Leipzig GC 2007: EA Press Conference

Leipzig Games Convention 2007 has officially begun! First up this morning at 9:30 was EA’s press conference, which I attended slightly dazed of head and achey of bones following the travel “adventures” of yesterday (More on that in the clogs soon).  Nevertheless, I fought through the crowds, swatting them mercilessly with my laptop as and when necessary, grabbed my spot at the front, and wedged in my attractive headphones for the English translation, ready to bring you, our dear readers, the knowledge.

Hit the jump for the fruits of my labor. 

9:30 – Sales Director Thomas Zeitner comes onstage and introduces himself as our host for the presentation. He tells us that in 2010 50% of Germans will be gamers. He says that there are 2 million people ready to play, but presents us the with analogy of how people on a high dive board often require encouragement to take the plunge. He says that new gamers are the same. The hardcore market is stable and growing, but the casual market needs a new approach. The industry needs to try new methods. It has to be careful not to lose the hardcore market, but work needs to be done to build a new market. EA hasn’t been turned upside down, but it has been restructured, with EA Sports and EA games covering the hardcore and the new divisions catering to the casual gamer

9:39Skate Presentation

We are told that Skate is set up for hardcore or casual market. “No offense to buttons but we’re not using many of them”. We get a demonstration of the controls, showing the simplicity of the dual stick set up. Everything does look very slick and intuitive, with the left analogue controlling the skater’s body and the right analogue controlling the board. Small flicks control flip tricks, a lunge forward activates an olley etc. The physics for inertia in particular look fun. A simple press of a trigger makes the skate crouch and releasing makes him stand up again. Alternating between crouched and standing stances going up/coming down slopes is all that’s needed to build speed and increase air, and seeing it played on screen, everything makes a lot of sense. I’m actually really eager to get my hands on it now. We get a demo of the manual slow motion camera mode which also looks cool, with the sound slowed down and synched in real-time.

9:44 – Thomas comes back. He tells us that the art is to address new target groups without  excluding existing ones. Gamers are always looking out for the existing blockbusters series they love such as Need For Speed and Burnout. He also mentions new EA franchises such as Crysis and strangely, Playground.

9:46Need For Speed Pro Street trailer. Everything looks very shiny and very cool, (What? You’re surprised? It’s an EA trailer.) but so far my pulse is not racing.

9:47 Crysis trailer. After a bombastic Spider-Man style intro, we get some nice footage of some guard-hurling, truck tire-sniping and vehicle-catching. It looks damn good (Hey, it’s Crysis).

9:50 – Mention of placement co-operation with Coca-Cola, allowing EA to further reach a wider audience.

9:51 –  Joe Booth comes on stage to give us the world premiere of FIFA ’08 on PS3.  He tells us there have been big changes for this installment. The engine has been completely re-written for next-gen machines.

The first new gameplay addition is the skill moves. These start with what Joe calls “building block” moves, small, manually activated tricks like step-overs etc. and extend to bigger exit moves for evading defenders etc. All of these can be comboed manually. The best players also have signature moves and multi-part tricks which need to be timed very carefully for successful stringing together. Think soccer trapped in the body of SSX and you’ll get an idea of what we saw demoed.

Joe mentions that after ball and player animation were separated in FIFA ’07, lots of very cool player videos showed up on Youtube, showing tricks that the designers hadn’t thought of. With that in mind they’ve implemented the facility for players to upload videos through the game.

We get a gameplay demo and are told about the AI. Apparently the on-screen players are dynamically looking at the pitch, making 1000 decisions a second. Over time they will develop emerging behavior, defenders pre-empting attackers and forcing them into safer areas before tackling, for example. Dynamic AI will adapt to any gamer’s play style.

There are also new training modes. Offline gives the option of controlling only one player while the dynamic camera focuses on him. Online team play will be a free piece of downloadable content. Online leagues will be available.

9:58 – Thomas is back again. Once again mentions the importance of new, easy access games for new target groups. Unsurprisingly we next get a Boogie trailer. Leering vacant grins and bad rhythm abound!.

Now we get a trailer for quiz party game Smartie Pants, wherein some truly hideously punchable people show off the competitive mini-games which come up to boost bonus points, select opponents’ questions etc. We get Wheel Of Fortune-style wheel spins, a tug of war, and some Wiimote-waggling dancing. 

10:04Rock band presentation from Alex Rigolopolous. Now this is more like it! He talks about  the buzz around the game has been building since E3 and tells us it’s the game Harmonix has always dreamt of. The game is about the feeling of intense togetherness which comes when a group of people come together to make music. Announces PS2 version as well.

He says music games are about bringing people together and that with this in mind they wanted to tailor the music to the European market. They’re exaustively tailoring the on-disc and DLC music to the region. He announces ten more (original artist) tracks for the US version, including The Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shelter, some Nine Inch Nails and (Yes!) Faith No More. Everything is rounded off with a live on-stage demo of the game played with a full band. DO WANT TO PLAY! CANNOT WAIT FOR MY GO ON SATURDAY!

10:14 – Thomas returns. He tells us he’s been working in this industry for 13 years and when he sees what it’s doing now it reminds him of the ’60s, and the revolutionary era of the PS1. He finishes up by thanking us for our time and wishing us a fun and successful Leipzig.

David Houghton