[PAX East 2013] Lords of New York
With Smartphones in our pockets and tablet features expanding to the point where most are turning into miniature computers, it should not be a surprise to see gaming evolving along side these new platforms. Mobile gaming is becoming as popular as handheld gaming; people are relying heavily on their new electronics for both life management and entertainment. The growth of the mobile market has opened many doors to indie developers. Now these smaller studios can try to reach out to a new audience compared to being limited to strictly releasing their games on PC.
Boston-based developer, Lunchtime Studios, is focusing on showing that even iOS games can hold the same qualities has better known published titles. On PAX East, I got a chance to sit down to play through their new adventure-RPG, Lords of New York. It is a poker game like no other poker game you have ever played before.
Set in New York during the prohibition period, Lords of New York has you following three separate characters who are betting their lives with a handful of cards due to personal motives. The first is Vincent – a mob boss determined to rise through the mafia ranks while making a bit of a personal profit on the side. After being entrusted to make a drop, Vincent gets the bright idea to try to double the cash in order to keep half for himself. He convinces his girlfriend to run away with him but he
tangles with the wrong crowd that results in him loosing everything. Now he has to play to win the $25,000 back before his boss knows it is missing.
Then there is Veronica – a young woman from a small town itching to catch the story of a lifetime. She decides to go undercover and joins a mafia gang into order to learn more about their bootlegging. As a result, she often finds herself being forced to mingle with some of New York’s most dangerous card players in order to win their trust so she can secretly dig deeper.
Finally, we have Tony – a government agent sent to tear a mafia family down. In order to do so, he needs to find the right connections that will lead him to his targets. Connections that can only be made by playing his cards right.
At its core, Lords of New York is a poker game but with some unique twists. Your characters will build relationships with other characters as you choose your own adventure throughout New York City. Your verbal choices can change the outcome of certain events and you will be asked to travel around the city to network with fellow mobsters or follow leads. After all, not every round of poker centers around the need to win money. One game you might be trying to bond with a character in order to earn their trust so they will give you information you are seeking while other times you might need to scare someone straight; or put someone in their place.
This will be done by using each characters special characteristics to help win (or throw) a game. Vincent is not the most clever card player, but his quick hand gives him a cheating advantage while his tough guy personality can intimate others. Veronica, however, is very intelligent. She is capable of reading other player’s tells and uncovering secrets; and Tony has statistical abilities due to his years of poker experience.
High resolution art companies smooth, beautiful animations of each character. Lunchtime Studios
owner, Dan Higgins, gloats proudly about their homemade game engine. Their engine allows them to take a single image and produce fully animated expressions from it. Everything from blinking to mouth animations to finer details like how clothing swings when characters move are animated from their program. He is hoping to perfect the program in order to make it accessible to other indie developers in the future. A noble deed that only highlights the amazing power indie developers have in their hands; power fueled by burning passion that many of us thought had died in the game industry.
Lords of New York is extremely charming and enjoyable even to an unskilled poker player such as myself. The script writing, voice acting, and soothing jazz sound track kept the game feeling authentic for 20’s New York. Needless to say, Lunchtime Studios has shown that even small studios can have high quality ideas and that innovation is far from dead. The blend of a choose-your-own-adventure mixed with standard poker playing worked out extremely well. From the bit I played, I would say the game’s quality ranks up there right alongside Telltales’ Poker Night at the Inventory but with a much more intriguing plot.
Check out their videos and follow their blog on their website. For those of you willing to make a bet, donate to their Kickstarter to fund their ambition stretch goals like adding online multiplayer, adding future playable character, new locations, and expansion to other platforms.
Lords of New York will be out later this year for iOS, MAC, and PC – with chances for Android devices and possibly the Ouya not long afterwards.