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GamesCom '10 Report: Day 2

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You care about the games. I understand. That’s why at 9am today I left the glittering party I was attending and went stumbling over to the convention centre for another tour of the PC’s most exciting upcoming releases.

I didn’t think they’d let me in. As I understand it, trousers are mandatory at these events and I’d lost mine around dawn. But as luck would have it, at the turnstiles someone mistook me for Cliff Bleszinski and I spent the whole day with a beefy minder shouldering the crowd out of my way. Marvellous!


Star Wars: The Old Republic
Before you’re allowed to play The Old Republic at GamesCom you’re ushered into a dark room and shown the latest of the game’s awesome pre-rendered action sequences on an enormous TV. When you’re actually playing the game afterwards, with its dated visuals and awkward MMO combat, it feels like being handed a blunt pair of scissors.

There are a lot of MMOGs at GamesCom this year. A lot. If you distance yourself from the The Old Republic’s license, this wouldn’t necessarily be one of the more interesting ones.


Dark Millennium Online
The Warhammer 40k MMORPG does seem interesting, but only because almost no information’s being revealed about it. I got a tight-lipped interview I’ll be posting soon, but the gist is that they’re trying to distinguish themselves with proper vehicular action, dramatic setpieces and a new take on ranged combat.

When I asked if the ranged combat would involve player skill, like Tabula Rasa, the developer’s face twisted in on itself like water going down a plughole and he made a noise like this: “Neaaaaeeaaahhh…”

I think that’s a yes.


Crusader Kings 2
Crusader Kings was an interesting medieval strategy game by Paradox that entrusted you with a European dynasty, so instead of commanding a country to glory you fussed over the country while manipulating your various lords and worrying about your kids.

I never actually played it, but I’d been interested in it ever since I read an after-action report on Something Awful that pointed out how open and in-depth the game was. Now I find out it’s getting a sequel! I am too slow, and I intend to make up for it by playing this.

New features of Crusader Kings 2 will include management of bishops and antipopes (and the option of handing your children over to the church for a career in the clergy), the existence of vassals and counts under your control in other countries (an Englishman in service of the French king, for example) and, taking a cue from The Sims of all places, characters are being brought to life with the addition of individual ambitions and desires.

There’s a host of smaller upgrades, too, and the whole package is being made much more accessible. “We can do tutorials now!” exclaimed Fredrik Wester, CEO of Paradox.

Supreme Ruler: Cold War
Canadian developers BattleGoat Studios were behind future-nuke simulators Supreme Ruler 2010 and 2020, and now they’re reeling that concept in with Supreme Ruler: Cold War. Due out next summer, it pits you as either the USA or the Soviet Union in a strategy game that adds espionage and eggshell diplomacy to a more ordinary mix of tech trees, region development, trade and so on.

The idea of a wargame with no war entertains me. There’s precious little info out on Cold War at the minute, but I’ll be keeping an eye on this. It’s going to feature multiplayer, so if nothing else it’ll make for an incredible RPS AAR.

Lunch
I was crashing pretty heavily by this point, so I commanded my minder to fetch me some kind of restorative. He returned with a box of painkillers, two heavily salted pretzelschnitzels and a grosfurter. Delicious!


Homefront
Remember this? Kaos Studios’ FPS is exploring what it might be like if the Koreans invaded the US. John wrote about it here, https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2009/06/05/rps-at-e3-homefront/ getting quite excited by the overblown intensity of the combat.

Having watched a few segments of game footage today, I can only concur. Korean soldiers were dying by the dozen, white phosphorus artillery was crashing down all around the level, and with the aid of a friendly APC I watched the dev take down an attack helicopter (a vehicle with a proud tradition of being a tricky boss in games) in about three or four seconds.

The Drama engine only makes things more mad. This it Homefront’s tech which causes scripted events to affect you wherever you’re standing- so, if a tower’s going to fall down on you, it’ll fall towards you no matter what side you’re on. If a car’s going to get hit by a long-range rocket, it’ll be whatever car you’re standing next to. The result appears to be half dramatic and half like you’re playing the unluckiest man in the world, both of which I feel are good results.

What worries me is that there doesn’t seem to be much to Homefront outside of its heavy scripting, and there’s always a much higher density of scripting in the levels chosen for game demonstrations than in the game as a whole. The raw mechanics of Homefront’s shooting seemed distinctly traditional, like a Raven FPS, and that can’t be a good thing. Let’s wait and see.

Oh, one other thing. During the presentation the developer playing the game would look over his shoulder during cool moments to gauge the audience’s reaction. I felt bad for him because we were an audience of steely Europeans, and my exhausted solution was to move my eyes from the screen to him whenever he looked around, and smile at him. Thinking back, I can only imagine how creepy this looked.


Ship Simulator Extremes
HELL yes. At last, a ship simulator with a big enough hook to attract people like me.

Ship Simulator Extremes’ storylines pitch you as the captain of a Greenpeace vessel harassing illegal whalers, or of a supertanker trying to survive a storm, or even just a cruise ship that catches fire during a scenic trip to Bora Bora. I would have called it Dangerous High School Ships In Trouble, but there you go.

I’m reading now that apparently it’s being released in eight days. Hooray! I’ll be taking a closer look very soon.

Aion: Assault on Balaurea
The one thing I’d heard over and over about Aion was that it involved a lot of grinding. Sitting down for a talk with the community manager, I found out that with the release of the latest 1.9 patch, which adds a ton of content and increases the rate at which you level, it’s now possible to hit the level cap through nothing but quests. If you were interested in Aion, now sounds like a good time to check it out.

The upcoming free expansion, Assault on Balaurea, looks solid too. Air tunnels allow your character to spread their wings and go soaring around the level, and they’re introducing some 50 different types of pets with a collect-em’-all slant. And the pets all have their own tiny wings! Ah.

Pretty slow day, all things considered. Tomorrow, though. You just wait. Red Orchestra 2, Guild Wars 2, Dungeon Siege 3 and Deus Ex 3. I’m shaking with excitement! Or maybe that’s just withdrawal from all these powerful drugs.

Haven’t seen Alec in a while. I wonder how he’s getting on?

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