In the past, the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles has been seen as the premier gaming convention on the face of the earth. This year however, the Penny Arcade Expo may have forced E3 to relinquish that throne.
Over 67,000 people crowded the Washington State Convention Center between September 3 and 5 to experience a gaming show unlike anything else available in the world; a convention for gamers, by gamers, but with all the glitz and glamour of the trade shows of Germany and Tokyo. Gamers and nerds old and “newb” flocked to Seattle to experience a festival unlike anything else available.
The biggest development on the show floor was nearly unanimously the appearance of legendary vaporware Duke Nukem Forever, a game that had been in development so long (13 years) that it was believed to be no more than a myth. After having been formally cancelled last year, few thought that Duke Nukem would once again see the light of day. But as those who waited in lines in excess of four hours (like yours truly) saw, the steroid-pumping, alien-staving 80’s action hero of gaming really is back to kick ass and chew gum; and he’s all out of gum.
New developers Gearbox Software brought the game in behind closed doors and shared a trailer for the game along with a brief story on its development before letting attendees get their hands on what appeared to be a nearly-completed project. Without going into graphic detail, it’s everything fans of the series will expect.
Hardly the only attraction at the show however, Duke had to compete with his more modern contemporaries, those being the Halo and Gears of War franchises. Halo: Reach had a prominent showing on the floor, allowing players to try their hand at the new weapons and mechanics weeks before the game released. Gears of War 3 also had a multiplayer presence, and the game is… essentially the same as its predecessors.
Old classics returned to gaming in classic ways. Sonic 4 was on hand, the first main Sonic release in over a decade. Mortal Kombat has also received a facelift and is more gruesome in its fatalities than ever. And the Metroid Series makes its long-awaited return to side scrolling (sorta) with “Other M”, a game that is controlled just like the old Nintendo Entertainment System entries of yore.
As always, the convention welcomed a number of bands to the show, which were moved from one of the larger Convention Center rooms to the Benaroya Hall a few blocks away. Also moved were the keynote speech (this year Warren Specter took the podium) and the Omegathon Finale, which was played in 15 rousing rounds of the “claw” game. (You remember the green aliens from “Toy Story?” Yeah, that kind of claw.)
With Penny Arcade Expo expected to expand even more next year, everyone is wondering exactly how ringleaders and Penny Arcade creators Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins will fit the ever-increasing hordes of nerds. Using Seattle’s Light Rail line to ferry visitors between downtown and the Qwest Field Events Center, and nearly 300,000sq ft more space for the show doesn’t sound like a bad idea.