Surprises from the second annual PlayStation Experience

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      The PlayStation Experience took place in San Francisco last weekend (December 5 to 6). The now annual event, created for fans, was launched last year with a splashy affair in Las Vegas that included a free concert by 65daysofstatic set to visuals from the upcoming video game, No Man’s Sky.

      While that first event felt like something different, the second PSX felt more like a trade show. That certainly didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd. Sony put weekend attendance at more than 15,000. 

      A two-hour presentation opened the event, and included a number of announcements.

      Many of the announcements were around exclusives for PlayStation gamers, like the exclusive character that Gearbox head Randy Pitchford said would be created for the studio’s upcoming Battleborn game.

      Where was No Man’s Sky?

      The biggest surprise for me was the complete absence of No Man’s Sky, the upcoming exploration title from Hello Games. Heading to San Francisco on Friday (December 4), I actually thought there was an outside chance that the game would be released as the event began. 

      I can guess at two reasons for the hush about No Man’s Sky:

      1. The developers are hard at work and nearing release and don’t want to take time out for events.

      2. There’s a problem and nobody wants to talk about it.

      I’m guessing it’s the former. Given that Sean Murray from Hello was on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert recently, the game must be close.

      Moar virtual reality

      I was not surprised that virtual reality (VR) was such a focus at PSX. In addressing the crowd at the beginning of the keynote, Shawn Layden, president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America, said that there would be more PlayStation VR than at any other gaming event this before.

      There were dozen of stations where attendees could try out a dozen PS VR titles, from the London Heist to Eve Valkyrie. Within an hour of the show opening, all spots for the weekend were booked. 

      The VR surprise came in the form of Psychonauts: The Rhombus of Ruin, a stand-alone adventure being developed by Tim Shafer’s Double Fine for PS VR.

      The week before, Shafer’s studio launched a Psychonauts 2 campaign on Fig, a crowd sourcing service for game studios. The sequel to the critically acclaimed platformer from 2005 is already more than 50 percent funded. 

      Destiny becomes a racing game; Vita gets some love

      Everyone who’s played Destiny since it released last fall has been waiting for an opportunity to race the Sparrow vehicles used to traverse the landscapes in the game. Bungie listened, and for three weeks beginning December 8, the Sparrow Racing League debuts for all owners of The Taken King, the game’s second year experience.

      There was an amazing number of games for Sony’s PlayStation Vita handheld device. These included already announced titles like Day of the Tentacle Remastered, coming from Double Fine, and the newly announced Full Throttle Remastered, another old Lucasarts game that Double Fine is prepping for PS4 and PS Vita.

      The PS Vita version of Bastion, from Supergiant Games, was released as the PSX opened, and two indie games—The Bit.Trip and Nuclear Throne, both created for both PS4 and PS Vita—were given out to attendees at the event.

      The B.C. and Canadian presence at PSX 2015

      B.C. studios showing off games coming to PlayStation platforms included:

      • Klei Entertainment with Don’t Starve Together and Invisible Inc.
      • Radial Games with Rocketsrocketsrockets
      • Red Hook Studios with Darkest Dungeon

      Campo Santo is getting close to release of Fire Watch on February 9. While the company is officially based in San Francisco, Vancouverite Nels Anderson is working on the game and provides it with a Canadian connection.

      Brian Provinciano, also known as Vblank, was showing off the first parts of Shakedown Hawaii, his new game created with 16-bit graphics. The action shooter has permanently destructible environments, something made possible, he said, by the capability of the PS4 console.

      Games from Toronto were Alone With You, from Toronto game designer and artist Benjamin Rivers and Severed, from Drinkbox Studios.

      Ubisoft Montreal had stations where gamers could play two forthcoming titles, the open world action adventure Far Cry Primal and the sword fighting simulation For Honour.

      eSports ends the event

      The Capcom Cup finale took place on the second day of PSX. The Ultra Street Fighter IV tournament brought together 32 competitors from East Asia, Europe, and the United States (one Brazilian qualified) for the final showdown with a US$250,000 prize pool.