So, let’s lay the stage. I’m a carpenter. I build kitchens for a living, so at best I dabble at writing about video games. However, I love playing games; I grew up playing games dating back to the Odyssey 2 and most systems until now.
Now, back in the first week of may, on a break from my paying job, my email popped up and I had a message bouncing there from Xbox LIVE Rewards, “First 100 to respond ‘win’ a pass to E3 2011 and the Microsoft media briefing.” Awesome, right? I have really bad luck with things like this that call for speed to win, so I figured, “I won’t win but I’ll feel like such an ass if I don’t even try.” So, I emailed away and about 15 minutes later I got an auto reply saying, “You might have won.”… DUDE WHAT?!?
A few days later I found out I had in fact won one of the hundred passes that Microsoft gave away. After waking up from the shock, I talked to my boss and got the time off. My long-suffering wife was awesome and helped me set aside money in our budget to pay for the hotel and flight. I got a few emails confirming name and info so that Microsoft could give my info to the ESA for affiliate registration and briefing whatnot. Awesome.
What the hell do I do when the show floor is closed or before it even opens?
Is Microsoft going to say, “Hi” and take this opportunity to make all the winners social marketing tools? Will they take this group of “fans” and with a hair of glad-handing and maybe a t-shirt turn us into “super fans”, might they slide us aside at the briefing and just say, “Hey, glad you guys won and could come to see us.” Well, at the briefing we did get floor seating, which was awesome, but the people who gave me the most attention work at some random sites that I am a member of and they just happened to be sitting behind and beside me…
So three days down and at best I’ve had the masterful Major Nelson shine me on, and when I asked about XBL Reward winners, I was told, “I’ve never heard of such a thing.” And “Please call your contact.” HEY, I NEVER GOT A CONTACT.
In a chat with a vendor in line for coffee, I was told that companies like Microsoft & Sony don’t even pay for each ticket, that they just give the ESA a list and done…
Wait one second, so they really didn’t do anything but put my name on a list and pay postage for my briefing badge?
I mean I dug the show and all, but come on, they couldn’t even have Larry or DMzilla track me down and say “Hi? Or something?
I just don’t understand how Microsoft cannot see how much of a miss that was for them. Around 100 people paid their own way to come out to LA and stay, 100 people who have Xbox LIVE gold, have enrolled in the XBL Rewards program and were fast on the draw for the email contest entry, so 100 loyal paying customers just spent loads of money to come out after winning a contest and NO ONE knew anything? No one thought to, if nothing else just get us all together and letting us meet each other and turn XBL into a real community?
It’s just such a missed opportunity to do anything with us after such a small outlay of funds.
The show floor was exactly what you’ve always heard, loud, hot and full of scantly clad girls that have every right to hate you. While I spent the week walking from booth to booth, just checking out what ever caught my eye, or that I had heard was worth seeing, I watched many a known games journalist almost run from one side of the LACC to the next just to make appointments to see games I am betting they did not care about going into the show. Without any real reason to be there I was left with nothing to do but bounce from booth to booth trying to see games that either have a huge line or are only shown behind closed doors to media. Sure, it was fun being there with out any pressure. But, at the same time I didn’t get to see a lot of things because I am, in point of fact, not media, and that makes sense, but I didn’t even get to see the Microsoft stuff the press saw and did write ups on. Why wouldn’t you want to show that to fans that are going to go home and rave about it to their friends on Live?
Well I digress.
On to the show proper, I saw about as much as there was time for, and talking about all of them would just be silly, so here are the things that really stand out.
Skyrim looks awesome, if a hair buggy. But that’s almost to be expected from the series. In a thirty minute demo, the lighting died hard and the mighty dragon flew right though the ground. But other wise it looks to be shaping up to be a great way to spend another few hundred hours in Tamriel, between a wholly reworked magic and combat systems and menus, that allow for duel welding of almost anything. Let’s just hope they can add some much needed weight to the combat.
Prey 2 looks like the game for anyone who ever looked up to Rick Deckard or Han Solo. In Prey 2 you play the part of a space bounty hunter with jet boots and an assassin like ability for movement, which sure looked like a fun, fast way to traverse the world. Also, the fact that everything works as cover seems like a good idea, with most games being overwhelmed with waist high walls. Bondian gadgets and an old west gun style rounded out what looked to be some awesome ideas that I hope to see filled out by it’s 2012 release.
With Binary Domain having already had a very poor trailer earlier this year, I was hesitant to even pick up the controller at the demo station. But, wow, does that game feel much more solid and fun then it has a right to. It looked about as good as any 3 person Gears knock off. Also, with the addition (not working at the show, but still) of squad voice commands and some sort of squad member approval thingy, it seems like they might be on their way to having a cult hit.
Anarchy Reigns was very good looking but felt at best like Power Stone, & Smash Bros. got attacked by an anime fan and well, you figure out the rest of the issues. Also, the fight I played was all over the place with bugs, while the fights before and after mine seemed solid. Early build I guess, but it just didn’t feel very fun to me either way.
All the games in this year’s “Summer of Arcade” are great, and getting a hands-on demo of From Dust with Eric Chahi was awesome. While I’ll be picking up most of the games in this promo, I fear that From Dust might end up being a very pretty, trial-by-error, puzzle game. Toy Soldiers: Cold War controls just like the first game, but leaves behind all the WWII weapons and malice. Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet was a lot of fun to play but, dear god, it needs a shorter name. Bastion is a great adventure with humor and blade, the narrator adds a very nice flavor to the whole thing (still sounds just like Ron Perlman). Fruit Ninja was neat, but just as deep as the IOS version of the game. So, not very.
In closing, E3 was a fun show not meant for fans. So unless you have a job in the industry, as press or development, avoid the show until the industry changes how they show products at E3, and flood the floor with demos that fans have no real right to see yet. I can just see a bunch of shooter fans seeing a buggy vertical slice demo of the next big FPS and freaking out about it, where as it is the job of the press to see the game under the flaws, unless the flaws are insane, of course. Go instead to PAX, RTX, Blizz or QuakeCon, or even GamesCom, somewhere for fans, not press and investors.