Sometimes You Just Wanna Cheat!

Gaming has come a long way since I started playing. I grew up on the NES. I grew up and A and B, select and start. Mario, Luigi, and Link were my posse. Since those days, graphics and games have advanced to a point where I might as well be playing a Michael Bay film. FPS, RPG, and MMO dominate the scene today. Unlockables, achievements, and DLC are the standard of the day, but what ever happened to the good ol’ cheat codes?

I bought video game magazines for the cheat codes. Whole pages, sections, even whole magazines were dedicated to key punches. Hold this while pressing these buttons. Key these buttons in at the start screen. Pause the game and punch this in. Shortcuts, infinite lives, infinite ammo, all guns, were there for the taking if you could just find the code. It truly was cheating at the video game. You were able to play the part of God. Hell, wasn’t there even the “God Code?”

Cheats were such big business that they built the Game Shark. Remember that thing? A room full of coders created a go-between that bypassed design code and literally cheated the game. Between the cartridge and console was the key to anything you could imagine. Your console resembled the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and it was just as full of answers. It wasn’t just key presses anymore. All you needed to do was highlight and select the cheats you wanted for the game.

It’s a dying feature, though. Sure, the Konami code exists in one form another in games occasionally, but it’s not like it used to be. As code has become infinitely more complicated than it once was, so have games. The gamers’ tastes have changed, too. The culture of gaming seems to frown upon the classic cheat. There is no consumer demand, so there is no market.

The closest thing to a cheat you can get is a walkthrough. Instead of figuring it out on your own, searching for a decade for every collectible in a game, you just refer to a section that outlines where everything is and how to accomplish every quest, task, event, chapter, and boss battle.

The achievement and the unlockable has replaced the cheat. Well, not replaced it, but is the holy grail that the code used to be. Gamers aren’t looking to bypass the difficulty of games. Far from it. Audiences want white-knuckle, controller-chucking difficulty setting. What used to be a jaunt through a side-scroller is now an episodic journey sometimes eating up 100+ hours of play, and gamers are looking to be able to wear an achievement like a smug badge of honor. Why else would there be insane mode built in to a game?

There is also the dominance of open-world designs and the rise of the MMO and RPG. These are genres that would suffer greatly from cheat codes. In a space like WoW or SW: TOR, there is no space for cheat codes. There is no room for cheating. Hell, players often frown on the idea of selling/buying equipment through online marketplaces. This is cheating to many in these communities. So, with such large online gaming communities, multiplayer features in games like Modern Warfare and Battlefield installments, cheats would be devastating to the basic idea of achievement through even playing fields. The presence of infinite health codes or unlimited ammo codes would be awful.

Gamers want to beat a game like never before. The achievement system is the best example of this. It’s not enough to finish a game. You need to finish it on every difficulty mode. You need to kill this many enemies for 10 points added to your gamer score. You need to finish a section under two minutes. You need to execute this many of this move, or do this thing 1,000 times. You need to play every map, every mode, and collect all of this thing or that. Gamers aren’t looking for cheats. They are looking for the feeling of dominating a game, not leisurely wandering through it with infinite health.

The gaming space has changed. Gamers are savvy, happily invest more time in games than ever before, and demand a fulfilling experience. Players seem to have realized something that a muscle-head at a gym would say: “When you cheat, you’re only cheating yourself.” Gamers don’t hit the gym as often as they probably should, but they have realized that a shortcut, a cheat, even a walkthrough can take away from the experience in an MMO, an RPG, or an open-world that is just waiting to be discovered. We want to level up, collect, acquire, and achieve. Cheats just seem to be the victim of better games, a more savvy community, and maturity that tells us that we’re losing more than we gain when we cheat. Not a bad lesson to learn, but I still get the urge to key in a God Code and go bitchcakes in the virtual space.

Read more "Sometimes You Just Wanna Cheat!"

E3: It’s a Bucket List Thing. You do it once.

There, I said it. I guess I really don’t have to elaborate on the title, but since no one’s paying me to I guess I’ll do whatever I damned well please.

E3 is the biggest gaming event of the year. It’s supposed to be for press only. The general public isn’t allowed on the show floor, and the press conferences are by invitation only. I didn’t get the invitation. I got to sit at home on Monday and watch the press conferences. My legs hurt less doing that.

You’re telling me this girl is press? Loose terminology, I guess.

E3 was not for press only. I stood in line behind and in front of plenty of people with point-and-shoot cameras, no notepads, nothing at all but bags of free stuff. Really, who are they here representing as journalists? No one. I could tell that though it is supposed to be industry-only, the vetting process isn’t as strict as I thought it to be.

There are thousands of people at this thing and the lines for games were anywhere from 30 minutes to almost four hours. I am gonna drive to LA to stand in line for four hours to play a demo for twenty minutes I already saw on TV? Not me. It also seemed that this wasn’t the single most motivating factor for those in line either. I waited just 15 minutes to play Borderlands 2 at the XBOX booth. While playing Borderlands 2, literally playing it, a kid walked up and asked the guy manning the booth where the Borderlands booth was. He paused a moment and wryly pointed a finger at the logo above my screen and blankly stared at the kid.

Half of the Borderlands 2 line. Waaaaay in the back there is the end, two hours from the front.

“No, the one where they’re giving out the T-shirts.” The guy paused a moment, I literally paused my game, and we looked at each other for half a second before I laughed and went back to my game and the guy directed the kid to where he could waste hours of his life for a T-shirt instead of playing Borderlands 2 right where he was standing. You can say it’s press-only, not open to the public, but if this was all about press then that kid would be standing behind me and T-shirts wouldn’t be the badge of honor that they are.

You’re telling me this is just for industry professionals? Fanboys, more like.

E3 is an assault on the senses. I couldn’t help but recall the scene of the gambling floor from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas where Hunter explains that this would be what we’d be doing if the Nazis had won the war. It is madness. A cartoon of a caricature of an LSD-fueled scene from a dream. Enough loud music to make you half-deaf. Fanboys standing next to executives from Coca-Cola searching for any cross promotion with a particular title that could be lucrative. E3 is where Mountain Dew met MW3. E3 is where Nathan Drake struck a deal with Subway. E3 is where big business meets creativity and offers it money for favors like some digital hooker. It’s also where booth babes hand out lanyard and you get Oswald ears made with your name stenciled on them. It’s a weird place.

Yes, I got to play AC3, Far Cry 3, ZombiU, and see gameplay few others have seen…until it was up on G4 and 500 bloggers and outlets posted videos on-line. As a fan, it was a great thing, but there is little I got out of E3 I could not have gotten after a few bags of FunYuns and my DVR.

You want to go? Why the hell not try next year? Buy a domain name, set up a free blog, start writing articles, and posting screen shots and videos for like three months before the event. With a few links, a photo copy of a business card–they cost $10 for 250 at Vistaprint.com–and a few other minor details, you too can attend E3. It’s clearly not that difficult. The people that they want to attend the expo are people who are going to get wet over trailers and gush about demos. Sorry for the visual.

Wii U Assassin’s Creed demo. A lot of fun.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved going to E3 since it had been a dream of mine for years. It was over-the-top selling everywhere you went. Half-naked women, colonial soldier, Connor impersonators, live Tekken tournaments on the floor, and more square footage of display screens that even a football field could support, it was something to marvel at. It was also exhausting to wait and walk around all the time, the food sucked, you couldn’t get a Starbucks coffee faster than a ZombiUdemo, there weren’t enough seats, and the air conditioning could not keep up. By the end of the day everyone reeked of BO and the hallways outside the Expo floor looked more like a bunch of weary Katrina survivors and not industry professionals. Sullen, drinking bottled water, shoving what palatable food could be had in to their faces, hunched over sitting on the floor just trying to regain their strength. There is more seating and better amenities in a two-bit airstrip airport than there was at E3, and this is supposedly thousands of press and industry professionals. We need charging stations, impeccable Wi-Fi connections and more than five food trucks outside to keep us going.

This is what gamers want, I guess. Just the thing to eat before standing in line for two hours.

E3 is something I feel like I survived or endured more than I attended. It was just one carnival barker after another hollering about their bearded lady or a new reptile boy. There was one spectacle after another, but nothing I couldn’t have lived without. Call me old, call me cynical, but it–as almost all things are–was more than it was cracked up to be. A very cool feather in my journalistic cap to be sure, but nothing I will break my back to attend next year. I will leave E3 to the fanboy bloggers on a hunt for free t-shirts and to the suits looking to cash in on the effort and genius put in to a game to sell a few more cans of soda. Me, I’ll be on my couch. It’s not for me, and it wasn’t just for the press. Hell, they let me in and I was crashing the damned thing.

I’m not Gabriel Cutter. It’s LA. It’s not who you are, it’s who you know.
I never said I wasn’t a hypocrite.

Thank, E3. It was fun, but next year I will be getting all of my news from G4 live broadcasts from my couch like everyone else. I do love my cool shirt, though.

Read more "E3: It’s a Bucket List Thing. You do it once."

ZombiU Preview:

How Long Wii(ll) U Survive?

 ZombiU is the M-rated title that has everyone buzzing, and as a likely Wii U launch title the buzz couldn’t be louder. ZombiU drops you in to a post infection world where you must loot and survive. Oh, and there are no lives, no restarts, and no traditional checkpoints. You get one life, so make it count.

The innovative concept of a single life makes for interesting and tense strategy. Every turn of the corner could be your last steps. Once killed you are turned in to the undead and join the ranks of those that took your life. The game isn’t over, just that survivor’s life. Let’s call him Alex. When Alex dies, you come back to the game as a new character who must finish the quest at hand. The twist that turns the zombie survival genre on it’s ear is that you must now find Alex as this new person, let’s call him Kyle. It is now part of Kyle’s quest to find Alex, kill him, and loot him, and then continue on as long as he can survive.

ZombiU will offer classic weapon choices and a looting system for ammo, medicine, and other items. Think Walking Dead. Looting is key to a post infection world. You will have a club, shotgun, pistol, and crossbow, among other weapons collected along the way, but ammo will be limited. There’s no hundreds of bullets. Think Half-Life.

Everything is kept in a backpack. What sets the inventory system in this game apart from others is that picking a weapon or item out of your bag happens in real-time. If you want to switch from your pistol to your shotgun, then your character takes the bag off his shoulder, kneels down, and rifles through the bag to get the item and put his backpack back on. ZombiU doesn’t allow for a COD or Borderlands quick switch, you have to find things in your bag, so switching weapons in a fight is almost not an option. You will be overrun while you search through your bag.

ZombiU is compatible with the Wii Pro controller, but it shines brightest with the use of the Wii U game pad. It is genuinely well used in many ways. Quicktime games like lock-picking happen in real-time, and occur on the touch screen. Aiming happens with the game pad. If you want to aim with your crossbow, then you hold the game pad up to the screen, and the sights of your weapon are on the touchscreen. Also, scanning a room for items is done with the game pad and highlights possibly vital items happens on the touch screen. You can scan the room in 360 degrees by simply turning around, pointing the pad and scan parts of the room not even displayed on the TV. It really is well used here as more than just a mini-map screen, though it does this, too.

It is unclear from the demo what your survivor’s task is overall. You have a voice that guides you through the game, seemingly a voice talking in your ear from a distant location. This gives the impression that your are often running tasks for small pockets of survivors. The classic gopher concept. In the demo, it was your quest to navigate a map to find much-needed medicine you were obviously sent to go get. You are not just a lone soul surviving on your own, think Book of Eli, you’re part of some bigger town or group and you’re the idiot willing to go out there.

With well-used new tech, gruesome violence, and a looting system set to the tune of one life to live, ZombiU will be the breakout hit of the Wii U launch, and will probably be a strong selling point for the hardcore gamer. The casual gaming market–families, kids, dance game, and WiiSports fans–might not bite on this one, but with the powerhouse developer of Ubisoft behind the title, it will probably do well. It is a potentially great game that shows off the potential of the Wii U game pad. Reports also indicate that ZombiU might not be Nintendo exclusive for long. What would they call it for other platforms, though? ZombiMove? ZombiKinect? They’ll cross that bridge if they can survive that long.

Read more "ZombiU Preview:"

Assassin’s Creed 3 Preview:

The gem they meant to make the entire time

Assassin’s Creed 3 has been in the works for years. While other teams turned out the titles Revelations and Brotherhood, the 3 team took years crafting the story, world, and ground-up rebuilt combat system behind this E3 darling.

Playing it on the Playstation 3 and on the Wii U, it shined well on both, but the mechanics behind what the Wii U game pad offered were strong offerings. The screen acted as a quick inventory and as a large map for navigation. A map large enough that ten square city blocks seemed to be viewable, highlighting enemies long before encountering them, which I can only imagine allows for more tactical planning.

Speaking of the map, gone are the days of climbing a church or tower to synchronize. In AC3, wandering and the cities, wilderness, and sailing the open seas now unfogs the map as you go. This is in the tradition of games like BioShock and others. Exploration is the key to defining a map. Traveling at a higher elevation unfogs the map further than walking the streets. This encourages the player to stay in the trees and on rooftops to efficiently see the map more quickly.

The maps in AC3 are the biggest ever designed. Each city is larger than past cities combined. Florence and Rome are equal to one city in this game, not to mention the ocean and the wilderness. These large maps also forced the team to think of new tasks and ongoing quests. Hunting and exploration clubs encourage the player to explore and track and hunt animals. There is a monetary system, and hunting gets you meat and pelts you can sell. There are more than 25 species of animal to hunt from rabbits to bears. Don’t over hunt in an area too much, or those animals will disappear from that zone for a while. This is in keeping with the balance of nature and using everything that you kill that comes from Connor’s background as half Native-American.

The story of AC3 takes place over thirty years. It starts with Connor as a boy in his village, and ends after the Revolutionary War. Your enemy will be the Templars primarily, but this might be anyone from Americans to British to others. As always, this game is made by people from many religious and political backgrounds, which is the disclaimer found before the menu screen of every title.

Since this is a very open, realistic world, tasks will pop up and come and go. Exploration is everything, and Connor is not one to let a chance to fight for the people pass him up. The Templars are the enemy, but fighting power, oppression, and violence is a key goal. The common people will sometimes need Connor’s help. Whether it is a random street crime, a task to find meat for hungry villagers, or the task of securing medicine for sick and dying soldiers, Connor will have the option of intervening and upping his support from the people. This system is much like the one found in Brotherhood, where the people needed to be liberated from the tyrannical Borgias which allowed you to buy businesses and repair the city. Connor fights for his nation, his people, and anyone who is oppressed. You gotta respect a guy like that.

The combat system had to be retooled as well. There are a host of new kills and counters available, and stringing them together looks incredible while being so satisfying. Just as in the past, Connor can grab a weapon and use it in a fight, but can’t store it. You’ve seen the video of him grabbing a musket, shooting one man while stabbing another with the bayonet. There are new executions like stringing up the enemy. When you do this, you have the option of staying in the trees after the kill, or swinging down to the ground while the dying enemy goes up like a pulley system. One hell of a way to make an entrance. The combat system was rebuilt to account for the new class of weapons and Connor’s native background. He fights fluidly and viciously. There are now styles of running kills without missing a step, jump executions, and an endless way of mixing and matching your play style. He carries guns and a bow and arrow instead of the throwing knives we’ve seen in the past. Include his tomahawk and double wrist blades among others and you’ve got just about any combination of ways to deliver justice.

The free running in my gameplay was very intuitive. Back are the lifts for quick ascent to the rooftops, but when the team had to account for shorter buildings and the difficulties of navigation trees and natural growth for the first time, they had to rethink how Connor gets around. Just the programming and thinking about how to use the V-shape of branches and trunks and getting from tree to tree called for a complete redesign of how Connor could get around.

The team had the time and the fresh blood to redesign almost every aspect of Connor’s mannerisms. This is a completely new world, new type of character, and they even went as far as to think of how a man from his background would walk. It was explained that his gate, his frame, had to be rethought. Connor is a man who grew up in the wilderness. He was taught by Indians, and spent a lot of time hunting and respecting animals for their sacrifice. After explaining this to me, I saw that Connor moves like an animal. He lurks, hunches over, peers fro side to side, and seems to stalk his enemies. All movements that come from hunting in the wild. It is this attention to detail that new team members with fresh eyes and ideas could put in to place over a design cycle rarely heard of anymore. With three years from initial design meetings to release date, they were able to focus on this kind of detail and further define and flesh out a character as dynamic as Connor.

Another instance of great care was the time taken to properly match the physics of snow. Snow took so much attention, because it is a large part of the game. Snow had to have different depths, banks, and beaten tracts. Moving through it had to be dynamic. Running in to fresh, shallow snow had to be fast but then high steps and slower progress had to be designed as the snow got deeper and more difficult to navigate. I was able to watch Connor high-step through deep snow. That initial pull of the leg out and then set down on the snow where it plunged back in. This labored walking encourages Connor to keep to the trees. Snow also had to leave tracks until it snowed again. Connor can be tracked by his steps as he’s pursued, but this also comes in handy when Connor is hunting an animal and can follow it’s tracks.

The maps are bigger than ever. The enemy is everywhere. There are many side quests and random tasks that will come up when even on a major storyline quest. You hunt, you sail, you explore. The combat is fluid and dynamic. The free running has been reworked with care and intuition regarding how the player should be able to move through a world with obstacles never seen in an AC game before. The character of Connor has been lovingly created and realized down to the greatest detail. AC3 represents what enough time and support for a team of developers can accomplish. Ubisoft has allowed a team to create a game that will be a shot in the arm for the franchise, and get more kids Googling American history sites and Wikis than ever before. Assassin’s Creed 3 hits shelves on October 30, 2012.

Read more "Assassin’s Creed 3 Preview:"

The Big Three at E3: Who Won?

E3 has a lot to offer. It has to since it’s the biggest gaming event of the year. E3 is the Detroit Auto Show of gaming. E3 has it’s big players same as the auto industry and they go head-to-head each year to roll out the best concept and production vehicles they can to wow the public revealing their lineup for the coming year.

Just as with the auto show, there are forgettable mistakes like the Gremlin and triumphs like the Shelby Mustang. E3 has its big three, and they won and lost as follows.

Sony came in third place almost immediately after its press conference. Not the strongest exclusive lineup of games. The new God of War Ascension looks like a four out of five to me. They also failed to instill any confidence in me that the PSN (Playstation Network) is any more secure or robust. Also, the Playstation Plus package looks weak and half-cocked. If you’re going to drop a pay to play package on an audience used to free service, your pitch should be better than free PSone titles; don’t lead with old stuff as a selling point.

Sony also failed to impress me with what they featured. OK, an Assassin’s Creed title for the Vita, but I’m not impressed. Not impressed that you glorified it as a package deal with a new Vita this fall. Also, don’t care that it can be a great controller with full functionality for the PS3; that’s a $300 controller my friend. Ouch.

Sony’s biggest bust, one that shows how out of touch they are with their gaming base, is the Playstation Wonderbook. Who thought integrating a book into gaming was a good idea? Utilizing their augmented reality system, between the book and a camera, a 3D image appears on the television screen. The big selling point was the launch of a Harry Potter themed game where you learn spells from the book using the Playstation Move ice cream cone as a wand. The demo barely worked, and the major drawback is that you have to sit on the ground five feet from your TV to use it. I’ve got a coffee table and a small living room, where the hell is my kid supposed to play his book game? It was a poor choice to reveal this at an event as large as E3 and got only polite applause from the audience.

Sony made a poor decision in attempting to move Vitas and interactive books; it felt like a sales pitch, not a press conference. They didn’t bring out any new tech for the core of the gaming audience. The core, mind you, is an average age of 34 years old. Yeah, my kid might want the book, but why invest in something that looks like a device with little replay value? Unless titles are cheap downloadables, this is a piece of hardware that will have a short lifespan. How diverse can the title lineup be if they all must be restricted to this book format? This looks like another piece of hardware that will sell well initially, and then fall off sharply like what happened with the Vita.

Nintendo came in second place this year in the console wars. With offering of Kingdom Hearts 3D among other bankable titles, and the relative success demoing Wii U, Nintendo upped their street cred. The Wii U as a device seems to be getting used fairly well initially. The console has its limits after seeing much of the specs, but the Wii U game pad adds another dimension to a console that will support all other interfaces like the Wiimote and the Pro controller among others. This was savvy on their part to keep support for all the controllers people already own and are used to. Between all of these remotes, this might become a very dynamic console. From Assassin’s Creed III to Pikmin 3 and the M-rated ZombiU–the most interesting use of the tablet–there seems to be some great content out there that will highlight its particular skill sets.

Nintendo has been losing a lot of ground among hardcore gamers as they have been appealing to casual gamers. Nintendo looks strong with hit games like Just Dance 4 as well. JD 4 looks to sell a ton of copies as the world’s best-selling dance game. The Wii U game pad is integrated into gameplay as well. Don’t forget Rayman Legends, showing some serious power and fun gameplay. For what it is, if this is the kind of item you enjoy, then it has been well thought out and there is a game for everyone.

Nintendo will always command the handheld market. The Vita price point is too high and Microsoft could care less. Mobile phone and tablet gaming had a huge presence at the expo as well, so this should make Nintendo a bit nervous since the tablets I got to play on had some very impressive processing power for games that were pretty expansive. The 3Ds has had less than stellar sales after the initial cycle. Some of this can be blamed on a terrible launch title line and flooding the market with games instead of peppering them out of a longer period. Nintendo will still hold on to that part of the market that wants to just game and not mess around on their phone for little games that are free or at most a couple bucks. The 3Ds and other mobile gaming platforms won’t flop, and many of the games on display seemed strong and from franchises one can plan on moving a lot of copies.

This might be the year that Nintendo gets it right and gets back in the black. The public’s understanding of what the Wii U actually will be is important, along with a reasonable price to convince people to buy a new console at launch.

By elimination, this means Microsoft is this year’s winner. It’s not by a close margin, either. Microsoft did three things right. They led with console content, a game people are losing their shit over, and some great tech.

There were few flaws in the Microsoft plan of attack. Leading with content, they blew the competition out of the water with all the major sports on their platform. MLB, NFL, live ESPN, NHL, and more. HBO is coming to XBOX, and other movie providers. They are also redesigning the XBOX desktop for easier searching. They are also bring the internet to the XBOX. True surfing through Kinect will be possible to find information, YouTube videos, and other content. XBOX established itself as the media center powerhouse among the competition. No one comes close to the moves Microsoft is making as a media platform in the home. They seemed to go in to this console generation with this in mind, and have easily kept one step ahead while a company like Sony seemed to add it as an afterthought when Blu-Ray players became affordable and Nintendo seems to be almost ignoring diverse media support.

Microsoft then hit us with Halo 4, and will have almost every major title on their console this season and into next year. Besides God of War Ascension, they have everything people are going to want. Halo 4 will be the runaway hit of the year and it seems to be a well-crafted start to another cash cow trilogy of Halo games.

Now for the sweet tech. It is almost laughable how stupid the Wonderbook is compared to SmartGlass tech. I almost saw a smug smile on their faces when they demoed the tech at the press conference and on the floor. Savvy to use a HBO hit show for the demo, too. SmartGlass takes all the items you already have–tablets, smart phones, and XBOX, TV–and makes them work together. Uninterrupted change from tablet to TV in video playback. Tablet support for gameplay like drawing up plays in Madden. When making the switch from tablet to TV viewing, the tablet will instantly switch to supporting information about the film or TV show you’re watching in real-time.

SmartGlass is a savvy move on many fronts, but most of all it’s just software. This is where Microsoft got brilliant. Instead of making a piece of hardware, getting it past all the dev time and inspections, shipping, maintenance, warranties, customer service calls, production cost, and most of all persuading someone to buy yet another thing, they just decided to create enough code to make it all work together. It really is genius. No ad campaign for a new piece of hardware…just download this. Apple has you buying iEverything to work seamlessly, but Microsoft will make any phone and any tablet work with an XBOX. This appeals to current XBOX owners and coupled with their content lineup and games coming out, it will topple anyone on the fence about buying a console or switching teams.

Microsoft knocked this E3 out of the park with a savvy tech decision that compliments everything else they do well. Kinect worked beautifully with games demoed and with surfing their XBOX desktop. They have a lush and vibrant lineup of new games and content providers which will appeal to a lot of people, gamer or not. Now that a Blu-Ray player costs $50 at Walmart, it’s not the selling point it used to be for Sony. Microsoft really excelled at forcing someone to think if a $50 Blu-Ray player and an XBOX might be the way to go in the future–those things will be one thing in the next console generation, mark my words. They will also sell the shit out of games this holiday season. They’re gonna have a good year.

Most shocking of all was that I felt like Microsoft didn’t try to sell me anything. This is key. They didn’t try to package anything up to sell a Kinect or a console or a new tablet or some Wonderbook you need a camera and a Move controller to use. Microsoft simply showed off new tech, new games, and new content. While Sony played the role of carnival barker and Nintendo was talking up the merits of the Wii U, Microsoft played the sales card close to the chest and just showed us great stuff. No sales pitch needed. Great stuff sells itself. Game, set, match. Microsoft.

Read more "The Big Three at E3: Who Won?"

Five Games Inspired By My E3 Experience

1: SIMS E3 Edition

It is your task to build the world’s most amazing E3 exhibit and keep your patrons happy. This is not as easy as you might think. You will need to erect massive booths highlighting the games and tech which will keep companies alive and in the black for the next calendar year.

You will map out the exhibits. You will hire the appropriate booth babes to titillate your more impressionable press. You will need to hire the right food vendors. Keep in mind that your patronage will consist of everything from executives of multimillion dollar companies to un-showered bloggers with asthma. It can’t be too nice or too Hot Pocket-y.

Don’t forget security. Also, don’t include any massage stations for the press lugging around cameras and laptops for ten hours, that would be ridiculous. You will also need to decide which exhibitors get the most marketing space, whose banners go where, and keep everyone happy, but don’t worry because lines are tolerable everywhere but bathrooms and bars.

Can you keep everyone happy and pull off the greatest annual event in gaming?

SIMS E3 Edition “The Expo is Yours!”

2: Linecraft

In this mobile game, you get to try to survive a two-hour long line to play a video game for 20 minutes. In this line you will need to avoid the dangers of boredom, small talk, defend against villains taking “cutsies,” stay hydrated, stay fed, do the pee-pee dance, and hold in flatulence…in real time!

No two games are the same with the randomly generating AI used to compose the people around you. One try you might need to hold in a fart while a man next to you insists on quoting the film Grandma’s Boy to you. On the other side of you is a man with terrible body odor while you are trying to have a silent fight with your girlfriend who is pissed you ditched her for E3. There is no telling what you’ll encounter in the real-time survival fanboy game.

There are four levels of lines you can work your way up. With every victory you get real play time on this falls biggest hit games, and a T-shirt. Each T-shirt can earn you respect for the next line you try to survive, and between lines you can refill your backpack with provisions you think you might need for your next line survival. Will you need water? Don’t bring too much, and remember to pee between lines. You will be hungry between lines, but choose carefully what you eat or you might have to try to navigate the indigestion mini-game later on.

Every choice is precious, every move a chance at survival…and a T-shirt.

Linecraft “Have You Got What it Takes to See Every Badass Video Trailer in a Day at E3?”

3: Swagville

In this Facebook community game, you and your friends can team up to get every piece of collectible swag from E3. You and your friends attend E3 and try to get all of the free shit they give away from Oswald ears to T-shirts and even buttons and iron-on patches. Nothing is too invaluable to waste your valuable time on.

Swagville comes with everything you’ve come to expect from Facebook games. Post App updates to people not playing the game asking them if they have an Assassin’s Creed 3 screening T-shirt and if they can help you get one. Send constant requests to random people you haven’t seen since high school to join your swag-farming co-op. Post 15 achievements and high scores in a row on the walls of people who are now 10 seconds from ignoring all activity from you as a human being.

Swagville is a looters dream. Get E3 exclusive items. By “exclusive” we mean stuff that you can buy any time you’d like on-line, or just live the rest of your life happily without. Swagville is the fun and fruitless way for you to spend your time bartering and begging booth babes and exhibitors for things. Say all the right things and you might get bonus items.

“My little brother has cancer and couldn’t come to E3. Can I get an extra shirt for him?” That’s the right conversation choice. Pull at their heart-strings. In higher levels, you’ll even download a photo of a cancer patient to really sell your story and get even more things you will throw out or lose sooner rather than later.

Swagville for Facebook “Oh, this? I got it at E3.”

4: America’s Next Top Booth Babe: The Game

Have you wanted to be a hot chick surrounded by dudes you’d never bang? Have you ever dreamed of handing out crap and just looking pretty? Ever wanted to know the absolute minimum about a product, stand near it, and then not be able to answer any follow-up questions? Then America’s Next Top Booth Babe: The Game is for you.

You get to take headshots, dress your character, and then go on auditions to stand around in a full of nerds and potentially stand near an expensive car. Every game is improved with Kinect. Use voice commands to perfect your pitch to passers-by.

“Would you like a wrist band to get free stuff?” Oh now, Molly. You’re going to need to dumb down your tone and turn up the valley girl twang just a bit, but you’re on the right track.

Learn the stances, how to hit your mark at a moment’s notice from passing press. Get answers ready for simple questions and enough details in your back story to prove you’re a real “gamer.” Learn words like “gamer.” Work your way up from one exhibit to another until you are hocking free stuff and posing with Asian tourists and single bloggers for some of the biggest triple-A title developers and manufacturers in the world. Work your way up from PAX East and Blizzcon to events like Comic Con and even E3 as the game progresses.

America’s Next Top Booth Babe: The Game “I can’t wait to play Hola 4!”

5: EA X Activision

We’ve seen them battle each other in the gaming market, we’ve seen them battle in court, and now watch your favorite figureheads abuse each other in this multi-platform console arena.

In the tradition of Street Fighter X Tekken, put your favorite CEO’s to the test in two-player action at home or online. Play as classic Activision founders like Bob Whitehead, Larry Kaplan, and David Crane. Choose from EA greats like Trip Hawkins, Larry Probst, or CEO John Riccitiello.

Each character comes with their own moves like the cut and run elbow slam, the development house acquisition bear hug, and the Dickensian employee back breaker. Beat your opponents with moves like the subpoena face slap and the chapter 11 gut stomp. There are more than thirty playable characters each with their own set of moves, and you can do battle in more than 15 destructible arenas like Redwood City, CA; Santa Monica, CA; the E3 floor; and court.

DLC packages are planned with playable characters like Cliff Bleszinski, Ken Levine, and Chuck Norris…because he belongs in every fighting game.

EA X Activision “Making games just got real…painful”

Read more "Five Games Inspired By My E3 Experience"

E3 Day 1 impressions

Day 1 E3 was pretty much a disaster. With such a late start, I didn’t get as much time in with the event as I would like. Day 2 will be better, but here are a few observations from day 1.

 Ubisoft is turning out the most interesting and anticipated lineup of the year. You’d be hard pressed to find a more exciting offering of games in the next 12 months than everything Ubisoft is championing at the moment.

 Assassin’s Creed III looks and feels better than any I’ve played up to this point. With the conference demo of the single player campaign, and the chance I got to play the multiplayer, it looks solid from top to bottom.

The free running skills are very intuitive, and I didn’t find myself worrying about my path as much as I have in the path. It just moved fluidly. Multiplayer was an interesting take on domination. In a map populated by look-alikes, your team had to occupy three points to achieve a points total to win the domination of the map. It had three points to hold, and you found yourself running from one to the next. In these domination circles, you could blend in with people, as you do in the game, to hold the position, or just stand around. You would be alerted that an enemy was in the circle, and I was tense trying to watch each person’s movements to see if I could pick out the player from the AI populating the area.

I will admit, I got assassinated a few times, and found myself panicking and just killing innocent AI in fear that they might be an opponent. It was this action that often alerted my savvy opponents. It is an interesting multiplayer, and one that could hold up for a few months of play, especially if you can find a few friends that like the game as much as you do.

 They are shoving Just Dance 4 down your throat like crazy. I can’t blem them, though. It is the best-selling dance game of all-time. The center of the Ubisoft booth was a series of dancers playing the actual game. What sets this game apart is the super pop music and the fact that it’s not a particularly hard game to play. Just Dance 4 won’t shit in your corn flakes and tell you to get off the floor. It encourages you to just get up and dance. There is a winner in each game if you’re in a group, but really there is no failing with this game. I think that’s the big pull for dance game fans for this series. It’s just a good time with few rules or fail screens…the same can be said for dancing, I suppose.

Far Cry 3 is vicious. We’ve heard of the massive design, and the freedom for discovery, but it is the interesting and tactical gameplay that got me excited. It is not just a traditional shooter with a destructible environment. There is an emphasis on a mix of stealth and balls out action.

The demo we got to play was the same demoed at the press conference. From memory of the conference, I knew what way there was through the map, but as I watched a few others playing before me, it was clear that there were at least three different ways through the level using a mixture stealth, open attack, and use of the environment. You can shoot the tiger cages to release the animals to kill enemies. You can grenade the gunner, or shoot him. You can go left through the house, going right has less cover. Forget doors, just smash a window or two and cut your own path around the action to ambush enemies. The choices are yours.

If this demo is any indicator of the game, and I’d like to think that it is, then players are in for an amazing game chock full of nudity, coarse language, and a lot of takedowns and a high body count.

 They aren’t messing around with presentation. Games are highlighted with everything from ten-foot tall statues to destroyed city busses. SEGA even has an actual alien prop from the 1986 film Aliens to promote Aliens Vs. Predator Colonial Marines. Besides that, SEGA has a lifter fighting an alien that you can get in and have your picture taken…something I will be doing tomorrow for sure.

I know this is a trade-show, but it feels like a fanboy’s wet dream at times. Get your photo taken with cosplay hirashuku girls, or just sexy booth babes. Get your photo taken with Nathan Drake or some colonial marines complete with armor and an M41-A pulse rifle.

 It is a lot of standing around. It’s like the Disneyland for gametards–new word I’m trying out. You get excited for the demo, and you go stand in line for an hour or more in some cases, and then you get a few minutes of excitement, and then you leave. There you go. Hope you had a great ride, and enjoy the rest of your day at E3.

Lines everywhere. Of course they are longest at the biggest titles and most seizure-inducing displays. Seriously, between the lighting in that place and the music in some booths I might as well have been at a rave. It would be the world’s worst rave seeing as everyone is sitting down playing video games, but a rave nonetheless.

 It is so damned big. It will take every ounce of effort and free moment to play even half of what is being offered here. I can’t even imagine what a full day Wednesday will be with lines and demos as far as the eye can see. With so much stuff going on and so much to look at, it took me a good hour to just walk around and get my bearings for where everything is. It is huge, but then again it is the LA Convention Center and it is E3, so I should expect as much.

 We will be doing a full recon of everything tomorrow, and throughout the week we will be doing more gaming articles of the quintessential who won/who lost E3 awards and highlights. We are going to dig deeper with more detailed articles and our impressions of what direction thing are going in and what new tech we can’t wait for and what we can certainly wait for. This is gaming week on Project: Poppycock, and so we will be doing our due diligence to give you everything that one man can, given the circumstances. Wednesday brings a full day at the event, so stay tuned for live tweeting and blog articles for the rest of the week.

Read more "E3 Day 1 impressions"