The Electronic Entertainment Expo in LA is the largest trade show in the industry, so each year we eagerly await news of the latest innovations in the world of games. Despite a truly staggering amount of media coverage that began days before the event, this year's offerings, while plentiful, seemed a little too familiar, as a number of titles which were hot at E3 2003 made a reappearance. For the most part, we're still talking Half-Life 2, Doom 3, EverQuest 2 and World of Warcraft. Here's my second-hand take on the most interesting online game related developments.
Unreal Engine 3
Epic Games was showing-off the next-generation Unreal graphics engine, and by all accounts, it resulted in many "oohs," "ahhs," and more colorful expletives. Unfortunately, there won't be any games using this technology for several years, but if you want see the enormous list of features and screenshots of what this thing can do, they have detailed information on the Unreal Technology site.
Star Wars Galaxies: Jump to Lightspeed
One of the biggest shortcomings of Star Wars Galaxies MMORPG has been the glaring absence of space flight. After all, the first movie began on a spaceship, and any "Star Wars" universe without X-Wings just isn't very convincing. Chances are good that the Jump to Lightspeed expansion will give players the fast-paced space combat they desire, which means a departure from the auto-attack systems so common in RPGs. There will be a variety of new roles to pursue involving space transport, including professions such as pilot, privateer, and shipwright.
Jump to Lightspeed Preview - GameSpy
After its promising display at E3 2003, everyone figured they would be playing Half-Life 2 by now, but development has been delayed for a number of reasons, most notably the infamous source code theft. This year it was hinted that a Half-Life 2 compatible version of Counter-Strike (and possibly some other old mods) might ship with the game. I'm sure a lot of people are sick of hearing what seems to be endless Half-Life 2 preamble, but if you're not among those people, FilePlanet has a whopping 664 MB of Half-Life 2 E3 demo footage. The game's release is imminent, but I wouldn't dare speculate on a date.
Because Halo won a special place in the hearts of many console gamers, Halo 2 has some extremely high expectations to live up to. It was demonstrated at the 2003 show, but this time they had the opportunity to get into a 12 player match on the Zanzibar map. Look forward to the mandatory graphic enhancements, more multiplayer options, and extensive environment damage. "If I could, I would have stayed in that comfortable chair and played Halo 2 for the entire E3 show." - Andy Cheng, GamerFeed.
A demo of this game was made available for download to Internet users at large before E3 and ran throughout the event. I was pleasantly surprized to see that Guild Wars is already quite robust, and brings some interesting features to the table besides having no monthly fee. The buzz about Guild Wars on game sites has been overwhelmingly positive, and I heard many people in the demo saying, "If they implemented the trade and guild functions, I'd buy the game right now." This MMORPG will be one to watch in the months ahead.
Guild Wars Preview - Markee Dragon
It's obvious that, by themselves, better graphics won't be enough to win the hearts and wallets of the expansive EverQuest community. Subsequently, Sony is hoping to breath life into EQ 2 with big improvements to NPC behavior, extremely flexible character creation, and player-owned housing. Hard to imagine that this game won't be a big hit when it's released, possibly as early as this fall. They are currently accepting sign-ups for the beta.
Other Noteworthy Items
Sony's portable PlayStation, or PSP, seemed to impress everyone and is likely to give the GameBoy some very stiff competition.
Activision presented The Movies, a game that simulates the building of a film empire and allows you to share the movies you make with the game over the Net.
Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, an upcoming game for the GameCube that is controlled with bongo drums and hand claps, managed to capture an unexpected amount of interest.
Doom 3 clearly isn't far off. GameSpy was able to try out the Xbox version, which will arrive before the PC version.
Pirates of the Burning Sea, a game I've been looking forward to hearing more about, didn't seem to get much attention, but I expect to see more E3 coverage trickling out over the next couple weeks, so there's still hope.
It was a record 10th anniversary year for the exposition. The 540,000 square feet of exhibit space was completely sold out, and 65,000 industry professionals from 87 countries were in attendance.