Electronic Arts EA Logo 234x234 Electronic Arts E3 Press Conference Overview

This is my first year attending any of the press conferences prior to E3, and the day started with the Electronic Arts conference at the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles.  After receiving the swag bag outside (a notepad and pen), I settled into a seat off to the side of the 4th row, about 20 feet from the speakers.  One thing I’ll say:  the Orpheum is absolutely gorgeous, if the seating is a tad cramped.

After a number of announcements the conference started off at 12:30 PM with a bang as we started seeing what appeared to be news reports on the small screen located on-stage.  It then split into two different screens, different news reports as a large screen came down from the ceiling with an ominous ‘Signal Lost’ which signaled the first game to be shown:  Mass Effect 3.

Casey Hudson, producer of the game, stepped out first to talk about the game, showing off a trailer called ‘The Fall of Earth’, detailing the Reavers’ invasion and conquering of the planet, then showing Shepherd leading a counter-offensive to stop them, which becomes all-out galactic war.  The trailer ended with the games’ release date of March 6, 2012.

He talked about the large scope of the third game in the trilogy, and how the decisions made in previous games would have huge repercussions in this one, although allowing new players to the franchise the ability to step into the Commander’s shoes to help reclaim the earth.  He then showed a live demo of the game which featured Shepherd attempting to call in some heavy artilery to bring down Reaper forces.  The demo featured some run and gun shooting as well as hand to hand combat with his biotics.

As he reaches the controls for the artillery, a huge … something .. shoots up out of the ground in a gorgeous cut scene.  It’s probably somewhere at least 50 feet high.  The demo then shifts to more run and gun shooting before it’s revealed that it’s actually a giant Reaper.  You end up at the controls of a large gun to attack it with as you’re trying to escape until it takes a huge hit from either a big gun or rocket.  It isn’t dead, however, and more shooting is involved before the demo goes to slow-motion, then fades to black.   It’s at this point that Casey mentions that this demo shows off the massive scale of some of the battles.  He then goes over the scope of the decisions in the series as well as the huge emotional impact before mentioning the trailer and more information is on Origin.com (a recurring theme of the presentation)J

John Riccitiello, CEO of EA comes out and brings up that they’ll be showing nine games from nine different developers.  The second game is immediately brought up, which is Need for Speed: The Run from Black Box Vancouver.  Jason DeLong is out to talk about the game.

At its core, NFS: The Run is a coast to coast illegal race from San Francisco to New York, a la Cannonball Run.   They talked about how important AutoLog was to the series, and how they were implementing it into this title, weaving it into the game’s story so that everything you do is tracked from it.  The next announcement was that for the first time Need for Speed would feature on-foot action, using the Frostbite 2 engine (also used by FIFA 12 and Battlefield 3).

They then show a live demo of The Run: Speedwall in Chicago with a mention of ‘The Mob is closing in’.  The race consists of trying to pass four other racers through Chicago at night.  One thing that struck me, though, was that with such an illicit race, why have race markers to outline the course?

About halfway through the race it switches to a cut-scene of a black car slamming into you from the side and knocking you out of the car.  The game then switches to the player running over roofs with use of QTEs (located at the bottom of the screen) for pivotal moments as you jump from roof to roof and then down to a fire escape just in time to land next to a dumpster with a cop car approaching.  After hiding from the cops, you sneak up and take one cop out with more QTE for the hand to hand and then steal the car.

The race then shifts to an ‘escape’ mode with a helicopter chasing you as well as other cars, which shows off some of the roadblocks and other road hazards which will be used to make things more difficult (and more course markers, of course).  Once you manage to make it out of the city, the helicopter takes out a tanker truck in front of you via a cut-scene, sending your car flying, flipping before you wake up upside-down in the car.  More QTE events get you loose at which point it’s revealed you’re on a train-track with a train fast approaching.  More QTE events get you out of the car just in time to avoid the train as the demo ends.

With a brief momentary pause, the overture for Star Wars breaks out to cheers as Dr. Greg (last name), CEO of Bioware comes out to talk about Star Wars: The Old Republic.  He talks about how immense the game is, how humbling it is to take the torch from LucasArts to create this game, the army of people working on it, and how it’s absolutely worth it.  He talks about all the things which will be shown at E3, including raids, hands-on game play, epic high-level boss battles and more.  He then says he isn’t going to try to talk us into playing it, or convince us, he justs asks us to play.

The third trailer is shown which shows a lot of the footage from the previous two trailers from both sides, outlining the fight between the Old Republic and the Empire, with new content added.  More focus is on ships this time, with many of the ship designs showing how they will influence the trademark ships of Star Wars, such as the Y-Wing, X-Wing, what might be a precursor to the Millenium Falcon, and what could be a precursor to the TIE Interceptor.  The trailer ends with another use of Duel of the Fates and then fades.

Smoke begins to fill the front of theater as well as on screen as mountains are shown, focusing in to show that this is the new trailer for SSX.  It shows a number of the popular characters from the series racing, doing tricks, and outrunning an avalanche by hooking onto a helicopter and using a parachute.  Real-world locations are highlighted including Alaska, the Himelayas and Patagonia before the trailer ends with the date of January 2012.

Peter Moore comes out to talk about EA Sports starting with SSX.  He brings up how they’re reinventing the series with the tagline of Defy Reality, Own the Planet.  They’re using satellite data to map every major mountain range on the planet for the game.  There are three play styles:  Race It, Trick It, and Survive It.  Ten characters are shown with the first two visible before the third flickers and becomes visible:  Kaori.  A new trailer for her is available up on Origin.com, and it’s mentioned that they will be revealing a new character before the end of E3 on their Facebook page.

FIFA 12 is up next, starting with the fact that FIFA 11 earned 51 awards, has had 1.3 billion online game sessions and over 42 million players across all platforms (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PC, Facebook and Smartphones).  To introduce FIFA 12 is Matt Bilbey, vice-president and GM of football for EA Sports.  He mentions that FIFA 12 is going to be the most authentic release of the game ever, including three new features:  Tactical Defending, Precision Dribbling and the Player Impact Engine (using the aforementioned Frostbite 2 engine), which showed off the very realistic movement of the players.  They then showed a video of people talking about FIFA and how it brings people together.  The video featured a number of professional soccer players as well as Chad Ochocinco, Lil Wayne and other celebrities.

Following this it went directly to Madden 12, with a Vince Lombardi lookalike talking about how important always being better was, and building up to talking about the Super Bowl while showing images of various NFL teams using the Madden image.  At the end of it, the right-hand side-screen started flashing and out walks Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens in full uniform, who talks about the importance of defense and how it brings victory.

The left-hand screen then started flashing and out walks cover athlete Peyton Hillis (also in full gear), talking about how important impact and clutch plays are, and how that can bring victory.  Then both screens started to pulse and out walks Clay Matthews Jr of the Green Bay Packers holding the Lombardi Trophy, talking about dynasties.  This led to Peter Moore bringing up some of Madden’s new features including a new collision system and defensive AI modeled on Ray Lewis, as well as the aforementioned Dynamic Player Performance.  August 30 is the launch date.

Afterwards, they introduced Curt Schilling from .38 Studios to talk about Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.  Again, a trailer was shown, highlighting a lot of the environmental aspects to the attacks.  He mentioned it was an open world led by Ken Rolston, Todd McFarlane and R.A. Salvatore.

Following this was a presentation on The Sims Social, a Facebook game with an accompanying video which seemed squarely aimed at late-teenaged girls.  Essentially it’s The Sims 3, but stripped down a bit, and you can invite people on your friends list to join you in the game (like every other Facebook game).  There really wasn’t much detail announced about it at the conference.

Overstrike from Insomniac Games was announced next by Ted Price, the CEO of the company.  This is a multiplatform game for Xbox 360 and PS3 which is set in the near future, following a team of four elite agents.  Their official name is Overstrike 9, but they’re more commonly called The Misfits, and feature a mercenary (very well written and voiced in the trailer), a thief (female, uses a lot of stealth and is rather vicious), a scientist (also female and young who uses some sort of expanding ammunition) and a detective (mentioned as being a pacifist, but he enjoys shooting the heck out of things, although with what appeared to be taser darts).

Finally, Karl Magnus Troedsson from DICE was out to show off Battlefield 3.  This presentation began with short clips of various combat actions with brief clips of the logo flashing between.  They showed a video which was all actual gameplay and really showed off the Frostbite 2 engine.  The way the game’s characters ran, slid, knelt or evefn reloaded their weapons was very realistic and fluid.   Also in the trailer were highlights showing that nearly everything is destructable to some degree, and the game’s engine allowed them to have huge scale from urban areas to large landscapes.  The quality of the animation, the video rendering and the auto was outstanding.

We then got a video of the multiplayer, which showed an infantry map in the center of Paris.  The soldiers fought in subways, on streets and underground.  You could also see pieces of buildings flying about from the various explosions and other sharpnel.

One new feature of Battlefield 3 is BattleLog, which seems almost like Autolog from Need for Speed, but tuned more for this game.  The multiplayer, multiplatform open beta starts in September.  After this was a live demo on a PC of a single-player area, which involved a tank battle in the open desert.  THis allowed them to show the controls being used as well as the various capabilities of the tank.  Again, the audio was outstanding as you could hear the pings of bullets hitting the tank’s armor while you were inside.

The game allows you to use both thermal imagery as well as a satellite link to lase targets, although it appears the game auto-switches you as the mission calls for it.  Again, Battlefield 3 comes out October 25.  Of course, EA did a heavy push of Origin.com throughout the event, which is where all of the trailers were available, as well as other information.

We should have information on these and other titles as E3 progresses, so stay tuned!