September 20, 2011

All about PAX

Last month I was in Seattle for the Penny Arcade Expo, PAX.  Atom Zombie Smasher was chosen for the PAX 10 – a showcase of ten independent games picked by the PAX folks. It was a great honor to be shown alongside such an amazing lineup of games & developers. This was my first time demoing my own game on a show floor, so it was A) very exciting, and B) mishaps aplenty (on my end, not the PAX folks).

If you’ve ever been to E3 or similar trade shows, I’m sure you’ve seen some incredible booth setups with giant castle facades, avenues of monitors, dudes in power armor, bikini girls, monster trucks, etc.

Meanwhile, I had:

  • myself.
  • two laptops.
  • 8.5″x11″ cardboard signs.
  • half a roll of scotch tape.


Here’s how I set up my area. The awesome PAX folks provided a table, a large television, and a great spot on the show floor:


The PAX 10 area comprised of several tables. The PAX 10 games were: Word Fighter (my table neighbor!), A Flipping Good Time, AntiChamber, Fez, Jamestown, Snapshot, Solar 2, The SplattersVanessa Saint-Pierre Delacroix & Her Nightmare, and my own Atom Zombie Smasher. Hanging out and chatting with all the devs was great; I get the strong feeling we’ll all be seeing one another again at future events.

At the end of each day I jotted down some random things in my notebook:

  • AZS does a really terrible job at selling itself through screenshots and videos. Unsexiness just oozes from every pore. But once someone actually gets their hands on it and starts playing, they really like it.
  • I’m glad I added a “Pax mode” that throws the player into the middle of the campaign with all the weapons. During day one, I realized I should’ve also added some sort of “rolling demo” mode that auto-plays the game itself, like arcade machines do when no one is playing. And the gag is, AZS already has a system that does that!  Argh. Next time.
  • I should’ve added some tutorial tips to the “Pax mode.” There’s a fair amount of moving parts in the game, and having even just a few “first-time player” overlays would’ve been immensely helpful.
  • Manning a booth by myself for three days was silly. Despite drinking water like a fish, by the third day my voice was so shot I sounded like Henry Kissinger (I do not normally sound like him).
  • I was surprised at how many people commented on enjoying the Dev Notes at the end of the AZS campaign.  I included it mainly because I love reading stuff like that, but who knew others did too? I’ll be including something similar in my future projects.
  • The G4 guys dropped by. Getting miked up with a Lavalier mic is quite an intimate experience.
  • You can never print too many flyer cards. I learned the hard way.
  • I need to bring a flashlight next time. Television touch controls + really dark room = Brendon never manges to change the volume.
  • The tower defense nature of the planning phase instantly creates assumptions. Once the action phase began, people often let go of the mouse, thinking the game would play itself automatically from that point on. I wonder if this is a result of not playing the tutorials, or if this is a common problem?
  • It was awkward having the television and laptop display a duplicate image. If there was some way to keep the game going with the laptop closed, that would be ideal.
  • I had an interview with Ryan Davis of GiantBomb. I’m a junkie for GiantBomb’s Quick Looks, so this was really wonderful.
  • I need some sort of Blendo T-shirt or button or something. It’s off-putting to have some stranger pop out of nowhere and start explaining the game to you.
  • Anthony & Ashly Burch stopped by to say hello!  So awesome. Go watch HAWP and Rev Rants, and love ’em as much as I do.
  • About ten feet from me was the Minecraft booth. All day long, for all three days, that area was kerrrrazy party central. I was expecting it to be big, but that was bananas.
  • I had my first panel talk, with the fine devs from the PAX 10. We had a great chat, and I’m already itching to do it again.
  • I’m glad I had two stations set up. It was a last-minute decision to bring both laptops, and it worked out well.
  • One person asked for my autograph. I’m a total e-celeb.

The best part of PAX was getting to physically meet and chat with people and developers I’ve previously known only via email. With video games nowadays oftentimes having no physical media to speak of, beamed directly into your computer by digital voodoo, getting the opportunity to say “hello!” to fans is a rare and wonderful treat.

Here’s a picture of the PAX 10 panel talk. Check out the Blendo Games Facebook page for more PAX pictures.

Huge thanks to the PAX folks for all their hard work. It’s an amazing event – if you have any interest in video games, board games, comic books and the like, check out PAX!

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