June 23 2010
E3 has struggled a little with its won identity in recent years, and in 2010 it seemed to reverse course, getting some its mojo back. The big three - Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft - staged large press conferences, and the L.A. Convention Center was inundated with video games and booth babes once again.
Consoles have dominated the event for quite a while, and this year was no exception, but there was news of interest to PC gamers as well. Here's a look at some of the highlights of E3 2010.
The Nintendo 3DS
If anything "stole the show" at E3 2010, it was the Nintendo 3DS, their next handheld console which features stereoscopic 3D that doesn't require any glasses. Those who had a chance to demo the device were almost unanimously impressed. It will be close to a year before they ship to stores, but right now it looks like the 3DS has a bright future.
Although we don't know yet how much the 3DS will cost, it's safe to say that it will be less expensive than some of the 3D solutions that are currently available for PC and PlayStation 3, which employ shutter glasses. These systems work quite well, but they typically require a special monitor or a 3D TV, making them very pricey.
Video games have always been mostly about pointing and pushing buttons, something which standard input devices are particularly well suited for. Nevertheless, motion controllers such as Nintendo's Wiimote have demonstrated their potential. Sony and Microsoft are determined to push the technology further, although aside from the Wii, past experiments with motion control, such as the PlayStation EyeToy, were not very successful.
Sony's new foray into motion control is the PlayStation Move. It includes a wireless handheld controller with buttons and a lighted ball on one end, a PlayStation Eye USB camera, and an optional secondary controller called the Navigator. The camera is capable of body tracking and has an integrated 4 microphone array. This system has a wide range of capabilities, with the added benefit of being able to track the controller with a very high level of accuracy using motion sensors and the camera. A player's movements can be sychronized directly with action in the game, which has significant implications for things like swinging a sword or a golf club. PlayStation Move is scheduled to ship on Sept. 19, with a basic bundle sans Navigator selling for about $100.
Microsoft's Project Natal has now been officially dubbed Kinect, and unlike its main competitors, it has no controller, relying entirely on a camera, IR sensors, and microphones to detect the user's body motions, gestures, and speech. They demonstrated at E3 how it can replace a remote entirely. The system is good at following body movement, and it can track two people at once. With no controller, there are no buttons to push, which may prove to be a drawback when it comes to gaming. It also doesn't appear to be capable of same level of precision as Sony's Move. Still, there is no denying how cool this will be for certain titles, such as Dance Central, which wouldn't be possible without body tracking.
We don't have an official price for Kinect yet, but Microsoft plans to launch the device for Xbox 360 on Nov. 4. They also intend to release a PC version, although that will likely come a year or more later.
I don't see motion control replacing conventional input devices anytime soon, but they are ideal for certain applications, like dancing and fitness games.
Having created the renowned Doom and Quake franchises, id Software is a major force when it come to first-person action games. At this year's E3 they revealed new gameplay footage of Rage, their latest big project. It's set in a post-apocalyptic future where Earth has been devastated by a collision with an asteroid. Along with a large variety of weapons and ammo, the game will have vehicle combat and racing. The environments built with their Tech 5 graphics engine are impressive, and they're promising more depth than their earlier titles. The game will have multiplayer, but they're not getting into the details yet. id plans to release Rage next year for Windows, Xbox 360, and PS3.
Possibly the most expensive video game ever developed, Bioware's Star Wars: The Old Republic MMORPG won't arrive until 2011, but we did learn a few more things about the game from E3. Every player will get a ship which is based on their class. Does this mean the TOR will have space flight and space combat at launch? Unfortunately, the answer to that particular burning question remains unanswered. PvP instances similar to those offered by World of Warcraft and Warhammer Online have been confirmed, and a new cinematic trailer called "Hope" has been released.
It's evident that gamers will never grow weary of the Final Fantasy franchise, and Square Enix is preparing the next MMORPG in the series, Final Fantasy XIV Online, for launch later this year. They've sped up combat over FFXI and completely reworked the job system. The graphics are shaping up to be quite spectacular, but you will need a decent gaming rig to enjoy the game in all its glory. They've released a benchmark program that tells you if your system is up to the task. Final Fantasy 14 appears set to become the biggest MMORPG release of 2010.
Jumpgate Evolution will be the sequel to NetDevil's long-running Jumpgate MMOG. The development team decided to revisit some of their design decisions last year, so there was a lull in news about the game until E3. Jumpgate is aimed at gamers who want dogfights in space with a plausible flight model, which is something you don't see in a lot of sci-fi MMOGs. They intend to offer large-scale space battles with both PvP and PvE elements. JGE will soon be facing competition from Black Prophecy, a similarly-minded space MMOG, so would-be astronauts have a lot to look forward to.