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March 8, 2012
GDC 2012: Brick Force Preview
 

By Jason Van Horn

I'm pretty open-minded when it comes to videogames as I'm willing to give most anything a shot, but that doesn't mean I have to like them. One genre in particular that I don't find the appeal of is the "build your own game" type, where 'you' have to make the fun yourself. Sorry, but I don't pay for a game just so I can play it; it's like going to a restaurant and paying to make your meal yourself. The most recognized game in this genre is Minecraft, which I tried and got bored of very, very quickly; some components were admittedly not yet implemented, but seeing videos of people doing things like building a replica of the Enterprise to scale simply seems like nothing more than a waste of time. Despite its "build your own game" roots and Minecraft inspired cubes, I decided to go ahead and give Brick Force a try as it promised an experience that wasn't solely tied to the building component of the game.

To me Brick Force is what you'd get if you took Minecraft and mixed it with Call of Duty. Players have a blocky, military character that acts as their avatar of creation and destruction. You can't customize your character (or not in the preview I got to experience) but are instead given this figure to dress-up how you like by purchasing new clothing articles and weapons for them. Some items are mostly cosmetic in nature and that's it, but others can increase things like your Luck stat, help you carry more medic packs, hold more ammo, etc. The customizations in Brick Force aren't free, however, as you must spend either in-game currency or real world money in order to rent the equipment out for a select number of days.



Movement and combat should feel familiar to anyone who has ever played a FPS on the PC, as the WASD keys control movement, the number keys cycle through available weaponry, the left-mouse button shoots, the right-mouse button zooms in a sniper rifle, reload with the R-key, and you can press the spacebar to jump. Brick Force features the same type of game modes that a number of other titles feature, including Team Deathmatch, Survival Mode (free-for-all), Blast Mode (kill all the members of the opposing team or either safely ignite or defuse a bomb depending no which team you're on), and Capture The Flag (grab the flag and bring it back to your base to score and win). Once again, pretty basic stuff, but what's there is solid stuff and if all you ever want to do is run around and shoot people with giant block heads in a near infinite array of maps then you'll find a lot to enjoy when it comes to Brick Force.

The meat of the Brick Force experience, however, is built around the idea of giving players the ability to create their own maps and publish them so that other players can play on them, rank them, and depending on how well they are ranked earn the map's creator some points they can use towards the purchase of block tickets, weapons and armor they can equip, etc. When taking the leap to try the game out, the map building mode was the one thing I was the most hesitant about trying, but found myself strangely addicted to trying my hand at the perfect FPS map (or even just a competent one at that). So I bought me a stretch of land, blocks, and got to building. I emerged about two-hours later total with a map I think is pretty good (and this was before I found all the cool blocks that are an optional purchase).



Ten different blocks or items are always at your disposal and easily selectable by pressing one of the number keys; if you want to change them out it's as easy as pressing the B-key, clicking on a block you want to work with, and then moving it over the number you want to associate it with. Once you have a block selected, you can left-click to add one wherever you're looking that it would attach to or you can right-click and remove a block or object you've placed. It's initially daunting to have a completely open map placed in front of you and not having any idea as to what you should do, but once you learn the ropes you can find some shortcuts and ways to quickly add blocks to form walls, lines, and much more.

Once I was finished, my map featured a sniper's nest at the center of the map, a red and blue base at opposite corners, and two secondary buildings in the other corners; between these main locations were a number of walls, turns, places to camp, and even a few hidden ramps that could allow someone to jump onto the hedge walls and jump and run practically across the entire map. The game had my number count at an insane amount of bricks - around 14-thousand - but I had no clue where they all were. As it turns out, my floor wasn't the bottom of the area I'd purchased, but the top level of a giant gray block that went several blocks deep. I decided then that I'd make me an underground area that led straight to the sniper's nest in the middle if the player was willing to risk rushing to one of the corner, non-base buildings, and then run the corridors by themselves.



Brick Force wasn't completely clear on how to register a map, as it kept saying that I didn't meet the requirements. It took a little perusing of the game's official site to figure out what needed to be done, and in order to make your map playable you have to place spawn points and things like flags and bomb points in order to make it open to a wide variety of game types. After I got everything setup and published it was time to sit back, hope my map got played, and to see if people would enjoy it.

Another thing of note is that you don't have to make maps completely by yourself, as you can let random strangers come in and mess around with what you're creating, limit it to just friends you give access, and you can password protect your build section to keep people from coming in (if they get in before your password is set you can always bring up a menu in order to kick them out). You can go on to the game's Facebook page, as an example, and watch a time-lapse video to see what kind of magic a group of dedicated friends and builders can put together.

I knew Brick Force had a cool hook to keep people playing, but for me I thought I'd be sticking to the running and gunning and nothing more. I never would've thought going into my time with the game that I'd be having so much fun simply placing blocks and thinking about how one could go about making the perfect map for FPS fans everywhere. The game is currently in Closed Beta right now, so head on over to their website, submit an application, and maybe you'll be one of the lucky ones picked to get building your very own FPS map masterpiece.

http://www.brick-force.com/

 
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