PAX 2008: Penny Arcade Adventures producer gushes about Episode 2

Ross Miller
R. Miller|09.04.08

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PAX 2008: Penny Arcade Adventures producer gushes about Episode 2
Last week during PAX 2008, we sat down with Hothead COO and Penny Arcade Adventures Producer Joel DeYoung as he guided us through Episode 2 and improvements to the engine. The gist of it is: if you liked Episode 1, you'll like Episode 2 that much more. Here's the rundown from our talks:
  • Highlighting points of interest has been made easier! "If you have your proximity putting you close enough to 2 or 3 things, you can slide through that with bumpers," said DeYoung.
  • There are now difficulty levels, including an Insane Mode (unlockable only after beating the game). Special collectibles and pickups are only available if you play Insane Mode. Comparatively, Episode 1's difficulty is "a little easier" than medium.
  • All the weapons have been replaced. Tycho gets a shotgun, Gabe has new fist upgrades and your player now possesses -- wait for it -- a hoe! Also changed are the special attack minigames.
  • You now have, among other new items, a revive potion. Healing won't be enough to bring your troops back to life. "Just adds a little bit of depth to it," said DeYoung.
  • The real-time reaction for defense has been made more obvious (e.g. "Block!" now appears when you need to push block), but nothing analogous for attacking has been added.
More after the break.
  • You can import your Episode 1 character, but if you don't, your new player will start at level 13. Imported characters can update their appearance at the start with new clothing. DeYoung is "pretty sure" you can get to a max level for the episode whether or not you import a player.
  • With Ep 1, Tycho's writing imposed a certain structure on development, and so with Ep 2, Hothead built the whole flow of story and dialogue themselves and used placeholder text so Tycho can go back and add it later. He can still change the structure of it later, though.
  • Due to popular demand, there is a "little extra" voice acting. Not a lot, though, given their target download size. It was a mutual decision not to have Tycho and Gabe speak.
  • "Hot keys" for PC gaming has been considered. There are shortcuts for dialogue, but not combat.
  • "Backporting" the improved Ep. 2 code onto Ep 1 is definitely something they've considered and is feasible, but no confirmation either way.
  • Ep 2 wont be released simultaneously on the PlayStation 3 but there will be a "tighter timeframe" than Ep 1. Explained DeYoung, Garage Games' Torque Engine wasn't as prepared for console rendering as they thought. "So we had to at that time, we were really pushing to get the game out ... so we had to make a hard decision to get it on Xbox and push off PS development for a little while. So once it came out, we resumed work on PS3."
  • We asked DeYoung to sum up Ep. 2 in three points (we provided the following example for Ep. 1: Mimes, Fruit Fucking, Shit Hole). After a pause, DeYoung said, "Insane Asylum. Crazier. More Fruit Fucking."
As for non-Episode 2 discussion:
  • For the PSN version of Ep 1, all that's left is coding for integration with Network features and platform stuff, bug fixing, and Sony's own submission process.
  • "We were really pleasantly surprised" how many Mac and Linux units were sold. "The Linux people have been very appreciative," he said, adding, "all channels [i.e. Greenhouse, Steam, Xbox Live, etc.] performed very well," with not one sticking out.
  • Hothead is a licensed Wii developer. "We thought about [PAA for Wii], certainly, but we spent a lot of time getting it down to the size it's down to now ... It's kind of an order of magnitude out for what would be required for [proper size compression] for WiiWare."
  • About the controversial Xbox Live pricing: "When we announced the price of Ep 1, it was the same for PC and Xbox. The PC fans were like, 'yeah that sounds like a great deal,' they were really excited. However, on the Xbox forums, people were all upset -- some people -- they said "seems like an expensive price for a live arcade game," without discussing what the content or gameplay length was." DeYoung said they were one of the first M-rated games, and the first game at $20. "Ultimately, it's a business decision on our side" about the price, he said.
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