Photo Journal: PAX Australia 2014

PAX Aus 2014

We had to hold out a little longer than twelve months for the second PAX Australia, but it was well worth the wait.

The event found a new home this year, moving to the Melbourne Convention & Entertainment Centre on the banks of the Yarra, as well as shifting its dates to later in the year.

Both decisions were huge improvements. Larger theatre capacities and a single building holding all three major areas (expo floor, freeplay and tabletop) under the one giant roof. Thankfully, the horrors of last year’s pathway-by-marquee were completely gone.

The PAXAus team were also clearly well-aware of last year’s pitfalls; a Penny Arcade cartoon adorning the Convention Centre’s main doors with the line “PAXAus – Now with less tents”.

 

Ubisoft @ PAX Aus 2014

Ubisoft

Entering the main hall your eyes were immediately drawn to the impressive display Ubisoft had constructed. Decked out with playable banks of consoles for Far Cry 4, Assassin’s Creed Unity & The Crew, the stand was topped off with a closed theatre playing a canned demo of The Division (as well as the obligatory Just Dance 2015 demonstration).

Having previously seen and pledged my undying love for The Division at E3 earlier this year I thoroughly enjoyed riding an elephant through a remote outpost in gorgeous next-gen glory in Far Cry 4. Really looking forward to this one coming out soon.

 

Xbox @ PAX Aus 2014

Microsoft/Xbox

It was really good to see Microsoft come to the party this year. Last year we had nothing more than a green wall with a plastic-encased Xbox One dev unit (that would sometimes disappear for hours on end).

Their big-hitters of the moment were on show in the recently-released Sunset Overdrive and soon to be Halo Master Chief Collection. The majority of the booth though, was pleasingly made-up of smaller titles as well as showcasing their new [email protected] program.

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The new up-spec’d Halo 2 multiplayer was gorgeous but the highlights for me were the likes of Geometry Wars Dimensions, Ori and the Blind Forest, The Wolf Among Us and Lovers in a dangerous spacetime.


Oculus @ PAX Aus 2014

Oculus Rift

It wouldn’t be a game convention without some iteration of a VR headset, and at PAX Aus 2014 it was the Oculus. They were here last year in stealth, so it’s great they’ve officially made themselves a presence this time around.

Demoing the DK2 version I had a chance to play with the headset twice; once in the time/movement shooter Superhot and the second with Alien Isolation. The upgraded screen resolution and new motion tracking are incredible and definitely something any gamer should experience. The constant lengthy line at the booth a testament to how exciting this tech is becoming as it rapidly approaches market release.

 

Nintendo @ PAX Aus 2014

Nintendo

There were a few things to check out at Nintendo but first and foremost was Smash Bros for the Wii U. Regardless of the 3DS version being out for a while now, its big brother was drawing a mass of attention. Readers will be excited to hear that its release has since been brought forward to the 29th of November.

The new 3DS was also available to get some hands on with the update as well as E3 favourite Splatoon, which has all but been confirmed as an online multiplayer-only title due to the requirement of the player needing to use the tablet.

Hidden around the corner of the booth was a small room with a couple of behind-curtain screens for Bayonetta 2. Many people initially left wondering why people were queuing at length to get into a booth the size of a washroom stall until they gave up and left them drawn about 4 hours into the show.

 

Gearbox @ PAX Aus 2014

The other big ones

Rounding out the big names of the showroom floor we saw the likes of Gearbox complete with a generous supply of rigs running Borderlands The Pre-Sequel for all to enjoy.

Battlecry @ PAX Aus 2014

Others included Bethesda with Battlecry, which is coming in an exclusive Australia & New Zealand-first beta early 2015. 2K Games were also having hands-on with now again delayed Evolve as well as Warner Brothers and Battlefield.


League of Legends @ PAX Aus 2014

League of Legends

Definitely not ones to be laughed at, League of Legends (LoL) held their Oceanic Regional Finals at PAXAus and they certainly drew a crowd! This photo shows around half the gathered mass to witness the finals taking place. Their deafening roar heard hall-wide with each match.

I have to admit to knowing little about the MOBA space other than with each event I go to the crowds for LoL and DOTA2 just keep getting bigger and bigger. Perhaps Blizzard’s upcoming Heroes of the Storm might be the one to pull me in.

 

Alienware's Area 51 @ PAX Aus 2014

The hardware guys

There was a definite presence this year dedicated to gaming hardware. Alienware had their latest and greatest including the recently announced Area 51 behemoth on full display. The right definitely makes a statement and a land-grab for desk space as its sheer size is enough to takeover one’s regular desk.

Headsets and mechanical keyboards were also out in force, Astro with a massive showing, their cans being used in the Freeplay areas as well as many vendor booths. Logitech and Sennheiser weren’t to be outdone though, each having an impressive display of their new wares.

In addition to the hardware makers the retail guys turned it on as well. Local PDF heroes MSY had a sprawling booth filled with PAX-show specials and competitions as did mwave.com.au complete with daily ice sculptures!

 

Bajo & Good Game @ PAX Aus 2014

The panels

One of the most important and impressive parts of any PAX are the panels they play home to. They cover everything and anything that an attendee could want. Often the hardest part of PAX is deciding between two or three overlapping panels. From cosplay to freelance writing for games to “Story time with Pete Hines” and a surprise visitor by Internet crusader Senator Scott Ludlam, the panels are a core part of the experience that make PAX magic.

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The queue for the Main Theatre was always hefty but it was especially so when the Penny Arcade crew took centre stage. This was the “line” for their first Q&A panel on the Friday and while you’d be forgiven for thinking how unlikely it was that everyone got in to see them the new digs at the MCEC readily accommodated the largest of PAX crowds.


Indies @ PAX Aus 2014

Indie Pavilion

This was where the show was at for me. 60 amazing Australian & New Zealand-built indie projects on show that I wished I could’ve dedicated an entire day to see alone. The whole area was alive with people excited to play–and for those on show–talk about projects dear to their hearts.

If you’re looking for an excellent run down on all of the games that were on show Grab-It did an excellent job covering them all in their 8th issue now available in the iTunes App Store.

Some of my favourites…

Under the Sun @ PAX Aus 2014
Under the Sun – Coming in December for iOS & Android this 4D puzzler involves moving the main character to a campfire in a certain number of moves. The time element changes the environment with each step you take and a simple mechanic allows you to scrub through each move like frames of a film.

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Bonza – A crossword jigsaw puzzle game is the best way I can describe Bonza. Developed by 2 brothers in Adobe Air (of all things) as a “game our girlfriends would play” it’s been available for a few months now. Level packs are added continually as well as celebrity packs from the likes of the creator of the New York Times crossword puzzles.

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Swordy – Early in development but a hell of a lot of fun was Swordy by across-the-ditch FrogShark. A physics based arena brawler presented in a cartoon-like 3D feel. I had a bunch of fun swirling my weapon and running for cover.


Tabletop @ PAX Aus 2014

Tabletop & Freeplay

Another staple of the PAX formula is the Tabletop and Freeplay areas that let you just hang out and play. I love the Tabletop area and wish I had more time this year to sit down and learn one of the many games available to check out. Alas, time escaped me. The one game I did manage to sit down and go through was a cool little card game of Fluxx which I’ll definitely hit up again.

Handheld lounge @ PAX Aus 2014

The Handheld Lounge is always full at every PAX I’ve been too. Not many Vitas to be found, but the 3DS’ers and those just looking for a comfy seat to charge their phones made finding a free bean bag a scarce occurrence.


MCEC @ PAX Aus 2014

A restored faith

3 days go quickly when you’re running around trying to see and take in as much of the awesomeness that is gaming in 2014. It’s truly exhausting and coming in day one off the back of a lovely 15 hour flight from Los Angeles it was hard work but I loved every minute of it.

If anything I think the overwhelming theme to the folks that I bumped into at PAX Aus 2014 was that as a community, gamers are great people that love getting together and playing great games together. Despite the seemingly endless deluge of bad press, the gaming community had their true colours on proud display this weekend, and I applaud it.

The organisers of PAX Aus should be truly proud. The change in date and location have worked extremely well and I don’t think there was a single attendee I spoke to that wasn’t in love with the new set up.

I’d say that many of the US locations for PAX would be jealous of the facilities and space available to us here. I think it will only serve us the better as PAX Aus continues on to (at least) 2019.

Reckoner had its humble beginnings way back in June of 2013.

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