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GenCon '03 SoCal

GenCon is the traditional paper gaming grand exhibition which has been going on for over 30 years in the Midwest, where gamers and game companies meet for all things gaming. This year, a new location opened for those on the west coast, with GenConSoCal, which took place December 11th to the 14th at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim California.

We were there, after already checking out the Con and World of Warcraft, we had to see what the Gods had to offer!

GenCon03 SoCal: Mythica - Sachant (12-18-03)

Mythica- Whoa!
I have to admit straight out that Mythica is one of three games I've been paying attention to. Based in the Norse Mythology, Mythica is Microsoft's new baby and is an 'in house' project. Mythica boasts Private and Public Realms both for players and up until this point, all I knew was from reading and visiting the Fansites like Mythica Realms and Mythica HQ. I had yet to see it in action and was pleasantly surprised by some things I didn't realize were being implemented.

Some people may be hesitant to think of Microsoft putting out another MMORPG over the perceived shamble that AC2 was/is. I think they may want to put away their prejudices and wait to see what comes from this particular dev team.

I was given a demo and shown the E3 build. Sadly I had missed E3 due to illness and this gave me a chance to get up to speed. I may be covering the same things others did, but I feel it's important to point out some of my own observations that others may have missed themselves.

   

The interface is an evolving item. What you see in the E3 demo may not be what you will be getting. Movement is via the keyboard and using the mouse for mouse look is always a nice feature instead of keyboard only looking.

As many will know, you start as a mortal that has died and entered into the halls of Valhalla to face Odin. Odin will set you on your path as a servant of one of the Gods of your choice and send you down into the world to face the scourge of the Fire Giants. From there, you must gather worshippers by picking and choosing the prayers you wish to answer. I was told however, it would be important when choosing your path NOT to tick off your chosen deity. Err' by the grace of the Gods you go and with that, comes following the tenets of that God. Should you wander too far astray, you may find yourself 'reassigned' to a new God. Your worshippers and even your God may mistrust you and your path of choice will be that much more difficult.

Private Realms are an interesting and well thought out feature of the game. While so many of us have grown accustomed to the same ol' same ol' of monster bashing, Mythica offers something a bit more thought intensive. Each Private Realm has a difficulty indicator to let you know just how many other people you may need to round up to help you complete the realm. When you enter a realm, you'll see a cut scene giving you more of the storyline and showing you a bit of what to expect within. For those of you worried about being locked into watching these cut scenes every time you enter into a PR (say you want to repeat one), you will be able to bypass it and go right into the mission at hand.

The Gates of Midgard!
Once inside the Private Realm, you will be able to interact with the key figures within. Some you will be able to utilize or 'possess' to use their abilities and others are less significant. You may also have to keep a hero NPC alive for the quest and find yourself playing a bit of chess by sacrificing some pawns.

The most interesting thing about Private Realms I saw however was that you needed to actually use… get this… strategy. There were very real strategic elements involved. As I watched a Huntress was sent in stealthed to take a look at the situation ahead. Meanwhile a Hero and his group sat in wait to be called upon for support. Now, here's the point I found rather exciting… the huntress you send in can 'paint' a target for your immortal self. When this occurs, a new ability will become available to use provided your character has a long range attack, and you will now be able to destroy the 'painted' targets much as if you were playing a fighter combat sim and had laser painted tower targets. Let's call this RTS element #1.

Now, our Immortal self moves in to take a view high above the enemy encampment and takes possession of a catapult. She sites up a spawn building and destroys it, thinning out the enemy so that she can call in the reinforcements to destroy the place. Let's call this RTS element #2.

The strategic possibilities for groups are amazing. No more just walking in and cutting through mobs like a scythe. Groups will need to plan and use each other's abilities and that of the underlying story NPCs to achieve the objectives outlined in the PR quest. There are puzzle-solving elements that are sure to draw in both men and women into the game as challenges.

Mighty Goddess!
As an Immortal you can move much faster and appear much larger than the mortal population. As you gather your followers, you will be able to appear to them more and more in a form that they best recognize of the God you serve. In time, the goal of course is to actually become a God. Now, who doesn't want to achieve that?

There were a lot of things that we couldn't discuss due to the fact that much like Blizzard, the folks working on Mythica don't want to jump the gun and pass off information that will change at any moment. I was able to spend some time with Senior Designer Hal Milton and in deference to his trust in me; I'll just say he has some pretty exciting ideas for what he wants to do both with the storyline and with subsequent expansions. I'll be getting in touch with him more with the good graces of Lila Yee (Jade Dragonfly) the Community Manager for Mythica, soon to try to see what things I can build upon and further share with everyone here at GameRifts.

Again, I was assured that beta will occur when they are good and ready. Release will occur when they are good and ready. They have a strong dedication both to advancing the technology of the game, involving gamers in all aspects of the game and staying competitive with the likes of Blizzard.

For those of you who are wondering about power gaming vs. casual player wants, have no fear. Both are in heavy consideration as are special things for Guilds. Again, we're talking about Microsoft and doing things in a big way with the technology and talent to back it up. Casual gamers will be able to choose to enter smaller Private Realms that take less time to complete. Power Gamers will be able to choose to enter into larger more difficult and cooperative Private Realms that take more time and resources to complete.

Here a few hang-ups and benefits to the idea of Private Realms and Public Realms. Private Realms are just that, private. No one will have gone through and destroyed everything and gotten all the loot before you. You and your group are all alone and the sole persons responsible for completing it. If for some reason you go link dead or drop suddenly from the game, you may have to restart the realm but ONLY if you had no one else in your group or no one in your group was left alive within the realm. As long as party members are still active within the PR, you will be able to enter back in where you left off. Unlike Blizzard's model, you will not be able to just stop in the middle of a Private Realm and come back to it. Like Blizzard's model, you will still have control over your time investment to a certain extent.

Public Realms are just that, public. Anyone can enter in and interact within it. You will be at the mercy or beneficence of other players like yourself when you enter these, however they will be larger and more involved than Private Realms will intend to be.

Jeepers, Creepers!
There are many more considerations for involvement of guilds and even PvP on the table however, nothing can be said of this yet. I'd love to give you all more specifics, but at the same time, what I have learned beyond the E3 demo is under NDA (via the VIP party they threw) and because they have assured me that the best is yet to come for E3. I respect their dedication to releasing very real and concrete information to their fans and listening to their fanbase as they develop something they hope to be proud of.

Mythica has a very strong Adventure Game feel to it and that is completely intentional. The developers want you to feel as if you've stepped into to the world for more than Mob Bashing but for an adventure.

The back-story is solidly grounded in Norse Mythology and word is the Gods each will have their own personalities solidly displayed in game as well as their own motivations for players to build their character's life and story on. The crafting system is still being developed, the specifics of the different classes and their abilities is also still being worked out so that it all fits well within the world that is being created. The game promises to be beautiful to look at as well. My only concern is we have no idea what sort of power in a computer we will need. The demo computers from what I saw were P4 3Ghz computers with all the bells and whistles. That may seem intimidating right now, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say like all other games before, these won't be the minimums and graphical settings can vary. It's just, with the beauty and sheer craftsmanship that is being put into this game, would you really want to settle for 'lesser' graphics?

   

There is no word as of yet either on what sort of population they can expect on their servers also so don't even go there as of yet. I can say that my interest was even more peaked in Mythica after learning a few new things about the game and seeing it actually in action. I learned later on at the VIP party that what I learned at the demo at GenCon was merely the tip of the iceberg however.

Next: Mythica V.I.P Party!
Discuss: Are You Worthy to be a Gawd?


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