RPS-ish At-ish E3: Day 1, Part 2 – EA

By Mathew Kumar on July 15th, 2008 at 9:00 am.

Dear RPS Readers,

Thanks for the interested comments in response to my first post! They have warmed my heart and girded my loins for the rest of the week. Straight after filing my first report I had to dash (well, walk leisurely) across downtown Los Angeles to get to the EA press conference, held at the Orpheum Theatre – a truly gorgeous restored vaudeville theatre where they shot the theatre scenes for Last Action Hero. Which wasn’t as thrilling as accidentally ending up at Union Station (where they filmed the police station scenes for Blade Runner) yesterday, but interesting none the less. In a round about way that sort of sums up EA’s press conference, too. Not hugely thrilling, but unquestionably interesting.

My personal highlights/moments of interest:

- It was a great day for cute urban animals – After Fable 2’s lovely sparrow, Rod Humble introduced Sim Animals with a video featuring a odd little squirrel. I love squirrels (particularly the black variety you get in Toronto) and Sim Animals was interesting for featuring entirely gesture based control – it looked very Black and White, but of course it’s coming out for the Wii and DS only, so there’s really no point mentioning it, other than the fact I like squirrels.

- Of course, Rod did go on to chat about The Sims 3 a bit. Mentioned the recently launched Sims 2 Store where you can purchase items online (so expect to see a lot more of that) and announced that Sims 3 will be available in direct digital download as well as retail at some point in 2009. Promised “the most complex characters ever in a video game” and showed a neat video of what he called gameplay footage (but didn’t really seem to be.)

Cleverly, Sims 3 seems to have kept the art/poly count essentially the same (and why not?) but increased everything else, with the video showing a town that felt truly alive, telling the short tale of a Sim that had obviously become a local celebrity being spotted, causing Sims to call each other excitedly, leading to an impromptu concert and block party. If that kind of emergent behaviour can actually happen in a full town of Sims that you can scroll around seamlessly… Well. It might be sexist to say this, but if you aren’t freaking out with anticipation as a result, your girlfriend certainly is.

- EA Redwood Shores’ Glen Schofield showing Dead Space. Is this the true spiritual successor to System Shock 2? The utterly horrifying enemies make me think so. Too much was made of the “strategic dismemberment” concept (gore is so passé) but the other ideas – like the lack of a HUD (even the inventory floats in the game world as a sort of virtual projection, not sure if that’ll please Alec or not) are cool. PC version on October 21st, apparently.

- A live demo of Mirror’s Edge. Demonstrated on PS3, it showed only a little bit more than footage has already – some fighting (including the promise that you can complete the entire game without firing a single bullet) and some puzzle solving (really just “how am I going to get up there?”) – but what is, for me, becoming the most impressive thing about Mirror’s Edge is the uniquely European aesthetic. Very cinematic, the obvious reference points are District 13 and Run Lola Run, but it actually reminds me most strongly of the current wave of hip Scandinavian cinema. Is that an unbearably wanky response? Possibly.

- Will Wright came out with his usual (though not offensive) shtick – “wacky” PowerPoint slides and irreverent humour. He’s cute, but other than a bit of boasting about Spore Creature Creator’s numbers (with absolutely no mention of all the cocks!) the only thing that was new to me here was that David Lynch created a creature. It’s a surprisingly normal creation from the man who created Eraserhead, but whatever. It’s David Lynch!

- Peter Moore came out and revealed his latest tattoo – a big picture of Calvin peeing on a PC. Well, he didn’t, but that would have been amazing.

- Nucleus and Rupture. Probably the “biggest” announcements of the press conference, Nucleus is a cross-platform gamertag – everything from PC to mobile – and Rupture is a sort of MySpace social networking thing for challenging your friends to beat achievements. So if you just hit level 10 in Warhammer Online you can challenge your friends to do the same thing before the weekend is out, or something. It wasn’t particularly clear why Nucleus and Rupture need separate branding – shouldn’t Rupture just be part of Nucleus?

- Did you like Mass Effect? I didn’t. I thought it was absolute tripe despite its lovely conversation system and excellent characterisation. Bioware’s Greg Zeschuck appeared and showed a clip of Dragon Age: Origins that did so little that your interest level is absolutely going to depend on how much you liked Mass Effect. He did say it was a “spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate” but I don’t believe him.

- Gabe Newell popped up, looking a little healthier than he did at GDC (I worry about the man) to show what is genuinely interesting news about Left 4 Dead – that it features dynamic difficulty (always a gamble) and entirely new character designs – but in about the least enthusiastic manner possible. Still, out on November 4th!

- Finally, John Carmack turned up to reveal that id are now an “EA partner” and to show a bit of Rage. It was so short (they’re obviously holding on to the good stuff for Quakecon) that it was frankly outstaged by Dead Space.

And that was that! EA’s press conference was interesting for almost a complete lack of gasp worthy announcements, and even though the US press did their bit by whooping inappropriately at every opportunity there wasn’t a lot of buzz in the air. It felt very much like the company’s attempt to explicitly point out that it was “not evil” – “hey, look everyone! We’re allowing lots of different studios to make lots of lovely and innovative games. You knew about basically all of them already, but when you see them all lumped together you can see WE’RE NOT EVIL, ALRIGHT?”

Still, kind of interesting anyway, especially considering that outside of EA Sports, EA are pretty committed to the PC platform, with titles like Mirror’s Edge and Dead Space easily the kind of games that could have been console only. But they’re not.

So hooray!

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24 Comments »

  1. surprise says:

    Meh, moar news of Mirrors edge plx :-)
    Did they mention a Release date yet by the way?!?

  2. Saflo says:

    ABSOLUTE TRIPE!

  3. Meat Circus says:

    Poo. Mass Effect was clearly relative tripe.

    A bad shooter, but a mediocre RPG with a good story.

  4. MasterBoo says:

    The new footage from Dragon Age is looking very promising and very “BGish”. There’s also a new site up with an extended trailer and screenshots: http://dragonage.bioware.com/

  5. Crane says:

    To be the voice of dissent, I was quite fond of Mass Effect. Granted, some of the sidequests were a load of crap (go to blandworld, drive around with clunky controls, slaughter X enemies), but at least the combat was more engaging than “Click on enemy. Wait. Click on skill icon. Repeat.”, which made those sidequests bearable. Apart from that (and the … unfortunate … choices with regard to inventory system and items), I thought ME was a good game.

  6. Pavel says:

    I kinda liked Mass Effect (just finished it 3 days ago, would rate it 8.5), but all those DAO videos and screens leave me absolutely uninterested.And its sad, really, especially when I realize that its Bioware’s first PC exclusive RPG since…NWN 1 (which was, also, terrible).I want it to be outstanding.

  7. ReturnToNull says:

    The changes to Francis in Left 4 Dead sadden me, when will we have a big burly bearded biker leading role? Not in Left 4 Dead.

    The Mirrors Edge footage was neat, although it kept making me think Assassin’s Creed where you just have to hold down the button and let the game do all the work. I was impressed with the slow motion bit, I was thinking, “That’s going to be a tricky turn.” and then suddenly slow motion and it turns into a perfect turn. Woah, indeed.

    Mass Effect was okay, it was short, and could have been better, but it didn’t leave me jaded in Bioware’s ability to make a fairly engaging game. (Being able to dictate how the speech to the Normandy crew went had me all tingly.) So Dragon Age will likely get a chance.

  8. Matt says:

    It’s dissapointing that so many games are turning EA,

    Does this mean no more ID games on Steam? :(

  9. Feet says:

    Mass Effect was a massive disappointment in my eyes. It was like a pretty Japanese interactive novel, with some poor to middling shooty bits thrown in. Sure there was some good moments, some good ideas, but the core features of the game were… well, disappointing.

    Dragon Age? I’m hoping they dump the NWN2 engine and go back to the isometric (bit like Diablo3 is doing) topdown type view, I bet nowadays they could do so amazing looking art and backdrops. If not, well, I dunno but I’m not getting my hopes up.

  10. MisterBritish says:

    I mean really, it looks nothing like NWN2, other than it’s normal-mapped.

    Also, they mentioned a few times that the combat camera will switch to a BG style iso affair.

    Any idea when we might see some Alpha Protocol stuff?

  11. Nero says:

    At least they are sticking with the PC as well as the consoles (except EA SPORTS, but I haven’t cared about their titles in a long time so it’s fine). As long as those titles get’s good PC treatment then I’m happy. I don’t want to see any press X button (xbox 360 controller) to use item in a PC game..

  12. James T says:

    I’m trying to force myself back to my Mass Effect game and see if it ‘gets good’, but so far it’s been like walking through a Star Wars prequel — all the characters are just there to dispense tiresome world-building factoids — with a smidge of cursory ‘oh my god, it was so terrible when the attack happened’ stuff tossed in for ‘character’ — inbetween fuck-awful shooting bits. Glad it was going cheap.

  13. Man Raised By Puffins says:

    Not sure about ‘spiritual successor to BG’ yet, but they’ve certainly captured the Infinity Engine vibe.

    Also, I thought Mass Effect was alright. The combat worked fairly well, aside from the bloody stupid Mako, but for me the let down was that it was all a bit over familiar.

  14. John P (Katsumoto) says:

    You’re all insane :) Mass Effect is my GOTY so far – an utterly breaktaking experience and my favourite action rpg in years. Better than KoTor by a long shot for me.

  15. sigma83 says:

    Aw I loved mass effect. I is sucker 4 games wif narratif lolololol

    Anyone else super looking forward to Left 4 Dead? *hand*

  16. Kommissar Nicko says:

    Oh…my…god… Sims 3! I’m totally looking forward to simulating a spur-of-the-moment Hannah Montana concert in MY neighborhood.

    But seriously: Sims 3.

  17. cullnean says:

    I <3 David lynch

  18. Mr. President says:

    I liked Mako sections in Mass Effect! At least the unique ones, that are part of the main quest.
    Unfortunately, all non-storyline planets were covered in what I liked to call asshole mountains and were a pain to move around on.

  19. Nick says:

    Rupture, probably standalone since it was a startup that they’ve just bought.

  20. KindredPhantom says:

    Interesting things are happening at EA.

  21. Matt says:

    EA = Evil, Alright?

  22. KingMob says:

    Loved ME and Jade Empire, they’re better than KOTOR so far as I’m concerned. They made me feel like player skill mattered, and games felt challenging the whole way through, not like the typical western RPG.

    Baldur’s gate is a distant memory at this point – is it even possible for them to duplicate that success? What I’d like to see from BGIII / Dragonaged would be really detailed scripting for your party members, even better than you could do in the Aurora engine. Maybe I’m alone in this.

  23. Al3xand3r says:

    When did they announce that? I remember them talking about new levels, though no new plot at all, but where was the confirmation of that map pack? And how did they land the deal, did the creators get anything out of it or?

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