On Saturday, I did a talk on Craggy Island at IGS (Indie Games Space), an event aimed at bringing aspiring developers together. The presentation was more about the design and production process than the mod itself, and then went onto talk about the difficulties I ran into and the motivation behind it all. It's only been just over a month since it was released and it's so easy to forget just how time consuming and challenging it all was. I was really pleased with how the talk went, people seemed interested at least and I only hope that I have inspired someone to go ahead and do the same. No matter how tough it was at times, I can't over-state the importance of actually seeing your work through til completion, not only as it looks good to potential employers but because of the pure self-satisfaction and sense of achievement you get from seeing your work out there, being played by hundreds, if not thousands of people.
Afterwards we picked 2 themes out of a hat, and were broken into small groups. 'Pandemic' and 'Failure' were the picks. The rest of the afternoon was spent brainstorming and working out gameplay mechanics, with the idea of developing a game over the course of a month.
My team chose 'Pandemic' and we decided that our game would be set within a red blood cell. The idea is, you control a virus with the goal of trying to break through the Nucleus and infect the Nucleolus. You must use the various parts of the cell to achieve this, with some acting as powerups, some offering protection, and others acting as enemies. One example being, that as a virus swimming around the cell, you are rather vulnerable, so your objective is to attach yourself to a Mitochondrian. You are more protected in this but you move around slower as a result. In order to penetrate the cell walls to get at the Nucleolus, you must collect enough Lysosome (ammo) and Ribosomes (fuel/power) all the while avoiding Centrosomes (enemy) and occassionaly the Gogli (tougher, boss enemy). The UI will consist of 2 simple bars which will show how much ammo and fuel you've collected and used.
|Rough Level Layout|
Onto Dragon Age 2 then.
Yesterday saw the anticipated release of a rare demo from Bioware. It was made available on PC and Xbox, with the PS3 version trailing behind by a day. What we got, was a short prologue, followed by a short quest taken from a later point in the game. What are my impressions? Read on.
|Ready to Pounce|
Awkward 'shuffle' animations are gone, so is the slower paced, unreactive combat. Press a button and something happens, immediately. This was always a gripe of mine with Origins, in that no matter how timely you were with hitting 'Shield Bash' to interrupt a spell, it always took an extra second or two to actually activate, which meant it often missed. It just feels more refined and you feel like you have more control in the battlefield.
I've played through the demo roughly 6 times now. 3 times on Xbox, 3 times on PC. Whilst I felt that the controls and interface of the Xbox version were solid and intuitive, the PC version is leaps ahead. Visually the game looks great on both platforms, but the sharper textures on PC are noticeable. DA2 supports direct x11, but only some of its features were enabled in the demo. I'm looking forward to seeing how the tessellation and soft shadows effect the overall look. It does have a very distinct art style, one which has been the subject of great discussion on various forums. I personally love it, it has more character than Origins and yet through losing marks in the 'realism' department, it certainly makes up for them in style.
The interface, I'm not sure on. It's fast and fluid to navigate through the menus and everything seems to have been streamlined, but it's lost some of its identity in the process. Gone are the rusty journals and tea-stained pages. In place, you have a sort of mix between Mass Effect-esque icons and slick Starcraft type menus. It doesn't really fit well within its setting and theme, but it's nothing that would break the game for me.
I won't talk about the dialogue, story and moral choices, because I simply skipped through all of them, as I'll leave that for release. From what I'd seen though, conversations look more natural, yet still a bit emotionless, particularly in the face, but still an improvement from Origins.
So where does that leave us.. With exciting and addictive new combat mechanics in place, it will all come down to how much variety there is. The demo was set to normal difficulty, but felt more like easy to me. I'll be playing this through on Nightmare, no doubt about it, but it was hard to get a read about how important tactics are and what sort of encounter variety will be included in the full game. I just watched a video interview with Mike Laidlaw, Design Director for DA2 and he said that it includes some truly epic encounters, some giving the feel of a WoW raid, which really lights that fire under my ass. Origins lacked these encounters. I absolutely loved the few Dragon fights that were in it and felt they really dropped the ball there.
Anyway, all signs are positive. Roll on March 11th I say. As long as they nail the story aspect and create an emotional pull, Dragon Age 2 is on course to becoming a game of the year contender.
Thats pretty much it from me, I implore you to download the demo and give it a shot. The changes have been a bit hit and miss with DA fans, so you should probably try it out to form your own impressions, if you haven't already.