HeroCast at PAX East 2011 Day One
Upon arrival to the train station, Kimerex and I were getting pumped for our first conference where we hold the power of Media capacity. That's right, we are press for this event, scary huh? Not to bore you with too much details, the train ride was horrible. It was unbearably hot in our area. Not sure what the hell was going on but it took until about an hour away from Boston before they opened up some doors to let the air in. Pokemon Black & White barely kept us sane for the six and a half hour ride. Perhaps driving to Boston next year will be better for us. Once in town, we were immediately greeted with the city flavor of a cabbie yelling at a woman that she didn't pay him and led to her screaming obscenities at really high decibels. Ahh Boston. A quick cab ride to our hotel we were already contemplating what to eat. Since we had no idea what to get, we roamed the streets until we settled on a really nice sushi bar. With our bellies satisfied we trekked back to our room and began to formulate a plan of attack for day one of PAX East. Since this is our first time doing any of this as well as going in as a two man team, we had no clue as how to proceed. So we said "fuck it" and decided to go into day one with the knowledge that we had only one meeting to go to (sadly Dead Island was cancelled do to a complication on their end) and we would spend the time before and after said meeting with Valve to see Portal 2 to actually network. Getting contact info was our main goal for the first day and a really sound idea, seeing as though we could use all the contacts we can get.
Mornings to gamers are not kind at all. After getting about five hours of sleep, we left the room groggy and scuttled down to the front lobby where thankfully there was a shuttle provided by the hotel to the convention center. I underestimated just how many PAX attendees were at our hotel, that was five miles away from the event, and the shuttle filled up quickly, leaving us with the option of a cab or waiting another hour for the shuttle to come back. Cab it is. PAX East started off on a bad note. The way the communication was handled between staff and attendees was horrific. After waiting in line for about twenty minutes, we realized that we were in the wrong line for our passes. Wonderful. So Kimerex and I went to our proper line for media passes and proceeded to wait another thirty minutes. To make matters worse, when we go to the front of the line, they had Kimerex under Geekscape but I was under Handheld Heroes. Not sure who to blame on this one but I felt odd wearing my Geekscape shirt and having a media badge that said Handheld Heroes on it. When we asked for lanyards for our badges, we were told to go to the queue area to get them. Ok, easy enough. So after walking around for what seemed an hour, we finally found the area we were suppose to get our lanyards. Not sure why we didn't have them when we got our badges (I see a whole pile by your leg registration guy!) and the mixed up answers we were getting from the staff on where this mystery location was led to even more frustration. Not a good start at all.
Thankfully once we got to the floor, everything seemed to fly by in mere seconds. You can really get swept away in the musings of PAX East and forget how long it's been since you got something to eat. First on our list in the half baked plan we had was to survey the exhibit floor to see where we need to go on day two as well as get contact info for meetings we can attempt to make before the weekend is up. Getting around the show floor was daunting in that everything felt condensed in a small square of geeks that I felt like cattle being herded. Wanting to take pictures or video was impossible with the amount of people and the fact that we are just two guys covering this whole thing made it worse. Lack of proper team and equipment meant that pictures and video were going to be light if existent at all. While making our way through the sea of geeks to network our site, one place in particular caught my eye. Skull Girls was being shown off and I immediately went over to get a hands on. Skull Girls is a 2D fighter developed by the small team over at Autumn Games that will be out in the Summer for XBLA and PSN. Having played my fair share of fighting games, I liked how this game felt. The motions were fluid in the animation for the two fighters we had access to for the demo. It felt a little harder to pull of combos but that is expected from a ten minute demo. I am sure given a little more time to learn the controls I could have beat Kimerex. There is a 1v1 mode as well as 2v2. We tried out the 2v2 mode and Kimerex noticed something on how character swap happens. Likening it to Marvel Vs Capcom 2, Kimerex swapped his character out right as I was hitting him and he was invulnerable and I was hit with his character that was swapped in. Hopefully this is something that can be fixed in the final build. Other than that, I am looking forward to playing Skull Girls and possibly trying to get the fighting game crowd in my area to give it a shot.
Right next to the first Autumn Games' demo was a title that I really had no info on, Jimmy Johnson's : Anything That Has An Engine. The easiest way to describe this game is its a kart racer in the style of Mario Kart with a multitude of weird karts. A lot of karts, I know. I picked the farmer on a lawn mower as my character to dominate the demo. Surprisingly, the game controlled really well. Steering was tight aand the basic mechanics of turbo, weapons such as missiles and mines, and drifting were also done very well. I also like how the weapons are matched to what type of character you are playing. Since I picked the farmer, my mines were bags full of leaves. One of the developers mentioned to me that the rubber banding that plagues most kart racers or racing games in general is not prevalent in JJATHAE (Honestly I am not typing that all out again. What ever happened to short and to the point game titles?). What seems to be in it's place is shortcuts throughout the track that only open up to people in the back of the pack. For a game not being on my radar, I am actually going to give JJATHAE a closer look as we come up on the release.
After the whoring session Kimerex and I did to as many booths as possible, we proceeded to our first official meeting with Valve for Portal 2. Now at this time is when we find out how it sucks to be media. After finally getting someones attention, they proceeded to tell us that we were not on their list. NOOOOOOOOOO! Only when I showed the gentleman the email confirming our appointment did we get ushered in with some other people that were also media. I felt sorry for a brief second for all the people in line waiting for this "demo" as we walked to the front of the line. Of course that feeling passed very quickly since I am seeing what I thought at the time was hands on demo of Portal 2. Instead of the hands on demo that Kimerex and I wanted, we got to watch a never before scene from the single player part of Portal 2. Now, what we saw was pretty impressive. The video showed what looks to be the opening scene to Portal 2 introducing Wheatly. A lot of comedy was coming through with the writing of the script for Wheatly and I really liked that. It made the game, to me, more immersed into the games universe versus the sterile environment that was in Portal. Portal 2 seems more lively and has that charm that I look for in games to keep me wanting more. After that short video, we were shown a video on the two new components added to Portal 2 that has been seen already. Blue gel that you can bounce off of and orange gel that, when you make contact with it, you slide. This part of the video is also where they show of the President of Apeture Science, Cave Johnson, who is voiced by J.K. Simmons. Not being prepared, we were sort of ambushed into an interview after the "demo". Figuring we would indulge, we asked some basic question that I am sure most, if not all, media people have asked to death at this point so I will only bring up the one thing that seemed like it wasn't a canned response from the guy we were "interviewing". The PS3 version of Portal 2 will have the Steam app built into the game so that cross platform gaming with your PC brethren is made easier. I was hoping for a Steam app that would be installed separate from the game but maybe it will be that way in the future.
After our meeting with Valve, we decided to run the floor one more time before heading off to the hotel to write up our thoughts for the day. We did manage to stop at the Capcom booth, which for some strange reason was in a far corner of the exhibition floor and not very visual. Super Street Fighter 4 on the 3DS was there and I made a dash towards one of the stations. Now this is my first experience with the Nintendo 3DS so I was delighted to finally see what this 3DS was all about. About two minutes into SSF4 3D, I absolutely had to turn off 3D. Not only were my eyes hurting, but the exact angle you have to hold the 3DS to get the full effect of 3D was unbearable. It felt like I was staring at cardboard cutouts. What made matters worse is the angle they have you fighting in now. It's almost an over the shoulder view that throws any kind of timing you may have had in any previous 2D fighting games out of whack. If I had any interest at all for the 3DS and SSF4 3D, it was lost after that 5 minute session I had with it. I think I will stick to my DSi.
Checking out the last part of the floor we haven't seen, we ran into the WB booth and holy hell they had Mortal Kombat! I frantically looked for someone to set up an appointment with and was met with a "we are all booked up for the whole PAX East". Saddened, Kimerex and I were about to walk away when we were told to follow the person handling the appointments and were lead to a machine to play Mortal Kombat. Being media again had its benefits. By far, the people at the WB booth were the most courteous and helpful people of the show so far. As we played, we had a developer talk to us at first about the game using canned responses but Kimerex flipped the switch on the guy. Kimerex told the dev "You must be tired." followed by talking to the dev about how he hated MK vs DC Universe and is happy Mortal Kombat is going back to its roots. The dev lit up at that comment by Kimerex and seemed to let out a sigh of relief that he didn't have to do the canned media responses to the mundane questions most of them ask. As we played, we loved every second of it. Again, Kimerex beat me but I at least put up a fight. Everything that was so right about the classic Mortal Kombat is back in the newest iteration of the game. Moves and combos seemed easy to figure out and the feel of kombat was satisfying. The dev, which I totally spaced on his name due to being drained since it was nearing the end of the day, ask us what our history was with the franchise and how we felt about the direction Mortal Kombat is going back to. It almost felt like we were the ones getting interviewed. When we were finished with dev shook our hands and thanked us with a genuinely happy attitude. We in turn told him to get some sleep since he looked like he needed it. He laughed and said he is leaving right away.
So as I sit here writing this article, as Kimerex relaxes at the desk…bastard, we finish day one of PAX East fulfilled and looking forward to the next two days. Now if you excuse me, I am going to pass out no…….