issues last year and we were promised that the new bigger venue at the BCE would solve all the freshman problems. In a way they were right and wrong.
The new space was huge, in fact it was a monster and apparently bigger then what they have in Seattle, but it also meant much more people were here. That caused the first wrinkle of the show, long queues, for everything. Last year getting badges was a five minute affair, this year it took an hour. The Main Theatre presentations were also an issue with not nearly enough space for the people who wanted to attend. Time and again lines were formed over an hour before the panel and people were turned away when they get to the front.
Conventions are about lines so it is something you need to learn to deal with, PAX East is also about games and geek culture and that was fun to explore. We started the day in the Exhibition hall having missed the Keynote (capacity issues as mentioned) and quickly got a chance to check out a few things.
Booths and hype were high across the board with the first focal point being the Irrational Games booth right at the entrance. Ken Levigne and team were on hand throughout the show to sign and discuss Bioshock Infinite and there was a huge display with a Catherine Cosplay and huge set piece. Being a dork and a fan of the series I of course had to get my picture taken.
The Behemoth booth is always a great spot and they were demoing BattleBlock Theater which is always a treat to play. Their merch was some of the best of the show and like last year t-shirts were bought to much happiness. We even got a free chicken squeeze ball out of the deal.
We headed over to the Warner Brothers booth and checked out a few of their upcoming big games. Mortal Kombat was a ton of fun and really brought me back to the roots of the series (MK2 for me). I am really looking forward to this release and digging into the various modes. I also gave Lord of the Rings War in the North a try and had a good time even though there are a few rough edges that are still to be ironed out. The game has great potential and I trust Snowblind can deliver a great product when it is eventually released.
We also had a chance to try the just revealed and never before seen multiplayer modes in F.E.A.R. 3 and it was hella fun! The game features four player co-op and really makes you focus on teamwork because if any off your team dies (you can revive them easily but have to get to them quickly) the match is over. There will be more on this game later in a separate preview, but it looks really promising.
We were lucky enough to attend a few panels as well. We had a chance to catch a live demo of Rage and it is a killer-looking game. The graphics are amazing, with tons of little touches and it runs at a solid 60fps. The game itself looks a lot deeper then we are used to from an Id game and it is bright and outdoors!
We also sat in on a panel on community management called “Whose Banhammer is it Anyway?” The panel was pretty cool and it was neat to see the perspective of the community managers as they deal with sticky forum users and situations.
One of the highlights of the day was attending the Bioshock Infinite panel where they discussed the world as a character in the game. The panel delved into a lot of design decisions and it was really cool to here what Irrational goes through to create this robust worlds we enjoy.
Following that, it was time to relax in the handheld lounge on some Sumo beanbags and rest from the long day and prepare to party. There was an event hosted by Bethesda for the game Brink near the harbor that was actually quite fun. We got a chance to try the game in comfortable chairs with high end headsets as well as sample some beverages and well mixed music from a live DJ. The game is pretty cool and I am looking forward to seeing more of it.
Following that we hit a party called Gamers Gone Wild (though I didn’t see many gamers, just scantily clad clubers). The night was enjoyable and funnily enough we ran into some other media types from Ottawa, Canada (where we are from) and we hung out till the wee morning.
All in all the first day of PAX East was quite fun despite the line and capacity annoyances and we ended it looking forward to Day Two and some cool panels, gaming and geek goodness.