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TMO at E3 - Reporter's Journal Day Four: Wrapping Up

by , 2:05 PM EDT, May 23rd, 2005

LOS ANGELES -- There are sets of speed limits out here in Los Angeles, guidelines obeyed by the local motorist community to promote the safety of the road system as a whole.

These only exist in theory.

Step into a cab in the city and you're treated to an experience in which the driver tears through yellow lights at 45, shuns the notion of turn signals and recreates a driving experience more closely akin to an arcade driving game than anything else. Long story short, there's no chit-chat, you're compressed into your seat as the cabbie hangs about one third of a G on a tight turn, the fares run a small fortune if you're nowhere near a metro (to its credit, the flat airport rate does save a few bucks) and the ultimate goal seems to be to avoid the legendary LA traffic at all costs.

Microsoft and Vanguard

Call around to the folks at Microsoft and they'll provide a battery of interviews, some more relevant than the others. These are their wares, they're happy to show them off and it tends to work out, even if you're interested in a platform their games division isn't directly writing for, one they mostly let their partners handle.

A booking had led me into an interview for Vanguard, their upcoming massively multiplayer online role-playing game, currently in its alpha stage of development. What followed is something I won't soon forget:

As I entered the room, I was greeted by Jeff Butler of Sigil and Brad McQuaid (previously the producer of EverQuest and now involved with Sigil).

As I cracked open a soda, they began to demonstrate the game they hope to win the MMORPG industry with. Given what they had to show, they just might.

More detailed models than anything seen to date, tighter control over just about every perceptible feature of your avatar, stunning graphics, full communities and impressive class levels, Microsoft and Sigil are in the midst of creating something that can give Blizzard a serious run for its money, even if there are no plans to bring it to the Mac in the foreseeable future.

A game really catches your eye when you see something new and this, surprisingly enough, fit the bill. Lean your character's upper body in a given direction in World of WarCraft and the character will turn, but generally via its upper body. Vanguard caught my attention in that the neck, as well as other joints, could move in a more articulated fashion, but the chain mail along the character's neck actually stretched with the movement, something I'd never seen before and a feature that'll help the game shine above what's already out there. They've got their work cut out for them over at Sigil and it's going to be an interesting time to participate in this genre of gaming.

The Cell processor at Sony's booth

For the past year, a friend of mine has been talking about Sony's cell processor and its capabilities, especially where grid computing was concerned. The processor, if configured correctly and within range of other Sony devices incorporating a cell processor (thus pushing a Sony lifestyle), would borrow cycles from available devices to assist with a task. A cool idea, even if it seemed a little strange at times. Still, this was his fixation and given that it seemed to keep him out of trouble, he was entitled to it.

At Sony's booth, I was shown a demonstration of this concept, and once the demo started, I began to see what all the excitement was about. During the course of the eight-minute film, footage was shown of the processor handling tens to hundreds of thousands of individual particles, more detailed models than previously thought possible and more vibrant colors than had ever been seen in a video game to date. It's all there with still a few extra months to fill in any remaining gaps in the architecture and I've got to admit this looks amazing, complete with a sexy backwards compatibility that allows both PlayStation one and PlayStation 2 games to be used with the device. Now if Sony can ramp their online services to go head to head with Microsoft's Live, they're made. Otherwise they'll falter in an industry that's pushing more and more online with every day that goes by...

Game Boy Micro

I'll say this for the Game Boy Micro: It's amazingly small, not bad looking and offers a nice compatibility with older titles on a crystal clear, backlit LCD screen. Whether this is something you truly need if you already have a Gameboy DS will have to be seen, but this could be a good value for the money. For the time being, the PlayStation Portable is the item of choice in this segment, and given the quality of the item, deserves to be. Part media center, part gaming console, part mini-computer, Sony's selling something that taps into multiple markets while currently existing Mac shareware allows for easy synching and communication. Whether Microsoft or Nintendo will come up with something comparable remains to be seen, but on the portable end, the next year will probably belong to the PSP.

Last call

With the final hours of the 2005 E3 expo slipping away, the mood has become one of a bar at last call. Thousands of attendees run to try everything they hadn't gotten around to while others snag as much free merchandise as possible (free t-shirts don't compose an entire wardrobe, but it's possible to fake it).

When 4:00 hits, thousands of attendees stagger out of the convention center into the sunlight, visibly exhausted and heading to their hotel, a final party, or the airport. I've got a red eye flight at 11:30 back home to Washington, complete with a darkened cabinet, free blankets for the entire passenger base and an in-flight movie no one will watch due to the fact that they'll be slumped over their food trays trying to grab a few hours of rest in the meantime.

Until next year.

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