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We've been following Star Citizen fairly extensively since its 2012 campaign. As journalists, part of the job is "discovering" games before they make it big; I always task writers with dedicating some portion of our time at PAX to discovering indie games, the hope being that one goes mainstream after we've made it in the door early. I vividly remember Star Citizen hitting the $800,000 mark on Kickstarter and feeling like I'd missed the boat for journalistic success -- it was at the height of its campaign and everyone else had already started talking about it. Even still, we linked up with CIG CEO & Chairman Chris Roberts to discuss technology in-depth (lots of hardware conversation in that link), which had been entirely unexplored up until that point. It's still one of my favorite articles I've worked on, and much of that content remains relevant through today. Funny how much I've learned since then, too.

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Months later, we caught up with Roberts at PAX East 2013 shortly before a discussion panel (filmed). Fast forward to July, and we found ourselves at the Cloud Imperium Games office in Santa Monica. At this point, Roberts' next major goal was $21 million; that'd allow him the freedom of ditching private investors in favor of crowd-sourcing the entire game, he told us, and it was no longer a pipe dream to do so. Everyone in the room knew the funding target was on the horizon, it was just a matter of when. I don't think any of us could have told you that Star Citizen would be sitting at $42 million -- more than double our July meeting -- less than a year later.

At Star Citizen’s dogfighting module (DFM) unveil on Thursday night, Chairman & CEO of Cloud Imperium Games Chris Roberts showcased a pre-alpha build of the spaceflight combat mechanics and gameplay. The fan event exhibited a number of crashing and other show-inhibiting technical hurdles, but ultimately the game’s early build was well-received by the crowd and fans seemed to be understanding. The nature CIG’s transparent approach to game development brings with it some risk of visibility into a turbulent game-making process; the lead-up to a game's launch involves countless alpha builds of similar stability, it's just that we don't normally (as gamers) see the behind-the-scenes development.

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We caught-up with Chris Roberts after the event for a brief run-n-gun interview to discuss his thoughts on the unveil. Since then, we spent Saturday morning with the Star Citizen visionary to answer community questions (from reddit) and talk FPS mechanics. Due to the sheer amount of content we walked away with -- as always is the case with Chris -- we'll be publishing two articles + two videos this week. The first is here; the next will be released on Saturday. This content will focus purely on FPS mechanics and gameplay within Star Citizen -- the article releasing on Saturday will be a pure Q&A format.

Let's get started. (A big thanks to /u/rolfski for FPS questions & thoughts).

I’m always incredibly skeptical when presented with any form of MMO, especially of the F2P variety; so many dwell within a realm of repetition and disguised bypass-this-grind-with-a-microtransaction mechanics that it’s tough to get excited about them anymore. This is a classic instance of abuse by the industry – abuse so pervasive that it turns players off before they’ve even laid hands on the game. Some games shine through the pile of opportunists – like ArcheAge, which has deeply interesting economy and warfare mechanics – but they’re big productions and tough to pull-off.

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World of Speed is a bit different in that it’s a closed-world MMO racing game driven primarily by player skill. At least, that’s what they tell me. I got a hands-on with the game at GDC 2014 and had a chance to speak with Sean Fitzpatrick of Slightly Mad Studios, a company you might recognize for its work on the high-fidelity “Project Cars” game. Slightly Mad’s track-record with Project Cars – to include widespread use by nVidia as a graphics demonstration – carries over to World of Speed as the teams share experience internally.

Korean studio XL Games offered Korean and Japanese gamers a chance to enjoy the freedom of creating a player-specific experience while enjoying core MMORPG gameplay when they released ArcheAge last year. Bay Area-based studio Trion Worlds (End of Nations, Rift, Defiance) has been working with XL Games ever since to bring the sandbox MMORPG to Western audiences. 

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We caught up with Producer Victoria Voss at last week’s Game Developers Conference to learn more about and the game’s extensive crafting skills, XP system, and unique treatment of crime and punishment.

ArcheAge is a fantasy MMORPG that creates massive PVP battles and features 15 crafting skills; in this preview, we’ll look at the game’s merits in the MMO marketplace.

Active game-buyers of the 2006-2007 era would likely recognize Dreamfall’s box art immediately, whether or not they played it; Zoë’s pink tank-top and contrasting dark hair made for perhaps one of the only game boxes of the period to present a female character in, y’know, clothes. The game received critical acclaim for its narrative-driven approach to play, and although it did have some scrutinized combat and stealth mechanics, it was always about the story. Players were left hanging at the end of the game, eagerly awaiting the continuation of the story in what would become Dreamfall Chapters: The Longest Journey.

But then all went silent.

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The 90s and early 00s bore witness to an effective boom-and-bust of city-builders, RTS, and other types of top-down strategy-derivatives. Industry trends are in constant flux – as Call of Duty’s success has prompted an insufferable proliferation of mediocrity, games like Caesar, Zeus, and Sim City prefixed the rise of dozens of city builder titles; in this same era, we saw the rapid iteration of the highly-successful Command & Conquer series, Age of Empires games, Civilization, and plenty of others. The industry has stopped caring about top-down management games as much as it used to, but there’s still a rather empty market for fans of the sub-genres.

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I’m obviously nostalgic for these types of games. There’s no hiding that.

Clockwork Empires immediately had my attention, and with thanks given to developers Nicholas Vining and David Baumgart, it was able to keep that initial interest throughout our hour-long GDC hands-on. Many puns and jokes that’d make a PR manager cringe later (“no!” was groaned from behind me throughout our video process), and I’m convinced that Clockwork Empires stands a solid chance in shaping up to be a solid experience.

 

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