E3 2011: Feelings on SWTOR after E3

SWTOR has made numerous impressions on me over the past couple of years.  I’ve gone from loving the idea to hating the idea then back to loving it again.  The key issues for me are always my fear that the game’s playable world area will be limited to just hubs which then send you off into instances.  I’m also fearful that the game will be too much of a WoW clone and fail to live up to its Star Wars heritage.

Bioware brought a few things to E3 this year to show off besides another awesome cinematic.   First, and what I found most enjoyable and informative, is the Tatooine Developer Walkthrough.

The video above shows around 11 minutes of in-game footage of the game being played.  I took a few notes while watching that highlight what I like as well as my concerns.

  • They nailed the look of Tatooine.  It’s gorgeous.
  • UI looks clean, but unattractive. I like the classic Star Wars blue, but the design is very sterile.
  • The area looks fairly large and open.  I hope that there is lots of do and see without the feeling that you have to drive out to a location and back.  I’ve played games that don’t utilize the space but simply create it as filler.  That’s no better than instancing.
  • At times combat looks very fluid and natural but then there are times when it looks horrible.  When the Sith Sorcerer just stands back and “casts” his force abilities I was really disheartened that it felt like casting spells in any other game.  I never consider force abilities something to be “Cast”.  It doesn’t translate well to gameplay, whereas the fluid swinging of the lightsaber does.
  • Multiplayer conversation is handled well.  I like that the players get to randomly be the one to choose the dialog but you aren’t punished for the decisions others make since you are awarded (or penalized) based on your personal intent (What you would have chosen).  This way if Graev wants to kill everyone we see, I can at least feel good knowing I would have done it differently.
  • A random player wandered by and was able to join.  This shows me there’s open world gameplay going on here.

I really want for SWTOR to have big and open planets that I can truly wander off the beaten path and explore.  I have a fear that Tatooine will be a “planet” only in the sense that Durotar (in WoW) is a “zone”.  The video alleviated some of my concern since they actually had to time lapse the video for travel and they have speeders to travel faster.

Now what about the end-game?  Bioware brought along trailer showing an Operation.

I was able to watch several interviews that used this footage and talked about what was going on.  Operations are another word for Raid.  In this particular raid, players are going to an area that has several different climates as well as bosses, puzzles, and scripted encounters.  I’m actually not impressed at all by this trailer.  In fact, I’m quite disappointed by it.  That looked like a typical raid.  I did not see Star Wars in that video nor did I see anything that made me feel warm and fuzzy inside.  I felt sick to my stomach thinking about raid mechanics.

Bioware will be making a galactic mistake if this is their endgame solution.  These had better be 100% accessible to people.  I’m talking more accessible than WoW raids that are deceptively not accessible to the population since something like 5% ever even finish one.  I want something more from SWTOR.  I sense a great disturbance in the force now and fear it may be too late.

After E3 I am once again having mixed feelings.  SWTOR needs to feel like an amazing RPG you’re playing with friends and other people, not like you’re just sitting in a shell of a world like WoW has created for people to jump around and run content.

What are your thoughts after seeing what Bioware brought to E3?

E3 2011: ‘Reckoning’ looks fantastic

Screen cap from the Reckoning live demo. Map shown.

We’re big fans of RPG’s here at Keen and Graev’s Gaming Blog.  Elder Scrolls, Witcher, Neverwinter Nights, and even Fable are just some of the titles we really enjoy.  It seems like a no-brainer then to conclude that we’re excited for 38 Studios’ Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (or oft referred to as just ‘Reckoning’).  For those who haven’t been following Reckoning, it’s an RPG that is essentially setting the stage for the launch of an entirely new IP that will eventually lead into a MMORPG as well as other branded projects.

The good people from 38 Studios pulled out what I think is one of the best showings at E3 this year with their live demoing and Q&A.  Coming in at just over 40 minutes, the video presentation of the game is 100% all streaming in-game footage of Reckoning being played.  Shown in the video is a character they have created with Rogue and Mage abilities.  It starts off with a short tour of a town as the player takes up a quest and briefly crafts.  Shortly after that they head out and complete a dungeon-like area where they show off abilities including traps, fate and destiny powers, and lots of really flashy animations followed by demoing different things while answering questions.

Definitely check out the Reckoning with video and commentary for yourself.

Some things I really liked hearing and seeing:

  • Huge world with 5 geographic regions, each featuring a different biome.  (Check out the map at ~31:40)
  • Gorgeous world.  The city shown had fully scheduled NPC’s.  I felt immersed in their world just watching.
  • 120 handcrafted dungeons
  • The combat looks very fluid.  The character blocking and parrying was impressive.  I loved the mage chakram finisher.
  • Solid storyline, minor decision making
  • Highly customizable character with something like 60 different abilities, open slate.  How you combine abilities can change the way you fight a great deal.
  • After the story ends (if you push through it first) you can keep playing and the side stories continue.  Some stuff even unlocks after the main story is gone through.

Reckoning looks like it has come together very nicely.  Due to the amount and quality of what was shown, Reckoning has definitely solidified itself as my favorite game at E3 thus far.  Do yourself a favor and watch that video.

E3 2011: Nintendo Roundup

Nintendo’s Press Conference just ended and we are absolutely floored and confused.  First, let all question in your mind be washed away in the awesomeness that is Nintendo because they have hands down won this year at E3.  Here’s what we got:

  • Zelda 25 Year anniversary brings concerts, a free copy of 4 Swords on the DSi for everyone.
  • The 3DS now has HUGE momentum as it was announced that Mario Kart 3D, Star Fox 3D, Luigi’s Mansion 2, an all new Mario game designed from the ground up, and more would be coming to the system.  Kid Icarus will have 3v3 multiplayer support.  Mario Kart will have kart customization, underwater, and gliders.  Star Fox will put in pictures of you.  The third party 3DS support is growing and a dozen great games were shown.  For sure the 3DS has overshadowed the PS Vita.
  • Legend of Zelda and other games coming to the Nintendo eShop on the 3DS.
  • Wii U announced as the NEW CONSOLE.

Now, some notes on what we saw about the Wii U.  It was VERY confusing but we think we have it all sorted out for you guys.

  • Wii U is the name of the console that was previously codenamed Cafe.
  • We were shown the CONTROLLER for the Wii U and it was being demoed with games.
  • Wii U’s controller has a screen in the middle that can continue displaying the game that was on the TV via wireless streaming even when the TV is off.  It can also be used for drawing, additional items off the hud and on the controller (heartbeat sensor anyone?)
  • Nintendo was very cryptic about giving any details, unfortunately to their detriment as everyone walking out was like “WTF” is going on. Tech specs are still a mystery
  • Third Party support is going to be better than we have ever seen for Nintendo’s Wii U.  EA is bringing Frostbite 2, Darksiders 2 is coming, a Lego GTA style game, and more. Notably, Ghost Recon ONLINE. Notice the ONLINE? That’s the free to play Ghost Recon game. ONLINE on Nintendo.
  • The CONTROLLER was the focus since it is backwards compatible with the Wii and the CONTROLLER is the real focus of the Wii U since it’s what is innovative other than a new GPU/better specs in the console.
  • Nintendo has confirmed that this E3 was about revealing the controller and that we will NOT see Wii U this year.

Help us make sense of what is going on here.  Does this sound right with the Wii U?  We got no tech specs for the system other than 1080p.  We’ll continue to update this thread with what is sure to be a lot more information as Nintendo sheds some much needed light on the situation.

This actually is something quite remarkable. To have a controller like this that literally can continue to stream what you were doing on the TV blows my mind because it is exactly what we have wanted in our house for so many years. Having Nintendo actually move back into the spotlight as a respectable console for developers and not just a landfill for shovelware makes us really happy. The 3DS is worth owning now or will be when these titles come out so much so that I would own a 3DS over the Wii.

Nintendo left the Wii out this year. We saw a video clip of Skyward Sword but it wasn’t the focus. 3DS is the reason to play Nintendo games this year and Wii U will be the reason to play them in the coming years. Bravo, Nintendo. Now give us the specs on the console!

E3 2011: Nintendo’s Conference (Liveblogging)

For our final live blogging coverage of E3 2011 we’ll be covering the Nintendo Conference this morning at 9am PST. If you would like to join us in our live blogging experience all you need to do is press the ‘More’ button at the bottom of this entry. Join us and send in questions or comments and we’ll do our best to publish them and respond.

Nintendo’s Conference is the big one this year. They are the only ones announcing a new console and Nintendo has already said they are aiming at bringing back the core gamer to their brand. We’re hoping to foam at the mouth over what they have to say.

After the conference ends we’ll get our final thoughts on Nintendo written up for the blog and end our conference coverage with a final summary of who wins, loses, and why.

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E3 2011: Sony’s Conference, thoughts and Liveblogging

We were pleasantly surprised to see that Sony delivered a professional and mostly gimmick-free conference this year. Jack came out on stage as he usually does and gave statistics but this year they were wrapped in an apology. It went over well and even though Jack still can’t be taken seriously, it seems like Sony is at least ready to put their head down and move forward.

Nothing spectacular and jaw dropping came out of Sony, but what they did do was deliver continual bits of information on multiple games without getting too caught up in, as Graev says, smelling their own farts. They hyped the Move a little bit, but nothing on the circus level antics of Microsoft (we thought the Bioshock Infinte dev saying he used to hate Move but then liked it after he got paid off was funny; okay, he didn’t say that exactly). Starhawk and Dust 514 both got some attention as well. Dust 514 is a PS3 exclusive which neither of us had known before. Seems like it will function on the level that MAG does.

The big show for Sony was their new Vita handheld console (aka NGP). The big let down was that the 3g plan is with AT&T on top of a $299 price tag if you go the 3g model ($249 if you go Wifi only). The graphics on the games were all great looking from what we could see. The handheld Uncharted game and the Diablo clone (Ruin) looked nice and colorful with good controls.

Overall, no real solid complaints about Sony but nothing to memorable either.

Graev: It was really good. A lot better than Microsoft and the publisher conferences. Uncharted looks good. The new Sly game is cool. The Vita is something I do not understand. It’s a portable device that plays console games. I want a portable device that plays portable games and things unique to a portable from Sony. We saw a bunch of PS3 games that they are bringing over to the Vita, and that doesn’t interest me. I’d rather just play them on PS3. Unless you have a need to be mobile, why pay $249 (low end Wifi only or $299 + AT&T) for something you probably already own?

Keen: I was impressed by the balance they had in their presentation. Uncharted looked good, Resistance looked good, the Vita looked like it’s going to at least be a quality handheld, regardless of whether or not it’s one I would buy. I think the Move is still a joke. Some of the titles they showed like the Fantasy action game being on rails just once again prove the limitations and the gimmick of motion controls. By far it was better than Microsoft but not at the caliber I wanted from an E3 presentation. Maybe the most exciting thing for me was the cloud save from the Vita to the PS3. Would it take multiple copies of the game?

It’s also worth nothing that Sony is bundling at 24″ Playstation branded 3D TV, glasses, and something about Resistance for $499. The TV has some special technology that does split screen differently for coop so that the glasses show one person one thing and the other person sees a full screen of a different image. For the price and the bundle, it’s not a bad deal given the cost of 3D tv’s, but the size is still so small that it may not do us any good.

Original: It’s been a long day but the light is visible at the end of this tunnel.  Sony’s Conference begins in less than an hour and we’ll be Liveblogging once again.  We’ve been having quite a bit of fun making fun of how bad some of these have  been and drooling over exciting announcements.  We hope you’ll join us once again for what has turned out to be quite a successful day of liveblogging and interact with us while we bring you our immediate thoughts and impressions of what is sure to be an interesting conference from Sony.

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