Postfacto Ruminations on [P]enny [A]rcade E[x]po

by on Nov.16, 2015, under games industry, geek culture, indy

Postfacto Ruminations on [P]enny [A]rcade E[x]po


PAX! PAX! PAX! Oh my goodness, since when did I become a convention go’er?

Actually, only now realising that I’ve been to a couple. The first being a Star Trek convention in Vancouver circa 2000? Earned my nerd cred right there. And Quakecon in 2002? Smack during summer in Mesquite, Texas. Ergggh.

Fast forward circa 2014 and I popped my PAX cherry. That sounds worse than it is. I do have to say, it’s great for gamers and non-gamers because it embraces all platforms, all media, both digital and non-digital. From the exhibition displaying Australian indie games (and their devs), big name releases, demos and of course tabletop.

I’ve always enjoyed the Penny Arcade guys. We’d share their comics between us right after WoW was released (2004?). Longtime fan, so I guess it makes sense that I’m up for their conference.
Now that I’ve bored you with a little backstory, here are my highlights and impressions.

Personal Highlights

  • Warren Specter’s Keynote. Great to hear him speak, and his perspective was interesting. One theme was the notion that videogames will supplant movies and TV into the 21st century. “Seeing such a shift only happens once every hundred years. We are privileged to be living through such a rare event.”
  • The Witcher 3 story producer’s talk on quest design in The Witcher 3. Yeah, I’m fanboy but it was still interesting!

The Great

  • Star Wars Battlefront. Twas a treat to see new maps and modes. This looks like a great Star Wars game, thanks Dice!
  • Dark Souls III
  • The Freeplay Console Gaming Lounge
  • The Australian Indie zone
  • Cosplayers, Cosplayers Everywhere

The Not-so-great

  • Really loud gaming events, particularly on terrible (terrible!) small PA rigs.
  • Reports of widely available content being shown in limited access booths. Fallout 4, lookin’ at ya.
  • All but one Vive demo system was broken by the last day. Does not bode well for a consumer release!

The Ugly

  • The timing. I like Melbourne for certain things, but having PAX on the same weekend as Melbourne Cup horserace? Talk about jacked up hotel prices and the worst culture clash one could imagine. Also my ability to build costumes is limited since I have a yearly work conference in the U.S. a mere two weeks prior.
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    Narbacular Drop

    by on Sep.12, 2006, under computer graphics, game reviews, gaming, indy, pc


    Unfortunately Named HL2E2

    Last month, footage for (the unfortunately named) Half life 2 : Episode 2 exploded onto the ‘net with tremendous speed and enthusiasm. And for good reason, too. The game looks fantastic, as we’ve come to expect. The interesting part of this story however, was not the continuing struggle of Alyx and Gordon Freeman, nor the next iteration of graphics and physics technology that the next chapter will have.

    The excitement was about a little game that will be bundled alongside Episode 2. A little game called “Portal”.

    (continue reading…)

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    Its Hollywood All Over

    by on Dec.04, 2005, under games industry, indy


    There’s a reason big game fishing is so popular. Even if its a passing thrill, its fun to chase something bigger than yourself.

    There has been a consistent murmur out there. A collective disgruntled buzz about games. I’ve been watching as closely as I am able, but to summarize it goes something like this.

    Its boredom. Developer blogs, fansites, magazine articles, ezines, and some personal in-game chat all point to it. Its hard to find concrete examples, but I note an unsatisfied yearning for something new and different. Frustration with an interminable stream of derivative crap, siphoned from the big-media trough. And I see the complaint everywhere, from either overt commentary on the “state of the industry” or as a side-comment between players on a CS:S server.

    The jaded sentiment is that gamers are getting bored with repeated renditions of games they’ve already played. People are ready for something new beyond lusher, linear games and big-name voiceovers. And like I’ve never really seen before.

    Our appeasement, or how to get it, is starting to shift. How so?

    Well, for starters, we see the XBox 360. I mentioned it earlier, noting from pure observation that there really truly is nothing new there. But the kicker is that there damned well should be in the face of 50 million dollar marketing budgets! And its not just a matter of big business. Its not simply that budgets for game production are soaring, and are expected to rise. Not just the boggling amount of assets that are required to produce the latest-greatest. Not just that the newest halcyon of NextGen gives us sports games with sweat simulation and FPS’ with absolutely no variants in gameplay. Its about the atoms of game activity. What do we do in the game? How do we do them? Very little progression has been achieved by our big media contemporaries in this vein. They play it safe, because they absolutely positively have to. Its easier to pile on the detail instead of coming up with something new.

    So where is the innovation?

    Its in the indies. The mythical upstarts. The smaller companies whose concentration is centred on the games they’re making, and not the happiness found in the genre numbers game. The indies take more risk, because they can. They don’t have armies of artists and programmers and suppliers and SKU’s and shareholders to maintain. They are the ones who push the bar sideways instead of upward. They change the playing field. And the communities exert an influence that no Superbowl ad could accomplish. They shift the market to follow them.

    Since the first day of this blog so very long ago (10 months?) I have watched the debates swing around. People clamouring to tell us that PC Gaming is DEAD, and that the time for indie gaming companies has long passed the glory days of iDSoftware. I conversed with assorted developers at DIGRA Vancouver, and was met with the same eye-rolling recitation. And its clear to me that people have been overcome by something, perhaps even fear. But after over a year of observation and deliberation, I am utterly convinced that the “indy gaming is dead” mentality is COMPLETE AND UTTER BULLSHIT. In fact, it serves the big media to keep telling you that “making games is too hard”, “it costs too much money”, or “publishers are too restrictive”. Its not that they’re wrong, but the emphasis is. If you’re committed, these things are merely barriers to be navigated. Just think about what they gain by scaring off the masses from innovation. They scare off their most dangerous competition. They are free to churn out the same derivative crud without so much as a blip from underfoot. I set to thinking about these issues some time ago, and I am doubly sure that the world is ready for the next idSoftware more than you can ever believe. The gaming community is fickle, yes, but in this industry (more than most), getting mindshare of the end user is a live-or-die enterprise. And top-down marketing is not going to be able to reign in the enthusiasms of the collective headspace of millions of gamers that talk to each other daily.

    Thats essentially my rant. People need to stop thinking that big media owns the space. And don’t think that better games can’t be made by the little guy. Anyone who believes that has been duped (yet again) by news and entertainment media.

    I hate to rant about rallying the little guy and then talk about Nintendo. But in the sphere of computer electronics and future media, I really do believe that Nintendo has its sights in the correct places. And they really are innovating when the bigger players bat around around their latest Hollywood-style triple-A contender.

    It only takes the will and a small group of committed individuals to innovate. And the time is right.

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