Star Trek Online (Beta) – First impressions (prologue)

After some initial wishy-washy, going back-and-forth within my own head thoughts, I plunked down a bit of cash to secure myself a copy of Star Trek Online when it releases in a few weeks, and thus also securing myself a spot in the current ‘open beta’ test the that currently going on for the next few days.

So why this MMO?  Well, Bioware’s “Star Wars” is at the very minimum a year away, and as these things go I won’t be surprised if it is delayed even beyond that.  Of course, with Bioware backing that one and it’s history of great RPG styles games going on for over a decade, everyone has their eyes salivating for this one.  Could SW:TOR be the first ‘real’ challenger to WoW?  We’ll see.  I’m pretty confident that it will be much better than SOE’s attempt at the Lucas’ universe that Star Wars Galaxy: An Empire Divided will ever be.  That has to be my own biggest personal let down in gaming.  I had such hopes for that one, and pretty much from day one it was plagued by bugs, major sweeping gameplay changes, and not delivering on promises it made, it left a sour taste in my mouth.  What’s left of that game today (SWG) looks nothing like how the game was introduced years ago, and I can’t help but think how much money I threw away on a subscription that just wasn’t fun to play anymore.

The last two MMO’s I’ve been playing is the aforementioned Blizzard’s “World of Warcraft” which is fun, yet can be a grind most of the time (and to be honest, fantasy genre’s aren’t my favorite) and NCsoft’s (aka Cryptic) “City of Heros/Villains”.  When CoH first came out, practically 5 years ago, I loved it almost immediately.  I really took to my first created character and was proud to work on his backstory and build him up, level by level in Paragon City.  Then came the expansion CoV which was fun in it’s own right, although one could say it was very similiar in premise to CoH (I guess one could argue, “Why wouldn’t it be?”) with just some re-skinning of powers and costumes, but it gave players the ability to live out some sort of muted sadistic and anarchistic fantasies in classic comic book faction.

However, after a couple of years, it just seemed to lack any further innovation.  I give NCsoft/Cryptic a lot of props though: they actually opened up a new genre (superheroes) instead of the tired and overplayed orc, dwarf, goblin stuff that every other developer for a time thought players wanted.  Yeah, it just got a little stale after a few years, and while they added things like bases and lairs (which never worked out the way developers intended), a ‘crafting’ element, and new badges….the graphics and missions/quests began to seem dated, and the game resorted to the same ‘world eveents’ at regular intervals, and at least to me, began to feel like ‘been there, done that’ most of the time.  They did have some awesome instances and Task Force missions, although a bit long at times to have a whole team stay intact until the very end.

I won’t even get into WoW.  Most of you know what’s that’s like, and I still play it, but I’m currently on break from it right now until I get the urge to get back into it again.  That too can become a grindfest at times, and I’m pretty tired of some of the missions.  Although my main Paladin is only lvl 74 right now, even after owning Lich King for a year.

Anyway, I’m getting way off track here.  Back to Star Trek.

So after seeing some online movies of the game in which the space battles and ship models won me over, I began to read a few player takes on their beta experiences and I was intrigued.  The idea of a space based genre MMO in an established franchise by the developers who did CoH/CoV and Guild Wars pretty well mitigated the risks of it being really ‘sucky’.  Most, not all, but most games based on Star Trek tend to blow and I’m not sure why.  There is so much potential and lore and characters and created history, I can’t begin to understand how many developers in the past blew it…or just didn’t get Trekkers/Trekkies.   Dare I say that the Star Trek experience goes way beyond just big ships and Klingons?  It is about exploration, strange new worlds, new civilazations, etc., etc.

Now will STO capture this?  Hard to say right now only having played the beta a few hours (more on that later).  I can see the potential, but there are parts that already feel like re-skinned WoW or CoH missions.  But the space battles are HELLA cool and very pretty.

NCsoft/Cryptic/Atari also went full out on the pre-order exclusives.  There are a ‘TON’ of varying exclusives depending on where you made your pre-order.  Tribbles or Targs for pets….”KHANNNN” emotes….exclusive uniforms or ship equipment….Borg as a playable chracter…and of course if you got from GameStop/EB you get yoru grubby hands on the original Constellation class starship (of which Kirk’s Enterprise was).  Out of all these choices listed (and not listed), I went for the Constellation class starship and look forward to piloting a retro-enterprise in my adventures.

So I plunked my dollars down at GameStop and was granted a ‘beta’ key that I rushed right home to begin downloading….Mafia Wars and FarmVille be damned!!.

One thing right at the start, that was forgotten but quickly remembered, was how wonky the “signup/account creation/login” process still is with NCSoft.  After a few false starts and having to reset my password reset and resent to my mail account at least twice for who knows what reason I was able to enter my ‘key’ and begin the download process.

The download was over 7GB in size, and I’m sure so many people were hitting it up that evening along with my local ISP bandwidth issues after 6PM (as everyone is getting home to jump on their own PCs) it took right around 3 hours to download.  Thankfully the checksum was right on, as even though it was a lengthy download, I encountered zero problems so far.  The executable took another 10 minutes to unpack and install, and to my chagrin as soon as I got excited to begin my adventures and hit the ‘Play’ icon, of course another 800MB beta patch now needed to be downloaded and applied…..another few minutes.

Next: Initial impressions…..

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GamesCom: Sony drops PS3 price

ps3-slim-comparison-1It’s old news, at least by Internet standards anyway, but at Germany’s GamesCon, Sonty final made some hardware announcements.

1st, effective immediately (or until online stores make the appropriate changes) the PS3 80GB model has dropped in price $100, to a new attractive price of $299.

2nd, for those that can wait until the end of the month, Sony also confirmed and unveiled the PS3 Slim, 120GB model also at $299! So a few more weeks and 40 more GB for the same price, yeah….I’ll wait.

The PS3 slim is 32% smaller than the oringal PS3 and consumes 34% less power (250W as opposed to current 280W), and supposedly run quieter than it’s big brother. When the PS3 is released in just a few weeks, a frimware 3.0 upgrade will also be unleashed which will have support for Bravia remotes, modified friends lists, tweaked trophies, some interface changes, blah, blah, blah. Linux is dropped from the OS. Wonder if anyone will still use Home or what changes are in store for Home…do you even care?

Well, it looks as if I’m finally going to get a BluRay player….I’ve been witing for a significant price drop for some time. Even though I’m still mainly 360 guy, you can bet I’ll be getting this eventually for movies, and, well maybe Killzone & Little Big Planet.

E3 2009: Microsoft Impressions

Since I own a 360 myself (and still waiting for Sony to drop their price), I was really looking forward to what on tap from Microsoft.  In today’s climate of financial skepticism, shovelware (Wii), and over-hype with little delivery, one has to be very careful in picking and choosing were one is going to drop their $60 for a title.  And as a side note…why again are next gen console games anywhere from $10-15 more than their PC counterparts?  I think that if Microsoft really wants a leg up on Sony, since Sony doesn’t look like their going to reduce the cost of a new Playstation, that Microsoft should drop the price of new games by $5-$10 to a price point model closer to Nintendo.  I myself have a psychological aversion to spending $59 on a new game, and would feel much more willing to gamble one a title if it was $49, but that’s just me.

Anyway, onto the Microsoft press conference:

  • LAST.FM: Later this year, we can expect to stream music from the online service at no extra cost.  Seems like a pretty nice bonus for those that don’t already having digitable cable or sattelite radio in their homes.  I for one will be checking this out for dance channels and a little something else.
  • Twitter: Well there’s a new interface to use here, but with lack of a full keyboard, I’m not going to be sitting there using my controller to hunt and peck out messages.  I understand why Microsoft is doing this, but since I have an aversion to Twitter, I don’t see myself using this, nor most of my friends.  If we already have live chat, cell phones, email, FB and more, do I really need yet another way to read micro blog posts?
  • Facebook: Not sure exactly what to think about this move.  It uses the new NBE layout to navigate, and it looks good for viewing pictures and ties in smoothly to your Xbox friends profiles…but again, I just can’t see myself using it to type updates or all the other apps, when I have a PC that is so much easier to use for this type of thing.  Again, I understand why Microsoft is leveraging the popularity of Facebook, but the too early to tell how easy it will be to use or what people will use it for.  This one could go either way.
  • Avatars:  Microsoft said that you can expect unlockable items, (finally), in titles that will be appearing starting this fall to further customize your avatars.
  • 1 vs 100: The beta finally hit, and after we saw a glimpse of it when it was announced last year…and then delayed for whatever reason…I guess we can finally expect to see some live gameshow style events later this year.  I’m actually looking forward to this, and still wonder why it will take almost 1.5 years from it’s initial announcement to launch (pratically a year late from it’s intial planned debut).
  • Microsoft Points: May be going the way of the Do-do bird…meaning it’s rumored that MS points will lose their ‘point’ status and revert to ‘real money’….thank God.  I always hated tring to figure out the conversion that something cost , 160, 800, 1200, 1600 pts.  Just tell me how much already, I don’t want to think about it.
  • Zune: Looks like the next version of Zune hardware/software will integrate even more by the end of this year and loads of new content will be available through Xbox marketplace making Zune more of an extension of the Xbox similar to what the iTouch is for Apple and PSP Go is for Sony.  Video services will be relaunched at this time as well, and expect more HD content than ever.
  • Netflix: Update to make queing movies directly from Xbox instead of a PC.  Easier navigation as well.
  • Xbox originals: This service will be discontinued soon, or at least no new titles from first gen Xbox will be appearing.
  • Crackdown 2 (Ruffian Games): I’m jazzed about this as the first game was so much fun.  It didn’t get the recognition it should have as it was over-shadowed by Halo 3 at launch, but it has quite a cult following and is a blast!.  Anyway, expect better graphics (of course), 4 player co-op!, and 16 player versus modes.  Not too much details were given yet, just a teaser.
  • Halo Reach (Bungie): Just announced for a 2010 release and open beta for those that pre-purchase Halo ODST.  No details…just a tease.
  • Halo ODST (Bungie): Show some gameplay, of course looks great.  The setting is 3 weeks before the events in Halo 3, and you play a new character (not Master Chief).  Expect new weapons come Septermber 22nd, 2009.
  • Left 4 Dead 2:  Wow, I’m surprised how fast this sequel was announced and it’s progression in development.  Makes me wonder if some of the ideas/content was originally slated for the first, but didn’t make the deadline.  Or they new the 1st was going to be a hit, they had already started working on the sequel before the 1st was released.  Expect new weapons including chainsaw, melee weapons, characters, etc.
  • Metal Gear Rising: Announced for Xbox, but no details.  Just a big fat tease that have MG & Xbox fanboys screaming.
  • Rock Band Beatles (Harmonix): Opening trailer looks really neat and stylized to compliment the look of old school Beatles graphics.  Yoko One and Harrison’s widow comes out on stage…they wave…and walk back.  WTH?  How much did they pay them just to wave.  Could care less about them, and they didn’t sell me the game….waste of money and PR in my opinion.  Wait….Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney walk out as well…Why the hell is Paul chewing gum…I don’t care if he’s an icon or not…looks silly chewing gum.  He and Ringo say something unintelligible and then leave just as fast.  Wow…I would have hated to write them a check for that worthless appearance. “All You Need is Love” will be an exclusive Xbox track.
  • Joy Ride: XBLA arcade style kart game.  It’s free and utilizes your avatars, but lokks ‘okay’.  Good thing it’s free.
  • Shadow Complex: XBLA exclusive.  Pretty side scroller which will debut this summer.
  • Forza Motorsport 3: Shipping this fall.  I don’t know what to say about these racing games.  To me, they all look amazing whether it Project Gotham or GT or whatever.
  • Alan Wake: Gameplay footage is shown from this game that seems to have been in development forever.  They say Spring 2010, but we’ll see.  Not holding my breath, but looks pretty awesome nonetheless.  Look like a cross between Silent Hill and other freaky, tense, horror stealth titles.  Good solo game for playing at night near halloween.  Yeah, that type of scary and tense game.
  • Knights of the Old Republic (Bioware): Oh, nerdgasm.  Showed an epic trainler set in the SW universe.  Jaw dropping and Xbox exclusive.  I am really looking forward to this one.
  • Mass Effect 2 (Bioware): 2010 release.
  • Project Natal (MS): Working title and most likely change.  Looks like MS is entering the motion control arena
    Natal

    Natal

    with there own sensor bar that you don’t need any controller at all….just your body.  They demonstrate some prototype games including racing sans steering wheel, a version of the classic ‘breakout’ called ‘Ricochet’, skateboarding, etc….Looks slick, but no launch date or price is mentioned or games for that matter.  Does voice and face recognition and can automatically sign you into XBLA when you walk into a room.

While I was indeed happy with what I saw (and I’m not metioning many of the cross-platform titles, ala Modern Warfare 2, DJ Hero, Assassins Creed 2, Bioshock, etc.), Microsoft seems to be focusing a lot on social networking this time around.  While I am happy with some of the AAA titles and some of the exclusives mentioned, I have a feeling that Sony may have a bit more up their sleeve this year than they did last year and may up the ante on Microsofts offerings.  Nintendo also better deliver this year as 2008 was disapointing and underwhelming.  They may have a lock on console sales, but the games are mostly crap right now with only a few bright spots in their IP offerings.

News from Leipzig Gaming Conference

So, it may be a week late in reporting but there are some interesting stories that are developing over at Leipzig and firming up back stateside.  Only time will tell, but there are a few interesting things to report:

Sony: They promise (unlike all the other promises before it) that the PS3 often delayed ‘Home’ will finally be ready and deployed before the end of the year.  Too bad no official word from Microsoft yet when there new front end will deploy.  Last we really heard was back at E3 and they said ‘later this year’.

Konami’s Rock Revolution: Sources indicate that the initial song set will include 41 songs.  Hmmm….seems a little sparse when compared to Guitar Hero and Rock Band initial offerings.  Could this be too little, too late to compete with Rock Band 2 and GH: World Tour?

Nintendo: Sadly, yet again, there doesn’t appear to have been any big news again from Japan.  There was some mention of third party developers ramping up titles, but nothing major was seen from the house of Mario.

Microsoft: There is a very heavily rumored XBox 360 price drop coming again, possibly as early as Labor Day weekend.

Gearbox Software: Gearbox supposedly debuted some very impressive ingame footage of their upcoming title Borderlands.  Think Mad Max meets Diablo.  What seems to be a very impressive feat is teh fact that an in-game random weapon generator will allow players access of upwards of over 500,000 (!!) variations of guns, promising to be different each time.  Players will have some classic RPG elements that will allow them to level up skills amongst the three available classes of characters.  Also Borderlands seems to have an open sand-box element to it.

Alison Carrollwas on hand as the newest Lara Croft model for the continuing Tomb Raider series.  You know, she’s a Brit to begin with and has been a professional gymnast for 12 years, not to mention a stellar looking model.  Bonus points earned, Achievement unlocked!

E3 2008: Sony press conference – Day 2

PS3

PS3

I’m a little late on this because I am a pretty detailed person with a lot to say and with writing the Nintendo report, I needed a small break to collect my thoughts and also give time to the other things I do as well. 

Even though I don’t own a Playstation, (I do however own a PSP) I was still looking forward to what Sony had to offer and possibly counter with Microsoft’s day 1 press conference.  I also needed something to be excited about after Nintendo’s weak offerings.  And dare I say, there were moments I was excited enough that even I wanted to go out and buy a PS3 just so I could play a few exclusive titles.

So Sony’s events was held at the Shrine auditorium, and clearly since they had this by themselves (Nintendo and MS were at the Kodak theater) they were able to build quite an electronically impressive stage and light show.  They had at least 6 very large screens (possibly more) surrounded by numerous (30+) monitors.  It looked very promising to say the least.

Unlike MS and Nintendo, Sony’s host didn’t seem as scripted (even though he was) and more human and thus more believable….and funny.  Funny in the way his jokes and comments felt genuine, unlike the force fed lame lines that Nintendo’s Cammy and Alex for driveling off.

Throughout the event, they had there requisite slides and graphs and charts that are always questionable to me since every company claims the exact same industry leadership, growth, sales numbers, blah, blah, blah.  But Sony did something innovative here….they used the creative aspects of Little Big Planet to build a presentation and it looked so awesome.  A great way to show off the game and keep people interested in sales number and projections.  Kudos to the person who cam up with that idea.

Okay, onto the meat of Sony’s offerings:

  • Movie Rental and Download service: Actually went live the day of the announcement itself, I suppose is Sony’s answer to MS/Netflix partnership.  Sony will offer both SD and HD versions of many movies and shows with direct partnering with the major studios.  SD rates will be $2.99-$3.99 where HD will be $5.99.  You can also opt to purchase a movie outright for even higher, but I don’t understand this feature for any console (360 included).  What happens if you someday upgrade to PS4?  If you download to the internal harddrive, do you always have to keep the console forever to watch them?  There isn’t an option to burn to a DVD that I’m aware of (is there?).  You don’t get all the cool extras that you would get with a DVD purchase (out-takes, gag reels, making of, etc.)  What if I want to take it over to a friends house some day?  Does that mean I need to lug my PS3 over there?  Seems lame.  One neat aspect I do like though, is that if you own a PSP (firmware 4.05+) you can transfer content via a USB cable and watch on the go.  Same if you have a PC.  That’s cool.
  • Hardware:Sony will not be dropping the price on either PSP or PS3, but instead on the PSP will offer some upcoming specialized bundles for $199, and the PS3 will have an upgraded 80GB hard drive (up from 40) on all new consoles for the same $499.  No other peripherals were shown.
  • Sony Home: Ah, the often talked about and just as often delayed Home was shown yet again.  Did mention it was being tested in Beta, but no street date given (surprise, surprise).  What they did show looked graphically impressive and a cool concept, and not to be critical, but I don’t get it.  I buy a console to play a game or watch DLC, not to walk around a virtual house I can decorate and talk with friends in one large virtual IM chat room.  I wouldn’t say I wouldn’t never use it, but just seems like an unnecessary distraction from hard core gamers, which clearly PS3 is targeted at.
  • PSP:No new models or design changes anytime soon.  I was a bit surprised they didn’t have more apps mentioned like Nintendo did for the DS, especially the rumored Skype or phone capabilities.  Two new bundles by the holidays including a Madden ’09 and Ratchet & Clank versions.
  • Resistance 2: Lengthy hands on demo that was visually stunning and impressive.  It felt as the yang to MS’s ying with GoW2.  One of the games I wish I actually owned a PS3 for.  There will be a Resistance version for the PSP which I’ll probably end up getting.  I recommend seeing the trailer or demo…I can’t really describe how impressive it actually looked and jealous I am.
  • Patapon 2 & Loco Roco 2: 2 PSP offerings where shown in a video montage that should have these niche fans happy.  Though Patapon 2 looked a lot like the original, I’ll probably still get it as I enjoy the first one still and a lot.
  • PS2: They’re still making this platform and if they’re accurate with their numbers, Sony is pretty impressive that this thing is still going strong at $199.  So strong in fact they said there are at least 130 games in the pipeline for PS2….they didn’t mention how many were only to be release in Japan though.
  • Little Big Planet: This exclusive for PS3 just looks incredible.  Here is the second game in which I am jealous that it will not be on the 360 and is tempting me to buy one.  There cannot be enough said on how visually stunning and creative the world of Sack Boy will be.  There will be so much player created content, it will be crazy.
  • DC Universe Online: Wildstorm and comic book artist legend, Jim Lee, was on-hand to show us a sneak peak of DC on-line.  This will be an MMO that crosses over to a PC as well that will allow players to be either established super heroes or villains, or create there own and live out there fanboy fantasies.  I kept thinking it looked like a prettier version of City of Heroes, and some of the moves and powers looked exactly the dame, just re-skinned.  Not to many details on how the game works though and how hero/villain creation will be worked out and if (and how) you level up.  I hope to see more details in the future.
  • Greatest Hits: Similar to Microsofts greatest hits, Sony will be taking many of the older titles and repackaging at a $29.99 price point.  Expect a lot of classics here.
  • Motorstorm 2: Announced and a brief trailer.  Looked cool, but nothing innovative I saw.
  • God of War 3: Probably the big announcement was the trailer for the return of Kratos.  Out next year.  No gameplay footage, just a teaser trailer.
  • Gran Turismo 5 Prologue race channel: There will be a unique PPV channel embedded with GT 5 that players can watch both live and taped events and shows related to various car racing gigs within a separate function of the game.  I’m not sure what to call it, but it’s exclusive here.  I’m not a huge race fan, but it seems strange to me to pay additional money to watch a real taped race or car show within a game itself.
  • Buzz series: Various incarnations of the Buzz game show will be made available on PS3 and PSP with future DLC available.
  • Various montages throughout the event showed regulars like Madden ’09, NBA Live, Tiger Woods ’09, Soul Caliber IV, Force Unleashed, GH World Tour, Rock Band, Sing It series, etc.

To sum it all up, Sony had a pretty strong showing that made up for the Nintendo sleep fest.  They showed or at least announced some pretty good heavy hitters coming up, but clearly focusing on more hardcore gaming as opposed to Nintendos casual style and Microsofts hybrid of both hardcore and casual.  ‘Home’ is still in beta and may debut by the holidays, and Sony has a counter albeit not as expansive video service at the MS/Netflix partnership.  I expect to see more PSP titles in the upcoming year too.  Microsoft and Sony clearly taking this seriously, although Nintendo has the Wii jugernaut behind them (despite crapware right now).

E3 2008 – Microsoft press conference – Day 1

E3 2008 - Los Angeles

E3 2008 - Los Angeles

I sorta geeked out with the anticipation of rushing home from work on Monday so I could watch the G4 TV 2.5 hour live press conference (I taped it) that Microsoft was presenting for Xbox 360 owners. 

The show was a break from the regular X-Play episode as both hosts Adam Sessler and Morgan Webb were onhand to give the at home audience a sneak peak at things that will be coming to the XBox 360 owners over the next year.

So without further ado, here were some of the highlights (in no particular order):

  • Live Interface upgrade: The 360 GUI interface will be getting a complete overhaul sometime this fall.  Microsoft explained that while the current interface works well, they wanted to make it even more user friendly and accessible to all and to showcase many new features including ‘avatars’ and live interactive content.  Personally, while some of the features look pretty cool, I’m not sure I’ve been sold on it.  The thing is, it doesn’t look as if Live users will have a choice but to have this automatically installed one day when they turn on their systems this fall.  It’d be nice if they gave us a choice, but I can understand why they don’t want two interfaces to supports and are going to move forward with this.  The most blatant change is the inclusion of personal ‘avatars’, or 3D customizable animated representations of an online gamer.  Think of it as a ‘souped’ up Wii Mii.  I imagine this is a direct response to Sony’s reported upcoming interface, ‘Home’ and Nintendo’s Mii’s.  The big question I have is what do we do with our gamer pics and themes we’ve become accustomed to the last few years.  Will MS credit back Live Users for their previous theme and gamer picture purchases?  For all intents and purposes it looks like gamer pictures and themes will disappear altogether which would suck if you invested a lot of MSP’s into the last few years.  Another interesting aspect in the new emphasis on ‘parties’ and interactive game-shows.  While I personally have no need or real desire to share my pictures and other live content in a ‘party’, I do look forward to being part of a interactive game show like the demoed “1 vs. 100” they showed.  That looks pretty cool.
  • Netflix:I am pretty stoked about this feature as I already have a Netflix subscription.  This feature also debuting later this year will allow Netflix subscribers to instantly download/buffer movies on demand from the ever expanding Netflix library.  This may just push my need to get a Blu-Ray player back even further as I have no need to rush out and buy one to watch movies in HD.  I believe I will indeed be taking advantage of this quite liberally when it is available.
  • Gears of War 2: They demoed a quite lengthy run within the game and it look just awesome.  As a relatively new GoW player myself (I just recently picked it up when the price dropped to $39.99) and only done with chapter 2, the sequel just looks incredible!  Besides the improved graphics, there appears to be many more moves and weapons available and very, very creative levels with adrenaline pounding action, atmosphere, and sound design.  Yay!
  • Fable II: I completed Fable I years ago on my original Xbox and loved it, so this was already an automatic buy for me when it was announced sometime back.  They showed some co-op play and it looked pretty darn good as well.  I’m excited they included a dog as a pet for the player, and the pet AI and mannerisms look pretty neat.  The one quirky thing I’m not sure what I think about yet is ‘player orbs’ for multi-player.  supposedly, you can see your friends online within the game when they are on as they are represented by orbs.  You walk up to an orb, press a button, and ‘whammo’, your friend is now in your game.  What if you don’t have many friends who own the game?  What if you invite a friend and they screw with your unique world?  I’ll still get, but I figure I’ll be playing a lot of solo.
  • Fallout 3: Another ‘must buy’ for me.  Atmosphere and sound that Bethesda put into this game looks phenomenal.  They claim the world is an open world, much like Oblivion was and it did look pretty vast from what they showed.  The combat VAT engine looks very easy and intuitive, and the weapons showcased were awe inspiring.  Bethesda claims that when the game ships it will have 100+ hours of content with even more available as the develop DLC for it.
  • Guitar Hero III & World Tour:  Said a Metalica album will be be available for both later this year, but they really focused on World Tour.  Drum kit is wireless and will ship with around 85 new songs.  They mentioned the ability to create your own songs, but did not show examples.  There will also be some exclusive tracks from Led Zepplin and Guns ‘N Roses.
  • Lips: I don’t know what to think of this either.  This looks like a total social party game geared for young adults or kids.  They had UK pop star Duffy sing her hit Mercy.  I could have done without that.  Anyway, Lips is a karaoke game with light-up microphones (WTF?), and supposedly you can play music from your Zune or iPod, but they didn’t say if these supplied words or not.  I can’t figure out if the ‘word’ versions of songs are DLC or not.  Wish they would have talked more about this.
  • Rock Band 2:The only significant thing they said here was that all RB 1 songs are forward compatible with RB 2 as well as the instruments.  They announced 84 master tracks on CD will ship with the game as well as at least 20 free DLC songs by launch, and by the end of the year RB 2 will support a library of about 500 songs.  That’s impressive.  You can find the track listings elsewhere so I won’t repeat it here, but I am happy to see some more alternative bands like Talking Heads and Blondie to be appearing.  Exclusive tracks will include Bob Dylan and AC/DC as well, but since I don’t care for either of those, I probably won’t get those.
  • Resident Evil 5: Long way to go on this one as I think they said it will be available in March of 2009.  Showed off some co-op which looked pretty cool with head-shots and obstacle puzzle solving, but the zombies looked so slow.  While they showed a decent length demo and it was interesting, I’ll wait and see what develops because in 8 months, a lot can change….and the zombies just looked slow.
  • Square Enixannounced progress on already three announced games and showed a trailer for the next Star Ocean series.  The trailer looked absolutely beautiful and sounded great, but that’s all it was… a trailer showing in-game cut-scenes.  No actual game footage, and no description on what it was or what the story is or the goal.  It was pretty commercial that told me nothing about the game at all so that was a disappointment.  The biggest news out of Square Enix is they announced Final Fantasy XIII for the 360, a big blow to Sony where it was an exclusive franchise for them up to now.
  • Banjo Kazooie & Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise.  More kid friendly games, however, Banjo looks pretty interesting as a casual platform/puzzle solver and is worth a closer look.  VP uses the camera and cards to place rare pinatas and other effects in game like weather and items.
  • Social games & Arcade: They showed a few various games like Geometry Wars 2 and Galaga 2 as upcoming live arcade titles.  Social games eere a mixed bag of cool looking thing like the previously aforementioned 1 vs 100 and Scene It, but a real crap-fest in “You’re in the Movies”…I honestly can’t see this one making it big and even the demo they showed was clearly out of synch and looked low-tiered.  It was funny watching the MS reps really trying to sell this one and of all the game presented up to this point, this looked the most amateurish.
  • Not shown: Halo Wars, Too Human, Force Unleashed, CoD 5.

Now that Microsoft opened with some pretty big guns and some big news with Final Fantasy XIII and a system interface overhaul along with Netflix, it should be very interesting to see what both Nintendo and Sony have to offer.

E3: Nintendo accesory to compete with rumored new 360 controller?

Motion Plus hopefully means better games.

Motion Plus hopefully means better games.

Today is the first day of E3, 2008….the gaming industry showcase where we get a sneak peak at the various offerings the big three (Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo) plus game developers have in the works.

Many have already stated that the first half of this year has brought in a lot of unprecedented buzz and exciting games that are generally saved for the holiday season.  This years looks like an exception to the unwritten rule….Microsoft has already cut the price on the 360 again, ($299 as of this past Sunday along with a 60GB HD), Sony delivered Metal Gear Solid, and Nintendo dropped Super Smash Bros and Wii Fit.  Rockstar brought us GTA and other developers have given us other stellar games such as Lego Indiana Jones, Bioshock, Rock Band, etc.

It was rumored, and still is (we’ll have to wait and see) that Microsoft may unveil a new motion control sensor.  Rumors also indicate that we 360 owners may get a completely overhauled dashboard (Yay…!!) and a signed agreement with Netflix should allow for watching movies on demand if you have a Netflix account.

Nintendo, perhaps in a move to take the limelight away from Microsoft, announced the ‘MotionPlus’ accessory…an additional hardware plug-in (pictured) that will add additional space recognition to the Wii remote.  Supposedly, this will allow the Wii to identify height, 3-d spacing, and possibly fine tune movements on the Wii remote.  Not sure the price on this, and I for one will probably buy at least one (if it’s no more than $19.99 each..hopefully it’s $14.99).

If the price is $29.99 or more, I’ll most likely pass until I know more awesome games are provided for the Wii.  Right now, while I still think the Wii has a lot of potential and I personally own one, I am somewhat disappointed with the caliber of games thus far.  Seems like most of it is shovel-ware (aka crap) right now.  Even if the games are slightly cheaper than 360 and PS3’s ($49.99 instead of $59.99), most of the games play like they are $9.99-$19.99.

My Wii has been collecting dust the last 3 months as I’ve been waiting for games to drop in price or I get my hands on a Wii Fit.