Alright my friends. If you’ve been with me through my first three impressions articles, you know that the more I wrote, the more I found there was to write about. You might be getting a sense for just how vast the video game portion of PAX South 2017 was. That doesn’t even take into account the other half of the venue dedicated to tabletop gaming, nor the constant schedule of panels throughout, the competitive gaming arena, the VR experiences, and so on, which I largely missed due to time constraints. However, I think I should be able to wrap up my impressions of PAX South 2017 here. Thanks for sticking with me.
Alright, one of the most special things about PAX South 2017 was the charitable events happening. Most of the developers and publishers were offering a portion of their proceeds to the ACLU and other organizations working towards opposing certain *ahem* dictatorial edicts being forced upon certain ethnicities of people right now in the States and as a result, beyond. However, we won’t delve too much into that today. Rather, I want to focus on this specific charity, who is dedicated to providing relief to our troops at home and abroad. As per their mission statement:
Founded in 2015, Stack-Up (TAX ID: 47-5424265) brings both veterans and civilian supporters together through a shared love of video gaming. With the motto: “Veterans are our Mission. Gaming is our Passion”, Stack-Up serves US, NATO and ANZAC veterans through three primary programs: The Stacks, Stack-Up Supply Crates, and Air Assaults.
During PAX South 2017, they had a large booth set up where you could do push ups to win Steam game codes. Additionally, you could offer donations, and could also pick up some nice wristbands to show support for the cause. Although we didn’t end up being able to interview these fine folks during the event, we fully intend to schedule them on one of our podcasts and wholly embrace their mission. It was heartening to see such a buzz surrounding this and the other charitable events during PAX South 2017.
One further note: Our own Nick Edward, King of Indies, did in fact do some push-ups, and beat the clock by almost 30 seconds. We should have the video of this available soon.
While we were checking out various booths at PAX South 2017, we came across Truant Pixels booth. Truant Pixel specializes in independent game development, GUI customization, graphic design and consulting for online, interactive entertainment and emerging media. They were also creating art in the moment for an upcoming Otome game they are working on called Akash: Path of the Five. You can reference our impressions here or simply watch my interview with Souha Al-Samkari – Vice President and Artist for Truant Pixel (I may or may not be the hulking gentleman on your left). Many thanks to Souha, Ian, and Maher who were all wonderful hosts.
Vlambeer is the creator of Nuclear Throne, and they had a booth set up so multiple people could enjoy some roguelike Nuclear Throne action to their hearts content. Additionally, they featured a sign up list for an every hour contest. Basically, every hour, the next person on the sign up sheet got a chance to try and beat Nuclear Throne. If they could manage it, every person watching via a large screen television would get a free copy of the game. Sadly, while I was present, nobody managed to do so. However, it was still great fun.
Bishop Games was one of our collective favorite experiences at PAX South 2017. They are the creators of Light Fall, a stunningly beautiful game described as such:
Enter the universe of Light Fall and jump into an epic adventure where darkness prevails over the light. Make your way through the Forgotten World of Numbra and explore its many regions. Do not be fooled by the quiet stillness of Numbra, as you will encounter strange creatures and brave many challenges to uncover your mysterious past.
We had a chance to sit down with Benoit Archer and chat about the game while I filmed and Nick played the game with Ben’s guidance. There was no mistaking the love and passion Ben had for their project and the game truly matched his enthusiasm. He described it as a game where the darkness was safe and anything beautiful was deadly. Nick was in fact so enamored of the experience, that after our interview wrapped up, he and Ben sat there playing the game for another half hour. Don’t miss this one on your list of must own upcoming games!
Frozenbyte was a developer I wasn’t going to miss a chance to visit during PAX South 2017. You will know them from such diverse offerings as the Trine series and Shadwen, amongst others. Frozenbyte has proven a willingness to take chances and pursue the development of games they are interested in rather than be pigeon holed by a franchise or style. At this event, they were showing off their newest game, Has Been Heroes, a lane based roguelike. I had never heard of a lane based roguelike before. Fortunately, Frozenbyte knew this would be a question oft asked at the event, and were on hand to help all gamers better understand the game and its mechanics. Basically, it pulls from your classic JRPG square off combat, but rather than teams simply facing each other, you have four lanes, which your characters and the enemies will occupy. You can switch lanes to try and maximize your attacks. It is pausable, and your characters respond as if it is turn based, but the game continues in real time outside of your pauses, which is where you are well served to issue lane, attack, and special ability commands.
It is worth noting that this game will be coming to all major platforms, including the Switch, which they were in fact also demoing their game on until Sunday when Nintendo Japan swooped in to kill everybody’s enjoyment of the Switch outside of their own booth area despite Nintendo America having approved the use prior to the event. Anyway, we will be featuring a gameplay and interview video on TICGN later this coming week, but for now, enjoy this video to get a taste for this excellent game.
Galaxy Trail was a developer we were able to chat with at some length, but didn’t have a chance to do an official interview. We did however capture some game footage which will be up on TICGN in the near future. Our entire team did however get some quality hands on time with Freedom Planet 2 (the game being featured at their booth) that saw all of us playing the entire demo through the defeat of the first boss. Very reminiscent of Sonic, but as was mentioned by Ryan during our podcast, Sonic was obviously not the only influence, and you would do well to go in with open expectations. Freedom Planet 2 was in fact a ton of fun to play though and we all look forward to its eventual release.
I’d like to take some time here to list a few other games that I definitely took notice of while I was walking around and chatting with various developers on Sunday.
Developed by Quantum Squid Interactive
Hordes of enemies and endless play value. Face various challenging monsters as you collect items, powerful loot, and adapt your combat strategy in this rogue-like action game.
I had a chance to speak with Dane Emerson about this game while watching some other people playing it. The game looked like a ton of fun and Dane was a great person to speak with.
Developed by Kitfox Games
As mayor of a struggling seaside village, you must guide your citizens spiritually but also sate the blood-hunger of gods sleeping beneath the waves.
Jongwoo Kim, Co-founder and Programmer was a fun host who brought a mandolin-ist to the event to provide some sweet background music. Their previous title, Moon Hunters, is a game I have enjoyed playing and I expect The Shrouded Isle to also be great fun and highly interesting. It is also worth noting that the rest of the Canadian developers collective of which Kitfox was a part of ALL had something positive to say about The Shrouded Isle.
Black Ice is a Hack and Shoot – a Cyberpunk First-Person Shooter / Hack & Slash RPG about hacking. Think Borderlands meets Tron. The cyber-world is huge, the colors are neon, the loot is randomized, and the lasers are loud. Black Ice is currently in Beta, with updates on the way.
I actually had a chance to demo this game, which was cyberpunk meets Tron without a doubt. Very fun and fast paced, but in a calculated way.
Developed by Spiral Summit Games
Enter the Blacksea Odyssey, a violent top-down rogue-lite space shoot ‘em up RPG brimming with colossal creatures and runic technologies. Explore dangerous, interstellar spacescapes as you hunt enormous space-behemoths with a harpoon and rune-infused spears.
I actually already owned this game for a little while before attending PAX South 2017 and think it is a hella fun rogue like with some actual bullet hell sequences and crazy awesome boss battles. I had a chance to chat with the team and they were all gregarious and welcoming. Although I didn’t play the game while I was there, we did chat while watching others play, and they pointed out a lot of the cool game mechanics as they were revealed through the various playthroughs happening in front of us.
Alright, now I want to talk about capitalism and how distinctly different things were when you visited a AAA booth or set up rather than an Indie booth along with some consequences from the AAA mindset.
CAPCOM was at PAX South promoting a Resident Evil 7 experience, for which they provided exactly 60 tickets to attend each day. Obviously, if you weren’t one of the first people in the event each day, you weren’t going to get to experience this without waiting for upward of 4-5 hours at times (that was the wait for people who didn’t have one of the coveted tickets). We have reviewed Resident Evil 7 on our site and even published a walkthrough, so this is a title we were excited to check out, but alas, it was not to be so. What we did see however was that CAPCOM seemed quite a bit more interested in peddling “limited edition” Resident Evil plushies and other such paraphernalia and swag. They even had a lady on the mic talking about the stuff they were selling, prices, and so on…incessantly throughout the event. I guess her voice finally broke on Day three and they got somebody else to be their caller. It was more than a little unsettling as they constantly reminded us how rare these items were and how you would never have another chance to get one if you didn’t get one NOW! I found the focus on collectibles rather than the actual game to be more than a little off-putting
Then we get to Nintendo. Clearly, the Switch was the star of PAX South 2017, and if the incredibly long lines served as an indicator, the Switch will be at least as successful as the Wii and might even close on the 3DS. Although I am sometimes prone to hyperbole as I may have mentioned in my previous impressions article, I really am not overstating the potential based on everything I saw and heard. Almost every developer we spoke with had either already gotten a commitment to put their game on the switch, or they were currently pursuing the possibility. As somebody who actually got some hands on time with the Switch, my own experience confirms my thoughts as well.
HOWEVER, Nintendo once again also showed their, at best, lack of understanding as to what drives people to buy their consoles. More than a few games had Switch’s set up in their own booths to demo their game on the console. Shovel Knight and Has Been Heroes are but two of many. Nintendo America gave them all permission to do so, but on day three, apparently Nintendo Japan got wind of this and killed it, forcing all non-Nintendo booths to stop demoing anything on the Switch. I’m not even going to bother going through all my thoughts on this. I’m sure you have the same ones cycling through your heads that I had in mine.
Capitalism incarnate, where the almighty dollar trumps actual common sense and decency.
Rant over. Now I would like to thank a quartet of developers that really went out of their way to get to know us beyond simply talking about games.
Radu Muresan of Vivid Helix, who has developed the game Semispheres. My wife and I have been talking about moving back to Canada for a few years, and Radu, a Calgary resident, went out of his way to not only talk about Canada, but also to extend a hand of friendship that I was both thankful and grateful for. As somebody who moved to Canada from far away (Romania) with a hope and a dream, he was sympathetic to the notion and had personal experience with it as well. Thank you good sir!
Phillip Johnson of Invisible Collective who have developed BATTLESLOTHS 2025: The Great Pizza Wars. Phillip was a fun person to play against with his game, but an even better person to chat with afterwards. In fact, our conversation about Star Wars was going so strong that my team members had to pull me aside and remind me that we still had other people to talk to, lol. You sir were a blast to speak with and I quite enjoyed your game as well. Thank you!
Will Dube of Thunder Lotus Games, currently developing Sundered. Will was very mindful to chat with every person he saw playing Sundered to get feedback, both positive and critical. Not only that, but he was quite gregarious and offered a lot of insight, not only about the development process, but also about proper use for crowd funding, being gamer centric rather than profit centric, and so on. Of everybody I spoke with at the event, Will seemed to have the best handle on what it means to be responsible in your commitment not only to your game but also to the people who might potentially play your game. Nobody was more grounded or interesting to speak with in my opinion. Thank you very much good sir. You have truly confirmed my confidence and belief in the integrity of game developers.
Finally, I would like to send my final shout out to Martin Brouard, who you might remember from my first impressions article intro. Not only was your concern and care for independent gamer focused studios evident from your facilitating the Canadian developers collective, but also in our chat about the currently unannounced project your own studio is working on and the direction you are taking in its development process. I found our conversation fascinating and your energy infectious. I appreciated your time and the goodwill you were spreading!
I think that suitably wraps up my PAX South 2017 experiences and impressions. I’m sure there are a few things I have left out, and that really speaks to the vast and awesome experience that PAX South 2017 brought to the table. Despite it being the smallest of the PAX events, it was still immense, and I challenge anybody to try and experience everything in one weekend. Hell, I didn’t even get into the classic console free play that was available until midnight each night. Perhaps that is a discussion for another year though. Thanks for sticking with me through my impressions series and I look forward to chatting with all of you again this time next year. In the meantime however, if you would like to ask any question, leave a comment in the section below and I will gladly answer to the best of my ability. Cheers and peace!