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    I didn’t go to E3 this year. I know, you probably didn’t either. But after 12 years in a row of wallowing in the annual excess of that particular event, it felt pretty weird to be at home, reading blogs and just taking notes.

    But as my jealously over all the free drinks, bag fulls of schwag and glimpses of starlets has subsided, I realize that I didn’t miss much.

    Call it sour grapes, or call it a wakeup call. It hardly seems to have mattered sitting out this year. To get Shakespearian about it, E3 is “all sound and fury signifying nothing.”

    Following along online the various musings of reporters better at uncovering facts than me, with better access to key players and, in many cases, just smarter news heads, I learned nothing that I couldn’t have...

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    My post-E3 schedule brought me to San Diego for a mini-vacation. After three days of running around to sit in front of a multitude of TV screens, a shared house on the beach with friends is the perfect antidote to pixel burnout. During dinner with my housemates, we started playing the Marry-Screw-Kill parlor game and each one of us drilled others with lists of names of people we’d assign the titular verbs to.
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    The first trio I got was a list of WWII political leaders: FDR, Stalin and Churchill. I said I’d marry FDR because the New Deal legislation showed he knew how to take care of others, I’d kill...

  • If you aren't a gamer and happen to stumble upon the LA Convention Center this week, you'd be assaulted by dozens of banners and posters for games that publishers want you to know about. Do the posters really say anything or give any information? We walked around the outside of the convention center and through the various hallways to see what games were given prominence:

    Assassin's Creed 2: As mentioned in a previous blog post, Ubisoft's sequel takes the prize for largest banner. With outstreched arms and blades in each, the poster hangs ominously between South and West halls outside. No words, no description, but it looks nice and was granted its own zip code.

    Darksiders: This game from THQ had two ads near the inside entrance to West Hall. One was lighted and small, while the other huge banner hung near the...

  • This year has continued a disturbing trend of press conferences by the big 3 console publishers that are useless. With rare exception, these conferences follow the same formula. At least six of the following incidents will happen, and in some cases, all of them. These are not in an exact order, but most will occur, almost like clockwork.

    • Someone will get on stage who looks, acts and talks like they are incredibly uncomfortable ... causing the audience to laugh nervously.
    • There will be several attempts at lame humor, occasionally accompanied by an uncomfortable pause for applause that may or may not come.
    • A celebrity of some stature will appear on stage, usually associated with a game the publisher is putting out. Said celebrity will act very wooden and talk about the game...
  • Long veiled in secrecy and rumored to be the first film washed in 100% pure unicorn tears, James Cameron’s Avatar made a fancy debut at E3 this week. Before the show’s attendees could see the video game tethered to the upcoming Christmas movie, security guards confiscated phones, cameras and anything that could record. New-fangled 3D glasses were given out. A chipper actor-type narrated the demo, starting off with a glowing introduction for the movie’s producer Jon Landau.  (Warning: Spoilers ahead.)
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    Landau shouted out screenwriter Zak Penn in the audience, then enthusiastically outlined the basic plot of the sci-fi drama. The film centers on 26-year-old paralyzed veteran Jake Sully, who lost his ability to walk fighting a war he didn’t believe in. His estranged identical twin’s been living across the galaxy, working for interstellar...

  • I've been stepping over/walking around my exploded post-E3 luggage for nearly two days now.

    I can't understand why I'm not simply dealing with it rather than circumventing it.

    Most of it is dirty laundry. And the rest is very dirty laundry.

    It looks vaguely like a CSI crime scene, no? The cord running through the picture is attached to my vacuum cleaner. Maybe I should just move rather than deal wih this.

  • The first mistake was not getting out of Los Angeles earlier. Sitting around for an early afternoon flight just extended the risk of serious jetlag.

    The second mistake was then immediately comitting on an East Coast schedule and logging on to my computer to chat with friends I hadn't spoken to since I left for E3.

    The third mistake was talking about E3.

    It's great that everyone is so enthusiastic. I've been asked by a lot of people already about Alan Wake - my ride from the airport tried to pump me for information I didn't really have on hand.  Questions about the press conferences, the demos I saw,whether Aliens vs Predator is still awesome...it never ends.

    And this is a very good thing.

    I was beginning to be very tired of E3. Press conferences are broadcast across the internet and television so the media doesn't even really need to be in that room or reporting on it - anyone interested can see what Microsoft...

  • I've seen lots of theater presentations at E3 through the years, large screens on the show floor, reverberating load music and flashy images. But there was something about the Square-Enix booth this year that had me mesmerized.

    The screen at the booth in South Hall was very large and benches in front of the screen invited people to sit and take in the experience. Square-Enix has always had incredible art design and graphics for their games, but watching Final Fantasy XIII, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days and their newest title, Nier, play out on the massive screen left me drifting by every so often just to watch them again and again. What made it even more comfortable was that the screen sat near the floor, making the viewing area at eye level. No craning of the neck needed. It also helped that Square...

  • You thought they would have learned from the uproar (albeit misplaced) with Mass Effect. But darn it if BioWare hasn't revisited the slippery slope.

    For the uninitiated, Mass Effect contained a cutscene where Commander Shepard has an intimate liaison with a member of his party. The scene is tasteful, with only a split-second of anything remotely tawdry being shown. Add to the mix that this scene could be achieved only if certain choices were made at particular points in the game, meaning that many players would not see the scene if they made choices that could hamper the relationship. This did not stop numerous critics, almost all of whom never played the game or bothered to inform themselves about it, from bashing the game and BioWare for exposing players to sex in videogames and decrying the game as a...

  • It's almost 4 a.m. and I can't sleep. I just got off my extremely delayed flight. Somewhere, high above Portland, Oregon, just after I'd woken myself up with a cacophonous fart, I sat in the dark, staring at the blinking red light on the tip of the airplane wing out the tiny window, and I realized that I was getting emotional. I was tearing up a little.

    Yes, I'm overtired. So I could blame that. But then I started thinking about how my relationship with videogames is an emotional one. It always has been. When I tell people that I love videogames, I mean what I say. I love them. And, after 10 years of working in this business, I've grown to love--literally love--the industry itself. This is probably the only week out of the year when I hug more people than Oprah Winfrey. And these are good hugs, too! Strong, back-breaking, our-plane-is-going-down-and-I-love-you hugs.

    Which made me realize that I'm going through something tonight. I'm...

  • The abuse has gone on long enough. Sensible gamers have had indecency upon indecency heaped upon them and now it is time to react. With recent announcements regarding the Left 4 Dead, Rock Band, Metal Gear Solid and dozens of other beloved franchises the furor or outraged fans has snowballed into a cacophony of self-righteous complaint. It's time for those voices to cease being heard.

    I'm am officially calling for a boycott of all crazy video game fans -- those angry that Rock Band isn't a platform any more, those disappointed that Left 4 Dead 2 came out so quickly, those frustrated that Metal Gear Solid games will be playable on the Xbox 360. I propose that all sensible, decent human beings enact an across-the-board boycott of these deranged fans. Cease speaking and listening to these buffoons. Give them no more notice than you'd give a homeless guy with his pants around his ankles. Block them on message boards. Disconnect from them on social networks. Don't turn the...

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    I think a couple of scenes from MTV Games' sprawling suite at the O Hotel last night provide a good look at how MTV is splitting up the gaming universe with the newest incarnations of the Rock Band series.

    In one room, a raucous group of slightly drunk 20- and 30 and 40-somethings screamed the lyrics to The Beatle's "I Want to Hold Your Hand" in horribly off-key harmony, finishing with a self-congratulatory round of applause.

    In the next room, a group of younger, hipper-looking gamers watched silently and intently as a foursome struggled through a heavy, note-filled scream-fest from Iron Maiden.

    Add in a theoretical room with a group of kids jumping and dancing around to the strains of Lego Rock Band and I think you've got the full state of...

  • In an industry that seems to need a new buzzword every few years, it's never really a surprise when you hop from meeting to meeting and hear the same phrases over and over again. At E3 2009, the big word is "cinematic", as in "cinematic experience" or "cinematic dialog" or just plain "cinematic game."

    So apparently games are movies again. But, depending on the game and the approach, "cinematic" has taken on a wealth of meanings.

    Bioware's Mass Effect 2 is the most cinematic. It's cast as a trilogy, has a strong script and compelling protagonist. And we in the media got to see a lot of cutscenes. In fact, judging by the ratio of game action and talky bits on display, ME2 is as close to being a playable movie as any game can get. 

    Supreme Commander 2, a brawny real time strategy game (one of very few on display at E3) has a story based campaign that Gas Powered Games compares to Saving...

  • There are many ways to approach E3. Some games journos are on a strict schedule, bouncing from meeting to meeting then quickly retreating to their fortresses of solitude to crank out news items and previews on the fly. One of the great luxuries and benefits of working for Crispy Gamer is that that the powers that be understand that first doesn't always mean best. The encourage us to allow our ideas to ferment, our opinions to develop and our nagging questions to fester. That leaves us more time to do the two things that E3 was meant for -- looking at new games and schmoozing with people who make, sell and write about games. My week, so far, has been a non-stop stream of such encounters. Fleeting looks at new games, drunken converstations with people I admire and people I'm interested in learning more about. I've met employees of some of my favorite design teams and up-and-coming writers, wet behind the ears, but eager to share their work and opinions with the world. Many parties...

  • I sat, squirming in my seat as one of my many demo meetings petered out, wondering at what we... no. At what they had done! A father, a husband, suddenly gone because of a sick crowd's decision.

     
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    EA's Army of Two: The 40th Day demo started innocently enough. Talk of new features peppered the live demo as a room full of journalists and fans watched Salem and Rios running and gunning through Shanghai as distater shook the city to its core. One of the new features in EA Montreal's sequel comes in the form of co-op morality moments. We watched Rios and Salem comes across a weapons locker. As the scene played out, the mercs opened the locker and prepared to stock up on needed guns and ammo. Suddenly, a dumpy security guard scampers in on them, gun drawn, and asks them what they're doing. At this point, the course of action was put to a vote: walk away with...

  • One of the many Jedi LucasArts has at their meeting room.

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    Protoypes of the Army of Two figures that will be coming from NECA, who make the popular Gears of War figures. 

     

    A near-scale statue of lead character Dante from EA's upcoming Dante's Inferno.

  • Villainy hit the PS3 in style at E3, where DC Universe Online debuted on Sony’s system for the first time. I checked out a mission called Mutant Rampage, thanks to an early pre-alpha build. The mission involved a mutagen leak that’s turning people into misshapen freaks at super-science outfit STAR Labs, with different objectives for either hero or villain played out side by side. As a villain, the goal was to steal the mutagen and get it out to the Secret Society of Supervillains and as an auxilliary member of the Justice League of America, the player had to secure an antidote, subdue infected STAR Labs staff and bring the source of the mutagen to be eliminated. The folks at SOE call the well-known characters of DCUO “Iconics” and they were on display for the first time, too. The Joker and his psychopathic jester girlfriend Harley Quinn aided the villain character in his mayhem, while the hero avatar partnered up with Batman and later Superman and Green...

  • E3 is usually where the industry learns about all the biggest games of the year. At E3 2009, though, that year we're learning about increasingly seems to be 2010.

    Both Sony and Microsoft showed off new motion controller prototypes targeted for "Spring 2010" and (unofficially) "Fall 2010 at the earliest," respectively. Nintendo announced new 3D Mario, Zelda and Metroid games for the Wii, none of which are coming out this year. Square showed off the first gameplay footage of Final Fantasy XIII and announced the new PS3-exclusive Final Fantasy XIV, both coming in 2010. Hideo Kojima's endlessly teased Metal Gear Solid: Rising got a wide open 2010 release window.

    The intriguingly LittleBigPlanet-like ModNation Racers...

  • Last night Teti, Narcisse and I had dinner with our colleagues from Sony at a Japanese steak house on the sixth floor of the Westin Bonaventure in Los Angeles. The running joke of the night: the hotel's alarming resemblance to Rapture.

    With its acquatic-themed lobby, complete with a shooting arc of water that John Teti can't seem keep his hands out of, to its absurdly out of date decor, this place looks and feels like something terrible happened here, and now only Splicers remain.

    I blame the filming of True Lies. This is the hotel where some famous scenes from True Lies were apparently filmed. I know, because there's a plaque next to the elevator that I ride every morning that says, THIS IS ONE OF TWO ELEVATORS THAT WERE USED IN THE FILMING OF TRUE LIES STARRING ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER. And I'm pretty sure the lobby, the rooms, this whole place hasn't been touched since. Even the aforementioned Japanese steak house had a kind of we're-open-...

  • So, all the console hardware manufacturers shone a spotlight on motion control solutions, as Nintendo promised more refinement via the Wii Motion Plus, Microsoft unveiled Project Natal and Sony showed off the working-title Playstation Motion Control. With the Wii’s runaway success, it’s no surprise that Sony and Microsoft are presenting ways of integrating gestural control into their systems.

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    But the glaring thing that stuck out to me was that–if eventually all things become equal in terms of ideas, implementation and ease of use–Nintendo’s not so unique anymore. Moreover, if gestural control just becomes that all consoles can do, then the hardware limitations of the Wii become a harsh liability. Say the PS3, 360 and Wii all offer a tennis game where you swing a hand or a device to hit the virtual ball. Wouldn’t going with the system you already have or, if you’re in the market for a new system, the one with the best...