PAX East

We went to PAX East to represent Machine Code Games at the Mesa Mundi booth. PAX East is held each year at the Boston convention center and draws some 90,000 people.

Machine code games was assigned one of the touch tables at the booth and we ran demos of our software. The booth was very busy and people were playing our games almost all the time. We were very happy with the reactions that we got from people. They seemed to really like the games and were always impressed with the touch hardware. You can see more pictures of the booth during PAX here.

All the vendors are in 1/2 of the 516,000 square foot expo hall. Even with all that space, the floor was crowded with a large portion of the 90,000 PAX attendees. Another 1/4 of the hall is used by the board game vendors and game tables and the PC free play area. The final 1/4 is for lines and a food court.

We arrived Thursday afternoon to help with the setup of the booth and to get our software running. This was the first time that we had seen Mesa Mundi’s new Monolith table. It is a very nice piece of hardware that combines a high end Samsung TV with a narrow IR touch sensor in a steel frame. It feels very solid and looks great. The picture is very good and the tempered glass means that touching the screen (even pressing firmly) doesn’t create any distortion in the picture.

Setup was fairly simple for the Mesa Mundi booth, but some of the larger vendors had large crews and rigging to assemble miniature buildings for their booths. We also saw the Intel people setting up the PC free-play area. This was a bank of 360 computers where attendees could play a wide variety of games.

When the expo hall opened on Friday, the line of people waiting to get in was huge. It was about 15 people wide and stretched back 500 feet. When the hall opened there was a mad rush of people to the big name games and vendors. They aren’t allowed to run so there was a lot of fast walking. During this rush to beat the lines, our booth was all but ignored. But it wasn’t long before the hall was full of people, and for the rest of the day the booth always had about 15 people checking out the tables.

We attracted people to our table with “Pair Soup“. It is a quick and easy cooperative game that made it less intimidating for people to come over and play. If they liked the game and seemed interested in seeing more, we would play “Fas Jack” or “Got It“. These games are competitive, but still pretty easy to learn. For most people, this was enough. They were ready to move on or to hear about the hardware itself. But some people wanted to keep playing. Over the course of the weekend we played all the games that were for sale (except Hansa Teutonica) many times. We even played a bunch of our incomplete games.

A lot of people were pleasantly surprised that the tables were for sale now, that they were running on windows PCs, and that most TVs can be converted to a multi touch table. I think that some people’s initial impression was that the table just ran MCG’s games. There was a lot of interest in the tables for both business and personal use. Some of the best reactions we saw were from people who had played our games for a while and said “I’d love to be able to run my D&D games on one of these.” When we pointed them to the next screen, which was running d20pro, they were so excited!

We were really happy to see how much people enjoyed and liked our games. We even gave an interview and signed autographs for someone collecting autographs from game developers. Several people commented about how great it was to be able to sit around a table and play games and a couple people said that it was the coolest thing at PAX. Considering that we were sharing the expo hall with huge game companies featuring their multi-million dollar titles, it was nice to see people interested in such a low budget production.

There were a couple of disappointments: We had hoped to demonstrate our system for transferring game controls to a phone, but we couldn’t get a WiFi network setup. We brought a wireless router along, but we couldn’t get a good connection even though we were just feet from it. I had also hoped that there would be more interest from board game players. I had expected some people to have heard of “Hansa Teutonica” and want to see the computer version, but that didn’t happen.

Overall it was a very good experience. We came back with a lot of ideas for improving our existing games and making new ones. We made contact with some interesting people and learned a lot about the state of the game industry.

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