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After three very long, exciting days finally PAX AUS 2015 has drawn to a close. For me, this was my first PAX and I went in not really knowing what to expect. Obviously I knew there were going to be plenty of games showcased – I had done some research prior to the opening day and thought I knew what I was excited to see and where I would be spending my time. Although I did eventually wander around and spend some time playing the games I had planned to – Rise of the Tomb Raider – as an example, for me, the biggest surprise was how much fun I had with some of the smaller, less known Indie games.
Pax Rising Indie

Indies are Awesome

At Novastream we’re always keen to explore new, original games and it quickly became apparent to me that Indie games fit that bill. Over the three days Ryan Betson, Josh Saunders and I got a chance to play some amazing games and meet some inspiring developers. It’s rare that you get to meet and speak with the people who are responsible for making the games you love playing.

The Novastream team played a magnitude of titles, each game naturally differed significantly from the next but one consistent theme was the developers’ passion, as well as the sheer time and effort put into each game, which was evident in its finish. Most of the young studios were made up of less than five people, requiring every member to have a broad set of skills. We spoke with Patrick Corriero from Dry Cactus Games who was attending PAX to promote his forthcoming title Poly Bridge. While we were busy playing his game Patrick spoke to us about how his game had built traction, leveraging from people’s inherent desire to share what they create with others. It was really interesting to hear how social media and platforms like Reddit and Imgur helped build awareness of his product. Our games crew had an awesome chat with Patrick and we’ll be sure to share his experience in another article, so stay tuned.

Poly Bridge

So – to get back to talking about actually playing Indie games – we had a tonne of fun with many different games but one which the entire team felt was incredibly polished and just beautiful in both its design and story telling was Hollow Knight. The game centers around an underground and forgotten world known as Hollownest and has you playing as a mysterious knight, tasked with solving ancient puzzles, fighting deadly creatures and avoiding intricate traps. The artwork is reminiscent of Tim Burton’s and, quite frankly, it was a dream to play. For fans of Ori and the Blind Forest and Child of Light, be sure to keep an eye on this one!

Hollow Knight

VR is a Reality

If you haven’t already had a chance to check out our thoughts and opinions of PlayStation VR, do yourself a favour and do so here.

We were lucky enough to try out PlayStation’s VR first thing Friday morning and we were let loose on both playable demo’s – The Deep and The London Heist. Josh had a play of the former and after the visor and headphones went on he descended into the dark, deep below. We watched on as he calmly took in everything around as the beautiful and strange deep sea creatures slowly drifted by the steel cage he was in. To quote Josh, he described the five minutes down below the surface as “the most serene and immersive gaming experience” of his life. The ambiance was but a passing moment however, as just before the end of his demo a massive (and I mean MASSIVE) Shark crashed nose-first into the steel bars, seemingly inches from his face. We had a good chuckle watching Josh throw his head backward, in an attempt to distance himself from the monstrous predator.

The Deep VR

The demo ended and it was my turn to be transported somewhere terrifying. After being hooked up and assisted onto a stool The London Heist demo started. Sitting a few feet in front of me was a huge, tough guy. The first thing which made me feel uncomfortable (besides the creepy basement in which I appeared to be a prisoner in) was his unblinking stare. He wasn’t looking at a character; he was looking directly into my eyes. I felt a flutter of real fear rise up and without even a word or gesture from him I made assumptions about my safety and quickly scanned the room for weapons or an escape route. The guard eventually stood and commenced threatening me with both his aggressive tone and the blow torch he held inches from my face. Thankfully, I was saved by the bell (so to speak) when his phone rang and he handed it to me. Without any instructions to do so, I reached out and took the phone from him and raised it to my ear. A very real action and one I didn’t even have to think about doing when he held it out to me. The current scene ended and the next began … I was standing in a large, empty room with a mezzanine floor above and an old desk with multiple drawers in front of me. The only instruction I was given was that it was worth seeing if I can open said drawers … turns out I could and inside one was a handgun and a few loaded clips. Without sparing a second thought I pulled everything out, laying it on top of the desk neatly, before quickly shutting the drawer. It was at this point that I heard Ryan Betson’s bellowing laugh filter past the headphones I was wearing. I learnt something about myself during the demo … even when I may be required to have a shoot-out with people, I will still take the time to organise my weaponry and close the drawer afterward. Like a gentleman. The doors of the mezzanine floor burst open and henchmen filtered in, opening fire and spraying the desk I had been calmly standing behind. I ducked as low as I could and the room and view of my enemies disappeared. It was instant, my breathing quickened as I carefully peered over the desk and lined up my first target. It was then I realised I had made a fatal error: I had picked up the pistol with my non-preferred hand. I then recalled you couldn’t drop the weapon once you had picked it up. I wasted precious ammo failing to hit a stationary target and was annoyed and a little embarrassed, although I’m sure the virtual-henchmen were only too happy with my efforts. After setting a record for the most ammo used and redecorating the room with scattered bullet holes the last enemy dropped and the demo came to an end.

The London Heist VR

If you haven’t had a chance to check out Virtual Reality, whether it be PlayStation’s VR or the Oculus Rift and you’re wondering whether VR will be commercially successful, listen up. It doesn’t matter what PlayStation charge for this technology, I will be preordering it; standing in line and thrashing any game they release on it. The immersion is incredible and isn’t something you’ve likely experienced before. Start saving those pennies and get excited, 2016 will be the year Virtual Reality arrives in your household!

PSVR and Oculus

Panels, Panels and more Panels

PAX isn’t just about playing games, it’s also about interacting with game developers and experts in the industry. We spent some time on the second and third days attending discussions about the future of gaming, becoming a Let’s Player (YouTube/Twitch) and a presentation from Arne Meyer, the Community Strategist from Naughty Dog.

The Future of Gaming panel was made up of industry experts from the likes of Microsoft, Twitch and Alienware. The panelists discussed virtual and augmented reality and its commercial viability and even the types of applications it will be used in. After seeing first-hand the sheer number of games in development utilising the VR platform it’s obvious the hardware will be adequately supported by developers and, if the smiling faces are anything to go by, the general public will be happy to hand over their dollars and quickly adopt it too.

The So you want to be a Let’s Player panel spiked our team’s interest, with promises of providing clear direction on how to acquire the skills to become a successful Let’s player. I had hoped that the panelists would be able to provide detailed direction and specific examples for the large crowd of eager people attending, but sadly this wasn’t the case. The experience level of the panelists varied greatly and it became apparent very early into the presentation that – at best – the panelists only understood how to be personally successful, instead of having a clear template they could pass onto others. After an hour of Q&A the message was essentially – broadcast what interests you and make sure you have a schedule and you stick to it.

The final panel we attended was on Sunday morning in the Main Theatre where Arne Meyer from Naughty Dog had a surprise in store for everyone in attendance in the form of some of the Multiplayer footage shown the week prior at the Paris Games Week. Arne discussed some of the new inclusions for the multiplayer, including Mystical abilities which give you competitive edge for a short period of time. We also got to see some footage of the Sidekicks in action, including medics, snipers and brutes to provide a tactical advantage. When asked about the multiplayer resolution Arne responded by saying that it would be at 900p and that the decision was made to reduce the resolution in order to maintain a good frame rate. Slipped into the conversation was also a quick mention of the games inclusion of microtransactions, which will enable players to purchase various weapons, tools and upgrades. Arne was asked plenty of questions about the games main campaign, but naturally remained tight-lipped.

Uncharted 4

Retro Gaming

Retro-gaming also made an appearance at AUS PAX. We stopped by and said hello to the guys at Retro Domination who, along with Ausretrogamer, Weird and Retro and Bartronica, donated dozens of arcade and retro-consoles. Some old classics such as the original PlayStation, Game Cube, Mega Drive, Xbox and even the Atari 2600 and Commodore 64. Scott Kellett (pinball tournament organiser) arranged the pinball tables with the help of Bayside Pinball club, Pinmem and Amusement Machine Distributors. I felt nostalgia pumping through my veins as I watched people playing some of my favourite games on old-fashioned CRT monitors. Pinball machines and arcade classics like Donkey Kong were getting plenty of love from gamers old and young, especially competitive players wanting to win the DK high score challenge which ran all weekend long.

Retro gaming

Our  Favourite Experience & Game of Show

Three days of unbridled frivolity at the Melbourne Exhibition centre was never going to be enough and there was plenty the team wished we had time to play or spend more time on, but of all the experiences we did have, what were the standouts and what was our game of show?

Ryan Betson

Game of Show: Ryan’s game of show was Unravel, an upcoming PlayStation 4 title by a company named Coldwood.

Favourite Experience: His favourite experience was with a Virtual Reality game named Earthlight. The demo tasks the player with the rather terrifying job of making their way around the exterior of a space station using the handles spread across each section. If you’ve seen the movie Gravity, imagine the scene where Sandra Bullock is torn away from the safety of the station and is spinning rapidly into space. Ryan explained the emotional roller coaster in detail, check it out here.

Earthlight game

Josh Saunders

Game of Show: Josh’s game of show was also Unravel, the boys were lucky enough to get a lengthy play early on the second day and described it as “charming,” check the video out here.

Favourite Experience: His favourite experience was PlayStation VR and his time rolling in the deep (without Adele). To hear Josh enthusiastically describe his experience meeting Jaws check the video out here.

Unravel

David Chattaway a.k.a “me”

Game of Show: Although I didn’t play the game I would have to agree with the boys and say Unravel was my game of show. It’s beautiful design and subject matter pulls at the heart strings (see what I did there), in twenty short minutes of watching Yarny – the little character made entirely of a single thread of yarn – the game was able to make you emotionally invested in his journey. That’s without understanding why he’s alive, where he’s headed or to what end. That’s how incredible this game is. It looks like the next Journey.

Favourite Experience: Again, echoing Josh’s favourite I would have to say the PlayStation VR experience completely blew me away. It made me feel real emotions … I’m definitely ready to be immersed to that level in a game again, as soon as possible!

So that’s about it, PAX AUS 2015 was a truly incredible experience! Be sure to stay locked to Novastream for all things gaming.

Over and out.

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