PAX East – Day Three – Thundercats Ho!

I forgot for a while what it was like to have a TV in the bedroom, let alone not have a controlling factor in what was on it. I don’t mind the new Thundercats cartoon actually, it’s really quite well done. For the first 20 minutes or so that I contemplated getting out from under the amazing comforters in our hotel, I watched it with a twang of nostalgic bliss. Today was the last good day of PAX for us, so obviously we both overslept and none of our devices were left to charge at night. That’s what vacation is all about! Another morning wasted waiting for things to charge, but at least we did some proper planning as to different things we wanted to see.

We figured out how to get to the convention center without going miles out of the way, but I still managed to nearly screw that up by taking a wrong turn. We weren’t terribly late getting out of the hotel, managed to catch a train by 10:30, detour for Starbucks, fail epically at procuring breakfast and made it into the convention center by around 11am. First thing on the list was going to be the College Humor/Dorkly panel. The line we ended up in was for the Konami/Bandai ShiftyLook panel. Yeah, I was the one leading the pack again.

ShiftyLook.com is taking old, obscure, and often unheard of video games from the pile of Namco/Bandai games and reinventing them into webcomics. This was technically a morning show, and the line of people was incredibly short. I should have taken it as a sign that we were in the wrong place, but it turned out to be worthwhile. I had front row seating and the handful of writers were a mere handful of feet in front of me. They talked about the challenges of bringing these characters to life from backstories that might be as deep as “Game Start”. It was an interesting way to go about picking up old content and turning it into something new.

http://shiftylook.com/news/pax-east-2012-shiftylook-photojournal/ has handful of coverage from the panel. They gave out some t-shirts with various characters on it. There was a demo of their tablet game Rocket Fox, even though the adapter was flaky and kept losing signal unless it was held just right. They raffled off some ShiftyLook promo kits and an iPad at the end of the panel, which considering the 20 or so people meant pretty good chances. I didn’t win an iPad though, I didn’t win a party kit either. Actually at the end they busted open one of the party kits and just started giving away first come first serve of the stuff in there. I got a limited print t-shirt for their SCAR comic. It’s pretty slick! Needless to say, Shiftlook.com is on my daily list of things to do for their variety of webcomics. There’s pretty much something new every day.

After the panel with a slight fuller bag of loot, net two T-Shirts for me, we made our way back to.. where else? The bar! It was slightly after noon and I think I took their last pint of Sam Adams Brick Red for lunch (or breakfast depending on how you look at it). I don’t often endorse eating convention food or anything, generally it’s terribly overpriced and of poor quality. PAX wasn’t any better. We had to eat quick, the Future of D&D panel was in the short queue! We buried food quickly and got in the line just before it filled up. If there was one panel I was please to have had a chance to see in person, it was this one. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yoa_xQTya8Y

I’ve been vaguely following DnD since they took that hard left turn away from AD&D/2e. I mean, who hasn’t? If you played their online games, various Neverwinter games, anything with the DnD name, you were basically playing 3e via PC. I’m not intimately aware of any games that were made with 4e in mind, and after a few hard looks at it I decided that wasn’t the route I wanted to take my players either. Oh, did I mention I’ve been DM’ing a game for a little over 13 years? The new generation of game that Wizards of the Coast picked up took DnD from TSR and had their rapacious ways with it. That’s OK. It was their to do as they will with and the only say I had in it all was the vote I made with my wallet.

The future however, is smelling a lot like the past. I think after 3e, there was another hard left turn, and they realized how far away from what people thought DnD really was. 3e turned everything into a skill, streamlined combat down to a science, and standardized magic to an almost sterilized state. 4e threw the skills out the window, busted out a grid and minitures, then told each character the thin line they were allowed to walk. The best games I’ve had the chance to run were the ones that allowed the characters freedom to escape from the restrictions of skills, abilities, and the other things that we define our characters with. Players are most into their characters when this happens because they start creating the narrative they’re playing in by ignoring what skills it might take to accomplish something and just detailing their actions to the point that I as a DM go “Man that sounds cool. I’m totally allowing this shit.”

That’s what DnD is all about! It sounds like they really want to get back to that old school feeling while preserving all the relatively good decisions they’ve made over the years. I can see the d20 system sticking around for combat. It makes perfect sense. Abilities will be taking a back seat again, skills are going to be more muted and used more to specialize, feats will be your new source of awesome things you can do (abilities and powers), and classes will be returning to a much smaller list with more specilized versions looking more like the 2e class kits. Among other things. Look, just go watch the video. It’s an hour long, but if you were sad about the departure from either 2e OR 3e, it’s worth the long watch. I went and watched the whole thing again, and I WAS THERE.

It’s happy good time feelings coming from the guys poking around in my most favorite pasttime. I did tweet a handful of things while I was at the show, but my phone was on the verge of tears with it’s battery quickly draining of life. The poor thing. I did what I could for it, we headed back down to the freeplay area. While waiting in line we were checking and it appeared that the internet was back and kicking some ass. There were a dozen people playing LoL, some in CSS, L4D2, and other internet-y types of games. After a brief wait we were seated. Kayin, the poor guy, go freakin’ hosed. His internet was busted, but I managed to sneak in back to back games of LoL with my phone and battery both charging from the USB ports in the PC. I was kicked from my seat after a solid 45m right at the end of a game, literally, 30s from burning down the core. I gathered up my things, watched it burn down, and logged out as the next dude was seated.

Kayin got in line to play Diablo 3 while he was waiting for my ass, and he was still in line when I got done. I took the opportunity to have more beer (this is a theme for me). Yes, all alone, surrounded by the most peer-est of peers that I’ve ever had, I drank at the bar. This is where I mention how theraputic PAX has been for me, all the people around just spilling forth gaming frothyness. I only needed to overhear conversations in order to keep myself interested. I even had a reason to interrupt total strangers with random factoids that were otherwise useless at my regular bars. I’ve decided by this point that PAX, gamers, people that blog and talk and play videogames, you are my people. I totally dig you all, and want to hang out forevers. That might be the beer talking.

Kayin and GettCouped found me eventually, maybe? I should check, but it’s 4am at the time of this writing and I’m impatient as to how the rest of this all went. I think I hit the bar at 4pm or so, Kayin was stuck down there for about 30m or so after I fi
nished my first beer. Nothing else was on the docket that we really wanted to see until around 7pm which gave us 3 hours to wander. Did we meet up with the Iniquity crew then? Perhaps. It was one of those days we headed down to them. You know, I think it must have been, because I met Jeremy Crawford who was down on the show floor fighting off a hoard of screaming DnD fangirls (totally fabricated that). It was a “holy shit, idol moment” because Jeremy, if you paid attention to the DnD segment, is the lead developer for DnD Next. I stammered at him for a minute, thanked him for the attention to old school and stared into his eyes for a couple too many seconds before walking away abruptly.

Thanks beer. You make things weirder than they need to be. At least he didn’t spit on me or something. We met up with the guys after that. I remember now! They were having lunch pretty late. I don’t really remember who was who, but the voices were all dead on. That was great, as it always is, matching up voices to the faces in my head and then seeing them for real. They never match. They don’t even come close. There’s a word for that feeling that I can’t think of right now. Anyways, it was an experience that I hope to repeat in conditions that allowed us more opportunities to drink together! Alas..

We headed back out to the floor and took a shot at The Secret World (noisy, but accurate) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMUXYnDOMEI . I picked up a nifty little Templar dog-tag which is appropriate as I signed up for Templars a year ago. We had a chance to get hands on the game too. I can’t say there’s a whole lot there I want to talk about. The game just didn’t play well to begin with. It’s on the same action MMO kick as a bunch of other games, but it didn’t feel good. The feel is important, as a melee character when there’s no apparent tactile response from the things you’re beating on it’s a problem. The skill system probably looks way more complicated than it actually is in practice. After about 10 minutes I made the decision that this game was going on my “Pass” list. If you can’t convice me with an action MMO that it’s going to be fun within the first 10 minutes, it probably isn’t going to be.

We wandered the floor for a bit after that. I don’t recall much specific until it was time to hit up the next conference hall, How to NOT be a Games Journalist. My brief searching on the googles has no hits for me on some sort of transcript. Great panelists, great stories of various mistakes that people make when submitting content to be published by the bigger sites. It was all a lot of common sense stuff. Don’t make typos, do basic research on your facts, be polite and PG-13 at your most crude moments. Basically, a lot of my posts wouldn’t pass the tests unless I toned them down a bit. It was an enlightening panel nonetheless and the only one of the weekend that I went up to ask a question for.

I was curious what they thought of submitting a piece that I had on my personal blog to be published on their site. Rarely, I’ll do a topical piece that’s current. You know how these things go, one site pushes out some post asking critical thoughts or giving a biased opinion and everyone goes off on their own tangent, those sorts of posts. Rarely. Maybe never. Anyway, there wasn’t a consensus but Susan Arendt, the speaker, shot it down quick. She would never post something that’s already out there and public. That’s understandable. However, I was told that sending in a small piece of something original with a link back to the blog so they can feel out my style would be fine. I enjoyed this conference in large part to hear AJ Feely repeat multiple times that she had a job sniffing panties. I did my research, she had a job as a Returns Processor for womens clothing.

I really wish I had the transcript from that panel, but it’s just not out there. Yet. Perhaps. After we got out it was beeline to the bar in the Westin attached to the conference center for the annual PAX East Tweetup! (Pics here http://s149.photobucket.com/albums/s62/eq2graphics/paxeast2012/?start=all ) What a great group of tweeple! They kept my buzz going the whole time and I felt right at home chatting them up. It was probably the highlight of the show for me. If you’re reading this and you have a chance to make it out to PAX next year, we need to make this event bigger. I’ll even order a cab back to the hotel if I need to so I can stay later. I talk with my hands! It’s great! 

Someone instigated me into growling about EA and their various ways to suck the soul out of things. I don’t mind, I know I have my opinions and people like to hear them whether or not they agree. DLC is a tricky subject, if it’s done right it works, that’s all. There was a lot of Warhammer that came out in me when I start talking about the good ol’ days, and a fair amount of Shadowbane. It’s funny when we all get together and sort of talk about what we REALLY want MMO’s to do for us. Worlds man. Places that you live and breathe and have adventures. The persistent places that you build and can be destroyed. I hope that one day a game pokes it’s head up that allows us to actually live in it like Shadowbane or SWG did back in the day. It’ll have to play well, have open worlds and stories, and probably need to be incredibly huge to accomodate.

After the tweetup we caught a ride back to the hotel and crashed hard again. Check-out time was 10am and there was still enough show to get us loaded up with swag. If there was any left.

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