I'm a tad late with getting this posted, I know -- but I wasn't able to watch the Nintendo conference until just yesterday, nor have I had a lot of time to dedicate to writing this past week. But now I do! So let's get to it. (Note: I'm only focusing on the big three because I don't have a whole lot of stuff to say on EA and Ubisoft. Maybe next year I'll be more opinionated on those conferences.)
Kinect was really Microsoft's focus this year, as expected. Most of the conference was solely devoted to it. And, man, was it embarrassing. The people they had demoing the games were horrible actors. They were making it painfully obvious that they were faking their enthusiasm. It was laughable. They really need to stop having their presenters act. Just demo the games. The games themselves weren't remarkable, either. All a bunch of mini-game or sport compilations.
There were some interesting things, though. Most notable being Mass Effect 3 getting Kinect support, or rather voice command support. Curious addition. Voice input is hardly something to advertise. But what do I care? I don't play those games! Also of note was Ghost Recon's Kinect functionality, which they announced was a fully functional way of playing it. The actions, however, were a little... odd. You fire your gun by opening your right (or maybe your left?) palm and stop once you close it while you aim with your left arm. Shooting that way just doesn't seem intuitive. Feels like developers are trying too hard to put Kinect functionality where it needn't be.
| One of the other things revealed at the conference: a new dashboard. I guess you could call it |
the New New Xbox Experience?
And that, to me, is much to the detriment of Kinect. Motion control works best when you build the game around it instead of vice versa. It always comes off as a case of shoehorning, otherwise. That it's being supported is good; a significant peripheral like this needs it given how late it was introduced. Problem is, though, that, like the Wii, no one seems to know how to really make a compelling use of the hardware to create a game that appeals to both markets. That's why we're seeing people either making mini-game compilations or weird implementations like Ghost Recon did.
I know that Kinect is primarily aimed at the non-gamer market -- the majority of the software makes that clear given that they're copying Nintendo in some respects -- but if they want to capture the existing gamer market, they'll have to do more than shoehorn in Kinect functionality. I'm sure I speak for all of us when I say that never helps.
On the games front, there wasn't anything that particularly interested me. The Summer of Arcade lineup this year includes Bastion from Super Giant Games, though, which really excites me. I've been following the feature Giant Bomb's been doing on the development of the game. It's looking great. Hope being apart of the promotion will allow it to see incredible success. They deserve it.
Sony was evenly split between everything: PlayStation 3, PlayStation Move, and PlayStation Vita -- the now confirmed to be official name of the previously titled Next Generation Portable. Strong presentation all-around. Rather boring in delivery, though. Sony really ought to start working getting some liveliness and entertainment in there.
Like Microsoft, Sony looks to be trying hard to keep their motion control device well-supported. Medieval Moves was the big Move only software, with the rest of the demonstrations being its functionality in other games as an optional control choice. It's a shame that the Move isn't getting a whole lotta exclusive software for it. Developers seem keen on just tossing it in rather than design a game around it, making it little more than an expensive under-supported Wii Remote knock-off. Say what you will about the Kinect, but at least Microsoft is keeping it constantly supplied with software centered around it. Sony's trying, but even they seem happy enough to just toss it in as a secondary control scheme. Not very enticing reason to buy one, I gotta say. Support's support, though.
The PlayStation Vita was also there. Biggest news of the conference (apart from Sly 4 being unveiled; so can't wait for that) was the price. It's going to launch in the fall at $250 for the wi-fi only version and $300 for the 3G (with AT&T) and wi-fi enabled version. Smart pricing. This puts them in direct competition with the 3DS. Assuming Nintendo doesn't drop the price in time of the PlayStation Vita's release, the hand-held console arena is going to become real interesting. Nintendo's never had much in the way of a strong competitor (mobile platforms could be argued to be their first real threat, although). They've all always failed to make much of a dent in their control of that sector of gaming, mostly because their pricing was never good enough to actually compete. If Sony does it right, they could present a real challenge for Nintendo.
|The second Sony announced that AT&T would be the platform's 3G provider, the entire audience|
groaned in disappointment, which caused others to laugh. Then groan again. And then more laughter.
It was great.
Strangely, they never once tried to advertise the multi-media capabilities of the platform. They seem to be banking squarely on its gaming capabilities -- not there's anything wrong with that. A peculiar tactic given their history shows they usually advertise multi-media functions extensively. I'm thinking that means they're relying on its games to sell the platform instead. Whatever the case, the device is really cool. Definitely sold on it.
Games-wise, Sony continued its tradition of focusing primarily on exclusives. They didn't hold back on the software, showing off lengthy demos for games like Uncharted 3. There were a lot of absent games, though. The Last Guardian from Team ICO wasn't mentioned even in passing at the show, nor was Journey or other newly announced PSN exclusives (Papo & Yo, for instance) mentioned. Heck, even Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One didn't get demoed. I understand that they only had so much time, but it seems odd to have snubbed mentioning what many are most excited about.
|Honestly, when I first saw this,|
I thought it meant we'd be getting
a Zelda collection similar to that
Mario one last year.
It started with a bang: an orchestra performing tunes from The Legend of Zelda series. Hearing them in full orchestral form was truly a delight. Nintendo really needs to start making orchestration the standard for their soundtracks. MIDI is getting kinda old. Anyway, after the performance, Miyamoto walked on stage and started reminiscing about Zelda. Didn't reveal anything about Skyward Sword, the newest installment, except for a release window (this holiday worldwide), but he did announce that a free DSi game of Four Swords would be coming out in the near future. No exact details were given on that either, however.
The Zelda portion took up almost a half-hour of the conference. For that much time, it's odd that more details weren't revealed, let alone any demonstrations performed. But then, we all know how Zelda works at this point. Not a whole lot of stuff you could show, really.
After the Zelda portion it was onto the 3DS. Not a whole lot of announcements there -- just stuff we've known about since last year, like Mario Kart, Kid Icarus, and Star Fox 64. Luigi's Mansion 2 was announced, though, which I find an odd choice for the 3DS given the mechanics. The flashlight element would have been a natural fit with the Wii remote, I'd think. They would have been able to make better lighting effects, too, that way.
Honestly, I'm surprised Nintendo didn't have more to announce for 3DS. That system is in dire need of some strong software and Nintendo hasn't provided a huge amount of games for it just yet. Most of what they had at the presentation is coming out before the end of the year, but I feel like they could have had more, even if it was just a couple of third-party titles. Nintendo must really be banking on the DS name to sell the system.
Interestingly, with the exception of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, there wasn't a single Wii game there despite there being WIi games from them coming this year. I suppose it's just a result of their conference being little more than an hour long, but ignoring games for your still current console seems like a poor decision. Though it's certainly not uncommon for Nintendo. Once they've got a new console unveiled, they start ignoring their older console, dropping support almost immediately.
Speaking of which, Nintendo's long rumored new console was there. It's called the Wii U. It's key feature? The screen embedded within the controller. It's essentially a tablet of sorts equipped with a conventional control scheme. Intriguing concept. From what I can tell, implementation ranges from the obvious (displaying inventory menus and maps) to more exceptional, gameplay-affecting uses, like using the controller as a scope of sorts attached to the Wii Zaper.
There were a lot of conceptual ideas Nintendo trotted out. The most eye-catching, to me, was how it could be used in a multiplayer setting. One example played two players, using Wii remotes (you only get one Wii U controller per system), on the TV screen working together to shoot down some flying ship, which was being controlled by a third player on the Wii U controller. It sounds really cool. I could see this bringing a ton of great ideas.
|Here's a basic idea of how it can be used.|
As an aside, Zelda looks great in HD, right?
No actual games were announced for the system specifically, though. The conceptual ideas were playable on the show floor, I hear, but they weren't actual games. I assume that's because whatever games they are working on aren't anywhere near ready to be shown. Come time for E3 next year there will undoubtedly be tons of games being shown for it.
What I'm most interested in, however, is how ports are going to be handled. Since the Wii U is at least on par with 360 and PS3, the console is going see ports left and right. Heck, they even announced plenty of them at the conference. Games like Darksiders 2, which will be a launch title, they've confirmed; Ninja Gaiden 3, Assassin's Creed, Dirt, etc. are all coming to the Wii U. Will all of the controller's features be used? Or will they just shoehorn everything in? I would hope that they would be judicious in their use of the controller's functions, but if since we're dealing with ports, I'm keeping my expectations low.
The one problem I see with Nintendo's conference is that there just simply wasn't enough info on the console itself. What are the specs? How's the online infrastructure going to be? The controller's cool, but we need details on the hardware. That lack of info is undoubtedly what's causing some to misinterpret that the Wii U isn't a new system but a controller add-on for the existing Wii. They need to rectify that perception if they want to make sure that they can again court non-gamers to jump on board with their new platform.
Overall thoughts on the show
E3 was great this year. Not a whole lot of huge surprises here this year -- the stuff that could have been big were leaked beforehand -- but it was entertaining and enlightening nonetheless. A lot were saying this E3 was the year of the Quick-Time Event. I'm hoping that's going to be a short-lived fad. We don't need more excuses for developers to take away control from the player just for some light cinematic flair. Just give us full control to execute those cinematic actions ourselves instead.
What about you? What'd you think of this year's E3?