E3 Social Postmortem

Most wrap-ups of E3 look at the show in terms of whether it was successful as intended or not. And on that score, it seems both the press and the folks I hung out with at the show felt it was adequate as expected. The ESA was distracted by its own battle with LA, whose sports construction will cut the LA Convention Center in half, as reported by John Gaudiosi in Forbes. Personally, I think the show was a success as intended, for the simple fact that I’m set on buying at least two games, The Last of Us from Naughty Dog, which is a post-post-apocalyptic mature action adventure in the style of Uncharted, and Star Wars 1313 from LucasArts, which is a long time ago in a galaxy far far away mature action adventure in the style of Uncharted. But at SoMoFos, we’re concerned with a slightly different question. Is E3 finally social? We provided some guidelines on the show, and then spent the week at E3, and our conclusion is: sort of. I realize that’s kind of a cop-out of an answer, but alas the situation on the ground isn’t cut and dried. Let’s break this down like a proper postmortem, as would appear is such fine publications as Game Developer magazine, and call out three things that went right and three things that went wrong.

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The Beauty of Enduring Games

The noble denizens of PlayMesh have recently been overcome with a surge of Magic fever. It’s a pestilence, besetting the poor folk with a thirst for collectible cards that may only be sated through reckless expenditure of funds. I’ve seen terrible things. Unspeakable acts undertaken at the behest of the dark creators of this mysterious product, the so-called Wizards of the Coast.

I personally have fallen prey to this malady before. The first was 15 years ago. The last bout was 4 years ago. I cannot help but wonder, why am I not rid of the beast? Why do some games endure?

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SoMoFos E3 Live Feedback

I had threatened to liveblog E3, but luckily I remembered how crazy that is to actually do. Kudos to actual journalists who do this, but then again, that’s their day job. Shawn and I are in an entirely different boat as BD guys, trying to earn a margin in the big bad world. But, that’s enough with the excuses, here instead is a summary of what I’ve seen and experienced so far.

I’m writing from the GREE booth, on my MacBook Air, connected to my iPad 3′s Verizon LTE hotspot. Everybody else here in the staff room is struggling trying to log onto the A for effort WiFi at the booth, but of course, no dice. I am magnanimously sharing my hotspot with Sho, just to keep the GREE marketing machine alive. See, $210M well-spent.

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Silicon Valley and Hollywood

Recently Ari Emanuel stopped by the Valley to drop some knowledge upon us hapless clowns. For those unfamiliar, Ari is a bit of a bad ass down in LA (Ari from Entourage is modeled after him) and he’s shown a lot of entrepreneurial spirit in a town that typically doesn’t reward that sort of initiative. One of the main points of his talk was the relationship between Silicon Valley (ye olde big pipes of technology) and Hollywood (provider of all things content). Ari’s point was simple: pipes aren’t very valuable if there isn’t anything to fill them with. Ergo, Hollywood is a deeply important piece of Silicon Valley’s success.

Eh…I’m gonna disagree here. Hollywood has the option to be integral to Silicon Valley’s success, but it’s not a required relationship.

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The SoMoFos Guide to E3

While the question of whether E3 is really social yet is undecided, for those of us going, there’s a lot to make sure we have locked down before we head over. The event has a lot in common with GDC, in that it’s great for developer business meetings, so many of the GDC guidelines remain the same. There’s really no need to rewrite what’s there, so I’m not going to. However, there are subtle differences with the shows, that affect how you handle this one.

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Keeping Ideas From Falling Through the Cracks

As I’ve spent more time thinking about game design, I’ve noticed a particularly annoying problem. Essentially, it’s the failure to adequately capture, organize, and assess ideas. Many startups will have a certain aggregation of people who are constantly spinning off ideas, but I’m surprised at how often those ideas get lost in the process.

I’d honestly appreciate a bit of input from you dear readers on this one, because I’ve found myself creating things that had already been considered months earlier. Seems like a huge loss in efficiency and momentum.

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Short Story: Arcaine

“There’s sadness to it.” The words tumbled out, breathed more than spoken. It was a small kindness that none bore witness to this particular tragedy.  There were no eyes to watch the mottled hands fumble at the small vial, to see the haphazard line of powder dribble unto the table. The huddled figure leaned forward and deeply inhaled, trying to coax every grain of powder from the accumulated grime. Again the man spoke. “But also joy.”

A flash of light and then…nothing.

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Firefly That Was

While I don’t watch television, I do love catching up on great shows I don’t see in their broadcast run. I was recently pointed at BBC’s Sherlock, a modern retelling of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character Sherlock Holmes. While only three episodes appear per season, and only the first of two seasons is on Netflix, they are 90 minutes an episode. The long episodes and the short season has the effect of completely throwing you off from the conventional story arcs of television and film, and makes the experience of the show refreshingly novel-like. The show is brilliant, thoroughly engrossing. But this article isn’t about Sherlock, it’s about Joss Whedon’s all too brief science fiction show, Firefly.

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RIP 38 Studios

It was with a heavy heart that I read the news about the total staff layoff at 38 Studios earlier today. For those unfamiliar with the particulars, 38 Studios was headed up and largely funded by Curt Schilling (of Red Sox pitcher fame). 38 Studios was founded with a dream of creating the ultimate MMO, and Curt managed to recruit some fantastic talent in pursuit of that vision –the brilliant fantasy writer R.A. Salvatore among them. 38 Studios didn’t manage to make that MMO, but they did release Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, a game I considered pretty fantastic.

Perhaps 38 Studios will get it’s feet under it, there’s a lot of people with a vested interest in the company, but things are looking pretty grim. It’s a sad tale, but it underscores why so much talent has flooded out of the traditional hardcore markets and into social and mobile.

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Is E3 Social?

E3 is supposed to be the big annual La-La Land showcase of the top games in the game industry. For the 90s and the 2000s, this was largely true. Console games and MMOs dominated the mindshare of what the game industry was. This was a time when casual online and mobile games lived in the ghetto. No longer. Some in social think it’s reversed, but they’re just as guilty of the same hubris. To be fair, they’re on par. But does E3 realize it?

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