"We've got a control feature now that is faster than the keyboard and mouse," says Vispi Bhopti, studio communications manager at Creative Assembly Australia. What?
"Which sounds cooky, and everybody's eyebrows raise, and you don't believe me. In five minutes time I'll prove it to you."
He's right. Everybody's eyebrows are raised. Not only that, but lips are pursed and foreheads are scrunched in scepticism. This had better be good.
Bhopti, a breathlessly enthusiastic member of the team behind hardcore PC RTS Medieval II: Total War and its expansion Kingdoms, begins his demo of the post-apocalyptic console centred sci-fi RTS Stormrise. But wait - a proviso.
"This is faster because of this game. You can't just port this control system onto Empire, for example. It won't work. It just won't. We're not saying, bang, we've figured it all out and now we're going to license it out to everyone and this is the new Unreal Engine of controls, but it's just an interesting solution."
Back peddling, perhaps? Maybe. Whatever, we're used to grandiose claims from game developers, each and every one talking up their title as if it's the second coming. It's even worse in the console RTS space. Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3 with its radial menu, EndWar with its voice command, Halo Wars with its simplified base building... all admirable efforts, really, but still, better than mouse and keyboard? No.
Bhopti isn't saying Stormrise's controls are better than the mouse and keyboard, he's saying they're faster. Traditionally, console RTS games have suffered from a lack of efficiency when it comes to moving between units. In Stormrise every unit, both friend and foe, and resource generating node, has an icon displayed above it. This is where Whip Select (CA obviously reckons Stormrise's control scheme is so good it warrants its own name), comes into play. Moving the right thumb stick in any direction will project a beam of light that can be aimed at one of these icons. Simply flicking it in the direction of that icon will shift the camera to it in the blink of an eye and that unit is under your control. That's it, one flick of the thumb. It doesn't matter how far away it is on the battlefield, or where it is. The icon will always be displayed, and you'll always be able to flick towards it, whether that's up, down, left, right, forwards or backwards. The thumb stick is analogue, after all.
In this way, you're able to leapfrog from unit to unit, or from groups of units to groups of units, dishing out commands as fast as your brain allows. "This is, for long distances, faster than anything that's ever been done," Bhopti confidently proclaims. "With a traditional game you would have to do four or six clicks in a mini-map to move across that many map screens and then select, or you would have to scroll across a couple of map screens, or with a keyboard and mouse you'd have to zoom out, refocus and zoom back in. Nothing is as quick as doing that one motion and letting go."
And yet, despite his claims, Bhopti insists Whip Select shouldn't grab the headlines when it comes to Stormrise. Instead, we should be scribbling in our notepads about a feature mentioned more than any other during the two hour presentation: verticality.
"All other control methods worked on a 2D spectrum," he says. "This is radial and the benefit of this is that we can have verticality. Verticality is why you should play this game. Verticality is why this is amazing. This is unreal. If you really are an RTS player, this is the thing that's going to freak you out for the next half hour and then it's going to keep you up going, imagine this, imagine this, imagine this."