Friday, June 10, 2011

E3 2011: BioWare, and the others

E3, the video game industry's big annual expo, was held this week in L.A. Upcoming games were presented, new hardware was introduced, and there were tons of press conferences, interviews, Q&A's, and demos.

Some of the biggest reveals at this year's E3 are things I don't really care about. I'm always behind the times in terms of smart phones and tablets, so whatever Apple was talking about on Monday won't directly affect me in the near future. I haven't played consoles since the original PlayStation, and I don't have the need for a portable console at this point, so it's highly unlikely I'll get a Wii U or PlayStation Vita. I was mostly interested in the games. And of the games, I was mostly interested in BioWare. That's just my taste.

Star Wars: The Old Republic
I've been excited about this game since the summer of 2008, when EA announced that they were working with BioWare and LucasArts on an MMORPG sequel to the two Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic games. I adored KotOR and KotORII, which take place approximately 4,000 years before the rise of Darth Vader, and I was a bit disappointed that they weren't making a straight single-player sequel to finish out the series. But the more I learn about the MMO--personal ships! different companions for each class! fully voiced PC's and multiplayer conversations!--the more excited I get about it. This year at E3, they showed a kick-ass new trailer that has me squeeing.

See on the SWTOR website here.

The SWTOR team showed off Tattooine in their demo at E3, allowing people to explore the iconic planet. This video gives an idea of the gameplay, player companions, types of choices made on quests, and multiplayer conversations.

See on the SWTOR website here.
I find the speeder bike a little goofy, only because the companion disappears as it appears, making it almost seem as if the companion transforms into the bike. Oh well. More videos and info can be found on the SWTOR website, which is updated quite frequently with new reveals. The game is expected later this year, but no date has been announced.

Mass Effect 3
This is the climactic final installment of the epic Mass Effect trilogy, and it's promising to be the best of the three. Throughout Shepard's quest, the Council has dismissed her warnings about the looming Reaper attack, in which an unbelievably ancient and powerful race of machines will attempt to destroy all sentient organic life in the galaxy. Now, as the Reapers launch their attack, it falls to Shepard to rally the galaxy and lead the races to war.

For their E3 press conference, EA debuted a live action trailer for Mass Effect 3. The coolest part about it? Holly Conrad and Crabcat Industries (whom I've mentioned before on this blog), made costumes and the husks for the video! They did an awesome job.

Rumors had been flying for the past week or two that Mass Effect 3 would be Kinect compatible (for the Xbox 360 version only, of course), but this was finally explained at E3. There will not be any motion control, but the game will make use of the Kinect's voice recognition capabilities. Players will be able to select dialogue choices from the dialogue wheel with their voices as well as deliver voice commands to their companions in combat. Check out this demonstration:
Personally, I think that the use of voice commands in the dialogue is a bit redundant. First you say one thing out loud, then Shepard in the game says a different line with similar meaning. I'd rather just hear each idea expressed once. But the voice commands in combat are pretty sweet. That's how the commands would be delivered in the battlefield (not with clicks), and the thought that your companions are responding directly to your voice increases the immersion. Chances are I won't ever get to play the Kinect version, but it's fun to see anyway.

Mass Effect 3 is scheduled for release on March 6, 2012. Find more details about Mass Effect 3 and SWTOR at E3, with interviews, demos, and Q&A's, on BioWare TV:

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
I played Morrowind, but skipped Oblivion. The games are beautiful, with vast continuous worlds to explore, and Skyrim looks to be more beautiful and more vast than the previous games in the series. I'm undecided whether I'll get this game or not. It's all well and good to be able to explore, but it's also nice to feel like I have a purpose. In Morrowind, I found myself doing quests for umpteen guilds because they were there, and not because I cared about them or what they stood for. That gets boring after a while. There are many merits to the Elder Scrolls style of games, I just have a preference for BioWare-style dialogue, stories, and NPCs. Still, I have little doubt Skyrim will be a great game. It has big frakking DRAGONS! See a gameplay demo here:
Skyrim will be released on 11-11-11.

Tomb Raider reboot
I never played any of the original Tomb Raider games, and I know very little about this newly announced reboot, other than that it's an origin story. But I'm intrigued because the trailer looks so cool.

Kinect Star Wars
Check out this trailer:

I love the idea of a Star Wars Kinect game. I want to be a Jedi, wielding my lightsaber and tossing enemies around with the Force. But while the Kinect has much to offer in terms of delivering an immersive Star Wars experience, it also has limitations. The problem is traveling. You the player can only move across the space of a few square feet in front of your TV, so how do you get your character to travel more than that? The solution in Kinect Star Wars is that the game moves your character "on rails"--as if you're on a big moving sidewalk that controls where you go--and you just control the character's combat as the game scoots you around. The game may still be fun, but this lack of control could be annoying, and may negatively affect the immersion of the game.

I don't know a good solution to this travel problem. Bend forward slightly to make the character walk forward? That's just asking for back pain. Use a small Nunchuk-like joystick in the left hand to control your walking while the rest of the body is left available to control the character's motion? The point of the Kinect is that you don't need a controller--your body is the controller. Voice commands? Tedious, unwieldy. DDR-style directional pad on the ground to direct travel? That probably would be complicated and tiring. For every idea I come up with, I can think of a reason it won't work. I guess it's up to the developers to solve this conundrum. Once they do, they can finally start making for the Kinect the types of exploration games I love to play.

So I don't leave you on a downer, how about a short little clip of Felicia Day playing Kinect Star Wars?

I didn't follow E3 that closely, since I was working all week, so I know I missed a lot. Let me know of any other awesome games I need to check out!


Out of Sync said...

To fix the auto-playing videos, if you go into the post editor and click on 'Edit HTML', look for the phrase 'autoplay=1' and simply change it to 'autoplay=0' instead =) Well, that should be it anyway lol.

Ahhhhh Mass Effect 3!!! =D Number one was just ridiculously awesome, easily one of my all time favourite games. I am yet to play number 2 (as... I get busy) but I am confident it will be awesome also. Hopefully I can clock it before ME3 lol.

And Skyrim... sweet! Morrowind and Oblivion are legendary, and the modding community is above all others and really brings the game to life.

Was there much content at E3 in regards to Diabo III? I am highly eager for that game to come out.

Oh and wow with the Kinect and Star Wars... they are really pushing the limits between game and player interactions these days!

Eleni said...

I don't see anything that looks like it says "autoplay" in the html code :( Oh well, thanks for the suggestion.

Yeah, I loved, loved, loved Mass Effect, and then Mass Effect 2 was even better. There were some things I missed in ME2 that were in ME1, but overall they made great changes. So I have high hopes that they will continue to learn from the previous games and make ME3 the best!

I intended my character in Morrowind to be a spellcaster but soon discovered it was easier just to whack everything with a sword, so that's what I did. The combat thus got very monotonous. I did love enchanting, though. That was probably my favorite thing. That and the exploration, and the ability to decorate my stronghold. I don't really know what changes they made in Oblivion, but I'd be interested to see if they've changed the dialogue system for Skyrim. Having people talk at me, rather than with me, was one of my main complaints in Morrowind. There are lots of games like that, but in such an open world as Morrowind, it seemed limiting.

I think Blizzard stays out of E3 and instead has their own BlizzCon (not until October, unfortunately). I'm excited for Diablo III, too!

I hope Kinect Star Wars turns out well. I think people were complaining about the responsiveness of the game, but maybe there's still time to improve that.

Eleni said...

Ooh, but the autoplay=0 thing did work on the PHD movie trailer in my next post. Nice :)

Sebastian Anthony said...

Ah, "on rails" -- words can't describe how saddened I am by such games! There's still hope that there'll be a not-on-rails version of that Fable game... but if the next in the series is ONLY Kinect-on-rails... well... *sharp intake of breath*

If you thought Morrowind was expansive, you should've seen Daggerfall! I played it for 2 years before finishing it. I sometimes went for months without any sign of the main mission. Needless to say, people complained -- and that's why Morrowind and Oblivion were a lot tighter. I haven't played either Morrowind or Oblivion fully, but I think I'll dive back in with Skyrim.

I still need to finish ME2...

Eleni said...

Wow, I guess I'm glad I never got hooked on Daggerfall. I only made it through Morrowind by taking a maybe 6-month break, then getting back into it. Spent quite a lot of time decorating my fortress, actually. Ah, useless but somehow entertaining tasks.

Still haven't finished ME2?! That's a pretty tight game, by my standards. I still haven't played the last DLC, though.