E3: E, cubed. 2011. Part 2. A Song of Things. Book Two. A Clash of Things.

I know I am way behind putting this up, but Game of Thrones not only sucked me into bookwise, I made the mistake after finishing book one of watching the HBO adaptation. Let me just say: IT’S TOO LATE FOR ME, SAVE YOURSELVES.


The thing they don’t always tell you about e3 demo theaters is that they are small, poorly lit, hastily built, and hot. And as I sat in the Bethesda theater awaiting the presentation of Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim, I looked at the walls of the cramped room wondering if they would buckle from the various strung up Dim-o-lighting fixtures.

Rewind 30 minutes.  E, Major Nelson and I are all standing just outside Bethesda’s booth talking to Todd Howard and I’m proud of myself for keeping my cool.  e3 has become the place where I inadvertently get placed in close proximity to people who cause me to LOSE MY SHIT because of who they are and the influence they have had on me.  But a bit earlier I’d shared the same breathable airspace with Stephen Spielberg and unlike last time that happened my brain didn’t vapor lock, so clearly some progress was being made. 

Todd of course is the executive producer behind Elder Scrolls and Fallout 3.  In other words, awesome.  He was running us through what we were going to see and expressing a keen interest in our Forza 4 party because he’s also a supercar enthusiast. Like just about everyone in the gaming industry except the old school super egos, he’s an incredibly down to earth guy who’s amazed at even his own role in the business.

The Skyrim demo starts and I snap back in time. Right out of the gate I see this is precisely what I wanted.  Forget the class changes and skill tree adjustments, I just wanted another immersive experience like Oblivion or Fallout 3, with amazing graphics.  And that’s what I got.  Skyrim looks astounding, from meticulously detailed and wonderfully animated wooly mammoths, to dirty and primitive looking stone giants, to vast mountain peaks, to perfectly rendered dungeons.  For a period of about 18 minutes I didn’t care a single bit about the stifling heat or the cramp standing room only theater.

When I walked out I knew I had a title that was going to vie with Portal 2 for my game of the year. I was tired already even though it was only 3.  I’d started the day visiting the Sony and Nintendo booths.

Nintendo’s booth was full all the time. You could tell they were the standout this year due to the hardware announcement. Interestingly while access to the Wii U was pretty hard to obtain due to its popularity, there were people walking around the booth with real controllers so that you could hold it and feel the weight, see the screen, etc without having to stand in the main line. The 3DS also had a presence, but the real excitement was around the Wii U. I wish I had gotten a chance to play with it, but their area was just too crowded.

I dread going to Sony’s booth at e3. For the past three years the energy has been very low, as if someone stole their thunder out from under them. This year was a total change. With the release of Infamous 2, the upcoming Uncharted 3, and the Vita being available for play, Sony’s booth was fun and upbeat this year. After an hour and a half long wait I got my hands on a Vita. I’m not sold on the concept of a portable device for gaming that isn’t also a phone. However one thing is clear when you play with a Vita: you are holding the next generation of portable gaming. The fidelity and complexity of the graphics was easily on par with a 360, and while I wasn’t sure I really needed that in a handheld, as I played with the Vita I became more and more convinced. The game I was playing was beautiful and silky smooth. Build quality of the unit was typical Sony, meaning very good. It wasn’t too heavy or too light. At the same time the demo was highly controlled, I only had a couple of minutes with the device and was not allowed to go to XMB or check battery life stats. Still, it’s impressive hardware. We’ll see how it does.

But after all that I knew I needed to marshal my thoughts and consolidate my notes.  I returned to the hotel and spent a good hour writing my trip report for the folks back home.  There was just one more thing to see before I left the next day.  I had an early morning appointment to see Bioshock Infinite.

I cannot describe to you not just how amazing the game looks, but that it will be to Bioshock what Bioshock was to every game before it. The content in the e3 demo was at once jaw dropping, shocking, unsettling, and thrilling. There’s no way this game isn’t going to be game of the year 2012 based on the demo I saw.

e3’s a tiring event, and not quite the same energy as PAX because it’s so industry focused.  But what I didn’t expect was the feeling that the best this console generation has to offer is actually yet to come.

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