5:44 PM PDT There are roughly 100 members of the press gathered on the green plush seats of the L.A. Convention Center's Theater 411. No music in the background this time, just the low chatter of dozens and dozens of journalists.
5:49 A few latecomers are straggling in, but it looks like it will be far from a capacity crowd. About half the seats are empty.
5:54 The lack of background music is a little disturbing. We find ourselves humming Bill Joel's "No Man's Land" under our breaths for no apparent reason ...
5:55 On stage there are two large LCDs, four Wiis, four chairs, a bunch of Remotes and Nunchuks, a drum stool, and a Balance Board. Begin the rampant speculation!
5:58 Comment of the moment: "pleasebekidicaruspleasebekidicaruspleasebekidicaruspleasebekidicarus..."
6:01 Eric Walter with Nintendo PR welcomes us. Photos are OK, no video allowed, and audio for note-taking purposes only. Journalism geekery over.
6:02 Bill Trinnen from the Nintendo treehouse comes to the stage. They're presenting the three key titles of E3: Animal Crossing: City Folk, Wii Sports Resort and Wii Music. The producer on all three is Mr. Tasia Yeguchi, or something spelled similarly.
6:04 "As you can see, my name is not Shigeru Miyamoto," says Yeguchi. This gets a smattering of laughs.
6:05 The translator will also be playing th game. He apologizes for any mistakes in translating caused by his play, and vice versa. More lulz.
6:07 Yeguchi's going to focus on the new stuff that's not in the old Animal Crossings. One event that's coming backfrom the Gamecube version is Halloween, and Jingle, the reinder that comes during the holidays. Two new events as well: A visitor that hides painted eggs, and a "Carnival." Have they been taking notes from Take Two's Carnival Games?
6:09 Furntiure and wallpaper and such will be updated through WiiConnect24. On screen, our toe-headed character walks around another new feature: the city! There's a salon for hairstyles and whatnot, an auction house, a fashion store, the "Happy Room Academy Office." and a theatre where you can catch a comedy show.
6:10 The city is like a shared space where friends can visit, even when you're not there. YOu can interact indirectly. That's SO much better than interacting directly, don'tcha think?
6:12 Yeguchi is talking up the new WiiSpeak feature, as shown at the media briefing. It's a conversation from various locations "as if they were in the same room." Because it sits on the TV, you can have group conversations, which is different that what you get with a traditional headset mike. TAKE THAT, MICROSOFT!
6:14 Diving into the "enhanced user creativity." This time you can edit not just the front of your shirt, but also the back and each sleeve. OMG MEGATON! Seriously, editing with the Wii Remote looks pretty neat.
6:15 On screen, Mabel asks if we think our design "Loud! Proud!" or "Simple, subtle." The other animals in the town will give feedback based on this decision.
6:17 You can save screenshots to SD cards, for easy transfer to a PC or to other Wii owners through the Wii Message Board. Nice that you can bypass the on-board storage totally, we suppose.
6:18 Q&A time. In WIld World, if one player left a town, everyone was disconnected. This time around there's the same system, and so the same problem. But this time around you can do more stuff together, like take in a show and such. Still, Yeguchi is sorry for not fixing the problem.
6:21 You can port your characters and items from the DS to the Wii! If you don't have Wi-Fi in the house, you can move the character to the DS, and move the character to your friend's Wii physically, using the DS. It's like a wireless flash drive!
6:23 In Japan, those without Wi-Fi can download the new furniture and such in certain real-world locations, then upload them to their Wii. They're hoping to recreate this in America too. We suppose 7-11 should be hearing something about this soon?
6:26 Will the NES games be returning? Maybe Virtual Console titles, playable with friends online? The answer is ... no. They want people to stay in the Animal Crossing world ... if you want Virtual Console games, please play them on the Virtual Console, Yeguchi says. FINE! We didn't want to play Virtual Console games in Animal Crossing ANYWAY! *sniff*
6:31 They thought about interconnecting with the Forecast Channel, but they were worried that some regions would be too rainy/not rainy enough, leading to too rainy/not rainy enough Animal Crossing cities. The game relies on seasonal changes, so they figured it would be better to keep the seasons consistent in the game. Seasons are still inverted for those in the southern hemisphere. We didn't even know this was a problem!
6:33 Moving on to Wii Sports Resort. Wii Sports contained typical, serious sports. With Resort, they changed it up with a tropical island setting and make the game "filled with some sports and lesisure activities that refelct the nature of the locale." Sounds good to us, but swordfighting on the beach? Really?
6:34 JC from the Nitnendo Treehouse (not Fletcher) shows off how the movement of the Remote correspond to movement of the Frisbee in the Mii's hand. Looks very precise and relatively lag free, from our vantage point. JC gets some mild applause for a decent throw.
6:36 JC tries a forehand throw that goes way off. Just like in the real world, you might be able to throw it, but not very well, Yeguchi says. Some developers at NCL have gotten a perfect score.
6:37 The audience is getting into it a bit. "Get it... yay!" It is rather endearing.
6:39 On to waterskiing, which uses the Remote and Nunchuck, leaning back and forth to navigate through hoops in the water. Twisting the Remote works the throttle for a speed boost. Without Wii Motion Plus, this would not be possible. The audience groans sympathetically as JC crashes into a bouy and his Mii falls into the water.
6:42 On to swordfighting, JC points at the screen to calibrate the Remote and takes some practice swings at pieces of wood. Other games on the Wii had sword fighting, but none of them could recreate this realistic motion, says Yeguchi. We have to agree ... just thinking of Red Steel's sword controls still gives us nightmares.
6:43 It's not just about swinging... the B button can be used to block. You can't win just by wildly flailing around, says Yeugchi. You have to watch the opponent, block, and then attack when the opponent has left themself open. Reminds us of the stick-and-move style of Punch-Out, a bit.
6:46 Q&A time. Someone asks if third party developers had access to WiiMotionPlus before today. Yeguchi doesn't know. Someone else asks about what kind of tech is actually in the WiiMotionPlus, and whether Yeguchi is worried that everyone needs one to play. WiiMotionPlus measures angles of rotation, and adds that to the accelerometer data from the Remote itself.
6:49 As for multiplayer, they hope you'll purchase more WiiMotionPlus units, but there are pass-the-remote games, like Bowling in Wii Sports, so multiple WiiMotionPlus accesories aren't always needed.
6:52 Yeguchi can't say exactly how many mini-games will be in the final game, but he'd "like to have ten." We'd like to have a million dollars, but ...
6:54 Is this an admission the Wii Remote isn't good enough? When they were working on Wii Sports, Yeguchi says, they always wanted more, but they realized they could create a fantastic product with what they had. Or, as Donald Rumsfeld might say, You go to launch with the Wii Remote you have, not the Wii Remote you might wish you had.
6:58 Is WiiMotionPlus going to become the deafult Wii control scheme sometime in the future? Perhaps WiiMotionPlus will be built in to the Remote? Yeguchi says they're always looking into things like these, but there's no definite answer for today.
6:59 Is WiiMotionPlus too sensitive? Is it going to make the games too hard for some? Yeguchi says developers could, for instance, track the head of the racquet in Tennis for real topspin and backspin. The developers then have to ask themselves, "Is this easy to play? Just because iit's realistic, is this somethingwe want to do?" Nintendo always tries to keep a balance between too hard and too soft, with a low difficulty hurdle at the beginning and depth later on to keep everyone happy.
7:02 Shigeru Miyamoto comes on stage to demo Wii Music. He's clad in a retro Super Mario World undershirt, a stylish black cowboy shirt, black jeans and brown cowboy boots.
7:04 Miyamoto briefly goes over the basics that he discussed at the press conference: Other rhythm games require precise matching of notes, but they were trying for something different.
7:06 Miyamoto plays guitar, but he says he's terrified of playing in front of other people, because he's scared of missing notes and making a bad noise. In jazz, however, they do rapid play, and "I'm sure they make plenty of mistakes. In the end, it's not a mistake, it's an ad lib." Light laughter from the audience. Oh Miyamoto. You ham.
7:07 Miyamoto chooses Yankee Doodle, a "perfect song for an American audience." The hamminess continues!
7:08 The demo has "only" 26 of the 60+ instruments that will be in the final game. when 26 insturments gets an "only," that's pretty impressive, from where we're sitting.
7:10 Miyamoto plays one guitar rendition that sounds just like the real song, then another that is a total mess of random notes and steel drum notes. I t sounds surprisingly still OK, in its way. Quickly on to the vibraphone, and harpisichord. It sounds likea real harpsichord, all right! The tinny toy piano gets lots of laughs.
7:11 The vocal track sounds like K.K. Rider from Animal Crossing. The dog suit reminds us of those AWFUL christmas albums composed totally of dogs barking. ARGH!
7:12 Miyamoto and the translator do some rapid fire back and forth on the mouth harp and the harpsichord. They're still on the music selection screen. This isn't even the real game yet!
7:14 JC comes up for a three-player jam on the original Super Mario Bros. theme. Miyamoto gets some laughs with the beat box character on melody. His "Whoo!" sounds just like Michael Jackson. Miyamoto asks us to notice how they don't have to watch the screen as they play. TAKE THAT, OTHER RHYTHM GAMES!
7:15 You can change the arrangement, the tempo, and record it all to a music video to share with your friends on WiiConnect24. Some 5-8 year old children of the development staff came in to try the game. "Children of that age could not pull themselves away from this gam," says Miyamoto. They also can't drag themselves away from Barney the Dinosaur...
7:17 Miyamoto thinks that half of an elementary school music class could be dvoted to this. Mothers can also jump in to the game easily. And those in between, we wonder?
7:19 Aaron Rosenbeck comes up to show off the separate drumming mode. Using the buttons and the Nunchuk/Remote and the Wii Balance board, he can control a nine-piece drum set. He's definitely an experienced Wii drummer, effortlessly putting together nice set.
7:20 There will be a lesson structure built in to the game that Miyamoto says can teah anyone how to play the drums "in a few weeks." He hopes we'll get more drummers and a lot more kids interested in music. Just what we need ... even MORE drummers joining the Rock Band/Guitar Hero/Rock Revolution army of drummers.
7:26 The 50 songs in the game will include a wide variety of public domain songs, but also licensed music, says Miyamoto. They're "not really thinking" about digital distribution of song downloads, instead focusing on using WiiConnect24 to share music videos.
7:29 Someone has the temerity to ask if this is really more of a musical toy than a game. HOW DARE HE! Miyamoto says the questioner is right, and "that's why it's more interesting than a video game." The audience laughs and applauds at this verbal bitchslap.
7:31 Staff from Wave Race 64 are working on the waterskiing game from Wii Sports Resort. Yeguchi was the director of that game. The team is going to create a game that "surpasses Wave Race," according to Yeguchi. Miyamoto adds that it will "exceed Wave Race in depth." Bold words.
7:37 Miyamoto and Yeguchi address a question about "core gamers" and whether or not these games will appeal to them. In a nutshell, they respond that they hope anyone will enjoy these games, and that a "core gamer" is someone that enjoys games, regardless of genre, as long as they're good.
7:38 In response to a question about whether or not a new Pikmin is in the works, Miyamoto says he'll announced the new game when he's ready. Apparently he's ready now. "We're making Pikmin," the translator says. OMG MEGATONZ! Huge applause from the audience.
7:40 Motion plus offers no new functionality for new games. And with that, the event is over. Trinnen says he hopes we found it illuminating. Well, there was that Pikmin thing, we guess ...