E3 Day 1


posted 5/15/2003 by The GN Staff
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Chuck’s Comments

Today was a busy day for me at E3, our first meeting was with the Xbox live crew to talk about their new Music Mixer product for Xbox. While the name isn’t exactly overwhelming, the specs of the product are impressive. Music Mixer will help Microsoft fulfill the promise of the Xbox being an entertainment hub. The new device will allow users to access content (video, pictures, music) stored on PC’s in the house. Along with creating a custom list of music you can create visualizations to go along with the music. Either simply 2D visualizations or you can create custom 3D backgrounds. For instance you can create a Warehouse Rave background and then determine the dress code of the people who are there as well as the gender mix.

The other cool functionality is that the Live web functionality, basically it’s the Xbox Live Friends list taken to the next level. Rather than just seeing that your friends are logged onto the Xbox Live service you can see if they are logged on anywhere in the world. The service is going to be based on Microsoft’s Passport system so if you have MSN, all you need to do is associate you GamerTag with a Passport ID and you’re all set.

The final (and possibly scariest) component is the karaoke system. You can use the songs that Microsoft provides (they’ll come with a set of songs and you’ll be able to purchase additional packs later on). You can also take MP3’s from your PC and Music Mixer will strip out the lead vocal traffic so you’re not limited to the songs provided by Microsoft. While you can’t enter your own lyrics from them you can fudge it by creating your own graphics to go with them.

Next up was Rockstar where I got to see the recently released version of Grand Theft Auto:Vice City, the game looks to bring all of the great stuff over from the PS2 version while adding a lot of graphical detail to the game. Next up was Midnight Run II for the Xbox which was amazing. The sense of speed was amazing and the game has really taken a step forward graphically and the great multiplayer seems to have translated over well. This game has definitely moved up on my must-play list for this year.

John’s already talked about Activision but I’ll just add a few bits. Vampire :Bloodlines looks and plays great. The game is amazingly deep and will offer a lot of different challenges for players. Elite Force II also looked solid and Call of Duty was simply amazing. Trinity looked a little rough around the edges but I think Grey Matter will take care of business before the game ships.

After Activision is was back over to Microsoft again to check out the PC lineup. HALO for the PC looks great and the Gearbox guys have really done a good job of moving it over to the PC while retaining all of the things that made the Xbox version great. We also got to look at Mythica and while I wasn’t really expecting much I was pretty blown away by what they are trying to accomplish. It’s a MMORPG except that it’s more team focused, where team play is the rule and not the exception. You meet up with your team in a private are and then teleport out to start your mission. The coolest concept for me was that in order to pull off some of the higher level attacks you need to combine powers with your other team members. Team members can also act in combination with other members; one example is that you can have spotters move forward and target enemies for team members in the back to hit with long range attacks.

Next on the docket was 989 sports, and they are hoping to making bigger strides with their products this year. The one hole in their lineup is that there will not be an NHL title in the lineup this year, they are taking the year off to re-tool the NHL franchise and will be back in action for the 2005 season (development is already underway).

For the rest of the 989 titles the main focus is online play. All of the games will revolve around the 989sports.com website. From the site you can check out your stats, see how you rank against others, and interact with other members via message boards.

All of the games look to get significant graphical updates and the products they showed looked amazing. The other cool new feature will be the addition of voice commands using a new headset. Not only can you talk trash to people over the online service but you can now actually control the game. For example, in NFL Gameday you can hike the ball by saying “hike” into the microphone as well as audibly calling audibles.. All in all the entire line of products looks improved and we’ll find out later this year how well all of the hard work pays off.

Next on the docket was I-Games. I-Games is only showing one game but it’s pretty impressive. The game is called Savage and it’s the first RTSS (Real Time Strategy Shooter). The basic component is standard RTS fare, you have two teams fighting it out while collecting resources to build buildings and research new technology. The twist is that each team has one commander who sees the game from the typical RTS top down look while the other players in the game are responsible for the combat portion of the game. The commander issues commands to the other players who can choose to either follow them or do their own thing as well. The commander is also responsible for building the buildings, researching the tech trees, and commanding the peons (each team is allocated a number of peons for collecting resources and basic base defense so players aren’t tied up doing menial work). The rest of the players select their load-out and then enter the world. Different weapons and classes are available depending on where on the tech tree the commander is. If the commander isn’t getting the job done then the other players can vote them out, and the commander always has the option of quitting to join the battle. The game ships in July and could be a nice sleeper hit.

I did wander around a little bit and check out a few other games, Armed and Dangerous looks to be a funny shooter and includes some cool weapons. One turns the world upside town tossing all of the enemies into the skies before turning back upright and then falling back to earth. The new Battlefield 1942 expansion pack looks pretty solid but the jury is out if the rest of the Battlefield community will accept the changes. The Doom III movie looked good but I was a little disappointed that we didn’t see more of the game. The new Lord of the Rings game, Return of the King looks to take off where “The Two Towers” left off and provide much good stuff to fans of the first game/movies. I have a lot more free time tomorrow so hopefully I’ll get to check out more stuff.

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