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Anachronox

ION Storm's upcoming RPG wasn't shown on the floor. But RPGamer saw it anyways - and spoke with the producer, lead artist, and lead programmer.

   Anachronox for the PC is shrouded in mystery. Very little is known about the game besides its engine and the design team's reverence for Square games. Until today, in fact, the game had never been seen outside of ION Storm's offices. RPGamer was on the scene at E3 and was shown the game in Eidos' booth.

   First of all, the game is absolutely gorgeous. It was clearly the best looking RPG at the entire show. Running off of a modified version of the Quake II engine, the fully-textured, colored-lit environments looked astounding. From underground caverns, to the city of Anachronox, to outdoors environments, the levels have some of the best architecture and design of any game yet to use the Quake II engine. The lead programmer was quick to point out many of the especially exciting features she had added to the Quake II engine. These included volumetric fog, great colored lighting (partial lighting of objects, vertices; overlapping shadows), a dynamic billboard system (that can also create super monitors and displays), realistic cloth movement (as seen in the duster of Sly "Boots"), and procedural water (it's not just a moving texture - it appears as realistic water from above, below, and even at level).

   The unique camera tracking system deserves mention. Nodes can be placed within an environment for cameras to traverse; each node can have both a position (where the camera is) and a focus (where the camera is pointing). This allows for simple creation of moving and dynamic cameras (and the level designer has a film background, meaning that the camera doesn't just "float" - it has "weight" as it pans to find the best shots.

   Characters on display were the main character, Sly "Boots"; Stilleto Anyway, and a new character, El Buno (with a tilde which I can't make over the "n" - Spanish for fist). Environments included a foreboding space pirate ship, the seedy town of Anachronox at the heart of Sender One, the underground Mystech mines, and a castle-like fortress. Each environment seemed unique and "solid" - not just a prefabricated environment designed for the player to run around.

   The technology, graphics, level design, and character design of Anachronox are all extremely promising at this early stage. Music, while not yet present, promises to be equally innovative - the Anachronox team is working closely with Microsoft to implement DirectX 6's DirectMusic to provide a high-quality dynamic digital score. Multiplayer modes will be implemented, but, unfortunately, probably not cooperative ones. The issues of splitting and rejoining a party were too great, he said. This may change before the final release, however. What's Tom Hall looking forward to most? Finishing the game so he can be released, he said. "I can't wait to start playing on other people's planets." A level editor, perhaps? RPGamers should keep an eye out for this one.

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