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PAX 2012 - Day 2

Here is some stuff I'm excited about after having been through PAX.

Normally, I do board games and Video games, but this year I have this weird other category that doesn't quite fit either, or fits both too well.


The first is called Johann Sebastian Joust, and it reminds me of things I used to do in my Judo class. It is essentially distilled lasertag down to it's very primal essence, and created a game I think absolutely anybody would want to play and find immediately rewarding. To the sound of classical music you must keep your motion activated controller from moving too fast. Simple enough, except that it is multiplayer, and someone can ominously slow walk over to you and smack the shit out of your controller.

So fun, I can see this thing blowing up.

On a similarly innovative and surprisingly compatible note, I got to play with Sifteocubes, I've seen this tech before in videos, but seeing a bejeweled type game on them, in person, my immediate instinct was to reach out and grab them. To the point where I kinda wanted the demoer to STFU, because somewhere, the tactile portion of my brain that have been undernourished by only the occasional controller vibration woke up and demanded to manipulate the shit out these things in front of me.

I talked tech with them for awhile, the cubes aren't cheap, and I was thinking it was just an expensive toy for my son, *until*, when I casually asked that they should open source the API, they pointed to a sign that said "hey hackers, we have an SDK, download it!". Suddenly it wasn't just an expensive game anymore, it was a development platform for wireleslly networked color displays.

After awhile it occurred to me that I could put these two favorite things of PAX together, and that Johann Sebastian Joust would be *trivial* to develop on sifteocubes, and likely for far cheaper than buying a PS3 just to play Joust. =) They already have lighted displays, the control station has sound, and they have built-in accelerometers. The code seems simple enough that it felt like something I might even be able to do in a few days time, let alone how fast it could be done by their developers. I went back and pitched them the concept, and their head developer gave me a guarded smile, basically saying "Yeah, I bet someone will do that", (aka I'm not going to openly admit that we're going to steal that dudes idea).

Video Games
    Games I'm excited for:
  • X-Com (PC, Squad based tactics, October release)
  • Torchlight 2 (PC, Dungeon Delve, Sept 20th release)
  • Airmech (PC, Free to play action RTS, Sept release)
  • Don't Starve (PC, Wilderness Survival, Playable beta available now)
  • Clockwork Empires (PC, Dwarf Fortress Clone, No release date)
  • Quadrilateral Cowboy(PC, First person Cyberpunk Hacking Puzzler, No release date)
  • Minion Master (PC, minion summoning strategy, Playable pre-release available now)
Board Games
    Board games I'm excited about:
  • Elder Sign Coop Arkham Investigation Yahtzee
  • X-wing Minatures Game Star Wars space combat done right (finally!)
  • Castellan (A lot like the "connect the dots into squares" kids game, but with castles, available 2013)
  • HEAP (Post-apocalyptic Goblin Mad Max Vehicle Building with UNO-like combat)
  • Galaxy Trucker (not a new game, but a lot of fun, design a ship (fast!), and hope to survive)

So yeah, lotsa stuff.

PAX Prime 2012, Day 1

The amazing thing about PAX isn't the games, it is the people.

Or more importantly the conversations that can be had.

Even on the train in, I sat across from game developer students from Iowa and we had a conversation about whether programming might be better taught in an apprenticeship. Two years university study, two years paid apprenticeship watching someone code 8hrs a day.

With the first developer I talked to we discussed the potential of replacing tests with games. Test anxiety is a huge issue. Sitting in a chair with 10 sheets of paper in front of you in an unusual and uncomfortable situation that often doesn't represent your true ability to problem solve with various knowledge. The same goes for technical interviews, in a forum where the person knows they are being explicitly judged in a zero sum game against other people, an excellent engineer might appear prone to mistakes. A game however, is excellent at escape, making you forget exactly what is going on right now, and frees you to perform more accurately in a situation where it is just you and a problem.

I talked gaming engines, game marketing, game story, hardware design, openSDKs, chip costs, hardware proximity detection, the miniaturization of accelerometers, broadcast protocol development, the list goes on and on, the number of friendly, knowledgeable people available at pax who seem genuinely happy to discuss the nuts and bolts of how their game works is staggering.

And then after that I joined Cookie Brigade and hawked cookies for an hour to hungry line goers and board game players. I got to talk to a large number of people that way. Mostly about cookies, some about Child's Play, PAX or just what game they were playing.

PAX itself is like a game. A bit of escapism. But for me, I feel like instead of using a game to hide human interaction, at PAX I make it a game to talk freely with people in a way I just don't in the normal world.

In the normal world when someone asks me what I do, I have to shrug and say "computers", because that is likely the most detail that would interest them, but to me it is a answer so vague it more resembles a lie than the truth. Safe to say, my answer at PAX is far more verbose.

When asked on the plane why I was coming to Seattle I shrugged and answered "gaming convention", because any more details would be a truth the man wouldn't be able to understand.