Ethereal, one of the several titles being developed as part of IGN’s Indie Open House, has attracted a lot of attention for its competitive multiplayer features. The indie third person medieval combat game has traits like CounterStrike – except that it uses swords and shields instead of Ak47s and Desert Eagles.
IGN’s program, which is assisted by GamerSpy’s Technology staff, is giving free office space, internet connectivity and technical support to independent developers, and Ethereal comes from a set of graduate students from Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The game consists of two teams that fight together in a style similar to CounterStrike (except that you don’t defuse/plant bombs or anything similar). You have to purchase armor and swords and try to eliminate the other team.
Sounds simple right? Well actually it’s not too simple, and involves a lot of technicality and skills, because the parameters of combat are realistically crafted. The game also makes use of real-time physics, so you won’t see the characters just hacking and slashing – you’ll actually be clubbing and bludgeoning your opponent (or vice versa).
The realism and combat parameters comes from the hard work of the development team, as they conducted research on melee dueling by taking part in a Society of Creative Anarchism battle.
This allowed them to learn the proper tactics of medieval combat, hence allowing them to create a more realistic experience instead of the glamorized version of battles in games and movies.
The type of armor and weapon a player purchases also greatly afflicts the battle, and whether the character is resilient, powerful or an almost total failure.
Buy more armor and you’ll stand longer in the battle arena (which is shaped a lot like the Coliseum), but killing others will be a little difficult with your average weapon. By a better weapon and less armor and you’re bound to get kills easily, but you’ll be exposed and few hits would be required to annihilate you.
Knowing what armor and weapon to take, which areas of an opponent to strike, and how to tactically defend and offend is a skill that has to be learnt, and that is how more skilled players are differentiated from lesser ones.
The game is powered by the Unity engine which, to be bluntly honest, fails to create an impression. However, it’s still in development, and if it constantly impresses viewers the way it is, we could expect a few good changes as far as the visuals are concerned.
The beta version is now downloadable on FilePlanet here. Ethereal currently supports around 10 or so people fighting on two teams. However, the developers are working on creating a larger scaled war-like battle scenario which is more intense and elaborates the medieval fighting scenarios.