I've wanted to go to some sort of gaming convention for awhile now but for some reason I was always apprehensive about it. Over the weekend though PAX South was in San Antonio and Destructoid was hosting a contest to win a three day badge. Like most of you, I thought to myself, "I probably won't win." So I'd like to thank Destructoid for hosting the contest but, I'd also like to thank the person that couldn't go even though they won. I was the first runner up and when I got the email from Wes I was a little shocked but immedietly started looking for hotels. Everything was sold out or over $200 a night. I managed to get a hotel for $70 a night and while still more than I wanted to pay is was worth every penny.
I spent the previous night packing and getting ready. I decided to bring my Switch, 2DS XL and my Nikon D200 along with the usual traveling neccessities. I can't check into my room until after 3:00 PM so I decided to drive straight to the convention and spend most of the night there. I had never been to the convention center in San Antonio so I was unprepared for the chaotic mess that it was but I got lucky. As my GPS guides me onto the main street directly facing the convention center I start to panic, there's no where to park and I hadn't seen any signs but just then, out of the corner of my eye, an attendant removes a barricade blocking the entrance to the convention center parking garage and I get in right in front on the first floor, $10 and I'm good to go. By this time the adrenaline is pumping, I've never been to a convention before. I walk in and I'm completly lost. I see signs saying to purchase badges here but I was told to look for will-call, which I'm familiar with from concerts and sporting events. I manage to find the information booth and the guy directs me to the same location you buy badges from. I felt a little silly but once I got my badge everything was good to go and I walk into the expo hall and again I am overwhelmed. I heard PAX South was smaller than any of the others but to me there was a lot going on, people herding themselves around taking up almost every space available to move. I decided that the first thing I should do is familiarize myself with the area and spent about an hour or so just walking around briefly looking at all the booths available. I saw some familiar areas like Discord, Monster Hunter World, Divinity II, Devolver and more. There were plenty of indie developers there as well showing off new games for Switch, PS4, Xbox One and PC.
As I said before, I was a little overwhlemed by all of this. I decided to duck out across the street to the River Walk Mall and have some lunch. I took in the sites and even made a quick trip over to the Alamo since I hadn't been there since I was a kid. Air Force graduates were also out and about and it reminded me of my time graduating from basic as well. Overall the down town area was packed with people.
As the day wore on I started wondering around to the tabletop area and looking at some of the games they were demoing and the tournaments that were taking place. I didn't enter into any myself but I did watch the 48 player Catan tournament and that was pretty interesting. I just recently got into Catan, which is a great game by the way, and it was awesome to see that many people playing all at once. I stayed around for a few minutes took some pictures and moved on to the next area. I was really interested in a few games I saw there, a new Game of Thrones Catan where you defend the wall from wildlings, Fallout 4, Star Wars Legion and Master of Wills. I sat down and played some Fallout 4, it was a little hard to learn but once the game started progressing I was really in to it. In all honesty it was probalby the best representaiton of the game without actually playing the video game. I recommend you check it out if you are interested in new tabletop games. Star Wars Legion was another one that I watched and snapped some pictures of. It's pretty similar to Warhammer, which isn't my favorite game to play, but the models they were using were amazingly detailed. The only problem for me is that it's not really a game you can set up and put away easily, but it was really cool to watch play out.
By this time, I'm completly exhausted from walking around and while I hadn't done much yet I walked around the entire building several times. I headed over to the PAX Arena and watched the Tekken 7 Finals. I got to see some pretty awesome fights and also got to see an amateur player, who never played the game before that day, win the tournament. It was streamed live on Twitch and they handed out prizes to the winner and runner up and there was a suprising amount of people there to watch it. The only thing it made me want to do after is buy the game, which is sitting in my PSN cart right now. I also sat in on some of the brackets for Super Smash Bros. and saw some crazy battles there as well.
Free breakfast at the hotel and I'm off to PAX for day 2. I arrived about 10:30 AM and wasn't as lucky as before. The parking garage was full already so I had to park down the street a ways. At least it was only $10 to park. Saturday was a much busier day, I'm sure you're all shocked by this notion, but I didn't have to wait in line to get in or anything like that. There were tons of people dressed up as every kind of character you could imagine from Fat Bald Guy Rey and Princess Leia to Doctor Robotnic with Puppet Hand Sonic, Sub-Zero and tons of anime looking chicks that I couldn't even name. I didn't get pictures of most of the people but I'll be sure to take lots of photos the next one I go to.
I started off my day by learning to play Magic the Gathering. I had always liked Magic cards because of the art and how cool they looked but I never really learned to play the game and even if I had a friend teach me it seemed like even they didn't know the rules. So, Wizards of the Coast was giving away starter decks and offering to teach people to play. I sat down with a nice girl named Jenny and two other gentleman and they taught us, in a very basic way, how to play the game. I would have liked a little more time learning it but we were enticed to join the Planeswalker Tournament with a $5 off coupon that included a new deck and two booster packs. For $10 I decided to try my luck out and learn some more from other players. You could win prizes just by playing other people, up to five games. And while I lost all of my games I was still happy to learn how to play and meet some new people. I downloaded the Magic 2015 game on my phone and also lost all the games there. So, maybe Magic isn't my thing but I still enjoyed learning and playing and I did manage to beat the computer once. Sadly, I haven't beat any real players. Unbenownst to me I had spent about three hours there! I didn't even realize, so I decided to move on to some other areas and play some video games.
I saw a group of people gathered around a TV and could hear the theme song from Mortal Kombat (the movie) blarring into the crowd. There was a lot happening on screen. Four players dodging colorful lights and shapes to the beat of Mortal Kombat. It was really exciting and then the boss of the level came out at the end throwing all kinds of shapes and colors at them killing everyone, all to the beat of the music, but instead of starting over they rewind to one of several checkpoints on the level and continue trying to get past the final section. It was a cool game I played a little of and is coming to Xbox and Playstation soon, apparnetly it's already available on PC.
I was looking for new games coming to Switch and I happened to come upon a booth called, Clusterpuck 99. It's a game of up to 8 players and it's basically like air hockey but with different shaped maps and objects like spikes and pits to fall into and die. I can't remember how many different maps were available but it is a lot. This looks like a really fun game that's supposedly releasing soon. It's definitely one to check out.
I saw quite a few different games on Switch that stuck out but a majority of them were platformers of different types and a lot of what looked like 8-bit style graphics and while there's nothing wrong with that I'd hate to see the console overwhelmed with same game.
The bigger titles at PAX were almost always full of long wait lines so I decided to look at some of the smaller booths with less traffic and came upon a PC game called Aftercharge. To me it had a cool concept that was trying to change the FPS genre but only slightly. Instead of two teams just shooting each other to win, one side is completely invisible and their main goal is to destroy generators on the map. The other team has guns and is trying to prevent this. The rounds were quick and fast paced but also involved some strategy. It was cool to see some new ideas floating around the expo.
Another game that garnered a lot of attention, outside of the bigger titles, was Brawhalla. It was similiar to Super Smash Bros. and you could play one on one against a dev to win prizes which I thought was cool. I didn't see too many people win though. They also had another setup on the side that let you do a 4 player free-for-all.
In my opinion, Master of Wills, was the best all around game at the entire expo. Stormcrest, Inc. and the games creator, Randy Van Gelder, have an awesome card game on their hands with more to come. Like most games, it's a little overwhleming to learn and there's a lot of variables going on at any given time but the game is a lot of fun to play. It's a sudo-deck building game where different factions of the world are vying for the community in order to win. You pick one of four factions, two from the main game and two from an expansion, and build a deck of between 20 and 30 cards. Each player is trying to influece the Community to their side of the board and after 8 rounds you add up your points and the player with the most points wins. It's a two-player or four-player game and once you understand the basics of the game you'll be able to move into the strategy side where things get even better. Each Faction (the deck you build) has powers that, for example, let you swap entire rows with the enemy, enable bonus plays or simply kill off the highest card in play. I had a lot of fun with the game and also got to sit down with it's creator and have him show me how to play. They also released some PAX only cards for each of the four factions and included the expansion pack when I purchased the game. They have a digital version of the game they are working on and were demoing at their booth. Everyone who purchased the game got signed up for the private beta as well. If you have some free time I definitely encourage you to check it out and especially look out for the digital version as well. If you're in Houston the entire team is based out of the Sugarland area. The game is completely funded by them, no kickstarter or investors.
The day is coming to an end and I decided to watch the semi finals for bracket A and B of Super Smash Bros. I never thought that sitting in a crowd of fans watching two people on stage play a video game would be exciting but I also have never seen some of the worlds best players either. Some of the matches I watched were insane with things going on that I wasn't even aware were possible. A lot of the matches were intense going down to the last round to determine the winner and few of them were complete blow outs. The guy on the right in the photo above, MVD, was a beast! While a lot of people were using the same character he was using Diddy Kong and destroying people. I watched him win several times. The only complaint I had about the PAX Arena was the volume of the announcers. For some reason they were extremely loud and at some points would hurt your ears. Other than that it was exciting to watch.
So my Saturday comes to a close and I decided to leave a little early to watch the Patriots kill the Titans in their divisonal game. As soon as I hit the bed I couldn't move. My feet and legs were killing me. I worked retail for a long time and I'm no stranger to being on my feet but I don't think I ever walked that much in my entire life.
Sunday was a quick day for me. I explored most of what I wanted, played tabletop games, played new video games and bought a little merchandise. I came away with a PAX South t-shirt, a PAX coffee mug, free iron on patch (and there was much rejoicing, yayy), Master of Wills and a couple decks of Magic. I have to say that it was an overall enjoyable experience with lots of friendly people and developers all eager to talk to you. I walked away wanting to buy more video/table top games and eager to go to the next convention.
I happened to run into a sweet ass trio of musicians that were playing all kinds of classic video game theme songs. Soul Bros. had a cool concept. Three guys: one keyboard, one guy on a mini electronic drum kit and one guy playing different reed instruments like the saxophone. They had a really good sound. I've included one of the videos I recorded for your enjoyment.
I was a little shocked though by how much money some people were spending. I felt like they were just blowing money on things they didn't need or would never use again. Not that it really matters what people spend their money or how much enjoyment they get from it I can't help but feel like some poeple needed a guide to steer them away from unneccesary purchases. I talked to one guy who had spent over $300 and most of what he bought were the Pins that you can collect at the various expos. While the pins were cool I was dissapointed that a tiny painted piece of metal would cost $10 a piece. Other than some of the overly expensive items I didn't mind paying concert prices for a t-shirt or coffe mug.
Once again I'd like to thank Destructoid and the unfortunate soul that couldn't make it for my trip to PAX South 2018.