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The Black Hole of E3

May 11th, 2006 by Troy Goodfellow · 12 Comments · Uncategorized

E3 is the biggest gaming event of the year even when nothing happens. So when two new consoles are introduced, its gravitational pull is enough to obliterate all other gaming news in the immediate vicinity.

Take the release of Big Huge Games’ Rise of Legends, one of the games that I’ve been most looking forward to playing. It was released earlier this week, so the net should already have half a dozen reviews. I should know what Jason Ocampo and Dan Adams think of this new game.

So what do we have?

Tom Chick’s opinion at Yahoo Games. Sure, he’s a valuable opinion (even though, in this case, the text and score don’t quite match up for me) but so far the only one.

You’ll notice few other reviews or analysis outside of the E3 coverage. Actually, precious little analysis inside the E3 coverage for that matter. There’s no point in complaining, but it does make me wonder why anyone would release a AAA title this close to the convention. Early buzz can make a huge difference in game sales and, despite its provenance, Rise of Legends hasn’t dominated discussion boards the way that Oblivion did. So it could certainly use the push of positive reviews from Gamespot, Gamespy or IGN.

Even though I’ve never been to E3, I’m fairly sure that it deserves blanket coverage of some sort. Very little of the coverage so far has been much beyond reporting what has been seen and said. The sensory overload of blaring speakers, crowded display floors and still quite a bit of flesh doesn’t provide an environment conducive to serious thinking about what is going on. It must make it that much more difficult to focus on things outside the convention altogether.


12 Comments so far ↓

  • Johnny Pi

    Definitely a bad move releasing a game at E3 time.

    On the other hand, my excitement for Rise of Legends died when I played that first demo, the one with blocky, ugly graphics and two frames per second. They did release another demo to fix those problems, but I just haven’t had the itch to try again.

  • Troy Goodfellow

    My enthusiasm for RoL has waned a bit, too. And Tom’s review did only a little to assuage the concerns that the original demo raised.

    GoGamer had it on sale, though, so I’ve ordered it in any case.

  • Ken Wootton

    You have to wonder about any company that would release a game this week. It’s such a bone-headed move, you have to wonder how they get anything else right.

    Like Johnny, I didn’t revisit the demo when they re-released it. My excitement is still fueled by Rise of Nations, however. It was a fantastic game. I gave them the benefit of the doubt.

    I also took advantage of the GoGamer sale. Mine won’t show up until Monday. Want to beat on me in multiplayer?

  • rob funk

    I tend to agree with Ken. Releasing it this week was retarded. I am planning on maybe picking it up next week during the Circuit City sale (34.95).

  • Bruce

    ROL is one of the most inscrutable games I have ever played. It’s a very time-consuming game to review, and I look forward to numerous dashed-off reviews on various websites which will describe the game without ever analyzing it, simply because there is so much to it. ROL is one of the few computer games that could be the subject of serious game design analysis, but I think the actual analysis is going to be left to the forum posters who find imbalances in multiplayer. I must have played ten games with the Alim before I realized you could upgrade your mines at the Sand Spire (and needed to do this early). Each race not only has differing abilities, but these abilities are distributed differently among various structure types, making unit and building combinations difficult to appreciate. The interface is great, but in order to use it properly you have to internalize a couple dozen hotkeys. It’s a serious strategy gamer’s RTS game in almost every way.

    But I wonder how much this matters. I think it’s telling that a major theme of Tom’s review is that the unique mythology is not especially compelling, because in the end, I think this is far more important than the range of gameplay mechanics. As uninspired thematically as it is, GalCiv 2 might actually be the more compelling game from a strategy perspective, simply because there are so many ways to win and each requires a different focus. In ROL, the endgame is always about invading and conquering the other guy. Which buildings you use to do it doesn’t make much difference. In boardgames, I’m very aware of game mechanics and the flexibility to use them in different ways. It took me until ROL to realize how differently I experience this when playing a computer game.

  • Brian

    Isn’t it interesting that the video game media is so interested in what’s coming down the road that it totally neglects the games that are coming out NOW. Sure, it’s neat to see what games I’ll be playing a year from now. But, my interest in games is not driven by what I imagine myself playing.

    I’ve been looking all week to get some opinions on RoL. Almost a full week after its release and I’ve resorted to blog searches (how I stumbled into here) to see if it’s worth buying.

    How ironic is it that virtually no one is talking about RoL after all the buzz it had this time last year.

  • Troy Goodfellow

    Brian, I think you hit the nail on the head. The game (and movie) press is, in general, either living in the future, looking forward to the next big thing, or the past, through retrospectives on how things used to be.

    A lot of this is the nature of the gaming media. You can have endless previews but only a single review. You might get a strategy article or a post mortem. But that’s it.

    Television media tends to break this cycle because of the regular pattern of newness with an original episode every week or so. But entertainment media is centered on the upcoming release. E3 is the whole dark business magnified.

  • Bruce

    I also think that one of the reasons for the delay in reviews is that due to a print exclusive with PC Gamer, golds didn’t go out until very late – I think the day before the game hit store shelves. And then of course the next day was E3. The Yahoo review was an anomaly.

  • Troy Goodfellow

    I don’t get why they would embargo the reviews of this game. There was a lot of preview coverage in every venue and a magazine exclusive only really helps the magazine; I’ve never been clear on what the motivation is for game PR people to restrict coverage of their product.

    My copy is still not here.

  • gatmog

    I played through both demos, and have some thoughts here. I was similarly concerned about the lack of coverage for this major release.

    I have to agree with Tom Chick’s assessment of the new races – there isn’t much there that’s appealing enough to keep me playing. Perhaps the story in the campaign mode is good? While playing the demo I kept going back to the Battle for Middle Earth II. It definitely captures the essence of large battles while working within the conventions of RTS. I didn’t like how each skirmish in Rise of Legends began with an unusual amount of upgrading cities just to gain access to units that are worth attacking with.

    One other note: I’ve seen it here in the comments and in Tom Chick’s review, but isn’t it the “Alin”?

  • Troy Goodfellow

    Hey gatmog. Love your blog.

    AFAIK, it is Alin and not Alim.

    Brett Todd at Gamespot has given RoL a positive review, too, though the 7.6 score has some RoL fans ready to kill.

  • Bruce

    The game consistently misspells ‘Alim’ as ‘Alin.’ Pretty much everywhere it appears. Someone needs to fix that.