Demo Night 3
By: Ben Serviss
Demo Night, a bi-annual gaming event gradually attracting attention from the gaming community, had its third incarnation last week in the loft office of New York game developer Large Animal Games. The event, organized by the Large Animal team and sponsored by the Parsons School of Design and the New Jersey and New York chapters of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), brings together developers, academics and students to get a glance at upcoming titles in various stages of development. GamersHell was there to snag impressions of the work-in-progress offerings for the GBA, Mobile, Internet, and Xbox/Xbox360 platforms.
Title: Hawaiian Xtreme Frisbee Football
Developer: Maui Games
Release: September 2005
Official Site: http://www.mauigames.us/
First up was Maui Games with Hawaiian Xtreme Frisbee Football. The high concept behind the title is a simple marriage of American-style football—with a Frisbee instead of the pigskin. The player runs their team up the field, with an over-the-shoulder camera angle giving a clear view to the end zone, completing plays for yardage and gathering bonus items like speed and stamina boosts.
Most of the actual gameplay is controlled by a series of meters that determine the Frisbee’s destination and velocity, and seemed to translate well to the mobile platform. The ability to quickly change players was a nice touch, as each member of your team has a number above their head corresponding to a number on the touchpad. Mode-wise, players can play one-on-one against the computer or play in online tournaments with up to 10 players. Although it has an odd name, and it’s quite hard for a mobile game of any kind to be ‘Xtreme’, Hawaiian Xtreme Frisbee Football could be a worthwhile distraction when it’s released later this month.
Title: Global Arms Dealer
Developer: Templar Studios
Release: Out Now
Official Site: http://www.lordofwarthemovie.com/
Global Arms Dealer is an ‘advergame’ for the movie Lord of War, with one major distinction—its development time was all of one week. Developer Templar Studios was tasked with developing an original game that covered 20 years of war to be completed in time for the film’s release, and the end result is something like Drug Wars crossed with a lot of dice rolling.
The game’s main screen is a map of the world and, as conflicts flare up, the player decides which sides to provide arms to in a quest to rise through the ranks of dealers, eventually becoming a lord of war. The game draws on real-life wars around the world, such as conflicts in Vietnam, India, South Africa, the Middle East, and the United States. Each deal that comes to the player’s table outlines the parties involved, how much cash is required up front as an investment, the risk associated, and the visibility of the deal.
By playing warring sides off of each other, the player can rack up 100 million bucks and become the titular lord of war; conversely, if any faction is displeased enough, the player can be eliminated from the business. Interpol can also bust you and end the game, as your visibility meter increases with each major deal struck. While the gameplay is admittedly low-key, the premise and the factual information about the wars are intriguing enough to give this flash title a look.
Release: Out Now
Official Site: http://www.mochibot.com/
While not a game, Mochibot’s self-titled application provided an interesting look at developer-side issues where flash content is concerned. Mochibot itself is a program that tracks flash content, predominantly games, across the Internet as it gets passed from host to host. This tracking tool, while sounding like it should be labeled as mild spyware, allows developers to get a more accurate idea of their game’s popularity, and can even be used to test prototypes, using the amount of traffic as an indicator of a product’s possible success. Mochibot also tracks views if you download a flash game to your computer, in a slightly creepy version of Nielsen ratings for the 21st century.
Developer: Evil Enterprise
Official Site: http://www.evilenterprise.net
Plunder was the last flash offering of the night, bearing a similar premise and scope to Global Arms Dealer. In Plunder, the player is the CEO of a corporation set on exploiting the native peoples of third-world countries for his own personal gain, making for an experience that could be described as SimSweatshop.
As with Global Arms Dealer, the playing field is a map, and the player must pick which country to industrialize next. The main concern is to weigh the exploitability of a nation’s population via their mood, represented by a percentage and a happy/frowny face, versus the price of minimum wage per employee. As the player builds up and industrializes a country the minimum wage increases, putting a cap on expansion and introducing a strategic element of resource management. If you overwork a population, ruin a country (tallied via the handy Deforestation, Pollution and Disease meters) and upset national sentiment too far and your wage slaves will revolt, ending the game.
The ultimate goal of Plunder is to double your money in five years, going from 500 million to a cool billion.
While Plunder’s premise is quite factual, it takes place in a fictional world replete with nation names like Mbabma, Ha-Hananana and Freedomtown. Evil Enterprise seems to be set on controversy, with presenter Prithvi Virasinghe stating the game’s aim—to induce gamers and non-gamers alike to think about real social issues going on in the world.
Title: Trollz: Hair Affair
Developer: Powerhead Games
Platform: Game Boy Advance
Release: November 2005
Official Site: http://www.ubi.com/US/Games/Info.aspx?pId=3814
Next up was Trollz: Hair Affair for Game Boy Advance. The sole Game Boy title shown was a licensed game, coinciding with the re-launch of the famed Troll product line of the early ‘90s. In control of the big-haired nymphs Amethyst, Sapphire, Onyx, Ruby, and Topaz, players play through several mini-games connected by a narrative thread—the cutest boys are being sent to military school, and will get their giant hair cut off!
While the game is not targeted at the hardcore market, the developers at Powerhead used conventions of games past to create a licensed product that is actually playable beneath all the girl power. There are five mini-games in total, one for each Trollz character—not counting the dress-up doll/virtual toy as an added extra. Games range from a side-scroller to a memory match, and also include light platform action, a DDR clone, and a Bust-a-Move style puzzle game. A cooperative mode adds enhanced replay value, and in the single-player mode players can call in computer-controlled Trollz for assistance.
Developer: Saber Interactive
Platform: PC/Xbox/Xbox 360
Release: March 2006
Official Site: http://www.atari.com/us/games/timeshift/pc
The last demo of the night belonged to TimeShift, the sole console offering and an intriguing FPS. As hinted at in the title, time manipulation is the core gameplay mechanic, with players able to slow, stop, and rewind time. Aware of the other time-shifting games on the market, Saber made a pledge to use their time enhancements in innovative, non-gimmicky ways—and it looks like they’re making good on that promise.
As test pilot Michael Swift, players must use their time-travel abilities to correct an unnatural disturbance in the time stream, and will encounter different time periods as well as alternate realities a la The Butterfly Effect through the single-player mode. Swift’s back-mounted time machine alters time in a realistic, yet stylized fashion as to provide gamers with surprising results.
For example, if a passageway is guarded by a wall of flame, you can simply stop time and walk right through it. If an enemy gets the drop on you, it’s entirely possible to stop time, snatch the pistol from his grasp, and resume time to watch his confused reaction before making use of the borrowed weapon. Lastly, should you gib an enemy into a dozen pieces, rewinding time will make all of his body parts fly back together, bringing him back to life.
With levels designed around making full use of the time powers, TimeShift reeks of potential. A multiplayer mode—hinted at but not unveiled—promises to take time-based gameplay to the next step, as Saber scrapped the first four iterations of its multiplayer component in search of the perfect design.
The gameplay sounds solid, you might say, but how are the graphics? Using Saber’s in-house Saber3D engine and tons of visual tricks like normal mapping and parallax lighting, the Xbox version shown was nothing to smirk at. With the PC and Xbox 360 releases on the horizon, expect the graphical quality to jump even higher before the title launches next spring.