Game On: Veni Vici VE3

And so it begins...

While the press conferences were exciting, aside from the heat, numb arse, distinct lack of anything Alan Wake related, and annoying fellow attendees, it was the expo itself which was to be the most exciting part of E3, and come Tuesday morning, butterflies had taken up residence in my belly.  The show wasn’t due to kick off until 12:00, thanks to Nintendo’s conference hogging the morning, so Lee had Ninty on in the background on his laptop while we feverishly wrote other stuff.  I didn’t pay much attention, but from the laughing and comments from Ben and Lee, I didn’t need to.  The reactions to the new name announcement among us were priceless, but I had no intention of getting out of my chair to see any of it on Lee’s laptop, I had paint to watch dry.

Armed with Pringles and Reese’s King Cups from the local shop, we were well set in our war-room, although Lee was convinced that the van parked down the road was a meth lab, that the owner of the local shop was a Triad, and that he and Ben had been shot by murderers no less than five or so times.  Ben did nothing to discourage his lies and helped to participate in several excursions in which Lee filmed the ‘evidence’.  I am beginning to suspect Ben is a sort of Mephistopheles character, encouraging Lee.  He denies it.

After triple checking our bags and passes, we piled into a cab to head back out, eventually coming to the magical breadcrumb trail of game posters which adorned the route to the vast LA Convention Center.   Despite the doors not yet being open, the atmosphere was poised and buzzing as the frontage of both entrances were packed with milling gamers; the lobby was even more crowded.  Alienware and World of Tanks had both set up outside with tanks and army themed stalls and people had already armed themselves with maps, show guides and swag bags.  We met up with the awesome Adam R., one of our US writers, and steeled ourselves to begin the great GamingLives assault on the greatest entertainment show on earth.

In the war-room... good times. Tired times!

Doors opened, crowds surged for the escalators, and we hastily agreed to meet up at Microsoft.  As soon as we got through the doors and worked through the EA area, we realised we had lost Adam.  Man down.  We had to leave him, we wouldn’t make it otherwise… he’s a survivor.  It was the last we ever saw of him.  Until later that day of course, but hey, it was dramatic for a moment.

We had a lone hour before our first appointments, so decided to split up and see what the grand South Hall had to offer.  Wandering though the crowds, the distinctive sound of a motion tracker soon caught my attention – the one sound that will always  strike a chord of terror for many sci-fi fans.  I turned around slowly and was confronted with an incredibly well themed Aliens: Colonial Marines booth.  It was a worn sci-fi pod, with a huge screen playing the trailer. Colonial Marines guard the front of the, already sizeable, queue and I vow to come back to give this one more love than a facehugger on a colonist’s tonsils.

Sonic dominates the expo skyline

Everywhere I wandered during that first hour, there was something eye-punching around every corner.  Colours lights, noise, intricate themed booths to pull in the crowds; screens, both babes, and hungry gamers.  I was at once reminded of Vegas and the cynical casinos.  The lack of sunlight, the lights and sounds, the colour, the lack of clocks, and the sensory bombardment that lures the punters in and feeds them until they lose all sense of time, only driven by the eye-candy and beautiful chaos around them.

Castles, turrets, and oddities bristled on the expo skyline, while a giant Sonic turned slowly to survey the action below.  Other towering constructs hid gaming treasures among the extensive theming of stony walls, curving glass, military pods, tanks, and spiralling walkways to upper levels.

It was so easy to get lost, to allow the assault on the senses to overwhelm and shoot-down my sense of direction and I felt like a kid in Wonka’s chocolate factory for the first time.  After a quick circuit though, I had to haul arse to my first big appointment: Tomb Raider.  As with many other big titles, Tomb Raider was tucked away behind closed doors, reserved for small group presentations where someone from the dev team would give a short intro and take us through several gameplay demos.

These meetings would comprise a large part of the GL team’s E3 experiences and this one was enjoyable, not least because it was my first.  The more intimate atmosphere, designed for press only, gave the chance to see and absorb the game without distraction or any moronic whooping.  This was the first to be added to my preview list, therefore I won’t spew a mass of details here, but I will say that it was enjoyable.  The younger, more tentative Lara was at home in a far dirtier, brutal looking game, although the handful of QTEs were a concern, especially since they weren’t the only ones we were to come across at the show.  I met up with Mark afterwards who was already boasting a huge Two Worlds 2 Royal Edition set from his last meeting, which took up an entire locker by itself.  That would be hard to top, swag wise, but I knew that if he got nothing else for the whole show, he’d be happy.

The Warner booth was rammed; not surprising given that Arkham City was on offer

The rest of the day was spent either in meetings or nipping in to see what games we could cover on the show floor.  A great surprise was getting in to see Colonial Marines (after an hour’s worth of queuing), to find Randy Pitchford presenting it.  His passion and enthusiasm were contagious and made the demo far more enjoyable than it would perhaps have been without him.  The game looked and sounded faithful to the original, and we left feeling elated as great fans of the second film.  Other notable hits of the day were Batman: Arkham City and Bastion.  Bastion, of course, looked as awesome as ever, and Lee felt vindicated that it had become a massive standout for Ben, his E3 partner in crime.  Ever since Lee saw and fell in love with the game at PAX East earlier this year, he has been championing it and it isn’t hard to see why.  I’m very much looking forward to the release this summer.

Batman was surprisingly excellent, and positively eye-catching.  After seeing the first game done to death by Victor, I wasn’t looking forward to it as much as I might have, however it blew me away… but not for the Batman parts.  Seeing Catwoman in action was truly something else.  She was lithe, limber, and damn that outfit was sexy.  She came with a range of her own moves and takedowns and it was far more absorbing than watching the Dark Knight stalk Gotham’s rooftops.  Seriously, if Rocksteady don’t now do a Catwoman game on the back of this, they’re insane.  There is real potential there, and judging by the reactions around me, I wasn’t the only one who was utterly impressed.  As it was, the new playground of Arkham City is vast, and I was pulled in enough to plan on buying it on release day.

Sims Pets got a quick visit, though it was more focused on the ropier looking console version, and I quickly checked out the location of a few of my upcoming appointments to get my bearings, all the while, fighting my way through the crowds at various choke points… some of the biggest being Star Wars: The Old Republic and Mass Effect – despite it being press only.  After a quick chat with Lee and Ben, I wandered around for a good twenty minutes before realising that something was missing.  My fucking bag.  Seriously.  Blind panic set in.  Thieving E3 bastards.  Someone buzzed my bag!   I took a breath and ran for the nearest place I remember lurking.  Sims Pets had it after I’d stupidly left it behind, and I slumped against a wall to calm down.  Fucking hell.  That was a terrifying moment.  Lee and Ben laughed at me from their place in the queue for some shit game called Mass Effect.  I hoped the projector would break down just as they took their seats.  I was beginning to get a completely unjustified reputation for losing things.

Fragging all hecklers and whoopers in style...

With the first day down, we headed back to the apartment on a high to order food, stuff Reese’s King Cups, and get typing.  I was, by this point, already falling behind with my conference coverage and there was so little time to catch up, let alone get ahead on the day’s events.  I had honestly never expected it to be quite so busy, naive as that sounds.  With the hoops that we had to jump through to get passes, there were an awful lot of teeny looking people with attendee passes who apparently worked for NBC or Activision (if you believe that…)  I can see now why various online ranters and industry folk want to further restrict E3 entry.  It isn’t about elitism, but about practicality.  It began to dawn on me that PAX is for gamers and fans, E3 is slanted towards folk who are there to get shit done in as little time as possible, preferably without committing murder or having their eye taken out by a swirling Nexon Spirit hood.  This dawning feeling really hit home with the post E3 discussions when the show was over.  When you get a corpulent idiot heckling a dev from Lionhead, or someone’s girlfriend whooping through a press conference, that says it all.  Stabby things should be included in every press kit, just to be on the safe side.  Still, it was mind-blowing and after a podcast with Adam, we began to look at the appointments for the following days…

Something called an 'ironing table' is pressed into service by Lee as a temporary office space

Up early, knackered and with early appointments, we rushed to get ready.  Of course, this is the day the bastard taxi decides to turn up late (after no less than six fucking calls) and suddenly we’re panicking.  Mark and I have an appointment in the West Hall, upper meeting rooms for dead on 10 am.  At five to, we’re only just on the poster approach to the convention centre.  There is no way we’ll make it in time and are about to break the cardinal rule of E3 – don’t be late.  Fuckfuckfuck.  A quick phone call to the PR puts us at ease somewhat, but we are still livid with the driver who seems to be meandering along at a pace that would put my dead grandmother to shame.  Never have I sworn such unswerving allegiance to London cabbies than I did at that moment.  They may take the piss with ‘scenic routes’ on the odd occasion, but they universally know what you’re saying, where they’re going, and will take the most insane risks to get you there.  Basic rule of thumb, if your cabbie isn’t putting pedestrians in danger or cutting up more things than Freddy Kruger at a sleepover, then he’s doing it wrong.  Our cabbie was doing it wrong.  London one, LA nil.

We finally arrived and it was at this point in time that the driver decided to get conversational about the convention.  Mark and I try to get out.  The doors are locked.  Open the fucking doors!  He does and we bailed, leaving Lee and Ben behind, and raced for the meeting rooms on the upper floor.  We missed our slot, but thankfully, and not thanks to fuckchops Yellow Cab driver, we were put in the next session.  Risen 2 was one of Mark’s most anticipated games of the show and after seeing the footage on show, it was hardly surprising.  RPG, pirates, pretty water.  That’s me sold on it.  Mark appeared to be the only one in the room who had played it but, as such, got to ask some great questions that the other people could leech answers from.  You’re welcome.

It later transpired that fuckchops cabbie had done us a favour, as the PR had a cancellation for Dead Island later that day, meaning that we were offered a last minute slot.  I took it and added it to the swelling diary.  It was shaping up to be a very busy day.  Lee and Ben were off on their own again, becoming glued at the hip like partners in crime, while Mark and I split for various wanderings.  Lee texted through some news that we could get into Bioshock Infinite, despite not having booked, if we just asked at the 2K desk, so that became the plan for the afternoon.  In the meantime I had zombies to slay in Dead Island.  I had been expecting a regular presentation but no… this was a hands on.  Damn, I’m awful at FPS games.  In Left for Dead 2 I usually follow Kat, as she is the only one who seems to know where she is going and what she is doing – this will be interesting.

The game is notably dark.  Gritty and brutal, this is no Left 4 Dead.  Clear RPG elements have been ripped away from their own genre and woven, Frankenstein style, into the game with considerable success. Crafting and customisation, character skill trees, and an RPG style storyline and side-quests appear to have created what is arguably a deeper zombie game experience that I had anticipated.  The rest will be saved for an upcoming hands on preview piece, but anyone in any doubt about the game should rest a little easier.  I mostly spent my time looting corpses and getting myself killed by attacking suicide zombies.  One of the devs seemed pleased when I chuckled at discovering the ability to hack limbs off downed zombies.  The dev leading our team of four was, by now, an expert, and gave us advice while others from the Dead Island team wandered between us all, helping out and explaining the gameplay.  I decided to see what would happen if I threw my machete at a downed suicide zombie and promptly killed everyone in the entire party in one fleshy explosion. I like this game.  Kat is going to have a field day.

Dead Island was one of the few games I got hands on with

I stayed a while afterwards to chat to the producer (thankfully I had, only that morning, spent time scribbling my Dead Island questions into my appointment book, just in case), so was late leaving.  Due to this, I wasn’t given my Dead Island notebook swag, and was too English to ask, so I headed away with a pout and hit up the South Hall, hoping for a chance to see the game I most wanted (after Hitman) – Bioshock Infinite.  2K were helpful and squeezed me in for an hour and a half of game-pong later in the day: Darkness 2, Bioshock Inifinite, and then XCOM to finish.  This meant that my afternoon was swallowed, but in an unexpected and very good way, proving the adage ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’ true.  All three games were shown off behind closed doors, and with a glance at the entrance to the inner press area, where the wine was flowing, and the carpet was deep, I ran for my Lace Mamba appointment to meet up with Claas once again.

Lucius - great idea for a game

Lucius and Deponia looked as stunning as I thought they would, and Lucius had seen a number of significant enhancements since the last time we saw it demoed.  Mark was practically salivating at the idea of playing as the mini prince of darkness, while I couldn’t wait for the hand-drawn beauty of Deponia to hit my laptop.

After being demoed a nifty game called Anomoly, which was already a massive Steam success, we settled for a rare, quiet chat in the maelstrom of the show which quickly turned to the subject of adventure games (a growing passion of mine) and the damage being done to the genre by the more elitist elements of the gaming press – a point that I raised after having read several irksome reviews over the last month or so.

Hearing the frank effects from a small publisher’s side was interesting and it solidified my already entrenched view of how badly the genre is treated as a whole by the mainstream press, who either don’t or won’t get the genre, or even put the coverage into the hands of people who have an idea of how this niche operates.  This hit home with me not long ago after reading a putrid review of Black Mirror 3 in which the game seemed to commit the crime of not looking like Crysis 2 and of presenting puzzles that the reviewer was unable to work out.  My concern was that the genre was being dealt some real damage to the point that we could see it vanish – something that was sadly echoed during our chat.  Many good adventures don’t and won’t ever make it out in the UK because of this, and the thought that there is even a chance that I may never get my hands on Harvey’s New Eyes, the sequel to the awesome Edna and Harvey, was a sobering one.

The gorgeous art style of Harvey's New Eyes

When Mark and I were heading back through the West Hall, discussing the problems niche, indie, or small games face, we came to the conclusion that the direction we’ve been trying to forge with GamingLives was the right one.  We have always tried to steer a clean line between the mainstream and the offbeat, covering games that interest us first and foremost, whatever they may be, whether oddball, indie, or AAA, and the very varied and kooky tastes of our writers, such as Adam, Samuel, Tania, etc, rather than what everyone else automatically covers or thinks should be done to the detriment of all else.  We love to discover niche or indie gems, champion small games, and focus on the oddities that we stumble across – the things that we get passionate about – not just endless wankery over the latest GOW clone.  For us, it is what helps set GamingLives apart and as we wandered back across the show floor, it filled our discussion, more so since Lee and Ben could barely keep themselves away from the small but beautiful gem of Bastion.  It was a good feeling, but also a sad one; we felt quite alone and that those niches and small games which help define our site’s personality may well be slowly eroded over time.  It was a thought provoking counter balance to the day, and as a point and click fan, left me feeling especially sad.

Deponia, with a style not unlike the great Tank Girl comic art

I had to abandon Mark to his own devices and run for the South Hall (spilling all my business cards on the way) and arrived at the press area for 2K in time to grab a glass of wine and catch my breath.  Where they got their sofa, I had no idea, but if I could have got one out in my backpack I would have.  It was an odd oasis in the whirlwind of the show floor, part, but not, of the E3 chaos and buzzing with press.  Out of the three games, Bioshock Inifinte won hands down and even during the XCOM presentation, my mind wandered back to the vivid colour and blistering action among the lofty buildings of Columbia.  Not only that, but the beautifully themed presentation room had the deepest carpet of the show.  It was all I could do not to stroke it.

The XCOM booth, nicely themed

Ben and Lee later tried to claim that Nexon’s booth had the best carpet, but I refuse to believe them. After all the stuff Lee has been making up, he may as  well be crying wolf now.  In the Bioshock screening, I nearly lost my shoes, the carpet was that lush.  And they had leather sofas in there too… brown, dimpled leather that you could sink for a mile in.  It was on course to win the GL Award for not only Best Booth Theming, but Best Booth Carpet 2011 if I had my way.  In fact, every one of 2K’s booths, like EA’s, were heavily themed.  In Bioshock, portraits hung around the walls, and the sofas which we all squashed into were in keeping with the game’s style.  XCOM was set up like a control room out of whatever decade they have set it in, and was arguably more entertaining than the game itself.  As someone who loved UFO Enemy Unknown, this was not a game for me, as much as I may have wanted it to be.

By the time we crammed into Adam’s car again ( thankfully Lee wasn’t navigating this time) and got back, I was already feeling my body shut down.  Still, watching Lee get stuck between the seat and car door while trying to get out woke me up and the giggles kept me going for a good half hour.  By 10 pm, I couldn’t keep my eyes open and had to practically sleepwalk my way through the podcast before dragging myself to bed, falling further and further behind as the stress, travel, excitement, late nights, long days, and too much time staring at screens took its toll.  We need a bigger team.

Last five articles by Lorna



  1. Knikitta says:

    Hot damn that Catwoman looks seriously sexy!

    A fantastic piece Lorna! <3

  2. Edward Edward says:

    Another fantastic job, Lorna! Really enjoyed reading all about it, and I agree with all the P&C stuff.
    It’s been one of my favourite things in the last few years knowing they were coming back, and it kills me that so many outlets are refusing to see what it can do, only lamenting that it isn’t another COD or GoW while simultaneously complaining about every other game being a clone of those games.
    Bah, irks me.

    Otherwise, I hope there’s an unofficial awards ceremony, I’m looking forward to seeing best Carpet 2011! :D

  3. Kat says:


    Look forward to the Dead Island preview as the vids I've seen on it have looked pretty cool. I lolled at your following me though. It's hard times in L4D if I'm leading the team :D

    Catwoman isn't floating my boat from the screenshots but loving the sound of the way she moves.

  4. Tania Tania says:

    That pic of the war room makes me laugh. Amid the sea of tech one lone candlestick struggles for survival ;)
    Great stuff!

  5. Ben Ben says:

    Tania: I can confirm that the candlestick did eventually get relegated to the ‘side’, poor thing.

  6. Ste says:

    Great piece Lorna, I’ve really been enjoying these diaries. Makes a change from the usual E3 drivel I read. :)

  7. Chris Toffer says:

    I have to admit it’s really excellent reading these diaries. It presents the whole E3 experience as something much more personal. Loving the thoughts on Dead Island (ZOMBIES) and Bioshock Infinite (Skyrails FTW) Looking forward to the full previews.

    Another great piece Lorna

Leave a Comment