Experiencing the Playstation Experience
Living in Vegas afforded me incredibly easy access to the inaugural Playstation Experience. I bought my tickets the day they went on sale, and even though I eventually found out that not only did they go up for half price on Groupon or that I could have a free ticket due to connections, I feel it was worth every penny. The event itself was a mix of Sony at E3 and PAX: part preview hype machine, part marketing, part fan event. And I loved it.
The first day I got up absurdly early with my roommate and we go there at about 7:30 am, well before the opening keynote in the hopes of being one of the first people there. Of course we weren’t; two lines several hundred strong existed as we walked in. After what felt like an eternity of waiting, we were finally sitting down, and being bombarded with a 2 hour showcase of Playstation strong. I’m not going to talk too much about the announcements and previews outside of my eager awaiting of The Order 1886, Bloodborne, and some of the indie stuff they announced. I am going to talk about the room feeling like it was going to explode from everyone’s emotions. Those cheers and gasps you hear on livestreams of big press events are nothing compared to being in the room. I found myself tearing up several times during the event; Playstation is to me and my childhood what Nintendo is for others. I’ve been playing on a Playstation since the very first one it, and the retrospectives brought back an overwhelming flood of memories.
After that, it was onto the show floor. Over 100 indie booths and dozens of bigger publisher/game booths made up a couple hundred thousand square feet. I personally ran to the retail area, trying to get a hold of the much sought after 20th Anniversary PS4. Turns out only the first 100 people into the keynote were able to buy one. From there, it was onto wandering the show floor for a bit.
I won’t lie, a good chunk of my first day was spend either wandering around or standing in line. Having been up since 5 that morning, I wasn’t feeling the best, but I think the adrenaline of being there kept me going. I wandered through the cleverly named DEVotion of indie developers (get it, it’s an “ocean” of devs, hah!), played a bit of Wander (full disclosure, Loki is one of the Wander devs and is a friend of a friend and got me into the Game Awards Show and got my roommate into PSX), chatted a bit with my game dev idol Mare Sheppard of Metanet Software and N++ fame, played some Disney Infinity, spent what felt like forever to get a Super Hero Selfie, picked up my swag bag, then it was time to hit up some panels.
The first panel was about surprise and discovery in games with Robin Hunicke and Keita Takahashi. I only stayed for half the panel, leaving early to catch the Bloodborne one. Robin worked on games like The Sims and Journey, while Keita is the creator of my beloved Katamari games, and they are working on the upcoming game Wattam. The best takeaway was that it’s okay to force your players to think a little bit outside the box in terms of what is acceptable in play and what isn’t. My favorite part of what I saw was Keita talking about some of the playground equipment he had designed that was SOOOOOO DANGEROUS, as he put it. (insert pics of ideas and commentary) Alas, I bailed early and headed to the Bloodborne panel.
Bloodborne’s panel was focused on the announced-that-morning Chalice Dungeon and the mechanics of it with creative lead Miyazaki. From what I gathered, it’s a multi-level, procedurally generated dungeon, unique to a player. It doesn’t change again until a certain ritual is performed, allowing a player to share their dungeon with others, and really explore and master what was built for them. An optional level, Miyazaki says the Chalice Dungeons are even harder than the normal game. He also showed off more gameplay, making me think that Bloodborne is a bit more fast paced and hack and slash-y that its predecessors. Given my love of but general being bad at playing of Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls, I’m super excited to play Bloodborne.
After that it was mostly wandering around, grabbing dinner, and lounging about. My roommate and I headed to the community lounge and let ourselves get lost in Hohokum while the DJs who did the soundtrack spun some tracks. It was quite the relaxing vibe, which I needed. I’d been up a while, and I needed some downtime before A Night Under No Man’s Sky. And yeah, about that. It really was an event you had to be there for. I know several friends watched the stream, and if you were looking for more footage on No Man’s Sky, you got some. Overall, it was more an experience. Listening to 65daysofstatic play as the footage was shown on giant screens might not be as cool through a video stream, but being in the crowd and feeling the music shake me was overwhleming. I’m not going to lie, I teared up a bit. No Man’s Sky has made me feel things about video games I haven’t felt since Journey, but that’s a post for another time. After hanging out for a bit, my roommate and I headed home, eager to sleep.
The next day at PSX felt calmer overall. Less people, less noise, less long lines. A fantastic time to play some games!
First up was Tearaway Unfolded. The demo was really neat and clean, and visuals were very similar to the Vita version. I love the use of all the PS4’s features: the camera to place you ingame, the light to hypnotize enemies, the touchpad to bounce things along. I’m excited to play more, since I loved littlebigplanet so much, and I’m a sucker for cutesy things.
Following that, I took a break to meet with a friend to buy the limited 20th anniversary PS4. Yes. I’ve got one coming to me. It cost me a little extra (I paid my friend for his wristband) but I’m so excited for it it’s dumb.
From there it was on to David Scott Jaffe’s Drawn To Death. This is in pre-alpha, and it’s rough, but it’s promising if you like arena style shooters (full disclosure: they gave us pizza while waiting in line because they’re awesome). A 3rd person shooter, it takes place in that guy you totally know from high school’s notebook, filled with crazy drawings and fun abilities. Each character has a unique set of skills that come in handy (I played Cyborgula, and he explodes upon death!), and upon dying the player can choose to hop back into the game at less than full health, or wait as their health comes back. A nifty feature, along with “dying causing you to lose score points” I think will make this game one to play. I look forward to seeing more.
Next panel I attended was Putting the Plus Plus in N++ (full disclosure: Mare Sheppard gave me bonus goodies when I bought N++ things), which was about what made this final version of N the best version. Hearing Mare and Raigan talk about the crazy intense vector math involved with sub-pixel antialiasing (something like 256x antialiasing) was nuts, but gives N++ a beautiful fluidity not achieved in the previous games. The new enemies looks pretty rad as well.
Back to the show floor to play some indie games! Highlights included Roundabout (also on Steam), a game where you drive a constantly spinning limo through town (you explode a lot but it’s very funny and enjoyable to play); N++ of course; Shovel Knight on Vita (having never played any of it before, I can now see the mass appeal for it); and Severed. Severed is a game I cannot wait to come out. The gameplay was 1st person dungeon crawling, using the touchscreen for combat. Various swipes were made to block and attack your enemies while remaining in the 3rd person view. Combat got interesting as there were battles that had multiple enemies to fight, causing you to have to rely on the timers on the bottom of the screen to know who to focus on. From what I gathered of the story, you’re a girl whose lost an arm and her family, and you’re out to get them back. There was the basis of an upgrade system in the demo as well. I hope this game is as good as the demo is. A friend told me that not only was Jonathon Blow’s The Witness playable, but that it was the full game and you played until you got bored and stopped. He stopped only because he has a Project Morpheus timeslot, and found Blow standing behind him, scribbling notes furiously.
I closed out the show by attending the Story Time panel, being part of the living room full of young adults sitting on the floor, listening to Rhode Scott, Adam Boyes, and Shuhei Yoshida. I almost got an autograph from Shu, but he was taken off stage right as I was up front.
Overall, I had a fantastic time. Sure, there wasn’t a big AAA announcement but I felt that there didn’t need to be here. The atmosphere was fun and casual, the event dedicated to the fans rather than the press. I’d love to see this return a little bigger and a little better planned, and I’d happily go again.
If you’d like to see any of the panels presented, check out the Playstation Blog!