PAX West 2016: We’re Excited!

PAXPrime15-Featured
In just a couple of days we’ll be in this line, but with the PAX 16 logo instead. Image: Will James

PAX West 2016 (formerly PAX Prime) is coming up fast. Scheduled for Labor Day weekend September 2-5, it promises to be another exciting weekend of geek-related fun.

GeekDad and GeekMom will have a few writers canvasing the floors, and you should be sure to catch our panel on Sunday, September 4th at 12:30pm in the Chicken Theatre.

GeekDad and GeekMom: Gaming With Geek Generation 2.0: Join some of the writers from GeekDad.com and GeekMom.com to discuss gaming and learning with the next generation of geeks. Find out how we use games and play to teach our children, how we choose which games are age appropriate, and how we stay real in a virtual world. Some of our kids will join us on being geek kids, and teaching their parents a thing or two. Come join in the conversation and bring your own experiences and questions!

If you’re one of the first couple hundred people you’re likely to be leaving with a HexBug Junior or Cuddlebot! In addition to discussing how games (primarily video) are enjoyed in our homes, we also have many great games and other products for give-away!

So, read Preparing for the Long Con: Convention Goer’s Checklist to get ready for the Con, and keep reading this article to see what we’re excited about at PAX West

Remember, even if you can’t make it to PAX, many of the events and panels are streamed on the PAX Twitch channel.

To see the PAX West schedule and maps, check out the PAX West 2016 app on Guidebook. Downloads by platform are available on the PAX West main page.


Michael LeSauvage

Even four days isn’t enough to catch all the panels, demos, booths, and interviews I’m excited about. Here’s some of the highlights I’ve been tracking.

Panels, Panels, Panels!

With all the interviews and games to check out, making it to panels can be hard, but I’ve set aside time to check in with one of the funniest people at PAX: Kris Straub. Is it rare for someone to be able to draw, write comedy, and voice act it all to perfection? I think it is, which is why I want to see him in person. If you’re not already a fan, check out his strip, chainsawsuit, or his co-hosting of the hilarious podcast 28 Plays Later. This guy is everywhere at PAX West, and I plan to see him at a live recording of 28 Plays Later, and “AppJunkies Worst Games,” both on Saturday, as well as “Scared Yet? A Discussion of Horror in Media” on Sunday.

Renditions of Paul Verhoeven and Kris Straub in front of an explosion on a CD cover for 28 Plays Later: The Album
Check out that sweet, sweet cover art on Verhoeven & Straub’s brand-new comedy album for 28 Plays Later! A signed CD is my planned souvenir for PAX West 2016.

Keeping with the comedy theme, Vancouver-based LoadingReadyRun will be at PAX and appearing on four panels as well. They’re more than just Checkpoint! I’m planning to make it to their Friday night panels for “Comedy, Etc!” as well as the “Late Night Dub Fight.”

The LoadingReadyRun troupe.
A very young LRR crew. Time for them to update their “About” page! Image: LoadingReadyRun

Also, there’s supposedly an appearance by some folks from GeekDad on Sunday at 12:30 in Chicken Theatre. I’ve heard they love to hand out free swag. I’ll see if I can squeeze that in.

Virtual Reality – It’s All About the Content

It’s no secret that I love virtual reality. While VR was a new world to discover at PAX West 2015, this time around I have some very specific companies and games I want to check out. On Thursday, in advance of PAX, I’m dropping by VReal’s offices to see their streaming tech. This is a company that wants you to be able to watch games streaming in VR the same way you can watch Twitch today. Since they recently hired on VR EVAngelist Eve Hoerth, I’m excited to see how their tech is coming along.

Concept art for VReal's headquarters. What looks to be arcologies nested by each other with green space on the top of concave surfaces.
Concept art for VReal’s headquarters. I guess all the art is virtual for now? Image: VReal

What games do I want to see? Recently I discovered Rick and Morty and binged my way through every episode. The very next day, despondent about finishing both seasons so quickly, I stumbled upon the announcement of Rick and Morty Simulator: Virtual Rick-Ality. That was good news, but when I realized it was being put together by Owlchemy Labs, the creators of the masterpiece Job Simulator, I just about lost my mind! The big question I’ve got for them: will there be an exit burrito?

Overload, an indie-kickstarter, is the spiritual successor of Descent; with team members from Descent 1 and 2, as well as from Freespace 1 and 2, it looks like they’ve got the right crew to make it happen. You can download a fully playable teaser on Steam right now! It’s a refreshing trip back to 6-degrees-of-freedom, and highly polished for what they’re calling a pre-alpha. I want to meet the crew making this a reality, and see if they have a VR demo up and running at their booth.

Drones in a dark tunnel project beam lasers towards the screen in Overload.
When this happens, backing up and shooting all the lasers becomes all I can manage! Image: ‘Overload’ media page.

Everything Indie

Triple-A titles get a lot of floor space and lines at PAX, but it’s not as interesting for me. Look, the next Assassin’s Creed will probably be amazing. I already know that! What I want to see is what’s innovative, creative, and niche. That means heading to the Indie Megabooth, Minibooth, and the PAX 10.

I’m really looking forward to seeing where Battle Chef Brigade is after another year of simmering on the stove. A game where you hunt creatures, collect their tasty bits, cook them in a match-3-ish game, and are judged Iron Chef-style sounds crazy, but it really stood out last year. I’ve been watching its development on Twitter over the year, and its beautiful art perfectly shows off the crazy premise. I’m very excited to get another taste.

Mina cooks a meal above a match-3 game of food parts in Battle Chef Brigade.
Caliente! Image: Trinket Studios

Tim Keenan, creator of the drones-on-a-ship-keyboard-game Duskers, (which I just totally failed to sell you on with that intro but trust me just go buy it!), will be at PAX West as well. While he doesn’t have his own booth, he will be hanging out at the Intel booth as the winner of best “Other” game in their Level Up contest, and lurking around the Indie Megabooth thereafter. I’m hoping to corner him to talk about Duskers and how you dare to undertake such a game in an era of flashy graphics and short attention spans.

Image: 'Duskers' Steam Store page.
Drones in the dark on derelict ships got me more nervous, despite the keyboard-only interface. Maybe because of it! It’s got a solid “Very Positive” rating after 537 reviews on Steam. Go get it! Image: ‘Duskers’ Steam Store page.

Not Enough Time

There’s so much more to PAX West: the Reaper paint-and-take, Omegathon, tabletop games, and a bunch of side events, not to mention just watching the spectacle of the crowd. There just isn’t enough time to see it all; you have to focus your time. For me, that’s VR, comedy, and indie games. I’ll let you know all about it, assuming I survive all the gaming goodness.


Ryan Hiller and Family

My entire family will once again be attending PAX. There’s so much to do and see that we easily fill our days with gaming-fun. I have to miss Friday because of work, but if you can make Friday, the lines are WAY shorter since, like me, most people have to work.

Here’s a glimpse of what we’re hoping to see.

Indie MEGABOOTH

Video game-wise my kids and I are going to spend quite a bit of time in the Indie MEGABOOTH. It’s a good way to get hands on with many games, discover great new ones, and meet the actual developers. We just walk around and jump in on any booth that is open. This way my kids and I get time playing games rather than waiting to play like with the AAA booths. I am particularly interested in Battle Chef Brigade (A PAX 10 winner from last year… and note, Michael LeSauvage and I wrote these sections independently, I just saw he also listed this!) and Forts, which looks right up my family’s alley. And don’t miss the PAX 10, a great list of some up-and-coming greatness.

Triple-A Games

We enjoy just walking the main floor and seeing the next iteration of our favorite games, like Assassin’s Creed, as well as seeing the jumbotron videos of new games we haven’t even heard about yet. One game I think I’d like to get some experience with is For Honor, a smash hit from PAX 2015 due for release in February, because, OMG FPHS, first person hack-n-slash! My experience last year with the HTC Vive was amazing, and I hope to see what game developers have come up with over the past year to take advantage of the VR capabilities.

For Honor Screen Shot
‘For Honor’ due for release in February of 2017 looks to be an action packed first-person fighting game. Image from Ubisoft.

Acquisitions Incorporated

Sunday night I am going to Acquisitions Incorporated to see the conclusion of Acquisitions Incorporated the Series. We were left with a cliffhanger and this live show is sure to be a treat. Other Dungeons & Dragons related things I hope to make are Ask a Dungeon Master with Chris Perkins Friday at 5pm, as well as a two hour D&D adventure where you’re trying out to be an Acquisitions Incorporated intern!

Acquisitions Incorporated 2015
The PAX 2015 live ‘Acquisitions Incorporated’ ‘D&D’ game. Screenshot from YouTube video.

Console Free Play

There’s a room where you can check out video games and play them.  It’s a great way to try out recent and older games. My youngest loves this, so I humor him and spend bit of time here. There’s also a room where you can check out boardgames as well.

Buying Dice

I want need some dice. When RPG’ing I roll all of my dice at once with different colored dice signifying different sources of damage, for instance. I need some d6s to represent electricity and some for fire. There are a ton of shops at PAX including one store typically found on the overpass. They have a huge selection, including a bin of dice you can purchase by the scoop. There are other shops throughout the convention hall that sell dice. It’ll be fun shopping dice with a goal in mind.

Other activities

We might do a Reaper Paint and Take. We have hundreds of Reaper Bones miniatures at home, but we’ve historically liked doing a Paint and Take as it’s a great way to step away from the crowds and do something a little zen. I highly recommend you pop in. I would also like to get in some Pathfinder as well as D&D play in their respective areas. They both have mini one- to two-hour RPG sessions.

I was just looking for bandland, where you can often get celebrity signatures and find artists, and noticed that Star Trek VR is stationed right next to the Chicken Theatre where the GeekDad/GeekMom Panel will be. Adding some Treky goodness to my schedule!


Stephen Clark

This is my first year at PAX, and my first year on a panel. I’m kind of the envy of all my gamer geek friends. As I look over the seemingly infinite options a few exciting events stand out.

Promo shot of Ark Survival Evolved
ARK Survival Evolved is pushing the open world multiplayer genre, and will have a 16′ model (or real?) T-Rex in their booth. Image: BagoGames

ARK: Survival Evolved

If dinosaurs and guns aren’t enough to get you excited about a game, then I don’t know what will. ARK was one of the most exciting hits of PAX Prime one year ago. This first-person MMO drops you in the wilderness naked and hungry. You have to hunt, build, then capture and train your creatures. It’s still in Early Access (as so many games are these days) but it’s for sale on Xbox One and PC, and will soon be available on PS4. This year the ARK: Survival Evolved booth promises lots of demos, new content to preview and a 16′ T-Rex.

Nosulus Rift

The engineering geniuses at Ubisoft have created a new dimension in Virtual Reality. Taking cues from VR systems like Oculus Rift, the Nosulus Rift is secured over the player’s nose and simulates the smell of gaseous expulsions as they happen in the game. It’s a gimmick to promote the game and won’t go to market (I hope it doesn’t go to market) but it’s one that worked. No matter how bad it will be, I want to try the experience.

Play current and previous gen consoles and games. Just in case all the new games tire you out. Image: PAX West
Play current and previous gen consoles and games. Just in case all the new games tire you out. Image: PAX West

Console Freeplay

Just like Ryan above, I’m excited about the Console Freeplay area.

I’m currently between gaming PCs. The one I have just isn’t up to the task of the current generation of games. I still haven’t decided on a PS4 or Xbox One. In other words, I’ve only experienced every awesome game that has come out since Star Wars: Battlefront on YouTube. In the Console Freeplay area there are countless current-gen consoles to play all the newest games. There are retro consoles there too, but I already own most of those. If you want to find me, I’ll be the one on the PS4 taking shots at Reinhardt in Overwatch.

Find your place on the bridge of a Starfleet ship. Image: Star Trek Bridge Crew Trailer
Find your place on the bridge of a Starfleet ship. Image: Star Trek Bridge Crew Trailer

Star Trek VR

Multiplayer VR experience where you have to play your part on the bridge of a Starfleet vessel or you all lose. Players of the fan-made game Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator have been playing this style of game for many years. One player takes weapons, one takes engines, and one takes the chair in the middle of the room. In Star Trek: Bridge Crew you get to add in the valuable Star Trek franchise properties. The 3D VR experience has you looking at screens on the bridge of a starship instead of looking at tablets in the real world. Best of all, the Star Trek VR simulator booth will be just down the hall from the GeekDad/GeekMom Panel on Sunday.

There's a lot to see and do for a family in Seattle. Image: Wikipedia
There’s a lot to see and do for a family in Seattle beyond PAX West. Image: Wikipedia

Seattle

Though the second part of GeekDad is “Dad,” I’m always a dad first. Not content to experience just what PAX West brings to the weekend, I’m bringing my family and intend to play tourist. My wife and I grew up in the grunge era so Seattle is our Graceland. In addition to music landmarks, there is no shortage of children’s museums, aquariums, and science centers to keep us entertained and educated. The timing is a bit unfortunate as the Labor Day long weekend will make the tourist traps busier than usual. While everyone else will be looking for insider connections to get into the hottest, late-night gaming company parties, I’ll be looking for great seats at the Mariners’ game.

Mike is a geek-of-all-trades in the Royal Canadian Air Force with particular interests in science, programming, and video gaming, and is now a VR proselytizer. Follow him for game reviews, dev interviews, PAX coverage, and everything VR. His son and daughter share a number of his passions, and his wife lovingly encourages them all.