It really is that time of year again. PAX Aus is about to happen for 2017 and this year is building up as the biggest one to date, for me anyway, but overall they seem to be cramming more into everything. If you are travelling to the event or a local that is just going to drop into PAX for a look it is always a great idea to plan what it is you would like to do while you are here. For those travelling to the event, this is extremely important as you do want to make the most of your travels. I am only attending the first two days of the show this year again, so let me share with you what I think are the parts of PAX Aus that you should really be looking at.
As I always say, attend a Panel, these are either entertaining, educational or a bit of both. I will start with the fact that this year for the first time I will be up on stage in the Wombat arena as part of the Australasian Gaming Podcast Network (AGPN) where we will be putting on a variety show or game show type of panel. The panel is called Party mode and it is on Saturday, 4:30 pm and I highly recommend dropping in and watch my team, Git Gud, take on the other three teams in a 3 part game show. We each take turns competing at different games live on stage until a team (My team of course) is crowned the winner at the end of the hour. Should be a fun watch even though it won’t be up to the eSports standards you will see elsewhere at PAX Aus.
As always we start the show off with a Storytime panel with a keynote speaker and this year we have the amazing Burnie Burns opening the show. This will be packed so turn up to the main theatre early to get a seat. The panel starts at 10:30 am on Friday and will see the Chief Creative Officer of Rooster Teeth Productions chat about his career and give you a unique insight into what it is like to be a cornerstone in the powerhouse production company that can seem to do no wrong at the moment. If you don’t mind missing the first few hours of the show floor I urge you to go along to this panel.
Other key panels that you might want to check out include the Indie Showcase panel with some of Australia’s lead Indie developers can talk about the industry and what it is like to develop in Australia and get noticed. With the art of Fighting games making a big return in 2017 it might be worth checking out the Gamespot theatre on Friday evening for the panel “What makes a fighting game good?” and see what is driving this resurgence of the fighting genre. Another great panel, particularly with today’s climate is “ Microtransactions are great (or are they?)!!!” which once again is in the Gamespot Theatre but on Sunday. In this panel, we will see some developers and journalists discuss both sides of Microtransactions and where they sit in gaming today. There are plenty more panels out there and most are live on twitch if you are not at the venue as well, so check out the schedule and see what suits you.
The map is out for the show floor and two things jump out at me this year more than any other year, firstly there are just more exhibitors than normal, secondly, the Aussie indie presence has a huge part to do with it. I will dedicate a section below to PAX Rising and the PAX Aus Indie showcase so look forward to seeing some of the titles I have already booked time with and will be bringing you more content on over the coming weeks. We have two stages set up for eSports this year, some of the biggest names in hardware, the MSY shop with two large areas and the biggest publishers in Australia.
PlayStation, Nintendo and Xbox all have rather large booths to show off their latest games, however, I assume Nintendo will have mainly Mario and a few indies to show off and Playstation with some Horizon: The Frozen Wilds but this year the Xbox booth might have the most exciting content for me of them all. We have heard through Twitter that Sea of Thieves will have a very special set up on the show floor so I for one am very keen to get some long overdue hands-on time with what is shaping up to be the next rare masterpiece. Also, I would assume the Xbox One X will be on the show floor, which should be good to see before launch. Bandai Namco will also have a presence at the show so be sure to check them out as well.
Lenovo has a massive booth this year to show off their gaming machines and accessories. Drop in a check them out for some very powerful laptops, PCs and some sexy keyboards and mice. I am always amazed by how small their Y700 series cubes are for the power they can produce. HP Omen have their roadshow set up too if you want to see a different brand of gaming PC and Alienware will also have a large booth to show off the latest offerings they have. Finally for those in the market for a gaming machine, be it tower or laptop, don’t forget to check out exactly what Asus and the Republic of Gamers have over their two big areas. If it is just parts and accessories you need the AMD, Logitech, Astro gaming and the always impressive Hyperx will have many bargains for you to find.
There is so much more then what I have mentioned here to see on the show floor, it is just a matter of walking around and seeing exactly what is out there for yourself. There will even be booths from different institutes that can teach you about the gaming industry like Swinburne University, Media Design School, AIT, TAFE NSW and JMC Academy. Hanabee will have its own area on the floor as well as all your cooling needs from Coolmaster, Thermaltake and Deepcool to help you keep that PC not only cool but looking amazing. If you are in the market for PC parts then MSY will have a store set up across two stages so you can check out some great deals and avoid shipping costs on all your parts needs. Overall, there will be plenty of things to see, buy and help you learn if you are attending this year’s PAX Aus and if you aren’t, maybe try and snap up some of those last single day tickets before they are gone.
This year’s PAX Rising is set to be the main focus for me with over 60 booths lined up and ready to show off the hottest Australian made games coming in the next two years. I have had many developers reach out already to organise demos during the show and much more that I will just drop in on so expect full coverage on the website in the weeks after PAX if you can not make the show. Also this year some of the big indies from last year have returned after taking their games to other PAX events around the world in the form of the Pax Aus indie showcase. Earth Works Games will be there with more Forts action along with Grabity from Ninja Thumbs Ltd, Projection from Shadowplay Studios, Sky Noon from Lunar Rooster, The Gardens Between from The Voxel Agents and Virtually Impossible from Growl Interactive. These Developers will be on full display at the Tabletop end of the PAX Rising area.
Outside of these titles, I am really looking forward to meeting the Brisbane team behind the upcoming title Damsel, Screwtape Studios, who has been on our radar for a while now with their dark cartoon take on the platformer. Rumu by Robot House is a narrative driven adventure game that sees you take control of a robot vacuum cleaner that has become self-aware. There is so much to love about the graphics of the game and you just can’t help but fall in love with Rumu at first sight. If you are into platformers and like the roguelite genre then maybe you have seen Aura of Worlds before at PAX Aus. Cognitive Forge is returning for the third time with their platformer ready to let attendees adventure and explore in this really cool world. Oh, and the sound takes you right back to the good old days. If hats and gags are more your thing then swing by Asymmetric’s booth and see their comedy RPG, West of Loathing in action. Minimalist in graphics but it has plenty of character. My friends from Giant Margarita will be there once again showing off Party Golf of Switch as well.
This kind of an event really is the grand final for a lot of indie developers, not only is it their time to get more people hands on with there game than anywhere else in Australia but they also have a chance to show their titles off to some of the bigger players in the console market and maybe bring their game over to there. The lead up to PAX Aus must be a nightmare and the three days on the floor talking over and over again to people about their game must be crazy. However, it is worth it if they can get people to fall in love with their game that could easily have been missed when it launches. Give these Aussie indie developers your time and respect and if you like the game, tell the world about it, they deserve all the support we can give them.
The Tabletop zone will once again be a great place to unwind but also play a tabletop or board game that you may never have seen. They have chairs, that is enough of a reason to drop by for me but in front of those chairs could be a whole new world. I know that there will be the latest content from the tabletop version of Defiant Developments very popular game, Hand of Fate. An early prototype of T2029 which is an officially licensed Terminator 2 board game will be on display as well. There will be so many different types of games, either released with new content or yet to be released games you will easily lose a couple of hours down that end of the hall. As most of the games will be demoed by the creators themselves this will be a perfect opportunity to give them feedback on their game and maybe even improve it in a way the creator didn’t even think of. Don’t skip out on this section of the hall as it is lots a fun and a great way to actually make new friends too.
There is so much hidden around the Melbourne Convention centre that you really do need three days to take it all in. If not you may miss out on things like the Sony Horizon Zero Dawn art Gallery which will be so beautiful. The Dance stage can easily be missed outside the Wombat theatre as well as the VR Freeplay room which is awesome if you have never tried VR before. Finally, you have to check out the far end of the hall which is opened till well after the exhibition floor is closed. The free play area of the hall is great if you are at PAX Aus and under 18 or you just want to relax and play some games on your own. There is a speed running stage which will be hosting speed runs all day, every day. The console Tournament lounge which is a great way to test your skills against other gamers there. The classic section which has all the old school consoles set up to play that you could possibly need. The handheld lounge is usually full as it has amazing beanbags but also a collection of potential new friends playing handhelds. If you are a PC player there is an Intel-sponsored area for you to or you can even bring your own in the area next to that. Don’t skip this part of the hall and the fact it is open late really means you have no excuse.
Outside of PAX Aus itself, there is still a mass of things to do. Melbourne is packed to the brim over the whole week with gamers so there are many chances for you to catch up with friends or possibly make new ones. My first PAX Aus I had never met anyone in person at the show but the clan I played online with were there in force and instantly I had people to wonder the show with. Parties like last years Final Fantasy XIV meet up at Bartronica were so much fun and helped me meet so many new people again. The Twitch Australia party on Friday night is always packed and a great place to let your hair down and be social with other gamers. There is just so much going on in Melbourne outside of PAX Aus itself it is really hard not to make new friends and really make the overall trip worthwhile and enjoyable for everyone.
PAX Aus is a must at some stage for any gamer. If you can’t make it this year start planning for next year now. As you can see, there is just so much to see and do while you are at the event that it really is a no-brainer to make the trip. I have only grazed the surface of the panels that you could attend while at the event and there is honestly four or five social tournaments going on at any given moment that planning ahead is a must. As for me, the biggest and best part of PAX Aus and the part I wish everyone would spend the most time at is PAX Rising. These indie developers need our support and there really are so many little gems to be found on the floor of PAX Aus that would be easy to miss. If you are at the show please check them all out. If not keep an eye on the website, we have a lot of content coming your way over the coming weeks on everything we have seen and experienced while at PAX Aus.