So I spent the majority of my weekend at PAX Australia, a gaming convention held in Melbourne which was its first appearance outside the United States. I have to say I was pretty excited about it as we don’t get events of this caliber coming to Australia very often with most of them only sharing the name of their bigger brethren. Whilst I was excited to see what they’d bring to us I was more hoping to look at it as a blogging opportunity since there’d be a lot of industry people there and there’s always the chance they will reveal something amazing that I could then pass onto you. It wasn’t anything like that however and whilst I don’t regret my decision to go down at all I do feel like PAXAus was suffering from some major 1.0 issues, ones that I thought they would’ve figured out given their heritage.
The first day I was there I spent the majority of my time attempting to get into the various sessions I wanted to see which turned out to be a really bad idea. Now this might be because I’m used to the Microsoft style conventions where you’re pretty much guaranteed to get into anything you feel like, even when they go over capacity, but it was clear from the start that if you wanted to get into something you had to be lining up at least an hour before hand. The more popular the session the longer the line was that you had to join which culminated in a 2 hour stint that my friends and I undertook just so we could see the BioWare panel. It was clear that they had underestimated the potential popularity of these panels as they were always packed out so there’s definitely room for improvement there, possibly with the introduction of pre-registering for the ones you want to see so they can get a better judge of numbers. That or simply showing them on a big screen outside the room, something which was entirely possible given that they were filming all of the sessions.
I really enjoyed the Expo Hall however as that was pretty much geek nirvana with everything from hardware vendors to indie developers peddling their wares on the floor. I managed to strike up several good conversations with many of the developers, most of whom were more than happy to be extremely candid about their games and the development behind them. I probably got one developer off side when I mentioned that their developer name didn’t match their games (The Voxel Agents, if you’re curious as they don’t have any voxel based games) but they took it in their stride and I wasn’t trying to offend them. Most of the bigger booths (World of Tanks, League of Legends, Saints Row 4) were less inviting due to the large lines/crowds and the obviously tailored experience but they were still interesting to browse through.
However I had the most fun doing what I love doing: playing games with my close mates. The console and PC free play zones are an incredibly awesome idea and the set ups they had for managing player time are by far the best I’ve seen anywhere. Whilst I was a bit miffed that there’s now a mandatory tutorial requirement on all new installs of DOTA2 (something which can’t be skipped and takes at least an hour) we did have a lot of fun revisiting old titles. We even got a massive TF2 game going which was heaps of fun and we ended up playing right up until they had to kick everyone out for the night. That’ll definitely be one of my fondest memories of PAXAus.
I think I’ll be coming back next year although I might curtail my expectations somewhat. Whilst it would be amazing to go from session to session and blog about everything it seems like, at least in the 1.0 version of PAXAus, that’s just not feasible, at least if I want to enjoy myself whilst I’m there. Don’t get me wrong though, the sessions I did manage to get into were awesome, but considering I only got into 2 out of the 10 or so I wanted to go to speaks volumes to the effort required to get into them. I’m sure that all these issues will be sorted out by next year though and if history is anything to go by the next one should be much bigger and, hopefully, better.