Pax East 2012: Year Of The Indies

By Shamus
on Apr 10, 2012
Filed under:
Video Games

splash_pax2012.jpg

It wasn’t until PAX was over that I realized just how much the indie developers had completely stolen the show. I sat at the wobbly postage-stamp table in our hotel room, thumbing through the deck of pamphlets, handouts, and business cards and dividing everything into piles I’d mentally labeled “exciting” and “whatever”. As I reached the end of the pile and began assembling my notes, I realized 80% of the “exciting” pile was made up of indies.

Okay, the best game of the show wasn’t an indie. It’s a AAA title with a full budget and lavish marketing. I’ll talk about that one later. In the meantime, I want to compare how a couple of games are reaching out to their fans. Let’s jump back a couple of days:

Forgot to take a picture of the booth myself. This one was pilfered from Google.
Forgot to take a picture of the booth myself. This one was pilfered from Google.

I’m visiting Assassin’s Creed 3, which is due out later this year. This game has a massive presence. The footprint of their booth (which was really just a subsection of the Ubisoft space) is vast enough that it could encompass most of the indies on the show floor. It has a towering facade of glossy black, trimmed with glowing lights to evoke the “animus” motif. Inside is a booming theater, which plays the EXCLUSIVE (no photography allowed!) first look at the game. Smiling Booth Babes guide us into the experience.

pax2012_ac3_boothbabe.jpg

I could cut to the front of this line by waving my media badge around, but I’d have to ditch Josh. Plus, I don’t like cutting. I suppose if I was dragging around a paid-by-the-hour camera crew I might crash a few lines, but I’m not, so I don’t.

One Booth Babe stands just beside the entrance, hyping up the crowd by awkwardly cycling through a bunch of bullet points that are probably going to end up on the back of the box. She wrings some polite cheers from the crowd by asking if we are excited, which is only slightly less ham-handed than just setting up a flashing APPLAUSE sign on a timer. Every few minutes she steps down from her little stage and asks a few guys in the crowd (and that is the only sort of person in the crowd) what they love most about the series.

Their responses are… obvious. Stuff about good graphics, and combat. The phrase “realistic killing” is used. And that’s fine. This is their game, not mine. Not really. This material isn’t aimed at me and doesn’t resonate with me the way it does with the young guys. I’m not such an ass that I’m going to mock my fellow show attendees openly, but I’ve decided that if the microphone lands on me I’m going to say something like, “I think the fluid kinaesthetics and striking visuals more than make up for the narrative dissonance,” just because that would be a gleefully absurd thing to say in this context.

The microphone doesn’t land on me, but it falls to a guy a couple of spaces behind me, and his response is even better. After she’s done and she has lowered the mic, he asks her point-blank what she likes most about the game. This has roughly the same effect on her poise as skateboarding over wet cement. She is knocked off her script and stammers out something about good graphics, and combat. It’s obvious she’s never played any of the games before.

I’m not trying to pick on this woman, who is just here earning a paycheck and giving it her all. She isn’t bad at her job, the job itself is bad. Her job is to manufacture a facsimile of enthusiasm in the crowd in the hopes that we will mistake it for the real thing. The entire process was obviously cooked up by marketing people who wanted to reach out to the “bro” market, and this was the path of least resistance for them.

On that same day I visit the Lantana Games booth, where I met Julia Smith. Actually, I met Julia first, but I’m telling things in this order because it makes the story more interesting. So there.

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Julia tells me about Children of Liberty, their current game-in-progress. It’s a game about four kids fighting the British occupation in colonial Boston. You can play as Joseph, Ally, Doug, or Sarah. Each kid has their own style of combat: Platforming, momentum-based free-running, brawling, and stealth. While some characters are better-suited to some levels than others, the idea is that all levels will be possible using any character.

Julia gives me the elevator pitch in a rapid-fire conversation while I divide my time between her and the demo video they are looping on the jumbo screen. It is late afternoon. The show floor is deafening, and she doesn’t have a microphone. She’s been screaming this same pitch to an endless procession of shuffling attendees for eight hours a day, three days in a row, but you wouldn’t know it by talking to her. She gives every indication of being completely thrilled to be talking about the game. Which is as it should be. As I’ll discover later when I snap up her business card, she the Resident Creative Director of Lantana Games.

Quality photography, Shamus. Did you shoot this while being electrocuted?
Quality photography, Shamus. Did you shoot this while being electrocuted?

Julia knows her stuff. She knows the development process, the tools they’re using, the gameplay they’re building towards, and the thinking behind various design decisions. She tells me that they scrapped an earlier prototype of the game and started over, and if I wasn’t a fool I’d be writing this down so I’d remember it later. She’s smiling because this project is something she believes in, and she’s happy for the chance to share it. I could stand here and talk about game design and indie development all day, but I’m starting to feel guilty for hogging her time when she could be infecting others with her enthusiasm. I need to move on.

(Yes, I realize that Assassin’s Creed 3 and Children of Liberty both take place in the same time period and both feature stealth and platforming. This is a coincidence and is not a part of the point I’m trying to make here.)

pax2012_col2.jpg

The game gives us the desired 2D platforming gameplay in a 3D environment with a slick corner-turning mechanic. It’s got a fresh setting, a cool premise, and a focused visual aesthetic. It’s smart and creative.

Of course, a lot of indie games at the show are smart and creative. The aisles and booths here are clogged with smart, creative, hardworking, broke-ass indies who are hoping for their big break. But when I leave the show I’ll remember Children of Liberty better than the others because Lantana Games has a strong, intelligent spokesperson out in front. By the time Julia is done with her pitch I want to hug the entire development team. (Most of them are right behind her.)

I didn’t talk to Julia because of the way she looked. She wan’t trying to lure us over to the booth with tight outfits or stilted, corporate-designed fake-flirting. She made me care about this game by showing genuine passion for it herself, and that’s something no hired spokesmodel can ever give you.

I can’t understand the thinking behind the Ubisoft marketing team. This is your chance to meet with and connect with your fans. Why would you outsource that? This is like an adopted kid arranging a meeting with their birth parents, and sending an actor to go in their stead. This completely defeats the purpose of the meeting.

If you’re not going to talk with us directly, then why go to PAX at all? It’s crazy expensive and you probably can’t reach more than a few thousand people. For the price of that booth you could easily buy TV spots that would reach orders of magnitude more people.

I understand why Booth Babes exist. I understand that you hire these women for the same reason you put lights all over your display. This place is an avalanche of sensory input, and you’re just trying to make sure you get noticed. But shouldn’t you employ these women to augment your staff, instead of replacing them?

I can get pretty faces by opening up Google Image Search and typing in words at random, but your booth is the only place I can meet the artists and designers and see how their dreams are shaping this game. Don’t hire some non-gaming nineteen year old to read me your ad copy. That’s a waste of your money and my time. Send in someone who knows what they’re talking about, and ask them to talk about their work. You won’t have to ask very hard.

Before I go: A lot of people said they wanted a picture of Josh. So here I am with Josh, waiting to play the Chivalry demo. That’s me on the left, and Josh on the right.

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A Hundred!A Hundred!20202242 COMMENTS? What are you people talking about?!?

From the Archives:

  1. Tharwen says:

    Hurrah for Josh’s gorgeous hair!

  2. JPH says:

    Children of Liberty looks and sounds awesome. Thank you for showing me this.

  3. Deadyawn says:

    This whole Pax thing sounds like a really good idea. It’d be nice if I could manage to get something like this at some point. My country gives the distinct impression that it doesn’t like videogames so it’s pretty difficult. I can’t really afford to fly all the way to america or europe just for something like this either. Grumble.
    Anyway, it would seem the reason ubisoft went the route it did was because they believe their target demographic is a bunch of idiot young men who don’t give a crap about the developement process of the game and that actually having some discourse between them and the developers wouldn’t help their profit. It’d be nice if they gave their audience and their own game a little credit.

    • Gamer says:

      Sad part is, besides people like me and my friends, that’s pretty much correct.

    • Darkness says:

      Good point. I quit playing ACII because it was not entertaining me. Nice little FarmVille (VillaVille I guess) clone but was disappointed with the game itself. Input from a developer could get me regain my interest but a Booth Babe is just eye candy.

      A Booth Babe that was a gamer and had gotten to play the demo six times, okay that might work.

    • Sumanai says:

      Large companies like Ubisoft tend to be very risk averse. Someone close to the game development but untrained in public speech? That’s a risk, can’t have it. Someone speaking stuff that the marketing hasn’t approved? That’s a risk, can’t have it. Someone talking who the audience might consider ugly and therefore walk away? That’s a risk, can’t have it.

      It’s silly, but that’s pretty much how it goes at the top level.

      That said, I like your interpretation. It highlights why this sort of behaviour, even if it happens because of the reasons I mentioned, isn’t necessarily as safe as it’s thought in companies. And of course the best reaction to do as a consumer is to go “well, apparently I’m not the target audience so I might as well ignore them” and mention it online. They might even catch on.

  4. Karthik says:

    So what was the best game at PAX, Shamus? Dishonored? X-COM? Don’t leave us hanging!

    Your analogy about Ubisoft missing an opportunity to connect with their audience is very apt. Every anecdote I hear about a game demo or panel that went great involves gamers talking to the devs. How long will it take for the PR/marketing folks to start learning from the indies?

  5. Moewicus says:

    That picture is very weird to me because Josh is not armed, nor does he appear to be gunning down any Blue Suns or Belltower mooks. Right angle, though.

  6. NonEuclideanCat says:

    It’s always so weird seeing the physical bodies of the voices you listen to on the internet. They never seem to match what I expect. Case(s) in point: Ruts being blonde and Josh having the same hairstyle I did 2 years ago.

  7. X2Eliah says:

    One reason why perhaps Ubisoft isn’t letting their developers to do the presenting is that AC3 is by its nature a much bigger project. It is therefore a lot less likely that a single person will be able to know most of the details in the same depth a small indie team-member might. And add to that, what’s the chance of that person having enough presence & charisma to deal with both fans, uninterested people and sceptics? Becuase if it is obvious that one’s a dev, not a hired actor/babe, then people will start asking the bigger, more serious questions (e.g. why did you screw up the desmong bits so badly?)..

    Also.. Like it or not, this whole booth babe thing (imo, absolutely stupid and somewhat repulsive) is just how PAX rolls.

    P.S. WHY DIDNT YOU TELL US THAT JOSH IS ACTUALLY PENN JILLETTE’s BROTHER?!

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      Yes, I can sort of see why they’d want to isolate devs from the public on AAA titles. Indies have the advantage that their audience (at least in my internet experience) is generally less hostile and has fewer trolls. You don’t see people deconstructing every single word in or starting forum wars about press releases about meatboy.

      I think the thing here is that marketing focuses on getting the most/loosing the fewest customers, whereas most indie developers, while they certainly appreciate more business, still focus mostly on the users having an amazing experience even at the cost of making the game more niche than it had to be. So since an AAA title needs to earn millions and millions of dollars marketing plays it safe.

      • MichaelG says:

        I did floor duty for a company I worked for as a developer. We were a startup, so not enough marketing people to do it. I know the risks of using developers that way! Most of us cannot stay on message for hours. If someone asks about problems with the product, we’re likely to start talking about bugs or features that got axed.

        Not worth the risk for a large company.

        • KremlinLaptop says:

          You seriously do not want to put the sort of cranky guy who you had working on your big project and crunching like hell for the past month on the showroom floor to talk about the big project to people who are potential customers.

          Yeah, he knows the project inside and out; but also HE KNOWS THE PROJECT INSIDE AND OUT.

          …I may have once been that guy. I didn’t even notice I was doing it but I just couldn’t keep my big mouth shut.

          “Oh, yeah, when we got that thing up past 150 it just about shook the fillings out of my teeth. Is it good now? Eh, we’re pretty sure we figured out what was causing the problem. Thing is that now at those speeds it’ll probably try and take-off instead of just shaking.

          We’ll probably figure it out with a bit more testing, though, so it won’t kill anyone.”

          That guy? You don’t want that guy representing you to the public. You might want him working for you, but not doing PR stuff. Ever.

          • Victor says:

            That does say something, though, about your expectations regarding your public. The fact that you try your best to present your product in a positive light does not mean that there are no flaws/issues/shortcomings (as with most human undertakings). And I expect the public to realize that (at least to some extent).

            The “stay on message come what may” approach to marketing seems to work only in situations where the “public” in question knows next to nothing about the product in question, at least in my field (computer engineering). As a “gamer and gaming” convention, PAX is clearly aimed at the game-playing public. With that in mind, it’s probably safe to assume the people attending know something about games, beyond “OMG it’s awesome”. So would this approach really work there?

            • lasslisa says:

              I suspect computer engineering is different, because the target audience knows a lot about what goes on behind the scenes. Writing software for programmers or computer experts, they can understand the tradeoffs you make in your own work because they do much the same thing.

              However, if you’re writing software for photographers, they aren’t interested in the behind-the-scenes tradeoffs and changes being made, only in whether the new software will let them do this new thing they want to do.

          • lasslisa says:

            The catch is, engineering and development spend all their time figuring out what’s wrong and how to fix it or make it better, particularly in little bits. So if you come and ask us about our product, it’s all “Well, we fixed the bug where your computer would crash if you tried to alt-F4 while in a loading screen, but I don’t really like the way the tank handles and still think we should increase the driving responsiveness…”

            You’re just buried in the thing all day, and especially in the broken pieces, and it’s hard to get out of that to say “Oh, yeah, the project is great! We have this really clever leveling system, and..”

            So what you want to do if you’re trying to sell your game, is to send the creative director. Send the person whose dream you’re implementing, not the person who’s trying to figure out what code to use for the inventory screen, or how many pixels of border they should have on the picture-in-picture.

            But if you have a huge game then the creative director is going to be an extra level of busy. So it has to really be a corporate priority, to train them on talking to the public and then to get them out there for however many days.

            • James Pope says:

              This is why directors of all flavors have assistant directors, who they can either force to do the busy work or else do the presenting to the public and fundraising.

        • RTBones says:

          Exactly. This works in other industries as well – aerospace, for example.

          Any big airshow (Paris, Farnborough, LIMA, Singapore, Dubai, etc) you will typically see a preponderance of business development and marketing types of folks. In the background, somewhere, you’ll also find a few engineering types (raises hand) to answer technical questions as required. During public days, the engineering folks are fine facing the public, as most questions you get are *generally* soft or big-picturey. HOWEVER – during industry days (the most enjoyable, from a work perspective), most engineers are typically governed by a set of ‘rules of engagement’ – in essence, the types of questions to answer and the types of questions to defer to business development or marketing. Why? As KremlinLaptop has pointed out – the engineers know the ins and outs of the project, and when asked questions, we generally answer DIRECTLY, AND WITHOUT SPIN. Marketing? Business Development? Yeah, they don’t like that too much. Takes away wiggle room, and could potentially cost a lot of money. Engineers dont bother with money, because we know that with enough money and time, anything can be accomplished. :)

          Oh, and booth babes? Yes, there are booth babes – even in the aerospace industry.

      • Peter H. Coffin says:

        Besides, it’s too hard to get AAA devs back in the shackles and yoke after this kind of thing.

    • Lalaland says:

      This.

      Speaking to random strangers is a skill like any other that not all people posess. If your job doesn’t involve regular contact with the general public the odds are pretty high that the untrained person will engage in a negative fashion. The real issue with ‘Booth Babes’ is that they are hired purely on the basis of attractiveness, they are rarely trained on theproduct just given bare bullet points.

      I was at a local VMWare virtualisation event once supporting one of our partners when to my horror I found they’d hired a booth babe. It was weird to me that at an event for something so inherently unsexy that you’d hire a ‘babe’. Depressingly it did seem to drive more traffic to the booth, I honestly felt embarrassed for my industry (I work for a PC hardware OEM). To be clear she was not dressed very provocatively (just a tight black dress not even low cut) and was simply tasked with wandering around handing out pamphlets. For all that it is usually noticeable that companies will volunteer their most attractive female employees for booth duty whether they formally hire booth babes or not.

    • Robyrt says:

      Even the coolest and most knowledgeable lead developer is not trained to handle 100 fanboys with a microphone. The 19-year-old marketing intern can at least take people’s questions about whether the combat is going to be (a) Very Awesome or (b) Super Awesome without creating a PR nightmare.

    • Newbie says:

      You Teller!

      Bad-um tsh?

    • False Prophet says:

      But Ubisoft Montreal has a Community Developer named Gabe Graziani, who did a lot of social media PR for AC2 and its direct sequels, sometimes on a daily basis. And he was personable, witty, and I’m pretty sure his desk was in the same room as the dev team’s, and he did a good job of balancing positive PR spin with clear answers to fan questions. Now, he might not be the best public communicator I’ve ever seen, and I have no idea how he’d fare in an on-the-spot, unscripted scenario like a convention or trade show. But surely those shortcomings can be overcome with a little training and practice. So why outsource this job to an uninformed spokesmodel when you have a knowledgeable and personable guy in-house? He clearly knows the product and the company, but is not so intimately involved in development so he can always play the “sorry can’t answer; the devs still have that under wraps” card.

  8. Capt'n Glitch says:

    Three things.

    One: This is my first comment, I shall pat myself on the back. *pat pat*

    Two: Shamus, I like your coat.

    Three: Josh! How dare your back be to the camera! I thought that you wanted to show off that totally awesome beard of yours!

  9. Packie says:

    So Josh was Steven Seagal all along, I knew it!

    On topic, Shamus have you seen Dust: An Elysian Tale? absolutely wonderful and it’s made by one guy bar the audio.

  10. Jarenth says:

    Josh is sporting the exact hairstyle I carried around when I was his age. WHATEVER COULD THIS MEAN.

    I will echo JPH’s thanks in informing us about Children of Liberty, which does indeed look pretty interesting.

  11. itches says:

    When PAX was started, wasn’t one of the goals “no Booth Babes” ?

    • Nersh says:

      I think Shamus is jumping the gun by calling her a booth babe; she’s wearing too much. I guess she’s one of PAX’s style of booth babe.

      PAX has rules against swanning around in your underpants, but you can employ people to hawk your wares as long as they keep their ankles covered.

      • Heather says:

        She was actually one of the least “offensive” to me– there were quite a few that were pretty outrageous and obvious (JUST within the rules super short tight skirt and super tight t-shirts– no cleavage thanks to Duke Nukem’s booth babes being made to cover up last year.) There were only two booths that I refused to look closer thanks to it being very clear that I, as a heterosexual female was clearly NOT their marketing’s idea of an audience– since they don’t want me as a customer and didn’t bother to have anyone who actually knew their product, I refused to bother with them. One of my personal idiosyncrasies but it has kept me from making bad decisions in the past– like GoDaddy. :) There was only one that was cosplaying in underpants for a booth and it was so obviously a costume (can’t remember what game) that it was allowable.

        • ACman says:

          Shamus are you logged in as your wife? Or did you bring the family.

          • ACman says:

            Nevermind. The comment two down answers my second question in the affirmative.

            • KremlinLaptop says:

              “…I, as a heterosexual female…”

              Now unless I missed a REALLY big announcement from Shamus then I think it’s safe to assume Heather was at PAX too.

              • Heather says:

                HAHAHAHAH! Yes, I WAS at PAX as well. Shamus kind of won’t go anywhere without me so you can pretty much assume that if Shamus is traveling it is highly likely I am around somewhere nearby. :)

                • krellen says:

                  Would you have let him go without you if he wanted to? I’d have assumed you’d be as interested in PAX as he.

                  • Heather says:

                    Good question. Actually I don’t have a problem with him going places without me though I do enjoy PAX and look forward to it. This year because money was super tight I offered to stay home and he nixed it immediately. I go places without HIM all the time because I love to travel and he hates it.:P

                    • krellen says:

                      That does actually make sense. It’s a lot easier for introverts to be out in public if they’re with people they know. It makes us feel less exposed, somehow (this is probably why I have trouble going to movie theatres alone.)

                    • Heather says:

                      I agree, but it is funny because I too am an introvert as are 2 of our kids. Though we usually travel to visit friends so I guess that works.

                    • krellen says:

                      And you travel in packs, apparently.

                      Haha, kind of an ironic state of affairs.

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      @krellen

                      Also,why would you go to movies alone,when you can get it on dvd later and watch it in the comfort of your own home.There really are very few good movies that are better on the big screen.

                    • krellen says:

                      Mostly because seeing a movie in the theatre is a far better way to support more movies like that being made.

                      Also because I recently cancelled my Netflix DVD subscription (because I watched everything and wasn’t using it any more).

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      “Mostly because seeing a movie in the theatre is a far better way to support more movies like that being made.”

                      I love the price differences in other countries.Where I live,the ticket price for a movie is from 2 to 5 euroes,while the price of a movie on a disk is from 3 to 5 euroes.So the only difference is the size of the screen,and the price of snacks and drinks.Heck,even the price of 3d projections is just about 1 euro higher than for 2d.

        • ccesarano says:

          Probably Lollipop Chainsaw. Day two the hired cosplayer wore something extremely revealing and was asked to change or leave. This erupted in some confused controversy as people thought the original Friday outfit (which no one seemed certain how to handle) was also banned.

          A lot of people have complained that it seems weird to ban skimpy outfits while there are games with such visual content, ads and lots of bloody bits and gibs flying around high definition monitors, but the way I see it, there’s always a difference between something real and something fake. More so, I’d be afraid of the risk of the cosplayer getting more physical unwanted attention from some of the expo goers.

          The only booth babes in costume I can recall were the Steel Battalion ones, and when I told one of them that one of the game systems wasn’t connected to the same network as the other three for Operation Raccoon City, she didn’t seem to know how to handle it at first. She did later, so I hold no harsh feelings. All I wanted was for her to inform a Capcom rep, since I figured she’d know who and where they were more easily than I would.

          Otherwise, I didn’t really notice them. Or more along the lines that I didn’t pay any mind. Even if they were dressed more conservatively, it was easy to tell who was a hired model or spokesperson and who was actually a part of the development team.

          • decius says:

            I don’t think the threat of violence by attendees is a valid reason to ban a costume. Ban sexual assault instead.

            The basis for banning booth babes is intended to promote respectability, not morality.

        • Shamus says:

          Yes. The way I see it: When you let marketers do as they please, they take the cheap and obvious route they just fill the place with booth babes. The Penny Arcade guys didn’t want the show to turn into E3, where the place was wall-to-wall with bimbos with their tits and asses hanging out. It’s not that ant PARTICULAR outfit is objectionable, it’s more of a tragedy of the commons thing where the path of least resistance leads to a huge mess where everyone loses.

          By blocking their ability to pull eyeballs with bare flesh, PA is making exhibitors use their heads and try to sell their PRODUCT, instead of putting on a really crappy peep show. It makes the show more welcoming and inclusive, instead of making this another show for the “18-24 males” bracket.

          • Tony Kebell says:

            Shamus, you’re replying, to your wife, on the internet, could you not, you know, go into the next room and jus’ say: Hey “…..”?

            (I know, it’s the inclusivity and you want those, such as us, who like to know your opinion to be able to see it, i just can not resist sarcasm)

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              You think thats weird:I was once with some friends,and two of them were visiting some chat on their phones,were they were talking with each other,despite sitting maybe 3 meters away.They even said that the rest of us were weird because we didnt want to join them.

        • Deadpool says:

          Probably Lolipop Chainsaw…

          Edit: And I should F5 before posting…

      • Kdansky says:

        Yeah, revealing outfits would totally make it impossible for my kids to enjoy sawing people into halves in Gears of War.

        I can live with “no boobs because it results in stupid publicity with no gain”. But family friendly is far off when you are playing a serial killer. And I hear there are a few games about that.

        This person comes to the same conclusion… http://www.fempop.com/2012/04/09/cosplayer-booted-from-game-convention-highlights-hypocrisy-of-industry/

        • SolkaTruesilver says:

          The idea that such Booth-babes or realing outfit should be banned because “Of the children” (oh.. what a stupid sentence) or because they want a family-friendly event is completely bypassing the actual issue, and I believe it’s the easy way out for PAX organizers.

          Booth-babes should be banned from such conventions because THE SHOW IS NOT ABOUT HOW WOMEN. There is nothing wrong with hot women, but the event is about presenting video games, not cleavage.

          They should simply disallow the presentation of any hired-for-the-event presenter. Either you show up with people from your own company, or just don’t show up.

        • Heather says:

          I don’t have issues with it for the sake of family friendly– I have issues because it says the company thinks only boys play video games and they are NOT marketing to ME as a female gamer. I don’t mind it in games and if someone is cosplaying as a female bimbo then good for them. In fact there is a lot of that regardless because many girls enjoy dressing up as their favorite character which is fine and dandy. I even enjoy playing games where the girl is wearing no pants (X-blades is FUN and my 12 and 14 year old girls ALSO love playing it). I am not concerned about the modesty issue but rather the marketing issue. It bugged me that the two companies that had booth babes were companies that SHOULD be selling to both male and female just like with Godaddy– they are a hosting company and many of their clients are FEMALE so why are they focusing on males. It just says their marketing department is kind of clueless about the demographic they are selling to.

          • SolkaTruesilver says:

            Agreed 100%. There is nothing inherently wrong with scandily clad women, cosplayers and the like.

            But this is a marketing event about getting to meet game designers about upcoming video games. What does sexilicious babes have anything to do with it?!?! Just because it’s the “traditional” methodology of events (in the car or motorcycle industry), it’s done here.

            But having more people at your booth doesn’t mean you will have more people buying your game. Specially if what brings people to your booth is a sexy babe rather than the game your are trying to sell.

            And you drive away potential customers like Lady Young up-here, or all the others who want to SEE THE BLOODY GAME rather than absocleavage.

            • Kdansky says:

              Don’t get me wrong, I’m completely opposed to having naked women at the booths. But then again, I am a firm believer that the justification is always more important than the actual rule. “Family friendly” might accidentally result in a sensible result, but it’s some of the worst reasoning for banning bikinis that I’ve ever seen. How about we ban scantily clad ladies from all beaches, because that’s where our kids are building sand-castles. Women will have to wear parkas when bathing to prevent my kids from being traumatized.

              • SolkaTruesilver says:

                But “family-friendly” is inherently stupid when some of your biggest names is assassination simulator, chainsaw killing and the like.

                Ultraviolence is NOT family-friendly. And putting it as more acceptable than “side-boobs” is hypocrit at the very least.

                I say, unless you go out of your way to make a scene about sexual imagery, your child is going to be less traumatised about a woman naked than a man graphically cut in half. If you go out of your way to repeat to everybody how “the naked boobs traumatized your child”, then you may actually traumatize him.

                • Heather says:

                  The point here is that is very easy to avoid certain games — you just don’t go watch the game and you do have to deliberately get close to watch most of the games if you can see them at all. We only saw a few of the the AAA games (we avoided long lines) and I can say with 100% honesty that I did not see a single graphically depicted act of violence (aside from very silly cartoon violence) the entire time.

                  • Suburbanbanshee says:

                    The other point is that every convention has to be ready to throw people out or tell them to put some clothes on; or the crazy people, the fannish criminals, and the hallway nudists will drive out everybody else. Anybody who’s ever been on a convention committee knows the sorts of brain-harrowing things that people try to pull. With any luck, you catch them and throw them out before the hotel or convention center has to call the cops. The quicker you are and the less you listen to appeals after a decision, the fewer troubles you have in the future, because people hear about it and police themselves before you have to do it.

                    I was on a convention committee once where an alleged cosplayer in a teeny bikini decided that it would be brave to go stand on the balcony and flash a Sunday morning African-American church breakfast full of little old ladies. We lost our hotel because of her; and she gave our entire hobby a bad reputation among those attendees, which adversely affected everybody who heard about it. (And let’s not even ponder the question of whether it was a racist or anti-religion act, because reports differ about what else she said and gestured.)

                    And of course the real nightmare is when the situation gets so crazy that casual sexual assaults take place in the hallways or elevators (which has been known to happen) or when actual crimes, sexual or otherwise, take place (which has happened also).

                    • decius says:

                      Violence and sexual violence is the fault of the criminal, not the victim, and not the policy which allowed the victim to dress as they chose to.

                      Why not implement a strict “no sexual assault” policy instead, and ask violators to leave the convention center. Give them free transportation to their new lodgings, even.

                    • Tohron says:

                      Problem is, if you’re responding TO sexual assualt, the damage has already been done. Essentially, he’s arguing that it’s much more expedient, simply from a financial perspective, to preempt any issues of that nature by setting a relatively strict policy.

                    • Adam F says:

                      Decius, I’m pretty sure every con has that policy as well.

                    • Atarlost says:

                      Decius is too nested. This is a reply to him, not directly to Suburbanbanshee.

                      Let’s talk predators. Normally you don’t blame animals for being animals, but in some case we do. Specifically some predators do not normally consider humans food, but are intelligent enough to discover that humans can be eaten. We may not blame them in the moral sense, but we hunt them down and kill them to prevent them from hunting us. We also have laws against taking actions likely to get some damn fool tourist eaten. We’re certainly going to blame anyone who gets eaten wandering around the wilderness after bathing in goat blood for being a damn fool and mock him with a Darwin award.

                      All men are metaphorically predators. Most of them are semi-domesticated, or as we say of people, civilized, but in any population the size of a medium sized convention, which PAX isn’t, probably has at least one less than civilized person. The woman who makes herself an obvious target is as much at fault as someone who tries to take close up photos of a wild mountain lion while draped in fresh meat and gets his damn fool ass killed.

                    • Keeshhound says:

                      And now to reply to Atarlost; I can’t even BEGIN to tell you how offended I am that you’ve decided to lump me in with sex offenders because of my gender. Everyone has the potential to be a predator, be they man, woman or other, and to claim that all males are “metaphorically predators” and further insinuate that the best we can be is “semi-domesticated” is not only offensively blind to the reality of the world, but also cheapens the valid points of your argument by tainting them with casual sexism.

                    • decius says:

                      Reply to the replies to me:

                      Blaming the (potential) victim for any type of violent crime is unacceptable and wrong.

                      Human males, unlike mountain lions, have agency and the ability to make moral decisions. We are not some force of nature which can only be stopped by wearing frumpy outfits.

                  • Simulated Knave says:

                    Decius:

                    Blaming the victim is a bad thing.

                    On the other hand, if you wander through a bad neighborhood at night with no accompaniment counting a thick stack of cash and someone runs up and takes it, you willingly exposed yourself to risk.

                    Prohibiting people from exposing themselves to risk happens all the time. Human social interaction is very, very, very complicated. Minimizing potential misunderstanding is critical at almost any event. So policies will be created to try to do that.

                    And since what will minimize potential misunderstanding is entirely and wholly subjective, and many fandoms are more than a little…exuberant, and people’s personal standards on what is appropriate will vary wildly depending on the context, sometimes the appropriate response is to try to minimize people’s ability to expose themselves to risk as well as minimizing the risk itself.

                    This is why we tell girls not to drink drinks they have left unattended. Because minimizing risk is important, too, and it’s the most practical way to deal with problems before they happen.

              • Darkness says:

                I don’t think there were any beaches at PAX. Try a Red State not a game convention.

          • HBOrrgg says:

            For the record, what would you estimate was the ratio of males to females that you saw?

            • Heather says:

              I would say there were triple the females there from last year (though Shamus didn’t notice I did– last year there were 2 females in the bathroom at any given point and one of those was always a speaker or exhibitor, this year there were at least 6 women in the restroom during peak times and only 2 of those would be exhibitors or speakers. At times almost all the restrooms were full though there was still yet to be a line which there would ALWAYS be at this sort of event for anything that would have “normal” balance between male and female.) Also I noticed that there were a lot more females there looking on their own or with female friends and also a lot more female indie game designers that were actually part of the design team, which was exciting.

    • itches says:

      Well I left that comment and then forgot about it right away.

      Quite a bit later I remembered that I’d left it and went: “Hmm, I left that comment yesterday. I wonder if anyone replied to it, maybe I’ll just quickly check and OH DEAR LORD!

  12. “If you’re not going to talk with us directly, then why go to PAX at all?”

    You’re kidding, right?

    You specifically point out in one sentence how the marketing is not designed for you and then later devote multiple paragraphs to wondering why the marketing isn’t designed for you…

    Suffice it to say, I don’t get it.

    • SolkaTruesilver says:

      Thinking that the Marketing department should be the sole way of making contact with your customer base is a bit arrogantish and corporatism, don’t you think? You effectively force a silo-approach to management, where people from each department should NEVER EVER have anything to do with each other.

      – Developpers should shut up and develop the game.
      – Marketers should know nothing about the game development and talk to the public.

      The point of making contact directly with your potential customers at events such as PAX is to get the word of mouth going, which is much, much easilier done if you have people directly involved in the creative process than a mercenary mouth who has no idea what he is talking about except the assinine marketing plan.

      Marketing people are important. They get contact with game reviewers, they organise the publicity campaign. They know best how to make their employer’s presence known to an audience through modern means.

      But they cannot reach to the public the way a developper can.

      Ultimately, having a developper meet 300 peoples and getting to talk about what they plan to have, and give some fun insight in the game development and what they learned from the last game is going, through word of mouth, get a WHOLE LOT MORE PEOPLE interested and hyped about your game than just having ONE MORE BLOODY TRAILER.

      Because that’s what PAX-like events have become: a teaser trailer

    • Aulayan says:

      Well what he was saying, honestly, was that the money they spent at PAX getting a few hundred people all excited, could have been easily spent on a couple of TV Spots that would’ve gotten thousands of the same demographic excited.

      Their presence at PAX was just like a TV Spot but far more expensive. So from a marketing and cost-benefits sense, it makes no sense.

    • Shamus says:

      You’re kidding, right?

      I specifically pointed out what a waste of money this was. In fact, I did it in the NEXT sentence:

      “If you’re not going to talk with us directly, then why go to PAX at all? It’s crazy expensive and you probably can’t reach more than a few thousand people. For the price of that booth you could easily buy TV spots that would reach orders of magnitude more people.

      It’s not that the marketing isn’t for ME, it’s that the marketing serves no purpose. How many NEW sales do you think Booth Babe is going to score? How many people walked into PAX who didn’t already intend to buy the game, and walked out with the intention of buying it? Could it POSSIBLY be enough people to justify the expense of shipping this massive theater to Boston, securing a huge booth, and paying a bunch of people to staff and maintain it?

      Also, you are still needlessly confrontational in your responses. This isn’t some back-alley board on 4chan where you trollface other people and try to out-snark each other. I made this place because I like to talk about our shared hobbies. Seriously. Everything you post ends up sounding curt, dismissive, and mocking. Straighten up.

      • Lame Duck says:

        I suspect the people they’re really interested in targetting aren’t the few thousand that will actually see the booth, but the few million people who those few thousand will tell about it. The marketing message they’re trying to push will probably be somewhere along the line of “Wooo! Assassin’s Creed!” because anything more complex risks getting mangled by twitter or the memory of the person recalling it a week later at work. I imagine that they’ll be saving the people who are actually involved in making the game for press interviews where they can exert a lot more control on how the material is delivered and presented.

        Plus, if they were to not go to PAX and spend the money on TV adverts instead, the message people take from it wouldn’t be “…” it would be “Assassin’s Creed 3 wasn’t at PAX, I wonder what’s wrong with it.”

        I’m not saying that the way they’re presenting themselves at cons is worth the money they’ll be spending on it, because frankly I have absolutely no idea (and personally, I would be much more interested in the way the indie’s are presenting themselves). However, it’s not quite so simple as to be able to easily make a comparison between the amount of eyeballs a booth gets versus TV ads.

        • Heather says:

          Not sure about that– neither Valve nor Mojang was at PAX East and no one was “wondering what was wrong” with their products.

          • Lame Duck says:

            Oh, I thought we were much closer to AC3’s release than we actually are. I was under the impression that it would be out in a couple of months, but Wikipedia says October. I would say that much closer to its release its absence from a show would come across like a statement (if not about the quality of the game, then at least about their opinions of the show).

            Edit: Although, having thought about it, I’m not sure that I would think the same of Valve or Mojang if they weren’t showing a game off only a couple of months before its release, so maybe all this says more about me and my opinions of Ubisoft than anything else.

            • Heather says:

              Assassin’s Creed 3 WAS at PAX East– we saw the demo.

              • Lame Duck says:

                I understand that. The point I was trying to make was that I think we’re still far enough away from AC3’s release that if they hypothetically had not been there it would not have looked suspicious. However, there is a couple of month period prior to the release of major games where they’re really ramping up the marketing, in which I think it generates negative press for it not to appear at shows, becuase it looks like they’re trying to hide something. The same way it looks suspicious if a game doesn’t have a demo before release. I was mistakenly under the impression that we were in that marketing period for AC3.

                (Urgh, I hate having to clarify what I mean on the internet because I’m paranoid that I’m going to come across as super patronising. Or completely fail to clarify anything.)

                • Heather says:

                  Ah, I just misunderstood. And I agree– if someone doesn’t show up just prior to release we can assume: A. That the game sucks and they are afraid to show it off B. That it isn’t finished even though they have the release deate next week and they are working their crew all hours trying to get it done in time or C: that they are so confident that they aren’t bothering.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          “I suspect the people they’re really interested in targetting aren’t the few thousand that will actually see the booth, but the few million people who those few thousand will tell about it”

          Yeah,but I imagine that people who went to pax that are interested in asscreed have already told a bunch of people how its a great game and they should totaly buy it,so its unnecessary.

      • “Also, you are still needlessly confrontational in your responses.”

        If it does, it’s because it comes off like you are transparently feigning ignorance in order to restructure what is basically a rant against mainstream marketing in gaming in order to look like less of a hipster, which I find personally insulting to my intelligence even if it wasn’t flagrantly dishonest.

        I mean really, ‘they can’t reach more than a few thousand people’? Last year’s attendance exceeded 50,000, to say nothing of the personal blogs/forum posts/social networks/etc. of attendees. You also completely failed to mention the internet press (you have a media badge for chrissakes), who would no doubt given far different presentations than what’s shown on the floor to passing attendees and whose favor it would be far more important to gain at this stage of development.

        And then there’s this silly thing:

        “This is your chance to meet with and connect with your fans. Why would you outsource that?”

        Because they have better things to do than have their hundred large development team (most of whom probably don’t speak english) trying to interact directly with attendees who articulate the quality of the franchise by how ‘realistic’ the ‘killing’ is. Like, say, maybe get a AAA franchised title working and released before the holiday season.

        Instead, you suggest they spend money on a tv slot for a game that won’t be released for another half year. Seriously Shamus, Picard can’t facepalm this hard.

        Whew I guess you were right cause the more I think about it, the more this stunt you’re pulling gets under my skin…

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          “Last year’s attendance exceeded 50,000, to say nothing of the personal blogs/forum posts/social networks/etc.”

          Oh yes,because all of those people were so excited about asscreed,and would be swayed more by booth babes than by someone who actually knows the game they are promoting.And heck,since you mention journalists,most of them give much better previews for companies that offer them interviews with the development team than for those who just flash some skin.

          “Because they have better things to do than have their hundred large development team”

          It would be a problem,yes,if not for the fact that this is a huge company,with pr department whose sole job is to present the game to people.So why not get one of those guys up to speed on how the development is going,and stuck him there to speak with anyone who has questions.Or better yet,get one of the voice actors,or the lead writer to speak.You know,those guys that do speak english,and arent swamped by work 25 hours/day.

          “Instead, you suggest they spend money on a tv slot for a game that won’t be released for another half year. Seriously Shamus, Picard can’t facepalm this hard.”

          Yes,because you never see a commercial on tv for something that is half year away.I saw the commercial for season 2 of game of thrones last year.And it was by accident,because I dont watch tv at home.

          So much for feigning ignorance I guess.

          • Syal says:

            Oh yes,because all of those people were so excited about asscreed,and would be swayed more by booth babes than by someone who actually knows the game they are promoting

            Just wanted to say that the topic was whether they should have a booth or not, so a call for changing the booth is not a counter-argument to Neil’s statement. In fact, it assumes Neil’s position (that Ubisoft should have a booth) is right.

            I don’t necessarily disagree with you, but branching arguments irritate me, especially when they’re only relevant if prior questions are answered.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Not true.Shamus didnt say its bad for ubisoft to have a booth,but that its wrong for them to have booth babes in it generating artificial hype,instead of someone who actually knows about the game and can answer real questions about it.

              • Syal says:

                If you’re not going to talk with us directly, then why go to PAX at all? It’s crazy expensive and you probably can’t reach more than a few thousand people. For the price of that booth you could easily buy TV spots that would reach orders of magnitude more people.

                All the arguments being addressed (well, the one I’m talking about anyway) are in that paragraph. (“Your current booth is a waste of money.”)

                • Shamus says:

                  If their goal is raw HYPE (which is all they could generate with the booth I saw) then TV is orders of magnitude more efficient.

                  If they want to ENGAGE, that’s another thing. If they want to start a conversation, get fan feedback, learn about fan expectations and reactions, then that’s fine. But you can’t do that with uninformed models. Xcom, Civ V, and Max Payne and Borderlands all had a much better setup in this regard. (And one of them did it really, really well.)

                  • Syal says:

                    But those are two separate points. “The current booth is a waste of money”, and “a booth where fans can talk to developers is a good investment”.

                    Neil had a separate argument for each of them and right or not I didn’t want to see the point lost to the “well even if you’re right” counterpoint daemian made to it.

                    Sorry if that wasn’t clear; my points usually aren’t.

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      Then why respond to me?I was bringing the arguments back on what Shamus was saying instead of diverging to “Pax has X people visiting,not Y”.

                      Also,”The current booth is a waste of money” doesnt mean “No booth is necessary”.

                      Plus,I love it how you dont like branching arguments,but have managed to derail this one.How ironic*wink*.

                    • Syal says:

                      The main argument was based on the smaller argument. “Bringing it back” to the main argument effectively means ignoring the assumptions it’s based on, which is why it bothers me.

                      Also,”The current booth is a waste of money” doesnt mean “No booth is necessary”.

                      …if a booth is necessary it can’t be a waste of money. By definition you have to have it.

                      EDIT: Huh, I guess it didn’t end yet.

                      (I didn’t derail the argument, just the thread. The argument ended a bit back on its own.)

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      The main argument was whether what ubisoft did at pax was ok or not.Shamus said it wasnt,Neil Polenske said it was.

                      “…if a booth is necessary it can’t be a waste of money. By definition you have to have it.”

                      Its not a binary choice of “any booth” and “no booth”.In this case Shamus said that “no booth” is better than “crappy booth”,and then went on to praise others for having “nice booths”,which trumps previous two choices.

                      “(I didn’t derail the argument, just the thread. The argument ended a bit back on its own.)”

                      It was a joke,hence the wink at the end.

                    • Sumanai says:

                      @Syal – If my mother, who is allergic to fish, buys salmon for herself she has bought food that was a waste of money. That doesn’t mean all the food she buys is a waste of money. Just that one particular food that she bought.

                      If she buys something else, like beef, it’s not a waste of money.

                      Do you see?

        • Rugissement says:

          “most of whom probably don’t speak english”

          Are you kidding me? The game is made in Montréal. It use technology that is in english, in a multinational company in an industry where almost everything is in english. All the programmers I know are bilingual (and if they’re not, it’s english they speak). Montrealers may have an accent that you may not be used to, but they speak english. They have to everyday.

          • Yeah, that’s a screw up on my part. I skimmed through wiki to see where Ubi was located and saw where the main branch is (France) before confirming the development house (Montreal).

            The point that surrounded that parenthesis is still valid though.

        • JPH says:

          See, there’s that whole needlessly confrontational thing Shamus was talking about.

          You really need to take a deep breath, dude. Directly and incessantly insulting others makes you look like an ass, and doing so to the administrator of the website gets you banned. It’ll happen eventually.

        • Shamus says:

          “If it does, it’s because it comes off like you are transparently feigning ignorance in order to restructure what is basically a rant against mainstream marketing in gaming in order to look like less of a hipster, which I find personally insulting to my intelligence even if it wasn’t flagrantly dishonest.”

          This is your very last chance to figure this out, Neil: Saying, “I’m a jerk because I disagree with you” is not an excuse. Other people manage to disagree with me on points large and small without being inflammatory. If you can’t do that then I do not want you here.

          “Last year’s attendance exceeded 50,000,”

          And the theater sat twenty. The demo ran for fifteen minutes. The floor was open from 10am to 6pm. That’s 1,920 people, assuming the booth ran like clockwork for the duration of the show. They showed up and less than two thousand people saw the demo.

          “You also completely failed to mention the internet press (you have a media badge for chrissakes), who would no doubt given far different presentations than what’s shown on the floor to passing attendees and whose favor it would be far more important to gain at this stage of development.”

          There was only one theater. There wasn’t any special “press only” demo. If there was, it would only have made the theater more head-scratchingly useless. Why build a theater for the fans if you’re really there for the press?

          “Because they have better things to do than have their hundred large development team (most of whom probably don’t speak english) trying to interact directly with attendees who articulate the quality of the franchise by how ‘realistic’ the ‘killing’ is. Like, say, maybe get a AAA franchised title working and released before the holiday season.”

          Strawman. They don’t need a hundred people. They need TWO. They don’t even need to be core developers. Find a couple of smart, articulate people on the team that know the game and off you go. Then hire the pretty faces to keep the lines in order. Most other developers did exactly this.

          “Instead, you suggest they spend money on a tv slot for a game that won’t be released for another half year. Seriously Shamus, Picard can’t facepalm this hard.”

          Again, you miss the point. I wasn’t saying they SHOULD advertise now. I was saying that would be a better use of money than blowing hundreds of thousands of bucks to show a gameplay video to under two thousand people.

          “Whew I guess you were right cause the more I think about it, the more this stunt you’re pulling gets under my skin…”

          What stunt? I gave an honest appraisal of what I see as a very foolish financial move from an industry that is constantly bitching about money, and you respond by implying that I’m… trying to cover up being a hipster? Or something?

          • Darkness says:

            Shamus! I need a comment kill file! Really.

            Is there a way to do that?

          • MichaelG says:

            The startup I worked for back in the early 90s spent a ridiculous amount of money on their booth at COMDEX. I think the point is partly CEO ego, and partly because they think it attracts press, and gets them a picture in a magazine of their flashy booth.

            If you are one of the little booths, I think you are *really* wasting your time. But then those don’t cost as much either.

            • Shamus says:

              COMDEX! Man, I haven’t thought about that in ages. I remember being a 20-something and wishing I was important enough to go to the show.

              According to this site:

              http://www.hatsproductions.com/blog/news/pax-east-postmortem/

              The 10×10 PAX booths cost $1,400. They were selling preorders for an indie game at $5 each. They brought in ~$800. Add in air fare, hotel, and expenses for the three of them and that looks like a pretty good way to blow a couple of grand in a hurry. In their defense, it was probably impossible to know how things would turn out without going to the show.

              I’m really grateful they shared these numbers. It actually looks like it wouldn’t be TOO hard to turn a profit. The key is probably having more than one thing for sale.

            • Victor says:

              I always got the impression that appearing at these kinds of shows (and other trade shows) was not just a matter of simple investment versus immediate return issue. Sometimes it seemed almost like a question of etiquette (I could be VERY wrong here, just my perception): you have to show up because it is expected, regardless of what you actually have in production and are interested in showing, so that you are taken seriously.

              If that is actually the case, then indie developers who actually have things to show would benefit more from attending PAX than a major developer who is just “going through the motions”.

          • “Saying, “I’m a jerk because I disagree with you” is not an excuse.”

            How is that even close to what I said?

            “And the theater sat twenty. The demo ran for fifteen minutes. The floor was open from 10am to 6pm. That’s 1,920 people, assuming the booth ran like clockwork for the duration of the show. They showed up and less than two thousand people saw the demo.”

            It’s not about who saw the demo, it’s about how many saw there was a demo to be seen, even if they couldn’t see it, and those that HAD seen it were now going to be milling around in a convention of people equaling the population of the town I was born in squeezed into 1/1000th of the space – all of whom are specifically and exclusively tailored to Ubi’s market demographic. Then, as I mentioned, there’d be the social networking/word of mouth that would follow.

            “There was only one theater. There wasn’t any special “press only” demo.”

            You mentioned you could have cut in front due to your media badge, but chose not to. I’ll hazard a guess you were likely a minority, meaning a good portion of the audience for this thing were the gaming press in some form or another.

            “Strawman. They don’t need a hundred people. They need TWO. They don’t even need to be core developers. Find a couple of smart, articulate people on the team that know the game and off you go.”

            Yes they do. The point I was making with the ‘hundred people’ comment was that the development team is so large, no one (or two) people would be able to provide any level of insight into the development unless they were the lead designers – which would be unreasonable for them to attend for what I hope are obvious reasons. Attempting to put ‘non-core’ members would still require them to have a script since they wouldn’t have either the knowledge or authority to respond to random development inquiries, which would defeat the purpose of having them there in the first place. This is ignoring the MASSIVE social stamina required, which is something tech-heads aren’t exactly known for.

            If its a choice between finding someone to take off the dev team who can speak to a crowd of thousands of ‘hardcore gamerz’ comfortably and exuberantly for three days straight without accidentally divulging information or just handing it off to a professional who’s specifically trained for this scenario, well, the choice is pretty obvious in my eyes. Especially considering those that attended – at least as you presented them – do not appear to care all that much about the sausage makers.

            “I was saying that would be a better use of money than blowing hundreds of thousands of bucks to show a gameplay video to under two thousand people.”

            Except it wouldn’t, for the reasons I’ve already mentioned.

            That’s the frustration fueling this. All of my responses are simple common sense reasoning and you’re too smart to be ignorant of ’em unless it’s on purpose. Leastways it’s the only explanation I can figure. For crying out loud you’re a videogame journalist/pundit/columnist/blogger/whatever saying you can’t understand why a videogame company would have a videogame booth at a videogame convention. You compare the marketing strategies of an indie developer to a mass market studio and asked why they’re not the same…AFTER YOU ALREADY ANSWERED THE QUESTION:

            “The entire process was obviously cooked up by marketing people who wanted to reach out to the “bro” market, and this was the path of least resistance for them.”

            See how that might come off as a little bit…suspect? I’m being honest here man, can you see where I’m coming from with this?

            • Even says:

              “How is that even close to what I said?”

              It’s not what you say, but the way you say it. You don’t always really make it that easy for others to try to remain civil with you.

            • Shamus says:

              “It’s not about who saw the demo, it’s about how many saw there was a demo to be seen, even if they couldn’t see it, and those that HAD seen it were now going to be milling around in a convention of people equaling the population of the town I was born in squeezed into 1/1000th of the space – all of whom are specifically and exclusively tailored to Ubi’s market demographic. Then, as I mentioned, there’d be the social networking/word of mouth that would follow.”

              The same is true whether you engage with your fans or not, so this is beside the point. What I’ve been saying is that being genuine and enthusiastic is more effective than being fake.

              “Yes they do. The point I was making with the ‘hundred people’ comment was that the development team is so large, no one (or two) people would be able to provide any level of insight into the development unless they were the lead designers – which would be unreasonable for them to attend for what I hope are obvious reasons.”

              And yet Civ V, Xcom, Borderlands 2 managed to do exactly that. You’re building a false dichotomy where their only choice is “The Lead Developer” vs. “Know-Nothing Non-gamer”.

              “For crying out loud you’re a videogame journalist/pundit/columnist/blogger/whatever saying you can’t understand why a videogame company would have a videogame booth at a videogame convention. ”

              I was comparing the marketing styles of two companies, and showing how one is much more effective than the other. Be genuine, open, and enthusiastic instead of fake, lame, and driven by talking-points.

              I didn’t say, “Why did Ubisoft come to the show?” but “Why come to the show if they’re just going to phone it in?” I was making the point that they could get more bang for the marketing buck with something that is more human. I have no idea why you would find that “suspect”. Suspect of what?

              • “The same is true whether you engage with your fans or not, so this is beside the point. What I’ve been saying is that being genuine and enthusiastic is more effective than being fake.”

                If it makes engagement irrelevant, how is it effective?

                “Be genuine, open, and enthusiastic instead of fake, lame, and driven by talking-points.”

                Being ‘fake’? Being ‘lame’? Do you hear yourself?

                “I was making the point that they could get more bang for the marketing buck with something that is more human.”

                How do you know that? Because YOU liked that more? What does ‘human’ even mean here?

                Look Shamus, the long and short of it is that Ubisoft isn’t obligated to market their games directly to you. Neither does it require them to market their games the way you want them to and they’re not ‘wrong’, ‘fake’ or ‘lame’ for doing otherwise, especially when you’re not their targeted demographic – which I’ll remind you again, is something you already pointed out BEFORE you pretended not to know:

                “The entire process was obviously cooked up by marketing people who wanted to reach out to the “bro” market, and this was the path of least resistance for them.”

                That’s what I was talking about when I said feigning ignorance. You show that you know exactly why they did what they did, and even agree with its effectiveness, something I didn’t notice before. How else am I to interpret ‘path of least resistance’?

                “I have no idea why you would find that “suspect”. Suspect of what?”

                I already said and you took it as an insult. So…what? You want me to offend you again? There’s a word that: Entrapment.

                • Shamus says:

                  “Being ‘fake’? Being ‘lame’? Do you hear yourself?”

                  That’s not a rebuttal, Neil. Yes. I chose those words carefully because they meant precisely what I wanted to say. I can’t even tell what you’re objecting to. We’ve been back and forth on this and I still can’t tell why you’re upset. You love to argue, but you can’t even articulate your position.

                  You know what? You’re wasting my time. You’re angry, confrontational, inflammatory, and difficult. I’ve been patient with you because you’ve been here a long time, but you stopped being worth it ages ago. You are no longer welcome here.

                  • Dasick says:

                    His argument, as far as I can see is thus:

                    The suggestions you’ve made regarding Ubisoft appeal to you and people of your demographic. But you’ve made it clear that you understand that Ubisoft wants the “bro” market.

                    The original point, if I read Neil correctly, is why are making the suggestions to Ubisoft when you know they are happy where they are?

                    He then provides a “counter-point” to your argument about economical impracticality of the entire endeavour by talking about the invisible benefits of word-of-mouth and hype.

                    • Shamus says:

                      That’s the sense I got as well, which is still mystifying. I mean… who gets angry about marketing strategies?

                      I think the “bros” in the line would love to have connected with someone who knew about the game, or had something to say about it. Heck, they might have been more excited about that than I would have.

                      There were a couple of AAA developers who really knocked it out of the park with regards to building fan excitement. I’m kind of itching to talk about them, but Josh and I just finished our post-PAX podcast and I don’t want to spoil the whole thing.

                    • JPH says:

                      If I were to guess, he was angry because he thought you were wrong and nobody is allowed to be wrong on the Internet.

                    • Sumanai says:

                      @JPH – I thought it was because he thought Shamus was a “hipster” and he can’t abide “hipsters”. My guess why he thought Shamus was a “hipster” is because he preferred an indie presentation more than a big name company’s.

                • Simulated Knave says:

                  Path of least resistance doesn’t mean effective. It means easiest. There’s a difference.

            • Destrustor says:

              All of Shamus’ responses are also common sense.
              Different opinions are not automatically mutually exclusive.

        • krellen says:

          Instead, you suggest they spend money on a tv slot for a game that won’t be released for another half year.

          Money doesn’t have an expiration date*. Instead of spending money on PAX, they can hold on to that money for another half year and spend it then.

          Because I’m somewhat civilized (or at least I am when I am in Shamus’s metaphorical house), I’ll refrain from further commentary.

          *Actually it does, sometimes, but only in the world of grants, which does not apply to video game development.

        • Darkness says:

          Wow. It is like a butt head explosion whenever you type.
          I miss some of the benefits of Unix Kill Files.

  13. Nersh says:

    Shamus, why is your camera a potato?

  14. Mark says:

    NEW-CAMERA-FOR-SHAMUS-@-PAX-2013 KICKSTARTER GO!

    Also, Josh, this is for you. You know what must be done.

  15. littlefinger says:

    There is a distinct lack of alcohol in that picture.

    the internets is disappoint

  16. Maldeus says:

    So who won PAX this year?

  17. Airsoft says:

    Isn’t this the first time you two have met? do you each live up to each others expectations?

  18. ccesarano says:

    If I were to describe Josh’s face, it would be a cross between Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and a little bit of Sylvester Stallone sporting a Fu-Man-Chu.

    I didn’t get to browse many of the games on the whole, and spent more of my attentions on AAA titles. That said, I actually had a rather interesting experience where I watched a man from Klei talk the guy ahead of me through a Mark of the Ninja demo, and after helping me get set up he just wandered away. It sounded like the guy before me was press of some sort, so I guess I’ll chalk it up to that.

    I don’t know if you’d count the Shank guys as being Indie, but that was just one part of my experience being opposite to yours.

    The Aliens: Colonial Marines booth was different, though. Saturday morning at opening, Randy Pitchford showed up, sat with a bunch of devs, and when I went to do the multiplayer portion the Usability person from Gearbox answered all of my questions about the multiplayer mode (peculiar, as the person that was most willing to talk was the female. I tried to engage the others a bit as well, but they must have been tired or just uninterested?). Later I revisited the booth to ask some in-depth questions, and the woman there was Sega PR and capable of answering almost all of my questions fine.

    Then again, after the Klei guy walked away I didn’t bother to get his attention back. It was just startling to see someone have so much passion and energy talking the Press guy through the demo, and then just walk away from me with disinterest.

    That said, I seemed to catch on to Mark of the Ninja a lot faster than the Press guy, so the lack of a voice constantly in my ear actually made the experience better.

    I have more to say on the topic of booth babes and such, but I gotta get to work.

    • Heather says:

      Actually he looks almost exactly like my baby brother but with beard, mustache, and long hair– which I find hilarious.

      • ccesarano says:

        So your little brother looks like Brad Pitt crossed with Tom Cruise and a bit of Sylvester Stallone sporting a Fu-Man-Chu? Awesome.

        To complete the rest of my thoughts:

        Firstly, I would honestly like to speak with whoever actually decides on these things. Booth Babes or spokespeople, etc. I have theories (which I shall dive into because I can’t avoid talking a lot), but I never actually spoke to someone involved in these decisions.

        My best guess is they’re looking to nab at the community’s subconscious. From there it’s a matter of demographics. E3 is going to mostly be journalists and other industry members, and then PAX East is going to be mostly male gamers (though last year it seemed the demographic was more evenly split (maybe?), as this year a lot of the feminines hit up Anime Boston instead. At least, that’s what people were claiming. I’d have to see official numbers). So to someone in marketing, they’re going to focus more on the majority crowd rather than trying to hit all targets.

        It’s also incorrect to assume it is convincing people to buy the game. A lot of people already want to buy the game. Borderlands 2? Assassin’s Creed 3? Was anyone in doubt these games would sell huge? It’s just eager to get a first exclusive touch on the game, and then talk to others about it. It’s about getting the word out, people blogging about it, tweeting about it, etc.

        So going for basic psychology, dudes of any sort are going to be attracted to sex. It doesn’t matter if they’re the lonely nerd stereotype or not, a pair of boobs and butt hanging out are going to get a double take. That’s all you need for someone to suddenly glance at the signs, the televisions, etc.

        However, there’s more to it than just that. In Shamus’ example, they wanted someone that was pretty much an actor or spokes person, someone that can get a script, memorize it, and then speak with bluster and confidence. EVERYONE is attracted to positive emotions, confidence, so on and so forth. So as long as the person sounds excited about the game, it’ll get everyone else excited about the game.

        Developers, meanwhile, take all kinds. Some are germophobes, some are claustrophobic, others hate crowds, and then there’s just the inability to speak with as much excitement as a professional spokes person with 18 Charisma. So someone leading a crowd to get excited creates an excited crowd, and that excited crowd catches the eye of other people, etc.

        It’s just one aspect of it all. People on stages with microphones, music blasting loudly, bright lights, big posters, multiple television monitors, so on and so forth.

        The funny thing is, I’ve actually heard a lot of negative opinions about the length of the Borderlands 2 demo, monitors, so on and so forth. Games press never really wrote much about that at E3, but now people are tweeting about lines being a waste of time or demos being a rip off or unimpressive.

        I think it’s a simple matter of teams needing to learn how to deal with the regular common folk. I have nothing but good to say about the Aliens: Colonial Marines booth, but part of that is because there was a minimum of 30 minutes presentation out of that. Capcom and Squenix did decently as well, except they might have needed to reorganize to accomodate lines a bit better.

        At PAX, bright lights and low cut tops will only go so far, especially when there are cosplayers that actually play games willing to show off as much skin themselves.

  19. Bogan the Mighty says:

    One of the panels I went that was about the the future of strategy games had an ex-journalist who brought up a good point about the reviewers that probably applies to marketing. Basically he says that strategy games stay a niche genre because no editor wants to properly cover them. Basically they’ve decided they know what we want and ignore the rest. Marketing is probably the same. They think we want just sex and bright lights so that’s what we get.

    Also want did you think of Novus Aeturno? Probably the indie game I’m most excited about that won’t go anywhere.

    • Shamus says:

      Man, I wish I’d been at that panel. I also wish I could have hung out with you guys more. I NEED MORE TIME.

    • Josh says:

      We saw Novus Aeturno towards the end of Sunday, when we wandered by the booth by accident and I did a double take and said something to the effect of, “Wait, what is this thing? Let’s go look at it.”

      It certainly looks interesting, and blisteringly complex. Though I’m still a bit skeptical, especially with the answer I received to my question, “So how are you going to handle an ever-growing population? How will you keep people from feeling lost in the swarm of people?” To which the reply was along the lines of, “We don’t know yet.”

      Still, it has the potential to be very interesting, and fill in some space along the long neglected EVE niche of the spectrum where your only choice is really to put up with CCP’s schizophrenia.

      • Heather says:

        Yeah, that was the booth that was an excellent demonstration of having a developer talking who was obviously an engineer. Fascinating and lots of info but um…LOTS of info.

        • Lalaland says:

          I love that engineers and geeks (i.e. me) focus on the mechanics and tech of Awesome Feature to the degree that why you want it is obscured. I’ve had to learn to dial back the ‘how’ and talk up the ‘why’ when I took my curent pre-sales role.

      • Tony Kebell says:

        You, yes you, give us your face!

      • Bogan the Mighty says:

        Its funny cause when we were looking at it we apparently ended up with the music developer who had no idea about how much of anything worked. My question is more what happens when one guy or alliance controls the entire galaxy and just snuffs everyone as soon as they start up. Hopefully it works out for them.

        • LunaticFringe says:

          Depends on what level of freedom is allowed and how alliances work in regards to the economy I guess. If my experience with EVE Online has taught me anything it’s that any large player community in a state of freedom will eventually collapse from arrogance (Band of Brothers), ignorance (Atlas) or stupidity (the original Goonswarm).

  20. KremlinLaptop says:

    I actually imagined Josh looking like a somewhat thinner version of Kevin Smith — sometimes they even sound slightly alike — and now I’m distressed by how wrong I was.

    Josh has a friggin’ ponytail and a goatee (I heard that somewhere). I’m going to have to re-align my mental image of the lunatic in the pink bonnet doing all the gameplay from now on.

    …Oh and yay for PAX and indies.

    (Shit, is it obvious I was just looking forward to photos of Shamus and Josh waiting in long lines?)

  21. burningdragoon says:

    Weird, almost every game I actually played at PAX was an indie and I didn’t run into Lantana Games at all.

    I also really would have liked actually talking with all the indie devs I met, but all that came out was “herp derp that’s pretty cool”

    • Heather says:

      They were hidden behind the 2 big game booths immediately to the left as right as you entered the floor from the queue room. If you looked down from the skybride they werealong a blocked off half of the pc room. We missed them the first day too– I only found them and several other indies there while I was wandering the floor waiting for Josh and Shamus who were waiting in line at the Xcom booth. They were beside Crowman and Wolfboy which had gorgeous art but was ipad only.

      If you look at the pdf of the expo hall here: http://hw1.pa-cdn.com/pax/resources/PAX_East_2012_Expo_Map.pdf they were #787 on the back wall where the pc room was on the other side.

      • Josh says:

        Yeah, they were tucked behind the League of Legends booth, which was probably not the most fortunate place to find yourself on that floor.

        • DrKultra says:

          Oh wow, yeah behind the LoL booth is possibly a fortunate and a terrible place.

          You will never get exposition from people who actually want to go see your game in any regular basis, but you will still get a ton of crowd around your booth.

  22. Eärlindor says:

    I enjoy AC because of the blending of elements like history, sci-fi, conspiracies, Jungian concepts, and exploring old cities, not because of “realistic killing” or because it looks “pretty.”

    I also liked climbing stuff.

    • Heather says:

      Okay, the whole climbing stuff thing in this was AWESOME!! First time I have ever seen a game do realistic trees that were also climbable. As a former avid tree climber that has always bothered me.

      • Scott (Duneyrr) says:

        Hmmm… but do they have the same few trees everywhere? You might not notice that kind of thing when playing for only a few minutes, but play for 10+ hours and you might find yourself coming to loathe seeing the same tree over and over.

        • Heather says:

          I honestly don’t know though it did look from the views we got (no game play just a demo reel) that they had a lot of variety in the tree shapes, though all of them seemed climbable unlike real trees.

      • Victor says:

        Well, I am now more interested in the game than I was a few minutes ago! I’m curious to see how the parcour (is there an s at the end of that word?) elements from previous games are combined with the forest setting.

      • Eärlindor says:

        I find the trees in place of structures like the Hagia Sophia or the cathedral at Acre to be a little underwhelming, but I’m willing to give the change in scenery a try, I guess.

        (Seriously though, climbing that Acre cathedral was one of my favorite things to do in AC1. It was one of the tallest structures in any of the AC games with about a 4 second drop. Glorious. I’d climb and jump only to do it again.)

        On another note, what other games are there that have tree climbing? You almost make it sound like there’s a game out there with fake-looking trees that can be climbed.

        • Heather says:

          I keep trying to remember but at some point there was a game where you could go up in a tree (almost definitely either an Intellivision or Nintendo game because those, aside from Texas Instruments and PC are what I cut my teeth on and what I spent most of my days playing on.) Of course now I can’t remember though you do climb rocks (which was another amazing thing given the type of rock climbing– you know, actually looking for places to climb instead of just jumping up like Prince of Persia) in Harvest Moon: Magical Melody (every time I play that stupid, stupid minigame I think, “Rock climbing, Joel, rock climbing.” Shamus just reminded me that we played Jungle Hunt which had trees and swinging from them and I believer George of the Jungle and a few others did as well– though the ones I remember were either 2d hiding in trees or swinging from and all side scrollers.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        But why would you want to climb a tree,when there are apples there that want to kill you?

        Seriously though,that sounds awesome,and I am excited to climb a tree.

    • burningdragoon says:

      It’s kinda funny. Being able to climb up walls was one of the big things being advertised back when the first AC was coming out. I still remember leaving Masaif the first time in AC1 and climbing up one of the arches that didn’t have obvious climbing markings like most of the buildings.

      Now it’s just killing and graphics that people care about? You get that in most games.

      • krellen says:

        Eh. Those people were put on the spot; many likely didn’t really have a prepared answer, and all it takes is one confident guy that does, in fact, love graphics and realistic killing to make an easy answer meme wave start.

        • Eärlindor says:

          I suppose, but it seems like it shouldn’t be too hard to come up with a few different reasons… *Shrugs*

        • Sumanai says:

          Also if you’re put on the spot you’re easily manipulated into saying certain things. If the presentation at the booth suggested graphics and violence, that’s what people will be saying even if they know better. I think it’s a marketing/magician trick. Don’t know if Ubisoft were doing it at all, let alone on purpose, but it’s a possibility.

  23. HBOrrgg says:

    Also Shamus did you really only take 3 pictures, where’s the rest?

  24. WWWebb says:

    RE: Ubisoft’s purpose for being there

    If it’s anything like every other trade show in any industry, the big boys show up because they have to. If they don’t show up, all of a sudden they’re bankrupt and/or embarrassed of their next product and don’t want to show it to anyone.

    And so, they buy a big booth that says “hey, we’re still big players! Don’t make up gloom and doom about us.” Then they fill it with local marketing assistants (booth babes), interns, and lower level types who still think business travel is fun. Hopefully the expensive talent (both marketing and development) will be earning their salaries back at HQ instead of taking a holiday at a trade show where “you probably can’t reach more than a few thousand people”.

  25. Kdansky says:

    Completely unrelated! Amazon just delivered Witch Watch today. It’s probably the first copy in Switzerland. :)

    • AzaghalsMask says:

      Ha! You wish! I had mine (from CreateSpace) for a week or so, but haven’t gotten around to read it yet.

      On topic: Shamus, are you going to do a post mortem on the panels you attended? Are there going to be videos? Because I want to see you and Moviebob arguing about (agreeing on, nitpicking for, dissecting under, excoriating from) …stuff.

      • Heather says:

        I am REALLY hoping videos are forthcoming– WE didn’t take any but I saw many doing so. I have two panels I am aching to discuss but am waiting for videos to be posted so I can rewatch and share before posting about them.

        • Sumanai says:

          I’d appreciate if you could get someone to write down what was said at the panels from the videos. I have great difficulty in focusing on the panelists due background noises.

  26. McNutcase says:

    So… Josh apparently looks like me, but with shorter hair? This is all getting weird. Well, weirder. It got weird when I discovered that Mumbles lives across the street from my local comic store.

  27. Sethar says:

    As amazing as you say Children of Liberty is Shamus, the pictures you gave us and the description don’t really tell us much. I mean, the visuals look fairly boring and unoriginal, same with the idea. (No offense to whoever made this). But a second thing, do you know of any of these kinds of things happening in Canada/Ontario? Because I don’t have the kind of money to drive/book a flight to america just for a gaming convention.

    • JPH says:

      Speak for yourself. The concept of it sounds incredible to me. It sounds like a game I’d play through multiple times with each character.

      • Sethar says:

        We’ve seen several ideas like this before. Trine did it. Most fighting games these days do it, the only difference from fighting games is that it’s a platformer with some sort of corner mechanic. I mean, I don’t want to piss on the parade here, is there anything else to it?

        • JPH says:

          Actually, Trine didn’t allow for precision platforming, freerunning, brawling and stealth. Neither do any fighting games I know of.

          • Sethar says:

            The mechanics are different. But they have all been done in this genre, just not with ALL of them together at once. I’ve seen games with most of those together, just not all. But Shamus has first hand experience with this stuff so he knows what it’s like better than I do.

            • JPH says:

              The point is that they’re all together. The point is that you can approach each level with four completely different play styles. If done right, this would give it four times the intrigue and variety, like how many action RPGs allow you to approach each situation differently (stealth, combat, persuasion, etc.)

              EDIT: Also,

              they have all been done in this genre, just not with ALL of them together at once.

              This sentence makes no sense. We’re talking about four different genres. Platformers, freerunners, brawlers and stealth games are four different genres of game. How can four genres be done in one… genre?

              • Sethar says:

                All of the mechanics in one game I meant. And I’m not trying to offend you here man I just wanted some more information on the game to see how they implement it at least. All we got were two pictures and a couple of sentences on how much Shamus likes the idea.

  28. George says:

    Australia, y u no have any form of games conventions?

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