Between Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Tomb Raider, and Hitman: Absolution, Square Enix, which I visited today, had one heck of a show, but they weren’t the most interesting or bizarre display, oh no. That credit goes to IndyCade. It’s all straight ahead in my day 3 E3 wrap-up…
First, Square Enix and Deus Ex. As a fan of the original PC game, it was a huge relief to see a demo emphasize the different ways main character Adam Jensen could tackle a particular quest. They referred to the game’s four pillars of play: Combat, stealth, dialog, and tech/hacking. Every path through the game will supposedly allow you to approach it from one of those angles. We saw a stealth approach to one of the game’s missions, and were told that, bosses aside, Jensen doesn’t have to kill anyone from the game’s beginning to end. We also saw a several of his augmentations at work and the variety of ways they can help Jensen accomplish his goals should provide players with plenty of impactful gameplay choices.
We didn’t see as much diversity from Tomb Raider, which really borrows heavily from Heavy Rain in implementing quicktime-like events, but that doesn’t mean the game didn’t look extremely promising. We didn’t get to see any combat, but I love the Lara Croft reboot as they bring a real sense of humanity to her that goes so far beyond the cartoon character of yore.
And Hitman… that game left me blissfully uncomfortable. I’ve never played a Hitman game before, but I know their dark reputation. This game, which also looks gorgeous, showed off a Chicago-based level in which Agent 47 is the subject of a manhunt. Police have tracked him to a large, evidently abandoned building, and he has to stealth and battle his way out. Watching him evade the police, as we heard the cops talk about their families or give each other a hard time, set up a really difficult to watch sequence when 47 started murdering them to progress. As he held one poor sod hostage only to hear the cop apologize to his sergeant for his predicament I realized just how emotionally involved this brief demo got me. I’m not sure I’ll play the game or not -some of that stuff made me extremely uncomfortable; must be getting old- but for fans of the series, this should be an excellent new entry.
Then there is IndyCade. If you’re not familiar with IndyCade, think of it as an attempt to do for independent game development what Sundance does for independent film. This October annual event has been going on for about five years now and features games of every possible stripe and environment. At E3 they had live-action games on display (in which people are the game), traditional small dev team efforts like Skulls of the Shogun (a turn based XBLA strategy game) and Desktop Dungeon (reminiscent of a C64 game called Sword of Fargoal), and some stuff that could only be described as purely experimental. (Both the above games are well worth checking out.)
One such experimental effort, not even sure it could be called a game, was based on use of what designer Hye Yeon Nam calls a Kiss Controller. Think lovers, not face-painted rock bands. In this game one partner dons a headset, while another uses fixadent to affix a tiny circular magnet to their tongue. Then they make out, the movement of the magnet relative to the headset determining something about how an on-screen bowling ball is manipulated to strike pins. I’m still not remotely sure what determines this, but I do know I scored great. (Sadly, I had to hold the headset to my mouth and pretend to make out.)
In a related vain was Jason Arnott’s Deep Sea. I didn’t get to experience this first hand as Danielle and I spent our time talking to Arnott while Gameshark colleague Jason McMaster played the game, but I wish I had been able to try it. Arnott is a professional sound designer who likes to experiment with using gameplay to affect human emotion. Deep Sea is intended to bring out fear and anxiety in the player by putting them in an old style gas mask in which the player cannot see and has limited ability to breath. Headphones then convey the sense the player is deep underwater with malevolent sea creatures on the attack. Breathing heavily attracts the creatures and all the player can do is try to fire a weapon (using a flight stick) to fend them off. The game will always end in failure and Jason M. found the experience every bit as harrowing as Arnott intended for it to be. He’s hoping for his next project to play with evoking positive, even euphoric emotions; if it’s successful, that could be quite something to experience.
No, these aren’t games that would ever be sold on a shelf, but that’s not the goal for people like Nam and Arnott. The experience is the goal and an organization like IndyCade helps make sure people get to see their visions. If you find yourself in Culver City this October you owe it to yourself to check this event out.Enjoy this? Share it so others can too!