The post-E3 apocalypse

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.

19 thoughts on “The post-E3 apocalypse

  1. The bit about Squareenix employees made me laugh. The connotations of weight-loss is definitely a culture thing. To us in a fat-America, weight loss is good and healthy. But to say, my depression-era defined grandparents or great grandparents, they would definitely ask the same concerned questions those employees did.

  2. The “fat pipe” comment made me laugh because a friend of mine used to use that to refer to, uh, substantial male genitalia. As in, “Oh, she’s totally only dating that guy because he’s laying some serious pipe.”

  3. I am in a Mario frame of mind still; the only comment that really elicited a big response from me was that New Super Mario Bros. Wii is already a pretty awesome game. I just wish there were more gameplay videos from the show floor popping up around the web.

    Otherwise though, I’m no journalist, but I loved E3 this year. I though each of the “big three” had really great conferences and even more companies showed off a lot of great games. The only troublesome bit is that the bulk of the games were sequels. But a lot of the games I followed weren’t retreads; it seemed like many franchises were getting totally or partly revamped. Which is good to see. The show gave me confidence in the industry again (I was beginning to get a little crotchety towards everything).

    So here’s to 2009-10!

  4. yah Jeremy, don’t lose weight. It really throws off the outdated facial recognition technology Square-Enix uses in their employees.

  5. NSMB co-op is a wonderful idea and I hope it sells many systems.

    My initial hunch was that the co-op Mario idea could have been easily doable on the N64. Nintendo’s “camera” comments shed light on why my hunch was BS — camera and texture size limitations would’ve led to homely graphics, even for 1996-1999. Sorta like the original Smash Bros.

    On the other hand, NSMB Wii doesn’t look terribly “new” itself. Nintendo knows the gameplay and feel will get people hooked — same as it always has. It’s just too bad the co-op idea didn’t work ten years ago when they really needed more solid home console games!

  6. i’m very happy that you had such nice thoughts on Kawazu. I’m happy to see he’s not like that Tim Rogers fellow imagined him to be at all. I like his weird dense vidja games!

  7. Hello Mr. JP! I didn’t like E3 2009 at all. Mostly of all the of videogames and devices that were shown at the show were boring.

  8. Totally agreed about Kawazu. I was pretty intimidated, but he turned out to be really affable and so happy to talk about his game. Also I’m glad I shared the interview with nice people.

    As for the NSMB Wii music, it wasn’t just played in the game, Nintendo piped it into their booth at full blast. That was the loudest place in the whole convention center! It’s no wonder it’s stuck in your head.

  9. Huh, I’d have thought Metroid would have been the surprise of E3 for you; I guess I’ll take that as a strong vote of confidence for game-with-an-unpronouncible-acronym. Good to know it’s turning out nice so far!

  10. Your optimism for FFXIV belies someone who hasn’t play… er, experienced XI for very long. Not that it’s misplaced, having a FFXI that looks like Ivalice is…. dreamy. But as long as Tanaka and Co. are making it I have little hope it will be different than XI at the start: built on fun gameplay with interesting concepts but little to no concessions made for the playerbase that doesn’t speak Japanese.

  11. “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.”

    My guess is NOMURAAAAAA!!!

  12. “I’d have thought Metroid would have been the surprise of E3 for you”

    Actually, no — I half-suspected they had something in the works with Metroid when they conspicuously made a big deal of announcing Metroid Prime Trilogy a couple of weeks before the show. I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but as soon as they started rolling the trailer I knew what was coming.

  13. Aw, man- I really hope the recycled music for NSMBWii is a placeholder ’til Kondo comes back from vacation or something. It’s a pretty notorious earworm for me as well. Still, I’ve always liked the more swingy B-version of that tune; basically, any music that makes the series sound like a cartoon from the late ’30s is the best kind of Mario music..

  14. THERE WERE TOO MANY SEQUELS AT THIS YEARS E3!!! I don’t wanna play videogames anymore, waaaaaay too many me 2’s.

  15. I don’t get the kneejerk hatred done gamers have for sequels. Sure, the phoned-in ones are an embarrassment. Most of the sequels I saw at this year’s show looked like inventive refinements of unrealized potential. There’s certainly no shame in that.

  16. I guess the criticism of sequels was directed towards repeat offenders. (Uncharted 2? Fine by us!) And in the case of Left 4 Dead 2, a case of betrayal towards the original not getting any DLC.

    So is NSMBWii really that good? Let’s hope the final, complete package isn’t a buzzkill. At least the powerup assortment already looks more versatile than that of NSMBDS. (Not to mention that being able to wreck a whole portion of a level as giant Mario kind of destroys the point of the genre.)

  17. I went to a few E3s at the beginning of the decade, and I barely wrote anything. Of course, I was battling pretty bad depression at the time, so my normally tenuous attention span was even more tenuous.

    That dreadful music is back in NSMB? No thanks. The DS game already felt somewhat hollow, there’s also something about the graphics that seem inappropriate and sterile for the series.

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