Welcome to Quarter to Three's authentic British coverage of the European Computer Trade Show, with genuine UK-isms like "organise" and "flavour". You'll also find photographs of questionable taste from the booth for Erotica Island, which we feel obligated to include in the interest of making our coverage authentically British. Because, you know, Britian is where they do that Benny Hill show.

ECTS Roundup

By Tim Chown, actual Brit

A great atmosphere, amplified by bright lights and loud music and effects all around. Caverns full of high profile games, linked by mazes of twisty passages all alike.A gamer's paradise, and a hectic three days work to cover it all. That's E3, thelarger-than-life annual American gaming extravaganza.

In comparison the European ECTS show is a very poor relation. Lacking the presence now of all but a handful of the big US publishers, ECTS has grown weaker as each year drifted by. It doesn't seem just four years ago that you could speak to the developers of high profile games like Dark Reign and Total Annihilation on the show floor. Now you can count the big name PC titles on one hand. Unless you have a prior appointment you won't get a peek at those either. For a show aimed at raising game profiles, that's a bizarre way to go about things. At E3 the big games are out there on public view, running on a clutch of machines for anyone to try out.

In line with the game shrinkage, the ECTS show floor felt smaller too, to the point that you could walk from one end of the hall to the other in under a minute. It would be no exaggeration to say you could fit ECTS into a hallway at E3. The new venue at ExCel lacks the character of the previous venue, Olympia, where two floors and two high galleries contributed to the feeling that you were exploring the show, rather than rather mechanically moving from one end of ExCel to the other. The organisers claimed that the pillars at Olympia obscured the vistors' view, yet any armchair general can tell you it's the high ground that counts. Olympia's balconies were great for getting your bearings. I'd certainly like to see ECTS return there next year, but from the blurb in theshow guide that seems unlikely.

The general absence of the big guns meant that many relatively unknown European publishers had the chance to grab the attention of the press and the other punters wandering in their fruitless quests to find Civ 3, Dungeon Siege or Warcraft 3. A few publishers are seizing that chance and beginning to make more of an impact on the gaming scene.

Blizzard

Blizzard was at ECTS, with private showings of Warcraft 3, which was little changed from its E3 showing back in May, and their new venture, the multiplayer online RPG, World of Warcraft. With Westwood immersing their fans into a 3D C&C world with Renegade, it's no great surprise to see Blizzard following a similar path. A while back, there had been rumours that Warcraft 3 was going to be 3D, with a heavy RPG element. That didn't happen, but it seems a few of the shelved ideas have carried forward into World of Warcraft. It'll be massively multiplayer, it'll offer you the ability to play as creatures of any one of at least three races (human, orc, or tauren), and it certainly looks and sounds exciting. Those of us who suffered theBattle.net woes with Diablo 2 will be anxious to know how a repeat of that debacle will be avoided. Unfortunately, one solution might involve more resources on the server side. And that probably means pay per play fees. It'll likely be 2003 before we see the game released, so there's plenty of time for Blizzard to work on it.

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