Digital Polyphony

film, games, memories & random thoughts

E3 2011 Journal


My second year at E3 was a combination of focus, awareness, but also a bit of boredom and, overall, a bit of letdown. It might be easy to chalk it up to the lack of "newness" to the experience, but sitting and thinking back to it all, it just didn't have that much to get excited over.

I still prepped as I always do with some comfy clothes and a bag of goodies. Here's a quick rundown for any E3 (or Comic Con) attendee on prepping:

1) Wear good walking shoes. I wore some Nike sneakers and even through in an extra layer of socks for more cushion.

2) Loose clothing. Note: not fanboy clothing. You wear some game T-Shirt, shorts and so on, you just reek of unprofessional douchebag

3) A satchel or backpack with the following: a bottle of water, maybe some granola or cereal bars (or power bars if that's your thing), something with caffeine or some sort of energy boost, a notepad with pen, a camera, a phone (obviously), something to pass the time in case you get stuck in a long line (a phone again is help here), and maybe some aspirin in case you need it. All pretty small stuff, most might even be in your pockets already, and you can use the bag to carry swag you might end up obtaining as well.

4) Stretch. Just do it. Common sense. Stay loose.

Upon My Arrival...

Overcast on Wednesday. Fine by me. Last I checked E3 is entirely indoors, except for that walkway area outside between the two Halls of the LA Convention Center where they have food vendors. Few people really stay out there, then again judging by the people I see at E3, I'm willing to be they rarely see sunlight to begin with.


Entrance to the South Hall, a shot of outside the convention center and the entrance lobby to the West Hall...and still thirty minutes before the doors even open.

I don't know why they insist on arriving early to check in and get a badge holder. Given, this is Wednesday, the second day, but there's never a big line and it was about 9:30AM or so by this time (they open the check in booths at 8:00). Giant banners are strewn all over the outside of the LA Convention Center, the upcoming Sony Vita getting a big area, with Bethesda being all over the place throughout the entire building(s) with posters, banners and flyers for Skyrim, Rage, and just little decals that say "Bethesda."

Like last year, I decided to hit up the West Hall first, where Sony and Nintendo reside. Unlike last year, though, there was a ton of people waiting already.  On the way, I noticed a really cool lounge area next to the West Hall lobby, and on top of that I already saw my first booth babes of the day inside there. From what I could tell, it's a juice stand, not a bar, which was a bit dissapointing.

Yes, I'm complaining they aren't serving alcohol at 9:30 in the morning, this is a continuing theme throughout the day.


The Booth: The exact same booth from last year. I mean exactly. It's like nothing moved. Speaking of that, nobody, and I mean nobody, was really checking out the Move. I know that last year it was the new thing, but here...there were a lot of empty Move kiosk rooms. The same goes for the Kinect at the Microsoft booth, but I'll get to MS later.


Ratchet walked the floor and on the right you see the third party demo area of Sony's booth...all looking exactly like last year's set up.

Despite being the big thing at their conference, the Vita was more or less insignificant here. While the 3DS last year had lines around the entire show floor, here, you maybe saw five or six people in the entire line at one time. They had a ton of them there, though, but most people were a no-show.

On to  the games. Note, I'll be crossing over a lot of titles here due to third parties.

Deus Ex Human Evolution

Man, what a sharp, sharp looking game. As I stood behind @thespoonyone watching, the videos really don't do it justice. You are just placed in such an amazing world full of depth and fantastic atmosphere. Once I played, I was completely overwhelmed. This is not going to be something for amateurs to these types of games. You can pretty much control and customize every aspect of your character, every single button does something (makes me think a souped up PC is the way to go) and it's gorgeously presented. One of my favorites from the show.

 Probably not much to see, but you can see some folks playing Deus Ex and see how loud some of the booths could be sometimes also.

Final Fantasy XIII - 2

I find it interesting this is the first time this game was revealed and it's already in demo form, yet Final Fantasy versus XIII was no where to be found - Versus a game that's been in development for years and nobody has played it still. XIII-2 came out of nowhere and you know why? Because it's pretty much Final Fantasy XIII. If you liked the first, you'll like this, but I kept thinking it felt more like a downloadable content than a game that needed to be released. Same style, same melodrama, same graphics. It looks and feels like a cash-grab and I'd expect a few more sequels using this same engine in the near future. Sure is pretty, though.

Dark Souls

I am a complete failure playing Demon's Souls, but I can damn sure appreciate it. This is more of the same with some gorgeous looking graphics. Plays exactly the same.

Assassins Creed somethingerrather

I just didn't care. It looked fine. Although I love the look of the era the series is at now, I feel it's doing too much and this felt like some tacked-on junk.

 Resident Evil: Raccoon City Thingy

Sorry, can't remember the full title. It's essentially a third person Left 4 Dead only not quite as frantic. Graphics look great, though. Pro Tip: For those going to E3, go to the console booths and not the actual thrid party booths. The line for this at the Capcom Booth was insanely long, here (just like with Deus Ex) you have some nice kiosks with no lines, you just stand around and wait for your turn. People are nice enough to not spend forever with the game. Proof that the lines at these shows are more to build hype and anticipation, not really to serve a purpose.


A typical demo kiosk on the left and a bored looking Justin "Jewwario" Carmical at the Street Fighter versus Tekken kiosk on the right.


Street Fighter Versus Tekken
Take Street Fighter IV and throw in Tekken Characters. Shazam! That's what you got here. Some of the players were damn good at it when I watched, and I mainly saw people going with Street Fighter characers on top of that. No Tekken fans? Or is the similarity to Street Fighter IV so much that Street Fighter characters are a comfort zone? I think it's just that Street Fighter is more popular.

Uncharted 3, Resistance 3, Twisted Metal

I didn't play any of these. Why? Because all the demos were multiplayer. I just don't care about multiplayer, especially for Uncharted 3. For this type of stuff, you can pretty much walk by and say "I've played Uncharted Multiplayer." This is the same, different map. I wanted to play the single player demo, I have no idea why there wasn't one.

After that, I headed on over to Nintendo


The Booth: Essentially the same booth from last year only with a 2nd floor VIP area. Nice and open and easy to get around, just a long ass line for the Wii U, but they had a good layout and plenty of kiosks.It was also the most colorful, with the light mood changing color throughout alongside music. Great look and feel to it all.

 Large, colorful with plenty of walking space, but is it due to design or just not a lot to show?

For Games, there's Skyward Sword and not much else. The Big N was showing very little for the Wii and the Wii U is pretty much all tech demos and games that really didn't have me dieing the play them. I held the Wii U Controller, it feels nice and sturdy (though I'm not a fan of looking away from the screen during a game, I never have been) and from watching others, appears quite intuitive as well. Kirby looked adorable and Skyward Sword had a few more demo options over last year, notably a "bird flying" demo. Basically, think of Wind Waker, replace the water with clouds and boat with a bird and you have what appears to be the overworld for the game. I'm for it.

So the games here are limited. As in pretty much 3DS titles.

Kid Icarus

Kid Icarus has a good feel to it. I like the style, not sure about the voices, and it has some epic music. My problem with it, though, is the control. You aim with the stylus on the lower screen so you're essentially trying to move and fire with your left hand (God help the left-handed people who would use a stylus in the left hand but whatever) and move the stylus around the lower screen. Would be good if Kid Icarus was a slow paced game. But it's not. It's actually a bit frantic so when you're moving around with your thumb and firing with your left finger, and say you need to dash quickly, you can't really get the "dash" on the thumbpad to go. On top of that, it's actually a little tiring on the wrist. I had to set it down to play it.

Of course, this is just a demo, perhaps you can change all the controls in options. I hope you can, because that would be an oversight.

Luigi's Mansion and Ocarina of Time

In contrast, Luigi's Mansion is perfectly tailored for the 3DS. It looks great in 3D and plays just like the one on the Gamecube. The same goes for Zelda, a crisper looking game where you use the lower screen as a menu, not a part of the gameplay. You can also move the 3DS around when in first person mode to look around rather than move the thumb pad or d-pad.  I ended up demonstrating this for Gamespot out of the blue. Where's my paycheck?


A typical Wii U kiosk on the left playing Zelda HD and a typical Skyward Sword station on the right, showing some flying amongst the clouds.


The Wii U

So that's it. Overall, a great booth, but not a lot to show. The Wii U had a good presence but it's all tech demos at this point (The Zelda HD demo being one of the most gorgeous things I've ever seen, though) and you can't really gauge anything on just a bunch of tech demos and video.

Truth is, echoes of when Nintendo unveiled the Wii and promised a lot were heard...and that console really didn't hit it out of the park. It's a fine console, but as anyone will tell you they really alienated a large number of gamers and turned their identity on its head to create a system that dishes out more shovelware (cheap, affordable titles that are pretty much flash games you'd play in a web browser) than quality AAA titles - especially from third parties. This is why there were no, and I mean no, third party games in the E3 booth for the Wii. Hell, there were barely any Nintendo games.

A few years ago, one of my first blogs was how, in the grand timeline of videogame consoles, the Wii is going to be a big seller but ultimately not very memorable. Not to toot my own horn, that's exactly what happened. Hell, we're only getting a Zelda game as the system is slowly dying.

Despite a minimal performance, though, I expect E3 2012 is going to be huge for them with more Wii U games to show off - they probably hurt themselves more than help by showing us...really nothing this year. Maybe that's why everything felt so glossed over and half-assed in the booth and at the conference. Whether or not the Wii U will be a success...I can't call at this point. But I think keeping the"wii" name was a mistake if you're looking to start "anew." That tells me they only did that to try and keep the Wii installed user base and, as Nintendo often focuses on, actually make a profit on console sales (one of the few companies that has managed to do that, most take a hit in that department). Still, will that same casual people even get the Wii U? Most probably don't even realize it's a new console and just want to buy the controller. Not their fault...Nintendo made everything pretty unclear in both the conference and interviews. Sometimes, Nintendo can really be full of themselves. A lackluster showing of games following a lackluster press conference that showed a lot but didn't tell us anything. That's Nintendo's presence at E3 in a nutshell. 

 Let's Walk Next Door and Meet Some Zombies

I went back towards the entrance where Capcom was set up again. I already covered some of the games, but their big game they seem to be pushing was Dragon's Dogma. I just watched others play as well as the big video they had going on. It actually seemed a lot of fun and I think it might be surprise, had me thinking of a more streamlined version of an Elder Scrolls title.


The big screen at Capcom's booth loved showing some Dragon's Dogma every few minutes.

After a few more watching of Devil May Cry (eh) and Dead Rising 2: Add on (ok) I moved on.


Oh, and Bethesda

Due to almost everything behind lock and key, most people stood around and just watched the videos. Rage looks really nice, but of course Skyrim was the big talk of the show. Good lord, that looks fantastic. Prey is the most intriguing one most are talking about, though. That is one to keep an eye on. especially considering that the underrated original was pretty darn good (this looks like they're overhauling it entirely, especially in the art design category. Not much else to say here, moving on.

By this point I headed over to the South Hall. First up...


 The Booth: It's always hard to miss, that's for sure. It's not surprising that EA always seems to have the largest and loudest booth. Truth is, it's a bit of a turn off for me. So are long lines, and Battlefield 3 was about the only line here. I didn't stand though, just not my bag. Nothing else enticed me here, but I'll admit a lot of what EA does doesn't entice me.

And that's really it for EA. 


A tale of Two Booths. EA's on the left was big, loud and flashy with a lot of big screens. Disney's on the right was so low-key and open it was hard to get a good picture, but you can see the clock tower, fake trees and grass and the courtyard style that was quite inviting.


 A Few Stops

Walked around a bit after that. Disney had an amazing booth, they essentially recreated a Disneyland Courtyard feel with sidewalks, a barista and lounge area, fake grass and trees and lampposts. It's just too bad there weren't really any games I was interested in playing, not like last year with Epic Mickey.

Natsume was right next door, still putting out their niche titles, along with Ubisoft. I don't know what it is, but I've never liked Ubisoft's booths. Something about them just turns me away. I walked briefly by Activision mainly because all it had was a big-ass video screen. That makes no sense. You have one of the largest spaces on the show floor yet almost all of it is empty except for a big-ass video wall and no place to sit and watch it. Maybe I missed something. Maybe there were private game booths behind the info desk. Maybe I just don't care about Activision to write about them anymore.


 And here we have a....ummm....something at Natsume on the left...and girls in swimsuits for....ummm...a UFC ring covered in sand?..then a space thing for Space Marine (Warhammer) that looked cool but only held about four people at a time.


Ah, here we are. Right next door is a company with a far better booth design than last year's, Square Enix.

Square Enix

The Booth: About the same size as last year's booth, and somewhat the same set up, but thankfully they got rid o the little "player caves" where they would put games in. Here, it was all open and everyone could watch others play if they weren't themselves. I was. Again, FFXIII-2 (That long enough?) and Deus Ex were the spotlights. They also showed some Tomb Raider videos. That game looks like it could be good, though it's all just the opening movie at this point. So who knows? I didn't play any games here due to my already playing them at Sony.


The large video wall played the trailers (here you see Dead Island) and there were plenty of kiosks of the games, overall a solid though small booth from Square Enix.


Square also shows their upcoming toy figure line up, here we see their two biggest stars, Squall and Cloud from Final Fantasy. Also seen were Metal Gear Solid figures and Halo.


Even though I mentioned it earlier, I still need to mention how strange that there was no Final Fantasy Versus XIII. A game that was in development for years, alongside Final Fantasy XIII actually, and it has literally fallen off the face of the earth. Not even a poster or one of those little digital flyers they hand out (Hitman, XIII-2, Deux Ex I picked up then promptly lost apparently).

 Just a feel for another booth.


And one last picture: a life-size replica of a cybernetic arm from Deus Ex. The lighting in the booth (really all the booths now that I mention it) is intentionally dark so I tried to get the whole thing in one shot and still have enough light to show it. Very cool looking and I can't wait for this game to get released. As a fan of the original (as in the first one, not the second...which is often the case for most fans of the series) it's been a long time coming.

Done and done there, so I went across the way to Microsoft after...


The Booth: A scaled down and simplified booth from last year, which is good for them. As I mentioned under the Sony booth with Move, nobody here really cared about Kinect outside of the dancing game.  This was reflective in their booth, a 180 of last year's Kinect-heavy focus with few games. Now they had a few big titles with a presence, notably Gears of War 3 and Mass Effect 3. I really didn't play anything, though. I know what Gears is like, and everything else looked fine but not enough to entice me.

Gears of War 3 had a huge presence in the Microsoft booth, such as this life-size statue. 


The big draw was Mass Effect 3, but it wasn't on the show floor. It was in a closed theater and from what I've heard, it's essentially what was shown at the the MS press conference with some extra footage. That...just didn't seem worth it to me. To stand in a long long line to only get, maybe, a few extra snippits of a video. I had to pass.


Another Side Stop

But I did want to check out Gearbox's Aliens Colonial Marines, which was in a theater next door and inside one of those Marine Tumblers from Aliens. The game is a good year off and they were given closed-door presentations of stuff nobody's seen yet. After a brief intro about what they wanted to do with the game by the Gearbox folk, noting that Sega is keeping a tight lid on things at the moment and it's still a ways away from release, a live demo play began.  I'll say this: it's early and still looks pretty damn good, the atmosphere is absolutely spot on (especially the "swarm" feel of the Aliens) and this is really the Aliens game I know I've been wanting for a while. The music, the sound, the look. We watched the first level being played and the sense of claustrophobia beets paranoia with a group of marines is spot-on. Plus I got a free T-Shirt.


Sega still has sonic everywhere, and the Aliens Colonial Marines live demo was shown in a theater mocked up to look like the tumbler vehicle from Aliens.


Seeing as how we were right next to Sega's booth, I took a peek inside. It was hard to miss the booth despite it being very, very small.Man, they still hang to Sonic the Hedgehog like nobody's business. Statues, giant statues, a sonic mascot walking around and Sonic on all the screens. I pretty much said "screw all that" and took focus on one game that I could find myself liking: Guardian Heroes. Still one of the best side-scrolling, beat em ups from the Saturn, I loved seeing it there on the show floor.

At this point I decided to follow that line up with another:

 Nanananananananananan Batmaaaan


I love the Arkham City art style, and it was shown off all over the Warner Brothers area and hard to miss - especially when it's a giant floor to ceiling mural.


 Batman Arkham City had two lines, one to a theater and one to the demo. Let me just cut to chase and just say the demo is fantastic, the graphics gorgeous, the voices spot on and there's a ton of content that I know you can uncover. People were even uncovering some stuff in the demo section alone, such as an appearance by the Riddler. As for the demo, you start off by saving Catwoman from Two Face, save her from being shot by an unknown sniper, use detective mode to see the trajectory of the bullet, discover it's in the tall tower and when you get in the Joker has a nice trap set for you as the Joker is want to do. The feel of this city is amazing, with tons of criminals on the ground and plenty of rooftops and alleyways to sneak around. It's a focused non-linear style, which is perfect and this is certainly a demo to be played.

Now that that's over, fuck you Warner Brothers. Who were the math wizards that designed this gaming area? You have one of the biggest games on the show floor and only six kiosks to play them. On top of that, because there's no time limit to play, people are spending 15 to 20 minutes a pop on each one. See that line of about a hundred or so people? Yeah, good job there, and thanks for allowing every Journalist with "credentials" to cut in line and play the demo themselves. I don't put credentials in quotation marks as some fit of jealousy, it's because most of them are just bloggers and some random foreign newspaper I've never heard of from Greece. If it was Lego Harry Potter, fine. Six kiosks, whatever. Here, potential game of show if not game of the year. Fuck you very much.


 WB and DC displayed upcoming Arkham City merchandise along the line to the game demos, including toys, clothing and comics. This didn't make up for the insanely long wait time, though.


Perfect example. Last year, Nintendo had Skyward Sword up for playing for the first time. Guess what? about 30 demo stations, a solid ten minute time limit for each. The line was long, but at least it moved and at least they had a separate area for the media to test it out. Amateur hour at the WB booth folks.
Speaking of the WB booth, there's also that other Batman game. The Team Fortress looking one with new skins. I don't expect much out of that, to be honest. They had a cute Joker booth babe, though.

 Creepy, but cute.


From here, you had both Konami and 2K games right next door.

Konami and 2K

The Booth: Konami doesn't care for lines. They just set up a bunch of kiosks and have a rather open style, and I love that approach. Then again, Konami didn't have really any "killer apps" to show off. Some solid looking titles like No More Heroes, Metal Gear titles that looked okay and Silent Hill, they were pushing Glee Karaoke Revolution the hardest, though, including an appearance by some cast members, but it was just a "show" and autograph signing.


Konami's booths this year and last are very inviting for the gamer, with a lot of places to play and a good layout on top of it all.

Though people did swarm for cast members of Glee that showed up. If I watched the show, I might be able to tell you who they were.

Oh, that' reminds me, there were some other autograph areas, Joe Madureira of Darksiders (and comics) and a UFC fighter who's name escapes me. Not in the Konami booth, obviously, but they were around.

As for 2K Games, it was pretty much theater presentations. Like last year, they didn't have a lot to play. At least not out in the open. Also like last year, their booth is kind of "meh." It as kind of large with big screens, but Darksiders and Duke Nukem lines were just a turn off (and I could never figure out if it was to play them or just watch). They did have Duke's throne and you could take pictures with pretty girls on it, but again the line was just a turn off.

Hard to see, but there were always lines at 2K's booth, just give me Bioshock Infinite and stop the cock-teasing, please.

 Videogame Museum

Now this was an awesome way to start wrapping up the day. By this point it was already about 4:30 and people had started to leave and those long lines are now starting to become closed. What better way to end it than with our predecessors and a trip down memory lane. Classic game consoles, pretty much every single one on display and a good number of them playable with some games. We're talking old shool here, from the Odyssey to the Master System to the Saturn to the goddamn Virtual Boy. They were all here, lined up, and playable. They even had this awesome "1980s Living Room" set up with those old giant floor TVs and an Atari. On top of this, they had about 20 so retro arcade games, from Frogger to Street Fighter to Punch Out and X-Men. All free to play. Throw in the awesome 1980s music playing in the booth also, and I felt like I was eight again. Just fantastic stuff and kudos to these guys for just making a neat area to get away for a while. Here's some pics to enjoy.

 Clockwise from top left: a wall of retro arcade games / a retro console ready for play (one of many retro consoles) / a classic Atari store display Kiosk / the Ill-fated Virual Boy / one my earliest consoles - the Odyssey.

But the coolest was this:


Somebody get me a box of Ecto Cooler and Cheetos, stat!

As far as what I played? Well, I couldn't play everything, but X-Men, Punch Out, a Master System Outrun title, a Sega Saturn Panzer Dragoon Title and some random Atari titles.


The Nintendo Booth Reprise

I ended the day meeting up with a friend who's doing some work for Nintendo. We talked about the games, E3 and shot the shit for a good ten minutes or so. My last stop for the day, I was dead on my feet, but I snagged one last picture on the way home as the sun began to lower in the downtown LA skyline and the convention center. I didn't even notice these guys on the way in.

Heading Home - The State of the Industry

So that's it for E3, to sum it up: not a lot of surprises and a lot less on the floor overall. So much less, in fact, that there were area of completely unused space in both halls. Last year's E3 didn't have that, it was wall to wall. This year, it felt pretty limited. Nintendo still had the best booth of the big three, but the fewest games to show off. Sony still is insistent on making it's own little closed-off booth which makes foot traffic horrible, but they seemed to be showing off the most stuff, and Microsoft was about the same as last year but with more kiosks and less Kinect, thankfully. Favorite booth design is still Disney, even if I couldn't care less for the games. Favorite "stuff in booth" was the Videogame Museum.

Booth Babes, again, go to Nintendo. They know how to pick 'em and whatever model company they use to hire these girls I'm sure is getting paid well. Some of the smaller, indie booths had some nice looking gals as well, but the Nintendo ones are also seemingly sweet and happy to talk to you about the games on top of it all. Now that I think about it, Sony and Microsoft didn't have any booth babes other than the info desk girls. Interesting.


 A few random shots, a statue for a game called Busty Hearts, a large booth for Activision and it's large screen in the back and a floor shot of show floor / West Hall.


 More randomness: A Tank, A bouncy castle and a picture of a guy taking a picture of Burgertime on a massive video screen at Konami.


Games and consoles and hot girls aside, E3 is also the time to step back and take a good look at this multi-billion dollar industry as a whole. The word I hear most is "plateauing." In fact, I heard that last year, and when you hear it a second year in a row it's pretty much proof that not a lot is happening and that Nintendo with the Wii U, Sony with the Move and 3D TV and Microsfot with Kinect seem to be forcing the issue. Perhaps those companies should just hold a moment, slow down, and realize that nobody really wants their stuff shoved down our throats. We want great games, simple as that. Stuff like Bioshock Infinite, Mass Effect 3, Skyrim and Batman are testaments to that and perhaps that's where they should start putting emphasis on - making their current console's game lineups fantastic and stop it with all the rest of the silliness - the motion and 3D. It's fine to have those, but it seems they're starting to move all their eggs into a lesser basket and eventually, it might end up being all of them. Nintendo is doing that with the Wii U...and nobody is fully sold on that.

Still, there are great games, the business will make a ton of money, but there's little in terms of newness to it all. Maybe that's why they insist on motion control and 3D. There's so many sequels to things, less new IPs going around, that they have to focus on something else. Like the Hollywood Studios, videogames are also starting to become sequel-heavy...but in both cases billions will be made, so maybe we only have ourselves to blame.

A lounge area outside the South Hall made to look like a hunter's club and a live orchestra performance to Lord of the Rings: War in the North at the end of the day outside the West Hall.

Well I headed out, stuffed my swag into my bag (just an Aliens T-Shirt, some magazines, a couple of Nintendo pins and some keychain thing for Rage) and called it a day. I know I didn't cover everything here, just the major points and highlights, and I certainly didn't detail every game because, simply, it's kind of impossible to play and see everything in just one day. Even so, on that I know this rather lengthy journal looking back at that one day probably doesn't include everything I did either.

The sun begins to lower in the toxic Los Angeles sky.


Deep breath, stretch those legs...until next year...maybe.


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