A few days ago, I mosied on down to a dinky little city in New South Wales called Sydney. The purpose of my visit was, ostensibly, to attend a function being put on by Electronic Arts at which they were going to demonstrate some of their upcoming titles. However, with some deft moves and a remarkable display of agility (well, specifically mastering Sydney's awesome public transport system within mere hours - hell, I live in Brisbane and have no idea how to get anywhere on a bus or train), I was able to extend my visit to include a few other very noteworthy establishments, including Activision and Ubi Soft.
However, the focus of the trip was the Electronic Arts function. Called 'Imagine', EA spared no expense and put on quite an event. Everything was organised manic efficiency and in the end was a blast as well as being a good opportunity to peek on a few neat upcoming games.
Rather than jump straight into the meat of it and start babbling about the games, it is worth covering in detail the events as they unfolded on the day in question. To begin with, I knew very little about the event, having only decided the day before to make a mad, rushed journey south to get there. I had some brief instructions from EA, namely "meet at 10am, Queen Victoria Building". After some brief investigation, I found out that building was in the city, and then just before 9am, proceded to make my move to the epicentre of one of this country's most bustling of cities.
I had some brief instructions on how to get there, but fortunately it appears that location was chosen because it was relatively easy to get there. I went and stood on a road for a while, and eventually a bus came along that said "QVB" on it, so I jumped on it and was away. I was amazed at the ruthless efficiency with which this big clunky method of public transport waded through the slaw of morning Sydney traffic. Unlike Brisbane, which seems to have bus lanes that go for about 20 meters and then they bottleneck (merge) into the normal lanes, Sydney seems to actually have serious, no bull bus lanes that allow them to carve effortless through the wads of cars backed up for ages. Most impressed. Suddenly, I was in the city, jumping off in the vague vicinity of the QVB, which using some detective skills (ie, looking around) I was able to pinpoint further without much difficulty.
However, I was immediately somewhat disillusioned - the building occupied a fair chunk of city real estate, leaving me somewhat confused as to exactly which part of the QVB we were meeting. This was exaggerated by the fact that I had no idea who I was supposed to be meeting - in fact, I didn't know anything other than there was a bus taking us to where the event was being held, in Manly. So, I wandered around aimlessly a while, not too concerned just yet - I still had half an hour to kill.
However, off in the distance, I saw a familiar site - nerds. Homing in on their position I circled the periphery of the area in which the nerds were idling, and then saw a lady with an EA sign. Bingo. I darted in and introduced myself, and found out the bus was en route and we'd be making our move very soon. A good looking girl wearing an EA shirt rocked up shortly after, much to the delight of the nerds, and preparations began to herd the crowd of gaming press and media enthusiasts to the bus.
This was a relatively painless affair, everyone appeared to be on time and soon we were on our way. I was merrily gazing out the window minding my own business, not recognising anyone on the bus and not feeling particularly chatty anyway - I just dig looking around at new cities, and I'm still sufficiently inexperienced with the Sydney geography to find it fascinating just looking around. We drove over the Harbour Bridge, and headed to North Sydney for another rendezvous with yet more press types. Not having any idea how long we were going to be in the bus for, I turned behind me to ask the event chick (who was sitting right in the back seat, obviously trying to stay away from the scruffy nerds and avoid contact as much as possible - smart move) how long we were going to be on the road for, only to find out she wasn't a local either and as clueless as I was.
The bus trip was fine, except I was forced to sit in front of someone that was complaining about the GameArena Battlefield 1942 servers and calling Telstra incompetant because of the problems with them, particularly the fact that friendly fire was on - oblivious to the fact that friendly fire is the default setting on the server, and was turned off within a few hours of the servers being started. Of course, even with friendly fire off, you can still kill your teammates with other weapons. But anyway.
Soon we were there, and it was an experience in itself just seeing the building roll into view. Many moons ago, apparently it used to be a monestary, high on a hill overlooking the north shores of Sydney. Today, it has been turned into a school for hospitality, but it has lost little of its former glory, looking very much like a medieval manor house. Anyway, as much as I'm sure everyone is interested in hearing about the architectural marvels that we were exposed to, I guess you're more likely to want to hear about the games, eh?
The EA Imagine event was teed up to give the press a glimpse at some of their upcoming titles. While I'm not sure on release dates, I'm guessing most of them are coming out in the near future, surely in time for Christmas. Some, like Battlefield 1942, are on the verge of release and are practically complete. Others are a bit futher away and were obviously still in development, but generally speaking they were all playable and demonstrated a significant proportion of the gameplay.
A large proportion of the titles there were games based on licenses - two Star Wars titles, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings were some of the big names on show. There were many other easily recognisable titles there, including some Sims titles, FIFA 2003, Medal of Honor, and Need for Speed. I won't go into an in-depth look at each title (it'd take too long and there were too many titles for me to sample exhaustively) but I'll give a few impressions.
First and foremost - Battlefield 1942.