This year’s EGX event moved up from London to a more central location – at Birmingham’s NEC. Having missed the event over the last couple of years, the change in venue was one of the prompts that made me want to head down and check out Britain’s premiere game show once more. With a new venue, it can be expected that the organisation may have slipped slightly – familiarity with an environment can ease the process after all and as ever EGX seemed larger, with more strands and a large number of “big name games”.
Fortunately, the team were clearly up to – if not beyond – the task they presented themselves with. The only glitch of organisation I had as I drove from Nottingham to Birmingham on a relatively bright Thursday morning was partially of my own making. When driving to the NEC, it’s important to note which hall the event is in or at the very least which car parks are the nearest. As it happens, the route I took to get to the venue (off Junction 6 of the M42) led me towards the North and East areas and the NEC’s event signposts were enough to point me North. I managed to park in the most convenient car park (N2) by chance.
Once at the venue, everything was superb. A wristband collection queue was arranged so that ticket holders could collect these and started moving an hour before the early access tickets kicked in. From this queue, staff were on hand to direct everyone to the appropriate doors ready for entry at 10:00. One of the things that impressed me most was the fact that there was an “eleven things to check out” video running on a loop in the wristband / holding area. This meant that punters could get a flavour of the event before they started.
Inside, the hall was filled with gaming goodness. While filled, and with thousands of punters walking around, I didn’t once feel crowded in the hall. This coming from someone who doesn’t like crowds one bit. There were plenty of places – either with seating or just “dead zones” in which punters can take a load off their feet in those weary moments. Staff – whether EGX, booth specific or NEC were plentiful, helpful and considerate. The layout of the areas made sense and each game was given enough space that gamers could game without being nudged by passers by. In short, the NEC offered a much better venue (in my opinion) than the previous location.
I have to admit, I didn’t sit down and play many games myself. I had a blast on Xenoblade Chronicles X on Wii U (which has now jumped up into my PRE-ORDER list rather than my CONSIDER GETTING list. I spent a good amount of time on Crystal Rift with the HTC Vive head set which was a brilliant experience. It felt like being in the old television show Knightmare (look it up younglings!) as movement is limited to forward, back, strafe left, strafe right and turn 90 degrees left or right. Check it out on Steam – even though it’s designed for VR, it’s perfectly playable in 2D form!
I spent a lot of my time wandering, watching the games on display (I find I get as much from watching others game as I do from playing myself). You soon see if controls are frustrating or responses sluggish and get to take in the entire detail of the game while stood back from it. Despite the long queues for core titles, the organisers and exhibitors have made a great effort at ensuring there were enough on display. I counted around 45 terminals set up for Just Cause 3 and around 16 for The Division. Spare a thought for the booth staff who have to strike that balance between making the queues worthwhile with a decent show of gameplay and keeping the queues as short as possible!
I was particularly impressed with the Nintendo stand which had a full day of activity on a small stage there. From game demonstrations to Splatoon Tournaments, the guys did a great job. Microsoft and Sony also had such on, but I couldn’t work out how to enter their zones without queuing for a game … that’s my bad though, I imagine as it seemed plenty of others managed it!
If I had one criticism of this year’s show it was the position of the Rezzed stage on which a number of talks aimed at potential game developers were held. I sat through the first one (on legal issues) which was interesting. However, it’s open position not far away from the Rock Band Live stand did make it somewhat awkward for the speakers. The main Developer Session stage was enclosed and at the opposite end of the hall to the “noise makers” and so suffered much less from residual noise.
I’ve been to a few EGX events over the years and to many other shows and this year’s EGX has stood out in my mind as one of the best. The show is continuing to grow and I love their focus on the independent developer as much as the big name games. The NEC really allowed the team to fill the hall with glorious content and no need to compromise. Congrats, EGX team. You did yourself proud. It was an exhausting day – but a good one.
Don’t forget if you can’t make it to the show, there are live streams and more videos via YouTube gaming!
Tips for the Event
- Get hold of the EGX app for iOS or Android. It has a map, summary of schedules and can create a to-do list for you to keep track of. Beats unfolding paper every two minutes!
- For each day you are at EGX pick out two or maybe three big games to hit.
- Be prepared to queue for a long time – queuing can last for hours at these events
- Take a folding stool (like a fishing stool) to take the weight off your feet while queuing
- However, when the queue does start moving – don’t linger.
- Ensure you have provisions. There are plenty of places to get food and drink on site, but surely time is better spent gaming?
- Once your day’s big games are out of the way … head over to Rezzed, The IndieMegaBooth and the Leftfield collection. There are many gems to find there.
- Don’t be afraid to just watch gameplay. I find I get almost as much from watching someone play an FPS, for example, as I do from playing it myself. The general mechanics are known, I’m looking at the smoothness and responsiveness of the game. The detail (some of which gets lost when I zone in while playing myself!)
- Check out a Developer Session or two – it’s not just about playing games, after all!
- Take time to wander the hall. There’s plenty to see. This year, the exhibitors have excelled at bringing that extra touch to their stands. Heck, Mario and Luigi even made an appearance at the Nintendo stand.
- Have fun. Goes with-out saying, but if you find yourself flagging – then take a break. Leave a queue (do you NEED to get hands on with Call of Duty when you’ve seen others play it and have played countless others yourself?) When something stops being fun. Move on to the next thing!
GS Blogger: WedgeDoc