Streaming is always a complicated process. You’ve usually got about six different bits of technology all strung together. My usual setup is Open Broadcaster + a webpage for chat + my webcam feed + ManyCam Studio + a AAA videogame. Add in the challenge of balancing multiple audio sources, keeping FPS reasonable, all the technology on Twitch’s end, and the capricious nature of Windows, and it’s a miracle I can do it at all.
All of this is to say I didn’t get it just right this time. The audio gets a bit wonky in spots and there’s that mishap in the middle. Whoops. I’m sure I’ll get the hang of this just about the time E3 winds down.
Below are my thoughts in text form, for you non-video types.
Man, the destructible environments in this game never fail to amaze me. I love the period detailsBattlefield V is (somehow) a sequel to Battlefield 1, which is based around World War 1.. Too bad this game isn’t in a genre that interests me.
Apparently these games have a single-player component that gets tons of development resources but nobody ever talks about it. It might be fun to get the game for that, but it would probably be annoying to review. I’m sure Battlefield fans will insist that reviewing the vestigial single-player campaign mode is missing the point.
Obviously not my thing. So let’s talk about the chairs:
If you watch the video, somewhere just after the 16 minute mark we cut back to the convention hall and see the audience is sitting on what appear to be fold-out wooden chairs. Madness. How can a place THIS high-tech have such savage chairs? It would be agonizing to spend an hour on one of those things.
Then again, maybe they’re not as brutal as they look. The particular shape of the frame and the white remind me of rickety old folding chairs leftover from the 70’s. They got used a lot in public venues where cost was valued over comfort. They wobbled slightly, they made creaking noises, and they had no cushioning whatsoever. They were painted regularly, probably to protect the sitter from splinters. They hurt even when I was a kid.
It’s entirely possible that these chairs have the same outline but are actually modern chairs with some cushioning. It’s hard to see since 1) It’s dark. 2) The chairs are occupied. 3) Video compression has not been kind to these pixels. I dunno. I realize this is a strange and random thing to worry about, but the shape of the chair evoked a childhood memory and this is where it took me.
Let’s go back to talking about videogames…
So… they’re offering access to a library of 100+ titles for $5 a month, or $30 a year? I don’t get it. This sounds way too good to be true. I’ve been saying for years that EA needs to do something with Origin to lure people away from their massive Steam libraries. And yet year after year, they seem content to offer a smaller library for higher prices on a more limited platform with a smaller userbase.
But this Origin Access thing is a pretty big deal. I’ve read the sales pitch and I can’t find the catch. The yearly price is about what you’d pay for ONE old game on their platform. They’re even offering a 7 day free trial.
I’d jump on it now, except it’s EA and it sounds too good to be true. What’s the strategy here? Will the available titles rotate from month to month like Netflix? Are they going to crank the price up after the first year and make it hard to cancel? I don’t know.
Very interesting move though. I’ll probably check it out once I have time to dive in.
STAR WARS: Battlefront
I like how the main selling point is that the game isn’t driven by lootboxes. Still not for me though.
My computer crashed during this segment, so I missed most of it. I know I was only offline for a minute or so, but even once the stream was going I was distracted with behind-the-scenes stuff, trying to get the show working properly after having all of my carefully-balanced audio levels scrambled. Arg.
Anyway, Unraveled is a cute indie platformer and I discovered a long time ago that 2D platformers are not my thing. Looks cool though.
Sea of Solitude
Wow. I know she’s quiet in the stream, but her talk is pretty amazing. This talk feels less like a concept for a game and more like some trauma the designer is trying to share with us. EA lets her talk about the horrors or loneliness and isolation for about four straight minutes before we see any game footage. She’s not a slick presenter. She nervous and shy and has something big on her mind and I can’t believe EA gave her five minutes of their stage time. I’m glad they did, but coming so soon after Andrew Wilson and Battlefront this feels like a totally different press event.
Basketball & Football
Sea of Solitude got 5 minutes of stage time. The basketball and football games SHARED a 5-minute segment.
Who are you and what have you done with EA?!?
Command and Conquer: Rivals
So they’re trying to make a competitive RTS esports game… for mobiles? It looks a bit like a turn-based game, a bit like a MOBA, and a bit like an RTS. The one thing it doesn’t look like is Command & Conquer.
I doubt it will have enough depth to support esports and I imagine that its existence under the C&C name will be annoying to longtime fans who’ve been waiting for a proper sequel, but it’s an interesting experiment.
Here we get some words from EA CEO Andrew Wilson, of lootbox fame. I think I accidentally called him Peter during the show, possibly because a recent EA CEO was named Peter?
This was really annoying. Wilson comes out and announces that their entire worldview on gaming is exactly the opposite of what their recent behavior says it is. Does Wilson think we’re stupid? Or is this an apology without the “We’re sorry” part? Maybe he wants to let shareholders know what they plan to do differently, but he wants to do so without admitting they made any mistakes in the first place.
Then to cap it off, he announces they’ve given some money to charity. This is the most insincere gesture I’ve ever seen at E3. The attempt at redemption is so shallow, so small, and so obviously timed within the talk, that it has the opposite of the desired effect. He’s talking to a room full of reporters. How short does he think their attention span is?
Having said that, it will be interesting to see what they do with lootboxes in the coming 18 months. It seems like they’re backing away now, but maybe they plan to try again but with some basic attempt at subtlety. I seriously doubt they’ve “learned” anything. I mean, if they were going to learn then they should have done so with Dungeon Keeper, or SimCity 2013. The current leadership is not equipped to understand the market they serve, and throwing some money at an anti-bullying charity isn’t going to change that.
Okay, enough waiting. We all know we’re here to talk about…
- It looks fantastic. Yes, I’m sure they’re cheating their asses off with the rendering quality and the final product won’t look like this. But even if we take that into account, these designs are really good. BioWare may have bled away their entire superstar writing staff, but they’ve evidently replaced them with a really strong art team.
- Yay new IP.
- The ability to fly is really cool. It looks fun to navigate this world.
- The robo-suits are novel and look fun.
The story looks and sounds so very un-BioWare. They could have shared some lore, backstory, or characters with us. And yet all we got was a chain of cliches and completely utilitarian dialog.
They’re promising us that this will be a co-op shooter but that it will still have story and choices. This has never, ever worked. You can’t blend Destiny with Dragon Age. The needs of an in-depth, high-concept world with with lots of story and characters and choice are at odds with the needs of co-op multiplayer shooter. A proper story-driven game needs to do worldbuilding, foreshadowing, and character development. The writer can’t do those things while the players are chattering to each other about school and work.
This is exacerbated by Casey Hudson’s absurd adherence to the “The player is the chosen one” design philosophy. When combined with multiplayer, it amplifies the dissonance within the world. I’m the chosen one and best friend of Admiral Growly Exposition. So are all the other people on my squad. They’re all the chosen one too. So is MunkeyDude420, who is hopping around the scene while I’m in town. So is everyone on MunkeyDude’s squad, who are currently standing around the shopkeeper doing dance emotes. So is this AFK chick who’s been idling at the spawn point for an hour.
When I’m playing Left 4 Dead with friends, I don’t want gameplay to grind to a halt so someone can do dialog stuff with an NPC. While I’m playing Mass Effect, I want to be able to stop and take in the scenery. I want to be able to pause the game. I want the story and gameplay to be woven together. I want to be able to listen to dialog I find interesting, click through dialog I’ve heard before, and I want to mull over my dialog choices for a minute before making a selection. I want to have a long conversation about backstory stuff without worrying that I’m making the rest of the team wait for me.
This is yet another case of EA trying to shove a square peg in a round hole, and it’s going to lead to a frustrating and compromised design. We haven’t seen the game yet so we don’t know what form that compromise will take, but based on this demo this looks like it’s going the Destiny route where the “story” is just a bunch of random noise and cliches that condescendingly claim like the player is a messiah while simultaneously bossing them around like a child. You’ll be a CHOSEN ONE with no sense of agency, and I’ve had about as much of that nonsense as I can tolerate.
I wish BioWare would return to their story-based roots. Barring that, I wish they’d stop messing around and embrace their identity as a shooter mill. Trying to split the difference can’t work and won’t make either market happy.
“Shamus, it’s not fair to judge the game so harshly! They only showed us a tiny bit and there’s almost nine months of development time left.”
I’m just judging based on what EA showed us. That’s what E3 is for. Anything less than honest appraisal makes you part of the EA marketing machine, and those people do not deserve our fealty.
I’ll be back later today with the Microsoft event, followed by Bethesda:
* Microsoft: 1 PM Pacific / 4 PM Eastern
* Bethesda: 6:30 PM Pacific / 9:30 PM Eastern
Hope to see you there. I’ll start streaming about 10 minutes before the show.
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