Typically, E3 is a salty sea of sweaty gamers bouncing off one another across approximately 1.5 square miles of Los Angeles Convention Center turf in search of the Next Big Game. This year was a little different however.
The crowd was the same, with sweaty gamers gawking at booth babes and mascots everywhere. But there was a lot more hardware on the scene. Microsoft’s Kinect. Sony’s Move. Nintendo’s 3DS. 3D goggles and games were everywhere, as were a surprising number electronic toys and gadgets.
We went through it all with a fine tooth comb. Here were the high points.
The gaming industry will be watching with keen interest when OnLive launches its cloud-gaming service to the public on Thursday, June 17. The Palo Alto-based startup will want to lure as many gamers as it can at the very outset of its service. Now that it has considerably reduced the monthly subscription fee, it should tug at the heartstrings of more gamers than previously anticipated.
It will now be charging $4.95 per month, as opposed to the $14.95 per month it had originally planned on extracting from its customesrs. And thanks to AT&T (one of its leading investors), a one year subscription to OnLive’s service will be offered free of cost between June 15 and July 15 to anyone willing to register. As for the 25,000 beta testers who put the cloud-gaming service through its paces, they will receive a free game to go with a one year free membership.
The monthly subscription does not include any games, which will have to be either bought or rented by the user. Their prices will range from $5 to $59. The company has announced the launch lineup, which includes Assassins Creed II, Mass Effect 2, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, NBA 2K10 and Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Conviction.
The day before the official start of the Electronic Entertainment Expo, Microsoft, Electronic Arts, and Ubisoft all staged elaborate press conferences to introduce new titles, new franchises, and new hardware.
Microsoft kicked off the set of press conferences with a live 90-minute event in downtown Los Angeles that officially pulled the veil off of its highly anticipated controller-free user interface. Formerly known under the code name Natal, the control scheme is now known as Kinect.
As anticipated, Kinect is fully integrated into the Xbox 360 experience. In Microsoft’s demonstration of the interface, attendees saw voice control of a video library (“Xbox: Pause”) as well as gameplay controls for casual, fitness-oriented, and family games. The AV controls were the most impressive, if only because they will eliminate the scramble for a remote control.
Initially planned solely for the Xbox 360, Microsoft has admitted to contemplating future versions of Kinect for the PC platform. Maximum PC is on the scene at E3 in Los Angeles, and we’ll be investigating this possibility further once the show floor opens on Tuesday morning. We do know that the Kinect device will require its own custom port—it does not use a USB port.
At the end of Microsoft’s press conference, the company surprised the crowd with the announcement of a new Xbox 360 model. This new version will ship with the custom Kinect port mentioned above. It will also feature a 250GB drive, a built-in 802.11n wireless adapter, five USB ports, and according to Microsoft, much more efficient cooling, a lighter power brick, and quieter system noise.
More details to come as we uncover them here in Los Angeles. If you have any special request for games or game-related hardware, post it in the comments and we’ll try to accommodate you.
Speaking of waving things around in your hand (see previous news post), Microsoft has made official the rebadging of Project Natal to Kinect.
Details are still pouring in as E3 gets set to kick off, but a little more was revealed during a Kinect-themed 45-minute theatrical performance by Cirque du Soleil. Most of the new info involved upcoming game titles which, according to USA Today, will include:
Kinectimals: train and play with 20 different types of virtual cats, includng a lion, cheetah, and tiger
Joyride: a racing game where users will position their hands around an imaginary steering wheel
Kinect Sports: six sports games to choose from, including boxing, bowling, volleyball, track and field, soccer, and table tennis
Kinect Adventures: river rafting game
Dance Central: an MTV Games project involving full-body dancing without the need for a controller
Star Wars: probably will involve light saber duels
"For lots of people, that controller is a barrier," says creative director Kudo Tsunoda. "We set out to make a new control paradigm where anybody can get in and play, without having to read the instructions or learn a complicated set of controls."
Kinect's built-in camera will employ facial and voice recognition. You'll be able to control Netflix menus with hand gestures, as well as fast forward though a recorded TV program just by waving your arm about.
Pricing, release date, and other details have yet to be disclosed, though we suspect to know a lot more as the day goes on.
There was something different about this year’s E3. Ok, aside from the 30,000 or so extra people and the occasional, chuckle-inducing swine flu masks strapped to the faces of germophobic show-goers. It was something subtle – invisible, even – but it happened with a great deal of frequency.
It was cheering.
Clapping, laughter, excitement. By and large, at this year’s show, people really, really liked what they saw. This should be a good thing, but in my cranky, cantankerous opinion, it’s not. Why? Because every last cheer, whistle, and imitation air horn blast sounded in raucous approval of the status quo. Another FPS. Another God of War clone. “Our game is a lot like Half-Life, but mixed with Halo,” developers would cheerily exclaim, bathing in the glow of audience members’ beaming smiles.
From me, however, E3’s flood of samey shooters and risk-free sequels elicited only one reaction: a quiet cry of “Down with the hardcore.” Allow me to explain.
As I mentioned earlier, most every big ticket title at this year’s E3 was some sort of rehash, sequel, or clone. Here’s a quick list of particularly obvious offenders: Modern Warfare 2, BioShock 2, Left 4 Dead 2, Halo: ODST, Halo: Reach, Dante’s Inferno, Metal Gear Solid: Rising, Assassin’s Creed 2, Crysis 2, Mass Effect 2, Alpha Protocol, etc, etc, etc. That’s not to say that my fanboy froth isn’t overflowing for many of those games; it is. I came away from E3 jumpy (though that might’ve been the fault of LA’s less-than-friendly neighborhoods) and excited as could be. However, I’m excited for me. Right now. I’m not, however, excited for the future of the gaming industry.
E3! E3! E3! There is seemingly nothing more important right now than checking out the latest iteration of some made-for-14-year-old-girls title at that big LA convention. Feh. You know what the worst thing about E3 is? It's not the lack of awkward-looking hot actors to stare at, nor is it the barrage of press meetings, demonstrations, and pomp and circumstance for less-than-stellar titles. The worst thing about E3 is that all the games you see there cost money. That's right. Cash. For every neat title you're seeing, there's a price tag attached at the end of the day. Want new graphics in a hot sequel? You'll pay for it. Want to blow up 255 of your closest console friends? Ask for your allowance early. Feel like waving your hand around to simulate an activity you can do in real life? Get a real-life job.
This week, I'm strolling down memory lane and profiling some of the best games from that other gaming conference in California. You know the one--good ol' GDC, or the Game Developers Conference. Each year, the Independent Games Festival takes up shop amidst the chaos of this convention and awards a host of independent (and often free) titles awards of various persuasions. There's a long list of contenders that come to the IGF every year: here's a list of five of the most interesting, enjoyable, and free titles I've found.
Click the jump to check out the cream of the freeware gaming crop!
Alienware is set to debut it’s new “allpowerful” gaming notebook at E3 next week, but conveniently enough, the detailed specs have been broken early by Gizmodo and I forced myself to read this twice just to make sure I wasn’t mistakenly looking at a desktop. The m17x crams in two 1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 280m graphics cards, along with the new Intel Core 2 Extreme Quad.
It can also optionally be configured with up to 8GB of DDR3-1333, a 1TB hard drive (or optional 512GB SSD), as well as blue ray. Another amazing feature is the crystal clear 1920x1200 17” display, a resolution that is still somewhat rare in the notebook category. Additionally, since we all know this type of graphics horsepower can be somewhat power hungry, if your looking to do non-gaming tasks, it also has a build in Nvidia 9400M to help with battery life if all you need is aero glass. As for input/outputs, it comes with an impressive load out of options which includes 4USB, eSATA, as well as Display Port & HDMI.
The pricing is expected to start at around $1,800, but don’t expect to get all the features listed above at that price point.
Oh no! The sky is falling; PC gaming is doomed; they cancelled Firefly again, etc. After essentially tasting, feeling, and smelling like a multiplatform developer for a couple years, id Software – this time through the mouthpiece of CEO Todd Hollenshead – has finally come out and stated the obvious.
"There's no question that our roots are in PC gaming. And when I play a first-person shooter, keyboard and mouse is the configuration that I want to play on," Hollenshead noted. "But we feel like, in terms of your triple-A, big-budget, big-market title, that you really have to be cross-platform to be successful, unless you're a first party."
"As an independent developer, we feel like we have to be on all the relevant platforms. So we don't really view ourselves as PC first."
Is PC gaming The Future? Who knows – but multiplatform development is now, so excuse us while we don’t spit our cola onto the face of the nearest onlooker.
In other news, Hollenshead said that id will announce “some new stuff” at E3, and that Doom 4 will be like other Doom titles, but not – meaning that guns and demons are probably in, but that those of you who wanted conversation trees and complex interpersonal communication will probably be disappointed.
Read the full interview here, if you want. A word of warning, though: It’s long – and there aren’t many pictures.
It's official. E3 as you know it is no more. Again. E3 version 3.0 will return to the glitz and glamour of the gaming trade show's 2006 iteration, but with a few tweaks to put an end to those pesky money leaks.
"[E3 2009] will be smaller than E3 2006 because it will be a much smarter show than E3 2006," ESA President Mike Gallagher said, boasting the new format's cost-effectiveness.
Compared to its 2007 and 2008 counterparts, E3 2009 intends to stop sucking it in and let its girth flow freely. With a target attendance of 40,000 industry professionals, 2008's 5,000 will have plenty of company. However, 2006 and 2005 remain "king of the hill" and "hill," respectively, with totals of 60,000 and 70,000.
So, the question you probably skipped all of the other stuff to answer: Can you get into E3? Well, not really.
Strolling into E3's hallowed halls is as simple as being a "qualified" industry or media member -- though defining that position is much less simple.
"We have criteria set up to define what is an analyst, what is a media attendee," Gallagher said. "We want to make sure bloggers and others in the online space have the right path to admission, as long as they're legitimate."
"This is not a consumer show," he emphasized.
Unless, of course, you're a booth babe.
"Here's the thing," Gallagher said of the sisterhood of the traveling pants-less. "Our publishers will have the maximum ability to drive energy and excitement around their titles and their products. I would expect that you're going to see models there, but there will be controlled guildelines, just like we've had previous years."
E3 2009 will run from June 2-4. We'll be there, reporting with oodles of "energy and excitement." Oh, and booth babes -- look out. We've been known to get a little feisty while on show floors.
We've all been there: you're softly striding through a craggy cavern, imperceptibly thin rays of light squeezing their way through cracks in the ceiling. Your eyes pierce through the black just in time for you to notice a vaguely cylindrical enemy galloping your way. Steel clangs against claws and fangs, and your foe slumps to the ground. A thick liquid oozes from the beast's mangled form, but the scent of blood is curiously absent. You decide to take a closer look, and dab your fingers in the liquid. One tentative lick later, you realize what the cave-dweller was dispensing -- the smooth taste of Coca-Cola! Visibly excited, you bottle up a sample. And with that, it's quest complete. Time to head back to Doct R. Peppyre's place for your brand new, Sunkist-orange tabard. Awesome!
But then, while emerging from the cave, you spot a poster on a nearby tree. Turns out, it's a blatant ad for McDonald's. "What the hell?" You wonder aloud. Then, sense of immersion annihilated, you rage-quit the game.
Obviously, the above situation is completely ludicrous. In-game advertising is never so out-of-place or in-your-face. And, in a fairly roundabout way, that's the point I'm trying to make: in-game advertising isn't as bad as gamers seem to think. Given a decent context, true-to-life ads can even make a game more immersive, while also putting extra cash into publishers' pockets.
But what's your take? Are in-game ads a detriment to your experience, or is Human Billboard your favorite race/class combination?
Well, today's Roundup is loyal only to you, fair reader, but could use some extra money and aims its commentary straight at the pleasure center of your brain. Inside, you'll find the latest news on a public E3, the oft-delayed Firefly MMO, EA's secret plans, and more.