What can I say besides, “PAX Prime 2011 is in full-effect?” This year’s PAX is huge, packed, and I couldn’t cover it all if I had a year. Instead I will share with you some highlights from the first part of my PAX experience.
I kicked the fun off early on Thursday night at a private Pre-PAX Party hosted by Mr. Avery Alix of PopCap Games. This event was originally going to be held in the 619 Western Arts building, but thanks to the city of Seattle giving local artists the finger, a new venue was required. Thankfully the awesome folks at Golazo Sports Energy Drinks had a perfect venue that they were willing to share. The party took place a few blocks up the hill from PAX, at a converted BMW dealerships that is Golazo HQ. The space was massive. I arrived early as DJ equipment was set up, an HD projection gaming area was fired up, kegs were loaded in, and mobile GAEMS gaming systems powered on. The venue itself sported an indoor soccer arena, foosball, ping-pong, and enough tasty Golazo energy drinks to keep an army of gamers twitchy and wired for a month. Thanks to cool friends and random chance, I was going to get to attend this exclusive private party with some of the greatest minds in the video game industry!
I must pause here to comment on the amazing collection of artists that were brought together by Mr. Carl Faulkner to show their work at this party. The best and brightest stars of the Seattle art scene made the space pop by hanging their amazing art. You should really check these artists out, because they absolutely are KILLING it here: Carl Faulkner, Redd Walitzki, J.P. Farquar, Wierdo, Ego, Brom, Laurie Brom, Doug Gordon, Jake Glam, Ego, Augie Pagan, Enfu, and Chris Sheridan. Seeing all of my favorite local artists in one space was a real treat!
As the sun went down, the people showed up and the ridiculously awesome music started pumping. Filthy beats thumped throughout the space. The DJ booth was setup with laptops, turntables, and many Gameboys and classic Nintendos, along with other gaming systems that were used heavily to provide 8-bit/Chiptune sounds and samples. The music was just sick and completely blew me away. A couple of the musical highlights of the evening were a DJ and guitarist/singer duo that went by the moniker CrashFaster, and a wicked DJ/MC that goes by A-Rival, both acts are from SF.
Nearly every last one of the attendees I talked to worked in the gaming industry. I always knew the Seattle/Eastside area was a hotbed of game development, but I really had my eyes opened to just how much is going on in the industry here. The party people weren’t just local either. I met industry people from all around the globe. It is safe to say, the state of gaming is insanely strong right now.
One super-nice gentleman I chatted extensively with was Daniel James, a designer and CEO of Three Rings Design from San Francisco. Mr. James was dressed in a dapper grey pinstriped three-piece suit, Space Invaders tie, had a TARDIS on his lapel, and spoke with a charming English accent. He had actually been a speaker at PAX DEV 2011, a developer-only event that takes place in the days leading up to PAX Prime. He gave a speech about mobile game being the future of the gaming industry, and was nice enough to give me a rundown of his (really interesting) theories. His company produces many games including dungeon crawlers and casual games, but the subject he spoke of that really grabbed my interest was about a Doctor Who game.
Local video game developers and publishers from Bungie, PopCap, Valve, and Sucker Punch were also at this party in great numbers. I talked to many different people from PopCap about their recent acquisition by EA Games that I reported on here at Comic Booked not long ago. Opinions about the acquisition were generally optimistic, and nearly all of the people I talked to admitted that this would give PopCap a chance to reach even more gamers. Rumors were also confirmed that PopCap will be expanding and hiring many new people, as was suspected when the deal was announced.
People from Bungie spoke of giving a tour of their amazing sound studios to people from Valve. Apparently the Valve people were so impressed, that plans are in the works to build a state of the art studio of their own. Other rumors and talk revolved around companies competing for the same buildings and commercial spaces on the eastside. You can definitely sense a competitive nature between the different companies, but not in mean way. These people are friends and have often worked with people in these other companies (and judging from all the poaching and job changes, likely will work with them again). If anything, I think these developers are pushing each other and their games to even greater heights, and as gamers that means we win as well.
I had planned on sharing news and some of my hands-on time with different games at the actual PAX Prime event, but will do so in future articles. Suffice to say that Arkham City is going to be amazing, and with even more polished controls than the first game (if you can believe it). The Assassin’s Creed: Revelations panel at the Paramount now has me wanting the game more than ever. An hour-long wait to play Halo: Anniversary was totally worth it. Portal co-creator, Kim Swift’s new game Quantum Conundrum is going to be a hit with adults and kids alike. And finally, there could potentially be something to 3-D gaming, as it is actually quite engaging when experienced first-hand. I took time out from PAX to get this together for you, but there is no rest for the wicked. I am back to work and play. Check back here on Comic Booked for more PAX Prime coverage in the near future. Happy gaming!