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PAX Overview and Unofficial Awards's Community Manager Richard Cox has finished up his final report on this year's Penny Arcade Expo. In this report, he touches on the good things about the show and even gives away a few of his own unofficial awards.

PAX Overview and Unofficial Awards

I love the Penny Arcade Expo. In my opinion it is everything a good video game convention should be. At the rate it is growing, in my opinion it is going to be, if it isn't already, the new E3, thanks to E3’s continued downward spiral. I feel that it is everything E3 should have been before it started its down that dark path to self destruction. This year was the first year that PAX hasn’t doubled in size, but it still grew a tremendous amount over last year. The best thing to compare it to is the E3 of old, but PAX handles it all so much better in my opinion. The booths are still grand and impressive without everyone trying to make their booth bigger and louder than everyone else’s. You can actually hold interviews IN the various booths (unless maybe if you’re trying to interview someone located next to the Rock Band or Guitar Hero booths.) And absolutely best of all, it’s all about the gamer, the consumer, the customer, all the regular everyday folks out there who want to know what’s going on in the industry, who want the chance to rub elbows with the developers and get first hand peeks on the big titles to come. The E3 of old was big and grand and a great experience, but it wasn't about the everyday gamer, the regular Joe, it was a media event and all the gamers out there were reliant on the press attending and hopefully asking the questions they want answers to.


The worst part about PAX for me is also ironically one of the things that make it one of the best things. I’m a gamer at heart; I love video games of all kinds and play just about everything. I own and actively play all three of the current generation consoles and even still have the previous generation ones connected to a TV in my house. There’s just so much being shown at PAX that I would love to get my hands on there is absolutely no way I could possibly fit it all into two and a half days. Especially considering I’m there to work, I’m there to visit all the MMO developers present and see how things are coming along with their various projects. I wrote up nice long articles about my time spent talking to NCSoft about Aion and Flying Lab Software about Pirates of the Burning Sea already, so this is just more of an overview of the show. I’ll touch on a couple of the other MMO folks I talked to but really didn’t get enough information for a full article, I’ll even comment on some of the non-MMO games I saw since I know a lot of you out there are like me and play more than just MMOs. I’ll even throw out my unofficial PAX awards list.

The booth I probably spent the most time in was Cryptic’s, hands down. Spent a good bit of time playing some more Champions Online, but it was the same build as was shown at GenCon, so nothing new to report there, just an incredibly fun game to play. The graphics continue to blow me away; I just love how they have so perfectly captured the whole comic book superhero look, at least in my opinion. The first night of PAX Cryptic hosted a party at the Seattle Public Library for all their Champions Online fans. The party was a blast, tons of developers walking around mingling and interacting with the fans, great food and drinks served all night long. The atmosphere was great, if you’ve never seen the Seattle Public Library you should Google it and try to find a picture, just so you can see how perfectly it fits to be used as a ‘superhero headquarters’. It was about four or five blocks away from the convention center, and on the way there we ummm… took the scenic route, yeah, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. All I can say from that little adventure is Seattle has far more hills, really steep hills, than I remembered. Fortunately we took the FAR more direct route back from the party to the convention center. I also have to give some big props out to Cryptic for their swag, but I’ll get into that more later.

Friday night we also attended the Turbine fan party. It was also a great party, held at the Games Works across the street from the convention hall. Obviously we had less trouble finding this one. It was a smaller, more intimate affair than the Cryptic event, definitely more of a chance for the fans to spend some quality time with the Turbine developers than a ‘party’ like the Cryptic event. Not saying either approach is good or bad, I know the fans at each that I talked to were having a great time and were very appreciative, and in the end that’s all that counts.

Saturday night was the CCP party. It was held a little over a mile away from the convention hall, and fortunately we were smart enough to cab it over this time. Another great event and every bit a party. It was held at a place called ‘The Last Supper Club’. There were drinks and dancing and good times had all around. Even less of an ‘intimate affair’ than Cryptic’s event; the music was loud, the crowd was large, quiet conversations were hard to have. But like I said, that’s not a bad thing, there are good and bad for both approaches to the fan appreciation party; sometimes you want your community to have some one on one time with the developers, sometimes you want to just them to have a great time on your dime.

One thing that I love, and never fail to find fascinating at these after-show events/parties or whatever you want to call them, is just how well they exemplify how the industry truly is. A lot of people assume just because you work at Turbine for example you have to hate the folks who work for Mythic or NCSoft, and if you are out with a group of your team and run into a group of them, you have to rumble in the streets. Nothing could be farther from the truth, we’re all gamers, and in most cases, we’re all actually really good friends. It never fails that when you’re at a CCP party for example you’ll run into people from just about every other MMO company. They’re there for many reasons, as fans of the game, as friends of CCP employees, etc. Everyone hangs out and has a great time, catching up, taking about various games they’re playing, etc. In the grand scheme of things the video game industry is MUCH smaller than it seems from the outside. Most people who have been in the industry for a while have worked for multiple companies and have worked with many people who are now with a competitor. Friendships last through all of it and you often find yourself relocating across the country, leaving behind a lot of coworkers who have become close friends. These conventions and the after-show gatherings are some of the few chances to catch up with those people and if nothing else they’re great for that. I ran into so many people I hadn’t seen in forever at both GenCon and PAX and it was amazing to catch up with them.

Now how about I throw out some unofficial, in my opinion, PAX awards, those are always fun!

  • Best in Show (MMO): This one I have to give to Aion as it just really came out of nowhere and surprised me. I’ve heard a lot of good things about it over the past months from the Korean beta, but how often has that happened in the past? Hear great things about a game while it’s in development, then you finally get your hands on it and are just like huh? Runner-Up: Champions Online
  • Best in Show (Non MMO): I know, not my job to report on non-MMO stuff, but I know I’m not JUST an MMO gamer; I play it all and I know a lot of you out there do as well, so here it is. Fallout 3. I’ve been hyped about it for quite a while, but even I wasn’t prepared for how much I loved the game once I got my hands on it. Runner-Up: Left 4 Dead and Tom Clancy’s EndWar (Tie)
  • Best Booth: Hands down, Flying Lab Software for Pirates of the Burning Sea. T-shirt launching, full sized pirate cannons. Nuff said. Devs in full pirate garb was just a bonus. Runner-Up: Cryptic, Champions Online
  • Best Swag: One of the best things about conventions, all the free stuff. When I leave for a convention I tend to take both the largest carryon bag I can get away with and a backpack, both of which are only about half full, so I have room to bring back all the free stuff I score. But even I wasn’t prepared to haul back my Champions Online swag from Cryptic. It was the same swag they handed out at GenCon, which even got Forbes Magazine’s attention (read the article here), but at PAX they handed out about twice as many full sets of it, plus tons more shirts. Runner-Up: Pirates of the Burning Sea; love their great pirate t-shirts and they’re even cooler when launched out of cannons.
  • Best Fan Appreciation Gathering: Cryptic and Champions Online. It was a good balance between the small intimate fan and developer interaction event and a larger full on party. The location was perfect, couldn’t have picked a better building than the Seattle Public Library. The food was great and the caterers kept it flowing all night long, which was surprising, usually the food runs out within the first hour or two when you put a couple hundred gamers in one place. There was a DJ and the music wasn’t half bad really, good mix of a little bit of everything. And the building was large enough that if you wanted to get out of the loud music for some quiet conversation it was very easy to do. Top all that off with a great trivia contest and a great group of developers to hang out with and you have one great event. Runner-Up: CCP/White Wolf, just a great full blown all out party.
  • Best Expansion: Well, there are really only two possible candidates here (I know SOE has expansions coming down the pipe for both EQ and EQ2, but they weren’t at the show), LotRO’s Mines of Moria and WoW’s Wrath of the Lich King. And my choice is LotRO’s Mines of Moria. I should preface my reasoning with the fact that I don’t play either LotRO or WoW, so there’s no bias in as far as that goes. I chose MoM over WotLK simply because Moria was just SOOOO easy to have totally messed up, and Turbine didn’t. Judging from everything I’ve seen, read, heard about it, they’ve nailed it and it is going to be one amazing expansion to an already great game. Runner-Up: Naturally World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King.

Ok, those are the awards, I’m sure I could go on and on all day long tossing out awards for any number of subjects, but this is already getting close on novel length I’ll call it an end there. If you have any questions about any games in particular feel free to post them in the thread for this and I’ll see what I can do about answering them. Overall great show, great time, and I can’t wait until next year!