E3 2016 thoughts

Now that the press conferences that I was interested in have come and gone, It’s time to take a retrospective and reflect on what happened.

It’s been a pretty disappointing year from most involved, and I’ll explain the reasons why for each of the participants.

EA:

Just to let you know where I stand with EA before I critique their press offering, I haven’t played any of the Mass Effect games so I’m not really interested in Andromeda (but the trailer sure looked nice and if I was a fan of the series I’d probably be stoked) and I have no interest in either FIFA or Madden.

EA’s problem was that very little actual gameplay was shown. Trailers are fine provided that they are intersparsed with actual gameplay. EA have a tendency to not show actual gameplay, substituting it with footage of developers making the game, and they have done this before. I’m not sure if it was at E3 or a special Star Wars event but around the time they were doing some reveal of Star Wars Battlefront where everyone was expecting to so some gameplay. Instead, we got a film showing inside DICE, talking about how passionate they all are about Star Wars then finally a very brief pre-rendered CG short of an Alien shooting a rocket at an AT-ST if I remember it correctly. A similar thing happened this year. Besides footage of any of the games being played, there were only glimpses of studios and flashes of games, not of gameplay. The same thing happened with Battlefield 1, where al we were given was a trailer (although in fairness they did the Multiplayer livestream after the event which I haven’t gotten around to watching yet, but because it happened after the press conference I’m still correct when I say that there was minimal gameplay shown. Next.

 

Ubisoft:

Ubisoft’s conference was a good step up, but that doesn’t mean free from issues. I think it was Jim Sterling who pointed this out last year, but Ubisoft’s gameplay footage of co-op games has professionally done voiceovers in lieu of any organic voice chat that you could reasonably expect to hear or to say yourselves, and this was most blatant in the Ghost Recon footage. The game looks nice, don’t get me wrong, but the actual gameplay felt entirely scripted, every single movement perfectly choreographed and flawless. A similar thing happened with The Division last year.

Watch Dogs 2’s plot made me cringe (we are leejun Xpect us l33t hax0rz ECKS DEE) and the setting is just so tiring. Yeah, we get it, you’re in San Francisco, but trying to play it off as something not done very often is annoying. At least with the first Watch Dogs they went somewhere you don’t see in videogames very often. I can’t even think of any other major game based in Chicago, but plenty of examples of games with San Francisco spring to mind (Driver, GTA: San Andreas, the list goes on)

What I did like was the look of Steep, an Extreme/Winter sports game with a few mountains that appeared to be massively multiplayer, almost like the snowy sport equivalent of The Crew (another game I really liked the look of but haven’t had the chance to play yet but will soon once it comes out on Games with gold this month). Whether or not it will live up to what I saw today remains to be seen, only time will tell.

 

Xbox:

I’ll try to be as unbiased as I can here and put my Microsoft preference to the side

The slim xbox seems OK, but missed out on the opportunity to add more USB ports which are sorely needed, because if like me you opt to get a bigger hard drive than the 500GB internal one on the current models of the Xbox One, that’s 1/3 of your ports pretty much permenantly occupied. When you factor in the other peripherals and devices that need a USB port (the TV tuner, play and charge kits, Headset power USBs, steering wheels/Rock Band Adapters/other wired controllers and USB keyboards just to name a few of the things I use), that leaves you with a whole lot of unplugging and fiddling about to do. Oh, and the fact that you can only use Kinect via USB and an adapter doesn’t help the problem either. I like that they eliminated the need for the power brick, and added an IR blaster to control TVs, one of the more useful things Kinect can currently do

Then I saw the Project Scorpio announcement and the game developer part of me became annoyed because it will fragment the userbase and create a 2 tier system. They stated that all SKU’s will be supported for the generation, but there are problems with this:

  • How are developers meant to take advantage of the higher processing power of Scorpio if the games they make are meant to run on the less powerful models as well? Will it just mean the same games running at a higher resolution or framerate than on the weaker models?If so, this just means more work for the devlopers, which is a continual theme of the Xbox press conference (I’ll expand on that later)
  • If it just means that the same games will run at a higher framerate or resolution (or potentially neither of these things if the games have to give the same experience on all models) then why would the consumer want to upgrade? Surely Scorpio will cost a significant amount more than a normal Xbox One, so why bother paying the extra if you get the same experience on the Xbox One you already own?
  • If Microsoft steps in and puts the foot down should developers try to make games that can only run on Scorpio but can’t on the the One/One S, then Microsoft really had no reason to do this midway through a generation and really should have opted to let the Xbox One live out it’s life albeit shorter than the Xbox 360’s was and launch the impressive hardware as a new generation.

The other big announcement was Play anywhere, wherein and 1st or 2nd party MS game you buy on Xbox One is Also yours on Windows 10, which if made available to 3rd party developers will cause headaches as it involves synching saves between platforms, working on additional PC settings such as graphics and video settings you don’t need to worry about one targeting a console, and the added joy of having to release twice for just those 2, and 4 times if you target Xbox, Windows 10’s store, PS4 and Steam (although I’m fairly sure there wile be a clause in ID@Xbox contracts preventing a steam release either altogether or for a period of time).

What I liked about the Xbox press conference was that they had a nice mix of gameplay and trailers, announced Forza Horizon 3 which I’m looking forward to playing with my Logitech G920, and the announcement of the newer Xbox Once controller which has Bluetooth, meaning I can use it to play games on my tablet without having to plug anything in (either the controller directly or a wireless adapter) as my tablet doesn’t have a dedicated USB port.

 

Sony

People are saying Sony “won” E3, but I’m going to blow that bullshit out of the water and give you a critical perspective.

PSVR looked nice, but a few of the games they announced for it didn’t interest me at all, namely Resident Evil 7 and Batman Arkham VR. In an unexpected turn though they announced that all the games shown will work on the regular old PS4, neo not even needed nor referenced throughout the proceedings. I get the feeling Xbox’s Scorpio was a reaction to Playstation’s Neo, but as Microsoft have their conference before Sony they are at the disadvantage of having to play all their cards before they even see Sony’s first card, the same thing that screwed them with the Xbox One’s pricing being undercut a few years ago.

Beyond PS VR though, they didn’t have a whole lot to offer. They showed off The Last Guardian, a game that’s been at E3 more than some of the CEOs who went on stage during the last 2 days; Horizon: Zero dawn, a game they announced a year ago getting another showing at E3 the fact that it’s not even coming out until closer to next year’s E3 than this one and a cinematic from Kojima’s new game that he has said doesn’t have an engine yet, so I get the feeling that was more Maya/3DS Max/Whatever than anything NEAR actual gameplay.

Then they showed off the Crash Bandicoot Remaster or to be more precise, announced it was being made with NOTHING to show for it. People are holding the Skylanders trailer in some high regard, but why? How many adults do you know who play Skylanders? All the did was add a new character to a game in a series where the whole schtick is that there are dozens of characters and if memory serves me correctly that you have to buy a physical figurine of in order to use the character in-game.

This isn’t the first time Sony announced a remaster of a PS1 nostalgia-bait classic either. Remember last year they showed off a cinematic of Final Fantasy 7 remastered? It’s still nowhere to be seen, and probably will only get a release date at NEXT YEAR’S E3 in a similar vein as it took Horizon Zero Dawn a year after being shown to get a release, but presumably even longer.

But with Final Fantasy 7, they atleast had something to show for it. This time there was no such effort, no trailer, not even as much as a screenshot. Just a verbal announcement that could just as easily have been done via a press release. Now the fact they had nothing to show for it has me thinking that it must only have been started recently, so I’m not expecting a release any time in the next 2 whole years.

It almost seems as if they weren’t expecting to be doing the announcement at this E3 at all and were so unprepared as they were probably planning a reveal at E3 2017 instead, but the only reason I can think for them to do it now is if they were worried that the lineup they had was xompletely underwhelming so far and needed something to save them. I guarantee if they hadn’t announced Crash Bandicoot, very few people would be exclaiming they “won” E3 indeed. their conference was mostly live gameplay which conveniently fills up time, masking the fact that they didn’t announce very many games or show off any trailers. 7 games were announced for the first time on the Stage that are exclusive to Sony, there were more but they were either announced before or were coming to other platforms as well so shouldn’t count towards sony “winning”.

None of this is to say that I didn’t like Sony’s offering, rather just to give a reality check to the fanboys screaming Sony won. I really liked the look of Detroit: Become Human and it saddens me that it’s a PS4 exclusive, and Horizon Zero Dawn looks like a lot of fun.

Nintendo:

I didn’t watch their press conference because they don’t release anything outside their ecosystem. The new Zelda game could be the best one ever, but am I fuck going to buy a useless dying console just to play it. I was burned by Nintendo before when I bought the Wii and I vowed never to let it happen again

All in all it was a much weaker showing than recent year across the board.

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