PAX East 2013: Day Two

8:23 AM – Thanks to help from my wife and my mom, I’m less encumbered by child care responsibilities this morning. However, I am encumbered by getting only four hours of sleep, so I still get a later start than I intended. Still, it looks like I’m going to make it to the 10:00 panel on JRPGs.

8:54 AM – On the Common, I walk past a church group feeding a line of bundled, freezing homeless people, which makes me feel just great about how I’m planning to contribute to society with my time today. Although, it’s not like these games will play themselves.

Round two. Fight!

11:04 AM – The “Do JRPGs Really Still Matter?” panel was—perhaps unsurprisingly—more of a nostalgia party than it was any real discussion of how JRPGs might remain relevant to the future of gaming. I do agree with the panel’s assessment that portable consoles (especially the DS) have been great for the genre. Now to head down to the expo floor.

11:42 AM – Only a little time on the floor, so I scope out some picks for this afternoon. Although the whole indie/Kickstarter trend of tongue-in-cheek retro classic style games is really starting to wear on me (and there’s a lot of them this year), Shovel Knight from Yacht Club Games looks like it could be decent. Perhaps it was watching a viking with a shovel do the Scrooge McDuck pogo bounce move that got me. Now I’ve got to head up to get in line for the “Making of Dust: An Elysian Tail” panel. As temping as Ken Levine and the Bioshock panel is, I’ve been fascinated by the process of this game and want to hear more.

Shovel Knight is basically Mega Man meets Castlevania meets Duck Tales. I know we’re all getting tired of 8-bit mash-ups, but that still sounds pretty awesome.

2:11 PM – Just got out of the Dust panel. Dean Dodrill and Alex Kain (the game’s writer) gave an absolutely amazing interactive slide presentation using in-game characters and assets. While I didn’t learn much about the game I didn’t already know (except that it’s going to be released on Steam), their talk did reaffirm what a phenomenal thing it says about the state of indie games today that something like Dust even exists.

4:15 PM – I’ve spent some time really checking out the indie selection on the expo floor. It’s a bountiful crop this year, a sharp contrast to the famine on the AAA side. Highlights included Facepalm’s The Swapper (a 2D sci-fi physics puzzler with cloning as its major mechanic) and Don’t Starve (a gothically illustrated survival game from Klei, makers of Mark of the Ninja). I also saw some very promising Kickstarter concepts that were coming along nicely, like Sauropod Studios’ Castle Story.

Instead of Klei’s usual comic-book aesthetic, Don’t Starve looks more like an Edward Gorey novel. Though I love the art of Shank and Mark of the Ninja, the new look is a good thing.

4:46 PM – I decided to take a dinner break and head into the city for a burger and a pint. As I took my first sip of beer, the glass split in half, presumably because it just came out of the dishwasher and thermodynamics is a cruel mistress. Regardless, I got a lap full of beer. Everything is not coming up Millhouse.

5:01 PM – They just comped my food and beer. Happy again. At least, until I head back outside in beer-soaked clothes.

6:30 PM – Undaunted by the combination of freezing temperatures and soaking-wet jeans, I head back to PAX for another panel. It’s called “404ing It: Breaking (Down) the Internet”, and other than the fact that it has some dude from Upright Citizens Brigade, Ryan Davis, Eric Pope, and some other guy, I have no idea what it’s about.

9:30 PM – So, it turns out “404ing It” is basically Upright Citizen Brigade’s version of Tosh.0, meaning the panel showed and discussed a variety of bizarre videos and Internet memes. One thing I learned is that apparently there’s a bizarrely devoted YouTube community obsessed with making tribute videos about the little girl from Poltergeist (like this one, which tastefully features the song “Had a Bad Day”). What’s more, this practice still continues to this day, more than 20 years after her death.  On a lighter note, my all-time favorite Nintendo commercial made an appearance.

Well, I’m still a bit damp and more than a bit exhausted, so that’s it for Day #2. I leave you with this other gem from the panel:

What Do You Think?