Tuesday, June 9, 2009

E3 2009: Part 1 - It Sees What You Did There.

Let's face it, we all go through phases in our lives when we just can't be impressed. Extended periods of time when we just can't be excited or enthralled, and find the world has become bereft of amusement and exists only so we have a comfortable place to wait around for our inevitable end. Okay, maybe that's a bit much but you all know what I'm talking about. Well thank heavens for small mercies, as this week saw the return of one of the most important events in any gamers calendar; the electronic entertainment expo. More commonly known, as E3. Something, that I just can't help but get excited about.

So last years E3 was an unfortunate failure which saw many developers/publishers/people with more than an ounce of common sense declare the event to be dead. Well the ESA were obviously reading their comment cards over the past year because the general consensus this year is that E309 was an unmitigated success. with hundreds of games on display for the first time and many more announced for the first time, I've found it particularly difficult to decide on a structure for this blog post. But despite the masses of new exciting titles, there was one uniting factor for the power 3 this year. Motion-Sensing technology. In this spirit, there will be a few updates this week on various parts of last weeks E3. I just need time to collect my thoughts. Let's start with this.

Microsoft came first on the Monday, officially unveiling Project Natal. Resident loudmouth, Peter Molyneux was on hand to do what he does best in making us believe that his latest endorsement heralds the arrival of the 'future' in gaming. Well, call me Molyamorous because I was pretty impressed by what he had to show us. I'm going to assume anyone reading this probably did so because I personally asked them to, and thus I'm going to assume they already know what Project Natal is. On the off chance someone not as knowledgeable has stumbled upon my page, it is basically a camera for the Xbox360 that claims to be able to capture and render any person or object in real-time. Youtube it if you're bothered.

It all seems very cool at first glance. But as many of my skeptic forum friends have pointed out, a full body human controller is something that will be incredibly hard to implement into games as we know them today. This technology is either going to completely change the way developers make games or be completely ignored by everyone, with no middle ground. It seems tailored perfectly for casual fare (maybe, none of us are entirely sure how it will work), but I doubt given the amount of Space Marine shooters still being lapped up hungrily by consumers, that the casual market has the strength at this point to hold this idea up on it's own. Microsoft have brought us the future with Natal. The question is are we really ready for it.

Nintendo came out on the Tuesday and pushed the new Wii Motion-Plus, along with claims that the Wii will now do what it was always meant to do in the first place, with a ratio of 1:1.
This could end up being more impressive than it looks, but in comparison to Project Natal, it just seems rather pedestrian. Of course, Natal has been criticized heavily by many as something the game industry doesn't want, so perhaps Nintendo are readying the money-rod in the hopes of the Wii-lightning striking again. Either way, the Wii Motion-Plus is coming considerably sooner than Natal, and as the 360 can attest to, a head start means more now than it did years ago.

Last but not least, Sony.
Sony may have struck gold with this one. Their product can basically be broken down to 'doing more than Wii Motion-Plus but less than Natal', a middle ground that could be exactly what players and developers need and want. There have been those who have labelled it 'A Wiimote for the PS3' and to be perfectly honest they're not entirely wrong. That's basically what Sony's demonstration showed it to be. But as the laughs, oohs and aahhs from the E3 audience can attest to, it was very very impressive. The demonstration showed the player using the controller in roughly rendered 3D locales in various different situations similar to those seen in both 'casual' and 'core' games today. One particularly impressive moment was when the controller was being used to select groups of tanks in an RTS style example, when suddenly we were controlling a tank first person, using the controller to look around. It sounds less impressive on paper, but rest assured this could really be something special.

TL; DR: Microsoft are doing too much, Nintendo aren't doing enough, and Sony are sitting somewhere in the middle.

Your Pal,
Andy K.

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