HeroCast at PAX East 2011: Day Two
Day Two Like the dead, we rise from our resting areas and proceed to get my life blood, coffee. Hotel brand is not as good as Dunkin Donuts but it will do in a pinch. Taking what we learned from day one, we knew where everything was to make our appointments easier. Since we have seen pretty much the whole floor, utilizing the the time before each of our meetings to collect our thoughts and prepare in the media room became essential. Really small media room as well as scarce amounts of outlets stared back at us, however. Why can't media get a bigger room?
Our first meeting of the day was with Square Enix for Dungeon Siege 3. Weird start to the meeting. First, we couldn't find anyone at the Alienware booth to help us find where Square Enix was posted up. Finally being able to get a sliver of a cell signal to send an email to Elizabeth Stewart, the Square Enix rep we made an appointment with, we managed to stumble into our first appointment. Elizabeth was very sweet and introduced us to Nathan Davis, Associate Producer of Obsidian Entertainment, which is the development team putting their spin on the Dungeon Siege series. Kimerex jumped in and asked... *generic vinyl record scratch sound* I guess I'll (Kimerex) take it from here. Its always been a thing with us on the Herocast to try and grab for a "this is what we were going for" idea from some one on the dev team. This. PAX East. This convention. This was the first time we could physically hold some one accountable for giving us this info. First I should bring this up : We are new to all of this. The most face time I've spent with a game company was having a rep from Big Huge Games talk to my class at college about how they do business. Had my own issues with that, but moving on. At PAX East we found ourselves in a blend of PRs and devs melding in a single space. At the time we were still tweaking the entire concept of how to be viewed more as friends to the human side of the industry rather than vultures seeking the next big breaking story. Still a work in progress. For this though, we stumbled around a bit until I walked into the comparative idea on the grand "What?". He told us they were shooting for an easy to pick up action driven fantasy game. Recalling action games of my past a few ideas stood out for the genre. Customization and story.
With that I sat down and, dawning my headset-for-normal-head-size-people, I hoped that Andyb0y was actually figuring out the "we're your friends" concept of interviewing. What I played was fine. I will say this right now. Not my game. Not the game I remembered. Not an action RPG that I feel truly connected to... so far. This is a hands on demo, and it held the marks of a game that is a current working product model. Difficulty arc residing in damage increase. Characters are very individual and, in a sense, not overly customizable. This, for me, puts more emphasis on the story. Again, this is a demo and it certainly had a good foundation for creating a well thought out narrative, and honestly say what you will about Obsidian and Alpha Protocol, the narrative was still good. There are hints of that same feel here in Dungeon Siege III as well. Though I feel I will miss my heavy plate armor, crossbow wielding necromancer, shattering the mold with every arrow fired, I feel that as an RPG, DS3 should not be directly compared to the former titans of the iso-action genre. As with how Might & Magic has taken a different path with many of its titles, I feel that by handing off the Dungeon Siege title, Gas Powered Games has allowed Obsidian to chip away at the ties holding the title to the standard isometric view game.
It would be interesting in the future to see the fps Dungeon Siege (Dark Messiah shout out). While I took all this in Andyb0y was talking with our currently favorite dev from PAX East, and he probably has something to say that I only got a glimpse of after words. So with that I return you to your regularly scheduled program. *music from record resumes* Ahem...thank you Kimerex. As he was off playing the demo, I was actually doing some work, hehe... work. When starting up the Dungeon Siege 3 demo, Kimerex went to Hardcore Mode and immediately Nathan was floored by the bold choice. I mostly discussed how I loved how good the story in Alpha Protocol was hoping for the same treatment of the story in DS3. I also had to mention that I bought the game at full price and not when it went on sale for cheap on Steam recently and again Nathan was happy for that. Support the games you love people. Anyways, I noticed the demo stations set up were using Xbox 360 controllers and proceeded to ask Nathan how Obsidian was handling the control aspect of the game. Where they going to focus equally on controllers and the traditional mouse and keyboard? Nathan assured me that keyboard and mouse is the forefront for controls but controllers will not be just thrown in haphazardly.
At this point I tried to get away from the standard questions people usually ask developers at these events. I ask Nathan if he could tell me a story about anything crazy or just something that no one would really know as long as it didn't get him in trouble. After thinking really hard (must have been a good question to ask) Nathan gave me something I thought was pretty cool. It's not an amazing story about how someone came to work drunk screaming "DUDE'S! I HAVE A GREAT IDEA!" and then proceed to tell a messed up dream he had. This was more of a look into what developers deal with. Nathan went into the story of how when most companies show off a demo of work in progress, they have to "thread the needle", meaning that the developer showing off the demo has to make sure to avoid certain bugs that are not quite tweaked out of the game yet. With Dungeon Siege 3, Nathan said it just all came together for the team over at Obsidian and when time came to show off a demo to the Square Enix overlords (hehe) all he had to do was put them in front of the game and say "Here you go". Nathan and the rest of the team was confident enough to not "thread the needle". It's stories like what Nathan told me that make for a better understanding about the process of games being made then asking about the "pack mule" in DS3 (semi-inside joke. I told you, we're trying to be friendly dammit).
Since Obsidian has a history with Alpha Protocol and how Sega was so strict with the way they wanted the games direction to go, Nathan explained to me that Square Enix as well as Gas Powered Games gave Obsidian the creative freedom to take the Dungeon Siege series and put their own flavor to it. Props to Square Enix as well as Gas Powered Games for letting developers do what they do best.
After that wonderful meeting, we went to write notes down so we wouldn't forget all the amazing information we got from it. Once we downloaded our brains, it was time to relax and hydrate, since that is important at any convention you might find yourself at. Our next meeting wasn't until 3pm so we had an hour to relax in the food court. As time grew near, we made our way towards the Bethesda booth for a hands on look at one of Kimerex's most anticipated games of this year, Brink. We again had to find someone to help us out. I understand every booth is trying their hardest to keep everyone happy but it's a little frustrating to come to an appointment and not find the person you need. Kimerex...it's your turn friend. GO GO GO!
Ho-kay. Soh. Splash Damage. These are my FPS gods. To me they stand as the definition for a proper understanding of how an objective driven multiplayer experience should work. So, Brink. Not knowing about Splash Damage's plan to release such a title spurred me to break my "no major FPS purchases after Quake Wars until the next title" rule. After years with no direct news, I broke down and bought BFBC2. Over time I gave in to liking the style and gameplay of DICE's brain child, but at all times I urned for the Splash Damage touch. Ever since Wolfenstein : ET, they were my company. I played FEAR and CS and other such FPSes of the time, but thos never stacked up to the overall sense of caring about the community that came from the Enemy Territory games. Brink beyond lived up to my expectations. And the key part of this is that I didn't even get to play it on my platform of choice. PS3, and still good. And fyi, I took top spot in our grouping for the game. Day 1 purchase for me. Hands down. Thrilled to have experienced this glimpse into my future life style, I didn't mind that we scheduled playing Bethesda's Hunted right after. I can honestly say co-op action is not my game. It has its place, and I understand that. At the very least I could look for the common downfall in a co-op style game and see what Bethesda, a company that I still hold a good amount of respect for, is doing for the genre to fix it. Then to have the chance to talk to people who I consider heroes, afterwards. Fuck Disney. Give me this any day of the week.
That energy dwindled when we discovered our PR contact knew ninjitsu and managed to vanish without a trace into the shadows of PAX East. This left everyone at the booth confused as to why we were still there. Ultimate... sad...face... I will still be buying Brink. Thats just how it is, but I still wanted to give the other titles that Bethesda had on hand a fair shot. I respect them too much to have given them anything less, but time constraints kicked in while waiting for some one to talk to and it seemed as though the turbulent-historied Obsidian was going to take the "favorite people to talk to" award home from all of us here at the Herocast by default. Maybe down the line the Herocast will step up our game and make the short drive to Bethesda's HQ near us and rectify the situation. wink wink.
Thanks again Kimerex! Now with the media only event at 9am for day three as well as being worn out mentally from day two of PAX East, we decided to make one quick stop to buy some cool artwork from Udon Entertainment and I picked up my own copy of PAX East 2009 and Penny Arcade: The Series Season 1 cause I might as well support an awesome event such as PAX East so that it continues to happen year after year. So closing out day number two of our coverage of PAX East, I am looking forward to day three, for that is the day we can go not as media, but what we are....gamers.