Memo Pad: Arriving at E3, Meeting Stubbs the Zombie

Picture something even larger than P. T. Barnum had envisioned in his wildest dreams and you begin to come close.

Add enough technology to strangle a moose and youire almost there.

Finally, insert the sheer fervor that goes into the video game industry, and you have it: The biggest, loudest, most overblown, expensive expo on the face of the planet.


I arrived this morning, still laughing from a Windows error screen overlapping the flight departure data on a terminal display at my airport. That helped dull the pain from enduring no less than the required three colicky infants fussing in unison on the plane.

A Windows terminal provides crucial flight data under its error screen...
(Click the thumbnail for a larger image)


The expois still in the setup stages as of Tuesday, with the final touches being made to displays, press kits, and the everything else before what is essentially a tidal wave hits. Like an oceanside village, theyire battening down the hatches, setting up something thatill completely blow their audience away.

From digital art galleries, to the prototype Batman Begins "Tumbler" on display, to the United States Army setting up their media tents before they once again plant military vehicles outside (and later fly attack helicopters over the convention center, rappel troops into the area to secure it, and write the whole thing off under a PR budget), almost everything is ready.

Thereis a downside to everything, and in Los Angeles, it tends to be location. As I headed over to the Stubbs the Zombie demonstration in Aspyris West Hollywood expo suite, there came the realization that someone had, in effect, designed a hotel so hip, it wound up being functionally useless (affectionately classified as "so cool itis stupid" by passing guests).

As I shamefully approached the main desk, more than a little outclassed in my anime t-shirt and hooded sweater by a staff and clientele that seemed to have stepped off the front pages of GQ, I asked if I should change shirts at the very least.

The concierge glanced at me, recommended the fitness center as a place to do it, then pointed out the elevators, which took two minutes of studying the paneling to determine what they actually were. Once up to the eighth floor, I stepped out into the low mood lighting, changed shirts in the hall and walked into the demo suite.

Stubbs the Zombie

Theyive been busy over at Stubbsi maker Wideload Studios, Bungie cofounder Alex Seropianis new company, and it shows. Stubbs the Zombie: Rebel Without a Pulse -- currently being developed for simultaneous release by Aspyr this fall on Mac, Windows and Xbox -- looks nothing short of terrific, although a firm ship date, price and specs have yet to be determined at this point in time.

Based on the Halo engine, and ensconced in the type of comic violence that can make or break a game, players take on the role of Edward "Stubbs" Stubblefield, a Greta Depression era traveling salesman who was murdered and anonymously buried in a remote Pennsylvania field.

26 years later, a purported city-of-the-future has been erected atop the grave, an event which signals Stubbsi reemergence into the world as he crawls from the grave as one of the living dead. Heis determined to find out who killed him, and what to make of this strange new era, preferably by munching upon the nearest living brain tissue at hand.

That, in a nutshell, is the game, in its own wondrous, sick, twisted, not-quite-over-the-top way. Players lurch around as Stubbs, use melee attacks on opponents, absorb damage, commandeer vehicles (perhaps the best feature of the Halo game engine at work), devour the brains of their opponents and create legions of controllable zombies to help in the offensive.

Itis one thing to envision a zombie ripping a vital organ from its body, hurling it like a grenade, then taking cover as it decimates a few opponents; itis another thing to actually see it. Weapons like a player-controlled detachable hand that can possess any opponent (and thus take control of their weaponry), tactical control over the zombies youive created (as well as the ones theyive spawned on their own), and "Unholy Flatulence" make the game worth checking out, as the cleverness and attention to detail that Seropian and his original team at Bungie were known for doesnit seem to have dissipated over the years.

Your very own player-controlled, detachable hand

Sadly, there may not be a multiplayer mode, and Wideload was unable to comment on that at this time. Efforts are being made toward a cooperative mode, but this remains up in the air at this time. Either way, what was presented looked incredibly fun, just short of depraved. Wideload should probably be happy to earn a "Teen" rating from the ESRB, as they pulled no punches for an audience that wants an amusing game.

It may have been years since the Mac community directly heard from Alex Seropian, and his arrival Wednesday for a talk may resemble that of a rock star returning home, but years of development seem to be coming together for what looks like a darned fun, somewhat shameless, mildly twisted, and actually original title that is unlike anything thatis existed before.

And, in the long run, thatis all that really matters.