This year’s PAX AUS convention felt like it was trading on the lessons learned from its two previous events. The problems found at the 2013 and 2014 shows were fewer, while a handful of new ones sprang up to take its place. To that end, we’ve put together a short list of what we thought were the highlights and lowlights from this year’s show.
Just Cause 3: Create Your Own Destruction panel
An absolute treat from start to finish, the Just Cause 3 panel threw their whole presentation out as the crowd were filing into the Wombat Theatre, going with an hour-long playthrough that sold the game more convincingly than any pre-prepared remarks could have. Piloted by Omar Shakir, the giant screen was filled with some of the most creative destruction we’ve ever seen in a game and had the crowd laughing and cheering the entire time.
Gearbox know they’ve got to bring out the (literal) big guns if they want to compete with Blizzard’s competing team-based shooter, Overwatch. Battleborn finds the sweet-spot between MOBA, Borderlands and Team Fortress 2, with creative maps, versatile characters and meaty combat. Fast, fluid and a lot of fun. We can’t wait to spend more time with it.
The real star of the Expo Hall was, once again, the indie pavilion. Packed with amazingly creative games like Objects in Space, Death Stair, Hacknet and Agent A: A Puzzle in Disguise. Everything from the Showcase titles to the international attendees was brilliant, huge fun and drew massive crowds every single day. All of the devs were warm and excited to get to show off their games to anyone who wanted to stop by. There’s a reason the indie section is a must-see for many attendees.
Far more diverse panels
There were so many great new panels this year! Boss Level brought the politics of the Australian games industry into the spotlight in a thoughtful, encouraging way. Being a Gaming Youtuber in Australia was informative and had a really positive message for the many young gamers in the crowd. More than a Game: Playing for Mental Health and Wellbeing was one of many panels that dealt with a serious issue in a really open and constructive way, and Sex & the Modern Geek spoke about the long-standing stigma of the dateless geek is changing for the better in a funny and sincere way. Outstanding. Let’s keep that going next year!
Naughty Dog presents: Uncharted 4 panel
For many, the most underwhelming panel of the show. While Naughty Dog’s PR director Arne Meyer put on a brave face, he simply didn’t have a lot to work with. Showing only a few combined minutes of multiplayer footage during the hour-long panel, many fans were left wondering why they’d come along at all. We appreciate Naughty Dog not wanting to spoil anything but if you’re going to have a Main Theatre panel for your hotly anticipated game, you should actually bring something to show.
Bethesda’s Fallout 4 Theatre
Many fans spent as many as two hours queueing to get into the Bethesda presentation in the Expo Hall only to get in there and discover that everything being shown was stuff they’d seen at E3 and online in recent months. While it was cool to see all of that Doom and Fallout 4 footage on a massive screen with crazy sound (and the whole thing being put on by Bethesda Australia on their own initiative is to be vigourously commended), it wasn’t quite enough to warrant all that time spent in line.
The Expo Hall
Was it just us or did it feel like there were more retailers than developers in the Expo Hall this year? Even Harvey Norman had a booth, for crying out loud. While everyone loves a spur-of-the-moment, probably-overpriced convention purchase and the chance to check out some upcoming hardware, it feels like the Expo Hall should be more about the games themselves and less about the gear required to play them. The layout felt much cleaner this year, though, and only really began to clog with people during peak hours.
This was a similar complaint to last year but it’s still a point of concern for many attendees. PAX AUS falls on the same weekend as the beginning of the Spring Carnival racing week in Melbourne and Halloween weekend. Two gigantic events in the space of a few days means not only is hotel accommodation hard to secure, room rates also get well and truly out of control, adding to an already expensive time at the show (oh, overpriced convention food, you’re just the worst). It would be difficult to shift to another date, however, as moving the show up could potentially conflict with the EB Expo and moving it later may conflict with other events at the venue.
David Smith travelled to Melbourne for PAX courtesy of Tiger Airways, with accommodation thanks to YHA and Accor Hotels.