Post-E3: What are we really wanting from games and their annual events?

It appears that many of us were left disappointed at the unfoldings from this year’s supposed ‘biggest gaming event’. E3 has its ups and downs every year as people favour companies to others and some perform better. As a combination those of the ‘big six’ certainly hit the marker more than others. The big six I speak of are Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, Ubisoft, Bethesda and EA. Last year appeared to be quite a big event with tons of great games announced…so why aren’t we pleased this year?

I will try and give my look on some issues which find us to be clashing over these conferences. Now for one I wasn’t disappointed by everything at the event. In my opinion the company that won E3 for me was Nintendo. You could say I’m quite the Nintendo fanboy and enjoyed what we got last year which happened to be mostly three games (Pokémon: GO, Pokémon: Sun & Moon and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild). However, I favoured Sony’s as we got to see a ton of new games announced. This year Nintendo showed us new games from some of their much loved franchises which were Yoshi, Kirby, Mario and Metroid. These game announcements benefit both of their gaming systems (Switch & 3DS) and a partnership with Ubisoft showed their (Ubisoft’s) conference to be a major improvement on the previous year…less gags and more gameplay.

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The upcoming Spider-Man title on PS4 gave us a mixture of old titles and fresh new gameplay.

With my two comparisons of Sony and Nintendo, this year Sony merely showed titles we knew about and didn’t reveal any game release dates for this year. It was nice to see extended gameplay, especially for games such as God of War and Spider-Man, but besides that there wasn’t too much of what we already hadn’t heard of or seen. Should E3 be about showing gameplay from games coming up or about revealing new games? There is a lot of nostalgia pulling at the heart strings and fans are always looking to revisit old titles but at the same time want something new and exciting from the gaming world.

Xbox gave us some expected material for they have less franchises than Sony’s Playstation and we got to see more footage from Rare’s Sea of Thieves with the new additions Crackdown 3 and State of Decay 2 along with some unique titles such as Ori & The Will of the Wisps. There were big games like Anthem, Metro: Exodus and Assassins Creed: Origins showcased at the event, but these are cross-over titles and so could have been shown by other companies. Indie title Cuphead from Studio MDHR was finally given a release date (September 28th) and Super Lucky’s Tale which was previously a VR character and reminisces Conker’s Bad Fur Day also caught my attention. There seems to be a big deal that even if the game isn’t by the company, them getting the game trailer out first appears to be vital for Microsoft….maybe Sony doesn’t have much more room? Hype is intended when you hear ‘world exclusive’ said before the pictures come onto the screen, but without hearing ‘Xbox exclusive’ it doesn’t sound as exciting.

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It was another year and another fast car for Xbox.

Obviously I’m forgetting the big elephant in the room or actually their smallest elephant yet which is the ‘Xbox One X’ (brilliant name). Yes it looks nice and if you’re a film fan you’re getting true 4K which the PS4 Pro cannot output and you also get 6 terraflops of memory storage, but when you’ve not convinced me with new games, how am I going to be interested in this machine? If you like Xbox I am sure this will be appealing and what caught my attention was the original Xbox console’s catalogue going backwards compatible on the Xbox One. Whilst we all want new…old sounds pretty good as well and will definitely push retro sales…and prices. That is where Sony miss out majorly. We like both new and old and yes all of these new games look nice but man we want some cross-play or some PS3 playability without paying out more for subscriptions.

There’s benefits to both consoles but what we didn’t see from Sony where they have the 1-UP on Microsoft is new footage from their VR tech. The Playstation VR is a really nice VR headset and has had some nice games and features so far in almost its first year. It would have been nice to receive some new content but I guess we can always receive that at any point of the year. The same goes for any game announcement. Does it always have to be at E3…can it not advance on a previous announcement?

One part of video games we love and can loathe is sequels to games as we like to further a series but do we get the same amount of new games or new game-types announced? Bethesda gave us Wolfenstein 2 and Evil Within 2, Ubisoft gave us Beyond Good & Evil 2 and EA some more sports titles like Fifa 18. Whether there is the case of longevity between games in a series to be taken into account like BG&E2 or the expected timeline follow up in the Bethesda names – is it all too ‘samey’ or ‘expected’? Just because a game in this series hasn’t been out for years, it doesn’t mean it’ll be good or perhaps we’ll get ourselves too excited and the hype will ruin our expectations. That can be an issue in deciding what to bring out next, especially from a retro perspective but a game like the Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy couldn’t have come at a better time or been a better remaster.

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Activision’s conferences seem to have disappeared. Remember an expensive looking Eminem opening to promote the new Call of Duty: Ghosts title?

Perhaps we are lacking new games, but companies like Nintendo can keep using the same series’ again and again…is that because they got it right the first time? Is it the age difference between them and modern consoles or the game types? The longevity between Metroid games has proven to get folks excited even if it is another Prime game. We do get a lot of the same old genres like shooters and stealth titles – you can give them a new coat of paint and name/lead character but the playability will be similar. People might like that though and kudos to them.

If you’re someone who loves games and doesn’t believe in the consoles wars which is a thought process we should all have you may have less to worry about at such conferences except for the fact you might not see enough gameplay. Nintendo show off lots of gameplay (they have done so for Mario Odyssey) and you get to see all of the different worlds and abilities. Sony however showed small segments from the games but didn’t reveal too much more and then companies like Ubisoft may have just shown a majority of trailers. Obviously for their big games like Far Cry 5 and Assassins Creed: Origins we got gameplay but how much is too much? Some people might not want to see any past a simple launch trailer as they don’t want the game to be spoiled upon launch day. Others might want lots of content to learn more about the game before it is released. It’s a difficult area and no doubt these companies will think about how much and of what they want to show the audience.

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Nintendo changed their big conference stages shortly after the Wii U was available for purchase.

It has been rumoured that Xbox and Sony didn’t show us everything they had due to a big factor which is the timeline of showing the game to its release. Phil Spencer, the big dog at Xbox said that the company has signed new games but would not want to show something that might not even be out for three years. Xbox recently cancelled the production on title ‘Scalebound’ and so to create hype now for something that isn’t finished would be a risky move.

We will still have other gaming events throughout the year such as Gamescom where we can still expect to see more content. There’s new ways with the internet and streaming to advertise games (the Nintendo Treehouse as one example) and those are always a nice watch. It spreads out game announcements and we’re treated throughout the year instead of taking in everything at once and proceeding to argue about who was better. With how fast the gaming world is moving with advancements in picture quality, cross-play and virtual reality I’m left with wondering whether we’re even impressed these days and expect too much from companies. If a console can output good graphics, do we deserve them? Are game prices too high? Are we seeing the same game repeated too much? Should companies focus on less games? Endless questions and possibilities my dear Watson.

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Is E3 becoming a bit too ‘samey’ over the years and is this doing good for games?

Let’s just turn everything on its head for a second. Does E3 really do any good for the gaming world?

Are we not giving too much attention to one moment of the year and giving too much pressure onto game designers and companies? As video games are in no way a similar environment to what they were 20-25 years ago, are we looking at video games in the right way? They are a means of profit and E3 has definitely been a key player in carrying on profits in the gaming sphere for the next few months. A lot of material seems rushed and time and effort is wasted due to commercialism. There will always be deadlines but E3 is a bit like a toy at Christmas and everyone wants their big thing to be in everyone’s homes. What has saved video games recently has been indie titles because their breakaway from big name companies has brought some notable titles which may be influenced from better days but also made retro the norm again. Games such as Super Meat Boy, Binding of Isaac: ReBirth, Braid, Rogue Legacy, Fez, Owlboy, Limbo and many more have turned the focus away from big names and most will find themselves on most platforms after a couple years. There are still some credible games out there!

E3 is still a special place in the gaming world. How companies choose to stage their conferences is up to them and we do get a nice mix: EA in London and Los Angeles, Nintendo in their private conference and the others doing big rooms (and less jokes and bad presenting from Ubisoft this year made it one of the best). Sony adds a nice visual touch and Microsoft keeps it straightforward and tries a realistic approach and all are welcomed by audiences. We argue who has the better console and even though a lot of games from this year’s E3 will not be out this year we still have a lot to look forward to. No doubt we will see The Last of Us 2 and Death Stranding shown later on in the year by Sony…

 

Bethesda: A mixture of disappointment and awe?

What everyone was hoping to see at Bethesda’s conference was obviously some appearance of The Elder Scrolls VI. However, we didn’t see such thing and that doesn’t mean Bethesda are not working on plenty of content as last night proved they’re still a company with plenty of great experiences waiting for fans. So we didn’t see the next Elder Scrolls title, what did we see?

I guess we were disappointed from the offset with another poor panel once again before the conference even started. We were constantly shown content from last year’s E3 and commenters consistently say that it was a cringey experience.

However, we didn’t remain disappointed for long because the first clip of the conference was the announcement of a new Quake title! It has been a long time since a Quake title was released and there’s no doubt the popularity of Doom last month increased the need for a return to arena shooters.

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All the characters shown in the trailer look like absolute tanks.

The title is named: ‘Quake: Champions‘ and id Software executive Tim Willits says more content will be shown at Quakecon in Dallas in August. What we know so far that the game is for PC and will be a competitive arena style first-person shooter before online and offline.It aims to be fast and will run on 120hz unlocked frame-rates and has a catalogue of badass characters, all with their own attributes and attitudes. There was also mention of Quake being an eSports game. Quake: Champions looks very promising as it is a series I very much enjoy and are glad to see back.

Following this game, Global UP and PR of Bethesda marketing, Pete Hines and he gave us a look at the Elder Scrolls card game ‘Legends‘. The title which looks similar to Blizzard’s Hearthstone has been described as a ‘deep strategy experience’ with a compelling story from the perspective of the Moth Priest – Kellin. It revolves around him and is the story of a forgotten hero who changed the very course of history. The game will be coming to open beta for everyone who creates an account at Bethesda.net. The game will also be coming to tablet and mobile.

Next up came Fallout 4 and the series is still being kept alive. The game recently saw a DLC update: ‘Far Harbour’ and that is not the only thing being added to the game. There will be additions to the Workshop including: elevators, conveyor belts, sorting machines and gun racks. Players can also build their very own vault which sounds interesting and is basically like playing Fallout Shelter on the big screen. The update is due in July

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Fallout Shelter will also be coming to PC.

The other Fallout title: ‘Shelter‘ released for mobile and tablet upon the end of Bethesda’s E3 conference last year was an incredibly popular release with around 50 million downloads. The game was announced to be getting updates including: new locations, new characters, sending dwellers on quests, new enemies and a new combat system. The game will also be coming to PC which is very exciting.

Then came the big reveal. We all thought that it must be Elder Scrolls VI. It had to be right? Wrong. It was announced with that nostalgic theme that for current-gen consoles, Skyrim (Elder Scrolls V) would be getting a remaster with majorly enhanced graphics. I do not know where I stand on this announcement because obviously people will be over the moon for this special edition announcement, but mods have already made Skyrim look great on PC. The game itself was pretty solid to begin with. To be fair it’s only fair that consoles get to use mods like Fallout 4 and enhance their gameplay which is seeing enhanced shaders and in depth detail. I’m wondering if there could be alterations to controls, who knows at this point to be fair?

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There is a striking difference between the previous and current console graphics.

The final Elder Scrolls addition was updates to their Online game which will see a Japanese release on June 23rd and DLC based off of Oblivion called ‘The Dark Brootherhood‘. No one is safe apparently and the trailer portrayed a lot of stealth and melee action. Another update is coming called ‘One Tamriel‘ which means once completing the tutorial, players of all levels can group freely with whoever they want and go wherever they want. A really nice edition to a positive series which has never been done before.

Now we already had Quake, but Doom was not left out of the mix. Snapmap, a tool in the new game will be getting a free update including new weapons and items. There will also be weapon reel style selection in single player and two new multiplayer maps known as Exodus and Sector. The game will also be seeing its first DLC release called ‘Unto the Evil‘ which sees three new multiplayer maps added, new guns and a playable character known as the ‘Harvester Demon’. Some may have been a bit disappointed at the repetitiveness of certain enemies, but DLC can stop that with the addition of more characters. Everyone who owns a PC, Xbox One and PS4 this week will also be able to download freely the first level of the new Doom game and try it for themselves this week only.

Bethesda did have another new title to announce however and this was from Arkane Studios (Dishonored). Raphael Colantonio said that they were working on another immersive psychological thriller. PREY is set in the year 2032 and you play as Morgan who in a futuristic world has been part of an experiment to change humanity forever that goes horribly wrong. The film is set in a space station and one of the interesting features is that for weaponry and tools, you have to use whatever you can on the space station.

The game is set to release next year on Xbox One, PS4 and PC with further information coming at Quakecon.

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Morgan is part of a test to change humanity forever…but it goes very wrong.

There was a quick mention that Bethesda would be working on VR with demos at E3 for Fallout 4 and Doom which sound exciting.

Finally, Dishonored 2 took to the stage and there was plenty of information and gameplay revealed.  Harvey Smith, the creative director at Arkane Studios, walked through different elements of the game and the different attributes Emily Kaldwin and Corvo Attano have. The game is based in a Victorian district with an exotic style of characters. Smith says they wanted a strong sense of place and so extra detail was added to the characters and the city itself. It’s a game that makes you think about people’s lives and the history of a city.

The game has been made in a custom game engine called ‘Void’ to help create a painting in motion and create custom tools to give the best stealth experience. The game centres around the anniversary of the death of Emily’s mother with a now grown-up Emily who is leader.

Viewers were shown gameplay from the Dust District and demonstrated all the moves and skill-sets you will have when playing as Emily. The game also showcased how there are many different ways of completing the game as you can favour one side or none at all, which gives a strong replayability factor. Some of the moves include the shadow walk which demonstrates the mixture of stealth and combat, the power to mesmerise players and connect them together so that they all share the same fate and the timepiece which enables Emily to visit somewhere and jump through to the past to alter timelines. The timepiece was definitely one of the most interesting aspects for me personally.

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The throne room.

The architecture is beautiful and this will be a game to play over and over with new surprises every time. A high recommendation in my book. If you haven’t played the original, you can always pick up the special edition of Dishonored 2 when it released on November 11 which includes Dishonored.

Now we may not have received a follow-up to Skyrim, but for a big fan of Bethesda like myself, there is still plenty of content to get stuck into. Dishonored 2 looks like it is going to be one of the biggest games of the year, there’s plenty of add-on content to Doom, Fallout and Elder Scrolls and we have two new exciting games on the way. I think I might have to get my Nintendo 64 out and crack on with a bit of Quake/Quake 2.

Stay Tuned for further conference news today from Microsoft and Ubisoft!