UPDATE: The video of the press conference has been added for your viewing pleasure.
This blogged event has already happened. It was a good blog, but it’s no longer the blog we once knew and loved. It is not a live blog.
It is now a Zombie Blog. Reanimated, and possessing unrelenting intent on destroying the whole of humanity. It also contains information regarding video games.
We are at the EA media briefing for GamesCom 2009, and like all good media briefings do, this one begins with an ear-blistering opening montage of the company’s current and upcoming titles. We are barely done snickering at the footage of G.I. Joe before we hoot and holler (on the insides, we’re professionals) at Mass Effect 2. Oh, fickle montage! Why must you play with our hearts!
Our host for the evening is Dr. Jens Uwe Intant. His official title is General Manager of European Publishing for EA, but I have a sneaking suspicion he has a secret island hidden away somewhere in the Pacific for conducting various genetic experiments. Billy says he sounds like McBain from The Simpsons, and now I can’t get that out of my head.
Dr. Intant is only on the stage for a few moments before introducing everyone’s favorite press conference demo presenter, Mr. Peter Moore. I don’t know the details of Mr. Moore’s nationality, but if we haven’t claimed at least 40% of him in the name of America, we really need to get on that. Peter’s here to talk up EA Sports, starting with what I was told would be one of the major highlights of a European games exhibition: the new FIFA. David Rutter from EA Canada appears to present the new trailer (very well-edited and got the biggest applause from the crowd) and quickly run through the main selling points of FIFA 10.
Much of it was already known from the recent event up at EA Canada, but to reiterate, they’re focusing on the idea of “urgency” across all positions. Offensive players will put more pressure on contested balls, throw themselves at headers and volleys with more regularity, and make more intelligent runs off the ball. On defense, they’ll do the same: throw themselves at potential headers and clearances, block shots aggressively, and use physical shoulder tackles to throw the offense off their rhythm. Goalkeepers, too, get better reaction times and a better animation arsenal to deal with deflectable shots and secondary saves. We also got to see facial recognition technology at work – you can put yourself into FIFA and play through all the offline modes. Rutter didn’t clarify if you could also play as yourself online, though later in the presentation it was mentioned that if you’re in an online club, your club mates would be able to download your face, so it seems likely. Online, we’re going to see more exploit fixes, pro leaderboards, and Live Season 2.0 (with a promise of more details on that in September).
That sound you just heard was Sterling falling out of his chair.
The second sound you just heard was me falling out of my chair, when Peter comes back on stage with legendary figure skater Katarina Witt to demo EA Sports Active: More Workouts. And though that’s like calling the next Call of Duty map pack “Call of Duty 4: More Maps”, my adolescent 14-year old self doesn’t care when I tell him that in 16 years, he’ll see a surprisingly amazing-looking Katarina Witt in person. (Thanks, Kat. I can call you Kat, right?) Peter does some goofy physical activity that should already be an animated .GIF on NeoGAF -- if not, you guys are slacking – he gives the classic “I may need mouth-to-mouth after this” line to Katarina while she straight-up heckles his performance, and we all awkwardly laugh. Good times.
(Memo to EA powerpoint authors: no severity of italics or amount of thumping bass can make the phrase “MORE STRETCHES!” exciting. Good effort, though.)
Next up is The Sims 3: World Adventures – the first Sims 3 expansion pack. I was hoping that my old (as in former, not age) 1UP colleague and adopted fourth uncle Jeff Green would get up on stage to make the world’s first self-deprecating press conference demo, but no luck. Senior Director Julie Turner is up instead, and while she seems like a very nice woman, talks to the crowd as if we were 9 years old. It’s more of the fault of the TelePrompTer writers eliminating the genuine personality of these developers (from which not even Dr. Ray Muzyka and Tim Schafer could escape). You’re the new EA, EA! You can be off the cuff a bit!
But I suppose if you sell 3.7 million copies of The Sims 3 already, you can do whatever you please. They’ve got two million registered users on sims3.com, and they’re #1 on YouTube and Twitter in various categories (the phrase “millions” was used many more times). You heard it here first: we’ll all be speaking Simlish in 2355. Speaking of, they showed a montage (montage!) of various recording stars singing songs for World Adventures in Simlish. One of these was Swedish star Stefanie Heinzman, and it took me a couple seconds to remember that I was actually hearing a fake language.
McBai…Dr. Intant reappears to bring out the guys from DICE to talk about Bad Company 2. That’d be Patrick Söderlund and Magnus Troedsson. Bad Company is hitting the European Union on March 5th and America a few days earlier on March 2nd. Also hitting the Americans: the guys in the trailer. I don’t recall ever seeing a game demo where the Americans were the other team – and it’s not at all a shock considering that the Battlefield games are usually America vs. Somebody Else Far Away, but the Bad Company 2 trailer featured an ambush on the American team that was absolutely brutal, and probably wouldn’t have gone over quite as well at a Yankee-centric event like E3. That’s not making a judgement at all, just an interesting observation of what you can and can’t get away with depending on where you are. (The game itself looks hot, by the way. Very team/squad-based.)
The one and only Tim Schafer is next, and I wonder if he’s getting tired of being described as “the one and only” or “inimitable” or “legendary.” I figure that if it were me, I would not get tired of that, and I watch the new Brutal Legend trailer. (Respect to Dr. Intant for making a well-placed “monster slaying” joke at the expense of Activision and their failed attempt to prevent the game’s release.) It’s funny that even though Tim says they’re showing Brutal’s multiplayer during the show, all they publicly demonstrate is the single-player stuff. Hopefully the marketing works out well for them this Roktober (that’s German for “Rocktober”).
Crytek’s in the house. Stand and wave and not show Crysis 2, thanks! We’re told there will be Crytek-related “surprises at the EA booth on Thursday.” There had better be, or I am withdrawing my polite applause.
Time for the latest from Dante’s Inferno. I keep going back and forth on this game – I really enjoyed the poem, and it’s unfair to praise the God of War team for taking a spicy creative liberty with Greek mythology while mocking the Dante’s team for doing the same with the Divine Comedy. But man, tacking on a BioShock save-or-condemn “morality” system that gives you an equal amount of points either way you go? The subject matter is rife with potential for deeper plays on moral choice beyond “scythe in the face!” I remain cautiously optimistic. February 9th for the States, Februrary 12th for Europe.
(Memo #2 to EA presentation scriptwriters: “See you in Hell!” puns are less effective the more times you use them.)
Dr. Ray from BioWare comes on next, and the only thing I can say about the new Dragon Age: Origins trailer is that it featured neither a Marilyn Manson song nor scenes of gratuitous digital sex. Either EA got the message that that marketing tact was tactless, or they have a higher regard for the taste of Europeans. Regardless, both were a welcome omission.
Mass Effect 2 is next, and the big feature revealed for GamesCom is MORE STRETCHES! Actually, it’s a new class and a new area. We get to see a Wrex-like character described as the “ultimate bodyguard.” (but he’s not Wrex!) romp through an area called Space Station Omega, a mining facility that evokes memories of Dead Space, mixed in with some Blade Runner. Also a Strip Club Of The Future. I don’t think BioWare gets enough credit for Mass Effect’s awesome blending of 70s, 80s and modern sci-fi aesthetics. Anyway, Not Wrex’s character class is called “irrationally violent,” which makes the wait for ME2 that much harder.
Darrell Rodriguez from LucasArts comes out next to promote The Old Republic – It’ll be on the show floor this week, but all they’re showing tonight is the E3 trailer...but it’s dubbed in German! As incredible as that trailer was, it’s even more powerful when you’re being scared by some really harsh-sounding language. Rodriguez and Dr. Ray announce that TOR will be completely localized – voice acting and all – in German and French, which is incredibly ambitious and impressive. Unless you speak Spanish. We’re seeing TOR tomorrow, so stay tuned for new impressions.
Wrapping up the EA media briefing is Jesse Abney, producer for Need for Speed: Shift. It wasn’t the tightest demo to close the show (co-presenter Stephen Viljoen from Slightly Mad Studios had a few control issues on the track), but I didn’t realize how good the game looked. I’m not sure if the shaky cockpit cam was up my alley, and I still prefer the arcade flavors of Need for Speed (Free idea: put cops on a real race track!), but I can’t deny it’s looking pretty good. They finish by announcing that one lucky GamesCom attendee will be winning a massive tax obligation attached to a new BMW. Which I believe they give to every German citizen at the age of 16.
And after collecting a media kit and a few MORE STRETCHES!, we’re off to Sony across the street.
(Kat, call me.)