Yesterday afternoon I headed out of PAX East. I had to go basically right after the Guild Wars 2 panel, Saturday afternoon, but I left on an extremely high note. I am still internally digesting the culture there. When so much of our hobby is selfish, I find it amazing that gamers can get together to share the love and passion.
The first place gamers share this love is in the line before the show floor opens up. One group near me opened up some Magic the Gathering Duel Decks, and played the card game while waiting. Another group played an interesting variation of game trivia and hangman. Plenty of people were embedded in to the latest iteration of Pokemon. Once the horde was let go, this camaraderie merely became mobile.
The show floor was filled with flat screens with demos for all the upcoming offerings. I played in a four player pick-up-group for Castle Crashers with every stranger giving each other parting high fives after we all wiped. I tried out the latest (or unreleased) offerings in 3D gaming. Yet, for all the action there were hundreds of gamers willing to stand in line for hours to experience a demo lasting a fraction of that time. For those games I was more than happy to just watch in spectator form. If the compressed business of the show floor became too much there were plenty of other places to relax, like a freeplay console area or the $100,000 beanbag hallway.
Friday night was party night, and I had to make a tough decision between Turbine’s, Trion Worlds’, or NCSoft’s meet and greet parties. I would have online friends at each party, and all of them had developers I wanted to meet. It should be no surprise that I hit up NCSoft’s party, where it was long overdue for me to meet the ArenaNet krewe face to face.
The NCSoft meet and greet was in the adjoining hotel. There were 20 Guild Wars 2 demo stations in the middle, and a few other NCSoft title demo stations around the edges. They had two open bars and a projection screen for showing off their upcoming games. I was one of the first to get there as ArenaNet had graciously given me VIP access to get an hour headstart. The sole person in front of me was a long-time friend of ArenaNet, having met them through the Make-A-Wish foundation. Emily and her mom were pretty awesome, and the time until the party started went by quickly as we shared stories.
Upstairs I hit the demo station for Guild Wars 2 when Community Manager Martin Kerstein told us to get our demo kicks in before they opened the party up to the masses. I will talk about the demo in a later post, but it was really hard to concentrate on playing. The dev to player ratio was the highest it would be that night, and it was a constant struggle not to completely quit the demo in order to chat with the devs.
Although I had a blast with the demo, the best part of the night was definitely talking with all the devs. Each and every one was so enthusiastic about their jobs. I would go up, introduce myself, and then ask what their responsibilities were. They would each then happily discuss anything and everything (they were allowed to) for as long as fans would talk to them. I asked one dev straight up what kind of Kool-Aid they were all drinking. The Global Brand Manager, Brian Porter, told me that he was so excited to work each day that he literally ran up the stairs to work. I will have in-depth posts about my discussions later this week.
Saturday was a tad more relaxing. I spent a little more time on the show floor, and I tried to explore the nooks and crannies of the convention. I ate lunch by an ongoing Rock Band demonstration. Had a small group presentation with NCSoft, where Colin Johanson charmed us all. Saw people getting their groove on with Kinect, and jumped in to line for 1.5 hours to get in to the Guild Wars 2 panel. The line was similar to the one for the opening, but we all had very specific common ground.
The panel would be my last taste of PAX East as I had to catch a late flight home right after. I was a little worried that the full 2.5 hours spent (line + panel) wouldn’t be worth it, but ArenaNet’s energy came through again big time. Plus it was pretty cool to cheer on Colin while seeing the silver screen version talk about swinging swords ad infinitum. The whole panel can be seen here. Afterwards, I said goodbye friends, new and old, and began the journey home.
I can’t wait for next year’s convention, but it’s good to be home. Stay tuned for more PAX info coming soon.