Friday, April 11, 2014

PAX East Day 1: Awesome Indie Games and 20,000 Steps in 4 Hours

I’m a bit zonked from the 3 hour time change from Seattle to Boston, so I didn’t spend much time Friday at PAX East. There was only a single panel I wanted to go to, and outside of the indie game booths, not a whole lot interesting going on at the Expo hall itself. But I did get to check out a few super neat indie games. There were a tonne, but here’s the ones that caught my eye:

Colliding Forces

This was a cool little take on Air Hockey meets Greek Elements on tablets. The gist is simple: you need to get a puck of each of the four Greek elements into the other player’s goal first. You summon pucks at gates, you can upgrade pucks (Earth -> Fire -> Wind -> Water), or you can fling pucks The more Earth pucks you have, the more turns you get in a round; Fire pucks destroy other pucks when they touch, then it dies too; Wind pucks repel other pucks; Water pucks put out a zone of control across the board. Pretty easy to pick up concept, but seems like there’s a fair bit of strategy to be had.

The lady demoing the game to me thoroughly trounced me, but I made some pretty basic errors (hey, it was my first time!). Seemed like an interesting game overall.

Fit for two-players in the same meatspace on iOS and Android, it is available right now.


This game was described to me at the booth as, “Metroid meets Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, with procedurally generated dungeons strung together with story-based dungeons to move the game forward.” I mean, you had me at Castlevania: SotN, really. A 2D Action-RPG platformer for PC/Mac/Linux, it seemed pretty sweet. I didn’t get any hands on time (someone else was playing the demo), but it seemed pretty nifty. The gentleman said it really was a love letter to the videogames they grew up and loved.

The premise behind the game is you’re a soldier who deserted the army after getting a letter that told you to get back home. On the way back, you end up in a mining town, but you cannot leave (in fact, the town is a love letter to Pac-man, as when you leave one side, you come back on screen on the other). Over time, more NPCs will get stuck in town with you as you try to figure out what the heck is going on.

Currently available for pre-order for both Steam and DRM-Free,

Darkest Dungeon

Most games our heroes are just that, heroes. Very few of them deal with the stresses and mental damage that a dungeon crawl really would put people through. Darkest Dungeon looks to remedy that. Your party of four heroes venture deep within the earth on an adventure through narrow passages. The mental tolls that adventuring puts on your party turns into very real consequences for your characters, and you need to manage them as well as the normal combat and dungeon crawling aspects.

Combat is also an interesting affair. Everything is in tiny passages, so both parties end up in a line. Where you are in that line determines what abilities you have for use. If you’re a caster and too close to the front, you’re relegated to melee abilities. Far in the back and you can lob spells with impunity. Granted, monsters have the same concept, so battles almost become a puzzle.

Another game I didn’t get any hands-on time with, but the concept intrigued me greatly. Currently available for pre-order for Windows, OSX, or Linux.

Delver’s Drop

I’ll admit, this one caught my eye because it is pretty. Very, very pretty. An action roguelike which has the smoothest action I’ve seen in such a game (rather than the usual grid-based system), and like most games in the indie showcase, procedurally generated random dungeons. Besides it being really pretty and the fluid mechanics, I didn’t see much else to set this game apart from others in the genre, but given a lot of roguelikes tend to be staid grid-based, pixel-art dungeon crawlers, this may have enough of a leg up to be worthwhile to play.

Available for pre-order on desktops (Windows, OSX, Linux) to be released mid-2014, and late-2014 for mobile and OUYA (wait, really? Someone’s actually developing for the OUYA?).

Hand of Fate

This game was extremely intriguing. Advertised as a deck-building action RPG, it has roguelike elements to exploration, and Batman: Arkham Asylum or God of War action combat sequences. I got to play a little bit, and I have to say, this is my pick for the coolest game by far.

The exploration mode is a “dungeon” made from tarot cards. You can see the backs of the tarot cards, so you know what kind of encounter is coming, but you don’t know what the encounter is precisely—unless you’re moving backwards through the dungeon, in which case you get to redo encounters over again. Each move costs food, of course, and if you run out of food, you start losing health.

Combat encounters themselves were pretty fun, at least the ones I played. I got thrown into an arena, and had to fight off some bandits. You have three basic moves: attack, counter, and dodge-roll. Attack and dodge-roll are pretty self-explanatory, but counter was interesting. If an enemy is winding up a big attack, they get a green timing bar above their head, and if you hit counter, you hit them an interrupt their attack. Attacking auto-targeted enemies, and hitting attack over and over again made my character jump from bandit to bandit. Felt pretty smooth, if a bit simple.

I like the idea and the execution of the game, and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on it. Available for pre-order to be released on Steam (Windows, OSX, Linux), and developing for the PS4. Their website states in the first quarter of 2014, but that’s clearly passed, so I’m not sure where that sits now.


Other things at PAX East
So many PCs

So many people

So much Tabletop space

The thing about PAX East is that it really feels BIGGER than Prime. The Expo hall at Prime is definitely larger, but there seems to be so much more space at the BCEC than the Seattle convention center. I managed to rack up about 20,000 steps according to my FitBit, in only 4 hours of time (and an hour of that was sitting at the Writer’s panel).

Apparently the badge that I got is confusing, because it states I am a “Special Guest”, which confused at least one security guard. Would have been nice to just have the normal 3-day pass, but eh, I’m pretty special I like to think. I’d post a photo, but I’ll wait until closer to the end so someone can’t try to counterfeit it.

The Writer’s Workshop was pretty good. Not really anything I didn’t already know from my forays from writing fiction in the past, but was good review. Find a writer’s group; always write down everything; learn from all sources; self-promotion is important, even when going traditional publishing; so on and so forth.
Still all Orcs.

The Blizzard booth in the expo hall was crazy. There was seriously a line for the line. Blizzard had Hearthstone for iPad, Heroes of the Storm, and Warlords of Draenor all available for playing. I wasn’t going to stand in a 2 hour line for any of that, though. I can wait, thank you very much.
The coloured templates were sadly only prototypes. Being able to put down blasts without lifting all of the minis? Awesome.

I also found these nifty tower things for miniature gaming. Basically, if you have flying creatures/players (or aquatic), it’s a pain to keep track of heights and position. Not anymore! A couple of towers and big giant platforms that are totally customizable as far as heights go and now I’m set. These will be great for D&D!

I got to get a glance at the Diversity Lounge and perhaps it was because I was ravenously hungry and wanted to escape, I was both happy and a little disappointed with it. I'll be checking it out in closer detail tomorrow to see if my initial feelings stick.

Overall, I’m having a blast, despite only spending half of Friday at PAX, and looking forward to more tomorrow. Tonight I’m having dinner with one of the healers that I raid with, but for now, nap time!
#PAX, #IndieGames

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