Why I Skipped E3

Half a decade ago, I easily would have explained, if asked or even just hinted at, that E3 was one of my favorite big events each year. I used to count down towards each years E3, and then spend every waking moment watching new trailers, studio conferences, and interviews. I loved E3. It was the biggest event of the year for me.

But over the last few years, I've noticed myself caring about E3 less and less. The interest is waning, disappearing. Then this year I did the unthinkable: I didn't even watch. My usual place in front of my PC watching every single press conference, pouring over trailers...it just didn't happen. I watched the Rayman Legends reveal, the Watch Dogs reveal...and then I just walked away.

To be honest, I even surprised myself with my apathy towards E3. I love games, always have and still do, but E3 just isn't doing anything for me anymore. It doesn't feel like its about the games or the gamers anymore. Someone online made the observation that it felt more like and investor conference, something meant for a bunch of suits throwing money at things they barely understood and I had to agree. Just look at the track record for E3 over the last few years. Kotaku has a wonderful write-up on their site concerning the big three studios and the promises they make last year, checking in on each one of them and seeing how may of them pan out. The result? A good chunk of the E3 promises, quite a few of which are barely game related, go unfulfilled.

Which is why while I find myself less and less about E3, I've found myself more and more intrigued by PAX in all its forms each year. At E3, I feel like for the most part I'm seeing everything that I've seen before. Sequel, sequel, sequel, new--oh wait that's a sequel, promise of a feature in a sequel that ties my game to facebook that I'll never use...I could go on but if you've been watching E3 lately you know what I'm talking about.

Meanwhile, PAX reminds me exactly what I watched an event like E3 for. No booth babes, no inane investment doublespeak. Just games. New games. New ideas. Want to see a game that's played backwards? if someones making it, you'll probably see it at PAX. PAX is about games, not the companies behind them.

So for the first time ever that I can recall, I skipped E3 because there was nothing interesting about it to hold my attention that I wanted to see. For me gaming is about the games. Not the booth babes or the cable tie-ins. Its about the game: what I play, who I play it with, and how it plays. I never watched E3 to see the same game from year to year, or see how the newest Clone of Duty game plays. I watched it to see what was new and fun, and in the last few years, E3 has stopped bringing that.

So until it brings its focus back to the real core of gaming, the games themselves, I'll be watching PAX.


How to Save Kingdoms of Amalur: No Princess Needed

Amalur currently faces a foe much mightier than anything in it's own world: Debt

On paper, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning sounded like a sure hit. It had a strong (and massive) development team behind it, one with a lot of money to throw around. The story was written by one R.A. Salvatore, a fantasy and science-fiction author with dozens of successful and well-received novels under his belt. The creatures of this fantasy world were largely unique, designed by Todd McFarlane, whose work on Spawn has spawned an entire industry of creative designs. The studio itself was headed and founded by a retired Pro-baseball player named Curt Schilling who wanted to strike out into making games.

Once off paper and into concept, Amalur looked even better. The game looked wonderful, with bright vivid colors, fluid player movement, and a plot that was just a little bit different than the standard "prophesied hero come to save us all." Amalur was setting itself up to be the big competitor of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, a title that many had been looking forward to for years, attempting to lure away fans with a massive marketing push that focused on Reckonings use of color, smooth motion, and pretty much anything else Amalur had that Skyrim didn't. Both were very open games with dozens (if not hundreds) of hours worth of sidequests and exploring to be had. Both were RPGs with tools to let the player craft and design their own hero. Both were coming out at the same time.

Ultimately, if you've followed the news at all this last week you know the result. 38 Studios, the developer of Kingdoms of Amalur, is closing up shop. Not only have they been forced to lay off almost all their employees (if not all of them), but it appears that the studio is defaulting on its 75 million dollar loan. The ultimate cause? Simply put, Amalur is not selling nearly as well as the studio had hoped it would. That in turn has left the once swimming in cash 38 Studios facing a complete drought. If things don't look up soon, it sounds as if 38 Studios will be turning over everything it owns to the State of Rhode Island...or selling off the IP in a fast attempt to make up some capital.

The sad thing is, Amalur shouldn't have failed. While I don't think that it would have stolen the crown from Skyrim, I enjoyed my time with the demo and planned on purchasing the game...but the way Amalur's release and sale was handled left me thinking that while 38 Studios had skill at making a game, they definitely had a problem when it came to selling that same game. Jump to the present, and the inevitable result of this has been the folding of the studio. So where did Amalur do wrong, and is there still time to fix it? Curt, if you're out there, this one is for you.


A Few More Glimpses

Hey everyone! I know, I know, it's been quite the delay. A months worth in fact. But that's about to be alright, because I haven't been sitting resting while I've been off. Quite the opposite actually, I've been more busy than ever, and a lot of it is because work has moved ahead quite steadily on my studios upcoming game. We're not quite ready to throw some in-game images out there yet, but until then I can let all you curious readers (and gamers) have a few little details. Hit the jump for some more watermarked artwork (no stealing please, we're working hard here) and some details!


The Top 25 Soundtracks 2012: Number 1

Number 1: Chrono Trigger

I'll admit, this was kind of a given. Either most of you noticed that Chrono Trigger hadn't made an appearance yet this year, or you knew that Chrono Trigger had taken position number 1 last year. Or crud, maybe you just listened to it on your own, nodded, and said "yep, it's the best."

Chrono Trigger is one of the most famous works of a composer who is no stranger to this list, the incredible Yasunori Mitsuda. Interestingly enough, it was also his first full compositional work. Until Chrono Trigger, Mitsuda's talents had been wasted (although to be fair, his superiors probably didn't realize what they had) doing menial minor sound work for assorted games. As he had been hired with the promise that one day he would be allowed to compose, Mitsuda eventually confronted his superiors and put his job on the line, demanding that he be given a chance to compose for a title or he would quit. Fortunately his boss handed him the reigns to Chrono Trigger, telling him "maybe your salary will go up." If only he had known what was about to occur.


The Top 25 Soundtracks 2012: Number 2

Number 2: Sonic 3 & Knuckles

The year is 1992. You've just finished releasing your second title in what looks to be a hit series. It's sold faster than any other title out there and kept your system on the map, even going up against your long term rivals newest console. You're hard at work on the next game in the series that's been so successful for you only to show up at work the next day and get the horrible news: the team that was doing your soundtrack, a popular Japanese pop group, has quit. You need a new composer fast, and you've got high standards. You need someone who can really crank out catchy music, and you're in luck! A famous pop musician wants to help out with your soundtrack because he's a fan of the series. He thinks he can give you a soundtrack unlike any other.He's got the moves, he's got the music, and you quickly tell him of course he can compose for you. After all, what director would turn down king of pop music Michael Jackson?


The Top 25 Soundtracks 2012: Number 3

Number 3: Halo Reach

Martin O' Donnell is one of those composers who has managed to get exactly what he wants, which is anything that he wants, for his music. Call it the happy side effect of creating the sound of one of the biggest franchises in gaming history, but O' Donnell could probably put in a request for three-hundred world-class Kazoo players for whatever soundtrack he's working on now and have them all assembled and playing in a few weeks. More surprisingly whatever they created would probably sound pretty good as well.

Martin O' Donnell has actually done a lot of sound work over the years for his employer Bungie, creating the soundtracks for titles such as Myth and Oni, but it wasn't until the Halo series that he got his big break. Halo was a much larger (and more successful) project than his previous works, and the success that it brought with it allowed him to finally move away from synthetic reproductions and into full scale orchestras. Which is why when it came time for Bungie to release their final title in the Halo series titled Reach, it needed to go out with a bang and to do that it needed a heavy hitter of a soundtrack. A challenge to which Martin O' Donnell answered perfectly.


The Top 25 Soundtracks 2012: Number 4

Number 4: Sonic Generations

I'll say this right now, Sonic Generations might be cheating by someones standards. Yes it has won the fourth position, but it does so in a manner some may find questionable. It doesn't make it ineligible for the list, nor does it do anything that any other game composer couldn't conceivably do for their own titles. But because its the only soundtrack even reviewed for this list that acts as it does, I expect some of you may want to ignore it altogether and pretend that some other soundtrack won fourth place. But for the purposes of this list, the Sonic Generations soundtrack has everything it needs to earn the fourth position. It just may feel a bit...well cheap...to some of you.

Alright, enough teasing. The reason that I say some of you may call Generations a cheap win is because it cherry picks. Sonic Generations was a 20th Anniversary title for the Sonic series and can be effectively summed up as a "best of" compilation. Each level in the game is from a prior Sonic game, and each one is playable in two different modes: A 2D classic style starring the original "chubby" Sonic, and a modern 3D style with the modern Sonic. The result is a greatest hits collection of some of the series best stages, with completely redone music to match. That bears repeating. The soundtrack is made up of re-imagined and revisited versions of some of the most fondly remembered Sonic tunes to date. In both a classic style (including 16-bit sound samples) and a modern style.