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In today's magically delicious episode of Speak Up on Kotaku, commenter Chris P. Bacon claims that while not one video game has portrayed magic perfectly, several have come close. He should know. He is a wizard.
I've always been a fan of magic users in games. A magician who always has a bag of tricks for any situation and an ace in the sleeve should all else fail. A sorcerer who can reshape reality with unthinkable powers. But, to this date, I've never seen a magic system in a videogame without a few glaring flaws.
Why is it that a warrior or rogue can jog an unlimited distance then swing a weapon for minutes on end while never breaking a sweat or slowing down even slightly, yet wizards often find themselves out of magic and just standing there with little to do. Muscles never tire, and yet magic energy from some unknown impossible source often does.
Now, of course magic needs its limitations, otherwise there would be no reason not to blast the strongest spell all day over and over again. A cooldown system is a fine enough choice, yet it becomes very robotic, going through a consistent rotation of the same spells thoughtlessly just about everywhere.
Then, there's the D&D style, as used in, for example, Baldur's Gate 2 wherein you think of what spells you'll want tomorrow within limited slots then fall asleep until you can use them 8 hours later. It's rather clunky, yet it does cause you to go through everything in your spellbook according to the direness of the situation. It does seem rather silly that a whole party has to wait 8 hours for the wizard to take a nap before he casts one little remove curse spell. Or resurrecting a dead friend first thing in the morning before you brush your teeth.
I should add here that I do love the game Magicka. Big spells took a little time to type in as quickly as you could, practice and premeditation definitely helped, walking was slow when ready to cast so you can't instantly disintegrate enemies on sight, you never just run out of steam and stand there like a dope, and there was all sorts of interesting combinations to try, always a perfect tool for the job. The only drawback is that this system required a very particular control scheme, one that not every game will necessarily facilitate. Also, no one I know owned the game so I just played it single player about a dozen times over and over.
Another honorable mention should go to Two Worlds 2, getting the spell cards and elemental levels was a pain and it was still a mana bar system but it did allow creativity, fun experimenting, and a certain uniqueness between every mage who didn't go with a cookie cutter I-read-it-off-the-internet model.
I thought of a method that may be interesting to try which combines the D&D model and the basic mana bar. You can preselect a limited number of spells which cast instantly but at variable mana costs. But you can also cast from your entire spellbook at variable casting times which leaves you open and mostly stationary. This way you can choose between a quick burst of instant offensive magic or a collection of defensive spells to be used quickly, but non-clutch needs such as long-term damage per second and basic over-time healing can be cast without eventually getting tired and watching someone swing a 6 foot long greatsword for the rest of the fight without as much as needing to sit down in a chair to catch his breath.
What are some other games systems or your thoughts on how magic should best be handled?
PC specialists Paradox unveiled three new games at GDC yesterday. One is The Showdown Effect, which if you can make it past the intro in the trailer above unfurls into something that looks like Worms and Quake III had a tiny, split-screen baby.
The basic premise is recreating action movie insanity. Up to eight players will have everything from guns to bigger guns to swords to lightsabers at their disposal.
If the focus on multiplayer mayhem on a PC sounds familiar, it's being developed by Arrowhead, the guys behind 2011's Magicka. The Showdown Effect will be out on PC and Mac in Q3 this year.
Goodbye, Vietnam. Paradox Interactive's acclaimed and comical multiplayer wizard computer game will be getting an expansion called The Stars Are Left. It will pit up to four players against monsters in "a horror-mystery inspired byt he Cthullhu Mythos." So says the PC-gaming champions at Paradox. They say that the expansion, made by the Magicka madmen at Aarowhead, will be out this winter.
Sold? They say the game will include the following features. Note the final bullet point from Paradox's press release for the expansion:
An all-new adventure, several levels long, allowing players to get lost in space and time
• 2 new challenge maps
• 2 new robes
• 2 new bosses
• 5 new achievements
• 7 new enemies
• Considerably more than 2 new items and Magicks
• Also, we make fun of Minecraft this time
The first crazy Magicka expansion brought the sorcery game to Vietnam. This isn't as nuts, but, well, there's still hope.
Ph'nglui Mglw'nafh Cthulhu Magicka Wgah'nagl Fhtagn [Paradox Interactive]
There's a new piece of downloadable content for PC co-op shooter (spellcaster?) Magicka called the "Gamer Bundle". Normally I don't look twice at a pack offering mere player skins, but these are no mere player skins.
The three new robes for your wizards are heavily inspired by three of the best PC games ever made. One gives a headcrab and crowbar from Half-Life. Another decks them out like a World of Warcraft character. And the third, and most awesome of the lot, dresses a little wizard up like a Day of the Tentacle cosplayer.
The pack is $2, and is available on Steam.
The all wizard, all the time PC game Magicka got its promised dose of all-new player-versus-player combat this week, an event that demanded this trailer that demands your attention for its smart use of absolutely no gameplay whatsoever.
We've already seen gameplay, after all. So what we needed was Tarantino-inspired live action comedy, somehow still a refreshing surprise from the people who brought us Magicka, Magicka: Vietnam and Magicka: The Official Bathrobes.
My point? You really should buy Magicka if you haven't already.
Up until now, Magicka has been a pretty friendly game, but that's all about to change. On June 21, everybody dies when player-versus-player comes to town.
PVP comes to Magicka by way of a free update on June 21, with Arena and Training Ground maps for everyone that's ever spent money on a copy of Arrowhead Game Studios' game. Those wishing to give Arrowhead more money can also purchase the Final Frontier Map Pack upon the launch of PVP, which adds the Vulcanus Arena, Frozen Lake, and Watch Tower maps to the party.
Magicka's PVP comes in three delicious flavors:
Classic Deathmatch: Instead of accidentally zapping your companions, you kill them on purpose! It's every wizard for himself as up to four physically inept beings duke it out in a one mage takes all battle.
Brawl mode: In Brawl, each player/team only has a set number of lives, and the last ma…wizard standing wins. Just make sure your "friends" don't squander those precious lives.
Kreitor mode: A fiendish new mode named after a clever Magicka fan who modded the game, the round based Kreitor mode unlocks Magicks at special intervals during the match, forcing players to come up with new strategies as new spells become available.
Fire-scarred battlegrounds covered with the bodies of dead wizards? Sounds like a party to me.
Paradox Interactive drops a dollar's worth of downloadable content today with Magicka: Nippon, three Japanese-flavored items (and a Team Fortress 2 Demoman cowl!) to aid your wizard's quest, with 50 percent of revenue going towards the Japan Relief Support program.
It's the surprise PC hit of the year (so far, anyway!), and while it's had a litany of technical problems, it's also a lot of fun. If you've heard people talking about it but haven't yet seen what all the fuss is about, here's a few minutes of me killing things before setting myself on fire and dying.
Besides the carnage — which works best if you're playing with up to three friends co-operatively, as spells (especially beam weapons!) can be combined — Magicka also has a strong slant towards humour, being a parody of not just Norse mythology, but many fantasy games, genres and properties as well.
Also, apologies for the audio at the end, the EXPLOSIONS and DEATH RAYS start to drown out my voice. Not that you need my voice. You're here for the magic, not the token Australian.
Magicka was developed by Sweden's Arrowhead Game Studios, is published by Paradox, and was released on Steam on January 25. It sells for $10.
You will be so terrible. You'll be introduced to its innovative element-mixing system, you'll nod, smile at the power at your disposal, and then proceed to screw up in a thousand ways you never foresaw. You will kill yourself. You will kill your friends. Maybe, just maybe, you'll accidentally blow up a monster in the process.
Below I've outlined five examples of the terrible, terrible errors you will make, in the hope that you won't make them. But you will.
The spell system in Magicka works as follows. Your character has access to eight elements, (fire, water, ice, earth, lightning, arcane, healing and shield), which are assigned to keys in and around the WASD area of your keyboard. Spells are cast simply by tapping out elements (up to a maximum of 5) and then tapping another button to cast the simultaneously either on yourself, as a projectile, in the area around you or on your sword.
So, if you tap out fire and earth, then hit projectile, your character flings a ball of molten rock. You tap out fire, fire, earth, earth, and the ball will be bigger. If you charge up healing and cast it on your sword, your sword will be imbued with healing magic and the next person you stab will be healed instead of harmed, and so on. There are a few special combinations to be learned too, from raising the dead to summoning a meteor shower.
Things not included in this system are cooldowns, mana or mercy. You cast whatever you like, as fast as you like, and friendly fire isn't something you worry about so much as it's an integral and hilarious part of the game. With a full team of four wizards, the screen is a chaotic warzone of well-meaning yet ultimately lethal spells. This said, let's move onto 5 mistakes you should try not to make.
1: It's Freezing
What is technically possible: Deploying a close-range blast of ice to freeze a massive monster in its tracks, allowing one of your friends to quickly throw a rock at the frozen creature to shatter it into a thousand pieces.
What you will do: Deploy a blast of ice to freeze a massive monster in its tracks, allowing one of your friends to fling an unnecessarily large stone at it, only to miss and hit you instead, crushing your frail sorcerer instantly and sending your corpse bouncing clean out of the level. The monster unfreezes, turns and begins chasing your friend around in a Benny Hill style.
2: My Protector
What is technically possible: Using shield elements with the "area of effect" casting button creates a glittering, impenetrable dome, with plenty of room for the whole team. Need some time to heal? Not sure what to do next? Swamped by goblins? Just throw up a shield and huddle together to discuss your next move.
What you will do: Yell something vague over teamspeak like "GUYS, ME, BUBBLE," and cast your shield spell with none of your team-mates actually inside it. With no small amount of horror you'll realise that you did manage to trap a couple of goblins inside with you, though, meaning you need to get out now. Your mind races- what breaks a shield? What's the most powerful spell you have? Of course! The arcane beam! You charge a real murder-mother of a beam as the goblins bear down on you, release it and… remember that arcane and shield are opposed elements. The beam ricochets cleanly off the inside of your dome, bounces four or five times and finally collides with you, popping your flesh and mind open like a bag of crisps. In time the dome sputters and fades of its own accord, and the two goblins within join the mob attacking your friends.
What is technically possible: Get your whole team to cast spells of water protection on themselves, summon a rainstorm, and blast the bejeezus out of your wettened enemies with lightning blasts while you guys remain toasty dry.
What you will do: The one of you responsible for the complex rainstorm spell screws up the casting and gets a sort of riot-hose effect instead. Another of you screws up the water protection spell, gets splashed by the hose and all the lightning elements he was charging get shunted through his body for massive damage.
4: Lightsaber Sucking Blues
What is technically possible: Infusing your sword with arcane energy leaves it causing so much damage with such a bright trail that it might as well be a lightsaber.
What you will do: Remembering this, you'll flood your sword with arcane energy, go sprinting up to the troll that's been terrorising your group and, with a child's innocence, watch as the troll slaps you with its cleaver for 5,000 damage before you could even press the attack button. You're a wizard, not a jedi. Idiot.
5: Don't Cross The Streams
What is technically possible: Mixing anything with arcane and then casting it as a projectile creates a tremendous beam of energy. If more than one of you cast these beams and then angle the beams into one another, the beams will become one and damage will be magnified immensely, allowing for the meticulous wholesale slaughter of monsters.
What you will do: Two people from your team will do exactly this. A third member of the team will see what they're doing and fling a beam of his own into the mix. Amazing! Trembling with excitement, the fourth member of the team will forget the healing spell he was charging and start charging arcane so he can get involved too, neatly forgetting what happens when beams of opposing elements mix. The fourth player's forgotten healing element infiltrates the choreographed death ray like a murderer creeping in through an unlocked window, causing an epic explosion that kills the entire team instantly.
So there you have it. Don't say I didn't warn you. Actually, I should quickly point out here that any player deaths are rectifiable by a Revive spell, which is simply a mix of Healing and Lightning. You'll be back on your feet and making more mistakes before you know it. Unless you really screwed up, in which case you can probably expect your team "forgetting" to revive you for a minute or ten.
Although really, what I'm looking forward to is you lot posting your own terrible errors in our upcoming Wot I Think of Magicka. We should have that finished by, oh, I'd say first thing Friday.
Quintin Smith is a writer for Rock Paper Shotgun, one of the world's best sites for PC gaming news. Quintin wasn't very good at his early career as a globe-trotting hobo (or "globo"), and has since limited himself to the domestic journeys of videogames. Follow him on Twitter.
Republished with permission.