PAX 2008 Retrospective

pax08-review

I'm BAAAAAACK!!!

Well, we were retired, but welcome to version THREE of “The Wrath of El Pato”. I am El Pato, your insane, tired, and great wealth of knowledge author of all things that literally SUCK in the video game world.

As asked by the boss, this column will now appear on OCmodshop.com every week, on either Tuesday or Wednesday. Expect me to point out how some people don’t know how to do their jobs, and why some games simply rule. Other than that, let’s get to what is up this week shall we?

I went to E3…errrr PAX. To be honest, the show has come a long ways in five years from when it was in that insanely small venue from the first two years. I played a lot of games, talked to a lot of people, and ate a lot of Cliff Bars. Overall, my impression on the show itself was mixed. It’s obvious the people at Penny-Arcade are gods now, and they put everything they had into it. In execution though, there was so much that could have been done that was simply out of Gabe and Tycho’s hands. I’ll get to that in the interview, but first:

CODEMASTERS STILL SUCKS

If anyone thought that Codemasters was going to be awesome with anything they made, they just cemented themselves as the worst PR people ever at the show. For one thing, I showed up and they BOOTED off a person who just walked up to the demo just so I could play it. Hey! That’s great that they are helping me, but for the love of God! We had a good two hours Friday to play our games as media people- kicking someone off their game sends the wrong message.

What was even funnier was playing Rise of the Argonauts. It’s a cool idea, but when they said they were making a game with an involving story and loosely base it on Greek mythology, I just shrugged my shoulders and said, “Oh, so it’s like God of War.”

“No, God of War has a bunch of action but not much story, this game has you going and doing things with Greek Mythology as a background, not as a main story.”
“Oh, so it’s like God of War.”

The guy looked like he wasn’t going to change me there, so he started reciting a script of game junk for me to hear about how great this game was. If I didn’t know the game was coming out at the end of the month, I may have been a bit more accepting to the choppy animation and difficult controls. This game, however, has roughly 30 days and they have a lot of bugs to squash before this thing gets released.

The game was as stubborn as a mother in law. I was told you could do combos by switching weapons mid-combo but could never seem to figure it out, the frame rate was choppy, and the lock-on feature was horrible.

The best one though was the invisible wall that shows up around the area. I bumped into some invisible barrier between me and an area that went liquidly like a scene from the matrix and looked at the Codemasters staff member who was watching me.

“What the hell is this?” I asked.
“We put those there to keep you close to combat,” He answered.
Alright, that’s a good idea. No scaling walls here.
The best part came after I walked into another room and started slashing the hell outta enemies. One of them kept jumping back from my slashes THROUGH the invisible wall. I couldn’t get through it and he just hung out there.
“Uh,” I began. “Is this little invisible wall you have here also supposed to give enemies a place to hide or something? Cuz I can’t finish him off when he is taking a breather in there”
Now get this, by far the dumbest thing ever said today:
“Oh no, you are just not letting him out, back off a little so he can come out and you can kill him”
Are you F**KING KIDDING ME?! So enemies can hide behind this invisible wall but I can’t finish them without letting them out? What kind of horsesh*t is this?
Let’s forget that this is simply a Zelda rip-off with some Castlevania thrown in. Let’s forget that this game is them trying to do what God of War did, but with more mythology involved.  Let us even bring up the fact that they didn’t even do their homework on Greek mythology.
At the end I learned how to level up by offering up deeds or some crap to the gods. I saw one guy with a long beard and a spear.
“Oh, that’s Poseidon,” I said.
“No,” the Codemasters guy said. “That’s Zeus.”

I looked at him and back at the game, “Hey dude, I’m sure that that is Poseidon, he carried a Trident, but I’ve seen him with a spear, that’s Poseidon.”

“No,” he said being argumentative “That’s Zeus, Zeus carried a spear, remember?”

The only Greek stories I read that got me a college degree were the ones where Zeus went ape-sh*t and threw thunderbolts around like there was no tomorrow. Apparently, mythological continuity is of no concern to the writers here.

After a few more areas, I set the controller down and ran far away from Codemaster’s booth. I didn’t even mention Damnation, read my article on first impressions, I don’t have a good story to go along with the adventure of playing that, but it just shows me Codemasters still doesn’t get it.

Alright, let’s get to PAX itself:
THE WRATH IS ON PAX:

Believe it or not, I went to the Penny-Arcade Expo the first year it was conceived, way back when it was in Bellevue at that horrible venue. It wasn’t bad, it was just too damn small.


Hell, this place is small as hell too, with all the hub-bub going around, I think more space would have been rewarding.
PAX started up on Friday with a media day to have all the people with media badges come in early to play stuff before the crowds showed up. After that was done, the entire continent of North America came in to play all the games not released to the crowd.

 

There were concerts on Friday and Saturday night, both spectacular. Both needed a mosh pit though.

The gaming on Saturday wasn’t too bad. Things didn’t get overly cramped until around 1:00PM and by then, I was pretty much done seeing everything. Valve had a nice Left 4 Dead booth set up, and from what I played, we may have our game of the year. Unlike Codemasters, Valve set up a media area so we could still come play the game after media hours and WITHOUT kicking the public off the kiosks.

When Codemasters did that I really felt bad for the public. It was nice they did it for me, but let me wait like everyone else.

Surprisingly, Blizzard’s booth was weak. They had Starcraft II demos set up along with Wrath of The Lich King demos, both of which you had upwards of an hour and a half wait to play.  Personally, the Wrath demos could give you a good idea of what’s in store WITHOUT playing. Starcraft II though, now THAT was pretty.  The game easily has graphics that beat out WOW’s and the actual strategy of the game is much different than how Warcraft III’s was, so it isn’t just “Warcraft with spaceships” anymore.

Blizzard did succeed in pissing people off with their inconsistent scheduling. They were trying to do a competition of the public against Blizzard employees in Starcraft II, for a spot in the beta. Unfortunately, no one really knew how things were being done with this, so much in fact that half the public missed out on the sign-ups for the comp.

Other companies did a good job innovating their games. EA had a nice passport system set up, that said if you played all their games on the floor, you got free crap. A nice idea, but that really brings me to my next problem:

Was it just me, or was the innovation really gone this year? Not PAX in general, but with gaming companies trying to copy everyone else. Left 4 Dead was the only game really offering anything new, and everything else was a copy of something. Starcraft II was great,

Need for Speed Undercover looked superb, but there was just nothing but blatant copies. In one corner we have Guild Wars, in the other, some Korean company trying to shove another MMO down our throats. Diversity in the gaming industry is gone, and they have to sell what will make money. It’s understandable but it’s also sad. I looked at a person from Garage Games and said, “I’m kinda bored.”

He looked at me, “Dude, I was as hardcore as they come, I hear ya, things are changing.”

But the one thing that was shocking, far above all the clone games and my boredom, was PAX’s obvious immaturity with itself as a convention.

This year they pissed us off at the Fallout 3 Demo. We have a theater full of people waiting in line for a good hour, hour and a half, and when the line starts moving, they cut it off halfway. A good 100 people, who waited, lost an hour of their lives. It’s cool if the theater was full, that’s understandable. But it isn’t understandable when an enforcer can’t walk into the theater and head count everyone that can be let in while cutting the line off to everyone else so they can quit wasting their time. They have them doing other crap like making sure lines stay straight, why not get one of those guys and have them head count. And let us not forget the fact that cutting in that line was sooooo freaking obvious. You have enforcers, for the love of God USE THEM.

Other than that. It’s obvious that this thing is becoming E3, and rightly so, E3 was becoming a public convention. That’s why it got downsized in the first place. Anyone who had access to a computer could get a ticket if they knew what they were doing, so we got PAX instead. It’s a good thing overall, but after 5 years, it seems like some people just aren’t taking this seriously. I am not bashing Gabe and Tycho in the slightest as this is their passion, and these are things left out of their hands. They just draw the map, but the other people need to use some fricking common sense when it comes to lines and the like rather than just wrongly use those enforcers, who would have killed their mother for a chance at this.

Developers also need to take this thing more seriously. Get some good, original titles to show and not just something for your pissing contest with Bungie. Not just Codemasters, but everywhere. The place was half a job fair and half a video game convention. Not that I mind, it’s the best place to network your resume. But when there are signs up saying “Now Hiring,” give me a break.

With all things considered, I am going with a B – and calling it a night. We’ll have more PAX stuff up over the week as the OCmodshop boys get some sleep and can post more. As for me, well, make sure to send me a line. El Pato outo.

Patrick is a freelance gaming journalist and crime-fighting penguin at night. He has tweets, and you can follow them.