This was the third year I attended the Eurogamer Expo
in London and it's got larger every year. It went from a small hall on the waterfront to Earl's Court 2 to Earl's Court's main exhibition hall this year. As a result it's become quite a monster of an event. I guess the main reason for this is that it's pretty much the only event of it's type in the UK other than the MCM Expos which aren't specifically focused on gaming. However it does now seem to be a victim of it's own success as the queues were just immense.
I arrived shortly after opening time with arakinuk
and had to join a queue which almost literally looped round the entire builting (Earl's Court isn't exactly small). However as it had opened the queue was relatively fast moving. By the time we got in and issued our wrist bands, they said they were all out of event guides and only had mini-maps left. We knew that OnLive
were giving away their £70 mini-consoles at the event so we went to queue up for that. However we were told we couldn't join the queue because it was too long and was posing a health and safety risk! It wasn't all a great loss as we got some free OnLive t-shirts they were handing out. However we needed something else to do. I noticed they had the PS Vita (the new Sony PSP) on show which I hadn't been aware was going to be there, but again it had a massive queue. We joined it but the id Software Developer Session was starting soon which I wanted to attend and it didn't look like the queue was moving fast enough.
So we left the Vita queue and joined the id session queue and whilst waiting, they handed out some rather nice id t-shirts. The session itself was actually rather good. It was a presentation about 20 years of id hosted by their creative director, Tim Willits. It began with a video of the games they've done starting with Commander Keen and ending with Rage and the audience was invited to cheer for their favourite games. The presentation did convince me to get Rage as I hadn't known much about it before hand. Also, it was interesting to learn that the name id isn't pronounced I.D., it's the word id which I never knew until then!
After the session we had a bit of a wonder via the indie arcade where we played a few random games and then moved on to World of Tanks
because there wasn't much of a queue and Arakin was keen on it. I had a go as there was a promise of a free t-shirt for people who played, which I did get but it turned out to be a large size which was no good for me :P We did a bit more loitering before leaving the venue to go to Nando's as we did last year. It was fairly quick to get a table but an absolute age to order the food. We must have spent at least one and a half hours in there, maybe two hours which was precious gaming time lost! When we got back, the queue for OnLive was still too long to join and so we had another look round the venue but never actually played on any of the games other than a quick go on Super Mario 3D which was very similar to the Wii games.
We finally got into the OnLive queue which took at least another hour to get through, only they had run out of physical consoles for the day but were handing out coupons to get the consoles for £1 plus postage from their site. Was still a good deal but it still seemed very odd that they didn't just hand out the coupons to people queueing rather than making everyone wait. By the time we got our coupons, time was dragging on.
I really wanted to have a go on the PS Vita and so I spent at least an hour queueing for a go. The queues moved very slowly because they were only taking 6 people on at a time from each queue (of which there were two) but when you finally got to play on the console, you had a Sony representative who went over the details of the console and answered any questions you may have. The inevitable price question came up and it's going to cost €250 for the wifi version or €300 for the 3G version. Would seem silly to get the 3G version because most modern phones can tether to a device via wifi if you really need internet access but still, €250 is ~£220 in today's money plus the inevitable 20% VAT meaning it'll be on the shelves for at least £250 which is more than the 3DS was which had stunted sales partly due to it's high retail price. To be fair though, the Vita has a LOT of tech crammed in it. I'm not sure what the battery life is as that's a question I forgot to ask but it's got sensors coming out of it's metaphorical ears including touch screen, touch back panel, dual analogue sticks, front and rear camera, motion sensors, etc. The game I played was the Vita version of Super Stardust which is a good game on other platforms and was more of the same but even shinier on the Vita. To be fair, it didn't really show off what the tech could do, but there were limited numbers of the consoles running Uncharted on offer.
After I had finally got through the queue and had my time on the Vita, the exhibition was starting to close up. I had a go on Rage and considered it to be a fairly straight forward first person shooter affair but it will be interesting to see how the full game plays out. After Rage, I had a quick go on Uncharted 3 multiplayer which was surprisingly fun despite having never played an Uncharted game and ultimately not being very good. However after that, it was home time.
So in summary, from the event, I attended one developer session, acquired 3 t-shirts, got a coupon for a £1 console and played 4 games. In previous years, it was easy to wander round, see a game you wanted to play, hang around for about 20 minutes and then you'd be able to have a go. This year however, you really needed to have decided what you wanted to play and go for it if you wanted a chance to play it. While the freebies were awesome this year, I felt like I barely played anything. I mostly blame my indecisiveness, however it would have been easier to decide what to go for had we got the guides which detailed the games on show when we arrived there.
I'm undecided about attending next year. I expect I will but I'll need to ensure I get there early enough to be able to get in sooner and also ensure I decide on which games I absolutely had to go for. Potentially, I might even need to attend for more than one day to get the most out of the event. Each day offered their own unique developer sessions which have always been interesting (last year, I saw a playthrough of Deus Ex 3 which blew me away). Hopefully they make some organisational changes to make it easier and fairer to get on the more popular games however.