PAX’07: Day 2

I went back to PAX after lunch and found the line to be even longer than when I had left it before noon. Long story short: I bailed. So I went back today around 8:40, knowing that the expo hall opened at 10.

One early observation: seeing someone that you know leaving the convention center from the day before as you’re showing up before the place opens… well, that’s just priceless.

PAX today was really good.

I mean, I know I’m sucker for conferences and swag… PAX has both in great supply. And with the change in the gaming industry, I’d say PAX will stand alone for a long time to come. For example, GDC used to be all about game development – having gone this past year, I’d say it’s more about the industry than just about the developers but it’s still not about “the expo”. E3 used to be, but now that that’s gone press only, it’s a much smaller gig. Gamefest is about game development for developers, testers, and artists. PAX is about the gamer. It’s as simple as that. Be it Xbox 360, PC, PS3, PS2, PSP, DS, DS Lite, cards, boards, dice – it’s about gaming and the gamer. The only thing I didn’t see between this and last year was poker and that makes total sence: who wants to deal with gambling crap?

So PAX 07 was bigger than ever. Probably bigger than 04-06 put together, if I had to guess… if it was in Bellevue this year, I wouldn’t have gone. It was way too crowded last year – with this many people it would have been shut down. The new venue? A nice good size – I’d say about 3/4 to capacity around 1pm today. There was plenty of places to walk without bumping into people. There was a very large Expo floor with lots of vendors (yay!). The meeting rooms were for free play moments. The lobby of the Expo hall was down right frigid – I attribute that to the surprisingly low levels of GamerStench.

Oh the stench was there, but it was mostly isolated to individuals. No joke: you’d walk past the occasional rank person, look around to see who it was, and then there’d be freshair again. Big, huge, epic improvement to last year.

RedVsBlue was there again this year – thankfully I got by with only a signed DVD! – and I was glad to hear that they’ll be working on a v2 Series. Wil Wheaton was there – sadly I had nothing for him to sign, so I didn’t bother him. Penny Arcade’s booth took credit so they got more spending than I would have done otherwise… One of the FragDolls was playing Quake Wars at such a fast speed that I was struggling to keep up with the screen – sorta sad for me to admit that, but yeesh. Was amazing.

On the games front, it was good to see Gears of War on PC, BioShock in dual platform glory, PGR4, and Viva Piñata Party – all games that I’ve known about for a while but couldn’t (and still) can’t say much about… but at least hell, any one that walked through the Expo knows about them now, so there you go. I also have to say that I almost took my GH2 guitars to EB Games today to sell’m off… Rock Band is just… incredible. I have no other word for it, honestly… the graphics were smooth as anything, the game play looks spot on – the drum kit? Want. Right now. It looks like they took four “profession” practice pads and hooked up triggers to them, almost on par with the Roland rubber-based pads. Even having the vocal player use the microphone as a tambourine looked… right.

Onto the pride… 360’s everywhere. If it was a console, I’d say 9 out of every 10 console games were running on 360’s. Just a gut-based estimate – I didn’t count *g* Sure, Nintendo was showing off a new title or two on the Wii… but. Well. How can I put this… I haven’t turned my Wii on since December. Why is that? A lack of interest in the available games. That and the games that are there are sorta… well, they look like shit compared to what’s coming out of the studios for the 360. I have similar issues when I try to go back to a PS2 and play Guitar Hero – my eyes hurt. I maintain the Wii is a GameCube with some unique accessories, but for those accessories to be good they need game support. For instance, there was a Pac-World game in one of the booths. I couldn’t figure out how to get the damned game to work. The Wii-mote didn’t move anyone. The + control didn’t do anything except in the menu (which is where I expected the Wii-mote to do a point and click). The Nunchuck was doing something, but I still couldn’t figure out how to go backwards. Maybe it was the game – like a beta or something – but yeesh…

Anyway, more pride. Guitar Hero III was strangely absent from the booths. Why do I care about that? Harmonix made GH and GH2 – they now make Rock Band. GH3 is being made by someone else. I don’t know who did what to who and why the name got split from the developer but Harmonix is going to clean up with Rock Band. And, yes, they were showing it off on 360’s. No Metal Gear Solid 4. The only PS3’s I saw were at the Sony booth and one other publisher – everyone else at the Expo had a 360, PC or Wii. Dell had a huge presence with Dell, XPS, and Alienware – yay for Vista – and there was one PSP for every 30 DS’s.

Tomorrow is Day Three. I dunno if I’m going to make that or not – might just take a day to, um, play a game or something… Next year I may sign up to work a booth or something but there’s no way I’m wearing a kilt. Nope.

No way.

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