Friday, 14 June 2013

My thoughts on E3 2013

Now that E3 is over, I've collected all my thoughts and put them into one place. Here is everything I've got an opinion on, in no specific order. At the very end, I'll summarize my general feelings about this upcoming gen, and what I think it means for me.

First off, we have to address the massive elephant in the room. Sony completely laid the smack down on Xbox One when it comes to used games. OH. SOMEONE CALL DOCTOR SNAP TO THE BURN WARD. It seems like they are following the idea that they are, indeed, making a game console. And likewise, it should be able to, I dunno, play games. And if you want to have a friend play your game? You simply let them play it.

This is a level of down-to-earth simple understanding that a ton of the games industry is currently missing. After all the "Online Pass" nonsense, "cloud gaming" buzzwords, and limited activations, it's nice to see when a major player in the industry comes out and says "yeah, you're playing games. Have 'em."

Also, that is a pretty respectable price point. Yeah, if you're a PC enthusiast, you may scoff at it, saying "I can build something better for that price" but no. You can't. You can build a damn good PC, but if all goes as planned the PS4 will be the thing that Microsoft seems to have forgotten: It will be a game console. And a snazzy one at that.

Furthermore, the PS4 is following the PS3's style of having no region locking. This is another fantastic thing for consumers, and the international game market. Also, having a user-replaceable hard drive? Nice! Good on you, Sony.

In light of the UI video that has been released, I gotta admit I'm even more intrigued. The whole social networking layer seems really cool, sort of like a game-focused Facebook. The usage of simple "Likes" really helps make the atmosphere seem more social and friendly, and the easy replay recordings seem like a great way of showing off those really awesome moments in games that can at times be hard to explain.

Xbox 360 Rerelease
Not actually a bad move. Around the time of the PS2's release, Sony put out the PSone, a $100 version of the original PlayStation with a better firmware and smaller form factor. It's actually what got me into console gaming, as the PS2 was too expensive for me at the time. Considering the high price point of the Xbox One, this might be a good idea for them to keep selling units of, well, anything.

Super Smash Bros. Wii U
Yeah. I approve. It's a well-kept secret (well, I guess no longer) that I'm a fairly big fan of the Smash Bros series of games by Nintendo. As a fan of casual fighting games (in other words, not combo-focussed) I enjoyed the simple fun of taking characters and wailing them against each other. So the announcements, although simple, were pretty interesting. I think the addition of the Animal Crossing Villager is pretty entertaining, and appropriate. Mega Man's inclusion is a fantastic entry to the series, and his place is well-earned. And the Wii Fit Trainer, uh… well… uhm… I guess that is indeed a thing.

Also really liking the minute differences between the 3DS and Wii U version. The colour choices reflect the system's displays better, and the stage choices being relevant to their system (based on console games or handheld games) is a really smart touch.

Bayonetta 2
As a fan of the first game, I like the sound of there being a second game. Looking at stills, I wasn't a fan of her new look, but in motion it seems to work really well, and the game looks like it will have the same panache and fervent spectacle as the first. Definitely looking forward to this one.

Yoshi's New Island
Wasn't a big fan of the first, doubt this one will do anything for me. Can I just comment, though, on the title? "Hey what's the name of the new Yoshi's Island game?" "Yoshi's New Island" "…oh. Oh. Ohhhh."

Wind Waker HD
After the development screenshots were leaked, I was pretty offended because they were changing the style a lot and using pretty crappy shaders. Now though, they seem to have smartened up and simply recreated the old visual style that made the game so iconic. That being said, crappy shaders. Still there. That bloom is literally awful, I would turn it off completely if they give me the option.

Mario Kart 8
My love for Super Smash Bros is similar to my love for Mario Kart. That love only increases in proportion to motorcycles. I see motorcycles. I also see anti-gravity hover carts and under-water levels. I like.

Mad Max
Post-apocalyptic open-world mayhem by the creators of Just Cause 2? Sign me up.

Assassin's Creed 4
I don't like this. The costumes are extremely over designed, to the point that it makes Pirates of the Carribean look historically accurate. Furthermore this is a series which was driven into the ground long ago and only keeps going because they somehow manage to keep cramming new features in.

It's strange, there's a thing in development called "Feature Bloat" which is caused when designers, artists, or programmers, keep adding things without limitation. This ends in a directionless game with too much to do and all of it too glitchy.

You can see feature bloat evident in even the core movement mechanics of the first game. 4 different motions, changed to a different 4 in every context, resulting in like 3 possible actions per button. Someone really needed to cut that down and didn't. But it seems that after the first game, they just ran with it, and just kept adding more and more stuff.

The setting lends itself to this development style as well. Because they're essentially endlessly ret-conning history, they can make as many games as they want, provided they keep getting gameplay ideas. So it seems like they keep iterating on an engine, devoting a massive amount of resources to it, and keep adding new features into the system. This shouldn't work… but somehow does. They somehow keep pumping out cohesive experiences, and as much as I personally find the titles drag, and the stories to be really weak, it's pretty impressive that they keep finding new ways to expand the game universe.

Kingdom Hearts 3
FINALLY. I'm not even a fan of a series, but after the six or so side-story games that have been released, this is a series which has been craving a solid third entry. Alas there are not nearly as many details as I would like to hear, but as has been discussed by many people, E3 isn't about design, E3 is about impressing people (mostly investors).

But seriously, that gameplay in the trailer was the weakest I've watched thus far.

Octodad: Dadliest Catch

The Order: 1886
No gameplay, no comment.

The Division
Holy moly so that's what next-gen graphics look like. I have to say I'm impressed. Also the collaborative gameplay looks really cool in this one, especially with potential for PVP. The whole near-future holographic overlay stuff is really cool, and I feel it's way more immersive than a lot of the current HUDs are. Also pretty neat that it looks like players can sign in on their tablet (implied by one player in the gameplay trailer) to jump in on the action as helicopter backup.

The Crew
I'm not big on racing games. Nor am I big on online multiplayer. That being said, it seems this next gen has a main feature of "connectivity" and it's really quite fascinating what they're doing. Playing an open-world racing game where you have the entirety of the United States to seamlessly drive through sounds… awesome. I was a big fan of FUEL, despite its problems, and it could be really fun to play a game like FUEL, but with friends.

One single request: Either give me motorbikes or classic car frames. Either and I'm sold.

Mirror's Edge Reboot
Hm. The first was an amazing idea, marred by a major flaw of having a poorly-executed combat system shoved into it. Remaking it from the ground up, and working in a properly-done combat system makes a lot more sense. Except, it sort of misses the point. The point of Mirror's Edge was to be a runner. That means avoiding combat, and even if the combat plays well, I'd rather play a game where you couldn't fight at all. As much as half of me scream "YES" just to have another Mirror's Edge game, I'm really hesitant because of the way it was presented.

One of my problems with E3 multiplayer trailers is that they make games look far more team-based than they end up being. Often I've found that online games, especially if they're popular, are full of jerks who play team-modes as if they're deathmatch. Either that, or a bunch of hardcore players who piss all over anyone who isn't pro enough, and don't know how to just enjoy giving it your best shot. It's annoying and always makes me wish there were more people interested in immersive team play like I am. Getting involved in the setting and gameplay.

That being said, I love the chaotic mix of free-running manshooting and high-octane mech action. It seems to flow seamlessly between them, and the ability to take down mechs as a human, but also easily squash humans as a mech, makes some really cool duality.

Sunset Overdrive
As far as I can tell, there wasn't any gameplay, so I'm not interested.

It's by SWERY. It looks very unique. On principle I am interested.

Watch Dogs
This came up last year as the title I was the most ambivalent about. In light of recent leaked documents from the NSA, and current debates, I feel Watch Dogs is extremely topical. It tackles a subject (surveillance) that needs to be discussed more. However, I do worry about it giving the wrong message. That surveillance is somehow okay because then badasses can be cool vigilantes.

What I really need to see is a story universe that has a bunch of people like protag, and most of them are bad guys. It seems, through more gameplay, that it is evident that the player does have some weaknesses, and that you'll have to act smart to get through most situations. This is good, and hopefully it will show a lot more restraint than Assassin's Creed did.

Last time I talked about this, I also wasn't as depressed. Since then, an interesting thing I've found is that I really do like empowerment fantasies. So hey, maybe being a nigh-unstoppable badass who can shatter our police state existence could be really fun. Maybe it could be the breath of air we need to stop feeling like we're drowning.

After everything else, it just looked very samey, and quickly lost my interest.

Beyond: Two Souls
Ehhhhhh…. the plot doesn't even sound very interesting any more. It's incredibly pretentious as well. I'm sorry, David Cage, but having good actors wear rubber CG suits doesn't make you a good designer. Nor good director. What are you even trying to accomplish here? Because thus far you're boring me with your dull trailers for what seems thus far to just be a machinima.

The Wonderful 101
Oh my god. This looks amazing. It's like every single session of playing with a box of toys mixed together with a superhero comic, power rangers, and Bayonetta. It looks fantastically explosive, and I'd love to play it.

New Super Luigi U
I've always felt very hit and miss about Mario games. 64? Meh. Sunshine? Really fun! Galaxy? Okay. Super Mario 3? Decent. Super Mario Land? Pretty fun. New Super Mario Bros? Eh. I've always been more of a fan of Luigi, so that's interesting that he's getting a game now. What really interests me, though, is that there's this character who steals stuff and can't get hurt. He's apparently playable. I wanna play as that guy. I want to find someone who is good at this game, have them play as Luigi, then just mess about as this rolly-polly thief guy.

Little Big Planet is a platforming game that, even though I'm not great at, I have a lot of fun playing. This new game from the same developers seems really interesting, with a lot of little immersive elements that really use the Vita's touch controls to great effect. I don't have a Vita, and have no motivation to get one, but I find it's interesting regardless.

Pokemon X & Y
Okay so take two pokemon. Yours and the one you fightin'. Draw a line. Dat be your Z axis. But what if you now have FIVE pokemon you are going against. They form a line. Dat be your X axis. But now, now you're in the SKY. And the sky and ground form a Y axis. POKEMON X & Y is in 3D BUT NOT JUST GRAPHICS, GAMEPLAY TOO!

I'm sorry.

Quantum Break
Hey that looks co- oh, no gameplay? Nevermind, no comment.

Saints Row 4
Saints Row the Third was one of my favorite current-gen games. I hadn't played the previous games, but I found The Third to be a hilarious satire of open-world games, with great writing and fun gameplay. The sequel looks to be even more insane, though I'm not sure if that will be good or not. I worry that it may have too many gags, and focus less on solid gameplay. Indeed, the gameplay trailers have really only shown interesting superpowers, and a lot of the weaponry looks like a one-off gag that will get old fast. That being said, the latest trailers also showed that the writing looks up to par, so maybe the story can carry it. I'm really looking forward to it, but I'm kinda hesitant.

As a fan of adventure games, a new game from the maker of Gabriel Knight interests me. Looks like it will be touching on both new technology and mysticism as themes, which should be a very interesting combination. The little gameplay shown looks like classic point-and-click fare, which is good, as well as some interesting high-tech computer-interface shenanigans. The fact that the story seems to be a murder mystery adds another interesting edge to this. I'm going to be keeping my eyes on this one.

Wii U
One of the interesting things I've noticed is that Nintendo seems to have successfully removed themselves from the console wars. I think this is a great step, as Nintendo has a very dedicated market that wouldn't benefit from trying to compete with the other AAA manufacturers/companies. It's further interesting to see that Miyamoto is sticking to his guns with the "making games like toys" style of design. Not only does he really support consumer rights, but he really focuses on fun above all else, and is really quite brilliant at that.

It's also interesting to note that Nintendo has always put replayability as a high requirement of all their games. That really reduces the likelihood of their games getting churned through GameStop like a lot of AAA yearly releases. (Assassin's Creed, Call of Duty, etc.) Seriously go into a GameStop and see how many first-party Nintendo games are available second-hand. Not many.

Honestly out of all the consoles, the Wii U looks like it has the most stuff that would be simply fun. Maybe not the deepest or most "poetic" experiences, but they certainly look like some of the best ways to unwind. Oddly enough, though the PS3 has some attractive games coming out, I almost feel more interested in obtaining a Wii U at some point.

Dead Rising 3
I dunno. It's cool that it's this open-world, gritty, zombie game, but at the same time... zombies are really getting old. I get it, it's really enjoyable to take out frustration by just mowing downs entire crowds of people while still being a good person for doing so. But still, eh, it feels pretty samey, and I find that the cliches in these types of games just get really boring. I'll ultimately be waiting for reviews, but I think I'll probably pass.

Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare
A first-person shooter pitting the iconic plants from Plants vs Zombies, each turned into their own playable class, against the iconic zombies, also turned each into a playable class. Looking at the dev info, it seems they're really interested in designing this from the ground up as a PvZ game, and not just slapping the title onto an FPS game. The whole team-based 4 player mode thing is fairly overdone, but it likes like there is a ton of fun, unique gameplay going into this. There certainly is a lot to be said for a game which looks like it can have nearly this much fun with itself. I'm certainly intrigued.

Thief 4
It seems okay. It's definitely doing some things right, giving the player a lot of options to deal with scenarios. The water arrow is an interesting weapon, capable of taking out torches and fire lamps. That being said, the setting looks incredibly mundane, and it seems lacking in any hook to get me interested. I do like the locational damage system, but still, the combat itself looks fairly simple and boring. They do talk about a story existing, but they don't elaborate on it, which is rather disappointing. All in all, they didn't capture my interest.

Occulus Rift
I think it's a fantastic idea, the big problem is that I suffer from really bad vertigo, and I fear that the device would probably give it to me quite easily. That being said, I think it's a really fantastic idea, and could really add a new dimension of immersion to our gaming experiences.

Wolfenstein: The New Order
You know... I really didn't want to be interested at all by this... but they got me. Dang it, they got me. An alternate history story where the Nazis win WWII, you play as a cryogenically frozen soldier who attempts to take down the now world-wide Nazi Empire in the near future of the 40s. So it's a retro-futuristic game, which basically extrapolates a view of the 60's based on where Nazi tech was trying to go, and you play as a soldier trying to take down the world-wide evil empire. Hideously pulpy, but it sounds really fun and like an interesting premise.

I only worry that it might come off as somewhat offensive. WWII is still pretty recent in the channels of history, and if they don't play this seriously, it could come off like trivializing the outcome of the war. Normally I'm not opposed to using Nazis as a big plot point, but making the allies lose WWII is one of those things I feel awkward about. Regardless, I'm going to keep my eyes on it, and see what people say.

The Evil Within
Brining things back to basics, eh? Less combat focused? Less balance and more careful planning? Sound like good concepts to me. I really like the minimal HUD, and the aspect ratio is an interesting choice to try and make things look more cinematic. I like the stealth stuff, and the autonomous AI. The aesthetic has a ton of grunge, which is great for survival horror. Lots of blood, grime, grindhouse-levels of gore... thus far it looks most like Saw (the first) than Hostel, which I think is a good choice for them. The asylum setting is really great for making a horror setting, so this could turn out suitably cerebral as well. I'm interested.

Xbox One
*sigggggh* No. Everyone has said everything that needs to be said. There's price issues, consumer rights issues, and privacy issues. Look up "xbox one+[any of those button topics]" to get all the news you want about it. I'm depressed enough these days as it is. Xbox One has zero interest from me.

So what do I think?

This generation looks like it could make a lot of interesting games, and that the idea of connectivity could really revolutionize how we play games. I don't play games with other people as often as I wish I did, and it could be really fun to have a fluid way of adding people into my games. We'll have to see how it all turns out, but I actually have hopes for this generation, so that's something.

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