Our adventures at PAX East 2012 continue. Here are some of the titles I visited on the expo floor. Note that these are not listed in any meaningful order. (Mostly they’re listed in the order of the business cards and handouts I’ve got got stacked beside me.)
Sibord x Siborceru
Wait a second… according to the website this thing is called “Sword & Sworcery”? Okay then. I guess there’s no accounting for elaborately over-designed fonts.
The most interesting thing about this game is the conversation I had with the presenter, who is credited with concept, art, writing, co-lead design & direction for the game. (Ha! On a AAA title that would be like, fifty people.) I used the word “retro” to describe the graphics, and he challenged me, “Is it really retro?”
An interesting question. Yes, the design style is built around massive, massive pixels, but there’s not much “retro” about the game otherwise. It has particle effects, alpha blending, reflections, smooth scrolling, and a deep color palette. A single screenshot of the game looks strangely familiar as a type of pixel art we haven’t seen in a quarter century, but it’s not really like those old games in gameplay or presentation.
I’m sure nearly everyone is familiar with Starry Night:
If I rounded up the old-school painting supplies that Vince used in 1888 and used them to paint (say) a bit of pop-culture ephemera:
Is this really retro? Is it modern? Ironic? I dunno. It depends if you’re talking about the tools, the medium, the subject matter, or the final product. We can haggle over what is “new” and “old” all day, but the point is: This visual look wasn’t possible back in the 80’s when pixels were this big.
This game has its own ideas about style and presentation. It reminds me of the feeling I had when I played Another World for the first time and I couldn’t figure out if the visuals were old or cutting-edge. It seems to transcend the normal distinctions we make about the “tech level” of a game.
It’s described in terms of being an “adventure” game, but I’m pretty sure that’s a loose description. I don’t think it has the sort of inventory puzzles where you have to use the acorn on the hobo so he’ll give you the key to the trombone case where you can get the crowbar that you can use to break into the gas station so you can water the ficus plant so that why the hell am I still playing this game? This is more of an environmental exploration and experimentation sort of deal.
Sword & Sworcery is available now on various mobile devices, but you mobile-type people would know more about that than I do. For those of us in the PC realm, the game is slated for an April 16th release date. (Steam.)
For the second year in a row, I couldn’t play this game because I couldn’t get anywhere near the damn thing. Every time I elbowed my way over to Monaco there were four people playing, without any indication of how long their turn was, or if there was any sort of formal turn system at all. Behind them were usually four more people, who were ready to pounce on the game if the first four ever relented, and kept themselves busy in the interim by making sure their heads remained between the screen and my eyes at all times.
It’s a 4-player co-op game about pulling off heists. It has one of my all-time favorite game mechanics, which is line-of-sight based perception. This always drives home just how much you can’t see, which is good for building tension. However, I don’t know for sure. I still haven’t played it. The best I can say about Monaco is that other people seem to really, really love it.
Borderlands 2 was the darling of the show. The line for Borderlands 2 was so long that there was a line off to one side of people waiting to get into the main line. THAT line filled up the available space, and so then there were people sitting at tables who were waiting for space to open up in the secondary line area so they could get into the line to wait in line. It was madness. I think it was upwards of two hours to get to play the game for ten minutes. The line for Borderlands easily dwarfed the line for every other game, including Spec Ops: The Line, ironically enough.
|Spec Ops: The Line: The Line.|
I didn’t get around to playing Borderlands 2. The massive line was off-putting, and the demo machines were consoles. This was understandable, but it would have been more frustrating than fun to try and figure out how to play the game with a dual shock style controller. See, I have just shy of 300 hours clocked on Borderlands for the PC, and those hours of muscle memory would have been working against me while using thumbsticks.
Also, this is Borderlands 2 we’re talking about. It’s pretty much like the original Borderlands, only moreso. I didn’t think it was worth waiting for two hours to play a familiar game on a foreign controller.
On Sunday there was a panel for Gearbox software, and I had planned to get my Borderlands 2 fix there. For most panels, you get in line a half hour before it starts. I arrived an hour early, just to make sure. When I got there, the place was already at 100% capacity, and had been so for a long time.
The only thing I really cared about was, “Is the PC version going to have proper multiplayer, or are you going to outsource it to the horribly broken, sad, frustrating, dated, annoying, clumsy, and feature-poor Gamespy again?” I’m pretty sure I know the answer to that one, but I’d love to be proven wrong. Maybe I can send the devs some links to the various free networking solutions available on Sourceforge. There’s just no reason that PC multiplayer games should work better in 1997 than in 2012. Ludicrous.
Still, Borderlands 2 was the belle of the ball, and I know I’ll end up tolerating that ridiculous Gamespy nonsense just like everyone else.
Which I suppose makes me part of the problem.
Also, the Cookie Brigade is a group of people who go around the show floor, giving away cookies. You can donate if you like, and all the proceeds go to charity. Here are Josh and I with a member of the cookie brigade: