I’ve only ever been to PAX East during its inaugural year. It was a nerdgasm – cosplayers everywhere, amazing new games to try, sweet giveaways, and drinking with friends.

To me, E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo, don’tcha know) is like the Super Bowl of video game conferences. I’ve been an E3 spectator from afar for many, many years, and I’m always excited for these next 4 days hold.

You can watch a ton of livestreams of the press conferences, but we’ll be giving you our thoughts on the announcements after they happen. If you want the huge, in-the-moment coverage, go to the big sites. If you want to know what gamers think, come back here and join the conversation. I’m also going to try and organize a Google+ Hangout on Air or livestream wrap-up with the Gamentary crew. We’ll be talking the event up in a podcast too, hopefully this weekend.

Friday, 8:44 am – Ricky

Great Nintendo discussion yesterday. Gavin and I were chatting on IM and I’m off the mind that Wii U isn’t the console for me. However, Gavin mentioned Preezie and me checking out Skyword Sword last time we were over, and I’ll admit: Nintendo makes great games. Nintendo does, not their 3rd party partners, at least not for the Wii. I won’t purchase a console again to play 1 or 2 killer apps.

Speaking of “next generation”, I’m a huge Star Wars fan, and Star Wars 1313 looks incredible running on what is quite obviously PC tech that isn’t found in a home near you. The new title from Lucas Arts, Industrial Light & Magic, Lucasfilm Animation Ltd. and Skywalker Sound marks the first time all of these studios have come together to create a video game. This excites the hell out of me, as does the “original trilogy” look of the gameplay trailer. You play a bounty hunter on Coruscant, the city-planet that is home to the galactic government. There is no force, no Jedis, and no lightsabers, and you know what? I’m still super interested.

Check out the combined gameplay trailers here from E3.

Next up, Tomb Raider – a reboot of a classic franchise, and it looks amazing. Visually, it’s very, very sharp, with great lighting, environments, and sound tying together what looks like action-sequence-SETPIECE-action-sequence-SETPIECE gameplay.

I got into the Tomb Raider series on the PS1, but kind of abandoned the franchise until The Last Guardian released. I really enjoyed playing through that with Albert, and actually, we should look to finish it one day… Regardless, I’m ready for more Lara, especially now that even if she’s just moaning in agony all the time.

Hey, I’m not all about shooting people (or deer)! I have other gaming interests! Sometimes, I just want speed. You might even say that I have a need for it. I most want this need for speed to lead to … ah, screw it.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted is the new title from Criterion. Despite reusing the name, it’s definitely nailed down the right sense of speed and excitement. Mixing the mechanics of Hot Pursuit and Burnout Paradise, we end up with a wide open city where you’re getting chased by cops, finding secret paths, and racing in the streets. Multiplayer sounds very interesting too – players join a lobby, and then they must travel to a set area where the race or event will begin. Once it’s over, a new area is set in the city, and players must collect together there to start the next race. It gives off a cool “Fast and the Furious” vibe.

I want to wrap-up with a couple of videos about two big Ubisoft titles, one set for this year for sure, the other without a date, but a lot of hype.

Assassin’s Creed 3 – I spoke about it on Tuesday this week, but here’s the gameplay video. Really great combat sequences, as expected, and the small towns really feel alive as you walk around. Can’t wait to finish off Revelations, if only to be fully prepared for this. Oh, and there’s naval combat too – I’m not a history buff, but I’m told there was a bit of naval stuff during the civil war, and since I use the Internet for entertainment purposes only, I’ll leave it to you to decide whether or not that’s correct.

You know what they did? They got rid of Michael Ironside.

That’s right, Ironside is no longer the iconic voice of Sam Fisher. Instead, we get Eric Johnson, a Canadian that needs to down a couple pints of turpentine to get that proper gruff and gravelly voice. Oh, we also get a petitions to bring back Ironside.

Regardless of who voices Sam, he’s going to be killing terrorists and saving the world in Splinter Cell: Blacklist, so Ubisoft showed off some gameplay to that effect. It looks like it’s more action-oriented, like Conviction, but assurances on Twitter and from studio members guarantee stealth will play a role. One “in the know” fellow (I believe he’s a Ubi developer) on Shacknews:

If you think [Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory was the pinnacle of the SC games], you’ll really enjoy Blacklist.

That’s pretty strong, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt until I see more. Here’s the E3 gameplay vid.

We’re recording a podcast tonight with our thoughts on E3 (and probably some Diablo 3), so check the POD! cast tab on Monday for our full thoughts.

Thursday, 3:18pm – Gavin

I must plead ignorance on the DS games as I’ve never played one.

As for the tablet, I’d be intrigued to see if every single Wii-U game will require the use of the tablet.  If they force it into every single game (as opposed to just a blank screen or a generic “Nintendo” screen while you’re playing), then I can reasonably see it getting overdone.  However, without having played a single Wii-U game with it, I can’t tell if I’m going to love it and want it in everything, or hate it and want to commit seppuku.

One of the big problems of the Wii was that while the 360 and PS3 controllers had two analogue sticks, a directional pad, eight buttons and multiple administrative buttons, the Wii had one analogue stick, a directional pad, six buttons, and only one administrative button, and that button did precisely one thing – bring you back to the home screen.  The remaining functions that the Wii controllers lacked compared to the more conventional 360 and PS3 controllers needed to be covered by motion control.

However, this is not the case with the Wii-U tablet.  It has all of the same functionality as the conventional 360 and PS3 controllers, with the added gyroscope/accelerometer.  I further strongly suspect that Microsoft and Sony won’t change their controllers too much.  The PS3 controller fits right into Sony’s brand and legacy, and the 360 controller is basically ergonomic perfection as far as handheld controllers go these days.  As such, I’m doubting they’ll make too many changes that will leave Nintendo in last generation’s dust.

The tablet screen could prove to be an extra, not 100% required for functionality in each game.  To that end, the additional controller that looks like a conventional 360 controller, I don’t think that’s required as it has the exact same functionality as the tablet, minus the screen – I strongly suspect that it will be an ergonomic choice, rather than a supplementary requirement.

As for third party applications, Nintendo would not likely outsource that kind of hardware/software relationship to any third party.  But that’s hardly a Nintendo thing – of course Microsoft and Sony wouldn’t do that either, for very obvious competitive reasons.  But further, they would never risk alienating any part of the population that doesn’t have a smartphone or device capable of running applications.

We can only hope that Nintendo cops on and that this system can handle something more than 480p.  I won’t say that the bare minimum should be 1080p, because enough people who bought TVs five years ago or older have ones that actually can’t hit 1080p (like mine, and I have no intention of replacing it for a long time).  But 720p is the really the bare minimum, or it should be these days.  Not that I personally care about graphics, as I have a PC for that kind of thing, and as gamers, we all know that gameplay trumps graphics 100% of the time, always has and always will.  However, if you want to achieve the kind of commercial success that you achieved last time, you need to be able to appeal to people who place a lot of emphasis on the visual aesthetic, and not force your games into a particular art style so that the hardware deficiencies aren’t as rampant as they were with, say, the difference between the 360 and Wii version of COD: Modern Warfare.

Thursday, 1:30pm – matt

yes Gavin the tablet could be beneficial in small doses, but so is a touchscreen and look how ridiculous DS games became because developers “had to use the touch screen”, so similarly i see them over using the tablet. While there are certainly game genres that could use an additional screen like adventure or rpg games, i feel there are more that don’t like sports, action, or music/party games, and to base the controller around an idea that works some of the time seems over blown. I can’t wait for the grad theft auto sequence where I get to look at he tablet to pick lock on cars and fondle stripper breasts with the touch screen.

but I guess they figured it all out by once again releasing a more traditional extra controller to buy. thanks nintendo. hey did they figure out High Definition televisions are actually going to stick around this time or did they stick with good old RCA cables?

I would have been much more impressed if Nintendo figured out an iPhone or Android app that could act as a secondary screen. but no one thinks of good ideas anymore…

Thursday, 11:00am – Gavin

I can see definite potential for the tablet. It can make menu systems substantially more palatable. When Ricky and Preezie came over to my place to see Zelda: Skyward Sword in action, one of the first comments that came up was “holy crap, that screen is really cluttered”. By shifting some of the stuff you use less frequently to a second screen, it frees up the main screen for action and landscapes. I think it would be an error to put too much stuff on the tablet screen that requires frequent checking or interaction – i.e. a health bar – but things like a map, objective list, timer, or hint system (specifically thinking of Skyward Sword here) would work really well on the tablet’s screen. If I can think of things like that in twenty seconds, rest assured that the developers can come up with many ways to make it useful, but more importantly, intuitive.

Wednesday, 10:15 pm – matt

So Ricky believes Nintendo will be suffering the same fate of Sega? While I’ve written about the demise of Sega on several occasions, the two long standing rivals are starting to share some haunting similarities. and despite my lifelong allegiances to the big N (I mean holy crap, I was 3 years old when I was first exposed to the NES when it launched…) I don’t hold a lot of hope…

Nintendo seems focused on delivering the weirdest, most unique methods of interacting with a videogame console, and I don’t think its going to work out. I don’t understand the point of a tablet for gaming, to strip down the screen of the H.U.D just to put it on a tablet that will avert my eyes from the action occurring on screen doesn’t excite me too much. Actually it doesn’t excite me at all.

I didn’t catch very much of the show, just mostly stuff for my beloved vita which wasn’t very much, but what I have seen seems promising. Ricky’s treated us to nice videos of the two bigger games from the show so thank you for that.

Wednesday, 2:14 pm – Albert

Wow! It’s been quite a busy week with work so I’ve been a little M.I.A on one of the biggest gaming shows of the year. Makes me a Saaaaadddd Panda.

What makes me a Happy Panda is what I have seen. The videos that Ricky has posted of Last of Us and Watch Dogs have left me salivating for more! They look incredible. I’m not sure which one I enjoyed more, but I am looking forward to seeing them being released.

As for Nintendo, I have never been a big fan, so my bias is obvious. I did tune into the Press Conference once Ricky linked it to me and I just watched a family play on the Balance Board for 10 minutes before resorting to other things. I have a Balance Board. It’s collecting dust somewhere in my apartment. I’m clearly not the target market, I don’t have kids (that I know of) and I use games to relax, not jump around or exercise. (The “Dad” was crying about his abs hurting so I knew that game was not for me).

Either way, I have lots of catching up to do and I’ll be back to share what I’ve found interesting! So far, Last of Us is at the top for me, brick throwing FTW!

**I’ve also just bought X-Com – Ufo Defense on steam to gain more excitement for when UFO Enemy Unknown releases… worth it! **

Wednesday, 11:42 am – Gavin

I’m not going to say that I agree with Ricky, because I absolutely don’t. Nintendo is a powerhouse and people have been predicting its death for 15 years. Nintendo will continue to survive. We have to remember that North America might be the huge market for Microsoft and Sony, but Nintendo flourishes in Japan and east Asia, where children are given a Nintendo DS to enjoy while they’re in the womb.

That said, despite my massive Nintendo fanboyism, their press conference didn’t exactly set the world on fire. New Super Mario Brothers Wii was fun, but it was enough of a nostalgia trip for that type. It’s hard to go back to a 2D Mario after the sheer brilliance that was Mario Galaxy and Mario Galaxy 2. I understand why they decided that New Super Mario Brothers U would be the launch title – it’s easy to produce, and it will sell well. But it’s a bit disappointing for me. Doubly disappointing was the focus on New Super Mario Brothers 2 for the 3DS – again, not that it’s going to be a bad game; just that we’ve seen it already.

I know that I’m not going to be the target market for every second of a company’s press conference, but I don’t care about mobile gaming. Not that the 3DS isn’t a good system, or the Vita, or any other handheld system that may come along, but I’m not going to buy a mobile system. So I basically tuned out for anything 3DS.

As far as releasing Mass Effect 3 for the Wii, I don’t care. I already have a 360. I don’t expect that every single person out there will have multiple consoles, even if I do, but I’m only speaking for myself. Firstly, if I wanted to play ME3, I’d play it on the 360, where it will cost me $20 less than it will when it’s newly released on the Wii-U. Secondly, if I wanted to play ME3, I’d play it now, not in six months when the Wii-U comes out.

I further don’t care about NintendoLand. I hate multiplayer. My requirement for multiplayer is that I require the ability to punch the other player within an hour of having played the game. I like single player games. I deal with enough people in my daily life; a game that is crafted around multiplayer (or where it’s a heavy focus) will rarely catch my interest as much as a solid single player game.

Continuing, I don’t care about dance games, singing games, and fitness games. I don’t like dancing because I’m white, I don’t like singing games because Rock Band came out many years ago, and no singing game released since then has made any substantial improvement on that game, and I don’t like fitness games because I have a bike and a membership to the gym.

I think that there is tremendous potential with the Wii-U. The tablet presents tremendous opportunity, and I get a funny feeling in my pants when I think of the tablet’s potential in a Metroid Prime game. I’ve always said that we’re beyond the point where graphics make or break a game, so I’m not concerned about the graphical capabilities of the Wii-U. However, I think of the graphical possibilities with a Mario Galaxy, Zelda, or Metroid game, and I smile. I honestly think that the peripherals and software will make or break this system, not the console hardware itself, which is what I believe hurt the 360 (RROD, anyone?).

The Wii was a slow burn at first. The launch titles for the Wii were mediocre at best, but it still went on to absolutely obliterate the PS3 and 360. Once the developers are comfortable with the capabilities (and limitations) of the console, we’ll see the real software come out (think Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime 3, MadWorld, No More Heroes, etc). In addition to the first-party IP, I’m really looking forward to seeing what they can do with Aliens: Colonial Marines. The buzz several months ago was that the tablet would be used as a motion sensor à la Aliens. Come on, that’s outstanding.

Zombi-U looks like a blast, but I’d need to know that I wouldn’t get bored of it quickly. I will wait for reviews before hazarding a guess about whether or not the tablet integration is a novelty. I’m willing to extend the benefit of the doubt to Metroid Prime because I can reasonably see the integration being awesome, like discovering a set of boobs of your wiener.

I’m not worried about the Wii-U. I think it will be a terrific system. I just happen to think that their presentation at E3 was mediocre, if not poor. You could absolutely hear it in the crowd’s reaction too – the biggest pop during the entire thing came when we saw that Mario would have the raccoon’s tail in NSMBWU. I get that it’s difficult to amp things up when half of your show is translated on the spot, and you have two voices going at the same time, and the translator is doing his absolute best not to take away from Mr. Miyamoto, but it’s a live show, guys. You can do better.

Let me also say that I don’t give a crap about the “Xbox glass” that was being touted. I honestly don’t care. I don’t care about social media integration. Maybe I’ll find it interesting, possibly even useful, but it’s not enough to make me buy or care about a system. I play systems for games. I need demonstrable improvements, or demonstrable differences, to make me care.

That said, I much preferred the software demonstrated at the Microsoft press conference. Splinter Cell: Blacklist looks a little less like Splinter Cell from what they showed us, and a little more like Uncharted. However, it does look good. Pretty visceral and gross, which is a change because the traditional Splinter Cell games have never really focused on violence and action (Conviction aside, but I never played that one). The voice commands look great though, and I look forward to screwing as many of my friends over as possible while playing.

I’ve never given a crap about Tomb Raider, but the Lara Croft sequence looked tremendous. Destructible cover, fluid action shots, legitimate physics, it looked good. It also had QTEs, which nobody on the planet likes, but sometimes those are the best way to deal with certain sequences in a game. I’ll give it a go.

Another Gears of War game for 2013 – possible prequel? Who knows. Just teasers released at this point. Epic can take my money when it comes out though.

All in all, a conflicting couple of days. I look forward to Nintendo’s releases, and I would MUCH rather they take their time releasing a new 3D Mario, Zelda, or any-dimension Metroid game. But it was still a bit of a disappointing conference from them, considering my Wii library consists of some of them best games of the past decade for any system, let alone one. I shall be cautious.

Tuesday, 10:26 pm – Ricky

Brief update: Nintendo was a crushing defeat of an industry veteran. Very little in the way of new game content considering they’re launching a brand new system this holiday season (a re-skinned New Super Mario Bros. Wii U doesn’t count as “new”). Most games were releases that have been out for the last year, including some gimmick in Arkham City and Mass Effect 3 (Mass Effect 3? For Nintendo? It’s a perfect fit – Nintendo fans are used to disappointment). Just a terrible set of “performances” by industry vets. Only Pikmin 3 and ZombieU sparked any kind of interest, but that was quickly dashed after a 20 minute drone-on about NintendoLand mini-games.

Prediction: I’ll be playing Mario on an Xbox in 3 years.

Tuesday, 9:40 am – Ricky

Well, that was quite a day.

Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft and Sony all held their press conferences yesterday (the day BEFORE E3 officially begins, as usual). There were some amazing surprises, so I’ll focus on this for this post. You can see the conferences yourself on YouTube by clicking the companies above.

Microsoft – These folks had a strong focus on integrated services, just like in 2011. They also had a heavy focus on Kinect. As a Canadian, we miss out on a lot of the integrated services, and as a gamer with a small living space, I don’t really care about Kinect (usually).

This year, the Kinect section focused on some cool voice integrations. I was watching the conference while chatting with Gavin when the new Splinter Cell: Blacklist demo came on. At one point, Sam was sneaking around an enemy camp, and the guy demoing called out “Hey!” to draw the attention of a passing guard towards a ledge where he was hanging. The guard came over, and got tossed over the railing for his troubles. We immediately started joking about playing this game at a party and how we’d screw with the guy playing.

Other Kinect voice features include calling plays, substitutions and tactics in the new FIFA soccer game, as well as at-the-line playcalling and audibles in the new Madden, shown off by Mr. Joe Montana. Not my bag, but there you go.

The other celebrity feature was Usher for Dance Central 3. He looked like he was embarrassed to be reading his lines, and put on a pretty crappy performance. Also, I don’t care about Dance Central 3.

EA – I skipped this one. Meh. I’ll watch it today.

Ubisoft – Oh great, more crappy rapping. Flo Rydah (sp but I don’t care) and Just Dane 4. Man… move along… no pun intended…

BIG HUGE AWESOME ANNOUNCEMENT out of this presser was a game called Watch Dogs. I’m embedding the video below for you to watch this instant. It may seem a bit scripted, but it’s so promising, the lighting and animations so beautiful, the concept so intriguing that I can’t help but be excited. Biggest surprise of the show for me so far.

We finally got to see some Assassin’s Creed 3 gameplay (for more than 2 minutes); it was stunning, and made me want to pick up Revelations again, if only to have it done in time for 3 to drop this fall. Definitely a cool new direction – Sony covered some plans for the Vita version of Assassin’s Creed Liberations in their presser, and I was equally impressed (see below).

Sony – I was tuning in for the Vita announcements, and I was a tiny bit disappointed. Aside from cross-play with Super Smash Bros. Sony All-stars Battle Royale and an amazing sequence for Assassin’s Creed Liberations, there wasn’t much to talk about. Oh, also they’re adding some PSone titles to Vita, notably Tomb Raider and Final Fantasy VII, so that’s cool too I guess. I’d like to finally play through FFVII and get my nerd cred up…

Vita gameplay for Assassin’s Creed Liberations was pretty incredible, with a new female assassin running through the woods, and Assassin’s Creed 3 protagonist Connor piloting a ship against British forces. Pretty incredible looking action for such a tiny screen, and with rewards for owning AC3 on the PS3 with Liberations, I just might switch to Playstation for my main AC console.

Some demos for games I don’t really care about include God of War something and … wait, what’s this… The Last of Us? Oh man. OH MAN!! Oh … man. See below.

That’s a wrap-up on the brief wrap-up. I’m sure I’m missing something since I left my notes somewhere, but we’ll cover it in the podcast this week instead.

Nintendo is holding their press conference at noon EST today, so if you care to watch the triumphant return and/or crushing defeat of an industry staple, then tune in here!

Monday, 6:57 pm – matt

so i just saw a pre-e3 announcement that Nintendo is going to be releasing another, larger 3DS system.

why couldnt they have just added a damn second analog stick from the start and realize people dont want to hold a system in one hand and a pen in the other while trying to push the face buttons on a handlheld console???

Monday, 10:37 am – Ricky

The Microsoft press conference kicks off at 9:30am PST, 12:30pm EST for us Easties. Check it out from Gamespot here.

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