Quakecon 2018 - Excitement and Mixed Feelings

quakecon 2018 - the q logo - cropped

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Quakecon 2018 - Excitement and Mixed Feelings

August 16, 2018

By: Trevor Whalen

 
 

It is a gathering of grungy gamers and geeky nerds.  It is a place where you’re as likely to see someone dressed as a T-Rex holding a rocket launcher as you are a group of bearded “dudebros” thronging into the BYOC. It is a smaller con, filled with large enthusiasm no less.

It is Quakecon, an event for PC gaming and esports enthusiasts held each year in the Dallas, TX area by Bethesda. There was a time the event was conducted solely by id Software. Ever since id was bought by Bethesda in 2009, the event has become a mini “Bethcon.”

I’ve attended Quakecon each year since 2010 (save 2015 when I skipped), and this year I went for TechRaptor. Though I didn’t get as much hands-on time as I would have liked (and missed the Prey panel I had intended on going to), I did get enough of a taste of this smaller, though just as passionate, con to make a writeup here.

The Gaylord Texan, Quakecon's current venue, is a sprawling convention center in the suburban city of Grapevine, TX, smack dab between Dallas and Fort Worth, and in the backyard of DFW airport. It’s more convenient to get to than the other Quakecon frequent, the Hilton Anatole, but I’ve kind of missed the Anatole’s towering interior and fancy décor the past couple of years. Regardless, the location works.

 
 

Once actually in the spacious halls of the Gaylord, I found my way to the upstairs ballroom for the keynote and reveal of DOOM: Eternal. You can read all the details from that event here. Personally, I found the whole experience thrilling. Perhaps if I had been watching a stream on my computer monitor, I would have ho-hummed to a demo that screamed “more DOOM” and several game industry figures I’ve seen on E3 streams every year. But actually being in a room full of fellow gamers and seeing gaming’s luminaries live, for any who have experienced it, is an exhilarating experience. It adds more to whatever is shown, so I was pumped for DOOM: Eternal.

The keynote crowd roared when Tim Willits came on stage, as if he were a rock star (and in my book, he is). They roared all the louder when Pete Hines came on (another rock star) and even more when Todd Howard came on (rock god). Seeing these people live is always thrilling. It wouldn’t have mattered if Todd Howard was repping the launch of Fallout candy—I would have been applauding nonetheless, because I was surrounded by people who couldn’t stop applauding. I sat next to a young lady dressed in near-perfect Morgan Yu cosplay garb holding a self-made mimic doll. She cheered loudly just about every time the Doom Slayer did anything, screamed “I love you” at Tim Willits, and shook her mimic doll all the while.

One part of the experience that was missing, as it has been since 2014, was John Carmack’s keynote address. I never understood what he was saying, except maybe a good 1% of the time (technically less, if I ever seriously calculated it), but I love the man and hearing him speak live was always a unique treat and singular experience. Among the likes of Tim Willits, Pete Hines, and Todd Howard, Carmack’s presence certainly is still missing on stage. I feel it even after all these years.

Contagious crowd enthusiasm aside, the DOOM: Eternal reveal felt anticlimactic. It felt like a shadow of the DOOM reveal at Quakecon 2014. I attended that and saw that behind-doors gameplay demo, at a time when “Doom 4” was still a nebulous fantasy. This reveal felt like an encore, as if Marty Stratton and Hugo Martin were saying “here’s more of what you love,” lacking entirely the drama of the 2014 reveal. But, this is the nature of the beast (read: demon): it’s a sequel. As the Doom Slayer grabbed, looked at, and placed his helmet on, I couldn’t help but think back to the wonder such a moment held for the first reveal. It looks fun, but it wasn’t a thundering showstopper.

Off from the keynote and hollow shell of a reveal, I went to the exhibition hall. The coolest thing was a statue of DOOM: Eternal’s Archvile, made moody with a flickering street lamp shining on it. This stood right at the entryway to greet attendees, and I took a pop at it with my umbrella, John Steed style.

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The Archvile statue is huge.

 
 

I checked out a little zombie-shooting VR game from FixationVR. They’re local to the DFW area, based in Hurst, TX. The demoers claimed it is the first fully mobile cooperative VR game. They had wearable battery sets connected to the headsets, which I slung around my shoulder and neck like a bag. In this demo I was restricted essentially to one place, but they said that at their Hurst location, one can move fully about a room. The idea of being mobile while playing a VR game has potential, though I wasn’t much impressed by the simple zombie shooter I played. You killed them one by one as they came at you, apparently in waves, and you could also shoot certain graphics for upgrades like “shotgun” or “rapid fire.” Nice potential. We’ll see. They do birthdays, if you’re interested.

I also checked out a very fun indie game. It’s a puzzle platformer called Tesser Active, developed by Attic Space Games. The demo I played demonstrated great possibilities, especially with a warp field mechanic. Imagine a room in a 2D platformer, but there’s a line coming down the middle. If you press a button in a certain area, you will warp to the reflective area on the opposite side of the room. These lines can also go across a room, warping you upwards or downwards in the same way. This mechanic, plus blocks and receptacles for them, crushing thwomp-like objects, and squiggly energy beams that damage you, made for some ingenious scenarios—and I was just playing the early stages of the game in a demo. Suffice it to say, I am excited to play more of the game. Additionally, the developer is a really nice guy named Garrett, and I told him “like in Thief” (because that’s what I do).

I also saw some of the fan-created art they had on display. You can see a few of the pieces below.

[gallery size="medium" ids="248584,248585,248588"]

 

I also checked out the Fallout board game by Fantasy Flight Games. The most interesting aspect of it is that you can play it single-player. Imagine that: a more in-depth solitaire! The gentleman who explained the mechanics to me said that single-player is the better way to play it. This way, you get to experience and enjoy the story on your own, even controlling four different characters, if you wish. Elsewise, you might get a little bored waiting for each player to go in a turn as they read through the story scenarios. There are five characters to choose from, each with a little figure. You can play as a ghoul, and I liked the Brotherhood of Steel figure, personally.

The gameboard is made of tiles that act as a fog of war and you flip them over as you progress. There are separate pieces of the board for tracking the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats, health, and rads. For any combat scenario you have three dice to roll to determine both the damage you inflict on the enemy and the damage the enemy inflicts on you. For any given scenario, you have a choice to make, and ultimately you can be good or bad, similar to the Fallout video games. The design interested me, but, as an undeveloped tabletop gamer, I'm no expert on the field.

quakecon 2018 fallout board game
The Fallout Board game folks were nice enough to show me the ropes.

I also encountered a couple of charities, which you should totally support. Perhaps you’ve heard of each: Extra Life and Gamers Outreach. The former is simpler than I thought; you don’t have to be a streamer to support it. The other provides “go carts” to hospitals. These are fully portable, self-contained gaming stations that would be delivered to hospitals for children to access and play games on. I also checked out a backpack specifically made for transporting computers and gaming peripherals—a type of item I’ve been researching lately in case I need to flee the country.

There was more to be experienced at Quakecon, but due to rain, parking, lines, and over-fascination with the Archvile statue (I really spent a lot of time looking at it), I didn’t get to everything. But what I did see, I liked, and I was glad to make it again this year. I do wish I had seen the Prey panel, as Arkane’s place at Quakecon is unusual and one of my favorite things about the con. I remember attending the “Looking Back at Looking Glass” panel in 2012 and seeing it as an oasis of first-person immersive among a sea of old-school shooter.

Whatever else may be said, Quakecon happened, and I walked away having discovered a fun indie game I’m excited to see more of, experiencing mixed feelings about “more DOOM” and the continued lack of John Carmack, and realizing how much I need excited cosplayers screaming next to me to get me enthused. Maybe I should attend more cons.

Photo of Trevor Whalen
Writer

I am a lifelong, enthusiastic gamer, freelance writer and editor, blogger, and Thief FM aficionado. I think that exploration-heavy, open-ended first-person games are the best vehicle for story-telling, with the finest Thief missions leading the pack.

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