So, I made it out to my first E3. It wasn’t quite as loud and crazy as I expected it to be – although that may be my perspective from having a nice, cool, quiet room to give our Civ4 demos. With the biggest plasma TV screen I’ve ever seen. It must have about 70″ – I heard it cost upwards of $25K.
Giving the demos was a more fun than I expected, especially once I got my rhythm down. It actually reminds of what I learned about writing in college; writing is only difficult when you don’t actually have something interesting to write about. Demoing Civ4 was easy because there is so much to show. Even with a 30 minute demo, we were only revealing a small fraction of the game, let alone all of the stuff you can’t really demo (multi-player, mod support, micromanagement fixes, improved AI, etc).
As for the show, I’d like to say I saw something that blew me away, but I didn’t. (besides the real-life Katamari ball!!!) Graphics are starting to hit diminishing returns. Most of the first-person games look the same, and the bloom shader has definitely lost its initial, er, shine. Interesting game-play? E3 is not the best forum for that. (I loved Prince of Persia but was put off by the “hardness” of the sequel. The only thing I discovered about the newest version was that it would be “bigger and badder than ever.” Gee, thanks…)
Age of Empires III did look incredible, especially the water, which may be the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in a game. (Naturally, they have a programmer working full-time on it.) The shading and choice of color is remarkable. I actually expect the art world to take notice. The game could be fun too – impossible to tell from a quick demo, of course. The trick will be whether they’ve learned from the “more is less” problems of Age of Myth (that game would have been twice as good if all human units had been removed). Rise of Legends also looked remarkably good for a game a full year out – I assume Microsoft won’t let them release until x months after AoE3. Somehow, the graphics retained the “fun-ness” of 2D while still being 3D, which is a neat trick. Steampunk is going to be a hard sell, though.