Saturday, January 27, 2007

A New Breed of PC Gaming

Sometime soon, you may find yourself cursing the bots in your game and wishing for some good, old-fashioned, dumb A.I. That's because Arkane Studios (developers of Ubisoft's Dark Messiah of Might and Magic) is replacing the bots that we're used to battling it out with in single-player games with humans. The Source engine-based game, called The Crossing, is being marketed as neither single-player or multiplayer, but "cross-player", and if done right has the potential to revolutionize how we play games. Valve is working with Arkane to produce a first-person shooter in which you can have fun playing in story mode or hop online and get into a fragfest---player's choice.

Anyone who has been gaming on a PC for very long can tell you that PC title releases with strong, enjoyable single-player (story) modes have thinned out in the past few years. Half-Life 2, F.E.A.R., Doom 3, and Call of Duty 2 come to mind. Not a depressingly short list, but it's hard to deny the growing trend towards multiplayer gaming in recent years: out of the four titles I just mentioned, all of them have well-developed multiplayer modes, and you can even download the multiplayer-only version of F.E.A.R. for free. Players enjoy a good story mode game well enough, but there's a lot to be said for being able to get on and go to war with your friends, or at least some stranger who'll call you a hacker after you kill him seventeen times in a row. Cross-play gaming merges the two.

On the one hand you'll have Elites, players playing the game in story mode. On the other you'll have skirmishers; people just out to play as part of a group and maybe rank up. These skirmishers are what will replace traditional bots that the Elites would normally run into in story mode, be it as allies or enemies. Just like in regular single-player gaming, the "bots" (skirmishers) will be at a disadvantage in the game, but will make up for it in numbers. If a skirmisher logs off or wanders outside the area he's supposed to be in to act as a part of the game, he'll be replaced by an A.I.-driven bot until he can be replaced by a flesh-and-blood skirmisher. Skirmishers can play in a traditional online multiplayer fragfest against other skirmishers in addition to becoming part of an Elite's story mode game, and Elites have the option to play by themselves or in co-op mode with a friend. There's also the option for a skirmisher to join into a game as a mercenary---playing as a dedicated player-killer, much different from a group skirmisher's role in the game.

Microsoft's Games for Windows magazine interviewed the game's producer Raphaƫl Colantonio and art director Viktor Antonov (Antonov also served as Half-Life 2's art director); the interview is available for viewing at

Some developers may have been satisfied to merely introduce a radical and innovative new way to play your games, but Arkane's premise for the game is just as original as how it will be played. The story is set in modern day Paris, but in two alternate realities. In one, France's government has fallen apart and anarchy reigns the streets. In the other, the Knights Templar were never disbanded (in reality, they were forcibly disbanded in 1307), and maintain strict order in the city. The game takes place in both versions of reality, both of which are distinctly dystopian in nature. Arkane and Valve have a trailer out, which we've made viewable here, courtesy of

Regardless of whether or not Arkane and Valve can pull this off with a stable and balanced product, it's a bold and exciting step for the world of PC gaming as a whole, and that can only benefit you as a gamer in the long run.

- Glock

1 Comment:

nubulicious said...

That sounds very cool, hopefully it turns out to be something good.