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Spring 2006



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Bad Day L.A.


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It’s always been the case, but I’ve noticed more and more that games will often have to present some kind of gimmick right away to catch the attention of the media and gamers. Most of the gimmickry is presented through graphics and that’s exactly what Bad Day L.A. seems to do. When screens first started appearing on the net, I was intrigued.

Presented in a cel-shaded visual style (or as it’s officially described, “super-flat graphical art style”) along the lines of Alien Hominid – one of my favorite side-



scrolling shooters ever – and an over-the-shoulder 3rd Person view, Bad Day L.A. shows a strange world of possibilities. Since the first batch of screens increasingly bizarre images were released showing the in-game action, including evidence of a giant wearing a hamburger costume, my mild fascination with the game increased. I needed to know more because based on style along, the game looked


damn fun.

What it boils down to is that Los Angeles has been besieged by a multitude of disasters of biblical and galactic proportions. Your character, Anthony Williams, is a homeless man that steps into the role of reluctant hero as he fights his way through real-world Los Angeles (or at least the developer’s take on LA). While this setup wouldn’t really bode well for any kind of gripping and/or satirical story, the developers have “promised” a “deep and comedic story line that plays off the fear culture of Modern America.” It should also boast some parodies of disasters flicks, which could allow for some interesting mission scenarios. American McGee penned the story, so there's also that to consider.

At its core, I’m guessing that Bad Day L.A. will be all about blasting baddies with the occasional side quest thrown in for good measure. To accommodate this, the developers are looking to include an assortment of conventional and, no doubt, unconventional weaponry.


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If you’re thinking like me, you’re probably remembering Stubbs the Zombie: Rebel Without a Pulse after reading the information above. That game has most of the elements that Bad Day L.A. is trying to combine – wacky designs, interesting weapons, a strange environment, and a soundtrack that… no big announcements have been made in regard to the soundtrack. Stubbs the Zombie featured one of the best soundtracks of 2005, which spotlighted covers of classic ‘50s “pop” tunes by a roster of indie musicians that complemented the game. The results were superb. Given Bad Day L.A.’s setting of disasters, alien invasions, and mutants run amuck, it would be a crying shame if the soundtrack doesn’t feature homage to disaster flicks.

My only area of concern outside the soundtrack is that there’s mention of an “easy to learn, hard to master,” control systems. While this might heighten the mastery required to really become an expert, I’ve always been wary of developers that make this promise. It could be fine, but the claim always comes across as one of life’s many impossibilities, like flying pigs (even if there’s a rumor floating around that a South Korean lab is cross-breeding pigs with other animals).

On his blog, American McGee notes that as little as six months ago Bad Day L.A. was "painfully boring" and that there "was no gameplay." That's not much an endorsement, particularly from the front man on the project. Of course, as early as November 2005 the gameplay situation seems to have turned around -- at least according to McGee. (See below for an excerpt from his blog that explains Bad Day L.A.'s concept of "chaos management" which will play into each scenario.)

If the development team behind Bad Day L.A. have their heads screwed on right, they’ll omit multiplayer. If the single-player game is tight and fun, there’s no need to dilute the experience by stretching resources to tack-on a multiplayer mode.

Bad Day L.A. is noted to ship Spring 2006, however this may change.

- Omni
(March 28, 2006)

From American McGee's Blog:

In the past two months the gameplay has grown out of the story and the world in a very organic way. The concept of “chaos management” as a gameplay mechanism has matured and now delivers a very addictive and fast paced bit of entertainment.

The screenshot shows what’s up. [Check the screens above.] You’ll see that super imposed over the player’s view of the world is a collection of little round icons. These show the player any and all nearby events or NPCs that might change the status of the threat advisory for the level. Burning people, injured people, zombies, terrorists, and mission points are all represented. If the player ignores people who are on fire those people will burn to the ground and create a frowny. If an injured person is allowed to die, same thing. Good events, such as saving people or killing zombies, will create smilies. Together frownies and smilies move the threat advisory bar up and down.

The higher the threat advisory the more difficult it is to proceed towards finishing missions. So the player is forced to balance managing the local chaos level with moving through the level towards the eventual goal of escape. We’re still tweaking and tuning it, but when it works it really works. Not only that, but it fits perfectly with the narrative and feels pretty original to boot.

Certainly this sort of design by natural evolution isn’t that common, and brings with it unpredictability and risk, but hey, it’s a lot more fun than creating “yet another shooter”. I’m very curious to see how the world is going to react to this one.


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