This is I think my 5th time coming to E3 in the nine years that I have been working for GiN, and once again I have been as awed as I was during my very hour of my very first show. I normally don't take the time to write up my thoughts on the show, but I got caught up Tuesday afternoon as the staff gathered for our ride to the airport. All Todd and I could talk about was the stunning news that the PS3 was going to cost $600 dollars for the high-end "must have" version.
And as the plane took off I began thinking about my recent Xbox 360 purchase. I kept saying I was just gong to get the PS3, but like many people I got the oblivion bug, and had to buy one the week oblivion came out, we wont discuss what kind of deal I had to make with the dev__, opps I mean my wife, so that I could talk her into letting me get both systems (ok – one hint, four words – New + Living room + Furniture). Anyway, getting back to my story, I searched high and low at several of my local Best Buy locations as well as at least five local game stores. I even went online to amazon.com without any luck, and then I went to Costco with my wife and her mother and they had more then 30 units.
Of course, being Costco, you can't just buy and Xbox 360 for $400; it was a package deal where you get a bunch of extras and it cost $500. So the question on my mind that will be answered sometime between now and November 17th is of course will I be able to get a PS3 at list price, and how much is a bundle going to cost me. I am guessing that I will see them at Costco in the $700 – $800 dollar range.
Oblivion was of course wonderful and my wife and I have both enjoyed playing it a lot. But I never imagined that while the GiN gang were gathered eating dinner at our hotel Tuesday night that we would be overheard by a woman named Susan who felt compelled to come up and say hello to some fellow players. Come to find out, she is an instructor at a local school for graphic design focused on the gaming industry. She hung out and chatted with us for quite a while.
At first we talked about Oblivion, and it was very cool because she was focused on alchemy and was spending a lot of her time making potions for sale and naturally for use, and she was the first person that any of us had encountered that focused almost totally on that area of the game.
Next we got to talking about training the next generation of graphic designers for the industry and how the staff really had to keep on top of the game because they did not want to send students out into the industry having learned last years techniques. Over all a very interesting chat, and as I walked around the show floor on Wednesday morning I decided to go on a quest to see what the next generation of Oblivion like RPG titles where going to look like graphically.
Not quite what I was thinking of when I set out, but worth mentioning is Shadow Born mobile RPG from Nokia. I am not completely sure that it is true, but it's billed as the first mobile RPG. I think it is neat, because the game will add items to your real life calendar reminding you that it is time to do something. Also while playing the game you will get a text message, and when you pause the game to read the message you mat find that it is from someone in the game itself. And for a cell game, the graphics were surprisingly good.
The first RPG I went to see was The Witcher based on a series of books by Andrzej Sapkowski. Apparently they are being translated into English now and should be available soon. I read a sample chapter from "The Last Wish" and liked it enough to keep an eye out for it on Amazon.com. The game is built using Bioware's Aurora Engine. You play the main character from the book Geralt who is a Witcher, a fighter trained from childhood to fight all kinds of monsters. It is of course hard to tell at this early stage, but I think the Witcher has a chance of giving Oblivion a run for the money graphically, but I worry about the popularity of the game in the US market where the books are not widely known. If a buzz develops around the books then the chances are good, otherwise I suspect the appeal will be limited more to the European market where I gather the books are more widely known.
Gothic III is a really cool looking RPG where orcs have started enslaving humans and you can decide to help the human resistance against the orcs. Or you can help the orcs, or if you want to be really sneaky, you can pretend to help the orcs and really help the humans. The release date is about six months out, and from what I heard, they re going to be spending a lot more time on having the game translated into English. The spell effect that I saw in the demo, were the highlight for me. When rain of fire was cast the whole sky above tuned red and streaks of fire began the fall all around, killing every one around.
Another top title that should hit one day is called Elveon from 10tacle studios. This shows the entire history of the elven race. It is not coming out until next summer, but even at this early stage, the attention to details really showed in the demo. For example, they have developed an elven fighting style and used motion capture to record live people fighting with real weapons. From what I have seen so far at the show, this is clearly the title that I know is going to give Oblivion a run for the money. It's that good, and before the show I had never even heard of it!
Those are the three Oblivion-like games that I have seen so far at the show. And I am sure I have not seen all that there is to see, but Friday is more of a free day for me, as I only have a couple appointments, so I will report in if I need to report any adjustments to my thoughts as I play my way through the LucasArts booth and on around through the rest of the convention center.
From what I saw in the first two days of the show, the following are the things to watch in the coming year:
Razer is back and going strong. Following up on a great line up of mice, they are branching out into keyboards with the tarantula and into headphones with the barracuda.
Logic3 has a new inline Ipod remote available next month at Best Buy with song information and more listed on the remote. Also check out their Ipod and PSP speaker systems.
Nvidia GoForce 5500 – 1024×768 comes to the mobile market.
MMORP: Tabula Rosa
RTS: Left Behind & Para World
RPG: Mass Effect
Brothers in Arms
A lot has been said about how big the show is this year, and not all of that can be attributed to just the PS3 and the Wii sort of launching. A ton of that is just developers with amazing games trying to bring them to the public. And we will be glad they did.