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E3 2012: Notes from Day 1

Our Moving Pixels crew explores day one at the famed E3, checking out a host of new independent games, as well as some new PlayStation and Xbox titles. Even more of the flavor of day one is available in the podcast for the event.

It's my first E3, so seeing the massive spectacle itself was strange. Almost everything about the show is loud: the colors, the music, the people. Being on the show floor, surrounded by thousands of people who are there to celebrate and profit off of the medium creates a strange manic energy. While everyone says they are there to have a great time, there is a lot of business being done.

What made the day even stranger was my relatively open schedule. Jorge and I booked most of our appointments for Wednesday and Thursday, which left us with a strange amount of unstructured time. A fair amount of this time was spent waiting in various lines, but the lack of structure also let us stumble on a few less-trafficked parts of the show and also get a sense of some of E3's less tangible qualities. Here are some highlights as well as a podcast covering the day's events

Indies at E3

Nestled between two of the major display halls was the IndieCade expo. In the middle of the corporate maelstrom, the organization was highlighting a few upcoming and recently released independent games.

Scale: A first-person game in which you can grow and shrink objects in the environment, Alice in Wonderland style. Shrinking and enlarging blocks allows you to depress hard to reach switches, or enlarge platforms in order to make jumps. Enlarging items requires fuel that is mined from shrinking items, creating see-saw dynamic of shrinking and blowing up in order to traverse environments. Very entertaining, even at this early stage.

A Valley Without Wind: A very hard game to describe, but one built for folks who like a challenge. It's a 2D, sidescrolling roguelike with attacks and spells reminiscent to Diablo-style hack and slashers. It's worlds are procedurally generated and your world becomes inhabited by the ghosts of your former characters (who then set out to attack you). It has been out for a couple months now and the developers are constantly rolling out new changes based on veteran and new community member experiences.

Coalesce: An iPad game that combines the speed of Flight Control with the aesthetic of Osmos. You guide different colored orbs along paths to connect them with like colors. Accidental different-color collisions cause the orbs to burst, thereby causing more work for you. It also supported multitouch, which was a good way to test your dexterity or play with a friend.

Motion on the floor

I've never been fully sold on the move towards non-tradition console controls. I had a chance to revisit the PlayStation Move and Xbox 360 connect with Datura and NBA Baller Beats, respectively.

Datura is a first-person exploration game that struck me as what Myst would have been like if you could move around freely. When it comes to gestures, the usual suspects made an appearance: smashing pieces of the environment, lifting things and brushing away obstacles. The game's ambiance was mysterious, even amid the bustling expo floor, but the motion controls left me wanting an analog stick for simple maneuvers like turning around or running.

I wanted to see NBA Baller Beats for the 360 it claimed to use a real basketball as part of the game. This interested me because it contradicted Microsoft's soft rule against props for Kinect games. It's a rhythm game built around dribbling a basketball to the beat of pop songs. Similar to dance central, the game gives you prompts to execute certain tricks like dribbling between your legs and faking a pass. It's not the most apartment or carpet-friendly game, but it reinforces the notion that motion games are best suited to the party and exercise game genres.

Finally, I had a brief demo of Pikmin 3 for the WiiU. I had been waiting to touch the new controller since last year's E3, and was pleasantly surprised by how comfortable is was to hold. Neither heavy nor flimsy, it also felt quite ergonomic. It looks boxy, but its molding felt akin to the GameCube controller. The touch screen sensitivity was another point of worry and I'm still not completely sold. It felt more responsive than the DS screen, but less so than an iPhone or even some Android phones. I'm not sure if it's a reactive or capacitive screen, but I'm a bit worried that it won't be responsive enough to accommodate fast inputs or action games to alleviate lag issues.

As for Pikmin itself: it looks great, but there were some key changes from the previous games that will take some getting used to. The ability to maneuver your group of Pikmin with the anlog stick was gone, so throwing them was the only option. Aiming was accomplished solely with the motion sensors in the Wii and was disappointingly jittery. The Nintendo employee attending the booth reminded me that the game wasn't finished, but acknowledged that he had also noticed the changes from the last games. A fleeting look of worry, the kind that only a fan could get, flashed across his fans. I nodded in agreement, as the game is due out in the fall.

I imagine I'll be spending more time at Nintendo's booth, but not tomorrow: Day 2 is far more structured and is largely dedicated to big publishers whose presentations leave no wiggle room for employees to break message. I'll sleep tonight and prepare to transition from wandering the wilderness to running a gauntlet.

Please visit PopMatters' Facebook page to check out a larger, high res gallery of images from E3 Day 1 from Daniel Boczarski.

Please visit PopMatters' Facebook page to check out a larger, high res gallery of images from E3 Day 2 from Daniel Boczarski.

Please visit PopMatters’ Facebook page to check out a larger, high res gallery of images from E3 Day 3 from Daniel Boczarski.

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