The Presidio of San Francisco served as a military post under three separate nations: Spain from 1776-1822; Mexico from 1822-48; and the United States from 1848-1994. But now, as I walk with a group of videogame journalists hailing from sites like GameDaily, Kombo, and Gamer2.0, an expectant hush falls over the group. Not from any gravitas of history that reaches back to the birth of the U.S., but because the Presidio, for nearly a decade now, serves as the locus for many things George Lucas.
We’re treading hallowed ground and we know it. With an awe typically reserved for Gothic cathedrals and Wonders of the World, we tip our chins up and gape around at the stylistically-preserved historical architecture. We also wonder if at any moment George Lucas himself might emerge from around a bend in the pathway, or stroll out of any one of the buildings, coffee in one hand, lightsaber in the other.
We don’t see George Lucas or lightsaber at his hip, but this is indeed the home of Lucasfilm, LucasArts and ILM (Industrial Light & Magic). These arms of George’s empire are encased in a building known as the Letterman Digital Arts Center -- built from the ground up to preserve the architectural style of the original hospital that was on this particular site, but containing all the amenities of a contemporary office space. And if it wasn’t for the Yoda fountain in the courtyard, you might not fully realize at first that you’re standing at the center of the Star Wars universe.
Chris Cook, Public Relations Specialist for LucasArts, is walking and talking our way through the hallways toward our destination: The LucasArts Gameplay Room. Two trashcans (already stuffed with lidded coffee cups and snack wrappers) sit outside the Gameplay Room’s door, reminding us that food and drink are a no-no inside. And as we step through the door we’re greeted by two rows of tables, each table lined with ten gaming stations heavily-equipped with a PC, Xbox 360, PS3, PSP, and HD monitor. Each monitor has a handwritten nametag propped at the top with designations like “Xbox 360 Italy” and “PS3 Japan,” presumably to help us remember which station we were at in the event of a restroom break. Cool air blankets the room through copious vents positioned on the ceiling and floor. The chairs are ergonomic perfection. And the main menu for Fracture, developer Day 1 Studios’ latest high-budget baby, is humming on the screens (“These aren’t the best monitors,” says a Day 1 dev as I manually brighten the dark screen through Fracture’s options menu).
To get you up to speed: Fracture takes place in the year 2161. Day 1, developers of the award-winning MechAssault series, wanted to look at hot-button topics of today like stem cell research, the Human Genome Project, and global warming, then fast-forwarding their potential effects 153 years -- focusing on a few worst case scenarios, but trying not to grow preachy in the telling (“We don’t want to slap players around with a case in Ecological Policy”). Nonetheless, global warming has raised water levels, turning the Midwest into a great inland sea. The East Coast, now dubbed the Atlantic Alliance, protected itself from a similar fate by utilizing Terrain Deformation technology: the ability to raise and lower the landscape at will. The West Coast, now the Republic of Pacifica, followed suit. Not only geographically, but ideologically the United States became a house divided. The Atlantic Alliance advanced itself technologically by utilizing cybernetic enhancements. The Pacificans resorted to DNA splicing and genetic manipulation. Washington D.C. grew increasingly displeased with the West and, far too late in the ballgame, decided to criminalize the Pacificans’ research and actions.
An Atlantic Alliance team, spearheaded by Colonel Roy Lawrence and his adopted son Jet Brody, is sent to a dried-up San Francisco Bay (“We wanted to incorporate water physics with Terrain Deformation, but that’s one place where the programmers successfully punched us in the face and we fell on the ground,” said Day 1) in order to bring the leader of the Pacifican resistance, Colonel Nathan Sheridan, back to D.C. to be tried for war crimes and, assuredly, treason.
Consider yourself briefed.
Page 1 of 3