I went up to town (note for non brits: ‘up to town’ means ‘to London’ if you live in the Home Counties*) for the Eurogamer Expo on Friday. It was great to touch base with some bloggers and podcasters I really admire – here’s the shout out to Van Hemlock, Shuttler, and dmosbon (and please leave comments for links to anyone else, ‘fraid I was a bit foggy with whatever mild lurgy I’ve had over the last few days.)
It was also the first time in many years that I’ve been to a computer consumer exhibition. And boy have they changed! One thing that hasn’t changed is the ratio of men to women among the punters. When I arrived at the venue and joined the queue I estimated it as roughly 10000:1, later revised to about 150:1 when I was bored enough to start counting.
This particular expo was very much for gamers to come and try out new and upcoming games. The main floor of the exhibition was filled with huge widescreen monitors, several of which were assigned to each game demo. People were being quite polite about moving on after their 10-15 mins was up so there was plenty of opportunity to check the games out. Upstairs were the indie games, and booths for devs, along with cubicles where people could get advice on breaking into the industry (presumably having people pick over their portfolios). Then further up the meeting rooms where you could attend lectures. It’s a long long way from the computer expos I remember when I was a kid, full of stalls selling anything from hardware, consumables, software, just about anything remotely interesting to geeks, or plugging fanzines or bboards.
Anyway, the layout meant that all the non flash-bang-whizzo games content was relegated to the top of the hall, where it was easy to ignore them and most people did.
What Caught My Eye
It had never occurred to me before that console games were designed so that they were fun to watch even if you weren’t the person actually playing them. It was very noticeable that the PC games just weren’t that eyecatching from a distance.
Most standout for me was God of War 3, where I (with many many others) was staring open mouthed at the ultra-crazy and over the top stunts, so it wins my whizz-bang award. Also gave me my best laugh of the show – I was watching the main character have a big fight with a centaur. At the end, the hero slashes the centaur’s stomach and all the guts spill out, gratuitously. After a moment’s pause from the crowd, I heard a plummy voice behind me comment, “Oh how absolutely awesome.”
But when I’d blinked the virtual gore and explosions away from my eyes, it was Uncharted 2 that held my attention for the longest. Even when I wasn’t the person playing the game, I thought it was absolutely spellbinding. I’ve not seen a game that made me think so much of actually playing through a Bond movie. The other thing I noticed, just from watching, is how brilliant the storytelling is in that game. I saw a segment (from near the beginning, I think), where our hero has been in a train where the front two coaches have gone over a cliff and he has to climb up them onto solid ground. I don’t know how hard that was to play (it looked vaguely platformish, with some running, jumping, and swinging) but the game made it feel like a very exciting cliffhanger action scene. My heart was in my mouth as I watched the carriages lurch as the character swung in through a carriage window.
It was also clear, even without sound, that the story was being told through flashbacks. I was just thoroughly impressed.
Also a sidenote to Army of Two because they gave me a free T-Shirt of swag+1.
PC Games of Note
I snuck a few minutes alone with the Star Trek Online demo and I’ll be writing up my impressions of that later this week. Dragon Age was also being displayed on both PC and PS3, and it looked very sleek indeed. I guessed immediately which screen showed Dragon Age because all the characters were covered in a fine speckle of blood.
The indie games were fun and weird and different and cool, which is pretty much what you want to see. They were also much more likely to have some of the dev team turn up to chat to players about the game and where they were going with it.
Particularly eye catching for me were:
(*Geek Aside: Looking at that map of the Home Counties, I’m reminded of the Golden Circle of shadows closest to Amber.)