E3 2001 Hands-onHerdy Gerdy
We sample Core's ambitious adventure. Check out our impressions.
Core's latest game was on display at Eidos' booth here at E3 in Los Angeles. It's called Herdy Gerdy, and, aside from being quite interesting to behold, it seems to be built around some cool play mechanics. Basically, your character is an apprentice herder who must win his homeland's popular herding competition.
The gameplay revolves around Gerdy's trade. The world is full of unique creatures, and, in order to achieve victory, you have to properly get them in their respective pens. The build on display was really more of a tutorial than anything else. Each stage had you master some of the game's mechanics, with subsequent stages forcing you to utilize the skills learned in previous ones. The first one was relatively simple: We had to move a group of doops--docile, chickenlike animals--into a pen. As doops are pretty simple creatures, manipulating them is easy--you just walk in their direction, and they'll scatter, usually in the general direction opposite you. Things were mixed up a bit in later stages, though. Gromps came into the equation, and they're basically big, pink, bearish carnivores that'll eat any smaller creatures that they come into contact with. One stage had us herding a group of doops over a small creek, the opposite side of which housed a gromp. But since gromps hate water, and doops can swim, we were able to get them to safety with minimal casualties. Later stages elaborated on this "gromps vs. everyone else" dynamic. One in particular featured bleeps--furry flying creatures with propellers for tails--who respond to Gerdy's playing of a panflute. Normally, they'll roost overhead in random spots throughout the environments. When you start playing your flute, though, they'll swarm to your area. The stage in question, in any case, was populated by two gromps, who were more than eager to consume the weak little bleeps. An interesting thing happens, though, when you put two gromps within direct contact of each other--they'll posture around each for a while, only to throw down in a most crazy way. That's precisely what we caused to happen, in order to get the bleeps to safety. The envelope of time during which the gromps had at it allowed us to lure the bleeps to the other side of the map, thus ending the mission.
There has been enough gushing about Herdy Gerdy's keen, warm visuals, but a description is definitely in order. Though everything in it is rendered in real-time 3D, the game's visual style more closely resembles that of traditional hand-drawn animation. The comparisons to Disney cartoons are inevitable, but they're not unfounded. This is due to some very hard-core technical work at the hands of Core, which involves heavily manipulating the resolutions at which textures are applied to level geometry. Its effect, in any case, is marvelous--there's never been a 3D game that's looked so organic and living.
Herdy Gerdy is definitely one of the stronger PS2 games in development at this point. Its remaining development time can only help Core tighten up its complex AI systems and optimize its visuals. The game currently runs at around 30-40 frames per second, we estimate, which is a huge improvement on the state it was in just a few months ago. The game is scheduled for release this year.
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