8-Bit Thought Bubbles

PAX East 2011 – A Retrospective

So here at Omnicomic we obviously cover comics and try to highlight up and coming indie publishers and artists with creative ideas and new takes on tried and true comic themes. I’d like to think we do a pretty good job at that. Here's the thing- different types of entertainment media are quickly merging into one greater entertainment industry. You have always had those classic games like the X-Men four-player extravaganza in arcades, but for media and marketing reasons these things seem to be more sophisticated now.

Halo? Marvel tried that out in comic form. Dead Space featured a really well done interactive comic on their site as part of their pre-release hype. At PAX East 2011 Curt Schilling- owner of 38 Studios and their subsidiary Big Huge Games- said that with people like R.A. Salvatore and Todd McFarlane the company would be crazy not to incorporate actual GOOD comics into their grand scheme for Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and their future MMO title codenamed Copernicus.

These are just a few examples off the top of my head but a simple Google search for comic books based on video games will net you many, many more. As gaming becomes an ever greater force in the world – read Reality is Broken if you don’t think it is – you can be assured that this trend will increase. Comics that are intensely successful will start becoming video games and vice versa. As with books translating to movies – the classic example – this will sometimes work and sometimes fail to varying degrees of hilariousness, but the precedent has been set and there is no going back from here.

Why am I writing all that? Perhaps it is because our esteemed Editor-in-Chief has allowed me to begin writing more on games. We are ALL gamers here at Omnicomic, and so this was bound to happen. The focus of the site will ever be on comics, however, and wherever possible I will try to bridge that gap and show those relationships.

That was rather longwinded, let’s move on to my general impressions and takeaways from PAX East 2011 in Boston just a scant few days ago.

It has taken me a while to get my head around EVERYTHING at PAX. I love my wife and 10 week old son but I think next year I’m going to try to get a big group together and ask her if she’d love to see her family in Jersey on PAX weekend so I can TOTALLY geek out. I just wasn’t ready to not see my child for three straight days quite yet. I’ll break this down into categories.


Nearly every tech booth at the event featured amazing multi-screen 3D triple-SLI powered computers. It was really pretty impressive stuff, I’m just not sure if anyone out of the most extreme hardcore gamers can afford the setups necessary to run these things. Even old games look REALLY fresh in 3D. The bevels in between the screens are still annoying and I’d rather get a GIANT high res display then put three side by side until monitors can be sophisticated enough to have no borders.

I’m no technical genius. Sure I can build a computer and have a general idea of what different things mean, but I’m not benchmarking here. Some of the major players in attendance included Newegg, Nvidia, Alienware, MSI and Logitech that I remember. I might have seen IBuyPower.com somewhere as well. The two major things I saw were: gaming laptops running intense games very smoothly and 3D desktops. If it can somehow be made affordable then get ready. It will come like it or not. At least the 3D glasses are getting stylish.


There has been some recent controversy over Free to Play games marketed at kids like Smurfs' Village that allegedly can have the effect of tricking – for lack of a better word – them into unknowingly spending money. After all if it is free how can I purchase something right? Well I’m not going to discuss that here. The topic I’d like to touch on is the almost AAA quality of many of the F2P games out there. Some of the titles I saw that were very impressive AND Free to Play were Vindictus (expansion demo), Guild Wars 2, Firefall (I’ll be talking more about THIS in a future article) and Dragon Nest; Vindictus and Dragon Nest from the same F2P behemoth Nexon Games.

These games are starting to show much of the same polish as their AAA competition, and it will be harder and harder to dismiss them as lesser game experiences – if you can even do that now – in the next year if not sooner. They are also crossing over from the MMO genre on the PC to other game types as Firefall shows. When you combine this with the ridiculous social gaming explosion on various mobile platforms and sites like Facebook, you have a perfect storm for the F2P micro-transaction model to take over. This isn’t my favorite trend in gaming but a mere mortal like me can do nothing to stop it.

The market that still remains somewhat insulated from this is the console market. I have no doubt it will find a way to do this once they can reach some kind of agreement with the sometimes draconian controls Sony and Microsoft hold on their online stores on those platforms.


I love FPS games. I own MANY of them. With that said, I did not purchase Halo: ODST or Halo: Reach. I also didn't get Call of Duty: Black Ops or the Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Vietnam expansion. I see a real lack of innovation in the FPS field. Call of Duty has been Madden-ized at this point with its yearly release holding no real innovative game features and simply a new coat of paint. The massive success of shooters held in modern times seems to have really stalled progression in the field. They all look like Modern Warfare x.x to me.

So which FPS games did I observe or play, and what, if any, stood out from the crowd? At PAX I played/observed: Battlefield 3, Brink, Duke Nukem, Fear 3, Firefall, Section 8: Prejudice, Homefront and Gears of War 3. Some of these do have an over the shoulder 3rd person viewpoint (Gears), but when someone points out a site that differentiates 3rdPS from FPS I’ll change my lumping of these games together.

Only Section 8 – because it's being released as an incredibly polished AAA quality XBLA title - and Firefall truly stood out. Gears is certainly different in the perspective, but it is just more Gears! I think I liked it better when shooting games spanned different eras or were ridiculous sci-fi games like Quake with varying styles and weapon types. Homefront and F.E.A.R. 3 just looked downright generic. Battlefield 3 will be beautiful, but is that enough to justify 60 bucks for it when I already own four modern shooters that still look pretty darn good?

Firefall looked amazing, both in art style and gameplay. A mix of Tribes – much of the dev team comes from that game I believe – and Halo only with a Borderlands cel-shaded art style. I’m not saying it is totally original, but when placed next to the pack of other titles mentioned it really shines for being fun and standing out.


As I scanned the MMO scene at PAX I saw games in all sorts of settings and worlds that I’d ALWAYS wanted to play an active role in. From the War in the North expansion for Lord of the Rings to the much hyped Star Wars: The Old Republic from Bioware, the universes were amazing. Character art styles varied as well in accordance with the setting, but something just didn’t sit right. Is a Tank/Ranged/DPS/Healer combo really all there is? Are UI action bars with global cooldown skills the pinnacle of MMO game design? Did World of Warcraft REALLY perfect it all those years ago and is that why it's the MMO king despite its sometimes awful community members?

After seeing the selection at PAX East 2011 I can safely say yes. No one is even trying. I suppose dynamic random in game events and your actual interest in the story is what you should be making decisions on. Even with the trendy hybrid classes you see now in games like Rift, it still boils down to asking your fellow group members, “Do we have a tank and heals?” At least Guild Wars 2 varied enough from the norm to have a Diablo-like health meter and full body cut scenes when accepting your still generic quests.

This is not to say these aren’t GOOD and fun and ADDICTING games. I was just really hoping to see something new that would knock me off my feet. I mistakenly thought two machines with World of Warcraft on them had Rift going. Somewhat embarrassing but you know what, who cares? I’m enjoying Rift currently – which was not at PAX – and isn’t that the point of games?

So there you have it- a retrospective on what I saw and my thoughts on gaming and PAX East 2011. A ridiculously fun experience that I hope to attend next year, take more pictures of and stay for longer (or later at night I should say). I couldn’t see it all and I’m sure not all will agree with my assessments, but that's a-okay with me. If you enjoy games (both video and tabletop), you should really try to get to one of the two PAX shows that happen yearly. Just clear your schedule, sleep before and after and enjoy the madness.