Up front, let me share some City of Angles news:
- The Kickstarter is now in the black; I have enough money to cover all the stretch goals AND all the tier fulfillment. Anything extra will go into a fund for future creative project costs. I’d still love to get more backers, even at the lowest tiers — it’d show there’s a wider audience for City of Angles than ever. You’ve got until April 4th to stand and be counted!
- Preproduction on volume 002 is taking some time, as I try to come up with tales which will mesh well with the survey results and craft the overall narrative of the entire volume. I’ll likely start writing mid-April. Thanks for your patience.
So! I’m back from PAX. And as all the best teachers say, “Show your work.” I intend to do just that. Here’s a rundown on the most notable things I saw over the course of my weekend, which was fraught with freezing cold temperatures and constipation and overpriced food that I will not go into detail on.
THE BAD: Panels and Big Budget Games.
Indie Game Writing Panel. First panel I attended, which was staffed by five random guys who do indie games and did not really have a lot to say about narrative. The basic point they made was “Indie means freedom and flexibility!” to which I say “No shirt, Sherlock” and then they proceeded to plug their generally uninteresting games over and over for the rest of the hour. Ick.
Harmonix Rock Band Panel. I love Harmonix and I love Rock Band, and I loved this peek behind the curtain… but I can’t help but feel a bit heartbroken, seeing prototypes and game pitches that went absolutely nowhere and showed what Could Have Been for music games if the genre hadn’t been nuked from orbit by Activision and music labels weren’t a legal hellscape. The animatic for a proposed but rejected Led Zeppelin game was particularly beautiful and agonizing to watch, knowing it was never going to happen. It seems like Harmonix wants to run far, far away from the Rock Band franchise and never return given all the trouble it gave them — and while I can understand that, it’s very disappointing.
Watch_Dogs. I am super stoked about this game. When I saw a line stretching around the Ubisoft booth and back just to get in and see it, I was ready to give up. Fortunately one of the Frag Dolls spotted me and offered to let me cut in, since my disability support scooter couldn’t do the line! Yay! But… once I got in I got a 3 minute boring prerecorded hype interview, and the SAME 3 MINUTES OF GAMEPLAY shown at the PS4 presser with new and very redundant narration. That’s it. I felt genuinely sorry for anybody who actually waited in line for that. AAA titles need to bring their AAA game to PAX, especially in light of the next items on my list…
THE GOOD: Indies! Indies! Indies!
Transistor. From the makers of Bastion we have a superbly executed action/strategy game, one which handles better than Bastion did, especially for disabled gamers. Less reliance on chording and dual sticks, more reliance on planning out your move at your own pace. Amazing atmosphere and story and I waaaant more.
Contrast. A puzzle platformer where you hop in and out of shadows on the wall in a decadent Parisian atmosphere. I got hands on with this one — I couldn’t handle the controls due to chording, but the experience was still amazing. The developer said they put in Y-inversion for crusty old 90s gamers like me (and him!) and that I’d be able to monkey with INI files to rebind things if a rebinder isn’t in. Good to see some nods to disability to support and this is shaping up to be a great game.
Dungeon Hearts. A pretty generic title for a really interesting game; a hybrid of RPG and match-3 puzzle with juuuust enough timing-based action to keep it interesting without being overwhelming. I got hands-on with it and really enjoyed my time. I could see it getting a bit crazy at higher levels; hopefully they have a way of letting people progress even if they hit a skill wall.
THE REST: Interesting Stuff.
Magic the Gathering Online. They were offering free demos of their latest version of MtGO. If you’ve been following me on FB/Twitter you’d know I was agonizing over whether I wanted to sink money into virtual cards I could play with anytime, or paper cards I’d get to play with once in a blue moon. Turns out the answer is “Both, because I can afford to.” But my first MtGO session went well; my very, very, VERY badly drafted Boros deck won against a much sharper Orzhov/Dimir deck thanks to the high speed play of Boros and some luck.
Slam Blot Scrappers. It’s been an indie darling on PS3, now it’s on Steam. I can only half-recommend it. Clearly it’s crafted with love and piles on the innovation, being a weird mix of Smash Bros, Tetris, and Tower Defense… but no network play means I’d basically never get to play it, and the crazy frenetic pace of the action is really not my cup of tea. If you like what you see in the gameplay AND you have local players to play it with, though, it’s definitely worth it.
…overall I had a ton of fun at PAX. It’s pretty clear that the indie scene is becoming a force to be reckoned with; unlike past shows every single game I saw had someone playing all the time, with no games being completely overlooked in favor of the latest modern military shooter. If anything the AAA presence felt obligatory and splashy with little actual substance to it; everybody saving up their best material for E3. That’s a downright shame, but hey… more fun for the little guys.