MEGames “Best in Show” Awards: PAX Edition… with BEER!

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve thrown up a beer pairing on the site, so better late than never right?  Why not go big to make up for it. Summer is essentially over, and with it brings a new semester here at Digipen and of course the Fall line-up of impending new game releases.  This is also a great time for beer.  Oktoberfests, Pumpkin ales, holiday stouts and ales… Its gonna be a good fall.  Fair warning, this post is going to be a bit different than previous pairings.

I’m going to talk about a few of the things I played/experienced at PAX and a few of the things I drank to wash down all that digital goodness.  There was a lot to see and do this year at the Seattle Convention Center especially with this being the last mega-expo before the release of the new console generation. I was fortunate enough to get an exhibitors pass for the second day of PAX and frankly this is the way to see it. I got in early to walk the main expo floor about an hour before they opened the doors to the general public. Below is what I’m dubbing the “MEGames Best in Show: PAX Edition”

1.) Best Hardware -> Oculus Rift 

oculusrift

If you haven’t had the chance to strap this VR headset on, get your hands on it as quick as you can, if even just to say you remember the day when virtual reality changed your life.  A few colleagues and I missed out on the chance at E3 (with CCP’s Valkyrie demo) so I was dead set on making it happen at PAX.  Oculus VR had two playable demo’s to try, Hawken and some racing game I don’t care about remember, because I was there to get my mech on.  To my delight the headsets being demo’ed were in 1080p resolution.  So just imagine wrapping your big screen TV at home around your face.  I sat down at one of the pillared benches and the Oculus VR handler prepared me for my session.  The first thing I noticed was how noticeably light the headset was. I didn’t feel like it was pulling my forehead down and the rigging of the cables strapped to the elastic harness kept any awkward weight at bay.  The headset went on, followed by a set of studio headphones, and finally a USB Xbox360 controller to tie it all together. I must’ve looked like a spaz craning my head around admiring my handsome cockpit.  Listen up kids, this thing is a game changer. Why everyone hasn’t dropped what they’re doing, picked up their affordable dev kits and started porting everything to the Oculus Rift escapes me. Gimme a pair of haptic gloves and call me the Lawnmower Man, because when this hits the market I’m buying two.

“So just imagine wrapping your big screen TV at home around your face.”

Beer Pairing:  Honestly, nothing.

I know, it seems weird.  But can you imagine trying to paw around yourself searching for a pint glass?  Then trying to bring it to your lips without spilling?  Or have a beer or two before booting up.  If you do, I recommend something full-flavored like an double or imperial IPA. Something to compliment the sensory splendor of the Oculus Rift.

2.)  Best Software -> Titanfall

titanfall

A fellow student and I wandered by the Titanfall area a few times before we badgered the staff to let us play.  They were just finishing the setup and we managed to get in the first group to play on Saturday.   Full disclosure, I have never been a big online player.  MMO’s and FPS online experiences are something I find pretty dime-a-dozen and I frankly don’t need the ego-check of getting verbally abused by an over-caffeinated pubescent informing me of my mother’s prowess in the sack.  But boys and girls, Titanfall was friggin’ amazing. The controls were very intuitive and when they weren’t, on-screen prompts made quick reactions easy. The feeling of semi-parkour/jump-jet aided soldier movement was smooth and satisfying.  But the belles of the ball were the Titans.  The sheer amount of satisfaction in stepping on NPC squads and laying waste with heavy weapons left me maniacally laughing.  Even getting shot at and being forced to eject was enjoyable. The ejection sequence was a highlight for me, you’d know when your Titan was on its last legs, get the QT prompt and be shot into the sky only to descend back down aiming to land on the enemy Titan responsible for your demise.  The revenge is delicious when you manage to land on the back of the enemy, rip open a panel of its armor and begin to empty mags into its inner circuitry.  I couldn’t get enough.  For my money, this will be the best reason to buy an Xbox One, by far.

“The revenge is delicious when you manage to land on the back of the enemy, rip open a panel of its armor and begin to empty mags into its inner circuitry.  I couldn’t get enough.  For my money, this will be the best reason to buy an Xbox One, by far.”

Beer Pairing: Big Sky Moose Drool Brown Ale

moosedrool

Creamy, chocolate notes with a hop hint to keep the sugar shock at bay. Drool over Titanfall’s totally sweet game-play with a pint of Moose Drool.  This Montana brewery makes one of the best brown ales out there.

3.) Most Potential -> SpyParty

SpyParty-AllChars-640x400

I know what you’re thinking… anybody who hands you a four page booklet to read before you demo a game has to be nuts right? But this was exciting.  Its a little hard to explain, but its a model that most gamers these days aren’t going to be familiar with.  You play as either a sniper or a spy.  As the spy you have certain objectives to accomplish while interacting with NPC’s at a cocktail party.  The idea is not to telegraph your actions so as not to tip the sniper off to your identity. It’s all timed so there’s a clock working against you.  As the sniper you will receive cues and giveaways depending on how the spy plays to track him or her down to take them out before time expires. The fact that this works as well as it did in a very raw demo mode, was enjoyable as hell. I really cant wait to see this go gold and get my mitts on it.

“I really cant wait to see this go gold and get my mitts on it.”

Beer Pairing: Maritime Portage Bay Pilsener

maritime-portage-pils

A natural choice for this would be a crisp gin martini with a few olives, because y’know, its a cocktail party.  But in the interest of my passion for craft beer, the better than mediocre Portage Bay pilsener from Maritime Brewery. There’s a lot of potential in this beer, you know it could be great but it keeps you wanting more.

4.) WTF Award -> Camdrome 

Seriously? WTF was this? Google it. Follow it on twitter. Get creeped the eff out. Rumors of an ARG were getting tossed around the indie game booths, but no one seems to know.  If Banksy was at PAX, this was his installation. Just sayin’.

Beer Pairing:  Suds wont cut it for this one.  Pass the whiskey.

drunkuncle

Make sure its cheap.  Something strong to stop hands from shaking and to calm the nerves. I didn’t spend very long watching that creepy monitor/webcam setup but I imagine Terry Gilliam’s and Jigsaw’s (from the SAW movie franchise) demon child hooked up with Rob Zombie and then went to RISD to study multimedia and “find themselves”.  Freaky as $#!+.

“Freaky as $#!+.”

Congrats to the winners!  It should be mentioned all the beers featured here were imbibed at the Tap House in downtown Seattle, a quick jaunt from the convention hall.  Over 150 taps, a decent lunch special and busy enough at the time to shake the spectre of the Camdrome that I was pretty sure was following me.  PAX was great even for the short time I spent, and I’d like to thank all the people that came and said hi to us at Muffin Express while we worked the Digipen booth. Those of you who played War of the Currents, we are very grateful. We sincerely hope you enjoyed it, and keep an eye out for hints and teases of our new project.

Cheers e’rybody and  remember to always play responsibly.

~Joe Erskine, September 2013

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