Four Days of E3: EA Press Conference

The big three of Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony were the most anticipated press conferences of E3. However there were a few other major publishers who had press conferences of their own. Among these publishers, it doesn’t get any bigger than Electronic Arts. Since they have no hand in any hardware development, they were 85% game announcements, footage and gameplay during their conference. Oh and about 15% Jedi too.

Tease that Hair Girls!

EA started out with a bang, showing the newest trailer for Dante’s Inferno which was developed by Visceral Games. The game, based loosely off of the poem The Divine Comedy, has protagonist Dante fighting through the levels of Hell in order to rescue his beloved Beatrice. Now imagine going from a rendered look into Hell to games for tweens! (Well maybe it wasn’t such an odd transition after all) In what was an odd way to follow it up, EA introduced two games aimed towards tweens, Littlest Pet Shop and Charm Girl Club: Pajama Party, the latter of which had an on-stage demonstration of virtual teasing of hair.

So check it out EA. I understand that tweens are probably a great market to go after. I mean it’s not like you guys were the only publisher to do this at the show. I also understand that this kind of stuff makes your investors drool and dollar signs appear in their eyes, but this is E3. There is a certain type of audience that actually demands these press conferences to be broadcast live on TV and on the Internet. To put it bluntly, this type of audience couldn’t give a rat’s ass about what the new tween game sensation is. Even worse than not caring about these games, it also makes you as a company seem really out of touch to the audience you are presenting to. The pain was soon over and they quickly moved on.

Need for Speed: Nth Edition

Next up was Need for Speed: Shift. This Need for Speed takes it back to the tracks and now supports what they call profile styles. It’s like an RPG where you gain points and level up depending on how precise or aggressive you drive and it tailors your gameplay as you grow. It looks very Project Gotham Racing-y and looks like it’ll be a solid contender on the racing front even if Microsoft’s Forza 3 did look much more impressive.

RPG’s in Fantasy and Space Flavor

Next up were trailers of two of Bioware’s games, Dragon Age and Mass Effect 2. Dragon Age looks like a very gritty and dirty fantasy setting RPG. It’s less Dungeons and Dragons and more like a scene you would find painted on the side of a van that includes a heavy metal chick in a chain mail bikini. From some early reports of gameplay, you get to build characters from the ground up via skill trees. It sounds much like an MMO and in fact had heard that a demo involving a hard boss felt like playing a raid dungeon in World of Warcraft if you had to control every single person.

I don’t know much about Mass Effect 2, having never played the first one. However watching this trailer does make me want to go out and play it before Mass Effect 2 comes out. Especially since I hear you get to transfer your character over if you’ve completed the first game. Not much to say except the whole question about whether Sheperd was dead or not immediately gets thrown out the window in the first second of the trailer.

Sports, sports, sports, sports!

Of course no EA event is complete without some mention of their best selling franchises. Nothing mind-blowing was announced, but a few cool things. Fight Night 4 is launching a week early on June 25th and they showed some live gameplay of it. They said the game is so realistic that certain punches will slip through blocks and it can register whether something just glanced your body or hit head on. On the same vein as boxing, EA announced they will be working on EA Sports MMA – Mixed Martial Arts. Interesting as UFC seems to be the one that comes to mind when I think of MMA. So we’ll see if EA can compete with that established franchise, who’s games already have many of the well known MMA fighters.

On the football front, they showed off EASports.com which launched that day. It’s a community webpage for all their sports titles and among one of the unique features they toted was the ability to build an NCAA team for the upcoming game of the same title. Once the game launches you can take that team and transfer it. Also, Madden now has an online franchise mode where you can create tournaments, fantasy leagues, trading for Madden online or your iPhone.

Casuals Rake in the Dough

Next they talked about their answer to Wii Fit which was EA Sports Active. They showed a video showing off people who have used EA Sports Active and had positive testimony. It felt like a really bad infomercial (I lost 25lbs in 30 days!). However, for as much trash I can talk about this new rise in video game workouts, the sell through has been so successful for EA that a sequel is in the works. Next up the casual fron a live gameplay footage of Grand Slam Tennis, with surprise guest Pete Sampras. Grand Slam Tennis will take advantage of the new Wii Motion Plus.

Brutal Legend’s Star Studded Cast

Tim Schafer, who I never knew was so awkward on stage, came out to talk about his game Brutal Legend. It’s looking like a great cross between Overlord (you control minions), Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (you use the guitar to cast spells a la the ocarina), and Devil May Cry. A trailer was shown highlighting the celebrities who provided voice work. Along with Jack Black some other famous metal stars in the game are, Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister, Lita Ford and the Prince of Darkness himself, Ozzy Osbourne. Game looks awesome and as I’ve yet to play a Tim Schafer game, I’m hoping this one is just as good as his others.

These Aren’t the Developers that You’re Looking For.

Finally EA’s press conference closed with Bioware’s upcoming MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic. While it would have been nice to have heard some announcements regarding whether it will be subscription based or not or to see some actual gameplay footage instead of a CG trailer, the trailer rocked nonetheless. It showed off a massive battle between an army of Sith and an army of Jedi and a female bounty hunter in mandalorian armor thrown in for good measure. This MMO will feature something that no other MMO ever had, voice acting for every line of text. It sounds like even when you go talk to someone to hear about a quest it will be fully voiced. For an MMO, this is truly groundbreaking and they said this could possibly be one of the biggest voice over projects to ever exist in gaming, period.

This is not your Grandmother’s EA.

EA certainly has come a long way in the past few years, where previously they were known for milking franchises (not to say they still don’t) and for developing really shoddy games. Among this list alone are plenty of games I’m now excited to hear more about. (Still on the fence about Pajama Party) Most of these games I had no information of prior to this conference. So keep up the good work EA and oh make sure you never lose your grip on Bioware.