PAX Australia 2013: Live Blog

by Lisy Kane

Pax Australia

Welcome to the Pax Australia 2013 Blog.

Friday 19th July

10:00AM – The day of queuing begins outside the Melbourne Showgrounds with a sea of enthusiastic gamers, geeks and Cos Players choking up the tram and train lines. This huge influx causes delays and results in my missing the first speaker Ron Gilbert (of Monkey Island fame).


Mike Krahulik aka Johnathan “Gabe” Gabriel [@cwgabriel]
Jerry Holkins aka Tycho Brahe [@TychoBrahe]

10:30AM – Question: Given that one of the theatre rooms at PAX Australia was named Dropbear, Gabe and Tycho were asked what their knowledge of Dropbears was before coming to Australia. Tycho was told that there was an Australian Government website explaining what Dropbears are, proclaiming a whole other level of trolling.

Question: If Gabe or Tycho could choose any minority group within the gaming/nerd culture e.g. girl gamers that would represent them, what would it be and why? Gabe and Tycho both were taken aback by this question and asked if they could think over it during the weekend.

Question: What do you find unique about the Australian gaming culture? As they’ve only just arrived in Australia they’ve noted that Australian’s are very friendly and welcoming compared to the stereotypical rude American.

Question: Given how different Gabe and Tycho look to their characterised versions of themselves, would they ever consider Cos Playing as themselves to which they answered – YES!

Question: What did Penny Arcade mean to you back when it started versus what it means to you now? Gabe and Tycho were both impressed with this question and gave the audience member one of the last Omeganaut spots. For Gabe, when Penny Arcade started it was something to keep him sane from his regular job. While for Tycho, he hesitantly explained that Penny Arcade meant a solid relationship for he and Gabe and that without it he feared they wouldn’t be friends.


photo 3

Highlights include:

  • Saints Row IV playable demo
  • Halfbrick showcase
  • World of Tanks showcase
  • Australian Indie showcase


photo 2 (1)

While I’m not a massive table top gamer, I still really enjoy the nostalgic feeling of sitting at a crowded table with a classic board game. So for me this was an exciting find; a library of board games free to be borrowed and unpacked at the nearby tabletop area.


4:30PM – Panellists

Cameron Lee (Producer): Native Melbournian, currently working on Dragon Age Inquisition. His role is to help turn what the player wants from a Bioware game into a final product.
Patrick Weekes (Senior Writer): Plot writer for Mass Effect 2 and 3. Currently working on Dragon Age Inquisition.
Karin Weekes (Lead Editor): Worked on Dragon Age Origins, Mass Effect 2. Her and her teams role is to “fix” what the writing team does. They review and edit inconsistency of tone, grammar and can assist in reviewing pronunciation of non-English words created for the game world, like in Mass Effect. Currently working on Dragon Age Inquisition.
Chris Priestly (Community Team)

After a one and half hour queue I’ve made it to the highlight of my day, the Edmonton BioWare team coming in to discuss Dragon Age and Mass Effect.

First they presented the Dragon Age Inquisition teaser trailer that was presented at this years E3 Convention.


This image was also discussed, being the promo image circulated. Cameron explained how there has been a lot of speculation around the meaning of the helmet. This image represents the responsibility and control being handed over to the player. Dragon Age Inquisition will be more focused around the epic story and a world in chaos with nations at war. Actions a player make will impact the world around them.

The player will lead the inquisition and an organisation (not the Chantry, no religion involved). Combat will take the best of Dragon Age Origins and Dragon Age . There will be new enemies/creatures including demons and a character called “nightmare”. The game will be returning to what Bioware is known for, exploration. There will a diverse range of dungeons (Chris quipped that it won’t just be the same dungeon over and over again) and environments.

They also presented not yet seen concept artwork of the environments showing a desert/oasis, swamps with hidden dungeons, plains and snowcapped mountains.

Characters that will return:

  • Cassandra
  • Varic
  • Morrigan

There were a lot of areas of Dragon Age Inquisition that the panel couldn’t discuss due to confidentially requirements before the launch.

The panel also briefly addressed the new Mass Effect title in the works in the Montreal office as well as Edmonton. It was too early to discuss the details, but they did say that the design document has been completed.

Question: As Dragon Age Inquisition will be launched on the next generation of consoles, how is Bioware going to address the porting of save files from previous games on older consoles? Cameron responded that it hasn’t been solved yet but the team is still working on it. Chris added that the goal is to provide an equally rich experience no matter what console you play on.

Question: With the rise and fall of trilogies and thinking of competitive series like the Witcher – do you feel you have evolved from the failures within your games? Patrick discussed how there is a stereotype that competing game development companies have this bitter rivalry, but this isn’t true. The only competition that Bioware has is with themselves in improving on their previous titles. Chris has been with Bioware for over 13 years and agrees that it is key to learn from feedback.

Question: Do you think we’ll see a return of the Dark Spawn (in Dragon Age Inquisitions)? This cannot be discussed in details however there is a reminder that while Mass Effect was about the adventures of the character of Commander Shepard, the Dragon Age series is the story of the world.

Question: In Dragon Age 2 a voice was introduced for the character of Hawk, will there be a voice in Dragon Age Inquisition? Patrick confirmed that there will be a voice and that they will not be going back to having a silent protagonist. From feedback received from Mass Effect 3 that there was too much auto dialogue, so they are taking this into consideration.

Question: With Kickstarter becoming a common way from indie title to be developed, have Bioware ever considered this approach or what do you think about this approach? Karin fielded this question explaining that she believes it creates a level playing field and that it is exciting to see a variety of new ideas that usually wouldn’t see the light of day.

Question: What would be your advice for a game design student wanting to work for Bioware? Patrick exclaimed “Apply!” But more seriously advised to develop a portfolio that shows you have the level of skills for a shipped game and proof that you have the ability to hit a deadline. If for example, you are a writer get work experience in any writing role. Karin recommended that you get your work critiqued, a part of the job is having great ideas shut down and changed. Patrick agreed that the artists or designers that make it are the ones that have learned from constructive criticism. Cameron’s advice was to just do it and keep trying.

Question: With the ending of Mass Effect 3, how did the Bioware office react to the negative fan feedback? Patrick explained that knowing that the game invoked some kind of passion from the player was better than getting a “ho hum” reaction. Chris agreed that there was the “Oscar Wilde effect” where it was better to be talked about than not to be talked about at all. The Bioware team did listen to the feedback but it was difficult given the years sunk into the project. In relation to the DLC released with the alternative ending, there was discussion on releasing this at a cost but this was overturned by Bioware director Casey Hudson as he believed it was their responsibility to address the feedback. Karin also stated that it was a good opportunity to have interesting conversations with players that didn’t enjoy the ending.

Question: Cameron explained at the beginning of the talk that he had only been with Bioware for one year, what was his career history before his current role? He had previously been working for Visceral Games (of Dead Space fame) and has also worked a wide variety of games including anything from combat to casual pony games totalling a 13 year career.

Question: What are the pressures of being a producer? Lucky for Cameron, he explains the culture at Bioware is innovative and the staff are all great at their jobs. He states his job is to “unleash the awesomeness and great stuff happens”.

Question: Will the new Dragon Age game be more morally ambiguous or cut and dry? Patrick fields this question explaining while at times there are murky moral choices Bi0ware would never move from the classic “Bioware moral choices” where the player has to choose from x or y decisions. However, ideally Bioware aims to extend this idea where a players choice impacts upon the environment they are playing in.

Questions: Do you feel you’ve ended the Knights of the Old Republic story arc? The Edmonton team didn’t work on the MMO or the Knights of the Old Republic games and are focused on the Dragon Age/Mass Effect franchises. Having said that, it is possible but nothing is planned.

Question: There was a Mass Effect novel released before the third game of the series that introduced a character before it was in game, how does this come about? Karin explained that characters for the novels are just a pool that the game itself can draw from alternatively the novel pulls characters from the game.

Question: Are Bioware looking to continue the Jade Empire universe? Similarly to one of the previous questions, Chris confirms that there are no plans to but possible in the future. It was his favourite game from Bioware as it opened the door for Bioware to start making their own games. Patrick chimed in that fans should keep asking.

Question: Is writing the choices that characters have to make the most challenging/exciting part of your jobs? Do you think this is what will separates games from other mediums like books, movies etc? Patrick says what he enjoys writing the most is the character creation. However choice writing is an interesting mind set to have to get into. The difficult choices to write are the ones that people will end up discussing in real life and that are “both right”.

Question: Is there any plans for a pen and paper Mass Effect RPG? The panellists are all interested in this idea with Chris exclaiming that he’d buy it.

Question: Has any thought be given to adding random elements to outcomes within the Bioware decision making writing? Patrick answers that they have tried implementing something like this but it wasn’t as satisfying. Fans seem to like cause and effect. Cameron agrees and adds that random elements in games are tricky. It gets to a point where the player doesn’t feel in control.

Question: What are the games in the last few years that Bioware didn’t write that made the team think “we need to do more”? Karin and Chris – The Walking Dead. Patrick: Bioshock Infinite particularly the level design/art tying into the narrative.

Saturday 20th July

2:30PM The second of three presentations from Microsoft hits the main stage to a packed theatre. After all the controversy surrounding the recent backflip from Microsoft I’m interested to see what the team has to present. Adam from the local Xbox team jumps on stage to discuss both the technology and launch games.

Kinect 2.0:

  • Can detect precise movement in fingers, creases in shirts, facial expressions
  • Full 1080p colour camera
  • “Night vision”
  • Can filter out ambient light, like outside sun.
  • Can track rotations in movement.
  • Can track impact and force as well as velocity.
  • Heart rate monitor can read BPM
  • Expressions can be read e.g. happy, angry.

Xbox Controller Updated

  • Rubble motors behind each trigger not just in the body of the controller.
  • Notches on the directional sticks, 25% less effort required.
  • Improved D-Pad

Overall Updates

  • DDR (ability to record games)
  • Twitch (ability to broadcast games to your friends

Megabooth at EB Expo with hands on game play.

Live Demo: Running on Xbox One
Ryse: Son of Rome

  • Cut scenes have crisp sharp graphics
  • Camera focus shifts/tilt shifts look incredible
  • In game combat is brutal, looks very similar to that of Assassin’s Creed or the Arkham series with the ability to stack combos
  • Unsure of what difficulty level is being demoed, but the AI is more responsive and multiple enemies can attack at the same time.
  • Environment graphics look stunning
  • Possible that the game is very directed, not any room for open world or player choice.
  • Over a hundred different execution moves

Pre-recorded demo’s and live demo
Battlefield 4

  • MoCap was shot like a movie and added into the Frostbite Engine
  • Showed behind the scenes MoCap picture in picture with demo cinematic clipping
  • Gameplay: includes a lot more vehicles, a lot more destruction and team play. This team play gives the player the ability to direct a party of allies.
  • Live demo: more choice for the player to chose their own path while directing their squad to another path.
  • New cover mechanic
  • New optics with multiple sight options on weapons.
  • Vehicular combat was demoed using a boat.
  • Battlefield 4: Battle Assault DLC will launch with Xbox One. Some of the Battlefield classic maps put through the new Frostbite Engine.

Live demo
Killer Instinct

  • Standard fighter game

Teaser trailer

  • Halo 2014

Please post any questions you have in the comments or tweet me @lisyk

by Lisy Kane

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