E3 2006

As always: personal opinions, not those of EA/Sims/etc. Everything discussed here was shown publicly at E3. All games/characters copyright their respective owners. All the bad photographs are by me -- sorry, you know how it is trying to take photos of video screens.

Overall impressions

Here's a more detailed report on stuff I saw at the show. Other than the Wii intro being first, it's not in any particular order.

Jump-to Links

Wii Booth
Red Steel
PS3 Booth
Lost Planet
Titan Quest
Spy Hunter
Dance Dance Revolution Universe
Diner Dash
Viva Pinata
Desperate Housewives (yes, seriously, there's a Desperate Housewives game)

Nintendo Wii Introduction

The line to get into the Nintendo booth was heinous all three days, but hey, that's where the best stuff at the show was. After getting inside, you saw a bunch of demos in the middle. They showed several demos you would get to play later -- the table tennis demo, the conductor demo, Metroid -- and one you wouldn't, a great drumming demo using the Wii controller.

Ubisoft had a cool first-person shooter/swordplay game called Red Steel being demoed. By the time I played I had memorized the level, so I had a pretty good time mowing down Yakuza by pointing the Wii remote at the screen and moving with the Nunchaku analog stick. The guy running the demo took pity on me and showed me the hidden area with the boss, which was a swordplay battle. If you've seen the original Nintendo promotional film for the Wii you know pretty much how swordfighting in a Wii game works -- you swing the remote like a sword. Yeah. I'm down with that. I really enjoyed RedSteel, but in talking to other folks who got to play, I found there's a bit of split opinion -- many people enjoyed it as much as I did, but others really thought the control via the Wii remote was awkward. I wonder whether that kind of split will persist all the way through when it ships? RedSteel1
There are a bunch of better Red Steel images on GameSpot. The boss I got to fight is here.
Metroid Wii was on display and just like on the Gamecube, it's pretty much the best-looking game on the platform. MetroidWii
Inside, you got a crack at the symphony demo yourself. You wave the Wii controller like a music baton and the orchestra follows along slower or faster. SymphonyWii
The table tennis demo worked pretty well -- you pushed the controller in and out. Although I didn't get to take a picture of it, the tennis demo worked even better -- you swing the controller like a tennis racket, it reconignizes forehand and backhand moves... totally fun!!! TableTennisWii

This demo was a different idea for the controller -- essentially, your little character is spinning through the maze and you guide them to avoid obstacles or grab powerups using the controller as a pointer.

Another game that used the controller effectively, I heard, was the Tony Hawk game for Wii (Tony Hawk's Downhill Run). You lean right and left by turning the controller -- I didn't get to try it though.

The baseball demo was totally fun. You stand sideways to the screen and swing the controller like a bat -- and it works right- or left-handed! In general I thought sports games will be one of the areas the Wii totally rules. EA (house plug!) showed Madden Wii in the booth elsewhere, and it really takes advantage of the controller too. Sports games are just more fun on the Wii than elsewhere! BaseballWii
WarioWare -- the endless series of mini-games -- is a natural for the new controller. They came up with a lot of different ways you have to use it, my favorite was the one where you put it on your head and squat up and down twice quickly! WarioWareWii
Elebits is... well, I didn't understand the story, but you basically suck the energy out of everything in a domestic setting by pointing with the controller. ElebitsWii
SD Gundam was my overlooked-gem nominee of all the games in the Nintendo booth. You're a cute little giant robot and you basically have a flail -- a giant spiked ball on the end of a chain. You swing the controller like it was the chain, and the spiked ball moves accordingly. The principle of the game is simple -- destroy everything using either your flail or your energy sword! Buildings, enemies -- flail 'em all! It was a blast, I played all the way through a completed level. SDGundamWii

If you look at the pictures above carefully, you'll see that Sony's PS3 system is actually quite large. If you squared out the dimensions, it would probably be about the size of an XBox 1 (but admittedley the curves make it more graceful).

By far the standout game for PS3 for me was Warhawk, shown in the three pictures at right. You fly a futuristic plane-ish thing and try to defeat the attacking hordes. It was the only game at the show to use the attitude-sensitivity of the new PS3 controller -- see the middle picture -- which is what made it. Once you got the hang of turning by banking the controller, I thought it was a total blast (similar to the Tony Hawk's Downhill Run game for Wii, which I didn't get to play).

I did talk to some friends who didn't like Warhawk though; one because he didn't like the control and one because he thought it was repetitive. I loved it, but it still didn't convince me I'd want to shell out $600 for a PS3.

Heavenly Sword was an impressive PS3 title, it seemed like a Dynasty Warriors kind of experience. It looked good and had tight controls -- I didn't get any decent photos of it though.

Genji was a swordplay game. I played it for awhile -- and had a video camera stuck in my face for a quote during the process -- but it just seems like another Onimusha. Genji1

There was a Gran Turismo for PS3, of course looking and playing great!

Another game I didn't take any photos of was SingStar, the European equivalent of Karaoke Revolution. There really wasn't anything great about the PS3 version that I could tell -- it played a whole lot like KR -- but I hadn't played any version of SingStar before, so it was good to check it out. Another random attendee and I had a blast belting out "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" in falsetto :-)

Virtua Tennis looked absolutely fantastic, and played just like all other versions of Virtua Tennis ;-) VirtuaTennis3-PS3
Sega showed off the new Sonic game on PS3. Sonic-PS3-2 Sonic-PS3

There was a really interesting game demo called Eye of Judgement. It comes with a peripheral (sorry for the blurry picture) which is a camera that points down at the table. The game is a magic-the-gathering style card game, and the camera recognizes the identity, position, and orientation of the cards you've put on the table, then adds CG onscreen to act out the battles between your proxy monsters.

It is a neat idea, but in the end I thought trying to computerize the game made it less fun than just playing it as a card game. There's a lot of "after playing this card, remove it," or "be sure not to have the cards overlap," etc., etc. In the end I don't think this version of the idea will really go anywhere, but it's a neat observation that a camera can keep track of the cards.

I played Resistance: Fall of Man for awhile. It's another multi-player LAN game a la Battlefield. It was fine, but I can't say there was anything extraordinary about it. Resistance-PS3
Back on the boring old PS2, Level 5 (the folks who did Dragon Quest 8) showed off Rogue Galaxy, a last-hurrah Japanese RPG for PS2. It looked fun, they certainly understand that RPG thing! RogueGalaxy-PS2
And of course there's a God of War sequel on the way. GodOfWar2-1 GodOfWar2-2
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There were a lot of great-looking RTSes for PC (and several for XB360) at the show. The three screens above are from a particularly attractive one called Titan Quest from Iron Lore for the PC. Like all RTSes, it was hard to spend enough time with it at the show to evaluate how fun it is to play.


Ubisoft was showing off Call of Juarez, a western-themed FPS for the PC. It looks good so far, I hope it comes out well - good westerns are almost as satisfying as good WWII shooters :-). It's being developed by a Polish company.


The Conan online game was being shown again. Just like last year, it's a very attractive game (didn't get a chance to play).


Shadowrun was being shown at the Games for Windows booth -- it's a multi-player LAN FPS from Microsoft. For those of you who know Evan Hirsch, this is what he's working on now.


The Ship is a graphic adventure game being developed by a small company using the Source engine from Valve.


Prey was being shown at the 2K Games booth (for the second time, IIRC).


My old co-worker Thomas Vu was at the show demoing the new Warhammer RTS. It's definitely up there in terms of pretty!


Thomas explained several of the cooler points of gameplay, but I've always thought it's hard to appreciate an RTS on the show floor.


Lost Planet is an FPS for PC and XB360 from Capcom. It looks great...


...and the even better news is that it plays great. I played all the way through this snow level at the Capcom booth, and I can't wait to play this! It's probably the biggest reason I might get a 360.


This was my favorite picture of E3. I don't know why they wrote my name on this pylon, but they did!


Activision once again had the giant halfpipe for skaters and BMX in their booth on the show floor.


You may regard it as pointless spectacle, but any time I get to watch Tony Hawk -- yeah, that Tony Hawk -- skate in person is OK by me.


I suppose it won't come as a surprise that I thought this game was terrible.


And this was the other masterpiece of interactive entertainment being shown along with it! Yup, that's Garfield all right.


A pretty great slogan for a PSP accessories company.


Pandemic was showing off the sequel to Destroy All Humans.


Konami had a beat-em-up Powerstone-like game called Xaolin Showdown with attractive outlined, flat-shaded characters (which there were a lot of this year). I didn't find out until after the show that this is based on a Kids-WB animated series.


There's a new Spy Hunter game (Nowhere to Run), and it's a pretty attractive NFS-Undergound-like racer.


Amazingly, it was on XBox 1. This was one of the few XB1 games to be found at the show.

I checked out the videogame based on the upcoming Pixar movie Cars mostly to see what the characters for the movie look like. Cars2 Cars3
Another year, another DDR -- this year's is called Dance Dance Revolution Universe. This year the graphics are flat-shaded, outlined characters, and there's a little bit more going on graphically.
Besides showing off the new PS2 game, Konami had an arcade version in their booth.
They brought in quite a few awesome DDR players to work the pads in the booth. The guy pictured at center was smokin'.
Another targeted game: Rockstar's Table Tennis for XB360 at the Microsoft booth. I guess Ping-pong afficianados can be considered "hardcore" in their own way. Everyone I saw playing this game was Asian; conclude what you will.
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DinerDash2 Within the Microsoft booth, they had a little area for XBox Live Arcade games. They were showing off the forthcoming Diner Dash for XB360. If you haven't played it, Diner Dash is an addictive casual game about running a diner. It was awesome watching this woman play in the booth -- she was gone, immersed in the game. She was quite a ways in, so I think she'd been there awhile. DinerDash1
2K games' sports games look really nice, just as they did when Sega sold them. Visual Concepts does a nice job with these -- at right, NBA 2K7. NBA2K7-2 NBA2K7-4

Another cool thing in the XBox Live Arcade booth was Totem Ball. It uses the camera accessory for the 360, and you steer your totem stack with tank-tread controls by raising or lowering your hands. It's interspersed with some mini-games and some strategic elements were you occasionally have to use the limbo bars to knock totems off of your stack.

Unfortunately, illustrating the problem with camera peripherals, it wasn't working very well at the show because of the lighting.

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There was a station showing off Viva Pinata, the wild game from Rare and Microsoft for XB360. These screens don't do the pinatas, with their individual little pieces of colored paper, justice. I like the building style! The game was mostly being described, though -- although it was a real-time demo on the hardware, it didn't really show off a lot of interactive gameplay.
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SaintsRowCAC I have a joke that many create-a-character systems in videogame are systems for "generating an ugly character quickly". That was still in evidence this year (no slight to these developers -- it's a hard problem). BadCAC2
VivendiBooth2 The front of the Vivendi booth showed off why E3 is sometimes accused of excess. VivendiBooth


Yedang Online, a Chinese online company, was showing off Dance Battle Audition, a multiplayer online dance competition game.


It certainly was talking to its audience -- I think I was the only Caucasian in the booth.


The characters are cute, they were certainly working for the audience.


I tried to play the game, and didn't really care for it (I play DDR some).


This game is designed to use the PC keyboard, presumably so it can be easily played in PC rooms in Asia.


Yedang was also showing off LaxeLore...




....and this cute, "casual" MMO called Wiki, pictured above and in the row of pictures below .

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Activision was showing QuakeWars, a nice-looking multiplayer LAN shooter for PC. I didn't get in line to play it though.



Hinter Wars is a casual MMO with a very cute style. You can also play from your mobile phone.

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F.E.A.R. is getting a sequel. I enjoyed the first game...


Freestyle is a Korean casual MMO about basketball -- you play short rounds of basketball with a microtransaction payment model.


Vivendi Games picked it up for the US, micropayments included! It'll be interesting to see how it does.


Buena Vista is making a game out of Desperate Housewives (collapse of western civilization imminent, etc.).


It may turn out to be just a bad licensed game, but it has a lot of Sims-like interfaces and elements.


And, when I actually stopped and watched the game, I gotta tell ya, the dialog was really funny. It could turn out to be popular outside the core gamers!


Games I Played: Dungeon Runners from NCSoft. Man there are a lot of MMOs out there. I spent 20-30 minutes playing this, and couldn't get a grasp on why I'd rather play this than WoW.


Games I Played: Yakuza isn't the most amazing-looking game, but it was pretty fun to pick up and play. That makes sense because it's about brawling using anything you can pick up in the environment!


I thought Sega had good floor promos, too. For Yakuza they were handing out temporary tattoos. It's a PS2 game out in September.


Games I Played: I happened to pick up and play Virtua Tennis, never having tried it before. It's really fun! I think they sold a copy.


The new Total War game is Medieval; YABRTS (Yet Another Beautiful Real-Time Strategy) game. It looks really fun to play as well, but I didn't take the time on the floor.

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Dark Messiah from Ubisoft is a first-person fighting game on PC. Your hands are shown on-screen to try and make first-person work for fighting. It's using the Source engine.
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Rayman6 Ordinarily I wouldn't write about the new Rayman game at all -- it was just a movie -- but you're fighting bunnies. Bunnies who periodically break into dance! How can you not mention that?


The other corner of the Ubisoft booth had the new PC Rainbox Six game, which is set in Vegas.


One of the cool gameplay additions is the snake cam - you can feed it through the door to peek at the terrorists before flashbanging in.


They had a hot backup PC for the demos. Always a wise move at E3.

HarvestMoonMagicalMelody1 The new Harvest Moon game is really, really, really, really, really cute. Animal Crossing must be selling well!
Poker3 Poker4
There were two different high-production value, high-customization online poker games being shown. It seems somewhat silly -- this game works pretty well with a 2D flash interface -- but it might work. The games really evoke the sense of watching World Championship of Poker on TV, which I find strangely compelling; and they have all sorts of character customization (which shades to wear? so hard to decide). There are a lot of people who play online poker so this could actually be the next Deer Hunter.
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Allegedley, LucasArts was showing off the new Indiana Jones game in the concourse area -- I didn't get in to see it.
But I did see their hilarious recruiting video, with stills featured here in mock newsreel style. Jason Osipa and Sandy Christensen were both in the video!
What the video was touting is the new "Bio-mechanical A. I." (say it with your best Gary Owens voice). Specifically, they're using the new Euphoria runtime from Natural Motion. I heard from one fellow attendee that the demos of the game showed off impressive animations.
GodsAndHeros1 My friends Seth and Juan Carlos are working on Gods & Heroes for Perpetual. It was being shown at the Sony Online Entertainment booth. GodsAndHeroes2

Konami did it -- they're bringing out a full-on dating sim for the U.S., called Brooktown Senior Year. Apart from avoiding senioritis, you try to appeal to the individual interests of the hotties in your class.

See remark above about collapse of western civilization, etc.

Games I played, cont'd: I spent about 30 minutes with Namco/Bandai's Eureka Seven, a new mech game. It took a little while to get used to the control scheme, but it was definitely fun. Unfortunately, too much of the gameplay ended up being flying around in circles trying to get a bead on the other guy (scarily reminescent of WWII dogfight games). It's pretty and the sense of flying is pretty compelling, though. EurekaSeven2
Capcom's Clover Studio was showing off two games, the beautiful, epic Okami at left and the new brawler God Hand at right. Okami remains a work of art; exquisitely graceful and strikingly rendered. Unfortunately, many of the attendees had facial expressions that suggested they didn't get it; I hope that isn't a leading indicator of what will happen to this work of art. God Hand is... er... simpler to understand. Looked like a fun if mindless action game.
This is Dead Rising, a zombie survival game for XB360 at Capcom's booth. It was great fun -- you can pick up anything in the environment to beat the zombies senseless with (other than Nazis, there aren't many game fodder better than zombies!). It's set in a shopping mall to up the Romero factor.

StreetFighterFigures1Woo-hoo! Street Fighter Kubricks!

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Microsoft XBox Promotional Campaign

All these images are part of various Microsoft promotions about how you can be a unique individual by joining millions of other on XBox Live ;-) Seriously though, I liked all the elements of the campaign quite a bit.

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