As previously mentioned, Julianne Greer and I traveled a great distance to PAX this weekend. We woke up (or just didn't sleep) at 4am Saturday morning to head towards the airport where we embarked on a 7-hour journey to Seattle. After spending 45 minutes waiting for our luggage and feeling the effects of being severely dehydrated (that whole no-liquids-can-be-brought-on-planes thing) we made it to our hotel, cleaned up and headed over to the convention.
First impressions include extreme sensory overload. It was obvious from the start that PAX was bursting at the seams this year. A larger venue will be a welcome change. Lines for the main theater were being pushed outside and down the building, the exhibit hall was almost wall-to-wall people and the walk ways were smothered with people playing on handhelds and asleep in bean bag chair. Due to the insane Seattle heat (all of 80 degrees) and the sleeping gamers there was an unpleasant eu de PAX that followed us around all weekend.
We spent most of Saturday afternoon touring the exhibit hall. Perhaps the most exciting thing about Saturday was getting a preview of Eets. Those of you that checked out Armadillo Run which was mentioned in the first podcast might get a kick out of Eets as it is a similar concept, however a little (er, lot) less serious. Many of the puzzle pieces are prankster whales, radioactive ginseng and pigs that "shoot things out of their ass". Yes, that's exactly what we were told in the demo. Also, you can control the emotions of your little Eets dude to help control the outcome of the puzzle. Eets is available on the website for $10 and there is a free trial if you're interested in giving it a shot before buying.
Saturday evening we attended an extremely interesting panel on the importance of community to PR/Marketing folk. Panelists included Jenny Bendel from ArenaNet, Frank from Bungie, Chris Charla from Foundation 9 and Victor 'Sporkfire' Wachter from Turbine. Topics included how blogs and community affect the marketing of games and what PR and marketing do to help blogs and community. For the most part, I got the feeling that all of the panelists enjoyed the role community plays for games - both the good and the bad. I say 'for the most part' because one panelist specifically mentioned bringing the ban-stick down on the bad publicity, but the other panelists look towards bad publicity for ways to improve and things to look at. Frank from Bungie mentioned that one of his favorite sites to read is Halo 2 Sucks because he gets true honest opinions and can correct them when needed. Jenny's word of the evening was 'organic' because she feels that the osmotic nature of community and PR is 'organic'.
On Sunday Julianne had her panel with Chris from Joystiq, Brian from Kotaku, and MC from Broadcast Gamer. The panel went well and if you haven't heard Major Nelson recorded the entire panel to download.
My personal highlight of Sunday had to have been getting a demo of Neverwinter Nights 2 complete with a demo of the toolset. We were shown character creation, a bit of the tutorial and a siege battle towards the end of the game. The toolset looks amazing and much more robust than before. Any in-game level can be recreated using the toolset. The game is beautiful and, from what I can tell, as fun as the first.
Overall, PAX was a good time (past the smell) and we saw a lot of good stuff and met some good people. One note to those that put on PAX though: Don't close down your food service 3+ hours ahead of when the show is over.