Aug 30 2007
The Penny Arcade Expo this year was held at the Washington State Convention in Seattle. The new venue proved to be a nice upgrade from the Meydenbauer Center. Even though attendance was around 37,000 people it didn’t feel nearly as crowded as previous years.
Wil Wheaton delivered a passionate keynote speech that spoke true to the geek community. Wil has been a gamer most of his life and was an excellent choice for this year’s keynote. Check out the audio here.
I don’t usually get into the LAN games at PAX. My primary reason for attending is to check out the exhibitor hall, attend panels, hang out, and possibly see some of the bands. I only did three out of the four this year which wasn’t too bad.
The exhibitor hall was several times larger than previous years and reminded me of a mini-E3. Most of the big names were there: Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony, Bungie, Rockstar, Ubisoft, Turbine, Wizkids, etc. Part of the fun of the exhibitor hall is just wandering around collecting swag and watching people play the games.
One interesting thing we saw was the first public demonstration of Far Cry 2 presented by Ubisoft. The original Far Cry game was ground breaking in both graphics and gameplay and from what I can tell Ubisoft has really stepped up to the plate to make a worthy sequel. The game is set in Africa this time and you play a mercenary who has been hired to infiltrate the various militia that operate in the 50 square km game world.
The most interesting thing shown in the demo was the graphics and phyics engine. The seamless world (no zones) is rendered to the horizon in full detail with dynamic soft shadows, HDR lighting, and depth of field. The game features a dynamic weather system, a highly distructable environment (e.g., you can shoot branches out of trees), and environmental effects such as fire that propagates based on wind direction. Each blade of grass is individually rendered and when you walk or drive through the Savannah you leave a trail of pressed down grass.
Not only do these feature increase the level of immersion they also can provide useful game mechanics. For example, the presenter showed how starting a grass fire up wind of a enemy camp can be used as a tactic to restrict the enemies movement and provide smoke to conceal your movement. Overall, the game looks very promising and I’m interested to try out a demo when available.
We had a interesting time this year at PAX. I wish we had time to attend more panels but that’s the way it goes.