PAX Story: Part 5

By Hans Wuerflein

connect 4

Sunday started with the semifinal round of the Omegathon, Connect 4.  They’ve traditionally done board games in the past, most notoriously Jenga.

They had a 10 second timer on to keep things moving.  I guess they learned their lesson a few years ago with a Jenga that took something like an hour and a half.

Anyway, the guy who got in by being in second place was one of the two to move on to the still secret final round.

Next we went over to check out the public demo of Star Wars: The Old Republic.  In case you haven’t been following it, it’s a Star Wars MMORPG being developed by BioWare (the developers of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic) for release some time next year.

They had several guys in full costume as Jedi walking around before they got the presentation started.

jedi cool

Now, I’m sure those of you with some photography experience are wondering why I didn’t use flash, because lets be honest, despite that being a cool picture, it’s a little blurry.  Here’s why:

jedi lame

They’re lit internally and made of fairly reflective plastic, so it looks more like he’s holding part of a curtain rod than a lightsaber.  Plus you miss out on that little bit of really cool looking motion blur.

Anyway, the game looks absolutely amazing.  I was leaning toward getting the game already.  Then I heard the following:

“People have asked us, ‘Are you going to do a KotOR 3?’  Yes. And a 4, and a 5, and a 6, and they are this game.”

(Note: It’s been a few weeks and I can’t remember who exactly from BioWare was speaking at the time,  so if you are somehow reading this, sorry, and if anyone else remembers, please tell me.)

The demo they showed off looked like essentially a multiplayer KotOR, in that it actually had a strong storyline.  I was really impressed that it used the dialog system from Mass Effect, and like Mass Effect, the choices you make will have a lasting impact on the storyline and its missions.  It’s good to see an MMO have missions more complex than ‘I need 12 pelts/horns/magic doo-dads.’

They showed off four of the classes, two good, to evil.  Well, there’s some gray area there, but I digress.  On the “good” side you had the Jedi and Trooper.  Yes, the Troopers are good, because it’s way in the past of the Star Wars universe, and these are different, non-clone, non-storm troopers, so just go with it.

On the “evil” side you have the Sith and the Bounty Hunter.  Again, I’m not sure that Bounty Hunters are necessarily evil, but they’re in it for the money, and money is the root of all evil, so shut up, they needed a close counter to the other guys with lots of guns.

I can’t wait to see the rest of the classes.

They had a couple treats for the audience, most notably an inside joke.

deepcrow

I saw a few good cosplays walking around that afternoon.  First, there were these guys, who were great, but I have no idea who they were supposed to be.  If anyone knows, feel free to comment.

cosplay

Also, there was a pretty good, but thankfully not entirely in character, Pyramid Head from Silent Hill 2.

look at the time

Also, while waiting in the VIP line for Wil Wheaton, and yes, there were so many people trying to get in that the people who normally got to cut had to get in their own, separate line, I made quite possibly the most important discovery of our time: I found Waldo.

waldo

Anyway, I went to a couple more panels, including one about the quality of video game reviews hosted by a bunch of industry vets, full of great stories.  For example, while discussing integrity and whether or not it is necessary to do every little thing in every game you review, one guy talked about how a former writer for his site once docked Max Payne a couple points in his review because he didn’t like the multiplayer.  Max Payne has no multiplayer.  I think you can see the problem here.  That’s why I refered to him as a former writer.

I also checked out the second Penny Arcade panel.  There were more great questions from the audience, but two things in particular stand out.

First a swarm (?) of Boo(s) attacked.

boos

One guy went up to the mic and asked them to close their eyes while a group of fans with boo masks crept up to the stage.  They did a great job with it, and even tried to “hide” when Gabe and Tycho looked at them.

boo

Second, during the previous panel they had talked briefly about weird, homoerotic fan art of their characters people have drawn.  Well, this time around someone had some of it with them:

fan art

I love Tycho’s reaction in this shot.  Right after this Gabe said he was going to sign it across ‘his junk’ and Tycho freaked out a little.

“Don’t sign it!  Now it’ll go on eBay as an original!”

After the Penny Arcade panel a couple of us went over to check out “Wil Wheaton presents: THE AWESOME HOUR!!1”  And yes, like I mentioned before, there was such a demand for seats that in addition to the Super Best Friends Club VIP line they actually had to use the main line up area and shepherd people over.

Even though we had to wait in line, our seats were great:

wil

Wil’s performance/speech/show thingy was fantastic.  He told several stories from the books he’s written, Just a Geek and Dancing Barefoot as well as part of his keynote address from PAX ’07.  He talked about his first trip to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show, an embarrassing diner at Black Angus, and how the NES was probably the most powerful computer ever made.

This next picture really is just to show the level of admiration this man has within the geek community:

wil-4

Yes, panties were thrown.

He also fielded questions from the crowd, and most of them were great, but one in particular stands out.

the-front

Godfather of Nerdcore hip-hop, self-proclaimed 579th greatest rapper on Earth, and Penny Arcade Rapper Laureate MC Frontalot.

He and Wil did a bit they worked on for one of Frontalot’s albums.  Really, here, just watch:

Sunday evening was the grand finale of PAX, so everyone headed back to the main event room to see the final round of the Omegathon.  Once again, I got to cut, and this time I drug the whole group along with me.  Here’s the final line:

final-line

Most of the other Omegathon rounds had maybe 40 people in the room, with the exception of the round right before Saturday’s concerts.  This one had thousands, and with good reason.  There’s the tension of still not knowing what they’re going to play.  There’s the tension of watching two of your fellow gamers compete for a great prize, with the loser only getting an invite to try again next year.  Then there’s the fact that there really isn’t anything else going on at that time and it’s the official end of PAX, so really, where else are they going to be?

We got in early, but sat back a ways to get actual seats.  Everyone else filled in in front of us, but several of us still had sore feet from the concert the night before, so there was no way we were standing up for another hour.

finale-2

Everyone was still talking about what the final game would be.  And really, it can be anything.  They did Vs. Excitebike the year before, a game that only came out in Japan for the Famicom Disk System (a floppy disk drive add-on for the Japanese NES).

During the build up to it Gabe and Tycho mentioned that they had done just about every type of game for a final round, but that they wanted to take it back to the arcade.  The crowd buzzed with anticipation.  What could it be?

skeeball

Skeeball?  Really? Yes really.

Finalists had to square off in a score competition for the trip to Tokyo on what turned out to be the single crappiest functioning Skeeball machine in the world.

Seriously, the kept breaking down so often during the competition that they had to keep score by hand.

After several rounds, last year’s runner up finally…lost.  Again.  Better luck next year guy.   Really though, you’re getting three years of line cutting privileges out of this.  Don’t knock it. Let’s just hope you don’t turn into the early ’90s Buffalo Bills of the Omegathon.

Well, that pretty much wraps things up.  It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life, and even though I got pwned out of the Omegathon so early, I really can’t wait to go back.  Maybe a trip to Boston for the new PAX East…

I’ll read over these again and post anything I missed, plus some stuff from sightseeing in Seattle the next morning before our flight home later this week.

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One Response to “PAX Story: Part 5”

  1. […] was the coolest trip I’ve ever been on, half of our group coming down with H1N1 […]


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