This year, we had more staff members on hand than ever, which allowed us more coverage from the floor and more hands-on time with the demos. As with last year's awards, we're happy to present the best of the best, straight from those of us who were there. Award categories include Best Booth, Best Trailer, Best Newcomer, MMO of the Show, and Most Anticipated Project. Plus, we decided to say a few additional words about some categories that weren't awarded, like Best Presentation, Biggest Surprise, and Best of the Rest.
So follow along after the gallery for more on what we thought of E3 2011.
Best Booth: World of Tanks
Dan O'Halloran: Wargaming.net's World of Tanks gets my vote for best booth. It had all the usual trappings compared to its competitors: booth babes, dozens of demo stations, goodie bag giveaways, and large screen televisions showing the action. But it also had a real tank parked right there front and center. That made for a great photo op unlike any other at E3.
Shawn Schuster: World of Tanks. I mean, the team brought real WWII tanks to the expo. Who does that?! Plus, this was a team with no booth at all last year, and this year they completely dominated everything.
Best E3 Trailer: SWTOR "Return"
Dan O'Halloran: Star Wars: The Old Republic's latest cinematic, Return, was a turning point for me on being excited for the game. I was considering playing the Smuggler class so I could heal when I group and DPS when I don't, but I know I also wanted to play a force-wielding wrecking ball. Everyone wants to feel like he is the hero of the story, but I had my doubts that the Smuggler class would do that for me. Then this trailer came out the day before E3 started and reminded me what badasses Smugglers can be with their dual-wielding laser pistols and crowd control tricks. On another note, this cinematic was so well done in selling excitement and emotion, I would give no thought to buying a movie ticket to see a two-hour version if it were made into a feature length film by the same company.
Rubi Bayer: Strictly from an MMO point of view, I'll have to say the TOR trailer. There was another that blew it out of the water for me, though -- I'll get to that in a few minutes.
Shawn Schuster: Without a doubt, that SWTOR trailer topped all else. I just want to know how it's possible to keep topping the previous cinematics. And I also can't wait to play as John Marston, er, I mean, the Smuggler class.
Best Newcomer: UTV Ignition/UTV True Games
Beau Hindman: UTV True Games. It not only showed off Faxion and was ready to discuss how much it was concerned about fixes and future updates, but its employees seemed to be having fun. I like an accessible developer. I believe in Faxion because it comes from the same place I would if I were a developer. Sure, it needs its fixes, but it's brand-new... and what game doesn't need a few patches when it launches? Also, the rest of the games the company offered made me smile. Planet Crashers? I must have it. Now.
Shawn Schuster: UTV Ignition/UTV True Games. Its first showing at E3 was preceded by months of tongue-in-cheek humor in trailers and advertising campaigns, which simply reminds us that we're playing games to have fun. The booth was impressive for a first-timer, and it seemed to get some healthy foot traffic. Will Faxion Online prove to be a hit? That I don't know, but the team behind it is still catching our attention.
Best MMO of the Show: SWTOR
Dan O'Halloran: It should be no surprise that Star Wars: The Old Republic gets my vote in this category. I played a demo at E3 last year and was left unimpressed. This year, getting to play a level 26 character through a polished quest got me excited about this title again. Is BioWare revolutionizing combat and character progression in MMOs? No. Is it adding phenomenal level of story and immersion on top of polished MMO gameplay? You better believe it.
Rubi Bayer: I'm going to have to give this one to Star Wars: The Old Republic, even though it didn't personally excite me. The game areas people played were very polished, the quest acquisition system and cinematics were extremely interesting and well-done, and there was a decent range of gameplay available to suit different tastes.
Most Anticipated Project: DUST 514
Shawn Schuster: With so many great MMO projects out there, this was a particularly difficult category, but what CCP is doing with DUST 514 is nothing short of astounding. This will essentially be the first cross-platform MMO to work together in real time between the PC and PS3 versions. Granted, DUST 514 and EVE Online will not be the same MMO, but they will share the same world, servers and even development platform.
Additional FavoritesBest Presentation
Beau Hindman: Perfect World Entertainment's Batcave of gaming was the best. So many demos were out on the floor, causing me to scream over the noise of E3 to have a discussion. Perfect World made a nice, dark room with several glowing Alienware machines so we could sit down, chill out and enjoy what the team had to offer. The reps gave a small presentation before we played each game, and then they either played with us or gave us instructions. I wasn't there to figure out how to play a game; I was there to experience a game, and Perfect World set up its presentation to allow me to do that.
Dan O'Halloran: Star Wars: The Old Republic had the best demo for a few reasons. EA split its demo stations into two different sections: level 1 Republic experience for those not familiar with MMOs and level 26 Empire gameplay for those more experienced. Those of us diving directly into the mid-level Sith play were given a 10-minute overview of how to play each advanced class available to us. It was smart and fun and had a line of people waiting to play that went on forever. So of course, I played twice!
Rubi Bayer: Defiance. I went to the closed-door demo of this game and was pretty excited to see how far along it is. The devs put on a great show, racing through (virtual) San Francisco while explaining how things worked. They played through a few events and large-scale battles, gave lots of important details on how the crossover with the Syfy show will work, and answered questions regarding the console systems and so on. It was fun, interesting, and extremely informative -- everything a demo should be.
Beau Hindman: I was most surprised when I stumbled across a tiny booth that featured games from Taiwan. No one surrounded it, and yet some of the games the booth had were really cool. I talked for a long time with a developer from Fairyland 2, a social MMO that had some incredible features. It was like finding a 20-dollar bill in your pocket. There I was, surrounded by the biggest and loudest in the industry, and I find a cool little pocket of awesome away from it all. It was nice.
Dan O'Halloran: EverQuest II in 3-D was something I did not expect and found myself pleasantly surprised to encounter. While 3-D capability has been available in the game since last year, only now is SOE spotlighting it. With just a pair of 3-D glasses and a monitor that refreshes at 120mhz or more, you can be battling in full 3-D glory. It really was quite impressive with the UI popping up close, your character in the middle of your depth perception, and the world around you in the background.
Rubi Bayer: I hope it's not a cop out to say "E3 itself." I really didn't know what to expect from this event, but I definitely couldn't have imagined the pure sensory overload that began the second I walked through the doors. I mean that in the best way -- the entire convention was so much bigger, flashier, and more exciting than I expected that every time I turned a corner there was something new and exciting.
Shawn Schuster: The biggest surprise to me was learning that DUST 514 would be a PlayStation 3 exclusive. I winced pretty hard when I heard that, worrying that this game could be doomed from the start, but CCP assured us that the MMOFPS will run on its own servers, only using PSN to access the login info initially. This allows quicker updates, which is essential to any MMO.
Best of the Rest
Beau Hindman: Nintendo's miniature city was impressive, for sure. It was a circus inside. There were people jumping and playing and basically having a great time. It reminded me of walking through arcades back in the day. The noise, the lights... if Nintendo had pumped the sound of coins dropping into slots, the image would have been complete. I don't even think I checked out the games; instead, I watched the people playing. Nintendo, for all of the guff it seemed to receive this year, manufactures joy.
Dan O'Halloran: One of my favorite things about E3 is talking to the developers who are so passionate about what they do. The two that really stood out for me this time were DotA developers. Riot Games' Senior Producer on League of Legends, Travis George, was introducing me to the new champions his team is introducing to the game, and each time he talked about conceptualizing one of them, his philosophy was the same: Was it cool and fun? And isn't the way it should be? Also, I got to talk to developers of Vorp!, a new DotA title set in space. They didn't have a fancy booth with high-end demo stations and scantily clad women handing out freebies. What they had was a Mac, an early Alpha demo, and a passion for gaming that showed through in both the game and their pitch for it. Meeting people like that is what makes E3 a blast for me.
Rubi Bayer: The Battlefield 3 trailer. I know nothing about Battlefield 3, have no interest whatsoever in playing it, and am not even entirely sure if there's a Battlefield 1 or 2, but every time EA showed this trailer on the giant screen I was riveted -- could not tear myself away. When someone who couldn't care less about the game stops to watch it at every opportunity and then looks it up online when she gets home so she can watch it more, you've done something very, very, very right.
Shawn Schuster: Every time I'd pass the Driver: San Francisco booth, I had to stop and play. I'd even make excuses to walk by the booth for that reason. I'm a big fan of racing games (and especially the Driver series), and Driv3r's launch is the reason I finally broke down and bought an original Xbox all those years ago, but I really wasn't expecting to fall so deeply in love with D:SF after a 10-minute demo (or five). Honorable mentions go out to SOE's Payday: The Heist and Cryptic's Neverwinter, neither of which is an MMO, but both are still games I'll buy on release.
Best Booth (continued)
Beau Hindman: The booths were all pretty outrageous, but I am going with Nexon's booth. It was open but organized and still showed off the company's products. You could see it from far away, but it wasn't super loud or annoying. People were drawn into the activity there because it was obvious something was going on. The more private press area let you talk to the developers while playing, and they had free booze. I don't drink, but I guess that's a plus.
Rubi Bayer: I loved the SOE booth. It wasn't gargantuan and towering like the Nintendo booth and some others, but it was very spacious and welcoming. There were demo stations with large backboards showing what game you could play there, devs strolling around chatting with visitors, and a central lounge area with huge beanbags, comfy chairs, and small tables for drinks and such. The overall effect was "come in, get comfortable, hang out with us, and play some games." A very friendly feel.
Best E3 Trailer (continued)
Beau Hindman: Dragon Nest. This trailer not only makes me want to play but makes me feel like punching the screen. Or a dragon. Or something. It's bright, energetic and full of action. Also, you know that the trailer is showing off gameplay footage, which is even more exciting. After playing the actual game, this trailer was even better.
Best Newcomer (continued)
Dan O'Halloran: I've been following Spacetime Studios' mobile MMO Pocket Legends since it launched last year. This year I finally got a look at its upcoming title, Star Legends, and it's not just its predecessor in space. I saw environmental effects like earthquakes, gas traps, and more, all on a mobile phone. Add to that all the staples of space RPGs (big guns, space hubs for socializing, invading aliens) and you have the next generation of MMOs on mobile.
Rubi Bayer: I have to say Nival and its MMO Prime World. It's not huge and flashy like the AAA titles with big backing, but it's a fun little game. The basic premise of the game is the nature vs. tech story that we're starting to hear from several games, including some rudimentary terraforming, an extensive PvP system, and lots of unusual little features like sex-based abilities. (Sex-based being whether you are male or female, not the other thing, sorry.) I sat down with four other people and played Prime World for a while and had a pretty good time. I think Nival's got something fun on its hands here, and if you don't mind the Facebook integration, you absolutely need to give it a try.
Best MMO of the Show (continued)
Beau Hindman: I am going to choose two. I have to. I would go with four or five if I could. For me, Rusty Hearts blew me away. It was sharp, fast and fun. It just worked. I can see it getting a lot of attention once it is released. I also loved the fact that it could probably be played on older -- or not so powerful -- machines. You would never guess it was a side-scroller. Also, UFO Online excited the tabletop gamer in me. You can tweak every little gun and character, and the turn-based combat was thrilling. Remember turn-based? That's what we did before action came along.
Shawn Schuster: TERA. Although I've seen TERA demoed and have played it several times over the last year of conventions, this is the first time the press was shown the game's political system. I enjoy the action-based combat, but the politics of the game will truly be something amazing. I'm talking EVE-corruption-calibre amazing.