After spending the last 2 years buried in a grave, E3 is back this year in traditional form, for which I'm quite grateful. I'm not as grateful for the rise of fanboy infighting this week, but I've already commented on that, and there's no need to return to the topic. What I do want to do is try to take a non-biased look at some of the announcements and events of this year's E3.

I should note that I'm at a slight disadvantage here, because while I did get to watch both the Microsoft and Nintendo briefings live, I didn't get to see the Sony one, which has probably colored me a little unfairly. I'll try to remain neutral regardless.

I probably enjoyed the Microsoft briefing the most, if only because it resembled more of a party and less of a business meeting. There were no charts and graphs, just a lot of games and gameplay footage. That's really what E3 is all about, and they definitely nailed the right tone. Nintendo had a mix of great announcements and... vitality sensors. So, you know, a mix bag, not helped by the fact that it came off as business meeting. And Sony, well... I don't have anything against them, but there wasn't a whole lot they had to offer me, personally. [1]That being said, it wasn't really about the games this year. Something else took front stage: motion controls.

For better or for worse, all three have declared this to beway of the future. Having been a Wii owner from launch, I can safely say that the future may be slightly overrated, but still - motion controls have potential, are selling a lot of Wiis, and bad use of waggle aside, probably are where things are headed. So let's take a look at three very different directions for a far sweatier video game future.

Nintendo is the original proponent of motion controls, having made them a cornerstone of the Wii experience. Now they're here to give you an upgrade in the form of Wii Motion Plus. I'm seriously doubt this'll bea whole lot better than what we already have with the Wii, but you know what? I'm still gonna buy it, because Wii Sports was a ton of fun, and it's sequel is probably just as enjoyable. And it'll be here this summer, so we'll see if it's any better soon enough. That being said, the presentation didn't really sell me on this being some sort of miraculous step forward - seems more a tip-toe forward.

Microsoft revealed Natal, which is essentially going towards a no-controller future in the form of using full-body "controls" via use of a camera-like device. People calling it a "M$ eyetoy" don't really understand the product's potential, but it does propose interesting questions, like how conventional games would work with it. Using an invisible steering wheel is impressive, but I'm not sure how I'd move forward in an FPS. That being said, it would allow me to move menus with my hands, and that is exactly the sort of control scheme I've been waiting for ever since I saw Minority Report.

However, what impressed me the most about the tech was the voice commands - players would answer a trivia question out loud or tell a movie to start playing rather then pressing a button. I am all about that. Voice controls are the future as described by nearly every sci-fi story I love, and I want it right now. Ultimately, I think this one has a ton of potential, but at the same time I'm cautious. I want to see it and use it before making a decision. One thing that is encouraging, however, is that it was on the floor at E3 and available for use - meaning it might not be as far away from commercial release as you'd think. Plus, Wii Magician Johnny Lee is working on it, and if that's not exciting, I don't know what is.

Not to be left behind though, Sony also showcased some impressive motion tech. Using both the Playstation Eye and motion controllers with giant ping pong balls on top, Sony presented an accessible set of motion controls that would work well with many conventional games. I can already see how it'd be used, and looking at the tech demo, the controls seem much more responsive and accurate than the Wii. That being said... it came across as much more "tech demo" than Natal, and wasn't available on the floor for others to use. I worry that it might still be quite some time until we see any sort of implementation of it, and there's been no word on whether or not any developers have even had a chance to work with it.

All in all, without a doubt an entertaining E3. A lot of talk has been going on about how this would be a longer console cycle, which I gladly welcome. No one seems eager to talk about new hardware, instead focusing on improving the current experience for consoles already on the market. It's a unique position, but I'm glad all three are embracing it in some form or another - what remains to be seen is who will deliver best on their promises.

  1. As for FFXIV, well... to say I'm disappointed that the next FF game they're announcing is another online MMORPG doesn't really cover it. The fact that it's "exclusive" to the PS3 (and PCs and, oh, probably the 360 as well...) is kind of irrelevant - at the moment, I'm just not interested in the product.

Posted by Kevin on 12:41 PM


Colure said...

All I gotta say is, if Microsoft was able to show off Natal at E3, we'd better see it at PAX... ^_~

Kevin said...

srsly. I want a chance to actually experience some of this stuff first hand.

That being said, if last year is any indication, Microsoft booth will be *insane*.

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