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Ever since the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) moved back to Los Angeles from Atlanta in 1999, east-coast gamers have been pretty much shut out of major industry events. But the producers of the GameX Industry Summit have changed all of that by bringing their event to the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in suburban Oaks, Pa. The festival, held from October 23 to 25, 2009, was a combination of the media-centric nature of E3 and the fan-friendly character of the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX), held annually in Seattle (with a repeat performance scheduled for Boston in the spring of 2010). The event featured something for almost everybody: a show floor offering the public hands-on time with some major future releases, vendors with all manner of gaming items to buy and sell, forums and panel discussions led by some of the leading lights of the industry, and a contest giving participants a chance to showcase their design talents to the pros.
Several of the most highly anticipated games of the year were on display on the show floor. Sega gave attendees the rare opportunity to play Bayonetta, their new anime-based hack-and-slash epic. Hi Rez Studios invited players to sample their upcoming online multiplayer game Global Agenda, tentatively scheduled for release in Q4 2009. And Electronic Arts’ controversial RPG Dante’s Inferno (2/9/2010) was there as well, offering a look at EA’s violent, sometimes profane version of the ancient epic poem.
Sega only had four stations available for Bayonetta, and all four of them were almost constantly in use, so I didn’t get a chance to take it for a spin. But from the looks of the game’s frenetic, gravity-defying action, it seems that it’s safely on course for its proposed January 2010 release. I did get to play a match or two in Global Agenda, and it seems rock-stable and ready to go. Dante’s Inferno also appears to be almost ready for prime time, although I can’t imagine how it’s going to escape being slapped with the dreaded AO rating by the ESRB in its current form (naked female demons with tentacles protruding from their groins will not have fans on the ratings board).
During the show I had the chance to sit down with David McCool, president of Massachusetts-based Muzzy Lane Software, who showed me some advance screens from their new strategy game, Making History II: The War of the World. Making History: The Calm and the Storm, published by Strategy First in 2007, was a reworking of a 2004 educational game sold primarily to schools as a teaching tool. The sequel is a grand strategy game that places you in charge of one of 90 countries in three scenarios, beginning in 1933, ’36 and ’39. The game charges you not only to guide your military forces in successful campaigns, but also to maintain your country’s economy. Using their proprietary Sandstone technology, Muzzy Lane has built MHII to play in a Web browser as well as full-screen in both single-player and online, synchronous, turn-based multiplayer mode, in which as many as 90 players (one for each country) make their moves simultaneously. When all players are finished with their turns, the computer displays the results and signals the next turn to begin.
I asked McCool for his thoughts on the state of the market for games such as MHII, particularly if they can regain the popularity that they enjoyed some years ago. “I think the Web is bringing back around some of these games to have more of the market,” McCool said. “It makes [the games] more accessible to the players. The Web and social networking are enabling the social aspect to come back, and that will affect the sales of games like this.”
Making History II: The War of the World is slated for a February 2010 release on the PC, with a Mac version appearing later in the year. It will be available both at retail stores and on the major download sites.
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