With about two weeks before we hit the show floor of E3, anticipation is running high. The GiN editors collectively have booked appointments with hundreds of developers and publishers, and each and every company promises we will be blown away at the quality of their developing or soon-to-ship titles.
This got us to thinking about how far games and the industry have come in a relatively short period of time. If you think about it, the technology developments in other industries have taken years or even decades before one technology completely trumped another. In the game industry, these things happen on a monthly or sometimes daily basis.
How long were movies silent before sound was added? How long did it take for the Model T to giveaway to the powerful and fast vehicles of today? And how long were black and white televisions standard before color burst onto the scene?
Granted, the computer game industry is relatively new. But when you figure that the Atari 2600 was released in 1978, we have sure come a long way from that to the photorealistic landscapes and novel-like plots of games today. A lot of that can be attributed to the computer industry itself, inventing faster processors and better graphics chipsets to work with. But all that hardware would be worthless without people who could use it to make better games.
For 2006, some games could not wait until E3 and were released a bit early. Here are some examples of titles that won't be burning up the show floor this year, only because they are already out and playable now. Even though they won't be in attendance, they will be setting the bar for others to match or even top, which won't be an easy feat.
Oblivion So much has already been said about this one including our own 5-GiN Gem review, that we won't go into it again here. The bottom line is that the gameplay, in-depth plot, incredible graphics (if you have the hardware), awesome sound and fluid combat all combine to make this title one of the best RPG ever created, and perhaps one of the best games ever made. It will be hard to beat this one at E3 this year, though we do know one company that might come close. More on that after the show"
Dreamfall: The Longest Journey It took seven years for this adventure game sequel to finally get made, an eternity in this business. But it finally hit the shelves this week and adventure game reviewer Greg Crowe is hard at work on the review. Some people have complained that the title has one of the worst endings ever to ever grace a computer game (worse by far than the finale to Half-Life 2) but we will leave that for Greg to decide. What we do know is that the worlds of Dreamfall, which are all the hand drawn type, are beyond beautiful. Whatever the games flaws may be, if any, a lot can be forgiven looking at the hauntingly beautiful words it puts on your screen.
King Kong If you are looking for a perfect movie tie in game – a science the industry has yet to fully master – then look no further than King Kong: The Official Game Of the Movie. Out for the PC and Xbox 360, the game perfectly captures the flavor and action of the blockbuster Peter Jackson flick. Letting the actual director of the film work on the game is brilliant, and shows just how far the industry has come when famous directors want to work on a game as well.
Star Wars: Empire At War This is the wargame Star Wars gamers (and RTS gamers in general) have been begging for since the dawn of RTS titles. Combining huge fleet-level engagements in space with more classic land combat in a single game is not an easy task. Kudos has to be given to the computer industry for this one as well, given that the level of graphical detail and the sheer number of objects on the screen, especially in space combat, requires some hardcore computing power that would have been impossible just a few years ago. Want to know what it is like to actually command either an Empire or a Rebel fleet? Empire will show you.
Pump It Up Exceed We threw this one into the list because it shows that the peripheral market is growing and advancing by leaps and bounds as well. This is one of an increasing number of games that make use of the PS2's versatility. Plugging in a dance mat to your console and trying to keep in time may seem fairly simple, but can you imagine if this technology was around in the 1970's?
MMORPGs Instead of naming just one in this category we decided to name the entire category. World of Warcraft, Everquest II, Eve Online and many others all fit the bill. The fact that thousands of people can be playing a game at the same time in a persistent world is simply, incredible. And these days there are games of this type for the PC and just about every console too. Looking over our editor's appointment books, this trend shows no sign of letting up at E3 this year. So expect a lot more of these types of games, and to be competitive, they better be pushing the envelope in some way.
That is by no means a complete list, but gives you an idea of what new titles at E3 will be up against. In an industry that requires blockbuster hits to follow and top one another, it's a tough bunch of games setting the bar. One wonders how far the industry really can advance and what games will look like 30 years from today. We will get a small taste of that at E3 2006 when we get to see what the talented developers are up to. And of course we will be covering the show all three days with pictures, news stories and commentary the whole time.
So stay tuned. The industry has come a long way and the future looks bright as ever. And those creative developers love to throw surprises.