Friday, August 10, 2012

Thursday Night Game Night 8-9-2012

When I was in college, every Saturday night, my friends in town would tear ourselves away from our World of Warcraft addictions for a few hours to meet up and play other games. Most often, we would play board and card games, and would only play console video games if there was a new title that we all could play together. We played games like Twilight Imperium, Robo Rally, Warcraft/World of Warcraft board game, CCGs (World of Warcraft and Magic: The Gathering). Every weekend, it was something different. We would still occasionally discuss the goings on in WoW, but often we were drawn into the games in front of us. I thoroughly enjoyed those nights, and would come to miss them when I entered graduate school.

Years later, I still keep in touch with my old friends, but I no longer live near any of them. Recently, I started playing games online again with one of my old friends: GundamX. GundamX and I have been friends since high school, and have started weekly gaming sessions again: this time on Thursday nights. Most often we play Xbox 360, but occasionally we play games on PC through Steam, or other online games. Setting aside one day a week to unwind and distance myself from late night game dev training sessions has been good for me. I use the opportunity to relax, but also to be inspired by new game experiences. Often times, AAA titles like Diablo 3 and Team Fortress 2 dominate game night for several weeks on end, but occasionally we turn to other titles, if only for that night.

This week, we tried Killing Floor by Tripwire Interactive. The game is an FPS that is made with the Unreal engine, and is available on Steam. The game has mechanics that remind me of Counter-Strike, Call of Duty: Zombies, Left 4 Dead, and Borderlands.  Overall, it took some time to get used to the controls, but quickly became fun, and it is likely that I will play it again soon.

The theme of the game is co-operative survival horror: several zombie-like specimens will spawn and attack the players' positions from several attack points. Many of the areas have multiple points from which these enemies can attack from, so camping one location is ill advised. The game play is divided up into several waves, where each wave spawns an increasing number and variety of specimens. In order to survive, players must constantly reposition across the map in pursuit of the game's only friendly NPC and part time narrator/cheerleader: the Trader. As players rack up the kills, they earn money, which can be spent on better weapons, ammo for those weapons, grenades, and body armor. The aiming system utilizes iron sights and has no targeting reticule. These attributes remind me of the zombie mod from Call of Duty.

Also, any weapons owned or found (except for the two starting weapons) can be sold to the Trader. Items take up carrying capacity (called blocks) for each player, each block that is used also slows that character down, so if you're the type who likes to bring the big guns to a fight, then you'd better know how to kill with it, because you won't be able to outrun some of the faster specimens while lugging it around. The economy created by the Trader, and the effects of weapon load outs on move speed reminds me of Counter-Strike.

The specimens that make up the enemies of the game each have their own unique skills. Clotters look like ordinary zombie type enemies, but have the ability to root you in place until you kill them. This mechanic alone can get a player killed fast, and greatly contributes to the frantic run 'n' gun nature of the game. Other examples of specimens have bodily fluid projectiles, ranged weapons, cloaking, and super-speed, (just to mane a few) providing a nice mixture of player tactics when encountering each. Most of the time on the easier difficulties, shooting at range in the general direction of the enemies is sufficient to dispatch them, but with higher difficulties, other tactics may apply. Having a variety of enemies with unique abilities and strategies reminds me of Left 4 Dead's Special Infected.

Finally, there is an RPG-like element to the game, where each profile you make can choose a specialty, complete with a list of perks. Performing actions that match that play style (using explosives with the demolitions specialty) earns points that contribute to new levels and better perks in that specialty. In Borderlands, each weapon class has a similar system of weapon proficiencies that boosts damage on the weapons your character uses the most often. This encourages new players to branch out and try new weapons once they get comfortable in the game. At any time, the player can switch perks that they want to level or use on the fly.

These are only a few observations I made about the game within the 2 hours that I played it. At first, I had difficulty coping with the iron sights (as I often do in recent FPSs), but once I adapted, the game became fun!

I will continue to log these gaming experiences along with my game dev training progress as often as I can.

Thanks for reading!



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