EA practically blew out the speakers at The Orpheum theater during its press conference, where it highlighted its new partnership with id, exciting changes to NBA Live and more.
I’m not kidding about the speaker thing – my ears are still ringing after the aural bombast of EA’s press event. John Riccitiello said he was going to “do something extremely simple” by inviting the people who make the games to come on stage and speak about them. Crazy concept,no?
Rod Humble started things off talking about the future for the Sims franchise. First up is SimAnimals, which is kind of like Viva Pinata, just with real animals. You “reach out and touch the world to make something happen,” says Humble, for example picking up a baby bear and putting it next to a squirrel to see what will happen. If you want an oak tree, plant an acorn. The oh-so-cute SimAnimals will be coming to Wii and DS in 2009.
The Sims 3 will also be out in 2009. It’s the Sims, just in a bigger playground. The voice over during the trailer said “Imagine you lived your entire life inside of your house, then someone opened the door.”
Glen Schofield took the stage to show off Dead Space, describing the survival horror title’s core gameplay mechanic as “strategic dismemberment.” The live demo we saw showed off the toughness of the creatures you’ll encounter – they won’t go down with just one shot, you have to pick them apart before they fall.
Patrick Soderlund walked us through a bit of the parkour-inspired Mirror’s Edge, a game whose fast-paced first person action may make some players seasick. I was intrigued by “Runner Vision,” a clever mechanic that points players in the right direction without being obtrusive. As you run from rooftop to rooftop as courier Faith, certain objects will be red, as though they’ve been painted. This lets you know that the pipe, door, or ledge in question is one of the possible paths you can take. They blend in well with the environment, giving you the visual cue you need to move forward without clubbing you over the head or breaking the immersion. Not sure how I feel about constantly seeing my feet, though, or listening to Faith’s grunts as she hops around.
Spore is obviously a big damn deal for EA, and Will Wright is always charming, so it was inevitable that he would be part of this media briefing. He didn’t have much new to say, though, simply pointed out how happy he was that nearly 2 million creatures had already been created using the Creature Creator. And only 1.8 million of them are penis monsters. He did, however, use a quote from our very own Adam LaMosca during his presentation, which is pretty damn cool, if you ask me.
I don’t really care much about sports games, but EA’s innovative approach to NBA Live managed to pique my interest, just the same. NBA Live will be “made fresh daily,” updating its information about NBA players using something called “Dynamic DNA.” It takes not just basic stats but a player’s behaviors, such as whether a particular player shoots more from the left or the right, into account when sculpting the AI. It also changes the team dynamic accordingly, so if new player comes on board, or one gets hurt and the rest of the team has to change its play style, you’ll see that reflected in your own game. Does this mean that EA’s days of churning new game versions simply by changing the year are over? We shall see.
Greg Zeschuk from BioWare showed us a tiny snipped of DragonAge Origins, which he called “the spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate.” The trailer we saw was terribly generic, showing noble knights throwing down with monsters on the battlefield. It could’ve been the trailer for practically any fantasy-themed game, really. I’ll be getting a much closer look at the game later in the week, so I’ll let you know what the actual gameplay is like then.
Gabe Newell put on his best ripped polo shirt to show off Left 4 Dead, a first person co-op horror game that changes depending on how well you play it. As an example, Newell showed us a group of four players who had been playing badly. Their encounter at a gas station was pretty simple, just a zombie or two threatening them. If the team had been playing well, however, it would have run into far more enemies and been able to blow up the gas station in dramatic style. The lesson learned is: it pays to play well. I can’t help but wonder, though, about the experience the less experienced or skilled players will have. Will the game be less fun if you suck?
Finally, John Carmack announced id’s partnership with EA on Rage, a “blend of action, exploration, and driving.” Think Road Warrior and you’ve got the basic gist. We only saw a tiny clip, though – more will be shown off at QuakeCon.