E3 2005 Coverage (Part 1): The Future of Gaming?|
Written by Brice Boembeke
June 2, 2005
This year was my first experience with E3, the fabled place that all true gamers have dreamed of going to, but few get the chance. When I first walked through the doors of the LACC and saw those huge banners proclaiming the future of gaming, I couldnít help but be awe-struck. I was in a hall of greatness. I felt a power surrounding me, a magnificence only heard of in epic novels. But it was real, I was there, and I had a Media Badge!
I had a moderate schedule of interviews and appointments that I was required to keep throughout the three day experience, but I was thankfully allotted a fair amount of time to explore the massive center at my own discretion, as well.
Over the course of the three days, I got the royal treatment at some very interesting developerís booths, guided in to see whatís in store for gaming in the near future. I saw many titles that looked promising. When I left for LA, I wasnít really sure what to expect, but when I left I was surprised to find that I had come to realize some things about the future gaming that I definitely had not expected.
I saw the upcoming MMORPG Dark and Light, being developed by Farlan Entertainment. Itís going to be an interesting Fantasy MMO, where they have set up separate experience meters for combat and social skills. If you choose, you can develop your social experience to become a powerful leader, and rule a land area like a King, instead of becoming a powerful warrior. The explorable world is massive, about the same land area as Western Europe, to scale. Even though the MMO market is nearly flooded with Fantasy style games, this one stands out as being unique even though it still incorporates many of the same aspects as other Magic and Dragon type games.
I also got to hear about Khan by Mirinae Entertainment. I say ďhear aboutĒ because it was in an area of the building that had lost power, so they couldnít show us anything. Itís another MMO, based in the time of Ghengis Khan and the Mongolian Hordes. Itís still a fantasy game, and I wasnít all that impressed. Although, I donít know how I could have been with nothing to be impressed with.
And then, even though Iím no expert on hardware, I got the tour of the NVidia booth. Now, I have an ATI card in my current computer, but I will have to say that NVidia impressed me with their new SLI graphics card technology. The way it was explained to me is you take two graphics cards and bind them together with a third PCI chip, so you get the power of both cards working together over an extremely high-bandwith link, so you donít lose any processing speed. They were running Call of Duty at maximum settings at 100 FPS (if I understood what he was telling me correctly, which I think I did).
After that, I was treated to a live demo of GTR and GT Legends, made by 10Tacle. Now, those guys seriously have their stuff together. If youíre looking for a truly realistic racing game, look no further. You know when the real race drivers say that the game feels like the real thing that youíre looking at a quality product. And the guys that made the game are all serious race-freaks! I thought I knew my stuff when it came to racing, but these guys were talking about stuff that went over my head.
At the beginning of my second day, I was blown away. I went to my meeting with Webzen, a company devoted entirely to MMOís. They have several titles coming out in the not-too-distant future that look exciting, including their FPS MMO, Huxley. But the one that grabbed my attention was APB. APB, or All Points Bulletin, is an MMO that is being designed by the same guy that made the Grand Theft Auto games. Basically, imagine being in a modern-day world where you can be a cop, or a robber. Car chases, shoot-outs, etc. What more could you want? Howís about a demo? Nope, not this year. This game, just based on the concept ideas, has me lying awake at night, but it isnít slated for release until the first quarter of 2007. All they had to show was a CGI teaser trailer and a pamphlet that gave the same info for the game that you can find at Webzenís webpage. If they keep going on the same line as they are headed right now, however, this game is looking to be a future favorite of mine that I can see spending many, many, many hours on.
Next, I was shown, in secret, behind closed doors, the new Guitar Hero peripheral brought to you by Get Up Move and Red Octane. Basically, itís a Dance Dance Revolution style rhythm game, but instead youíre using a guitar! I can see this becoming a popular college party game. The peripheral controller was close enough to a guitar that people who play guitar will enjoy using it, but at the same time, itís simplified enough that people who have no guitar playing experience will be able to pick it up and enjoy it very easily.
I then went to a press conference with Michael Ironside (voice of Sam Fisher, Splinter Cell). He and his crew were announcing his new endeavor, Ice Planet, which is attempting to be grandiose by combining an interactive game with a television show that will be intertwined (watching the show will help you in the game and playing the game will help you understand the show better), but I couldnít help but feel unimpressed. I liked listening to Ironsideís brash sense of humor and witty banter with those gutsy enough to ask him a question, but I just wasnít really that impressed with the idea. Maybe it was the room, it was the same one where the Khan guys couldnít show me their product due to power loss the day before. I think that room was cursed. Too bad for Mr. Ironside.
Finally, I got to see a demo of Pirates of the Burning Sea, a (shocker) pirate MMO that is planning on being released sometime later this year. I was impressed by this game for several reasons. First, it was something different. Also, I was impressed with the enthusiasm of the developers behind the game. The company developing the game is very small, but each one of the guys I talked to, you could tell that they were committed to the game and making it as cool and enjoyable as possible. I had as much fun watching them enjoy showing me the game as I did seeing the game. Right now, the game will release with an impressive and beautiful ship-to-ship combat interface. Soon after release, the game will receive a patch that will then include the sword-fighting, swashbuckling side of the sea-going life to allow players to live every aspect of the pirate life theyíve always dreamed of. And you donít just have to be a pirate. If you want to, you can sail under the flags of the British, French, or Spanish, and fight the war over the port towns in the name of your homeland. Blockade the towns in order to gain control of them in a Risk-esque power struggle over territory, or exploit the blockades and run shipments of much-needed supplies to the blockaded areas for an incredible profit. To keep the game interesting, the war over territory will be won by one of the countries (giving them bragging rights), a treaty will be signed, and the land areas will be equally divvied up again. I see this becoming a very intense, interesting MMO that will pull the interests of pirate fans everywhere.
Once I had finished all of my appointments, I was able to check out the things that caught my eye. One such game was a Western era FPS called Call of Juarez. What impressed me the most about this game was the environment. Iíve never played a western game that made me feel like I was there as much as this one did. Also, it was cool the way they worked in the dual pistol interface to be left-click is left gun fire, and right-click is right gun fire.
Another game that I recall being intrigued by was Bully by Rockstar Games. I didnít get to see this game, mostly because Rockstarís ďboothĒ if you could call it that, was behind a chain-link fence and the line to get in was always too long. But I trust Rockstar and know that any product they release will be a good one. In this title, you live the life of a boy at a prep school in England. And youíre the campus bully. Imagine GTA from the point of view of a pampered English adolescent brat. Need I say more?
I also saw a preview for a game called Dead Rising, being released for the Xbox 360, which is going to be a hoot. Imagine a game where you are surrounded by more zombies on the screen at a time than you can count and having a modern day environment where just about everything is useable as a weapon to smash, bash, hack, blow up, chop, and just plain annihilate anything that comes your way.
But you know what? Maybe it was because I was inundated with more marketing campaigns over the course of three days than Iíve probably experienced in my entire life, surrounded by something like five thousand or more monitors exploding product after mind-blowing product in my face, but I left E3 with a sensation that I did not expect. I felt excitement, yes, as I had expected, but at the same time, I felt frustrated. I was frustrated because I had seen so much, but so much of it was just like so much else that Iíve played, loved for a little while, then gotten bored with and moved on.
I realized, leaving there, that I, as an experienced gamer, am getting to a point where I demand more from a game. I want a game to be truly unique to hold my interest for any period of time. And, no, Iím not referring to The Bible Game or any other titles being released by Natsume.
Of all the games I saw, the closest thing to what I, as a gamer, really want from a game in the future was APB. And, for all I know, it could fall short, because much of what I am basing that on are the few words on the paper that I read. There is no product to back up what they say they are going to do with this game. I hope that it will be what they say it is, but who knows?
Maybe Iím biased because Iím an Online Gaming freak, but I truly think that MMOís are the future of gaming. But, I learned something at E3. If MMOís are going to be successful in the future, theyíre going to have to change. They canít continue in the same way they are or else people will get sick of the entire genre and toss it aside like garbage.
I was thinking about the games that have really held my attention over the years. The ones that make me keep coming back for more - even years after they release. The one that sticks out the most in my mind was, and still is, the Rainbow 6 series. Now, think about it, this game, when played online, is, for all intents and purposes, completely content-less. But, at the same time, it, like many FPS games, is entirely skill based. Therefore, every gaming experience is going to be a unique one. Someone who plays all the time has only the advantage of having more actual experience, and henceforth will perhaps be better, but the new player has just as much of a chance of beating his opponent as anyone else.
Another type of game that has been able to hold my attention is any RPG that has story driven content and character development/customization. This is partly what MMOís are today, but the content is usually a lot more static than when you compare it to a single player RPG. In my opinion, MMOís can delve much further into the Role Playing element of gaming, bringing the players into the game more deeply, involving them more actively in a story that they care about and want to take part in developing.
Now, imagine a game combining the nearly unlimited replay-ability of a skill based game with the excitement and intrigue of a content-driven game that allows players to make their experience unique through customization and an interesting story.
There is hope. While I was at E3, I saw a glimmer of this in some of the games that will be coming to us in the future, but I still feel that there is a way to go before that goal is reached. Though many games are cloned copies of something that has worked in the past, there are developers out there, I assure you, who are looking for ways to make a product that is truly unique, something that pushes the boundary of what is possible in a gaming experience a little further.
My request is that game developers out there try as hard as they can to incorporate these ideas into future games, because I know, from talking with many other gamers, that there are many who feel this way and who want more from their games. Gamers donít just want mindless entertainment anymore, they want something that will challenge their minds and give them a sense of accomplishment or purpose.
Luckily for us gamers, most game developers nowadays, especially with MMOís, are hardcore gamers themselves, and are devoted to bringing us the same thing that we desire, but itís not going to happen overnight. And itís not going to happen if the gamers donít speak up and demand that game of our dreams.
Some day, perhaps some day soon, that game will come. That, my dear fellow gamers, is what I learned at E3, 2005.