Au revoir, mon E3...and good riddance
Tom bids farewell to E3 and gives it a swift kick in the ass for good measure. What's his problem? Read on and find out.
Tom Chick on The Firing Line:
Au revoir, mon E3...and good riddance
Welcome to The Firing Line, where we're kind of hoping you don't really know who William F. Buckley Jr. is. If you didn't get that, all the better.
"We're making the AI even better than before," the associate producer says.
The AI is even better than before, the guy writes.
"We have twice as many levels as other games," the associate producer says.
Twice as many levels, the guy writes.
"We're adding stealth and limitless replay," the associate producer says.
Stealth. Limitless replay, the guy writes.
"We're taking everything out that's not fun since that's the bottom line. We want our game to be fun," the associate producer says.
The game will be fun, the guy writes.
And this is what will make its way to you, dear readers. These snippets of nearly worthless marketing patter, which may as well be transcribed from the publisher's web site or mock-ups of the box, pass for E3 coverage.
After years of doing interviews and email Q&A to preview games, I've learned that 70% of what I get back is useless. The trick is making an article out of the remaining 30%. But E3 is all about that 70%, with the useful 30% filtered out by the noise and time constraints.
Of course, E3 isn't for the press. We'd just as soon spread coverage out, and spend a bit more time with each title, asking more questions, maybe fiddling around with a playable build or interviewing the guys who make the game without some Yu Gi Oh song blaring from the booth next door. We’d clearly rather not try to cover 300 games in 3 days. And E3 isn't for the game companies. The developers can't possibly enjoy the days it rips from their development schedule to stop what they're doing and retool everything for an E3 build. Weeks of work are lost, ultimately adding to the expense -- and therefore cost -- of a game. The publishers probably don't enjoy having to pay for all that booth space and all those models and their warrior princess costumes, all to be swallowed up in someone's expansive superficial E3 coverage, detailing how many levels there will be in each game and whether it will have multiplayer.
SIDEBAR: The best character in Yu Gi Oh is Joey, who can beat the living daylights out of Seto any day of the week, my friend. You mark my words.
Here’s a buyer for [name of retailer deleted] coming in late to a demo. The developers offer to restart the demo from the beginning, but he shakes his head and tells them, ‘naw, it’s okay, go on’. He then proceeds to ignore the game as his eyes play over the PR woman’s chest and it’s painfully obvious to everyone involved that he doesn’t know the first thing about this game or the one that preceded it and he’s going to order it or not based solely on the what he reads on the product sheet this winter. And suddenly I feel a little dirty for being involved in the whole thing and I’d rather just go home and play Rise of Nations, which is what it really all comes down to: a game ends up on my hard drive, on your hard drive, and we’re sitting in front of it, losing time and the space around us, sinking into whatever’s happening behind our monitors where none of the rest of it matters.
This is where gaming journalism, if there is any such thing, belongs. Not at E3, which is yet another example of the industry maturing into big business with retailers puling the strings, just like they did with small boxes, ESRB ratings, short shelf lives, and the supremacy of end cap displays. It’s all an example of the stuff that comes between you and the people who make the games for you. It is a celebration of and for middlemen, and if it were up to me, it would be a thing of the past.
And by the way, can we also cancel that whole holiday season thing, too?
SIDEBAR: According to the NPD Group, the top selling game in 2002 was Grand Theft Auto: Vice City for the Playstation 2, which probably made a bunch of retailers very happy.
Next week, my colleague Brett Todd will take his place on The Firing Line. And as his Parting Shot, he'll weigh in on what I've just said about E3. The week after that, in my Parting Shot, I'll weigh in on what he'll write next week. The week after that, he’ll weigh in on what I’ll write the week after him.
Shot of the Week
Every week, we’ll have a Shot of the Week that gives you a glimpse of something we’re playing, a hint of something you can look forward to, or perhaps a cautionary tale to spare you the pain of something we’re forced to endure. Here is this week’s:
A playable build of Painkiller arrived from Dreamcatcher, whose forays outside the genre of adventure gaming have been fairly painful. So imagine my surprise to find a game much better than its silly name. Yes, it's steeped in that adolescent Goth/demon/speed metal sensibility. Yes, it’s just another shooter. But yes, it seems to have that intangible ‘just right’ combo of fluid movement, gratifying gunpower, imaginative enemies, and interesting atmosphere. It’s like Even Serious-er Sam, but with rag doll physics and really big bosses like that guy up there. Or so it seems based on this very early build. Maybe Dreamcatcher isn’t Canadian for ‘adventure games only, please’, after all.
Has the Chickster totally lost his mind? Have all the years of teasing about his name finally caught up to him? Or maybe he’s right, and E3 truly is that bad? You decide, you let us know, and Sound Off! in the news comments!
SIDEBAR: Has the Chickster totally lost his mind? Have all the years of teasing about his name finally caught up to him? Or maybe he’s right, and E3 truly is that bad? You decide, you let us know, and Sound Off! in the news comments!
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