E3 2014

June 28, 2014 | 6:00 a.m.

Nintendo keeps the video game industry weird

The courses are as crazy as ever in "Mario Kart 8," including one in an airport. (Nintendo)
THE PLAYER In late May, Mario and Luigi were sitting on a couch on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” Not the real Mario and Luigi — they aren’t real, of course — but caricatures of the Nintendo brand icons. The joke that afternoon was that the famous video game duo were not brothers but were, in reality, gay. Their true relationship had remained a secret, revealed only after an online campaign forced Nintendo to apologize for not including same-sex marriage in its just released game “Tomodachi Life.” You can, however, create a character in your likeness — a Mii, in Nintendo parlance — or the likeness of your boss or your ex or Daenerys Targaryen, and you can write them an opera song that is an ode to gay marriage. They will also fall in and out of love, sometimes with […]
June 21, 2014 | 9:00 a.m.

E3 2014: Games that make a play for diversity

"Murasaki Baby" wants players to hold hands with a digital character. (Ovosonico)
THE PLAYER Is it possible to hold hands with a video game character? That is, in many ways, a ridiculous question, but is one posed by the developers of “Murasaki Baby.” Players are asked to guide an infant through a world fashioned out of a childhood nightmare, where safety pins are transformed into deadly birds and wooden ducks are one’s last refuge. “Murasaki Baby” isn’t the next big thing. A small team in northern Italy from a company called Ovosonico is putting the finishing touches on the game with ambitions to reshape the way we connect with virtual characters. But it’s not exactly a fringe title either — Sony will publish it this fall for the company’s touchscreen-enabled PlayStation Vita. The game does, however, emphasize fragility in an industry that broadcasts machismo. Two or three years ago, a game in […]
June 12, 2014 | 12:06 p.m.

E3 2014: ‘Ori and the Blind Forest’ finds a challenge in sadness

Mysterious, fairy tale-like creatures are found in "Ori and the Blind Forest." (Moon Studios / Microsoft Studios)
After spending the better part of four years working on the pensive fairy tale “Ori and the Blind Forest,” Thomas Mahler was relieved to reveal it at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). Now he just hopes people don’t think it’s “artsy-fartsy.” The “Ori” trailer makes a play for gamers’ hearts. A mystical, spritely little creature falls from the heavens, landing near a furry and plump bear-like animal with a softly glowing face. This is Ori’s mother, and we watch as the little guy, Ori, is raised in a fantasy forest straight out of a Hayao Miyazaki film. All seems idyllic until a monster of an owl enters the picture. Lightning flashes, the owl takes thunderous steps toward Ori and we catch glimpses of Ori bounding around the forest with light-footed quickness. What happens next in the teaser could bring on the tears. […]
June 11, 2014 | 11:36 a.m.

E3 2014: ‘Star Wars,’ ‘Battlefield’ developer makes character push

Early concept art for a new "Mirror's Edge" game. (Dice)
Electronic Arts studio DICE is best known for its “Battlefield” games, titles that have sought to hone the video game art of humans destroying other humans. Today, however, the Stockholm-based studio is deep into the development of some of its most ambitious projects in its decade-plus existence, including a new “Star Wars” game, and studio principal Karl Magnus Troedsson says the company is starting to grapple with bigger topics. In working on a sequel to its 2008 game “Mirror’s Edge,” a futuristic thriller in which its female protagonist Faith is always on the run, DICE is using the time away from its multiplayer-focused “Battlefield” to create a more character-driven-story. “DICE is perhaps not that well known for games with a strong character. In ‘Battlefield,’ it’s usually a bunch of guys. Multiplayer has very little focus on character,” says Troedsson, DICE’s VP and group general manager. “We are very intrigued with […]
June 11, 2014 | 7:00 a.m.

E3 2014: The iam8bit exhibit goes way beyond the future of video gaming

Amanda White, left, and Jon M. Gibson are curators of the current iam8bit exhibition, "The Future of Gaming."
With the Electronic Entertainment Expo in town through Thursday, there’s lots of media attention focused on what’s next in video games. None of it, however, involves a man sporting vintage virtual reality headgear while being held to a chair by a mechanical cat. That vision is hanging on the wall at Echo Park’s video game consulting firm-art gallery iam8bit. The Sunset Boulevard storefront space on Tuesday launched an exhibit dubbed “The Future of Gaming,” which features 13 works that see artists interpreting the dreams — or sometimes nightmares — of noted game designers. Participating developers include Warren Spector of “Deus Ex” fame, “Grim Fandango” creator Tim Schafer and a co-founder of the local studio thatgamecompany, Kellee Santiago. The kid-friendly exhibit even features some of those making a splash at E3 this week, including Insomniac Games chief Ted Price, whose company’s […]
June 10, 2014 | 11:19 a.m.

E3 2014: Nintendo tips new ‘Zelda’ and wacky squid-shooter ‘Splatoon’

An early look at Nintendo's Wii U entry into "The Legend of Zelda." (Nintendo)
Nintendo, amid the news Tuesday of new games coming to its Wii U console for its beloved “Zelda” and “Star Fox” franchises, took a bold step away from tradition. Princess Peach, the oft-kidnapped damsel in distress at the core of its “Super Mario Bros.” series, received an apology. “Hey, look, I’m sorry about kidnapping you 80+ times, but my bad,” said a cartoonish, clay-like rendition of Nintendo’s main villain Bowser. Peach said nothing, offering the sullen bad guy little more than a cold shoulder as she swiped his last doughnut. Bowser’s response to such non-regal behavior? “I deserved that.” Who can blame her? One of Nintendo’s most formidable characters, with a jumping and gliding ability most of her non-dinosaur male pals could never muster, Peach has often been relegated to the role of the hostage. Yet time and time again over the course of a […]
June 10, 2014 | 7:30 a.m.

E3 2014: Game developer Ready at Dawn rolls the dice with ‘The Order: 1886′

A scene from the video game, "The Order: 1886." (Ready at Dawn)
There is no hiding from the flat-screen TVs in the Irvine offices of video game studio Ready at Dawn. With the workplace blinds shuttered, even a sunny morning finds employees’ faces lit by little more than a digital glow. These dozen-plus TVs were essentially high-definition clocks, each of them counting down a series of deadlines leading to this week’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in downtown Los Angeles. At E3, Ready at Dawn’s Dickensian-looking fantasy game “The Order: 1886″ will stand before an estimated 45,000 industry luminaries, journalists and retailers, and its demos and trailers will be poked, prodded and analyzed. E3 may present a make-or-break moment for the small Orange County studio of 130 employees and its still-in-development game. The conference will set the tone, one of either anticipation or indifference, for the months between now and the game’s Feb. […]
June 10, 2014 | 7:00 a.m.

E3 2014: ‘Alien: Isolation’ invents powerful heroine in Amanda Ripley

The alien is an "unstoppable force" in "Alien: Isolation." (Creative Assembly / Sega)
There was one primary rule given to players who settled in for a demo of Sega’s upcoming game “Alien: Isolation”: Do not try to kill the alien. “Alien: Isolation,” due this October for most major consoles, takes its inspiration directly from Ridley Scott’s 1979 landmark space film, which introduced audiences to the menacing, H.R. Giger-designed creature. The ultimate goal of the game, its writers and designers say, is simply to stay one step ahead of the monster, which cannot be outrun or eliminated. “What we have thought throughout the project is that this is an homage to the original movie, where the alien is unstoppable,” said Will Porter, one of the writers on the game being developed by Creative Assembly. “The alien is death. From that, that’s where the game play comes from. That’s where the tension comes from. It gives it a different feeling from […]
June 10, 2014 | 6:00 a.m.

E3 2014: Video game industry hopes to dazzle average consumers

The E3 flag flies over the Los Angeles Convention Center where the E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) will get underway in Los Angeles,  (Michael Nelson / EPA)
The Los Angeles Kings may have vacated Staples Center for New York’s Madison Square Garden this week, but the blocks surrounding the arena have been replaced with a level of testosterone that not even the NHL can muster. Cloaked assassins, military tough guys and a fantasy knight have taken control of the neighboring Los Angeles Convention Center and beyond. All that aggressive advertising can herald only one thing: The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) has once again landed in Los Angeles. North America’s largest video game trade show, one that pumps $45 million into the local economy, never makes a modest entrance. “The future begins,” is E3′s slogan for 2014, and the 45,000 registrants will ensure at least that the future is hyped. Less than eight months after Sony and Microsoft each released new consoles, this year’s E3 will step away […]
June 09, 2014 | 3:31 p.m.

E3 2014: ‘Star Wars: Battlefront 3′ video hypes emotion, not gameplay

starwars
A new trailer for the long anticipated “Star Wars: Battlefront 3″ finally arrived Monday during a video presentation during Electronic Arts’ Electronic Entertainment Expo news conference held at the Shrine Auditorium & Expo Hall in Los Angeles. The video (see above) features an inside look detailing the effort put forth by programmers and artists from Stockholm-based game developer DICE in crafting the latest big-budget “Star Wars” game. The EA-backed crew traveled to the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum to get an up-close look at the props used in the movies — including speeder bikes and blasters, as well as R2-D2. They then headed to the original movie locations to, as DICE’s Niklas Fegraeus states in the voice-over, “not just capture the environments, but the emotions they evoke as well.” The trailer shows little in the way of actual gameplay, relying heavily […]
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