Boom! E3 completed! Mission accomplished! Checkboxes checked! Parties attended! Booth babes photographed! Games played!
Going to the convention center for the last three years has been an enormously satisfying experience for me. As a kid, I poured over game magazines like EGM and Gamepro, trying to soak up every last drop of game industry information to train for an imaginary job as a games journalist. It was this dedication that allowed me to position myself as a games industry specialist at Google.
I am a little saddened by the prospect that I might not attend E3 in 2012. I’m going to be leaving my job in order to get my MBA at the Haas School of Business. While I’ll certainly continue to be involved as an advocate for the games industry, I’ll most certainly lose the ability to automatically renew my Google industry pass. Unless I score a summer internship with a game company at Haas, the chance that I’ll be in Los Angeles next June is slim.
I flew from San Jose to LAX on Tuesday with my coworkers. We stayed at the Westin Bonaventure in Downtown LA, which is of course the hotel where Arnold Schwarzenegger rides a horse up an elevator in True Lies.
It sure seems that every year, THQ goes out of its way to make a strong first impression for attendees coming in from their hotel shuttles. Last year, the company reserved a parking lot and turned it into a North Korean military compound (with free government subsidized parking) to promote the military shooter Homefront.
The first thing I saw as my shuttle pulled up to the convention center this year was THQ’s Saints Row: The Third bikini car wash. Classy.
This year’s showroom felt more cramped. The booths were smaller in size and seemed more claustrophobic. Part of the problem was that the walls of every booth grew taller. The reps I spoke to explained that the changes were made to improve acoustics. However, the cynic in me felt it was actually designed to block their competition.
Two years ago, I could look down the aisle from one end of the South Hall and wave at a coworker standing on the other end. This year, traveling from booth to booth felt like squeezing through narrow alleyways in London, chased by Jack the Ripper.
Of all the booths I visited, Sony had the most creative layout hands down. Of course, Sony has been reusing the same booth layout for the last two years. So this wasn’t a surprise. I especially liked the glass rooms that made attendees feel like VIPs. The entire area felt open and inviting. Kudos to Sony for not adopting the ‘high wall’ philosophy of their competitors.
The two most interesting games I saw at the show were Ubisoft’s Rocksmith and THQ’s Warhammer 40K: Kill Team.
Rocksmith proved to be a souped up version of Guitar Hero that allows players to plug in a real electric guitar and play real music. It’s billed as the ultimate guitar training software. Instead of pushing buttons and strumming a plastic knob, players have to actually pluck the correct strings. I love the premise!
Kill Team, on the other hand, is a download-only title for Xbox 360 that got almost zero coverage from the media. It’s basically a co-op shooting game similar to Gauntlet. Players can choose between several different types of space marines (flamethrower, sword, machine gun, etc.) and mow down waves of enemy orks. Ryan and I spent a good 30 minutes blowing shit up. As I get older, I’ve discovered that I no longer have any patience for self-important faux-dramatic bullshit in games. I just want to kill things in games. Kill Team lets me do just that.
Street Fighter X Tekken gets an honorable mention from me mostly because it I was impressed by how fluid the game played. On Thursday morning, I was able to explore the West Hall and kick some ass. *pats self on back*
Paul, Kristen, Ryan, and I tested out the new Driver game that lets players cruise around San Francisco. Not surprisingly, the city depicted in the game looked nothing like the real San Francisco. Where were the cable cars?
Dishonorable mention goes to Ninja Gaiden 3 in the Tecmo Koei booth. I played the demo for about 15 minutes on Wednesday and literally facepalmed at the end. The game is simply a mess. I hate the fact that the game’s utilizes seizure-inducing camera angles and quick cuts whenever Ryu Hayabusa kills an enemy. I hate the inclusion of random explosions for no reason. I hate the fact that you can’t tell what’s going on ever!
Of course, the holy mecca of E3 was once again Nintendo’s booth. Thanks to the announcement of the Wii U, people had to wait 45 minutes just to enter the booth. I talked to several clients about the Wii U and many of them seemed to think the idea was silly. “Why would you look at the small screen when you can look at the big screen?”
Personally, I think the Wii U has promise. The problem with the Wii U demos at E3 was that Nintendo didn’t showcase any games that were actually designed with the WiiPad’s unique capabilities in mind. All of the games basically used the WiiPad as a giant WiiRemote. As a result, the WiiPad came across as bulky and superfluous.
I believe future Wii U titles will take advantage of the WiiPad’s touch screen in ways that improve gameplay. Imagine a Madden game that allows you to call plays from a playbook projected on a player’s WiiPad! Alternatively, think about an RPG that doesn’t utilize an on-screen HUD because all of the necessary stats appear on the WiiPad!
All in all, it was a good E3. Three days of business meetings and two parties later, I am dead tired. If this ends up being my last E3 for a while, I would have to say that the last three years have been incredibly rewarding. So long, Los Angeles!
You can see the rest of my E3 pictures, including pictures from the two Nexon parties, in this Picasa album.