Due to financial restrictions I decided only to attend E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) for a single day this year, and honestly I think that was about all it was worth.
Initially I was going to use this space to rant about how much worse E3 has become since the first time I attended it back in 2001. Then I decided to take a moment and really analyse my disappointment so to confidently identify the culprit.
A few things occurred to me…
The first time I went to E3 I was 16, so I stood on the sidewalk outside the convention center asking everyone who passed if they would sell their badge to me for $40. Needless to say I was able to score a badge, however the next step was getting in without being carded for my age (18 or older). After spending a few minutes studying the entryway searching for an opportune moment I managed to get inside the first of three halls. So it is safe to assume the impact on me for the first event was compounded by the amount of effort it took to get in, and it was the first time.
After a few years of that I managed to acquire enough contacts to get tickets without pan handling on the street. However the events were still rather exciting. What has killed the magic?
There were various controversies including over crowding at the center, exploiting booth babe marketing and at one point many of the big boys (Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft and Blizzard) all threatened to leave entirety. One year E3 was beat so bad it was almost unrecognizable from its former self. Things have gotten much better, but it is still not the same
Blizzard has moved its operations to BlizzCon so I can attribute some of the problem to that, but nonetheless what is reallying missing?
Ultimately I began blaming the games. Too many sequels, too much cliche, nothing that looked interesting or genuinely new. While much of this holds true you will soon learn that I found a fair amount of interesting things at the event this year.
So where did the magic go?
I have decided in addition to much of what I have already said, the primary reasons why E3 has lost its luster is the following…
I have seen a lot since then, played many games and have grown as an individual and an industry professional. My expectations have refined and not every flashing light interests me as much as it has in the past. So while E3 used to be a cave of vast treasures, it is now an adventure to find only a handful of gems among the rubble.
Here are some of the gems I found this year!
DISNEY’S EPIC MICKEY
At first much of the advertising for this game was unrecognizable, and while it wasn’t the most amazing thing I saw at the event it was fascinating to see a new game about Mickey Mouse that wasn’t Kingdom Hearts. Speaking of Kingdom Hearts, I can’t help but thing much of the inspiration for this game was based on the success of Kingdom Hearts.
Honestly the only thing about this game that really caught my eye was the fact that it was a relatively dark looking game featuring entirety Disney characters. This kind of reminded me of the Sega Genesis game Mickey Mouse World of Illusion which has great nostalgia value for me. However I found the title “Epic Mickey” to be down right terrible! I guess we can only blame the internet culture.
CASTLEVANIA: LORDS OF SHADOW
While watching a series of videos I came across a trailer for this game. I am not a fan of the series but it looked interesting enough and had a killer cast of voice actors!
So the game play doesn’t scream creativity but I am hoping that it stays consistent with Castlevania’s RPG elements and it doesn’t just turn into another God of War wannabe.
DEUS EX: HUMAN REVOLUTION
Unfortunately all I got to see was the cinematic trailer for this game. Now I just hope the game can hold up to the standards set by the video.
What really struck me was how much this video came off as a trailer for a movie and less that of a game. Even the credits at the end were displayed like that of a movie’s. The soundtrack they chose was really spot on, it gave me chills accompanying the visuals and the dialog. Once again we can only hope the game itself can keep up.
STAR WARS: THE FORCE UNLEASHED II
I was fortunate to kick my day off with this video playing on a massive screen with a rocking sound system. You NEED to watch this in the highest quality you can!
This has got to be one of the most impressive cinematic video I have ever seen since the opening for Onimusha 3. Aside from the realistic quality of the main character, you get drawn in by amazing sound effects, lighting and an ever rising action. Of course this is so far removed from the original Star Wars movies, but honestly I almost forgot it was Star Wars and really didn’t care that it was.
END OF NATIONS
Up until this point I have only talked about games that caught my eye graphically, which is part of the problem I have with E3. While Mickey’s game and Castlevania look interesting, the Deus Ex and Star Wars videos really said nothing about what the games are actually like. End of Nations however is a Massive Multiplayer Online Real Time Strategy Game… MMORTS… G.
Ok so the graphics don’t come off as exciting, nor does the game play appear incredibly deep, but they are trying something different. I had a conversation today that made a lot of sense. The Wii and its motion control has been hailed as groundbreaking while most of the time gimmicky and anyone in their right mind can see most Wii games that use the motion control don’t need to. But Microsoft and Sony are bother jumping on the motion control bandwagon. So while the Wii may not be the best application of the technology others are helping it grow. I imagine a similar affect could occur for End of Nations. It may not be the best MMORTS, but others may not be afraid to try it themselves and thus usher in a new genre.
DONKEY KONG COUNTRY RETURNS
This has got to be the highlight of the day and the whole event for me. Aside from impressive graphics, the game manages to maintain much of the original gameplay and the Wii motion control acts as an added flavor and not an overpowering gimmick.
This was the only game I played besides Sonic Colors (waste of time, RIP Sonic) and I am glad I did. The controls felt solid and familiar, even the motion control with the Wiimote felt pretty seamless. There was only a certain carnivorous green muskette totting villain who didn’t appear in the demo, I do hope he has not given up the fight! I know there will be at least one game on my holiday list this year.
So while the magic has not completely vanished it has changed form. This has continued my ongoing investigation into what makes games different today than days past. I plan to explore much of my findings in another article, until then you will have to think about it yourself and see if we come to any of the same conclusions.