How At the Gates Nearly Ruined Civ 5 Designer Jon Shafer’s Life [PC Gamer]

Read the full article at PC Gamer

At age 21, Jon Shafer was asked to be the lead designer for Sid Meier’s Civilization 5. It was a dream come true for a young designer who had been creating mods for Civ, just a few years before. Within three years of shipping Civ 5, though, he’d quit lucrative jobs at Firaxis and Stardock and suffer the crushing reality of being an isolated programming prodigy with ADHD, trying to make his dream game. It all came crashing down in 2015. “I had nothing left, financially, physically, or mentally,” he wrote. “The last shreds of creativity and productivity finally slipped between my fingers.”

Since 2015 Shafer has been slowly building his life back up from ruin. He spent six hard years on his passion project At the Gates, finally finishing and releasing it this January. Here’s how he got there.

PAX South 2019 Preview: Final Assault VR [Pixelkin]

Read the full preview at Pixelkin

While once prolific in the 90s, real time strategy games have ebbed in recent years. Controlling multiple units while managing resources, maintaining map awareness, and researching new weapons of war is a daunting task when armed with a mouse and keyboard, and nigh impossible anywhere else.

Yet I was blown away by how well Phaser Lock Interactive’s VR real time strategy game, Final Assault, captured all the fun of a real time strategy game while streamlining all the messy bits, creating an immersive virtual tabletop wargame.

The 20 Most Exciting Indie Games from PAX South 2019 [Pixelkin]

Read the full list at Pixelkin

The fifth annual PAX South convention took place this month in San Antonio, Texas. The convention is smaller than other PAX shows, with an emphasis on indie games and tabletop games. A few big publishers were in attendance showing upcoming games, such as Capcom with Resident Evil 2 and Sony with Days Gone. But often these shows are a great opportunity to see smaller games and meet passionate developers.

Here is our alphabetical list of the 20 most exciting indie games we saw at PAX South 2019.

Read the full list at Pixelkin

My PAX South 2019 Experience

My PAX South 2018 Experience
My PAX South 2017 Experience
My PAX South 2016 Experience

January has become the single biggest month of the year for me: not only do we host a big New Year’s party for our friends, but we then all travel to San Antonio for PAX South.

It’s an interesting mix of business and pleasure as I go with a media pass to interview devs, network with folks, and play games, while hanging out with friends.

PAX South 2019 was my fourth PAX. I scheduled it very similarly to last year, front-loading my Friday full of press appointments  and leaving Sunday open to wander around and check things out at my own pace. I also almost exclusively remained on the show floor and tabletop areas.

I return exhausted but very satisfied, and sad that it all went by so quickly.

Day 0

Dinner
Johnny Carinos

This was the first year that Raymond couldn’t attend, though he actually lives the closest to San Antonio of any of us. Which meant we could meet him in dinner as we drove down!

Chris flew into DFW and drove down with us as he did last year – and this time my wife got to go! The four of us had dinner in Austin. By the time we got to the hotel it was around 11pm. The TRU by Hilton was smaller but nice, clean, and cheap! And also decently close to the convention center.

I had brought several board games to play on Thursday night but we only got through a single game of Sagrada before we were tired from the 4+ hour drive.

Day 1

Video Games
Days Gone
Dark Devotion
Young Souls
Bee Simulator
Disjunction
Final Assault
Project Witchstone
Dicey Dungeons
Aqua Lungers
Ion Maiden
Mowing and Throwing
Fantasy Strike
Evolution
Toejam and Earl: Back in the Groove
Eternity: The Last Unicorn
Re-Legion
Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones
Raiders of the North Sea

Tabletop Game
Now Boarding
The Quacks of Quedlinburg
Nyctophobia
Architects of the West Kingdom

Dinner
Maria Mia

Like last year I packed my Friday full of back-to-back press appointments. It works well but is super exhausting.

I was a bit late arriving to the Early Media Hour, but I was able to jump in to the Sony booth and play a 15-minute demo of Days Gone. They had a large, gory booth right in the middle of the show floor. Days Gone played better than I was expecting, and I got some solid State of Decay vibes, though I rolled my eyes at the edgy tone.

From there I glanced at Developer Digital, didn’t notice anything particularly new or noteworthy (unlike last year) and instead went to The Arcade Crew to play Dark Devotion (Dead Cells meets Dark Souls) and Young Souls (Co-op brawler-RPG). After that the show floor opened and it was appointment time. As you can see above, I saw and played a TON of games.

At one point I had to huff it to the nearby Grand Hyatt up to the 3rd floor to play an RTS VR game called Final Assault. I’ve never had particularity good VR experiences but this one was easily the best, with a fun tabletop wargame aesthetic as you dropped troops right onto the battlefield.

Stand out games for me were Dicey Dungeons, a simple but fun roguelike dungeon crawler using dice that desperately needs a mobile version, Toejam and Earl: Back in the Groove which looked way more enjoyable and well-put together than I was expecting, and Stygian: Reign of the Old Gods, which resembled a Cthulhu version of an old Fallout RPG.

I didn’t have time for many board game companies on Friday, but I did swing by to say hello to Tim Fowers of Fowers Games and Trey Chambers at Level 99 Games. I also chatted with Pandasaurus’ new marketing manager, and hope to expand a full feature on their company for Tabletop Gaming Magazine.

I also got to interview Matt Hudson from Dire Wolf Digital about all the new digital board games they’re making, as well as Clank Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated. Then we geeked out about Tomb of Annihilation together!

Reese and Rachelle met us in the afternoon, though I didn’t really get a chance to chat or hang out given my schedule. We even went to different dinners, as I had the Dire Wolf appointment at 6, and Heather was getting her Acq Inq autographs (she was first in line!) Heather and I had dinner at a delicious tex-mex place, Maria Mia, which is basically a tradition at this point, as is returning to the Tabletop freeplay area afterward.

We only played one game that evening: Architects of the West Kingdom, but we all loved it and ended with a tree way tie, going to the 2nd tiebreaker!

Day 2

Video Games
Magequit
Projection: First Light
JackQuest
Obey Me
Rezplz
A Fold Apart
Bombfest

Tabletop Games

Dinner
Yard House

Saturday was a bit different this year because they moved the Acquisitions Incorporated game from afternoon to evening, 8p-11p. While this did give us a whole afternoon, we quickly realized that trying to navigate the show floor on Saturday is kind of awful – way more crowded!

I had several more appointments to get through. Lots of indie games that show well at PAX are little more than Mario Party-style minigames. That being said, Magequit was one of the best of those style games I played, capable of supporting up to 10 players in quick rounds where you gain more and more spells.

Rezplz was another standout game and the lanky brothers at Longneck Studios were both friendly and informative to talk to. They were going fulltime and bringing their co-op puzzle-platformer to Kickstarter, but seemed very well prepared for it.

Saturday was when I attended my only panel this year, a companion talk to Ashley Brandin’s Gaming in Education, which is particularly applicable to one of the main gaming sites I write for, Pixelkin.org. Panels take time away from playing games and talking to devs on the show floor, so I typically don’t schedule more than one or two.

The highlight of my day came from chatting with folks. I got to interview Civilization 5 designer Jon Shafer at hotel lobby about his interesting career leading up to finally releasing At the Gates this week. Good dude!

And then when we were resting mid-afternoon in the tabletop area, a fan of our YouTube channel, Ikarus Gaming, who was attending PAX with his son, found us! He was very nice and we took some pics together.

We had to get an early dinner to be ready for Acq Inq that night. We ate at the Yard House, which was pricey but delicious, and right across from Maria Mia.

The timing worked out great. We got in line around 7p as the queue line filled around us. We had great seats right in the front-middle and enjoyed the show, always one of our favorite parts of the entire convention.

Day 3

Video Games
Splitgate: Arena Warfare
Last Epoch

Tabletop Games
Crimopolis
Spy Club
Eschaton
Valor & Villainy: Minions of Mordak
Guardian’s Call
Imperium
Bad Maps
Bosk
Secret Unknown Stuff: Escape from Dulce

Dinner
Whataburger

The last day of PAX is all about tabletop games. I had only a single appointment and it was first thing in the morning offsite at a hotel lobby (three offsite appointments this year, yeesh).

I went around to most of the new and upcoming games at the Tabletop Indie Showcase, and visited any booths I had my eye on but hadn’t had time before, such as Floodgate Games, Foxtrot Games, and Skybound Games. We also had a really fun demo experience from Craig Sawyer at Sentient Cow Games, playing the D&D-like sci-fi RPG Escape from Dulce.

Oh and we also ran into Jerry Holkins. I told him I was worried about his character Omin after the game on Saturday! He was immediately nice and friendly. I think I get a chance to chat with him almost every year.

And of course, some merch shopping, including picking up some spiffy player mats from the Dice Throne folks. Have I mentioned that Dice Throne S2 is one of the most impressive Kickstarter board games I’ve ever seen?

We left around 5:30p and met Raymond for dinner again near Austin, this time for fast food as our pockets were considerably lighter.

PAX South was fun, busy, productive, and wonderful, as always. A great chance to get together with friends as well as network with industry folks and play games. See you next year, San Antonio!

PAX South Preview: Re-Legion is a Cyberpunk RTS with Cults [PC Gamer]

Read the full preview at PC Gamer

Every religion starts with a prophet. Ours was about to fall to a pack of unbelieving citizens before even getting a decent following. “Just a second!” says Mateusz Pilski, co-founder and lead programmer at Ice Code Games, demoing the recently announced RTS Re-Legion at PAX South. While he was busy explaining the initial set-up of the demo our starting forces fell, and now our prophet’s in danger of being swarmed by non-believers.

Pilski micro-manages the prophet around the rabble, firing off some holy lasers of righteousness while staying ahead of their fists. The prophet is clad in purple robes and a closed helmet encircled in spikes. He cuts an imposing figure among the urban sprawl of this glitzy cyberpunk world, but some folks are less than impressed.

Read the full preview at PC Gamer

PAX South Preview: Dauntless is Part Destiny, Part Monster Hunter [Pixelkin]

Read the full preview at Pixelkin

Dauntless either has terrible timing or brilliant timing. Indie developer Phoenix Labs had one of the largest booth at PAX South to show off their free-to-play monster hunting game. The booth lie in the shadow of the even larger Capcom booth, whose gigantic Rathalos statue beckoned people to play one of the biggest releases of the year: Monster Hunter: World. Dauntless offers a much more streamlined – and more importantly free alternative to the niche hunting genre.

Read the full preview at Pixelkin

PAX South Preview: Lightseekers Trading Card Game [Pixelkin]

Read the full preview at Pixelkin

The future of the toys to life genre may look bleak, but PlayFusion has a few cards up their sleeves to remain optimistic. Their Lightseekers cross-media brand had a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2016, and began releasing last year. But it’s the collectible trading card game I checked out at PAX South 2018.

The Lightseekers Trading Card Game is no mere tie-in or side project, this is a fun, full-fledged card game with unique mechanics and 386 cards, each of which becomes an augmented reality card when scanned into the Lightseekers mobile game.

Read the full preview at Pixelkin