And another E3 came and went, quickly but still eventful enough. It’s true, Nintendo did not show NX and had just one single game available to play on the floor, while EA made its own event, slightly outside E3, and several companies didn’t even have booths this year (including major players like Activision), but there’s still quite a lot of things to talk about, between game announcements, the conferences themselves, the cringe moments, the meltdowns…aah, that time of the year after all.
So, as a way to try to sum up what this E3 left to me, I’ve decided to make a list of the best at the show and one for the worst. These lists will include both games and extra-gaming stuff, like funny and awkward moments, specific elements of announcements. No, those won’t be rankings (even if it’ll be clear how some picking would’ve been higher than other in an hypotetical chart), but just collections of the things that surprised me the most, in both ways, as a mere viewer of a show that, when you really think about it, is a huge marketing monstrosity made of cringeness and (both intentionally and unintentionally) funny moments, with episodes of humanity here and there. Not the right time for this, though; let’s just enjoy (or despise) the best and the worst from this year’s E3, starting with the former in this piece.
The format used by Sony for its E3 Conference
An orchestra playing while trailers roll, including an over-4-minutes intro? Trailer after trailer? Visually interesting introductions (see Kojima’s entrance and Layden’s Crash-related intro)? An intense pace with few and decently timed pauses? That’s the kind of conference I like. You see, Sony has been guilty in the past of way too bloated press events, so long and filled with unnecessary stuff that people can get bored while watching (remember when they talked about the tv series “Power” on stage? No? Good for you!), but they started trimming the fat more and more starting with last year, and this year went even further. Heck, the conference lasted less than the usual 1:30 hours (maybe even less than 1:20 hours), and far less than their older 2-hours older shows. This year, though, they added another layer to the whole packaging, something that made it more classy and more entertaining to watch. The orchestra playing the music for all the trailes, combined with the stage itself, capable of stereoscopic-like effects, made it look more like a true, and interesting, theatrical experience.
I’ve always been a strong sustainer of Nintendo Directs / Digital Events, because they weren’t as bloated as normal conferences, and 2014’s Digital Event showed how the magic of editing and post-production can improve an event aimed at customers: who needs people speaking on stage by using the most blatant “marketing-ism” when we can see Reggie and Iwata punching each other as an introduction to Miis in Smash Bros.? Unfortunately, last year’s DE was bad due to the content and some problems of pacing (i.e. the waaaaaaay too long developer interviews…probably, the way they covered the lack of other material for the streaming), but it was a badly-executed format, not a problem with the format itself. Microsoft recent conferences have tried to have a better pacing, even with announcements / trailers followed directly by other trailers, no stop, and that’s an attempt I appreciate…a pity to see their recent conferences still affected by very down moments, that are not necessary to show on stage (see this year’s Minecraft VR presentation). Sony E3 2016 Conference is a different and warmly accepted take on the classic conference, that makes it more similar to 2014’s Digital Event concept-wise, but with more elegance and less strange / funny / weirdly exciting moments. Which, after all, is not bad, it’s just another, well played take on a similar concept. Also, good to see that kind of stage: it reminded me of how Nintendo used E3 2011 Conference stage to introduce some 3DS games they would’ve talked about a few moments later (an attempt to render the stereoscopical 3D to press events viewers, the effect was neat!).
We Happy Few
While this was announced as a Kickstarter back in 2015, I never payed too much attention to it. But the trailer showed at this year’s Microsoft conference made it look like something that, one day or another, I would like to play. It’s a first person shooter with procedurally-generated scenarios and a concept not seen so often in gaming: you’re someone who slowly acknowledges the world you see is different compared to what it actually is, stops taking the usual doses of medicine (a drug called “Joy”) and starts to understand how the place where the game is placed is governed by one little rule: be happy! You can’t be sad, because the world around you is awesome, so colourful and so kind. Oh, look, people invite you for a pinata game, come on, time to smash it with your bat and-the pinata was actually a rat, you’re surrounded by blood, you refute the pill they offer to you and you get chased for the crime of being a “Downer”. That’s something you surely don’t see usually. I kind of agree with Kinda (ah!) Funny guys as they say it’s similar to Bioshock due to the style and the feeling of a first person game where shooting isn’t the main reason you’re playing… what could be called as an experience (sorry Kyle Bosman, I couldn’t resist myself this time, I had to). I’m happy to say I’m going to follow this game more in the future, even by sheer interest, especially if it can run on my PC (I suppose that Xbox Preview period could be useful on the matter). And, I want to assure you, I didn’t take any pill to be so positive about it, I swear.
Zelda: Breath of Fresh Air
Aaah, my new desktop screensaver.
To be honest, I probably shouldn’t dedicate too much space about it, given how 90%-95% of the things that could’ve been said about it have already been said numerous times: the enchanting, Ghibli-like graphical style (the influence is even clearer when you see the Japanese official logo of the game), the possibilities of interaction with enemies and the environment as a whole, how open it appears to be, the presence of voice acting, the technology theme, Calamity Ganon as a plague-like entity…you heard all of this, already. But I wanted to focus on one specific element surrounding Zelda’s explosive, earth-shattering unveil. It’s from an interview posted on Time website, here
As the first fully open-world Nintendo’s worked on, what’s the hardest thing about designing for an open world?
This is definitely the first time we’ve created a game this large. We didn’t know where to start. So it happened to be there was a team that was working on creating a larger world. And this team was a group of younger developers. So we had our old programmers from the Zelda team take a step aside, so we could introduce this new group of programmers.
But then these new, younger developers had no clue about how past Zeldas had been created. The group of new staff actually would ask us, like ‘Well I know that it’s been done, traditionally, in other Zelda titles, but why does it have to be that way?’ And among those questions there were some I just couldn’t answer, that I didn’t know the answer to myself. That was because I just took those things on as a tradition, and I didn’t really know why the tradition existed.
When you think about it, maybe those things really didn’t need to be there in the modern world, those traditions. So I started destroying these traditions I’d inherited in the series one by one. But it’s a process that takes a lot of time. And because we were destroying everything we’d done in the past, and rebuild new ideas from the ground up, that was the hardest thing, and it’s really taken a long time to create the thing I most wanted to create.
Young developers taking on major Nintendo franchises, questioning why specific elements follow specific guidelines, “why is it needed to be like this?”, so much that Anouma himself decided there wasn’t an important reason behind some conventions…and he decided to break them. The fact Anouma couldn’t realise it by himself is a bit sad and concerning, but I’d dare to say it’s not so uncommon: how many times we have a fixed image of something (a place, an organisation, uses…everything) and we get so used to that image that we never question it or we don’t accept immediately others who question it? When you think about it, it’s not so uncommon…just like it’s not so uncommon to see people questioning even the most unquestionable things, honestly. Seriously, though, it’s good to see Anouma (who, actually, wanted to break the conventions from the start, going by the interview) understood what were the conventions that needed to be broken and, above all, it’s great to see he was helped by younger staff. THIS is something I’d love to see more in Nintendo’s future: young people shining, working on major franchises, both established and new. We all saw Splatoon turning out great (brand new IP involving ideas from younger developers) and part of the Garage initiative (which saw, as a follow-up, the, er, dividing Star Fox Zero + Star Fox Guard combo); now, we see new people taking over a brand as important as Zelda. Also, we hear Miyamoto stating how “a new kind of Mario is coming” and, while Mario has witnessed changes with the past iterations, it’s always fascinating to see major developers shaking up their big franchises or believing more in major new IPs. This renewement possibly happening in Nintendo, I like it. Oh, and speaking of new IPs…
Ever Oasis, another new IP from Nintendo
Nintendo has received plenty of criticism in the past few years because they relied way too much on their already-known properties, without trying to start new franchises, and this is true since…Nintendo has always developed several new IPs per gen. Ah. But most of the criticism is about MAJOR new IPs, and while the Pullblox and BoxBoys are good / great additions, we really needed to see something like Splatoon. And now, a chibi-stylised RPG with Zelda influence for dungeons and combat system and a managerial system, developed by Grezzo, an external team that worked on both Zelda remakes on 3DS, so it’s actually a clever way to “promote” them, since they can use what learned while remaking both Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. Also, directed by the Mana series creator, Koiuchi Iishi: good pedigree overall for this project. While it’s currently unkwnown how much (and if) Nintendo will promote it in such a way it is indeed the start of a brand new, mid-level Nintendo franchise, it pleases me to see a new attempt in the RPG genre, after the already long-forgotten Codename: S.T.E.A.M., which was announced in a similar way (surprise announcement at E3 for 3DS). Hopefully, Ever Oasis won’t follow S.T.E.A.M.’s steps towards the path of irrelevance. It’s not easy, especially since it’s a 3DS game released in 2017 (and this is when you remember that, by March 2017, the handheld will be six – 6, sei, roku – years old), but there’s promise that I’d be disappointed to see severly underused.
But please, Grezzo, a better IA for CPU party memebers is needed, that boss fight…oh man.
Crash is alive, after all
I want to anticipate that this entry will be on both lists, and I suppose the reason is obvious, but not now. Here, just the good part of Crash announcements at E3…THE ORIGINAL TRILOGY REMASTERED ON PS4! An amazing news, and I’m really excited and curious to see how they will look, while hoping the changes will be as good as possible. Probably I’m a strange man in a world filled with madness, but I think both Crash 2 and Warped still look good, despite their age; probably, a result of the style + the levels structure and how ND knew how to use the hardware they worked on (sounds familiar). Crash 1 is the one which aged the most by far, and I hope Vicarious Visions will tweak it as it deserves (like, I don’t know, checkpoints not as harsh as in the original?).
However, there’s something more behind both Crash Trilogy remaster and Crash in Skylanders: there’s a strong feeling both announcements represent a new push for the old Bandicoot, and a test as well. It’s not crazy to imagine the results of both items can influence the work behind a brand new entry in the Crash series, a new episode bringing back the originals charm and atmoshpere. Something is definitely moving behind the scenes, and as a Crash Bandicoot fan, after years of mediocre / strange games if not deafening silence, this is like a new beginning. We finally meet again, Crash.
The first Dishonored is a game that I remember fondly: it was quite an intense experience (sorry, Kyle!), especially considering how I completed it by killing the less amount of people possible, and I love how the game made such approach possible, the atmosphere of Dunwall, how the others’ behaviour changes based on my action; the plot kept me interested from the beginning to the end as well. Yeah, good memories overall. So, of course I was very interested in looking at what its sequel would offer, even if it’ll be a while before I can actually buy it, and Bethesda’s conference showing convinced me that, yes, this is the sequel the first game deserves. Playing as Corvo or Emily? Awesome! Awesome! Brench system for supernatural powers, so they can get both lethal and not-lethal upgrades? Awesome! An item allowing you to shift costantly between different time periods for a specific part of the game? That’s something I’d love to play. This is a game that seems so far to be building on the great basis of the first title, and it’s for the best. Arkane Studios surprised me the first time, and it seems they haven’t lost it so far; the long gameplay segment showed at the conference gave a strong outlook about the qualities of the title. Very, very promising…so far, no rats in sight on the streets of excitement for this game.
And there it is, my personal list of the Best stuff happened at this year’s E3. There were lots of other games or stuff that could’ve been in this list (dat Spiderman trailer), and I want to stress how this isn’t an exhaustive list, far from it.
Of course, the next future will see the conclusion of this feature, the opposite side of the judgement spectrum and…I’d say there’s stuff to talk about there as well.
See you soon, world