Friday, June 18, 2010

Gamer Geek

Yes, In addition to being a writer, I'm a gamer geek. It's how I landed a Geek Consultant title on a web series about LARP, and it's why I was running a tabletop roleplaying game last night for my friends instead of watching whatever major sports game was on TV. I'm a gamer geek, and I'm proud of it!

This was a big week for my fellow gamer geeks, because it marked the 15th Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3. Yes indeed, all the major game companies (with a few exceptions) come out for E3 to show off their upcoming releases in games and gaming technology. Unfortunately, the convention is largely closed to the public, so guys like me can only get in if they somehow arrange temporary employment with one of the companies within to demo their games (like I did back in 2005). Fortunately, the press is all over this convention, and they faithfully report on the amazing announcements made within the convention halls so we can all drool in rabid anticipation of our favorite upcoming games.

I'm not going to go into detail on every little thing that was announced at E3. This isn't that kind of blog, and you can find plenty of websites that will happily note every little detail of every game revealed, with video footage of new game trailers and live game play demos. No, instead I'll be gleefully noting a handful of games that I'm looking forward to, discussed from a writer's perspective. That means the game is likely full of story - good story, at that - and not sports or random explosions. For example...

Epic Mickey: The first thing that grabs you about this game is the steampunk-ish art. Then there's the unique "combat" mechanic of using paint and paint thinner to affect the game world and the enemies within it. THEN there's the creamy center of an incredible story that brings in obscure elements of Disney's early animation and ties them together in new and interesting ways. The end result is a sort of retro feel to the game, re-imagining Mickey Mouse for a new audience who may not be familiar with his early work while remaining faithful to his origins. Do you want to play the mischievous Mickey of old who always gets into trouble? You can do that! Do you want to play the squeaky clean hero that Mickey has become in recent years? You can do that, too! It looks like the story is built around how Mickey interacts with his environment, and I'm most curious to see how the choices you make in the game affect the plot as it leads to the inevitable confrontation with Disney's forgotten creations.

Portal 2: GLaDOS is Still Alive and ready to begin testing once more! With the amazing success of what was originally a short and sweet puzzle game filled with quirky dialogue and portal projecting madness, this sequel is set up to give fans even more of what they loved from the first game, along with all-new mechanics to challenge Chell. That's right, the silent hero of the first Portal is back, released once again from stasis to jump through the mind-bending hoops set up by the sinister AI, GLaDOS. While the controls stay largely unchanged, there are new features in the environment that will challenge how you think with portals. But what about the story? Rather than reinventing the wheel with a new protagonist, they're keeping the Chell/GLaDOS dynamic in place to explore that continued relationship in the wake of the first Portal's ending. Add in a few other quirky AIs and you have even more characters to interact with in the course of the game. Of course, the question on my mind is this - will Chell ever free herself from the Enrichment Center? I guess we'll find out next year!

DC Universe Online: Okay, so a lot of people have given Sony flack for how they've mistreated their previous MMOS. I'm ready to give them the benefit of the doubt, though, considering how closely they've worked with DC Comics to bring the DCU to life in an online game. As a big fan of comics, I've been sadly disappointed with the superhero MMOs thus far, mostly because I want to play alongside recognizable heroes, not cheap knock-offs, and this game will finally deliver on that. Story-wise, I'm excited because they've been bringing on DC Comics writers to build their in-game quests and storylines while recruiting legendary artist Jim Lee to build the visual component of the game. This means we'll see less of the ol' "kill these creatures and bring me their toenails" quests and more along the lines of their Doomsday adventure, where you can either work with the good guys to thwart Superman's nemesis or work with the bad guys to recruit the big brute to the forces of evil. Story aside, however, I confess that there are two things that really make me want to play this game - running with the Flash using my own tricked-out speedster, and targeting Wonder Woman with a flirt emote. If I can do both of those things later this year, I'll be a happy geek.

Star Wars - The Old Republic: This is it, the Star Wars MMO I've been waiting for! If there's one thing I've learned about Bioware, it's that they rock at RPG games. They have great stories, great characters, and great dialogue... and we'll get all that and more in The Old Republic. Not only will this be the first MMO that has full voice-over for every character - yes, even yours! - it's also the first that has put a solid emphasis on story. There are cutscenes that propel your character's adventure forward in-between the action, and your choices in how to reply will affect how the story plays out. Make enough bad decisions that cost people lives, and you'll start to slip into the Dark Side. Choose to do the right thing, and you'll become a shining beacon of the Light Side. Anyone who has played their Knights of the Old Republic game is familiar with this mechanic, which means it's absolutely possible to have dark Jedi serving the Republic and Light Side Sith working within the Sith Empire. Plus, customizable characters! Player-owned starships! Companion characters you can banter with! This game is going to ROCK.

Okay, the geekgasm is over. Time for me to get back to writing the next short story. But first, maybe a quick round of Portal...

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