It was my first E3 show, and I felt differently about it than I had anticipated - yeah, it was great to be at the show, and the sheer volume of cool stuff there was astounding, but it's not like I was rendered speechless or anything like that (which I'd been anticipating). Whether it's because I'm more jaded than I thought, or because the show indeed wasn't as good as past years (though I have no basis of comparison), I'm not sure.
The main trend I noticed at this year's show was the incredible resurgence of PC RPGs. You'll hear people complaining about the lack of good console RPGs, and I'm not about to dispute that. Sure, FFX was on the floor, and looked great, but I'm not that excited about it - I don't have a PS2, and still haven't even gotten around to FFIX. Tales of Destiny II looked decent, but nothing special - same with Ephemeral Fantasia, or any other console RPG on the floor (and don't even get me started on Kingdom Hearts - I simply cannot deal with a game that has Donald Duck as a black mage - he still doesn't even wear any pants, and I'm supposed to rely on him to nuke my enemies? Gack.)
In contrast, the PC RPGs ruled the roost. Don't play PC RPGs? This is the year to start. It seems like the PC RPGs are coming in three main waves. First we have Diablo II: Lord of Destruction - it's coming out in a month or so, and it looks to be flat out incredible. If you didn't like Diablo II, there's probably nothing here to change your mind, but I'm personally tempting fate after losing the majority of my summer last year to Diablo II. Anarchy Online's also coming out around the same time, and will be at the forefront of the many MMORPGs coming out in the next year or so - but what was shown on the floor didn't persuade me that I had to have it just now. I think most gamers interested in the MMORPG genre would be best served to wait a few months and let things start to settle - there's bound to be a title to fit your interests.
The second wave will hit in September or so, with a trio of RPGs that look to rock in their own respective ways. Dungeon Siege should provide a very nice action-RPG alternative to Diablo II, and if they can provide a compelling story and action to compliment the engine shown at E3, that should be a lot of fun. The new Pools of Radiance game should be a fun title for any D&D fans out there - the third edition rule set and new engine should provide for an entertaining experience. Lastly, Arcanum's set to release around that time, and I can't wait to explore the interesting world that's been created - a combination of steampunk-era technology and magic? Mmm, tasty. I'm already arguing in my head whether I want to make a gunsmith/healer, or a chemical and explosives expert - and that's assuming I stick with technology.
Finally, towards the end of the year, it'll be a battle of the Black Isle releases - TORN and Neverwinter Nights. I'll play both, and from what was shown in the Interplay booth, you'll be best served if you play them as well.
That's not to say that those were the only PC RPG releases out there, but those are the ones I saw and plan on playing - provided I can find enough time to do so.
While the PC was the obvious victor in the RPG category, I'm not sure where the console war's going to head - it should be interesting.
PlayStation 2 is a system that puzzles me - I don't really have any attachment to the system, but there are just a few titles that make it very hard to resist. I watched the Metal Gear Solid 2 trailer on the giant Konami screen several times, and played the game for a good ten minutes, and I can't wait to play it. In fact, MGS2 is really the only title on the PS2 that screams, "Play me!" but depending on Konami's plans for the game, PS2 may be my only option there. Sigh.
XBox disappointed me. I was an XBox man - despite having a rather good PC for gaming, I figured that the XBox would be the next-gen console I'd buy (not counting my Dreamcast). So when I wandered over to the Microsoft booth, what did I see? My fears come true - there was not only nothing on the system that convinced me I had to have it, but it didn't look like anything I couldn't get on my PC. Actually, this is a fact - the one XBox title that I want, Halo, is coming out for PC. Yeah, Munch's Oddysee looked nice, but I've never enjoyed the 3D platformer genre, and the majority of the other games demoed for XBox just flat-out failed to interest me. Without some serious RPG goodness coming to XBox, I can't bring myself to get one. (Though I actually liked the controller - it felt solid, and fit my hands perfectly).
When I wandered over to the Nintendo booth on the third day, I didn't know what to expect - Nintendo really lost me with the N64 (with Goldeneye and Super Smash Bros. being the only two titles I enjoyed on the system - fortunately, my friend owned the console and both games, so I saved my cash). I hadn't been reading up on GameCube. So when I wandered over to that portion of the Nintendo booth, and looked around, I was simply amazed to find myself grinning like an idiot. Even with all the cool stuff I'd seen during the show, there was something about watching the GameCube titles that made me smile - they just looked FUN. Whether it was watching Luigi suck up ghosts in a vacuum cleaner, or Super Smash Bros. Melee, or the astonishing graphics of Rogue Squadron II, I don't think I enjoyed a single booth more during the whole show. The console was surprisingly small, the games looked fantastic, and there was an undeniable sense of fun about the whole thing. I'm not totally sold on the system - the controller is a bit wonky, and I need to be assured there'll be some console RPG goodness going on (Zelda isn't going to cut it, and neither will PSO version 2, since I'll be getting that for DC) - but of the three big consoles, the GameCube looks like the best bet.
There were so many little things going on at the show that it's hard to remember them all. I could go on about how the PC FPS market is going to have another wonderful year, with games like Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Max Payne, C&C: Renegade, Aliens vs. Predator 2, and Planetside coming out. I could write about how just about anything looks good when you give it a halfway decent trailer and play it on a gigantic screen. I could even mention my annoyance at not getting into the Sega booth.
All in all, a great show, and it simply makes me happy that I play PC games. If you don't, trust me - there's no better time to start.
- Neverwinter Nights (PC)
- Diablo II: LoD (PC)
- Arcanum (PC)
- TORN (PC)
- Dungeon Siege (PC)
- Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (PS2)
- Super Smash Bros. Melee (GCN)
- Max Payne (PC)
- Return to Castle Wolfenstein (PC)
- Luigi's Mansion (GCN)
Best of Show:
- The Nintendo booth
- Those freaking huge monitors - everywhere I looked, Gaming Goodness on a gigantic scale
- Interplay's Wall o' RPGs
- South Hall - just so much good stuff in there
- Booth babes - who can resist?
Worst of Show:
- XBox - it wasn't the worst, it was the most disappointing.
- Sega's booth being appointment only
- Kingdom Hearts (noooooo)
- Food prices at the convention center
- Not having enough time to really explore everywhere I wanted