Ever since I was introduced to video games from a young age, I’ve always admired those involved in the gaming industry, the talent on show on so many levels. And now, finally at the age of thirty five I can now say that I’m sort of part of that industry, on a journalistic level.
So my friends, this is my written diary of my first ever visit to a major gaming exhibition. The exhibition of choice; EGX London 2019, being held at the ExCel centre in London over four days. I’m attending two of those four days, with my girlfriend in tow as both an unofficial cameraman and a fellow geek to share the excitement with.
We started this morning at 8:00am with a breakfast at the hotel, standard, but nothing to write home about… And hit the expo at 11:15am. Just approaching the ExCel centre is a pretty awesome sight, situated next to the Royal Docks and just a stone’s throw from the O2 arena, it stands out as pretty impressive structure. Once we enter the building we’re greeted with a long, high corridor with various food court businesses either side. We’re told by a member of staff that we need to head to S9 for bag checks and to pick up our wristbands… So, off we trekked! Unfortunately to the completely other end of the venue!
We finally make it to S9 and join the winding, post office-style queuing system. We made it to bag checks and had our bags searched, and given the all clear to pick up our tickets; a simple affair of scanning the barcode on our printouts. Wristbands on, we were ready to rock!
Upon entering the hall, our senses were assaulted in the most amazing of ways! Bright, neon lights, game artwork adorning walls and the sound of thumping bass and excited chatter! We were at the Expo!!
After the initial shock and awe had worn off, we decided a direction to head, and set off. Hitting the indie and smaller title games as you enter the hall prepares you for the bigger, grander spectacles to come. We had a chance to play some really interesting titles, chat with their developers and quiz them on what makes their game stand out. One title that stood out was Kung Fu Jesus – A side scrolling beat’em up, set against the backdrop of a typical American suburb. This game was just crazy, of the bat poop variety, but it didn’t pretend to be anything else.
We also got a chance to go hands on with the next game in the Darksiders franchise, Darksiders Genesis. This is a bit of a departure from the typical third person slash fest we’re accustomed to; this time round, it’s going top down in a style that can only be compared to Diablo… And it works, it really works. The ability to switch characters on the fly is brilliant and the variety of attacks feel different enough to make you want to mix it up.
We got a further chance to explore the indie titles when were invited by a developer to take a look at his new game Another, a game he’d designed as part of university course. This was a little bit special – It reminded us a lot, graphically, of Half Life. The game was a puzzle game, with the character you play as imbued with an ability to see clues the naked eye would miss. For a game designed as essentially an art project, we were VERY impressed.
Once we snaked our way around the smaller developers we found a large presentation from Zodiac Interactive, with their new battle royale game, RAN: Lost Islands. What separates this from the multitude of battle royale games that the market has been saturated in recently, is that the whole game is set during the 16th century and a lack of any modern firearms. This game leans heavily on mastering melee combat and techniques. The time we spent with it convinced us it’ll be one to watch out for on Steam, with PS4 and Xbox versions on the way.
We then chanced across a title, tucked away in a corner called SkateBIRD, from Glass Bottom Games. This is EXACTLY what the title describes. You’re a bird – a chaffinch if my Billy Oddy TV show memory serves me right – and you have to navigate a bird sized skate park on what is essentially a tech deck or fingerboard for those that remember what that is (a skateboard that you controlled with your fingers). Your bird has all manner of tricks he or she is able to perform, including a nifty little board grab that the bird grips in its beak. It’s not a particularly complicated game, but it is amazingly satisfying to land the tricks on your mini board on a ramp made of a drinks coaster… And your bird is sporting a baseball cap worn at a jaunty angle, that alone sells it for me!
We quickly found the PlayStation booth. As expected from PlayStation their setup was big, bright and bold. They had quite a few titles on display, both running on videos and a few to get hands on with. The only ones we had a chance to get hands on with were Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, a new Dragon Ball Z fighter from Bandai Namco, and Concrete Genie from PixelOpus; an action-adventure game that gives the player a magic paintbrush to allow you create and bring to life paintings you produce on walls and surfaces.
We then headed further down the hall and found the Legend Of Runeterra exhibition. This is a new card duelling game from Riot Games! I didn’t get a chance to go hands on with this one, but my wife, Kim, loved it.
After waiting what seemed like forever, Kim had finally finished playing Legends Of Runeterra and we made our way through the hall and hit upon the board game section of the Expo… An area I was pretty excited to see. We made our way around the various stalls selling all manner of board games and accessories, and ended up amongst a large arrangement of tables with people gathered around trying out new board games under tutelage from the organisers of this section. We decided to grab a table a give a couple a games a whirl!
The first game we tried was recommended by one of the tutors; Selfish. You and other players are astronauts and have to make it back to the space shuttle before you run out of oxygen. You spend your oxygen by moving or simply by using it to stay in the game – Every time you move a random card is drawn and this can effect you or other players. The game its name form the fact you can steal others oxygen supply to aid your goal of reaching the shuttle first. We had a good laugh with this one, basically screwing each other over to try and win!
The next game we played was a card game called Dungeon Mayhem by the Dungeons & Dragons brand. In this game players battle it out with cards and attack each other by using attack cards and speciality cards. We had a bit of a struggle getting to grips with this one at first. But after some brilliant explanation from one of the tutors, we were soon duelling it out, dungeon style! This one will be going in the collection once we get home!
And that was pretty much day one. We were pretty tired at this point and decided to call it a day. We’d been at the Expo for nine hours at this point, and our feet were letting us now! Back to the hotel for us…..
Today started out pretty much the same as day one. Breakfast, blah blah blah. When we arrived at the expo today we decided we were gonna hit the BIG title games and join the monstrous queues. I made a bee line straight for the blue cargo container with the words Predator Hunting Grounds on it. This is a co-op combat game by Illfonic, four players take the part of marines and one player takes the part of Predator in a mission of survival. This looked to be a small queue, but as I found out, looks can be deceptive. Two hours of standing and waiting later, I was at the front of the queue and taken into the container. NO SEATS! My heart dropped, we had to stand and play. But no matter, I’d waited this long, I shook it off and soldiered on. And I’m glad I did. Safe to say, the wait was worth it. I loved this game, the tension from being stalked through the jungle by Predator was intense. All the time fighting off rebels and trying to make it to the extraction point. We made it to extraction, but not before an all out firefight with the tree canopy as the player posing as Predator lead us on a merry chase through the canopy, them up high, able to jump from tree to tree, us, down on the ground looking for that tell tale shimmer in the air of a Predator cloaking suit. It was brilliant. Definite highlight of the show for me!
After I was released from the ‘Jungle’ we made our way over to the Monster booth and queued up to play some 1v1 Counter Strike. This was just a bit of fun to see who would come out top in a friendly 1v1. After winning (just) I was handed a Monster dollar bill and told to redeem it at the counter. Once I did I was handed a goody bag of sweet sweet loot!
Following Kim’s defeat, although she’ll protest I got lucky, she joined the Nintendo area to get hands on with Pokemon Sword and Shield. I headed back to the board game section to scout out new possible additions to the collection. Once we met up again we headed back to the entrance and this is where I chanced upon a little booth tucked away in the corner.
It was in this booth a game called Beyond A Steel Sky was being showcased. And I’m so glad I found it. Whilst waiting in line, I was approached by none other than the co-founder of Revolution Software and creator of Beyond A Steel Sky; Charles Cecil. He asked if i’d ever played the first steel sky game; Beneath A Steel Sky. I had to confess I hadn’t bu the artwork on the booth had got my attention. He then told me about the game and previous titles I may have heard of, such as the Broken Sword series. Of course I knew Broken Sword, but it was a long time since i’d played any, but I certainly remembered them. We talked for a while about the game and how he’d worked with legendary comic book artist Dave Gibbons to come up with the art style. He then asked if i’d like a signed copy of the comic book to accompany the game. Obviously I jumped at the chance. Then I was lead into the booth and let loose with the game. Fifteen minutes later I was told my time was up and I agonisingly wrenched myself away from the game. This game left a hung impression on me, and to be able to chat with its creator made the experience even more special. I’ve even done a separate piece on this game, you’ll be able to find on our site.
And that was when we decided to call it. The show had taken its toll on ALL our senses and we called it a day.
The main things I will take away from my first Expo? The people. Both fellow gamers and developers showcasing their creations. They were all really nice people. I can’t wait to attend more Expos now, I’ve got the bug!
Thank you EGX 2019!