Last night saw the end of PAX Australia 2016 and the close of Melbourne International Games Week

Well what a week. From #SheHacks to Unite, GCAP to Zero Latency, and the big finale… PAX! What a year 2016 was. There were a few changes to PAX this year and we didn’t have the pleasure of seeing Wargaming this time around, but there were tonnes of other things to be excited about.

PAX Rising

Indies are, well, on the rise! The independent gaming section had almost doubled in size. Thanks to Creative Vic and MIGW, Indie gamers were subsidised, giving them the opportunity to showcase their amazing work in front of hundreds of gamers. It was fantastic to see games from last year make a reappearance, being more polished and some including neat cutscenes like Little Reaper!

Whilst this is a fantastic opportunity for our Indie gamers, and they showed a tonne of spirit, I think a lot of them would have been were very tired after a hectic week of Unite, GCAPing, and then PAX. And remember, these guys and girls all had to set up their booth as well. Most of us just rock up to the events and have fun. Let’s hope they all got enough rest on Sunday night. Anyways, you can follow a bunch of the Indie devs through Unite, the Unreal meetups, and catch them down at the Arcade in Melbourne.

Are you VR ready

We all knew VR was going to be big this year and PAX did not disappoint. Omen showcased their insanely massive – I’m just going to call it a cube – which is VR locked and ready to go. This cube is packed with RAM, power, dual graphics cards, and looks amazing. Selling at 7.5K though you’d want it to be! Origin had VR going with space-aged stuff, shooting down moving ships as you swing your arms around.

More than 15kgs of awesome in this cube
More than 15kgs of awesome in this cube

MSI had their VR backpack on display, slaying Zombies and trying not to punch out the crowd. There was VR drone racing thanks to Dark Shadows Studios (yes I had a go, and yes I was terrible at it), plus Sony had their VR on show for the second time. It was a great year for Virtual Reality and I’m sure there will be more next time with the announcements of all the VR enabled consoles.

Playable Demos

I must say I was a little disappointed not to see a playable demo of either Breath of the Wind or The Last Guardian. But not to worry, The Last Guardian is released next month and I already have it on pre-order! Anyways, back to playable demos. I had an awesome time playing some highly anticipated games. Forza 3 Horizon which I had a go on both Windows and XBOX. Driving cars around for the sake of doing burnouts and getting “near miss”es was pretty fun. It’s rather realistic as well, had a nice touch to it and the cars available were a couple of my favs, the HSVs and Maloos.

The Last Guardian booth looked incredible
The Last Guardian booth looked incredible

Dawn of War III was another I had a crack at. This real time strategy is fast paced, similar to the old style Age of Empires, but with more features and more beautiful graphics. Continuing the franchise thing (I just realised all the games I demoed are series-based) I tried my best at Call of Duty Infinite Warfare… on stage at the PAX Areana to boot. Not only was this game insanely chaotic and intense, it was my first time playing an FPS on console, and let me tell you it isn’t easy. Having a keyboard and mouse combo is definitely my pick for these quick reflex games.

The final two I demoed are some of my all time favs from Square Enix. Now role playing games are certainly the type of game I like to play on console. I have a soft spot for JRPGs and I absolutely love the Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy series. Kingdom Hearts had their Fragmentary Passage on show, which I finished the demo run, only to find Aqua still stuck in the dark realm and having memories of Terra. The gameplay is beautiful there’s a new series of combo moves which make the game really fun. The final game I played was FFXV, starting out with Noctis killing a bunch of scorpions. Having a short demo run was just enough to spell out the hits, dodges, rolls, and string attacks of the characters. It also showed off the graphics and dynamic nature of the game. I have both on pre-order and can’t wait to play the full walkthrough.

Super excited for this game!!!
Super excited for this game!!!

Hardware for the win

A lot of people commented on the huge amount of hardware companies last year and this year was no exception. All the usual suspects were there, Razer, ROCCAT, ASUS, Intel, Alienware, HP, MSI, Thermaltake, Corsair, HyperX, and more. Whilst not everyone had their own booth, all were there in some capacity through partnerships or distributors. It’s good to see the hardware, the stuff that actually runs the computer, is still going strong at PAX.

Hanging out with ROCCAT
Hanging out with ROCCAT

Table top still here

You have to remember that PAX isn’t all about the video games. Table top gaming still plays a major role in games, especially considering many card and board games have been converted to digital formats. I took my chance on Saturday evening to check out some of these. Last year I learnt how to play Magic the Gathering and I came back for round two. Having not played since PAX last year I felt I needed another run down. The guys at the Magic booth gave great “Magic 101” training lessons, and I managed to beat my friend very convincingly – probably only due to a good card combo though.

Learning to play Magic the Gathering once again
Learning to play Magic the Gathering once again

This year’s Table Top section also included mini figurine painting, artwork, Final Fantasy the card game, oh and a MASSIVE lolly stand selling popcorn and sour straps. As always, there was the console section featuring lovely beanbags, the free play area, and the “Bring Your Own Computer” area. It is awesome to see this part of PAX constantly packed out.

Giveaways

I’m going to keep this part short, but man were there some giveaways this year. Most people said that there wasn’t enough SWAG at PAX this year but I beg to differ. The photo below showed my haul for the weekend, but there were also laptops, computers, graphics cards, and peripherals all up for grabs. If you need some incentive to hunt at next year’s PAX just check out my loot. Didn’t pay a cent for this stuff. The best is probably the limited edition PAX pin that a lovely guy from Alienware gifted me. Sometimes – actually all the time – it pays to be nice to people and take an interest in what they are doing.

SWAG much?
SWAG much?

New eSports League

Well the final thing I wanted to talk about is the big announcement from the PAX Arena on Saturday. This year’s arena was hosted by ZEN Esports Network, Australia newest eSports venture. Featuring community groups, live TV, tournaments, and pro leagues, this is set to take Australian eSports to the global playing field. It’s partnered up with ESL and did I have fun with those guys.

Australian finest eSports venutre
Australian finest eSports venutre

I met a bunch of Pro teams, checked out the Rocket League and CS:GO finals, and had a chat to the casters. Everyone is super awesome and I can’t wait to see where they take ZEN to. Oh, and if you missed the announcement, it was the launch of the new CS:GO Pro League, with more than $100,000 up for grabs… pretty cool right? And with that I will leave it. You can check out the website for more details and sign up to the community (I already have).

Huskie and Elfishguy
Huskie and Elfishguy, looking swag

Well, that’s a wrap! I can certainly say this was one of the most fun PAX’s ever. I was super sad to miss Wargaming, all the amazing people who run work there, and the fun times as a volunteer for them, but everything is an opportunity. Speaking of opportunities, I will be announcing my new job tomorrow. Stay tuned on Facebook, Twitter, my blog, and LinkedIn for all the news.

Finally, I will leave you with this awesome pic from the Twitch party…

20161104_223739

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