E3 2011 Reflections

My PS3 just YLOD, so I'm going to write today for my free-time.
Another E3 came and went last week, and once again I find myself glued to my computer deciphering every iota of coverage that my brain can process.
Last year around this time, I only blogged and shared my guttural thoughts regarding Microsoft's press conference. For this year though, I thought I would take the time and make mental notes, and eventually regurgitate all those thoughts into a nice smelly pile that might be interpreted as opinions...
...That's not to say that I'm....What I mean is...
In other words, I've decided to do a "proper" E3 blog this year. One in which I can express certain thoughts concerning certain subjects in a astute manner. I will need a name for this blog, something that reflects in exact detail regarding the subject that has transpired, and a good launching pad for me to elaborate on multiple points. I shouldn't think too hard on it, let's name it the first thing that drops out of my head.

Alright...Lesson learned...Next time, I'll give it more than a fraction of a second when I think of a name for a blog.
To the first award!
Assassins Creed trailers have always been pretty consistent in being quite excellent, but I've never felt it like they've taken that pivotal extra step that Revelations leaps toward near the end of it's trailer. UbiSoft has a past history of always picking a very interesting, and specific selection of music for it's trailers. I remember hearing Sigur Ros for Prince of Persia's trailer a few years ago, and Revelations follows suit with a song from WoodKid.
It works perfectly, and the final sequence of Ezio walking out, to what appears to be the first ledge Altair jumped off of, in the first Assassin's Creed game elevates the entire piece to an epic level that grabs your attention like a vise. It's well directed, and set's up an introduction to Ezio's final story arch in a manner that is beyond impressive.
While TGS is always Japan's forefront for game announcements, but it was the lack of game announcements during press conferences that for some reason caught my attention this year. It was a bit depressing, and while a new Final Fantasy was being demoed, it was shown nowhere during any conference. At one point Cole was shown off for Street Fighter X Tekken for the Playstation Vita, and it caught me off-guard.
Not to say that Japan's presence was at zero capacity, but when it came to showing off on the main-stage, out-side of Nintendo and a few quick mentions at Sony's briefing, (Yeah, Last Guardian is still a thing!) they seemed to be seen nowhere. It just felt bizarre.

 Snow? Noel?! What's next?   Why is Sarah into dude's named after the things during the Christmas holiday season?
Snow? Noel?! What's next?  Why is Sarah into dude's named after the things during the Christmas holiday season?
Speaking of Japanese games, I liked Final Fantasy XIII, but was aware of it's issues. 
This game looks like an attempt to fix those issues...I think. At least that's what they have said in interviews, and that's what some people have said after getting some hands-on action with the demo.
It's not that I don't trust Square...What am I saying? No, that's exactly it, I don't trust Square. I don't trust a developer that states towns were not able to be added to a videogame, due to technical constraints.  
It's decided: I'm going to be a crotchety old man about this. 
I want this game to do really well, and I see the potential for this game-world. I'm not getting excited until I start reading some import reviews. I don't care how many trailers you show me, showcasing all the positive steps you are taking trying to fix your core game-design.
I got the platinum trophy in Final Fantasy XIII. I am allowed to be skeptical and critical. It's the rules. 

Last year comedian Joel Mchale for some reason hosted UbiSoft's press conference. Was it out-of-place? Sure.
He's a pretty funny guy if you've ever watched him on either Community or The Soup. Although one could argue that he was a bit of a fish-out-of-water in context for presenting the conference. He got the job done though, and his genuine, "What the hell is going on?!" reaction to the unspeakable bizarreness that was UbiSoft's lazer-tag game was priceless.
I don't know who Mr. Caffeine is. All I know is that I walked away after watching that conference with a profound sense of confusion, like I was blindsided by a traffic accident. What is he? A traveling salesman? The worst comedian ever assembled? Were those jokes? Does he work at UbiSoft? What the hell just happened?!

I would have taken Joel Mchale over him. I would have taken Michel Ancel doing bad Shakespearean acting for the entire conference. Hell, I would have taken anything over this guy. Mr. Caffeine seemed like some genetically put-together creature, specifically designed to annoy and bother the people watching the conference.
Hating Mr. Caffeine is an admittedly easy thing to do. While I can poke fun at him for pages, the real question regarding what an E3 press conference presenter should do to not be considered an abomination seems a bit undefined. 
It really is a thankless job. So while I take great fun jumping on the "Let's Hate Mr. Caffeine Bandwagon", I'm also perplexed at what else anyone with that job can do to make it better..
Why is Geoff Keighley in a suit?
When did I miss the part where E3 becomes the Oscars?
Holy crap, this coverage is intense! They're going to be doing this all-day?
I still remember the days of struggling to get a proper connection to one of these conferences, and even then it was susceptible to time-out's and camera-men who were more interested in pointing their camera's at everything but the games.
GameTrailers had coverage that both floored me, and had me confused whether or not what I was watching appropriate to the event. E3 is a big deal, I get that part, but they had a person who's only purpose was to read twitter questions!
Wrap that pseudo-editorial-title around in your head for a second, and apply a conversation regarding that job:

"Hey, so you're on TV? What do you do?"
"I'm the chief gaming spokeswoman/news presenter, for twitter questions regarding live game demo's."

It's funny, especially when people try and downplay the lack of big announcements. We're not supposed to expect to be hyped, or be blown-away with this type of coverage? The only thing that's missing is fire-works being shot-off from a round-table discussion regarding a previous press conference.
While there was some defiantly some low-lights, watching Mr. Keighley do typical TV-stalling when Sony did it's now mandatory "AGHHH! WERE LATE!!!" was kinda jaw-dropping for me. I was actually impressed at how natural it all fit-together. There's not much that you can do with that type of situation, and he pulled it off.
While I liked the precision of the coverage, parts felt absurdly over-the-top. The whole experience kinda creeped me out, and I can't tell if they should be praised or be reprimanded. Instead, they win having the creepiest coverage. This is not to be confused with G4's "weirdest" coverage, with a circle of spectators clapping whenever something happened during a E3 demo.
Of course GiantBomb had the BEST coverage, but everyone knows that.
Problem: Your last E3 demo and trailer had a epic-level that was palpable.
Solution: Make everything more epic.
I didn't think that was possible. It is apparently, and I'm a terrible person for even considering that. It's great to see how just ludicrously amazing this game looks. What's even better? This project got scrapped. So now we can enjoy this game without any horrible movie tie-in.
There seems to be a common theme of environments falling apart. Last year it was a house on fire, this year it's a ship. While the demo was filled with scripted parts, it still looks like a wild-ride. Seeing that final sequence of Drake hanging off the side of a flying plane gave reminders to the last game's train sequence. It's almost like they took the base of everything in the previous game and just sat around thinking of ways to make it more over-the-top.
Just give me this game. I don't care if they're not finished, I demand it. Just hand it over.

 You might be able to afford it!
 You might be able to afford it!
While watching the reaction of everyone knee-jerkingly booing at the announcement of AT&T's involvement with the Playstaiton Vita was kinda funny. (Props to Kaz Hirai being able to get through that required contractingly obligated statement like a champ.) The big portion that got my interest regarding the Playstation Vita was it's price point. I'm actually pretty surprised at how low the price-point of this device is, and I know I wasn't the only one.
I just assumed $300-$350 at a starting point...On the low-end
Everything, regarding the NGP (Vita) that was slowly creeping out on gaming news sites and blogs pointed to a high price-point. It's going to be very interesting how this plays out, whether or not the Vita will get a larger consumer base than it's predecessor. 
At the same-time, you look at the Uncharted Vita demo and wonder why anyone would ever use touch controls. The whole platform is curious to me, and the unveiling of that price-point definitely adds fuel to the speculation machine. 
Battlefield 3 wins because it has dinosaurs.  
No Caption Provided
There's a part of me that want's that sole reason to be the reasoning for me picking this. 
I could go into detail and talk about how the Modern Warfare 3 demo didn't have that "wow!" hook like jumping on snowmobiles or piloting a helicopter. That everything that was shown had already been done to death, but without that extra oomph of...well...anything...
Do you care? I don't. I really, really don't. I'm sure both products will be fine.

I feel like I've been fighting FPS fatigue for a while now, specifically military shooters. I feel completely out-of-the-loop staring at multi-thread discussions comparing and contrasting BattleField 3 to Modern Warfare 3.

I'm just going to pick the one that looks better than the other one. The demo of Battlefield 3 might have been a bit drab in comparison to previously released content, but damn does that game still look and sound great. It's a fantastic technical showcase.
There's also dinosaurs in it. 
Dinosaurs and tanks. 

So apparently Microsoft decided to remind me in great detail why I still shouldn't be interested in the Kinect again this year. To be fair, it's great to see other third-party developers stepping-up to the plate and showcasing Kinect compatible games I might play. Personally, I cannot wait to scream at my team-mates in Mass Effect 3 to spam certain abilities over-and-over-and-over again. 
I'm sure other people in this household will not judge me as I scream alone at my television.
During the now E3 mandatory, "HEY! Kids love the Kinect!" live-montage of child actors, demonstrating how difficult Kinect games are for kids...
...Uhm... Mr. Tim Shaffer appeared and began talking about the new Sesame Street game he's making, and then he said something that was akin to finding a pocket of air.
"So, let's get on with our demo. Unleash the simulated family." 
I lost it.
I was laughing so hard I almost fell out of my chair. Everything regarding Kinect games for children be demonstrated was so sterile and devoid of any interest. Unless you were riveted by what's essentially a giant ad for Disneyland, Tim Shaffer's self-aware life-line was desperately needed. 
On a semi-unrelated note: For people wondering why DoubleFine is making a Sesame Street game, he backed up the reasoning with elegance and class. 
I won't be picking up the game, but I sure as hell understand why people would. 
A videogame designed to be played with your preschooler, that's not garbage? ARE YOU MAD?! 
Here is what I know about OverStrike: There are four characters, they kill dudes, and the tone of what was on display seemed great.
It was short, to the point, and left a lasting impression. If there was anyway to quickly get you interested in a new IP, the trailer for Overstrike hit all the right notes.
It also over-shadowed the QTE-heavy demo of Need For Speed: The Run, a game that I believe would be better if all the driving was QTE.
That was a joke.

I find that my past experiences with Tomb Raider is bizarre. I enjoyed the first two games as a kid. I remember heading over to my cousins house and taking turns playing
the second game. For me, they hearken back to my history playing the original Prince of Persia as a child. I really liked the original games...as games, and always felt that the obvious over-sexed main character was just an addition. 
Then the franchise literally fell-apart from the seams, and Crystal Dynamics took it over. I was a fan of Crystal Dynamics for years thanks to Legacy of Kain, but what they did with Tomb Raider: Legend was amazing. I went for enjoying the series, to straight-up-hating it with a capital "H", to finding it enjoyable again.
The newest reboot looks fantastic. The demo focused on a clear attempt to show a natural progression of character development, how Lara slowly turns into a hardened survivor. It looks like great Tomb Raider platforming mixed with a strong cinematic focus, and the concept of a open-world design has me floored. There might be some Uncharted vibes one could take away from the demo, but just like how people compared Legends to Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, I think this move is consistent and smart.
It wasn't really a contest. 
Nobody really embarrassed themselves, they showed off new Nintendo 3DS content and of course: The Wii-U. 
Reggie went on too-long thinking of words that can be applied to the letter "U" to illustrate a point, but that's okay. It's essentially a DS for your TV, and I would be lying if I didn't say that I'm interested to see how that second screen works. I have this feeling that it might be "abandoned" or miss-used like the Wii-mote before it over-time, but the games that are not multi-platform and use the controller specifically has my interest peaked. 
Speaking of multi-platform: Darksiders belongs on a Nintendo console. Given the nature of the game, it made sense that the sequel was getting emphasized. 
But will it be used?
But will it be used?

Really curious about the systems internals, and it's here where the press conference did the right thing. There's a time and place for that type of specific information, and I'm happy we didn't get a repeat of Sony's Playstation 3 specification power-point presentation.  
Goofy unimaginative name aside, I thought the conference did a great job getting you initially interested in the Wii-U. It wasn't "the best" way to reveal new hardware, but we've certainly seen worse. 
Nintendo wins also due to the mediocrity of the other two big names in the room. Sony did a good job, but like all years for some reason still seems scatter-shot and inconsistent with what they showed. Microsoft was just flat-out boring and still seems to be having difficulty selling the idea of Kinect a year later. Oh, and there was also this.

Final Thoughts

A little boring to be perfectly honest, which is weird because there's a ton of great stuff coming out this year. 
But there was also this strange feeling of deja-vu with some of these announcements. Other big-title games like Skyrim, Mass Effect 3, and BioShock Infinite look great, although we already knew that they were going to look great.   
Everything seemed...I don't know..."safe"? You could say that works both ways. We didn't have any real "Ridge Racer" moments, and thankfully Cirque Du Soleil was nowhere to be seen. 
What I do know is that this year is going to be very interesting to watch, especially regarding the Vita and Wii-U. I'm wondering if Sony can shake off the haphazard consumer interest that plagued the previous PSP. For the Wii-U, the more things released regarding specific aspects of how that system functions the better.  
Thanks for reading, now I can go back to mourning my dead PS3.