I’m back from E3, and I’ve more or less recovered from the manic pace of the whole thing. It was a strange year for me; normally I hit the booths hard and write up a few dozen previews in no time flat, but this year I feel like I barely wrote anything. Part of that, I fear, stems from my getting old. Once I made it back to the hotel each night, I was pretty much dead after writing up a piece or two. And when I’m tired I’m tired and can’t concentrate on writing at all. A bigger part of it, though, is simply that I had too many appointments: I covered five different press conferences and sat in a bunch of interviews, all spread throughout each day with just enough time between each to leave me about ten minutes of space once I’d rushed to the proper location. (Then all my appointments ended up starting late anyway, leaving me in grim meeting limbo.) So, I decided to make the best of it by trying to write more good articles (as opposed to the usual “bang ’em out in a hurry” event coverage articles the Internet subsists on). 1UP is so understaffed compared to the competition that there’s no point in trying to be faster or more comprehensive, so a least we can strive for a higher level of quality. I think my New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Metroid Other M previews did a fine job of that, even if the latter was mostly just an interview, and the Final Fantasy XIII and XIV pieces I filed aren’t too bad, either. I have a bunch of other write-ups for next week that don’t even have to use that terrible structured breakdown format since they’re so late. Everyone wins!
Despite the stress of it all, though, it was a stunningly good E3. I went into it dreading the whole thing, due in part to a growing sensation that my tastes and what the industry wants us to buy have diverged irreparably and in equal measure because the past few E3s have been so, so terrible. But no! This year’s was pretty great: it was bigger, but not quite as over-the-top as in years past; publisher booths were more spacious and offered more hands-on opportunities with games; booth babes and swag were rare sights, so the show wasn’t full of sweaty creeps pausing for a photo/grope opportunity while toting three bags full of free crap; and while there were plenty of games on display that are more or less the antithesis of anything I would ever want to play, far more interesting and appealing games were displayed in their midst. All in all, it reminded me that, hey, my job is pretty OK sometimes.
And now, for an episode of “too short for a blog post, too long for Twitter.”
- I gained a frightening insight into life working for Square Enix: two different SE employees asked me at different times, “Hey, you’ve lost weight, haven’t you?” Their immediate follow-up wasn’t congratulatory but rather a concerned, “Have you been sick? Are you working too much?” I had to convince them that weight loss is a good thing. Once means nothing, but twice is a trend. And this is why I hope never to work for a Japanese corporation.
- Final Fantasy II/SaGa creator Akitoshi Kawazu is one of the warmest, most likable developers I’ve ever interviewed. You’d never know it from playing his games, which seem designed to inflict grim suffering on players.
- During a brief moment of downtime during the show, I overheard a couple of developers boasting to one another about how awesome their torrent upload ratios have been since getting “fat pipe” laid into their respective homes. I really don’t even know what to think about that.
- Four days after playing New Super Mario Bros. Wii, I couldn’t get the game’s accursed music out of my head. (It’s the same theme as in the previous game, with dancing Goombas and everything.) I finally just gave up and decided to play a bit of the DS game last night. It’s fun, but it feels even more derivative and uninspired after having seen its incredible sequel, which was definitely the surprise of the show for me — not so much that it exists, but that it’s so absolutely fantastic.
- To my surprise, Yoshinori Kitase claims that the glaring similarities between the demos for FFXIII and Final Fantasy VII were completely unintentional. An alabaster-skinned, sword-wielding warrior riding a train into the heart of a high-tech city, fighting side-by-side with a slightly comical black companion against waves of soldiers, ultimately facing off against a giant robotic scorpion: totally a coincidence, apparently. I can’t decide if that speaks to recurring themes in the series or a complete lack of originality. As a fan, I’m reaaaaally hoping it’s not the latter.
OK, I think I’m done now.