the Mouth of Madness:
By Jason "loonyboi" Bergman
What's new this week in loonygames? Ask our loony editor.
ou may have noticed that the last few issues have shown a bit less content than we normally run. This will be the case for the next few weeks, and I wanted to take this opportunity to explain, for those of you that are slightly concerned.
You see, kids, every year, there's this thing called E3. To some, it's a trade show...but to others...well, it's one of those things that can make or break a game. Now there is evidence to prove or disprove that view, but almost everyone in the industry goes absolutely crazy just before E3.
Why? Because at E3, journalists, distributors, and everyone else that makes a game successful, expect to see every game that's going to be released in the next year (and in many cases, the next two or three years). So even though a game may not be ready to ship for another ten months or so, developers will go out of their way, in many cases working 40 hour work days, just to make a demo that will blow the socks off of E3 attendees and generate some spectacular hype for their game.
This has all gotten to be an annual madness, and the end result is that many of my favorite games from last year's E3 haven't shipped yet, and in some cases, won't for a reeeeeally long time. But they did impress the heck out of me.
Take 3DRealms' Prey for example. The game was showed at E3 in 1997 and 1998, and at both shows received an incredible amount of praise. Everyone who saw the behind-doors Prey demonstration agreed (for the most part) that the Prey technology was incredible. Some of the best stuff they'd ever seen. And yet...the game hasn't shipped. And since no word has been released as to the status of the game, nobody has any clue as to whether or not the game will ship this year, or ever, for that matter. But it still made for one incredible E3 demo. Last year when I saw it, I will admit that it impressed the hell out of me. Seriously. I saw stuff done in Prey that no game released since then has managed to do.
Or did they? The fact is, that when I look back at what I saw of Prey, it was all smoke and mirrors...I never saw any gameplay at all. And sure, there were some great "tricks" that I saw that no game this year has done...but when I think about it...why would they do them, anyway? All of the stuff I saw in Prey may be possible with the Unreal, Quake II, or Starsiege: Tribes engines, but since it has no application to any of those games, the developers had no need to show them off.
Contrast this to what I saw from Duke Nukem Forever at E3 '98. What I was shown both on the floor and back room demo, were actual levels, with actual gameplay. They showed a variety of different gameplay scenarios, including Duke on a boat, in a truck, and even behind a giant turret. There were some terrific lighting effects, and some cool looking levels and models shown as well. Or so I thought. It's getting to the point where you can never be sure just what you're looking at anymore in these E3 demos, because developers are so eager to please, that they may create whole scenarios just to impress you, and later change the game around entirely. Some of the things that I saw in last year's demo make me doubt that this was the case here, but hey...you never know.
And it looks like it'll be a long time before I can know for sure. The game switched from the Quake engine that I saw it running on there, to the Unreal engine all of three weeks after the show. And since 3D Realms has said they will not be attending this year's show at all, it looks as if I'm going to have to wait even longer to see if what I saw then was gameplay, or just another "trick" used to make me think I was looking at the actual game.
Is it worth all the time and effort that developers put into these demos? It's tough to say. Look at Half-Life as an example. The game was a "best of show" winner two years in a row, and became a huge hit. But is that because it was so well received at E3, or because it's a great game?
For many, E3 isn't just an excuse to drum up support for their games from journalists, it's a make-or-break event for small developers. You'd be amazed at the percentage of people whose games found publishers, got hired, made that all-important first meeting, or simply networked with the right people at E3. Throw that many industry professionals into an enclosed place, and you're bound to have a number of important meetings.
And hey...then there's the parties. 'Nuff said.
What's the point of all this? Well, while you're suffering through some late or somewhat smaller updates, remember: it's E3 time, baby. We won't be updating at all during E3 week, but afterwards, you can bet your tuchus we'll have one hell of a report for you.
I'll leave you with that...but remember: it's almost E3. Get psyched. Lord knows I am.
'till next time...stay loony!
- Jason "loonyboi" Bergman is the editor-in-chief here at loonygames. He's giddy like a schoolmarm.
Credits: From the Mouth of Madness logo illustrated by and is © 1999 Dan Zalkus. From the Mouth of Madness is © 1999 Jason Bergman. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, so don't do it...or we'll just forget about you. Let's see how you like it.