Dave’s E3 2005 Journal: Calm Before the Storm

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Dave's E3 2005 Journal

So, I woke up today at around 6:30 and took a shower. When I got out of the shower, I got dressed and then called AJ. After I told him he was coming with me, I drove over to his place, and like we had decided last night, we went to go eat somewhere, but first AJ had to get batteries for his camera and some cash. Afterwards we went to eat some doughnuts. Anyway, there wasn’t too much traffic on the way there, since we caught the last bits of rush hour I believe. When we got there, there was no trouble parking, but I can only imagine how hard it’ll be tomorrow for that.

When we got in, we got our media badge holders, and looked around. Everything was still being set up, so nothing was actually being shown yet. Its a good thing we got our badge holders and everything really easily, because it’ll probably be hell tomorrow morning.

Me Standing In Front of Cardboard GTA Chick

After we got our badges we went back down to the lobby and looked around some more. I called Dan to tell him we were there. They said they were parking right then and that they’d call when they got to the lobby. So we hung out around the lobby some more, and AJ walked around behind the escalators, and low and behold we found the new Batmobile for the upcoming “Batman Begins” movie.

The New Batmobile from “Batman Begins”

When AJ and I met Dan and Marcus for the first time, we shook hands and stuff, then they asked where they could get the media badge holders. On the way there, they asked what was going on today, and we said nothing except the Nintendo conference. While they were getting their badge holders, AJ and I figured out that the Nintendo Conference wasn’t even at the LA Convention Center. Needless to say, we were kinda mad. So, since that was the only thing even happening today for the most part, we didn’t know what to do at all.

We looked at the event list and saw that there was an Educational Game conference hosted by MIT or something like that. We decided to just go, since nothing else was happening, and while AJ and I were looking around some place else, we lost Dan and Marcus. They didn’t say they were going right in, but we assumed they did. AJ was saying we should probably just leave since nothing was happening, but I thought we should at least tell Dan and Marcus before we actually left.

So we went inside the MIT conference thing, and saw Peter Molyneux (game designer for Fable, Black and White, and Black and White 2) talking about his new game where you can make a movie and then share it with people. It seemed pretty interesting. He was talking about how educational games can still be fun, as well.

He was talking about how educational games can still be fun, as well. He talked a lot about all the different things that game developers making educational games had to deal with, and the rising costs of development for the next generation consoles (upwards of 20 million dollars). The main points he made during his main talk was that he wanted games to be used in the classroom to teach. He made a reference to how he learned more about world history from the Civilization games than he had ever known previous. He also mentioned he liked to make games that gave you a choice of being good or bad, because people could see the consequences of their actions whether they be good or bad and see how things happened, similar to real life. He mentioned that in America, 75% of the people chose to be good in games if they were given the chance, but in Europe it was the exact opposite, with them saying 75% of them would chose to be evil. After a while of him talking, he took some questions from the audience. All together that probably took a good 45 minutes. Or at least it felt like it.

A funny part of the conference was that Marcus asked a question about what markets they hoped to appeal to with educational games even though they cost so much because of increasing next-gen development costs. After he answered the question with saying there are enough people out there who would buy an educational game (or to that affect), later on someone else in the audience stood up and made the statement that educational games always sell well, and that “they” (meaning Marcus) should check their statistics again, because she hates it when people say that educational games don’t sell well. I wanted to tell her to stuff it, cause it seems like she was trying to snub Marcus for asking that question, though she really didn’t know who he was. She probably worked for a company that made educational games now that I think of it.

Peter also made a reference to Leroy Jenkins from World of Warcraft, if you know who he is. Molyneux said that he supported the Xbox 360 (but not specifically ONLY) because of its abilities regarding multiplayer games, which he is all in favor of, because people would be able to go on quests with each other and stuff.

He said that major thing in the next-gen platforms was how they could bring people together to play with each other, and that was a very important value for him.

Another question that was brought up in the conference was about the fact that with increasing quality of games, it would be hard for schools that will always have outdated PCs be able to use the games that are top of the line. Molyneux responded with saying that a remedy for that problem would be using video game consoles instead of updating all the PCs every year, since consoles only come out every five years or so.

He also said that there are many games that could help teach courses, such as the Civilization games for world history, or using the Half Life engine (which he said was very useful) to create educational games.

After Peter’s interview/conference session was over, people started to get up and leave, while people stayed for the next conference by Leap Frog. AJ and I already decided we’d just leave after we told Dan and Marcus, and we stayed for the whole conference to do so. So we told them we’d just go since there wasn’t anything to do. They’re probably just hanging around there still, taking pictures and stuff.

 

Dave’s E3 2005 Journal: Lines Everywhere but No Power Anywhere

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Dave's E3 2005 Journal

Today was the first day of the exhibits at E3. A lot more happened today than I could have really anticipated.

I thought that it was impossible for E3 to suck at all, except for one thing that could happen, that could make it suck. A power outage. And that’s what happened this morning in the LA Convention Center. It wasn’t the LACC’s problem, it was the city’s problem, so there was no telling when they’d be able to get the power back up. Fortunately, they had generators running to keep the emergency lights on around the building and the parking lot. That didn’t keep the parking lot from looking like a dungeon though.

After AJ and I got to the parking lot, we drove around looking for a parking space. We drove around for a half an hour at least, constantly behind a long line of cars, wondering if I had wasted money on the parking ticket I bought. After a while, we were finally directed to an area, by staff. In a dark abyss of a corner, there were finally some parking spaces. When we finally got in the door, people had to deal with the power outage, quite simply because there wasn’t really anything to do because of it.

We met up with Dan and Marcus, who were in line waiting for the media briefing that was held before the exhibits opened. Everyone in line would get a bagel and listen to the media briefing. Dan and Marcus lost interest in attending the media briefing, and both decided to go to McDonalds and eat something there. Since AJ and I already ate, we just stayed in line because there was nothing to do. However, because of the power outage, some dude that worked there (I’m assuming) said some stuff about “since the power outage is blah blah blah, so the media briefing won’t blah blah blah.” I couldn’t really hear him because it was really loud and he was kind of far away. So, AJ just said we should just leave because they probably weren’t going to even hold the briefing. But I contested wholeheartedly because we’d get a bagel. AJ said it would be a shitty bagel, but I said “how do you know?” Other people in line made some comments about what we were talking about, but we didn’t pay attention to them, because they were stupid.

We walked around for about fifteen minutes in the lobby. We were handed some publications to read by some random people. One was an issue of GameInformer, and the other was an E3 Newspaper thing made by the ESA (the group that makes E3 possible). We sat around outside (because it was hot inside) and read what we were given, wondering if there’s going to be an E3 still because of the power outage. We waited until about 9:55 a.m. before we went back inside. Then the doors opened to E3, and the huge herd of people flooded into the E3 with cheers. Took a little while to actually get in, but we did.

The whole day we walked around pretty much, looking at all the different games around. I saw a lot of games being premiered for the first time like Shadow of the Colossus, Jak X Combat Racing, SOCOM 3, and like a thousand other games. There were big screen TVs everywhere and it was freaking loud.

Random information I gathered:

Square Enix is releasing a slew of RPGs in the coming months, such as Kingdom Hearts II, Radiata Stories, Romancing SAGA, Fullmetal Alchemist, etc.

Namco is trying to make all new franchises for their expansion into the PC realm of gaming instead of porting their games from the consoles, so the games have a feeling that is more than “Oh its on PS2, but now they’re putting it on the PC,” however it wouldn’t be stupid to think that some could transfer to console systems. When I poised the questions to different members of the Namco staff on-site at E3, they declined to comment on any possible porting of the PC games to the consoles, which could be a good sign in certain cases, depending on the type of game.

Of the games I saw, I only played/learned about a few enough to actually know something about the game. The following games qualify for the list of “what I know.”

Phantasy Universe – I hadn’t played a Phantasy game by SEGA since Phantasy Star Online on Dreamcast. I instantly noticed the control scheme was amazingly better than PSO. I didn’t know if it was online, but whatever mode I was playing, I was accompanied by three NPCs in my team. I thought that it could be a really good game from what I had played.

Before Crisis: Final Fantasy VII – This is the mobile game we’ve been hearing about which is a prequel of sorts to FFVII. It was all in Japanese, so I couldn’t tell you how the story was or anything, but by the way it looked, it had the best graphics for a mobile phone game I’d ever seen. But the controls don’t make the same impression. While it was still only in development, I’ve seen games that come out and have horrible controls regardless, so I had told someone about the way I felt the game should be improved a little bit. It was definitely hard to control your character in an action-battle setting, where you had to dodge around and hit your enemies, while they were firing at you and moving around as well. Needless to say, you need something better than a mobile phone to control that well. Also, if you were hit by the enemy who had a gun (you only had a sword, since you were that red-headed Turk), their rate of fire was that that you couldn’t hit them with your sword before they hit you, making it hard to get any hits in at all. Another minus was that the enemies had a lot of HP for being such low level ones. I can only wonder how hard boss battles (or the final boss battle, for that matter) would be. I’d gander a “near impossible.”

Kingdom Hearts 2 – looks like it plays just like what made the first Kingdom Hearts so great. They probably improved certain aspects of the gameplay and stuff, but I didn’t have a chance to actually play it. Perhaps in the coming days I will be able to.

Warhammer – One of Namco’s PC-only games. Its going to be an RTS game, but all they had of the game was a trailer with no in-game footage. Warhammer is a cool concept, so its possible the game could be very good.

Hellgate: London – I can’t say anything bad about it. I really think it’ll be one of the best games to come out on the PC. It mends together aspects of First Person Shooters and RPGs in a really cool way. You can read my preview for it here: http://www.gamersmark.com/previews/view/235/

Mage Knight Apocalypse – Another game from Namco’s wave of PC titles. Based on a table top game, Mage Knight Apocalypse prides itself on the fact that even though its an MMORPG-type game, there is no leveling up at all, which they feel takes away from the experience of playing the game, because it pulls you away from it while you level up. They explained that the stats increased as you used certain skills during the game, such as swinging your weapon or using spells. The skills that are increased would only be increased based on what you actually used during the game, so that means that if you use melee weaponry, you won’t get a magic skill for doing so.

It was a long day, and there’s two more coming up. We’re going to be concentrating more on playing the actual games than looking around and getting a feel for what’s around so we can prioritize our time the next day or two. And on a side note, the displays and booths look really cool. Each company has its own style. All the non-creative/low budget companies took up cubicles in the back of the halls though, so they weren’t as interesting.

We also saw some dude from Australia who had a virtual reality hardware thing called the a_rage. The technology and concept was really cool, since virtual reality was actually feasibly possible with it. They are an independent company, so I hope their product succeeds to some extent.

(Thanks to Marcus for subtitle name for the article.)

 

Dave’s E3 2005 Journal: SNK and a Box of Neo-Geos

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Dave's E3 2005 Journal

When I went on the second day of E3, I had the pleasure of seeing the event how it should be: with all the lights on. Needless to say, everything looked brighter. I don’t know if it was the affect of brightness that made it more apparent that AJ was wearing a trench coat that was particularly eye-catching (to say the least, since like 50 people came up to ask him where he got it and stuff), but that wasn’t the only highlight of the day. No siree.

We left a little later than I would have liked. I’d say we’d actually gotten on the road at around 8:00 or so, because we had to wait in the drive-thru for Jack-In-the-Box. But that wasn’t even the part that took the longest. From Point A to Point B, we were in traffic that was crawling at about Five MPH. We didn’t even get to the LA Convention Center until about 9:15 or so, and I didn’t hit the speed limit once.

When we got into the actual building, I called Dan to tell him we were there. He said they were in the press room along the far wall. It should be noted that every time I talk to someone on the phone, I have to ask them to repeat what they said about five hundred times before I can understand them since it’s so loud, and I have a thing about not holding my cell phone the right way. After a little confusion (it took us longer than I’d like to mention) about actually where this mystical “press room” was, it turned out that it was the same place we got our badge holders in. Silly me. Another funny part of it is that each time AJ had gone down the hall that we were supposed to, I told him to go down another hall with me. So he went down the right hall twice before we actually went the right way together.

We met up with Dan and Marcus who were doing stuff on the web site at the time. Since I forgot that we were supposed to make business cards of some type, Dan gave us a handful of his to use between us, so that we could just write our stuff on the back of it and give it out. We left the area afterwards, and went to the floor, looking at the games we’d already seen the day before, and stepping in to play a few of them. This encompassed most of our day, and except for a small period of time between 10:40 a.m. and around 12:15 p.m.

The games I had played today, and forgotten to mention about yesterday are as follows:

StarCraft: Ghost – I hadn’t actually played the game, but I did see it played in what could be described as a Capture the Flag mode. The game was ridiculously awesome, especially since I’m a long-time StarCraft player (not exactly a veteran, but I do love the game) of about seven years, so it was really cool seeing how all the vehicles and Terran units were modified and changed after ten years since the first game came out. I had always wondered why they hadn’t done anything more with the StarCraft franchise, but the empty space in my heart has been filled with just watching other people play StarCraft: Ghost. From the looks of it, it seemed like it was better, and more unique than Halo. Since its set in the StarCraft universe, people could chose to be a Ghost, Firebat, or Marine, and drive Siege Tanks, Vultures (which seem like they handle exactly like a Ghost in Halo), and other original vehicles made for the game. The mode that was currently being played in multiplayer was a very interesting version of Capture the Flag. Instead of retrieving a flag and taking it back to your base, the object of the game was to infiltrate a factory, lift it off, and land it in your base for a certain amount of time. It looked really fun, because players of the other team were constantly raiding the factory, taking it over, and launching it off the ground back towards their base. I predict StarCraft: Ghost will put the Halo name to shame, even though I loved the original Halo.

Battlefield 2: Modern Combat – This game is another from the development team DICE and publisher EA, who have worked together in the past with Battlefield 1942 and Battlefield Vietnam. Battlefield 2 is a modern combat game, using all of today’s weaponry, and the added surprise (to me at least) of artillery fire. While the featured demo was multiplayer and featured only one map, once you got used to the PS2 controller, the game became really fun. All the soldier classes (considering the types that are usually included in a Battlefield game) were available to choose from, so it provided a wide variety in the troops. I played for about an hour or so. You can read my preview of the game here:
http://www.gamersmark.com/previews/view/253

Burnout Revenge – I only played the original Burnout for all of about half an hour on the Xbox at my friend’s house, and was really not that into the game. Three games later, (and while I haven’t played it, I hear Burnout 3 is really good) Burnout Revenge has really impressed me. What could only be described as high adrenaline racing, you drive into your competitors, trying to crash them into walls, and it’s helpful to just be as reckless as you can while still trying to win 1st place. The crash scenes and the explosions are really amazing because of the angles and slow motion they use to efficiently deliver all the action that is happening. There were two courses available for play in a single player mode for the E3 demo that was on display. I’m definitely looking forward to the final product.

Kingdom Hearts II – Kingdom Hearts II builds on top of what made Kingdom Hearts so great, and added some level of complexity. This is definitely a welcome change for those who bought the first game, but I’m not sure how it be for little kids who played it. Complexity issues aside, Kingdom Hearts II is an all new adventure, bound to be full of the characters that were in the original, as well as different Disney movies like, Mulan as well as others, which will provide the setting. Hades (from Hercules) takes a big part in the game from the looks of it. There’s a boss battle where you fight the Cerberus with Auron from FFX, which allows for some really cool cooperative attacks. In the first Kingdom Hearts, the FF characters didn’t accompany you on your journey, but the demo obviously seems to suggest otherwise for the sequel. The battle system is just as fluid as ever, and with the inclusion of a concept of “forms” Sora can change his fighting style (the one included in the game allowed Sora to have double Keyblades) which makes for some pretty exciting innovations. One thing is for certain though, if Kingdom Hearts II includes the Gummi Ship minigame thing they had in Kingdom Hearts, then I’ll probably just scream, because I never understood how to do anything with that freaking ridiculous concept.

Now its time for the SNK predicament. This is a very special part of my E3 journal, because if I hadn’t played Kingdom Hearts II ,
Battlefield 2, and Burnout Revenge afterwards, I would have been pissed off.

10:30 – I realize its 10:30, and stop playing Kingdom Hearts II. AJ and I have an appointment with SNK Playmore, which is in the hall that we weren’t in. So we had to go — quick style.

10:40 – We arrived at the SNK Playmore booth. I went up to the Press Desk to check in, and told them who I was and that I was with GamersMark.com. The lady looked at the list she had, and “gamersmark.com” was listed on it. She asked me for a business card, which I gave to her with information I had written on the back of it. She asked me who I was supposed to meet, but I didn’t know any name because we weren’t given one. She said to hold on, went into the backroom, and disappeared forever. That’s right, I never saw her again. Maybe she was really hungry and decided the business card would be a delectable treat. So, under the impression that we had to “hold on,” AJ and I looked at the old Neo Geo stuff they had in a case. Then we sat down, still waiting. AJ took out something and started reading, sitting on the floor. I looked around and saw that someone was done playing Metal Slug 5. I took it upon myself to play Metal Slug 5, since all the other games they had were relatively uninteresting old games they were porting to the current generation of systems which would all eventually have Live-enabled multiplayer. Whoopidoo.

10:59 – I notice it’s nearly 11:00, and figure that they should be coming out to greet us soon. So I continue playing Metal Slug 5.

11:04 – I look at my cell phone again, and notice its 11:04. So I thought “Ok, maybe they forgot.” So I went to the Press Desk again and did the whole process again that I had with the first woman that was there, since the person there now was completely different. She asked me for a business card, and then went to the backroom. We waited for about a minute, and she came back out and waved us in. So I called to AJ and then we went in. The lady then said “he’ll be right out.” So we took a seat on the couches. At this point it was about 11:06.

Interlude: 11:06 – 11:40 – During this time, amid weird looks by other members of the “press” at AJ’s trench coat, AJ and I read all the magazines and stuff we got for free. I drank a can of Sprite. I got up and got a small turkey sandwich with a thin piece of lettuce in it. While I was getting the sandwich, the guy I had seen walking around every which way through the room complained to me about how they had no mustard for the sandwiches, because they had it yesterday. I just said “Oh, that sucks.” It was then I thought that it would be funny if that was the guy we had to meet for our meeting. At this point we had waited about fifteen minutes already. So I went back to my seat, and ate the sandwich. This random guy comes from somewhere, with a sandwich and takes a drink from the bowl on the table. He asked AJ where he got his trench coat, and after AJ said the same thing he said to everyone else, the random guy asked us who we worked for. We said “Gamersmark.com” and the random guy said “Oh, really. I think I heard of you. Kind of ’up and coming.’ I hear you guys are pretty cool.” Yeah, right. I doubt he’s ever heard of us. That was the most general statement for any web site. That’s why we ignored him after, and acted like we had no interest in him. After a while later, I finished my sandwich, and then the random guy picked up his stuff and left. Afterwards, we waited for like another ten minutes before I got frustrated.

11:40 – I just about had it at this point, because we checked in 20 minutes early, only to be ignored. So I went back outside to the Press Desk to see what was up. There was another different person there (so that counts as three different women I saw at the desk). She was talking to someone else, so I stood by waiting for her to stop talking. While she was talking to him, she looked right at me, so I had assumed that she would talk to me after. Turns out, that wasn’t the case. Another dude comes out of nowhere and asks her a question, and they talk for about a minute, so I stepped in closer to where she was so that she would pay attention to me.

11:45 – I told the 3rd lady that we had been waiting inside the backroom for about 40 minutes and hadn’t met anyone yet. She said she’d see what was up, so I followed her back there, and then sat back down next to AJ. She went into a room and told someone that we had been waiting for about an hour. So, whoever she was talking to was supposedly in a meeting still. So when the guy in the meeting left, the guy who I could only think is the Manager/Director of the booth for SNK came out and apologized for the long wait. He asked who we were supposed to meet, and I said we didn’t know, we just know we had an appointment with SNK at 11:00 a.m. The Manager apologized again and asked if we had taken any food or drinks. I said we did, and he said that was good. He said “You’re supposed to meet my pr representative, let me go get him.” So after he went chasing after him for about another five minutes, he brought back the mustard guy.

11:50 – “Ohhhh, so YOU’RE Gamersmark!” is what the mustard guy said. No shit, Sherlock. We’d only been sitting in that room for the last half an hour watching him walking around the whole time because we weren’t there for any particular reason. But then I guess I couldn’t expect him to actually look for two guys that work for Gamersmark.com that he was supposed to meet at 11:00. So, we finally got our meeting underway, except we had to do it together with another guy. Wanna guess who it was? The Senior Editor of Play Magazine. Great, not only do we get ignored for an hour, we get overshadowed by a more prominent figure in the video game media than us lowly Gamersmark.com staffers.

12:00 or so – The mustard guy told us about which of SNK’s games that they were porting from their Neo-Geo to release on Xbox/Xbox 360. The mustard guy said that SNK loved Xbox because the fanbase likes 2D games more than that of the PS2’s. Supposedly all their 2D game sell horribly on the PS2, and all their games being released are for Xbox, save for the Metal Slug 4/5 combo pack that’s coming out later this year. Depending on the success of that, they may or may not become exclusive to Xbox. He also said that they were making a Metal Slug game in 3D. During the whole time, the senior editor dude kept pressing for special treatment of playing the games that weren’t available out on the floor. So between my nods, and saying “yeah” to transfer the message that I was listening to what he was saying about release dates for games, I had to listen to the annoying senior editor guy asking about being able to play games that no one else could. The mustard guy said that they’d have something after the show just for them. So, lucky him. That was basically all that happened. I didn’t go away from the meeting I had with SNK with the same feeling I had gotten from Namco. Maybe it was because we were ignored for so long, or maybe because Namco actually made us feel like they wanted us to find out about their games and had people actually working on the game explain them to us. We got press kits from the mustard guy then left. On the way out, the Manager acknowledged us when we left, and we said thanks to him. The Manager was a nice guy, in hindsight.

So, thanks to all that, there’s a lot more on today’s journal than originally planned. Be happy. The rest of the day we just walked around, and played some more games. We left when we got tired. On a side note, I don’t hate SNK.