Going to PAX as media is a much different experience than going as just a regular attendee (or an exhibitor, I imagine). First and foremost, you’re there to work, and I knew that going out to Seattle this year I was going to experience a packed schedule. To make matters more interesting, I didn’t realize that the convention was Friday-Monday, but assumed a Thursday-Sunday schedule when I purchased my plane tickets. So the two-slightly-plus days I was at the convention, I was mostly either doing interviews or running back to the media room to write up said interview.
So the downside is that I didn’t get to see a lot. My couple of hours spent walking the exhibit floor were scattered rather than my typical slow-and-systematic approach. I didn’t get to go see any panels. I missed pretty much all of Sunday and Monday. The Elder Scrolls Online was full-up on appointments for press, so I wasn’t able to see that, and I didn’t have time to make it over to the building where they were doing the FF14 launch celebrations.
Still, I had a great time and I don’t regret how it went. For one thing, I got to see a lot of friends, current and former coworkers, developers, and fellow bloggers. My suddenly-freed-up Thursday was spent touring ArenaNet and hanging out at the MMO Reporter party. ArenaNet was particularly cool, although I was barred from some areas due to those areas having sensitive information and me being media. I will say that if you ever do visit, you will want to (a) live in their game room forever, (b) gain 15 pounds from the free snacks, and (c) steal all of the art work on the walls. My favorite part was when I met Audio Director James Ackley, who took me into the sound recording booth and showed me all of the weird objects that he uses to make the noises in the game. Privately I labeled the sound booth the torture room because there was a huge chain hanging from the ceiling and it was just about as sound proof as you could ask for.
The MMO Reporter party was a blast, especially when I was able to meet Bill, Chris, and Carrie in person, as well as Green Armadillo. We were all talking about starting up a DDO expansion group, so we’ll see if that actually happens. They ran a live podcast from the floor and handed out a ton of prizes.
My first interview took place during the one media preview hour that the press got to go into the exhibit hall an hour before the rest of the crowd. That was kind of OK, because the interview was with Dave Georgeson and the SOE crew, and it was cool to just jaw about EverQuest Next with him. Also a little surreal, because when you’re used to seeing people like that in videos and presentations, and then you’re just plunked down at a table with them, it’s a mental shift to realizing that, yup, they’re more or less just a normal person like you.
The show floor was pretty packed, although I think that Friday was the worst. Lots of people scrambling frantically to see that one game they really wanted. For a vertically challenged person like myself, it was sometimes disorienting to try to figure out where I should go while all of these taller people were walking around me. Lots of neat setups, although probably Telltale Games’ The Wolf Among Us had one of the coolest — a film noirish alley/hotel that you had to go into to play. I’m a big fan of Telltale’s adventure titles, so I did get a little bit of time with that title and am very much looking forward to its release. I also enjoyed the Indie Megabooth area, as you can hit a lot more neat-looking titles in quicker succession.
Swag-wise it was on the light side for me, probably because I didn’t have as much time as I’d have liked. I did get several great t-shirts, including a WildStar (see above right) and Guild Wars 2 one. I also scored a Charr plushie, some WildStar pins, a GW2 art book, a few pens for my wife (she collects them), and purchased the soundtrack to Electronic Super Joy.
Getting to see WildStar was probably the highlight of the show floor for me. I just wanted to satisfy my curiosity and get a feel for how it handled, and I wasn’t disappointed at all. I don’t think it’s going to be a holy-crap-this-changes-everything-in-MMOs game, but it is quite fun, colorful, and I liked the paths a lot. It was a shame I had to miss the housing panel because that was the one thing I would’ve loved to see.
I spent a lot of Saturday at ArenaNet’s Guild Wars 2 anniversary bash. Other than hearing the LFG system is coming in a couple of weeks, there wasn’t anything mind-blowing in terms of reveals, but it was great to hear the devs jaw about the game and getting to talk to many of them. I swear, every time I go to a convention, it just makes me really want to come home and play games that much more.
It was also terrific to just talk to friends and strangers over the weekend. Everyone is pretty friendly at PAX, sharing a common interest and all that, and there’s a general feel of celebration in the air during it. Rubi’s kids went to PAX for the very first time and they were just glowing after it.
All in all, a wonderful weekend. My energy level stayed high and I certainly wasn’t bored at any point. Coming back was a little sad — as it represented the end to summer — but I couldn’t wait to see my family again. It also makes me want to go to the next convention, but we’ll have to see on that.