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This Developer's Life: E3

Title says it all...

This Developer’s Life:  E3

Dear Reader:

E3.  The biggest gaming event of the year, returning to the resplendent glory of days of yore…and I missed it.  Yup.  I was stuck doing deals elsewhere in the country. 

So what do I have to say from the sidelines about this sumptuous event and its return to prior opulence?  Read on…

A Brief Note on Magnificence:

Well first off, hallelujah to the return of giant screens and rock stars.  I know we tried this whole demure and bashful “industry only” thing last year, and you know what we lost?  MILLIONS OF DOLLARS OF MAINSTREAM PRESS. 

E3 is the only time when we appear on CNN without having a kid kill someone over Grand Theft Auto or an entire generation of young boys turning into lesbians because of Mass Effect.  This is something we need to preserve.  We need to demonstrate that our medium isn’t evil and we’re not a bunch of mouth breathing troglodyte basement dwellers.  The glitz and the glamour, as silly as it is, helps show this.   SO DON’T KILL IT.

Alright, enough with the all caps.  All I’m saying is that someday we’ll have larger than life personalities of our own that shape national culture and garner universal respect (or at least have the bizzaro influence that even reality TV stars seem to have today…), unfortunately, at this point, we have to rely on borrowed celebrity, so having members of the Beatles come out and say Rockband is pretty awesome is…well…pretty awesome. 

It’s sort of like John Denver testifying to the senate against music censorship, you can’t really fight that.

Things Which Rock 

So what did I think were the biggest things I heard out of E3?  Well, not Natal or Sony’s motion controller, I’ll reserve judgment on them until I get my hands on them (well I’ll judge Microsoft’s choice of name right now, it’s stupid, I don’t care if it’s a city in Brazil, you’re going to have a hard time getting people to think of it as Na-tal rather than natal). 

I think the biggest thing in my mind was actually the expansion of digital distribution and streaming games that seemed to be a common thread amongst all the major platform holders.  I feel like moves in this direction will help diversify what can be offered on a console, which is good for the medium in general. 

What else was cool?  Well, it was good to see Alan Wake resurface.  It was f’king awesome to see that someone at Square had the balls to announce FFXIV before XIII is even released…and on top of that to have it be an MMO.  Watching the crazy brand swapping going on all over the place (Team Ninja doing Metroid, Kojima teaming up with Patrick Steward to do a Castlevania…which wasn’t a Castlevania) was good for a lark. 

I have high hopes for the new teams giving their takes on these beloved franchises (and I have high hopes that Team Ninja can contain its seemingly unmitigated urge for unreasonable chest sizes…). 

A piece of news that I felt has gone under reported has been the success of Free Realms.  They have upwards of 2.5 million subscribers at this point (at least so I hear).  Sony needs a win badly on this one, but if Free Realms succeeds we may start seeing US MMO publishers seriously consider alternate revenue models (alternate to subscription that is).  

Most Underwhelming Moment – Milo 

When Peter Molyneux announces “The future is here…And I have built it!”  One can only weep silently in the depths of one’s soul.  The problem is not his vision, but his ability to execute it.  We saw it with Black and White, then with Fable and again with Fable 2. 

Go back and read the early press on some of those projects if you can find it, you’ll find yourself craving the mystic and impossible pieces of interactive magic described in those documents… then you’ll go open up Black and White and slap the monkey around for fifteen minutes or play Fable just long enough to decide the only thing worth doing is looking for a whore. 

This is why, when I saw the Milo demo the very core of my being began to seethe.  I was like a tornado stirring an ocean made out of bees.  I would love to see our Touring crushing companion be a possibility - even if it is a possibility too dangerous for us to ever realize - but when I see the woman on the TV “catch” a pair of goggles Milo throws to her and then watch Peter cut in to say “She’s not an actor (wink wink)” I start to worry.

I think we do need more emotive characters.  I think we do need to be able to better deal with human interaction.  I think everything they are attempting to do with Milo is fantastic and great…and that is why it worries me. 

Technologically, I don’t think the Milo project has to fail, but if it does, if Milo turns out to be a ridiculous caricature or an uncanny crater mannequin, I believe the industry will once again turn away from investing in this sort of project and when desperate designers ask for the go ahead to try and deliver adaptive, emotional characters, men in suits (because they’re always good to vilify) will point to Milo as proof that games are better off in shades of brown, telling the heroic, jingoistic, ultraviolent stories of linebackers with guns. 

Go Peter.  I’m rooting for you.  Don’t let us down.

I’m Out

Guess that was mostly rant.  Sorry about that guys.  Let me know what you’d like to see over the next few weeks.  [email protected] or JamesPortnow on Twitter. 

P.S.  No Milo, I don’t want to go fishing.

---

As always, check out gameculture.com for my latest adventures.

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