Published on October 20th, 2015 | by David Guild0
HGR Goes To EGX 2015
The HGR crew has been on quite an adventure with the men from the north (Gary and I) travelling southwards for a weekend, while Tony travelled in from the east to return back to where he was born and bred. Yes we all travelled to the new home of EGX which is now at the NEC in Birmingham. EGX had to leave its former home of Earls Court London so it could grow, but also Earls Court Centre is sadly now closed and demolition work started winter last year.
The placement of EGX at the NEC Birmingham was also due to how accessible the NEC is with it being located next to a main train station hub and an airport, plus a wee bit of useless information, 75% of the UK’s population live within 3 hours of the NEC. So with its new-found size, was EGX the gaming expo we all hoped for?
First of all let’s talk about all the beautiful games that were there … Just Cause and Mirrors Edge!!!! Of course there was plenty more which you were able to play, Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, Halo 5, Need For Speed and Battlefront to name a few but they were many many more and even Destiny made an appearance, no idea why! (Can you tell I’m not a fan?).
There was plenty to choose from but like every year and probably the worst thing about most expo’s is the size of queues. Gary and I stood in the Just Cause 3 queue for a couple hours for 20mins worth of gameplay while bigger games like Call of Duty was a far longer wait. Granted there isn’t much you could do with the amount of people who are dying to play the game but for me with a dodgy knee and an 8 hour drive it was enough to put me off standing for some other games. This was fine as I enjoyed walking around seeing the game in action while someone else played.
The games we did get on the experience was good, the staff on hand were either developers or PR crew who were more than happy to answer questions about the game in hand or even finding someone who would answer. Plus with most of the games not fully released yet, the games were on earlier versions so when problems appeared during play they were quick to get you fixed up or give you a tad longer on the game.
The main problem with EGX is the time of year when the event happens, most of the triple A games that are at the show are either coming out in the upcoming winter months or with how gaming development is changing, more and more developers and publishers are putting out “beta” or early access gameplay for gamers who want to play it before release. Call of Duty had a beta before EGX while many others were not long after EGX or still to come within the next month. So I found myself not in need to play many of the games, why stand in a queue for a few hours when I could wait a month and play it at home.
So my attention was mostly drawn to the indie side of EGX, where a lot of developers are trying to show the audience what they have on show with no release date even planned. Yes I know, indie developers can do early access and betas too but with how busy the console and PC marketplaces are, a lot of hidden gems can and will go missed. Plus they are quite a few titles that won’t even go on early access till next year. So they were plenty of surprises to be had if you were an indie fan. With indie games not having the budget for Community Managers, the folk at the booth were usually developers and were on top form to answer nearly any question you can throw at them. Yes it was busy but seats opened up regularly so it was never a long wait to speak to anyone and to sit down and play. Plus with games like Gang Beasts and SpeedRunners can pull in mass crowds all who are having fun and laughing, it’s quite a sight to see. Plus this year it seemed like the indie section just doubled in size. You still have the normal Rezzed area which was larger this year along with the Leftfield Collection but also this year welcomes the Indie Megabooth which had a pile of games I’ve never even seen or heard before.
It was a great weekend to be an indie gamer but also a retro gamer as we also see the return of the Retro Gaming area thanks to Replay Events. Like every year it is full of old consoles and games from the 80s right to the last generation, all playing the popular games which everyone loves. Plus with the new Star Wars movie coming out soon, there was a small selection devoted to the Star War games which was an awesome sight.
Lastly about the games, I got to give two thumbs up to Prison Architect with an amazing booth, it pretty much won the show for me. Plus Arthur from Xtreme Gaming who thanks to his MadCatz sponsorship was doing his thing on the Rock Band booth. He can draw a crowd and keep them entertained, he was brilliant.
Sadly this year we didn’t catch many of the dev session at EGX, with missing Thursday and Friday due to work. I couldn’t see the Sony’s VR headset along with the HTC VR which would’ve been a blast to check out, but I found the weekend shows lacking any interest for me to see apart from the amazing chaps at Prison Architect who announced a brand new spanking mode for the game along with it coming out of beta. Plus Mike Bithell was there speaking about his new game Volume.
Though with the main developer sessions area lacking in exciting guests, this year they put on a Rezzed Session area. In which was great chance to hear about the inner workings of game development from some amazing small time developers. My first show being Surviving Early Access and hearing from Boneloaf, Indie Stone and Shark Punch Studios time releasing games early.
It was a nice surprise to see EGX catering to both sides of the gaming coin, the developer sessions for the bigger triple A games and the more well-known indie titles. With the other side of the coin going to the indie developers talking about the aspects of the game development.
The Other Stuff
With gaming becoming such a huge thing we are starting to see more and more internet famous folk who I have no idea who they are. Everywhere you looked you would see a mass of kids crowding over some chap who is probably a YouTuber, answering questions and signing autographs. The only name I remotely recognised was Yogscast, they play a lot of Minecraft then gave their name to a KickStarter game which made quite a penny with the campaign but failed to get released, ouch!
Merch stands were a plenty there this year with me promising my missus I won’t buy another Xbox One this year. If you love gaming t-shirts and posters, then you are spoiled for choice. I happily spent my well-earned cash at the Gamers Edition stand and bought a terrific Gang Beasts poster. While my son got a bullet with his name on it, this year they finally brought enough rifle rounds to please everyone who wanted one.
GAME was there once again with a pirate boat booth. Though this year they had a far smaller collection of games, they mostly kept newer just released titles along with a handful of pre-owned. Along with a smaller collection of games, they also didn’t have any great deals, quite a few games were more expensive than anywhere else.
Cosplay and expos go hand to hand and this year we saw some pretty amazing outfits and the length some folk will go to create them. There were Master Chiefs, Predators, fighters from Mortal Kombat and I lost count of how many Deadpools I saw. So if you love to dress up and can be quite inventive with your cosplay, expect to get stopped a lot and pictures taken. Well done to everyone who did cosplay!
Last But Not Least, The SWAG!
If you love getting that buzz from energy drinks then EGX 2015 is the place to be, the aroma of Tornado energy juice was everywhere. It’s a new brand of energy drink that sponsored the show and Just Cause 3 I think, I got myself a can but I haven’t touched fizzy juice in quite a few months I’m scared it will send me in to a coma. Apart from that though, we didn’t manage to get much, apart from some cardboard set up that holds your phone and you can wear it as VR goggles. There was seemly t-shirts but I didn’t manage to smell them out, they were probably at the Call of Duty area which I missed out on.
I remember coming back with a bunch of t-shirts and posters last year, so this year really lacked the SWAG but let’s be honest, it’s not that important.
So in the end did we enjoy it? The verdict around the camp is that it was a blow out. While it was a nice change that a big gaming event wasn’t in London, it isn’t as easy to move about Birmingham. Yes it has a massive transportation hub right next to the NEC but that’s only great in getting to the area, so to folk who didn’t want to drive in to the city we were stuck at the hotels surrounding the area or a trains ride away. London is a far easier city to navigate thanks to its underground. Last year I stayed in the outskirts of London, cheap enough to stay for a few days but a stone’s throw to the nearest tube station for a 45 min journey into London and a wee bit extra to Earls Court. You are confined to this area of Birmingham which had very little to do and shops, so meal times were expensive.
Plus while it is great to get on hand action with games that aren’t out yet, the length of time between EGX and most of game releases/beta is quite a small gap. Us chaps at HGR aren’t as young as we want to be and two of us had families to think about. EGX is a young person’s game, who just can’t wait to play the next big thing which is fine but for myself, Gary and Tony we just weren’t impressed with what was at the show.
Even with the expo in a bigger venue, it still felt that you had to fight your way through the masses. The problem is the organisers wanted more space to put in more booths but they most likely also increased the amount of tickets that would go on sale. So you are going to have the same problem like any other year, crowd control, huge queues and tons of sweaty people all bumping into each other spreading Expo Flu.
Gary and I are planning to go to Rezzed which is in London but Rezzed is more focused on indie games which we prefer.
We did enjoy listening to the developers speaking about the game and seeing some hidden indie games we haven’t experienced, and not forgetting meeting Barry from Push Start, but the show just wasn’t for us this year.