Atari's 'Act Of War'

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GameCore is a weekly column by CBSNews.com's William Vitka and Chad Chamberlain that focuses on gamers and gaming.

There is no doubt in our minds that research has been done to try and prove that playing video games -- especially online games -- makes one socially inept. But anyone present at Atari's Act of War: Direct Action wrap party wouldn't be so sure.

Held at Providence in Manhattan, the shindig was filled with gamers, developers and geeks. Inside was the rolling thunder of subwoofers and people painted purple with shades of blue-green by the multi-colored twilight strobes above.

None of us hesitated to run up to each other and shoot the breeze while gesticulating emphatically.

New York Times best-selling author Dale Brown also attended. It's his story that set the foundation for Act Of War, a Real Time Strategy techno-thriller that takes the worst possible "What If?" scenario involving oil-driven terrorists and puts you in the middle of the conflict.

An appropriate phrase to use would be, "Ripped from the headlines"

Often, when a piece of entertainment is released that reflects on the politics of the day, there are people who have disagreements with it.

"Folks have already complained about making an 'entertainment version of terrorism,'" Dale told us. "When you show scenes of terrorists blowing up the Golden Gate Bridge, everyone thinks you're exploiting 9/11, that you're exploiting people's fears. I would say that a few years ago, it was a legitimate complaint, but nowadays I think that's part of life.

"Even entertainment, even novels and stuff, that's part of our world right now," Brown continued. "As novelists, we're going to write about it and if it shocks some people, maybe that's a good thing. I don't think it's exploitation at all. Terrorism is a part of our life.

"We don't write these stories in a vacuum."

Everything is fair game and Dale made it a point to note that Atari was looking to "push the envelope" in regards to story content and how you play.

To get the job done in Act Of War, one might have to go through civilians, causing collateral damage, because the terrorists are mixed in with the public. Most of the action will be taking place when a locale's residents are going about their daily routine and are suddenly interrupted by an assault.

That aspect alone is something not even close to politically correct, but being PC was never the goal.

Alexis Le Dressay, the project lead for Act Of War and a founder of Eugen Systems, told us he wanted to make the "next generation of RTS's."

Alexis is a self-proclaimed Real Time Strategy geek and a fan of old-school favorites like Command & Conquer.

"Act Of War seems to be the same, but it's different," La Dressay said. "We wanted people to be able to get into the game immediately, so there are no new features that make you go, 'How does this work?'

"One thing that is different is the rhythm. We tried to picture a pace that we think people are looking for."

Act Of War's pace is fast and the combat zones all exist in real life. When you're fighting in front of the U.S. Capital, it's like a tartarean nightmare newsreel. Everything looks and reacts like its brick and mortar counterpart.

And it should, Alexis himself used to be an architect, "[We said] let's do, in terms of visuals, in terms of interaction, a game that can compete with First Person Shooter games. A lot of people say, 'RTS's? Those are cool games but not as fancy as a First Person Shooter game.' I don't agree, I think RTS's are the best."

For Le Dressay, it was about making things as "crazy" as possible.

"You can blow up everything, you can destroy it piece by piece because we've got a localized destruction system in the game," he said.

To close off a street, you could collapse one part of a large building and fill the asphalt with enough debris to keep people from moving through.

It definitely adds new gameplay possibilities.

Act Of War is a next-gen RTS, but it doesn't ignore the history of the genre.

It's an evolution more than anything else.

And Alexis told us that there's definitely going to be a sequel.

After finishing our conversations with Alexis and Dale, we stayed to continue previous discussions with some of the lovely ladies in attendance. We couldn't help it. And though William is a metalhead, he won't deny pausing momentarily to listen to Outkast's "Ms. Jackson."

We know how to enjoy ourselves; we try to be honest, humble, and poke fun at ourselves, though others seem to think that writing about things that are fun should not be fun.

No humor! No joking! This is serious!

Are you curing cancer? Are you hunkered down with troops under fire? Are you risking your life, like some journalists, to get the story out?

No.

We're writing about video games, not Watergate or the Pentagon Papers.

Relax. Breathe. Blogging alone does not make one a Hersh, Murrow, Liebling or Mencken.

With all of the real news going on, we gamers don't need to take ourselves too seriously, do we?
  • William Vitka

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