And there was much rejoicing.
OK, now that that's out of the way, the other items concern games that are decidedly smaller in scale but no less interesting. Join me after the break for a look at the latest from the devs behind World War II Online (or Battleground Europe, if you prefer), and a new title called Forge. Oh yeah, and 500,000 of you are playing something called DayZ.
Given WW2OL's sprawling, persistent-world simulation, I found it somewhat surprising to see Cornered Rat Software take a different approach with its new Rapid Assault shooter. Then again, maybe it's not, since sims are decidedly out of vogue and today's most successful games are both ultra casual and ultra accessible.
Rapid Assault provides players with various WWII-themed scenarios on multiple large maps. There are traditional shooter objectives like deathmatch, capture, destroy, etc. There's also a recreation of the D-Day assault, complete with mad dashes off Higgins boats in the face of German LMG resistance. Tank combat is available as well, and Cornered Rat says the game's scenarios will range from 8v8 to 64-player action.
The game will release this fall as a free download; scenarios and units will be unlocked via DLC purchases. The firm will also be using a $100,000 Kickstarter project "as a source for a final round of funding." The Rapid Assault Kickstarter page lists a number of unique supporter rewards including free content, in-game recognition, and a meet-and-greet with the devs. I'll have some hands-on impressions for you as the game nears launch later this year.
Forge is an interesting new oddity, and I'm anxious to learn more about it. The game's website bills it as "an amazing blend of MMO PvP and FPS gameplay." I had to chuckle a little bit at that, as "MMO PvP" and "amazing" rarely go together. The site also mentions a complete lack of grind; it says that "every player is on a level playing field from their first game forward, no matter how many games their enemies have played."
I can get behind a concept like that, even as I'm also wondering how "MMO" it can be without a progression curve (to say nothing of how it will be monetized, I'm guessing League of Legends-style fluff?).
Let's get back to the core concept, though. Forge's press materials make a big deal about "pure PvP" and skill being the determining factor when it comes to who lives and who dies. What's implied here is that current MMO PvP leaves skill at the altar in favor of gear-dependent conflict and RNG-driven battles. Generally speaking, this is true, but it's also true that the ability to come up with (or counter) gear and builds is a skill.
So, while Forge sounds cool on paper, I'd like to see some elaboration on what kind of "skill" we're talking about. Twitch skills? Theory-crafting skills? Both? To be fair, Dark Vale has just started publicizing the game, and some of these concepts may still be fluid. There are also a couple of dev diaries that touch on design, but there's no actual gameplay footage as of yet.
As for the nuts and bolts, Forge is built on Unreal 3. It features five classes (Assassin, Pathfinder, Pyromancer, Shaman, and Warden), with 30 to 40 abilities per class and nine usable at a given time. There's also talk of an eventual persistent world. "While our initial release will focus on core gameplay, Forge has years of development work ahead of it that will bring everything from a persistent world to the first territorial conquest mode that actually works for new players and vast alliances alike," the website says.
As you can see, the dev team doesn't lack for ambition. It also boasts some heavy-hitting titles on its collective resume including Unreal Tournament 2003 and 2004, The Walking Dead, and Mortal Kombat.
Long story short, keep your eyes on this one, and rest assured that The Firing Line will too.
DayZ shatters the mold, though, both because of its skyrocketing popularity (it topped 500,000 players this week) and its curious blend of shooter and open-world sandbox gameplay. If you're unfamiliar with the phenomenon, let me explain. DayZ is a mod for 2009's ARMA II (it also requires the Operation: Arrowhead expansion pack). It drops players into a post-apocalyptic zombie wasteland and basically tasks them with staying alive.
This involves not only killing zombies and other players but also collecting food, water, medicine, and weapons. Modder Dean Hall also coded in environmental effects, bodily infections, broken bones, and low blood pressure. Players must eat and drink, and Hall has said that he intentionally created a nightmare gameplay experience as a way to upend traditional notions of balance.
"I wanted to see what happened if I [broke] the balance. What if I put the player in a situation that is essentially hopeless where every part of the world is out to get them and if they make one mistake that mistake could cost them their character's life?" he told a news organization in his native New Zealand.
DayZ is also (re)opening developer eyes to the potential of the PC mod scene. Hall's work has reportedly generated upwards of two million dollars for original ARMA II publisher Bohemia Interactive.
"We've got 80,000 unique players signed up in two and a half weeks, and the vast majority of those are new players. It's really unprecedented to have a product that's three or four years old to all of a sudden launch back up out of nowhere," said Bohemia CEO Marek Spanel.
The Firing Line's Jef Reahard has a twitchy trigger finger, a love of online shooters, and an uncanny resemblance to Malcolm Reynolds. OK, maybe not, but at least if he ever kills you, you'll be awake, you'll be facing him, and you'll be armed.