Event: Microsoft Open House – Part 1

Mornings are never a gamers friend, and when it comes to those in the games industry, night is the best time to collect us all together for a little show and tell. When I noticed the open house presentation was during the daylight, I’ll admit, I was a little twitchy. However, the event would give me some solid hands-on time with Microsoft’s newest toy Kinect, plus a chance to laugh at other games journalists as they feebly attempted to bust moves with Dance Central. Armed with three coffees worth of caffeine and several hours sleep I headed out to Sydney’s Luna Park to rep DLC, try out Kinect and see what all the fuss was about.

As I arrived at the event, I found my way past security and to the location in question. After meeting several other like-minded journos, who were also complaining about mornings and hiding from the sun, we were ushered inside and seated for the first part of the day, a presentation from MS Regional Director, David McLean.

The presentation was pleasantly to the point, starting with a rough breakdown before we were greeted by Foxtel’s Patrick Delaney who ran us through a demonstration of their new IP of the Xbox360. The new system will have 30 channels and be fabulously affordable with no price announcement to back that up, unfortunately. The system itself worked much like the ‘Videos on demand’ service that Microsoft already offers. However, the small touches, like a last viewed button (which restarts the video where you left off), the ‘I bar’ which works much like the info panel on Foxtel systems and a guide button for seeing what’s on for later viewing may entice non-gamers to consider this as a viable option over a full Foxtel alternative. After a quick speech about Phone 7, we were back into games, kicking off  with Halo Reach (which we will talk more about in our preview on Sept 13th).

Next on the menu was Fable III, and as some of our regular Live viewers will know, always feels a bit like a ex-girlfriend that keeps coming back with an impressive story about how they’ve changed, andalways falls short in the long run. However, after the video ran its course my cold heart melted and I fell in love all over again. Fable III has changed focus and instead of your character out to save Albion, you are seek to rule it.

Be it a reign of terror or a peaceful one, kingship is still the intended goal and I’ll admit that I happily support this is a change of pace. The demo centred on a bandit camp, which I felt was a terrible choice, as you spent half of Fable II running between bandit camps, but we sat back and watched as the development team took us on a tour of the game’s finer points. After a quick tour of the style and look of the characters (which don’t seem the same this time round, thankfully) we were shown one of Fable III’s vaunted new features. The menu mode.

Stay with me here. The new system is not like anything we’ve seen before. A mere press of the menu button will immediately (and I do mean immediately) transport you to a small room containing the map, an advice giving butler (voiced by the king of dry humour – John Cleese) and a room for switching equipment and clothing. The team was quick to explain that through testing they had proved that their new 3D system was actually faster than a standard menu interface. They also explained that weapons have shrunk from the array they had in Fable II, down to only a few. Fable III will, instead, allow users to modify their weapons, giving you larger number of possibilities.

Another pleasant surprise came with the announcement of proper co-op, where players will now be able to bring their characters into a friend’s AND take home any loot collected while they play back to their home save. The demo finished off with the devs hacking up a bunch of bandits with a decently revamped combat system before announcing an October 26th release date and bowing gracefully off the stage.

Next up,  Microsoft hit centre stage again to show us how Kinect worked.

Tune in for Part 2 coming shortly…

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