Thursday, August 11, 2011

QuakeCon recap: Skyrim, free online shooter?

It's all about Skyrim ...

Getting a chance to see Dishonored and Prey 2 gameplay was killer. Playing RAGE and Tribes: Ascend was sweet. Watching Skyrim gameplay in a room filled with over 1,700 screaming folks and breaking the fire code at the Hilton Anatole Dallas? Epic.

My first presentation at QuakeCon was Dishonored. This first-person shooter, developed by Arkane Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks, is an *intimate* single player that combines stealth, magic and possession. Players assume the role of Corvo, a bodyguard to an empress. When she is murdered, haters frame Corvo for the murder. He decides that vengeance is his, sayeth Corvo.

The presentation revealed just a few of his powers. You can play this game two ways - using stealth and keeping your wanted level - called chaos - off the grid - or taking the Dirty Harry approach and blasting everything in sight. According to Dishonored's creative directors, your actions do change the outcome of the game.

Chaos registers for every act you do. If you kill an enemy with stealth, even if no one sees it, chaos will still increase. If you kill a person and witnesses see you, chaos will shoot through the roof.

Throughout the game, players can learn several abilities. In the presentation, Corvo had the ability to stop time, move enemies into the line of fire of another enemy with a pistol and unfreeze time. Then, to maintain stealth, players can possess rats to move around. There's one drawback with going small to creep past servants and soldiers - rats can be stomped.

The game is scheduled for 2012.

Skyrim insanity

After seeing the short Dishonored, I decided to grab a quick bite. I had to scarf down my vittles quickly to see Skyrim. A few bloggers with attended E3 - Electronic Entertainment Expo - told me it would be packed. I didn't doubt them, but wanted to finish my lunch before attending. When I talked to my PR contact, his face revealed sadness. "It's packed, Skillz. Maybe they'll let you in."

Volunteers warned me that the presentation was packed. Later, Kevin Cloud, lead artist and co-owner of id Software, told me the crowd was well over 1,700. Break the fire code much?

When I made it there, I noticed the line was long and stretching around the corner. Argh. I went to a volunteer and asked for the press line. Now, I was a line. The volunteer told me it was packed to capacity, but the lead doorman had to give the approval to let me in. After talking to him and showing him my credentials, the lead man said 'He's good - let him in.'

The atmosphere was dark, loud and wall-to-wall attendees. I had to step over, slide and squeeze past attendees until I made it to an open spot in the back. The first thing I noticed was the lack of 3G coverage in the room. I had to lean right and left, just enough to get a signal long enough to fire off a few tweets.

The crowd was lively and rabid. When the presenter, Bethesda's own Todd Howard, asked the crowd should his character spare or kill an NPC, the loud response was a given.


The gameplay included fighting enemies on a highly detailed mountaintop, setting a prisoner free and battling dragons, which are some of the biggest bosses in the game. Each dragon you kill, you absorb their powers. The dragons aren't no joke, so don't expect for them to show you mercy. Oh, no. The presenter was on life support a few times battling a set of dragons.

The graphics are stellar. One sequence that got the crowd worked up was after emerging from a mountain cave to see mastodons (think - the huge battle elephants in Return of the King) and prehistoric cavemen walking beside them. Each step the mastodons took shook the crowded room. The huge animals displayed lifelike movement - and the crowd sighed in awe at the creatures.

The presentation was reminiscent of Elder Scrolls: Oblivion but much, much more polished. The environments also seem vast. I didn't see many loading screens either.

After the presentation, the presenter announced the Collector's Edition of the game. Coming in at $149, the game comes with an art book, making of Skyrim DVD and a slick dragon statue, reminding me of the Halo: Reach statue.

Overall, I came away impressed by Skyrim.

Showing love to the Tribe

After Skyrim, and watching a crew from Inside Xbox get duped into interviewing a PS3 bot who said on camera that he was going to get Skyrim on his PS3 - LOL - I made my way to the exhibition area of QuakeCon. The line was long, but being press has its privileges. I made it inside and walked around. As soon as you walked in, there was a modded Ford Velciraptor truck by local racing business Hennessy Racing nearly Sealy. The truck went home with a lucky attendee who's name wasn't M4d Ski11z lol.

There were some very familiar games being played - from the upcoming RAGE to oldies but goodies Left 4 Dead 2 and Team Fortress 2 were playing on a modded Hummer. There were some trade school recruiters and vendors, but nothing really caught my attention. That is, until I saw the Tribes: Ascend booth.

I was able to talk to a few Hi-Rez officers, including Todd Harris, the company's chief operating officer, about the game. It's an online shooter for PCs that is free to play. However, to get bigger weapons, better armor and the like, you'll have to pay. Harris said a person could play the game for free and never upgrade but would miss out on powerful weapons.

What I really enjoyed beside getting worked into a terminal ahead of a massive crowd was walking antisocial guys flirting hard - and unsuccessfully - with the Tribes: Ascend booth babes. Hi-Rez was offering a chance to score beta keys to the game's closed beta in September. The game looks good, but I was nailed a few times because I can not, for the life of me, play a shooter with a keyboard and a mouse.

Let us Prey 2 ...

After visiting the packed exhibition area, I went back to play more RAGE. I continued to pick one of the game's environmental designer's brain for clues, hints and the like. When I asked him why anyone should buy RAGE, his response was simple.

"It's fun," he said.

As 5:30 neared, I decided to not get caught standing for the Prey 2 presentation. When I made it there, the crowd was thin and seats were available. The presenter, Chris Rhinehart with Human Head, showed us some slick moves. Basically, players will assume the role of an officer who was on the airplane that crashed in the first Prey. This one, however, focuses on the officer's experience. He finds himself on this planet and based on his skills from earth, he's a gun for hire. The presentation also revealed how a quick scan can reveal targets, potential targets and bullies and the people they harass. You can pull your weapon on anyone in the game. You can also get 5-0 on you fast - aim your pistol/weapon at a floating camera and stay put. You'll be lit up like a Christmas tree on Pennsylvania Avenue in D.C.

The gameplay looked and ran smooth. Rhinehart took a contract to capture this teleporter. Tracking him wasn't hard - catching him proved to be a difficult chore.

The best news about the game? The original hero, Tommy, will be back.

It was a great trip to Dallas and my first QuakeCon. Stay tuned for more gaming news - and reviews only the way Skillz can do them - right here.

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