The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

September 9, 2014

Yeah, I’m Pretty Sure I’m Still a Nerd.

Filed under: Games — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 1:48 am

Gratuitous pinball table shot for no apparent reason.

Once again we’re coming up on the end of the Summer and the inevitable slow descent into Fall, Winter, and the time of the year where Seattleites tend to just steadfastly try to pretend the weather isn’t bothering them.  And with this past weekend came PAX, and the vast array of unusually uninteresting sights and sounds that come along with it.  To be perfectly honest, after last year’s PAX I actually found myself on the fence ab out whether or not I would go this year.  Part of this was the fact that tickets have become increasingly more difficult to get over the years, and part of it was the fact that there just didn’t seem to be all that much I was really interested in last year.  Ultimately I decided that I would get myself tickets if I could get a hold of them, but wasn’t going to go out of my way for them, and if I was not able to get tickets it wouldn’t be a big deal.

And when tickets did finally go on sale I was in a meeting at work.  By the time I was even aware that tickets had gone on sale they were already sold out in the space of less than an hour.  Even so, I wasn’t quite ready to give up on it.  Last year I was able to get through the long queue for tickets and buy Friday and Saturday passes, and then managed to end up with a Monday pass through a friend (which, to be honest, I wasn’t really expecting.)  And there were a couple of years before that where I had managed to miss out on ticket sales, but managed to find tickets later on.  Either way, if I missed out this year I wouldn’t be all that worried about it.  But sometimes things have a strange way of happening, and it happened that a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend had some extra tickets he was no longer using, so I was able to pick up tickets for Saturday, Sunday and Monday (I sold the Sunday ticket to someone else since I don’t go on Sundays.)  Of course, I didn’t even know I was going to be able to go until pretty close to the last minute, so I found myself having to do a bit of scrambling to figure out what I wanted to do there.

The tricky part is that even though PAX has become so massive that even with an increasingly difficult to acquire 4-day pass you wouldn’t have enough time to actually see and do everything.  Show floor exhibits have massive lines, there are panels and presentations going constantly in seven different locations, there’s about half a zillion different tournaments for games you don’t play (and a couple of games you do play but are shockingly terrible at) and just about half a zillion different things going on all at once at any given time.  Basically, you just have to pick and choose how to use the limited time you have available.  This is all part of the experience, and is nothing new.  The problem with that is that even with all that’s going on at PAX, for some reason this year there just didn’t seem to be nearly as much to be interested in as usual.

Now part of this may just be me getting cranky in my old age (OK, I don’t think I’m quite that old just yet, but let’s just say that if someone made a game that realistically simulated chasing punk kids off your lawn I’d probably pick it up if it was 50% off on Steam)  but for some reason, I just couldn’t get all that excited about PAX this year.  I think part of this was that with all three of the current-generation consoles now on the market, a lot of the major publishers are still trying to figure out what to do with them beyond their initial launch titles.  There were a few things being shown that looked interesting, but I think that I could probably count the major upcoming AAA titles from the major publishers that I’m interested in on my fingers (and if you took Nintendo stuff out of the equation you could probably knock that down to one hand.)  As a result of this, I think there just weren’t a lot of games to be interested in yet, at least on the console side.  At the same time, even the indies (where most of the interesting stuff seems to be coming from these days) seemed a bit lacking, probably because most of the stuff I’d be interested in on that side is stuff that’s already showed up in Steam Early Access, and if I really wanted to try a lot of them out I could pretty much do it without having to wait in any lines.

Even with all of that taken into account I still think PAX is worth the trip, especially if you’ve never been before.  After all, it’s the type of experience you just aren’t going to find anywhere else, and even if you can’t find things you want to play, there’s always plenty of people watching that you can do.  Nonetheless, I don’t think I need to spend three days there next year.  Just one will probably be sufficient, assuming I can actually manage to get the tickets.

September 7, 2010

It’s the Most Nerdiest Time of the Year: PAX 2010 Roundup

Filed under: Culture, Games — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 7:32 pm

"Bad ideas I have had", part #17,653 in a series.


As anyone who follows the video games industry is well aware, the Penny Arcade Expo has become a pretty big deal.  Last year’s PAX completely maxed out the available space in the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in Seattle, and sold out completely with a total attendance reported in excess of 60,000 people.  In 2010, not only did PAX expand to the East Coast for the first time with PAX East in Boston, but PAX Prime (as the Seattle show has been dubbed) has expanded even further, moving its main theater and concerts to Benaroya Hall and allowing the exhibition hall to expand even further.  This year for the first time, PAX brought with it major announcements, 

Once you have been to PAX enough times, you begin to realize that ultimately the exhibition hall is only a part of the whole experience, as there’s all sorts of stuff to do.  The Console Freeplay areas provide rooms full of systems and a big library of games you can check out, which provides a nice little opportunity to try out some of the stuff you might be on the fence about.  There’s all sorts of panels all throughout the three days of the show, and although only a handful were of interest to me this year, there’s a good chance everyone’s going to find at least one worth attending.  As usual, there were also the concerts which are a big draw, although this year I was unable to attend either of them.  There was also more content this year more tailored to professional interests in game design and development, something I’ve occasionally tinkered with in various forms but haven’t ever been really all that serious about (that’s probably a subject for another post, but who knows if I’ll ever get around to actually writing it?)  And as usual, PAX is also one of the more interesting people-watching locations you’re going to find anywhere (assuming that those are actually people in some of those suits, at least. ) After the jump, a roundup of some of the stuff I saw at PAX 2010.  Also a quick note:  Don’t expect to find much on the games themselves.  To be honest, I didn’t try a whole lot of them, and virtually all of the big-ticket games on the show floor require waiting through lines measured in hours to get anywhere near them, something I just don’t have the patience for. 


September 17, 2009

PAX 2009: Putting the “Arcade” in the Penny Arcade Expo

Filed under: Games — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 8:31 pm
Hi Mom!

Hi Mom!

As you’ve probably saw if you read that particular post, the “In Search of the Lost Arcade” post below is the one that was originally intended to be my PAX roundup post, but instead it went off in a completely different direction, and became a separate post.  Although I’m probably a bit late to get this finished up as usual (just don’t ask me how I’m doing on getting that Disney World trip report from last December done, OK?) I’ve been meaning to write this since I attended PAX about a week and a half ago.  I’m not going to bother going into much detail on the games being shown or any of the panels (I actually only attended one panel, and  I figure there’s probably about a half zillion Blogs or so that have covered the games.)  Since I accidentally ended up with two days to attend this year instead of my usual one, it also gave me a chance to spend more time away from the show floor, and go explore some of the areas I haven’t ever had much time for.  Sure, I might have missed out on a couple of the latest in trendy communicable diseases going around the place, but I’d still say I got a reasonably good opportunity to get everything in that I came for (I did miss one panel I wanted to see, but that was my own fault, and the panel eventually ended up on the Web anyway.)

Even though I’ve managed to attend every PAX so far, I think that this one ended up being a completely different experience, largely because I had more time to attend this year.  Especially in more recent years, there have been a fair number of people from all over the country who have been flying into Seattle to attend PAX (in fact, due to popular demand, there will be a second PAX held over in Boston next year,) yet I’ve practically got the show here in my backyard.  On one hand, this makes it really easy to get there (even if the parking in downtown Seattle can get horrifically expensive, especially on weekdays) but on the other hand, it also tends to make it a bit too easy to just gloss over the whole thing, spend a few hours there and call it good.  The fact that for a number of years I’ve had schedule conflicts ranging from family get-togethers to wedding receptions on the day I had chosen to go to the show hasn’t helped much.

After the jump, a look at some of the highlights and other observations from this year’s PAX.


September 3, 2009

It’s The Most Nerdiest Time of the Year

Filed under: Games — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 11:51 pm

I’d like to think that I’m somewhat of a casual video game player, but I suspect that anyone who entered my apartment would progbably disagree with me.  If  the big pile of Rock Band instruments sitting in the corner of the living room or the closet full of assorted retro consoles (well, sort of retro anyway, I don’t have anything that really goes much further back than 16-bit era at this point) here in the den aren’t enough to make that argument sound thoroughly unconvincing, then I suspect the full size arcade game in the den here would have no trouble doing so on its own.  Yes, I have to admit that I’ve got a fair bit of video game stuff around here, even if most of it doesn’t get played much these days.  I suppose that also, by default at least, makes me something of a video game junkie.  Those who know me would not be surprised by this. 

That said, up here in the Seattle area we’re lucky to have the Penny Arcade Expo, which is just about the largest gaming-related show in America that isn’t E3 (and E3 isn’t open to the general public either.)  It’s not just a bunch of people sitting around playing video games for three days either (although there’s plenty of that.)  There’s also significant representation of tabletop and pen-and-paper gaming, and a lot of stuff related to the general culture (such as it is) which has developed around these things.    The expo, now in its sixth year, continues to grow, and has this year completely sold out of tickets  nearly a week before the actual show.  I have been lucky enough to have been able to attend all of them so far.  I’ve had the chance to watch the show grow From the first one which took up about half of Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue where about 4,000 people showed up, (I actually managed to get in to that one for free by letting the organizers borrow my copy of SoulCalibur 2 for the tournament,) up to the 2009 show that begins today at the Convention Center in Seattle, taking up the whole place with 75,000 people expected to attend over the course of the next three days.  With attendance continuing to increase, and greater demand, there will also be an East Coast PAX next year in Boston.  This is an event people literally travel halfway across the country to attend, and here in the Seattle area we’re lucky enough to have it in our backyard.

For all of the PAXes I have been to previously, I have gone only for one day, which is the Saturday of the weekend that PAX takes place on.  On one hand, I generally think that one day is plenty to see everything there, but on the other hand, there’s also plenty you could do to fill another day up if you were so inclined.  This year, I will be attending for two days, and it was pretty much by accident that it happened.  About a week ago, I went to get my tickets (at all of the ones I’ve attended in the past tickets have generally been available up until the day of the show, and usually at the door) and found that Saturday tickets had sold out.  Having not expected this, I decided to get a Friday ticket as a plan B (those ended up selling out a day later) and put out a couple of requests to see if I could come up with a Saturday ticket.  I didn’t have much expectation of actually being able to come up with one (after all, the “tickets wanted” requests on Craigslist were showing some rather high prices,) but I happened to luck into one from someone I knew who wasn’t going to be  able to attend.  Thus I ended up with tickets for two days.  The timing works out well too, because after the way this last week at work has gone, I could use a good excuse to flee screaming from the building (I do have to go to work for a few hours in the morning but get to take the afternoon off.)

There’s plenty to see here, and I’m sure there will be plenty to Blog about at the show as well.  Unfortunately, I’m not exactly well equipped for moblogging these days, so most of the stuff will be showing up here after the show is over.  I will also be twittering (see the sidebar for that), and will probably post some grainy cameraphone pictures as well.  Now to go check the drawers to figure out where my geek shirt collection went…

August 28, 2007

Highlights from PAX ’07 – The games

Filed under: Games — Tags: , , , — Brian Lutz @ 4:57 pm

For some of the people who attend PAX, the main attraction of the place is the huge crowd to hang around with and play stuff.  For others, it’s the concerts and the panels.  I suspect that for most people there though, it’s the chance to play upcoming games that’s the big draw.  Here are some impressions of a few of the games I tried out.  Unfortunately, my camera doesn’t do a very good job of picture taking in the low light conditions of the exhibition hall, so I don’t have a lot of good pictures.  I did post some of the ones that did come out though:Project Gotham Racing 4

Project Gotham Racing 4 (360):  At first, this game doesn’t look like a huge improvement over its predecessors.  Then again, they did a pretty good job with the graphics with PGR3, so there isn’t a whole lot of room to do much there (at least on the current hardware.)  Where they did improve, however, was in the sense of speed conveyed.  In a brief play session, PGR4 just seems to be faster than PGR3.  It is apparent that they are continuing to mess with the Kudos system though, and I’m not sure whether the result is going to improve or diminish the experience over previous games.  I also didn’t get a chance to try out motorcycles (even though they were present on the track I wasracing on.)  Given the relative lack of competition in the niche that the PGR games fill in between the hardcore sims (Forza 2) and the pure arcade stuff (the Burnout series,) I suspect that this will do pretty well.

More after the jump.


August 26, 2007

Highlights from PAX ’07 – The Show

Filed under: Games — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 2:30 am

Back in 2004, the guys from Penny Arcade got the crazy idea to put on a convention for gamers.  They rented part of the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue, and thought they might be able to attract about a thousand people or so.  I was able to attend the first PAX because it just happened to be nearby, and because I was able to get in for free by responding to a message at work asking to let them borrow copies of SoulCalibur 2 for their tournament, and the first one was a relatively modest affair.  The exhibit hall was just a medium size room, and the most notable item on display was Forza Motorsport (which was then still several months from release) running on three screens with a racing wheel.  Even so, the attendance at the first PAX more than tripled the estimates.

 Fast forward four years, and PAX has grown into one of the largest gamer conventions in the USA, with attendance this year expected to be somewhere around 30,000 people.  This year to accomodate the growth, they have moved PAX to the much larger Convention Center in dowtown Seattle, and more than doubled the size of the exhibit hall over the previous years.  I’ve been to PAX all four years of its existence now, although for one reason or another, I’ve always had some time constraint that has kept me from being able to stay for more than a few hours.  This time around, it was a wedding reception in the evening, although I did still have enough time to get a good look at the exhibit hall.  After the jump, some of the highlights (and lowlights) from PAX 2007, complete with photos.


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