Another E3 has come to pass, and this year things were scaled down a bit: fewer booth
babes, fewer half pipes, and fewer freebies. The lack of superfluous extra crap was made
up for by my first hands-on look at Microsofts Xbox and Nintendos GameCube.
This year really marked the beginning of the next gen era; there were hardly any Nintendo
64, PlayStation, or Dreamcast titles being shown, and those that were shown paled when
compared to those on the new, more powerful systems. Convergence was the buzzword; almost
every game was slated to appear on every system, from PC to the Game Boy Advance. Online
game play was hot again this year, and with much emphasis put on console connectivity,
both Sony and Microsoft made major announcements on their internet plans. While the hype
surrounding E3 was not up to full strength, everyone was talking about the state of the
industry. Again this year the video game industry out spent, out produced, and out grossed
the movie industry.
Jerri and Colby from this years smash TV show, Survivor 2, made a guest
appearance at the Infogrames booth. Infogrames is just a few months into developing
the Survivor game, but they obviously wanted to ride the wave of hype surrounding the
Nielsen topping show. The game was still very rough, but promises to be a fairly authentic
multi-player/online emulation of the show. Jerri and Colby were surprisingly like they
were on TV; Jeri was catty and Colby cock-sure. Infogrames had them doing some lame game
show bit, in MTV Spring Break fashion. But the crowd didnt care and nether did I; we
were just happy to be face to face with two true American celebrities.
Everybody was talking about the Xbox, and I made sure I was playing it. There was quite
a crowd surrounding the playable Halo demos, but Munch and Abe were Xboxs true
celebrities. If you havent heard yet, the development team for Abes Oddysee
and Abes Exoddus, Oddworld Inhabitants, was developing their latest game,
Munchs Oddysee, for the PlayStation 2. But Lorne Lanning, President/Creative
Director of Oddworld Inhabitants, was dissatisfied with the PS2s capabilities and
made the controversial switch to Microsofts Xbox. So this year at E3 when Microsoft
made Abe and Munch their stars it was a slight jab at Sony and their PS2. But it
doesnt matter if youre anti-Microsoft or pro-Sony, Munchs Oddysee will
be one of the most innovative and breathtaking games debuting this year.
At E3, in the glorious LA Convention Center, most of the third party developers are
packed into south hall. All PC titles are ultimately third party, so south hall is were
all the computer dorks hang out to play games such as Baldur's Gate 2: Throne of Bhaal and
Neverwinter Nights. I caught a few glimpses of PC games, and I guess they looked pretty
good, but being a console gamer myself, I was more interested in third party console
action (of which there was plenty). EA took up as much room as humanly possible, their
giant screens, Harry Potters castle, and location near the front door made them
impossible to miss. I was taken by a few of their games, NBA Street and James Bond 007
in...Agent Under Fire. But EAs true crowd pleaser had to be Medal of Honor: Allied
Assault. Without even a playable demo on the floor there was a buzz about Medal of
Honors graphic beach scene that parallels and rivals the cinematography of Saving
Private Ryan. EA wasnt the only attraction in south hall: Infogrames, Activision,
Rockstar, and others also managed to put on the glitz.
Its now become a tradition at E3 to have at least a couple world class skaters
ripping up the halfpipe. Last year there were three halfpipes scattered around the
convention center; this year Activision sported the only one. But there was plenty of
action unfolding on the single pipe. Mat Hoffman, BMX rider extraordinaire, was showing
his stuff and pitching his game, Mat Hoffmans Pro BMX. Activison was all excited
about their new O2 game line, essentially trying to spin their success with Tony Hawk Pro
Skater into a full extreme sports line-up. O2 will include some new franchises like Shaun
Palmers Pro Snowboarder and Kelly Slaters Pro Surfer. Shaun and Kelly
couldnt show their skills in downtown LA but Tony Hawk was there with a few pals:
Rune Glifberg, Bucky Lasek, and even Tonys son, Riley.
Theres no doubt about it, Working Designs loves their fans. For the second year
running they had some of the longest lines in the convention center. What was all the fuss
about, I mean besides some of the best written RPGs in the biz? Well it seems
everyone was waiting for a chance to use the crane arm machine (you know what I mean, one
of those arcade machines that are usually filled with crappy stuffed animals and other
useless trinkets where you have to use the controls to move the arm inside to snag your
junk). Anyway, fans of Working Design titles like Arc the Lad and Lunar were happy to wait
in line for at least an hour to get there hands on some primo Working Designs swag.
West hall is were the first party game companies call home during the three days of
fury that is E3. Sony and Nintendo had a huge presence; in fact for the first day it was
nearly impossible to get up close to a GameCube because of the huge crowd. Sony was
hitting hard with tons of new PlayStation 2 games and a few PlayStation games (they wanted
to remind us that they havent forgotten their old system just yet). Segas
booth was teeny and closed to the general E3 attendee. It was a sad reminder that the
Dreamcast is no more. But somehow the new PS2 games and a tantalizing glimpse of the
GameCube made everything feel alright again.
E3 is a lot of things: convention, trade show, giant leering overblown advertisement.
Sometimes in the midst of begging for tee shirts, ogling booth babes (I dont do
this, but your average E3 attendee spends over 40% of their time doing so), and talking
over market trends with your pals and PR contacts, its easy to forget that all this
hype is about video games. Playing the games is the most important and sacred act at E3.
Five minutes of gaming on a 70% completed demo will keep me waiting anxiously for
its release six or more months from now. E3 is a taste of things to come, and while
it is also about advertisements and market shares, for me its about thrill of being
the first kid on the block to play the newest, coolest videogame out there.
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