Article Written by:
Aaron Holmes (OptimusSpine)
So another 3 days of the Penny Arcade Expo is over, and it’s been an incredibly exhausting weekend for gamers, and for myself! Over the course of the weekend I ran all around every floor of the convention center hitting up multiple interviews, at the very least, twenty one of them!
Probably the best part of the weekend for me was just how many games I was able to Demo over the weekend. Over 30 titles, and in numerous genre’s that I usually don’t find myself playing, as I, speaking for myself, am mostly an RPG/FPS gamer.
Now, I should mention that this is my first time writing an article that has covered an event such as PAX. So, bear with me if it doesn’t sound like I went about things the “right” way, but in the end my job is to inform you, the reader, about all the games (good and bad) that I encountered at PAX. I’ll also cover the new and exciting hardware that I checked out from companies like RAZER and Turtle Beach!
So let’s get started with the first company and its products.
Runic Games (best known for their game, Torchlight), is making a sequel to the game: Torchlight II. I spent a full 20 minutes recording one of the developers playing Torchlight II, and around 10 minutes in, I decided to hop on in and play some for myself. Now, just a bit of an embarrassing fact here, I’ve NEVER played Diablo, or the original Torchlight, so playing Torchlight II was a completely new experience for me.
The game was really easy to get into and play, just point, click, and use your skills to attack the enemies. The game had gorgeous graphics, and a new Co-Op mode which is the biggest feature for the game, and of course, the ability to continue to mod the game however you like is an option for those who enjoy modding!
Another new feature that Runic added into the game is the ability to choose your gender. Previously, in Torchlight, the ability to select your gender was dependant on the class you chose.
The final feature from Runic Games is of course on their latest and newest Class, the Embermage. Now, I didn’t get hands on experience with the new class, but I did get to ask Runic about their new class. Here’s what they had to say…
Me: What makes the class unique?
Runic: The class is the only classic magic-using caster among the others, incorporating elemental spells.
Me: What kinds of spells can the Embermage learn?
Runic: All classes can learn the same spells; skills are unique.
Me: What kind of background story (if any) does the Embermage have?
Runic: ~Runic linked me to their website for the Backstory HERE
“Ember is dangerous to the untrained hand—and deadly in mine.”
At the forefront of the Empire’s colonization of Vilderan are the Embermages—highly-trained spellcasters renowned for their skill, dedication, and arcane power. No Imperial army is complete without these fierce warrior-wizards in the vanguard.
It is widely accepted in the Empire that Embermages are a special breed, held in awe and respect for the rigorous training they undergo, and the prowess they display. Selected in early adolescence by the Ember Council, Embermages undergo extensive arcane conditioning and mystical studies, accompanied by hours of physical drills and combat exercises each and every day. They learn to work in tandem with Vanquishers, and crush the Empire’s foes with both subtle grace and overwhelming might, as the situation demands. By the time Embermages are assigned to active duty, they are accomplished wizards, formidable soldiers, and insightful strategists.
As the name suggests, Embermages study the magical mineral known as Ember, through which process they gain a better understanding of thaumaturgic principles. But, unlike the Empire’s legion of Alchemists, Embermages do not actually draw energy from Ember itself; instead, they observe its properties, and, through meditation and experimentation, learn to recreate the effects of Ember in a wide range of magical applications. In addition to unleashing blasts of high-energy fire, ice, and electricity, an Embermage develops the means to magically interfere with the laws of time and space, moving themselves—or their enemies—across short distances in the blink of an eye.
This facility with applied magic defines the Embermage’s combat role: an offensive spellcaster capable of delivering focused, precise attacks at a considerable distance, or of shifting foes violently away with short-range teleportation—usually with physically wrenching results for the targets! In battle, the Embermage wields each aspect of the Ember like a duelist wielding a blade—switching from fire to ice to lightning and back again in the span of a few heartbeats—all while disappearing from their foe’s sight and reappearing in another, more advantageous position!
The Embermages’ combination of physical and magical discipline makes them superb ranged combatants: powerful, mobile, and versatile … and, most importantly, ingenious!
Lastly, let’s talk about one major factor, especially these days… price! Torchlight II will still uphold the same price range of the original Torchlight at $19.99 (+tax), so it’s a great deal for those who can’t wait to get their hands on Torchlight II!
Next up, I interviewed with two companies in a row: Carbine Studios, and NCSoft. Carbine Studios showed off their new MMORPG Wildstar, while NCSoft showed off their newest game: Guild Wars 2.
Let’s start this portion off with Carbine Studios and their game: Wildstar.
Carbine Studios is a fairly new company made up of developers from all over the gaming industry. They have worked on such titles as: World of Warcraft, Everquest 1 & 2, Warhammer Online, City of Heroes, Free Realms, Diablo II, Starcraft, Fallout, and Metroid Prime. Carbine Studios will play their competitors games to learn from their games, and see what makes the games great, what players want.
When I played Wildstar as a Human, I watched a cinematic of my character being revived from death. My character is awakened in a crashed ship, set ablaze from what appears to be a crash into the planet. The planet’s weather is out of control, there’s a huge snowstorm going on caused by a weather tower that is currently activated, and there are monsters wandering around, attacking survivors.
Now, as to not give away too much of the game or talk too much about everything going on, let’s move on to the battle system for Wildstar. It is quite interesting and enjoyable, during fights with large monsters, a large red circle will appear around you, or an area around the creature. At this point, if you’re standing within the circle, you must quickly dodge out of the way, as this is a warning message to the player that a large, powerful attack is about to happen!
The game’s overall controls, from my experience are a bit fast and sometimes the camera ends up in a really awkward or poor position. The game, however, is still in the Beta phase, so there is plenty of time to refine the controls and camera. Wildstar is currently in the Beta phase, with no set release date at this time, but for those of you who like the idea of a Futuristic MMORPG, this is definitely worth checking out!
NCsoft, popular for many MMORPG’s, including Guild Wars, Aion, Lineage II, and City of Heroes, is currently working on their latest MMO, Guild Wars 2. Many people, including myself, are anticipating this game’s release! The game looks absolutely AMAZING and overall, very fun! I love the new addition of jumping and swimming, and the underwater battle system! Guild Wars 2, as shown to me during the Press Panel, looks and sounds 10 times better than Guild Wars 1 and its Expansions.
The environments are large, open, and very detailed! The creatures that one encounters are huge, and ferocious! The undead Dragon at the end of the Demo was amazing, and gave me chills up my spine! I can’t wait to play Guild Wars 2 and fight against such an incredible foe! Now, I had a chance to sit down and talk with NCSoft, and ask them questions about Guild Wars 2, and features that they will have, and this is what they said:
Me: Will removing the UI for screenshots still be a big feature in Guild Wars 2?
NCSoft: Yes! The ability to remove UI is actually available in our current build!
Me: I noticed that in the demo, you can’t use the camera to pan all the way into First Person View. Is this feature taken out? Or do you have plans to use it again?
NCSoft: We definitely want to bring this feature back into the game. At this time we’ve had a bit of trouble with implementing all the camera controls, but it will definitely be there upon release!
Me: You removed the Auto Attack feature from Guild Wars 2, and this was probably one of my personal favorite features from Guild Wars 1. Why did you remove it, and is there a chance you’ll bring it back?
NCSoft: We felt that it would be better to remove the Auto-Attack, and include instead a spammable spell that deals a greater amount of damage than say a Wand or a Sword alone.
Next up from my weekend of interviews is Perfect World Entertainment. At PAX, PFE had Blacklight Retribution (an MMO FPS), and Rusty Hearts (a Hack ‘n Slash MMORPG). I was given the opportunity to try out Rusty Hearts first. Now, I’m not a big MMO person, and honestly, I’ve tried WoW, and own Guild Wars, and never played any other MMO’s until PAX.
PERFECT WORLD ENTERTAINMENT
Rusty Hearts is quite the interesting MMO; it has aspects of Devil May Cry, in that getting a higher multiplier equals a higher score or grade. The game has dungeons that the player can explore either alone, or in a group, which is really nice for those, like myself, who like to go out and do as much as they can on their own, before requiring the aid of others. I really enjoyed the graphics, the combat, and the music of Rusty Hearts, and it was a really fun game! However, my one and only complaint is the control scheme that was being used at PAX. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there’s an option or a way to change the controls, but what was set up at PAX felt very inappropriate, and hard to use. The A through H keys are used for the Abilities, F1 was used as a Special Attack, and the Arrow Keys were used to navigate through the dungeons, all in side-scroller style.
I may not be one to judge controls all that often, and have never really gone past the old WASD movement system, so maybe the controls just weren’t for me, but, the game is definitely a blast and really fun, so I’d not hesitate to recommend this game for players who loved the DMC series.
Next up was Blacklight Retribution. This game combines fast-paced PVP with weapon customization, allowing you to modify your weapons on the go, and fight against a team of players whose objective is, of course, to get the highest score. I was able to check out some of the weapon customization in Blacklight Retribution, and felt it was definitely a great idea, and was implemented well.
The idea of adjusting a sniper rifle to shoot faster, or be more accurate depending on the parts used on it, is undeniably innovative, and what really makes it appealing, is that no one weapon will have a huge advantage for the players. There’s always a pro and con to modifying your weapons, so the developers definitely thought hard and well on their decision with the customization.
I definitely believe players who love customizing their weapons for the right scenario in a match against others, will LOVE playing Blacklight Retribution, and will have hours of enjoyment from this title!
Moving on through PAX, my next stop was with WoTC, and their games. Magic: The Gathering (PC Game), and Dungeons and Dragons (Neverwinter campaign).
Wizards of the Coast
Speaking with one of the Developers of WoTC, I was very intrigued by the fact that the new Magic game for PC actually helps teach players, new to the world of Magic, how exactly to play and what to do in certain situations. I was not able to play the game at the time.
I had been watching and listening to what WoTC told me about the game. They showed me the different features of their newest PC game. I can’t say too much more since I have never been a Magic:TG player but, for those who are, this game will surely be very fun for you, especially considering the ability to battle others online and gather more cards from the campaign portion of the game.
I also got to speak with another WoTC employee about their newest campaign for Dungeons and Dragons, Neverwinter campaign. I didn’t get a whole lot of information from my interview with WoTC, due to the noise level, but I took some notes specifically with regard to the questions that I asked toward the developer Kierain Chase.
Me: What can you tell me about the new City of Neverwinter campaign for D&D?Kierain: There are numerous factions coming to try to take over control of the city, it’s up to the players to protect the city. Also, the players can now have a bit of a fighting chance vs the Dungeon Master!
Me: Will you have new and exciting monsters for players to battle? How powerful will they be?
Keirain: There of course will be more monsters available for the player to fight, but our primary focus is on the new adventure! we’re aiming to keep it within the average rank between 0 – 30, although most casual players keep their games from rank 0 – 10 for ease.
Me: If someone were to come up to you and ask you how D&D worked, was played, and he wanted to learn to play the game, what advice would you give him, and what resources?
Keirain: The legend of Drizzt Board game and the Redbox Starter Kit, both available online and in stores.
Me: What kind of man power and dedication does it take to create such an incredibly successful game like D&D? How do you balance so much out for something that has been around for years, especially with new campaigns?
Keirain: Thousands of hours! The developers will often play test the game out for themselves, before allowing people to play test the game, and eventually release it. It took at least 2 years to create the Neverwinter campaign and the book!
Me: Dungeons and Dragons, as the name says, contains dungeons, and dragons. But do you have any plans or ideas for new types of dragons to be added into the game to make it more challenging and exciting?
Keirain: We have thought about this a lot, especially with how long Dungeons and Dragons has been out, but we don’t see ourselves adding to the bestiary of Dragons anytime soon.
Me: Final question: What made you decide to join WoTC and become a part of something so huge like D&D? Where did you start out? Can you suggest anything for anyone who wants to get into the industry?
Keirain: It’s been a life-long dream of mine since age 8. I became a fan of the gaming industry and started to follow the WoTC to numerous conventions and run my own events for myself and others around 4-8 years from ‘98-2007. The best advice that I can give to others, if they’re interested, is to find something that you love, that you’re good at, and go for it! A strong passion and desire to become a part of the gaming industry will help you achieve your goal!
Me: Thank you Keirain for your time and your answers!
After WoTC, I traveled the Convention Center to one of the largest booths there: Red 5 Studios and their game, Firefall!
Red 5 Studios
I’ve been hearing and seeing things for Firefall all weekend long… large statues, posters, escalator art, all advertising Firefall. So for the first time, I got the chance to actually play Firefall! For those of you familiar with Team Fortress 2, Firefall is quite similar, in that there are 3 classes: Medic, Assault, and Recon. Two teams compete to capture or defend points on the map.
Side A are the Hackers, who must hack 3 computer terminals. A successful hack takes 30 seconds, which gives Side B, the Defenders, an alert to come eliminate the threat, and protect the computers. If a computer is successfully hacked, it cannot be recaptured, giving an advantage to Side A and a disadvantage to Side B.
The game is definitely very fast paced and full of action. What I liked about Firefall is that you can switch up your class at anytime in the base where you spawn, so if you feel another medic is required, you can go ahead, make a quick change, and give your team the support they need to continue to either defend or hack!
Firefall is currently in the Closed Beta, and is set to be a Free MMOFPS. I definitely recommend this for fans of Team Fortress 2, and for fans of fast-paced action set in the future!
Moving on, I headed for Certain Affinity, who is working closely with Microsoft Game Studios on their game, Crimson Alliance.
Crimson Alliance is a new Xbox Live Arcade game made for the Xbox 360 and is available NOW!
Crimson Alliance is a 4-player action RPG with 3 different classes. It was also announced, not too long ago, that the 3rd and last class is Moonshade the Assassin. Crimson Alliance can be played single player, but it becomes much more fun and enjoyable with additional players helping to support and deal out extra damage to the enemies. I played at least a couple levels with one of the developers watching nearby. It was really a fun game, and the controls were easy to learn and master. The game, available for $10.00, is at least worth checking out, if not purchasing, to start playing the full game!
Lastly, at the end of my first day, Friday the 26th of August, I concluded with one last interview, with Night Owl Games and their Facebook game; Dungeon Overlord.
Night Owl Games
Dungeon Overlord, while it may be another Facebook game, is actually quite an entertaining and innovative new game. Players who start up the game anew, are given a grace period of a few levels to create their own dungeon, traps, and an army, before players from around the world begin sneaking into their dungeon(s). The player will have the option to fight against other players, and of course NPC’s. NPC’s, such as the Elves, are fought above ground for their resources, but BE CAREFUL! Attacking the Elves too much will force them to call upon their allies to retaliate against you. If you’re not prepared, you will have a very rough start to the game, especially once you hit higher levels and can be attacked by other players.
Dungeon Overlord really brings strategy into gameplay and makes the player think cautiously how to set up before they start attacking NPC’s and other Players. This unique game method is fun, innovative, and enjoyable for many, especially those who play Facebook games with their friends! You can become valuable allies with them, or be betrayed by those you think you know! So be careful about who you befriend and allow access to your dungeon!
Dungeon Overlord has entered a new Beta phase with LOTS of new features, so be sure to check it out now, and begin creating your army to crush your foes!
This is the end of Day 1 of the Penny Arcade Expo 2011 for Friday, August 26th. There are still many more games and companies coming your way, all with my own personal views and opinions about them. I will always suggest that you, Reader, try these games out for yourself, and not rely on my word alone. The best way to know how much you like a game is to actually try it out!
I will continue writing this article until all 3 days have been as fully covered as possible, so that you, Reader, will have a much broader sense of openness to new games, new features, and new companies!
Enjoy well, gamers!