I’m gonna see if I can cram all my thoughts from all Monday’s and Tuesday’s E3 2016 presentations, so I’ll try to keep each subject brief. I won’t go over every press conference, just the games I’m actually interested in playing (not necessarily the only ones I think look good) along with some more general thoughts.
Microsoft’s Attempt At A Hardware-Agnostic Platform
On the one hand, maybe there were a lot of people who weren’t convinced to get an Xbox One after the Microsoft press conference because of everything it announced for both Xbox and Windows. On the other hand people who already have gaming PCs are more likely to get those games. I’ve seen a lot of comments from people attached to the idea of Xbox as a platform in itself losing some value, but let’s be real about Microsoft: Windows is a much bigger part of its business than Xbox.
It makes perfect sense that Xbox no longer exists in a vacuum, but is rather a component of Microsoft’s plans for Windows. I don’t particularly like every detail of what Microsoft is trying to do with Windows, but the company’s goals make sense. Rolling Stone’s new Glixel gaming section put it well in a recent newsletter: Consoles are being subsumed by platforms. I’m fine with that. I think that’s the logical future.
It just remains to be seen if Microsoft will actually maintain its commitment to Windows gaming. In some ways I think this might be the most committed it’s ever been since the Xbox came into being — the company announced around half a dozen new Windows games. On the other hand, PC gamers have heard it all before, and the current state of the Windows 10 store is worse than the failure that was Games For Windows Live. Microsoft still has a lot to prove to Windows gamers.
Sony’s Conference vs Everybody Else: Spectacle vs Substance
I think I said something similar last year, but Sony’s E3 press conference leaned heavily on spectacle. I’m not looking back and counting the games right now, but I think most of what Sony used to get people pumped at E3 2015 isn’t even out yet. Sony showed what would get people excited, people are already praising it for being “about the gamers instead of the investors,” but most of that stuff won’t have tangible release dates for a while. Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding was pretty much a target render. We probably won’t even see it until 2018 at the earliest.
Microsoft, and really everybody else who had a conference, mostly focused on games that we’ll actually be playing within the next nine months. To me, what Microsoft, Bethesda, EA, and Ubisoft showed had a bit more substance even if those companies didn’t have announcements that made people go wild. I guess those wild announcements are what people remember the most about each E3, which is why Sony’s strategy is winning the consumer goodwill.
What Nintendo showed us over the course of several hours on Tuesday of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild constitutes probably the biggest change to Zelda gameplay since the franchise stepped into the third dimension with Ocarina of Time. The more open-ended structure along with mechanics like hunting, cooking, resource gathering, equipment with stats, and a host of other systemic tweaks seem to aim for a more survival and role-playing oriented experience. It’s also pretty easy to draw comparisons between the new Zelda footage and other recent sandbox survival games.
To me, BOW looks a bit similar to Sony’s Horizon: Zero Dawn which is currently slated to release a month prior. Both remind me of The Witcher 3’s gameplay in a few ways. I’ve also seen it compared to Don’t Starve and The Elder Scrolls. What’s ultimately going to matter is whether or not Nintendo’s implementation of survival sandbox gameplay will suffer the same pitfalls as the aforementioned examples. My biggest personal issue with games like this is how balanced or imbalanced resource gathering and survival tend to be. On paper the crafting, alchemy, loot, and other sandbox things in The Witcher 3 sound fun, but the game itself lacks any sense of scarcity. You pretty much perpetually have all the resources you ever need after the first few hours, and combat is never really difficult. As a result all that sandbox and survival gameplay becomes fluff on top of the game’s still engrossing world and stories.
I’d like to believe Nintendo’s designers might get farther in avoiding things like this. Zelda games are mainly known for their sense of exploration and excellent level design. Maybe that level design will just manifest in the mini dungeons and main dungeons BOW is confirmed to deliver. Maybe Nintendo will put its classic sense of polish towards creating a uniquely challenging role-playing experience to set it apart from similar games. To be honest this is somewhat uncharted territory for Nintendo.
In the end, it’s about execution, even if the recipe is a bit unoriginal. Metal Gear Solid V is an excellent example. That game pretty much ripped off all Ubisoft’s sandbox action games, but ended up being better than all of them. Kojima Productions took the same mechanics of games like Far Cry and Assassin’s Creed but polished and balanced them to where they feel just fun and challenging enough, with an excellent control system to boot. That’s what BOW should probably strive for.
E3 Games I’m Into
Mass Effect: We didn’t get too much. Right now I’m expecting it to basically be Dragon Age Inquisition but with guns and the Mako. Maybe that’ll be enough if BioWare actually returns to and improves upon the appeal of the original Mass Effect.
New System Shock-style games: So now we’ve got at least three immersive simulation-style games coming that are about space stations where things have gone wrong. We already know System Shock 3 is coming, but E3 has now given us the new Prey and Observer. For immersive simulator games in general you can toss Deus Ex Mankind Divided and Dishonored 2 in there as well.
Gears of War 4: I just need to know Microsoft and The Coalition haven’t ruined horde mode. All I want is horde mode on Windows. Give me that, and I’ll pay $60 and download the game off the Windodws Store if I have to.
Scalebound: I don’t know what to think yet from what I’ve seen, but I still trust Hideki Kamiya.
ReCore: I didn’t see much, but I’m still intrigued.
Inside: Looks cool.
ArmA 3 Apex: We didn’t get much other than a release date unless you count the recent pre-E3 video where Bohemia Interactive went over the campaign a little bit. I think I’m in.
Ghost Recon Wildlands: A really tasteless demo of a potentially great game. I really want to see a big publisher put its weight behind nailing a sandbox tactical shooter. I’m still not convinced Wildlands is the one, but maybe it’ll be a first step.
Grow Up: I’m down.
The Last Guardian: One of the reasons that, despite what I said about Sony’s conference above, I still think it’s a good time to get a PlayStation 4, even if I plan to also upgrade my PC. Sony seems like the only company showing off a lot of good games you can’t get on PC.
Detroit: It’s David Cage, but I gotta admit that demo looked like a potentially pretty cool adventure game.
Resident Evil VII: What I saw actually looks even more “survival horror” than the PS1 games to be honest. If you look back those were honestly mostly jump scares and ammo scarcity. REVII looks like it’ll be the first game in the series with an actual horror atmosphere.
Call of Duty: Bruh. That actually looks… really good? I might actually investigate my first new COD game since 2011. The art direction and space combat actually look new and interesting. People are excited about the World War I setting in Battlefield 1, but COD looks like it might actually be the more fun game.
- A bit of possibly important but lesser-known gaming news during E3, the next big update for Apple TV will remove the default remote requirement for games. That means Apple TV games will be able to be designed entirely around traditional controllers: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/274969/Siri_Remote_support_no_longer_mandatory_as_Apple_changes_tvOS_dev_rules.php
- Neat article comparing Call of duty: Infinite Warfare to Gundam. http://www.usgamer.net/articles/no-seriously-call-of-duty-infinite-warfare-is-amusingly-similar-to-gundam
- Nintendo will be a sponsor of BitSummit: http://getnews.jp/archives/1474128
- What “Death Stranding” actually means: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cetacean_stranding