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E3 2008: Wrapping it up

E3 2008

E3 2008 is over. We closed the convention center, watching as companies packed up all their equipment to put into storage until next year’s show starts. I played dozens and dozens of games, wrote 13 or so articles, and spent three days waking up at 7:00 a.m. and staying up until 11:00 p.m. at night doing nothing but playing or writing about video games. Though I only volunteer here at Thunderbolt, I felt like I was working as hard as I do at my full-time, real-world job. I felt like a real journalist – though, technically, I suppose being a copy editor for a newspaper puts me close to that ilk anyway – working on deadlines, fighting tiredness in order to get one more article published before bed, and double-checking with references to get the facts right. It was a fun experience and I learned a whole lot about both the industry itself and video game journalism thanks to the scores of people I spoke with. At the end of the event, there were still a whole lot of games that I felt needed to be talked about, so I decided that I would use this article to do so. This is by no means comprehensive, but I feel that it covers the games that I feel deserve the most attention.

I got a chance to briefly play some of N+ while in Atari’s showroom. The game was a lot of fun. Very simple and straightforward; this platformer has no combat or fancy graphics to speak of. You play as a ninja and have to bounce around the level using wall jumps and wall slides to collect gold and unlock the exit door. It’s incredibly simple and I couldn’t help but play “just one more level” more than once. DS fans will also appreciate that there are no friend codes to mess around with when uploading your user created levels to the world to share. The recent delay in the game was caused by, from what I heard, having to work with Nintendo to get them to accept the bypass. But despite not needing a friend code to get on and download new levels, all of the levels will be approved, just to make sure there’s nothing inappropriate going on. Set for release on the PSP and the DS, this should be a fun, quick portable game that will keep you very entertained.

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N+

One of the games that I was most surprised with was LittleBigPlanet. One of our staff members has been nuts about the game for months and I have to admit, I wasn’t really sold. I just couldn’t picture it. But when Anthony and I went to the Sony booth and had a chance to play it with one of their knowledgeable and friendly PR reps, we were both very impressed. We were quickly comfortable with the game’s controls and while we admittedly weren’t very good, we still had an absolute blast (even after dying a dozen or so times each). It was just very fun, inventive, and fresh. It was like nothing we ever played. While I can’t imagine the game is any fun by yourself, it seems like it’s going to be one of the best multiplayer games since Counter-Strike or Unreal Tournament.

The most disappointing game that I played was Dark Void. I had fairly high expectations of it, given the company it’s made by and some of the early buzz, but I was left rather bored with what I got to play on the show floor. The graphics are very plain, everything looked very grey in the demo, and after experiencing everything – the UFO highjacking, the vertical combat, and the jetpack – I wasn’t at all convinced that the game was anything special. It played like a whole lot of other games that I’ve played and a whole lot of other games I will play. I’m sure that this demo was early and that there’s a lot of work left on the project, but I have to say, I expected better.

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Dark Void

The thing that bugged me most was buzzwords. I never knew there were so many different ways a person could sell ****. “Complete user freedom,” “paradigm shifting,” “total user control” – the list goes on and on. I just wanted PR people to have fun with me, tell me about their game, and seem like they enjoyed it. To me, the games that made the best impressions were the ones demonstrated by developers that seemed to really love their finished product. They didn’t show that by reciting buzzwords, they did it by showing me their game and being legitimately excited by it. Donny, a producer for Atari who was working on Deer Hunter Tournament, or the team from Obsidian who showed me Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir, just talked about their game, what it was like to work on it, and instead of reading memorized press kits, they showed me why their games were fun. In return, I gave them very positive write-ups because I was left convinced that they cared about their products and when players do get them, they’ll be good. That’s how it should be.

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Deer Hunter Tournament

If I can say one game was most unexpected, it has to be Legendary. While I won’t say that the game looks perfect, I went into the interview with GameCock with few expectations and I was rather surprised. The design of the game seems rather intriguing and unique. I liked that though the game looked very linear, that linearity is masked by the massive chaos that’s going on around you. It’s less about walking a set path and more about responding to a set path that is created out of the chaos around you. It looks like it will be a fun game to play through.

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Legendary

I have to say, the hardest thing about the conference was the sheer workload. It’s seemingly impossible to do and see everything. Though I definitely got my fill of all the best games, I still left the convention wishing I had done more. I would have loved to have gone into Sony or Konami’s meeting rooms to check out more of their products, but there simply wasn’t enough time over the three days with all the other meetings that we had. Now, I’m not saying it should be longer – hell no, I was tired of video games and writing about them after three days and don’t think I could handle another day – but next year when Thunderbolt heads to the conference, expect us to bring along another staff member.

We had a blast in LA and are sad that it’s over, really. Just being there, there’s excitement in the air. The crowd was fantastic and I met a number of great writers from other sites. It was just cool to be able to talk to other people that are, like Thunderbolt, struggling to get attention as small fish in a big pond. I also left the conference with confidence in this site. We were frequently complimented on our business cards, which one of our staff members took the time to design for us before the trip, and our site staff were tremendously helpful in getting all of our content proofread and cleaned up before it went live. So, until next year: thanks for reading our content and we hope you enjoyed the fruits of our labor.

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2003.

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