Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The PAX Report

So I have been off-line for the past weekend, attending PAX in realtime meatspace. PAX is the Penny Arcade Expo, a conclave of nerds, geeks, and gamers that descends upon the convention center in a cavalcade of wonkiness. Of course, if you read the Seattle Times, which ignored the event, nothing of import occurred at all downtown ("This just in! It is STILL RAINING at Bumbershoot!").

Here are some general notes:

 - We got a lot of attention for Guild Wars 2 at the show, and I thank everyone who stopped by to play the demo, sometimes waiting hours for the shot at playing the game for 40 minutes. We ran an introductory human quest chain and a mid-level charr assault on a boss monster called The Shatterer. The response was phenomenal, and the booth was packed for much of the three days. Thanks to all.

- We were not the only ones to get a lot of fan appreciation at the con. Portal 2 got a good-sized mob, as did Dragonage 2, but the game (at least, the game by someone else) I'm looking forward to in the near-term is Epic Mickey , designed by TSR Alum Warren Spector. Loved the booth (which looked like papers falling) and loved what I saw of the game.

- On the other hand Duke Nukem Forever will finally see the light of day. Really? Will I be able to play it on my Atari ST?

- Of my appointed tasks, I had a great time with RPG panel, mooring down the "ancient paper gaming" side of the equation, and discussing a number of challenges facing the computerized version. I also signed a lot of books at the booth on Saturday, and apparently people who did not get a signing kept circling back to the booth to see if I was there.

- Of course, part of the challenge for those looking for me was protective coloration. We were all decked out in our ArenaNet soccer shirts, white and emblazoned with our massive dragon-shaped "2" in red. They're really cool looking, and make us stand out against the hordes of darker-dressed gamers ("I will stop wearing black when I find a darker color"), but it does give us a uniform look, such that pulling me out of a crowd is difficult. I may have to go back to wearing loud Hawaiian shirts.

- About half the time I was in the booth doing interviews with websites. We had a press room upstairs for full demos, but had so many sites interested (including sites who we had never talked to before who wanted to know what all the hubbub was about) that we carved out a small space in some of the lesser pandemonium of the booth to talk and show off the game. I am surprised I can still talk after this.

- We also designed an event at the convention. Now THIS is insane. We did a quiz show at the booth for a limited number of tickets to the panel, and for those lucky 50 or so we (Lead Designer Eric Flannum, Content Lead Colin Johanson, and myself) sat down and proceeded to design an event that will go into the game. Yeah, we designed part of the game at a convention with the fans. I have said before that we are creatively fearless as a company, but this just blows the doors off everything.

- There was a fan party (again, limited by those who grabbed tickets by the quiz show) at the Hard Rock, and I had a friend (now known as Anne the Enabler) who kept pressing mojitos into my hand throughout the evening. Still, I survived the event and got home safely that evening.

- I did get to have lunch with Warren, and trade stories about our mutual long strange trips.

- On the boardgame side, a big hit was the Castle Ravenloft boardgame from WotC. It is a massive box, and those hauling it around in their official WotC forklifts left a wake of stunned onlookers who wanted to get their own copies.I've played it, both at the start of the design cycle and as a finished project, and I like it as a tough, cooperative game.

- I did NOT get to D&D Bus, a psychedelic explosion of vintage Sutherland art, but that was pretty cool as well. 

- And I survived without the deadly consars, also called the Pax Pox or  the AntraPax, that haunted last year's festivities. And was able to run a gaming day here at the house for a bunch of friends on Labor Day. And now, finally, I get to lay down my tools and rest for a brief while, before taking up the crusade again.

- But seriously, the convention was great for the game and great for the staff.  We have been concentrating on the game for so long, and the outpouring of attention and positive excitement has made it all worthwhile. We're really charged up (as well as really, really tired - but that will pass).

- Thanks to our hosts (Jerry/Tycho and Mike/Gabe) for putting together this Nerdstock, and to all the fans.

More later,