Who the hell is Webzen, you might ask? And prior to E3, we would probably have shrugged and grunted unintelligibly. Now, it's a different story. Webzen is a Korean developer and publisher that arrived in LA with a bang this year, revealing a slew of great-looking MMOs and blowing the sweaty sports socks off many passers-by. One title was the online car-jacker APB (from the brains behind GTA), another looked suspiciously like Zelda: The Wind Waker online. But by far the most impressive was the spectacular Huxley, a massive FPS affair that sounds (and looks) almost too good to be true.
Set in a dark post-apocalyptic world, Huxley is all about fast-paced combat in a huge, persistent world. Two opposing races vie for control of energy sources: Sapiens (basically your standard humans) and Alternatives (hybrid mutants). A third race of AI monsters also exists to provide an alternative to pure PvP action.
The E3 video for the game is nothing short of astonishing, and some of the claims made of the game (such as the 'millions of users' hype) are clearly overstated. Our scepticism duly pricked, we tracked down project manager Yong Tae Kim and asked him to explain himself.
To start with, that video - just how real is it? "The environment is an actual game environment," Kim begins. "The weapons are the real weapons and the vehicles are the real vehicles. We've just enhanced the detail of the characters a little for the purpose of the video, but it's not far from what you'll actually see."
Fair enough. And what about this 'millions of players' business? "Well, each server can take 5,000 players, but within that area we have battle zones with up to 128 players fighting each other. But there's seamless loading between areas, so for all intents and purposes it's a big world with 5,000 players to fight."
Not quite millions then, but still pretty impressive. As we understand it, each battle zone is a roughly delineated area centred around a specific objective. Unique victory conditions exist within each battle zone, offering a variety of different tactical scenarios. What's more, a central, non-PvP area will also exist where you can chat and form squads, much as in SOE's PlanetSide.
IT'S GETTING BETTER...
However, unlike that game, Huxley is retaining some other traditional MMORPG elements to help propel the gameplay, most notably with the inclusion of NPCs. As in other MMOs, NPCs exist both to flesh out the world and provide quests for parties who want them, though the way they do this may be somewhat unusual. "If you hear an NPC screaming for help from a window," says Kim, "that might be the start of a new quest."
The other key difference to PlanetSide is that the combat won't suck. The battles are designed to be much more like Quake III than some lumbering, jerky nightmare where a stat-roll determines whether you've shot someone or not. And with the awesome power of Unreal Engine 3, you're also looking at cutting-edge physics, zero loading times, advanced AI and detailed environments.