Pax East 2012: The Exhibition Hall Part 3

By Shamus Posted Thursday Apr 12, 2012

Filed under: Video Games 73 comments

Here we are on part 3. We still haven’t talked about the best game in the show. That will come last. Don’t worry. It’s worth it. But first let’s talk about some of the other games we saw, or walked by, or thought about, or saw on a billboard as the crowd pushed us along to our doom.

Organ Trail


Indie devs The Men Who Wear Many Hats took the mechanics of the classic Oregon Trail and re-imagined it as a zombie apocalypse adventure. They have painstakingly re-created the style and interface of the original, which came out on the Apple in 1971. When I was born.


It was fun meeting these guys. This was the very last game we saw as we staggered off the show floor on Sunday, but they were still grinning, still happy to show off their game. They were selling the game on a “pay-what-you-like” basis.


It’s actually funny that they were so careful to preserve the original interface. I’m sure it would have been a lot less work to simply modernize it. Things like buttons, text boxes, and sliders are all pretty much turnkey in a lot of development environments. But this game uses those awkward input lines with a non-flashing cursor. I’m sure that required custom code.

The team is aiming for a late May release on mobiles, followed “shortly after” by a PC / Mac release. You can play the game now on Facebook.



I mentioned back in Part 1 that I don’t like to play games on the show floor. This is where that policy comes back to bite me. TinkerTech:Derby was on the show floor in playable form. There were even free seats. But I didn’t want to play right then, so I grabbed a business card and made a note to play it later. Sadly, it looks like the game doesn’t even exist outside of PAX East. No demo. No video. No screenshots. Google can’t even find a webpage for the thing.

The basic idea is this: You build a vehicle and drive it around this Tron-esque environment in a demolition derby. You build using modular parts. Some are heavy, some have weapons, some are durable, and so on. It’s free to play (if it existed, mind you) and it all runs on HTML5. Just visiting the page drops you right into the game without messing around with account creation and menus and TOS agreements. You visit the page, and you’re in the game.

You can send a link to your friends (via social networking, I’m sure) that contains the code for your vehicle. If they click the link, they’ll be dropped directly into the game, driving the vehicle you sent. It’s all about experimenting with different builds and seeing how changes impact the handling of the vehicle. The focus seems to be on immediate fun with a low entry barrier. The whole thing made me think of Randy (one of my co-hosts in Spoiler Warning Season 1) because he’s a connoisseur of innovative PVP games.

Great idea. I wish I could try it. I wish I could show it to you. I assume it’ll appear at some point. I’ll be watching the Gradient Studios site in the meantime.

Girls Like Robots


The gameplay of Girls Like Robots tickles my brain. It’s a game about seating arrangements, and your goal is to make everyone as happy as possible. Girls like sitting next to robots. Robots are okay with girls, as long as there aren’t too many. Nerds love robots and girls, but girls dislike nerds. And so on.


It’s one of those ideas where you look and say, “I can’t believe nobody thought of this before now.” It’s got all the key elements of a solid puzzle game: Easy to grasp concepts, clear goals, some depth, and an appealing presentation.

Aside from all these games, Chevrolet was also at the show. For some reason. Their booth was actually just a carpeted open area with some cars on display and a kiosk with some sort of driving game. One of the cars was the Camaro from the Michael Bay Transformers films. (Bumblebee.) I don’t know if Chevy understands the depth to which many people hate those films, and I didn’t have the heart to explain it to them.

I had Josh pose in the Camaro ironically:



From The Archives:

73 thoughts on “Pax East 2012: The Exhibition Hall Part 3

  1. McNutcase says:

    It is now confirmed that Josh has at least one ear. Also that he doesn’t wear glasses. I am now envious, despite his hair being shorter than mine.

    Also, if TinkerTech: Derby wasn’t the best game there, I have no idea how awesome the best game could possibly be. TinkerTech would cause me to be lost for hours at a time, and continue for solid weeks.

    1. Halfling says:

      CSI guys have the back of his head, mouth, and side of his face. Surely they can identify Josh now.

      The pants bomber will at long last be brought to justice.

      1. NonEuclideanCat says:

        Hell, depending on what CSI we’re talking about, they can prolly pull his face off a reflection in someone’s eye. Or map the picture into a 3D space and rotate it a few degrees.

        Just repeat after me:

        Enhance… enhance… enhance…

        1. Sheer_Falacy says:

          Actually, the guy in the car is a body double – Josh is just offscreen, and the only way to see him is to uncrop.

          1. Tony Kebell says:

            I have a sudden urge to kiss you, you marvelous person.

        2. Mediocre Man says:

          Rotate on the Z-axis

          1. Pav says:

            Won’t we need an image enhancer that can bitmap for that?

            1. Christopher M. says:

              Welcome to the twenty-first century, Mac!

        3. Mari says:

          Don’t you also have to tap random keyboard keys and move your mouse around like it’s a fat kid chasing the ice cream truck?

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Seto kaibas school of computers.

            1. rayen says:

              or dexter’s lab.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      “Also that he doesn't wear glasses.”

      Maybe he wore contacts just for pax.

      1. Fordo says:

        Yeah Josh could probably see the advantage of doing that.

        1. Gamer says:

          “see the advantage”

          I only derived a monocle of entertainment from that pun.

    3. Neko says:

      He probably wears a monocle.

    4. Monkeyboy says:

      What I like about this page is we don’t even have to link to tvtropes anymore…we do it to ourselves.

  2. JPH says:

    With regard to your party in Organ Trail… Is that the order of names from left to right? If so, I always knew Mumbles was a boy and Chris was a girl!

  3. Nick says:

    How many floppy disks does Organ Trail fit on?

    1. paronomasiac says:

      All of them.

    2. anaphysik says:

      One, if it’s big enough.

  4. HBOrrgg says:

    I actually tried to make an Oregon Trail II let’s play (I didn’t know that’s what they were called at the time) when I was younger, but in the title of the thread I misspelled it “Organ Trail.” I kept getting comments from people going “he he” but it turns out I wasn’t really funny, just stupid. . .

    Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ve ever played the Original Oregon trail, so I probably wouldn’t “get it.” TinkerTech on the other hand seems like a must-try, I love games that involve modular building, especially vehicles. Will the real version work without any of that social networking stuff?

    1. Trevor says:

      I’m one of the guys from Gradient Studios working on TinkerTech. I just wanted to chime in and answer this question:

      “Will the real version work without any of that social networking stuff?”

      Yes! Personal vehicle and arena designs will have a unique URL which you can share via whatever means you deem appropriate: Twitter, Facebook, Email, Sticky Note, Whiteboard, etc. Leveraging social networks is optional, and we’re always open to suggestions on this matter.

      Our goal is to design this game for the web. That means leaning away from traditional console design and focusing on instant gratification in the way you expect from your browser. When you click on a link, you go to a website. When you click on a link to our game, you are dropped immediately into playing: no loading bars, no Facebook Login, just play. From there, you can decide how involved you want to get.

      Let us know what you think by commenting on our blog:

      I will be posting a short demo video clip over the weekend.

  5. Moewicus says:

    Maybe it’s just the element of mystery for me, but out of all of these I most want to see TinkerTech: Derby. It sounds like fun on a bun. Oregon Trail, on the other hand, was a childhood favorite of mine, but when I was a kid it was the 90s and the graphics had changed with the times. The nostalgia appeal would be more about the theme and mechanics than the graphics/etc., for me.

    Also, omg that party image. That’s almost as good as the couch image. Actually, a bit better, since it’s more up-to-date. Left to right: Mumbles, Josh, Shamus, Rustkarn, Chris. Except for Chris, all of those fit so well.

    I am just beginning to realize what a Spoiler Warning fanboy I am…

  6. snarkangel says:

    Okay, so the three on the right are Zombieland (at least, I’m assuming the far-right girl is included, as she seems to be grouped and could be Emma Stone’s character)

    The middle one is Shaun of the Dead.

    But I’m just not getting the far-left girl. The striped socks don’t really ring any bells for me.

    1. Bret says:

      Think it’s Zoey, from Left 4 Dead.

      But it’s a guess at most.

      1. Tony Kebell says:

        It looks like this:
        Version of Zoey, there is another image where she’s in the pose used, from the original “gritty & dark” concept of l4d, back when the gang we know and love, looked like this:

        1. Tony Kebell says:

          Is the image that pixel zoey is based off of, from their late alpha/ early beta build.

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Damn you Shamus!Ive just spent an hour on that trail,only to die from exhaustion.

  8. Mari says:

    Thanks to your lovely wife’s link, I wasted a considerable amount of time yesterday playing Zombie Oregon Trail with my younger daughter (who, herself, has lost vast quantities of time to the original OT thanks to the wonders of the interwebz). We had fun with it. I know what you mean about the interface. That had to have been a massive pain to recreate. It added tremendous nostalgia value but I admit that at times I found it cumbersome and wished they had updated it just a tad. I hope they shine up the interface a little bit for mobile devices because I don’t want to “press space to continue” on my Nookpad. And you can bet that as soon as this sucker hits the android market it will be installed on my Nookpad.

  9. Wandring says:

    Rutskarn has died of dysentery!

    1. Christhegamer says:

      Shamus has died of Rutskarn’s verbal dysentery!

      1. IFS says:

        Who else wants to see Josh do an Organ Trail text LP after finishing his Shogun LP?

        1. MatthewH says:

          Oh… the trolling would be epic.

          And we’d finally learn what Josh wants on his tombstone!

          1. Syal says:

            “Here lies Josh.
            They didn’t stop shooting him.”

            1. Dave B. says:

              “He was not a mercenary.”

              1. Michael says:

                Everyone remembers the mercenary line, but no one remembers the alien blaster?

                “OH MY GOODNESS. Look at these – green and blue and red… It’s like we are having a rave. Where everyone dies.”

                Much better epitaph in my opinion.

                “Here Lies Josh:
                He was having a rave. Where everyone died.”

                1. Syal says:

                  That’s good, except I’m pretty sure “Josh had a rave. Where everyone died.” is already on a lot of other people’s tombstones.

                  1. IFS says:

                    Hasn’t reginald come back from death like three times now? As the courier, shepard (although that was regina so it might not count) and jensen. They’d better make that grave 20ft deep and filled with concrete.

                    1. MatthewH says:

                      It’d be totally appropriate for Josh to come back from the grave in Organ Trail. Then they’d really have a reason not to stop shooting him.

  10. Eruanno says:

    Soon we will be able to piece together what Josh actually looks like from the tiny, tiny glimpses we get.

    To the Photoshop-mobile, everybody!

  11. Sephyron says:

    great post, really like reading about games i probably would never have known about otherwise.

    But a minor error
    Aside from all these games, Chevrolet was also at the show. For some reason. Their booth was actually just a carpeted open area with some cars on display and a kiosk with some sort of driving game. One of the cars was was the Camaro from the Michael Bay Transformers films. (Bumblebee.) I don't know if Chevy understands the depth to which many people hate those films, and I didn't have the heart to explain it to them.

    1. Bubble181 says:

      there’s a “your your” instead of “to your” in there somewhere, as well.

      1. Dragomok says:

        You can send a link your your friends (via social networking, I'm sure) that contains the code for your vehicle.

        There you go.

  12. Irridium says:

    In Organ trail… I know I’ve seen those characters before.

    Is the main character Shawn from Shawn of the Dead? And are the three to the right of him the characters from Zombieland? Pretty sure they are.

    Not sure who the one on the left is, though.

    1. Tony Kebell says:

      It looks like this:
      Version of Zoey from l4d, there is another image where she's in the pose used, from the original “gritty & dark” concept of l4d, back when the gang we know and love, looked like this:

      1. Irridium says:

        Wow, it’s amazing to see how much they changed.

  13. Chuck Henebry says:

    Historical note: Apple was founded in 1976, and the Apple II (it’s first mainstream model) was released in 1977.

    While The Oregon Trail was first developed in primitive form in 1971, it was first published in 1978. The Apple II release happened in 1981,

    All this happened well after you were born, Shamus, so you’ve no excuse for not having played the game.


    1. Aufero says:

      Oh good, I’m not nuts. My before-coffee brain kept trying to figure out where I’d lost a decade while reading the rest of the post.

  14. ccesarano says:

    I’m torn between wanting to complain about how zombies have to be in everything these days and how they’re like a tired meme, and sharing that game with all my friends that I know would love the concept.

    It’s like someone did the DragonBall Z Fusion dance on two popular geek memes and gave birth to absolute genius.

    I got to try out Girls Like Robots briefly. Evidently my friend knew one of the developers in high school and dragged me over there. As she was chatting her friend up I gave it a whirl. It’s an interesting sort of puzzle game, but for me, it’s a sort of “time-killer” game, and I just can’t get sucked into those.

  15. Elec0 says:

    Taken from Gradient Studios’ Blog:

    When will it be out?
    We are plan­ning for a Beta test­ing phase by the end of 2012. There is also dis­cus­sion about early Alpha access.

    I’ll certainly be looking out for that game, it looks like a really cool idea.

  16. krellen says:

    BTW Shamus, the “pictures of Josh” gag is funny. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

    1. McNutcase says:

      Indeed. If I really want a description of Josh, I just have to ask Mumbles for one when she shows up at game night. The gag with the photos not showing Josh’s face is a good, gentle bit of mild trolling.

    2. BenD says:

      I am LOVING the photos of Josh. You should do this at every PAX.

  17. Maryam says:

    Just a note for people like me who don’t have a Facebook account: You don’t need Facebook to play Organ Trail. Just follow Shamus’ link (or this one) and you can play right there on the page.

    1. squishydish says:

      Neither one works for me, I just see info-pages but no way to play. :-(

      1. Heather says:

        If you have javascript off or adblock on it likely won’t work. Just fyi– we had to turn javascript on and adblock off to play.

      2. krellen says:

        Turn off Adblock.

    2. Hal says:

      Hmph. Way to steal my productivity on a Friday.

  18. Zombie Pete says:

    Apple Computers started in 1976. How was Oregon Trail playable on one in 1971?

    Update: beaten to it.

  19. Pablo Magnifico says:

    I don’t see this in the comments yet, sorry if it’s a duplicate.

    1. tengokujin says:

      Searching for “tinkertech derby” brings up exactly two results:

  20. Otters34 says:

    That TinkerTech: Derby game sounds uncannily like Rare’s Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, which has a similarly modual method of vehicle construction.

    But yeah, these games sound like a lot of fun, very cleverly made and designed, and I really hope they do well.

    1. Trevor says:

      I’m one of the guys from Gradient Studios working on TinkerTech.

      You should also check out the gummy ships mini-game from Kingdom Hearts and old vehicle-based arena battle games like Twisted Metal and Vigilante 8. These were some of our inspirations. Hopefully we can bring all that magic to the browser. If you have any other games that you can think of that our game may be similar to, let us know on our blog:

  21. TheRocketeer says:

    It is hilarious that Shamus knows such a simple, stupid idea could so easily and powerfully troll his own fanbase, and equally as hilarious that it is working to his expectations.

    But think about this: how do you even know those half-pictures are Josh at all? If there was any photographic evidence of Josh’s face already on the Internet, this exercise would be pointless. But apparently there isn’t, or what little there is is buried very deep. So what, other than Shamus’ word, do we have to assure us that Josh isn’t a 7-foot tall Eskimo dressed like Sazh Katzroy standing just out of frame, and the perhaps-Josh is just some random con-goer?

    1. Syal says:

      I do like the idea of Shamus just following this random guy around all day to take a bunch of blocked pictures.

  22. Lanthanide says:

    Completely unrelated to the post:
    Shamus, your former employer is suing Activision Blizzard over CoD and WoW.

  23. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “Gonna play Alan Wake this weekend for Spoiler Warning, but I’ll be wearing a “I’d rather Be Playing Grimrock” shirt.”

    Oh damn!Im so into grimrock that Ive forgotten to even install alan wake!Shit,I need to finish that one fast!

    1. MatthewH says:

      I only started watching Spoiler Warning with Assassin’s Creed II. And it is amazing how quickly I am already falling into withdrawal. I guess now is a good time to catch up on past seasons.

  24. Sozac says:

    My guess is the best game will be Dragon’s Dogma. It looks amazing.

  25. Vect says:

    The title of “Girls Like Robots” suddenly remind me of Megas XLR and it’s awesome theme song…

Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *