PAX AUS is always an enjoyable event and 2019 was no different. The theme as usual was to have fun, try new things and keep an open mind. The organisers successfully provided an atmosphere of inclusiveness and opportunity for all attendees and exhibitors.
PAX wouldn’t be the event it is without a dedicated team maintaining the atmosphere so I’ll start by acknowledging them. ‘Enforcers’ were roaming the different areas of the event in their signature yellow shirts – at the ready to provide directions/assistance and maintaining order in the stimulus-rich environment. These Enforcers have a job to do but they also joined in on the fun as we saw with Ubisoft’s Just Dance booth.
The two Enforcers below got up and started busting out some serious moves with matching facial expressions to the genuine encouragement and delight of the crowd. This is one example but there were many across the whole event.
At the end of the day, PAX only has six rules and they are pretty straight forward.
Console vendors XBOX, PlayStation and Nintendo were incredibly popular with attendees patiently waiting in queues to try out the latest titles. Although all 3 console booths were packed, I came away from the event thinking that Nintendo took the points for the most attention with XBOX a close second. Minecraft Dungeons on XBOX appeared to be very well received by the masses.
It wouldn’t be PAX without merch and there were certainly a lot of opportunities to pick up merchandise from pop-culture props, books/comics, games, miniatures, puzzles to PC peripherals.
Independent game developers really make the most of PAX where they get to see both their target market and other developers. The feedback from gamers can be a double-edged sword at times and I have the utmost respect for every developer that ran a booth at the event.
Top Indie pick: Hot Brass
For me, the emerging game of the event was Hot Brass. This game is a tactical top-down police SWAT title that isn’t just about killing bad guys. Inspired by Sierra’s SWAT 4, you need to move your SWAT team around buildings in various scenarios to arrest or neutralise bad guys. The objective is to complete the missions using less than lethal force, but it won’t be easy. Different gadgets and weapons will be available and co-op play for up to 4 people.
The developer’s choice to use vibrant but simple icons to represent players and NPCs instead of detailed character sprites is a good one and worked really well in the demo. This decision makes it clearer what the entities in the game are doing so you don’t really have much excuse for shooting a suspect that’s already submitted. The game is really about tactics and decision making and the execution of those concepts in Hot Brass should appeal to a large number of gamers.
Indicators for noise, field of view, animations of flashbangs and dynamic entry have all been implemented in a logical way that shows a high level of consideration for the player, giving them as much information as possible without overwhelming them.
Check it out here on Steam; I’ve already added this to my wishlist.
Indie Diamond in the Rough: Broken Roads
Another title that was early in its development was Broken Roads – check out the official website here.
It’s like the developer took inspiration from some of my all time favourite games (Fallout Tactics and the XCOM series) and then made an Australian-based gaming experience with a neat twist via their Moral Compass mechanic. Despite being only six months into development, the signs are a positive beacon for Broken Roads and I look forward to seeing their progress at PAX next year.
The reveal trailer is below – note how the RPG element is being executed with the moral compass being shaped by your decisions. Certain responses and outcomes will be impacted by how you play the game.
As someone who binge watches post apocalyptic series like The Walking Dead, etc. their concept of an evolving moral compass throughout the game resonates with me. This game mechanic also has the potential for legitimate replay-ability. Whilst not an open world game, it doesn’t sound exactly linear either, perhaps more structured but time will tell and I’ll certainly be watching this title with interest.
Indie VR Gold! – Espire 1: VR Operative
Here we see a polished VR title that demanded attention in the PAX Rising area. Based on what I saw at PAX, this game is something I’ll happily buy for our Oculus Rift setup – release it already!! Check out the Steam Store page for the requirements, release dates, etc.
Espire 1: VR Operative is a stealth title that had me thinking Metal Gear Solid but in VR. This could be the VR title I’ve been waiting for and what had me most interested was the “Control Theatre” game mechanic that was implemented to avoid the common complaint of motion sickness. Like many people, I have a tendency to feel various degrees of motion sickness in first person VR titles despite having a decent VR PC on the table. The way this has been implemented doesn’t appear to break either the immersion or the overall gameplay.
Australian pre-orders are available for AUD$42.95 via Steam. If you already have VR hardware then you should at least watch the trailer above.
In the past, we’ve seen certain PC building themes gain popularity. Water cooling, RGB LEGs, open (and semi-open) air chassis and of course, tempered glass have all increased in popularity over the years. This year there seemed to be an increase in the amount of pink-themed peripherals, cases and even chairs. Pink peripherals were present at PAX AUS in 2018 but it seemed to step up a level at this event so if pink is your thing, the gallery below shows some of the highlights.
As always there was a lot to see in the PC gaming space. Any attendees in the market for a new laptop, monitor or set of peripherals were able to directly compare the current offerings between vendors. PAX AUS is one of the few opportunities available to the general public to see products like this and the vendors clearly knew it.
ASUS Republic of Gamers
ASUS brought their A-game to the ASUS Republic of Gamers booth. The ASUS stand is probably the most consistently impressive stand that I can recall over the past 4 PAX AUS events.
The Thermaltake booth was dominated by cases, RGB fans, water cooling and gaming desks. They also had their TT TOUGHRAM RGB on display and some very nicely done custom loop PCs.
can be found here.
Click here to see the product page. A promotion was running where someone could win the entire room below. I can’t vouch for the whole lot but we use the same case, power supply and cooler on the ASUS ROG test bench in our lab and that alone would have been an excellent prize.
You couldn’t miss the Intel i9 dome. It was like someone dropped an oversized i9 retail box in front of the ESL Arena.
Upon entering the dome, you were met by one of the enthusiastic Intel booth staff and able to view some high-end PC builds, but Intel’s presence didn’t stop there. It was almost impossible to stand anywhere at PAX and not see an Intel logo or product – aside from the AMD booth, Intel was effectively EVERYWHERE.
Intel NUC 8 (NUC8i7HVK) powered by Hades Canyon and RADEON VEGA. Don’t let the small form factor fool you, these NUCs were punching above their size in the VR area and also in the PC Freeplay / Tournament zone.
Cooler Master combined up with MSI and MWave to show off their cases, coolers and peripherals.
Lenovo isn’t a brand that I’d typically associate with gaming – more likely enterprise IT or business PCs and laptops but the gaming workstations on their booth were certainly doing the job. The designs were compact and still felt more ‘office’ than ‘gamer’ but I’m expecting the aesthetic to evolve as we’ve seen with Dell Alienware.
The AMD showcase proudly demonstrated the RYZEN / RADEON camp’s ability to smash out Borderlands 3 and Doom with some great looking rigs. AMD laptops with mobile Ryzen CPUs and Radeon graphics were also on display as were FreeSync monitors.
Anyone considering an upgrade but still unconvinced of AMD’s current offerings had every opportunity to satisfy their curiosity at PAX again this year.
Alienware has prominent branding and an impressive booth every year at PAX. This year they had some stylish desktops and laptops on display. The Alienware new M15 and M17 laptops were sporting a thin form factor and embedded Tobii eye-tracking technology. Shame about their choice to go with Max-Q GPUs though…
you can check them out here. Tobii uses a special camera to interpret head and eye tracking which is great for gaming with over 140 titles currently supported. In addition to gaming immersion, embedded Tobii eye-tracking also enhances the accessibility of the Alienware laptops for people who may not be able to use peripherals in a conventional way.
With so many headsets, keyboards and mice in their stable, it’s hard to choose your favourite without seeing them all at the same time so Corsair lined them up at the booth in an effective demonstration.
Like ASUS, Logitech has consistently had one of the more iconic booth setups of PAX in recent memory. This year, the Logitech booth also included a streaming booth with Blue Mics and an ESL competitive area.
The Razer booth had the trademark green highlights as always but there was also white and pink on the stand to add some variety. The laptops and peripherals were impressive as always with their Blade and Blade Stealth Laptops proudly on display.
Tournaments and eSports
There were two competitive arenas featuring a big screen and commentators that drew crowds but many booths also had competitive play on a smaller scale as well as the PC Freeplay area where tournaments were also available. Regardless of whether you were there to spectate or participate, there were plenty of opportunities and the queues were generally light depending on what you wanted to play.
Tabletop and Miniatures
The tabletop and miniatures area of PAX is more open and less chaotic than the main hall but there is a lot to see and do. This is a great way to see if card games or miniatures are for you and to seek some coaching or tips if you’re getting started. Several booths were also selling scenery and board kits in addition to games. Plenty of exhibitors were on hand to explain the different games or facilitate games for the uninitiated and classes were being run in painting miniatures.
That’s right, Lego. Honda had a real Civic Type R next to a scale replica made of Lego and it was one of the coolest things I’ve seen at PAX – certainly the most impressive LEGO creation that I’ve seen in person.
Another great year at PAX AUS 2019
There is a lot to see and do at PAX and it’s worth looking at the website to see the panel discussions and exhibitors list from this year if you missed it – so that you have an idea of what to look forward to next year.
There are few opportunities to engage directly with independent developers to learn about emerging titles and understand the world of game development.
The atmosphere is one of fun and exploration, where “having a go” is encouraged and Pop Culture reigns supreme.