15 years of awesome
We also shouldn't forget the mountains of prize giveaways, a massive cosplay stage and an endless supply of geeky stuff that will reduce your bank account to tears.
The day started with a long wait outside closed doors. Like so many others, I arrived an hour early to try and miss most of the early morning rush but this meant that myself and many others had to stand in the hot African sun for much longer than was comfortable (A special thanks to Roland, Britney and Jared for keeping me company). We might be from Africa, but most of us were geeks and thus might spontaneously turn to ash when exposed sunlight, like vampires. Thankfully I didn't step over any smoldering remains on my way inside.
Despite being part of the third world, Rage was visited by some of the most respected tech companies on the planet. Most notably was Hewelett Packard, who also happened to be one of the main sponsors of the event. One of the largest stands at the event was dedicated to showing off HP's latest contribution to the gaming world, the Omen performance laptop range. I managed to get an up-close look at these monstrosities and was surprised by how incredibly thin HP have managed to get their new flagships. We all know performance laptops to be big, bulky things. They need to be large to allow for better airflow to aid heat distribution but HP claims to have found a new way to deal with this issue which allowed them to keep their Omen range sleek, beautiful and above all, lightweight. If they can pull this off then it means those hefty hippo-sized gaming rigs might soon be a thing of the past. Skinny gaming folk, rejoice!
If you're picky about who manufactures your hardware then Rage would not have disappointed. Among the numerous names I came across were Razer, Steel Series, Logitech, Red Dragon, Astrum and Coolermaster, all with a wide range of products and some fantastic special offers, specifically for the expo.
Those who were willing to wait in line could get their sweaty palms on some of the most eagerly awaited games of the year and see if they were worth all the hype. There were countless numbers of test rigs spread out all over the arena giving players access to the most anticipated titles on PC, XBox One and PS4.
Assassin's Creed Origins, Forza 7 and Call of Duty: WW2 were three of the most notable titles on offer and while I wasn't able to try those out, I did manage to spend a few minutes with the charming, Lego Marvel Superheroes 2. Unfortunately, I was politely asked not to take any pictures of this yet-to-be-released title so you'll have to take my word that it looks like about as much fun as a jumping castle full of jellybeans.
I also managed to do a few laps behind the wheel Ken Block's intimidating 650bhp Ford Fiesta in Gymkhana Grid. Fun, this may have been but despite my delusions of being a phenomenal driver, I found that it would certainly take more than 4 laps for me to master the art of hooligan drifting. Monster, who were hosting the rigs that allowed me to test Gymkhana Grid were also offering tickets to the actual Gymkhana event in Johannesburg later this year. Only the biggest hooligans with the best lap times would qualify for those, however.
Then there was the possibility of winning a PS4 by beating the 1:30 lap time set in one of the tracks on Gran Turismo. This was tempting, but waiting in line for what I estimated would be well over an hour was not, especially after that stupidly impractical Ford made me realize that my measly driving skills were average at best.
One of the highlights for me personally was being treated to a presentation of South-African developers Robot-Wizard's game Jengo. Being a local product, which is pretty rare as far as game development goes, I've heard of this game and spent all of 2 minutes checking it out online. Upon finding a point-and-click adventure, a genre I never appreciated, I speedily headed the nearest exit. However, one of the developers, Louis Du Pisani, made me fall head over heels in love with this game, after seeing him present only a few short minutes of it. He describes Jengo as being a "Retro fallback to the point-and-click golden era that enveloped our childhoods when we were aspiring to be rockstars". These types of games have a habit of boring me to the point of plugging my ears to prevent my grey matter from leaking but Jengo features so much personality that I honestly can't wait to get my hands on it and do an in-depth review.
They are still miles from completion but they will soon be starting several fundraising campaigns to help them finish their creation. They mentioned aiming for over 100 characters to be included in the game and having voice acting for most, if not all, of them. One of these lovable characters I met during my brief time with Jengo was a blonde babe in a pink dress with an obvious drinking problem. Her troubles started when her Italian, plumber boyfriend dumped her after he realized that she wasn't a true princess and proceeding to pursue someone with an actual kingdom. After meeting her and finding a large green pipe in the bathroom of a bar and having to kill the giant venus fly-trap residing there before descending down it to the next part of the game, I have a strange urge to get out my old SNES.
Aperture Gaming was my favorite to win the series but Veneration E-Sports proved that they would not go quietly into that good night. In fact, Veneration didn't just beat Aperture, they gave them a proper spanking, and went on to finish third in the series.
With professionals like Devin "HellBirD" Rigotti, Ryan "Parker" Macquet and Gregory "FPSFingers" Robinson as presenters, this was a highly enjoyable segment of the expo.
Rage's 15th anniversary was, pardon the pun, a raging success. I constantly felt pulled in several directions, and after an entire day, there was still a lot to be seen.
After attending the expo a few years ago and having an awful experience because of hopeless overcrowding, I vowed not to return until they moved to a larger venue. The venue has not changed but the organizers opened up some additional areas to ease the traffic with phenomenal results. Things were still busy but this year I could actually take my time and browse through some of the paraphernalia on display, something I was entirely unable to do last time around.
The LAN was highly alluring but I realize that my age is catching up to me when I cringe at the thought of being caged in with 2000 caffeine fueled geeks for nearly 3 full days. Once you have kids, you realize the true value of a good night's sleep and thus I had to leave this part of the event to those with the dreadful fashion sense who listen to Taylor Swift.
There was also a constant stream of cosplayers running amok at the TicketPro Dome. With no official media section at the stage to allow the capturing of proper pictures, I wasn't able to present much of this but I can report that some of those costumes were absolutely amazing.
Despite some minor annoyances, I highly suspect that I'll be back next year. My biggest complaint still involves the size of the venue but this wasn't nearly as much of an issue as before. Soon, my son will be old enough to appreciate his daddy's obsessions and he too can be baptized in the rivers of geekdom at Rage. See you then!