The Penny Arcade Expo has traditionally been a big event for the Pacific Northwest’s game development community, but 2022’s show in September took it up several notches.
This year’s PAX West 2022 event in Seattle was a bigger production than last year’s safety-first show with more booths and more attendees, but once again, many of the “AAA” companies in the games industry skipped PAX this year.
The exceptions were Nintendo, which was there to promote the impending release of the head-to-head paint-’em-up Splatoon 3. The Japanese studio Bandai Namco.
While many prominent figures from Microsoft and Sony attended PAX, Shuhei Yoshida (Pictures Indies) was the head of PlayStation Indies, there were no official PAX presences. Ubisoft, Bungie and Square Enix were also absent.
PAX 2021 did not have a lot of middleweight publishers or developers. Devolver Digital and Skybound Games were among those who participated. If PAX 2021 was an indie expo with a budget, PAX 2022 was where the “AA” studios took charge.
There were well over 40 locally-produced games at PAX, between the convention center itself and the Seattle Indies Expo on Sept. 4, and I did my absolute best to track down as many of them as I could, before and after this year’s show. Here’s what the Pacific Northwest had to offer, as seen from PAX 2022’s expo hall.
30XX – Batterystaple Games, Seattle, Wash.
To quote studio head Chris King, Batterystaple Games‘ previous release, the 2017 action/platformer roguelike 20XX, “did better than it had any right to.” The experience left Batterystaple, which moves its operations from Washington D.C. to Seattle in 2020, with a few more ideas that the team wanted to try.
This led to the birth of 30XXAvailable in Steam Early Access As its predecessor, 30XX It is simply a fan-made spiritual sequel of the Mega Man X series; in fact, the games’ names come from the deliberately vague year in which the Mega Man series takes place.
To 30XXBatterystaple made a major visual transformation and introduced a new play style. In “Mega Mode,” 30XX Procedurally generates every stage at the beginning, but keeps the seed in place so that you are able to work through the stages as you wish, much like the central gameplay hook. Mega Man.
Alternativ, you could still enjoy the experience 30XX in its default roguelike mode, where you’ve only got one life in which to clear an entirely randomly-generated version of the game. Play in co-op mode once more. You have the option to choose between Nina (which focuses on melee combat) or Ace, who is a swordsman.
According to King, there’s no particular roadmap for when 30XX will leave Early Access, but it’s unlikely that its development will end with version 1.0.
Bare Butt Boxing – Tuatara Games, Vancouver, B.C.
That is true. Is Its name. Bare Butt Boxing This party game is for six people. It features a variety of cartoon fighters fighting in surreal environments. The “boxing” part is arguably a misnomer, as it’s more like a Royal Rumble; you earn points by knocking other players’ characters offstage, typically by punching or throwing them into one of four giant portals.
Bare Butt Boxing The product is 18-months in the making and was developed by a large team. While Tuatara Games (a tuatara is a reptile from New Zealand) is officially headquartered in Vancouver, it’s also got developers in the Spain, France, the U.K,, and eastern Canada. It is currently in the planning stages. BBB To be available on Steam Early Access during the first quarter 2023. Available for both online and local play.
3D Colossal Cave – Cygnus Entertainment, Seattle, Wash.
Back in 1976, Will Crowther’s Colossal Cave Adventure The adventure game as well as text-based interactive fiction were both effectively inventable. There are many. Lot There are many in-jokes in video games as well as computer programming that can be referred back to CCA, such as the magic word “xyzzy.”
Cygnus Entertainment in Seattle is headed by Ken, an adventure-game legend. (Mystery House and Space Quest). Roberta Williams (King’s Quest, Phantasmagoria), has “reimagined” CCA Its first ever graphic interface is a major improvement on existing systems. The puzzles haven’t changed, but now you can actually see every detail of Crowther’s cave system in 3D or VR as you explore it in search of treasure.
Here’s the back story 3D Colossal Cave‘s production is surprisingly long, but boils down to this: the project’s lead 3D artist, Marcus Mera, picked up retro computing as a hobby during lockdown. After meeting Ken Williams in a museum presentation, Mera slowly persuaded Williams to come out of retirement and start a new venture. It turned out that it was. CC3DRoberta Williams finally joined the fun.
The New 3D Colossal Cave You can play it in 2D with Epic Games Store on Switch, Epic Games Store on Epic Games Store on Meta Quest 2 and VR on Meta Quest 2. It’s due out later this year.
Dungeons of Aether – Aether Studios Seattle, Wash.
The creators of the indie “platform fighter” Rivals of Aether Aether Studios was established in 2021 by Aether Studios to produce more games and transmedia projects. Aether universe.
So far, that’s included the April Fool’s joke turned actual game Aether lovers; a card game for mobile devices, Creatures of AetherA digital comic series created by Ian Flynn (the long-standing writer for the official Sonic the Hedgehog Comic. Continued work on the sequel. Rivals. Original Rivals of Aether Is now feature-complete and no plans to add any more.
New fourth game for the shared Aether setting, Dungeons of the Aether, made its debut at this year’s PAX. Flynn wrote the script. It stars four new characters, who take on a corrupt mining company. Each character is a simple but effective part of its mechanics. Dungeons You can modify four stats on your own with dice rolls or consumables.
Dungeons Is tentatively scheduled to launch on Steam February 20, 2023.
Freshly Frosted – the Quantum Astrophysics Guild, Seattle, Wash.
Freshly Frosted This puzzle game allows you to create virtual donuts by using an imaginary production line. Each map starts with several machines in place. You must then figure out how to get them all off the ground. how to Get appropriately decorated donuts, from A to Z, in no time limit, unlimited retries and with a gentle encouraging narrator.
It was designed to be “extremely cute and extremely satisfying” by a small team of three Seattle developers, who got together to work on it every Monday night for about three and a half years.
Freshly Frosted was released on Steam and the Switch in June by the Seattle-based indie publisher the Quantum Astrophysicists Guild, and was one of the 10 games selected for this year’s PAX Rising showcase.
Gunbrella – Doinksoft, Portland, Ore.
It’s difficult to explain Gunbrella in a way that makes any sense to someone who doesn’t play a lot of video games. It’s a high-speed 2D side-scrolling action/adventure game that the developers call “noir-punk,” set in a stylized version of Great Depression-era America. I was reminded of something similar to the 2007 Fan Project, which is notoriously challenging. I want to be the Guy; it’s got some of that game’s aerial maneuverability, high challenge rating, and pixelated ultraviolence.
Your character has ended up as the wielder of a weapon that’s half shotgun, half bulletproof umbrella, all makeshift aerial maneuverability tool. To learn more about Gunbrella you travel to an isolated island full of mutants, mad cultists, angry ghosts and chaotic dungeons. The result is a fast-paced shoot-’em-up with gallons of blood and very little margin for error.
On behalf of GunbrellaDoinksoft is an independent studio based in Portland, which works mostly with Devolver Digital, a Texas-based publisher. Its previous games include the monochrome “Metroidvania” Gato Roboto and this year’s Demon ThrottleThat is, it is. Only Available as a physical cartridge in a restricted edition via Special Reserve Games
Teenage Exocolonist – Northway Games, Vancouver, BC
Released shortly before this year’s PAX for Steam, the Switch, and the PlayStation 4/5, Teenage Exocolonist doesn’t fit neatly into any genre classification. Its publisher Finji calls it a “narrative deckbuilding RPG,” but in play, it feels more like an interactive children’s novel. Specifically, it’s an Old children’s novel, like Bridge to Terabithia, that isn’t afraid to hit you with unexpected emotional body shots.
You begin The Exocolonist as a 10-year-old kid, whose appearance and gender are up to you, who’s joined their parents on a colony expedition to an alien planet. Over the course of the next 10 years of your character’s life, you choose what subjects to study, skills to master, and relationships to maintain. Eventually, what you do, or fail to do, will determine your new colony’s chances of survival.
Northway Games was established in 2008 by Colin Northway and Sarah Northway. They currently live out of Vancouver, B.C.; the Northways’ other games include Amazing Contraption, Incredipede, The Rebuild trilogy. At PAX, Sarah Northway told me that she’s been working on The Exocolonist Although it began as a small project, the final version has been in production for over five years. It also includes the contributions of four artists (including a watercolorist) and the Vancouver-based sound design company A Shell in the Pit.Wandersong).
Nostalgia’s Last Hero – Over the Moon Games, Vancouver, B.C.
You might like GunbrellaThis is an inside look at baseball. Nostalgia’s Last Hero is a game that’s very deliberately directed at an audience that plays a lot of video games.
Nostalgaia is the next project from Over the Moon, the studio behind 2018’s The Fall: Part 2, and is an affectionate parody of the “Soulslike” sub-genre of action-RPGs.
In a fantasy world that’s slowly succumbing to a bizarre form of (file) corruption, as represented by a gradual pixelation of its people and environments, you play as the latest and possibly last hero that’s been sent to save the day.
The same corruption is what has affected you. However, your character, a pixel-art stick figure that wears 3D armor, carries 3D weapons, and lives in a 3D world, suffers from the same fate. You must go on to fight zombies, monsters, armored guardians, and the game’s hostile narrator, who isn’t above hacking the world in order to put bigger problems in your way. On Oct. 19, it was made available on Xbox One and PC.
The Lifeless Moon – Stage 2 Studios, Snohomish, Wash./Denver, Colo.
Stage 2 Studios’ David Board describes The Lifeless Moon as a 5-year “indie passion project,” inspired by classic science fiction and the natural scenery of Alaska. It’s an adventure game that serves as “sort of a prequel” to Stage 2’s previous release, the 2014 “walking simulator” Lifeless Planet.
Two astronauts are suddenly transported to Earth from a lunar mission. They set out to explore the town in an attempt to figure out what’s happened and why, in a story that Board describes as “not quite full horror.” Instead, it’s meant as a surreal, creepy experience.
On behalf of The Lifeless Moon Stage 2 Studios was created by two companies with similar names. Stage 2 Interactive in Washington state creates educational apps and games, while Denver’s Stage 2 Video is an award-winning video producer. Stage 2 will publish The Lifeless Moon Steam via the Indie Studio Serenity Forge, early 2023
Salt and Sacrifice – Ska Studios, Seattle, Wash.
Anybody can exhibit their video game, but Ska Studios is the only company that has the ability to make a completely new gaming mode. They have no plans to add it to any actual product. That.
Ska Studios’ most recent project, Salt and Sacrifice The Epic Games Store and PlayStation 4/5 were released in May. Similar to the predecessor Salt and Sanctuary, it’s a dark fantasy action-RPG that was directly inspired by From Software’s Dark Souls. They assume the roles of inquisitors and are sent to hunt down hostile mages who threaten their nation.
Shane Lynch and James Silva created a PAX Exclusive: A 4-player mode of vs. each player. Sacrifice Within two weeks. Ska Studios visitors were invited to challenge each other and win a Sodden Knight plush doll.
Silva explained to me that he was at PAX. Sacrifice It has been a huge success for the company with several thousand users logging into to enjoy it each day since its inception. A big content update for Sacrifice is planned for the near future, with new weapons and armor, increased flexibility to better suit players’ individual styles, and a new ability, which allows players to exchange health for ammunition/resources in the field. This update may include or not the PAX-exclusive PVP mod.
Seafrog – Oh My Me Games, Port Townsend, Wash./Phoenix, Ariz.
It is easy to explain. Seafrog is that it’s a momentum-based skateboarding platformer. You don’t simply jump around; you slide down hallways, grind on pipes, flip off levers, and style all over the pirates that are trying to take you down, sort of like a 2D version of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.
Seafrog Tyler Maitland (director/artist), is currently developing the game. Maitland works from Port Townsend in Washington. Programming by Mariano De La Cruz. Grumpyface’s Phoenix-based mobile games studio Grumpyface employed Maitland, and De La Cruz up until 2020.
Maitland, De La Cruz spent the next 18 months working together on an early version. Seafrog I submitted the work to Rogue Jam. It won that competition’s grand prize, taking home $500,000 and a publishing deal from Rogue Games. It is scheduled for release in 2024.
Superior – Drifter Entertainment, Seattle, Wash.
Drifter Entertainment’s next project, after the 2020 virtual reality horror game Lies Beneath, goes back to the company’s roots as an action developer. Superior is a 3-player cooperative “horde shooter,” where players go up against roving hordes of superhuman mutants in an attempt to save the world.
Ray Davis, Drifter’s CEO, described Superior‘s story to me as a dark, cynical take on superheroes, inspired by recent shows like Invincible The Boys Superior‘s world, all of the superheroes have turned into hostile monsters, which forces you to take them down, absorb their abilities, and use those stolen powers to help save the world.
It’s a fast-paced, brutal third-person shooter with roguelike elements, where part of the challenge is to come up with a truly broken combination of stolen powers before the hordes take you down.
Drifter has also joined Gala Games, a newly-founded cryptocurrency company, to publish. Superior. At the moment, players can trade and buy Superior character skins as NFTs, using one of several cryptocurrencies, including Ethereum and Gala’s own tokens. Davis describes Drifter’s movement into the blockchain gaming space as an “educational journey.”
“Our first priority is to make the game fun,” Davis told me at a PAX afterparty, “and we’ll figure out the NFTs as we go. As an independent game developer, I want to figure out if this is a new model that can be used to fund game development.”
System Shock – Nightdive Studios, Vancouver, Wash.
Nightdive Studios is best-known at this point for its remasters of various classic ’90s games, such as Quake. Doom 64. Blood. PowerSlave. SiNMany of these games had become out of print, or were no longer playable on current hardware. Its “Enhanced Editions” have given several dead/abandoned games a new lease on life, or at least provided old-school PC gamers with an easy nostalgia fix.
Nightdive’s next big project is a full-on remake of the original 1994 System ShockThe late Looking Glass Studios. Nightdive has already published a port System Shock The Steam version was released in 2015 but the 2022 edition is an entirely new reconstruction of the entire game using the Unreal Engine. The game is effectively recreated. System Shock The highly influential, in the form of its successor System Shock 2.
You play System Shock as a nameless hacker who wakes up aboard a space station that’s been taken over by one of the great all-time video game villains, the hostile AI SHODAN. You must sneak, fight, or hack your way through the station’s corridors and its new population of hostile robots and cyborgs, in an attempt to destroy the station before SHODAN can weaponize it to attack Earth.
The Tails Preludes To the Backbone – Eggnut, Vancouver, BC
After appearing at the Indie Megabooth at PAX in 2018, Eggnut’s post-noir detective game Backbone To interestingly mixed reviews, it was released in 2021. (Some people did Not Take care of the end. Backbone ended up doing well enough that Eggnut – a 15-person team that’s headquartered in Vancouver, BC, with distributed workers in Portugal, Russia, and eastern Canada – has gone back to make a prequel.
You might like Backbone, Tails The Backbone Preludes is a pixel-art adventure game, starring anthropomorphic animal characters, that takes some of its inspiration from LucasArts’ “SCUMM games” of the ’90s.
Unlike Backbone, Tails features a cast of four playable characters, one of whom is brand new, and consists of 4 illustrative vignettes from each character’s past; Backbone‘s protagonist Howard, for example, shows up in Tails as a young college student who’s nothing like the cynical detective he’ll eventually become. It’s intended as a standalone project, but also serves to fill in some of the background details of Backbone‘s dystopian version of Vancouver.
Tails RELEASED IN FULL FOR PURPOSE IN 2023
Zombies Noir – Synodic Arc, Bellevue, Wash.
Meta Quest 2 is now available for early access Zombies Noir The game is described as being one of the first to use mixed reality action on the platform. It uses the Quest 2’s built-in cameras to let you place two virtual doors in your vicinity, then defend yourself as waves of cartoon zombies come rushing at you.
When you kill zombies you get points and cash. These can then be spent on waves for bonuses, creating barricades or new weapons. My secret weapon was that Zombies Noir isn’t just a shooting gallery; you can, and in fact probably ought to, duck and weave around the virtual zombies instead of simply trying to stand your ground.
Synodic Arc Studios, the developer of the game has been publishing games on Steam ever since 2018 with the Visual Novel. The Book of Regrets. The next project is the. The Boo Crew, is planned as a 4-player co-op game in the spirit of Nintendo’s Mario Party.
Projects for return
PAX was home to many exhibitors, including new and recently released games. These were some of the PNW’s local developers who made a return trip to PAX to share news, updates, and get the word out.
Calico: Pawsome edition – Peachy Keen Games, Seattle, Wash.
The magical-cat cafet simulator has been on display at PAX 2019’s Indie Megabooth Calico got picked up by Pennsylvania’s Whitethorn Games, an indie publisher that specializes in similarly zero-stress experiences. Calico It finally came out on Steam late 2020. There it received a Very Positive Rating. It’s since been ported to the Switch, Google Stadia, and the Xbox platform.
Calico PAX 2012 saw its future promotion promoted by it making a return Pawsome Edition. First announced at the Wholesome Direct show in June, which celebrates “uplifting, thoughtful, and wholesome” indies, the Pawsome Edition This is Calico This is an important expansion of the game’s base. Its additional content includes cooking minigames, more animals to collect and ride like owls and rats, and in-game customizations such as being able to pick your cafe’s rugs and wallpaper. It’s due out later this summer.
Cricket: Jae’s Really Peculiar Game – Studio Kumiho, Redmond, Wash.
Redmond’s Studio Kumiho is the only company that’s made it into every single one of these PAX roundups I’ve written for GeekWire. To continue to promote it, I was at PAX West 2022 CricketThe RPG ‘The Dragon Age: a Game of Thrones’ is based on Korean mythology and JRPGs. Earthbound.
Unusually, Cricket hasn’t really changed much since its appearance last year; its 2022 PAX demo showed off the same “vertical slice” of an early section of the game, but with a lot more polish and significantly retouched graphics. It’s still a weirdly melancholic gut-punch of a game, where you can be fighting homicidal flowers one moment and grappling with a surprisingly honest portrayal of grief the next.
Harvest Hero: Origins – Gemdrop Games, Vancouver, Wash.
At last year’s PAX, Harvest Hero: Origins was essentially a proof of concept, which put up to 2 players against an infinite army of monstrous “greebles” in an attempt to keep their village safe.
HH:O Itch.io and Steam made the official launch of this arcade game in February. It features story and survival mode, and four additional playable characters. HH:O‘s developer Clay Paris is currently making plans for his next project.
Since HH:O‘s release, Paris has released two free The DLC package has two unlockable guest characters, one from each game. Zack is one of the party members. CricketShroomella is another, made by the Boston-based indie platformer Renaine.
Minotaur Princess – Bunnies4peace Studios, Bellevue, Wash.
Bunnies4peace’s Charles Kimball describes Minotaur Princess as “what I thought Puzzle Quest would turn into.” Set in a scratch-built fantasy world, you play as Atrea, a princess who’s been body-swapped with a minotaur on the other side of the continent. This was supposed to free Atrea from her father’s reach.
Rest of the game is about minotaur! Atrea’s rampaging around the globe in search of a home. This is depicted through a series match-3 puzzles. Visualize! BejeweledExcept for when you match 5 or more, you can only cut an opponent in half by using an axe.
Minotaur Princess It was only in beta during PAX 2021 but it was sufficiently advanced this year to host a head-to-head tournament on its stand in the expo hall. It’s being made in Game Maker Studio by a team of five first-time garage developers, with a targeted release date of the spring of 2023.
Sailing Forth – David Evans Games, Seattle, Wash.
Returned in 2019 Sailing Forth showed up at PAX in the Indie Megabooth as a sort of bite-sized sailing simulator, with realistic water physics and about an hour’s worth of gameplay.
There have been many changes since then. These include a complete story overhaul. Now, Sailing Forth This open-world adventure video game takes inspiration from Assassin’s Creed 3: Black Flag The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.
Set in a big open ocean that’s full of hand-made but randomly placed encounters, you can gather resources, unlock tools, and gradually build yourself up from a single pirate captain on a leaky ship to the commander of an entire AI-controlled fleet. It’s scheduled to get published by the Quantum Astrophysics Guild in the near future.