A few things about E3

When I was a kid I used to be super-excited about new games being announced, but because of how I’m wired it wasn’t due to me being a kid, but to the different scenario and then things before us.

I was excited when Quake was announced, with the promise of a true 3D engine and a medieval setting with dragons. And I was excited when Final Fantasy 9 was announced, as a return to a more medieval “fantasy” setting, that I liked so much better than the futuristic mishmash more typical of Square, still without losing the sense of wonder and with character design going in the opposite direction of the VIII chapter.

And, in general, new games would push the boundaries of what could be done. Look at the timeline. Just one or two years between each, we went from Wolfenstein 3D, to Doom, to Quake. Since the early 2000s the progress curve has been flattened, and new games simply fail to hype, not because I’m older, but because the value simply isn’t there.

Fallout 4 is a good example. Same engine, but new hardware allowing them to add more foliage and geometry. Still no shame exhibiting horrendous animations. Still terrible combat. Dialogue system turned to utter shit. Removal of all skills. But hey, one really good idea: turn all the clutter into actual useful resources.

And I almost agree with Sarkeesian (who at this E3 has been working hard to troll the internet with the most stupid claims ever), if the modular crafting system wasn’t all about armor and weapon, and more about survival and other tools, the system and potential gameplay would have been nothing short of amazing. But, alas, “streamlining” is the buzzword of shitty design. And that’s what we get nowadays.

Then, Elder Scrolls Online? No one cares about that, and still has no vision of itself and what it is supposed to be. Yet Another Card Games (announced with an handful of concept art screens)? No thanks. Another program launcher to launch programs? No thanks. Dishonored 2? Just CGI trailer, no gameplay being shown, nothing at all being said about the actual game beside it has an option for a female protagonist.

And there’s Doom. Could be worse. This tweet already shows a lot. The idea of an “editor” that simply allows you to paste together pre-made rooms is fucking terrible if they don’t actually give players a real editor when you can edit actual geometry, and from what I read on twitter this is very unlikely. So it’s basically all a fraud. Pasting together rooms is fun and exiting for about 10 minutes. That’s not what made Doom map-making popular.

At least they did get the fact that Doom core is about gameplay and you can’t turn it into a scripted, linear game. So focus on gameplay, action and atmosphere. Problem is that what they’ve shown is problematic. I also thought that even if they do that, then they’d basically have Bulletstorm.

That’s also a problem. That demo looked “nice”, but a kind of nice that could easily be done with Unreal 3 engine (and it would probably run immensely better than whatever tech has ID now). The level design was really poor, and that’s THE feature of a Doom game. And only an handful of monsters on screen. That means they are probably on the right track, but the game currently is very shallow.

EA presentation: utter shit. Nothing to comment.

Ubisoft: look at The Division. This year they replaced their fake/fraud gameplay trailers with one that is actually in-engine and running. It’s obvious because they announced it playable at the show, and because you can observe some flickering textures (glitches are usually a good sign of a non-doctored footage). The problem is that it looks immensely downgraded from the previous two years demos. And now that it look barely average it also lost most of its coolness.

Then Ghost Recon. This is interesting because of the interplay with The Division. On one hand we have a game that comes out of “bullshit trailer” to show real footage, on the other we have a game that just enters now the bullshit trailer phase. The effect is that now people suddenly stop caring about The Division, while Ghost Recon can steal the show.

Until Ghost Recon also exits its bullshit phase, I guess.

Then Sony. They obviously win by the biggest margin imaginable, but. The Last Guardian is not there to awe us with a scripted jumping scene. Is that Uncharted? If depth of interaction is replaced by scripted scenes then we simply get a shitty game.

Final Fantasy VII. Beside universal hype there’s the fact they’ve shown nothing at all. The CG wasn’t even THAT good if it didn’t have that brand. So? That’s a game that can be a total failure or total success depending how you do it. And no one can guess how they are going to do it. A good idea would be to keep it classic, turn based, but with polished and deep systems. Streamlining here will simply kill it. Making it “realistic” or real-time would kill it too. So the way it would work great would be like Pillars of Eternity to Baldur’s Gate: something that at least aims to enhance the core, maybe radically, but without transforming it. So, great idea, but with very good chances of fucking it up.

Shenmue? Beside the ridiculous contradiction of an “indie” kickstarter begging for money on the biggest stage (it’s like EA launched a Kickstarter for the next Fifa game), this is still a game series that was built on the hugest budgets imaginable. How can this work out for a respectable Shenmue 3? No idea, no explanations given. Just BELIEVE!

Horizon? That looked fucking cool. And because I’ve seen this happen, and because this is the Killzone team, that’s also load of bullshit. So wait next year (or two) to see what the real game looks like.

See the pattern? This E3 is about two things:

1- It is about a lot of hype for vaporware games. Games only shown as CGI, that barely exist as ideas. That’s how hype works: if you show something completely undefined, people will complete it with their wishes and imagination. That is going to be nothing like the final product. An endless cycle of hype and disappointment.

2- Most of all other games, and those that are real, are all games that look behind instead of ahead. From Doom, passing through The Last Guardian, to Shenmue, we only have classics of the past. But are they connected to something? Do they know their roots or are they just aping their own identity?

No new game seems to actually show you something that you REALLY can hype. That you see and think it is INDISPENSABLE right now. Battlefront looks good, but it’s Battlefield with Star Wars skins.

The industry seems only being able of looking behind and digging out old bones. Having an history is extremely important, but what I observe is BOTH a critical failure in understanding what’s good in what’s left behind, and another failure on the vision of things ahead.

And only hardware and graphics can brute-force things onward.