Wandering through PAX West 2018

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A week passed since attending PAX West 2018 in Seattle, a grand annual event for video and tabletop gamers. The memories of this annual event remains fresh.

The show was an overall blast, yet not the best attended over the recent years. The favored part was the significant rise in indie games pushed by smaller developers, looking to gain fame through playable demos and cheap giveaways. Also, plenty of merch sold at booths, especially pins. The gaming tech seemed plentiful, with plenty to demo and purchase.

The downside was the reduction in tabletop games. No large booths or big promotional events for any card or board games. Magic: The Gathering was hardly noticeable, compared to last year where Wizards of the Coast reserved an entire theater. I didn’t see any Cards Against Humanity promotion either, which felt like a bigger part of PAX from past years. I spent nearly all of my time with the video games for this round.

Meanwhile, much of gaming space on the exhibit floor was dedicated to the new trends in the video gaming industry – e-sports, streaming, influencer personalities, and the overall attention given to spectator aspects. Little of that appealed to me and felt like space that could have been utilized better. Whatever, as I do enjoy a Let’s Play or YouTube personality at times, just not here.

The company displays were a bit disappointing. No huge and ridiculous dioramas, or overly large statues or looming creatures. Just a lot of boring logos and posters in lights. I expect more from PAX, based on past years.

But overall, I still had a lot of fun and got all these pins (some purchased, some free)…

I did wander around for much of the time and took pictures. I share below some shots with more notes on the show…

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A typical view of a PAX West game booth, between the Ubisoft and Discord booths.

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The usual sea of computers for players to game together using the most updated gear. Here, Rocket League is still a thing among the big crowds, or not. It’s hard to tell.

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I didn’t see as much cosplay for this round of PAX. But, the Darksiders booth did step things up a bit with their own.

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Mega Man aims for anyone looking to cut in line to play the Mega Man 11 demo, which was about a two-hour wait. I went through it, and have to admit…it was worth it (and not just for the free pin).

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At the EV3A booth, and here…not sure what this is.

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Some cosplayers together,  geared and badass.

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Some Pyre cosplay. Pyre is a very underrated game. You should play it.

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One large booth premiering the upcoming Gris game in playable demo form, a fresh storyline based platformer with beautiful hand-drawn graphical elements.

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A stage tournament between two pros, locked in Dragonball FighterZ combat.

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Some sweet Splatoon cosplay.

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And a truly awesome Robotic Operating Buddy (or B.O.B), is the best (and only personally seen cosplay of its kind). Well done!

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An oddity I played at the Square Enix booth, The Quiet Man….a game where you play a deaf man in some urban drama. Interesting idea, but some very corner fighting reminiscent of the PS2 era.

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The Jackbox stage, where the play is both the audience and the entertainment, as one logs into the Jackbox website to participate, and engage in silly games.

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The developer crew of another indie title with its booth, The Messenger…a cool old school ninja-gaidenesque slashy platformer indie title. The crew was very excited to personally promote and share.

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Boyfriend Dungeon, a fresh oddity that combines dating with dungeon crawling. Weird dating games with an anime appeal are a rising trend now.

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One of the many panels attended, “We’re all Frauds! PAX West Edition,” with Doctor B [Clinical Director, Take This], Callie Holmes [Web Development Engineer II, Amazon], Tanya DePass [Founder, I Need Diverse Games], Matt Dolbill [Associate Attorney, Morrison & Lee LLP], Katrina Keller [Operations Director, Take This], Katie Golden [Producer, Bungie]. All here to discuss and advise on the problems of self-doubt in creative development ventures.

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Another panel, “(Re) Introducing Escapist Magazine: We Had Issues,” with Russ Pitts [Editor-in-Chief, Escapist Magazine], Graham Stark [President, Bionic Trousers], MovieBob [Creator, Freelance], Yahtzee [Critic, Escapist Magazine]. All here to promote the relaunch of the longtime game news site. I was especially excited to see Yahtzee, one of my favorite game reviewers (Zero Punctuation) present.

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The Guild Wars 2 booth, hosted by a large Griffon mount. I think this was the only mountable creature for this event. Last year, I recall at least five mountable statues.

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My Friend Pedro, another exciting upcoming game of interest at PAX West. This one a physics-based action based platformer that feels a little like a mix of Mirror’s Edge and Hotline Miami.

Maple Story had a huge booth promoting its sequel, Maple Story 2. The original was a cult hit a decade ago, and cool to see it still going and have a huge following here.

A neato life-sized diorama at the Facebook Games booth, promoting Stormland. Take a picture with you in it, then play another game there to receive a special enamel pin of a Facebook emote…yay.

Fortnite: Battle Royale is huge, and so was there silly miniature gold course which seemed as both a promo and reward for its growing fandom. I never played the game but had a blast here (and got a set of four free pins).

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And that was all PAX, in a nutshell, just a metaphorical golf course of one thing to another, amused by visuals and play.

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And that’s all for this year. I had some fun, but hoping next year is much better.

 

A Stranger Look at the PAX 10 of indie games for 2018

Soon, the PAX West show will return to the Seattle city for 2018. And within, are some new gems from this year’s PAX 10 lineup.

The PAX 10 is an annual list of industry chosen new indie games, earned approval as worthwhile to check out to all gamers. These interactive works add fresh and innovative elements in gameplay, have an interesting style, fun and sometimes weird. For both the PAX West and East shows, attendees can demo these games, with the developers usually present. Each annual list is special and inspirational for new upcoming talent, showing you need not big company brands to impress potential gamers. Just keep the player engaged with something original, engaging and fun. Others will notice.

For this 2018 run, here is the PAX 10 worthy of your attention:

Gunhead

Developer – Alientrap
Platform – Windows/Steam
Genre – Roguelike FPS
Website: www.alientrap.com

“Gunhead is a fast paced roguelike FPS where you take the role of a pirate mech with a gun for a head, looting derelict spaceships filled with monstrous drones made out of bone and steel. Sequel to Cryptark – Coming 2018.”

Personal Thoughts: The art style is beautiful and comic book cell-shaded. The overall feeling is a bit visual overload, but maybe that’s part of the fun.

Mirror

Developer – Ian Lilley
Platform – Windows / Linux
Genre – Puzzle
Website: http://www.mirrordropgame.com

“Mirror Drop is a psychedelic 3D puzzle game where you maneuver a reflective sphere in a world full of mirrors, over-saturated colors, and infinities. Each level contains three puzzles and a hidden exit, set against 100% raytraced alien geometry.”

Personal Thoughts: This looks trippy as hell, and could be more involving as a VR title.

DropOverload

Developer – Revival Productions
Platform – Windows / Mac / Linux / Xbox One / PS4 (Steam/Gog)
Genre – Shooter
Website: http://www.playoverload.com

:A new six-degree-of-freedom shooter from the creators of Descent with intuitive controls, amazing lighting and graphics, and the best zero-G robot-blasting combat ever devised.”

Personal Thoughts: Looks very polished, with a lot of added potential for VR.

Pizza Titan Ultra

Developer – Breakfall Inc.
Platform – Windows via Steam (Xbox One / PS4 Coming Soon)
Genre – Action
Website: www.pizzatitanultra.com

“Pizza Titan Ultra is a fast paced 3rd-person action platformer focused on fighting and smashing through a futuristic city, in a giant mech, to deliver pizza. Experience arcadey action with speedy attacking and dodging, but also attempting to control the massive weight of a 10 storey mobile pizzeria. Just try not to make too much of a mess.”

Personal Thoughts: I love this ridiculous premise, where Crazy Taxi meets Gundam. The mech designs are awesome.

Praey for the Gods

Developer – No Matter Studios
Platform- Windows
Genre – Action Adventure
Website: www.praeyforthegods.com

“Praey for the Gods is a brutal journey set on a desolate frozen island, where your only chance of survival is to destroy the very gods you believe in. In Praey for the Gods, you play a lone hero sent to the edge of a dying world to discover the mystery behind a never-ending winter. Arriving with only the clothes on your back, you must survive the colossal dangers that you encounter. To restore balance and reclaim the land from the brink, you will be faced with questions that not even a God knows the answer to.”

Personal Thoughts: A beautiful, story-driven game, where the play and progress is the exposition, driven by exploration and survival. As a big fan of the classic Shadow of the Colossus game, this excites me.

Retimed

Developer – Team Maniax
Platform – Nintendo Switch
Genre – Multiplayer Arena Shooter
Website: maniax-games.com/Retimed

“Retimed is a local multiplayer arena shooter for 2-4 players with slow-motion. It’s a combination of Super Smash Bros and the film Matrix. When an enemy bullet gets close to you, time slows down and a time bubble is created around the player. Now there is enough time to react and try to dodge the deadly projectiles. These time bubbles generate exciting alternations between fast-paced movement and tension-filled slow motion moments.”

Personal Thoughts: An interesting concept, which I think I would need to test before getting too involved.

Roundguard

Developer – Wonderbelly Games
Platform – Windows
Genre – Rogue-like
Website: http://www.wonderbellygames.com/

“A bouncy physics-based roguelite with a cast of oddballs, procedural dungeons, and lots of loot. Like if Peggle played D&D in the basement.”

Personal Thoughts: This looks fun. I like when RPG elements gets mixed into other genres. 

Shift Quantum

Developer – Fishing Cactus
Platform – PS4 / XBOX One / Nintendo Switch
Genre – Puzzle Platformer
Website: www.shiftquantum.com

“Axon Vertigo, the world’s leading authority and most trusted friend in cerebral contentedness programming, promises to deliver better life quality for everyone with the Shift Quantum program. Connected to the cyber-noir action-puzzle platformer, you will be task to solve puzzles and create negative space by inverting the world to transform barriers into escape routes. Shift the world, twist your environment, bend your mind to unveil its secrets and solve each brain-drilling level. Make use of all special gameplay blocks to overcome obstacles and get to the exit to find the happiness you have been searching for and promised by Axon Vertigo.”

Personal Thoughts: I like the customization feature, and would play it just to see what others would come up with. I like the style too, and hope there is a good story with that too.

Tick Tock: A Tale for Two

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Developer – Other Tales Interactive
Platform – Windows
Genre – Co-op adventure
Website: www.ticktockthegame.com

“Tick Tock: A Tale for Two is a co-op adventure where you and your friend get trapped by the skilful clockmaker Amalie Ravn. In order to escape you need to navigate a magical clock world filled with secrets and puzzles. The only problem is… neither of you have the full picture. Prepare yourselves for a narrative experience where your communication skills are put to the test. Read out loud to each other, discuss what you see, and combine the information on your two screens to get closer to the truth and your ultimate escape. Play on any two devices, local or remotely, all you need is a voice connection.”

Personal Thoughts: An interesting idea this is. I like it, but would need the right kind of person with a good attention span to take this seriously.

With Friends Like These

Developer – Shy Kids Club
Platform – Nintendo Switch / PC
Genre – Co-Op 2D shooter
Website: www.shykidsclub.com/with-friends-like-these

“With Friends Like These is a game that lovingly forces co-operation. Everyone on your home planet is super bored and over worked! So you and your bestie have decided to take everyone on a trip to Crazy Time Planet where everyone can let off some steam. Unfortunately, things go wrong and you crash into Super Chill World, your friends don’t realise they’re on the wrong planet and start to cause chaos. It’s up to you and your pal to collect up all your friends before they cause too much damage and drive the Super Chill residents insane.”

Personal Thoughts: Cute and weird, which the games industry can never have enough of. A game like this would work well in a video arcade cabinet, and I would spend the quarters for it.

Inside the PAX West 2016

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The PAX West 2016 show was all right.

Formerly known as PAX Prime, the original Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle held its own for another year for the video gaming and tabletop gaming communities. For the digital forefront, definite trends showed well in the big rooms; with a rise in live-streaming channels, virtual reality (VR) tech, open-world games, and e-sports competitions. Final Fantasy XV, the new Warcraft expansion, ARK: Survival Evolved, Earthfall, Hob stood out as the most heavily promoted. Among fans, games held their own presence with little developer support with ever-present cosplay and fan cheer; such includes but not limited to are Overwatch, League of Legends, Pokémon Go, Street Fighter, past Final Fantasy games, and anything Nintendo franchise-based.

The physical tabletop realms were not as loud but just as colorful with their own trends in party-based card games. Cards Against Humanity, Exploding Kittens, Pathfinder, Dungeons & Dragons, Magic the Gathering had rooms and whole areas. Many newcomers fresh off their Kickstarters were easily accessible, but not as visible in the basement ACT Theater and Floor 6 areas. Everywhere, willing players can spend time meeting new friends while discovering new games to play. Merchants selling games and gaming paraphernalia were also present.

Below, are my choice moments of the 2016 PAX west show, captured in time with a little blurb on each:

The best booth of the show is definitely the one promoting ARK: Survival Evolved, where attendees may go up a staircase and mount a large dinosaur.

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Some awesome creature promoting the Earthfall game

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The Nintendo handheld booth moved for this year, now in the indoors area..

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The Logitech gaming and computer accessories booth had a fantastic light display that utilized light-up keyboards, showing changing animations.

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A couple of cosplay promoters at the Puzzles and Dragons booth.

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The Bandai-Namco booth greeted fans with a cool group of Tekken cosplayers.

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Gamers gotta game, even in full warrior attire…

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Dungeon League, by Surprise Attack, got much attention at their booth. I like the pretty colors..

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Mekazoo, a fantastic looking side-scroller still in development but playable here. I look forward to its eventual release.

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A giant skull with screens on its shades. Love it!

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The upcoming South Park: Fractured but Whole game, presented here with the Nosulous Rift device, which is capable of emitting fart smells into the nostrils of its players. Yup, technology has come a long way!

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Not sure from this cosplayer hails from, but her presentation is awesome.

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A pathway many PAX attendees will easily miss, hidden almost behind the main escalator. For the moment, there is a quiet almost calming ambiance.

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The small room where the Cards with Humanity game and game exclusives are sold, along with some interesting new games (of which I should have written down, but I remember a game called Secret Hitler stood out)

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A trio of cosplayers on break..

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The Nintendo Lounge area, now with a section I think houses the Pokémon crowd…

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A tense game of Jenga with giant blocks

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A Warhammer miniatures game set-up on the Skybridge…

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An amazing construct of the USS Missouri made of Lego bricks, to promote the World of Warships game…

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Amazing detail!

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A sample scenario from an odd game called God Hates Charades.

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A trip of cosplayers emulating the cast of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.

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The famous Paramount Theater, used by the Wizards of the Coast company to host their Magic the Gathering card game tournaments and gameplays…

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A closer look at that stage…

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A gaming creator and designer pioneer, Tetsuya Mizuguchi. His produced Lumines, Rex, Meteos, Space Channel 5. He also directed Child of Eden.

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A new game for the Playstation 4, Drawn to Death, where the player fights to survive a demented notebook of sinister sketches. This, was my favorite banner of the show.

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Not sure what game this was promoting, but bravo to the awesome puppetry design and craft work.

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“Cindy” with her truck promoting the Final Fantasy XV game.

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And at the end of my PAX trip, a cheerful gang of Toads!

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Well, that’s all for this year, as I look forward to the next.

– Orion T

2015 PAX PRIME Pics & Notes, Part 2 – People

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(continued from Part 1: Places)

The best part of PAX Prime?

Some would say the games, the featured content of what attendees came for. But I think, it’s the people of these conventions that make the travel as worthwhile. Here, are some pics of people that made the show memorable and fun…

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The PAC-MAN fever is strong in this PAX!

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Bethesda, makers of the Fallout franchise, brought out the inner Vault Boys in many goers!

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Many came here to game and engage in massive tournaments. Good luck to all of them!

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A new game is coming out based on the world of Mad Max. This group I think was helping to promote, or just show that they are ready for the coming post Apocalypse.

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Not sure what game these awesome cosplayers are from (probably League of Legends).

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The other Raiden vs Kung Lao..

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King’s Quest 2015, Art director Evan Cagle did some sweet living drawing at the Sierra booth,

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These awesome ladies display much classic gaming pride..

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Not sure which game (or maybe anime) this family is from, but this reminds me that I should update my medical insurance soon.

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Deep underneath the PAX, a small room for new card games were presented by their makers. My favorite was Bad Detectives, a story building game of murder and suspense by Zach Burton.

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Elan Lee, and Mathew Inman (of The Oatmeal); creators of Exploding Kittens, the most successful Kickstarter project yet. They signed my Exploding Kittens game!  The other picture (not here) I took was really blurry. At least I got the hand sanitizer in good focus..an unsung hero of PAX for some.

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Two (of the eight) co-creators of Cards Against Humanity..I forgot to jot their names down. They signed a random card for me and gave good cheer!

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A Red cosplayer, from the game Transistor. Always love when fans show pride in the lesser known but just as good entertainment properties out there.

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Erik Kjerland gave a most excellent demo of his new and violently fun sci-fi sports game, Slaughterball..

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Meanwhile at the Capcom booth, Ryu and Chun-Li can’t wait for the new Street Fighter V game!

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A cosplayer from League of Legends..

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Part of the fun of PAX are the “Pinny Arcade” pin collectors. Some pins are worth a lot, as some enthusiasts can get pretty hardcore. Here is one page from a collector.

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Another page..

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Some just got any pins to put upon. A lanyard is always a good place..

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From Borderlands? I think..

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A Dalek showed up, ready to EXTERMINATE!!

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Solid Snake sneaks around, in time for the release of Metal Gear Solid: Phantom Pain..

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From Pokemon, I think.

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Promotion for the Mad Max video game was well received by the PAXers, especially with the pimped out cars lined up near the entrance.

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Here’s one..

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That’s all for now for this year in pictures and notes for PAX Prime 2015. Thanks to all who partook in this grand show, and those who read this far. I enjoyed this much, and hope you did too.

– Orion T

2015 PAX PRIME Pics & Notes, Part 1: Places

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Deep within the Seattle concrete jungle, PAX Prime came back for another kickass year.

This Penny Arcade Expo remains a fantastic gaming get together for all players to come together with those who make and promote them. For me, it’s a more of an adventure of discovery and enlightenment. Lots of new games were noticed, digital and tabletop. Along the way, I found treasures of awesome material exclusives, swag, and some awesome shared moments. I also took pictures and notes.

Here below is the first half of pics, featuring more of the places and things I saw on the PAX floors..

Above and below are typical of the main showroom floors, where the biggest and loudest companies happen. PC equipment, indie games, VR tech, gameplay streaming services were the biggest risers of this year for showroom presence.

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The 2K booth showcased their latest game; Battleborn, a first-person shooter with multi-player options, developed by Gearbox.

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The Dark Souls III fountain display at the front entrance. Notice the cool blood effect..

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The typical gameplay of PAX inhabitants, many trying out the newest games and others engaging in a little multi-player fun.

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Yes, there were cosplayers around like this jolly fellow from League of Legends. but not as many around the booths this time. More cosplayers in my next PAX entry.

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Much massive competition and cheering on. I think this is League of Legends…never played it, so not sure.

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At the Yacht Club booth, we have some Shovel Knight figurines that are part of Nintendo’s Amibo toy series. As far as I know, the Shovel Knight is not a part of the Nintendo universe, nor has it crossed over yet. I was told these are only licensed figures by Yacht from Nintendo.

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The almost lengthy pathway walk to the area for the Cards Against Humanity, Exploding Kittens, and other interesting, yet different community friendly card games.

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Outside and around the back on Union Street, is the Cards Against Humanity Popsicle truck. Fitting in with the twisted humor of the popular card game, you can buy these Popsicle with exclusive cards inside them. One must go through all three for a set. The mango flavor not really mango, but more of a bland tasting Mango-Fuck-Yourself (said on the wrapper).

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I like the title..

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The Nintendo booth, mainly focused on Super Mario Maker game.

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There was also the usual lounge in a separate area featuring the new games of teh Legend of Zelda, and Starfox franchises.

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The Behemoth Booth, a favorite company of mine. A new HD remix of Castle Crashers is coming, yay!

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Fallout 4 fun at the Bethesda booth. Mr. Handy (I think that’s its name) moved and made noises. A closer look is features in a later picture..

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Staring at the Pikachu Balloon from Pokemon behind the Alienware, while I wait to play the Oculus VR. The Pokemon booth featured the mobile card game for handheld phones and tablets, which is not by Nintendo.

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The Minecraft booth, featuring a new “Story Mode.”

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Back at Bethesda, a closer look at “Mr. Handy” of Fallout

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Also at Bethesda, this killer robot thing from Dishonored.

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Again at the Bethesda booth, is something from Doom..

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At the Sony PlayStation booth, fans may add to this wall.

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Because not all things great and new are video games.. Here is a game of Superfight, a new card game gains much attention and a growing fan following. I will try it out sometime..

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One of many playable board games at PAX. I really like the design on this one..

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One of many games one can take part in, within the hallway areas outside of the PAX reserved spots. Here and there, outsiders with no badge can take part in gameplays and demos (mostly tabletop).

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A statue from WarMachine Tactics guarded the bridge area between the main Showroom 4 floors..

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Love the Alienware logo. Also noted are the aggressive social media campaigns of the big hitters. Many would hand out raffle entries or trinkets in exchange for posting tweets and likes along with using special hashtags or pictures, or join as a “follower.” It’s PR marketing you can take to the bank!

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The Magic the Gathering display outside is massive and awesome.

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The other side of the above, a large area to the ever popular Magic the Gathering card game.

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Well, that is all for now. In Part 2, I will present the many wonderful people of PAX. Many of which will be cosplayers, developers, artists, and other representatives of the gaming culture. Check back soon, on Strangerworlds.com.

– Orion T