Featured Article: Ray's E3 Report 2012 - Player Choice - Part 1 of 3
Intrepid reporter Ray Ivey gives us the lowdown on E3 2012
Well, my feet are still recovering from the 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo, but my fingers are still working, so itís time for me to share with what I saw during my two days there!
It seems like every E3 has a theme, and the catchword this year, for better or worse, was choice. EVERYone, it seems, wanted to brag on how much player choice was featured in their new games.
Two days go by awfully fast at a show like E3, so here are my thoughts on the games I chose to explore.
More Adventure Goodness From Telltale
The Walking Dead, Episode 2
Telltale Games had a HUGE year in 2011, adventure-game-wise, with their Hector, Puzzle Agent, Back to the Future, Law & Order, and Jurassic Park episodic series.
This year theyíre back with Episode Two of their riveting Walking Dead series. Episode One: A New Day came out in April, and Episode Two Starved For Help will be available for download sometime this summer.
Whatís interesting about this property is that the creators of the popular comic decided to go into business with Telltale Games at all. It seems like they could have easily sold the IP to a major game publisher for big bucks. But they didnít want The Walking Dead to just be the next zombie game. They wanted a game that preserved their concern with character and story. In other words, they wanted The Walking Dead to be an adventure game!
I got to see a demo of about the first twenty minutes of the new game. The production values seem high, with good character models (sporting a sort of quasi-cell-shaded look), convincing environments and excellent voice acting.
In the three months since the first episode ended, the characters have been holed up in a compound, where they are rapidly starving to death. While foraging for food, some of the characters come upon another trio of survivors. One of them has his foot caught in a bear trap. There are several choices you can make to resolve the situation, and letís just say none of them skipping, singing, and eating cake. [Shudder.]
The signature gameplay element in The Walking Dead series is decision-making. Everything you do and say is tracked, even into further episodes, so you are always building (or tearing down) your rapport with the other principal characters. The game even remembers who you save and who you let die from episode to episode, and adjusts your game experience accordingly!
A perfect example of this decision-making is a wrenching sequence that has your character making painful decisions about rationing food. In a desperate situation, there are no easy or consequence-free actions. These decisions really help you feel invested in the gameís story outcomes.
Like the comic or the television series, The Walking Dead isnít for the faint of heart. But I canít wait to get my hands on it later this summer.
I like: The graphics, the voice acting, the difficult choices, the ďplay a movieĒ type gameplay.
Iím concerned: Waiting too long between episodes could damage my emotional investment in the story.
The Unstoppable Bethesda
Juggernaut publisher/developer Bethesda Softworks showed demos of two huge upcoming releases.
The Elder Scrolls Online
Though itís been under development for five years, Bethesda only made the big announcement about their upcoming MMORPG a couple of months ago. E3 was the first time they presented a preview of the game to anyone.
Inspired by the Elder Scrolls twenty years of game development, associated developers Zenimax Online felt the Elder Scrolls was a rich property to mine for MMORPG goodness.
Set a thousand years before the events of last yearís megahit The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, ESO takes place during Tamrielís Second Era. The various provinces of the continent are divided into three broad alliances: The Ebonheart (Nords, Dark Elves, Argonians), Daggerfall (Orcs, Redguards, Bretons) and the Almeni Dominion (everybody else). The central province of Cyrodill (the location of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion), is a contested area which is overrun by the undead the landís ruler foolishly invited in as an allies.
Youíll play a character whoís soul has been stolen by the very unpleasant old god Molag Bal. The main story will be about you resolving that problem, and youíll be able to solo that entire extended quest if you like.
The game will feature dungeons, raids, puzzles, non-instanced ďpublic dungeonsĒ and a grouping system which will allow your character to fulfill more than just one role in a group.
Theyíre trying to keep the user interface minimal.
Combat sounds like it will be very strategic, with blocking a very important component. Your performance in combat will help determine the loot table of the enemies you defeat.
The developers also promise medium minimum computer specs.
I like: Itís the Elder Scrolls. Duh. Such a rich wealth of lore, mystery and gorgeous environments to choose from.
Iím concerned: 1) Are MMORPGs tired? 2) The Elder Scrolls games have been spectacular single-player experiences. Isnít there a danger that the vibe will be gone in an MMO? And 3) The combat-performance-based loot tables could lead to a vicious cycle of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, shutting out more mediocre players from grouping.
PC, PS3, XBOX360
Hereís the game Iím the most excited about for 2012.
I was a passionate fan of the Thief series (well, the first two, anyway). I loved all three Deus Ex games. I love first-person stealth. Just love it. I also love missions that give me a variety of choices about how I fulfill them.
Iím also a big fan of Arkane Studios, the folks behind the wonderful first-person subterranean RPG Arx Fatalis (2002).
Dishonored has a remarkable pedigree, as itís being developed by Bethesda and Arkane, with contributions from Viktor Antonov (the designer of Half-Life 2ís City 17) and other honchos who have worked on everything from Deus Ex to Bioshock 2 to Thief: Deadly Shadows.
Like Thief, Dishonored takes place in a vast, mysterious city. Dunwall is a steampunk metropolis that runs on whale oil. Itís decadent, opulent, and very very naughty. Itís also fantastic to look at.
In the game, you play Corvo Atano, a ďsupernatural assassin,Ē whoís out to clear his name when heís blamed for the death of the Empress. Like Thief and Deus Ex, the game doesnít take place in an open world, but in a series of linear missions. And like Deus Ex, you have LOTS of choices of how to accomplish your missions. You can run-and-gun (or run-and-crossbow), use your supernatural abilities, or just sneak and be a ghost.
One thing I loved about the most recent Deus Ex game was the fact that you could actually go through the entire game without killing anyoneÖ except bosses. The creators of Dishonored have upped the ante: In this game, you can even neutralize all of the assassination targets without killing them if you wish.
I watched a thrilling demo of the game which included examples of one of the characterís most useful supernatural powers: Possession. Corvo needs to infiltrate a bordello, and the method he chooses is to possess a fish, who then swims up through a sewer grate into the complex. Thatís something Iíve not seen in a game before.
Missions can updated as you play through them depending on how events play out and on new information you might glean. One of the ways you do this is from the very fun-looking game mechanic of eavesdropping. Like all stealth games, the sound design is as important as the visual design, and it was cool to listen to the muffled voices unsuspecting characters who were behind a doorway you were about to peer into the keyhole into.
I simply cannot wait until October when I can get my mitts on this game!