Thursday, August 26, 2010

Gamescom 2010

Thanks to the fine people of Task Force Innovatie Utrecht I got to see this year’s gamescom and GDC Europe. And what I got was more information on games than one can handle, so I’ll try to put what stuck to my mind most into few paragraphs, combined with some photos.

I’ll start with the organization of the gamescom fair, which was excellent. The daily ticket also included a train ticket for the same day, combined with the city’s train system, made getting to the fair a breeze. Quarter of million people flooded the Cologne exhibition center, yet I never felt that it was too crowded. However, I did have to wait in line for quite a bit in front the booths of most games, except the teen rated ones.

The first thing I noticed; German players seem to be big on the MMO games and games featuring dragons and monsters in general, so naturally plethora of those were being showcased. My personal favorite was Torchlight II. It has the same unique visual style of the first game, while removing many of the annoyances of its predecessor. Moving on to the next hall...

Two trends that were predominant on the fair and can give a glimpse of what is in store for the next year or so, were motion controllers and 3D. Nintendo has been ruling the sales with the Wii, largely due to its motion controller, the Wiimote. This holiday season, both Kinect for the Xbox 360 and Move for the PlayStation are coming out. The two new devices and completely different and both have their pros and cons.

The PlayStation Move is a more traditional controller and somewhat similar to the Wii remote. The main controller has the usual PlayStation buttons including a trigger. It tracks motion and rotation over all axes independently and it feels quite accurate but in some games there is an annoying lag between the input move and the reaction on screen. Most of the games shown that were using the new controller were casual games made especially to take advantage of motion input. My personal favorite was on on-rail shooter that actually had similar gameplay to Duck Hunt for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) from 1984. On the other hand, the serious games using the PlayStation Move, like Killzone 3 and SOCOM 4, worked perfectly fine without it.

The Xbox 360’s Kinect takes a whole different approach by removing the controller all the way. The Kinect allows the Xbox 360 to do a full motion capture of two players in real-time, using a whole array of sensors including an infrared projector. We have all seen that after some time with the Wiimote everyone learns how to fake a move and do it with least amout of effort . Kinect on the other hand tracks the movement of the whole body in space, so you really have to jump around to make things happen in the game. I had lots of fun playing Kinect Adventures!, Kinect Sports and even Dance Central; and if you have seen me dance you would know I not exacltythe dancing type. All of the Kinect demos were done in a protected bubble, so my main concern is the ability if the sensor to handle distractions and noise. There could be people moving in the background, dog running if front of you legs or simply having a table in the living room.

3D was a big topic on the GDC and lots of games were shown in 3D later at the gamescom; even Halo Reach was playable in 3D. Crysis looked great in 3D and the effect had been carefully balanced to add to gameplay rather than just serving as an eye-candy. Sony bring full support for 3D TV screens to the PlayStation over the HDMI 1.4 standard. But even with Nvidia’s crystal clear 3D Vision my eyes get tired and headache might follow. So I'll just say that I can’t wait to see Wipeout HD in 3D. I bet this time around they can bring up seizures even to people without epilepsy.

Regardless of the upcoming technical novelties coming in the next year, I am personally most exited about upcoming games that focus on fun gameplay, like Portal 2, Little Big Planet 2 and hopefully and plethora of good Indie games like Limbo and Burn Zombie Burn!