PAX Prime Day 4 and a Day 3 Epilogue

Day 4 of PAX was incredibly low key for me, as I headed up to the show floor around lunch time just to take a lap around the expo floors and see the Gearbox panel. The only thing that really grabbed my attention was Escape Goat 2, a title I'd heard about before but knew almost nothing about. I finally got close enough to the Klei merchandise booth to see that they were selling Alpha access to Incognita, and I couldn't give them $17 fast enough. I also got some hands on time with an MSI G-series laptop, which was useful as I consider getting that or a Razr Blade as I've missed having a laptop for gaming on the go. My takeaway after using both: I'd be okay with either. I'm not sold on the Blade touch interface thing, and the MSI is significantly cheaper. More research is needed, but I'm leaning MSI if the performance is comparable.

The Gearbox panel was disappointing, but not for reasons of content. The main theater for PAX East is Seatle's Paramount Theater, an actual, honest to god theater, not a gussied up hotel or convention center meeting room like most of the other "theaters." I had a very difficult time hearing a lot of the panel from my position in the back of the theater and under the balcony overhang. the panelists were mic'ed, but Randy Pitchford was the only person I could hear semi-reliably. They announced some more Borderlands 2 content, including skins and heads and more packs like the forthcoming TK Baha's Headhunter pack. Borderlands 2 cosplayers were given their own diamond loot chest that had previsouly sold out on ThinkGeek, and they announced that those chests would e coming back to ThinkGeek later this month. They're also making figures based on the Borderlands 2 hero characters, and the Zer0 prototype they had on hand looked impressive. They also talked about Gearbox Community Day, which will be streamed on Twitch, complete with a special purchasable stream upgrade that includes an HD stream, exclusive Borderlands 2 skins and heads, and access to a closed beta for an unannounced project. I don't remember if the words 'New IP" were attached to that or not. Finally, they talked a little about the Homeworld franchise and the recently announced partnership with Blackbird to make Hardware: Shipbreakers - or Homeworld: Shipbreakers as it's now know. Both original and HD versions of Homeworld 1 and 2 will be coming in early 2014, and those who purchase the community day HD stream will get a free copy of Homeworld 1 Classic and HD. Those purchasers, however, won't include the panel attendees, as everyone in the theater was given a code for that package with the stream, Borderlands 2 customization items, closed beta access, and HOmeworld copies plus a code for the new Borderlands 2 content releasing tomorrow. The panel, in my expert opinion based on attending one before while in the throws of a seriously mind-altering fever, was exactly what I expected. Gearbox gives stuff away with decent value and seems to value the appreciation they receive from their fans. I know a lot of people were rightly burned by Aliens: Colonial Marines, but I don't think any studio sets out to make a bad game, and I have gotten far more enjoyment out of Borderlands and Borderlands 2 than almost any other franchise. At the very least, they appear to be being very careful with their new, beloved space-based IP.

Day Three of PAX Prime actually ended for me with the livestream of the Cards Against Humanity panel after I published my last blog. I got some rest and went to see Cards Against Humanity Live at the Triple Door Theater, which meant I wouldn't be able to see their panel in a 500 person theater. Normally, the CAH PAX panel is a chance for the crowd to pitch card ideas to the CAH team, but past panels were always moderated by Ryan Davis. This year's panel was a parade of Ryan's friends, sharing memories and clips of their time together; it was a beautiful, cathartic, hilarious, disgusting, tearful goodbye. I was able to keep my emotions in check watching at home until John Vignocchi tired to speak and got choked up. Dan Teasdale may have stolen the show with the full testimonial video Ryan and Jeff shot for the Drake Tracker app. I was fortunate enough to run into Stephen Toulouse, who was part of the panel, this afternoon, and I told him how much I enjoyed hearing him on the E3 Bombcasts. His immediate reaction was a simple "I miss my friend Ryan." He said a little later that he wasn't a spiritual person at all, but it felt like Ryan was present and, in his words, "Ryan would have loved that panel." I am, like Stepto, not spiritual and I can't speak to what it felt like in the room, but seeing a dais of Max Temkin, Jeff, Johnny V, Dan Teasdale, John Drake, Eric Pope, Brad Muir, Mikey Neumann, Stepto, e, Dave Lang, and on and on...I couldn't help but think of the impressive legacy Ryan left behind of funny, creative, interesting people being connected in their love of fun. That's a damn fine legacy in my mind.

With that, I have to pack for a 6:00 am flight to SFO, then a 9:30 back to DC. Fortunately, the only new stuff I have taking up space in my suitcase are the Cards Against Humanity Bigger, Blacker Box and a poster they signed for me after the Triple Door show. And a shitload of flyers, which I'll weed out crap from usefull stuff with codes on Wednesday, my last day of vacation.

PAX is an amazing experience. This afternoon, leaving the convention center, I felt fulfilled, excited for games that are coming, and kind of pissed I hadn't been able to take advantage of my vacation to play more games in my backlog. That last thing may not seem like much, but there have been evenings or weekends when my "What should I play now? inner monologue turned into "Whatever is in the PS3 or Xbox...eh, I'm not feeling those, maybe something downloaded...nothing grabs me - ooh, Law and Order reruns are on!" PAX is a chance to see the best of the gaming industry and community and really recharge. I also fell in love with the city, and have three things to keep in mind for next year:

1. Stay at the Sheraton or Grand Hyatt, which are closer to the Convention Center and actually host panels

OR:

2. Be in better shape so the easy walk from the Westin doesn't result in me pouring sweat out of every pore - clearly the better option.

OR

3. Find a job in Seattle. Move here. Clearly the best option.

So long, PAX. Thanks for a great, refreshing vacation.

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