With PAX East 2012 ending late Sunday, we begrudgingly returned back to “real life.” In between getting caught back up with updating the site with Rock Band news and dodging the ever-present PAX pox, we’ve been pulling together this comprehensive recap of all the Rock Band goodness that transpired.
PAX East officially started on Friday, April 6th, but that’s not good enough for us. We arrived in Boston the day before to get some early hands on time with Rock Band Blitz at Harmonix. If you haven’t seen our thorough preview of the game, you should definitely check it out, as it features some good info and gameplay mechanic explanation not covered in nearly ever other gaming site’s cursory overview of the new title.
The other big Rock Band event on Thursday was the Rock Band Night at the Brattle Theatre. Holding true to previous years, this event is a cavalcade of chaos, featuring only the most passionate and/or insane Rock Band players being judged by the jerks (I use this term lovingly, of course) from Giantbomb. The event started as one where bands playing Rock Band were evaluated by panelists from Giantbomb, and slowly devolved over the course of the night into an instrument smashing, alcohol chugging, and snark delivering mish-mosh of awesomeness.
The night started innocently enough with a song where at least one (maybe more) of the band was in the house. Giantbombers Jeff, Ryan, Alex, and Patrick paid homage to The Main Drag by performing their RBN song Don’t Let Me Down (Slowly). And it was mostly downhill from there. While there were a few stellar performances (More Than a Feeling was particularly impressive) there were more cringe-inducing moments, like people nearly getting killed by microphones to the noggin, or disapproving performances of the now overplayed PAX favorite Still Alive, or Giantbomb’r Brad Shoemaker having all the beers and singing (for the second time that night) I Believe in a Thing Called Love. While also far from a stellar performance, I was lucky to dodge most of the spotlight during my performance with HMXers @nickchester, @juliusblaise, and @seanthebaptiste’s stomach of Police Truck.
The Rock Band night lasted thankfully until about midnight, and those stalwart/brave/drunk enough to stay for the whole time were surprised to be rewarded with Rock Band gig bags out of the back of a truck driven by a Sudafed-laden John Drake. (Many more videos of the night’s performance were captured by MarinoV1 here, as well as pictures from @amgo of the entire debacle.) If you end up going to PAX East, and want to experience the madness first hand, I recommend arriving by early Thursday evening at the latest. You won’t be disappointed.
Friday started alarmingly early after such a crazy time the night before, but the Rock Band Network panel was quite literally the first panel of PAX East, starting even before the keynote address. Populating the panel were RBN authors Owen Douglass (Ozone Entertainment), Rob Witko (Fairwood Studios), Erich Sherman (Mystakin/Rhythm Authors), and Jeff Webster (Single White Infidel), as well as Carolyn VanEseltine from Harmonix. They talked about everything from the role of user generated content in modern gaming to much more granular aspects of authoring in the Rock Band Network. It was a very informative panel, and very valuable for both fans and gamers of the franchise. If you want to check it out, @animecow captured almost the entire panel on video.
From there, we checked out the Harmonix booth, which was packed with two smaller Dance Central stages, one large Rock Band stage, and six kiosks featuring an early beta of Rock Band Blitz. It also was PACKED with people. I had heard from people at Harmonix that the line to play on the Rock Band stage was never shorter than a full hour during all of PAX East. In fact, even the zombies from Plants vs. Zombies got in on some Rock Band action.
And all of this is in addition to the separate Rock Band stage that PAX East sets up, where Joystiq captured several cosplaying Mass Effect characters playing Bon Jovi. The first day of PAX East appeared to be over in the blink of an eye, and after how hectic Thursday was, we noticed that we weren’t the only ones calling Friday an early night.
Saturday started again fairly early with the Harmonix and the Evolution of Beatmatch Gameplay panel. Featuring HMXers Chris Foster, Brian Chan, Matthew Nordhaus, and Jyllian Thibodeau, the panel talked about Rock Band Blitz, and the development roadmap, which included discussions about previous Harmonix beatmatch titles Frequency, Amplitude, and Rock Band: Unplugged. It was pretty interesting to see how much detail is put into making what appear to be small design decisions, but ultimately end up significantly impacting the final product. @MrPope was recording the panel, probably for a future podcast and/or blog feature on RockBand.com, but someone captured a portion of the panel, if you can’t wait for a higher quality version.
Saturday appeared to quickly bleed into Sunday (thanks, vodka), and the next thing we realized, it was time for the Harmonix Podcast panel on Sunday morning. Similar to the bi-weekly Harmonix podcast, the community members from Harmonix talk about things related to Rock Band and the community, often times with special guests, and this podcast had several of them. The panel first talked about how Rock Band Blitz was nearly inadvertently revealed via @JohnVignocchi at GDC in early March due to an errant tweet that went out, but was deleted before virtually anyone saw it. The panel also had @jessabrez read a few “lovely” support emails, filled with excellent grammar (nope), proper punctuation (nuh-uh), and only the nicest of language (not at all). After that, a giant gong was introduced (seriously, they brought in a giant friggin’ gong), and special guests were brought on stage rapid-fire style and gonged (that sounds dirty) after five minutes of discussion each. In attendance were famous industry gaming personalities @dmzilla, @stonechin, @stepto, @greenspeak and @nssteph, @jeffgerstmann, and @justinmcelroy. If you missed the podcast, the entire thing can be listened to over at RockBand.com.
After that, it was nearly time to catch our flight home, and return to real life. Thanks to everyone from Harmonix for being so hospitable to myself and everyone else that attended PAX East! And thanks to everyone that came up and said hi to me this weekend. I would love to call everyone out by name, but I just know that I would probably forget more people than I remembered, and I don’t want to disappoint anyone. And for those that didn’t go, I highly recommend getting out to PAX East or PAX at some point in the future. It’s an amazing time!
Feel free to get a nice taste of the entire weekend through a small photo gallery we put together of our weekend over on Flickr.
NOTE: Because the weekend seemed to fly by, and it was difficult to steal anyone from Harmonix away to get all of your questions answered in a dedicated, solid chunk of time, we’ve sent them the questions to answer directly, and if all goes well, we should be able to post their responses next week.