"Gears of War" is dark and serious, but even Epic Games and Microsoft recognize there's much about their shooter franchise that's over-the-top.

When former comics writer Joshua Ortega was brought on to work on the story for "Gears of War 2," the guys at Epic had to reel him in a bit.

While he was brought on to flesh out the world, Ortega would constantly question the feasibility of the game's weapons and gameplay conventions. For instance, when he asked why the world had so many ammo drops, Epic told him it's simply a "game-ism."

"[Epic told me] 'Dude, it makes the game fun,'" laughed Ortega during an interview at PAX.

Ortega did get a chance to break the fourth wall, though. During the tutorial for "Gears of War 2," he penned a line about his original question.

"That was a real basic acknowledgment of it," he said. "Dom's like, 'Damn, someone needs to do an ammo sweep around here.' I love acknowledging that."

Can you think of another time when a game has made fun of itself?

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Gamers are a vocal bunch, and Lionhead Studios' fans are no different.

Lionhead's senior community manager Sam Van Tilburgh, who's been with the company since "Fable," is the guy responsible for watching over the fanbase as "Fable II" nears.

And while others working on "Fable II" start to plan vacations, his responsibilities are ramping up because much of the community effect comes after launch.

"My crunch only gets worse," he told me at this year's PAX. "When the game comes out, people start playing it and then everyone's got an opinion! [Lionhead] said to me when I started, if you survive your first game as a community manager, you're in it for life. Ninety-five percent of community managers don't even survive the first game."

Well, he's still there. But that doesn't mean he has an easy gig.


One of my favorite parts of last week's PAX was the "PAX 10," a selection of indie games. People were voting for a winner.

The game I voted for was "Polarity."

"Polarity" is a gravity-defying platformer that allows the player to tap the X button (they were letting people play with an Xbox 360 controller) to alter their polarity between red and blue. You must manipulate your personal polarity to navigate through environment.

I've never played anything quite like it. I'll try to explain it: Read More...

It's been a year of firsts for me. 2008 marked my first time attending both Comic-Con and the Penny Arcade Expo.

And I'm so glad I went to both. They each proved to be amazing experiences, places were I was comfortable as not only a writer and a gamer -- but as an all-encompassing nerd.

PAX 2008 wrapped up on Sunday, and I wish I'd been in better health for the three-day weekend. But a pounding cough and a runny nose didn't stop me from having a great time, meeting good people and coming away with some awesome photo ops.


Microsoft's booth was next to Ubisoft's at PAX. You couldn't help but notice.

So when I had "Halo Wars" lead designer Graeme Devine in front of me, I felt compelled to ask him what he thought of his voice-commanded opposition, "EndWar," across the aisle.

"It's right over there," he said, pointing and laughing. "I really want to go play it. I'm anxious to see it. I've got to admit it's a pretty unique idea and we didn't think of that."

"Halo Wars" is Ensemble Studios' first console strategy game. Devine and his team never considered voice commands for "Halo Wars," but he's okay with that.

"The controller is the one thing that comes with every single unit and people have used that for many, many years," said Devine. "I think it's great that [Ubisoft is] trying a new, different approach and it's always awesome to see that. But I really think the controller is where people will end up."

Sounds like the two can co-exist, according to Devine. What do you think?

Don't get me wrong. I like "LEGO Indiana Jones" -- my girlfriend and I are currently working through the "Temple of Doom" section -- but it's a deeply flawed game.

What "Indiana Jones" proved is that the LEGO formula doesn't work perfectly with every universe. There aren't enough action sequences or memorable characters in the Indy franchise to make a LEGO game about it nearly as pleasurable as the "Star Wars" installments.

That's not a problem for "LEGO Batman." My recent 20 minutes of playtime with the latest LEGO game avoided every pitfall "Indiana Jones" fell in.


Ever wondered where Epic Games drew from when designing "Gears of War"'s over-the-top blood and guts? We have the answer: cult classic 80s horror films.

At PAX 2008, MTV Multiplayer spoke with "Gears of War 2" artist Pete Hayes, who explained that his favorite movie genre, horror, was the culprit.

"That's kind of the tone that I drew inspiration from and that's kind of the tone that I wanted it to be in the game," said Hayes. "Other games that are more slow and methodical and creepy and scary, I still enjoy playing them, but I really like the way that it is in 'Gears' and that it's not serious. It's more fun."

So, what are his favorite horror movies? Good thing you asked! Read More...

No, you shouldn't play "Left 4 Dead" by yourself.

PAX 2008 was not the first time I touched Valve and Turtle Rock's zombie thriller, but it was the first time I played alongside the game's built-in artificial intelligence.

How good -- or how bad -- is the humans vs. fast zombies games when a computer controls your human allies? I learned the answer at the Penny Arcade Expo. Read More...

Reset Generation

"We codenamed the title 'Project Whiterock' because we really were going for a crack-like experience. We wanted something unfairly addictive. That's actually our mission: unfairly addictive. And you look in all the press and it says 'addictive.' Almost every article has the word 'addictive' in it. But I'm realizing, especially at PAX, we didn't get crack -- we got beer. It's like the first time you drink it, you say 'what the f*** is this?' and then, the next thing you know, you're in a 12-step program. How did this happen?!"

--"Reset Generation" producer Scott Foe describing Nokia's ambitions for their mobile strategy puzzle game this past weekend at PAX 2008

There's no doubt one of the fiercest rivalries for attention on the floors of PAX 2008 is between "Guitar Hero: World Tour" and "Rock Band 2." Both Activision and MTV Games have put together elaborate stage setups to draw wanna-be musicians.

While there's only one "Rock Band 2" setup, there's more people around it -- but there are multiple stations for checking out "Guitar Hero: World Tour." Needless to say, neither setup has had any trouble filling their space with people.

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