E3 2010: Day Three Impressions
As we begin day three of the Electronic Entertainment Expo, you can really see the exhaustion of a 3-day event on people’s faces. It’s the last day and everyone was getting tired. We decided to try to see the remaining MMOs/RPGs, and perhaps get out of L.A. before rush hour, and the basketball game begins. We started the morning by revisiting the Sony booth to get our hands on the new upcoming Superhero MMO that we missed yesterday.
We did get a chance to see the following games: DC Universe Online, Vindictus, Dragons Nest, Warhammer 40,000: Dark Millennium Online, Battlestar Galactica Online, and All Points Bulletin.
“The Next Legend is You!” is the tagline for DC Universe, Sony Online’s next upcoming superhero MMO based on the infamous DC Comics universe. As promised, we returned to the Sony booth on time this time, and we were led into a small viewing room to watch one of the new trailers for the game. Afterwards one of the developers ran through one of the early level instances with a premade character. His character was based off Batman and had acrobatics and gadgets selected as his super powers. With acrobatics, he was able to leap high into the air, run on and climb walls, and was able to crash down on unsuspecting groups of enemies. After battling his way through the clown-college horde of minions, he arrived at the final boss of the level, Harley Quinn. Harley had Robin tied up on the ground and after a short cut scene, came after the main character. A slew of police officers rushed in to help with the crowd control, so that the hero could focus on Harley. After the instance boss was defeated, and this is my favorite part, the player is treated to a well-illustrated, comic-like, cut scene by Jim Lee that really adds to the game play feel. After the presentation we were able to get our hands-on with the same level and encounter that we were just presented, and an additional PvP capture the base battleground area.
Graphically the game has come a long way since I played it at Comic-Con last year. This time around, it appears to have a more refined look and feel to how it compared to back then. The characters can be decked out in their own PvE gear, or after earning reputation with key super heroes, they can be garbed with legendary suits from their favorites. After sitting down at the PC, I was loaded with the same Batman-like character and Harley-instance that was just presented. I got used to the controls and abilities quick enough, but found myself having a hard time focusing on one enemy. Granted, I am a super hero, so I was able to take on a lot of the lower ranking minions all by myself. I asked one of the developers nearby for tips on how to focus on a target after having a lot of trouble with some of the balls in the environment, which by the way are interactive. There is a target lock that you can toggle off and on with using the tab key. I found that after some use I didn’t have as much trouble any more but it was still annoying trying to target at a distance. Playing a melee class helped with targeting because, well, I was right there. I found that trying to target at range was hit or miss at best.
Playing through the instance was quite fun and I did get the feeling that I was a super hero that could take on the world (or save it in my case). After I dispatched Harley Quinn, I got onto a PC that was hooked into the PvP LAN demonstration. They had a few premade characters displaying a range of the super powers and abilities. The PvP seemed like nothing special except that the maps were huge. I realize that a guy flying or running at super speed might need a large map, but this was ridiculous. I played on a map with 7 other people and didn’t run into a single one of them for 6 out of my 10 minutes of play. The developer next to me couldn’t answer how many people would be allowed in this map but I certainly hope it’s a lot.
Depending on the level of customization for super powers and the variety of missions, this game looks to be quite promising. There still seems a lot more to PvP than was just presented because I consistently saw messages on the screen about Heroes and Villians capturing certain objectives. Nonetheless, I basically just flew around the entire time looking at the pretty graphics.
I was not sure what to expect when walking up to a PC running Vindictus. I ended up pleasantly surprised. We were taken back for a presentation from the developers and producers of a few Nexon games: Vindictus, Dragons Nest, and Dungeon Fighter Online. Nexon offers a free to play system that has worked well for them. They make their money by selling in-game items and have a philosophy of “All our games are free; all of the content. Players will buy items if they are having fun.” For this presentation, we mostly focused on the two upcoming games, rather than the already available Dungeon Fighter Online, which is a classic side-scroller meets MMO.
Vindictus, one of their games currently in development, is an action-rpg mmo game and the playable demo was of a cut down version of a single level 15-ish instance. I found the controls easy to master and the graphics are based on Valve’s Source Engine, so they are rather good. Most of the environment was destructible and the physics interacted well while slamming your enemies around. For the demo there were two playable characters, a fast rogue-like two-sword wielding character and a sword and shield gladiator-like character. The instance starts once 4 players are ready to go. Fighting through the hordes of NPCs on the way to the final boss was fun and full of spinning, slashing, and kicking. My favorite moment was finding out about the ranged weapon that each character carries, for my character it was a giant spear. This spear was a limited use weapon, 6 to be exact, that could be hurled at any part of the enemies and have that NPC react differently. For example, striking your target in the knee will take them down and stun them so you can close the distance and finish the job with your swords. One of the cool features is that the game switches to the view of the spear as it is traveling to the enemy.
After battling through the instance there is an end boss that is presented with a small cut-scene. This large demon-like monster has four times the health as the regular enemies and the group needs to team up to destroy him. Overall this looks to be a rather entertaining, free game.
Dragons Nest is another online action-rpg, but has a more anime look to it. With four classes, Archer, Warrior, Cleric, and Sorceress, it has the standard RPG feel as far as character development. As the game progresses, there are different skill trees and even some of the gear can be combined to create new skills and abilities. Instead of having turn-based combat, it feels more like a 3rd-person shooter, complete with a targeting reticule in the center of the screen. I played a solo demo as a pre-made cleric character. After leaving the central town area, I ventured out on a path that was blocked by many enemies and obstacles. In order to reach the end of the zone I had to find and close three black crystals. In order to close the crystals, I had to rid the immediate area of monsters. Once clear of enemies, the crystals could be sealed and the door to the next area would open. I also ran into a few characters that were willing to give me quests on my way. I found certain skills worked better than others, but one in particular was pretty fun. It would summon an AoE giant ankh that dealt a decent amount of damage, but had a long cooldown. I found it was hard to target that spell, but fun to look at so I ended up trying to work it in as an opener to fights. Once to the door, I could then progress on to new areas. Different zones become available as the player levels up, offering raid like end-game content.
While not my first choice for MMOs, the free-to-play nature of this game, and all Nexon games, really lowers the barrier of entry. You can download and try any of their games at any time, and if you don’t like it, they are easily uninstalled.
Not a lot of information was released at this year’s E3 2010 regarding this upcoming game. Last week, fans were introduced to the first trailer for this game, which was showing on the large screen throughout the show. What is important to note is that this trailer uses actual gameplay footage throughout so you can get a taste of what your eyes might be seeing come next year.
This game is still in the early development stages and the developers decline to even call it Alpha, and there is no playable demo for us to get our hands on. Right now, it’s just an awesome trailer and some screenshots, so why not enjoy what it is we saw below.
Battlestar Galactica Online
Yet another MMO in the early stages of development, Bigpoint was showcasing their upcoming online browser-based 3D space game Battlestar Galactica Online. This game will be focusing on space ships, space battles, and will take place towards the end of the second season of the television show where Cylon and Humans are consistently at each other’s throats. While there could very well be some ground type missions and walking around, most of Battlestar will focus on your space ship. We are speculating here, but you will most likely be augmenting and upgrading your spaceship as your character progresses in levels.
There will be both PvE and PvP encounters, although they weren’t willing to let on what type of PvP. No doubt it will be faction-based with Cylon vs. Humans, but all I could get was big smiles from the developer standing nearby answering questions. They are also keeping quiet though about who we will see make cameo appearances, but everyone expects the usual suspects: Adama and Starbuck to name two.
All Points Bulletin
Our next E3 demonstration was for All Points Bulletin, the new upcoming cops-and-robbers MMO that is currently in open beta and available for download from many major websites (like Fileplanet). We got our hands on the latest beta build, and spent a good 10 minutes just messing around with the character generator. In the typical nerd fashion, I was insistent on getting my character’s breasts in perfect form, and various options specifically allowing me to customize these were present.
After making the perfect female criminal, I was placed in the fictional city of San Palo. Immediately I thought to myself, Grand Theft Auto MMO!, and the developer nearby didn’t debate this point. This game basically pits two factions, Enforcers, self-proclaimed vigilantes and Criminals against each other in a shooter meets MMO style world.
I started my tutorial by doing some criminal deeds like spray painting a few walls, shooting a few civilians for notoriety, and stealing a few cars. At first, driving is problematic, but after you get used to it, it can be a blast running down pedestrians and playing chicken with oncoming traffic. You have to be careful though, cause too many problems and you will bring down the wrath of the Enforcers before you know what hits you.
Once the tutorial was completed, I was given the option of going to a “safe town” or two combat districts. I chose one of the combat districts, and after a somewhat long loading screen I started to hear voices coming out of the speakers. All Points Bulletin uses VoIP and it is turned on by default, so my first welcome into the Financial District was some immature person cussing up a storm. How quaint. I disabled the ingame VoIP settings and proceeded to run to the nearest way-point on my map that read “Hold”. However, before I could get there, the waypoint disappeared and a new one appeared a bit further away that said “Capture”. So I stole a car, and proceeded to head that way. When I rounded the corner where the capture point was, and enemy with bright red text over his head didn’t waste a second and put a few bullets in my head.
I respawned a few times a short distance away, and each time I rounded the corner, I was taken out. I’ve never really been that good at shooters…
That pretty much ended our E3 2010 extravaganza. By day three, we were pretty tired, but at the same time, sad that it was over. They pretty much shut off all network access in the facility to the booths at 6 PM, so demonstrations more or less ended on time. We left a bit early on though, mostly trying to avoid the traffic from the final Lakers vs. Celtics game that was going on in the adjoining Staples Center.
We saw a lot of RPGs and MMOs this year. A new group of MMOs that try to merge the genre with other genres has been cropping up, whether they are real-time strategy, first-person shooter, action, strategy, street fighting, or side-scrollers. After all, if you can increase a game’s replay value and get someone to subscribe, reoccurring revenue to fund frequent updates and new projects is a huge benefit for all parties. It remains to be seen if the free-to-play model will truly catch on in the North American market like it has in Asia, but it appears as though it is definitely here to stay at least for a while. We just hope that developers remain aware of that fine line, and avoid the “pay-to-win” games that we all fear may eventually come.