And so while the video game world continues to reel from the Thunderdome-esque warzone that was E3, John, Jon and myself found ourselves at a little event they call Rezzed.
They define it as a “PC and Indie games show” and, as we walked under said banner and had our wristbands examined by grumpy looking suited staff, that was very much what we found ourselves in. The show started last year in Brighton and debuted with a first play of Borderlands 2 and Dean “Rocket” Hall talking about his new mod: DayZ. The irony being he was back this year peddling what turned out to be an hour old build for the DayZ standalone. That’s right, the folk in the audience in Rezzed got to see a newer version than at E3.
Those of you who know the NEC at Birmingham will know the size of the halls. The show filled a quarter of one (it was small). It was open plan: the booths consisting of a grandiose banner telling us what we will find at thier row of PC screens. A trio of little shops and the obligatory University trying to be hip by selling Games Degrees were present, offering everything from T-Shirts to Batarang replicas. We walked around the entire thing in about 4 minutes. And that was slowly.
But as I am often told in a reassuring tone, size isn’t everything. Whilst the convention was intimidating small to consider spending 6 hours in, you soon realise there is everything to do. Every booth was offering a demo, and the turnout was substantial: over a dozen indie developer teams were selling their wares, with a selection of AAA titles brushing shoulders with the small fry.
To list all would be daft, so here comes the notables before we move onto the Rift and the talks:
Prison Architect- one of Johns favourites- were back offering people a run through their tutorial so to get a flavour of the game. It’s a top-down prison simulator, where to be successful you must balance aspects such as security and (ironically) crime with comfort of your prisoners. When I say comfort, I mean suitable sized cells and a toilet, as opposed to making sure the pillows match the curtains and a maid. It was disappointing to see that the game appeared to have changed little since its debut, but it remains one to watch in the future.
Surgeon simulator was also there in force. The competition-experiment-gone-hilarious-indie-success saw more failed medical procedures in 6 hours than all 8 seasons of House. It was never short of crowds. Interest here came from the addition of the TF2 collaboration- Medic operates on an amusingly blotto Heavy- and a single Oculus Rift that had been jacked up to a Razer Hydra motion controller, which when combined made for… interesting… heart transplants.
The greatest disappointment, for me at least, was Company of Heroes 2. Insofar as it felt like Company of Heroes 1 only with more snow and different accents. It is certainly a solid RTS, but both it and Splinter Cell: Blacklist gained the least attention by far. Why? Well, they were sealed off in an “18 only” zone, but considering any gamer worth his salt was officially born in 1901, I wouldn’t call this the reason for their unpopularity.
The outside bet, before I move on, was Sir, You Are Being Hunted. A small booth headed by two rather dapper dressed gentlemen offered what appeared to be the first public glimpse at the Alpha(ish) survival game. You are being pursued by some superbly upper class gentlemen robots with shotguns. The objective is, from what I could tell, to survive for as long as possible. It was also implied there was a storyline of some calibre, but to be frank, I couldn’t get near enough to the bloody screen to make it out. But it is clearly one to watch.
The primary highlight, other than the soothing and arousing New Zealand accent of Dean Hall, was the presence of several oculus Rift VR Dev Kits. One hour and ten minutes later, and one argument over being physically owned by Chris Roberts, the three of us got our first ever taste of the phenomenon that is gradually building up for a storm. Thus ten minutes of wandering around the ocean floor in a submarine and staring at sharks and rocks, they pulled me from the depths of true immersion so that they could clear up all the brain matter on the wall behind. Because my mind had been blown.
The actual image quality was somewhat lacklustre, but the capacity and potential for immersion was astounding. And with $16 million having recently being thrown at the team from some big names, the Rift is shaping up for a true revolution.
These kits were being handled with some reverence and care. And while the game I played (A submarine simulator) was remarkably dull/serene, experiencing a world so complete, so entire and so reactive to my presence ingame made the knowledge of returning to a 2D screen with edges a disheartening prospect. This is something I don’t think will fail, something that is not a gimmick, and is certainly a contender for the future of game immersion.
Alongside the showroom floor, a series of lectures and talks were occurring in a suite across the corridor throughout the day. It opened with the rather enticing “Is storytelling getting better in video games?” in which a selection of the present Devs- Dean Hall included- discussed the topic for an hour. I missed this one, much to my disappointment.
What we did catch was Hall’s talk and live showing of the current build of the DayZ standalone. At risk of wandering into John’s article, it was quite the show. The game is looking excellent, with features and mechanics beginning to take shape. He explained to us the roadmap, and that there was an actual release date set. It closed with a Q&A, for which you will have to read what John writes in his super special article on the talk.
Happy hunting Ladies and Gentlefolk.
Rezzed showfloor: http://www.bigredbarrel.com/blog/2013/06/rezzed-2013-birmingham/
Sir, You are Being Hunted: http://www.big-robot.com/2013/06/24/rezzed-was-pretty-great-actually/
Surgeon Simulator: http://www.surgeonsimulator2013.com/