PC Gamer came up with a solid show for their first effort at Olympia; while you’d expect the games themselves to be the focus there was a lot of associated activity that was both fun and thought-provoking.
Panels covered diverse topics such as careers in games journalism, the influence of the modder community on games developers and a number covering practical elements of entry to game development, particularly animation and modelling. Omen by HP, sponsors of the official Overwatch League, ran a boot camp all weekend which combined access to the game as well as advice on tactics and builds from E-Sport experts which was in-depth and very well attended.
In a bannered-off workshop, Tom Logan of OC3D held court, teaching people how to build their own gaming PC from the case up and teaching essential but oft-neglected skills such as cable management, cooling and safety (for you and the components). The primary advantage of PCs over their console brethren (apart from that it’s really tricky to run a home office through a PS4) is their upgradeability. By showing the participants that slotting a working PC together can be as easy as an Ikea flat-pack I think it helped to demystify the process and will, with luck, have them more willing to get their hands into the case instead of buying something new pre-built. At worst, judging by some covert people-watching I did during one of the seminars, it opened some eyes to what they were using and will, hopefully, lead to better decisions even if they do decide to go the pre-built route.
Around the show, geeks were able to get their unpowered fix with a very reasonably priced stand of tabletop games that had me cursing that I only had a small backpack with me. Still, I mollified myself with a copy of Braggart 2nd Edition and for those with friends there were tables set up to let them test out their new purchases. Purely to check all the bits were there, you understand. Honest.
A trio of unlikely-coloured sofas surrounded the LG Lounge, where players could leap into 2 player games of Rocket League on some rather lovely monitors. This convinced me of three things; that I cannot play Rocket League to save my life; that controllers are the work of the Devil, and that when I am next shopping for a monitor the curved LG widescreen is going on my short-list. Plus the sofas were comfy 🙂
So, my Most Valuable Players of the weekend? They were, perhaps naturally, games. Both successors to favourites which managed to not simply duplicate their predecessors but that grabbed me and had me coming back for more.
Warhammer: Vermintide 2 from Fatshark Games is the follow-up to Endtimes: Vermintide and does everything that the first game did but harder, nastier and with more sarcastic intra-party quips than before. The variety of enemies has been increased, with undead, Northmen berserkers and Chaos Warriors added to the hordes of Skaven ratmen.
And by horde I mean horde. Periodically in any given level you hear a hunting horn and that means “brace yourself” because you’re about to find just how many nasties can fit in the relatively small space you’re party is back to back in, gripping their weapons and wishing they had picked up that healing draught they didn’t need a couple of minutes ago.
The strongest point of the experience is the party co-operation; you can play single player with bots filling the rest of your 4-person team but the game really zings when you’re on with three of your closest mates, yelling instructions, begging for help or running to rescue or revive fallen comrades before the damned Packmaster Skaven drags them beyond aid.
I was lucky enough to get codes for the closed Beta that’s just finished and my friends and I have been thrashing VT:2 on a variety of machines, having an absolute ball. The netcode is rock solid – everyone hears the same comments from the characters, sees the same random loot drops and the same slightly funky graphic glitches with the occasionally moshing dead Skaven. It’s Beta, it’s still a WIP.
One major variation on Vermintide 1 is that the characters can now follow different career paths, based on their starting occupation, allowing for a very different style of play. The character classes are based on the Warhammer Fantasy RPG and discovering that one of the dev team has been running a WFRP game for the last decade was NO shock at all. I fully intend to progress the Mercenary to Lieutenant, and I can see the Dwarf Giant Slayer, complete with red mohican and no defence whatsoever being a popular choice. An adrenaline-fueled killfest that demands and rewards co-operation and will probably result in a few dead mouses down the line. Just please, give us a sprint key? Please?
Finally I come to the tie for best time spent at a PC in a long old while; Murderous Pursuits from Blazing Griffin. I cannot figure out why this follow-up to The Ship; Remastered grabbed me the way it did. It’s a stealth ’em up where you are assigned a target on a flying Victorian-era ship and must do away with them using one of the provided implements of death. All the while someone else is out to do the same to you.
So far, so The Ship.
Where the stealth really kicks in is with the subterfuge involved in pretending to be an NPC. You see, you have only a minimal indication of the location of your target, as in are they on the same, higher or lower floor or “nearby”. You only get a clearer, icon based indicator if they reveal themselves by acting out of character for a bot and the same goes for you. You can re-establish your bot-hood by lurking in “vignettes”, dotted areas marked out around the ship where characters congregate and perform stock actions. This reduces your chance of being revealed but also burns time, and that timer is constantly counting down, and your opponents are can be racking up the kills. As the timer gets lower the action gets more frenetic and caution can get thrown to the wind as players try for the final kill to take the lead. (I was really terrible at it but had a great time – Robin)
The ship looks lovely, the costumes are great and the rounds short enough, running for 10 minutes in the Weekender, that the pace is maintained and it doesn’t outstay its welcome. As a swift blast with friends this is tough to beat, which is why Sunday morning saw me back at the stand for another go, this time with some of the Blazing Griffin team, who are great sports. Murderous Pursuits is due out on Steam sometime in March.
So, that was my weekend, and some of the games, too many to cover in the space. PC Gamer managed a great atmosphere, the crowds were well managed and friendly and overall it was a fascinating experience I’d love to repeat, this time with business cards. Many thanks to Coaching for Geeks, and Robin in particular for letting me grab this opportunity.