Moving house is tomorrow, so lets do this instead.

Last weekend I went to EGX 2019. I’ve been once before, on a day-pass in 2011, where I was unimpressed by the queue to play time ratios, and the lack of anything to do that didn’t involve queuing for things.

This time I went for the full experience, Thursday through Sunday, nearby hotel. I arrived Thursday afternoon, when it had been open for a few hours already. I hadn’t gone in with any major plans. I wanted to see the latest on Cyberpunk 2077, I’m interested in Death Stranding and Final Fantasy 7 Remake, and I was booked for both the Friday & Saturday D&D sessions with Outside Xbox/Xtra.

Thursday was mostly wandering around getting my bearings. The ExCeL centre is huge, and EGX did well to make it both manageable and navigable. Some places could have done with better signage.

Thursday Encounters

Cash ‘n Guns

Cash & Guns with Dicebreaker

(Watched, Tabletop) Cash ‘n Guns is a board game for 4-8 people, and I watched Dicebreaker play it – you can watch the video of that on youtube. I like the mechanics – you could reskin it fairly easily to not involve pointing foam guns at each other, but the physicality plays in to the game really well. From watching, it’s not a game I’d play with strangers – I can all too easily see a version of this with an interplay of injokes and noodle incidents on one side and a couple of players smiling slightly, and there are some people I would never play this with due to griefing concerns, but it does seem like a lot of fun if you’ve got the right group for it.

MediEvil Remake

(Played, PS4) I missed the original MediEvil on PS, so this was my first introduction to the game. Wikipedia summarises the reviews of this as:

MediEvil received mixed reviews. General praise was directed at the game for its story and visuals, which were considered to be faithful to the original MediEvil. General criticism was directed at some aspects of the game’s gameplay, which was perceived to be outdated

MediEvil (2019 video game) – Wikipedia – 2019-10-27

And… yeah. Felt very much like playing an early 90s 3rd person action game, but with nicer graphics and high-res textures. Complete with a mix of rapid-reaction platforming sections with dodgy cameras and no clue as to what you should be doing. A new game in this series might be interesting, but this remake was faithful enough to be a good reminder of why we don’t do it like this any more.

Control

(Played, PS4) Control is a Remedy game, and a direct line from Max Payne through Alan Wake (and apparently Quantum Break, though I didn’t play that). You start off the game as a mysterious person with a past, and the player has no idea what the fuck is going on. Soon, some things are explained, which does not make anything better.

In this case, the background is a world where iconic objects – the service pistol as a concept, the Red Hotline from the cold war – become objects of power which can be bound and wielded.

Control is a well-executed shooty game with a strong narrative element, told in Remedy’s distinctive style of live action video, cut scenes and environmentals. Live Action video in a game still has the uncanny mountain problem it’s had since FMV games in the 90s, but it’s not distracting in context.

The half-hour I spent on it at EGX convinced me to abandon my hatred for the Epic Game Store long enough to buy it there, and the several hours since have validated my position.

Friday

Friday I went in with a Plan. Primarily, to get in early enough to get to see the Cyberpunk 2077 demo. Cyberpunk 2077 was probably the best managed queue system I saw at EGX, although not without problems in itself. You would queue for a ticket that would be for a certain time, and then when your time popped, you headed back to the booth to see the show. This did mean if you didn’t get to the booth in time to get a ticket you couldn’t get in that day, but crucially did not mean you were waiting in a massive queue unable to do anything else, which only moved once an hour.

I arrived at EGX at 9:30, thinking I’d be early for the “Early Bird” 10am opening, only to find a queue of hundreds in front of me. Eventually and with purpose, I headed to the Cyberpunk stall and queued for a ticket, eventually slightly surprised to find I was early enough to snag one for the first show at 11am. The rest of the day was watching Live shows or wandering around the Indie stalls having taken one look at the queues for the other stuff and just going “Nope”. I was interested in the Avengers demo, but it was a long queue that only moved every 25-30 minutes as the entire set of players rotated. About halfway along was a sign saying “Waiting time is about 2 hours from this point” and I just… didn’t. Doom Eternal had the same problem.

A couple of hours in, that plan was absolutely scuppered by running into my best mate from school, who I hadn’t seen in about 25 years. So I spent the rest of the day wandering around with James, which increased the whole experience several-fold.

The Oxventure Begins

That evening I went to see the Oxventure, a D&D live game run by Dicebreaker’s Johnny Chiodini, and played by the crew of Outside Xbox & Outside Xtra. (Both OXs, Dicebreaker, Eurogamer & EGX are owned by Gamer Network, which in turn is owned by ReedPOP, which in its own turn is owned by RELX, who I used to be employed by as part of their subsidiary company Elsevier. If that sounds like a stretched connection, it really is).

Oxventure is a really good example of comedy D&D adventures run to the narrative within the rules. They’re really fun to watch, especially as the players rise from newbies to actually invested players over the games. You can see the rest of the adventures again on Youtube, and I recommend them highly.

Games Of Friday

Cyberpunk 2077

Queues at the Cyberpunk booth
Queuing for the Cyberpunk booth

(Watched, XBox One)

This year’s Annual Hour Of Cyberpunk Gameplay was a “Prove your worth” RPG quest to convince an ally to give you the next step on your main quest. It consisted of going into a new area where you’re not really welcome, meeting a contact who slowly walks you to a contact who lets you through a door to meet a contact who slowly walks you to his office so he can give you a quest to go to another location and stealth/murder your way to the objective.

Queueing to get a wristband that meant I could queue to get into a presentation to watch someone else play a computer game seemed like to apt a metaphor, I guess.

The gameplay looks like a lot of fun. In the demo, they switched between a couple of builds and redid bits of the level (Not possible in the game, but mocked up for the demo) as either a stealth or strength based character.

I liked the gameplay loop a lot, the layout did seem to be a lot more “This is your playspace, go forth” rather than “Pick a road, Stealth or Murder”, which makes me hope that you can play the game with a build you find interesting rather than hyperspecialisation or bust.

Less positive were the mentioned chain of zero-worth NPCs to get to the quest. In game this might feel like a slow infiltration of layers of a secret organisation, but watching just didn’t feel like a good use of time.

I’m still a bit worried about the ability to build yourself into a shit place, but we’ll see how that works out.

I find it really strange that a game so much about impressions and how you look to fit in has gone entirely first person, too.

Epilogue Simulator

Epilogue Simulator protagonist, alongside a thing that will enable a bit of your… items menu? Maybe?

(Played, PC) Epilogue Simulator is the weirdest game I saw at EGX, which is not a low bar to clear. It starts in the aftermath of a something, and you start with nothing. As you begin, you pick up movement keys to let you go in different directions, and keys that bring up the beginnings of menus that mention spells and items.

The world is corrupted, and your spells are corrupted. There’s one that turns the world into a glitched-out hellscape, and another that overlays a soundscape of atonal noise. Other spells can reverse some of these, but not all.

A great little piece of weirdness, and one I look forward to exploring.

Bird of Passage

(Played, PC) You are some kind of ghost in Tokyo. You get into taxis, and you talk to the drivers though a conversation system. Then you get out of taxis. Eventually you… work out what you are?

A strange and meditative game, reminds me a lot of Glitchhikers from the opposite direction. I’d like to play more of this too.

DnDice

Not a game, but a dice store. They sell some beautiful dice, including this £400 Damascus Steel set. I bought some dice. They are blue.

Some dice. They are blue.

Beyond A Steel Sky

(Played, PC) Beneath a Steel Sky was one of my favourite graphic adventure games. It combined a well-realised setting with a great script, some well written jokes and a low level of stupid puzzles.

The sequel looks great – it’s in the same 3D engine as the newer Broken Sword game, and the 15 minute demo I played had some decent jokes, some nice puzzles, and some good gameplay. I’m not in love with the new art style, but it’s not a deal-breaker, and I fully intend to check this out.

Hardware

A tripped out gaming PC
A tripped out gaming PC at EGX

Corsair, Overclockers, Asus and various other hardware providers were there in abundance, a constant reminder that my current PC build is no longer top of the tree, nor even very high up it. I still don’t need a neon flashing case with plasma screens and dioramas inside. But I could do with an upgrade. However, this week we move house. Then we look at future things.

Nuts

(Played, PC) Nuts is a game about finding squirrel hoards. You set up cameras, watch their overnight recordings, then reposition the cameras to try to work out where the squirrels are going. It’s fun, frustration, and the colours are weird.

Legends of Runeterra

(Played, PC) What happens to your game when the Sauronic Eye of popular consciousness is drifting? League of Legends is a game that capitalised good and hard on the lane-based game craze inspired by the Defence of the Ancients mod for Warcraft III, but recently their dev team announced nine new games based on the same universe. This is the first to be released, a collectable card game!

It reminds me a lot of Hearthstone. Like, a lot a lot. The dynamic cards, the escalating mana system, the character barks, the flow, the art style.

It’s not a bad game, really. It’s hearthstone, but with an alternating turns system that puts one player on the offensive and one on the defensive each turn. It’s well-produced and crafted, but I’m not sure there’s any reason for it to exist.

It’s also weird that the second product out of a company that came out of a Warcraft Mod is so clearly going directly after a different Blizzard game.

DOTA Underlords

(Played, PC) What happens to your game when the Sauronic Eye of popular consciousness is drifting? DOTA2 is a game that capitalised good and hard on the lane-based game craze inspired by the Defence of the Ancients mod for Warcraft III, but recently their dev team announced a new game based on the same universe. This is it, a grid-based strategy game!

The new game in the DOTA2 universe coming out of a mod for DOTA2 feels comforting. Valve have once again taken a mod for one of their existing games and pumped money into it and called it a new game, as Counterstrike & Team Fortress had before, and in an age where Valve games are rare – and Artifact was a dud – it’s good to see.

I have no idea if this game is any good or not. The lore is baroque and confusing, the creature stats don’t appear to mean what they say, and winning seems both consistent and arbitrary. From the same point, me and my colleague testing this at the time had vastly different experiences. I put some creatures out and wiped the floor with my CPU opponents until I hit a wall. At the point I hit the wall I had no idea why my team were suddenly dying, and I didn’t have the money to switch anyone out. So we just kept dying, because you gain money by winning, and I wasn’t.

James had roughly the same experience, but earlier in the level progression.

Unto The End

(Watched, PC) It looks like this, and plays like this too:

Unto The End

Deathtrap Dungeon

(Watched, PC) Deathtrap Dungeon is a Fighting Fantasy Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book by Ian Livingstone, and one of the most popular ones. It was made into an awful 1994 3D Action Game, but now is coming out as an “Interactive Storybook”

Basically, it’s Eddie Marsan performing the book at you, while you choose the next path. It’s really well performed from the videos I saw. As a “The pictures are better on radio” kind of guy, I’m not entirely sure about it, but with any luck it’ll bring these fun experiences to a new audience, and I look forward to giving it a go.

Everspace 2

(Played, PC) If you would like to get into a space-ship and fly around shooting things, you miss X-Wing vs Tie Fighter, Wing Commander and that kind of game, and you’d like something to tide you over until Star Citizen disappoints you, Everspace 2 works, it’s a lot of fun already, and it’s up on Kickstarter now.

Warcraft III

(Played, PC) No, not the remake. Towards the end of the day we played 2 player deathmatch of the original WC3 in the retro games area. I lost, but it was a lot of fun. In light of recent developments, I’m not sure I can recommend Blizzard right now, but if you’ve already got it, it’s worth a replay.

Saturday

By Saturday I was a little burned out. I overslept a bit, so missed the first set of tickets for Death Stranding & Final Fantasy VII, then went in to look around for new things.

Games of Saturday

Super Mario Maker 2

Played some co-op levels with a stranger. It was interesting, but while the gameplay loop of trad Mario games is a carefully crafted thing of perfection, it goes alongside some beautifully crafted level design. This had the mechanics, but some truly horrible level design (and these were pre-downloaded levels by Nintendo)

A long queue for Doom Eternal
Queue Eternal More Like!!!!!

Doom Eternal

I have a policy. If I stand in line for half an hour without moving, I leave. Because by the time I get to the front of your queue I’m going to be dead.

Death Standing / Final Fantasy VII

By Saturday, Square Enix had abandoned physical queues altogether, and in order to get into presentations / demos for either of them, you had to go for tickets. Tickets were released on the PlayStation Experience app at 9am for the morning sessions, and 1pm for the afternoon sessions. I missed the first window (I was asleep), and by the time I got to the app in the afternoon all the tickets were booked.

That you had to use the app was signposted nowhere.

Epilogue

At that point on Saturday Afternoon the place was heaving and everything I hadn’t seen had queues. I went to find a couple of presentations, but due to audio issues and timings these didn’t work either. This set of disappointments was enough to make me nope-out, so I spent the afternoon writing up notes for an RPG campaign, and then went back for the second OxVenture panel, which was – again – great.

Doing this again, I think, would be better with a set of friends to hang out with – the afternoon I ran into James and we went around discussing things was great – rather than on my own, and probably maximise Thursday for the big popular things if I can.

Queuing up for 50 people to see a half hour demo on screen of a thing, especially when the event has thousand people cinemas where this kind of thing could scale far better, is a wasted opportunity.

Timeslot based experiences like Cyberpunk work far better, because you can do things while you’re waiting, but online tickets seem just to be a disappointment engine. Also I wonder how many people missed their appointment.

So not perfect, but I saw a lot of games I’m interested in for the future. We’ll see about next year.

By Saturday I was thoroughly tagged.