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Jess Lebow's MMO Story Hour: Top 5 Exciting Things From E3

Jess takes to the countdowns in his new column, where he looks at the top five things that got him excited at E3.

Bottom line: E3 was approaching its greatness of years past. It was good to see. I had been sad for a couple of years by its demise. But while it’s still not back up to speed entirely, I’d say it’s reached about 60% of its former glory. Not bad for a reunion tour.

But down to business.

#1: Star Wars: The Old Republic

As if I needed another reason to be excited by a Bioware MMO—SWTOR is going to be fully voiced. Some of you may be saying, “Yeah, so what?” I’ll tell you what. Having a fully voiced MMO brings the genre one step closer to complete immersion. Sure, there have been a lot of badly voiced games, but have faith. This is Bioware we’re talking about.

There are two things that I know when I buy a Bioware game—I’m going to get a polished, well-developed gaming experience, and there is going to be a focus on good storytelling. Add that to one of my favorite IPs of all time, include the knowledge that they are going to take it to the next level by making it fully voiced, and I think we’re talking about a winner here. As someone who has spent days upon days in the recording studio, listening to actors read lines from a script, let me tell you, this represents a massive commitment on the part of the developer. That level of dedication to a property is certainly the first big step toward making a good game. And I’m excited about it.

#2: Final Fantasy 14 – Online

I played Finally Fantasy 11. It hurt me. To the core. Real bad.

But I’m still a huge fan of the Final Fantasy series. They have done some really fun stuff, and told some pretty engaging stories along the way. They do a great job giving players a world they can explore at their own pace and in their own way but still manage to create experiences that convey their conflict in an enjoyable way. And I’m talking about the console games now. Given what I’m sure they’ve learned from FFXI, I suspect we’re about to be given a rip roaring good RPG adventure with 14.

#3: Lego Rock Band

Dude. I was such a huge Space Lego freak when I was a kid. I had these bookshelves in my room, and I covered them with space bases. There was a landing pad for all the cool cruisers I invented (never mind that none of them would have realistically flown—even in space), living quarters for the space marines, and a command center where all of the action happened. I had this huge collection of Lego men. The Space Lego guys with the black face shields were so awesome—and only a little cheesy when you lifted up the visor to see that eternally smiling happy face.

So, add one of the greatest social game ideas of all time to my childhood addiction to Legos, and you’ve got me hooked. I’m so going to rock their blocks off.

#4: Wii Sports Resort

Let me tell you about my Wii.

When the Wii came out, I, like every other gamer, got very excited about it. And I put my name on the list at Amazon.com to buy one. I wasn’t guaranteed to get one, I was just entered into a drawing that gave me a chance to buy one when they were released. At the same time, I ordered Red Steel. In the event that I got the system, I was going to need a game to play, and what better way to try out the motion controls than a samurai shooter, right? Wrong.

Red Steel showed up nearly two months before I actually got my Wii (because I didn’t win the purchasing sweepstakes and had to wait until my lottery number was finally pulled). When I did finally get to play it, I was massively under whelmed. I took the title back to the Game Stop and traded it in for a copy of Zelda, Twilight Princess.

It was a Zelda game. How could I go wrong? I know I’m going to get blasted for this, but it just didn’t do it for me. I’m a huge fan of the Zelda franchise. I’m embarrassed to admit how many hours I’ve spent with titles in this series. But Twilight Princess just wasn’t my Zelda. Sure it was still true to the spirit of the game, and I’ll admit pieces of it were fun, but somehow it just didn’t feel right, and I got stuck on several of the puzzles, so I got frustrated and lost interest.

With the minor exception of the few weeks I spent playing Raymond Raving Rabbids, my Wii is now used exclusively for Wii Sports (which, sadly, I think is a very common thing for the consol). We play at parties, and I’ve even tried to indoctrinate my parents into the gaming world (which, for the record, didn’t really work). So, when I stood in line to watch people throw Frisbees for their Wii-style beach dogs, I was floored. How much fun is that? I could even do it with a martini in one hand. Score!

#5: League of Legends

If you’ve played DotA, then you’ve probably already heard about this game. I’m not a big Warcraft player, and in fact, I’m not even a huge PVP guy. But with their new matchmaking system, even the twitch-impaired (like me) will have a fighting chance at having a good time.

The basic premise is five-on-five PVP. Capture/destroy the enemy base, and you win. There is a lot of strategy involved in how you build your character (kind of like building a deck in Magic: The Gathering—which, admittedly has a lot of appeal for me) and in setting up your team. Fun at the meta-game level as well as during the matches.

Okay, so yes, I did some writing for this game, and yes, it’s a little bit of poor form to be metaphorically tooting my own horn, but I gotta tell you, this is a fun game. I’ve had the snot kicked out of me by some of the game’s developers and still had a good time. If I can lose and still have fun, I’m on board.

In the end, it looks like for me, E3 was about the social aspects of gaming. Be it MMOs with good stories, or just great games I can plug in at a party, I guess I just like playing with other people. If you’re like me, then I can say happily that we’re in for a good year. If you don’t like social gaming, well, then I guess you’re just not invited to the party.

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Jess Lebow's MMO Story Hour
Jess Lebow is a veteran story teller, game writer, and novelist. He’s been in the game industry for over 10 years, working on titles ranging from Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons to Guild Wars and Pirates of the Burning Sea. He currently lives in Los Angeles.
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