As of this writing, SOE Live 2014 is ongoing. While primarily watching streams for EverQuest Next info, I've found myself watching several of the panels for the original EverQuest. That combined with Dan's recent virginal forays into WoW have caused my nostalgia for EQ to flare up again (more so than usual). I've spent a considerable amount of time on the wiki here trying to document the game, but I feel like it'd be cool if there was a place to talk about it, share memories, and maybe find out some of us played on the same server way back when. I don't expect this post to be super popular, but we'll see.
A while back I wrote some blogs about specific memories. I should start doing that again.
Feel free to share any stories of your grand and/or nefarious adventures in Norrath below. And if you post your character(s) name, server, guild name, and when you played, I'll add it to the list. Who knows? Maybe we played together.
Three and a half years ago, I started writing a PAX Guide for Giant Bomb duders who wanted to get the best possible experience out of the Penny Arcade Expo. I went on updating it twice a year to the point where it’s basically been the same for the last couple editions. Well, it’s time to mix it up a little bit. If you’ve checked out a version of the guide in the past, you likely know that I’ve been through ten E3s, two Dragon*Cons, and what is about to be twelve PAXs. While I have quite a bit of personal experience in game-related shows, it’s thanks to help from a lot of y’all that I think we’ve got all the pertinent info nailed down. Hopefully, I can present it in a concise, helpful fashion.
The Washington State Convention Center is in a perfect location. Anything you could possibly want to see or do in Seattle is within walking distance (or maybe a short monorail ride). From the moment you get off your plane at SeaTac, you can walk to the Lightrail, pay a few bucks and ride all the way into downtown. At that point, you’re close to all the major hotels, the Pike Place Market, dozens of great places to eat, an arcade, a 5-minute monorail to the Seattle Center (Space Needle and museums), and, of course, the convention center.
Giant Bomb @ PAX
Your best bet to meet the Giant Bomb crew is probably the meet-up on Friday night, but if you missed out on signing up for that or you're just not a premium member, then these panels are going to be the next best chance. There's at least one panel every day of the show (except Monday...sort of) that features at least one member of the staff, so whether you have a 4-day badge or you're only able to attend one day this year, here's what you need to know.
Enforcers are a legion of volunteers that make PAX run efficiently. It would be a hot mess without them. In the old days, they would don the black. But, now that there are multiple versions of PAX, Prime Enforcers are coated in blue. If you need help with anything, just look for one of them. They’re never too far away. And if they ask you nicely to do something (like move out of an aisle/walkway), please do so.
Even if you don’t normally use Twitter, you should sign up just to follow these accounts while you’re at PAX. It’s the best and easiest way to get up-to-the-minute updates on what’s going on.
@pax_tourney - News on the dozens of tournaments going on upstairs.
@paxparties - An unofficial feed for the unofficial parties going on all weekend.
The Packing List
Here's what you need to bring with you especially if you're coming in from out of town.
Most places (including vendors in the expo hall) will take credit/debit cards, but it’s probably a good idea to carry a little cash just in case. And if you need to hit an ATM, do it early in the day as they sometimes run out of money later on.
Whatever your style of choice is, bring one. Don’t rely on getting a free bag at the show. They’re often cumbersome and there’s no guarantee you’ll find one anyway. Trust me…carrying a bunch of random stuff you pick up throughout the day is going to suck without a backpack. Make it at least a 10-slotter. If it has weight reduction, all the better.
Phone & Charger
Duh. You need your phone. But don’t be a dumb and forget your charger and/or wall plug. Pro Tip: Turn your brightness down as far as you can tolerate. Keeping up with your friends at night through texts and/or Twitter is gonna be tough if your phone dies by 2 PM.
Consider buying an external USB battery pack. It’s been a life saver for me the last couple years. Worth every penny. Plus, if you get an adapter, it'll keep your 3DS and/or Vita truckin' too.
Choose your weapon of choice…or dual wield! You will undoubtedly find some downtime (like waiting in line), and you will never be in a better place for local, handheld multiplayer. And then there’s StreetPassing. Oh…the StreetPassing. I see that green light flashing in my sleep.
There will be dispensers scattered around the buildings, but do yourself a favor and toss a little bottle in your bag and use it every time you play something.
If you can fit it in your luggage, this is a veteran move. You might get a cool poster at PAX. You might even get it signed by Todd Howard. Make sure you have a way to get it home without crushing it.
Yep. A trash bag. Just throw it in your luggage. Use it later for dirty clothes, which will keep your stank-ass, sweaty socks off of the cool stuff you bring back on the way home.
The Daily List
Here's a few things that you should do every day.
For the love of Bristlebane, please! It’s not difficult. You're probably paying an arm and a leg for that hotel room you got, so use those amenities.
Walking around for eighteen hours a day for four days requires fuel. It may sound crazy, but you might actually forget to eat and stay hydrated. There’s a ton of awesome places to grab food in downtown Seattle. Try to eat two actual meals a day and carry some snacks for in-between. Alternatively, you could attempt to live on doughnuts for four days. Just don’t get trapped by that Subway on the 4th floor. You’re better than that.
Time is precious at PAX, but you can’t go non-stop for 100+ hours. Try to get at least 5 or 6 hours a night.
Don’t spend all of your time in the convention center. Get out of there once in a while, get some air, grab some real food, see some of the city, etc.
There’s a special vibe that envelops PAX. If you’ve ever felt weird or strange about the nerdy things you love, know that you’ll never be in a place with more people that enjoy the same things that you do than you ever will be. So, be yourself. Talk to random people in lines. You’re going to have a blast. Welcome home.
The To-Do List
Now that you've got a checklist of what to bring and some daily advice, here's some tips on how to prepare.
Guidebook is the best, easiest way to keep up with all the official PAX info (schedule, maps, announcements, etc.) Plus, @coonce works there now, so you know it’s gotta be awesome.
The schedule is out now, so start making a list right now of the panels you may want to see and any potential games you want to play. Compare your list with your friends and get a rough idea of what you want to see and do. Inevitably, you’re going to have make some tough decisions as multiple things you’re interested in will overlap. Accept the fact now that you can’t see/do everything, but if you go in there with no plan at all, you’re going to be overwhelmed.
Plan a Backup
Shit happens. Panels get full faster than you thought. Lines get too long to be worth it. The game you wanted to play might actually just be a presentation. Try to have a backup whenever you can. If all else fails, just go spend some more time in…
Arguably the best part of PAX is the slew of indie games available. And, over the last couple years, the Indie Megabooth has established itself as a primary feature of PAX. It houses around 100 games from nearly as many developers and you could spend hours there. It’s also great because you can play a bunch of games without waiting too long. If you see an open station, play it! I don’t care what it is.
Escape the Expo
The expo hall is an amazing spectacle. No doubt about it. But, it's also a trap. Get the hell out of there and do some other stuff once in a while. PAX has so much to offer aside from the expo hall and you shouldn’t miss it. Head upstairs to the Classic Console and Console Freeplay rooms. Hunt down the Classic Arcade. Head down the street to the Tabletop arenas. You get the point. Go do stuff.
The To-Don’t List
A couple little words of warning from a PAX veteran. You'll thank me later.
We all love free stuff, but seriously…don’t be that guy. Don’t wait in line for 45 minutes to play a game you don’t care about just to get a shirt. And please don’t loiter around a headphone booth hoping to catch an inflatable hat. You will get free stuff without trying too hard, so don’t let SWAG ruin your PAX.
Okay, lines are unavoidable. If you want to do much of anything at PAX, you’re gonna wait in some lines. But, this is on the “don’t” list simply to help you make good decisions. Do you really need to wait in line for two hours to play Destiny when it will be out the next week? Think about it. Do you really want to wait in line for an hour to watch an Assassin’s Creed trailer that will be online Tuesday morning? Time is precious at PAX. Choose wisely.
The Optional List
Three PAX traditions that should not be ignored. Your interest will likely depend on who is involved, so take note.
The “Storytime” session is typically a great opening ceremony for PAX, especially for first-timers. But the Penny Arcade Q&A no longer immediately follows the keynote, so unless you're a fan of the speaker, it may not be worth it. This year’s speaker is Mikey Neumann from Gearbox Software.
On Friday and Sunday night, the Paramount Theatre will be rocking late into the night. Whether you know anything about the performers or not, the concerts are a great time especially if you don’t have any other late night plans. Friday’s lineup includes The Triforce Quartet, The Doubleclicks, and the legendary Paul & Storm. Sunday night, you can see 7bit Hero, Bit Brigade, and nerdcore icon MC Frontalot.
The Omegathon is an elimination tournament that takes place throughout the entire weekend between a couple dozen attendees who were randomly selected prior to the show. The final game is always kept a secret until the very end. It’s usually a great closing ceremony, but it totally depends on the game. I’ve seen some great ones like Vs. Excitebike, Ikaruga, Trials Evolution, and (inexplicably) a stuffed animal crane game. But, I’ve also seen some pure train wrecks like Spaceteam and Cornhole. So, I can’t recommend it as much as I used to, but it still has the potential to be awesome.
Well, that's all I've got. If you have any suggestions, comments, suggestions, or complaints, let me hear it. As always, hopefully this will help some people out and maybe I'll see some of you at PAX. Let me know if you spot my Mii in StreetPass too. I'll probably be the idiot who's most recently played game is Baseball for Game Boy. Anyway, it's gonna be a blast. Have fun. And...try not to throw any chairs.
Before the video games world gets back to "normal" on Monday, I wanted to share some numberless data based on the E3 trailers that we flooded the site (and Twitter feeds, sorry) with this past week. This was the third year I've been able to help with this (the second tag-teaming with Rorie), and I had a lot of fun doing it. It's kinda crazy/hectic especially on Monday and Tuesday trying to get stuff up in a timely manner with the press conferences going on, but then it slows down and I spent most of Wednesday and Thursday digging around for smaller/indie games to feature. The grand total ended up being 129 trailers. It was a bit higher, but some users pointed out that there were a few that we put up that had already been uploaded just prior to E3. Anyway, here's some Top 25 lists that you may find interesting.
Top 25 Most Viewed Trailers
This list is not totally fair because all but three of these trailers (No Man's Sky, Cuphead, Batman Arkham Knight) had a promo in the of the homepage. There's simply not enough space to give everyone a promo. There is/was a section for E3 trailers below the "river" of headlines, but obviously people are going to see those promos first before getting down to the bottom. Enough excuses though, here are the most viewed E3 trailers on Giant Bomb during E3.
And these are the trailers that generated the most discussion without a top front page promo. These trailers walked uphill in the snow both ways to get people talking. Well, they did all get a tweet though.
On the same day as the first thing I ever Kickstarted got released, I dumped money back into the system. If you have not heard, there’s a new MMO looking for your help via crowd funding. It’s called Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, which admittedly is a awfully generic name. It’s being developed by a (currently) small team led by Brad McQuaid, who is one of the three men that dreamed a dream called EverQuest and made it a reality.
“Oh, great…another EverQuest blog from Marino,” you’re saying. Well, sort of. It’s complicated.
Over the last decade, I’ve come to terms with the fact that no MMO will ever equal the sense of wonder, camaraderie, and discovery that EverQuest gave me. Between 2000 and 2004, I spent over 350 days of play time in the world of Norrath. It was the most fun I have ever had or probably ever will have in a game. While that’s somewhat depressing to say, after many years of attempting and failing to recapture the magic, I’ve gotten to a point where I’m okay with it. The fact that it’s not replicable makes my experiences in EQ that much more special. Part of the reason is that MMOs, even EQ itself, have moved on from EverQuest once was.
Now, here comes Brad McQuaid, his “Vision,” and Pantheon trying quite specifically to recapture that magic and fuck up my whole sense of closure. God dammit!
You see, “The Vision” was a hotly debated topic in the early days of EverQuest. When people would complain that something was too hard or didn’t make sense, the answer, whether it was a joke or not at the time, was always “it’s part of The Vision.” We probably didn’t realize it in the moment, but "The Vision" was a big part of what made the game so great and memorable. The tenets of Pantheon listed on their Kickstarter page will appear quite familiar to any EverQuest old-timers like myself. Visionary Realms makes it no secret that they’re trying to target a specific audience of MMO players that yearn for the days of true challenge. They know this game is not for everyone and it's not supposed to be.
I’ve said for years that MMOs have become too hand-holdy, for lack of a better word. I understand why; it only makes sense. Make things easier and bring in a bigger audience. But, at some point, it alienates much of that core audience that was there at the beginning of this whole thing. I want to be afraid to die at all times. I want to be punished for bad decisions, ill preparation, and sheer stupidity. I want to have to walk to most places. I don’t want a glowy line telling me exactly where to go the moment I start a quest. I don’t want to be max level two weeks after the game comes out. You get the idea. I went into way more detail about this stuff on a previous blog a couple years ago.
So, I should be super excited by this prospect, right? Well, I don’t know. I like where their heart is, but I’d be lying if I said I was 100% sure they can pull it off. First of all, their target for release is 2017. Is that even a real year? Right now, they are just ten dudes working on this thing part-time with apparently more waiting in the wings for funding. Their Kickstarter video is admittedly a bit hokey, and those stretch goals are quite absurd. But, you know what? Kickstarter is still a weird place anyway.
I’ll forever be grateful what that team at Verant accomplished with making EverQuest. Their work provided me literally thousands of hours of entertainment and friends (and enemies) that I still talk to thirteen years later. But, on the other hand, let’s not forget what happened the last time McQuaid went off and founded his own studio; Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. I don’t pretend to know all of what went wrong with that game during development or why exactly Microsoft bailed on them, but that game could’ve been special. I was in the beta from very early on. Instead of being special, it was mostly a hot mess from the get go. I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve been down this road before and been let down.
I think, if I can just be honest with myself, it might simply be too late for this type of game. EverQuest Next, the forthcoming revamp of the EQ franchise, explored the idea of “going old school” and that whole iteration of the game was scrapped in development a couple years ago in favor of what we’re getting now, which I’m cautiously optimistic about. SOE is trying some groundbreaking things with EQ Next, some of which are kind of scary for MMO veterans like myself. I even told this to Dave Georgeson and Omeed Dariani personally at PAX Prime 2013. But, I also told them that their enthusiasm and conviction in presenting these fundamental changes left me with a sense of hope and optimism. We may all be better off looking forward rather than backward at this point with MMOs. It also might be too late for successfully funding crazy game ideas that require upwards of $1 million. We’ll see. At the time of this writing, they're close to $100,000 of the $800,000 goal in just three days.
Despite my reservations (and better judgment?), as I said at the beginning, I did pledge some money towards the cause. Call it morbid curiosity or having more nostalgia than sense maybe. As much as I want to say I have let the dream die, I simply can’t ignore the fact that they’re targeting Pantheon right at people like me. I’m precisely the guy they’re talking about in their pitch. So, good luck, Visionary Realms. I’m willing to give you another shot.
If you want to learn more about Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen in detail and potentially give them your money, go check out their Kickstarter page.
2013 has been one hell of a year, you guys...on multiple levels. Before we say farewell and/or good riddance, let's take a look back at the games that were reviewed on Giant Bomb this year. Unfortunately, this is the only year-end data that I have to present to you this year. Maybe 2014 will be the return of achievement data or site data. We can only hope.
It was a relatively slow year for reviews on the site. There's probably multiple reasons for this including a pretty sizable drought prior to the release of the new consoles. Even so, we ended up averaging a little over one per week. Admittedly, there's not going to be a ton of analysis in the images that follow, but I hope you enjoy the pretty colors and some of the best community art from this year.
It's been about five years and three months since Giant Bomb fully launched, and it's no secret that I spend most of my time here on the wiki, whether that be working on it myself or moderating submissions. In those five years, we've built a database of 40,000+ games, 27,000+ characters, 106,000+ people, 5700+ objects, 4300+ locations, 8800+ companies, 7300+ concepts, and 130+ platforms. Yesterday, I passed somewhat of a milestone by creating my 2000th new page.
Now, to be honest, I don't actually know if it was my 2000th page for sure. The List feature on the site, while better than it was, is still kinda wonky. Looking through it now, there seem to be a few duplicates here and there for some reason, and a few pages that don't seem to show up in the list but do show up on that particular item's page. So...I dunno. But it says 2000, so I'm going to take this opportunity to share some of my favorite pages that I started.
Take note that many of these pages were filled out by other people. I may have just created the page to get it started. But, there's plenty of them where I did a lot of work on it as well. I did a blog like this a couple years ago when I hit 1000, so I'm going to reuse a few things from that to save time. Anyway, here's a bunch of red text...
You Always Remember Your First
The first thing I ever did on the wiki was add Hyrule as a location to the Link to the Past page, but the first page I ever created was for The Attack. The TI-99/4A was the first game system that I had, so there's a lot of nostalgia there. That's why my first project on the wiki was to fill out the the library of TI-99/4A games like this one, Blasto, Car Wars, and Chisholm Trail.
This was my first big page. I wasn't really sure there was a place for it on the site, but luckily Jeff gave me the go ahead to add it as a concept. Back in 1997, I received the first edition of PlayStation Underground because I had registered my PlayStation with one of those post cards that you get in the box with any new system. At the time, the idea of being able to play demos of games that weren't out yet and getting high quality video content was unheard of. The Internet was still fairly new, and you certainly weren't going to be downloading all this stuff like you can today. I had been teaching myself basic HTML at the time, so I decided to create a site about it. While in an AOL video game chat room trying to get people to check out my site, I got an IM from a guy claiming he worked on PlayStation Underground. Of course I didn't believe him, but when he sent me an email from a Sony domain, I couldn't argue with that. Turned out that he was the producer of the whole thing, Gary Barth. I kept working on the site, which became fairly popular with fans of the CD magazine thanks to inside information provided by Gary pertaining to what was coming in each next issue. When Gary found out that I lived in Georgia, he invited my friend Christopher and myself to E3 in Atlanta. I was only 16 at the time, so we were told that if anyone asked, to tell them that we had won a contest from Sony. The site pretty much ended in 2001 when the magazine stopped being produced, so I'm happy that some of the site's content found a new home here.
Electronic Entertainment Expo
When I ran the Underground site, I built a sub-site specifically for E3. I was able to attend the show for 10 years from 1997-2006, so I had a lot of documented info and thousands of photos from my old site, but I had to create a bunch more especially for the years I didn't attend. Trying to find documentation online for an event that happened in 1995 isn't easy. Despite not having been to the show in a while, E3 is still one of my favorite times of the year.
For over three years, the world of Norrath was pretty much my life. It sounds crazy now, and maybe a little sad, but I enjoyed just about every minute of it. I've come to terms with the fact that EverQuest is likely the most fun that I will ever have in any game for the rest of my life. Nothing will ever match that first MMO experience and sense of community in a virtual world. It's hard to convey to people that didn't play it at the time.
Out of the 2000 pages I've started, about 800 of them are EverQuest related. That's a lot of places, characters, and items, so I created a separate list for all that. But here's some of the highlights:
Norrath - The world in which EverQuest exists has a ton of lore and history behind it.
I've spent a considerable amount of time creating pages for all the zones in the original EverQuest. There's too many to list individually here, but you can easily see them all from these continent pages:
When you spend a ton of time trying to document everything that was at every E3 and PAX, you end up creating a lot of game pages. Some of them are pretty big named, exciting games while others are...not. But, we can't just make a Skyrim page and forget about Cheetah Girls now can we? What kind of database would we be if we did that?
Here's some of the pages I enjoyed making a page for.
Finding weird concepts to make pages for is probably one of my favorite things on the site. Deleting really dumb ones is also one of my favorite things on the site. Where do we draw the line? Come over to the Delete & Combine forum to find out. Here are some of my favorite ones I've started:
I end up making a bunch of company pages during PAX every year primarily because of the Indie Megabooth. There over 80 companies in it for PAX Prime 2013 and about half of those didn't have pages I think. There's nothing particularly special about those though, so here's a couple weird ones.
Moby Dick Studio - This page might should be deleted actually. I don't know. Kojima's weird.
Phantom Entertainment - Also maybe shouldn't be a page, but we have to document that lapboard somewhere, right?
I don't generally do a lot of work on credits. There's a few saints in our community that do though and they don't get the credit they deserve. Here's a few of my favorites that I've started:
Alan Drummer - I met him a couple times at E3. Most memorably he was the voice of "URNOTe" campaign for the original PlayStation.
Well, that's about it I guess. Thanks for checking it out. If you need any help with what should or shouldn't be a page on the site (or any other wiki-related question), feel free to contact me or one of the other moderators. There's a button/link over on the right side of the forums.
And if you're interested at all in skimming through all 2000+ pages I've started, there's a list for that.
PAX Prime 2013 was the sixth PAX since the advent of the 3DS and StreetPassing (counting PAX Australia 2013). And this is fifth edition of StreetPAXin; a term invented by @wafflestomp. Going into this year's PAX Prime, I wasn't sure what I was going to do about StreetPassing because the new games in StreetPass Mii Plaza take quite a long time to play. Luckily, I had already finished Find Mii completely (all hats), so I had no reason to fool with that game anymore. What I finally decided to do was put a priority on getting the rest of the puzzle pieces first, then just shuffle people through my gate whenever possible, and only play the other games when in a long line or in the morning before leaving the hotel. It worked out pretty well.
Before we get to the stats, here's some recognizable people I crossed paths with in Seattle.
Break It Down
StreetPass data carries several facts about each player. These include gender, last played game, nationality, whether they prefer cats or dogs, how many people they've ever StreetPassed, and a few other things as well. So let's take a look at this year's PAX Prime.
This gender statistic is pretty interesting. Why? Well, at PAX East 2012 it was only 15.1%. At PAX Prime 2012, it was up to 17.4%. And, at this year's PAX East, it was up to 20.5%. This shows a steady increase of women coming to PAX (or at least an increase in women carrying a 3DS, I guess).
Men - Dogs vs Cats
All of PAX - Dogs vs Cats
Women - Dogs vs Cats
The notion that guys like dogs and girls like cats has held true every time I've compiled this data. This was the closest the overall total has ever been though. Can cats finally win next year?
Where You From?
Unsurprisingly, the most common location was the state of Washington. I didn't run into as many international (not including Canada) PAX attendees as I have in the past, but there's a pretty good mix still. I must also mention that through five PAX's, I've still never met anyone from Wyoming.
United States of America
District of Columbia
USA (no state listed)
Canada / International
Sweden (Västra Götaland)
United Kingdom (England)
Prince Edward Island
Canada (no province)
Fuck Tom Nook. Right?
If you guessed that most people at PAX would be playing Animal Crossing: New Leaf, you would be right. But would you have thought that 25% of them would be? Probably not, because that's crazy. Fire Emblem: Awakening was the top game at PAX East 2013, and that was only 13%. Also, god damn, Mario Kart.
It's that time again. Time to update my PAX guide and hopefully give some help to those of you who are heading out to Seattle. While the information you will see below is most helpful for first-timers, I believe parts of it can still help even the most seasoned of PAX veterans. If you've read my previous guides, you won't find a ton of new info here, admittedly. Together, I think we've mostly perfected this thing over the last couple years. But, if you're new to the guide, let me share my resumé to help explain why I know what I'm talking about.
PAX Prime 2013 is the tenth annual PAX Prime, and it will also be my tenth PAX. I have quite a bit of experience in attending gaming conventions, so let me help you figure out how to make the most of your time available and how to survive on minimal sleep for a long weekend. If any other vets have tips to add, make sure post them below.
Wheaton's Law: Don't Be a Dick
I once wrote a blog about what I called The PAX Vibe. In it, I tried to describe the most indelible thing about PAX. The experience is as though you've come to some sort of reunion with tens of thousands friends you never knew you had. Whether it's an attendee, enforcer, exhibitor, panelist, or D-list Internet celebrity, virtually everyone has a permanent smile affixed to their face for three days. Wil Wheaton, said it best...
All of the things that make us weird and strange in the real world.
Those things that people tease us for loving.
Those things that we seem to care about more than anyone else at work and school.
Those things make us who we are.
And when we are at PAX, we don’t have to hide them, or explain them, or justify them to anyone.
We have come here this weekend because just playing games isn’t nearly as fun as playing them together, surrounded by thousands of people who love them just as much as we do.
Who to Follow
Twitter can be a life saver during PAX. Not just for organizing stuff with your friends, but also keeping up with what's going on throughout the show. Make sure you follow these Twitter accounts before you get there.
@paxparties (unofficial) - Parties, meet-ups, tweet-ups, tabletop all-nighters, and bar crawls.
Seattle is one of my favorite cities. From downtown (near the convention center), you can walk to pretty much anything you could possibly want. If you're flying into Seattle (SeaTac) and your hotel is anywhere in the downtown area, do not rent a car. A few years ago, they finished construction of the LightRail, which will take you from the airport to the heart of Seattle. It's a little slow (45 minutes maybe), but it only costs about $3.00. Once you're downtown, it's all just walking. The convention center, most of the hotels, GameWorks, Top Pot Doughnuts, Shorty's, and everything at the famous Pike Place Market are all quite close by. Even if you want to do the tourist thing and see the Space Needle, which you totally should at least once, you can walk to the Westlake Center (a mall about four blocks from the convention center) and take a monorail straight to it. If you go out there, check out the SciFi & Music museum. It's a weird combination but it's got a bunch of cool stuff. Also, Dick's has amazing burgers. If you need help finding it, the great Ryan Davis once said "Just Google 'dicks.'" Safe search off.
First of all, for the sake of everyone at the show, please shower. Yes, every day. And use deoderant. It's not difficult. You're going to be doing more walking than you're probably used to doing. Aside from that, why is this so high on the list of tips? Well, after PAX Prime 2010, there was a confirmed case of H1N1 on my flight home. So, use the hand sanitizer whenever you can. There are generally dispensers set up all around the convention center and especially right outside the bathrooms. Or better yet, bring your own. You're going to be touching controllers that have been touched by people of varying degrees of sickness from all over the world. Be smart, and don't spend the week after PAX in misery.
Enforcers Are Awesome
The Enforcers are the incredible army of blue shirts that volunteer their time in order to make sure that PAX is an enjoyable experience for everyone. Can't find the right panel room? Look for a blue shirt. Need medical attention after experiencing the Mega64 panel? Look for a blue shirt. Can't figure out where Dave Lang is dishing out Divekick fraud stamps? Look for a blue shirt. These guys and girls are stationed everywhere. If they ask you to do something, listen up. Respect them. Appreciate them. Buy them cookies.
Do Your Homework
The schedule is available right now online, but you should really download the app. It's called Guidebook, and it's the best. Either way you choose, skim through it, look at the presenters of every panel, and make a rough draft of what you'd like to see. Compare with your friends, look for overlaps, and start the excruciating process of deciding how to cut the least awesome things from your to-do list.
Planning ahead is a must. If you walk into Seattle completely unprepared, you're going to either be a deer in headlights or a wandering madman. It's overwhelming. The key to planning ahead is to be flexible. Inevitably something will come up and you'll want to rearrange your plans. I'm going to tell you right now that you're simply not going to be able to do everything you want to do/see. Don't stress out about it. Stick to your plan as best you can, but have fun above all else.
A common misconception is that PAX is just like E3 in terms of being a giant expo hall of developers and publishers demoing their games. While that is a big part of PAX, there's so much more. The expo hall closes at 6 PM each day anyway, and the party certainly doesn't shut down at six. The concerts are an excellent way to spend your evening, whether you know the artists or not.
This year's line-up includes Adam Warrock, Bit Brigade, The Doubleclicks, Hideo, MC Frontalot, Megaran, Protomen, Super Giant Bros., and Supercommuter. Aside from Frontalot and Protomen, this is an entirely new crop of talent. So, this should be an interesting year especially considering that there are three nights of music this year.
The Omegathon: Final Round
The Omegathon is a four day tournament between attendees that were randomly selected weeks ahead of time by Penny Arcade's staff. You'll see that each round is on the schedule if you want to see a particular game they're playing, but the important one is the final round. The final round's game is always kept a closely guarded secret until just moments before the contestants are set to play it. Have you ever imagined being in the crowd for the final showdown in The Wizard? Well, this is it. Literally thousands of people cheering for a few of their peers as they battle head-to-head in Pong, Contra, Skeeball, Ikaruga, or whatever they come up with this year. It can't be weirder than Crokinole, right? Right?!
And it's all hosted by Gabe and Tycho from Penny Arcade. This is the perfect closing ceremony, and you should be there to experience it.
Hurry Up and Wait
As the years have gone by, attendance at PAX has only increased. To be honest, it has outgrown the Washington State Convention Center, but that's not a problem we can solve this year. You will inevitably be waiting in line for many things you intend to see and do. I've waited over an hour to see/play things like Dragon Age II, Mass Effect 3, Skate 3, The Last of Us, and others at E3. On the most popular panels (i.e. the Keynote, Giant Bomb, Mega64, Gearbox, and anything associated with Penny Arcade), you should arrive at least an hour ahead to guarantee yourself a good seat.
So, be prepared. Bring your 3DS, Vita, Game Boy micro, or whatever it is you like. If you're a 3DS fan, you will get literally hundreds of StreetPasses over the weekend. And regardless of your handheld gaming option of choice, you'll likely never find a better place in the world to jump into random multiplayer games. I once used Pictochat on my DS to solicit people to come play me in Hot Shots Golf on PSP...and it worked!
Do yourself a favor and avoid the line waiting for a while and check out all the indie games at the show, because that's some of the best stuff you'll find at PAX. The IndieMegaBooth has become an awesome place to just wander aimlessly and play stuff. If you see a game that has no line, PLAY IT! I don't care what it is. I played a game at PAX East 2013 about catching hamsters with a trampoline.
Backpacking Through the Pacific Northwest
Many convention rookies make a mistake as soon as they leave their house. You simply must have a backpack of some kind. If you show up to PAX empty-handed, you'll be hurting and feeling like an idiot by 2 PM. Some think you can just pick up one of those big, fold-out, paper bags from a booth, but there's no guarantee any booths are doing that. Plus, they're cumbersome, you'll be hitting people with it constantly as you squeeze through crowds, and you need to keep your hands free.
So, be smart. Bring your favorite backpack or messenger bag to throw all of your swag into. Your shoulders are going to be killing you by Monday, but it's your best option.
Expo Hall: It's a Trap!
The expo hall is where all the developers and publishers have booths set up to show off their upcoming games. You get to play stuff that's not out yet and typically talk to the people that are making them. It's awesome. But don't get stuck in there. Make sure to make your rounds through the convention center. Go upstairs and check out the PC Freeplay area. It's a massive farm of PC's unlike anything you've ever seen (unless you've been to QuakeCon). Hit up the Console Freeplay room and take your shot at some of the best fighting game players around. Think you're good enough? Enter one of the nearby tournaments (check the schedule). Need to take a break? Crash in the Handheld Lounge and rack up some StreetPasses and Near stuff. Head up to the Classic Console rooms for a bit and take a look at the massive library of gaming's past, pick out something you loved and play it with some people. And don't forget to hang out in the Classic Arcade for some fuckin' Pooyan. No quarters or tokens necessary, but please respect the cabinets. There's just so much more than just the expo hall that you need to see and do to get the full PAX experience.
The Dangers of SWAG: Don't Be That Guy
Free stuff is great. I know. But, just listen to me for a second. Don't spend the majority of your time trying to get inflatable swords, funny hats, and Gunnar Optiks t-shirts. You're going to get free stuff without trying. Not all of it, sure, but plenty. The vast majority of free stuff you get, you will eventually throw away or, if you're like me, going to pile into boxes in a closet. At PAX East 2010, there were people that waited well over an hour to play APB for 15 minutes and get a t-shirt. How do you think those people feel about that decision now? Just be smart, people.
Pack Light and Carry-On a Big Bag
For those of you flying to Seattle, you're likely going to pay at least $25 to check a bag on the plane, so you might as well get your money's worth. Even if you're only packing three Internet meme t-shirts and three sets of socks and underwear, bring a big suitcase. The extra space is going to be great for any swag you obtain as well as any stuff you end up buying inside or outside of PAX. At PAX 2009, I bought a 'Splosion Man statue from Twisted Pixel's booth. It came in a block of styrofoam, and I was still able to safely fit it into my luggage on the way home. At PAX Prime 2010, my friend @washa_endrya bought a fight stick from Capcom and was able to get it home easily as well.
Also, if you have one, bring a cardboard tube in your suitcase. You are likely to be handed posters at the show, and there's really no other way to get those home without folding or crushing them. One more tip from the experienced in packing for a con. Throw an empty trash bag in with your stuff. You can use that as a dirty laundry bag, which will allow you to quarantine your sweaty socks from all the cool stuff you accumulated at the show on your way home.
Do You Like Sleep? TOO BAD!
Sleep deprivation is a major side effect of the PAX experience. You can sleep on Tuesday or on your flight home. But, there are official and unofficial PAX events going on virtually 24 hours a day beginning Thursday night. The concerts typically go til at least 1 AM, and you're going to be in downtown Seattle, which has countless hot spots to hit. In the grand scheme of things, your time at PAX is very limited even if you can be there all three days. You may not realize this now or even during the show, but come Monday, you'll know what I'm talking about. So, if you get five hours of sleep, you're doing great. Make the most of the time you have.
Microsoft Space Bucks Don't Work Here
If you've got a debit or credit card, you're mostly okay. Any food places in the area are going to take your card just fine (i.e. Jimmy John's and Top Pot Doughnuts…what else is there?). Most booths in the expo hall will take it as well when purchasing their wares. But, it may be a good idea to carry at least a little old-fashioned paper money. Cash can be good especially if you're going out to the bars at night. If you know you're going to need cash, there are several ATMs at the convention center, but you should hit them early because I've seen them run out of cash to dispense. And there's nothing worse than knowing you can afford that one of a kind Cammy drawing by Long Vo, but being unable to retrieve the funds to buy it.
This may sound ridiculous at first, but once you're in the thick of PAX, you may forget to eat or drink. And considering that you normally don't walk around for 10-14 hours a day, you're going to need to hydrate. Many people throw a bottle in their bag that they can refill at water fountains. Stopping for 30 minutes to eat may not sound enticing depending on your schedule, but you've gotta. Luckily, downtown Seattle is a pretty great place to run out and get food. Just don't make the dumb mistake of standing in that hour-long line for the tiny Subway in the convention center. There's plenty of places within 5-10 minutes of walking distance. Otherwise, you could toss a few Clif bars in your bag and just eat on the go.
Don't Let PAX Ruin Your PAX
This is something I've learned over the last few PAX's. Whether it's a Harmonix meet-up, a Pre-PAX board game night, the Pokémon pub crawl, or one of the countless other unofficial PAX festivities, make an effort to do stuff after show hours. Honestly, it doesn't even have to be PAX related. Chances are, if you head out to the bars and restaurants in downtown Seattle, you're going to run into other PAX goers. We generally take over the city.
What I'm getting at is that being in line at the Queue Room of the convention center at 8 AM (2 hours prior to show open) isn't worth missing out on the great stuff that's going on at night. Now, if there's a game that you HAVE to see and you know the line during the day is super long, go ahead and get to the convention center early one day and run for it when the doors open. But, just make sure you spend some time outside of the convention center and your hotel room.
It's All That You Can Do
Be yourself, but also be open to meeting new people. I know your mom told you not to talk to strangers, but I'm telling you that's a bunch of crap. It's unlikely that you're ever going to be around more people like yourself than you will at PAX. Above everything else, including all the tips I've given you here, have fun. You're about to have an experience that you'll never forget.
Hopefully, I'll run into some of y'all there (or at least your Miis).