QuakeCon, one of the largest BYOC Lan parties in North America, has now been going strong for nineteen years. It’s the place where PC gamers from all over the world converge into a giant convention hall at the Dallas Anatole, dim the lights, and kill the shit out of each other on innumerable digitized fields of battle, across several different genres.
The convention not only features competitive gameplay with generous prizes, but a large exhibition hall filled with vendors and indie developers, interesting panels and workshops, and conferences from the biggest names in the gaming industry. Welcome to Dallas, bitches!
Day One: Thursday
In order to cover QuakeCon I burned my last day and a half of vacation time at my full -time job. I arrived at the Anatole early in the afternoon, and was immediately confused about the parking situation. The lady at the front desk told me that the gamer nerds parked in lots 2 and 3. What a great first impression for the city of Dallas: Welcome to the Anatole, you can’t park here. The sign on the parking lot said I would need either a room key or a credit card upon exiting the lot: I had neither, but parked anyway.
I made my way to the mezzanine to pick up my press credentials and to check out all of the VIPs and recognizable gaming press, who I assumed would be lounging around discussing the impending Doom reveal in professional terms. The room was nearly empty and I recognized none of the folks who were there. I got a little weirded out in the mezzanine restroom: a guy was using the farthest urinal from the door but had positioned himself so that his nose was almost in the corner as he took a leak, like he was trying to reenact the final scene in The Blair Witch Project. I guess he didn’t want folks to see his dick...mission accomplished!
I was a little apprehensive as I made my way to the exhibition hall. Would these PC nerds be able to spot a console gamer in their midst? Would there be a test? A secret handshake? Surely not...just keep it vague, Jones, and you should be alright. So, the very first thing I did was to out myself as a console gamer by taking a survey to win a PC case at the Fractal Design booth. How much would I pay for a PC case? Was $200 reasonable? Why the fuck would I even want one? Lesson learned: don’t take any more surveys from a guy named Matt.
The exhibition floor was filled with indie game devs showing off their games, Nvidia was showcasing the Shield and a liquid-cooled Visable GTX PC, Gigabyte was showing motherboards, Glitch Gaming Apparel was selling T-shirts and Half-Life 2 Crab Caps, more PC cases at the In Win Booth, and 505 games was showcasing Payday 2. Wait, what the fuck? Payday 2 has been out like a year...whatever. The Uppercut Circuit (UCC) had a booth near the Bethesda stuff and was apparently a virtual Fight Club, here in Dallas, that gathered to play fighting games. How fucking cool is that?
Bethesda had a corner of the floor designated for something called QuakeCon Trials...it was a contest to see who could successfully complete a certain portion of a Bethesda game in the shortest amount of time. Thursday’s trial was from Fallout 3. Megaton’s Moira Brown has tasked the player to plant a surveillance device in a Mirelurk nest at the Anchorage Memorial as research for a chapter of The Wasteland Survival Guide. I was actually in line for a few minutes when I noticed that there were no controllers. Another snub to the aging console gamer! I told the moderator that I had just shit my pants and had to go change because it was less embarrassing than looking like a noob trying to game on a keyboard and mouse for the first time. I was unable to look this man in the eye for the duration of the convention.
My apprehension regarding the parking situation had finally grown to the point where I had decided to do something about it. I had a talk with the nice blonde lady at the VIP registration booth, who would later inadvertently snub John Romero, about how to get out of paying for parking. She felt that my plan for ramming the barricade was ill-advised and suggested that I speak with the hotel staff. I conspired with the concierge who informed me that if I bought ten dollars worth of food or alcohol at the Media Lounge, the bar could validate my parking. She estimated that my parking bill would be nineteen dollars by the end of the day. I checked my wallet to discover two tens and a single: twenty one dollars. My Dirty Tanqueray Martini at the Media Lounge came to $15.16, plus a three dollar tip. Thanks, concierge...you saved me eighty four cents! However, I did spot Captain Redbeard there, as well as a guy who kind of looked like Russell Brand. I later spotted Adam Sessler hanging out with the smokers, and 300 guys who looked like Ed Casey. QuakeCon is Shangri-La for bearded hipsters.
My martini was poorly timed. It was now nearly time for the Doom reveal and the gin was fucking with my head big time. I had failed to eat anything since breakfast, so I stumbled up to the VIP lounge to see if they had anything there to soak up some of the alcohol. Nope. The other journalists were leaving to get in line for the Doom thing, so I followed after them.
Bethesda and id had a special line designated for the media, which half of the room was lined up at. The press designation on my badge got me in the door before the rest of the folks who had been lined up for two hours. The conference room only held like 3000 people which meant that some of these folks would be turned away.
The press were instructed to sit on the far side of the Ventrino Ballroom, and we were expressly forbidden to photograph or film any of the Doom reveal, but were promised a UAC T-shirt at the end of the conference. I was full of questions at this point. What would the new Doom be like after the desertion of John Carmack? Will we see the return of the Doom 64 Demon Laser? Will the Space Marine finally find his voice? How long does a gin buzz last? Why are they playing the fucking B-52s? Shhh...it’s starting.
The id guys kicked it off by showing the teaser trailer from E3 before lining out the 4 core concepts of the Doom development: Demons, Guns, Movement, Melee Combat. Marty Stratton described the setting: a Union Aerospace installation on Mars during an invasion from Hell. Okay, same setting as every other Doom game, so far so good. Marty also talked about fast-paced multiplayer, 1080p, 60fps, and the fact that it will be available on the PS4 and XB1...then he showed us some gameplay.
The demo happens in a UAC Energy Complex on Mars. A door opens and in steps our marine, with shotgun in hand. Click, click, boom. The marine puts on his helmet, which is a very high tech piece of equipment capable of pinpointing distress beacons, discerning usable objects, and highlighting armor and health pickups. Doom does not feature a regenerating health system, so don’t go cowering behind a crate waiting for your health to bounce back...you will have to fight for it. Our marine is tasked with reaching a locked room with an active distress signal. He fights his way to the control room, softening up Imps with shotgun blasts and finishing off with melee moves: ripping out hearts and tearing heads in half. The control room requires a palm scan to open the necessary doors, so the helmet HUD scans bodies and selects a deceased technician as a match for the scanner. The marine rips the technician’s arm completely off, using his hand to open the door. Did I just see a Revenant with a jetpack? We also pick up a super shotgun on the way and get in close for some double-barreled fun, blasting the torsos away from writhing and running legs. Oh shit, that was a Revenant with a jetpack! He rips off the marine’s arms and beats him to death with them. We say goodbye to our hero.
The demo ends but the lights do not come on, because id is going to show us a second demo! Fuck yeah! The second run is obviously taking place later in the game. Our hero finds a plasma rifle and puts it to good use. Players will now be able to use double jumps to access tops of crates and traverse missing parts of staircases by jumping, grabbing, and pulling themselves up. Out comes the chainsaw for a rather visceral run through some caves before encountering two Hell Knights, a big fat demon, and ultimately, the Cyber Demon.
Doom combat is the old-school, balls-out style from the earlier games. Sneaking around or trying to use cover will get you killed in this game: go big or go home. Neither Bethesda nor id specified when the game or the beta would be available, but rest assured that progress has been made and it looks very fast and very bloody. Shut up and take my money!
Afterward, Bethesda throws a party for VIPs at the House of Blues. I play Mr. Big Shot for a little while before going home. I make a quick YouTube vid with my Doom reveal reaction and go to bed.
Day Two: Friday
I wake up to find that my YouTube video has seen some unusually high traffic for my little channel...that’s weird. Most of my colleagues are nursing hangovers. They are a surprisingly friendly bunch of guys, even the day after. I have a couple of hours to kill before my hands-on demo with The Evil Within, so I hit the exhibition hall. I took a closer look at some of the indie games headed to Steam in the near future. Symbiote Studios was showing off their 3rd person shooter: Warframe. One of the guys I met at the Bethesda party, Jet, was showing off his fighting RPG called Zen Path Z. One of my favorites was an FPS in the Doom vein, but with Borderlands-style cel-shading, called Wrack...it was next to the Bawls booth. I didn’t personally play any of these games but they all looked like a lot of fun, if you do the keyboard and mouse thing, and folks should support the indie guys: you never know when you’ll be on the ground floor of something big.
I also stopped by the Red Cross booth, where they were giving out some The Evil Within goodies for donating. One of the Everyday Gamer guys was there and tried to get me to donate blood. I partied harder than most when I was younger and the Red Cross does not want my blood. Time for my appointment!
The Evil Within
I politely wait outside the demo room for The Evil Within : it’s surprisingly quiet on the mezzanine level. A very nice man from Bethesda gave me a choice of XB1or PS4: finally, someone in the land of PC gamers understands me! This game is scary as shit and was full of little surprises that actually made me jump. In The Evil Within, players assume the role of Detective Sebastian Castelleros, currently tracking down a lady acquaintance of his inside a old mansion turned into an insane asylum. This is a 3rd-person survival horror like Alan Wake, Resident Evil, Silent Hill, or Fatal Frame. There are lunatics running around begging to be shot because they are too tough for melee weapons. There are also ghosts stalking Sebastian who are impervious to all weapons: players will have to either run or hide from these enemies. The little bit of the game I played had the atmosphere ratcheted to ten and was a little taxing on the nerves. It’s one of those games that will have to be attacked during several shorter gaming sessions. Ammunition is scarce, adversaries are tough as nails, and the scares are big. I look forward to playing this one when it releases October 14.
Day 3: Saturday
Apparently my YouTube video had been going around the id office and folks kept telling me that they have seen it. I wasn’t quite sure if this was a good thing or a bad thing, but I smiled and said thank you while making a mental note to go back and check to make sure I didn’t say anything stupid.
Attendance on Saturday has swelled and the exhibition hall was completely packed. Security was tightened at the entrance and exit to the hall, the booths were packed, and vendors making money hand over fist. It was good to see folks lined up with their wallets open, ready to pay and play. Battlecry was drawing some huge crowds and it was getting harder to squeeze in and watch the action.
I sought asylum in the LAN hall. The game floor had almost no overhead lighting and the monitors gave the dark room a sort of “Christmas Tree in the window” effect. These machines ranged from simple laptops to custom machines. Some of these were so heavily modified that they had bulged beyond the capacity of their original cases. Some were liquid cooled, some had transparent cases, some had crazy LED effects, but they all played games. I was surprised by the friendly spirit of competition, I had expected more screaming and fits of rage.
QuakeCon showcases that concept of friendly competition. Whether we are playing an old Halo game on a battered console or ruling the room with a flashy Christmas Tree computer, we are all gamers and want the same thing: to play games with each other and have a little fucking fun doing it. Huge props to all the gamers who showed up for the convention with their PCs in tow, big ups to the awesome folks at id and Bethesda for making QuakeCon a can’t-miss event, and special thanks to Liz Roland and her expert team for keeping us in the know and taking care of all the writer guys. I’m looking forward to next year.
Summer is officially here, and you know it, because no matter how hard you stare at the beach wear that you were planning on wearing this season, you know you can’t because you spent more time sitting in front of a game console or PC instead of in the gym working on leveling your hidden beach body. Thankfully, there are very few new games this week so if you start now, you can still make it to the gym and get that beach body in time for the first Winter snow!
Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee New ‘n’ Tasty
Release Date: July 22, 2014
Your favorite farting Mudokon, Abe, is back and, this time, he’s about to face his oddest challenge yet! Can this former floor-waxer turned hero rescue his fellow Mudokons and escape being turned into Tasty Treats? You control the action.
Dark Souls II - Crown of the Sunken King DLC
Release Date: July 22, 2014
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
From the game that loves to kill you, because it hates you, your mom, your cat, your dog, and your face, comes DLC that promises something deadly at just about every turn! The first DLC for Dark Souls 2 begins in the depths of The Black Gulch, an underground area filled with all kinds of death. Since you won’t be going to the beach this Summer, stay underground and beat yourself silly with this DLC.
Forza Motorsport 5 Racing Game of the Year Edition
Release Date: July 22, 2014
Platforms: Xbox One
Forza Motorsport 5 is getting a re-release already? If you recently picked up an Xbox One or got one at launch but didn’t pick up Forza 5, now’s the time. In addition to the original content, this Game of the Year edition features 17 next-generation tracks and the Top Gear Car Pack, which includes 10 downloadable vehicles.
Gods Will Be Watching
Release Date: July 24, 2014
In this minimalistic point and click thriller, that centers on despair, commitment, and sacrifice, you face narrative puzzles and moral dilemmas that will affect the lives of the people around… that kind of sounds a lot like real life. Gods Will Be Watching, but will hardcore or mainstream gamers be watching?
Wii U Sports Club
Release Date: July 25, 2014
Platforms: Wii U
Since it’s Summer, and we really need to get up and moving so that we can get in shape for the beach, someone should come up with some sort of a sports game that can… Wait, what? Wii U Sports Club? OMG! This is genius! Now we can get off our butts and move while we play a game! Sarcasm. Wii Sports on the first Wii was a lot of fun until you learned that you could lazily swing the controller from a seated position.
It’s not all fun and games
In addition to these releases this week, a lot of us will be playing the Destiny Beta on the Xbox One while those on the PS4 will already have a few days of gameplay ahead of everyone else.
Although not a game release, if you are going to be at Comic-Con with me this week, keep an eye out for the reveal of the Halo Live-Action Digital Series that will be featured at the Xbox panel on Thursday, July 24 from 11:45am - 12:45pm.
So I messed up and I apologize. I totally forgot to put this article together when we got home from camping on Sunday. I started putzing around the house getting things done that needed getting done and my 2old2play duties slipped my mind completely. I am sure this will come up in my annual performance review and I accept that. If I have slighted you in any way shape or form please leave a comment below. The editors would like empirical evidence to place in my file as well.
Well enough about my soon to be short lived career at 2old2play...lets get to what matters: The games coming out this week! (spoiler alert...there’s not much)
Release Date: July 15th
I don’t usually start this column off with a PC game (let alone one coming out for Mac as well) but this one has my attention. Created by LA-based The Odd Gentlemen (Flea Symphony, The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom), Wayward Manor is award winning writer Neil Gaiman’s first foray into games. If you are not familiar with Gaiman’s work, he has written some of the most interesting stories in comics/graphic novels. His work on Sandman and American Gods is fantastic
Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planewalkers 2015
Release Date: July 16th
Platforms: PC,iOS, Android, Xbox 360,Xbox One
I feel like I should like not only the original card Magic card games but the video games as well. I have tried. Probably not as much as I could or should but I just can’t get into them. That doesn’t stop me from appreciating them or watching over the shoulders of real players and admiring the patience, sheer amount of memorization of stats, and skill needed for these games. To those of you who play these I take my hat off to you and I am here to inform you that on July 16th you will be able to play Duels of the Planewalkers 2015.
Release Date: July 15th
A remake from 2003, Crimsonland has been on on PC since June 11th but is now available on the PS4 as a twin stick shooter. This game reminds me a lot of the original arcade game Berserk or more recently SKA studios I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES !NIT!!!1. Not sure how much it’s going for, but those kind of games are great for when you just want to pick up and play.
Release Date: July 15th
Platforms: PS3, PC, Xbox 360
Abyss Odyssey by Atlus is a side scrolling platformer/action game in the vein of Castlevania. Pick your class of character, grab a friend for some same couch co-op and chase down some evil!
Slim pickings this week but hey it’s nice outside so go for a walk, a bike ride or play catch or frisbee with your house. What? You’ve never done that? Thrown a ball up on the roof and then run to catch it before it rolls off? Set up a target on your house and try to hit it with the frisbee?
I used to spend hours doing that...maybe I’ll go do that with my kids right now.
We’re officially in the dog days of summer now that another Independence Day is in the books and the new release schedule has slowed to a crawl. Sadly, a crawl is being generous as there’s really not much to talk about in the world of gaming this week. Before we get started, however, a quick 2o2p PSA announcement: we promise not to write in the “every other game website review style” and to limit our use of unnecessary exclamation points to every fourth sentence! This week’s games feature mice and their tireless quest for cheese, the return of the iconic Q*bert, a puzzler from Big Fish games, a high seas pirate adventure and Telltale Games latest episode of The Wolf Among Us.
Release Date: July 8th, 2014
Platforms: PC, Mac, PS3, PS4, Vita
Mousecraft, a puzzler, features over 50 levels in its campaign mode as well as a fully-featured level editor for those amateur game stage designers out there. Players must guide their mice through a machine while stacking blocks known as Tetrominos. Successfully stacking Tetrominos leads your mice to the exit and their reward of cheesy goodness!
One Piece: Unlimited World Red
Release Date: July 10th, 2014
Platforms: PS3, Vita, WiiU, 3DS
Follow the high seas adventures of the Straw Hat pirates and their quest to topple the evil Donquixote Doflamingo. Coliseum Mode, a new online addition to the game, allows players to battle their friends and earn top rankings as One Piece’s top pirate.
Release Date: July 8th, 2014
Platforms: PC, Mac
Play Gottlieb’s classic 2D Q*bert complete with the games original pyramid of isometric cubes and pixelated Q*bert or play Rebooted-the updated 3D version-that features a hexagonal pyramid complete with new power-ups, traps and enemies. Rebooted also features four new playable characters: Q*tee, Q*bot, Q*zilla and Q*unicorn!
Quest for Infamy
Release Date: July 10th, 2014
Platforms: PC, Mac
Play as Mister Roehm as he leaves behind his shady past and builds a new life in the quaint village of Volksville. Quest for Infamy features three different character classes to fit your adventuring style: the Rogue-for those who prefer their adventures stealthy, the Sorcerer-for those who prefer the magical arts and the Brigand-for those who prefer brute strength.
Sacra Terra: Kiss of Death
Release Date: July 8th, 2014
Platforms: PC, PS3
Big Fish Games latest puzzler, Sacra Terra: Kiss of Death, pits you against supernatural forces that feed on human suffering. Travel mystical dimensions in your quest to rescue your fiance and reunite others who suffer the same fate as you! Saving others weakens the forces that feed on those who suffer and brings you closer to your ultimate goal-saving your fiance.
The Wolf Among Us-Episode 5: Cry Wolf
Release Date: July 8th, 2014
Platforms: PC, Mac, PSN, XBLA
The season finale of Telltale’s latest gem, Cry Wolf sees Bigby squaring off against the Crooked Man and his posse and standing in judgement for his actions by the citizenry of Fabletown.
Its a good thing there was a Steam sale going on the last few weeks since its slim pickings to kick off July. Sarcasmo was right about E3 kicking off the summer drought! I really had to scour the net to find anything to write about. Still no exciting next gen titles to take advantage of the systems’ new features. Though at least a few of these are available on PS4 and Xbox One, just not exclusives. The only one that sounds interesting to me, I basically already own...
Divinity Original Sin
Release Date: June 30, 2014
Kickstarter funded, this game has been pushed back a few times but is slated to finally hit PC on June 30th. Its an RPG by Larian Studios with single and multi-player modes. The game is a prequel to Divine Divinity which Larian released in 2002.
Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition
Release Date: July 1/2, 2014
Platforms: PS4, WiiU, Xbox 360, Xbox One
This game hits PS4 a day early and then all the XBoxes and WiiU the following day. The original game was pretty fun so probably worth picking up this enhanced edition if you haven’t already played. From an update on from Drinkbox on the PS4 blog:
Some things we’ve added: more words to the title, an extra save slot, new costumes, creepy hanging dolls, two extra levels, new and improved enemies, another save slot, a new dimension-switching ability called “Shadow Swap,” chicken egg bombs, an NPC with an impossibly large head, and a power called INTENSO.
Child of Light
Release Date: July 1, 2014
Ubisoft’s Child of Light arrived for consoles in North America in April but this week it will also be available for the PSVita. Its a side-scrolling RPG with a dreamscape art style.
Sniper Elite III
Release Date: July 1, 2014
Platforms: PS3, PS4, PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One
How “elite” can it be if there are three? Although in their defense all three games follow the story of the same character Karl Fairburne. He’s a German American OSS officer embedded into German forces during World War II. Snipers and stealth aren’t my style but the bullet time features look pretty cool if you’re into that sort of thing.
Welcome to the beginning of a long summer, amigo. The first couple of weeks after E3 always feel like the day after Christmas. All of the excitement and wonder is completely gone, summer is starting, and we have jack fucking shit for new games until it starts to cool off again. Now would be a good time to contemplate your backlog of games, download something on the cheap that you haven’t had a chance to play yet, or take an online course and learn a new language: Japanese might be fun. As far as new releases for this week goes, we have more than meets the eye (again), Codemasters attempts to revive a dying franchise, and the Japanese stump the internet.
BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma
Release Date: June 24
Platform: PS Vita
Arc System Works and Aksys Games have teamed up to bring this Japanese fighting game to the small screen. This arcade port has been available in Japan for over a year and playing it will probably give you epilepsy. このゲームは私に発作を与えた
Release Date: June 24
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
In a bold attempt to make up for the disappointing Grid 2, Codemasters is giving last-gen racers an alternative to Forza and Gran Turismo. Grid Autosport boasts 15 real world tracks, including Brands Hatch, Indy, and Hockenheim, as well as street races set in iconic cities, like Barcelona, San Francisco, and Chicago. The campaign provides 5 racing disciplines for players to master: Touring, Endurance, Tuners, Open-Wheeled, and Street cars. A handful of cars are available for each discipline: most of the usual suspects are represented.
Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark
Release Date: June 24
Platforms: PS3, PS4, XB1, Xbox 360, WiiU, 3DS
Is anyone else sick of Transformers? I have yet to play a Transformers game for more than 20 minutes before realizing that I’m not nine years old and that Transformers games just aren’t any fun. I’m not sure if this game is supposed to tie in with the new Michael Bay movie coming out Friday, and I don’t give a shit. Expect both of them to suck.
Xblaze: Code Embryo
Release Date: June 24
Platforms: PS3, PS Vita
Described as a “visual novel,” this indecipherable Japanese game is part of the BlazBlue series and takes place 150 years before the BlazBlue stuff. This game has also been out in Japan for a while, but nobody seems to know what it’s about. I watched a couple of YouTube trailers and still can’t make it out. Maybe Xblaze isn’t meant to be understood by Westerners, or maybe it just doesn’t make any sense. Solve the mystery of Xblaze’s plot and I will send you a Super Detective badge that I made out of a paper bag and a chip clip. It’s a real conversation starter.
Polish game developer, CD Projekt Red, showcased their third entry in The Witcher series, Wild Hunt, at E3 this year. Derek Nolan was on hand to provide his impressions about the new game and give some context to the gameplay vids pouring out of the convention.
Gerault once again plays protagonist, and makes a living wage in this huge, open world by collecting bounties on dangerous beasties. Every place on the map can be reached, if it can be seen: none of that “turn back, you can go no farther” invisible boundary shit from The Elder Scrolls series. The ambitious scope of the game applies to NPC development, as well. Over 1000 individually crafted NPC characters inhabit the world, each with his/her own personality. I have a note from Derek here that says “OMG graphics are insane!” Let’s hope that they don’t have to downgrade the graphics to maintain gameplay in this giant environment.
Details on the plot of the third installment are vague, but Gerault is tasked with retrieving a woman, who is trailed by a devastating force, called The Wild Hunt, and bringing her before some sort of autocrat. The story itself is reported to be rich and detailed.
Gerault possesses a “Witcher Sense” which heightens his abilities and allows him to track monsters across great distances. Archery also utilizes a time-slowing mechanic. Potions will bestow the desired effect upon the user, but often have negative side-effects. Dialog trees are utilized a bit differently in this game, as does underwater travel.
Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt drops on February 24, 2015.
Scheduled for a Fall release on the Xbox One and on PC, Ori and the Blind Forest is an action platformer that looks like it has drawn heavily on Hayao Miyazaki for inspiration. From the hand-drawn environments to the beautifully orchestrated soundtrack, this game could almost be a video game stand-in for Miyazaki’s Spirited Away yet it creates its own unique world of wonder and awe.
With a bit of a nod to Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke, you play as Ori who is tasked with unlocking the secrets of a dying forest while trying to escape the clutches of Kuro, the evil owl. Combat is fluid yet does not monopolize gameplay as various puzzle elements, reminiscent of the XBLA arcade game Limbo, are introduced to keep players busy in this beautifully crafted metroidvania (Metroid/Castlevania mashup).
Bungie invited 2old2play to a private party after the Sony Press Conference where a lucky few were able to eat, drink, and play hours and hours of Destiny with the people who made it. Here is my recollection of the game, festivities, and people.
Before I get into things however, I do want to preface this article to say this is purely of my own opinion. I’m also not so naive as to think that playing with the developers while beautiful women serve me Hors d'oeuvres and feed me drinks doesn’t skew my perspective a bit. It’s hard to remain 100% objective in this sort of situation. Especially given the fact that 2o2p (and really my gaming career) was built from a house that Bungie made. As you would expect, the room was electric with excitement. Both from the team and from the people who were lucky enough to be playing Destiny for the first time; and it affected me.
The party itself was spectacular. And while I’m sure you don’t want to hear to much about it and would rather me only discuss the game, I think it’s worth mentioning if only to capture the vibe, energy, and joy that was going on around me. Obviously it will come off a bit braggadocious, but how else can it come off when you get to spend the evening with your gaming heros. But enough exposition, lets get to the party.
The plan was for everyone to leave the Sony Press Conference together and meet up for a stretch limo/bus from the conference hall to the Bungie party. Due to some miscommunication I ended up being the only soul who was able to find the elusive Bungie bus outside the conference hall. After many attempts by Steve Norman (https://twitter.com/SteveN0rman) to find the others, we decided it was time to call it a lost cause and head out. This meant a solo ride in a huge stretch limo/bus with a few people from Activision. While the picture below probably doesn’t convey the silliness of one person in a giant limo, let it be known that it was both awkward and hilarious all at the same time.
We arrived at the AT&T Tower in L.A. just before 9pm and were greeted on the ground floor by reception. After getting my wrist band, I was escorted to a private elevator and whisked to the very top of the buildings 30th floor into their “lighthouse” room where the event was being held.
You could tell as soon as the elevator doors opened that the room was built for the sole purpose of showcasing Destiny. There were two separate areas filled to the brim with PS4s and stations for each guest to sit and play until their hearts content. Activision spared no expense on the finer things and supplied a constant flow of waiters who brought steak, sandwiches, liquor, and beer. Remember how I said it was hard to stay subjective….
After a small session of meet and greet with the Bungie staff, old school 2o2p LAN member and head of community over at Bungie, David “Deej” Dague, kicked off the event with a great speech aimed at community, the goals of Destiny, and why we were all here. I’ve always been a huge fan of Deej ever since we met back in Chicago at the start of 2o2p, and I must say Bungie certainly picked the right man to lead community into the future of the franchise.
After we dispatched with the pleasantries we were allowed to sit down at any station and just jump right into the game. I didn’t take many photos or screenshots outside of the photos you will see around the party, but you will undoubtedly be inundated with them since the alpha goes public today on the PS4. Instead I decided to focus more on actually playing the game for as long as I possibly could. In total I got in almost 4 hours of uninterrupted game play and was able to play each class to level 4+, try out some quests, and head into matchmaking.
To start you are given the choice of picking 1 of 3 available guardians; Titan, Hunter and Warlock. While I played all three, I got the farthest with the Hunter and so most of what I talk about here will be with the Hunter in mind.
Before you start your adventure in Destiny, you will need to also create your character. If you’re a fan of MMOs or RPGs then you should free right at home here. The character creation in Destiny is fairly vast given the games shooter roots. You can choose gender, facial structure, and all the little details like hair style, color, skin tone, and fine tunings. Beyond these rather pedestrian options is the fact that the character models themselves look absolutely stunning. The level of detail is something not seen in any MMO I’ve played to date, and comes off as an amazing win for customization buffs.
This seems to be the overall theme of Destiny as a game. While the game is a shooter at its very core, it is also not so secretly wrapped in an RPG/MMO. This means you get the stunning graphics of a next gen shooter, with the depth and gameplay of an RPG, but more on this later.
Once complete, you are tossed straight into your first mission to break the ice. After being told you are the earth's only hope, the game starts you on Old Russia; a broken and desolate industrial landscape. Destiny quickly guides you to waypoints by using the PS4 touch pad which will bring up the “traveler” as well as options to use a landspeeder mount. The mount is a nice touch since getting around Earth would be a pain without it.
This is an important point, since this game feels MASSIVE. Even in the introductory opening mission you get a sense of just how grand the scale is and this only grows as you fight your way from level to level. Within this vast world you will ultimately meet up with your first encounter of “The Fallen.” The Fallen are an alien race that seems bent on destruction and it’s your job to put them down. It is at this moment that you will almost instantly feel Halo coming up from underneath Destiny’s beautiful backdrop.
Combat in Destiny has the Master Chief written all over it, and this is a GOOD thing. You feel completely at home the moment you see your first fallen. Anyone with even a few games of Halo under their belts is going to simply pick this up playing as if your on your 1 millionth mission in a Covanant Dropship.
Starting out with the shotgun and rifle mimicked the exact play style of Halo’s shotgun and AR. As you quickly move through the mission and encounter the first boss battle there will almost certainly be points where you think you’re playing Halo and forget all about Destiny. Obviously there are a few difference here and there, but the parallel is fairly hard to ignore.
In terms of those differences, Destiny taps into its MMO pedigree rather nicely in combat as well. Hovering over one of the alien baddies will display a ton of useful information like level, (in this case 2), health, and the name of the enemy. This helps later in the game even more when you really need to check what level of monster it is you’re engaging before you just jump in! Also keeping with that same MMO theme, enemies you deal damage to can be seen visually as the number of damage dealt pops up over their heads as you deal your death toll on them.
Tying these two things together brings an almost Borderlands feel to the game but with the undoubtedly great feeling of a Halo shooter. As others have already said, most of these mechanics or ideas have been in games for the past decade. While that’s true, its Destiny’s ability to tie them all together so seamlessly in combat that makes the game a joy to play.
Once you’ve finished your first mission and kill yourself a mini-boss Destiny politely suggests you travel to “The Tower” for a quick visit. The Tower is a sort of space station/mega city where all the commerce and social interaction within Destiny takes place. Upon reaching this city MMO fans will almost instantly feel like they’ve teleported into a game they’ve played for years.
Everything you can think of within the MMO realm is here. There is a mail system for sending messages (the mailbox), a bank to store all your epic loot, a class trainer to learn new abilities, a vendor to trade in your currency for even more loot, and so on. They even switch your point of view from 1st person into 3rd so you can see how your character looks in all that great gear you’ve been collecting on missions.
Acting as the games social hub, this will also be where you probably spend the majority of your time hanging out when you’re not doing missions, raids, or battling other players (called PvP for our MMO fans out there). In the past, shooters relegated this type of place to the player pre-game lobby, so this level of immersion will be a fairly new idea for shooter.
Released to the World
Everything up until this point as really been a tutorial phase. You’ve learned how a mission works, how items can be obtained, how to upgrade your skills, the social game, training, and grabbing your interstellar ship. Now its time to actually play Destiny!
From the Tower you will board your ship and head out into the world map to choose your next destination. At this point, you can fly down to the planet and start picking up missions or test your skills against other players in “The Crucible.” Before we get to the Player Vs Player stuff, lets talk about missions.
Mission can be found all around the world and within the world map itself. You unlock these free form missions simply by finding mission beacons around the world and accessing them. The missions vary greatly from searching, killing, scanning and more. Once again this type of play style comes directly from the MMO where missions are more commonly known as quests.
For the most part these quest are relatively fun and short, but can also be interrupted by random “events” around the world that you can choose to participate in as they happen. The nice part about this flow is that you’re not always stuck on one path and can easily find yourself in the middle of an optional event that is completely off you current path. Again, this concept isn’t really new for MMO fans as world events have been a staple in the genres for the past few years. Then again, you see this motif so often for the exact reason that it works well in breaking up the “grind” that most major MMOs suffer from. That doesn’t mean that you won’t get board however. Because Destiny borrows so heavily on the MMO realm, it means it also has plenty of repetitive tasks that could slow down in the most enthusiastic of players.
And speaking of other players! In Destiny, if you want to insure your friends come along with you on your missions you can also create a “fireteam” which is Destiny’s version of forming a party with other friends. The team leader of the “fireteam” will have control over which missions and destinations the other members participate in. This ensures that all members enter the same instance of play as each other within the massive world below.
Ah yes, the reason you are all still reading this article; PvP. In Destiny, Player Vs. Player content comes in the form of The Crucible. Anyone familiar with normal Halo matchmaking will almost certainly feel completely at home in this game mode. You can queue up for The Crucible simply by going to your world map and choosing it from the display. Doing so in alpha will instantly put you in a lobby and find more players to fill all 6v6 slots.
As I discussed before, The Crucible can only be access after your first mission on Old Russia after you’ve reached level 4 and made it to the Tower. Bungie does this for two fairly good reasons. One; They want to give new players a bit of time to have a feel for the game before taking on more experience foe. Two; They want to make sure that all players have their “super ability” before stepping into combat with one another.
The super ability differs for each class and usually deals an insane amount of damage to anyone in its path. For instance, the hunter I played would charge up her pistol until it glowed a golden hue and unleash a single shot kill to anyone it came in contact with. That includes any part of the body I hit so think golden pistol from Golden Eye.
You earn charges to your super power through killing, time, objectives, and just hanging out. Do really well in a match and you will see your super power energy charge fairly quickly. Do poorly and the game will still guarantee you a chance to lay waste to the opposition in due time. This is an important gameplay mechanic, because a super power can really change the tied of a match in PvP.
Speaking of matches, Destiny offers a variety of maps, sizes, and game types in the Crucible. During my alpha test we played the familiar 6v6 Domination style game-type on two different maps, but I was assured a variable size of groups and more maps/gametypes in the future. In terms of the maps style, both were built to serve two very different purposes.
The first map took place in a sort of dingy industrial complex, and was was much more of a close quarters style layout that allowed for several different vertical vantage points. Since a lot of classes have the ability to move vertically with ease, it offers extended gameplay to the otherwise very flat feeling of Halo (think Titanfall mobility on a spartan).
The second map took place in a hash winter blasted landscape and suited itself much more to longer site lines, huge open spaces, and extended distances. The great thing about Destiny is that when the maps reach this size, the game is able to compensate by allowing you to use your mount within the map. This means you can easily bring up your “traveler” and call up a vehicle at will. These vehicle remain fragile within the gameplay in order to keep the balance in check, but offer a fast way to get from point A to point B. You also have the option of finding vehicles within the map itself which also come equipped with guns to thwart off evil doers as you ride. These mounts mimic the Ghosts of Halo’s past (pun intended) and seem to maintain the same control from previous Bungie titles. Finally, strategic turrets are placed within the map to even further level the playing field of large scale combat and vehicles.
The one question you might be nagging over is how does Bungie deal with players that are of a different level within the main game as they cross over to The Crucible? Great question! Yet again they take a page out of the playbook of World of Warcraft's Battlegrounds and countless other MMOs by scaling your level and damage to match that of everyone else within the current match. This means that a level 4 player will be dealing the same damage to opponents as a level 6. The one caveat to this is that higher level players still maintain their gear and other abilities that they received by playing in PvE so there is a slight advantage there. However like other MMO’s, this problem is mitigated by the fact that serious PvP players will want to reach max level and get all abilities to be truly competitive.
In the end, The Crucible will be very familiar to Halo players and even FPS players of the past. More over, what is so amazing about The Crucible is that its only a fraction of what the game has to offer over all. This seems to be the theme of Destiny as end to end it tries to jam pack an epic experience into so many different ways to play. Keep in mind that I haven’t even talked about the large scale “Raids” or even 3 man instanced content that is a huge part of the Destiny leveling experience and beyond. What’s even better, is that all these types of game play will be offered up as a way to gain experience, loot, and abilities. That means if you only want to play Destiny inside The Crucible, it won’t have any affect on your ability to progress in the game. However, given the rich environments, the massive world, and ability to take down the Fallen with all your friends, I don’t see many people skipping it either.
I want to say a big thank you to the people over at Bungie for supporting 2old2play after all these years. Especially our comrade and fellow guardian, David “Deej” Dague, for putting this entire thing together. Even in its very alpha state, Destiny seems to be in no danger of missing the mark. The polish, environments and graphic make this alpha seem like a release ready game, which only goes to show the teams dedication to perfection. Add this on top of an upcoming battle that will lazy focus on performance, listening to the community, and over all balance, and the future looks very bright for Destiny.
*If you guys have any more question or comments as you play through the alpha yourselves, please make sure to leave them hear or listen in to our live recap show this Monday at 7PDT/10EST on twitch.tv/2old2play. The 2o2p community really sees Destiny as a great way to rebuild our focus along with the other great communities on 2o2p like Forza. I look forward to everyone's thoughts on Destiny and the many other new games set to suck up all our time this holiday season.
Updates on the upcoming Dragon Age: Inquisition from E3 are in and they are exciting. You are an Inquisitor traveling through an open world of fantasy and uh… inquisition. This 3rd person dynamic RPG allows you to lead and a team of four inquisitors who can be outfitted with the latest in Inquisition and dragon slaying technology.
Tasked with the objective of bringing the war between the Templars and the Mages to an end while having badass dragon fights and gathering plants for some, as of yet, undisclosed reason (this game may be set in Medieval Colorado and your inquisitor is just gathering weed, err, seeds for the upcoming storm), you will undoubtedly have your hands full with countless hours of game play.
You don’t always bring wars to an end but when you do, you slay dragons too! Stay slayer my friends!