PAX Prime 2012 Review

I came back from Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) on Monday and I thought I would give a little writeup on how it went.

At PAX you are surrounded by thousands and thousands of gamers. Computer gamers, console gamers, card gamers, role playing gamers, dice gamers and so on. It really does not matter what kind of a gamer you are. You could even just be the casual gamer and still find a place at this convention. You can easily talk to anyone at PAX about any aspect of gaming you want too. It’s such a friendly and fun atmosphere. This is why I have gone for the last three years.

While at the convention I picked up the following items.

Hannah wearing a ‘Cards Against Humanity’ T-Shirt. She found to answer t-shirts to go with hers.

Cards Against Humanity which is an adult card game much like Apples to Apples. Just for adults. The tag line is “A Card Game For Horrible People”. So many people were playing this all throughout PAX and laughing hard while playing it that I had to pick up my own copy of the game. Cards Against Humanity started off as a free game and still is free. You can download the free PDF and print off your own cards. After a while they started a Kickstarter project to have official cards made. Now you can buy your own like I did thanks to the people who helped fund their kickstarter project.

Smallworld – Be Not Afraid… Expansion. Smallworld is a great board game I have been playing with friends for a while now. I was stoked to find this expansion for the game and can’t wait to play a game using it.

Pathfinder: Ultimate Equipment is a new Pathfinder Roleplaying Game book with all kinds of Weapons, magic items, armor and much more. This is going to be such a useful tool for me when planning out adventures in my own Pathfinder game.

I was disappointed that TECMO/Team Ninja’s Dead or Alive 5 did not have a booth. This is one of my all time favorite video games and I have been looking forward to part fives release for over a year now. The last edition of the game was not available for the PS3. This version is and I am stoked to get back into it.

I was pretty impressed with Nintendo’s Wii U showing on the convention floor. The graphics are way improved and the controls were pretty neat. Now they just need games that support the new hardware in unique ways.

PAX rocks and I am looking forward to next year.

A Return To Roots; NBA JAM: On Fire Edition

NBA JAM: On Fire Edition, is a return to the video game franchise’s roots. Drawing from the things that made the original games so great and what EA should have done from the start with last years release.

I was so excited last year when EA released an updated version of one of my favorite games of all time. NBA JAM was released for the current generation on consoles about this time last year. Like an eager gamer, I rushed out to the store to pick up my own copy on release day and jammed it into my Playstation 3 (PS3) so fast that I barely realized that I was missing work to play it.

As you can tell I was pretty excited to play this game. I have owned a PS3 for some time and have a dozen or so games, but there are only two I play on a regular basis. ‘Top Gun‘, and the latest ‘Mortal Kombat‘, which is a remake of the same game with the same title from the 90s, that focused a lot of bringing back all the elements of the original ‘Mortal Komabat’ game that fans like. So, you might say I am picky about the games I play.

I played NBA JAM for all of two hours after I got it. Since than it has sat quietly in the plastic box I bought in on the shelf next to my TV with my other video games. This new NBA JAM wonderfully maintained the arcade look the game has always had since it was released in the 90s, but that is the only good thing I can say about that game. The rest of my hopes and dreams for this game came crashing down like a bricked shot at the NBA finals.

NBA JAM lacked just about everything that made the original games so much fun to play. Things like the ability to control whoever on your team has the ball, fouling people in mid air just so you can steal the ball from them and an ‘On Fire’ mode that made you next to invincible on the court.

The programmers at EA made the mistake of spending their time creating “Half Court” games. Building an A.I. to play against that would leave Deep Blue scratching his brain, and mother fucking boss battles.

Really? Boss Battles, EA? What the hell are you thinking? This is a basketball game you morons, not fucking ‘Super Mario Brothers’. And to think I played fifty bucks for this damn “game”.

For the next few weeks while the game sat back on my shelf I was checking the message boards of EA, filing my complaints along with those others who also were outraged that the game missed its mark by so damn much. I found myself hoping that EA would provide a beacon of hope to all the thousands of fans by releasing an apology. Then release updates to the game so that it would be playable. But soon those weeks turned into months, which turned into, well fuck, this thing is never going to get played again.

Than this year while I was at PAX Prime, hope shined down on me when I saw the smallest booth on the show floor displaying ‘NBA JAM On Fire Edition’. It would be released on October 4th 2011. I eagerly went up to the kid manning the booth and asked “So did EA fix all the fuck ups of last years release”. The kid, having memorized the appropriate response to this question earlier in the day, responded with “I was not aware of any things needed to be fixed from last year’s game sir, but this on fire edition coming out in October will have over one thousand gameplay improvements.

I didn’t get a chance to grill the kid manning the booth any longer because PAX being what PAX is, I was late for a PAX talk. I had to hurry away and did not get a chance to revisit the booth before PAX ended. I did find myself thinking a lot about if I should get this updated NBA JAM game or not.

Well like a gullible child taking free candy from a guy in a windowless van, I picked up NBA JAM On Fire Edition as a digital download for fifteen bucks. So, this time if I get screwed over by the same gaming company it wont hurt as much. I hope.

NBA JAM On Fire Edition clames among its one thousand game play improvements:

  • Stripped out all boss battles
  • Removed Half-court games
  • Swap or tag play that allows the player to swap control of who they are controlling on their team during game play

To me, all of these “gameplay improvements” could have been addressed with a simple update to the original game of last year. Then at least I would not have felt like I just handed fifty bucks to EA supporting a shitty game. But no. This whole video and AE’s stance has been ‘implementing game improvements” and not “oh we fucked up, we are so sorry. We are going to make this better, we promise”. I don’t know why they have such a hard time admitting they screwed this up. There is nothing wrong with admitting you screwed up. It shows the fans that you care and that you can learn from your mistakes. But no. That is not what is happening here. They are playing it off like the game was perfect and now they are making it better.

Well, I have now had some time to actually play NBA JAM: On Fire Edition and here is what I think.

This game is pretty damn good. Once you get used to the controls the game play feels a lot like how it used to be back when I had it on the SNES. Complete with full control of both players (albeit, it can be sluggish switching players on defense), fouling people in mid air, and a strong ‘On Fire’ mode.

I see myself playing this game solid for a few months and inviting friends over to play it with me even though there is an online component to the game. I am not disappointed in this release, but if EA ever wants to apologies for the last one I bought, I will be waiting.

More Stargazer’s Posts

Some More Stargazer’s Posts I have written.

PAX Prime 2010 – Day 3

Waking up on the last day of PAX was slow and painful for not only myself, but for Hannah as well. I pulled myself out of bed and lazily stood up. That’s when I realized it was the damn hotel bed that had been sucking the life out of me each morning. The bed was to soft that you just melted into it. When you tried to get up in the morning it was like trying to pull yourself out of a quick sand pit. We took a shower and tried to wash away the groggy and stiffness we felt.

Today Hannah, Lyle and myself planned to meet up and spend most of the day in the Expo Hall checking out all the games we didn’t have a chance to check out before. The highlight for me was playing the new Mortal Kombat. Granted, I did not get a chance to see every game in the hall or play every game in the hall but out of the ones I did, Mortal Kombat stuck out as a favorite for me. This game feels more like MK 1 and MK 2 in it’s play and brutality. I understand it is also going to have a mature rating which will make fans of the game think that the game developers are finally starting to listen after 10 years.

Another game I was excited to see was Portal 2. The game was closed off behind walls and the only way to play it was to wait in an hour and a half. So though I did not get to play it I was excited to see that the game had a presence their.

I was so excited to try the demo for Duke Nukem forever. I quickly learned however, that the line for the demo was 2 hours long. I had waited in lines the last two days and I was done with it. So I did not wait to play the Duke Nukem Demo. I texted my friend Alex about this when I learned how long the line was.

Youseph: The line for Duke Nukem is 2 hours long.

Alex: It could be argued that, that line is 15 years long ;)

Youseph: Haha, to true!

Hannah found ‘Kirby’s Epic Yarn’ and played the demo for a while. Lyle enjoyed several Lord of the Rings game demos going on and all of us played a hand full of indie games. Hannah really enjoyed one that will be coming out soon called Swarm.

Not to think we where all about computer and console games on our last day at PAX we spent some time at the Chessex booth buying dice (where the frack where you GAME SCIENCE!) and visiting the hand full of venders that had RPG merchandise to offer.

We ended the day and PAX by attending Omegathon at Benaroya Hall. Omegathong is a weekend long tournament of randomly selected attendees competing for a grand prize. The final round makes up the show’s closing ceremony, past games for the final round have included Tetris, Pong, Halo 3, and Skee ball. This years final round was the OmegaClaw. You should have heard the audience explode when this thing was reveled on stage.

At the end of the Omegathon the three of us had dinner one last time. We said our guy byes to Lyle suggested we do this again next year.

PAX Prime 2010 – Day 2

Waking up and pulling myself out of bed I was feeling like I had been at PAX a week already. I could not figure out why I was feeling like this. Maybe it was all the walking around and standing in lines the day before. Maybe eating out so much was catching up to me. Regardless Hannah was smiling and ready to start her day and I was hardly going to disappoint.

In line with Hannah and Lyle

Hannah and I grabbed a quick bite to eat as we made our way back to Benaroya Hall to attend the “Penny Arcade Make a Strip” panel. Lyle joined us in line shortly after we arrived. When the doors to Benaroya Hall finally opened that morning everyone in line poured into the great hall and made their way to the seating area. Once everyone was seated The song “Hustling” by Rick Ross started blasting from speakers all around us as Gabe and Tycho entered the stage to a roaring applause. The two proceeded to create a comic strip for their website right before us all while they worked they also took questions from the audience. It was really funny and very entertaining and something we will do again for sure if we are lucky enough to attend PAX Prime in 2011.

After the “Make a Strip” panel finished we headed over to the Sheraton and got inline for “Acquisitions Incorporated: D&D Live”. This was a longer wait for us but the PAX Enforces did a decent job keeping everyone in line entertained as we waited to take our seats. Everyone in line seemed really nice. People in line where again either talking, Playing on their Nintendo DS’s or playing Zombie Dice. The three of us grabbed some carpet and talked about life, the universe and everything.

The doors eventually did open and we made our way inside and found good seating up close to the action. A large projector screen was center stage so even the people in the back of the room would be able to see the Dungeons & Dragons action going on. Chris Perkins from Wizards of the Coast and the DM of this game was already on stage making the final adjustments to his to props and miniatures.

Eventually everyone did get seated and cameras that would be projecting on to the screen in front of us where correctly setup. Then the players were introduced to great applause. Scott Kurtz as Binwin Bronzebottom, Wil Wheaton as Aeofel (Al), Gabe as Jim DarkMagic of the New Hampshire Darkmagics, and Tycho Omin Dran CEO of Acquisitions Incorporated. The object of this Acquisitions Incorporated Dungeons & Dragons game was to bring Wil Wheaton’s Character Aeofel, back from the dead if possible. It was an awesome game and I laughed pretty hard throughout the whole thing. I am sure that Wizards of the Coast will eventually post an official video/podcast of the game. When they do I will update this post with the link.

After the good time we had at the Acquisitions Incorporated game we all got right back in line for Wil Wheaton’s Awesome Hour that was also taking place in the Sheraton. Wil talk a bit about his life and then left the rest of the hour open to a Q and A session.

Day 2 at PAX was pretty much lines and panels. After Wil Wheaton’s talk the three of us got dinner. Again Lyle headed back home and Hannah and myself proceeded to walk around the open game rooms and look over the shoulders of other gamers till we where ready to head back to the hotel.