E3 2010 Day 2 Impressions

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One of the first things I must observe is that E3 did not feel near as cluttered or log jammed with people this year as it did last year. Certainly, we had the large booths, throngs of people, booth babes and loud music that we expect, but things felt more spread out.

Even the lines seemed a bit more subdued, although just as long as I remembered, especially the Nintendo lines. Today I spent my time moving through the Sony, Nintendo, Squaresoft and Bethesda areas of the LA Convention Center. With a few exceptions, nearly every title I saw that was coming to PC, was being demoed on a PS3 or other console. I imagine this is going to be a recurring trend and likely what I will experience tomorrow in the other hall.

Even though I played them on the PS3, I did get some hands-on time with 2 future PC titles, namely Tron Legacy and Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood. With Tron, I played through some on-foot action and briefly toyed with the light cycle driving sequences. I am such a Tron fanboy that I cannot be certain that the game was a good as I initially felt. Moving away from Tron 2.0’s first person shooter, Tron Legacy is your standard 3rd person action game, with some driving and platforming elements thrown in. The driving mode was particularly impressive, eschewing the race scenes with a solid driving while being assaulted by flying ships. The handling seemed tight and the Graphics already appear to be amazing.

Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood was available in multiplayer mode and is likely a solid indication of what the forthcoming PS3 exclusive multiplayer beta will consist of.  Taking the role of an Assassin, you discretely make your way through a contained area utilizing cover and stealth to locate and assassinate your target. While this is occurring, another Assassin is stalking you in a similar manner.  Speaking with the Ubisoft reps, they agreed with my comparison of this mode to that featured in the Steam Classic The Ship, a first person shooter where different folks roam a ship trying to stay alive while killing a specific target.

I noticed that drawing attention to yourself can make your location obvious to the other players and put a big target on your back. This makes utilizing cover in haystacks and crowds crucial to staying alive. I didn’t really get a solid feel for how in-depth this mode will be, much less what a solid sword fight would be like with a fellow Assassin. As much as I loved Assassin’s Creed 2, it wasn’t especially complicated in its sword combat, which may make the stealth and stalking portions the main draw to this mode. Still the graphics looked even better than those seen in the previous game and I am curious to see more of the single player mode and learn more about these other Assassins roaming the world in this late Fall release.

Shifting gears, I did see some solid content from the folks as Sony Online Entertainment, specifically the Star Wars Clone Wars Adventures. First things first, this game is not an MMO, at least not in the traditional sense of the term. Adventures is more of a social networking Star Wars hub that features mini-games, online avatars and an initially free play experience. If the screenshots that have been shown seem familiar to folks who have played or sampled Sony’s Free Realms, well it’s because they lifted the same engine and applied it here.

The main client will allow you to create an avatar, chat with other players and play mini-games will be free. As Adventures proceeds, they will begin offering premium for-pay content, similar to what we have seen with D&D Online. One interesting feature is how events and storylines from the upcoming season of Star Wars Clone Wars will feature prominently in the world of this game. The developers will receive storyboards for this animated show which they will then use to have content the compliments what we see on television. This is truly a project that expects to take advantage of the corporate synergy of all the parties involved.  While multiplayer is in the works, it is unknown whether the content will make it to initial release of Adventures.

The other title I really enjoyed playing was Magic: the Gathering – Tactics, another Sony online title that will start free to play and then cost you once they have you hooked. Tactics is a total hybrid of Magic: the Gathering which eschews the cards for a more tactical physical representation of what occurs in a duel with another Planewalker. What ensues is a mad grid based struggle across varied landscapes featuring unique Planeswalkers leading their armies of summoned monsters and casting spells to both harm and heal. Initially the game will make use of mostly the current standard cards of Magic, selling booster packs and making use of the rare, uncommon and commons we have grown to love and covet.

Something that made me smile was when one of the developers explained to me that they were all mostly fans of Magic and already experienced in making and supporting both of Sony’s existing digital card-based games. Concepts such as incorporating the expansion packs were discussed, as well as actually bring back some of old great cards that were ultimately banned for being broken. Their advantage is that they intend to fix and tweak the rules to suit this game. This means that we can say farewell to the days of only allowing flying characters to attack other flying creatures. You can now attack from the ground, after a hefty 50% penalty of course. While some of these tweaks may anger purists, one must remember that this is actually more of an expansion on the Magic concept. There was also mention of incorporating different modes like Sealed Deck and League play down the road.

I was disappointed with how guarded ID and Bethesda were with both the Rage demoes, as well as Fallout: New Vegas. With the release date so close, I had hoped to at least go hands-on with a beta build. For a trade show that is supposedly only open to the media, it is amazing how some outlets receive VIP treatment and other settle for videos. Then again after the Gamespot-Gerstman fiasco, I guess that is just the way things work. So stay tuned tomorrow for some Tweeting from the show floor, followed by another wrap-up in-depth look at what I saw and what I played.

 

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