The E3 A-Z Monster Guide

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No Sunday Time Waster today because believe me — I wasn’t wasting time. I’ve spent the entire weekend writing, editing, formatting, and coding up the GameShark E3 A-Z guide. There something like 147 previews in this thing — some small, some not.

And after last week and this weekend’s editing grind, I think I need to sleep for like, oh, 48 hrs.

Enjoy GameShark’s E3 A-Z Guide.

Don't Shoot the Food – E3 Edition

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The California Pizza Kitchen (referred to as CPK or C-PAK) tradition started my first E3. We were all walking back to the hotel from the convention center and as we walked down Figueroa, we’d pass bars and restaurants but nothing caught our eye. Eventually we got to the CPK and, realizing this was the last restaurant before we’d have to turn down 7th to our hotel, we decided to eat there. We ended up eating there every night of the show because we knew it was there, they let us stay forever and it was far enough from the convention center to not get too crowded. We’d sit back, bullshit, laugh, eat and talk to tons of other other show-goers about everything they saw that day. One night we saw Dan Hsu chatted up by what looked like groupies. Groupies or escorts. True story.

The next year we went back to the CPK every night as well as it had become a tradition by then. I remember the last night of the show, watching the Lakers game on the CPK television and telling Bill we had to get going, like now, because the game was almost over and regardless of how the final score went down, that city was going to explode. The Lakers won, the city did explode and all night we were treated to sirens, helicopters and gunfire. The AC unit in the room was busted which meant sleeping with the windows open and enjoying the cacophony of a city that just lost its shit over a basketball game.

I love going to E3, but I love the CPK even more as it’s a chance to talk to everyone and unwind after a day that ranges from genuine “holy crap, I gotta play this now” interest to “I can’t believe I have 29 more minutes of this demo” dis-interest. All in all, it’s quite tiring and come the end of the day, a beer and a pizza is the perfect pick-me-up before a long night of podcasting and writing.

So, with that in mind, I decided to dust off my recipe for Pepperoni Pizza, revised over the years to meet the approval of my wife’s refined pizza palate. In the interest of saving time, I’m taking this wholesale from my old blog. It’s not plagiarism if I copy from myself, right?

Pepperoni Pizza, Binky Style

Ingredients
1. 1 pizza dough from Publix, thawed if previously frozen and taken out of the fridge for 2.5 hours – feel free to make your own dough. I find it too time consuming and not worth it. Maybe you’re a dough-master, so do whatever floats your dough boat.
2. Classico tomato and basil pasta sauce – I’ve tried a bunch of sauces, even made my own, and we like this one best. It’s somewhat understated, which is good as my wife doesn’t like a real bright sauce.
3. Kroger pizza cheese – This one is very important. Mozzarella isn’t flavorful enough, so this cheese is a blend of five cheeses including mozzarella, parmesan, reggiano and other ones that I can’t remember. Kraft makes one too if you live somewhere without a Kroger.
4. Crushed red pepper flakes
5. Boar’s Head sliced pepperoni – For us, this pepperoni is over by the deli counter, not with the sausage and other pork products. Look for it and pay the extra. It’s well worth it.

Cooking Steps
1. Preheat your oven to 450. I set the racks so that I have one closer to the top of the oven and one closer to the bottom and shift the pizza between the two. Obviously, your oven will be different so position things accordingly.
2. Roll out your dough for a 16 inch pizza pan. If you have a pan with a slight lip, use it. This will make the crust’s edge a bit thicker, and thereby tastier. You don’t need something as deep as a deep dish pan, maybe a lip of like half an inch.
3. Once the dough is rolled out, spray your pizza pan with cooking spray and place the dough on the pan.
4. When the oven is ready, poke the dough all over with a fork. This will keep large air bubbles from forming when the crust is baking.
5. If you’re only using one oven rack position, bake the crust for 8 minutes. If using two, bake it on the bottom rack for 4 minutes, and then the top for another 4 minutes.
6. Remove the crust from the oven after 8 minutes. Spoon the sauce on the crust one to two spoonfuls at a time. I use a soup spoon, as in a spoon for eating soup, not one for stirring or making soup. It’s very important that you just get the sauce, no tomato chunks. Use the spoon to smooth the sauce all over the crust. You don’t want to over do the sauce. A little goes a long way. When you’re done, the crust should look like it was painted with a light coating of sauce, not completely covered with it. Obviously you can put on as much or as little sauce as you want, but this is the way I do it and it’s been working pretty well. It ends up being about 3 – 4 spoonfuls of sauce. Spread the sauce so that it comes up to about an inch from the edge of the crust.
7. Cover the entire crust with cheese. I use almost an entire 2 cup bag, however you can put on as much as you want. Make sure you evenly coat the crust.
8. Sprinkle a liberal coating of crushed red pepper over the cheese.
9. Put your pepperonin on the cheese so that the pepperoni doesn’t overlap, but instead touches edge to edge. Working from the outer edge of the sauce inwards, you should be able to get 3 – 4 rings of pepperoni, depending on the size of the pan, with a slice in the middle.
10. Take another handful of cheese and sprinkle it all over the pepperoni. This may not sound important but it is very important. As the pizza cooks, the pepperoni will lose some grease. The cheese will melt and mix with the grease, so that when you brown up the top, it makes a really tasty mini-crust.
11. Throw the pizza back in the oven for 10 minutes. 5 on the bottom rack and 5 on the top if you’re going the dual rack way.
12. After ten minutes take a look at the pizza, you want the top to be bubbling slightly with a slightly brown color. You don’t want the cheese to burn, but you don’t want it whitish either. You should hear the pepperoni sizzling slightly. If you’re going with one rack position, take the pizza out, raise the rack, and put the pizza back in with the oven light on so that you can watch the pizza until it’s ready.
13. Take the pizza out, slice it up and enjoy. Be sure to have plenty of beverages on hand because between the pepperoni and the pepper, you’ll need something to drink.

Much like CPK at E3, Friday night pizzas have become a tradition at my house. I always look forward to Friday night for the obvious weekend related reasons, but being able to make a pizza, kick back with a beer and relax is also pretty high up there. Oh pizza, is there nothing you can’t do?

Still hungry? Check out the Don’t Shoot the Food archive.

Danielle's Deluxe E3 Day 3 Thoughts

No High Scores

The sun has set on yet another E3, and good lord, did I see a lot of games today. I’m pleasantly surprised to report that it was a really, really good day – there were no clunkers among the bunch, and several top-notch experiences. This was probably my best E3 yet – I saw plenty of good stuff that I was excited about before the show, both the big show-stopping productions and the little gems that I’ll be gushing all over on the podcast for months to come.

So here’s a quick recap of my day (some of this will be cross-posted over at the mothership, but this is the expanded, unedited director’s cut), complete with cursory, bullet-point thoughts on the games of the day.

I began the day with what I was expecting to be a weak appointment, at Nival – a Russian developer of strategy and social games. They were showing off Prime World, a Facebook game that they pitched as a mix of hardcore PVP strategy and casual/social gameplay.

It sounds like a train wreck – all that jargon in one sentence, but I actually found the game to be a very pleasant mix – with a really cool environmental bonus system and a Zuma-like optional minigame that yields combat bonuses.

After this totally pleasant little surprise, it was heavy hitter after heavy hitter. I saw Nintendo and got some serious hands-on time with the Wii U. I got my paws on the space combat game and chase/hide and seek demos that were shown briefly in Nintendo’s presser – both were simple, but lots of fun, and they sold me on the promise of asymmetric multiplayer with the new controller and the regular old Wii-motes.

I also got to play the new Luigi’s Mansion, 3D Mario Kart and Super Mario 3D on the 3DS. I’ll give you the bullet points – I love the 3D effect in Luigi, and I’m absolutely thrilled they’re making a new title in this hideously underrated series. Mario Kart played perfectly – the 3D is awesome, and I loved the underwater and hang glider elements. Super Mario 3D played like a strange combo of something a bit like Galaxy and something a bit like a 3D version of Super Mario 3.

After that, I crashed the Indiecade booth and took a peek at Skulls of the Shogun, had an amazingly surreal E3 experience with two experimental games (listen to the podcast early next week for the details), and had plenty of time to really just shoot the shit with the developers. Indies are really getting to be my thing these days – as someone who’s learning the ropes of development myself, it’s awesome to have unlimited access to these guys, who are almost unanimously friendly, passionate and open about their creative processes. I talked rotoscoping, engines, marketing, color schemes, all sorts of good, nerdy stuff with these guys, and could have spent a full day of E3 in that booth, just sampling the wares and chatting.

Alas, the AAA games drew me back in – I saw Tomb Raider, Final Fantasy XIII – 2 (just pick a number system already), and Deus Ex: Human Revolution in the Square-Enix booth, then finished my day – and my E3 – on an extraordinarily high note with a demo of BioShock Infinite.

So there it is. I had an absolute blast this year, and definitely feel like I’m getting into more of a comfortable groove with the whole E3 thing (in terms of balancing the networking, the reporting, the schedule juggling and the story-hunting), and always awesome to see my fabulous colleagues.

Until next year, E3. Until next year.

Todd's E3 Day 3 Wrap-up


No High Scores

Between Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Tomb Raider, and Hitman: Absolution, Square Enix, which I visited today, had one heck of a show, but they weren’t the most interesting or bizarre display, oh no. That credit goes to IndyCade. It’s all straight ahead in my day 3 E3 wrap-up…

First, Square Enix and Deus Ex. As a fan of the original PC game, it was a huge relief to see a demo emphasize the different ways main character Adam Jensen could tackle a particular quest. They referred to the game’s four pillars of play: Combat, stealth, dialog, and tech/hacking. Every path through the game will supposedly allow you to approach it from one of those angles. We saw a stealth approach to one of the game’s missions, and were told that, bosses aside, Jensen doesn’t have to kill anyone from the game’s beginning to end. We also saw a several of his augmentations at work and the variety of ways they can help Jensen accomplish his goals should provide players with plenty of impactful gameplay choices.

We didn’t see as much diversity from Tomb Raider, which really borrows heavily from Heavy Rain in implementing quicktime-like events, but that doesn’t mean the game didn’t look extremely promising. We didn’t get to see any combat, but I love the Lara Croft reboot as they bring a real sense of humanity to her that goes so far beyond the cartoon character of yore.

And Hitman… that game left me blissfully uncomfortable. I’ve never played a Hitman game before, but I know their dark reputation. This game, which also looks gorgeous, showed off a Chicago-based level in which Agent 47 is the subject of a manhunt. Police have tracked him to a large, evidently abandoned building, and he has to stealth and battle his way out. Watching him evade the police, as we heard the cops talk about their families or give each other a hard time, set up a really difficult to watch sequence when 47 started murdering them to progress. As he held one poor sod hostage only to hear the cop apologize to his sergeant for his predicament I realized just how emotionally involved this brief demo got me. I’m not sure I’ll play the game or not -some of that stuff made me extremely uncomfortable; must be getting old- but for fans of the series, this should be an excellent new entry.

Then there is IndyCade. If you’re not familiar with IndyCade, think of it as an attempt to do for independent game development what Sundance does for independent film. This October annual event has been going on for about five years now and features games of every possible stripe and environment. At E3 they had live-action games on display (in which people are the game), traditional small dev team efforts like Skulls of the Shogun (a turn based XBLA strategy game) and Desktop Dungeon (reminiscent of a C64 game called Sword of Fargoal), and some stuff that could only be described as purely experimental. (Both the above games are well worth checking out.) 

One such experimental effort, not even sure it could be called a game, was based on use of what designer Hye Yeon Nam calls a Kiss Controller. Think lovers, not face-painted rock bands. In this game one partner dons a headset, while another uses fixadent to affix a tiny circular magnet to their tongue. Then they make out, the movement of the magnet relative to the headset determining something about how an on-screen bowling ball is manipulated to strike pins. I’m still not remotely sure what determines this, but I do know I scored great. (Sadly, I had to hold the headset to my mouth and pretend to make out.)

In a related vain was Jason Arnott’s Deep Sea. I didn’t get to experience this first hand as Danielle and I spent our time talking to Arnott while Gameshark colleague Jason McMaster played the game, but I wish I had been able to try it. Arnott is a professional sound designer who likes to experiment with using gameplay to affect human emotion. Deep Sea is intended to bring out fear and anxiety in the player by putting them in an old style gas mask in which the player cannot see and has limited ability to breath. Headphones then convey the sense the player is deep underwater with malevolent sea creatures on the attack. Breathing heavily attracts the creatures and all the player can do is try to fire a weapon (using a flight stick) to fend them off. The game will always end in failure and Jason M. found the experience every bit as harrowing as Arnott intended for it to be. He’s hoping for his next project to play with evoking positive, even euphoric emotions; if it’s successful, that could be quite something to experience. 

No, these aren’t games that would ever be sold on a shelf, but that’s not the goal for people like Nam and Arnott. The experience is the goal and an organization like IndyCade helps make sure people get to see their visions. If you find yourself in Culver City this October you owe it to yourself to check this event out.

E3 Day Three Thoughts

No High Scores

Wow. I am really, really tired and I still have to pack. As a result, I’m going to be brief and I’ll write more next week when I’m more coherent.

Bullet points! Woo!

1. Saints Row: The Third looks great. It looked like it was a movie made from playing the game, rather than a live gameplay demo, but man, there was some over the top shit there. This dude was knocking down pedestrians with wrestling moves when he wasn’t smacking them around with a giant, purple dildo or blowing them up with the Apocafists.

2. Space Marine was lots of gory fun. Killing orks is a hoot and splitting them in two to get health back is an awesome mechanic.

3. Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon looks to be a ton of giant insect fun. The various character classes look interesting and the ability to have two squad mates with you at all times makes killing insects much easier, which means they just throw more at you.

4. Dead Island was a little slow for my tastes, but we played co-op and the people we were playing with didn’t stick together or communicate which meant I got killed a lot because people would throw knife-bombs into zombies I was next to and then detonate them without telling me first. Plus, I was playing as the tank character which meant the zombies were flocking to me. There is some interesting variety to the zombies, including zombies in football helmets that you have to incapacitate by breaking their legs, which was kind of odd as I don’t know why a zombie would put on a helmet. I don’t know, maybe it was because the co-op just wasn’t doing it for me, but my interest in this game is somewhat lessened. We’ll see.

5. Finally, Heroes of Ruin looks pretty damn good. Square is going to support the game for a year after its release with daily releases of items, quests and challenges via SpotPass and you can trade unwanted items via StreetPass. The combat looks good, the dungeons are randomly generated as you traverse them and the game supports four player drop-in, drop-out co-op over the internet. Finally, an online game I want to play on the 3DS.

That’s it for me. It was a good show and I saw a ton of good games, but even with what I saw, I still didn’t see some of the really heavy hitters like BioShock Infinite, Deus Ex or Assassins Creed: Revelations. Oh well, I guess that’s what Game Informer is for.

Terrible Silent Hill news out of E3- Multiplayer, exclusivity, and the musical stylings of Korn!

Well this is crap news. The Silent Hill games, long known for their great music are getting post-Helmet chunka-chunka s#!t-rockers and future white trash county fair revival act Korn on board for a song to be in Silent Hill: Downpour. Hell, maybe for the next Castlevania game they can get the Insane Clown Posse to “lend their sound and voice” to that game.

And Silent Hill: Book of Memories for the Vita is going co-op, so I guess you can huddle together when it gets scary. I can’t think of a better way for the game to continue its tradition of spooky, atmospheric isolation and horror. Dang. That HD reissue collection just sounds better and better, doesn’t it? Oh but wait. Not if you don’t have a PS3, because apparently it’s an exclusive according to this press release.

Konami Digital Entertainment Inc. today announced a series of announcements relating to the famed and frightening survival horror franchise, Silent Hill. Today’s announcements, ranging across multiple skus and consoles, will ensure fans will be trembling with fear from their favorite sleepy town in quite some time!

Silent Hill Downpour
It has been revealed that Silent Hill: Downpour will be enhanced with 3D functionality. This added treatment of the highly anticipated game will further immerse players into the malevolent and terrifying world of Silent Hill.

Also announced for Silent Hill: Downpour, platinum selling rock band KORN will lend their sound and voice to the game by creating an exclusive song for the game. The song, tentatively titled “Silent Hill” is a perfect complement to the score, created by famed composer, Daniel Licht.

Silent Hill Downpour will be available this fall on PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system and Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft.

Silent Hill Collections
Silent Hill HD Collection combines two classic spine-chilling Silent Hill titles from the past and brings them to the PlayStation®3 for the first time ever. Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3 will comprise the collection with enhancements including true high-definition graphics, full PlayStation ®Network trophy support and all-new voice acting directed by Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, offering new fans and old the opportunity to experience the early era of Silent Hill as a true genre-defining experience with the added value of two games.

Silent Hill HD Collection will be available fall 2011 on PlayStation 3.

Silent Hill: Book of Memories

Silent Hill: Book of Memories for the upcoming Sony NGP™ device will bring an all-new storyline, along with a legion of classic creatures torn from the Silent Hill universe, as well as an all new soundtrack from series composer Daniel Licht.

Silent Hill: Book of Memories will also feature the very first multiplayer experience for the franchise. Players will be able to survive the horrific landscapes of Silent Hill with friends in a haunting co-op experience.

Danielle's E3 Day Two wrap-up

No High Scores

Let me tell you a little something about E3. You may be reading about all the awesome, big games. Mass Effect 3. Arkham City. Gears 3. BioShock Infinite. Modern Warfare 3. Uncharted 3. Skyrim. Old Republic. Maybe you’re reading about the hidden treasures – like Bastion or Prey 2. These are the games and the experiences that E3 dreams are made of.

Today, I saw a number of big games. I elbowed my way into the Mass Effect 3 demo, where Casey Hudson featured action and a somewhat contrived emotional moment (I simply can’t get into anything featuring Male Shep, so maybe that’s just me). I checked out the Activision booth and saw Prototype 2, X-Men Destiny, and the very charming new Spyro game. I checked out two of the coolest games of the show at Paramount’s booth (but I can’t tell you anything about them until early next week).

But what I’d really like to tell you about is the surreality of playing Blackwater – a Kinect shooter based on the rather controversial ex-military outfit – in the 505 games booth. Sitting just beside the Top Gun game (which is in itself hilarious), and right by the even more unfortunate Michael Phelps: Push the Limit swimming game, was this curious creation. Demoed by the very nice, enthusiastic producer from Zombie Games and an actual Blackwater officer, I’ve never felt so bizarrely torn whilst watching – and subsequently playing – a game.

On one hand, this is a very simplistic shooter, though, like most Kinect games, it does afford a dumb kind of fun – ducking and shooting and kicking like a spaz is entertaining, and the controls were actually reasonably responsive. Plus, our demo folks were genuinely nice – and nothing feels worse than bagging on someone’s hard work when they so clearly care about it. The producer came off as a knowledgeable guy, and Mr. Blackwater was incredibly polite and earnest.

But holy crap, this is a game about Blackwater. If you don’t know what that means, I’ll say only this – they’re an outfit run without the kind of constraints we ostensibly place on the official US military – and some rather unsavory things have allegedly happened thanks to that arrangement.

If you listen to last night’s Jumping The Shark, you’ll hear all of the weirdo twists and turns that our story took (war in Syria! War in Libya too!), but suffice it to say, this was an odd moment at E3.

The Michael Phelps game, by the way, feels like playing a full-on spaz simulator. I won’t be unkind, but I will say this – that a sport as exciting as the team-based, violent, kinetic lacrosse has not gotten a videogame adaptation while a crappy swimming pool simulator has gotten the full boxed game treatment is just not right, celebrity endorsement or no.

Jumping the Shark Podcast #74


No High Scores
Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Our Day Two E3 episode of Jumping the Shark is on the tubes. Last night’s recording featured your usual JTS cast, plus return appearances from Tom Chick and Jason McMaster as well as Gameshark Senior Editor Brian Rowe and one of our newer freelancers, Justin Amirkhani. Among those games featured are the surprising Prey 2, the latest Hitman opus, Sonic Generations, and The Darkness 2.

Direct Download
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Past Episodes
(Embedded feed included after the break.)

Todd's E3 Day Two Wrap-up


No High Scores

Today I spent time with Topware, Bethesda, and Paradox and all brought a little something to the table that is worthy of keeping an eye on. In particular, two of Bethesda’s titles stuck out and one of them was not Rage (which I didn’t get a good look at)…

I was not a huge Oblivion fan, but the freedom to explore its open world environments without even needing to dig into the main story was certainly among its better assets. That Skyrim continues this tradition is a given, but I also appreciated its two-handed equipping system where you could put different spells in each hand, go with a spell and a weapon, sword and shield, etc. It should give players a lot of options. What particularly stood out to me however, wasn’t the gorgeous vistas, impressively rendered dragons,  or the improved character models, but the town the demo took us through. It was a town built around logging. As such the sets matched, with homes all built out of wood. Cut down trees were piled up to be processed. Craftsman were working with wood. Etc. It looked like a place built for a purpose, a notion that was enhanced by the idea that you can mess with its economy by jerking around with their supplies or otherwise interfering with how the town operated. If every notable location throughout the world of Skyrim has that kind of thought put into it, it’ll do wonders for making this giant world a more interesting place to explore.

Prey 2, which aims to place you in the role of hunter instead of hunted this time around, could well be the game of the show and if not that, then certainly the most surprising. I went in expecting a straightforward shooter, but this looks to bring considerably more to the table. There’s an amazing fluidity to your movement through this alien world in which you, a displaced amnesiac US Marshal, collect bounties and try to put your life and past together. Climbing from ledges, leaping gaps, sliding for cover all evoke the kind of smooth mobility that Mirror’s Edge did mostly well. But this game takes it further with solid-looking gunplay, a bunch of interesting and useful gadgets and abilities, and a seemingly broad variety of ways to go about tackling missions. 

I watched the protagonist shove an unsuspecting bystander off a ledge for no other reason than the option was there, spontaneously take a hostage to extort cooperation from a target, choose whether or not to interrogate a bounty at the risk of killing him and failing the mission, and considerably more. Every time during the demo that I thought we’d seen everything the game was going to have to show us, they revealed another layer to the gameplay. This is definitely one to watch.

Over at Topworld I saw a game called Scivelation (pronounced S-eye-velation; think Science Revelation). Well, I didn’t so much see the game as much as I saw a bunch of screens and static content. Not a lot to go on as it’s obviously nowhere near ready for primetime. The fact that I’m no particular fan of their previous game, Two Worlds II, doesn’t help. That said, the idea for a far-future dystopia, rendered using the Unreal 3D engine, in which an ongoing struggle between science and religion has all but destroyed the world has promise. You can play and switch between two different characters, one a run and gun ex-member of the Moscow resistance, the other a scientist defector from the oppressive government known as The Regime. This is a stealth-based character that uses scientific knowledge to overcome obstacles. Topware insists every level of the game will allow you to complete it using either path. They weren’t willing to talk about character development and skills, but did say there would be a variety of ways to build up both characters and that not all skills would be dependent on combat. Look for more on this one at GamesCon.

Finally, there’s Paradox. I never played the original Crusader Kings, but I’m hooked on the prospect of Crusader Kings II, which is due next January. Think Game of Thrones, with all its different houses and lineages, brought to a Crusades-era European setting. You deal with religious conflicts, other lords, family trees, royal councils, court intrigue, and considerably more from the look of it. As someone who was a huge fan of how Medieval: Total War presented royalty, nobles, and political appointments, this is something I’ll have to play.

E3 Quick Day Two Thoughts

No High Scores

Ok, I’m tired. Some quick hitters.

-Crusader Kings II looks tremendously satisfying. Can’t wait to see the preview build.

- I liked the King Arthur II demo as well and I think if they fix the campaign balance issues that it could be a hit.

- Skyrim I saw on the 360. Looked cool. Hey did you play Oblivion? Then you sorta know where this one is going.

- I saw a bunch of dudes shooting other dudes in Rage. Kiosk was too crowded to get in a session.

-I still have XCOM concerns. The action sequences still look…uninspired. It is more rpg than I expected, which is good. There is just something about the game that isn’t clicking with me yet.

-the best game demo I saw at the show today was for Prey 2. Yep. Prey 2. I know! Crazy, right?