E3 Day 3: Impressions

Day three of E3 is upon us and the drive to catch a glimpse of the games that have eluded us thus far is in full swing. It's already 1PM here and Sway and I still haven't hit the West hall for another pass at Nintendo's display. We did get some pretty intensive looks at Microsoft's games so let's start with that!

Vanguard

Sigil's MMORPG has a long way to
go before we can really offer anything too in depth about it. The
presentation mostly focused on the technical aspects and some general
concepts driving the game but that was about it. Why? "Because if we
told you some of our ideas our competitors would be so compelled they
would immediately try and implement them in their games." Quite a
statement really but you'll hear it a lot.

Vanguard is shaping
up to be a classic high fantasy sort of MMORPG with a lot of old school
sort of design decisions. No instanced dungeons, lots of crafting, they
showed a big city area and alluded to some classes being very focused
on the city life but they were hesitant to go over any great detail. In
fact, that's really all we've got on Vanguard for now. Check back next
year I think.

Full Spectrum Warrior (Xbox version)

I
am so glad this game is gold, it's awesome. The controls are really
easy to use and the level of squad tactics is incredibly detailed. Just
standing there on the busy show floor it only took me about two minutes
to get a handle on the controls and about five to get my head around
the kind of tactics you need to employ. You really need to think about
covering your squads, what areas your guns are focusing on and making
sure the enemy is pinned down when need be. It will fully support Xbox
live for two players, each controlling one squad which should be a
blast.

If you have any sort of interest in squad based tactics, pick this one up.

Jade Empire

I
really didn't spend too long with this one, it's very slanted towards
action rather than the RPG side of things although there seems to be
plenty of ways to customize your character growth. You know, I feel a
little flat about it, I'm not blown away but I can see that it will be
a solid Bioware game.

Starcraft: Ghost

I'm
afraid this won't cure cancer and make toast like a lot of people seem
to be hoping. I spent a good twenty minutes playing and while it's got
some decent action, some decent stealth and good production values it
didn't blow me away like I hoped it would. I think this will be a
quality product but the gun battles felt weak and muddy, Nova isn't as
quick or agile as I would like her to be and the stealth aspect feels
almost too easy at times since when you're invisible you just need to
be quiet and you can pretty much do whatever you want. That may change
later in the game and I have faith that Blizzard will keep at it until
it's perfect for them. I may change my tune after some more tweaking.

Everquest 2

Way
cooler than I was expecting it to be. I sat down with one of the
content developers and we went through the canned presentation to show
off some of the different elements of the game. It's probably the best
looking MMORPG at the show but it was also running on Nvidia's latest
and greatest so I don't know how it's going to translate onto a regular
system. The presentation didn't touch on game mechanics enough so I
can't really point out the key differences from the original series but
there are a couple notable things. Aside from the graphics engine,
they're moving towards a much more cinematic sort of approach to
presenting the game to the players. The NPC's in the tutorial were
fully voice acted (and really quite good) and very expressive while
speaking to you. There is a ton of animations to be found in here and
it goes a long way towards bringing the game to life.

When you
talk to an NPC a menu appears right beside them with different reply
options rather than typing things into a hud. In fact, the entire
interface is minimal to keep most of the game showing on screen. From
what I can tell, this won't be a straight port of EQ with a new
graphics engine. They're really working to shake things up and
incorporate a lot of new features and ideas. For instance, NPCs in the
city will have day and night schedules, they'll walk around and do
their own thing for the most part. Instanced dungeons will be a pretty
big factor in the game and there's a lot of ways to customize your
character.

With a development team of almost 100 people I
expect the content should be there when they launch. No idea if this
Christmas is really reasonable to expect for release though. I doubt it.

Prince of Persia 2

The prince looks so rugged and handsome! *sigh*

I
mean, the gameplay has really evolved from the last one. The prince now
has new moves like slowing his fall by ripping through a wall hanging
with his sword. He can also now cut off heads and kill in other
creative ways while swinging around polls, running along walls and
making scrambled eggs. There will also be a whole new time shift
element which not only let's you slow things down but go back in time.
That means a castle you're standing in that's nothing more than rubble
and decay now will be a beautiful and lush palace after stepping into
the past. This will factor in with some puzzles like planting a
seedling in the past and jumping into the future to climb the now
full-grown tree to reach a new area. There was also a point when the
prince encountered a huge enemy about five times his size and he had to
hamstring him, climb up onto his shoulders and hack at his head. When
the creature tried to swat you down you could shift to the opposite
shoulder and avoid the attack. Pretty neat!

Prince of Persia 2 is shaping up to be more than an empty sequel, keep an eye on it.

- Certis


Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines

I
sat down with one of the designers for Troika Studios today and got a
nice look at their upcoming Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines. I've
always been of the mind that Vampire: The Masquerade, if handled a bit
differently, should have been an outstanding game and the franchise
definitely deserved another swing of the bat. So when Bloodlines was
announced it piqued my interest immediately. As it stands, I'm thinking
Troika might be just the company to do the game justice.

Retaining
a heavy RPG focus, despite its action trappings, Vampire takes place in
a modern day setting. Playing an illegally sired vampire upon whom pity
is taken, you begin the game in a kind of indentured servitude amid a
vampire power struggle in Los Angeles. In creating your character you
can choose your clan, gender, and history (which gives differing
bonuses depending on your choice). Each character has the same basic
access to abilities and attributes, with each clan having its own
special powers. In standard RPG form, as you complete quests and tackle
foes you gain experience and can develop your character by placing
points into your abilities and attributes.

The Vampire world as
rendered in the Source engine is a thing of beauty, as technologically
superior as anything I've come across. The engine has been widely
praised, and rightfully so, for its ability to render facial movement
and convey emotion. But the lighting and power effects I saw were every
bit as impressive, and all cast within an elegant art direction. The
city feels dark, seedy, and beautifully packed with evil. Troika is
making a real effort to properly place you in a world that is neither
sugar coated nor held back, and as it should be in a game where blood
is life, no punches are pulled. Those afraid such a visceral concept
might be sanitized can breathe easy, it's not an issue. Every single
character you interact with will be fully voiced, and neither are they
necessarily careful in their vernacular.

Not only does the
Source engine convey a sense of place, it also is chock full of ability
in creating some interesting special effects. I was shown a sewer area
with absolutely amazing water effects. I also watched as several powers
were displayed, including blood boil (where your enemies skin literally
bubbles to exploding with their own boiling blood) and Celerity which
shifted the game into a kind of bullet mode, and yes I watched bullets
fired from guns passing slowly through the air. But, the odds are more
even in this playing field as you will encounter rival vampires who
possess their own sets of abilities, adding a whole second layer to the
effects. There were a few destructible environments displayed, and the
physics engine can be used both to your advantage, and by enemies to
your disadvantage.

Overall, with Troika and their ability to
craft a world and story, married to what is arguably shaping up to be
one of the strongest engines on the market, there's a lot to look
forward to with Bloodlines.

- Elysium


After
seeing and playing so many games, many for just brief moments, I feel
like IÂ've been playing a real life version of Wario Ware. You step up
to a game and maybe thereÂ's a card showing the controls if youÂ're
lucky. Often you have no idea of the objectives or even the type of
game youÂ're about to jump into. There are people behind you watching
you fumble with the controller and repeatedly run into the same wall or
call up a menu over and over again. ThereÂ's not always a rep nearby to
guide you or give your hand a gentle squeeze to let you know everything
is going to be okay. These are the conditions under which our
impressions have been gathered. I just wanted to warn you that three
days into this thing, games are really beginning to all look alike. The
landscape is blurring and IÂ'm pretty sure there are some games that I
am completely blind to at this point. I could walk by them and not even
realize thereÂ's even a game there. These are the conditions under which
weÂ're trying to gather impressions. I think weÂ're likely to become much
more coherent over the next couple weeks as we begin to sift through
all the messes in our heads. Or maybe itÂ's just me. It often is.

Fable
- One of the Fable devs was giving a demo showing how actions can have
very real and immediate consequences for your character. While the
character was drinking beer after beer, you could see his belly start
to bulge. After his binge he walked into a nearby shop and promptly
doubled over and began to wretch. One of his skills allowed him to hulk
out into a berserker mode for a bit, scaring any citizens that happened
to be near. Feeling particularly evil, he targeted an innocent civilian
and cut her down. The deed was witnessed by another citizen who ran to
the guards who came and arrested the character for murder.

Kameo: Elements of Power
- Sort of a Spyro
kill-all-the-baddies-and-proceed-to-the-next-objective from what I
played. I had four different monsters I was able to morph into at any
time. Each had specific attacks and so I had to choose which monster
worked best for defeating any particular enemy. The animation and art
design were typical Rare style...which is to say good. The characters
and baddies all interacted with and reacted to the environment. I
couldnÂ't tell from the level I played how platformy the game got, but
since one of the characters could fly, itÂ's not hard to imagine what
kind of levels might be designed for it.

Jade Empire
- Bioware moved away from the turn based combat for this single player
action RPG. The fighting was real-time which may turn off some of the
RPG purists. The cutscenes and conversations were reminiscent of those
in Knights of the Old Republic. The dialogue choices given during the
conversations led me to believe you could choose a more sinister track
if you wanted. They are shooting for early next year for a release date.

Dungeon Siege 2
- Pretty much impossible to describe the game without comparing it to
Diablo 2. The comparison is favorable, though. There is a skill tree up
to level 36 for each of the class-types. Loot has become more
compelling now that you can feed it to pets to help them grow. Battle
appeared more interactive than the first Dungeon Siege. Since we got a
closed door demo of DS2, weÂ'll probably put together a more detailed
write-up.

Doom3 (Xbox) -
I think Pyroman may have been the only one to go hands-on with Doom3
from our gang. It always had a pretty good size crowd around it.
Corridor combat has never looked so shiny and nice. All I could think
while watching it, though, was Â"If the graphics look this good on the
Xbox, just imagine what it would look like on a PC.Â" Sure itÂ'd be
supernice to play co-op, but if youÂ're going to play an FPS that pushes
graphics technology the way Id is, a console might not be the best way
to play it.

- Sway


I'm wiped, but here's one last update.

City of Villains

After
getting some pvp play time on this the first day, I went back to get a
few questions answered on the upcoming expansion for NCSoft's latest
hit. The gameplay in City of Villains will be focussed on developing a
pvp environment where heroes battle villains across a wide variety of
new areas. The combat felt pretty solid, and even compelling as heroes
and super-villains traded punches and attacks. It's not significantly
different from the PvE interface, however, working under the same
mechanics only with another player recieving the damage.

I asked
about the character creation for the coming expansion but they're not
quite ready to talk about that yet. Understandable as this is a work in
early progress, and isn't expected to ship well into next year. That's
not a problem either as the game still hasn't even received its first
serious content update, which should be arriving in the coming weeks.

Another
reason for the distant release date is the scope of expansion they are
planning for. Besides simply slapping some pvp into the game, they plan
to nearly double the size of Paragon City including the varying single
player zones, pvp zones, and missions. There's even talk of having pvp
missions where villains and heroes come in direct combat within the
instanced missions. Along with that, and despite my earlier fears,
villains will have villain specific goals and objectives outside the
pvp environment.

Aside from the expansion, content updates are planned for the original game every month or two.

Rollercoaster Tycoon 3

A
excellent 3d engine blended with the familiar Rollercoaster Tycoon
formula probably spells hit. The demo I saw really showed off the
original engine, and with good reason. Lighting, water, and specular
effects abound. Rollercoasters can be ridden in full 3d, and you can
even watch the reactions of the riders as they lurch and roll.

It's
not all eye-candy though. One of the neatest features I saw in the game
allowed for the auto-completion of rollercoasters so you no longer have
to add and delete your way through tricky turns back to the station.
Additionally you can edit corners, banks, and turns on the coaster
without having to delete the individual element, meaning you'll have
more freedom to style your coaster properly and get it running just
right.

The interface also seems more streamlined, making
placement, editing, and coloring of your attractions more intuitive.
Still, the fundamental mechanics of the game haven't been too
dramatically changed, and though it will be easier to design your park,
it won't be unfamiliar.

- Elysium


Okay, I'm going to chime in and finish my impressions.

Star Wars Galaxies: Jump to Lightspeed

I
really wanted to write this one off. It's an action space sim tacked
onto an MMORPG and somewhat unecissarily at that. Even though I like
the game, that much is true. In fact except for when you have to deal
with other people, you can stay in space the entire time. You can get
everything you need from doing space missions, there's no real reason
to have to play the original Galaxies at all if you have this expansion.

However
there is alot to like about this game. The graphics are great, the
Galaxies engine really handles the space combat well. As I said, you
don't have to play the ground game very much at all, which I consider a
bonus. The developer I talked to described the ships as the user's
avatar in space. They're highly customizeable, from paint jobs to
weapon loadout. In the expansion several fighters from the TIE Advanced
to X-Wing are available, as well as several freighters such as the
YT-1300, a.k.a. the Millenium Falcon. There are also several more ships
controlled by NPCs, such as capital ships. There are named capital
ships from the movies and extended universe, they're a central part of
the space missions and story.

Lasers, flight control and chaff is
entirely twitch based, your character's skills have nothing to do with
it. However, if something has an element of chance your character's
skill can affect it, such as whether or not a missle will hit.
Equipment can also affect this random chance. Ships have a spot for a
droid, which you can program and use to change power from your engines
to your shields, automatically fire counter measures when a missle
locks on and various other tedious tasks. Frieghters also have turrets,
which can either be manned by yourself or people in your group. To get
to the turrets you can actually walk around inside the ship, since it's
just the Galaxies engine your character looks just like he does on the
surface. Your ship acts as your "home in space", you can store items
and do all the other tasks you can do in your home. In fact the
developer mentioned the possibility of boarding capital ships to take
them over, though that's not planned for this expansion.

Space is
very lucrative, in terms of money and items. This is one of the main
reasons you never have to play the ground game, space has everything
you need. There are some new professions, such as shipmaker and pilot.
The experience gained in space can level these up, you don't have to go
kill womprats to be a better pilot. Travel between planets and sectors
of space are handled by hyperspace bouys, find the closest one and fly
to it. It'll let your ship hyperspace to several locations near the
current planet and to other planets as well.

There are a few
problems with this game and you have to have Galaxies, the physics
didn't seem spectacular though they weren't bad either. Still, I wanted
to hate this game and now I want to buy it. Damnit.

Tabula Rasa

I
got to talk with Richard Garriot about his MMORPG Tabula Rasa, which
looks to be something different. That's what impressed me the most,
it's not trying to be EQ, UO or anything else. Tabula Rasa is set
inside a black hole, with a series of player islands which act as your
home. The game is centered around instanced missions, there is a town
where everyone can meet and group up to play a mission. You then get
your own instanced mission, with goals, puzzles, scripts and a story.
Much like a mini single player coop RPG, which is one of the main
design goals, to bring the best of the single player experience to
MMORPGs. You get in, finish the objectives and complete the quest.
There are puzzles and enemies along with specific goals. The demo had
us defending a disabled communications jammer to keep the enemy from
fixing it.

The game tries very hard to remove all punishment from
the player. Death has no penalty and you can be resurrected on the spot
by yourself. At the end of the mission, it counts your deaths and gives
you a lower experience bonus for each death. However you'll never lose
anything, only gain less. You don't have to meditate or rest, you back
away and all your mana recharges rapidly after 10-15 seconds of not
fighting. There aren't long travels for your character, teleporters are
everywhere and allow you to teleport where you want instantly. The game
has a buddy list, you can click on any buddy and teleport to him
instantly as well.

The magic and combat system is also rather
different. No more stereotypical magical classes, mana or stamina.
There are three types of combat abilities, body, spirit and mind. Body
abilities are like a sword attack, physical. Spirit abilities are
centered around music, and can have effects from buffs to damage. Mind
abilities use information to affect things, you can beam harmful
information into your enemies heads to hurt them for instance. Each
type of attack has it's own "mana". This also comes into play because
of the comparison indicator. No more "this guy cons red", you have a
comparison indicator in the corner that compares your spirit, mind and
body to that of your opponents. If you use up all your spirit and don't
have any more, a spirit attack will hurt you particularly bad and vice
versa. There is also a chi meter in the corner which has three levels.
You gain chi by attacking. When you reach level 3 chi you can do a
special chi attack for tremendous damage. When you stop attacking your
chi depletes rapidly. A very interesting combat system that turned out
to be alot of fun.

The game has built in voice chat, in fact the
guide used it to tell us about the product. The soundtrack was also
good, done by a member of Nine Inch Nails. The art was absolutely jaw
dropping, the engine was competent but the models, art and animation
was simply beautiful. All in all I was impressed, despite the fact that
it's an MMO.

Auto Assault

This is another
NCSoft MMO, a vehiclular RPG. You have a car which is very
customizeable, and you basically drive around blowing stuff up.
Anything can be blown up, including buildings. Missions are also
instanced with you or your group, called a convoy in this game. There
are also clans players can form, complete with PvP clan wars in an
arena. The physics were also great and the controlls were very
intuitive. However you don't aim your guns, they have an arc inside of
which they can hit enemies and you aim that arc which is visually
displayed on the screen. It looks fun, however it is still somewhat
rough and it's too early to tell.

- Pyroman[FO]

Comments

Starcraft: Ghost

I'm afraid this won't cure cancer

It won't? Darn it, I guess I'm going to have to the vet inject my dog with a dose of murder.

Starcraft: Ghost

I'm afraid this won't cure cancer

I think Blizzard is going to have to start putting that as a disclaimer on all their game boxes. Except WoW, of course, because we all know that will cure cancer and AIDS.

Cloke wrote:
Starcraft: Ghost

I'm afraid this won't cure cancer

I think Blizzard is going to have to start putting that as a disclaimer on all their game boxes. Except WoW, of course, because we all know that will cure cancer and AIDS.

Which may come in handy, judging from the description of the shenanigans going on in E3...

But about the games. It sounds like Sony may have learned a few things- I would hate to get sucked into EQ2 considering how I feel about EQ, but that sounds like it's worth watching. PoP2 sounds impressive. I'm interested in Fable, but what Sway described sounds like Black & White all over again- "Look at all the neat little things we can do, but we aren't actually going to do anything with them!" Hopefully I'm dead wrong. I'm looking forward to a more in-depth treatment of DS2.

Unfortunately, for me (and my wife I suspect), anything EQ has a negative connotation -- it is "that game that you play when you want to drop out of society and become a doritos eating, pepsi swilling hermit." Not that there's anything wrong with that. So I don't think I will play EQ2...and when WoW comes out I can say, "But honey, this is totally different than Everquest!"

So Ghost only relies on visibility and not sound for detection?

This is my first post so I will keep it short and sweet.
Am I the only one who could care less about voice in EQ2? Novel, innovative or to use the new WB commercial rehash of an 80s slang.."fresh"? Not imho.
Love the site guys hope to make many friends/enemies :).

"that game that you play when you want to drop out of society and become a doritos eating, pepsi swilling hermit."

I fail to see anything wrong with that

The game is centered around instanced missions

Instanced missions seems to be the way of the future. After CoH and Guild Wars I'm completely sold on the idea. Group with friends for missions and leave all the asshats out of it.

Of course Vanguard thinks instanced missions is "throwing the baby out with the bath water" Necessity is the mother of invention. Instanced missions were developed because of a fault in EQ. Keep going backwards with the death penalties, exploring penalties, corpse runs and camping guys. Its a sure hit!

Yes, I think voice acting is among many of the things the EQ2 devs are spending too much time on. If they are spending as much time on gameplay as they are with spell effects, cramming 1000's of polys into their characters, facial animation and voice acting, this game should blow WoW out of the water! *cue crixkets chirping*

Rollercoaster Tycoon 3

A excellent 3d engine blended with the familiar Rollercoaster Tycoon formula probably spells hit. The demo I saw really showed off the original engine, and with good reason. Lighting, water, and specular effects abound. Rollercoasters can be ridden in full 3d, and you can even watch the reactions of the riders as they lurch and roll.

It's not all eye-candy though. One of the neatest features I saw in the game allowed for the auto-completion of rollercoasters so you no longer have to add and delete your way through tricky turns back to the station. Additionally you can edit corners, banks, and turns on the coaster without having to delete the individual element, meaning you'll have more freedom to style your coaster properly and get it running just right.

The interface also seems more streamlined, making placement, editing, and coloring of your attractions more intuitive. Still, the fundamental mechanics of the game haven't been too dramatically changed, and though it will be easier to design your park, it won't be unfamiliar.

Looks like Chris Sawyer finally bought a 3d card.

Nice previews! The "big" sites all seem to be toeing the company line and avoiding any criticisms whatsoever of the games being shown, so it's nice to see a more realistic perspective.

Propagandalf wrote:
The game is centered around instanced missions

Instanced missions seems to be the way of the future. After CoH and Guild Wars I'm completely sold on the idea. Group with friends for missions and leave all the asshats out of it.

Hey now, us asshats have feelings.