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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Expo Floor

Ever wanted to be in the middle of an enormous crowd that's moving by in every direction imaginable?

Well, what about if, at the same time, you were assaulted by enormous video screens and booming speakers all screaming about the latest wave of video games that are about to be released? The Expo floor felt like someone yelled fire in a packed room with no doors. If you wanted to stop and watch something you first had to latch yourself onto a solid object like the end of a line, or the edge of a crowd, or maybe a presenter trying to draw people in. If you just stop in the middle of the floor without taking any precautions you immediately get swept away by a crowd of people just as excited to see this shit as you are, although sometimes a bit smellier.

The colored rugs also help to divert the people-flood. The plushy fabric acts as a sort of sub-conscious boundary.

The attention certain booths got was what you'd expect. Portal 2 was always surrounded by a slack-jawed crowd, and the indie developers did everything but physically pull you out of the crowd to get your attention (To their credit they had some really cool home-brews on display. Some genuine innovation and lots of polish). The Old Republic line was probably the most impressive on the floor. For reasons I cannot fathom their demo lasted about 45 minutes and they only had a handful of available kiosks so if you didn't get in line (literally) when the floor opened then you simply wouldn't reach the game by the end of the day (and even if you did show up on time the game was so popular that you probably still wouldn't get a chance to play).

My personal favorites (out of what I actually played) were Battleblock Theater and the 3DS. I'd always assumed the 3DS wouldn't produce really effective 3D (I mean, it doesn't even use glasses. How good could it be?), but then I played the damn thing and was pleasantly surprised. It really, really pops.

And then I found out I only had the 3D slider up a third of the way. When I cranked it up to full it was almost too 3D. I felt like I could reach about ten feet into the screen. Really impressive. The game I played? Not even a game in the classic sense. There was this card on the table that I pointed the camera at (you could see the table through your 3DS screen), and all of a sudden a bunch of little guys appeared all over the table, which I, of course, shot to hell with the guns mounted on the hand-held system. The boss was a dragon who hid his weak points so I had to physically walk around the table to get a better angle of attack. Fun!

And Battleblock Theater? It's the Castle Crashers of 2D platformers.
What I mean is it's good. Very good.

At one point, while standing in a line and picking my nose, I got to witness the Spy himself in action. It was really impressive because the spy's prey was making a U-turn to get back into the expo booths (this line was near the edge of everything) and the spy compensated, totally staying out of the target's line of sight. The dude would've never suspected a thing but at this point the whole line was laughing, but when the guy turned around the spy was already kicking back against a wall, smoking his cig as if he'd been there all day. It was smooth as hell.

I had a bit of a scare myself. I was walking through the middle of the expo floor when my sixth sense started tingling. In a perfectly naturally motion I turned my head just enough to the side to flick my peripheral vision directly across my six. About seven feet behind me followed a white shadow. It was him!
Somewhere, in the orchestral section of my head, the Assassin's Creed chase music started playing. I quickened my step, made a sharp turn and slipped directly into a knot of oncoming traffic, vanishing from sight. Apparently, all those hours parkour-ing across Rome really payed off.

Now, if it was the spy following me, I never would've known.

Hell, maybe he did follow me. How would I know?

And that was the expo floor, which was great but also a bit overwhelming, sort of like diving with just a snorkel. You can only stay under and stare at the coral for so long before you have to come up for air.

Outside of the expo floor was where I spent most of my time. There was, of course, the tabletop sprawl, but there was also a constant line-up of speakers and panels, and all over the convention center were freeplay rooms (I played Pilotwings 64, a ton of Katamari, Sinistar, Tapper, Smash TV, Krull, and even Asteroids on a cabinet that could only display those really bright vectors). There was some other stuff, too. I only witnessed a fraction of PAX and what I saw completely overwhelmed me.

It was really fucking awesome.

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