I’ve gone a bit dark over 2023 and haven’t talked a lot about Auto Fire lately. I do throw time into it as I can, but there’s been another project that has consumed my attention more and more over the past three years I’ve been on it. That is The Lamplighters League and the Tower at the End of the World, the game I’ve been working on as my day job at Harebrained Schemes, the good folks that made Battletech the recent run of Shadowrun RPG’s.
LLatTatEotW is a mouthful of a name, no? This game is a classic turn-based tactical game with a real-time infiltration component, set in an alternate 1930’s where dark occult forces are on the rise. You recruit and control a roster of agents in an attempt to rebuild a secret society that combats these sorts of threats… except they all died around World War I. Your best bet is to recruit the Best of the Worst.
This one has been really fun to work on… There’s realtime infiltration, which opens a lot of interesting presentation and play options. There’s a rich turn-based combat experience, the meat of where the game takes place with a lot of abilities and environmental elements interacting. There are tactical maps with procedural generation that plugs in content, enemies, and so on in key locations to add variety to missions… totally the stuff I groove on.
There’s a metagame experience where the campaign takes place over a series of weeks, charting the ascension of three competing houses of a shadowy cult called the Banished Court. Agents have upgrades, gear loadouts, health and sanity states that was fun to work on… and they also can accrue these tarot-like cards on their characters from a fate-sealing deck called the Undrawn Hand. Normally I don’t dig card mechanics in my RPG’s, but this one really allows for a pretty rich combination of power curve and special abilities… it makes for a huge variety in how each player experiences the game.
There is a pretty serious roster of agents you can choose from and each of them has a very unique playstyle, from sneaky snipers to dashing swordsmen to tanky displacers to mind controllers to incredibly potent support healers and so on. The teleporting agent is mad fun… All the things scratched that design itch: potent combos, overwatch actions, stress breaks, world spreadables, chaining passives… yeah! It was a total blast to work in this space.
Yeah it’ll be on Gamepass but I’ll be playing it on Steam… It’s pretty damn good on the Deck.
After a rest I’ll get back on some Auto Fire and other fun stuff.
About a year ago, I pitched in on a Kickstarter that was near and dear to my heart… the reprint of a vast library of early-80’s games from Steve Jackson Games. Many of these games came in a specially designed “pocket box” that was more durable than a ziplock bag and were the perfect size to fit on paperback book racks in stores.
These little guys held the first copies I owned of Car Wars and its supplements as well as other titles like Ogre. The manuals were small, and inside were super-folded maps as well as thin sheets of game counters that you cut out yourself. Perhaps these weren’t the honkin’ miniature-heavy boxes you see nowadays, but it was amazing how 5 bucks could buy you in to a whole world back then.
So today a big ‘ol box showed up. It was bigger than I thought it would be, although I did recall pledging the mammoth $200 “Car Wars and seven more games” package as a tip of the hat for everything SJG gave me in 1983. While I bought nearly everything from the Car Wars line back in the day, a number of cross-country moves separated me from my collection, and only a precious few pieces remained… This was a chance to get them back into my grubby little hands.
The first thing that struck me when taking the first of the contents out was how chunky big these new pocket boxes are. They were streamlined to remove the now-unneeded clasps and hooks, but they’re also a lot thicker.
The first set is the classic boxes of Illuminati, along with some Illum-themed folders as a bonus. We’ve got Illuminati Deluxe, but it’s great to have the real deal.
Ogre and its sequels/spinoffs/addons! Yes! What classics, and I’d always wanted a copy of Battlesuit in particular. I love these folders as well.
I’ve certainly never owned a copy of Undead or Kung Fu 2100, and it’s been soooooo long since I’ve played Awful Green Things (I think literally since it debuted in Dragon Magazine?). These are some awesome treasures.
Finally get to compare a new Pocket Box with the old. I put an original copy of Ogre against the new one… It appears about double thickness.
Now I should say that all those other SJ games were great, but I was eager to hit the star attraction and crack open the vaults of Car Wars loot. Look at the size of these crates!
Opening box #1… With Convoy peeking out at me like a long-absent friend.
And so it begins… Car Wars, Truck Stop, a couple expansion sets, the arena book, Convoy, GURPS Autoduel and a spare pocket box to put the expansions in. It starts strong!
I’m so glad to have a printed copy of this version of GURPS Autoduel. I have no problem with Darryl Elliott’s cover for the 2nd edition, but Denis Loubet’s original cover is my absolute favorite Car Wars illustration ever.
Convoy was one of the best supplements, as sort of choose-your-own adventure with Car Wars battles along the way. Whenever I wanted to immerse myself in that world or think about Auto Fire, I’d page through a bit of this guy. The book was one of the hardest losses from the move (or whenever it disappeared), and the PDF was I think my very first purchase from Warehouse 23.
I cracked open the bonus pocket box for the first time and it feels nice and solid. Feels similar to a slightly-undersized clamshell VHS case (for those that know what those feel like).
Once again, comparing old (right) versus new (left).
Comparing the old with the new here (new on top), the inside was lovingly recreated with all the usual inserts, with some bonus surprises including a set of two d6’s (which conveniently fit in the larger boxes!).
The new edition (right) is pretty much a direct scan of the original books (aside from a small note in the header), so this is as close to 1983 as you can get. This does mean you should expect whatever typos and game-balance quirks existed at the time.
My old copy (left) has a promo for Sunday Drivers for $5, while this reprint advertises Crash City (Sunday Drivers’ revised name) for a slightly higher price. The reprint also promotes Car Wars Deluxe, which was released closer to the mid-80’s. Not sure of the exact year of each.
These tiny little bonus notebooks they tucked into each pocket box are delightful.
Keeping with absolute authenticity, there are uncut counter sheets included as the originals had, but there are also die-cut versions of every counter so you don’t have to crack out the scissors.
The die-cut counters have a bit of extra thickness to them, which is great: The original 1/2″ x 1/4″ counters in particular were so thin and light that they were very hard to handle, and don’t you dare sneeze…
Moving on to treasure trove #2!
Two more expansion sets, Crash City, an Autoduel Quarterly collection and one of the Uncle Albert’s Catalogs, along with Zombietown and another bonus pocket box. Zombietown USA for GURPS Autoduel is one I’ve never owned and am eager to dig into.
Opening Box #3!
There’s some beefy stuff in here: Autoduel Champions(!), Chopper Challenge, the vehicle counter expansion set, another Uncle Al’s, and the AADA Vehicle Guide. A couple bonus pocket boxes and two folders are also tucked in here…
This book is iconic to me, and I’m super-glad they reprinted it with the foil cover… It’s so pristine it feels locked in time. (The AADA stands for the American Autoduel Association, natch).
The vehicle counter expansion set is chock full of game pieces for all the vehicles in the AADA guide above. They’re double-sided so you can flip them when destroyed. You can see from comparing the cut-out to the die-cut sheets that it wasn’t just a quick job to transfer them, they had to completely revise the layout to switch over.
Comparing new with the old again… Autoduel Champions was a crazy supplement that added Champions-style superheroes to the game, although more importantly it was the only way to get helicopter rules at the time. Notably, it also served as a Champions supplement, providing autoduelling rules for that game. I had completely forgotten that it included giant vehicle and helicopter counters for play to match the larger Champions scale.
While I loved all the color cover art, this piece by George “Speed” Webber was my favorite piece of interior art (Sorry Denis!). When I was a kid I must have recreated this drawing half a dozen times in varying media including pixel-plotting on my Apple II plus.
Finally to bundle #4!
Good ol’ Off Uncle Al’s maks a couple more appearances (so great to have all four together again!), another arena map expansion as well as the offroad duelling supplement. One of those cool bonus folders along with one last pocket box fill the gaps, and finally a copy of Boat Wars! That’s one of the few supplements I never owned, should be fun to check out.
The off-road expansion was lovingly crafted, with those cool trike counters and one of the very few color maps they printed. I also loved getting full-sized expansions because the maps didn’t have to be folded a dozen times over!
Looking back on all the Car Wars loot, I feel it’s money well-spent.
And with all those other games I think it might have been an alright deal for $200 even back in the 80’s… The platypus seems to agree.
One last peek at the rad little notebooks from the Car Wars packages…
…and a look at the bonus pocket boxes once I got stickers on them to hold my expansions. The stickers were extremely hard to peel from their backing, but I got them on okay. The stickers are a bit narrower than the boxes themselves, however, so I can’t say they’re particularly centered.
Anyway, feels good man. My collection is finally back to beefy.
E3 has hit once again and with it we’re seeing a new raft of games punctuated by the return of a favorite series of mine: God of War. Â But wait I’m sensing a trend over the past few years in game controls and setting:
So I love free-roaming adventure and I’m a fan of over-the-shoulder third person controls. Â I’m also unbelievably thrilled that lush landscapes are possible in modern games and that we are past our “green and brown” stage. Vegetation punctuated by ruined structures can be endlessly fascinating to explore.
However, the first three God of War games were pretty rad in their settings and control scheme. Â I’m sure I will play theÂ hell out of the new one. Â But I do like it when not everyÂ game evokes Sky-Zero-Charted-Cry-Raider when it comes time to make another one.
As I mentioned last time, I’ve been delving back into the first Everquest after a hiatus of six years.Â So far I’m at Level 12 and reliving some good times in Befallen.Â As I said, there’s something fun and intense about the experience that I haven’t felt in the long line of succeeding MMO’s.
Certainly one element about it is the sense of danger that exists.Â From corpse runs to trains there certainly are a lot of things that keep players on their toes.Â Combats were risky…Â a few bad misses or fizzled spells and that blue mob suddenly had the upper hand and you were fighting for your life.Â Players are flush with stories of how they overcame adversity, or had victory snatched from their hands at the last minute.
So it’s interesting to consider for a moment the fact that all the “problems” that each successor, from Camelot to WOW, have tried to fix were indeed features that made EQ fairly dynamic and more importantlyÂ unique.
Consider zone camping.Â Due to technology limitations that were less stringent in WOW and DAOC, Everquest was broken into zones or sub-levels that created hard boundaries that initiated a level load for the player…Â and of course monsters could not cross.Â As such, a common practice was for players to use the zone edge as a safe zone (even if they were deep in a hostile area) because they could exit the level at the first sign of trouble.
This tactic came hand-in-hand with the risks of monster trains, which resulted from the fact that Everquest monsters were vindictive and followed you almost forever once you damaged them.Â What’s more, if they happened to pass by another idle monster, that creature would likely join in on the chase.Â This resulted in dungeons sometimes being the scene of ridiculous parades of hostile creatures, all chasing a single player balls-out (see inset).Â Once a train started, a party had almost no choice but to evacuate to the zone, which of course led all those mobs to the happy zone campers sitting to gain back their health… you canÂ imagine theÂ carnage that erupted.
Zone boundaries (and hence zone camping) were eliminated through the introduction of continuously-streaming levels in games like WOW.Â The removal of barriers like this made it also necessary for the monsters to give up any chase for a short distance, more or less stamping out trains…Â This is not only because it would be ridiculous for a snow creature to be led all the way to a desert town, but because streaming levels have very stringent rules about the graphic and sound assets loaded for each area, and hence a wolf needs to stay within its expected habitat.Â (This is the biggest challenge for us when dealing with open world mechanics of This is Vegas.)
While gamers generally shouted “Hooray!” at the demise of these odd mechanics, ironically these were the same players that were carefully planning around zones and trains…Â In the Everquest community, it quickly evolved from capitalizing on quirks of the systems to legitimate tactics.Â And these tactics were just as interesting as the “mez/root/tank/heal” manuevers that had developed over EQ’s combat.Â They provided an additional layer of experience between “per combat” and “per session” that might be called “per expedition”.
So am I saying that players were having fun and just didn’t realize it?Â Well, sort of.Â I’ve held for a long time that gamers don’t always understandÂ what makes a game fun, and that penalties, inconveniences and grinds are often a close companion to reward (as opposed to creating a “win game” button).Â However, in this case, gamers were complaining more about chaos and unpredictability than against the situation itself.Â They just never knew when a train might come in from some other player and ruin their evening.Â
Nothing is more frustrating than to spend an evening and not make progress (this was one of my biggest pet peeves about Everquest back in the day), and many players had successful sessions punctuated by devastatingly frustrating sessions.Â No doubt, they always remembered the worst ones.Â These gamers wanted a more predictable and efficient way of exchanging time for advancement, and they always seek out the easiest path to do so.Â
In EQ they found areas where they could spawn camp with the easiest XP and loot.Â They located the areas with the biggest reward for the lowest risk.Â And when new games came out like Camelot and WOW where these aspects were more predictable, they rejoiced and jumped ship.Â They moved to experiences where each encounter was more predictable, where nothing ever went really, really wrong.Â They played in games where they could maintain a basic strategy and always end up on top.
Ironically, what they moved towards is al almost perfect definition of a grind.
This weekend I spent some time at the World Cyber Games at the Qwest Field Event Center. I was manning a booth for Surreal, as part of an special section of the event hosted by local game school Digipen. They were holding a series of presentations, most notably a Symposium for Women in Gaming that included our own Brigitte Samson, who gave a presentation on the growing role of the technical artist in game development. There were booths from other local developers there too, so it was great to get a chance to talk to folks from Zombie, Flying Lab, Monolith and Valve while at the show.
The booth, which we had to whip together sort of last-minute, was purposed as somewhere between education and recruiting. Unfortunately we didn’t have an announced title to talk about or show, so the theme of our booth was more about Midway overall than specifically about the Surreal studio. Luckily, we had some nice materials from Blacksite and Stranglehold… and since we share technology and even assets with those groups (our kick-ass artists and FX group have contributed some great work on those games as well), we consider them to all be part of the same family, so it was cool to represent our peeps nonetheless.
Anyway, this since this was the World Cyber Games, there were of course matches going on all day, so while I was mainly walking around to check out some of the playable games on the floor, I couldn’t help but get a big dose of the craziness that is competitive gaming.
There was a huge screen at one end of the hall, with good-sized audience sitting and watching these matches over the course of the multi-day event. It wasn’t a sold-out standing-room-only type of event, but it was fairly lively. These contests had the trappings of a full-fledged championship-level event, the competitors sitting in soundproof booths, the announcers introducing contestants and calling out the events onscreen…
Honestly, the idea of watching a bunch of people I don’t know play Starcraft really had no appeal to me, so I focused my attention on the kiosks for Left 4 Dead and Crysis. However, while I was waiting for a chance to play, I couldn’t help but catch a dose of what was going on in the competition… and as the announcer excitedly described one competitor’s gutsy push through the enemy’s defensive line, I got a bit hooked.
I’ve always felt that the attempts to legitimize gaming as a “sport” (no doubt to be spoken in the same breath as baseball and football) was something of a joke, much as I wished otherwise… The “gaming pros” are hard to give the same level of respect for people who play videogames as we do sports athletes who achieve so much physically… (C’mon, who can you name besides maybe Thresh? I’ll give you a hint). That’s too bad, because for an pastime that still evoked images of closeted nerds, hyperactive 14-year-olds and bong-hitting college students, we could still use some heroes with more mainstream appeal (like a certain Dallas developer achieved a bit of 10 years ago).
Back at Raven I worked on a lot of games that supported online multiplayer, and during the development of every one I got calls from people who hoped to turn online matches into a spectator sport… but nothing ever really happened. One problem is that these guys were always starting with a game in development and asking for support (such as special camera controls) so that it would be “broadcast-worthy” (a tall order for a dev team working to hit a deadline). What they thought they could do is create the competition and the people would come regardless of the featured game… but the audience didn’t bite.
People want to watch games that they play themselves, or at least games they appreciate and understand. The problem with most online games is that there never are enough players to build a critical mass of people that are familiar enough to understand the strategy and drama behind it. Even fairly successful games like Battlefield 1942 are not as widely-played as something like Starcraft. It seems like every PC gamer on the planet has tried it… While it’s ten years old, it’s certain to be a standby (although perhaps replaced by Starcraft 2) for many years to come. You’d think that the games would update with the times, but you certainly don’t expect football to (significantly) change its ruleset every year the way gamers chew through new titles.
Maybe breakthrough titles like Halo could carry a similar audience, but there are few games out there that can. One thing that might increase the level of competition and get widely-publicized competitions some momentum is the evolution in shooters that we are seeing lately… With competitive games like Call of Duty 4 and Team Fortress 2 evolving to create meta-game elements like rankings, statistics, achievements and character-building, these games are going to be more competitive than ever. A player’s handle will be more than what he logs in as, it will be something that has an identity, complete with bragging rights. The top players will get more exposure as rankings become more prominently featured in these titles. Reputation and glory will become a major factor…
God knows that Korea is ten steps ahead of the rest of us. When the top Korean players appeared during WCG, those guys were rock stars! Perhaps it’s harder to find a charismatic gamer who measures up to a charming athlete, but somewhere down the line, competitive gaming will become accepted by the mainstream, and the industry will get those heroes that they are looking for.
`Things have been really crazy lately at Surreal, but in spare moments I’ve been thinking about Rick’s manifesto on Japanese games and what it means to me. Certainly a great deal of the debate is personal taste… The cultural differences in the east that gain us interesting premises and memorable characters also net us irritatingly angst-ridden heroes, preachy monologues, immersion-breaking cutesy sidekicks, and existential, introspective endings. I had a similarly inspired discussion this week with some of the guys on the virtues of stealth games. Some love them, some hate them.
Somewhat coincidentally, I’ve been immersing myself in the work of three different continents lately: Bioshock, Overlord and Persona 3. While perhaps they are not completely iconic of the values of their respective region-coding, they certainly reminded me of some of the cultural differences Iâ€™ve seen in their products over the years. Here are some broad, possibly unfair generalizations on the qualities of Japanese and American games:
Japanese games tend to mix up settings, so that fantasy is often mixed with sci-fi, psionics, westerns, or whatever. The setting and content often just serve the game creatorâ€™s style, creating a certain type of character, or having some sort of visual impact, even if explanations are thin.
Content is experienced in a fairly linear fashion, even in open-ended RPGâ€™s. Major events are always presented in order, as there is no expectation of “the player writing their story”. The player is definitely being “spoken for” by the mostly mute main character.
Characters are strongly defined, very early in the game. Each has a distinct look and clearly identifiable motivations. Even when the game has customization of equipment, it tends to not interfere with the character’s graphic. Whether he or she is wearing a feathered cap or a robot helmet, they still appear in the stylish outfit the character designer created.
All characters, including NPCâ€™s, tend to wear their heart on their sleeves and spew forth their deepest motivations at the drop of a hat. Cute characters or awkward females are frequently included as tension-relievers.
The first hour of the game often comes near to playing itself, with an extremely tightly controlled experience. From Square RPG’s to Mario, the Japanese slowly dole out setting and mechanics, even if it takes several hours.
Gameplay tends to be compartmentalized into smaller game areas in the interest of a simpler interface and smooth visuals. Interfaces vary depending on the game mode, with no fear of menus, overmaps, or stopping the action to allow the player to focus on a single decision.
Japan has an element of “fantasy” in most games. Suspension of disbelief is not a concern with unusual additions to a fiction. The visual and stylistic impact on these choices seems to take precedent over world consistency. Japanese donâ€™t seem to expend much energy on explaining why the world is normal except for one weird element, or why one member of the party is a giant anteater, and the audience just lets it roll over them.
The locations in Japanese games are varied, but very often involve abstract interpretations of public spaces. A busy downtown street will be depicted even if the engine canâ€™t support more than 5 NPCâ€™s to occupy it and the camera must be kept top-down to avoid looking at the horizon. This is sufficient, however, to the gamer.
While they may seem to defy typical American genres, Japanese games have their own that get followed with some fairly specific guidelines as well: Turn-based RPG, Action RPG, card battle, screen-based sim (from horse racing to dating), turn-based strategy, and so on.
Americans tend to expect more of a consistent feel from their settings, with fantasy, western, or modern day delivered with certain expectations. When settings are mixed, there tends to be more energy spent explaining why when the Japanese seem to accept each new world.
Player choice is a highly valued in American games, even if it isnâ€™t delivered all the time. The playerâ€™s ability to take an environment and solve it the way he wants to is very important to the public. This usually puts an emphasis on gameplay or mechanics, but this choice is often to the detriment of storytelling.
U.S. games tend to take characters to the extremesâ€¦ Either the game is about the main character, which forms the nucleus of a gameâ€™s style, such as God of War, or the character is pushed into the background, making the environment or the gameplay the “main character”, such as in Bioshock or Half-Life. Character customization is valued so the player can be anyone, which detracts from visual design as well as strong player motivations as portrayed in cutscenes.
The first hour of an American game is focused on “netting the player”, with awareness that the audience may have several games vying for his attention. A great deal of choice and ability is thrown at the player in short fashion to make sure that they understand everything the game is about quickly.
First-person perspective is also highly valued in American games. These titles universally push the main character into the background, allowing the player to be that individual.
American games are strongly focused on presenting a continuous experience for the player, with few menus or load times, and game controls and interface that must serve combat as well as during exploration. Menus are kept to a minimum, and real-time battles are always expected in the game world, leading to a more complicated control scheme. Online is also a strong virtue, which almost requires a continuous experience to be functional.
Settings in American games also are frequently pushed to areas that the designer can control without protest from the player. A dense city for example is often avoided because they are hard to deliver without the compartmentalizing practices of Japanese games. This can lead to more freely explorable games with a far lower visual fidelity, such as Grand Theft Auto III.
Ironically, however, Americans are influenced by mass media to be more attracted to “realistic” settings and subject matter. Film and TV fall into modern settings even when they explore the fantastic, from Quantum Leap to Bruce Almighty) Unfortunately, while theses settings make it easier for filming TV and movies, they are harder for U.S. gamemakers to place continuous experiences in (in a way that satisfies designers and audiences). Americans are much less interested in suspension of disbelief.
American games tend to more readily associate “settings” with “genre” than the Japanese. A fantasy game often has a certain set of gameplay expectations, as does a modern military or crime game.
Action in American games almost universally means combat because they are astronomically easier to put into real-time continuous experiences. And since there is so much pressure to set games in the modern day, the conversation usually turns to guns, because Americans canâ€™t imagine a society that guns are not a part of.
Iâ€™m not here to simply rebut Rick and say that Western games are superior (maybe someone else willÂ do that!). One common point of contention between those that enjoy Japanese games versus American ones is how stories are told. Japanese games get all that character data out to the audience quickly, and get right to the drama between them. The dialogue will often include long drawn out exposition on a given characterâ€™s motives, and generally those motives are not too deep. American developers are influenced by western cinema that places artistic value on subtlety, slow tension-building and multi-layered character depth. Sadly enough, these techniques are hostile to the average game-player’s patterns… Delivering a punchline to a joke that was set up only ten minutes of cinema-time doesn’t take into the account the chance that the player quit, saved, and waited for two weeks before picking up the game again. The player might miss the several subtle cues that told us that the main character is already dead, or whatever. Sometimes it’s frustrating enough during the development process that many developers either cut all the interesting side-plots before ship, or just fall back on summer blockbuster conventions, which leads to more guns and explosions.
As I touched upon in my post on Children of Men, brisk, bold, simple storytelling is probably the best thing for games. For all the posturing and monologues seen in Japanese games, they are getting the information out to the player and reinforcing it multiple times. The player will certainly remember Cloud and Dante more than Garrett or even Gordon Freeman. Ironically, when an American game guns for a memorable character like Kratos in God of War, the game ends up being more linear, with a clear character who is not bashful about his motivesâ€¦ In other words, it creates an experience like the Japanese have been doing for years.
[Ed: Check out Rick’s series of posts here and here.]
At E3 2006 I was surprised by a game that came out of the blue and had interesting, exciting combat, a very cinematic style and a cool-looking character. On the show floor I played through the arena they showed twice, despite the lines and all the other things there were to see. It was Heavenly Sword, and it was the reason I finally broke down and bought a PS3.
I had a brief moment of doubt when the demo came out and I didn’t have as much fun as I did at E3… it seemed to be missing a sense of context, and the frame rate seemed worse. Nonetheless, since I had owned a PS3 for two months and still had no games, I bought it this weekend and cracked it out on Sunday.
I love it. Screw the people that gave it weak reviews. It’s got:
Dazzling visuals: The game is beautiful from the character to the carnage, and never really breaks the polish.
Great storytelling: Sure, itâ€™s a beat-em-up, but the story is simple but compelling, and contains some awesome moments.
Incredible Audio: The voice acting is top-notch, and when I reached one of the bosses and heard her lilting pizzicato theme song, I realized that there was something really inspired going on.
Memorable characters: Like a cast from Metal Gear Solid, the villains are over-the-top and tinged with humor. And Kai one of the most enjoyable characters I’ve seen in a game.
Entertaining combat: The combat makes a button-masher look cool doing it, but also has some fine tactical decision-making. However, success does not hinge on memorization of crazy move strings… the actions and responses logically fit into the system of blocking and stances.
Mass destruction: Anyone that knows me understands how I love Dynasty Warriors and being able to take down thousands. Part of that is the mild strategic decision-making, but the rest is being able to wade into a huge group and mix it up. Heavenly Sword is all about mass carnage, and the ability to ultimately litter the battlefield with corpses.
â€œAftertouchâ€ ranged attacks: Holding the â€œthrowâ€ button after hurling or shooting an object allows you to steer it with the tilt axis, and it works surprisingly well (although it makes it hard as hell to have a cat on your lap as you play). It never gets old, and is a blast.
Six hours of gameplay you say? Well, I’ve never been one to shy away from a great experience becauseofplaytime.
It’s clear that Sony put a tremendous amount of money behind this game. Often such flagrant spectacle can be wasted, but all the production values and great voice acting took a very high-quality brawler and turned it into a fantastic package to own. I’m glad my PS3 is finally getting a workout.
I hit PAX on Friday and Saturday, so I should post my notes before they become irrelevant…Â Â It was my first PAX, although I’ve been to many similar con-type events in the past.
With its unabashed â€œnerdcoreâ€ attendee list, PAX is better described as a mini-GenCon than a mini-E3. They have an impressive size for being a fairly young show, but it still is very much centered around fandom of the Penny Arcade comic. The sessions with the authors and on the PA game were some of the hottest tickets, as opposed to other sessions talking about more â€œseriousâ€ topics of development.Â Not surprising, it’s not supposed to be a GDC or anything, despite heady topics about PR and episodic content.
On the upside, it actually had a fairly impressive turnout of games in playable form, including many that I hadnâ€™t seen before in any form. I assume that falling at the same time as Leipzig gave the publishers some ready-made material to show.
Aside from what I mention below, there was a great spread of playable games:Â Haze, Eye of Judgment, Metroid Prime 2, Conan (console), Heavenly Sword (a new demo), Warhammer Online, a big Americaâ€™s Army thing, and several dozen more Iâ€™m not thinking of here.
Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony and EA all made an appearance, which is impressive given recent news that E for All won’t have that sort of backing.
Overall PAX surprised me with an air of â€œlegitimacyâ€ as a serious show. It would take a couple more years, but if it ultimately balloons into a notable national event, itâ€™ll be cool for Seattle. Continue reading One Last PAX Experience→