Pax East 2011: Friday

By Shamus
on Mar 13, 2011
Filed under:
Nerd Culture

The first day of of PAX East began when we left the hotel in the wee hours of the morning and I spoke the following words to my wife:

“No, I won’t need the heavy coat. I don’t want to lug it around all day.”

About an hour later we were standing in front of the convention center when I said:

“I really think I might be in some kind of danger. I don’t remember ever being this cold. How do you know if you’re freezing to death?”

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I had imagined that people would just go into the convention center and wait there. The program clearly and unambiguously states that “the doors open” at 8am, which for some reason I took to mean, “The show stars at 8am”. In truth, it meant that, “The doors are shut and guarded until 8am, nothing interesting happens before 10am, and if you show up early your stupid ass will die of hypothermia if you’re under-dressed.” I suppose that’s somewhat less pithy.

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So we stood outside for an hour. Then we went inside and stood in line for a while to get our badges. Then we were driven like cattle to the main event, which was a huge ass line.

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This area wasn’t so much a line as a holding pen for all of the overzealous dolts who showed up long before there was anything for them to do. I was near the head of the pack.

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Some people played Magic: The Gathering. A beach ball was introduced, and a long game of crowdball began. It landed on my head in the middle of writing my previous post.

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The exhibition hall is huge. You might be able to see it all if you spent two days on it. Meanwhile, at any given moment there are two or three panels going on. The only way to get the full PAX Experience is with a time machine. But let’s walk the show floor and see what we see.

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One of the few games I’m really anticipating is L.A. Noir. It’s been YEARS since I saw a graphics enhancement that interested me, but their facial animation system has blown my mind. I try not to think about how expensive it must be, or I’ll feel guilty just watching the cinematics.

They didn’t have a playable demo They had a theater, and the line wrapped all the way around their booth. We stood in line for half an hour and never took a single step forward. So we left and decided to find a game with a less impossible line.

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Not that one.

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So how long is the line for Old Republic? Doesn’t look bad at all. Just a couple of dudes… oh, I see. They’re just standing in this open area. The line is over there. But where does it start? There? No, looks like it folds over. And there’s more behind this divider. And then it keeps going.

Okay. The line is clearly longer than any single Star Wars movie. There is no level of entertainment or treasured gameplay secret that could possibly entice me to endure this wait.

Madness! No? Sparta? Fine. I’m leaving anyway.

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You know what didn’t have a line? The dozen or so cover-based console shooters that covered the show floor like a brown pox. Here I am playing a game that was less interesting than standing in line. I did enjoy the deep shag carpet of their booth, though. By late afternoon my legs were killing me.

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I don’t know what shooter they were promoting with this, but you could pose holding this huge gun with nasty pointy bits all over. So I handed the thing to Heather and took her picture.

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I spent some time at the Turbine booth, until my face got so blurry I had to leave. Love these guys. They were showing off their new late-game content. I like many things about LOTRO, but not enough to stand on the show floor doing cooldown-based MMOG combat. Moving on…

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A mouse, allegedly. Looks like one of those Michael Bay Transformers, halfway through transformation. It looks like it was dropped, broken, and then bolted back together in a machine shop by a blind man who thinks that “ergonomics” means the sharp rusty bits should be marked with yellow tape.

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Evening. Food. The prices were brutal. Movie theaters would be ashamed to charge these prices. It’s very easy to spend more on food than you spend on entry to the convention. I know that’s how it works, but damn.

Then on to the last panel of the day, which was a panel that included me.

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Left-to-right: “Movie” Bob Chipman, Myself, Graham Stark, Paul Saunders, and Kathleen De Vere.

We took questions and then everyone watched a selection of Escapist movies. (Zero Punctuation, Top 5, etc.)

I got to meet a few of you. Thanks to everyone who stopped by to shake hands and take pictures. Really nice to have faces to go with the names. Greetings to Deadpool, ccesarano, James, Mailbox, and all the rest.

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From the Archives:

  1. Pickly says:

    Is that an actual panel that included you, and if so, which one was it?

  2. eric says:

    Looks very impressive, as usual. Not really in my ability to go to PAX unless I want to take a flight, but I could stand to go to a nerd convention of some sort one of these days… though the noise and advertising might be enough to make my head explode. The panel with you and MovieBob might nearly have been enough to motivate me to get a plane ticket.

  3. Sarah says:

    Looks like fun, despite all the lines! I hope you’re not letting your crippling travel-plan fever hurt the experience for you. ;)

  4. X2-Eliah says:

    Hm. What mouse is that? Looks kinda neat.

    Uhm, anyway. Wow. That’s a crapton of crowds. Egads.

    Did you get to see the DX:HR presentation?

    • Marcus says:

      It’s Cyborg’s R.A.T. 7. I love staring at that thing.

      • X2-Eliah says:

        I think using it wouldn’t be so fun, but yeah, it’s got amazing looks.

        • Jarenth says:

          Wait, it’s supposed to look like that?

        • Zak McKracken says:

          Actually, it’s not so bad.
          Tried one out at a shop. You can completely adjust anything on this mouse. Length, width, weight, locations of the buttons on the left side. So you can put the buttons where your fingers are, not the other way round. Probably a very good thing for gamers with non-average gamer hands. Nothing I require, but I understand the idea, I guess.
          Saitek also has this Joystick where you can adjust grip height, stiffness, button locations, and even turn it into a left-handed device. Looks only good if you’re into Transformers, but has a clear ergonomic advantage.

          • Hugo Sanchez says:

            Its the best. I own one. Mine actually looks a bit more exploded than that one. The thing is crazy adjustable. It even comes with a bunch of extra bits and bobs, just so you can change stuff around. This mouse is big, which if you have small hands, might be a problem. However, I have some pretty big hands, and this is the only mouse I’ve ever owned where my hand doesn’t feel scrunched up on the thing.

            On-the-fly adjustable DPI is pretty nice too.

        • Irridium says:

          It looks like my past mouse after I threw it against the wall and stomped on it.

          I hated that mouse…

  5. Halfling says:

    I see they kept you at least one person away from Paul. Probably smart. ;)

  6. Adam P says:

    Was the panel something you knew you were going to be doing before you went, or was it sprung on you at the last second?

  7. Skeeve the Impossible says:

    I haven’t even read this article and I’m excited,

  8. conniemac says:

    So I was the guy at the panel who actually remembered Chainmail Bikini and DM of the Rings… Umm… Hi. In my defense, I was rocking a really good buzz then, otherwise I would’ve been too shy. I enjoy your writing and started paying attention to the Escapist because they brought you on board. Tell them you get +1 on your next “get a raise” check? Also, how did no one else know DMotR? It was the prefect combination of my loves of D&D and LotR. I’ll go back to lurking now.

    • Aldowyn says:

      Because people never bother actually looking at the home page and going “huh, what’s that?”

      Shamus mentions it every so often, and I finally read it (in one day, I think) and I am very, very glad I did.

  9. Mailbox says:

    Well here I am. I said I would post on here despite my lack of doing so prior to this event. Yeah, Saturday night was great meeting you. The conversation we had was quite fun during Loading Ready Run’s panel. I will prob be more active leaving comments and perhaps we will have even further conversations.

  10. Daimbert says:

    You know, when I first saw the picture of that mouse my first thought — before reading the text — was that this was some kind of advertisement for a new session of Robot Wars, and that was a new robot for it.

  11. Sekundaari says:

    L. A. Noire huh? By Rockstar?

    Hey, could this be why they’re making Max Payne 3: The Wifebeater Edition? Too much competition otherwise?

    • Zukhramm says:

      I’ve not really take notice of the game until now, but looking at some trailers it seems pretty cool. And Wikipedia says “with a classical jazz soundtrack”, which is great since there’s a horrible lack of jazz in video games.

      But why “noire” though? Did just noir not look French enough? Why not go all out with “Nôïré”?

  12. Dan says:

    That’s one of the reasons I’m hesitant to try going to PAX. It’ll be interesting to see once you get home and recover from hypothermia if you really thought it was worth it.

    I too am extremely introverted and I don’t feel like I would wait in line the whole weekend for the one thing I really want to see or wander around looking at a bunch of things I don’t.

  13. Jarenth says:

    Hypothermia, huh? Guess that’ll teach you to listen to your wife.

    Well, that and the fact that’s she’s smiling with glee while holding that pointy gun.

  14. Rosseloh says:

    Wish I could be at the convention. But sadly, they never bring these things to the central Plains where I live.

    So instead I get my crowd fix sitting in busy airports at 5 in the morning. Arg.

    As for the coat situation, come spend a little time out where I live one winter — it’s great to go without a coat! (ifyoudon’tmindfrostbite)

  15. Zak McKracken says:

    Is there a recording of that panel of yours somewhere on the net?
    I should be delighted to watch it (or listen to it).

  16. Henebry says:

    Was it worth it? Those lines make this look like a whole lot of not-fun.

    I went to Dragon Con down in Atlanta a few years ago. What made it all worthwhile was the spectacle of cosplay and the indie RPG community.

    • Ben says:

      Speaking as a first time PAX attendee yes it was worth it.

      On one hand yes the lines suck although with a few exceptions (SW:TOR, LA Noire, the keynote and a few others) they aren’t really that bad. However on the other hand the lines can be (not necessarily are but can be) kinda fun. A whole bunch of nerds sitting around chatting about whatever, it just kinda works.

  17. ngthagg says:

    I’m glad you got on a panel. You seem like the perfect type of person to be a panelist.

  18. Specktre says:

    Aw man, that is so awesome that you got to be on that panel. :D

  19. toasty_mow says:

    It looks like you had “fun.” But sounds like it was also very tiring. Hope to hear more. :)

  20. X2-Eliah says:

    Could someone please explain the concept of a ‘panel’, by the way? I’m not sure I get what Shamus actually did, and how a panel in these conventions works (I assume it’s something different from a gamedev booth/zone where they showcase their new game demos).

    • ccesarano says:

      A panel is kind of like a Podcast. A bunch of guys gather at a table, call themselves experts.

      Ok, in truth it is usually industry people discussing what it is like to be in the industry, how to get in and what it takes. Or to shoowcase and discuss the development of a game. Or to tackle a topic like how politics are handled in games.

      For a fun example of a panel not related to games, I’d check out the Comic-Con panel for Comic Book: The Movie. I believe it is a bonus disc feature on the DVD.

  21. Amarsir says:

    I don’t want to brag, but I saw a 15 minute demo of a SW:TOR 4-man instance yesterday. Zero travel, line-waiting, or standing required. :)

    (Bioware’s approach to interactive multiplayer cutscenes is clever, that was my takeaway.)

  22. Deadpool says:

    ‘Twas my pleasure good sir. I had hoped I could buy you and your wife a drink last night but the LRR ran really late… If the opportunity arises again, I would love to.

    Hope you enjoy your Sunday as well!

  23. Jethro says:

    I’m thinking Heather needs to paint that photo of her as a self-portrait so I can put it on the next edition of Sherwood Showdown. “The illustrator in her day job” would be a good caption.

  24. Maldeus says:

    Man, this looks so cool that I’m seriously considering actually flying to a convention sometime. It’s too far to drive, but the TSA makes air travel a huge hassle.

    • Atarlost says:

      Amtrak is slower than flying, and even slower than driving if you don’t stop to sleep, but a lot less hassle than flying was even in the ’90s.

      At least some lines have 120VAC but not all cars have enough outlets so bring a plugbar.

  25. James Schend says:

    I have a RAT5 mouse (I can’t tell if the one in the photo is a 5 or a 7, but they look the same). Best mouse I’ve ever owned.

    Sure, it looks like a partially-disassembled Tumbler from Batman, but all those angled parts fit your hand perfectly when you grip it. The little plate on the left prevents your thumb from hitting the mouse pad. The thing has 4000 DPI, which can be turned down in 4 increments, and a “precise aiming” button which can alter the DPI on-the-fly while playing. It’s so sensitive that just walking towards my computer from 2 rooms away wakes up the monitor.

    Anyway. Ugly. But inexpensive, and good, and I’d recommend a RAT5 or RAT7 if you’re looking at mouses.

    • X2-Eliah says:

      Gah. I would. Just that I picked up a G700 two months ago – and swapping over seems like such a waste. Even if this one is seriously scraping at the ‘Oooooooh shiny cool new toy’ instinct.

      Almost wish I hadn’t seen it >.>

  26. Zombie Pete says:

    Thank you for your rundown on the con happenings and non-happenings. Your description of the lines and waiting pens steeled my resolve to never again attend these things except as a super VIP. We’ve been going to Comic-Con SD for the past few years, and it’s gotten increasingly bloated and stifling with each visit. Case in point: My wife worked on a movie that was premiering an extended trailer there. We waited over two hours and didn’t get in. The editor WHO CUT THE TRAILER almost didn’t get in (but she was saved with minutes to go by getting a VIP pass; not so for the rest of us). Besides that, just trying to walk from one end of the exhibition floor to the other was like larping planet Gideon from ST:TOS.

    Also, rule number one: Don’t buy food at the con! Pack it in or scope out an eatery at least ten blocks from the convention center.

  27. rayen says:

    is it just me or are you talking during that panel and everyone is looking at you angrily?

    (j/k graham is looking down.)

    • X2-Eliah says:

      You do have a point, Graham seems slightly odd, Paul and Kathleen could be seen as absolutely furious there.

      But Shamus seems to be happy in that pic, so who cares ^^

  28. SolkaTruesilver says:

    No Deus Ex : Human Revolution?! :-(

  29. Cuthalion says:

    Hope the lines were made up for by other awesomeness. :P

    @X2-Eliah: A panel is where a bunch of people involved in something introduce themselves and then answer questions about themselves and whatever it is they did from the audience.

  30. TSED says:

    Oh Americans, how you make me laugh. -40 isn’t cold enough to make me bother zipping up my trenchcoat – of which I removed the lining because it was too hot, so it’s basically a giant windbreaker. No, it’s not leather.

    To be fair, the average person in my area gives me strange looks for my temperature tolerances, too. Like when summer rolls around and I die whenever it breaks 24 degrees.

    • Zukhramm says:

      They think I’m crazy here. Some day earlier this winter there a nice -10 (Celsius, that is) and I gave some comment that spring was starting to arrive. They just seemed confused.

  31. Cybron says:

    Was it fun meeting your fellow Escapist contributors? I seem to remember you being a fan of Graham and Paul even before they moved to the Escapist.

  32. ccesarano says:

    I would like to apologize for geeking out on you. I also wish I had the sense to offer to buy MovieBob a drink. I felt like a teen Otaku girl who got to meet a real live Sephiroth (and not die!).

    Is that Homefront you’re playing in the image? I found it to be like Modern Warfare with some MAJOR recoil, which is fine for me but also groan worthy. At the very least John Milius writing has my interest piqued.

    For, best return on line-time-investment was the 3DS. The line looked long, but fifteen minutes of waiting and you get a buffet. Tried an augmented reality game, Kid Icarus, Steel Diver, Dead or Alive Dimensions, Resident Evil: Mercenaries 3D, Pilotwings and Super Steet.Fighter 4 3D. All after a fifteen minute wait.

    Time. Well. Spent.

  33. Double A says:

    Hey… what are you doing with a beard? That article on the Escapist is a total lie, isn’t it?

    Anyway, PAX sounded sort of fun. Most people are a bit more zealous in their descriptions, this is probably the most “meh” one I’ve ever read. Kind of interesting, really. I’ll have go one year to find out for myself.

  34. SteveDJ says:

    I suppose the best thing about being on a panel? You didn’t have to wait in line to get in to that panel… :)

  35. AndyL says:

    How does the blind man know what color the tape is?

  36. thebigJ_A says:

    Are you kidding? That was the nicest day we’ve had here in MONTHS! It was lovely out.

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