Shadowbane surprisingly wasn’t showing a copy of Shadowbane, instead having a demo reel replay endlessly on a large wall of video monitors. To compensate, they had Wolfpackers available for brain picking, and there were enough Shadowmaniacs on hand to ensure that said brains were properly picked. Hell, I think J. is still at the booth. J. and I opened the morning with am hour-long chat with Sam “Meridian” Johnson about some of the basic gameplay concepts behind Shadowbane, the transcript of which will be posted later. However, they were launching “Play 2 Crush” T-shirts from a catapult. This is not a joke. Belthior occasionally also set things on fire.

As for details on what Shadowbane is? Well, there’s plenty of them and I won’t begin to presume on the territory of the experts. My basic impression was “Wow. You can tank rush in Shadowbane.” No doubt this is probably a wrong impression. Not being part of the Shadowbane priesthood, most of the conversation went woefully over my head and, like everyone else, I’ll have to wait until an actual game appears before passing judgement. Meanwhile, expect the transcript of our interview with Meridian next week.

Star Wars Galaxies

The best game at the show. Yes, for once we agree with Gamespy. Star Wars Galaxies is all that and several bags of chips.

Ignore the snarky jokes about Muffy the Daggit we posted yesterday. Ignore our readers thinking that SWG uses the Luclin engine. Trust me – I saw the Luclin engine yesterday. SWG is about four generations past that. The SWG engine is as close to photorealistic as we have yet seen. Luclin has blades of glass. SWG has blades of glass that sway gently in the wind. And when the wind changes direction, so does the grass. Of course, you’re probably not noticing this because there’s this HUGE GODDAM DRAGON ON THE SCREEN ABOUT TO STEP ON YOU. Everything in SWG is to scale. This means that when you see an AT-AT walker you are going to run screaming.

The SWG engine just screams Star Wars. The Jawas kind of funkily mosey. Droids sort of herky-jerky in the exact same manner they do in the movies. Tatooine looks like Tatooine, not like featureless desert landscape number 5. The screenshots released are nice, but seeing the game in action is on a seperate plane of existence. You really do feel as though you’re walking around, well, Star Wars movie sets.

Of course, when the space engine expansion is released, you’ll never be on Tatooine ever again. You’ll be fighting me. This is because I will be commanding that huge Star Destroyer that takes you ten minutes to fly across, modelled in exacting detail that is functionally identical to the models shown in the movies. And I will be kicking your rebel ass, in a space subgame that looks and plays better than any SW space shooter out yet. In case you haven’t picked up anything yet, pick up on this: LUM WANTS TO COMMAND HIS OWN STAR DESTROYER. Thank you.

And, oh, yeah, you can do that. Rise through the Imperial ranks and command capital ships with substations manned by other players. Or build droids. And program them with your own AI. And sell them to other players. Or write for in-game newspapers. Or go womp rat hunting or whatever else the functioning world ecology produces. If you think that a deep, actually working as advertised Ultima Online persistant world model set in a dazzling Star Wars environment is your cup of tea, well, as Lietgardis said as we left, “you won’t need to play any other game. Ever. Unless you want to play medieval fantasy for some reason.”

Face it, you will be buying SWG when it comes out. It could have been “Star Wars: Quest for Chewie’s Dirty Socks” and you’d buy it. You already knew this. The good news is that it looks like you’ll take it home and find out it really is a pretty kickass game.

Destination: Lineage

“Well, we were going to run our own company, then we decided that it’d be cool to be bought out by these Korean guys who make more money than Jesus.” That’s not a direct quote, but that is pretty much the gist. For whatever reason, Richard Garriott wants you to believe that Lineage: The Bloodpledge is the future of massively multiplayer gaming. My only conclusion is that Lord British hasn’t actually played any games since Ultima 9. Which, I will say, Lineage is superior to.

NCSoft claims to run the most popular MMOG on the planet. While this is a debatable notion (when internet cafe site licenses aren’t included, Lineage’s subscriber base is more on the level of Asheron’s Call) what isn’t debatable is that NCSoft makes a huge pile of money. Garriott’s figure was that NCSoft could afford to shell out $40 million to create a new MMOG every three months. By the way, Richard Garriott and his brother now own 6% of NCSoft. If I owned 6% of NCSoft, I would probably stand in front of a room of shell-shocked fans and proclaim Lineage the future of online gaming, too. Not that I am implying anything, mind you.

Talking with a new Destination Games staff member last night, my drunken yell/demand/roar was “When you localize Lineage for America, is task one on the localization list ‘MAKE IT NOT SUCK?'” The answer was something approaching an embarassed wince. Wincing is going to a lot more popular in Austin of late, I suspect.

Then again, this whole thing could have been engineered just to make Larry Probst, EA’s CEO, cry. If that’s the case, mission accomplished.

Richard Garriott

Jake Song of NCSoft

Robert Garriott

Starr Long and Carly Staehlin

Jeremy Gaffney

Larry Probst, CEO of Electronic

Arts, just damned glad to be there

Apropro of Nothing

Paul Sage.

“So, what’s up.” “Nothing”.

“No, really. WHAT’S UP.” “The usual.”

Jeremy “Utidayael” Dixon, Community Coordinator

for Horizons, and 0.5robo from the Lumboards

Asheron’s Call 2

Our visit to Turbine’s office deep within Kentia Hall’s hell of karaoke went well in that I was not actually killed. Jason Booth showed off the work they’ve done on the Turbine Engine powering AC2. Despite repeated pestering he wouldn’t actually tell us anything about AC2, mind you. The Turbine Engine’s come a good way since last year’s showing and is now pretty spiffy. The blocky models of AC1 give way to lovingly detailed creatures which really do a much better job of establishing the “sense of wonder” that I found missing from much of AC1. The engine itself was running on a fairly non-uber machine (I believe the specs were an AMD 600mhz processor with a GeForce 1 card) and still looked show-off-worthy. Turbine has always done landscapes well and AC2’s landscapes look really, um, landscapey. As you can tell, pretty much any question I asked not involving landscapes was answered with “we can’t talk about that”. Oh well.

Please make the karaoke machines stop.

Jason Booth, seriously mulling over

a question.

Jesse “Nei” Kurlancheek

Jeff Anderson, Turbine CEO, amazed that my badge reads

“freelance journalist”

Earth and Beyond

In between extremely surreal phone calls of women screaming from the Majestic showroom next door, the Earth and Beyond team showed off their baby. If you liked Starflight, you are going to love this game, as “massively multiplayer Starflight” is pretty much the goal of this game’s design. The game is class and level based and with groups of characters that have interdependent abilities, which does raise the unpleasant spectre of Everquest-in-space. However, the classes are “Explorer”, “Warrior” and “Trader” which does seem a bit more cut and dried than “Shadowknight” and “Ranger”. Explorers can apparently go out and explore as their gameplay – how this will actually happen wasn’t explained. The model for trader gameplay is Tradewars. Buy ore, sell equipment! Well, more detailed than that.

Earth and Beyond has some really spectacular eye candy screenshots on their website, but the presentation we saw was actually pretty lackluster (aside from some well done warp-point transistions.) As for gameplay, we’ll learn more of that when beta opens this fall.

Derek Sanderson, still gainfully

employed in the post-Windfeather era

Eric Wang, EAB’s producer

On deck for today: Luclin, Jumpgate, Atriarch, Dark Age of Camelot and more