Many of you have heard of industry trade shows PAX and E3, but did you know that Runic Games sometimes shows their games at smaller trade shows in other parts of the world? Neither did I, until my pals and gals at Runic asked if I could help represent Hob at the Sony booth a few weeks ago. Who am I, you might ask? If you weren’t aware, I’ve been running Runic Games Fansite since just after the company was founded in 2008. I also happen to live dead center between Osaka and Kyoto in Japan, which made me the perfect (low cost) person to travel to the show.
What is BitSummit?
BitSummit is best described as one of the biggest gaming conventions in Japan, debatably second only to Tokyo Game Show. There’s a big presence by Sony, Nintendo, Twitch, Kickstarter, IGN Japan, and loads of indie developers from all over the world. That’s in addition to a few recruitment booths by some of the local universities with their own cool demos on display. It lasts for a full two days, and the main stage is booked through both days with speakers from all over. If you’re ever in Kyoto in May, it is definitely worth a visit! I personally got to try out PlayStation VR and the Vive for the first time during the trip.
Enough about that, what about Hob?
Very patient question! Sony had probably over a dozen machines set up in their section, each with a different game on display. Sitting unobtrusively between Mr. Swifty and Lethal League was the PAX East 2017 build of Hob, usually with me standing beside it guiding people through the game. Most of these sections of the game have been seen in the press before, but in case you haven’t seen them I’ll guide you through an imaginary run-through:
Your character initially slides down onto the screen after a skipped cutscene, which I’ve heard involves the character gaining a robotic arm. How does that work, you ask? Well rumor has it that all life in this world is at least in part mechanical, which you can see from the rectangular grass and the awesome pipe-like tree roots. Seriously, I have a favorite tree in this game due entirely to the cool root system. Almost immediately your character finds a large plant, glowing red from the inside, and messily cuts it open and rips open a Tetris-like block that upgrades your maximum health by one block.
From there, you’ll find yourself under attack by invulnerable spiked vines, pod shooters attached to walls, and creepy purple monsters that call smaller versions of themselves from grates in the ground. Having a little trouble? I may recommend using your little warp power to stun the enemy. Too easy? See if you can finish it off with a punch instead of your sword to see a cool different death animation.
Next up are a series of puzzles that involve platform jumping, button smashing, and the complete rearrangement of the local scenery in what amounts to fixing an elevator. I may detour you to find some health restoring “strawberries” and an energy power-up. The music is beautiful. The gong-like noise as you finally restore the elevator platform is SO satisfying. Puzzles may be a bit old school in the difficulty level, in that a single two-degree mistake when jumping or warping may result in your splattery end on the ground.
The next portion of the demo is unusual for an action game in that it actually has nothing for you to fight. As you sink beneath the ground you see that the entire world is literally built from machines, some of which walk or crawl or weld things in the background. Don’t let that fool you though, as you may catch a glimpse of some smaller animals dashing around. Here you learn more of the basics of the game, such as how to use the teleporter pads, when to combine your skills (such as running and dashing) to avoid being squished, and how to rearrange the way you think in order to solve a variety of mechanical puzzles that result in large pieces of the land being raised back to the surface in front of your very eyes.
I won’t spoil anything more for you, but the general response to both the overworld and underground sections of the game was positive, with lots of people saying it paralleled a variety of different games from their past (often including Zelda). Everyone felt like it was one of the most beautiful games at the show, and the 30 minute demo was one of the most satisfying experiences that almost everyone stayed until the end. The response to the demo was so good that I recommended that Runic release a demo of the final version of this section, as it seems like the best way to bring in new players.
When can I try Hob?
The game doesn’t have a finalized release date yet, though it is estimated for sometime later this year. If you want to recommend a convention or other gaming event for Hob to be shown at, then you should absolutely suggest it to Runic! If it’s in Japan you might just be able to meet me! And if you have any questions (that I’m allowed to answer) you can ask me on Runic’s Discord server, the Forums, or over on Runic Games Fansite. Thanks to Runic for this opportunity, and I hope to see more of you all in the future!