Tuesday, July 9, 2013

E3 Round-Up

I was going to write on E3 quite awhile ago, but I went on vacation one week, and then had to learn ActionScript3 the next week, so I got kinda busy. Anyway, here's a brief rundown of some of the things I saw.

Day 1 was spent primarily in the South Hall, as the West Hall was terribly crowded due to the fact that it had more playable game demos.

Every year, I take a picture in front of the Harvest Moon display at the Natsume booth. Unfortunately, this year there was no Harvest Moon display. Instead, Natsume was showing off a game called HomeTown Story instead.

This lovely lady had a basket full of plushies, but refused to give me one =( 

Apparently they were handing out stamp cards at certain times of the day, and you had to play the games at the booth and receive a stamp for each one before you could get a plushie.

It's odd how some booths make you jump through hoops, while others just outright give you things. It's tough I know because quite often they run out of supply, and all you're left with are XXL tshirts. The nVidia gal came past me in line with a pile and said "XL?" and I shook my head. "Nope," I thought, I'm either a large or medium; depending on how much I want to show. She never came back. I had to hunt her down when it dawned on me that they only had XL shirts left.

Kneel before Gaius van Baelsar.

The most ludicrous by far had to be the Square Enix booth for Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. On the first day they were handing out tickets for a confirmed time to battle the primal, Ifrit. Two teams of 8 players would fight separate battles simultaneously as the crowd watched. Two announcers were on hand to call the action as it went down. If you failed the battle, you did not get their polo shirt. Sadly, we did not arrive in time to get any tickets on Day 1. But for Day 2, we were certain to make it our #1 priority.

Some MMO noob was about to get stuck with a controller. But the UI works surprisingly well.

On Day 2, they were no longer giving out tickets. Apparently they had technical issues with the game and it caused some battle times to be pushed back, and that led to people not showing up, which caused all manner of confusion. So there was a line. And with our positioning, they told us the wait was approximately four hours. It ended up being only about three, as some people gave up and left. Also, we were able to jump ahead because they were looking for a group of three and Matt, Ashley and I fit the bill. All the alliances I had made in line with people around me who assured me they knew how to play went out the window, primarily because Ashley had to go work the Forsaken Planet booth in 30 minutes.

Dracula, from the new Castlevania game.

Standing in line for three hours to get nothing seemed a grim prospect to me. I really wanted that polo. There were three of us, lumped in with five strangers; I had no idea if any of the others knew what they were doing. Ash and I ended up playing as healers, and Matt was on the Pugilist; a melee DPS class. Over the course of the three hour wait in line, we'd seen countless other groups fail or win. Sometimes, they'd get a chance to play the fight a second time, as there was an allotment of 10 minutes to finish the encounter. So I had hoped that the strangers with us had been paying attention.

Naoki Yoshida, aka Yoshi P, wished everyone in line luck... he said we would need it.

Thankfully, they were, and we beat the boss Ifrit on the first attempt. I was trying not to look a fool, as there were people waiting in line just half a foot behind me, looking over my shoulder as I ran around, avoiding the plumes of fire and throwing heals on the group. The screen I had was 30", so I had to turn my head to see the party members' health. My hands were shaking by the time it was over, but I was glad to have that polo in my hands. If I had lost, I was of a mind to just throw a wad of cash at the shirt person and demand they give me three. Thankfully, it didn't come to that. Also, I would feel like I didn't really earn it.

Elder Scrolls Online characters painted on the side of a trailer.

Some of my thunder was taken away when days later I found out that it was a scaled-down encounter; but you can't imagine a really difficult boss fight being played by people completely new to MMOs to be very successful. By the end, the announcers were giving not-so-subtle hints about how to defeat the different phases of the encounter.

Part of the crew, part of the ship.

My luck was also with me at the Skylanders booth, as I was able to win a Bronze Hot Dog on my first attempt. You had to spin a wheel and it had on it images of the lower half of different Skylanders. If you landed on the octopus tentacles it would complete the character and you'd win.

This gal has a lot of outfits.

I played a demo level of Final Fantasy XIII, Lightning Returns. The combat was pretty engaging; similar to the paradigm shift system of FFXIII. Lightning would change outfits on the fly as you switched between three different attack modes, each with their own power meter which was filling up when you were not using that form's attacks. It was fun, but without some kind of variation, I could see it being a bit boring. There was a commercial released recently that shows her in a pre-order exclusive Cloud-style outfit, complete with a buster sword. That's pretty difficult to resist.

Getting paid to cosplay.

I played The Last of Us, primarily for the tshirt. I was getting the game that Friday, so I wasn't in a hurry to spoil the story. I can tell you, the level I was on was very difficult. It was Pittsburgh, and I started with 1 bullet in the revolver. I think that even though the demo was re-started, it maintained the ammo count from the player before me, or something. I was able to blunder my way through the controls (I didn't read the placard in front of me), and beat down something like six guys, all wielding guns and bats. One guy I fought near a busted convenience store freezer door. Somebody got their throat slammed into some glass. And it wasn't good'ole Joel.

Here is the XBox One. Hooray.

We lucked out again at the line for Battlefield 4. They were using a ticketing system, but kept a standby line to fill slots for people who didn't show. It was amazing. The fidelity of the Shanghai level blew my mind. The towering skyscrapers, gunfire echoing in the distance. 32 on 32 action. I had an amazing run in a tank. A stranger hopped on the gun emplacement. We rolled around, blowing up other armored vehicles and infantry. The choppers did give us trouble, so I would duck under overhangs and avoid them. I saw a bunch of enemy infantry clustered in a doorway so I let them have a sabot round. Some of them lived and rushed out as I was reloading a shell. I quickly backed up, but was not fast enough. The had slapped some c4 on the front of my dear tank. It was destroyed.

I was at first skeptical of the destructible environments, but once I played I was sold. Seeing that skyscraper in Shanghai come down was pretty epic. There's even a 'Commander Mode' with a bird's eye view of the battlefield, a la Natural Selection from the old Half Life mod days. This is a game I could see myself throwing tons of hours into, and I'm not too big into FPS's these days.

I saw a demo of Destiny, which looks very cool. I like their world they've created. It also showcases destructible environments, but I wondered as I saw some towers in the distance being toppled by an alien drop ship, "Do the towers respawn? Or are they just knocked over after the first time someone does this encounter?" I do think that Tom Clancy's The Division handles party dynamics a bit better. I especially like the waveforms above the character's heads when they talk.

This looks much prettier than the devkit systems we have at work.

An intriguing PS4 title I played was called Contrast. You play as a cabaret-style gal in a 3D platformer, but she can meld into a shadow and it becomes a 2D platformer as you run across the shadows of objects in the 3D environment. I really enjoyed the puzzle elements of this game. I unlocked a new ability, dashing through shadows, and I could see that the progression of the abilities and puzzles was well thought out and would likely continue throughout the game, always keeping it interesting.

Matt in Rome: Total War II

I always enjoy going to E3 with my friends and seeing new games. This year I took the train into downtown, and was rewarded every day with a new crazy person story. The metro is definitely a great way to get around, but probably not so great if say, you're on a date.

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