PAX Prime 2015 Recap

PAXPrime15-FeaturedThis past weekend Seattle was overwhelmed with visitors attending PAX Prime 2015. As always there were tons of crowds, lots of lights and sounds, tons of video and tabletop games, a smattering of cosplay, and plenty of fun.

Friday

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Cafe Behemoth and ‘Lovers’. Photo by Will James.

I started the day at the Behemoth Press breakfast. A free cup of coffee is always a good way to start any day! The first game I checked out was Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime. Coincidentally, Lovers is one of my top picks from PAX this year. It’s a bright and beautiful co-op game for two players about working together to fly a space ship and rescue kittens. You can also play it solo by bringing along a dog or cat to help you with controlling your spaceship.

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‘Fallout 4’ is going to be awesome. Photo by Will James.

Though I was determined to mostly focus on smaller indie games, I did have a short list of AAA games I had to check out. The first game on that list was Bethesda’s Fallout 4.Unfortunately, I was disappointed by there being no Fallout 4 demo or video. That doesn’t mean Bethesda wasn’t promoting it, though. Their booth had a “real” Mr. Handy (it wasn’t self-propelled but the arms did move, and he did talk to attendees), a giant Pip Boy statue you could take pictures with, free Pip Boy masks, Fallout 4 bottlecaps, and two great Fallout 4 Power Armor figure prototypes. They looked great, but I’m guessing they’ll be too rich for my pockets.

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Not sure what to name my fiery-haired paladin. Photo by Will James.

I had a small gap in my schedule so quickly got near the front of the line for the Reaper Paint and Take. After doing a mini at PaizoCon, I was hooked. I recently got in on their latest Bones Kickstarter as well, but couldn’t resist the urge to tackle my second mini. I opted for the paladin mini. Reaper had these great mats down with quick tips and tricks on painting their minis. Unfortunately, I never had a chance to go back for a second round to finish shading and highlighting on her.

I then met up with GeekDads Phil Bacon and Mike LeSauvage to play a demo of Dungeons & Dragons Sword Coast Legends. I won’t go into too much detail about it because they are going to do an in-depth write-up, but I will say that it was a ton of fun, and two of our party barely made it out of the dungeon alive. Mike was the DM and he was brutal! This is definitely on my must buy list.

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Eric Jones and Bill and Brittany Doran rocking their foam armor. Photo by Will James.

My next stop was my first and only panel of PAX–“Cosplay Advanced! Taking Your Cosplay to the Epic Level!” The panel featured Eric Jones, Ryan Wells, Mary Mann, Jade Cheung, and Brian Morris. I got to chat with Jones (of CoreGeek.net) a bit after the panel and then coincidentally met up with Bill and Britt Doran in their awesome Destiny cosplay right afterwards. These three are some of my favorite foamsmiths!

I then stopped by Rawfury’s booth and checked out both of theirs games–Kingdom and Kathy Rain. Kingdom is an interesting take on resource gathering and world building. It’s a side scrolling pixel art game in which you are a king, riding around on his horse. You collect taxes and then throw money at people and things to get them to do things–build defenses, harvest goods, etc. It was pretty fun, and I’m definitely going to check it out some more. Kathy Rain is a great point-and-click adventure game that hits all the nostalgia points. The game features a strong female hero and is set in the ’90s with all the fashion and music that requires. A definite must for old or new lovers of point-and-click adventure games.

I’ve been pretty hesitant to try out any of the new VR tech. I get vertigo fairly easily, but decided to give it a shot this PAX. I opted for Mindfield’s P.O.L.L.E.N. as my first attempt at VR. They are being pretty tight-lipped about the story at this point so as not to give anything away, but the demo was a great introduction to the game world (aboard a space station) and gave me a great sense of the environment and object interaction. It was beautiful, and, thankfully, I didn’t feel sick in the slightest!

I’ve been an Assassin’s Creed fan since the first game, so Assassin’s Creed Syndicate was one of the few other games on my AAA list. I got to sit down with an Ubisoft rep and get a little play through as Evie Frye. Somehow I managed to get even more excited about the game than I was before getting my hands on it. They have made it even easier to navigate an ever taller world and have also added a bunch of cool new weapons and abilities. I cannot wait for Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate to release!

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Acquisition’s Inc. was so much fun. Photo by Will James.

I finished off Friday by attending my first ever Acquisitions Incorporated Live Dungeons & Dragons session. I am so glad I got to go and watch this. It was absolutely hilarious! But the best part by far (sorry guys) was the set piece by Czarofhappiness. This guy has incredibly mad skills and put so much detail work in that really made the game.

Saturday

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TinyBuild’s giant orange banner made them easy to see. Photo by Will James.

My first stop on day two was the tinyBuild booth. TinyBuild is a cool indie publisher with a great goal of bringing together and putting out great paid games without all the free-to-play bs that is going around. I got my hands on three of their games–Dungelot, Party Hard, and Punch Club. All three games are very different, but I really enjoyed all three. Dungelot is a cross between a roguelike dungeon crawler and minesweeper and is easily an all ages fantasy fun game. Party Hard is much less all ages. You take on the roll of a disgruntled neighbor who has one goal–kill all the people at the party next door keeping you awake. As dark as that sounds, the pixel art of the game, the jokes, and the myriad ways in which you can dispose of party goers helps tone it down quite a lot. Punch Club is a point-and-click fighting simulation tycoon game. It sounds like an odd combination, but it works really well and was a lot of fun.

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Cosplaying booth ladies for ‘Dragon Fin Soup.’ Photo by Will James.

My next stop was the Grimm Bros booth to check out Dragon Fin Soup. I’ve had my eye on Dragon Fin Soup since they first showed up at PAX, and the game sure has come a long way. Now that they are on the brink of release, I can barely contain my excitement for this game. Dragon Fin Soup is like a classic console tactical RPG with a bit of roguelike elements mixed in with some fairytale flavoring. This is definitely a game for anyone who enjoys crass humor with a great RPG.

I then tried my hand at the games in the Versus Evil booth–Banner Saga 2, Guild of Dungeoneering: Pirates Cove, Skyshine’s Bedlam, and Afro Samurai 2 Revenge of Kuma. The Pirates Cove expansion for Guild of Dungeoneering (which I previously reviewed) is a blast and adds a lot of cool new characters and cards to the game. A must for existing fans and a great time to start for newcomers! Although Banner Saga has been on my Steam wishlist forever, I’ve never gotten around to playing it. Now having spoken with John Watson in detail and gotten my hands on Banner Saga 2, I am definitely going to go back and play Banner Saga and continue right on in to the sequel. Bedlam is a new game that is built on the Banner Saga engine, but with a lot of new mechanics and a totally different world–think Mad Max meets Oregon Trail.

My next stop was a AAA booth that I hadn’t actually planned on visiting–Deep Silver. They were showing Homefront: Revolution and the previously unannounced This War of Mine: The Little Ones. Both games are sequels to existing franchises I admit I’ve never played. As far as FPS go, Homefront was pretty awesome with a lot of cool mechanics that I’m sure FPS fans will enjoy. Unfortunately, I’m not a big FPS gamer. This War of Mine, however, is definitely up my alley. It’s a survival game requiring person and resource management, some crafting, trading, and fighting. I only played a couple of days in the game, but could already feel myself getting sucked in and easily spending hours in the game.

I then headed over to Switchblade Monkeys to check out Secret Ponchos. Secret Ponchos is a highly technical PVP fighting game with amazing art and a great western theme. What’s great about Secret Ponchos is that, despite it being highly technical, it also has a very intuitive, easy to learn control scheme that, unlike a lot of fighting games, greatly reduces the barrier to entry and to be competitive. The theme, characters, weapons, and skills are all true to the theme, and none of the game mechanics feel out-of-place. If you like visually stunning PVP fighting games that are challenging, you have to check out Secret Ponchos.

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‘Hob’ from Runic Games is as beautiful as their booth suggests. Photo by Will James.

My last stop in the Expo Hall for the day was Runic Games. As a fan of both Torchlight games, I was really intrigued to see Runic’s new game which promised to be a big departure for them. Hob is certainly a completely different game, but the beautiful art and detail of Torchlight is evidenced in Hob. Although Hob is in the early stages of development, the core mechanics, world, and character are clearly already very well-developed. Hob is not only beautiful to watch and play, but pure fun to play. It’s a great adventure game with plenty of puzzles to figure out and monsters to kill. And maybe even a world to save.

Then it was time for the only real meal of the entire weekend. I met my wife, son, GeekDads Ryan Hiller, Phil Bacon, and Mike LeSauvage, and GeekMom Marziah Karch and her family for dinner at the Yardhouse. It’s a great place for a lot of variety and a lot of beer. This was the first time a lot of us had ever met and it was great to see each other in person and talk about our panel the next morning.

To finish off the night, I headed to the Paizo area in the convention center to run some demos of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game. Ever since my first demo of PACG, I’ve been hooked, and this was my second time running demos for people. I can only hope my demos and enthusiasm created more players!

Sunday

PAXPrime15-PanelSunday morning we hosted our GeekDad and GeekMom: Raising Geek Generation 2.0 panel. We had a great turnout (about 300 people) with lots of great discussion and questions about gaming with kids. We also had some great giveaways thanks to our panel sponsors.

2015-08-27 17.21.22Paizo donated a bunch of Pathfinder Adventure Card Game class decks.

2015-08-27 07.58.26We received a couple of cases of Hexbug Nano V2s.

2015-08-29 00.08.40ThinkGeek gave us a some Critical Hit D20 ice molds, 8-bit hair bows, Megaman enamel pin sets, and a Con-Survival Bag of Holding with the exclusive Pax 2015 badge

.2015-08-27 08.02.35Wizards of the Coast sent us a ton of Dungeons & Dragons stickers and patches. We handed these out as people were waiting in-line, and they were all gone before I knew it!

2015-08-29 00.03.29Jason Anarchy donated two trilogy editions of Drinking Quest along with two of the single editions and his new tyvek (beer proof) maps.2015-08-29 00.15.52Calliope games gave us some copies of Tsuro (still one of my favorite games for players of all ages and types) and Roll For it (which I have yet to try myself).2015-08-29 00.06.14The guys at Flying Frog Productions gave me a copy of Dark Gothic as well as the new stand-alone expansion Colonial Horror (which isn’t even out yet but can be pre-ordered). They even threw in some exclusive add-on cards for both sets!

2015-08-27 16.28.102015-08-27 16.28.12No Starch Press donated four books to us–the fist two volumes of both the Beautiful LEGO and LEGO Adventure Book series. Both series have a third volume coming soon.

2015-08-30-07.31.00Gamewright gave us several copies of Sushi Go (a favorite here at GeekDad) along with a bunch of packs of Soy Sauce promo cards

2015-08-27 17.18.39First Second Books provided several copies of Secret Coders books designed to help kids get into and start programming with a mystery book.

2015-08-27 17.18.54And last, but not least, we were given copies of Armada and The Martian by Crown Books. I’ve not yet read Armada, but The Martian is one of my favorite books. And, as I’ve covered before, I’m very excited about the upcoming film as well. Seriously, if you love sci-fi, especially hard sci-fi, you should go read it right now!

For those who attended (or anyone else) that wants to get in contact with our panelists, here is the list of panelists and their twitter handles.

  • Ryan Hiller – @divingrhino
  • Marziah Karch – @marziah
  • Mike LeSauvage – @mikelesauvage
  • Phil Bacon – @shuffledog
  • Sarah James – @mrsthebrick
  • Will James – @billythebrick
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Bobby Wagner and Earl Thomas received hand massages while we interviewed them. Photo by Will James.

After spending some time outside of the theater talking with attendees, I headed back to the expo hall and headed to Courtyard Hotels’ booth. Seattle Seahawks Earl Thomas and Bobby Wagner were there playing Madden NFL 16. Thomas beat Wagner twice, though both of them played as the Seahawks in both match-ups. After the games, I had a few brief moments to chat with them both. The most surprising thing, because it’s counter to stereotypes, to come out of that conversation was that Wagner said he considered himself a geek about playing pool, ping-pong, and reading. He’s also a big Call of Duty fan!

I came across a cool looking game called Evergreen by Siege Sloth Games on my way to my next demo. Evergreen is a very zen game where you grow a tree. You are in control of a tree that will last through time and helps drive change through the ages–one of your first goals is to coax the first land-based life out of the see. The game is still in early development but it is a very relaxing experience. I could definitely see myself playing for hours just to relax.

I then headed over to Harebrained Schemes and spent a good amount of time talking with Jordan Weisman, the creator of, among many things, the original Battletech and Mechwarrior tabletop games. When my gaming group in high school got bored with D&D, we switched to Battletech to change things up. My love of robots certainly helped, but Battletech still holds a very special place in my memories. Finding out that not only is there a new single-player turn-based Battletech game on the way but that Weisman is leading it up gave me all the feels.

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‘Don’t Starve Together’ plays as great as it looks. Photo by Will James.

With a little time between demos, I wandered around and stumbled acrossed the Klei Entertainment both where they were showcasing their game Don’t Starve Together. Don’t Starve Together is actually the multiplayer follow-up to their game Don’t Starve that I’d never heard of. It’s a very popular survival game with a fun and enticing sketchy art style. Although there are some scary bits, unlike a lot of survival games, Don’t Starve has wide age range appeal, and with the addition of multiplayer, I can easily see families playing Don’t Starve Together, well, together!

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I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of this cosplay. Photo by Will James.

As I was heading off to my next demo, I ran into Bill and Brittany Doran of Punished Props again. They are just so great at this!

With a renewed interest in VR, I headed over to check out the HTC Vive–a collabration between HTC and Valve. I got to experience a handful of demos using their technology–an underwater scene, standing on a sunken wreckage as a whale swam by, a 3D paint program (I’ve never even considered the possibilities of painting in three dimensions, and it is as awesome as it sounds), a silly cooking game, a fun contraption building puzzler, a really cool DOTA themed exploration demo, and, the best part, a Portal themed demo. I pushed myself to look up and down over ledges where available throughout the demo, and the Portal one certainly tested me. At one point the floor began dropping away, and I was compelled to step back for fear of falling despite standing on solid ground.

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Uber brings ‘Mad Max’ to Seattle. Photo by Will James.

I headed out of the convention center and ran smack dab into the Mad Max Uber caravan. Uber had done up a handful of vehicles to be Mad Max style. Yes, you could take pics on top of them or get rides in them.

PAXPrime15-HeroQuestSunday night finished with what was certainly one of the high points of PAX for me. As we discussed in my interview with him, Jason Anarchy of Drinking Quest and Haiku Warrior held to our deal to play Hero Quest. GeekDads Ryan Hiller and Mike LeSauvage joined us as we played the first two adventures and drank a bottle of local whiskey. The game really held up after all these years and we all had a blast. We plan to continue next year at PAX.

Monday

I started off the last day with a visit to the Serenity Forge stand in the Indie Megabooth. Their game, King’s Bird, has received a lot of comparisons to Sonic, which makes a lot of sense once you play the game. It is a momentum based platforms that definitely harkens back to Sonic, but King’s Bird does stand on its own with beautiful levels and character design and plenty of novel mechanics to set it apart from Sonic.

I then stopped by Strange Loop Games to check out Eco. Eco is interesting in that on top of its resource gathering, crafting, sandbox base there is a whole system for players to submit, vote on, and establish rules and laws to help with things like stopping pollution or deforestation or extinction of animals. There is also a weather of data available to players about resource usage, consumption, and replenishment. The educational opportunities of Eco or boundless and it’s fun to play to boot! GeekDad Ryan Hiller did a full write-up about the game!

My final game in the expo hall was Together: Amna & Saif. This game really captured my heart. It’s an all-ages co-op puzzler. It features a Muslim mother and her son as the main characters. It has beautiful, bright, colorful art. And when the two characters walk together they hold hands, and a pink heart-shaped shield forms around them, and they can’t be harmed. As a parent with a small child, Together: Amna & Saif really appeals to me.

Unfortunately, I had to cut my last day short, but had one final stop before heading home. I swung by the Paizo area to talk to the guys from Obsidian about the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game tablet game. I played the first scenario using Lem and Valeros and made it through successfully! The Obsidian team has not only captured everything awesome about PACG, but they’ve also brought a lot to the game to make it even better. Although they all seem like small things, the interactive location map, the location artwork, and the naming of powers all enhance the experience tremendously. Obsidian has everything covered, and the game also does plenty to always help you know all your options as you’re playing. I am so excited to get my hands on the full game when it launches soon.

As always, PAX was an absolute blast. I already can’t wait until next year. I’m a crazy person and am now at DragonCon, so stay tuned for more detailed posts on some of my favorite things from PAX sometime after DragonCon.

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Will is a geek, athlete, husband to a geek mom, and father of 3-year-old and newborn geeks-in-the-making living in Seattle, Washington. He loves reading, comics, games (tabletop and video sorts), and robots - especially Transformers. He's also the co-host of the Sunday Evening with Captain Owen podcast (available on iTunes) and custom prop builder at Billythebrick Cosplay.