SANTA MONICA, Calif.--Though the titles of its subsidiary Rockstar Games are notorious for their ingrained hedonism, Take-Two decided to hold its briefing on what amounted to Amish time--8 a.m. Ironically, keeping in line with the tardy nature of third-party publisher conferences at this year's E3 Media & Business Summit , those who showed up ahead of time to the briefing were forced to wait until the last minute to enter the event.
''The early bird gets nothing," was the response curtly delivered by one staffer, who could easily have been mistaken for a cast member of the Golden Girls.
Septuagenarian impertinence aside, the throng of industry analysts, press, and publisher reps were finally let in at 7:52 a.m. The darkened room's highlight was a series of video screens bearing the Rockstar, Take-Two, and 2K Games logos. Though the crowd was sparse, interest was high about what the publisher would show, given its recent corporate boardroom coup, the Manhunt 2 rating controversy, and the mounting anticipation prior to Grand Theft Auto IV's October 16 release.
[8:07] Following numerous warnings that no videotaping or photography is allowed, the conference begins with a video montage.
[8:08] New Take-Two chairman Strauss Zelnick kicks off the event by expressing his commitment to making "AAA" titles.
[8:09] He says the "next generation of games...lets us be at the cusp and inflection point of entertainment."
[8:10] Says the new management team is committed to keeping to financially sound management.
[8:11] Zelnick introduces Firaxis cofounder Sid Meier, purveyor of "addictive strategy," to show off Civilization Revolution.
[8:12] Cue the previously seen Civilization Revolutions trailer, narrated by none other than Henry Rollins, who is not in attendance.
[8:13] As has been previously seen, Civilization Revolution will let you win by military might or scientific advancement.
[8:14] Sid takes the stage...only to have the trailer run again. The AV crew scrambles to cue up a different spot for the game.
[8:15] Sid immodestly calls his franchise a "worldwide phenomenon."
[8:15] Footage of the game is shown onscreen--it looks like a more simplified version of the game.
[8:16] "Console players don't want to read manuals, they just want to jump into the game," says Meier.
[8:16] Stressing the game's more "vibrant" visual style, Meier shows a Roman army dealing with an uppity barbarian encampment.
[8:18] Meier shows off the animations of advisers, then shows how the Roman units can receive up to nine upgrades after winning.
[8:19] Game will feature the Civilepedia, the online database associated with the technology tree.
[8:19] Game will also support a "game of the week" feature, which will allow for rankings and leaderboards.
[8:20] Meier has the Roman units explore, and they encounter an Egyptian unit. Of course, they fight.
[8:21] Meier directs the battle, which has the Egyptians lose as their empress Cleopatra freaks out in a corner window.
[8:22] The Romans then encounter the French, represented by their leader Napoleon. The Gladiator-esque Roman military advisor urges an attack.
[8:23] Meier fast-forwards to modern times, showing the Romans launching a Nuclear ICBM into Egyptian territory. The results are satisfyingly thermonuclear.
[8:25] Meier stresses that there are nonmilitary paths to victory, and shows a spaceship launching to Alpha Centauri. The Roman units do a "victory dance," which features animations of tanks jumping on their hydraulic suspensions, hooptie-style.
[8:26] Next up is a montage of 2K Sports, set to an a cappella rhyme session from Jurassic 5's Chali 2na.
[8:28] "I want to see fewer penalties, harder hits, and new clips," he proclaims. "The game is back!" Numerous shots of All-Pro Football 2K8 run in the background.
[8:29] Apparently suffering from some throat problems, 2K Sports' Jeff Thomas takes the stage to show of the game's team-building tools.
[8:30] The game will feature 240 "of the best players of all time," including Joe Montana and Johnny Unitas.
[8:31] Animations in the background show the team customization features of All-Pro Football 2K8, including uniform and logo editors.
[8:32] Cue a demo of the game, which pits the "Philadelphia Americans" against the "Brooklyn Cobras."
[8:32] Each team's victory will be accompanied by celebrations in dynamic stadiums.
[8:33] "This is about real football," says Thomas. "This isn't watered-down, league-approved football."
[8:33] "It re-creates the fun that games used to have before 'they' stopped allowing us to do that."
[8:34] Game will allow for parabolic mic conversations of players "talking smack" to one another before a play.
[8:36] Thomas stresses the creative nature of the game, how it will allow people to create their own teams, which will theoretically make each game unique. He says the fact that each player can create their own team will make matches much more interesting, since no one will know which players are on which team.
[8:37] Game will have in-game statistics from "real-world" football games. Thomas leaves the podium, having never once mentioned the acronym "NFL."
[8:37] Zelnick takes the stage again and introduces the "genetically enhanced first-person shooter" BioShock.
[8:38] Roll trailer showcasing the undersea game.
[8:40] An old trailer runs of a Big Daddy beating a protagonist, who then injects himself with a serum.
[8:41] Wasps stream out of his arm and attack the Big Daddy, who reacts by impaling the protagonist with a drill.
[8:43] A demo for the game begins, showing that the game is set in 1960 in the mid-Atlantic.
[8:43] Black screen with the sound of power tools slaughtering people.
[8:43] Underwater sequence frays the nerves of audience members with a fear of drowning.
[8:44] Lost-like introductory sequence shows protagonist emerging from fiery wreckage of a plane crash.
[8:45] Player walks into a lighthouse with a dazzling art deco marble interior.
[8:46] Player gets into a submersible and is treated to an industrial film which combines the humor of the Fallout games with the creepiness of the Dharma Initiative from Lost.
[8:47] Voice-over from mad industrialist Andrew Ryan introduces the undersea city of Rapture.
[8:47] Once a "utopia," the city was torn apart by a genetic civil war.
[8:48] "And now, for the cool s***," says the heavily accented presenter.
[8:48] "Almost anything can be used as a weapon," says the presenter.
[8:49] "I'm sure there are many analysts in the room today who are well-versed in advanced killing techniques," he jokes.
[8:50] On to gameplay. Player goes into ballroom and takes out opponents in a puddle by throwing an electrical bomb into the water.
[8:50] He's then attacked by a torch-wielding mob, which is given the business end of a tommy gun.
[8:50] BAM! Demo over, cue first public demo of GRAND THEFT AUTO IV!
[8:51] Zelnick builds up the hype by playing the first two trailers for the game. The audience visibly shifts.
[8:52] Game protagonist Niko Bellic reminds people "things will be different."
[8:53] (Note to self: Go pick up The Boggs album.)
[8:53] Developers finally take the stage to show off the demo.
[8:54] "Unfinished code, work in progress, placeholder music, blah blah blah blah."
[8:55] "The demo we're giving today is purposefully short." You're killing us, man!
[8:55] Game menu has different font, very clean Arial.
[8:55] "Here we are, making the game we've always dreamed of making."
[8:55] DEMO BEGINS
[8:56] Niko Bellic is in a replica of Times Square.
[8:56] Trademark map icon in the corner.
[8:56] He struts around for a bit, then steals a car.
[8:57] Game is not a sequel to San Andreas. "The leap from Grand Theft Auto III is as fundamental as the jump from 2D to 3D."
[8:57] Niko tolls around in a luxury sedan to some big band music from the 1940s.
[8:58] Lighting looks fantastic, textures looking solid and rugged.
[8:58] Frame rate is a bit jumpy, but level of detail in landscape is greater than Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.
[8:59] Niko pulls up to the docks under the "Broker Bridge" as the sun rises. The light plays on the water, and then starts illuminating the city behind him.
[8:59] Clouds above Liberty City light up, with planes flying through them.
[9:00] Clouds keep lighting up as Niko calls up his buddy to "get some firepower."
[9:00] DEMO ENDS.
[9:00] Crowd grumbles, largely ignoring Zelnick.
[9:01] He gives some closing statements about microtransactions, but no one is listening.
[9:01] He graciously thanks the people who helped put on the demo as folks file out.