E3 2009 was definitely a return to the E3 of old. It did not start out so great for us though. I attended the show with True_Avery from LucasForums. After arriving and procuring our badge holders, the first thing we wanted to do was go to Nintendo's pre-E3 media briefing. To the information desk! We were told this was taking place at Kodak Theatre which is in Hollywood, about 9 miles from LA Convention Center where E3 was taking place. Well a cab there and back and $50 later, we learn that the true location of the press conference was at the Nokia Theatre, a mere 2 blocks from LACC. (The silly woman probably just googled it: Nintendo's E3 2008 presser was at the Kodak Theatre.)
We were not able to make it on time but still got in about a half hour late, just as Golden Sun DS was announced. Other notable announcements at Nintendo's event were Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Metroid: Other M. Oh, and who could forget the Wii Vitaliy Sensor! It's always fun to hear Mr. Iwata recite a speech in English though.
Afterwards was the most exciting part of E3 for me: going to Telltale's hotel room to get to see Tales of Monkey Island for the first time and interview Dave Grossman. I won't touch much on this as you can read my entire preview of the game as well as my interview with Dave already. The only thing I would have changed about this experience was remembering to take a photo. I must have been so overcome with his awesome that it didn't even occur to me.
E3 officially opened at noon and our first stop was LucasArts. While I wasn't expecting a whole lot from them going in, they really impressed me. We first checked out Tales of MI (again for me). It was pretty much the same demo I had already seen, but was still cool to talk with another Telltale employee about it. We also checked out The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition, which is another I will not elaborate on too much as you can read my full preview already. tl;dr it was awesome.
After seeing both of those, it was time to see what I had really been waiting for: Star Wars: The Old Republic. This game did not fail to disappoint one bit and was probably the best looking game I saw the entire show. Perhaps a bit biased coming from both a KotOR fanboy and World of Warcraft player, but it exceeded my expectations. The first thing we saw was the Bounty Hunter starting area. Just before the show it had been announced that the game would be fully voiced and this was the first instance anyone had seen of voicing in the game. Both your PC and all NPCs have full voiceover, so there are no quest windows to accept when talking to a quest giver. Instead the dialog system is straight out of Mass Effect, with dialog options shown but not showing exactly what you will say, but short statements that give the general idea of what you will say. So even the very first quest you are given was very impressive from an MMO standpoint.
We also got to see the official unveiling of the Smuggler class, though that was not a very well kept secret as we knew about it ahead of time. To make up for their lack of armor like the Bounty Hunter and Trooper classes have, the Smuggler has a cover system. We also got to see the Smuggler get up close and personal with an enemy as he kicked him in the groin and shot him in the head, to applause from the audience.
The last part of The Old Republic's demo was what they called a flash point which had us aboard a Sith vessel as a Sith and Bounty Hunter. The captain of the ship had disobeyed a direct order from a Grand Moff, so the Sith and Bounty hunter had been sent to kill him. We got to see two important features in this sequence. First, we saw the first ever multiplayer dialog system. Rather than only the party leader being able to respond as in most multiplayer RPGs, both players had their own dialog options and either could respond. The other thing we saw was one thing BioWare is highly touting about the game and that is choice. The guys doing the demo let us decide whether to kill the captain or spare him. Since we actually came back to LucasArts on day 2 we got to see both ways the situation could pan out. Both choices led to the same result - Republic forces including Jedi boarded the ship and and epic fight ensued. But what led up to that battle was completely different between the two choices, and the choice to save or kill the captain would also have repercussions later in the game we were told. Overall, the demo was extremely impressive and made me even more excited about the game than I already was.
Next we checked out LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues. If you are familiar with the first game then you will know what this game is like as well, but it has 3 new features they talked about. First, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is now included in the game. The game also contains levels based on the original 3 movies like the first game, but they are retold which is the second point they wanted to make. The example we saw of this was at the end of the Raiders level, when the Ark of the Covanant was opened, all the enemies began dancing and then fell apart. And the last thing which is the major feature in the game is the level editor. You can create your own levels with a very easy to use interface, including placing enemies to fight and puzzles to solve. So if you really liked the first LEGO Indy or haven't played it at all, this is looking like a good title to pick up.
The game we were least enthusiastic about going in was Star Wars Clone Wars: Republic Heroes, but were pleasantly surprised at how it was shaping up. The game takes place in between season 1 and 2 of the Clone Wars TV series. The game that we can compare this to most gameplay-wise is the Revenge of the Sith game for PS2 and Xbox, which I thought was really fun for a movie tie-in. On some levels you play as Jedi and on others you play as specific Clone Troopers. There is no versus mode, but there is co-op.
The last thing we saw at LucasArts and actually got to play was Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron for both PSP and Nintendo DS. This was another title that we did not expect much from but were pretty impressed by, especially the PSP version. Probably the coolest feature is the ability to be fighting on the ground, hop in an X-Wing, and fly in to space without any loading screens. The main thing they wanted to get across about this game was that they were taking elements from all the existing Battlefront games and putting them into one game and giving it a unique story, which is about a force-sensitive clone who has to make a choice about which side to follow.
That was it for the LucasArts room. We did a lot more that day, but at this point E3 is barely relevant and I have talked about all the games you would be interested in.Written by Jeff Moeller for The International House of Mojo and The LucasArts Fan Network.
20th June 2009.