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…

 

EA Play: New Experiences, New Stories & Breathtaking visuals

EA Play kicked off E3 like no other with two separate conferences streaming from both London and Los Angeles and demonstrated a lot of interactivity between the two via satellite feed. We were treated to a lot of predictability, but also a lot of new insights into the world of EA (Electronic Arts). EA really stole the show with some promising titles coming up this year, so what happened?

The introduction provided watchers with the phrase ‘It’s time to play’ which really relates to the amount of games that are already here and coming our way. They want people to play and want people to join the 2.6 billion gamers out there.

Andrew Wilson, CEO of EA, said 60 minutes is just not enough to showcase everything they wanted to and so was the real influence for hosting their own event.

First up was Titanfall 2 with Respawn Entertainment CEO Vince Zampella. The series will be coming to PS4 and the trailer showed there will be plenty of first-person shooter content, lots of stealth, plenty of melee including grappling hooks and also moments that looked like anti-gravity was used.

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Your Titan compadre ‘BT’ in the single-player mode

What is new to the series is six new titans all with their own traits and abilities. There will be more customisation but the real show stealer was that this game will have offline single-player gameplay. Players will be able to delve deeper into the world of Titanfall and learn about the connection between humans and titans and how it developed. The game will release on October 28th on PS4, Xbox One and PC.

Next up was sports with Madden NFL 17. The focus was on eSports and competition. Coinciding with EA Play comes three new tournaments. The first is ‘Challenger’ which is where players can create their own tournaments. Secondly, there is Premier which is large scale live events and finally EA Major Events which will be huge events up for grabs on a global stage. In all competitions there will be up to $1 million prize money.

Fifa 17 will be run through the Frostbite engine which is a reoccurring name in the next couple of titles. The game will have a strong single player mode called ‘The Journey’ which takes the life of upcoming footballer ‘Alex Hunter’ and places them in real world football. Football managers will also play a role from the sidelines and upon this mention there came the ‘special one’ José Mourinho who had a bit of banter with Peter Moore in London about the lack of managers in the game.

EA also mentioned that they will be hosting charity events for five charities: Special Effect, Code 2040, Code.org, He for She and Women Information. In games such as Battlefront, Battlefield: Hardline and Fifa 16 players will be able to compete in missions and give donations to charities.

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An Asari was shown in the trailer, how many new alien species will we see?

Mass Effect: Andromeda which is being made through the Frostbite engine showcased spectacular visuals of space, creatures of all sizes (some huge) and ships. Andromeda is a whole new adventure in an aim to find a new home for the humans. CEO of BioWare Aaryn Flynn said this game would let imaginations run wild. Players will be treated to a whole new cast and plenty of freedom with the trailer depicting a women waking up from deep sleep in a spaceship and saying: “we made it.” We did not get to see too much from the trailer or be told much in general and for a game releasing in a few months it is a little disappointing to say the least.

One of the most popular games from last year’s E3 was Unravel which showcased one of the most beautiful graphical side-scrollers to date. Patrick Soderlund of EA informed us of how the company is working with indie developers to support, fund and provide security. He said that all profit made will go back into the hands of the developers.

The first title to come out of this programme is ‘Fe‘ by Swedish company ‘Zoink.’ For me personally, this title takes home the biscuit and shows that we haven’t done everything in video games. The idea of the game is that you wake up as a cub and the idea behind it is to develop a relationship with nature due to our longing aim to be one with the world. The most interesting part of this game is that there is no dialogue and the game is not going to spoonfeed you the answers. You have no idea of who you are or how you got here. Every creature you find is connected by their own language and this is where sound is incorporated and is used as the mainframe of the game.

Throughout the game you can learn about this communication and use it for its purpose with those species. In the end the character will learn the secrets of its  own kind, but not without learning about and defeating the enemy: ‘the silence’. The game has an ambient soundtrack, mixtures of dark colours and tons of creatures you can ride on, but you can even fly yourself. A must to check out in my books.

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Behind the scenes development on a new Star Wars game.

One of my favourite franchises, Star Wars, has a ton of video games and the train keeps rolling because it was revealed by EA that multiple companies including Respawn, Dice and Bioware are working on titles. One example is that we have a new Battlefront in the works. I was said by Jane Raymond that EA is listening to the fans, adding what the fans want and this includes content from the new films.

Visceral will be creating an original narrative with new characters and Respawn are looking at a different Star Wars era to create a third-person action adventure title. All of these companies are working with Lucasfilms and are aiming to do what hasn’t been done before to create a authentic Star Wars story. The trailer also showed the use of the Playstation VR which leaves endless questions for the potential of these games.

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Actual Battlefield 1 gameplay with striking early 20th century architecture getting a real feel for the time.

Finally, it’s the one game that we’re all waiting for Battlefield 1. This and Titanfall 2 could cause the end of Call of Duty.

Battlefield is a series with 60 million players and the company knew they could not make an ordinary game. In one late night in Stockholm it was decided that a World War I concept would be their next main series title.

Patrick Bach of Dice said that no battle will be the same as there will be dynamic weather which will be unpredictable causing players to have to adjust their gameplay to the conditions, more intricate destruction and more natural gameplay. To show off the game, viewers of the Twitch stream were treated to the new online deathmatch campaign which has a total of 64 players in a 32 v 32 team at any point. The teams included famous YouTube gamers such as Achievement Hunter’s Gavin Free along with popular music icons such as Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa.

There was a look at vehicles including the new behemoths like blimps which when brought down, can fall anywhere and cause plenty of destruction. The carcass of the blimp does not de-spawn and so players have another obstacle in the vast surroundings. There are plenty of gun classes, weapons to use against tanks such as special grenades and airplane battles. Basically, there is a ton of stuff going on in this game – no two games are alike. There are rocket guns for assault, signal flares for snipers and syringes for medics. The game has plenty of content.

The main message in the trailer sates: “We’re gonna change the world” and in terms of gameplay, Battlefield might do just that.

EA look to have a lot of promising ideas and titles in the mix for the rest of this year and have set themselves as a strong contender for the rest of E3. Their EA Play has proved a fun idea and it wouldn’t be surprising if during E3 next year we see more personal conferences by other companies.

EA Play: What to expect & What to know

An interesting breakaway from E3 tradition and perhaps the beginning of the end for E3-type conferences, EA (Electronic Arts) is the first to kick off their conference at their ‘EA Play’ events in London and Los Angeles which will be hosted by CEO Andrew Wilson and Chief Competition Officer, Peter Moore.

The games I am expecting to see include Battlefield 1, Fifa 17, Mass Effect: Andromeda and Respawn Entertainment’s Titanfall 2.

Battlefield 1 is the first World War I title in the Battlefield series and the first in the main series since 2013. This game is said to give players more choice and variety in terms of paths and completing along with more open land. battlefield

What is already known about Battlefield 1 is that it will release on October 21st this year and there will be six different gun classes. These include shotguns, SMG (sub-machine gun), LMG (light machine gun), semi-automatics, sidearms and sniper rifles. Along with frag grenades, there will be incendiary and smoke (mustard) grenades and for melee weapons you can attach a bayonet to a gun. DICE who EA have been working with also introduced shovels, sabres and trench clubs as melee weapons. There are a various amount of vehicles which players can take control of including: armoured vehicles, tanks, biplanes and battleships.

There have been rumours that multi-player will be shown off and will be titled: ‘Battlefield Squads’ which is said to have a 64 man deathmatch… which is unheard of. If shown this will be the first look at gameplay from the game and reveal how the game differs itself from ‘Hardline’ and ‘4‘ and potentially how similar it is.

Aaryn Flynn, General Manager of BioWare said the company were wanting to give players more freedom, an unprecedented level in fact. ‘Andromeda’ is the new galaxy that the game is heading and has left behind the Milky Way. This means the game will have new enemies, new worlds and new allies. I’m expecting to see a great storyline with some great third-person shooter action displaying the motives of the game and the difficulty of the gameplay and enemies.

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The Frostbite engine will surely give us striking images.

What I am hoping to see from EA Play is plenty of visuals so we get to see how Andromeda diversifies itself from the original series. The game has been developed through the Frostbite engine and I want to see the breathtaking imagery of space that Frostbite does all so well. What we’ve seen so far includes grasslands, dust worlds and swamps. We’re sure EA will explore these vast worlds come the conference.

For me personally, Titanfall 2 was a very exciting concept when it started. I am a big fan of mecha-type themes and the multi-player gameplay seemed extraordinary where you could player in or out of titans in a traditional online campaign. After a month on the shelves, everything about Titanfall and the hype before its release started to then disappear and lose its popularity like Watchdogs.

The game was very successful nonetheless and incorporated large multiplayer battles and fun space themes. What can be expected is a further influence of these ideas and made for a better competitive aspect. I feel there needs to be more gameplay features and longer gameplay modes. What everyone loves with robots is weapons and that is a definite desire in the follow-up. I guess what I’m trying to say is taking what the first game did but expanding it in every direction should be what is shown at EA Play. This will make Titanfall 2 very favourable in my books.

With two potentially great shooters coming our way, is this the end of Call of Duty?

Stay tuned for my piece on EA Play later on tonight.