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Being a Jerk About E3

Here's an early warning - if you're the sort of person who doesn't currently work in the game industry, but you've contemplated sneaking into E3 anyway (or you've actually already snuck in before), this entry may offend you.

Assuming you haven't already heard the news, the Entertainment Software Association (also known as "the ESA") has announced that the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (also known as "E3") will be undergoing significant changes in the near future. Specifically, the event will become "a more intimate program, including higher quality, more personal dialogue with the worldwide media, developers, retailers and other key industry audiences."

If you cared to, you could read my immediate gut reactions here, along with thoughts from several of GameSpot's other editors, video producers, and other staffers. I'll follow up by saying that even though I don't like to say, "I told you so," it sounds like one of the primary reasons for the change is something I've been talking about for years. Specifically, all those great people who have absolutely no right to attend E3, sneaking in.

What's that? I'm a selfish jerk and an elitist snob? Spoiling it for the rest of us, am I? Sure, fine. I'll take that, and whatever other insults and criticism you have about this topic. E3 was supposed to be a trade event only, and it was the throngs and throngs of rubberneckers that turned it into what it had become: a bloated, overly expensive spectacle that didn't make any sense anymore.

But...aw, come on! Why can't major game publishers and the ESA just be "cool" and let just a few more of people sneak in, huh? Why does everyone have to be a jerk and deprive people, especially underage people, of their our God-given right to sneak into an event they have no business attending?

Because it completely defeats the purpose of the entire event, and costs millions and millions of dollars for everyone (except the people who sneak in). Booth space: not cheap or easy to come by. Flying out an entire game company's staff to cover a booth and put them up in a hotel: not cheap or easy to do. Saddling the game development team members with the humongous burden of creating a solid E3 demo in addition to all the other work they're doing: not cheap or easy to do. Preparing everything perfectly for retail buyers and the press: not cheap or easy to do. Having a stampede of gawkers piling around your booth demanding free stuff: completely defeats the purpose of all those efforts.

No, really wanting to go to the show real bad does not automatically entitle people to attend. People don't "deserve" to attend the show just because they heard it would be cool, nor are game companies or the ESA a bunch of jerks for not letting those people in, because unless people already worked in the business, they have no reason to be there to begin with.

They're just more bodies clogging up the hallways, lengthening the lines, grabbing at all the free stuff, and in some cases, bafflingly, complaining about it. Complaining about how long the lines are, and how the swag isn't as good as previous years, and how the booth babes have to wear more clothing now--I actually overheard this several times myself this year while trying to shove my way through a crowd to get to my next appointment so that I could do my job of covering the show for GameSpot.

If you've never been to E3, you haven't missed much--trust me, with the way things were this year, you should be glad you didn't get stuck fighting through walls of humanity, waiting in gigantic lines, and, as usual, screaming to be heard over music loud enough to wake the dead. E3 might've been an exciting spectacle in previous years, but this year, it was too crowded and all of the best stuff was locked away behind closed doors...as it should have been, considering the population of the show.

As I mentioned in my gut reactions piece, I think it's too early to say whether this is going to be a good thing for me and my colleagues, and it may also end up weighing heavily on the financial outlook of an industry that allegedly does more business than the movies. But now that I think about it, it's still probably a good thing that we apparently won't have another E3 next year like we did this year. For a lot of reasons.

(And seriously, do try going to your favorite search engine and doing an image search for "e3" and see how much of E3's focus on games gets returned.)

One of my hobbies

When I'm not doing whatever it is I do all day, I like to take in the occasional movie. No, not the big-screen kind you see in a theater, I'm talking about tournament movies for competitive fighting games, which are actually quite popular to a small-but-loyal group of fighting game fans on the Internet that record and post video footage of tournaments, as well as "ranbats" (or "ranking battles," which are like preliminary rounds in larger tournaments, but no less competitive), along with casual play, as well.


(Here's an image. According to Justin, it should make this journal easier to read)

One-on-one fighting games are nowhere near as popular as they once were in this country (America). And with the exception of really big names like Virtua Fighter, Tekken, Soul Calibur, or Dead or Alive, few to no new ones ever see the light of day here. But there are still apparently people who keep the dream alive and even have places in their neighborhoods called "arcades," where games cost small amounts of money for the general public to play.


(another image, for the same purpose as above)

Because I don't have any of these so-called "arcades" within 50+ miles of where I am, and because fighting games are basically an endangered (or extinct) species in most places that don't already have strong, established fanbases, I've turned to vicariously enjoying the thrill of competition through watching other peoples' matches. Every so often, I visit sites like this one, or this one, or this one, or this one, or this one, or this one, or this one, or this one, or this one to find match videos to watch. If you'd like to watch these videos too, you might want to be considerate about these sites' bandwidth costs and download their movies to your computer (rather than repeatedly watching off their servers).

The PC games of E3

Not a whole lot of time to go super in-depth here, but for the faithful, here's the short list of what you should be keeping an eye out for:

Spore - If you don't know why, click the link and read the game's description. Easily one of the most ambitious game projects ever proposed, could be revolutionary if it's actually released with half the functionality it promises.

Supreme Commander - The spiritual successor to the classic strategy game Total Annihilation. And it's looking really good. Check our recent exclusive preview for details.

Crysis - The graphics wizards behind Far Cry get their hands on DirectX 10. This is the result.

World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade - Obvious. Right?

Command & Conquer 3 Tiberium Wars - Finally, C&C returns!

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars - The creator of Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory teaming up with the creator of Quake, using enhanced Doom 3/Quake 4 tech and Battlefield-style vehicles. Looking pretty good. See our recent exclusive look at vehicles for more details.

Unreal Tournament 2007 - So what if it's also on the PS3? It'll look better and play better on a high-end PC, and mod makers will extend the life of the game for months, if not years.

Company of Heroes - Slam-bang action in a strategy game where you DON'T have to babysit your little guys. What a concept.

Age of Conan - Massively multiplayer decapitations, mastodon battles, tavern brawls, and a 20-hour single-player game if you don't feel like going online.

Warhammer: Mark of Chaos - Huge real-time strategy featuring massive territorial battles, demons, and rat-men. Yes, rat-men.

Battlefield 2142 - Battlefield with mechs. You're either in or you're out.

Rise of Legends - Truly evolved strategy from one of the best strategy designers in the business.

Neverwinter Nights 2 - RPG sequel that will offer much more of what the first game offered. Being developed by the creators of Icewind Dale and Planescape: Torment, which is definitely not a bad thing.

Hellgate: London - A crazy hybrid of first-person shooter and Diablo. Made by the guys who made Diablo.

Medieval 2: Total War - The sequel to a great epic strategy game, from the creator of Rome: Total War.

There are a few others that I can't mention right now, and maybe a few others you might feel I've forgotten. Let me know which ones by posting a reply below. See you next week.

A request about naming games

A humble request to game publishers who are looking to name their cross-platform, but different games: please don't use names that are virtually the same or "overlap" with the same title name. While we here at GameSpot store our game information in tightly-run, well-maintained databases and vigilantly stand guard against any errors or oversights, not everyone takes informations like game titles as seriously. (This may or may not include disgruntled holiday shoppers.)

Examples:

Call of Duty 2: Big Red One for current-gen consoles developed by Treyarch

Call of Duty 2: Big Red One for current-gen consoles

.

.

Call of Duty 2 for PC and Xbox 360, a completely different game developed by Infinity Ward, the creator of the first PC Call of Duty

Call of Duty 2 for PC and Xbox 360, a completely different game

.

.

Battlefield 2, an outstanding PC game that was released on June 21, 2005. The game everyone in the forums is talking about.

Battlefield 2, an outstanding PC game that was released on June 21, 2005. The game everyone in the forums is talking about.

.

.

Battlefield 2: Modern Combat, a completely different game with a smaller scope that is coming to the PS2, Xbox, and Xbox 360

Battlefield 2: Modern Combat, a completely different game with a smaller scope that is coming to the PS2, Xbox, and Xbox 360

Thank you!

TV.com has launched

Congratulations to all who worked so hard to get this site off the ground. For those who missed it, the launch made the headlines of the Wall Street Journal here: http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB111766950671648760,00.html?mod=home%5Fwhats%5Fnews%5Fus You could actually see it highlighted on NASDAQ's video tower as well: http://www.nasdaq.com/about/marketsitetowervideo.asx

E3 proves it's a damn good time to be a PC game fan

In case you missed it, E3 was last week. And in case you missed it, some of the most impressive games at the show were on the PC platform. If you're a PC game player, or you're interested in becoming one, you have a lot to look forward to. You'll be seeing more details on the games that GameSpot thought made an exceptional showing, but here are PC game highlights that you should absolutely not miss. Get your "Track This Game" buttons ready.


Spore


I've seen this game with my own two eyes, but I still have trouble believing that Will Wright is trying to make this game. Frankly, there are very few people in the game industry I'd even consider capable of taking on this kind of project, but Wright has not only always been obsessed with modeling worlds in miniature, he also created the groundbreaking games The Sims and SimCity. Basically, in Spore, you start out as a bacterium and can eat other bacteria until you evolve into a primordial critter. Then you eat and survive until your critter becomes smart enough to build its own tribe. Then the tribe can take over the world. Then the tribe can research flying saucers and take over the galaxy. Then the tribe can take over the universe. The whole evolution of your species, from amoeba to universal ruler, is computed procedurally by the game (in plain English, that means, it's all automatically generated depending on your actions). You can still edit and customize everything to your heart's content, but it should be plenty interesting just starting off with a bacterium, tweaking one or two things, then sitting back and watching happens to it in a few million years. Spore is easily the most innovative game that was at the show. It's crazy that anyone would even attempt to create a game like this, but what's even crazier is that Will Wright is at the helm, so they might actually be able to pull it off.

<< More details in GameSpot's E3 preview here >>


Company of Heroes

I have seen this game myself, up close, with my own two eyes. Which is why frankly, it's a bit disappointing the way ignorant people react to hearing about Company of Heroes the first time you mention it. "Oh, come on, it's a World War II real-time strategy game." The thing is, there have been hardly any other World War II real-time strategy games even released stateside (pretty much all of them have been developed and published in Germany). The fatigue everyone feels about World War II is from first-person shooters, not strategy games. However, put anyone, whether they play games or not, in front of Company of Heroes, and they'll all come away impressed. Aside from the fact that the game looks amazing (don't take my word for it, watch the video), it could also take strategy games to a whole new level. All units have "situational AI," which means they'll react to their surroundings like trained soldiers. No more having to manually tell each individual guy to hide behind cover, because once the bombs start dropping, they'll already be there. You can instead actually focus on the battles, blowing out the side of houses to sneak in through the holes or using tanks to smash right through walls. Real-time strategy has often been considered "boring" by non-strategy fans. From what I've seen, Company of Heroes will change a lot of peoples' minds.

<< More details in GameSpot's E3 preview here >>

<< Watch Company of Heroes in action, plus the E3 live stage demo, here >>


Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures

There were several things missing from Age of Conan when I saw it at E3. No, I didn't get to see a polished demonstration of the real-time combat system (which will actually let you use your mouse and keyboard to manually swing your sword). No, I didn't get to see the brawling system (which will let level 1 characters fight just as well as level 50 characters in the local tavern--the only things that matter will be how well you use your fists, or a barstool or table leg, and how drunk your character is). No, I didn't get to see a siege battle. But I did get to see a town area, temple area, and a large field battle. All of it looks very promising, like how merchants will walk right up to you and try to start pushing their wares on you (instead of standing stock-still in one place their entire lives), and how you'll be able to participate in mounted combat on horses or woolly mammoths against armies of guys who are also on horses or woolly mammoths. Age of Conan already looks good. If it can actually have everything it wants to have, it will be great.

<< More details in GameSpot's E3 preview here >>


Auto Assault

Not much else more needs to be said about Auto Assault beyond what has already been said. It's going to be a massively multiplayer real-time car combat game. If I had to sum it up quickly, I'd say it's kind of like Diablo, but massively multiplayer, in a futuristic sci-fi setting, with machinegun-mounted cars instead of amazons and barbarians, everything is fully 3D and looks great, pretty much everything can be blasted to bits, and when you destroy your enemies or the world around you, money and guns fall out.

<< More details in GameSpot's E3 preview here >>

<< Watch Auto Assault in action here >>


The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

It doesn't matter that this game is also coming to the Xbox 360 console. I've seen Elder Scrolls IV in action and it looks fantastic (and actually, only the PC version was on display at E3 anyway). The new graphics and physics are the most obvious features, but Oblivion also has some other very cool features, some minor, some major. Minor: you can now travel instantaneously, and not just from town to town (no more trudging around the wilderness if you don't feel like it), NPC characters will have their own conversations you can overhear and turn into quests. Major: a whole new AI system for NPCs that will give them needs and wants and an approximate schedule, so they'll basically act a lot more like real people going about their business (and hopefully a lot less like wandering guys who repeatedly curse you as an outlander), improved combat system, dungeon traps, forests with individually rendered trees. I enjoyed Morrowind even though I took issue with some features, but I had to admit I was impressed by what I saw.

(For the record, Fallout 3 was not at E3, even though, as you might have heard, the Bethesda booth actually had Fallout 3 signs on it.)

<< More details in GameSpot's E3 preview here >>


Titan Quest

I've seen this game myself, and it looks very impressive, at least from a visual standpoint. It's hard to get a sense of exactly how good and addictive a game like this will eventually turn out just by watching a brief demonstration, but it sounds like the developers have the right idea. Titan Quest will have an open-ended skill system you can tweak and play with, randomized loot, and some very powerful editing tools that will ship with the game that will let anyone make their own levels and other content once they're done with the game itself. Definitely a game to watch for fans of Diablo.

<< More details in GameSpot's E3 preview here >>

<< Watch Titan Quest in action, plus the E3 live stage demo, here >>


Battlefield 2

I've seen and played this game several times now. Each time, it has looked better than the last. When I played it at E3, there were no performance issues, no frame rate problems, no technical difficulties, and the rest of the game already seems very solid. If you're just now hearing about Battlefield 2, here's an executive summary: it's an online team shooter that lets you play as a sniper, medic, engineer, assault (or other type of soldier), get in an organized squad (if you want), play as a commander who can drop supplies and artillery strikes (if you want), has dozens of drivable vehicles that are all fast and powerful, and will have an insane online stat-tracking system that will keep track of all your kills, assists, and general success with each soldier type. For the rest of you who have been keeping up with Battlefield 2, just watch the videos and mark your calendar for June.

<< More details in GameSpot's E3 preview here >>

<< Watch Battlefield 2 in action, plus the E3 live stage demo, here >>


F.E.A.R.

This is a game you should already have been watching for after last year's E3. I've seen and played the game multiple times since then, including at this year's E3, and it looks and plays even better. Executive summary, as told to me by producers at both Monolith and VU Games: "The Matrix meets [Japanese horror film] The Ring." Now that I've played more of the single-player game, I can state that it has plenty of bizarre horror elements that are intended to mess with your mind. The ones I've seen all seem to have been very well-placed (such as seeing the "mysterious little girl" running just past the corners of your vision). More importantly, the game seems to have an excellent feel to it, even though it was pushed back to a Fall 2005 release. The guns handle great--they're modeled halfway between a realistic shooter like Counter-Strike and an arcade-style game like Serious Sam. They're also very loud and kick up lots of sparks (especially the submachine gun)...a lot like the guns in an action movie. They feel very powerful and solid. Also, the AI at this point seems very, very good. At one point in the part I played, I cornered three guys in a small corner office in an office building, offed the first two quickly, and spent several minutes playing cat-and-mouse with the third guy, who actually hopped over the barrier of the plate-glass window I blew out, yanked down a bookcase and hid behind it for cover, crawled on his belly below the line of my sight, and tried to get me again by sneaking around a corner. If nothing else, F.E.A.R. will have very smart enemy AI, but it will have much more "else" from what I've seen.

<< More details in GameSpot's E3 preview here >>

<< Watch F.E.A.R. in action, plus the E3 live stage demo, here >>


Civilization IV

Try not to judge Civ IV by its screenshots. I've seen the game myself at E3, and it looks a lot better in motion than in still screens. Also, apparently, the game is going to fix most of what was broken and bad from the previous games (like the late-game micromanagement, which could get ridiculous) and add lots of cool new stuff. The addition of religion, which is another way you can ultimately hold sway in a specific region (you can be on better terms with native people if you share the same religion, or you can just convert them), plus social institutions like slavery and freedom of speech (which can also affect your neighbors) could add a whole lot of additional depth. Which, if you've ever stayed up until 2:00AM playing a Civ game, is probably just what you needed.

<< More details in GameSpot's E3 preview here >>

<< Watch Civilization IV in action, plus the E3 live stage demo, here >>


May add more as I remember them...but the PC made a damn fine showing at this year's E3, and those of us who play PC games (or would like to) are in for some great games ahead.

Game Developers Conference is here

I just saw and wrote about the very highly anticipated game Dreamfall: The Longest Journey, for which we got the first video and first video developer interview. Starting in a few hours, I'll be rubbing even more elbows with even more game developers, when the expo floor for Game Developers Conference 2005 opens.

It's going to be a very exciting show this year. People apparently can't seem to stop talking about next-generation consoles--especially considering that Microsoft VP J Allard and Nintendo president Satoru Iwata will be giving the event's keynote addresses. Whether or not those wonderful next-generation consoles make an actual appearance on the show floor remains to be seen, but I don't doubt we'll hear some real updates between the first day of GDC's expo and the last day of E3. At the latest.

In the meantime, there have already been a few surprises, like the very gutsy new venture by Ageia to create not only a physics engine for games, but an actual physical PPU unit that consumers are expected to purchase and install in their computers. I find the idea of separate "physics accelerator" hardware just as surprising as you do, but 15 years ago, I'm not sure I would have expected the 3D GPU market (complete with the Nvidia vs. ATI rivalry) to become what it is today either. I'll be very interested to hear more about the PPU, as well as the engine, considering that it powers Unreal Engine 3. That's in addition to the burgeoning mobile scene, which will result in coverage of plenty of cool mobile coverage on the site before the week is out.

There will be more intriguing developments coming out of the show between now and this Friday, March 11. I invite you to keep an eye on GameSpot, or more specifically, GameSpot's GDC 2005 center, to keep up to date on all PC, console, and mobile developments we dig up.