Bungie's Jump to Oni
The company behind Myth trades in its melee weapons and fantasy world for the harsh cyberpunk third-person future in Oni.
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Oni, in Japanese, is defined as a ghost or demon. And while either interpretation of Oni could fill volumes, we only got a small taste of what Bungie's Oni is all about.
But now we'd like to sit down to tell you a story about a girl plagued by ghosts and her destiny to become a demon....
The game's main character, an in-shape purple-haired female named Konoko, starts off as a young clean cadet in an elite forces unit called the Techno Crimes Task Force (TCTF). Her first assignment is to help disassemble a crime syndicate wreaking havoc in the city. During her investigation, Konoko discovers that the syndicate murdered her parents, who were technology researchers. This is where the game picks up a complex physiological twist. As Konoko's mind focuses increasingly on obliterating the syndicate - to avenge her parents' deaths - she begins to disobey TCTF orders. As she goes further down this road of revenge, she rebels, dons new outfits, gets a new outlook, and fights harder.
Oni combines the combat fighting technique most console gamers are used to with similar controls usually associated with FPS titles like Quake II yet with a much larger environments and multiple ways to complete the game. Oni's control does add two new keys to the configuration, one for kicking and one for punching.
While it sounds simplistic, the deep array of moves Konoko possesses only gets better as players progress. To reflect Konoko's changes throughout the game, Bungie changes her outfits and adds new moves to her fist and foot arsenal. This isn't a game of weaponry, though. There's only one small handgun that we saw in the early alpha version of the title - and more are on the way including machine guns, grenade launchers, and other weaponry.
Konoko's moves look super: There are the standard straightforward kicks and punches you see in every arcade, along with roundhouses, spin kicks, and all the rest. And she actually has the ability to run sideways, slide under closing doors, make realistic leaps over cars, or leap from fragmentation weapons.
Konoko isn't alone; other characters look just as amazing as she does. Instead of the popular techniques used to drape skins over polygonal models, the team decided to build complete characters using Character Studio in 3D Max. The outcome produces characters resembling high-end action figures, and the look fits amazingly well with Oni's anime theme.
With Bungie culling inspiration from such movies as La Femme Nikita, Ghost in the Shell, and Fists of Fury, there are little nuances like slow-motion effects for Konoko's faster moves that make the game feel more like you're watching a movie instead of controlling a character. All the cutscenes in the game are also done completely in the engine as well. While having all these cinema-like effects would be bad in most games, it currently works extremely well in Oni.
The Oni engine makes the game as realistic as possible, and even in this early alpha stage, Konako and her world look refined. For example, when Konoko walks, she looks like she's actually walking, not as if she's doing some odd sort of forward moonwalk over an invisible glass surface. And she jumps and executes fast and lagless moves.
The game's project lead/lead engineer, Brent Pease, showed off how Konoko could jump at any time - not only when the correct animation frame catches up with your last keystroke. This will make for faster fighting and will add to a player's fighting ability more than if the player had learned to accommodate for lag or a game's less-than-responsive actions.
For added mood, levels show off dynamic and radiosity lighting. The lighting admittedly does look similar to lighting in Quake II, but the shadowing looks more advanced. One example we were shown was blood on a portion of floor beneath a staircase with partial lighting. The shadows from each stair made the blood under the shadows dark, just like in real life. And shooting into walls and floors gives those indents realistic shadowing. It isn't exactly as complex as bump-mapping, but it works.
While these effects won't improve gameplay in multiplayer, these 16-bit rendering effects help make for a more immersive, realistic environment. For those with less-powerful machines, there will be options to scale down memory-intensive light maps, level textures, and character polygons. At full throttle, in-game characters are rendered at around 1,200 polygons.
Building levels has also been done without the use of handmade tools. While the game won't ship with tools for character or level creation, the levels are so complex that most users probably won't mind. Bungie has hired several architects to design the complex buildings in Oni. All the buildings look similar to the 3D rendering models architects use to show off extremely high-end virtual buildings. Gone are the seemingly endless corridor mazes and unidentifiable scenes.
The developers say that all the spaces in the game are modeled according to their function. So players will be able to walk Konoko through cafeterias and office spaces. Yet the offices and spaces are definitely those only an architect could envision: You'll climb up multistoried spiral staircases with massive windows above, and spacious arenas show off sunlight beaming down from the sun through glass superstructures.
When the game ships late in '99 as a PC/Mac hybrid, Oni should have 17 levels in 14 environments, support for 3D audio, and a choice of ten player classes with over 400 animations each.
Sounds ambitious, doesn't it? From what we saw in this early alpha, we think that gamers will want to take Oni for a spin. For anime addicts, this could be the first big title to bring effects found in film closer to the computer screen.