Desperately Seeking Snoozin’

When making all the arrangements for E3, we thought it would be a good idea to try and leave one day free from appointments so we’d each be able to go our own way and look at the games we hadn’t been booked in for, but which sparked our interest from snatched glimpses as we made our way from one developer to another.  It may seem ridiculous to some, given the amount of effort we were going to in order to actually cover E3, but let us not forget that we are, first and foremost, gamers.  We didn’t quite manage to leave the diary entirely free but each of us got at least three hours with which to do our own thing and so, for me, it was a question of where I’d go and what I’d see.

Having already been blown away by the advances to the Risen franchise in Risen 2: Dark Waters earlier that morning, and excited by the updates in the new Pirates Of The Flying Fortress DLC for Two Worlds II the previous day, I was already on quite a high… but wanted more.  Back in March, we discovered an absolute gem at PAX East and no other game even came close to how much it inspired us.  That game was Bastion.  With my free day, I made it my goal to seek out “another Bastion”, and so I trotted off into the pedestrian wilderness with my weighty camera bag over one shoulder , longing for one of those Peruvian guys that Michael Palin gets to carry his bags through the Andes.  Couldn’t find anyone though.

In true prospector fashion, I bypassed all the picturesque areas that had been smoothed down by prior footfall and headed for the craggy twists and turns that is the indie aisle, in the hope of that one glint of gold catching the light.  As you may already have suspected, E3 isn’t quite as indie as PAX as you’d still need a fair amount of wonga to pick up even the smallest of booths, so even the independent games were more polished than I’d hoped.  I saw free to play MMO after free to play MMO, various puzzle type games, but nothing grabbed me and so off I went around the main booths.

One particular game did actually stand out from the main areas, and that was Inversion.  At first glance it looks like a typical shooter but getting hands on with it allowed me to immediately see that there was a lot more to it than just run and gun. After fifteen minutes with it, I was sold on the premise of having to use gravity as an additional weapon, with a very Escheresque approach to gameplay in certain areas where an enemy would appear to be standing on the ceiling above me or a wall to the side whereas, in fact, it may actually be my own character that is on the ceiling and they’re still on solid ground.  Having to take gravity into consideration whilst firing, ensuring that grenades don’t immediately shoot upwards (in reality, downwards) if you’re trying to hit an enemy while you’re on the ceiling, was an interesting dynamic and one that I’m looking forward to writing more about.

On then to some other booths, and a quick shot at the most unforgiving game of my entire E3 experience… Dark Souls.  I hadn’t played Demon’s Souls before, so being thrown in to the follow up with no clue of what to expect was rather daunting, and this feeling of uselessness was further amplified by my being killed several times within the first minute or two of gameplay. It was at this point that I discovered a lever on a wall and realised that I wasn’t actually supposed to go down the linear route being provided by the game, because I couldn’t actually survive regardless of what I tried, and this new path opened an entirely new direction where I could bypass the previous mini boss… and be killed in a completely different location instead.  When Job Stauffer, who we’d already met at PAX with the guys from Demiurge, introduced the game to me as “the best game you’ll ever hate”, I was sceptical.  He was right, however, as I hated it straight away… and hated it enough to want to keep playing to prove to myself, and to the developers, that I wasn’t beaten yet.

I’d walked past the Sony booth several times that day, although “booth” is perhaps an inappropriate term as its enormity swallowed almost half of the West Hall between its main area and the various satellites.  There were queues to play the latest Move games, queues to play regular games and a huge crowd had gathered in one particular area, snaking around to create a combined huddle of around 100-150 people.  It was the queue to get a glimpse at the new Sony PS Vita and, from the looks on the faces of the line closest to the booth itself, most of whom where sat down with intolerance plastered all over their faces, they had been there for quite some time.  I asked one guy, who was next in line to get his hands on the Vita, how long he’d been queueing and he had no idea… only that it was the first place he’d headed when he got in that day.  A quick glance at my ‘phone showed that it was 3pm, so it would have been five hours between his joining the queue and reaching the front.  The dismay turned to excitement as he was called over to be led through the new Vita experience and I decided that I should try the same.

With only  a few hours left before the show floor closed for the evening, I decided to take a punt at the Sony desk and so, after strategically placing both my Microsoft and EA VIP passes (unconnected to the press conferences and, essentially, queue jumpers) either side of my E3 pass so that they were clearly visible, I asked the girl on the desk if it would be possible to get a quick hands on with the Vita without having to wait in the queue.  With more than an air of hesitancy, she explained that all the individual meetings had been booked out but I wasn’t about to give up so I added that I wasn’t planning on hogging it; I just wanted a few brief minutes to get to grips with the tech and wouldn’t have time the following day as it was a very tight schedule.

A quick shout to a chap to her left and the Sony VIP wristband was being added to my arsenal, at which point I was led past two colossal security guards to the upstairs VIP area, straight to one of the tech guys who then walked me through the Vita before passing it over.  Fifteen minutes later, as I gave thanks and started to make my way towards the steps back to the show floor, the same guy who led me upstairs asked if I wanted to see anything else while I was here.  “I’m afraid I don’t play the PS3 so wouldn’t really know how to comment on gameplay” I said and, as he gave me his assurance that anything I wanted to see he could make happen, it struck me… “Do you have the new 3D monitor with full screen split screen?” I asked, convinced that the answer was already ‘no’.  He smiled and led me towards two demo models tucked away in a quiet corner like a pair of naughty children.  More on the monitor and Vita later, as these will be covered in separate articles.

By the time the doors closed for the second day, I’d managed to see Anomaly: Warzone Earth, Dark Souls, Deponia, Inversion, King Arthur II: The Role-Playing Wargame, Little Deviants, Lucius, Men Of War: Vietnam, PS Vita, Sony 3D monitor, Risen 2: Dark Waters, Vindictus and XCOM.  It was more than I’d expected to see because, while eleven games and two bits of tech  may not seem like a lot on the face of it, getting from one hall to another, and even from one booth to another at certain times, can be a time swallower.  E3 is one of those events where you don’t want the day to end, but neither do you want it to continue as the fatigue of carrying so much heavy equipment, the constant queueing where no prior appointment has been made, and the insane amount of walking takes its toll.  Coupled with getting back to the apartment to record a podcast and then write up as much as possible, it’s a hell of a drain.

Check back soon for a hands on preview of the PS Vita and 24" 3D monitor

Day two was full of surprises though, with seven of the experiences being entirely unplanned, and learning that Lee had actually flashed an entire audience of Microsoft booth-goers during his stint on Star Wars Kinect made for yet another “Oh jeez Lee!” moment as we stuffed our faces with Chinese food back at the apartment whilst trying desperately to keep our eyes open and focus on the job at hand.  The days were getting longer, and the nights shorter, but there was still one more day to go… a day that I had internally dubbed “Skyrim Day”.

Last five articles by Mark R



  1. Richie richie says:

    So, you doing E3 2012 then?

  2. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    Oh hell yeah! Already started talking about logistics and stuff like that… long way away though and a lot can change in that time but we’ll see how it all pans out

  3. Edward Edward says:

    I’m quite interested in how the Vita and that TV work out, so I’ll be waiting patiently for those. I’m not the biggest Sony fan, but I’m quite interested in seeing how both of them work; the 3DTV being the one I’m most interested in because it could encourage split-screen co-op again and take the focus away from online-only multiplayer again if it catches on as well as I want it to. That, and Vita manages to be damn impressing while staying affordable.

    Good write-up Mark, but I think Lee tipped you this time around. It’s hard to beat the comedy of a pair of trousers falling down, after all ;)

  4. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    I don’t do comedy, also it’s not a competition :)

  5. Edward Edward says:

    I wasn’t serious with that comment, Mark! That’s why I used the winky face! :D

  6. Michael Moverley says:

    If you want you can take me next year and I will carry your equipment and call you Michael Palin. :D

    One question I have about E3, do the people promoting the games by the demo booths hound you as you try to play a particular game, similar to those trying to sell the big issue or make you fill out a survey on a busy weekday in a town centre :D

  7. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    With any luck, next year will be a larger team but it depends on logistics and finances… so feel free to submit articles!

    They actually DON’T hound you. In fact, there’s very little in the way of canvassing… if any, actually. If you don’t approach their booth, they won’t come to you at all. If you’re playing the game then they’ll leave you to it but it’s important to remember that a lot of the booths are still appointment only so even if you wander by and fancy a shot, if you’re not on the list then you can’t get a shot. The booths that do allow drop-ins, however, are just a case of standing around to wait until a console is free and then you’ll take your place with the controller. If you show genuine interest by looking around for someone, then they WILL come over to see if you need any questions answering. It’s a great experience, very worthwhile and allows you to experience games you’d never considered before. I’ve come away with fifteen previews to write (we saw 81 titles in total, but we’re not covering them all) and perhaps half are games I’d never thought of trying before.

  8. Michael Moverley says:

    Thanks for the reply, I just always imagined E3 to be a host of promoters fighting over your attention which I guess it is just in a more subtle fashion compared to what I had imagined.

    If I was at E3 I think my main goal would be to find gaming royalty and attempt to garner autographs Miyamoto, Ken Levine Cliff Bleszinski and especially Hideo Kojima, though I heard he wasn’t at E3 this year.

  9. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    Saw a bunch of “gaming royalty”, and I was chuffed to have met with Randy Pitchford and Todd Howard but it’s not the kind of place where you can go up and ask for autographs as it’s a professional setting. Having said that, there’s no way in hell that it was a “trade only” majority as I imagine that a lot of the attendees had blagged their way in. I even had to sit a couple of rows behind some twat that was heckling the folk from Lionhead during the Fable presentation, and there’s no way he was trade.

  10. Rook says:

    I look forward to reading more on the PlayStation Vita (which will no doubt get called the PSV soon enough) as it was what I wanted more detail about.

  11. Lorna Lorna says:

    I’m glad that at least one of us snagged a hands on with the Vita. To be honest, I thought it looked quite good at the Sony conference, but there was no way I’d even contemplate battling the queues at the show. However, as bad as Sony was, I think Ninty’s booth was worse.

    Trying to discover gems is tricky when we have so many appointments to keep, but next time I want to make more of an effort. I think you’re right though – PAX is more affordable for indies and E3 is probably stupidly expensive. I didn’t ever really make it round to the fringes of the hall which was a shame, as I think that is where some of the smaller games were, especially in the West Hall which I hardly touched.

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