Community News: The Wargamer and Kalypso Media Contest Winner's Report and Omerta - City of Gangsters Press Event
The winner of the Wargamer and Kalypso Media contest, Scott Servant, describes for us his stay in San Francisco and the Omerta - City of Gangsters press event.
I remember the last time I won something. It was New Year’s Eve and I was having a party at my house. My parents were away spending the night at some place, so my friends and I had a party. Some radio station had a call-in contest and the 7th caller would get a cassette tape by Lita Ford; did I just date myself? For the kids out there, that was the late 80s. Considering that it was New Years and all, I was beyond excited. Simple pleasures for a simple guy.
The other day I was cruising the Kaylpso forums when I noticed a new post in the Omerta boards, “Wargamer Contest” it read. I clicked on it to see what it was all about. To enter: write your favorite Kaylpso gaming experience and the winner would be flown to San Francisco to a preview party for the new Omerta - City of Gangsters. I thought about it a bit and saw that the deadline was the next day—I’m not going to bother, I won’t win. But as the day went on and I thought about what I might write if I was to enter, I figured: “what do I have to lose?” So I wrote my entry and emailed it in.
The weekend came and went and I hadn’t bothered to check my email. But as Tuesday afternoon rolled around, I heard the phone. I checked the caller ID, and to my surprise it was Kaylpso calling to tell me that I had won and I was going to San Francisco! Now, if had gotten excited winning a cassette tape, you can imagine how I felt about this. At this point my nerves in my stomach were jumping. I was to get ready for the big event.
The plane landed on time in the “Golden State”, and I was to call a car service to take me to the hotel. The driver was like a valet strait out of a James Bond film. She was an exotic woman dressed in a tailored black suit and white shirt, and an accent to match. The ride was nice, as she gave me brief history of the area, and pointed out interesting places. When there was silence I would ask another question, just so she would continue to speak. Because of this, the ride flew by and in no time I was at the doorstep of the Larkspur Hotel. As I entered it reminded me of the Dominion Hotel from the classic TV show sliders. The hotel was quaint and clean, and served its purpose nicely.
After getting checked-in and situated, I decided to kill some time and check out some sites in the San Francisco sun. I made my way down the street to a really interesting diner called Lori’s. It was decked out in a classic 50s look and run by an Asian staff. The food looked fantastic and the atmosphere was wonderful, but all I needed were a few large seltzer waters to quench my thirst from the long flight. After leaving some cash on the bar, I made my way back out onto the streets.
With a child like fascination, I watched as trolleys rolled up and down the infamous Powell Street. To those that don’t know, Powell is the street you see in all the movies with cars racing down the hills. I continued to take in the atmosphere of the city and its inhabitants. After about an hour I made my way back to the hotel and the bar, to wait for others to arrive.
I took a seat at the hotel bar and watched Monday Night Football, and before long Mario Kroll, VP of Kaylpso and founder of Wargamer, wandered through the door. We talked a bit about the next day’s events, and then broke off to get cleaned up for that night’s dinner.
When we reconvened there were more people added to the mix. There was Theresa, Mario, and Ted from Kaylpso, along with some other media people. We headed down the street a few blocks to the E&O Trading Company, for Asian fusion cuisine at its finest. We all ate family style with many varieties of food. I personally loved the chicken satai, and extremely hot kim chi, which I washed down with a wonderful red wine. Like always, good food and good people bring good conversation.
During the diner I was able to talk one-on-one with Mario about Wargamer, among other things. The evening ended after a long night of laughs and fun, and talk of gaming and life in general. But all was leading up to tomorrow and the big event, the official preview of Omerta - City of Gangsters.
The Press Event
The next day was beautiful, which I also spent seeing the sites a bit and just relaxing around the city until the event was to begin. At 3pm I made my way the six blocks or so to this very nondescript door on a street corner. I had to ring the buzzer, which was eventually opened by a girl. I gave the password “Omerta” and she glanced over my shoulder as if to see no one was watching, and quickly rushed me inside.
The dimly lit wood-lined room was decorated with “old timey” items. A few gathered as the demo was about to start. Ted from Kaylpso was running the show, and on a very large screen the game popped to life. He walked us through character creation: You can choose from a few portraits, a name, and then a background trait. This is very similar to Tropico 4, in the since that your choices will affect your character, which are muscle (melee), toughness (health), guts, cunning, and finesse. You had a few options in each step, but over all they would make your character unique for different play styles. Are you a melee tough guy, a ranged shooter, is macro managing your empire more your thing or just a mix of all of the above? The options essentially give you bonuses for your chosen play style, which should lead to greater replayability. There is no clothing customization, which, while only cosmetic, is often the fun part of character creation. There is also no female “mob boss”—for the ladies out there. But aside from that, the creation was simple, clean and to the point.
Perks are another step in creation, which give your character unique skills or bonuses. One of the perks is “vengeance”: if you take damage, the next turn you will be able to gain a 50% damage boost against the attacker. As you level-up you gain more traits, up to four traits maximum.
You can also choose your weapons, and in leveling-up “specials” are gained to use for fighting. Each weapon has unique specials. A baseball bat, for example, delivers damage that can stun, while ranged weapons have a high-powered volley fire with more damage. Some weapons, like a shotgun, can knock back the enemy. Others, like the Tommy gun, have large cone attacks. AoE attacks need to be used with care as there is friendly fire in the game. A couple of ill-advised shots can cut down your own men, instead of your opponents. Brass knuckles, lead pipe, pistols, and a variety of weapons are available. Fights are tactical, and you can see many turns in advance. There is also cover about the map, which can be destroyed by certain weapons. A shotgun can destroy a crate, so the next guy can shoot unhindered without that obstacle in the way. There are also indestructible objects which can be used for cover, like a car.
You can have up to four people in a combat mission, with two extra that “wait outside” like a get-away driver, or other types of support. Death can happen during fights, but it is not permanent. However, it will add a persistent wound. You can lose an eye, which will decrease your firing accuracy, or attain a limp during a fight, and you will move slower—these are just a few of the bad things that can happen. All of these wounds make your character less effective. They can heal in time, but it takes a really long time; you can have many persistent wounds as well. As of now, these are just modifiers to your character and are not related graphically.
The city is based loosely on Atlantic City, New Jersey in the 20s. Prohibition is in full swing, and the mob is the real power in the underbelly of the city. You start out with just a base of operations and yourself, as the leader. But over time you grow, adding businesses of booze and guns and members to your mob family, unlocking characters to join you. The characters you unlock have unique abilities. “Doc” is one of the early characters, he can bandage up your wounds in battle, and has a “Let’s Dance” special which shoots at the opponents feet causing a de-buff. There is also a bonus having him run one of your businesses. Another character is a female cat-like burglar who gives you bonus cash when you send her on robberies.
As time goes on you can upgrade buildings, doing so can also unlock other upgrades on other buildings. Your main hideout controls most of the unlockable content. For instance, you can upgrade the booze type at one of your distilleries, which in turn can let you upgrade your speak-easy. There are others, like a mob hangout pizzeria, but as we know a mob hangout will increase the “heat meter”. Heat is and in-game mechanic that keeps track of police awareness and presence. There are also soup kitchens, which effects the “liked meter” (quite the opposite of the heat meter). These kitchens are to help the needy, which have upgrades like meatballs in the soup or a free drink—can all help increase your like value. There are different amounts of upgrades, depending on the building. Some only have one or two, while others have more options. Decorations for your main base can also be added, but those are only cosmetic upgrades; nice nonetheless.
You run missions by use of informants, which are all about the city. They typically have needs like money, booze or guns. Occasionally, just paying them will get you the quest. Others will want you to do something for them, like: if you happen to have killed some of their companions in a previous job, you may have to go do a job for them before they will help you. Day and night cycles also affect which missions are available which—always a nice feature. How you complete these missions will also affect awards and character behavior. Do you do a drive-by and take what you need by force? Or, should you be a bit more subtle and toss some money at the situation to resolve it?
Early in the game, when you only have a few people working for you, there can be some waiting for what to do next. I am unsure if there is a way to speed this along, at this point; I do suspect that later in the game, when many more things are going on, this becomes less noticeable. There are also two types of cash, “clean” and “dirty”. Some people will only accept clean money: like a car dealer that wants to buy cars for drive-bys. You can also pay a celebrity to perform for you, which is yet another way to increase the liked meter.
“Like” and “Fear” are the two ways people view you. Raising these two can unlock, or lock different traits and bonuses. They are independent of each other and also exclusive, so you can have either high fear or high like or both. Are you the kind of gangster that all fear, or perhaps the kind that only your enemies fear? The last thing you have to worry about is your “Heat” factor. If you are doing many immoral things the cops get after you. There are five levels of heat. Anything under 4 will decay over time, but once you hit 5 you need to do a quest to lower it. One option is to spend money, but over time as you use them they increase in cost. Certain things raise it more than others. For instance, a drive-by shooting is going to raise way more heat than a little extortion of a celebrity. For major heat you can firebomb buildings and raze them to rubble, but you can also rebuild a new business in its place—this could lead to some interesting strategies later on.
Over all, your objective is to balance “heat”, “fear” and “liked” while you run your business of guns, booze, and extortion as you increase your thug-run empire by recruiting new men/women, all while avoiding the cops. You can do this by selling specific goods to people for larger amounts of cash, or just bulk fire sales for a bit less when your warehouses are full or you’re in need of some fast cash. You macro manage the empire and micro manage the combat, but if you prefer you can auto resolve the combat. The auto resolve has a percentage value of the probability of winning, so there is some risk in letting your “lackeys” fight it out for you.
There are also three multiplayer mini games. The “Death Match” is where you each get four gangsters to shoot it out in a specific location. “Rob a Bank” is where players compete to rob the bank the fastest. There is also a co-op bank robbery for those that want to work together. Unfortunately, there is no way for both to compete over the same city—perhaps it will be in a future expansion. “Relive the mob wars of Chicago as two rival factions bring the city to its knees”, would be great fun. Las Vegas is another place that could really make this game thrive. There really are tons of options for expansion, but for the time being, we have Atlantic City to plunder.
The game all boils down to a really enjoyable mob management system, with more than enough twists to think about and keep any sim fan busy into the wee hours of the night. The combat is simple, yet entertaining, and has enough tweaking to make replays enjoyable.
The game is set to launch in February, so there are a few more months before you can get your “don” on. But when you are able to, it should be a hoot. The day ended with some hands on gameplay, and a lot of chatting with others in the media. The time I spent in San Francisco was a memorable one, and the people were a very friendly bunch. After the event I made my way back to the hotel room for a short night’s rest and an early flight out. I know I’d love to make it back to the hilly city on the bay one day, but one thing is for sure: I will be counting the days till Omerta - City of Gangsters launches, because sometimes it is just good old fashion fun to play the bad guy.
Article written by: Scott Servant
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