July 2006

E4: Like E3, But With… Uh… Less Of You

As you’ve noticed from everywhere on the Interweb, E3 2007 (LA May Megamix edition) has been cancelled. In its place is a smaller, friendlier exhibition which… well, I’m not sure what the difference is supposed to be. Maybe it’s shiny.

According to IGN, some publishers including EA already are ALL OVER the new direction for E3.

Publishers such as Capcom and Electronic Arts have already announced their support for the new format. Electronic Arts told IGN that it is “very supportive” of the show’s new approach, and plans to participate next July.

“When the show began 12 years ago, it was a great opportunity to meet with buyers, media and partners,” an EA spokesperson explained. “Over time though, the timing has become disruptive to the studios and the costs have become expensive.

“The July event is less disruptive to our development schedule. We think that software shown in July will be a more accurate reflection of the games that will appear in stores later that year.”

So, um, you get a few more weeks of crunching to make a wholly fictional Potemkin village to show off to the class. Yaaaaaaay team!

Still unclear is, if all the usual suspects are showing off the usual dog and pony shows, what the difference is supposed to be. One commenter on Slashdot had a possible answer: show passes that cost $3000. Well, yes, that would probably do it, assuming EB didn’t turn around and hand six zillion of them out for free. Then again, I’m not sure people would pay $3000 for me to go.

In any event, I’m happy about E3 going poof, as are most people in the trenches that I talked to today. No one who actually has to work at E3 enjoys it any more. It’s too loud, too noisy, too hot, and too crowded. It won’t be missed, unless your only form of female contact is humping booth babes with digital cameras. YES I AM LOOKING AT YOU.

Wired has probably the best meta-comment on the whole sturm und drang:

The show will go on, in every respect save for the fact that the show has been cancelled.

E3 to be cancelled, replaced with E4: THIS TIME, IT’S PERSONAL starring Steven Seagal


Ars Technica: Uh, it’s not cancelled, just… uh… downsized. Yeah. We’ll get back to you.

Edit: It’s official.\’c2\~

My thoughts:


  • If we do have E3, can we have it somewhere besides Los Angeles, please? I mean, there’s this other city just right there, with plenty of hotel space.
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  • I can actually see the trade shows segmenting, and this being good for the industry as a whole. Developer meet and greets (GDC, AGC), trade shows focused on a particular industry segment (AGC again, for MMOs), and events for the general public (GenCon, Pax, ComicCon). The industry is too large now for one-show-to-rule-them-all-and-in-the-darkness-bind-them.
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  • As someone who’s worked at several E3s, the experience for those who actually have to get work done has devolved, year after year, into something akin to a – very loud – pit of hell, with ravenous hordes of post-teen fanboys seeking what trinkets they may devour.
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  • And as someone who’s worked at game companies for the past few years, witnessing the effort that goes into what are frequently smoke-and-mirrors displays, for the benefit, more often than not, of impressing competitors who are also sleepless from coming up with their own smoke-and-mirrors displays, seeing that fall by the wayside would not be a bad thing.

Of course, if you believe the PR people, it’s all the fault of those nasty bloggers. From the Ars Technica story:

One source I spoke with told me that media access is indeed a problem, but it probably does not factor in greatly to the decision to downsize the show. Nevertheless, there are plenty of complaints from insiders about how “blogging” in particular has made the shows more difficult, if only because floor people are instructed to speak only of what they are approved to speak of, lest another half-baked headline make the rounds.

Damn those interlopers and their calculating machines!

EA Mythic’s Mark Jacobs Goes And Touches That

Gamasutra has a long interview with Mark Jacobs on pretty much everything.

On competing with World of Warcraft:

So do I think World of Warcraft\’e2\’80\’99s success is repeatable today, of course not. Is it repeatable in the future? Well every time I hear somebody say, \’e2\’80\’9coh, nobody will ever touch that!\’e2\’80\’9d A few years later, somebody touches that.

On being borged by EA:

Have I promised EA that we\’e2\’80\’99d be number one? Was that even part of the deal? No. I\’e2\’80\’99ll let you in on something. Not only did I never say we were not going to be number one, I gave them numbers that were so low, and I said you\’e2\’80\’99re going to have to want to partner with us because you like what we\’e2\’80\’99re doing, you like what we already have, and you like these numbers \’e2\’80\ldblquote because I\’e2\’80\’99m not going to tell you that we\’e2\’80\’99re going to get 10 million subscribers. Because if I\’e2\’80\’99d sat here and really believed that we were going to get 10 million subscribers I would have taken my asking price, and multiplied it by 10.


I think that if a game is designed properly, and can be funded by item transactions in such a way that it does not hurt gameplay, and it doesn\’e2\’80\’99t turn the player into just a credit card, then I\’e2\’80\’99m okay with it. What I\’e2\’80\’99m not okay with are games that are designed to be nothing but quarter suckers in the online space. I think what we\’e2\’80\’99re going to see is some games that are designed well, where item sales can complement the game.

On why almost every MMO has swords and orcs:

It\’e2\’80\’99s easier. Fantasy is easier than sci-fi. Want to know why? It\’e2\’80\’99s simple. A gun. What\’e2\’80\’99s a gun, a gun is impersonal. A gun can shoot somebody from across the room. A gun in the future should be able to shoot a room from a mile away. Part of the challenge we found with Imperator is how do you make a combat system based on lasers and energy weapons, compelling to an RPG audience. That\’e2\’80\’99s one of the challenges. The other challenge with a sci-fi game is that fantasy is very well defined in our minds \’e2\’80\ldblquote we all have a vision of what something like Lord of the Rings should look like, what a basic fantasy world should look like. Sci-fi is very different, because you have all these different planets and environments and creatures, that should be otherworldly. But go into Camelot, go into Warhammer, go into Dungeons & Dragons, go into Lord of the Rings, go into WoW and look at a wolf. It\’e2\’80\’99s a wolf. There\’e2\’80\’99s a difference in the wolf, but you look at it, and you say \’e2\’80\’9cthat\’e2\’80\’99s a wolf.\’e2\’80\’9d Same with a dragon, same with a bear, same with almost any kind of monster you can name. Sci-fi, could be anything. And that\’e2\’80\’99s tougher. You\’e2\’80\’99re now creating very original IP. I think that some day someone\’e2\’80\’99s going to get it right. Nobody has yet \’e2\’80\ldblquote nobody\’e2\’80\’99s even come close to getting it right. But when they do, then I think you\’e2\’80\’99re going to see big numbers come out of sci-fi.

I also think there\’e2\’80\’99s something I can\’e2\’80\’99t explain, which is that people are more willing to play a fantasy game that\’e2\’80\’99s not as good online, than they are willing to play a sci-fi game that\’e2\’80\’99s not as good online. And I\’e2\’80\’99m not sure why that is.

Yes, but will it be balanced for PvP on release?

For those of you who think that every film, no matter how low budget, deserves its own multi-million dollar MMO project to enhance synergy, this one is for you:

Babysitter Wanted: The MMO.


“I’m extremely pleased with the deal we’ve made to produce the MMO,” commented Big Screen CEO, Kimberley Kates. “We are working with top notch developers and programmers who will adapt the most exciting and game worthy set pieces from our upcoming motion picture, ‘Babysitter Wanted.’ And the cross marketing potential for both the game and film is phenomenal.”

For those of you laughing at the thought of a Hollywood production company that proudly displays its 11c stock asking price on every page of its site tackling the Sisyphean task of launching a client-server application with thousands of simultaneous users, I bring you the wisdom of this veteran MMO developer:

The point is video games have become incredibly easy to create through the use of advanced API\’e2\’80\’99s. Carmack had it so incredibly hard making Doom and Quake because he didn\’e2\’80\’99t have these things (for the original version of Quake) to work with. What is an MMORPG? It’s a Quake type game with advance netcode.

And unlike GL-Jeff, if all else fails, Ms. Kates does have the resources of a well-known charitable organization to call on.

Note: Rowdy Roddy Piper’s RTS still isn’t out.

Koster Literally Sets Himself On Fire

Allen Varney of the Escapist handed him the matches.

The tinder? The quote many of you have waited roughly a year for, judging from my search engine logs:

I could give you my opinions there [about Star Wars Galaxies’ design direction], but there’s no point – even those changes have been changed… I’ll make an exception for the NGE. I don’t think you can or should change a game that radically out from under a user base. You dance with the ones that brung ya, whether they are the market of your dreams or not. They have invested their passion and built expectations about where they want the game to go. Changing things out from under them isn’t fair in my mind, especially given how they have been loyal to you in times of trouble. It’s like dumping the girlfriend who has always been patient and loving to chase after the supermodel who probably won’t love you back.

And a thousand message board posters cried out in pain, and were suddenly silenced.