E3 Day One

E3 Day One

Written by The GN Staff on 5/13/2004 for
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John's First Day

First day of E3 is done and this, being eigth year at the show had a very good day. First stop was Activision and viewing of two big titles: Call of Duty: United Offensive and Doom 3 on the Xbox.

Call of Duty fans will have a great time if the demo at E3 is any indication. The great scripted events in single player were shown in full force in the two demos. The first demo of a Russian mission showed off some great particle effects from overhead bombs with realistic flying smoke and debris, The level showed off a new mounted machine gun and the toasty flamethrower. You can cause the tank to explode if you shoot an enemy on the back who’s wielding one. The second demo showcasing a British soldier on a bomber puts you in the gunner position. You must man various positioned guns as enemies fly at your bomber from different directions. Dynamic damage on the plane is portrayed by pieces missing from the hull. The battle outside with gunfire everywhere from both enemies and allies was truly jaw dropping. When fall hits, you can be sure I’ll be one of the first in line to pick this up.

In a very dark and small theater, Doom 3 was playable on the Xbox. I feel sorry for the Activision works in that booth as it seemed it was lacking air conditioning and light. Nevertheless, playing Doom 3 for the first time was truly an experience. The lighting effects and shadows incredibly realistic and really set the mood in the game. I witness a variety of enemies ranging from a skinny zombie to a energy throwing one. The graphics were smooth and incredibly detailed with impressive models. Since the announcement of the title in the summer for the PC, the demo increased my already intense desire to play the game. The Xbox version should follow the PC version shortly.

My next stop was Sapphire Tech and while they didn’t have any products to show, they did have a prototype of their new Toxic line there. The heatpipe technology just doesn’t cut it with the newer cards from ATI so Sapphire has developed a heatsink fan combination that is a two slot solution but silent. The large fan draws air in from one slow and blows it through the card. Ram sinks on both sides also help cool the card. The design reminded me of the old OTES system from ABIT. Toxic cards just don’t get a new cooling solution. APE or Automated Performance Enhancement is Sapphire’s way of overclocking the memory. What they will do is take some boards and subject them to bad environmental conditions and see how far they can overclock the memory. On conclusion of the testing, they will issue a patch to all users and you will be guaranteed a certain performance increase which they think will be neighborhood of 25-30MHz. Users have the option of installing the patch so you don’t have to overclock if you don’t want to. A bundle of Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow, Tomb Raider, and Prince of Persia will be included with the Toxic line. Finally, a thermal diode that’s attached to the unit can report temperatures with an optional front bay display from Sapphire for around $15. It’s nice to see Sapphire trying to offer more than a stock solution.
John's First Day Continued...

NVIDIA had a few different products on their show floor besides the GeForce 6800 Ultra. If you’ve watched MTV, you probably saw somoe of the songs that use video game characters for the video. NVIDIA was showing a program developed by MTV that will allow you to create your own videos of the same nature and upload them for all to see. An ApeXtreme machine was also there showcasing NVIDIA’s media PC front end. If you’ve used front ends lik myHTPC or Microsoft’s Media PC, then you’ll be familiar with NVIDIA’s interface with the ApeXtreme. I’m sure most of you know all about the 6800 but I was happy to see hardware encoding and decoding in the chip. That makes the media PC person in me pretty happy and I’m interested to see how well the card will work in a HTPC solution along with the gaming performance. Asking the NVIDIA rep about the two molex connectors on the GeForce 6800 Ultra, he said that you can run it off of one but for overclockers, two should provide stability to do so. That clears the air on a very confusing subject for the past few weeks. I also got a rundown of the GeForce 6800 line with the features it has and it seems to be a pretty solid card. NVIDIA is also going into the mobile 3D arena with GoForce. The technology should be showing up on some PDAs and phones in the near future. All in all, I came away pretty impressed with NVIDIA’s line and the GeForce 6800 technology.

Finally, Logitech made a few announcements with new products. First up are two new cordless solutions for the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox. The big changes are a smaller design and only two batteries now instead of four. The omission of two batteries will not change the battery life as you’ll get around 50 hours with rumble on. A more accurate D-Pad will show up on all the new console pads as well. The Xbox pad will cost $49.99 while the PS2 will go for $39.99. The PC is getting a wide range of pads raging from $39.99 to $9.99. The PC’s cordless pad has an improved D-Pad like the console ones and also runs on two batteries. The corded version, going for $29,99 has rubber grips as well. Finally, the $9.99 pad doesn’t have any analog sticks but does have the improved D-pad. PSP owners can expect a wide range of products from Logitech when it launches. This is some new territory that Logitech will be going into with the PSP so expect some interesting peripherals for it when it’s released. None announced currently but soon. Logitech’s final announcement is an official license with Nascar so they will be producing some Nascar wheels for consoles and PCs. Let’s hope they come out with a few of them using the Gran Turismo 4 design of increased turn radius over the traditional ones, but you’ll probably see the traditional wheel style for the first iteration.

So for a first day, it was pretty good. Tomorrow I’ll be coming at you with Half-Life 2, ATI, and various other products that I’ll be demoing on the floor.
This year’s E3 is my second as a member of the GamingNexus team and third overall so the show still gets my blood pumping. The sights and sounds are still a bit overwhelming but the chance to check out all of the cool new games and meet some of the people behind the games is still quite a trip.

We started the day at the Activision booth. Activision is celebrating their 25th anniversary this year which is really impressive and kind of scary at the same time (John and I felt really old when we found this out). Still it’s quite an accomplishment and kudos to Activision for 25 years of great games.

The first game we got to see was Call of Duty:United Offensive, the expansion pack to John’s favorite game of 2003. The expansion pack is being developed by Graymatter (the fine folks who developed Return to Castle Wolfenstein). What we saw was really impressive, featuring some of the best smoke effects I’ve seen in a game. Graymatter has also brought over the excellent flamethrower from Wolfenstein to the game…ahhh nothing like the smell of burning Nazi’s in the morning.

Next up was Doom 3, the game looks great and I feel sorry for the guys working the Doom 3 booth because it’s going to smell in there. Why you ask? Because gamers are going to be crapping their pants at how good the game looks. We only got to check out the Xbox version but all it really did was to whet our appetite for the PC version. The lighting effects were particularily impressive as well as the positional damage (if you don’t kill an enemy you will get a nice little bloodstain where you shot them). The PC version will be out later this summer with the Xbox version to be out “when it’s done”.

After picking our jaws off the floor (and mopping up the big pool of drool) we headed over to check out Xmen:Legends. The game is a fast playing RPG and the game looks and plays like a comic book. This isn’t your typical RPG though as the action in the game is fast and furious, none of that turn based stuff here. You can tweak the mood and attitude of each team member to ensure that things don’t get out of control though.

The game will feature 15 playable characters with you getting to utilize four of them at a time. Xmen:Legends really uses the unique powers of each character as well as allowing you to combine character powers to solve problems. Need to cross a gap, you can use Nightcrawler to teleport characters across the game or you could have Iceman just create an ice bridge. The game will also feature co-op and scrimmage modes which look to add even more fun to the game. I’d also like to mention that it’s pretty hard to do an interview with someone when Stan “The Man” Lee is signing autographs behind you. John was a little disappointed he couldn’t find a Thing figure and a Batmobile for him to sign…

We didn’t get to check out everything at the Activision booth but we’re hoping to head back later this week for better looks at The Movies and Vampire: Bloodlines.Up next I headed over to the West Hall to check out Digital Extreme’s Pariah. The game is set in the year 2520 and the Earth has been mined of all of its resources and has been turned into one large prison. You play Dr. Jack Mason, a down on his luck scientist who is sent to recover one of the prisoners who’s come down with a mysterious virus. On your way back from retrieving the prison your ship is shot down and it’s up to you to escape the planet before the military nukes the planet to get rid of the virus. From there it’s up to you to figure what is going on and who you can and can not trust.

Pariah is built on a heavily modified version Unreal Championship engine with technology from Unreal Tournament 2003 and UT 2004 added in. The development team has incorporated the now popular Havok 2.0 physics engine. A cool heat visual effect (which looks fantastic and is used in several different modes) was also shown. The developers have also tweaked the performance of the UC engine and the game is running around 300% faster than the original UC game for the Xbox.

The game takes an interesting approach to the weapons as well. You will still be able to pick up weapons around the levels but you’ll also be able to pickup Weapon Energy Cores (WECs) which add abilities to the weapons. For example, your standard machine gun can have a scope added to it which gives you the ability to scout ahead and snipe opponents while other modifications can change the ability of grenades and so forth.

Pariah’s multiplayer will feature five different modes. You have the standard deathmatch, team deatchmatch, and capture the flag modes but the game will also add Front Line Assault and Siege modes. Front Line Assault is similar to the new Onslaught mode in Unreal Tournament 2004. There are several command points scattered across the map and you will have to capture them in sequence in order to win the map (you will not be able to capture a point until one of the ones before it is captured). The twist is that the command points don’t automatically switch when you take them over, instead you just start the process of turning the point to your side and if you are killed it still could switch over if the opponent doesn’t switch it in time. Siege mode forces you to battle against wave after wave of enemy bots that are either trying to kill you or to destroy one or more objectives in your base. All five modes will have more of the excellent bot support you come to expect from the Unreal series of games. This is certainly a game I’m going to be tracking until it gets released in the Spring of 2005.

After a quick pitstop it was time to check out what Microsoft had up their sleeves. Microsoft is putting on one hell of a show this year with one of the largest areas at the booth. Check back this weekend for pictures of the booth.

First on our agenda was Dungeon Siege II and the developers at Gas Powered Games are really taking the sequel to the next level. The new game is focused on four major enhancements: Character AI, character skill progression (allowing for multi-class characters), scalable and customizable treasure drops, and increasing the scope of the game. The user interface of the game has been overhauled and users will be able to really play around with what elements they want to see on screen. The pack mule from the first game is also gone, replaced with Pets that you can summon. Pets are a lot more useful than the pack mules as they can actually add some firepower against the enemies around you. You can also power up your pets by “feeding” them equipment. The more powerful the item, the more experience your pet gets. Pets will also utilize some of the enhanced magic trees available to the other characters. The look of the game has also been enhanced and there are some cool reflective effects for the weapons (you can actually see the reflections of the environments on the equipment you have equipped). Speaking of weapons, your character will be able to dual wield weapons allowing for some real medieval “John Woo” action. There are also a host of other graphical enhancements and the game really looks great. Gamers should expect at least 20 hours of gameplay when the game is released at the end of 2004.
Knights of the Republic(KOTOR) was one of my favorite games from last year so I was really interested to see how Bioware’s follow-up, Jade Empire looked. The game is based on Ancient Chinese folklore with some technology twists (this is kind of hard to describe but it looks cool in the game). The biggest change in the game is that instead of a party of three characters you will only be controlling one character in the game. This also increases the speed of the game as you no longer have to cycle through the different party members to select their different attacks. Instead you move around freely attacking enemies (it feels much faster than the combat in KOTOR). The rules engine behind the game is still there but the game really eliminates the feeling that the system is there.

Each of the seven playable characters has a distinct fighting style and abilities that impact how you play the game. The fighting styles and weapons really look solid and we had a lot of fun beating up monsters in new and different ways. The game will also allow you transform in a monster at times and really clean house. Jade Empire is also a lot bloodier than KOTOR and will probably have an M rating when it’s released.

Battling Chinese demons was a lot of fun but next up was one of the games that I really wanted to check out, Fable. This is another solid RPG that is going to become a huge time suck for me when it’s released. The game allows you to play a hero in the game as you go from young child to full grown adult. Fable has a lot of open-endedness to it in that you can really choose how you want to play the game. You really live your character through their life and while there is a solid action/RPG game there is also what the developers are calling “village life”. “Village life” is what really makes Fable different than the other RPG’s on the market. Village life is where you character can meet and interact with the people of the town he lives in and where his actions really come into play. If you are going down the evil route people will react differently to you than if you are being a goody two shoes (the game has stats on this and your appearance will also change with your actions, horns if you go evil and a halo if you go nice). You can also flirt with the people of the village and get married. One example we were given is that you can flirt with the blacksmith’s daughter and if you eventually marry her you will be able to get free unique equipment from the blacksmith when you come back from your missions. You will also be able to setup your own businesses in this portion of the game.

The game does have an RPG/action core and this looks really solid. You have access to magical, melee, and ranged attacks. You can actually enhance your melee and ranged attacks with magic to do even more damage. We saw a pretty cool example of an enhanced bow attack that launched a large number of arrows that homed in on their target. What we saw of the game looked really impressive and hopefully the final product will live up to expectations.

John’s already covered the NVIDIA appointment in depth but it was cool to see the 3d effects that NVIDIA is adding to their driver and it was nice to get the scoop on the whole two molex power connections on the 6800 series. It turns out that most users will only need to use one connector but those wishing to overclock the card will need to use both connections. My last appointment of the day was with DISCover the creators of a new technology that will allow companies to create PC based consoles. The technology essentially creates a console that can play PC games without all of the hassles of PC games (installing the game, dealing with device drivers, configuration issues). The system will detect when a game is inserted into the console and then run a script to install the game if it’s not already installed on the system. If the script does not exist on the hard drive it will go out to the main server to see if the script exists there. DISCover expects to support all of the major games that are coming to market. There are currently two OEM’s that are building devices with the technology, Apex and Alienware. Each company will build their devices a little differently to appeal to different markets. Apex’s system will be out at the end of the summer while the system from Alienware will be out in approximately 45 days. Check back next week for additional coverage of this new and interesting technology.

I did get a chance to check out the NC Soft booth as well. Auto Assault looks fantastic and will really offer gamers a cool new non-orc slaying MMORPG experience and City of Villians also looks to be rock solid.

Check back tomorrow for more coverage semi-live from the show floor.

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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