Monday, January 29, 2007

From Space Invaders to Space Invaders

The oldest name in the game is back at it. Today, Midway Games issued a press release confirming the development of Blacksite: Area 51. The Chicago-based company states that the game will be released for PC, PS3, and Xbox 360, just as its predecessor; Area 51. Released in April of 2005, the original Area 51 was referred to by some as "Halo for the PS3", although Midway's offering did not generate nearly the fervor that Microsoft's title did. Blacksite is being developed by Midway Studios - Austin, formerly known as Inevitable Entertainment. Due to Midway's declining financial standings in the past few years, Blacksite could be the game that puts them back on track.

Windows Vista drops tomorrow, and with it, DirectX 10. I would like to see them release the PC version of the game utilizing DirectX 10, but since there will very likely still be a lot of people running Windows XP (which is not DX10-compatible) by the time that this game is released, Midway could play it safe and stick with DX9 for releases for the time being. Being on the cutting edge is a wonderful thing---as long as it doesn't cost you customers. If Midway does aim high, planning on a Vista-centered release for the PC version of the game, there's the distinct possibility that this could be a cross-platform game. Actually, it would be borderline foolish for Midway to be daring enough to release a Vista-based game and risk alienating upgrade-reluctant customers but then overlook the option for PC gamers to play against console gamers, and vice versa. If they included cross-platform compatibility, they'd be one of the first to do so (Microsoft is of course leading the pack with Shadowrun).

While we don't know what they may do, we do know some of the things they intend to do. They intend to create a game in which the player is emotionally invested, making choices into more than just a decision based on curiosity, wanting to take the storyline in a certain direction based on a whim, or just to satisfy your obsessive-compulsive need to play the game through and experience every side of the story:

"The player’s modern-day emotions and fears are driven into a world charged with grave responsibility affecting lives hanging in the balance and eventually finding himself torn between his professional orders and his own ethical standards."
I'm interested in how they plan on emotionally involving players in the game, and if that's exclusively a goal for the single player mode of the game, or if they've somehow managed to make gamers online feel connected to the objectives (and not just their scores). Midway says that there will be a "powerful" single player campaign, and what Midway is calling a "multitude" of multiplayer modes for online gameplay.

The game is set in present-day in---you guessed it---the Nevada desert, where the world(galaxy?)-known Area 51 is located. Specifically, the Rachel, Nevada area. The player is placed in charge of a squad charged with fighting off the space invaders. Obviously, this would make Blacksite a prequel to Midway's vintage 1978 Space Invaders.

Blacksite: Area 51 is slated to hit shelves sometime this summer. Until then, we'll keep you updated.

- Glock