Electronic Entertainment Expo 2011
First posted on 24 September 2011. Last updated on 15 May 2014.
This year, we were again present at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) that took place on June 7-9 in Los Angeles. As in previous years, the expo was held in the Los Angeles Convention Center. While the show floors were bright and impressive, with long lines waiting for hours just to try out the latest gaming consoles and high profile game demos, much of the real action took place in media-only by-appointment show rooms and industry parties. Fortunately, we were granted access to a few of these events and got an early glimpse of some of the upcoming and hottest adventure gaming news for 2011 and beyond.
Unfortunately, this year's adventure game pickings were rather slim. Many current adventure game developers and publishers, such as Deck13 Interactive and Pendulo Studios, were not present at the expo. Other former adventure game developers and publishers, such as LucasArts and SouthPeak Games, had no new adventure game announcements. There were, however, still a few needles in the haystack, and I was luckily able to find them.
Given the company's game portfolio history, I was surprised to be visiting Konami to cover an adventure game. Best known for its survival horror, stealth, and shoot 'em up games, Konami certainly had enough games in those subgenres to offer this year. Nevertheless, the company still managed to serve up an adventure game on its plate: Doctor Lautrec and the Forgotten Knights.
Developed for the Nintendo 3DS, Doctor Lautrec and the Forgotten Knights tells the story of an archaeologist, Jean-Pierre Lautrec, in Paris at the end of the 19th century. Lautrec, a lecturer at Paris' Museum of Natural History, enjoys solving mysteries in his spare time. As the game begins, he comes into possession of a map purported to lead to the hidden treasure of King Louis XIV. Along with his assistant Sophie, Lautrec travels the vast network of catacombs underneath Paris in search of the treasure, all the while being pursued by a crime syndicate known as the Knights of the Iron Mask.
I was actually able to get some hands-on play time with Doctor Lautrec and the Forgotten Knights. Suffice to say, I left my time with the game looking forward to it.
The game is best described as a mashup between the more recent Professor Layton games and the older Zelda games. As the game takes place in the catacombs of Paris, the dungeon crawling element of the Zelda games are certainly present, with the addition that Lautrec is presented periodically with puzzles to solve in order to push his way forward. These puzzles either come in the form of Professor Layton styled standalones or in-game puzzles such as rearranging blocks to create paths. Unlike the Professor Layton games, however, this game introduces the adventure game staple of an inventory system. (Unfortunately, I was not able to play the game much longer past my first item acquisition, so I could not confirm whether the game was utilizing the inventory mechanic typical of most adventure games.) In all, the game seems to have an engaging story, with echoes of the early Broken Sword games.
Doctor Lautrec and the Forgotten Knights is scheduled for release in October 2011.
Not surprisingly, the mecca of adventure game information came from Telltale Games, the current reigning champion of the adventure game genre. While Telltale Games was proudly showing off posters for all of its recently announced games—Back to the Future: The Game, Jurassic Park: The Game, Fables, The Walking Dead, King's Quest, Puzzle Agent 2, and Hector—it had also kept mum on a few other projects.
As expected, Telltale Games was aggressively promoting Back to the Future: The Game. AJ LoCascio, the voice of Marty McFly in the series, was present as a celebrity guest. There was a separate room with a video package for Back to the Future: The Game. Alas, I was not present for the screening.
Back to the Future: The Game is now available on the PC, Mac, and iPad.
Among all the games announced by Telltale Games, Jurassic Park: The Game is undoubtedly the company's major offering this year. The game is based off of the movie franchise of the same name. Heavily inspired by Quantic Dream's Heavy Rain, the game features not only dialog trees that every adventure game fan has come to expect but also introduces a few new intriguing gameplay mechanics. The game has a sort of investigative mode in the vein of Rockstar Games' L.A. Noire. It also makes use of Quick Time Event challenges for all of the game's action sequences that will be a first for Telltale Games.
Telltale Games representative Joe Pinney led the briefing that I attended. He explained that, while Jurassic Park: The Game would definitely have more action than previous game titles from the developer, it would still indeed involve staples of adventure games such as puzzle solving. However, he emphasized the idea of "real world puzzle solving" in this game, rather than the "LucasArts logic puzzle solving" in the Tales of Monkey Island or the Sam & Max series. He said that the game would follow an ensemble cast of characters on the island, including veterinarian Jerry Harding and his daughter; Nina Cruz, a mercenary for hire; and Miles Chadwick, a representative of a rival corporation. The ensemble cast would include both "good guys" and "bad guys". The motivations of these characters would be to get off of the island alive.
In a surprising turn from Telltale Games' modus operandi—and likely to be a good sign for King's Quest fans gnashing their teeth over any change that the developer may bring to the franchise—characters in Jurassic Park: The Game can actually die. If the player fails a Quick Time Event challenge, the player is not likely to get third and fourth chances to make the right choice. Rather, the character that the player plays will be eaten by the dinosaur in chase. However, unlike Heavy Rain, the story will not continue without the dead character. Instead, the player is sent back to a predetermined checkpoint to try again. Additionally, the game will work on a dynamic difficulty system—even though the button combinations will remain the same, the player's reaction time will have to be more fine-tuned in order to succeed.
Telltale Games will also be adding its own spin on the already established mythos for this franchise. As the game takes place near the end of the first movie in which the park is left abandoned before its public opening, it stands to reason that some parts of the park may still be under construction. Such locations seem to provide the bulk of the game's environs. Furthermore, the game's story will reveal the presence of a new dinosaur on the island—a stealthy stalker of a predator with a poisonous bite. Part of the story will involve finding out why the dinosaur is on the island in the first place.
Jurassic Park: The Game is scheduled for release on the PC, Mac, and XBLA in November 2011. No announcement has been made for release on the PSN.
Telltale Game representative Richard Iggo talked about The Walking Dead, though the materials that were shown were limited to only a poster, a mini exhibit, and some concept art. He explained that the game would be based solely on the comic book's canon, not on the popular television adaptation. He said that the game would focus on a new group of survivors travelling out of Atlanta, including Lee, a convict whose transport was interrupted; and Clementine, a 7-year-old girl who would act as Lee's "morality compass". He also announced a Facebook tie-in game, though he remained quiet as to its exact nature, only mentioning that the tie-in game would be launched prior to the main PC release.
The Walking Dead is scheduled for release in late 2011.
Dave Grossman from Telltale Games demonstrated Puzzle Agent 2 on the iPad. As a sequel to Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent, he said that the game would follow the fearful but dedicated FBI agent Nelson Tethers in his return to Scoggins, Minnesota to find out the truth behind the disappearance of the strange townspeople in there and their bizarre obsession of a Nordiac folkore about the Hidden People.
Puzzle Agent 2 is now available on the PC, Mac, and iPad. No announcement has been made for release on the PSN.
Grossman also spoke about Hector: Badge of Carnage, though the materials that were shown were limited to only a poster and a brief overview of the game's characters and settings.
While E3 2011 was certainly filled with many exciting game announcements, adventure games were ultimately woefully underrepresented this year. Were it not for the bevy of announced titles from Telltale Games (some of which it would not discuss, such as King's Quest, Fables, and Law & Order: Los Angeles), this year's E3 would have been a complete bust for adventure game fans. However, Telltale Games' strong presence was a shining beacon in an E3 otherwise dominated by first-person shooters and booth babes. At a minimum, the fact that Konami had announced an adventure game gave me hope for more adventure game offerings in next year's E3.