I attended Gamescom two days ago, and boy did I have a good time. I was only there for two days, but I checked out everything I wanted and that was enough for me.
I'll try out something new with this article: Originally I had planned to make a sort-of video diary, but I have far too few footage, and I figured that not everyone wants to go through every detail about my trip there. So instead I'll upload the few good clips and photos I have and embed them here, and the rest will be text.
Anyway, let's get started.
I was there only at Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. Because of rush hour I didn't arrive earlier, and left the place early because of the huge masses that showed up at noon.
In case you've never been at Gamescom before, let me give you an advice: NEVER GO THERE AT WEEKENDS!
It is so crowded there starting Friday you wouldn't believe it. It only gets worse at Saturday and Sunday. You can't even more forward anymore, that many people are inside the halls. It only really is bearable at weekdays such as Wednesday and Thursday, and Friday morning in case you have to check out one last booth.
It is so bad, in fact, that all pre-order cards for Saturday were sold out two weeks prior to the event's start – this has never happened before.
What's more, people who haven't bought a season ticket or one-way ticket beforehand, but instead arrived there as spontaneous visitors, weren't even allowed inside – they had to wait in a separate line until 1 PM before they were even permitted to get inside the entrance hall to buy tickets.
The event organizers hah to split the visitors into waves like that, otherwise it would become crazy crowded. Then again, with 340.000 visitors this year, they better had to.
On Friday, I arrived at the mess hall one hour prior to the opening and there were 300 guys inside the entrance hall already. I saw it as a test of patience: If you can't wait for an hour, you don't have a chance to survive the several hours of wait for the popular games like Call of Duty or Battlefield.
Well, at least the visitors had the right idea and played some volleyball during the wait.
During my two-day visit (which amounted to just a one day visit really), I didn't play many games. I skipped the popular ones because I 1) will buy the games at release either way or 2) won't wait for hours just for 20 to 30 minutes of gameplay. So instead I focused on the few things I personally wanted to check out.
My first booth was the one of Everquest Next. I found the booth by chance and got in line for the very last presentation that day – I was literally the last guy allowed to get in.
Inside the booth, there were two guys from the development team...whose names I already forgot. I'm sorry, but my memory isn't good enough to remember a name just after hearing it once. But hey, these guys were important fellows, one of them was the Creative Director!
The presentation showed the various unique features of Everquest Next. Some of the stuff was already known and covered on Kotaku, but some stuff was new.
One of the biggest new things was the revelation that there are several tiers to the world: The surface, below that is the underground with caves and all that, and below that is Hell. So if the entire surface gets destroyed, there's still the underground.
You might be tempted to say “Minecraft MMO”, but it doesn't stop there.
The game goes a long way to offer a constant amount of variety. Aside from the already unveiled Landmarks which allows players to build their own things on a piece of land, the game also offers parkour action: player characters will jump over small obstacles, ride down steep hills and use skills like teleportation and long jumps to make traveling more exciting.
The real kicker, however, is the way how both the enemy AI behavior and the global quest system are designed.
Both the enemies and the quests are being created dynamically and actually react to each other. If players kill lots of orcs in one area, said orcs will move to another area permanently. Same goes for the combat behavior which also changes slightly for the enemies. They're learning! They're calling the whole stuff Emergent AI.
As far as quests goes, there will be server-wide, world-changing quests. For instance, the players are tasked to build a settlement. Once that's done, the Emergent AI will make the trolls living close to the settlement to ally themselves with creatures from the area to destroy the settlement. Then there will be a quest for defending said settlement. Basically, the world will not just be a collection of quests that are always the same, but instead the game will always be changing, whether it be the environment or the creatures.
There were also a few new things about Everquest Next Landmarks: The community can vote for your creations, and if it's something really well-done, it'll be added to the game permanently. What's more, you can even sell your buildings and landmarks for a small price.
You can say whatever you want about microtransationcs and F2P, but rewarding people for producing something creative and practical is well-worth the money, even if it's just a cent or two.
So in the end, it really is Minecraft MMO. I can already imagine the players grouping up to recreate landmarks from other games – which, quite franky, sounds awesome!
After the presentation was over, everyone received a bag – a bag made out of fabric! Considering that everyone else, thorough the entire history of Games Convention/Gamescom, has always used cardboard bags, this makes it a special bag.
My next destination was the booth from Ryse: Son of Rome. Considering I'll end up with a PS4, I won't play any Xbox One-exclusive games for a long time. Plus I was curious just how good a non-FPS game made by Crytek can be. All they did were FPS games so far, and although that in itself isn't bad, it makes you wonder if the developers are capable of tackling new genres and settings at all.
To my surprise, it seems they can.
While waiting in the line, a monitor showed a video with the first 10 minutes of the game's story mode, which I believe was showing the Roman Empire's invasion of Great Britain (or so I've been told by a bystander). It showed a Pearl Harbor-like beach landing with lots of dead people and fireballs flying around (stuff thrown from a catapult, not magic!).
There was one scene where the soldiers were approaching a line of archers, and they used the signature turtle formation in which all soldiers are forming a shell out of their shields so that no arrows can get through. This was followed by some spear throwing, rinse and repeat.
Then it ended rather fast with a short fighting scene, but there was one moment that surprised me a whole lot! I was joking beforehand whether they would include a “This is Sparta” reference, and believe it or not, the main character is indeed pushing an enemy over a cliff with his feet!
When I finally got a chance to play the game, I was greeted with the game's multiplayer mode with takes place in the famous Coliseum. The developers have turned the place into an antique version of the Pokemon Stadium from Super Smash Bros. Melee in which the environment can change into all sorts of things like a swamp or a battelground with lots of barricades and firepots.
To be fair though, the real-life coliseum did changed its battleground to become a small lake in order to do battleship battles on rare occasions, so this actually isn't too far-fetched from the truth!
Combat wasn't too bad overall. You can't block, but you can dodge and block enemy attacks with good timing. There's a bit of variety as well, as you have both a sword attack as well as a shield attack. Some enemies are too fast for the sword or have a shield themselves, so you have to use the shield to make them vulnerable for a short time. There also is a spear to throw, but I couldn't get it to work properly. I was told afterwards that in order to aim properly, you have to hold X instead of just pressing it in order to aim more precisely.
Granted it was just a pick up and play session, and all other controls I could figure out on the run, but this really annoyed me.
Overall, Ryse may turn out to be an ok launch game. It may not run on 60 FSP, but it looks, sounds and plays solid so far. If the story and gameplay scenarios are solid as well, there's no need to shun this game.
I must admit to my shame that I didn't play any more games because the rest of the time was spend checking out events and collecting merchandise. However, I did participated in a real surprise highlight shortly before I left.
The one and only Goichi Suda (aka Suda 51) was giving away autographs on the Deep Silver booth (Deep Silver is the publisher for Evil Is Dead in Europe) for half an hour. A Japanese cult developer, giving away autographs in Germany! Not even E3 can claim to had something like this!
I already shared this event with you, but to keep it short: I got myself an autograph, and I applauded Suda 51 for doing such good work. My exact words were “Keep doing what you're doing, what you're doing is great”. I love No More Heroes, it is a cult classic for me. I took a look at this other games as well, and the guy is nothing if not unique and willing to do crazy stuff in video games. So I told him how I felt about his work, and he was pleased.
Prior to this, my greatest souvenir, as well as treasure, from Gamescom was a Minecraft Stevehead signed by Lewis and Simon from Yogscast, which was two years ago. Now I have my first-ever autograph from... actually any famous person, ever. Words cannot describe how special that was for me.
And that concludes my little visit to Gamescom. Thanks for reading!