The Penny Arcade Expo can be a great place for independent developers to showcase their upcoming releases to a wider audience. The games get to be in the hands of those they are intended for, but at the same time, doing that can also be a risk. Back in 2010, developer Illfonic used PAX to show off its upcoming arena first-person shooter, Nexuiz. The company touted the fact that it was going to be the first game released to use CryEngine 3, months before Crysis 2 would be available. Unfortunately, Nexuiz wasn't up to snuff, most people avoided Illfonic's booth, and the game went dark shortly thereafter. The team has been silent since then, but because THQ is now assisting with the publishing, the developers hope they can win the hearts of FPS fans with this multiplayer-only downloadable release.
Nexuiz is an online team-based shooter in which eight players on two teams square off against each other for supremacy. The game will have two modes: Capture the Flag and Team Deathmatch. The modes will be available on nine maps--three focused on CTF and six designed for TDM. While these modes don't help to separate the game from the plethora of FPS titles available, the inclusion of dynamic mutators is what the developers hope is enough to entice people to their game.
What dynamic mutators do is give you the opportunity to modify aspects of the game in-match. While some shooters give you the ability to make changes to a match before it begins, the mutators available in Nexuiz are scattered around the arena and can be triggered as soon as they’ve been collected. There will be 100 mutators available. They range from expected modifiers like increased shields, firing power, and speed, to out-of-the-ordinary ones like color blindness, which turns your screen completely black and white and forces you to use your reticle to determine who is friend or foe. Other rare modifiers include one that forces you to play part of the match with inverted controls.
Dynamic mutators work in a number of ways. Some can be triggered to benefit your team, while others are triggered to affect the opposition--and some give everyone an advantage. Also, mutators aren't controlled solely by one person; they are scattered throughout the arenas, and anyone can find them and initiate them. While only one mutator can be active at a given time, it's possible to have others ready in a queue. Lining up mutators can make an entire match completely dictated by them.
The developers tout that there are over 100 mutators which will allow for more than 1.7 million match possibilities. The mutators will be broken up into tiers to ensure that certain ones don't appear as often as others. On top of that, when you're playing online, the points you earn in-match from your kills can be spent to increase the odds that a given mutator appears. Upgrading a specific modulation to its max doesn't necessarily ensure it will be available in a future match, but if other players have also upgraded the same mutator, the greater the liklhood that particular one will appear in-game.
Of course, mutators won't be mandatory. Because Illfonic is looking to cater this game to hardcore players, these can be turned off, and normal FPS rules will apply. As for everything else in Nexuiz, the game is pretty standard. Console players familiar with the genre will be able to pick up a controller and get into the action with no need for practice. On the PC side of things, when the game is released, the developers are promising better match finding and hope to implement modding tools that will let you tweak many aspects of the game. There is no date when PC players will see this inclusion, but it is expected shortly after launch. Lastly, while the console version of the game will have some aim assisting, PC players won't have that aid available.
Deciding to hold off on releasing the game back in late 2010 seems to have been a smart move by Illfonic. But at the same time, there are so many first-person shooters on the market that Nexuiz is still going to be in a position to have to try hard to earn an audience. Mutators seems like they could do the trick, but the smaller-scope matches, where only a maximum of eight players can play, might not be enough in comparison to other games that allow for greater numbers of players. But to combat that, when Nexuiz is released on the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 in early 2012, it will cost only $10. Hopefully the less-than-regular price point and the planned post-launch support and PC bonuses will be enough to get those who grew up playing arena first-person shooters a reason to play Nexuiz.