And then it was Epic's turn. Dr. Mike Capps, President of Epic Games, came on to say a few words, followed by CEO Tim Sweeny, who showed off some of the features of the new Unreal Engine, all of which look great, but really, it's a subtle thing. As with all development tools, the tool itself matters much less than what it's used to design.
For starters, a lot of things that were notably absent from Unreal 3-based games, like the original Gears of War (reactive water effects, destructible environments) are in, and, presumably, to be premiered for Gears 2. They also showed an impressive "soft body" system, responding to attacks and impacts like real soft tissue. Sweeny demonstrated soft body physics by shooting and hitting with a "cube of meat." Never before has violence been so satisfying.
But the big news from Epic is that Microsoft is not buying Epic Games. Sorry. There also isn't much to tell about Gears of War 2, aside from a release date: Holiday 2008, which Cliffy B, chainsaw gun in hand, came on stage to announce in one of the most ridiculous intros I've ever witnessed at a convention.
Then it was time for another game demo, this one from Team Ninja's Tomonobu Itagaki, premiering a preview of Ninja Gaiden 2, sequel to the hardest game ever made.
"People have been telling the Japanese gaming industry has been losing a lot of its vitality," he said, then attempted to prove that theory wrong.
The game itself look pretty, and fans of the series will be more than appeased. But the most amazing feature was the ability to record gameplay footage. Players can record their games and upload them, sharing tips, tricks and just plain awesome crazy moves with the rest of the world. YouTube of videogames strikes again.
Ninja Gaiden 2 ships in June 2008.
Cue Peter Molyneaux and Fable 2.
"Money," said Molyneaux, "we all love it, we all like it." In Fable 2, you get money for doing quests, doing jobs and for gambling. He demonstrated a pub game, which will be released on Xbox Live weeks before the actual game ships. You play the game, win money and transfer that money into your Fable 2 world.
"This is a dream of mine," he said. "Games talking to each other."
Then he demonstrated a bit of gameplay, starting out as a female character, making Fable 2 one of the few games to get that bit of crowd pleasing right. "Let me point out that I am a woman," he said. "That's not a confession, I'm playing as a woman."
In Fable 2 you can get married and have children, which means you can also get pregnant. "There is no labor mini-game," he said, "but I was tempted."
Then they showed off the dynamic co-op play. You can invite anyone from anywhere into your game. They log in as their character, helping you in your quest, but saving their own experience points, which they can then take back with them to their own game.
Molyneaux invited a friend into his game, and then, together, they visited his in-game family, his son and husband, who both seemed miffed he'd been gone so long. And then ... his guest shot his husband. It was one of those rare moments when the audience at a game convention, people who pride themselves on having seen everything and refusing to be moved by it, were almost moved. Like the death scene in Call of Duty 4, you just don't do that to game characters. But Molyneaux did.
The idea is that anyone, at any time, can alter your home world irrevocably. "Just be careful who you invite into your world," Molyneaux said.