GDC 2009: Parabellum Updated Impressions - Customization and Game Modes

SAN FRANCISCO--The 2009 Game Developers Conference is underway, and so is GameSpot's ongoing coverage of the online games at the show. Next up: Parabellum, a free-to-play online shooter we revealed last year. Parabellum takes place in a modern-day conflict between two warring factions who hire...

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SAN FRANCISCO--The 2009 Game Developers Conference is underway, and so is GameSpot's ongoing coverage of the online games at the show. Next up: Parabellum, a free-to-play online shooter we revealed last year. Parabellum takes place in a modern-day conflict between two warring factions who hire mercenaries--that's you--to try to either plant or extract a nuclear warhead. The net result is that you'll be able to make a clown-faced paramilitary soldier with a Viking helmet. If you want. Parabellum will apparently have numerous customization packs with various themes to customize your character's appearance, such as military apparel, gang member apparel, and even clown or Viking apparel, and once you acquire that customization theme for your account, you can mix and match any and all elements you have access to. We were shown a working vesion of the character customization screen, which includes options to change your character's facial accessories and facial hair, along with clothing for your character's upper body, arms, legs, and feet. The demonstration character we saw was kitted out as US Army, wearing camouflage gear and equipped with a sniper rifle.

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You can choose various customized weapon loadouts for your character. No rocket launchers, though.

The game will let you choose four different parts of your character's weapon loadout; your primary weapon (limited to small-arms weapons, such as sniper rifles, assault rifles, shotguns, and submachine guns...Parabellum will not have miniguns or grenade launchers or any heavier weapons), your secondary weapon (a sidearm), melee (currently limited to knives or your character's fists), and support (which currently includes a variety of grenades, such as smoke grenades, frag grenades, and flashbangs). However, thanks to the Unreal-powered game's procedural texturing engine, which adds textures to your characters and to the in-game world on the fly, you can customize your items and character with a variety of different skins on every part of your character, your characters' weapons, and your character's weapon modifications (such as rifle scopes and silencers--there will be about seven different weapon mods for each weapon class), so you can go full-on camouflage to blend in with your surroundings, or full-on Hello Kitty, if you were looking to make a different kind of statement.

After looking over the game's character customization options, we jumped into a test version of one of the game's maps, a multilevel industrial city area with lots of staircases, office windows, and crates to hide behind. Parabellum is currently in an extremely early beta state that's only being held in-house at developer Acony, and there are currently about 4 maps in play, though once the game goes into later beta stages and eventually launches later this year, it should go out with about a dozen maps. There are currently three confirmed play modes; team deathmatch, "reinforcement," and a "campaign" mode that consists of interconnected levels that each branch into two different alternative paths to two different maps along the route to the nuke. Acony is trying to keep a lid on the campaign mode for now and will likely release more details later.

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Gaining levels won't automatically make you stronger, but it will give you more options.

For now, the studio is working on getting the game ready for a closed beta ready this year, and has already figured out the direction for its pricing model. Like other free-to-play online games, Parabellum will be free to download and play, but players will be able to purchase additional appearance themes to customize their character's look; and they'll also be able to purchase "boosters" which will temporarily speed up the rate at which they gain experience points. Gaining experience points lets you eventually earn new "ranks" (the game's version of character levels), and with new ranks come newly unlocked weapons. However, ranks won't otherwise affect your character's general power level (you won't do more damage or be able to take more hits, or anything like that), so you won't necessarily be able to purchase a more-powerful character--just one with more options.

Parabellum looks like it'll offer an interesting alternative to the Counter-Strike model of terrorist-versus-anti-terrorist team-play, and the campaign mode should hopefully offer an interesting new direction that encourages players to get more strategic about their next move. The game is planned to launch later this year.

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