The Showdown Effect, the new jam from Magicka developer Arrowhead Game Studios and newcomer Pixeldiet Entertainment, was inspired by '80s and '90s action movies, and even Nintendo's multiplayer-focused brawler, Super Smash Bros.
Emil Englund, Design Director at Arrowhead Game Studios, offered some insight regarding the creation of the game as he watched me experiment with the shotguns, pistols, rifles, pool cues, stools and rocket launchers cluttering up Neo Tokyo, 2027. The future's a pretty violent place!
Gallery: The Showdown Effect (GDC 2012) | 18 Photos
"The idea, we actually kind of spawned this together with Paradox," Englund said. "They were into this whole idea of a Super Smash Bros.-style game, and this is more of our take on it -- and it's refreshing, really. We've been working on Magicka for so long, the whole co-op thing. That doesn't mean we're fed up with co-op thing, we just want to try something different." Englund said that a variety of modes, both individual and team-based, are planned for launch.
The focus of The Showdown Effect is to create an experience that lends itself well to streaming and watercooler chatter -- and diving. Arrowhead hopes players will delight in the dive-and-shoot arcade gameplay, and tell all their friends about it. "The improvisation is beautiful," Englund said. "One feature I'm really excited about getting into the game is actually diving on someone, bringing them with you out through the window and falling on top of them. The idea is that when you're unarmed, you're supposed to have the means of disarming your opponent as well; diving onto them so they drop their weapon and you both fall," he said, clapping his hands and miming how the bottom player would splatter. "That's the kind of semi-chaotic combat we're after."
Even in a pre-Alpha state, The Showdown Effect has a strong foundation in its simplicity. Controls -- a combination of WASD for movement and mouse for actions -- and gameplay aren't complicated, and scaling floors is done by pressing up on the elevator and choosing which floor you want to exit on. With each kill (or death) the round resets and you go at it again. Simple.
There's also a very Super Smash Bros.-inspired guarding system. When holding down the right mouse button, a blue bubble envelops the player. Double-tapping back or forward can be used to dodge incoming fire and maneuver around attackers.
I only got to run around one map, an eight-floor locale with an underground subway and apartments to stomp and shoot through, plus rooftops. The map was huge -- if there wasn't a cursor showing me where the lone enemy player was, I'd have been lost -- and provided plenty of interesting nooks and crannies for combat.
The Showdown Effect will initially launch with two settings: Neo Tokyo and Medievil England. Each setting will have several levels, but Arrowhead has plans to release other settings post-launch, free of charge. "As we release more settings, they're going to be free because we don't want to split the player base and want everyone to access those levels and those settings."
With such a strong foundation, I'm anxious to see where The Showdown Effect goes from here. In its pre-Alpha state, the controls felt responsive and guns had a great sense of weight to them. The recoil on the massive pistol was one pleasant and costly surprise when I squared off in a tiny room. I just wish there were more players for me to shoot in the massive map, but I expect that will change the next time I get my hands on The Showdown Effect -- there will be a next time.