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RPS-ish at-ish E3: Day 1, Part 1 - MS

Dear RPS Readers,

As not one of the quintessential quartet that makes up the Rock Paper Shotgun team were able to make it out to Los Angeles, they sent me instead. Well, they say they “weren’t able to make it out” – they probably all remembered that going to E3 as a journalist lumps you in with a large group of hobbyist “journalists” who whoop and pump their fist in the air when executives come out on stage during press conferences.

Today’s pre-E3 festivities began with the Microsoft press conference, or more accurately the Xbox press conference. I originally toyed with the concept of “liveblogging” specifically the parts where Microsoft talked about PC stuff, but to be honest, that would just have been depressing - and short. Because there really wasn’t all that much on offer to make PC gamers smile. There was enough (just) to make you feel that maybe Microsoft doesn’t actively hate you, but they certainly don’t like you all that much.

My personal highlights/moments of interest:

- The waiting period before the conference started (Sort of). They had some drawing tablets sitting out for people to draw on before they took their seat, and the results were being shown on the big screen for the audience. As I was once a British schoolboy, I couldn’t resist drawing a speed dobber with “Rock Paper Shotgun” written across the shaft.

They didn’t show it on the big screen, sadly.

- Fallout 3. The trailer they showed a short clip of is going to be online soon [here, in fact - RPS Hivemind] and was a well observed, if easy, 50’s parody, but it was the gameplay demonstration [also here] that was exciting. The V.A.T.S. method of attacking enemies in a sort of “turn-based” battle mode looked quick and fun to use (maybe more fun than actually playing it like an FPS?) and that there’s a hand-held nuclear device (the Fat Man) which actually obliterates enemies in a mushroom cloud is pretty classy. First mention of Games For Windows, too – downloadable content will be exclusive to PC and 360. Which is pleasant.

- Peter Molyneux saying “Fable 2 is finished.” Not coming out for PC, though. Why has Molyneux forsaken the PC audience, anyway? We’ve forgiven that guy for a lot (mostly unfinished games – I’m still bitter about Syndicate’s “ending”) but he won me over by the fact that Fable 2’s introduction has a really cute sparrow in it. I love sparrows. He didn’t win over all the US journalists. Some US Journalists seem to really hate Peter Molyneux for some reason. “Let’s not inflate his British ego any more,” is the most recent thing I’ve overheard said about him here in the media room. “British” was said with one hell of a snarl.

- Gears of War 2 – currently exclusive to Xbox, Marcus is still a ridiculous twat (his voice is so gravely it’s comical) but watching an entire city slide into a hole (while Marcus traverses it) as dust and debris files everywhere is something else. It was like 9/11 times a thousand! So at least 91100.

- John Schappert announcing Microsoft’s decision to completely change the Xbox’s interface (and rip of the Wii, natch) with the new avatar system and “party” based shared experiences. They didn’t mention if this would have any effect on Games for Windows. Maybe they forgot all about that. The shared experience stuff is kind of cute, and does seem like the kind of thing that would be just as nice on PC, and (if anything) more usable.

- Valve forsaking us all by releasing Portal: Still Alive as an Xbox Live Arcade exclusive. WTF, obviously. Portal was actually really hard with the 360 controller (especially towards the end, or when you were going for the crazy cake achievements) so if this is even harder… It’ll come to Steam eventually. Surely!

- Absolutely no mention of the PC or Games for Windows again, until Square Enix’s Yoshi Wada announced new RPG The Last Remnant is to be released for Games for Windows. Of course, that announcement was completely overshadowed by the announcement of Final Fantasy 13 being released on Xbox 360 seconds later, which caused hundreds of people in the auditorium to start stripping of their clothes and touching their naughty bits.

Well, it nearly did; they probably wanted to.

So that was it. Two mentions of Games For Windows at the Xbox press conference. Which isn’t exactly the statement of a company who consider the PC platform central to their efforts. But it’s better than nothing. And as far as Microsoft goes, that almost feels like progress.

Signing off,

Mathew Kumar

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Fallout 3

PS3, Xbox 360, PC

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Mathew Kumar