Author: Lightford

University of North Texas graduate who obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with a concentration in Technical Writing. Creative Writer, Technical Writer and Copywriter. Currently, updating my blog, contemplating another blog idea, and gaming more than ever.

Returning To Hearthstone

Hearthstone Logo via IGN

Hearthstone, the game about the Random Number Generator (RNG) and skill. I remember playing Hearthstone during its beta and thinking how incredible the game was. I wrote a few posts about my excitement at Polygon titled: Hearthstone: Beta Notes and Experience, Hearthstone: The Perks With Arena Mode, and Hearthstone: Top Decking Can Make or Break You. Strangely enough, I have not touched this game since the beta. Reason? To be honest, I was never that good at Hearthstone. However, all of this changed after I understood the meta and strategy behind this wonderful card game.

Meta

After the release of Hearthstone, the word “meta” was thrown around all the time. These concepts (cards) are abstractions (ideas) from the overall concept (cards) of its creation (Hearthstone). As Ben Brode once said, “The metagame is the mix of different decks that players bring… If you know what decks players are bringing, your deck can be especially good against ‘the meta’.”

2013 Hearthstone Meta by Liquidhearth

Ben Brode was referring to the behavior of all the players within Hearthstone. The trending decks, cards and classes create this ‘meta’ or ‘metagame’ that keeps all the players on their toes. Once a powerful deck is created, people tend to notice its potential when their win/loss record is positive. For example, Aggro or Aggressive decks were very popular in the beginning. These decks are meant to be fast-paced where the player destroys their opponent as fast as possible. Part of the strategy was to summon a large number of low-value minions, use direct damage spells and spam the hero powers.

When the Aggro deck was peaking, the opposite side of the spectrum are Control decks. These decks tend to reign victorious in the latter half of the game because it combines cards that remove low-value minions, use excessive taunts and summon powerful cards in the late game. When an Aggro deck faces off with a Control deck, the winner is still undetermined because of RNG. Whoever draws the best cards at the right time with little to no mistakes, will usually win.

To learn more about the history of the ‘meta’, view the video below:

The Learning Curve

It may sound like I know a lot about Hearthstone, and I should, after watching thousands of hours of Twitch and YouTube. The two players I have to thank for all my education is Trump and Kripparrian (aka Kripp). I discovered both of these fine gentleman through Twitch since they always receive the most viewers. I never gave Twitch a chance before these two streamers, and I tend to stay up later and later to watch Hearthstone.

The Mana Curve via GOSU Gamers

Learning Hearthstone is fairly easy when both players compete on opposite sides of the spectrums. Trump normally plays Ranked matches and reaches the top of the Ladder each season. He dabbles in the Arena Mode, but most of his videos and streaming focus on reaching the top. Trump’s nickname is “The Mayor of Value Town.” He obtained this nickname by getting the most value out of every card he plays in Hearthstone which shows how much he respects his cards, their abilities and strategy.

While Kripp does enjoy the occasional Ranked matches, he focuses more heavily on the Arena Mode, crazier meta decks and Tavern Brawl. I try to catch all of his YouTube videos he posts since his streaming times can be too late for me. I find his demeanor quite fascinating because he can go from sheer rage to all smiles with one card draw. I hope to write more about Kripp in a later post, so keep a lookout for that!

Tavern Brawl

Tavern Brawl is the newest game mode in Hearthstone. This weekly event only lasts from Wednesday to Monday, and it is well worth the limited number of days. These brawls are special matches with unique rules that change the games meta. Players may have to create their own decks with specific requirements, use premade decks or even offer abilities to cards at random.

Too Many Portals! via Hearthstone Wiki

Currently, the most popular Tavern Brawl was Too Many Portals! This description made me the most excited since I started playing Hearthstone: “The master mages of Dalaran have gone too far this time, opening up hundreds of portals! Choose a class and use a few spells and a WHOLE lot of portals to defeat your rivals!” The “portals” discussed in the description is the Unstable Portal card. For two mana, players are able to add any random minion to their hand. Plus, it costs three mana less. This is a crazy card that is centered around RNG and all its glory. Not only did both players receive nearly an unlimited amount of Unstable Portals, but they also had pre-made decks with seven randomly selected spells for the class of their choosing.

I thought this would be easy, but I happen to lose most of my games. The RNG was against me in every single game, except for the three that I won. It did feel great to have an opponent rage quit after playing Archmage Antonidas.

The Masked Ball

The Masked Ball Menu Screen via Hearthstone Wiki

The last Tavern Brawl was called The Masked Ball. The description reads: “At the SI:7 mansion in Stormwind they have a grand masked ball every year. Everyone is in disguise! When a minion dies, its disguise is revealed, showing the minion to actually be a different random minion that costs two mana less and ready for another fight!” When I first read this, I was confused. I was given the chance to create my deck. I chose to create a crappy Druid deck with whatever cards I had.

Note: I am missing tons of cards within the game. I have not paid real-money for Hearthstone card packs, wings or challenges. Any cards I have are from gold earned in the game.

When my first match started, I was surprised to see that my one mana minions did not trigger a Deathrattle that spawns another minion that is two mana or less. After watching my opponent’s two mana minion die and saw a minion appear, I finally understood the fundamentals. I was still able to pull out a win against my opponent, but changed my deck to include more two mana minions.

My strategy and basic deck was nearly perfect. I was able to win four out of my five matches with this free-to-play deck. RNG and skill were on my side since my plan was to kill my opponent as fast as possible (much like an Aggro deck). I am very proud of my deck and posted it below:

Created on GOSU Gamers

Created on GOSU Gamers

What’s Next?

The New Expansion via Hearthstone Wiki

With the new addition of Tavern Brawl and new expansion just around the corner, I have dedicated more time towards Hearthstone. I am having fun instead of competing to be the best. I want to thank both Trump and Kripp for showing me how to have fun with Hearthstone while making smart decisions with my cards. I respect my cards and believe each one is valuable no matter their abilities.

I am continuously earning gold and saving up for the new expansion that will add more meta to the game than ever before. My goal is to have fun and play casually in my spare time.

Guinness World Record Time via Kotaku

Updating My Life

Young Bob Dylan via AllMusic

Sooner, rather than later, life catches up to you and does a wonderful thing: create less time. Time is always moving forward and never backward. Sure, you have a past; look at it, your past brought you to where you are today. Thank it. Cherish it. Know you are doing something right which brought you to your future, your present time. As the great Bob Dylan said: “the times, they are a-changin’.”

Hello everyone, welcome to an update about my life.

My last post was on February 15, 2015. I was fortunate enough to interview the great Jim Guthrie to discuss his masterpiece, Sword and Sworcery LP – The Ballad of the Space Babies, and his newest collaboration album with Solid Mas, One of These Days I’ll Get It Right. While this was my first interview, I do have one more that I have been keeping under wraps. I was able to interview an indie video game writer who is currently writing the story to one of my most anticipated games to come out (vague sentence is vague). Not only that, but I have a two panels from PAX South that I would like to share with the world since I am not able to find them online.

Correct Translation via GBATemp

Let it be known that my goal is to start writing again; I miss it, I need it, I want it. My itch to write is like a mosquito bite (rhyming and stealing). I will be honest, part of my dilemma to start writing about video games again revolves around my new job. I cannot say much about what I do, but I am having a blast.

The past couple months have been a blast with booked weekends with the family, my birthday celebration, a new computer and new console. Not only that, but I was able to beat a number of games that I wish to discuss as well. Since I love organization, let me break everything down in a chronological timeline.

The Snow Storm

It’s Tricky! via Game Rant

Texas is not known for its snowy weather. My first day at my new job was closed! The streets were so bad that nearly all of North Texas closed down because of icy roads and tons of accidents. Before I even started my job, I had a day off.

During this time, I was at home without any of my consoles; such a tragedy. Luckily, I had one form of entertainment: my phone. I decided to finish up a mobile game called Duet. This was no ordinary action game for touchscreen devices; it required memorization and cat-like reflexes. The player controls two colored orbs through mind-bending obstacles. The orbs could move clockwise or counterclockwise depending on the players fingers. Simple enough, right? Wrong! If one orb perishes, then the player must start over.

Duet At Its Core by Duet

This cringe-worthy, rinse-and-repeat game left a huge impression on me. Not only was it difficult, but Duet’s ending felt like an accomplishment instead of a hassle like many free-to-play mobile games. Who knew that two different colored orbs could make a game rise to the top and look down upon so many bad mobile games.

Obsession for Perfection

Hitman Go logo via Hitman

Within the month of March, I was able to beat four different games. On March 1, 2015, I perfected Hitman Go, a turn-based puzzle game, and beat Shadow of Mordor. Both games exceeded my expectations. Hitman Go was an easy video game to pick-up and play. However, perfecting every level was exhausting. I was able to get Hitman Go from the Humble Bundle Mobile Bundle for an incredible price, but I do not own an Android phone. Luckily, a little application called Andy helped me through this predicament by emulating the game on my computer. The best time to play this game was between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. because it was relaxing even when it frustrated me.

Rayman Legends via We Got This Covered

During the same time, I was working on another game in which I wanted perfection; Rayman Legends. On March 9, 2015, I was able to conquer Rayman Legends, but decided to stray away from perfection. Reason being that there was too much content for me to handle. This game not only had its normal levels, but it also had boss levels, re-imagined boss levels, a completely separate game and daily, online challenges; the sheer amount of content puts most games to shame.

Rayman Legends was taking up so much of my time, that I thought it would be better to focus on other video games. It is one of my favorite platforms to come out in years, and will reign as the best free video game Xbox One has handed out. Maybe one day I will return, and aim for that 100% goal.

Final Fantasy XV

Rawr! via Gamespot

On March 21, 2015, I beat one of my most anticipated game demos (yes, a freaking demo): Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae. Wow, just, wow. It is hard to describe. This incredible demo made me “giddy like a little schoolboy.” I anticipate the game will be even better than this little sneak peek, and it was worth the $60 (I am working on Final Fantasy Type 0, I swear). I do not want to go too much into detail about the demo since I would like to share my thoughts on it in a separate post. This phenomenon deserves an Early Impression. Look for it in the future.

If You Build It, They Will Come

Field of Dreams of Course via Giphy

I have some big news: I built my own gaming rig! It was an informative experience. One of my good buddy’s helped me put it all together and all of my friends helped me choose the most perfect parts. If you would like to see my build, check it out here: PCPartPicker.

I was really nervous when creating this beautiful PC. Reasons? Well, it was expensive. I am not the cheapest person in the world, but I want to make sure I buy everything for the right price. Sure enough, I was able to get a lot of my parts on sale. The most notable purchase was my 240GB solid state drive that I payed $100 for (talk about a crazy good deal at the perfect time).

I decided to go with a GeForce GTX 960 graphics card because I liked the price for its quality. I did a lot of research at Tom’s Hardware, Amazon reviews, Newegg reviews, and other benchmark websites to help me choose my incredible graphics card. I have never seen video games look this good before! My last computer was a MacMini (running Windows most of the time), so this was a huge upgrade.

If you would like to add me on Steam, my username is Lucky Lightford. I love to play Indies the most on my machine and will buy Grand Theft Auto V really soon.

A New Console

N64 Kid via Youtube

Not only did I build a computer, but on March 28, 2015, I decided to purchase a Playstation 4. Why would I do such a thing if I own too many consoles and a new computer? Well, the price. It was during a GameStop promotion where I was able to turn in my old Playstation 3 for a good amount of credit. My final price for the Playstation 4 was $142.14.

I will explain how it was possible in another post since it was a fascinating savings adventure. If you would like to add me on Playstation Network, my ID is Lucky_Lightford (I really hate the fact that I cannot have an actual space).

Thank You, Gosling via Teen

The Current

Currently, I am working 40 hours a week (unless you count the 48 hours I put in two weeks ago), playing tons of Bloodborne, watching an wonky show called iZombie, loving every second of Game of Thrones and living life to the fullest.

My dream is to write more on here, but I cannot keep those promises for the time being. My job is quite stressful and I will be moving out of my apartment in a month or so. However, I can promise that I will keep on gaming and think of more ideas for my blog. Let me leave you with this, a little of me playing Bloodborne.

The Interview with Jim Guthrie

Jim Guthrie “Head” -er via Noted

Jim Guthrie is a Canadian singer, songwriter, and composer of the brilliant Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP indie hit. Jim is one of my favorite video game composers (even if he might not consider himself one) and it is all thanks to his Sword & Sworcery LP – The Ballad of the Space Babies soundtrack. Before I even played the game, I listened to this incredible soundtrack and was blown away. Never have I heard so many musical ideas in a video game that surprised me.

The more I listened to the Sword & Sworcery LP, the more I wondered about its inspirations and music theory. About a month ago, I contacted Jim for an interview via Twitter. I was ecstatic that he was happy to oblige. To my amazement, within a day of my email, he wrote back answering all my questions about his musical career, his new projects and eye-opening aspirations. Below are the questions I asked him and his reply with little notes thrown in for good measure.

Pretty High Up There by Game Pressure

Casey: Thank you for taking time to read my email and random tweets. It is not everyday you get a chance to talk to people you admire! What made you the musician we see today? Did you go to school for music?

Jim Guthrie: Self-taught. I can’t even really read music but I’ve always heard music in my head like it was playing on the radio. I started playing guitar when I was 16 or 17 years old. I started recording my sloppy ideas on a little pink tape recorder and bought a cassette 4-track (Fostex X-18) soon after. All of my friends (at the time) didn’t play music so I taught myself bass, drums and keyboards etc. I also experimented with writing songs and instrumental music and learned how to arrange it all on the 4-track.

The Fostex X-18 via AVF

Looking at your Bandcamp page, you have an album from your former band In Royal City. I would label your music in the indie genre, but when you were up-and-coming, indie wasn’t a household name like it is now. Did you think you guys would make it big, or were you ahead of the times?

We weren’t “big,” no, but the album ‘Alone At the Microphone’ was nominated for a Juno (Canadian Grammy) and we were signed to Rough Trade in the UK for the album after. We were very ‘DIY’ and didn’t have any outside funding. We booked our own tours and made our own CDs etc. We were all really good friends and we were having the time of our lives booking these scrappy little tours and playing all over North America and Europe. We never got rich but that wasn’t the point. I was making music everyday of my life…and still do.

What led you to writing video game music?

In all honesty it found me. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say I wouldn’t even really call what I do “video game music.”  It’s music and it’s in a video game but it’s not “video game music” you know what I mean? I’m speaking in the context of S&S. To further explain: right from the start we described our idea for the game as “an album you can walk through” so that’s partly why the music works as an album.

Music Generator Cover via GameFaqs

Before you worked on the music for Sword & Sworcery, did you have an idea for the music before seeing the game?

I had some instrumental music laying around (that I recorded on Playstation 1 using MTV Music Generator) when I met Craig (creator of the game) and he really liked it so we used a few of those tracks as a launch pad.

Note: The following questions are about specific songs off of the Sword & Sworcery LP.

 

Dark Flute’ is one of my favorite tracks from Sword & Sworcery. It reminds me of the Neverending Story. Where did the inspiration come from? The intro was very different from anything I’ve heard. The rhythm is simplistic and repeating, but that is one of the best parts about it. If you look into music theory a little more, it almost makes no sense to include it with such chords, but you pulled it off masterfully.

Yeah, the bed tracks (the loopy sounding flute at the start) was made on the Playstation and I just loved that sound. That dreamy pulse is the sound that inspired the loop. I just went where it led me. Then I overdubbed the melody in Garageband using bass, guitars and more synths. And I think you’re right – if I knew anything about music theory, I probably wouldn’t have made this music. All the credit goes to my quirky, self-taught nature. That goes for everything I’ve ever written.

Lone Star,’ talk about a great track walking/driving to. It is mellow, clean and upbeat. The song is very catchy. Where did that come from? Did you hit some keys and think, that may work?

That started off as a guitar song back in 2000 and long before the game. I just was playing a simple progression and noodling over top of it. I even home recorded a song with a friend of mine where we both sang on it with those chords and that hook. It wasn’t until a year or two after that I transposed it over to the MTV Music Generator and then it wasn’t until years after S&S came along and I just sort of made it longer, added more instrumentation and found a place for it in the game.

The Prettiest Weed’ is a great title for a powerful song. Your crescendo with the background organ building was perfect. The drum beat is perfect and the synth was entered in after the break was satisfying. When writing music, do you keep in mind all of the dynamics? With this song in particular, how did you go about create the drums?

I play the drums but I’m not exactly John Bonham so I use a mix of my own playing and drum programming with midi to get the performance I want. ‘The Prettiest Weed’ was also a song that just wrote itself once I had that piano part I just heard the rest of song in my head so I spent a week trying to figure out how to replicate it.

‘The Ballad of the Space Babies,’ you knew I was going to have to touch on this song right? Vocals in the beginning, is that you or did you hire a vocalist? Whatever you did, it was an incredible effect that fits perfectly with the ambiance. This may be the most relaxing song on the entire soundtrack. Where did you inspiration come from on this piece?

I like to have lots of different instruments and noise makers around. I used an old keyboard called an Casio SK-1 on this song. I sampled notes from my piano into the SK-1 and looped them to get the pulse. The voice is my voice sampled using the SK-1 and pitch up. I also used the portamento feature to give it a cooler sounding slide up to the note. It all just comes from experimenting with all the sounds I have at my fingertips.

Casio SK-1 via Wikipedia

‘And We Got Older,’ your ideas in the intro is exactly what I was a doing on my ukulele a year or two ago. How did you do it? Where did it come from? I was in shock when I heard this song.

Again, you’ll be shocked to know that I recorded this song in 1997 or ’98? This exact version. I released it on a homemade cassette in the summer of ’98 and then put it on a CD in 1999 called ‘A Thousand Songs’ (which was basically a best of compilation of all the cassettes I put out in the 90s) and then Craig loved the song so much that we made it work with the game. It’s just another weird little tuning I had made up on the uke and then I layered drums and synth strings on a cassette 4-track. I don’t even remember how I managed to pull it off but it’s one of my personal faves as well. But yeah, it’s around 18 years old!

Sword & Sworcery was hugely successful and the soundtrack especially caught gamers’ attention. Did many people try to contact you afterwards? Did you consider doing another project?

I’ve had people email me almost everyday since the game came out. Some asking me to compose for other games, some asking questions for blogs and some just saying how much it all means to them. It’s really quite amazing. Since S&S I’ve done the music for the film Indie Game: The Movie, I’ve also done music for another game called Sound Shapes (one level) for PS3, PS4 and Vita.

If you don’t mind me asking, how has sells been on Bandcamp with the Sword & Sworcery extras that come with it?

The sales have been very good. Between Bandcamp and iTunes it’s sold around 30k digital copies. It’s crazy.

Current and Future Projects

Are you working on any new indie game soundtracks today?

I’m currently working on a game called Below with Capy Games. I have no idea when it will be done but here’s one of the many trailers for it:

Your newest album, One Of These Days I’ll Get It Right, featured many of your tracks remixed by Solid Mas. One reason I really enjoyed this album was because it actually reminded me of The Avalanches and their album Since I Left You. How did this project come to be? Did you overlook the entire process or did Solid Mas roam free? Do you believe this album helped you gain more listenership?

I met Cooper (Solid Mas) last year at a Christmas party and we hit it off. He was a big fan so we decided to do this remix album because he’s an insanely gifted hip hop producer. He sent me ideas and did most of the heavy lifting for each song. I would just give feedback and say ‘it should get choppier here’ or ‘it should blow up here’. I would also hum melodies I heard into my phone and send them to him and he would put them in. It was very fun and easy to work on this album. It hasn’t sold as well but we’ve still managed to sell a few hundred copies so far.

 

Do you have an idea for a video game project with your own music involved? If so, will you pursue?

I’d like to make a little music app of some kind but I’m too busy with Below so it might never happen but maybe…

 

If you want to hear more of Jim Guthrie’s work, please visit his Bandcamp page here. You can listen to his newest album collaboration with Solid Mas here. Also, Jim provided me with two interviews he did with Create Digital Music and The Verge that go into detail about his music process and how he was chosen to compose the Sword & Sworcery soundtrack.

 

The Future Of PAX South

The Beautiful Convention Center via 4Player Network

In case you did not know, I was born and raised in Texas. I was quite pleased to hear that the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) would finally make its way down South since Seattle, Boston and Melbourne are a little out-of-the-way. When PAX South was slated for San Antonio, it shocked me. There are numerous cities that could host PAX South, and I wish I knew the real truth behind the choosing of San Antonio.

I want to divulge from video games for one post to talk about a few positives and negatives for having PAX South in San Antonio, Texas. I will touch on different cities that could host this convention, why the size of the venue matters and price point for both PAX and attendees.

Badges Were Everywhere by PAX South

Registration Please

The numbers speak for themselves, according to IGN, PAX South beat out attendance records for first-year PAX shows in Boston and Melbourne. That is a big feat, but how big was it really? San Antonio papers and the news estimated that roughly 40,000 attendees came to experience PAX. I believe that most of the people who attended were from Texas, but I have no proof unless more numbers are released.

I remember when I bought my tickets from the PAX South website. I could not believe how reasonable the price was and had to snatch two tickets quickly. I decided to buy two 3-day passes which cost me $65 a piece; this would be my very first gaming convention and I thought I should attend the entire weekend. However, I do not believe many people were keen on the idea of having PAX South so far South.

Sold out? by PAX Prime

Usually, PAX tickets sell out immediately, but not here. PAX South tickets never sold out, which is unreal. The 3-day passes sold out, partially because it was the best deal. If you wanted to attend a specific day, it would cost you $30 for one day; still a reasonable price unless you had to buy one for each day. Before I left for PAX South, I noticed that Friday and Sunday were not sold out. How is that even possible?

I can understand why Friday took so long to sell out (I believe Friday sold out on Thursday before the event), since it is during the workweek and it was the day most people were either driving or flying to San Antonio. If that is the case, why did Sunday not sell out? The most notable Gearbox panel at PAX South was on Sunday, it was the final day of the Omegathon (a tournament that pits random attendees against each other playing the most random of games), and it hosted the second Q&A from Penny Arcade.

It boggles my mind to see how successful the convention was without it truly selling out. I think PAX South started off great with the attendance, but it does need some improvements. Reports are coming out that San Antonio will host PAX South until 2017.

Lines On Lines At Panels by mySA

Size Means Everything

PAX needed the perfect size shoe to make this convention fit. Did they find it in San Antonio, or are there others out there more suitable? San Antonio houses roughly 1.4 million people in its 465 square miles.

PAX South was held at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention center that is 1,300,000 square feet. The convention center has four floors and navigation was simple enough (signs everywhere). Two of the four theatres they used as panels were too small (which is why I missed out on seeing Markiplier’s panel with Bob and Wade). I was not able to attend a panel in the Main Theatre, but I did get a chance to watch the Fraxis panel in the Falcon Theatre, which was pretty massive. The main expo was big enough to house the 120 exhibitors and the tabletop area was bigger than I expected it to be (people sure love tabletop games).

I want to compare San Antonio to a few other major cities and convention centers that could have hosted PAX South.

George R. Brown Convention Center via Library of Congress

Houston, Texas – George R. Brown Convention Center

Houston, Texas houses around 2.2 million people in 627 square miles. Houston is a little bigger than San Antonio, but not by much. The only thing I dislike about Houston is their traffic problems, but it can be overlooked for a convention of this magnitude.

PAX South would most likely be at the George R. Brown Convention Center. The convention center is 1,800,000 square feet, which makes it one of the largest convention centers in America. Based on the size of the town, PAX might have thought the town was too big and that it would be crowded. However, the bigger venue could have brought in more exhibitors and possibly, more attendees.

The Neal Kocurek Memorial Austin Convention Center via Levy Restaurants

Austin, Texas – The Neal Kocurek Memorial Austin Convention Center

Austin, Texas is much smaller compared to San Antonio. The city houses nearly 900,000 people in 271.8 square miles. Austin is very compact near the downtown area and houses the University of Texas and all 40,000 or so students.

The most notable convention center in Austin is the Neal Kocurek Memorial. This convention hosts South By Southwest (SXSW) every year, but is much smaller than most convention centers. The convention center encloses a total of 881,400 square feet. 40,510 square feet is dedicated to one of the largest ballrooms in Texas, which could be perfect for huge events at PAX. The main reason I could see Austin not being used for PAX is based on its small size and crowded downtown area. First and foremost, Austin is a college town. It already hosts SXSW, and PAX wanted to shake things up a bit since Austin already has a gaming convention (which is tiny compared to PAX).

Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center via FaceBook

Dallas, Texas – Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center and AT&T Stadium

Dallas, Texas is monstrous compared to most cities in Texas. Dallas is 385.8 square miles and houses around 1.25 million people. Even though Dallas is huge, it does not have as many people as San Antonio (which should be a plus).

There are two venues PAX could use: Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center (Dallas Convention Center) and AT&T Stadium (aka Jerrydome, the Death Star, or Cowboys Stadium). The Dallas Convention Center is over 2,000,000 square feet big and has a huge exhibit area, while the AT&T Stadium can fit over 105,000 people with standing room. The reason I bring up two venues is the fact that the main events/expo could be located at the Dallas Convention Center. Any PC gaming, the Omegathon or other huge panels could stay at AT&T Stadium. It is roughly a twenty minute drive from the convention center to the stadium, and imagine using the huge screen there. Playing video games at AT&T Stadium is by far, one of the coolest things.

It’s A-Me, Washington via Game Front

Where The Money Comes Into Play

A theory that I will touch on now is the money in the attendees pockets who attend PAX. One thing PAX had to consider were the flights to the convention. For many Texans, the drive is not so bad, but a drive from Boston or Seattle could be tiresome.

Based on data obtained by the United States Department of Transportation, the average airfare in 2014 (quarter 3) was $396.37, which sounds pricey when traveling for a convention (but what do I know?). I went to look at the average amounts for each city and their airports that sheds new light on the airfare price for attendees.

  • Tickets to Austin, Texas would roughly cost: $395.61
  • Tickets to Dallas, Texas would roughly cost: $425.89
  • Tickets to Houston, Texas would roughly cost: $450.07
  • Tickets to San Antonio, Texas would roughly cost: $407.11

Based on flights alone, it would have been cheaper for attendees to fly to Austin than any other major city. Flying is not the only expense attendees have. What do hotel prices look like?

Stylish Hyatt Hotel Room via Hyatt Regency Columbus

My next theory revolves around the average prices for hotels in each city. I looked around the convention centers and found rough averages of the price. Many PAX South attendees most-likely shared rooms. I decided to take one scenario and look at major hotels surrounding the venues I listed above. The search criteria was that one room would be occupied by four people for three days.

Austin is home of many motels and smaller hotel chains. On average, per-night, you are looking at spending roughly $200 for semi-decent places, and $100 for a motel room. If you want to stay in luxury, those can cost anywhere from $300-500.

Dallas can be a little pricer. The surrounding areas of the convention center and stadium house some of the nicest hotels (motels are not really located around here). On average, you are looking at spending $200-250 no matter the hotel. Much nicer hotels such as the Omni or Marriott are increasingly more expensive.

Houston’s price range is very similar to Dallas. The surrounding hotels would most likely cost around $250-300 in price with motels a little further from the convention center.

The Menger Hotel in San Antonio by Menger Hotel

San Antonio hotels had some of the best deals out of each city. I had a friend who booked his hotel, well in advance, and only paid $100. This hotel was within walking distance of the convention center. On average, many hotels around the convention center were priced around $100-150. If you wanted to be on the Riverwalk or next door to the convention center, it could cost upwards to $300 per-night.

If PAX was thinking of the attendees and how much they would have to shell out to attend, then yes, San Antonio might have been the best choice. It is hard to determine since I do not know how much the convention centers cost to occupy for huge events like this. However, PAX could have raised the prices if they were in a larger convention center (I thought the price point was really cheap compared to large events like this).

For my convenience, I would have liked PAX South in Dallas since I know the area and it is not that far from my home. I did not have a big problem with PAX South in San Antonio, but I truly believe PAX missed out on some larger opportunities based on location.

Mario, Where Am I? via rllmuk

Location, Location, Location

While attending PAX South, I noticed some Texas-based companies, but not as many as I would have liked. The largest company from Texas at PAX South was Gearbox. Many people might not know this, but Gearbox is located in Plano, Texas (which is right down the road from Dallas). Their presence at PAX South was monstrous. They had a specific play area where you could demo old-school video games, look at consoles that do not exist anymore and try to win prizes from participating in a drawing. They also had the biggest panel on the last day of PAX South where they talked about the re-release of Borderlands on the Xbox One and Playstation 4 (PS4). They were probably the biggest deal at PAX South.

The other company that started in Texas (they have since, moved away), was Stoic Studio. Stoic created The Banner Saga and are currently working on their sequel. Drew McGee, the head writer for The Banner Saga 2, was their to talk about their first game and speak vaguely about their next game (I was lucky enough to conduct an interview with him that I will be typing up later in a blog post).

Gearbox Office by Gearbox

Other noteable Texas-based companies were the lackluster Funimation booth (not a single voice actor was there), the over-popular Rooster Teeth booth (I admit, I love Red vs. Blue though), the Digital Devolver booth and an eye-opnening BioWare room (tons of panels were held and it was always packed). Funimation Production is located in Flowermound, Texas, which is a stone throw away from Dallas. Rooster Teeth, Digital Devolver and BioWare (Austin)  are based out of Austin, Texas.

I truly believe that if PAX chose a more inviting city that is easier for developers to get to, then we would have seen much more. In my opinion, Dallas would see tons more of booths, panels and games. id Software is located in the Dallas area and would have been an incredible experience for them to be there. 3D Realms is based in Garland, Texas and could easily make the trip.

One of my biggest disappointments was the fact that Blizzard did not attend PAX South (even though Twitch had a line of computers for people to play Hearthstone the entire time). The biggest news for MMOs was based on a free-to-play game called Guild Wars (I am not a big fan of MMOs not named Destiny), and not something from World of Warcraft. Blizzard has a location in Austin, but if PAX South wound up there or in Dallas, I believe they would have came out

Yes, For Real by Zombie Shop

The Fear Is Real

I fear that PAX could have done more. I fear that not enough people want to go to South Texas compared to the benefits in North Texas. I fear that it will be a long time until PAX South comes more North. I fear that PAX will grow exceptionally well further South. My fear is real, but what really shook me was the publics opinion.

I stayed with some family in San Antonio and none of them knew about the event. I invited my cousin to attend PAX South with me, and he had no idea about the event (Note: My cousin lives in Edinburg, Texas).  I was watching the late night news in San Antonio and there was no mention of PAX. Where were all the flashy signs, publicity and utter chaos that defines PAX? If you did not follow video games in South Texas, you may have never heard about this huge event.

Pokemon Never Ends via Photobucket

Conclusions

I cannot predict what will happen at the next PAX South. I hope that the news spreads about the next one so more companies, celebrities and people attend. I looked through comment sections from people who attended and most said it was “dull” and “lackluster.” While I do not want agree with them, I have to.  This was my very first gaming convention and I expected more.

I will say this, it was a great first show, but it has to be better. I wish I could afford to go to other gaming conventions to compare because PAX is something that is hard to put into words. I have hope for PAX South and will try to attend next year. An added bonus for attending PAX was this great picture with Markiplier!

Look, Markiplier!

Look, Markiplier!

Early Impressions: Adventures of Pip

Adventures of Pip shirt from Tic Toc Games

Adventures of Pip shirt from Tic Toc Games

PAX South came and went. It was a wonderful experience that I will never forget. One game out of the hundreds that were there left a good early impression on me: Adventures of Pip.

Adventures of Pip is a Kickstarter game made by Tic Toc Studios. The game centers itself on nostalgia, which is not a bad thing. We have Shovel Knight that reminded us what it was like to play as Scrooge McDuck again, we have Broken Age that takes a point-and-click adventure game to the next level with two protagonists, and Amplitude which is the successor to the first Amplitude released back in 2003.

Pip’s Three Forms via Kickstarter

Adventures of Pip is a side-scrolling action platforming game with a twist: a character that can evolve/devolve. There are a lot of inspiring games within the Adventures of Pip such as the Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong, and even the Legend of Zelda. The story is very basic, where a princess gets stolen by an evildoer and she must be rescued. However, the gameplay is what makes this game stick out from other indie games out there.

The Demo

I was surprised to see the game I backed on Kickstarter at PAX South. On the last day of the convention, I gave the demo a try. The Adventures of Pip demo was short, but that did not take away from my experience. The controls were solid. The running and jumping mechanics responded well with the Playstation 4 (PS4) controller (this was also the first time I ever used a PS4 controller). Since the expo was so loud, I could not hear much of the music or sound effects.

Pip as Gif via Kickstarter

The Gameplay

Pip has three EVO forms: 1-pixel, 8-bit and 16-bit. Pip can traverse tiny hallways and jump on creatures that can carry him across spikes when he is 1-pixel. Also, this tiny, red pixel can jump higher than the other forms. While in this form, Pip is very responsive and easy to control.

1-Pixel Pip via Kickstarter

Pip’s 8-bit-self was my favorite of the three forms. 8-bit Pip has the agility of a gazelle and can wall jump like Samus. He also has a short jab, but I did not use it in the demo since the enemies were sparse. There was a tiny problem with this form; Pip attached to walls like scotch tape. I spoke with the publisher, Shereef Morse, about this problem and he assured me that it will be fixed by their next demo at PAX East.

8-Bit Pip via Kickstarter

Pip’s final form is powerful with all his 16-bits. He is a bulky, tough and wields a champions sword. Pip can slice through bricks, push over blocks and destroy enemies with ease. During the demo, there were not many chances to play as this powerful form. After watching many videos (and gifs) and demos of 16-bit Pip, it is easy to tell that he will need to evolve into this form to take out the most powerful adversaries.

16-Bit Pip via Kickstarter

The Environment

After watching the demo played by other PAX participants, the environment never ceased to amaze me. The colors and detail in textures made the demo ‘pop.’ There are not many games that fully capture an environment like this (unless your name is Shovel Knight). There were hidden areas within the demo with chests and villagers aplenty.

Part of PAX South Demo via Gamers in Beta

The demo was based on a portion of the game within a Temple. The mechanics of the game were easy to pick up from the start. For example, the demo taught me how to jump on enemies heads to reach higher areas. If I jumped on enemies heads that had a blue glow, it would give Pip the power to evolve/devolve. Thankfully, if I accidentally jumped on their head and missed a secret area, they would respawn later (I am not sure if that was for demo purposes or that is a game mechanic).

Near the end of the demo, I felt anxious and excited. Walls were closing from all around and I had to run as fast as I could. If blue blocks were in the way, I had to evolve/devolve to break them. There were walls that were too high, so I had to evolve/devolve into my 8-bit self and wall-jump as fast as I could. The ceiling and ground level were about to flatten me into no pixel Pip, but was able to evolve/devolve into 1-pixel Pip to fit inside a narrow space from harm. This entire scenario is what made this stick out from side-scrollers without time limits. Adventures of Pip could be one of my favorite indies this year based on this demo alone.

Pimping Pip Art via Nintendo News

Conclusions

Overall, Adventures of Pip has great ideas, amazing controls, and needs little tweaks. Each time I would pass by the booth, two people were always playing with smiles on their faces. I remember hearing from onlookers the phrase, “Awe, he’s so cute.” And I mean, look at him! That tiny, 1-pixel Pip is cute. I have a good feeling about this game and cannot wait to see the final results later this year. Adventures of Pip releases in May 2015 for the PC, Mac, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

Wait, who is this Pip? via Amazon