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Joystiq live at Activision's Non-E3 press conference

Ross Miller

6:55 pm PT: We're inside the Vibiana awaiting Activision's press conference. The place looks like a renovated church. Along the middle are rows of chairs, and at each corner are L-shaped couches with tables filling the square, covered in sushi and edamame. The music just changed from Santeria to Foo Fighters' "Everlong." As a reminder: this it, folks, for Activision, so any big announcement they have will likely come out in the next hour or so.

7:08: We've moved to a what is the equivalent of the third row inside of a horseshoe of couches. Still nothing but the Activision (and not Activision Blizzard) logo across all the monitors throughout the venue.

7:09: To the right of us at the front of the horseshoe are the Guitar Hero developers. They look like heavy metal artists, dressed to rawk (or star in an Airheads sequel). One is holding onto drumsticks. The other, a GH World Tour guitar.
7:11: A voice has come on to announce we've got 10 minutes until the press conference. And then to soothe our savage hearts, they blast "Rock You Like A Hurricane" through the speakers. Thanks to reader nightmarerec0n for verifying that this is, in fact, a renovated church.

7:14: "Here I am ... Rock you like a Hurricaaaaaane!" Sorry, we couldn't resist.

7:17: Five more minutes. The big names in press are filling up the horseshoe. In front of us, N'Gai Croal, Geoff Keighley, Dean Takahashi and Stephen Totilo. They look locked in conversation: we're pretty sure they're sharing good tilapia recipes and recent knitting accomplishments.
7:24: Ladies and gentleman, please welcome actor, comedian and video game freak Nelson Diaz. He wants us to give us a round of applause. We're scared already. He list his street creds (over 45,000 gamerscore and a game forum contributor). We're suddenly so relieved.
7:26: Activision president Mike Griffith takes the stage, still holding onto his DS and Guitar Hero On Tour. Don't pause the game, show us how it's done!

7:27: Griffith name drops Quantum of Solace and Wolfenstein, among others, and reminds us of the reception after the presentation. He uses the DS as a starting point to brag about Guitar Hero's success. More than 18 million song downloads touted.

7:28: "This is a transitional period, both for the gaming industry and for Activision." Juxtaposed against the overly-hyper Diaz, this guy seems very dry. Can we at least get a powerpoint to stare at?

7:30: "In the past years, we've nearly doubled the players of Call of Duty, quadrupled the number of Guitar Hero fans," and had a lot of Kung Fu Panda players. The the three tiers of Activision: soldiers, virtual rock and pandas.

7:31: Griffiths talks about Singularity. A trailer is shown. "This may be the last time my voice is heard, I told them it was unsafe and highly unstable," says an unknown person with a thick accent. Not much is shown, the final title notes PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

7:32: Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 Fusion. The "fusion" is a mixture of character's powers for even better powers. Cue trailer. Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, Wolverine, Spider-man. "An astonishing number of powers." Iron Man starts to combine his laser beams with the Invisible Woman's forcefield. But we don't see what happens next ... and it's going to kill us not to know.

7:33: X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen are discussed. No trailer for Wolverine (yet), and nothing of merit discussed. Griffith is talking about each of the film franchise's success. "We're confident that all the games I've discussed, and those I'm about to discuss ... will deliver new levels of entertainment and excitement around the world."

7:34: Diaz is back to show his gamer intellect by talking about how he's looking forward to collect cubes. Cubes. Anyway, A developer from Treyarch takes the stage (we missed his name, will update in a minute with that).
Talking about Call of Duty World at War, new trailer. "I've seen things that nothing can train you for." A montage of action sequences. Rifle smacks, flamethrowers, stabbings, men on fire, point-blank executions. The game looks intense, but again, it's another WWII shooter. They're going to have to do a lot more to pique our interests.

7:35: Tanks for vehicle-based gameplay. They're implementing the perks system. And for the first time ever, Treyarch is introducing four-playing online co-op (or two-player split screen). A new competitive mode for rankings and stats. And Keifer "Jack Bauer" Sutherland will voice one of the main characters.

7:42: His voice beings a co-op gameplay trailer. We're anticipating the 24 clock tick, but no such luck. Two soldiers approach a downed plane. Uh-oh, it's a trap!

7:43: We move onto a new area. One of the players has a flamethrower and is torching the ground. Now they move into indoor scenery, which looks like they reused some of COD4's textures. Back to an outdoor skirmish. It's intense, but the trailer feel really jumpy. The game basically looks like COD4 in a new setting, and we mean that in the best of ways.

7:44: One more shot of the flamethrower (wow, they reuse that). Diaz retuns, all he wants is to earn some prestige points. (We get it, you know gamer vernacular, it still sounds awkward and very forced). Cue trailer for Spiderman: Web of Shadows.

7:46: The Daily Bugle logo is in shambles, a dark black oil (or perhaps tentacle monster) is slithering about. Spider-man observes below, perched on the edge of a tall building. One of the developers takes the stage. "You're going to find NYC infested by alien symbiotes." Quarantine zones and evactuation points. It's going to be up to spider-man to decide who to team up with -- heroes or villains -- to save the city.

7:48: Completely rebuilt combat system. Spider-man will be fighting through streets of Manhatten, swing kicking enemies onto the wall and fighting all the way up the walls ... "and then down again." Gameplay footage from a SHIELD evacuation point is being shown. We see a glimpse of venom fall of a building. Spider-man, in symbiote form, is taking on unrecognized foes all the way up the side of the building.

7:51: Two suits can be used. Red more agile, black/symbiote more about strength. Robust upgrade system. Who fights behind your side in the game depends on your action. Cue footage of air combat gameplay. Spider-man versus the Vulture and his enemies. "Aw, look at the adorable vultures' nest. Is this goblins r us? .... OH it's a cliche fight!" Yes, spider-man is still full of bad zingers. (Hey, we feel for the guy.)

7:52: Spider-man switches from symbiote to red suit. He leaps in the air, grapples onto the vulture, and unleashes combat. We're reminded of devil may cry, although with a lot more vertical. They've moved to fight off the side of teh building (i.e. a much longer drop). The game is really looking good, but we're awaiting final judgment for when we can try the controls ourselves.

7:54: Launchine webs seems to slow the game down. We can't tell if that's intentional or a technical glitch at the moment. At the end of the fight, a mini-cutscene has spidey boucning on the vulture's flying swords. To a final kick.

7:55: Diaz returns. "Sometimes I wish I had spidey senses. Then sometimes I wish I was a smooth and classy as this next guy." Could be worse, he could be Jamie Kenedy. Cue Quantum of Solace trailer. It's footage from the film itself, not the game. Q: "I think you're motivated by revenge." Bond: "I'm motivated by my duty." It doesn't say anything for how the game is doing, but the source material (the movie) looks absolutely badass. Diaz introduces Senior VP of Global Stratgies at Danjaq.

7:56: "Most people don't know who we are" -- phew, our wikipedia skills can take a rest. Danjaq owns the global brand rights to Bond. Own EM productions in London. Danjaq runs licensing properties. That's great and all, but shouldn't we hear about the game from a developer? Or see even a screenshot?

8:00: He just goofed and almost called Daniel Craig a blonde bombshell. Well hubba hubba, dude. (Note: he corrects himself to Blond Bond.) Activision was given "unprecedent" access to movie -- scripters, Craig, etc. Talks about hope for future franchising of the properties. Introduces Garret to show off footage (finaly!)

8:01: A little background (and some more PR speak) first. "It's our job in this game to let gamers become this new bond, this new physical, more cunning, more dangerous bond." The game tells story of both Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, and Garret thanks Danjaq for access to the movie. World exclusive: Daniel Craig is a gamer.
8:04: First footage. It's third person, Bond is sneaking through a hotel. Accesses a menu that shows the movements of everyone on the floor. Bond hides, then dashes up to soldier to take him out.
Animation gets a bit awkward. Swithces to first-person. Runs up, a little blip shows you hit A button to knock the guy out. Walks along edge of building floor. We cut to split screen to see inside of the adjacent window, a more visual cue akin to 24. Bond takes out another soldier with his CQC ... err ... kung fu action. Picks up an assult rifle and starts going crazy action hero on us.
8:06: More explosions, more gunning. The more you get hit, the more the classic 007 "gun scope" view closes up. Bond dies, shutter closes completely. New footage. Bond is awaiting interrogation. Looks like in-game cutscene. Your HUD is a sexy bond shot, a side view of your pistol, and the listening of ammuniation/ grenades available. the sexy bond silhouette changes to sexy crouch when you crouch. The cover system looks strong at this stage.

8:09: The sexy silhouette also acts as rechargeable health indicator, with the death shutter appearing only when health nears nil. End of footage ... and quickly into new trailer, which they finshed last night.
8:10: Shows footage we just saw, both from film and the game. (Live action shot of his slow march into the title screen.) Montage of action on a train, in an elevator shaft, at the indoor pool from the first screenshot. Lots of explosions. November 2008.

8:11: Diaz introduces id's Todd Hollenshead, who asks for more applaus to put him on similar level to John Carmack's EA performance. Introduces Wolfenstein and their involvement with Raven. Series vet BJ is returning for the game. "I may not be a hero, but I like kicking nazi butt as much as BJ does"

8:13: Nazis are trying to open up a portal to another dimension known as shrell. "In the new game, unlike the others," BJ doesnt have to fight by himself. Can enlist underground resistance to help him. "Of course it wouldn't be Wolfenstein" without multiplayer component. "Kickass heroes, killing nazis, mysterious occult, killer multiplayer." Sounds like the perfect tagline. More footage coming at Quakecon, but here's a snippet.

8:15: The clip is literally 5 second long. ultra-fast montage. Can't see much, but really, it doens't look as hot as id Tech 5-powered Rage. Diaz returns, "It's time to rock, to roll, to get your funk on, whatever." Diaz is no Jamie Kennedy, but he's trying. Cue quick Guitar Hero mini0trailer, then Brian from Neversoft (the guy holding the guitar earlier on the couch). He's still holding the guitar.

8:17: For GH: WT 85 master songs available on disc. Doors, Eagles, Van Halen, bands that wont be seen anywhere else. Hints that rock stars will be seen today. Virtually or in-real life? I guess we'll find out. Touts the Metallica DLC, for PS3 Xbox 360 and Wii. No applause .. aawwwwkward.

8:18: Onto instruments, but first, he says previous instruments will be compatible with guitar hero. Doesn't say Rock Band, though. Shows off new guitar's features. Star power button, dual start buttons for lefties and righties, the slider bar for tapping and wah effects. Velocity sensitive. We're guessing the tapping will go well with Van Halen songs. Will be seen at song that closes presentation.

8:20: Moves onto drums. "The most realistic drum experience." First was "elevating the cymbals." Symmetrical for lefties. Made it quiet and responsive with thick layer of silicon. Also has lots of bounch back. "Can hit 32nd notes with no problem" (assuming, of course, you're that good). Velocity sensitive pads. Another developer from the couch takes the stage to readjust it. Shows ports on the back.

8:22: Kick pedal port allows for Y-splitter and double bass pedals. Another port is for future expansions. A midi in port for plugging in ANY electronic drum kit or drum machine to play with Guitar Hero. Can also be used for song creation mode. We're really impressed right now. Test presentation of playing the drum pads as a midi controller. Looks like it just became that much easier to have a unified drum set for Rock Band and Guitar Hero.

8:23: Mic briefly shown. Diaz return to introduce drummer Travis Barker (of Blink 182 fame). He's worked with Neversoft from early on in the development. Is a character in the game. Diaz asks Barker if it's easier or harder to play real drums. Barker says it's really similar and talks about applying the virtual skills to real skills. Talks about global beat recording and sharing through song creation.

8:27: Brian Bright returns to discuss music studio (i.e. song creation mode). Shows off music studio menu, that allows anyone to jump in and out and choose any of the following: lead, rhythm, bass, drums, keyboard. Shows off line 6 modeling options: amps, effects, scale. Different button combinations that can 7 differnet notes. 1-4 people can record in real time.

8:30: Drum machine can be recorded with either the drum controller or the controller (used as input for a drum machine). Selects a loop type (each one is a bank of five loop), one of 20 drum kits. He picks the dub kit. Frets play the loop, tilt for volume, sliders for augmentation, and strum adjusts pitch. He looks really nerdy on stage, getting kind of funky and dancing while he makes the beat. Honestly, it's quite impressive.

8:32: Switches to keybooard. "Close to 80 different synthesizers sounds." Bright picks Osc hi. Frets play notes, whamy changes type, slide augments, and tilting changes octaves. We'll have to see when we get a hands on, but it looks easy enough to learn. Bright sounds good, although we might be smitten by the idea of playing a keytar.

8:34: The GHMIX menu looks robust, with a long column of tools and menus. This will not be for the casual gamer. Bright moves onto GHTunes. "Like YouTube meets Billboard" in guitar hero universe, in terms of Web 2.0 sharing and ranking. He can't show that, not connected to internet.

Rock Star creator menu. It looks like an expanded version of Rock Band's character creator (no surprise there), right down to the characters' style. He has what looks like a red-head female steven tyler. Very customizable guitar and drum editors. Lots of options that will obsess certain gamers (read: us) for longer than we'd ever admit to.

8:38: Talks about online multiplayer, including 4-on-4 battle of the bands. Nelson returns, talks about customizing himself. "That'll be a quick way to lose 10 to 15 right here." New special guest, female musician (and friend of guitar). Lead singer of Paramore Haylie Williams, who is also a playable character.

8:40: Talks about her obsession with Guitar Hero during the Warped Tour from way back when. "Seeing myself is the weirdest, creepiest, coolest experience ... it's exactly like me." Talks about doing mocap for the game. Diaz: "What do you want to see in terms of song choices?" Williams want to see new slipknot single. The four developers from the couch take the stage to prepare to play. Diaz thanks Williams. A round of applause.

8:41: One more surprise: the Neversoft band playing Hot for Teacher on GH WT. Band select screen looks like an upgraded Rock Band (which is itself an upgraded Guitar Hero). Long loading screen full of artificial cheers.

8:43: singer "you ready to rock!" the drums are very glossy and hard to read the off-beats compared to Rock Band (not digging that at all. Guitarist is tapping the intro. everyone cheers when he gets done with it.

8:45: Our eyes are adjusting to the shininess of the notes. There's a swirl in the durm part which seems to mean you can improvise without being penalized. Vocal lines leave a trail when you sing to give you a better relative sense on where you're going with your voice. We see the long kick pedal-like line meaning the bassist hits no notes. Each player has separate multiplayer gauge. Ends with a lot of notes, but no big jam breakout ending like in Rock Band.

8:48: loud applause from the crowd. Diaz asks everyone to stand up (we don't want to be rude but, hey, we gotta blog). Run DMC comes on as background music before Diaz thanks everyone -- technical glitch, they quickly fix it. Diaz concludes the press conference.

And that's it folks! Thanks for joining us in the liveblog, we'll have more pictures from the event shortly!

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