Last weekend thousands of gamers, a hoard of over-enthusiastic cosplay fanatics and a handful of games journalists, got together in Boston for the first Penny Arcade Expo on the east coast, and indeed, one of the only significant conventions of its type to grace the region, what with all the larger developers tending to favour the west coast. We have Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, creators of the Penny Arcade web comic, to thank for Penny Arcade Expo, who sensibly decided there was a gaping hole in the circuit of gaming conventions. Thus PAX was dreamt up to bring gamers together, whether they are console or PC fans, developers or enthusiasts, journalists or musicians, to celebrate the gaming culture we all hate to admit we adore.
This year’s PAX allowed some of the lower-profile titles in development to get a well deserved look in, and top of everyone’s list was Atomic Games’ Breach, a multiplayer first person shooter set for release on Xbox Live Arcade this summer (with a PC launch following shortly after) for $15. Breach offers a XP levelling system, multiple gametypes, gadgets and 23 weapons for you to wreak havoc with, in its fully destructible environments; think Battlefield: Bad Company 2 meets Counterstrike. The folks at Atomic Games clearly aim to cash in on the success of DICE’s hugely successful Battlefield 1943, and with all frills Breach is set to offer, I wouldn’t be surprised if makes a dime or two.
Speaking of Battlefield 1943, DICE candidly announced that it had no further plans for the downloadable title, despite such successes as being the fastest title to reach one million downloads on Xbox ever; however, new iterations of the franchise are, reportedly, a possibility.
There were of course a few chances to catch a glimpse of some triple A titles as well – Ubisoft brought the new Prince of Persia game to the floor, subtitled The Forgotten Sands along with some gameplay footage. It marks a departure from recent offerings, or rather a return to stylings and features of 2003’s Sands of Time, re-instituting the much acclaimed time-rewind element once again and throwing in some tougher platforming sections to compliment the mechanic.
Game developers Visceral used their panel to throw the audience into some satisfyingly over the top action, straight from the sequel to its award-winning Dead Space. The survival horror, ostensibly scheduled for a 2011 Quarter 1 release date, appears to include jetpacks and locomotive-based action at the very least, so keep an eye out for this one.
Perhaps one of the most anticipated titles paraded at PAX East was Rockstar’s Red Dead: Redemption, a game that’s certainly come along way and had its fair share of development hardships. The western sandbox adventure/shooter looks set to hit on all the staples of classic western flicks; from skinning to sheriffs, stage coach chases to bank robberies, Read Dead is a welcome prospect after a few admirable, but largely flawed attempts at the western genre. Expect the kind of vast and extravagant sandbox experiences Rockstar are so skilled at creating, when Red Dead: Redemption launches this May.
On the tech side, Nvidia strutted its new graphics cards: the XLR8 GeForce GTX 480 1536MB ($500) and XLR8 GeForce GTX 470 1280MB ($350), with the former officially taking the title of fastest single-GPU card in the world, doubtlessly causing PC uber gamers to salivate in their sleep.
Meanwhile Larry “Major Nelson” Hryb made good on promises that Xbox would bring out a branded flash drive. The 16GB USB pen will be available come May, and although it is, as of yet, not priced, you can bet your bottom dollar, it’ll be steep, if Microsoft’s previous exploits tell us anything.
Penny Arcade Expo East brought many delights ranging from chiptune concerts to the sound of a thousand knuckles (despite how it sounds, that’s not martial arts movie); other gaming delights included the original and quirky side-scroller Comic Jumper from Twisted pixel, some good clean exploding fun in the eagerly awaited Crackdown 2, extremely extensive player customisation in Skate 3 and a whole lot of whoop-ass in the appropriately titled, indie side-scroller Shank.
Self-confessed geek and gamer Wil Wheaton gave the keynote for PAX this year and sent away every single attendee inspired and energized. Wil’s keynote centred on how games have evolved and their importance for us, touching on the friendships they create, the battles gamers have won against its adversaries and his own personal experiences, no doubt immediately relatable to many. His reference-littered speech expertly captured the spirit of PAX, celebrating gaming for what it is, regardless of age, and as a result elicited applause after applause. Whether or not you still reminisce over the days of D&D and Arcades, Wheaton’s nerd culture tribute is most definitely worth a listen.
Not so delightful was the kid, Justin May, who attempted to steal Atomic Games’, previously mentioned Breach, thought to be worth $6 million, who was thankfully apprehended. May is now set to appear in court after having missed the first date, reportedly playing Modern Warfare 2, at least according to the information garnered from his gamertag!
PAX holds a unique position in the array of increasing gaming conventions and expos, in that it brings all gamers, no matter who they are, together to celebrate games without any exclusivity or too much marketing twaddle; Indeed PAX East specifically, comes in before the summer, dodging the period traditionally set aside for hyping and advertising forthcoming games, meaning there’s much less of a self-promotional feel to the event, also allowing indie games to get some attention. The Expo’s east coast debut brought in an unanticipated count of attendees, numbering up to 52,000 and as such, is confirmed for two more years in even larger venues.
This has been a guest post from Toby Edwards – The creator of My Two Senses gaming blog, be sure to take a look and check it out!
Image Source – Kotaku