Day 2: Morning has broken; Blackbird has spoken.
"Is it a Star Wars game?" "Oh, hell no! They don't want me anywhere near Star Wars." - Mike Stemmle talking about his new project.
Once again, the intrepid adventurers descended upon the Los Angeles Convention Center for Day Two of E3 2001. Today we saw some more Star Wars games, which I'm going to write about, but as a reward for reading about them, at the end are some far cooler reports, detailing an interview with Simon Jeffery, lunch with Tom Sarris and Dominic Armato, and over an hour and a half long chat with Mike Stemmle and Sean Clark. The oddest thing about all of those is that they all took place in the same corridor, purely by chance.
The first Star Wars game I'm going to talk about today is Rogue Squadron II on the Gamecube.
We had some high expectations of this game after we saw the cool AVI movie of the game footage, and we weren't let down. It looks great (for a console game). I don't pretend to know a whole lot about the Rogue Squadron series, but I do know this is one game I would like to play through. Its back in the time of the classic Star Wars Trilogy, so basically its main selling point is the X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter-style assaults on the Death Star, but the fun doesn't end there. The other levels include assaults on Star Destroyers and Cloud City among other things. I'm pretty sure a Hoth level is going to be in there at some point. It seems fun to play; you can choose form a variety of starships and control your wingmen. You can even send them off to go kill other stuff that you can't be bothered with. The Gamecube is definitely a far better console than I imagined it would be.
For now, I'll pass you over to Andrew "telarium" Langley for some coverage of some more Star Wars games.
What? Where am I? Who the hell ARE you people!? Talk about Star Wars games? Uh, okay. The first game I previewed was Star Wars: Battle Grounds, and I must admit, this is a game I was nowhere near excited about seeing. The screenshots that had been posted on the LucasArts site thus far were just mediocre. However, I can assure you that the graphics really spring to life when animated on a computer monitor.
The first thing that the LucasArts employee mentioned when operating the demo was that the user has the option of playing both classic and new Star Wars scenarios. You can battle it out on the ice planet Hoth between the Rebels and The Empire or you can duke it out with the Gungans on Theed. Each environment has its own feel and art work, which keeps the game feeling fresh and new. The man showing the demo commented that no environment artwork was used in more than one scenario.
The events in a game follow some of the story elements from the film. For example, if you're playing as the Empire on the planet Hoth, your goal is to destroy the ion cannon to keep the Rebels from escaping. There seemed to be some buzz about the use of Wookiees in the game. When asked what kinds of resources would be available for the Wookiees to fight with, the LucasArts employee mentioned that the battle habits of Wookiees had not yet been established, so LucasArts pretty much had free reign on what to do with them. No other Wookiee-related comments were made.
Of course, emphasis was placed on the fact that this is the first game from LucasArts to use a scenario editor. The scenario demonstrated, which was made by LucasArts employees, placed an army of Rebel soldiers against the infamous Darth Vader. Imagine a pack of Rebels firing rapidly on the approaching Darth Vader, yet their lasers do nothing as he takes each soldier down with a slice from his lightsaber. Unfortunately, a few Banthas got in the way and were tragically killed.
Overall, Star Wars: Battlegrounds seems to be a game that will entertain strategy game players. Even though I had little interest in this game before seeing it in action, I did walk away with more respect for this Star Wars title.
I wish I could say the same about Star Wars: Racer Revenge.
The game takes place between the first and second Star Wars episodes. Anakin has returned to race his pod against the bitter Sebulba. This time, each pod has its own health meter. The more you run into the pods, the less health they get and they eventually crash. The man running the demo said that their goal was to make the pod crashes more like in the film, which were impressive and rather violent. However, the pod crash in the game did little to make me go, "Oooh." I never did play the original racer game, but this seems nothing really new to me.
So that was my impression of the Star Wars games that I viewed. Now I'll hand it back over to Spaff so he can comment about the impressive private demo of an unannounced Star Wars game.
Behind closed doors today, we got a chance to see Knights Of The Old Republic, the Bioware project that was yet to be named. This game was impressive. Set 400 years prior to Episode I, the game has been created with some great original ideas. The game is a classically styled RPG, with an incredible-looking proprietary engine with some absolutely stunning special effects. It's still pretty early on in development, but they seem to have a pretty clear outlook of what they want to include (in the shape of sub-games and set pieces). It also has some of the best technical features I've seen in a long time, including an incredible system of lip-synching to the speech, and also what came across as a scripting system for the character gestures, to keep them cued to the text. We weren't allowed to take any photos, and there are no screen shots as yet, but the incredible images that appeared in front of us were enough to make even the most "Star Wars skeptical" among us to drop jaws in amazement.
One of the true highlights of this trip (and THE best highlight for me, personally) was the LENGTHY conversation we had with the Escape From Monkey Island project leaders, Mike Stemmle and Sean Clark. No matter what we may have thought of the latest Monkey Island installment, we were really impressed with these guys. We were already in the hall talking to Sean Clark when Tom Sarris brought Mike out to talk to us. These guys are really funny and extremely nice.
They didn't seem to be tired of talking about anything at LucasArts. We must have talked for at least an hour and a half about the gaming industry in general, Monkey Island, and many other things. I asked them many, many questions, and I feared that they were getting sick of talking to us. However, they kept bringing up new subjects for us to talk about. We ended up sitting down on the floor in the hallway and talking for ages. Tom Sarris would walk by on occasion and was surprised that we were still talking. When any LucasArts employee walked by our little conversation hall, Sean or Mike asked them if the beer was on ice yet.
At one point during the conversation, I summoned up the courage to ask about the change of the Elaine voice. Sean and Mike cringed, and I thought perhaps I stumbled onto a subject they didn't want to talk about. But they did. They said they considered the first Elaine voice to be too whiny and bitchy. They didn't seem to be very satisfied with the voice that ended up in EMI, though.
Surprisingly enough, they suddenly brought up the subject of Monkey Island 5. "So what would you guys like to see in the next one?"
We were stunned and silent. I think I suggested something insane like pirate ostriches. Mike laughed at this idea. Both Sean and Mike seemed to make it clear that they will not be involved with the next Monkey Island game. They brought up the idea of the next game being a prequel, and we all seemed to think this would be an interesting possibility if done right.
(Escape from Monkey Island Spoiler)
Interesting Monkey Island tidbits? It seems that the idea of making Herman Toothrot Elaine's grandfather was first devised by Sean Clark between Monkey Island 1 and 2. It also seems that the monkey robot idea was first proposed by Tim Schafer a long time ago.
End of spoiler
However, it's a bit unclear, because Bill Tiller commented that it was Dave Grossman's idea. And also, apparently they had a lot of trouble with the line readings of the actor who played Ignatious Cheese. They even had to cut some of his lines. Speaking of cut lines, apparently the PS2 version of EMI contains additional dialogue that was cut from the PC version. They were also bitter about the fact that some fans thought the name Ozzie Mandrill was inspired by Star Wars. The truth is that "Ozzie Mandrill" is actually a clever play on words. It's a combination of a literary reference from a poem, the name of a type of monkey, and of course, the word "Aussie."
Of course, Sean and Mike couldn't comment much on current projects. Sean is already doing some work on a new ORIGINAL game, but Mike is soon going to take a vacation and brainstorm ideas for a new game. "I'm thinking about a musical." We laughed, but he seemed to be serious. Hell, I'd buy that.
Well that kind wraps it up for today, mainly because I'm far too tired to remember anything else.
The interesting FACT OF THE DAY today is as follows: Back in the day, a sequel to Loom actually went into production, led by Stemmle and Clark, but was killed after little more than a month.