PAX 2009 Live Blog

Penny Arcade eXpo is an annual gaming convention in Seattle, WA. It hosts approximately 30,000 people. Any type of game is covered here, video games, tabletop, pen and paper RPGs, board, card, hand held, console, and PC games.

Our PAX Posse includes Luna, Roland, Joci, John, Danielle, and teens Betsy, Tori, Stephan, Meadow, and Judah. Whew!

Roland and I will be liveblogging the event in this post, meaning, check back periodically, as this post will be updated every few hours.

(For anyone waiting for the next Mind Control 101 entry, I'll write it soon. PAX comes first! XD)


10:11am Luna: At PAX. Glad we pre-reged early. All badges are of course sold out. I wonder where they will have PAX next year, since the Washington State Convention Center is the largest venue in Seattle (to my knowledge).

Now standing in line for swag bag and lanyard. This line is far, far the longest line I've seen at a con. Guessing twice as long as the Adam Savage line at Defcon.

[caption id="attachment_380" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="See how this line wraps over and under itself"]See how this line wraps over and under itself[/caption]

10:27am Roland: This line is more awesomely long than any con line I've ever been in, and everyone is already registered!

11:02am Luna: OMG the exhibit hall has spilled out into what last year was the LAN room. Swag bag came with full copy of LOTR: Mines of Moria. We were all playing LOTR plain last year. We could start again, and rope the kids into it. Make them our own personal gold farming slaves.

Bag also holds a mouse pad, t-shirt, buttons, stickers. Program guide looks like a retro NES game manual. Awesome job, PAX swag committee!

11:40 Luna: spotted a Reverse-Scalper at the entrance. The poor guy is offering $100 for a three day pass. Planning to sew the kids' badges to their clothing so they don't lose and/or get pwned out of them.

1:46pm Luna: Sitting at the AION panel. I hadn't really heard of this MMORPG until now. Looks maybe cool. Most of the audience is in closed beta and they apparently love it.

1:54pm Luna: iPhone users, be sure to check out the PAX iPhone app to check schedules, events, and other information. (Assuming AT&T lets us have any bandwidth.)

Do not Access this from the Apple Store. It awesomely installs from the web. So browse to this link in Safari:

Oh, and Gmail is down again. Weird.

5:37pm Luna: John says he's disappointed with the racial ratios in the Pax crowds. Mostly white and Asian.

I was greatly disappointed with the booth babe at Atari's booth. Nothing against her, just against Atari for putting a paid model who seems to have zero interest in games, standing scantily clad with the sole purpose of attracting male gamers. Just like EA at Comicon, you guys have no understanding of the changing gamer demographic - not only are there more women gamers, bur more if the guys want smart gamer girlfriends, not just pretty naked bodies.

Speaking of girls, there seemed to be fewer women this year. That could have something to do with the time of day. My jury is still out till tomorrow.

I didn't have time to finish the walk of the expo hall. But here are the games I'm excited about:

Lego Rock Band
Beetles Rick Band
Elemental: War of Magic
Tales of Monkey Island

I had a great time at the Stardock / Impulse booth. We are constant fans of that company. Their Gamer's Bill of Rights was a long time coming. I love a company who believes at it's roots their customers should be treated with respect, not suspected as thieves.

Stardock staff recommended a game I plan to check out: Kitten Sanctuary

6:28pm Luna: Watching in fascination as the nVidia numbers game unfolds. Saw this happen two years ago. The game works this way: nvidia booth hands you a button. Your button has a number and presumably, someone else has another button with the same number. Find your match. Then you can spin a wheel or something, and the grand prize everyday is some snazzy top of the line expensive graphics gear.

At this stage, we're watching the beginnings if self-organization. Some people are content to labor away, walking around and manually looking at buttons. But already, people have scrawled their numbers in 5" on lined paper and ink pen. Hashtag #nvidia and your number on Twitter so others can search you.

It should be interesting to see if the final stages of this look anything like two years ago.

7:52pm Luna: Watched the Bioshock 2 preview.  Wow.  Leave it to Bioshock to force me into upgrading my video card again.  Now I'm more motivated to win one. ;)

It doesn't just look like another version of Bioshock with new graphic overlays over the same old gameplay.  For one thing, it seems a little more like a zombie game.  Since you're playing a Big Daddy, not much can hurt you, so you generally get ganged up upon.  You're trying to protect a Little Sister, so I sincerely hope the game doesn't end up being the world's longest escort quest (I hate escort quests!)

Storyline is still immersive.  Big Sisters are fucking scary.  Graphics?  Well, let's say it's impressive when the ocean floods into the room, water beads up on camera, and then you're walking around with floating chairs and murky ocean goo floating around you.

Yeah, I see a new GPU in my future.

[caption id="attachment_383" align="alignleft" width="180" caption="Gameboy Music"]Gameboy Music[/caption]

Earlier, we walked past the Gameboy Music people outside.  They are much, much better this year.  Not only is the novelty of the instrument cool, they're actually starting to sound good.  I stayed to listen just because I actually liked the sound.

In the Console Freeplay room on floor 5, you can play with a Microsoft Surface. I'm always excited about these paradigm-blowing new technologies.

Surface of course is a table a few feet across.  4-6 people can sit comfortably around it.  It has a touch-sensitive screen.  Actually, I learned it's technically a camera, and touch sensitivity is approximated. You drag elements around on the screen.  So if there are dots or icons flying around, you can touch to add new dots, drag them places, etc.

There is also a chip system, where coded chips can be placed on the screen.  They have various functions -- like gravity, springs, solid objects, and so on.  So if you have dots flowing across the screen, and place down a gravity chip, it can attract or repulse the dots.  My intuitive impulse was to twist the chip, and I quickly learned twisting one way created a stronger and stronger repulse reaction.  Counterclockwise twists created stronger and stronger incoming gravity.

Another application showed you a little better how the camera was working.  I could lay my arm across it, and it "saw" my arm down to the last eyelet on my fancy sleeves, in a sort of black-and-white "negative".

There is also an identity card.  You lay it on the surface, and it recognizes you.  This can be used in a variety of applications.  For instance, in gaming, it tracks your score, movements, etc. When you leave for a break, you take your ID with you, so no one can cheat. :)

Another app uses your ID to show Twitter and Facebook details of the people sitting at the table.  Twitter messages can be moved around, sorted, etc.

Surface seems to bring social back to computing.  This should be a strange interface when used with Natal. That will bring not only facial recognition for the purpose of identification of multiple users of the same surface at the same time, but also emotion and body movement recognition.

This plus some of the augmented reality apps, like are being developed for iPhones now, make me very excited to see what the near-future holds in terms of computer interfaces and how they will change the way we think.

Surfaces are currently being marketed for commercial use only, as each one costs about $12,500.  However, the Microsoft rep said Windows 7 was build with touch interfaces in mind, so we'll soon start seeing these types of interfaces in the form of laptops, tablets, and monitors.

9:00pm Luna: Merchants of Deva are doing an alcohol-infused fund raiser for Child's Play, tomorrow evening 5pm-9pm at The Baltic Room on 1207 Pine. for more info.

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