Leftover E3 Thoughts: Sony’s Show

Sony, among the big three console makers, appears to have had the most interesting show at this year’s E3, at least in terms of making promises that will actually interest gaming enthusiasts.

And this happened even though I’m not sure I can say Sony had a stellar E3. Keep in mind the company did not reveal anything about a PlayStation 4 (wait until next year’s show, I guess) and its big hardware reveal was for something called Wonderbook, which is something that I still don’t understand except for the fact that it appears to be aimed at small children.

Sony succeeded because aside from Wonderbook – which I count as a potential success – they focused on big-time exclusive games. If Twitter feeds are any reflection on reality, anyone who owns a PlayStation 3 and is following E3 is excited about the post-apocalyptic “The Last of Us.”

Sony’s other big reveal, “Beyond: Two Souls,” is surely not the kind of game one expects to jump to the top of sales list but Sony’s willingness to give the E3 spotlight to what should be a highly-narrative game featuring voice work by actress Ellen Page shows the company wants to be taken seriously by gamers.

Microsoft, by contrast, spent so much of its energy explaining their plans to use the XBox 360 as just about anything other than a gaming console. Nintendo, who I have yet to praise or complain about, turned in a mediocre performance (everybody says so!)  and I doubt Nintendo really knows how to market their next console, the Wii U.

More on that later. This is Sony’s turn.
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E3 Thoughts: Microsoft’s Press Conference

Microsoft led off Monday’s rush of pre-E3 press conferences and observers may be forgiven if they got the idea that Microsoft forgot the XBox 360 is a video game console.

Sure, Microsoft opened their presentation with new Halo 4 footage, but company seemed to spend more than half of its time promoting anything the XBox 360 can do besides play video games, such as the aforementioned Halo 4.

Microsoft’s biggest announcement was for a forthcoming feature called SmartGlass, in which customers would be able to link smartphones or tablets to their 360 and access info related to a movie or television program while the content streams through their console. Microsoft also promised SmartGlass functionality with games, so it looks like somebody in Washington State liked Nintendo’s planned tablet controller for the forthcoming Wii U.


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E3: Konami pre-conference brief

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It wasn’t so much of a press event as it was a pre-recorded briefing on what Konami is excited about in 2011. A few games were shown, such as NeverDead, Pro Evolution Soccer 2011, Silent Hill Downpour, MGS Snake Eater for the 3DS, and a teaser for the next Contra at the very end.

Anyone hoping to see Hideo Kojima reveal what his next game is going to be are going to be disappointed, however, as the cagey designer revealed only tidbits of what he was working on including a new “lifestyle” regarding save games.

The briefing started off with a look at the 3DS version of Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater, the PS2 classic that explored the origins of Solid Snake. For the handheld, players will be able to use the motion sensor to help keep Snake’s balance and even utilize photos taken as camouflage.

Next up was the 3rd person action game, NeverDead, with a MegaDeth scored video to show off some of its action. The Japanese and European developed title will have players star as Bryce, a heroic demon hunter that challenges the demon king 500 years ago but loses with his wife getting murdered in the process. Cursed with immortality by his enemy, Bryce can be blown apart but never die as you try to get him back together should that happen. One shot revealed a rolling head on the floor, probably manipulated by the player, trying to get back to the rest of its body.

Some information was revealed on a new Silent Hill film in production and a small tease for Silent Hill Downpour, the next game in the series, but little else other than that it was coming.

Later, Mark MacDonald of 8-4 visited Hideo Kojima at his studio. “Transfarring” was shown off, a save transfer mechanism that would allow players on the PS3 use the same save for the same game (such as the upcoming Peace Walker) with the portable version, and vice versa so that you don’t miss a beat. Kojima hopes to extend this capability to the PS2/PS3 level, and eventually to the PS3 and NGP.

Kojima didn’t show off a new game so much as he did the new engine that will be running it. Called the “Fox Engine”, it will be used in Kojima’s projects going forward as a multiplatform engine. Development for it started shortly after MGS4 and a jungle scene was displayed as a test environment, though it has nothing to do with the next game whatever it might be.

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Lastly, it was revealed that MGS Peace Walker, Sons of Liberty, and Snake Eater are going to be together in an HD collection in November this year for the PS3 and the Xbox 360. Later in 2012, that will be followed by both Zone of the Enders titles. Far from being tweaked graphically, they’ll also sport new interfaces and a few more tweaks to keep them from feeling like a simple port dumped onto a disc.

As the briefing ended, a gout of flame filled the screen soon forming into a burning “C” with words hinting at the return of a classic series – Contra. As for what Konami has planned, your guess is as good as mine.

It’s confirmed: Nintendo has a new console at E3

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A number of news outlets on the ‘net from MCV to VG247 have confirmed that Nintendo’s long rumored successor to the Wii is coming out to play at this year’s E3. MCV’s report, in particular, mentions that the new hardware is slated for a 2012 release.

Now the big question on many players’ minds is if it’s going to cater equally to both casuals and ‘hardcore’ gamers.

The distinctions between the two crowds have often been pointed in what games they prefer – hardcores have generally bemoaned the plethora of titles such as Carnival Games and Wii Play, while a game such as Mad World seemed out of place on the console by so-called casuals. It also doesn’t help that its shelves have been flooded by shovelware – cheap games with equally as cheap gameplay – diluting the overall quality of its library. Everyone wanted a piece of the huge Wii pie and Nintendo apparently had no problems in letting them grab for it all at once.

Of course, it’s way too early to tell. It’ll be years before we can see just what the new system is actually capable of and to whom it will mostly appeal to – the games are what will set it apart and we haven’t heard too much about those yet. Likely guaranteed are a new Zelda and Mario game sometime in its future. After all, this is Nintendo.

E3 will have more of the answers – and probably provide as many questions. Only one thing’s for certain: Nintendo hasn’t stopped surprising us yet.

E3: A look back on Day Three

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Day Three was a relaxed day for us. Only a handful of appointments and the crowds were a little thinner as quite a few people decided to head home once they’ve gotten their fill of news. I don’t blame them. My feet at this point were turning to mush from all of the standing and walking, but the end was in sight. Almost. Today was a catch up day for anything interesting that I wanted to see for myself so we weren’t under any pressure to run from one booth to the other.

Then again, the Lakers were defending their title at the Staples Center that evening making getting out early something of a priority. When Angelinos tell you to go home instead of hanging around to see burning taxis win or lose, it’s probably good advice.
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Money and Games

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Where once it was exclusively the realm of spotty teenagers and pale, vitamin D deprived, basement dwelling individuals, gaming is now a major pillar of the entertainment industry with budgets and sales comparable to those of even the biggest Hollywood movies. This decade has seen gaming become truly mainstream and grow into a medium of mass consumption. However like the movie industry before it, this spectacular growth and desire to become a viable mainstream product that vies for mass market approval has begun to affect the gaming experience for a large section of the gaming community. Current games are certainly very beautiful. The graphics are slick, realistic and beautifully rendered and allow players a level of freedom that would have been unimaginable a mere two decades ago. The ubiquitous nature of HD TVs and surround sound have also played a huge part in immersing the gamer in his virtual world and with each new release, games make another tentative step towards that holy grail of a totally real and believable gaming world. However this progress has perhaps inevitably begun to negatively affect the way new games are developed and influence the choices developers make when tackling new projects.
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E3: A look back on Day Two

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Day Two started off earlier, mainly due to the first day starting at noon. A few appointments were penciled in including another one with Activision who had given us a chance to check out the new True Crime. My brother was ready to hit most of those leaving me to wander the floor to take a look at what else was being shown. The first day was a brief tour in the West Hall. Now it was time to hit the South Hall where the third parties, and Microsoft, was lurking.
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E3: A look back on Day One

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Another E3 has come and gone leaving behind clouds, motion controls, and a bevy of sequels. So what does it all mean? I’ve had a few days to gather my thoughts on what we’ve seen on the show floor and behind closed doors, so here are a few ideas on the message left by waggling hands and brutal teddy bears.
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E3 mini-spotlight: Naughty Bear

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Reggie and I hit E3 over the past week. Instead of long, winding previews of every game we got to see, we took pictures and are providing nuggets of impressions. Reggie’s got the pics from the show. I’ve got some words on what I saw. This one’s the first nugget. Hope you enjoy them!

Teddy bears are the universal embodiment of cuteness. They are the quintessential stuffed animal, perpetually open for hugs and snuggles.

But in Naughty Bear from 505 Games, they are prey. They are enemy targets who can be manipulated and destroyed in a quest for survival and vengeance. And, the main vessel of this vengeance is one of their furry, round brethren.

You play Naughty Bear, a stitched, beat-up and disgruntled occupant on an island full of bears who don’t seem to like you. So, you respond in kind, using as many twisted and brutal methods as you can to get the bears to leave you alone.

What made the game so intriguing to me was its dark nature, veiled by a very cute, fluffy exterior. It’s a trip seeing colorful, huggable creatures whipping out machetes and guns in an effort to defend themselves — but it’s also stirring to uh, bear witness to the sheer mental and physical brutality Naughty Bear can dish out.

The point isn’t to simply kill every bear you see. You have to do it in the worst ways possible to earn “naughty points.” The bears you find in various missions have an unscripted AI, and they all react to Naughty Bear’s presence in different ways. For instance, killing a fellow bear in the woods isn’t enough. But killing a bear in front of other bears and causing them to freak out, grab some weapons and call the police? That’s more like it.

Naughty Bear snaps necks, curb stomps, caves in heads with baseball bats and also won’t hesitate to put a slug in another bear’s fuzzy dome. This is relatively disturbing in its own right, but then there’s the psychological warfare Naughty Bear can wage against others. Instead of bringing death, Naughty Bear can yell “boo!” and scare the stuffing out of anyone who isn’t ready for it. At some point, you can drive a bear completely insane, cause him to snap, and eventually watch him off himself. In the demo, I saw a bear turn his gun on himself and pull the trigger. A puff of stuffing came out.

Naughty Bear was easily one of E3′s guiltiest pleasures for me. We’ll see if it can maintain that vibe when it comes out June 29 for the 360 and PS3.