quinta-feira, 25 de junho de 2015

E3 Retrospective, Part 1: 1995-2005 - It's a Pixel THING - Ep.#55

Let's take a journey through time and watch the announcements and birth of many of today's greatest video games and systems since the very first year of the Electronic Entertainment Expo.

This is Part 1 of 2 of Pixel THING's E3 retrospective.

Since its 1995 debut, there have been many awkward and surprising moments. In this two part video I’ll be pointing out some of those and, as well, the biggest and awesome game announcements that eventually saw the light of day.. and others that didn’t!
Prior to E3, video game novelties were presented at other trade shows like CES and ECTS in some dark and obscure spaces within the fair itself and, to get to those, we had most likely to walk past all the porn vendors.

The 16 bit Era had already faded out and 1995’s E3 was when players were struck by the announcement that the Sega Saturn was, at that precise moment, available in stores and not only by fall of that year.
Then, Sony’s press conference came along and the announcement that the Sony Playstation would be available in September in North America and Europe for just 299 dollars, a full 100 dollars cheaper than Sega’s brand new machine and would have more than 50 games by the end of the year.
Nintendo unveiled its Virtual Boy that turned out being a huge commercial flop, and also announced the Ultra 64 as their next console to be launched in the summer of 1996.
SNK’s home system would be the Neo Geo CD; 3DO showed off their M2 console that was never released; and Atari Jaguar VR was announced, complete with Virtual Reality headset unit and controller, and, also, the Jaguar CD add-on.
As for the games, the main stars were: Sega’s Vectorman; Sony’s Battle Arena Toshinden, Ridge Racer and Twisted Metal; and Williams’ Mortal Kombat 3.

1996 was a year where many of the greatest gaming franchises ever were born: Resident Evil, Tomb Raider and Crash Bandicoot.
But Nintendo was the main attraction of the fair mainly because of all the hype behind their new home console. The Nintendo 64 was revealed to the public and, as well, the new Mario 64 that is considered one of the best video games ever made. The brand also unveiled its Game Boy Pocket.
Besides all this Nintendo hype, there were other great announcements that year. A trailer of Final Fantasy VII for the PlayStation was showed, Virtual Fighter 3 by Sega and, also from Sega, an internet browser for the Saturn was revealed that turned out to be another commercial failure.
Sony did it again in 1996: dropped PlayStation’s price to 199 dollars. One day after Sony’s announcement, Sega followed with a similar Saturn price drop.
A few more games also needs some recognition: Pilotwings 64 and Wave Race 64, obviously from Nintendo; and Nights into Dreams and Sonic X-treme (canceled) for the Saturn.

E3 had a huge exponential growth that a new bigger place, with the size of 35 football fields, was announced for the 1997 event, and, gladly, that was a year without the traditional new systems and consoles overdose. So, 1997 was a year exclusively for games, about fifteen hundred to be more precise, and mostly for the PlayStation!
The PC gained an extra boost for games with a new Pentium II processor, and Half-Life and Unreal were the main attractions for that platform, followed by other great first person shooters like Sin, Daikatana, Quake II, Star Wars Jedi Knight Dark Forces II and Prey (only released in 2006).
On the console’s panorama, Metal Gear Solid was revealed for the PlayStation, but probably the main star of the show was 007 GoldenEye, for the Nintendo 64. Besides having this huge attraction, the Nintendo 64 also had on display one of the worst video games ever released: Superman.
It was also the year for 3DFX. Practically every single PC game on display was “powered by 3DFX” and that made me instinctively buy one of those “magical” boards for my PC in the summer of ‘97!
Other titles were, as well, showed off: Tomb Raider II, the very first Grand Theft Auto, Fallout, Panzer Dragoon Saga, Banjo-Kazooie, F-Zero 64 (later renamed to F-Zero X), Final Fantasy VII, Oddworld, Resident Evil 2, Star Fox 64 and Time Crisis, but the most iconic, for its consequent delays, was Duke Nukem Forever.

Another year dedicated to the most important stuff: games! It was the year for the very first Gran Turismo, Pokémon series had its debut, Silent Hill and Final Fantasy 8 were presented for the PlayStation and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 64 was probably the main player of the fair.
The highly anticipated Half-Life had a near final version displayed and a Duke Nukem Forever first video was shown. As you all know, the game was only released more than a decade later.
Also in 1998, and surrounded by mist, Sega and Microsoft revealed for the press, and for the press only, its 128 bit marvel named Dreamcast. So, the Saturn was, at this point, pronounced dead.
Besides all these goodies, other great titles were announced that year: Diablo II, Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit, Tomb Raider III, Heart of Darkness, Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine, Age of Empires II, Tekken 3, Perfect Dark and Homeworld.

Back in LA, 1999’s E3 was, once again, the stage for new console announcements, but the only one, and the very first 6th generation console available, and just released in Japan, was brought by Sega: the Dreamcast.
Gamers were blown away by its graphical quality and American players could only get their hands on one of those by September 9th (9/9/99). In Europe, the Dreamcast would only be available later that year, in October the 14th.
Nintendo also announced its next generation console: the Dolphin, later renamed GameCube, and Sony unveiled what would be the next PlayStation with a dedicated spot showing off some graphics demonstrations of what was coming. A Neo Geo handheld was also presented to the public, the Pocket Color, but revealed as a commercial failure.
1999 wasn’t just about the next generation of consoles. There were also some pretty good games announced: Donkey Kong 64, Soul Calibur, Unreal Tournament, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Crash Team Racing, Dino Crisis, Ape Escape and System Shock 2.

Spite Sega’s Dreamcast having the hottest booth and the most generous offer in terms of video game titles available for testing, the year was for the PlayStation 2 with Sony promising a 299 dollars price tag and about 51 games for Christmas.
From Microsoft came the announcement of their own video game system: the Xbox. Also, a 3rd person PC game named Halo: Combat Evolved was revealed.
As for Nintendo, it continued to give support for its Nintendo 64 gaming console and showed a few more details for the upcoming next gen GameCube. Also a new portable was unveiled, the Game Boy Advance.
But the title that really stood out from the crowd was this nine minute trailer from Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. This tiny sneak peak presented on the show was just mind boggling and left everyone drooling!
A few more titles presented on the fair deserve being mentioned: Marvel vs Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes and Seaman for Dreamcast, Conker’s Bad Fur Day for Nintendo 64, Max Payne and Rune for PC. Also, the Unreal Engine 2 was revealed that would bring new tools for PC gaming development.
There were also protests outside the show because of the Columbine High School shootings. The boys who committed the crime were known Doom enthusiasts.

2001 was the year that everyone were looking forward for more info about Metal Gear Solid 2. However, there was this little gem that no one seemed to have noticed: Grand Theft Auto 3.
There was also two other PlayStation 2 titles that grabbed a chunk of the audience’s attention: Devil May Cry and Gran Turismo 3.
But 2001 was a year that everyone was eager for a new Nintendo home system. Everybody wanted to talk about hardware. That year, besides Nintendo’s GameCube and the Game Boy Advance, there was also this amazing novelty: Microsoft’s own gaming console, the Xbox. With it came three great franchises: Medal of Honor Allied Assault, Halo Combat Evolved and Project Gotham Racing.
As for Nintendo, at its press conference, Miyamoto carried the wavebird wireless controller and told the audience that he could play games from halfway across the auditorium. The crowd went nuts! He also brought a few titles to demonstrate the power of his newest console, like Luigi’s Mansion, Pikmin and Super Mario Sunshine.
This was also the year where the PC was seen as a dying gaming platform by developers, and when Sega pulled the plug on their console development and started focusing on software for other console manufacturers. From this moment on, Sega became a third-party software publisher.

2002 was the year of DOOM 3 (trailer). PC gaming wasn’t dead, after all! No one had ever seen these kind of graphics on a video game! This one was a much slower-paced game, nearly like a survival-horror type of thing! Really scary stuff!
This was, once again, an E3 filled with games, gladly, and online gaming was making its first steps. Microsoft took advantage by launching the Xbox Live service, along with Splinter Cell, Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance and the exclusives Unreal Championship, Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball and Halo 2 (trailer).
For 2002 Nintendo had on display Metroid Prime and The Legend of Zelda The Wind Waker that grabbed the crowd’s attention.
But other multiplatform titles were also applauded: Red Faction 2, Time Splitters 2 and Turok Evolution.
Military games were becoming hugely popular in video gaming, and Ubisoft stunned the audience with its Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield. But no one expected that even the United States Army would ever get a game of their own! So, in 2002, the Army unveiled a new recruitment tool called America’s Army that gamers could download and play for free.
Also, from Electronic Arts, came Battlefield 1942 that stunned everyone who tried it and became another huge success for the PC also as an online gaming platform.
2002 was also a year of some promising announcements: Tecmo’s Ninja Gaiden exclusively for Xbox and the release of Grand Theft Auto Vice City firstly for the PlayStation 2, followed by the PC and, only a full year later for the Xbox. As for Sega, now a third-party developer, announced Shinobi as a PS2 exclusive and Panzer Dragoon Orta exclusively for the Xbox.
Sony also announced the EyeToy camera, an adapter for online gaming and a brand new exclusive Contra game: Shattered Soldier; besides other titles from awesome franchises: Colin McRae Rally 3, Ratchet & Clank and Red Dead Revolver being, this last one, the older brother of the amazing 2009 Red Dead Redemption.

Once again, PC games were the main stars of the show: The Sims 2, the very beginning of the Call of Duty franchise and the amazing Half Life 2 that had the most incredible physics engine the world had ever seen.
But Half Life 2 was just one of the many big sequels revealed that year. Microsoft’s press conference ended blowing the audience with a Halo 2 movie; and people attending Sony’s event went completely wild with a trailer of Gran Turismo 4.
But, even so, people were asking for Doom 3 and no one seemed to have an answer to that question.
Apart from that, Ubisoft resurrected the Prince of Persia franchise, with an incredible new look and storytelling, Tecmo’s exclusive Xbox game Ninja Gaiden was also on display and Sony left everyone speechless with its announcement of a brand new handheld system: the PSP. When I say “everyone” I really mean everyone! Even Nintendo that didn’t saw it coming!
Nokia also entered the game with its N-Gage, but their press conference went incredibly wrong. I believe that it was the worst press conference to this date! Everything just didn’t work well or didn’t work at all! This was probably the only scene that saved the show (photo of babe with 299).
Another down side came from Blizzard that was planning to release StarCarft: Ghost, but it was eventually, and unfortunately, canceled.
Other significant future releases were showcased: Stalker, FarCry, Guild Wars and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.
2004 was the year when everyone was already focusing towards the 7th generation of consoles. However two handhelds were featured on that year’s E3: Sony’s PSP and Nintendo’s DS. Everyone was just intrigued about the DS and its Dual Screen display and the presence of Miyamoto himself tried to convince the crowd.
Sony, on the other hand, announced that was already working on the PlayStation 3, driving the audience completely insane and Microsoft’s Halo 2 was also grabbing huge attention.
During this 4 day show, one question regarding the launch date of Doom 3, Half Life 2 and Gran Turismo 4 remained unanswered.
However, the title that got the most incredible reaction from the public was The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for the GameCube. That background music just reminded me of the 1982 movie Conan, the Barbarian starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Other titles were also applauded by the public: Metal Gear Solid 3, God of War, the announcement of a brand new Grand Theft Auto game - San Andreas -, F.E.A.R., the rise of the Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) genre with World of Warcraft and The Sims 2.

By this time, Doom 3, Half Life 2 and Gran Turismo 4 were released! YEYY!!!! And, obviously, major commercial successes. To this present date, Doom 3 sold more than 3.5 million copies, Gran Turismo 4 11.73 million and Half Life 2 more than 12 million copies.
The 2005 E3 was the first ever to be televised and was packed with fans eager to know more about the upcoming next generation consoles that would be revealed soon. So, that year, was all about the hardware with Microsoft demonstrating their Xbox 360, with Alan Wake being the title to get the biggest hype from the crowd, and Sony showing some pre-rendered 1080p videos of future titles leaving everyone impressed but, at the same time, suspicious (Motorstorm?).
Probably the biggest surprise came, once again, from Nintendo with its presentation of the so called Revolution console, later re-named Wii. Its controllers, however, remained in secrecy ‘til the end of that same year. If that wasn’t enough, Nintendo also unveiled a new handheld: the Game Boy Micro.
Spite all this hardware mayhem, a few good software titles were presented that also got some attention: Battlefield 2, Call of Duty 2, Age of Empires 3, Unreal Tournament 2007, Star Wars: Empire at War, Quake 4, Hitman: Blood Money, Company of Heroes, Civilization 4, The Witcher and The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, that made Ivan Cordeiro spend all is money building a brand new PC just to run it.. Poorly!

Stay tuned for part 2 of Pixel THING’s E3 retrospective.

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