My Favorite Things From PAX 2014

I didn't show anything at PAX Prime, so I had a lot of time to check out lots of cool games. Here are my favorite things I remember experiencing this year!

Miegakure

Miegakure is a game that's been in development for a long time and doesn't have a release date planned, so I jumped on the opportunity to play. After 10 minutes I began to slowly gain a subconscious understanding of the game's four dimensional world. The rational part of my brain hadn't pieced everything together, but making moves that "felt right" often ended up working out. Every once and a while I had flashes of understanding, but those flashes would quickly fade and distort on the next puzzle. The 2D sections, highlighted in the most recent trailer, really help towards building an understanding of the fourth dimension by framing the puzzles in the dimensions we already understand.

Remember that Indiecade talk Marc Ten Bosch and Jon Blow gave? Miegakure seems to live by that creed of attempting to explore a game's possibility as deeply as possible. Really excited to dig more into this whenever it comes out.

Lead to Fire

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Lead To Fire is to Starcraft as Hearthstone is to Magic. I said this to Andy Schatz and his eyes went wide. "Did you hear me say that? That's exactly how I explain it!"

Lead to Fire is a multiplayer game where players harvest resources and build armies. The macro mechanics of Starcraft are all there. Do you focus on economy at the risk of having a weaker army than your enemy? Do you rush to build an army and hope you destroy your enemy quickly? What units is your opponent building and how do you counter them?

Gone from the Starcraft formula is the micromanagement. One of the main reasons I stopped playing Starcraft is that it made my wrists hurt from all the buttons you had to press. In Lead to Fire you simply move your avatar around the map, construct buildings where you're standing, and rally your troops towards your position.

The game has only been in development for four months, but the fun is immediately apparent. I hope they can build on this start and make sure that the interesting macro strategies from Starcraft also make the transition to Lead to Fire.

Videoball

Videoball nearly destroyed some of my friendships. Getting yelled at about protractors and angles will do that do you. The local-multiplayer 2-on-2 sport of the future is fantastically executed. The visuals are extremely simple, but everything has been juiced and tweened to the max. I think this game will enter the pantheon of great local multiplayer games.

Ernesto RPG

Like many people I played the original flash prototype and have been excitedly following the development blog. The new art style is fantastic and makes the game immediately more engaging. The game seems to be building out its structure through exploring multiple dungeons from a hub – although I didn't get to spend enough time with the game to really explore that element.

Close Castles

Asher's next game feels deceptively simple to start. You place barracks or towers on a grid. Your towers shoot invaders, and you draw waypoints for your soldiers to follow. It gets interesting when you realize how the game's grid constrains your plans. The routes your enemies are attacking from shift which requires reconsidering tower placements. But when placing towers you always have to maintain a clear path for your barrack-spawned soldiers meaning it's not as simple as plopping down as many towers as you can. In addition to that your available playfield is constantly growing and shrinking based on how everyone else's conquests are progressing. And all of this is constrained to a small grid giving the game a hectic, exciting, and almost claustrophobic feel.

Mushroom 11

Still looks great. I played Mushroom 11 at GDC and was really impressed, and getting to experience some new content at PAX was great. Itay and the Mushroom 11 team had the great idea of doing a speed run competition which made the game really fun to watch as well. Will definitely have to consider doing something like that if I ever have a booth at PAX.

Fiasco

While not at the show, I played Fiasco for the first time during PAX. Fiasco is a tabletop role playing game that is mostly about telling a story. Battles dictated by dice rolls are always huge momentum killers for me in tabletop games, so getting the chance to just improvise and tell a fun story was the best.

Stikbold!

Another great local multiplayer highlight from PAX, this time with dodgeball and a cute art style. The best part is that after you're knocked out you have the ability to mess with the remaining players with items like a barely controllable floor polisher, a multi-ball cannon, or an adoring fan who lunges at players and hangs onto their feet.

 

Overall this was another great PAX for finding new games to be excited about and trying out games I had only heard about. Did I miss anything at the show this year that you loved? Let me know on twitter.