Monday, June 01, 2009

Microsoft at E3 '09

The Microsoft press conference was top-notch. They showed a slew of great upcoming games, improvements of their Netflix and movies services, more social networking with Facebook and Twitter, the introduction of to Xbox Live, and Project Natal has mind-blowing potential. And they stole a franchise from Sony to boot. I don't see how Sony or Nintendo could match Microsoft's conference.

As I thought they might, Microsoft showed the actual gameplay footage of Alan Wake and advertised a sequel to Left 4 Dead. The former looks good enough that its previous hype will regenerate enthusiasm with many gamers, though I don't see it as a great evolution in horror games at this point. The figured a Left 4 Dead sequel was likely, since all Valve needed to do for another bestseller was to create new levels. Well, it looks like the new tale starts in the city of my birth, New Orleans, and will include melee weapons. So laissez les bons temps rouler!

Borderlands was a no show at the presentation, unfortunately, as was Huxley, but I was very impressed by gameplay footage of Splinter Cell: Conviction. And I'm ecstatic that Crackdown is getting a sequel. ODST looks interesting, and Halo: Reach was announced, but it's hard for me to get that excited about another Halo game. I started watching the conference online, so lag prevented me from seeing much of Modern Warfare 2. You can bet your mother I'll be watching those videos online, though.

I said Microsoft needs to do more with avatars, and they are. Aside from incorporating them into Facebook, which is huge, they're releasing a free-to-play track racing game called JoyRide.

But of course the biggest news is Project Natal, which you have to see to understand.

Peter Molyneux stole the show with his Lionhead's 3-month experiment with Project Natal. I didn't think I could be more impressed until I saw the player's reflection in the game. Simply jaw-dropping.

Great job, Microsoft.

I'll offer only one bit of advice. Try to lower the programming expertise needed to design Project Natal games as much as possible. If Community Games and Arcade designers could design for that technology and regularly spit out small, cheap games for it, it would indeed revolutionize gaming.

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