PAX Australia 2013: Our top 5 moments from the show
22nd Jul 2013 | 05:25
The five best things to come out of Penny Arcade Expo's first trip down under
Our Top 5 picks from PAX Australia
PAX Australia is done. The inaugural Australian expo saw geeks and gamers from around the world descend on Melbourne to taste the best gaming culture Australia had to offer.
We've collected together a list of our top five moments from the show. Don't agree with our assessment? Feel free to let us know where we went wrong below.
1. The Oculus Rift in HD
Yes, the era of truly interactive virtual reality is almost upon us.
With developers and hardware manufacturers showing off the Oculus Rift headset to the crowds, while Oculus VR itself showed off its high definition prototype the digital gaming goggles captured the imagination of PAX-goers everywhere.
Of course, we've still got no idea about when the consumer product will finally ship, but it doesn't matter. This thing is amazing, and once you've tried it, you'll be convinced that the future of gaming is going to be very immersive indeed.
2. Venom's ultra-sweet gaming ultrabook
Despite the fact big gun gaming hardware companies like Asus and Alienware had a presence on the PAX floor, it was little-known Aussie manufacturer Venom that stole our attention with its stunning BlackBook Zero Pro ultrabook.
Packed with the latest Haswell processor, 8GB RAM and a stunning QHD touchscreen display, the prototype is still two months away from retail, but showed enough to have us reaching for our wallet.
If you're looking for a portable gaming laptop, it might be worth holding off to check this out once it gets an official release.
3. Australian Indie developers are awesome
As if there was any doubt. But getting up close and personal with the best indie games that Australia has to offer was a fantastic way of reenforcing just how talented the local industry is.
With titles on all kinds of platforms, from PC to Xbox to iOS, there were titles to play for gamers of all genre-persuasions.
We'd list the standouts, but the truth is that every single title impressed us. If you're looking for something different to play, do yourself a favour and try one of the locally developed titles that were on display at the show.
4. Johann Sebastian Joust
Admittedly, we had no idea what was going on with this when we first laid eyes on it at PAX. People standing around, holding a Playstation Move controller, while music played in the background?
But as soon as the rules for Johann Sebastian Joust were explained, it made sense. It's an incredibly simple, yet excitingly customisable party game that offers hours of high-tech fun.
Honestly, the words here don't do the game enough credit. Just try and find a way to play it and you'll see what we mean.
5. Moga makes mobile gaming meaningful
Yeah, we've looked at the Moga controllers or Android before, and they aren't exactly new. But seeing as how they now support Rockstar's GTA III and GTA Vice City, it's well worth paying attention to them.
Essentially a Bluetooth controller for Android devices, the guys at PAX said that there's a good chance we'll see iOS support at some point in the future, although they gave no indication of a timeline. With iOS 7 introducing game controller support hopefully it's sooner than later.
But having tried the controller out, it's definitely better than touchscreen controls on certain titles, especially ports of old console games. It's also going to make life much tougher for the likes of the PS Vita and Nintendo 3DS.
Updated: The very first PAX Australia conference is over, with Australian gamers glowing from the community atmosphere that filled the Melbourne Showgrounds.
If you wanted to see what we were excited to see before we got to Melbourne, click through to page two to check out our pre-show rundown:
PAX Australia: What we wanted to see
The very first Penny Arcade Expo to be staged outside America arrives in Melbourne, Australia this week.
Announced back in August 2012 by Penny Arcade founders Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins during a panel at PAX Prime, the PAX Australia show will take place at the Melbourne Showgrounds between July 19 and July 21.
The leadup to the show hasn't been without controversy, with a poorly worded synopsis of a panel causing outrage on Twitter.
But with the best Australian Indie developers sharing show floor space with the bigwigs like Nintendo and Ubisoft, it's a great opportunity for Australian gamers to revel in the local gaming industry.
Tickets are all sold out to the event, so if you were hoping to attend but didn't get in early, you're all out of luck.
Fortunately, TechRadar will be there to bring you all the news as it happens, but while you wait, here's a complete rundown of what you can expect from the show.
1. Xbox One
Microsoft made a real mess of its Xbox One next-gen console launch. 24-hour internet checkins to play offline games, restrictions on used-games, a Kinect that is always connected… the list of features that upset gamers went on and on.
The company got so much negative feedback that it made the unprecedented step of doing a full 180, and ditching its plans for used game restrictions and 24 hour internet checkins.
While that may be too little too late for some gamers, Microsoft is still hoping to regain the trust of the gaming community by bringing its Xbox One console to PAX Aus.
The 'Softies have three one-hour presentations on the new console scheduled for the event, occurring Friday at 6pm, Saturday at 2:30pm and Sunday at 12:30pm. Attendance is first in, first served.
2. Story Time with Ron Gilbert
He may not fight like a dairy farmer, but Ron Gilbert will be opening the PAX Australia show with his storytime keynote on July 19.
Yes, one of the men behind the iconic Monkey Island franchises, the brains behind Maniac Mansion and the Scumm VM game engine, and part of the Double Fine team (along with Tim Schafer) to create The Cave, Gilbert is expertly placed to give the opening keynote at the event.
Exactly what Schafer will talk about during the keynote is unknown, but if he gives any indication that he will, in fact, make another Monkey Island game, expect the crowds to storm the stage and carry the man atop their shoulders down to the nearest Mana Bar.
3. Aussie Indies
Australia is a hotbed of amazing game developer talent. PAX Aus has already committed to finding some of the best the land down under has to offer in order to showcase it to the world.
The PAX Aus Indie showcase has culled a list of more than 60 hopeful independent games to just six titles.
Whether developed by individuals or small indie teams, the six games selected for the show will be on display in the Indie showcase booth, while the developers themselves will get to talk about their projects and their passion during the Aussie Indie panel on Friday night.
Furthermore, there's an Indie pavilion on the show floor that will play host to 28 local developers and their games.
Charge up your 3DS handhelds and get ready for plenty of street pass shenanigans, as Nintendo has confirmed it will be at the show.
Showcasing its 3DS and Wii U latforms - and potentially a heap of titles announced at E3 - Nintendo was one of the first companies to confirm its presence at the inaugural Australian PAX event.
While the exact contents of Nintendo's booth is still unknown, we do know from the official event map that the company is home to one of the larger booths at the Showgrounds.
We also know that Nintendo is using PAX Australia to host the National Pokemon Video Game Championships.
Competing on Pokemon Black Version 2 or Pokemon White Version 2, participants will be competing for a chance to win a trip to Canada to compete in the 2013 Pokémon Video Game World Championships.
There are three divisions based on your age - Junior division for players born after 2002, Senior division for those born between 1998 and 2001, and Master division for older people born before 1997.
5. Oculus Rift
Dubbed by many as the future of gaming, PAX Australia organisers have confirmed that there will be at least four Oculus Rift setups to wrap around your eyeballs as the show.
Courtesy of the Virtual Reality Insanity stand, PAX Australia show-goers will be able to enjoy a virtual reality experience of games like Mirror's Edge, Skyrim and Team Fortress 2.
Team Fortress fans will even be able to engage in four-player deathmatches using the virtual reality headset.
While TechRadar has already experienced the Oculus Rift first hand, we'll be making sure to get up close and personal with the future of VR gaming at the Aussie PAX show as well.
6. BioWare beware
Sure, the Mass Effect 3 ending may not have been as fulfilling as gamers may have hoped, but that hasn't prevented the team at Bioware from being some of the best in the game-making business.
For the first time ever, Bioware is sending out a team PAX Aus for a panel on the Friday afternoon, cleverly titled, "BioWare goes down under".
Making the trip are producer Cameron Lee, Senior writer Patrick Weekes, lead editor Karin Weekes and community event planner Chris Priestly.
According to the PAX website, the team will be discussing both Mass Effect and Dragon Age, among other things. If there's even the slightest whiff of Mass Effect 4, expect (another) stampede to the Mana Bar.
7. Panels a-plenty
Whether you're a die-hard gaming fan longing to listen to sage-like words from the cream of the crop of the industry's big-wigs, or a developer hoping for insight to success, PAX Australia will have plenty of panels for you to satiate your quest for knowledge.
A full schedule of panels has been announced, with something to cater to everybody. Whether that be mobile aficionados wanting the low-down on HalfBrick's next money-printing game, or tabletop fans wanting insight into how smartphones are changing their games, there's plenty of panels to attend over the show's three days.
Big names have been confirmed for the event as well. Outside of BioWare and Ron Gilbert, PAX organisers have confirmed that Gearbox will be offering in inside look at Borderlands 2.
Also presenting will be the crazy kids from Rooster Teeth (the minds behind Red vs Blue) and the guys behind Penny Arcade themselves.
8. Plenty of hardware
It's not all "Xbox One this" and "Nintendo that" at PAX Aus. There's going to be plenty of other hardware on stand to check out for gamers of all persuasions.
Mapped out on the event hall planner are stands for a range of hardware manufacturers. Gigabyte, Intel, Thermaltake, and Coolermaster will all have stuff on show for the hardcore PC contingent, while Alienware also has a stand for those who like their gaming PCs to be performing out of the box.
Asus will be showing off its behemoth ROG Tytan CG8890 at the show, as well as powering a World of Tanks competition with 20 high-end machines running Intel's new Haswell chipset.
Local custom builders Frag Labs will be showing off a new 13.3-inch gaming laptop at the show, also powered by the latest Haswell chipset.
Aussie Android gamers are going to be able to get their hands on the new Moga Pocket and Moga Pro controllers before they go on sale in August.
Also on the show floor will be Sennheiser, Audio Technica, Steelseries and Western Digital, showing off a range of high-end gaming peripherals, from headphones to storage and controllers.
9. Classic consoles
Take a trip down memory lane and discover some of the history that makes console gaming so damn enjoyable.
A dedicated Classic Console area, supported by the likes of Retrospekt, Retro Domination, Australian Retro Gamer and Retro Gaming Australia, will offer dozens of playable consoles from bygone eras.
While it's not a complete collection of every game console ever created, there's a pretty good spread. Just don't get too lost in the sweet smell of nostalgia.
The full list of playable retro consoles can be found on the PAX Australia Facebook page, but needless to say they have the majority of the classic consoles covered.
Don't be mistaken in thinking that PAX is exclusively for video gamers. Wargaming will play a massive part in the show, with two large stands on the show floor dedicated to the table-top experience.
Covering more than 300 square metres, the Wargaming area will be hosting World of Tanks gaming stations, plus tournaments and prizes
There will also be a number of panels dedicated to the tabletop gaming experience, especially covering the crossover between tabletop and technology.
Magic: The Gathering Fans will also be catered for, with a large tabletop area dedicated to the card-based game and tournaments to compete in during the event.
11. Laser tag
Truth be told, it's probably not the most revolutionary thing on offer at the show, but it is potentially one of the most fun.
A good chunk of the show floor is dedicated to Tech Assault laser skirmish arena, an Aussie laser tag company which does away with the neon lights and plastic weapons to try and create a realistic real-world recreation of games like Call of Duty and Battlefield.
With Aussie-made weapons, realistic gunfire sounds and different game modes, this looks like a great way to mix up the day traversing the PAX show floor.
12. Games, games, games!
Of course, it wouldn't be a real gaming expo if there weren't games all over the place, letting visitors wrap their hands around the controller and taking stock of the gaming experience.
We know that in addition to Nintendo, Ubisoft, Mindscape, and Halfbrick Studios all have a big chunk of floor space.
Ubisoft's PAX Australia stand is going to be tough to beat, with the company confirming it will have playable versions of the highly anticipated Assassin's Creed: Black Flag and Watch Dogs.
There will also be Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Blacklist, Prince of Persia The Shadow and the Flame, Rayman Jungle Run, Rayman Legends, Just Dance 2014, Rocksmith 2014, Anno Online, Cloudberry Kingdom, Flashback, Might & Magic Heroes Online, The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot, and The Settlers Online.
Mindscape has confirmed that Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 will be playable on the show floor, while dedicated handheld lounges will offer plenty of comfortable gaming experiences.
Also on the Mindscape stage will be Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, Ninja Gaiden Z and Dynasty Warriors 8.
There's also a large space dedicated to Saints Row 4, although given the game was recently refused classification in Australia it's debatable whether that will actually make the event.
Sega and Creative Assembly are showing off Rome 2, with a 30 minute demo of the campaign and gameplay.
And for other gamers just wanting to get competitive, there are plenty of titles to whet your appetite, with PAX organisers confirming comps for Kinect Sports 2, Nintendo Land, FIFA 13, Halo 4, Forza 4, Assassins Creed 3, Sonic All Stars racing, Street Fighter X Tekken, Dance Central 3, Nintendo Land, AFL Live, UFC: Undisputed 3, CoD: Black Ops 2, NBA Jam, NBA 2K13, WWE 13, Trials Evolution and Pro Evolution.
So in other words, something for everyone.
Australia may not be be the biggest eSports nation, but PAX Australia could be the pebble that kicks off the competitive video game industry avalanche in this country.
Riot Games has confirmed that the Season 3 tournament finals of League of Legends will be played off at PAX Australia, with more than $40,000 worth of prize money up for grabs.
With a freshly-launched dedicated server for the region, the winning team in the tournament will head to Gamescom in August to compete for an international wildcard spot at the World Championship.
There's also that competitive Pokemon Championship on the Nintendo booth, which should give Aussies a good taste of what it takes to be a pro gamer in this day and age.