E3 2011 Showcases a Big Year for PC Gaming
By John Gaudiosi
E3 brings the world’s attention to videogames for one week out of the year. This year’s show featured a brand-new portable gaming device from Sony, codenamed NGP, as well as the next console from Nintendo, codenamed Project Cafe. But it was the games, more than anything else, that took center stage in Los Angeles. And with the current generation of consoles showing their age, PC games will shine brighter than ever this year.
“I expect to see a bit of a renaissance in the PC games space over the next few years,” says Todd Hollenshead, president of id Software, which had RAGE at Bethesda Softworks’ E3 booth. “We’ll see more PC-focused games as opposed to multiplatform games because of the faster speeds of the processors and the accelerated graphics. A lot of the coolest technology only works on a PC.”
There were hundreds of games on display at E3 this year, but we’ve selected five titles that stand out from the crowd. For attendees at the show, these are some of the big games that people will be talking about long after the glitz and glamour of the convention is over:
(Electronic Arts, DICE; November 2011)
Acclaimed developer DICE is upping the ante with global warfare in this open world combat game. In Battlefield 3, players step into the role of the elite U.S. Marines sent to conflicts in diverse locales like Paris, Tehran and New York City. Up to 64 players can engage in battles using a variety of weapons and both land-based and flying vehicles. The battlefields will include the open warzones that Battlefield players are accustomed to, as well as more claustrophobic urban warfare areas that add a different strategy to the mix.
“The PC has almost an unlimited amount of memory and CPU power, so we can really push our new Frostbite 2 engine with that version of the game,” says Karl-Magnus Troedsson, general manager of DICE. “This new engine allowed us to take a huge leap forward in gameplay. And by using EA Sports’ ANT technology, we’re able to bring more believable characters to life in this game world as well.”
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
(Activision, Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer Games; November 2011)
With each new Call of Duty game, Activision has broken its own world record for sales. But it was the Modern Warfare games that really raised the bar in blending cinematic action with a frenetic gameplay experience that put players in a rollercoaster ride that they steer. With Modern Warfare 3, the first game in the franchise developed by Sledgehammer Games with the remnants of the original Infinity Ward team, the goal was to push the experience beyond any previous Call of Duty game.
“We came out of Modern Warfare 2 with strong vision of what we wanted for 3,” says Glen Schofield, vice president and general manager of Activision. “In the execution of that, we were looking for the team to take the scale of combat to a new level. The fighting spans the hearts of cities like Washington, D.C., to all across Europe, Russia and Africa. In the campaign mode, it’s all about cinematic intensity. Nothing goes into a game that doesn’t have that, whether it’s two-player co-op, multiplayer or any of the new game modes.”
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
(Bethesda Softworks, Bethesda Game Studio; November 2011)
After working on Fallout 3, the Elder Scrolls team set out to build a brand-new game experience with its fifth installment in the bestselling experience. Todd Howard, game director at Bethesda Game Studio, believes this new role-playing game will bring the largest and most immersive experience yet from the acclaimed studio. The secret to Skyrim's depth is a brand-new Creation Engine.
“We went into this game assuming that we’re going to draw everything and feature an extremely high level of detail,” says Howard. “You can walk to anywhere and go anywhere that you can see on screen. There’s a full weather system and this engine allows us to show both minute and macro details. We’re using effects, like real-time shadows, to bring a density to even the small things in the world. To add to this believability, we employ the Havoc behavior system so that characters you interact with come to life.”
End of Nations
(Trion Worlds, Petroglyph; April 2011)
The world’s first massively multiplayer real-time strategy (MMORTS) game has come a long way. Developer Petroglyph (Star Wars: Forces of Corruption) has crafted a science-fiction story for End of Nations that pits players (up to 50 can join together) against a totalitarian regime called the Order of Nations. Gameplay occurs on huge maps filled with troops, heavy artillery, tanks, spacecraft and assorted “toys” that can take out the heavily armored and fortified Order of Nations foe. The game comes to life on the more powerful PCs, supporting a full array of new technology, including stereoscopic 3D.
“End of Nations is unlike anything a PC gamer has ever played before,” says Lars Butler, CEO of Trion Worlds. “In the old days, strategy games used to be bigger than role-playing games. Now with End of Nations, we’re really trying to do for RTS games what Blizzard’s World of Warcraft and our own Rift have done to RPG -- namely, take it fully into the online market, make it multiplayer, make it persistent and make it a really much more exciting experience.”
(Square Enix, IO Interactive; 2012)
It’s been five years since PC gamers have sent the bald-headed assassin known only as Agent 47 on a deadly mission. During that time, developer IO Interactive has built a brand-new game engine called Glacier 2. This technology was designed specifically for the new open world gameplay that Hitman: Absolution is introducing to the franchise. The developer is also delivering a deeper cast of characters who were brought to life by real Hollywood actors, like Marsha Thomason and Keith Carradine.
“The E3 demo features 47 on different types of missions,” explains Tore Blystad, game director at IO Interactive. “Set in Chicago, the game shows a citywide manhunt for him and he has to rely on his instincts to get through the game. The player starts the level with no weapons at all and has to improvise along the way. Something that’s a key feature of the franchise that’s been taken to a new level in this game is the player’s freedom of choice: In order to allow a player to make his own choices, we’ve designed a more complex AI that has an intelligent spectrum of possibilities based on any move a player makes.”
John Gaudiosi has been covering video games for the past 17 years for media outlets such as The Washington Post, CNET, Wired magazine and CBS.com. He is editor in chief of GamerLive.tv and a game columnist for Reuters and RhMinions.com.