If it is anything, PAX is a feast for hungry fans. It should come as no surprise that one of the most highly anticipated panels this year was Hothead Games' discussion of the development of the upcoming Penny Arcade title, On The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness: Episode 1
. The theater was full well before show time, packed with fans hungry for information on the title.
The panel was moderated by Hothead's president Vlad Ceraldi. Joining him were COO and producer Joel DeYoung, lead programmer Cary Brisbois, lead designer Darren Evenson, and key gameplay designer Ron Gilbert of Monkey Island
fame. Things got off to an interesting and unexpected start as Hothead presented a music video debut from nerdcore rapper MC Frontalot. The song, "It Is Dark," was a lyrical homage to the fondness of dark places and insatiable hunger of wild Grues. While a pleasant diversion, the true purpose of the video was to announce that MC Frontalot would be contributing a brand new track to the soundtrack of the game.
With that, the session began in earnest. Joel led the audience through a gameplay tour of the game, showing the introduction, character creation, and about fifteen minutes of gameplay. The game appears to be a hybrid between the point-and-click adventure games of yesteryear, combined with the turn based line combat found in some RPGs. The whole package was heaped high with Penny Arcade's style, from the comic dialogue to the unique art style. The project is unapologetic fan service, and Hothead was proud to stand behind it.
After the demo, the panel was opened to questions from the audience. Those hoping for an in depth look into the birthing process of an episodic title wrapped around one of gaming's most interesting IPs found themselves a bit disappointed, though, as the majority of questions were aimed at getting a peek of further content, asking how many levels there were, and whether an audience member's favorite character would show up.
The session was not without insight, however. When asked about multi-platform support, Ceraldi was quick to state his status as a "Mac fiend," part of the reason the game will see simultaneous release on PC, Macintosh and Linux platforms. When questioned as to why they would support Linux, he replied that "we feel like gamers should be able to choose the platform, not the other way around."
From the technical end, Cory Brisbois fielded the questions about the design behind the engine. He said the studio had heavily modified a version of the Torque engine to create its own engine, "Horque," and though it was highly customized, "the customizations did not come at the cost of many man hours." DeYoung piped up on the overall pipeline, the idea behind the system design from the beginning was to "build an infrastructure, then an engine, and from that point turn out content much more quickly than we could otherwise."
When questioned specifically about the collaboration between Hothead and Penny Arcade, the panelists were always polite. "Mike and Jerry are a lot of fun," answered DeYoung, "but they are very picky about the world they've created." Another, more pointed, question was aimed the transitive journey Penny Arcade was taking from jeering consumer of content to active game developer. Replied DeYoung, "When they came to us, they felt that they were quite humble, but now having gone through the majority of the process, they are now very humble indeed."